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.