Assumptions

The sun is peeking through the trees, people. Spring may be in the air. Hurrah!

There is a game going round on YouTube at the moment. In this game, YouTube Influencers (As they like to be called) ask people to send them messages. In these messages, they would like us to write our assumptions about said influencers. Now, you need only know the tiniest bit about The Internet to know that this is a risky request. People who can hide behind a name along the lines of Nastypieceofwork878 will be more than willing to tell you what they think of you. This is not a game for the faint of heart. Some of the kindest comments I have seen are

“Full of Yourself”

“Stinking Rich”

“You couldn’t care less about anyone but yourself”

Charmed – I’m sure. And these were nowhere near the most horrible. They weren’t all nasty. Some people had lovely things to say about YouTubers, but I’m not sure if I would like to know what a bunch of semi-strangers thought about me. I wonder why anyone would put themselves through that but I suppose that if you earn your living on there, then you have to keep up with the Jonses. To fall off the front page is to lose views and to lose views is a terrible, terrible thing. Apparently.

Good or bad though – it’s unlikely to be a very accurate appraisal. It is only ever going to be a snapshot and we only get a few clues. People are complex – moulded by life and circumstance. We are one thing one day and someone completely different the next.

I have started to read a book about David – writer of Psalms, basher of giants and taker of women (if she is married – easily remedied if you know people who will follow your every order when it comes to putting people in harm’s way) I’ll be honest. I have sometimes wondered what God saw in David to make him a man after God’s own heart. To me he sometimes seems a royal pain in the backside. Disobedient, scrappy, careless and unable to judge when to keep his mouth shut. Yet, in this book, the writer describes David as having a loveless childhood, alone in the fields with his sheep most of the time. He is the unwanted child of an older father in a house full of dispute and competition. Even when the Prophet Samuel came to town and asked to meet all his sons, it never occured to David’s father Jesse to include him. If David were living today, he would probably have had a social worker assigned to him because of the neglect he suffered. And the author said that this made him a fighter, it made him scrap in all areas of his life and I suppose it explains a lot of the terrible decisions he made in later years.

I think sometimes that I can be guilty of just seeing people in the Bible as cyphers – a blank outline that is there to teach me what I should and should not be doing. Yet these were people. In David’s case, a man abused, a lost soul who suffered rejection from his wife, bullying from his king and enforced separation from his best friend. Yet, he found God to be faithful through it all – steadfast, trustworthy and working on his behalf – it must have been a revelation. There may be a lot that I can learn from him but he was also a man with all that implies – flesh and blood with deep sorrow sometimes. I think sometimes it does me good to know that God is around to deal with real people – he is here to know real people – not what I should be or what I think he needs to see. Just me – as I am.

This week in Aged Parent World

AP Police have been. Six of them

Me Six? You don’t get six for close protection for a World Leader now.

AP Well possibly not six. Possibly two. Definitely more than one

Me OK. Everything alright?

AP Well my friend told the support worker that her boyfriend (one eye – nearly ninety, prone to fits) had thown a remote control at her head. Domestic violence you see.

Me Blimey. Did they arrest him?

AP No he ran off back to Dorchesterford.

Me Not even a place. Is your friend ok.

AP Oh yes she was fine. She was annoyed at the support worker for calling the police. You see she is twice his size and had thrown the remote straight back – nearly knocked him out. Now he’s run away and she’s got no one to do her shopping. Did you want that last custard cream?

The President is Missing

The President is Missing – A Novel by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Apologies for Morecambe photobombing the photo. Also apologies for tissues. Am as close to death’s door as a cold can take you.

I think it may be helpful to sing the tune to Mission Impossible in your head while you read my review. Actually, feel free to sing it out loud if you want to – so long as you are not in public toilets or a doctor’s waiting room or something. Also – this review is borderline spoilery – you have been warned.

“Dum, dum, dum, dum-dum, dum dum, dum, dum, dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum – digulee, digulee, digulee – DUM DUM!”

The President is acting weird! He’s about to be impeached for acting weird! Nobody knows why he’s acting weird. Obviously, it’s because the whole of America is in DANGER!

“Dum, dum, dum, dum-dum, dum dum, dum, dum, dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum – digulee, digulee, digulee – DUM DUM!”

He knows about a terrible thing that will happen. Only he knows. Well only him and a few trusted aides. These aides are totally loyal and trustworthy – apart from one who is a JUDAS!

“Dum, dum, dum, dum-dum, dum dum, dum, dum, dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum – digulee, digulee, digulee – DUM DUM!”

So the President has to go it alone. He has to disappear. He can trust no-one. What can he do? Fortunately he has his physical beauty to sustain him. He is ex military – a hero and a leader, a sportsman and he is a grieving widower. He dyes his beard. He is in disguise. He retreats to a handy one hundred million acre estate with full Secret Service cover. He is not quite as alone as we were led to believe. Hurrah!

“Dum, dum, dum, dum-dum, dum dum, dum, dum, dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum – digulee, digulee, digulee – DUM DUM!”

He is persued by a beautiful and mysterious assasin. She blows people’s brains out whilst listening to classical music and somewhere across the world a fundamentalist terrorist with cold eyes and warm prostitutes is planning the downfall of Capitalist America.

“Dum, dum, dum, dum-dum, dum dum, dum, dum, dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum – digulee, digulee, digulee – DUM DUM!”

So what terrible thing is planned for America? (It’s a bit complicated and, to be honest, not riveting but it is indeed a terrible thing) Who will turn out to be the traitor? (Actually – it’s exactly who it usually turns out to be if you follow my Midsomer Murders rules of the game). The clock is literally ticking. Will the President and his handily placed gang of computer scientists manage to save America and see that the bad guys get what’s coming to them? What do you think?

“Dum, dum, dum, dum-dum, dum dum, dum, dum, dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum – digulee, digulee, digulee – DUM DUM!”

Look – it does exactly as you expect. I read it in two sittings and had a flippin good time. Knock yourselves out.

Free Solo

Hello. Can I just get my apology in nice and early? I have a cold. I hardly ever get colds and when I do I become ratty and unreasonable so probably best to take anything you are about to read with a pinch of salt – especially if I am moaning.

I have done very little this week apart from blow my nose and complain. Yesterday I went on a Christian writers’ day in Bath. I thought it might be interesting but I don’t think that it was meant for me. Most of the people there had already had had books published with varying degrees of success by the sound of it. Anyway, everyone seemed very nice but my nose felt like it was about to explode and I didn’t really feel like “networking” so, during lunch, I went round Bath. I do like Bath. And I didn’t spend any money – well not so’s you’d notice. I actually did need those earrings.

We also made ourselves watch “Leaving Neverland”. This was the account by two men about the sexual assaults they say they suffered from Michael Jackson when they were children. In the end, I suppose, it is only their word and Mr Jackson is not here to defend himself. However, their stories did ring true and I think most of us used to wonder about all the children that were around him. It was a hard watch – both men described in explicit detail what had happened to them – but necessary I think. For me, there were questions around their mothers’ involvement. I just think that if a fully grown man had asked me to let my small son sleep in his bed for a week, I am pretty certain what the answer would be – no matter how good he was in The Jackson Five. It was properly shocking. When it had finished, you felt like you had been introduced to something truly wicked.

We also watched Free Solo. This was a film about climbing. However, it’s not just any old climbing – although that’s bad enough. Climbing Free Solo means climbing alone and without ropes. As far as I can see, you don’t retire from climbing free solo you seem to keep climbing until you fall off and die. At one point, the climber was asked by his distraught girlfriend why he carried on doing this. He replied something like “Most people are interested in prolonging the length of their lives – I have no interest in doing that – it is more about doing something that I love – even with all the risks.”

It’s not as if I would consider hanging off a mountain with or without ropes and, to be honest, I don’t think anyone wants to hear a human being sobbing that loudly, I just thought about weighing up how we live our lives against “risk”.

How much do we back off from, not try, let fear hold us back from because we are afraid – not that we will bounce down a 500 foot mountain in a highly undignified way – but that we will fail, or look stupid. Life is short and old age has taught me that it goes really fast. It is easy to just trundle along keeping life and people at arm’s length just to be on the safe side. It is, I think, important to find what you are supposed to do and be and then do it and be it.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. PS 90

Four Gifts

Four Gifts by April Yamasaki

I decided to read this book after reading a blog from Sarah Bessy. She had a plan to read a list of books from people from a different ethnic group from herself and, because most days I rarely have an original thought in my head, I thought that I might do that too. I could have missed it of course but I don’t think the writer’s ethnic group made any difference to this book at all. She is a Canadian Pastor and Professor and apart from finding out that 43% of Canadians don’t take their full alloted annual leave (What is wrong with you?) I don’t think there is anything specifically that was not applicable to everyone.

The book is about self-care. The author and some of the people who have endorsed the book seem to have made the assumption that this is a controversial subject for a Christian. I think I am way ahead of them on that. I think, in these times, when Christians are dropping like flies from overwork and undercare (Is that a word?) looking after yourself is essential. At one point she says that this is a book that will give you permission to take care of yourself. It is obviously written for someone less self-centred than me.

The book is divided into four sections. It looks at

The Heart – overall well being, The Soul – our spiritual well being, The Mind – our mental well being and Strength – our physical well being.

Among the subjects covered are personal boundaries including saying “no”, self discipline, taking a personal sabbath, dealing with social media, sacred pauses and diet and excercise.

I’ll be frank with you (just had a weird flashback to two lads in my secondary school whose favourite joke was “You be Frank and I’ll be Ernest.” It made them laugh like drains. No wonder all the girls in that class sprinted home every evening to make sure we didn’t miss Shang-A-Lang) Anyway, as I said, to be completely frank, there is nothing in this book that I haven’t seen before. Sometimes it’s like when your specialist subject on Mastermind is “The Flamin’ Obvious” (at one point she does tell you that sleep is important) However, it is a very lovely, gracious and gentle book – intelligently laid out and argued with lots of useful advice. Possibly the best way to read this is with a notebook and pen and use it as a study book to work through some thoughts about looking after yourself. I think it is not just to be read but to be used as something to look at areas of your life that may need your attention.

Lent

Oh dear. I wish this was one of those blogs where I could entertain you with tales of popping off to Monaco for the weekend or spending the week on a juice fast to cleanse both body and soul and lose half a stone. Unfortunately though, I have been at work all week and the only place we had time to pop to was a new “The Range”. However, on popping in, I remembered how much I hate The Range – there is nothing there that you can’t get anywhere else – and usually cheaper – and so we popped straight back out again.

The only dietary advice I can share is from the very personable young girl on the Aldi checkout. On examining my purchase of chicken sausages she told me that she had recently done a month long sausage and boiled egg only diet. She had gone down a dress size so it had certainly worked but when she had had to come off the diet, partly because of difficulties in the toilet department, she had gone straight back to her previous size and she didn’t know what to do now. I felt I was letting her down because I couldn’t think of anything to help her and I was also trying to get Aged Parent away from the till before my fish fingers defrosted. Any talk of toilet department is seen by AP as an invitation to share at length about her own issues in that area and we would have never left.

I apologise for the lack of inspirational content.

I had been reading a Bible Study this week. I don’t know about anyone else but I do struggle with doing a study properly i.e. read a bit of Bible and then see what study has to say about it. I do have a tendency to read ahead if it is interesting. Anyway Beth Moore said this

The words “Well Done” are on the tip of Jesus’ tongue. I think he can hardly wait to say them. He’s not manipulative. He’s not moody. He tells us what he wants and he tells us how he’ll respond. He never departs from his word.

And it made me jump, I think because I had not really been thinking this way about God and me for a while. I think sometimes we can lose sight of truth because

a) That has not been our experience – either for a while or maybe never

b) We get used to reading things again and again and they do not feel as powerful.

I remember many years ago reading “The Father Heart of God” by Floyd McClung. The book details God’s thoughts towards us as affectionate, positive and warm. The argument being that this is a natural by-product of the grace we live under.

I read the book and found it, not difficult but unbelievable. Having had little experience of positive fatherhood which I was not going to see until I watched HOH with our children and also attending a church where people were made very aware of their need of grace – but less so of God’s goodness and our position as people receiving grace. I felt that I needed to concentrate very heavily on the “undeserving” part of grace sometimes to the detriment of the loved and secure bit.

So when I read about the God who searches me out (The Parable of the Lost Coin) or the God who promised to never leave, it took a bit of getting hold of I can tell you. But, the more I accepted this. the better it felt. I lost a lot of hang ups and felt more and more secure and, sometimes, almost felt that I had got it.

Yet time passes and things happen. Some of these things are big things and some of them not so much. Prayers don’t always seem to be answered and I am not always the person that I thought I would be by this time in my life. And I lose sight of the truth. I lose sight of the unchanging nature of God and his thoughts towards me. It was startling to read this and how God feels about me, which is a shame I think because I am obviously missing out on peace and security that I am meant to have.

So, although I don’t really do Lent I thought this year I might have a go at a sort of reverse one where it is all about me. (I know, I know – almost diametrically opposed to the spirit of Lent but there you are) I am going to seek out old Bible verses and books that have helped me when I was young in the olden days. I am going to look at things that preachers have said in the past – even those who now are full of facelifts and working through problems of their own in many cases or even actually dead and I am going to see what comes out of that. If some things are truthful and don’t change then they are worth revisiting again no? Feel free to be as self-centred about Lent as I am going to be. I am hoping that unselfish, Lent-like actions will come out of this but if not, I still think it is worth it.

Have a good week