Sunday, January 31, 2010

radical hospitality

(I'm catching up a wee bit...)

-Going solo to St. G's for the first time in a while and being greeted so warmly as "a regular" by several stall holders. The woman who sells the smoked garlic I love gave me a friendly wave as I walked by, Hazelnut Latte Creator (really must get his name) and I had a friendly chat about my work (he remembered that I'm a minister) and Tee and Toast Gal even had me help her convince Fresh Pasta Man to bring her lunch. Then, I ran into Marie, an older woman who runs a great cross-community, international house the church uses and walked around with her. Solo never really is solo when you're at St. George's!

-After going to the cinema with Andrea, Tilmann & Pete, I ended up just staying over at Hotel Kuhla (A+T's place) and having an old-fashioned slumber party. It really felt like a little holiday to stay in a different place with good friends and to have fresh coffee with eggs and toast in the morning before church was just lovely.

-Hearing Ken and Clare speak at church tonight about their amazingly incarnational work in the Lower Ormeau in Belfast and being in awe of their conviction, courage and passion. Speaking of living, working and raising a family in an area that is working-class (for lack of a better term) Catholic, as one from a middle-class Protestant background, he said, "I have no enemies. I only have people I don't know yet, and once I know them, they are not enemies." They are both truly prophetic people.

Friday, January 29, 2010

behind and before

-Having a bit of time to kill before a meeting and hanging out at Common Grounds reading my book. Grace found there was twofold: 1) the plinky-swoosh of fresh coffee beans being poured into the massive grinder thing, and 2) seeing the lovely Blakes there as they were excitedly making plans for an Italian holiday they'd just booked, and then (in Blake style) being invited for dinner before my meeting.

-A man laughing so hard that he bent backwards, arms raised in mirth.

-Walking through the park this morning and praying my "St. Anna" prayer: one my preaching professor used to start class with in seminary (minus the movements -- oh yes, there were movements).

Thanks be to God for this day
For all that is above me (stretching trees and the sky)
For all that is below me (wet ground reflecting light and leaves)
For all that is behind me (a winding path)
For all that is before me (an elderly gent walking his dog)
For all that is around me (rain-drenched trees, bright morning sky, fluffy green grass)
For all that is beyond me (oh, there's lots there...)
For all that is within me (lots there too...)
Thanks be to God for this day.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

i ♥ Burt

-I have something to confess before all of blogworld: I, Whitney, am a chapstick/lipbalm addict. Oh yes, I love the stuff, but last night I left it in my purse and didn't bother to put any one before going to bed. I woke up this morning in need of a fix and might've just let out a sigh of pleasure as I slathered it on. Oh, and in case you're wondering, my drug of choice is Burt's Bees. Heavenly.

-Being presented with half of an amazing homemade chocolate cake with orange marmalade after a meeting. Church people can just be so nice, especially one Sheena Trinder. Cheers!

-My dreams have been funny lately, and I almost always remember them in their entirety. Last night was definitely interesting: I was on a plane with a lot of friends, but we were using it as a boat on the ocean and laughing as waves tossed us up and down until the pilot announced we were somehow in the middle of a hurricane along the Gulf Stream current and needed to sail into harbor (in our plane, as it were). We safely made it ashore and all unloaded into a lovely sunny meadow with glistening grass and golden insects flying in the light. We were marooned there in this beautiful place until it was safe to sail our plane back across the ocean. Gonna try to not overanalyze it. :) Random, oh yes, but altogether an enjoyable experience.

-Doing something a wee bit courageous (and having the wonderful Catherine to prod me in that direction).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

recycle with style

-Making a necklace out of an old broken earring and a bit of ribbon.

-Finding the ideal card for who I was sending it to.

-Going to dance class for the first time since before Christmas and feeling as if I'd never been away (although my body begged to differ).

Monday, January 25, 2010

come together

-A very encouraging phone call.

-A quirky evening in church led by Steve that included several different bands playing Beatles songs while he looked for theological significance in them. It was a bit surreal to be tapping my feet to Come Together, Blackbird and others in worship and, while I'm not going to be calling them a Christian band anytime soon (though I do appreciate their social & political commentary), it was thoroughly enjoyable.

-A cup of tea in the mug Jessi gave me.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

buffalo bill's birthday!

Today's my Dad's birthday! Happy Birthday! Hope it's perfect.
Love you,

Friday, January 22, 2010

four (not so little) words

-Andrea and Tilmann giving me an amazing gift from their recent trip to Italy: a journal from the Vatican with God touching Adam from the Sistine Chapel on the cover. Even more remarkable was the incredibly thoughful inscription inside describing that it was so I could "get my typy fingers to do exercise in the real writing again..." They ended it by thanking me for our friendship (which I am SO grateful for), saying "thanks so much for being our friend, for spreading fun and joy, for eating whatever we cook, for loving salted popcorn...for loving coffee and beautiful things, for being vintage and alternative, liturgical and sacramental! We do love you!" What a gift they are to me. And being called vintage, alternative, liturgical and sacramental might just be the highest compliment I've received!

-Rushing in to dinner at the Blake's after a serious wrestling match with a table tennis table for youth club and finding my plate waiting for me, piled high with mouth-watering beef tagine, brown rice and cumin a whole table of wonderful people to eat it with.

-Being cold in youth club and having Joanna donate her sweatshirt she wasn't using to warm up this wimpy Texan.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

take that, Hogwarts!

It's not every weekend that you get to hang out in a castle, and it's definitely not every weekend that you get to serve communion in a castle! Our church retreat was at a magical place called Castlewellan, and it was just heavenly. It was all very full-circle for me, because I had been on this church retreat five years ago, and here I was, back again. Steve had me serve communion, which was something I'll not soon forget. To break bread with people who have become so significant to me means more that I can really express.

I brought a book expecting lots of down time to read and wound up spending nearly every spare minute talking to people because they're just so great. We chatted around fireplaces, chatted while playing guitars, chatted while eating, chatted about the great talks on creation and heaven, chatted on long walks around the lake, chatted an afternoon away at the fancy Slieve Donard hotel in Newcastle, chatted during the hilarious talent show and even chatted into the wee hours of the morning when we should've been sleeping. It was refreshing, but not in the way I expected it to be. It was refreshing to have so much contact time with Fitzroy folks and to leave the weekend more exhausted than I'd arrived, but that good kind of exhaustion, like that which comes after a long journey. And to top it all off, it wasn't that cold.
*A big, big thanks to Jo for sharing her beautiful pictures! My camera battery's dead and I think the charger is in America!

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for [humanity] to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. [Humanity] must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy MLK Day, everybody. Let's all take a bit of time to reflect on the great work he did and how we are helping or hindering that effort today.

(Also, glimpses of grace from the weekend coming soon...there are some BIG ones!)

Friday, January 15, 2010

your castle or mine?

I'm off to a castle for the weekend! We have our church retreat at Castlewellan...lovely, ancient and freezing. It's going to be wonderful. :) Have a great weekend, everybody!

something is coming that is meant to be

-Going to see my dance friend Brenda perform her amazing electronic/movement piece for her Masters of Sonic Arts at Queen's. It was something that's very hard to describe, but I'll try. She had created a program on her computer to take the sounds she made and distort them in amazing ways and she controlled all this while singing and dancing through little buttons attached to her outfit. Amazing. It was all about the quality and power of a voice, and she ended it by saying, "Something is coming that is meant to be." It was phenomenal.

-Sitting in a coffee shop with eight or so teenagers from the church and catching up and talking (all at once!) and thinking of how close I've become to them.

-Finding a Walter Brueggemann book among the proliferous self-righteous, pop-prosperity, Christian drivel (can you tell how I feel about it? ha) at a Christian bookstore and feeling like it was a needle in a haystack. It was 50% off, so it's mine. It's called Texts That Linger, Words That Explode and is all about prophetic writings in scripture.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

a prayer for Haiti

We pray for Haiti.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the eyes of the world turn to Haiti,
let us join our hearts in prayer:

God of compassion
Please watch over the people of Haiti,
And weave out of these terrible happenings
wonders of goodness and grace.
Surround those who have been affected by tragedy
With a sense of your present love,
And hold them in faith.
Though they are lost in grief,
May they find you and be comforted;
Guide us as a church
To find ways of providing assistance
that heals wounds and provides hope
Help us to remember that when one of your children suffer
We all suffer
Through Jesus Christ who was dead, but lives
and rules this world with you.

(Adapted from Book of Common Worship)

-Bruce Reyes-Chow, Gradye Parsons and Linda Valentine

partake, receive and pray

-Simplicity: Intending to make delicious rosemary-roasted butternut squash risotto with shaved parmesan, I came home after working later than intended and decided to just have a bowl of cereal and toast for dinner. It was divine.

-Receiving very thoughtful birthday gifts of a shiny new colorful diary and notebook. It makes planning for work more fashionable and fun.

-The warmth that a down-filled vest & coat bring.

(Today, let's all pray for the people of Haiti in the wake of such a disaster, that they would find healing, relief and comfort. PCUSA is taking donations to support them through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance here:

Monday, January 11, 2010

simply spectacular

-A guest glimpse of grace from Jo: "I have a spectacular glimpse of grace for today: Getting into bed to find a hot water bottle you weren't expecting...I love mummies."

-Taking my terribly wine-stained library book back to the Linenhall Library expecting at the least a sharp reprimand and potentially a fine and receiving instead a smile and an "it could happen to anyone."

-Absently saying on facebook that I "want cake" and receiving in response great wit. Rob said, "and I suppose you want to eat it too?? demanding!" and John responded with an amazing Eddie Izzard clip called "Cake or Death." Both made me laugh out loud, which is a spectacular way to end the day.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

isn't it?

-Deciding that, as much as I love my ol' trusty Annie Oakley perfume I've used since I was 12, it's time for something more grown up. Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker is it. There's something so elegant about a little spritz on my way out the door that lasts all day.

-A text from Sandra saying she loved my prayer this morning. I told her it wasn't actually mine, but a wonderful one by Walter Brueggemann with a wee bit of tweaking.

-The way Jack, Fitzroy's oldest member, always lets out a resounding "Alleluia!" after the benediction at every service.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

snow and then

-Snow! Snow makes the cold somehow gratifying, and seems to warm it up a bit, too.

-Meeting Catherine at St. George's with the other die-hard-market-goers who didn't let the snow stop them and catching up with Mr. Hazelnut Latte Creator at Javaman, talking about our Christmases and the cold weather, until he threw in a "the usual, then?" and made my coffee. Delicious, as always. I bought the last tiny butternut squash from Bespeckled Produce Man and he took my 90p and then said, "See you next week."

-A great walk through the market, to the city centre and even to TK Maxx with Catherine spent snapping photos and catching up along the way. What a wonderful friend.

-Speaking of wonderful friends, a great conversation (nearly 2 hours!) with my dear friend Jessi last night. New Year's resolution: get better at keeping in touch.

Friday, January 08, 2010

baby, it's cold outside

Well, it's freezing (literally). I seem to have some rare seasonal condition called "Winter Amnesia" because when January rolls around and it inevitably gets colder than it has been, I become indignant like it's some bizarre fluke of nature. Sadly, it is not, it's simply winter in Belfast. So, last night, after a catch-up with the Kuhlas and a brave (I think) jaunt into the snowy cold to catch my two buses home, I came into my house determined to create some warmth. Andrea had loaned me her amazing microwaveable-aromatic-houseshoes while she's away on holiday, so I warmed em' up, put 'em on and then got a hot water bottle and nice big cup of chamomile tea in the awesome mug Jessi sent me and curled into bed with a copy of Vogue (also a gift from Jessi). So, my glimpses of grace from yesterday are:

-Combatting the cold with the following: warm slippers, tea in a thoughtful mug (it somehow tastes better when there's love in it coming to you), a hot water bottle, several blankets and dark chocolate (helps everything).

-The crunch of snow under my feet and the way it somehow makes the world quieter, stiller.

-Teaching Andrea & Tilmann my very limited knowledge of Italian for their trip to Italy and reveling in saying all those "rrrr's." "Buon giorrrrrrrrrrrno!"
Wishing you warmth today!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

birthday bliss (and blunders)

Oh, what a birthday. I decided that it's a rare thing to be flying on one's birthday and that I should just push my luck and ask about possibly getting a free upgrade on my international flight. Now, this isn't my normal style, and I was actually a little nervous doing it. But as I came into the airport, I noticed that "Moon River" was playing over the speakers (always a good sign), and so I took a deep breath and apologetically said to the check-in woman at British Airways, "Um, I'm sure it probably can't happen, but it's my birthday and I was wondering if there's any possibility of an upgrade. (dramatic pause) It's just me travelling." Now, I'm someone who doesn't mind a bit travelling on my own, in fact it's some of my best reading & people watching time. But, I figured being solo certainly helped my chances. The very friendly woman at check-in stopped smiling, said very seriously, "Wait here a minute." and left me trying to look normal while wishing with everything that this would work. She came back, tagged my bag and smiled saying, "Well, we have you in business class. You have a 6 foot bed! Be sure to enjoy the executive lounge near your gate before you fly. Now that's a birthday present!" It sure was! I told her thank you (I think my exact words were, "You're amazing!") and off I went feeling like I'd just won the lottery. I enjoyed a lovely posh Pellegrino with cheese and crackers in the lounge while I read and the same woman came in asking if I was enjoying myself. So nice.

On the plane, they offered us champagne immediately, which I declined, because I was going to have a nice red wine later. I sat back in my reclining chair with a footstool, curled up with a cloth-covered pillow and quilted blanket and thought I could really get used to this. They brought me a menu, I had my choice of 6 wines, and sat back watching Harry Potter and enjoying that first sip of quality red wine. And then the ol' Wilkinson Coordination Curse set in. You see, my family's having some issues lately in this area. A few days ago, my niece poured an entire mug of hot coffee all over our antique coffee table. Then, my Dad managed to (no joke) accidentally pour boiling water on his foot while carrying a pot and then later got hit in the face with a backseat in the car when it was released, hurting his nose and knocking off a piece of his glasses. Then, on my last day for lunch, my sister had freezing ice water spilled all over her jeans. So, it really was only a matter of time until my number was up. After that first decadent sip of wine, it somehow leapt out of my hands and all over my jeans, blanket and (gulp) library book. You can take the girl out of coach, but you can't take coach out of the girl. :) The attendants were all too friendly though, and brought me towels, a new blanket and even pajamas from first class I could wear while they hung up my jeans to dry. Oh, and they very carefully handed me a fresh glass of wine. At one point the attendant was walking through with a bottle of wine offering people refills and she asked if I wanted one and wasn't even able to keep a straight face. I laughed and shook my head. The rest of the flight was amazing: 3 course meal with china, linen napkins and actual cutlery. I had this amazing seared peppered tuna, followed by mahi mahi with potatoes and then a trifle that was a dead ringer for strawberry shortcake. Then I layed my seat all the way flat into a bed and slept soundly (for the first time ever on a flight) for a blissful 5 hours. It was wonderful. Once in London, I had lots of time to kill, so I even treated myself to a little birthday gift of an on-sale top. It looks just like stained glass windows to me, a fitting and chic little thing for a minister to wear!

All in all, maybe the best birthday ever. I even met a fascinating Hindu man on the bus to Belfast who invited me to visit his temple and whose wife is a women's community worker I'd like to get in touch with.

Today's my mom's birthday and so I wish you a "first class" day, Momma! Hope it's perfect. Love you :)

So, that's my birthday story friends. Lessons learned: never underestimate the power of Moon River and a question, show respect for red wine and always talk to people you wind up next to.

Monday, January 04, 2010

oh happy day

"Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words."

Well, dear blog friends, it's my 28th birthday (which means according to my parents that I've already had 28 years, which is of course, true)!

Yesterday was celebration time, because today's my day to travel those 6000 miles back across the pond. What a great day: I preached at First Pres in their double service marathon, where I preached at the progressive service with Marie and Ted and then rushed into a robe and into the simultaneous traditional service to preach there too. I served communion and even had a fun Yoda moment, where I said "When we eat this bread and drink this wine, we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes again, and come again he will!" It was great. I saw lots of friendly faces, including the wonderful Bob Leslie, who baptized me, helped with my ordination service and was smiling at me as I walked down the aisle at the end of the service in his jaunty Irishy green tweed coat and Book of Kells tie. He and his wife Candace are the epitome of wisdom and grace. I had amazing Mexican food with family and my good friend Angelina. I caught up with my dear friend Pierce enjoying her wonderful encouragement and energy. And, yes, I did celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words with my family.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

auld lang syne

Well, I had a lovely morning at home. We woke up early...

let the sun pour in...
read the paper...

drank some coffee, and thought over the fun glimpses of grace in the past few days:

Lighting my great-grandmother's votives...

ringing in 2010 with champagne...

taking pretty Christmas pictures...

...and lots more: curling up in my dad's big leather recliner with a cuppa chamomile tea and a book, reading until my head starts to droop, the energy and excitement that comes with imagining the future, more of those amazing pancakes, good conversations and, yes, still that coffee. It's been a whirlwind two weeks at home, and I can't believe it's almost over. I'm off to see my First Pres Bryan family tomorrow to be with them in worship, and am really looking forward to it. So far, 2010, you're not too shabby!