Saturday, 28 January 2012

Accepting your value

I need a book - a book about birdsong. (Number 7 on the list of sentences I thought I would never write) You see most mornings I walk Fruit of Womb 2 through to the bus stop with the hounds and then walk back through the park.  It's been quite dark for the last couple of months. (Well pitch black actually. Found myself wondering how dumb I was walking through park at this time and if two Jack Russells would be enough to ward off your average serial killer) However as the mornings have been getting a bit lighter I have found myself captivated by early morning birdsong. (Number 8 on above list. This is definitely old age) I don't know anything about birds but I can hear how different they all sound.  The only one I recognise really is the robin which is very feisty and sings so loudly at us I keep expecting it to explode like the bird from Shreck. Other than that there are lots of shapes and sizes and various noises which I am struggling to match up to the birdies themselves. I would love to know about them. I'm not really a bird person as you can probably see.
I saw something once that said that most people's favourite bird was a penguin. Well obviously.

New life's ambition - to tickle a baby penguin. So penguins are top bird but they are not the only bird. Imagine if there were no other birds but penguins. How big would your bird table have to be? And your garden would smell of fish because that's what you would have to hang out for them in the winter. And what if your Nana still wanted to keep a birdy in the living room? How bad tempered would her penguin be having been stuffed into that little cage? Of course, penguins don't fly so if they still went south in the winter, would we have to charter special boats for them? Lets not even start on the problems they would have filling in for chickens.
Diversity is the key. The Biblical model of a body made up of many parts is a perfect picture of this. This works itself practically in two ways. Firstly, you are very valuable. No-one brings to this party what you do. You are a beautifully crafted, precious individual. Each one of us needs to get hold of that, accept it and lift your delicious Christian chin a little. Secondly, if only you can do what you can do and you are not doing it then it's not being done. (keep up at the back) Are we doing the things only we can do in our churches, our families - just our lives really? If something isn't working properly, is it because I'm not pulling my weight? We have to get hold of both sides of this. I am indeed a special individual but with that comes things that will not get done properly unless I get involved. Someone else might have a go at it but they may not be able to bring to the task what I could have brought and it also stops them doing what they are supposed to be doing. We all have an individual part to play. To quote an old Bolton proverb (sort of) "When the penguins are laying eggs in the chicken coop who will be starring in the David Attenborough documentaries?" And I think we can all relate to that.

Posts from Friday Blog link can be found here

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Tiny Degrees of Recognition

I wanted to write about something as part of an occasional series I am doing. (Definition of "occasional" here is something I have never done before and possibly will never do again.) The series is entitled "Things that make me wish I was a rich and famous movie star." Actually, it's not me doing the wishing. It's Head of House. This week he read an article about Martin Freeman - currently filming the Hobbit in New Zealand and how the director Peter Jackson had flown out two Northern Soul DJs to play for him in his lunch break just because Martin likes them.  HOH was v. impressed. (I'm not so impressed. Bit awkward standing there on your own watching two DJ's do their stuff while you are trying to eat your egg sandwich. Maybe its just me.)
HOH, for it is he, has a history with Northern Soul. Indeed he loveth it. I personally am forever grateful that he is unlikely to ever be in a situation where he has to choose between me and owning a copy of the rare as hens' teeth "Do I Love You? (Indeed I Do)" by Frank Wilson because I'm not totally sure I would come out as winner of that particular battle.
I have no Northern background but over the years we have been married I have been to a few of the reunions  and heard a lot of the music and I like a lot of it. (EXCEPT there seems to be a lot of women singing about her man who treats her badly and sleeps around and how this is all really fine cos "no one will love her like he do" when quite plainly her man is in need of a smack in the face with a traffic cone - not so keen on those songs)
Anyway, I was very impressed when listening to some obscure Motown track he remarked that it sounded like it had been recorded in Los Angeles rather than Detroit. So he didn't know where it was recorded. It just sounded slightly different. (He was right, by the way) There you have the result of thirty years of listening to this music, attentively, appreciatively and often to the exclusion of all other types of music.
I was just thinking about how we would be if that was our relationship with God. So in touch and in tune. Sort of entwined in a dance of life and love. Then we would pick up on all the nuances of the way he felt about us. All the blessings and encouragements. All the teaching and the comfort. All the things we are supposed to be receiving daily and maybe half the time don't even notice. It's like any relationship or passion. It takes time, commitment and putting nurturing it before everything else to help it get a strong foothold in us. I suppose its up to us to make the decision about whether or not we think the end result is worth it and then act accordingly.

On a different note. Two prawns Montague and Christian live in the sea. Montague decided he didn't want to be a prawn any longer and asked the Magic Shark to turn him into a starfish. The Magic Shark did as he asked and for a few months Montague lived happily as a starfish. However soon he began to tire of this life and he missed his friend, so he went back to the Magic Shark and asked to be changed back. The Magic Shark told him that this wasn't in his power and instead he would have to visit the All Knowing Cod who could do the business. Montague visited the All Knowing Cod who happily changed him back to a prawn. But Christian did not believe that this could be done and would not meet his old friend. But, Montague persisted and ran after his friend shouting
"No! Come back! I met Cod and I'm a prawn again Christian!"
Sorry. (Thanks Russ)

Sunday, 15 January 2012


James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

My problem (well one of them - don't get me going) is that I sometimes seem to be thirty years behind everyone else. This week I discovered J I Packer's "Knowing God". I fear that one day when all the books are opened and all the scrolls are unrolled, when God is examining my life in the manner of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood examining a particularly unappealing Banana Loaf, He will look at me and say, "you did quite well - you were always just that little bit behind everyone else." Anyway - enough of my Judgement Day  issues, I need to digress here. Do you know how much I paid for Mr Packer's tome. Nothing! Not one of your English pounds. I downloaded it from a site Christianaudio It's an excellent idea. I bang these books on the MP3 to listen to on the way to work and thus arrive marginally less grumpy than I was when I set out. They have loads of special offers but don't just get the free stuff - I'm sure they have to eat as well.
So as I was saying before the digression overload. I excitedly mentioned this book to Head of House who, in what I thought was a quite dismissive way, pointed me in the direction of his own dog-eared copy while informing me that he thought that all serious Christians had this book. Pah!
Best story so far is about the wisdom of God. I am paraphrasing wildly as usual but  he talks about us assuming that God promising to give us wisdom means that we sort of get invited in to the central signal box at a railway station and we get to see all the trains that are coming in and going out, where they have come from and where they are going and what trains we can expect to see in the future. In short, we sometimes think that the promise of wisdom means we get to know everything. In practise though , we just get given what we need to know. Some of it we should know anyway because it's already there in the Word. It is a bit difficult though, especially in tough times, to give God the benefit of the doubt when we don't know the circumstances. Why should it be OK to leave all the big wisdomy decisions to God about our lives?
If I could just add a an illustration of my own. A few years ago my chap and I visited New York. One day we set off to visit the Empire State building. Head of House had investigated the route and we set off whistling and swinging our arms. However (and yes it was my fault - I never denied that) we I got a bit distracted by Bryant Park, where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton had posed  so we got a bit lost. And we just couldn't find the Empire State because New York is full of Skyscrapers! When you look up - that's all you can see. It took us nearly an hour to get back on track and find it. It was a bit tense by then as well. As I said - I admit it was my fault!
The next night, we had a meal in the Windows on the World. At the top of the World Trade Centre, when you looked out of the window, the first thing you saw was THE EMPIRE STATE. Easy. The difference was perspective. When we were lifted above everything that was going on at ground level, the whole thing looked different. There were no things blocking our eyeline. That is where God is - high and lifted up. Knowing the past, the future, the beginning, the end. I get bogged down with all there is to do, to experience, to suffer, to enjoy. God looks with a different perspective. He sees where it is going and, having planned ahead for us, expects us to trust him with the big picture. We simply cannot un-entangle ourselves enough to see the whole picture, and there will be things that we will never know the reason for and many of these things will be - well - not good. We will never understand everything. The trick is, I think, to back away from knowing everything and to ask for wisdom for the day. Wisdom to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself in our lives. Wisdom for our next plan or next conversation. That is probably what is promised. Mind you I'm not saying this is what I do. I'm much more of a "Do as I say" rather than a "Do as I do" when it comes to this sort of stuff. More's the pity.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

January Dip.

I'm sitting in the middle of Plymouth weather. Ok, that's not strictly true - I'm not outside or anything. I'm just trying to add a bit of atmosphere. Suit yourselves.
Anyway - it's all so stereotypically early Januaryish at the moment. Fruit of Womb One has returned to York University taking his complicated politics essays with him. Fruit of Womb Two is back at school and agonising over The Crucible, medical discoveries of the eighteenth century and creating a garment from a paper pattern - not necessarily in that order. I am showing my ignorance I know but I had never read the Crucible before. There's not a lot of laughs in it are there? Head of House and I are back at work and I can only just fasten my pants. How New Yearish is all that?
Went to church this morning for first time since Christmas. The speaker was Jonathan Edwards - General Secretary of the Baptist Union. (Not to some of the youth's disappointment the laser-eyed, triple-jumping, athletics commentator. I suspect this feeling of bringing constant disappointment to people is something the Baptist Union Secretary is used to) Anyway. I thought he was rather good. Seemed very normal and nice. Didn't once threaten to raise a chicken from the dead to prove God's power, which I always feel is a plus point in any speaker's favour. Although he wasn't exactly packed to the drawstrings with good news. The financial situation in the country extends to the church apparently and these will be difficult times for us all. This probably explains the decision to close the Baptist Times which I read about this week. Apparently readership numbers are well down and they can't afford to subsidise it any more. I agree that they have to be sensible but I find this a bit depressing. Why isn't anyone reading any more? I know that the Internet has had an effect on everything but speaking like an old Christian woman that you have found in the woods - it seems like people just don't seem to read Christian books the same as we did. When I was a young luscious thing, we were all reading something. It was sort of expected that you would be lugging some sort of Christian paperback around in your handbag. Some were better than others obviously but there was so much out there and you just read loads. If you had a leader or a mentor they would always ask - "What are you reading at the moment?" It doesn't seem to be like that now. I love a bit of shallowness as much as the next person (witness my Strictly obsession before Christmas) but surely if something is as important as a Christian faith then it's worth going into a little more deeply than a Tweet? Is it me? Plus, to drag the tone down a bit. Reading is hot. As a teenager, I couldn't fancy someone who didn't read. Dangerously self obsessed those people are - trust me.
One problem is undoubtedly our busyness. I came across this idea though the Kindred of the Quiet Way blog. The idea of having a "landing strip" where you park everything as you come in  so it is all ready for you to pick it up and carry on the next day is pure genius I think. I also think it might help me in my Bible reading. Too often, I read something then close the book. I come to it next day with a limited amount of time - can't remember where I was so open it randomly at a particularly depressing bit in Jeremiah which I read out of context and then, in a fit of helplessness, try to trap my head in the door. Maybe, if when I put the Bible and notebook down, I do so in a way that is ready for me to pick it up and continue next time (Notebook, notes and pen ready, open at new page etc.) it will be helpful. You are probably already doing this. I'm going to give it a try. New Year and all that.
Finally, some friends came round for a meal last night. One of them is quite frightened of little dogs so thought she would use the visit to help her. How could anyone be afraid of these two lovely things, ready to greet people on the door? Well yes they are growling a bit - I'll give you that. Not sure the evening helped with dog terrors much but a good time had by all otherwise.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

It's a cliche but...

..the New Year is on us again and despite resolutions to never make any more resolutions, I find I am looking at resolutions. I have read all the stuff about mid-winter not being a good time to do this kind of thing because it's dark and cold but, I can't seem to stop myself. Firstly, all the Thornton's chocolates, Pringles and Roast Potatoes have all left their mark on my waistline and something will need to be done about that immediately. It's no good waiting until the nights are shorter. I need to deal with these dig in marks my jeans are making now!
Also, there's not very much on the telly now. Christmas has exhausted the meagre supply of fairly decent stuff (except Sherlock is back...Sherlock is back... *does little happiness jig in kitchen*) and I would rather spend this time being a bit more introspective than sitting through "When Naked Celebrities Buy Cheese" or something similar.
And.. well it just feels right to be re-assessing a bit. It's the turn of the year- it's changed it's name -  we call this one 2012. I feel the least I can do is have a glance over the year that just went and have a think about what I wanted to change.
So - what to do? Apart from the aforementioned waistline issues, which, to be frank, usually resolve themselves when we run out of Thorntons and I am back walking to work and walking dogs and getting Fruit of Womb Two to bus stop on time and dealing with unsatisfactory cleanliness state of bathroom on a more regular basis etc etc.
I think I would sum it up by thinking about moving from thoughts to action. I read v interesting blog that sums it up well here . Lucy talks about moving from dreaming into action. That doesn't mean we give up dreaming but, for me, I should be looking at what I can actually do something about - rather than just hoping or praying that it will change - and then actually doing it. I find I waste a lot of time/energy thinking about things I would like to change on a personal/household/local/national/international/cosmic/hyper-space level and then struggle to summon up the motivation to switch the laptop on and actually write something.
So, what would I like to be doing in twelve months' time or this time next week? How much of is it up to me to actually do it? Looking at it from another level - maybe it's a bit like "Faith without works is dead." I'm not sharing any personal lofty ambitions with you. T'ain't nothing you need to worry your pretty heads about but I wanted to share the principle.
Thanks for coming back and reading this after Christmas absence. Decided to spend as much of Christmas break with whole family as possible while everyone was here. We did miss the boy and now we are about to send him back. Will miss him again. Will not miss stupid digital time clock sound from "24" which we can hear at all times of day and night as he is trying to make his way through the box set before he goes back.
Have a great week. Hope the change of posting day hasn't discombobulated you too much. Like to keep you on your toes...
Happy New Year from all at Hargreaves Towers
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