A quiet weekend. We are recovering from the Beast from the East (Can I just say – stop naming the weather!! Flippin pointless exercise! Why would a storm be called “Emma”? Just stop it now!) Sorry.

So we stayed in most of Saturday because HOH has hurt his back. I wish I could say it was lifting an elderly person from a dangerous fall and back into bed but he did it lifting a bag of coal. (Shakes fist at snow laden sky. Weather – what have you done to us?) So I made my own entertainment with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as well as magazines and chocolate. I have had worse days I can tell you.

Anyway, onward.

Watch your step when you enter God’s house.
    Enter to learn. That’s far better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice,
        Doing more harm than good.

Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think.
Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear.
God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better.

Overwork makes for restless sleep.
Overtalk shows you up as a fool.

 

This is from Ecclesiastes. We have been looking at it at the C of E. It’s been very good but for me these few verses are developing into a bit of a revelation. At many times in my life I have wanted to be someone else. At the moment, it is usually Joanna Lumley but sometimes it is Diane Keaton. Occasionally, it is the lady on YouTube who can make nicely risen muffins (why do I find them so difficult)?

If I ever wanted someone to describe me and what I was like it would be the person above. Someone who goes to church to listen and to learn – not to make my mark. Has the confidence and self -possession to not speak unless it is necessary – especially to God. A person who has nothing to prove – especially to God. Someone, who knows that God is in charge and is also confident that God has their best interests at heart – not because of anything that I have done to deserve it but because of who God is. I would like to be a person who has full confidence in the work of grace.

I would like to be someone who doesn’t need to feel she has to work and work to hit targets, or to be admired for exceeding targets. To not be afraid to make mistakes – because everyone makes mistakes. Or at least not to beat myself up about them forever – or allow anyone else to do so. Because my mistakes are no surprise to the God who knew about them before I knew about him.

Because, overwork does make for restless sleep. And , if the God of all doesn’t put the pressure on me to do everything perfectly then I have no right to allow anyone else to have that power over me. To be someone who has few hang-ups about herself and the mark she is making because it really doesn’t matter in the end. Because this girl would be safe and secure. She would know who she is and who dwelt in her day to day and it would be more than enough – for anyone.

This person would not be afraid to be quiet and to listen to the Great Teacher because how cool is it that He would want to teach me? Less talking – more listening. Less worrying what people think about me and settling into what God thinks about me – despite knowing all about what I am capable of. I need, more and more to be quiet and be who I am

To believe and to consent to be loved is the great secret. WR Newell

I am sorry I didn’t pop up at weekend. I was ill. Not ill, ill. Nothing to worry about. It was a sore throat and a bad chest. I felt really rubbish but that was fair enough. The problem was when a water infection added itself to the gaiety of the general proceedings. (Let me know, if this is too much information won’t you?) So there followed lots of liquids etc etc and now I am quite a bit better – thanks for asking.

I have been trying to read. I am really struggling with the Tom Wright. It’s like wading through treacle backwards. And I feel bad because lots of people whose opinions I respect seem to think it is a masterpiece. So it must be me. I don’t think you concentrate the same when you feel a bit rubbish. But still, I wonder if my concentration is not as sharp as it used to be. I wonder if it is the effect of the Internet? People say it plays havoc with your ability to concentrate for prolonged periods of time. Or maybe old age? At this stage I am hoping you are all furiously typing comments saying “Me too!” Still I am going to try and stick with it but will probably re-read a Barbara Pym first to get my groove back.

For the first time in approximately 10 years, Plymouth has snow. We are not cut out for snow. We are in shock and my feet are cold on the kitchen floor. This is not what I signed up for. I moved from the north to not have cold feet on the kitchen floor. At work, we have had to take buses and scooters off the road because it wasn’t safe and 99% of the passengers have been lovely about it. It is the older aged people  who got most stroppy. It seems they laugh in the face of ice-based scooter-skidding danger. Especially when measured against a weekly supply of oven bottom muffins which must be bought from Sainsbury’s. Also, old people are a bit weird. I phoned Aged Parent because I wanted to reassure her that I had been ok getting to work. Was quite put out when it seemed she hadn’t given me a second thought and was more exercised about Brexit.

AP.      Does this Brexit mean we will be back at war with Ireland?

Me      What did I say about watching Channel 4 news?

AP.      Well we don’t want it back. You couldn’t go into the street without fear of your pub being blown up or being shot.

Me.      In Bolton?

AP.      Either way, we don’t want Donald Trump and guns.

Me.      In Ireland?

AP.      You know exactly what I mean.

(I don’t. Seriously. I don’t)

Also, the Lent School of Faith has been cancelled because of the weather so I am unable to be a C of E person this week.   It never rains but it snows.

Sometimes, there is not much going wrong, just a low level blah which probably needs me to run at it in my vest and underpants shaking a stick at the blah feeling and reminding myself of blessings counted. So a couple of thoughts. Was looking at “O love that will not let me go.” I am a bit suspicious of anyone who doesn’t like that hymn. Came across the line – “I trace the rainbow through the rain” (Keep meaning to ask Ang at Tracing Rainbows if that’s where she gets it) And it’s not passive. It’s active. You can’t just lie there all floppy and let it all take over. We have to look at what we came from. Who God is, remind ourselves what he can do and pray for help. And as someone very helpfully pointed out to me this week back comes the very non-passive reply.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 43

 

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