Monday, October 8, 2007


This is one of my favorite photos of our time with Doug and Merrie Gresham at Rathvinden House in County Carlow, Ireland. Our boys were small enough three years ago that they could all fit in the wheelbarrow together! But the other reason this is one of my favorite photos is because I love autumn!

In my love of autumn I feel I am in good company. C. S. Lewis often mentioned his enjoyment of the season.

In the first chapter of Surprised by Joy Lewis mentions how his second glimpse of joy came through reading Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin. He says the book troubled him with what he could only describe as the idea of Autumn. "It sounds fantastic to say that one can be enamored of a season, but that is something like what happened; and, as before, the experience was one of intense desire. And one went back to the book, not to gratify the desire (that was impossible--how can one possess Autumn?) but to reawake it."

It is fascinating to note that Lewis's memorable talk with Hugo Dyson and J. R. R. Tolkien, which eventually led to Lewis's conversion, took place in Addison's Walk at Magdalen College, Oxford on an autumn evening. Lewis described the event in a letter to Arthur Greeves on September 22, 1931:

"It was really a memorable talk. We began (in Addison's walk just after dinner) on metaphor and myth -- interrupted by a rush of wind which came so suddenly on the still, warm evening and sent so many leaves pattering down that we thought it was raining. We all held our breath, the other two appreciating the ecstasy of such a thing almost as you would."

Then, in one of the very last letters from Lewis's pen, he wrote to Jane Douglass on 27 October 1963:

"Yes, autumn is really the best of the seasons; and I'm not sure that old age isn't the best part of life. But of course, like autumn, it doesn't last."

One could read that last line assuming a note of despair. But knowing C. S. Lewis, one can't read it that way. He was looking forward to walking through death's door and seeing for the first time what would be on the other side. Apparently autumn, throughout Lewis's life, was a haunting reminder of heaven. And I think it can be so for us as well.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cair Paravel?

Is it the ruins of Cair Paravel in Narnia? Actually it is the ruins of Dunluce Castle on the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. C. S. Lewis grew up not far from here in Belfast and as a child he often went on holiday with his mother and brother to the Antrim Coast. Thus Dunluce, perched prettily on a cliff above the ocean, may have served as inspiration for Cair Paravel.

The ruins of Dunluce are intriguing in their beauty, and the ruins of Cair Paravel at the beginning of Prince Caspian are intriguing in their mystery. C. S. Lewis once said that Prince Caspian was a story about recovering faith in an age of unbelief. When the Pevensie children return to Narnia and land at Cair Paravel they do not recognize the place, at first, as their old home. But slowly the reality dawns on them. Perhaps recovering faith in God in an age of unbelief is kind of like that. As T.S. Eliot once wrote, "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

Monday, August 20, 2007


Birthdays are very special in our family. They are always celebrated with a cake, usually homemade, presents, and often with a party or some special activity. The birthday person gets to have whatever meal they want on their special day.

Birthdays are a reminder of God's precious gift of life and the fact that God is our creator. Jesus also talked about another kind of birthday. He said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3)

So the question is: do you have two birthdays? If you want to learn more about how to have a second birthday click on the link:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Three Trees

There are not many trees in Ireland since the land was deforested four hundred years ago. This tree, standing alone, reminds me of the three trees of the redemption story--one at the beginning of recorded history, one in the middle of history, and one at the end of all things.

The tree at the beginning of history is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. By disobeying God's direction our first parents made all humanity subject to sin and death.

The tree at the middle of history is the tree on which Christ died to free us from the power of sin and death.

The tree at the end of all things was also present at the beginning of history--the tree of life. It is by Christ's death and resurrection that we will one day have the privilege to eat of the fruit of that tree.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Keepers of the Light

This is the view from Hook Lighthouse on the southern coast of Ireland. Built in the early 13th century, Hook is perhaps the oldest lighthouse in the world, operational for 800 years except for a brief respite in the 17th century. Interestingly enough, the original keepers of this light, warning sailors away from the treacherously rocky coastline, were monks. Somehow that seems very appropriate since Jesus said that all of his followers were to be keepers of the light:

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A-maze-ing Grace

This photo was taken near the ruins of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford, Ireland. My son Joshua is atop my shoulders and we are standing inside a maze. Upon looking at this photo again today it occured to me that it contains a message: life is a maze--but when our heavenly father lifts us up on his shoulders we get perspective to see our way through.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Royal Imagination

I became a royalist upon reading The Chronicles of Narnia around the age of ten. This sensibility was confirmed in me the first time I saw Buckingham Palace. I have been in love with palaces and castles ever since. The photo above is of my family in the gardens of Kilkenny Castle, Ireland, in 2004.

C. S. Lewis once wrote in a letter to an American correspondent:

"American children, as I know from the letters they write me, are just as 'Aslan-olatrous' as English ones. The world of fairy-tale, as the world of Christianity, makes the heart and imagination royalist in a sense which mere politics hardly [touches]. What my stories do is to liberate--to free from inhibitions--a spontaneous impulse to serve and adore, to have a 'dearest dread', which the modern world starves, or diverts to film-stars, crooners, and athletes." Unpublished letter to Patricia Hillis, Austin, Texas, March 10, 1959.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Three Miracles

When people tell me they don't believe in miracles I say, "Come to my house; I have three of them living there!" From left to right in this photo those three miracles are named: James (now 14), Joshua (now 8) and Jonathan (now 12). They have grown up so much since this photo of them wearing their school uniforms was taken in Ireland three years ago. And that's just the point: they are three miracles who eat potato chips and turn it into muscle every day!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Strong Tower

This is one of many round towers we saw in Ireland. Round towers were used in monastic settlements as defensive structures. The monks would run to the tower as a place of protection against attack from marauding Vikings and others.

This reminds me of Proverbs 18:10 . . .

"The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mind Your Head

This photo of my son Joshua was taken at Jerpoint Abbey, but the message applies to all of us, everywhere. We need to "mind our heads" every day.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Secret Place

This is a photo of one of my children's favorite places at Rathvinden. It is a space under a huge tree which my boys liked to use as their "fort". We also used it as a place for birthday celebrations and a "talent show" when visited by some friends from England.

What I find interesting is the childhood tendency to create "secret places" out of special parts of God's creation. This human propensity for what J. R. R. Tolkien called "sub-creation" shows up very early in life. It seems to me that it is a sign of the fact that we are created in God's image. Like God our creator we are made to be sub-creators. And when we each find our own special way of being sub-creators in life we discover much of who we were created to be.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


This was one of the views at Rathvinden, where we lived in Ireland for eight months. Rathvinden means "fort of the faeries", and it was truly a magical place for us, magical in the sense of being full of God's majestic grace.

The beauty of the Irish countryside was a healing balm for our souls. This photo reveals a typical Irish day. Every day it would rain a little bit--a light mist really. Then the sun would break through the puffy white clouds and the grass would glow a brilliant green once again.

How truly did the Psalmist say: "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" Psalm 8:1

Sunday, July 22, 2007


This is one of my favorite photos from our time in Ireland. It was taken at Kells. These were only a few of the hundreds of sheep we saw on the Emerald Isle, but when we returned home we realized it was only one of two photos we had of sheep!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Narnia Cottage

This is my first attempt at a photo blog. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the goal will be to share more photos than words, though I am already failing miserably in this first blog!

This photo is from May 2004 when my family and I lived in a 400 year old house in Ireland known as the Narnia Cottage. We spent 8 months in Ireland living and working with Douglas Gresham, the step-son of C. S. Lewis.

There will be more Ireland photos in the blogs to come. . . .