Our neighbour across the road plays the bagpipes.
He’s a pro – not a deafening, cat-strangling amateur.
I’ve tapped out many a chapter or blogpost with Highland Cathedral as a distant, glorious soundtrack because he usually plays in the mornings while Murray’s at the practice, the boys are at school, and I’m writing. He usually plays indoors.
But one morning this lockdown week, we heard him play and we were like –
‘That’s way louder than usual.’
Because he was standing in his front garden playing his pipes into the silence of the street and we and our neighbours on either side of us rushed out onto our driveways and whooped and clapped and cheered our Encore! Encore! And then WhatsApp’d each other with our wow wow wows because Robert Frost was right when he wrote, ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…’
Our neighbour ended his mini-concert with Amazing Grace and it felt like a declaration because you can’t keep grace behind a palisade fence and even though we’re all under some kind of weird house arrest we still live beneath our God’s grace-laden heavens and they rain freedom.
My Uncle Peter doesn’t play the bagpipes but he used to wear a kilt because he was Chaplain to the Cape Town Highlanders Mechanised Infantry. He’s lived through some stuff – like a war, and losing a daughter and grandchildren, and more. Maybe because of the particular ways life has worn him, he’s always been to me what the Celts called a thin place – where heaven meets earth.
And he’s old school. He doesn’t have a platform or a podcast. He just writes a newsletter every month or so to people he loves. Here are snippets of what he wrote on March 26th, the eve of the lockdown in South Africa:
‘And the President has called us to prayer today… Prayer alone will make a difference… All is not as it seems in the natural. Aslan is on the move!
I wondered to Carol what would happen if I should get the virus. Her answer was simple: ‘You’ll face it like a Christian.’ Our spiritual radar is up and alert. Sometimes we hear static nonsense. But be alert and sift the signals. There is a sound in the heavens to be heard…
I read an article of an interview with some British submariners. You can’t be more isolated than to be confined to a limited space and cooped up with some funny people for weeks under the sea. They all offered the following five points advice which sound helpful to me:
- Routine! Structure your days. Stick to a planned routine, including alone time, rest time, duty time, maintenance times, prayer time, study time etc.
- Exercise. All can do some exercise… Push-ups, sit-ups, walk laps etc.
- Eat healthily. Have set meals… experiment and be creative.
- Social times. Games, writing, mind games etc.
- Don’t stop ‘larfing’. Don’t stop banter. Mock the stress and the pain. It does the serotonin good to ‘hou die blink kant bo’. Don’t become too serious. There is a difference between joking ABOUT suffering and joking WITHIN suffering! I have so often appreciated the wafts of fresh air from cheerful friends. Sometimes a line is crossed into insensitivity. We all do this inadvertently. But don’t stop your banter for fear of appearing insensitive…
The God of history knows the end from the beginning. He has this thing too…’
So I’m thinking, let’s ask this God of history for wisdom and ways to use our gifts to bless our households, and anyone else we can get to through our screens or from our front gardens.
Because there are still pipes to be played – loudly and lovingly – and the souls of those around us may need to be transported to lofty crags where they can feel the wind in their chests.
By God’s amazing grace, there’s hope. He holds your future. Face it like a Christian.
. . .
Wishing you peace and safety.
Go ahead and share this post with someone who needs to hear the pipes play!
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