Early on Saturday morning, we stand on the beach, the Med behind us, our faces set towards to Atlantic. And so it begins. 520kms to our destination. Will we really do it? The backpacks are on, the water bottles filled, and we stride confidently towards the Canal du Midi.Read More
There is a rhythm to our days. We rise. We walk. A cafe is a bonus. The countryside is beautiful. Wild flowers and vineyards give way to rolling hills, sunshine gives way to rain. But it’s the people and the world we live in that fascinate me.
Dinner one evening with a couple, he Italian, she Flemish, with our French Algerian cuisiniere. We talk about faith, Trump and Brexit in my broken French. Our host at the B&B has one Catalan grandfather and one Basque (as well as a magnificent moustache). The great European experiment! C’est un melange, they say.
The next night we stay with a German couple, another wonderful chef. He is giving up on the French and returning to Germany as the French never turn up as arranged! A marriage made in ...?
And then a young English couple who moved to Carcassonne. He’s now very grateful for an Irish parent and that their 18 month old was born in France.
Yet as I read a novel set in occupied Nazi France, I reflect. It’s a mess - Europe. It’s not the ideal I believed in when I voted to join as a young man. It’s overladen with bureaucracy and senseless rules. But what is the alternative? Are we really better off on our own?
And then the kindness and the warmth of the hospitality surprise me. What happened to the French disdain for foreigners?
I’ve lost my addiction to The Times and today’s news; but even here Trump’s attempts to destroy the Western Alliance send a shiver down my spine. Have we forgotten the lessons of history? My father turns in his grave.
It was our generation that voted for Brexit I’m ashamed to say. What world are we leaving for our 6 grandchildren? Isn’t it better that we live with uncomfortable compromises than with a certainty and nationalism that isolates and separates?
just a few thoughts as we walk slowly across France .....
Finally, after nearly 20 years on my bucket list, the big Walk Across France is about to begin! On June 1st, we fly to Beziers, and the next day, June 2nd, we will be on the Mediterranean beach at Portiragnes Plage. There, we will turn our faces west, and begin the 500km walk to Cap Breton on the Atlantic. (20,157,480 inches, or 318 miles)
We will be carrying everything we need, in our large backpacks, so living simply and carrying as little as possible! And we will be staying in B&B and similar accommodations. Some of the walk is relatively easy along the Canal du Midi. Some is more challenging, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
After the ups and downs of married life, especially recently, and to celebrate the end of our gap year of travelling during the first year of retirement , we will be Finding Ourselves in France…..
We are obviously funding the entire trip ourselves, and going anyway; but then we thought it might be lovely if some people could follow our progress, pray for us, and maybe support a couple of worthwhile causes to sponsor our every step!
There are two Christian charities for whom we would like to raise £2000 each – a total of £4000, which is £1000 for each week of walking. We will actually walk for 6 days and then take a rest day, so it will take nearly 5 weeks all together.
The International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org)
IJM is an international, Christian, organization focused on human rights, law and law enforcement, and in particular to work towards the end of sex trafficking. It was founded in 1997 by lawyer Gary Haugen and is based in Washington, D.C.. There are field offices in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and five partner offices in North America, Europe and Australia. 94% of IJM employees are nationals of the countries they work in. Gary was a member of the church in Virginia where we were on staff.
People against Poverty (http://www.peopleagainstpoverty.com)
In September, a group of men from our church (Holy Trinity, Combe Down, Bath) will be going to Transylvania to work with a local pastor who has an outreach ministry to Romany people. Kim will be part of the group! The men are self-supporting for their own travel; but need to raise the money to build a barn, and other buildings, to help provide farms for those who have no other means of livelihood. The church has a strong link with this ministry and teams have been before.
The fund-raising direct links are below - please join us on the adventure of a lifetime and follow the journey. Social Media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin will each have the occasional photo/update.
We fly back from Bordeaux on July 3rd. and would love there to be some financial aid for those charities. Thank you so much for all your help, your prayers, and your support in every way.
with love, Kim and Penelope
People Against Poverty:
WALKING THE VIA FRANCIGENA
- the mediaeval pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome, through the heart of Europe.
We walk part of it in Tuscany, from San Gimignano to Montalcino.
It's very special, beautiful in its simplicity and peace, as we retrace the ancient ways.
So maybe it will work for you to come after all
NEW DATES are September 1 - 8 (Saturday to Saturday)
There are just a few places still available - full details here:
Ever feel disconnected from your steps and the direction they take you in? Or that your steps are minimal and lacking adventure?
Maybe you watched the BBC Two “Pilgrimage: the road to Santiago” last night and followed seven celebrities as they bickered and bantered about God, about sleep (or lack of it) about food, as they struggled to walk, struggled with each other, struggled with the heat and the hills. Maybe you thought, “one day I’ll do it.”
Here’s a suggestion: try a week on the Via Francigena first. It’s the ancient pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome; less well known than the Camino right now, it’s quieter, less touristy, less commercialised (read almost no tourists or commercialisation). And not nearly as steep!
The part that goes though Tuscany is sublime. I’ve walked it several times and each time I love immersing myself in the stunning landscapes, the gorgeous villages, the sacred spaces of ancient churches with mediaeval frescoes. In God.
Somehow the daily rhythm of walking, of being, of just – well, walking, allows the time and space mentally and physically to BE. To allow God to have the space in my mind, my life, that I so often don’t allow for or make time for.
For over 1,000 years pilgrims have walked the very same route, traced their steps along the ancient strada bianca (white stony tracks) over the hills and alongside verdant vineyards. Still, it is each and every step YOU will take that calls to you. If you think you’d like to do it, do it now. Later may be too late.
I will be leading a Pilgrimage in Tuscany along the Via Francigena in September 2018. There are still a few places available – come and immerse yourself and make your steps count?
Enjoy moments of sheer bliss – and sheer hell if you have blisters or can’t get to the top without vast effort. Rest each night at interesting and well-chosen hotels, guest houses or agritourism farms; appreciate time with the Lord as you are led through different Spiritual experiences either while walking or later in the evening devotional slot.
Just 7 days to recalibrate – to think, to breathe, maybe to pray. To connect with your steps as perhaps you’ve never done before. To make those steps count. It could well be life changing.
For full details of the Pilgrimage, go to: http://www.ministriesbydesign.org/italypilgrimages/
In about half a second, Google will refer you to
388,000,000 ‘free gifts’
But do we trust freebies?
After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
How much does the perfect Christmas gift cost?
is what we will spend between us all
in the UK this Christmas
according to The Retail Gazette
But there is one gift this Christmas
That is both
Priceless and free
It can’t be:
found on an app
or delivered by Amazon
It’s already been
paid for in full.
GOD’S CHRISTMAS PRESENT TO YOU
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”
John 3:16 (The Message)
What you are planning for your vacation next year? Could 2018 be the year to do something exceptional and special? Something that will refresh and reinvigorate you physically AND spiritually?
Most of us, most of the time, long to get away from it all: away from the rush and the stress and the busy-ness of our everyday lives. Time away to spend time with the Lord. Time to get fitter and leaner in every way. AND in a beautiful and special place.
So here’s a great idea for you. Come on a pilgrimage! It’s a vacation with a difference, and many people are now discovering that walking on ancient pathways, surrounded by beauty, in peaceful quiet places, helps you get into a rhythm that often makes it easier to hear from God, to shed the burdens, to rediscover who you are and who you are meant to be.
Kim and Penelope, both clergy who are experienced in leading pilgrimages, are planning to lead two special walks in 2018.
- Come to Cornwall in mid May 2018 and walk the ancient coastal pathway from the most westerly point to the most southerly point of England. A land of wild seas, Celtic saints, clotted cream and Cornish pasties! You might spot seals, eat a cream tea, enjoy local fresh fish, learn about Celtic saints, worship in a 6th century church. And along the way, have plenty of time to be refreshed and renewed in your walk with the Lord. In May, the coastal path is fringed with glorious wild flowers - bluebells, thrift, gorse, campion and many others. For more details click HERE.
- Or come to Italy in early September 2018, to walk along some of the Via Francigena in Tuscany. Part of the long Pilgrim route which stretches from Canterbury to Rome, it offers glorious scenery, fabulous wines (!) ancient frescoes, hill top mediaeval villages, and a true sense of doing something different. The ancient route was supposedly first travelled by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric, in the year 990, as he travelled between Rome and Canterbury. The archbishop described the 79 stages of his itinerary in a journal. You will follow in the footsteps of the pilgrims who over the centuries have travelled across Europe and down the Italian peninsula, and we will spend time enjoying the route and all it has to offer as we travel through a very special part of Tuscany. For more details click HERE.
Both Pilgrimages offer special things; both will include days of glorious walking (some of which is demanding, but we help you prepare for that!); both will have daily times of worship, meditations and spiritual ‘exercises’ to help you to focus on what the Lord might want to say to you.
Take a look at the information, pray and think about whether 2018 is the year when you do something very different, something that many people have found to be absolutely life changing. You won’t regret it! (except for the end of day one, but that’s another story….)
What previous pilgrims have said:
I have just started seminary…. I will ALWAYS think of that experience (ie the Pilgrimage) as one of the tops, and it was the catalyst to begin this whole other chapter of my life — it sure was amazing! Meg
The Cotswold Way Pilgrimage was formative for me in so many ways, Penelope…thank you for providing this catalyst for transformation in my life. Shelly
It was great to have devotions each night…they were really helpful talks. Rick
It truly was a life changing experience for me; and I met with God in a way I’d never done before. Roy
It was fantastic! I haven't had a group vacation in a long time and now that I know how much fun I had with others, hiking through the hills, I'd be willing to take more vacation time and do a longer or equally long trip/hike again. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have joined you and the others on this trip! Thank you! Ann
I loved the Scripture memory especially the day we passed the verse around verbally, phrase-by-phrase, through the kissing gates and along the trail. :) I loved learning the morning collect too! AJ
Your information ahead of time was extremely helpful as to what to bring, wear for hiking and in the evenings, and what the terrain was going to be like. Colin
This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer. 6:16
So NOW is the time to begin planning to come! If you are at all interested, please contact us to register your interest. This does not commit you, merely registers that you might well like to come and would like to receive full details when they become available. Each Walk is limited to just 12 people, so register your interest soon!
Couples and singles are all welcomed; please note that accommodation is in shared rooms of 2.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following details:
- Your name, address and home church
- which pilgrimage you are interested in (Italy, Cornwall or the Cotswolds)
- whether you plan to come alone, with your spouse, or with a group
This is a wonderful opportunity to take some out in a beautiful place - for time with the Lord, for seeing new places, for learning a new rhythm of life, for making new friends, for being refreshed and renewed. Why not pray about whether this is right for you for now?
Come walk with us - we look forward to seeing you next year!
- The Revs Kim & Penelope Swithinbank
"The idea (of pilgrimage) being that sometimes, in order to see clearly, we need to separate ourselves from the daily grind, from our everyday work and responsibilities. On a long (and sometimes arduous) hike, things often fall into perspective. Answers to tricky questions can break through when your head is free of the internet and the news. With the wind whistling through your hair and the sun on your face, life suddenly becomes far more simple. You have time to think, maybe even to pray – and sometimes answers break through like a shaft of sunlight glancing down into a clearing." Jane Alexander, writing in The Telegraph
FAREWELL TO MAYS FARM
You are invited for a last hurrah!
(and lend a hand first!)
Saturday May 13th 10am - 2pm
We have to move everything out of three bedrooms and the snug (for new wood floors in the bedrooms, tiles in the snug and a new bedroom ceiling, as per the final planning permission requirements) and would love a working party to help!
Might you come and help us move some furniture and take up the carpets?
We would be incredibly grateful for any help!
10am onwards: move stuff
lunch/chill and relax/catch up
and croquet on the front lawn
Kub in the back garden
We say we forgive. We ask God to help us forgive. We think we’d done it – phew, we’ve forgiven. But why the niggle? Why, actually, the unforgiveness that rears its ugly head? What are we holding on to?
Oh, how I love this post from Penelope Swithinbank. Please, don’t miss it....
I wish I could tell you that I have learnt how to forgive. That over these past few years there have been lessons learnt from each of the hard places. I thought I had forgiven – the Christians in the church who sent the vitriolic hate mail; the woman driver of an out-of-control car that, as I watched, ran over my mother and ended her life; the man who bullied my husband so much that it made him ill; the Conservation officer who even now is causing us so much stress and headache with our house.
And all that is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s been a long tough ride for several years.
I know I need to forgive. To forgive and go on forgiving. Isn’t that what Jesus said we were to do?
A lack of forgiveness can be one of the main blockages in our lives – holding grudges, not letting go of our rights, allowing distances to grow between us and those who have offended us ........
From Amy Boucher Pye's Forgiveness Fridays series: you can click here to read the full article
How to have a Spice-y life
Crawling back into bed in the small hours of the morning felt like coming home. The comfort and warmth and darkness enveloped me; my whole selfmindbodyspirit relaxed. Utterly drained and exhausted, even the effort of pulling the duvet around me felt too much. Within seconds I was asleep – for a little while at least. It felt like heaven.
Let me ask you something: are you feeling tired right now?
Maybe not – maybe you leaped out of bed this morning absolutely raring to go, bouncingly full of the joys of spring, so pumped that a second cup of coffee would be over-the-top unnecessary.
Or maybe, maybe, you and I woke this morning feeling weary and tired, and it’s a tiredness that comes from life. Life has thrown a curveball - actually, make that several curveballs - at us and we’re all living in a world that constantly feels weary. It’s the sort of weariness that’s not solved by a good night’s sleep. It is a weariness of spirit, because we fill our lives with frenetic activity and then add escapist activity on top - compulsive social media, mindless television, recreational drinking – because we are too tired to choose stuff which would be truly life giving. And our emotions become dulled and numb; our bodies groan and ache; and the guilt and the exhaustion become second nature and we come to accept them as normal.
What we need, you and me in our weariness, is the spice of life. Because we are so busy taking care of life and taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves and give ourselves some SPICE - the acronym for the 5 areas we need to be fully human and fully alive.
Maybe we’ve ignored the manufacturer’s handbook for ourselves, trying to operate without following the instructions. Stress is always a warning light that we’ve taken our focus off God and are looking at our problems from a limited viewpoint. Rick Warren said he believes the single greatest cause of stress is that we take ourselves too seriously and we don’t take God seriously enough.
What helps you reconnect with God each day?
Reverence for (or worship of) God adds hours to each day. Proverbs 10:27
Finding what works for our own particular bodies to feel great, keep in good health, be the best we can be. Nourishing ourselves physically with the right food and the correct exercise. For me, it’s low sugar and low carbs, 7.5 nightly hours of sleep, lots of fruit and veg, long long walks, and regular exercising.
It’s taking care of what we’ve been given.
What makes your body feel in great shape?
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous--. Psalm 139:14 (NLT)
Stimulating the brain is as important as exercising the body – use it or lose it; and without that stimulation and new knowledge, we get very stale. Some of us love crosswords and jigsaws and Su Doku; others of us play the piano or learn a new language or map-read our way across new territory as we walk….
New experiences that use all the senses are good for our minds.
What stretches your mind?
A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. Proverbs 15:14 (NLT)
We humans are amazing at the way we can be so creative. We can invent theorems, knit a sweater, write a magnum opus, paint the Mona Lisa, compose limericks, cook up a storm. We are made in the image of a creating, creative God; to be creative is in our genes and gives us life.
How can you create something today? (other than creating a mess….!)
God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. Gen 1:17 (The Message)
“It is a slow death to be gloomy all the time.” (Proverbs 17:22 GNT) When did we learn as a generation, as a culture, to be so serious about everything? When was the last time you said : hang it all, I’ve earned a break; and just left it all and went out for a walk, or took time to sit and chat with a friend, and just hung out? Simplify: time, possessions, yes; but also attitude. Laugh more, and work and worry less. When was the last time you relaxed and laughed with others? Or by yourself – watching or reading that one thing that makes you (and no-one else!) roar with laughter?
What makes you laugh? Or relax? What feeds your soul?
A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. Proverbs 17:22 (The Message)
So how spice-y is your life?
Leave a comment below to share how you’re doing!
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around-life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed form the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of maturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-5The Message
What is giving you life right now?
Thoughts for the midwinter Cross-Quarter Day of Candlemas (February 2nd) Oh – and it’s Groundhog Day too!
Maybe you’ve had the flu – or at least the sniffles.
Or that lingering lurgy and you just can’t shake it off.
The days may be lengthening, but spring is not yet here, and January has been such a long long month. Especially if like mine it has been more-or-less dry.
Budgets are tight, the weight won’t shift and winter has reached the woefully dreary stage. Plus my FaceBook feed is thoroughly depressing right now – Brexit to one side, POTUS on the other, Bishops in the middle.
Winter is hard for me. You too? It’s all too easy to look at what is draining and crushing and difficult right now. But there is another way and it’s actually simple. I like simple and I like doing something simple that helps.
I once read an article about searching out what gives you life. What energises you, what helps you to keep you smiling – in spite of what is going on everywhere else. And with the middle of winter due on February 2nd, this idea is one I’m finding life giving.
And that’s what we need, right? Little things that are life giving. To notice them, make a note of them, remind ourselves to do them, have them, use them. Doing more of what makes you happy, what gives you life. Little things that make a difference.
So I decided to make a list – it’s personal and yours may be very different. But perhaps it might be helpful to share our lists and suggestions, to give us ideas of what actually feeds us, strengthens us, gives us life.
Daffodils or hyacinths on the kitchen table. Bright, cheerful and scented, they lift my mood whenever I see them.
Lighting a scented candle while I’m sitting working at the computer; and having supper by candlelight. Love it! Candles both relax and lift my mood
Bubble baths. Even 10 minutes to wallow in warmest water, with a good book. Not the Kindle – don’t trust myself not to drop it in! (no photo here…..)
Wearing my favourite clothes. Instead of keeping them for ‘best,’ just wearing them and enjoying them. And throwing out what I feel I ought to keep but actually never wear. Taking discarded things to the charity shop.
Eating well. And nutritiously. Takes an effort but SO worth it! Here’s a hot chicory, mackerel and radiccio salad I made last week. Yum. (Thanks to chef Tom Kerridge's new book!)
Reading the Psalms. I read 5 each day and so it takes a month to read them all the way through. Start with the Psalm that corresponds to the day’s date, read it and add 30 to find the next one to read, and so on up to 5 Psalms. SO: on the 15th, read Psalms 15, 45, 75, 105, 135. Today is the 30th and I read Psalm 30, 60, 90, 120 & 150. (tomorrow is Jan 31 so just Psalm 119 on the 31st) I’m using “The Psalms on Fire,” which is the new Passion Translation and I find it extremely helpful.
Exercise. Yes, I know, we all hate it while we are doing it. But then it depends on what type of exercise. Because I have discovered I prefer some and loathe others! Walking in the fresh air or taking a Pilates class each make me feel so much better. Preferably both, regularly.
Doing nothing for a few minutes. I either close my eyes or indulge my latest passion - colouring letters from mediaeval manuscripts. Breathe deeply and just enjoy the moment.
Pause and assess - choose to do more of what makes you happy.
Can’t wait to read your list – what gives you life in the deepest middle of winter?
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NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS: Love them or hate them, they are in the air right now.
New Year’s Day is nearly here. A day to begin afresh. A day bursting with new year zeal, an unmarked fresh-snow-fall start. A day for making Resolutions, writing down lists and intending, really and truly intending, to keep to the list THIS year.
At least for the whole of January.
Smugly, the list grows; lose those extra pounds, go to bed earlier, join – and go to – the gym, tidy the house, find a new job, declutter, read the Bible every day, pray, keep in touch with friends….
But how to keep them?
Maybe I’m starting from the wrong place.
Maybe my lists are impossible to keep.
Maybe I am setting myself up for failure from the start.
One thing I have discovered about myself over the many years I’ve known me is that I am hopeless at long term implementation. I can set out with good intentions but soon they change and become impossible tasks, things I am failing to do, hopelessly unattainable aspirations. And the failure leads into that horrible downward spiral -
low self esteem
failure – again.
It worked – for a while. I even made myself a star chart and awarded myself lots of stars for tasks accomplished everyday. But basically the things which I continued to do even without a star were those which energised me, brought enjoyment, caused enthusiasm. No chart was needed for them.
Re-reading children’s literature. Walking in beautiful countryside. Seeing my family.
And reading the Bible in a year – using a great aid to do it. Guthrie’s Chronological Reading of God’s Story - I enjoyed and appreciated the overview and the thoughts and the questions and also that it’s 6 days a week so there was always a catch-up day if I needed it.
And it’s on my Kindle, so it was easy to take with me to read wherever I am. It too brought enjoyment and enthusiasm.
So why not make my Resolutions things I know I will enjoy, things which energise and enthuse me?
I will walk every day.
I will have a date night with my husband once a week.
I will re-read a favourite book on alternate months.
I will have a long warm bubble-bath occasionally and read in the bath!
I will nourish my soul – for me, that means short meaningful Scripture passages to read, times of silence and reflection, prayer walks. Each of those regularly; but not necessarily every day. What will be constant is connecting to God, building my relationship with Him.
Why punish myself or set myself up for failure with a long list of things I don’t really want to do? Why not plan to do what energises, encourages, enthuses - for then I feel better and only then will I be able to tackle some of the areas that formerly would have comprised the Resolution lists.
I shall keep my new year’s resolutions: because they are the very things I want to do. In fact, I am looking forward to them. So I shall start now. I’m off to nourish my soul.
What helps you to keep your Resolutions?
What will energise and enthuse and encourage you, so that you are able to tackle the less liked areas?
Leave a comment and share your helpful thoughts with us ....
Share this blog with your friends and find out their Resolutions too?
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All Hallows Eve.
Known today as Halloween, all apostrophes removed. Surrounded by pumpkins and candy and dressing up costumes.
And the odd scary skeleton, cobweb, witch.
Originally, it was the evening before the Solemnity of All Saints, or “All Hallows.” The eve of all hallows – allhallowsevening ….hallo’w’e’en.
All Hallows, November 1st , was the day chosen to remember all the saints who have gone to glory. Martyrs known and unknown. Our loved ones, gone to glory.
Remembering them, remembering those women who faithfully prayed for me all through my life – my mother Irene Walter, my godmother Jessie Rhind, my GCU leader and dear friend of my mother Joyce Bates (known as Batty of course) in particular. Missed, both for their love and for their prayers.
And grateful for the legacy they left, faithful women of God who prayed, served, loved, ministered. Not on a public stage, but quietly, faithfully, for many many years, impacting the lives of many, not least my children and me.
What of our legacy, yours and mine?
What will we leave? Who will want to remember us?
My children, carried in my heart and on my hip for so long, and now carried simply in my heart - as they carry their own on hip and in heart. They will remember. But what will they remember; and their children, my grandchildren, and perhaps their children too.
What will they remember of me?
What will they remember me for?
And the only thing I want for my legacy is that it should be my prayers for them.
Prayers reaching down through the generations, unto the third and fourth generation. To pray for my children, for their children and their children’s children. For them and their spouses and their children’s children to be those who love the Lord, who live for Him and give their all for Him.
I think of my legacy; and think, hope, pray, that it’s not too late, that there is time for the prayer to continue and to reach forward into the future, their future. And I want more time: time to pray. I want time to slow and allow me moments more in prayer, moments to tell them what’s really important to me. To whisper His story to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, tell them of the Lord’s great love for them and of mine too, a shadow of His.
On this eve of All Saints, giving thanks already for all the saints who have gone on ahead of us. For their life and legacy, prayer and perseverance.
God to grant me also the time to pray it forward, tell it to my descendants, live it out the best I can for them.
“And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants,and my blessing on your children.They will thrive like watered grass,like willows on a riverbank. Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the Lord.’ Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’ Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands and will take the name of Israel as their own.” ISAIAH 44:3-5 (NLT)
WHICH SAINT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR? Who impacted your life? What did they give you that you can pass on to others?
WHAT LEGACY WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEAVE?
WHAT WILL YOU HOPE YO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
Summer's lease hath all too short a date -
And so it comes – the end of the idyll that was our summer.
A summer’s worth of weeks.
But now it’s time.
Time for a new thing.
We felt it, American daughter and I. Just a few days ago. The air is different, we said. It’s hotly glorious, sky clearly blue. But a change is coming. We know it. We can feel it. We can sense it.
It feels good and right and timely. Welcome, even.
So we put away our shorts and strappy tops. There was the ceremonial binning of much-worn well-loved worn-out summer sandals. The joy of rediscovering a cosy sweater one evening - and proper shoes. Exultation in that feeling of being well-dressed after a summer of short shorts, skimpy skirts and simple sandals.
It’s time. Time to grow up again. Time for routines and schedules and restoring order.
And yet. And yet there lingers a love of lazy summer days, sand between the toes, doing whatever whenever. However. It will return, we promise ourselves: next year, it will come again, but for now we are content, with our summer memories and still-golden tans, content to let the summer go, thankful for all we have done and all we have been and all we knew, for those long, long weeks.
I pull on trousers, slip a sweater over my shoulders – and drive with the roof down still, enjoying natural air conditioning after the hot, heavy, closeness of the humid summer air.
Anticipation. I almost long to sharpen my pencils ready for the new school term, to begin a fresh exercise book with its invitation and expectancy and openness and possibilities. To write my name on a new fly leaf and know I can begin afresh, in a new place with a new desk and new seat.
Time to return. Yet -
Time for a new thing.
The promise is there. I’m doing a new thing for you, says God. Don’t you see it?
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18,19)
CHANGE YOUR FOCUS:
STOP LOOKING BEHIND!
START LOOKING AHEAD!
Walter Brueggmann writes of this action of God:
“It is remarkable that Israel is told to forget the old exodus narrative in order to notice the new departure. The ‘new thing’ is not only more contemporary, but also more spectacular and exhibits the power of God in more effective ways. In these verses all the accent is upon the new experience which pushes the old memory aside. It may be worth noting that in the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, in so far as Christians are concerned, the same accent is upon the new at the expense of the old. Our God is doing a new thing.”
Our God is doing a new thing.
Because the past won’t sustain us.
God says, Forget the former things, I am doing a new thing.
The children of Israel had seen God have many victories in their past. It had been a good past.
Conquering the Land of Canaan
Fighting off prospective conquerors
Surviving a split in their country
But all their previous victories were doing nothing for them in the present. They needed a new work, a new miracle, a new victory.
So the question isn’t: what has God done?
There’s no doubt about that!
The question must be:
What new thing is God doing right now?
The children of Israel had a choice to make. They were in exile, looking back at former glories. And looking back wasn’t helping. Yet all they could see in the present was problems, and their own powerlessness. They didn’t like where they were at the moment, and yet they didn’t seem to trust God to change things for them nor to want to be open to the possibilities He had in mind for them.
And so there is a choice:
They can continue as they are, nostalgic for what has been, yet not happy in the present, not trusting the Lord.
Or they can focus on what God wants to do in their lives. And God wants to do a new thing.
Can I see possibilities if God is in charge of this new thing?
We are returning to a house unsold and an unknown future. Do I believe that God is in control?Can I see possibilities if God is in charge of this new thing, this new life, this new beginning which is now beginning. A chance to start over, sharpen the pencil, open the new page, take a new seat.
Claim the new thing HE is doing for me. In me. Through me.
Returning – to a new thing. It’s in the air around us. Routines. Schedules. School. It’s time. Time to return to God and to the new thing He is doing. The beginning, not an ending.
O gracious God
Give us wisdom to perceive you
Diligence to seek you
Patience to wait for you
Eyes to behold you
A Heart to meditate upon you
And a life to proclaim you
Through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord
I've just had the privilege of writing a guest blog for Amy Boucher Pye's series on THERE's NO PLACE LIKE HOME, which follows on from her book "Finding myself in Britain."
“Shrimp for supper,” I announced to my hungry husband. “Same recipe as that one I tried in the States last week.” I think he started salivating. We had visited our American grandsons in America, and I’d found a new recipe which we’d loved: skewered shrimp. Now I wanted to recreate it in Wiltshire, and had eagerly pounced on a packet of shrimp I’d spotted when shopping.
Time to cook; I’d soaked the bamboo skewers in preparation and slit open the defrosted packet. Out tumbled tiny, tiny pathetic pink things. Not the large succulence I was expecting; these were miniscule. Lots of them to be sure, but far too small to be threaded on to skewers.
And then I remembered – we are two nations divided by a common language. What England calls prawns are what America calls shrimp, and they are huge in the States and tiny in the UK. I should have looked for ‘jumbo prawns’ or ‘tiger prawns’ in England. At least I had remembered that zucchini are courgettes and summer squash merely the yellow ones.
We ate shrimp and courgette risotto for supper. It was edible (just) but not what was expected, and a poor substitute.Same word but different meanings. And I had forgotten my translation skills. The years we spent living in the States should have reminded me of the need for interpretation. I used to dread using some word in a sermon that might be perfectly normal and acceptable in English, but have an entirely different and unsuitable meaning for my American congregation.
“Let’s make a list of differences,” Patti exclaimed enthusiastically, as we told each other about trunks and boots, pavements and sidewalks, bonnets and hoods. A gloriously correct Southern Lady, Patti found paper and pen and drew a line down the centre (center!) of the page. She wrote at the top of the left hand column: “English” and listed trunk and sidewalk and hood. Her pen hesitated at the top of the righthand column and she turned back to me. “So what do YOU speak?” she asked, bewildered.
Two nations divided by a common language, said George Bernard Shaw.
And then there’s “home.” Where is it? What is it?
When we lived in Virginia, despite the fact that we were ‘having a blast,’ and following the Lord’s calling to minister there, I often had moments of overwhelming grief. I would wander into my elder daughter’s bedroom and stand there sobbing, knowing that she was thousands of miles away in the UK at university and that my son, also in England, was now married and would never join us to live in the States.
It wasn’t place I was missing, but people, family....
To read the rest of this article, click here to go to Amy Boucher Pye's blog
A few weeks without chocolate.
And maybe alcohol.
A few weeks of abstinence.
Of giving up things we like.
Or maybe for Lent this year - just giving up.
Hurry up, Easter. And spring. And chocolate eggs.
But maybe there's another way.
A way of feasting as well as fasting.
A way of drawing near to the Lord in and through it all.
FASTING & FEASTING
Fast from a gloomy outlook on life
Feast on what is bright and cheerful.
Fast from always being right
Feast on seeing another's point of view.
Fast from always pointing out differences
Feast on what unites us all.
Fast from words that pollute
Feast on those that purify.
Fast from complaining
Feast on appreciation.
Fast from self-pity
Feast on goodness in others and self.
Fast from self-concern
Feast on going out to others.
Fast from overdoing
Feast on time for prayer.
Fast from worry
Feast on God's love.
(Father Kerry: Our Lady Queen of Angels
bulletin Lenten Reflection: Feb 2010.)
Come swiftly O Lord, to the dark moments when we are lost.
Make us aware of your presence.
Strengthen us to resist the urges and pulls to deeper darkness.
Stir us to move away from the dark moments of sinfulness
towards the light of your forgiveness.
Come quickly O Lord as we call – or forget to call – and
keep close to us and keep us close to you this day and night,
and as far as the days and nights stretch before us.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Why not make this the Lent you proactively spend some extra time with God?
Time for a Re:FRESH Re:NEW Re:TREAT.
Still some availability for February/March - book soon,
as it's getting limited now.
It's that time of year again ....
to shake off the dust of regret and disappointment
to devise ways to a better new year
We live in a world where many are facing demands that are overwhelming;
where work is taking up more and more of our time;
where we have less and less time for the things that REALLY matter .....
SO - How is your soul?
How is your relationship with Jesus?
Maybe, just maybe, it's time for designing the relationship with him that you truly desire?
As you face the prospect of returning to work on Monday, realising that the festivities are over for another year, maybe you realise that actually it was no holiday - it was fairly demanding. In every part of you.
You're exhausted and in need of a bit of dieting and detoxing in body and mind!
And your spirit needs it too.
A fresh new you is the whole of you - body, mind and spirit.
Time to BE and reflect and be refreshed.
For each part of you to be renewed - in body, mind and spirit
Maybe it’s time to treat yourself to a day or three away from normal routines?
To have space and time - to sleep, read, reflect, redesign ...
To re-discover the person God intended you to be.
"The place and space you have created is something very precious and special and tranquil and of God" - Rhiannon, December 2015
"Thank you for peaceful breathing time at your lovely home. My two-day stay at The Vine has played a huge part in the story of my life..." - Linda, November 2015
Make this the time for a fresh new you - in body, mind, and spirit. Plan to go away somewhere special; get the time in the diary and you'll have it to look forward to. It's something you won't regret!
One place you could go, of course, is
THE VINE at MAYS FARM:
- A HOME AWAY FROM HOME THAT ISN’T HOME
- PEACE AND TRANQUILLITY
- BRACING WALKS (with the option of the dog!)
- AROMATHERAPY TO COMFORT AND RELIEVE
- DEEP COMFY BEDS AND FLUFFY TOWELS
- HOME COOKED LOCAL PRODUCE; wine with supper; traditional afternoon teas
- A RHYTHM OF CHAPEL PRAYERS - CANDLELIT COMPLINE, MORNING MEDITATIONS
- 1:2:1 SESSIONS OF MENTORING, COUNSELLING, SPIRITUAL DIRECTION AVAILABLE
- WINDOW SEATS AND WOODBURNER STOVES
- OH, AND BREAKFAST IN BED.
Full details here: www.thevine-at-maysfarm.com - photos, prices, calendar and availability
BOOKINGS NOW OPEN FOR JANUARY - JULY 2016
to book a fresh new treat, email
..... this chapter is ending; the next beginning.
The next Chapter in the story is about to begin; maybe it’s YOUR chapter!
After much prayer and thought, and discussion with the Board of Trustees of 'Ministries by Design,' the charity which operates The Vine, we feel it’s right to draw our chapter at The Vine to a close and to hand on to some one else. Might that be you, or someone you know?
1 Cor 3:6 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
And that’s very much how it feels to us – we’ve planted and now it’s time for someone else to water.
The story so far:
CHAPTER ONE: THE PROPHECY
Ron, an uneducated man who came to faith through a terrible accident, had a picture when he was praying. It was of a large old house, set back from the road and with big white double gates. He heard the Lord say that one day the house would be a Christian place for others to come. Walking through Hullavington one day, he saw the double white gates and house of his dream. It was Mays Farm - That was 30 years ago.
CHAPTER TWO: THE PRAYER
When Mays Farm went on the market, 3 local women began praying regularly that the house would indeed be bought by Christians. Their prayers were answered – our offer on the house was the lowest of three and yet it was the one the Lord ensured was accepted!
CHAPTER THREE: THE PREPARATION
It took just over a year to get the house from barely habitable to what it is today. Many reading this have helped to make it possible – through practical hard work, through financial support, through prayer and encouragement along the way.
CHAPTER FOUR: THE PRESENCE
Since The Vine at Mays Farm opened in July 2013 the guest book has been full of amazing comments from those who have been here - over 700 hundred people have stayed on retreat or have come for the day. Bishops, Archdeacons, Rectors, Vicars, Curates – oh, and some normal people too!
One person told us after a weekend here that when she went into work on Monday morning her colleagues noticed something different about her countenance – what did you do this weekend, they asked her. You’re different!
“It always feels as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders by the time I leave.” (a Rector who has been three times now!)
“Wonderful to rest and re-charge in this beautiful place filled with blessings.”
“A wonderful, peaceful and relaxing place to be. I have really experienced the generosity of God here: through silence, hospitality, welcome, and the blessing of other guests. Thank you!”
(a few comments from the visitors’ book just over the past three weeks.)
CHAPTER FIVE: THE PROSPECT
And so a new chapter of The Vine at Mays Farm will open next summer……
We are being called into the next season of life and will actually be retiring next August.
Typically of the apostolic calling that we have seen so often in our ministry over the past 30 years, we were called to begin, to pioneer, to plant.
Now it’s time to hand the vision on to someone who is called to take it to the next stage – to maintain and encourage and oversee the growth that the Lord is bringing to this important ministry.
Are you the person God is calling to lead The Vine into the next chapter?
Or maybe you know someone who might be.
Someone with the vision to lead a place of Re:FRESH Re:RENEW Re:TREAT for others to come and be recharged and refuelled.
It will need someone with the resources to buy Mays Farm and continue The Vine and its ministry – probably with ongoing subsidy or fund-raising.
Might you join your prayers with ours and those of the Trustees that the right person will be found at the right time and that the Lord will direct and guide over these next few weeks and months.
And if you haven’t yet made a retreat at The Vine now’s the opportunity to do so while we are still here - we will be welcoming guests on retreat until July 2016, so do come for a Re:FRESH Re:NEW Re:TREAT. Booking now for January - July 2016
THANK YOU, thank you, thank you - to all of you who have supported the ministry, supported us in it, and helped to get it established. We thank God for each and every one of you!
This Christmas, may you know the simplicity of His birth and the magnitude of His purpose.
- Penelope and Kim
For more details please email or call us. And do please tell others who might be interested in this new possibility.
Lots of you wanted to join with us at the Open Day on June 27th
but have said alas - and how could you help from afar?
So here's how YOU can help to bless those who come to The Vine on retreat, and how you can have some fun doing that!
Because people DO find it helpful to be here!
"Thank you - for letting me just be, in all my tiredness and emptyness - to come and be refreshed,
welcomed, loved and restored. Wonderful peace. I've not slept so much in years! Thank you again."
H.from London wrote in the visitors' book just this morning!
SO - TWO ways you can bless people who need what The Vine offers:
- buy some raffle tickets
- and/or sponsorship an item for the Irene Room.
Have a quick look at these lovely prizes, and then some interesting quotes, and a fun photo below!
A SUMMER RAFFLE
for Saturday June 27th 2015 at Mays Farm
Tickets £2.50 each or 5 for £10. Draw will be made at 3pm
All proceeds are for the IRENE ROOM
A RETREAT AT THE VINE AT MAYS FARM
A TWO NIGHT STAY FOR ONE AT THIS EXCLUSIVE RETREAT CENTRE IN WILTSHIRE! Full board included. Subject to availability of rooms/dates. Valid until May 30 2016.
A ROUND OF GOLF
with Kim at THE MANOR HOUSE,
AN EXCLUSIVE GOLF CLUB IN CASTLE COMBE, WILTSHIRE,
Followed by lunch at the Club House
Designed by the renowned BBC commentator Peter Alliss and his design partner Clive Clarke in 1992,
it is now widely regarded as one of the finest golf courses in the South West. No.1 Course in Wiltshire - Top100 Golf Courses
A COACHING SESSION WITH MIKE WILSHER
CEO: THE EXECUTIVE FOUNDATION – “Together, stronger, further”
Mike offers business leaders, and others, amazing insight, clarity, inspiration and expertise. He has many years of experience in the business world.
Freshen your thinking and improve your leadership.
A DESIGNER MAN BAG by BAUME ET MERCIER
Swiss maison de’horologie
AN EXCLUSIVE OVERNIGHT BAG - PLUS WASHBAG, LAUNDRY BAG AND SHOE BAG
Fulsomely made in leather and canvas for you or the man in your life!
A BEAUTY GOODIE BAG
A SELECTION OF GORGEOUS THINGS
Clarins, Neals Yard, Cath Kidston, Miller Harris, Arbonne
A FOOD GOODIE BAG
A SELECTION OF DELLICIOUS THINGS
Mulling Syrup from Selsley (nr Stroud), Hand made jam from Norfolk,
Thorntons Chocolates, and local honey from Badminton
THE IRENE PRAYER ROOM AND SUMMER HOUSE
Buy something for the summer house and contribute to the ministry which will happen here
ERECTION OF HOUSE £400
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY £300
PAINT £35 per pot x 8
THROWS £35 x 2
WICKER CHAIR £65 x 2
WICKER TABLE £67
Irene, Penelope’s mother who was 90, and Penelope were involved in a double, horrific car accident in September 2010, when an out-of-control car first slightly injured Penelope, and then Irene was swept away and fatally crushed. The new summer house and prayer room is named Irene (peace) in memory of Penelope’s mother. She was an amazing prayer warrior, still taking the ‘old’ ladies to church, babysitting, and supporting others. Her love for the Lord was palpable.
The Irene House will provide a special place for prayer, reflection, writing and resting.
To buy a raffle ticket and/or to sponsor something in the Irene Room, please go to: http://www.ministriesbydesign.org/giving/
This has links for both UK & USA giving.
Designate your gift 'Raffle' or "Sponsorship" and then email us with your name and phone number and details of what your gift is.
If you buy raffle tickets your name will be entered on the ticket/s and put into the pot with those purchased on the day. If you are a winner a prize will be chosen for you by one of the Trustees and you will be notified later that day.
Thank you for your support of this vital and life-giving ministry. It could not continue without your support both financial and prayerful.
A pastor spending the last few days of his sabbatical here has put in the visitors' book: "Such a wonderful gift to be in a place of deep peace where the Presence of God is rich and real."
A missionary who has just returned from Nepal wrote, " The perfect place to meet with God. It has been a very special time."
A church leader who brought a group for an Away Day emailed to say: We were certainly blessed. Time in the garden helped us unwind, and we all really appreciated you leading us in meditation in your cool, calm chapel. Although the time was short it was really valuable and significant for our souls. The peace and perspective lingered long after I had left. A concentrated dollop of God's goodness.
And a young executive from London came for a weekend: “I appreciated the space to just be – to let it all out, to sleep, walk, not perform, not worry about my attire, have no demands. At all. I slept SO much and was not made to feel guilty for doing so!”
NOW BOOKING FOR THE AUTUMN:
individual retreats, groups
Away Days, Staff days, Vision & Value days
Ice cream, unplugging, Open Day, summer house, summer rentals
Unplug to recharge
There are only a few nights still with availability for your summer retreat! Why not take a couple of nights away to unplug to recharge? There's a special discount available for June and July retreats - of unplugging from Life in order to be re-charged by God.
£20 OFF EACH NIGHT BOOKED!
BOOK WHICHEVER ROOM YOU LIKE DURING JUNE AND JULY (SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY ) AND YOU PAY £20 A NIGHT LESS THAN THE NORMAL PRICE. (MINIMUM 2 NIGHT STAY)
While you are here, you can sleep, read, walk, draw; visit ancient abbeys, have a massage, hike across Cotswold countryside, doze in the hammock, eat a cream tea; worship, pray, light a candle; play the piano, play with the dog, play with God. Whatever helps YOU to unplug and recharge.
And ice cream from a local farm is available to help you unwind!
Nights with availability:
June 17, 18, 19,
July 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
12, 13, 14, 15,
17, 18, 19, 20, 21.
Contact us for details of which rooms are available for you - email@example.com
FINAL NUMBERS NEEDED FOR THE
CELEBRATION AND OPEN DAY
SATURDAY JUNE 27TH 2015
11.30 - 3.30
THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY IS REQUESTED
AS WE CELEBRATE AND GIVE THANKS
FOR TWO YEARS OF MINISTRY
Do come and enjoy a taste of this special Retreat house in the beautiful Cotswolds - relax, feast, renew friendships with the family of retreat guests, meet the Board of Trustees. Pop in any time from 11.30am - 3.30pm.
Light lunch at 12.30
followed by a brief Thanksgiving in chapel.
PLEASE RSVP attendances only is fine
- if you've not yet done so
and whether you would like lunch
The next stage of renovation is the
Summer House Project.
A beautiful wooden garden house will shortly be erected in the garden in order to provide a special place for prayers, reflection, writing and resting.
A total of £5000 needs to be raised now to cover the costs
of the cabin, its erection, electricity supply, and decorating and the furnishings.
To donate to the Project please click here.
please designate your gift "Summer house"
If you are a tax payer please consider Gift Aiding your donation - it makes a huge difference! Thank you.
The Vine is closed for the summer from July 25 - Sept 4th.
During that time Mays Farm is available for summer rentals. Ideal for family reunions, celebrations, touring the Cotswolds....
Bookings are via Eventful Stays