Four things to talk about.

Can I talk about the football? I know that if you don’t like it, it will be a trial but bear with me. I will not bore you with the challenges of VAR or whether France really were all that. I wanted to just talk briefly about Gareth Southgate.  I don’t know about you but I have watched a man model a different kind of leadership. It has been born out of humility and empathy. His players were encouraged to be respectful – both of their opponents and each other. It seemed that this was part of his upbringing where hard work and respect went hand in hand. Even the fabled waistcoat was inherited from his grandfather who would always wear one to a formal occasion because that’s what decent people did. I was very proud of our reputation in the World Cup – we played ok – a bit too much reliance on dead ball moments for my personal taste but more than that, we were fun, diverse and forward looking. Oh and this photo of Gareth and his Mrs after it was all done is my favourite of the whole World Cup (including all the ones of Marcus Rashford and that is saying something)Brexit. I don’t do politics because I am trying to avoid stuff that makes me think that there is no hope – at all – ever. But, I have to say that is is all very worrying. I’m not really a fan of the European Union – there’s a democracy gap and the idea of ever closer union is not what you would call thrilling but it is the jobs I fear for. At this very moment, companies are making plans to withdraw from this country if it doesn’t go well. This is not a drill, investment has been frozen in car manufacturers and financial services are making plans etc. If we don’t do this properly, I think many, many jobs will be lost. And I can’t escape the sneaking suspicion that there are those in power, with huge personal wealth, immune to any financial crash, who feel that this risk is worth taking in order to regain “Sovereignty” My old mother always used to say that only God was sovereign, I think he’s the only one can be trusted with it. The rest of us should be concentrating on kindness and other assorted tasks.

Speaking of Aged Parent, she has managed to get run over. Well, I say “run over” no-one can work out exactly what happened. I had a phone call from paramedic who assured me that she was ok – just a nudge with a car – she has a broken wrist. There was then a sort of scuffling sound in the ambulance which, I assume, was Aged Parent wrestling the phone away and she informed me that “It wasn’t a nudge. I have been properly run over and am very, very injured.” Anyway, we spent a happy evening in A and E in which the broken wrist was established. She was fairly well behaved, except when she informed a startled nurse that she had “banged her cock pretty badly” (coccyx Mum!). She is now in a residential home for a few weeks. These people seem far better at dealing with her than I am. I rang to see if she had settled and the carer seemed puzzled. “Er yes. She seems fine. We haven’t heard she isn’t.  Believe me, we soon know if there is a problem.” I have to admit, I had a bit of a quiet teary moment in the hospital when it all got a bit too much. A very kind consultant noticed me and came up and reassured me that Aged Parent would be fine. Felt too ashamed to say that I was crying for me as I am sick of hospitals and have just started a much needed week off work which was now going to be packed with medical stuff etc. Am selfish but just couldn’t help it. Just a word here about my lovely Head of House. He has been my taxi, my asker at Reception, my glasses finder and all round good egg. Would just like to make my thankful heart public here.

The best thing. We all went to Exeter University to see FOW2 graduate with a First in Film Studies. (See Happy Family above) For those who think that Film Studies is just watching a lot of movies – I have to tell you I can’t make any sense of her essays. To give you an idea of what they are aiming for, a chap was awarded a PHD in Film when we were there. The title was “Trauma, Modernity and Hauntings: The Legacy of Japanese Colonialism in Contemporary South Korean Cinema.” So there you are then. It was a lovely day. Even though we had to clap at least 785 people before our girl got her turn. At least this year I remembered not to eat the canapes after the unfortunate incident at FOW1’s graduation where, trying to be witty and urbane with academics, I continued to eat several of the things, even while noting that they were quite warm and smelt a bit off. You can guess the rest.

It’s been quite the fortnight. Am sharing now because this sea is a bit more becalmed but it has been a bit bumpy here. You may recall that I spoke of someone I am awfully fond of who had found a horrible lump and had to go and get it identified. While we were waiting for all that to be sorted, I had to go for my three yearly mammogram. Now those who know me know that I have been quite unsuccessful at mammograms in the past but that was a long time ago, and, although I am not exactly blase about them, I didn’t give it much thought, what with everything else that was occurring.  I was more than a little taken aback then, to receive a recall notice to the breast care clinic. Well, when I say taken aback – let us say er… devastated and er…terrified.

Rather than keep you in suspense, I should tell you that all is well. I have some calcium deposits which they wouldn’t normally do much about but with my history, it meant a biopsy just to make sure nothing nasty was lying underneath, which it was not. Hurrah!

I was just quite surprised at myself really. It was like stepping back in time. Everything was vivid and real and all memories were bang up to date. Things that had drifted away with the passage of time (like how much a biopsy hurts!!!) came galloping back into focus. In case you think that this is just me being a bit odd, HOH was exactly the same. So it has been a bit of a tough June, however, I would like to think that things are getting back on track a little now and I think you for your forbearance as the blogs have been – well a bit rubbish really.  Can I tell you that I was an ocean of peace and trust and calm during the past few weeks? Well I could tell you that but it would be a lie. However, I can tell you that faith and promises were re-visited and re-examined and that I learnt a lot about myself. I was very taken by a Tweet by Beth Moore

Either worry yourself sick

Or trust your God well.

That’s what it’s going to come down to.

It’s about the truest thing I have read in the past weeks and I was thinking of having it tattooed on my arm but it’s a bit long and therefore probably quite painful. If I could cross-stitch I would probably give that more consideration.

In other news, we continue to be Church of England folks. This week was Sea Sunday. A couple of weeks ago, Head Vicar asked us how people with such a Pentecostal background were faring in his church. (Very well actually, as HOH pointed out, we were often called the least Pentecostal of Pentecostals in what our friends said was a loving observation) This was a Sunday that was outside my previous Christian existence in so may ways. There was a parade with the Mayor and uniformed types and flags. I mean Navy type flags – not ladies of a certain age running to the front waving silk scarves and frightening the living daylights out of me. We sang “For Those in Peril on the Sea” which is, quite frankly, awesome. And, wait for it, we sang THE NATIONAL ANTHEM! I felt like Harry Kane in a sundress. The shine was only slightly taken off what was a very moving morning (including a really good sermon on the conversion of John Newton (see entirely accurate painting above) – writer of Amazing Grace but  life-long slaver until his early sixties) by what sounded like a salty sea dog type sharing his problems with constipation with his friend and all of us within a ten pew radius. “BETWEEN YOU, ME AND THE GATEPOST, THE MEDICATION IS PLAYING HAVOC WITH MY BOWELS” Yep mate, just how far away is that gatepost? The younger me may have been a bit sniffy about this kind of meeting. The current me thought the meeting was quite lovely and God was all over it like a rash.

And finally…

Me (To Aged Parent)       Have found DVD of Jesus of Nazareth in Charity shop. Do you want it?

Aged Parent                       Oooh, yes please. They are difficult to find.

Me                                        Right, will bring it on Saturday.

Aged Parent                       Where is it?

Me                                        On my desk at work

Aged Parent                       What if someone, beaks into your work and takes it?

Me                                        What are the chances Mum, of someone breaking in, leaving the till and the computer and                                                      taking a second hand copy of Jesus of Nazareth?

AP (Unconvinced)             Well, if you are sure. It’s Robert Powell you know.

Me                                         Of course, I’m sure.

(Puts phone down. Considers. Slips DVD into lockable draw, until Saturday – just in case.)

 

Ponder the rock from which you were cut,
    the quarry from which you were dug.

This is from Isaiah 51. For those of a more poetic bent, it’s also rendered as “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn,” in the King James.

I thought of finding a photo of Michelangelo’s David sculpture before completion or a half finished Barbara Hepworth to illustrate what I had been thinking about. Instead, because it is more in keeping with the way my mind works, I am giving you a photo of Han Solo encased in carbonite – which is a real thing. (It’s not a real thing.)

In my ignorance I had always thought that “the rock” spoken of here would be Jesus – because of his well known rock-like qualities etc but if you read the verse following, it isn’t that at all

Yes, ponder Abraham, your father,
    and Sarah, who bore you.
Think of it! One solitary man when I called him,
    but once I blessed him, he multiplied.

For the children of Israel, they were being reminded of their heritage – their lineage. The things that had happened that had moulded them. The people in their past who had laid the foundations of faith for them.

Now for some people, the example of their parents would not be the most thrilling thing they could think of. I don’t think that’s just what it means. (Although you have to notice that even the strangest people can be held up by God as decent examples. Abraham was such a coward that he told the admittedly terrifying person who was taking a shine to his wife Sarah, that she was actually his sister. He was, therefore, risking pimping his wife out to avoid getting into trouble. Charmed, I’m sure) Yet God built a whole nation around him.

I also know that parents don’t have to be perfect to be a good part of the rock. My parents were first generation Christians who came to faith at different times after their marriage, and couldn’t stand the sight of each other. (Talk about my ways are not thy ways) Yet, despite what could, on it’s better days, be described as a tense family atmosphere, I am aware that their paths to faith introduced me to Christ, to Christian people and thinking and, when the marriage finally spectacularly imploded with more casualties than a scene from Dunkirk, there was an understanding that the children came as near to first as they could possibly manage at the time.

So I don’t think this is just parents. It’s the people you met, the mentors, the ministers, the friends. The big, strong base of faith that had surrounded and moulded us, watched over and prayed for us. Pointed at us and laughed when we got too poncy. Let me give you the idea…

Mrs Foster. Must have been about 120. Always sat with Mr Foster. Second row, second seat in. A hat was non-negotiable. Tiny little thing. Would tug quietly on my hand as I walked past. I was fourteen and still considering dealing with life by going completely bonkers. I was a complete mystery to her but she always told me she was praying for me. I knew she was.

Ruth and Karen. My best church friends. We had nothing in common at all. Nothing. I was always in trouble for eye-liner, use of curling tongs and too short skirts. (“Well, I think that one is a little more like it don’t you dear? At least that hem has a passing relationship with your knees” Ha ha ha) They had little interest in appearance – too little I thought. But Ruth came from a solid Christian background, took me under her wing and explained how “church” worked. Karen was the most sensible person I had ever met – she taught me about being steady and stable and that not everything needed to be responded to by running into a toilet cubicle and slamming the door behind me. She married at 16 and I have never been so certain that a marriage was going to work. (I was right) Ruth married a beautiful Muslim man, had four children (all boys – made her very popular with the in-laws) and lived out a different version of her faith than expected.

Mrs Danks. Ran the Sunday School. Asked me to teach. Couldn’t understand why. I had no idea about children and only slightly more of an idea about who Jesus was. She stuck by me when my visual aid for turning water into wine was just too good and parents complained that their children were coming home saying they had seen an actual real miracle. (Cochineal hidden at the bottom of a water bottle in case you were wondering) I loved it though. Studied to get it right. Learnt so much about the Bible.

These are the people I am carved from. These are some of the first, but as time has gone on,  there were countless others. They have helped influence me, carry me, make little chapter tabs for my Bible and all the other stuff that people do to chip away and reveal the character that is me – or ideally the better me that God wants me to become. So, if you get a chance, have a think. Have a grateful think. Unfortunately, I’m not in touch with any of these people. (Surely Mrs Foster will have been transported now) If you are – you could say thanks. Or think about doing a bit  yourself. Being someone that is the support/rock that people are carved from.

We have watched a bit of telly this week. Well, I love the football and the fact that it is on 24-7 is a fine state of affairs as far as I am concerned and I wouldn’t mind this being a permanent state of affairs. I am aware that I could well be in a minority of 1 here. So there has been some negotiation going on at Martha Towers, allowing other people in the house to watch programmes in between the three matches a day that are being covered at the moment. Look – it’s only on for a month and then it’s another four years! I don’t think I am asking much. (We may talk at a later date about the casual sexism of my new hairdresser who could not quite over the fact that I knew a bit about football. “Well, I am shocked! Really shocked).

I have watched a couple of things that the young people are watching as an olive branch to the rest of the family and I have been really challenged. The first programme is on Netflix – Queer Eye. The idea is that five gay chaps are invited to help someone change their life around. They look at clothes, their home. personal grooming, diet etc bringing impeccable taste and sound advice. At the end we see the new person and cry like babies. So far, so formulaic. But, no stay with me here, the people they choose are people who have really lost their way. They are people who have stopped trying. Life and its circumstances have worn them down. There was the man who lived with his girlfriend, in her ex’s trailer who couldn’t believe that she would love him and expected her to leave. Or the young man who was adopted at birth by a lady who had loved him and cared for him. Now she was concerned that, as he was about to leave for college, he had no life skills with people his own age and would struggle to fit in because of his lack of knowledge about modern life. The chaps mainly come in and choose clothes and dole out sound advice and a decent haircut but it is all done so gently and lovingly – with no judgement – only kindness. It makes you cry. (Well it makes me cry) I am aware of the elephant in the room here when we are talking about gay people and Christianity and I am not making any claims about anything. However, this is life affirming stuff. Sorry but it is. (Not sorry)

Also Curvy Brides Boutique. This is basically big girls trying on wedding dresses. Well, very big girls. Now I am not saying that being big is a satisfactory state, it’s unhealthy and a lot of the girls who come in quite obviously have lots of issues. However, they have also been to wedding dress shops where they have been treated really badly – asked to leave in some cases or spent a fruitless day trying to squeeze into dresses that are obviously too small and left with their last bit of self esteem trampled into the changing room carpet. That all changes when they visit this boutique. Ali and Jo don’t judge – they just put them in dresses that fit. They wipe their eyes when they are overwhelmed because someone has treated them with dignity. They leave feeling like people rather than freaks.

You might look at this and think that is a very Christian way to be and I can see a lot of Jesus in this behaviour but none of these people have any kind of Christian beliefs as far as I can tell. (One of the Queer Eye chaps was brought up in a Christian home but he was shunned by the whole community when he came out as gay aged 15) And it’s a challenge is it not? I don’t have the monopoly on graceful thought and behaviour. Indeed some sections of society feel that Christianity may have abdicated its right to be seem as the graceful, good influence on the world – shot full of integrity and humility. The avowedly Christian current American Administration and its charming way with refugees, our own dear Christian  Prime Minister who seems a decent sort but was apparently responsible for the “hostile environment” which resulted in the deportation and detention of the Windrush people and, if you want to see one to one examples of how Christians can sometimes behave to those they disagree with – have a look at Vicky Beeching’s Twitter feed. You may not agree with with a single word she says – I am not sure that entitles you to send her direct messages telling her how long she will burn (along with appropriate scripture) I know that this isn’t entirely true. I personally know of Christians who are doing all the good stuff. Still, it makes me think.

I am not just called to own the name of Christian, I am called to live it. Live out grace, justice, forgiveness, winsomeness (I love that word). It’s a challenge – sort of makes me want to pull my pants up and reclaim my name.

 

If anyone is still there. I am here. I can only apologise. My absence is down to a combination of things. There was a short holiday initially which was followed by a period of work which left little time for anything else. There then followed something that I cannot really go into detail about because it is not my story to share. Maybe just to say that it involved a horrible lump (not in me) which needed examining and diagnosing which takes a few weeks. We are all a product of our history and mine meant that no amount of reassurance that GPs were 90% certain that this was fine and despite being pretty certain that all was well myself, I mentally lost it a bit. Anyway, all is well. I would quite understand if you weren’t interested and felt you needed to move on. That is fine with me. …

If you are still here – how nice are you? Not much else to catch up on really. We had an anniversary jaunt to London, as we do. We went to the National Gallery, watched Brief Encounter on the stage, spent too much money on Oxford Street and got a bit caught up in an EDL rally in Trafalgar Square. Well, I say caught up, we didn’t notice things were getting nasty when we first walked past. All we saw was a lot of men with really wide necks , waving England flags and their fists whilst explaining that they would very much like “Tommy Out” (of jail apparently). We then wandered into the theatre and had a really nice time. It was all nice and quiet when we came out but apparently there had been running battles up and down the streets for an hour. London eh?

We have been to the pictures quite a bit. We saw Solo – which suffers a lot from NOT having the real Han Solo in it. And before Disney spent all that money on it – any woman could have told them that. I didn’t go to see the Jurassic Park but I am reliably informed that there is nowhere near enough Jeff Goldblume in it. We also saw a documentary about the clothes designer Alexander McQueen. That is two hours I will never get back. Mr McQueen was a fashion designer who apparently was a genius. He was also horrible to his family, his friends, his business partners and everyone he took against. It was all quite dispiriting.

Speaking of dispiriting. I am not American but, when America takes children from their parents arms on the Mexican border, when they tell them that they are taking their children for a bath and then don’t bring them back, when they pin numbers on the children – all of which is ringing horrible bells in our heads – and we have to deal with people saying that this is Biblical. Because it is the law of the land and to obey the law of the land is a Biblical thing. According to Jeff Sessions. It is SHOCKING is it not? First of all – Biblical? Really? One of my aged parents once told me that the only time Jesus delivered a specific threat it was to those who threatened children.

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18

Now I always thought this was a bit of a stretch. Jesus was talking about new followers who had become like children. Yet, this was delivered while a child was sitting on his knee and it’s very un-Jesus type language. So you pays your money and you takes your choice really. It’s not something I would particularly like to test God on to be honest so I hope Mr Sessions has got his facts right.

It’s nice to be back. Be honest – you’ve missed the ranting haven’t you.