Rumours of deeper things…


tents, in high wind

I am heading off with a group of friends to a small Hebridean Island for one of our ‘wilderness retreats’ next weekend.

Spring is here. Yesterday we played our first cricket match of the year (both Will and I out for 0 on a wet sappy pitch) and the garden is full of shy colours. I yearn for wild places.

My awareness of the significance of the wild in understanding myself, as well as trying to understand God, is a constant work in progress. I can make few definitive statements in relation to either. All I can say is that experience is more important than definition. So I continue to place myself in places where I hear rumours of deeper things…

In deep meditation

A few years ago I wrote a series of ‘dispatches’- short poems really- that I tied laminated onto bright card, then tagged to the top of canes. We have used them a few times, laid out along cliff tops or on circular routes around wild headlands. I was reviewing some material for this trip and decided not to use them again, but realised that the dispatches say almost everything about my own hopes and prayers for encounters with God. Here they are;


There are rumours-

Like smoke signals blurred in desert wind
They say

He is here

Not in metaphor
Not whipped up in the collective madness of charismata
Not just politely suggested by the high drama of religious ritual-


With mud on his shoes

Should I hide?

Should I stay in a fold of ground
And hope he does not walk my way?

I could never meet his eye
Knowing that the hidden parts of me will be
Wide open

How do I prepare?

I have no fine things-
No fine words
My shield of sophistication
Is broken

I am soft flesh laid bare
I am a fanfare to repeated failure

I am herald only to this

But this King wears no stately form
Wants no majesty

He walks gently
And has a humble heart

And he is-


Put down those things you carry
Sit with me a while
Stop making things so complicated
It is much simpler than that

Start from where you are
Not where you would like to be
Not where others say you should be
There may come a time
When I will warm your heart towards a new thing

But right now
I just want to warm your heart

It is not for you to cut a way into the undergrowth
Or make a road into the rocky places
Rather let us just walk
And see were this path will lead us
You and I


All around you is beauty
See it

Smell it

Feel it falling like manna

Look for softness in your heart
There I am
Look for tenderness
And it will be my Spirit
Calling you to community

My yoke rests easy
If you will wear it

And my burdens lie soft on the shoulders
If you will lift them

You are wrapped up in me
And I am bound up in you

We are held together by soft bindings
Like tender shoot and stake
Like mud and gentle rain
Like worn shoe and weary foot
Like tea and pot

Like universe and stars
Like ocean and rolling wave
Like fields and each blade of grass

There is now
And there is our still-to-come



And he was gone-

But still I am not alone

The Spirit is stirring the waters


Always ‘on’…

If you are an American teenager, you are likely to be ‘connected’ around 7-10 hours per day (according to this article.) By this I mean plugged in/tuned in to the net in some way.

If you are honest- how about you? I might spend a lot of my working day in front of a PC- on an office day, this may be 6 hours. I then will read a few blogs/websites, answer e-mails, then do some bits and pieces of writing into the small hours. On some days, I am up there with the teenagers.

“TV will turn your brain to Jelly” my mother used to say. This was her excuse for restricting our TV watching to only two programmes a week- usually The World About Us and (more bizarrely) Starsky and Hutch. However I have since over compensated for this televisual deprivation, and my brain is not yet jellied. The question is whether our increased addiction to internet based communication might yet mix our brains into some kind of (ahem) blancmange.

I liked the balance of this;

The greatest advantages of wired living are easily enumerated. Plugged into the world’s hive-mind, we have speed, we have range. We can research and reference much of humanity’s gathered knowledge – and gossip and opinion – in minutes. We have godlike capabilities and are increasingly adept at using them.

Unplugged from media’s live wires, however, our originality and rigour can come into play in a different, older sense that’s found in our capacity to make decisions, to act on our own initiative, to think freely, without fear of pre-emption. Much as we hunger for connection, we need to keep some sense of ourselves separate from the constant capacity to broadcast. We need tenses other than the present.

If the issue is about trying to make sure that we have time for both- how do we achieve this, particularly given the strangely compulsive and addictive nature of the connected world?

For some people, the suffusion of the present is increasingly attended by strain and anxiety, and a sense of lost control. For all of its challenges, we live in an era of near-miraculous, unprecedented opportunities.

Above all, though, every effort on our part should begin with the knowledge that without the ability to say no as well as yes to technology – and to understand what exactly it is that we are agreeing to when we do say yes – we risk turning modernity’s miracles into snares.

I would add to this an old discussion on this blog about the nature of on line communication, which I compared to a kind of Autism. On line communication allows for the sharing of lots of informational data, but for the most part lacks the nuanced, multi-layered complexity that characterises human face to face exchanges.

People who have autistic spectrum difficulties can find techniques that might help manage some of the contradictions and complications life brings to them. They might also have real strengths that are revealed in a capacity to perform some non-social tasks extremely well. But within social groups, they will often struggle.

Which is another way of saying that online time is great, but it is limited. For most people it is not enough, and if we ignore the other parts of who we are then they might wither and die, to our collective detriment.

All the more reason then (plug alert!) to build in some periods of electronic silence into your life. And how better to do this than to come on one of our Wilderness Retreats? Allow the noisy silence of wild places to wash over you…