Sunday, July 19, 2009

homebird sing*

I'm off home to Texas for two weeks to rest, catch up with loved ones, preach, drink wine, sit in the Guadalupe River, eat huge amounts of Mexican food and recharge...I might take a bit of a blogging hiatus during all that. I wish you all a fabulous rest of July!

*reference to a wonderful Belfast musician, Foy Vance. Check him out while I'm away. :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

the greatest thing you'll ever learn...

-The love of place. I have a hard time articulating exactly what "it" is that I love about Belfast. It's moments like today when I look out at the stormy sky and dark green hills and chimneys, it's St. George's Market where several stall holders now greet me each week, it's the cosyness of a cup of tea with raindrops on the window, it's the creativity in music found in this wee part of the world, it's planting flowers in rich soil without a care about watering because I know nature will take care of it and it's so much more than these things combined. Many places I've lived and grown up in I feel great love for, but this love is mostly associated with people who I love there. Here, I feel this deep love that's not associated with people in particular (although there are of course people I love here). I love the land, the earth, the place itself. Something about it has drawn me back again. I had to say goodbye to Liz today, someone who's become a great friend to me during her year in Belfast. As I sat at the bus stop, looking at the sky, cars and hills, I thought "What if I had to say goodbye to this place soon?" The thought made my heart ache, and so I'm going to spend whatever time I have left here loving this place and letting it love me back.

-A two-hour Skype chat with the fabulous Jen. She's always a source of inspiration, comfort, identity and laughter for me, and it was really refreshing to reconnect. The two hours felt like about twenty minutes.

-Sitting in a room with various people involved in peacemaking here in various ways, listening as each person gave their take on conflict here and the future of Northern Ireland. It was convicting, inspiring, energizing and humbling to be in such great company.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

wee treats

-Catherine coming over for dinner & a movie and bringing with her delightful little cupcakes. They looked and tasted wonderful. I even remembered to serve tea (albeit a bit belatedly) after dinner to go with them. (Tea or coffee after dinner is a must here, but I sometimes forget.)

-Waking up at 6am, groggily looking at the window to see how light it was and at my watch to see what time it was, and then realizing I had more time to sleep. I smiled and drifted back off to sleep.

-Buying some lovely sunflowers and giving one away. As I came in my door, the little girl across the street (who's from the Czech Republic, I think) was eyeing them. I took her one, and she immediately became shy, so I just put it on the wall to her garden with a smile. As I turned the corner, I glanced back and saw her run and grab it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

more than meets the eye

-I'm working on a sermon for Sunday about the early church as a radical community, and talking about how they weren't called "Christians" in Acts until they included Jews, Gentiles and Greeks and reflected some of the diversity of their day. I've been thinking about the word "Christian" and how it might a loaded term today, and decided to pose a question to my facebook friends asking for their first response to the word. I've received such brilliant and varied answers and have really enjoyed getting new responses.

-Serendipitous moments.

-Putting my feet up with a magazine (Marie Claire) for the first time in a while and reading a clever article (which I didn't honestly expect to find in said magazine).

Monday, July 13, 2009

dissolving into mist

-Going with Ri, my friend from New Zealand, to Slieve Croob to hike up it. The weather turned out to be terrible, but we walked for a bit and I got some great pictures before getting completely soaked. It reminded me of an old saying about Ireland I used to have (can't find it), that was something like "as you look upon it, you feel like any moment it might dissolve into the mist." Our path up the mountain was rapidly dissolving into the mist (and heavy rain), so we went driving around countryside instead.
-An old battered phone box. These have become so fashionable in the States. I remember a part of Houston that has these freshly-laquered phoneboxes everywhere, and can't help thinking that this is how they're meant to look (missing windowpane and all).

-Stopping to take a picture of this thistle and having Ri laugh saying "those are awful prickly things to's so funny to see you take a picture of one!" I replied that to me they're reminiscent of Braveheart and full of history and romance. True American idealism displayed, but I love it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

heavy and light

-A deep theological conversation that lasted through snacks, lunch, coffee and dessert and filled most of the time in between each.

-A sudden downpour of rain, the kind that you hear before you see. I adore rainstorms...they make me feel cozy and secure.

-Jonee playing one of his favorite records saying, "I love this drummer. He has the lightest touch."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

hello neighbo(u)r

-A bizarre experience in the bathroom at St. George's Market. A lady walked in and said "Oh no, there's a line" which immediately told me she wasn't from here (they say "queue"). I said, "Are you American?" and two people answered me. It turns out the lady in front of her was too. We talked a bit about what we're doing here (holiday, a brave move after the kids were out of the house, church work) and where we were from and another lady came out of a stall and said "Texas? I'm from Lousiana!" So, we ended up with 4 Americans in the bathroom (which sounds like the beginning of a bad joke). It was really fun.

-Buying gorgeous bright pink dahlias to put in our newly-weeded garden and delicate little local potatoes to have for dinner. I roasted them (the potatoes, not the flowers) with garlic, evoo and parmesan and then tossed them with fresh basil and smoked salmon. Delicious!

-Going out of my door at the exact moment that the little old lady across the way was going out of hers. I went over to say hello and actually get to know her a bit. I learned about her shopping routine, her sore knee, her family and her desire for a peaceful 12th (the 12th of July is a big Loyalist celebration, and can bring with its parades a bit of trouble and backlash from the Republican community, though it hasn't in this area for several years). People here really are so friendly when you talk to them.

Friday, July 10, 2009

knights, hobbits and Spirit (or Knights of the Coffee Table)

-A really fantastic night of live music. I went to hear my friend Kellie's band, The Lowly Knights, who are brilliant. It was part of a festival (Trans:mission), though, so my friend Catherine and I just went from one band to another all night, getting a good variety of sounds. Lowly Knights are still my favorite. At one point Catherine turned to me and said (as we danced) "How can you help but dance to this music?" I completely agreed.

-I've had a bit of a cold for the last week and can't seem to shake it, so I decided to make an effort to do so today: I made homemade chicken noodle soup, spent most of the day in my pj's and watched Lord of the Rings. I'm still not quite 100%, but today definitely helped.

-I really don't know what magical thing happens in coffee shops for me when I'm trying to write sermons, but they just flow when written there. Maybe the Spirit prefers coffee (I think She just might). I love the buzz and energy I get from figuring out how the good news is found in a text in all its messiness, and how to get that across to people.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

mad love

I've been at Summer Madness the past 5 days with Fitzroy young's some glimpses of grace from there and afterwards.

-Really enjoying being around the young people and getting to see their creativity, humor, deep faith and joy. We had such a great time.

-Irish dancing at the talent night.

-Followed by a harpist playing one of my favorite songs from Braveheart. From the first couple plucks of the strings, I recognized it and was transfixed the rest of the time.

-Hearing Foy Vance, one of Belfast's greatest local musicians play in his quirky way (that's a violin bow he's using on his guitar). One of his songs "Homebird" was my soundtrack when we were negotiating a call back to Belfast, and when he played it with me in this place, I got a little teary and felt so grateful to be here.

-Listening to prominent evangelical pastor and writer Bryan McLaren and hearing him speak prophetically about how we read the Bible. He said that "authority isn't about knowledge, it's about love" and went on to describe the different ways that slaves and slaveholders read the Bible. He said (with great courage, I think) that we have continued to read the Bible like slaveholders and asked why wouldn't we instead read the Bible like the slaves did? He then (much to my amazement) recommended that everyone there read liberation, African American and feminist theology to get a better insight into how to read the Bible this way. I talked to him afterwards and said he was welcome to come to the PCUSA dark side, where he would be very welcome, but that I appreciated his prophetic voice within his own tradition.
-The first whiff of fresh coffee when I opened a new bag.

-Getting a very thoughtful card from Lynn and Lori in which they had both said "wish you were here" and sent their love when they met up in Decatur. What a wonderful thing--to write me a note together and send it all the way here. I was very touched, and of course loved the gnome!

Friday, July 03, 2009

It's chaco time...

...which means I'm putting on my fabulous chacos, packing my favorite t-shirts and heading off to Summer Madness, Ireland's largest Christian youth conference, for 4 days. I'm camping there with Fitzroy youth (and a couple thousand others) until Tuesday. See ya then. :) Whit

Thursday, July 02, 2009

isn't that something?

-Ian and Gina coming for a quick stay after getting back from Italy before flying out this morning. It was endearing to hear Ian clomping down the stairs saying "Whhhhhiiiittt!" and then he gave me a big bear hug. We didn't have much time at all, but it was wonderful to hear about their Italian adventures and just enjoy a great conversation with my morning coffee. After I said goodbye to them and they headed to the airport, I noticed my David Gray cd was playing "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye."

-Baking cookies for Summer Madness, the big youth camp that starts tomorrow. I love the process of baking cookies and watching them take shape. It's not ex nihilo*, but is still pretty cool.

-Making plans to catch up with good friends in Texas when I'm home in a few weeks.

*Ex nihilo means "out of nothing" and is a doctrine describing God's creation of the whole world out of nothing. It's not a creationist doctrine by any stretch, it's just saying that God alone can make something out of nothing, in whatever way you might see that "something" coming into being. We can't--we have to use stuff to make stuff. :)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

welling up

-Finding the perfect pair of wellington boots at Avoca. They're kids and were on sale, so I got a great deal on them. They're covered in what they call Smarties here (do we have those in the States?) but they look like Skittles to me. We have a big youth conference coming up in a couple of days and it involves camping, so I thought I needed to finally get some wellies. I love them so much I might just wear them on sunny days...would that be weird?

-Graduates leaving the Odyssey Arena in caps and gowns with proud family encircling them.

-A new little bunch of fresh wildflowers from our overgrown garden in a glass by my bed. I think fresh flowers on my bedside table somehow make me sleep better.