On Leaving Scotland

July 31, 2013

Let me just say right here, right now, right up front, that I was not ready to leave Scotland, and I would go back in a heartbeat. In fact, my wife is in favor of selling the house and everything that we own, and moving to that country.

It’s not that the USA is bad (its not, despite all of our grousing and grumbling–this really is a great place to live); it’s simply that within an hour of landing in Edinburgh, we looked at one another and thought–and said to one another–“We could live here!”

By way of background, we left Atlanta on July 12, along with a group of 16 other folks from Peachtree Presbyterian Church, for a “Presbyterian Heritage Tour of Scotland.” It was a legitimate endeavor, well (VERY well) planned by Academy International Travel Services of Atlanta, and included stops at St Giles Cathedral, John Knox’s house, a number of other churches as well as many historical and archaeological sites, and was crowned with a day on the island of Iona, the starting place and center of Celtic Christianity.

Our guide, a delightful woman named Lorna Johnson, was brilliant, knowing history, theology, culture, geography and geology, along with being a fantastic musician (she plays in the Scotland Chamber Orchestra) and just plain fun to be around.

“There are city Scots and Highland Scots,” I said while we were there, and I am definitely a Highland Scot.

I’d LOVE to do some hiking here!

I'd LOVE to do some hiking here!I loved the land outside the cities, the gentle nature of the places and the people. Courtesy reigned supreme; OK, except for the little old lady who yelled at us when five of us were talking animatedly and were almost run over by a car (“STUPID people!” she yelled); in 12 days, I heard horns honk twice. Yes, TWICE.

The food was marvelous-I even ate and enjoyed haggis and black pudding. Salmon was everywhere, and I could eat my weight in it!  The weather was anomalous; a high pressure system moved in over the country while we were there, and it was sunny and warm the entire time. I commented to Lib that the weather was “deceptively seductive.” She said that she knew it, but would be willing to buy a pair of rubber boots!

We loved it, and I would love to go back. And yes, I ordered a kilt, was measured for it, and it is being custom-made. Odds are, once I have it, you’ll see a picture here.

But here is the one drawback: the churches are dead or dying. Great preaching to be heard in them, we were there two Sundays and I was impressed with the exegetical work behind them, and the delivery of them. But the churches are empty. We

saw once church that is now a restaurant, and a number of others that are functionally only tourist sites. What’s happened?

I think the churches because insular, taking care of themselves, and wanted everyone to keep doing things the way that had always been done. As the culture shifted, and as technology moved forward, the churches had the feel of places that were stuck in the 1920’s. Particularly in the larger cities, where there were masses of people out and about on Sunday morning, I found myself thinking that what the churches–and the Church–were in need of, was a good old (new) dose of evangelism. The churches need their Pastor to be out and about among the people, rubbing elbows with them, getting to know them, talking to them, and caring about them. NOT the members of the congregation (although that is very important, too); but talking to shopkeepers, people on the streets, and “winning the right to be heard” in order to tell the story of Jesus in a warm, inviting, and welcoming way.

Let’s remember that Jesus did not spend all his time on the Temple; he went where the people were.

OK, I’ve gone to preaching, and I did not intend that.

Do I have a future as a 16th Century scholar?

Do I have a future as a 16th Century scholar?

Find me a church in Scotland, and give me a chance. I’d love to live there!

It was supposed to be a simple, run of the mill, ordinary Friday morning ride on the Silver Comet Trail. I do this most Fridays between late March and early October, when the weather is not too cool, and assuming the rains are not too awful, and I am in town. More often than not, I am on the Trail by 7:30 for a ride that depending on the time of year and the rest of my life (and schedule) may be anywhere from 25 miles (short) to 60 or more miles (which I like). This past Friday, with a number of things going on, I decided to ride 30 or 35 miles.
It was not too hot, but then again it was not cool, and the humidity and the temperature were pushing one another to see who would get highest before I got off the bike. I started out, feeling OK (not great, but not sluggish, which I can be sometimes), thinking that I’d just put the miles in.
And then it happened.
Some guy had the audacity to come put of nowhere and pass me in the first two miles. The instant he passed me, I thought, “Oh, boy. Here we go. The race is on.”
I let him get about fifty yards ahead of me, and then I attached the elastic, not letting him pull any further away, just holding him at that distance, sometimes closing in on him, sometimes letting him pull away. At one point, and for a stretch, I closed in well enough hat I was drafting him, and he had no idea. We rolled up to an intersection, and when he turned to look for traffic and saw me in his peripheral vision, he jumped like a stuck pig. I think he thought he had dropped me and left me in his dust. That’s when I started playing with him. I let the rope out, and let him build his confidence up, then I reeled him back in, and let him see that I was right there on his shoulder. I let the rope out again, and reeled him in. I was playing tapes from the broadcast of the Tour de France in my mind, and Phil Liggett was singing my praises. I was having fun, feeling great, and having the ride of my life. The competition with this guy was pushing me, but I was fine with that. I was pushing right back.
As we approached the 15 mile mark, I let the rope out and watched to see what he would do. As I predicted, he circled a parking lot, and stopped, obviously turning around. My plan was to keep going, and I did. I went past him sitting there, nodded, and kept going, never looking back. “Beat him,” I said.
I hit the 17.5 mile mark and turned around, stopping for a moment to eat a bar and check to see if I’d gotten any emails that demanded attention. None, good, get back on the bike.
I was flying, feeling great, drinking enough so I would not cramp, and marveling that I was riding so well. As I approached the intersection at the 11.5 mile mark on the way back in, I was feeling good enough that I decided not to stop at the small parking lot/rest area where I often take a short break. I mean, I was now racing myself, thinking that this was going to be a benchmark ride.
Then it happened.
As I reached that intersection, I looked to my left and saw no cars on the road. I looked right, and saw a car approaching. I was riding fast (that’s “FAST,” in Eric Liddell’s Scottish brogue from Chariots of Fire), and did not want to break my rhythm or ruin my average MPH by stopping. But a quick evaluation let me know that I could not safely cross without endangering myself. “But I can turn right on the sidewalk, go those twenty feet to that driveway, make a left-hand U-turn onto the road, then pick the Trail back up, and keep going.” I did it.
And something happened. I’m not sure what, but the instant I turned onto the sidewalk, something took me and swung me sideways; whether I over-turned, or slid on grass clippings or leaves or a wet spot, I don’t know. But the next thing I knew, I was hitting a street sign post broadside, my left shoulder (yes, the one surgically repaired a year and a half ago), my left forearm, my knee, my helmet, and THE BIKE, all slamming into the post, then my force slingshotting me around it and I am now laying on the ground. Testosterone instinct kicked in, and I started laughing in case anyone saw me. The car stopped, so I sat up quickly, still laughing, and when the driver rolled the window down I waved to show that I was OK (I was not), and they drove off. I stood up, looking at my shoulder pretty baBike damagenged up, and worked it to make sure I’d not destroyed it. I flexed my knee, then saw the bike. An ugly scar on the top tube, screaming “I’m carbon fiber! Am I safe to ride?”
I examined the damage as best I could, tapped and checked it out, thought about calling home for a ride, but then I heard German cyclist Jens Voight telling me to man up and ride in. So I did.
It hurt pretty badly, but I rode that last 11 miles watching the crack on the top tube, willing it to be only in the paint, and made it back to my car with no problems. Well, no further problems. I racked the bike, looked at my watch (“Oh, yeah–I killed my expensive Garmin GPS watch, too.”), checked the dashboard clock, and realized the bike shop would be opening in a minute, so I went and had the bike checked out.
They said they thought it was OK, but it would be wise to keep an eye on it. I have ridden some since then, but have also found a carbon fiber bike repair spot that is convinced they can cure me for less than $200. Better safe than sorry, so I’ll give them the job next week.
But it all got me to thinking, that it was my dadgum competitive fire that did this. Had I not chased and raced that other fellow, had I taken ten more second of a break, or not been trying to cross that intersection without breaking my rhythm, I would have missed this entirely.
Burned by competitive fire, and I was the one stoking the flames myself.