I’d like to say that a lot has been happening. In some ways, it certainly has. But in other ways, life is almost normal here. I feel like telling stories is like me telling you about my trip to the grocery store. Except…that I’m in Scotland. It’s reassuring that I’m able to adapt to life in a place so much as to have it feel normal. The people help immensely. So does the weather.
The weather reminds me of home (Washington) in ways that are really comforting. I was dreading the idea of another summer in North Carolina…though the beaches and/or mountains there are amazing at almost any time of year. The sunny days here are similar to the PNW in that people explode out of their homes to take advantage of them. I on the other hand, managed to get sick on the first of several gloriously sunny days. I spent an entire day just sickly enough to send emails and read, but not healthy enough to go out and share in God’s gift to Scotland.
There is a sort of fierce greenery that characterizes this place. I watched it in fascination from the car today on the way back from a Pastors’ retreat I was invited to in Perth. I failed to have my camera on me, but I am learning to receive some vistas as just for me. Not for cameras. The hillsides stretch as far as the eye can see and are segmented by little farms and stone walls. If you get the privilege to go up into the hills past the farms there is a blend of green and heather-purple that leaves the impression that the land itself prefers seasonal visitors only. As though it is some kind of strange, vastly old snow-bird. A crotchety older gent that desires people to visit sparingly during the pretty seasons, and then wants to be left alone when winter comes around. Sheep, however, are welcome all year round.
I’ve become used to the accents for the most part. Banchory is a pretty easy place to understand people. There’s a facebook group that I was told about called, “No, I’m not American. I’m just from Banchory.” Outside of Banchory, the accents can become thick and I can be at a loss of what people are saying. Though I misunderstand a variety of things not necessarily rooted in accents. Sometimes it might be strange words (“butty” in place of “sandwich”) or sometimes it is just a thick accent laid on top of British English spoken behind you in a stone staircase at a monastery where one might be stay for a Pastors’ retreat…for example. I really do enjoy the differences, though. It’s a joy to learn how and about what people communicate. Note: If anyone offers you a bacon roll, you are to say yes.
The Pastor’s retreat in Perth was really enjoyable. I got to meet a good number of pastors from this presbytery who are all lovely people. Sadly, I won the prize of my first transatlantic migraine and missed half of the retreat. My quest for relief from the sharp pains behind my eyes drove me into my room where I sought the dark and quiet. Needless to say, some thoughtful Scottish person was mowing a lawn…because, yet again…it was sunny and I was sick indoors. I found myself remembering my parents’ willingness to stay up all night with a 6 year old version of myself suffering in the dark. They constantly made damp towels cool for me because children’s Tylenol is useless against a fully-armed and operational migraine. A cold, wet towel is about the best you can do without the excedrin that I’d left in Banchory. In any case, thanks Momma and Pops. You have made memories for me that make migraines more bearable and that is saying something.
I’m realizing that there is a deep need for theological education in churches. Not that all Christians should get a Master’s degree, but that all Christians are in need of teachers who are willing to sit with them and them struggle though important ideas. At the pastors’ retreat I was invited to come to a church and give a talk to a congregation about the Old Testament and the New. The reason for this was “…they might listen to you.” At first I was taken aback because it seemed like a tall order and that perhaps there might be people better suited to it, then I realized…this is what I am going to school to be able to do. I’m the guy who is getting the education to be able to do this. A humbling thought. If the pastor follows through on the email, I’ll do it.
In my spare time I’ve been reading a very pleasant mixture of teen fiction, theology, Greek, and Hebrew. I’d forgotten what it’s like to be sucked into a story featuring swords and magical kingdoms. At best it seems like my sword will have to be a fly-rod and my magical kingdom will have to be real life with the Holy Spirit. In many ways, I find that real life is much more difficult and fun than magical kingdoms and swords thrown up in their defense. Though it is less fun to read about.
My piano lessons (I’ve been taking them weekly) are great. I have a lovely teacher named Kathy who is a practiced hand at teaching folks to play. I am actually strangely passionate about practicing and have found a deep desire to understand music theory. The theory bit is partly because I always wanted to know what the musical people I grew up with meant when they said, “No, it’s the fifth.” People around would knowingly nod their heads as I stood by wondering just what the hell they were talking about. Now, I’m beginning to get some idea. The other part of why I want to know the theory is jazz. You have to be real good at theory to play jazz. Enough said.
I’m preaching on Sunday. I really ought to be working on my sermon now…but instead I’ve been reading fantasy novels by Garth Nix and doing this blog. I’ll get around to it tomorrow. I’m several paragraphs in. A bit nervous perhaps, but fairly confident that I’ll have something to say. I’ll be sure not to swear in this sermon. I did in several of my sermons this past year. My friend and supervisor from the year and I still disagree about the place for swearing from the pulpit. All said, it’s not going to happen here. Wrong group of people.
Have I told you about the people I’m staying with yet? Their names are Amy and Joel. I like them very much. Joel is from America and Amy is from Banchory. They’re funny, intelligent, and very kind people. In short, they’re the sorts of people I like to be friends with. Staying with them is a treat and I feel at home in their house. Usually in these host-family sorts of scenarios you don’t really feel like you can use the couch, but here is different. I sit on the couch.