Win 2 free nights on retreat .. and other fun things

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!

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 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.
* *
with Kim at THE MANOR HOUSE, 
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 
* * 
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. 
* *
Swiss maison de’horologie
Fulsomely made in leather and canvas for you or the man in your life! 
* *
Clarins, Neals Yard, Cath Kidston, Miller Harris, Arbonne

* *
Mulling Syrup from Selsley (nr Stroud), Hand made jam from Norfolk,
Thorntons Chocolates, and local honey from Badminton
* * 


Buy something for the summer house and contribute to the ministry which will happen here

CABIN                                              £2,054
ERECTION OF HOUSE                    £400

ELECTRICITY SUPPLY                     £300

PAINT                                               £35 per pot x 8

CHAIR                                               £75

THROWS                                           £35 x 2

TABLE                                                £250

RUG                                                   £87

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:
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!”



individual retreats,   groups

Away Days, Staff days, Vision & Value days

2 special offers - but time's running out!

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.


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 -  
01666 838332 





11.30 - 3.30


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

Competition time!

How would you like to win a night away on retreat at The Vine - with breakfast in bed, and time to BE?

All you have to do to have a chance to win:

- Like our FB page: The Vine at Mays Farm  (if you haven't already). Find it here:

The Vine at Mays Farm on Facebook

- Share the page on your own timeline, with a comment, and tell us when you've done it!

A Winner will be picked and announced on Monday 25th May.

The night away can be a mutually convenient date before Dec 31st 2015

2 things not to miss in June ...

.....  One is the gorgeous new mini spa break! 


 last opportunity to book a place on this 


 Included in this Re:FRESH Re:NEW Re:TREAT

  • mini spa treats 
  • spiritual reflections, mindfulness and gratitude times
  • plenty of time to rest and be refreshed 
  • a take-home goody bag (with treats for body AND soul of course!) 
  • breakfast in bed 
  • choice of healthy menu options 
  • Swiss formulated products for the body
  • candlelit chapel meditation times 
  • beautiful spaces for relaxation



Midweek:    JUNE  8 - 10 2015

Weekend:   JUNE 12-14 2015    

Just £195 full board (sharing a twin room)  including all meals, all spa products, and a take-home goody bag.

To reserve your place on this special mini break, phone 01666 838332 before May 15th.


 ..........   The second is the


SATURDAY June 27th 2015
The pleasure of your company is requested
as we celebrate and give thanks for two years of ministry 

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.

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.
If you are a tax payer please consider Gift Aiding your donation - it makes a huge difference! Thank you.

The gazebo is ready for you ...   

The gazebo is ready for you ...



Holy Week - a pictorial & prayer

True and humble King, hailed by the crowd as Messiah:

grant us the faith to know you and to love you,

that we may be found beside you on the way of the cross

which is the path of glory.


May you know the presence of the Lord

as we journey with Him through Holy Week.


If anyone knows the provenance and copyright of these pictures which I have collected over the years, please do let me know so that proper acknowledgments may be made. Thank you.


I think you and I may have a rather worrying disease.  Dis-ease with some alarming symptoms.  I read first about them in The Times last week; then there was more this weekend.

The tell tale signs:  how many do you have?

 Too much to do, too little time in which to do it.  Never ‘off duty,’ never allowing our minds to switch off even for a moment. When was the last time you were waiting at a red light and simply allowed your mind to wander or to look at the sky? Instead, you check your emails or voice messages, fearful of missing something important.  Dr. Libby Weaver, an Australian nutritional biochemist, writes, “Never before in my work have I seen women in such a mad rush to do everything and be everything to all people. There is a crisis facing women’s health, there is no leisure time, sleep is compromised more and more. Women feel responsible for everything and everyone, 24/7.” (quoted in The Times)

 The results have been seen her at The Vine at Mays Farm, too.

- The Vicar who stayed in bed and slept for 24 hours because she was so exhausted and burned out.

- The women who are unable to slow down for the first 24 hours because they are so used to rushing everywhere all the time.

- Just this last week, the woman who said she had no idea to how to fill a day on retreat – she was so used to a full diary and a busy schedule and did not know where to begin when faced with a few hours to BE.

We are suffering from what is being called Rushing Woman Syndrome. We survive on caffeine and alcohol; on surprisingly and worryingly little sleep; we drop things, trip over things – or over nothing at all; our stomachs are bloated and our heads are in a spin. There are so many apps on our phones because we cannot afford (or bear) to be out of contact with anything from our kids to our grocery shopping. And generally speaking we are still doing the vast part of the child care, house care and home care,  and yet doing the jobs our fathers did.  Some of us literally. (yes, my father was also an Anglican priest)

So we are tired, which makes us angry and stressed and gives us high levels of adrenaline, which in turn is fuelled even more by caffeine and alcohol. Pass the gin.

But there IS another way.  When our technology flashes up “no more capacity,” it probably means us as well. And so we need to stop and switch off the stress.

Literally.  Dr Libby Weaver recommends lifestyle changes and revisions. 

-       more sleep and less caffeine

-       more whole foods and less convenience packages

-       more mindfulness and meditation and less rushing

-       more gratitude and more learning to say ‘no’ sometimes

 Switch off the stress.

Where to begin?

Calm me, O Lord, as You still the storm. Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm. Let all the tumult within me cease.  Enfold me, Lord, in Your peace.

Father, bless the work that is done and the work that is to be.

Father, bless the servant that I am and the servant that I will be….

The peace of God be over me to shelter me,

Under me to uphold me,

About me to protect me,

Behind me to direct me,

Ever with me to save me.

The peace of all peace be mine this night

in the name of the Father,and of the Son,and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 - Felgild Compline – taken from Celtic Daily Prayer

 And so, because many women need this and many women have asked for it, a new 2 night Get-A-Way is happening to jumpstart you on switching off the stress.








The retreat will include

-mini spa treats 

-spiritual reflections, mindfulness and gratitude times

-plenty of time to rest and be refreshed 

- a take-home goody bag (with treats for body AND soul of course!) 

-Breakfast in bed 

-choice of healthy menu options 

- Swiss formulated products for the body

- candlelit chapel meditation times 

Just £195 full board (sharing a twin room)  including all meals, all spa products, and a take-home goody bag.

Arrive from 4pm on day one, depart after brunch 

by 12 noon on day three.


 Weekend:    JUNE 12-14 2015                 Midweek:    JUNE  8 - 10 2015

only 10 places available on either retreat

  so book now to reserve yours! 

Why not bring your friends and/or your small group and enjoy this special time together

If 8 - 10 of you come together, other dates are available to suit you 

To book:

Phone-  01666 838332

Email –

For full details of this and other retreats, and of the facilities at

The Vine at Mays Farm, click here





A love that is not glamorous, doesn't pay well and is not popular

Today, I’ve been reading some unpopular descriptions of love:

Love can be lonely.

A one-way love – with no exit strategy.

To be faithful to a covenant, willing to love when every fibre of your being screams ‘run.’

A love that sets its will to love, regardless of the response of the one being loved.

Love determined to adhere to the covenant, acting not on feelings but on covenant.

I’m reading “A LOVING LIFE” by Paul Miller.  In a world of broken relationships, in a world which believes love comes from feelings not from commitment, this book is deeply disturbing. It’s also profoundly moving, illuminating and arresting.

Miller is writing about the story of Ruth, in the Old Testament; and about hesed *  love – love which is faithful, steadfast, committed. Hesed love is a one-way love, a commitment with no exit strategy; hesed love is determined to love, no matter what. And it is the essence of Calvary love.

It’s not very popular today, of course. Disneyesque love is determined by feelings, by a desire for happy ever after. It tells us to move on, move out, if feelings for the loved one no longer exist. Give up, in order to be true to yourself and to your true (new) feelings.

But that’s not hesed love, not the love of God. Not the love demonstrated in the life of Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus gives us the power to love no matter what our circumstances.  

Not that hesed love pretends that everything is rosy when it clearly isn’t. In fact, because it knows things are not all rosy, hesed love sets its will to love regardless of the response of the one loved. It upholds the covenant, the commitment.  “God’s grace works most powerfully when there is no exit, when we learn to love because we have no other choice.” (Miller)

I can’t pretend it’s easy – I know it’s not.

I know it’s costly.

I know it flies in the face of all modern convention.

But I do know it’s worth it. That I can only do it when the Spirit of the Lord flows through me with grace and mercy. And that the example of Philippians 2:1-11 is the only way it will work.

Humility, serving, dying.

It’s not glamorous, it doesn’t pay well (in this life) and it’s not popular.

But it’s the way Jesus loves me and all I can do is ask for the grace to love as he did and does.

For his greater glory.

*heseda unique Hebrew word, Miller explains,  which in the KJV was translated as ‘deal kindly’ but actually  combines ‘love’ and ‘loyalty.' A ‘steadfast love.’ Stubborn love, if you like.

Get it, read it, be changed by it. I haven't finished this book yet but already it is one of the most profound and transformative books I have ever read. It is hard hitting; my love is so paltry, so self-centred, self -righteous and with a sense of entitlement. 

If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting “Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I find myself taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

That which I know not, teach Thou me, O Lord, my God.

From the book ‘If’ by Amy Carmichael

The man who nearly died

Ron was about to die. Part of a road repair & construction crew, he somehow frighteningly found his clothing caught up in a rotating part of a truck and could see that death was imminent. But he was rescued just in time – and given a second chance at life.

A man of little or no learning, Ron, who lived in Malmesbury, decided to ask for help in reading, writing and arithmetic; and his quest led him to Mary and Vince, who lived in the next village.  Vince was a maths teacher, and together he and his wife helped Ron – not just with his education but by introducing him to Jesus. Ron’s life was never the same again.  His education never really got very far; but his new-found love for the Lord increased and although not really able to read the Bible, Ron developed a true and deep prayer life based on a very close relationship with Jesus. 

One day, visiting Mary and Vince, Ron told them about a picture he’d had when he had been praying for the village. He described a large old house, set back from the road and not visible when you walked past. The house was a little disreputable and needed a lot of work done on it. There were big white double gates, which Ron described in great detail. He then said that the Lord had told him that one day the house would be a Christian place for others to come. He then set off to walk home, rather than take the bus as he normally did, and on the way he saw the double white gates of his dream. He peeked up the driveway and saw the house he’d just been describing to Vince and Mary.  Excitedly, he ran back to their home to tell them of his discovery. 

They immediately recognised it as Mays Farm, which has been a farm for about 600 years. How could it become a Christian centre? But they believed this word from the Lord and began to pray for it to become true. Nearly 20 years later, their prayers were answered when we bought what was then an uninhabited and almost uninhabitable old house.

We hadn’t planned to go to our local church this morning, across the road. We’d planned to go into Bath to church. But on hearing that this morning was to be a joint service with Mt Zion, the non-denominational church which meets in the village hall, and that Sat-7 would be there to share about their amazing Christian outreach TV programmes in the Middle East, we changed our minds and are so glad we did.  Not least to hear about that incredible work!

And Mary and Vince were there of course – they still lead Mt Zion even though they are now in their eighties. The worship was amazing, led by the Mt Zion band; lots of our new village friends were there; and there was the usual good coffee before and after – and with delicious homemade baklava as well to get us in the mood! 

And over coffee, Mary and Vince shared with us the story of the prophecy about our home, made by Ron, a man of very little education but of enormous love for his Lord; a man who was given a second chance of life and spent it growing closer to Jesus.

Snowdrops planted last year. Harbingers of spring!

Snowdrops planted last year. Harbingers of spring!

Ron is now in glory; I hope he knows that his prophetic dream has now come true. Hearing his story this morning sent shivers down my back; made me realize afresh that this work at The Vine is a God-given vision and calling; and that we need to keep going – even when we just don’t know how we will survive financially! But we have to trust that if God has ordained it then it is to be continued.

Hints of yellow flowers on the wall flowers.

Hints of yellow flowers on the wall flowers.



The pleasure of your company is requested for a summer’s day

FULL DETAILS with INVITATION will be sent soon, 

but put the date in your diary now and plan to join us.

New curtains! Upgrading the Morning Room

New curtains! Upgrading the Morning Room

Guests love the new look of the Morning Room!

Guests love the new look of the Morning Room!


"I found welcome, warmth and wisdom at The Vine." (that guest MUST be a vicar!!)

"Thank you so much for what you have created here. We've not been on a retreat like this for a long time - much needed and a very special experience. It was rest, spiritually inspiring, fun and regenerating." (a couple from Bristol)

Heroines with links to THE VINE at MAYS FARM

THREE REMARKABLE PEOPLE, each of whom I want to recommend.

What do you do when you’ve torn your MCL and have to sit with the injured leg raised, a vast leg brace adorning thigh to ankle, and the brightly-bruised knee covered with ice packs, for most of the time?

Cue a good book. My love of reading has at last returned, after several years when PTSD took away both the desire and the ability to concentrate. So, this past week I have discovered three heroines each of whom has had an impact, and two of whom were written about while the authors were staying at The Vine at Mays Farm.


THE EVENNESS OF THINGS by Deborah Fiddimore (a pen name) has a heroine who is a Vicar’s wife suffering from PTSD following a car accident in which both the heroine and her close relative are involved; and the end result is a large house bought in order both to escape the memories and to open for Retreats. Sound familiar? Me too. But no, it’s not written by me nor about me (even though much of it was written in my house!) Daisy, this heroine, learns as I have, that “a house cannot save you.  But in the right circumstances - peaceful, beautiful, with trained people for support -  it can help.” 

‘The Evenness of Things’ is not long; but it is profound. And by the end, you realize “Life has a way of evenning things. If you let it. If you listen.”

I moved from that novella to a booklet, EDITH CAVELL – A FORGOTTEN HEROINE.

Written largely in my house too, by Nick Miller, it is brief outline of the life and death of Nurse Edith Cavell, executed one hundred years ago for rescuing Allied servicemen. But the reason for this short retelling of her story on the centenary of her death, is because of her strong Christian commitment and the way her actions were determined by her faith. During her last few weeks she was imprisoned and she used the time to read and annotate ‘Of the Imitations of Christ’ by Thomas a Kempis. Quotations from both Edith Cavell and the Imitations give rise to personal reflection, such as : “What lessons can I take from her life? Am I willing to follow her in imitating Christ?”   (p24). 

This is a little book which would be a wonderful inspiration to read and use for reflection while on retreat. What better place than where it was written?!

 Now for something completely different.

CATHERINE THE GREAT: Robert K Massie. What a contrast to the previous two! Two women or two books? Both; for this hefty tome is a biography of Catherine the Great, The Empress Catherine II who ruled Russia during the 18th Century. Born Sophia Augusta in a little German state, she was married while a young teenager to Grand Duke Peter, heir to the Russian empire, and in order to be acceptable as wife to the heir, Sophia was baptised into the Orthodox Church with the name Catherine, even though she had been brought up as Lutheran. The story of this intelligent, strong and determined woman who devoted herself to her adopted country and who changed the course of Russian history, is fascinating and demanding. While envying her energy, enthusiasm and strong spirit, I am saddened by her unhappy marriage, by the three children fathered by three different men none of whom was her husband, by her lack of religious conviction as her unhappiness turned to political intrigue and leadership. Yet, like Edith Cavell, a lot of Catherine’s actions were from a compelling sense of duty and from a desire to do the best for others – Edith for those she nursed and rescued, Catherine for her adopted country.

Each of these women – Daisy, Edith and Catherine – has lived with me these past days and been a part of my subconscious as I have read their stories, considered their beliefs, weighed and interpreted their lives. 

Which speaks most to you?

If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly!

A young person politely asked me as I expounded on this theme: “What exactly do you mean by that?” If they’d been from my generation, they would have echoed the immortal words of John McEnroe - “You cannot be serious!” Surely if we’re doing something for God, it should be excellent.  Christians have been known for far too long for being second rate and accepting second best. Whether it is by serving lukewarm, weak coffee in church-issue green or yellow cups and saucers from the 1950’s; or by projection and sound systems that have a mind of their own; and operators who put the words of the next verse up for the congregation only after the worship group have already completed the first two lines!

But I am serious.

Read More

A January Survival Kit

A mini-series on alleviating, surviving, truimphing over, the bleak midwinter blues of January. Why not sign up to get the rest delivered straight into your  inbox!

If you missed part one you can catch up on it by clicking this link.


Here’s a mini survival kit for the midwinter blues. A friend sent it to me several years ago, and I’ve no idea where she found it.  I pass it on as a slightly tongue-in-cheek daily survival kit:  fill your bag with these few things and keep taking them out to remind yourself.



to help you each day of this new year:


A Toothpick ... to remind you to  pick the good qualities in everyone, including  yourself.

A Rubber Band ... to remind you to be flexible. Things might not always  go the way you want, but it can be worked out. 

A Plaster  ... to remind you to  heal hurt feelings, either yours or someone else's.

An Eraser ... to remind you  everyone makes mistakes. That's okay, we learn from our  errors.

A chocolate (Hershey's Kiss) ... to remind you everyone needs a hug or a compliment  everyday.

A Mint  ... to remind you that you are worth a mint to your family  & me.

 Bubble  Gum ... to remind you to stick with it and you can accomplish  anything.

A Pencil ... to remind you to  list your blessings every day.

A Tea Bag ... to remind you to take time to relax daily and go over  that list of blessings.

This is what makes life worth living every minute, every day 

May you have love, gratitude, friends to cherish, caring, sharing,laughter, music, and  warm feelings in your heart in 2015.


AND, I have to add, the gratitude in counting each day's gifts gives so much blessing and a change of mental attitude. How can doing one such small simple thing make this enormous difference?

All is gift.

Counting blessings - are you too?


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)


What would you add to this list?



One Resolution or One Re-solution?

Death – or impending death  - or the threat of death – has struck already in 2015.

“Have you found a lasting hope? … What are the things for which you will be remembered?” I questioned myself in last week’s blog, thinking about my own death – inevitable but not, as far as I know, immediate – and how its inevitability might affect how I live right now.

 On January 1st, a dear friend woke to find her husband had unexpectedly died in his sleep that night..

On January 2nd a friend revealed the diagnosis of cancer;  another friend told of unexpected and dire side effects to the latest series of chemotherapy treatments.

A new year does not guarantee the end of sorrows and tears. And I’ve been here before – personal loss and personal sorrows deeply felt not once but several times even in the past few years. Some publically acknowledged, some not.  Rocked to my roots.

And this I have learnt: resolutions might help but they do not resolve. Resolutions sometimes help a lifestyle but they do not resolve the deephurts and losses. Only a re-solution can do that. The re-solution that’s in a name.

Jesus.  Sweet Jesus.

“There is power in the name of Jesus.” There are times when all I can do is whisper his name. I did not know how powerful that could be until it is all that is left.

Jesus. Sweet Jesus.

When life–lossesare profound and personal, when they gut-punch, grip and won’t let go, still there is Jesus.

Feelings numbed, bewilderment my only thought, and I need a re-solution.

Jesus. Sweet Jesus. Just his name. It’s all the heart knows. All the mind can remember. 

I wish I could promise that if you say his name there is always comfort and caressing.  What I do know is that it keeps your fingertips clinging on.

Jesus. Sweet Jesus. Say it enough and it IS enough.  Repeating this re-solution means my balance remains enough to stay upright, to not give in to what else could be.

Jesus. Sweet Jesus.

 On January 3rd a friendjoyously announced her son’s engagement.

On January 4th my husband’s nephew and his wife had a beautiful baby girl.

 Jesus. Sweet Jesus. Resolving only this: to say his name. It is the rock I cling to, the shadow to hide in, the wing under which I shelter.

He is enough. He is the re-solution.





4 searching questions for a New Year

.. and for the pending conclusion of my life. 

I've been reading the late Dr Denise Inge's book,  "A Tour of Bones - facing fear and looking for life"

You could describe it as a description of a tour of four charnel houses in Europe. Or as emanating from living over the bones underneath the house of the Bishop of Worcester, to whom she was married. Or even as her thoughts on life and death when faced with her own threatened early demise from cancer (which was sadly earlier this year).

The writer, P D James, describes it as "A beautifully-written book ... One which celebrates not death but life, and how, by confronting the fear and inevitability of our end, we can embrace life and live it more abundantly."

I'm not facing a known and imminent death - only the fact that I will, like you and everyone else, one day someday die. Life, earthly life, is terminal. So I too want to embrace life and live it more abundantly, knowing that life is a gift, one that is short and unique and mine for a while. While I believe that there is more to come after death and that the Life After Death is an eternal gift without measure, the life that I have now is not as appreciated or embraced as it might be.

The four questions posed by Denise Inge, disquieting questions, profound questions, seem a good place to begin what is left of my life, a life which is about to step over  into  new season: 2015.   Although I have to say that September still feels more like the new beginning of a new year than January ever does, still the calendar commences afresh. And I have a new journal - which I shall excitedly open, inscribe "Penelope Swithinbank - 2015" and anticipate and appreciate the clean new pages and what they may contain. A sense of excitement, of the chance for a re-beginning, a glimpse of untrodden boundless possibilities.

So I am taking these four questions as my guide for the next twelve months.

- Are the broken parts of your deepest self being healed?

- Have you found a lasting hope?

- What are the things for which you will be remembered?

- Are you on a path of true humility? (and, I would add, of gratitude. For gratitude makes whatever we have enough.)

Facing a new season, facing 2015, facing the inevitably of your own demise, how would you answer these questions? And what would your own four questions be to yourself for this new year?

I open the journal (lined this year, unusually for me) and begin to write .......

A blessing for the new year: you can click HERE to hear the beautiful words as arranged by John Rutter:

May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.

5 Things I like in Advent

The Saturday Times magazine yesterday was The List Issue.

A list of lists. 8 of this and 10 of that. 12 reasons why and 20 signs ...and the 63 easiest ....

Or so it was promised.

I've been thinking about lists of my own ever since. I happen to like lists. I've been accused of keeping lists of lists. (Not true ... well, almost true ...) Lists are accurate and easy and keep things tidy. 

Like my list of this week's menus for the clergy coming on the Advent retreat for a few days tomorrow. I don't have to worry what to cook: it's already decided and the correct food ordered (from a list of course)

Or the list of who is getting what for Christmas. I could look back at last year or the year before or ten years ago or more - and therefore not give someone the same thing again. Unless it was meant.

But the list I really feel like making right now is the list of what I like about Advent. 

When I was being interviewed by the grandees of Lincoln Diocese to see if they would recommend me for training for ordination with the Church of England, one of the questions was "What is your favourite season of the Church calendar?"  Coming from a very 'low' background there was very little if any emphasis on seasons or colours or festivals or calendars within the church year. (I've learned a lot since those days!) But it sprang into my mind (God-nudged?) that I love Advent. And always have. So I was able to be honest in my reply - although I did not honestly say it was the only season I could probably name right at that moment....

So here is my list: 5 things I like about Advent

- a sense of expectation. The watching and the waiting in hope. Anticipation and tingling with excitement.

- purple. It's one of my favourite colours and always has been. 

- candles and woodsmoke and advent calendars. Not necessarily advent-y but they go with this time of year.

- the music and the words. Advent carols (as opposed to Christmas carols) and Advent readings. All leading back to #1 - the sense of expectation and anticipation

- gingerbread. I know you can eat gingerbread any time of the year. But in our household, it's been an illustration of the "now" and the "not yet" and whenever I make it we are reminded. The aroma of its baking fills the house - the NOW. But we can't eat it until it has been wrapped and allowed to mature for a whole week. The NOT YET. And that's what Advent is all about. Jesus has come - the NOW; and He will come again in great power and glory - the NOT YET. We live in in between, in great hope and expectation. 

So excuse me - I'm off to make some gingerbread. 

* * * * 

If you'd like to have a few days of R&R - breakfast in bed, peace, no hurry, time to read or pray or just BE, relaxing by a log fire or taking a brisk country walk and then enjoying afternoon tea (sometimes with gingerbread!) why not come and stay at The Vine? Bookings for 2015 now open. Come alone - or come for a weekend and bring your small group!