It’s like a test card thing..

Do you remember the Test Card? You are probably much too young. The Test Card was a photo the telly used to put up when there was an unavoidable gap in transmission. The blog has been having a bit of a Test Card Moment.

There are lots of reasons for the block and can I just say Bless You to those that have noticed. There have been nice things taking my time. FOW1 got engaged which was lovely. FOW2 came home for Christmas and for his engagement do which was also lovely.

Can I be a bit honest though? (Look away, those of you of a sensitve disposition) I have had a few stuggles – mentally and spiritually. I can’t really go into too much details of the issues around Aged Parent’s problems – it sort of seems a bit disloyal – but her loss of the concept of time has led to a few distressing incidents. Early morning phone calls (and I mean EARLY) asking where we are etc. It’s not too bad – she goes in and out of it. We are aware that it won’t get any better. The other Aged Parent is further down the dementia road. He has a wife who takes care of him. The whole thing is slightly complicated by the emotional distance I have with my parents. When I was young – it wasn’t as if they weren’t interested in me. Er no – they weren’t really that interested in me. Not that they were horrible, they just had problems of their own. Other things they wanted to be doing. They had both had “interesting” upbringings themselves. It all settled down. I came to terms with it. God was good and I poured everything into my family and friends. Now it has all got a bit full on and I am struggling with what is expected from me. I find I am unwilling or even unable to go back there into those old dynamics.

.ALSO… the house won’t sell (Brexit – shakes fist at Boris “Independent Income” Johnson) which is unsettling. ALSO… I’m beginning to think that I am not a C of E sort. We went to the same church for nearly 20 years and now I am turning into one of those church hoppery sorts that used to annoy me so much. – that was in my smug days. ALSO… a blog acquaintance has had one of THOSE diagnoses. And it has all built up and flattened me a bit. Please do not tell me to count my blessings unless you want me to fantasise about bashing the top of your head with a tin tray. I am quite aware that there are women in Dafur who are having it much worse thank you.

ALSO… I seem to be coming down with something!

Generally, I am quite a jolly little soul. I believe in God and it most certainly is God that has sustained me thus far – as John Newton would have said if he wasn’t a genius writing a great hymn with better lines. We are living through interesting times here. Occasionally they take their toll and I have to crawl into my cave and wait for ravens to bring me cheese and onion crisps and glasses of dandelion and burdock. I’m not actually sure the ravens have arrived at our cave yet but I am venturing out slowly. We have decided to do what we know, which is praying and keeping an eye out for answers. If you are still here. Thanks for reading

Christmas and all that

Well that escalated quickly. So sorry, no final Advent Pause. We had a small incident with Aged Parent that needed our attention and then there was the little matter of Christmas and New Year and so I just had to let things lie. I sincerely hope your celebrations were fine and not too pressured which is how it should be.

We had a decent Christmas Day and no-one of an Aged persuasion did any impressions of Jack Nicholson in The Shining which is as good as any of us can hope for I think. I did do the famed buffet which went down very well and, despite what FOW1 had predicted, I didn’t regret not doing the old turkey, potatoes, stuffing shenanigans at all. Also, judging by the amount of pizza he put away, I don’t think FOW1 was that bothered either. I will probably try and pare it down even further next year – if we’re spared. I still found myself in the position of trying to find eighteen oven shelves to cook on at the same time so possibly a big pasta dish with garlic bread should do the trick I think. HOH and I had a secret Christmas dinner on New Year’ s Day which was very nice.

I got some lovely Christmas presents including the pink Manchester United replica shirt which I have hankered after, with no subtlety whatsoever, for six months. It’s probably a bit of a disgrace that a woman of my age is considering wearing a football shirt out and about but I’ll be honest, I am not in the mood for the giving of a damn at all at the moment.

Aged Parent was very pleased with her present of a microwave. I am a little concerned that we may have made a terrible mistake and am remembering the story of a little old lady who used to come into the bank and how she complained about the state her microwave had left her kitchen in. This was mainly because she had misread the instructions and had put a lamb chop in for two hours – in a metal container. She had decided it was best to ignore the banging and smashing that was coming from the machine – at least until the front door blew off. I’m sure Aged Parent will be fine. (I’m not sure at all) She was also pleased with her two DVDs – The Greatest Showman (He’s a bit of alright) and Mama Mia 2 or as she has enthusiastically titled it “Mama Mia 2 – We’re goin’ again!” Which possibly, may have a bit more pizzazz than plain old “Here we go again”

There wasn’t really much in the way of telly I don’t think. I watched the BBC’s Agatha Christie which I had read but couldn’t make out at all – probably because it was so dark. SPOILERS AHEAD. I think it was a very good thing in itself and did enjoy it but let’s face it, it was nothing to do with Agatha Christie was it? I mean John Malkovich played the detective really well but whoever he was playing, it wasn’t Poirot. Tiny clues included – Poirot was never a priest. Poirot WAS a policeman, Poirot was tiny, Poirot was Belgian – this detective was of VERY uncertain origins, Poirot had beautiful taste and was fastidious about his surroundings. This detective seemed to live in a sort of nun’s cell affair. It was ok. Though it does seem a bit of a cheek to pinch someone else’s ideas and change all the bits you don’t like and take the audience that you know will come to this if you call it a Christie and then not respect the original at all.

I was a bit mad at myself because I ignored my usual rule in these things which is – ignore the detective, the prime suspect and anybody dead, then pick out the most famous person in the cast and they did it. This would have led me straight to Andrew Buchan and would have been more helpful than trying to remember the book. Never mind.

Anyway. Happy New Year to one and all. Soon be time for Brexit – possibly which may mean we have a lot to worry about or may just wander past us like the Minellium and we will wonder what that was all about. May your New Year make you as happy as Morecambe who, having picked a fight with two springer spaniels on Bigbury Beach on New Year’s Day, has the air of one who has realised how mighty fine his life is.

A Pause in Advent Week 3

This morning was our church Nativity. It is very comforting that, in an ever changing world, church Nativities remain the same. Barely controlled chaos often gives way to chaos that isn’t controlled at all. There often seems to be more unicorns than shepherds these days and ours had clips from Aladin and The Lion King but the basic message was rock solid. This was not the case at my friend’s child’s school where an astronaut went travelling all over the world at Christmas with her friend – The Robin. No one had the faintest idea what was going on – you know where you are with a baby in a manger.

Anyhoo, the place was teeming with shepherds, wise men (eight of them I think – but the Bible is very non specific on numbers here), stars, sheep, cows, inkeepers and angels all of whom played their very important parts with total conviction. And I was thinking, about how there are no bit parts with God. Shepherds were poor, insignificant, uneducated idiots – and they wouldn’t expect to be part of any Nativity story. The Wise Men were foreigners, outsiders, heathens. They were strangers in a strange land. They wouldn’t expect their visit to be an important part of the Christian narative.And yet here they all are – centuries later – front row and centre of one of the greatest stories ever told.

The birth of Christ is a walking, talking template for how God sees things. And again I say unto you that God does not see things the way that we see them. He does not measure things the way that we do. His idea of status is totally at odds with ours and maybe, unless we reboot our judgement goggles and become like little children who know nothing of status or marginalising those who don’t fit in, then we may never get the hang of Christianity at all.

Aged Parent, however, has Christmas priorities sorted.

AP                So you’re not doing Christmas Dinner this year.

Me               No, lots of us are working, and I won’t have time.

AP                Couldn’t agree more. You’ve got enough on. So what were you thinking of to eat?

Me              I thought possibly, a buffet, I’d buy most of it.

AP             Oh no, no don’t go to all that trouble. Just a chicken pie, a bit of mash and some broccolli will do for me. You do a very nice chicken pie – especially with your own pastry.

A Pause in Advent 2

It’s nearly Christmas appparently and among the chaos and the lists which I shall immediately lose, there is the joy that is the Mariah Carey Christmas Album. You know Mariah Carey – she of the fantastic pipes and the propensity to dress like a woman of ill-repute. (Although she does have the bosoms for it to be fair) I love the Mariah Carey Christmas Album. As loud as possible. All perfectly possible at the moment – no neighbours. 

I’m singing along to “Jesus – What a Wonderful Child” and having a very good stab at the high notes – if I say so myself. 

The virgin Mary was His mother
And Joseph was His earthly father

I have sung stuff like this since I was a little girl. Mary gets called Jesus’ Mother but Joseph always gets called his “earthly” father or his guardian on earth – every time he is mentioned, his description as a father gets a qualification. Imagine being a walking, talking caveat. I am not for one moment questioning the Son/Father/Jesus/God dynamic – just thinking about Joseph – the man. So here are some thoughts about Joseph, presented in handy bullet points because everyone has a short span of attention at this time of year.

  • When Joseph hears that Mary is pregnant, he does not demand the normal spurned husband rights which sometimes involved a big rock and a lady’s head. He ponders about how to do the right thing – how to help Mary – without shaming her. He was a man looking for a way to show grace rather than vengance. Sound familiar? Makes you wonder if God saw something in him no?
  • Joseph was as good at listening to God as anyone else. When he is told to not divorce Mary he doesn’t. We are not told whether he did this, completely believing Mary and the angel or whether he did it with the occasional side eye at his beloved wondering whether it could possibly be true. Doesn’t matter really. He acted on what he was told to do and worried about the rest of the stuff later. Still counts as faith.
  • He takes his young pregnant girl to his home to register for a census He obediently names the child Jesus as intructed in the dream. Still listening.
  • Joseph faithfully does all the things a Jewish father and husband is supposed to do – taking his wife and the new child to the temple and obviously noting the shepherd carry on and Simon and Anna’s declaration over the child, followed a couple of years later by a visit from Wise Men from a completely different country and culture. And possibly ignoring a lot of nasty gossip, you know how people are.
  • He sleeps again and is told to flee for his family’s life to Egypt of all places. He does so, probably feeling more confident, with all that he has seen, that it is best to do as instructed in these dreams. He leaves behind a killing spree by a King looking specifically for the child he is looking after. 
  • We hear very little else about him except when, years later, Jesus is left behind at the temple and we see that Mary and Joseph are frantic with worry – suggesting that he loved this boy as if he was his own.

This does not strike me as a man who who should be shoved to the back of the nativity set, just behind the third camel. This is quite a man. Trying to do the right thing but always keeping an ear out to see what God wanted. Ignoring the muttering and choosing to believe that God might have something special in mind. Being man enough to step back and let history take its course without demanding his place in it. Quite a chap I think.

This has been part of A Pause in Advent. Why not pop over to Tracing Rainbows to link to all the top writing on this subject there. I thank you.

A Pause in Advent Week 1

Luke 1

5-7 During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

8-12 It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.

13-15 But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.

15-17 “He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”

18 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”

21-22 Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.

Before the birth of Jesus there was another miracle child. Different sort of miracle. Fewer consequences over time, space, man’s place with God etc. but amazing nontheless. Zachariah was a priest – a man from a long line of priests. His wife Elizabeth had the same sort of lineage. They were people of God. They served, they took their place, they were well thought of. It wasn’t an act. It was who they were. Yet there was a prayer –  a request perhaps long forgotten – but maybe not. There was no child. In the time of Elizabeth and Zechariah, this was a sadness beyond explanation. Initially, I suppose prayers for a child were pursued enthusiastially, with great faith – naming, claiming, calling down promises, waking each morning believing that this was the day. But, despite everything, no baby. Hope fades. There is a sadness, something missing but blessings were counted and life went on. Then Zechariah is performing his priestly duties, alone in the temple and the Angel Gabriel appears, at the right side of the altar. Now, with hindsight, if we were watching this in a film we would say all the clues were there. It is Zechariah’s one time in his whole life doing this. He is alone in the very epicentre of God’s place on earth and the Angel Gabriel appears with such splendour and force that Zechariah is paralyzed with fear. We would say  that when the Angel gave notice that the promise was at hand and everything, every prayer, every petition had been fulfilled and the time was here – now, we would say of course we would believe the angel straight away.  But, despite the evidence of his own eyes and his wobbly legs, Zechariah ignores all the signs and states that he doesn’t believe it. I like him. 

At this point Gabriel is possibly a bit naffed off. (I have no idea if angels get naffed off) He has come bringing great and joyful news. He has also conveyed detailed instructions about the child’s diet and lifestyle. This son will be an amazing son. He tells Zecharaiah that he will be literally jumping for joy. Zechariah is not jumping for joy. I sometimes imagine Gabriel now curling his top lip onto his teeth the way that Eric Morecambe did when he was losing patience with Ernie. And patience is truly lost along with Zechariah’s power of speech. Gabriel is probably not used to being contradicted and he takes away the trembling but incredulous Zachariah’s ability to argue with him.

Everyone outside is now restless. How come he is gone so long? As soon as Zechariah appears, they are in no doubt. He has seen some kind of a vision but he cannot tell them what it was.

Although, Zechariah does not win any Brownie points for his unbelief, it doesn’t change God’s mind. The time is still now and Elizabeth is soon pregnant with John the Baptist who would distinguish himself in many ways – including managing to recognise the Son of God when both of them were in different wombs. Elizabeth, it seemed dealt with the faith issues a lot better than her husband. (Maybe that’s the morning sickness – it can focus the mind wonderfully)

When we wait for something, when we know something has been promised and it doesn’t happen, then not so much doubt but a dull acceptance creeps in. We pretend that everything is alright really. But God doesn’t really do dull acceptance and the time for the miracle came in God’s time. After such a long time it was maybe to be expected that Zechariah’s receptors to the true nature of God had become a little fuzzed over, yet a promise is a promise. I don’t for a minute think that giving birth to John the Baptist had been what this couple had in mind but the wait came to an end. I think we all get a bit fuzzy about God’s plan for us, especially as time goes on and not much seems to be happening but Gabriel is very firm on this – the time does come and when it comes God will show up as promised. And I think the last thing any of us want to do is upset Gabriel so probably best to believe what he tells us. 

This has been part of a Blog thing called A Pause in Advent. Please go to to read to some top notch Advent thinking pieces. We will be having a go at this all through Advent. You have been warned.