Saturday, 31 March 2012

In My Honest Opinion

It's been really sunny just about everywhere in this Britain we like to call Great. Possibly time to get the legs out or possibly not. Anyone who knows me at all - and I mean has come across me in the flesh in a real bodily way rather than on the Interweb, will know that my legs are not my favourite feature. I mean they hold me up and help me to walk the dogs and everything so they are quite serviceable but, shapely they are not.
In the early days of our relationship when Head of House was still trying to impress me, he would barely make mention of these legs. That is unless they had my favourite blue moccasins on the end of them. He inexplicably took against these blue moccasins and refused to go out with me when I had them on. He claimed that it was for my own good and that I would thank him one day. I still miss those moccasins.
To return to my legs. These days I find that when HOH is accompanying me when shopping for clothes, I am more in need of an honest opinion, preferably kindly expressed about how my legs look in things, rather than flattery. Obviously, I can live without. "No! Just No! Take them off now!" but still honesty is the best policy. We've been together long enough and seen enough things happen to be well past the stage where I would be happy with him saying "It looks lovely" just because (a) he didn't want to hurt my feelings or (b) he's bored and would like to go home (more likely). We are comfortable enough with each other to be past that sort of thing. Although I do still hold to my old mother's maxim of keeping some mystery in the bathroom if you get my drift. Some things should always be done alone.
I was thinking about this when I was thinking about one of my favourite promises for me from God. It's in Isaiah and my favourite version is in The Message

I'm transforming you from worm to harrow
From Insect to Iron
As a sharp toothed harrow, you'll smooth out the mountains
turn those tough old hills into loamy soil

Now, at first glace this doesn't look much like a nice thing to say to a lady. I will turn you into a sharp toothed harrow. (For those of you who don't subscribe to Farming Monthly - a harrow is a sort of agricultural implement with teeth or discs that cut through the soil. See. Learnt something. You're welcome.)
It's a bit like when Patrick Swayze used to sing "She's Like the Wind" in Dirty Dancing. I haven't seen the film myself so I suppose I can't comment but it always sounded a bit off to me.
The thing is though for me, this was a great promise. I do have a bit of a tendency to the wishy-washy. Leave me alone to tidy a room and if you come back an hour later, chances are I will have got sidetracked by a bag of old letters or a book and have achieved nothing. I'm often well meaning but seldom accomplish all that I mean well to do. I have lots that I want to accomplish but struggle often with a sort of inbuilt worminess. When I first read this it was as if God was honest enough to agree that I was a bit wet but that he would help me overcome it. I was thrilled skinny. Still am when I read it. Because I do see that I have come on a bit in this area. Although I depend on God to comfort me, I also need a God of truth. We don't have to be afraid of God's honesty because unlike remarks about my moccasins it's always for my good in the long run or even, if I catch on quickly enough, in the short run.
I am aware that I have a responsibility in this too. If God is to transform me I do have a responsibility to pitch in a bit too. I thought about this when re-playing this comedy sketch from genius Bob Newhart. (Seen him live. I know you are jealous - well you should be.) I mean if you are talking about honesty, well this is as good as it gets.


Saturday, 24 March 2012


Unlike some people on this sceptred isle, I bow to no one in my admiration for the USA. I think it is a great country. I know I've only been to New York which is sort of a country on its own really but I think that any place that produces Star Wars - originals only  *compulsory disclaimer on all mentions of the words "Star" and "Wars"*, Frank Sinatra, The West Wing, Phillip Yancey, Woody Allen, Motown etc etc must be your actual rather wonderful place.
I know some people take exception to America's habit of occasionally shouting at everyone "Who rules da world?" just to put us in our place but to be fair - they probably do. I think we as Brits probably did the same thing when we had an Empire but our shouting would be a bit more refined and done with our pinkie finger in the air.
I also accept that there are places in America where the sixties never happened and that in these places the fact that America has a black president is just a temporary moment of madness that will soon pass. It sometimes seems strange to me as a foreigner that the President's way of dealing with this seems to be to pretend that he isn't black at all until I remember that when we were all sort of revolutionary over here and elected our own lady/woman leaderene, she was practically a man in everything but the lippy and the handbag. I suppose the idea is that it doesn't matter what colour/sex you are.
Anyway I am digressing again. Why don't you shout and tell me? Despite all this general American wonderfulness there is one thing I can never forgive them for. The Prom. To be precise the prom for sixteen year olds. When I was sixteen, at the end of the school year we had a school disco. We wore platform shoes and love beads. The super glams wore blue glittery eyeshadow. It was super exciting because make up and jewellery were not allowed at school. (Officially. Unofficially people wore jewellery until they got caught, when it was instantly confiscated, never to return. My theory was that Mrs Briddon had a stall on Farnworth Market with the stuff she nicked from me)
Now sixteen year old people cannot just settle for a disco. Oh no. we have to deal with THE PROM. This is the first time I have had to cope with this. Fruit of Womb One sulked his way through his first one (Boring) and didn't bother turning up for the second one skulking off to Pizza Hut instead. I knew it would be different with the girl.
Now I have to admit that I am getting off lightly. Girl is spending day of Prom at friend's house and they will be getting hair, nails etc done there by visiting beauty moppets. Some parents are running all over town making beauty appointments like its for Oscar Night and it's not that bad for me but there is still terrible pressure to get the right dress, shoes etc. Who decided that this was acceptable? Who is the demon master of marketing that managed to foist this on us? Evil Genius you are.
Have you seen some of the prices of the dresses? Now I'm not mean (well OK I am quite mean) but £600 to buy a dress to stand in some crummy hotel with a load of grumpy teachers and hysterical school kids, all of whom will be the worse for drink despite  threats about enforced sobriety. Pah and double pah! By the way, before you start emailing me with photos of starving African children and lecturing me on being loosey goosey with good money, let me reassure you that we will not be spending £600 on a prom frock in this house.
It is so difficult though. Some Christians who live in the woods and eat berries and see the glory of God in nature every day etc will tell me to get real and make a dress from curtains like the Sound of Music. But I can't. I simply can't. I don't have time for one thing and for another, anyone who saw my attempt at putting a zip into a cushion cover knows that no sane person would ever wear anything I made.
I could make her wear something from the hospice shop and indeed I expect some people will do this successfully. But I think you have to have a certain elan to pull that off. I don't posses enough style and I'm not convinced that everyone else who thinks that they have that style actually has it either. I remember dropping Girl off at a party where her friend was wearing a "vintage" frock. The last person I saw wearing a dress like that was Olive in On The Buses. And Olive looked better in it.
Do I want her to think God is a spoilsport? Does God not want her to look pretty? God made her pretty - of course he does. It is I suppose, all about the daily challenge of a balanced, godly life in a world where values have sometimes gone to pot as they say up north. My challenge is to allow, nay encourage her to have a good time while reminding her of the ridiculousness of the whole thing and that spending every last penny on looking like you are permanently auditioning for a soap isn't really something to build a whole life on. I believe our American cousins call it "Keeping it Real". Indeed.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mother's Day Thinking

So here I am celebrating Mother's Day - sort of. Head of House is working so without him to pile on the guilt,   Mother's Day is not what you would call a priority here. Still Fruit of Womb One is home from York University so that is nice. Neither of the sprogs are guaranteeing to spend the whole day here - there's no point being ridiculous about it.
So, left to my own devices, I was musing on Parenthood - the movie not the vocation. It's one of my favourite films. I love Steve Martin - he is a genius. That is not an invitation to debate. That is a fact. I am unmoved in this opinion despite the strange changes there seem to have been to his face recently. Anyway, there are several key scenes in the film that perfectly capture what it is to be a parent. This is one of those moments. Kevin is an insecure child who hates playing in his baseball team because there's so much pressure. And when the ball goes towards him, the panic his father feels is only matched by his joy when the ball is caught.
It's so good because that's how it is when you are a parent. A great chasm of love opens up that you can do nothing about. Sometimes it's as painful as it is joyful but that is irrelevant. Parents are completely caught up in their children with no hope of escape. You have probably heard the phrase "I am only as happy as my unhappiest child. " and I think that is true. (I tried to find out who said it originally but couldn't find anything. Well I Googled it and it wasn't in the first three answers.That's what passes for research as far as I am concerned) There are exceptions to this I know but I am only speaking from experience and it is an extraordinary and powerful experience.
Maybe the most "successful" Christians are those who manage to get hold of how this translates into the Fatherhood of God. Imagine someone completely caught up in you. Sharing your joys, troubles and heartbreak as if it were their own.
Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

These words from Matthew are some of the first words that Jesus speaks after the resurrection. Look and think about the phrase "my brothers"
I don't know if you do meditation. It got a bit of a bad press when I was a young Christian - being associated with yogis who were apparently showing the Beatles the path to enlightenment while secretly trying to put their hand on Mia Farrow's leg.
Put all that behind you though and try to meditate about this phrase and all that I think Jesus is deliberately saying about Christians here.
MY - implies family, belonging, strong connection and intimacy.
BROTHERS - if he is the son and we are his brothers then we too are sons, family and belonging. It's who were are.
It nothing to do with how we feel. It's who we are. It's un-caused, un-earned. It's how a family is supposed to be.
Have a great week everyone.

PS Head of House is unimpressed by effect the Cloonster getting arrested for very important and heroic stand is having on female members of the family. Head of House knows nothing.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Come let us reason together

Or not.

You may well have been subject to name calling over the last couple of weeks. You may well have not even realised that it was happening. I came across it by default because it happened on Twitter and the Twitter/Lent/Giving Up Thing is just about holding. I'm still not sure why I am doing it - no discernable spiritual effect but I've come this far. Anyway, if you have signed up to the petition calling for marriage to remain as a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman you may or may not know that a link went up on Twitter referring to the petition as a "Homophobe List" One word (sort of)

I need to explain my thoughts - few of which will flow in any particularly coherent way and some of which will probably not be file-able under "Christian Heart-Warming Edifying Things" but it's my blog and I want to say them anyway.
The first thing is that you should not lose too much sleep over this. The link was put up by some of the "right-on" slightly snarky writers who earn their living by proving that they know much more than you could ever possibly hope to. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of reading you as you insult me. I'm very humbled.
When I'm insulted, I usually prefer it to be by someone who knows me from a bar of soap - call me old fashioned. There's very little I can hold my head up about in this life but anyone who knows my life circumstances knows that a Homophobe I ain't.
These are very complicated issues. For me, the Christian church has brought a lot of this on itself by a surfeit of superiority when it was in the majority on this issue. I also think that if, as a Christian, anyone can honestly point at me and attach the word "---phobe" to me about anything or anyone, then I have to have a good look at myself. I am in no position to judge anyone.
Some people are referring to this as persecution. I am not so sure. I think if you spent 15 minutes with a Nigerian Christian or an Egyptian Christian you would be able to have a clearer definition of real persecution and would feel like a bit of a soft nelly.
What concerns me is that tolerance seems to be a bit of a one way street. For many people these are deeply held spiritual views (although again - complicated - there is a huge spectrum of opinion in this area within the church) which really transcend some people in the papers writing opinion pieces. But, as the great philosopher Will Young seemed to suggest on Question Time this week - anyone who disagrees with his viewpoint isn't actually entitled to an opinion, so there. (I don't think he actually said that he would scweam and scweam until he was sick but the threat was certainly there)
See how mad it's made me? I will need to go off and eat several scones to calm down.
The worst thing about all this is that it detracts. It detracts from the central truth. That the Son of God, while I had no interest in him whatsoever, came to the earth and died for me so that I could have my life changed and be saved. So that he could call me friend.

Isaiah 1:18
Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

La di da

Well the Internet is back, which is nice. I have spent too much time really catching up on reading blogs etc as well as your actual basic being alive stuff so I haven't really sat down and prayed and thought about what to say really. We are off to church to night as part of a highly scientific experiment to try some different meetings to allow Head of House  to attend more because his shifts make things difficult sometimes. So between then and now, I have to make a chicken cobbler, have a shower (new one fitted yesterday - happy but will miss extra time to do stuff while bath is running)and generally sort stuff for working morning tomorrow. So what I am saying is that I sometimes do this a bit on the hoof. Who knew?
I sometimes wish I was more thoughtful. I don't mean thoughtful in that I always remember birthdays and ring people up when I hear that their cat has died. (I don't really - I am rubbish at that sort of stuff. I always think people will think I am poking my nose in so I sit alone and worry about people silently.) No I mean thoughtful in that I think deeply about my faith. Both inside and outside the box as the young people say. I admire people who do this. The blog  Quiet Way is a brilliant example of this. I may not always come to the same conclusions she comes to but I admire the way that she has taken the time to do so.Unfortunately, I am much more of a La Di Da sort of person. If you haven't seen Annie Hall (and if you haven't you can't possibly be my friend so if you love me you will make the effort) you may not know that La Di Da was a phrase that Diane Keaton would use when she kind of ran out of useful things to say or when she didn't know the answer to something. With her it was endearing. With me - maybe less so. I don't expect to have the answers to everything - That way madness and at the very least an attempt at world domination lies. But some things I think are important enough to develop a useful opinion on and need thought.
The problem, of course, is time. I would love to spend more time in the garden under a home crocheted blanket, sipping whisky (OK - possibly not if I am trying to think) and coming up with deep spiritual insights but in practice, it rarely happens. The only way is to simplify things and then to actually do quiet time. And while I am at it I might just learn how to teach a pig to fly. Frustrated? You bet your bippy. Giving up on it? Nah. Old story. Old solution. Think I might ask God to help me

Sensitive natured people - look away now. Have spent morning in raucous laughter. Daughter has monkey suit onesie. HOH hung it on washing line this morning. Monkey suit has curly tail. Curly tail on back on onesie is never noticed. Curly tail peeping out between washing has highly pornographic appearance - borderline frightening. Monkey suit taken off line sharpish before visit from local constabulary. Do you think its like this in Billy Graham's House?

No not Davey Jones as well. Love the Manchester accent here...
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