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Rocks and Sand

Foundations for survival

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage us to consider the fundamental values on which we base our lives (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.


Leader: Summertime, the season for lazing in the sun. At least, we hope so, but sometimes it feels like August is the wettest month of the year. It certainly was, 65 years ago, in 1952. The area that caught the worst of the weather was the south-west of England.

Reader 1: During the first fortnight of August that year, regular showers soaked the high ground inland on the South-West Peninsula. Exmoor, in particular, became absolutely saturated.

Reader 2: Then, on the night of 15-16 August, a storm broke, depositing 9 inches of rain over 24 hours on Exmoor. The ground was unable to soak up any more water, so it flowed off the moors in torrents, taking with it rocks, trees and vegetation in its path.

Reader 1: The debris-laden water was forced into the upper West Lyn valley above the coastal town of Lynmouth. Fallen trees and other debris formed a dam there, and the descending water backed up behind it.

Reader 2: Eventually, the dam gave way and the water tore down the valley into the town of Lynmouth, demolishing bridges and houses, and sweeping away cars and residents in its path. Nothing could be done to prevent the devastation.

Reader 1:When the sky cleared, it was discovered that 34 people, a mixture of residents and holidaymakers, had been killed. More than 400 survivors were made homeless and 38 cars were swept out to sea. It was one of Britains worst natural disasters.

Leader: Weather is often used as an image of the ups and downs of daily life. For example, sunny days are full of optimism and laughter. In contrast, we often hear the phrase ‘the storms of life’ to describe crises and tragedies that happen, often unexpectedly. The residents of Lynmouth discovered that their homes and infrastructure were unable to cope when the flood happened. Is there a way that we can prepare our lives to cope when we are hit emotionally or physically?

In the Bible, Jesus told a story about two men who both set out to build a house. It goes a bit like this . . .

Reader 2: The first man took a look at the land available and decided that he wanted a simple job, so he chose sandy soil, which was easy to dig for his foundations. He soon had the footings dug, poured in the concrete and, when it had set, he began to build the walls. In a remarkably short time, he was happily installed, sitting on his sofa, watching TV.

Reader 1: The second man decided to be rather more careful. He chose the rocky ground a little higher up. It was hard work to move the boulders, and he had to drill down into the stone before laying the foundations. He took longer, but he was careful to create a strong, stable base for the walls. Eventually, he, too, had happily moved into his home, even if he was a little tired from his exertions.

Leader: Spring and summer were very pleasant. Both householders enjoyed their new homes. Then, one day, a storm came . . .

Reader 2: The second man listened to the wind and rain from the snug, secure safety of his well-built house. It wasnt pleasant, but he had nothing to fear. He had built well.

Reader 1: The first man listened to the wind and rain, too. He heard the wind tear the tiles off the roof. He watched as the torrent washed away the sand, exposing the foundations, which began to crumble. The walls bulged, and then fell. The house was totally destroyed.

Time for reflection

Leader: So, what was Jesus point? It clearly has something to do with the foundations that we build. He explained that the second man was like someone who listened to Jesus words and put them into practice.

Jesus said many wise things, setting out principles about belief, relationships, forgiveness, peace, love and how to live lives that serve other people and honour God. Many people heard those words, but only some of them, like the second man in the story, put them into practice and used them as the foundation for their lives. When hard times came, there was something to rely on. The rest heard the same words, but decided to do things their own, easier way. This was fine until the pressures and strains of life became too much, and they had nothing to fall back on.

Christians believe that Jesus words are reliable. They believe that God is real and that he will help anyone when they run out of their own resources. We may hold a different set of beliefs or have a carefully considered set of values by which we live. What is important is that we build good, strong foundations. If we do, we will have something that will stand us in good stead when other things fail.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the help and advice that people give us.
Remind us of their words daily.
Give us wisdom to listen to wise words.
May we put them into practice so that we can build strong and lasting foundations.


‘I believe I can fly’ by R. Kelly

Publication date: August 2017   (Vol.19 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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