Trees For Life

I wonder if you, like me, feel guilty about flying to foreign parts for a holiday? I hate to think of the damage done to our environment and the ozone layer by aeroplanes. Friends of mine have taken the pledge not to fly any more, for this reason.

But I do love exploring different places, and this late summer I was drawn back to Crete, the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Not just for sun, sea and sandy beaches, you understand, but because I love the wild rugged landscape, the history, the people, their traditional ways of life, their generosity to strangers.

You can sit on a hillside looking out over olive groves towards a glimpse of sea, and hear nothing at all, except perhaps the distant tinkle of bells round the necks of foraging goats. Or spot a local Cretan gathering food from his patch of garden, fruit from the trees, or hay from the tiny fields.

On this trip we came across something extraordinary. Driving from Chania towards Omalos in the White Mountains, we saw a sign pointing to “ National Botanic Garden.” Intrigued, we followed the winding road higher and still higher, until we arrived at the entrance, and decided to visit. It was a hot sunny day, but there was a delightful cooling breeze. As we parked and entered, the first thing we saw was a huge gaunt olive tree, probably hundreds of years old, with its central trunk hollowed out, burnt away by fire. A powerful symbol, indeed. (see picture)

Burnt Olive Tree With Still living Green Shoots

We learned that the Botanical Park and Garden had been created after a disastrous forest fire which had devastated several acres of the hillsides in 2003. As the leaflet we were given says, the area was reborn from its ashes. The aim of the garden is to educate visitors about how important trees and plants are to our wellbeing.  We were offered water, sunhats and stout walking sticks to help us round a 5km trail through the forest,  which gave us shade and intense visual pleasure as we gazed at the wonderful and amazing variety of shapes and colours of trees and plants from habitats all around the world.  I thought of the lines in Andrew Marvell’s poem The Garden: “Annihilating all that’s made, to a green thought, in a green shade”.

As we wandered around in wonder, it was very interesting to observe others too, carefully reading labels on the plants, which named each one, its country of origin, and its uses. Many were medicinal plants, herbs and trees, for example the Willow, from which we obtain aspirin. Such huge variety of leaf shapes, brightly coloured flowers, tree trunk markings and scents…

Our leaflet said : “Walking around the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete offers spiritual tranquillity and visual pleasure, while getting acquainted with flora and their compositions”. For me personally, it was a reminder of the wonder of God’s creation, and renewed my faith as I silently offered up a prayer of thanks for His goodness to us. Here was an example of spiritual teaching, without any need to preach, because I felt God’s creative presence all around me. And here also was a good example of how to follow God’s instruction to care for his Creation, and to encourage others to do likewise.

Not only spiritual needs were met, but the walk ended in a beautiful restaurant overlooking the wonderful view of the forest and mountains, where all the delicious food came from the gardens, including a fruit drink made from the fruits of trees grown there. The whole experience was very special, and I believe the Botanical Park and Gardens are unique in Europe. So if you are ever in Crete, do visit. Sharing this experience helps ease my conscience about the air flight!

 

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” Genesis 2:15

        Shapes of Trees and Leaves                    Tree Trunk Markings

    

 

 

 

Shirley Darlington
Creation Care Team

Listening to the right voice

Last term I spoke at the 6:30 and encouraged the congregation to think about who they follow (eg: a sports team, band, someone on social media) and then invited them to shout out that thing all at the same time.

The point being that you then couldn’t hear what everyone was saying, which is a bit like life – there are so many voices calling out to us, enticing us to follow them, that it can be hard to know which one to listen to. It might be advertising voices, magazines, celebrities, political voices, social media posts, all speaking to us about what we should do and who we should follow.

I continue to be challenged by this thought. In this day and age it’s getting harder and harder to suss out the right voice to follow, or which one is even telling us the truth, there is so much ‘fake news’ about now (and I shall refrain from commenting on that!).

I think if we are honest, most of us want something to follow, a path, or we want a label. We want to be loved and accepted and those paths or labels we use to help us fit in.  So when we choose to follow things we are actually just looking for, or forming our own identity. What or who we follow, reflects who we are, or who we choose to be, or how we want to be seen. And I feel that now more than ever we need to really take stock of who we are following, what voices are we listening to and taking on board.

Because the real truth is, a truth that can’t be changed, and an identity for all of us… is that God loves us. Every one of us. No matter who we are, what we’ve done or said, we are loved, just as we are. The bible tells us that Jesus gives us the right to become children of God. That can be our true identity if we listen, if we choose to follow him.

But perhaps amidst the babble that is hard to hear, I mean why on earth would anyone choose to follow Jesus’ voice in this day and age? With all that choice? Can he give us as much street cred as an iphone X? Can he get us the best seat in a restaurant ? or make us part of the in crowd?

When I preach I love to leave the listeners with a challenge and I guess that’s what this whole post is – a challenge to you to really think about how you are shaping your identity. What or who influences you? What or who do you spend most time thinking about? Where do you spend your money? Your time? Your energy?

Because most of those voices we hear have an ulterior motive – financial, political, for personal gain; but the voice of Jesus simply wants us to know how loved we are, wants to draw us closer to him and to that ultimate truth. That’s why we should listen to him over any other voice.

 

Jules Middleton
www.pickingapplesofgold.com

The Miracle of Dunkirk and the Power of Intercession

Earlier this month we went to the new Lewes cinema, the Depot, which is a fine new building in which to see Dunkirk the movie. It is a dramatized chronicle of the battle, and it was very well portrayed.

May 1940 was a very dark day for the allies as they had been encircled by the German armies and were in danger of total destruction. In fact, there would have been a terrible defeat, apart from 3 incidents which allowed the army to be evacuated by a fleet of naval and little ships which managed to ferry over 338,000 men over the channel in a few days. The three miracles which occurred were Hitler’s order to halt the advance of the German army, a terrible storm over Flanders which prevented the bulk of the German air force taking off, and a flat, calm Channel. So, what caused The miracle of Dunkirk?  Certainly, the whole population of England was motivated to pray, from the King, downwards. However, the story goes deeper, and it started back in 1879, when a young boy was born in a Welsh mining village. The name of the boy was Rees Howells.

Rees was born into the time and place of the Welsh revival, and he had two deep spiritual experiences. One was when he was dying of cholera and he made a total commitment of his life to Jesus. The other was when he experienced the Holy Spirit, not just as an influence which came over the revival meetings, but as a real person, who with the Father and Son shared a deep emotional commitment to their created world. Rees began to actually feel the deep anguish and love which the Godhead felt for their deeply broken creation.

He lived out a life that was really in touch with God, and he slowly learnt the discipline of obedience to what God was saying to Him through the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. His power grew as an intercessor, first within his local community, then in a wider context in Christian ministry and healing. He went to South Africa, where, under his influence, there was a major spiritual revival.

On his return to this country he founded a Bible school in Wales. He initiated many projects, never asking for any money. He simply prayed to God who always provided the exact amount without any external requests. Very early in the rise of Hitler and his party in Germany, Rees saw him for what he was, an agent of evil and the enemy of the work of Christ all over the world.

Rees saw it as his job to pray and intercede, first of all for peace and, when war was declared, for a quick and peaceful conclusion. However, as events progressed, he saw he must uphold the Christian west and pray for the defeat of Hitler. So, he created a band of like-minded people in his Welsh bible school where they interceded right through the war for many hours of every day, including asking for God’s intervention at Dunkirk.

You can learn much more about his story by reading his biography by Norman Grubb. However, it comes with a warning: you might find it a very deep challenge to your own level of commitment to Christ. I certainly did.

What is Intercession?

Intercession is a form of intensified prayer, which is characterised by three things.

Firstly, an intercessor is deeply identified with the one who is prayed for; they have submerged all their own interests for the needs and suffering of the other.

Secondly, there are tears. Just as Christ wept over Jerusalem, so the intercessor shares the “groanings too deep for words” of the Spirit (Romans 8:26).

Thirdly, there is the gained place of intercession, an inner peace that God has heard and answered the desires of our hearts for that person or situation, and we can turn from intercession to praise and worship of our generous God.

Are you willing to spend time praying for our Church, town and country?

If you feel called to be an intercessor, do read the book. You can contact Letchmi Wall who organises Trinity’s monthly prayer gathering for people who intercede for the church, or Serena Smith who organises the monthly town wide Saturday prayer time.

 

 

 

Ian Hempshall
thykingdomcome.blogspot.co.uk