Dear Friends and Neighbours,
In my last letter, I wrote about my experience of attending a Silent Retreat at the start of my Sabbatical which took place in the first quarter of 2017. I thought I might share with you a little more about my time away.
My return from the Silent Retreat coincided with a yearly ‘MOT’ at the GP’s surgery. The news wasn’t entirely good! My blood pressure was too high, my sugar levels were a bit high, my cholesterol was a bit high and my weight…well let’s not even go there! My husband Colin was in the same boat! Before they considered medication, we asked for three months (the length of my Sabbatical) to make some changes to our lifestyle.
And change we did!
We began eating ‘properly’ and walking in earnest. We purchased a little paperback book called ‘Footpaths to Fitness in Dorset’ which was a very good buy! Easy short, flat walks to begin with; then becoming more strenuous and of medium length and then finally some longer walks of 10 miles or so which are far more challenging.
And walk we did!
We were averaging around thirty odd miles a week. You see, the Sabbatical made it possible for us to spend our time out in the fresh air, walking in some of the most beautiful countryside ~ right here in Dorset.
We also went to Tenerife and walked there and then came back and spent a week in a cottage in one of the highest villages in the Peak District. Our weight decreased and our stamina increased. Tenerife was sunny and warm and very dry; the Peak District wasn’t! but both beautiful in their own way. God has made such a beautiful planet for us to live on.
At the same time, I began reading and studying the life of a 15th century saint, Ignatius of Loyola. He was the founder of the Society of Jesus - we know them today as the Jesuits. Born in Northern Spain, he was an interesting chap who lived a privileged life as part of the Spanish nobility but was severely injured in battle and spent a very long time recovering in a religious house where he had a spiritual conversion which led to his calling to a religious life. St Ignatius is responsible for developing a set of ‘spiritual exercises’ which he saw as a way of helping us build up our ‘spiritual fitness’ and so bring us to a closer walk with Jesus.
So, for me, the Sabbatical not only rested me from ministry ~ it gave me the opportunity to become fitter in body, mind and spirit. I lost three and a half stone and I’m physically fitter than I have been for years. Colin has lost two and half! My blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels are improved; my prayer life and reflective thinking has been transformed. I am immensely grateful to the Methodist Church and to God for this time of renewal and replenishment.
I must say however, it is great to be back ‘in the thick of it’ in ministry, back amongst my church family and local community in Broadstone.
One highlight (of many) in my ministry since I returned, happened in June when I had the privilege of baptizing two young people, members of the church family in Broadstone, down on the beach at Sandbanks. We all gathered at 8.30 one sunny morning and baptized Keziah and Toby in the presence of their family and friends ~ what a joy! This was a ‘first’ for me and an emotional experience for all present, especially Keziah and Toby and their family. A day that we will never forget.
In the printed magazine are some photos of that special day and also some of the places where we walked and felt very close to God.
Now, it’s back to reality and as I look out of my study window, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to us as the seasons turn from summer through to autumn. The leaves are turning from gold to russet to brown and the nights are drawing in.
The news from around our troubled world is not always good, but our wonderful and faithful God is with us always. He loves us and walks our life’s journey with us. His son Jesus lifts the burdens that weigh us down and His Holy Spirit gives us the strength to get through the day and comforts us in the long watches of the night.
I will leave you with some words of one of my very favourite modern hymns ~ written by the talented John Bell and Graham Maule:
“We cannot measure how you heal”.
Lord, let your Spirit meet us here
To mend the body, mind, and soul,
To disentangle peace from pain
And make your broken people whole.
God bless you and keep you