We met in the archway.  Swept past the waiting crowds, joined the queue inside.

Headed for the stairs - another long line.

But then we were in. Swept with the people into a room of vast canvas, brilliant blinding colour, trees.


Three trees.









I stare at the spring of the trees.

Look with the artist through the blossom to the greening.

Feel it coming alive with new hope.




Scent the new grass growing.

Feel the life, the hope, the returning.


It’s my picture. I stand and stare, unable to take in all that it promises. This.

This is what I am here for, what I am meant to see. That there is hope. Life springs out again.


And again.

And again.


At the scent of water which I can see  - it has already rained and everything is fresh and new-sprung.


There is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant. (Job 14:7-9)


People pass in front of me, obscuring the view. I sigh and turn to view the next.


It is Three Trees.  Again.

I swing.


Three Trees.

And again.

Three Trees.


spring summer autumn winter.


And oh yes.

Yes, yes.  My seasons. That’s where I WAS.









Winter, stark, bare, frozen.

Devoid of signs of life.

Cold and unfeeling.  Cut down.


But now.

Now there is spring and the life.

And the promise of this next – summer.

Full growth.

Thick luxury of life in all its fullness. Bold glorious colour.


Verdant. ALIVE










If winter come, can spring be far behind? And then a summer’s lease.

And knowing that one day will be the autumn of my life.











But for now, I am content to be in spring time.

Anticipating the summer yet to come.


* * * *

I have to move on. There is more to see.

I long to view the trees again and hunt in the shop for postcards.

Only two – winter and spring. But they meant the most.


We go to lunch. She hands me the heavy bag. ‘For you.’

It is the whole book of paintings. I gasp.

All four are there.


The book stays open on my table. At spring.

Soon it will be summer.  It’s been painted, it will come.

Each season in its time.


And you?

What season are you in for now?



Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything

    1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

    2  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

    3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

    4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

    5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

    6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

    7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

    8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.



ideas for what to do!

Sometimes (often, most of the time)  I need rest – physical, emotional, yes, but mostly spiritual time away from normal everyday busy-ness.  I need to make time for meeting with God over a longer period, time for spiritual renewal and self-examination.  In Jesus’ time, long walks were part of everyday life – when one could presumably reflect and pray and think, although it was probably no easier than it is now! Jesus certainly 'drew aside' from everything for quiet moments, often climbing the hillside to do so. And so I need to build in times of quiet, times of enjoying God’s creation.  At least once a year (and three or four or five times is better!) it helps if I go to a place of quiet and beauty and just BE.

If you've never done this before, it may be strange at first. Maybe start with just a few hours – a half day; or maybe only an hour for the very first time. Start small and keep adding. Don’t wait until you feel you can take on a whole day or you may never begin!  And if after a while you have had enough, don’t feel guilty!  Either push on through to see what happens; or leave it there and try again another time. Or try something entirely different! These are just suggestions which I have personally found work for me and for many others; feel free to experiment!



PLANNING: there’s the start. If I don't plan, it doesn't happen! I have to PLAN when to do this and write down the date and time, and the place, otherwise I'll procrastinate and never start. Then I begin to look forward eagerly to this special time, asking the Lord already to meet with me and refresh and renew me.

SUGGESTIONS TO TAKE: Bible, journal, pen; family photos or special momentoes; Praise worship (CD, iPod, etc) post card of a painting

-      I like to get away, head for the countryside, a retreat centre, a friend’s country cottage. If you can’t, make a special area at home with some of your favourite things, maybe a rocking chair, a large cushion, scented candles. Get it ready in advance and every time you pass be excited in anticipation! Check if you need to remove a ticking clock or anything else distracting.

-      When going away, it's good to get there the night before.  I love to have a long relaxing bubble bath and allow the cares and stresses to begin to slip away  and then retire early with a relaxing drink (Horlicks?!?!?!?! Camomile tea …) and I do love a hot water bottle at night!! Snuggling in, I read the Scriptures planned for tomorrow - but just read them, nothing else, and then put the light out early. Bliss!

  1. Awake whenever – no alarm clock! And I don’t DO anything, for half an hour. Breakfast: taking a mug of steaming coffee and sitting on a sunny rock, or under a tree, or by a log fire and just sitting and BE-ing with God.
  1. Then it's time for an extended praise and thanksgiving to God,  focusing on all the things I'm grateful for.  If I need a reminder or a prompt, I can ook at the photos and momentoes I brought with me and praise and thank God for what they each mean to me. Then a fun bit:  listing 10 things in my journal for which I'm grateful and thank God for each of them, with the focus on blessings, not problems. Then another 10 and thank Him; and another …. And so on.  Sometimes I will set myself a minimum, say 30 or 50 or …. And see where I end up!!!  No pleases, just thanks!
  1. A Psalm, (Not a difficult one, but one of my favourites, such as praise one) and I read it out loud.  Slowly.  Twice.  Then I put the Bible down and reflect on it, maybe recall words or phrases that stood out or leaped at me, or meant something.  Then write them down.  Read aloud again – slowly. Maybe learn by heart one of the special verses. Write it down. Ask the Lord if He is saying something to me through it.
  1. Then, and only then, I turn to either my normal daily Bible reading, or to a special Bible passage; or to a whole small book (eg Philemon or Jude) I can spend an hour or two on this:  read it aloud, slowly; relish the phrases; repeat it until the meanings truly sink in. Listening – letting God speak to me through it. Mark/write/record what happens. Was does it mean? Is there a promise, a command? Something I don’t understand which I can look up another time or ask someone about later?  Reflect and pray it through.
  1. One of my favourite things is then to go for a long leisurely walk and enjoy an extended time of praise.  And when I am far away from civilisation and anyone who could possibly hear I sing praise songs aloud in the glories of creation (the psalmist recommends making a joyful NOISE to the Lord so then I don’t worry that I am  not an opera singer!!) Then I can envision God looking at me with love and walking beside me with His arm on my shoulder - like a friend accompanying me on the journey, in love. I either sing unaccompanied or I have some things on the iPod to sing along to.

6   Then and only then, either whilst out or on my return, I pray and write down my prayers. - for my family, my friends, my loved                      ones; for my self,  spiritually, emotionally, physically, socially, intellectually; God, when you look at me, what do you see? Lord                    how am I doing?  What do you want to change in me? I pray about my dreams, my challenges, my diary.

  1. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at some point (or I may want to fast for the day) and listen to some worship music – of whatever type I prefer that day!
  1. After lunch, I take a nap; rest and put my feet up. I do nothing for a while, with a cup of tea. I might look at a religious painting or a picture that speaks to me of God and meditate on it and put myself into it and allow the Lord to work in me through it.
  1. I enjoy reading through the late afternoon -  a helpful but light book – maybe a Christian biography – a book which will bless, inspire, enthuse me.
  1. Finally, almost regretfully, it's time to return home listening to my favourite Christian praise music .

Sometimes it's hard to return to the noise and bustle of home, family, pets, etc. But I know that often happens, and so I pray about it on my return journey, asking for grace and lots and lots of  patience, and for the fruit of the Spirit as my loved ones crowd around and normal life resumes. And I hope I remembered to make sure supper  was prepared either before I left or by someone else!

If you are returning to an empty dark flat, ask for the love of Jesus to be there to welcome you home, for His light to shine in the darkness and for His presence to surround you.

Finally, I remember to write the date in my diary for my next retreat.


© P Swithinbank







Living Legacy

Fitzroy Square. Cream buildings, a veritable heritage.

Leaves swirling, greyly autumn.

Blue plaques on walls to mark the homes of famous men and women.

I look and read and try to imagine this or that person living in this space, looking out of that window, watching these trees shed their leaves. A blue plaque as living legacy, reminder of who they were, what they did, the length of their stay.

And I think of my legacy. What will I leave? Who would want to remember me?

My children, offspring from our marriage, 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.

So I slow down, walking more slowly, taking time to look at the blue plaques, praying for those precious descendants. And I want more time; time to pray. I want time to slow and allow me moments more in prayer, moments to talk to my offspring, 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.

My footsteps carry me on and Fitzroy Square is behind.  I quicken, conscious of dawdling, hurrying once again to the time-busyness of busy London around me. Yet deep inside I know: my legacy has time to deepen and develop.  I need not hurry on.  This one race is not the one I want to win – there’s no prize for being the first over the finishing line of life.

Instead, God grant me 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)