Well, it’s early days so far isn’t it. I haven’t started the Ruth Valerio book and I wish I could tell you that it was because I was busy doing Christian spiritual book things but that would not be true. I have just finished an Agatha Christie (After The Funeral, since you ask. Very good.) Then I accidentally started a slightly nasty murder mystery by Tanya French after I saw a review in The Big Issue. So I need to get organised and put that down and start reading a Lent book. (Challengingly, It’s very good so far though and I am struggling a bit to give up turning the next page.)
This morning, we had an interesting conversation in the church we are attending. A nice lady we had never met before came up to say hello. She began to tell us about her ministry in hospitals – giving Christian support to the sick of the palsy. As you do. Unfortunately though, she had recently been blocked from the old succor providing business by the vicar in the hospital who said that she just couldn’t come in here and say what she wanted, when she wanted to patient. I am afraid that I am unable to share with you the details of her conversations as she neglected to share these with us. I am, of course, very aware that we are only hearing one side of the story. Anyway, things appear to have moved on a bit if we heard the next bit right (And I checked with HOH and we did)
“Of course she (the vicar) has done that thing – you know – and she’s a man now. A HE! *Draws arms up under bust in manner of Les Dawson. And I know God loves HER but I am sure, of course, he doesn’t love HIM.” *Knowing nod followed by “Anyway. Lovely to meet you.”
So then. Lent. I have signed up to a church type thing that sends me a negative thought every day along with a scripture that contradicts it. The idea is that we are fasting from negativity about ourselves. Also, I have been reading some posts from https://suffolkvicar.wordpress.com/ sent to me by Kirsten. Also very good.
Looking what other people are doing, there is a lot about Looking after yourself for Lent. Being gentle on yourself for Lent. Learning to love yourself for Lent. Hmm.
Firstly, I have no problem with looking after yourself for Lent or at any other time really. I personally am very keen on me. I want the best for me and, if I am to function in any kind of productive way as a Christian or just as a person, it makes since not to tread myself into the ground. I have seen too many Christians for whom being “poured out for the Gospel” means serving to the point of exhaustion – quite often serving people who, given a decent run at it – can do quite a bit for themselves really. No one wants to be doing that. It cannot be right. Therefore – scented baths everyday for Lent. Hurrah!
Not so fast Kimosabe. I have watched a couple of Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP programmes on Netflix. GOOP is Paltrow’s “Wellness” company and the programmes follow her as she and her staff have a go at various things that will support them in their quest for wellness. Some of the things are borderline normal – fasting etc. Some are not – vampire facials and vaginal eggs anyone? (I think she had to pay a hefty fine for spurious claims about the last one). She is very appealing, nor least because she is so fantastically beautiful. I did, however, hear a little negative bell ringing when she described what the thinking was behind her GOOP brand. It goes along the lines “The whole point of life is the optimisation of self”. No, I suppose it depends what she means by optimisation but I suspect it’s a bit like that George Benson song:
“Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” (To which Terry Wogan memorably replied after playing it – “It isn’t.”)
And so, if a manicure a day is what you think you need for Lent because it is what you feel you need to restore some balance in your life at the moment, then I ain’t going to stand in your way. So long as you remember that it’s the restoration of your inner life that is the thing. Not nice nails. I know next to nothing about Lent. I am enjoying learning though. I think I am right though that it is a serious rebalancing event, where we clear things out to make room for better things, where we slow down to re-find ourselves and reconnect with God. So, I know giving up things is considered a bit old school and negative but sometimes, I think it’s like prune juice. Despite how much hard work it is initially. It’s for the best in the end.