14 November 2018
Libby Jeffrey, who lives in the farmhouse at Halls, shared a piece of correspondence she has had over the years with the Bayley family. George was born on 1 July 1894 at Halls. He was killed at Ypres just a few weeks after the start of the First World War. He was 20 years old.
Personal family connections have been established with the Bayley family across the generations. Events have been marked. Visits have been arranged. Meaningful links with the past have been interwoven through this contemporary engagement.
Two girls living on the farm at Halls looked up Bayley’s name on the Menin Gate when they visited with Dunbar Grammar in June. They marked it with poppies. ‘Their school visit was much more compelling having this connection ..’ wrote Libby.
Bayley’s memorial plaque hangs in Stenton Kirk. And in the farmhouse at Halls, a memory lingers of a mother, who having lost her firstborn in infancy, never really recovered from the loss of her second and kept his uniform on display in a glass case in the hall!
12 November 2018
The School of Piping encouraged pipers to participate in the events surrounding the centenary of the Armistice yesterday. They were keen to have a piper at every war memorial in Scotland at 6am in the morning, the day and time the Armistice was signed.
In our parish, Richard Fairnie played at Stenton and Ian Sutherland played at East Linton. I went to the latter. It was quicker and easier at that time in the morning. Although it was an early start, it was well worth it.
Ian was joined by about fifty people of all ages including representatives of the Scouts carrying the Queen’s Colours as well as some assorted dogs. He played the military retreat, ‘The Battle’s O’er’ twice – once to fulfil his duty and the other to facilitate photographs.
Later on, Ian played his pipes in Prestonkirk. Traditionally, the piper enters the church and marches through it into the vestry. He continues to play as he moves out of the kirk. We hear the pipes getter fainter and fainter as the sound vanishes into the distance.
Somehow, a mystery is created. The pipes have led us back into time and connected us with the soldiers who had made the greatest sacrifice of all. ‘Sleep in peace my soldier laddie, sleep in peace, now the battle’s oe’r.’
11 November 2018 – Armistice
‘What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?’ asks Wilfrid Owen at the beginning of his celebrated ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. Apparently, nine million combatants were killed in the so-called ‘Great War’ and twice as many were wounded or incapacitated by gas-poisoning and shell-shock.
‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns./ Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle/ can patter out their hasty orisons.’ There is no time for the dignity of a proper funeral. The devastation was huge. The numbers too great!
‘What candles may be held to speed them all?’ Candles? Who will be able to carry candles across the desert of no man’s land? Who has the time to stop and pray to Him who is the light of the world? The funeral rites are carried out elsewhere:
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
10 November 2018
Stenton Primary shares its headteacher with Innerwick Primary School. During the past year, they have been doing things together. Recently, there was a Hallowe’en Party at Innerwick and the children at Stenton were there too.
Yesterday, the pupils, staff and parents from Innerwick came to join the pupils, staff and parents at Stenton Kirk for an assembly to mark the centenary of the Armistice on 11 November 1918.
All the children participated – telling us about the history of the poppy, life in the trenches, the statistics of war, sharing with us letters from the Western Front and their own poems about peace.
They sang some old wartime favourites like ‘Pack up your Troubles’ and ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. Homemade wreaths were laid. A recording of the bugle was played and the bell at Stenton Kirk rang out.
What better way to celebrate the ending of the First World War than through the collaboration and co-operation inherent in this initiative where pupils, staff and parents from each school work together, make new friends and play their part in securing the peace of the earth!
9 November 2018
Jan Wagner made this piece of patchwork out of waste. She argued that the war was a waste of life and decided to use waste materials to remember the contribution which was made by animals and, in particular, horses in the Great War. It is on display in Prestonkirk.
Horses are remembered by the purple poppies. Blue plastic ice cube packets and pink Asda pizza wrap have been ironed together to produce the purple colour. The stems were made from an old chiffon scarf and the stamens are the harvest of broken jewellery.
The piece has been machine quilted with crosses and horseshoes. And a poem by Janice Walkden has been written on the fabric to remind us of the eight million horses which were killed in the conflict.
They had no choice, the choice was made
Alongside their masters their part they played
And without the raise of hoof or paw
Their lives were taken in a human war.
8 November 2018
Can you guess what this is? It looks like a pumpkin lantern made out of dough and ginger with some icing sugar to bring out the facial features! It was a gift from one of the children at the J-Team yesterday!
As it happens, we were talking about the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. The children made some picnic baskets. On each one there was a text from 1 Timothy 6;18, ‘Be generous and willing to share.’
7 November 2018
Gary Menzies sent me a set of photographs featuring various poppy installations in East Linton. There were poppies hanging from a white cross in Hilary’s shop. A cluster of poppies on stems on the embankment at the Bowling Club.
There were poppies decorating the front railing of the War Memorial in the Coronation Park and even some decorating a flowerbed at the corner of Drylaw Gardens. And, of course, there was an installations on the kirk gates.
Six hundred poppies have been knitted and crocheted by several women within the community. According to Joan Bell, who has been pivotal to this initiative, ‘It just grew!’ Three things.
Firstly, the enduring significance of the red poppy. From Flanders’ fields to the Phantassie fields in East Linton, the fragility of the poppy with its blood-red petals reminds us of our own mortality seen in the sacrifice of our forebears.
Secondly, the value of art in approaching the horrors of war. Ever since the very popular installation at the Tower of London, people all over the country have been inspired to use their imaginations to help them remember.
Thirdly, the opportunity to make a personal contribution. We wear a poppy and we stand in silence like everyone else but participating with others to make something creative is another way of saying that collaboration and co-operation lies at the heart of peace-making.
The installation at the kirk gates surprises. Among the many red poppies there are a few white ones. I asked Joan about them. Apparently, a woman had some white wool and asked Joan if she could knit white instead.
The white poppy has been worn for eighty years. As well as representing a commitment to peace, it reminds us that as well as the soldiers who were killed, there were many civilians too – innocent women and children. They didn’t deserve it!
6 November 2018
Seventy years ago, this December, the United Nations produced its ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. It contained thirty articles listing the rights which a person should have in a civilised society.
One of the most important rights is the right to ask questions. Recently, Maya Johnstone asked her mum a question. ‘Why are you buying milk in plastic cartons instead of glass bottles?’
Her mum hadn’t thought about this before. But Maya, who lives in Ellon, Aberdeenshire was concerned about throwing away more plastic when glass bottles could easily be washed and used again.
Her mum contacted Muller, the milk company, and asked them to supply milk in bottles. ‘If there is a demand for it, we will do it!’ said the company. She attracted more than 200 responses to a Facebook appeal.
Now self-employed milkman, William Milne, is delivering milk in bottles to Maya and her neighbours. And everyone is fighting over who is going to get the cream at the top of the bottle to put on their porridge!
5 November 2018
Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot!
As children, we always remembered it with a bonfire, fireworks and hot soup made by the mothers and drunk in cups. We spent the month before gathering wood in our boggies and barrows, stacking it high in a patch of grass in the middle of our housing scheme. It was a memorable community event.
Looking back two things surprise me. The first is that we were allowed to do this. After all, the houses in our scheme were built of wood! The second is that the event had nothing to do with Scotland. Wasn’t it the English Parliament that was going to be blown up? We still had our own in 1605!
But I suppose there was the Scottish King who never returned to visit us after he crossed the Linton Brig, southbound to inherit another crown! Some people are vexed about the anti-catholic perspective on this event. But I don’t think people read that much into what has become a secular autumnal festival to keep us warm in body and heart!
4 November 2018
St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, was troubled that some people thought that God’s knowledge couldn’t embrace things which were infinite. He argued against this view in his famous, ‘City of God’.
God knows all numbers. Numbers are infinite. If you thought you could end numbers you could always add a one to that final number and it would be bigger. Although individual numbers are finite, as a class they are infinite.
‘Does that mean that God does not know all numbers because of their infinity?’ asks the bishop. He has the authority of Scripture. ‘You have set in order all things by measure, number and weight.’ says the Wisdom writer.
Appealing to the Psalmist, he says, ‘Never let us doubt, then, that every number is known to him ‘whose understanding cannot be numbered’.’ And so this infinity of numbers is not outside the comprehension of God.
‘If what is comprehended in knowledge is bounded within the embrace of that knowledge, and thus is finite, it must follow that every infinity is, in a way we cannot express, made finite to God, because it cannot be beyond the embrace of his knowledge.’
‘In a way we cannot express’ – the mystery in a nutshell!
3 November 2018
In his illuminating book about literature, John Sutherland acknowledges that Dickens has been our greatest novelist. He still sells a million copies every year and has been celebrated on stage and screen with many adaptations of his novels.
Sutherland gives five reasons – his unique inventiveness, the place he afforded to children and childhood, his ability to reflect social change, his appreciation that fiction could change the world and finally his honest belief in the essential goodness of people.
The last is exemplified in one of his most popular novels, ‘A Christmas Carol’ where Scrooge is transformed in an extraordinary way. Embracing the bigger picture and trusting in God’s redeeming purposes is the most hopeful way to live – and it’s open to us all to share this vision of the world.
2 November 2018
On Monday, we went on a four mile walk around the tiny village of Hutton. We parked at the parish church and were delighted to see an outpouring of red poppies from one of the kirk windows.
The decoration had been beautifully designed and located immediately behind the local War Memorial. Appropriately enough, it was a tall, thin, stone Celtic Cross bearing the names of the glorious dead.
On closer examination, we could see that the poppies had all been made from the top sections of plastic bottles and painted red. Their screw on caps had been a useful adjunct in connecting green stems for tying to the netting and sticking into the ground.
It was a magnificent piece of recycling reminding us of John Macrae’s, ‘In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow/ between the crosses, row on row,/ That mark our place’. I hope the sun shines on these poppies to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice. For it is sincerely remembered in Hutton.
1 November 2018
In the recent issue of New Scientist, there is a special study on memory. I was particularly interested in a little article which asked the question, ‘Is technology making my memory worse?’ What do you think?
I immediately thought of the spell check. In a former day, I would look up the dictionary but before that I would write down the word in various forms until I could recognise the correct spelling. In this way, my brain was exercised.
Next I thought about the sources of information which I constantly referred to in my study and the colleague who phoned me up one day and asked, ‘Have you got Pitt-Watson’s,. ‘The Folly of Preaching’?’ He had lost his copy and wanted me to find a quote. I was google for a day!
It surely must be a blessing to have so much information on hand at the click of a button but to what extent does this encourage us not to exercise our brains or even use our brains to wrestle with the question in hand? The article had three interesting things to say.
Those who take photographs of events and store them away on their computer leave a diminished memory in their brain. And those who depend on satnav for navigation are worse at remembering where they have been than those who use maps!
When people think that they will be able to access information at a later date, they have less recall of what that information was but their memory of where that information has been stored is enhanced. Our memories are changing. Better or worse?
31 October 2018
On Sunday, we worshipped in Durham Cathedral. Of the three hymns which the congregation sang, I knew none of the words and only one of the tunes. They were all selected from the ‘New English Hymnal’.
One of them was entitled, ‘Let our choirs new anthems raise’. The words were written by the Victorian JM Neale. However, in the printed order of worship, they had been changed to the singular, ‘Let our choir new anthems raise’ presumably to compliment the cathedral choristers!
When I looked up the original, I discovered that the compilers had changed the words of the first line. It originally read,’ Christians, come, new anthems raise’. This made me think about this train of events more carefully.
The initial hymn was an encouragement to the whole congregation, the people of God, to come and sing a new song as the psalmist so eloquently puts it. But the compilers had restricted the invitation to church choirs .
And in the cathedral, it had become an even more exclusive invitation to the choir that was seated in the chancel! Which was the more Biblical invitation?
30 October 2018
Perhaps I am foolish but I have never taken Hallowe’en any more seriously than to resist the ‘Trick or Treat’ which has been imported from the USA and to encourage our children to ‘go guising’ !
There is no inherent power in a witches’ costume nor a ghost’s outfit save the power we choose to invest in these things. But there is the potential to stimulate the imagination and to overcome fear. For that is what the season is all about!
In the grounds of Paxton House, there is a Fairy Trail for children. In addition, there is the seasonal, ‘Paxton House Secret Spell Trail’. I haven’t done it but have seen witches legs popping out of buckets and ghosts in the trees.
I don’t know how successful this has been but I admire the initiative to engage with children and their families. This is a business so it is in their interests to encourage people to visit the grounds, play on the equipment, eat in the Tea Room and so on.
The Church can learn from this. It has found it more difficult to engage with young people in recent years and has been less confident about trying. With a little imagination and a spirit of adventure how can we celebrate the gospel with our families – and have some fun together?
29 October 2018
National Geographic has drawn up a list of ten things for parents under the heading, ‘How to Nurture Genius’. It adds, ‘Here are ten ways to help grow children’s brains, cultivate their interests and launch their life journeys.’
The first is probably the best of all. ‘Model a curious mind, a willingness to take risks and a strong work ethic.’ Asking questions is supremely important and facing the unknown turns living into an adventure. Above all, nothing is achieved in this life without hardwork.
Parents are encouraged to praise effort and not ability, make time for play because it stimulates the imagination and let their children tackle challenges on their own ‘without swooping in’. Some healthy neglect is to be commended.
Travel, music lessons, a foreign language, puzzles all make sense. But there’s no mention of sport and the value of meeting success and failure and ‘treating these two imposters just the same’ nor is there anything said about making friends and discovering how to live at peace.
Perhaps loneliness and restlessness are a critical part of the psyche of a Mozart, a van Gogh and an Einstein. But how many geniuses can each generation host? A more realistic aspiration is to visit the minister, arrange a baptism and enjoy being a child of God!
28 October 2018
John Wallis was given a modest classical education. There was not much mathematics in it. His younger brother became a tradesman. He did have some mathematics in his training. John was interested. The younger taught the older.
He continued his interest, teaching himself. Eventually, he became the Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford University. People were surprised. Perhaps he knew Oliver Cromwell, influential at the time? One of his claims to fame is that he invented the symbol for infinity ∞.
Prior to becoming a mathematician, Wallis was a Presbyterian minister. When the Westminster Divines were appointed to draw up the famous ‘Confession of Faith’, he became their Secretary. In the second chapter, ‘Of God and the Holy Trinity, it says that God ‘is infinite in being and perfection’.
27 October 2018
Paxton House is set in a glorious estate which is full of woodland in autumn splendour. Throughout, there are information boards informing the public about the wildlife that exists around the house.
In each one, we learn something new. The kingfisher dives at a speed of 25mph. The heron is very light because it has hollow bones. The dragonfly can fly at speeds of 30mph. Butterflies use receptors on their feet to taste and so on.
The boards are a useful educational tool for children and adults alike. They also alert us to what is hidden in the woodland, on the banks of the Tweed and in the rough grass. Above all, they reconnect us to our natural environment.
In a former day, there wouldn’t have been the money nor perhaps the technology to produce these visual aids. Perhaps they weren’t so necessary when nature study was a vital topic in Primary School education and we could distinguish easily between oak and ash.
The importance of the natural world for our well-being is well-documented. Being in touch with the good earth, experiencing the life force in heron, otter and deer and enjoying the beauty of woodland, river and hill connect us to the Creation and, of course, the Creator whose love binds all things together in perfect harmony.
26 October 2018
Omid Asadi is from Iran. He studied art in Manchester and now works with autumn leaves. He presses them and sketches designs on to them. Using a very sharp knife, he patiently cuts the leaf in order to reveal the design.
Apparently, his designs can take from one week to two months to reproduce on the autumn leaf. The surface of the autumn leaf is very fragile. It wouldn’t take much to rip or tear this delicate canvas.
These miniature resurrections are photographed and sold as prints. In this way, he enables the dying leaf to live a new life. In the autumn decay, a miniature new world is recreated and the Easter Gospel is celebrated anew.
25 October 2018
I love the autumn. It’s partly because I celebrate my birthday towards the end of the season but it has mostly to do with the leaves on the trees – the changing colours, the inevitable fall and the gradual decay which follows.
The natural life cycle is brought to a conclusion in the most beautiful way. Although we are watching the trees dying, we do not focus on such morbidity. We look at the glorious landscape and wonder at it all.
But this is, of course, the glory of death on the tree and an intimation of the glory which Christ spoke about in St. John’s Gospel which was revealed not in the resurrection but in his crucifixion. Surprisingly, the way of the cross was his glorification.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul talks about carrying the gospel as treasure in earthen vessels and goes on to talk about the body’s natural decay. ‘Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.’
In the autumn of our lives, we hold onto this hope. ‘For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.’
24 October 2018
In 1906, Gertrude Jekyll was invited by Sir Edward Hudson to design a walled garden for Lindisfarne Castle. The architect, Edwin Lutyens, was redesigning the castle and helped his friend by drawing a plan of the paths inside it.
When we visited, it had been hit by autumn decay but we were able to fulfil the instruction, ‘Smell the sweet peas!’ for a few remained hanging round the garden cane wigwam. They were delicious!
Surprisingly, the walled garden was smaller than the one in our manse but it had elegant paths bordered by silver Lambs Ears! The roses had all gone but orange marigolds, yellow helianthus and white Japanese anemone were all still in bloom.
In one corner of the garden, there was a tiny shed with red and white heart-shaped bunting decorating the window. There was a wooden house for bees and insects, an old wooden barrow with metal wheel and a bucket of apples harvested from the nearby tree.
On the stone wall, there was a plaque celebrating the redoubtable Jekyll who designed no less than 400 gardens in her long lifetime. She even managed to plant wildflowers in the castle rocks by using a shotgun to shoot the wildflower seeds. They still grow there today!
I loved her lateral thinking – and the energy behind her work. This contrasted with the sensitivity of her design which was based on her artistic love of colour. She worked on the garden for six years. Nothing like the speedy makeovers featured in popular television programmes. But it has lasted and the memories of her work linger even in autumn decay!
23 October 2018
On Sunday, we worshipped on the Island of Lindisfarne. St. Mary’s was beautifully lit with burning candles and the reflection of the sunlight through the stained glass windows. But it was very cold.
So much so that the minister, who was an older woman with a strong Newcastle accent, said, ‘We thought it was warmer outside than inside today so we have left the door open.’ She didn’t contend with the enormous draft produced by the wind!
When it came to the sermon, the minister made some preliminary remarks. ‘I have to tell you that I have left my notes at home. So you’re not going to get anything profound this morning. I’m afraid it’s going to be a ramble.’ And it was!
It was an unusual gift only assuaged by the Sacrament. Most of Christendom score here for if there is nothing more than a ramble in the sermon, there is always something profound in the silent preaching of broken bread and shared wine, the drama of salvation! It was refreshing.
22 October 2018
When she was a child, Teresa of Avila played at hermitages with her brother. They pretended to be religious recluses, running away to Morocco to die as martyrs! Perhaps it’s not surprising that she grew up to become a famous nun!
She is the one who wrote those beautiful lines, ‘Christ has no body now on earth but yours. Yours are the only hands with which he can do his work.‘ Despite her visions or perhaps because of them, she was a very practical nun!
So much so that she was often heard to say, ‘God preserve us from stupid nuns!’ And one of her shortest prayers seems to say it all. ‘From silly devotions and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, delivers us.’ Amen to that!
21 October 2018
This week, we have had some autumnal mist and some wintry frost on the banks of the Tyne. I regretted not wearing my woollen gloves but it won’t happen again! Some sunrises have been spectacular.
Despite the changing season, there is much wildlife – the heron flying low over the river, some deer in the stubble field, plenty of pheasants trying to avoid the hunter, a kingfisher flying fast under the Knowes Bridge.
Driving east to Tyninghame in the evening, I saw a beautiful tawny owl sitting on a fence. His body never moved but his eyes followed me quizzically as I drove past, ‘Where are you going at this time of night?’ On the way back, a hare ran across the road in front of the car.
I harvested a barrow load of cooking apples from the walled-garden and stored them in boxes in the outhouse. Mary-Catherine makes an exceptional apple pie. There were still grapes in the greenhouse, the sweetest I have ever tasted and I did nothing to nurture this growth! ‘How does it happen?’ asks the sower. ‘He knows not how!’ The mystery of God!
20 October 2018
One of our members, Angus Jeffrey, is the Chairman of the East Lothian Branch of the NFU. He wrote an interesting article in the Courier reviewing this year’s harvest. With a wet Spring and a dry summer, what was his verdict?
On the one hand, he said that it had been ‘a relatively easy harvest’ but on the other yields had been variously described as ‘variable, average, better than expected but certainly not bumper or huge’.
He argued that the impact of science on farming had made the farmer’s job easier. One of the consequences of this is cheaper food. Scottish households spend 10% on food. Sixty years ago it was one third. Only in the USA and Singapore do households spend less!
Angus is off with his wife, Lynda, to France this weekend singing with the Stenton Singers. They are meeting up with families they have known for many years through the local twinning arrangements. I’m sure there will be much chat about the French harvest too.
Perhaps there is a harvest psalm in the Singers’ repertoire, ‘The earth has yielded its increase. God our God has blessed us. May God continue to bless us. Let all the ends of the earth revere him.’ sings the Psalmist. ‘Bon voyage!’ sing I.
19 October 2018
It isn’t every day that you see a photograph of a Christian minister kneeling down beside the President of the United States of America with his left hand on his shoulder and his head bowed in prayer!
When Pastor Andrew Brunson was released after almost two year’s detention in Turkey, he flew back to the USA and was promptly invited to visit Trump in the White House. During his interview, he asked the President if he could pray with him.
‘Well, I need it probably more than anyone else in this room so that would be very nice, thank you!’ said the President with good humour and uncharacteristic humility. In the pastor’s sincerity and faith, the President was acknowledging a higher authority than himself.
The pastor prayed not only for ‘supernatural wisdom’ and protection from ‘slander from enemies’ but also ‘perseverance and endurance and courage to stand for truth’. Time will tell whether the White House prayer is answered or not!
18 October 2018
A member of the congregation gave me a laminated photograph of the late James Muir and asked me to place it in the ground beside his gravestone in Prestonkirk. He died a hundred and forty-six years ago tomorrow, drowned in the river Tyne. He was only 31 years old.
The photograph shows that he was short in stature. He had bandy legs hence his nickname, ‘Bowsie’. According to the booklet compiled by the Burial Ground Survey Group, he worked with his ‘cuddy and cairt’ doing light carting jobs.
He was unmarried and lived with an old couple, Thomas and Elizabeth Boyd. Following his tragic death, the Boyds and some friends erected a stone in his memory. Unfortunately, the wording was ambiguous.
The inscription read, ‘Erected to the Memory of James Muir who was Drowned in the Tyne October 19th 1873 by Thomas and Elisabeth Boyd E Linton and a few friends’. Fortunately, the ‘by’ was on a separate line and was eventually removed quite neatly.
Because of his inscription, Bowsie became even more famous. Clearly, his memory lingers on today in the hearts of some Lintonians. There cannot be many whose memory lasts for almost a century and a half. Now others will see what he looked like – and remember him too!
17 October 2018
In his essay on ‘Perspective’, MC Escher delineates the rules of perspective and goes on to declare that perspective is ‘a typically human concern’. Of course, animals are not concerned with it and perhaps lack the necessary intelligence to analyse it.
More importantly, ‘the law became possible only after man started correcting nature in accordance with his own human needs’. He invites us to look at the landscape. The natural world has very few straight lines!
When human beings started to take control of their environment, they introduced the straight line and with it parallel lines. We are obsessed with horizontal and vertical lines. Why? He suggests gravity and a lack of imagination!
Why are our windows mostly rectangular and not round nor hexagonal? Why are our houses built with lines which lie at right angles to each other? Of all the infinite possibilities why have we been so boring – and for so long?
16 October 2018
We have been exploring the book of Job. This week, we looked at the dialogues between Job and his three comforters. Job is worn down to the ground in his defence and longs to have it out with God. But God makes no reply.
Is that fair? Is God afraid to accept Job’s challenge? Why doesn’t he accuse Job openly and let him defend himself? It’s as if Job is worth no more than a rotting piece of wood or a moth-eaten garment kicked aside or deliberately thrown out!
He feels desperately isolated from God, cut off from his family, estranged from his friends. ‘My breath is repulsive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own family. Even young children despise me; when I rise, they talk against me. All my intimate friends abhor me and those whom I loved have turned against me.’
And yet, as this lonely, pitiful, painful monologue grinds us all into the depths of despair which enfolds him, there is a flicker of light and Job confirms his faith in these immortal words:
For I know that my redeemer lives
and that at the last He shall stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed
then in my flesh I shall see God.
15 October 2018
I told the children a tale about Frog and Toad. They’re friends and they each decided to do their friend a good turn. Unbeknown to the other, the one cleared away the leaves which had fallen on his friend’s grass.
However, by the time they returned to their respective homes, the wind had blown them back again. ‘I will clear the leaves on my grass tomorrow.’ said Frog. ‘How surprised Toad will be when he sees that his grass has been cleared.’ Toad makes a similar comment.
The tale ends with Frog and Toad in their own houses, happy with what they have done for their friend but oblivious to what their friend did for them. And we’re left wondering, ‘Is that important?’
Judging by the comments I received at the door, people wanted more. They didn’t think the story was finished. People wondered why they didn’t tell each other what they had done nor benefit from some feedback!
Of course, that is the way of the modern world but it is not the way of the gospel. Jesus says, ‘Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.’ Their friendship was built upon a hidden ministry of selflessness enfolded in a trusting silence.