Saturday, 31 December 2011

It's the party season!

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I love this photo sent from the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). A lovely image of the deer gathering together. It is the party season. Today is Hogmanay here in Scotland. A time of celebration and gathering of friends and family. In many of our towns and cities folk gather in the centres to 'see in the New Year' as 'the bells' go at midnight. Gathering to say farewell to the old year and welcome in the new. 

As part of saying farewell to the old year it can be good to stop and look back. One tenet of Ignatian Spirituality is the of the Daily Examen. The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.

Today, on the last day of the year, I'm going to take some time to 'Examen' my past year - to look back, to see where I have been and what I have done looking through God's eyes. Then I will be ready to see in the New Year as I gather with my family and friends.

Friday, 30 December 2011

A Year in Lego

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding - April 2011

The Guardian newspaper has a collection of photos depicting the news from 2011 in Lego. Lego is such a creative medium and a childhood favourite of many. 

It got me thinking - what would I build to reflect a special memory of the past year? I think I would build a train. It would remind me of the wonder 'roadtrip' by train that my daughter and I took round England in the summer. There would of course be lots of cups of tea, punnets of strawberries, teddy bears and the many special memorabilia that would capture that wonderful week. 

If you could depict one scene from your life in 2011 what would it be and why? 

What would you like to prioritise as a building project for 2012? 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Gift of Tintoretto

                                                   Tintoretto's "Glory of San Rocco" at the
Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice

My new finding of the day is

You register with your interests and it comes up with random websites that you may wish to explore further.

Today I came across this painting by the Italian artist Tintoretto on the website 

The author of the site, Jeff Titelius, writes this about the painting and artist:-

"But before we dive deeper into the ceiling, I have to share an anecdote I read in Peter Ackroyd’s “Venice: Pure City” about Vasari’s account of how Tintoretto won the commission to decorate the ceiling and walls of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. According to Ackroyd and Vasari, the artists of the time were asked to present sketches for the central panel of the Sala dell’Albergo ceiling, a smaller chamber off the Grand Hall on the upper level of the school. 

Instead of presenting a sketch as requested, Tintoretto in a brilliant “stroke” of genius that ultimately earned him the commission, merely pointed up to the ceiling to showcase his entry. Affixed to the ceiling was not a sketch but a completed painting for the Guild to scrutinize, and what makes this really special is that he offered it as his gift to the school whether or not he won the commission. His “Glory of San Rocco” still hangs there today."

Giving without the certainty that there will be a reward. 
Gifting regardless of whether there will be a gift in return. 

There's something in that of our journey with God. Of being selfless, of giving, of gifting - not because we expect to be rewarded but because of who we are and who God is. 

The giving and gifting of ourselves in whatever context we find ourselves. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Expectation of the Dawn

" We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake,
not by mechanical aids,
but by an infinite expectation of the dawn,
which does not forsake us
even in our soundest sleep....."

Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Illuminating Book Tree

Today I have been deep in a pile of books - writing one of three essays due for my 'How to Study Local History' course on the 23rd January. It has only taken 11 hours but that is it sent off now to my tutor in Inverness.  Before you feel sorry for me, it was no great hardship - I love books and I love writing about family history research.

Books have always been a great joy. Christmases and birthdays were made even more special if at least one of the packages was a hard rectangle shape aka 'A Book'!!

What a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, guidance, escapism, emotion etc has poured out of pages in front of me over the years. My favourites are too many to mention.

But, I will never forget the years when the Bible first impacted into my life. Sure, I had heard about it and dipped into it throughout childhood and teen years but that was all. It wasn't until my late twenties that the words came alive and started to intersect with my life. The power of them was unmistakable. For me it is a living word. I can return to familiar passages and find they say new things to me as the cross my life at a different point today.

The power of such words is eternal and like the Christmas book tree above can provided illumination in all corners of our lives.

Monday, 26 December 2011

'Twas the Day After Christmas

Tree dressed
Decorations hung
Gifts bought
Cards sent

Nativity plays seen
Mulled wine sipped
Concerts watched
Mince pies gone

Services led
Carols sung
Friends met
Family gathered

Presents unwrapped
Turkey eaten
Dishes done
Leftovers recycled

Time to stop
Time to reflect
Christmas 2011
How it has touched me

A starry sky
A candle lit church
Recalling the story
With glimpses anew

Valuing what I have
Remembering those in need
Engaging that bit deeper
With the unfathomable depth of love.
Linda Stevens December 2011

Sunday, 25 December 2011

A Little Child

A little child,
a shining star,
a stable rude,
the door ajar,
yet in this place,
so crude, forlorn,
the hope of all 
the world was born.


Wishing you all a wonderful, peaceful, joyful Christmas.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Welcome to Watchnight

Cortachy Church

Welcome to Watchnight. This evening we gather together in our local churches, here in Angus, for our annual Watchnight services. They traditionally start after 11pm and take us through midnight and into the wonders of Christmas morning.
Wherever you are reading and whenever midnight is for you - come join with us in spirit. Liz Crumlish calls us to gather for this hour:-

Come fresh from your revelry
or your loneliness
to find warmth and fellowship here
as we watch in the darkness
for the dawn of another Christmas

Know that you are welcome
just as you are
The baby who snuck into the stable
slips in here tonight
Can you see him?
Can you feel him?

Sense the beat of the wings of angels
brushing your cheek-
announcing to you this night
as they did 2000 years ago in Bethlehem
the good news
that God lives in love with us.
Liz Crumlish December 2011

Friday, 23 December 2011

Pausing for thought

Today is supposed to be the busiest shopping day of the year. If you have five minutes why not sit down and enjoy these shoppers' experience in one such busy mall.....

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Far from the madding crowd

I had to go to the city to pick up my turkey first thing this morning. Quite a shock to the system. I don't do long queues at the best of times. I certainly don't like angry shoppers ... and there were a few. A woman in front of me was angry when she couldn't find the place to pick up her order. She then discovered that she had mistyped her order and was handed a 'party selection' instead of a turkey. She was extremely annoyed though the staff were excellent and smoothed things out for her.

My son then told me about someone he had seen in another shop who had been furious because the newspaper they wanted wasn't available. 

With these scenarios in my mind, I returned with turkey to my car. A car pulled up next to mine and a couple emerged - they were in the middle of a row. She went to the ticket machine, he pulled the buggy out of the boot and slammed it down. He then started to shout at the older child in the car. All this and they hadn't even ventured near the shops and the queues. 

I was relieved to return to the parish and my visits. It is so beautiful in the glens. I walked past some geese and these highland cattle. It felt very much like I was now far from a madding crowd and was thankful for it. But, such balm for the soul isn't just to be found in the country. I used to live in a city and we had our own way of escaping then. Public parks were a great source of peace and sense of space. 
Whether country or town there are often times when we need to 'get away from it all' and to re-establish our equilibrium and sense of peace. 

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." - Mark 1:35

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Beach Hut Advent Calendar

Throughout December, beach huts along Hove seafront will be opening their doors to reveal a festive display as part of a giant seafront advent calendar

Even though, like me, you can't travel to the south of England to experience this first hand - you can 'visit' each hut by going to their blog:- (Doors can be opened via the blog link on My Blog List on the right of my blog page).

What is BEYOND?
BEYOND is an opportunity for people to explore spirituality through a variety of creative approaches.

The aims of BEYOND are:
• To help people to a deeper understanding of spirituality
through the arts and other creative activities.
• To explore non-traditional ways of being Christian.
• To be a resource for church people who wish to further
explore their relationship with God.

Using art, poetry, philosophy and theology, BEYOND curates provocative spaces in order to inspire and =
stimulate discussion.The installations and events create environments for questions and grappling with ideas about God without signing up to an established line of dogmatic thought.

BEYOND creates around 10 events a year and everyone is welcome to any event.

In the bleak midwinter

As I was driving along to work in rural Angus this winter scene caused me to stop the car and step out. A beautiful winter landscape that brought to mind one of our beautiful Christmas hymns:-

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Hooked by a Handshake

Looking back on today one moment in particular stands out - hence my gleaning for today. It was the school end of term service in the church and the children were acting out the nativity story to readings.

It came to the time for the shepherds to go and visit the new born baby. Nothing new there. But, this time the young shepherds in their stripy outfits caused me to pause and look on with new eyes.

The shepherds, on arrival at the 'stable', shook hands with the new Dad, Joseph. That shaking of the hands touched me - it was such a natural, obvious gesture, but, not one we usually see in a re-enactment of our story of old. It somehow brought the story even more alive - it was human, it was real, a baby was born and the visitors were delighted.

Today, my little shepherds and Joseph drew me further into the Christmas Story -  a simple handshake and I was hooked.

The Irrational Season

This is the irrational season

When love blooms bright and wild.

Had Mary been filled with reason

There'd have been no room for the child.

- Madeleine L'Engle

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Long Lost Watch

File:Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Beata Beatrix, 1864-1870.jpg
This evening as I was flicking through the TV channels when I paused to listen to an antiques programme. A slot in the show describes antiques whose whereabouts are unknown. This evening it was a very unique watch designed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Rossetti was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator. He married one of his models, Elizabeth Siddal. She was his muse and his passion, he painted her time and time again.

(He painted this painting of her from memory after her death - Beata Beatrix).

Unfortunately, although he adored his Lizzie, Rossetti was a philanderer. It drove her into a great state of anxiety. She began taking Luadanum which eventually led to an overdose and her death.

Back and Face of a Watch - Two Designs for an EngravingDante was devastated when she died and even had all his unpublished poems buried with her.

He then designed this intricate watch which is filled with symbolism depicting their relationship. He wore it for the rest of his life and every time he looked at it he remembered his Lizzie. This is his drawing of the back and front of the watch.
It became a permanent reminder for him of what he had loved and lost.

Such a moving, sad story. For me it is a poignant reminder to appreciate the folk that we have in our lives - our loved ones, friends, good colleagues. To value them, give thanks for them and to enjoy all the precious time that we have with them.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

A mystery beyond

All creation is striving to bring forth a mystery beyond itself, 
a kingdom of peace and justice. 
The created world models it, 
the prophets foretell it, 
the psalmist celebrates it, 
and Jesus shows us what it looks like in reality. 
All of these invite us to let God’s kingdom come to birth in our own lives.

by Margaret Silf

Friday, 16 December 2011

Look in my eyes and dance with me

Pasha said that they only thing he can say to Chelsee just before they step out for the 'Strictly Come Dancing' final is:-

"Look in my eyes and dance with me".

Those words have echoed to us too, down the years, from the man from Galilee.

Unwrapping the gift

There were twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities — one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist — their parents took them to a psychiatrist.

First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. “What’s the matter?” the psychiatrist asked, baffled. “Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?” “Yes,” the little boy bawled, “but if I did I’d only break them.”

Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. 

Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. “What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. “With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”

That is one of my favourite stories on being optimistic. There must be a pony in here he cries! 

At Christmas each year we symbolically unwrap again and again the wonderful gift that we have been given in Jesus. There is no need to be pessimistic about this gift and every reason to be full of optimism and hope. This gift surpasses all others and can be unwrapped every day and at every occasion. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Is your snow-globe shaken?

I don't know how many times I've been asked the question recently "Are you all set for Christmas?"  The question of course is about cards being written, parcels being posted, shopping being done, cake being made, turkey ordered and so on. The question picks up on the frantic nature that we find ourselves in of getting organised for Christmas Day. The general rushing around, queueing in queues at post offices and supermarkets, filling freezers, locating the wrapping paper, sellotape and scissors are all part of this maelstrom of  preparation.

It all reminds me of the snow-globe. That wonderful glass ball that used to amaze and delight me as a child. It was so much fun - shaking it and letting the snow gradually fall and then settle at the bottom. The calm, the storm and then back to the calm again.

The few weeks leading up to Christmas are like that snow storm for many of us. The flurry of activity that can send us spinning. But, there may be time in each day to let the snow gradually fall and settle. David Adams wrote this caim prayer - a circling prayer that can give and sense of peace and calm.

Circle me O God
Keep hope within
Despair without

Circle me O God
Keep peace within
Keep turmoil out.

Circle me O God
Keep calm within
Keep storms without.

Circle me O God
Keep strength within
Keep weakness out.

May your storms, in whatever form they take, be without and may you find calm within.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Innkeepers

We watched the movie 'Nativity' last night. A fun festive 101 minutes. As in most nativity plays there comes a time when the question of who gets which part arises. Many want the star roles - Mary and Joseph and not minor roles like that of the innkeeper. A bit like this young chap:-

I want to be Joseph

One primary school was putting on their nativity play. The time came for the parts to be handed out and little Tommy wanted desperately to be Joseph. In fact he had his heart set on it. When the teacher announced the parts, Tommy was not chosen to play Joseph. However, he was asked to play the role of the innkeeper.
Even though he had been picked, he was still not happy. The day arrived for the performance of the play. The entire school was there. There were parents, grandparents, teachers and governers in the audience.
Mary and Joseph duly arrived at the inn and Joseph knocked on the door.
“Can my wife and I come in?” he asked.
There was a pause, and then little Tommy replied in an adamant tone ‘SHE can come in but YOU can’t’. He then turned to the audience and announced ‘I WANTED TO BE JOSEPH’!
In the film 'Nativity' a solution is found when they have four Marys and four Josephs. Which made me think of the much neglected innkeeper. What was his role? What did he do? And the answer is simple:- he opened the door of the stable for the young couple and their soon to be born infant. 
He opened the door to allow the son of God to enter. So simple an action really. An action that we are all invited to undertake. 
We are all innkeepers at heart.

Monday, 12 December 2011

A Highland blessing

I was going to say that I was attracted to this picture because it had great ap'peel' for me - but, I really shouldn't as I'm always in trouble for my bad puns!

Picking yourself up and carry on. That reminds me of the lyric from the old song 'pick yourself up, brush yourself down, and start all over again'. Sometimes that is easier than others. There are days when all we have done is trip up a bit. Other days we have fallen, hurt ourselves and are a bit battered and bruised. Then there are the days when we are so flat out that we wonder if we can ever get back on our feet again.

Perhaps from experience we have learned what it takes to do just that, to get back up and pick up the threads of life again. There may be certain people we lean on. There may be pieces of music that we turn to. There may be activities that take us out of ourselves long enough to get some strength back. For some it may be the depths of prayer - the sharing of our burdens to the one who can lift them. Our 'pick up' tools are unique to each one of us.

Wherever you are today and however you are, may this highland blessing enfold you:-

The King to shield you in the glen,
the Christ to aid you on the ben,
Spirit to bathe you on the brae,
Hollow, or hill, or plain your way,
be glen, or ben, or plain your way.

From Poems of the Western Highlanders by G.R.D. McLean

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Irrational Season

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.

- Madeleine L'Engle

The journey within

The angel told the shepherds about the new born baby. 
They stopped in their tracks, 
turned around 
and started out on their journey to see this most wondrous sight. 

Is this something I need to do everyday? 

Stop, turn around and travel in heart, mind and spirit towards the one who waits for me.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Letters from God

Christmas cards and Christmas presents organised at last. There's the pile now for the Post Office that need weighed and stamped. There are also the four piles of cards - one to be delivered by hand, one to be mailed, one to be delivered by the Boys Brigade in one town and last to be delivered by the Scouts in another town. The cards winging their way to friends and relatives bringing greetings and messages across the world.

Albert Holtz writes about Christmas cards in his book 'From Holidays to Holy Days'. He remembers the words from a poem by Walt Whitman, "I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four and each moment then.... I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is signed by God's name."

Albert expands on this: "I've always like that image for letters from God dropped at our feet. It reminds me of Saint Benedict's conviction that God is everywhere and is always trying to communicate with us, waiting for us to listen attentively and look carefully..... Think of one or two ways in which God has "dropped a letter at your feet" recently. Did you recognize it right away? Was its message a welcome one? How did you respond to it? When has the Lord used you to deliver a message of love and concern to someone?"

Letters from God dropped in the street....just for us.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Through heaven's eyes

I became aware at one point this evening of my son singing. One line in particular caught my attention. He was singing a song from 'The Prince of Egypt' - it went like this:-

"So how do you measure the worth of a man
In wealth or strength or size?
In how much he gained or how much he gave?
The answer will come
The answer will come to him who tries
To look at his life through heaven's eyes"

To look at our lives through heaven's eyes. What would we see? Would it be like a pie-chart with our life cut up in sections?

We could consider our lives to be divided into sections depicting how we spend our time - worship, work, leisure, study, home life, socialising, exercise, eating.......

Or they may be split into how much we have loved our neighbour - helping, financing, caring, influencing, inspiring, campaigning, comforting, encouraging.....

How would you divide your pie up?

Could it be that we are just to try and look at our life through heaven's eyes. Looking through the eyes of one who loves us and wants the best for us. Looking and valuing who we are and what we do. But, also challenging ourselves to make the most of our gift of life. Moving the % between the pie slices. Increasing the love section, reducing the hate. Increasing the forgiveness section, reducing the unforgiveness. Increasing the selfless section, reducing the selfish section and so on.

Looking at our lives through heaven's eyes can give us a fresh perspective.

Just a gleaning from a song.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The real thing

The Annunciation by Pennsylvania artist Henry Ossawa Tanner

My calendar door has opened today to reveal the young Mary receiving her message from the Angel Gabriel. Margaret Silf taps into Mary's response to the astounding, life-changing news:-

'What made her able to say 'Yes' to the angel's request? Mary had certainly been brought up in faithful obedience to the Jewish Law, but I find it hard to believe that this alone gave her the trust to hand over her future, her reputation, her body, mind and soul to God as she did.... What seems to have set Mary's soul on fire that morning was surely her own, personal, direct experience of the presence of God, granted to her through the vision of the angel.  This was so overwhelming, so joy-filled, such an eternal moment, that she would never again doubt the power and the ever-presence of the God from whom it came. 'Yes!' was the only possible response to such an experience.

I find it strangely consoling, too, to learn that Mary immediately questioned her own experience. Most of us can identify with her questioning. One moment we can feel God's touch upon our life, the next moment we find ourselves saying. 'This can't be true, because it doesn't fit within my familiar parameters!' The angel counters this questioning not with simple black-and-white answers, but with an assurance that God's ways are infinitely larger than our minds and hearts can ever encompass. Our own rules and patterns can never contain God's transforming power. All we can do - all we are asked to do - is to allow that transforming power to be 'earthed' in our own living.  'Nothing is impossible to God!' All our mindsets are just matchbox-size when it comes to holding the immensity and the potential of God.

Yet this power is not threatening. The angel's first word to Mary is 'Rejoice!', rapidly followed by the assurance that there is nothing to fear.  In the light of all that is to come, this might sound like unwarranted optimism. Have we really nothing to fear, if we say our own 'Yes!' to God?  Perhaps, again, it is a question of the size of our mindset. To our 'matchbox' thinking, there may well be challenges along the way ahead that will give rise to fear.  But the angel's promise is that the overwhelming love of God will always be infinitely stronger than the pull of all our fears. We are not promised an easy 'happy ever after'. What we are promised is that the joy we experience when God touches our hearts is the real thing, and nothing else that can happen to us, however difficult or frightening, will ever have more power than that touch. The way of God always leads to new life.'

Silf's ending words caught my breath. She wrote 'what we are promised is that the joy we experience when God touches our hearts is the real thing, and nothing else that can happen to us.... will ever have more power than that touch.'  They caught my breath because when I had been looking for a picture to fill in today's advent calendar and chose the one above, I had read similar words on the same page. These words were written by Jim Bramlett:-

"Some say that true reality is spiritual, not physical," he said. "The supernatural breaks through [into our dimension], and it's exciting when it does."
The real thing. 
True reality is spiritual. 
The touch of God that our spirits recognise as real, transforms us and brings the 'Yes!' from our lips.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A thousand words

This is such a busy time of year for so many people. Tonight mild panic set in as I relayed all the things I haven't yet done, the work I haven't yet written, the presents I haven't yet bought, the calls not yet made...... As I was gaily panicking my dear husband asked me about bread sauce for Christmas day. Bread sauce? Bread sauce? - is that another name for final straw?!!!!!! 

Stop, slow down, take one thing at a time Linda. 

A friend asked "when do we have the time to stop and reflect at this time of year?" Such a good question. 

Another friend sent me a picture that has stayed in my mind ever since I received it. And that made me think about the power of an image. When we don't have a lot of time to actually sit down, light a candle, read, write, reflect, pray... when there really are many demands being made on our time ... perhaps the answer lies in finding an image that speaks deeply to us. That image can then be carried around in our heads. Then, no matter where we are or what we are doing it can be brought to mind and offer us an instant reconnection with God. 

This is the image that I carry around these hectic advent days:-

Psalm 91:4, He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Two Trees

Two trees from my week

One tree I walked past in Kirriemuir was laden with berries ahead of the cold weather that we are told is on its way. The berries may well become a vital source of food for our hungry birds.

The other tree was covered with Christmas decorations and was sitting at the entrance of our local hospice. We had just had the Christmas 'Lighting up' service when we had switched on the lights on the tree. The lights a symbol of the light of Christ that is lit for each of us. A source for our hungry spirits. 

As I open our advent doors and continue my journey of reflection towards Christmas this leads me to some questions:-

What feeds me? 

What is the source of my spiritual nutrition?

For me, the answer is definitely something to do with time. Stopping doing what I am doing in my busy day and taking time to reach deeper into myself. Going from the horizontal moving forward plane to the vertical descending deeper plane.

It is in that place that I am fed and make my connection with God .... a bit like the switching on of the Christmas lights. 

Monday, 5 December 2011

Candles are burning


Out in the woods the leaves are falling
silent; and soft on the forest floor
the flowers are gone, the colours have faded;
and the butterflies come no more.

Out in the fields the hedgehogs are hiding
under the hedgerows they’re falling asleep.
And the robin comes searching for food in the garden
where grubs are scarce and the frost is deep.

Out in the sky wild geese are calling,
flying south from the ice and snow,
seeking the safety of lakes and marshes
on England’s wet-lands far below.

Out in the streets people are shouting;
the angry people who don’t believe.
No Advent for them; no Jesus to wait for;
no chapel to go to on Christmas Eve.
But out in the churches the candles are burning
counting the days to the Saviour’s birth.
And our hearts are burning with joy and amazement
the High King of Heaven is coming –
To Earth!
© Sandra Birch 2011

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Her last photo

Linda and Diane - Summer 2003

Yesterday, I found out that a friend had sadly died. Her name was Diane and we had studied theology together at St Andrews University back in 2003. She was an American - energetic, enthusiastic and full of vitality. A lady who was warm, friendly and had great faith. She had been ill for a couple of years and she records some of her courageous journey in her blog

Since her death, her friends and family have continued adding to her blog and are encouraging people to send in their memories and photos of Diane. It is a lovely tribute to her that so many folk are keeping her memory alive. 
One of these late entries really struck me. It contained the photo below. 
Her friend who posted it wrote:- 
                                         "This is a photo taken by Diane on October 5th, of a spiritual candle. She had really wanted to post it on her blog,  but the memory card from her camera had been lost. I found it today.  I do not know what she would have written here; I leave that for you to contemplate. It was probably the last photo she took."
                                           Another friend later added - 
"Those of you that have seen the film " Stardust" will know that this is Diane's Babylon candle and it has taken her to where she wanted to be. "

I found the image, recorded by Diane herself, to be such a beautiful one. I keep returning to look at it. For me it offers comfort and hope. Her Babylon candle, lit by her own hand - carrying her to where she wanted to be. 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Sifting of Words

File:Dinah Maria Craik (née Mulock) by Sir Hubert von Herkomer.jpgThe book 'A Life for a Life' was written by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (pictured right) is not one you come across everyday. In fact, it was published in 1859. She herself considered it to be her best work. Although very old, it is now available courtesy of the British Library who have worked alongside Microsoft to digitise around 65,000 of its 19th Century books.
I came across this book earlier this evening when I was looking up one of my favourite poems. Rather, what I thought was a poem. The 'poem' turns out to be a quotation from Dinah's book.

It is a favourite reading of my friend Pauline and I. For it speaks of a relationship between friends that is safe,  honest and full of trust. It goes like this:-

"But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; 
with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely.
Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person -
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, 
but pouring them all right out, 
just as they are, chaff and grain together; 
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, 
keep what is worth keeping, 
and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."

What a blessing indeed and surely one of God's greatest gifts.