Challenge

Hello. Welcome back. It has been a week of very little happening. I have turned up for work on a regular basis as it seems to be expected and I have watched a lot of football, with varying degrees of satisfaction.
Valentine’s Day came and went without comment at Martha Towers – which is how we like it. I listened to a lady telling how she does a full Valentine’s Tea for her small children, including Valentine’s cards, chocolate hearts, streamers, fairy lights etc. Not for the first time, I wonder if I was a neglectful mother as, again not for the first time, I come across something that would never have occured to me. I considered telling you that the rather lovely heart shaped crumpets above were my gift to the long suffering HOH but my highly developed Christian scruples make me tell you that they were a gift to me from a company I have worked with. They were delicious and I even let HOH have two. He ate his with baked beans. Is that normal? Either way, I don’t think it is particularly romantic

Hurrah! Endeavour is back! He is very welcome but I’m not so sure about the moustache. I expect it is meant to signify something. It puts about 20 years on Morse. I hope he is still ok solving crimes. That moustache looks like one of those things you find in alien movies that are actually secretly plugged into people’s brains which they are then secretly sucking the life out of. Too much? I do like Endeavour but I spend every episode  waiting for something nasty to happen to his beloved boss Fred Thursday. I feel like they have been signposting it for about three series now. The thing with Morse is that we know how it is going to end for him. We know he’s not going to die horribly because he’s going to turn into John Thaw later and, as is the way in these things, someone usually has to leave us in a particularly nasty way.

To turn on a sixpence – Shamima Begum has given everyone pause for thought this week. The possible return of someone who has spent time as a willing and enthusiastic member of ISIS has prompted much soul searching and it is far more complicated that anything this blog can sort. However just a few thoughts

It was truly shocking to hear that she has no remorse for her involvement in ISIS. For her the biggest disappointment is that the caliphate has failed. She claims to be unaffected by the atrocities she witnessed

There are facts that cannot be disputed. A cursory glance at the history of the Yazidis in this region shows countless stories of violence, sexual slavery and mass murder. The individual stories are heatbreaking. Men watching their wives and daughters sold as sexual slaves – treated as less than nothing. There was a selling process and people were made to pose with their price. Fathers and sons were executed en masse. And children. There is little doubt that Shamima Begum knew all about this before she set off. It was common knowledge on the sites that she followed. She wants to come back to Britain because her baby needs to be looked after. She does not want to return to atone for anything.

Much has been made of her age when she left and the fact that she is a woman. There is little doubt that grooming took place. However, I think we have to take her at her word. It is perhaps patronising and sexist to say that she didn’t know her own mind. Women have said, in my opinion quite rightly, that they wish to be treated as equals. We can’t hide behind our sex when it is time to take responsibility for our actions. She is not a schoolgirl any more.

And yet. The thing is, the next thing that should follow is forgiveness and a chance for rehabilitation. Although maybe not in that order. Or at least that’s what I think. We witter on about love and forgiveness as if it is as natural as breathing when, in fact, it is the most difficult thing in the world. And annoyingly enough, the people who need our forgiveness sometimes don’t intially show any interest in being found and rescued. But those of us who know about God and redemption know that isn’t really the point.

Romans 5 v 6-8

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

A Week

Hello. You may look at the photo above and think you have accidentally stumbled upon an Instagram Fine Dining account but you would be wrong. This is a photo of my tea and I am not ashamed to say that it is Mackerel. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm is not shared by any members of my family so I have to cook it when no-one else is around and even then I have to I have to make it with the back door open because apparently it makes the whole kitchen small of fish. I sent photos of my masterpiece to my family and received the following replies

FOW1 – “Cough” (Because he reckons it makes his throat close up)

FOW2 – “That would be Instagram worthy – IF IT DIDN’T HAVE A BIG SLAB OF MACKEREL ON IT!”

HOH – “Does the kitchen still smell”?

I do not need to canvas Aged Parent on this. She has already informed me many many times that mackerel are “The Dustbin of the Seas” which – for her – means that they are constantly hanging around sewerage pipes for their food which they obviously then pass on to me.

I am writing this while watching the BAFTAs and occasionally shaking my fist at the telly in annoyance. I am not really a fan of awards ceremonies because, when it comes to this kind of thing, I am right and other people are wrong and I find this troubling. I also probably abdicate my right to be too strident as, these days, I only bother watching films that I fancy. For example, I didn’t bother with Bohemian Rhapsody. My friend went to see it and said it was ok but the best bits were the music. I was never a big fan of Queen so, if the music was the best reason to go, not much point me showing up. Q.E.D.

So, if I wander off piste a bit I am trying to keep one eye on the frocks. I do love a frock. I think Princess Kate is winning so far.

I hope you have had a decent week. We are sort of trying to sell the house but have been so unhappy with the estate agents, we have backed off a bit. Apparently Brexit is affecting the market although no-one can actually explain why that should be. Without mentioning any names I have been astonished at what has amounted to borderline sharp practice by the estate agent. I am too young and innocent for this world.

Bits of culture I have done this week. We went to see the film “Can you ever forgive me?” Highly recommended. It’s a true-ish story about an author who hits hard times and finds a way to earn money by forging literary letters and selling them top collectors. Mellisa Macarthy and Richard E Grant are both brilliant in it. That’s it really.

Also on Friday, I went to Exeter on the train to see FOW2 , when the waves from Storm Erik had subsided enough to let the train through Dawlish. (Can I just ask again – I know Brexit and high speed rail and keeping up with Boris’ love life are trials and time consuming but – when it rains – there are no trains to Devon or Cornwall. NO TRAINS! Could you possibly look at it again. Please!) We went to the theatre and saw Miles Jupp in The Life I Lead. It’s a one man show celebrating the life of David Tomlinson; probably best known for his role as the father in Mary Poppins. He seemed to be a lovely man dealing with sucess and tragedy and we really enjoyed it. We were laughing like drains one minute then drawing breath at the awfulness of the things that happened to him. If you get the chance – you should see it. He lived a life full of love and joy and it is life affirming.

Aged Parent managed to fit us into her busy schedule. Eventually.

Me: I tried to phone – have you been out?

AP: Yes I went to see Ros in her flat

Me: Oh is she ok?

AP: Oh yes. Well she opened the door in her nightie and said she wasn’t feeling that well and was going to bed so I went in and sat with her for a couple of hours. I could tell that she needed some company.

Me: She must have been thrilled.

AP: I like to help if I can

As I think I may have said before – I often regret that fact that I seem to have inherited none of my mother’s rock solid self confidence

PS – I have just checked in the kitchen just before HOH gets home from work and it does indeed smell of fish! Ha!

Have a good week.

Light and Dark

Well that went well. The South West of England was suprised by snow despite Tomas Schafernaker and that weather man with the beard that looks like it has been pencilled in, warning us about it all week. Consequently about a hundred people were stuck in snow drifts on the way home and Cornwall council has had to answer many forthright and indeed frank questions about where the snowploughs were. Actually I think Devon and Cornwall only have a couple. Not much call for them usually. Normal service has been resumed now and we look forward to a week of rain, cloud and mild temperatures that my husband insists will lead to a mosquito invasion.

I have spent a week being vexed by the Internet. I have looked at beautiful young people’s photographs on the news and wept as fathers and mothers have stared bewildered into cameras as they come to terms with the idea that their babies were following suicide sites in various places and then ended their lives. I have watched them wrestle with guilt, that they didn’t see the signs but how could they? The young people didn’t need to speak to their parents. They had “friends” online who secretly shared their pain. It was truly awful.

On a different level of irritation I watched a Christian leader of my acquaintance adding to the general gaiety of the situation by putting a comment on Facebook along the lines of “The way to deal with your personal pain is to forget about yourself and help others.”

Now there are several things going on here. The first thing to say is that I know what he means. (I hope). There is certainly something to be said for not becoming self absorbed. If lots of us took the energy we waste wondering what other people think of us and poured it into supporting others, I do believe that lots of us would feel a great deal better about ourselves and there wouldn’t be such a struggle to find people to wash up after communion. The fields are white unto the harvest and it would help a lot if people stopped pouting on Instagram and did a few action choruses in Sunday school. (As Jesus almost said – very nearly)

However, Social Media is a funny thing. It takes a certain skill to make a pithy, engaging and edifying remark in two lines. It’s a skill Beth Moore has and Anne Lamott. Lots of people think they can do it and fancy the idea of making their mark – getting something they said re-tweeted and hopefully eventually embroidered into a sampler. It’s a dangerous game.

This week Megachurch pastor Jim Howard took his own life after a long battle with mental illness. It does no-one any favours to seem to suggest that really, all that was needed was for him to throw himself into his work a little more. And, although, I think that was never the intention, more care is needed.

Some of this comes from an older culture where Christian leaders are neither supported or challenged. I remember a time when those who were in leadership in the church were put on pedestals so high, it would give you a crick in your neck just to have a look at them. Some of them believed their own publicity. I remember years ago a preacher shouting that anyone not being challenged by his sermon was “under the influence of WITCHCRAFT!” (The last word being bellowed at top pitch) It would not have been acceptable to point out that it was more likely that we were being infuenced by the sermon being boring nonsense.

Things may be changing though. The pastor on Social Media faced a lot of questions about his statement and had to clarify his thoughts. And the disturbing fact of a pastor taking his own life has been met with sympathy rather than a lot of guilty behind your hand clearing of throats. We should never underestimate the impact of the darkness that people are in but also that, God is aware of the depth of the darkness. There’s a bit in Luke – a prayer by Zachariah, that always seems to me a good description of the darkness some people are in but also, unlikely as it may seem, a way forward. Gently, slowly and step by step to a place where peace once again seems possible.

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.

The Universe

I don’t know if it is too late to be talking about New Year and resolutions etc. However, as it is still almost a week until the first pay-day of the year, it is technically still New Year for me and 2019 hasn’t really got going yet. It’s certainly cold enough for New Year. The photo above is the view from Aged Parent’s window and the sea that you can just spot in the distance is very wild because the wind is insane here. New Year means many things to many people. For me it means short term poverty (see above), for some – Slimming World, for others giving your new planner guilty side eyes because you really should consider doing some actual planning. If you spent any amount of time on Instagram over the New Year, you will have noticed the concept of “Mood Boards” and “Laws of Attraction” and “The Universe”.

If you live a normal balanced life and you haven’t seen any of these things, they are basically a tool for attracting good things or things you desire into your life. So, at the beginning of the year, you put a mood board together – usually, it seems by cutting photos out of magazines and sticking them on a big piece of cardboard. These things are photos of things that you want – a house in the country, a better job, a holiday in the Maldives etc. They are supposed to be things that are important to you and also, I think to The World. There seems to be a lot more photos of Dior dresses on these boards than there are images of World Peace or famine relief but there you are. I don’t necessarily think that there is anything wrong with making mood boards. I think they can make you focus your thoughts, crystalise what your life plans are and perhaps give you some clarity on what your actions need to be. I personally stopped sticking cuttings on chipboard when my mother explained to me that Tony Curtis was now much older than he appeared in Sparticus and it was time to move on.

Anyway, when you get this mood board you….er…I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what you do next but the idea is – I think – that this board uses the “Law of Attraction” to make the Universe send these things to you. Hurrah!

I have watched, enraptured, as a woman on YouTube has explained how this stuff really works and that “The Universe” has only good things for you. Well, the first thing I noticed was that she has terrible eyebrows and if The Universe thought that much about her, it might have supported her a little more in that department. So apparently Attraction Laws had given her a new house. I couldn’t help thinking that The Universe had needed the help of gullible people who paid for her wholeness courses to deliver the goods. Am I too cynical? Probably.

I don’t think I believe in The Universe. Not really. I mean I believe in The Universe obviously I just don’t belive in “The Universe”. (That doesn’t look as crystal clear as I hoped it would when I typed it). I think that all this Attraction palaver shows how desperate people are to believe in something – anything – bigger than themselves. John Lennon used to sing (at the end of a partularly long and boring song about what he didn’t believe in) that he just believed in “Me – Yoko and Me.” (BTW when he says “me” he doesn’t mean me – Martha in Plymouth – obviously he’d never heard of me. Just clearing that up). So he just believes in himself and Yoko. First of all that’s a lot of pressure on Yoko. And, though I bow to no man in my admiration for the man who wrote “I Saw Her Standing There”, I feel his faith in himself as an icon to build his life on may have been a little misplaced

So I ask myself what I believe in and I find that I believe in God. The God of the Bible to be precise. I think it is a bit more complicated than the Law of Attraction. For instance, I was interested to notice that Joyce Meyer seems to be rowing back on her “Prosperity Gospel”. This has to be a welcome move because otherwise, it just seems to me like “Law of Attraction” with a God beard. Faith is a complicated thing. If I’m just in it to get a holiday in Mexico or to have nothing ever go wrong, then I may be riding the wrong donkey. When I believe in God, I think I am aligning myself with a “being”. It’s about a relationship where I learn things – most of them above my pay grade. I am here to tell you that that it is sometimes very difficult and, to be frank, sometimes totally beyond me. And yet, it is like nothing I have ever known and I think that the last thing this is is a cosmic slot machine.

I’ll be honest, there are lots of times when I wish God was a bit more slot machiney and I got what I wanted when I asked but there you are. I am sitting watching a programme about Holocaust survivors. I am convinced that life and faith are more complex than pretending that I can convince a mystical force to give me stuff by sticking crappy photos onto a cornflake packet.

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