The first elder of my church passed away this morning, literally in the middle of the sermon. He was no longer the official church elder but he had served as a pastor and later as an elder for such a long time no-one could even think of him as anything else but the first elder. I thought of him as a little bit mysterious but ever present figure in the church. He was always there. It's almost as if he had lived in our church building, he had an office where rest of our offices are and also a little carpentry workroom down in the basement and there was always something he was fixing or building down there.

He had a birthday last week. He turned 71. And we didn't see him that day which didn't surprise me at all - if there was going to be a day when, in his shyness, he didn't stick to his routine and didn't want to be around people, it was surely going to be his birthday. But it was alright because we caught him the next day, on Thursday, that is - E. (the girl who's the PA of the conference president / my senior pastor) had written a card on behalf of the conference and I had run to town to buy some roses and as my senior pastor wasn't around that morning me and E. took the card and the roses and went to basement and giggled at his carpentry workshop door and shook his hand and wished him all the best. E. even hugged him, I didn't dare. And that was that. That was that.

I'm sure the roses are still somewhere in his apartment but there's no-one to enjoy them.

But what really makes me miss him is the fact that he was not only a pillar of this congregation but also a personal shield of mine. He was so protective of me it was as if he had built a wall around me. I know there were some complaints about me working in this church, but he always dealt with them himself and never let any of that nonsense reach my ears. He was like a guarding angel somewhere behind me. And we didn't talk that much and he never said anything directly to me but I know that he talked to others about me (and when he said these things to my dad or auntie he knew very well they would in turn tell me) and praised my preaching, saying that there has never been anyone here speaking like me. He gave me a book as a Christmas present, shyly, never looking me in my eye. Last week he came and gave me and E. some oranges and told us we needed the vitamins during this nasty winter time. Dear heavens, I've really lost my guarding angel. Oh, no, no, no!

Rest in peace, A. K. Until we meet again.


My grandmother's wedding ring.

For some reason I started thinking about it couple of weeks ago and the thought refused to let go of me. It's hard to explain but I think it all has to do with books I've been reading lately. They've made me think about my own past and my roots and naturally, my grandparents. And suddenly I remembered I had my grandma's wedding ring at home.

So one of the first things I did today when I got to my dad's was to look for my little jewelry box and take out her ring. It's funny because it had been there for nearly 10 years and I barely ever thought about it or took a look at it. But today I took it out and put it on my finger and it will stay there for a long long time. So now I have two rings, one my mum's and the other my grandma's. My my, it's a lot of past I carry around with me.

And the thing with my grandma's ring is that it will always carry a mystery in it. Every time I look at it there are so many questions I wish I had an answer to. But they must remain unanswered. Such is life. I got the ring from my mum, my grandma had given it to her when her health got suddenly really bad. (There's one disease that seems to run in the family, both my mum and my grandma fought it. God only knows, I might have to look it in the eye one day myself.) Her wish was that my mum would give it to me on my 20th birthday. Which she did but the sad thing is that by that time my grandma had already passed away. She died five months before I turned 20. So I never got to thank her for trusting it to me. Neither did I have a chance to ask for an explanation. I don't know why she decided to give her wedding ring to me. I don't know why she chose me.

My grandma had 16 grandchildren.

Why me?


I had the joy of leaving the city last weekend. A weekend trip is part of the concept of the Alpha course and as we're coming to the end of the 10 week course in our church we had organised a weekend in a little resort not too far from Tallinn. For me it meant working full-time as me and my senior pastor had divided the lectures between us and had to present different topics over the weekend. That wasn't why I was looking forward to it. What made me look forward to the trip was the location of the resort. We spent the days just a walking distance from a place that I would call the sanctuary of Estonian literature. The place is called Vargamäe and it was the birthplace of our famous writer A. H. Tammsaare - I'm sure every nation has someone who could be called a national writer. For us Estonians, that's him. He based his most famous work, a massive five volume novel Truth and Justice on the characters of the local people. His parents. Next door farmer. Himself. So the place is being preserved and has been turned into a kind of museum where you can walk around and see the life of 19th century peasants and where references are made to that novel. For me, it's a very romantic place. It's a place where you meet history. Place where literary characters become real flesh and blood. And where the well-known sayings from Tammsaare's novel come alive like nowhere else. "Work hard and love will follow," said Tammsaare. Work hard and love will follow.

This is Vargamäe from distance. Just so that you know - I didn't take away the colours from this picture. The world actually was black and white on Saturday afternoon. It was breathtakingly beautiful.


As to reading, I've fallen under the spell of Maya Angelou. I started with the first one of her memoirs, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings on Thursday evening, and now I'm already half way through the second book, Gather Together in My Name. I've become slightly manic as I read not only in the evenings but also over my lunch breaks and, well, basically any time I can. I read as if my life depended on it. And who knows, maybe my life does depend on it in a way. It's one of those readings and Angelou's one of those writers who assure you that life is not only livable but that you can - even under the most difficult of circumstances - live courageously and gracefully and proudly, refusing to be defined by the nonsense life throws at you and refusing to accept stupidity and injustice. It's funny, as soon as I picked the first book up last week, right away I knew I needed to read this, needed to cry and laugh with Angelou, and needed to be given new hope and faith. Gosh, what a woman she was. So much goodness came from her pain and misery, so much hope from her hopelessness...

I think my life depends on books like these more than I dare to admit.


I think I've already posted this song once. It doesn't matter. Here it is again. James Blake, A Case of You.


I started with my homiletics course preparation yesterday and I have to admit it all looks rather funny. This is how it looks like - I sit at the big desk in my office, I re-read Ron Mac-Millan's Explosive Preaching, I write some bullet points in my notes, then my mind sort of goes wandering and I picture all my students sitting on the other side of my big desk, and I get really excited explaining stuff (the necessity of SNDT or something like this) to my imaginary students to the point of gesturing and waving my hands.


In my office.

I'm either losing my mind or I was made to teach homiletics. Lol!


Other than that it's work and gym and reading. It sounds really boring but it's kind of nice too. I had one of the longest days at work this past Saturday. I spoke at both worship services (morning and evening one) and some conversations needed to happen as well. So the day ended with me climbing the stairs back to my appartment at 10pm sharp. And the only thought that crossed my mind was, oh my, I've turned into my dad. All my childhood I saw him coming back from church late on Saturday evenings because there were services and board meetings and tough conversations to be held. We never thought too much about it as we were busy minding our own business and mum was busy keeping the food warm for him. And suddenly I'm the one being so late. I didn't even eat, it was too late for that. Only brushed my teeth. Crazy.


Oh, I want to share an awesome TED Talk with you. It's only ten minutes long but man, he's got some good stuff in there. It's John Lloyd and An Inventory of the Invisible. I've watched it a few times and every time it puts a big smile on my face. Especially the ending - it's like a good sermon, ending with a punchline.


There have been a few things that have made me happy over the past week or so. If you don't mind, I'd like to share them with you.

So. It makes me happy...

... when I hear my senior pastor whistle or sing in his office. His work load is insane, he's having to do both the job of a local pastor and of a conference president all at once. Sometimes I get really worried about him. So it's good to hear him sing the most random songs (it was Jingle Bells just the other day), it assures me he's still well and cheerful.

... when I receive a message from someone from my little Six Word Memoirs Whatsapp group. Me and a few friends are trying to capture important (or not so important) moments in life and write them down in six simple words. It makes me childishly happy when I wake up in the morning and see someone's six word text.

... when I get an email from Dr A. N. with her giving me some tips for teaching.

... when I think about Newbold and April.

... when, after going through a serious 'I'm really not the right person to teach SDA history' phase, I still pick up my courage and find myself teaching. And magic happens when I face my students and words just flow freely and once again I fall in love with academia and teaching.

... when J. wakes up so early that it's almost in the middle of the night just to call and pray with me because I don't dare to go teach without a prayer.

... when I have just enough time to go to a bookshop and treat myself with a new book after my 3 hour marathon of teaching and before getting on a bus back home. The Book Thief. :)

... when I visit an elderly church member who remembers my mum from forty years ago and when she thinks I'm just like her.

That's a lot of stuff to be happy about.


Days go by and I'm keeping myself busy but I can't decide whether there's nothing happening in my life or there's a lot happening in my life at the moment. Go figure.

I'll have my first teaching appointment next week - a three hour class. Things have turned out in a way I didn't quite expect which means that I've been asked to take over part of a course which deals with SDA theology and history. I can't even remember whether I shared it or not last autumn but this semester I'll be teaching a group of Adventists who study in Tartu Theological Seminary of Estonian Baptist Church. Homiletics course I had agreed to take on but this SDA history thing is a new and recent development - which means that I've spent most of my week trying to figure out the difference between Lutheran and Wesleyan doctrine of salvation, and Miller's rules of interpretation of the Scriptures. No wonder I'm always dead tired by the evening, lol!

I go to gym every other day. It seems to have turned into a serious addiction.

I just finished reading another one of (dashingly handsome) W. D.'s books - Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan. It's a massive book beast which tells the story of British failed invasion to Afghanistan in the middle of 19th century. Honestly, I hadn't read a book more frustrating than this one in a long while. I mean, it's a terrific book but the history it describes is absolutely terrible. The amount of imperialistic arrogance and human stupidity and military inadequacy it describes is just disarming and baffling. (sorry, Brits) It will take me a while to calm down and recover. Oh. And when I had finished the book and took my frustration to Twitter, (dashingly handsome) W. D. himself favourited and retweeted all my tweets about his book. I know it's a tiny thing in this big world but it's still a big thing in my tiny world. :)

And when all is said and done and read, I watch an episode of Inspector Lewis in the evening. Mostly because it's been filmed in Oxford. And well, Oxford's my current secret crush. Don't tell anyone.


But L. reminded me that I haven't posted any music yet. So. Here's a beautiful song I like to listen to every now and then (and then about 5 times in a row) - The Brilliance and their Christ Be With Me.


I had a new year's resolution last year which I actually managed to keep. It was probably the first time ever. :)

So. I read 30 books last year.

And I've tried to come up with some sort of a chart in my head and rank the books which is a difficult thing to do as they were all so different. But basing my evaluation on the emotional effect they had on me, here are the top 5 of my 2014 books.

1. Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase
2. William Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain
3. John Ortberg, Who Is This Man?
4. Alice Walker, The Colour Purple
5. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

1. I love love love good memoirs and autobiographies! And Karen Armstrong has written a brilliant autobiography. She's got such a unusual and extraordinary life - from a young Catholic nun to an atheist, from an academic failure in Oxford to one of the most prominent speakers on God and religion in the world (TED Talks, The Oprah Winfrey Show, UN General Assembly, and such). But it's not a typical success-story, it's a story of a troubled soul and a troubled life and numerous setbacks and failures. And yet, and yet. The way one's life can be built up again after all hope is abandoned, how something beautiful can spring from the ashes of one's dreams, and how meaning can be found even in the hardest of circimstances... Wow. It was a truly inspiring story. And I could relate to her in more than just one way. So if you need a good autobiography to read and a real story to relate to, that's the book!

2. William Dalrympleeeeee! He's no doubt one of the best travel writers in the world (just take a look at the endless list of his awards). But for me the story is more personal. I remember reading first one of his books (titled In Xanadu) as a teenager, the picture of me and my good friend M. sitting on the stairs of our music school and reading it together is ever so vivid in my memory. And I remember how this book made me feel. Or how W. D. made me feel - he was this adventurous twenty-something guy from Cambridge university (looking dashingly handsome on the book cover, just so that you know) who took a backpack and traveled through Asia in the footsteps of Marco Polo and who then wrote the wittiest book on it. And I was, uhmmm, a teenager. Of course I had a secret crush on him at the time. And now looking back, for all I know, he might be one of the reasons why I admire highly intelligent and educated men so much, haha! Anyway, one of the last books I read in December was another one of his brilliant travel books called From the Holy Mountain. It's about his travels to the ancient birthplace of Christianity and Byzantine empire. He's 20 years older on the book cover so no teenage crushes any more, but I still very much admire his genius and wit and writing style. He's one of the kind!

3. After Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew, John Ortberg's Who Is This Man? must be the best book I've read on the life of Jesus. Every page of it was just pure delight. Seriously.

4. I read The Colour Purple at S.'s place in Sweden and it's one of those books which on one hand you really don't want to read (because it hurts so much) and on the other hand you're unable to put down (because it's so good). I hated and loved it at the same time. And I felt really ignorant and uneducated as reading it. There are some things I know more about, but then there are those things I barely know anything about, racism and slavery and segregation falling to the latter category. So sometimes I just feel I need to know more. And I need to remember more. It's the same thing with Auschwitz memoirs I force myself to read every now and then - there's nothing I can do about what has happened, nothing I can do to help these poor people, but as a member of the human race I need to remember. It's my duty to remember. That's also what reading The Colour Purple was all about. Knowing and remembering.

5. The Divine Conspiracy was the first book I read last year. Which means that I picked it up about two weeks after my mum had died. And read about the Kingdom of God being here in our midst in our everyday life. It was a strange and a bit eerie and at the same time much needed reading. Our loved ones die. Our worlds come crashing down. And yet, the Kingdom of God is here...


There's a saying that goes something like this - there is no bookaholics anonymous because no-one wants to quit. It might be true. In any case, I found out there were no anonymous groups for ex-bloggers either because apparently no-one wants to quit. So uhmm... I'm back. [blushing]

The funniest thing is that I almost broke down and came back two weeks after I had closed this blog. I remember it well, it was after I had spent a whole day in Oxford with Dr A. N., we had visited the Ashmolean Museum, and had raided several coffee shops and book shops, and had ended the day with evening song in Oxford's Christ Church Cathedral (and I cried just a little bit because the liturgy was so beautiful) and I just wanted so badly to share my emotions. But the next day I thought how very unrespectable it would be to quit with big words and then come back so quickly.

So I'm just hoping it's a tiny bit more respectable to quit and then start again after two months. Lol!


As to January 1st and all that, I don't have much to say about last year. Or maybe it's that I don't want to say much. There was a lot of death in that year. But also - surprisingly enough - a lot of life.

And I like how S. T. Eliot puts it. Maybe these are the best words one could come up with on the verge of a new year.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

Happy New Year, dear friends!