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?
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
To York on Friday to see FOW1 get some more letters after his name. It is such a lovely ceremony, even if your son - shown here as the humongously tall person, only takes ten seconds to get his award and you spend the next half hour clapping a lot of Chinese people from the business school. There was one very good speech from someone getting an honorary degree. I'm sorry - I didn't get his name - he used to be on Time Team. (At this point FOW1 points out, quite testily, that, like most people on Time Team, he is also a distinguished academic with lots of important discoveries to his name. This is in case any of us were thinking that he was just an eccentric man with a trowel) Anyway - this gentleman didn't find out that he was a good writer or TV person until he was in his late fifties. It's encouraging I think, for those who feel that they are knocking on a bit and are yet to hit their mark in life.
Then off to Kings Manor for a reception for the Archaeology Masters students and their families. This is always very nice but standing around balancing nibbles and a glass of wine while making small talk will always be my idea of a nightmare. Last time we did this, the sandwiches they gave out may well have been the reason that I spent most of the evening in the bathroom so I resolved to stick to a little piece of cake. However the food police seemed to have got there first and there was only fruit for afters. The thought of trying to hold a sophisticated conversation with a professor whilst holding a glass of wine in one hand and eating a banana with the other was almost enough to finish me. FOW1 is now working through thoughts about PHDs or work etc.
We then shook off the students and spent a lovely evening at the panto. It's quite a famous panto - very traditional and lovely. It's the kind of panto where you sing along to words as they come down on a screen and they read out dedications for the audience. It's also very funny.
Anyway, a lovely weekend which almost made the six hour drive feel easy. Almost. We are back up North in a couple of weeks to take Aged Parent to the land of her birth for a few days. This is to celebrate her 80th birthday. We won't actually be seeing her on her birthday because she has had a better offer which is fair enough.
Parent They are holding a party for me here, with a few drinks and niggles
Parent *Exasperated at my ignorance* It's what Rose calls those things on sticks!!
Me WILL YOU PUT YOUR HEARING AID IN! Please
Monday, 23 January 2017
It is that time of year I think. Christmas is a far away thought of the past. New Year's Resolutions are teetering on the brink. Money is tighter - even if it isn't, there isn't really that much to do with any spare money. It's really cold outside so that leaving the house is not as pleasant as it might be. Then there is the darkness, it's dark when you get up and dark when you go to bed. Even on a more global level, times seem dark and confusing.
This time of year can be a sort of downtime. Time to get a bit down sometimes. I was speaking to someone who got through this time of year by planning all their holidays and breaks for the year ahead. "Gives me something to look forward to." That's nice. But I was thinking, what if this blah time was a blessing. What if it was time-out from the rest of the year. There is, for many people a space here. Maybe nothing that NEEDS to be planned for quite yet. Nothing outstanding, nothing to write home about. I was reading in one of the Gospels about Jesus' ministry and was struck by how much travelling from village to village he did.
I sometimes have a vague idea in my head about him almost being mobbed by different groups of people as he wandered around a couple of places. (I understand I should read my Bible better - don't write in) But I realised that, between the high level healings, and temple arguments and just downright Messiah like happenings, there was lots of planned walking between villages. Going from place to place. Sometimes they were met by the needy but then they would carry on. Just normal times. Talking, laughing, eating, going about their work, possibly being a bit low, a bit puzzled. Just life - with Jesus.
These are maybe the in-between times and they are just as important as the "happening times". I looked at January and thought "Quiet nights, blankets, candles, books, TV catch up, eating out of the freezer - not much else really".
As it turns out, we have a couple of events in January and February but besides these, we are slow and we are quiet. And it is ok being just that.
Sunday, 15 January 2017
Things are returning to normal here after the Christmas shenanigans. FOW 2 has returned to university burdened with only an extra heater for her bedroom and the knowledge that she will need to try and find two of this term's films online as the university have found that they will be unable to supply them. This has made me want to stage an intervention as in "intervene to ask the university what they think they are playing at". You know that a university education is charged for by the second now right? My feeling is that if uni is telling students to download these films from Amazon, then maybe the university who are extracting several thousand pounds a year from the students, could possibly think of rousing THEMSELVES to do the downloading. Too radical? Too much like hard work? Possibly. I have been commanded by FOW2 to say nothing.
Went to the pictures to see La La Land. It's very pretty - lovely colours. Lovely performances - especially Emma Stone. It's just that - for a musical - I didn't think the dancing was very good. I think maybe it was supposed to not be very good - sort of modern and messy. I am afraid that I am used to Astaire and Kelly levels of excellence in my musicals not just pretty people having a pop at it. There is big dance scene on the motorway which everyone raved about and I just thought it was a bit of a mess. Still, not to complain too much. It's about time someone had a go at something a bit different and it is really lovely to look at. Also, no one gets their throat slit. Hope that's not a spoiler.
We didn't get any snow in this round but that didn't stop Spotlight News from sending a man to stand on the highest point on Dartmoor and predict an apocalypse. It was all a bit embarrassing as he pointed at various donkeys and sheep and tried to canvass them for their opinion. It went a bit cold and a bit rainy then it stopped.
Glad to see Endeavour back on Sundays and Sherlock obvs. People have been complaining about Sherlock. I've been enjoying it. Just me probably.
The house has been full of students. Well just the one who has been staying with us. Why does it always feel like there are more?
And in the most important event of the week is...I HAVE A COLD! I NEVER GET A COLD! This is unacceptable. I have a really busy week at work. FOW1 graduates at the weekend and I will be needing all my strength to try and look good in clashing prints. I have no time for this. So I am off to try and get warm and all that stuff. Petitionary prayers gratefully received.
Thursday, 5 January 2017
One of the joys of any time away from work is being able to listen to Woman's Hour. I love Woman's Hour. I love talky radio (so long as it's nothing to do with Brexit)
I managed to listen between Christmas and New Year. I can't be more accurate than that I'm afraid. I tend to ditch my diary around Christmas and all the days seem to run into one until I can get a nice new diary out. The programme was a phone in about how people had spent their Christmas. It wasn't the most imaginative subject but I expect the production team were still in the middle of their jolly hollys. I found one lady's story particularly touching. She explained how she had spent Christmas alone and how difficult it had been. She was 62 years old; widowed for quite a few years but still fit and active. She talked about how she went to clubs and met people, but how, sometimes she felt relegated to the outskirts of people's lives. Her little dog had recently died and no-one had knocked on her door to see how she was. All she wanted, she said, fighting back tears, was for someone to give her a call and say "Would you like to go for a walk this afternoon?" then the killer line - "Maybe even someone from my church". Arrrgh.
If I had a fiver for every time I had heard this. It begs so many questions. Are we really fulfilling our role in our community - whether that is inside or outside church? Are we inclusive? Not just the young and the beautiful but the older and the "ordinary". I recently looked at a church's list of home groups. (Aged parent wasn't sure which one she went to - long story) There were some fantastic things there - surfer groups, 20-30s nights, student evenings etc etc. There didn't seem to be much for anyone over 50. I am a parent of students. I am glad the church is trying hard to hold them. I am slightly concerned that if they went to everything that is available for them in church, they would never get any work done. Apparently, the church is losing a young generation. We need to work to get them back. I am very supportive of this project. I wonder though if we aren't also losing other people. The quiet, the lonely, the people who maybe don't vote with their feet and turn up every Sunday then go home to an empty room and an equally empty week.
I am all for pastoral teams, they do an excellent job. They find the people who are struggling and lost and lonely and they visit and pray. (Quite often anyway) But they are up to their eyeballs in work most of them. And, a pastoral visit is not a friendship. It is a reach out. In some ways it should be a last resort. I don't that that "Community" is the pastor's job. I think it is the community's responsibility.
We often talk about faith nor being an exclusive pastime. I don't just think that is about sharing the gospel - although obviously it is about that. I think it is about not closing down when we have found our tribe. It is so easy when we find like minded people - especially in church. We pull up the drawbridge so we can stay with our friends and the people we love and trust. Unfortunately, if that is your plan then I think you may have joined the wrong religion. We are called to be friends. To support and to love. Not just those we identify with.
I am, of course, certain that this is the plan because Jesus gave us the example. He shunned the wise and the powerful, those who maybe could have done the message he brought a power of good. Instead he sought to be with those who could give him nothing back. He chose to teach them of course but he chose a different way. He chose friendship. He spent time with them. He ate with them. He then told then to do the same, as people, as individuals. If people are looking out of their windows alone. If people are in our churches, praying that someone will want to be their friend, if people mourn their little dogs alone, then maybe we don't wonder if the pastoral team will ever get their finger out. Maybe the command was to us. To me.
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