Solo Female Travel (part 2)

[Marie-Louise Disant is doing a 5 part series on female travel.  You can find her first two parts here and here and a video interview with her here.]

I am part of a group of partly solo-travelling, exclusively female and mostly francophone backpackers on the internet. We share tips and warnings, and support one another in times of need. Some time earlier this year, one such woman “K” was travelling in Laos. She stayed in a guesthouse, as many of us do.

In the middle of the night, one of the men running the reception desk downstairs tried to come into her room, clothed in only a towel. She got up, grabbed her pepper spray and confronted him, saying she was calling the police. He returned to his room, the door of which was just in front of her own. She called a friend and posted a message on the aforementioned group. The moderator of the group called the embassy, who allegedly said they could do nothing to help if no harm had come to K.

K stayed in her room until sunrise, on the phone with a friend, and keeping the other women in the group up to date in the comments. The next morning, a group of French folk came to collect her at the guesthouse. She eventually made her way to Thailand where she spent time recovering with some friends.

An opportunity for unparalleled selfishness…should we choose to take it.

There’s nothing quite like living and/or travelling alone to show you where your priorities truly lie. When alone, with no one else to get us up in the morning, or to motivate us to hike up a mountain or trek all around a city all day, what we do each day boils down to what we decide. It’s an opportunity for unparalleled selfishness, to pick up a map and head out, or burn it altogether, should we so desire. With no one else there to direct our desires, what will we decide?

What about when you’re travelling alone, in a city in Laos, and you come across a message like the one above? Over 300 comments were written below this post. She had plenty of support, though not all of these came from within Laos. Someone else will help. Will they? How can we be sure? The moderator of the group could have done nothing but post a short comment of support. The group of travellers who came to collect her at daylight, could have continued on their merry travels and not given her a second thought. Her friend could have told her to go back to sleep and hung up. Distance, travel and the internet bring equal amounts of anonymity, what will we choose to do with it?


The more touristic side of Luang Prabang, Laos: Buddhist morning alms.
2017 – © Marie-Louise Disant

With only God as our witness, what will we choose to do, who will we choose to be?Surrounded by people who don’t know who we’ve been, our past or anything other than the present we’ve shared with them, there is no “reputation” to live up to, no precedent to follow up on. Without people who know us nearby, will we choose to do the right thing, be the right person and stand up for what we believe in (John 13:34-35)?

In a sea of anonymity so vast that we could easily disappear unnoticed, will we hold ourselves accountable to the Lord (or Whoever or whatever our heart kneels to), or does it take someone else’s comment to keep us on track? Who are we behind closed doors? Who are we when the only person present who knows us and will hold us accountable is God? Is He important enough to us that this would matter (Matthew 16:24-26; 22:37); or are we able to brush past Him, indifferent to His presence.

Where do your limits lie?

Left to your own devices, you begin to see not only your priorities come to light, but also your strengths and weaknesses. Similar to your true priorities appearing when no one else is around to define them for you, your true strengths and weaknesses will often make a front row appearance. With no one nearby to pull us up from the depths of our weakness, or to lean on without having to use our own strengths, who will we lean on? With no trustworthy friend or knowledgeable family in sight, who will we go to in times of need?
What if we weren’t really alone? What if the One family member closest to us, the One who knows us better than our entire family put together were within earshot of the quietest whisper? What if after all that “soul-searching travel”, the one with the answers to all those questions, the one with the capacity to fulfil all our needs (even those we never knew we had), were with us no matter where we are?

Perhaps we don’t need as much “soul-searching travel” as we think.



The lesser touristic, more “real” side of Luang Prabang, Laos: miners on their daily commute across the Mekong.
2017 – © Marie-Louise Disant

The Ultimate Lesson

If travelling alone has taught me one thing, it’s that we are not built for a life alone. By this, I don’t mean that we must all find that mythological soul-mate to live life with and finally “feel complete”. I refer to something much greater, much holier than our mere relationship status.

Created by a triune God, in His image, by design we reflect some of His traits. “He is Love”, because He is relational. The very fact that He is and has always been three and yet one at the same time, teach us that relationship is at the very core of who He is; it’s part of His Identity, as it is part of ours.

This relationality, if you will, is part of our identity too. It will look different for everyone, and within different seasons of life: for some it will be most obvious within their community relationships, for others it will be through marriage, or family relationships, or friendships; but perhaps the answers we are looking for, aren’t necessarily where
we first think.


We’re all travellers: a view from a solo female traveller

[Guest post 2 in a series started here by Marie-Louise Disant]

We’re all travellers.

No matter your worldview, no matter your past or present, I think we can all agree on one truth concerning our respective, earthly futures: they’re finite. We’re all passers-by here, travellers present for a fleeting blip in time. After that, our beliefs may diverge; some will believe that we all get multiple blips in time until we reach nirvana, or that this blip is all we get, and some believe that this blip is only a taster of that which is yet to come. I personally hold to the latter.

The Bible overflows with accounts of travellers in all kinds of walks of life: travelling for civic duty (Genesis 41:45-57; Luke 2:1-5), for safety (Exodus 6ff), for obedience (Genesis 12:1ff, Acts 13:1-14:28), for pleasure, and Peter has already written about many of these. When you look at the various people travelling the world today, we’re not all that different from one another.

We’re rarely truly alone


A well deserved rest after a night-hike to the top at 2am; From this angle, you might think I was all alone…
Pico do Papagaio – 2016 © Marie-Louise Disant

There seems to be quite a stigma put on doing things alone: dining out alone, living alone, travelling alone… Truth be told however, travelling solo rarely leaves us truly alone, and travelling alone is not synonymous with loneliness (an all too familiar companion for many, but more or less present in all seasons of life – not just travel, but also career, marriage, grief, motherhood and more).

Whether it’s sharing a dorm room with other travellers (some solo, some not), or meeting other travellers on a walking tour with a fascinating and encouraging guide (if you ever go to Munich, look for the Sandeman’s Free Walking Tours andask for Austin!), Couchsurfing, or a random conversation with the person sitting next to you … You are rarely alone physically-speaking; and should you subscribe to a Biblical worldview (amongst others), turns out you’re never alone in any sense of the word!

As a woman, this has repercussions in many areas relating to travel. This sense of being alone but not alone, can lead to a culture of solidarity amongst women, both travelling and not-so. Between “adoption”, in a sense, by locals, because they fearfor the solo travelling woman’s safety; “adoption” by other solo female travellers, for safety and companionship; and “adoption” by an omnipresent Father (Ephesians 1:5); I and many solo female travellers have felt safer and more cocooned in a sense, on travels in foreign cultures, than in our own homes sometimes. Safety is no longer reserved to the life of a home-bird.


But it was quite the opposite I assure you; the view is quite different from another perspective, is it not?
Pico do Papagaio – 2016 © Marie-Louise Disant

Are we ready to let go of our own bias?

Maybe solo travel doesn’t have to be all that scary after all… Maybe, it might even
teach us a thing or two that we wouldn’t learn from travelling with others; about
God, about ourselves, and about others…

Maybe we don’t really have to listen to everything the world tells us after all…


Travelling for abortion: one story, one lady, two lives?

I’ve tried to write this several times closer to the conversations I had with these two ladies, but each time I clammed up and tears were welling in my eyes.  And if it’s been like that for me, I don’t know what it is like for these ladies.

With that in mind, I know how tempting it would be to agree with many of those I met on Saturday at the “March for Repeal” (to repeal the 8th amendment, which bans abortion in most circumstances in Ireland, outside of when the mother’s life is endangered) who asked me why I was vocalising my male views, on a female topic.  And if it were simply that, perhaps both “sides” of the protest could tell their male attendees to go home and shut up.

But I stayed.

It wasn’t easy to stay.  I’d had a long week of work, the sun was out for the first time this summer (in any meaningful way), and there were plenty of places I would rather have been that standing in a 200 strong crowd of angry, yelling protesters, who were chanting things from the depths of their being against what I considered precious to me.  Compared to those who had come down to protest for Repeal from Limerick as they thought this would be a “fun day out”, I was out of my mind.

Repeal rally

And it’s not because I’m “one of those” people either.  You know the ones who love to get their megaphone out and make their understanding of truth be known to everyone, at any opportunity?  I was helping a UCC society new committee this week do some teamwork training, and to help them understand their roles within a team.  And from the survey they all filled in (Belbin), I didn’t score highly on any of the assertive questions about making my views known in a divergent group.  Perhaps I’m blind to my own ways.

What was I doing there?  Displaying signs like these, and saying very little:


The group I was with that day also endorse the use of graphic imagery to inform people, as they would believe that statistics don’t hit home “the nature of genocide”.  But before you voice your disgust, I wonder if you could give me a few seconds more and listen in to one of many conversations I had that day with “Eilidh”?

Firstly I should say that we were their legally, having forewarned the Gards about our being there, and using EU legislation to allow us to express what we wished.  We have a code with all those who work with us, that we’re there to stand silently and engage with those who wish to engage in meaningful ways and seek to love those around us, however we can.  “Eilidh” was one of those.

“Our bodies, our choice!
Our bodies, our choice!
Our bodies, our choice!  Our bodies, our choice!

Pro life, that’s a lie,
you don’t care if women die!
Pro life, that’s a lie,
you don’t care if women die!”

“Excuse me, I was just wondering if you know that women are protected under Irish law in all circumstances and can have a termination of pregnancy if their life is at risk?”

“That’s a lie.  What happened to Savita, or that lady flung in a mental home for wanting an abortion this last week?”

“Savita was medical malpractice (nothing to do with abortion) and the most recent case of the lady going into care was not because she wanted an abortion.  It was standard medical procedure, and she also happened to be pregnant at the time.”

E angrily, “Why are you even here?  Just to show hatred for women?”

“No, I’m just wanting to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, like these ones” (pointing to large picture of aborted fetuses)

“But they’re all fake images.  Fake news.  Aborted fetuses aren’t like that.”

“I’m afraid not, they’re very real images”

“But, but…but, they can’t be.  Are you sure?”

I nod, but barely a second passes as she gulps and interrupts.

“But I bet you don’t care for women who choose to keep a child.  What do you know about anything like that?  You just campaign for something and then leave women to suffer.”

“Well, no, actually.  I campaign for something and then try to live sacrificially towards it.  I run community spaces in the city to help a diverse range of people, and am involved with others who give financially, give accommodation, give of their time, and surround women who want to keep their children with a loving community of supportive people.  In fact, we even support those who’ve had abortions, to mentally process things.”

“Oh…..that’s beautiful.  Well, I wish that had been made known to me when I was 16 and was forced by my family to go for an abortion”, she said, breaking down in front of me.

Then she turned away, ashamed of her tears, back to the yelling crowd, full of fear.

I once again returned to silence, pondering just how many others like her were in the crowd.  Another I chatted to that day was angry, simply because she had come back from an abortion a few hours earlier, and needed somewhere to vent.

People’s experiences can change them.  Change us for the good, but also change us for the worse.  It can blind us all to logic.  And logic in the light of experience can seem so cold, so brutal.  Unless you have a warm community around you, taking away any shame and willing to unconditionally support you.  I’ve linked some places you can go if you want to experience that.

I hope the table below makes it clear that there aren’t any reasons to endorse abortion, unless you are also willing for infanticide in the same cases, as pro-choice ethicist Peter Singer so rightly has argued.

What makes a human

What about rape?  What about fatal foetal abnormalities?  What about the hard cases?

Well they are hard.  And they’ll never become anything but that.  They are also rare.  But so this doesn’t get any longer, perhaps I could point you to find answers here and here, and further support below:

  • Gianna Care – for any type of support
  • Rachel’s Vineyard – for support post-abortion
  • – Irish women who have walked in your shoes before you
  • Your local Students for Life group in Cork (or near you) are at the main gates of the college once a week and are willing to chat.  Coffee is on us!
  • Local churches like this one and this one have provided finance, accommodation, community, support and much more for those Students for Life Cork have met who want to continue with their pregnancy.  Many others would do similar.

Trouble comes from the north

We’ve already seen that moving east (of Eden) was normally rebellion in Genesis terms but what about the north?  I often get slagged about being from the north, and I jokingly often apologise about it when I speak publicly at events in Cork.  But what about the Bible and the north?


Heading north in Norway, to one of the most northerly points I’ve ever been.

Well in most books there doesn’t seem to be much to differentiate the north from anywhere else apart from in Jeremiah.  For whatever reason, Jeremiah is all set to twin any mention of the north with trouble.  Here’s a few references:

(chapter 1) 14 The Lord said to me, ‘From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. 15 I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,’ declares the Lord.

‘Their kings will come and set up their thrones
    in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem;
they will come against all her surrounding walls
    and against all the towns of Judah.

(Chapter 4) 6 Warn everyone to go to Zion!
    Run for safety! Do not wait!
I am bringing trouble from the north.
    Everything will be totally destroyed.”

(Chapter 10) 22 Listen! The report is coming –
    a great commotion from the land of the north!
It will make the towns of Judah desolate,
    a haunt of jackals.

(Chapter 46) 20 ‘Egypt is a beautiful heifer,
    but a gadfly is coming
    against her from the north.

(Chapter 50) 3 A nation from the north will attack her
    and lay waste her land.
No one will live in it;
    both people and animals will flee away.

Apart from Jeremiah, a very few other instances remain of trouble coming from the north, Daniel 11 being one of them.

But why the north?


The north of Norway in June at well after midnight.

Well, what makes it even more unusual for those of you who know Israeli geography, is that although it’s not likely to ever have trouble from nations in the sea or desert (west and east respectively), that a few nations that are being described as from “the north” are not geographically located there at all.  Babylon is situated eastward of Israel, as is the Medo-Persian empire.  Here are a few more references you can explore:

(Isaiah 14:31; Jer 46:20, 24; 47:2; 50:3, 9, 41–43; 51:48; Ezek 26:7)

The only reason I’ve ever read is the following:


“In Mediterranean latitudes the northern circumpolar stars never set but remain forever in the sky, unlike those stars that rise nightly only to set in the west. These far northern stars, picturesquely designated “the imperishable stars” in ancient Egyptian because they never set, became a picture of immortality and eternity in the ancient Near East.
It is therefore appropriate for the north to be the biblical locus for the eternal God’s sacred mountain, which goes by more than one name (Mt. Zaphon, “north;” Mt. Zion). It is a celestial locale, not to be confused with any earthly place, for God “stretches out the north over empty space” (Job 26:7 NASB). From here God administers the cosmos, summoning the starry hosts “to heaven … above the stars of God … on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north” (Is 14:13 NASB). The physical location of Jerusalem, where God’s terrestrial house was built by Solomon, was irrelevant to its metaphysical significance as a counterpart to the northern celestial abode: “His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Mt. Zion in the far north, the city of the great King” (Ps 48:1–2 NASB)”


Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000). In Dictionary of biblical imagery (electronic ed., p. 596). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

So the north doesn’t always produce trouble.  It’s the symbolic home of God – where he dwells, and where blessing and judgment will always flow.  Perhaps that’s why the Northern Irish always call the province “God’s wee country”, though I have my suspicions otherwise.

Finding God in my loneliness (Book review, Crossway, 2017)

I’ve previously noted that travelling can be a lonely world, but ever lonelier can be trying to settle down after you travel.  At least in travelling, loneliness came by choice.  But in marriage, in singleness, in settling down and other things, it doesn’t seem to be the case.  Lydia Brownback correctly says in her introduction:

“That’s why everyone — young or old, single or married — experiences loneliness.  No one is exempt”

But why is this?

One of the most powerful moments in the whole book is a quotation that helped me to really grasp that I often place my treasure in the wrong place.  In a world that screams “I’m your oyster – have me any time, any place or anyhow”, comes paralysis.  Paralysis in options.  Too many of them.


Alone travelling down Ireland, but in the presence of my Maker

“The god of open options is a cruel and vindictive god. He will break your heart. He will not let anyone get too close. But at the same time, because he is so spiteful, he will not let anyone get too far away because that would mean they are no longer an option. On and on it continues, exhausting and frustrating and confusing and endless, pulling towards and then pushing away, like the tide on a beach, never finally committing one way or the other. We have been like the starving man sitting in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet, dying simply because he would not choose between the chicken and the shrimp.

The god of open options is also a liar. He promises you that by keeping your options open, you can have everything and everyone. But in the end, you get nothing and no one.”

And that “god of options” can be smoothly dressed in a beautiful, Christian (modest) dress, with sparkly shoes.  Options about how one invests one’s life.  Options of who (or whether) to marry.  Options of simply being so nuanced, we never say anything of any importance.  It’s a tug that the author feels so well as she sits with us in our loneliness in other chapters:

  1. Loneliness in Leaving
  2. Loneliness of Night
  3. Loneliness of Obedience
  4. Loneliness of Running Away
  5. Loneliness of Grief
  6. Loneliness of being different
  7. Loneliness of being unclean
  8. Loneliness of Misplaced Love
  9. Loneliness of marriage
  10. Loneliness of being unmarried


What I enjoyed (if I can use that word) about Lydia’s experiences and writing was that it did not come from a place of privilege in some senses.  It is fine for me to write about loneliness while unmarried, but ultimately, I have a choice in who to pursue (in conservative Christian circles where the male pursues), and so my loneliness my not be as intense.  Equally it is fine for me to write about being “different” and yet so many things are stacked in my favour that do not make me different (me being Caucasian, male, heterosexual etc) that even in my difference, I am similar.  Equally in my “obedience” of wanting to embrace the “unengaged/unreached” world, even if it means foregoing some relationships (of all sorts).  That’s fine for me, but there are tens of women out there who are foregoing marriage by doing so, for every one male who does.

But ultimately no matter what level of privilege (and Lydia must have a fair bit, given her educational background and ability to write for a major western publisher), she beautifully points us to the fact that Christ is enough.  And beyond being enough, that knowing Jesus and being plugged in to his body, the church, will help us to make the most of our loneliness and thrive not despite of but because of our loneliness.  Because as she so adeptly says at the start, our loneliness is partly there to point us to the greater reality that we were made for something more.

Made to connect to something greater.

Made to delve into depths of far deeper relational connectedness than this world could ever give us.


This, is a book for travellers.  I mean, it’s a book for anyone and everyone, but one especially that connects to the travelling heart and re-orientates our travels towards God.

My only complaint?  It was so short that I could easily put it to one side and not let some spiritual “heart surgery” be done.  Perhaps I should go back and meditate on the beauty of encountering a Christ who walked our lonely road perfectly before us, and now walks our lonely road with us at all times.

“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” 

(Isaiah 53:3)

And people wonder why a Triune God appeals to me…


Red, white and blue martyrs from the ancient Irish

Two days ago I wrote a book review about a family who travelled to an Islamic part of the world and the father who was martyred for his faith.  It’s drawn a fair bit of feedback from those more in the know than me.

But here’s a poem someone wrote off the back of it:


Isn’t martyrdom, in a sense, the easy way?

Laying down one’s life for Him, to say

with a shout in one great glorious noble act

“I love You, Lord!”

But the daily plodding on, struggling with sin,

falling, failing, grieving Him,

but going on because He is all and there’s nothing else –

is not this the harder way?

The martyr has the perfect chance to shout

this was not me, this sin, this doubt;

nor was this me, this fear, this fall –

THIS is the real me, from now on.

But I who would welcome such a chance

know no such quick release from sin

accomplished by one moment’s choice for Him,

but only a dogged ongoing “I, too, love You, Lord”

whispered by a thousand petty choices

renewed daily.

‘Not with a bang but a whimper.’

Yet does the bang exalt Him any more

than the whimper?

©JCG 2017

And it led me to think of the ancient Irish roots of red, white and blue martyrs in the Cambrai Homily.  Perhaps ironic usage of colours, given those who die for red, white and blue over the past few decades are often seen to be the very antithesis of Irish (the British).  But perhaps putting aside coincidental colour schemes, we might consider the three colours which Pope Gregory I and Jerome both commented on.

RED martyrdom: blood martyrs killed for their faith

WHITE martyrdom: outward ascetics, isolating oneself from all society in monasteries or otherwise

BLUE (or perhaps green, as it’s the Irish “glas”): inward asceticism, like fasting.

Though sometimes over the years, to get away from what sometimes was the Roman Catholic tendency of removing oneself from the world, protestants would interpret this last one as inward spiritual renewal of any variety, which I would argue is closer in balance to the original intention of the verse that inspired these colours:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

This rich history of Christianity in Ireland stemming from 7th century documents like this, is the irony of a church now so struggling in many ways.

For those wanting to explore more of the darkness of martyrdom and individuals cases mentioned in my last blog, please check out the comments below from the responses of others.

Continue reading

Dying to Travel: “we died before we came here” (Book review)

I’m always nervous about stories of travelling to your martyrdom.  Partly because the question “what are you prepared to die for?” is rarely as simple as the questions suggests.  There’s a rare case in which Christians are taken by their captors and asked to deny their faith in Jesus or die, and there doesn’t seem to be any reasonable other way of viewing it.  I could think of the Egyptian Christians taken by ISIS on the beach in Libya, and shot.

ISIS Egypt

In other cases there’s far more nuance about why such folk are killed.  Was it simply for their faith, or had they been abusing their colonial powers or privilege or been perceived to be on the side of those who were treating people awfully?

In the first few chapters of this gripping book, “Emily” (not her real name) tells of how her husband gave her Foxe’s Book of Martyrs when they were dating and asked her whether she was willing to live and die for Jesus.  But as someone who also read such a book when I was younger, I was not only encouraged by the stories, but also appalled by some of the political warfare, colonial attitudes and sectarian bigotry that led to many of the deaths, or the lack of information to prove otherwise.

Thankfully what emerged from the book was a story of genuine love for North African people who had not had a chance to hear of the name of Jesus.  The questions the book raises are exemplary to get people thinking of what it would take to cross cultures and take the good news to others.  The stories she tells are answers to the common objections that are raised by others on why such lifestyles are foolish.  Wouldn’t going to such a place ruin your children’s lives?  Isn’t it unnecessary risk?  Do Muslims in North Africa deserve the good news?  Do you have to be superhuman to go?  And the way that she tells them had me wanting to finish the book in a day!  It’s an easily read story of ordinary (but obviously gifted) humans, told with honesty and passion.

The main learning curve for me, was again in the story of martyrdom.  For me in my Christian life here in Ireland, I’ve always been baffled that it’s not the “non-Christians” who have caused me most pain in life, but Christians at my side.  And the more I go on, the more I think that despite such great pain, that they were genuine believers and not just “Christians” by name only who caused this misery.  I’m still examining the scriptures to see whether this is to be expected and Biblically normal to expect this.  But regardless, so it is with this story.we died before we came here

Her husband is billed as being a tremendous human being, working for an NGO and loved by all.  She portrays his faults, yes, but largely has great praise for such a man.  But Emily tells us of believers who (despite being some of the better discipled ones,) were so young in the faith, that when they were confronted over some patterns of sin of stealing, they turned against Stephen (her husband) and wrote articles about him on fundamentalist Islamic websites, where they’d be seen by extremists who would quite happily “deal” with him.

All this is quickly and quietly summarised in a few paragraphs on page 133 of the book, nearly in passing.  She also explains that their team situation had been escalating between expats, and that because of other reasons, they didn’t defend him.  She mentions that Stephen had tried to do Biblical rebuke/confrontation well, going first to the individual and then the group, but she doesn’t explain how this might have looked in a shame/honour culture, or whether they just ploughed on ahead with their usual western way of reading that passage in scripture “if a brother sins against you…”.

It was this, that set up his martyrdom.  But like many cases of martyrdom, it’s a murky one.  Did Stephen die for his faith in Jesus?  Or did he die because he didn’t know how to pastorally handle messy cases in shame/honour culture?  Why did his colleagues or team mates not defend him and prevent such things happening?

Similar questions have been raised in recent years about other martyrs, right up to the most prolific of Christian stories of people like the Jim Elliot in the Amazon.  Why did they have guns on them at the time?

But ultimately, despite the grey areas and question marks over the story, I do believe it is a story where Stephen did indeed die for his faith in Christ, and that his story is one that needs to be told.  Because ultimately, in the Christian narrative, Christ is not dying for those who perfectly follow him.  Christ is not abandoning those even who deny him temporarily (Peter).  Christ claims a weak and messy Bride as His own.  And even when it may be partly our fault for the abuse that we may get, it is still abuse for the sake of Him.  No one made those Islamic fundamentalists shoot him (or whoever it was).  No action of Stephen’s provoked them, other than His faith in Jesus and his spreading of it.

And so I’m praying that this book would touch many hearts and lives, as it has mine, and be an example of Tertullian’s oft quoted phrase:Tertullian

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

I mean, it hasn’t always been that way.  The land of Augustine in north africa was a land where the church seemed to be persecuted out of existence for nearly 1500 years.  And in other settings we could report the same.  But in many cases, martyrdom has grown the church, and I’m praying such stories would do that, as many consider the call to die to themselves and live for Christ.  Emily, in a powerful way, writes that Stephen (and her family) could deal somewhat with his death in a better way, because of the words of a missionary (james Calvert) to Fiji and the Pacific Islands long ago who went before cannibals with the good news of Jesus:

“We died before we came here.”

And if we’re dying to self each day, and living for Christ, such stories of travelling for your martyrdom will be true, regardless of whether it is a physical death you are dying or whether a spiritual death of dying to self.

Traveller I ask you, will you be a martyr in your travels?  Will you die each day you live?

The world is your….battleground!

The world is not a playground, it is a battleground.
A.W. Tozer
“Peter, I’d love to travel the world, but I’ve committed to only going places I have real need to go.  That said, God has been good and we’ve ended up in a few places, but not by our choosing.  I don’t understand those who think they can spend their life pleasure travelling simply for their own enjoyment.”
These were the (paraphrased) words of one friend and his wife who I visited recently who were heading out on the mission field to one unreached people group, for their lives (DV).
They weren’t those who you’d find in a monastic settlement, withdrawing from everything in the world and going around with sullen faces saying we’ve to pray and never enjoy life on the battlefield.  They were treating me to a nice meal in a local pub near where they were studying.  Which spoke even greater volumes, knowing their generosity towards others.
Within the last year they’d had the joys of travelling to southern Africa (on a rare trip to see family) and also to the place where they were thinking of living longer-term elsewhere in the world.
So how can they say to everyone else about not spending their life in a playground of travels, and then travel and live like that themselves (1)?  And why can’t the rest of us who have more salary to spare act like the US couple we met in a previous post (2)?  And who said travel needs to be expensive – what if we can travel for as much as we’d be living at home for (3)?  For three reasons:
  1. These two trips are both something the Bible calls us to do – love family and reach unreached peoples.  And this was a rare trip to see their family before years in which they may not see them again.
  2. For the reasons I discussed in yesterday’s post, that couple were acting sacrificially with their wealth, and without doubt, their lifestory screams that of battlefield, rather than playground.
  3. There are dangers of living on cheap travels.  One being that you increasingly forsake your normal church community and the preaching of the word as God’s means of acting in your life and the world; one being that you forsake the intentionality of living and speaking for Jesus in a community that doesn’t know Him; and one being that you soon find yourself spending more as you travel than you intended.
But I speak to my own heart when I say to myself: let’s not play the “justification game” where we try and look back and justify travels to [insert place here].  Jesus has already justified us and so we don’t need to try and justify our own existence/behaviour as Christians.
Having said that, why would I want to travel, if Jesus’ purposes and words weren’t central to my travels?  I’d be missing out.

Many try and force applications of spiritual warfare onto people, so that they can’t enjoy cultural activities like this one.  For us in Cork, this pumpkin carving and bonfire session with students was one of the most spiritually profitable evenings of the year.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Travelling to run or running to travel?

I’m not someone who runs to get to things often (I arrive far too inappropriately sweaty for that – sorry if you didn’t need to know that!).  In fact nearly all of my running is escapism to get away from thinking!  When I’m pounding pavements, springing off trail runs or gliding along golden sands, I feel free!

It’s one of those bizarre things.  Freedom despite or even because of disciplined training and regime.  Not many my age would vouch such words could even fit together – it runs against the grain of culture today which shouts “get me more and give me it now”.  Long distance running “success” can’t be given now.  The keys lie in getting out there.  And that’s why more of my friends who run are often also disciplined in other areas of life, including developing their thinking and worldview.  But before I get too philosophical…

I love that some of my best friends are runners too.  I rarely travel in order to run, but I do love the fact that my friends and my work take me to stunning places to lace up my shoes and get out, often with no fear or time constraint – just running for the sake of running!  So why don’t you join me or suggest other possible things?  Check out the list of things below or add new ones yourself!


Running at Maharees this morning with friends from church “homegroup” (photo (c) mine)

November 18th – Glendalough Trail Run – one of Ireland’s best locations to get running off the beaten track, up the Wicklow Mountains.

December 9th  – Clonakilty Waterfront Half Marathon – it’s a bit of a home run for me, or at least as close to a scenic home run as one can get without trundling round cities.  And although I’m only doing the half, a few friends are going for the full thing.

December 24th – 30th Belfast and NI (various locations)

January 1-5 England (various locations)

January 6-7 Fes Half Marathon

January 8-12 near Nice, France (various locations)

March 9-11 Berlin (Travel Festival) or if not, I’ll be running this, which must be one of Ireland’s most experiential runs!

April 9-12 Running in Poland (various locations)

May 7 – Belfast Marathon – because I fancy doing a marathon with home support!

June – December 2018 European Ultramarathons (undecided which as of yet)

So there we have it!  Fancy joining me for any of them, or seeing about running elsewhere – drop me a line!  Or if you aren’t much of a runner, you can give towards my work or (shortly) towards Diabetes Ireland as I train and run over 1000 miles in the next 9 months.



Robert’s story is an incredible one of life persevering through adversity with a great spirit.  You’ll hear him speak of when he lost his sight, key moments in his life, his career as a trad musician and studying music, and the most fascinating bit of all: synesthesia.  This is how Robert sees colour through sound, and hence travels by it as well!  Enjoy!

Aljabr interviews: a visually impaired traveller