Monday, March 30, 2009

come together, right now

-Getting an amazing new t-shirt at St. George's Market. Its made by a local designer and gets an important message across in a fun (and dare I say, trendy?) way. I love it.

-I went to a friend's engagement party and, at the end of a night of meeting new people and chatting in the pub, she hugged me and said, "You're like a local now."

-Coming to the Blakes' house completely soaked after another rain attack from Belfast and being given a radiator to put my damp shoes and socks on and warm fuzzy socks for my toes in the meantime. The Blakes have such an effortless hospitality. They don't make a big fuss, but act like giving someone socks as they come in the door, a heaping plate of homemade chicken curry and a quiet place to sit before youth club is an ordinary thing. It isn't: for me, these acts of kindness sustain me constantly.

-Going to an interfaith, multicultural gathering and bonding with a Muslim man not over a shared passion for reconciliation and healing (although we do share that), but over a love of crime fiction novels. He became animated and relaxed as he explained the great stories of Michael Connelly, including how to make the most of his website, which book to start with and what local used bookstore could sell me them for just 2 pounds each.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

dance, chat, observe

-The employee in the Co-op (grocery store) who bopped her head along to the cheery music being played.

-A really great conversation with the Catholic chaplain at Queen's University where I could express our committment as a church to unity and coordinated ministry with students in our area.

-Watching the rain, sleet and gusty wind--from the warm, dry, comfort of my office.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

got a light?

-The black swirly (almost celtic-looking) wall sconce I found and have put above my bed. I've started a little nightly ritual where I light the three tealights (and think Trinitarian of course! 3 candles...1 sconce...ha!) and say my prayers for the night, then blow them out and drift to sleep.

-That little vintage pink and black fleur-de-lis dress in the window of the vintage shop that I was sure wouldn't fit me. It did, and so I couldn't resist it. What a funky and retro addition to my wardrobe. :)

-Watching a completely terrible movie with Jonee and agreeing that we're 0-2 on movies, and that we seem to have a rare talent for finding abysmal movies. It made us laugh at just how bad it was. Nonetheless, with a cup of tea and a cosy sanctuary from the cold, rainy wind, it was a relaxing night.

-The radio playing a song that said "if it's gonna be a rainy day, there's nothing we can do to make it change, we can pray for sunny weather...that won't stop the rain." The radio dj said there should be a song "please don't stop the sun, please make it a lovely day, and we'll go have a picnic."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

inventing love

-One of the teenagers helping with the children's club by teaching the kids about prayer and friendship with God by asking, "Who's a better best friend than the One who invented love?" Amazing.

-Jonee bought some pretzels at the Polish shop near our house (there's a suprisingly large Polish community in Belfast) and instead of "legendary snack" it says "legendarny smak!" on the package. I'm not sure if this is gibberish or Polish, but it made me laugh.

-Finally, finally finding a frame for my ordination certificate and hanging it up on the wall. Looking at the slightly crumpled (from its journey across the pond) piece of paper, I realized that ordination is so far beyond a certificate (but's it's nice to have that piece of paper, all the same).

-Sitting in a pub with friends, having a laugh and a glass of wine. Sometimes, when I pass by windows of pubs or restaurants and see people laughing and talking, I get a wee bit jealous and miss friends at home. But while sitting there talking with people who have come to be important to me here, I realized that I was one of the people in the window.

-Hearing John Bell from the Iona community teach about music in worship. From the beginning when he prayed to God as the "Midwife of change" to the constant interactive, powerful singing to the unabashed directness of his words mingled with pastoral love and a passion for the church, it was a holy and "thin" experience.

-Teaching the kids about the rich young ruler and asking them to give him a name so I could tell them the story (because the Bible didn't say what his name was). One child recommended "Mr. Everything" and it worked perfectly in telling the story of Mr. Everything who needed the one thing he couldn't buy: God's love in Jesus.

-Sitting in a cafe listening to a solo guitarist, eating Irish stew in a Belfast bap, getting the applause going after each song, having deep and meaningful conversation, walking in the sun and even climbing inside an old hollow tree. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

happy st. patrick's day (it was)

For St. Patrick's Day, we took a church family trip to Tullymoore Park, near Newcastle for the day. We invited some Romanian children to come along, and had such a fun time having a (chilly) picnic, walking through the woods, crossing rivers, and eating ice cream on the beach.

-Now doesn't this look straight out of Lord of the Rings?? (For your LOTR nerds: the scene in the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring, where a growing threat is described.)

-Green moss-covered tree trunks that looked like giant monster feet.

-Delicate green clovers looking all festive for St. Paddy's Day. I picked one for my niece.

-The old castle tunnel to the park. As soon as you entered it, you were hit with the cold preserved by stone and history.

-Watching a child see the ocean for the first time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

life's a beach

I was in Newcastle this past weekend for our annual youth weekend at Greenhill. I was last there 4 years ago, and it felt very full-circle to be there again.

-Canoeing with the young people with intense wind blowing against us, creating waves on the normally placid lake. It took serious effort to make it to the island that was our goal, but the constant cheering of the kids and shouting of "paddle, paddle, paddle!" kept us all going. I also learned a lot from the experience: when you looked out on the turbulent water with waves working against you, you lost momentum and became a bit overwhelmed, and then the waves began to take you where you didn't want to go. But, when you just focused on the grueling but constant rhythym of rowing, looking only at the wee bit of water you were trying to push behind you with each stroke, it became possible, bit by bit, to go foward. As we say in seminary, "that'll preach!"

-Talking to the young people about mission, and watching as they began to talk to each other about it and what fears keep them from doing mission every day. For a moment, we as leaders were able to step back to let them teach one another, with the younger ones raising questions and the older ones passing on their wisdom.

-The enthusiasm of a smiley, awkward, hyper teenage boy.
-Walking on the beach and looking out at the grey-blue sea.

-Kids and leaders alike letting go of their emotions for a bit, and during the weekend letting whatever's been building up inside of them spill out, leaving them vulnerable, but closer to healing and more a community. There's something miraculous about youth retreats that can tap into the deep "stuff" that every day busyness tries to ignore. It really is a time to grieve, to laugh, to sing, to share and to feel deeply.

-Collecting smooth, well-travelled blue, green and white glass on the beach and putting it with glass I've found on beaches in the past.

-Cleaning my room and sleeping better for it. It was the first night I've been able to crack my window, letting in a refreshing but not freezing breeze to lull me to sleep.

Friday, March 13, 2009

the sky is falling!

-Going to an interfaith dialogue forum, and being introduced to the man speaking about extremism in Christianity. He was told that I was a Presbyterian minister, and asked which seminary I attended. I said Columbia, and his face lit up with recognition. Now, usually this happens because people assume it's affiliated with the university, but then I say it's in Georgia and they get a bit confused. When I told him it was in Georgia, he said, 'Oh yes, that's home to Walter Brueggemann and Kathleen O'Connor!' These are two wonderful professors at Columbia, and my face then lit up with the joy of a connection to a place that meant so much to me. We discussed everything from how to address issues of violence in scripture to how to teach rather than indoctrinate followers of our particular faith.

-Sitting in a quirky restaurant, reading a book by candlelight and sipping a rich glass of red wine.

-The man working below a construction site who said 'Watch your head!' seconds before a small piece of plaster fell beside him. He laughed and said, 'I should watch mine!'

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

this and that

-This post by Jessi.

-This song by Eliot Morris (All Things in Time).

-The words "thank you, friend" in an email from someone I really admire.

Monday, March 09, 2009

persistent peace

"To be reconciled to God is to be sent into the world as his reconciling community. This community, the church universal, is entrusted with God's message of reconciliation and shares his labor of healing the enmities which separate [people] from God and from each other. Christ has called the church to this mission and given it the gifts of the Holy Spirit...God's reconciliation in Jesus Christ is the ground of peace, justice, and freedom among nations which all powers of government are called to serve and defend. The church, in its own life, is called to practice the forgiveness of enemies and to commend to the nations as practical politics the search for cooperation and peace. This peace requires that the nations pursue fresh and responsible relations across every line of conflict, even at risk to national security, to reduce areas of strife and broaden international understanding." Confession of 1967

You may have heard Northern Ireland on the news recently. In Antrim (about 20 miles from Belfast), two British soldiers awaiting deployment to Afghanistan were killed by who claim to be the Real IRA, a dissident branch of the IRA who were responsible for the Omagh bombings and have consistently resisted the non-violent peace process. You can read about the shootings here:

First, I want to assure all of my American friends and family that I am, of course, safe. I am, as most everyone here is, deeply saddened and angered by such a blatant disregard for life and disregard for the monumental non-violent progress towards peace Northern Ireland has embraced. This event has made people here grip ever more tightly to the sometimes fragile bond of unity and peace and redouble their commitment to progress ushered in not by guns, cowardly ambushes and fear but by understanding, shared pain and healing and love. I pray for this place, for the families of those killed and for all who come to see violence as their only option, that God would bring secure peace, justice and comfort and "fresh and responsible relations" across this particular line of conflict.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

oh happy day

-It's my sister's 30th birthday! I really wish I could be there, but I'm wishing her a perfect day. Happy Birthday, Sista!!

-Sitting on my couch in Belfast, watching American television and hearing a show play a song by Mark Geary, a singer/songwriter I heard live in a little place in Decatur, Georgia. I love when the past and present converge in a single moment.

-The privilege of telling children in the church during the kid's talk about how God provided manna for the people of Israel in the wilderness and how God loves each one of us the same and will always be with us to guide and care for us.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


-Cheery, drenched daffodils being sold at every flower shop I walked past. Even though the weather has turned cold again, they're a sure sign that spring isn't too far off.

-Visiting my old stomping ground (where I used to live here) and going to my favorite little cafe, Graffiti. Munching on homemade lemon coriander (that's cilantro to my fellow Americans) hummus with grilled ciabatta bread, reading a book and reminiscing about the last time I lived here was a fanstastic way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
-Walking home, I came across some positive graffiti. I love finding graffiti with a good message.

Friday, March 06, 2009

past & present

-While hovering around the kettle at my staff meeting at Heather's, she reached into the cupboard and said "Oh, Whitney, I've been meaning to give you this..." She handed me a hand-painted sunflower mug that I had made when I was here before. I hadn't been able to fit it in my suitcase home, and grieved its loss, but hoped future volunteers would enjoy it. She explained that it made its way to another volunteer house (which she owned) and that the woman renting it had heard her mention me and thought I might like it back. It was such a fond reminder of my past and a tangible connection in the present.
-A really captivating book I can't put down (The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama).
-The man on the bus who let me in front of him in the queue to get off and then laughed and supported me when the bus stopped rapidly and I was flung into him.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

well hello there

-Sun breaking through clouds.

-A delicious lunch with Sheena of salty, creamy bacon, cheese and tomato quiche, delicate salad with tiny marinated mushrooms and a cappucino to finish it off.

-Calling Grandmother, getting the answering machine and feeling a bit disappointed, and then hearing her "hello??" over the machine as she picked up the phone.

Monday, March 02, 2009

a whozit, a whatzit and a skype

-A fun little cheeky Skype chat.

-Getting all the dishes washed and the kitchen cleaned before going to bed and shuffling in to a tidy kitchen to make coffee this morning.

-Dreaming I was in a worship service and waking up singing "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love" in my head.

-The Google search bar has gone all Dr. Seuss-y in honor of his birthday.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

somewhere over the...

-Looking out of the window and seeing a double rainbow as the rain came in. At one point it was sunny from some windows of the house and raining through others.

-Making banoffee pie and "cleaning" the caramelized sweetened condensed milk out of the near-empty tin, savoring its rich, sweet flavor.

-Going to Lori's for dinner and enjoying great conversation, yummy food and wine and then all going to the QFT for a late movie.