What if?

It’s that time of year. The air is heavy with festivals and Christian conferences – especially Christian ladies’ conferences. I have no problems with these events. I’ve enjoyed lots of them and even spoken at one or two. I have never attracted the level of excitement of a Joyce Meyer or a Beth Moore but no one ever asked for their money back or anything.

I find the names of these events a bit off-putting. I quite like “Cherish” but that’s mainly because there was a nice girl at my school called Cherish and now I always have the association. (There was also a girl at my Primary School called Denise who kept pinching my earlobe so I am always a bit wary round Denises now). There is one in Manchester called “Luminous” and one in Plymouth called “Stilettos”. It’s titles like this that make me think these events are not really for the likes of me. If it was called “Comfy Trainers”, I might pay a bit more attention. I suppose it’s mainly to attract the young people because that’s what we need. Young people to prove that we are relevant.

I love young people. In fact, I believe the children are our future. (Sorry, I am going through a bit of a George Benson phase at the moment). Young people are under horrendous pressure, mental health problems are rife and young people – who with the advent of Social Media are seen and heard more than ever before are more lost and lonely than ever before. Do I believe that God is the answer for them? Most certainly I do. I just sometimes worry that church can chase the young people like bright shiny baubles so that no one will think that your church is just made up of old codgers like me.

Also, the thing is – I’m not sure I’m finished yet and you might well not be either. Maybe, as the great Tony Bennett often sings, “The Best is Yet to Come.” I thought about that this week when I was reading in John about the Wedding in Cana when I read the bit above. We expect all the achievements to happen when we are young and luscious. We are full of energy and ambition, families and dependants are maybe not with us yet and sickness and loss are rarer.

I think that our achievements may be measured differently because I think we have been around long enough to have realised that the things we used to pursue like a kitten with a pom-pom were not all they were cracked up to be.

We can understand better the satisfaction of caring for a loved one, without the fear of missing out on being where the action is. We are freer of the rush to possess as we have found out long ago that satisfaction does not lie in owning seventeen handbags. We like to watch what we eat but not so that we can squeeze into a size zero because, in the end, we understand the value of a pineapple cake to the health of our souls. We have discovered that it is entirely possible to go to Aldi without make-up. And, perhaps most importantly, we understand the value of a little nap.

Possibly as well, this is the time to write that book, to lead that group, to mentor the learners, to make ourselves available for the lost and the lonely – even those who may not look that cool on the church Instagram feed, to find forgiveness in our hearts for those who nearly broke us and teach others how to do the same.

We may be slower, we may be more tired, our race may be more of a determined walk with plenty of stop-offs for a nice cup of tea but we are still in the race and there may be more to come than we have imagined.

Ordinary

This has been a very ordinary week Mes Braves but I will share it with you because – well because you can’t stop me really. Onward.

I am back from a conference on Community Transport in London. I didn’t really see much of London – it’s not a sightseeing tour you know but the actual conference was very worthwhile. I’m not very good at events that have the word “Networking” in the timetable. In fact, if you do enjoy networking then I feel you have something seriously wrong in your wiring. Someone told me once that the way to enjoy this kind of thing is to forget about yourself and be very interested in the other person. That has never worked for me. First of all, I have to go up to someone and introduce myself before I get the chance to be all chummy and interested. Often, I find that I have fallen at the first hurdle. Also, it can be very hard to feign rapt attention when someone is explaining their devotion to crankshafts in minute detail. (I’m in Community Transport because of passion for the vulnerable rather than the buses they chug along in). This time, however, three charming people from Darwen took me under their wing and the fact that one of them had a guide dog called Eddie was more blessing than I could have hoped for.

I’m usually quite happy to go to stuff on my own but this time I may have overdone the “Let’s find the cheapest place possible to stay in to save money for the charity” sentiment. It was definitely a murder hotel. The photo above is the view from my window. Not exactly St Pauls is it? Also, the corridors (of which there were many – with no windows) did that thing where the light only comes on as you walk down the corridor and then switches off as you move on. So you are walking into darkness and plunging back into it behind you. If Jack Nicolson had come running around the corner with an axe, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. It’s a long time since I have wedged a chair behind the door before I went to bed. In fact, I have NEVER done that before. Breakfast was delicious though so maybe swings and roundabouts eh?

We went to the pictures a couple of times last week. Once to see a new print of Kind Hearts and Coronets. I had forgotten how funny it was. (Of course, I had. I haven’t seen it for thirty years and most days I struggle to remember to put milk on my muesli). Anyway, Alec Guinness, in drag in a hot air balloon trying to look serene is a top comedy moment. Tell your friends. We also saw “Woman at War” which is a small film about an Icelandic lady who is a choirmaster by day and an eco-terrorist at the weekends. No, don’t make that face – it is an excellent film, a bit off centre, I’ll give you that, but we loved it. Beautifully filmed, very funny and with a great twist that HOH saw coming and I didn’t. (I’m not sure I’ll ever hear the end of that).

All this is happening while HOH is putting most of the contents of our home onto Facebook Marketplace to sell. I understand that we have to do it – that’s what downsizing is all about obviously but it is a bit disconcerting to see half your life up for grabs for a lot of people who are haggling trying to knock 50p off a brass coal scuttle. Meanwhile, Aged Parent is also doing a bit of sorting out. Usually, this just means moving shoes that don’t fit from one carrier bag to another. (I’m not getting rid of them – they’re Marks and Spencer’s!) However, this time she assures me that she had had a trip to the charity shop to get rid of some.

“Yes, my friend and I delivered three bags to the Al Qaeda Mission.”

“Mum! The Shekinah Mission!”

“Whatever. “

Old

We have tentatively begun to sell off a few of our possessions with the idea of moving towards downsizing. It’s supposed to make me feel cleansed I think. It’s making me feel old – and not just because some of our furniture was bought by an actual MUSEUM. I just keep coming across things and realising how long we have had them and how quickly the time has passed. I am assured by everyone that has ever done this that I am perfectly normal and lots of people have felt this way. However, when you think of me when reading this, feel free to imagine me in a garishly printed crimplene dress with American-tan tights and very comfy shoes. For I have turned into that lady in the church who was always unhappy with the length of my skirts and I hate everything.

I am feeling more and more out of step with the “Modern World” (RANT KLAXON). These are the things that are making me ratty at the moment. I warn you – there be politics here and possibly some feminism.

One. The state of our leaders. Putting aside political affiliations – what on earth is going on? The favourite to be the next Prime Minister has made openly racist statements, been caught out multiple times having not done his homework for his job and has lied about things when challenged. This is before we get to his ever so slightly laissez-faire attitude to marriage, children, women – that kind of thing. He is refusing to answer any questions about this – well about anything really but his friends (For “Friends” read “People he has promised big jobs to”) have said things like “People shouldn’t be snowflakes.” What happened to leadership? What about just trying a bit to be the classiest person in the room? Because you ARE the boss of us.

Meanwhile, in the Red Corner, men who have shall we say “reacted unfavourably” when rebuffed by ladies who work for them have been severely disciplined by their leaders. Just joking! They have been told off in a very loud voice and asked not to do it again – if they don’t mind. Or, at least try not to do it fifty times or “top” people will be very cross. This is before we begin to look at the mentality of people who look at the Holocaust with a quizzical eye – wondering if it was really as bad as people say. Is this a race to the bottom? Does anyone need a spade to dig a bit lower?

HOH has been very excited by the return of Killing Eve. He will bow to no-one in his appreciation of the central performance by Jodie Comer. However, we had a discussion this morning while I was putting my socks on and he has come to a place where he has agreed with me (always wise in the long run) about my problems with programmes like this. The writing is brilliant, the performances are great and everyone in it is beautiful. It’s one of the coolest programmes on the telly. My concern is that stuff like this is normalising cruelty and violence. We watch this beautiful, interesting woman in expensive clothes do things that would, in the past, never have been seen outside a film with a warning. I’m concerned that our judgement glasses are getting fuzzy and, as it takes more to shock us, we are less able to recognise when something just isn’t good enough.

HOWEVER. If you have ten minutes, please have a look at this and be really comforted that someone has seen something that is wrong and is leading the charge against it. New York’s First Responders at 9/11 are paying a terrible price with serious health problems and Jon Stewart is not happy with the Government’s response. You could watch it and then sing several verses of Jerusalem if you want. Sing it on the bus if you want.

Say no to wrong.
    Learn to do good.
Work for justice.

Isaiah 1 17

How to Pray

A simple guide for normal people by Pete Greig

I suppose now that you are going to agree with my husband and say that normal people do not read in the half hour they have when they are waiting for their self-tan to dry. Really? Your loss.

Pete Grieg is probably best known for the 24-7 Prayer Movement. This was a sort of non-stop prayer vigil that was meant to stop in the end but actually never did. There are now people praying all over the world at all times because of this movement. If you ever want to look at prayer in a sort of “I wonder if God can answer prayer now?” kind of way then some of the stories in the 24-7 books will blow your socks off. (Or encourage you in your faith as you, quite properly, may prefer to say)

This is a bit different in that it is a kind of manual – about how to pray. Sorry if you had already worked that out at the back there. It’s based around the Lord’s Prayer (as is almost compulsory in prayer manuals) and is written for human beings with jobs and families and lives rather than hermits with loin cloths living on top of a thirty-foot pointy stick.

He starts by making sure we are all aware of our position before God when we pray, which made me cry. It’s about the difference between God being our friend and us being God’s friend and that both are, in fact, true but different. Ha! (Think about it). Then he breaks down prayer into chapters such as adoration, intercession, petition and covering the thorny issue of unanswered prayer as well as Spiritual Warfare (that bit’s not at all woo-woo either). There are bits to follow up online and ideas about running prayer groups. Also, more encouraging stories on answers as well. However, I like that he is open about the fact that his wife’s continuing health issues are a challenge to his faith and I also appreciate that he covers meditation positively rather than the stuff I grew up with which involved demons coming in and sweeping your brain empty with a Eubank or something.

I’m not sure there is anything massively new here but I’m not sure there needs to be, does there? In the end, I think it comes down to the same things it has always come down to. As he says “Keep it real, keep it simple, keep it up” Prayer for normals and helpful for those who would like to re-focus.

Hope everyone had a good week. I have just had a birthday weekend which was a sort of staid bacchanalian feast so it was one you could invite your Nana to, with many, many meals out, visits to the cinema, outstaying my welcome in other people’s residences and generally behaving like someone who should know better. I am now officially pooped but have to scoot off to London in the morning for a quite important conference on Tuesday. I intend to get to the hotel as quickly as possible and lie down almost immediately for approximately fourteen hours and hope that this has a restorative effect. Failing that I will have to try painting eyeballs on my eyelids like in Indiana Jones.

Have a good week

Just Normal Life

Hullo. Hope you are well. We are trundling along here and trying not to catastrophise everything that might happen re the house move. I trying not to imagine that every piece of post will contain a letter saying that the house move has fallen through because of an unpaid debt I had in Bolivia, or that the survey has thrown up a nest of spider-like aliens living in the foundations or even that the buyers are, in fact, Russian agents who have disappeared never to be seen again. I’m under a lot of pressure.

We left the house last week to go to the pictures. I wanted to see Avengers Endgame again. I had waited for FOW1 to go with me so that I could ask Marvel related questions but he selfishly refused so HOH came with me. I know it’s not Chekov (I’ve never seen any Chekov – probably a bad example) but it really is one of my favourite films of the year. Heroic in lots of senses of the word, with self-sacrifice, brother and sisterhood, the courage to be downbeat and then a rattling good story. Not even sorry.

We also went to see Booksmart (I keep calling it Bookwise because that’s the name of the company that does our charity’s wages) Booksmart is about two Grade A students who have worked non stop all the way through High School (which I think is sort of American for Secondary Modern – possibly) in order to to make sure that they get into the best universities. They are then shocked to find out that all the other students have also got into good universities and had a good time in the process. The girls then resolve to go out and have a great time on their last night in school. And now you are thinking that you can’t think of anything worse and I understand that completely. But wait! Come back! This is sweet and funny and life-affirming. However, there is also a bit of gross-out humour, a lot of rude words and quite a bit of cheeky so you pays your money and you takes your choice.

On the telly, not watching anything much but Mum. It’s a BBC comedy that makes you want to cry. She is a widow with a grown-up son and she is tentatively exploring falling in love with her husband’s best friend. You root for them so much – they are so gentle and lovely and both have lost someone they love but the son isn’t happy and is trying to stop everything. It is really funny. The son and his girlfriend, the Mum’s brother and his horrible partner and the elderly parents of the dead husband – they are all grieving but trying, ever so gradually to find a way to move on. My bottom is tight with tension all the way through but I could not be without it. Anyone else watching it?

I went to Aged Parent to do a bit of dusting etc this week. Thought I would show you a snapshot of one of her bookshelves. You call yourself a Christian scholar, do you? Well, until you have read as much as AP you might need to think again. This is only one of three bookshelves and she has read every single one – many times. She does tend towards the “Disaster Movie” end of Christian Theology. Favourite Titles include – “Though He Slay Me – Yet Will I Trust Him” and “When Heaven is Silent” as well as “Does Jesus Care?” but you like what you like I say.

We called round this week to take her a vacuum cleaner we had bought for her. She was pleased about the cleaner but possibly a bit irritated at the interruption because she “was just watching The Holocaust.” All of it?

Have a great week