Sometimes I simply don’t have the words to capture what is going on for me.

Sometimes I simply don’t have the words to capture what is going on for me.

Sometimes I simply don’t have the words to capture what is going on for me. I have been staring at my blog for a few weeks now and have felt the frustration of having so much I want to express but simply not knowing where to start.

The last month has been quite significant for me on lots of different levels. It felt like a real gift to be able to travel with my son to the U.K. for the launch of my new book and the outreach around the Olympic Games. A benefit of the trip was the level of engagement I was able to have with the remarkable history of the Christian church over the past 1600 years or so.

I was able to visit Clapham, the home base of William Wilberforce. I walked through John Wesley’s house and stood with my son next to his grave. I visited the Blind Beggar pub where William Booth launched the Salvation Army and I had a coffee in the Eagle and Child where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis had weekly chats over a beer. All of those experiences were significant, and I know I will be reflecting and writing about them for years to come, but they were not quite as profound as a part of the Christian story that I was less familiar with.

We travelled to the Island of Iona and then visited Lindisfarne, also known as the Holy Island, where we engaged with the story of the Celtic Church. I think those visits are where I lost my words. If words are designed to “capture” reality and make it transmissible to others, at Iona and Lindisfarne I encountered a reality that I simply couldn’t quite capture. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, its just that I know that I will probably fail because what I encountered at both places was beyond my intellect’s capacity to comprehend.

People talk about Iona being a “thin place” where the walls between heaven and earth somehow are more ethereal. When I first got off the boat I was a little disappointed, I wasn’t greeted by angels or some deep mystical sense of the presence of God, but as I hung around the place for a couple of days, it certainly got to me.

I’ve been reading a lot since then about the Celts and it has been helpful to have more historical context, but one photo captures a bit of the meaning of the time for me, and its not a photo that can be quickly compartmentalized. The way I’m wired means that I need three things before I am semi functional: a shower, a coffee and a quiet time. On the two mornings in Iona I got up early, joined the queue for the shower (two showers between 60 people!) grabbed my coffee and trudged up a nearby hill. It is the view from that hill that stays with me.

Somehow more than the details and the history, that view speaks to me about God in ways that words can never do justice. It was interesting seeing the old buildings on Iona, but it was the landscape that really got to me. There was something about knowing that Columba looked at the same hills 1600 years ago, that generations have come and gone, and yet God still uses that place to affect people in a profound way.

This is the Photo (you can check out the full version here:


For you it is probably a pretty picture of a rural scene. For me it is laden with memories and meaning that I cannot quite express. I wish I could. You might notice that I have used a cropped version of it for the header of the blog, and for the moment as the header of my facebook timeline. I like that, for now, I can enjoy the picture, know where I was sitting when I took it, and know that God is much bigger than any words I can conjure.

3 thoughts on “Sometimes I simply don’t have the words to capture what is going on for me.

  1. Nice reflection Matt

    For me, I’m realasing more and more that it’s the open spaces in ‘God’s country’ where I connect with my maker the best. I’ve often felt guilty that I don’t have the same connection with Him in man made places. Even, dare I say it at church (although there have been some great moments), but for me, I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s how I’m wired. There’s something about the mystery and awe of creation that prizes open my heart and reminds me that I am small and God is infinite.


  2. Hi Andy,
    Reading your sentiments in Faith Reflections where you say that :” Sometimes I simply do not have the words to capture what is going on for me”, your words, or lack of words nevertheless were causing reverberations at my end of cyberspace. Yes, nature, the open spaces, the mountains, the rivers, the trees and the changing cloud scenes, they hold something for me that is also beyond words. The nearest that I came to expressing it was in the words that came to me when I tried to put a title under a photo that I put on Panoramio. I took this photo through the windows of an old country church, Kirklands at Valley Field Road in the Northern Midlands. A church in a most beautiful setting and surrounded by a histotory revealed on the gravestones that surround it. Very cheeky of me, but I wanted to see inside it where I saw the sun shining on the Bibles in the pews and the pulpit etc. whilst I envisaged the people who have worshipped the Lord in this place since the days of early settlent. It wasn’nt until I got home that I saw that this picture only showed half of the interior and the other half was the reflection in the window of the graveyard, hence I gave it the title of ” Mystic sweet communion “.
    Well, what is it about the quiet open places? I too, sometimes wonder, is this a special gift of God? I know it is there for all to see and appreciate, but somehow we don’t all seem to do that.
    Then again the Bible gives us great encouragement to explore the outdoors: ” I lift my eyes unto the hills ” , ” In pastures green He leadeth me” , ” Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord ” etc. and whenever Christ wanted to be alone and close to the Father He would go to such places.
    Yes, I too have similar feelings, that you talk about, but if it is not of guilt, it is somewhat like……who am I to deserve this ? or, is this a kind of self indulgence?
    Perhaps a better interpretation is….. A form of recharging our batteries.
    If you want to see the photos mentioned just go to Google and type in Jim van Ommen, Panoramio.
    Cheers, Jim.iij

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