Final Scotland Post…

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So I am writing my final post about the Scotland tour from a McDonald’s near my folks’ summer place in Madoc. I’m writing it here because there is free wifi, I have some free time  and because I finally feel capable (mentally, emotionally) to write about it.

Our final day in Scotland was truly a gift from God. We woke up to a perfectly clear sky, golden sunshine and temperatures soaring up to 25C. We could not have asked for a better day to cruise Loch Ness, explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle and then travel through the indescribably gorgeous Glen Coe area.

My phone died about midday (I’d had the screen brightness turned up in all the sunshine, and my battery bank hadn’t charged the night before), so I don’t have pictures that I can access (yet – they are on the big camera and I’ll post some when I’m back to having regular internet access), but despite the minor technical difficulties, the beauty of Glen Coe is burned on my brain. I hope and pray that I will be able to go back some day and do a hiking tour in the area.

Loch Ness and Urquhart castle were both amazing. I have visited many ruins of old and ancient (in Israel, we learned those were two very different things!) sites in the past few years, and I never tire of them. I always say I could spend hours in those places, just letting my imagination run and enjoying the photography opportunities. I loved every second we spent at Urquhart Castle.

Our tour through Glen Coe was an unexpected blessing – our guide and driver conspired to take us through the region as a treat. And what a treat it was! Just the most unbelievably beautiful views.

After a long bus ride, we arrived at Leith where we checked into our hotel and then headed to Prezzo restaurant for our final dinner. It was hard to believe our time in Scotland had come to an end. But we celebrated by singing for the restaurant staff and patrons.

An amazing, deeply moving, and full of joy finale!

Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle from the waters of Loch Ness

selfie with Urquhart Castle in the background

Cold storage room at Urquhart Castle

Spiral staircase at Urquhart Castle

The ruins of Urquhart Caslte under a gorgeous sky!

Rugged beauty…

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭35:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Today we travelled by bus to the Jacobite steam train, which was used as the Hogwart’s Express in the Harry Potter films, then we took a ferry to the Isle of Skye, where we explored the little town of Portree, and then went for a phenomenal dinner at the Red Skye restaurant.

I feel a little bit like I’m pounding the same note over and over – but I am constantly blown away by the rugged beauty of this land.

Everything is so green and lush. Every time we then a corner there is another little water fall, or a mountain top shrouded in the heavy clouds which feed the falls. Some of our group spotted a stag in the fields as we travelled today. And then, as we drive back to our hotel there was an entire stretch of the highway during which we were calling out, “deer! There’s another one! And another! Look, a whole flock!”

As we traveled back to our hotel, there were many who were saying that they are in love with the Isle of Skye, that they hope to return and explore it further.

I feel the same way. Our time here has been absolutely magical and has definitely whetted my appetite to see more of this beautiful place.

The hills, the sky, the water falls, the lochs and the green fields are declaring their makers’ praise all around us each moment. It’s all “calling out your name,” Lord, and I just want to join in. What a blessing!

Green pastures and still waters…

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭23:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Today was full-immersion in Scottish history and culture. We began the day at Blair Athol distillery, learning how fine single malt scotch is made, then we drove to the highlands (stopping in the towns of Birman and Pitlochry on the way) to learn about the Battle of Culloden at the battlefield itself, and finally made a stop at Clava Cairns – a burial ground dating back to the Bronze Age – which was featured in the Outlander series of novels.

I have found myself mesmerized by the Scottish countryside. The rolling green holds, the sheep dotting the hillsides, the moody clouds which bring rain showers (if not downpours!) regularly.

It is every bit as I have pictured it to be, and better. This land has always tugged at my heartstrings from afar. It has always been on my “I must go there someday” list. To be here now…it’s hard to put into words how much I am loving every moment of this experience.

I could have spent hours at Clava Cairns…as we pulled away I saw some people on what seemed to be a walking trail, and I can honestly say that having been here, a hiking tour of Scotland is now on my bucket list!

I am always amazed at the beauty of creation, and humbled by the the creator’s artistry. He restores my soul with these things. And I am blessed.

Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns

Flowers in the gorgeous little town of Pitlochry

The River Tay. I think.

Scottish countryside


“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:23-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, I blogged about the concert at St. Giles, but yesterday was full of other adventures: a group lunch and spontaneous performance at a pub, shopping with a friend, a glass of wine at the oldest pub in Edinburgh…and then – well, it’s hard to explain what happened next. I guess the phrase is “comedy of errors.”

We decided to leave the pub and go find dinner – so we asked the bartender to call us a couple of cabs (there were 7 in our group). When one cab arrived, 3 of our group went in it while the rest of us walked around to the parking lot in back of the pub, thinking that the second cab was there. It wasn’t. So we went back to the front of the pub, and there was still no cab. We waited for a minute or two, as a car arrived with the tag “for hire” on it, we got in and told the driver we were going to The Scotsman downtown. 

As we were driving, I began to look for my pouch with my cash in it…couldn’t find it. Began to panic a bit, so I handed one of my bags to my friend Susan, while I looked in the other. Neither of us could find the pouch. At this point, I piped up and said I had to go back. So James told our driver that we needed to go back.  No reaction. So James said the same thing again. Still, no reaction. Finally, Susan authoritatively told the driver we had to go back. 

The driver then asked James if we had called an Uber (an app that connects riders with drivers, and since the drivers are not official taxis, costs less for the riders). James told him no, we had asked the bartender to call a taxi. Turns out that we had accidentally taken someone else’s Uber ride. Oops! 

We got back to the pub, and while James apologized and made good with the jilted uber riders, I ran into the pub to see if I could find my pouch. There was a lovely local gentleman sitting in the chair I had vacated when we left, and I asked him if he’d seen a pink satin pouch with flowers on it. He told me no, he’d just arrived. I explained that I had only left a few minutes before and had been sitting in that very chair. At which point, he began to look around a bit and noticed my pouch sitting beside his chair. He cheerfully handed it to me – all my cash was there, just as I’d left it! (Clear evidence, that God is good and He takes care of me!)

Susan asked the bartender to call us another cab, and we found our way to The Scotsman where we reunited with the others from our party (who had begun to worry!) and had a wonderful dinner. 

(I won’t go into details about our misadventure of trying to find a cab to get us home after dinner!)

These are the things that only happen when you’re traveling. Adventures are part of travel – no matter how carefully you plan, it is just a FACT that you will find yourself faced with the unexpected. Last night’s adventure, in my mind, is filed firmly under “all’s well that ends well!”

What a reminder that the good and the bad often go hand-in-hand in life. To miss out on some of the bad would probably mean missing out on a great deal of good, as well. 

So in this blog entry, I say: thank you, God, for holding my hand, for directing even my misadventures, and for the mix of good and bad that made this experience a delight!

Angus enjoying himself and making frjends at The Sheep’s Heid (oldest pub in Edinburgh)!

Beautiful ceiling detail at The Scotsman hotel in Edinburgh

The group of us, enjoying dinner after our misadventures!


““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This blog is late because I was just too busy having a wonderful time to blog last night!

We started the day at St. Giles Cathedral, where those of us in the choir would be performing a lunchtime concert. Just walking into the cathedral was a powerful experience. I understood, in that space, that the architect worked hard to make the entire building speak to the vast glory of God. The vaulted ceilings, the immense amount of space, the pillars that seem to soar into the sky, the beautiful stained Glass windows – it was all quite overwhelmingly beautiful.

After having some time to just take it all in, our wonderful guide Kirstie lead us about and taught us some of the history of this church – the birthplace of the Scottish Reformation. Every time I am somewhere that has existed for centuries, I’m reminded of how young Canada is. I felt that in the Chapel Royal at the Tower of London, I have felt it countless times at various sites in Israel, and I felt it again, listening to the stories of St. Giles, dating back to the 1600’s. Simply amazing.

After our tour we began to rehearse – which was its own interesting experience! The cathedral is open to tourists, some of whom stopped to listen to a few bars, as we prepared.

There was a short spoken-word service, and then it was time to sing. I cannot begin to explain how it felt to sings songs of faith and songs of Canada at St. Giles. I had tears rolling down my cheeks the entire time (and clearly the Holy Spirit was present, as I was still able to sing). As we began our rendition of “The Lord is my Shepherd”  – literally as soon as we had sung the words “the Lord” – the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and shone upon the pillars. It was absolutely transcendent. And the entire performance was full of soul-stirring moments like that.

There is much more to say, so hopefully this will only be part one of this post!

Unexpected blessings…

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Today was a day absolutely jam-packed with unexpected blessings. On the agenda for the day were trips to two art galleries and a good helping of free time.

Not-on-the-agenda-but-totally-happened today were the following: climbing 278 stairs up to the top of the Walter Scott Memorial (and having to take just that many back down again), a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone, a lovely lunch in a pub (I had a toastie – which is a grilled cheese, but it just SOUNDS so much more Scottish when you call it a toastie!), a high tea with live harp music, an adventurous trek to find the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle statue, and an unbelievably wonderful gourmet dinner.

Each of these things was a blessing in and of its own right, but added to each was so much laughter and friendship – which made it all more beautiful, magical and unforgettable.

More than once I found the words of an Andrew Peterson song ruining through my head: don’t you want to thank someone for this?

Yes. Yes, I do want to thank someone…for the blessings each new day brings – big or small. As the book of James in the Bible reminds me, every unexpected blessing, every good gift, is from God.

So thank you, Father, thank you!

Sir Walter Scott Memorial


There’s Sir Walter!

Angus enjoying the spectacular views from the top of the memorial.

High Tea at The Balmoral

Erin setting Angus up for his shot with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Aubergine Tower with goat cheese appetizer

Vietnamese Coconut Chicken main

This was our amazing restaurant for dinner!

To the bone…

“And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.””

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭33:14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

There is a kind of tired that goes all the way to the bone. That’s the kind of tired I am right his moment. It was a long night of travel followed by a busy day of sightseeing and sorting out details. 

There is a kind of tired that goes all the way to the bone, but there is a kind of happy that goes even deeper – to the core of the soul. It’s the kind of happy you feel when a new baby is born to family or friends; the kind of happy Clergy feel when they see someone taking new and brave steps on their faith journey; the kind of happy one feels when one has accomplished something beyond their own abilities, and shared that experience with friends. 

It’s the kind of happy I feel now, thinking back over the past day and a half. We have come thousands of miles. We have shared stories. We have shared laughter. We have shared song. We have met up with friends old and new. 

This adventure has begun, and begun beautifully. Now, I lay me down to sleep – tired to the bone and happy to the core of my soul. 

Thanks, Lord!

The war memorial at Edinburgh Castle

View from Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle from afar

Going through the gate into the castle

Our wonderful guide, Kirstie, telling us about the castle’s history

World Traveler

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So you don’t need I know me very well to have discovered how I feel about flying. It terrifies me. I try to isolate myself in the days leading up to a flight. Because I know I am going to be a snappish bear. That’s what fear does to me: makes me likely to be cranky and horrible to those around me – friends and family. 

As I write this, I’m half way to Frankfurt, where we will have a couple of hours layover before continuing on to Edinburgh, Scotland. Out the left side of the plane, miles below us is Greenland and we’ll pass by Iceland as well. 
It occurs to me that there are many places in this world I long to see. That despite my fear, God has birthed something in me: despite myself, I am becoming a world traveler. And this pleases me immensely. 

When I put my trust in God, I find myself pulled out of my comfort zones into places and experiences I never could have managed or imagined on my own. That is be beauty of a life lived in the transforming presence of God.  

It doesn’t do away with my anxiety. It doesn’t mean I’m pleasant to be around on those days before a flight. But it does mean that my feet will trod paths they have never been down before. What a blessing it is to know that my times are in His hands. That He knows the plans he has for me, and that they’ll be better than anything I can come up with on my own. 

For the next 7 days I’ll be blogging my experiences as our choir tours Scotland, singing in Cathedrals and pubs and the occasional flash mob just for fun. I hope you’ll join me for the journey!

The reason…

 ““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There’s a Christmas song that I love which includes the words “Christmas, it makes way for Spring.” This is true temporally- you cannot get to Spring without first going through winter (despite the Spring-like weather that has marked this December), but it’s also true theologically. Christmas makes way for Easter. The birth makes way for the death. The incarnation makes way for the sacrifice.

And for a Christian, that’s what it’s all about. That’s the hope that brings us peace. That’s the joy of God’s love: that through the birth of Jesus, God made a way for our salvation…so that the bonds of sin and death would be broken forever. So that even though we did, we could live with Him forever.

As you open gifts and partake in feasts today, may you know the real reason for our celebration. May you know that Christmas, it makes way for Spring.


“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:15-20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Christmas Eve is always such a rush in my life. Rushing to get the gifts wrapped, the final preparations for the services done,  making sure there is food to share with friends between services, making sure I’m organized enough to get on the road once the services are finished and my brother and I begin the drive out to our folks’ place. There’s a lot of rushing around to do today.

But there’s also another kind of rush: the rush of emotion I know I’ll experience at each of the services as we tell this beautiful, true, wondrous story. The rush of seeing people I haven’t seen in a while and others who I see every week. The rush of music as we sing songs that have been sung for ages, but always feel new and astonishing.

For the shepherds there was the rush to Bethlehem, and the rush back to work again. There was the rush of wanting to tell everyone the good news and all they had experienced.

In the midst of all that rush comes my favourite part of the story: Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

May we do the same. In the midst of the rush, in the midst of the celebration, may we think about the coming of our King, our Savior, and treasure that in our hearts. May we think about him often in the days to come, and may we glorify him.

Merry Christmas!!