It must have been about ten years ago when I had a chance to go to a concert in Tartu and see Julia Fischer play the violin. And I sat there in the concert hall and was absolutely dumbfounded when I saw her brilliance but what I never felt was jealousy. Some people are just so above everyone else that jealousy doesn't even cross your mind. There are geniuses among us and frankly, it feels kind of dumb to envy a genius.

I feel the same way about Fred Craddock and his preaching. I was saddened to find out today that he has passed away recently. Ah, the world has lost another genius, no more brilliant sermons of his to listen to and to admire. Really, I haven't heard anyone preach like him. And while I know many people - and I also happen to be one of them - who preach on a weekly basis and who all do their very best, when I start listening to Craddock's When The Roll Is Called Down Here for the umpteenth time, again I feel like sitting in the concert hall listening to Julia Fischer. You just sit and admire. And find a lot of comfort in knowing that these kind of people exist and grace the world with their presence and genius.

Rest in peace, Pastor.


Two photos from last week.

This one L. sent me from Newbold. And K. sent me a message the next day and told me my face is all over the place. I don't know how I feel about it. I guess there's no turning back now.

And this is how I fight the 'I still haven't finished the lecture' stress. Tartu, Friday evening, Cafe Pierre. The best place to fight any kind of stress really. :)


I'm kind of disappointed. Somewhere in the back of my mind I believed my Newbold lecture would write itself. I was hoping one day I'd open my laptop and - boom! - there'd be a brilliant lecture manuscript on the desktop. Finished and polished and all. But it's becoming apparent to me that it's not going to happen... Such a bummer. So I'm sitting on my lecture which needs to be ready in about three week's time, and trying to figure this thing out myself, without divine intervention. The title to my lecture is really sexy, I'm really pleased with it - God, Language, Mind, and Men. It's just that now I need a lecture which would match the awesomeness of this title. I can't guarantee anything but I'm doing my best. And while writing and thinking about the lecture, I've realised a funny thing about myself. Whatever it is that I write, I become scarily protective of it. I've noticed it happen when writing my sermons. I'm totally passive-aggressive-possessive-obsessive about my manuscripts. I don't think you could make me give you my sermon manuscript even if you hold a gun to my head. Well, uhmmm, no, I take the last one back, I'm not sure about that. But I really can't bring myself to share my thoughts or manuscripts voluntarily before preaching. And now the same thing is happening but in this case it's even worse. Because part of me is dying for some good feedback but the other part of me just can't get over this mental barrier. Actually, to tell the whole truth, a few months ago I asked two good friends if I could give them the manuscript and if they would tell me what they thought of it, but in reality I don't think it's going to happen. So I guess I'll just give the lecture and face the feedback then, whatever it be. So scary.


As to news from reading front, on Friday I finished another Maya Angelou's book - it was the seventh of her books I read in a row. And I think it's time for me to stop now because I've come to the place where I google the names of her husbands and her son to see what they looked like. I'm becoming a stalker, I think (is it possible to stalk someone who's not alive any more?). And I have only one thing to say in my defense - I only stalk people who have made a lasting and indelible impression on me. And she certainly has, most certainly.


I haven't posted any music lately. So here's one song I listened a lot last autumn. When I was in the UK in November, I was turning into a real British - me and L. would watch pictures of the poppy field in London, in the evenings two of us would watch Downton Abbey and The X Factor, and we'd look forward to see the new John Lewis Christmas ad. So when the John Lewis ad was released, I not only fell in love with the ad itself but also with the song they had used there. It's Tom Odell and his version of the song Real Love. I might have or might have not listened to it obsessively for a couple of weeks.


I have this cousin whom I like very much. When he went to school he did it in so many different countries he was barely ever in Estonia so his connection to the rest of the family was very weak. As a child, I only knew his name, and that was pretty much it. And then at one point he reappeared and started coming to our yearly family gatherings again. And then some time passed again and he started inviting us to his place. And then a lot of time passed and my mum died and my cousin almost adopted me. Now he's always inviting me over. Also, he was the one who threw me a big party at his summer house when I left Tartu church last August. He's cool.

And I don't quite know how to put it into words but being at his place is always a spiritual experience for me. Not a religious one, but spiritual. I don't know how he'd react to my words because he's not a religious person at all. He's not interested in Christianity or anything else. He's too intelligent to be ironic about it - especially as half of our family is very religious - but he's just not into any of it. So it's such a strange thing to be at his place and feel this way. I remember being there just a few days before Christmas when his younger son turned five. The whole apartment was full of people and we had a real feast of a birthday dinner and then we sang Christmas songs together (even a few Christian ones which really surprised me) and went to sauna and in general had a wonderful time. And what shocked me then and does every time I go there is the amount of love I always encounter there. Like, the whole house was just full of love. There was so much of it. It was so beautiful I don't know how to describe it.

I felt the same way last week when I stayed at their place in Tartu. When I sat at their huge kitchen table and had an early morning tea and watch the family getting ready for work and kindergarten, it made me think about it more seriously. Because the thing is I only believe in one source of love. God. I don't think it can come from any other person or source. And He's like everywhere when I go to my cousin's house. All over the place. Like I said, going there is a very spiritual experience for me. It's just that they have a different name for it or they don't notice it the way I do or they're really so used to living in the presence of God it's so natural of a thing for them they don't even need words to describe it. I don't know which. But it always touches me very deeply when I'm around them. And I guess that's what always happens when you're in the presence of God. It touches you in a profound way.

And I'm slowly coming to a place where I can say with conviction that everything really is spiritual. I wasn't very keen on the idea in the past but more and more I can see God in places and in people from whom I wouldn't expect it. And I really like this. It's like you have to be ready to bump into Him anywhere you go. And sometimes - which makes me both happy and sad - you encounter Him in places you least expect Him to be and you can barely see a hint of Him somewhere you'd expect Him to be present in a very obvious way. Strangest thing.


I watched a really good TED talk the other night. It was about happiness and success. The guy explained how we adapt to success and how, as soon as we've got what we wanted, the goal post for success shifts. Like as soon as you get a good job, you want a better one. As soon as you have a nice car, you really want a better one. (Hopefully it doesn't apply to marriage.) So we keep pursuing happiness but happiness is too often on the other side of success so we never really get there.

I thought about it today. I'm in Tartu again, teaching. And I remember how the conference secretary came to me some time ago with an offer to teach homiletics. And how happy go lucky I felt back then. And how I thought this was a huge success and honor for me. And it was. The first time I came to teach in January I was so excited I could barely sleep the night before. In February I was starting to get use to this place and my students so I was a lot cooler about it all. And today is my third teaching session and I'm sitting in the library minding my business and waiting for my evening class as if it was nothing. It's a strange thing how something we could barely dream of some time ago can become just an ordinary reality for us. And how often we miss the happiness just because we already have another goal to pursue.

The principle asked me to her office after the lunch today for a chat. And we talked about some administrative matters but I could tell there was more coming my way. And I was right. At one point she was like, "So the Greek lecturer is retiring in two year's time and we're looking for a new one, and we really ought to think about the generational shift as well, getting some younger lecturers in here." Wink-wink. And I said I'm planning to continue my studies and I can't promise anything but in case I'm still in Estonia in two year's time I'll let her know. Wink-wink.

And I keep thinking about it. For God knows, I probably will end up teaching full time one day. But it's a lot less about pursuing academic success and a lot more about me living my dream as if it was nothing and forgetting to be happy in the midst of it all.

That's my main problem.


Music corner. I think I actually know more about pop music than I pretend to know. I blame gym for that. Because in gym it's Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran and Adam Levine all day long. This song I like the best these days - Adam Levine's Lost Stars. I do a lot of jogging while I listen to this song. I especially like the 'youth is wasted on the young' line. I think it's so deep I can't even get my head around it lol! And when it comes to voice, A. L. really got the jackpot. Wow.


I had a chance to go to the cemetery this morning. I hadn't been there since we laid my mum's ashes to rest last (I can't even remember) July, I think. A few things had changed since that time. There's a tombstone now. It took my dad a couple of months after the summer funeral to have the tombstone made and installed so I saw it for the first time today. It felt strange and wrong to see her name graven on the black marble tablet. And it felt very permanent. Engraving on marble is as permanent as it gets in this world, I guess.

Later on a train back to Tallinn I read Bob Goff's book Love Does. I hardly ever re-read books but this one I'm reading for the second time. And in one of the chapters he talks about how he once participated in Transpac Race which is a sail boat race from Los Angeles to Oahu in Hawaii. And how after more than two weeks on the ocean they finally made it to Hawaii and saw a beautiful tradition - when anyone finishes the race, there's a guy who announces the name of the boat and of every crew member over a loudspeaker, and he finishes his announcement with words "Friends, it's been a long trip. Welcome home." And this is what Bob Goff says (and I might have or might have not welled up when reading this):

I've always kind of thought that heaven might be kind of a similar experience. I read somewhere in the Bible that there is a book of life. I don't think that this book of life is full of equations, and I don't think that it's just a list of names either. I think this book of life is more like a book of lives, a book of stories. I bet it's all about people traveling in the direction of Jesus, trying to follow Him. People like me who made lots of mistakes and midcourse corrections. It's about people who stayed within the large circle of His love and grace, staying the course on a long line pointing toward Him. And their names weren't in the book because of what they did or didn't do. They were in there because of who God is and what He has done to draw a circle around them. After we each cross the finish line in our lives, I imagine it like floating into the Hawaiian marina when our names were announced, one by one. And at the end, perhaps simple words spoken by loving and proud God will be, "Friends, it's been a long trip. Welcome home."  

To hell with tombstones and engravings and permanence. 'Welcome home' is more real than any of that **** you see at the cemetery.


One of the odd things about pastoral work is the concept of free time (or its absence). When you have a regular nine to five job, it's natural to have your weekends off. But what about a job where there are no fixed office hours and where weekends are the busiest time of the whole week? When do you have your 'weekend' then? I've heard of pastors who literally switch off their phone for one day each week and tell their members they can't be reached on that day. Like, ever. And it really appeals to me, such an approach, but I also know I could never pull it off. So the idea of free time is kind of vague for me. And with vagueness on one hand and a big work load on the other, it's rather easy to come to a place where there really is no free time. (Having a workaholic for a senior pastor doesn't help either.)

But today I took a day off. For my own sake and for my church members' sake as well.

It was almost a disastrous day yesterday. It began with my realisation I had lost a sermon manuscript. I had preached that sermon in English for a couple of times during my Newbold years and I had decided to preach it this coming weekend here but there is no sign of it any more. And I was like, WHAT?! How's that even possible? My sermon manuscripts are my most valuable possession and the most important thing I'll take with me from this job. How can you lose one? So I couldn't decide whether I should try to recreate it from my memory or whether I should try to write a new one on the same passage. Which ended up in me not being able to do either. In general, sermon writing is easy for me, sometimes even too easy. So not being able to put one on paper is terribly frustrating. And then later in the afternoon we had a meeting with my senior pastor and he had a sort of an anxiety attack, I think. He works too hard and he cares too much. And then this happens... And the thing with anxiety is that it's kind of contagious. So when I went to gym late in the evening and realised I couldn't stop thinking and worrying about all that church business, I knew I needed some time off.

It feels really strange. I have a half written sermon, ten unanswered emails, and a hometics lecture next week I haven't prepared for but I'm sitting in a cafe, reading Alice Walker, drinking tea, and waiting for K. to come from his office next door and have lunch with me. I got my hair cut earlier today, and soon I'll be off to gym again. And The Imitation Game later in the evening. Part of my brain is raging and telling me the world is on the verge of collapsing, the other part of it is like, thank you, Jesus!

Maybe I need to stop and let go - even if for a day - so that I could be reminded again that the world doesn't really depend on me. It was here before me and will be here long after I'm done and gone. It does not really hinge on my doings. I know it and yet, I think I don't quite yet.

A day off. Peace on earth.