This is where I am

I have been reading the books pictured above. One of these books is not like the other one. One of these books is about the other one and it has given me a fantastic and personal sort of release about the way I read the Bible. (Dramatic pause – if you want to. Depends on how much drama you like).

I like Nick Page. I enjoy his Podcast Mid Faith Crisis which he presents with Joe Davis. HOH really liked his book “Dark Night of the Shed” (a sort of Christian Male mid-life crisis book) I think this may be one of his most important books.

I was brought up in a very traditional Bible-believing family and I am grateful for it. I was brought up on Bible stories and taught what they meant. I listened to preachers take Bible verses apart and apply them to my life. I was also taught that they were literally true. The first thing that ever gave me pause was when a workmate asked what the possibility was that Noah had nipped up to Antarctica to make sure that he got a couple of Emperor Penguins. I didn’t say so but I thought he had a point. Then there were two different accounts of Creation. I didn’t ever really have any kind of problem with the idea of God creating the world (for which I’m sure he is eternally grateful) because if he is God I’m sure he can. It just didn’t ever really look to me like he did it quite how I had been taught. And so, my belief system became quite fuzzy (secretly so) but it didn’t really affect my faith in God, my need of a saviour and my amazement at Grace so, if I am struggling with the idea of Jonah in a whale, it never really bothered me because I was always so astonished at the lengths God went to, to forgive, forget and give another chance to the people of Ninevah (and Jonah too when he had a stonking sulk because he felt hard done to – I always liked him).

Now, here is a book that talks about the Bible being God-breathed and that we are meant to inhale it. To inhale the very essence of God through its pages even though a good proportion of it may not be well – a bit boring – try as I might, I have never been captivated by the measurements of the Temple. He talks about it being written by Committee rather than God moving the pen in someone’s hand. He talks about some of the history being a bit fuzzy – especially around the Patriarchs and Prophets – maybe even that there were several Isaiahs. And I’m still not bothered because I know that God is all over it like a rash and that it is stamped through with how he feels about me.

I have also been moved by what he has said about reading the Bible. Well for a start he says that for most of the Bible’s life, you couldn’t read it because most people couldn’t read and even if you could, you probably couldn’t afford access to it. So people would listen to it, tell tales from it and chew it over. So, if it’s better for you to listen to the Bible than read it, you join with a long illustrious line of men sitting at the city gates, people on hillsides, children in newly formed Sunday schools, plantation workers and on and on from there. If it works better for you, you don’t need to feel that reading is “better”.

Also, Page doesn’t believe that God is bothered about what version you read. NIV, King James, American Standard – you know lots of others. Which brings me to me. (You know in the end that it’s always about me.) For the past twelve months, I have read only The Message. I have been taught that it is only a paraphrase and I always assumed that this was a stopgap, while I was a bit dodgy but, I have to tell you that no other version has challenged or comforted me like this one. For instance, for two weeks, I have been reading the section of Matthew after the Sermon on the Mount and it has been brilliant.

Matthew 6 25-26 “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

I have been chewing over that for ages. I was speaking to HOH and saying how much I was enjoying The Message and would be sad to leave it for a more “accepted” version. He asked, “So why would you?”

So don’t shout at me. I just wanted to share where I am and it is a good thing. Let me just leave you with a quote from Nick Page’s book. Which I am definitely recommending. Have a good week.

“The Bible is an invitation. The Bible is a call. The breath of God lifts its pages; they rise and fall with his breathing.

So open the book. Inhale the breath of God. Become the story.”

Stress

I am never doing this again. That’s if we manage to do it now. Move house that is. According to solicitors/estate agents/self-taught experts, everything is going according to plan. According to us – the sky is about to fall.

I have deliberately not blogged because, believe it or not, the idea on here is to be fairly edifying or, failing that, at least keep the hysteria down to manageable levels. After all, life is full of genuine crises where people cannot put food on the table or are having their children snatched from them and put into camps and no-one likes a cry baby. BUT I am not a person full of perspective and clear thinking. Everyone told me that this was really stressful, and I didn’t believe them. I mean, surely, if you just keep going along steadily, it will all come good in the end. Yes? Ha!

Some of the stress I bring on myself. There is no need to act as if it is a personal affront when people question me on the possibility of damp. (There is some damp. The house was built in 1901. Every house on the road has the odd patch) When this happened I behaved as if someone is suggesting that the house is like a scene in The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I have, of course barely considered praying about it or anything like that. I have just read another book by Pete Greig about praying and he has talked again about bringing every small worry and thought to God because it is about the relationship in the end and God wants to be soaked in every bit of our lives and will never get bored and go away. I feel that if I came to him with every single worry/negative thought at the moment that I would test that theory to its absolute limit.

I’m trying to be nice to everyone obviously and Christian and serene and all “What Would Jesus Do?” but some people are pushing it. I’ll leave it there.

Anyway, I had some leave last week so we did various things for a bit of a break you know. We visited our children, went to IKEA (I know but it is MY stress relief and we went really early in the morning) and we took Aged Parent to Tavistock for the day. This was a wholly successful trip as far as she was concerned as it had the words Pannier Market in it. I have to be honest, most of the stuff there seems to be things that people have been trying to clear out of their attic since 1962 but to AP it was an Aladin’s Cave. I had to take some control – she really does have no need for shoes that are two sizes too big and I don’t care how many pairs of socks she will be wearing to “fill them out”. However, she bought a nice blouse (which we will never see again) and lots of DVDs because she likes a DVD in the evening. I tried to help her choose because she can get titles mixed up sometimes and also, she does like a thriller – especially quite tense ones. We went to see her at the weekend and asked if she had seen any of the films.

“Well yes, but your choice of The Girl on the Train was terrible.”

“I thought you would like it – it’s very tense.”

Well yes it is but I don’t know if you know but it is also a VERY SEXY film and I wasn’t happy with that kind of thing and was quite surprised at you.

(After having checked with Film Studies daughter am told that the film had its moments but was comparatively tame. Am now very concerned about exactly what film she was watching) It’s a trying time.

Challenge Not Challenge

This is the Woman Alive Summer Reading Challenge. I am not entirely sure how I am supposed to find any more time to read just because it is Summer, but you know me and it is not in my nature to nit-pick so let’s assume that all my day to day commitments have disappeared because I have prickly heat. (For people who don’t know Woman Alive is a Christian magazine mainly for women although I don’t think anyone is particularly bothered who reads it. I like it a lot although I do get a teensy weensy tiny bit annoyed that the final “funny” page is written by a bloke. Can women not be funny? By the way – no problem with men writing for the magazine. They are usually very good and goodness knows that males can always do with the exposure. Rant over – nice and early this week)

This book challenge looks very interesting. The timing couldn’t be worse though because I am skint. Moving house is very expensive. We keep getting emails from solicitors saying things like

“Please find enclosed our bank details. Please transfer £240 into our account at your earliest convenience.”

Er. Thank you for your email. Not to be too inquisitive but why?

“Following on from our discussion it is for services rendered/Land Registry Fees/Staff Christmas Party” (Delete according to your level of disbelief)

So this is no time to run amok in Waterstones, is it? What with the list above plus all the Josephine Tey recommendations in the comments last week, (thanks very much all by the way) I might be looking to see if I can do at least some of it on the cheap. I have already been on the library website and ordered a book and I might have a look in charity shops. I’ll be ignoring the “Challenge” word. Like most people I am finding life challenging enough – why would I want to turn it into some kind of race? It’s just some interesting ideas.

Also this week, I discovered the Libby App. It’s an app on my phone and I can download audiobooks from the library as well as e-books. Last week I listened to Agatha Christie’s Sparkling Cyanide while I was walking to work, which was excellent. There are plenty of books to choose from but at my library, there are quite a few that you have to wait to borrow. I’ve just downloaded a very gossipy one about Prince Charles. I’m not proud of myself.

To the cinema, this week to see Toy Story 4 and to cry like a baby. It may be the stress of the move but there is a bit at the end where one toy hugs another toy (sorry, trying not to spoil) and I could barely get control of myself. I am known to be a bit of a movie cry baby. ET left me so devastated and snotty that small children were pointing at me and laughing as they left the cinema. Anyway, it’s highly recommended. Borrow a small person to go with if you think you need to. I didn’t bother.

Anyway, back to sorting out my Tupperware cupboard and getting rid of all the old ice cream tubs with no lids. I expect it’s very much like this at Harry and Megan’s house on a Saturday afternoon. After all, he’s said that they are very much “Private Citizens” now. Right. That boy thinks that we are idiots.

Have a great week.

The Daughter of Time

Josephine Tey

I understand that I am the last person in the Universe to read this book. Published in 1951 it tells the story of a fictional detective, Inspector Alan Grant. Inspector Grant is recovering in hospital from a fall down an open trap door believe it or not and, because he is bored, he begins to investigate the story of the murder of “The Princes in the Tower” – as you do. Thinking about it, it’s not a bad way to spend prolonged time in hospital. When my brother was in Bolton Royal, after being run over on a zebra crossing, it fell to me to play endless games of Connect Four to keep a bored schoolboy entertained. I have never really been able to look that game in the eye ever since.

Inspector Grant is a far deeper kind of person, fascinated by a portrait of Richard III and he thinks that he doesn’t look like the kind of person who would arrange for the murder of two young boys – which is a big assertion to make based on one portrait but that’s Inspector Grant for you. So he begins to investigate, undeterred by the fact that he is forced to lie down all the time and perhaps an even bigger obstacle, the fact that the crime happened almost 500 years earlier. I am not sure if this kind of detective story has been done before Josephine Tey wrote this book. I remember that Inspector Morse once solved a very old case from his hospital bed but that was fictional and therefore cheating a bit. I also remember, I think, a TV programme in the 70s where two detectives from Z cars pretended to look into old unsolved cases like Jack the Ripper and the Lindberg Killing. Was it Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor?

Anyway, this is a cracking book. You will not be surprised to learn that Grant is unimpressed by the accounts of the time that suggested that Richard was responsible and he comes up with someone else that he thinks is much more likely. (No spoilers but it is the usual person whose name always comes up as a suspect). I was glad that I do have a smattering of English history under my belt because there’s an awful lot of Henrys and their wives and offspring knocking about so you have to keep track. I enjoyed it and I agree with Alan that there is more to this than meets the eye.

Also interesting was the part played by Thomas More who wrote the definitive history of Richard III during the life of Henry VIII. For long complicated reasons of succession that I am too tired and undereducated to go into now, it went down very well with Henry VIII that Richard was portrayed as a wicked child murderer and a hunchback and, to no one’s surprise, More was happy to supply this narrative and we have more or less accepted that as the truth ever since.

I don’t think I would bet the farm on the possibility that Richard didn’t do it. Yet, in these times of fake news when we struggle to find the truth about politicians, leaders and plenty of others who want to be the boss of us, it is interesting to speculate on the narrative that we are being fed and who benefits from what we believe. We are assured that it shouldn’t make any difference what our leaders do in their private lives – so long as they get the trains running on time. I say – not so fast sweetheart! These are weird times. It falls to us to hold our leaders to account and, as much as we can, to make sure that we are hearing and judging by the truth even if that’s not always what people want us to hear.

What if?

It’s that time of year. The air is heavy with festivals and Christian conferences – especially Christian ladies’ conferences. I have no problems with these events. I’ve enjoyed lots of them and even spoken at one or two. I have never attracted the level of excitement of a Joyce Meyer or a Beth Moore but no one ever asked for their money back or anything.

I find the names of these events a bit off-putting. I quite like “Cherish” but that’s mainly because there was a nice girl at my school called Cherish and now I always have the association. (There was also a girl at my Primary School called Denise who kept pinching my earlobe so I am always a bit wary round Denises now). There is one in Manchester called “Luminous” and one in Plymouth called “Stilettos”. It’s titles like this that make me think these events are not really for the likes of me. If it was called “Comfy Trainers”, I might pay a bit more attention. I suppose it’s mainly to attract the young people because that’s what we need. Young people to prove that we are relevant.

I love young people. In fact, I believe the children are our future. (Sorry, I am going through a bit of a George Benson phase at the moment). Young people are under horrendous pressure, mental health problems are rife and young people – who with the advent of Social Media are seen and heard more than ever before are more lost and lonely than ever before. Do I believe that God is the answer for them? Most certainly I do. I just sometimes worry that church can chase the young people like bright shiny baubles so that no one will think that your church is just made up of old codgers like me.

Also, the thing is – I’m not sure I’m finished yet and you might well not be either. Maybe, as the great Tony Bennett often sings, “The Best is Yet to Come.” I thought about that this week when I was reading in John about the Wedding in Cana when I read the bit above. We expect all the achievements to happen when we are young and luscious. We are full of energy and ambition, families and dependants are maybe not with us yet and sickness and loss are rarer.

I think that our achievements may be measured differently because I think we have been around long enough to have realised that the things we used to pursue like a kitten with a pom-pom were not all they were cracked up to be.

We can understand better the satisfaction of caring for a loved one, without the fear of missing out on being where the action is. We are freer of the rush to possess as we have found out long ago that satisfaction does not lie in owning seventeen handbags. We like to watch what we eat but not so that we can squeeze into a size zero because, in the end, we understand the value of a pineapple cake to the health of our souls. We have discovered that it is entirely possible to go to Aldi without make-up. And, perhaps most importantly, we understand the value of a little nap.

Possibly as well, this is the time to write that book, to lead that group, to mentor the learners, to make ourselves available for the lost and the lonely – even those who may not look that cool on the church Instagram feed, to find forgiveness in our hearts for those who nearly broke us and teach others how to do the same.

We may be slower, we may be more tired, our race may be more of a determined walk with plenty of stop-offs for a nice cup of tea but we are still in the race and there may be more to come than we have imagined.