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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Train Delays...Because of Me

So, for awhile now I've had this great weekend trip to London planned. I wanted to see my running buddies, visit the American International Church in London and get some work done on my project. I booked a nice trip on the Eurostar, leaving Paris at 8.43 a.m. arriving in London at 10.00. Perfect. My good friend made plans with the running group to meet for lunch at a favorite restaurant at noon. A friend from church would meet me at the train station with an empty Oyster card so I could fill it up and get going on public transport in London. So easy. Until I screwed it up.
Perhaps I should've known that this was going to be a wild day when I fell down the stairs going out of the church. In an attempt to not let the huge door bang behind me, I was trying to ease it shut, but in the meantime, my heel caught the stair and I went down flat on my face.  Fortunately no injury and the wine in my suitcase didn't break. Oj. From there, the bus ride to the train station could not have been any easier or smooth. I arrived with plenty of time, and make my way through ticketing and passport control. There were lots of people and I knew that there was a 9.13 train in addition to my 8.43, but somehow missed that everyone for the 8.43 has already boarded so I took a seat in the louge. Eventually I looked at my watch and it says like 8.42 and I am not on the train so I know I am trouble. I decided to make a run for it to see if I can still catch my train. Everything was blocked off but a woman said, go, go, they will open the door. Well, I didn't really know where I was going so ran down a stairwell and out a security sealed door that led I walked back in and up the stairs and finally made it onto the platform, but alas the train was gone. The Eurostar agents were there and I couldn't even speak because I was so out of breath and panicked and they wondered how I had gotten to the platform, which would later become an important question. Anyway...trying to explain how stupid I was, that I had been sitting in the lounge, but missed the boarding call, that I am new to this train station and the Eurostar, and no I don't speak French, I found that they were actually very nice. They got me a seat on the 9.13 and I thought all was well until at about 9.10 an announcement came that said we've had a security breech and we are delayed. Then the customs\police got on and found me and wanted to see my luggage...they said, the blue bag and the black bag and didn't you have a white coat? Obviously, there was video. So of course, I complied and got off and they said, You have made a very BEEEEG Mistake. You opened a sealed security door and you now represent a security risk. Uh oh. Now we have to get French customs involved and we do not know what they will say and now all of the trains are delayed as traffic has stopped. I had successfully stopped all train traffic and created a security risk by opening that sealed door. Anyone not yet on the 9.13 train had to wait and some had to get off. Oops. They took me back into the terminal where the dogs sniffed my bags, they took my passport information, and continued to give me dirty looks. Actually, they were very nice even if serious. They knew I had made a mistake but still, since I breached the security door, it created a huge problem for re-securing the train station. Obviously security is a big deal right now, especially between France and England when a giant metal tube is going to shoot through an underwater tunnel! Then they took my passport and had me go to the ticket agent to get reseated once again, which I feel very lucky about. Then I couldn't find my passport!!! Turns out they still had it so then I got it back. I finally got on the train at 10.45 and and instead of pulling into London at 10.00 a.m. local time, I will land at 12.30, 2.5 hours beyond my original arrival. The lunch crew is trying to change the reservation to 12.30 and I will take a cab up to the restaurant! Thankfully the hour time change works in my favor in this direction!
The French countryside is moving along. The golden fields of rape seed are lighting up the landscape and everything is green and the trees are filling in. Train travel is pretty relaxing except when you miss your train and go through the worst door possible. The French were very patient with me and I want to give a shout out to how great they were. Some of the Eurostar agents even apologized to me for the delay. 

I suppose I have a good story in my pocket but believe me, it's not a lot of fun being taken off the train by customs agents and police, walked through a crowd who are delayed because of you and wonder what the next steps would be. Thankfully not many who were delayed know that I was perp who created the stir. We're all just mostly relaxing watching the world go by.
I'm excited about my weekend in London. It's just getting started a little later than I expected and with a bit more sweat equity than I needed first thing in the morning! And it just goest to show that no matter how seasoned you think you are as a traveler, there's always another thing you can do wrong. Just glad it doesn't have deeper consequences than being a bit delayed. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter at the American Church in Paris

The holiest of weeks in the Christian year is behind us. We've journeyed to the cross, entered the anguish of Christ's suffering and celebrated his resurrection. Easter is over but our new life in Christ lives on.
Easter at ACP was one that we will remember for the rest of our days. Services each night of holy week prepared us well for a weekend of meaningful worship culminating with an Easter day celebration that brought great joy and meaning to the day. It all started at 7.00am on the quai across the street from the church with a sunrise service.  
 It was a chilly but beautiful morning and it was a delight to watch people gather as we sang, heard the Easter sermon of St. John of Chrysostom read, and participated in the baptism of 3 people. What a way to begin the Easter celebrations! 
 We were all ready for some warming up and a beautiful breakfast awaited us in one of the fellowship rooms. The community life group really outdid themselves in getting things ready for this beautiful Easter breakfast.      Soon it was time to begin the 9.00 service.  The prelude featured three soloists singing pieces from Handel's Messiah. I was on the platform at the time so was lucky enough to be up close and personal when the soloist and trumpter played The Trumpets will Sound. It was so powerful and moving. I had no trouble being excited to stand and welcome people to worship with the words "Christ is Risen". The entire service got better and better with each element. The opening hymn was a blend of Jesus Christ is Risen Today and Thine is the Glory, a beautiful arrangement that the talented musical director put together. There were handbells and brass, choral music and a kids choir, all of it bringing praise and glory to our resurrected Lord.  These are the days when you are so happy that you get to do the service again! A mere 30 minutes separated the end of the first service and the start of the second. It was equally as joyous the second time around! There was a bit more time between the end of the 11.00 service and the start of the 1.30 contemporary service. What fun to see the transition in style with yet another full sanctuary.   Finally at about 3.00pm the worship services had ended and there was time for a cup of coffee with church members and friends. What a day! So memorable and so meaningful. 
That evening we were invited to join the senior pastor, his wife and two kids along with another couple for a fantastic Easter dinner. The meal was just perfect and beautiful in every possible way. The company was lovely as we relaxed and reflected on life and friendship. It is a true gift for us to spend this abiding time with Kim and Scott, long time friends through International minstry. It was great to connect with the 2 kids they have at home right now as well since we don't get to see a great deal of them due to the demands of their school schedules. They indulged our desire to hear them play guitar and sing towards the end of the evening. So much fun!

 For some time now I have made pavlova for an Easter dessert and it was great fun to put it together this year and serve it up. It turned out really well and we managed to eat most of it!  There was no shortage of good food and drink on Easter. Friends who were with us Saturday night brought us the most elegant, adorable box of delicious Easter chocolates. It is almost too pretty to eat. (Note how I said 'almost'). The box itself was really cool with the top shelf sliding out to reveal an ever more delicious second layer of yumminess.  Easter Monday was a day of rest for us as I'm sure it was for most pastors. It was a public holiday here in France so it was quiet in the church and in our  neighborhood. The joy of the day lingers for sure. And the beautiful Easter lily that we purchased in memory of my parents and Doug's father now adorns our home.   The fragrance and beauty of the plant remind us of the joyous promise of the resurrection, that death does not have the final victory. We miss our loved ones during these high holy days, but we remain thankful for the joy of this church, the ministry that unfolds in this place, the creative energy that leads people in worship and draws them ever closer to the joy of life in Christ, our resurrected Lord. Thanks be to God for his marvelous gifts.