As part of my Autumn Bucket list (remember that? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t – I barely remember it myself) I had resolved to have a proper go at some Christian fiction alongside other reading duties. I have felt in the past that I have not really given Christian fiction the attention it deserves sometimes. This is partly due to some “mixed results” in this type of fiction that I read as a youngster. Most of it was either of the “Don’t Get Left Behind!” genre with various stories of planes crashing, people’s foreheads being branded with 666 and every single Christian in the world finding that, in fact they were never a Christian, because their wife/husband had been taken and they hadn’t, also that their pastor/vicar was not a Christian either because when they ran to the church for support, the pastor would always be sat in the front row looking particulalrly sheepish. The other equally disapointing genre was “Christian romance” where no-one was ever troubled by lust and any problems (usually revolving around being unequally yolked, partners who were unsuitable and worrying about whether the romance would last the always “long hot summer”) would alsways be solved by a kindly, wise vicar who watched the couple from afar in a wise kindly and in no way slightly stalky way. (Only, presumably to be very disappointed by finding himself alone on the front row after the rapture) I was brought up in a household where Aged Parent felt that Christian fiction of any sort was both pointless and possibly a “bad influence” (You have the BIble and real lfe stories – what do you need fiction for?) She was not alone in this viewpoint. She has made recent exceptions for Christian Fiction set in places such as the Twin Towers, a Tsunami and a hostage situation.  It’s a wonder I ever read anything. Anyway – digression!

This week I have read “The Gardener’s Daughter” by KA Hitchens and it is a chicken of an entirely different feather. I am not sure if it is aimed at me – it may be for the Young Adult market but I am only saying this because the heroine is a young person. Not twelve or anything – but a nineteen year old young woman. It is also not “in your face” Christian. Someone without a faith background may not spot it at all but there are recurring themes of love, loyalty and goodness and a Father who tends a Garden lovingly – so I think we know what is going on. Having been brought up by her father after the death of her mother, a chance discovery brings her whole world crashing down and she runs away from home – not realising that there are darker forces at work and she is in danger. I can’t really say much more without giving the game away. It is a bit of a stormer this and it certainly gallops along. It is, to use the apt phrase, a page turner. Ava – the heroine – is not completely sympathetic and that is a good thing I think – sometimes main Christian characters are too saintly to empathise with.  I felt for her but sometimes thought that she brought some disasters onto herself. There is a moment where she was hiding some cash and I was yelling – don’t do that!! And dear reader, I was right. (Sorry bit vague – trying to avoid spoilers) But she is brave and determined, her relationship with a young private detective is funny and sweet and the world she plunges herself into – in a seedy holiday camp – is very well realised. I enjoyed it a lot. 

Rant Klaxon!! Brace yourself. Possibly stand back

I have never seen The Greatest Showman but I am assured by all who have that I would love it. I am not entirely sure about that because very strong promises were made about Mama Mia 2 and I was spectacularly let down there. However, this week a video was released on YouTube to a song from The Greatest Showman and although there is no connection to the film I will be looking through rose-coloured spectacles everytime I see Hugh Jackman in a ringmaster’s suit. If you have tissues – be prepared to use them.

Beautiful – non?

I know I have said it so many times before but it bears repeating. When did we decide that we “normal” people are Kings of the World and we decide only “Normals” get the chance to even live? How did we come to a place where it is a huge decision to bring up a child with extra needs – any extra needs – because our society is not set up to cope?

BTW – this is not about abortion which is a completely different debate. It’s about the way we measure society/worth/achievments. It is all skew wiff. 

One of the many things we saw Jesus do was subvert the norm. His whole life seemed to me to be a call to see things as his Father saw them and that is NOT how we see things.

  • When a woman accused of adultery is brought to Jesus, he challenges the right to justice and persues mercy. He asks the woman about her accusers and listens to her reply. (Hmmmm. Drums fingers on chin) He calls for a changed life and asks people to look within themselves at their motives.
  • When people asked Jesus what sin a man or his family had committed to give a reason for his illness. Jesus replies – neither. Sometimes things happen so that God can operate in a situation and wake people up to what is important. 
  • I don’t think that Jesus was bothered about the desecration of the Temple by people turning it into a marketplace. Isn’t what upset him more the blockage that the moneychangers were causing to people’s road to the Father – their prayers, their chance to be heard?

Do you know what I want to be? (I will not ask if you care because the answer may be personally upsetting) I want to be the person who learns to see things differently and sticks her oar in to try and make it so. It’s quite difficult sometimes – even in Christian circles. we have decided that perfect families with perfect, Christian children are to be pursued, sometimes to the exclusion of the struggling, the lost, the lonely, the single etc etc

I remember having a particularly good guest speaker at our church one night. He was warm, funny and engaging and went down really well. It was therefore a bit of a shock to discover that, after most Sunday night preaches, he would go out onto the streets looking for his addict son to make sure that he was safe. He rarely mentioned it when he visited churches. He found that people used to give him that “Wonder what went on there to bring that on” look. (BTW quite chuffed that our pastor went out with him that night) I also remember someone coming out to me and wisely pointing out that the last place he wanted to be, while he was working things through, was church – with all the certain condemnation that would bring. I had to admit that he was right. These are the difficult realities of life. I just think it would be brilliant to do everything to make a world where those who are dealing with enough don’t have to deal with more discomfort than they need to. And those who aren’t really dealing with anything apart from having to fit into people’s strange expectations just get to get on and love their lovely children without society feeling that it is doing them a favour. 

As you were.

FOW2 – It’s National Poetry Day

Me –  I hate poetry

FOW 2 – You don’t hate poetry. No one hates poetry.

Me – I do. Life’s too short. All that wondering what people are reeely saying or meaning. Blah.

Didn’t you do poetry at school?

Yup. John Betjeman. De da. De Dum. De Dah. About my limit. Although I never did give a monkeys about Miss Joan Hunter Dunn. Then there were the War Poets. Just so depressing. Eleven years old and at the end of English I was trying to do myself a damage with a milk straw.

Not a lot of laughs, I’ll give you that. Maybe you were too young? What about nonsense verse or limericks?

Ha ha. “The boy stood on the burning deck, picking his nose like mad. He rolled it into a great big ball and threw it at his dad.”

Ugh. That’s one of grandad’s and it’s disgusting. What about open verse?

Ok. I like “There was a young girl from Dundee, who was stung on her leg by a wasp. When asked “Did it hurt?” She said “No not a lot. He can do it again if he likes.”

That is NOT open verse

Everyone is an expert. 

(Leaving room and going upstairs) People who don’t like poetry have no soul. 

(Shouted upstairs) Well that’s me then. Oh and by the way I always thought “They TUCK you up your Mum and Dad” would have been a better line actually.

Wanders into kitchen harrumphing. Stops. Gets out old King James Bible. Thumbs  through and finds

Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, Isaiah 64

And…Preserve me, God, for in you do I take refuge.
My soul, you have said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord.
    Apart from you I have no good thing.” (Psalm 16)

And..By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, Psalm 137

I have been reading and loving these things all my life. I am, in fact, a very deep and spiritual person with a strong and poetic soul. So there. 

Happy Poetry day

On Thursday night I sat down to blog but unfortunately, I also had the Judge Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing on live in the background as well. (Does anyone else watch Beyond 100 Days on BBC4? I prefer it to the ordinary news). Anyway, the hearing took all my attention and then it was 9pm and all sensible thoughts had left my head.

I’m not going to go on about who was telling the truth because we don’t know. I know what I think, but that’s not much use to anyone without evidence. What struck me most of all was the desperate need of people to be heard. Because they haven’t been. Men and women but I suppose mostly women have been subject to assault, (sexual and otherwise) bullying and generally not being allowed to have an opinion. These may be strange times where a man can declare he is a woman, where what may have been an unintended slight is jumped on from a great height and where what seems like the most innocuos of statements can bring the un-holy might of social media down on your head. 

I think one of the reasons that this is happening is because people are sensing that, maybe for the first time, they will be heard. In the past, those who were assaulted, would rarely speak out  – especially if the person doing the assaulting was powerful – they didn’t expect to be heard. A person who was stalked either in real life or on social media would back off and bow down, because they felt that what was happening was not important enough to be listened to. But now, it seems that a door has been opened. Now all sorts of “interesting” people are walking through the door and some horrible voices are being heard but the lost and those who have felt disenfranchised are also taking their chance to speak.

People are sensing a moment. That is why a woman felt empowered enough to chase Senator Flake into a lift, begging him to listen. They feel the time is now. Of course, this is leading to some frankly ridiculous situations where “political correctness” may well have gone mad. (Can I just say though that a female Doctor Who is not political correctness. She is a good actor. She plays an alien. The sex is irrelevant. Why should it be a woman? Well why shouldn’t it? Have to say though. She isn’t Eccleston but that’s not her fault). And it does seem that sometimes  you are not allowed to say “Sorry – I don’t quite agree with that.”  The fact that no dissenting voices seem to be allowed cannot surely be right. I even agreed with Theresa May (sentence I thought I would never say klaxon) when she said at the United Nations that although she didn’t like a lot of what the British Press said about her, she defended to the hilt their right to say it. So disenting voices are important but to disagree, you need to hear both sides, and many weak, marginalised and just plain rolled over feel that this has never happened before. 

We need to learn to hear, to hear properly, to listen. And when we have listened, we should supprt what is right, what is kind, things that shore people up not roll over them. One of the best things anyone ever pointed out to me was that God listens to me.  When I was younger, I used to squint at clouds wondering how my whinging – in public refered to as a “Prayer Request” was being heard all that way up. (Listen, you have been here long enough, you know how I am with sound theology. And I was very young) But that’s what it says. There are loads of verses that say so

And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening. 1 John 5

Aged Parent used to have a lot of old Gospel Albums. There was one by The Big Ole Spirit Of The Living God Singers (They weren’t called that. I have no idea) and they used to sing verses from The King James and one was 

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

You see? Listened to. Heard. 

And, if God is our example, then we should listen too and make it our business to do something about what we hear – for good. Like the story of the sparrow (Many thanks to Anne Lamott for this)

A work horse comes across a sparrow in the street – lying on its back with its little spindly feet sticking straight in the air.

“What are you doing?” asks the carthorse

“I am holding back the darkness.” says the sparrow.

“Ha!” laughs the horse. “Look at the size of that sky! Look at everything that is happening there – it is infinitite! And look at tiny little you. Those little feet can’t possibly make a difference.”

“One does what one can.” replied the sparrow with a determined smile.

I have been working on a list – an Autumn bucket list, which, as I think I may have discussed earlier, is not because I am dying, although we all are in a way etc. etc. but because I would like to get to Christmas being able to look back on the last three months thinking that I had achieved something rather than sailing into Christmas with my usual pathetic level of hopelessness.

I keep starting the list and then putting it away because I am embarrassed about what is on it. It is not the vast sweep of difficult questions that make me squirm. There’s nothing on there about solving Brexit negotiations because obviously the finest minds in Europe are struggling with that. (On a side note, I voted Remain but am I the only one who would raise a teeny tiny smile if Mrs May smacked Mr Macron across his smug face? I know – it’s childish and I am not proud of myself).  I need to be more of an adult about other things as well. I mean, look at the things I am struggling with and trying to aviod putting on my list – they include…

  • Phoning the dentist for an appointment (Difficult since they forgot to book me in last time and although it wasn’t my fault, the Lithuanian girl on Reception dismissed me by a raising an overplucked eyebrow and announcing imperiously “You’re not in”. I complained to the manager – I never complain to the manager but there you are. I’m not looking forward to going back.)
  • Ring the mortgage company. Am thinking that they may purse their lips at my profligacy and mis-management. I have no evidence at all for this.
  • Resoving to drive to work once a week. I would much rather walk to work. It wakes me up, I listen to podcasts. Ces’t excellent. However it’s the carrying home that is the problem. So, in order not to have to carry home fruit, veg, dog chews, a coat from H&M and other bits and pieces I have to shop for once a week I should drive. It’s only once a week. No big deal. (If HOH reads this I have no idea why I wrote that bit about the coat. Who needs a coat? Certainly not me.)

All these bit and pieces of flotsam have been annoying me and worrying me in equal measure. It has been driving me mad.

Then I saw this

And next to it it said

“Me – stressing about things I can totally do.”

And it really struck a chord. Why do stupid things fill my thoughts so much?

When I was young Aged Parent used to have an LP (For t’was that long ago) and it was called called “Slim Whitman’s Gospel”. (It proabably wasn’t called that. It was a long time ago. She played it all the time and I use to fantasise about riding my bike over it). It was full of lots of songs she loved. His “I Come to the Garden Alone” was a particular favourite. There was also the one about taking it to the Lord in prayer – which is true of course – many things are beyond me and need God to get involved. But, the fact is, I can pick up the phone, I can get in the car and drive it, I can explain to Aged Parent that the police will not be giving her a day in court re the road accident. These things might be difficult for me and for others they may be a genuine big deal for lots of reasons. But, deep breaths aside, sometimes I need to just stop stressing and get on with it. These are not real problems and I think I dishonour those who really suffer like Rohingha Muslims or people with real mental health issues when I carry on like this. I should stop letting the little things become big things. Because there are plenty of really big things and sufficient unto the day are the big things thereof. Which Jesus never said. Because he was the Son of God and had a proper sense of perspective. Which I am glad about.

And finally……

You may not know but Aged Parent’s lift in her housing unit has not been working for two months which is a complete disgrace and don’t get me going. They have a set of stairlifts in now which, to be frank are worse than useless, except for providing me and HOH with hours of fun trying to get the dog to go on them. Anyway, she was explaining to me…

AP           I saw Fred coming up those stairs on his knees. Not having a lift is awful.

Me          That’s terrible. 

AP          Yes, and he had scraped all his knees and there was blood on his trousers.

Me          No. That’s awful.

AP           Yes and then he fell backwards down six stairs.

Me          This is a disgrace. Why did he fall? His sore knees I suppose?

AP          No. He was really drunk.

Me          Oh.

Have a great week.