Tomorrow we set sail.

I am not quite sure what we will find when we land on Jura.

Neither am I quite sure how the whole social thing will work out- we are forming a temporary community of people who mostly do not know each other.

We are hoping to spend time seeking after God, but he can be so mysterious can’t he?

What I am reminded of is that old Celtic monastic tradition of peregrinatio, or ‘Holy voyaging’, which in practice meant to get in a boat, and simply to set sail. No destination planned, simply trusting to tide, wind and God. The destination of such a voyage was not geographical, but rather spiritual. The goal was to arrive at ones ‘place of resurrection.’ Arriving at journey’s end inevitably meant an actual physical place also however- and it is these places that still hold the memory of these voyages all over Argyll- in the place names, the folk lore, and also in the marks and mounds in the earth out on exposed headlands, or on tiny islands.

So, in anticipation of our own homecoming, I am going to re-post a poem that I wrote a few years ago, dedicated to that great voyaging monk, St Brendan

Lord stain me with salt

Brine me with the badge of the deep sea sailor

I have spent too long

On concrete ground.

If hope raises up these tattered sails

Will you send for me

A fair and steady wind?

RIP little red car (and one small deer…)

Can you believe it- we have had another small crisis in our family!

Michaela hit a deer on the road next to Loch Eck the other day. The poor little thing was startled by the head lights and tried to get over the road back into the woods. Michaela had no chance to avoid it, as she was driving at over 50 MPH. It must have died instantly, flying up into the windscreen on Emily’s side.

It was only a small deer but what a lot of damage! Bonnet, grille, wing, subframe, radiator. Given the age of the car it is almost certainly a write-off.

But neither Michaela nor Emily were hurt, beyond a few bruises. It could have been so much worse- for us anyway. Not for the deer.

Wilderness trip, Jura- next weekend…

A few of us are heading out to do some wild camping on the west coast of Jura this coming weekend.

We try to use it as a ‘retreat’- and share some deliberately spiritual activities, as well as a lot of laughter and the odd campfire…

I chartered a couple of boat runs to take us out there from Ardfern- the boat will go out through the amazing Gulf of Correvrecken with it’s world famous whirlpool, and drop us off on the wild north west of Jura. This is utterly wild country, no roads, few paths. Lots of wildlife.

Because (as always happens with these trips it seems) a few people have had to drop out at the last moment, we are down to around 11 people, and this means that we only need one boat run.

If anyone else still fancies coming along- it is not too late! It would be a shame not to use the boat we have booked…

Drop me a line if interested…

Landfall, Scarba, 2009

That old trickery called theology…

Regular readers of this blog will know my interest in reading some of the ancient poets of the middle east. One name often stands above all the rest- Jelluladin Rumi. Rumi reminds me that we Christians would do well to be a lot more careful about our instant rejection and condemnation of anything that comes from a different faith perspective.

(Incidentally, lest we stay all highbrow about Rumi- some of the subjects he wrote poems about were, shall we say, rather fruity!)

An old friend sent me this quote today- which was so good I will repost it here… He had seen it on Maggi Dawns blog.

Those who don’t feel this love pulling them like a river
Those who don’t drink dawn like a cup of spring water
or take sunset like supper
Those who don’t want to change
let them sleep…
This Love is beyond the study of theology that old trickery and hypocrisy
If you want to improve your mind that way sleep on.
I’ve given up on my brain I’ve torn the cloth to shreds and thrown it away.
If you’re not completely naked wrap your beautiful robe of words
around you and sleep.

Aoradh family day…

We had a family day with some of the Aoradh folk today.

This usually takes the form of a shared meal (lots of good food) and then some worship. Today Paul led the worship- which started with a game of hide and seek! Brilliant.

I love it when we come together and share like this. It is simple and profound.

Paul used these words for us to speak out together…

Circle us Lord

Keep protection near

And danger afar.

Circle us Lord

Keep hope within

Keep doubt without

Circle us Lord

Keep light near

And darkness afar.

Circle us Lord

Keep peace within

Keep evil without.


The old birch woods above the Kyles…

I have had a lovely day today.

It has been a gorgeous warm spring day, and I took a walk in the hills with Andy. We drove over the Cowal Peninsular to Colintraive- around a 20 minuite trip- and walked up through the farm into some lovely high country- broken craggy tops with little walkways and ridges to climb through. We disturbed only the odd sheep, accompanied always by lambs.

The views out over the Kyles of Bute were great- a little hazy, but full of the movement of yachts taking advantage of a favourable wind to fly through behind brightly coloured spinnakers.

We came down through some birch woods, just coming alive. We were surrounded by the noise of brooks and birds, and walked through a carpet of cowslips.

I have wanted to explore these woods for ages. They look so inviting from the road at any time of the year. In the winter they are almost purple-bare, but around the spring time, they start to wear a bright bright green as the buds come through.

A couple of years ago, a woman who was staying at the Colintraive hotel went for a walk somewhere in these parts. She was never seen again, and not a trace of what happened to her has ever been found, despite extensive searches. It must have been incredibly sad and difficult for those she left behind. She kept coming to mind as we walked. It must be incredibly difficult for the loved ones she left behind, but today, it did not seem to me to be such a bad place to have your last resting place. May she rest in peace.

A few years ago I took a little walk in these parts on my way home from work- and wrote a poem. So here it is!

With all the optimism of the early spring

I turned the car from the road home and looked to the hill

Taking the camera more for motivation I head for the high point over the Kyle.

I feel the old excitement in the smell of wild places

All around I can almost hear the soil coming alive

The whisper of the wind in the larches sounds like blood flowing

Sap rising

And, unconcerned as my unsuitable shoes take on water,

I climb through heather and the old years dry grass

Up through ancient Gneiss outcrops

Still holding the shape of their birth in lava poured out in days so distant

That there seems no point calculating.

My feet cut into slow growing mossbanks

And scatter the stalks of bracken

And in the moment, I fear that I bring a human rhythm,

In this place unwelcome, discordant

Drowning out the stillness

Oil on water

I notice blackened heather stalks swept by fire

Perhaps lit by a smouldering cigarette last summer

And remember that this place is everywhere marked by men

Close cropped by the sheep, the land curves towards

The regimented contour crop of Spruce trees in the valley below

And half hidden, there is the evidence of older dwelling places

Now memories in the soil

Barcodes in bracken and dead nettle

Feeding on the residual richness

Leached from these poor houses

Whose people drained away.

Then perspective shifts again

To the far horizons

Across the sparkling Kyle lies Bute

Then beyond, Arran’s hills rise above Lochranza

Still wearing winter white against the blue sky

I stood and gloried.

Awed by things much bigger than I

By creative forces far beyond my understanding

But by Gods grace

Not beyond my reach

Blessing received, I take photographs recording only human spectral light

Then scramble back to shiny car, and head, too fast, for home

Anxious to see my loved ones

Eager for my own slice of civilisation.

St Georges day, England and protesting…

It is St George’s day today.

Patron saint of old England.

(It has an interesting perspective from Scotland of course.)

Despite the apparent rise in popularity of the day as a significant celebration in England, a survey quoted on Radio 4 this morning  claimed that only one third of people in England were aware of the day, 40% did not know why St George is our patron saint and only 10% would happily fly the flag of St George.

The same commentator suggested that much of what we associate with St George is in reality a Victorian invention- killed by the Howitzers of the first world war. An idea of martial muscular Christianity, allied to the service of empire.

More recently, the flag of St George seems to have been associated strongly with football and the National Front. Laddish yobbishness and fascism… not something thing that I can feel any kinship or identity with whatsoever.

St George killed no dragons. Neither was he English. Rather he was a thought to be a third Century roman soldier who refused to participate in the killing of Christians, resulting in his own death. He was a man who lived in the shadow of Empire, whilst following a different way of being, taught to him by Jesus.

So those words of Blake written on the flag of St George above- about the building of Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land- or at least amidst it’s dark satanic mills- I always find them slightly ridiculous because of their association with England as Empire.

But it might be possible to read the words in a different way of course. Perhaps truer to Blake’s original meanings.

Because there is another England.. something deeper that is still precious to me, and so today, on the day of St George, patron saint of old Albion- I want to celebrate something English- particularly as we approach another election.

An England of protest and struggles against power by the working man. An England of the Peterloo Massacre where people died so that you and I can participate in free and fair elections (although to be fair it was a while longer before women had the same rights.)

An England where tolerance, fairness,  respect and gentility are valued. And where there are infringement and disagreements, then there are folk songs…

I have been listening to Chris Wood’s album Handmade Life recently. I really like it, but Michaela does not like his voice. For me, he stands in a long tradition of English folk protest singers.

As a further celebration of Englishness of a kind that I can celebrate, here is one of his songs called ‘Let the Grand correction commence’.

Another narrow escape!

Hmmm- I am beginning to wonder if someone as got it in for me (“Infamy! Infamy!….)

(Or perhaps someone is really looking out for me.)

I had a brush with danger again this morning. Driving on the narrow road between Arrochar and Helensburgh I encountered an articulated lorry coming the other way, filling the whole width of the road.

I was not going very fast, but our combined speed must have been around 50 MPH, and I met him on a corner.

I had a choice- the lorry or the ditch, so chose the latter.

Ripping two tires to bits in the process and bending one wheel like a banana.

And the lorry?

It did not even stop.

And no, I did not get the company or the registration.

Ah well, in this case, it is only money…

The roads of Argyll- they take their toll on us all.

But there are some compensations to being around here of course-

Who will feed the cat if I am raptured?

I was checking out ship of fools as I do from time to time. And I saw this

There are usually a few things on the site that make me laugh. There are such rich pickings in the American mid west if you want to find some weird Christian stuff to stretch your eye-brows at.

This particular clip asks the real question of what happens to our pets should we rise with a trump and fly unexpectedly.

For those who are not familiar with the concept of the ‘rapture’, check out Wikipedia’s entry on the subject. If (like me) the concept of living a life in eager expectation of being sucked into God’s big hoover is unappealing, then feel free to not bother. However the article includes this list of previous predictions as to when it was going to happen-

  • 1792Shakers calculated this date.[citation needed]
  • 1844William Miller predicted Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, then revised his prediction, claiming to have miscalculated Scripture, to October 22, 1844. The result of their being no second coming was referred to as the Great Disappointment. Miller’s theology gave rise to the Advent movement.
  • 1977William M. Branham predicted in 1962 that the Rapture could take place by 1977[citation needed]
  • 1981Chuck Smith predicted that Jesus would probably return by 1981.[47]
  • 1988 – Publication of 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988, by Edgar C. Whisenant.
  • 1989 – Publication of The final shout: Rapture report 1989, by Edgar Whisenant. More predictions by this author appeared for 1992, 1995, and other years.
  • 1992 – Korean group “Mission for the Coming Days” predicted October 28, 1992 as the date for the rapture.[48]
  • 1993 – Seven years before the year 2000. The rapture would have to start to allow for seven years of the Tribulation before the Return in 2000. Multiple predictions.
  • 1994 – Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in Los Angeles predicted June 9, 1994. Radio evangelist Harold Camping predicted September 27, 1994.[49]
  • 2011Harold Camping‘s revised prediction has May 21, 2011 as the date of the rapture.[50]
  • 2060Sir Isaac Newton proposed, based upon his calculations using figures from the book of Daniel, that the Apocalypse could happen no earlier than 2060.[51][52]

If Newton is right- you have time to make sensible preparations for the care of the goldfish.

Just make sure that the proposed carer for your pet is not exposed to any tracts, lest conversion robs your poor moggy of some cat-mint…

By the way- this article by N T Wright makes very good reading on this subject…