It is hard to believe that we have already been in Scotland for three weeks now. The more I see of Scotland, the more I am in awe of the beauty here. I have also found it is an incredible place to feed the imagination. Ruined castles, plots and conspiracies, evil villains, secret passages behind wall panels, endless dark staircases, knights in shining armor, and princesses of a bygone age all sound like things from fairy tales or mystery novels. Yet in Scotland these things are no fantasy. You can no longer see the knights, kings, and queens who once lived in Linlithgow Palace or go through secret passages which once led from a stately house to a castle a mile away, yet they were at one time a reality here in Scotland. The history and the stories of Scotland are absolutely fascinating. It has been wonderful, not only to learn about these things in books but to see the places where so many notable people walked in past ages.
We have learned a great deal about the history of the Reformation and the Covenanters here in Scotland over the past few weeks as we were gearing up for our Reformation Tour this coming week. I have again been so impressed by the courage and faith of the men and women who were not afraid to give their lives for Christ. It is also a sad testimony to how people can be turned against their own countrymen and commit terrible atrocities. In our travels this week we saw the House of the Binns, which belonged to the notorious persecutor of the Covenanters, General Thomas Dalziel. If captured, Covenanters could be taken to that house and a number were tortured and died there. Dalziel was a hated man for his cruelty not only to Covenanters but in other quarters as well. We were told how Dalziel had a secret passageway accessed from behind the paneling of his house, which ran underground to the nearest castle, probably a mile away.
This week we also enjoyed seeing Linlithgow Palace which is beautiful even though in ruins. Walking through room after room, it was easy to imagine its grandeur at one time. We climbed to the top of the highest tower of the palace and could see that at one time the tower went even higher with a spiral staircase around the outside, but now that staircase leads into oblivion. It made me think of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Kidnapped where the main character David is sent by his evil uncle to retrieve things in the dark only to find the winding staircase leads him right off the edge. Had he not been careful he would have fallen to a certain death. I have encountered many things this past week that have either brought my mind to stories I know, or which would certainly make for excellent story material. Scotland is truly an amazing place.
This past week has also been wonderful because of the time we have had to read for our classes and meditate on God’s Word. In our Christian Ministry class we are going through a book on the Spiritual Disciplines, and I have been greatly challenged by the need not only to read God’s Word but also to memorize and meditate on it. While reading the Bible is never a bad thing, it does little good if it is not thought about and applied to my life. I am so thankful for the perspective the book presents about the motivation for being disciplined in our Christian life. It is not so that we can work our way into heaven, but rather, being saved by God’s grace these are the means God uses to make us more conformed to Christ – our main goal as Christians! I know there is no way in my own efforts that I could make myself conformed to Christ, but His promise is to lead all the way – “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” – Psalm 16:11 (KJV)