Quiet Courage

Hello all. Full details of photo above later on. I have finished great book this week. “Operation Mincemeat” by Ben Macintyre. To paraphrase the great Claudia Winkleman. Read it, then call me – you’ll love it. It’s all about the famous wartime operation to fool Hitler into thinking that the Allies Invasion was bigger than it was and that it was not going to be in Sicily. To do this , they took a dead body of an itinerant miner and dressed him up as an important military bod and dropped his body full of “Top Secret Information” (All of which was lies) near the Spanish coast where the Germans would find it and be fooled by it. Read it. It’s much better than that synopsis.
The thing was, that a lot of the plan was quite hopeless really and if anyone in Germany had bothered to take a long hard look at the body or that papers, it was unlikely that they would have been fooled. The fact that they were fooled was down to a few reasons – hubris was one and fear of Hitler was another but one of the main reasons that this false intelligence got through was  Baron Alexis Von Roenne.
He was a hero of WW1, a holder of the Iron Cross, the Head of the German Intelligence Service. He was also a Christian. What was was not known about him was that he was appalled by the racial policies of the Nazis and although he saw himself as a loyal German, he secretly began to work against Hitler. Quietly and without fanfare he skewed the figures of the Allied Forces so that the Germans had the wrong ideas about how many troops were on the way. McIntyre says that “From 1943 onwards he deliberately and consistently inflated the Allied order of battle, overstating the strength of the British and American armies in a successful effort to mislead Hitler and his generals. It was his recommendation that saw the papers on the Allies’ decoy body fool Hitler’s Generals. He was eventually arrested as a conspirator in the plot against Hitler’s life – which he was probably almost certainly not involved in – and hanged on a meat hook and left slowly to die.
I was struck by his day to day courage. Quietly and seen by no one he took small decisions day by day because they were right. No big showy fanfares. No tambourines, no conferences with glossy pamphlets to learn from him about how to be courageous. Just doing it. He certainly wasn’t an angel. He was a snob, who as much as anything felt that Hitler was ruining the aristocracy and the inheritance that was his. This makes his courage even more admirable to me. Not waiting until he was perfect to start doing the right thing. Just starting quietly, alone, with only God to see him and trusting that it was the right thing. 
The night before his execution he wrote to his wife
“In a moment now, I shall be going home to our Lord, in complete calm and in the certainty of salvation.” Amazing. Ever think you are playing at it? Only me then.
Had a bit of a knock back with the blog this week. Someone sort of made it plain that they thought that my writing wasn’t quite, well Christian enough, to be a Christian blog. They weren’t trying to be unpleasant at all – just their opinion. But it did rock me back a bit. I read lots of blogs and there are a lot more saintly and …well orthodox blogs out there and I am aware that I don’t always hit the Christian PC button. It bothered me enough to think about packing in. Because I know I can’t change. This is not to say that I am not a work in progress but I am what I am as they say. Witness the photo at the top. Remember last Valentines Day when I compared photos of our bedside cabinets? I was so appalled at the state of mine, that I vowed to change my ways. The photo above is exhibit 1 to prove that I haven’t changed a bit. Got worse if anything. 
So I’m sort of soldiering on. Hoping I don’t offend anyone. Am actually hoping to encourage and amuse you. It’s unlikely to get very much holier though. Sorry.
Finally, Witney Houston is dead. So very sad. Witney of the lovely voice. Saw her live once. She spent as much time changing her frocks as on stage but you forgave her everything when she sang. Heard her sing with the Winans and remember thinking this is what heaven will sound like.

Always There

You might find this hard to believe but I usually have a plan when I sit down to write this. Something has usually occurred in my hum drum existence, which I make a note of so that it doesn’t flit out of my full-up brain. Then, over the weekend I sit down and produce this masterpiece.
Thing is, this week, I open laptop. Wait 20 minutes for it to warm up. (Old laptop – I’m used to it. I usually read a magazine until it summons enough strength to connect to the Internet.) Then I open the notebook and…nothing. There is nothing to report. A big fat zero written there.
Arrrrgh. My life is empty. I have nothing to report. I am a spent force. You may as well go back to your homes – there is nothing to see here…. except.
I have been really busy this week. I spect you have been the same. Nearly all of it has been legitimate. Work has been a bit overwhelming.. I actually did a bit of it out of work time which is usually against my religion but needs must.
I have been to the pictures twice this week which may seem a bit Wallis Simpson of me but once was with Fruit of Womb and could come under banner of connecting with my child (See – I am a “Good Mother”) Second time was with Head of House and can therefore be justified under category of “Keeping Romance Alive in Marriage.” (that would have been more successful if he hadn’t refused to buy me some Revels.)
I have also been writing outside of the blog – thinking about producing something a bit more permanent. Calling it a book might be a bit over the top I feel at this point but I have been putting some time in on it. Also one night devoted to open fire, chocolate ice-cream and “Singing in the Rain” DVD. (This comes tagged under “Family Time” or “Counting your Blessings when its so cold outside” or less edifyingly “Pigging Out.”)
Then there are the things that technically don’t take time but they make you go “erm” and they take your attention.

  • Picture of Fruit of Womb One in York in snow wearing Muse T shirt and no coat! Facebook is a blessing and a curse I think. 
  • Leaving mobile under seat in cinema. Having to retrieve it from young incredulous cinema person who was unimpressed with my description of it as “A Black Blackberry.”
  • No Sunday Times because it’s snowing in London and that obviously means all civilisation elsewhere has to stop. Its been quite sunny here actually. Sorry.

All this together with dog walking (now have to go long way home after unfortunate incident with paper boy. No idea what he had done to make Lucy take against him), cooking, long phone calls, catching up on Borgen has meant that the week has just gone. Just blinked and that was it.
The really great thing to say about this week is that despite it going past in a blur, I am still as loved and secure in God as I was when the week started. Because, I ain’t earning it. It’s Grace. Now I know as much as the next Christian worrier that it’s not an ideal situation. I know that a good relationship has to be worked at and also that I’m the one missing out if I don’t. But, when situations temporarily hinder us or life seems to be all scrunched up and happening at once, the Rock on which all my hopes are founded hasn’t moved an inch. The older I get and the more mistakes I make, the more grateful I am for the Unchanging Nature. It makes one side of my mouth curl up in a little bit of a grateful smile and that has to be a good thing.

More Christian Blog posts here..http://livingtopleasegod.blogspot.com/

Accepting your value

I need a book – a book about birdsong. (Number 7 on the list of sentences I thought I would never write) You see most mornings I walk Fruit of Womb 2 through to the bus stop with the hounds and then walk back through the park.  It’s been quite dark for the last couple of months. (Well pitch black actually. Found myself wondering how dumb I was walking through park at this time and if two Jack Russells would be enough to ward off your average serial killer) However as the mornings have been getting a bit lighter I have found myself captivated by early morning birdsong. (Number 8 on above list. This is definitely old age) I don’t know anything about birds but I can hear how different they all sound.  The only one I recognise really is the robin which is very feisty and sings so loudly at us I keep expecting it to explode like the bird from Shreck. Other than that there are lots of shapes and sizes and various noises which I am struggling to match up to the birdies themselves. I would love to know about them. I’m not really a bird person as you can probably see.
I saw something once that said that most people’s favourite bird was a penguin. Well obviously.

New life’s ambition – to tickle a baby penguin. So penguins are top bird but they are not the only bird. Imagine if there were no other birds but penguins. How big would your bird table have to be? And your garden would smell of fish because that’s what you would have to hang out for them in the winter. And what if your Nana still wanted to keep a birdy in the living room? How bad tempered would her penguin be having been stuffed into that little cage? Of course, penguins don’t fly so if they still went south in the winter, would we have to charter special boats for them? Lets not even start on the problems they would have filling in for chickens.
Diversity is the key. The Biblical model of a body made up of many parts is a perfect picture of this. This works itself practically in two ways. Firstly, you are very valuable. No-one brings to this party what you do. You are a beautifully crafted, precious individual. Each one of us needs to get hold of that, accept it and lift your delicious Christian chin a little. Secondly, if only you can do what you can do and you are not doing it then it’s not being done. (keep up at the back) Are we doing the things only we can do in our churches, our families – just our lives really? If something isn’t working properly, is it because I’m not pulling my weight? We have to get hold of both sides of this. I am indeed a special individual but with that comes things that will not get done properly unless I get involved. Someone else might have a go at it but they may not be able to bring to the task what I could have brought and it also stops them doing what they are supposed to be doing. We all have an individual part to play. To quote an old Bolton proverb (sort of) “When the penguins are laying eggs in the chicken coop who will be starring in the David Attenborough documentaries?” And I think we can all relate to that.

Posts from Friday Blog link can be found here http://livingtopleasegod.blogspot.com/2012/01/nothing-can-separate-us-from-gods-love.html

Tiny Degrees of Recognition

I wanted to write about something as part of an occasional series I am doing. (Definition of “occasional” here is something I have never done before and possibly will never do again.) The series is entitled “Things that make me wish I was a rich and famous movie star.” Actually, it’s not me doing the wishing. It’s Head of House. This week he read an article about Martin Freeman – currently filming the Hobbit in New Zealand and how the director Peter Jackson had flown out two Northern Soul DJs to play for him in his lunch break just because Martin likes them.  HOH was v. impressed. (I’m not so impressed. Bit awkward standing there on your own watching two DJ’s do their stuff while you are trying to eat your egg sandwich. Maybe its just me.)
HOH, for it is he, has a history with Northern Soul. Indeed he loveth it. I personally am forever grateful that he is unlikely to ever be in a situation where he has to choose between me and owning a copy of the rare as hens’ teeth “Do I Love You? (Indeed I Do)” by Frank Wilson because I’m not totally sure I would come out as winner of that particular battle.
I have no Northern background but over the years we have been married I have been to a few of the reunions  and heard a lot of the music and I like a lot of it. (EXCEPT there seems to be a lot of women singing about her man who treats her badly and sleeps around and how this is all really fine cos “no one will love her like he do” when quite plainly her man is in need of a smack in the face with a traffic cone – not so keen on those songs)
Anyway, I was very impressed when listening to some obscure Motown track he remarked that it sounded like it had been recorded in Los Angeles rather than Detroit. So he didn’t know where it was recorded. It just sounded slightly different. (He was right, by the way) There you have the result of thirty years of listening to this music, attentively, appreciatively and often to the exclusion of all other types of music.
I was just thinking about how we would be if that was our relationship with God. So in touch and in tune. Sort of entwined in a dance of life and love. Then we would pick up on all the nuances of the way he felt about us. All the blessings and encouragements. All the teaching and the comfort. All the things we are supposed to be receiving daily and maybe half the time don’t even notice. It’s like any relationship or passion. It takes time, commitment and putting nurturing it before everything else to help it get a strong foothold in us. I suppose its up to us to make the decision about whether or not we think the end result is worth it and then act accordingly.

On a different note. Two prawns Montague and Christian live in the sea. Montague decided he didn’t want to be a prawn any longer and asked the Magic Shark to turn him into a starfish. The Magic Shark did as he asked and for a few months Montague lived happily as a starfish. However soon he began to tire of this life and he missed his friend, so he went back to the Magic Shark and asked to be changed back. The Magic Shark told him that this wasn’t in his power and instead he would have to visit the All Knowing Cod who could do the business. Montague visited the All Knowing Cod who happily changed him back to a prawn. But Christian did not believe that this could be done and would not meet his old friend. But, Montague persisted and ran after his friend shouting
“No! Come back! I met Cod and I’m a prawn again Christian!”
Sorry. (Thanks Russ)

Perspective

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

My problem (well one of them – don’t get me going) is that I sometimes seem to be thirty years behind everyone else. This week I discovered J I Packer’s “Knowing God”. I fear that one day when all the books are opened and all the scrolls are unrolled, when God is examining my life in the manner of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood examining a particularly unappealing Banana Loaf, He will look at me and say, “you did quite well – you were always just that little bit behind everyone else.” Anyway – enough of my Judgement Day  issues, I need to digress here. Do you know how much I paid for Mr Packer’s tome. Nothing! Not one of your English pounds. I downloaded it from a site Christianaudio It’s an excellent idea. I bang these books on the MP3 to listen to on the way to work and thus arrive marginally less grumpy than I was when I set out. They have loads of special offers but don’t just get the free stuff – I’m sure they have to eat as well.
So as I was saying before the digression overload. I excitedly mentioned this book to Head of House who, in what I thought was a quite dismissive way, pointed me in the direction of his own dog-eared copy while informing me that he thought that all serious Christians had this book. Pah!
Best story so far is about the wisdom of God. I am paraphrasing wildly as usual but  he talks about us assuming that God promising to give us wisdom means that we sort of get invited in to the central signal box at a railway station and we get to see all the trains that are coming in and going out, where they have come from and where they are going and what trains we can expect to see in the future. In short, we sometimes think that the promise of wisdom means we get to know everything. In practise though , we just get given what we need to know. Some of it we should know anyway because it’s already there in the Word. It is a bit difficult though, especially in tough times, to give God the benefit of the doubt when we don’t know the circumstances. Why should it be OK to leave all the big wisdomy decisions to God about our lives?
If I could just add a an illustration of my own. A few years ago my chap and I visited New York. One day we set off to visit the Empire State building. Head of House had investigated the route and we set off whistling and swinging our arms. However (and yes it was my fault – I never denied that) we I got a bit distracted by Bryant Park, where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton had posed  so we got a bit lost. And we just couldn’t find the Empire State because New York is full of Skyscrapers! When you look up – that’s all you can see. It took us nearly an hour to get back on track and find it. It was a bit tense by then as well. As I said – I admit it was my fault!
The next night, we had a meal in the Windows on the World. At the top of the World Trade Centre, when you looked out of the window, the first thing you saw was THE EMPIRE STATE. Easy. The difference was perspective. When we were lifted above everything that was going on at ground level, the whole thing looked different. There were no things blocking our eyeline. That is where God is – high and lifted up. Knowing the past, the future, the beginning, the end. I get bogged down with all there is to do, to experience, to suffer, to enjoy. God looks with a different perspective. He sees where it is going and, having planned ahead for us, expects us to trust him with the big picture. We simply cannot un-entangle ourselves enough to see the whole picture, and there will be things that we will never know the reason for and many of these things will be – well – not good. We will never understand everything. The trick is, I think, to back away from knowing everything and to ask for wisdom for the day. Wisdom to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself in our lives. Wisdom for our next plan or next conversation. That is probably what is promised. Mind you I’m not saying this is what I do. I’m much more of a “Do as I say” rather than a “Do as I do” when it comes to this sort of stuff. More’s the pity.