Wild Stone


Wednesday 21st March 2018



A few years ago, I was fortunate to spend some time on an uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. This has been organised as a wilderness retreat, so while not a desert, is was a wild, remote place. It reminded me how much we rely on others to exist, but also what’s really important, like food, shelter and warmth. More than anything, it was a time to enjoy silence and prayer, as well as laughter and being with others.

This was written very recently, inspired by that experience.


Wild Stone

This wild place had been there, only days for me,
While the rich moss and trees,
Twisted from generations of striving against wind,
told a different story.

There, a heap of stones just formed,
Colours shift as mist slowly
thickens to highland drizzle.
Smooth river bed, or sea tossed stone.

Most likely never held by human hand,
Not for centuries on this lonely island,
Where every croft is silent, roofless, abandoned.
Enriched in rain, it glistened;

Microscopic stars of quartzite shone,
Narrow bands of shimmering purple, black and white,
Where once it had seemed so plain and grey.
After a while, trying to look away from beauty,

The stone drew me back.
Hearing only the gentle, white noise of soft rain,
Interspersed with small waves, on the shore below.
Watching a wild stone.

The silence grew, deepened, mind emptying,
Ready now, to hear God.
Ready and waiting.
In this wild, rich, beautiful, desert for the soul.

Andrew Hill ©2018


A journey with a walking stick


Tuesday 20th March 2018



photo: Don Coad

In my understanding, this was a ‘desert journey’. I had decided to go walking on my own, paths clogged with mud and my balance being unsteady at the best of times. Hostile terrain? And ‘desert-like’ as it was alone and without a familiar face to read a map. Just as I was heading off on this ‘journey’, propped against the wall, with my walking boots was my walking stick. I felt prompted to take it with me on the walk and thank goodness I did. My stick was often the only reason why I didn’t end up flat on my face. It gave me a sure footing and added security and confidence in the boggiest bridleways saturated in water. I noticed as the terrain became less muddy and not so steep, the staff at first still gave me confidence in my walking and striding out. However later on into the journey, I was failing to use the stick properly and that’s when I had my ‘slide’. Over confidence, long into the journey and I had forgotten how important the stick was and thankfully although I lost my footing, I did remain upright. Needless to say, my stick began to be used again properly as a guide and support with no more mishaps.

Why am I telling you about my walk with the stick….? Well I began to wonder what this stick represented in our journey through life. I do believe that I would not have made it to the end of my journey without falling if the stick had not been with me and throughout the journey, when used diligently, it provided safety, confidence, and a guide to solid ground. Also as the stick became over familiar and not used well, in its misuse, I became unsteady. I wonder what this stick would be for you in your life? What is it or who is it that brings you a feeling of safety, confidence and guidance.

I would like to suggest as I journeyed through the difficult terrain, the stick could be like God’s word, providing guidance and safety to get through. God’s word that can sometimes not be as well read as it might be and not used to its full potential. The stick could also be like the sacrament of the Holy Communion where we meet round a table to remember all that Jesus has done for us such that we go out ready to be Christ’s people, safe and secure in who we are and guided by Him. For me, as I pondered and leaned heavily on the stick, the stick was like the relationship that God offers to me through Jesus Christ such that He says ‘never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’ It was a hard lesson to learn in my 30s when God challenged me and showed me that there were others who had become my security and guide in the journey of life. It was only in a ‘desert experience’ of solitude and being apart that I saw that. I returned to Jesus knowing that it is He alone who is The Rock, all else is ‘sinking sand’. All others, all other things will let you down.

Who knew that a walk with a stick could be a reminder that, in the journey of life, there is One who is able to hold us, support us and guide us, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.

Fiona Crocker



Monday 19th March 2018



Today is St Joseph’s day, and to mark it Mary Wood has sent in this poem by the poet U.A. Fanthorpe, who lived in Wotton under Edge until her death in 2009.

Mary comments that Joseph’s situation as a step-father must have been a strange and painful one.  Joseph faced his own particular ‘desert journey’ as he came to terms with being the husband of Mary but not the father of Jesus.


Joseph by U.A. Fanthorpe

I am Joseph, carpenter,
Of David’s kingly line,
I wanted an heir, discovered
My wife’s son wasn’t mine.
I am an obstinate lover,
Loved Mary for better or worse.
Wouldn’t stop loving when I found
Someone Else came first.
Mine was the likeness I hoped for
When the first-born man-child came
But nothing of him was me, I couldn’t
Even choose his name.
I am Joseph who wanted
To teach my own boy how to live.
My lesson for my foster son:
Endure. Love. Give.

Yeonmi Park


Friday 16th March 2018


Khongorin sand dunes, Gobi

The Gobi desert, Mongolia

“…we all have our own deserts. They may not be the same as my desert, but we all have to cross them to find a purpose in life and be free.”

fromIn Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom’ by Yeonmi Park

This book is the story of Yeonmi Park’s struggle to escape from the darkest, most repressive country on earth, her harrowing journey through China’s underworld of smugglers and human traffickers, and then her flight from China across the Gobi Desert to Mongolia.

This particular quote is, I think, beautifully succinct in the way that it recognises that we have all experienced our own deserts – places where we may feel alone, helpless, and even abandoned – and that everyone’s desert is unique. As Park says, however, crossing our desert, though it may be difficult on many levels, is essential if we are to find a purpose in life and be free.

I do not know whether Park had any faith – coming from North Korea, possibly not – but for me as a Christian my faith, and my understanding that God is always with me, makes me strong. I may not relish the idea of crossing any more deserts but, if that is where life leads me, I’m ready to make that journey with God at my side!

Richard Elliott


Helping hands


Thursday 15th March 2018



When we journey through a wilderness experience we can feel isolated and alone. It can also feel frightening and intimidating. At times such as this we need friends who are willing to support us and will pray for us, or with us, when we feel unable to pray for ourselves.

Perhaps as Christians we count it as failure if we have to ask for help. However we are not meant to be stand alone Christians. Jesus taught us to be a part of the Body of Christ, a community of ordinary folk each travelling on their own faith journey. As with any journey there are times when the going gets tough which is just the time we need others to come alongside us.

Perhaps during this Lent we could each resolve that when the going is tough we will reach out to others in our community seeking their support and help. Often this action can be a huge blessing and encouragement to the person we seek help from.

Judith Ashman



Wednesday 14th March 2018


Moses Meribah

Moses strikes the rock in the desert at Meribah


‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants’  Isaiah 44:3

All this talk of deserts made me think of Cape Town, South Africa which is currently undergoing a water crisis. They have so little water there now that the city has set a target of 50 litres per person per day. This compares with the UK average consumption of 150 litres per day – three times as much as someone in Cape Town.

The water crisis is believed to be caused by climate change. Global warming is resulting in a more intense water cycle, leading to bigger floods and more severe droughts all over the world. There is no quick fix for this, but the residents of Cape Town are working to manage the crisis. Their strategies for water reduction include showering less often and only for 90 seconds at a time. Pop stars have recorded songs for the shower that only last for 90 seconds – so by the time the song has finished, so should your shower! A green lawn is not a badge of honour but disapproved of by society. Unfortunately, for those who grow vegetables for their family and to sell, the water crisis has resulted in less food for the family and nothing to sell. This has hit the poorest in society the hardest.

Whilst the water shortage is currently confined to the city, areas of the country which are not in crisis are also becoming more aware of using their water in a more responsible fashion. Just as recycling became mainstream, so conscientious water management is becoming commonplace. Private companies, the city and the country are investing in desalination plants, to make long term changes in water management.
Day zero, the day when the city’s taps will run dry, has now been put back to July 9th. It is hoped that with careful management and a generous rainy season, day zero will continue to be at some point in the future.

What can we do? Join me in praying for abundant rain in Cape Town, for the people of Cape Town and that we may all learn to use the Earth’s resources more responsibly. Reflect on your water consumption, can you take a shower in 90 seconds?

Louise Hill