This is Happiness

I’ve just finished reading “This is Happiness” by Niall Williams. There are many places you could easily Google to find out the short version, the important bits, or more about the author. As with most books, you could easily research it enough to “know it”, and talk as if you’ve read it. But I would warn you – that is not happiness. 🙂

The story takes place in a small town called Faha in Ireland. It seems the kind of town which is important to you if you’re from such a town, but even then only if you’re from not just “such a town” but from that particular such a town. It happens to be occurring just as the town itself is on the cusp of electricity’s first arrival. It is told from the perspective of an older man looking back on his life, remembering the days of his 18th year.

The book is filled with poetic words reflecting on major themes such as life’s purpose, romance, faith, love, friendship, and the arrival of something new that can change life forever. Even if you’ve never been to Faha, and even if you’ve only lived in major metropolitan areas you’re entire life – you’d find yourself in familiar territories many times throughout this book. Whether you’re the kind of person who romanticizes places like this (as if they don’t exist an hour’s drive from where you presently have chosen to live), or you feel trapped in one (but are actually quite free to make your mind up and try something different), you’ll find aspects of life in Faha that draw you in.

As a pastor, I felt particularly drawn to the moments describing the arrival of something new which changes the perspective on all things which have come or been experienced previously. This happens in more ways than electricity itself – although this is the most obvious correlation. How do you help people to excitedly anticipate something for which they have no reason to think they’re in need of? How can the human heart seem dormant or clueless, and in an instant be switched or lit up in a direction it never even comprehended itself capable of?

In the mist of all that happens, we hear the words of wisdom from which I believe the book received it’s title:

“..you could stop at, not all, but most moments of your life, stop for one heartbeat and, no matter what the state of your head or heart, say This is happiness, because of the simple truth that you were alive to say it. I think of that often. We can all pause right here, raise our heads, take a breath and accept that This is happiness…

All of which to say: This book is worth a read. Especially if you enjoy the kinds of books which say something a bit more poetically than might require saying. If you’re the type of person who would rather someone say “It was windy outside.”, you may not enjoy this book so much. But if perhaps you’d enjoy someone saying, “The wind was a pack of wild stallions invading the still forests of the night, as if they’d burst in protest from the fences some ill-equipped ranch-hand had assembled, meaning the darkness was theirs for the taking and not even the strongest bird dare leave it’s shelter for fear of being lost forever.”, then this book might be right up your alley.

Read it slowly…and with an old man’s Irish accent.

John 17:1-11

When Moses found the burning bush
He was invited to remove his shoes
Holiness said, “Come, approach..
“Your life I wish to use.”

Jesus moves into such a time
In prayer with the Father
And the fact that His disciples were there
Didn’t seem to bother

It’s almost like He wanted them
To observe this intimate prayer
There was something important in knowing
We were invited to be there

To hear the heart of the father
Revealed through the prayer of the Son
That just as the two of them relate
So also we would become One

That we would have life of the Age to Come
And such life would bring God glory
Through knowing God, and His Son Jesus
We’re invited to enter their story

As we’re already known by them
And still Loved as ever before
Here is a moment we should truly
Embrace, and not ignore

Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb
On our behalf, is praying
Through Him all things were made
And in this moment, He’s saying

Everything that was given Him
We have been enabled to believe
To know His Words, and knowing God
His Life we shall receive

If we take a moment and perceive
The foundations that He’s laying
To calm our souls and quiet our voice
We can still hear Him praying…

Hebrews 13:20-21

When our world thinks of blessing
They often see dollar signs
Strength to fight disease or war
And freedom from daily grind

But when God’s followers pray to blessed
We are reminded right here
That it has little to do with our bank accounts
And more that God would come near

That God would make you complete
In everything Good so that you
Could do everything which is pleasing to Him
Which you were created to do

To reflect the image of God
To reveal His nature as Love
To live in such a way that shows
The great shepherd has offered enough

The same God of peace who brought Jesus back
Eternal Covenant by blood made
Is the God who offers through us to shine
When our world can’t see through the shade.

May we define blessing as living as light
In a land afraid of the dark
Proclaiming His Love & Hope with our lives
When all the world can hear is stark

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