Wednesday, 30 June 2010


An evening stroll at Romford Golf Club
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
William Blake, from Auguries of Innocence

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


At one point a completely random thought popped into my mind. I have liked the music of the band Runrig since I first saw them in the Union when I was a student in Edinburgh. I've also been fortunate to see them more recently in Cambridge and last year in Southend. I remember many years ago when one of the band Calum Macdonald (note the correct spelling of Calum!) was being interviewed and was asked about the Christian nature of some of the songs. His response was "well Rory and I write most of the songs and we are Christians." It wasn't a conscious decision but just something that happened – they were Christians so it was natural that their faith would be seen in their outlook on the world and life. I wonder how true that is for us; that whatever we do, whatever choices we make in life, can our faith be seen so clearly by others.

Matthew 7.7-8

"ask and it will be given you; search, and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened"


Lord, I come to your awesome presence,

from the shadows into your radiance;

by the blood I may enter your brightness,

search me, try me, consume all my darkness.

Shine on me, shine on me.

A long way...

"The longest journey is from the head to the heart."

Psalm 131.2

"I have calmed and quieted my soul..."


"You are precious in my eyes and I love you." Isaiah 43.4

St Patrick's breastplate

In Chapel we sang a hymn based on St Patricks breastplate; Christ be beside me, sung to the tune Bunessan.


Shea, if you're reading this can we add it to our repertoire at St Michael's? (I've also come across another really great Bernadette Farrell hymn using Psalm 139 but don't know the tune)


Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,

Christ be behind me, King of my heart.

Christ be within me, Christ be below me,

Christ be above me, never to part.


Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,

Christ all around me, shield in the strife.

Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,

Christ in my rising, light of my life.


Christ be in all hearts thinking about me,

Christ be in all tongues telling of me.

Christ be the vision in eyes that see me,

in ears that hear me, Christ ever be.


I was staying in a Roman Catholic retreat house run by Jesuits, following a time of prayer based on the spiritual exercises of Ignatius. I'm an Anglican with strong Presbyterian roots and my guide was a Swedish Lutheran – God does have a sense of humour QED!

The Lord's Prayer

At the end of one of my prayer sessions I prayed the Lord's Prayer and without stopping to consider which version to use found that I had reverted to the version of my childhood – forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.


Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done;

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

the power and the glory,

for ever and ever.  Amen   

John the Baptist

At the Eucharist on Wednesday evening we remembered that the next day the Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist. In his homily the Priest reminded us that it was 3 months since the Annunciation and 6 months until Christmas – where has the year gone?

I couldn't find any locusts, a robin eating a caterpillar was the best I could do!


I've been without internet access for over a week, so haven't posted anything to my blog but I have made notes to cut and paste. I have managed to survive almost 8 days being incommunicado with the outside world. I have even managed to keep silence apart from the daily session with my guide and worship in the chapel. Although I had my mobile phone with me I have been very good and only used it as an alarm clock and to send a text home saying I'd arrived.


I bought myself a newspaper to read on the train, to try and catch up with what's happened in the world. I'd guessed England had been knocked out of the World Cup as I'd not seen any flags on cars this morning. Interested to see the Independents suggested team for 2014 with Ipswich's Connor Wickham playing up front; just hope he scores for Ipswich next season. Pleased to see that Scotland is still being represented at Wimbledon – keep going Andy!


I haven't taken many pictures this week, I've actually found it quite hard to see things I wanted to photograph (hard to believe, I know.) I don't know whether it's because I've been focussing on God and our relationship, and photography has felt like an unwelcome distraction. I really appreciated the opportunity to have this time away; to spend time in quality prayer without any distractions and responsibilities.


I'll post a selection or random thoughts and pictures for you from my time away.


Monday, 21 June 2010

packing again

No photos today; think I'm photo'd out from last week!
I've spent the evening packing again as I'm off on retreat tomorrow, I'm away for 8 days so may not have a chance to update my blog 'till I get back. I seem to have spent a lot of time on my Sabbatical packing my suitcase and then unpacking it again. I've only just caught up with the last lot of washing.
I watched the DVD of the film Julie & Julia at the weekend as it was suggested that I might find it an interesting reflection as it tells the story of a writer who set herself the challenge of cooking all the recipes in a book in a year and keeping a blog about it. I'm pleased to say that I don't think that I've been quite as paranoid about the task I set myself of photos and reflections - I've managed to do something most days but have felt quite relaxed about it when I haven't had anything to post.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Beginning to reflect

I've not abandoned my blog since returning from the Holy Land but have found I just don't quite know where or how to start again. Postings and photos for the last week became more of a travel log and record pictures than I had intended but I found that with the busyness of the days I didn't have a huge amount of time to engage in personal reflections and I knew that several people wanted to see where I was each day..

It's not easy to put my thoughts into order because we saw so many different places and experienced such a wide variety of things. I feel that it is only now I can really begin to digest some of the feelings I have about my time away. It was a wonderful experience but quite tiring; both physically and emotionally. It was a great privilege to meet and journey with a bunch of great individuals, I hope that we will be able to keep in touch. I found myself having conversations about whether we were pilgrims or tourists and concluded that although we were both, hopefully we were more than just tourists.

I go off for 8 days this coming week on an individually guided retreat so suspect that I will have some opportunities to start to unpack bits from last week. I guess that in the weeks and months to come I will have further opportunities to explore and ponder on my experiences.

It's not easy to get to grips with the political situation in Israel and Palestine. There are so many different nuances to it all. We hear selected bits in the British media and you get a bit more of a feel when you are out there but it is much more complicated and complex than is easily understood; even when you begin to have conversations with different people. Our guide was an Armenian Christian, the hotel we stayed in in Jerusalem was run by a Paleistinian family, the hotel in Tiberias by a Jewish family and our driver was Muslim. The leaves in this picture seemed to begin to sum it up for me - the separateness with the overlapping, the light and the dark where some leaves are on their own and others have several layers, there are parts where everthing seems clear and others where it is far more muddled.

Despite my lack of clarity at the moment I do know that I want to visit the Holy Land again and would encourage others to travel there too.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Plants and insects in the Holy Land

I took photos of lots of plants and insects; here's a small selection

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Tuesday 15th June

I woke up early and as I couldn't get back to sleep looked out my window at 5.45 and saw the most beautiful sunrise.

Today was spent exploring around the Sea of Galilee (known also as Lake Gennesaret, Sea of Tiberias and the Syrian Sea.) We visited the shore of the lake at Mensa Christi and most of us appreciated walking along the shore. Whereas many of the sites we have visited have churches built on a holy place or possible holy site and it has not always been easy to imagine Jesus and the disciples there; the shoreline looked much as it must have done 2,000 years ago and it felt entirely possible that Jesus had walked in the very place that we were.

A short drive took us to Capernaum where we could see a variety of ruins and the probable site of Simon Peter's mother-in-laws house. Several of us then watched a kingfisher sitting on the pier.

We visited the lake at Tabgha where we shared bread and wine in an outdoor service and then visited the church of the loaves and fishes.

We then drove to the Church of the Beatitudes and had lunch in the Convent; we had St Peter's fish - very bony but delicious.

Our day continued at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar where we caught a boat back to Tiberias. It was quite a still afternoon but once we got out on to the lake the wind picked up strongly - I wouldn't have wanted to be out there in a storm.

On returning to our hotel I had time once again for a swim in the lake and pool before beginning to pack my bag before dinner as it's an early start in the morning – breakfast at 4.30 in order to leave by 5.00.