What do grey squirrels, chinchillas, porcupines and toucans have in common? Apparently, they all have a potential life span of 20 years.


In some ways, 20 years ago feels like a whole life away for me, as well. 20 years ago, I was living in Komárno, Slovakia, teaching English in a Hungarian high school, with no idea whatsoever of what the future would bring.

Last week, the rest of the family joined me for my first visit back. It was overwhelming. From the first glimpse of the town from across the Danube, to the familiar streets and smiling teachers, my heart was brimming over.

There is an idiom, I think, about the years not being kind. We all know what that means in terms of aging, but maybe it can be misleading.


Only the passing of time can test our resilience, our faith, the desires of our hearts, a beauty that comes from a life well-lived. It was wonderful to meet students who weren’t even born the last time I was there and equally humbling to meet again a former student and to speak about the faith we share.


In some ways, I have never stopped loving my friends in Komárno, though maybe it took this trip to build up the bridge again. We aren’t left unchanged by encounters like these and I know as a family that we will be talking about our trip for some time to come. Last night it felt right to pray for those we had met on our ‘prayer stair’.


Like an old friend, God’s grace welcomes us home again and again, accepting our limitations and rejoicing in our company. In this sense, the years are very kind indeed.



It was an adventure of sorts; even if it was a very quiet one.

Life has been a bit busy the last few months in our house, so I decided it was probably time to go on a silent retreat. This isn’t something I’ve done much of recently, but looking forward to having a break, I booked myself in to a retreat house in Durham for two nights.

I’d asked a friend for some suggestions of how to use the time and she recommended not bringing any books (apart from a Bible) and in fact, trying not to achieve anything at all. I’d forgotten how hard it is to settle down to this. It sort of threw me, initially, as I thought about how to use the time, what I would do.

It got easier as I went along. Walking along the river Wear, stopping to notice birds and butterflies. Sitting in the Cathedral, without feeling any need to rush off to the next thing. Just enjoying the evening sunshine in the garden. This definitely isn’t the way I normally live.

I know it’s a cliché but as I slowed down, I really did begin to notice things. The word that came to me about what I was seeing was ‘glory’. Glory can have several different meanings but the one that was on my mind was ‘magnificence or great beauty’. The prayer of my retreat became asking to recognize God’s glory in my heart.

It seems a bit strange to me even now, but one evening I spent quite a long time watching gnats swarming in the sunset, thinking about how their golden movement was a sign to me about God’s glory being everywhere.

Of course, there was plenty of glory to be seen when I got back home, too, and I was in a better place to notice it. St Irenaeus is supposed have said that ‘the glory of God is the human person fully alive’. We’ve got image-bearers of God’s glory everywhere we look.

I’ve been reading a truly excellent book (that’s been around for a while) called ‘Finding God at Home’ by Ernest Boyer. In it he talks about ‘life on the edge’ and ‘life at the centre’ and about how God can be found in both places. He invites us to reach within ourselves and to reach out to others, until everywhere we look, we find God.

Glory is everywhere.