stop checking out my adventures and go have your own

Adventure is wherever you find it, on whatever budget you are willing to spend. Adventure is always a choice. I love adventures … crave them, actually. They make me feel alive and fuel my dreams. They give me determination and teach me I am strong – I am strong enough to choose to be fully alive with every day I wake up to.

This time last year I was in Canada traveling around, speaking in places and meeting with friends and family who cheer me on in my work here. In previous years I would dread the thought of staying in a different bed every couple of nights, driving long hours and participating in activities that were so far from what I do best (i.e. public speaking). As much as I love the people I visit on these “tours” I usually feel so completely exhausted and drained by the end of them. Last year I decided to do things differently. I planned on approaching the journey the same way I would here: an adventure, during which I would look for every opportunity to really see and then give. The difference was astounding! I found places in my home country that I had never heard of before. I participated in people’s lives with depth. As I drove from one place to the next I encountered generous people who have come to love my adventures as much as I have. In one home I arrived to delicious muffins that had been baked just for me … all because I bake muffins and share the joy with others when I do. When I got to my home town I was greeted with several invitations to an adventure with other friends! People experimented with meals just for me. They took me to cafes and constructed beautiful day outings just to experience the wonder of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Turning the ordinary into the extraordinary adventure is not as complicated as it looks. If you’ve been on an adventure with me, you already know this. All you really need is:

To notice – The cafe you have always walked past. The path through the park. The shape of a leaf. The feel of the breeze. The emotion of the environment. The little brown sign pointing off the road to an historic site you have never heard of before. Not that I really want to, but I could probably sit in my living room every day for a month and notice something new without even moving. It has to do with forgetting the familiarity of the mundane. It has to do with seeing the different colours of the sunset from one day to the next, watching the shadows dance, wondering about the curves and creases of fonts over that shop across the road, savouring each flavour and texture of peanut butter and jam on toast.

To stop – Noticing is only enough to make a day interesting if you don’t stop. It doesn’t have to be long, just a moment at the very least. Sometimes it is to stop the direction you are going to follow the rabbit trail. To stop is to let go of the fear of trying something new, being somewhere new, of losing control.

To feel – Only when fear is gone can you really begin to feel – from the ground beneath your feet to the sun or rain on your face; from the lazy meanderings of small town life to the tension filled street of a driven city. Let it all soak in – what the senses pick up and what is revealed without any evidence at all but leaves impressions in the mind. To feel is to acknowledge and allow the moment to interact with your own thoughts and emotions. These things will change you but they won’t consume you.

To memorise – Replaying the moments over and over again seals them in our memory as enticements to really live. Remembering the moment is more than a picture that paints 1000 words. Remembering the moment is giving validity to your existence and experience. I have begun to own the experiences I have and take them to heart as gifts that I have been given to treasure. From them I feel the heartbeat of something so much more that whispers purpose and love on my heart. I no longer have to grasp and claw for the experiences I see others having, but rather feel generous in genuinely wanting others to know the same.

Believe it or not, my adventures are not costly apart from my own willingness to take my eyes off myself and put them on everything else, cherishing this broken and beautiful world that grows old beside me … every single day. That includes you. You are in this world with me. You are part of the adventure. Join me. Take an adventure today.

2015-02-18 15.10.13 HDR-1

freedom stories – Donal

Some thoughts on Freedom

‘In my anguish I cried to the Lord and he set me free.’ Psalm 118:5.

“Freedom”, few words resonate as vividly as that word. Everyone loves freedom. Here in Ireland a popular Irish-language girls’ name, Saoirse, literally means freedom. In 2016 we will celebrate – and argue passionately about – the centenary of the revolutionary event in 1916 that ultimately led to Irish “freedom”. People right across the political spectrum support freedom, they promise it and they claim ownership over it. Freedom from foreign domination, freedom from the state, and then freedom from others, freedom to do what you want, freedom to stop others doing what they want; ultimately freedom to make the word itself mean whatever you want.

‘Jesus – it is only in your will that I am free’ sings Belfast singer-songwriter Robin Mark in ‘Jesus, All For Jesus’. This is, for me, one of the tantalizing paradoxes at the centre of Christian faith, one that that makes no sense and yet makes perfect sense. When I became a Christian on Easter Sunday almost two years ago – relatively late in life – one of my strongest intuitions was an aching desire to just relax into the will of God, finally. To know that delicate dance of free will and God’s will that can only be lived and is never perfect, but you keep on trying, in freedom.

‘I will walk in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.’ Psalm 119:45.

What is this endlessly fresh sort of freedom, this freedom in Christ? It is freedom from dull, arbitrary convention – freedom from the gnawing selfishness that says there is a higher power and you’re it – freedom from the mainstream myth of individual limitlessness when a mature sense of boundary is so often what shapes and strengthens a person’s character – freedom from a cultural mindset that so often loudly fetishes the word freedom and yet rejoices in dreary determinism: economic, biological, psychological: it’s not my fault, your honour, the genes made me do it.

Messy, awkward, beautiful, true and eternal – freedom.

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5: 13-14

Donal Casey

freedom stories – D & D

prison

Him – There are different types of freedom. When you are locked up freedom is doing what you want to do. When you are younger you think life is forever. The older you get you realise how short life is. The last time I was locked up was before my first child.

At that time you were getting into trouble because you were trying to fit in with people. Freedom was a matter of “fuck you” about the consequences. You don’t need to fit anymore. The only time you feel free when you are locked up is for recreation. Then you are locked up again. If you wanted to go to the toilet you had to ring a bell and it might be an hour before you might go. At that time you had no telly.

I remember when I was locked up I couldn’t read or write. When I was in I learned how to read and write. The very first book I read was A Sense of Freedom by Jimmy Boyle. Now he is a TD. You find that words that you don’t know at the start of it, they come into place by the end of it. That’s how I learned to read. All the years I was in school I couldn’t read a thing. When I learned to read I could do couriering and could get a job out of that. I couldn’t go for a job because I couldn’t read and write. When I learned I got my first a job.

Freedom is to get up in morning. To do what you want. To go to the shop when you want. When you are locked up you realise what your freedom really means to you. You take it for granted until your freedom is taken. Then you realise what you had and what you haven’t got. Jump on the bus. Walk in the park. Make a phone call. To look at the telly when you want.

Her – Freedom is also peace of mind. Not constantly worrying about someone. You know where they are and know when they are safe. I know where they are so my worry is over with them. The way I felt about my sister was always worry, worry, worry, worry. When she passed away she went into God’s arms. I couldn’t get over that we were there with her. When she was back on the street I never had that peace. Freedom is knowing she is back in the Lord’s hands. It is a weight lifted off. There is a great freedom to know she is safe. (His) ma was free when he was locked up because she knew he was safe at night.

Him – I would rather peace in my mind than not be locked up. When you are out you are done. If you have problems in your head that will last a life time. You never know when you will get put into a mental prison again. If you walk away in freedom you might be back in again in 6 months.

D & D

freedom stories – Emma

emmaFree For…

For a while I stopped believing that freedom existed. As soon as you attain the thing that you might call freedom, you immediately become entrapped by something new. I longed to be an independent adult when I was a child. I did not imagine that the price I would pay was the unutterable tedium of pricing broadband providers. I’ve had bosses who have made me long for freedom due to their ineptitude and unfairness. On the other hand, I’ve learned that the grass can be greener when I’ve found myself in charge of a project and felt responsibility weighing on me. Suddenly being someone’s under-appreciated minion becomes attractive again. At least I got to sleep at night.

I began to believe there was no such thing as freedom and that we are perpetually doomed to be out of control of our own lives. In physics class I learned that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only moves from state to state. I wondered if the same was true of entrapment. We feel oppressed and crushed by a set of expectations or circumstances and then a molecular shift happens and we find ourselves subject to a different set of expectations and circumstances. Instead of freedom we simply have a more favourable entrapment.

The freedom I believed in could not be. I thought freedom was a state of limitlessness. It meant nothing and nobody had the power to influence or affect you without your permission. We learned to think this way during the Enlightenment when we officially took God out of the centre of the universe and put ourselves there instead. It’s all about me, don’t tell me what to think. At university I felt this influence a lot as we congratulated ourselves on our liberal dialogue about self and “other”. We laughed at our ancestors who had “othered” blacks, women, gays and the poor and we patted each other on the back for our enlightened view of the equality and independence of humanity (conveniently forgetting that our being at university made us simultaneously the demographic most empowered to work for justice and at the same time the least likely to ever do anything about it). The point is, in most classes I was being taught to understand that the “self” had no right to tell the “other” who or what they were. We are free beings, and we determine our own lives as we float unconnected in a meaningless universe. Once you understand that, you may choose to have relationships with others in order to pass your meaningless life more pleasantly.

However, in one class in my final year I learned that I had simply gotten it wrong about freedom; it’s not that freedom doesn’t exist, I just didn’t know what it was. I had to write a paper about the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer for one class. While he is probably best known for his assassination attempt on Hitler, he really was quite a phenomenal theologian. On this subject, in Creation and Fall (1932) he wrote, “Because [Christ] does not retain his freedom for himself the concept of freedom only exists for us as ‘being free for’.” What this means is that freedom is not something to gain for ourselves, freedom exists to benefit others. Bonhoeffer also argued that the Self-Other relationship I had been learning about is a falsity. We are what he called “ethical boundaries” to each other. Instead of being unconnected to and independent of each other, we are the boundaries and limits to each other.   Freedom happens when you are free for God and for others. It’s when you try to be free by yourself that you become trapped; you are striving for the impossible.

For you were called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honour everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the emperor. 1 Peter 2:16-17

A metaphor to finish. Imagine, if you will, a ballet dancer. Or Brian O’Driscoll. Someone with beautiful feet. If their feet were shackled together they would not be free. However, on being set free they will use their freedom to follow learned movements. Their steps are planned. Every footfall is the result and the reward of hours of disciplined training. When a dancer performs some choreographed piece or when a sportsman executes a rehearsed set-play we don’t think of them as trapped. Nor do we think of them as limitless and undirected. They use their freedom for something. They are beautifully free in conformity with a greater reality – a dance, a game that cannot be denied. The beauty is drawn out by the direction of a master. Who is yours?

Emma Rothwell

freedom stories – lent 2015

freedom stories
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ~ Galatians 5:1

Freedom. When was the last time you thought about the freedom you have?

Last year I was really struck by the types of freedom that are celebrated in Ireland at Easter.

Firstly, it is about Jesus’ rising from the dead. His defeat of death and promise of freedom to all people who believe in him and accept their need for him. This is the first Easter story of freedom, which is why we have a national holiday dedicated to it. Everything else has tried to move with the momentum that Jesus’ resurrection had – laying down his life for the purest freedom that lasts forever.

The second Easter freedom story is that of Patrick when he lit a fire on the Hill of Slane, opposing the gods and goddesses of the Druids and High King of Ireland. The opportunity to experience personal freedom in Jesus throughout Ireland is a result of that event on Easter in 433 AD – a fire is still lit on the Hill of Slane every year at Easter in remembrance.

The third freedom is the Easter Rising. Carefully orchestrated on the freedom holiday 99 years ago, Ireland finally busted open the 800 years of oppression from the British. This happened on Easter with the purpose of obtaining freedom. Shortly after, the Republic of Ireland was born. As the 100 year anniversary is on our doorstep, I am becoming more and more aware of the mixed emotions people have about it.

There is something that triggers the spirit-heart of Ireland that cries out loudly for freedom – sometimes in whatever means possible for mere illusions of freedom, as was seen during the Celtic Tiger (hint: freedom is not found in wealth). Lent begins today and thousands of people around Ireland will be giving things up for 40 days. My neighbour in pilates class will be giving up everything (bad). She normally can’t give any of it up but for some reason is able to live free of those things over Lent every year. It is within this context that I plan on thinking about freedom this Lenten season – a lot! What does it mean to be free?

When we really think about it, freedom is deeply emotional. Freedom is sometimes taken away from us and returned to us. Often, someone has paid a price along the way so that we could be as free as we are, whether we agree with their methods or not. There are also some freedoms that we  find only when we are willing to lay down our own lives, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. Sometimes freedom is uncomfortable.

So, I have asked friends from around the country to write a bit about what freedom means to them. I’ve left it wide open for response! There will be different voices, different backgrounds and different types of freedom represented. As citizens of Ireland, they all have lived in political freedom. They have also been exposed to and experienced measures of freedom because of Jesus.

Join me each Wednesday and Saturday during Lent for Freedom Stories and Thoughts on Freedom.

late winter beauty in ireland

The snow drops, crocuses and daffodils are teasing us with their greenery peaking through and yet the temperature is as cold as it will likely get during the year. There is something incredibly special about the end of winter and the promise of spring in Ireland.

Long Shadows

As evening begins to descend the shadows seem to reach out over the earth in a sleepy stretch. Trees in particular cast long shadows, gathering into their dark arms new growth on the forest floor. (photo: Coole Park, Co. Galway)

coole park

Snowdrops & New Growth

Bright red and green tips begin to form on bushes creating blankets of colour along the roads. They look so vulnerable in their newness. Buds appear on the trees and flowers begin to push through the ground as spring is ready to be born again. Delicate white petals form a covering that is a gentle teasing reminder that winter is never harsh with snow here. Just when we are making more cups of tea and are knocking the heating on once more today, the snowdrops let us know that it won’t be for long. (photo: Burtown House, Co. Kildare)

burtown house

Pastel Seas

Following the harsh winter storms where wind and waves beat against the western sea coast, the sea swirls around in chilly playfulness. Crisp sunsets paint the horizon in soft blues, whites, greens, greys and pinks. (photo: Lahinch, Co. Clare)

lahinch

Naked Trees

Giant trees stand exposing the gnarls in their branches and their windswept growth. They display the incredible strength that helps them to stand with heavy summer loads. To me, these are the most beautiful of the late winter beauty. They have stood for decades watching over the changing decades and centuries, welcoming spring over and over again after having been stripped bare of all their finery. (photo: Slane, Co. Meath)

hill of slane

Time to prepare ourselves for spring!

two pilgrims in a pod

20141030-180514-65114809.jpg

Meet “The Pilgrims”: First there is Susan. Originally from a farm in Wexfored, she now lives in Lahinch, a little surfing town just south of the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare. Optometrist by trade, musician and seeker of Jesus in all things. Christian cliches don’t do it for her. She wants a real faith with a real God. I don’t know if I adopted myself into their family or if they adopted me … or when that was exactly. Her sister, who was my first and closest friend in the family, left us for life in New Zealand. Enough time has passed that Susan now introduces me as her friend … instead of “This is Liesel, my sister Rachel’s friend.” Nice. And then there is me. No further explanation needed since this whole blog is about me – I named it when I was young(er) and couldn’t bother changing it.

Introducing “The Pods”: Top of the Rock Pod Pairc and Walking Centre is located way down the road in West Cork, about four hours drive from Dublin. By the third hour I was thankful for my hands free set for my phone so I could get a few phone calls made. And then I called my brother at his work in Canada just because I had international minutes on my phone that needed to be used. I think it was 8:30am there. I arrived to the site with few expectations of what to find – mostly because my head has been busy thinking through too many other things to anticipate the pod getaway. I hadn’t even researched what was all in the area to see and do. All I could think of was, ahhhh, rest. I walked towards Droimeann, our pod named after an old Irish bread of cow. With each step on the grass of our little “yard” towards the pod it felt more and more peaceful around. When I stopped on the deck and righted the sturdy white chairs I looked out across the valley and the hills and felt like the only person in the world. The slight overhang at the front of our pod framed the view of pastures, stone walls, trees and rows of fuschia. When I finally turned around and unlocked the doors to our pod I was greeted with the sight of simplicity and the smell of wood from the panelled, sloping walls. There was just enough room for two small, comfortable beds pushed against the walls and our suitcases. It was perfect.

Over the next couple of days we took advantage of a couple of the walks in the area. We followed streams and waterfalls. We spotted bright red holly berries heavy on the trees. We got caught behind a herd of cows on the road and had to duck off to the side to let them pass. We found a castle. We visited Glenilen Farm and bought fresh butter. We got to know the other guests in the mornings and the evenings. There is a certain sort of person who stays at these places and they are all really lovely people! We even managed to find some of the best food in Ireland at a small restaurant in the middle of no-where! We went to Bantry on market day and followed the road to Gougane Barra. Somehow I even managed to get a bit of work done as well and emailed it out 5 minutes before the main building was being closed for the night.

20141030-181708-65828661.jpg

We didn’t follow the pilgrim trails in the area. We didn’t even spend time thinking about the historical significance of the structure of the pods we were staying in. We just were, for those couple of days, two pilgrims in a pod. We were two people who stumble in pursuit of Jesus where ever the road or conversation might take us.

20141030-181709-65829168.jpg

20141030-181709-65829632.jpg

20141030-181709-65829407.jpg

“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing which will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfilment.” ~ John O’Donohue