John Newton’s Advice On Christian Controversy

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail…but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations…

Continue reading John Newton’s Advice On Christian Controversy

Songs That Have Helped

Music is powerful. While words that are spoken and read knock on the front door of your mind, asking for admittance, words set to music can sneak in unnoticed through the back window and before you know it they’re sitting in your best chair drinking a cup of tea with their feet up and a fire laid. And they never leave. I still know the lyrics to songs I learned decades ago, even though I never tried to learn them at all. The power of music is scary, considering the rubbish that finds its way so often to the top 40 lists. But the power of music can also be a strong ally for the times we desperately need to be reminded of the truth. This is probably why God included an entire song book in the Bible (the Psalms). Sometimes I need that song, sitting in the good chair, singing to me the same words again and again, singing hope and peace into my heart. On that note (pun intended) I’d like to share a few songs that have done this for me recently. These songs are not in any particular order, and I won’t be offended if you don’t like some of them. I just hope you can find something here that will help you like it has helped me.

Continue reading Songs That Have Helped

The Fisherman’s Advice

Evidently I don’t have a strong stomach, because the last time I went fishing at sea I got sick. I know fishing trips are famous for being exaggerated, but I’ll be honest with you: there was no storm. It was a normal day, with normal waves, and we didn’t even go far out to sea. Still, as the boat continually shifted, my insides rebelled against me in slow motion. It was getting harder and harder to focus on my fishing line or the conversation going on around me. I felt bad. All I wanted was for the floor to stop moving—was that so much to ask? Thankfully, I was with an experienced fisherman who gave me helpful advice: “Look at the shore,” he said, “it will give you a reference point, and help you be able to roll with the waves.” I could tell he knew what he was talking about, because he had no trouble at all moving confidently around the constantly rocking boat.

Continue reading The Fisherman’s Advice

The Importance Of Not Being Original

Some things are worth saying over and over again. I’m sure that’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating. At our house, we said  “sit down” and “eat your food” so often that my wife started saying those phrases in Irish, just to break the monotony. Still, we knew that saying it over and over again was the only way to get to the point of not having to say it over and over again.

But there are some things we’ll never get to that point with. There are some things that will need to be said as long as there are people on Earth. The reason for this is that us humans tend to forget basic truths almost as soon as we remember them. We work and fight and kill each other to right some horrible wrong like genocide, oppression, or slavery, then turn around and create new ways of doing the exact same things, like abortion, police brutality, or human trafficking. Each victory bleeds into a new battle, where we have to say the same old truths all over again, like “all people are valuable” and “all men are created equal”.

Continue reading The Importance Of Not Being Original

Googling Wisdom

Where I grew up we called the library “Fort Book” because it looked like it would stand up well in a siege. Inside, there were rows of filing cabinets housing the card catalogue – one card for each book, organised precisely in deep drawers. If I wanted to learn something, those cards were the indexes of knowledge. Now they’re gone. Now the catalogue cabinets of the world have squeezed themselves into a little bar at the top of the screen in my hand. Getting information has never been easier. No other era of history has had the power I carry in my little glowing rectangle. It’s overwhelming. And it’s easy to assume that having access to humanity’s storehouse of knowledge should make me wise. 

Continue reading Googling Wisdom

The Joke I Should Have Laughed At

Saying that I knew it all along was a lie, and they knew it. Saying that I was just playing along didn’t stop their eyes from laughing at me. I would have laughed, too, if I were them. I should have laughed, too, with them. I don’t know where my neighbour got the iron pyrite, all I know is the story they told me about finding it in the woods and do you think there’s more and will we all be rich? I’d never seen gold ore before, but it certainly looked the part. I was old enough to know the stories about children finding treasure, and young enough to forget that I was a fool. 

Continue reading The Joke I Should Have Laughed At

Do Great Minds Really Think Alike?

I’ve said it many times, as an automatic reflex. Just like “bless you” after a sneeze or “you’re welcome” after a “thank you”, the phrase “great minds think alike” rolls off the tongue naturally whenever two people have a similar idea. It’s a friendly way of complimenting others and ourselves simultaneously, a verbal pat on the back for being mutually great. It’s a bit of fun. But that doesn’t make it true.

Continue reading Do Great Minds Really Think Alike?