Thin Places

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MacLean’s Cross on Iona marks part of the ancient pilgrim way.  My husband took this photo on one of the afternoons we spent admiring the wind-raked ruins of the grounds around St. Columba’s Abbey. You’ll recognize the cross from the cover of The Stone Pillow, as well as from a scene of a pivotal conversation in the book.

The most common reaction to the divine presence throughout history has been terror. Love is a consuming fire. We cannot embrace the Christian God of love without great consequences.

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Here I am in a ruin on the edge of the world. The ghost of the Church still haunts St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and you’ll see how it haunts Ariadne and Angus in The Stone Pillow. St. Andrew’s Cathedral was once the largest church building in Scotland.

We have a name for the places where people have tended to run into God: thin places. They are sacred sites frequented most often by people who are drawn into the divine flame of love.

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The relics of St. Andrew the First Called Apostle lie in a quiet side chapel in a church in Edinburgh.  I didn’t write about the current shrine of St. Andrew in The Stone Pillow, but two of the former shrines are featured in the book.

When my husband and I went on a pilgrimage to ancient holy sites in Scotland back in 2007, we walked in many such thin places. The draw toward the love of God felt nearer there, like kindling ready for the fire, especially on Iona.

St. Oran’s Chapel is one of the settings in The Stone Pillow that almost becomes a character. There’s a feeling when you pray in places that have steeped in prayer over the course of centuries that reminds me of the way that trees seem to listen in on stories told around campfires in the forest. It’s the sense of coming full circle, of purposes growing and nascent and revealed. I found this photo from our Iona trip in 2007. None of the photographs we took inside, did justice to the sense of vastness that enters that small chapel when you pray. I’ll leave you with this image instead: a small, ancient chapel under a vast sky, the secret gateway to time beyond times that can only be opened with a prayerful heart.

At its best, marriage is a thin place, drawing us closer to God in the dailiness of work and families and bread and tea. It is the hearth, where fire turns our efforts into food and drink and warmth.

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In St. Oran’s Chapel, praying in the light that recalls the unfading Light. When you hold a candle to an icon, the gold rewards you with a reminder of unfading beauty. I felt the loss of the icons dearly in St. Oran’s Chapel on Iona when we went there to pray. Back then, we sang our prayers to Western chants, with their symmetry enclosing each call and response like two hands clasping. The chapel drank up our singing like parched earth. One night we found that someone had lighted candles. The chapel was mostly dark, even while the sun was out, but the candles were a reminder of light that shines in the darkness and is not overcome. 
In The Stone Pillow, Angus and Ariadne pray just where I’m standing in the photo. They bring the ancient faith along like way bread.

Today, I am releasing a story of God and a woman and a man, a journey through grief, love, and mysticism in places worn thin by the footsteps of saints. The Stone Pillow is set on the isles of Mull and Iona, where evidence of saints’ lives lie hidden in the open air. I hope that the story will embolden you to walk the thin places in your life and to be not afraid.

The Stone Pillow is a clean Orthodox Christian romance novella, a story of God and a woman and a man, a journey through grief, love, and mysticism in places worn thin by the footsteps of saints. It’s available now on Amazon.

Legend has it that any maiden who rests her head on St. Tredwell’s Stone Pillow will see the face of her true love.

Ariadne runs from love all the way to the edges of the world. Her work as an elite scholar of medieval Christian artifacts allows her to shelter her heart behind the stones she studies – until she meets Angus, her equal in everything but fear.

Together they’ll discover if hearts with room for legends have room for love.

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