6 Reasons I Claim Patrick (If Protestants Pick Saints)

St. Patrick picture of woman atop Croagh Patrick mountain in Ireland
Author, June 2015

I am Patrick, a sinner, the most unlearned [rustic] and least of all the faithful and utterly despised by many. —Saint Patrick, Confession One

Sometimes I feel less-than. When I do, it’s often because I’m painfully conscious of how uncultured I am, keenly aware of my rusticitas. Like Saint Patrick was.

Cousins and friends have earned Ph.D.’s and my sister-in-law and nieces have learned Latin. While some of them matriculated at Wheaton and Moody, I enrolled at state schools. I’m far from the elite. 

I grew up in the country. I milked goats and pulled weeds. Sometimes still I feel inferior when my manners fail me. I’m clunky at small talk, I use the wrong fork, and I’m not at all polished or chic. 

In short, I’m rustic. Something like Patrick. 

My History With Saint Patrick

I’m a fan of Patrick. Ever since I spent seven timeless days in County Clare, where many reside who bear my maiden name, Considine. I am still smitten by the Irish people, their language, and their patron saint.

A few years ago I introduced a grateful saint. The year before that, I shared bittersweet confession about my selfish choice to climb Patrick’s holy mountain alone. Then there was one about our common reason for writing and the post about our mutual love for the sun.

Patrick, a sinner, a simple country person, unlearned and the least of all believers.  Those are the first words of his Confession. That’s how Saint Patrick introduced himself.

This humble simplicity is what first drew me to Patrick. But not everyone knows Patrick from his own words.

Will the real Saint Patrick please rise? 

Many think of Patrick a the bearded, mitered, banisher of snakes and worker of miracles who roamed the Emerald Isle with a staff in one hand and a shamrock in the other—to teach the Holy Trinity, you know.

That Patrick is not real. 

Patrick was not a leprechaun. Nor was he a legend, although legends about him abound.

Patrick did not expel snakes from Ireland: the snakelessness of Ireland had been noted by the Roman geographer Solinus in the third century. He did not compose that wonderful hymn known as ‘Saint Patrick’s Breastplate’: its language postdates him by about three centuries . . . He did not use the leaves of the shamrock to illustrate the Persons of the Trinity for his converts: true, he might have done; but it is not until the seventeenth century that we are told that he did.

Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity, 82

What we do know of St. Patrick comes through two ancient texts: his Confession and his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. You can access them here. He wrote both, handicapped, as it were, by his late-learned, unrefined Latin skills.

From them, we discover that Patrick was not Irish but British by birth. Magonus Sucatus Patricius was born to a good Christian family around 390 Roman Briton. He admits, though, that he was not a very good Christian growing up.

Irish raiders kidnapped the teen-aged Magonus, or Maewyn, and took him as a slave to Ireland.  Alone in that “strange, wild land,” the rustic renegade Patrick turned to the God. While shepherding on the Irish hills, he came to know the Lord as his Shepherd.

Patrick’s Visions And His Calls

Six years a slave, he heard a voice call, “Come see, your ship is ready.” Heeding, he fled and reached a port perhaps 200 miles away. At first denied passage, he went away and prayed. Before he even finished his prayer, a sailor shouted, “Come quickly, for they are calling you.”

Patrick reached mainland Europe a few days later with his pagan shipmates and made his way through France to a monastery in Italy. Some years later, he returned to home to his parents in Britain. They begged him never leave again.

Alas, there soon came a life-changing vision in which a man came to him with countless letters from the Irish, 

[A]nd I read the beginning of the letter, the voice of the Irish people. While I was reading out the beginning of the letter, I thought I heard at that moment the voice of those who were beside the wood of Voclut, near the western sea. They called out as it were with one voice: “We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us.” This touched my heart deeply, and I could not read any further; I woke up then. Thanks be to God, after many years the Lord granted them what they were calling for.

Confession, ch. 23

They were calling for a holy boy who had grown into a humble man.

Why Saint Patrick Is My Guy 

Here are six reasons why-1600 years hence-the patron saint of Ireland still endears himself to this rustic, middle-aged, Midwestern, Christian mama.

1. Patrick felt his rusticitas [lack of learning and culture], but kept pressing on to proclaim Christ. 

Patrick was uncultured, at least when compared to intellectuals and Church leaders of his day. While his peers were studying Latin and Greek, Patrick was herding sheep. His speaking and writing skills were not refined. I’ve read that he confused words like Helios (sun) and Helias (Elijah). I may have had typos. So I have sympathy.

If I had been given the same chance as other people, I would not be silent, whatever the reward. If I seem to some to be too forward, with my lack of knowledge and my even slower tongue, still it is written: ‘Stammering tongues will quickly learn to speak peace.’…

The Spirit is a witness that even what is of the countryside  [rusticity, backwardness] is also created by the Most High! So I am first of all a simple country person, a refugee, and unlearned. But this I know for certain, that before I was brought low, like a stone lying deep in the mud. Then he who is powerful came and in his mercy pulled me out, and lifted me up and placed me on the very top of the wall. That is why I must shout aloud in return to the Lord for such great good deeds of his, here and now and forever, which the human mind cannot measure.

Confessions, ch. 11-12

Patrick wasn’t an elite or erudite, but he had a story to tell. That story trumped his rusticitas and kept his inferiority from becoming a complex. We have a story to tell, too. We were once like a stones lying deep in the mud until the powerful One pulled us out. 

Will our stammering tongues speak? 

2. Patrick endured many hard times, but overflowed with thankfulness. 

In an age when the shortest wait and the smallest mistreatment sets some off, when videos won’t buffer in three seconds and three minutes in the drive through is too much, we would do well to follow Patrick’s thankful example. 

So I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. I can today with confidence offer my soul to Christ my Lord as a living victim. He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties…This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among the nations all the time, wherever I am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too. Whatever comes about for me, good or bad, I ought to accept them equally and give thanks to God. He has shown me that I can put my faith in him without wavering and without end.

Confession, ch. 34

Will you resolve again to continually offer a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess his name? It’s what Patrick did. He presented himself to God, a living victim

Do we, in everything give thanks to God

3. Patrick loved Ireland’s green hills, but so much more, the lost souls who dwelt among them.

He knew better than many of us know how to engage a pagan culture. Saint Patrick knew how to be in the world and not of it. To converse and engage. Saint Patrick, I suspect, was winsome and listened.

His example challenges me. Because too often I stand off and let my rusticitas and bumpkin-ness excuse my distance. I’m not smooth and witty enough to enter into their world. But Saint Patrick pitched his tent beside chieftains, to befriend and convert.

Then he’d do it over again,

…Fishing well and with diligent care, as the Lord commands, “Go and make disciples of the nations….” spreading wide the net so that a great throng might be captured for God. How has this happened in Ireland? Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ.

Confession, ch. 40-41

Do we pitch our tents in among lost souls?  

4. Patrick knew God’s Word and took it to heart. 

Saint Patrick was called a homo unius libri (a one book man); but with that one book, Patrick was extremely familiar. His writings are crowded with Bible verses and phrases, probably quoted from memory. God’s words peppered his words. Patrick is my patron saint because I want to write, and to talk, like that.

Author Richard Fletcher, says Patrick was soaked in the Bible. Are we so soaked that we make and explain our choices through its lens? Is our blood Bibline? Spurgeon said of Bunyan, Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.)

I am not trying to judge myself, since every day there is the chance that I will be killed, or surrounded, or be taken into slavery, or some other such happening. But I fear none of these things, because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of almighty God, who is the ruler of all places, as the prophet says: “Cast your concerns on God, and he will sustain you.”

Confession, ch. 55

Patrick knew the Bible and took it to heart. He quoted the Psalm back to himself. He cast himself on God.

Do you know see your world through God’s word?

5. Patrick struggled with his sin but relied on God’s grace to fight it by faith. 


Patrick knew life was a duel with the flesh till the death. He felt the pull of enticing things which would pull him away from his Lord. 

I know I cannot trust myself as long as I am in this body subject to death. There is one who is strong, who tries every day to undermine my faith, and the chastity of genuine religion I have chosen to the end of my life for Christ my Lord. The flesh can be an enemy dragging towards death, that is, towards doing those enticing things which are against the law. I know to some extent how I have not led a perfect life like other believers. But I acknowledge this to my Lord, and I do not blush in his sight. I am not telling lies: from the time in my youth that I came to know him, the love and reverence for God grew in me, and so far, with the Lord’s help, I have kept faith.

Confession, ch. 44

Do we give up, give in, give way to sin? Or with Patrick, do we daily fight the good fight by faith?

6. Patrick saw thousands of splendid Irish sunsets, but he worshiped the one true sun. 

We bow to created things- to fitness and fashion, to athletics and entertainment, to food and comfort and praise – over the Creator. From the top of Croagh Patrick (pictured above) I saw the same sun setting from the precise point that Saint Patrick saw it set. In Irish mist, he may have been a sun stalker too. In any case, his warning rings true.

The sun which we see rising for us each day at his command, that sun will never reign nor will its splendour continue forever; and all those who worship that sun will come to a bad, miserable penalty. We, however, believe in and adore the true sun, that is, Christ, who will never perish. Nor will they perish who do his will but they will abide forever just as Christ will abide forever. 

Confession, ch. 60

Do you worship the true sun, who rises with healing in His wings?

Not the Work of an Ignorant Man (Alone)

Patrick’s Christianity was simple, direct, practical, as earthy as it is mystical, not so much Roman Catholic as baseline Christian, and not so much Irish as truly universal (The Wisdom of St. Patrick, Greg Tobin). Patrick was at once brave, bold pioneer-missionary and humble, servant-shepherd of God’s Irish flock. He was zealous and honest, ever aware of his own short-comings, and forever God’s grateful debtor. 

In his final Confession, Patrick prays,

… for those who believe in and fear God. Some of them may happen to discover this document and read its words, composed in Ireland by an unlearned sinner named Patrick. May none of them ever say that whatever little I accomplished was a work of this ignorant man alone. No, rather, know this: that it was a gift from God and that it occurred only for God’s good reasons. And that is my confession before I die.

Confession, ch. 62

Irish history is a dramatic tale of turning from idols to serve the living God. It’s a remarkable true story of a pagan world turned totally upside-down, converted. An unlearned, rustic sinner named Patrick had an awful lot to do with it.

That is why this 21st-century Protestant claimed a humble rustic as a patron saint. That is why I celebrate Patrick today.

This is what the LORD says:
“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom or the strong man boast in his strength or the rich man boast in his riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: 
That he knows and understands me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24

Count Each Others’ Blessings?

 
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Johnson Oatman, 1897
 

Is it ever right to count other’s blessings?

 
I could barely keep silent as Shelly bemoaned her stay-at-home mom status—short nights and short showers, cluttered closets and laundry without end, amen. 
 

Blessings flooded my mind—her blessings. I thought of her hard-working husband and his well-paying job. I thought of her retired parents the next block over and her three adorable kids and the chance to stay at home with them. Blessings she didn’t seem to see. But I didn’t mention these.

Should I have?

Should we ever count each other’s blessings? 

Don’t sing songs to heavy hearts.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your moths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

I absolutely don’t mean this: I don’t mean telling a friend who just lost her Mom, at least you’ve got your sister. Or reminding a friend who lost his job at least you own your house. 

Those are not what I mean. That is pouring vinegar on soda, stealing someone’s coat on a cold day. That is singing songs to a heavy heart (Proverbs 25:20). Counting blessings over fresh wounds is mean. That’s not what I’m asking.

Sometimes words won’t come. That’s a good thing, because then is time to weep with those who weep. 

Count each other’s blessings?

But is there ever a time when it’s okay to look a friend in the face and tell her how good to her God’s been—to her?  Is it ever right to remind disgruntled friends how kind God’s been to them?

Winston Churchill said, Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. 

Call it courage, or wisdom from on high, to know when hold ’em and when to play those blessings down; to know the word that will sustain the weary, or if the weary are blind.

The hymn says, Count your blessings. We get that. We’re called to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. This is God’s revealed will for us. That we know for sure.

But what about counting for others?

Prime the thankful pump.

May the word of God dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…with thankfulness to God. Colossians 3:16

We all can get blind to the familiar: blind to blessings, blind to God’s grace. So when is it good of a friend—even incumbent on a friend—to remind us of our blessings?

The Apostle Paul often helped the saints count blessings they might not have seen. He prayed the eyes of Ephesian hearts would be enlightened so they would know their great hope, God’s power and the riches of his grace. Paul reminded Colossians how they were dead in trespasses and now made alive. He reminded the Romans they’d been set free from sin.

These are spiritual blessings, and blessings indeed.

Bless the Lord for other’s blessings.

But Scripture describes counting others’ physical blessings, too. As when, in the dark days of the judges, the former widow Ruth bore a son.

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter in law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” (Ruth 4:14-16)

The women called out Ruth’s blessings.

It’s a do-unto-others sort of thing.

Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13

Counting each other’s blessings can be a subset of Hebrews 3:13. Matthew Henry wrote on that verse,

 

We should be doing all the good we can to one another while we are together, which will be but a short and uncertain time. If Christians do not exhort one another daily, they will be in danger of being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 

It’s a do-unto-others sort of thing. Because no one wants a hard heart.

 

Sanctification is a community project.

But sin is deceptive. Since grumbling is a sin (1 Corinthians 10:10), and since many of us find it easier to count problems and worries, it might be incumbent on friends to help us count our blessings. Because sanctification is a community project.

Timing and intent—I must be wary of my sinful, envious heart—are everything. Don’t sing songs to a freshly wounded heart. But if the Spirit leads, and you have a heart to help, count your sister’s blessings. Restore gently, testing your own heart for envy and pride. Then start counting. It might surprise her what the Lord has done.

As much as we might not want to hear it, ungrateful ,grumbly hearts might turn to hardened, sinful hearts. I know I don’t want a heart like that.

So, don’t hold back on me. If you catch me in a grumbly rut, start singing.

You have my permission: Please recount God’s blessings to me.

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 
Psalm 9:1

 

It’s More Blessed to Give Than to Receive? Really?

giving flowers

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ 

Acts 20:35

Meg’ll like that, I thought, tucking in a gift card with the note. Meg is my friend’s daughter. She was turning 10.

But as I sealed the envelope, the old unfair bee stung. Even if she never remembers us on our birthdays.

The Word For Weary Givers

Don’t grow weary in doing good. For at the right time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9

Why am I always the giver, the initiator, the one who remembers? I love to give, but why does it feel like I give more than I get?

It might be partly a love language thing. Words and gifts might be more my native tongue than, say, service or touch. When I start begrudging giving, that might play a wee little part. But language isn’t the main thing.

I know that because almost instantly the living, dividing Word moved in. It shoved me off the dark horse racing off to Self-Pity Land. I’ll tell you what God said.

Shut Your Mouth, Girl. And Open Your Eyes.

I am unworthy- how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. -Job 40:4

Abigail, stop. Halt den Mund! What do you have that you did not receive? Start seeing your gifts, my girl!

See the health and peace you’ve had all these COVID-19 days. See the family who loves on your sons. Give thanks that you and Jim have jobs. Remember your friends. Rejoice at the rhododendrons and rhubarb.

God didn’t audibly say those words, but through his Word he called to me. Give thanks, my Girl. Open your eyes. I’ve given you so many gifts.

Because we’re all givers and takers.

We’re All Givers And Takers

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. -2 Corinthians 9:11

Paraphrased: We are receivers so that we can be givers. God gives us gifts- financial, spiritual, uncanny memories for birthdays and anniversaries-so that we can channel those gifts to others. But there’s more.

Christians are given grace and give grace so that God will get thanked. God made us to get and then give, so that he will be praised. What’s deadly is to let his love flow into your life without finding an outlet in love for others. Receiving is not bad. It’s not- getting is also a blessing. It’s just that Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Jesus, who came to earth to give his life (Mark 10:45) and told his disciples, Freely you have received, freely give (Matt. 10:8).

Which brings me to a big reason giving is more blessed.

Why Giving Is More Blessed

From his abundance we have all received one blessing after another. -John 1:16

Giving reminds me that I live by the grace of a giving God. The God who so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son. When we give we are blessed because it we are becoming more like our giving God.

Talk about perspective. Selfish me says, Why put yourself out for them? Why initiate and spend your time on them? They don’t bother with you.

That’s sin talking. Sin does something terrible to me. Sin turns me in on myself, Paul Tripp says. It makes me obsessed with my wants, my needs, my feelings. I want, I want, I want, I want, I want. Sin turns me inside out. Focusing on how much we give and how little we get is a sin (1 Thess. 5:18, Phil. 2:14).

When you give- forget, when you receive- remember. That’s a truth.

And the truth of a giving God’s turns us right-side out again. It did last week after I sent Meg’s birthday card. So next time giving feels more like sting than blessing, let’s remember God’s truth.

It really is more blessed to give.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7

You Can’t Ride 2 Horses With 1 Heinie (AKA: Give Thanks)

It’s my thing: the annual Thanksgiving post.

Mayflower’s Daughter came first. Then came Why Pilgrims Don’t Grumble and smitten by William Bradford, A Poem For Pilgrims. Next was It Really is Good to Give Thanks, and last year I asked Do You Leak? (For the record, it was about roots of grumbling not moms on trampolines.)

This year, it’s one heinie on one horse. Because, choose this day who you will serve and no one can serve two masters. Because, give thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us.

And God’s will for us is always good

The Silver Bullet To Joy: Thanks

Because I know- not just in my head but in my heart- that giving thanks is as close to a silver bullet to joy as there possibly could be. While we cannot force thankfulness, the feeling; we can coerce the action. Even if we don’t feel thankful, we can give thanks.

And if we do, if we force ourselves to be thanks-givers, I say this from experience, the thankful, joyful feeling follows. It works like this: I wake up and feel the discontent not gratitude oozing out of me. But if I make myself thank God for five things before I roll out of bed, I hit the ground happier, and more thankful. Because I forced the issue. I talked to myself instead of listening to myself. I grabbed the reins and took myself in hand.

It works. Every. Single. Time. When I feel discontent because of what my husband didn’t do, I can thank him for what he did do. When I feel envious about a girlfriend’s gift, I can thank God that she is my friend. And when I’m grumpy about a sink full of dirty dishes, I can thank God for mouths to feed. One or the other: grumble or give thanks.

Because you can’t ride two horses with one heinie. 

You Can’t Ride Two Horses 

You simply can’t feel thankful and entitled at once. You can’t ride the I-Deserve and the All-Grace thoroughbreds together. You just can’t. I can’t. And believe me, I’ve tried.

I’ve tried to ride the Thankful bay and the Self-pitying paint together and it never works. But sometimes I still try to saddle up the Envy pony right alongside the Gratitude gray and climb up.

But no matter how hard I try I cannot ride both. Because I’ve only got one heinie.

Ride The Thankful Horse

How it went down yesterday: I started saddling up my Envy pony after hearing opportunities for friendship and ministry that some friends of mine have because they don’t work outside the home. I had one foot in the stirrup before I came to my senses and climbed on Gratitude Gray. God’s got me at this job for his good reasons and I’m thankful- YES THANKFUL!- for the ways He’s using it to grow and shape me. 

That was yesterday. Today when I was tempted to mount the Comparison mare and let it gallop off again with my old dreams for a quiver full of kids- the Spirit counseled me off her back and onto the strong Thankful stallion. The Father promised He’d provide all your needs. So if you don’t have it, you don’t need it. No good thing does he withhold. 

Those were Spirit-wrought victories. Other days I ride too long on the wrong horse’s saddle. I climbed on the I-Didn’t-Choose-This chestnut and let him get the best of me. He charged off to You-Deserve-Better Land. And if I spend any time at all there, I return quarrelsome and harsh with my family.

All because I got on the wrong horse and let it take me for a ride. 

Defeat The Dark Horse: Give Thanks

The best way to drive out my self-focused, self-pitying, envious grumps is to be a thanks-giver. Gratitude, John Piper explains, is the song that defeats the enemy. Suppose, he says, that you discover that there is a song which the enemy and their sympathizers cannot tolerate or approach. Whenever they hear it, they pull back and run the other direction.

Isn’t it certain that you would want to learn this song? And after you learned it, you would sing it when you went to bed at night and when you got up in the morning. You would sing it on the way to work, and among strangers… Others would see and hear and learn the song from you. And in the end you would conquer the enemy.

The enemy rides a dark horse. He steals our joy and deceives us with lies. We play right into his hand when we compare and complain. One of his most convincing, joy stealing lies starts like this, But you deserve.

And the song that drives the dark horse and his lying rider away is thanksgiving.

Sing the Song of Thanks

You can give thanks or you can grumble. One will drive out the other.

Because I deserve and by grace cannot peaceably coexist in one heart. We cannot have two masters; Jesus isn’t looking for 60-40 split. We can’t serve ourselves with I deserve and Woe is me and  give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne. You can’t ride two horses with one heinie. 

So ride the right horse. Be a thanks-giver.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:1