All posts by Dan


“Carrying a candle from one little place of shelter to another is an act of love…look how the human hand that cradles it has become translucent: fragile and beautiful; foolish and loving. Step by step. The wind is stronger than this hand and the darkness infinite around this tiny here-and-now flame, that wavers, but keeps burning: carried with such care through an uncaring world – from one little place of shelter to another. An act of love.

The Light shines in the darkness…and the darkness can never put it out.”

Jan Sutch Pikard

It has been a busy few but lovely days. I didn’t know until this morning that light was an ongoing, emerging theme. It began without my knowing on Sunday, when Brenda insisted we go out to see Edinburgh in the early morning. We were not disappointed.

Sunrise at St. Giles

We later attended communion service here. (watch the whole thing if you’d like, or just take in the amazing choir pieces, or catch a glimpse of Brenda and me at about 1:03:50) St. Giles is the High Kirk of Edinburgh (the “capital” of the Church of Scotland in a sesne) and the parish church of John Knox.

It was such a privilege to worship there. The liturgical calendar dictates that the subject on the Sunday after Easter is the so-called “Doubting Thomas”. What a deep encouragement to be included in the blessing Jesus gave to ALL OF US when he said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” That’s me. That’s you. When you think about it, it has to do with light. Seeing, strictly speaking, is simply light bouncing off something and entering your eye. Blessed are those who have not had the light bounce off Jesus body and enter their eyes…but instead receive the light directly…not reflected, not projected, but manifested inside them. It’s the difference between standing in the spotlight, and being the spotlight. Matthew 5:14

Sunrise over M’girl

The theme continued (again, unconsciously) for the next three days. Each day either began with a glorious sunrise, ended with a wondrous sunset, or both. We’re at about 55 degrees North latitude here (about the same as Ketchikan, Alaska) and so the Spring light comes at you from a lower angle. It plays differently on scenes of budding trees, singing birds, emerging grasses and rising mists. The light is thicker. It feels almost like a liquid. It has substance.

Sunrise over the Cloister

This week has been an “Inner and Outer Retreat” at Nether Springs. That means 6 people are here to live the rhythm of the day with those of us on the house team, but we serve them. They are given some resources to focus on deepening their relationship with God (inner) and offered support for exploring some of the sacred places in Northumberland (outer). These moments of weighty light have been occuring in the chapel during the daily offices. There’s a sense that the light is a participant in the prayers.

Time for both Brenda and I has been split largely between KP, and being available to the retreatants. This means chatting before and after meals, sitting in silence after prayer, and in one case today, providing some one-on-one guidance with their inner work. Another real privilege.

As I mentioned before, the landlords at Acton House put aside cattle a few years ago and started an alpaca herd. We can see them out of our bedroom window. But on Tuesday this week, a few younger ones were dropped off to be added to the group. Apparently they are quarantined for a few days before being introduced to the grown ups, so they are kept in a pen down by the vegetable garden, where I was able to get in some garden work while these knuckleheads looked on. They make a remarkably cute sound if they’re in a curious, welcoming mood.

John, Paul, George and Ringo

May your light shine forth today. Protect it. Know that, though it seems insignificant it is a power that God has placed in you, and therefore it can NOT be insignificant, only misunderstood.


We chose to head north rather than south with our days off. First stop was highly recommended by team member Sandra’s 10 year old nephew, Zach. He was right…St. Abb’s Head.

Double pretty
The Village of St. Abbs from the bluff
The Parish Church at St. Abbs
Just one of a hundred amazing views

We spent a great day taking in the beauty at St. Abb’s then went back to New Battle Abbey College where we had lodging for the night. After a cafeteria breakfast with a gaggle of Brazilain students we set off for Roslyn Chapel.

Our special shaft of light

Roslyn Chapel is another “thin place” (yes, they’re everywhere around here) but this one is a little different. As I stepped across the threshold, I had the familiar sensation of the weight of Christian history settling on to my shoulders like a well fitted pack. I looked up at the ornate ceiling, the exquisite beams and the multitude of carvings and I felt the tears well up. Such devotion. Such commitment and effort. So much treasure, time and talent. Yes, of course, it’s not a simple story of earnest Jesus people cooperating in perfect harmony to construct a symbol of their love of God. Right. Like that’s EVER happened. But the fact remains, this building and others like it were not built in honor of a pagan god. They were not built for love of a woman or a political ideal. For all the complexities, corruptions and greed…it was still a cross that hung above the altar. These old places of worship just get me.

But in Roslyn, you’ll find amongst the the carvings over 100 examples of the “Green Man”. A controversial image to be sure, likely having origins in pagan ideas of fertility and rebirth, but also a symbol of resurrection. As early as the second century images like this become associated with the Christian faith. I’m no expert on the topic, but based on what I have learned, I believe that the presence of the green men is a beautiful, elegant adoption of the truth of the Christian faith by my pagan ancestors. They heard about Jesus, about his death and resurrection and kind of said, “Oh! So that’s the part of the story we’ve been missing. Cool!”…or something like that.

The Wallace memorial from Stirling Castle

From there, we traveled an hour west to Stirling Castle. Steeped in history, it’s not as well known or perhaps as…epic as Edinburgh…but it’s deeply significant in Scottish history.

James VI Sitting Room; Stirling Castle

I could regale you with many more pictures, but a Google search will return all you need and better than I took. We made a stop at Bannockburn Battlefield on the way back, then take-away fish and chips and turned in.

Got the rental car returned today with only a little drama: I have become relatively confident navigating “The Benz” around country lanes and “B” roads, but the busy, multi-laned oblong-abouts surrounding Edinburgh and in the city are a bit much. Got honked at a few times but only wound up going the wrong way down a one-way street once. Funny how people felt the need to stop their own cars and explain to me…IN DETAIL…how I had erred, preventing me from doing a U turn and correcting my mistake.

Managed to see a few sights around Edinburgh we haven’t seen before. I’ll try to share a few pics later. It’s late and my bruised ego is in need of a rest.