Saturday, 26 May 2012

Education, education, education

We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. 
Romans 5

I have sacrificed my afternoon for you to come in out of the glorious Devon sunshine and write this. Although, to be honest, I think I was just getting to that stage where someone was about to say - "You look a bit red" and you realise that your skin feels a bit sting-y. It's a bit weird here because the heat and a cloudless sky are accompanied by a near gale force breeze. (Hence the photo above - Californian Poppies - not blurry but blowy)
We are all in full GCSE mode still. Anyone with offspring will know that exams are not just confined to the person taking them. Everyone else in the family is either helping revision, or being supportive or trying to make sure everyone is happy or worrying or all of the above.
Like most sane people, I am a great believer in education. Education is how people learn things. Some things may prove to be more useful than others. But, whether it's being taught why Sylvia Plath didn't just cheer up a bit and have a Magnum in the garden, or what difference it makes to you that two men digging a hole in Whitby take an hour to do it if they use bigger spades, education is a "good thing", I think we all agree.(That's a statement - not a question - Fruit of Womb Two!)
Education though, takes many different forms. I saw some in action this week when I was walking to work. A dad was walking his little girl to school and she was unhappy. Very unhappy. She toddled along behind him, lunch box in one hand, school case in the other, sobbing her little heart out. She did not want to walk. Her dad then turned round and quietly said, "Act your age, you need to walk, it's not very far." He then took her case and her lunch box from her and pressed on to school with a very vocal little person following behind. She was such a little chicken, I wondered why he didn't just scoop her up and carry her - if only for a quiet life.
He was right though, she needed to learn. He was prepared to do everything to help her - taking away her bags  - but he wouldn't do it for her. I suppose loads of you are ahead of me now, but I did think how often I have thrown up sulky prayers which go along the lines of  "You are God - You can therefore do anything. So why are you not getting me out of this mess?" Sometimes, just to add insult to injury, I will add. "You say you are supposed to love me. hah" Slightly embarrassed but it's true.
I do know though, that the idea is that I am supposed to learn from God. I am supposed to mature and to grow into someone who looks as though they have spent time with someone who is better than them and whose wisdom and goodness is having an impact. This will not happen if I get lifted out of every crisis, many of which are of my own making, like some kind of spiritual episode of the A Team. This is not to say that God doesn't intervene miraculously, and that we are not to ask for that. When I was very ill a few years ago, a "well meaning" Christian person informed me that God was not our "all bases rescuer" I had two things to say to that - fairly graciously actually.
a) That's very easy for you to say as you are not the one with the life threatening diagnosis
b) I think he is just that - my all bases rescuer. Just not always the way I would want him to be.

It's all a learning process and sometimes it's painful. We still have to go though things - lots of things. There are times when, although I suspect that nothing would make God happier than scooping us up and carrying us through life; the wisdom of God means that all he does is take our Marvel Avengers lunchbox from us, so that the load is a bit lighter and encourage us from the sidelines.

This made me think about Tim Vine gently satirising the "Footprints" poem. (he is a Christian and it is therefore allowed) You know the bit when the Christian asks - "Why Lord, when things were most difficult are there only one set of footprints?" and Jesus answers
"My beloved child, when you look back and see one set of footprints, it is then I should tell you that at that point I had decided that it might be more fun to hop!"

Have a good week. One last thing - if you haven't voted for Sherlock at the BAFTAS, I will not be very pleased. You know who you are. PS Will actually also accept a vote for Great British Bake off.


Sunday, 20 May 2012

Oooh baby do you know what that's worth.....

So, I am reading this Rob Bell at the moment. Bit disappointed so far. Firstly, I had been told that it was controversial and stated that hell/heaven doesn't exist. Well he doesn't seem to have said it so far, unless I missed it. (Wouldn't be the first time)
To be fair, I haven't finished yet so the juicy bit may be on the way. Secondly, I do find his writing style a bit annoying..  Not so much the style, it's the way it's set out. Like it's written for idiots. Especially from the man who is supposed to be the great communicator. It's all this

One Line
Followed by another line
Followed by a.
Then a pause.
Erm, what did he just say?

It's probably just me. It usually is. He does ask some really important, difficult questions about eternity. Wish I understood his answers. I'll tell you what I do like about it though. I like the general theme about heaven sort of starting now. When I was a young Christian lass, it was considered very un-spiritual to think about this life too much. We were going to leave it all behind to go to the "meeting in the air" - which was hopefully going to be a bit more lively than some I went to, so "the world"as it was rather negatively called could just go and boil its head. We were to wait for Jesus, while bouncing up and down at meetings, occasionally going out to bark thinly veiled threats to people about hell and wondering why people didn't come to church.
I remember being surprised to learn that there were people who were translating their faith into being very much alive now which led to social justice, caring for others, trying to change the world and having a good time while you were doing it. I sort of pointed at this gang and informed my lot that I was going over there to play. I think it is generally a "good thing" that Christians seem to be more engaged with this life. Young Christians often now have a life plan, ambition and a career (even the women). These are some of the things I wish were around when I was younger like penicillin, electricity, David Beckham and votes for women. (this is more or less how old my kids think I am)
When the final trump sounds (cue sniggering from young people) the last thing I want to be is someone who never really engaged with life. You only have to look in the Bible to see the roller-coaster life that people lived. It surely is never too late. Sarah was 90 when she had Isaac. And then he was nothing but a worry to her what with his dad trying to kill him and everything. That would be the same dad who tried to pass her off as his sister (therefore making her available to all comers) because he was too chicken to stand up for her. It wasn't all fun but it was certainly life!
I know living life means different things to different people. A stay at home home-schooling mum (check out this brilliant blog) who feels called to do it is as valued with God as Wilberforce. It's about finding who you are meant to be in this life and making the most of it. This takes time, effort and pushing through when it all goes horribly wrong. And it means digging deep and making difficult decisions. It also sometimes means having a pretty exciting time - now. Then whatever God has got to follow, surely can only be a bonus.

Rant on the way - People of a nervous disposition look away.
The Olympic Torch came over from Cornwall last night. Now I am not from round here but there are a lot of people I like here and I think a lot of the place. I despaired therefore when I head that the original idea was to bring the torch over the Tamar Bridge IN A VAN! IN CASE IT HELD UP THE TRAFFIC!!! Plymouth - the eyes of the world are upon you! The Tamar Bridge is stunning. Why not go the whole hog and bring it over in an Ivor Dewdney pasty van driven by Larry Spear? (Nothing wrong with Larry Spear - been very generous to the charity I work for, but you know what I mean) Sometimes you have to step up for an occasion. Sanity prevailed in the end I believe and someone got to run across. *sighs deeply and shakes head*


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Hidden Spectaculars

Source: The White House

Another week, another grey hair. The experiment to stop dying my hair and go naturally the colour God intends me to be is producing both pros and cons.

Pro - My hair is lightening naturally around my face and it doesn't seem so harsh against my speedily aging skin.
Pro - I hate dying my hair soooo much. Always but ALWAYS manage to get some on the bathroom wall.
Pro - Family say they all like it.
Pro - Saving money

Con - Had no idea it would happen this fast! All these years holding back a tsunami of grey. Who knew?

Old age makes you reflect a bit on  the changes you've seen. HOH and I were watching the news this week about the recovery of the underwear from the would-be plot to bring down a plane. In my day, when you said someone had had an explosion in their underpants it just meant that nappy training wasn't as far along as you had hoped it was. Unfortunately now things are different.
The news says that terrorists are always looking for a "Spectacular" A 9/11. Something to get everyone's attention. A big immediate impact that will change the world.
I wonder if we are all like that. Not that I want to blow up a plane or anything but looking for the next spectacular. Where's my Burning Bush God? If I had a Burning Bush in front of me accompanied by a loud booming voice telling me to take my shoes off, I am certain the following would be true.

  1. The shoes would be off pretty sharpish.
  2. I would be a lot more certain about God's direction and more confident about actually acting on it.
However, I find that life is rarely that certain and our Hydrangeas remain intact and un-singed. Because most of us do not live that life. And, although, it's not as exciting to say so, most of us know what we should be doing every day and what God says about the way we conduct our lives. God isn't going to turn up every twenty minutes to reiterate everything he has already said as if he was a contestant on Mastermind whose specialist subject was "The Flaming Obvious"! And if the daily decisions we make about the way we live our lives don't seem that spectacular at first glance, who is to say where they will lead?
Do you think that on December 1st 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person, she thought for one moment that one day the President of the United States would be sitting in that seat reflecting on what followed? I suspect not. She said that she was just "Tired of giving in." 
Her decision, which was a reflection of the life she lived - she was active in the Civil Rights Movement - was part of a chain reaction which would change a society. I suspect it didn't feel anything like that at the time.

Not all actions are "spectaculars". Not everything has immediate effect. Sometimes, spending so much time longing for flashing lights and girls twirling batons, can mean forgetting to do what we are meant to be doing now and who knows what kind of a spectacular that could be causing somewhere down the road?

But he's already made it quite plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.
It's quite simple. Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, 
And don't take yourself too seriously - take God seriously
Micah 6:8 The Message


Sunday, 6 May 2012


This week Fruit of Womb Two sent me a text from school. This is usually a sign of a problem. Sometimes it's

"Forgot to tell you, I am doing drama tonight - do not cook tea." *Mother sighs, thinking of huge Shepherd's Pie defrosting in kitchen*


"I have been sick. A lot of it seemed to land on school nurse. She is not happy. Please come and get me. NOW"  

This time though it was much more celebratory. As she finished her GCSE year to begin study leave, her text read,
"That is it! I never have to do PE again :)" 

Unfortunately, my daughter has inherited my "non-sporty" gene.
It reminded me of a story I had shared before so, if you have read it, my apologies. You don't have to read this though - not as if you are paying for it or anything. Anyway, as I said, I was completely rubbish at PE, but a group of my friends were not. They were really good at hockey. Good enough to form the core of the school team and, for reasons best known to themselves, they wanted me with them. There's no accounting for taste. I was placed in defence, and dutifully turned up every week for my ritual humiliation of so called training. This involved being shouted at loudly by a PE teacher who didn't even bother to learn my name and getting whacked so often on the legs by the ball, that I should have taken out shares in witch hazel.
In truth though, actually playing matches was easy. My friends were really good and the ball spent most of the match at the other end of the pitch while they battered seven bells out of the opposition. Our goalkeeper and my good self would while away the match playing air guitar with our sticks and singing Bay City Rollers songs.
The trouble started when, through no fault of my own, we were promoted. We had now, quite literally, gone up a division. Thus began a torrid time. As a defensive player, I suddenly found myself having to defend, which was not part of our original agreement. More people ran past me than the starting gun at the London Marathon.  Still, I kept coming to training, kept trying, kept dabbing the sore spots.
The whole thing came to a head when we were visited by the division leaders. As they walked on to the pitch, dragging their knuckles seductively along the floor,  I was tempted to demand a mass sex test. These weren't school girls. They were freaks of nature and cocky with it. Sure enough, before I had time to feign injury and leave the pitch, one of them was hurtling towards me, legs pumping like pistons. There was nothing for it, I just had to have a go, so I swung the stick back and trying to remember something, anything, from training, I had a wild stab at taking the ball from her. Amazingly, I hit it, slap in the middle and it went flying up-field. She was, quite rightly, astonished and, with no attempt to spare my feelings, demanded "How did YOU do that?"
To my surprise, the answer came from our PE teacher. She leaned into the pitch and growled " By keeping going. She never gives up. That always ensures you will eventually be in the right place at the right time." Then she ran away up the touchline, doing her usual uncanny impression of the Incredible Hulk and calling down curses on the referee.
I wish I could say that this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship with playing sport but I quit the team soon after, still dining out on what was (direct quote from coach here) "One of the finest defensive hits I have seen" Oh yes.
Keeping going is an underrated skill. Pushing on through, despite how tough it is sometimes. Believing that if you keep doing the right thing. God will notice and come though for you. Yet I think he will and I am unusually certain about this for once. How can I be so sure? Because It's not me that says so.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

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