Empty Baskets

I admire people with the gift of poetry I am thinking of those who can turn everyday events and words into verses that amuse, tug on heart strings and inspire, verses that say it all. Not all poets are paid, and not all poems are published but many a requested copy has been lovingly tucked away in a bible or a treasured book to be read over and over again. Poems meet a need, feed a hunger, some are so inspired that the writer seems to have been touched by the Master’s hand.

Mary Oliver said, “Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket: You put your life into it and make something out of that.’

An empty basket, makes me think…
Where did the baskets come from?

In Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 14, we are told how John the Baptist had been beheaded and that John’s disciples bought the news to the Jesus, and Jesus took his disciples away by themselves in a boat to a lonely place, where perhaps Jesus intended to console them. Of course the word got around and crowds of people made their way around the lake on foot, and when our Lord stepped ashore he saw them and pitied them, taught them and healed those who were sick. Time slipped away and evening came. There was no nearby town for the crowd to buy food, so Jesus fed them, taking 5 small loaves and 2 fishes he blessed the food and gave it to the disciples to distribute to that vast crowd. Now, I don’t question that my Lord could feed that 5,000 men plus women and children, I know some folk think that the generosity of the boy who gave up his own meal inspired every one else to bring out their stashed away supplies, people will think what they will think… I know Jesus feeds us… but the bible doesn’t tell us who gave, or loaned those 12 baskets that the disciples took around after the meal to collect the food left over. Perhaps the baskets belonged to the 12 disciples? The bible doesn’t say.

If our poems are empty baskets waiting for us to put in the scraps of our lives, pegging out the washing, washing up, the chores, birthdays, anniversaries, laughter,sorrow, and out come beautiful crafted works to treasure; what will happen if we let Jesus put his Life into the empty basket of our life?

Something very beautiful I would imagine. Perhaps, it may well be a silent poem, with no words. For none may be needed, all being said and said very well indeed by the loving, kind, gentle, strong and holy person that God through his Spirit would handcraft in us, He is after all the Author of eternal life and Jesus the very Word!

Now, where did I put that empty basket?

A New Brick

A windy autumn morning on the top of the hill where three of us are gathered to discuss the possible restoration of a Memorial and into my mind drops the picture of a New Brick, a good strong one being selected from a heap of them.

The memorial has been here almost as long as the present church building which was dedicated on the 29th September 1923 and built from bricks salvaged from the rubble remaining after the destruction of the previous one by fire.  Many years ago, I heard the story of how the village children gathered together on Saturday mornings to forage for the bricks so desperately needed to rebuild the church,  for those were days of poverty and loss, many of those children had lost fathers, and brothers in the Great War that should have been the war to end all wars, and sadly was not, whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour … and now perhaps grand children and great grandchildren remember those children themselves.. I puzzle over the the Brick and recall these words from Jeremiah 29. 11-13

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

I think of our little church now, perhaps not so much of the bricks and mortar but of those who gather every week, mostly aging and I wonder…the brick I have just seen is a new brick, not an old, reclaimed one. “Take it,” the Spirit says and I receive it into my own hands and wonder, and  wait…to see what will become of it.

Hope

A Christian can lay build on no other foundation than the Lord Jesus and Paul reminds me, in 1Cor. 3.10 “Each one should build with care.”

So I wonder, what kind of brick do I hold in my hands, are my hands safe. careful ones?  I pray,

“Loving God, help me to make your love the foundation of my life, give me grace to build up and not to tear down; to encourange and not criticise;to forgive, and not to harbour hurts or disappointments, knowing that you are faithful and ever ready to forgive when I fail or fall.

A packet of seeds

It began with a packet of seeds: actually a  picture of a man’s hand holding a packet of seeds.  Not a picture in a magazine, in a book, or on a wall. But, the kind of picture that the Holy Spirit gives from time to time.

A picture that came early morning, before breakfast and that quite frankly puzzled me.

Why a packet of seeds?

What kind of seeds?

I could see no label, no image to indicate what kind of flower or vegetable. I watched as the seeds were poured into the other hand for sowing,

If like me, you read the scriptures you will know many verses that speak of seeds and sowing.  There is the Parable of the Sower for one, the enemy who sowed weeds over night in the farmer’s field, the Mustard seed…but none seemed to fit.  I know that a picture is not the Word of the Lord and neither are our musings, however informed or fitting. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts so I just waited, patiently, prayerfully.

“Do not sow two kinds of seed in your vineyard.” I was not expecting that answer when it came a couple of days later with a new picture. This time there were two packets of seed with the words. “Choose. Your words or mine? Did n’t the Lord set two choices before Israel at Mount Ebal and did He not say, ‘Choose life.'” (Deuteronomy 30v19)

On Mount Ebal Israel was shown clearly two ways, a way of blessing and a way of cursing. Israel was asked to choose which way it would follow.  Followers of Jesus also have a choice to make. The two packets of seeds are shown most distinctly in Galatians Chapter 5.  The seeds I choose are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control.” The label on the packet reads, “The seeds of the spirit.”

In a parish church many funeral services take place in the course of the year; and many are for people whose last declaration is “I did it my way.”  I play the Frank Sinatra version from the sound desk as the coffin leaves church.  I have heard so many family stories and tributes through the years, and as I write these words feel with sadness that many of those people ‘facing the final curtain’ have without their knowledge been robbed. Robbed of a life that could have been better, sweeter. Dare I say it? Robbed of a life of blessing. I bless God for His many blessings and count them again.

It begins with a packet of seeds.

What shall I plant?

“Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be forfeited.” (Deuteronomy 9v12)

Now what seed shall I plant in my life’s vineyard? Shall it be my own word, or the Lord’s? His Way or Mine?

Those are the questions of many who come to stand at a cross roads. Yesterday, 1st September marked the Patronnal Festival of St Giles of Provence, many churches built at cross roads and in wooded areas were Named for this Saint in the Middle Ages. Including our little church.  St Giles seems to have arrived in Britain  with William the Conqueror and the 1st Church on our hill was built soon after the Conqueror decided to stay and began to build castles.  Once upon a time the hill was surrounded by forest, and the deer ran freely, so freely that  Kings hunted here.  The legend of Saint Giles tells us that he himself was Royalty, a Prince, the son of King Theodore and Queen Pelagia of Athens but Giles chose a different way of life and left behind a Royal Court with all its pleasures and the politics of his day, the celebrity life was not for him.  Giles chose the solitary life and a life of prayer and meditation lived in a hermitage shielded by the forest near the Banks of the River Rhone.  A quiet life which was rudely disturbed the day that King Wamba out hunting with his court pursued a fleeing hind straight to the saint’s doorstep. Giles took the arrow meant for the deer, who had been his companion.  King Wamba was impressed with this kindly saint’s gentleness and eventually perusaded him to accept some disciples to teach and the building of a Monastery which Giles ruled as Abbot according to the Rule of St Benedict.

These days are full of choices, full of decisions… all things are possible and sometimes it is tempting for us to think that no choice or decision of our making can be wrong.Do what you want. Take what you want. The most important person in this world is me, myself. So what if there is poverty in the world, so what if people in the world are hurting? Just as long as it isn’t me.

Giles took the arrow meant for the deer; his love and gentless led him to instruct others  in caring, Would the many miracles of healing attributed to Giles have been possible, would the many Lazar and Alms Houses bearing his name have been founded. Would thousands of beggers, and travellers have found much sought after help?

What if Giles has ignored the word of God beating in his heart. What if He had been content with earthly position and power, what if fame and celebrity had been his choice?  What if the noise of earthly wisdom had drowned out the whisper of Christ, ” One thing you lack….. come and follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

What seed shall I plant? Whose word shall i follow? The Lord’s way or mine?