Monday, 26 November 2012

Those that truly love

Captain Corelli's MandolinLouis de Bernieres

Love is a temporary madness,
it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness,
it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being "in love" which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Snow Geese at Night

Google Image from Audubon 

I can hear them
 I can’t see them
Snow geese that fly at night
They seem infinite in their numbers
Every night the past month I heard them call
This time when they are elsewhere
I will remember selfless calls
Their perfect V’s
Unseen to those who fly

I will remember
The perfection of their V
Silhouetted above the street lights
Generated by the air that we can not see
Explained by the geese that can only feel
When they are in the right place
Singing with the ecstasy
Of remembering
Their home


By John Miller 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Like a feather

When you pray lay aside thoughts
that peck at the body and dive after souls
fears that give birth to needs
concerns that lay ambush to the future
mistakes that make poison of the past
When you pray lay aside thoughts
Of where you are and what you are doing
of your struggle to walk the Chosen Path
even your hopes to leave behind
a few final steps in the sand
Then pull from under you
what little ground you stand on
and fall
like a feather
into the hand of God
Rest there 
so lightly 
so very very lightly
that when you think about it
you will feel no longer where you end
and God begins.
 Centering Prayer Magazine from Snowmass Benedictine Monastery

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Stormy weather

Harbour wall at Arbroath, Scotland

Yesterday, heavy rain descended causing problems with our rivers and on our roads. Today the sea battered against the shoreline in Arbroath causing unwary bystanders to be soaked.

Stormy times batter our days.

The words of this hymn turn us in the direction of God's presence in the storms:-

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A Step Along The Way

Every year our church walks along the Ministers Walk between Glen Prosen and Glen Clova. Gordon (my husband) and I are pictured above on this year's walk. We have a service in Prosen Church at the beginning and a communion service at Clova Church at the end of the walk. Physical walking and spiritual walking are often closely linked. There is a well-known prayer called 'A Step along the way that offers us powerful reflections as we step out along our way today:-

 A Step Along The Way

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener  Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

All roads lead to Rome

The saying goes 'all roads lead to Rome'. And here is proof. I left Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland, the birthplace of J.M. Barrie, author of 'Peter Pan' to go on holiday in Rome. Walking down the streets of Rome I was passed by this bus .... Peter Pan too had followed the road to Rome!

Having taken the photo I was then left wondering - why had it appealed to me so much? I think it is to do with connections. I have a very strong bias for being connected to my roots. Whether that is digging around my family history or returning to places of my childhood or youth - I have a strong sense of belonging to people and places. Seeing Peter Pan in a far flung country drew me back to my adopted town of Kirriemuir. A feeling of familiarity and relatedness. It was a good feeling.

I had the same feeling on Sunday when I attended the Church of Scotland service in Rome. The week had been full of new experiences:- wandering among the ancient treasures of Rome, looking in wonder at the incredible artwork in the Vatican museum and standing in awe under the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. But, coming into the Church of Scotland building with all its' simplicity and worshipping in such a familiar way, I felt again that sense of belonging and relatedness. It was too a good feeling.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Behind the shutters

Looking out of a window onto another window caused me to stop and wonder this week. We were on holiday in Rome and the heat caused us to fling the windows open at any given moment. Down below we were entranced by the sounds from the street. Laughter from the pavement cafes, barking dogs encountering each other round corners, street sellers peddling their wares, bells from nearby towers - noises that all reached their way into our flat.

But, it was the silent unknown also caught my attention. Here I was in one flat with my own life, my own story contained within. While just across the way was another flat - hidden behind the partly opened shutters. I know nothing of the folk behind those wooden slats.

I know nothing of their make-up - who they are, how they live, where they come from or what they do. But, perhaps more significantly, I don't know the 'whys' of their lives.

Behind the why questions lie the root of who we are. Why do we behave the way we do? Why do we think in certain ways? Why do we respond to people in certain ways? Why do we choose certain paths than others? The answers can uncover deeply held beliefs and values that may actually need challenging from time to time.

Back in Rome and the shutters across the way remained closed. I will never get to know those people. But, those few moments of looking across into their unknown lives has brought me to my own shutters. And the possibility of opening them open a bit further and asking myself my own 'why' questions.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Scottish fiddlers in town


                      The Angus Strathspey and Reel Society

What a morning! The Angus Strathspey and Reel Society band came to Kirriemuir Old Parish Church. It was part of our annual music festival in town - the TMSA (Traditional Music & Song Association). The band came to play the music for our hymns at our 11.15am service. All the tunes were Scottish ones and each hymn offered us both praise and reflection. The one below is called 'Names they called him'. Each verse takes us through a time in Jesus' own journey. We travel from the manger, to his carpentry days, then onto his ministry and through to his persecution, his death on the cross then finally his resurrection and what it means for us. Hear the fiddles playing, hum the tune and join in with us in our journey of praise.

Hymn: Names they called him
Tune: Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie’

We proudly sing of how a King
Forfeited fame and security:
Born and brought up unknown,
A manger for his throne,
And they called him a victim of obscurity.

In faith he grew, in wisdom too,
Learning and loving with every breath;
He served his time and trade,
As furniture he made,
And they called him the carpenter of Nazareth.

Twelve friends he called were soon involved
Sharing his mission to shire and slum;
He healed the sick and sad,
He helped the poor and mad,
And they called him the man who made the kingdom come.

For doing good, for where he stood,
Rumours were spread with the worst intent;
His critics, unimpressed,
Disparaged those he blessed,
And they called him a threat to the establishment.

Cruel and detached, a plot they hatched,
Leading to death on the gallows tree;
Those who his grace had seen
Refused to intervene,
And they called him the dross of all humanity.

And yet we sing – this is the king
Who neither death nor deceit can kill.
By rising to forgive,
He sets us free to live
And he calls us to be his friends and followers still.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The value of friendship

Friendship is unnecessary, 

like philosophy, like art... 

It has no survival value; 

rather it is one of those things 

that give value to survival.

C.S. Lewis

Monday, 3 September 2012

A light in the garden

Kinpurnie Castle gardens, Newtyle, July 2012

In Murray Bodo's story of the life of Clare of Assisi, A Light in the Garden, some of these seasons of the soul are touched upon:

The lives of Francis and Clare are themselves seasons of every soul, and it has something to do with Assisi in the spring becoming summer, surrendering to the gentle mists of fall, lying seemingly dead in winter, and waiting for the poppies of another spring ...

You choose your vocation in life over and over again. It is not a decision make once for all time when one is young. As Clare grew in experience and in understanding of her commitment, she had to say yes again and again to a way of life that was not exactly the life she expected at the beginning.

(From Celtic Daily Prayer - Inspirational prayers and readings from the Northumbria Community)

Sunday, 2 September 2012



Whenever you run in a race, there is a lot of preparation to be done, and your plan is always to complete the race. But sometimes something occurs that stops you in your tracks.

Japan's first appearance at the Olympic Games was in Stockholm, 1912. Two athletes represented the country, including their marathon runner Shizo Kanakuri.

He began the race with the other runners but along the way was overcome with heat. It seems Kanakuri, on the verge of fainting from heat exhaustion, had been running past a banker's villa on the outskirts of Tureberg when he spotted people drinking orange juice in the garden. He stopped to quench his thirst but stayed a little too long - more than an hour. It was now, he thought, too late to get back in the race. He took a train to his hotel and caught a boat back home, too ashamed to tell anyone he was leaving.

For more than 50 years Shizo was listed as a missing person in Sweden until a journalist finally found him: he had spent several decades living a quiet life in southern Japan.

In 1966 the Swedish Public Television network called him with an offer: would you like to finish your run? The 76-year-old Kanakuri accepted and travelled to Stockholm to finish the race he had started so many years before. This time he did cross the finish line. His final time was 54 years, eight months, six days, eight hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.

Like Kanakuri, I have been somewhat side-tracked from my path for a number of months. This blog, which I have so much enjoyed writing, has been sadly neglected. But, now I am back on track. I'm ready to pick up the pen again (or whatever the equivalent phrase is for typing on a keyboard) and see what flows.

I could be annoyed at myself for having been side-tracked but I've decided that it is actually ok. Our faith journey can often have similar moments. There are times when we are going full steam ahead - everything flows and we are moving and growing. Then there are times when we stagnate or even go off the rails completely. Then there are times when we too are side-tracked. But, I do believe that God understands. We can be fickle creatures but God is patient with us. There may even be learning and growing to do in the side-tracks that will stand us in good stead when we feel we are back on the right path again.

Wherever you are in your journey, and however long it takes, Go with the infinite grace, peace and patience of God.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Today I went to Narnia

Today I went to Narnia and it was fantastic! The boys and girls at one of my local primary schools had recreated Narnia in one of their classrooms. You had to open the wardrobe, climb through the fur coats to enter the winter wonderland. Once in the room we were able to watch the children act out the scene when Lucy enters Narnia for the first time and met Mr Tumnos. They then went to his house for tea. Wonderful acting, all compete with sounds effects that they had made themselves and superb scenery. 
For me it was a great opportunity to re-enact one of my favourite scenes from books. I loved climbing through the wardrobe! What scene from a book would you like to be part of? What is it about that scene that resonates with you? 

I'm just thinking about what I loved about climbing through the wardrobe. It was something to do with the ordinary turning into the extraordinary. The potential of something that is an everyday item or occurance turning into the miraculous. That is at the heart about expectation and ultimately hope. The hope of things yet unseen and unknown. Life is such an adventure!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Shadow of the Galilean

Walking on the beach at Cruden Bay on Saturday, my husband and I stopped to take this photo of ourselves. We will smile as we look back - about ten minutes later the weather changed and it began snowing while we were still walking on the beach!

The photo reminds me of a book I studied at university called 'The Shadow of the Galilean' by Gerd Theissen. I loved the image that phrase brings to my mind. An image of Christ's shadow stretching down through the years (like my photo above) and covering us. He casts his shadow (in a good way) over our days and never leaves us. And of course, to be standing in his shadow facing him, we are looking towards the light.

Friday, 17 February 2012

My heart's desire

Two deer wandering in the grounds of Glamis Castle last week caught my eye. They brought instantly to mind one of my favourite hymns:-

As the deer pants for the water,
so my soul longs after you.
You alone are my heart's desire
and I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength and shield,
to You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart's desire
and I long to worship You

I want you more than gold or silver,
only you can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy-giver
and the apple of my eye.

You're my Friend and you are my Brother,
even though you are a King.
I love you more than any other,
so much more than anything.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

My kitchen is for dancing

When we were on holiday in America at a theme park there were warning signs in some of the rides. They were pictures of a moving  man with  a line through him - the message was to stay seated and not move around. As a family were would joke that the signs meant 'no dancing'. Whenever we saw similar signs we would point them out and say 'look - there is no dancing allowed here as well!'

My daughter came across this picture of an apron - "My kitchen is for dancing". And I endorse that whole-heartedly. In fact you can dance anywhere in my home.  For many years I was a highland dancer and thoroughly loved every minute that I was dancing. As a couple we love to dance and enjoy nothing better than a good ceilidh. As people often lose themselves in the music so too you can lose yourself in a dance.

Jesus himself is, as we sing, is the Lord of the Dance. May we follow in his dance steps - in the kitchen, the dining room or wherever we find ourselves this evening.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Fields of our hearts

When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again.
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again
Like wheat that springeth green.
                                                                                              - from a French carol

{Photograph taken - Memus, Angus - 5th February 2012 - Linda Stevens}

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Walking a step or two

Minister's walk - Prosen to Clova, Angus

Snow covered hills in Angus catch my eye as I drive to and from work. From a distance you notice their beauty. From afar all is pure and white. If the sun is shining you get the impression that the snow is glistening in the sunlight. But, if you were there, in amongst it all you may have a different impression. There may be challenges to be meet. The cold biting in for one. Or perhaps there would be slippery conditions underfoot. In extreme parts the deep snow may make travelling onwards virtually impossible. A reminder that when we look at another person's life we may not always get the right impression. It can be easy to make snap judgements - for better or worse. But, really, unless we are truly walking in their shoes, we have no idea what their journey is all about. What we can do is take the time to get to know them better and perhaps walk a step or two along the way with them.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The haggis mouse

Bearing in mind this is a posting from a girl in the glens it will come of no surprise to glean that the mouse on the plate is in fact some haggis! We are of course heading towards the anniversary of our bard - Robert Burns - on 25th January. 

Last night I had my first Burns Supper of the season. Our church had their supper at Memus Hall - we dined well on Scotch Broth, haggis, neeps and tatties followed by trifle and shortbread. The entertainment was superb with reflections, readings, poems, highland dancing and singing. The teenagers from our local high school were very involved in all of this and it was great to see them all undertake their tasks and performances with such keenness and aptitude.

Two of the girls beautifully sang a duet of Burns' song 'Ae Fond Kiss'
Lovely words and lovely music. If you ever drop into any of our church services in Kirriemuir and the Glens you will hear this tune played every week. We sing our blessing at the end of the service to this music. 
I will end with the words now - sing along if you wish:-

May the God of peace go with you,
as you travel from this place,
may the love of Jesus keep you,
firm in hope and full of grace.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A capsule of eternity

Looking out into my garden one frosty winter's morning I had to pick up the camera, head outside and capture the moment. 

A moment in time where I was drawn to the light, the shadows, the freshness, the wonder of my world.

Heading back inside, to the warmth and picking up my cup of coffee again. 

Feeling that I had, for a moment, been in a capsule of eternity and a certain peace descended on me.
Thou art the peace of all things calm
Thou art the place to hide from harm
Thou art the light that shines in dark
Thou art the heart’s eternal spark

Thou art the door that’s open wide
Thou art the guest who waits inside
Thou are the stranger at the door
Thou are the calling of the poor

Thou art my Lord and with me still
Thou art my love, keep me from ill,
Thou art the light, the truth, the way,
Thou art my Saviour this very day.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

A silent friend

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. 

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

From clouds to comforts

You mustn’t be frightened ... if a sadness rises in front of you, 
larger than any you have ever seen;
if an anxiety, like light and cloud–shadows, 
moves over your hands and everything you do.
You must realize that something is happening to you, 
that life has not forgotten you,
that it holds you in the palm of its hand and will not let you fall.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Taking front stage

Well, here I am,
standing here, in a good place, watching, waiting, 
It's gone well so far.
I'm happy with the progress.
I'm content to stay in the wings, waiting, watching,

But you had more in mind for me than that, didn't you?
So here I am, now centre stage.
Here I stand not knowing what end is up,
when I'd rather be watching and waiting in the wings.

So forgive me if I appear a bit overwhelmed.
Be patient with me when I don't quite know what's going on.
Understand me when I give the impression
that it's all too much ...

Oh, and this blessing bit,
this voice that I keep hearing when I'm out front, 
when I'd rather be in the wings, waiting and watching,
is that for real?

I hope so.
For now I'm here, instead of watching and waiting, 
I reckon I'll need all the blessing that's going.

Tom Gordon 
'A Blessing to Follow - Contemporary parables for living'

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A Change of Perspective

Gulls - Broughty Ferry, Dundee, December 2011

Don't you love this photo? I think it shouts out for a caption competition. Something like the guy at the bottom saying to the guy on the left 'No, I said turn RIGHT!'.  Any suggestions???

One thought sprung to mind when I stopped to look at this photo and that will be my thought for the day:-

"Sometimes you just have to step out of the crowd to see things from a different perspective."

I often think that that is what the journey of faith is like. We see the same things as everyone else but we can also consider them from a different perspective and weigh them up in that light. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Light of Luminous moments

Holy Island of Lindisfarne

David Adam, a writer in the Celtic tradition and former vicar of Holy Island and writes in his book 'Glimpses of Glory':-

"I love misty days when the sun suddenly breaks through, sometimes I have purposely driven high into the hills to rise out of the fog, knowing that it is low-lying fog and it can be overcome.

At the moment you nearly come out of the fog it takes on a strange brightness, a luminosity that promises something different. Then suddenly you are in a land of brightness and everything seems to be bathed in a new glory: sometimes it is as if the world is being totally renewed in colour and splendour, and we see creation taking place.

On Holy Island the main windows of our house face the west and the sunsets. On some cloudy days the sun manages at sunset to drop beneath the clouds and flood the land with light, every pool and bend in the river picks up that light in a reflected glory. It is then good to stop whatever you are doing for a few moments and let that glory enter you also. Occasionally I have to climb a small hill to see the reflected light better; I have to turn aside from what I am doing and take note of what is going on around me; I have to make an effort to behold the glory. Glory does suddenly break into our lives, yet we have to make the effort to see and experience it."

As R.S.Thomas wrote:-

'The Bright Field'

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it.
But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that i have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying ...
on to a receding future, not hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush: to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Being mindful of the present moment with its potential for surprise as God breaks through in the most unexpected ways.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

All weathers nourish souls

The child remembered how when she was a very little child she had sympathized with the grey sea.
The blue sea was a happy sea.
The green sea, when the waves thereof tossed themselves and roared, was a triumphant sea.

But the grey sea looked anxious.
So the child was sorry for the grey sea.
Grey weather she abhorred.

Something of this feeling was with her still.
Grey weather was not among the things for which she gave thanks.
Then God her father said to her:
All weathers nourish souls.
                                                                                                                    Amy Carmichael

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Less Ambitious Books

I've been Twittering away recently and enjoying the vast array of subjects that arise each day. Yesterday's fun slot were postings called #lessambitiousbooks. (The hash sign is a hashtag and links all posts with that tag word/s in it).

Some examples of #lessambitiousbooks were:-

'The Mediocre Gatsby',
'Medium Expectations', 
'Near the Looking Glass', 
'Harry Potter and the chamber of common knowledge', 
'The Grapes of Irritation' 
'The Girl with the Dragon Sticker,
 'Mildly Depressing House',
'Sort-Of Difficult Times'
& 'The Now-and-then Gardener'.

You get the drift! I love playing on words like that. Some made me laugh out loud and that is not a bad thing. We all need to find things that bring a little light to our days when so much of the input from the news and media is gloomy. 

Of course, nothing compares to joy that comes from inside.
The fruit of the Spirit. 
The joy of feeling right with God, 
at one with the folk around you 
and at peace with the world. 
That kind of joy is not a mediocre or a medium gift 
but one of the greatest gifts of all.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A Spring of Grace

 Swan on the River Tay at Broughty Ferry, Scotland - December 2011

Dipped into Margaret Silf's '2012 - A book of grace-filled days' for January 2nd. She writes:-

What was it that first drew your heart more consciously toward God? Perhaps a glimpse of the mystery - something you did not understand but intuited in a moment of deep peace - or of profound relationship with another person, or of awe and wonder in some aspect of God's creation. 

In such moments, a spring of grace breaks into our lives and potentially changes everything. Keep those moments alive. Let them remain alive in you and continue to empower and assure you.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Elementary my dear Watson

We love Sherlock Holmes. The books, the movies & the tv series. Tonight we continue to watch the series. It is great the way Sherlock deduces his information. He is so observant. Nothing goes past him. He absorbs all the minute detail that go past the other mere mortals who are with him. 

Not a bad way to be. Observant. Paying attention. Noticing the minute around us. Being aware of how our words and actions affect others. Noticing what needs our care and support. Appreciating the beauty of this world.

Heading into 2012 perhaps we could do with honing our observation skills and developing the Sherlock within each one of us!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Recipe for a Happy New Year

I came across this Recipe for a Happy New Year:-

Recipe for a Happy New Year.

Take twelve fine, full-grown months; 
see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, 
cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; 
pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; 
in short, see that these months are freed from all the past
—have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time. 

Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. 
Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time 
(so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) 
but prepare one day at a time.

Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, 
work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), 
hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, 
rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing— don’t do it), 
prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution. 

Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, 
a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor.

Wherever you are and whatever this year holds for you may the God of peace go with you.

Happy New Year!