Tag Archives: st patrick

Free audiobooks!

11 May

Throughout the merrie month of May, my novelised biographies of St Patrick and Augustine of Hippo are available from Christian Audio for half price. That’s three hours of educational entertainment for $4.98 (which is about £3.68 in real money).

But better yet, if you take out a free trial membership (cancel within 30 days or you’ll be charged for the following month – you know the drill), you can get them for FREE! If there’s one thing better than a good book, it’s a free good book.

You can also give them as gifts apparently, although I’ve never done that, so I don’t know how it works. Worth investigating if you have a tween/teen/person who’s interested in late Roman, Irish, North African or church history on your birthday present list.

Happy listening!

Read an Ebook Week 2018

5 Mar

March 4th to 10th is Read an Ebook Week, so all my ebooks are free on Smashwords.

The books included are:

That doesn’t include Patrick of Ireland: The Boy Who Forgave or Augustine: The Truth Seeker because they are from a different publisher – but if you really want them, you can probably stretch to six quid, right? If not, petition your local library to stock them, if it doesn’t already.

The Stay-at-Home Missionary

28 Feb

It’s not often that I am moved to blog about a sermon I hear at church (though it does occasionally happen). Today we had a visiting speaker, Aaron Elder (who, despite his name, was almost unbearably young), and some of the things he said particularly struck me. That makes it sound as if our regular pastor’s sermons are not striking, which is unfair. They are often excellent, usually challenging, and if they suffer from using the phrase “what would it look like” more often than is warranted by normal use of the English language, well, so do Aaron’s. But maybe I was just ready to hear what Aaron had to say today – or, more accurately, what God had to say through him, because in any really good sermon the mouthpiece fades into the background.

Anyway, Aaron’s sermon was mainly about missionaries, and how we are all supposed to be missionaries. He dropped in some quotes by big hitters (he was almost apologetic by the time he invoked Kierkegaard; I was ready to cheer) and one of them was from Charles Spurgeon:

Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.

Of course this is hardly a new concept. I’ve heard any number of times the idea that we can’t all go abroad to be missionaries, but we can and should all spread God’s message of love where we are. I probably have a slightly different angle on this from most people, having been a missionary abroad; when asked what our mental picture of a missionary is (as a precursor to telling us we’re all missionaries), I think about my former friends and colleagues – although I have to admit that this image fights for space with the stereotypical image of a middle-aged woman in sensible clothes and besandaled socks.)

Anyway, when we were all being encouraged to think of where our ‘mission field’ is, I was, not for the first time, thinking “I don’t have any colleagues. I don’t have many friends, and many of the ones I do have are overseas.  I see my neighbours rarely. I don’t have a mission field.” Most people have to deal with a lot of people every day, whether they want to or not, but my work is just me and a computer, and that’s the way I like it. Even when I’m interpreting Albanian, I’m only supposed to be a human version of Google Translate (albeit a more accurate one); I’m not allowed to interject my own thoughts, any more than a Babel fish does.

However, while I indulged in this none-too-positive thinking, God* suddenly drew my attention to the fact that in a few weeks I’ll be speaking to over 200 people about St Patrick. In the week of St Patrick’s Day I’m visiting a school, talking to the whole of S1. Then I’m giving a talk on “Who was the real St Patrick?” at Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre the same week, on Friday 18th March. Neither of these talks are going to be evangelistic – I’m not luring people in and then preaching hellfire and damnation. But I will be speaking about another missionary, good old Pat, and mentioning why he went off to serve the Irish – which was of course because of his belief in God, and that God had sent him.** So while I may not have colleagues, or even many friends (don’t shed any tears, I do have some, and they are lovely!), I have a remarkably privileged opportunity that most people don’t get. Of course, I’ve also got my books, read even by people I’ve never met (so I’m told), so there’s a lovely, arm’s-length mission field – a Christian introvert‘s dream 😉

Where am I going with this? Nowhere really, except to observe that sometimes things can become new and fresh even when we’ve heard them a hundred time, and that perhaps even I have a mission field, even if it is limited in time, or extended in virtual distance.

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*How do I know / why do I think it was God? It’s hard to be 100% sure when it comes to divine communications, but they do happen (if you’re a Christian), and they come in a number of different forms, from the unsettlingly supernatural to the surprisingly mundane. In this case, while mundane, the subject came to my mind unbidden, and in a completely different light from how I had seen it before, while I was in a prayerful, open attitude. That doesn’t prove anything, but I just thought I would explain since “God spoke to me” can be a rather confusing and ambiguous statement for the uninitiated.

** In his case it was a vivid dream in which he received a letter from the Irish – a little closer to the supernatural end of the scale.

Why Geneva was a Claude-free zone

17 Feb

Apologies for the lifeless nature of my blog recently. I could blame it on the weather, since the various storms seem to have disrupted everything else, but you probably wouldn’t believe that. The truth is I’ve just been too busy to even think up any pearls of wisdom, let alone write them down. I hope you are coping without them 😉

Anyway, there are a couple of pieces of news I ought to share:

  1. My article on John Calvin is out now in (Premier) Christianity magazine. Find out why it was a crime to call your child Claude in Calvin’s Geneva, and what predestination has to do with the birth of western capitalism, and all in under ten minutes. You can get Christianity magazine in Christian bookshops, online, and probably in larger newsagents. There’s also a readers’ survey in this edition, so if you’ve been enjoying the Ten-Minute Guide series (which I have written a few of), please vote for it as one of your favourites!
    Christianity-Magazine-March-2016-cover_cover_image
  2. I’ll be appearing at the Glasgow St Patrick’s Festival (yes, we do have one) on Friday 18th March at 7pm in the Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre. I’m talking about who St Patrick actually was, what he did, and how we know. Very ancient historian-y. Perhaps I should dig out my old university gown…? The talk is free, so just turn up on the night.

Hopefully I’ll find the time to write a new blog post at some point in the next month, but if not, you could try reading something I prepared earlier. With two biographies, one novel and several short stories, you should manage to find something to keep you going!

Forgiving the unforgiveable

17 Nov

My new book on Patrick of Ireland is subtitled The Boy Who Forgave because what struck me most when I was researching his story was that Patrick was prepared to go back to the country where he had been trafficked and enslaved, not reluctantly or under compulsion, but with a heart full of compassion for the Irish.

The atrocities in Beirut and especially Paris have been all over the news and social media since Friday, and although the situation is not the same (the Irish raiders who carried Patrick off were no ISIS), I can’t help wondering how people would react if someone who had lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks then devoted most of their adult life to serving and spreading the word of God in the land the attackers came from. I expect that there would be some ready to question their motives, or their sanity. Our society tends to see forgiveness as weakness, but on the contrary, I think it takes immense strength, especially when it flies in the face of public opinion.

Patrick front cover

Anyway, all of that is just a prelude to saying that Patrick of Ireland: The Boy Who Forgave is now available in bookshops and online in Britain (you’ll have to wait a little longer in the USA) and tells a moving and thought-provoking story about a truly inspiring man whose life was anything but straightforward. Kidnap, shipwreck, near-starvation and attempted poisoning were just some of the things poor old Pat had to put up with, but his trust in God was unshakeable.

This is the stripped-back story of Patrick, relying on the most secure evidence and missing out the legendary bits that got added on much later. No snakes, shamrocks or breastplates, I’m afraid, but plenty of kings with unpronounceable names, druids, and high adventure.

Book launch

If you will be in Glasgow on Saturday 5th December, you are warmly invited to the book launch for Patrick of Ireland at 2pm in the private room of O’Neills Irish pub, Sauchiehall Street (right at the end of the street, almost at the motorway). If not, please do buy it from your local bookshop, buy online, or suggest to your local library that they get it in.