Monday, 24 December 2007

Lazarus in a Giggle Fit

Cock your head to the side and enjoy...

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

So Little Time

I'm always looking for a good book to read, so I thought I'd share some of the books I've been reading this semester, in case anyone else is also looking.

Magyk and Flyte by Angie Sage: So-so. Rip-offs of Harry Potter, but still amusing and distracting.
Noah's Ark by Peter Spier: Excellent. Always a good read (or look).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Very good. This was my second time through, and I enjoyed it much more this time. I think the fact that I was hyped up on post-partum hormones the first time I read it made me overly harsh towards poor J.K. Now I'm cooking up a paper that uses the character of Severus Snape to explore Bonhoeffer's ideas on guilt, responsibility, and true heroism.

General Fiction
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards: Very interesting story dealing with memory, loss, and hidden betrayal. Also chronicles what it is like to watch your child grow up, which took on a new meaning for me with Z here now.
The Cape Ann by Faith Sullivan: Engaging writer but not much of a story. Doesn't really seem to go anywhere or develop characters much.
Ysabelle by Guy Gavriel Kay: Kay is always good, and this book is no exception, although I wouldn't call it his best.
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay: This is what I'd call his best! I've read this book before, but I'd forgotten how good it is. It has all the right elements of a great tragedy as Kay explores the difficulties of love and loyalty in a world that is broken. If you want to start reading Kay, I'd say start here. The Fionavar Trilogy is also great.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: Bizarre plot but surprisingly good!

Tudor England
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory: Chronicles Katherine of Aragon's story, from her first marriage to Prince Arthur to her second to King Henry VIII
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory: Chronicles the story of Mary Boleyn, one-time mistress of Henry VIII and sister to Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife and mother of Queen Elizabeth I
The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory: Chronicles the story of the first two years of Elizabeth I's rule
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory: Follows fictional character named Hannah Green, "holy fool" to Queen Mary
The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn by Anne Warnecke: Non-fictional study of, yes, the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn. Makes the interesting hypothesis that the catalyst for her execution was the miscarriage of a deformed baby boy, giving rise to charges of witchcraft and sexual misconduct. Helpful companion reading for all the above fiction.

Theology and Philosophy
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: I suppose this could be filed under general fiction, but it has whole sections dealing explicitly with philosophical issues and questions. Nathan tells me this is the first truly postmodern novel. A medieval mystery, it explores the nature of reality, of truth, and of religion.
The World's Religions by Huston Smith: If you're interested in a brief overview of the main world religions, this is a good place to start. Smith emphasizes ideas and themes over facts and figures and tries to allow each religion to put its best foot forward.
A History of the World's Religions by David Noss: Not nearly as interesting as Smith's book, but very informative. Heavy on the facts and figures.
Witness: Systematic Theology Vol. 3 by James McClendon, Jr.: Still working on this one, but so far, very intertesting. His interest is in a theology of culture, so he explores themes related to religion, science, art, and philosophy, among others. If you decide to read it, I must tell you to pay special attention to his section on John Steuart Curry who grew up in Kansas in a "Scottish Presbyterian" family. For those of you who don't know, this is a reference to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, which is also my heritage (as is the Kansas childhood).

Well, I guess that's a good enough review for now. If you've read an interesting book lately, please let me know! I'm always on the prowl!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Eating, eating, eating . . . at the pocketbook

For those of you griping at the cost of fuel these days, let us sober you with the kinds of prices you'd also be paying for food if you lived in the UK. We've made a list of the more eggregious examples by way of price comparison with the US, translated into USD.

2 pieces corn on the cob (US) = $.89

2 pieces corn on the cob (UK) = $3.10

12 large eggs (US) = $.95

12 large eggs (UK) = $4.18

Chicken breasts, per pound (US) = $3.49

Chicken breasts, per pound (UK) = $5.20

Deluxe chips, 10 oz. (US) = $2.99

Deluxe chips, 5oz x 2 (UK) = $6.40

Grated parmesan, 6 oz (US) = $2.99

Grated parmesan, 2 oz x 3 (UK) = $9.35

Ben and Jerry's pint (US) = $4.00

Ben and Jerry's pint (UK) = $8.99

Hershey's chocolate chips, 9 oz. (US) = $2.29

Premium chocolate chips, 3 oz. x 3 (UK) = $18.00

Kid you not. Of course, we also get access to cheap haggis and blood pudding, so that makes up for it, right?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Friday, 7 December 2007


Ok, I need help from all the experienced mothers out there who are reading this. Z, who has always been a very good sleeper, has decided to rebel against that pattern. A few weeks ago he started sleeping for shorter lengths of time at night, but not enough to throw things off badly. But this past week, it's been getting out of control. He's barely sleeping 4 hours at stretch now, and only a few weeks ago he was sleeping 7-9 hours at a stretch. His sleeping pattern a month ago looked like this:

6:30-7:00 - eat
7:30 - go to bed
Somewhere betwteen 2:30-4:30 - wake up, eat, back to sleep
7:30 or 8:00 - wake up

Now his sleeping pattern looks like this:

6:30-7:00 - eat
7:30 - go to bed
11:30 - wake up, eat, back to sleep
3:00 or 3:30 - wake up, eat, back to sleep
6:30 or 7:00 - wake up

I feel like we've regressed about 3 months! Any suggestions, tips or advice is very welcome! In case the information is helpful, he'll be 5 months next week.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

In the Ditch

We have discovered a network of paths that run all over Edinburgh. They are set just below street level and are very woodsy and mostly quiet, and they lead to lots of important places in Edinburgh (like the City Centre, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the grocery store!). So they make getting to these places much more pleasant than walking alongside very busy and noisy streets.

Last Friday we decided to go to the store and do some grocery shopping. It was a rainy day, so we all had our rain gear on, including Z in his stroller. It was also a little chilly, but we got to the store just fine and got our shopping done.

On the walk home, the rain had let up, which was nice, but it was still pretty cold. We were strolling along discussing 19th century Protestant theology when I happened to glance by the side of the path and saw what looked like a human hand lying in the water, just a few feet ahead of us. My first thought was, "Oh no! We're about to find a dead body!" quickly followed by, "Oh my goodness, don't be so silly! It's probably just an old paper bag." However, as we got closer, I saw another hand, and then legs, and I said, out loud this time, "Oh no!" Nathan, immersed in his thoughts on Schleiermacher, looked at me curiously and said, "What is it?" I pointed up ahead and whispered, "I think there's a person in the ditch."

We crept forward and peered into the ditch. And there he was, lying in about six inches of water -- a man lying in the ditch, unconscious but breathing. He was dressed in jeans and a jacket, and his breathing was very labored, almost like snoring. Nathan and I looked from the man to each other, and then back at the man again. What in the world had happened, and what should we do? We both immediately thought that he must be drunk, but it was obvious he needed help. At first we thought we should go find a phone and call for help, but that seemed likely to take too long. Then Nathan suggested that he stay and try to help him while I went and looked for a phone. I didn't like that idea much. Fortunately, just at that moment we saw a group of people coming down the path towards us -- a woman with a bunch of little kids. We decided to ask the woman if she had a cell phone.

We left the man lying in the ditch and went to meet this small group of people. When we got there, we quickly and quietly summarized the situation, and asked the woman if she had a cell phone. Not only did she have a phone, but she was also a nurse, so while she and Nathan went to see if the man was all right, and to call for an ambulance, I stayed with the kids where we were, so that they would not get too close to the scene.

As soon as Nathan and the woman went off to the man, the kids burst into questions. "Is he dead?!? Is the man dead?!?" eight little voices all shrieked at once. I very calmly assured them that he was not dead, but had just fallen down. One little boy seemed particularly anxious and excited about the whole thing. He was wearing a very sleek, calf length coat which was neatly belted at the waist. His hands were tucked into the fur-lined pockets and his face peeked anxiously out from the fur-trimmed hood, tied securely with strings ending in faux-fur pom-poms. He looked very cute, if slightly emasculated. (I discovered that he and one of the little girls had decided to trade coats for the day.) He peered up at me and said, "Are you sure he's not dead?" "I'm sure," I said, "I could see him breathing. He's definitely alive. I think he just tripped and fell." He clapped his hands to his head and yelled out, "Is there blood everywhere??" Stifling my desire to laugh, I said no, there was no blood at all. That seemed to relieve him somewhat, and he went back to his little friends, who were all straining to see what was happening to the man.

Meanwhile, Nathan and the woman had called the ambulance. After that was taken care of, the woman realized that she recognized the man from her school days. She called his name loudly several times, and finally he opened his eyes, but was very confused and befuddled. After a few moments, he was able to sit up, and finally they were able to drag him out of the ditch and out of the cold water. He sat down on the path, leaning against Nathan, to wait for the ambulance. He did not appear to be drunk, and told Nathan and the woman that he had been walking down the path, and that was the last thing he could remember. He had been on his way to visit his fiancee.

All of this took 20 or 30 minutes, and the whole time I was trying to keep the kids occupied and away from the man and the scene of the accident. When the man sat up, all the kids shrieked at once, and one little girl screamed, "He's sitting up!!" Another boy took one look and yelled, "Where's his head? Where's his head?" and the little boy in the fur-lined coat threw his hands over his eyes and groaned, "I can't look. I just can't look."

Fortunately, very soon after that, the ambulance arrived. The man was taken away, and seemed to be well on his way to recovery. However, I'm not sure we can say the same for the little boy in the girl's coat.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Who Do Say That I Am?

Nathan says: For those of you who want to know what it is like at the high-octane divinity school that is New College, Edinburgh, here's an appropriate bit of humor I found in Sojourners:

And Jesus said unto them, 'And who do you say that I am?'

They replied,
'You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christo-monism.’
' You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming roughness’ in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.
'You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.
'You are my Oppressed One, my soul's shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.’

And Jesus replied, 'Huh?'

Friday, 23 November 2007


Advent is one of our favorite times of the year. We love the idea of practicing hope as a spiritual discipline, and have developed our own Advent tradition over the last four years of our marriage. As part of my sabbatical, I have tried to put that tradition into writing so that we can share it with others. Below, I'm posting the intro, and if anyone has any interest in seeing the whole thing, just leave a comment or e-mail me, and I'd be happy to send it all to you.

A Season of Hope

Scriptural readings for the season of Advent

Written and compiled by
Christina Hitchcock

An Introductory Story
In 163 BC Israel suffered under the oppressive rule of Antiochus IV. This Syrian king, also known as Antiochus Epiphanes, had invaded the Temple, going where no Gentile should go, stealing the gold and precious jewels for his own treasury, and desecrating the sacred alter by sacrificing a pig there. He intended to wipe the Jews out, and set out to do so with decrees that made anyone faithful to commands of Yahweh subject to capital punishment. While many Jews capitulated to Antiochus, a small remnant refused to do so. This remnant, led by Judas Maccabee, finally recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple. This event is still celebrated in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

But reclaiming the Temple was not enough; it also needed to be cleansed. Yet how could such radical desecration of God’s house be reversed? Judas knew that the altar was defiled, yet he also knew that it was still God’s altar, not to be put aside lightly. So “they deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt offering, which had been profaned. And they thought it best to tear it down, lest it bring reproach upon them, for the Gentiles had defiled it. So they tore down the altar, and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them” (I Maccabees 4:44-46).

Advent means “coming” or “arrival”. In the church calendar, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and marks a time of anticipation, expectation and hope. It is a time for the Church to remember God’s work in the past, but at the same time to realize that God’s work is not done, but rather that we, like the children of Israel in the Old Testament, still look forward to the completion of God’s work. Advent denies us the illusion that God’s work is finished, either in the world or in ourselves. We still experience a world defiled by sin and guilt and sadness, yet it is a world that cannot be tossed aside, because it belongs to God. Therefore, like Judas Maccabee, we look forward to the day when a prophet will come to tell us what to do.

But, unlike Judas, we Christians also look back with the knowledge that God’s prophet, priest and king has already come in Jesus Christ, and he is already telling us what to do. Therefore, for Christians, Advent is a season of looking back in remembrance and looking forward in hope. The prophet has come, and the prophet is coming. This is what we remember and this is what we hope for.

Have you noticed how tempting it is to celebrate Christmas during Advent? It seems that the marketing of Christmas begins earlier each year. Christians are not immune to this, and in the process, Advent, a season of hope and expectation, is replaced by Christmas, a season of fulfillment. It is good and right for the Church to celebrate Christmas, but not before she looks backwards and forwards in repentance and anticipation. It is my hope that this small book of Advent meditations can help us anticipate the coming of God’s Prophet in these four weeks. And, as you well know, anticipation makes the Christmas celebration all the more sweet.

This book is inspired by the story in I Maccabees cited above. It recognizes that we live in a world that, like the desecrated altar, belongs to God yet has been defiled by sin. Because it belongs to God, we cannot toss it aside. Yet because it is defiled by sin, we cannot pretend that all is as it should be. And we must recognize with Judas that we cannot make things right. We must wait for God’s prophet, who will make all things new. Advent teaches us to live in a broken world with repentance but without despair. It teaches us our own limitations and yet points us to the God for whom nothing is impossible. Advent is a time to practice the discipline of hope. These meditations and Scriptural remembrances will attempt to bring out those ideas simply by telling stories of God’s work. Each story is symbolized by a stone, gathered up by the person who tells the story. The stones will be stacked together, one added each day, as each day a new story is told. Together, the stones will be an altar like those in the Old Testament which are there to remind us of God’s work and faithfulness.

The stories told here begin at the beginning, with God’s promise to Adam and Eve to send an avenger. They progress through the Old Testament, recounting various moments of redemptive history where God acted on behalf of his people. Each story is chosen because it reminds us that God will keep his promises, and because it articulates God’s promises for our future. These will include but certainly not be limited to, the stories of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the Exodus, the birth of David, and the Messianic prophecies. Towards the middle of Advent, the story of the desecrated altar will be told, and then the stories will move into the New Testament era, recounting the promises given to Zechariah, to Mary, to Joseph, and to Elizabeth. On Christmas Eve, the story of the birth of Christ is recounted, preparing us to celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promises on Christmas day.

However, it is important to remember that God’s work is not finished. While God has sent his Messiah, who died on the cross and rose from the dead for our salvation, our salvation is not yet finished. We still look forward to the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We still look forward to the day when death, which is the last enemy, will die. We still look forward to the day when Christ returns and makes all things new. In other words, the New Testament era, like the Old, is still a time of great anticipation, expectation, and hope. So even while we celebrate the first coming of Christ, we must close the Advent season, and begin the Christmas season, with the hope of the second coming, or advent, of Christ. Therefore, our Advent meditations will not end on Christmas Eve, but rather will conclude on Christmas day with the reading of Revelation 21-22. Our celebration of Christmas must be marked by our hope of the second advent.

How to Use This Book
This book of devotional readings can be used by yourself or with others. Each story is accompanied by a stone which acts as a reminder of God’s work. Each day of Advent, one story should be read or told. In writing the book, I have paraphrased some of the stories, and others (particularly the prophecies) have been taken straight from Scripture. As the stories are told each day, you should feel free to read them from the book or to paraphrase them yourself. The person who is reading the story for the day is also responsible for finding a stone to go with that story. Designate a place where the stones will be piled. This should be a place that everyone can see each day. As each story is told, a new stone is added to the pile, acting as a reminder of God’s work in the past and a sign of hope for God’s work in the future. As you read each story, allow yourself to feel a sense of longing and expectation for God’s future. Do not think of all these stories as simply referring to what has already been done, but let us look forward with great anticipation to the things that God has still to do in the future. Use this Advent season to practice hope.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Therefore, there are 28 stories in this book. However, depending on where Christmas falls each year, there are a varying number of days in Advent. Because of this, in some years there will be too many readings in the book for the season. For example, in 2007 Advent begins on December 2, which means there are 24 days in the Advent season. In order to get all the stories read during Advent, I suggest that on each Sunday in Advent, two stories be read (rather than just one). That way, all 28 stories can be read during the Advent season. Each year will have to be worked out a little differently, depending on the dates. The one thing that should remain constant for each year is that the telling of the stories should be timed in such a way that the story of the birth of Jesus (Luke 2) should always be read on Christmas Eve, and the promise of the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21-22) should always be read on Christmas day.

Thursday, 15 November 2007


A couple of weeks ago we took a short trip to Oban, which is on the west coast of Scotland. They have a distillery there that Nathan wanted to see, and besides, it's just beautiful. So we took the train from Edinburgh to Oban and had a great time. Nathan got to see the distillery (although I didn't -- no babies allowed on the tour). We also got to visit the Isle of Iona, which has a very famous abbey on it. Iona was the headquarters for St. Columba as he evangelized the area in the 7th century. To get to Iona we took a ferry to the Isle of Mull, then a bus across Mull to another ferry, which took us to Iona. Below are some pictures. Enjoy!

A pretty day on a pretty street in Oban.

The ferry and train station at Oban.
Walking around Oban. (Sorry for the tilt!)

Z in one of his less photogenic moments.
We took the ferry from Oban to the Isle of Mull. Here we passed a lighthouse.
We took a bus across Mull, to the ferry which would take us to Iona. It's hard to see how beautiful the scenery was!
A highland cow. (It's a little blurry because we're in the bus.) The cattle and sheep were all over the place, including the road, sometimes!
The Iona Abbey.
Outside the abbey.
Small chapel at the abbey, which can still be used for prayer by the public.
Inside the abbey.
The old nunnery wall.
Leftovers from the nunnery.
Nathan standing in front of what's left of the nunnery. ("Get thee to a nunnery!")
The beach at Iona.
McCaig's Tower overlooks Oban and is its best-known landmark. It was sponsored and paid for by a wealthy Obanite in the 1800's, basically as a way of keeping the town employed during a economic depression. Now it's on all the postcards!
You can see the whole town from up there.

It was really windy up there!
Z in his weather-proof stroller.
Just as we were leaving, we saw an incredible, full rainbow. It was so big, the whole thing wouldn't even fit in the frame!

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Water of Leith

Last Saturday we set out to discover the Water of Leith Walk. This is a path that follows a river named the Water of Leith all the way from the mouth of the river to a little village callled Balerno. All in all, the Walk is about 11 miles, I believe, so we didn't walk the whole thing, but did enjoy part of it.
Here's the entrance to the walk from our road.

These next pictures are mostly for Micah . . .

Monday, 22 October 2007

A day in the life of Z

Take a walk with Dad.

Hang out in the swing.

Have a few laughs.

Take a bath.

Read the evening paper.

Go to sleep.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Corstorphine Hill

Aside from the little luxuries near our flat - walks along the Firth of Forth, a system of nearby trails, verdant parks - we can easily catch buses to various natural habitats in or near the city. The Royal Botanic Gardens are within walking distance, but today we took the Lothian Bus 21 to Corstorphine Hill, a fairly steep hill in the middle of the city, one that has been set aside for hiking and biking.

There's well over 100 plant species in this little space, and it's quite remarkable to see how changing just a few metres elevation can change the foliage one sees. One moment cedar, the next moment purple-budding plants, the next all ferns. Much of it looks like something out of a Tolkien tale. We had a jolly ol' time, then stopped at Morrison's (one of the few "superstore" grocery stores in town) to get our hands on raspberry-filled donuts and veggies and (O! Beauty itself!) Ben and Jerry's half-priced (it's normally $8-9 a pint). We're a happy family.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Entertain Me

Last week we got the internet in our apartment -- yay! We've been contemplating what we've learned during three weeks without outside entertainment (no TV, movies, or internet). I know it's the cool thing to say that we learned to reconnect through deep conversation, we learned how beautiful it is to take a walk through the park in fall, or we learned to appreciate a good book again, but here's what I really learned -- I like TV and movies and internet. Yep, I'm afraid so. The thing is, we already knew we liked good conversation, and without a car, walking is as much a way of transportation as it is a leisure activity, and I've been a bookworm since I was five. So yes, we miss our TV and movies, but we are very glad to have the internet back so we can communicate with all our friends and family again.

Oh, and I learned one other thing. I learned that the male of the species has an apparently infinite capacity to take his game up a notch when it becomes clear that a girl might beat him at said game. This, I believe, is particularly true if the girl in question is his wife. Allow me to give an example. During our three weeks without our normal forms of entertainment, we took to playing various games on the computer. One that became a favorite was pin ball. I had never really played pin ball before, so Nathan was beating me quite handily every night. However, one night I got lucky and got a score of over 4 million. Yeah, wow. Nathan had already informed me that he had never broken the 3 million barrier, so, as you might imagine, I was a little trepidatious about how he would respond to my incredible game. He was, of course, very happy for me.

However, the next morning he suggested, with a gleam in his eye, that we have a casual game of pin ball. I, as the winner and still champion, graciously accepted. He then proceeded to play a game of pin ball which lasted approximately 48 minutes as he collected over 5 million points. My stint as champion had lasted exactly 13 hours. I'm claiming partial rights to the 5 million points since without my 4 million to spur him on, I think he'd still be stuck in the 2 million range.

Monday, 15 October 2007


We miss our stupid dog. We're really an incomplete family without her. Our sink gets clogged now, because we've forgotten how to clean our own plates before washing them. We miss how she growls and hisses like a demoniac when we tickle her belly. Sigh.

We know it's uncool to get homesick while in a town like Edinburgh. Truly, this city here should trump anything in Sioux Falls. But as it is we're all sentimental about things back home in the Dakotas:

- real ice cream, not this crappy flavored cool-whip stuff.
- thunderstorms
- second-hand baby good stores
- date nights out, especially at Spezia and Cafe 334.
- our king size bed
- USF and Sioux Falls Seminary and all the people there
- family-size food packaging (this 3oz of sour cream for $2.00 ain't cuttin' it)
- a backyard
- customer service
- having a car, a bike, any kind of personal transportation
- a guitar
- all our church peoples
- walking around the central neighborhood, talking about houses for sale, watching leaves fall, then sitting on our porch swing and watching the world go by
- all our books

Geez. What losers. But that's how the idea of home works - you can't quite get it out of your head, even when everything else is going merrily on.

And, if you're reading this, chances are you're being missed too.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Z growing up fast

Amazing to think that Z was born in mid-July, a sorta scrawny little lad. In this picture, in Sioux Falls a few days after returning from Sanford Hospital, he could be palmed like a little basketball (don't tell Christina). He fed well after the first week, making him almost double in size since then.

After a couple of months his cheeks filled in, providing good occasion for baby harassment ("Say Gooba!"). Most stupendous has been his lengthening. He easily fits six month clothing at three months of age.

We couldn't get any smiles out of him through mid-September. Just the less-happy emotions. In which case, we turned up the TV. A lot.

But the little weed kept a-sproutin'. And sleeping like mad, which was nice, especially on our multiple flights to the UK and back.

Then lo and behold! Personality! Z is currently smiling at us from morning to evening, a few grouchy hours excepted. He loves people from what we can tell, as well as his mobiles. He's very interactive.

We think he's hilarious, and the feeling seems to be reciprocated. Christina has him laughing daily with a tickling routine, and Dad has all sorts of tricks to evoke funny faces from the boy. With the colicky stage out of the way (fingers crossed), we're anticipating fun days ahead.