So Leanne and I are coming up to our first anniversary in Dublin (September 24th) so it felt appropriate to write a short post on why Dublin is such a great place to come and live. The media often talks about why so many people have left Ireland in the last 5 years that it can be easy to forget that the Emerald Isle, the land of Saints & Scholars, is still very much a great place to live, not least in its capital.
Dublin is a great place to live because of…
(1) The History
Dublin has so much history embedded into the very structure of the city that as you walk around you are regularly captivated by a building or a statue that links back to a key moment in Irish history. There are the Guinness & Jameson distilleries, the bullet holes in the General Post Office (not England’s finest moment!!), Trinity College, the Book of Kells, the Chester Beattie Library, not to mention places slightly further afield like Newgrange or Glendalough – places that take you back centuries, even millennia, to great and important moments in history.
(2) The Sea
One of the reasons Leanne and I and the kids love the city is because whenever it is a hot sunny day we are able to drive for 20 minutes to an hour and find a number of beautiful beaches. Just this week I was diving into the sea from the rocks of Sandycove and back in July we enjoyed the beauty of Silver Strand and Brittas Bay as well as other local beaches. What is so nice is that these places are totally unspoilt by mass tourism because the weather is not consistently nice enough for them to become tourist hubs all year round or even every year (but this summer has been the hottest and nicest summer in years…hallelujah!). Without exaggeration I can say that a hot sunny day on a beach in Wicklow rivals the beaches I have visited in Hawaii (and on the west coast of Ireland you even get the enormous waves as well – Mayo is the surfing capital of Europe). It has been my joy to cycle up and down the beach road every day to work this year.
(3) The GAA
The Irish love their sport! They love their rugby and as an island of just over 6 million they punch well above their weight with 4 high level provincial teams and a great national team. They love their soccer (and especially The English Premiership). But as I experienced last week when I went to Croke Park for the All Ireland Semi Final (Dublin vs Kerry – touted as maybe the greatest match of all time), I came to understand how much Ireland love their GAA and especially Gaelic Football, known here just as ‘football’. GAA stands for Gaelic Athletic Association and covers Football, Hurling and Camogie. As far as live sporting occasions go it was about as good as I have ever been to. 80 000+ packed into Croke Park (with Hill 16, another famous historical sight…again another reminder of some of England’s unpleasant history) to watch a game that is action-action-action, high scoring, physically demanding, very skilful and full of passion. I saw the Irish in all their zeal and the Dubs win in the most dramatic of finishes. What was particularly fitting was that that morning I had been playing for my local football team, Kilmacud Crokes, in Phoenix Park (another great location in Dublin, full of history) and had seen a similar standard of football being played…not!! But in all seriousness I have loved learning a new sport and all the craic that goes with it. #EnglishmanPlayingGAA
(4) The Wicklow Mountains
Not only has Dublin got great beaches to choose from, it also has great mountains – both the Dublin mountains (which I can see from my house) and the Wicklow mountains. I have yet to explore these great places by bike or foot (my biggest regret from my first year) but I enjoy the sights and know they will provide many adventures in the future. Dublin is a city surrounded by beauty from both the seas and the mountains.
(5) The Google effect
This point could have been called “Dublin is great to live in because of the Low Corporation Tax” and you have probably seen a few scandals in the papers in the last few months about that. But the bottom line is Dublin has attracted ALL the coolest hi-tech companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce and further afield companies like Apple and Pay-Pal. Dublin is the hi-tech capital of Europe and still growing with all the new start-ups joining in. These companies are not only transforming the world we live in by changing the way we shop, communicate and learn, they are also transforming the workplace itself, bringing in a culture of fun and innovation, free food and beer, flexible working hours and excellent perks. I have had the privilege of working for Oracle for the past 9 months and am looking forward to starting with HubSpot this Monday (an American start-up that has just arrived in Dublin to establish its European and International HQ). The city’s IFSC (International Financial Services Centre) and Docklands area is buzzing with an international young workforce and is an exciting place to be.
(6) The Guinness
(7) The Irish
I have said it before and I’ll say it again, the Irish really are the friendliest people I have ever met. Leanne and I have only been here a year but feel very settled and are developing a growing circle of friends and a widening community.
(8) The Size
Dublin has all the benefits of a capital – great history, a world class music venue, two major sporting stadiums (Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium which, by the way, is a beautiful piece of art!), a great night life, some touristy stuff, universities, theatres, the government houses, the business and financial HQs and everything else you find in a capital BUT it is all within touching distance and the countryside is never that far away. This ‘small capital’ feel is great.
(9) The Zoo
Every child needs a zoo in their life to be truly happy…well it’s a bonus at least. But having annual membership so that each week you can go and visit lions and tigers and elephants and giraffes is fantastic. Plus it’s a really nice zoo.
(10) The New Culture
Dublin has seen seismic cultural changes in the last 15-20 years which makes it a very interesting place to live. Firstly mass attendance has declined rapidly and the 18-35 year old generation have, by and large, fallen out with the Catholic Church. The city saw a huge boom between 2000-2008 and then a major financial crash, which it is slowly recovering from. Thousands of new migrants have come into the city (the second largest population group are Polish with around 120 000 residents in Ireland) and then there was been a massive exodus of both Irish and other nationalities in the last few years. All of that has led to an increasingly secular and cosmopolitan culture within the city which is searching for a new identity. This makes Dublin an exciting place to live because the new cultural identity has yet to be defined.
So there you have it, 10 reasons why Dublin is a great place to live. I am sure there are many more. If I have missed anything then please do jot it down.
Here is to year 2!
This is the fifth (and probably final) post in a short series looking at the importance of the Psalms in the devotional life of the believer and in the worship life of a church. We are currently looking at the Psalms in our church so…why meditate on the Psalms?
(5) Our prayer book – they give us a vocabulary
Just as the Psalms were Jesus’ prayer book, so they can become ours. Speaking personally, I read the Psalm once or twice through every year and start most days with a Psalm and they have helped me in three ways. The Psalms have given me:
a) The Spirit’s power
C.S. Lewis famously said:
“The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at your like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in”.
Personally I know of no better way to gain faith, strength, courage and perspective than to use a Psalm to get me going each day. Praying the Psalms opens me up to the larger, stronger, quieter life of life in the Spirit.
b) Words to draw near to my Father
When children learn to speak they first repeat and mimic what their parents are saying (Dadda, Mamma), but over time these words become their own words and they gain a personal meaning and value for them, which enables them to connect with their mum and dad.
So with the Psalms, we can learn a vocabulary which at first we just repeat and copy, but over time we internalise so they become our words and they enable us to draw near to God. What started off as reciting became my own words and I learnt (and am learning) to talk to my father in heaven with greater ease.
(c) Joy in Jesus
I am currently reading CS Lewis’ “reflections on the Psalms”, and in that he has one of the most powerful insights of all time (John Piper has based his whole life and ministry on these words, just read Desiring God). When reflecting on how God often asks us to praise him (does that make God an egotist?), Lewis says this:
“I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows in praise… The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wine, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountain, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars…
I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it; “isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent”
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling on another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.
As George Mueller said: “the first and most important duty of each day is to find my soul happy in God.” Well the Psalms have enabled me to do that; they have helped me come to Jesus as the satisfaction for my deepest desires and fulfilment of my greatest hopes.
So we should meditate on the Psalms to be empowered by the Spirit, draw near to our Father and find joy in Jesus.
Off you go!
P.S There may be extra posts in this series…but don’t hold your breath!!
This is the fourth post in a short series looking at the importance of the Psalms in the devotional life of the believer and in the worship life of a church. We are currently looking at the Psalms in our church so…why meditate on the Psalms?
(4) Jesus’ prayer book
Jesus’ disciples once asked him – Lord teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples to pray (Luke 11.2), and Jesus told them the Lord’s prayer. I have always wondered if Jesus ever thought of saying: “have you never read the Psalms? That is my prayer book – that should be your prayer book. Go and read and learn and meditate and use those Psalms to pray”.
You see the Psalms (along with Lamentations and other poetic bits) are different from every other book in the bible in that they are NOT God’s word to us, but rather God’s words for us! They are not so much God speaking to us; they are words God has given us to speak to him.
And that is why the Psalms have often been referred to as “God’s prayer book”, because they are a collection of songs and prayers that God has given us so that we can speak to him. God has given us a way of expressing ourselves, a way of communicating to him – a groove we can run down in all circumstances of life that mean we end up connecting with him.
Just think about this! For 100s, in fact 1000s of years, the people of God – right back to the time of David and in every century since have used the Psalms in order to pray to God, to know God, to express and process their emotions, in order to deepen their relationship with God, in order to relate to God and speak to God through all seasons of life, in order to feed our souls along the journey from the desert to the promise land. Well trodden grooves, that are tried and tested, and have been used time and time again by the People of God to connect with God…INCLUDING JESUS!
What did Jesus do in his darkest hour when he wanted to speak to his father? What did Jesus do when he wanted to express his emotions as his enemies killed him without reason? What did Jesus do to have communion with God as the nails were being thrust through his arms? What did Jesus do when we wanted to pray in God-forsaken darkness on the cross? He went straight to the Psalms – because he knew that within the Psalms contained the words he needed to express himself in that moment and the words he needed to pray to God.
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Ps 22.1 & Matt 27.46)
“Father into your hands I commit my spirit” (Ps 31.5 & Luke 23.46)
“I thirst” (Ps 69.21 & John 19.28)”
And no doubt the hymn that he and his disciples sang at the end of the last supper (Mark 14.26) was one of the traditional Passover Psalms, which were sung dispersed throughout the Jewish meal (Psalms 114-118).
At the point of greatest anguish, Jesus turned to the Psalms for his prayer to connect with God, to express his emotions and to ensure he kept on trusting God. He used the words God had given him – he ran down the grooves that would lead him forward.
So we too should meditate on the Psalms because Jesus is our example.
Part 5 tomorrow
This is the third post in a short series looking at the importance of the Psalms in the devotional life of the believer and in the worship life of a church. We are currently looking at the Psalms in our church so…why meditate on the Psalms?
(3) They help us process our emotions
We have already touched on this, but the Psalms help two groups of people – those who are ruled by their emotions, and those that don’t know how to express emotion. When reading the Psalms one is immediately struck by the depth of emotion – whether in adoration, joy, celebration and worship of God (with dancing and tambourines); or deep despondency, depression, anger and sorrow (with weeping and dust and ashes)…and everything in between.
Some people are ruled by their emotions and their life is like a yo-yo (up and down…up and down), which not only affects them but affects all those who are close to them. The Psalms help these people express the raw reality of their emotion, but do it in such a way that is (a) real and genuine (b) godly and loving and (c) leads to hope and confidence. The Psalms provide grooves we can run down, well-worn grooves for all seasons of life; which take us from the reality of where we are and bring us to God and hope in him.
Other people, whether because of criticism and pressure from parents, school, culture or work (or something else) have suppressed their emotions; and though they feel things, they don’t know how to express what they feel and don’t know how to talk to God with such intimacy and love (or anger and frustration). The Psalms give these people grooves that enable them to connect deeper with God and with the church community.
So we should meditate on the Psalms to help us express our emotions in a godly and helpful way.
Part 4 tomorrow
This is the second post in a short series looking at the importance of the Psalms in the devotional life of the believer and in the worship life of a church. We are currently looking at the Psalms in our church so…why meditate on the Psalms?
(2) They remind us that following Jesus is a journey
I am just about to read Eugene Peterson’s classic “A long obedience in the same direction – discipleship in an instant culture”, which looks at the songs of ascents (Psalms 120-135). On our first Sunday as we looked at Psalm 1 we were reminded that the Psalms teach us that there are “2 ways to live” or “2 paths to choose”, and they help us choose the narrow path that leads to life (Matthew 7.13-14).
In the beginning we were made to walk with God in the cool of the day (Genesis 3.8), but all that went wrong and we have been wandering aimlessly and restlessly ever since. Through Jesus we can come back to walking with God, but we need help; our hearts are prone to distraction, despondency, drifting and disobedience (just look at the sad story of the journey Israel took for 40 years!). The Psalms help us to remain faithful; they keep our hearts tender; they keep us talking to God in all seasons in the journey and they cultivate our affections towards God.
The first title ever given to the church in the book of Acts was “followers of the way” (Acts 9.2) – we are called to follow Jesus on a journey which has highs and lows, joy and sorrow, moments of rest and moments of agony. The Psalms help us stay close to God and enjoy fellowship with him at every stage of the journey, until we reach the promised land.
So we should meditate on the Psalms to help us in our journey with and towards God.
Part 3 tomorrow
As a church we have just started a short series looking at some of the most famous Psalms. And here are some reasons why every church and individual should meditate on the Psalms every once in a while (if not all the time). Please note I say meditate, as to study the Psalms would be too abstract and intellectual, when originally they were sung and recited and memorised.
(1) They bring balance, depth and breadth to personal and corporate spirituality
One of the reasons the Psalms are so important to an individual believer and the family of God is that they provide depth and breadth in terms of emotions, experience of God, life experiences, vista of God, prayer and doctrine. On a personal note, if you read the Psalms quickly (with 5 other guys I am currently reading all 150 in 6 weeks – 25 a week) you’ll find blind spots in your faith and you’ll be forced to think and feel things you hadn’t expected.
On a corporate note, the Psalms give balance to church life which is too “vision and strategy” orientated by talking about the depths of our hearts; they give balance to a church that only focuses on the love of God by talking about his wrath (or vice versa); they bring balance to a church that focuses on individual discipleship by calling us together to devotion and obedience to God…and so on and so forth.
So we should meditate on the Psalms to bring balance, depth and breadth to church life.
Part 2 will come tomorrow
After 15 years of volunteering and working within Christians Charities (including being a church Pastor for the previous 4 years), I have taken a big career move and become a Corporate Man (#CorporateSteve). 4 months since I started working for Oracle I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on the experience and how being a salesman in a big blue chip company is basically the same as being a pastor in a local church.
In no particular order…
(1) There is always an underlying culture – this hit me immediately when started at Oracle. From the way you dress (whether Monday-Thursday or on ‘dress-down Fridays’), behave, talk, drink, work or network there are lots of assumed values and standards that are spread across the business and without thinking about it you start to conform to that culture. Much of the culture comes down from “the leadership” – whether Larry Ellison (who is some of the inspiration behind the character Iron Man) or the local directors and VPs. However local church is no different. Just as I had never worked in a big multi-national, so many people have never come into a church gathering/community and when they do they’ll feel the difference in culture and the more they stay and belong, the more they’ll feel a pressure to “fit in” and much of that will come from the way the leaders look, dress, act and talk (read 1 Corinthians or the book of James for the New Testament examples).
(2) Oracle is a place of many nations – I sit opposite French, Italian & Portuguese people everyday and interact with at least 20 nationalities a week, just from my sales floor alone. Oracle is a place where the nations of the world have gathered together under one cause. So the church in heaven, and therefore the church on earth, is a place where all the nations have gathered together, to set aside their differences in order to serve and adore our creator and saviour, Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2-3 & Revelation 7).
(3) You drink lots of Coffee – I am currently cutting down my coffee intake to “one a day” as when there is free cappuccino’s on tap it can be lethal. A lot of coffee gets drunk every day at Oracle. However the church is no different (except the standard of coffee is usually less good!!!) and when you are a church pastor you can easily drink 10 coffees a day and come away wired.
(4) The job of a salesman is basically the job of a pastor – I was chatting to my Sales Director about this last week when he asked me how, given my background, I was settling into my new job. I told him that the heart of being a church pastor is to listen to people, find common ground, ask insightful questions, understand their pains and problems and then “sell” them a solution…Jesus! So in modern sales, you spend 80% of the time listening, building rapport, asking insightful questions that unearth business pains and then you sell them a solution which will solve all their problems…Oracle Fusion CRM.
(5) Humility will go along way – As I outline in my previous post, the humble person will actually go the furthest, not just in the Kingdom of God (1 Peter 5 & James 4) but also in business.
(6) There is always a pressure to deliver - Sales is all about hitting “your number” – that is what defines you, governs you, gets you paid and sees you progress. If you hit your targets you’re fine. If you miss them, then you’ll feel the pressure. However there are lots of pressures that a pastor can feel – there is still the pressure to “perform” or live up to people’s expectations. I guess underneath it all is a heart that finds it’s value in personal performance rather than Jesus’ performance on our behalf (see Philippians 3).
(7) The importance of of money – You cannot do church activities, mission, social action or community-formation without money (nor have a job as a full-time pastor). So in business, there is no business where there is no money. However the quantity of money is where the difference is seen. Coming from a local church background where budgets are rather small it is crazy the amount of money that is flying around in a modern IT business. Whether that be the salaries, the sales, the expenses or the products. I was talking to a customer the other day about a $1,000,000+ sale. That is silly money in the church but normal money in business. Interestingly Jesus spoke more about money than heaven and hell as he recognised it as one of the greatest snares that stopped people entering the kingdom of God (Luke 8.14 & 18.18-30). This leads me onto my next point.
(8) Motivation is everything - 0n my second day when I didn’t even know what “CRM” meant I met one of the Sales VPs, for Application Sales. He was also new to Oracle VP so was meeting the team and finding out who was who. He asked us about our background. My Co-worker Fiona had come from a retail background so he got all enthusiastic about how we needed to tap into her abilities and knowledge to sell our product. He then turned to me and said “And what about you…what did you do before this?” I told him that I had worked as a church pastor and charity worker. First his face went rather blank. Second he paused. Third he said “Oh”. Fourthly, once he had gathered himself, he said “so you have gone from what is essentially about doing good to the world to what is essentially about making money!” I think I fumbled some comment about the need for business’s to engage with CSR and then he moved on. What has been interesting is that I repeatedly hear from those up top, that what should motivate us is money, career and status – that is the carrot that is dangled before us to ensure we work hard. One of the senior managers even said “I am unashamedly money hungry” which was rather surprising to me, though I appreciate his honesty.
Now whilst I do not despise money, career or status, this is a very striking part of the new culture (point 1) that I am experiencing and do not want to be conformed to. The bible is clear that we are to work (a) for Jesus first and foremost (Colossians 3) (b) for the good of mankind and the flourishing of the city (Jeremiah 29) and (c) so we can earn a living (see book of proverbs and the scathing remarks to the sluggard!). The issue of motivation however is central to the Gospel. I know in my own heart that being in Christian ministry can very easily become about my own status and glory…so maybe the only difference is that at Oracle it is blatant where-as in the church it is secret (which is probably more dangerous!!!). God clearly says that our heart and motivation are the determining factor in any work we do, even our good works (see 1 Corinthians 13). (Picture = Oracle HQ)
I am sure there are more similarities, but there are 8 I can think of. Do let me know if you think of any more.