Light and Dark

Well that went well. The South West of England was suprised by snow despite Tomas Schafernaker and that weather man with the beard that looks like it has been pencilled in, warning us about it all week. Consequently about a hundred people were stuck in snow drifts on the way home and Cornwall council has had to answer many forthright and indeed frank questions about where the snowploughs were. Actually I think Devon and Cornwall only have a couple. Not much call for them usually. Normal service has been resumed now and we look forward to a week of rain, cloud and mild temperatures that my husband insists will lead to a mosquito invasion.

I have spent a week being vexed by the Internet. I have looked at beautiful young people’s photographs on the news and wept as fathers and mothers have stared bewildered into cameras as they come to terms with the idea that their babies were following suicide sites in various places and then ended their lives. I have watched them wrestle with guilt, that they didn’t see the signs but how could they? The young people didn’t need to speak to their parents. They had “friends” online who secretly shared their pain. It was truly awful.

On a different level of irritation I watched a Christian leader of my acquaintance adding to the general gaiety of the situation by putting a comment on Facebook along the lines of “The way to deal with your personal pain is to forget about yourself and help others.”

Now there are several things going on here. The first thing to say is that I know what he means. (I hope). There is certainly something to be said for not becoming self absorbed. If lots of us took the energy we waste wondering what other people think of us and poured it into supporting others, I do believe that lots of us would feel a great deal better about ourselves and there wouldn’t be such a struggle to find people to wash up after communion. The fields are white unto the harvest and it would help a lot if people stopped pouting on Instagram and did a few action choruses in Sunday school. (As Jesus almost said – very nearly)

However, Social Media is a funny thing. It takes a certain skill to make a pithy, engaging and edifying remark in two lines. It’s a skill Beth Moore has and Anne Lamott. Lots of people think they can do it and fancy the idea of making their mark – getting something they said re-tweeted and hopefully eventually embroidered into a sampler. It’s a dangerous game.

This week Megachurch pastor Jim Howard took his own life after a long battle with mental illness. It does no-one any favours to seem to suggest that really, all that was needed was for him to throw himself into his work a little more. And, although, I think that was never the intention, more care is needed.

Some of this comes from an older culture where Christian leaders are neither supported or challenged. I remember a time when those who were in leadership in the church were put on pedestals so high, it would give you a crick in your neck just to have a look at them. Some of them believed their own publicity. I remember years ago a preacher shouting that anyone not being challenged by his sermon was “under the influence of WITCHCRAFT!” (The last word being bellowed at top pitch) It would not have been acceptable to point out that it was more likely that we were being infuenced by the sermon being boring nonsense.

Things may be changing though. The pastor on Social Media faced a lot of questions about his statement and had to clarify his thoughts. And the disturbing fact of a pastor taking his own life has been met with sympathy rather than a lot of guilty behind your hand clearing of throats. We should never underestimate the impact of the darkness that people are in but also that, God is aware of the depth of the darkness. There’s a bit in Luke – a prayer by Zachariah, that always seems to me a good description of the darkness some people are in but also, unlikely as it may seem, a way forward. Gently, slowly and step by step to a place where peace once again seems possible.

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.

The Universe

I don’t know if it is too late to be talking about New Year and resolutions etc. However, as it is still almost a week until the first pay-day of the year, it is technically still New Year for me and 2019 hasn’t really got going yet. It’s certainly cold enough for New Year. The photo above is the view from Aged Parent’s window and the sea that you can just spot in the distance is very wild because the wind is insane here. New Year means many things to many people. For me it means short term poverty (see above), for some – Slimming World, for others giving your new planner guilty side eyes because you really should consider doing some actual planning. If you spent any amount of time on Instagram over the New Year, you will have noticed the concept of “Mood Boards” and “Laws of Attraction” and “The Universe”.

If you live a normal balanced life and you haven’t seen any of these things, they are basically a tool for attracting good things or things you desire into your life. So, at the beginning of the year, you put a mood board together – usually, it seems by cutting photos out of magazines and sticking them on a big piece of cardboard. These things are photos of things that you want – a house in the country, a better job, a holiday in the Maldives etc. They are supposed to be things that are important to you and also, I think to The World. There seems to be a lot more photos of Dior dresses on these boards than there are images of World Peace or famine relief but there you are. I don’t necessarily think that there is anything wrong with making mood boards. I think they can make you focus your thoughts, crystalise what your life plans are and perhaps give you some clarity on what your actions need to be. I personally stopped sticking cuttings on chipboard when my mother explained to me that Tony Curtis was now much older than he appeared in Sparticus and it was time to move on.

Anyway, when you get this mood board you….er…I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what you do next but the idea is – I think – that this board uses the “Law of Attraction” to make the Universe send these things to you. Hurrah!

I have watched, enraptured, as a woman on YouTube has explained how this stuff really works and that “The Universe” has only good things for you. Well, the first thing I noticed was that she has terrible eyebrows and if The Universe thought that much about her, it might have supported her a little more in that department. So apparently Attraction Laws had given her a new house. I couldn’t help thinking that The Universe had needed the help of gullible people who paid for her wholeness courses to deliver the goods. Am I too cynical? Probably.

I don’t think I believe in The Universe. Not really. I mean I believe in The Universe obviously I just don’t belive in “The Universe”. (That doesn’t look as crystal clear as I hoped it would when I typed it). I think that all this Attraction palaver shows how desperate people are to believe in something – anything – bigger than themselves. John Lennon used to sing (at the end of a partularly long and boring song about what he didn’t believe in) that he just believed in “Me – Yoko and Me.” (BTW when he says “me” he doesn’t mean me – Martha in Plymouth – obviously he’d never heard of me. Just clearing that up). So he just believes in himself and Yoko. First of all that’s a lot of pressure on Yoko. And, though I bow to no man in my admiration for the man who wrote “I Saw Her Standing There”, I feel his faith in himself as an icon to build his life on may have been a little misplaced

So I ask myself what I believe in and I find that I believe in God. The God of the Bible to be precise. I think it is a bit more complicated than the Law of Attraction. For instance, I was interested to notice that Joyce Meyer seems to be rowing back on her “Prosperity Gospel”. This has to be a welcome move because otherwise, it just seems to me like “Law of Attraction” with a God beard. Faith is a complicated thing. If I’m just in it to get a holiday in Mexico or to have nothing ever go wrong, then I may be riding the wrong donkey. When I believe in God, I think I am aligning myself with a “being”. It’s about a relationship where I learn things – most of them above my pay grade. I am here to tell you that that it is sometimes very difficult and, to be frank, sometimes totally beyond me. And yet, it is like nothing I have ever known and I think that the last thing this is is a cosmic slot machine.

I’ll be honest, there are lots of times when I wish God was a bit more slot machiney and I got what I wanted when I asked but there you are. I am sitting watching a programme about Holocaust survivors. I am convinced that life and faith are more complex than pretending that I can convince a mystical force to give me stuff by sticking crappy photos onto a cornflake packet.

It’s like a test card thing..

Do you remember the Test Card? You are probably much too young. The Test Card was a photo the telly used to put up when there was an unavoidable gap in transmission. The blog has been having a bit of a Test Card Moment.

There are lots of reasons for the block and can I just say Bless You to those that have noticed. There have been nice things taking my time. FOW1 got engaged which was lovely. FOW2 came home for Christmas and for his engagement do which was also lovely.

Can I be a bit honest though? (Look away, those of you of a sensitve disposition) I have had a few stuggles – mentally and spiritually. I can’t really go into too much details of the issues around Aged Parent’s problems – it sort of seems a bit disloyal – but her loss of the concept of time has led to a few distressing incidents. Early morning phone calls (and I mean EARLY) asking where we are etc. It’s not too bad – she goes in and out of it. We are aware that it won’t get any better. The other Aged Parent is further down the dementia road. He has a wife who takes care of him. The whole thing is slightly complicated by the emotional distance I have with my parents. When I was young – it wasn’t as if they weren’t interested in me. Er no – they weren’t really that interested in me. Not that they were horrible, they just had problems of their own. Other things they wanted to be doing. They had both had “interesting” upbringings themselves. It all settled down. I came to terms with it. God was good and I poured everything into my family and friends. Now it has all got a bit full on and I am struggling with what is expected from me. I find I am unwilling or even unable to go back there into those old dynamics.

.ALSO… the house won’t sell (Brexit – shakes fist at Boris “Independent Income” Johnson) which is unsettling. ALSO… I’m beginning to think that I am not a C of E sort. We went to the same church for nearly 20 years and now I am turning into one of those church hoppery sorts that used to annoy me so much. – that was in my smug days. ALSO… a blog acquaintance has had one of THOSE diagnoses. And it has all built up and flattened me a bit. Please do not tell me to count my blessings unless you want me to fantasise about bashing the top of your head with a tin tray. I am quite aware that there are women in Dafur who are having it much worse thank you.

ALSO… I seem to be coming down with something!

Generally, I am quite a jolly little soul. I believe in God and it most certainly is God that has sustained me thus far – as John Newton would have said if he wasn’t a genius writing a great hymn with better lines. We are living through interesting times here. Occasionally they take their toll and I have to crawl into my cave and wait for ravens to bring me cheese and onion crisps and glasses of dandelion and burdock. I’m not actually sure the ravens have arrived at our cave yet but I am venturing out slowly. We have decided to do what we know, which is praying and keeping an eye out for answers. If you are still here. Thanks for reading

Christmas and all that

Well that escalated quickly. So sorry, no final Advent Pause. We had a small incident with Aged Parent that needed our attention and then there was the little matter of Christmas and New Year and so I just had to let things lie. I sincerely hope your celebrations were fine and not too pressured which is how it should be.

We had a decent Christmas Day and no-one of an Aged persuasion did any impressions of Jack Nicholson in The Shining which is as good as any of us can hope for I think. I did do the famed buffet which went down very well and, despite what FOW1 had predicted, I didn’t regret not doing the old turkey, potatoes, stuffing shenanigans at all. Also, judging by the amount of pizza he put away, I don’t think FOW1 was that bothered either. I will probably try and pare it down even further next year – if we’re spared. I still found myself in the position of trying to find eighteen oven shelves to cook on at the same time so possibly a big pasta dish with garlic bread should do the trick I think. HOH and I had a secret Christmas dinner on New Year’ s Day which was very nice.

I got some lovely Christmas presents including the pink Manchester United replica shirt which I have hankered after, with no subtlety whatsoever, for six months. It’s probably a bit of a disgrace that a woman of my age is considering wearing a football shirt out and about but I’ll be honest, I am not in the mood for the giving of a damn at all at the moment.

Aged Parent was very pleased with her present of a microwave. I am a little concerned that we may have made a terrible mistake and am remembering the story of a little old lady who used to come into the bank and how she complained about the state her microwave had left her kitchen in. This was mainly because she had misread the instructions and had put a lamb chop in for two hours – in a metal container. She had decided it was best to ignore the banging and smashing that was coming from the machine – at least until the front door blew off. I’m sure Aged Parent will be fine. (I’m not sure at all) She was also pleased with her two DVDs – The Greatest Showman (He’s a bit of alright) and Mama Mia 2 or as she has enthusiastically titled it “Mama Mia 2 – We’re goin’ again!” Which possibly, may have a bit more pizzazz than plain old “Here we go again”

There wasn’t really much in the way of telly I don’t think. I watched the BBC’s Agatha Christie which I had read but couldn’t make out at all – probably because it was so dark. SPOILERS AHEAD. I think it was a very good thing in itself and did enjoy it but let’s face it, it was nothing to do with Agatha Christie was it? I mean John Malkovich played the detective really well but whoever he was playing, it wasn’t Poirot. Tiny clues included – Poirot was never a priest. Poirot WAS a policeman, Poirot was tiny, Poirot was Belgian – this detective was of VERY uncertain origins, Poirot had beautiful taste and was fastidious about his surroundings. This detective seemed to live in a sort of nun’s cell affair. It was ok. Though it does seem a bit of a cheek to pinch someone else’s ideas and change all the bits you don’t like and take the audience that you know will come to this if you call it a Christie and then not respect the original at all.

I was a bit mad at myself because I ignored my usual rule in these things which is – ignore the detective, the prime suspect and anybody dead, then pick out the most famous person in the cast and they did it. This would have led me straight to Andrew Buchan and would have been more helpful than trying to remember the book. Never mind.

Anyway. Happy New Year to one and all. Soon be time for Brexit – possibly which may mean we have a lot to worry about or may just wander past us like the Minellium and we will wonder what that was all about. May your New Year make you as happy as Morecambe who, having picked a fight with two springer spaniels on Bigbury Beach on New Year’s Day, has the air of one who has realised how mighty fine his life is.

A Pause in Advent Week 3

This morning was our church Nativity. It is very comforting that, in an ever changing world, church Nativities remain the same. Barely controlled chaos often gives way to chaos that isn’t controlled at all. There often seems to be more unicorns than shepherds these days and ours had clips from Aladin and The Lion King but the basic message was rock solid. This was not the case at my friend’s child’s school where an astronaut went travelling all over the world at Christmas with her friend – The Robin. No one had the faintest idea what was going on – you know where you are with a baby in a manger.

Anyhoo, the place was teeming with shepherds, wise men (eight of them I think – but the Bible is very non specific on numbers here), stars, sheep, cows, inkeepers and angels all of whom played their very important parts with total conviction. And I was thinking, about how there are no bit parts with God. Shepherds were poor, insignificant, uneducated idiots – and they wouldn’t expect to be part of any Nativity story. The Wise Men were foreigners, outsiders, heathens. They were strangers in a strange land. They wouldn’t expect their visit to be an important part of the Christian narative.And yet here they all are – centuries later – front row and centre of one of the greatest stories ever told.

The birth of Christ is a walking, talking template for how God sees things. And again I say unto you that God does not see things the way that we see them. He does not measure things the way that we do. His idea of status is totally at odds with ours and maybe, unless we reboot our judgement goggles and become like little children who know nothing of status or marginalising those who don’t fit in, then we may never get the hang of Christianity at all.

Aged Parent, however, has Christmas priorities sorted.

AP                So you’re not doing Christmas Dinner this year.

Me               No, lots of us are working, and I won’t have time.

AP                Couldn’t agree more. You’ve got enough on. So what were you thinking of to eat?

Me              I thought possibly, a buffet, I’d buy most of it.

AP             Oh no, no don’t go to all that trouble. Just a chicken pie, a bit of mash and some broccolli will do for me. You do a very nice chicken pie – especially with your own pastry.