Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Amazing day! Barr Castle, Airds Moss, Loudon Hill, Strathaven Castle, Loudoun Keep prayer meeting at Loudoun Parish

Amazing day! Barr Castle, Airds Moss (Richard Cameron died here), Loudon Hill (Wallace 1305, Bruce 1307, and Drumclog nearby June 1, 1679), Strathaven Castle (Covenanter prison, garrison of dragoons), Loudoun Keep (of Rebels Keep, April 1685 rescue of 8 Covenanters) prayer meeting at Loudoun Parish (great blessing hearing the saints pray for their benighted church; David Randall talked with our group about the state of the Church of Scotland and his censure by the Presbytery for declaring that the CS has blasphemed the Holy Spirit--I'll post audio of lots as soon as I get a chance--busy!). Had a wonderful lunch at Loudoun Hill Inn, a classic, well-appointed Scottish roadside inn. Thanks Gordon Lennox!

Cute Scots Kids! Steel grandchildren

Had tea with the Steel clan at Kevin and Gillian's new home overlooking the Irvine valley and the hills and moors surrounding it. It's difficult to describe the Steel family, but words like love, warmth, family-togetherness, come readily to mind when you've been with them. By the way, our Gillian gets her name for their Gillian.

Rev Paul Walker playing piano at Glasgow (Cathedral) High Kirk

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DAY 1: Glasgow High Kirk (Cathedral), St. George's Tron; Necropolis

Absolutely beautiful, blue sky, warm sun day. Three of our folks had mechanical problems and had to return to Philly; they arrive, Lord willing, via Manchester tomorrow evening; 'The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.'
Then we visited St. George's Tron where Sinclair Ferguson preached, and Eric Alexander, and where William Phillips now ministers. We learned more about the crisis in the Kirk.

At Fenwick Kirk, built in 1643, we met with Rev. Geoff Redmayne, who told us all about the church, William Guthrie's ministry and military leadership.

Wonderful dinner at Fenwick Hotel, and good fellowship with the young people on the tour. Read Psalm 93, Calvin's favorite, on Jesus reigning over the nations and all things, including tyrants who attempt to usurp the Crown rights of the Redeemer in his Kirk. This is going well! Thanks be to God.

And Cheryl in the jougs. Definition: jougs pl n (Scot. history) an iron ring, fastened by a chain to a wall, post, or tree, in which an offender was held by the neck; common in Scotland.

CHERYL IN A BUBBLE: You've got to see Cheryl (my wife) at Falkirk Wheel!

The Falkirk Wheel is amazing

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tour begins tomorrow morning! Great day today

Great day exploring with Eric and Irene. Revisited Rullion Green and confirmed that we can get the coach reasonably close to the battlefield. As an aside we visited the Falkirk Wheel--an amazing feat of engineering that flips canal boats down a huge drop onto a lower canal. Quite a ride. Organized things with Rev Geoff Redmayne of Fenwick Kirk, who agreed to speak with our folks tomorrow afternoon and show us inside the Kirk. Wonderful historic place, the kirkyard filled with Covenanter martyrs and artifacts. Then off to afternoon tea with Kevin and Gillian Scade, and Iain and Heather Garvie, and Angus and Mae Steel, and all their beautiful grandchildren.
  1. Fine Scottish dinner at the Cochrane and then podcast interview with Redeemed Reader blog (World magazine fans, that's Janie Cheaney and her cohort Emily Whitten's first-rate blog on literature for young people). You can hear this and a previous podcast on my Fathers and Sons series at We talked about Mr. Pipes and using fiction to awaken another generation to the beauty and importance of hymns, and about the Covenanters and some brief highlights of what our tour will see in the coming days.

Crisis in the Church of Scotland

We enjoyed sweet fellowship with the saints at Loudoun Parish Church in Newmilns, Ayrshire yesterday. David Randall preached from Jeremiah 25 and II Kings 25 in the morning, and from John 18, Jesus in Gethsemane in the evening worship service. Christ was honored and the gospel was proclaimed in this pulpit, but alas, not so throughout most of the Church of Scotland. The clerk of the Kirk session read a statement to the congregation regarding the CS's approval of homosexual ministers. Last week there was a meeting of 700 ministers and eleders at St. George's Tron Church in Glasgow, where Sinclair Ferguson used to preach, and where William Phillips pastors today. The Tron is probably the second largest congregation in the CS, the first, Gilcomston South, Aberdeem, already declaring its withdrawal from the denomination. We had supper after evening worship last night with the McCallums and the Steels, Angus Steel an elder at Loudoun Church. Long and passionate discussion of what constitutes an apostate church, why more ministers did not recognize that the CS was moving away from the authority of Scripture when women were approved for ordination more than two decades ago, and what should be the course of action for confessing churches today.

Here is the link to St. George's Tron Church audio files on various speeches delivered at the landmark meeting last week: 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On the ground in rainy Scotland

Fresh images of Glasgow Cathedral
Cheryl and I arrived in Glasgow after what seemed like pretty long flights. Sure is fun having my wife along on these trips, though she's pretty tired after not sleeping hardly a wink the whole way here (she says I slept lots...)

We checked out some things at the Glasgow High Kirk, formerly the Cathedral--important foundational first stop for our tour beginning in a couple of days. Ate a good lunch at quaint City Merchant, our first restaurant (though we'll likely do a breakfast for the early bird arrivals on Tuesday morning. Then off to hunt down Bothwell Brig and monument, and to try and find access for our coach and travelers. All the while, I'm praying that I stay alert at the wheel of our rental Vauxhall diesel. Some nut went and put the steering wheel on the wrong side of the vehicle, and then got some kind of trend going and everybody thinks its funny to drive on the left (read 'wrong') side of the road. Imagine it. Had a wonderful evening of good fellowship and good food with Eric and Irene McCallum in Newmilns. Pretty bleary-eyed tired so off to bed. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Off to Scotland! Crown & Covenant Tour begins (for us)

After a flurry of final packing, checking on reservations at hotels and restaurants, making sure we have every piece of every day of the tour in order, we're about to hit the sack. We invite you to follow the tour on this blog (begins officially June 28th, though we may do a post or two before then). We appreciate your prayers for the tour, for the families that are participating, young children to senior travelers, for safety, good health, enriching experiences, life-long memories, inspiring connections to our spiritual forebears, fellowship and conversations with believers in Christ from various places in the US and Canada, but most of all that King Jesus would high and lifted up, and known and loved more intimately by each of us.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

INKBLOTS June 20, 2011, Mens Writing Group

GK Chesterton
INKBLOTS – June 20, 2011
John brought along a bottle of 2006 Beaumes de Venise; Doug Mc led off with a favorite passage from Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil. A passage on a father and his interaction with his family. I like his rich textured prose, simple, yet with nuance and breadth—my general observations from listening to a ten-minute passage. But what this particularly underscores the mystery of how God in his infinite wisdom and sovereign good pleasure dispenses his gifts in ways we would not. Maugham was a homosexual, yet in spite of his rejection of God and his will and way in his world, God endows his creatures with imagination and creativity, believer or unbeliever. But, and it is a big but, for this reason we must be discerning.

I read a passage from G K Chesterton’s Father Brown on the miraculous and the difference between that which is marvelous and that which is mysterious. He makes the case that there is a difference and that miracles are real. “The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.”

Rick shared an idea for a King Arthur retelling in which he creates a second Lancelot who, unlike the first, resist sexual temptation and breaks the spell of gloom that hangs over the land. We suggested setting the tale in another time period, start the tale in the Middle Ages but in a page or so your readers find out that someone is reading or retelling the Arthurian legend. But the refresh your reader by placing it in a setting, more modern. Breathe fresh life into this if you’re going to do it. This would be a quest tale. What would be the adventures they would experience in which the quest and the trial would occur. Rick sees an enchanted castle, a mirror in which if you look too long your face begins to fade away, theophony elements too. Rick feels like he needs to keep pulling and working on this, but an idea underway.  

We talked about how Lewis used the oral story teller, intrusive narrator, some would call it, but he was able to do so because he had the creative wisdom and experience, vast experience, of literature, from which to draw. So what does Rick do next with this idea? Start writing! Yes, you’ll need to do some mapping, but start writing, disciplined, weekly word count, page count for starters. We talked about writing regularly to learn our craft, to develop the skills necessary to write well. This involves reading the best books on the craft of writing.  

Doug Mc reads chapter 2 of his WW II tale, Baptist and Presbyterian clashes, but with the goal of finding commonality, but with humorous moments. Luther, Knox, Calvin on the Lord’s Supper. We discussed the differences between a Bap and Pres understanding of what the worship service actually is, first worship, but should it sound like Pres don’t believe in evangelism? I’d avoid it sounding like Pres scorn evangelism (alas some do), but more clearly define what evangelism is and what it is not, such as the revivalism of the 19th century, per Finney. Keep it on the essentials of the gospel, which commonality is the doctrines of grace, Bap or Pres throughout history. What is your goal in these passages? And how does this relate to theological issues relevant in our own day? This related to the purpose and goal of you writing this. Rick commented that it needs a stronger hook. What about a medias res, smack dab in the Italian theatre of the war, then flash back to these two chapters.

John reads the chapter when they found the baby. I like what you do with the phone dying and the baby. Good job avoiding gratuitous description of grim scene, yet giving us clear sense of the gravity of the situation. Bitter local discussion about the downturn of the economy and business closure, loss of jobs.

I read from my Anglo Saxon tale, a bit more fleshed out, coming together, having fun with it this week. Started last Monday so just a week or so into it. John thought what Cynwulf found in the hole was a let-down. Doug Mc said he was cold, he felt damp; he was pulled in. John proceeded to critique several of my other published books, telling me how I should have written them. Got to love him! And I do. “If Doug wants the book to be good, then write it like I’m saying,” said John.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Early excerpt of my Anglo-Saxon who-done-it. Just underway

He did, however, detect something amiss with the landscape. Halting in his stride, he attempted to reconstruct the familiar sight in his mind’s eye.
“Ah so,” he said aloud. “Yonder tree’s gone missing.”
On a wind-swept, barren island when a tree went missing it was impossible not to take notice. Perhaps it was struck down in the night by the lightning, by Thunor’s hammer, so Cynwulf mused. But as he neared the place where the old tree had stood, gnarled and unchanged throughout the seasons of his life, he saw its roots splayed and washed clean by the heavy rain. He quickened his pace.
His first thought was of what he would do with the wood. It was sycamore wood, tough, and suitable for fine furniture for a laird’s great hall. Perhaps he could sell it on the mainland, though he sensed that it might have more value here on the island where wood was scarce. Frowning, he mused long on this. He felt he might be about to overtake and come along side some principle, that he might be near dropping his anchoring stone in the mouth of the nature of things in a bewildering world. He often felt this way. But as was usual when he did, it passed, and he returned his mind to planning out what he would do with the wood.
Circling his prize, Cynwulf nearly lost his footing on the edge of the hole where the tree’s roots had rested these many years, perhaps centuries. He was about to take his mind back to his twofold prosperity and how he might use it to win Haeddi’s hand and take her to his living place for wife, when he noticed something round and pale in the red earth beneath where the ancient tree had stood. He picked his way into the hole and fell to his knees; mud from the rainfall felt soft and cool on his feet and calves. With his hands he cleared earth away from the object.
Cynwulf had seen human remains, many times had he seen this. Pale gray bones, flaking with age, and a skull seemingly smaller than his own, yet without flesh and hair, it was difficult to tell for certain. Gently, he moved the soft earth away from the head. 

“And just how is it,” he spoke conversationally as he worked, “how is it that you came to rest in the sod of this holy island?”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

INKBLOTS... Did I ever get beat up by these clowns!

INKBLOTS – June 7, 2011

Spewed out the 2000 Vin de Pays d’Oc (sorry, Monsieur Sarkosy), unfit for dressing arugula (grimacing shiver). Napa Valley comes through again: Chateau Saint-Jean Merlot, fire on the grate (yes, we had a day of summer-ish weather last week, sort of, but not tonight). David K received word back from Writers’ Edge reading service, which approves only 3% of submissions, and they approved his futuristic political thriller as having publishable potential. Congratulations, David. 

Ned leads off reading from one of his favorite writers from his African youth, Robert Ruark, Uhuru, a novel of Africa Today (1961). Launching you into the story, medias res. Protagonist viewing Somalis on Kenyan street scene, posture of woman walking with dignity along the dusty street. A denotative style, minute details, right down to precise entries in the sentry logbook. We discussed how fiction has changed in the last decades, seemingly toward more spare description, more internal human description but less setting that what we just heard from Ruark. In just a page and a half, the man hooked us, made us want to read on. 

David reads a manuscript he had started a while back about a traveling preacher, called a ‘healer’ but not a faith healer, “I don’t blow bad-breath theology, or blow you down with emotional words.” Loved the vintage pepsi and twinkies. Started with good common-man description, salt-of-the-earth, folksy style that made us all laugh, but then you started telling and I lost who was thinking these things, or was it an intrusive narrator. Esther and Mickie meet. “You’re a healer,” Esther dreamed that he was coming last night and leads the way to a needy family. “I really like it,” said Ned. “When did you write this?” Which represents all of our sense of this.

John reads a rewrite of a chapter about ducks—not trucks—you heard me: ducks. We beat him up about this chapter a while ago (he must have forgotten the thrashing; we can help). As I recall, I wanted him to connect this episode to the larger problem in the story: sanctity of life. In which John strings out stats on Detroit (pasted right off of Wikipedia, no doubt). John loves cameo appearances… of just about everyone he has ever known, including friends (former ones, if he keeps this up), Dr. Perkins, Dr. Jackson, Ned, Florence, Dawn. Watch out when you’re around John, especially when he starts narrowing his eyes at you and, with tremulous hand, begins clutching for one of the Multi-Care pens in his pocket protector; know, you will be the next cameo in the next chapter. I love it! Doug off-handedly suggests that John observe punctuation when he reads aloud. Blinking perplexedly, John queries, “Punctuation? Like with flat tires?” (Okay, okay, I added that bit). I love John, and he knows it. What larks!

Doug Mc explains his Italian theater WW II novel, set at Monte Casino, first person, present tense. Painting in hospital by El Greco called Christ on the Cross, found at a garage sale in Spain in 1950 (Christ’s ecstasy, “It is finished,” John 19). Painting will be object of debate, including with a captured German Lutheran. “All will be well.” Motion of the branches. Clash of Baptists, Presbyterians. More twang than drawl. “Ready to go to a real church today?” Baptism scene is choice, complete with pastor squelching up the aisle in hip-waders.
My turn. Introduced my plan to write Anglo-Saxon tale as 7th century crime fiction, a detective story, after the fashion of some of my favorites in the genre, G. K. Chesterton and his Father Brown series prominent among them. Read three paragraphs of Anglo-Saxon tale (Caedmon Blood-Axe? You think?). John thought I should ask Sister Wendy what she thinks. “Break it into two chapters,” said Doug Mc. “I think you need more description,” said Ned. Bunch of clowns. He brought up keeping language simple; why did I use bovine instead of cow, for example. Good question. All fiction is contrivance, but it has to be contrivance that works with our understanding of the realities of the historical context, in this case 7th century Northumbria. Can’t write it in Old English: Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard metudæs maecti end his modgidanc. Not going to fly, is it? So I have to find the syntax and diction that fits the historical context, hence the higher register language. But still working on it (better be; three paragraphs needs to become 70,000 words by September 1).