Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.

Communion Thoughts

This post started as a reply to a comment Ryan made about this post (I'd love if you commented on it, too, especially re: our church situation) which I think deserves its own post.

Here's Ryan's comment:
I agree with you on the table practices. I am bothered by the representational perspective. Is it not a celebration of what Christ has done and is doing? That is my understanding of the reformed faith. I am also bothered by folks that "take" from the table and do not "receive" from the table. What about you, Matt?

Here's me:
I guess it depends whether you are referring to individual attitudes or the invitation given from the table when you say 'take' and 'receive.' I'll deal with individuals first. I can't judge attitudes in others. If I am bothered by folks for what I perceive to be their attitude than I am guilty of judgment and misinformed judgment on top of that. Now to the wording of the invitation. I would be perturbed if the officiant invited me to come and 'take' from the table without putting the action in context. I don't think I would be bothered so long as the officiant also made it clear that we are coming to take what has been offered by Christ.

Let me put my thought another way: Christ gives, we receive vs. Christ gives, we take. 'To receive' to my ear implies a more passive act. Christ is doing the bulk of the work, we simply open ourselves. 'To take' implies more action on our part which I think sounds self-centered at first. However, it doesn't sound so odd to say "Christ offers bread which we take and eat" or "Christ offers us a seat at the table which we take to join in the fellowship of believers."

There're my first thoughts, any others?

I Don't Complain Enough on my Blog

In front of our building they are putting in a new sidewalk. Because of some sort of we-must-keep-our-city-looking-old-so-tourists-will-keep-coming-here ordinance, our sidewalks are not made of poured concrete but of paving tiles. This means two things. On a day to day basis, one finds oneself tripping way more often than one should on the edge of a tile which is not sitting flush with its neighbor. On a this-day-in-particular basis it means that the crew putting in new tiles in front of our building is constantly running a loud, nasty sounding, tile cutting circular saw.

(Auxiliary gripe: Aside from cutting tiles, this saw has no redeeming features at all. The stench of its exhaust is rank, it is extremely loud and it kicks up a huge cloud of concrete tile dust every time it is used. Needless to say, none of the workers wear ear, eye or mouth and nose protection at any time, unless cigarettes count.)

Behind our building our windows are getting repainted. A huge, 4 storey (U.S.: story) tall scaffolding has been put up in our back garden. The window which usually looks out onto our pathetic (yet private) back garden is now a place for workmen to hang out, loudly scraping paint and of course, smoking.

I start school in the next week or two. Until then, I have nothing to do but practice guitar in our flat, since I have nowhere else to practice. The front room of our flat is also a front row seat for the circular saw symphony. The back room of our flat features the ever-present possibility of someone showing up directly outside my window to look in on whatever it is I'm doing and then bang around on the window.

Also, there now appear to be people outside my door pushing mattresses down our stairwell.

Living in the middle of the city sucks.

Still Feel Kind of Weird and Worn Out

Yeah, I can't really say what is up with that. I just feel pooped, drained, lethargic, uninspired, beat, worked, zoned, konked, wonked, zonked, etc.

Jeni and I are in the 'getting to know you' phase of church shopping with one particular church. It's tough because neither of us have ever really had to do the church shopping thing before. My first instinct is that you should find a church which is not fundamentally offensive to your beliefs and go there. While it won't feel like the church home you've known in the past right off the bat, with time you will invest yourself there and make it a new home. That also happens to be advice given by a professor at Whitworth. It's not easy to do.

The question I've found myself asking is: "How many things need to be 'wrong' with a church before you discount it and move on to another?" The church we are checking out right now has two big strengths from my point of view. First, it is a neighborhood church. It has a feeling of history in the congregation. It is made up of more than just students who find themselves there while they're studying. Second, there is a large group of people in their early 20s and 30s who are in the same sort of life situation that Jeni and I are in now. They have a weekly Bible study that Jeni's gone to once and I've gone to twice. A third lesser strength is that I will probably have the chance to play music in services. Who knows how that will work out, and it's not a huge factor, but it's a nice bonus.

The church also has some weaknesses. Primarily, it feels like a chore to sit through the service. The music is band led and has the general feel of 80s camp songs. Each if the sermons we have heard so far have been not sat well with our sensibilities in one way or another. So far we've experienced overuse of inspirational stories, sermons which seem to lack any thread of continuity of thought from one end to the other, and careless use of language which has given a very exclusionary and moralistic message. These are problems which exist in many churches and I know no one will ever be able to escape them in their entirety. However, it feels like they've made up the entirety of what we've heard since we got here.

There's also a theological point that rubs me the wrong way, which may actually be common throughout the Church of Scotland and not unique to this one congregation. The church has a purely representational view of communion, to the point claiming Jesus said, "This bread represents my body...this cup means my blood." They understand communion as something we do to remember Christ, he really has no part in it. Let me clarify that I don't really mind this sort of understanding of communion. It's not the way I understand it but I don't think it's something that should act to divide or separate Christians. What bothers me is putting words in Jesus' mouth that he didn't say. He didn't say this bread represents my body, you just interpret it that way. Say what he said and then give me your interpretation, but don't put your words in his mouth.

Well, there's where we are, or at least where I am. Jeni shares a lot these thoughts with me, I think, but she's her own person and has her own feelings on the matter. We definitely both feel a little weird and worn out.

Have You Been Being Killed???!?? By the Suspense?!??!?

Here's the scoop. Last Friday I went to RSAMD in Glasgow to audition for their continuing education program. My playing was perhaps the most mediocre it's ever been, and my sight-reading could only be described as a crime against humanity. In spite of that, they're going to send me an offer and I'll start studying in just a few weeks. The continuing education program consists of weekly private tuition plus access to resources at the school and in the guitar department. My goal for this year is to play a lot of guitar. Specifically, I want to build my repertoire, increase my technical skill and improve my sight-reading. This should prepare me to be a full-time master's student next year. That's the scoop. I'd write more to give my other thoughts on the situation or be clever but I feel kind of weird and worn out right now so I'm going to call it a night.

School Update

I spoke on the phone today with the guitar guy at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and set up my audition for noon tomorrow (that's 4 a.m. for those of you on the west coast). I'll let you know how it goes!


Portobello is a mile or two east of us. We'd heard that it has a beach, so we figured we'd hop on the bus (route 26) to check it out. Here's what we saw.

Clothing Stores of Dubious Quality:

Mildly Racist Auto Repair Shops:

Redundant Street Names:

Everyone's Favorite Game Show:

And Finally, a Beach with a Nice View:

It was great to get out and walk by the water for a while. Jeni and I both felt ourselves actually relaxing and worrying less. This part of Edinburgh feels sort of like the parts of Ventura where the apartments come right down to the water. Except of course that all the buildings here are made of stone and seems like they've been here forever. There just happens to be a bus which runs once an hour from the Portobello high street to the vet school. Perhaps when our lease is up here next June we'll find a place out by the water.

Oh, yeah, here's one last picture from Princes Street.

An Extremely Large Burger King:

256 does sound impressive at first until you realize that 512 is really the minimum nowadays and 1G is the new standard.

No Real Post Today

Jeni and I had a great trip to the beach this afternoon and I'd love to show you all the great photos we got, but the internet is being stupid. Jeni is consulting our tech-swan now so hopefully we'll have this all cleared up by tomorrow.

Awesome Times in Scotland

Click to play this short video. I know I promised a real Scottish vidblog ages ago, but this will have to satisfy you for now.

Awesome Dice on Vimeo

A Long Time Ago, in a Country Far, Far Away...

Ok, I was just sitting here in our flat, minding my own business when someone outside on the street started doing decidedly unholy things to a set of bagpipes. After about ten minutes of general squealing and honking they are now playing the theme from Star Wars for everyone within half a mile to hear.

Just a Clarification

Thanks for all the comments for yesterday's post. It feels good to know that people are out there and caring. So, feel free to stroke my ego whenever you have a spare minute. Also, if you haven't read yesterday's post yet you should to put this one in context.

I want to reply to the anonymous comment (please reveal yourself, if you would be so kind) because I think the poster may have misunderstood my motives for deciding to pursue music. I don't feel like the time I have invested in music is forcing me to continue for fear of wasting that investment. When I started to play music, and then continued to play music, and then decided to study music in college I always felt an aspect of God's calling in it. Making music satisfies me in a way that nothing else has. I love the fact that it is a physical skill in a culture based on the trade of ideas and information. I am also fascinated by the fact that this very physical skill produces something which doesn't physically exist but is a complete abstraction. Music has also always been intimately tied to my work in the church and my personal faith. Music is a unique creation of God with which I am gifted.

In my last semester at Whitworth I took the theology class which predicated this whole search for life direction. In theology I found many of the same things as I find in music. Our conceptions of God are abstractions but they are based on a very real foundational reality of God himself and his revelation. I think I could find myself just as satisfied studying theology as I could be studying music.

On the flip side, I think I could serve God and live in his will just as well being a musician as I could being a professor of theology or a pastor. The years of study on guitar act more or less as a tie-breaker. There are two broad options I think I could pursue and be successful in. God will love me equally in both. I already have 5 years academic experience in one of those fields. I guess I've just decided to go with what will get me out of school and on with my life faster.

Plus, as I said before, I reserve the right to go back to school later in life. I know many people who have. Perhaps 10 or 15 years in music will be enough for me and I'll fell like going back to tie up some loose ends.

Why I Could Never be a Chef (Sorry, Gravy)

A few weeks ago I put up this post about the crossroads I have found myself at in life. To recap, the question it posed was: Should I pursue further training and a career in either academic religion or ministry or should I continue down my path of becoming awesome guitar-man? It also posed the question: Can I do both? Well, as I disclosed a few days ago, I am now applying to the Royal Scottish Academy for Music and Drama in Glasgow to continue studying guitar.

I would love to go into academic theology. In my undergraduate experience I only did a limited amount of research driven work, but I loved it. I love crawling into books to see what's inside. I love starting a project with only a small idea of what I'm getting into and then becoming immersed in the ideas and opinions of others then and forming ideas and opinions of my own where before I had none. I love diving head first into just about anything. I love giving hours to the most mind numbing of endeavors. Chalk it up to my A.S.D.*, I guess.

The biggest problem with pursuing an academic degree is the 'giving hours' part. As it stands, my hours are spoken for. If I were to pursue such a degree, I'd pretty much be chucking my guitar out the window. I've been playing classical guitar for 5 years. At the point where I am now it takes about 2 hours a day to maintain the status quo. To advance takes more time than that. Add to that the fact that extended typing renders my hands nearly incapable of playing guitar, and it becomes clear that academic study and guitar playing are mutually exclusive activities at the moment.

One of the things that really brought me down upon arriving in Edinburgh was the realization that my undergraduate degree in guitar prepared me for little else than to pursue a master's degree in guitar. I no longer think that in despair. If that's what I've prepared myself for, than that's what I've prepared myself for. I've decided to do what I've prepared myself for. I've also decided that the 'spiritual' profession doesn't have anymore intrinsic importance than the 'non-spiritual' profession. Fulfilling the will of God doesn't have to do with choosing the right career but has to do with following God in every situation regardless of circumstance. And who knows, after I've finished this degree I may work as the music director at a church. I may still pursue a theology degree after I've come a little further along in my guitar playing. I may just decide to read theology on my own and interact with people who can challenge me and provide good intellectual fellowship. Maybe I'll just be an awesome guitar man.

I have a long way to go to become an awesome guitar man. I am currently waist deep in my application to the continuing studies program at the academy. Hopefully later this week or early next I'll be carting myself over to Glasgow to audition. If all goes according to plan, I will spend this year taking lessons every week for credit towards a master's degree and sitting in on classes for my own personal edification. Next year I will be a full time student in the one year long master's program and finish my degree in the same amount of time it would have taken in the states.

For all these reasons, and more, I could never be a chef.

* Attention Surplus Disorder

For Jess, the Most Awesomest

Please note that is actually located at

In other news, from an email recieved today:

Good afternoon,

Your application for the Continuing Education course at RSAMD has been received. However, you did not enclose the Audition fee of £35.


Just Because Vandalism is an Anti-Social Act...

...doesn't mean it can't be friendly.

Also, no matter what continent I'm on, I make good chicken.


We're shooting for quantity, not quality.

If you wanted to make a rude pun out of the word quantity, you'd probably have to include some thoretical physics, so I'm not even going to try.

A car alarm had been going off for about twenty minutes but just stopped.

It had just become comforting to me.

The silence hurts my ears.

Also, What the Crap?

I don't know squat about cricket. All I do know is that Engalnd seems to have been playing Pakistan ever since we got here. What the crap. I don't understand what's going on and it's really starting to make me angry.

A New Life Plan

The world is a big, cold, cruel place. That's why I'm in bed with my laptop and vodka at 6 o'clock. I think I'm going to change the name of my blog to "Blogging from Bed with Vodka." I'll sell t-shirts. I'll make millions. I'll never leave this bed again unless it's to ship out t-shirts or to buy more vodka.


I'm really not doing anything as well as I should be. You may have noticed the "Matt Reads the Bible" link that was added last week to the sidebar. Turns out I actually don't read the Bible. I am a creature of habit. I learned this about myself in college and I think it's something that I can't change but need to learn to embrace and use to my advantage. For example, in college I didn't watch tv or play video games and instead established the habit of playing guitar at regular times, usually early in the morning and between certain classes. That regularity worked wonders for my guitar playing.

I really want to build a similar habit for bible reading, as well as continue the habit for guitar playing. Unfortunately when you move to a new country, 'routine' becomes something that is hard to come by. Last week Jeni had tremendously long days at school every day and every day I played guitar in 2 hour chunks with an hour's break after each chunk, did the day's dishes at 5 and then left to walk to the school to meet Jeni getting off of the bus. This week Jeni has had a sporadic class schedule, getting back to the flat early in the afternoon and such, and it has really thrown me off.

It probably says something about me and maybe should influence my career choice that the thing that got the shaft most this week was Bible reading.

On the topic of career choices, I am currently applying to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama to continue my guitar studies. This, while a great thing to have happening, is yet another gear thrown into the works and has further diminished the prospect of regularity in my life.

So, to recap, Bible/guitar. I'll post more in a day or two about the choice to continue my guitar studies and why that beat out other options. In the meantime I will do the only thing that I do everyday (although even this I don't do at consistently regular times): sleep.

Yeah, that Lighthouse Crap wasn't Cutting it

Seriously. So here's a new template. Also, after probably about a year's absence, links are back! Now it'll be even easier to leave my page!

A Settlers Moment

Matt Prepares to Roll:

An Eight!

What Resources Might be Collected?

Matt is Pleased!

A Powerful Hand:

Jeni Knows She has Lost All Hope:

She Chokes Back a Tear:

Uganda be Warm Tonight!

Kenya believe we've been in Edinburgh for over a month? We just got done with a game of Settlers of Catan (which I happened to win, as well) with our upstairs neighbors who are really great people. That was a whole lot of fun. I honestly don't know how long it's been since I just plain had fun without worrying about one thing or having just a general cloud of dread hovering about me.

In our first month in Edinburgh, it seemed like we met only Americans. The other couples who moved into the building around the same time we did are both American. When we went to church the first week we were here, the first person we talked to said, "Oh, you're American. Let me introduce you to so-and-so because they're American, too." When that happened, it sort of felt like we were outsiders being told to stick with our own kind. That's not a very good feeling. I started to worry that we would never make friends with locals or even other non-Americans and that our international cultural experience would be pretty much a bust.

Fortunately, the tide is turning on that feeling as well. Last week we met another couple who lives in our building from Denmark. Jeni and I had dinner with them last night and discovered that among other things, they are also Settlers of Catan fans. So now, plans are in the works for a huge 6 person game that will have to be played with a Danish Settlers set since they have the 5-6 player expansion and we don't.

Also, Jeni and I went to another church tonight. We both have a substantial distaste for church shopping, but it is something of a necessary evil when moving to a new place, and even more so, I think, when moving into a new culture. The church we went to tonight was much smaller than the church from our first week experience, and I think we were the only Americans there. We were noticed as newcomers and got to talk to quite a few people from the congregation. There are a fair amount of students and people around our age and more than that, they're legitimate Scots! I think tonight was the first time that we were actually just treated like regular people by locals, and it was very encouraging.

In other news, Jeni and I don't really have a grasp on the Scottish sense of humor just yet, but it seems not to involve much punning or word play. There was a large map of Uganda on the wall of the church where we were chatting with someone we had just met. As always when we meet someone new, Jeni had to explain why she's already in school when normal classes don't start for a few more weeks. I said that I would be able to explain it faster than her, but she insisted that she could best me in brevity. She happened to be able to explain in record time and I remarked, "Uganda want to remember how to do it that quickly for next time," while gesturing at the map. Jeni and I of course were amused while our new Scottish friend stayed silent. Blank looks ensued, then Jeni and I explained about Uganda sounding like "you're gonna" and then I got the dreadful, "Oh, yeah, I'm sure that would have been really funny if I got it quicker." But even with the pump primed a few Kenya jokes ("Kenya believe it?", etc.) failed to hit the mark. Jeni has a few stories about responding to professors with a pun or witty ironicism (not a word but should be) only to be met with confusion at the best and grave concern at the worst. She'll have to recount those to you herself.

Other parts of Scottish humor have come to us just fine. For example, on receiving 4 sheep cards in one roll of the dice while playing Settlers...

"I'm gonna be warm tonight!"

I See You

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