Sort of back

…but not quite. Am in the middle of lovely holiday thingy so will return with full update soon. However, in the light of recent events, I just wanted to share this with you.
Over the last few days I have watched events that have made me want to hang my head in shame – just as a member of the human race. To rob a man you were pretending to help, to drive a car deliberately to maim or to kill or just to have such a lack of connection to your local community that a local hairdresser is “rich” and therefore fair game – these are the things that have left a sense of hopelessness I think. I am sure that the whole thing is very complicated with many different layers and that the truth behind recent events takes a little bit from all the causes people have spoken about – hopelessness, disconnection, lack of parental authority, sense of entitlement, lack of moral direction, greed.
However, I just wanted to show you this. Last week we visited Westminster Hall. It’s a 1000 year old building that has seen so many great (in the widest sense of the word) moments. It’s the place where Charles the First was tried, where Winston Churchill lay in state and where Nelson Mandela addressed both political houses. It’s also the site of Andy Hawthorne’s recent keynote address at an MP’s prayer breakfast. If you have despaired about the way forward and wondered if there is hope – look at this. It’s inspiring and challenging. As usual, he is pin sharp and practical down to his finger nails. Watch and be encouraged and do something.

(Photo source BBC News)

‘Tis only for a short while…

But I’m probably going to take a bit of  a break because I’m on my jolly holidays for a couple of weeks and have decided to keep deep thinking to a minimum for a bit. Am thinking of reading myself into a frenzy or getting myself super organised with the extra time. Or I may just lie down for a while. We are off to get our fix of the big city as well with a visit to London. (Cue long arguments about galleries versus other “less boring” forms of entertainment)
The weekend so far hasn’t gone that well to be brutally honest – have managed to get sunburned which is against my religion and for goodness sake, it should be something I am mature enough to avoid at my time of life.
While we are away eldest Fruit of Womb turns eighteen. Was thinking how proud I am of him. (Proud in a good way not in a I’m prouder than a god and intend to take over the world – not that kind of thing obviously) No I was thinking about how clever he is and how hard he has worked. Also, its funny to see how different your children are to you and yet its still good. I see the way he has worked out his Christianity in a different way to us – his is shot through with social justice in a way that wouldn’t have been encouraged when I was young (too worldly) and because of this, I think his generation may achieve more for God than other generations. He’s also smart and funny and reminds me of his Dad and that is a very very “good thing”. I expect we will hardly miss him at all when he leaves.
Speaking of achievements – John Stott passed away this week. To many he was the father of modern evangelism – a title he didn’t seek just lived up to. Makes you feel you are playing at it. Even the Guardian gave him a good obit and its not a newspaper known for its pro-Christian opinions.
Just wanted to say thank you for those of you kind enough to comment on Facebook and here on the blog. You have no idea how encouraging it is.
So that’s it for now. Don’t forget me – I shall be back to pester you but until then – Hit it Cliff!
“We’re all going on a…..”

In through the nose..

..and out through the mouth. And breathe.

So listen. Its a week until my annual leave and when I look at my “to do before I go”  list at work it makes me come over all “fainting Victorian lady” but here I am anyway. Calming myself through the power of breathing and typing. This does not necessarily mean this will be particularly coherent so brace yourself.

Been a bit challenged on “kindness” this week. Those who know me at all know that I believe that kindness has a supernatural element in it. It’s a Fruit of the Spirit and I have always thought that being kind released God to make great things happen in situations. Indeed I have seen this for myself. However, I have found out that kindness is not always welcome and is sometimes taken as a sign of weakness leading people to treat you badly. This was a bit of a shock to me. (I know. I need to get out more) but, thinking about it, I still believe that this is God’s way – to be kind. So you have to just carry on with it, believing that it will make a difference in the end. Don’t know why I’m moaning. Very nice lady kindly bought me a bunch of flowers to cheer me up.

Have spent happy morning at a car boot sale. I do like rummaging. Offspring Two came with us but she is a bit wary because some of the people there have several teeth missing and look as if they have been the subject of a Crimewatch reconstruction. Still, she brought Fleetwood Mac on vinyl home so she was happy, as was Head of House who returned with Motown vinyl and something to stick under hall rugs to stop them slipping. (Breaking News for Head of House. You were robbed. Carpet is still migrating under door and tripping up all comers. Sorry.) I like china. (Not so much the county – more the crockery) and came home with some Blue and White (anything that doesn’t have people on it. I’m not so keen on Willow Pattern) for 20p. Bargain! I also got some old plates for BBQs on the beach. I hate paper plates on the beach. I keep dropping stuff and I think eating BBQed chicken off vintage plates is very civilised. (Fortunately for you, only I can hear everyone in the house laughing at me – so i will ignore them) I do like a bit of shabby chic which is one reason why people think our dog Lucy is called Cath Kidson. See photo above.

Spent some time reading a few blogs about diet. Some people are apparently re-thinking the macrobiotic approach as too extreme and are moving away from it. Now they are allowing themselves treats like hummus on brown bread etc. This may be a loosy-goosy approach to diets for these healthy people but it still makes my diet look like a wheelbarrow full of lard. How does anyone live without crisps and Cadbury’s Wholenut? I mean, I’m not a fool. Its weekends only (Unless it’s on offer at the Co-op) but surely everyone needs a treat? Working out what to eat and serve the family without killing them off is a nightmare. In case you didn’t see it among all the proper news, drinking eight glasses of water a day is not only not particularly good for your skin, weight, brain etc as was formerly thought but it can actually kill you! The time to drink is when you are er.. thirsty. Who knew? How do you get young people who can put up a convincing argument that mushrooms are of the devil to eat healthily? Beats me. Head of House is off to get weekend fish and chips.

Too much news this week. Horrible stuff. Always a bit shocked to see people saying Amy Winehouse brought it on herself. Well, I suppose so but surely, there but for the Grace of God go any of us? Given a different set of circumstances – how many of us can be totally sure we wouldn’t end up the same way?

PS Last week Fruit of Womb One spent approximately 15 seconds trying to set up Facebook page for me as a writer. Apparently, this is what people do and I can put stuff on there – writey sorts of things and maybe on Twitter. ( I am on Twitter but only to stalk Danny Baker and Steve Martin) Also if you “like” the page it is apparently easier to let you know about postings. (possibly) Anyway, he lost interest when “Have I Got Old News For You” came on but I don’t know whether its worth finishing. Describing myself as a writer seems a bit over the top. Any thoughts? Will think about it and get back to you. Promise this will be more coherent and indeed spiritually helpful next time. Almost certainly.

If you’ve never made a mistake..

..then you’ve never tried.

As so often happens Tom Jones was right when he said “Its not unusual” and indeed it isn’t unusual for me to have messed up. My motives were good. Time together as a family. So when free tickets were available for an evening out together, my interest was stirred as you can imagine. The event was “Cinema in the City” – a showing of Blade Runner outdoors at the Lido – Plymouth’s beautiful old outdoor pool. This evening would combine culture, supporting a local event and a flippin’ good film. What could possibly go wrong? Well quite a lot as it happens. Firstly the event was on the same night as a bbq the offspring wanted to attend. However, we weighed it up and as we spend at least three nights a week ferrying them to events all over Devon and as family evenings together may be more difficult to come by after October, we decided to issue a three line whip and insist that they come with us. This does mean, however, that the pressure is on to produce a fairly entertaining event, as they are missing something they would prefer to be at.
Things started to go wrong when the weather changed mid-week. “Changeable” was the phrase used by the man in the 1980s suit who does the weather. “Apocalyptic” may have been more accurate. Still, we wouldn’t let a little thing like the weather put us off. So, we wrapped up and off we went. 8.30 it said on the tickets and we turned up a little earlier than that because we are northern and that’s what people who have manners do. Trouble was, when we collected our blankets (maybe another ominous sign) the lady on the desk informed us that it would be kicking off at 9.30 (ish) Sorry? An hour and a half? Sitting a yard away from a not exactly mill pond like ocean? And it won’t start until 9.30? I enquired at reception about the reasons for this but was told that it was an experiment and they weren’t sure what time it would go dark enough to project. My feeling was that this is quite an exact science and the aforementioned weather man in 80’s suit may have been able to help them with that one.
Still, we sat there for a while. Waiting. Although I knew that fingers were getting numb and tempers were getting short. I also realised that if the film was the director’s cut – we could be there until the early hours. And then it started to rain. Reluctantly, I admitted that I had made a mistake and we left, returning home to warmth, a glass of wine and a Top of the Pops compilation.You can’t win them all.
But the truth is that if you don’t try, you will never know. If you don’t put yourself out there and have a go, you might as well just curl up and not bother. I have a natural tendency towards invisibility. I hate to draw attention to myself. Sometimes this blog is almost painful for me because my default mode is keeping my head below the parapet. But you do have to have a go. You have to take what you are given and push it a bit. It may or may not go horribly wrong – who can tell? Things just might need adjusting a little for them to work next time. In the case of the outdoor film – a reasonably accurate start time would have helped me. Just give or take an hour or two – I’m not unreasonable. Sometimes, you may need to keep trying and build a higher skill level to make things work. Sometimes you may have to give up and admit it was a mistake. Would that be so bad? Isn’t it worse to watch life slip away and never know how good it could have been?
Wiser people than me have said that life does not fall into your lap. It has to be lived. Jesus sometimes gets a bit of bad publicity for saying
 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Seems quite harsh. But if you read the whole story, it is an observation rather than a curse. Those who risk may fail but those who don’t try never get the chance to succeed. Succeeding could be quite nice I think.

Sometimes failure brings its own joys too. Maybe not for Blake Bergstrom though but bless him for allowing it go out there.

We’ll have none of that

I hate the hairdressers. Not in a personal way just the fact of it. I hate having to try and make conversation so I end up feeling like an autistic savant who is auditioning for Rain Man as I occasionally bark out phrases like “The weatherman said it could rain by three o clock!” or even more bizarrely “I don’t think I’ve ever had my legs waxed!”. So I prefer companionable silence as I watch her cutting my hair and then blow dry it into a shape that makes me look like I am wearing X Men’s Magnito’s helmet. And, I suspect like many other women, I find myself thinking, “Never mind – I can do it how I like it when I get home.”
So then begins the game in my head which I have always played. Loosely titled – “We’ll have none of that in heaven”, it’s not a very interesting game. It’s just me making a list of the things I’ll be happy to see the back of when I get to heaven. This morning it was hairdressers. I’m not sure how it will work but I never get the feeling that there will be much hairdressing in heaven. Although in the children’s bibles I read a lot of the angels looked as if they had benefitted from a good body perm, I’m not really convinced that there will be much call for it. I would forgive you now if you were thinking about about that CS Lewis quote that says “if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them” (Mere Christianity). Quite right. As I was saying, it’s thinking about the things that will no longer exist in heaven like war, famine, the cult of Katie Price and cankles. It can be quite comforting.
The is another, more beneficial, game about heaven that I play sometimes. My friend Mary worked it out and I developed it a bit. In the Bible, where Jesus says “In my house there are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you.” I also add mentally that my house will have a garden shed. And in that shed there will be a shelf. On that shelf I put in jars, all the things that have happened to me that I can’t understand why. Some are minor. Many are major. The most recent being the death of my brother. I know that I will never fully understand about that while I live on earth. I can then choose whether to allow this to affect me for the rest of my life and particularly affect the way I feel about God. Or, knowing what I know to be true about God in other things, I can put it in a jar, on a shelf in my heavenly shed, and get on with my life as best I can. I then know that one day, if I want to, that I will be able to take the jar down and ask a few probing questions along the lines of “what was that all about?”. In practice, I expect that I will be so caught up that I probably won’t bother. But I feel it’s ok to reserve the right to ask anyway.

Speaking of “What is that about?” I give you John Daker. I have no idea what is going on here but I demand that this man sings solo in our church this Sunday! Do not bother me again with your Tim Hughes and your Hillsong!