Sometimes, when you are feeling sorry for yourself,  you just need your attention shifting to something more important and then the change starts. I remember reading something that CS Lewis wrote. He talked about trying to fall asleep. It’s really hard to fall asleep if you are trying to fall asleep. If you lie in bed thinking – I must fall asleep, it will probably never happen. If, however, you turn your attention to something else – counting sheep, reviewing your day or – in my case mentally reciting dialogue from Star Wars, your body will fall into its natural state and falling asleep will be easier.

When I was young – if I was sad – Aged Parent’s solution would be one of two methods. One was “Straighten your face or I will give you something to be sad about!” (Different times) or she would say “Sad? Sad? I’ll show you something sad – Bangladeshi Children – That’s sad!” And she was right.

So, working loosely on the principle that whoever seeks to find his life must lose it, one way to get over myself is to look to the suffering of others.

Without getting all political, you should know that Universal Credit is a disaster for many people in this country. You can bang on about rights and wrongs and the idea that making it as hard as possible for people to obtain benefits and therefore stay in work is resulting in reduced unemployment. (I took Economic History and that was the principle behind the workhouses btw – make them as unpleasant as possible so that people would do anything not to go in them) Whatever your beliefs about this, people are waiting up to six weeks for benefits to be paid out. During this time I am supposing that they are to chew skirting boards or rely on the kindness of strangers and that is me and you.

We are a couple of months from Christmas and when you and I say – “Oh DON’T mention the C word” we don’t really worry about it the way people who can’t put food in their children’s mouths worry about it.

My local food bank has the following urgent needs.

Yours maybe different. Unlikely to break the bank for most of us.

Also, a lot of bloggers are advocating something called a “Reverse Advent Calendar”. I’m nor quite sure why – the title doesn’t make sense really but basically I think the idea is to put together a big box or bag of stuff for Christmas for your food bank. It will need to have essentials in it as usual (and that includes toilet roll, nappies and sanitary products) but also extras – chocolate, sweets, nice toiletries, Christmas treat food. The idea is to take a month to build it slowly and thoughtfully and get it to your local foodbank by the end of November at the latest. I’m giving it a go.

Just a little thought here, you may genuinely not be able to afford to do this. Feel free to stand down. But for the rest of us, the least we can do is to get down the Poundshop and buy some toothpaste. My family exist perfectly happily on Poundshop toiletries – I’m sure lots of other people will be happy to do so.

I’m not seriously thinking that you need a scripture to back this up because we will be here all night. I’ll just give you this

Proverbs 11:25

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.
Yup

 

Can I be honest? If the answer is no, you had probably best close this blog now. Do you ever have those times when you are just you know, not up to it.? When any kind of faith-filled living seems like too much hard work and you are missing it all the time? I’m asking for a friend obvs. Ha! I know when my spirit is dropping because the smallest irritant becomes something way beyond its reality. On Saturday, after having explained to Aged Parent the workings of her new heaters possibly ten times (the last couple of times over the phone after we had returned home and she had called still unsure) I had to sit quietly in a back room and take a moment. You have to understand that I have few redeeming features but patience with Aged Parent is one of them (no matter what she tells you) so when I find myself losing it ever so slightly, I know that it isn’t all that well with my soul.

So I am formulating a plan. If I were a different sort of person (i.e. filthy rich) it might involve a trip to a spa to eat smelly veg and chase my inner ching/chang but I am both poor and not that gullible so I am looking at these instead.

Chase down if there is anything particular I am troubled by and if there is anything practical I can do about it. 

If I was on Mastermind, my subject would never be The Flamin’ Obvious. Sometimes circumstances are bubbling about you and everyone else can see how these things are affecting you. My plan is to slowly and surely put my foot on the ball and see if there is anything going on that I can actually change. We all have loads of stuff that goes on – sometimes we can’t change things – sometimes we can.

Longitude or Latitude

…my attitude is gratitude. Because I am quite shallow spiritually, I really struggle with the gratitude type that says “Thank you for the plague of locusts in my underwear drawer Lord – I shall treat it as a gift to slow me down.” That is a very advanced kind of spirituality and I am several divisions below it. However, I can call to mind good things, things I know I have  – family, home, kindnesses around me, being alive and make sure that I am grateful for them.

Dig for Victory

By that I mean dig around in favourite books, music, scriptures. These will be truths that I have discovered when I have have been a bit more sparkly spirituality wise. They were truths about God and my place in him then and they are the same kind of truths now. Just because I am a miserable crow at the moment doesn’t change their essential reality. I need to remind myself about what is real really.

Lean

One of my favourite passages in the Bible is of an exhausted Moses, knowing that to break through, he has to pray and keep praying. And he just can’t. It’s no good to tell him to try harder he honestly doesn’t have it in him. So those who love him help him. They hold him up. They take the weight. We lean on those who love us – we are not meant to do it ourselves.

Stop

A good night’s sleep. A nice pair of socks. Morecambe and Wise. A Jack Russell. Whatever helps you to stop. Allow yourself to laugh. To laugh in difficult times is a form of faith I believe. It’s you saying you trust God to be God. Letting yourself rest is the same thing.

Have a good week

 

Well that went horribly wrong. We set out on Saturday to that there London and, I’ll be honest, I was not as well prepared as I could have been. I don’t know about you but at the moment, I am a bit overwhelmed with everything I have to do. (Yes, I am making excuses) I was on my way to a writers’ day but knew I would be late because of the train times. Of course the train was late – not much – just enough to throw me. Then when we got there the Circle and District lines were closed all day. This meant that it took ages to get to where I needed to be. So, to cut a long story short, I didn’t make the day. I would have been so late – I had to make a call and decided not to go. I was a bit mogged off about the whole thing but usually I dust myself off a bit and get on with it but this time the fact that I didn’t know anyone and wasn’t that sure where I was going made me call it a day. I felt sorry for myself for a little while but, during our messing about trying to find our way, we rode past the Grenfell Tower. Well that put everything into perspective in a nano second and I decided to put all my energies into getting in HOH’s way for the rest of the day. He was planning to go Portobello Road and look at records which he did. He just may not have planned to have a chum to do it with – that’s all. Portobello Road is a strange place. Lots of Italians seen to think that they are visiting the live set of the film Notting Hill. This seems to give them the right to open people’s front gates, walk up to their doorsteps and have photos taken. The homeowners seemed to be much more sanguine about it than I would have been.

We had a lovely day in the end. We went to the National Portrait Gallery and I spent a happy time in my favourite Victorian Room. Coming face to face with Wilberforce and Raikes (who started the Sunday School movement) is always one of my favourite things. We had a wander round Covent Garden which I don’t think I have been to since my honeymoon. (BTW that is just a poor random couple in the photo above – they have no wish to be involved in my life I don’t think) Covent Garden is very up-market now – by which I mean expensive. £1 to go to the loo. £1!!! And there was a queue! Not me  – I held it in till the National Portrait Gallery. Too much information? When we went to Covent Garden last, I remember looking at some earrings on a market stall and the lady giving them to me for next to nothing because she was closing up. It’s not really like that now.

I do like a wander round London so it wasn’t too disappointing although that wasn’t what I had gone for. I have another writers’ day in November and I am determined to be ready. I don’t always think that God is teaching me stuff when I mess up – sometimes I am just messing up but I certainly think that my life could do with a bit more organisation, slowing down and having a good hard look at my priorities. I definitely need to get out of this terrible thing I do where I write dates and to do things in my diary and never open it. Is that just me? All I have to do is open the flippin book and all would be revealed. It’s not difficult is it? Blah!

I should be more like Aged Parent – she takes it all in her stride. Even when she’s busy. She phoned me this week to list all that she has to do next week.

“I’m very busy. Cleaner is coming on Monday, On the shopping bus Tuesday. Flu jab Wednesday and new heater fitted on Thursday. So I am going for a cup of tea now and you make sure you don’t go getting yourself blown up in that there London on Saturday! Bye.” You see! Priorities.

 

 

Or “I saw a film and I liked it.” Anything but the real title which is “Our Souls At Night”. Apparently, there was some thought to changing the name of the film for it’s British release because of the way it sounds with a British accent. The Powers That Be decided against it, thus proving again the The Powers That Be are rarely right. Because this is lovely and it would be a shame if the only thing that people thought of when they thought about it was sniggering into your hanky.

It’s a slight story really, about two bereaved neighbours who take to sleeping together platonically to alleviate the loneliness of the night times. They gradually become closer, finding that they understand each other and that they can talk to each other in a way that they couldn’t with their spouses. There are grown up children who inevitably complicate things, as well as a cute grandchild, nosey neighbours and a dog with no toes. It’s beautifully written, not in a high fallutin’, Pulitzer Prize kind of way – the people say things ordinary people say and, if it becomes deeper and more profound, it is only because of the beauty that ordinary day to day relationships have.

One of my favourite films is Barefoot in the Park. This was Fonda and Redford at their most beauteous.

Watch this film for too long and they will burn out the back of your eyes. It is lovely to see them together again  – they seem to fit together somehow. They are both apparently around the 80 mark now and both are suspiciously almost lineless. Fonda seems to have a slim smooth back which wouldn’t look out of place on someone a quarter of her age. This may be down to all that exercising in the Eighties – I wouldn’t like to say. By the way – the sex. You can take your maiden aunt. She’ll be fine. There’s nothing to fear.

While you are here, I am just asking if anyone fancies adding me to their little book of “Praying I Must Do This Week”. (Is fasting too much to ask? Possibly). A couple of weeks ago – possibly under the influence of too much Cormoran Strike – I booked a day at The Association of Christian Writers  – Writers’ Day. When I booked it – it felt like it was years away and suddenly I find it’s next week. Now I am regretting it heartily because it is full of proper writers; not to mention proper Christians and, as you know, I am weirdly shy and may go the whole day without actually opening my mouth to speak. And you have to take your own lunch so I will probably be too afraid to actually chew and will choke to death. Noisily. Arrrgh! Still, I should learn stuff I suppose. Probably not to headline your blogs with anything to do with sex, old people or both.

 

I have spent a dispiriting amount of the Sabbath trying to download this painting for you (Everything was the size of Kiddermister thus rendering my tiny Chromebook unable to take the strain). I think it is worth the effort though. (Thanks to @_F_B_G_ for drawing my attention to this painting)

It is, of course, Caravaggio’s the Calling of St Matthew. It shows the precise moment when a determined Jesus (accompanied here by a less certain Peter) confidently points toward Matthew and calls him. Caravaggio has transplanted the scene to his own time and people are dressed accordingly. The most striking part of the painting for me is the “Really? This bloke?” expressions on the people at the table. In fact some people don’t even look up at Jesus, absorbed, as they are by the serious business of counting money. No one, however, is more surprised than Matthew who is pointing at his chest just to make sure that it is him Jesus is looking at.

Obviously, Jesus was not expected. No one had made provision for the visiting religious teacher. The Message says that Jesus was just passing along and saw Matthew at work – collecting taxes. Tax collectors in the time of Christ were commonly known as collaborators – Jews working for the hated Romans and intensely dishonest ones at that. It was accepted that they would be skimming off a hefty cut from the money they collected for their own benefit, this being a completely different set up from the sterling work done by our own Inland Revenue who take a very even and fair view of administering our contributions to society. (Unless you are huge Multi National company in which case you will find the terms are fair beyond your wildest hopes and dreams) There is no indication that Matthew was any different from the other men around this table. The calling came out of the blue in spiritually dark and dingy surroundings. Jesus did not wait for a more favourable situation and, to his credit, neither did Matthew. Jesus called. Matthew followed.

I was thinking, what are we waiting for? Before we serve? Find our Christian thing to do? I bet that if I ran a survey, I would find that the amount of Christian people there are milling about in our churches could be making a significant difference to society if everyone was doing “something”. Actually, forget society, lets start with making a significant difference to our churches. I also bet (please don’t get the idea that I am a betting woman) that the actual things that are being done are falling disproportionately on a small amount of people who are, quite frankly, jiggered. Are we waiting until we are better spiritually? Till we have got the hang of the Christian life a bit more?  Maybe, we will begin to get a bit more involved when the kids are older or we are more financially comfortable? We might not feel capable or qualified to serve. There are so many people about who are very “deep” people and next to them, I may barely feel like a Christian at all. Well maybe you don’t need to lead a retreat for people seeking deliverance from twenty eight demons. It doesn’t look like that’s where Matthew started. He invited his mates round for tea, because he wanted them to meet Jesus. Can you put jam on a scone and invite someone to eat with you one afternoon? Can you ask someone in church you are unfamiliar with if they would like to join you for a cup of weak tea and a chat at the back of church? (Do NOT just take them and leave them while you jolly off with your mates – this is service remember) Can you sing “Deep and Wide” and do the actions? I have met very few kids’ workers who would say no to someone at the back stopping the little darlings necking the Communion squash. Are you fairly good with Social Media? Could you bung things on Twitter regularly? Lots of people looking for church look there first apparently. There is so much to do and so few people and maybe now is the time to get going. Don’t wait to be in a better place or more spiritual. (There has to be a small caveat here. If you are struggling with anger issues and know that if you are put in charge of social media you will not be able to stop yourself continually writing the word BUM on Twitter, then the powers that be may not let you go ahead. That’s fair enough I think. But do not be discouraged. Find something else)

We live in uncertain times. We need to start now. We don’t need to wait for Jesus’ call. It has already happened.

 As you look around right now, wouldn’t you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It’s harvest time! John 4 35