Nae the Best, Nae the Worst

I had to push myself –more than once–to read this book.  I saw the cover (cheesy, I thought) and anticipated 703 pages of semi-cheesy writing.  But I love Scotland; I love Columba; I love Iona.  So I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised.  The Fields of Bannockburn roams through the history of Scotland in four sections: Columba coming to Iona; Kenneth mac Alpin uniting the Picts and Scots; Queen Margaret and her work of reformation; and William Wallace at Stirling Bridge / Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.

Donna Fletcher Crow weaves the historical stories around a modern tale of three college students and their friend, storyteller Hamish MacBain.  While I dinna find Mary, Gareth and Brad’s story compelling, I enjoyed the way fiction can bring ancient history to life.  The inner thoughts of the main Scottish characters seemed anachronistic at times, but not so much that I had to stop reading.

There are several ancient prayers incorporated into the story. For example,

The blessing of God be on you,
The blessing of Christ be on you,
The blessing of the Spirit be on you.
O giver of the sweet honey,
O giver of the sour cheese,
O giver of the Bread of Life and Living Water,
Be with us by day,
Be with us by night,
Be with us for Thy service.

What really excites me is the author’s website, particularly the section My Life As a Reader

I had an ideal childhood for a reader. I was an only child, living on a farm. I would take a book out to the middle of the alfalfa field in front of our house, lay down flat and revel in the fact that God was the only person in the whole universe who knew where I was.    

My reading life has always gone by passions, finding a writer I loved, reading everything he or she (usually she) wrote, then feeling absolutely bereft when I came to the end. Much the same feeling as having a child leave for college, I later learned. My passions have included Norah Lofts, D. E. Stevenson, Mary Stewart, Rumer Godden, Elizabeth Goudge and Elswyth Thane with whom I carried on a delightful correspondence just before she died and I began writing professionally.

Donna Fletcher Crow, a former teacher of English literature, lists her most influential authors as Jane Austen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Barbara Pym, P.D. James, and Susan Howatch.  With a list like that, I’d say she is credentialed.

If gardening is your passion, visit Donna’s garden in Boise, Idaho.  A delightful meandering through links brought this great discovery:  The Plot Thickens, a blog devoted to novelists and their garden spots. 

Samuel Rutherford, Master of Metaphor

When I am in the cellar of affliction,
I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.

~ Samuel Rutherford

The popular quote above isn’t found in this edition of Letters of Samuel Rutherford, but it illustrates Rutherford’s masterful use of metaphor.  This collection of 69 letters is a treasure-trove of wisdom and pastoral care.  Tender with the weak, bracing with the proud, honest about his own struggles, this man is remarkable.  (All emphases mine)

What does he say to a mother who has lost a child? 

~ Courage up your heart; when you tire, he will bear both you and your burden.

What does he write to a man in prison a week before he is to be hanged? 

~  Be not terrified; fret not…Cast the burden of wife and children on the Lord Christ; he careth for you and them.  Your blood is precious in his sight

How did he express his own distress of soul?

~  I did not dream of such shortness of breath, and fainting in the way toward our country…this is the thickest darkness…Dear brother, help me, and get me the help of their prayers who are with you.

How did he encourage a woman going through various trials?

~  Believe his love more than your feeling, for this world can take nothing from you that is truly yours, and death can do you no wrong.  Your rock doth not ebb and flow, but your sea.

See how he writes very frankly to a proud laird of a castle:

~  Dear Sir, I always saw nature mighty, lofty, heady and strong in you; and that it was more for you to be mortified and dead to the world than for another common man. You will take a low ebb, and a deep cut, and a long lance, to go to the bottom of your wounds in saving humiliation, to make you a won prey for Christ.  Be humbled; walk softly. Down, down, for God’s sake, my dear and worthy brother, with your topsail.  Stoop, stoop! it is a low entry to go in at heaven’s gate.

He models godliness for his parishioners:

~  I have learned some greater mortification, and not to mourn after or seek to suck the world’s dry breasts.

Two things helped me as I read through the letters.  Rutherford was born around 1600; that made it easy to ascertain his age by noting the date of the letter.  In the back there are brief notes about the recipients of Rutherford’s letters.  It’s worth it to flip back and learn more about the correspondent before reading the letter.

In short, this is a book worth reading, worth buying, worth giving, worth re-reading.  If you want a sample of letters, check here.

Fair Sunshine, Fair Samuel

What shall I say in this great day of the Lord,
where in the midst of a cloud,
I have found a fair sunshine.
I can wish no more for you,
but that the Lord may comfort you,
and shine upon you as He does upon me,
and give you that same sense of His love in staying in the world,
as I have in going out of it.

~ Archibald Campbell, on the day of his execution

I slipped out of bed early this morning, filled the wood stove, picked up my highlighter and these two books.  I’m half way through Fair Sunshine, a book I was introduced to by my daughter-in-law Taryn, on her first visit to our home. 

This is the perfect pairing of two books. Fair Sunshine is the story of 13 Scottish Covenanters, men and women who died with uncommon grace, people who boldly articulated their faith up to the moment the noose was put around their neck.  Samuel Rutherford, most famous as the author of Lex Rex, was a pastor in prison. Many of the recipients of the Letters of Samuel Rutherford are the subjects of chapters in Fair Sunshine. 

Reading these books is like looking at aliens who are somehow familiar.  The strength, the clarity, the courage they displayed is beyond the beyonds.  Who were these people?  What kind of love is that? One can only wonder. 

My breath is caught reading about the two Margarets, sentenced to death by drowning.  One was 70, one was 18.  They were tied to stakes where the tide would eventually cover their heads.  The older was placed so she would be submerged first. 

So came the hungry waters up and up, every wave splashing death, until she was choking in their cold, cold grasp.  As she struggled, before she became a poor limp thing lying in the swirling flood, they said to young Margaret, “What do you think of her now?” “Think!  I see Christ wrestling there,” said she.  “Think ye that we are sufferers?  No; it is Christ in us, for He sends none a warfare at their own charges.”

Astonishing words from an 18 year old girl. 

I’ll be quoting more from these books…

It Is Too Wonderful

I knew that the little town of Aberfeldy, our home base in Scotland, had a bookshop in a converted watermill. 

Today.  I found this website.  Books. Over 5000 books. Coffee. Art Gallery. Music.

Browsing Encouraged. Woodstove.

Winner Scottish Independent Bookshop of the Year.

Within walking distance of our temporary home.


For Me.

Go to the Link and click on the Virtual Tour.

The kindness of our God is overwhelming.

Walking Distance!

Let It Rain.

All Day Long.

My lips are numb.

Fine Art Friday – Scottish Cathedrals

St. Ninian’s Cathedral in Perth (Scottish Epsicopal)

Dunkeld Cathedral in Perthshire (Church of Scotland)

I think these are the ruins of Elgin Cathedral.

Dornoch Cathedral (this link is worth checking out), Church of Scotland
during the day (above) & at night (below).  For another post:
I liked when the church was the resting place for the dead.
It reinforces the idea of communion of the saints
and helps us to remember those who have gone before.

This is the ceiling of the octogonal Chapter House at Elgin Cathedral

Dunblane Cathedral, Church of Scotland
The nave of a church is the central approach to the high altar.
It comes from the Latin word navis (ship).
Look at the top of the picture at the vaulting.
Doesn’t that look like the keel of a ship?

These are just a few of the architectural gems
we hope to see in Scotland.
I am eager to learn more about cathedrals,
abbeys, old kirks, manses, and monasteries.
My lips are numb.

Rabbie Burns

Hey, hey!  Today is Robert Burns’ birthday.  It is a National holiday in Scotland.  (Can you imagine a national holiday in America for a poet?)  I picked up this gorgeous to the touch, gorgeous to the eye, and gorgeous to the ear collection of poetry on one of my high holy days (annual book sale).  I may even bring this with me to Scotland. (thank you Dana)

If we were in Scotland tonight, we’d go to a Burns Supper.

Selkirk Grace

Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it.
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankkit.

~ I think that is what I’m most looking forward to: daily doses of Scottish brogue!

Forgive me if I get a bit excessive.  How does one limit oneself to one poem of Burns? Here are excerpts from some of my favorites.

 from To A Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cowrin’, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bick’ring brattle!

♫     ♫     ♫

 from Winter (A Dirge)

The wintry west extends his blast,
   And hail and rain does blaw:
Or, the stormy north sends driving forth,
   The blinding sleet and snaw:

♫     ♫     ♫

from Address to the Unco Guid, or the Rigidly Righteous

O Ye wha are sae guid yoursel,
   Sae pious and sae holy,
Ye’ve nought to do but mark and tell
   Your neebor’s fauts and folly!

♫     ♫     ♫

from Contented Wi’ Little

My mirth and guid humor are coin in my pouch,
And my freedom’s my lairdship nae monarch  dare touch.

♫     ♫     ♫

from Up in the Morning Early

Up in the morning’s no for me,
  Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,
   I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

Driving Creatively

When I was a young mother, I was earnest.

So earnest that I read a book called How to Raise a Creative Child.  I’m sure there were many efficacious ideas, but the only one I remember implementing was the one about driving.  Instead of traveling the same route to a typical destination, say the library, you were supposed to mix it up.  Get outside the groove.   I earnestly suggested this to my forbearing husband. 

Curt had a way of humoring my silly notions and having fun at the same time. 

“Let’s turn on H instead of G” I’d prod.  [Can you believe it?  Our city planners named the streets after the alphabet!!  Their mothers hadn’t read the book.]

“Oh, is it time to drive creatively?” he’d ask.  And he’d drive as if we were in a go-cart at the fair, broad curves, on the wrong side, herky-jerky brakes, coming to a stop in the middle of the road.  [We live in a small town and this was always when there were no other cars on the road.] 

The boys loved it.

“Daddy, drive creative!”  they’d scream, never quite knowing if or how Daddy was going to obey the command.

Those fun memories came to me on our recent trip to Seattle.  We went through four or five roundabouts.  If you look up roundabout in the dictionary it will say “a method of traffic control designed to produce creative children.”  Seriously, if my son had not just gotten his four wisdom teeth and a few shards of jawbone extracted yesterday, I’d make him write a paper on the engineering design of roundabouts.  Someone must believe they are beneficial; they are slowly replacing traditional intersectins.  Before Seattle, I’d only seen them in New England. 

Curt will have his fill of driving creatively in Scotland and England.  He’s already nervous.  I offered to move the gear shift knobs while he pushes the clutch in, an offer which fails to bring him comfort.  We hope that we don’t run out of petrol, bang up the bonnet, blow a tyre running up a kerb, crash into a lorry, or rear-end the boot in front of us.  Translation here.

Any roundabouts in your neighborhood?