Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Bricks of the Kingdom

Have a seat. Grab a cup of tea.

If you stand out on the cliffs at Arbroath, just up from King's Drive, with the tilled fields behind you and the gorse bushes grasping the rock face like the yellow beards of old men, you can lean out into the screaming wind, over the crashing salt billows of the North Sea, over sixty feet of empty space - the wind will hold you up. Then you can walk back into town, towards the harbor, and get fish and chips, pulled straight out of the sea. So went my Sunday afternoon, the day after St. Patrick's Day, at the mouth of the Firth o' Tay, Scotland.

From the beginning, we, the seventeen misfit ringers of the mission bell, were forced to rely upon providence, upon hands that we couldn't hold or kiss. Half our group got stranded in Newark beneath the coming face of a blizzard, half in Knoxville, helpless but to pray. So we did. We arrived in Edinburgh - after watching the sun rise from 30,000 feet above the fickle North Atlantic - greeted with cold rain, and warm hands and eyes. Bruce White and Peter Mansfield from Elim Church drove us to Dundee through the countryside that's everything you've imagined. From that point, and from beyond, I began to find the beauty in discovering believers, brothers and sisters, on the other side of this small world. We didn't, we don't, agree on everything, and I was blessed to find that I don't agree with every dear heart that left American shores to follow Christ across the waves. But we're family.

We were well fed all week, from haggis, 'nips, and tatties, to fish and chips beyond counting, plus gallons of tea. Ted Reed and I stayed with a wonderful lady named Liz D-, who is a professor of crafts, currently working on a doctorate. Most of the art in her house, as is consistent with crafts, is meant to be touched, interacted with. I got most mornings to a wonderful cup of Lapsang Souchong in the sitting room, with the sunlight streaming in through the picture window of her flat, looking out over the Tay to Fife beyond the water. Conversation is not often as blessed as ours was with her.

It was also a delicious feeling to experience the graceful humiliation that comes of having prejudgements and predispositions torn from the framework of your mind. One of my tasks was to play a concert for the group of 18+ year olds who met for Bible study at Central Baptist, in the city centre. I was quite content with knowing them to be reserved people of a dry personality and faith (this was roughly what I had been told). But I will never forget praying with them, talking to them, knowing them for their disciples' hearts. We also walked through the slums and on the nightfallen streets, talking to families and children, and club-goers, who all taught me to have no time for fear. We ended the week with the lot of us, plus some folks from Elim, packed together in Bruce and Caroline's house on Kinghorne Terrace, on the south side of the Law. We ate together for one final time. And when we'd had communion, and sang a hymn, we went out into the night.


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