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Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Via Dolorosa

The Via Dolorosa. The way of pain or grief. It is the route in Jerusalem that Christ walked on his way to the cross. We walked it as we wandered through Jerusalem last April.
And every year during Holy Week, we seek to walk through it in our own way. Several worship opportunities emerge throughout the weekend of Easter. Thursday of this week has a name, Maundy Thursday, lifting up the Last Supper that Christ spent with his disciples the night he was betrayed. Friday has a name, Good Friday, good because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And Sunday of course, has a name, Easter, Resurrection Sunday, the day we celebrate Christ's victory over sorrow and death and claim the new life that awaits us in Christ. But Saturday. Saturday has no name. Saturday has no service. Saturday is a quiet day of sadness as we live with death while awaiting the resurrection. Perhaps Saturday is the day when the Via Dolorosa comes more painfully close to our lives.
Our family has seen its own share of moments on the via Dolorosa. For the past 9 years we have experienced 6 significant moments on the via Dolorosa in our lives. In March 2009 my brother passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. In July of 2011 Doug's oldest sister died of cancer. In April of 2013 my mom died of cancer. In April of 2014 my dad died of complications related to a twisted colon and cardiac issues. In May of 2015 Doug's youngest sister died of cancer. And now, just 3 days ago, in March of 2016 Doug's beloved father died at the age of 88 after a long and wonderful life. Each death has brought deep sorrow and left gaping holes in our lives. Each death has been buoyed however by our abiding faith and the faith of our loved ones. It's Friday but Sunday's coming has been a mantra that we've hung onto throughout these sorrowful seasons that have come at us at a too rapid pace. Each death has brought the sting of walking on the via Dolorosa once again but also the renewed knowledge and hope that the empty tomb does follow. But even in the midst of the hope that Easter brings, there is grief and sadness and longing. And so in many ways, the poignant nature of this sorrowful Saturday when we wait in darkness for the dawning light of Easter morning to break through, it is appropriate to take time to acknowledge the spaces in our lives where we feel loss. Where the hope that we cling to feels just a little bit out of reach at the moment. Where sadness reigns for the time being.
Christ's anguish in Gethsemane assures us that he is indeed
with us in ours.
     Author Philip Yancey observes that “in a real sense we live on Saturday, the day with no name. Human history grinds on, between the time of promise and fulfillment. Can we trust that God can make something holy and beautiful and good out of a world that includes genocide and war, violence at the hands of angry terrorists, inner-city ghettos and jammed prisons (and deaths of family members)? Yes, it can be said that it is Saturday on planet earth. And in so many ways we do live out our days on Saturday, the empty, in-between day with no name. And yet, we are assured that we don't have to wonder if Sunday will ever come. Christ's resurrection offers us the promise of a new life not only beyond the grave but beyond the grave circumstances that often dot our live. Christ's resurrection does not offer us a free ticket away from life's disasters, however, it does provide the knowledge that Christ can and will transform all of our darkness into a shining light that will eventually be filled with a joy that no one or no thing can ever diminish."
I will use that quote in my sermon tomorrow and I am clinging to it today, when the passings of our family members is fresh. When the sadness of celebrating the joy of Easter without these loved one is hard to take sometimes. When the sorrow of death makes us feel empty. Yes, we wait, we wait with anticipation for the time when the empty tomb will fill our empty places with a hope that will not end. 
And so on this sorrowful Saturday, I offer these final thoughts: Peace to the memory of Paul Fondell. I often said to people that Doug's father is the nicest person on earth. There was no guile in Paul, only gracious, gentle, tender kindness that he showered on others with tremendous humility and grace. He joins the Lord he loved so deeply, his beloved daughters Debbie and Jan, and members of my immediate family, Ted and Rose Ann and Bill Mullen. Thanks be to God that the resurrection is real to them...renewed and restored from earthly bodies that had broken down. And thanks be to God that the resurrection is real to us as due time. For today, I will sit with my sorrow and be thankful that it does not have the last word.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fun on the South Coast: Hastings

So last Sunday evening we snuck out of town on train headed for Hastings. A young couple from Immanuel had moved back to England and opened up a B&B there...a dream they had spoken of while they were living in Sweden. It is called The Laindons. Click here for their website.
Their B&B is gorgeous and we were treated as VIP guests. Our room was luxurious and beautiful. The Scandinavian influence was palpable and we loved it! (I cannot believe I did not get one photo of the interior of our room.)
We awoke in the morning to a made to order breakfast in The Laindons beautiful conservatory/breakfast room with this fantastic view. The food was delicious. We started with this yogurt/fruit parfait and fresh squeezed orange juice followed by a full English breakfast (heart attack on a plate) for Doug and more modest bacon, egg and avocado plateful for me. Delicious coffee roasted by Jon was the perfect kick starter to our day.
Hastings is a very lovely town with a big history of fishing and boating We didn't want to do anything except wander around and soak it in. It was a gorgeous sunny day even if the wind was a bit chilly. We did manage to find a warm, sunny spot for a bit of refreshment that was so relaxing and nice.
Cutest window in old woman under the sink!
Antique stores, colorful facades, interesting curiosity shops dotted the cobbled streets and the architecture was a wonderful mix of tudor and modern. We just loved everything we encountered.
We enjoyed a wander through the Fisherman's museum where we learned a bit more about the industry. In boating/fishing communities, the people really stick together and there's something very special about these salty communities.
The east and west hills rise above the town offering spectacular views. A wonderful funicular saves you steps and energy as you take an almost vertical ride up to the top. Gorgeous acres of green await you and the views of the town and the sea are well worth the effort. The B&B was clearly visible! 
We wandered through the cobbled streets, stopping to take in the sea views, the fresh fish, more of the architecture. While apparently this fish and chips shop doesn't have the best fish in town, you have to give them props for their name! The walk along the seaside was so nice that I actually went for an evening run later that day. Good thing that I did because when we got back to the B&B, Sara had homemade scones ready for afternoon tea! Delicious. I love me a good scone, cream and jam!
Hastings is an adorable town with lovely views and great architecture.If you are into antique shopping, antique stores also abound. I can only imagine in the middle of summer what a fun playground this coastal village becomes.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Incredible World of Harry Potter

Last week we had some dear friends who we knew from our church in Stockholm come and spend a few days of their winter break with us. Their 8 year son is a big Harry Potter fan (as is their older son too!) so the main point of the visit was to go to Warner Bros. Studios here in London and see where the movies were filmed. I have read all 7 books but only seen a couple of the films. Doug is not so familiar with these stories but the film making process was interesting to him. Tanner wanted to go but had to settle for his best Harry impression at home. So off we went, all 6 of us crammed in the car, traveling across the English countryside!
We were not disappointed! The studio tour is awesome and it's really fun to step into these places that have been recreated from the book onto a film set. It all starts in Harry's room under the stairs on Privet Dr. I especially loved how they showed the progression of the child actors and how they grew throughout the process.
The small robe on the left is Daniel Radcliffe's first!
The green pot stirred itself.
I loved the potions room set and the Weasley house. At times, you could really feel the presence of Alan Rickman. The great hall was indeed great! This table surrounded by death eaters watching this snake go after the suspended girl above was very creepy. Dumbldore's office was indeed enviable. And Diagon Alley was great fun to wander through and you almost wished that you could go inside the shops and experience what the lucky students of Hogwarts were able to! 
The Gryffindor common room
A trick of the eye...this is a very small, not very big set!
The boys on the Hogwarts Express
Beloved Dobby
The end of the tour is very impressive as you come upon a huge model of Hogwarts. It's really quite stunning to turn the corner and catch a glimpse of this masterpiece.
No tour would be complete without sipping on butter beer. I actually liked it quite a bit. It's a sweet, caramelly treat. One was enough. And of course, I had to give platform 9 and 3/4 my own shot!
The huge wand room that features a wand box for every person who worked on the film was a touching tribute to the hundreds of people who played a role in bringing these magnificent stories to life. The backlot still contains the Potter house, complete with the hole in the roof and the Knight bus. The flying car and Hagrid's motorbike were great fun to sit in! All in all, a great tour for adults and children a like. Definitely might need to see the films to enjoy the magic once again.Thanks Juhres! It was a great day together!