Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tightening the Lens

Wow, it's been so long since I've written anything off the cuff. It feels a little weird. We can only hope it's like riding a bike. Richard and Karen (Kat's parents) are in town for a few days, so I have the use of Karen's computer, and my neighbors have kindly lent me the use of their wi-fi, from across the street. Don't worry, we have permission.

Kat and I have been listening to a set of CDs given to us by a friend. They detail a seminar led by Dave somebody-or-other on church planting. His name, though, pales in comparison to the Scriptural soundness of what he talks about. It's changing my perspective on a lot of things, including further trips to Scotland. In reality, I'm feeling more focused on what I feel called to do there, which is to give the Church that's already present a spare set of hands. In my human thinking, it doesn't seem very lucrative to spend such elaborate funds to send one set of uncertain hands halfway around the globe, but God has always done more than I will ever know in multiplying my 'two fish'. I'm glad for the focus.

I'm ridiculously excited about Monday night's show. I really can't wait to get a guitar in my hands and get cooking. You should tell your friends that you're going to come and see it, and that they should follow you. And while I'm using Jedi mind tricks, you should bring some money to fund the printing of this album when I get it finished. These are not the droids you're looking for.

Also, this right here is something about which I can't be excited enough. You should be excited too.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Auld Acquaintance

Ahh, a refreshing new draught of blog grog to slake your thirst. What could be better?

I'm in the midst of a couple days worth of rehearsals with Ethan Norman and Nate Sharpe to get ready for the New Years Eve show at the V Cafe. It's interesting that anything should ever get done when we spend so much time feeling like our endeavors burst at the most carefully woven seams. We've all had to work around work and fight with schedules to cram a few stolen moments of practice in, hoping for a sonorous miracle come Monday. Hoping that, should old acquaintance be forgot, we will be able to recollect through the weaving of sound.

The album that I've been working on is now being munched by a vicious lull. My friend and producer Nathan Head is as frustrated as I am, as we wait on a new computer that can handle the processing. Such is the manner of a strictly budgeted life. I feel a strange conflict when praying for Nathan to get new equipment. The truth is, I feel like my prayers in this are totally selfish. But then, it usually seems to me that most everyone's art is, in some respect, God-breathed, since it is (presumably), at the very least, an honest expression of some part of the artist's heart. Everyone, that is, except me. This is the blessing and the curse of being human. My mind can break down and analyze until I'm blue in the face, but my heart can never bend 'round to look at itself. So I'm left to my faith and my guesses as to whether it's right to pray for this or not. Here's the thing: I sometimes do it anyway.

I want so badly to get back in the studio and work and finish what I've started. I've gotten so many ideas in this off time. I have pictures I want you to hear, and sounds I want you to see. This quite different than last time. Last time, it was more about me. Now, it feels more about us. And then some that's not about us.

Come out to the show anyhow. Come get a taste of it with us. I'll see you circa '08.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Diary of Dundee, Part VIII

I’m not certain that I truly awoke Saturday until Pete pulled in to the petrol station parking lot with Chad and me in tow. Two other cars pulled in beside us, carrying Eric, Mindy, Ted, and Todd. Like Pete, Simon and Andy had given their morning to cart us to the airport.

Petrol stations in Scotland, as well as grocery stores and sandwich shops, bear the marks of a society which has aborted God and the family. Magazine racks wear nudity and false sexuality like Southerners wear ball caps. I sometimes envy men who say that they don’t have a difficult time keeping their eyes from straying to pictures that degrade and tantalize. Either that, or I think they’re liars. It’s not easy for me in a week when I am focused on the work of Christ, so I can’t imagine how it is for someone living with it day in and day out. But pornography is only a symptom. Liz touted some other symptoms for us at dinner earlier that week. The one I remember is that Dundee has the highest pregnancy rate in all of Europe. I also remember a couple of newspapers with articles about how the most violent crimes in the city are statistically committed by more children than adults. Rape, sodomy, murder, violent assaults – these are the acts of children.

I am forced to say what is unpopular. People, without Jesus, drift naturally towards apathy, delusion, fear, and pride. Scotland used to be a country from which missionaries were sent. Now, the opposite is necessary. I heard no end, standing on the street corners on Monday night, of the relativity of truth. You can’t make a people see reason, but the few Christians in Dundee have spent a great deal of time praying for the Lord to open the hearts of the city to the liberating slavery of serving God instead of being dominated by vices and fears.

There is an old copy of Anna Karenin on my bookshelf. On the spine, it bears the words, ‘Shelf of Fiction’, and below that, in a shield, ‘Veritas’, meaning ‘Truth’. It is interesting that so much truth should be found in fiction, in stories. Our own stories were the vehicles by which we entered into the confidences of the disconnected post-modern minds of Dundee, Scotland. I may never see all the ripples made from dropping us six pebbles into the waters. But, as it is not grace of my own that brings me redemption, I am glad for trust in the one whose feet tread the waves.

I daresay I’m biased.

And so, we walk out from under the misty, gunmetal ceiling and back into the sunlight. It sometimes feels that transatlantic flights and big events become the bookends of my life. I am blessed when I lightly grasp the thought that the muddled middles and the in-betweens are the defining times. Let there be more. Many, many more. And I hope Jesus never stops ripping my world open.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Diary of Dundee, Part VII

There are some new photos up on my Flickr website, including some of the recent trip. More to come....

I’m usually at a loss to confidently and sufficiently explain in conversation why I continue to take photographs, even though they’re mostly below par. Or why I do anything artistic for that matter. It truly stumps me except in moments of clearest revelation by the Holy Spirit. I only know that somehow, stories matter. Stories hit close to the heart of being. Jesus often told stories to get his point across. Perhaps, in the telling, they reveal more about us than they do about the subject matter. And so, I take photographs. If I get lucky enough – and right now it’s all luck, for there’s little skill involved – to translate the beauty of what I see onto this tiny strip of film, and then to put this picture where you’ll see it, I will feel that I’ve done my job. Friday at St. Andrews was hardly my day off. I enjoyed it just like any other day, but it was my day to translate stories.

After getting to a museum too early and walking off alone past the mathematical institute (I am told that Ted’s accustomed response to ‘Where’s Adam?’ was, “Oh, he’s off somewhere”), I returned, and Todd and I broke from the group to make for a second-story coffeehouse, where we found the beauty of lox and lettuce on a bagel. Then we plumbed a couple gift shops on the way to the impressive ruins of an old seaside cathedral.

For a guy who owns a trucking company, Todd constantly struck me as someone who was rather like a pastor. This may come of being the father of three adolescents, but he has all the characteristics of an intelligent listener. A slightly irreverent one (and this was fine and dandy with me). I couldn’t tell you exactly what we talked about that day, but I do remember that we were open with each other. There was no stiff paradigm as to what the conversation would be about, except that it should be honest. He is a good man. He’s also the only other person I know who likes The Blue Nile. We lost ourselves among the cathedral ruins, taking photos and reading the ancient epitaphs of Renaissance-era parishioners. A little kid walked by me, hand in hand with his dad and pointed to me saying, “…a cowboy.” I wandered again out to the sea.

The cloudy light glinted off a tiny oil slick trailing a fishing trawler being pulled in by a tug. I asked a fisherman who had walked out onto the seawall with a boy and two dogs if I could take their picture. So with his permission, I started to snap photographs, praying that they would turn out to be something other than rubbish. The little boy in his raincoat looked at me dubiously while the dogs did not cease to bark, but I felt that something had come through the 35mm lens over which I had little control. Art, if it is about anything, is certainly not about a large sense of control.

I caught up with Todd again and we strolled out to the beach next to the golf course. That’s the original golf course, for those keeping score. St. Andrews is where the Scots invented the game of golf. I’ve never been present for a good shot in golf, not since I would have paid attention to it, anyway. But as we strolled quietly across a greenway, a fellow not ten feet from us drew an iron from his bag, stepped into his stance, and without a practice shot, nimbly lofted the ball about 150 yards to drop it right next to the pin. I won’t lie; it was impressive, and I had to clap.

As we walked out onto the beach, the beach where they filmed Chariots of Fire, I couldn’t help but think of that line, “God also made me fast.” I was also in the middle of Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water for the duration of the trip. Perhaps it was a combination of the two and of something else, but I couldn’t keep from feeling that I was being pulled a little closer to knowing what the Lord’s purpose for my life is. If my history of knowing Jesus is in indication though, I’m sure that all my certainties will be as important as Beanie Babies in a very short time.

It began to rain as we arrived at the bus station back in Dundee. Mindy, Chad, and Martin (a Dundonian friend who joked up and down the streets of St. Andrews with my roommate) were supposed to meet us, but they had split up and wandered off. This caused me some due consternation for Chad, as he had depended all week on someone else’s sense of direction, but I consoled myself with the thought that, if all else fails, one can walk to the edge of the firth, and walk the few miles of shoreline to Broughty Ferry. So I wandered off myself, and walked through the Wellgate in search of photogenic scenes (of which there are precious few in a shopping mall). The search led me, not surprisingly, to the back of the Wellgate, nestled cozily up against Hilltown, separated by a river of mad traffic and a main bus stop.

I wondered to hear my name called over the din and the rain, which had taken on a cold turn. Tammy and Nikita stood across the street shouting to me, so I decided that I would wait with them and then take the bus to Broughty Ferry to wash clothes and pack my luggage for the pre-dawn commute to the Edinburgh airport. I felt somewhat strange, standing in the rain amid the crowds with these two sixteen-year-olds, one of whom had been quite wary of me in March. After Tammy left Nikita and me to catch her bus, the odd feeling of having acquired a little sister became more pronounced. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that Nikita has a tendency to crown any consistent men in her life as father figures (which scares me to death). She calls Ted her dad with all assurance. This gets complicated when you cannot understand someone’s accent. Nevertheless, I felt that it was a proper summary of what had happened to me that week. Like it or not, Adam, you’re now tied more closely to these folks than before. I think I like it.

The interesting thing about plans is that they usually get disrupted. I had plans to eat and to do laundry before going to bed. Instead, I ate with Rose and began laundry as Chad got back (after getting considerably lost), and then we got a call that we should go for tea at Simon and Mauri’s house on the other side of town. It was Simon’s mother Gloria. I said I would prefer to sleep before getting up at four in the morning. Gloria said that she would be sorely disappointed. So off we went across town (and bless Rose for having a better attitude about it than I did).

But really, I would have missed out, because, if you’ll remember, Gloria has a tremendous sense of humor. Most of the Christians I know from Dundee do, perhaps out of necessity. After we had filled our mouths with all the hors d’oeuvres possible, Andy ushered us into the lounge and began to explain the “animal game,” in which we would all have an animal sound to communicate, and we would try to become Tarzan at the top of the food chain. All this while our sounds would change and the speed of the game would increase. The best part was seeing Gloria do the alien (with all the enthusiasm of a pro wrestler), in which your ‘sound’ was to put your hand under your shirt and make it look like an alien exploding from your stomach while you made a hideous vomiting noise. People over the age of forty doing this causes nothing short of hysteria.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Diary of Dundee, Part VI

We are close upon the end of this journey, and I appreciate your measured steps to get here. Readership is a gift to the writer; know that yours does not go unappreciated.

Chad and I found ourselves together once again on Thursday. This guy and I can’t get rid of each other! After Bruce took us to lunch at Taza, an Indian buffet down by the docks, we got on a bus with Nikita and Chris out to parts unknown to do home visits with the Attic kids. The few homes I went to with Bruce in March in Hilltown were up in four apartment towers which are a haven for drug crime, muggings, and the like. The towers are now slated to be torn down for that reason, but we were invited in to most every place we visited. I had felt somewhat successful in breaking the ice with people. By contrast, the area we went to with Chris and Nikita was almost suburban in its idiom, but no one really wanted us in their house. Some of the parents didn’t seem very involved in the Attic beyond knowing that their kids go on Mondays and blindly trusting the staff to be responsible. Perhaps they don’t care as much as we would hope. The Dads & Lads weekly football match is one of the success stories about getting parents involved. We did get to stop and talk to a few people on the sidewalk or on their front porches. Chris always introduced Chad and me by saying, “We’ve got the Americans with us this week.” Next time, I could wear an Uncle Sam hat and sing Yankee Doodle, but we’re a spectacle enough as it is.

We had dinner at Liz’s with the whole crew. She fixed us a traditional South African meal of something that I can’t spell, but it sounded like “Bo-BWUH-ti”. Over the winter squash soup appetizer, I got to meet her other son, Clinton. She told us the story of her encounter, as a child, with an evil spirit and how it responded to the name of Jesus. She told us about shamans in the tribes near her childhood home. We heard the story of how she had gotten arrested for having an assembly in the rain in the park and immediately released. We talked about the absurd child protection laws that are the plague of parenthood in Scotland. The US isn’t that far behind, either, with the weight of fickle vindictive accusations kids can make against adults. I can remember getting a phone call of my own from a lawyer asking about a coworker, whom I unfortunately didn’t remember well enough to help. Liz advised us to get a police-done background check for our own protection. And then the door swung wide for Chad and I to really get to know each other.

He said that he knew it was wrong, but he felt that child molesters should be hanged. Now, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he was coming from the position of having two little boys and a wife, all of whom he would defend with his life, just like any sensible husband and father. I would probably say the same thing. Still, I was livid. I got up and walked to the kitchen to collect my thoughts and try to form some sense of understanding about why I was angry. The best that I could come up with was that it was a rash thing to say and that I felt that the grace of God, if not the trust of man, is offered to everyone. Was it simply that I didn’t have kids and couldn’t particularly understand? Probably somewhat. At any rate, I looked at him and quietly told him that we needed to talk.

When we got back to Rose’s, what I expected to happen was that I would make good on my intentions of bringing Chad to understanding. What did happen was that we spent the better part of an hour confessing our pock-marked histories to one another and hugging each other before going to bed. I still can’t quite conceive what happened. Somewhere in the chain of events, the human connection was interrupted and replaced with a divine grace. We couldn’t take credit, we could only wonder and be thankful.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Diary of Dundee, Part V

I had been waiting for some time to get to walk with Chad, and Wednesday promised to provide us with a grand opportunity, since we did not have to be at Elim until one. The crest of the dawn seemed lost in the har, which had given up being a seaside attraction and had become a full-fledged fog, melting into the overcast sky and creating a cold white canvas, wet and chilling. We decided to walk to town from Broughty Ferry.

It should be noted, that Chad, whom I had not met until arriving at the airport the previous Saturday, is probably as opposite from me as a person can be. I am given to be overly-reticent in new situations, just to deal with my own social fears. Chad is usually the class clown for the same reason. He is a self-proclaimed Redneck. I roll my eyes inwardly (if not outwardly) at every “Git-R-Done” and pontoon boat and Ford diesel bulletproof Howitzer that I see sucking gas down the interstate. Chad kills things to feed his family. I like pressed tofu. So I’m not too passionate about it, just marginally so. So my first inclination in meeting my roommate was to roll my eyes at God and ask, “Okay, what do you want me to learn?” But as the week progressed, and even more as we began to walk along the seaside road toward central Dundee, we were forced to get to know each other.

It wasn’t all that painful, especially as we both appreciated the view down a tiny lane towards the Tay, where we turned to take photos of the alien cityscape drenched in fog. We also found blackberries growing by the side of busy roads, in October. They weren’t just any blackberries though. These were the size of your thumb. We thought about getting a bucket and begging Rose to bake us a pie. The other berries we found will go forever unnamed. But it shall suffice to say that if you are walking along the road from Broughty Ferry to Dundee in late October, and you happen to pass a bush with glistening ruby-hued berries, they are not edible. In fact, once you get past the gorgeous exterior, they smell eerily similar to rotten meat. And the smell sticks to your hands and jeans. The smell says, “Don’t eat me. I will give you raging influenza, lupus, and the gout.” Realizing through the berry-induced delirium that we were late (no, mother, we didn’t actually eat them), we hopped a bus and caught up with the rest of the crew for lunch at Elim before setting up. The schedule for the night was that I would play, Gary and Matt’s band would play, and then Chad would give a testimony.

The high school kids that came weren’t much less rowdy than the kids at the Hub, but there wasn’t any reason for complaining. They were there, and that gave us opportunities to build relationships. Amongst the crazily juxtaposed itinerary, we met a few of the Cadets who had shown up. Still, the crowd was not much into folk music until I brought out my cowboy hat. It’s not really a cowboy hat, but it passes for one to most Scottish people. Tammy makes a habit of stealing it and wearing it around until I have to go somewhere else. It is still amazing to me the change affected in the attentions of a crowd by resembling the consummate American archetype. I mean, I’ll never be the Marlboro man, but they don’t seem to care. Talking to Pete later in the week, this became an interesting recollection when he told us that half the reason that we were effective was because we were a novelty.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

I have a few more pictures from Scotland that I will put up on my Flickr page soon.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Diary of Dundee, Part IV

Tuesday, I awoke with the exciting and slightly paralyzing thought of playing football with Bruce and his friends at the weekly ‘Dads & Lads’ match. I had been playing a weekly game in World’s Fair Park back in Knoxville for a couple months, hoping that I wouldn’t get effectively steamrolled when I got the chance to play. Still, I was the obese American in the pack, and the calf muscles of these athletic Scots began to remind me of Ninja Turtles that I used to have. I was a little apprehensive about the match, feeling like the kid eyeing that last present and hoping it’s the coveted Lego model and not the knit sweater. But first things first, we had to dig a trench in Bruce’s backyard.

For those who think that missionary duties are glamorous endeavors filled with mass conversions and successful ESL classes, you haven’t dug a trench. The idea was to control runoff and keep it out of the conservatory, the back wall of which was half-buried in the side of a hill. The problem was that we began to dig up history as we went along, finding the cumbersome remnants of an old set of stairs right where our trench was supposed to be. The romantic in me decided that we had found the last Archbishop of Canterbury’s private whiskey cellar. But as we tried to pry it up, my back quickly countered with the argument that it was merely a heavy stone wall, meant with all authority to stay put. So, we dug half a trench, and commenced with puzzling over what was to become of the Archbishop’s whiskey cellar. I felt bad for Bruce, knowing myself what it was like to have partial yard projects staring at me from around the lawn. But he said it was best to leave it for the moment, and we went to eat as I begged to borrow clothes for football.

It should be noted that Bruce and Carolyn’s conservatory becomes the dining room of whatever group is present. With the six of us, Bruce and Carolyn, their two boys Aiden and Ewan, and Bruce’s mum Rose, it became something of a tight squeeze (but not nearly as tight as the seventeen-person American team in March). The benefit of this, however, is that Carolyn’s cooking far outstrips the greasy spoon options of the chip shops and kabob stands in town (though I love the greasy spoon options). The table is usually festooned with vegetables, bread, juice, and some sort of ingenious creation of her own. I will never eat tuna salad again without thinking that I should put corn in it.

Bruce loaned me a pair of trainers and some shorts and off we went to pick up Richard, Gary, and Johnny before heading to the athletic center. I have to say, the weekly football games in Knoxville (with foreign exchange students who had all had footballs in the womb) paid off. After I had forcibly removed my liver in the locker room to make space for more lung capacity, I didn’t get too terribly winded. I actually scored a couple of goals, and felt pretty good about myself, having earned the great American victory of not appearing totally foolish.

Here is where we lose our way for a moment, as my memory is a little cloudy. I remember going to Liz Donald’s flat on Roseangle down near the west end. Liz has been a dear friend and an honest and kindred spirit to me ever since Ted and I stayed with her last March. But this time, I got to meet her son Aaron, who, if he is not a genius, could certainly pass for one. He is as interesting a person to talk to as you could ever meet. We spent nearly an hour simply talking about the animated works of Miyazaki and the Japanese films Yojimbo, The Hidden Fortress, and The Seven Samurai, though I don’t recall the director’s name. Aaron is the other person on Earth to whom Japanese classic film is interesting. Others from our group gradually drifted to Number 38 Roseangle, and I decided, as I often did, that I would rather be off by myself. I don’t remember much after that.

I do recall that we had later taken a bus out to some part of town to meet Tammy McKay’s mother, sister, and brother. And her dog, Patch, who seemed to be glad to see both Mindy and myself. It was at her mother’s flat that she asked us if we would “like to go meet the blind and deaf lady.” I was slightly aghast at this carnival-barker diction, but I have never known Tammy to be politically correct, or calm, or speak perfect English. Also, I have never known her to lack in caring for someone. I walked down the dismal stairs and through a banged-up door into the flat across the hall. Trash bags were sitting in the hallway, and none of the lights were on. I shouldered my way in among Ted, Mindy, Eric, and Todd, who were standing in a bedroom in the blanched light of the afternoon that filtered in through a dirty window. On the floor, a woman sat on the edge of a mattress, while Tammy knelt beside her, talking to us and drawing with her fingers on the woman’s hands. The woman’s name was Fiona.

Fiona was not born blind and deaf. I’m not aware of the circumstances in which she lost her sight and her hearing. I don’t know if she counts it a blessing, but her un-wholeness is certainly the avenue through which blessing came to us, standing there watching miracles happen before our eyes, because Fiona was the picture of joy. Tammy, who had taken the time and money to recently buy a book and learn how to communicate with Fiona, squatted down beside her and told her our names. Watching them talk, sorting through the frustration like they were friends putting a puzzle together, we saw them full of love and patience. They persevered where I might have given up and resigned myself to bitterness.

Ted asked if we could pray with Fiona, and she said that it would be alright. So I knelt down and put a hand on her shoulder as we prayed, but I could find no petition, only thanks. Thanks that I had been given this humbling gift of being present for a dance between two worlds – the world that is my own, and the world that Fiona has access to beyond my Veil of Unsight. She walks unhindered by her eyes and ears, and left only with the inner Light of the Holy Spirit. She got up to hug us all, helped by Tammy, before we left. I put my arms around her tiny, wiry frame and felt her grin vibrate in the air above my right shoulder. She is privy to sights I will never know this side of death, this side of Paradise. Only in small rapturous moments in music, in seeing that Renoir of the woman in the sundress with the umbrella, in seeing the conflict and harmony of lines in a good photograph, can I brush up against that sight and sound to which she has an unencumbered gateway. She was a wellspring.

Tammy had also convinced us to go to Cadets with her that evening. The Sea Cadets are like a marriage between ROTC and the Scouts. They have no connection with the Royal Navy. It’s merely a program to ingrain discipline and responsibility into young people that sometimes have no other paradigm against which to judge right and wrong. We didn’t know it when we were standing outside the fence in the cold evening air waiting to be let in, but Tammy was to receive an award that day. We were ushered in to the main room – bearing décor suspiciously reminiscent of a British warship – and into an upstairs gallery to watch the proceedings of the assembly before being led on a tour of the facility by Tammy and her friend, being shown the boats, and having a lesson on tying a Spanish bowline.

The C.O. himself was something of a cross between Wilford Brimley and a serious Richard Attenborough. He was everything you could ever want in a gym teacher, except he carried himself with that famous high-born class that allowed him to inspire healthy fear into these kids with only his ample presence. At the closing assembly, as we looked on from the gallery, he called them to attention and admonished them with words like, “Rubbish!” which made us snicker under our breath, because it’s such a great word to bark out at people. He called out names a few at a time, and Tammy was the last (I think he meant it that way because we were there, bless him). She had a hard time hiding her grin beneath a stoic exterior as he handed her a small red patch with black bordering and shook her hand. I wasn’t aware of it then, but we were the only ones who had come to see her receive this small piece of embroidery for which she had worked so hard. We were her family by invitation. I hope I don’t soon forget it.

Part I
Part II
Part III

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Diary of Dundee, Part III

Monday was one of the few days that had been planned. We were to spend a great part of the day setting up for The Attic at the Mark Henderson Center in Hilltown. Bruce’s calling for the time being is to run The Attic, which is a weekly high-energy church meeting (of sorts) for the kids of Dundee, with a good portion of them from Hilltown, Kirkton, and Lochee, which are somewhat scandalous sectors as neighborhoods go. This is rather ironic to me, as Bruce is one of the most soft-spoken men I know. But, last March, I saw him don a white-man afro wig and some Billy Joel sunglasses and proceed to play like he was one of the Rockers from Grease. It’s always the quiet ones.

I’m not quite sure when this ministry started, but they do have staff now that started out as kids coming to The Attic every Monday night. The Attic seems to be the main reason that we blessed and obtrusive American teams cross an ocean, braving Eustachian-tube-popping airplane cabin pressure and 2-star Chicken Marsala, compliments of Continental. And yet, this would be the second time that I did not go to The Attic. Last March, I had grabbed my guitar and run pell-mell through City Centre to get to Central Baptist and play a mini concert with Lindsay Reed for the ministry they had organized for college-age kids there. This time, a lady named Sarah gave me a lift (by way of Johnny and Katya’s house, where I was fed, again) to The Hub, a ministry in Lochee run by Johnny and Katya for teenagers. This time, I had borrowed one of Bruce’s guitars and was again playing an unplugged set in a place which I had never before seen. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken.

The first thing to catch my attention was a central ping-pong table, waiting for me and challengers. I would call it table tennis, as they do in Scotland, but ping-pong sounds much better with a Southern accent. I faced off against a girl named Jade for a while until the concert, and then found that she paid better attention than most of the kids. Huzzah for ping-pong! They were, as Johnny had said, “a rowdy bunch,” but they were quite timid compare to the kids outside, who were running around in packs, literally. The kids in packs were not allowed in because of their behavior the previous week. So, they decided it would be good to return the favor by throwing firecrackers at the building and jumping up and down on the roof, which they did with much enthusiasm during the last song I played (bless them for waiting until the end to test the group’s ADD).

It was then time for a Q & A session, in which I answered that, No, I did not know any Oasis songs well enough to play and sing them, and would they like to play and sing while I listened. I can’t remember what question Jade asked, but it was a good one, and she paid attention to how I answered it. I went for another round of ping-pong afterwards against a Portuguese fellow named Tana who gave me a good run for my money and ended up beating me (by a small margin). To be honest, I was more excited to hear him pray in his native tongue, and to know that God speaks Portuguese.

To cap off Monday, the men from our group went to meet an amazing Irish fellow named Andy to again take part in the Nightclub Outreach, in which we stand out on the street between the hours of eleven and one in the morning, talking to people on their way from the pubs to the clubs, and praying for a chance at bald-faced evangelism, which is not my great gifting by the way. The last time I attempted this, I ended up loaning my hat to a couple of inebriated party girls so they could take cell phone pictures in it, and I listened to a drunken diatribe about how great I was from a fellow who had stumbled out of a pub that had to rival Jabba’s Palace from Star Wars in its dinginess. I wasn’t certain that he remembered it the next morning, though I may never know. This time though, I had prayed for the boldness to overcome my absolute fear of rejection, and furthermore, the wisdom to keep from being an overzealously boorish street preacher. And thus, I met Michael.

Michael walked by with all intentions of going to the ATM on the way to Fat Sam’s, only to be stopped by a bearded American handing out lollipops and asking if people wanted a leaflet. Michael was apparently used to Andy’s crew being out and about, because he recited his retort about being an avowed atheist and made to walk on by. So I asked him why he was an atheist. I never really got a straight answer to this question, but I did find out that Michael works at the Overgate, selling cell phones for a living. He seemed to have a great deal of respect that we had foolishly paid money to be out in the cold and wet to talk to people because we had faith. He is someone I should like to have a coffee with sometime. I wish I had found him at the mall the next day, but I did not. There was certainly sufficient cause for conversation among him and his two friends on the way to the club, and for that I am thankful. I was also thankful for Andy’s wisdom in reminding us to pray that, seeing as grace and providence are not ours to command, we would not be subject to the temptation to feel that we had failed. I hope to continue to be a part of this ministry when I get the chance. Eric seemed to take to it with great success as well, as I watched him be congregation to a beer-soaked sermon from a fellow who I think was named Adam. It must be remembered that Eric was Eeyore at Disneyworld for some time. We did not cease to remind him of this at every turn. I know for a fact that his Eeyorist skills were utilized often during the week. Thank you, dear Walt Disney, for your Jedi training.

Part I
Part II