Tuesday, March 30, 2010

artful amblings

Yesterday was a freezing, rainy day in Belfast (shocking! ha) and I decided to put my day off to good use and fight every hermitish urge and get out and do something. I never have really visited art galleries in Belfast, and decided it was time. I went to the Lisburn Road, where there are several galleries and toured around four of them, grateful for a warm, dry place to soak up some art, and a warm, dry cafe to have a sandwich and a cuppa tea in. I took pictures of my favorites (I had a lot of favorites) and was even captivated by the beautiful light fixtures everywhere. Some galleries took one look at my jeans and went back to talking on their phones, but others were warmly welcoming. The last was called the Elkin Gallery and is, surprisingly, one of the biggest dealers of Andy Warhol in the world. (A recent print they sold--original Andy Warhol's are incredibly rare and would cost millions--of an Indian head coin went for $350,000.) The owner was so nice and we had a great time chatting as he showed me his favorite pieces. I actually discovered my favorite of all I saw there. It was between the amazing ancient book sculptures and this painting, but she won. The final painting here is my favorite, but the picture really doesn't do it justice. It was emanating golden light and really looked like it was glowing from within. Just breathtaking. Enjoy your wee art tour with me, and be sure to tell me which was your favorite on your way out!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Prayer for Palm Sunday

(from Frederick Buechner)

Almighty and everlasting God, speak to us during these holy days that we may hear you. Then speak to us again and yet again so that, if in our hearts we answer you by saying "No," we may at least know well to whom we say it, and what it costs us to say it, and what it costs our brothers and sisters, and what it costs you. And when at those moments that we can never foretell we do indeed say "Yes" to you, forgive our halfheartedness, accept us as we are, work your miracle within us, and of you grace give us strength to follow wherever love may lead.

We bless you for the one who shows us the way and is the way and who will be, we pray, at the end of all our ways. Remember us. Remember us. For your mercy's sake. Amen.

Friday, March 26, 2010

surprise, sing and sip

-Two very different reactions to finding out I'm a minister: while at a meeting with Heather and Chris in Church House, a retired minister friend of Heather's came up and Heather told him I was a minister, too. His response: "Oh! Hmm. And what's your name?" Much later, while serving soup and bacon sandwiches outside of the church at 2am to cold, tired (some drunk) passerbys in the pouring rain (we thankfully had a gazebo), a woman who regularly comes appeared. We caught up and chatted and she, assuming I was much younger than I am, asked if I had been to university yet. I said, "Well, actually, I'm a minister and so I've been to university and then a bit of seminary." Her response: (clapping hands and smiling) "Oh! Wow! That's so wonderful! How great! I LOVE that you're a minister, I just thought you were really friendly." Needless to say, I prefer the second response. ;)

-Listening to Florence + the Machine's "The Dog Days Are Over" and just feeling lifted. It's such a fantastic song, I could listen to it every day...and I do.

-That first blessed, fragrant, warming sip of coffee in the morning. There's nothing better.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

sarcasm, soup & sun

-Having coffee with Chris and Amy and the great banter and craic that goes along with it.*

-A really, really good bowl of soup.

-Seeing the sun shining through the window and stopping what I was doing to sit for a few moments basking in it.

*for my American readers:
banter: good-humored, sarcastic back-and-forth conversation, often affectionately abusive. :)
craic: a general good time, can be used to describe what's going on ("what's the craic?") or how enjoyable an experience was ("it was good craic!") etc.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

indy, you're preaching in the wrong place!

-Dreaming that I was applying for an "Associate Pastor for Archaeology" position (you can see what's on my mind). It's like Indiana Jones with a stole (or a fair-trade clerical shirt like I ordered today). I couldn't help but wake up amused.

-Looking at the book of Joel with my older ladies' Bible study and taking such painful words in chapter one and finding truth, redemption and authentic relationship there together.

-Getting really excited and inspired by my sister & Clay's creative genius.

Monday, March 22, 2010

mumford @ mandela's

-These pictures don't really do it justice at all, but I went to see one of my favorite bands, Mumford and Sons, perform at the Mandela Hall here in Belfast. They're a bluegrass/folk/rock band from England (who knew?) and have really taken off this year. It honestly was one of the most electric, earnest and exciting concerts I've been to all year. Their thoughtful lyrics, make-you-dance rhythms and humble talent ("we keep waiting for everyone to realize we're not good!") merged with the overwhelming excitement in the room as everyone sang their songs word-for-word at the top of our lungs made for a night I won't soon forget.

-I sometimes forget that I live in a different country (especially after being at a gig that was much like home) because I'm just so used to life here. "Wee's" become part of my everyday speech, cups of tea commonplace and sunshine, rain and hail all in the span of thirty minutes ordinary. Every now and then, I have moments that remind me that I'm in a different place. Case in point tonight: I needed to pop around the corner to the shop (ha! Talking in the vernacular now!) and get something and it was so easy to just toss a couple of pound coins in my pocket and go. I really do like the change instead of bills thing.

-Another great theologically stimulating conversation with Ri over coffee and tea.

-A girl across from me in the coffee shop exclaimed to her friend, "Life is good!"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

drumming up peace

-Going to my happy place (St. George's, of course!) and meeting up with good friends for good food and a chat. I just love it.

-I've been a little obsessed with this gorgeous little blue purse Andrea has and today she revealed where it was found and that it only cost 3 pounds! We've both given up shopping for ourselves for Lent, so we sort of cheated and I bought her a scarf she wanted and she bought me the little blue purse. Seconds after buying them, we swapped and said, "Thanks!" I'm sure it's cheating, but oh well.

-Yesterday there were several bomb alerts in Belfast and Derry, but despite that these remarkably resilient Belfast folk all showed up at youth club, some after being delayed for over an hour because of them, where we had a drum circle the whole time. Several Romanian kids returned too, a perfect night as it was mostly non-verbal communication. Things are fine here, don't worry, if anything the frustration of threats has made people even more resolved that this chapter of Northern Irish history is closed. I think it's created the opposite effect dissident groups causing them are going for. Things are back to normal today. I continue to be impressed and inspired by people here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

paddy, todo and freddie b

Hi everybody! I'm back (well, I've been here, but my computer's been sick and it's back). The laptop guru Andrew has my laptop virus-free and functioning better than she has in years. She's (not sure why she's a she, she just is) over 5 years old and so this for a laptop was the equivalent of a hip replacement that will keep her moving! We have a bit of catching up to do.

-I received two amazing care packages, one from my sista for St. Paddy's Day full of green goodies and adorable niece pictures and one from my grandmother full of warm caps knitted by my great-aunt Lolly. Both were so thoughtful and made me feel much closer to home (and much warmer)! My sister also made a doozy of a St. Paddy's Day blog in my honor! So great.-We had a youth retreat last weekend and had a brilliant time. There were about 30 young people and we were talking about grace all weekend. I used Ephesians a lot, a story from my time in South Africa, a clip from Amelie where she returns a middle-age man's childhood treasures to him sneakily and, of course, some wisdom from Frederick Buechner (I call him "Freddie B" in front of the kids). Here's one of the quotes I used (in addition to the one that's always on this blog):

"The grace of God means something like this: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. "

-The day after coming back from the youth retreat, I found myself Dublin-bound on an 8 am train to visit one of my dad's best friends, my Uncle Todo. He had been travelling around Ireland with a church group and they had a day off in Dublin, so I went down to meet him. We talked (a lot) about Irish/Northern Irish history, my experience here, his family, his travels, my dad and in between all that talking, we managed to have a great lunch, stop in a pub for a coke and stop again later for a cappucino and a chocolate in Butler's Chocolate Cafe. We strolled around St. Stephen's Green and at one point he turned to an older couple sitting on a bench, basking in the rare sunshine and said in his characteristically Texan drawl, "Y'aaaalll look like you're workin' reeeall hard!" I'm not sure they even understood his accent, but it made me laugh. We also went in a very upscale cigar shop on Grafton Street (Uncle Todo loves cigars) and he proceeded to pull one of his Texas-made Travis Club cigars out of his pocket and give it to the man working there, saying "Here's a little something for you to try...the only cigar made in Texas!" I guarantee that the cigar shop man had never actually been given a cigar by a customer before. That's just how Uncle Todo is. He brought me an 8 lb bag of flour tortilla mix and I've already made several. They taste just like home. Uncle Todo and my dad have been friends since they were very small and I felt like I got to know my dad in a new way by spending a day with one of his best friends. It was great.

-St. Patrick's Day was spent in the Holylands, the area around Fitzroy. There are about 7,000 students who live there, the vast majority of them Catholic, and so St. Patrick's Day is a very big deal. Last year, unfortunately, the drinking got out of control and the police came in in full riot gear to confront the students, which of course, started a riot. It was not good. But this year, we decided to be more proactive than reactive and give the students bacon sandwiches, biscuits, tea and coffee all day long to keep them a bit more sober and to show some Protestant goodwill towards St. Patrick's Day. It was a success: plenty of drunken antics and seas of green people, but no rioting or violence. Now that's a happy St. Paddy's Day in Belfast. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

into the blue

Last weekend, I had the rare chance to get away and a wonderfully generous family at Fitzroy offered me their holiday home to escape to in Castlerock. I hopped on the train wielding my tea and cinnamon roll and excitedly prepared to get away from it all on the beach. I sat next to a very friendly, very chatty older woman named Lily, and we (well, her really) talked most of the way there. Before I knew it, Iwas lugging my bag off of the train and looking around at a quaint, sunlit beach community.

The very modern house I was staying in was just a short walk away and I quickly fell in love with the personality and simplicity of Castlerock. I bought eggs and bacon from the "village butcher" (that's his official name), warm homemade wheaten bread from the bakery and a few other things from the only grocery store in town--all right within walking distance. My friend Suzie was nearby visiting her parents and so she came up on Saturday in her mini convertable and we walked the beach, drove around a bit and had coffee in the coffee shop (yup, the only one in town). I expected myself to hibernate in the amazing house and cook, sleep and spend a couple of days in my pj's, but having the beach just a 10-minute walk away was too tempting.

The sun shone brightly the whole time, and I had my very own spot in the dunes (you can walk in them here) to read and watch the waves every day. The sky was, like described once in Harry Potter, "so blue that it looked like it had been enamelled." I drank my morning coffee on the beach, walked along cliff edges (gulp!), had homemade ice cream and read Harry Potter and Buechner on the beach during the day, then hibernated as soon as the warming sun went down at night by cooking and watching Harry Potter (bit of a theme here) and Stardust. It was refueling, refreshing, re-creating. What a wonderful time!