Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
It was a lovely bright sunny day yesterday and so I spent the morning in the garden. It is a riot of colour at the moment with the yellow daffodils and white narcissus waving their heads in the breeze, a cold breeze but still it was good to be outside. The pale pink camellia is showing buds which will be out soon whilst the primroses and primula make a fine show along the borders. The hawthorn bush has put on her new white dress for the occasion and Mr Robin is sitting there watching for any worms I may dig up. And then there are those wretched weeds! The little thugs are strangling some precious young plants we have been nurturing; so out with them!
At this point you might expect me to go on about how those weeds represent our sins which strangle the good we do and if left to their own devices destroy the beautiful garden that is our true selves. And that is a valid point, we must take control of those weeds, those ugly words and actions that mar our lives and cause untold hurt to others.
However, I have been reminded that weeds are only plants in the wrong place so that whilst they may appear to have no place in the cultivated suburban garden nevertheless in the wildflower meadow they outshine anything that grows in my plot.
‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.’ Luke 12:27 NIV
And, of course, ecologists tell us that a wild untended patch in our otherwise neat and tidy garden will encourage wild life and all sorts of useful insects, bugs and birds. So perhaps the weeds are not such a nuisance after all. In any case God created the buttercups and the nettles just as He did the daffodils; giving each a purpose, a job to do.
Maybe we should look at them as an illustration that God loves all His Creation, weeds as well as cultivated plants. In the same way He loves us, warts and all, whatever size, shape or colour we may be; whatever we have done in our past life. What a wonderful thought that is! Now all we have to do is to hold on to that thought, to follow His commandments, to grow strong and sturdy in the faith so that through our lives and actions the world may see in us the beauty of His Creation.
What do you give an old man who has everything for a birthday present? This year my daughter and her partner gave me a journal. The question then arises what am I going to do with it? What can I put in it? At the beginning of this year my friend Steve wrote on his blog, (givenscreative.com): ‘For me, this will take the physical form of a new journal (provided as a gift from my good friend Jill Stratton) in which I will be recording the blessings and moments and opportunities that come my way this year’
Yes, I too will use my journal in that way but more than that it will record my journey in faith and since that journey is a very personal one I know you will understand if I do not share all the details of my passage along the rocky road with you. How did I get here? What am I doing? Am I doing the right thing? What is He calling me to do today? There are so many questions that I fear the journal will be full before the end of the year. A number of you have helped me along the path already and for that I thank God that you have been there. I have no doubt we will return to the journal in future blogs.
It will also allow me to remember those who need my prayer and here is an example.
My friend Ray was rushed into hospital as an emergency when his heart was not acting as it should. He was transferred to a specialist cardiac unit and underwent a major operation on his heart. For a while it was touch and go but he is home now and complaining that his wife will not let him dig the garden! “It was only a few vegetables for Sunday lunch.” he protested. And you thought children were a problem! He is due to go to hospital for more tests tomorrow so if you could remember him in your prayers I know it would help.
In fact whilst working in the garden preparing this blog it occurred to me that from time to time we all have friends or relatives who need our prayer. Maybe you are feeling lost or lonely at the moment or you have a particularly difficult assignment to prepare for. If you wish please let me know and I will open a separate page on my site so that we may all pray for them. Give me as much or as little detail as you feel appropriate. God bless.
We laid the earthly remains of dear old Ron to rest yesterday morning. When we all arrived at the Church we were reminded that one of Ron’s duties had been to look after the car park. Boy, could we have done with his services yesterday! There were so many cars – everywhere - he would have had a fit! Family and friends came from far and wide for the service of Thanksgiving for Ron’s life that we packed the Church of St Therese de Lisieux. Some had driven 200 miles just to be there. Father Dom set exactly the right note; yes, it was sad to lose an old friend or relative but we were all thankful that we had been touched by his presence.
We came to celebrate the life of a man who just out of his teens had spent a week up to his neck in water under heavy enemy bombardment waiting to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk; a man who to this day carries a piece of shrapnel in his right thigh received in the assault on Sicily later in World War II. At the Remembrance Day service last year Ron, whose sight had by now virtually left him, felt his way to the front of the Church to deliver the Exhortation from Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Alan mentioned that Ron was the oldest Server ever at the Church but that he was always ready with a quiet word of encouragement for the youngsters. He was also committed to his visits to the housebound elderly folk of the parish riding round on his motor scooter. Eventually, when the cancer behind his right eye got so bad that his eyesight was failing Father Dom had to say to him “Ron you can’t see where you are going.” “Don’t worry I know the way, and anyway they need me” was Ron’s response. And me? I will always remember the quiet unassuming man with whom it was so easy to talk, to discuss things, a man who was always ready to listen in a non-judgmental way although any help and advice he gave was well worth waiting for.
I and many, many others will miss him deeply.
You can put aside that old tired worn out body, Ron for you have a much brighter raiment to put on now.
May you have been greeted by choirs of angels.
May you rest where Lazarus is poor no longer.
May you be gathered to the bosom of Abraham.
May you have eternal rest.
God bless you, old friend.
Rest in Peace
We had to go to hospital the other day. Sitting in the waiting area watching all those people waiting to be called for treatment I was struck by the quiet, comforting compassion of the young nurse, (all nurses look young to me at my advanced age!), patiently shepherding a frail and frightened old lady into one of the treatment rooms. At the door of the treatment room stood the doctor with a bright welcoming smile reassuring her that all would be well.
As people’s names were called I recalled that quite a large proportion of Jesus’ ministry consisted of healing the sick. Indeed, one particular passage came to mind, a passage quoted in Luke 13.10-17; the healing of a sick woman in the synagogue on the Sabbath. I will not quote it in full here as you can read it for yourself in your own edition of the Bible. Briefly though, it would seem that she had osteoporosis or perhaps a curvature of the spine so that she could not stand up straight. The King James Version tells us that:
12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.
13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
Now there are several lessons to be taken from this particular reading but these two verses seem significant to me. Jesus called her to Him. She came to the synagogue on that Sabbath to hear Him preach, she did not come to ask Him to heal her. She was grateful that He did, of course, and she seems to have shown that gratitude in her future conduct; but the fact remains He called her. In the same way He calls us to be healed. And like her we should give thanks for that gift of healing by glorifying God. From what are we healed? Early in the first book of Timothy we find the answer to that question.
‘This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ 1 Timothy 1.15.
And as a sinner who has been saved by Christ what should we do now? Like the woman in verse 13 we should glorify God. I think the nurse and the doctor I saw both did that by exhibiting that charity which is one of the three spiritual graces fully described by St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 13. Now, whilst we may not all doctors or nurses, nevertheless we all have God given talents which He wants us to use. It is by using those talents for God’s purpose that we glorify Him.
Now I know I have touched on the theme of being called by God in earlier blogs but I make no apologies for returning to the subject. I think it is important to remember that God shows Himself to the world through the words and actions that we as Christians display. Therefore what God has called me to do yesterday may not be what He wants me to do today; He may have another task for me. So we need to listen for God’s call and we must respond positively to it. In the same way that I went into the treatment room having just heard my name called.
It’s chaos in the street outside; there are deep holes everywhere. No-one can get their cars off the driveway and even if they could there is no way they could drive along the road. The Gas Board are renewing the main supply pipes for the road. It seems the old metal pipes are wearing out and need to be replaced by new seamless plastic ones. There will be more upheaval tomorrow when they dig trenches across our properties to join us to the new main supply. Oh joy! I am not sure why they need replacing now as the gas is flowing quite happily through the old pipes, but there.
In a way I suppose I can relate this renewal of gas pipes to our life. Our old life flows as if through the old pipes as it has always done but there are cracks and joins which cause obstructions leading to so much trouble. This is why we need the new seamless pipes since those obstructions represent our sinful way of life, our love for the material “good things” of life. Lent then is a good time to reflect and to replace the old worn out life with a new and better way. And how do we find that way? God has promised that if we truly repent of our sins He will forgive us. Then, with the burden of sin lifted, the new life can flow through us just as the gas will flow smoothly along the seamless new pipes.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years