The Haystack

Baked hay in their plasticToday was a real, “best keep the butter in the fridge day!” as we used to say on the occasional sweltering day on the streets of Rochdale in the North of England during the seventies.  I still know many people who recall the summer of the 76’ with relish and glee.  The world seemed a different place back then, not as harsh or cruel, it probably was, just that I wasn’t aware of or exposed to the reality of it.  

Cutting back the brambles

The mercury hits 90° most days, here in Brasoes, Central Portugal, it rises quick and early and falls late so I have to plan my heavier, laborious work accordingly.  At present, I am continuing with the cutting down of 10 years or more of brambles and weeds.  I don’t have much left to do and equally, I don’t have much time left to do it in.  I have approximately 130 square metres to chop down by the weekend by which time the law changes.  From then on you can’t use steel-bladed mechanical tools for fear of causing a spark which could lead to a fire.  Portugal is one of the countries that regularly has devastating fires during the summer season.

Thick bramble and weed

Swishing back and forth I go

I’ve been out early every morning for the first couple of hours for a while now, adorned in thick cotton work dungarees, long-sleeved high-necked combat top, rigger boots, thick anti-vibration gloves, helmet and visor.  It’s a steep slope up and down and it’s really tiring work swishing back and forth, up and down, side to side, as the brush cutter swathes through the dense undergrowth.  There is a powerful aroma of aniseed as wild fennel grows freely here.  The humidity is high as the canopies of foliage provide a cover for the damp and misty conditions underside. 

The next time I see somebody in a film swishing their way through a jungle with a machete I will sympathise with them.  There have been some rather magnificent specimens of thistles hacked down.  The brambles over the years have surrounded and intertwined with some of the fruit trees, and eventually overtaken them as they wrap themselves around and around.  As they climb they stifle the growth of the tree, whilst spreading its own leaves to get the sun’s rays.  

Objects of resistance

The task is made much more difficult by the occasional “Thwack” as the blade stops instantaneously as it comes up against, thick buried logs, blackened and deteriorating by moisture.  The occasional rusting bike frame or a squashed galvanised watering cans are other objects of resistance that have been unwelcome surprises.  I chop down about 40 – 50 sq m per day so not long left now.  By the time I have done a couple of hours it’s enough, I’m exhausted and wet through with perspiration and the hill to get back up seems to have gone much steeper as the sun has hotted up.

After showering and changing, it’s time to take Bertie for a little walk.  He can’t walk far these days, the heat hits him more, but he’s just as keen as when he was younger.  The coordination of his legs is a little bit out these days, so we go for a little saunter down the road for about a half a mile.  We pass quince-lined roads, along with cypress-lined drives. 

Wrapping up the bales

The field adjacent to ours now has the hay, which was recently cut and gathered and baled at the weekend, bound in tight plastic wrap to promote an anaerobic environment for silage fermentation.  I watched the farmer and his tractor as they went around and gathered the hay and when it was compacted the round bale was squeezed out of the back as they went gathering more hay.  Then it was time for the plastic wrapper machine hitched up to the tractor, scooping up each bale.  It started rotating and wrapping it whilst turning the bale so that it was all covered, round and round it went, 40 times or more, I couldn’t comprehend the amount of wrapping put on. 

The house with the now brown sun scorched

Keeping Christ central

I decided to count the next one and found that each one was 40 times or slightly more. I wondered how tightly it must be to be inside that packaging or to be on the outside having lost something and not being sure where it was.  As this baler spun each bale around and around, it brought back to remembrance something that a teaching assistant and brother in Christ told me.  He was a trusted source of direction, he said, “Always remember to keep Christ central, as what some ‘people’ can and do, is set off, like rolling a snowball down a hill.  The more that you roll it the bigger it gets, so it can be with Christians.  They add this theology, and this action, and a bit of this person’s perspective, this from one source, that from another, as the ball goes around and around, getting bigger all the time.  Pretty soon, it’s an unrecognisable mess with bits sticking out of it all over the place.”

This made clear sense to me, this was a mental picture of what our theology can bring us, when we need to be focusing on Christ (Christology).  This weekend watching the baler go around and around, was just like the mental picture of the snowball, going around and around, getting bigger and bigger.

Scriptures to feast on

No matter what is going on in the world today, we can all become guilty at times of being drawn into its a labyrinth, but I am reminded in the Holy Bible that we can find all the answers that we need.  To this end I give you 2 scriptures to feast or meditate over, one from the epistle of 1 John which has a completeness in its own entirety, with a prohibition and warning, a command and a promise;

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

And the other scripture is a verse from the wonderful epistle to the Colossians, the letter that reveals the supremacy of Christ, we read; “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things of the earth.” Colossians 3:1-3

Keeping Christ central in all of our lives is paramount, don’t overstretch yourselves with heavy doctrines that are less important or it could be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

God bless

P.S. Bertie has the right idea…

Bertie in the shade

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