Subway Prophet

…and the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls…


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Update from Me and LJW

Wow…My first term in England is almost over, Thanksgiving has gone, Christmas is just around the corner, and as I knew would happen, it has been a long time since there has been a post on here. There have been lots of posts in my head, but none have been finished. I blame the quick succession of papers, presentations, and long conversations in the common room over cups and cups of tea. So, what I thought I would do is to give an overview of the past few weeks through a massive Little John Wesley update. LJW is a very helpful companion, because if I don’t do fun things every now and then, he gets rather cross with me. I know what you are thinking: How can his stitched smile look scary? Trust me. It does. So, here it is

LJW and a Monk

LJW and a Monk

Right after All Saints Day, The Methodist students all took a retreat to the monastery at Ampleforth Abby. It was a great time together. We focused on the “I AM…” sayings in the Gospel of John with brief devotions throughout the day followed by longer periods of personal reflection and rest. After a busy few weeks, it was a very welcome break! It was also very nice to be at an Abby and participate with the monastic order of prayer. Monastic worship has been meaningful to me for a long time and sitting in the choir with the monks was beautiful as their chants and prayers washed over us. After five long weeks of getting used to England, classes, and each other, to be able to get away from college, and gel as a community was more welcome than many of us realized. The one downside was that our Anglican friends were not there. They had a retreat for themselves, but sharing stories when we returned helped to bridge the gap.

LJW visits Whitby

LJW visits Whitby

The week after Reading Week was my birthday! Birthdays are one of those times of the year when you can throw a party and invite your closest friends and family and have a good time. This year was the big quarter century mark, which makes me feel rather old. As I thought about how to celebrate my birthday, I decided that I wanted a distinctly English experience. Which means that it needed to include Fish and Chips. This was also significant because my birthday was also my two month anniversary in England, so a Chip shop needed to happen. After much research I discovered that the town of Whitby has one of the best Fish and Chips in the country (as well as the best Mushy peas! Don’t curl your nose up. They are my favorite English side dish after the Yorkshire pudding). We woke up kinda early,went to McDonalds for Breakfast (“American” Style), and then off to the beach. It was VERY cold and very cool. Whitby is where Dracula was set, as well as beautiful lighthouses, and a ruined monastery. Kayla, who is my fellow Americah came along for the fun as well as two of our friends who are Anglican ordinands. Road Trips are always exciting, so it was good to have fun people to spend the day with.

LJW enjoys a Thanksgiving Meal

LJW enjoys a Thanksgiving Meal

The next exciting holiday was Thanksgiving! If you ever want to feel out of place,try explaining Thanksgiving to someone in England. I was surprised how many people had very little idea of what the holiday was all about, so it was fun sharing the story of pilgrims, Indians, massive feasts and subsequent oppression and unrest. To celebrate Kayla and I taught some of our fellow students how to draw hand turkeys. For me one of the highlights were all of our British friends wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving. It represented the hospitality which I have received time and time again since I have been in this country. Here was a very American holiday which could have been entirely depressing and a stark reminder of how far away from home I was. However, with each cheery greeting I was reminded that the heart of the holiday is the love of family and friends. Therefore, as much as I missed home, at the end of the day, I was thankful for the new friends that I have made and the community we have created. This was brought to the foreground even more over the weekend when Kayla and I forgot about our pending papers and spend 15 hours in the kitchen of some friends’ house cooking up a “proper” Thanksgiving meal. It included all the fixin’s from both of our families. There is nothing like a post-Turkey coma to remind you of home :).

So, there it is. Next week is our last normal week of classes. Following that is a week-long intensive class followed by a four week break. There is more to come, but I hope that this will appease those of you who have been checking and not seeing any changes. Here is a gallery of more pictures from the past month. Click through and enjoy!

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My American Lives

I know that two posts in a row about death, is a bit morbid, but this is my blog, my life, and my grief, so deal with it.

Having lost two grandparents and my last great-grandparent this year, I have been doing a lot of thinking about death and grief. One of the surprising things I have discovered is that in grief there are certainly tears, but there are also a lot of laughs. Usually these come with remembering a funny story, or a particular quirk. The tears and the laughs so intermingled that they could be the same thing.

Today I saw a post by This American Life which featured a series of obituaries which only they could do. They focused on one story in the person’s life told either themselves, or by someone who was close to them. As with TAL, it is a celebration of the everyday person and the beauty we often overlook in our own lives. (My favorites are this, this, and this. Oh and for the math nerds, this.)

As I read each story, my mind went to the stories of my grandparents, and so I thought I would memorialize them here in a similar fashion. Having already told my favorite stories about Granny, I want to highlight the other two here.

Luella (Lala) Killinger (Aug 31, 1912-May 4, 2011) was born in the farmlands of Iowa and moved to Gainesville with my grandfather. She worked at the Police station as the Chief’s secretary for many years, where according to one of  the officers “she ran the office.” She was an avid fan or bridge, BINGO, and of course the Gators.

Stewart (Stute) Munson (July 26, 1929-July 9, 2011) was raised in Titusville, and worked for IBM fixing typriters. He and my grandmother got married (both for the second time) at parents’ house, catching them both completely by surprise! He enjoyed playing around in the kitchen, sometimes with success.

The Story

When I was in Middle School, my family was trying to decide where to take Stute for his birthday. After a few boring suggestions, we decided on every man, and Middle Schooler’s dream location–Hooters. We decided to keep it a surprise (a risky idea for a man who had already had one heart attack). We get him into the car and drive up to the restaurant, and the minute he sees where we are his eyes got as big as…saucers…and his face turns bright red. As much as he protested we draged him through the doors and over to our table. The entire night he was the center of attention. Young attractive servers sat on his lap to take his order, sang happy birthday, and tried to get him to dance on the table. Through the whole ordeal, his face remained the same color and he hardly said a word. It was hilarious.  However, the funnier person was Lala. Having told her in advance where we were going she spent the whole week telling everyone  at her independent living facility who would listen where we are going. To say that she was excited would be an understatement. As we were picking her up, she walked down the halls wearing it as a badge of honor, stopping to remind her friends where we were going. Sitting in the restaurant opposite Stute’s frowns, she was all smiles, looking around, taking it all in, and ready to report her adventure to her dinner buddies the next day. I think they both had a night which will soon be relatively famous.


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Happy Birthday Jesus?

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When I went to my DCOM meeting this year, a nice elderly lady gave me a cupcake for dessert with a candle prominently displayed: “It is for Jesus’ birthday!” she told me, proud of her creativity. This Birthday theme has been rattling around in my head since then. It was on the Baptist Church’s sign on our way to Church last night, and then came up again in the children’s sermon.

Is it really appropriate to say “Happy Birthday Jesus?”

Now, I don’t want to sound like a Grinch, but I think that there is a difference between a birthday celebration and the celebration of Christmas. But isn’t Christmas the celebration of Jesus’ birth?

Yes. Christmas is a time when the Church commemorates the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus, however, this is different. As most scholars have determined, Jesus was not born in December (the exact date is unknown), therefore, why would we say Happy Birthday, months late? (how rude!).

When we celebrate a birthday (mine is Nov 17, FYI), it is celebrating the day a person was born. It is a time when we can show people that we care they survived another trip around the sun.

Christmas is more than that. Where as birthdays emphasize the day, Christmas emphasizes the birth. It is a celebration, not of the day Jesus was born, but that Jesus was born. Therefore, this morning as we open our presents and perhaps read the Christmas story, let us remember that the day is not important, but it is the birth behind the day.

Therefore, I leave you with my favorite birth narrative, from the Gospel of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:1-5, 10-16 NRSV)