Monday, 30 December 2013

Three Kings

...from Persian lands afar....

Yes, the Wise Men are back. Listen to their wise words over at Spiritually Directed. Thanks, Roberta!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas

to all my readers, if they're still there!  Many many reasons for the lack of bloggery this Advent, some of which I'll not go into. Others...well...chief of which you can see in the photo; the arrival a fortnight ago of GP dog II. Here she is with her faithful companion, GP dog, starting as they mean to go on. Let me recommend adoption of a rescue dog as a sure fire cure for insomnia; since she's been with us, I've fallen asleep almost as soon as my head has hit the pillow! Such a sweet little thing, but hard work. Being ex-breeding, she's missed out on so many of the socialisation experiences  that should have been hers whilst she was a puppy. It's been a busy few weeks. (Well, that's my excuse for putting off Christmas prep) Yet even in the short time she's been with us, it's been wonderful to see how love, kind words, and most of all the company of GP dog, has changed her. She does still hate being left, which has limited our movements somewhat: no midnight mass this year and DH and I took turns to do the Christmas shopping. Takes me right back to when the children were little and hurrying back to let the babysitter go home! Never have the arrival of our two, now adult children been so welcomed!


This Advent we had some visitors to the GP creche: a knitted Mary, Joseph and Doogal the donkey, who made their home with us as  part of their journey round the parish. Each lucky host filled in their 'passport' with an account of their adventures. From what I read, they had a great time on their travels, which culminated with their arrival in church this morning. We certainly loved having them. Here are some more pics of their adventures chez Greenpatch.

Well, where else to take a donkey but to see a long-lost relative at the Christmas market.  A kind lady agreed to pose with our hairy friends. The original plan - to have reindeer had to be changed, when Rudolf jumped over the fence and made off  at top speed down the road.

Our holy family even got to take a trip on the train - down the line to take part in our Franciscan small group's Christmas meeting. 

What else? Mr GP and I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas concert at church a couple of weeks ago and and last weekend I did manage to get to Nine Lessons and Carols. It never ceases to weave its magic for me. "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it..." We all clutched on our candles as they burned lower and lower. Would that frail  wavering light last out until the end of the penultimate carol? It was a near thing. But 'light and life to all he brings..." we got there at last - to the final triumphant "Hark! The herald angels sing. Glory to the new born king!" I kept my candle stump -as a reminder to myself of that light and hope.

And - unexpected bonus. I may not have been able to go to midnight mass myself  this year but an unexpected call early on Christmas eve from a fellow sacristy helper who'd been taken ill meant I spent a quiet time that morning counting out hundreds of wafers, wine and assorted altar linen. All to the accompaniment of the childrens' groups rehearsing for the crib service next door. OK - maybe 'quiet' isn't the most apt word to use! Magic all the same. Although - I do think our church's children must be exceptionally well-behaved compared to most. It's the first time I've ever heard kids that age singing "Gabriel's Message" without trying to sneak in the "alternative words!"

Then on to  a local rest home to visit a very  elderly church member. 

It may not have been quite what I'd planned for the day, but the best laid plans....

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Advent - Expectant

O come, O come, thou swallow small,
   responding to your infants' call,
   fly far and wide across the earth
  and end with hope our winter's dearth.

        Rejoice! Rejoice! A tiny bird
       shall show a truth that seems absurd.
        - Jim Cotter from Expectant - Verses for Advent, Cairns Publications

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Advent - Chriskindelmarkt

Here's one of my favourite places to visit this Advent - our town's  new Christmas market, first proper one we've ever had. Not quite the 'real' Christkindelmarket, like the one we knew when we lived in Alsace of course. Still, it's pretty close and  to potter round, hot chocolate or mulled wine in hand,   as darkness falls  is just magical.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Advent - Expectancy

Let's approach Christmas with an expectant hush, rather than a last-minute rush.

 - by that well-known personage 'Anon.'

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent- Waiting

You keep us waiting.
You, the God of all time,
Want us to wait for the right time in which to discover
Who we are, where we must go,
Who will be with us, and what we must do.
So, thank you…for the waiting time.
 - John Bell

Thursday, 28 November 2013


Let us be like the lark, enemy of the night, who always announces the dawn and awakens in each creature the love of light and life.
 - Elizabeth LeSeur

Friday, 22 November 2013


Watch out for the tumbleweed!  A sure indicator  that I've been away from the blogosphere for too long is the arrival of certain persons of an Eastern bloc persuasion in my stats, and I'm not talking my favourite ukes here, either. I'd best take  a leaf from The Long Walk Home's rant and just get on with it!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

I will not let you go...

...until you bless me. (Genesis 32).

I "ouch" and "ooched" my way back up the road from the chemists earlier today, laden with heat wraps, passed a neighbour on the way -  we exchanged details of our respective back problems (as you do). Mine's been threatening to flare up these last couple of weeks, not helped by a wrestling match at the vets this afternoon either. I'm off on retreat tomorrow, so the last thing I want is to be immobilised with a wonky hip.

The vets visit was...well...let's say it was an 'experience,'  involving what should have been a straightforward kennel cough vaccination (For those not in the know, this involves squirting the vaccine up your pooch's nose) plus aspiration of a couple of fatty lumps in GP dog's armpits. Oh dear! It developed into a wrestling match with myself and a vetinary nurse trying to simultaneously hold and reassure a wriggling, squeaking, distraught and (oh the shame!) even a slightly snappy Fido (ended up administering the shot via a muzzle). As he  weighs in at a hefty 14kg, by the time we left the surgery, I felt as if I'd just run a marathon at least, and my back was grumbling even more than poor GP dog.

For some reason  - and I do make the weirdest connections -  all this has put me in mind of Kirsten M  and Antonia's blogs about  the icon of 'Our Lady and the Playing Child.'  As Antonia mentions, a more apt name would be 'Our Lady and the Struggling Child,' there's a real wrestling match going on there. It's heartbreaking for everybody involved. I've had times myself  when it's all too much, a mess, such a visceral rush of emotion that all I can do is rage and stamp at God until the anger and sorrow is spent. (at least inwardly. I'm far too 'nice' to voice my feelings out loud!)  And then? Ian Cowie puts it so well in his A Regrettable Prayer: "Good God, what a mess! Father, come and collect your lost child..."

I hope, I do hope, that the next time I'm in this kind of situation -and there will be a next time, I'll remember Jacob's encounter with God  at Peniel and say "I will not let you go until you bless me." And maybe - just maybe -  one day I'll be able to come through the other side  with the realisation that "I have seen God face to face."

Friday, 18 October 2013

Autumn - Nature's Bounty

Nature's Bounty - a few bits n bobs from my walk this morning

And what better excuse for a recycled Greenpatch. There must be some Useful and Acceptable Gifts I could make from this lot:

I was puffing my way up the hill to church last Sunday; at the last minute as usual, but I just had to stop and pick up these conkers.  I dithered for a nanosecond (I mean, a fifty-something year-old woman getting all excited over something like this - honestly!), but my inner five year-old won in the end, you'll be glad to hear.  The same inner five-year old that I remember popping out during my first retreat seven years ago now, as I wandered round the wild garden at CSF Compton Durville.   It was like exploring a jungle! I was  so thrilled! By the time I went home I must have gathered half of the Somerset countryside on my windowsill - plus any number of creepy-crawlies besides.
To return to last week,  off I hopped to church where I arranged my treasure carefully on the pew in front of me, and, I regret to say, didn't really take in very much of the service at all that morning. Never mind, for once I've managed to get ahead of myself, what with Harvest Festival coming up and all. I came out of the sacristy this afternoon to see one of the flower ladies busy decorating the place with a lovely collection of leaves, conkers and other autumal goodies. Somebody is going to find it rather difficult to concentrate this Sunday as well, and we're not just talking about the children. My inner Busy Fauve is dying to go for a run. As I'd suspect too,  the insect life that might have come into church with the decorations. Who knows? If they hang around for long enough, they'll be able to take part in the pet blessing service the following weekend!
 The beech husks in the photo are another 'treasure' unearthed by my resident Fauve and I on our walks which make me smile.  Do any bloggers remember the classic Joyce Grenfell monologue Useful And Acceptable Gifts where she plays a (Very Buckinghamshire) countrywoman giving a lecture to a Women's Institute on how to make a 'boutoniere' out of beech husks?  Wonderful. Any road, I'm not able to pass a beech tree at this time of year now without giggling quietly to myself. 
So, I'll be up there this Sunday, ploughing the fields and scattering away. And I'll be thinking about boutonieres, earwigs and the gifts of laughter and wonder.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Unclenched Moment

Gentle me,
Holy One,
into an unclenched moment,
a deep breath,
a letting go
of heavy expectancies,
of shriveling anxieties,
of dead certainties,
that, softened by the silence,
surrounded by the light,
and open to the mystery,
I may be found by wholeness,
upheld by the unfathomable,
entranced by the simple,
and filled with the joy
that is you.
( from Guerillas of Grace by Ted Loder, Luramedia 1984)

As I've mentioned before, we're going through much change in the GP household just now. Reading Diggingalot's reflections this morning on  Let Something Essential Happen to Me   took me  back to another beautiful piece by Ted Loder  that I stumbled across months ago and that's since formed a  background to my prayers. It's so easy for this quiet joy to be drowned out by the noise and distractions, so thanks for reminding me about it once again.

And did you know - according to some of my bible reading notes - that the ancient Assyrian word for prayer was the same as they had for opening a clenched fist?

Saturday, 5 October 2013

I was doing so well

...with the Jesus Prayer the other morning. It wasn't until five minutes in that I realised that I'd been praying my National Insurance number.

Could it be a sign?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Blog of the Week or not?

I having neglected this little corner of the blogosphere  over the Summer. I can't think how I've managed to miss that two of my most stalwart 'blogrollers,' who whilst my back was turned have diversified, expanded, branched out with new and additional blogs  all every bit as inspiring as the originals. First off, Mike F of The Mercy Blog, who's now to be found at Silent Assemblies, followed by Antonia of The Love That Moves The Sun; do check out her eye-catching  collection of quotations - Cupcakes of Thought (I'll leave you to find out how she thought up the blog title!)

It's making me wonder if there's mileage in reviving my old Blog of The Week feature; whether doing so will give my bloggery more of a focus or simply add to my  arsenal of procrastination tools. INFPs rule, OK?

If the answer's yes, this is its grand launch. Rather fitting to begin with Mike F as I think his was the first blog given the Greenpatch vote of approval years ago.

What do you all think?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Updated Underpinnings - A guide for the journey

I've updated my spiritual underpinnings section with much puffing, blowing, letting out of panels and replacement of worn elastic. Do have a look through my 'spiritual drawers' at A guide for the journey - spiritual direction.

Please excuse the levity. When you've  typed out the word 'spiritual' several dozen times, you get to thinking how very very silly it looks!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Labyrinth Lessons

Flying by to direct you to a link a friend just pointed me towards: Persistence, forgiveness, humility and much more, what Deb Vaughan of An Unfinished Symphony has learnt from Building a labyrinth.

Friday, 20 September 2013

As long as we're living

The Unfolding Pamphlet on Change - Ribbonwood Designs

"...change will be happening."

I can certainly vouch for that! Like the proverbial buses that are conspicuous by their absence, before several appear all at once, the CH word is looming large in my life at the moment.  Someone, somewhere seems to be muddling up the seasons; I was under the impression that Spring was the time for new beginnings and here we are edging our way into the season "of mists and mellow fruitfulness." 

Well, maybe the bus analogy isn't entirely accurate, given that I have had some warning of most of the changes afoot in the GP support network.  The first came totally out of the blue,  however, and when it struck several months  ago, by some wonderful serendipity this little leaflet The Unfolding Pamphlet on Change by Trish Harris came to my notice. It was the vivid, colourful artwork that first  attracted me, that and its  simplicity -  as it unfolds the process and impact of change on our lives and offers us ways in which we might begin to engage and live with  it. I bought a bundle of leaflets on impulse and have been giving copies away ever since.  To date it's helped me avoid the wobbles; I've been remarkably calm about the whole process, even found it quite exciting: change can herald growth after all.

Though I suspect some of this calmness might be covering shock. After the latest goodbye the other night, to a good friend and one third of our giggle and gossip group prayer triplet, I had to fight off a distinctly unBritish quivering lip. The next Ch event, coming up way faster than we'd anticipated, is that of GP daughter moving abroad;  even more seismic potential there, except that the whole process is moving so fast that I think we'll not have the opportunity to have a wibbly fit  until after she's gone.

So...deep breath...keep calm and carry on.

Monday, 16 September 2013

All is safely gathered in?

image from

How Harvest Festival has changed. Especially when most churches in  our area have a foodbank collection point. Especially as our seemingly prosperous little town has need of a foodbank - Pip Wilson's reflections are making me realise again  that there  are more types of poverty than the obvious ones.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Summer Wanderings: Bikes, Buddhists Bunting and Birds

Welcome back to the blog after the Summer break. And what a Summer it was this year! Sun, sea,  soggy sand, (which Mr GP had to pull me out of!) and...silliness. Well, not the last, but  I had to find something else beginning with the same letter. Here's a quick tour of what I've called the Summer of the volunteer.

Souvenir from LEL 2013 - Control Eskdalemuir

First off, we caught two  trains  and a bus to  the wilds of Eskdalemuir in Scotland to join the doughty team of volunteers supporting thousands of cyclists riding the LEL London-Edinburgh London cycle event. How do you begin to describe such a mammoth undertaking? Mr GP rode in this four years ago; this time he wanted to experience it from the other side. We'd deliberately chosen this remote location, because of it being one we'd passed through several years previously on our Durham-Iona walk. Also due to to the nearby presence of the Samye Ling Buddhist monastery and Tibetan centre: a wonderfully peaceful place to wander round between shifts; the fact that they have a great coffee shop is neither here nor there... I'll keep you any  longer, but in true Blue Peter style, pass you on to something somebody else made earlier -  by Peter, a fellow volunteer who captures the whole experience far better than I ever could.

Siloth on Solway - Milennium mosaic
From there we hurtled back down to Carlisle and out to sunny Siloth on Solway. What a discovery there, too! Simple, honest to goodness unspolt seaside with wonderful views from  the Solway back over to Scotland in one direction and towards the 'proper,' Lake District in the other. Somebody told me that you've not visited the true Lake District until you've been to Keswick.

Home Comforts: A little corner of Greenbelt 2013

Then on  - for me at least - to Greenbelt Festival where I was volunteering again  in one of the worship venues. I've said before my personal experience of the festival  seems to alternate between one good and one bad year. 2010, good, 2011, less than positive, 2012 much better. 2013? I'd say it was the year of change and challenge - for many of us, I'd guess, as we came to term with the challenges of a re-configured (because of the damage done to the racecourse during last year's floods) and much smaller site. Apart from the inevitable noise pollution which was unavoidable with several major music venues Big top and beer tent all located up one end of the festival village, and the loss of several much-loved venues to the downscaling, I rather liked it myself. It seemed much cosier and less intimidating to this dyed in the wool introvert, whilst as a hard-working volunteer I found that with the smaller distances between locations, I actually managed to get to more than one talk this time round. Sue Pickering's first talk on the Friday evening on the spirituality of ageing, Hopeweaver's creative morning prayer, Steve Chalke, Abbot Christopher Jamieson's breathtaking session on contemplative prayer - I was stewarding for this one, but it was so popular that we had the doors open. I'll never forget standing there watching what must have been over 300 people, deep in silent prayer, some I guess, for the first time ever,  whilst the hullaballoo of the festival was all around them. Plenty other memories too - many of them came with the volunteer experience. A classic being helping to steward a long, long queue of folk queuing for the Goth eucharist whilst a silent eucharist was being held just across the hallway. Surreal isn't in it!

That pesky 'inner parrot!'

Finally, last weekend, I'd a great time introducing some groups to the Sybil MacBeth colouring prayer methods as part of a series of interactive workshops over the county border. Pictured here is that pesky 'Inner Parrot,' (inner critic), who played a walk-on part being ceremoniously binned at the start of each session! I fancy he looks suitably  subdued now, don't you? 

So, on with the autumn with many changes forecast in my little corner. Fasten your seatbelts now...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Another week - another labyrinth

Labyrinth Norwich Cathedral
What a wonderful surprise, and what could be more appropriate than to introduce GP son to the labyrinth on his graduation day! Here he is walking...(well 'galloping' might be a more accurate way of describing it) his way round.

It was his second graduation; we now have a "Ma" as well as a Mum in the family! Actor Jack Davenport - there to receive an honorary Doctorate of Letters and Chancellor and author Rose Tremain offered, I thought,  heartening advice to all those young men and women embarking aiming to make their career in the creative arts: not to be discouraged, to look to the long process and above all, cultivate the qualities of patience and empathy, ("If you don't learn to listen to people, you'll run out of stories to tell."). Qualities that could benefit all of us, wherever we are on our life's path, I reckon.  We're looking forward to seeing where DS's journey takes him.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, as Smudgie, another absentee blogger has reminded me. Not that I need reminding - today I've walked plodded wearily up and down the hill to church twice, once to the morning service, then  to a great summer concert, where we were serenaded, entertained and fed Pimms and strawberries. Who wants to linger at home in the sweltering heat, (the photo here was taken months ago; our lawn being a fetching shade of beige just now), when you can sit in a cool (ish) building, enjoy a repertoire ranging from Widor to Queen, Piaf to Telemann, MacColl to Vaughan Williams? Not me! I suspect I've lost pounds in sweat and as an added bonus can sit back in smug satisfaction in the knowledge that I've already clocked up four  30 minute exercise sessions in one day.

Last Saturday  saw me pottering round the labyrinth once more in the blistering heat ( even the grass felt crispy beneath my feet),   and experimenting ('experimenting' being particularly apt in my case) with watercolours at the BRF Festival of Prayer, whilst on the Sunday  all the GP 'children,' and daughter's bf home for a family photo. I'm longing to see the results; the photographer even managed to get GP dog to behave, a true miracle! 

Wind back one week further and we were in Winchester for a friend's priesting,  and associated celebration and jubilation. I have no stamina whatsoever, hence  crawled into her first communion the next morning  with a distinct hangover. Even so, what a wonderful time -   right from the first drink (Bucks Fizz in a Winchester shoe shop -nothing to do with the goings-ons at the Cathedral!) as I strolled  through the town in the glorious sunshine.Then  as a perfect finishing touch, my favourite Celidh band - 'Threepenny Bit,' were busking in the shopping centre. The ordinations weren't bad, either  - although as I was sitting much further back this time, I wasn't able to work out if the supporting clergy had cheered up since  last year.

Add to that several  train journeys and associated pottering around the length and breadth of the nearest city  for necessary meetings, combined with early morning dog-walking to avoid the heat and nobody can accuse me of lazing around during the heatwave! 

I'll be donning my posh frock for another Big Event during the week of which more later. It's a mad social whirl here , I tell you!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Words fail me...

Yup, it's the silly season all right. I come in from a meeting thinking noble spiritual thoughts, only to learn from  Kirsten M and Antonia that my chemical element classifies me as a noble, inert and odorless gas. What Mr GP will have to say about this I daren't think!

Then as  if that wasn't enough, my comments have been invaded by someone purporting to be a 'druid in training.' I have my doubts; she looks more like Little Miss Naughty to me. Come back Archdruid Eileen, all is forgiven.

You know, I could be such a super-spiritual being if it wasn't for other people!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Changes, Changes

It must be the effect of all this sunshine.  I absent myself from blogland for a couple of weeks and when I get back, what do I find? The revered Archdruid Eileen has ********  /hopped off on sabbatical, that's what. It's not good enough!  And as if that wasn't enough  The Love that moves the sun is busy tinkering around with alternative blog titles. What is this;  the silly season?

Friday, 21 June 2013

Solstice Celebrations - Stonehenge

Sorry Archdruid -  this is the only possible way to celebrate the coming of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn. I'd normally have been out in the park with GP dog to greet him myself, only having an unexpected Friday morning off, I had a mini lie in until the deliciously decadent hour of 8 a.m!

In my defence,  in my latest reading, I've just reached the section on The Woodwose and what better wildmen than our wildmen of rock! The fact that I now have wildwoses, minotaurs, the Wolf of Gubbio (thank you St Francis!) and Spinal Tap wandering round the labyrinthine recesses of my mind is neither here nor there.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Zen Moments in The Alps

Yes, Mr GP's just returned from his latest cycle tour. Read all about it over on Mr M's Tour de France. Especially useful info there for anybody considering riding the Etape event.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Tree of Life

As the earth yields her abundance for all to share, so these healing leaves of the Tree of Life are for all. Our witness of Christ's indiscriminate love in the world is the way we gather these leaves and use them well.
            - Annie Heppenstall, from The Healers Tree: A Bible-based Resource on Ecology, Peace and Justice, Wildgoose Publications, 2011

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Holiday Reading

Unearthed during my spring cleaning  binge - an  ancient copy of 'Oldchurch' magazine. The theme was Times of Refreshment and it  included a couple of reviews by my goodself that as I read them took me straight  back to those   endless summer days spent  dreaming my life away on a French campsite.   There's more than a hint of the old rose-tinted glasses here, of course there is; with two teenagers around at the time, doubtless even our times of calme et detente were relatively limited. Still -  I remember going through a tremendous period of  spiritual growth  back then, and it's wonderful to return to experiences like this and reflect on just how far I've travelled since.  The foundations for what was to come were being laid even then.  Though I'm sure, like many of us, that I could usefully revisit some of the handy hints on living a balanced life that our then rector included in his introduction. Here are some of them:

  • Be gentle with yourself
  • Find a hermit spot. Use it daily
  • Change your routine often and your tasks when you can.
  • Be a resource to yourself. Get creative. Be an artist as well as a technician.
  • Schedule 'withdraw' periods during the week. Limit interruptions.
  • Say 'I choose' rather than 'I should.'
  • If you never say 'No' what is your 'Yes' worth?
  • Laugh and play!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Childish Things

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV)

 The word 'childish' has simply become this awful word that we use when we want to put someone down as being immature. It seems to denigrate all those things that go with childhood: wide-eyed wonder, a sense of fun, even a sense of irresponsibility....For me the child in me is my soul. If you lose that I think you lose your soul. And I think that one of the worst things about growing older in our society...I do think St Paul has something to answer for - an assumption that you have to grow away from being a child in order to become an adult, instead of the child in you becoming part of the adult that you become.
               - children's author Michael Morpurgo OBE in the June edition of Third Way Magazine

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Embracing Minimalism

That should bring in more traffic; or at least traffic from real bloggers as opposed to those pesky persons in trenchcoats bearing tins of luncheon meat. When I say 'minimalism,' I'm referring not to the simplicity element of my rule of life, more the enforced space and burst of energy caused by the last Bank holiday sunshine and by Mr GP being away cycling. Put another way, I've been making hay...that is, whirling  round house and garden like a dervish, mop, broom and spade in hand. Plants have been planted, floors have been mopped, cupboards (well, one cupboard anyway) have been cleared, paper clutter shredded, dog hoovered (only joking), bags dropped off at the charity shop and the whole place generally spruced up.  How long it'll last is anybody's guess, I'll make the most of it. I do some of my best thinking when I'm physically occupied.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Smile Awhile

It's catching. Even for me, your original dyed in the wool Eeyore. I logged on just now to find Chris Goan's smiles waiting in my in-box:  photo montage and poetry celebrating   timeless beauty and life in its fullness. Real people, wrinkles and all; genuine smiles rather than the cheesy, perfect airbrushed and photoshopped grins the media bombards us with. It makes me want ...Memories of my Grannie quoting that old rhyme: 

Smile awhile, And while you smile, Another smiles, And soon there's miles and miles, Of smiles, And life's worth while, Because you smile.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Spiritual Underpinnings - Wandering Round in Circles

...upon that Long and Winding Road: another set of Spiritual Underpinnings on Praying the Labyrinth.

Hallelujah Encore!

Yes, you've guessed it - our cat with cattitude hit the target aka his litter tray again!  Yes, I realise this has nothing whatsoever to do with the remit of this blog; but you'll have to indulge me - if you have to co-exist with our furry tiger, even commonplace achievements like this are a cause for letting off the party poppers.  There's nothing like rejoicing at the little things in life. I'll leave you to draw suitably spiritual  parallels. I'm sure there are many.

Oh -  and I couldn't resist linking to one of my favourite feline clips - Simon's Cat's "Double Trouble."  Enjoy!

Monday, 13 May 2013


Ground Me in Your Grace

Eternal One,
        from whom my words come;
        from whom my questions arise;
        of whom all my loves are hints;
        in whom alone I find my rest;
        in whose depths I find healing
             and myself;
Enfold me now in your presence;
     restore to me your peace;
        renew me through your power;
                   and ground me in your grace.

- Ted Loder from Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle, LuraMedia, 1984

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Summer Days

Bank Holiday Monday Wanderings

Greenpatch dog and I have been working on our fitness levels over the bank holiday. I've also been working on his barkiness levels, in the hopes that he'll be too worn out to entertain the neighbours with his usual melifluous singing.  Here he is wandering over  the Moors...

...through  the churchyard...or was it the other way round? There used to be sheep grazing here, but although we looked hard, we couldn't find any this time. Shame, they're much more fun than a lawnmower! We paused for a refreshment stop halfway at a tap with doggy bowl thoughtfully provided.   At least, I assume it's intended for passing doggies. Either that or we've been using up the church flower ladies' supplies.  I could have done with an icecream myself,  only you don't tend to find icecream vans in the middle of the Lambourn Valley way, unfortunately.

Never mind, onwards ever onwards, dodging passers-by out watching for the few remaining craft from the annual raft race. Home at last...GP collapses; GP dog is still raring to go! 

Lucky dip canine style. Guess who wasted an hour this afternoon searching the town for play balls? Hide his tea amongst these and you can buy yourself at least two minutes P and Q!

Last but not least....who would have guessed that  the childrens' old play tent would be given a new lease of life  as a doggy des-res, dtchd, and ld to lwn? 

Next project: Convert old collapsible garden bin into a Fido play tunnel, site next to high jump (broom balanced on a couple of upturned flowerpots), and open my own little agility business!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

World Labyrinth Day

Lent 2012 - labyrinth

Saturday 4 May is World Labyrinth Day; here's one I made earlier, (much earlier). Joining in the world-wide wave of labyrinth walking later this afternoon could be tricky; I'll be out shopping come 1 pm. There's nothing for it: I'll just have to  force myself to retire to a convenient coffee shop; all in the line of duty, you understand.

Friday, 3 May 2013


 PTL! We've hit gold.  Tigercat has - how shall we put it delicately -  just"deposited" a feline "Number Two" in the correct receptacle  for the second time this week! To date they're usually left on the study floor for me to find first thing. Please don't flood me with suggestions as to the likely cause or solution to the problem; believe me, we've tried them all! Just rejoice with us that he who...that our cat with cattitude has ...brain's not working this morning...any biblical re-writes on the topic welcome.

Suspect this entry falls into the 'totally illogical' category. (Oops!)

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Labyrinth Day

Labyrinth at St Beunos, Wales

Thanks to Jan Richardson of the Painted Prayerbook for pointing out that this coming Saturday 4 May, is World Labyrinth Day when people all over the world are being encouraged to walk a labyrinth. St Beunos is a wee bit too far for a day trip. Never mind, I'll rake out my homemade finger labyrinth in honour of the occasion. 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Spiritual Underpinnings - On Retreat

Compton Durville, May 2010
Would that I was! Never mind. Spring is really on its way now, my sunflower seedling is pushing its way through the soil so I've decided to follow in like mind by adding to my sorely neglected Spiritual Underpinnings page - beginning with Retreats. They've been a mainstay of my spiritual journey for nearly ten years now. I'm so thankful to the people who showed me that they  aren't just for monks, nuns and priests but can benefit 'ordinary' people, like myself. (Is anybody ever 'ordinary' I wonder?) My first experiences of retreat were at the  (sadly now closed) Community of St Francis at Compton Durville. My experience up to then had been mostly of Parish Weekends and conferences; I quickly - and thankfully - learned that your average retreat is a very different animal! I tend to go in for the oodles of silence and meet with your retreat guide once a day type of set-up: the classic Individually Guided Retreat.  If that's not your thing, don't worry, retreats  come in all shapes and sizes, although an essential element is always that of setting aside time and space to be with and hear God: something that even with best intentions I don't always remember  to incorporate into my day to day busyness.

Anyoldhow, I've linked to a number of different folks' reflections on their retreat experiences and will add more as I find them. I hope it'll prove a handy resource. Do pop over there if you want.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Speaking Cat and Existentialism

I've been inspired by KirstenM's brilliant links to Ninja cat clips to show you a recentish pic of our resident feline with 'cattitude.' For blog purposes we'll call him 'Tigercat,' if his fur-flying all claws sharpened virtuoso performance at the vets just after we got him is anything to go by maybe 'Jekyll and Hyde cat' would be a more appropriate moniker.  A year later and with vaccs due again, we braced ourselves for an encore and what  would you know...he was good as gold. Twelve months co-existing with GP dog must have had a calming effect. Although I doubt he'll ever be a true lap cat, he's a worthy successor to the late great 'Gothcat,' 'Kung-Foo Viking' , and last, but definitely not least, our  much-loved little 'Scaredy Cat.'

Of course, all this is just an excuse (thanks, Kirsten for paving the way) for linking to all things cat - two clips sent me recently by Ms and Mstr GP:  if you're still struggling to understand the labyrinthine workings of the feline mind, here's a simple guide to How to speak cat. Then if  that still fails to make any  sense, you might find solace in the musings of good old Henri, philosopher and existentialist. Non, je ne regrette rien....

Monday, 8 April 2013

Here Comes The Sun?

When I grow up I'm going to be a sunflower. Yes, really... Mr GP gave me three of these little fellows for my birthday last week. Good, aren't they? I've planted the first can in an attempt to convince myself as much as anybody else  that if the sun still isn't appearing down our way, we can  brighten up the place with our own variety. I say "convince myself; " my  fits of the bleahs, ennui, acidie or whatever you want to call it  continue. Whether it's post-Easter let down, (when our church does Holy Week, it really does it well!), lingering post -  meno health niggles or whatever; my blog -  if not my whole get up and go -  seems to have got up and gorn. 

Out there in the blogosphere,  Retired Knitter has fallen over the edge of a 'blog cliff,' the much revered Chorister has 'retired,' her wonderful wibsite choir blog, and Steve Tilley...well...I might have completely misunderstood his last post, but he's currently  in colloquy with a being called Big Blogger. I'm not alone it seems.

Mr GP, on the other hand,  is on a roll, with his talk of pedalling and postive mindsets. Maybe I need to get on my bike. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

St Matthew Passion

Another favourite of mine today, the chorus wir setzen uns mit tränen nieder  from Bach's St Matthew Passion.

Then, as I've been at  a Taize service this evening, I simply had to sneak in a second piece: Stay With Me.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

St John Passion

Here's another piece  for what I've decided to call a Holy Week Pilgrimage: Herr, Unser Herrscher, the opening chorus from JS Bach's St John Passion, sung here by Trinity College of Music.  For me personally it's at times like this that music goes far deeper than words ever could; even more so if I've taken part in the work myself in the past.   I've particular memories of the dance that was set to the opening section ; it added yet another nuance to the experience, truly lifting it from mere performance to prayer.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Revisiting Pilgrimage - A Royal Wedding in the Pentland Hills

By popular request from Crafty Green Poet who's been out and about in the snowy Pentlands, here are some snaps of the Greenpatch wanderings in the same area, during our grand Durham to Iona pilgrimage in 2011. We chose an auspicious day for this section of the journey; we must have been the only living souls not glued to the TV watching the Royal Wedding.

Setting out from West Linton. Mr GP checks his blisters

Destination Newbiggin

If we make good time we'll be able to drink a toast to the royal couple  during the next coffee  break (in Lucozade!)

I come from haunts of coot and hern, 
I make a sudden sally 
And sparkle out among the fern, 
To bicker down a valley. 

Are we nearly there yet?

After an impromptu lesson in sheep droving, Mr GP turns his hand to fence maintenance

Spring is Sprung

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz

I wonder where the birdies is?

Well, we did wake to a surprise this morning!  Do give a thought for the poor birdies: they must be having a hard time of it at the moment. As for  me, in this topsy-turvy climate of ours, all I can do is thank God that I have a warm house, dry clothes and food aplenty. Any grumbles, gripes and aches and pains I might have are put into their proper perspective compared to the struggles of so many out there.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Blog Dish of The Day

Hmmm...looks like a certain luncheon meat to me.  I'll not flatter myself that visitors from a certain 'Eastern' area of the blogosphere are hanging on my every pearl of spiritual wisdom.  I've just one thing to say, (in Christian love, of course) - "Shove off!"

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Dedication to Prayer

 I've been reading about the Aberdeen minister who has offered the local Muslims prayer space in his church.

 Earlier this evening, Mr M and I were watching the episode of the comedy series Rev where Adam rouses the ire of his congregation by letting a Muslim childrens' prayer group use the church and is inspired by their dedication to take a moral stance against a proposal to open a lap dancing club  near the  church school.

Some of us enjoyed an interfaith discussion on the topic of Forgiveness last Sunday, held at our local secondary school. Much food for thought. Especially at the start of the evening when the call to prayer came (through  the facilitator's mobile phone). He simply handed over to his (Quaker) co -host and the entire Muslim contingent got up and disappeared into another room for their prayer time.  There's dedication for you!

Now I'm not saying, nor  would it be practical, for  all our congregation  - wherever they happened to be - to down tools and head off to the church for Morning Prayer at a text from the vicar, but it does make you think, doesn't it? Why, when prayer should be such a natural part of our lives, do we find it so difficult to set aside time for it, given that we do have 24 hours a day at our disposal? Answers on a postcard please.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Meece And Men

I'm hoping to get my blogging Get Up and Go back sometime soon. Hopefully then my virtual "visitors" will be genuine ones, rather than what look to me to be the cyber-equivalent of mysterious men in trilby hats and shades in trench coats with upturned collars hissing: "Psstt! Spam!" 

Meanwhile, Mt GP informs me that there are two "late" 'meece' awaiting my attention in the garage. Ugh!

He also seems to have developed a minor obsession with ironing. Odd, very odd.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Pacing Not Racing

credit: Boaz Yiftach

Zzzzzzzzzzz.  I need to pace myself;  Franciscan simplicity is in short supply just now. This Myers-Briggs Introvert and Enneagram 6 is badly in need of a good dose of "get up and go." I've had a run of perfectly worth spirituality type events over the last few weeks with more in the pipeline. Loads of input all needing to be processed with much output, too. It's the latter which really drains me: this was the second Saturday night  in a row when I was so exhausted  I was in my pyjamas by 7.30 pm!  I can pussshhh myself outwards  quite convincingly; love it even,  but, boy, do I need my time back in my shell to recover. So I spent this afternoon curled up with a blanket, hot waterbottle and our latest book club read - CJ Sansom's Dissolution: blood, gore and sinister goings-ons in Reformation England. I don't think I'll be able to visit a monastery ever again without checking over my shoulder every five minutes for  cowled figures slinking about in the shadows, secret passages, sinister spyholes and falling masonry!

Friday, 1 March 2013


image:Danilo Rizutti:

Oh dear! Mr GP disappears to cycle ev'ry mountain for a week and what do I discover? We have mice. Not in the far, (I suspect GP dog and cat would soon give them a run for their money), but in the garage, attracted by sacks of pet food. When Ms GP phoned last night she uttered a shriek of horror at learning that I've set some traps. I feel eternally guilty as well, especially given my Franciscan credentials: "What would Francis Do?" asked daughter. She's promised to pass her ultrasonic mice deterrent devices  on to us when next we meet. I guess he would probably have gone for more humane methods of pest control:  delivered a suitably meece-flavoured sermonette or even a merry ditty on his fiddle (the medieval equivalent of an ultrasonic deterrent device?). I'm dreading the moment of truth, when I have to go out and check the wretched traps. Ah well.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

A Call To Action!

Talk about a liturgical earworm! Greenpatch son forwarded this video to me last night: It's been made as an invitation to the 2013 Episcopal Diocese of West Texas Acolyte Festival. I didn't know that acolytes had festivals. Come to think of it, until I moved to my present church four years ago, I didn't even know what an acolyte was. I've been feeling slightly under the weather these past few weeks, hence the lack of bloggery; watching this turned out to be a sure- fire cure. I'm still suffering from shock. Keeping a straight face on Sunday morning is not going to be easy, I can tell you!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Reading The Bible Non Stop - Exodus

Light Bringer, Drawn Out and I WAS AM WILL BE; they're   all there in shipoffool's never to be repeated version of Exodus!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Reading the Bible Non Stop

For all those readers who, as a certain Archdruid puts it so eloquently "have fallen off the [Lenten] wagon with a bang," here's a link to the first of's The Bible non-stop - Genesis. From what I can see they've now reached Numbers...after five years sustained effort. There's dedication for you!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

What Kind of Wilderness?

...and the spirit drove him out into the wilderness.
                                                                                   (Mark 1)

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom.
                                                                                       (Isaiah 35)

Friday, 15 February 2013

God's Grace and Chocolat

I'm not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of Our Lord's divine transformation? Not really, no. I don't want to talk about His divinity. I'd rather talk about His humanity. I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on Earth. His kindness, His tolerance... Listen, here's what I think. I think that we can't go around... measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think... we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create... and who we include.

 - Pere Henri in the film version of Joanne Harris's  Chocolat

Another recycled Greenpatch:

And by the way, for a brilliant depiction of our shadow sides, the various and mixed motives behind Lenten observances and how they can go horribly wrong, do, if you've not already had a chance to, have a look at Joanne Harris's Chocolat.  The whole novel, but especially the scene near the end when the priest (in the book) or the mayor (in the film version) pigs out in the Chocolaterie window. It would be hilarious if it weren't so sad.

To which I'd add now -  such a wonderful depiction of God's grace - in the screenplay at least, along with the famous Bishop's Candlesticks scene in the film of  Les Miserables. (I prefer the Chocolat take on it myself, though what that says about me I don't like to think!)

Great minds think alike anyhow: as I was pondering all this yesterday Chris Goan of This Fragile Tent pipped me to the post with his Chocolate and The New Kingdom.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Lent Approacheth

Well here I am, back down to earth after my recent expeditions and wondering where January went. Why, it's been nearly a week since I last blogged, for a start! I can't believe  that Lent is almost with us. Not yet, surely? Yet I spotted a  large pile of last year's Palm crosses in church yesterday waiting to be turned into ash,  so it must be so.

So, with Ash Wednesday in mind, here's a link to another of the marvellous blessings by Jan Richardson of The Painted Prayerbook - Ash Wednesday: Blessing the Dust.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Spiritual Underpinnings - in search of direction?

Here's another 'classic,' which I forgot to include in my original "Underpinnings," post. When I first stumbled across Katymagdalene of Vocation Blog's account of her early attempts to find a spiritual director - I first a) Laughed so hard I nearly spat my coffee out over my keyboard, b) Thought guiltily about my own oh-so- carefully crafted 'bio,' on our local network list and blushed*, c) Remembered my own frustration as a seeker trying  to make sense  - (any sense!) of the seemingly labyrinthine communications systems of the Good Old C of E, (emails not replied to, phone calls not returned) and d) thought - this piece should be compulsory reading for every director and would-be director, discouraged seeker and ecclesiastical communications person. It deserves a wider audience.

* In my defence -  no animals were mentioned at least...

The Labyrinth that Wasn't

Gunwharf Quays shopping centre, Portsmouth

Is it just me, or do other labyrinth fans find themselves spotting fledgeling  labyrinths  where none  were ever intended? I really had to resist the temptation to start walking this paved area in a Portsmouth shopping centre yesterday afternoon. We've a similar 'secret labyrinth,' in front of Debenhams in my home town; just crying out for the 'real thing,' to be built there.  Oh, for an oasis of peace amidst the crowds of shoppers!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

And the lucky winner is...

oneoldgoat! Congratulations!  Your St James' pilgrim keyring should be winging its way to you shortly.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Draw - Extra Time

...for anybody who wants to be in for a chance to win that Pilgrimage keyring - you have an extra two - even three days as I'll not be drawing the names until the evening of 3rd or 4th Feb. I'd forgotten I was due back down in the land of Seabirds and Fresh Sea Breezes for the finish  of the course this weekend.

See you anon.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Sharing Silence

There are such treasures out there!  Here's another wonderful resource for anybody who's pondering whether to take the plunge into silence: Chris of this fragile tent's reflections on a recent 8 Day retreat at St Beunos Spirituality Centre.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

If God is the "Real Director," Why do We Need a Human One?

Anonymous - Thanks for your challenging question. I've posted it here as I thought the topic merited a post of its own.

Before  Mr GP  set out to "shadow" the Tour de France riders, he booked some sessions with a coach. The coach didn't ride the route for him, nor tell him what to do ; but worked together with him providing   regular encouragement, companionship, accountability and above all, a space where he could best prepare himself physically and mentally, for whatever challenges awaited.  Thus maximising the chances that Dear Spouse would be able to safely  work within his capabilities, interpret the prevailing conditions as accurately as possible, and live his experiences to the full. 

If Dear Spouse had just  read a few cycling books, thrown a map and puncture repair kit in his panniers and set off -   the experience might have been at least, less fulfilling and at worst, downright dangerous. Good intentions are no substitute for  taking  responsibility for one's own safety and well-being.

A soul friend/spiritual companion/director likewise doesn't "tell you what to do,"  solve all your problems, travel  your journey for you or tell you what they "think" God is saying. Their role is more to provide a regular, objective, intentional space where you can begin to sense   these "nudges" of the Holy Spirit for yourself.  It's not always easy.  I know I often see what I want to see, hear what I want to hear;  my human frailties distort my  ability to discern   what God might be trying to say to me.  Dear knows, we don't have to look far to see what tragedies result when people have used "The Word of God" to justify their own agendas. 

Think of a director as an extra pair of ears, there to listen with us  at those times when our own shell-likes may be in need of a syringe.  

 Christ sent  the disciples out  in pairs, remember!

Hope that helps.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Spiritual Underpinnings - Spiritual Direction

(Incubated during the recent  snowy spell). Warning, long post.

Spiritual Underpinnings: Spiritual Direction

Well, the North Wind doth blow and if we believe everything the weather forecasters say, I should have plenty time for writing over the next few days. So, here’s the beginning of   a mini-project that’s been at the back of in my mind ever since reading Robin’s blog on Finding  a Spiritual Director and more recently, ramtoprac’s accounts of their searchings.

If you’ve read my Offline Greenpatches page,  you’ll have realized that I was once  very  into using "spiritual underpinnings" as an analogy to describe the various  support systems that I was setting up at the time. Re-reading that now, I’m wondering if   the “undies” “secret support” term is wearing a little thin (if you’ll pardon the pun!); because such a valuable resource should be anything but “secret.” I think we’ve come a long way since spiritual direction – (or accompaniment as I prefer to call it), was the sole province of clergy and religious. If you discover treasure, surely you’re going to want to let everybody know about your discovery. (Now where did I first hear that one, I wonder?)

So, to my journeyings.  In retrospect, even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time, my hunt for   a director began long before the birds ‘flew the nest,’ back, in fact, to when we moved back to the UK after seven years  abroad. By the time I began to articulate this need, at first only to myself, we’d passed the Millennium.   I was trying to cope with two teens, a husband constantly away with work and all that that brings, but more worryingly, a sense that the church into which I’d thrown myself so enthusiastically to begin with did not - to put it crudely  - “scratch where I itched.” 

I remember the first time I came encountered  the concept of a paradigm shift; well, underneath my seemingly compliant surface, you could almost hear the gears grinding away. My “integrity gap” I called it, even as I tried to throw myself into the seemingly endless round of programs and rotas, giving assent to a theology and practice, which was becomingly increasingly at odds with where I was on my journey.  I was asking questions (only to myself then, I was far too shy to voice them aloud!) that weren’t being answered. Though a glance back through my journals from that time shows the clues were all there.  Put even more crudely – I was bl**dy lonely – a quiet and increasingly questioning contemplative flower in an increasingly charismatic evangelical garden. There were some great people in that community, make no mistake, but the church, too was struggling with change, going through it’s own ‘spiritual adolescence,’ and when you have two adolescents  - well, there are  bound to be spats! 

By late 2002 I’d emerged from a bout of counseling, following on from the death of my father. This had given me the confidence to get out there and explore. I’d been aware of the existence of spiritual accompaniment for a while.  I’d also -  joy of joys -  discovered a lifeline,  that “Magazine of Unrest,” whose denizens were just one of several sources of encouragement to step out. 

 My director came via some suggestions from what I nicknamed our local “diocesan chappie” and what he called his   “spiritual direction dating agency.”  Best practice encourages shopping around; discerning who is the best “fit” for you is not something to be approached lightly.   I was given several names but for all sorts of reasons, my first try ‘stuck,’ and we’ve been meeting now for over 10 years.  I’d not stated any preference for either clergy, lay or religious though I think I did tick the “Female” box, but I ended up with somebody ordained.  What was more helpful, especially at first, were  those things we held in common:  she has children of about the same age, and knew just what it was like to be rushed off one’s feet and to  struggle with the demands of family life.  Some of the stuff out there on t’interweb about directors would have you believe you’re about to link up with a spiritual Yoda. Or worse, the Spanish Inquisition. Talk about ‘Disease of the Oughteries!’ Both notions were swiftly dispelled. One of my favourite memories, related since with glee to several hesitant seekers, is about one early meeting when I had to clear the family’s washing off the sofa before I could sit down. (To be fair, there were building works going on at the time). I have never been so relieved in my life. At last… a ‘real’ person, not some super-being intent on force- feeding me a diet of never-ending spiritual sticking plaster or theological bon mots.

Since then they’ve supported me unobtrusively through a change of church, theological study, my journey into the Franciscan Third Order and many other ups and downs too numerous to list, as I’ve emerged out of the other side of the child-rearing years and started to look to what the future might hold.  Her style tends to the non-directive – a sometime puzzle to me at first: they do say God sends you   what you need, not necessarily what you want! With my background and hang-ups I could easily have slipped into the habit of letting somebody else “tell me what to do,” which of course is not a stance that any listener should ever encourage, not in that sense.  God is the real ‘director’  after all.

Over the years, the task of listening to my (rather circuitous meanderings) has also been shared by numerous retreat conductors, course facilitators and others. Some I’ve taken to, others less so, yet experiencing a different dynamic has been interesting and I can truthfully say that I’ve always come out the other end having learned something.  I hope I’ve changed…

Talking of circuitous meanderings, I’ll wind up the waffle by revisiting and reanswering two questions once asked me on a radio interview which highlight the benefits of spiritual accompaniment for me personally:

Firstly: “How has direction helped keep you spiritually and mentally well?” Foremost it’s enabled me to rethink for myself those images of God that for all kinds of reasons, baggage carried since childhood etc, were not so healthy. This was, and is a slooowwww process.  Yet I’ve come such a long way. Work-in-progress.

Secondly: In what ways have you experienced God…noticed…become more aware of God since you’ve been in direction?” 
I’m much more open to seeing God in all things . Years ago, I was over  concerned with chasing after the “zap…pow!” big, flashy  experiences. Now I’m far more aware of the “still small voice,” what he/she’s doing in the little things of life, the ordinary, everyday events. Well, on good days anyway…

So, if you’re somebody umming and aahing about whether to send that email, make that phone call or simply begin to take the first step along this path, do be brave, and, as Robin of Beautiful and Terrible said recently “Just do it.”