Thursday, 25 August 2016

STICKING OUR NECKS OUT

I am sometimes led to wonder what tender ministries are at work in our lives. This week on two occasions I  met two people with puppies and asked them about their pets. Both told me- without overmuch questioning from me- that they had lost dogs exactly the same breed and colour as Rosie. They were both in a strange sort of way comforting conversations . But amazing that it had to be two people with the same story as our's.

Sometimes in life we do not seem to be able to 'do right for doing wrong' meaning that a good gesture can turn out other than intended. I have a friend, a year or two older than me, who has a bicycle he has not used for years. I know he is a very active walker so the natural suggestion was to try cycling again. Having said it was in poor shape I recommended the repair shop I used, and not long ago he drove the bike down in the car and had a thorough reconditioning carried out. When I saw him soon afterwards he told me the story." I got on to cycle home, lost my balance twice each time landing up in the bushes at the side of the road" He subsequently pushed it home and hasn't been on it since. Oh dear!

 I am not sure he blames me but when I saw him yesterday he rolled up a trouser leg and showed me a two inch scar. Oh dear. " I will try again" he said but I do not think he was too impressed with my suggestion we form a cycling club at church!

Doing right for doing wrong. Which reminds me of a story from my days as minister in Cleveleys. One of the door stewards spotted a man coming in and thought to be helpful. "Let me show you where the cloakroom is" he said. The man replied, rather haughtily I guess, that he had only been attending the church for 23 years!

The lesson? Sometimes we have to take a chance, a risk. We may be proved wrong. What matters is the gesture we make. I have to remember that every time I say good morning to someone I think I know and they glare back at me and seem to say "Who in the world are you?"

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

BFG ?

We are living busy lives just now, to cover the emptiness we are feeling inside.This morning we went to the Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve near Silverdale, had a look round, saw very few birds, enjoyed a simple lunch and headed back home. We keep moving on but are not sure where we are heading, or why? Last evening we went to see The BFG, The Big Friendly Giant (based on Roald Dahl's book) 

Impressions? Pleased we got there half way through those deafening advertisements. I wonder if film makers think that turning up the volume with added bags and heavy noise they make the proceeding more acceptable. And the film itself? A complicated plot with wonderful acting from the BFG and the girl he befriended. A plot with twists and turns but so much fighting, crashing, banging from the giants with evil intent. But for the noise I might have dropped off. Conclusion: pleased we saw it and learned what this famous story is about. Question: who was it intended for? Too violent for the very young, too long for most and rather too childish for adults. But that's only my opinion. There were some amusing moments as well as the excellaent acting as already mentioned.

Our minds are still playing their usual tricks. I return again and again to the principle that we are not our minds. We use them, they are wonderful servants but the real you and me are not what passes through our minds. In the Buddhist religion they call our egos 'The Me Makers' recognising how they can bully us into doing and thinking things not truly ourselves. Equally they can make us act in pathetic defence of our false selves.

Enough of that. A report from the garden to say that the lovely flowers called Malva have started to flower again, showing their brilliant white blossoms. A second harvest which is lovely. When the first harvest was finished I took of some pods full of seeds off , planted them and they have started germinating already! Wonderful. You just cannot keep some flowers down. It would not have happened without deadheading. Sometimes in life too, we have to leave things aside, to allow the new to grow, whether habit, behaviour, activities or priorities.


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A SAD DAY

We said goodbye to Rosie last evening. Now we are left with a huge void she leaves behind. These things are hard to write or speak of so I will limit my words. So often words fail us as they certainly fail me now. In our time of painful, emotional reflection we recalled some words spoken by a young nurse working in Vietnam. She wanted to work with the poor of the city streets nicknamed 'The Dust of Life' as they were those who literally blew from street to street like dust in the wind.

We both recalled an interview with Terry Wogan and her use of what for us was  a memorable phrase.They were the words she used to describe her dedication to people who had nothing...What is life but the giving and receiving of love?  And whilst some may not find this easy to understand we gave much love to Rosie and she returned it in abundance. For love- that huge, timeless mystery at the heart of all life- contains affection, closeness, bonding- is still true for us for a little creature who retained her beautiful looks and loving, patient character to the end .

Do not worry, I will not continue the Rosie topic, even if she will live in our hearts for ever. Excuse me for thinking that in all of this are bigger, deeper issues. Attachment and loss. They stand at the very beating heart of every experience, of every normal person. They live with us and haunt us all our days and just now we are feeling the loss in the light of ten years of attachment.

I think something else too. A renewed  dedication to people who spend their lives with brief attachments and lasting and repeating loss. Right now that commitment drives me to avoid the trivialities of life. There is so much to avoid. But I must. And I will with renewed intent..Right now we need direction and this will help.

Last evening, once home, I put a note through the door of the couple across the Close. They lost a beloved spaniel last year and I recall the man, much younger than me, arriving at our door in tears to inform us of their loss. I left a note last evening which simply concluded 'Only those who have walked this way can understand' But you know, we can get there, even if incompletely through that most precious gift we often  treat too lightly...imagination.

Monday, 22 August 2016

TRICKS OF THE MIND

Sorry to be writing about Rosie again but I know some of you will want to know. We collected her from the vets today but will go back at 7 tonight for what looks like being our final visit. Basically she is suffering the results of an enlarged heart, a physical condition that (presumably) has arisen in the last year. That heart has delivered us so much joy, tenderness, affection, loyalty, appreciation and laughter. She will leave behind a huge hole in our lives.

Meanwhile our minds continue to play tricks. I recall reading recently 'that we are not our minds' they (our minds) being an instrument we use and need but can become the master of our true selves. We all know this from moods we suffer, some from losing their tempers. There is a richer, bigger reality for all of us beyond what we are currently thinking. So just now; yesterday after leaving Rosie at the vets my mind wandered to what might be done when Rosie had gone.. But they were thoughts knowing that she would be coming home to us. Now tonight looms we have little room for such thoughts. And how well I remember even more horrible occasions more than 40 years ago, then a beloved human, not a beloved dog.Tricks of the mind.

This is just one reason why I love the parable of the prodigal son, or the waiting father as some describe it (or even the distressed brother). He departed home in one mood and came back in another. But of even more relevance we have those words that have echoed down the centuries He came to himself. He found again- perhaps for the very first time- his true self that lies beyond the mood and the moment.

Rosie is asleep on the floor in front of me. We are drowning her in tender affection but even now my mind will not accept that she is not here for ever.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

POOR ROSIE

It has been a difficult  night. Rosie,our beloved dog, has been seriously unwell, and remains so- it is now about 7.30.am She is breathless and seems unable to lie down so I guess has had less sleep than we have. It is off to the vets as soon as we can get an appointment and we quietly dread what they may well say.What dreadful things pain and suffering are and we would have no wish to see Rosie's suffering continue. Still, we must wait and see. At least as I sat up for my turn there was exciting sport to watch.

Some will think- and I do not blame them- what a fuss to make about a dog. But dogs can indeed become (but not quite) 'Man's best friend'. I know we have heard dreadful things recently about dogs  and the horrible damage they can inflict. But have this in mind too- the human race contains those who kill, execute others without much thought, but it also contains those whose exhaust themselves saving lives and offering acts of healing. Our little dog belongs to the angel breed. So much affection. So much trust. Even the vet said to us 'This is a breed with which I have never had trouble'.

So we move on, as so many have to do each day. And take each day for its mixture of pain and blessing. I think that is all I need to say today.














Saturday, 20 August 2016

FAVOURITE BOOKS

Do you ever find yourself thinking about favourite books you read in your youth. I do from time to time. Of course 'youth' really needs defining and today I would differentiate childhood from adolescence. First childhood, say up to the age of 12 (although I wouldn't dare call a 12 year old a child to their face these days!). My favourites are clear in my memory, each held in hallowed affection. Famous Five...wonderful adventures, never to be forgotten. Biggles, daring airman of great flying adventures. Rupert, who I still like to read of...very relaxing.The Hardy Boys, two brothers based in California always finding crimes to investigate and villains to track down, often in their speedboat. There must be others. One such that has held my mind for all the years was called 'The House on The Creek'. All I remember are the sights of a creek busting with wild life in high summer. What a richness memory can bring.

As I got older and into my teens there are 'grown up' books I recall treasuring, often shared with my father. I recall one called 'The English Counties' which I still have. Another one first published in 1939 (to celebrate my birth, no doubt!) which employed for the very first time photos of the English countryside in what was called 'Dufay Colour'. I still have that book too and is one of my most treasured. Then there was one I lost over the years called 'Birds, Trees and Flowers'. I can picture it still, filled with images of the natural world I loved so much., and still do. Then one my father and I used to read called 'A Sanctuary Planted' by a man who bought some land and turned into fascinating woodland. I lost it, but a few years ago whilst browsing in a Conway second hand bookshop there it was. It cost a few pounds but I bought it without hesitation.

All fascinating adventures, lovely memories of past times. How precious they are.

Yesterday I had an e mail message from someone wishing to be helpful, pointing out errors in my daily pieces, like over long titles. This person has the wrong idea. I only seek a small circle of readers who know they are on my wavelength. In its origin just for those I know. The person does not realise that Christian people see the world the other way up from everyone else. What the world considers important we usually do not. What the world considers clever we often regard as stupid. St Paul has some profound things to say about this upsidedownness, later called by theologians 'The foolishness of God'  . You will find it in   1 Cor ch 1 v18-31,  ample proof of how differently we are formed and behave.

Friday, 19 August 2016

RAIN SWEET RAIN !

 I have been enjoying the rain. I will repeat that that: I have been enjoying the rain. Yes , that wet stuff that falls on us, wets our clothes, makes travel difficult and does hair styles no good at all. I had better tell you why I enjoy it. First because our garden is like a dust bowl and plants will be receiving it with the greatest of pleasure. I can almost hear them shouting 'About time too'.I like it too because there is something elemental about it, something wild and free. This afternoon I took my bike out and was happy just ambling along, fully waterproofed of course. Incidentally, I do prefer sunshine, but prefer rain to the grey gloomy days we so often get.

Yesterday I had an e mail with the title 'Your chickens'. It was to tell me that hundreds of chickens had been purchased for the village in Kenya, and they were 'my' chickens. Stric   tly they were not my chickens but those purchased by Just Connections The hope is to get the number past 2000 when the farm can employ and train people. Apparently, one of the country's top poultry experts has volunteered to help the farm with free advice and instruction. The e mail also confirmed that our offer of providing some short term micro loans to local fishermen had been agreed.


People far away. People who I will never meet. People whose lives do not impinge on mine at all. I realise this will be hard to understand for those who have not yet been 'born again' into the world of compassion. In this new world there are several reason why I and others press on. One of them is what might be called the Biblical Imperative. The Bible is full of a God who loves the poor, who stands on the side of the poor.Through the Old Testament, through the New Testament. Again and again.

I recall the experience of a keen young evangelical Christian who belonged to a narrow sect and revolted against its strictures at Bible School. One day he took his Bible and a pair of scissors, cutting out every page where there was mention of the poor. Then he resigned asking those who would listen did they want a whole Bible or one full of holes? Once the references to the poor had been removed there was little left. But his journey of faith continued and he became one of America's strongest voices for a church and a Christianity that was socially radical and obedient. I recall us hearing him speak in Liverpool and the offertory was taken in plant pots to symbolise what would grow from our generosity. And that is why I try, very hesitatingly, to do my tiny bit for those in deepest need.And, of course, we do not need generosity but a commitment to the fight for social justice.

And hidden away in the New Testament Church is evidence of what scholars have sometimes called 'The Jerusalem Poor Fund'. The poor seem to end up in Jerusalem and all over the growing church gifts were carried in from church to church, often St Paul being the carrier. And do you know which churches were most generous? Those that were most poor.

And here is another thought. Sometimes I have been asked why I bother? You could be on the golf course (not nearly enough excercise) or gardening (necessity). Looking back over years of young people, coffee shops,,Just Connections my reason might be it has been, and continues to be so much fun and so uplifting.