Billy Graham died. It’s not really a surprise. He was ninety nine and had a good innings. There has been a lot of chunnering on Twitter about his legacy and his attitude to the LGBT community and his closeness to Richard Nixon. I would just say that it was a different time and I wonder if all the people who are so cool about LGBT issues now would have behaved the same fifty years ago. Also, I don’t think he would have ever claimed to be anything other than a man with feet of clay. I know he preached on all the continents to countless people but he never came across as a glory hunter – not for himself anyway. And he converted the Queen. I saw it on the Crown, which is, of course the complete truth and, in fact, a documentary.
Aged Parent (Male version) saw him preach once. He said it was the first time he had seen a literal “Bible Basher” and he said he was captivating. It was also one of the simplest gospel message he had ever seen – stuck really close to the Bible and also one of the most effective.
Aged Parent (Female Version) went for a job at one of his crusades in the fifties. I don’t know if I mentioned it but Aged Parent Male Version became a Christian long before Aged Parent Female Version. This meant that they were indubitably “Unequally Yoked” as it used to be called. (On a slight aside most sympathies usually go to the Christian side of this partnership and t’aint necessarily so. Sometimes living with a Christian when you are not one yourself is quite the challenge thank-you) Anyway – Female AP was a good short-hand typist and applied for a job. She was very honest at the interview and explained that she wasn’t a Christian but her husband was and she had just come along because she expected him to be heavily involved in the crusade and she wanted to see a bit more of him. She was in competition with her friend who was a Christian and didn’t expect to get a look-in. She was amazed when she was offered the post. Looking back, I always thought this showed great wisdom – whether it was allowing her to be close to her religious manic husband or whether they thought they saw a spark of interest in Christianity. I remember reading once that, where he could Billy Graham set his team up with the wisest, most graceful people he could find and that was Aged Parent’s remembrance of it all. By the way, she never got to take the job, she discovered she was pregnant with me and had to give it up. She never got to spend that year surrounded by Christians and listening to the greatest gospel preacher of the age. I am a living hindrance to the work of the Lord.
There are thousands of us who are a testimony to Billy Graham’s legacy. My parents didn’t become Christians after listening to him but there was a culture abroad at the time that meant lots of people were seeking and he was partly responsible for that.
We have been dealing with Prescription-gate here today. Aged Parent has been given her prescription by a different doctor and it was hand written. So I received a phone call at lunch.
AP – Will it be ok to take this prescription in? It’s not like my normal one.
Me – It will be fine. What do you think might happen?
AP – They might think I have found it – or stolen it.
Me – Is there a strong black market in inhalers in Plymouth?
AP – You won’t be laughing when I get arrested and jailed.
(Writer allows herself brief moment of imagining the peace and quiet that might follow for a while should this unlikely event occur. Shakes head. Carries On.)
Evening all. How are you? Hope your Lent is going well and producing deep introspective insights into your personal human condition. I appear to have accidentally given up reading for Lent which is not ideal. I keep falling asleep on my Lent book. I can fall asleep on a sixpence at the moment, so I don’t think it is any kind of judgement on the book. Anyway, there is ages to go yet for me to pull it back. I’m not sure that’s how Jesus would approach Lent to be honest – just messing around in the desert for a while because he knew he could sort it later. I am not used to Lent. I always used to think that Ash Wednesday referred to having Potato hash for tea – using up potatoes and carrots and the like before the fasting started.
We wagged church on Sunday. It was an all-age service and, as that usually means 785 choruses with actions and, as we don’t really know many people yet, we decided to give it a miss. We are not comfortable enough yet to sing “I wish I was a buzzy, buzzy bee” or do that one where you have to hold your nose and make a noise as if you are drowning while you bounce up and down. (HOH would like me to write that he will NEVER be comfortable enough to do that and he deeply resents being judged because of it) So we went for breakfast by the harbour instead. It was very nice and indeed would have been nicer still if they had bought us an omelette each as ordered, instead of just the one. We were a bit short of time so had to split it. Very nice but I was forced to have a Twirl as pudding because I was out for breakfast treat and therefore have to eat until I feel a bit sick.
We also went to the pictures to watch Black Panther or “Black Pant” as it rather thrillingly says on my ticket. I like a black pant myself – especially with a good boot. Black Panther is a very important moment in black culture as it is the first blockbuster with an almost exclusively black cast. This is obviously a very welcome development but, once I got past that, I was once again watching a Marvel movie and had no idea what was happening.
The Oxfam charity scandal rumbles on. What a mess. There are obviously some deeply disgusting people involved in this, taking advantage of the vulnerable people they were supposed to be serving. However, I think that the vast majority of day to day workers are probably still serving as they did before, in some of the most difficult and unlovely places. It would surely be a mistake to tar all these people with the same brush just because a few toe-rags have spotted an opportunity. All the needs are still there. The system obviously needs a complete overhaul but the vultures who are circling and talking about withdrawing overseas aid are out of order I think. Also, how lovely that some people have been sending flowers to the people in their local Oxfam shops because they have been the subject of abuse. Big brave people abusing volunteers – usually these are ladies called Betty with American tan tights and shoes they can stand up in all day who give their time for free because they see the horrible pictures on the news and want to help. The world is going bonkers.
Ash Wednesday yesterday. You know that a lot of Anglican traditions are a bit of a mystery to me so I looked it up on Wikipedia. What? The first line is “Ash Wednesday is a Christian day for peace.”. I don’t think anyone told the school shooter in Florida.
There are a lot of things about America and its gun laws that are alien to me. I don’t live there and I can’t pretend to understand it. I saw a documentary once where a gun-shop owner vigorously defended the “right to bear arms”. He explained that it was in case the government or the people in power ever turned on them. It wasn’t really about day to day protection. It was about a deep rooted mistrust of those in authority. A keeping back of some of the power for the ordinary man. I think I undertstood a bit more – how the keeping of a gun could become a matter of principle but it remained a concept that I couldn’t really imagine. Because I also can’t imagine what it would be like to receive text messages from your child as they cowered under a desk, or as they watched their teacher shot dead as he vainly tried to lock the classroom door to protect them. I can’t imagine what it is like to run to school with that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach because you don’t know what you will find there – whether your child will be alive or dead. I don’t know what it’s like to wait helplessly at school gates while the police try to work out what is happening. I don’t know what it’s like to send your child to school with a rucksack and paper and pencils and them never come home.
I don’t really expect lawmakers in America to change anything soon. Partly because of the deep-rooted beliefs held above and partly because of the money guns earn. Also, if, as in Sandy Hook, a man walks into a school and kills 20 six and seven year olds in cold blood and nothing changes, then, in my humble opinion, nothing will ever change. You have crossed red lines to infinity there and still it wasn’t enough.
There is news emerging now though that the killer was known to people as having an unhealthy obsession with guns and killing. He was also excluded from school and had a grudge. Do you have to be Sherlock to have a clue where it will go? Yet there was nothing, no laws, nothing to stop him. I say again, I’m not an American, I don’t claim to understand. Not at all. I just can’t think of anywhere else where this happens – all the time – and there is no response. As far as I can see, America is a brilliant place, packed to the drawstrings with amazing people, I just don’t get it.
Life is fragile, Ash Wednesday is a reminder of that – we are but dust or a breath. I look at our young people and hope that we are not building a world for them where it is far more fragile than it needs to be.
“I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” Daniel 9
So it’s Lent any minute now. I am not sure exactly when, I am still quite new to all this but it is Ash Wednesday this week – on Wednesday thrillingly, and I am assuming it starts then. Following on from last year’s enjoyable foray into a Lent Book Pen Wilcock’s The Wilderness Within You (Highly recommended if you haven’t read it before) I have bought another book, this time recommended by the church. It’s called Scandalous by DA Carson and I know nothing about it. There is also something called The Lent School of Faith going on which I would be quite interested in – if only to learn a little bit more. However, I can’t seem to find out anything about it. I have been all over the website and nothing. I don’t want to turn up and find I am sitting in a room full of trainee vicars all laughing like Derek Nimmo. If I have a criticism of the Church of England, taking into account my limited dealings with them so far, it is that they do seem to sing to their own choir a lot. By that I mean, everyone who is a regular churchgoer will know exactly what it is but those who haven’t been a part of church since Noah was cajoling animals up a plank, are a bit behind the ball and it isn’t always easy to find out what is happening.
It’s a drum I am always banging I know but we don’t always make it easy for people to join church. I have been to countless meetings and seminars where people have discussed people going in the front door of church and straight out the back. I have sat and listened to people saying things like – if we lift Jesus up people will automatically come and stay. I just think sometimes we could make it a bit easier. It’s all very well going out into the streets and inviting the unlovely to come to the banquet but sometimes you have to show them to their seats as well.
Back to Lent. There are lots of things out there to do. You can commit to send out a positive message each day or there is the 40 Acts challenge. But, working where I work, I see a lot of discrimination against people with disabilities. Apparently this is even more so in certain areas in Africa. The Through the Roof charity takes refurbished wheelchairs to Africa and they are challenging everyone to save £1 a day for the period of Lent. At the end (if you do £2 on Easter Sunday) you should have £42 which will buy a wheelchair. Details are here if you are interested.
Right off to watch Endeavour – very good last week but this one is apparently full of Egyptian Mummies, race riots, one armed cinema ushers and visits from Hollywood. ALL IN 1960s OXFORD! Who knew? I have led a very sheltered life.
This is a strange post. (What’s new? I hear you cry). Was going to talk about magazines and book but thought I would write about what I am thinking about. Today I am twenty years cancer clear. I am not sure whether I should be celebrating really. It’s not as if I achieved world peace or discovered the secret lair of the jiggy spider. I just stayed alive. I wasn’t expected to but I did. It is a good thing, I know. There are qualifications though. There are lots of people who, through no fault of their own, didn’t make it. I have been to a lot of funerals of friends and wondered why them and not me. Also, with cancer, you never say never again. Every day is a delicate balance of being shot through with faith and promises and a feeling of looking over your shoulder. Cancer is like that.
I am not a “God put gold dust in my Bible” kind of girl. (First question – why would God do that? He’s a serious deity with important things to do.) Yet I know there are miracles. I know because I saw one. It was bad and no-one with any kind of medical training is quite sure how it turned good. Still here’s a few thoughts about things and I’m sorry if the overall tone isn’t pogo-ing hysterically on one leg, pointing at the ceiling yelling about VICTORY. You have come to the wrong place.
- I keep thinking about all the stuff I was going to achieve if I got to carry on and a lot of it appears to have been balderdash. (Although I haven’t given up on a lot of it and some of it is ongoing) However, just to be alive to pray, to read and to be with those you are inordinately fond of is often enough.
- Life goes on for the most part. Unrealistic thoughts like; “I will never be ungrateful again” or “I will always love my job” turn out to be just that – unrealistic.
- People are still ratbags sometimes and life isn’t fair. I thought I would be shot through with the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of all the saints knitted into a beautiful duvet. Because people would never upset me again and, having been through what I had been through, I would understand everyone and where they were coming from and we would all be at peace. Erm…lots of people are donks. Including me. But lots of people more donkish than me and I still have bad thoughts about them.
- Even having experienced that God takes no notice of odds (mine weren’t very favourable) I still need to stir myself up to remind myself that this remains true.
- I thought would never doubt God again and would always have faith in his ability to work miraculously in my life. That went about as well as you would expect.
- I said I would never be scared again. This was the most rubbish of all the thoughts. I have remained human. I fight being a scaredy cat on a daily basis.
So we are waving a little flag here today but quietly. But I am grateful to God for his intervention and to those medical wonder-people he used to support that. And I would encourage you to lift your eyes and your faith levels. To pray and keep on doing so. Strange things happen. God intervenes. I think it’s true.