October 2016

Dear Friends,

Ah! The season of mellow fruitfulness has arrived, harvest is past and we find ourselves betwixt and between, not summer and not winter.

buttonsI love Autumn, it brings back memories of childhood. How the wood-burner would spring back to life and my sister and I would arrange cushions on the rug in front of it, read and play games or listen to children’s hour on the radio. Listen with Mother was a favourite. We’d get Mum’s button box out and spend endless hours sorting through them – it was a simpler age and we were quite content.

Then of course there were the leaves, the different colours, green turning to yellow and red. We used to collect them and make collages which we kept until they dried up completely. The very action of walking through what seemed to us small people like mountains of leaves gave endless pleasure, the scrunching under your feet, the way the leaves flew all over the place as you walked through them, just the feel of them. We then collected them for bonfire night and to stuff the guy we always made. We’d be given old clothes by the neighbours and the children in the road would stuff them tight with leaves putting on a stuffed pair of socks for feet and gloves for hands, a mask was added before we sat outside the house asking ‘penny for the guy’ (in those days you could do that). The neighbours would come out and give us a penny and we’d go down to the sweet shop and buy gobstoppers, and wine gums, sherbet dabs and of course marshmallows to share round the bonfire.

The great big bonfire in someone’s garden always caused excitement with sparklers and Roman candles and Catherine wheels which always seemed to fly off the fence somehow. Some of the boys would be very naughty and let jumping jacks off among us and we’d squeal with delight. There was no great big display of fireworks in those days but the baked potatoes cooked in the fire were so delicious. The marshmallows were alright too.

Autumn food was different too. Toast on a toasting fork, stews with dumplings and great big roast dinners, apple pies – delicious. There was never much money, or indeed many ‘things’ but it was a good time to be a child. Simple but good.

I sometimes wonder where those times have gone. I think I still hanker after them. Yes we have washing machines and microwaves, we can entertain ourselves with TV, films, YouTube, Facebook and music (in those days is was just the Home Service on the radio). It could be said we have gained a great deal but have we also lost a great deal? The simplicity and contentment maybe? We can’t go back to those days but perhaps we can recreate them a little by giving ourselves time to simply be. To look intently at the trees as they change colours, pick up a conker and look at its deep colour, relish the change in seasons that brings variety and constantly changing experiences. Such experiences should bring thankfulness. To be thankful for what we have.

The other day I heard a story told by Chris Wise – from Telling for Life. It went something like this:

There was once a small family, a mother and two daughters; they were very poor. One day the youngest daughter went into the woods to gather firewood for their meagre dwelling. In the middle of the wood she met four strange people. They introduced themselves as Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. They asked her which season she liked the best: She tentatively replied “I love spring it’s wonderful with all the new growth, pretty flowers and the beginnings of warmth” – she sighed happily. “What about summer?” asked Summer. “Oh yes! Lovely warm days when you can feel the sun on your skin and go paddling in the pond, I love summer”. “And autumn?” asked Autumn. “Now autumn is different again. The colours of the leaves, the coolness after the hot summer, Autumn is very special.” Winter then asked gruffly, “and what about the last season?” “Ah winter”, said the girl, “there is nothing like a winter’s day when you can see your breath in front of you, when snow is on the ground, or a white dusting of frost decorates the trees.” “And so which is best?” they asked. “I can’t choose I love them all”, she replied.

They sent her on her way saying to her, “Every time you say something kind you will find enough money in your pocket for what you need.”

Sure enough when she got home she began to tell her mother and sister what had happened. “It was wonderful”, she said. And sure enough a gold coin appeared in her pocket.

Before she had finished the story, her sister, being greedy, decided to go and find these people in the woods. Sure enough they were there. “Which season do you like best?” they asked. “Well I don’t like spring, it always rains. Summer is too hot, Autumn too windy and winter too cold.” She moaned about everything. The four seasons sadly sent her on her way and said that every time she said something negative maggots and worms would spew out of her pocket. And so she went home and moaned about what had happened and sure enough maggot and worms appeared.

This story made me think about our attitude not only about the way we moan about the weather – a great British pastime – but whether we see our glasses as being half full, or half empty. Can we intentionally look at life more positively as God’s creation? There are more than enough troubles to deal with every day without a negative spirit creeping in about minor things. It can turn to maggots in our lives. Positivity however brings its own rewards and brings us closer to God.

Happy Autumn my friends, Shalom.


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