Life Is Precious

Last week our family attended the first birthday party of a little girl whose parents waited and longed and prayed for six long years, wondering if they would ever be able to have a child of their own. To say it was a joyful occasion is an understatement.

Also last week the Supreme Court of the United States reversed a decision from almost 50 years ago, finding that there is not actually a right to abortion in the US constitution, so individual states are free to legislate as they please on the issue. Some states have kept abortion legal, others have not. Some people rejoiced, others mourned. Some said the judgment was a gain for life, others that it was a loss for personal autonomy.

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He Speaks To Everyone The Same Way

Last Sunday was Father’s Day, and one of the things that stands out to me as I think about my own father is how he has always spoken to everyone the same way. My mother used to point this out to me as a child every now and then, which helped me realise from an early age that, 1) this is important, and 2) it is not something everyone does. As I’ve grown older, my conviction of the truth of these two points has only grown stronger. 

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A Happy Beginning

“And they lived happily ever after” may be a cliché, but it’s still satisfying. After all the troubles and difficulties of a good story, we love to see the happy couple roll away in their carriage as the credits start rolling. Of course, we also know in the back of our minds that any “ever after” on earth will include more troubles and difficulties in the days and years ahead. But after all they have been through, we wouldn’t want to mention that. It’s the end of the story, leave them alone. But in real life, a wedding is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, one that could easily be longer and more complex than anything that came before it. 

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What I Learned About Love When I Met My Son

I remember meeting my firstborn child for the first time. Of course I do. How could I forget? I remember when I spoke to him the first time, and he turned and looked at me, and this tiny fresh human who had never seen the outside world before recognised my voice, and stopped crying. That was the moment I realised with incredible force that my world could never be the same because part of my heart was now inside the body of a child I didn’t even know yet.

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A Personal Update

When I put up the first post on this blog in June 2018, I was writing for my local community in Ireland—the friends and neighbours that I see and interact with in my daily life. (This article by Laura Lundergren casts a great vision for this, and this one by Tim Challies helped me commit to keep going regularly). I still write for those same friends and neighbours, but last year people visited this site from 124 countries and I have to admit that this thing called the internet is still surprising me. All I can say is that whoever you are and wherever you are, thank you for coming to this little corner of the world wide web. Your visits and comments have been encouraging and motivating. I hope you’ve been encouraged as well. This is my 200th blog post, so I’d like to take the opportunity to share a personal update:

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Being Somebody

At my house growing up, I was somebody. When my mom asked if somebody would bring in firewood, or let the dog out, or fetch the groceries, I knew she was talking to me. As the youngest child, I ended up being the last somebody in the house besides my parents, so I got to be somebody a lot. Eventually it became a joke, and she’d look right at me and say, “could somebody…?” and we’d laugh, and I’d do it, whatever it was.

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Being The Bad Guy

At our house, I’ve always been the bad guy. To be more precise, I’ve been a lot of bad guys. Sometimes it is just part of me, like when my hands became the Flying Tickle Spiders. Other times I’ve needed extra props, like the brown blanket for the times when the Muddy Hole Troll tried to trap my children in his muddy pit in a terrible plot to keep them filthy. In lightsaber fights, Sith Seth has always been the one threatening destruction and calling good little Jedis to join the dark side. Then there have been attacks from the electric Volt-ure who zapped children (disclaimer: no real electricity was involved) and the Alien Chef who has tried to make them into sandwiches between the beanbags. Our house has been a dangerous place. 

The thing is, all my terrible plots have ended in failure. I guess I’m not really that great at being an evil mastermind. Somehow, the children have always found a way to defeat me. Which is fine. Actually, I’m happy. I want the bad guys to lose, too. Yes, our house can be a dangerous place, but it is only silly danger, and my children can fight my evil plots with complete confidence of eventual victory. We just have fun together, and I hope they remember that. But I hope they remember more—I hope they hold on to that feeling of confidence, of knowing they will win eventually. They are growing up now, growing beyond the games and closer to the reality of the world, and here’s the thing: the world is a dangerous place.

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A Real Acrobat

When “The Greatest Showman” came out in 2017, our daughter was five years old and especially impressed by a song that was sung with perfectly choreographed aerial acrobatics. When that same song came on during the credits after the film, her hands shot up, ready to dance, so there was no choice, really. I picked her up high, spun her around, and realised suddenly that the two of us had just twirled our way into a moment that would haunt me with happiness forever after. 

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Five Kernels Of Corn

Growing up in America, Thanksgiving Day was one of the highlights of the whole year. Some years my family travelled to feast with others, other years guests came to feast with us. I remember the leaf piles, laughter, and Atari games with my cousins, and when we were home, I remember the five kernels of corn. 

We would sit at tables that had been fully extended, knowing that the biggest feast of the year was waiting in the kitchen. We could smell it. We could nearly taste it. The tables were dressed up with the best tablecloths and plates, and on each one of those plates were five carefully counted kernels of corn. Before we ate them, my mom reminded us why they were there: she told us about the Pilgrims who landed in the new world seeking religious freedom, and how they struggled to survive those early winters in the wilderness. She told us how local Native American tribes helped the struggling Pilgrims, teaching them the right times and ways to fish and grow crops in a new environment. But then, just when they started to get ahead, a ship full of new settlers arrived without food supplies. To keep themselves alive, the entire settlement was reduced to a ration of just five kernels of corn a day. Could you imagine? Somehow, they made it through that winter and lived to bring in a good harvest the next year. As they celebrated that harvest with the local tribes who had helped them, they began their feast together with a reminder: five kernels of corn were placed on each plate, “lest anyone forget”.

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I Feel It On Sundays The Most

We’re later than we intended to be, but we’re still early. It’s our turn to help set up. The children take chairs from me as I bring out the stacks, then there’s the projector and the microphone, plus I need to run through the music with the others. We won’t have much time, but we never do, and we always manage to pull it off. We joke that if our band had a name, it would be A Wing And A Prayer.

Only a few minutes before we start, and familiar faces are smiling their greetings from across the room. As the hum of conversation grows, I see my children playing with their friends in the aisles between the chairs—are they being too loud? I see a few people slip into a side room to pray before we start. Through another door, I catch the movement of busy preparations in the kitchen, teas and coffees don’t make themselves, and they’ll be needed straightaway after the service. 

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