One of the few "poems" I remember the words of: De spring has sprung, De grass has riz; I wonder where dem boidies iz. Day say de boid is on de wing, But dat's absoid; I always thought de wing is on de boid.
The above is a treasured picture for us, especially for Him Indoors (left). A number of years ago, he had the opportunity, while in the U.S., in North Carolina, at a conference, to visit the famous evangelist Billy Graham (centre, obviously) at his own home, along with our friend Richard, on the right, who has now emigrated and is a pastor in Greenville, South Carolina.
I was thinking today about something I once heard Billy Graham say while on these shores of ours. We have heard him preach live in Scotland (Murrayfield, Pittodrie and Parkhead) but Him Indoors and I once upon a time, whilst still "courting" went all the way to Wembley in Englandshire too. It was something he said at Wembley that occurred to me today.
As everyone knows, the end of a Billy Graham meeting would be marked by an invitation to "get up out of your seat" and come forward and stand at the front, if you wanted to ask Jesus into your life and become a Christian, or if you wanted to rededicate yourself in your faith after a period of going astray, or indeed if you just wanted to know more. I've done the counselling on the pitch. I've led follow-up groups. I've seen people's lives permanently changed from the moment they "got up out of their seat" onwards. Although I'm by nature a total cynic, I can see God at work when it's as obvious as this. Sure, folk fall by the wayside. They don't all keep it up (isn't that what Jesus predicted in the parable of the sower?) but lots do.
Anyway, I'm not meaning to get involved in depending the credibility of Billy Graham as a servant of God. I just wanted to quote a funny wee thing he said all those years ago at Wembley, which has stuck in my mind.
Being of a cynical nature, every time I have heard him preach (and for that matter when I heard Franklin, his son, who came to Perth in 1999 - Him Indoors was heavily involved in the organisation of that visit) I have been of the opinion that "Huh! No one will come forward tonight. No one's going to get up out of their seat tonight. That message wasn't enough to overcome people's embarrassment and laziness and self consciousness and suspicion. I bet no one comes forward. Huh!" etc... I told you I was a cynic. Of course every time I've been amazed to see lots of people stream onto the pitch, sometimes including people I knew personally. Of course, I had never remembered to factor in the thought that most of these people had been brought by friends who'd loved them and prayed for them and shown them a godly example for many months.
Anyway, that night in Wembley, to the assembled throng who had got up out of their seats and come forward, Billy Graham said that he was sorry he would not be able to meet them all individually. However, there was the promise of all eternity yet to come, and that there would be plenty of time in that promised land for getting to know one another. Everyone laughed when he said, "Maybe I'll come to your house for a hundred years for a cup of tea".
I was thinking about that today because we are so busy these days. We don't get as much time to spend with friends as we would like.
Last night we had a "family night" in the church, with the best part of a hundred people at it. A bouncy inflatable assault course (which I didn't go on but would have if I could have done so alone with no audience), a magician, a Wii, a quiz and lots of freshly baked pizza. Excellent fun! I ended up in the kitchen for a bit, and missed the magician. Perhaps this was a good thing. Magicians make me irrationally angry. It's pride. It's the fact I don't know how they do it. But it was a good thing for a better reason too - I so enjoyed my time chatting with two friends, the chef and the sous-chef for the evening, who I see so much less of now I'm working full time. Much as I love my job, I miss my pre-full-time-work-social-life.
And then today, we went to Edinburgh to visit friends. They used to live round the corner from us and we saw them a lot at the school gates, and sharing lifts to various children's activities. Their five, and our four, children are the fifth generation of our two families to be friends. My 101 year old gran and my friend's late grandmother grew up on neighbouring farms near Airdrie and walked to primary school together every day. (My first job was as a turkey plucker on one of those two farms but that's another story). Now, partly because our friends have moved, but mainly because we are all so busy we only see each other once a year. It was so nice to catch up, to see how each other's children have grown, and to find we "started where we left off" as friends, as if we'd never been apart.
I am hugely comforted by the thought that time for each other won't be at all restricted in eternity.
It's thrilling that we don't have to earn our way to heaven. Just as well since we've all "nae chance" of so doing. No other religion has the same astonishingly good deal, because we're offered something much better than trying to earn God's approval. Whilst still squelching about in our own mess, we're offered pardon for our sin, the debt of that sin cancelled by Jesus, and help to get out of our mess, if we'll just hand over the controls and stop trying to run our own lives.
Anyway, I want to say that you're all (especially those of you I've not yet met) invited to join me for an extremely unhurried cup of tea (or in my case black coffee/diet coke/red wine/cider as I wouldn't thank you for tea) for a hundred years and we can get to know each other.
One last thing, which is not at all unrelated. A friend of mine, W, is dying. He needs the hope that believing all this would bring him. If you're the praying kind, please please please pray for W. THANK YOU.
I don't know where the following originally came from but I found it on/ nicked it from the Scottish Banter website (see my blogroll to the right) and it made me smile, in a sad-smile sort of way:
London Times Obituary
'Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; life isn't always fair; and maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student, but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant, and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home, and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion, his daughter, Responsibility, his son, Reason. He is survived by his four stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, I'm A Victim.
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
Are we still remembering the Hadron Collider out there in CERN, Geneva? Back in September, I posted this post, and I mentioned in that post my host on the tours of CERN I had in 1979 and 1990, my parents' best man, known to me as Uncle Ken.
Well, via a text today from my mum - I assume in response to my post this morning - I got the hat tip to this Youtube video.
If you think preaching and rapping are an incongruous mixture, wait till you hear scientists having a go.
This picture makes me laugh. It's funny. That's why. And of course the relative sizes of the cat and "Jesus" make it funnier. One of my chaplaincy colleagues in another jail is fond of remarking that he doesn't "take Jesus into prison" as people are fond of suggesting, sometimes in a bizarrely starry-eyed way. Jesus is quite able to make his own way in thank you, and indeed was in there long before any of us mere human chaplainy-types.
And Jesus doesn't need "finding". He's not lost. We're the ones who need to come out of hiding, realising that with him, hiding is like standing on the other side of a big glass patio door and expecting not to be seen. Or like a baby who hasn't realised that when he puts his hands over his eyes and can't see you that doesn't mean you can't see him.
Also on the subject of finding, my devoted fans often ask how I come by the blogs on my blogroll. That's a lie. One person once asked me that.
Usually, as fellow bloggers know, it just builds up over time, as you check out blogs after reading comments on your own or other blogs.
Today a new find though, and a slightly different story:
Someone who works in one of "my" prisons asked if I would be available to conduct her sister's wedding in a local hotel, as they were needing an officiant. I gave her my work and home email addresses to pass on to her sister. I was having a senior moment at the time, because I gave her the wrong home email address. My home one ends "dot-co-dot-uk" but I put "dot-com" instead. Later on I got an email from the owner of the email address with the "dot-com" ending, pointing out my error. Her email included a link to her blog! I've visited it and added it to my sidebar. It's called "Telling Stories and Learning Faith". As well as having a similar email address she is also, like me, a minister married to another minister. They live across the pond from me, in Americaland.
It is from her blog that I nicked the picture for this post.
I was being an exhibitionist this week. Well, in a way. I was at the Church Without Walls conference in lovely Aviemore (actually I don't think Aviemore's totally lovely but the surrounding countryside and Cairngorm mountains are totally awesome) with Him Indoors and two of my favourite friends from our church too. Grandma and Grandpa manned the fort at home. FAB.
On behalf of chaplains in prison, the workplace, healthcare, universities and the armed forces, I put up a display stand. The purpose of it wasn't to recruit but to remind the Church that there are other types of clergy than those in parish churches, and to remind everyone to pray for prisoners, for the sick, for those in the armed forces, for those who're worrying about work and for those at university.
Chaplaincy is ministry at the coal face. But so too is being a Christian generally. ANYONE reading this post who's a Christian is also a chaplain, although unlike me you may not get paid for it (lol). You are the representative of your faith, like a foreign ambassador only the kingdom in question is the kingdom of God. It's a challenge. You (like me) will find yourself misunderstood, questioned and even ridiculed. So be it. Jesus took the same treatment, and warned us it would come our way. But when we get the chance to be the living representative of God's love in someone's darkness it's all more than worthwhile.
Once a wee boy woke up afraid, because a big thunderstorm was raging. He went through to his dad. "Dad, can I come in with you? I'm scared."
"Son", his dad said, "you know you always have God's love, and you can always pray about your fears".
"Yes dad", came the reply. "I know that. But right now I need God's love with skin on".
As paid chaplains like me, or as unpaid chaplains like us all, in our different contexts, we get the chance to be God's love with skin on. And there's no better feeling in the world.
Not much blogging this week, but more than my usual amount of goggle-box viewing of an evening after work.
I watched BBC's version of "The Diary of Anne Frank" which was serialised every night at 7pm this week. The children watched it with me. Blue Eyed Boy has been watching it at school as well as they've been studying the Second World War as a topic. The last episode was tonight, finishing with the eight of them being found by the Gestapo and taken away. BBC Four followed it with a two-hour program about Anne and her diary.
It was so interesting, and of course the whole thing is profoundly moving. Of the eight who hid in the house, only Anne's dad survived the war. He went back from his concentration camp to the area and lived for seven years (having lost everything and everyone) with the couple who had helped them all hide. Only after he found out, at long last the fate of his two children did Miep, one of the couple, present him with Anne's diary which she'd been keeping in a drawer. She had never read it herself. Peter, who was in the house too and became Anne's boyfriend for a time, died such a very short time before his camp was liberated by the allied forces that this too was heartbreaking. The BBC Four program showed, also, a meeting between Miep (the helper who brought them food each day when they were hiding) and the grown up son of the one of the eight (the one who was a dentist and was there on his own although he had this son back in Britain). He thanked her for what she had done for his dad, and was understandably overcome with emotion. Two months after that scene was filmed, he died of cancer.
I also watched this week a program about "the world's worst prisons". There were two candidates shown, one in Peru and one in Mexico. I think I'd like to suggest that some of our more moaning-inclined prisoners go there for just half a day to see just how well our prison service in Scotland, despite its imperfection, treats them. That sounds more unsympathetic than I actually am, generally. I have huge sympathy with, and compassion for, prisoners. But they are a moany bunch and some of their moans are, to say the least, a bit unreasonable.
I've just watched more than half of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto - I wandered off and left Him Indoors to see the end of it. It's gory and I don't really do gory films if I can avoid them, but it was refreshing to have a film without any white guys, and what I saw seemed to be well done. I have an interest in missionary projects in various parts of the world, and this for some reason made me think of some of my missionary acquaintances, especially two very heroic single ladies who for many years have lived a large part of their time in the Amazon region, doing Bible translation in both Monkey River and White Lake villages. I receive their newsletter from time to time and it's such a different world from mine that I love to read it.
And then, last but not least, this week, I watched "The Mask of Zorro" with Antonio Banderas. I can offer no explanation of why I like this film so much, as it's not my usual thing at all, but I just love it.
If I could re-model myself, I'd settle for looking like Catherine Zeta Jones, too!
In my defence, for those of you who don't approve of "The Mask of Zorro" as a good use of one's time, I did also knit most of a scarf during it - a present for my mum for a bit of babysitting next week.
Apart from for one day (the 22nd of December) I haven't been to either prison since Friday 12th December. I realised then that I was very tired so took the sudden decision to take a week's annual leave. During that week, we had a close family bereavement and then the funeral. The day after the funeral I had a tooth extracted. The socket then became infected and it became increasingly painful, and so I've been off sick over Christmas and New Year. Antibiotics and maximum doses of Ibuprofen got me through the worst. I'm fine now and going back to work on Monday. I feel very sorry to have abandoned the prisoners at what is as you can imagine a very difficult time of year to be in jail.
However, the result has been much more quality family time than I'd otherwise have had (originally I was only planning to take Christmas Day and the weekends off).
The combination of all this, plus my brother-in-law and sister-in-law being back from New Zealand for my mother-in-law's funeral, and also my cousin and her husband visiting Scotland for Christmas, together with this moving post by A Cowboy's Wife, has left me feeling very sentimental. To rub it in thoroughly, I was watching Mamma Mia on video tonight with the children and was very (!) struck by the words of this song:
It reminds me of how emotional I once became when expecting Penultimate Child. Him Indoors was having an exceptionally busy year and was out constantly. Blue Eyed Boy was less than two at the time and I heard for the first time the song "The Cat's In the Cradle" which, much like Rolf Harris's "Two Little Boys", should never be mixed with pregnancy hormones (which are not the cause of today's wobbles - don't get excited).
So, all in all, although I wouldn't wish an infected tooth socket on anyone (even someone I really really really didn't like), I'm glad to have had this time off, and I just want to dedicate the following to my no-longer-so-little cherubs. It's much less sentimental. I can't keep up being soppy for very long.