Wednesday, June 25, 2014

of deadlines reached and dreams at the doorstep

The deed is done. The battle is won. Rest now knocks at my door.

Scratch that…

Summer now knocks at my door. 

How in the world?! has April turned into May, and May into June, with July stealthily encroaching?  I barely remember any of it. For the first time since my one-day outing to the Cairngorms at the beginning of April, but really since my return to Scotland from Minnesota last January, I’m finally coming up for air.

Last Friday I reached my hard-earned goal of submitting my 106,000-word-dissertation draft to Professor Wright for review. Those 106,559 words are 2 3/4 years in the making.  Collectively, they represent the thoughts that have consumed me for at least the last two years; whether in waking, walking to work, working, writing, walking home from work, or wearied from another day, these  thousands of words are representative of my life in Scotland.  (In case you’re unaware, ‘living in Scotland’ does not equal ‘every day’s a new adventure’. On the contrary, ‘living in Scotland’, at least for me, means thinking and re-thinking, examining and re-examining the same thoughts and ideas day after day after day after day after day after day in an incredibly mundane day to day existence. Somehow I feel like I know too-well the cow’s subjection to a monotonous life of chewing its cud. [Part of the subjection of creation (Rom. 8:20), I wonder?]) But, alas, Friday came and ‘SEND’ was clicked; thanks be to God.

Moreover, due to Professor Wright’s intense travel schedule these days, the turn-around time for submission-review-feedback was lighting fast. Yesterday played host to a 3-hour marathon meeting, where we talked through the strengths and weaknesses of the draft as it currently stands. His feedback was highly encouraging, and definitely confirmed my suspicion: there is definitely a light at the end of this long and winding tunnel.  While there are seemingly thousands of bits and pieces to alter here and there, only one chapter (which I already knew) and a handful of smaller chunks of chapters require substantial revision.  This is to say that, while there is a lot of work yet to do, none of it will be particularly difficult.  The so-called ‘hard work’ is done.  My original contributions to scholarship are in place, and my argument is clear and (I think) persuasive. I’m 25,000 words over the limit, but removing words is a whole lot easier than generating new ideas and research. It’s a good place to be.

It feels good to reach a milestone such as this, and even better to know that the work I’ve produced is quality. It also feels good to know that a Minnesota summer is quickly approaching, being at this point exactly one week from knocking at my door. Though I don’t yet dream of humidity and the Minnesota mascot, the Mighty Mosquito, I do anxiously await warmth, sun, and one of mankind’s greatest inventions—the hammock.

Move over mom, I’m coming home!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Springtime…





and bloom.


Thursday, April 10, 2014



I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.


The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A Day Away

Last week I decided that it was time for a day away from St Andrews and the computer.  So I decided rather impromptu to check another item off of my Scotland bucket list: Aviemore and its surrounding Scottish Highlands in Winter.  Aviemore is a village nestled in the western Cairngorm Mountains along the corridor that runs from Perth to Inverness.  It is in the Cairngorm National Park, but you wouldn’t know it; there are no Park Entrance stations requiring $20 per car to enter.  Imagine that.

Like most places in Scotland, it takes some maneuvering to get there without a car.  For me it meant a day of leaving home at 5:45am and returning at 11:00pm, with a bus and two train rides each direction.  Nothing beats train travel though, especially on sunny days through beautiful landscapes.   


There’s nothing particularly special about Aviemore itself, unless you have an insatiable desire to spend countless hours wandering in and out of stores selling ski and snowboard gear to those largely uninitiated to winter sports.  But I wanted to see the mountains Highlands in their white robes of winter snow at least once while here, and Aviemore is the perfect location to do so.  The village is surrounded by the Cairngorms and features a ‘ski resort’ of sorts about ten miles out of town. 

Unfortunately for me, the mild winter, combined with the fact that it was the end of March (another reason I can’t bring myself to call them ‘mountains’), meant that the majority of the snow had already melted around the town. 

Fortunately for me, though, that meant I could hike along the eastern ridge and take  in the views.  Here is a view of Aviemore from mid-way up the ridge.


And here’s a shot from 3/4 of the way up the ridge.  Across the valley you can see the hills that still wear their wintery robe.  If you look along that ridge to about an inch from the right side of the picture you will notice a black line that seems to run from the top of the ridge to the bottom.  That line is what they call the vernicular, a rail-tramway that replaced the chair life about ten years back.  That hillside was my afternoon destination.



(It was super windy!  This was the one selfie of many that didn’t have my curly locks completely shrouding my face.)

IMG_1837 - Copy


Not wanting to be blown off the ridge by the wind, I made my way back to Aviemore.  Once there I caught the once-per-hour bus to the ski chalet.  The bus ride to the top was quite nice.  At one point I even thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is slightly like the Beartooths’.  Mostly when I saw this scene through the window at the front of the bus.


And this scene was nice too, but just a wee bit too dense to be Beartooth-like.  It does a perfect job being Scottish Highland-like though, does it not?


Once at the ski chalet I jumped off the bus, making sure to ask the driver what time the bus collected people for the downward journey.  ‘Four hours from now’ was the reply, and not the most welcome one.  Besides riding the vernicular to the top and taking in the view, perhaps with a coffee in-hand from the summit coffee shop, there wasn’t much else for a non-skier to do.  I figured I was good at sitting and staring at wide open views, and this would be such an occasion for doing just that.  Four hours would probably go by too fast once at the top… (said my puny brain).

I  purchased my vernicular ticket and rode it to the top.  This was the view I encountered.


And, as I was there for the view, the clouds were not a welcome feature—by me, and I doubt if the clouds were welcomed by the skiers and boarders either.  For those on skis and boards, at least, the cloud only enveloped the hill at the summit.  They were soon out of the cloud on their downward descent.  I, on the other hand, had 3.5 more hours of it.

Thankfully, there was coffee at the top.  And I had a book.  And every now and then, the fierce Scotland wind would push the clouds away for the briefest of interludes, revealing the distant hills of the Cairngorm National Park.  The clouds would lift for no more than 20 seconds, at which point I would race outside with my camera.  This would happen once every thirty minutes or so… for 3.5 hours.

But, hey, I got some work done (on holiday… how American of me) and saw the view throughout the afternoon.



Here’s the view from the vernicular on the way back down.  It had a very- slow-rollercoaster-feel to it.  Many of you will quickly notice the serious lack of snow.  The skiers and boarders basically had snow paths they had to follow.  In March.  And that’s when I knew for sure… these were anything but mountains.  They are beautiful High-Lands, but they are not mountains.  Not my kind of mountains, anyway.


Back at the chalet I discovered a path leading into the wilds of the Cairngorms.  Not wanting to miss the bus (the last bus of the day) I hesitated to wander too far, but wished that I had discovered it sooner. 


Oh well.  Live and learn. 

I caught my bus back down the hill to Aviemore, and then my train to Perth, another train to Dundee, and a bus to St Andrews where my rusty-trusty bike was waiting to take me home at 11pm.  It was a great day away, and time well-spent checking-off another item on my Scotland Bucket List.  See what you’re missing by not visiting?

Monday, March 03, 2014


as I sit here eating my lentil and kale soup (day 3 of 5), I’ve never related more to a comic than I do to this one.


Also—on a very random note—for anyone interested in the relationship between science and scripture, clear an hour of your day and listen to the lecture Professor Wright gave the other week, titled, ‘Can a Scientist Trust the New Testament?’  It’s a unique title because, in our current (especially American) Church culture, the question is usually posed in the opposite: ‘Can a New Testament believer trust a Scientist (science)?’  I assure you you’ll appreciate his insight, not only into the question itself but how the question relates to our larger post-Enlightenment world of ‘progress’.  The lecture is found at:

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Fun in the Sun

The last three days here in sunny St Andrews have been sheer bliss.  My three days off have coincided amazingly well with the sunniest, warmest, driest, and calmest days of the winter thus far.  I enjoyed my coffee and meals outside on the patio (wrapped in a blanket!), listening to the birds, soaking up the sun, and generating some much needed vitamin D.  After two months of seemingly endless darkness, sideways rain, and annoying wind, these three days were wonderful, and were made all the more wonderful by me not being in the office from 6:30am-7:30pm Monday through Saturday. 

Spring has definitely come with this weekend, to which even the flowers in the garden testify.  Aren’t these Hellebores lovely?



I didn’t sit in the garden all day, every day, nor did I dig my digits into the dirt, as I had predicted that I might.  Instead, I found myself gallivanting throughout the countryside with Judith, running errands and enjoying the East Neuk of Fife.  On Friday I accompanied her to Pittenweem, where her son owns what has to be one of the most beautiful properties in the entire region.  The building is formerly the Baptist church of the village which has been transformed into a sleek, contemporary house, and it sits on a terrace overlooking the harbour and the sea.  Gorgeous.  While there I took Holly for a quick walk along the coast and enjoyed the sunny view.  Below is the shoreline of Pittenweem.


And here’s a view of the harbour in Ansthruther, the fishing village just north along the coast.


This is also the season of Snow Drops, beautiful and delicate white flowers which appear throughout wooded areas, sometimes so densely that they form a white carpet covering the landscape.  The Cambo Estates just outside of St Andrews is known for their Snow Drops and is a place Judith and I have tried to plan a trip to the last two springs.  We finally made that happen yesterday. 

Here’s a photo of the wooded walk that leads from the estate house down a quarter mile to the sea.  Snow Drops are everywhere.


A burn flows along the meandering path, adding to the natural beauty of the estate grounds.


Once at the seaside, Judith, Holly and I had a wee wander along the coast, taking in the view and the sun.  I’m so blessed by these two and am so grateful God has given me a home with them while here in Scotland. 


It was a lovely weekend and a welcome break.  Tomorrow I’ll return to the books, starting my second to last chapter of the dissertation.  This means that there will probably be another month or so of silence from Scotland, but for very good reason.  That said, though, personal emails and letters are always very welcome!!!  With the sun in the sky, the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter daily.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

of cards, chapters, papers, and breath

I received a card in the mail today.  It was from Wilbur. 


He cut me a lock of his hair. 


The poor chap must really miss me.

In other news, I hit a relatively major milestone with the dissertation last week.  Since returning in January I’ve been working intensively on the chapter that forms the heart of my thesis.  The long days and weeks  paid off on Friday when I submitted the 25,000 word draft of the chapter.  It’s only a draft but a draft is a whole lot easier to revise than a blank page.  And 25,000 words is over a quarter of the entire project’s length.  With only two small chapters and the introduction and conclusion left, there is a deceptive sense that it’s all downhill from here.  I’m on track to have a draft of the entire dissertation done by the end of June, which is fantastic.

There was no rest for the weary on Friday though, as I immediately dove into preparing a paper for yesterday’s New Testament Seminar.  My friend Andrew and I were asked to host the seminar on the topic of Paul’s implicit references to the Roman Empire in Philippians.  It was a great seminar with good discussion points all around.  I’m thankful for any leadership opportunities I get these days, but especially grateful for ones that involve communicating the issues within biblical and theological studies. 

I’m also grateful for the chance to breathe!  The second half of this week is blissful as I enjoy reading without having to write.  On Monday I’ll launch the next chapter—less than half the length of the last one.  And this weekend, if the sun decides to shine (unlikely), I may even dig my digits into Judith’s flower beds.  The crocuses are coming!