Sunday, May 03, 2015

London 101

As it turns out, the first class  train car is just as good headed north as it is headed south. I’m home now, and, while London in all its glory is fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it, the quiet streets of St Andrews are equally as glorious and welcomed. I had a great week with Mungo; that is, anyway, other than upon discovering he had peed on the corner of a bed whilst I wasn’t looking. Twice, mind you. Great dog sitter I am. Keep that in mind if you ever are in Spokane and need a dog sitter!

I won’t inundate you with narrative ad nauseam; just a few photos of highlights. I begin with the Major himself--Mungo Pug. We  had walks morning and afternoon in Clapham Commons, the area of Greater London where William Wilberforce and other like-minded abolitionists lived.


Between morning studying and walks and evening walks and studying,  I explored The City.

The London Eye


Trafalgar Square



In the business district, there are more men in suits on one street at any given time than I’ve ever encountered anywhere at any time. Architecturally, though, it boasts a smooth mingling of the old with the new.  I quite liked it.


St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge


Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I took in Romeo and Juliet… from the yard (i.e. standing, in one place, in the sun, for far too long… but for 5 quid!) Sadly, no photos were allowed once actors took to the stage.



Harrods. I managed to walk around for twenty minutes or so. Finding a jacket I loved, I decided it was time to get back to the streets. The jacket was 500x the price of Romeo and Juliet. I’ve acquired a taste for the expensive since moving here, obviously.


Instead I wandered through the Natural History Museum. Fantastic, and free! But not fantastic because it is free. Just fantastic because it is fantastic. Fantastic in and of itself. You get the point.

The building is gorgeous, and, had I the time, the displays could have captivated my interest for the day. But Mungo wouldn’t have appreciated it. I did manage to check out the huge cross-section of a Redwood, as you can see in the upper right corner of the below photo.  Also note the dinosaur on the floor. Fantastic, I tell you!


In fact, the entire dinosaur display was fantastic. And it was even more so whence I stumbled upon this ditty:

Montana meets London!


Parliament and Big Ben. Did you know ‘Big Ben’ refers to one of the bells in the clock tower, rather than the tower itself?


St. Pancras Hotel. Beautiful!


I liked London. It is classy, ornate, contemporary, and has everything a person could want. That is, besides peace and quiet, and empty sidewalks, and roads without traffic, and the ability to walk everywhere, and the whole small town feel that makes a person raised in the woods feel sane. But besides that, London’s great!

I had a good week. And though I was ready to say goodbye to the city, I wasn’t terribly keen on bidding farewell to this guy. Knowing that departure day from Scotland is now less than two months away, it was the first of many final farewells to come.


Mom and dad arrive five weeks from today. That’s five weeks of the Scotland life I’ve known for 3.5 years.

Cue the official start of Transition Time.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A First Class Life

First class is the way to travel. Having just been served lunch with a side of as much Black Forest cake and coffee as I wish, I feel a bit like royalty. Too bad the journey from St Andrews to London is only five hours. As we’re currently at Newcastle Station, I’ve got 2.5 hours to eat my fill of chocolate goodness.

I’m heading to London to spend the week looking after Cousin Mungo, while Ronald, Judith’s son, is away on a business trip. As my dear mom often reminds me, ‘It’s not what you know but who you know’. In my world it’s a bit of both, but the point is taken. I have a week ahead of playing tourist, with very nice and very free accommodation, a wee pug at my side, and a first class train ticket generously purchased by Ronald in my name to make it all happen. Am I lucky, or what? 

Cousin Mungo

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It won’t be all fun and games, though. The work must still get done, particularly now that I’m down to a mere two months  before I say ‘adios’ to Scotland for good, and only six weeks before my mom and dad start flashing their passports in their race to see me. So I’ll spend my early mornings working away, followed by afternoons of London extravaganzas (i.e. walking around and taking in free or very cheap attractions), followed by evenings at home with Mungo and the computer.

The viva feels like ages ago now. My days are again consumed by early morning till late afternoon study sessions, adding, tweaking, and revising sections of the thesis. As discouraging as it is to still have things to do, I’ve been very encouraged these last few weeks, and have been reminded of God’s grace in all of my life’s pursuits. The viva examiners’ reports where strongly encouraging. One examiner wrote that my thesis is perhaps ‘more intellectually ambitious than any [he has] ever examined or supervised’. Elsewhere they called it ‘theologically ambitious’. And, because it is so ‘ambitious’, they’ve requested special permission for me to have an additional 20,000 words to use in order to sustain the argument. That means that I don’t have to take out anything from the current thesis but that my thesis ultimately will be 100,000 words when it would have been the standard 80,000 words—a huge increase.  The beautiful thing is that, everything they’ve requested I add to the thesis now is what I had already anticipated adding for publication purposes at a later date.  I’m just being forced to do it now rather than then—a long-term benefit to me.

And in the midst of trying to wrap up things here in the United Kingdom, I’m increasingly looking forward to my transition to Spokane. How can I not do so, when I get notes like these from future colleagues:

‘Let it be a comfort to you to remember that you're coming into a maximally supportive situation here at Whitworth and in our department.  Everyone is rooting for you. . . . There's no doubt that you're going to flourish once you arrive here’.

And: ‘We're excited for you to arrive. There is quite a buzz among the students about you!’

Changes are afoot!  I’m riding first class on a train, but I’m pretty sure I’m also living a first class life.

As ever, stay tuned for photos of Londonland!

Monday, March 30, 2015

slow and steady

Judith, my landlady, just served me a Drambuie on the rocks.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in celebration.

The viva lasted three hours today—three long but surprisingly enjoyable hours. The examiners pressed me hard on a number of my arguments, and my answers were not too shabby. Nevertheless, the result wasn’t what I had hoped it might be. Though my answers in the viva were all that one can expect for an oral exam, they felt the thesis itself is in need of some further work before it can be considered complete. Though my supervisor felt the thesis was in good shape, the examiners had other opinions. This was perfectly within the realm of possibilities, just not what I’d hoped for, nor what my supervisor expected. 

But, all is well. I already have a job, which in itself is quite the feat, and the PhD will get finished. I’ll just need to spend some additional months making that happen. The plus side is that I would have spent these months working on the thesis anyway, in preparing it for publication. Now  it will be closer to publication readiness and probably a whole lot sooner, as well.  I’m taking a bit of a detour before finishing, but slow and steady still wins the race, or at least still finishes the race. And that’s all I care about.

Thanks for all your prayers, love, and encouragement during this process. It is truly the most trying thing I’ve ever done. I’m disappointed that it will continue for a while longer, but will be glad to have a better final product in the end.

Friday, March 27, 2015

of d-day and your role to play

Well, kids, it’s go time again, both for me and for you.

For me, it’s D-Day this Monday, March 30th—the day on which I’ll ‘D’-fend my thesis in my Viva, the oral exam.

For you, Monday is offense day—the day you get on those knees and say your prayers for me. God answered them last December (over three months ago now!) when you pleaded for me to get the job, and so I enlist you again.

There are a handful of results that could come from the Viva, anything from passing on the spot and walking away as Dr. Goranson (!), to having a year’s worth of revision to make. Needless to say, the fewer the revisions, the better, but anything is possible.  So say your prayers, people. Pray that I would not be nervous, but that I would be engaging and articulate, that I would recall texts and ideas and authors that I’ve studied these last three years, and that I would defend my arguments persuasively and graciously.

This is College Hall, a room dating back to the 16th century and the place where I’ll be examined. You can picture me here at 2:00 pm on Monday, alone with my two examiners at the oversized oval table.


I’ll be here at 2:00 pm but, given the time difference, you’ll have to play your role much earlier. Depending on where you live, at 6:00 am, 7:00 am, 8:00 am, or 9:00 am, you best be out of your warm and cozy bed and on your knees at the side of it, no matter how creaky your knees are! :)

Many thanks, kids. I’ll report back Monday with the results…

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


As promised, here are a few photos from my time in England a couple of weekends ago. England is a beautiful country and, in particular, York and Durham are two beautiful English cities.

My time in each was very short, but I got a small taste of both. You’ll see from the photos that the sun decided to shine during my time in York and retreated during my time in Durham.

This is York Minster, another stunningly elaborate European cathedral.




York is home to one of the most photographed streets in the UK: The Shambles. I do it no justice with my photography, but neither did it inspire me as one might suppose it would given its popularity.


The Old City of York is beautiful, though, and a place I would enjoy spending more time exploring.


After leaving York I caught a train north to Durham, where my supervisor served as an Anglican Bishop in his previous life. The weather was horrid less than pleasant during my six hours in the town, so I spent quite a lot of time sitting in and exploring the cathedral. It was a good thing it was a Sunday. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside. This is the view from the rail station. My short time there was enjoyable, despite the weather, and not least due to its connections to Professor Wright.


Here’s one shot of the Old City streets of Durham when the sideways rain had stopped for 30 seconds.


The United Kingdom really does have some gems in it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Land of Leprechauns

Thanks for all the emails and messages of congratulations and well-wishes!

In less exciting news, I’ve done a spot of traveling recently. After submitting the thesis I made a quick weekend trip to England, and then last Wednesday, one week ago today, I added country #27 to my slowly expanding list: Ireland. (You know life is good when traveling to a new country is less exciting than something else!) Along with leprechauns, gold, and four-leaf clovers, Ireland is the home of two strikingly handsome cousins: Levi and Luke… and their parents Justin and Jessica. We Goransons have some pretty great genes, wouldn’t you say? 


Because I’m still here, I’ll make this post about my time in Ireland and do a subsequent post with some photos of England.

I’ve been in Ireland for one week today and, sadly, will say ‘goodbye’ to my newly introduced cousins tomorrow. But it has been a great week, filled with all kinds of adventures: from exploring ancient monastic ruins and touring Dublin to re-entering the chaotic magical world(s) of toddlers. Forget the pot of gold; here in Ireland and in this home, silence is golden.

Here are a few sights/experiences from my time here in neighbouring Ireland:

Other than meeting my wee cousins for the first time and reuniting with Justin and Jessica, one of the highlights of my time here came on the first day. I managed to squeeze onto a tour of three significant biblical papyri, P45-47, at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. These three papyri, which are (respectively) the four Gospels and Acts, the collection of Paul’s letters, and sections of Revelation, are some of the oldest extant manuscripts of the New Testament texts, dating back to c. 200-400 AD. That’s nearly two thousand years ago, people. Two thousand. Pretty cool. Photos weren’t allowed, as you can imagine, but here’s a link to the website if you want to see what they looked like.

This is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is smaller than most, but the  banners overhanging the choir stalls and the tiled floor add a colourful dimension not often found in Europe’s cathedrals.




One of the many bridges of Dublin at sunset.


This is at Trinity College, where the Book of Kells—a Latin copy of the four Gospels—resides. It was  created in c. 800 A.D. by monks on Iona, one of the western Scottish islands, before being moved to various places in Ireland when Viking invaders crushed the monastic community on Iona. Photos weren’t allowed, but trust me when I say, the Book of Kells is a stunning masterpiece, especially considering the when and where of its creation.

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This is the Old Library at Trinity College. There were old books, old books, and more old books.


One of the stained glass windows at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, which is otherwise unworthy of mention.


My hosts have graciously taken me on several smaller outings during my stay here, but the big outing of our time together was last Saturday. It was, weather-wise, one of the most beautiful days of my time here across the Irish Sea. With an un-Irish early start, we wound our way to Glendalough (‘Valley of Two Lakes’), a village nestled in the Wicklow Mountains just south of Dublin. There a monastic community was formed some 1500-odd years ago, part of which still exists, at least in fabric if not in function.



Graveyard and chapel with Glencalo Valley in the background.


Lower Glendalough Lake


Goransons reunite!


I’ve had a wonderful time here in the Land of Leprechauns, reuniting with family and meeting some of its newest—and certainly wildest—members.

Stay tuned for some sights of York and Durham next!

Friday, January 23, 2015

of faithfulness and graciousness

The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds (Psalm 145:13b).

Twenty years ago this year I became a Christian.

Sixteen years ago I was baptized.

Fourteen years ago I started at Crown College.

Ten years ago I moved to Kyrgyzstan.

Nine years ago I started at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Six years ago I became the pastor of Mount Republic Chapel of Peace.

Four years ago I started at the University of St Andrews.

This year I will be twenty years a Christian and will complete the PhD.

And in all of it, the one lesson I have learned, which I have carried with me these twenty years and which I carry still, is that God is faithful and gracious. Upon beginning each new adventure, I never knew where it might lead to, but I trusted that God himself would lead me into it. Over the last fifteen years, God has led me on some pretty remarkable adventures: from Minnesota to Lithuania to Kyrgyzstan to Massachusetts to Montana to Scotland, with shorter travels to and adventures in 26 other countries and 40 states in between. I wouldn’t change a minute of any of it.

And now, on the twenty year anniversary of my Christian faith commitment, God continues to lead. He continues to show his faithfulness and grace to me in ways unexpected, surprising, and previously unfathomable.  Most recently, he has done so by giving me a glimpse of my next great adventure: the beginning of the rest of my life.

As you know, I spent the month of November applying for jobs, doing Skype interviews, and even an on-campus interview at the start of December. The majority of these labors end in rejection for students like me; there are just too many PhD-holders and too few university openings. The academic job market is grim, to say the very least.

But God has looked on me with grace.

He has unfolded the map of the next leg of my life’s journey. And not only has he graciously told me what I’ll be doing and where I’ll be going, but both the what and the where are more perfect ends to my goals than I could ever have imagined.

Whitworth Winter

Come July 2015, I will be an Assistant Professor of Theology (Biblical Studies) at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. 

I know. Crazy, right?

My time there at the beginning of December went swimmingly, and from day one, Whitworth and Spokane felt like home—the kind of long-term, earthly home I long for. The theology faculty felt like a family, and the students reminded me of myself at that age. Throughout the three days, as I interacted with faculty, students, and administration alike, I had the overwhelming sense that God could use me and the gifts he has developed in me in that place. I prayed that he would do so; and, as he has done these twenty-plus years now, God heard and answered that prayer.

Whitworth University is an undergraduate, liberal arts institution with approximately 2,300 students from a variety of countries, states, denominations, and even faith backgrounds. It prioritizes the education of students’ minds and hearts, academic freedom to ask the difficult questions currently plaguing the Church and scholarship, and, with faculty from diverse denominations, it seeks to uphold and embrace Christian unity among diversity. The ecumenical but evangelical values of the institution make Whitworth a rather unique Christian liberal arts college. ‘For the 15th consecutive year, Whitworth was ranked in the top 10 in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of the 120 best private colleges and universities in the West’. It is truly a top-notch university, and one that I feel honoured to be invited to join.

Whitworth University’s campus is beautiful, with red brick buildings under the canopy of towering Ponderosa Pines.  It is situated on the very edge of Spokane and, on a clear day, Mount Spokane is visible in the distance. Among other things, its location and atmosphere fit me perfectly. And at only 8.5 hours away, it is one of the closest Christian Colleges to Cooke City, which means that some of you will now never be rid of me. That, in my mind, equals success! 

I am still in a state of shock. To think that God has blessed me with a job before the PhD is even finished, and at such a school and in such a location as this, is mind boggling. But I am so grateful to know the next step, and to know that it is a step that will bring with it the opportunity to put down roots, to build long-term community, to teach, mentor, and be part of scholarship, and finally to have a place officially to call ‘home’.

Thank you for all of your prayers. The Lord heard them and answered them. I know he did mine.

The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds (Psalm 145:13b).