Sunday, 26 February 2017

My Favourite Character

This is about the book of Jonah. If you are not familiar with it, you may find it helpful to read here

I love Jonah. I think that have a lot in common with Jonah. Obviously not the being eaten up by the big fish bit. We don't share that experience. I'm supposing you're the same. If you do think that you have shared that experience, you should write a book, or get interviewed or have a nice lie down in a dark room until the feeling passes.
We also don't share being an amazing preacher which I assume he was. Well, when he preached an entire nation repented. Practically overnight. Turned on a sixpence. Even the dogs sorted themselves out. (Anyone who has met my dog Morecambe will know that this is something I definitely don't share with Jonah) Not many can say that they have made entire nations repent, I wouldn't have thought. We may have heard a few preachers claim that they did this and we may have suspected that it wasn't entirely correct. Jonah did it though.
Jonah is one of the main "I'm not having that" things that people throw my way about Christianity. They say things like "But Jonah and that whale. Who believes that?" For what its worth, even as a child I wasn't sure that there was a literal whale, although I have found it a useful rule of thumb in life not to underestimate God. However, it has never really mattered whether there was a literal event or not. I just love Jonah.
He's all over the place. God tells him to do something, and although we can assume he has the gifts to do it. He ignores the instruction completely and goes in the other direction. We are not even told why he legs it. Fear? Inadequacy? Can't be bothered?  He gets in a boat and the weather happens. When the storm hits, he knows that he is the problem and heroically offers to sacrifice himself to save the others. (I don't think he had any possible ideas about whales and bellies - would you?)  When God saves him, he is repentant and contrite. He does what God asks him to do and is hugely successful. Instead of being chuffed and full of faith and optimism, he gets all ratty. Why should Nineveh get all this forgiveness? He has a go at God for his mercy - despite having been a recipient of it pretty recently. God responds with grace and covers him from the sun. Jonah calms down. God removes the cover. Jonah gets nasty again. God gently reminds him who is boss.

I love the passion of the relationship between God and Jonah. Jonah knows God. He knows exactly who he is. Yet Jonah gives God a hard time, he gets fed up, he accuses God of things that aren't true, he is irrational. Jonah has a short memory when it comes to God's goodness. He sees great miracles but prefers to concentrate on how rubbish he feels now. He is upset by other people's blessings and greedy for his own. He has everything within him to serve God and it seems to be a chore. I don't know if I identify with any other biblical character more. 
You know what else I notice in all this. The character of God. He is patient. He gives out second chances. He heroically saves, knowing that any gratitude will be short lived. He provides shelter then removes it to gently instruct and inform. He reminds Jonah who he is without using fireballs, plagues, pestilences or anything else that might make Jonah permanently regret his stroppiness. It is a story of a man and his God. It shows the chasm in behaviour and the way God reaches out over the chasm. Knowing what I am like, with my unfailing tendency to be a ratbag most of the time. It is very comforting to see how God feels about someone just like me.

Thursday, 16 February 2017


Full confession - I love reality TV. Not the TV where people of no discernible talent, usually from a disadvantaged background are encouraged to perform like dancing monkeys for our entertainment. You know the kind of thing I'm sure. No, I really love the kind of show where people take their passion, which they have been developing for some time and work with professionals and mentors - kind of in competition but usually with a heartwarming team spirit. At the moment I am setting the Betamax for The Great Pottery Throwdown and The Big Painting Challenge. I really like the people hosting them - Sara Cox is from Bolton and therefore untouchable and the Reverend Richard Coles is a bona fide National Treasure. Also in there is Mariella Frostrup who makes the men in my house emit a strange noise when she begins to speak. I love these and, if the Bake Off became a bit overhyped last year, I still hope that they manage to salvage something of its lovely warmth, wherever it ends up.
But - hold the phone! I read this week that my favourite  - The Great British Sewing Bee, has not been recommissioned yet. This is unacceptable. I love Claudia on this. I love the way men and women come together to sew things they will never wear. This is British TV at its absolute zenith. It also shows you how skewed my priorities are. It took me a couple of days to get round to signing the petitions about refugees but when one came round about the Sewing Bee - I was on it like a shot. As the highly competent new President  of the USA would say. Sad.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Northern Returns

We have been away, Now we are back. The undeniable climax to Aged Parent's 80th birthday celebrations was a return to her northern roots - for a few days at least. With the dog safely ensconced at home with FOW1 for a few days, we climbed into the car and began the five hour trundle to Bolton. We were a bit worried about Aged Parent in the leg department - what with the Arthritis and everything but we found that liberal application of Tramadol sorted all that out. (Please don't write to Age Concern. It has all been legitimately prescribed)
I may or may not have mentioned that Aged Parent has a sister. She is a few years older than AP but otherwise a carbon copy of her. It is, I think, written somewhere in Leviticus, that two such similar people, when left in close proximity to each other for a few days will inevitably clash. This will always happen - no matter how much they adore one another.  We dropped Aged Parent off with Aged Sister and went off to meet some very nice friends. When we returned the next day, it appeared that they had been re-enacting the film "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane." There was a great deal of moaning and groaning about each other - most of it though was under-breath grumbling so neither of them could hear the other one doing it. We had arrived to take Aged Parent to our old church, giving her the opportunity to meet some friends. We were all taken aback when Aged Sister - who has never shown any interest in Christianity - announced that she thought she would like to come as well.
We arrived at church with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in tow and were warmly greeted at the door by the dreaded words - "How lovely to see you. You know it's the Youth Service don't you?" For the uninitiated - the Youth Service involves flashing lights, driving beats, jumping up and down and high-fiving - all the while informing ourselves and each other how awesome we all are. It's fine and dandy for young people. Not so much for two octogenarians , who sat at the back wondering what was going on. Still, it gave Aged Sister something to think about. 
The next few days were taken up with meeting friends and relatives (see above) which they seemed to enjoy and constant bickering which they also seemed to enjoy. 
Anyway, when we set off home and it occurred to them both that they may not see each other anytime soon - they promptly burst into tears. Which was nice. As for me and HOH we planned in a cheeky little trip to Ikea on the way back. It all was, as the young people say, win, win.


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Golden Hill

I am not a natural book reviewer. If I like it I will come on here and say so. If I don't I will probably wap it in the bin and we will never speak of it again. I'm not very good at being negative about people's hard work so I just tend to be quiet. I also know that book reviews do not seem to set my blog alight with traffic so I may be just writing this for me. Hey Ho.
This is a very good book. (I could end this here to be frank but I won't) I'm pretty sure that I have said on here before that Unapologetic -  Francis Spufford's book on his Christianity is one of the books that has influenced me most in this part of my Christian life (as in old and haggard). So I have been interested in anything he has written. However, this is not a Christian book. It is fiction - set in New York before the revolution. It is a rattling good read. If you are like me and a bit slow on the uptake, the pace and the language can take a bit of getting used to. It is set in 1746 and the language reflects that. Once I got the hang of it though, it fairly races along. There are some great set-pieces - a chase along rooftops, a duel and a really effective piece set in the theatre. The hero is handsome, mysterious and made for a movie adaptation. (I suggest Tom Hardy if anyone cares) There is a heartbreaking death and a final scene that made me almost want to stand up and cheer which would have been unfortunate as I was in bed at the time. It is a fantastic book. 


Monday, 30 January 2017


I am a fairly independent kind of person. I can drive a car, I can iron a reasonably straight line in my trousers, I can boil an egg perfectly. (That last one is a lie) I was reading something quite nasty on the Internet about how Christians are a bit pathetic - leaning as they need to on a God who insists on being top dog and in charge all the time. I thought about it for a while because it is true - we do. Why would a reasonably grown up person like me be happy with this kind of arrangement? It's a fair question I think.
When I see the statement above, it makes me comforted, secure, in safe hands. It doesn't make me feel as if I am in some kind of abusive relationship.
Mainly it's about the kind of God that God is. I'm from the north - we are sharp as tacks - I wouldn't choose to worship any old god type entity. To belong to God is to belong to someone who always has my best interests at heart. It is to be a part of something where someone who always gets it right, invites me in to see how it is done. It is to draw alongside something so beyond my normal comprehension that things happen that I would never expect. It is to see an impossibly high standard set for me with no condemnation when I fail. Then there is the love. This God loves me. This God loves me without cause. This God loved me enough to send his son to die for me. I owe this God an immeasurable debt, yet the only repayment he asks is that I allow him to set me free. 
So you have a point when you say that I am subservient. I do look in awe and worship. But it is a truth that we all worship - something or other - money, power, popularity even (heaven help us) clean eating. Christians get to worship someone whose position of God in the relationship gives us comfort, security and surprisingly, a chance to be ourselves - free as birds. Strange how that works isn't it?

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