Sheltering sheep

I have received this stunning photo from my friend Gill Henwood and it brought much cheer so I am sharing it with you. The comments are hers.

“Ewes and lambs in the shade of a lime tree clump in old parkland, near Hawkshead, Cumbria.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

This is their favourite shelter when the strong Maytime sun shines. Though it’s cloudy at the moment, it’s warm and humid as the clouds rise and sun will break through. Too hot for woolly coats! 

All around the lambs are bleating and ewes replying in their deeper alto. The semi-independent lambs gambol together and get separated from their mothers. A great baa-ing goes on if they can’t find each other. Some adventurous lambs escape under fences – leading to a great bleating as their mothers cannot follow.
There must be a parable there: the good shepherd/ess who seeks out the lost sheep, of course.

Birdsong provides the mood music, with the cuckoo joining in around the vale.

A joyous morning.

Another view

Two ewes with single lambs in a shady gateway 
But the lone lamb is over the fence (not a Swaledale)…

[Gill Henwood]

The Bee, a messenger of love

Today is World Bee Day

St John Chrysostom,  an important early saint of the Church, said of Bees
The bee is more honoured than other animals, not because she labours,
but because she labours for others.

We all depend on the survival of bees.
Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities. Pollination is, however, a fundamental process for the survival of our ecosystems. Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land. Not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity.
To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day. The goal is to strengthen measures aimed at protecting bees and other pollinators, which would significantly contribute to solving problems related to the global food supply and eliminate hunger in developing countries. We all depend on pollinators and it is, therefore, crucial to monitor their decline and halt the loss of biodiversity. Bees and other pollinators are fundamental for the health of ecosystems and food security. They help maintain biodiversity and ensure the production of nutritious food. However, intensive monoculture production and improper use of pesticides pose serious threats to pollinators by reducing their access to food and nesting sites, exposing them to harmful chemicals, and weakening their immune systems.  (Source United Nations)

Did you know ?
Bees already work under considerable difficulty even before we get involved!

According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground.It’s something to do with its body mass in relation to its wing span. It’s all been tested out, using the science of aerodynamics and a wind tunnel.The Bumble Bee is, however, blissfully ignorant of this scientific fact and, possessing considerable determination, and refusing to accept a low expectation of its capabilities, it not only does fly, but it makes a little honey too!

Perhaps we can bear that in mind when we are faced with difficulties about things we can or can’t do. Even more important when others tell us what we can’t do. Think of the bee and don’t let others put you down.

The spirituality of bees includes working alongside others in the hive as a team but, there is a co-operation of a different kind. It is a lesson in working together in the making of honey. This reflection is by Kahil Gibran  in his famous book, The Prophet.

And now you ask in your heart,
“How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?”
Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy…
… be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.

God is pleased when we work together for the common good and, as Kahil Gibran points out, we can learn much from the bees and the flowers.

A prayer (part of a prayer liturgy by Douglas Kaine (from Every moment is holy)

God, we thank you too for the small comedy of the creatures
for the humour of their constant severity,
for the buzz and the bumbling of bees in flight,
for the sight of bees bending
slender stalks to harvest in the blooms,
their feet shod in bristling boots of gold,
their backs fuzzed with bright yellow dust
that is the colour of joy made visible.

[Mr G]

I have seen bluebells in a wood.

Bluebells at Bleasdale. Helen Smith

In olden days, Rogationtide was a time when Christians ‘beat the bounds’.  It was much more popular in rural areas and it consisted of a walk around the parish boundary with pauses for prayer.  In some places, wooden crosses were erected as the procession moved round the boundary of the parish.  This harks back to Celtic times when the placing of crosses were a symbolic act of re-claiming the land for Christ.
It was also a fun thing to do. 

I have a very happy memory of walking, not so much around Parish Boundaries but right through a middle path which connected two neighbouring parishes through a wood.
Members of the congregations set off towards each other to meet up in a woodland chapel used by the nearby Scout Camp. A gentle stream flowed through the wood and the sun shone brightly that afternoon.

What I particularly remember was the carpet of bluebells, freshly opened. They brought a special magic to the day. Fancifully, I think of them as God’s late-spring waymarks guiding us away from the darkness of our world and showing us beauty. They became our guide towards the joy of Creation.

I was recently given a poem about bluebells, written by a friend, Nan Northam, in 1he 1930’s. She would have been about 15 at the time.
Here it is for you to enjoy. [Mr G]


I have seen bluebells in a wood, close blown:
fumed blue – like wood smoke, bluer grown.
And I have watched them move their bells to ring
blue changes in the joyous peals of Spring.

Blue changes, with a wistful note as though
the swift, blue Bird of Happiness skimmed low
to whisper in each upturned, listening ear
and then, with upward, curving sweep and dear
quick flash of blue wings, fled into the dim
dissolving azure of the world’s far rim;
his music lingering air-borne in the breeze
in echoes through blue shadows ’neath the trees.

We too can glimpse his swiftly passing flight,
we too must watch him sadly out of sight.

Nan Shaw(later,Northam)


We come to God with seeds of divinity tucked deep inside us and he tends and cares for us, enabling us to grow,
to put down roots and send out branches… (Piers Northam)



The days before Ascension Day are known in the Church as Rogation days. The word Rogation comes from the Latin rogare meaning to ask.In the Book of Common Prayer, the Gospel for this Sunday includes the words of Jesus ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask for in my Name, I will give it you’.

Traditionally what is asked for during this period before Ascension Day is for God to bless the crops. It is a religious festival observed these days more in the countryside than in the town but all of us need to give thanks not only for the food we eat but also for those who work to provide it — Farmers and sea fishermen in this country and many others throughout the world. We take so many of these for granted and often care little to know how the food reached the supermarket shelves.

It’s the same, of course, with other goods made cheaply in the Third World. It is only when events like the collapse of a factory in Bangladesh hit the headlines that we begin to question the ethics of slave-labour and inhuman working conditions.  Labels saying made in India, made in China, etc are giveaways. Such goods are more than likely made cheaply and using slave-labour. Unless we want a troubled conscience, it’s best not to think of that!

But, Christians are working for a fairer world in which workers are respected, given decent conditions in the workplace, and given a fair wage. We are also at war with the child abuse which sends small children into factories.  Historians can remind us that in Victorian times we sent them up chimneys but hopefully we’ve moved on from that. We want other countries to move on too. Which is where agencies like Christian Aid come in. Christian Aid is a charity set up by British Churches who work through the Church communities of the third world. So it’s our Charity and through its agency it does a number of things on our behalf.

First and foremost it helps the world’s poor in pragmatic ways through direct help in fighting poverty, malnutrition and disease. It works through local people in order to help them own the work being done. Christian Aid also challenges Governments including our own. Much that passes for overseas aid is tied aid. It helps our own industry as much as it helps the poor. There are often conditions placed on the aid we give. And, of course, Governments can withdraw such Aid whenever they like, often without discussion. This leaves the country being helped in a desperate plight. So Christian Aid is political though not in the party sense.

It challenges not just Governments but Industry, commerce, and all who make money out of the poor. It is a legitimate part of Christian Aid’s work. It also challenges us as individual Christians and as Church communities. It challenges us to pray for the world’s poor and to be in solidarity with them. It challenges us too to act fairly in the things we buy.

One of the great successes of Christians working with others is the Fair Trade movement. Even the most die-hard supermarkets stock some Fair Trade goods these days. Not more than 10 years ago, you could only buy Fair Trade goods in the Co-op and in the Oxfam shop. Today Fairtrade is more widespread. In Churches, Traidcraft stalls are also more popular and are making a big difference to Third world towns, villages, hamlets. Those making the goods we buy are happier, better provided for and, most of all, they are given human dignity. They can be proud of what they make and we can be both proud and humbled in buying those things.

It is no accident that Christian Aid Week comes usually near to Rogationtide. Those taking out envelopes, distibuting leaflets and those organizing events are asking. They are asking people to share amazing week when ordinary people throughout the land, giving small and large amounts, are really making a difference and changing lives.

Alongside the asking comes the thanking. In asking for justice, mercy and love for the third world we are mindful of the rich and bountiful provision God has made for all who live on Planet Earth. God has also given the means to replenish the land and the sea so that all can be fed, watered, sheltered and fulfilled, The fact that we misuse and abuse this is not God’s fault. If the World Governments willed it, poverty could be ended at a stroke. But it isn’t and whilst we might ask why not, it will be God who will make the final judgement. It has been said that when we meet God the question he will ask each one of us is, How much have you loved?  It demands more than words for an answer. Those who withhold what can help others should not be surprised if God is not impressed!
St. Ambrose, long ago, said that when we give to the poor we are merely giving back to them the portion that is rightly theirs. What he said is worth considering at Rogationtide.

It is not from your own possessions that you are bestowing alms on the poor, you are but restoring to them what is theirs by right. For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. Thus, far from giving lavishly, you are but paying part of your debt.

St. Ambrose.

Almighty and eternal God, you crown the year with your goodness
and give us the fruits of the earth in their season:
grant that we may use them to your glory;
so that none may hunger,
none may thirst,
and all may cherish the gifts of your creation;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.