A Highland Welcome

A Highland Welcome

By Robert Burns, 1787


When Death’s dark stream I ferry o’er 

(A time that surely shall come), 

In Heaven itself I’ll ask no more, 

Than just a Highland welcome.

I’m on my way to Mason to officiate a memorial service for Lorna Ball Dunn, the mother of one of outstanding members at The Peoples Church. Lorna was fiercely proud of her Scottish heritage and, as providence would have it, shares a common ancestry with my MacDonald side. I’m honored to help celebrate her life and faith this morning and I can’t think of a better opening.

Good Enough

I continue to marvel at my colleague and friend, Rev. David Ramage, and his ability to process with such vulnerability throughout his chemo treatments. David is an incredible minister serving as the pastor for the church I most recently served before my call to East Lansing. Pray for him, his family, and the amazing congregation he serves in Bellaire, MI. I am blessed to have learned from him, brewed with him, and served in the Mackinac Presbytery with him. Keep writing, David, and keep fighting.


I’ve never been good at small talk and when someone asks me how I’m doing, I know they probably don’t want the long answer. I’ve learned to say, “good enough.” This month’s treatment has been somewhat of an improvement. The “yuck” was basically Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then Sunday evening someone flicked the switch and I was normal. By normal, I mean that I feel like myself but I get fatigued doing just about anything. That’s why I say that I’m good enough. There are people going through much worse chemo and treatments and I feel fortunate to be relatively good. A couple of treatments ago I felt a rush of energy and it seemed like I had taken some kind of drug. The oncologist said that when your body starts making white blood cells in order to make up for the chemo, you’ll feel euphoric. This treatment was followed…

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Well Meaning Jerks

“No, no, no…let me get that for you!”Five-Stumbling-Blocks-towards-Law-Firm

I like to think of myself as a helpful neighbor, friend, father and husband. I do things for others…sometimes without them even asking. I cut them off and tell them what I think they want to hear without them even getting a chance to ask for what they really want or need.

I mean, I’m pretty awesome, eh?

As a pastor, I believe I am in a “helping profession.” It’s a good day when I feel like someone benefitted from the support of the church – and I love being that guy to represent said religious institution.

The problem I’m seeing lately?

The church tries to answer questions that aren’t asked.

The church tries to solve the wrong problems.

The church interrupts and gets in the way of the real conversations people want/need/hope to have.

And when I say the church, I’m mostly pointing at the pastor who is writing this little missive.

The sermon yesterday was based on the second half of Mark 5, which recounts two miraculous events – Jesus healing a woman who touches his cloak and then raising Jabirus’s twelve year old daughter from the dead. There’s a ton of stuff in these two stories but what jumped out at me this time around were the followers of Jesus who, in both circumstances, seem determined to bring different endings to the incidents. They doubt, they interrupt, the laugh, and they mock those who believe in Jesus’ power to heal, Jesus’ words, and Jesus himself. And they do it from a place of assumed faith and reason.

Do we doubt the belief of others?

Do we assume an outcome before it ever has a chance to go another direction? I do and I wish I didn’t.doubting

Like many other Christians, there a times when I reject the testimonies and utterances of another denomination, congregation, or community based on my assumptions about correct church behavior, theology, and thought. Why do we do that?

Jesus counters the doubts of his closest followers but showing them (again) there is a better way. Similarly, I want to believe Jesus takes my mistaken ramblings, doubts, and cynicism and turns it into something way more valuable and important.

My doubt shouldn’t get in the way of another’s belief. So why do I let it do that?

Mark 5:36 – But overhearing what they were saying, Jesus said to the synagogue leader, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”


Why is Jacob Gates Following Me Around?

We’re all about Ruth this week at The Peoples Church. Take a look at this teaser for the weekend. Fun stuff.

Hospitality and Laughter

We’re using a narrative lectionary (http://www.workingpreacher.org/narrative_faqs.aspx)1233713991799 this year at The Peoples Church. Ideally, we’ll hit a number of narrative passages throughout the school year, taking us from Genesis through the journeys of the disciples. I’m loving it so far. This week, we reread the story of Sarah laughing at the reminder that she will bear a son in spite of her advanced years.

Best part about this passage for me? Even though she doubts and cynically laughs at God’s announcement, God is still faithful.

God gives even when we don’t believe.

It gives me a ton of hope.

In doubt, there is still the faithfulness of God. It seems like we have this misguided notion that God will only love us, reward us, provide for us or forgive us when we are so holy, religious, and righteous enough to warrant such gifts. This passage reminds me again that I have it backwards.

Sarah actually laughs at God…and God still provides.

Check out this week’s take on this type of faith:

Impossible Laughter

Laughing at/with/because of God?

Yes, there are still some upcoming Iceland/Scotland adventures to share. In the meantime, take a look at the teaser for this Sunday.

What do you think, is it ok to laugh at God?

It’s festival season for the Pomervilles

In the last few days of our exchange, we’ve been soaking up Highland Games, community gatherings, and Edinburgh during the festivals that dominate the town in August.  

 Our former hometown of Belliare, Michigan had the Rubber Ducky Festival. It embodied all that we love about local gatherings – the whole town came out for food, craft shows, and whatever theme that was more or less related to the town. In Bellaire, they dumped hundreds of rubber duckies in the river that runs through downtown. Everyone follows a parade that ends with a big front-loader full of the ducks as we cheer on the ridiculousness that is a rubber ducky festival. We used to LOVE it. It’s summer, everyone is smiling, neighbors come out of the woodwork and happy tourists descend about the town to celebrate a sunny day in Northern Michigan.

Scotland has plenty of summertime festivals. We had to strategically plan our weekend celebrations. Do we go to Ale and Rugby fest or the animal show? What festivals are going to have the best food? How far can we realistically drive to attend? What places will keep our kids entertained, and thus, keep the parents in a good mood?

We settled on the following:

Saturday: The Arbroath Seafest in the morning and the Johnshaven Fishfest in the afternoon

Sunday: The Cortachy Highland Games after church

Monday: The Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Festival during the day, maybe the International Book Festival in the afternoon, the Royal Military Tattoo at night
Awesome weekend.
Here’s the quick reviews, plus some pictures, of each fest:
Arbroath Seafest – We weren’t quite sure what to expect from this one. All we knew is that it would focus on the delightful local treat that is the “Arbroath Smokie.”  

 We learned that you can only call it a smokie if it is actually made within the small town of Arbroath. It is the signature dish of this seaside town and it simple in its deliciousness. The smokie is a local haddock that has been deheaded and gutted before being split in half and smoked over a roaring fire. 

  The taste and texture of these fish were unlike any other smoked fish I’ve enjoyed – salmon, whitefish, and trout included. It had an almost shellfishy texture with a strong smoke/peat flavor, almost like an Islay whisky. Rachell and the kids? Not as big of fans as I was. The rest of the festival included craft booths, kids’ cooking tent, lots of seafood for sale, a boat tour of a turn of the century herring fishing sailboat, and of course, rides and games.  


 Our big claim to fame was making it on the Arbroath Seafest facebook page as an example of a local family having fun at Seafest. Ha! Arbroath Seafest Pomerville Pic

Johnshaven Fishfest – You’re probably wondering what the difference is between a seafest and fishfest, right? We weren’t sure about it either and didn’t have the highest hopes for this one because the town of Johnshaven is TINY. It’s a long drive down a steep hill to a fishing hamlet between Stonehaven and Montrose on the NE coast of Scotland. 

  Without any intended insult to Arbroath, we enjoyed the Fishfest a ton more than Seafest. The whole town seemed to turn up and it was one giant street festival along the harbor. The star of this festival had to be the langoustines, what looked to be a cross between a lobster and a shrimp. The flavor was exquisite. I could eat those all day long…and I did!  


 Denali was way into these as well. We were amazed by the freshness of them. I’d take langoustines over lobster or crab every time. The other centerpiece of the Fishfest was a homemade raft race. The three entries were a team of Minions, a covered wagon, and an all male cast of Frozen. Hilarious. 



  We sat on the harbor edge and cheered on the ridiculously costumed paddlers while chomping down on langoustines, fried fish, and candy. Well done, Johnshaven! Also? We found the funniest sentence on any historical marker in all of Scotland. See if you can pick it out… 

 Cortachy Highland Games – Cortachy is one of the small villages here in the Glens and Kirrieumuir Old Parish. It is a full Highland Games with dancers, runners, a dog show, and heavy game competitions. It was a great way to spend an afternoon outside. Denali was all set to compete in the Highland dancing when she got a bit of cold feet and backed out. No worries, though. She and her brother still competed in a number of races.  



 Denali even took second in the egg and spoon race! She won 30p (about 45 cents) for her finish.  

 We watched the big men toss the caber, saw the dog race, and took in the local sights and sounds. It was a delightful day in the country underneath Cortachy Castle. 

Edinburgh – This was the big one. You see, August is festival-time in the capital – The Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Festival (the largest in the world), The International Festival, The International Book Festival, and the Royal Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle. Wow.  


 There are no words adequate enough to describe the feeling of the city during the festival, as they call it. People from all over the world were EVERYWHERE. Each corner had a different street performer and people were passing out invitations and ads for their shows every direction you turned. We could only do so much and opted to attend to shows from the comedy festival during the day before doing the Tattoo at 9 pm. In between our shows we had incredible food and drinks, toured the castle and amused ourselves with the street performers doing magic, music, acrobatics, and comedy. The shows were both for children. “Flight” was an acrobatic interpretation of “The Little Prince.” 


  It was written and performed by Curbside Acrobatics from California State University, Long Beach. It was…um…well…ok? Not the greatest show but it did provide us an experience of the Fringe. The kids were mildly entertained but I think the playwright and performers missed the mark on this one. The second show as “Comedy Club 4 Kids,” and it was just that – a comedy club for children. The three comedians were family friendly and geared their performances toward the younger generation in the crowd. We really enjoyed this one, Bryce especially.  He went up at the end for a joke competition! 

By the way, Bryce is the best person to bring to any performance of anything. He is constantly laughing, gasping, and saying, “How did they do that? That was amazing!” And he is totally genuine in his love of the shows. He was especially into our final show of the night…

The Tattoo was extraordinary.  

 I have seen more shows than I care to admit, having followed Phish around, growing up in Interlochen, and spending an inordinate amount of time and money watching live music and theater. With all of that background, I can firmly say the Tattoo was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. 

 It was stunning. The performers, the background, the experience itself was beyond our expectations and we all said it was one of the most memorable things we have done on our trip. Wow. Just, wow. I would recommend the Tattoo to everyone. We had to book our tickets five months ago but it was worth it. 

After all of this, we drove home from Edinburgh last night at 1:00 in the morning before falling fast asleep in our beds in Kirriemuir. It has been an action packed three days and we are exhausted. Happy, but exhausted.

Way to go, Scotland. You continue to impress. Only a week before we head home and we have enjoyed every moment of our trip. This has been truly outstanding.