I was reading about Bethesda and the man beside the pool. Please have a look here if you are not familiar with it. As a basically bitter and twisted person, I have often looked on the man as a kindred spirit.

The story says that the man had been ill for 38 years. That’s a long time – a lifetime and I wondered what was wrong with him.
I am only slightly ashamed to say that I have identified with the man, who, unable to rouse himself from whatever ailed him, lay there and watched others get into the water. These people were probably not as sick as he was; they were able to move forward and get into the water under their own steam. The blessing was there and they would skip past him and take it. How tempted was he to try and leg them up as they went past? (You are right, probably not at all but you are much nicer than I am)

A few things I have noticed about him.

  1. He complained that it was everyone else’s fault. “No-one will stop and help me get into the water” My default thinking has always been that he needed to help himself or, at least, go to Jesus and not expect everyone else, who, after all, had problems of their own, to carry him. In the end, he didn’t need anyone else. He asked Jesus for help and help arrived. There were conditions and he had to be obedient and do what Jesus had told him but it was his own faith that made him get up. (However, just thinking. If someone else had helped him. If someone had stopped what they were doing and carried him, then he wouldn’t have been there as long as he was).
  2. When Jesus asked him what was wrong – he told him. Jesus doesn’t request false cheer or pretending all is well. There was no “I’m not so bad thank you – how’s yourself?” There was an honest answer to an honest question. It may not have been a cheery answer – coloured as it was by the man’s general fed-upness and despair – but  he didn’t pretend anything else was going on.
  3. Jesus wasn’t scared off by how messed up the man was. “I have been ill for 38 years. I have lived among the invalids for all that time. My only possible hope is this pool and that isn’t working. No-one will help me. This life is nailed down for me now.” There isn’t a hint that Jesus thought “Blimey, what a miserable crow. He’s right, there is no way back for this man.” No pit is too deep and Corrie Ten Boon nearly said.
  4. Then, what came first. The faith or the healing? As the man began to move, despite there being nothing to say that he should, did he feel the healing course through his veins, giving him the strength to get up? Or, as he lay in despair, did he feel the change as he heard Jesus speak and knew that he could move. I am hoping that you don’t expect any definitive answer from me – we don’t often do that kind of thing round here. Maybe both approaches are right.

I have been challenged by this: our responsibilities to others, our responsibilities to ourselves, the necessity of responding – either to what God asks us to do or the support that others provide us. Or just to flamin cheer up sometimes. Mainly though, it is the compassion of Jesus, the understanding and the depth of knowledge he had, the lack of judgement (even though there is a hint that there might be stuff to be judgemental about) and the fact that Jesus is able.  I am, more often than I would like to admit in mixed company, the man on the bed. This is a strong reminder that there is plenty to be hopeful about even in that position.

I hope you have had a lovely Easter and a lovely Lent. I’m not sure if it is scripturally correct to have a lovely Lent – I may have got the wrong idea but I was erring on the side of politeness. I have had a quiet Lent and kept my head down a bit. As you can see from my pristine kitchen table, we have also had a quiet Easter, with the decorations pared down to almost invisible. (The wooden egg is a gift from a neighbour which he made himself. It is quite beautiful but, because it is dark brown, I have to keep snatching it out of people’s hands before they can try to take a bite out of it). I didn’t see the point in elaborate table decorations because most of the family are working over the Easter period so there wasn’t going to be any large gathering around the kitchen table. We are taking Aged Parent to Frankie and Benny’s for breakfast tomorrow (before HOH goes to work) and she is looking forward to that with an enthusiasm I don’t remember noticing for any of my cooking. It could be quite dispiriting if I thought about it for too long.

Easter is changing a bit don’t you think? Not the actual event but the celebration. Lots of people who have no interest in the crucifixion or the resurrection have decided this is a nice long weekend to celebrate “family”, make Easter decorations and eat a big meal together. None of these things are wrong in themselves obviously. It’s just that “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”, if you know what I mean. I watched a YouTube video last week in which a young mum described how she made “Easter Baskets” for her kids. This mainly consisted of going to Poundland and stuffing her trolley with more tat than you could shake a stick at. Each child would be the proud recipient of an Easter Gnome (no idea), a Disney DVD, Easter Bunny pyjamas, paperweights, whistles (more fool you), straws, colouring books and Easter sweets. Now, I am nothing if not a cheerful soul and I have no problem with children getting presents for Easter or with Easter egg hunts etc. However, it does seem that Easter has become a second pressure point for beleaguered parents where money must be spent, families must be entertained and we must all be cheerful – at all costs. This is looking like another event in the Christian calendar that Christians will have to grab a hold of and keep holding until their knuckles are white while we keep reminding anyone who will listen about what the true meaning is.

I was thinking about something that I had read about a Christian who had got up on Easter Morning feeling much the same as they did the night before.  Their life hadn’t changed and the struggles were the same as they were on Good Friday. All I would say is that it is a well known fact that it was still dark when Jesus rose from the dead. By the time the women reached the tomb in the early morning, the miracle had already taken place, in the dark, without witnesses or fanfare as far as we know. In the midst of Easter celebrations, there are those for whom church  – with the smiling and the dancing and the confetti canons or whatever will seem to have little relevance for their day to day life.  It does us all good though, to remember that in the darkness of the early hours, without our help, Jesus stirred and the whole world changed. Hope was already being given substance, there in the tomb and mankind didn’t even know anything about it. Maybe, even now, when for you it seems dark and hopeless, Jesus is beginning something that you can’t see yet. Something you don’t expect. Something way beyond your imaginings. This, I think, is something to hold onto when you wonder whether Easter is for you.

Hello. I am just here to let you know about a book. I have struggled a bit with books recently but not this one. I found it on a site I love; Furrowed Middlebrow. It showcases forgotten women authors up to the mid twentieth century and I would like to be buried on this site please. He is now publishing books that are difficult to obtain as they have been out of print for so long. This is a development that I am very pleased about.  Lots of people seem to find long lost gems on the “For Sale” shelves at their local library. All we seem to get is “How to lose 150lbs in twenty minutes” or biographies of people in Emmerdale.

As I get older, I am finding I am more and more out of step with modern culture and I can find less and less that I want to read or watch. Witness the new Joaquin Phoenix movie – “You Were Never Really Here”. I haven’t seen it but it is apparently a work of near genius; brilliantly acted, great set pieces and fantastic direction and script (by the same person) However, here is the insight section from the BBFC’s site (The BBFC are the people who give films certificates)

Stronger scenes include a bloody shooting. A man kills multiple people with a hammer, without graphic detail. There is also occasional hand-to-hand combat featuring heavy blows.
A dead man is discovered with a large bloody slash wound across his throat. Deep and ragged wounds are seen on another man’s hands. Another scene depicts a suicide with strong bloody detail. There are also images of bodies with bloody bullet wounds, and a man uses pliers to pull out his own tooth.
There are visual and verbal references to child sex abuse throughout the film. The references are not graphic. In one scene a young girl is shown sitting on a bed facing away from camera and a man places his hand on her bare back. There is brief genital nudity in a sequence in which a naked man is pulled out of a room where is it is implied that child sexual abuse has been taking place.
There are scenes of self-harm in which a man places a plastic bag over his head. There are separate sequences in which a child performs the same act.

I have spared you the paragraph that details the language used. We are all too young. I just don’t have the energy. I have decided that I am going to retreat into some semi-permanent Miss Havisham state and just get on with only watching and reading the things that I think I have the constitution for.

So – to A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell. Actually, after all that moaning, this is not a soft read. It’s a memoir of life in London during the Blitz and she doesn’t hold much back. Faviell lived in Chelsea before and during the Blitz and because of its position it was heavily bombed. At the beginning of the book, there is almost a light hearted atmosphere. War has been declared but nothing much happens. Then things start to change. She volunteers for the Red Cross and also to support refugees as she is able to speak several languages. There are some lovely moments – very British defiance in the face of a seemingly invincible enemy – and it is also very funny sometimes. However, it may not be for your maiden aunt – unless she is of a certain age, in which case she may have seen this stuff in real life anyway. It is a great book. I raced through it and then a curious HOH picked it up and devoured it as well.

I fully intend to go back and have a look at buying some more of her books. However that will be after Lent because I am not buying any books until Easter! What about that then? Impressed ain’t ya? I was overwhelmed by books at Christmas and think the reason that some reading was annoying me was that I could always see my “To Read” pile in my mind’s eye and it was pressing me to get finished. So far I have caught up with a nifty thriller “Black Water Lillies” that FOW1 gave me at Christmas – excellent with a twist I did not see coming. Also I have re-read a Barbara Pym and also a Georgette Heyer mystery. (I’m not that keen on the Regency stuff – I like her detective fiction) I’m also reading more magazines instead of just flicking through them, spotting decent articles, not reading them and then never going back to them, which I was doing nearly all the time. My favourite magazine at the moment is “the simple things”. It is complete rubbish. Lots of photos of posh type people tramping through the snow with their perfect children, then coming home to home-made soup which they drink in their perfect kitchens AND I LOVE IT! NOT SORRY!

It’s all working out rather well actually, although I am getting a bit twitchy about book buying now and keep coming across things I fancy. I probably need to fight the urge and get out more, except it is going to snow here again at the weekend apparently. I was just about to start dragging my spring stuff out from under the bed but, instead, I will be doubling up on bed socks.

Hello. To the flicks this weekend for one of the best films I have seen in a while. I felt under a bit of pressure going to see this because my daughter had been to see it and had rated it one of the best films she had ever seen, and because the central theme is the relationship between a mother and her daughter, if I didn’t like it, I think it made me a bad mother. Anyway, fortunately, I loved it. It’s a coming of age movie about a seventeen year old girl who is full of insecurities, most of which she takes out on her mother. Well, that was my take on it. My daughter’s view may be different. It was so lovely to see a well written, tender comedy about humans and their relationships. It was also nice to see nuns who were not abusive, raving lunatics. I don’t actually know any nuns but surely not all of them can be like they are in the films.  Not everyone in it is a nice person but nearly everyone got a chance to explain themselves a little and we got see why people are the way they are sometimes. It seems that a good proportion of the world just want to be understood. I also think, whether we realise it it not, that most of us want mercy. We may not call it that but, after we have been understood, we want to be forgiven and have another chance. People complicate the message of Grace sometimes but I think that’s all it is really. It is one of the great discoveries of anyone’s life when they come into contact with God and realise that there is no condemnation.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the UK. I’m not a huge lover of Mother’s Day to be honest. (Although, I am more than happy to take all the good wishes, open the presents and eat the chocolates). Like most people, we are all a bit uneasy about Mother’s Day. We all know people who have lost mums or can’t be a mum or whose children are making them wonder if they want to be mums. It isn’t an easy day for many people. I have spoken quite a few times at Mother’s Day events in churches. (That’s the one day when the vicar won’t get too much flack for putting a female lady-person in the pulpit) It is difficult and I think the church has made things worse. We have bought into this idea of romantic love being the best kind of love and we have put nuclear families front row and centre as the most desirable type of life. This means that those who are single (for whatever reason), those who do not have children and those who have problematic relationships with their families are often made to feel second best as they are not living like something out of Little House on the Prairie. However, most of us know people who are living fantastic lives outside of this “most desirable” option. There’s the missionary who looks a after a family of fifty children in straitened circumstances, the widow who runs a network for older lonely people, the social worker who lives and breathes fighting for a better deal for the disadvantaged and the caretaker who has never married but has found huge fulfilment in a job that he loves. The list is endless. Being a mother is the greatest thing I ever did. Really – it is way beyond any capabilities that I have and I am grateful to have got this far without accidentally damaging them for life but I am not so impressed with myself that I don’t realise that it is not the best love. It’s one kind of love. There are others – equally important. Equally valuable.

Aged Parent has been quite upset about Billy Graham’s death. She was particularly upset about not being able to find his funeral on the telly. She was also not impressed when she asked me what he had died of and I replied “Being 99”. So why, I asked was she so keen?

Well I know he was just a man and he made lots of mistakes but when it came to preaching the gospel… (makes gun firing gestures with her fingers) …he was just KERPOW!

Quite.

It is International Women’s Day today. Hurrah! Round my way lots of women are celebrating by squeezing themselves into body-con dresses and eating a croissant at a business lunch. Good for them.

I am writing this in a coffee shop like a proper writer. Or, as my beloved people put it – like a donk. I don’t really approve of signing up to the Internet in coffee shops because the amount of information they want from me to use their Wi-Fi has ensured that, should I keel over, they will be able to locate my address, phone number, next of kin, previous incurable diseases, preference for Lilo and Stitch over all other Disney films and the embarrassing fact that my new knickers are too small. (M and S! It’s not me – I have measured!) However, I couldn’t blog last night because I was so very busy (family time or, should you prefer, watching football and eating pizza) so I am here now, for you, with all my personal information wooshing around the clouds or whatever.

Just digressing a mo. Is it me or is there nothing on the telly? Well Strike was back but if you saw “The Usual Suspects” you’ll have worked out who the baddie was almost immediately. I hope that is a well enough hidden spoiler. Still I do love it. I feel a bit sorry for her boyfriend. What man would want Strike as a rival? Because of Strike, I am now two behind on Endeavour and wondering if it is worth four hours of my time. Also, I have left Shetland. I’m sorry. It’s just too depressing. Also, I didn’t bother with Collateral despite the beauteous Carey Mulligan. It just looked like it was written by a gang of drunks who were on a bet to include as many cliches as they thought they could get away with. Troubled police officer, secret(ish) lesbian vicar, even more secret gay bishop, troubled politician, even more troubled ex-wife of politician, dead pizza delivery driver(possibly illegal immigrant) etc etc.  Who would be a pizza delivery man these days? They are getting gunned down left, right and centre if the telly is to believed – although they also all seem to be involved in very dodgy dealings of one sort or another. Nobody ever signs up with a pizza firm just to deliver pizza apparently.

Continuing to digress. HOH has hurt his back. I am not laughing; partly because it looks really painful and partly because I am having to do all his stuff in the house. This will be fine – ignore my pained expression – unless we get a spider in. Then we will have to move into a hotel for the evening.

Anyway, to return to my original thinking. Today is International Women’s Day. There are a lot of fine things being said and hurrah to all that. I am sometimes concerned that the narrative is that women are only empowered and fulfilled when they are free to be entrepreneurs living a “big” life, wearing posh business clothes and making plenty of money. It is important that women who want to do that are free to do so and not prevented from becoming who they want to be just because of their sex. I might possibly argue that eventually these women might find, as many men have before them, that this “big” life is not quite the answer to everything that they would expect it to be. I would just like the women who serve, who sacrifice, who mother, who create on a small scale and live “small” lives to be celebrated as well. Because they should no more be prevented from living their dream lives than should anyone who wants to change the world. Not all women need to  be drawn into what has often been a male narrative where “success” is measured by the power you possess and the money you make. On International Women’s Day, as a woman, (for that is what I am), I want to stand up for the equality of being who you want to be – who you feel called to be. Serving as you feel able and gifted to – at whatever “level”. And, I suppose – while we are at it chaps – you should feel able top do the same yourselves.