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  • Retreating, Reflecting, Reintegrating...

    A Celtic knot, usually understood as representing the Trinity, carved of Wesh oak and mounted on a disc of Welsh slate.  This souvenir, this 'wee minding', is beautiful, precious, fragile and highly symbolic of what the last week has been for me.

    I set off with a rucksack full of books, a Kindle (that seems to have died, but there's an App for it on my fancy phone), hiking boots, colouring books, crayons, a Bible and a journal.  I had no clear idea of what I would reflect on, though a number of thoughts had been bubbling away at the back of my mind for a while.

    I read fiction, but not the (four!) spirituality books I'd taken with me.

    I drew and coloured, but not in the colouring books.

    I walked in rain, wind and glorious sunshine.

    And I reflected in silence, for many long hours (that whizzed by), writing and creating (rather linear) mindmaps, doodling and simply being... I reflected on one verse of scripture over four days - yes, it is possible!  More accurately, I reflected on four words from one verse of scripture over three days, and on the fourth I rested (apart from walking for five hours!!).

    A verse of scripture that returns to me time and again, lifted out of context from Psalm 46: 'be still, and know that I AM God'.

    Many times I have played with this verse, and it never fails to show new things to me.  I don't think what I was doing was technically midrash, but perhaps more that than any other 'method'.

    This isn't the place to share in detail my private thoughts, nor the sketches, doodles, bits of craft-like stuff that emerged along the way, but maybe it is OK to share a few thoughts that may just encourage other tired pilgrims.

    Day one, I pondered the word 'still' and, recognising that in scripture punning and double meanings are widespread, focussed not on stopping or resting, but instead on remaining, continuing, abiding... as in 'I am still here.'  A diversion via John 15, another much loved set of images, focussing on the word 'remain'... meno en mou (Gk)...  I found myself intrigued by the both/and of this word... stopping-continuing ceasing-remaining and so on.  I went for a walk in the rain, ate tea and cake.

    Evening came, and morning - the first day.

    Day two, and I took the phrase 'I AM' applying it not to God, as the capitalisation suggests, but to myself, asking questions of identity: 'who am I?'

    A day for very deep thought in which I focussed on things that have changed for me over the last eight years... the physical changes of, what sometimes seem to be endless, medical procedures; the external changes beyond my control at local, national and international level; the changes in my beliefs and values; the practical lifestyle changes; and in and through it all being alert to emotions and feelings.  A day of two halves, simply because the intensity needed a break.

    Playing with the 'I am who I am' spoken to Moses, and being reminded that, for all that has changed I am still me.

    Evening came, and morning - the second day.

    Day three dawned with clear blue skies and warm sun.  Thoughts of reading were abandoned in favour of walking to a pebbly beach and then back via some very muddy fields.

    And an afternoon pondering the word 'know', another multi-layered word with all sorts of nuances and ideas.  Following an idea from a novel I read last week, I set myself an exercise to write down words about what God 'is' and then draw it, then to write down words about what God is not, and to draw that, then finally to set the two side by side.  Having done this, I pondered what it means to know God - and to a lesser extent to be known by God - based on these ideas.  So this, in words, is roughly what I came up with:





    Intimacy, Relationship, Discovery, Understanding, Learning, Discernment, Wisdom

    head + heart + gut

    body + mind+ spirit

    body + soul

    physical + intellectual + emotional

    faith + deeds

    Within the triune God, the many become one

    More cake and tea (of course)

    Evening came, and morning came - the third day

    Day four was a very, very long walk - much longer than anticipated, at times exhilerating, at times monotonous, at times just ordinary, so a good metaphor for life.

    No active reflection, then, just some time to savour, and the creation of a simple communion liturgy which I shared with my hosts at the close of the day (and which, with a few tweaks I will use on Sunday).

    Packing followed, rearranging to fit everything into my case and backpack.  Bins emptied.  Recycling sorted. Sleep beckoned.

    Evening came, and morning came - the fourth day.

    And then it was over.

    Tea from a proper mug in the old-fangled station buffet in Bangor.  Trains that ran roughly to time, despite horrendous disruptions elsewhere.  Fiction read, sandwiches munched, tea drunk...

    Bags unpacked, cats cuddled, sleep sought.

    Refreshed, reintegrated, rested, restored...

    And evening came, and morning - the final day.


    Some final words summing up all that I have reflected upon and (re-)discovered...


    For all that has changed, I am still me

    I am known, loved and accepted by God, just as I am, and always will be

    I have rested - stilled - myself

    I have been - and I am - refreshed

    I have understood - and understand - myself a little better

    All this is held within the love of God

    Father, Son and Holy Spirit

    Creating, Redeeming, Sustaining

    Love without end


  • Demob Mischief...

    Brian - he's not a hurricane, he's a very naughty storm!


    I thank you! ;-)

  • Retreating...

    I'm on a slow sort of wind down from work ahead of a week of leave beginning on Saturday.

    It starts with the wedding of one of my oldest friends, at which I've been asked to read a poem and to be a witness.  This is a civil ceremony, so it will feel a bit odd not having any overt 'God' in it, but I am sure it will be very special.

    I then travel to Bangor, Wales, for an overnight before going on to Ynys Mon (Anglesey) for a five day retreat during which I am looking forward to switching off my phones, not using the internet, not watching the news and instead reading, maybe colouring, walking and above all resting. 

    All of which means silence in Blogland probably from now until a couple of days after I am home again.  Panic not, then at the absence of waffle, and promise I will maximise the benefit of some 'me time'.

  • Women and their Olive Trees

    This mysterious and ethereal image is just one of a whole range of paintings being exhibited at the chapel of the Univerty of Glasgow until 27th October.

    The flyer expresses it thus:


    After leading chapel prayers this morning (on an especially unpromising reading!) I spent a little while wandering around the exhibition drinking in the joy, sorrow, mystery, majesty and creativity of these women from across the world.

    If you happen to be close enough to visit, I'd strongly recommend it.

  • Gloriously chaotic!

    This morning, we arrived at the hotel to discover it was pretty full of people at a conference - turned out they were international doctoral students on some kind of residential thingy - and knowing that we had to be out pronto sharpish to allow 'our' room to be used for a wedding.

    Despite having announced an earlier start time last week, it was inevitable that some folk would come for 11 a.m., and sure enough they did, arriving in dribs and drabs over a twenty minute period.  It was all rather chaotic but all very relaxed and everyone just took it in their collective stride.

    At the end of the service, I was able to give Bibles to some folk newly arrived in the UK in their first language - the look of pure joy on their faces was a delight to behold, and over coffee I could see them peeping at the first few pages, excited to hold such a precious book in their own hands.  Sobering and humbling.

    After coffee some of us took these folk for lunch - pizza and coke/sprite/orange - simple fare shared among people who between us represented a number of nationalities, and none of that mattered a jot.

    This is ministry at its best - muddled, chaotic, characterised by love and laughter and somewhere in the midst of it all our newly arrived folk found peace, security and welcome.

    A good morning.