Regarding Pilgrimages

20160919_122123We all embark on journeys. Some do it for business purposes; some for leisure. Others set out for more strictly academic reasons. Then there those who venture out for religious purposes. These are the pilgrims, the itinerantly pious, who go on a journey not only of self- discovery, but with higher goals in mind. It is on this subject that I would like to dwell for a time. This past week, the other students and I spent the first two days on our Reformation Tour. Traveling to so many important locations associated with the Covenanters and the Scottish Presbyterians got me thinking about pilgrimages and perhaps how the concept is in need of some rehabilitation and revival.

The classical definition of a pilgrim is simply this: one who journeys for religious reasons, (sometimes to a religious or sacred place). My concern right now is simply with pilgrimages and Christianity. The term “pilgrimage” has picked up some historical baggage over the centuries, particularly in the years leading up to the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church attached spiritual weight to the completion of pilgrimages and went to great lengths to protect Christian travelers and holy sites. It can be said that the Crusades were waged to protect pilgrimage sites in the Middle East. Most Protestants have heard the story of Martin Luther and his disillusioning pilgrimage to Rome. The corruption, error and excess that characterized medieval Catholicism have dripped down to taint the concept of pilgrimages for modern Protestants. (Geoffrey Chaucer’s motley band of sordid characters comes readily to mind). Now most consider them to be an antiquated vestige of that system of works righteousness that we broke away from so long ago.

I would like to argue that pilgrimages are actually consistent with our reality as Christians. God’s People throughout history have been making journeys for faith reasons. We might be able to say that the first “pilgrim” in the Bible was Abraham. God spoke to him, told him to leave his home and travel to a land that God would show him (Genesis 12:1). In the times of Jesus, the Jewish people were journeying to Jerusalem to make sacrifices for Passover every year. They came from all over the regions of Israel and the Diaspora. They sang Psalms of Ascent to remember the importance of “going up” to God’s house. In a more abstract sense, we are all “pilgrims” on a spiritual journey of the Christian life. John Bunyan explores that in great detail in his masterful allegory Pilgrim’s Progress.

In a way, my main reason for participating in the Semester in Scotland program was for spiritual reasons. About six months ago I decided to join the Reformed Presbyterian Church. I wanted this semester to be a sort of pilgrimage, a journey of discovery, growing closer to God and learning about the lives of like-minded Christians from centuries past. The first two days of the Reformation Tour were a powerful taste of that. We visited St. Andrews and stood where Patrick Hamilton, the first Covenanter martyr, was burned at the stake. We (hesitantly) climbed into the pulpit of John Knox. On the second day in Edinburgh we payed our respects at Greyfriars churchyard where so many Covenanter leaders were buried and where they signed the National Covenant in 1638.  Another gated portion of the cemetery was the location where many Covenanters were cruelly imprisoned. In the city center, we planted our feet where there was once planted a gallows for the execution of so many of them. All of this was really enlightening for me and changed my perspectives. I had never heard of these persecuted Presbyterians a year ago, but now I could confidently call them my brothers and sisters in Christ. Where my view of the Church had previously been quite narrow, I now see how it encompasses so many people all around the world. We have not even completed half of our Reformation Tour excursions and I have already seen and learned things about God’s faithfulness and His people that I will never forget. In a way, these outings were a kind of pilgrimage, a journey of spiritual significance.

grassmarket

Pilgrimages serve as formative experiences in many ways. They can promote times of introspection on our own walks with God, prompt reflection on what He has done in the past, as well as orient our minds to godly perspectives. I think modern Christians could do well to see them as such. They should NOT be used as a means to earn one’s salvation, but as potentially life-changing physical reflections of a spiritual reality. We are all pilgrims, sojourners, on this harrowing pilgrimage that we call the Christian walk.

Psalm 122:1 “I was glad when they said to me ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”

Lauren Della Piazza

 

Welcome to the Family

lizzy2We have now been here for almost a month.  Many things come to mind as I reflect back on what has happened over the past few weeks.  We have begun learning about theology, serving in the church, Paul’s life, the Covenanters and how they died for their faith.  Still there is so much more to learn and everyday God is opening my eyes to new truths.  But what I wanted to focus on is the community of believers here, and how much of an impact it has had on me so far.

When the plane landed in Glasgow in the wee hours of the morning it began to set in that I was actually here, and I began to worry.  Would I be able to make it in a different county for four months?  Would I think of this place as home and not just as a long trip?  Would I be able to make friends and feel connected?

These fears were quickly silenced.  From the first day here we were shown love and hospitality.  Our first day we were rather dazed and sleepy.  We were invited over to have tea at Beth’s flat along with Stephen, Brenda, and the other girls who had already arrived.  It was such a blessing to be welcomed into someone’s home and be fed real food after having traveled for roughly twenty hours.  Even though we were tired the company was wonderful, and we felt as though we were eating with friends who we had know for much longer then a few hours.

Our first Sunday at church we were welcomed by so many wonderful people, who were so excited to meet us.  They greeted us with smiles, hugs, and some had even already learned our names!  As we sat in on the morning prayer meeting we were prayed for by name in such a way that it moved several of us to tears because of how much we could tell that these people cared about us, even though they had only just meet us.

Every Sunday we have lunch with a different family, this is such a huge blessing since we are in charge of our own food otherwise.  Our first week we were not sure how it would be to eat with people we did not know.  It turned out to be one of the most encouraging afternoons.  We sat around and talked for a long time, sharing stories about our lives, what it is like growing up in different countries, and we were able to ask our questions about cultural differences.  It felt like being with family.  When we left and went home I felt so encouraged and joyful.

Since that first week the relationships have only grown and gotten deeper.  We are now involved in Kids Club, and getting to know the kids in the church has been so wonderful.  They are always wanting to show us what they can do, and they make me so happy to see how everyone here watches our for all the young people.  We have also started to get to know the youth and young adults.  This past Friday some of the CY (Covenanter Youth) went out to Nando’s and enjoyed yummy food and fellowship.  There were many stories shared and much laughter.  While it is a close knit community they have been so willing to include us in the activities, never once have I felt out of the loop.  Someone is always willing to explain what they are talking about, or what different words mean.

Looking back it is hard to believe that we have only been here for a month.  It feels like we have been here so much longer.  This feel like home, I have family here. I realized that this is my family, through Christ we are all united as brothers and sisters.  That feeling is very evident here in the church in Airdrie.  The best way I can think to describe it is that it feels like a family reunion; some people know each other better then others, some are more closely related, there are people of all ages, but we all share the same roots.  It is a glimpse of what Heaven will look like one day when we all come together to worship and praise our great Heavenly Father!

Lizzy

Wind, Rain, Pigeons, and Deliverance

If you have ever been to Scotland for any reason, you know that it is almost always windy, and on a lot of days, it seems to be rather rainy. This is not true of all of the days, for even at this moment, it is a nice sunny day with patchy clouds. The temperature remains a bit on the cooler side, at least coming from a summer in the United States, but it is bearable, and, if you are prepared with the proper clothing, it can be lived in. It was on one such dreary day this week that I caught myself marveling at God’s providence. Louisa (my flat mate) and I had gone to cross a street, thought the car with its turning signal flashing had seen us, and very narrowly missed getting hit. Startled by the honk of the horn directly behind us, we rushed to the safety of the sidewalk and breathed out prayers of thanks.

Later on, I considered the events of the day and found myself pondering God’s deliverance in that situation. Though it was an act of misjudgment on our part, God still decided to smile upon us and deliver us from death. If it had been our time to go, I am sure that in the moment we would have been fine with it, as we would have no real choice in the matter. But God thought it best to deliver us in that moment, to keep us safe, and to give us the speed we needed to get out of the way of danger as quickly as possible.

Earlier this day, we had seen a flock of pigeons walking along the wet walkways, getting rained on, and bobbing their little heads with each step. I found it laughable at the time, but with later thinking, it brought to mind the verse in which it is said that God takes care of the sparrows and how much more will he take care of us? God takes care of sparrows, hawks, and even the lowly pigeons. If he takes care of even the lowliest creatures, how much more will he take care of those who are created in his image? Even when we are being somewhat idiotic in our attempts to quickly cross a street in the Scottish wind and rain, God still takes care of us, and if it is his will, brings us to safety on the other side.

Mary McCurdy

Scotland and Paul

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. Ephesians 1:1-4 NASB

Hello All, this has been a week, or two, of looking at the apostle Paul, and I have grown to absolutely love the way he starts his letters, but I kind of feel it would that it would be stealing his words. I am not claiming any of the apostleship that he was rewarded by Christ, don’t worry!! We have had a fantastic first week of classes and an incredible weekend with the church, at a Young Adults Weekend (YAW) conference in Northern Ireland (which was gorgeous, by the way). We started with classes, and found that the genre of the books is heavy, which is very good. It also quickly waded into the life of Paul, and the influences and culture that helped make him effective, other than the Holy Spirit, of course, and that continued during the weekend. The theme of messages was  evangelism, and we read out of the book of Acts in chapters 16 and 17. It was mentioned that the name of the book of acts really isn’t the best, because it isn’t just about what the apostles did, but rather where they went to continue furthering what God told them to do in the great commission, to first go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth. They listened and that is what Acts is, the account of how the early church did as God instructed down to the order of where to go when to tell.

One of the themes that I have been seeing is how God is showing us as students that we need to be bold, and yet still be gentle. On Wednesday, we went to visit Stirling Castle and the Battle of Bannockburn battlefield; we learned about how the people fought boldly for their freedom, now of course this was not for freedom of religion in these cases, but their country. Still you should see the point. On out first Sunday, the sermons were about how Elijah the prophet needed to be bold and yet humble as he served our Savior. And then we get to Paul, as we learned this weekend, and how even after he was beaten, and thrown into jail, and then asked to leave the city after the night of the earthquake and the conversion of Lydia and her family, the Guard at the jail and his family. and a few others, he continued on into many different cities and did the same thing.  Sometimes he was hurt again, other times the new Christians found out what was happening and sent him on his way with blessings and thanks. What an example of boldness! Still, when God said something, he was “still” enough to hear what God said. He knew when it was time to be bold, and he knew how to go about that. It was something that made me stop and wonder if I am bold enough, and also if I am “still” enough to hear what God tells me to do in my life. That is something that I have found I myself need to work on – constant  communication with God.

Outside of what I have learned so far this semester though, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know people in the church, and can’t wait for more of that. We have had so much fun reading our books and seeing places. This time will be something I will never forget – we saw some awesome things that God has made, like this view from the “hill” we climbed on Saturday.

ni-view

We also had a lot of fun finding our way around the bus and train system. That was a completely new experience for me, but very fun nonetheless!! Other things that were really fun? Meeting fellow Christians on the way over the Irish Sea on the ferry.

And so now I bid you a most gracious farewell, filled with the joy of God, our Father, who should live in our hearts and minds constantly. I pray peace and joy live in our hearts until our time on earth ends. Catch ya next time!! -Louisa

ferry2

Meet the New Autumn 2016 Students!

 

Autumn Semester 2016 Students

LizzyLizzy Tewksbury
I was born, raised and have lived in Williamsburg, Virginia for my whole life.  I am a member of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in America in Wiliamsburg, and while I am at Geneva I attend College Hill RPC.  I am going into my junior (third) year, and I am studying Psychology.  For the past four summers I have been working as a camp counselor at a small Christian sleep away camp.

 

LaurenLauren Della Piazza
I am from Berwick, Pennsylvania.  I am a junior (third year) at Geneva this fall, and I study history.  I am in the process of joining College Hill Reformed Presbyterian Church in Beaver Falls and am very much looking forward to meeting my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ!

 

MaryMary McCurdy
I live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I attend Trinity Presbyterian Church in America, and have been attending it my whole life.  I am a writing major, and going into my sophomore (second) year.  This is my first time traveling outside the country, and it has always been a dream of mine to get to visit Scotland.

 

LouisaLouisa Masemore
I am from Pennsylvania and grew up on a farm about an hour from Philadelphia. I currently go to a nondenominational church called Lighthouse Community Church.  I am in my second year at Geneva, and I am majoring in communication. I also love reading.

 

Autumn Semester Schedule

Arrive
23rd & 25th August 2016

Leave
17th & 20th December 2016

Daily Schedule
Class starts at 9.15 am with worship
Mornings – They have assigned reading on their subjects
Afternoons – Seminars led by Teachers
Wednesday Afternoons – Cultural Trips

Teachers
Rev. Andrew Quigley will teach –  Church Ministry
Dr. Tim Donachie will teach – Humanities in England and Scotland
Rev. Kenneth Stewart will teach – Systematic Theology
Mr. Stephen McCollum will teach – Life and Work of Paul
Mr. Jimmy Fisher will teach –  Scottish Christian History: 1st and 2nd Scottish Reformations
Miss Beth Bogue will teach – Women’s Ministry to Women

Final Reflections – Nicki

NickiI cannot believe that the semester has come to an end, and that I am technically now a senior in college.  Where has the time gone?  That is such a cliché saying, but as I lay out on this warm, sunny, absolutely beautiful day (I am starting to have hope in Scotland’s weather) thinking back on the semester, I am recognizing that I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent these past four months.

In a mere four months Scotland has become like a second home.  I have met some of the most incredible people and built friendships that will last for eternity.  I have gotten to live in a different culture, and although it is pretty similar to America, there are definite differences.  I just love all the various accents.  I love the fashion; people here are so classy.  I have tried a lot of new foods, haggis being the big stand-out, and I am currently trying to figure out how much tea and Irn Bru (Scotland’s famous soda) I can fit into my suitcase to bring home.

We have also gotten to travel to a lot of incredible places!   We have been all over Scotland, including Skye, Perthshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Glencoe.  We went to London, Oxford, Venice, Rome, Dublin, and many amazing places in Northern Ireland.  Rachel and I have gotten to read a plethora of wonderful books, including Westminster Confession of Faith, Foundations of the Christian Faith, and MacBeth.

Some of my favorite memories have been helping at Kids Club, hanging out with CY, leaflet distribution with the Go Team, going to people’s homes for Sunday lunches, church services, METs, traveling, and really just being with the people that I have grown to love.

This semester I really learned in a new way what it means for a Christian to live a life that is different from the rest of the world.  It means fleeing evil and running as fast as you can towards Jesus.  Sometimes I think God shows us such grace by shifting our perspective.  I recognized in a fuller capacity the privilege it is to be a Christian. That is what this semester was all about: sprinting towards Godliness.

Since Rachel and I are leaving tomorrow to go back to America, I am filled with so many emotions.  While I am thrilled to see my family and friends back home, it is going to be very hard to leave the family that I have acquired here.  I just want to say a quick ‘thank you’ to everyone who has made Scotland feel like home.  Everyone at Airdrie RP church has been so loving and hospitable, and I truly love you all so very much.  Being in Scotland has changed my life, and the only way I am able to leave is by telling myself that I will be back, Lord willing.  Anyhow, it’s a guaranteed “See ya later” and never a “Goodbye” for fellow Christians.  You will all be in my prayers. God bless.

Nicki Losh

Final Reflections – Rachel

RachelThe day is warm and sunny. Leaves are starting to come out on the trees and it is finally beginning to feel like spring here in Scotland. It is quite a different scene to the snowy landscape we entered four months ago. It seems impossible that the semester is over and that our time here in Scotland is coming to a close. The time has gone so quickly, and it is going to be so hard to say goodbye.  Coming to Scotland and doing the Semester program really has been a dream come true.  But it far exceeded all my expectations, and while it sounds cliché, has been a life-changing experience.  I have learned so much in my time here, grown in my relationship with the Lord, and made life-long friendships.  What I have to say is nothing really new, it is just about the same as what most of the other students have posted in their final blog posts, but perhaps many of us have come to find many of the same wonderful things here.  Being part of this program has been an incredible privilege and blessing that I wish never had to end.

I am so thankful for all the incredible memories that have been made this semester and for the wonderful people who made it possible.  Memories of splendid landscapes and picturesque towns, momentous historic sites, meaningful classes, deep conversations, laughs, memories from Kids Club, CY, and so much more – all are things which I will treasure.  It has been incredible to see so many famous places in a relatively short amount of time. Yet, it has really been the people here who have made Scotland a second home to me.

First, I am so thankful for the Airdrie RP Church family. You have taught me so much about what it means to be the body of Christ and have reflected Christ so clearly in your lives. I am so thankful for all the people who opened their homes to us every week after church. Going to MET each week has also been an immense blessing and encouragement spiritually as a time to study God’s Word during the week with other people in the church. The hospitality extended to us I can only describe as abundant. The love shown to each other has made me more greatly appreciate the living reality of Psalm 133:1: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” and Psalm 122:1: “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” The semester program has been an incredible opportunity to live around others whose faith is evident in every area of their lives and who have been a great encouragement in my own walk with the Lord. I am so thankful as well for Pastor Quigley bringing God’s Word to us each week, and his passion for the church and the gospel.

I am so thankful for each of our professors who taught us every week.  I have loved each of the classes and learned so much from them. I think the best part is how practical each class was and how in every class we were pointed to Christ. I have been deeply challenged, convicted, humbled, and encouraged. Each was the type of class where I did not mind if it ran over time, and I wish in many ways every semester could be like this one. I deeply appreciated our professors’ care for real learning – knowing God on a heart level. The kind of knowing that changes our lives, not merely knowledge that has a spot in our brains for a few weeks. More than just lecture, I have loved that our professors have been living examples of what they were teaching us. One thing I have come to see is how much more I need to think on God’s attributes and just how unfathomably beautiful He is. I have also learned how much I need to remind myself of the truths of God’s Word, and how I need to be disciplined in following him. There is so much I could say for each one of my classes but if I had to boil it all down, all our classes have been about growing in conformity to Christ and knowing Him more fully. It has caused me to ask questions not only of my mind but also of my life – how can I grow in holiness?

Each of our Wednesday excursions with Jimmy and Helen has also been so wonderful and memorable. I will greatly miss our weekly “mystery tour,” since we generally did not know where we were going ahead of time due to weather, and after all what’s life without a little suspense! I am so thankful for our Reformation Tour and how clearly and memorably Jimmy was able to tell the stories of the Covenanters. The Martyrs Monument in Greyfriars Kirkyard and the monument to the two Margarets in Wigtown are among the many things which were so moving and which I will always remember. I will also miss the fun stories and the banter in the car rides. Thank you for being our adoptive parents this semester and checking up on us!

I have also loved being able to help out with Kids Club each Friday. It is such a delight to spend time with the kids of the church to have fun and to learn about God’s Word. It is so encouraging to see that so many of them look forward to coming each week and how much energy and joy they bring. It has also been great to spend time with the young people in CY and be built up by other young people in the church. I certainly have enjoyed the times we have spent together.

I don’t know what I would have done without Beth, and I am so thankful for the amazing friend which she has become. From helping us get to and from the airport, teaching our class, giving godly counsel, going on Saturday adventures, and so many laughs, I am so thankful for the immense blessing she has been. I am also so immensely thankful for Nicki and her friendship. From the stress of flights to the great conversations, the laughs, and the hard times she has been there through it all. Thanks for putting up with me! The semester would not have been anywhere near as good without you.

This blog post is probably far too long and I feel I have hardly scratched the surface! This past semester has been so meaningful and such an incredibly opportunity to grow in Christ. I am so much looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home, but I am also inexpressibly sad to have to leave Scotland. I will miss everyone so much. I am so thankful for everyone who has helped and supported me in my time here in Scotland. The saying goes, “all good things must come to an end,” and in this case, I suppose that is true. But I think this fact makes the never-ending love of Christ even more precious. As we learned in our last memory verse in class, “His mercies never come to an end” (Lam. 3:22). In Him we have life that will never end and in eternity we will all be together to praise His glorious grace. Now that is truly beautiful and a wonderful truth!

Rachel Mack

A Week in London

As an extension of our Humanities course we took a week long trip to London. It was a  phenomenal week, and I am still astounded by how many famous things we saw in only a  few days. While I could say so much about each piece of the trip, here is a rundown of some of the highlights from each day.

Day 1 – Museum Day
We left Airdrie bright and early on Monday morning and caught our flight to London.  When we arrived in London we still had a good part of the day to sightsee. Our first stop  was the Museum of London, which tells the story of the city from pre-historic times to the present. It was remarkable to see the remains of the wall that the Romans made around  the city of London so many centuries ago. I also really enjoyed the displays of historic  costume from the 1700s up until the present. Our next stop was the British Museum which displays some of the most famous historic artifacts in the world like the Rosetta Stone, Assyrian Reliefs, the Parthenon Sculptures, and the Celtic treasure of Sutton Hoo among many other things. The museum was a bit like walking through all the Western Civilization classes I have taken in real life, rather than just through pictures and text.  After a whirlwind visit here we traveled on to the British Library with its fantastic exhibit of famous manuscripts. From Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Dickens, Bach, Mozart, and the Beatles, there were original works from many of the most famous figures in Western Culture. My favorite was a 1526 Tyndale Bible – one of only three copies of that edition which survive until today!

Day 2 – London Tourist Sights

On Tuesday we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, climbing all the way to the top of the dome for  breathtaking views of London. Our next stop was the Tower of London, which I was surprised by as a whole castle complex, not just a single tower as I had imagined it.  While much of its history is grim as a prison and place of execution, much of its history is not so horrific, simply as a castle and palace. Today it houses the crown jewels as well.  After  touring the Tower, we walked past Buckingham Palace and enjoyed the beauty of the blooming flowers and trees near the Mall. Next we dabbled in a number of shops near  Piccadilly Circus and ended up in Covent Garden for dinner. We were able to get a fairly good sense of London and some of its most famous and iconic sights.

 

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral

London from top of st Paul's

London from the top of st. Paul’s Cathedral

Tower of London

Tower of London

Day 3 – Day Trip to Oxford
We took a break from the bustle of London on Wednesday, and took a trip to Oxford.  Taking a bus tour around the University City told a lot about the history and main  attractions of the city. It is easy to see how Oxford has been nicknamed the City of   Dreaming Spires with its beauty and numerous spires from different eras. We stopped at the Martyrs Monument that commemorates Bishops Latimer and Ridley who were  executed by Bloody Mary at that spot during the time of the Reformation. We also enjoyed lunch in the Eagle and Child Pub, where C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien would meet and discuss their most recent writings. The University is broken down into different colleges and we toured a couple of these in the afternoon. The architecture of their buildings alone is remarkable.

Day 4 – Westminster
On Thursday we spent the better part of the day in the best-known areas of  London – Westminster. The moment we left the underground station we had amazing views of Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. Despite seeing the iconic clock tower in so many  pictures, I was delighted that it was even better in real life. The architecture of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben was gorgeous! The beauty of Westminster Abbey also astounded me. It was mind-boggling just how many famous historic figures are buried there:  Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Edward VI, William Wilberforce, David Livingstone, William Chaucer, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and the list goes on. Next we walked up Whitehall and stopped at the Banqueting House of James I which had an ornately painted ceiling. We also spent time in the National Gallery where again we saw so many famous pieces of art including one of my favorites –Monet’s “The Water Lily Pond.” A warm and sunny day, we enjoyed some time relaxing in Trafalgar Square after a long day of walking.

Westminster

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Girls in London

Day 5 – Home Again
Friday was our day to travel back to Scotland, but before we did, we stopped in the nearby Bunhill Fields Graveyard where John Bunyan is buried. We also saw the grave of William Blake and Daniel Defoe. A number of other famous Christians are also buried there including John Owen, Susanna Wesley, and Isaac Watts. Following this we made our way to the airport and eventually back to Scotland. It was an incredibly memorable trip and I so much appreciated the range of things we were able to see, from history to art, famous landmarks, to shops and beyond.  I am also so thankful for Beth who led the trip and Nicki who were both the greatest people to travel with!

Rachel Mack

Humanities Week as Well as Mission Week

The week prior to our trip to England, Rachel and I had our intensive, weeklong class with Tim Donachie.  The Humanities in England and Scotland course was designed to expose us to the history, art, architecture, and literature of England and Scotland that illustrate the main themes and patterns of Western civilization.  We read works such as Macbeth by Shakespeare, Old Mortality by Sir Walter Scott, and A History of Scotland by J.D. Mackie.  This class was very beneficial and really helped me appreciate our trip to London even more than I would have without it.

Banner2This was a very busy week, as we had lectures all day and then a church service every night.  Mission Week was a week focused on inviting people into the church from the community, and all the sermons focused on some aspect of the Resurrection.  If you’ve been reading the Semester In Scotland blogs just because you maybe think “Rachel is a great writer and very insightful,” and “What crazy thing is Nicki going to say next” or “Scotland sounds exciting, maybe I should read about it”…well those are all valid reasons for reading our blogs, but ultimately, none of that is the point.

If I am honest, I struggled to sit down and write this blog post; I just did not want to do it this week.  What is the point?  Well conviction soon hit me like a wall.  The point of this blog is the same point as my entire life: Love Jesus and share His love with other people.  Folks, if you don’t know Jesus as the Savior of your life, if you don’t know what  Resurrection I am talking about, I would really encourage you to start reading through the Bible, seek out someone in your life who is a Christian and ask them the hard questions that you may have (I would be more than willing to have a conversation with anyone reading this post about why I have the hope that I have in Jesus Christ).

Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.  Even if you are a Christian reading this, I challenge you to consider what it is that you want your life to be about, and chase after that with passion and single-mindedness.  God has given you a life, and you can work in that life to achieve what God wants you to achieve.  Jesus changes everything.  Being a Christian does not make life easier, but for me, it makes life worth living.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Nicki Losh

Skye – A Dream Come True

Sunlight filters through the patchwork of clouds casting shadows, which play games on  the green landscape. The mountains jut out of the earth, but do so softly, being covered by a carpet of greens and browns. There are two little lakes in little valley below us. The hills are almost uninterrupted by the single-track road which zigzags up the hillside. In the distance you can see a little village, and not far from that, the sea. The ocean and sky meet in a blue haze. It truly is an idyllic and majestic scene. This was the beautiful landscape that we had the privilege to walk into last Saturday. Though the ground was a bit soggy, we ate a picnic lunch on the hillside overlooking the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye; it was magnificent. There are just no words to accurately describe it.

Quiraing

This past weekend we journeyed to the Isle of Skye – one of the places I have wanted to see most in Scotland. We left on Friday in the rain, but despite the clouds, the scenery was beautiful. We drove through some of the most scenic places in Scotland – along Loch Lomond, through Glencoe, and to Fort William. After a long, but enjoyable drive we reached our destination in a small village called Plockton. Nicki and I were both delighted to find that out the window we had a lovely view of a quaint old train station which looked as if it was straight out of Anne of Green Gables. Then on Saturday morning we crossed the bridge to the Isle of Skye which was even better than all the pictures. We stopped at many spots to take our own photos. We drove all the way up to the north part of the Island to a village called Uig, which had a harbor and looked right into the sea over to the Isles of Harris and Lewis. We then stopped for lunch at the Quiraing, going on to see an incredible waterfall whose water plummeted straight into the clear sea below. We also were able to see the lovely town of Portree with its colorful buildings on the harbor. After bidding the lovely Isle a grudging goodbye, we stopped to look at the famous Eilean Donan Castle. We also saw Urquhart Castle on Lock Ness (No sightings of Nessie, I’m afraid). Our final stop was Cawdor Castle near Inverness and then we came back to Airdrie. We definitely saw a good bit of Scotland on our trip and lots of stunning scenery.

Plockton

It was one of the best trips I think I have ever taken because of the incredible scenery everywhere around us. The trip was made even better because of the wonderful people I traveled with – Nicki and Beth – and the fellowship we were able to have. Not to mention the many memories that were made as well. Skye really is the kind of place that I have dreamed about, and now I have actually seen it!

Kilt Rock

The whole of the trip definitely reminded me of the beauty of God’s creation. I was also reminded of God’s majesty and his care for little us. On one of the plaques naming the mountains around us, Psalm 121 was inscribed. What the Psalm speaks of is so important, reminding us where our safety truly comes from, and it speaks from every direction (a sense most pervasive as I looked at the hills on the Isle of Skye). “I to the hills will lift mine eyes, from whence doth come mine aid. My safety cometh from the Lord, who heaven and earth hath made.” (Psalm 121:1-2 Scottish Metrical Version)

Rachel Mack