Saturday, 12 September 2009

Training Trevor and a crazy week!

its been a long time since I'vve put anything on this blog so I thought it was time that I got back to it!

The last week has been crazy - Training Trebor arrived at last! Friday was all day with the Youth workers, people full time in ministry and anyone else who was prepared to miss work for the day to be there! I got to spend all day (when I wasn't sorting equipment!) with Marv Penner, listening to his all day seminar on working with teenagers who are hurting. It was really powerful stuff but fascinating listening to Marv talking about something that he is so passionate about and telling stories.

I guess listening to training like that reminds me of the honour of being a youth worker and hanging out with teenagers - whether they are in a good place or bad. I guess that is the bit that I miss about being a youth worker - not the politics of working in a church or the difficulty of with all the things that involves, but just hanging out with teenagers. I miss that. And I should probably try and find ways to do that - and maybe be a volunteer leader - to be able to use the skills and experience I have - without all the responsibility of being paid for it!!

Friday, 10 April 2009


I've had a weird week.....

I heard some news that seemed horrible at the time and then I went home and heard some other news that put everything into perspective. Sometimes - often really - I am very selfish and everything revovles around me - but this week I had my eyes lifted off me to see that actually my life is very easy and good and the things that I think are important, really aren't. I guess I got reminded about the things that are important and how lucky I am to have them - my family, loads of really great friends, a home, a good job and my health. So many people I know don't have all those things and life is so uncertain for them.

Its not that I have everything I want but I guess I realised this week I need to be more content with what I have got - not to lose sight of the other stuff and to still strive for my dreams - but to be content. I am very fortunate to have what I have.

Its Good Friday - I don't always see what is Good in it - cos what happened on Good Friday in may ways was not "good". The person who loves me most died a horrible and painful death. But I guess its what it meant in hindsight that makes it good. And I thank God for that.

Perspective is not an easy thing to gain - and I am sure in a few weeks I will have lost sight of mine - but for now I am saying thank you - for my family, my friends, my health and my life. And mostly for having a God that loves me enough to want to die for me so I can be in a relationship with Him.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Chicago: last day

I didn't get to post our last day in chicago before I left - mainly because I was tired after the whole week and reckoned I could do it once I got back!

On Friday night we went to the local cinema and saw the reader which was a great way to just relax for the evening after the conference and everything else.

On saturday we got the train to downtown Chicago again for the last day - for one main reason! We went to Fado's Irish pub and paid $20 just to walk in the door to watch the Ireland match!

Seemed a bit of a rip off but I think it was definitely worth it!

We then split up and wandered around Chicago separately and I went to see the Giant Bean - I'm sure its got another name but it was pretty cool and I got to wander round the park. It was lovely to relax and have some space to just wander around and not do much!

We met up again at tea time to start going back to the hotel and just chill for the evening. The evening was then just relaxed before bed and we needed to start thinking about packing and coming home!

Friday, 20 March 2009

inside Willowcreek!

Just wanted you to see a picture of the inside of Willowcreek to see the size it is. I had some difficulty focussing the first day on what was going on from the stage because I was so blown away by the size!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Chicago: day 4

Today was a good day - again! It was our breakout day where we were going to the seminars that we had pre-chosen before coming to Chicago - and I suppose some of the stuff that I was most looking forward to as it was stuff I was interested in.

Session 1 was on helping kids through family transition - like separation, divorce, grief, etc - and was led by Beth who runs the ministries to kids in Willow who are going through those things. She was inspirational and I would have loved to spend the next few hours just chatting to her! I had to settle for her email address which I plan to use.

Session 2 was with Ivy Beckwith who has written the book that we use on the Children's Ministry course - and which is quite tough to read. She was really interesting though but I would have liked her to go deeper. I suppose she was doing a start off seminar looking at Children's Ministry in a Postmodern world but because we have read the book we wanted her to go deeper and she didn't do that. We did have a chat with her after though and she said she would love to come to Ireland and do Building Blocks sometime so that was a result.

Session 3 was on te Spiritual formation in pre-schoolers and was not what I was expecting but was better in a different way! Instead of helping me think about stuff in work and how to do ministry with preschoolers, it helped me think about some stuff to do with my Masters and some issues I think through there. I have not been sure how to connect my Masters stuff with work and faith issues with kids but that seminar today helped to join some of the dots! Again a result!

Then came the best part of the day......JC came and we were going for dinner!!! I have really enjoyed the experience of being in Chicago and the conference and all of that but the best thing of this trip has been being able to see JC and hang out with her. And we discovered tonight that I will see her again on Saturday and go and see where she lives! I loved the year that JC and I had in Belfast when we worked at Fitzroy but we have only seen each other once since then and I have realised this week just how much I have missed our friendship, the seeing each other and chatting regularly friendship and it has been great to have that this week. I love friendship!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Chicago: day 3

So today was the big day - the day I would get to see Willowcreek for the first time!! Now I am sceptical about these big churches at the best of times. I am sure they have good points but most of the time I see the negatives that they would create, especially in creating community - in a world where we struggle to get community as it is. Why exaggerate that in a church situation!! Anyway, as we drove in and walked into the building, for the first half hour I was struggling to find words to express what i was feeling - I kept saying "wow!" and "this place is huge" and I struggled for more words and descriptions than that - which is weird as I don't normally struggle for words!!

However as my day went on I found my opinion changing...not that the place is not still huge, I guarentee it did not shrink when we got there but on closer inspection a few things surprised me and things that I assumed to be true simply...weren't! There is no doubt that a lot of money has been spent on some things - like the technology in the main auditorium is incredibe - data projectors everywhere, huge state of the art screens, cameras, computers, lights and loads of people operating them - but everywhere else was a much simpler and less extravagent atmosphere. Willowcreek is not lavish - the furniture and decor is plain and unassuming, the floors and carpets are unassuming nad functional and instead of having all my senses bombarded with opulence, I was hit by the understated everything that I saw - and that really made me happy!!

The conference has been good today. There have been 3 main sessions with everyone together. The first main speaker was the guy who created VeggieTales; the second was apanel with 2 experts on spiritual formation in children and I really enjoyed it; the last was a look at finding strengths in children, by a woman who was very whacky and at times seemed a few sandwiches short of a picnic - bit it was interesting all the same and good to hear people who I did not entirely agree with or love listening too. They all made me think! Tomorrow will be different with the 3 tracks that I have chosen out of about 100 options - and it will be good to hear and be trained in sme children's ministry issues that I am really interested in.

Now I am sitting in our hotel room with a glass of red wine, exhausted but satisfied that today was a good day and hopeful that tomorrow will be even better. And we made some friends today who are staying in our hotel and that is always good!!

Photos of Chicago

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Chicago: day 2

Today has been a great day. After a leisurely - and healthy - breakfast we got ready to go and get the train to downtown Chicago. We arrived at the train station and after a short wait, got on a doubledecker train that took us to union Station at the centre of Chicago.

We grabbed lunch in Starbucks (where else??!) and then walked for miles along Michigan Avenue to Fourth Presbyterian where we were due to meet up with JC - a very good friend of mine - who is the Assistant minister there. We went to a next door pub with her and a few other people she works with for a St Pat's Day pint of Guinness and a good old chat. I haven't seen JC for about 3 1/2 years so it was great to actually see her and we kept looking at each other and being surprised that we were actually together!

Barbara and I then left and went to the 96th floor of the Hancock Building where apparently you get the best view of Chicago - according to all the people at 4th and David Schwimmer who had recorded the audio tour thing we used when we got up there! Anyway I don't have anything to compare it to but here are some photos and I think the view was pretty good!

Photos won't upload so I'll post them tomorrow!

We then went and met JC, Brent (who also used to live in NI) and their friend Paige and we all had dinner before Barbara and I walked back through the city to the train station to begin the hour long trek back to the hotel. It was great because the city felt really safe in the dark walking back to the station even though there were not that many people around and it was still really quite warm.

Now we are back at the hotel, shattered and with sore feet but a really good day and I can think of few St Pat's Days that have been more fun!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Chicago: day 1

So today was travelling day and it was long! Barbara and I met in Belfast at 7:45am and arrived here at 8pm (Chicago time) which is really 1am for us - so we are wrecked!! Flights were all on time though and we arrived at the hotel safely - and we have decided it is the nicest hotel room in America.

Here are some photos:

And the tv is a 42" plasma at the foot of my bed!

Thursday, 12 March 2009


So I haven't been very good at this so far and I plan to change that! I guess the excuse is busyness but also just lack of habit so I am going to set myself a new challenge to try and remember to do this! Barbara and I are going to Chicago on Monday morning to the Willowcreek Children's Ministry COnference called Conspire and for various reasons I am going to have my laptop with me and so I am going to challenge myself to blog each day about what we have been doing and maybe even some of the stuff from the conference.

I think that will be a good thing for several reasons:
1. It will get me remembering to blog
2. You will see the exciting stuff we are doing, inc. meeting up with one of my dearest friends ever, JC!!
3. It will make me think through and comment on the conference every day and that could be a good debrief for my brain - though the conference is only 3 of the days we are away but I think there will be lots going on!

So that is my pledge; now to see if it works!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Grouse Mountain

today was a day off for Isaac and Matthew from school so Andrew took a day off work and we all headed of to the top of Hrouse Mountain, a local mountain for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports. I don't ski (I won't tell the long story of why here!) but Andrew, Ruth and the 2 older boys do, so the plan was that I'd look after Tom while they went skiing.

Tom and I wandered around the ski chalet for a while, checking out the soft toy animals (well he is only about to turn 2!), went and watched a bit of skiing and skating and then found a balcony out the back of the coffee shop to sit and wait for the others. We were probably there for nearly an hour, reading some books, having a snack and generally watching the people. Lovely as all that sounds, it wasn't the best bit - that was the fact that it was really warm and I was in danger of getting colour on my face from the heat!! It was beautiful - looking out over Vancouver city spread out down below, the mountains all round and it all being interspersed with Tom saying "look!" and pointing at pretty much anything that moved - especially the gondalas that seemed to fascinate him!

Definitely a great way to spend a Friday morning! I'll put up photos soon - promise!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

I've been in Vancouver for 2 days now and its great!! Arriving by bus from Seattle was really interesting cos I got to see so much of the countryside on the way up. At the border I got sent into a wee room by myself which freaked me out a little but then realized I was the only non-Canadian/American on the bus and so the immigration procedures were a bit different! I was quite relieved!! When I got to Vancouver my brother was a bit late picking me up but I got to sit and get some fresh air while listening to the sounds of the city.

When we got to the house it was great to see Ruth and the boys - and feel really relaxed. Being here just feels so naturally and normal. Its great!! Yesterday I looked after Matthew and Tom for a bit while Ruth went to do messages. After Matthew went to pre-school, Tom and I read some books which was very special but also reminded me how much I miss out on with them, living so far away. I got to visit Matthew's pre-school and Isaac's school tho which was fun.

Today while Isaac has gone to school, ruth, Matthew, Tom and I went to Vancouver Aquarium which is a great place. The boys loved it and so did we. The only downside was getting the worst cup of coffee I've had in a long time from the coffee stand outside. We even saw a pregnant baluga whale and a baby whale - quite cool!!

Now just having a rest before walking down to pick Isaac up from school and I'll need my energy for him! Not sure what the rest of the day has in store but I guess that is half the fun of being on hols - no real need to plan ahead much!! :)

Saturday, 14 February 2009


So I arrived in Seattle late last night after a VERY LONG day!! I flew out of Belfast where their check in was down so I could only check to Newark and then the plane was late taking off. That bit wasn't so bad but then I had to claim my luggage and re-check it in Newark. That did however help to pass a bit of time in my 6 hour layover!! I do not recommend that in Newark. There is only so much people watching, reading and Masters work i can do when I'm tired and would like somwhere comfy to sit!!

I got here though at about 11pm last night - 7am in Northern Ireland time - which was 24 hours after I woke up! Its been a lovely day though with Caroline and Anna and we have done a lot of laughing and talking! Caroline is just putting Anna to bed to have a wee nap.

Tomorrow church with them and then the bus trip to Vancouver and some snow!

Monday, 9 February 2009


I was at a church last week helping them begin to think through their youth and children's ministry and how they can update it and make it more effective at reaching the children around them.

One person in the meeting made a comment about how when the youth and children's ministry are working well and are "successful" that the whole church feels positive, but when things are tough and not so good, it impacts the whole church - in a way that no other ministry in the church does. It got me thinking...what is it about our church that its health is determined by those under 25 and the ministry done with them? And if it is true, how can we help our youth and children's ministry effective so that its joy and effectiveness continues to impact our whole church?

Answers on a postcard.........!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The trip

So I'm off to Vancouver in less than 2 weeks and there is still loads to do. Travel insurance is a small thing to sort but there's the matter of getting from Seattle to Vancouver on the best form of transport and then I need to book a hotel at the airport for the last night!

So the bus/train saga - there seems to only be one train that goes up in the morning and back at night so that probably is not the best option so looks like I'm going to go on a bus! I found one that has wifi in it (not sure how that works but sounds interesting) which seemed like a good idea until I was thinking that I may not have something for wifi to be useful for but we'll see!! Hopefully I'll get that sorted!

The hotel problem is that I don't want to end up in a crumby dive that is really loud with planes all night but also don't want to spend a fortune!!!

It would be so much easier if I had someone to do all this for me and I just turned up but I guess there would be no fun in that!!

Anyway, today I'll be going to Newry - Rambling number 1: very exciting!