Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Those We Meet in Coffee Shops

Yesterday morning I was enjoying a cup of coffee in one of our local shops when in walked a couple of gentlemen, one wearing a religious collar.  I overheard their conversation regarding churches and the Christian faith, but continued to read the book I had brought with me, The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson.  Noticing the title of the book and the author, the older gentleman, the one wearing the collar, approached me and began to chat.  He lead in with something like, "It's great to see a young man, reading the Scriptures and reading a book by Eugene Peterson.  Hello, fellow brother in the Lord, I'm Jim and this is my friend Sam."

Jim mentioned that he was the local Rector for the Raheny parish of the Church of Ireland and that Sam was a former parishioner who is now a part of another congregation.  I mentioned that I loved the architecture of the All Saints church building and that I had always wanted to have a look inside and Jim responded, "Are you busy now?  Let me pay for your coffee and we'll take you over and give you a tour.  Besides, a BBC crew is going to swing by in a few minutes as they are planning to film a few scenes in the church for an upcoming television series."

I couldn't have asked for a better guided tour.  Jim and Sam spent several minutes describing many of the architectural features, explaining the symbolic significance of the stained glass windows, and giving me a brief history of the building and the parish.  Arthur Guinness, the great grandson of the original Arthur Guinness ( proposed and funded the building of the church back in the 1880s and is buried in a crypt in a side room located within the building.  Jim allowed me to have a look at the Guinness crypt and I noticed that next to it sat a 250th anniversary can of the black stuff.  Underneath the can was a note, written by an anonymous person who thanked the Guinness family for their contribution to Irish culture.  Jim said the can was left outside the building during the 250 year celebrations back in 2009.

As we finished the tour the BBC crew had arrived and were milling around making plans for the shots they hoped to get later in the day.  Jim, Sam, and I exchanged details and shared a brief prayer.  Jim asked if I would be willing to speak at their harvest Sunday in September and I agreed to do so.  However, he called me later explaining that he had double booked the date and asked if I would be willing to speak another time and I of course agreed to do so.

I look forward to chatting with Jim in the future and I pray that God will bless whatever time we may have to spend in each others company.  As iron sharpens iron, may our interactions with fellow followers of Jesus help us to be faithful in the tasks that God sets before us.  If you want to learn more about the All Saints church here's a link to it's Wikipedia page,_Raheny.  You never know who you're going to meet in a coffee shop. - Shay   

Monday, February 20, 2012


Our Christian community began studying Romans a few weeks ago.  Every time I read through it I'm reminded of what a magnificent piece of literature it is and even more importantly, what a magnificent gospel we've been given.  Romans is good news.  The gospel is good news.  Here are some highlights from Paul's letter that have brought me encouragement recently.

"For I'm not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, 'The one who is righteous will live by faith.' - 1:16-17

" the presence of God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.  Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become 'the father of many nations,' according to what was said, 'So numerous shall your descendants be.'  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead." - 4:17-19

"Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." - 6:3-5

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." - 8:1-2

"But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you." - 8:9-11

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  For in hope we were saved." 8:22-24

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - 8:38-39

I wrote a poem reflecting some of these themes some years ago.


Lying in the dust the corpse rots through and through.
There's no more life to live, there's nothing left to do.
Then the bones begin to rattle, the bones begin to shake.
The sinews and the flesh, new life begins to make.
Gasping deep, lungs expanding, Spirit's wind, life's breath.
The living God's the giving God and life has conquered death!

His body hangs limp, beaten, broken, his side dripping blood.
On the faces of the women, tears stream down in a flood.
He was the one who'd redeem his people, but the cause is now lost.
None could imagine the pain and the suffering, no one could count the cost.
And the tomb stands ready to receive his lifeless body dead,
But it's Sunday morning now and resurrection wins instead!

She's heard of resurrection, but it seems to good to be true.
Yet through faith her heart believes, so there's nothing she won't do.
Her dead body is buried; the grave of water sucks her in.
She's covered in his blood, and she rises free from sin.
Her old life is behind her, in her new life she looks ahead
To the time when he returns and her body will rise again!

"O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways...For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever.  Amen." - 11:33 & 36

Good news indeed. - Shay

Monday, February 13, 2012

Some Familiar Places

"A guy from Texas had to go all the  way to England to meet a girl from Oklahoma."  That's the line I end with when I tell people how Juli and I met nearly 13 years ago.  We were both in a short-term apprentice missions program and we were blessed to have worked with a great group of Christians in Nottingham in the East Midlands of England.  Juli began the program a year earlier than I did, so our time in the UK only overlapped for about 4 months (I should note that Juli's a year and a half younger than me though). 

It only took me about 2 months to realize that Juli was the one for me, although as she remembers it, I was fairly smitten as soon as I got off the plane.  Let's just say it took Juli a couple of years to come around.  In fact, one evening as I walked around our local village of Long Eaton wrestling with my unrequited emotions, I sat down next to three lads having a pint outside a local pub.  I didn't know these guys from Adam, but I had to talk to someone.  I proceeded to share my girl problems and they patiently listened.  Once I had regurgitated my sad story, I thanked them for their time and continued on my journey.  I wonder if those fellas ever remind themselves of the time when they served as the advice column for a strange American chap?  I sometimes remind Juli of what mental anguish she put me through.

Fast forward to 2012 and its been nearly 10 years since Juli and I were last in Nottingham.  We've been to other parts of the UK since then and last May I actually passed Long Eaton on a train, but we've not had the chance to walk around, see the sights, hear the sounds, and smell the smells of the place where our relationship began.  On Wednesday and Thursday of this week we'll have that opportunity as we travel to the East Midlands to visit a church that's involved in serving their community in some ways that we'd like to emulate here in Dublin.  We're looking forward to learning a lot as well as seeing some familiar places and some familiar faces. - Shay 

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Song for the Season

Do you ever feel like a song sums you up?  I have and sometimes still do.  Like most teenagers, I really loved music, but also like most people (I assume) I've spent less money and less time on music as I've gotten older.  But when I'm in the mood, I'll let a song or several songs serve as the soundtrack to my life. 

Over the past year, my favorite album has been The Impossible Song and Other Songs by Roddy Woomble.  Roddy's the lead singer for a Scottish indie rock band called Idlewild.  I've seen them play live 5 or 6 times and own all of their records.  I once met Roddy at an independent record shop in Dallas.  His band was playing an acoustic set in the store before opening for Pearl Jam later that evening.  A few years back, Roddy began to release solo folk records in between Idlewild projects.  
His latest effort is fantastic and here are the lyrics to one of those tunes, Work Like You Can.

Work Like You Can 

Nothin’ll get lost if we work like we can
'Till the smell of the earth is warn into our hands
And I promise you somethin’ you’ll never get nowhere
If you only ask questions of love
Long ago people came to this town
To build their lives out of what they found
Now the times are ruined
And the dirt on the ground is mixed in with the ashes of love

And gather with others to work like you can
To live like you can
And gather with others to work like you can
To live like you can

You can keep your mouth shut better than I can
Accept and obey every law in this land
And when the wind blows your  wages right out of your hands
You accept that the wind doesn’t blow around love

Repeat Chorus

In spite of, in spite of money, position, and power
All  the important things I’m told we should be dreamin’ of
The seasons are fixed with the sun
Just like an old stone that will never be thrown
Soon the spring will come
Like a distant object of love
And the spring tides and neap tides
Bring a rhythm to the land
With the oil and the saw
We can work like we can
What you lack in ability you can gain pretty simply
Ignore the riches, the riches of love

You can catch a live performance of the song here:

- Shay