Hello all. Welcome. It’s my brother David’s birthday today or it would have been. This is me and him at his wedding when we were younger and I found it easier to disguise the jowls in photos. It was a bit extra sad this year because Aged Parent didn’t really remember his birthday for the first time ever and when we took her the customary bunch of yellow roses (his favourite) she was just chuffed to get the flowers. Not her fault obviously and I was pleased she liked the roses, to be honest. You never know how it will go these days.
It’s all a bit off-kilter this week, isn’t it? Once again we are pondering about a senseless death because an MP – Sir David Amess – has been stabbed to death by some kind of extremist. It’s not exactly the bravest act of terrorism, I’ve ever seen – queuing up, in a church, with ladies who are enquiring about the frequency of bin collections and old gents who are complaining about waiting years for a hip replacement. Then, when the time is right jumping out in a ferocious attack on a 69-year-old man. Still, I suppose it had the desired effect which mainly seems to be receiving validation from those who have radicalised you. We all think Twitter makes public life hard enough – especially when people feel it is perfectly ok to send you a photo of the front of your house and the school your children attend – just for disagreeing with them. This is just awful and surely makes anyone who thinks about popping their head above the parapet to serve in public life think very hard indeed before doing so.
It’s not just public life though. There’s a video going around on the YouTube of an intoxicated man abusing a young woman that he doesn’t seem to know in a Tube carriage. She is not having this and answers back – at which point he steps forward threateningly. This provokes about eight men to stand up and deal with him and better late than never I suppose, although what they were doing up to this point is an interesting question. But there seems to be a kind of all-pervading toxicity doesn’t there?
I have become a bit of a news avoider. We had a routine in our house. 6 pm the BBC news came on. (BBC news has its faults but I can’t stand all the quizzical -head on one side, eyebrows knitted – emoting that goes on on ITV). These days though, I’m generally not switching any news programmes on as much. Because I have a bad feeling about it all. Is it me, or does everything seem very dark at the moment?
There was a time at church when a couple of songs were doing the rounds. One started “Oh Lord – the clouds are gathering…” and the other one was called “Great is the Darkness.” and they carry on all the way through in much the same vein. At the time, I used to think that we could do with something a bit more cheery but I kind of know what they were on about now. Incidentally, I always thought “Great is the Darkness” was written by Gerald Coates but Google is showing it as written by Noel Richards. For those not of a church bent, I wondered how to describe Gerald Coates. In the 80s he was a big noise in certain church circles – probably still is. His autobiography describes him as a provocateur which I think he would be happy with. He was sometimes quite controversial. Did I ever tell you about the time he came to our church? In the mid-nineties, I think. At the time, he was going through a phase where he was anointing people by randomly walking around a meeting and pouring a glass of water over them. Well, I say pouring, it was more a case of chucking it in their face WITHOUT WARNING. This was probably quite a deeply spiritual moment but was also quite funny watching people jump as they suddenly found themselves soaked. For me, there was also a certain tension at the event by someone informing me that they would chin him if he came anywhere near them with “that glass”. (Not HOH, in case you were wondering). The joys of church administration eh? I could write a book. It would get me sued. Am I digressing? Possibly.
So, it is true, that these feel like especially dark times. What is also indubitably true is that you are here for me to give you the deep wisdom and answers these times need, especially when we feel so helpless. Unlucky.
However, I had been thinking of another song
Jesus bids us shine, with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.
Popular from the 1850s, this kind of song fell out of favour a bit because people “Weren’t going to cowering in a corner.” and “We need to not just be like a little candle.” etc etc. But, for me, when things seem so overwhelming, then looking after my small corner is more important than ever. I may not feel in a position to address the United Nations – but – where I am I can be kind, be slow to anger, go the extra mile and all the other things that leave dots of goodness that eventually do all join together
It doesn’t seem much obviously but the thing is, it seems that if do my best here to expect the best and have a go at trying to do things right, then God makes my efforts go so much further than I am capable of. Like those little dry sponges, we used to have as kids. You dropped a bit of water on them and they expanded to a full-scale model of the Battle of Waterloo. (Well, not quite but you get the point).
I also think that for those who are able, (don’t shout at me – I know plenty of people have enough on) this may be the time for action. Maybe stuff for the foodbank, offering to brew up after church so the lady who has done it seventeen weeks in a row doesn’t begin to lose heart or actually talking to someone after a meeting ready to enquire a little bit further than “Is this your first visit?”
I’m unlikely to lead a government anytime soon – a girl has to know her limitations but I can set a metaphorical candle in the window where I am and try and make a difference in the darkness. Have a good week.