The artist opened her paint box, dampened her brush and started. Before her was a beautiful Tudor half timbered house complete with moat and gatehouse. She worked quickly on that hot summer’s day. The picture developed and showed no sign of the many visitors who trooped passed her on they way to tour the building. She disliked their intrusion with garish tops and shorts into this piece of history. Suddenly she sighted an old man in straw hat and linen jacket stop and gaze at the house. He was perfect for inclusion just at the bridge over the moat.
Soon the painting was finished as the shadows swiftly changed towards afternoon. So she collected her gear and stood up. There beside her was the gentleman she had portrayed. They talked and she asked if he knew the house well. ‘Yes’ he replied ‘many years ago I lived here’.
‘My uncle once owned it and I stayed here as a boy each summer’. ‘Do you miss it?’ asked the artist. ‘Of course but you can’t turn the clocks back. Now it is the property of the tourists who pay to keep it up’ . He went on ‘ now why don’t you paint it again but include the visitors this time – that will picture the future?’ A few minutes late he left with the first picture and the painter started again remembering that time runs in only one direction.
Let us pray
Lord help us to value the present
Treasure the past
And use them
To found hope in the future.
The tree remembered being planted in the churchyard those many summers ago. For he saw the young daughter of the squire slipping a copy of that new book on Pride and Prejudice in to wile away the long sermon. This blissful rural scene was oblivious to the battles being fought on land and sea to fence in the tyrant Napoleon.
He brought to mind the parishioners chattering excitedly having been told of a war far away over whether humans could own humans; trees never own each other more than they can own God’s sunlight.
He then lived many summers and slept for many winters before Johnny, the blacksmiths boy, proud in his khaki uniform marched off to France. A few months later, his family came weeping to the yard even though Johnny had no grave there.
It seems hardly any summers at all after the Great War, than his branches were swept back by a gaudily painted plane sprouting smoke and crosses flew overhead with another firing in pursuit. Now he saw the night sky filled with new strars, all talking to each other as they silently rotated above.
More recently, he was overjoyed when a young family came to stay in the disused church which had been converted to a house. They played in his shadow and touched his bark in games. And so he felt the pain even more as the chainsaw cut into his flesh to make way for another room for washing, games and fitness machines. But through it all, he knew sorrow for humans neither live for summer or sleep in winter but destroy or are destroyed equally in ever season.
Let us pray
Remind us we are custodians
Of all living things
Not their masters
Just their caretakers.
Between them, they had gone a good way to the Moon. I am talking about those three vehicles standing gallantly on display. The first was an Austin Twenty that had been driven from England to Cape Town and back in between 1932 and 1935. The second was also an Austin and had managed the route from the North Cape in northern Norway again to South Africa in 1955. Some say this is the longest road in the world. But the real trooper was a very battered Range Rover that in 1977 had struggled from Anchorage, Alaska to Cape Horn along the Pan American Highway. It has to be said this term is a misnomer as the route took 7 months to conquer. The worst was a mere 100 miles across the Darien Isthmus that accounted for 4 months of the journey time. The struggle through the dense jungle can only be imagined from the dents in the vehicle’s ‘fuselage’. Proof if any is needed that the slow and persistent beats the fast and easy.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus, help me in the jungles of life
To struggle to get through
Guide me on the easy roads
To want to get through
Who has not said a silent prayer of thanks on the arrival of the repair van when we have broken down far from home. This was the situation anticipated many years ago in Britain. For the government has introduced currency controls and as a result most had decided to have a holiday within the country. The Automobile Association therefore purchased a fleet of motorcycles with sidecar boxes full of parts and tools ready to repair vehicles that had let thier owner’s down.
But the AA started for another reason than rescuing stranded motorists. The association’s original purpose was to warn of speed traps. In the early days of motoring inthe UK, the local constable would stand on a stretch of road with a stop watch and apprehend cars exceeding a very low speed limit. To counter this, an AA patrolman on his bike would either salute members if the coast was clear or ignore them if the cops were about. In fact, memberships were sold on the basis of their being cheaper than a fine.
Let us pray
Lord God, warn us when we are going wrong
Encourage us when we are heading
In thr right direction
And ever be with us
On all our journeying.
The small car was hot, the road dusty and the young family tired. It had been a long journey to that dream holiday in the south. Moreover, there were no service areas with their dubious delights of fast food and grubby toilets in those far off days. Back then motorists had to rely on roadside inns, the English ‘pub’, or the rare transport cafe. But it was neither of these that the fractious family drew up at. It was something more stylish maybe more racy and was the parlance called a roadhouse. The mother entered with her small son and admired the mock oak beams and the fashionable set that had gathered around a plush bar. She surveyed the lavish menu and to her horror saw the prices. A tomato juice alone was ten British shillings; a laughably small amount today but a fortune then. The more so as they were trying to eak out each precious penny for the fortnight ahead. What’s to be done if face is to be saved? Suddenly, the tiny lad pipes up with the words of salvation -‘Mummy I don’t like it here! ‘Well if you don’t like it, we won’t stay’ came the grateful reply .
At which they departed with dignity maitained, customers whispering about spoiled children and a toddler stunned he had been listen to for once.
Let us pray
Dear Lord help us
To maintain the dignity of those
Living within limited means.
May we be dignified when living
With in our means and blessings.
The outdoor museum gave a real snapshot of Victorian life. The wing-collared tram driver was friendly. The starched shop assistants were informative. The stable lads were jocular. For the children, the sweet shop with its smell of hot sugar was the best. The mother was fascinated by the drapers where every purchase was wrapped in brown paper and string on long counters. But for dad it was the hardware store and its cleverly complex tools that captured his imagination. No wonder then he proclaimed ruefully that it had been a much better time to live as he took another photograph with his digital camera. Mum said the same as checked her phone for news of her elderly mother’s hip operation. But the children were less sure as they checked out their friends on Facebook. They had seen the harsh schooling, the habitual early mortality and the horrors of child labour. They has seen something else – the sign at the museum’s entrance which announced – welcome to your past; rose tinted spectacles are free.
Let us pray
Lord, let us treasure from the past
What deserved to be treasured.
Let us expect from the present
What we should expect.
And let us hope for the future
What you will for us
And all humankind.
The children sat on the farm track bridge over the multi lane highway. They speculated where each speeding car was going. Being young they could only imagine happy places; exotic holidays or trips to a fun fair. After awhile they wondered to each other if this was how God saw people on their journeys. They came to the conclusion that it was.
And so when their grandfather came to collect them for their evening meal, they told him of all the enticing destinations that they imagined for the people far below. The old man smiled yet he knew many were not so bound. Some would be going home to family troubles, financial worries and fears of illness. As they wound their way home, the children asked if the view they had from the bridge was the same as for God. ‘Not quite’ said their grandfather – ‘God seems them differently. You see God is with them in their cars.’
Let us pray:
Help us not to see people from afar
But close up on their life’s journey.
Be with us as we speed through the world
And be with us pool, at our happy and sad destinations.
He prayed on his knees. He prayed standing. He prayed sitting. But he had never heard the voice of God.
So he started to write down his prayers. At first no more than a few lines – big issues and real problems. He still heard nothing. Yet he wrote on, enjoying the confidence of pen and paper. Page after page, notebook after notebook were filled with the intimacies of his deepest thoughts and desires. But yet he sensed no answer.
The woman sat on the deck chair looking out to sea. Way out, she saw a ship and imagined it going to the tropics; to the warmth that she had never felt. Now life had been good to her in a material sense at least. In personal relations she had been less fortunate. In truth, she could buy a gift for anyone but had no one to give it to.
A child run across the beach carrying an inflatable ball. Something attracted her to the woman. So she threw the ball towards her. At first the woman was affronted by the girls forwardness and was tempted to retreat to her book with a glower. But she didn’t; she sent the ball through the air and into grateful hands. For a minute or so, they amused each other as a game of sorts was played itself out. Suddenly, the child gave a shy smile and ran off to somewhere unknown.
Strangely brightened, the woman looked around and saw couples, families, groups all enjoying shared companionship. She should have felt excluded but she didn’t; she had reconnected with the human race and that was enough for now.
The ship upon the grey sea had dropped below the horizon.
Free advertising for the Church.
The PR executive crossed his office to shake hands. His expensively tailored suit and designer shoes gave him an natural confidence as he guided the clergyman to a chair. Without small talk, he asked what his firm could do for him. ‘My church wants to mount an advertising campaign across the nation – came the hopeful reply. The advertising man tried to hide pity since no mainstream denomination could ever afford his fees. Best to let the pastor down gently. So he asked what exactly he had in mind. ‘OK – We thought billboards, bus signs and maybe some television advents’ . There was silence in the room as the businessman sighed and tapped on a calculator. Then he pushed it across the desk. The Minister whistled and got up to leave. He was weary from similarly unfruitful visits to the city’s PR companies.
The PR Man felt a pang of sympathy.’ Look’ – he said – ‘I have a solution for you! It’s one any Christian can afford’. The clergy man looked perplexed – what could advertise the possibility of new trust, hope and change so cheaply? ‘ What is it?’- he asked.
‘Yourself’- came the surprising reply!