Sunday, 30 August 2009

When Harry met Great-Gran.

I've sort of lost my blogging mojo recently, though I think only temporarily. But I've just been driven back here to post this photo, freshly nicked from my brother's wife's Facebook photos.

In the picture are two very special people we're delighted still to have with us. My gran was 102 back in April. And my little nephew (her great-grandson) was really about as ill as you can get after he was born in July, but is now absolutely thriving, as you can see.

We are so grateful as a family for all the prayers for Miracle Boy. Some of the prayers were from pray-ers who've never met me but who read this blog and that meant a huge amount to me. I was also very touched by the fact that one of the people praying was a former prisoner, who is a Christian. He not only was praying himself, but had contacted his mum, who lives about 400 miles away, and is also a Christian. She had got her whole church prayer group on board as well, praying for the nephew of someone she had never met.

Prayer works, I have no doubt. Well actually quite often I do have doubt, when it comes to the crunch, and I'm mid-panic, but when I'm, as it were, in my right mind, I really do believe in prayer. From experience.

I know prayer's not a magic wand. God isn't a fairy godmother there to do our bidding and sometimes the answer is "no" or "not yet" or "yes but in a different way from you were thinking", but God is good, and he answers prayer, often with a simple "yes". What I never doubt, though, is that he's always infinitely more ready, willing and able to answer our prayers than we are willing to make the effort/take the time to do the praying.

To those who've prayed for Harry, I just want to say thank you, absurdly inadequate though those two little words are.

Friday, 14 August 2009

The Ten Commandments are for Scots too.

Over the summer we've been doing a series on The Ten Commandments at our church. Him Indoors was away the first week so I got to kick it off. He was away on Sunday just past too, and left me to try and fit "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, and you shall not steal" into one week which was a challenge - you'd think he would have known how many Sundays it would take for a series on the TEN commandments, but never mind.

After the first service, a lady in the church sent me the following, which I think is great. Apologies for non Scots readers - you'll have to look up the translation in Exodus 20:3ff.

"In Brief" by W.A. Noble

I am the only God ye'll hae,
Nae images o' gowd nor clay.
In vain ye daurna tak my name,
My day o' rest - ye'll day the same.
Honour yer faither an' mither baith.
Tae slay a fellow man be laith.
The bridal vows ye'll nae disdain,
Nor tak' awa' whit's nae yer ain.
Than tellin' tales ye'll hae mair sense,
An aye respect yer neighbour's fence.

Grace apparently found this treasure in the Church of Scotland's "Life and Work" magazine "many, many, many years ago". Good, isn't it?

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Glad of A Dad.

Who Do You Think You Are? on BBC 1 this evening was very moving. Kim Cattrall was researching the mystery of her grandfather's disapperance, after he walked out on her mum and her sisters when they were young children in Liverpool.

I won't say what the solution to the mystery was in case anyone is planning still to watch it, but the mystery was resolved. It wasn't a happy story though.

What struck me powerfully and moved me so much was to see how Kim's mum and aunts were still, seventy years on, not "over it". The tears were obviously, all these years after the event, very close to the surface and the sense of hurt and abandonment was STILL having a very serious negative effect at a very deep level.

Kim's grandfather wasn't in prison, but the program did make me think about the children effectively "abandoned" through the imprisonment of their parents. I read the other day that EVERY YEAR thirteen and a half thousand children in Scotland (and we're only a wee country) lose a parent to prison.

Some families survive this separation and are reunited happily when the sentence is over. But sadly many families don't.

There are many reasons why the relationships don't last. Some guys just think it's easier to be single in prison. "Doing a sentence with a partner on the outside is like doing double time", I've been told umpteen times. Some guys think they're doing the noble thing by not asking the partner to wait. Other times they get a Dear John letter or phone call. And there are many other scenarios.

Unfortunately, lots of our prisoners have no contact at all with their children. Sometimes they've been told to stay away (perhaps with the back up of the force of law) because of their previous behaviour. Other times they seem to be content to break the contact voluntarily. I don't know if their self esteem is so low that they think their kids are better off without them (the preferable explanation actually) of if they really and truly don't care about their children.

For the children of the latter category of prisoner, my heart grieves. How awful for them to grow up in the knowledge that their father chose to cut the ties. How awful for a child to feel abandoned, rejected and unloved. It was heartbreaking to watch Kim Cattrell's mum and aunts still struggling after seventy years to come to terms with their abandonment by their father.

I've been concentrating on the kids of our prisoner population in my thinking. But these guys were kids once. The statistics about the percentage of prisoners without a father's presence in their childhood are astonishing. Some of my colleagues in other jails have successfully distributed Mothers Day cards for prisoners to send to their mums for Mothers Day but attempts to do similar things for Fathers Day have always fallen flat on their face. So few prisoners have or have had good dads present in their lives. It's desperately sad. How can they be good dads to their own kids, with the added pressure of doing it from jail, if they don't know about fatherhood? Some think being a dad is about buying designer labels for their children out of their ill-gotten gains. I have a notice on my office wall that says "Dads! Kids need your presence, not presents", a response to a guy who used to boast about what a good dad he was because he sent heaps of money out to his 15 year old daughter. He had done so for most of her life he said. But he'd been in jail most of her life. Designer trainers can never replace the blessing of a loving dad in your home, or as near as can be.

I am so blessed with my lovely dad.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


Harry, who is two weeks old today, is now free of all his tubes and wires. His progress has been amazing - he was very very sick indeed. His improvement has been wonderful. Thank you very much indeed to all who prayed. I can't wait to meet him.

I'm back to work now after three weeks' holiday, feeling refreshed and enjoying both the banter and the more serious pastoral contacts.