Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
We all need a little encouragement from time to time. A kind word or gesture, even if unexpected, makes a huge differencewhen thegoing gets tough.
I know many of you have recently had difficulties reading one of my blogs and for that I apologize. I contacted the Technical Support Desk at my website for help. Once the problem had been explained it was dealt with courteously and efficiently using language that even an Ancient Briton like me could understand. However, not only did the adviser tell me how to avoid the problem in future she went back, reformatted and re published my blog God has a Plan! It is now accessible for you all to read which I hope you will do. I really appreciated her extra effort in going the extra mile so,of course, I thanked her sincerely
Jesus had something to say about going the extra mile (Matt 5:41) and that is exactly what God is calling us to do. No doubt you remember he parable of the good Samaritan(Luke 10:25-37). He could have simply bound up the victim's wounds and left him there. After all he had a long journey ahead of him and anyway someone else would be along shortly to help the injured man on his way..Yet despite him being a Samaritan and the victim a Jew nevertheless he bound his wounds, put him on his own beast of burden to an inn., paid for a night's lodging and before leaving asked the innkeeper to let him know if anything further was owed next time he passed that way To my mind the Samaritan went that extra mile.
You see, God does not want part time Christians doing the absolute minimum for others or Christians who pay lip service to the whole idea. God asks our whole undivided service. In fact, the words of St Ignatius of Loyola whose Feast Day is 31 July sum up what is required of us: 'Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all that I have and call my own. .'
Are you prepared to hand over 'all that I have and call my own' to God in the service of others? Will you go that extra mile for your neighbour?
Is it just me getting old or is the world really spinning faster than it did when I was a child? Everything seemed so simple then, but now everyone seems to be in such a hurry to get somewhere. Where? Do you often feel there are just not enough hours in the day? Sometimes the urge to scream: “Stop the world I want to get off!” is overwhelming. Yet as the English poet William Henry Davies (1871-1940) once wrote: ‘What is this world if full of care we have no time to stand and stare?’
Please, for your own peace of mind, take up Davies’s hint. Turn off the computer, the mobile phone or whatever gizmo is absorbing your attention at this moment. Take the time to look out of the window; to see the butterflies enthusiastically sipping the nectar from the buddleia bush, or the blackbird tugging a worm from the rain soaked garden. Perhaps you don’t have a garden, then look out of the window of the train taking you to the concrete jungle in which you work. See the birds wheeling overhead on the updraft, or just take in the sunshine (or the rain!). And as you trudge the pavement to the office see the daisy pushing valiantly through the concrete to display her white flower surrounding a golden centre in the midst of the rubbish. Maybe you are confined to your room; yet the sun still shines to brighten the day and the stars come out each night. And there is that vase of flowers on the table left by a friend. Davies concludes his poem by saying that: A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.
I think he is right, since I believe that our world is good. OK, sometimes God seems to be hidden but have we stopped looking for goodness? I hope not, for all of these, and many more are blessings of God, a God who loves us unconditionally. When we see that the world is good, and that God is blessing us, we can then recognise the unique glory that is Jesus Christ.
Remember, you cannot count your blessings until you begin to recognise them.
We all enjoy a good chat with friends, after all, there is nothing wrong in that is there? Of course not! But think for a moment, how often have you said something in haste and immediately wished you had not? Sadly, once they have leapt from your tongue the words cannot be recalled, the hornet’s nest has been disturbed, the damage done, for all words have an effect on the hearer in some way; whether they are words of sympathy or consolation or perhaps sarcasm, insulting or otherwise harmful. A period of reflection often leads to a more measured response. On this point Thomas Merton once wrote: “There are many declarations made only because we think other people are expecting us to make them. The silence of God should teach us when to speak and when not to speak. But we cannot bear the thought of that silence, lest it cost us the trust and respect of men.” Of course, this is not a new phenomenon for St Peter gave advice to the young churches in Asia Minor around 60 AD on just this point: Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit. 1 Peter 3:10.
As Christians we are called to love God and to love our neighbour. (Matthew 22:37-39) These are two sides of the same coin since our love of God must be evident from our actions towards and the way we speak to and about our neighbours. Does what we say reflect respect or disrespect for our fellow man? In what way do we reflect the values of God’s peace and love towards those we live or work with? And what more can we do to reflect those values?
So the question then is: which is more important to us, the respect of man or the love of God? What do you think?
Loving Father, I pray that you will teach me to guard my tongue and guide my words so that I may speak to and of my neighbour only with kindness, respect and love. Amen
It is strange how different people react to God’s call. The Bible has examples of every type of response. For example, Samuel, prompted by Eli, says “Speak Lord for thy servant heareth.” 1Samuel 3:9 (AKJV) whilst Jonah runs as fast as he can in the opposite direction (Jonah1:1-3 AKJV). I have to admit that when God called me to write this blog and publish it on the World Wide Web my reaction was akin to Jeremiah who pleaded immaturity. Who would want to read what I have written? I asked. Anyway I am not qualified. But God in the form of an online friend gently reminded me that God does not call the qualified He qualifies the called. And so the blog began some four years ago. (Many thanks to those who have followed me faithfully since then, by the way.)
Well, you would think that was enough for an old man of my age but no! Let me explain:
A year or so back a friend took a Course in Christian Studies run by the Diocese. At the time I did not think that this was for me and, indeed, perhaps I was not ready to undertake it then, but God does not work to our human time frame. Recently He drew my attention to the Diocesan website where this year’s Course was advertised. It took a lot of discussion and prayers with trusted friends and family, but I have now signed up for the two year course starting in September. I have no idea how it will turn out or where it will lead. Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk obviously felt the same way for he wrote the following prayer:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.
Please pray for me on my journey in faith for it seems that God has not finished with me yet, He has a plan for me and I believe He has one for you too. The question then is: How will you respond to His call?
The roses in the garden are blooming profusely now. This means that a regular task each day is to cut off the dead blooms since otherwise the rose will put all its energy into producing seeds, as is only natural for any plant. However, if those seeds were allowed to ripen and were then planted out, the result would not be a deep salmon Duchess of Atholl rose, a golden yellow Peace rose, a strident red Super Star or even a multi-coloured Masquerade rose. No, what would grow would be a simple, single, soft, rather pretty pink rose, a wild rose. You see, each rose sold commercially is grafted on to a wild rose root stock from which the graft takes its strength to develop the beautiful flowers we so prize. It is a fact that without being grafted on to that stock none of the huge variety of roses sold would exist.
We might look at our own life in a similar manner. God created each of us on His strong root, (in His own image) and the Holy Spirit sustains us enabling us to blossom as He wants us to do.
Speaking to his farming audience Jesus used a similar analogy when He spoke of Himself as the true vine and us as branches of the vine. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. John 15:5-8 AKJV.
Verse 5c is important here ‘for without me ye can do nothing’ In the same way that the commercial rose cannot produce its flowers without the wild rose root stock so we are unable to develop fully as God intended us to without the strong root stock that is God.
Saturday was the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures in the 90◦ Fahrenheit but nevertheless the Church Summer Fete went extremely well. All the visitors seemed to enjoy the entertainments whilst spending money on the various stalls. After all the hard work put in to it, it was a truly happy day! And that is the point. In organising any event like this there will be ups and downs, perhaps arguments, disputes as to how things should be done. Yet the joy on the children’s faces, the obvious enjoyment of the visitors, (and the contribution to Church funds!), makes all that hard work worthwhile and enlivens the spirits of those who have put up the marquee, manned the stalls all day, or marshalled the car parking in the sweltering heat and tidied up afterwards. The marquee now needs to be dismantled and stored away for another occasion and the church ground cleared of rubbish but with everybody pulling together the job will be done and the joy of another great Summer Fete shared over a welcome cup of tea and a cake.
My message to all who worked so hard to make this a special occasion, and to all our visitors, is a great big Thank You.
Now, as the Fete brought joy to so many we might ask ourselves “Who brings joy into my life?” Here I recall an old hymn we used to sing many years ago: Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising, Give me joy in my heart, I pray. And since joy is infectious, that leads on to the question “How will I bring joy to someone today?” Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit which is impossible to keep to ourselves. St Paul reminds us that sharing our joy with others will help to lighten their burden. ‘In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.’ Philippians 2:18.
So, Share the Joy!
St Mary Magdalene’s Fete will be held in the Church grounds this coming Saturday from 11am until 4pm. It promises to be a good family fun day out. Of course, it doesn’t just happen as if by magic, a great deal of hard work goes on behind the scenes, before, during and after the event, much of it unnoticed although not unappreciated. For example, do we have enough plants in good enough condition for the plant stall this year? Have all the publicity flyers been distributed and are the banners clearly visible? Have the various entertainments been booked? Who is doing the barbecue this year and who is looking after the car parking? Don’t forget there will be miles of cable to be rewound after the event is over. Who will do that? Yet despite all the hard work, and no doubt the unforeseen hitches, it will be an excellent day out for everyone since St Mary’s always puts on a good show. The only imponderable is the good old British weather!
The key, of course is preparation and the same degree of hard work and dedication that is needed to put on the Fete needs to go into our spiritual lives if we are to do God’s work on earth effectively. Equally it is important to remember that as it is impossible for one person to plan, organise and run a Church Fete alone, so we need to work together in doing God’s Will. We have been given the tools to do it: prayer, the Bible and the Sacraments and of course the Holy Spirit is with us at all times to guard, guide and support us in our task. St Paul puts it slightly differently when he exhorts the young church at Ephesus to: ‘Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ Ephesians 6:11-12 AKJV. But in any case I think you get the point.
If you are in the locality please drop in and join us on Saturday, you will be very welcome. I understand the temperature is forecast to reach 30 degrees so the ice cream stall should do a roaring trade, or maybe the umbrella stall!
The antirrhinum plants are coming into bloom now. Each stem has a mass of deep purple, red or white flowers along it which the bees love. Children used to call the plant snap dragon, from the shape of its flowers. As it is much easier to spell, I will use that name!
It is a sad fact that dragons have had a rather bad press over the years in most cultures, usually being linked in some way with evil. In the Bible the serpent appears in the book of Genesis and also in Revelations where it is described as ‘that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan’ (Rev 12:9 KJV). In his book The Hobbit, J R R Tolkien describes the evil dragon Smaug as “the great worm”. In this country we may not have serpents or dragons but we do have a variety of worms. But, rather than being evil, the earthworm does a great deal of good, taking down the rotting leaves into the ground to fertilise it, and by burrowing in the earth aerates it, with the result that plants, crops, shrubs and trees can grow and flourish. Indeed, without the humble earthworm the ground would be sterile. As it is, the beautiful flowers of the snap dragon provide the bees with the nectar they need, the bees pollinate other plants and the blind, unattractive earthworm fertilises the soil, so that each has a vital part to play in God’s Creation.
In the same way, you and I have a vital part to play in bringing God’s Kingdom on earth, for: ‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’ 1 Cor12:27 NIV, and like the plants, the bees and the reptiles we each have different skills, attributes or characteristics to bring to the task just as St Paul reminds us: ‘As it is, there are many parts, but one body.’1 Cor12:20 NIV. In other words we need to work together. Sometimes we may not feel that we have anything to offer, yet: ‘On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable’1 Cor.12:22 NIV. I doubt that the snapdragon flowers, the bees or the earthworm realise the part they play in the Grand Design, yet their involvement is essential. So is yours and mine, however great or small our contribution!
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years