Stop! Start with Prayer

Philippians 4 v 6

Let your requests be made known to God

I don’t have a green house.  I have a small kitchen table in front a sunny windowsill.  In March this year I started to plant some seeds in some seeding compost, in seed trays, on in the sunlight.   I watered them, and watched for signs of life.  By April the seedlings were growing and ready to go out in pots in the ground.  I was excited and ready to go.  I had places were some could go outside and was ready to get to action.

Then I stopped.  I came across a prayer of blessing for gardens.  It was simple and focused.  It prayed for flower beds, for vegetable and fruit, for the compost heap, for the place where people would gather and sit and talk.  I realised that before I planted anything, I would pray.  I followed the prayer.  Reading the words.  Asking God’s blessing and direction on where and what to plant.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

I had a bumper crop this year.  May have been the care and attention we gave the plants.  I think it was more down to the prayer of blessing.  Asking God the Gardener to bless this little patch of mine.

This reminded me how sometimes in life I can be too eager to launch out, full of good intention, and not stop to pray, to ask His blessing and guidance.  Sometimes I have just forgotten.  Sometimes I have felt I haven’ t the time to pray ‘properly’.  To read up on all the right scriptures and do it ‘right’.  Funny eh?  This year I just stood by some empty ground and read out a few prayers, asking Him to bless.  Not working myself up.  A simple request, in line with his Word.  I think He was listening.

  • What stops you praying before you do something?
  • What is the benefit of asking for God to bless what you do?
  • What are you planning to do next in your garden of life.  Talk to God about it …now.

God the Gardener

How well does your garden grow?

Song of Songs 4 v 15

You are a garden spring, a well of fresh water flowing down from Lebanon.

I love gardening.  Always have, always will.  From a little shared plot of land outside my first flat, to a flowerbed in my first house.  I am not great at it, but I am fascinated by the magic of it.  You prepare some ground, plant a seed, give it some water and warm sunlight and , hey presto, in a few days green shoots are emerging.  The picture I shared above is of all the apples harvested this year from one little apple tree in my small garden!  

Not everyone likes gardening.  My boys are not so keen. But they do like to sit out in the garden and admire the flowers and fruit and veg.  We all like to find a quiet spot with a cuppa and a book or ipod and just watch the butterflies and bees hop in an out of the flowers.  It’s so restful, good for the soul.  

I think God likes gardening.  He planted the first one – the glorious Eden.  It must have been something.  A delight for all the senses.  Colours, fragrances, taste, textures.  His instructions in Genesis 1 about seedtime and harvest set the boundaries for all nature and gardens.  He told the seeds to grow and so I know my little seeds have to do something!

The Bible has many ways to describe our lives: a journey, a race, a pathway to follow.  Song of Songs 4 v 15 says our lives are like a garden spring, flowing with fresh life.  The question comes to me from a familiar rhyme: ‘how does your garden grow?’. I’ve been reflecting on this and am going to note some of my thoughts here. Perhaps it’ll get you thinking too.

Life … unfurls

There is a right time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3 v 10 TLB)

“Where did you come from?”, I said to the fern that had ‘appeared’ one day in the shade at the back of my garden. I have a small garden, thoughtfully planted, packed full with flowers, vegetables, an apple tree, a wildlife pond. I know all the flora and fauna residents. I smile at the slow firework display as it changes through the months and seasons. I did not plant the fern. It was not there when I moved in a few years ago. But here it was, leaning against the back fence.

But I have come to love this elegant resident, growing in the shadows. All winter she curls her head and arms in a cozy ball, like a hibernating hedgehog. She rests through the short days and frosty nights. Then in spring she slowly unfurls, gracefully reaching for the sky. The happy daisies on the lawn pop and burst on the scene; smiling from early morning until they withdraw tired and sleepy at dusk. The fern holds her posture and rests in the moonlight.

The fern reminds me that life… unfurls. If I tried to hurry her on, I would damage her and miss the moments of her growth. Miss to notice each meaningful stage. There is a pressure to rush through key life events: growing up, relationships, children, loss of those we love. Each day can be a race to the end. Each month, year a receding to-do list. I am learning that ‘There is a right time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3 v 10, TLB). Often I am not sure when this is, but if I walk it through, stop and stare, let things grow in their time, I may slow my heart to His time, the right time. And all may not be over, but it will be well.

Hideaway Realm

 

There is a woodland walk that I know
Where sylvan springtime flowers grow.
Not many know the trail that is there,
So I slip in secretly, to listen and stare.

I gaze at the bluebells with heads that bow low
To tiny star speedwell, so far below.
See the pink Lady’s Smock as she blushes and weaves
Through sleek emerald grasses with elegant ease.

I find where the crowds of sweet celandines flow,
Like May time buttercups that shimmer and glow.
Through leaves high above I see the warm sunlight glance
Then shine on the moss where the wood fairies dance. 

I hear the bumble bee humming as she wanders a- pace
Seeking and searching a new dwelling place.
While above in the rafters a sweet melody lingers
Of robin and blackbirds – the most joyful of singers!

So I wander and wonder as if in a dream,
Peaceful and rested in this cavern of green.
My heart slows to the tempo of beach, oak and elm
In this gentlest of greenwood, this hideaway realm.

 

My Dad 21 12 37 – 04 04 20

94127899-0732-4A06-976F-987EBC29A704

On Saturday 4th April my lovely Dad, John Ball, died of Covid 19.  He had Alzeimher’s and was in residential care.  A stroke in late March saw him admitted to hospital, where he contracted Coronovirus.  We could not be there with him through all this due to lock down.  I could not be there with him at the end.

The day before he died I was woken by a tune in my head, Ashoken Farewell.  On reflection it seems I was being prepared for his leaving.  As I prayed for his healing or departure, I listened to this haunting tune.  I looked through my bedroom window at the white clouds in the April sky.  One cloud was brightly highlighted with gold.  I saw Dad in a bright place, and Mum coming towards him.  They kissed and embraced.

I have been lost in sadness.  Good days and really awful days.  The good days seem to be getting more.  With the help of W.H. Auden I am trying to capture my sadness at his leaving and some cherished memories.

 

Funeral Blues – Farewell Dad

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with a muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

 

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

 

He was my Dad, my Father and my friend;

A gentle man, a kind and caring blend.

He loved a stroll, a chat, a rousing song.

I thought he’d last forever.  I was wrong.

 

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one,

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood,

For nothing now can ever come to any good.

 

Yet in my broken heart you will live on,

Your sunny smile, your serenade in song.

You take my hand, look in my eyes, and say,

‘I love you, love’, and that’s enough today.

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “My Dad 21 12 37 – 04 04 20”

The Peace of the Wild Things – Weldell Berry

A friend has sent me this poem and it has spoken to my soul.  This world has never really made much sense to me.  I live much of my life travelling in opposite direction of where I want to be.

“Where do you want to be?” you may ask.

Far away from cities and tarmac and roads and concrete and lights.  Far away ….where the skies are clear and the noise of the day and night is rushing water and birdsong.

Once I lived in the middle of a city,  suffocating.  I would head off to the hills and mountains, to gaze at the estuary, the rolling hills, the farmlands, the forest climbing up nearby hills.

Now I live out of town, walking distance of local farms.  Once it was marshlands and so the fields have waterways cut into them, reens, that channel overflow water to the nearby sea.  I walk there at all times of the day and in all weather….and I notice.

I notice the songs of the birds, the swish of wind through the oak trees, the splash of water through the sluice.  The plop of the frogs, the shadowy outline of the resting pike, the swarming of minnows.  The elegant flight of the gentleman heron, the leaping chase of the young fox cubs, the high tree runways of erratic squirrels.  The lone sentinel daffodils, the cheerful crowd of violets, the emerald green moss creeping on a stump.

But mostly I notice the light.  It crowns this sacred  place.  The oak leaning over the reen like a wise old fishing man has a golden silhouette.  The clear skin of the gentle waters sparkle with diamonds.  The feathery seed plumes simple reeds sway like the ostrich feather fascinators of the flapper dancers.

It is my ‘go to’ place for peace, but it is not mine.  I do not and will not call it mine.  It is more than me.  It is ‘farther up and farther in’ and can never be contained.  It’s gift to me is as gentle and fluid as the passing of sand through my fingers.  So I hide this place in my heart.  And when I cannot be there, I still my heart…. and ‘come into the peace of the wild things’.

IMG_1148

Hope

Here is a favourite of mine. It speaks to me of hope. By Nasim Hikmet, from Poems to Pirayé (his wife) from prison.

The best sea: has yet to be crossed.
The best child: has yet to be born.
The best days: have yet to be lived;
and the best word that I wanted to say to you
is the word that I have not yet said.

img_2940

When it seems misty

4D5376AC-0F20-4766-9EE4-7FEADF68E70D.jpegOn my way to Llandudno. Misty, moisty, morning. Mist rising from fields, draped on trees. It is mysteriously beautiful. I know this route so well, but hard to tell where I am.

I sometimes feel like this.

Trust Him. He will be like Shasta’s companion on the lonely, misty mountain to Archenland. He will gently walk by you all the way, keeping you company, keeping you safe. A gentle stretch of our faith. He will not let you go. And we know from experience that when this most lifts, it’ll be a bright and uplifting day and we will bask in the blue sky and sunshine.

‘Trust and obey,

for there’s no other way,

to be happy in Jesus,

just to trust and obey.’

A mind of it’s own

Heard it said that the heart has a mind of its own.  Sounds paradoxical.  Mind is logical, unfeeling.  Heart is feeling, not analytical.  Two different places in me.

But I don’t think I can separate either.  My decisions are a head thing that is guided by my heart; my feelings are a heart thing that are actioned by my mind.

Guess the heart has a mind of its own and the mind has a heart of its own.

Or is it that they work in tandem?  A decision made without consulting the heart may seem brutal.  A feeling that overflows without reason can seem excessive.

Perhaps the threefold chord is needed.   A mind and heart ruled not by themselves, but by the Holy Spirit.  Saves me from uncaring logic and unrestrained sentimentality.

artistic blossom bright clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Guard your heart for out of it come the well spring of life.  Renew the spirit of my mind.