Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Gas Man Cometh

It has been decided that our manse is to get a new kitchen. We are delighted of course. Lots of different trades are involved in the installation of a new kitchen so I hope the following doesn't happen:

A Song and Dance About It.

I don't normally advertise on my blog. In fact this advert had failed thus far actually to fix in my mind who it was an advert for, but I've secretly rather enjoyed it every time I've seen it:

Mobile phones are rather a sore topic with me because I recently washed my almost brand new phone in the washing machine and whilst it is now nice and clean it is as useless as a chocolate teapot. More useless in fact. A chocolate teapot is still chocolate after all, which is always useful.

Anyway, I secretly like this advert because I like musicals. Calamity Jane, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oliver, Hairspray, Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat, Bride and Prejudice, you name it. I have often thought how cool it would be if everyone in Tesco, or everyone in the jail, for example, every now and again suddenly broke out into perfect choreography with some great feel good music. Okay, "cool" is probably the wrong word, technically. "Cheesy" or "gay" (in its third manifestation, rather than meaning homosexual or indeed happy as it was before that) would be more accurate than "cool". But coolness and image aren't my raison d'etre and never have been.

It seems as though I'm not the only one who's been taken with the advert above, though.

I notice on facebook that my husband's cousin's partner (that sounds complicated but break it down - she's basically my cousin-in-law) has accepted an invitation to a silent rave at Glasgow Central station. This seems to be an event where people bring their iPod (that rules me out then - I haven't got one yet) and at a certain time have a private yet communal dance. The one at Glasgow Central station won't be the first. There was at least one in Englandshire before that, also organised through the anarchic "flashmobbing" capability of Facebook. I suppose "flashmobs" are technically dangerous and the police would be worried about sudden crowds assembling without warning to them. I suppose, too, that innocent commuters may be hampered in going about their lawful business of commuting. But a bit of me says, "YESSS!!! Go for it!" In such depressed times, a bit of fun's extremely welcome, IMHO. And it gets me one stage nearer Life Being Like a Musical. Just a pity I can't actually sing. Or dance. For toffee, or indeed chocolate.

Monday, 23 February 2009

In Royal Robes I Don't Deserve

Recently, a member of the royal family visited one of the prisons I work in. I can't say which prison, which date, or which member of the royal family or I would have to kill you, which would be a shame. Official secrets act and all that... However this is a picture of him/her in 1982, although this is not how he/she arrived at the jail.

This is the second royal visit I've experienced. I used to be chaplain in a cancer care day centre (part of the hospice movement, though it had no in-patients). Prince Charles came to visit there. It was at the time when Camilla was what Scots call a "bidey-in", and I was teasing the other staff in advance that I was going to offer to make it legal. (I didn't offer any such thing, of course, in case I was beheaded in the Tower of London or something).

It has been said by many before me that the royal family must think the whole world smells of bleach and paint. It is extraordinary the lengths that people go to when a member of the royal family is to visit - even folk that aren't all that royalist take it very seriously. The advance party of security guys of course help to ensure that all is just tickety-boo. Some of the prisoners and I were entertaining ourselves looking for the tell-tale bulges of guns under the jackets of the bodyguards.

All the time leading up to, and during this most recent royal visit, I was thinking about the totally amazing illustration all the fuss and effort that's made is for us as Christians. It reminds us of just what wonderful, ludicrous, mad and awesome stuff we are actually taught in the Bible, summed up in the line "..in royal robes we don't deserve..." in this song (which, by the way, I want at my funeral please):

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Tired of Being The Bad Guys?

It was very strange indeed this weekend to be down to one child only. This is a picture of Youngest Child (for it was she) and Him Indoors, outdoors. The necklace Him Indoors is wearing, by the way, is the dog's lead, as she was roaming free at this point. I mention that just to establish that it is not true that I have Him Indoors on a lead, even a metaphorical one. Whatever he may tell you!

Anyway, Firstborn, Blue-Eyed Boy, and Penultimate Child had a lovely time at a Scripture Union weekend camp led by our aforementioned friend. There were six other kids from our church there (that makes nine altogether, as I'm sure you are able to work out) and three leaders from our church, including our church drummer. So the service back at the ranch was literally quieter without the twelve of them this morning.

I think it's fab that almost all the leaders (and there was a huge team of them as it was a big group of kids aged from 9 to 17) come on these weekends as volunteers, even though they have been working up till the Friday afternoon and have to go back to work (knackered) on the Monday morning. Their commitment to the kids and to God is amazing.

I was thinking today about a prisoner we used to have who came faithfully every week to the Prison Fellowship. He didn't often come to the services (which I conduct) but was regular at the Prison Fellowship meetings, run by a committed and wonderful and dedicated volunteer. This fellow (who eventually did a runner, but that's another story) was an atheist. He didn't believe in God and yet he came to Prison Fellowship because, he said, he couldn't believe that Isobel came in every week without being paid. He couldn't figure out why she would travel, as she wasn't local, at her own expense, in all weathers, and for the many years she'd been doing it, for no money. It impressed him and mystified him and so his curiosity led him to keep coming.

So much of the time people will say, "Religion just causes wars. If we didn't have religion we'd be much better off. Most wars are caused by religion. Religion's a bad thing". Etc.. John Lennon's "Imagine" is on that theme.

I agree that lots of wars have been in the name of religion. It'd be daft to disagree. But generally they're tribal and racial and cultural and political and are just called religious. If you're born in "Norn Iron", for example, you are born into a tribe. The protestant tribe. Or the catholic tribe. And there are plenty of people on each side who don't actually have any kind of living faith or relationship with God, who never pray or read their Bible, who are nonetheless bitter in their hatred of the other "team". Neither lot, in any real sense, are "Christians".

Certainly lots of horrible stuff has been done in the name of Christianity, and those who dismiss religion on that basis have some foundation for what they say. But I often think that the other side is never put. The truth is that Christianity, in spite of the fact that all those following the Christian faith are ordinary flawed human beings who stuff up on a frequent basis, is a huge force for good.

In Scotland, for instance, Crossreach, the social welfare arm of the Church of Scotland, is the biggest voluntary social care body in the country working with: Addictions, Children & Families, Counselling & Support, Criminal Justice, Homelessness, Learning Disabilities, Mental Health and Older People. Lots of people volunteer with Crossreach, and whilst others are paid, all the money comes from the sacrificial giving of Christians. And that's just the Church of Scotland. The Roman Catholic church and other protestant denominations are doing the same sorts of things.

And in individual congregations all over Scotland, lots more voluntary stuff and good works are going on: Parent and Toddler Groups, Pensioners' Lunch Clubs, Youth Work, Kids' Clubs and all sorts. Churches are providing volunteers to do good things in the community, in schools, hospitals and prisons.

Atheists are doing good works too. Of course they are. (In my experience not on anything like the same scale though...) But my point here is simply to reflect that when you who are Christians hear, yet again, about how religions are responsible for all the wars, and so on, perhaps you should be less shy about telling the other side of the story. Not to boast, because "it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" but just to set them straight.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Good Day.

In the Bible, in Luke 15, we read the following (I've chosen "The Message" translation):

"By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, "He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends." Their grumbling triggered this story.

"Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, 'Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep!' Count on it—there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

"Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she'll call her friends and neighbors: 'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it—that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God."

In honour of that great passage, and in honour of G, for whom this was a special day, I post this video. Sometimes I don't "get" classical music, being an ageing rocker really, but I "get" this and was playing the Prom Praise recording of it at full bung in the car today.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Snowy Scotland and Alpha Scotland.

The kids and I had lots of fun this afternoon when we took the sledges up to Glenshee. Even I, in spite of my love of being warm, clean and dry at all times, had a couple of goes. The reason I look even cuddlier than normal in this picture is that I was wearing nearly every item of clothing I own. I very nearly demolished a couple of three year olds that had made the mistake of standing in my way and also went over a ramp/jump that someone had made - accidentally as I didn't see it. Also at one point after falling off the sledge into some deep soft snow found I was almost entirely unable to get up because of all my layers rendering me as stiff as a board. On a previous occasion here Blue Eyed Boy cut his ear so badly that we had to drive to Accident and Emergency (to the grave annoyance of the other kids who hadn't even had their first shot on the sledge). No incidents this time, and it was worth the mountain of soggy laundry now awaiting me, definitely.

Even the puppy got out for a run about in the snow. She was moving way too fast for me to get a decent picture of her, and the light was fading too. As there were so many folk around she was stuck in the car for the first while but we'd gone late in the day, having been at church, so she got a good run around before we left. As soon as a child set off down the hill on the sledge she was after them. You wonder what goes through their heads: "What's this all about? No idea! But it's fun!"

Yesterday, I had a completely different sort of experience - and not just because I was warm, clean and dry throughout. I was in Edinburgh at the Alpha Scotland Vision Day. I really enjoyed it. I've never been on an Alpha course, though I attended one session of one in a prison as I'm thinking of running it in "my" jails. It's been very effective in enabling the Christian faith to be shared in a very friendly, gentle, warm and natural fashion - there's prison Alpha, schools Alpha, workplace Alpha, youth Alpha, student Alpha and even hotel Alpha, as well as the local church ones. It was also really good to meet two fellow bloggers there, That Hideous Man , whom I DO meet from time to time, and Lynn at Help I Work With Children whom I haven't seen for more than two decades, and who, incidentally, was one of my mum's maths pupils at school. Perhaps I'll go on a world tour in search of meetings with all those whose blogs I read - tricky with some who don't give much away. First I should hire a private detective, I guess.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

My Ickle Bwuvver.

My very clever baby brother.... well okay, he's had his 40th birthday* and I need to face the fact he's an adult, has a blog now, related to his business as a dentist. I've added it to my blogroll and forgiven him totally and completely for ever suggesting that my blogging fixation was a waste of time. Lol.

He's a twitterer too, so perhaps I should consider twitter-world too as a whole new possible avenue of housework-avoidance for me to add to Bebo, Facebook, the Scottish Banter website and Blogging.

*How can a 21-year old have a baby brother who is 40? It's to do with time travel, guys, and it's a secret only known to me and a select team of scientists from NASA. Better not to ask further. Walls have ears.

Monday, 2 February 2009

The Extra Foolish Man.

Although snow has been the theme of the day in Blighty today, it's sand that made me laugh in this cartoon. It seems appropriate in the context of a global financial recession which, it could be argued, is the related to the choice of foundations (greed, individualism, instant gratification, etc.) that we humans have chosen on which to build our financial houses.

Matthew 7:21-27 (the Message translation):

"Knowing the correct password—saying 'Master, Master,' for instance— isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.'
These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Joys, plural.

Today was a special day for friends of ours. The daddy of the wee one in the picture is the new minister of the church in the other picture, and this was the first Sunday since his ordination and induction into the charge. Their extremely adorable daughter was baptised during the service.

Firstborn and I travelled to celebrate the occasion with them, staying overnight with other friends last night who this time last year were also new to a congregation and are now old hands at the game. It was great to see them again too as we miss them now they're further away.

I am so thankful that we were able to be at the service today. Pay attention as you'll get confused now, and, for all you know, I may be setting an exam at the end. The wee one's grandpa used to be Him Indoors's and my minister. He was kind of responsible for us getting together as he asked us to run a youth group in his church and you could say that one thing kind of led to another. But off and on for a few years before that, I had babysat his two daughters, since before they were at school. The older of the two is now the mother of the wee one in the picture and the wife of the new minister of this church (whose dad is also a minister).

It was great to grab a photo of our photo-shy Firstborn and the wee one. Both have a middle name in common - Joy. Hence the post title. During Firstborn's first year in this world, the mother of the wee one was studying nursery nursing at college and as part of that followed Firstborn's progress during her first year and then after it was assessed, presented us with the project to keep. She also babysat a bit. It's just a pity they're not nearby enough for us to reciprocate again with the babysitting. On the other hand they're in a very pretty location - we may just have to invite ourselves down for another visit some time.