July 31, 2009

Summer 09 112From Inverness, we drove to Ardnamurchan (“the point of the great ocean”), the end of the road, literally, for it is the most westerly point on the British mainland.  We were staying in a cottage owned by a friend of ours, Ali.  It is remote, peaceful and overwhelmingly beautiful.  Sheep litter the landscape and the roads, which are all single-track.  The weather is mixed.  When it is wet, it is very, very wet; but when the sun shines “the heavens declare the glory of God.” 

Immediately on arrival we headed down the road to the beach, looking out onto Muck and Rum, which rise from the sea like a mirage.  On a clear day, I’m told, Skye is visible.  When we get back to the cottage we unpacked and then set up the game of Risk.  The kids were desperate for a good, long, session.  The plan was to set it up on a table and play over the course of a few days.  We finished on Tuesday night—Jordan won. 

Sunday.  We head down to Kilchoan, to church.  I have a feeling that David Easton, a retired minister in our Presbytery, said he would be doing pulpit supply this week.  As we drive into the village I spot his wife, Edith, hobbling up the hill—she’s wearing the wrong shoes and they are giving her blisters so she’s heading home to change them.  She’s delighted to see us and tells us we will double the numbers.  But she’s wrong.  There are quite a number of visitors augmenting the small, indigenous congregation.  They include a couple we are acquainted with from Strathaven.  All in all there are about 30 at the service.

David’s prayers of intercession take us to Afghanistan and to our troops out there.  There seemed to be something quite profound about us sitting safely in a far corner of Scotland, with the Atlantic lapping the rocks just across the road, and the tops of the green hills peeking through the church windows, bringing to mind our service men and women in that arid, land-locked, dangerous country.  I wonder where else in Scotland, outside the churches, do non-military people give our forces more than just a passing thought.  And it turns out that there is a visitor in the church who is an aid worker in Afghanistan. 

After the service I walk with the kids down to the pier to check out the times for the ferry to Mull.  We want to visit our friend, Karen, in Tobermory (Amy calls it Toblemory) later in the week.  Kim has been invited back to the manse and we join her there. 

I brought a pile of books to read, but as is often the case, I notice one of Ali’s which I had heard about “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson.  It’s about an elderly minister, John Ames, who knows his time is running out.  His first wife died in child-birth and most of his life he has lived on his own, eating whatever supper the ladies of the congregation bring him.  But late in life he has married again and has a seven year old son, and because he doesn’t expect to live long enough to tell the boy everything he wants to tell him, he starts writing.  We get the story of his father and grandfather, and the town, Gilead.  It’s a rather meditative, tranquil story.  What astonishes me is how the author has gotten into the head of a preacher.  How does she manage to see the world from a preacher’s point of view? 

At one point Ames has heard some music that makes him waltz around his study.  Because he has a weak heart he thinks about what would happen if he keeled over and died.  He thinks about what books he liked to be clutching when people find him.  That’s exactly the kind of thought I would have. 

Tuesday: Over the past few days we’ve been active when the weather permits.  We’ve been to Sanna Bay, tip-toeing through the jelly fish; and we’ve walked a couple of crooked miles to the light-house.  For all its remoteness, Ardnamuchan is busier than I thought it would be.  There are certain people who return year after year; we might become such people. 

Yesterday, after a torrential down-pour in the morning, the sky cleared and the sun came out.  So we headed down to the beach, with buckets and spades and nets in hand.  The kids found a pond full of tadpoles, some of which were already on the road to becoming frogs.  There was also some kind of “scorpion” which had the audacity to nip Amy when she picked it up. 

The sand is so clean, and the sea so blue, that you would believe you were on a Mediterranean shore.  Jordan and I built a sand castle on top of a mound (Edinburgh-by-the-sea?), surrounded by moat and wall, incorporating a tunnel.  If we get the weather again we’ll try something even more ambitious.  I was seriously tempted to go for a swim and waded in up to my waist, but I fear I just didn’t have the nerve to plunge right in.   The water was so clear you would think it fresh.

our holiday cottage

our holiday cottage


George Whitefield

September 6, 2008

I have just finished Arnold Dallimore’s 2 volume biography of George Whitefield.  I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear at the end.  “Many may outlive me on earth but they cannot outlive me in heaven.”

I can’t admit to be an avid devourer of biographies but I have read a few.  I think it’s good for me as a minister to be familiar with the lives and thoughts of those who have shaped our world.

Dallimore’s work was published in 1970 and 1980 respecitively and had a massive impact upon the reading Christian public at the time.  They fell into my hands from the library of a retired minister otherwise I would never have bought them (I don’t think I had ever even seen them before).

Blogging gives me a chance to put down some thought on paper. 

First, the general effect of the book.  One of sheer bewilderment/amazement at how Whitefield could work at the rate he did.  Preaching to 10,20, 30 maybe 40,000, several times a week, several times a day.  Letters, pamflets, time counselling seekers.  I was relieved to note that even his contemporaries were amazed.  There is no way I would even try to emulate this.  He killed himself preaching.  But it is a reminder that we are here to work for the kingdom.  When we rest, it’s to renew our strength for service.

Also, holiness.  When I was reading Jung Chang and John Holliday’s biography of Mao, about a third of the way through, I felt physically sick, I was so disgusted with the selfishness and cruetly of Mao.  I had to put it down for a while.  Whitefield inspires me to holiness.  As a young man he may not have always been as wise as he could, but who am I to point the finger.  In everything he did he strove to be holy.  Integrity meant everything to him.  One thinks of how he took responsibility for the orphanage in Georgia.  Paying off the debts kept him awake at night. 

Another reflection.  JC Ryle said, when writing about Whitefield, that there are no Whitefieldians.  There are Lutherans and there are Weslyans.  They started movements/churches which continue to this day.  Whitefield wasn’t interested in creating a demonination.  It reminds us that there is value in living for today.  Whitefield affected hundreds of thousands of lives; they were converted to Christ through his preaching.  But he never left a body of writing for them to live by or follow.  OUr true legacy will be revealed in heaven.  Let’s be content to influence today. 

Finally, John Wesley.  He doesn’t come out terribly well.  I already had a low opinion of Wesley having read Roy Hattersely’s biography of him (interesting to read about a Christian from non-Christian’s point of view).  He made life so difficult for Whitefield, and Whitefield was so gracious in his dealings with him.  Sometimes I wanted to shake Whitefield and tell him to stop being so respectful to Wesley.  Wesley comes across as self-centred, ambitious, jealous, dictatorial, childish, capricious-a megalomaniac.  One does wonder how a denomination of such force could be built on such a rotten foundation. 

That’s all for now, but there may be more reflections in the days to come.