Dublin, Ireland: beer, boys & bulmers

Our first full day in Ireland turned out wonderfully well. It was a pretty relaxed day. We got up at the late hour of 9:30, which was amazing in and of itself. We chummed about for a while and booked our next couple hostels, and then headed out on the town.

Naturally, we decided to do what needed to be done when in Dublin: head to the Guinness factory!

It was actually called the Guinness Storehouse, and it was a really interesting place, with seven levels of brewery fun-ness, and a taste test here and a free pint there – and even though the last taste I wanted in my mouth in the middle of the afternoon was a Guinness, it was still a great time. We learned a lot about… Guinness.

Afterward, we headed back towards the hostel for lunch, but then decided to stop in at a little pub along the way. The special of Seafood Chowder and brown bread caught my eye, and before we knew it we were tucked in a corner drinking Bulmer’s and eating delicious food. It was really nice, and Kara had a huge crush on the bartender, who sadly left mid-meal.  Boo to that.

We grabbed a quick nap before heading out to pubs – over to the hotspot which is the Temple Bar area. The first bar had fantastic, authentic Irish folk music, but also had a sketchy old, old guy who kept following me around and spitting in my eye. The next bar was a bit more rowdy, with less authentic music, but we stayed there the longest. It was an interesting people-watching bar, and I made the mistake of singling out the biggest bum in the bar – I just know how to pick ‘em! Honestly, he might have been homeless.

On to the next bar. Finally, we ended up in The Temple Bar itself, where we were instantly greeted by a middle-aged man with no sense of personal space and plenty of alcohol already in his system. I simply had no tolerance and walked away, which I’m learning is less rude and more self-preserving than I once thought. As we walk away, however, Kara and I got stopped by this group of guys who we inevitably ended up talking to for the rest of the night. It was innocent, it was interesting, and I let them know that they were the nicest group of men we’ve met on this entire trip, which is absolutely true. We really haven’t had much luck meeting nice people, especially nice people of the opposite sex. So it was very refreshing, and definitely a nice start to our two weeks in this beautiful country. ☺ I’m looking forward, as I believe Kara is, as well, to the more rural places in West Ireland, and the sense of peace and poetry that such places bring with them.

Tomorrow we pick up our car from the airport, which we will have for the rest of the trip, so that’s fantastic. It’s nice to have a place to put our stuff, and… if necessary, a place to crash. Haha. Need to consider all our options. ☺

On the way back from the bars, Kara and I talked about relationships, and all that comes along with them. It’s always a tough subject for me, which is hard for me to accept since love and relationships have always meant the world to me. But now… things are different. I get very anxious talking about past hurts and pain, and even though I have a good handle on everything that has happened to me in the past four years, it is also a conflicting thing for me. I understand, though, that I need to place a bit more faith in God and the plans he has for me. If I am meant to love again, he will ensure my safety and my strength.

I just can’t imagine a world without love.

Grace Center, Franklin, TN

I have let this go for far too long.

Last Sunday, I attended church with Kelly and Tim – they attend the Grace Center in Franklin, TN. It actually received the “church of the week” award on national television for the way the center helped a sister church by donating over $200,000 to them after their church burnt down. And as they said, “This isn’t a reflection of the wealth of our church, but a reflection of God’s desire for extravagance. He is an extravagant God, and he calls for us to give extravagantly of ourselves.”

It is sentiments like that which have opened my heart back up to the Lord, and completely re-awakened my heart. As the song went today – “I’m falling madly in love with you.” – it feels amazing to fall in love again, and this time with God.

Last week was simply mind-blowing, and it was fascinating to see how different last week’s service was compared to today’s. Kelly assured me that every week is different, and completely dictated by the will of God and what He wishes to accomplish, both with us and through us.

At 9 AM, before the actual church service, there is a time where people can attend the “soaking room” where… well, I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s in a small room, which can hold about 50 people or so, tightly squeezed in there. There are about 30 seats, but beyond that some people lay on the floor, some against the wall; others stand. And what it is…. is… a place… where the Holy Spirit is allowed to come and sit with us, stir us… and create music. There are a few musicians who sit up in the front, and a couple singers, and what happens is a completely improvised music session, led by the Holy Spirit.

If you think that sounds strange, it gets better.

Some people shout out random things like “Amen” or call out to “Jesus!,” while others are moved strongly enough to dance around, or wave streamers/flags. The emotion and presence of Him in the room causes many people to cry, while others laugh out loud, or even start giggling – filled with Joy. It is really fascinating, sometimes overwhelming… always beautiful.

Last week was intense – Kelly told me that it was usually never like that. It got so loud in that room that she almost had to leave, but for me, since it was brand new and I was entering with absolutely no expectations, I was extremely moved. The room was packed, so we sat on the floor, and I was surrounded by interpretative dancers and music and people and I just sat there and my eyes were filled with tears and my heart was filled with God – a feeling I had been without for years now.

Today was more relaxed and much more calm than last week, but it was still intense and beautiful. It was Father’s Day, so some people occasionally spoke into the microphone (and even their words sounded like music) and talked about fathers. One woman came up and almost broke my heart. She started crying at one point, talking about how she was going to “give herself back to God – give herself all over again” – and that would be her gift to Him on Father’s Day. It definitely started my tears – her talking about how God has never lied to her, or taken advantage of her, or hurt her. “You are always faithful to me; you are such a good daddy.” – oh my gosh that almost destroyed me.

The woman who sings in these sessions is named Laura Rhinehart. She has a CD out entitled “The Soaking Room” so I guess she knows what she’s doing. 🙂 Anyways, she has this gorgeous voice, and then the words she speaks inbetween the music are just lovely. Today she said:

“All the things that you long for… are a breath to Him.”

I could go on for hours. And I hope to one day write a beautiful story about my entire experience being part of this church for the last two weeks. But the end of the story is this: I am in love with God, again. I hope to keep this in my heart forever this time. Kelly and Tim have taken me into their home for the past ten days, and they have been like family to me; I am honored to know them. Their goodness simply emanates from them, while at the same time they exude a naturalness and a simplicity that makes them very human. Kelly knew from the beginning that she was supposed to take me into her home, and she trusted that feeling, and in doing so has given me a safe haven where I have been able to explore my faith again.

I have been on this road trip journey for over six weeks, and I am finally in a place where I can begin to handle all these questions and emotions I have.

A few weeks ago, I talked about how yoga almost caused me to have a breakdown – and eventually I did break down, in the front seat of my car at five in the morning, panda clutched desperately to my chest. Three weeks ago yoga was too much for me to handle, since I had so much pain residing in my soul and my heart… I had soul pain that took away my breath. Yet one week ago, I sat in that soaking room and was enveloped by the Holy Spirit, and yes I felt pain and yes I felt intensity, but mostly I felt peace, and joy, and completion.

Just to know how far I have come in a few weeks is so encouraging to me. This trip truly is restoring my spirit – and more than that, it is opening up doors for me that I can walk through for the rest of my life.

And as Laura said today:

“Jesus came to take us to the Father.

Jesus is the door.

Thank you, Jesus, for being the door.”

http://gracecenter.us/index.php#home