Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Patrick's Day in the North

Juli, Ashlyn, and I spent St. Patrick's Day in the north of Ireland in counties Tyrone (Northern Ireland) and Donegal (part of the Republic of Ireland, but as far north as any counties in Northern Ireland).  We dropped my mom (who had spent her week of spring break with us) off at the Belfast airport before heading west to Omagh and then eventually Letterkenny. 

While in Omagh we visited the Ulster American Folk Park - a fantastic re-creation of the life emigrants (and immigrants) lived 200 and 300 years ago both in Ireland and in America.  After that we caught the Paddie's Day Parade in Letterkenny.  We stayed in Balleybofey, a village only a few miles from Raphoe where several of my ancestors lived before heading to the American colonies.

While at the hotel in Balleybofey, I read a ridiculous article in one of the British newspapers claiming that St. Patrick had not in fact been a slave in Ireland before returning to preach the gospel, but had instead been a slave trader.  There's not a shred of historical evidence that even remotely points to this absurdity, but that doesn't seem to stop the revisionist historians from delving into their fantasies.  Don't believe everything you read! - Shay

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Strength in Weakness

I think a lot of us who follow Christ worry about messing things up.  We realize that we are called to be salt and light to a dark and dangerous world and so when we fall short - when we're not as strong as we ought to be - we think that not only have we disappointed our Lord, but we might have also caused the gospel to be seen in a poor light.  This is certainly something we need to be aware of.  But if we think about what the gospel really is - good news for a lost people, grace for sinners - then shouldn't these moments when we mess things up also point people to a power that's greater than ourselves, greater than themselves?  The reality is, we will mess things up, we do mess things up.  Rather than pretending that we have it all together (hypocrisy), isn't it better to admit it when we don't?

People tend to pride themselves in their strengths while doing the best they can to cover up their weaknesses.  We do it at the macro level throughout society and we do it at the micro level in our individual lives.  No one wants to admit that they are weak.  And yet, we all know that every single one of us struggles.  We endure trials, we mess things up, we fail, and we wrestle with these vulnerabilities.  But, we tend to wrestle with them alone and society tells us that we have to overcome them through our own effort and strength.

Here recently, I've been reminded that the areas of my life where I'm in progress, still imperfect, still very messy, are the very areas of my life that can speak powerfully to people who are also on the road to redemption and yet realize that it's a long road indeed.  In 2 Corinthians the apostle Paul boldly declares that instead of covering up our weaknesses, we are better served to be open and honest about them so that Christ's power might clearly be demonstrated in our lives.  He states that when he is weak, then he is strong.  Like so much of the gospel, the idea of strength emerging out of our weakness is counterintuitive.  We would rather go from strength to strength.  But the gospel itself is an illustration of power and strength emerging out of weakness.  As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, "...we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God."  I pray that we might all learn to allow God's strength and power to overcome our weaknesses. - Shay