Reading This Will Totally Change St. Patrick’s Day For You
Saint Patrick’s Day is upon us. Some think of three-leafed clovers or leprechauns dancing. I used to run the Shamrock…
Saint Patrick’s Day is upon us.
Some think of three-leafed clovers or leprechauns dancing.
I used to run the Shamrock 5K in downtown Baltimore.
People wore green hats, green shorts, and green tutus. For most, it was an excuse to drink large amounts of green beer.
But it’s good to remember there was a real guy named Patrick, back in the 5th century. And here’s a bubble-burster: he wasn’t from Ireland.
He lived in what is today Scotland. When he was sixteen (about 405 AD) some nasty, marauding invaders from Ireland came into his village and wiped it out, doing all sorts of ugly things. He was spared but dragged away to serve as a slave.
Back in pagan Ireland, he was forced into manual labor for about seven years, spending a lot of time out in the fields, watching sheep. That’s where he met God and learned to pray deeply. And that’s where in one intense experience with the Lord he felt God was telling him to get out of Ireland, which he did, escaping to go back home.
But Patrick had no rest and heard from God again, this time telling him to go back to Ireland – not to take revenge on them, but to bring the love and hope of Jesus. Ireland was a dark, pagan place – what was to him the edges of the earth. It took a while, but twenty years later, that is exactly what Patrick did. In his mid-40s he went back to Ireland.
At that time Christianity was being stamped down and snuffed out in Europe and all over the world. The flame of Christ-following faith was nearly extinguished.
But God worked through an escaped but returning prisoner of war named Patrick to reignite the flame of faith in Jesus in one of the most unlikely places on earth: the spiritually dark and pagan-infested Ireland. In fact, the efforts of Patrick to convey the love of Christ were highly successful and many Irish were reached. The church anchored there. And ironically, when Christianity was nearly extinct everywhere else, almost all of Ireland was converted! They not only kept the flame alive, they sent missionaries for Christ all over the world.
Most historians believe it is not an exaggeration to say that were it not for Patrick and Celtic Christianity, Christianity may have been erased from the planet.
There is so much to appreciate about Celtic Christianity – referring to some of the traits distinctive to the faith that grew out of that region in the Middle Ages.
For one, Patrick’s story reminds us how important it is to listen to God! A worldwide movement of God began in some quiet moments in the wilderness with Patrick! God wants to use us in his larger plan. Your life is about more than just “your dreams and plans.” You never know how God may want to use you! Be ready to listen for God’s voice. Then do what he says.
It’s also an incredible reminder of the difference one person can make when God is with them. Nobody would ever have believed you if you said Ireland could be turned toward Christ in those days. It was the ultimate lost cause, steeped in superstitious darkness. But with God, don’t ever count anyone or any place out. There are no lost causes. Keep praying and speaking and sharing and going and trusting. God can turn anything around.
I especially appreciate the Celtic concept of “THIN PLACES.”
There is Celtic saying that goes like this:
“Heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but there are thin places where that distance is even smaller.”
Do you have a place you can think of, or a time or an experience that has been for you a thin place, where connection with God was especially real and powerful?
For me the cabin on the lake in Minnesota is a thin place. It’s holy ground, where I’ve had serious talks with God. He seems closer, more real. Things become clearer there.
I remember nights where I would put on a flannel shirt after midnight, and push a canoe into the water, paddling silently across the lake. Floating on glass under a canopy of a billion stars, the band of light from the Milky Way touched the edge of my canoe as loons called out across the deep. Laying back and staring upward, it was for me a place of transcendence. God felt so near and close. What God wanted was clear, my conviction was strong. I was refreshed, inspired, and felt like something was healing inside of me.
That’s a thin place.
It’s wherever God feels especially near. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted a bit, and you are able to get a glimpse of the glory of God, experience more deeply the love of God.
It’s where heaven and earth touch.
For some, the death of a parent or birth of a child becomes a moment when God reveals something to them. A Saturday morning dream can confirm something deep within you, providing clarity you know is from God.
One poet, Sharlande Sledge, says a Thin Place is where the door between this world and the next is cracked open for a moment and the light is not all on the other side. The Light breaks through to this world, and you behold it.
My friend Tony loves a quiet beach, because almost always, early in the morning, it becomes a thin place.
A powerful worship song.
A moment that moves you in a powerful film.
A chair in your home where you read or pray or nap.
A pool that becomes a baptistery.
A moment of wonder at the dinner table, counting blessings and sensing God’s favor.
A time of family closeness and deep joy.
Where are the thin places in your life?
What is a place that opens the door to the threshold of the sacred, and lets God’s presence, his promises, or his power rush into your life in a fresh way?
A thin place is anywhere our hearts are opened. A place where we touch the sacred, and God is fully present.
Something inside us longs for thin places. We are spiritual beings who yearn for God.
But we also fear it, too ready to merely bump along in our material world, isolated from God.
Let me encourage you to be attentive to your need for thin places. We all need to have our drained buckets refreshed with the goodness of God.
And here’s the thing. Thin places are all over the place, once you start looking for them.
Every day, all around us, we can begin to see and welcome God’s presence – not just in some obscure, rare occasion, but we can learn to convert ordinary places to thin places where God shows up and meets us in deep, powerful ways.
Most of all, remember thin places where we meet God are not just so we can experience some cool religious feelings. Visits from God are meant to change us.
Moses was up on a mountain and heard God say, “You’re on holy ground. Take off your shoes, Moses.” Talk about a thin place. (Exodus 3)
Moses met God up there for sure. But God also sent him back down the mountain to the people below, to lead them from bondage to freedom. God didn’t just visit him to bless him; God visited him to send him. When Moses returned from that thin place he looked like he was full of light. He was strengthened on the inside and acted differently on the outside.
He experienced a thin place and it changed him.
That’s what thin places do.
So seek out the thin places. God wants to meet and come close to you. Find a space where life’s noise volume is low enough you can hear the still, small voice of Jesus.
And then return from that mountaintop, because God always has something for you to share and to do.
O God, when work and responsibility wrap around me like a binding, woolen cloak, and wonder is closed off to my clouded, preoccupied mind – break through to me. Help me find you in those places where my soul lies most open to you – to the cool breath of your refreshing Spirit, to the warm embrace of your healing, to the inspiring insight that comes from your truth. Take me to a thin place, God – wherever that is – and meet me there, I pray, so that I may be refreshed, healed, and inspired – and live tomorrow in a way that makes all places thin places. So that having been blessed, I may be a blessing according to your purposes. Amen.