Monday, December 26, 2011

St. Stephen's Day in the Park

When I celebrated Christmas in England 12 years ago I discovered that the Brits call December 26th Boxing Day.  It gained that name years ago as wealthy people would put together a box of goodies for their servants the day following Christmas (let's be honest, they put together a box full of leftovers).  It is now an official holiday in the UK.  They celebrate the same day in Ireland, but they don't call it Boxing Day, but rather St. Stephen's Day.  When people ask me what we call it I just tell them, "the day after Christmas."

Due to the unseasonably warm weather we're having in Ireland, I spent part of St. Stephen's Day with Ashlyn, Davis, and Bailey in St. Anne's Park.  Davis and Bailey's parents were off with Jo Ellis catching the new Sherlock Holmes movie on the big screen, so Juli and I agreed to look after their kids.  We'll swap tomorrow as Ashlyn will hang out with Karnes while we see the most recent installment of the Mission Impossible series.  Anyway, the park was packed with people running off their Christmas dinner, catching a bit of fresh air, or, as I was doing, watching their kids run around the playground.  This time last year we were under a foot of snow and although there's something romantic about a white Christmas, I'd much rather be able to spend St. Stephen's Day in the park. - Shay

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Favorites

It's Christmas Eve eve and it really doesn't seem like the holidays (except for the jam-packed mall in Blanchardstown).  In Balmorhea, TX around 40 or 50 of my relatives will be gathering over the weekend.  We won't be there (but neither will my pediatrician sister who will be on call).  In Edmond, OK quite a few (but nowhere near 50) of Juli's relations will be celebrating together.  We won't be there either.  So, it just doesn't seem like Christmas.

Regardless, I still love this time of the year as I'm able to reflect on the year that was and look forward to the year that will be.  So, in that vein, here are some of my favorites from 2011.

Favorite Movie - Moneyball

Favorite Trip - England and Denmark with nearly 20 of my relatives

Favorite Record - Roddy Woomble, "The Impossible Song and the Other Songs"

Favorite Hikes - Slieve Donard, County Down, Northern Ireland and the Wicklow Way, County Wicklow, Republic of Ireland

Favorite Books - Nonfiction: "Virtue Reborn" by N.T. Wright; Fiction: "New Irish Short Stories" ed. by Joseph O'Connor

Favorite Fan Moments - Arsenal 1, Manchester United 0 on May 1 and Texas 27, Texas A&M 25 on November 24

Favorite Family Moments - Juli and Ashlyn arriving back home to Dublin after three weeks in the States and Ashlyn turning 2 on October 20

2012, your turn. - Shay 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Tis The Season

On the way to the Clongriffin community center the other night, Ashlyn kept yelling out, "Partayyy!!!  We're going to the partayyy!!!"  I'll confess, I taught her that.  Hopefully she'll learn to pronounce it properly someday.  We were in fact on our way to our Failte Isteach Christmas party.  Failte Isteach is Gaelic for "welcome in" and is actually an ESL (English as a Second Language) class that our Christian community helps run for mostly Polish students here in Dublin.

Tuesday evening's party was my first of many festive celebrations to come.  This afternoon, after I finish teaching another English class at Dublin Central Mission, we'll have a Christmas party.  Tonight the basketball team I play on is having a Christmas gathering.  On Friday evening I'll be at the Karnes house for another Christmas party (with some of our friends and neighbors).  Juli can't make that party because she'll be at another one for the playgroup she helps run.  On Sunday we'll join Ranelagh Christian Church for worship, and then, you guessed it, a Christmas party.  Juli came up with an amazing idea for early January.  "Why don't we have an after-Christmas party!"  So a few days after the New Year some of our other friends and neighbors will join us to celebrate the party season's conclusion (complete with a re-gifting game).  

Where the United States has turned Christmas into an end of the year economic booster, Ireland has used this season as an excuse to partayyy!  Some of the parties are more pagan than Christian, to be sure, but it does give us an excuse to get to know our friends and neighbors a bit better and to share with them our conviction that Christmas, and especially Easter can and should be celebrated everyday of our lives. - Shay

Saturday, December 10, 2011


The Romans never conquered Ireland.  Never even tried.  The combination of Celtic warriors and wet, wintry conditions meant that this small island on the edge of the Atlantic didn't fall favorably into the Roman cost/benefit analysis.  They did give the island the name Hibernia (literally - wintry).  This time of year (no surprise there) the name is appropriate.  Not because it's freezing cold, it really isn't here normally, but because Ireland's so far north, the daylight never seems to get too bright.  It seems as if its twilight all day long.

On December 21, the winter solstice, the sunrise in Dublin will be at 8:38 and the sun will set at 4:08.  More than two thirds of the day will be in darkness.  Though I prefer the long daylight we get in the summer, there's something about this time of year that brings on a strong sense of nostalgia.  Part of it is the Christmas season, but part of it has far more to do with the crisp cool air, the bare stripped tree branches, and the way that the fullness of day never quite seems to come.  These days take me back in time. - Shay   

Monday, October 31, 2011

A November to Remember

On our way to Baldoyle to meet the Karnes and some other friends, I leaned over and asked Juli, "Does it feel strange to have a child who's about to embark on her first trick-or-treating adventure?"  "Yeah, it does", she replied.  Last year's Halloween was remarkable as it was our first in Ireland.  Two years ago was interesting as Ashlyn was only 11 days old and we were still getting used to being first time parents.  And of course, we won't soon forget this one.  As far as the door to door action was concerned, Ashlyn was very polite and made sure to say thank you and bye bye when leaving each house. 

But Halloween aside, what's even more remarkable to me is that it's already November (in a 2 hours anyway).  This year has absolutely flown by and it will be 2012 before we know it.  But along the way, this should be an another November to remember.  We're starting an additional English class for immigrants this Wednesday (due to popular demand), we'll be heading to Germany for our annual church retreat in two and a half weeks, and of course we'll have our second Irish Thanksgiving soon after that.  Life is busy, but life is good. - Shay  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I find the sea, well, water in general and the ocean in particular so very powerful.  Looking out from the cliffs of Howth into the vast and seemingly endless body of water that is the Irish Sea, I'm reminded that God's creation is quite big and amazing and I by contrast am quite small and insignificant.  And yet, as Psalm 8 says, we humans are made just a little bit lower than the angels.  We're at the top of God's good, no, his very good creation.  So as much as I love the outdoors and the fantastic beauty of God's artistic design, how much more am I amazed by family, friends and neighbors!

Two years ago tomorrow Ashlyn breathed the breath of life for the first time.  Having Ashlyn has made me love humanity even more than before and hate some other things with a greater passion.  I hate war, crime, disease, accidents, and the general brokenness of this world far more than I did before Ashlyn arrived.  And as she gets older, I not only love her more and more, but I've found that I love other people more too as I'm reminded that everyone's some mother's or father's son or daughter.  Knowing that Ashlyn, like all people will have to live through and face the brokenness of God's good creation (and the brokenness of her own life and the lives of those who will live around her due to sin), I'm even more grateful that God has already begun to recreate this world in anticipation of the new creation in the age to come!  This is good news worth living and good news worth sharing. - Shay

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Funeral for a Friend

After meeting our partners for prayer and planning this afternoon, I decided to let Juli drive while I pushed Ashlyn home in her stroller.  We stopped by a playground for a few minutes before popping into a shop on our walk from Baldoyle through Bayside, Kilbarrack, and then onto Raheny.  Rather than take the main road through Kilbarrack, I decided to stroll through the neighborhood streets near the gym where I coach a girls under 11 basketball team just in case any of the kids or their families were out and about. After crossing the long and winding footbridge over the Kilbarrack Dart station I spotted a guy I've ran into time and time again.

I walked up and gave him a customary Dublin greeting, "What's the story?"

"I'm going to a friend's funeral.  I'm just after waiting here for some mates."

"I'm sorry to hear that, was your friend young?", I replied.

"He was 30.  He was shot by some gangsters just up the road.  He had killed a lot of people himself.  One of those revenge things."

"So your friend was involved in criminal activities?", I asked.  "Drugs?"


"So how's your battle going?  Are you still staying off the drugs?", I asked him.

Although I cannot remember this man's name, I had met him while watching a soccer match in the Raheny Inn about a year ago.  He had told me that he was trying to kick a heroin addiction and was only using cocaine and methadone at the time.  Baby steps.  I let him know about our church work in north Dublin and he was impressed that we had come over to do "charity", as he called it.  For the past several months I've chatted very briefly with him as his team comes in to play indoor soccer after we finish our under 11 basketball practice.

"It's going pretty well." he replied, "I play soccer over at the gym every week, but it's pretty hard because everybody's mixed up with drugs around here.  So, is your wife Irish?  Why are you over here again?"

"No, my wife's American.  We're here working with a church, remember.  We meet in homes to study the Bible, to pray, and to encourage each other to love our neighbors and love God."

"Oh yeah, right.  Hey, there's my mates.  I'll catch you later."

"Hey, take care, we'll talk again."

With that Ashlyn and I crossed the road and walked past the church were the funeral was being held.  A lot of people had gathered to pay their respects and I couldn't help but notice a significant Garda (police) presence.  When I got home I opened up my Evening Herald and on the fourth page was a follow up article regarding the man who had been killed.  You can read the original article here.

Why does a 30 year old man get gunned down in the prime of his life?  Why would he have ordered the killing of many other people prior to his own death?  Money, power, drugs.  Why is drug trafficking so lucrative?  Why is there such a demand for illegal substances that do nothing but ruin lives?  People are searching for meaning, maybe even transcendence.  People are hurting and they're looking for someway to fill the void that only God can fill.

I look forward to running into "your man" (as the Irish would say) sometime soon.  I hope to take our conversation further.  I long to have the opportunity to share with him the hope that can only be found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ my Lord. - Shay

Monday, August 22, 2011

I've Died a Hundred Times

Back in June before Juli and Ashlyn went back to the States for a three week visit, the Smith family took a trip out west to county Mayo.  I wrote about the trip in an entry called Climbing Croagh Patrick.  What I didn't mention was that while driving out to Castlebar I had one of those surreal moments where I was reminded that on such narrow, wet, and winding roads it wouldn't take much of a mistake to end up in a field or bog or ditch.  I then remembered that countless times I've had such accidents in my dreams (not daydreams, mind you).  A phrase was lodged into my head..."In my dreams, I've died a hundred times."  I made a mental note as we drove along that it might be a good opening line for a poem.

Five days before Juli and Ashlyn arrived back to Dublin while I was at Camp Shamrock I took that first line and went ahead and wrote the poem.  I knew where it would begin, but I wasn't quite sure where it would end.  This is where it went.

In my dreams I've died a hundred times,
And each time I awake to find that I'm alive.
But one day I'll awake to discover,
That the death I died was real and life is over.
Will it be in some horrific car crash?
Or like Pompeii, will life freeze in volcanic ash?
Maybe I'll be taken by a terminal disease.
Or at the age of 99, I'll just drift away in ease.
Whether young or old, rich or poor, my life will have its ending.
But as I'm laid into the cold dark earth, is it the end or the beginning?

This question isn't the most pleasant to consider, but it's certainly worth considering.  I pray that we're living in such a way here in Dublin that those we're around feel the hope we have of resurrection life and desire to live it for themselves. - Shay

Monday, July 25, 2011

Moving House

 The Smith family has loved living near St. Anne's and the sea this past 13 months, but as of tonight, we'll be sleeping in a new (to us) house on the north side of Raheny.  We'll still be close to St. Anne's and the sea and we'll be able to continue to build on our friendships in the village.  It's 9:00 PM local time and I still have to finish cleaning our kitchen in our old apartment, so I better get to it! - Shay
Davis & Bailey "working hard" to figure out the cable

Craig & Shay fixing the bed
Scott & Denise in marriage therapy.
Thanks Merschon for all your help!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Camp Shamrock By the Numbers

2,789 - Feet from the Irish Sea to the top of Slieve Donard, the tallest mountain in Northern Ireland. 8 of us climbed it on Saturday.

41 - Campers, low for Shamrock, but all of 'em great lads!

22 - Campers from Northern Ireland.

19 - Campers from the Republic of Ireland.

14 - Campers from around Dublin.

9 - Days at spent at camp.

8 - Nights spent in a tent.

5 - Lads in my tent.

4 - Bible classes centered on the theme of "Agents for God".

1 - Baptism.

Bonus: 2 - Beautiful girls I'll be picking up at the Dublin airport in the morning! - Shay 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Camping Shamrock Style

Eleven years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to work for three weeks at Camp Shamrock in the Tollymore Forest Park near Newcastle, Northern Ireland.  It was one of the last things I did during my 15 month internship with the Nottingham Church of Christ in Stapleford, England and beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was the most memorable.  Juli had the chance to serve at the camp the previous two years and we've both worked there together in 2002 and 2007.  We arrived in Dublin last year in time for me to serve as a counselor.  I wouldn't miss it!  Many of our friends in Ireland were first made at camp.  In fact, if it weren't for Camp Shamrock we wouldn't be living and working in Dublin right now (at least, not in any way that I can reckon).

So I'm off in 30 minutes to pick up some local lads, seven of whom I will have worked with previously through Sports Across Ireland in Ballymun, and the 18 of us (3 cars) will make our way up north.  Some of the time we'll be wet, cold, hungry, and tired, but at all times we'll be having a blast and growing closer to Christ.  I look forward to sharing what the Lord will have done through our week at camp. - Shay   

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Wicklow Way - The First Day and the Last Day

My alarm went off bright and early on Monday at 5 AM.  By 6:15 I was on the Dart and on my way to Bray where I caught the 185 bus to just past Enniskerry at a place called Shop River (no shop or river that I could see).  My map of the Wicklow Mountains indicated that I should have been able to catch a couple of old roads over to the Wicklow Way trail and I soon discovered that the roads where indeed old.  So old that an amazing amount of vegetation had grown up - much of it the pointy, sticky, and itchy variety.  I decided that I'd better backtrack and head down the road where I would join up with the W.W. at a later junction. 

As if  my sticky incident didn't get my hike off on a bad foot, my backpack (or packpack as Ashlyn is inclined to call it) began to put stress and strain on my upper back and shoulders.  I soon decided to discard an old pair of shoes I'd brought in case my cheap hiking boots (more on that later) were to get seriously wet.  I left the shoes at the gate of some fancy estate and hoped that the owners might wear a size 13 and could use them while they worked on their garden.  It wasn't long before I realized that I might as well put some of my other belongings into a trash bag and stash them in the woods where I could pick them up again on the way back.  I recently read a travel article that stated you should always only bring half of what you think you need and as I trekked along in the morning sun, I realized that I had failed to heed this advice and needed to take a load off.  I hoped that no one would see me stash my gear, but just as I emerged from the woods a Mercedes drove up and two female hikers from some other European country were dropped off to begin their day in the mountains and glens.  Feeling  a bit sheepish about leaving my gear in the woods (there was a sign stating that dumping could incur fines up to 1800 Euro) I quickly resumed my way up the trail before they could notice what I had done.

Now that my pack was at a more manageable weight and knowing that I was several hundred meters ahead of the Euro chicks, I began to take in the dramatic landscapes of rugged mountains and sweeping glens.  I've always found energy in nature and I love to spend time in conversation with God while I walk through his creation.  The W.W. provided me with just the setting and solitude I had been desiring over the past few weeks, so my God and I walked through the hills together.

After crossing the Glencree River and passing through the Crone Woods up past the Powerscourt Waterfall, I hit the exposed moorland of the Heather Deserts.  I sat and enjoyed my lunch of almonds, bananas, apples, and raisins while overlooking Dublin Bay to my north, the Irish Sea to my east, and the rolling pastureland of County Wicklow to my south.  To the west sat Djouce Mountain (pronounced juice) at 733 meters (or 2,400 feet).  The peak of Djouce is technically off the W.W. trail, but as they've said about Everest, since it's there it's meant to be climbed.  At the top I ran into another couple of Europeans (I'm guessing Dutch or German based on their accents).  We took photos of each other (well, for each other) and about 5 minutes after hitting the top, I was on my way back down to the trail.

I passed over White Hill before descending into the Luggala Valley.  The view of Lough Tay which sits at the bottom of the glen is one of the most dramatic I've seen in all of Ireland.  The lake gets its name from the Gaelic word for hot.  Trust me, there's nothing hot about this lough, but the name refers to the fact that the water never freezes in the winter due to all of the eroded peat floating throughout.

After hitting the R759 for about a kilometer, I entered into another wooded area that sits above the Luggala Valley.  At this point I really began to feel the strain of the days journey.  I had bought a cheap pair of hiking boots almost a year ago, but had only once worn them on a long hike.  That day my feet were killing me by the end of it, so what possessed me to wear them on the W.W.?  I'm not sure.  But I was regretting that decision at about 1:00 yesterday afternoon.  By 2:30 I had lumbered into the village of Roundwood and began my search for my B&B.  My feet were absolutely throbbing from my 18 and 1/2 mile hike and I was beginning to wonder how I was going to do another several miles over the next two days.

I finally found my B&B on the south side of the village (you wouldn't have thought that it would be that hard in a village the size of Roundwood), but just my luck, the owners were not at home.  So I hid my pack next to their tool shed and went back into the village to find some refreshment.  While I sat sipping my drink at one of the local establishments, an older gentleman sat down next to me and asked me about my t-shirt.  He had noticed the Bible verse on the back (1 John 2:24).  We introduced ourselves to each other and Tom told me about how he had married and Irishwoman and moved to Roundwood from Liverpool, England.  He explained how he's been involved with a spiritual renewal movement and he was interested in my faith.  After telling him about our work in Ireland, I let him know about my W.W. explorations and that I was meant to be staying at a B&B on the south side of town.  "Oh, that would be John and Ann's place", Tom responded.  "I'll give 'em a ring for you, they're also involved in this spiritual renewal movement."

After finishing my drink and my conversation with Tom I walked back up to John and Ann's place and this time they were there to greet me at the door.  I spent a long time chatting with John about genetics, D.N.A., and ancestry.  John had started this conversation by telling me how all of the Bradys and Connallys in the area had been marrying each other over the past century or so.  He figured it was because of a shared spark, a sort of connection passed on through their D.N.A.  I quietly figured it was simply down to a reduced dating, and thereby a reduced gene pool.  That same thing seems to happen in Arkansas and we Texans call it what it is, inbreeding. 

I  later mentioned to John that Tom had told me a little bit about the spiritual renewal movement happening in Roundwood.  John explained how a few people in the village had really began to take faith seriously and were committed to re-evangelizing the area.  I let him know about the work we're involved in Dublin.  We wished each other well in our respective areas and I went upstairs to take a much needed shower.  After chatting on the phone with Juli, I stumbled (literally) back into the village for a meal at the Roundwood Inn.  The place was quaint, the staff were friendly, and my baked chicken and chips was most delicious.

After hobbling back to the room around 8:30, I began to think about how I might change my route to make the next two days more realistic.  With sore feet, a sore knee, and the same old cheap hiking boots my planned 35 miles over the next two days weren't going to happen.  By the time I was in bed I had decided on hiking into Laragh on Tuesday and then catching the bus back to Dublin on Wednesday.  As my feet and knees continued to throb through the night, I edited that plan and decided to catch the bus to Dublin from Roundwood on Tuesday.  I love to hike, but I prefer to do it when I can enjoy it and not just get through it.

So this morning I woke up, enjoyed my full Irish breakfast with John and Ann, and then caught the St. Kevin's bus back to Bray where I jumped on the Dart and before too long was back in Raheny.  My tennis shoes might still be at the entrance to the estate near Shop River and my bag of belongings is somewhere out in the woods near Knockcree Hill.  I don't think I'll make a special trip to retrieve either one, but the next time I'm in the area, I may see if my stuff is still there.  Unless you beat me to it. - Shay     

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Wicklow Way

I've always wanted to do a multiple day hill walk in Ireland or the UK.  When I lived in England a dozen years ago, I never had the opportunity to do one, so when we moved to Ireland last year I told myself that I would have to do several before its all said and done.  Last Thursday, Juli and Ashlyn flew to Kansas City to spend three weeks with Juli's family.  So this has presented me with the perfect opportunity for a multiple day hike.  I'm leaving out bright and early in the morning to trek my way through the forests, hills, mountains, and glens that are county Wicklow.  Lord willing I'll be back on Wednesday evening and I'll have some stories to tell. - Shay  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Climbing Croagh Patrick

This past weekend, the Smith family took a trip to County Mayo in the west of Ireland.  For the second consecutive time on a trip out west, we were bombarded with wet weather.  The forecast for Saturday was meant to be drier, but as we set out on a trek up Croagh Patrick it became obvious that the forecast wasn't quite as accurate as we would have hoped.  About 250 feet up the mountain, Juli and Ashlyn (Ashlyn has a comfortable little backpack to be carried in) headed back for the visitor's cafe at the carpark, while I was determined to make it to the top.

About an hour later I was 2500 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, but for all I knew, I may as well have been on Jupiter.  The cloud cover, fog, and mist was so thick it felt like I had been hiking through a bowl of soup.  My shirt and wind pants were as wet as if I had taken a swim out in Clew Bay.  Needless to say, I didn't spend too long on top and quickly began my descent to the bottom.  As I passed a couple of lads from Kilkenny on their way up (I had passed them on my way up earlier), they asked me if I had taken time to say my prayers on the top.  I told that I had indeed offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, but I hadn't lingered too long because of the rain.

Thankfully I made it back down with only a couple of slips and no injuries.  And I was even more grateful that Juli and Ashlyn had made it down without a fall. Meanwhile, the weather back in Dublin was sunshine and 75 degrees.  We may have missed one of the best days of the Dublin summer on our trip, but it was worth it to check one more place off our Irish bucket list. - Shay
 Beginning Croagh Patrick Trek

Daddy, are you sure about this?

Soupy view of the Atlantic

Yes, caps must be worn!

Traffic jam in Mayo

Friday, June 24, 2011

Reflections on Colossians 3

One of the great things about worshiping Christ in the context of a small Christian community in an organic setting like your home is that you are able to have a more inclusive and participatory gathering.  Often, when we meet in Balbriggan, Raheny, or Baldoyle, we'll share a discovery Bible study together.  With a DBS, we all take the time to write out word for word a short text from scripture before paraphrasing it and then writing down life application statements.  When the community comes together we share our reflections and the entire group is mutually encouraged to a greater understanding of God and his word and a more faithful response in our individual and corporate lives.

We've recently spent time in Colossians and I'd like to share some reflections that I gained from Paul's emphasis on our new lives lived in Christ's body.  Here's my paraphrase and some of my life application from Colossians 3:12-17.

Because we've been raised with Christ to new life (vs. 1) we are a part of God's family - his chosen ones.  We are loved by God and set a part for his purpose.  Since we've stripped off the sinful and selfish rags of our old way of living we are to get dressed up in God's finest new clothes.  We're to immerse ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  And since we're part of community, we don't just live for ourselves - we live for others and we put up with their garbage, just as they put up with ours.  Even if we rightly have an issue with a brother or sister in Christ, we are to forgive them because God knows the Lord Jesus Christ has forgiven us of so much more!  We cannot do this without love.  Love allows us to live in the messiness of community life because it creates melody and harmony where there was simply noise and confusion.  Love unites and overcomes all of our human brokenness, so we must love above all else.  And if the peace and calmness of Christ flows through our lives and the lives of the entire community we can live and function as one body.  Thank God!!!  Live in gratitude.  May Christ's word not simply go in one ear and out the other, but may it permeate every fiber of our existence until it transforms us from the inside out.  We all have the responsibility to teach and at times even rebuke and correct each other.  This means that we must in humility be willing to learn from the whole community.  Instruction is always a two-way street.  God's wisdom arises in the context of community.  And when we respond to God's acts of salvation through singing or any other kind of worship - we do it out of a gracious response to our God who has done so much for us.  Whether through the Old Testament psalms, through the hymns of the ancient and modern church, or through any kind of music that puts us into contact with Christ's spiritual reality, we offer what we can to God.  In fact every single aspect of our lives should be nothing less than worship in the name of the Lord Jesus out of gratitude to God the Father.

It's not enough for me to simply strip off the old layers of sin and selfishness.  Full life in Christ calls me to put on a new set of clothes and these clothes don't fit without love acting as a belt to pull it all together.  Love God and love neighbor.  Community life is messy.  Living in community has taught me that so often I am not humble, meek, or patient.  Nor have I been as forgiving as I'm called to be.  I need to repent.  I need greater humility (seems like an oxymoron, eh?), meekness, and patience.

We've been called to one body.  In that body I am to let the peace of CHRIST RULE in my heart.  In that body we as a community are to allow the peace of CHRIST to RULE  in our collective hearts.  I need to let go of some things.  I cannot be a control freak and live faithfully in Christian community.  I need to trust Christ and his Spirit and his peace to work in other people's lives, just as I've seen them work in my life.  I need to trust Christ's community more.  I also need to make sure that I'm always open to learn from the community.

The last verse in this passage challenges me to make everything - every aspect of my life an intentional worship and missional activity.  Everything I do should be infused with an understanding of Christ's Lordship and be done as an extension of Christ's mission.  Everything I do should be done as a gracious response to what God had done for me in Christ. - Shay     

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nearly a Year In

I should probably wait for another two weeks to post this, but I just realized that Juli, Ashlyn, & I have lived in Dublin for 50 weeks.  Two weeks short of a year and the North Dublin Smith family couldn't be any happier.  By far, this has been the fastest year of my life.  It seems like yesterday that we were selling our possessions, packing up our stuff, saying goodbye to our loved ones in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and boarding a plane for the adventure of a lifetime.  Now, here we are nearly a year in.

A lot of things have happened in these 12 short months.  We've met many new friends, volunteered hundreds of hours, launched two new (small) worshiping communities on the north side of the city, welcomed a new brother into the Christian family, shared our faith with many who are seeking God, mentored fellow brothers and sisters into stronger leadership roles, and are in the process of laying the foundation for further opportunities.  The Spirit is at work in this place and we are simply joining God in the work where it's already happening.

Over the next 50 weeks I'll continue to update this blog with stories of life and faith and hopefully I can convince Juli to write a few too or to at least post a few pictures! - Shay  

Monday, May 23, 2011

One of 40 Million

They say that 40 million Americans trace at least some of their ancestry back to Ireland.  I'm one of 'em.  Juli (and obviously Ashlyn) are two more of them.  It wasn't until a few years ago that Barack Obama (or is it O'Bama?) discovered that he has Irish roots as his great, great, great grandfather Falmouth Kearney originated from the small town of Moneygall in county Offaly.  Today my President came home and met some of his distant cousins including his 8th cousin Henry Healy (or is it Henry the VIII?).

A few years back my first cousin, Johnny Smith traced my dad's side of the family back to Ireland through at least two lines.  One of my ancestors, Matthew Wallace came from Raphoe, in county Donegal.  Another one of my ancestors, John Smith (also my dad's name - quite original, eh?) came from the north of Ireland.  I've not located the exact location of John Smith's origins, but I have been to Raphoe (a tiny little village between Donegal town and Derry) a couple of times and spent the night there in a quaint little B&B. 

Before President Obama spoke to a throng of thousands upon thousands of enthusiastic Irish well wishers, Taoiseach Enda Kenny introduced him to the crowd and then invited the other 39,999,999 to follow the path of their President back home to the emerald isle.  Based on our conversation 3 months ago in Galway, Taoiseach Kenny should have remembered that he only need invite 39,999,997 because 3 of them are already here. - Shay


Monday, May 16, 2011

Iron Sharpens Iron

Craig and Merschon Hutson, Scott Karnes, and I just got back from Sheffield, England last night where we attended the house party, a church planting seminar put on by The Crowded House.  TCH is a collection of gospel communities whose focus is to live out the realities of the gospel in all its glory as well as all its messiness by sharing life together in small house based groups and by intentionally living their lives with a missional focus.  Presently, TCH consists of 9 gospel communities in Sheffield, 4 in Loughborough, England, and several more in formation, scattered around the world.  The four of us and 5 others from England and Romania spent several days observing and participating with these communities as they engaged in mission through their natural rhythms of life.  We experienced a lot and learned much from those experiences.  Once we have a couple of days to process what we saw we plan to figure out how what we learned might be useful to us here in Dublin.  As iron sharpens iron, so one church planting initiative sharpens another! - Shay

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Dying Danish Church

The Smith family arrived back in Dublin on Friday.  We had an amazing 10 day trip to the UK and Denmark and were able to experience some of the sights and sounds that my grandfather and grandmother did 66 and 87 years ago respectively.  It was great to visit the old American airbase near Bury St. Edmunds where my granddad was stationed in WWII.  Many buildings at the base are still standing and have been turned into a museum. 

Unfortunately, the house and barn my grandmother's family used to own near Gelsted, Denmark were torn down about 2 years ago.  We stayed in a house only 10 minutes walk from her old farm and though some things had changed, a lot had remained the same.  One thing that has definitely changed in Denmark is the religious climate.

In most rural areas the people are more religious than in urban areas.  If that's the case in Denmark, then the Danish state-funded Lutheran Church is dying, if not already dead.  We were able to worship at the parish church my grandmother was Christened in some 92 years ago and if it weren't for the priest, the organ player, and 3 teenage girls recruited to sing in the "choir", there would not have been any Danish people present under the age of 70.  In fact, there were only a handful of elderly people there and most of them had been bussed in from a local nursing home.  After worship Juli asked the girls if any young people ever attended church.  "No", they replied.  "What about families, do they ever attend?"  "Never", the girls responded.  It would have been a rude question to ask, but I have a strong premonition that if the girls had not been recruited to sing in the choir, they wouldn't have been in the church that Sunday either. 

Denmark is leading Europe's secular parade and it won't be long until other European countries have as little religious fervor as Scandinavia.  But thankfully, Denmark's story isn't complete and there is hope that there may be revival in the future, if only in small numbers (who am I to doubt the power of God...maybe there will be a revival in big numbers?).  A friend of mine in Dublin did mission work in Denmark over 30 years ago and he said that it wasn't known as Europe's spiritual icebox for nothing.  God bless the work of those whom he may send in the years to come.  And for those of us engaged in Christ's Kingdom work in other parts of Europe or North America, visiting Denmark is a good reminder that the work we do may be the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death for many individuals, if not entire nations. - Shay  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Sort of Homecoming

Juli and I worked with the Nottingham Church of Christ in Stapleford, England from 1998-2000.  That's actually where we met.  But we haven't been back to England for over 7 years, so when we fly to the London area tomorrow morning, so it'll be a sort of homecoming.

During World War II my grandfather, Rip Turnbough was the pilot of a B-17 bomber.  His crew, Stormy Weather flew over 30 successful missions, bombing German targets on the European mainland.  He was stationed at Bury St. Edmunds in southeast England and the pub that was near their air base was renamed the Flying Fortress.  On Thursday evening, my parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother will visit the pub, have a meal, and drink a pint in Papa's honor (well at least I will).

While my granddad was bombing the Germans, my grandmother was awaiting his return while working in a factory in Nebraska.  They met right before he flew to England and they were married after the war.  She grew up in Chicago, but her family had immigrated to the States from Denmark when Gigi was just a girl.  That's how a Danish girl wound up in west Texas via Chicago and Nebraska.  On Saturday my family will fly to Denmark and visit the village on the island of Fyn where my grandmother was born and raised for a time.  We may even run into some 2nd and 3rd cousins.  At any rate, it'll be cool to see where 1/4 of my DNA originated. - Shay 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Small World, Small Church

Our friend Scott Karnes has a saying, "It's a small church."  I guess that's why were in Dublin trying to make it just a little bit bigger.  But sometimes its nice to be a part of a close-knit fellowship.  For instance, at last night's house worship we were blessed to be joined by Kara Dubose.  No one present had ever met Kara before, but she had learned of our group from a friend of a friend.  Kara went to ACU with Amanda McVey who had been in our youth group.  Amanda's mother, Margie passed on our details to Kara's boyfriend who passed them onto Kara.  Kara just happens to be spending a couple of months "gigging" around Ireland with her band and so she took time to join us for worship and wound up staying the night with Juli and me. 

We were also blessed to be graced with the presence of Dale and Vicki Hawley (Missions Resource Netowork) last night.  Dale and Vicki's son, Caleb (who also happens to have been on the most recent season of American Idol), had recently played a gig with Kara and her band.  Small world, or as Scott would say, small church.  Either way, our singing sure was good last night! - Shay

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beaten by a Basket

Way back in August I joined a Dublin men's league Basketball team.  We're Sutton, but we don't train or play in Sutton and no one on the team actually lives in Sutton.  But hey, the Dallas Cowboys don't play in Dallas either. 

Anyway, we finally finished our season this past Saturday as we were edged by 2 points in our semifinal with Inchicore (I think their team is actually from Inchicore).  It's been great to be welcomed onto the team by the other 12-13 guys who play.  Most of them have been playing ball together for nearly 20 years and I've not even known them 20 months.  I look forward to building a friendship with them over the next few years and I sincerely hope that we'll have the chance to share more than just a sport together.  Until then, we have a few pickup games lined up for the summer.  Should be fun. - Shay   

Immersed in the Irish Sea

For the past couple of months, the Hutson, Karnes, and Smith families have been assisting a family from Nigeria with house worship.  The couple, John and Bridgette (I don't know how to pronounce their last name, let alone spell it) live with their 5 kids (aged 2 months to 7) in Balbriggan, about a half hour north of Dublin.  John and Bridgette have been Christians for a number of years and because its hard for them to get their massive family all the way down to the south of Dublin for worship, they've decided to create Christian community right where they live. 

A little over a month ago, John's friend Samuel began to join us for worship.  Samuel became interested in the Christian faith because of the passionate and faithful life of John.  9 days ago Samuel spent his Saturday afternoon in a deep study of God's word with John.  The following day, Scott Karnes and I had the privilege of hearing Samuel confess Christ as Lord and witnessing John baptize him in the Irish Sea.  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and from where we stood on the beach we could see all the way to Northern Ireland where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.  I have no doubt that we'll be witnessing many more brothers and sisters being immersed into Christ in the Irish Sea over the next few years.  And I hope that John and Bridgette have a few spare chairs because their house worship is going to get crowded! - Shay     


Okay, so it's been nearly a month since my last post here.  That's too long.  I repent.  I will do my best to update this blog far more often (maybe even weekly?).  Who knows, maybe I can even convince Juli to post a few pictures...

Patrick's Day was great.  We went out to Ashbourne and watched our friends Scott & Davis Karnes march with their respective Baseball teams in a small local parade.  We caught a U2 cover band and though they were pretty good, they were far from even better than the real thing.  Ashlyn must have caught a bug at one of her playgroups because she came down with something and lost her lunch, literally.  So our first Paddy's Day ended a bit prematurely, but it was memorable nevertheless.

While I'm on the subject of repentance, make sure you read the post above. - Shay

Monday, March 14, 2011

Paddy's Day

It seems unremarkable to be in Ireland on Saint Patrick's day.  Maybe it's a bit like being in Philadelphia on the 4th of July or in Bethlehem at Christmas - kind of cool, but nothing to get too excited about.  In fact, as much as I'd like to one day visit the "holy lands", I tend to think that it will be underwhelming.  I've always been more interested in the events and meaning of history than I have been about the actual places history was made.

Of course Paddy's Day has developed into more of a day to celebrate all things Irish than about celebrating one of the earliest Christian missionaries to this island.  I'm not quite sure that Patrick would really understand what's going on if he were to be resurrected this Thursday.  He might even think that the long term fruits of his labors were not as bountiful as he would have hoped they would be.  At any rate, he would most certainly wish that Christ would receive the glory rather than himself.

 So although I'm not "stoked" about this Thursday, I do think it's kind of cool to be on the Emerald Island for Paddy's Day, 2011.  Who knows, I might have changed my tune by Friday morning.  I'll let you know. - Shay


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

All Politics are Local, Especially in Ireland

So, it's been a while since we've updated this blog.  It's been quite busy and quite exciting around here lately, so I haven't taken the time to write anything.  No promises, but I hope to change that over the next few weeks.

Anyway, a week after meeting the "notorious" Gerry Adams, Juli, my mom, Ashlyn, and I met Enda Kenny out in Galway.  If you didn't know Gerry Adams, you probably wouldn't know Enda Kenny, but with the Irish elections in 2 days, Enda should end up being the next Taoiseach (pronounced tea-shuck) or Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland by the weeks end.  The "meeting" was simply one of those "let's go shake hands with the guy & the baby & get a nice photo op" type thing, but once he discovered I was a Texan and not an Irishman, a corny joke about Waco or something or other was thrown out and the Fine Gael political machine was on its way farther down the street.  Given the fact that I've never even been in the same building with any US President, past or present, and that I wound up meeting two very famous Irish politicians in the space of 7 days, confirms for me that at least in Ireland, all politics are local. - Shay

Saturday, January 29, 2011

That's me.

It's not every day that you meet someone famous and it's certainly not every day that you run into someone that's infamous.  Juli, Ashlyn, my mom who flew into Ireland yesterday, and I were over at St. Anne's Park at the farmers market to grab a light lunch and say hello to some friends.  After purchasing our Lebanese wraps from one of the stalls, I glanced over to my right and had to do a double take.  Standing at the stall was Gerry Adams.

"Gerry Adams", I said.  "That's me", he replied.  You may not know who Gerry Adams is. Here's a link and I'll let you decide if Gerry would fall under the famous or infamous category.

After I introduced myself and shook his hand, Gerry noticed my American accent and inquired about how long we had been in Dublin.  "Is this your ba-ba?" he asked.  "What's her name?"  "Ashlyn", I said.  "Best of luck", he said before I joined Juli and my mom and let them know who I had just met.

So it wasn't quite Bono, and Gerry Adams has a mixed reputation in Ireland to say the least, but when you meet someone who's more or less world famous at a farmer's market, you have to at least shake their hand and introduce yourself. - Shay

Monday, January 3, 2011

Just Like the Day After December 31

I've not really thought about any resolutions for 2011.  I've made a few in the past (and actually kept some of them), but January 1, 2011 just felt like the day after December 31, 2010, so I don't  really see the point in changing course drastically.  Maybe that should be the goal, to simply keep a straight course for 2011. 

There are some things that I'm looking forward to over the coming weeks and months.  Next week I'll start teaching a conversational English class to immigrants and migrant workers in the Dublin city center.  The Karnes, Hutsons, and Smiths will jointly begin teaching similar classes in Clongriffin towards the end of January or the beginning of February.  Later this month I'll begin coaching a youth basketball team in Ballymun.  Speaking of basketball, the team I'm on has the bulk of its games coming up over the next couple of months.  Juli and I hope to get a car sometime soon and if we do, I hope to volunteer with Meals on Wheels if I can get cleared with the Garda despite not having an Irish background for them to check.

2010 was a year that we'll never forget.  We were blessed to see an amazing group of seniors graduate and move onto bigger and better things.  We were saddened to leave the kids and families of the youth ministry and the congregation at Brentwood Oaks but it was good to know that the youth group would continue to grow stronger and stronger through the leadership of Adam and Misty Herndon and Steve and Margie McVey (and through many others, not least the teens themselves!).  Seeing Ashlyn grow and develop has been one of the most exciting and pleasurable experiences I've ever had.  As I've written previously, every day really is a new adventure and I'm excited to see what new things God will teach me in 2011 through the life of my daughter.  And moving to Ireland has been the fulfillment of a decade long dream, so we have tried to carpe diem - seize the day each and every day.

So here's to each day of 2011 being just like the day after the day that came before. - Shay