Tag Archives: God’s creation

Solace in a garden

Jerusalem Gethsemane tango7174

Garden of Gethsemane
Image credit: Tango7174 via Wikimedia Commons

Asked what he does when activities become too demanding or stressful, someone who lives a full and busy life explained his own personal form of unwinding was to spend time in the garden, sometimes to do a bit of work, other times just to sit quietly and reflect. A good place to be. Indeed, what better place to be?

Dorothy Frances Gurney wrote, “one is nearer to God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” You can be close to God in the world of nature – he is its creator – and many do find spiritual solace there. There are places where it is better to be in order to sense the close presence of God. However, there is a garden that is very much a part of the Christian story. All the gospels refer to it. A garden set on the slopes of the Mount of Olives in the Palestine of Jesus’ day, known to us as Gethsemane. There Jesus chose to spend the final moments before his arrest, unburdening his soul to God in prayer.

Those who remember His personal conflict and his heart-rending prayer, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me,” may be excused for thinking that Jesus felt totally estranged from God in that Garden. As he prayed, “the sweat was like drops of blood falling.” Take a closer look and, in the picture we have in the gospels, we see Jesus and sense the presence of God with him. You do not plead like that to a god who is absent.

A garden, a sacred moment and a sacred place.

A disciple’s prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, at your moment of severe trial, when everything seemed against you and death itself stared you in the face, you found a sacred place, a sacred moment to spend in quiet with the Father.

You prayed to be excused the ignominy and the agony of the Cross. We would do the same. What we would find more difficult is to pray, as you did: “if is your will not to take the cup from me, I will go to the Cross.”

Lord Jesus Christ, save us from an hour of so severe a testing, but if it comes, may we find the grace to accept it and the strength to bear it, fortified and strengthened because you share the cup with us.

Lord, this is our quiet moment, our sacred place . . . . be close to us that we may share Your victory.

Amen

The blog will be taking a holiday next week, but will be back on April 9th.

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Breathtaking

My help will come from the Lord; who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121.

2008 Jungfrau

Jungfrau seen from near Interlaken
Image credit: Earth Explorer via Wikimedia

I am not a mountaineer, nor am I a hill climber and I have never harboured a restless driving ambition to become either one. When on a holiday in the less popular side of the Lake District, away from the mountains and amidst the challenging fells, my wife and I had a marvellous week of congenial weather for our type of holiday – nothing too ambitious or too strenuous. However much to our own surprise we awoke on glorious summer morning resolved to get to the top of the nearest fell and undaunted we set off. But, please do not get the wrong idea; we took the easy way up – on the Ravenglass/Eskdale Railway. We were glad we had broken the mould, a wonderful experience. We felt great; almost like walking on air; spellbound by the beauty of it all; inspired by the wonders of creation; refreshed as we took our leave. Once on top we realised there was more to it than midsummer madness!

Better still was the breath-taking experience of being on top of the Jungfrau in Switzerland and walking on the snowy glacier with the sun above in a clear blue sky and the magnificent view. A sense of wonder and awe stays with me still. Like the Psalmist? Maybe! As he looked to the hills, whichever they may have been, he found great comfort and encouragement in them. “My help comes only from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” The thought of the verse leaps beyond hill and mountain to the Universe, beyond the universe to its Maker. Here is living help, personal, immeasurable; the Lord who is present, to protect ‘”in our going out and in our coming in, from this time forth and evermore.” Not just to the end of time – but into time without end.

O, Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds thy hand has made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed, Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee; How great thou art, how great thou art! (Singing the Faith. 82)

Weatherwise

“Give thanks to the Eternal – he is good, his kindness never fails.” Psalm 106: 1 (Moffatt Translation)

On a glorious September morning some years ago, travelling by road in a beautiful part of North East Scotland, the Moray Firth, with scarcely a cloud in the sky, the sun, pleasantly warm, shone brightly. There was a wonderful calm and the North Sea, a deep rich blue, lay mirror still (it could be very boisterous at times). On the one side, the inshore fishermen were busy with the harvest of the sea. On the other side, farmers were making the most of it, bringing the last of the harvest home.

I recall seeing the scene with new eyes. My mind went back to earlier days, my time on the farm, on a rainy morning, chopping firewood and cleaning out sheds, waiting for the hay to be dry and ready for cutting. I began to appreciate a sight with which I was becoming familiar, of crews pacing the quarter-deck of a fleet storm bound in harbour. There was still a reasonable number of fishing vessels based on Buckie and the other ports up and down the coast – it is very different now.

A farmer cannot get on with the harvest, hay, corn and wheat, until the crop is ripe. A fisherman cannot put to sea until the storm abates. For their bread and butter, the farmer and the fisherman depend on nature being kind.

God “has not left you without some clue to his nature in the benefits he bestows: he sends you rain from heaven and the crops in their season, and gives you food in plenty and keeps you in good heart.” (Acts 14: 17, Revised English Version).

It is not that God’s promised benevolence has dried up and is the cause of the appalling and sinful fact that millions of those “created in his image” go to bed night after night with empty bellies; with death the one assured certainty. Poverty (and its consequences) is today’s cardinal sin. We cannot get off the hook by labelling God the “Sinner”. How his heart must grieve!

The good life

A salubrious fashionable suburb; a good neighbourhood; nice houses; respectable neighbours; very desirable! Well – until that young couple got the idea of going green, becoming self-sufficient, digging up the modestly sized rear garden, converting it into an experimental agricultural smallholding – much to the consternation of the snooty next door neighbour. The promise of all sorts of vegetables was bad enough – but a pig on the other side of the fence: that was going beyond a joke. Goodness gracious, it was bound to lower the tone of the neighbourhood and bring down the value of property. Who would want to live in such close proximity to the noise and smell and dirt?

It could never happen, of course, it’s only make-believe and I exaggerate a little. You will have recognised by now that it proved to be excellent material for an extremely successful TV comedy sitcom, The Good Life, with Penelope Keith as the very posh Margo and Paul Eddington as her long-suffering husband. Tom and Barbara Good, played by Richard Briers and Felicity Kendall as slightly eccentric idealists living an “all-green” agenda in pursuit of the good life, were a bit naive perhaps, but great fun. Although we may have watched the numerous repeats on “the box” it doesn’t age with the passing of time or fail to raise a laugh!

The good life is something the majority of folk aim to achieve, although I suspect those who follow the Tom and Barbara agenda are comparatively small – infinitesimal really. Alas, more frequently, the good life is associated with money and the accumulation of wealth. Hence the popularity of TV programmes such as Who wants to be a millionaire? and Pointless. It explains why on a Wednesday and Saturday it takes a longer time than usual to get served when I go for my daily newspaper at the same checkout as those who are lined up to buy their lottery tickets and scratch cards, hoping to capture the good life, or as much of a good life as possible.

If I were asked to give a short definition of the Christian life, I would describe it as a way of life dedicated to the highest good, treading in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, whose example and teaching exemplify the good life. Open my New Testament for assurance, and I’m left in no doubt that to call the life that Jesus offers simply “the good life” does not say it all. The New Testament speaks of it as “Eternal Life”, but the good life is near enough.

Here is what it says in John 3:16: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” (Authorised Version)

And in John 10:10:  “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” (AV)

“I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness.” (GNB)

“I came so that they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (The Message)

Tom and Barbara’s good life was never intended to be more than a vehicle of entertainment, comedy and fun. But a brief excursion into the Old Testament, to the first book in the Bible, and to the story of Creation, we read, “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard / manage it.” (Genesis 2:16) The ecological environment in that day was “green” – how God chose it and made it to be. How Barbara and Tom chose it to be – a better life, the good life, a choice we all face to manage our little patch well when all around us despoil God’s creation, ignoring the consequences and adding to causes of global warming. Were Tom and Barbara blazing a trail? Or do I stretch the imagination too far?

In conclusion – back to where we were before the ecological diversion and to the claim of Jesus that he came that men and women might have life and might have it more abundantly. In his Daily Study Bible, Dr. William Barclay of Glasgow University fame, academic, writer, teacher and preacher, tells us that the Greek phrase used for “having it more abundantly” means to have a superabundance of a thing. “To be a follower of Jesus,” he says, “to know who he is and what he means. When we walk with Jesus there comes a new vitality, a superabundance of life.”

A fitting conclusion!

On a grey morning

Clouds: Eivind Mikkelsen via Wikimedia

Clouds: Eivind Mikkelsen via Wikimedia

When travelling by air I would always try to have a seat by a window. To fly through the clouds and to steal a glance through the window is to feast on an awesome sight. Blue and light all around, the cloud beneath projecting upwards like the peaks of a mountain range blanketed in snow; a glorious sight! One of Nature’s enacted parables. Beyond the cloud the sun still shines! And on a grey morning when one is reluctant to face the demands of the day. . . . . . . . . . God is there in the dimness, all the time.

“How clearly the sky reveal God’s glory

How plainly it shows what He has done!

Each day announces it to the following day; each night repeats it to the next.

No speech or words are used, no sound is heard;

yet their message goes out to the entire world

and is heard to the ends of the earth.”

Psalm 19: 1 – 4 (GNB For Scotland)