Thursday, July 23, 2009

Alive and Well

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I only have 6 minutes and 20 seconds to type this blog. The time is running out on the internet hour I purchased at the local library! Yikes...hurry, hurry, hurry.

Trouble is I am using so many words to tell you that I have little to no time to make a posting. That's the irony of this post. I have spent just about all of the time telling you how I have hardly any time to post.

Since blogging last, things have been much, much better.

I visited the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney yesterday!!! For a HUGE Beatles fan, this mean a whole lot to me.

The day before, I visited Manchester, a city about an hour from Liverpool by train. Gorgeous. Plenty of pictures to come hopefully! (I took like a hundred or more when I was there).

The day before that, I took an open-top bus tour of Liverpool. Also saw several Rembrandt pictures in the Walker Art Gallery in the city.

Before that, I went up to a tall radio tower called 96.7. One of the morning hosts actually invited me up there for a free tour! It was amazing. The chance of meeting him was so incredible...I met him in the gym that I have a temporary two week membership at. So I was able to get more musical fixes while in Liverpool, aside from my Beatle bonding moments.

I hope all is well with all of you.

peace, prayers and blessings~

with love,

your friend bob : )

JUST FINISHED --- 45 seconds left before the internet shuts off on me!!!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Financial Crisis

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

The last day or so has been damnright frustrating!
I struggled and struggled and struggled to find a cash machine that would allow me to withdrawal money. Thus, I have had little walking around money to speak of the last few days.

However, that is not the most frustrating part of this financial crisis. I was intending on withdrawing money to pay my host Sheila who has been wonderful enough to arrange for me to stay and live with her for several weeks, alongside two high school foreign exchange students from Spain and France, Sergio and Theo.

For the last few days, the money that should be in the hands of Sheila (most of it donated by people from my church at home who were kind enough to donate money to my pilgrimage to Lourdes, France) has been caught in the web of worldwide proportions. That is to say, the money is there in theory but not in practice. I have the funds in the account–––but I can’t access them. And after phoning my bank twice, they have concluded that there is nothing wrong with my account. Still, there is nothing they can do to help me. Chase is terribly sorry for this inconvenience they told me. Is it me or them that is the problem?

It has been frustrating and embarrassing. I feel like that person who keeps saying “oh right, I’ll pay you right away…real soon,” but who never seems to cough up the cash.

But…tomorrow is another day. Thank God for Western Unions! The money is being wired to me to a Western Union from my trustful father because that is the only way I can get money at the time (aside from using a credit card…but that gets expensive…Western Union is expensive too!). I can pick it up tomorrow mid-morning and be on my way, hopefully.

All’s well that ends well (I’ve been reading a Shakespeare biography lately…wonderful book by a historian and comedic fellow from Britain named Bill Bryson)…and I pray that this really does END well.

It’s funny…amidst this personal financial crisis I’ve really been having quite a wonderful time. Aside from today, Liverpool has been a very rewarding and refreshing experience. And I hope that after tomorrow, I can live it with fresh eyes and a feeling that I am stable financially.

While I was reading an evening prayer tonight, I chuckled to myself at the content of the particular passage (from James, chapter 1, verses 2 – 8). The author writes: “Count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial. Realize that when your faith is tested this makes for endurance.” Haha…talk about faith being tested and going through a trial. I thought I was going mad not being able to withdrawal money. I thought maybe I had changed the pin on myself and done away with the password or something. But, I might as well just sit back and have a good old laugh about all of this. For what will the worrying do me? It will only make my trip less than it can be.

This trial has to give me endurance…it is just a little trial. As the saying goes, there is so much bigger fish to fry (and the fish and chips have been marvelous thus far here in England!).
There are people who don’t have anything to eat, who have been kicked out of their home. Take, for instance, the gentlemen who stopped me yesterday as I was sitting down to eat a packed lunch Sheila had made me. The man says to me he has been kicked out of his house by his girlfriend, hasn’t eaten for days, is going through some major financial struggles, etc. The lot has been cast on him and he is sinking in the Mersey River. He is looking for mercy. Whether his story was true or fabricated, I cared not. I gave him my lunch, he told me to keep the apple, and I walked a ways to the nearest pub to have myself a tuna and a pint. I pray that that man’s safe and sound somewhere tonight. It’s been raining like mad the whole day!

Sometimes, our own struggles become something so severe that they shut our eyes from some of the most spirit sucking struggles people go through on a daily basis. When we swallow our self-pill, keeping our self in check, looking out for what we need to when we need to, and then using our excess energy and God-given grace to be there for others, we are doing what Christ did; we our acting as a charitable member of the human race. When we run that extra mile, push ourselves a little further, we are living saintly, outside of ourselves, a disciple who cares more for his sister than himself.

Sheila, thus far, has been a kind of saint figure. I’ll be honest. The way she cares for the three of us living under her roof–––like a parent, a mother cares for her own children–––is incredible. It is breathtaking to see the energy she exerts on our behalf. She is showing me what it is like to be a saint. She is what I imagine early deaconesses in the church to be like–––people, women who provide others with Christian hospitality. Sheila is a living saint in my life right now, one that I am very thankful for.

The money issue, the financial crisis I am in? Well…I must remember the story of Jesus’ apostles worrying they won’t have what they need for the journey. What does Christ tell them? It will all be okay. Things will work out fine. One of Sheila’s favorite words is “okay.” She says it in this absolutely fabulous Liverpool accent. “Okay!”

Well God, make things okay today. Make things okay tomorrow. Make things okay for life. Maybe you need an okay from God today. If you do need such a thing, just ask. In faith, God will provide your okay!

Peace and blessings,

With love your friend bob : )

Domestic Church in Liverpool

An experience of domestic church I won’t forget:

My first night in Liverpool, staying with my lovely friend Sheila and two foreign exchange students she is hosting for the next few weeks, I experienced domestic church. It was that feeling of worshipping God where only two or three (well, in our case four) are gathered.

Before devouring steak, fries, onion rings and green peas (and roley poley jam filled caked for desert), we came together to say an evening prayer. Borrowing from the Christian prayer book, I invited Sergio, the student from Spain, to read the Psalms. I figured it could be a way for him to practice speaking and reading some English. Also, I had found out that both he and Theo, the young man from France staying with us, were Catholic Christians. Alongside Sheila, the Catholic woman who has helped organize my coming on a pilgrimage with the Diocese of Shrewsbury to Lourdes, France, we all prayed in her house the universal common prayers that people all over the world say in the church. The psalms we prayed were the same psalms that Jesus and his apostles and disciples would pray at night after having spent the day in ministry preaching and teaching. (Granted he wasn’t speaking in English---not even the Queen’s English). Nevertheless, the fact that all of us were coming together in a common prayer style, in communion, before eating a meal together, made me reflect on a most basic paradox of what it means to be a person: while we are all unique and have our own sense of culture and self, we are all one in the sense that we all need food to survive, we all cherish hospitality and crave community and friendship and love.

I think what made me most happy about the meal wasn’t the steak doused in Worchester Sauce, or the French (English) fries dipped liberally in Daddie’s brand ketchup. I think what I loved the most about the meal was how it symbolized an essential element of my faith. And I thank God for being able to share in that experience.

Peace and blessings~

With love,

Your friend bob : )

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My 100th Post---In England!

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I am so excited. Not only is it my 100th posting! Yay...but I am currently laying on a bed in a quaint bed and breakfast, the Stretton House, in Stratford-upon-Avon England, the birthplace of some writer named Bill Shakespeare. Apparently, this Shakespeare fellow is pretty popular in literature circles and, in general, worldwide. Huh! haha.

But in all seriousness, it really is quite lovely to be resting in a place where one of the most, if not the most, influential English authors to ever create fiction and poetry began his life. I sat at a pub called the Falcon tonight, the building where Shakespeare was actually BORN, and nursed a pint of lager while scribbling away in my notebook trying to write something ficticious. The place and the pint inspired me to get to page three...but by then it was raining pretty steadily.

So I walked home (to the bed and breakfast) in the drizzle. This kind of weather is typical in England. Misty, drizzly, barely windshield wiper rain. Enough to make you just wet enough to have to change your clothes when you get back to where you are staying.

And this has made me incredibly happy and satisfied tonight. I wouldn't exchange a rainy Saturday night in Stratford-Upon-Avon for anything else---which tells me I am as satisfied as I can be in the moment. And I thank God for this pleasant experience.

My trip thus far has been just that---pleasant. I can't think of a much more precise word than that to describe all the sights, sounds and Brits I have thus far observed and engaged in conversation with.

Tonight, eating dinner at King Fisher's---THE BEST FISH AND CHIPS in Stratford, according to my Rough Guide tour book (which has been a blessing thus far for a person who is indesisive when making decisions about places to eat and visit, and who struggles without a highly logical map (the book provided me with some structure for my Stratfording on Saturday evening)), I met four wonderful elderly people from Liverpool. Two couples, two sisters and their husbands to be exact, were devouring the same delicious fish and chip special that filled my belly tonight. Small world indeed...I had asked the waitress the best means of transportation to Liverpool when the four people sitting behind me chimed in, noting that they were actually from Liverpool! Well...that got us to talking. Talking about the Beatles, the ferry across the Mersey, Merseyside (it turns out one of the sisters works about one quarter of a kilometer from where I will be staying with my friend Sheila come Monday!).

I am so excited for continuing the next four weeks in England and France. The past few days have been, as I previously mentioned, so very pleasant. Staying with my friend Rachel and her father in Oxford, England, I was able to tour some of the oldest, most prestigious colleges in the entire world. I also went punting in the Thames river, grabbed a drink in a pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkein used to relax, and toured some beautiful churches and chapels. I was also able to run in nice, 65 to 70 F and partly cloudy weather, and to connect with a good friend of mine from college. Overall, I would say that England has been charming and incredibly rewarding thus far.

I'm off to finish my nightcap of English tea with a little bit of milk in it. Cheers until my next posting!

Prayers, peace and blessings.

with love,

your friend bob : )

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Just leaving Heathrow Airport

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

I am so terribly tired...but I look good. That's because I am being a trendy tec. kid, sending this blog out on a bus from London's Heathrow Airport on my way to Oxford. (The Wi-Fi was free). Wow it has been a long, long day (and then night and now day again) of traveling. I have met some wonderful people thus far, especially a new friend I sat next to on the plan from Dublin to London who is from Botswana! She had been studying at university in Dublin and is now on her way to be reunited with family, boyfriend and friends! It was a blessing to be able to set next to her on her plane ride home after years of schooling!

I hope all is well with everyone back at home. I'll try and keep you posted periodically on whats going on. I should be in Oxford England in just over an hour or so. Prayers, peace and blessings.

with love,

your friend bob : )

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Life Worth Living

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

I just wanted to post a blurb of a moment; one of those "life is worth living" moments. What do I mean? Well, I rode my bike back from Summerfest tonight after seeing Elvis Costello perform (solid show!). After returning to St. Francis Seminary (where I have been staying this summer while in Milwaukee), I brought my bike into the house. Since I am leaving for Europe on Tuesday (I'm so, so excited!) and will be gone for over a month, I figured I would store my bike in my temporary room (I am staying in this room until they kick me out...I already have a room in my seminary in Chicago.)

Anyways...the "life is worth living" moment. I leave the dining room after grabbing a before bed snack and I realize I have two options with this bike in my hands: I can either walk it casually to the elevator...or I can ride it through the dining room to the stairs and finally to the elevator. Feeling a bit mischevious and carefree, I chose the latter. To be able to ride a bike inside, even if just for a few seconds, was incredibly liberating. Why? I don't know. Maybe it was that feeling of freedom that comes every once in awhile you can't quite comprehend. Maybe it was that feeling of a gentle breeze that a pedal bike ride can give a person. Maybe it was the feeling of being alone but being connected with the world all at once through a Spirit of Life and Love.

Whatever the freedom of the moment riding a bike inside a large seminary building meant, it provided me with an opportunity to thank God for life. It is worth is so so worth it. If nothing else, we have those little pure moments of joy we can't explain. And those moments, the unexpected, unexplainable dimension of them...the freeness of the freedom within those moments...that is what we can come to call cherishable. The moments with a person, people, or simply ourselves. It is in those moments that we begin to feel the dimension of a life worth living. And like I said before, I thank God---a God who is Love. I thank Life and the Love that gave life its meaning.

peace and blessings and I look forward to keeping all of you posted on my travels in England and France!

with love,

your friend bob : )