The art of whacking stones…

Yesterday was Sabbath.

For us that means that our little family are close together, resting (although Emily fitted in some sailing- she is in one of the boats in the shot above.)

It has been a rather difficult time of late- deaths, illnesses, conflict in our wider families. There is also so much to do, and I have this constant feeling of time passing- of an opportunity to do something that I can not miss.

But when all is said and done (or even when it is still to be said and prevarication holds sway) there is always the art of stone whacking.

This involves three things- a beach, a stick, and some stones.

It is an activity that can be done alone (but best find a very secluded spot or people will stare) but is best done in small groups.

Stand sideways on to the sea, toss stone in the air and whack it as far as you can out into the waves.

You will miss many, but some will fly.

Psalms for the downshifter…

So, this Sunday morning, we rested.

We ate fried egg sandwiches and drank deep from the tea pot

And we were grateful; for the company, for the sounds of the morning kitchen, for the warmth of the stove. For a day uncommitted and time owed to no-one.

And we talked again of dreams for living better. Living more openly, more lovingly, more sustainably. Not because this is some kind of right that we can demand, but because grace is to be found in most things. Not because life should be easy, but because direction should not be determined by the ruts made by other peoples wheels.

I do not often quote Scripture here, but I came across this- and offer it as a Psalm for all of us who are looking to live more simply;

Psalm 62 (from the Message)

5-6 God, the one and only—
I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I hope for comes from him,
so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:
I’m set for life.

7-8 My help and glory are in God
—granite-strength and safe-harbor-God—
So trust him absolutely, people;
lay your lives on the line for him.
God is a safe place to be.

9 Man as such is smoke,
woman as such, a mirage.
Put them together, they’re nothing;
two times nothing is nothing.

10 And a windfall, if it comes—
don’t make too much of it.

11 God said this once and for all;
how many times
Have I heard it repeated?
“Strength comes
Straight from God.”

12 Love to you, Lord God!
You pay a fair wage for a good day’s work!

Sabbath beach…

I have a confession.

For most of my life, I have spent most of Sundays in Church- all those high pressure mornings in some leadership role or other, often followed by reluctant evenings (even if they did turn out to be a real blessing.) But that is not my confession.

Rather it is this- for the past few weeks, I have spend Sunday mornings playing cricket.

It still makes me feel guilty though. Despite the fact that we do ‘church’ differently- we meet in the week, as well as other times.

But this is a chance to do something I enjoy along with my cricket mad son. It is a chance to connect with some other blokes, and to get some good exercise.

And Sunday, I remind myself, is about rest. And all those years of busyness- they were certainly not restful.

After the training session this morning, we went for a picnic- to a local beach out beyond Tighnabruach on the other side of the Cowal peninsular. The sun shone, it was almost warm, and the scenery was stunning.

Lambs in the fields, snow on the Arran mountains, still waters beyond perfect sand. Catkins on the trees and frogs spawning in the ditches.

This will be a day to remember.

A real sabbath to remind us to stop- and to be grateful.


Postcards from the western fringe 7- fishing for souls…


Had a lovely day today- touring the north of the island with Emily. The weather was mixed, but we even sat on a beach for a while today, before the wind and rain drove us back to the car.

Talking of wind- there was a tornado in Stornoway last night! The school that Will and Michaela are doing classes in as part of the Feis was damaged.

This afternoon we really enjoyed meeting up with Gayle Findlay for a cuppa. She moved up here from Bristol about a year ago, and has a great blog recording some of the transition.

One subject that is hard to escape – both as a visitor to Lewis, and for incomers- is the central importance of a particular kind of rigid faith to just about everything that happens here. It seems to shape the very landscape, or perhaps is a response to the savage environment.

The dominance of the Free Church of Scotland with its severe, Calvinistic and (at least to outsiders) legalistic approach to the life of faith has been the driving force for communities here for much of the last 100 years. The church casts a shadow that I confess (as an outsider) I find oppressive.

In saying this, I do not mean to be offensive to fellow Christians. Their context and journey is so very different from mine. I have been stirred by stories of transformation during the Hebridean revival. It is a story that has been retold to inspire us to eagerly chase after revival. Check out this American video-

I once heard revival described as being like a volcano- all fire, smoke and hot flowing lava. Soon the smoke and fire lessens, but the lava still flows, even if the outer core crusts hard over. Eventually however, the crust is all that is left. It is from this solid rock that the walls of churches are built from.

I took two photographs today that kind of summed things up for me. The first was this one-


In these parts, Children are not allowed to play on the Sabbath. Or not openly anyway.

I note the the Free Church youth magazine is called- Free.

The other photo was this one…



There was a river next to this graveyard, but the irony of the fishers for the souls of the dead needing a permit from the kirk made me chuckle.

Particularly as such frivolous practices were not to be indulged in on Sundays.

The wonderful gift of empty days…

Today is Saturday.

And we have nothing planned.

No visitors are coming to stay (although I love having visitors.)

We have no major tasks at hand (although there is great fulfillment in a job well done.)

I am not on duty (and work can just go hang for a while…)

I do not have to worry about planning church stuff for tomorrow- after years and years of weekend church business, I now can enjoy the occasional sabbath…

Sure there are many things that I could/should be doing- gardening, cleaning, decorating, sorting out, planning for the upcoming Aoradh event. But I feel no pressure to do any of these things.

I may just so nothing…

And days like this, they are like sonnets. And they turn me all poetic.

Slow Saturday

Saturday morning
You and me
Stacked like school chairs
Racked together like delicious dishes in the dishwasher
Quilted by the wonderful possibility
Of an empty day

Me holding you
You wearing me
Like a film star in a fur coat

You told me that I had fallen back to sleep
And that you liked the sound of my snoring
And I curled closer

And the chatter of a blackbird outside our bedroom window
And the sound of slow diesel engines out on the estuary
The creak of boards as Will heads for an appointment with a pokemon
All these sounds of the approaching day
Are beautiful

Like you

So open up day
Like an Alpine picture window

I’ll put on the coffee