Encircling Love

Let my eyes be for you a reflection of your soul: see in them the compassion and love which is in you.Let my ears hear your whispered fears and, in hearing, keep you safe.

Let my voice comfort you and, in my words, hear your own sweet solace mirrored there.

Let my arms enfold you, strong and sure, and feel the encircling love of Christ holding you.

Let my heart be open to you and, in that trembling vulnerability, hold us both secure.



The old year dies slowly,

in storms of howling winds,

rattling in the chimney pots,

tearing at the naked trees,

ripping them up, exposing buried roots….

thus are the mighty fallen.

The old year dies slowly,

the old year dies slowly,

felling the ranks of our heroes,

stealing their music, their song,

their magic…

and leaving a deathly silence.

The old year dies slowly,

taking the icons of our youth,

those who reached for the stars,

and became thus themselves.

And led us dancing into dreams

and fantasies,

replacing drab reality.

The old year dies slowly,

with veils of mist

and tears of rain;

with fading light in tired eyes

and darkness.

Yet as it sinks in death throes

the new year is brought to birth.

Tom Dooley

Tom Dooley was a tramp.
He lived high on the Staffordshire moorlands
in an old ruined shepherd’s hut.
He had patched it with salvaged wood,
with stones and mud.
He tramped the roads and tracks about,
the heathery slopes,
The groughs, the peat hags.
He wore a cap, black with age,
a coat patched and worn,
boots tied with string
and a bright chequered scarf,
incongruous colour in a sepia picture.
He built his fire of deadwood,
Of dried peat and scavenged logs.
He ate of bread and cheese, strong onions,
rabbit trapped and skinned and cleaned,
roasted on a makeshift spit.
I heard it said his real name was Colin Ralphs,
a name belonging to a life unknown.
A name given him, reminiscent of family,
childhood, school and friends,
in an age before he sought this
harsh existence,
which to him was peace.
Peace he sought after the violence,
the evil, the death, the destruction,
that he had seen in the war,
that war to end all wars.
It ended, not war, but Tom Dooley’s hopes,
desires and future promise,
driving him away to this barren place.
He took from the world a meagre living.
He gave to the world his silence.
Not once did I hear him speak,
and yet, one day, as I drove past,
he stood in the red phone box
on a crossroads miles from any house,
and he held the receiver to his ear
and he was talking…….

Tidal Wasteland

Coorlie, the cry echoes bleak across the tidal flats;

late afternoon, and autumn sun reflects in wet mud,

shimmering shades of brown & mauve,

a faint line of silver grey marks the returning sea.

Cooorlie, a thin & mournful sound,

pierces the darkening sky, skims across the no-man’s land

between the tides.

Can anything live in the wasteland?

Coooorlie, and a curved bill penetrates the ooze,

emerges triumphant with some blind & squirming creature.

Ghostly shades of sanderling flutter & dart & run out on the water’s edge,

a graceful swirling dance, partner to the creeping waters.

Coooorlie, the curlews cry, as the twilight deepens into night,

a thin chill wind begins to blow.

My steps hasten towards the lighted window and the bright new flames of fresh dry wood.


There is a doorway in the mind;

beware you who find it and step within.

It will lead you into dark labyrinths

of circles, dead ends and hidden turns.

In four dimensions it spirals

from giddy heights to unfathomed depths,

from before time to all eternity.


Pause a moment,

your hand upon the latch;

will you step within?

There will be no return, traveller,

to that shallow place which

seemed to be all there was.

Once through that door you will wander

a way unseen and unknown.


Others you will meet along the way,

those who have succumbed

and stepped through their own secret door.

They will walk a while in tandem

but do not cling to their company

for they will leave you

and you will mourn their passing.


For many miles you will walk alone

through storms, through nights as dark as hell,

with ghosts and horrors

as your midnight companions.

None can reach you on that path;

they can only stand and watch,

with arms you cannot see

stretched out in love.


Times you will drop to your knees

exhausted, unable to crawl another inch,

unable to raise your head;

unwilling to look ahead,

unable to turn back.

What will you then, traveller?

Will you question your sanity?

Will you regret your choice

as you stood on the threshhold?


Beware the secret paths of the mind, traveller,

there are waterless deserts within,

dense forests and raging torrents,

hidden wells of pain,

of tears and shame and guilt.

Knives will pierce your soul

and you will bleed.


Why would you lift the latch, traveller,

why step onto that path

that lasts through all eternity?

Have courage!

For those who dare, for those who  yearn,

who ask, who  seek, who knock,

there are rewards beyond belief.

Sunrise follows sunset

and day comes after night.


Comfort and blessings you will have, traveller,

oases of peace and calm,

days of warmth and sunlight,

nights of velvet moonshine;

a rare sharing of souls, arms quick to hold

and the strength of another to lean against.

And the path you will call your own

will ensnare you with promises of wonder.







Waiting for the Lord

Here am I, waiting for the Lord:

waiting, waiting…

as life and times pass by.

Here am I

waiting for the Lord.

In this ancient place of worship

where prayers are soaked into the stone;

where people come, friend and stranger,

to wait for the Lord.

Is he here? I cannot see.

Is he speaking? I cannot hear.

And so, here am I,

waiting for the Lord.

But I am one of action,

lacking the patience of saints.

I need to walk beyond this place

for there will I find the Lord.

Not in that place

but carried in my heart and soul

from the place of worship where I waited

for Him who was always within.

The Seasons of my Age

I walked in the new wood in the spring of my age;

bright green leaves unfurling, like flags in the wind;

ramsoms perfume strong, and bluebells gently dancing.

Sprightly was my dance then, light footed on the grass;

bright shafts of golden sun through the branches lancing.


I walked in the green wood in the summer of my age;

heavy blossom perfumed, bees humming loud;

sunshine overhead, humid, hot and burning.

Sultry was my dance then, seductive in the shade;

birds muted shrilling, berries’ colour turning.


I walked in the golden wood, in the autumn of my age;

chill air on the leaves, setting them a-rustling;

bright pheasant flying, rousted from his cover;

fungus all a-sprouting, cream & rust & red.

Hurried was my dance then, rain clouds gathering;

seed heads full to bursting, summer now is dead.


I walked in the naked wood, in the winter of my age;

branches bare & barren, the sky of ochre cloud;

there the golden promise lies, a carpet all of rust.

Slow & halting was my dance then, a memory of grace;

all the joys & sorrows, all the dreams & dust.


I walk among the tall trees, in all the seasons of my age;

remembering sun & rainfall, the curses & the blest;

the mountains I had climbed, the sea shores I had waded.

Eternal is my dance now, amid stars & moonlight, darkness & the dawn;

In all the changing patterns, not a memory has faded.

Post-church Blues

Always the same, always the way,

Church serves itself, at the end of the day.

All of the gospel, all of the talk,

Easy to say not easy to walk.

Love your neighbours whoever they are,

Care for the stranger, from near or far.

Welcome all who come through the door,

Welcome them all, rich or poor.

But do we do it? Not in the least!

Those like us can come to the feast.


No WiFi,

no service,

no signal!

But that means

no Facebook

no Twitter

no messages

no texts

No emails

no phone calls (does anyone do that anymore?)

No BBC news

at the touch of a button;

No weather report –

How shall we know what the weather is doing?

No Words with Friends,

no Candy Crush (thank goodness for that!))

No Internet access,

no Google to answer

any questions we have.

What will we do?

Disconnect & look at each other.

Disconnect & talk to each other.

Disconnect & look at the world

all around in microcosm.

Disconnect and reconnect

with here and now,

with you and me,

in real time.

The Grey Lady

The Grey Lady stands

back to the wind,

looking out forever across the shifting seas.

Delicate face beneath her hood,

her cloak wrapped tight against the chill;

one slender hand upon her hip,

still she stands as the grey stones,

the grey stones, the grey stones,

tall against the sky.

The wind sighs through the sedge,

whispering stories down the years,

and she sighs, the grey lady,

echoing the wind

with stories of her own.