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THE CONTENTS OF MY HEAD AND HEART
SO DO CHECK BACK-MEANWHILE :
I slept well and got up around 6:30am.I had slept in the home of this lovely family in Dundee. The room was beautiful, quiet, warm and wonderful and I had my own shower room. C’mon! I went downstairs and joined the family in the Kitchen grabbing myself a bowl of cereal before departing. The television was on in the background and I am super sure I saw the words ‘Faith Mission’ flash up on the screen.I was on the road to Edinburgh around 8:10am and raring to get to it. Whatever ‘it’ was today.
Interestingly enough people often ask me “Where did you sleep last night?” and you know, sometimes I honestly cannot tell them. Each city is so jam packed and seems to pass through me so quickly that I cannot remember where I slept last night and sometimes which city I have just come from, or let’s face, sometimes I don’t even remember what day of the week it is! A city I only visited yesterday for example can seem to have been so very long ago! Weird.
Anyhow, I arrived safely in the majestic city of Edinburgh the capital city of the nation of Scotland which is most definitely one of our most beautiful of cities. I had a Maccy D’s breakfast wrap (with ketchup of course) but they never seem to be warm enough. The Wi Fi was not working in Maccy D’s this time and so got out my trusty iPad 3g and started to hunt down some numbers.
- I rang the Faith Mission Bookshop and spoke with Pearl (of great price fame) the manager and told her I would be with her in a half hour. She was lovely.
- I rang a large Evangelical church and left a message. In the end the assistant Pastor rang me but he did not have the authority to make any decisions. Interestingly, I have almost heard ‘fear’ in associate and assistant ministerial voices should they dare step out of the spiritual authority structure. Just an observation. But it’s definitely ‘Fear.’ Heavy shepherding may have gone from the pews but I certainly see it in the Pastoral team.
- I rang the Lord Provost’s PA and left a message.
- I rang the Ministers Secretary of St Giles Cathedral (The church which has John Knox is buried in the car park. Dreadful.) They are not available, but I leave a message.
The Faith Mission bookshop in Edinburgh is superb and has a coffee shop with free Wi Fi. Brilliant. Pearl was superb and gave me three contact numbers. One of the numbers was the Pastor of a wee church called ‘All Nations’ he sounded American and lived not too far away.
I had a great time in the bookshop and was able to get five interviews. The last one really took me by surprise, a former Hindu guy, a young man whose parents were ashamed of him because having become Christian he was associating himself with people of a much lower caste, you know, a bit like a banker now associating himself with someone from Dale Farm. Anyways, his girlfriend was a Christian encouraging him to try Jesus and as he puts it, he reads a tract in a toilet and then ‘gets drunk in the Holy Ghost’ and then later goes to a meeting and gets gloriously saved. Now apart from the fact there’s a few things there I just don’t get, this young man most definitely does get saved. How about that!
I drive down from the faith Mission Bookshop armed with a few telephone numbers which it turns out just ring and ring when I call them. But the All Nations Pastor is in and chatting in the wee coffee shop at his church and it is a very wee coffee shop! Again, as far as I can see this should not work. I mean, it’s not the best of buildings, it’s not well advertised, it’s really not very attractive and there is no parking. Indeed, all the coffee shop appears to be is the entrance of the church with a few tables and chairs. BUT it does work. People are in and come in regularly and this is how they are slowly and persistently reaching their community. I get an interview and depart. Nothing is really happening in Edinburgh for me and I sense that it is hard going. So, I ring a few people and ask for prayer for favour.
I first gave my testimony and consequently first spoke in public as a Christian in 1979 at Carrubers close mission hall, which was founded in 1858 in Carrubers Close, an alley leading off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, a former Atheist Meeting House, used in an effort to reach Edinburgh children for Christ. It was in 1883, the American Evangelist DL Moody came to Edinburgh and realising the need of a building, raised £10,000 by taking a large white sheet into a horse and cart and riding around the merchants of Edinburgh and getting them to fill it with money. He preached at the laying of the foundation stone. Carrubers continues to have important trans-Atlantic links to this day, and has continued in the evangelical tradition throughout its long history. So, as I was on this tour I thought it appropriate to visit and see what had been done there. After all, it was now around thirty years since O last stood in that pulpit? I wondered if it was there? I rang and made an appointment to go and visit. I was to be there are 2:00pm. It was good to speak to a human being. I say this because a number of churches now can only be contacted by an online form. In other words, you got to the Website and there is NO telephone number, no email or selection of emails, just a sterile electronic form that says “we will get back to you as and when we please.” These forms are AWFUL and amount to a very profound ‘Get Lost’ notice. These are churches that do not want outside people to come to them. Gripe over. Even so, I will never contact a church like that. Ever…… Gripe now finally over.
Anyhoo, I drove into an exceptionally cold and wet Edinburgh heading toward Carrubers close. Parking was a challenge and somehow, I found myself at St Giles Cathedral and parking in West Parliament square. I put a note in the window which said “Visiting Minister call 07975805323”. I hoped this would not get me clamped, but I was chancing my arm. So, I rushed into the Cathedral and found the church office. The lovely lady in charge had picked up my message and was expecting me. So, I explained what I wanted and she asked me where I wanted to do the wee preach. “Well, the pulpit would be good.” So she says “OK go ahead.”
Now remember, liberal or not, St Giles’ Cathedral is the historic City Church of Edinburgh. With its famed crown spire it stands on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle (Scotland’s chivalric company of knights headed by the Queen). Especially remembered though is the year of 1638, when those opposed to King Charles’ plans to reintroduce episcopacy in Scotland signed the National Covenant. In 1643, following a split amongst those who disagreed with the king, the Solemn League and Covenant was drawn up and then ratified by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, then meeting in the Preston Aisle of St Giles’. And that National Covenant may still be seen even today in the Preston Aisle! Of course, John Knox also preached some of his most powerful sermons in this very Cathedral.
One of the volunteer helpers videoed the message and as I ascended the pulpit it was obvious that there was an awful lot of people in the Cathedral. It was very cold outside. I was surprised that the microphones were all still turned on and my opening words took me by surprise as did the echo. I immediately had to lower my voice and speak that much slower to accommodate the reflection of sound. It was a short message but people began to sit in the pews and around the Cathedral stop and listen. I think it’s worth mentioning that whilst allowing for some crossovers of course, are four types of people that attend Cathedrals:
Those needing to meet with God are always blessed with the opportunity of impromptu scripture readings, meditations, preaching and prayer. It is as though God has broken into their lives.
After I stepped down, one of the uniformed guides came to me asking if I had gotten permission to do preach. Now I know that I am bold, but it takes a lot of brass neck to walk into someone else’s Cathedral and occupy the pulpit without permission! One of the ladies put him in the loop before he went a bit more loopy.
Several people came up to me shook my hand, one old lady said ‘thank you Father’ and a young Australian couple came and spoke with me and I shared the Gospel with them. These folks appreciated this little message from God.
This kind of regular spiritual intrusion should be a DAILY action in our great Cathedrals. It is in some, but not in all.
I could not chance my arm any longer in the car park so, I moved my vehicle to a paying spot. Ouch! And in addition to this I was nearly an hour late for my Carrubers appointment
Even so, I was let in, welcomed, met with the assistant Pastor who I interviewed and then was given the grand tour. Thirty years ago, the hall struggled with maybe a couple of dozen members, now they are a church of maybe 500 people. How about that! The mandatory coffee shop was doing well (oh by the way, I am not decrying this. It works!) And the whole thing looked and sounded sensational. I mentioned to the Pastor that I had hoped to get to see the Lord Provost but no one had gotten back to me “Oh” he said “one of our members, indeed one of our elders is a council member. Let me give him a call.
I met Cameron in the Civic officers, being a conservative councillor can be a pretty lonely job in Scotland sometimes. Even so Cameron was warm, welcoming and superb. I managed to get a great interview and got shown around some of the finest and best rooms I had seen. I was impressed with Cameron’s love of his nation, his city and especially its history. This guy knew his stiff. The mince pies and coffee weren’t bad either! The Day was getting on, the city was changing its face once more and it was time for me to be going.
Tomorrow I am in Newcastle and speaking from Matthew, the beginning of the New Testament. Following on from what I have spoken about in Malachi it seems obvious that I might speak on John the Baptizer. I have an idea.
On the way back to my car I pass a couple of Joke Shops. Halloween is taking over and you know the shops are full of gory and horrible stuff, but can I find a decent severed head? No! Imagine that in Edinburgh, the home of the infamous grave robbers who supplied the medical profession, Burke and Hare and also ‘Deacon’ Brodie and you cannot find a severed head. Ah well, maybe it’s not a God idea after all?
I got back to the car after its ticket had run out, BUT, we seemed to be OK. It had been a long day and I was off to see my hosts. Now, I was just eating with these good folks and then they were driving to me to their church where they had a number of prophet rooms. (How very American!)
The meal was already cooked when I arrived and for the next couple of hours I warmed myself on the tales of their faith journey. They have much more courage and faith than me. In the last forty days I have now come across at least three Christian couples who are pursuing God with all their might in the most challenging of circumstances and have been doing so for many, many years. It’s very humbling to be around these folks. Don’t misread me here, I am not saying that they are walking around with their hands clasped together in prayer and a halo above their heads separate from the pain of life, but rather, are pursuing God through the pain of live and finding Him in it. There are choices they can take which might remove the pain but those choices might take them out of the will of God and so guess what, they continue to choose the path they are on despite the pain it causes to them. This is inspiring. This is amazing.
It was dark when I arrived at the converted and deserted church. The good folks showed me to the room and put the heating on. By now I was ready to collapse into bed, but after they had left me there, I had around a 30 minute break before I had to head back into Edinburgh for a 9:00pm meeting with Henry.
I have had an idea for a wee while now to try and get these Whispers, these devotions out not only on APP form but also via an Electronic Magazine Distribution Network. Henry is the Editor in charge of this and as he presently lives in Edinburgh, this will the first time we have met face to face. Skype is great, but you cannot beat warm bodies.
Edinburgh’s controversial Tram works had risen to life now I had come back into the heart of the city at night time. Whole streets and sections were now covered in road works, and clothed in diversion signs. My Sat Nav just could not get me to the café I was meeting Henry in, so we cell phoned guided our connection together.
We spent about an hour together, the Piano bar offering a speciality hot chocolate which brought the jug of melted chocolate and the cup of hot milk to you separately for you to enjoy the mixing. It looked great, but the chocolate was cold and it left the milky mix lukewarm. I got the waitress to steam it up and it arrived back hot at last. Too hot, for one gulp seemed to severely scold the back of my throat. I hoped so very much that this was not going to be a problem.
I got back to the prophets room ok, plugged in my gear and went to sleep. The cups of cold water were not helping my throat. I hoped that I would wake up healed and it all calmed down. If you never hear me mention my throat again, you shall know that all was well in the morning, where I have a very early start to get down to Newcastle.
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