Ponder the rock from which you were cut,
    the quarry from which you were dug.

This is from Isaiah 51. For those of a more poetic bent, it’s also rendered as “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn,” in the King James.

I thought of finding a photo of Michelangelo’s David sculpture before completion or a half finished Barbara Hepworth to illustrate what I had been thinking about. Instead, because it is more in keeping with the way my mind works, I am giving you a photo of Han Solo encased in carbonite – which is a real thing. (It’s not a real thing.)

In my ignorance I had always thought that “the rock” spoken of here would be Jesus – because of his well known rock-like qualities etc but if you read the verse following, it isn’t that at all

Yes, ponder Abraham, your father,
    and Sarah, who bore you.
Think of it! One solitary man when I called him,
    but once I blessed him, he multiplied.

For the children of Israel, they were being reminded of their heritage – their lineage. The things that had happened that had moulded them. The people in their past who had laid the foundations of faith for them.

Now for some people, the example of their parents would not be the most thrilling thing they could think of. I don’t think that’s just what it means. (Although you have to notice that even the strangest people can be held up by God as decent examples. Abraham was such a coward that he told the admittedly terrifying person who was taking a shine to his wife Sarah, that she was actually his sister. He was, therefore, risking pimping his wife out to avoid getting into trouble. Charmed, I’m sure) Yet God built a whole nation around him.

I also know that parents don’t have to be perfect to be a good part of the rock. My parents were first generation Christians who came to faith at different times after their marriage, and couldn’t stand the sight of each other. (Talk about my ways are not thy ways) Yet, despite what could, on it’s better days, be described as a tense family atmosphere, I am aware that their paths to faith introduced me to Christ, to Christian people and thinking and, when the marriage finally spectacularly imploded with more casualties than a scene from Dunkirk, there was an understanding that the children came as near to first as they could possibly manage at the time.

So I don’t think this is just parents. It’s the people you met, the mentors, the ministers, the friends. The big, strong base of faith that had surrounded and moulded us, watched over and prayed for us. Pointed at us and laughed when we got too poncy. Let me give you the idea…

Mrs Foster. Must have been about 120. Always sat with Mr Foster. Second row, second seat in. A hat was non-negotiable. Tiny little thing. Would tug quietly on my hand as I walked past. I was fourteen and still considering dealing with life by going completely bonkers. I was a complete mystery to her but she always told me she was praying for me. I knew she was.

Ruth and Karen. My best church friends. We had nothing in common at all. Nothing. I was always in trouble for eye-liner, use of curling tongs and too short skirts. (“Well, I think that one is a little more like it don’t you dear? At least that hem has a passing relationship with your knees” Ha ha ha) They had little interest in appearance – too little I thought. But Ruth came from a solid Christian background, took me under her wing and explained how “church” worked. Karen was the most sensible person I had ever met – she taught me about being steady and stable and that not everything needed to be responded to by running into a toilet cubicle and slamming the door behind me. She married at 16 and I have never been so certain that a marriage was going to work. (I was right) Ruth married a beautiful Muslim man, had four children (all boys – made her very popular with the in-laws) and lived out a different version of her faith than expected.

Mrs Danks. Ran the Sunday School. Asked me to teach. Couldn’t understand why. I had no idea about children and only slightly more of an idea about who Jesus was. She stuck by me when my visual aid for turning water into wine was just too good and parents complained that their children were coming home saying they had seen an actual real miracle. (Cochineal hidden at the bottom of a water bottle in case you were wondering) I loved it though. Studied to get it right. Learnt so much about the Bible.

These are the people I am carved from. These are some of the first, but as time has gone on,  there were countless others. They have helped influence me, carry me, make little chapter tabs for my Bible and all the other stuff that people do to chip away and reveal the character that is me – or ideally the better me that God wants me to become. So, if you get a chance, have a think. Have a grateful think. Unfortunately, I’m not in touch with any of these people. (Surely Mrs Foster will have been transported now) If you are – you could say thanks. Or think about doing a bit  yourself. Being someone that is the support/rock that people are carved from.

We have watched a bit of telly this week. Well, I love the football and the fact that it is on 24-7 is a fine state of affairs as far as I am concerned and I wouldn’t mind this being a permanent state of affairs. I am aware that I could well be in a minority of 1 here. So there has been some negotiation going on at Martha Towers, allowing other people in the house to watch programmes in between the three matches a day that are being covered at the moment. Look – it’s only on for a month and then it’s another four years! I don’t think I am asking much. (We may talk at a later date about the casual sexism of my new hairdresser who could not quite over the fact that I knew a bit about football. “Well, I am shocked! Really shocked).

I have watched a couple of things that the young people are watching as an olive branch to the rest of the family and I have been really challenged. The first programme is on Netflix – Queer Eye. The idea is that five gay chaps are invited to help someone change their life around. They look at clothes, their home. personal grooming, diet etc bringing impeccable taste and sound advice. At the end we see the new person and cry like babies. So far, so formulaic. But, no stay with me here, the people they choose are people who have really lost their way. They are people who have stopped trying. Life and its circumstances have worn them down. There was the man who lived with his girlfriend, in her ex’s trailer who couldn’t believe that she would love him and expected her to leave. Or the young man who was adopted at birth by a lady who had loved him and cared for him. Now she was concerned that, as he was about to leave for college, he had no life skills with people his own age and would struggle to fit in because of his lack of knowledge about modern life. The chaps mainly come in and choose clothes and dole out sound advice and a decent haircut but it is all done so gently and lovingly – with no judgement – only kindness. It makes you cry. (Well it makes me cry) I am aware of the elephant in the room here when we are talking about gay people and Christianity and I am not making any claims about anything. However, this is life affirming stuff. Sorry but it is. (Not sorry)

Also Curvy Brides Boutique. This is basically big girls trying on wedding dresses. Well, very big girls. Now I am not saying that being big is a satisfactory state, it’s unhealthy and a lot of the girls who come in quite obviously have lots of issues. However, they have also been to wedding dress shops where they have been treated really badly – asked to leave in some cases or spent a fruitless day trying to squeeze into dresses that are obviously too small and left with their last bit of self esteem trampled into the changing room carpet. That all changes when they visit this boutique. Ali and Jo don’t judge – they just put them in dresses that fit. They wipe their eyes when they are overwhelmed because someone has treated them with dignity. They leave feeling like people rather than freaks.

You might look at this and think that is a very Christian way to be and I can see a lot of Jesus in this behaviour but none of these people have any kind of Christian beliefs as far as I can tell. (One of the Queer Eye chaps was brought up in a Christian home but he was shunned by the whole community when he came out as gay aged 15) And it’s a challenge is it not? I don’t have the monopoly on graceful thought and behaviour. Indeed some sections of society feel that Christianity may have abdicated its right to be seem as the graceful, good influence on the world – shot full of integrity and humility. The avowedly Christian current American Administration and its charming way with refugees, our own dear Christian  Prime Minister who seems a decent sort but was apparently responsible for the “hostile environment” which resulted in the deportation and detention of the Windrush people and, if you want to see one to one examples of how Christians can sometimes behave to those they disagree with – have a look at Vicky Beeching’s Twitter feed. You may not agree with with a single word she says – I am not sure that entitles you to send her direct messages telling her how long she will burn (along with appropriate scripture) I know that this isn’t entirely true. I personally know of Christians who are doing all the good stuff. Still, it makes me think.

I am not just called to own the name of Christian, I am called to live it. Live out grace, justice, forgiveness, winsomeness (I love that word). It’s a challenge – sort of makes me want to pull my pants up and reclaim my name.

 

If anyone is still there. I am here. I can only apologise. My absence is down to a combination of things. There was a short holiday initially which was followed by a period of work which left little time for anything else. There then followed something that I cannot really go into detail about because it is not my story to share. Maybe just to say that it involved a horrible lump (not in me) which needed examining and diagnosing which takes a few weeks. We are all a product of our history and mine meant that no amount of reassurance that GPs were 90% certain that this was fine and despite being pretty certain that all was well myself, I mentally lost it a bit. Anyway, all is well. I would quite understand if you weren’t interested and felt you needed to move on. That is fine with me. …

If you are still here – how nice are you? Not much else to catch up on really. We had an anniversary jaunt to London, as we do. We went to the National Gallery, watched Brief Encounter on the stage, spent too much money on Oxford Street and got a bit caught up in an EDL rally in Trafalgar Square. Well, I say caught up, we didn’t notice things were getting nasty when we first walked past. All we saw was a lot of men with really wide necks , waving England flags and their fists whilst explaining that they would very much like “Tommy Out” (of jail apparently). We then wandered into the theatre and had a really nice time. It was all nice and quiet when we came out but apparently there had been running battles up and down the streets for an hour. London eh?

We have been to the pictures quite a bit. We saw Solo – which suffers a lot from NOT having the real Han Solo in it. And before Disney spent all that money on it – any woman could have told them that. I didn’t go to see the Jurassic Park but I am reliably informed that there is nowhere near enough Jeff Goldblume in it. We also saw a documentary about the clothes designer Alexander McQueen. That is two hours I will never get back. Mr McQueen was a fashion designer who apparently was a genius. He was also horrible to his family, his friends, his business partners and everyone he took against. It was all quite dispiriting.

Speaking of dispiriting. I am not American but, when America takes children from their parents arms on the Mexican border, when they tell them that they are taking their children for a bath and then don’t bring them back, when they pin numbers on the children – all of which is ringing horrible bells in our heads – and we have to deal with people saying that this is Biblical. Because it is the law of the land and to obey the law of the land is a Biblical thing. According to Jeff Sessions. It is SHOCKING is it not? First of all – Biblical? Really? One of my aged parents once told me that the only time Jesus delivered a specific threat it was to those who threatened children.

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18

Now I always thought this was a bit of a stretch. Jesus was talking about new followers who had become like children. Yet, this was delivered while a child was sitting on his knee and it’s very un-Jesus type language. So you pays your money and you takes your choice really. It’s not something I would particularly like to test God on to be honest so I hope Mr Sessions has got his facts right.

It’s nice to be back. Be honest – you’ve missed the ranting haven’t you.

 

 

Or at least things I have remembered. I had forgotten that there were two five o clocks on Sundays. I didn’t think that I would be bothering with 5am starts again once both children had got to that stage where early morning get-ups held no interest for them. However – old dog (Morecambe not Head of House) has decided that he does not want to be alone when he wakes and howls until someone joins him. We have tried ignoring him but he is a determined little beggar and he can keep it up until  – well longer than you can stand it actually and believe me we have tried.

So I could have spent the morning studying and generally improving myself but I didn’t. The lure of the Internet proved too strong. I was catching up on blogs and came across the Action for Happiness Website. There is a Museum of Happiness in Camden and they have recently had a Happier World Conference. I am, despite all appearances to the contrary, quite an optimistic type and I am very happy about happiness projects. There do seem to be a lot of Buddhists who have given their jobs up to be nuns but, if can do that sort of stuff, then off you go. I feel our mortgage company might have something to say if I had a pop at it. The happiness website has ten keys to happier living.  They are all very good – of course they are. Because without being all na-na-na and babyish about it, Christians already know about it.

Well, we do. Everything here – wise and lovely – though it is, is already in the Bible and is life advice for us. We choose sometimes to prefer “Mindfulness for Dummies” or “Peaceful ways to put your tights on” and all that sort of thing. (I would absolutely buy the second one if it was a real book) I personally am far too impressed by what all the groovy people are doing when in fact I am secretly groovy myself, or at least have already been given to tools to be so.

This morning I picked out a couple of these and looked up Bible verses and they are there and they are all important. For example

ResilienceRomans 8 – Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. 

Direction – Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,rivers in the badlands.

While I am casting round for answers and wisdom, I know I need to remember that I am cut from a rich vein that has been there for me all the time and, if I don’t choose to take what is offered to me, then it is only my own fault. I was very impressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury who was talking about how nervous he was about doing the Royal Wedding. He quoted Stormzy which is quite lovely in itself and said ‘I stay prayed up and get the job done’. More wisdom for a happy life.

On the wedding, we were surprised to get a call from Aged Parent this Saturday.

Aged Parent “Hello, It’s only me. What time is this wedding.?”

Me “Er – it’s next Saturday.”

AP “Are you sure? Next Saturday?”

Me “Yup.”

AP “Oh. Right. I thought it was all very low key. I am watching that cooking programme and there was no mention of it.”

Me “No sorry – definitely next week. You ok?”

AP “I’m fine but I will have to go and phone your Aunty Audrey and tell her, or she’ll be opening the gin.”

 

 

What does everyone think about “The Woman in White”? Obviously Marion is too pretty and equally obviously Count Fosco is too thin (and a bit too scrummy, and too obviously evil etc etc) and all this extra sexual tension is doing my head in a bit but I understand that this is compulsory now. HOWEVER, I do like it. (SPOILER AHEAD KLAXON) I think they did it very well and, despite knowing how it would end, my heart was beating like the clappers when they were leading Lady Glyde out of the asylum. (The asylum, I thought was done horrifically well).

So we have left the house a couple of times this week. (Well not including church because, well you don’t so you?) Church was very good. Top Vicar finished Ecclesiastes and HOH and my good self said we had really enjoyed it. At one point TV had said that the translation of the word “Meaningless” was unhelpful and “Breath” was better – which it is. Are C of E vicars allowed to say things like that? It’s a whole new world I can tell you.

Anyway –  back to carriages out. We went to see a film called “Bombshell” which was a documentary about Hedy Lamar which is the best name ever in show business. As well as having one of the best faces ever – ever! She was apparently a genius who invented radar or GPS tracking or something similar. Unfortunately, something strange happened with the patent (possibly something dastardly) and she died penniless.

We also went out to see “This House” which was about politics just before Margaret Thatcher was elected. (It’s better than it sounds). We got cheap tickets and it was an excellent night out but – well, I was a bit tired. At my time of life, I can’t be gallivanting out every five minutes. It takes its toll.

Aged Parent is trying out Age Uk this week for a bit of socialising.  I took her to sign up last week. I was very affected by the standard questions she was asked. “Are you lonely sometimes?” Do you suffer from depression?” Are you ever anxious?” What are we doing to our elderly population? At one time, the elderly found their society and their comfort in the church. I sometimes wonder with our obsession with putting young people and families front row centre of everything in church (and I am not saying that they aren’t important) that we haven’t elbowed everyone else out of the way in our rush to be seen as “relevant” to modern society. Anyway, Aged Parent has been very impressed with Age Uk  so far because they were totally un-phased by her instruction that “she couldn’t do onions”. I think we have all been there.