The Lone Piper Played. We wept.

[*A brief detour into how the same history of values/philosophy that have shaped our travelling generation, have also shaped our nations far more than that.  The context to this post can be found here and here]

When I saw the predicted polls of the Irish referendum on the 8th amendment [abortion] on Friday night on the Irish Times website after polling closed, I was in disbelief.  Was this another poor attempt by the Irish Times to slant things, like had happened all along in the Irish media?  (The only lone pro-life voices allowed in the year coming up to the referendum were Breda O’Brien’s short snippets in the latter pages of the Irish Times and David Quinn’s column in the Sunday Times.  In the last couple of months, a few solitary voices were added with the aim of giving a semblance of balance.  In reality, speaking up against all the main political parties, all the main media, hundreds of thousands of euros of illegal foreign money, and some political leaders advocating civil disobedience, was always going to be hilarious to try.)

But as we examined the methodology and sample size, it became clear it wasn’t.  And looking to my pro-choice friends, they were also nearly in disbelief and not ready to yet celebrate, until they saw the concrete results.  From a country steeped in tradition, the steeple had toppled years ago, and now the building was leaning towards collapse.  And there was no reparation funds left to do anything about it.

Irish Times exit poll

And so I fled.  Fled to County Kerry for a Stag party of a friend.  Not particularly looking forward to the frivolity of such an affair, but pleased to get mental space from over-analysing results, county by county, as they came in.  And it’s just as well I left, as doing it by county would have made no difference to the results, because if you’d shown me a list of them, I wouldn’t even have been able to pick out the constituency I was sitting in, in the rural west, as all apart from Dublin were much of a muchness.  Donegal, the lone dissenter….just.

While we were away, on a rare warm summer evening sitting on Castlegregory beach with the moon shining overhead and a tiny fire to keep us warm, the storm hit the rest of the country, like rarely seen before in Ireland.  The thunder and lightning displays rumbled on for hours.  Many awoke and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Numerous party-goers of “Repeal” celebration parties were left sheltering inside, or deciding to call it a night.  A small blip on the ecstacy of the celebration.

20180526_222351.jpg

Returning to reality a day later, I stumbled through a Sunday service, not yet having time to process anything emotionally.  It was only alone that afternoon that it all started to sink in.  Heading out for the evening to a pro-life social gathering of the Life Institute in Cork, there was a sombre mood amongst us all.  A few comments struck me over the course of the evening, informally chatting to many who I had never met before:

“Even our Priest told us we couldn’t canvass outside Mass any week.  The next week, they were canvassing for some other charity to help disabled people.  But Pro-life stuff?  Not at all!  The Association of Catholic Priests had told them otherwise.”

 

“Our [evangelical] church leaders only mentioned it once briefly from the front and invited us all to a central meeting not organised by the church.  As if it wasn’t part of the Church’s concern.  As if ending tens of thousands of human lives isn’t something Jesus speaks about much.”

 

“We just don’t know how it went from us hearing far more ‘nos’ on the canvasses to such a concrete ‘yes’ in the vote.  Were people lying on the doors?  Were only old people in their houses in the evenings?  Did people change their mind at the last minute?”

A canvass leader who had connections to canvass leaders up and down the country.

 

“I’m not religious at all, but the timing of the lightning storm last night was creepy.  We’ve never in our lifetime seen anything like it.  Do you think it was connected?”

(On a sidenote, no, no I don’t.  Jesus’ reply in Luke 13 is a helpful place to go to respond to similar questions and superstition)

 

20180527_212121.jpg

And as the chat died away, and the two eulogies were made, mourning the coming effects of the result, thanking everyone, and urging us to offer better choices for women, so they never had to choose abortion, even if now available.  We stood with tears in our eyes.

Tears, not that the steeple was gone or that the building was following, because that was not what many, if any of us were caring about.  Owning the skyline of a city is fairly meaningless unless one lives out a warm moral fabric in beautiful communities to go with it.  Particularly for the many atheist pro-life campaigners in the room who don’t even identify with the skyline at all, but were still weeping.

20180302_174958.jpg

From one bridge further along, 8 church steeples can be seen towering over the city.

The tears were more because of what replaced those communities inside.  Communities that once oozed with a sacrificial love for humanity, in light of the sacrificial, servant Saviour they claimed to follow.  Communities that were quick to confess their short-comings to each other and forgive, and would never hold any human on a pedestal without account.  Communities that made inroads into developing education, healthcare, legal systems, charities, family life.  Communities that most in Ireland have not seen for many a generation.  Their downfall was first inside:

First came the religious elite in powerful positions, able to put on a good show, but underneath not all was well.  Moral corruption.

Second came those who were happy to keep the show going at any cost, despite knowing all was not well morally.  No questions allowed.  Shame the unbeliever.

Third came those who, when knowing the show was not going well, were gradually consumed by apathy: is this even real?

Fourth came those still who would see the nice things in the show, but not want the uglier side and would pick of what they indulged.

Fifthly came those who wanted rid of it all, seeing that the constructs woven into society originally by these communities had become decrepit, purposeless, for power hungry men to defend, and running contrary to the needs of society.

And losing an awareness at each level of anything bigger than themselves, many (including the religious elite) would see they had easier options than to sacrificially love another.  At one end of the scale, the scandals that rocked the church when self-gratification in a lonely role, overtook sacrificial love.  At the other, a misunderstanding that being moral was the message of Christianity and shaming those who weren’t perceived to be – a message that is the exact opposite of the true good news of a sacrificial Saviour who died on our behalf as we were not moral enough.

At each stage we started to doubt and then remove the very basis of sacrificial love and so our individualised rights and choices became the defining factors.  “Do not harm” replaced the far greater call to “love your neighbour”.  Communities that are now even prepared to take other human lives, on the altar of choice.

At what point should the constructs of the old community, so hewn into society and life, be torn down brick by brick for our own good?  And to what cost on the passerby, would falling bricks be, before the constructs of new communities arise?

Afterwards, cutting through the quiet rumble of voices, and the backing of a trad band playing in the corner, a lone piper started his drone.  And after hauntingly working his way through Irish airs, the famous Scottish anthem rang out:

“Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again”

We seem to be good at defining ourselves on what we are against.  The past.  The English.  The Church.

What awaits to be seen is what will replace the steeples on our skyline, and whether we can ever move beyond anger, to a positive rubric for Irish life.  For the meantime, I fear much more anger to come and many more innocents suffering the consequences of our anger.

The lone piper continued to play.

The room went silent.

 

We wept.

 

Advertisements

On the writing of books

It is finished!  Or close to it at least.  Taking a few moments away from writing this book on faith and travel, my heart has been struck by two things in this process.  Firstly, as my phone vibrates at yet another social media notification about a debate on the eighth amendment (about abortion) in Ireland, I think that my time is wasted on such trivial pursuits.  The thousands of unborn lives at risk through such huge legislation and vote as this, seem to speak with far greater volume that any need to write a book on such a topic.  But secondly as I see the nature of how the debate on such a referendum in this country goes, I realise that perhaps book writing isn’t such a bad form of persuasion after all.  Let me explain.

20180428_204304

On information and paralysis

Social media, that seemed to promise to put so much information at our fingertips, has failed us as are overwhelmed with alternative narratives of colour and sound, thrust in our faces for all our waking hours, as we interact with others and spend far more hours than we would have been reading a book, paralysed toing and froing between arguments that first seemed to have great appeal, before we put our hands towards them to find they’re only soapy bubbles: no substance at all.

The written page however, rarely has the luxury of colour and sound, has only the impact that the reader will allow it when picked up, and must carefully and persuasively articulate each step of the narrative it wants to portray, or else it will find itself relegated to the charity shop shelf with all others.  Where the more adept reader could be paralysed still by all the wealth of literary knowledge out there, the trained mind will be able to assess a weight of evidence by reading proportionately little (to what is written, which may still be a lot).

20180428_204944

On time spent preparing

Social media has huge advantages in being immediate.  It is on your knee.  It is whispering in your ear.  It takes what happens that we feel entertained by in South Korea and lets you know about it in seconds.  It posts content in the light of what has just happened.  It prioritises the present often at the expense of past examination.

The written page however cannot have such luxury.  If any thought, line or sentence were to go against the flow of reasoned thinking from one century or another, it would ring alarm bells for any with awareness of general thought patterns of history, and immediately be put down on the coffee table to be investigated further, to be meditated upon more, or scoffed at thoroughly.  The written page has been formed over months of crafted writing, and perhaps years or decades of thought.

20180428_210209

On treating others as humans

Social media has no regrets.  To the anonymous audience behind their keyboards, anything can be written.  In the referendum campaign, if you met most of those in the public square who had taken you to task on social media, they often wouldn’t say boo to a goose.  Because removing the anonymity is disempowering.  To know you are speaking to tens, perhaps hundreds or thousands of humans with lived experiences, is daunting.  But in that instantaneous click of a button and heat of the moment, those lives are forgotten.

A problem the book does not solve

But it’s where the written book doesn’t quite solve the dilemma.  I mean, most books speak far better to the full human spectrum of experience and remember their audience well.  But all is not perfect in the land where letter flows across page, and story after story paints a whole lens in which to explore other worlds.  So much power lies within the reader’s ability to close that book, that every chapter must ring true.  Every paragraph capture the heart.  Every sentence intrigue more, or else….or else the reading experience will end, slammed shut and abandoned to a shelf, to be reluctantly picked up, perhaps once more, should the weather permit.

And so, compared to broadcasting a message to a diverse range of people and worldviews, many of whom will find it’s message unappealing but yet still read it, the book must woo its reader first, with an enticing glance, before learning to speak in a language that is understood and appreciated, not just relying on soft touches of the elbow.  The book must sit with the reader so much in the chair, sharing the very intimacy of the reader’s lounge, that it’s ability to speak is somewhat harnessed.

20180428_205107

The hard-hitting truth must have first won its audience.

And that’s where a book can never quite say as much as social media could.  Or a talk.  Or a blog post for that matter.  Because the levels of ecstasy that are required to coax a reader to the point of opening a package of hard truths, generally take far too much doing to make them possible.  The social media account can jump out and slap a user in the face with a short, sharp blast, before returning to its place, to nearly be forgiven with a roll of the eyes.  A book does not have such privilege, without it being abandoned forever.

Should an author manage to craft a work to bring about such hard change, they should stop right there, and not attempt any more.  For each book will rarely have more than one main thrust that it can persuade towards, in any meaningful way.

Our hearts are less logical and more emotional than we thought.

And so the purist will always be disappointed.  There will always be more that could be said.  There are always either more direct or more persuasive ways to say them.  But similarly to social media, the word count is limited and the audience is to be persuaded one step at a time.

It’s where I’ve found saying anything negative about travel trends, to be very difficult, even when they’re necessary.  But it’s a useful lesson for life: to be able to say hard things in persuasive ways to diverse audiences.

And it’s why this book will not be liked by some.

“You never preached the gospel”
“We thought this would correct person ‘x’ out there, but barely does at all”

And other such critique, are things I will expect to hear in the next year.  And that’s where it’s even harder to take, knowing the long hours spent preparing and crafting each phrase.  To know that for many, it won’t be good enough.

But I’ll eventually learn that it’s also fine.  Because I’m not justified by my readers.  Nor by my writing.  And I must remember that the change that a book can bring about to the limited few who indulge, is long-term, deep-seated change, to a level that a social media post will rarely bring.  Books will bring about referendum campaigners that won’t budge.

20180428_210539

Praying while we travel

PrayerMate is a great App for us as travellers.  I used to keep a prayer journal and carry it round everywhere with me, so I could make a note of things to pray for and see how God had answered prayer.  Now I use PrayerMate!  It means that while on my travels, I’ve a Bible, a prayer App, a devotional guide on my Kindle (check our LiveDead Joy Bible reading planner for 1 pound) and catechisms, all in my pocket without thinking.  Does anyone have any recommendations for one for good hymns or Christian songs?

It took me an hour or two to figure out how I was going to best use it, and to input a weekly prayer cycle of my own prayer points that I wanted to pray through, but once I’d done that, it was easy!  And many organisations also use it, so you can hear all sorts of encouraging stories that will inspire you to pray.

For many of a younger generation, it’s transformed our prayer lives.  I could imagine that for a few, the discipline of staying away from your phone for things like this may be more valuable that accessing it all through the device that we’re already using too much!

All of this means I can be hiking up Irish mountains and can stop to pray, or to remind myself what I can be praying for as I hike, without taking out anything apart from my phone.  Or alternatively I can be stuck on a bus or in traffic, and, if it is legal to do so, check prayer points to make best use of the time, instead of getting frustrated.

20180331_122338

For those who want to sign up for my work daily prayer updates, you can click on this link: http://praynow4.org/craicfromcork

Not all those who wander are lost?

[Guest Post: Alex is a small-town extrovert who loves to travel and meet people with the hope of building genuine relationships to the glory of God. He lives in Louisville, KY, USA with his wife, daughter, and son, where he drinks coffee, makes too many references to Middle Earth and Hyrule, and prays for a future ministry of equipping redeemed repenters for the ministry of the saints throughout the world. 

If you would like to Guest Post, I’d love to hear from you.  We take all sorts of angles on faith and travel, as long as they stay within the rough ethos of the blog (you don’t need to agree with me on everything!!)]


When I was attending university, I noticed a trend in social media and popular culture where people who loved to travel or experience the great outdoors were posting, tweeting, or even wearing the phrase, “Not all those who wander are lost.” At first I was excited, thinking that I had suddenly discovered a host of kindred spirits who shared my affinity for High Elf culture. I was disappointed to find, however, that most of them did not realize the egregious error they were making (to my eyes) in taking that passage woefully out of its original context in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The full excerpt is actually:


All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king.

The Lord of the Rings, p. 170 (emphasis mine)

20180217_093826

Photo (C) mine.  Carlingford Lough, February 2018

What popular culture was using to exalt an often self-seeking version of wanderlust was actually a poem about a man whose family and kingdom were stripped from him yet spent his days patrolling and “wandering” the land in order to protect people who didn’t even recognize their own fealty to him, all because this man believed in a prophetic poem, a poem that promised he would one day sit on the throne that was rightfully his and dispel the shadows that oppressed his domain. This excerpt is not an advertisement for hiking in your local park but is a phrase about trust and perseverance being rewarded with a rightful inheritance. In fact, it reminds me of another passage about a man and a promise:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, co-heirs of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Hebrews 11:8-10 (CSB)

Abraham, too, was a man who wandered, “even though he did not know where he was going.” He did this because God told him to leave the land of his fathers for a land where he would become the father of “a great nation” and he would receive blessings from the Holy Creator God — in fact, “all the peoples on earth” were going to be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). He left the comforts and joys of his homeland because he faithfully believed in the goodness and mercy of God, not even dwelling within permanent buildings or walls because he was looking forward to the City that only God can design and build. His wandering was one of obedience and service because he not only followed God’s command to sojourn in a foreign land, but he also blessed people along the way by his sheer proximity. Sure, his travelling blessed people financially, but every time someone joined his household they were brought into the spiritual blessings of God (Genesis 17).

Like Abraham, we ought to travel while recognizing that we are only able to do so because we have been blessed financially and spiritually by God. Without the providence and provision of God Almighty we would not have the means to leave our front doors, let alone our countries. Every cent in our bank accounts is there purely by the grace of God. On top of that, He has blessed us spiritually so that now we are free from any self-seeking desires to “escape” the hum-drum rigor of daily life in pursuit of romanticized greener lands. We can enjoy our travels through the lens of Christ, knowing that all those who confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead are now foreigners in the world, citizens of a Kingdom still to come, and are being upheld by the promises of Jesus to be with us always, “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). We can enjoy and appreciate the gifts of grace found in meeting new people, trying new foods, and the countless “sub-creations” (to borrow a term from Tolkien) of image-bearers of the Creator without becoming enslaved to those things. What’s more, we can share that same freeing message of the gospel with people in other countries.

I am not arguing that your salvation or sanctification and growth in godliness is directly proportional to the amount of travel miles you have stored on your credit card. While I do encourage others to travel and experience new cultures and countries, I recognize that it is simply not feasible for some to take time off from work or dip into their savings accounts to travel the world in pursuit of broader horizons. And I am not suggesting that we should “sanctify” our holidays abroad by making them into evangelistic events (Peter wrote a post addressing that kind of mindset here).

20180122_095044

Photo (C) mine.  Belfast Bible College, February 2018

I would like to suggest, however, that we broaden our definition of travelling: instead of relegating the word only to transatlantic trips or cross-continental excursions, we can view travel as any means of moving from one place to another. Since this world is not truly home for Christians, we are effectively spending our lives at a hostel called Earth, which means that we too are constantly travelling and living in temporary housing like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before us. We do not have to leave our towns in order to possess a theology of travel because those same truths are evident to us wherever we lay our heads. But once we do have a theology of travel, then every trip that we take to the store, every holiday we take to Spain, and every Saturday we spend at home with the family becomes a part of our mission to genuinely love and serve the people around us. When our love is sincere, then making disciples of all nations is not a spiritual checklist for clergymen but a natural, authentic, and long-term outpouring of our hearts, wherever we may find ourselves that day.

Whether we leave our homes or stay where we are, we should remember that e are still sojourners in a foreign land, working and waiting for our King to return and fulfill his promise to take us to our true Home. If we hope and trust in the return of the Light to chase away the shadows in this world and in our souls, we too can wander and not be lost.

The music of the nations!

Christian Union talent shows are always ridiculously good in standard due to the music and public speaking training many church-raised kids receive, and beautifully shameless, as no-one ought to have their identity on their performance or making a fool of themselves!  They also are devoid of harsh categorisations and insults, constant sexual innuendo or needing alcohol to fuel the fun…brilliant!

But still this year’s one made me smile inside between the stereotype of Irish life in Robert, through to the flavours of the world from students who felt free to express themselves and their culture in incredible ways.  The ladies below wanted to teach everyone how to sing “Afro-Irish style”!  Who needs travel, when you have the Christian community on your doorstep?!

 

 

Business as mission

I’ve had the privilege of travelling Ireland recently with someone who is an expert in business as mission.  Working in major corporations for his whole life as he travelled the world, he’s decided to spend the last ten years of his career encouraging Christians to take business seriously, to take mission seriously and to do them both together, whether here or abroad in lesser reached places.  You won’t find any of his friends in business just doing it to get access to places.  No they’re serious and authentic business people.  And I many of us should be too – not having to abandon business to serve Jesus.

What a great way to use travel!

Here’s one website he recommended:

http://www.bamedu.com/

 

20180208_190509

Photo copyright Peter Grier 16/03/18

 

Sleeping in your car in North Africa

Having just finished the first draft of my book on faith and travel, I thought I’d include a story here for the fun of it, that didn’t make it into the book and has nothing to do with anything specific.  Thanks to everyone for your support and prayers throughout this process!

DSC_1060

North Africa:

Night was falling and we’d been on the road for a week already.  We had hit a part of the country with 3 major cities near each other and our usual sleeping arrangement (camping in a 20 euro festival tent we bought on the internet a few days before going), wasn’t going to get us anywhere in these rough cities.  Enter the brainwave from Dan!

“Peter, have you ever slept in a car before?  I think it’d be quite fun.”

I groaned inwardly, wondering how I was going to get out of this one.  I had indeed slept in a car at various points in life, and despite it being in pleasant locations, I cared little for the cold, uncomfortable, stuffy, public nature of choosing such fine moments to get some “shut-eye”.  Seen through other lenses: I cared nothing for adventure.

He didn’t seem put off.  And so we continued, finding a spot on a “business park” on the outskirts of rough suburb of the city we were nearest to.  Pulling in to what looked like a place where some had parked cars before, we put on the breaks and set in to brushing our teeth.  The trouble with brushing your teeth in the car, is much like the problems associated with anything to do with sleeping in your car: your car is not designed for this.

And so the door was opened to dispose of the toothpaste filled mouth into the gutter nearby.  But as if they had smelled the sweet aroma of minty freshness, at that moment, a pack of wild dogs had decided to come past scavenging, and just as quickly as the door had been opened, we jumped back inside, slammed it shut and breathed a sigh of relief as the dogs, after surrounding the car, decided there was easier things to scavenge that two scrawny Irish-men locked in a pile of metal.

After that brief excitement, we settled down to sleep, reclining the chairs of our tiny car to full stretch.  We were still a little nervous at how public that cars make sleeping, and were a little annoyed at not being able to open the window for air, lest some mosquitoes or bugs came in.  But eventually we started to settle down.

That is, until our next interruption, this time more unexpected.  Dan was the one to spot when the bright light started shining out of the dark and gradually getting bigger and bigger, as if it was coming towards us.  Our plan was just to lay low and hide there – it probably wasn’t anything, we convinced ourselves.  But the light did indeed keep getting brighter and brighter until it was close enough that we were panicking.  Who was this?  And why did they care about our choice of sleeping venue?  Catching small glimpses of a  figure outside moving through the darkness, silhouetted against the light they were carrying, we could see that whoever it was armed.  Hostel anyone?

And without further a-do, when the figure was still approaching the car, Dan stuck it into reverse and accelerated hard, leaving our first choice of sleeping venue in a cloud of dust behind us.

The fact that my clever idea of a hostel wasn’t much better, shall be left for another story.  Asides from saying that for about three euros, a night in a “prison cell” far worse than any in the west, was an interesting experience.

But it was enough to rest, and in the morning we were on our way again, laughing over the things that were panic moments of the previous day.  Everything in hindsight seems rosier.

DSC_1061

Resources for the traveller: help needed!

20180110_205703

Thankfully I was able to combine travel writing with a few strategic mission planning retreats with my work (IFES).  Here, we prayed for the world from near Nice, France

Please ‘scuse the short break from posting.  I’ve been off on my travels and travel writing and just wanted to be focussed on that for a while.

In addition to this great work that Stephen Liggins wrote, I’m writing an (hopefully) accessible theology of travel (called something far sexier) for IVP UK with lots of juicy stories and practical questions, applications and thoughts from many wiser than me.  I guess busses always come at the same time, eh?

Have any thoughts on faith and travel?  Do get in touch using the contact page or by commenting below.

But equally what I’d love your thoughts on, is a resource that myself and a few others from The River Communities are dreaming up for the seeking traveller (or any traveller for that matter).  Something that they can use on their travels to help them experience God and to break into their way of seeing the world.  Travellers are often seekers of something, and many of them are open to new thoughts and experiences.  Away from home, people will try anything once, if they meet a friendly face.

If you’re interested in this project, it’s in VERY early stages, and we’d love you to be involved or to chip in.  Again, please do drop me a line – I won’t bite!

And finally, if you’re not so sure about the whole book/resource thing, but want to keep online connections going, why not write a guest blog post for me or a series like Marie-Louise did?

Thanks to you all for reading!

Love and prayers,

PG

20180103_155129

Just one pub that I got to spend a few hours writing in, while I wandered the streets of London for a week over New Year.  I normally care little for my surroundings, but I’m trying to teach myself that God’s glory can be displayed in inner city things, as much as in the wilds of nature.  C’est vrai?

10 for travellers to read in 2018

I’m a big reader.  Partly because I do think readers are leaders.  You could spend worse time and money then learning from the best of thinkers and practitioners round the world.  And so here’s 10 (mostly recent publications) that I got for Christmas, that I think you might like!

Journey: an illustrated history of travel

book1

This coffee table book is a dream for the traveller!  Tracing the history of travel from several millennia ago, its pictures and bitesize format will lead to hours of fun facts and stories you may or may not know about travel.

For the more serious historian or reader, there’s enough to whet your appetite, and enough to send you off down a hundred other rabbit trails of things you want to investigate further.  At £25, it’s not cheap, but I intend it’ll get every pence of value sitting in my living room for others.

Is Shame Necessary? (Jennifer Jacquet)

book2

I’ve written before about how much of the world we see through our own cultural lenses.  Understanding shame/honour culture I think is key to understanding so much of history, world politics, religion and much more of personal interactions in our lives.  While those from such cultures will find this little book humorous and highly entertaining to see a westerner approach such a common sense topic (to you), it is however needed for us over here who have never thought the world could be seen that way!

The Strange Death of Europe (Douglas Murray)

book3

I was quite nervous of this treaty on immigration, identity and Islam, but it was recommended to me by those across a spectrum that I respected, and so I have started reading a book that appears to be a Conservative treatment on a topic I tend to take a more liberal stance on.  Whether Islam or secularism will dominate Europe in the decades to come will be a question that will not leave us for a while, and this, regardless of your opinion, is a well researched book.  Travelling Europe without thinking these questions could be blind travelling.  I can feel my pulse racing…

The Qur’an (Nicolai Sinai, Edinburgh Uni. Press)book4

A tsunami is coming!  After several hundred years of rigorous historical criticism of the Bible, this work has drawn together where we are with historical criticism of the Qur’an (just starting).  It’s a brave work to some extents, given what happens to those who suggest the Qur’an might not be the revealed message of Allah, but on other levels it will only be the start of fierce, western dragging of the text through critique in the decades to come.  I’m not sure how much westerners doing this, or how much us pretending Islam is a text-based religion will take affect, the way Biblical criticism did, but it’s a key read if you’re interested in the same discussion as the book above, or are travelling any Islamic state.

book5Zero Waste Home (Bea Johnson, Penguin)

Given the environmental impact on the world that travelling often makes, I would hope that most of us who travel, would be conscious of this, and looking to cut down our negative impact on the world, and on future generations (should there be future generations).  Bea Johnson is one of the leading voices over the years on cutting out waste from our lives, while still living normal lives.  I could imagine travellers will relate to her life of simplicity and absence of “stuff”.  The consequences are large enough, if put into action, that I’d suggest reading this one with a friend (to chat it through) or taking it slowly.  (And yes, I’m aware it’s ironic I’m buying a book on reducing waste…but I do want others to borrow it from my library, and that’s easier than Kindle!)

book6Cork Folk Tales (Kate Corkery)

Because every country/region has a rich story to tell, and folk tales are often what grab the imagination and help us see the mundane with a splash of colour.

Determined to Believe? (Prof John Lennox)

I’m a big Lennox fan.  I helped to organise his tour of Ireland recently, have sold hundreds of his books over the years.  Having said that, this looks like a polemic against a straw man Calvinism, veering many miles away from where Lennox is best: science (and faith).  I read it reluctantly while praying and longing for the day that the protestant/evangelical church will see that reformed/arminian distinctions don’t need to bitterly divide us.

“[insert Calvinism or Arminianism] will be the death of the church in [insert country/place]”.  No, no it won’t.  And if you think it will, your God is quite small.

JI Packer wrote a marvelous uniting book, speaking into a Christian Union situation in the UK that was divided on the topic.  I hope I’ve not judged this book by its cover.  Why for travellers?  Free will, determinism, compatibilism (and other variants) shape every culture, country, and thing that we do.  To understand culture well, you’d be wise to look at such questions, philosophical as they may be.

The Silk Roads (Peter Frankopan)book8

It was a bestseller of last year in many charts and one that is key reading to those who had western-centred history lessons.  “The region of the Silk Roads is obscure to many in the English-speaking world. Yet the region linking East with West is where civilization itself began, where the world’s great religions were born and took root, where goods were exchanged, and where languages, ideas and disease spread.”  Fascinating!  Things that will shape your travels in many places.

The Westminster Assembly (Robert Letham)

book9

Perhaps the most abstract and oldest on the list, I’m reading this to get my head around why the Church wrote some confessions of faith, what context they wrote them into and whether they are relevant for today.  Not inspiring to you?  Well stop just for one second.  We all have s system of beliefs, much as we like to say “I just believe the Bible and follow Jesus”.  The question is whether your system of beliefs matches what the weight of scripture teaches, freeing you to live in the best way in life: Jesus’ way?  I’ve found these truths to be invigorating in general life but also life-giving as I travel the globe, but am still wrestling with whether my reading of them was what the original authors had in mind!  If you’re not reformed in theology, I might suggest that you read up on it anyway, so that when you critique it, you’re reacting to the best of it, and not the worst.  A good rule anything you critique in 2018, in fact.

Birdsbook10

Because Jesus has given me a love for all things, and my mother has given me a love for what she loves: birds.  And this book to identify ones will be fun when I’m walking the banks of the Lee in Cork, or travelling to far flung places with tropical birds.

But don’t be put off by long lists:

  1. Your passions will be different to mine – don’t feel constrained by what I like!
  2. One chapter a day will get you readings a huge number of books this year.  Build it into your routine, or grab others to discuss what you read.
  3. I’ve deliberately not mentioned all the regular books I read to warm my heart with the good news of Jesus.  I always try and prioritise Bible reading and these, over anything else I read.  Academic views will change, but the Word of God will never change.  However, these titles may help us better understand the Word of God.