Catching Up on Some Photos

Today, I cycled from Clonmacnoise to Athboy, a distance of about 60 miles. It was a good ride, in part because I had the wind at my back; and in part because 18 miles of my journey was on old railroad right of way that had been converted into a hiking and cycling trail, which meant that it was flat and traffic free. (Yay!) More important, however, I was able to take to heart the lesson that the journey is just as important as the destination. And so, I took my time and allowed myself several breaks. And as a result, I was in a much better place—both physically and spiritually—when I made it to my destination.

Anyway, since I finally have decent Wi-Fi, I thought I’d catch you up with a few pictures of the things that I’ve been seeing. As I mentioned in a previous post, the countryside here is beautiful. It would be even more beautiful if the sun shined a bit more often. But still, it’s wonderful territory to be cycling through, and here are a couple photos:

As you know if you’ve been reading my posts, I spent the last couple days in Clonmacnoise, a Celtic Christian monastic community that was established by St. Ciaran back in 548 AD. At one point, the community was a major center of faith, learning, craftsmanship, trade, and political influence. In fact, several early Irish kings are buried on the site. However, Clonmacnoise was raided repeatedly during its history by Irish marauders, Vikings, and Anglo-Norman’s. And it ceased to be a major monastic center when Catholics in Britain came under intense persecution following king Henry VIII’s establishment of the Church of England.

Although all of the buildings that were part of the original monastic community would have been made of timber, many of the stone structures that still remain were built as early as the 10th century. In addition, Clonmacnoise has several “high crosses,” elaborate monuments that were used to mark the entrance to the monastic compound and to instruct lay people in the stories of the Bible.

Finally, I mentioned that several miles of my cycling today utilized an old railroad right of way that has been converted into a trail. What was really unique, however, was that several old rail stations have been left standing and have been renovated to be points of interest along the way.

The next few days are primarily filled with cycling. So I probably won’t be posting much. However, thanks for following along.

A Tourist to Holiness

I spent much of my July 4th touring Clonmacnoise, the site of a Celtic Christian monastic community founded by St. Ciaran sometime around 548 AD. Admittedly, I’m not sure that my spirit—at first, at least—was in the best place to make the most of my visit. I awoke to a somewhat grey and windy morning; not exactly the weather I had hoped for. And to make matters worse, I was feeling a bit more sore than expected after suffering a minor tumble off my bicycle yesterday. (Happily, both the bicycle and its rider are fine.)

The bigger challenge, however, had to do with my expectations. I was hoping that I was going to see some impressive remnants from this ancient Christian community. (And in that regard, Clonmacnoise didn’t disappoint!) But I think that what I also wanted was for “the holiness of the place” to rub off on me in an almost mystical fashion. I wanted the sacred setting and the legendary devotion of its former residents to instill magically within me a sense of God’s presence.

Of course, I don’t think I’m the only one who has wanted to be what we could describe as “a tourist to holiness.” Much like we go to Disney World anticipating a boost of joy from “the happiest place on earth,” I think we’re sometimes tempted to seek out sacred sites and experiences—a retreat center or a church service, a mountaintop or a Bible study—assuming that we’re almost automatically going to be closer to God coming out than we were going in.

Happily, God is good. And because He graciously wishes to give His children good gifts, we often do receive a “spiritual pick-me-up” from these “visits to the sacred.” But as I sat there thinking about the men and women who sought Christ at Clonmacnoise over the centuries, it occurred to me that probably very few of them received a “jolt of Divine energy” just because they showed up. No, it was in the daily process of being still, studying scripture, and praying (not to mention, of course, sharing in all the mundane tasks that were part of doing life together) that they learned—not how to be “bowled over” by God in the extra-ordinary—but how to be drawn closer to God in the ordinary. To borrow the words of Brother Lawrence, they discovered “The Practice of the Presence of God,” which can happen in every place, and not just those places that have been hallowed by centuries of Christian worship and prayer.

As I sat pondering this, the Lord brought to mind a passage of scripture that I used in a sermon not too long ago: “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5, emphasis added). Perhaps it’s not in visiting some “outpost” of God’s kingdom that we should most expect to find God’s presence, but in learning to find Him on the way. And with that thought in mind, I was able to be still, to pray, and to sense God’s presence in a fresh way. And that has made my visit to Clonmacnoise holy indeed.

Because I don’t have very good Wi-Fi in the place I’m staying, I’ll have to wait for another time to post some photos.. I’ll be leaving Clonmacnoise tomorrow morning and cycling to a town called Athboy. Please pray for safe travels, and for the ability to slow down and perceive God in the journey.

Lessons from Cycling: Day One

Today, I completed my first “significant” cycling of this Celtic adventure: a ride of about 53 miles from Kildare to Clonmacnoise. I had hoped to share several pictures with you of sights along the way. However, three things got in the way:

  • First, most of the roads that I travelled were lined on both sides by thick hedges. As a result, views of the countryside were a bit more limited than I had anticipated.
  • Second, when I did get to see the countryside…it’s countryside! Don’t get me wrong; it’s quite beautiful—lush and green with the occasional flock of sheep or herd of cows. But still, most of the vistas weren’t that different from what you’d see in the fields around my home in Mount Airy. So I didn’t feel a need to take too many photos.
  • Finally—and to be honest, this is the probably the biggest reason—my “task-oriented” nature compelled me to ride by some interesting sights, because I was more focused on completing the journey than enjoying the ride. Of course, to be fair, since this was my first leg of cycling I was a bit uncertain about how much “extra time” I’d have. And yet, this touches upon one of the things I think I need to learn from this sabbatical. So I formulated a “sabbatical lesson,” which I’ll share with you in a moment.
All dressed up and ready to ride.

Before I get to that, however, I will confess that today’s ride—while manageable—was a bit tougher than I had anticipated. I’ve done rides that were twice as long, and at the 50 mile point I’ve still been “rarin’ to go.” But a couple factors made this effort unexpectedly draining. For one thing, there was the wind. Naturally, I knew there’d be wind here in Ireland…but sheesh! Rarely in my hometown have I encountered resistance this strong and this constant. In addition, I was surprised by how much more effort was required to propel both me and the gear that I’m carrying with me. Again, I knew this would require some additional work, but I was surprised by how much.

And so, when you put all of this together, here are the “sabbatical lessons” that the Lord began to teach me on cycling day one:

Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases.”
Some days, it blows against you.
So stop whining and keep pedaling.

God made downhills for a reason.
So, what’s your hurry?
Sit back and coast a while.

And most important of all:
The goal isn’t just to get to the place that I’m going.
The goal is to be in the place that I am.

The place that I’m staying here in Clonmacnoise has somewhat spotty Wi-Fi. So I might have to wait for my next stop before I’m able to share some photos with you. It also is about 2 miles away from the nearest restaurant. So I might have to add a few unexpected (but blessedly short) cycling trips to my itinerary to get something to eat. So pray that God will grant me strength…and that the wind will be blowing in a more helpful direction!

Leaving Kildare

Today is my final day in Kildare, and I’ve been using my time to revisit some of the places and people that have been part of my pilgrimage here. After having some morning coffee in my favorite sidewalk café, I spent some time in Saint Brigid’s Cathedral and had the opportunity to listen to the cathedral organist as he practiced for tomorrow’s service. There are a few things as glorious as the sound of a real pipe organ, echoing through the resonant space of a cathedral; so it really was “a grace gift“ to receive this impromptu concert.

After a little more listening, reading, and praying, I went to visit with Paddy, the elderly gentleman who oversees admission to the cathedral’s round tower. I’ve been visiting with Paddy each of the last three days, listening as he has told me about his time in the army, the loss of his wife about four years ago, and his observations about life in a small Irish town. But today I was able to take him a small present—a piece of cake from a local bakery—to thank him for sharing a bit of his life with me.

Finally, I’ve spent a little more time in some of the sites associated with Brigid that I visited earlier in my stay. The first of these was Solas Bhride (Irish for “The Light of Brigid”), a Christian retreat center that seeks to pass along the values of Brigid’s ministry, which include serving the poor, practicing hospitality, and valuing the gifts and leadership of women. While there, I was able to chat with one of the “Sisters of Brigid,” who lives at the center and who leads some of the programming, and she showed me a statue that tells some of the stories associated with Brigid’s life.

  • Top left: Although Brigid had given her heart to Christ and wanted to enter a life of chastity, her father wanted to marry her off to a pagan king. When her father went away to negotiate the arrangement, she was approached by a poor beggar, and she gave the beggar her father’s valuable sword so that he could sell it and buy food. When the pagan king heard about this act of compassion, he told Brigid’s father that she should be allowEd to follow her sense of call.
  • Top center: It was said that no one who came to Brigid in need was ever sent away hungry. According to legend, this was possible because the Lord had given to Brigid a cow that produced an unending supply of milk.
  • Top right: Brigid came to be known as “Mary of the Gaels,” and legend said that she had served Mary as a midwife when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. While clearly impossible from a historical perspective, the legend communicated to Celtic believers a sense of Brigid’s holiness, her compassion, and her deep commitment to serving in Christ.
  • Bottom: The figure of Brigid holds a shepherds staff, a sign of her pastoral authority. According to legend, Brigid was “accidentally“ consecrated as a bishop by a church leader who perceived her exceptional holiness. She came to be thought of as one of Ireland‘s patron saints, the other two being Saint Patrick and Saint Columba.

The other location to which I returned was “Saint Brigid’s Well,“ which is actually two wells, located close enough to each other that they’re probably fed by the same underground spring. In the lore of pre-Christian Ireland, wells and other sources of water were often considered to be “thin places,” where the veil between the sacred and the mundane was exceptionally thin. When Brigid established her ministry center in Kildare, these two wells eventually became associated with her. And legend said that anyone who suffered from an infirmity could come to the well, dip a cloth into the water, cleanse the wounded part of their body with it, and then tie it to a nearby tree. As the cloth deteriorated, their illness or infirmity would also disappear. Although I did not test the legend, I can say that both locations have a deep ambiance of peace and holiness about them, and it was a pleasure to spend some time praying for people who I know are seeking healing.

Tomorrow, I get to undertake the first significant cycling of my journey: a trip from Kildare to Clonmacnoise (site of another ancient Celtic faith community), which is a distance of about 54 miles. If you’d like to lift up a prayer on my behalf, what I’d really like you to ask is for God to guide the shipment of my luggage, which needs to make it from Kildare to the next town in which I’ll be spending several days.

The Hope of Rest

My scripture reading for this morning included some of my favorite verses, which come from Romans 8:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Romans 8:18-21 (NIV)

In a world like ours—filled with division, violence, warnings of impending catastrophe, and hardships of every kind—it brings me both peace and a sense of yearning to trust that Divine Healing—for us and the world—is on the way. In fact, I’m taken by the way that Eugene Peterson conveys that yearning in the verses that follow:

The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Romans 8:22–25 (The Message)

I used some of my time yesterday to sit in Saint Brigid’s Cathedral and listen to Requiem, by John Rutter. Now, in my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful pieces of choral music ever written. And one of the texts that’s woven throughout the piece (and accompanied, I might add, by a tune of absolutely haunting tenderness) includes these Latin words, which I offer in both their original form and my “probably imprecise” translation:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.

(Rest eternal give to them, Lord.
And light perpetual shine upon them.)

It’s telling, I think, that one of the ways the Bible describes our hope for Divine Healing is to tell us, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). And in some sense, I think one of the most important goals of my sabbatical is connecting more deeply with this hope. It’s not that I’m exhausted by life and ministry, or that I’ve lost “the joy of my salvation.” But in the midst of life and ministry, it can be a little too easy to lose sight of the promise that there is a coming rest—a “glory that is not worth comparing” to our present sufferings—and that the only way to be sustained by this promise is to be connected to the Spirit; who prays for us and within us, who empowers us, and who uses us to share with others the peace, reconciliation, and healing that will come in fullness when God’s children are revealed.

Until that day, may the Lord give to you “rest eternal,” and may “light perpetual” shine upon you always. Amen.

Welcome to the Church of the Oak

I arrived yesterday in Kildare, a town whose name in Irish is Cill Dara, which means “church of the oak.” The name was given because the town began when a woman named Brigid (more about her later) established a church on the site under a great oak tree sometime around 480 AD. Over time, the church gave birth to monasteries for both men and women, eventually becoming one of the most important religious centers in Ireland. Unfortunately, because of its importance and associated wealth, Kildare became a repeated target of invaders, and its significance diminished. However, in the 1200’s a cathedral and a Celtic round tower were built at the location of Brigid’s original church, and these buildings—along with other religious sites—remain today.

Most of the day yesterday was spent simply getting here and settling in. My trip from Dublin to Kildare proved to be a bit of an adventure. After leaving my hotel in Dublin, I had to board a local tram service to get to the main train station. However, there was a “disturbance“ along the way, and all of us passengers were told to get off, forcing me to walk the rest of the way to the station with two bags in tow. Thankfully, once I boarded the train, I was able to sit back and watch the countryside transform from urban to rural. And when I arrived in Kildare, it didn’t take long for me to find the B&B in which I’m staying, to grab some lunch, and to set off for some exploration.

The highlight of the day was a visit to the cathedral and round tower that I mentioned earlier. I was able to climb to the top of the tower, which took a bit of doing, because the trip upward is made using a series of rather steep ladders. However, the view of the surrounding countryside is worth it; and as far as I’m concerned, the interior of the cathedral is beautiful, too.

Today began with a trip to the nearby town of Naas to pick up the bicycle I’ll be using for the rest of my trip. To be honest, the fact that I had to go to Naas was a bit of a surprise. When I ordered the bike, I thought that the bike shop was in Kildare. However because of the way in which addresses are written in Ireland, the shop was actually in the COUNTY of Kildare— a little more than 13 miles away from the city of the same name. Fortunately, I was able to catch a bus to Naas, and the guys at the bike shop were fantastic! Then, it was just a quick ride back to Kildare, and I was ready for something else.

My sweet ride for the rest of my pilgrimage.

After getting cleaned up and finding some lunch, I set out to explore some of the other sites in the city. For example, in addition to “The White Abbey” pictured above, there’s also a “Grey Abbey” and a “Black Abbey,” all of which are named for the color of the robes that were worn by the monks who lived there. However, for reasons that I could not find described anywhere, both the Gray Abbey and the Black Abbey are in ruins.

Remains of the Black Abbey, which housed knights who were dedicated to protecting pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem.

For me, there’s always something uniquely powerful about seeing the silent remains of a once vibrant religious center like this. On the one hand, I find myself wondering what went wrong. Was the community attacked by enemies from without, or eroded by dissension from within? Did the members of the church become complacent, or did they lose sight of their mission? Are there lessons that we need to learn from a place like this, lest the buildings in which we’ve invested so much meet a similar fate? On the other hand, I’m reminded that even though particular religious communities might come and go, the “Word of our God stands forever,” and His mission endures. Like it or not, the buildings and institutions we’ve constructed may not last. But we can still invest our lives in something that will: the kingdom of God, and the people whom we are called to invite into it.

Finally, today also included an opportunity to learn a little about Saint Brigid, the founder of Kildare. It turns out that there are many wondrous stories about her, some of which are probably Christianized versions of tales that were told about a different Brigid—a pagan goddess after whom Brigid was named. What does seem true is that Kildare’s Brigid was the daughter of a druidic chieftain. She was led to faith in Christ, perhaps through the ministry of Saint Patrick, and she decided to devote her life to prayer and ministry. However, when a visiting bishop was leading the ceremony to make her a nun, he was so awestruck by the sense of holiness about her that he read the words for consecrating a bishop. When a colleague objected, he replied: “I have no power in this matter; this dignity has been given by God to Brigid.” She went on to be an extraordinary leader, who was known for her hospitality and her generosity to the poor; and along with Patrick and Columbia, she is now considered to be one of the patron saints of Ireland.

I have two more days in Kildare. And part of my goal is just to “be” here. Oh sure, there are a few more things to see. But the real gift is simply to have some time in which there are no other pressing demands, and I get the chance to rest, reflect, and renew. I hope that you are getting those opportunities, too! And I will look forward to sharing more with you in the days ahead.

Places Thin (and Not So Thin)

Today, June 28, is a day of preparation for me. Tomorrow, I’ll be leaving Dublin and heading down to Kildare, where my cycling tour of Ireland and Scotland will begin. As a result, I’m using most of today to get some laundry done and to see a few last sights in Dublin before I depart. Yesterday, however, was one of the highlights of my trip thus far—a highlight that included, strangely enough, both great expectations and expectations unmet.

Yesterday, you see, I took a day trip outside of Dublin to visit Glendalough, the site of an early Celtic monastic community that was founded by Saint Kevin in the sixth century. Based on what I’ve read about Celtic spirituality, Kevin probably settled in Glendalough because he discovered there what was often called “a thin place”—a place where the boundary between the world of “everyday, ordinary life” and “life enlivened by the presence of God’s Spirit” was exceptionally thin. And as a result, I confess, I wanted this place to be “a thin place” for me, too. I wanted to have a unique and powerful experience of God’s power and nearness. And yet, since the tour left time for only a brief visit, and since the entire area was crawling with other tourists like myself, it was difficult to settle in and to reflect on the history and the ambience of the place in a way that was very transformative. Nevertheless, I do have these reflections.

First, the valley in which the site is located really is beautiful. In fact, the name “Glendalough” means “valley of two lakes.” And not far from the steep mountain pass pictured here; there are, in fact, two lakes that feed a stream running down near the site of the monastic community. Although the circumstances of my visit didn’t give me much time to appreciate this beauty, it wasn’t hard to imagine how Kevin and other believers would have looked at the landscape around them and would have been constantly reminded of verses like these:

I lift my eyes to the hills;
from where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

In addition, I think it’s worth noting that even though Kevin probably settled in Glendalough in the hope of living a solitary life of prayer and contemplation, there soon gathered around him a whole community of people seeking to grow closer to Christ. Scholars say that at the height of its influence, the settlement might have included several hundred monks and as many as a thousand farmers, craftsmen, and their families who lived nearby. And even though there clearly was a sense of separation between these two worlds—the “sacred” and the “secular”—there was also a lot of mutual exchange and influence.

In the picture on the left, you see the gateway to the monastic compound. and just inside this gateway is a “foundation stone,” on which is engraved the image of the cross. Since the monastic community was surrounded by a wall, the only way in and out would be through this gateway. And upon entering, both monks and visitors would be reminded that this was a sacred space, in which an alternate way of perceiving and responding to the world—a way shaped by devotion to God and His Kingdom—prevailed.

And yet, the influence of this “kingdom way” was not restricted to life within the walls. The picture on the left is Glendalough’s round tower, which stands almost 100 feet tall. Since a community like Glendalough frequently faced the prospect of attacks from outsiders, the tower undoubtedly provided a lookout and a place in which to protect the community’s treasures (which for a monastic community like this one would have included its copies of the scriptures). But since the name of these towers in Irish translates as “a house for the bell,” it seems clear that one of its most important functions was to call the entire valley—monks and laypeople alike—to daily times of prayer. In other words, part of the power of a place like Glendalough is the power of Christian community to “spill out” beyond itself in a way that reminds the world of God’s presence and of His constant invitation to enter that presence more fully.

The monastic community of Glendalough, with the Round Tower to the right and church built in honor of St. Kevin, the community’s founder, to the left.

In a funny way, that gets to the heart of why I’m taking the sabbatical in the first place. I want to become the kind of Christ follower—and I want my church to become the kind of community—whose devotion to God‘s kingdom allows His presence to “spill out” beyond us and into the world in a way that invites others to seek that presence, too.

So, does that make Glendalough a “thin place” for me? Probably not. But it does remind me that “thin places“ are all around us, if we are prepared to seek God and to live as those whose lives are set apart for Him. May such devotion on our part lead us to become a “thin place“ for those who are seeking abundant life. Amen.

Finding Sabbath

If I’m calculating the time difference correctly, I’m composing this post just as my church is preparing to start its traditional worship service. Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that I am currently enjoying what might be the most “sabbathy” day of my sabbatical thus far. Don’t get me wrong. I miss my family and my church family. And since my sabbatical began, I’ve had some very enjoyable days going to Disney World with my family and visiting with my mother. But today is the first Sunday in quite some time but I’ve had the opportunity just to “be.” No responsibilities. Nowhere I have to travel. Nothing to do but to seek out those activities that are restful and renewing.

So, “How have I used a day like that?” you might wonder. Well, I started with morning worship at Immanuel Church Dublin. Conveniently, the church was located just down the street from where I’m staying. And although we might describe it as a “storefront church,” I was warmly welcomed; the message was solid; and even though there are a few congregations that can touch our praise band for excellence, it was fun to sing along without having to think about what was supposed to happen next.

After worship, I set off for Saint Stephen’s Green, a lovely park nestled in the heart of downtown Dublin. Conveniently, the park has a lovely shopping center located right beside it. So after stopping there for a bite to eat, I set off into the park, found a lovely park bench, and spent a couple hours listening to music, reading the scriptures, and watching both people and birds enjoy the afternoon.

This evening, I’m hoping to visit a local pub that is rumored to have excellent live Irish music. However, there have been rain showers threatening for much of the day. And since this pub is a bit of a hike from my hotel, I may have to check the forecast before I make the trip. (I know I’ll be spending some time in the rain before this trip is done, but I see no need to hasten the experience.) Still, even if that doesn’t happen, it’s been a wonderfully relaxing day. And I’m so thankful to God, my family, and my church family for making an experience like this possible.

Tomorrow, I’m scheduled to take a day trip out of Dublin to visit the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough, the site of an early Christian monastic community. More details to follow…

Deeper into Dublin

My first full day here in Dublin has been largely a “touring day,” focused primarily on delving deeper into places that I only visited yesterday. The highlight of the day has been a visit to Trinity College of Dublin to see “The Book of Kells,” an exquisitely illustrated manuscript of the four gospels that was compiled by Celtic monks sometime around 800 AD.

You can’t take pictures of The Book of Kells. (The ones provided below are photos from the exhibit that accompanies it.) The original is kept behind glass in a room where the temperature and lighting are strictly controlled to make sure that the document doesn’t fade. But even if you could photograph it, I’m not sure that the pictures would do it justice. Even when magnified to a size that is several feet across, as the shots below are, you have to look closely to see the level of detail that has been incorporated into each image. Given the conditions under which the manuscript was created— including the laborious processes that were required to prepare the calfskin on which it’s written and to produce the pigments that were used to illustrate it— it’s remarkable that a work of such intricacy was even possible. But such was the love of these early believers for God’s word that they devoted years of their lives to crafting a copy of the scriptures that would both inspire and educate.

I’m reminded of an observation from Pastor and author Mark Buchanan who wrote:

Curious times, these. There is simultaneously a glut of the Word of God and a famine of it…a drought and a deluge. We have every translation of the Bible you can imagine—the NIV, the NEV, the KJV, the NKJV…the Preacher’s Bible, the Worshiper’s Bible, the Spirit-Filled Believer’s Bible, the left-handed bald gypsy fiddler’s Bible (that last was made up). You can have it in hardback, paperback, leather, or cloth…in pink, blue, red, orange, or psychedelic paisley…with maps and charts and appendices and concordances and holograms of the Temple in the back, and a little sleeve with a CD-Rom that takes you on a guided tour of the Holy Land. The food is out there—and it’s a banqueting table. We’re just picky eaters. Oh, we’re buying Bibles. And sometimes we’re even reading them. But there’s not much evidence that we’re studying them. We’re nibbling, not devouring. And you are what you eat.

Mark Buchanan, Your God Is Too Safe

After visiting The Book of Kells, I went on to take tours of several historical sites that yesterday’s walking tour only allowed me to see from the outside. My visits included “The Long Room,” a historic library at Trinity College that’s packed floor to ceiling with rare books and manuscripts; Dublin Castle, where I was able to visit an underground archaeological site that contains foundations and walls from the original Viking settlement on the site that dates back to sometime around 1100; and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where I learned that one of its famous preachers (Jonathan Swift, who wrote Gulliver‘s Travels) had a special pulpit constructed that could be rolled around the worship space, enabling him to preach directly to anyone whom he caught sleeping during his sermon! (Maybe I need to talk with Calvary’s deacons about ordering something like that for our church.) 😁

Of course, after all that history, I needed something a little lighter. So on the way back to my hotel, I stopped by to tour the factory where Guinness is made. And I also walked back through the “Temple Bar” district to see the crowds of weekend revelers.

Since tomorrow is Sunday, I hope to make it a genuine the day of sabbath rest. My plan is to find a church with whom I can worship in the morning. And then I hope to spend the afternoon reading, sitting in a park or two, and listening to music. Naturally, I wish you a restful Sabbath day, too. And I will look forward to sharing more with you as my adventures continue.

My Arrival in Dublin

At long last, I am “on the ground” in the city of Dublin, Ireland! Getting here, I must confess, was a bit harder than I thought it would be, because it turns out that some of those “airport horror stories” you’ve heard in the news recently are true. After Teresa and Windham dropped me off at the Raleigh airport around 1 o’clock in the afternoon on Thursday, both of my flights got delayed, with the result that I didn’t arrive at the Dublin airport until a little after 1 o’clock in the afternoon on Friday. Still, I did get here without missing any connecting flights, which is more than could be said for some of my fellow passengers. And in the end, by the time I got from the airport into the central part of the city where my hotel is located, I was able to check in immediately and begin some exploration.

I’m staying at a hotel called Zanzibar Locke, which is located on the banks of the River Liffey that runs right through the heart of downtown Dublin. If you cross over the river using the nearby Ha’Penny Bridge (so named because it cost half a penny to cross it when it was first constructed back in 1816), you find yourself in a part of town called “The Temple Bar.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the area is filled with bars, restaurants, and other night spots. However, the name comes not from the current business roster, but from Sir William Temple—a noted scholar of the late 1500 and early 1600’s—who built a home on the site, which at the time was a strip of land reclaimed from the river by the construction of a retaining wall and called a “barr” or “bar” (and hence the name).

In any case, I don’t imagine that I’ll be spending much time in the bars that are located in The Temple Bar (although I am hoping to find a spot somewhere that plays some traditional Irish music). So I decided to spend some time this afternoon walking around the city to see if I could find some of the other attractions that I do hope to visit in the days ahead. These include Trinity College, Dublin Castle, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

After all the airport drama this morning and quite a bit of walking this afternoon, I’m probably going to turn in fairly early tonight. Tomorrow, I hope to visit Trinity College, where there’s a collection of early Celtic copies of the Bible that are known for their intricate illustrations