Tag Archives: Proverbs

6 November: Providing for Autumn and Winter.

apricot.stones.mouse
No need to disturb an anthill to illustrate this post. This is the work of a provident mouse, who amassed these apricot stones, snatching the blessings of the plenteous days of summer.
Doctor Johnson paraphrased Proverbs 6:6-11 in the verses below.

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard.” Proverbs: 6-11.

Turn on the prudent ant thy heedful eyes, 
Observe her labours, sluggard, and be wise: 
No stern command, no monitory voice, 
Prescribes her duties, or directs her choice; 

Yet, timely provident, she hastes away, 
To snatch the blessings of the plenteous day; 
When fruitful summer loads the teeming plain, 
She crops the harvest, and she stores the grain. 

How long shall sloth usurp thy useless hours, 
Unnerve thy vigour, and enchain thy pow'rs; 
While artful shades thy downy couch inclose, 
And soft solicitation courts repose? 

Amidst the drowsy charms of dull delight, 
Year chases year with unremitted flight, 
Till want now following, fraudulent and slow, 
Shall spring to seize thee like an ambush'd foe.   

From "Volume 1 The Works of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D., in Nine Volumes", via Kindle.

This is one of those instances where we actually have to think when trying to live by Bible teaching. Panic buying, anyone?

After the parable of the rich farmer filling his new barns with grain up to the day before his death, Jesus goes on to say: Consider the ravens, for they sow not, neither do they reap, neither have they storehouse nor barn, and God feedeth them. How much are you more valuable than they? Luke 12:24.

We should be thinking of other people’s barns, empty because of climate change or conflict. There are Cafod and other Church and secular agencies that we can help fill them.

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23 March, Gates VI: Wisdom, watching and waiting

Gate to Jesus Hospital, Canterbury by CD

This passage comes at the end of a poem in which Wisdom tells how she was with the Creator as he made the heavens and earth.

I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.

Now therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord: but he that shall sin against me, shall hurt his own soul. All that hate me love death.

Proverbs 8: 32-36.

The gate in Brother Chris’s picture above is well set up for watching and waiting, with its benches on either side. The residents of the Hospital – almshouses in fact – could sit watching here and chat to their ordinary, decent neighbours passing by. Wisdom surely belongs, in part, with the old people and their experience of life.

Simeon and Anna, two old people, waited near the Temple gate, and recognised the wisdom of God in a tiny, fragile baby. The ordinary, decent people of Jerusalem recognised the wisdom of God in a man, riding to the city gate on a donkey. Do we recognise the wisdom of God in what is described as an invasion against an evil empire, or in the unarmed arrival of an old man representing the Prince of Peace?

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23 May, Proverbs 11.1: a just weight is his delight

scaales
Just and true measurements

A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.”   Proverbs 11.1.

This Nineteenth Century kitchen balance was an heirloom from our next-door neighbour, Kay; it would have been interesting to hear the story of how she came to have it! It came with an incomplete set of iron wights, each one marked ‘VR’ underneath to tell that they were trustworthy because they had undergone official testing. A false balance is an abomination to society for obvious reasons. You can read here how Channel Island farmers used big stones chipped down to useful weights to measure produce for sale.

Their old French quintal weights would be no use to Abel and me, and nor would the few pounds and ounces that came with the scales, since he will think in grams and kilos – though his mother and auntie speak about their children’s weights in stones!

No, Abel takes delight in these just weights, because we get good results when we follow a recipe to cook using them –  and I take delight in his delight.

Just weights are a form of speaking the truth; the different British, Jersey-French and Metric systems may differ, but by carefully comparing them and using them consistently, we can always get delightful results.

And where Bible texts differ, as in the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer,* we can enjoy carefully and prayerfully puzzling out the differences and so take delight in them.

  • Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4.

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28 March, Desert XXIX: Proverbs 21.3, More acceptable to the LORD.

poperinge.2

To do righteousness is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

PROVERBS 21:34

This postcard was sent during the Great War from Poperinge, a village in the small enclave of Belgium that was not overrun by the Kaiser’s armies. You may be able to see where the censor obliterated the town’s name for security reasons.

‘Pop’ was a place of rest for allied troops, and an Anglican Chaplain had an open house there. His name was Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, alias Woodbine Willie, from the pungent cigarettes he distributed far and wide.

He had the reputation of a poet, often writing in dialect, as he does here. This is from a longer poem, ‘Well?’, describing a soldier’s dream of the Last Things. We include it here since it challenges any smugness that we might have accumulated during our ‘Lenten Observance’ – the man is in the ultimate desert place – or so he feels.

How would you answer that ‘Well?’

For more about Woodbine Willy, see Remembrance Sunday 2015: Woodbine Willie

And day by day, and year by year,
My life came back to me.
I see’d just what I were, and what
I’d ‘ad the charnce to be.
And all the good I might ‘a’ done,
An’ ‘adn’t stopped to do.
I see’d I’d made an ‘ash of it,
And Gawd! but it were true.

A throng ‘o faces came and went,
Afore me on that shore,
My wife, and Mother, kiddies, pals,
And the face of a London whore.
And some was sweet, and some was sad,
And some put me to shame,
For the dirty things I’d done to ’em,
When I ‘adn’t played the game.
Then in the silence someone stirred,
Like when a sick man groans,
And a kind o’ shivering chill ran through
The marrer ov my bones.
And there before me someone stood,
Just lookin’ dahn at me,
And still be’ind ‘Im moaned and moaned
That everlasting sea.
I couldn’t speak, I felt as though
‘E ‘ad me by the throat,
‘Twere like a drownin’ fellah feels,
Last moment ‘e’s afloat.
And ‘E said nowt, ‘E just stood still,
For I dunno ‘ow long.
It seemed to me like years and years,
But time out there’s all wrong.

What was ‘E like? You’re askin’ now.
Can’t word it anyway.
‘E just were ‘Im, that’s all I knows.
There’s things as words can’t say.
It seemed to me as though ‘Is face,
Were millions rolled in one.
It never changed yet always changed,
Like the sea beneath the sun.
‘Twere all men’s face yet no man’s face,
And a face no man can see,
And it seemed to say in silent speech,
‘Ye did ’em all to me.
‘The dirty things ye did to them,
‘The filth ye thought was fine,
‘Ye did ’em all to me,’ it said,
‘For all their souls were mine.’
All eyes was in ‘Is eyes, – all eyes,
My wife’s and a million more.
And once I thought as those two eyes
Were the eyes of the London whore.
And they was sad, – My Gawd ‘ow sad,
With tears that seemed to shine,
And quivering bright wi’ the speech o’ light,
They said, ”Er soul was mine.’
And then at last ‘E said one word,
‘E just said one word ‘Well?’
And I said in a funny voice,
‘Please can I go to ‘Ell?’
And ‘E stood there and looked at me,
And ‘E kind o’ seemed to grow,
Till ‘E shone like the sun above my ead,
And then ‘E answered ‘No
‘You can’t, that ‘Ell is for the blind,
‘And not for those that see.
‘You know that you ‘ave earned it, lad,
‘So you must follow me.
‘Follow me on by the paths o’ pain,
‘Seeking what you ‘ave seen,
‘Until at last you can build the “Is,”
‘Wi’ the bricks o’ the “Might ‘ave been.”‘
That’s what ‘E said, as I’m alive,
And that there dream were true.
But what ‘E meant, – I don’t quite know,
Though I knows what I ‘as to do.
I’s got to follow what I’s seen,
Till this old carcase dies.
For I daren’t face the land o’ grace,
The sorrow ov those eyes.
There ain’t no throne, and there ain’t no books,
It’s ‘Im you’ve got to see,
It’s ‘Im, just ‘Im, that is the Judge
Of blokes like you and me.
And boys I’d sooner frizzle up,
I’ the flames of a burning ‘Ell,
Than stand and look into ‘Is face,
And ‘ear ‘Is voice say – ‘Well?

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1 February: Proverbs 13:21-23. Hmm.

trees-wind-moon

My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: so shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.  

Proverbs 13:21-23.

A couple of days before I wrote this reflection, I allowed wisdom and discretion to depart from mine eyes. I walked out of my way in the season of wet leaves: my foot stumbled, I fell heavily, ‘nearly broke my neck’ as my father used to say, and actually broke my thumb – but I live to tell the tale. The family are threatening me with all sorts of restrictions and personal alarms, in fun, I hope; and Christmas passed without a gift-wrapped personal alarm to my stocking.

But of course, we should keep our eyes open, and see the world through the lenses of wisdom and discretion. The Book of Proverbs is full of advice which we will dip into over the coming months, but here’s another take on wisdom and discretion. The wise and sometimes indiscreet Dominican friar, Herbert McCabe said that, ‘the notion of blind obedience makes no more sense in our tradition than blind learning.’* And is that more of a challenge for the one commanding, or for the one expected to obey?

*Quoted in Timothy Ratcliffe OP,  Alive in God, A Christian Imagination, London, Bloomsbury, 2019

 

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22 May: In the Cathedral of the Forest

firtrees.sky (800x672)Many years ago I worked in a ‘Subnormality Hospital’ as they were called in England, or as this one was called in Switzerland, an Asylum. The men and women who lived there had often been committed by their parents who had been told that they had no place in society, but would be happy and safe in the asylum.

There was a young, international staff who were gradually changing the regime, recognising the human potential going to waste. Many of the people I would meet at L’Arche Kent in the early days had spent long years in such places.

Martin was around fifty, but looked older. Shortly before I arrived he had gone missing for three days and nights before walking back, very tired and hungry.

‘And do you know where he was, Maurice? He doesn’t talk about it any more, but he took a promenade in the woods, and spent those days and nights watching a family of fox cubs. Their mother seems to have known that Martin was no threat.’

Half an hour sitting still and quiet in Canterbury Cathedral is pushing it for me! Make that a quarter of an hour…

crypt (640x481)

Martin found his own chapel in the Cathedral of the Forest and was like Wisdom at the Creation: at God’s hand, observing and enjoying creation. A personal Pentecost.

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out:The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world.

When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.

Proverbs 8.

 

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July 14: Up the Apricot tree

apricots.17

Suddenly it was time to harvest the apricots, and a bumper crop on our tree this year, branches laden, bending under the weight. Up in the tree is a good place to be, close to the sun-reflecting fruit.

There was plenty to store and plenty to share as jam or ice cream.

Good news, yes, but is it all good news?

As I downloaded this photo from the camera I saw that the one Mrs T took three years ago was taken three weeks later in the month. This year we had blackberries before the end of June.

Even a friend living in a nearby village has seen very few swallows or martins, though numbers of sparrows and starlings seem greater than recent years.

And now the city council propose an ugly new multi-storey car park near the centre of town but also next to a pollution blackspot.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Proverbs 29:18

This surely refers to knowingly keeping God’s law, rather than blindly following those devised by human law-makers, who may not be supremely wise and well-meaning.

To say or sing Laudato Si’ sounds almost ironic at times, but we must live in hope and not allow ourselves to be cynical. We can start by sharing the apricots and leaving the car at home when we could walk.

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July 11: Saint Benedict, ‘Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.’

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Today the 11th of July, we celebrate the feast of St Benedict, Abbot. In the reading of today from the book of Proverbs,(2: 1- 9) God is telling us to take his word to heart, learn His commandments, and apply our heart to the truth. We can rest assured that God will keep watch over us. St Benedict left everything and followed Christ. Today am I setting my heart on His words asking Him to teach me? Am I turning my ear to His wisdom? St. Benedict advised:

Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection.’

When I am faced with difficulties, where do I turn? St Benedict lived a life of solitude and prayer. How often do I take my time to listen to God talking to me in the busy world of today? Do I hear God calling me to bless His name at all times? Do I hear the invitation of God to taste and see the Lord is good (Psalm 33: 2-11)? As Benedict’s Rule advises, ‘Listen carefully to the Master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart.’

St Benedict discovered the love of God and left everything and followed Him. I pray that each day, I also may hear God talking to me through His creation and have the grace to respond wholeheartedly. Amen.

 

FMSL 

St Benedict at Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland by Roland Zh

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29 January: A week with Rabindranath Tagore: Introduction.

tagore

The spine of the book caught my eye; I had not opened it for a year or more:’collected Poems and Plays of Rabindranath Tagore’ (MacMillan, 1952). This Bengali poet (1861-1941) has been a favourite of my mother’s for many years. I particularly like his short, proverb-like verses. AS the Biblical book of Proverbs has it: ‘The fruit of the just man is a tree of life: and he that gaineth souls, is wise.’ (11.30) Tagore was a just man, respected by many in the West as well as in India. Many of his works are to be found at Project Gutenberg.

MMB

 

 

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