Apologies for the break in transmission, which crept up on me rather. I'd had my retreat at Llan booked since January, but somehow it surprised me in the last few days, so that I found myself working frantically before I went, in order to be able to go at all.
However, go I did, and had a (now familiar) wonderful experience of God's loving generosity modelled in the hospitality of the house and the gratuitous beauty of the surroundings.
I simply sat there and felt both loved and loveable - highly recommended!
I spent quite a bit of time contemplating my favourite tree. It stands just a few yards down hill from the house, and is always the first thing that I see when I arrive and gaze hungrily at the beauty of the valley.
Since I first visited Llan, it has somehow represented the silent strength of the place, the simplicity of belonging, knowing oneself wholly at home.
On the hot June days before priesting, it offered shade and the promise of refuge if the task ahead should be too huge to bear.
In the storms of March it bent and creaked as the gales made wild music around it and clouds heavy with trouble bowled past.
And in May it stretched out, tip toe towards the cloudless blue perfection, pausing on the verge of bursting into full leaf.
In every season, it positively shouts praise, and for me its presence is both a prayer and a reassurance. I may well not visit Llan again, but it will still be there, giving glory to God by being itself.
As I lay beneath it last week, for the first time I noticed its imperfections. The trunk and upper branches stretch out despite several hollows and holes. Where there mightt once have been three branches of equal girth and strength, one is now broken off, its potential denied, - though even here, thinner, lesser shoots bud and break into leaf.
The tree is damaged but its wounds are no impediment to its praise, and the song continues whether or not anyone seems to be there to hear it.