The Gathering

DSCN3534Many years ago I awoke and made ready for the day ahead. Spirits soared at the prospect of ascending the lofty ridge towering high above Glen Kingie. My heart leapt in anticipation of standing atop Sgurr Mor to survey the wild and piercingly beautiful handiwork that has emerged from the celestial crucible. A herd of deer leapt with me. Rugged mountains plunged breathlessly into the depths of shimmering sea lochs as the gulls swooped silently below my feet. From the sparkling, tumbling burn I could hear an orchestra of sound as sunlight shimmered and danced on its bustling surface to the ambrosial conductor’s quickening tempo. Isolation amidst raw beauty- wind; sun; rain; river; sea; mountain ridge; the silence of solitude. A time of rejuvenation; of communion with God; of self-discovery.

By the end of the week the silence felt louder than the shrieking winds that seemed to slice through rock itself. My senses were heightened- high mountain grasses thrust skywards like individual spears of rusty red and burnished gold; the cold and hunger made for unwelcome bedfellows; the imposing flanks of Sgurr Mor appeared as monstrous tidal waves looming through the gray and damp mists, threatening to engulf me as readily as the wild beauty was ready to consume me. I felt alive, joyful, and afraid in equal measure.

Following Ash Wednesday, we take those first tentative steps into the lenten journey. Each year as I look inwardly and outwardly, I am reminded again and again of that heady sensation of fear, of joy, and of life I experienced in the mountain wilderness. I bring on this path my successes and my failures, my joys and my sorrows. Every year that we gather we are each drawn, week by week, closer and closer, to our own high mountaintop and to the parapet of the Temple where we feel the tension as our own failings meet with the path Jesus has set out for us to follow. I am not yet ready to gaze upwards at that blood encrusted cross- but at this early stage of the journey I give thanks for the gift of life and the people in it with whom I share its glorious mysteries. And I thank God for the gift of the Church in holding love, grace and forgiveness as lanterns to guide us.

He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Luke 4:11 NIV)



I have again joined a choir. I love singing with a choir. In normal life singing is an elitist occupation – the X Factor hopefuls alternately lauded and then derided. Our society does not seem to have a place in general for tuneful singing.
But then there are choirs. Some choirs are elitist, selective of their members. I have been in such, sneaking in under the radar. My present choir has an open door policy. I look around and see a cross-section of adult society – teenage students to those whose age has made them careful as they walk. And met together for a single purpose – to weave voices together under the direction of our choirmaster. In so doing they become so much more than their individual efforts.

What is happening?

I have house guests, for six month or so – indefinite board and lodgings.

One is a ball of fluff, the other a tiny wee, feisty thing.  They spent their first night and day moving from under one article of furniture to another. Hiding… trying to work out what was happening.

Then, they ventured out to join the rest of the four legged family.  A very grumpy cat, who is such a lovely creature, but only in her own company.  A hyperactive dog, whose main aim is just… to play. Lots of growling, barking and hissing ensued.  No claws though (apart from on my husband, who only wanted to be a friend too).

This morning, as I got up to do the usual rounds of filling bowls with food and water, there was a kind of ballet being performed as each creature moved from room to room with hardly any contact.  The initial worries, struggles and growls are being worked out amongst each animal as they learn the boundaries and expectations.

Yesterday the theme of the service was self-discipline and what we need to do during this Lent season and beyond to be good Christian people.  This is a time of self-denial, when we struggle to give up things that we love.   A time when we meditate on Jesus, his struggle and turmoil.  I am pretty sure that there was a lot of self-discipline, struggling, turmoil and understanding of each other happening in this household over these past few days amongst cats, dog and  people.

There will be joy at the end of this journey.