An Attentive God

You may or may not know (or care) that I walk to work most mornings. I try, where possible to make this into a spiritual time. Actually I walk Fruit of Womb Two to the bus stop with the dogs first but  the combination of school chat, mad Jacks, stinky poo bags and the old man I talk to in the park make any kind of spiritual activity there impossible.
So later, when I walk to work, the idea is that I use the time alone to connect with God. That’s the idea. Sometimes I listen to books etc.on the old MP3 thingy. Sometimes I try to pray. If I could have written the word “try” in the previous sentence in big shiny pink glittery letters, I would have done. Because “try” is indeed the operative word. I thought I might share this prayer time with you. The normal font is how my thoughts and prayers are supposed to go. The italics are where they often really go. All names have been changed or left out or both.

Leaving House
Lord, as another day starts, I just want to commit it to you and all that is about to happen in this day that you have given us.
Did I actually lock the door? Ooh look – number 5 are having their windows done.
Lord, first of all I want to thank you for all that you have done for me. That I am still here and for the life that you have given me with all its challenges and joys.
Bit heavier on the challenges than the joys if I am totally honest at the moment. 
For my family as we go our separate ways today. For HOH at work and FOW 2 at school and for FOW1 as he..
Rats. Don’t think I told FOW1 to put the washing out and he’ll never think to do it. Students. Pah!


Walking down Road to Park
Father, I just want to commit………. to you. Help her as she makes decisions about her future with all the things she has to consider. Give her wisdom and peace and a balance in her life.
Speaking of balance, watch it here. Last time you weren’t paying attention here, you caught your foot and went flying. There was blood and tears and scar tissue. Wonder if people see me every morning and think. “There’s that woman that fell over.”
Lord and for………………Haven’t seen him in ages. Keep watch over him.
Wonder what “Shellac” is? Says it there in hairdressers.


Entering Park
Father and for family far away.  Aunty……. and …….. as they go on their cruise.
Lucky so and sos
And for our church and the work that is going on all the time in the local community. Bless those who work so hard and show me ways to support them.
Squirrel! 


Crossing road after leaving park
Father help me to commit all aspects of my life to you and not to try and carry them myself. Help me to be kind and thoughtful.
“Same to you stupid driver. I was too looking!”


Approaching work
So Lord today, help me to appreciate this world that you have put me in. Lord it is too wide and deep for me to comprehend but let me be aware of your hand in all things and give me wisdom to deal with all things today.
“Oh no. Think the rough sleepers have pooed in the car park again.”


As you have probably guessed, I have not shared this with you so that you can be impressed by the profound depth of my prayer life. To be fair to me (and I am always fair to me) this is not all that my prayer life consists of,  but I share it to reiterate that God, for reasons that totally escape me, in interested in all aspects of our lives. Even though he is more than aware of how many times I fail. He is listening. He is paying attention. He is able to help me do this better.But for now he is working with the crumbs that I sometimes give him. It really is amazing don’t you think?


It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will.
John 9 The Message




Oh it’s a jolly ‘oliday with Martha

I have had a week off. Well ten days really if you include the Easter break. It has been lovely. Of course the weather broke down the day before I finished but that was fine – I expected that. Good weather had not been in my plans. For I have been PRODUCTIVE. (For at least some of the time.) Now productive is as productive does as people almost never say and one person’s productive is another person’s lazing around doing nothing. However, in the interests of scientific research, I shall list the highlights of my week and leave you to make up your own minds as to whether it was productive or not..
1. I have cleaned the rugs. This involved dragging an industrial cleaner, the size of a small trailer home from Morrisons to use for a day. The instructions were about the same level of complication as those needed to launch a missile but I bravely fought my way through. You should have seen the colour of the water! I’m surprised Health and Safety haven’t been round to close us down. I blame the dogs. Anyway – you could eat off these rugs now – if you wanted to.
2. I have cleaned out the pantry. Well I say pantry. Nigella has nothing to fear. It’s a cupboard under the stairs. All the redcurrant jelly and other Christmas detritus has bitten the dust. (Actually not as much this year as I was quite organised. Most of the waste came from relatives giving me stuff we wouldn’t use. Biscuits for Cheese anyone?) I hate uncooked cheese (it’s like yoghurt – its milk that’s gone off) There is a limit to how much crunching up of biscuits to use as breadcrumbs I can do so the box has gone. Sorry all frugalistas.
I have put all my tins in order. So I know what I have and don’t get caught buying another four pack of tuna. Look – it never goes off!
3. I have cleaned out my wardrobes. (Do you see a pattern emerging? You may well be asking – how filthy is this place – it needs a lot of cleaning) But my wardrobe wasn’t dirty. Just full of stuff. I have removed all unwanted stuff about five yards to my “Car Boot Pile”. Head of House is threatening mutiny unless I get rid within the next week. Pah!
4. I have sorted all bills etc. into new filing cabinet. Thus reducing need to go crawling under the bed to retrieve cardboard box full of bills when trying to check how much money South West Water are fleecing us for this year. On a side note. You may not realise that water bills are astronomical here in the South West of England. This, apparently, is because we have such lovely coastline here and we need to pay huge sums of money to keep it like that. Think of that next time you visit Devon and Cornwall. You won’t see me. I’m too busy working to pay the water bill to get to the beach.
5. I have finished a chapter of what I laughingly call “My Book”
6. I have been to see “The King and I” with a chum. I think we brought the average age of the audience down by about 20 years but the songs are so lovely. As I have said before – a little confused by the King of Siam appearing to father so many blond children with Devon accents, however, this did not detract from a good night out.
7. I have gained a very high skill level on Solitaire Blitz. This has come through lots of practice. Unfortunately, the practice was done when I was supposed to be working on point 5.
8. Have taken offspring on tour of house to introduce new tidiness regime. When you were little, did you ever shout into a bucket and hear your voice echoing back to you from the empty void? It was a bit like that.
9. Have tried to watch DVD of “Tinker Tailor” with commentary. Unfortunately my grasp of the remote control is not what it was and only succeeded in putting the subtitles on. Had to settle for watching back to back Horrible Histories instead. Complete genius. Am working on learning lyrics to theme song.
10. Have had top notch evening with cinema, chippy tea (chips and gravy for me) and white wine. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Anyway, back to work Monday, if I can fit it in. Have a great week.

Easter (With Spoilers)

So sorry this is late. Easter weekend you know. Eggs to buy (How much? You are joking?) Rocky Road to make. Tablecloths to find and try and get clean. Lamb to roast. You get the idea. This year has been a bit different. For several mixed up reasons I have spent my first Easter Sunday for many a year not making it to church. (Please don’t send the Christian Police round. The reasons are legit, if a bit annoying)
I’m not usually too bothered about missing Sundays. Having worked in a church and therefore having to serve people who felt that if the door was open, I should be there, I find the odd missed Sunday is a blessing. Didn’t like not being there on Easter Sunday though.
So took the dogs and went down the park. It was quiet believe it or not and quite warm. Just tried to think what it must have been like that first morning – when everything was starting again. That morning when all there was to see was an empty grave and a set of clean crisp grave clothes. On a day to day basis we (well by “we” I usually mean me) get so caught up in living on a day to day basis, but it repays us well to muse on the miraculous. It takes a leap to think about about a dead man coming to life. I think it helps if you believe that he is the Son of God. Makes that leap a bit easier.
On Good Friday I saw a tweet saying  “RIP Jesus Christ” is trending (Shush) Nobody spoiler bomb this for these people. I think it was meant to be heavy with irony but we haven’t had irony in the South West since 1962 so I liked it. Because he wasn’t resting in peace – he was on his way back. To stand in the gap. So we had a man speaking for us in the heavenlies. You know, no-one ever did something like that for me before. Either Jesus is amazing or I am quite something myself. Or both. Maybe.
While we are musing on death as you do I found this. Food for thought here. If the gift of life has been given to us. How do we use it? Maybe we ask could ask someone for whom the gift is ending.
Lastly, am writing this while Head of House is in front room listening to Gladys Knight on telly singing “Every Beat of My Heart” first recorded in 1961. Disturbingly he is loudly informing Fruit of Womb Two that you could – direct quote – “build a piggin’ church round this”. This is not theologically sound doctrine obvs but despite that am sure he loves God, God loves him and he makes me very happy, therefore we shall let him off, this time.

In My Honest Opinion

It’s been really sunny just about everywhere in this Britain we like to call Great. Possibly time to get the legs out or possibly not. Anyone who knows me at all – and I mean has come across me in the flesh in a real bodily way rather than on the Interweb, will know that my legs are not my favourite feature. I mean they hold me up and help me to walk the dogs and everything so they are quite serviceable but, shapely they are not.
In the early days of our relationship when Head of House was still trying to impress me, he would barely make mention of these legs. That is unless they had my favourite blue moccasins on the end of them. He inexplicably took against these blue moccasins and refused to go out with me when I had them on. He claimed that it was for my own good and that I would thank him one day. I still miss those moccasins.
To return to my legs. These days I find that when HOH is accompanying me when shopping for clothes, I am more in need of an honest opinion, preferably kindly expressed about how my legs look in things, rather than flattery. Obviously, I can live without. “No! Just No! Take them off now!” but still honesty is the best policy. We’ve been together long enough and seen enough things happen to be well past the stage where I would be happy with him saying “It looks lovely” just because (a) he didn’t want to hurt my feelings or (b) he’s bored and would like to go home (more likely). We are comfortable enough with each other to be past that sort of thing. Although I do still hold to my old mother’s maxim of keeping some mystery in the bathroom if you get my drift. Some things should always be done alone.
I was thinking about this when I was thinking about one of my favourite promises for me from God. It’s in Isaiah and my favourite version is in The Message

I’m transforming you from worm to harrow
From Insect to Iron
As a sharp toothed harrow, you’ll smooth out the mountains
turn those tough old hills into loamy soil

Now, at first glace this doesn’t look much like a nice thing to say to a lady. I will turn you into a sharp toothed harrow. (For those of you who don’t subscribe to Farming Monthly – a harrow is a sort of agricultural implement with teeth or discs that cut through the soil. See. Learnt something. You’re welcome.)
It’s a bit like when Patrick Swayze used to sing “She’s Like the Wind” in Dirty Dancing. I haven’t seen the film myself so I suppose I can’t comment but it always sounded a bit off to me.
The thing is though for me, this was a great promise. I do have a bit of a tendency to the wishy-washy. Leave me alone to tidy a room and if you come back an hour later, chances are I will have got sidetracked by a bag of old letters or a book and have achieved nothing. I’m often well meaning but seldom accomplish all that I mean well to do. I have lots that I want to accomplish but struggle often with a sort of inbuilt worminess. When I first read this it was as if God was honest enough to agree that I was a bit wet but that he would help me overcome it. I was thrilled skinny. Still am when I read it. Because I do see that I have come on a bit in this area. Although I depend on God to comfort me, I also need a God of truth. We don’t have to be afraid of God’s honesty because unlike remarks about my moccasins it’s always for my good in the long run or even, if I catch on quickly enough, in the short run.
I am aware that I have a responsibility in this too. If God is to transform me I do have a responsibility to pitch in a bit too. I thought about this when re-playing this comedy sketch from genius Bob Newhart. (Seen him live. I know you are jealous – well you should be.) I mean if you are talking about honesty, well this is as good as it gets.

Americana

Unlike some people on this sceptred isle, I bow to no one in my admiration for the USA. I think it is a great country. I know I’ve only been to New York which is sort of a country on its own really but I think that any place that produces Star Wars – originals only  *compulsory disclaimer on all mentions of the words “Star” and “Wars”*, Frank Sinatra, The West Wing, Phillip Yancey, Woody Allen, Motown etc etc must be your actual rather wonderful place.
I know some people take exception to America’s habit of occasionally shouting at everyone “Who rules da world?” just to put us in our place but to be fair – they probably do. I think we as Brits probably did the same thing when we had an Empire but our shouting would be a bit more refined and done with our pinkie finger in the air.
I also accept that there are places in America where the sixties never happened and that in these places the fact that America has a black president is just a temporary moment of madness that will soon pass. It sometimes seems strange to me as a foreigner that the President’s way of dealing with this seems to be to pretend that he isn’t black at all until I remember that when we were all sort of revolutionary over here and elected our own lady/woman leaderene, she was practically a man in everything but the lippy and the handbag. I suppose the idea is that it doesn’t matter what colour/sex you are.
Anyway I am digressing again. Why don’t you shout and tell me? Despite all this general American wonderfulness there is one thing I can never forgive them for. The Prom. To be precise the prom for sixteen year olds. When I was sixteen, at the end of the school year we had a school disco. We wore platform shoes and love beads. The super glams wore blue glittery eyeshadow. It was super exciting because make up and jewellery were not allowed at school. (Officially. Unofficially people wore jewellery until they got caught, when it was instantly confiscated, never to return. My theory was that Mrs Briddon had a stall on Farnworth Market with the stuff she nicked from me)
Now sixteen year old people cannot just settle for a disco. Oh no. we have to deal with THE PROM. This is the first time I have had to cope with this. Fruit of Womb One sulked his way through his first one (Boring) and didn’t bother turning up for the second one skulking off to Pizza Hut instead. I knew it would be different with the girl.
Now I have to admit that I am getting off lightly. Girl is spending day of Prom at friend’s house and they will be getting hair, nails etc done there by visiting beauty moppets. Some parents are running all over town making beauty appointments like its for Oscar Night and it’s not that bad for me but there is still terrible pressure to get the right dress, shoes etc. Who decided that this was acceptable? Who is the demon master of marketing that managed to foist this on us? Evil Genius you are.
Have you seen some of the prices of the dresses? Now I’m not mean (well OK I am quite mean) but £600 to buy a dress to stand in some crummy hotel with a load of grumpy teachers and hysterical school kids, all of whom will be the worse for drink despite  threats about enforced sobriety. Pah and double pah! By the way, before you start emailing me with photos of starving African children and lecturing me on being loosey goosey with good money, let me reassure you that we will not be spending £600 on a prom frock in this house.
It is so difficult though. Some Christians who live in the woods and eat berries and see the glory of God in nature every day etc will tell me to get real and make a dress from curtains like the Sound of Music. But I can’t. I simply can’t. I don’t have time for one thing and for another, anyone who saw my attempt at putting a zip into a cushion cover knows that no sane person would ever wear anything I made.
I could make her wear something from the hospice shop and indeed I expect some people will do this successfully. But I think you have to have a certain elan to pull that off. I don’t posses enough style and I’m not convinced that everyone else who thinks that they have that style actually has it either. I remember dropping Girl off at a party where her friend was wearing a “vintage” frock. The last person I saw wearing a dress like that was Olive in On The Buses. And Olive looked better in it.
Do I want her to think God is a spoilsport? Does God not want her to look pretty? God made her pretty – of course he does. It is I suppose, all about the daily challenge of a balanced, godly life in a world where values have sometimes gone to pot as they say up north. My challenge is to allow, nay encourage her to have a good time while reminding her of the ridiculousness of the whole thing and that spending every last penny on looking like you are permanently auditioning for a soap isn’t really something to build a whole life on. I believe our American cousins call it “Keeping it Real”. Indeed.