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Saturday, 11 October 2014

Thorns and brambles.

It's been a long week - with a lot of it spent in travelling, as we (my wife and I) made our way back to our static caravan in the Gironde area of France.  We are, once again, so very grateful to friends who provide us with hospitality on out journeys - on this occasion, specifically the Loudons in Maidstone, and the Rouffets in Seclin.

This afternoon, we took a wee walk around the lake at the camp-site in order to gather some brambles (blackberries in the UK furth of Scotland, and mûres in France!).  A lot are not quite ripe, so there will be much more harvesting over the next week or two!

As we gathered, I recalled what was probably the first time that we had done so in our married life together.  We were on our way back from a wee camping trip to the northernmost part of Scotland, having stayed at a site with the delightful name "Grannie's Hielan' Hame", and driven up to John o' Groats, Dunnet Head, Wick, and Thurso.  Of course, in those far-off days,  the site didn't have the heated indoor pool, and the other attractions that are advertised on its website today!  It was on our way back home, travelling along the northern shore of Loch Ness (and keeping an eye out for Nessie, of course!), that we spied a veritable plethora of those delicious black berries near to Fort Augustus.

We quickly realised that berry-picking is not as straightforward as it might be thought to be!  In spite of the abundance of that delicious fruit, it took us some time to fill every available container.  The problem was the thorns!   They tore at our hands; they caught on our clothes; they made collecting those berries a difficult task.  However, we persevered.  Why?  Because we knew that there would be a great reward - a freezer filled with bramble and apple pies that, with some custard, would provide pudding for many, many meals - and for a few months!

The life of the disciple of Jesus can be a bit like picking brambles!   There are those who claim that, if we yield our lives to His control, then everything in the garden will be, forever, rosy; that all of our problems will disappear; that life will be one big party.  That, I have to make clear, is a lie.  It is, indeed, a lie that comes from the very pit of hell.  Strong words, you might be thinking, but they are true.

In spite of the pronouncements of certain well-known preachers, Jesus never promised a life of ease, prosperity, material wealth, and freedom from disease.  Rather, throughout the Gospel records (contact me for a list of references!), He makes it clear that being His disciple will bring hardship, persecution, imprisonment, and even death.  He assures His followers that they will be despised, and reviled.  He speaks about counting the cost.   In terms of our bramble picking, He clearly points out the thorns!

However, this is the same Jesus Who has promised that He will be with His true followers to the end of the age; that He will never leave them, nor forsake them; that He has gone to prepare a place for them, and that where He is, they will be also.  That, we might say, is the brambles!

So, what I am trying to share here is simply this - that if you are a true disciple of Jesus, you may expect that life will not be smooth and trouble-free.  Indeed, it will be the very opposite as the devil prowls around, like a raging lion, seeking whom he may devour.  However, you may also be assured of His company through even the most difficult of times.  If you wish concrete proof of that, get involved with the persecuted believers in some 50 countries worldwide!

We enjoyed an apple and bramble crumble this evening.  It made the thorns worthwhile.  When we reach that eternal dimension that we refer to as 'heaven', then we will see that all of the difficulties were worthwhile, as we then spend that great eternal day in His wonderful presence - seeing Him, face-to-face, and knowing even as we are known.  Hallelujah!

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