Sunday, 27 March 2016

Easter Thinking (4) The Lord is Risen Indeed

I thought a bit about the Resurrection. About the reality of the Resurrection. I struggle a bit with pictures of glowing cloaks and a half naked Jesus stepping on soldiers and waving a flag. I like this Caravaggio about the meal on the road to Emmaus. I like that Jesus looks a bit careworn.The events of the last few days maybe having taken a toll. I like the split second of recognition on the faces of the disciples and the way their hands are almost touching. I also think the two extra people in the painting are interesting - one looks like he will take a bit more convincing thank you very much and the lady looks so worn down by life that she is not sure how much difference this will make to her anyway.

It is interesting, I think, how we react to the miraculous in this life. even the most pivotal and important miracle. It's like our reaction to the tumour that is no longer on the x-ray, the last child pulled from the rubble of an earthquake, the second chance given to the plane crash survivor. 

This was a hard fought for miracle. It didn't come easily. Victory did not fall into the lap of Jesus. Yet still, victory it was. How it affects though depends on what we do with it. We step into it and it reflects in how we live our lives or it doesn't. 

Today was Jesus' day of victory. Now we have to go away and make the chance we have been given mean something for us and those we are called to love.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Easter Thinking (3) - Easter Saturday


It's always darkest just before the dawn -  or something. So today was the day before the big day. We know that now, so it's easy to be all full of faith about the promise now. Because we are here all these years later and we know it happened. Harder I think for the followers of Jesus at the time. There were perhaps a few obtuse prophecies - half remembered - about the temple or Jesus returning. But all they had for the moment were nightmares about what they had seen yesterday and a dead body. And, because of the brutal times in which they lived, they were quite aware of what a dead body looked like, thank you very much. This man was most definitely dead - none of this swooning nonsense that some people waffle about these days. He has been tortured and killed. No one could deny that.
And the day lasted just as long as every other day. No clues, no encouragement, just tears and bewilderment. What was that all about then? So they made some arrangements, perhaps to get together and pray. A bit half hearted maybe and not everyone would be there. Peter seemed to have gone back to his old life. So Mary Magdalene and some of the other women made arrangements to go and embalm the body - not check if he had risen by the way - look after his dead body. They would meet early in the morning, as soon as sabbath was over. 
And all the time, while the tiniest grains of faith were still binding them as friends, nudging them to pray and to stand their ground in their everyday lives, the miracle was approaching. As each minute passed it was getting nearer and nearer. No warning, no signs but it was on its way.

 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Easter Thinking (2) - Good Friday

Chagal. White Crucifixion.. Chicago Art Institute

I'm not really up for writing about the Crucifixion. I don't have the skills. There have been countless poets and hymn writers who have got a lot closer than me. So I'm not going to do it. Write about the Crucifixion I mean. It's too much for me and I am useless. I did want to say a couple of things though. 
Firstly, I'm really glad that "It's Friday but Sunday's coming" Well, obviously it is but it is still Friday. And, if it's all the same to you, I would like to spend at least a portion of this day thinking on the horror that Jesus experienced. I'm not too keen on pretending that the darkness is never worth dwelling on for more than a millisecond. Partly because I think it does Jesus a dis-service but also, if we refuse to face the fact of a darkness full on, how can we identify with those who weep or mourn? Look how this darkness threw Peter. The night before when he had promised undying loyalty and love, Jesus had told him what would happen.

 “Don’t be so sure,” Jesus said. “This very night, before the rooster crows up the dawn, you will deny me three times.”

And that's exactly what Peter did - a full throated, expletive filled denial in the end. And Peter was overcome. Overcome at his own weakness, and his inability to amount to anything after all the promising and the enthusiasm. He was so overcome that he completely forgot the rest of what Jesus had said to him. 

"But after I am raised up, I, your Shepherd, will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee.”

Jesus would come back, and would lead him and Peter would be restored. Peter was blinded to all this, so that on this day of days when Peter had said that he would be there for Jesus, he was nowhere to be found.

Later on, all this would be fulfilled of course but for now Peter was absent as his friend was tortured and killed. The fear had overcome him and he felt there was no way back. Good Friday reminds us that sometimes, for some, all seems lost and hope struggles to get a look in and it makes us go missing from God. People are having those times now as well. Hope seems lost, the darkness overwhelms, we are weak and afraid. Sometimes, as Christians we can be guilty of bellowing "Be Of Good Cheer!" at people (Christianese for "Buck Up") and then leaving it at that. Today of all days is a time when we can at least, gently rub the back of someone's hand and acknowledge the fact of the darkness for a time.


Thursday, 24 March 2016

Easter Thinking - The Day Before

We call it the Last Supper, when Jesus spent his last times of fellowship and friendship with his disciples. The last meal for a condemned man because Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen the next day. 
Social Media is full of snarking about Easter eggs not saying Easter or something and Christians warbling on about their rights as gay people or straight people or whatever. These are all important things but maybe not this weekend. Because here is the Son of God, humble, emotional, overcoming fear and holding on to the fact that he was returning to his Father. 

The quotes are from The Message - John 13 onwards

 Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end.

With all that had occurred and all that was to occur - these men are described as his dear companions. Not men chosen just to preach the Gospel - but his dear, true friends. 

Jesus then, in an act of extraordinary selflessness and humility begins to bend down and wash the disciples' feet - including the feet of Judas who was still there. No-one else had offered, they called him Teacher and Lord and yet no-one jumped to serve him. So he served them. He put his own feelings aside and knelt at their feet. Even at this time, when he must have been glimpsing a shadow of a cross every time he turned his head, he lived the example. 

After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. “One of you is going to betray me.”

The first time Jesus wobbles. He becomes upset, not because of what was to come but because of the betrayal, by one of his friends. Then again he takes control. He hands Judas the bread - Judas is sitting close enough to him to be handed the bread directly; not skulking about in the background, Was he still weighing it up? Or keeping up appearances? But, the moment Jesus passes him the bread, the balance tips. The Bible says that Satan entered. Judas left. The disciples were mainly ignorant but Jesus knew time was short.

Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. 

As the time runs away, Jesus tries to give them everything he thinks they will need. Don't be thrown by what you are about to see, I will not leave you alone, you mustn't worry about me - no one has any power over me.
And even as they are walking towards the garden where his betrayal will occur, the teaching continues, the words come tumbling out as if he is driven to tell them everything they need to know before he is snatched away  - he tells them they will be able to pray directly to the Father, he tells them that he has conquered the world and he also tells them that they will all leave him in his hour of need. And then he prays for them. A prayer for his followers that will continue to resonate with Christians. 
The whole thing is extraordinary, such selflessness, the Son of God shot through with humanity. 


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

America Helps (A Bit)


Re my last blog about helping understand what is happening in America, this is interesting. One, part of a speech from President Obama and the second, a piece from a New Yorker columnist. Part of the conclusion seems to be, if winning is all you want and you are prepared to to do whatever it takes to win - slating your opponents, cosying up to bad people and manipulating vulnerable people - then sometimes you will see the consequences of those actions. Possibly, the Republican Party has gone about opposition in the wrong way - allowing themselves to be influenced by those whose opinion is just about power rather than what is right. And now - no-one can get those cats back in the bag. It's an interesting theory - if a bit scary and maybe a bit more credible than my theory about their brains being corrupted by flesh eating aliens. Anyway read Obama first..

There are thoughtful conservatives — good people in the Republican Party, good people who are Republican voters who care about poverty and they care about climate, and don’t resort to insults, and are troubled by what’s happening inside their own party. I know them. I’ve talked to them. But they’ve got to acknowledge why this happened — because some of them have been writing that, “Well, the reason our party is going crazy is because of Obama.” Which is a pretty novel idea. The notion is Obama drove us crazy.
Now, the truth is, what they really mean is their reaction to me was crazy and now it has gotten out of hand. But that’s different. I didn’t cause the reaction. The reaction is something that they have to take responsibility for and then figure out how do we make an adjustment.
Obama's analysis mirrors that of New Yorker editor David Remnick, who calls Trump "the beneficiary of a long process of Republican intellectual decadence.”
"Paul Ryan denounces Trump but not the Tea Party rhetoric that propelled his own political ascent," he writes. "John McCain holds Trump in contempt, but selected as his running mate Sarah Palin, the Know-Nothing of Wasilla, one of Trump’s most vivid forerunners and supporters. Mitt Romney last week righteously slammed Trump as a 'phony' and a misogynist, and yet in 2012 he embraced Trump’s endorsement and praised his 'extraordinary' understanding of economics."

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Help Me America

Hello America

This is a bit of an open letter from a Brit. I have to tell you, I love America. I have only been once but I loved it. I loved America, I loved the people, the place, the telly, the shops. It seems to be full of reasonable people who were, for the most part, entirely normal.

I am immersed in American culture, like most people, I suppose. Reasons I love your county include...
  • Nora Ephron
  • Early Woody Allen films (not so much after Everyone Says I Love You - to be honest but that's still a fine body of work.)
  • The Empire State
  • Rick and Kay Warren
  • The West Wing (Ahhh...The West Wing...)
  • Billy Graham
  • Steve Martin
  • Tina Fey and Amy Pohler (Individually and together)
  • Star Wars (Except - well, you know the three I mean)
  • WWF (I know, but there it is)
  • Frank Sinatra
  • The Beach Boys
  • Motown (Extra points for The Temptations)
  • Christy Turlington's cheekbones
  • Field of Dreams
  • Randy from "Say Yes to the Dress"
And that's only the top of the list. America you are a bit weird when it comes to sporting events sometimes, and the Guns for all Toddlers Who Want One thing is unfortunate to say the least but - quite often - we look to you. So can you explain THIS to me. 
I don't think I am alone in the UK when it comes to bafflement.We don't get it. Truly we don't. I mean, in the end, it's your choice and everything and no-one wants to interfere in things that don't concern us (although there is a worry that it might concern us all if he is allowed anywhere near the pressy nuclear button) but it all seems so out of character? Did you ever see the Invasion of the Body Snatchers where people's brains were taken over by an alien force? That's how this looks to outsiders at the moment. You might say that we are no great shakes ourselves and there is some truth in that. Lots of people here voted for a government with George Osborne in it but Donald Trump? Really? Help me America. Help me understand.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

How Much?

This is a rant - pure and simple so if you have suffered enough today - feel free to leave. Also, it is going to be a particularly lady shaped rant so if you are of a sensitive bent - well whatever. Without going into long and tortuous detail about my personal circumstances, I wanted to talk about "Mastectomy Fashion." (Actually an Oxymoron but never mind) Ladies of a certain lopsided persuasion with bit of them missing have to wear special bras so that they can tuck false boobles in. (Still with me? Good!) I get a bit worked up about how much these bras are - rarely less than £30. However, that pales into insignificance when it comes to the price of the clothes. If you have ever reached the end of  a long day and found it relaxing to take off your bra and let your ning-nangs run free, you will realise how nice it would be for any lady to do the same. However, women with mastectomies need a pocket  to put a breast form in unless you want to look a bit lopsided. (Doesn't bother me too much but it is VITAL to some ladies.) So you can buy T Shirts and nighties and things - IF YOU TAKE OUT A PERSONAL LOAN! Behold this vest top.

It's not Armani is it? So why is it £44.00? (£52 pounds if you are not exempt from VAT)

Or this little beauty

This is a nightdress - supposedly to go to bed in. It starts at £57.00. I would wear it to collect an OBE in at that price.

So why so expensive? Could it possibly be because there is so little choice out there?  Is it possibly because traumatised women, for whom appearing normal and a bit attractive is sooo important have little choice but to pay? Some would say that this is just cosmetic but for women who have had their femininity assaulted the way that breast cancer does, cosmetic is as important as any other part of their rehab.You can't just whip to Primark and get a £3.99 vest like everyone else, your options are limited. I would expect to pay more because of the extra material but this smacks of taking advantage of people who have no choice.

I'm not really a big believer in what people call a courageous fight against cancer. In my experience most people are prepared to do whatever it takes to get rid of the stinking disease but the same people are very scared. The treatment is no fun - truly it isn't and that's before you get to the sheet terror of the whole thing. But survivors are making their way back into the world. They will bear the scars for the rest of their lives. To me, it feels that someone, somewhere is making not a profit from this (a profit is fine) but they are making a mahoosive profit and that just doesn't feel right does it?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Tulip Me Up!

It's a good job I am not religious about Mothers' Day because something has gone terribly wrong in here. I have seen all the lovely stuff in the magazines about Mums having breakfast in bed or lolling about all day in their dressing gowns. This has NOT happened here. Firstly - we have a severe shortage of offspring today. Some nonsense about University. So I am building up an intimate relationship with Moonpig. For those who don't know - Moonpig is an Internet card sending company which allows people to order and send cards without mauling about in Clintons or picking up a biro. They also guarantee next day delivery for those who despite numerous subtle texts, wake up in a cold sweat 24 hours before deadline day and no way of getting to Town to slam a card in the post box. Moonpig is blessed by all children who live away from home.

Secondly, the NHS insisted on calling staff into work today so the only other person who could spend the day serving my every need is at the hospital for the morning serving lots of other people's needs. Fair enough - they do pay him (a bit) and he left some flowers by proxy before he went.

So, in the absence of anyone to call me Mother - it is my turn to call someone else Mother so Aged Parent - who has had a chest infection and could probably live without a partaay is forced to come and eat Sunday lunch with us (I have to say - for someone with a post infection appetite - she did very well.) So that was all very nice. 

I appreciate all the lovely thoughts and messages, I really do and some of the things I have read on Facebook are equally edifying. However (and it's only a small however) I am sometimes a little disturbed by this Mother's Day juggernaut. I love my kids more than life itself and I don't say that lightly but I am aware that today is also full of people who have lost their children (Aged Parent being a case in point) and those who have never had children - sometimes longed for - sometimes not. Also there are those for whom the term "Mother" means only sadness and maybe even abuse. There are also those who have lost a much loved Mother. Today is a really painful day for lots of people. I am not saying that I want to rain on all the happy mothers' parades. We don't have to apologise for being who we are and Motherhood is a fantastic thing.  Just, a bit of sensitivity, you know and also remember that the fact that we are mothers doesn't make us any better than anyone else. Women, sometimes get to feel bad about themselves if don't fit cultural norms (whatever one of them is) and Christian women sometimes seem to suffer more than most but we are loved - as we are  - whether we have given birth or not. We are whole and complete in the God who loves us. We have nothing to prove and no Hallmark Card to live up to. 

And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power (Col 2)


Thursday, 3 March 2016

What to do about Brexit?

So have you decided? Do we stay or do we go? I think I know which way I will go but I don't think I have anyone else to that for that. I mean no-one seems to have the faintest idea do they? Not the news, not the newspapers (all of whom have taken the stance that their owners have taken and are the writing the news accordingly, which is what they usually do) So then you look at the personalities involved. Who do I trust? You see, for me, it doesn't help that the initial gang looked like what my Grandad used to call "The End of the Pier Show."

See what I mean? Hello! - normal people out here trying to make an informed decision. Then when we look at the politics. There's Michael Gove who makes every teacher I know make a sort of involuntary noise like a balloon being let down. And Priti Patel who seems unable to make a full sentence on Question Time. And that woman who never blinks. Then there's Ian Duncan Smith. A man whose plan for reducing the benefits bill seems to involve making a lot of sick people work until they die. We haven't even got to George Galloway - singlehandedly adding to the gaiety of the nation with that hat and pronouncements about "No" not always meaning "No". But then it's not as if anyone on the other side is any better. George Osborne says leaving will harm the economy. But he doesn't know. How can he know? One - because we have never done it and Two because The Economy seems to do what it flamin well wants most of the time which accounts for Osborne's permanently surprised expression I suppose.
Then there's  Immigration. Europe is making such a cock up of the whole thing and we are one of the few countries who can pull up the drawbridge and back off from it. But it doesn't feel right to do that does it? While these poor people are fleeing from these homicidal maniacs,  just silently thanking God for the English Channel and then going about our own jolly business seems a bit off to me.
Also there's security. Apparently, if we withdraw, Interpol will take their ball home and not tell us about possible terrorist attacks and will laugh behind their hands when it happens. Seems a bit selfish. So much to think about. 
And finally and it's not finally because there is ages to go yet - Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that if we leave Scotland will be demanding another Independence Referendum. No. Please Lord No. Not again.
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