The Friday Thought - Finding new growth and new pasture

Last week I was bemoaning the cold weather but now with the possible onset of Spring I have become caught up in a new panic.

Due to the unseasonal weather growing conditions have been far from ideal which reminds me of the growing conditions in my own life.

Maybe it was a lack of sunlight, or the mistakes made on a first child being overdosed on fruit and vegetables, who knows why five feet was my upper height limit but I’ll let the solicitors settle the legal case against my parents!

With the extension of winter the grass and hedges around the parochial house have remained relatively easy to maintain. In truth regardless of the weather I have always found the Church grounds easy to maintain because I always got someone else to look after the more labour intensive aspects of ground maintainance.

Whilst I might be able to cut grass, realistically any hedge over four feet is beyond me and another limitation imposed by my parents.

Not fully trained in the art of garden management it would be dangerous and foolhardy of me to tackle any jobs beyond my experience and training which thankfully rules out most things in life.

All of these issues have reminded me the Christmas lights still hanging from the tree outside the parochial house which I haven’t been fully able to remove because they are up too high.

On the positive side of things this is further evidence of the restrictions of being vertically challenged and another part of my legal case against my parents.

There is also the fear factor not to say the embarrassment of taking the lawnmower out for the first cut of the year and becoming lost in the long grass.

All these possible traumas mean I can’t venture out into the garden without an intensive course of counselling and the small detail of the impending legal action against my parents. Let’s face it, if I was caught out in the garden it could affect the outcome of the trail and have a major bearing on the size of the damages awarded.

When I thought gardening couldn’t get any more dangerous I had a further encounter on Friday afternoon when I was attending my weekly summit meeting otherwise known as lunch with my friends. In the middle of discussions a parishioner approached me carrying a newspaper and by way of introduction pointed out an article I should read.

There in the bottom left had corner of page twenty eight glared the headline, ‘Priest killed for bad sermons.’ With interest I read how a villager had been accused of murdering his parish priest because he couldn’t stand his sermons. In a village in western Sicily the priest was found dead in bed after being beaten by the handle of a garden hoe.

At this point I made a mental note to remove all garden equipment from the garage in case the housekeeper took a notion. It was alleged the parishioner wanted to teach the priest a lesson after preaching a sermon about bad apples which he felt was about him.

From now on I’ll be careful about whom I mention in sermons.

As Christians we have been called to listen and to be guided by the voice of the good shepherd who will guide and protect his children.

If we make time and space to recognise the voice of God in our lives we will be led to places where we can find new growth and new pasture.

On the occasions and periods in our lives when we feel oppressed and overcome by darkness of winter, imprisoned by the long shadows of despair, when we feel nothing we do is producing new life we can feel locked in a dead end.

When Jesus is allowed to become the true compass of our lives then the possibility opens up of finding a new springtime, of being introduced to new life and growth. This new growth can involve painful pruning and cutting back to enable space for new shoots.

Following God’s call often involves many struggles; we resist because we fear change, and we fear the unknown and the world we cannot control. The path of discipleship always confronts us with uncomfortable truths.

Our one reassurance is the simple truth; God the Father’s love for his children is immense. The only limitations placed on God’s love and compassion is our own free will.

God will always respect our freedom; if we ignore and refuse to be embraced or guided by the Good Shepherd we remain lost sheep.

Fortunately our Heavenly Father never gives up on his children; he is always reaching out, calling us back into friendship and relationship with him. If we truly place our trust in God and listen to his voice will have nothing to fear because no-one is greater than the father and no-one will steal us from his love.