Thought for the Month (September 2012)

Dear Friends,

Judy and I have just returned from a two-week holiday in Norfolk. Considering the weather that has been the norm this summer, we were very fortunate. Most of the days were dry and we were able to indulge in one of our favourite pastimes which is walking. Our walks took us through some of Norfolk's typical scenery, fields of all types of grain oats, wheat, barley to name but a few. Having worked in the agricultural industry in my younger days, I can always find something of interest to explore. On one of our walks we passed a newly-constructed grain drier. This is a storage facility; the whole of the construction being housed under cover. The first thing you would encounter on entering the site would be a large pit, about twelve feet by ten feet and eight feet deep. It is this pit which will play a large part in our thinking today.

How does the whole complex work? In just a few weeks' time tractors will be arriving at the site towing huge trailers carrying tons of grain, of one sort or another. This grain will be tipped into the pit, where it will be picked up by an elevator, bolted to the base of the pit and deposited into a series of metal bins depending upon the type of grain. As one can imagine, this is a very complex operation, as there are so many factors to be taken into consideration. The type of corn, the moisture content, will it require the use of two huge fans to blow hot air through the whole series of bins to dry the corn to a level safe to store?

The manager of any complex such as this is a very experienced man. He has to be, because communication is very difficult due to the noise created by the various machines, which requires the operators to wear ear-defenders, whilst the amount of dust requires the use of masks.

You may well be asking what has this to do with a message that can inspire us as we approach this time of Harvest. At was nearing the end of the day, the last few loads of corn had arrived, and the supervisor leaned over the guard rail to check on the level of the grain in the pit. It was at this point that the worst possible thing that could possibly happen to this man occurred. The man had in his possession a very valuable fob-watch. It had been in the family's possession for many years having been passed from generation to generation. He was so keen to keep this watch safe; he kept it on his person at all times, and when he retired for the night it was placed in a drawer by his bed.

The watch was in the pit. It had slipped out of his waistcoat and fallen into the corn. Panic ensued; all machines were switched off, and a frantic search began. Corn is a difficult agent to work with; the slightest movement in the corn and the whole mass moves so to a casual observer in this case, the manager's grandson the sight of men scrambling on top of this corn was just plain silly; they were never going to find anything. Running to his grandfather, he pulled on his sleeve and said "Granddad, Granddad", but Granddad would not listen to what his grandson had to say. "Go away" he said, "can you not see the trouble we are in"? So the boy retreated back to the corner of the barn. Some minutes passed with still no sign of the watch, yet again the boy ran to his grandfather but was met by the same response to "go away".

The search was over. A very dejected man ordered the men back to work. The machines were switched back on but before that could happen the boy, taking hold of a plank, threw it into the corn and grasping a long piece of tube he had found, he kneeled on the plank. Inserting the tube into the corn he put his ear to the tube and listened. There was complete silence in the complex as the men gathered round to watch. It took a long time but, eventually, the boy could hear a very faint "tick-tick"; the watch was recovered. The grandfather was overcome with emotion and said "Why did you not tell me what you were going to do"? The grandson, in reply, said "you would not listen". The relationship between grandfather and grandson became very special in the years that followed. Grandfather was a Christian man; and the boy took to heart all that he was taught because he listened and, in later life , trained for the ministry.

Do WE listen when we find ourselves in all sorts of trouble and anxiety? We pray to the Lord for help; do we shut the machines down? Jesus says "listen to My voice". We will soon be at the time of Harvest. Let us pray for our farmers. Many have had a very difficult year. May the Lord bring to us, at this time of Harvest, some words from Revelation. "This I have against you; you have lost your first love". May we at this Harvest-time hear His voice and reaffirm that first love, that our Harvest may be great in His sight.

May God bless our Harvest.

With Christian love to you all

Colin Owen (Hawkenbury URC)


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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church