Monday, 31 December 2007

What a Hoot

A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to one and all.
Where have you been I hear you say; well of course the truth is I have been nowhere at all.It is strange that the last thing I mentioned was to look out for the owls, last night as I walked through the village I heard them again up by the old cemetary.
Nothing has changed - though much has happened and I couldn't begin to tell you all about it. Losing emails and address book through a computer crash were minor irritations - sticking close to those who matter in times of need has been a priority.

his time of year brings presents, those to give and those to receive; the dreaded Christmas card list - lost with the emails and contents of the hard drive (I know, backup). I know I missed some folk and now feel I owe a little more than just a card; I feel some good New Years resoloutions coming on.

Freeview digital TV has arrived at the friary with flat screen cinema style viewing, we can freeze frame and with on demand - catch up TV - video - Dvd - hard drive recording; we shall never miss another programme again.
The illusion is controlling time, the reality is there is not enough time to cope with all the choices.

I love to look at the moon as astronomy was a bit of a hobby for me, brother Timothy has a great interest and we talk alot about the stars. The moon goes through it's phases and never changes; of course here in the Uk cloud cover keeps this celestial night light well hidden. However I managed to catch this photo earlier this month just befre it became full.
Note to evening office: Lord help me to focus on the things that do not change so I may cope better with the things that do.

Monday, 26 November 2007


The silver birch is standing tall, all the leaves have now gone. Still a young tree it looks very vulnerable when I think of our North east winters. Though it was necessary for the leaves to go, the young branches would not stand the weight of snow and there is goodness in the leaves for the ground life. The sea has been very rough recently though we are a few miles away I can hear it roaring when standing outside the back door. Just last week I looked out and caught sight of a rainbow, there was a pillar of colour standing a little higher than the parish church; I ran for my camera, large lens and tripod. It is nice to see a complete rainbow (sometimes a double) but these columns of light are amazing. The owls have returned, I have not heard them myself but a good neighbour heard them just the other night (kept her awake most the night she said).

I received an email from a friend far off who told me I should apply for a free book, it was regarding the end times. Evidently this is a prophet who has written a couple of books and (as they are so important) they are being given away free. I have received more emails now asking if I have sent for my copy. Being a suspicious Yorkshire man I looked up the author on the web, I did not go straight to his web site or any of the promotional sites linked to him. No, I found a web site that was telling me all about this man's dubious past and how we have heard all this before. It is interesting how we automatically want to discredit people, especially if what they are saying does not fit with us.

There has to be a line with this; the world seems full of truth / untruths / conspiracy theories and so many of them are cleverly woven. So where do I stand with all this? I know what I see in nature and the light and I base my time with people and tending to what is needed. The distractions can be only that, taking us away from what we are meant to be doing (what is important). Hours spent on the Internet, reading and discussing what might be! if we are "caught napping" when the Master returns, it will not go well for us. Focus on what is clearly true, so when you meet an untruth it will be seen for what it is
Note to evening office: Listen out for those owls, they are close by.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Pirates Aboard

he day started out quite normal, we were expecting visitors but not quite the upheaval that followed. A small family who's visit expanded and didn't leave us till early evening; how I was looking forward to switching off and having some peace and quiet. How can one child have so much energy and captivate me, drawing me into his imagination and excitement.

The first strategy was to occupy this little 2 year old through a children's Tv programme, (there not being many toys or games around the friary). This soon wore thin though there was some interest in a Pirate ship, I set out to find some soft cushions, material and other bits and pieces. Before long we had a mighty galleon - a Pirate ship complete with hat and cutlass, (we couldn't get the parrot to stay on his shoulder).

Through the day these component parts became a racing car and a space shuttle, I wonder who's imagination was the greater? There seemed to be bursts of energy, tearing around on all fours and climbing all over me; what fun!

It was a welcome break to accept the job of washing up after the meal, I was happy to suggest the rest of the group left me to it. Soon I was down to the last of the cutlery, amongst the soapy water I could hear a last spoon or fork but where was it? I fumbled and pushed my fingers against the bottom of the sink till I had covered the whole area, but it was nowhere to be found. This didn't make sense, I knew it was there - I could hear it and sensed where it should be. Finally I had it, the little boys plastic spoon; no wonder I couldn't find it, it was almost floating. I expected to find a metal spoon at the bottom of the sink, I was surprised how confused I was and how I would not turn away from what I expected. I laughed and thought, how typical of me; I fix my mind on what I expect, what I assume should happen and often reject any possible alternatives. Then, as the truth emerges it is obvious and as if I had always known it.

Note to memo: Lord keep me from revelations and awaken me to the things I have always known.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Many pieces

The friary is a hive of activity and relating it to bee's is the right thing to do; for it is in each person doing their part that enables it all to be done. Now I have noticed that some seem to be less busy than others, they seem to be quite content and blissfully unaware of the doings. This is not a winge on my part as I tend to be more content when I am busy. I guess I may be a little jealous; I find it difficult to set time aside for myself doing something I have wanted to do for a long time. Not being short on ideas and activities, projects and exploring; my head is like a library, full of books just waiting to be read - new knowledge - new skills. To be able to draw (successfully), paint, unlock the secrets of the stars or on a more practical side sort out the old family photos left by Aunt Mary.

It was during a time of searching through this library wondering what to start next that I decided to do a jigsaw. Realistically this was not a good idea as I did have a lot of other unfinished jobs and a 1,000 piece jigsaw of Notre Dame Cathedral is not a 5 minute task. It would on the other hand be some time on my own doing something I enjoy and I could leave it for a while and return now and then when I had time. There was a wind coming in off the sea and the weather looked bleak as I took myself off to the back room; the window looks out onto a most uninteresting part of the garden (no distractions), I turned up the radiator and began to clear the table.

For those of you familiar with jigsaws, it is a serious business and preparation is all important. Starting with the outside pieces, I remember my older sister always writing on the box (for next time) the number of outside pieces. It is not always easy to know whether you have the outside pieces in the right place - until you have the inside pieces (so that would be near enough for now). So there is a logical way of doing a jigsaw and it will depend very much on how difficult the picture is and everyone has their own way. Don't you just love it when there are lots of pieces that are clearly for one area or another but shades of autumn leaves, large areas of sky - paths - grass and roof!
I like to get on with a job and see it done, if there are going to be delays and lengthy tedious tasks - I loose faith that the job will ever be complete. The more I think about the jigsaw, the more it looks like my ever growing list of incomplete jobs; of course I could have chosen not to start it.

Focusing on the pieces my mind flits from one colour to the next, that surely goes to the bottom left and - isn't that part of the top window - perhaps I will just concentrate on the centre isle. Maybe I should learn to focus on one thing at a time and not be distracted till the first part is complete. I hope to tell you next week of my progress.
Note to evening office: in the chaos there is order - only visible after the event .

Monday, 29 October 2007

Night noises

Last night as I settled down to sleep, I was aware of noises around the friary. Everyone had retired some time ago and would be sound asleep by now. It was a still night and the moon shone through the trees (I like to leave my curtains open once I am in bed). The old friary has many rooms and corridors and it seemed as if I could hear it's groans and creaks from one end to the other. During the warmer months of the year you can expect the old building to creak a little as it cools down but this is autumn and far from warm. I was tempted to take a walk through to the other wing but sleep was calling and I was past the point of slumbers.

Voices in the kitchen and mutterings in the library, footsteps in the hallway and a general buzz through the house. How was I to get to sleep? It had been a busy day with guests, always good to see folk and listen to their stories; they come - some to unload and some just to find space. For the brothers it is a time of fuss and busyness, preparing food and making things comfortable whilst being available. A group in the library were pouring out their hearts while brothers in the kitchen were worried there would not be enough soup.

All in all it was a good day the echoes raced through my mind and I tried to quieten them. I began to walk through the day, praying a blessing as I went; through the corridors and rooms pausing for a while and bringing to mind our visitors. The old friary was settled and somewhere along the way I slipped into sleep (hope I didn't miss anyone out).
Note to office; a walk before sleep is very beneficial.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


Life seems quite stressful recently and I am not getting my regular messages out. The intention was to complete one every Sunday as that was the only time I got to use the friary PC. Now with my new Laptop I have no excuses; but can I find the time? Your taking on too much says brother Cyril (for once he could be right), ships need to come into harbour - cars into garages; and we need to take our rest, Cyril; what are you like?

I am surviving on Post-It's at the moment, they seem to be popping up all over the place. I have this idea that God has a large pad of Post-it's and is leaving them around for me to find, they make me smile and remember who is important and why I am busy doing the stuff I do. These may sound like trivial things to you; for instance, the other day I was anxious to complete a task for someone and at the last minute I found a snag - what was I going to do? A quick look through a few boxes and I found what I needed and counted out to see how many I had. Not one too many, not one too few - exactly the number I needed. Coincidence, I don't think so. Nature also stops me in my tracks, the beauty of Autumn - just as Summer is fading we are treated to an amazing display of colour. Why is it trees seem far more interesting in the fall than the early or mid stages of their cycle? There is hope for us old'ns yet.

Note to evening office: How many Post-it's did you find today.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

A place of prayer

This prayer seems to be cropping up in lots of places at the moment and well worth including here.

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor

To find a space, set aside time is never easy, especially when the doing is so important.
Last week I spent a day at Ministeracres with a great bunch of folk; all in similar ministries and needing time out to be.
In the opening session it was very clear to me I was in the right place.........
Note to morning office: Schedule more time throughout the day to lay down the "doing".

Friday, 28 September 2007

Whitby trip

A day out at Whitby; the photo's say it all - fresh air and a cup of coffee at Smugglers cafe. Mmmm

(Click to enlarge)...

I am fascinated by the different levels on this picture.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Back to black

Being away from the friary so long, I feel like an alien - a stranger in my own back yard. The garden is looking unkempt reflecting the way I feel though the silver birch is looking good! There have been changes, which were not on the horizon before I went away and fitting back in is a struggle. Many years ago my family had a dog and while on holiday he would be left at the kennels. There was an initial fuss when we returned, then we got the sulk treatment (you left me at the kennels. I thought you weren’t coming back). Life here of course has not changed in relation to the occupants, but I have been elsewhere.

My conversation is briefly acknowledged and I try not to sound as if I had a wonderful time; BUT I DID!
The first excursion was to a small seaside town, quiet and very clean. A short retreat, which I was in much need of, the programme was varied and included time to stretch our legs down to the beach (the photo is a few of my friends looking out to sea). There was a good balance of thought, prayer, sharing and laughter and we finished with a pub lunch on the Sunday.
Exploring the theme "Journey" we used a large rail card to write on, our destination / starting point / what we will take. I am pleased to have kept mine as the memory fades quickly and some of my writing I felt was important to me.

Leeds mission week was tiring, I am beginning to feel my age, we had some younger folk on the team and I was happy to do some of the cooking. The team were encouraged by the number of times we were in the right place at the right time even though it was not planned. God blesses a willing heart and makes good use of opportunities. The use of dance and drama on the streets drew young people to us and in Millennium square Saturday (after midnight) revellers joined in with us and shared some of their stories. Leeds is not a stranger to gun crime, terrorism and it was a privilege to be among many folk young and old as we served in school, church, street, pubs and clubs.

Last night was a pleasant surprise, a visitor who I had not seen for some time. It was a joy to hear how his journey with the Lord recently had taken off with a whoosh! The excitement and joy in his awareness of Gods presence was evident; and the sense it was not in his own strength moreover it was something he felt he did not deserve but in his service to others he was becoming all that God had in store for him. This was not the same young man I knew before, we prayed before he left and promised to meet again soon.

Note to evening office: Lord may I not despair but hold on to the hope I have in you.

Friday, 24 August 2007

A moment in time

A moment in time
a fleeting thought
gone without knowing
but then did it linger

Cassiopeia the big W
a clear sky tonight
I recall as a boy
stories of the night

Memories wander
and should I mind
to take that time
and hold it for a moment

To payback some respect
for the joy and experience
the person
the moment

More precious than life
is the time you can give
for another to recall
again and again.

for George and the many hours we spent talking about Stars.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

In - between

The old friary has many rooms and over the years, changes have been made. The corridors twist and twine through the house opening here and there - rooms without doors. The third floor (up in the eaves) is not used except for storage, books, files and boxes; Michael says we will have a sort out one day, but it will take so long that no-one mentions it any more. Some would say this place has character, others that it is in need of modernising or at least re-decoration.

Nooks and crannies, passages and cubbyholes; a living area and eating quarters, a place to rest and through this place we call home - a place to meet. It is all too easy to see the friary as a working place, a function we are called into and to be part of.

I tend to stride from one end of the building to the other, more intent on the ending than the journey; what I must do when I get there; prepare the dinner, layout the vestments, prepare the alter, weed the garden or harvest some peas. I am beginning to focus on the 'in between times' the journey to and from these events.

Brother Cyril seems happy for me to ramble on about all the things I have been busy with and more, the things I have yet to do. "Sit down for a minute" he will say, "take the weight off your feet", but I don't.
Perhaps the journey need not be so fast, as I pass through the rooms and corridors, do I notice the changes or the things that have always been?

We are like a house with many rooms, busy with our lives and paying more attention to the end result rather than the journey. I am due to go on retreat shortly and I am really looking forward to the 'in between times'.
Note to evening office, Lord may you find me in the in between times.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Don’t follow me (I’m lost too).

I have been wondering what I can tell you about life at the friary and how I can make it interesting; I would not want this to deteriorate into a soap opera – though I understand some soaps did start this way (oh my life)! Heartbeat started out as short stories and Herriot the veterinary. Fr Ted of course is totally fiction and has no basis in real life, written by comedy writers Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, who were educated by Vincentian and Marist’s.

Life is how we live it, and in the realms of the friary and monastery I have always (as long as I can remember) had the invitation “Come and see” the life has always called to me – come and see.

Jesus only ever said one thing: “come, follow me” and if the friary, monastery or home says one thing, should it not be – come and see.

How do we live together? I am sure you would like me to express the entire holy and perfect relationships, activities and completeness of our community. Sorry to disillusion you, we are just human and fall short in many ways. We have a structure in prayer, worship and devotion. There are formats for most of our way of life (our rule) but these can be empty if our way with each other is without grace.

We are not always good at recognising each other’s needs and prefer to charge ahead with our own images and agendas. Penitent workers in the vineyard is a good description, as through our format / structure we bring to mind our shortcomings on a daily basis.

We can feel safe within a structure and keeping strictly within the guidelines, we can blame someone else if things go wrong. Jesus teaching takes on the shape of a heart into which we are called – Come follow me.

Note to evening office, when I am looking at formats and structures, picture a heart.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

From black holes

Out in the friary garden, you may remember is a silver birch that is about five years old now. I had a closer look at it this week, and realised it needed setting free from the plastic cover that has kept it strait these past years. I carefully worked through the plastic with a sharp knife, trying hard not to nick the young bark (as if it would shout at me)? There was no doubt the plastic had to be removed, but what about the wind? It gets very windy in these parts and it is still a young tree.

Is it my intention for this tree to grow strait and tall and become a classic shaped silver birch?
I look around; and the trees I tend to photograph are the interesting ones, the ones that have been shaped by prevailing wind and toughened by the weather. If I were to grow a bonsai tree, I would try to shape the growth using strong wire frame etc (you experts can correct me on that one). We are what we are as a result of what life throws at us and often better - for the not so good stuff.

Brother Cyril has been off on one recently telling me about beginnings and ends and what it might be like to travel through a Black Hole (my goodness). He was carefully explaining his theory and I know Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle all spoke about the world being spherical; so I had some notion how these guys must have felt when no one took any notice. I was being sucked into Cyril's theory, what if he is right?

I am pretty much like the next man and live my life based on my life expectancy; with a load of life experiences thrown in for good measure. Now if what Cyril is suggesting is true, would this affect the way I live, what would change, should there be a change as a result of this new information?
"This is getting too much for my little head Cyril" and I left him down the garden.

But seriously, how do we respond to new information? Even now reading the bible, I see things I haven't seen before and yes it challenges me - even events in the newspaper challenge my thinking. How do I respond?
It is easy to turn a page, switch the channel or give some glib remark. Is anything going to change in me?
If an event in our lives results in no change, should it ever have happened?
Note: take two panadols tonight before evening office.

Sunday, 29 July 2007


oorland heather, sheep and grouse; Seagulls and the sound of waves crashing against the rocks. Wind in the trees and the smell of fresh cut hay. Things of value with no need of a price tag; time spent with friends without saying a word, a look - a glance and a knowing. I know these things are important to me and I am sure they are to you but where does it come from, how do we learn (its as if it has always been there). Coming down from the moorland towards the sea, it was quite early one morning and there before me in the rising sun; a large expanse of sand, the light shimmering across where the tide has just been. A solitary figure out in the middle of it all consumed in the art of Tai Chi. There was something quite beautiful about the movement, but it was more than that. An unexpected sight, but it was more than that. Poetry - a friend of mine says, dance like no-one is watching; now we are getting close. This person must have a sense of freedom and peace, to be able to be in full view of the world (taking it all in) yet be solitary and focused in the movement and process of the art. Oh boy, I wish I could do that! That is what it was, I would love to experience that, but dare I?

Occasionally at the friary we have a group of visitors that join us for evening service, sometimes this number is such that the singing really lifts the roof. You could not say I have a good voice; two brothers and I when walking one day and decided to break into song, we caused a small stampede of cows in an adjacent field. So when everyone is in full flood, I feel safe to let go and it does feel good. It feels like my worship is coming from me and God and I don't care what it sounds like, I am wearing a different set of ears. It is as if it is being drawn from me rather than being pushed out.

I am free to choose my friends, free to come and go, free to have my opinions and if I wish, say so.
The open spaces, the wind and the birds all cry out freedom; why then do I feel tied, bound and gagged.
The weight is heavy, the pressure is great, surely it will take a huge effort to release me. I am feeling empty when I know I have the capacity to be overflowing, I know as far as I am able that I am loved without condition.
Note to evening office: break the chains, loose the ropes. Be all you are created to be (in His love).

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Window gazing

Early hours here at the friary and my body is saying sleep yet my head is buzzing with all sorts of junk (bit like satellites orbiting our world). The cat is on the prowl and has been in to let me know, he has a habit of stretching out and digging his claws into me, guess I'll go down and put some biscuit in his bowl. The weather is very calm tonight and I can see clouds brewing, the wind has shifted slightly and I would not be surprised to see more heavy rain. Feel this is going to be a short note at least to pass on my latest news. I have managed to start a "Blog" (with a little help from brother Micheal).

What is a Blog? I guess it is a website of sorts / a journal of writings / pictures / links to others and you get to leave comments if you wish. So I have backed up my blithering so far and included some of my photo's. I guess the next thing to consider is; do I continue sending emails or would you prefer to look at the blogspot occasionally? This got me thinking about relationships and how they tend to fade when your not around each other. I went to a family function recently and cousins, nephews and nieces were all saying, why do we have to wait for weddings and funerals to see each other; we should meet at least twice a year for no reason at all. Then we leave - until next time. Awaiting your feedback on the question mark...

Windows are interesting things and I often find myself taking photo's through windows; looking at the view, but limiting it by the window frame. You can change the view depending where you stand or, crouch down to see only sky. The closer you stand to the window the more you see. Life experiences affect us in different ways, sometimes we retreat back from the window perhaps so we can't be seen or that we can't deal (at present) with what life is throwing at us. Other times we are right there up front and taking in all the richness of life and the window is no longer part of the picture. But the window does exist and it's ok to pull back, take stock. Mmm, worth a little more thought on that one, must go an feed that cat.
Note to evening office: remember to draw the blinds, sun wakes me up too early these mornings.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

19 July

Brother Cyril, you do the strangest things.

Breakfast time at the friary varies depending on how many of us are around; this particular morning we were all together. Mrs Johnson had brought some fresh eggs (local eggs from the village). I do like a boiled egg and soldiers, which is where Cyril came in “Atenn-shunn”! There on the table next to my two-boiled eggs were a dozen plastic soldiers, Cyril chuckling behind his newspaper. What could I say; I don’t even want to guess where he got the soldiers. Thought you would like that he said; oh yes; I did (you do the strangest things).

I have been up to my eyes in shavings recently and missed my time at the keyboard, whether you have missed me or not, I am sorry (for us both). You see I have been busy learning new skills and techniques, terminology and other words that could also have ended in ology. To fashion a piece of wood, chisel to shape; to draw out a vision, to smooth and polish lifting the colour and grain (encouraging something to the surface).
Learning the skill of the tools, finding the wood that is ready; but how do you know when you have finished? I forgot to ask my teacher that one!

Life at the moment seems almost boringly busy (does that make sense)? I am so busy that I can’t get anything done. I decided to make a list and ran out of paper and then thought I could have at least done two jobs instead of doing the list. Is this an age thing? I hope so; the alternatives don’t look good. Mother Teresa always said, when things get really busy we must find more time to pray. I do believe that it is important to find specific time for self and God, self & self and others. Trying to hold some balance, if I am not tending to my own time with self I will feel cheated and angry in other areas, lacking in motivation and not very effective (this is beginning to sound familiar). We have talked about time out before, there is veg-out, which is not very productive, a bit like having a great big meal; enjoyable but I didn’t really need it. Quality time-out with self must be like taking yourself to the sauna, tending to the joints that ache. When did I last have an overhaul? I listen to the knocking noise in the car but I don’t often listen to my groans and pops!
Note to diary: Book some time in for self and not as part of evening office.

8 July

Measuring Growth

Late again, thanks for being patient. The weekend took me away (as it were) and I found myself staying only an hour or so from the friary. Yes it was good to be away, if only for a short while. The humble abode (a haven of rest) was a small timber based structure close to river and woodland and I was able to take in some of the scenery. Around 8.30pm I was treated to the sight of four curlews screeching and soaring; Wow! what a feeling , curlews have to be a special favorite of mine and to see four was just amazing.

On to something more basic, the bathroom in this small habitat brought back memories from over 50-years; the smell was just like that of my Aunt Agnes's bathroom, I sometimes stayed with her when I was a child. Perhaps it was the wooden structure, you see Agnes and Bill lived in (what used to be) a WWII hut converted into a very nice bungalow. Tongue and groove wood paneling throughout the house, in fact I remember with my index fingers I could touch both walls of the long passage that ran from the kitchen to the lounge. It made a great sound as I ran from one end to the other (we darn't do it when Aunt Agnes was about). How strange how our senses can transport us back so quickly.

Back at the friary a little mopping up was in order as the continuous rain found its way through our old roof, Jim the local handy man is on his way, or so his wife keeps telling us. He does a good job and will be worth the wait and the forecast is a little better.

It will be five years since we planted the silver birch as a small sapling; I have watched its growth from the kitchen window. From my line of sight it was easy to plot its progress against fences and a building just across from us. It has now (by my line of sight) reached the roof top. There is nothing now to compare the hight of the tree or monitor its growth, what am I going to do? How important was it for me to monitor its growth so far? It didn't help the tree one bit, it managed quite well without me and I am sure it will go on long after I am gone. Children grow up fast, from crawling to toddling - walking to running and before long you are talking face to face. I remember a silver birch in our garden many years ago, this one was good for climbing and I managed to get a rope over one of its branches to make a swing. I got to know the silver birch, the leaves were a delicate shade of green and the bark seemed to be wrapped around the trunk and splitting, curling off, silver. From curlews to silver birches and aunt Agnes's wooden bungalow, just some of my favourite memories.
Note to memo pad: - Not to measure growth, but to appreciate it.

1 July

Time out

Late evening at the priory and once again all is at peace; the weekend has been little different than any other, busy with visitors, a couple of trips into town and a game of chess with brother Cyril. I have been helping out in the library this week and ended up feeling depressed. The number of books I have come across that I have meant to read and never got round to, if that wasn't bad enough I then punished myself by saying - when are you going to read them? Time, there is never enough. Have you seen the new advert for Internet on your mobile phone? The song is "April showers" and it is raining clocks (at least clock components / springs and cogs) as if buying this mobile phone gives you power over time; very clever, the advert seems in slow motion too. This must be one of our greatest desires, to control time or at least rewind or stop for a while (to hold the pendulum).

There was a little boy on the beach with his father and it was the time of year when the tide goes far out. "Where is the sea Dad"? asks the boy, "it's out at the moment" replies the father "but it will be back in a while". Always with one more question, "Dad, why has the sea gone out"? the father thought for a moment and said "so it could come back, unless something goes, how can it come back again"? "Can I have an ice cream Dad"?

Amidst a busy life, demands on time, commitments and self-expectations; unless we go out - how can we come back again. Like the tide, we need to go out and view things from a different angle - we need to be in a different place. There is a rhythm to the tide as there is a rhythm to our breathing, to the ticking of a clock, to a heartbeat. It should be no surprise to us that we Build in - Time out. But we don't (or at least I don't as much as I should).
Memo to busy notepad, leave a page blank, find a space each day - someone else may want to write on it.

I must apologise for the email about Age; I have had some comments back about the guy who wrote it and looking at his web site he is a little on the strange side, not for Sunday afternoon reading. Fr Alan in New Zealand sent me that one (in future I must check them out before I send them on). I sometimes worry about my age, this week I have found myself talking to the cat. The library door has been open most of the time while I was working and of course the cat found its way to the cosy chair. Mutterings of disapproval finding many books out of sequence and reciting some of Wordsworth's poetry (couldn't resist) I think he enjoyed it! Well its a clear night tonight and very little breeze, I guess this time of day for me is my time out. I need to value it and maximise its benefits. I'm just remembering, last year we had a couple of owls but I have not heard them at all this year, I wonder what has became of them?

24 June

Weather forecast

Perhaps it's the change in the weather, but things have felt different around the friary of late. Now I know it may be the holiday blues, having not been back that long and now brother Timothy has the photos printed he is buzzing about it all and is planning his next trip.
We have noted a few points on the guttering that need attention and a whole strip near the back door looks like its need of replacing and when the wind and rain really drives in from the north we get leaks in the garage where the extension meets the old part of the building. What a dull start to my weekly dialogue and how easily we reflect the weather.

I feel like Eyore from the story of Hundred acre wood (all doom and gloom), I need to go and find Poo bear who always has something positive to say. Don't think I could cope with either Tigger or Rabbit they are seriously off the scale (though they do make me laugh). So who is your little ray of sunshine when the clouds are gathering? some words of wisdom from Poo maybe all that is needed. I have a small friend who is larger than life itself and if I told you he has spiky hair, you would be assuming all the wrong things. He's not a punk or a chav (though I do see him in hoodies) he is creative but not a hippy and I have never seen him high on anything but life. You know, just thinking of him lifts my spirits; cheers Buddy!

The rain has eased of and the birds seem louder than ever, I have a small window open and can hear them down the garden towards the orchard and across to a nearby farm, a few cars in the distance merge into the background. Trying to pick out the individual birds, blackbirds are easy, some finches and we have a song thrush. They call to each other and seem to take turns, the overall effect is just amazing - I reach for my Ipod and then change my mind. Oh yes, brother David now has an Ipod with songs from Simon & Garfunkel to Madame Butterfly, I swapped the whiter headphones for less conspicuous ones to hide under my habit. Perhaps I will record some of the bird song from the orchard.

I guess I could describe my self at the moment as a little changeable (like the weather), from tranquil times to some of great stress and concern and most of the time its all about fitting in with others. This monastic lark is great, I first thought about solitude and long periods of contemplation, working in the garden, reading and contributing to some literary work.
I imagined the life of a hermit - and then they thrust us into community (great)! But really, it is not all gloom. There are many of us on the same journey and some of us get to travel on the same bus for a while (others get on and off at different stages).

Note to memo pad: Must get off and see Buddy next week.

17 June

Value - Friends

Brother Cyril and I seem to have been in and out of each others company a lot recently, there was an event that we were all invited to and parties are not quite my thing; so I stuck with Br Cyril and whiled away the time. Thinking about this afterwards, I was using poor Cyril as a hiding place to avoid the chatter. I do get a little awkward when people greet me and I am desperately trying to remember their names - who they are and where I last met them. I have frequently been corrected e.g. "No, that will be Mary, she was a Jones before she was married and her sister is Anne". Of course a couple of glasses of wine numbs the brain and tends to make things worse. Cyril however smiles and chats away about all and sundry, folk tend to flow with him and laugh a lot. Many years ago Cyril would be regarded as the fool, so why is it that I now feel the foolish one? Being in Cyril's company was a blessing, I probably met more people and learned a little more as I was able to listen while others were chatting, nodding in what I hoped were the right places. Cyril nodded off in the car on the way home, Michael was driving of course enabling the rest of us to enjoy a drink - a most enjoyable evening, but I was glad to be back in my own room.

A dear friend of mine called to see me the other day and we went for a walk. She shared how things were getting too much at work and this was affecting her relationships, friends and family. As so often when these situations are shared, we feel the pain and suffering that they are going through - we feel helpless because in reality, what can we do. To say I will pray for you is indeed helpful but I need to Do something that Will make a difference - yet I am at a loss. But you know there is something that can make a tremendous difference I thought. To Value this person, to Appreciate and enable them to feel special. Approve of them and encourage them and to be there at times when they least expect.

Time is getting on and the rest of the friary is in darkness, I did hear someone in the kitchen earlier clattering around. I think I will take a hot drink up with me. It is around this time I go through many mental checks, has someone put the cat out or is he curled up in the library (there is a soft armchair he quite likes) - is everything set out in the chapel for morning and who is on breakfast duty (if it had been me, Michael would have reminded me earlier). I do like this time of night, when everyone else is in bed and settled - then I can settle my head and take my rest.
Memo to notepad - Call my friend and find something to say to make her feel special.

10 June

Distant Shores

Well it is nice to be back and how the trees have filled out and the richness of colour. The Mediterranean has a different beauty, which for me is wonderful to visit, explore and soak up the atmosphere (not to mention the sun). Spending a few weeks with Brother Timothy was a blessing, he asked so many questions and marveled at the sights. Timothy operates in a different time and space; I tend to move around at a gentle - constant pace whereas Timothy is racing from one sight to the next; he sleeps soundly and I am up and down 2-3 times a night.

I did manage to escape a number of times and found my own space. Early one morning I took myself off for a walk along the coastline, a rough track wide enough for one vehicle, which led to the harbour. Looking out to sea I imagined St Paul approaching in a small fishing boat; no doubt he hitched lifts all the time? I am sure the rocks at the shore-line and for some distance in, have not changed in many years and Paul would still recognise the land. We need to travel in to see the changes and still in the midst of the new is the old; the foundation walls, pillars and drainage systems.
Applied to ourselves we need to reverse this completely, how we are on the outside - our dress and how we appear is ever changing. When we travel in we find our foundation stones, pillars and a touching place where the sea meets the shore.

Calling at a bakery I picked up some pastry's, a bottle of water and rested at a 4th century site within which was an active church. It was good to be out of the habit and looking more like a tourist. It is interesting how people are drawn to these old sites, where little changes throughout time. I sat for a while and watched the cats that live there. When the workmen have finished and the tourists have gone; the sun has left the sky for another day, the cats will still be there.

This area is well known for its leather goods and over time I began to think about buying a new pair of sandals. The problem was, I was not sure whether I would be comfortable in a new pair, and these old ones were now moulded to my feet and were as a part of me as my fingers and toes. Perhaps (I thought) if I get a pair and hang on to the old ones just in case, that would be sensible. On the other hand I have had these old things for a good few years. I quickly converted the money and thought £24 seamed a lot for a pair of sandals but in their money it seemed a lot cheaper - so I bought them. On returning back to the apartment I paused at the side entrance, took off my old sandals and dropped them into the bin - there I thought, it's done. I was quite surprised to find just how comfortable my new sandals are.

Office, while I was away seemed to take much less time than at home and I puzzled over this. Was I skipping some, or rushing through without giving time to devotion? I think it was being away and in a different setting, I was more relaxed and did not have my mind on "friary stuff"; that I was able to pray through the office effectively. It felt good.
Note to memo pad :- enter in to a right frame of mind before opening the office. (each day is a holiday).

11 May

Tasks v Time

Yes its Friday (not Sunday my usual) but I thought I would get this off now, as the weekend is looking frantic. Only a week to go before we fly and I said I would take Brother Timothy shopping for a few essentials. His passport arrived eventually much to my relief and things seem to be coming together. However, feeling quite tired at the moment but I am sure it is just the rushing around dealing with things before we go. Then there will be much to do when I get back – listen to me, I think I ought to delete that last line it doesn’t show me in very good light…. How would life be if we could delete something we had just said; you know, when you realise you have just put your big foot in it! Perhaps someone will invent a device to cover that.

During my ministry I have been involved with young people on drugs, they taught me a lot and one thing I remember was they used to get flashbacks after taking a drug; sometimes next day. Well, I can assure you I have not knowingly been inhaling anything illegal; however I have for some time now been experiencing flashbacks (I put it down to age). I may be walking, driving or about my usual duties when I catch a sense of something in my past – a memory. These are always good memories, which pull me into a sense of well-being and contentment; recalling family, friends, places and events. I am getting used to it (though it doesn’t happen all the time). It may just be the particular colour or shape of a tree, the wind blowing across a field of moderately long grass, looking more like waves at sea. Part of my family has a farming background and much of my childhood was spent in the countryside. Perhaps some eminent psychologist could give a detailed explanation?

Brother Cyril caught me today, he was looking for a fax machine; goodness knows what he was going to do with it, said he wanted to copy some documents (can you do that)? We headed off to the old attic and blew some dust off a Sharp ZX something; Cyril has loads of odds and bobs in his room I guess a fax machine would not be out of place. He is a gentle eccentric man but at times in conversation comes out with some profound things. I often get trapped by Cyril and drawn into whatever world he is visiting that day, I really don’t mind but it is frustrating as I don’t get done the things I want to. I seem to be both Mary and Martha in their meeting with Jesus one preferring to sit and listen to what the Lord had to say and the other busy in hospitality tasks.

Evening office: (note to diary) Lord, help me to see the value (equally) in time spent with others, and in tasks.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

6th May

The Mission

I feel as if I have very little to write as I sit down and start to click a few words to you. Things are always busy here at the friary and this week is no exception. Preparations are almost complete for our trip (you could say pilgrimage) Brother Timothy and I are off for two weeks following some of the journey of St Paul. Timothy is young and excited and I....... well I'm sure we will have a great time - perhaps I will write a little (I have started a short story for a friend).

It was last Monday morning just after breakfast, I had an appointment about 4-miles away and decided to take the car. Now I do enjoy music, which is not easy to listen to in peace at the friary, so the thoughts of a CD at a suitable volume was sheer joy. Something classical and vocal took my fancy and I pulled out a copy of The Voice by Russell Watson. The first track was from the film The Mission, I'm sure you recall it. The film was wonderful and the music some of the best I've heard.

Although I was driving down a country lane, the music took me somewhere else completely; I felt a sense of peace and wonder, love and accomplishment. It is difficult to recall this accurately some days later but I was in no doubt that if I could maintain that state, that it would be a wonderful state to live in.

Now you are probably saying, David has lost it - joined the ranks of Brother Cyril; but I thought about this and I know how affected I was by the film The Mission and I thought how close the word Mission is to Passion.
My passion is for people - to help, to teach, to empower and if I dare - to be radical.
The music - The Mission was releasing my passion and I do believe when we operate out of our passion, great and amazing things happen. It is what we are designed to do. An athlete may be a good chess player but s/he was born to run!

I am sure there is a lot more to ponder on around this experience, have you felt the same?
Office prayer (most of this week) Lord help me to not hold back. Amen.

Monday, 16 July 2007

29th April

Distant memories - alarm bell

Life seems somewhat hectic at the moment, the more tasks I seem to complete, the more there are. The friary feels different - can't put my finger on what! I could tell things were mounting up when I went to bed the other night; I lay awake for some time and found myself imagining I was at my granny's house. This is somewhere in my past I can retreat to when things are getting tough. Listening to the wind in the trees - there is no sound quite like it, in no time I was sound asleep.

Next morning the temptation was to get stuck into the many chores of the day but remembering my visit last night, thought I ought to address the need (reduce the stress). It really is wrong not to recognise and act upon these simple messages or prompts. I could of course dump some of the work on Brother Cyril, he is happy to plod away at simple tasks but I can't see anything that would suit him. Brother Michael is more capable but would insist in going the long way round everything - it would become a major project; no there is only one thing for it, I will have to get on and do it myself. I will ask Brother Timothy for some prayer support and talk things through with him (he is a good sounding board and just listens and nods). I felt better already and strode off with purpose.

No matter how many times I go through this process, I still get caught out (imprisoned) by stress. My car has a red line on the rev counter to let me know when I need to shift gear, if I had a similar device relating to stress on my wrist, would I take notice of it? Why do I always think I know best?


A bit like an error message on a PC, I really must take notice sooner.

Being aware of how we are, how we feel and how we react is a good measure of how we are. Jesus said "I come to bring you life, and life to the full" He does not expect you to be a super hero and save the world before tea time. Focus on being aware of who we are, how we are and the rest will follow.
Morning office today - Lord help me to practice what I preach; Amen.

22nd April 2007

You are here...

Walking through a large shopping centre, two stories high and all the shops look the same. Yes I know they all have names and sell different things, but they are still just the same (little boxes); and at every turn there is more of the same.

This excursion / expedition into unknown territory was something I was happy to do and the company was very pleasant; still I felt like an alien in this environment and vulnerable because I was now on my own. Smiling and apologising as I bump into folk, they seem to head straight for me no matter which way I turn. Then I saw what at first looked like a side show where one might win a 20p prize for a 50p ticket; it turned out to be a map of the centre listing all the shops – colour coded and in bold letters
You are here.

Now I am trying to tell you how I felt when I read that, it seemed to be shouting at me as if were stupid (and I’m Not)! I know I am here; but what the layout is saying bares little relationship to where I am. I look around frantically to get my bearings because I want to believe the map and eventually find my way back to the car. Do I trust my instinct as I am sure I came this way earlier and all the time I am getting more annoyed with this statement – You are here.

Through the noise I heard a familiar voice – David, David, I am here. All was well, my companion would lead me back to the car explaining all the time how simple it was and don’t you remember these shops etc. That evening it was a joy to be back at the friary (I felt safe) and my evening office concluded with You are here. Amen

Easter 2007

Christus Resurrectus Est! Vere Resurrectus Est!
Le Christ est ressuscité- il est vraiment ressuscité!
Christ is Risen, indeed He is Risen!

I wanted to be the first to wish you a very happy and blessed Easter, so I am sending this at sunrise.

Have you noticed recently the amount of greenery coming through; the hedgerow that was bare is beginning to green up. It is as if someone has been along with a pot of green paint and a brush - there are lots of vertical stripes dotted along the shrubbery and this weekend has been just lovely. I managed to escape for a short walk on Friday and took in some of the good air. There were many tourists (visitors) around but I felt strangely separate from that but close to God's creation.

Recently I had to do some preparation work, which required me to take some measurements. The overall project was to be produced by a number of folk and relied on good communication and some technical art work. Now I have already told you I can't draw. When the materials arrived it was found to be too short so without delay more was ordered and when that arrived - it was too big, but better to be safe hey! The artists got to work and set it edge to edge, yes you guessed it - too big.

I arrived early to set out the project armed with scissors and tape, this was going to be a Cut n Paste job (or so I thought). I really couldn't believe my eyes, it didn't just fit - it was a perfect fit. Now I have been around long enough to know that God can work through our inadequacies and weaknesses, but to say I was gob-smacked would be an understatement. I had to laugh, just me and God - an empty room and this enormous....

Later that day brother Michael started to explain (in detail) how he thought things had gone wrong, or was it right - now I am confused; brother Timothy just said "God knew what he was doing" enuf said!

Sunday, 15 July 2007

First Blog

Well lets see how this turns out...
My first Blog. Brother Michael is helping out of course. Initially these are copies of emails I have sent out to friends through 2007; eventually I will catch up with myself.
Best regards - David