Those who know me know why there has been a blogging gap. Last week I lost my beloved brother to pneumonia. I have struggled with the idea of writing about this as
a) T’aint really anyone else’s business and
b) You may well not be that bothered anyway.
But I would be dishonest to ignore it as it occupies most of my waking thought (and quite a lot of what should be my sleeping thought) at the moment and although I cannot promise any really coherent train of thought, this has been where my brain has been at.

There are things in life that you just don’t see coming. You can waste a lifetime’s worth of energy worrying about what may or may not happen and than one sunny Saturday afternoon you get an unexpected phone call and everything changes. You can almost physically feel the land crumbling beneath your feet. My brother was ten years younger than me, successful, happy, popular with, as they say, it all in front of him. Within three weeks he was gone.

It’s the little things that make you the saddest. His sunglasses on the dashboard of the car, canceling the hotel that had been booked for his Christmas visit, hearing that his dog still runs into the kitchen looking for him.

Try as you might to find a reason, sometimes you just can’t. God doesn’t let you know. Indeed sometimes God is a distant figure in this. People try and invent reasons to make you or them feel better. Sympathetic, quizzical looks asking about his lifestyle but that approach never washed with me. There are better people in the world than him but there are worse. This doesn’t give anyone a right to judge.

CS Lewis talks about the absence of God in your grief
But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away.

Its tough but true I think. Almost as if a part of your grief has to be gone through alone. Eventually though (and I admit, I am only at the beginning of this) you move on a little to a place of accepting that you may never understand it.

When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of “No answer.” It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, “Peace, child; you don’t understand.”

And I think you come to accept that you don’t get over it. You learn to cary on moving forward in sorrow but also in faith, accepting that your soul will always be a little more ragged at the edge than it was before.

When I was at primary school, every week we were visited by a vicar. He was a decent enough bloke although he often seemed to be in the middle of some kind of spiritual crisis which he felt  compelled to share with us. It may well have helped him to share but I do remember that he often left a class full of ten year olds feeling slightly bemused and a little depressed. Well, come on. At that age you want to be counting the animals as they go into the ark, not wondering why God allows pain and suffering.
Anyway, one thing he said did leave an impression on me. He asked what everyone who wasn’t a Christian had that Christians didn’t have. (keep up) and the answer was “Limits”. See what he did there?  I have to admit, that the idea that there are no limits for me as a Christian is an attractive one and there are loads of scriptures that back this up. However, I do think we have to be careful not to set ourselves up as a super duper achievement machine sort of visualising ourselves moving onwards and upwards in life while singing “Ain’t no mountain high enough” and being generally impressed with ourselves. Obviously our power to achieve anything comes from God and we need to get our priorities right.
The thing is though, I’m beginning to wonder if there are limits sometimes. Are there times to stop and accept that we need to slow down. Do we have to accept that we can reach a point where we have quite simply had enough. Someone said to me recently that sometimes people don’t think before they speak to me because I am such a good coper (is that a word? I mean good at coping) that they always felt I could take anything that was thrown at me. Er No.
Been thinking about Elijah’s hissy fit. After having been party to a massive miracle, which changed the direction of a whole country, it only took one woman waving a bony fist at him to make him collapse in a heap. Why was that do you think? Maybe he had reached his limit. It looks to me as if God thought so. God’s response was more or less to tell him to get some food and some rest and they would talk properly later.
Maybe there comes a time in life when we have to say enough. Limit reached. I have to stop for a while now. The photo at the top shows that when my Morecambe needs a rest he takes one and don’t interrupt if you know whats good for you. I am aware that at 10am in the middle of a staff meeting you can’t always get your head down on the desk but as soon as its practical maybe I need to notice my limits and take some action. As my mother would say – no one else is going to do it for you!

WHAT! Boots have got their three for two Christmas gifts out. You have absolutely, completely, totally got to be kidding me!! September 15th! Has the world gone mad? ARRRGH.

Come on. Admit it. I can’t be the only Christian who is intimidated by all the scientists with letters after their name shouting about how there is no God and they an jolly well prove it because the sum square of the genome string theory proves blah blah blah….
As I think I have said before. Why so aggressive? You believe what you believe and I’ll believe what I believe and then when I’m proved right you’ll have to apologise. Seems reasonable enough to me. But they all seem so sure and so certain and although I know that faith isn’t provable by facts I also know I don’t have the brains to win an intellectual argument.
Anyway found a letter in the Times on Saturday. Try not to put dosh into Murdoch coffers but cannot give up Caitlin Moran – sorry can’t, so have to buy The Times on Saturdays. Back to letters. Found letter by Dr DR Alexander, who has lots and lots of qualifications and is Director of Faraday Institute at St Edmund’s College Cambridge no less. The gist of his letter says that Dawkins etc. are talking about the “God of the Gaps”. As I understand it, atheists say that when new scientific discoveries about creation come to light, that this means that God is diminished. BUT Alexander says that this is not our God because our God is bigger than all the gaps in science and all the gaps only exist under him. So science explains how the earth exists but theology explains its meaning.
Basically – science’s God is too small. Blah-so rubbish at explaining this but hope you get it. It helped me.

Anyway, on a more mundane note. Younger members of Hargreaves Dynasty are now back at school. Only to find that looming cuts mean that students’ bus subsidy has been withdrawn . Apart from the fact that it is now costing us nearly £100 per month to get sprogs to school on the bus (Trying to be green and use sustainable transport is costing us a fortune!) I don’t think the Tories realise how difficult it has been to keep eldest from joining the Communist party and this isn’t helping.

Just letting you know that my friend hit 50 this month and texted us to say that she was on her way up Snowden with her husband to celebrate. I cannot for the life of me think why she would want to do something like that but there you go. Congratulations anyway chum.

So, head of house and my good self are back at work. Offspring are not back at school yet but all the telltale signs are there signalling the end of this year’s summer break.
You know summer is ending when…
1. The kids are back from summer camp and the back room has that funny “damp clothes, damp sleeping bags and sopping wet trainers” smell, as you try to work your way through the suitcases that they have kindly returned to you. Still, can’t all be bad news as questions such as “Was the weather awful?” are met with a puzzled look as if the weather was totally inconsequential.
2. Its getting warmer. Most people are back from their holidays. People who spent the last fortnight holidaying in Devon and Cornwall in what might optimistically be called “changeable” weather have now returned home, vowing to save up to go abroad next year. What they will never know is that as soon as they leave, the sun comes out. What’s that about?

3. The uniform rush is on. All good intentions to buy uniform at the beginning of the holidays evaporated in the glow of summer. Now we must join the hoards of people buying shirts in two packs of three (six shirts – why not five? Rip off perchance?) At least mine are too old for the seventh circle of hell that is queuing to have their feet measured in the shoe shop.

4. The house if full of resolutions about making lunch instead of buying it, walking instead of using the car everywhere, keeping up to date with homework, not agreeing to play bass at every single church meeting. Usual rubbish.

5. My mum is finalising arrangements for coming to stay at Christmas.

Like I said. All certain signs that summer is drawing to a close. We were out walking this week and other half took a photo of this cloud. Made me think about the cloud that God sent to tell Elijah that the drought was about to end. Not much of a sign when you are looking for a flood I suppose but it was a sign nonetheless. And a flood was indeed on the way. Perhaps its like life. Not all signs are impressive but they are still signs. And if God has sent you a sign that help is on the way then it just might well be.

Just back at work after two weeks leave. Is there something that happens in the space time continuum that makes this fortnight go ten times quicker than the other 50? There may be something about it in Revelation. I might look it up and get back to you. Possibly.

Anyway, packed hound off to kennels, teenagers into back of car with Ipods (not a peep from them until they spot a motorway service station with MacDonalds) and off we trundled to visit the north – the land of our birth.

Having once again imposed ourselves on some old friends for the week, we then set about “doing the visiting”. This is a delicate operation, only to be undertaken with extreme care. The balance has to be completely right, splitting time between those you want to see and those you are expected to see. There is then a sub division in each of these categories of who we want to see and who the children want to see. (People can often be moved from one category to another as far as the children are concerned if there is any chance that they will be given money) Even with the best will in the world and detailed planning on a napkin in afore mentioned fast food restaurant we still end up not getting round to everyone.

However, we managed a visit to our old church this time. Didn’t think we would know many people but were really touched by the warmth of the welcome. So many people remembered us, which was lovely. And we remembered – well nearly everyone who remembered us so that was nice. Our presence was announced from the front stage which, to be honest is always an awkward moment as you don’t know whether to smile shyly, or wave a bit or stand up and blow kisses. In the end you sort of do a bit of all three which makes it look as if you are standing up to shake off a bad attack of cramp so not a good look.

The best part is seeing people and then see their faces light up as the remember and recognise you. Made me wonder if it was like Heaven. Will we be wandering around looking at faces and suddenly recognising someone we love. And will our faces light up with the joy of spending time together again? How cool would that be?

Anyway back in Devon now (to warmer, dryer weather) and glad to be home. However, couple of things to deal with.

Have managed to pick fight with man who installed phones at work. They aren’t working properly and haven’t done so since installed and when I complained he said I was attacking his staff with venom! Me? Superwimp? Even the people in the office with me said they thought I was too soft. Have to work out how to deal with this now. No good going off in sulk like I usually do. That will never get the phones fixed. (Please do not send in advice about other cheeks, etc. Unfortunately I am too mad and immature to take it at the moment)

Also, am part of communications team at church producing material for website supporting series on Seven Deadly Sins. In weak moment agreed to do “lust”! What was I thinking of? Where will I get info for this? Can you imagine what would come up if I Googled it?