Giving thanks for ALL things.

This morning I was going to swim in the sea… when I left home the sky was amazingly blue, there was no breeze at all, and the only word that sprang to mind was ‘hooray!’ When we (dogs and me) walked onto the beach the flag at the RNLI was waving around a bit so we knew a bit of wind had sprung up (the dogs know these things). The beach was, as usual, almost deserted at that time, the only sounds were the waves and the birds, a perfect time and place for wandering and wondering, praying and singing, for being filled to the brim with thankfulness and for being empty headed with absence. On the changing tide the breeze sent the clouds scudding across the sun so, although it was paradise, I wasn’t tempted in any deeper than my knees. The dogs paddled and I paddled, and it was so very beautiful – if I had been in charge I wouldn’t have changed a single thing.

When I came home, it was the usual routine – shower, feed the dogs, tidy up, re-read the chapter I had read sleepy-headed first thing. Look at Romans chapter 8 and do the homework for Sunday’s sermon (I’m being silly – it’s not homework). And then.. and then… and then….. LOOK!

My house was built in the shadow of a huge chapel and for 10 months of the year the tiny back yard gets no sun at all, but for a short few weeks the sun is high enough to arc around and give us two whole hours of warmth before it dips behind the chapel again. Two glorious hours. The patch of sunlight is just one flagstone deep and two flagstones wide, but if I move my chair around to follow the path of the sun I can roast and roast. Lovely. No views of course (unless you count drains) but wonderful sunshine. What a great blessing. Just to sit outside is such a wonderful gift.

Sometimes the most precious moments are unexpected and sometimes what feels like a problem turns out to be a blessing. Oooh. That’s a bit churchy. Sorry. Maybe I’ve belonged to a church for too long! Anyway, here’s a problem that turned into a real gift:

My village is built on the shore of an estuary. On our side of the estuary is a wide beach, sandy and gentle, skirted by dunes, and on the other side is a smaller, rockier, more workmanlike shore with a jetty and boats and a caravan park and boulders dumped there to keep the winter tides at bay. The two estuary shores have friendly, welcoming names – the beach is Poppit Sands, and the rocky shore opposite is Patch. Poppit and Patch. They could be detectives in a tongue-in-cheek TV series, or dogs in a children’s cartoon.

It’s daft to anthropomorphise beaches but here goes: Poppit thinks she’s a cut above Patch, because she comes under the aegis of the the Pembrokeshire National Park Authority, while Patch sniffs dismissively and says that Poppit is all fur coat and no knickers. They glower at each other across the shallow water. You’re either a Poppiteer or a Patchist. Some people try to love both but you can’t serve two beaches. Fact.

I usually stick to Poppit, but recently, feeling very much alone in the long lockdown days, I’ve been getting into the car and going a bit further afield just to give my bored eyes something different to see, my brain something to actually think about. Mostly, because I’m alone, I don’t get out, just drive around, but yesterday we went to Patch in the afternoon, and I took the dogs for a leg-stretch. It was a real shocker! I was shocked to my core. I thought that I was, in spite of weight and arthritic spine, a fit kinda person. OK, I can’t walk fast, but I can walk far. Very far. OK, I can’t jog but I can swim. And I love the water. OK, I can’t do stairs, but I don’t want to anyway. Who does? OK, I’m deaf but it isn’t the deafness of old age, it’s the deafness of something else. Yesterday it all got serious. I discovered that I can’t walk on pebbles! My ankles turn, I lose my balance, I feel disoriented and sick if the scree moves beneath my feet, my tri-focals confuse me…. I felt, suddenly, about 90! I managed to get to the top of a steep incline and there I stood, shakily. Paralysed. Retreating was as dodgy as going on and, reasoning that there might be another way around the promontory, I eventually continued down the scree on to the less pebbly shore. There I discovered that there was no other way back to the car except the way I’d come. Stranded. I sat on the rocks for simply ages trying to pluck up the courage to return over what now looked – to my chastened courage – like a sheer cliff face.

As I sat there, with Pip madly chasing birds over the slimy rocks, and Percy glued to my side, worrying (he’s an empathic dog) I found myself saying “This would be an adventure and something to laugh at, if I was with someone. ” and a small filling voice (the only way I can describe it) said “You are with someone.”

And I was. I was with God. So we sat there, me and Percy, and I knew that God was with us. And you know what? The scree wasn’t so worrying, I didn’t fret about falling, and I did laugh at the silly bloomin’ woman who managed to get (almost) stranded on a perfectly ordinary seashore, a seashore where toddlers clambered happily and couples strolled romantically.

And I got back to the car without calamity.

What a twit. Aren’t we a funny lot? You may not be a daft old bat yet, but one day, if you get to your three score years and ten, you will be! Here’s the news… it’s not so bad. Yeah, yeah, sometimes you’ll think it’s the pits, deep deep cesspits, but most of the time it’s not so bad.

Get ready to laugh at yourself, if and when the time comes. And remember you won’t be alone. Even when the world turns away, when the most ordinary day becomes a worry, God will be right there with you.

Even to your old age and grey hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

Today, just now, (don’t know how long it will last) I am giving thanks for all things. Even wonky eyes, hearing, ankles, back….

Red letter day!

It’s always been a bit of a ‘thing’ with me that I don’t lock my front door in the daytime, that my home is open to anyone who wants to come in for a chat, a moan, a shout, a dance, whatever. My happiest times are when it’s party time, or when the group of Young Adults from church come for the evening, or when there’s music playing in the kitchen, and a conversation by the fireside and kids mucking about in the hall, and a teenager demonstrating how to do a somersault on the sofa. I probably won’t be able to hear any of it – in my ears it’s always chaos… and I love it!

I think it comes of growing up in a house where no one was welcome, where the marriage of my dad and stepmother was so passionate that it was exclusive. No room for anyone else. You would think that such passionate love would create warmth, wouldn’t you? It didn’t. It created a smug little, mean little, serene and impregnable castle, with the draw bridge always up. A perfect home arranged just as it suited them, every room pleasing to their eye, work tops uncluttered by life, table tops empty of work, colours muted, days ordered… two people devoted to each other and utterly selfish.

Probably reacting to that beginning, I’ve always wanted my home to be a place where anyone can enter and relax. You know? Relaaax. When I lived in Derby we had a mad woman (truly bonkers – truly) living opposite, and a chaotic woman just a few yards away across a patch of grass, and next door was a lovely man, a widower, with two great hulking sons and a garden full of motorcycle parts and old cars… and they all came in and out, and were part of our lives. George wasn’t quite so happy about the comings and goings but it’s important to me that friends know they’re always welcome, no appointment necessary. And yet, this year, for nearly four months my front door has had to be properly, solidly closed. So horrible.

Ancient Roman documents recorded special and significant events in red ink. Nowadays calendars do the same. In Bibles the words of Christ are often shown in red. Well, today is a sort of red letter day for me… look….. my kitchen is busy, I’m going to actually hoover later on today, I may even polish the furniture…. LOOK! Fish pie is in the making, roasted peppers, and Madeira cake with raspberries, to be followed by Scrabble and wine and chocolate and… PEOPLE! Two whole people.

Two whole lovely people.

Oh. Listen, just as I finished typing ‘whole’ I looked up and I saw a woman running down the hill, throwing her arms around a laughing man, and they laughed and laughed some more, and she swung him around and he swung her around… elderly, rejoicing, delightful! I had to go out and tell them how lovely it was to see a real live hug. Separated households, separated souls, coming together, uniting in a great big joyous hug. How wonderful. Wow. I didn’t know how deeply I had missed seeing normal human interaction, friendship and love.

About three weeks ago there was talk about people in the UK adopting the ‘bubble’ system of coming out of isolation. It didn’t transpire but on the very day it was mentioned in the press I had a knock on my door and the couple who are coming tonight were there, asking me if we could ‘bubble’ together. Tonight, three weeks later, we are finally getting it together! I am so very, very happy. And I’m gonna beat them both, soundly and roundly, at Scrabble (my love doesn’t quite reach scrabble level)

This book I’m writing, about love… it’s sort of pole-axed me. I can’t see anything without recognising either love or the need for love or the absence of love.

Love, eh ? Someone should write a song about it.

Hey, do you want to see something beautiful? Turn your audio off and cop an eyeful of this:

‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’

I bet you a million squillion quid

Were you going to do great things in lockdown? Maybe you were going to learn a new language, or a new skill – morris dancing or brain surgery – or maybe you set your sights on creating the perfect gateau or starting a micro brewery? Did you dust off your old guitar and search online for how-to-play videos? Or did you set your sights on reaching peak fitness and running ten miles a day?

I’d be willing to bet a million quid that you did none of these things (if I had a million quid). I bet your days meandered by.

I also did none of these things, but then, I never intended to anyway. I am, by nature, a sloth. I did unpack my patchwork one day, and I started to teach my granddaughter how to knit (we managed just 12 rows) and … well, that’s it, really. That’s not to say I haven’t learned anything at all in this last three months, I’ve accidentally learned loads; I’ve learned that banana bread is a doddle but lemon drizzle cakes sometimes dip in the middle, and I’ve discovered things about the house drains that I really didn’t want to know (a horrible flood) and how much it costs to have a dry stone wall built when the hill is sliding into your property (another thing I didn’t want to know) and I’ve learned that when your tyres are a bit soft the car gets VERY noisy and when the garage doesn’t put the seal back on the oil pump everything grinds to a very messy halt. It’s been an eventful and panicky lockdown – quite scary at times! I’ve even found myself wishing I was a blokey bloke so that I’d know how to deal with all these things. They just do, don’t they? Weird.

More happily, I’ve learned that God is beyond good, and that I am no earthly use, and that this is OK. I’ve learned that the Bible is alive and relevant and piercing – and not always the most comfortable read. And I’ve learned that God is to be trusted and that with trust comes real solid pinch-me joy. Pinch me hard, and let me know I’m not dreaming.

This blog is read in 37 countries – not by hundreds of people, but by a few every now and then, so I’d better bring you up to date with where we are just now with our lockdown here in Wales. We are edging very very very slowly towards a lessening of regulations. We are confused, a bit bored and tetchy, our thinking is growing circular, muffled and blunt, and, speaking for myself, being a selfish shellfish, I’m not always aware and focussed on the fact that this is a time of acute pain and loss for so many. In this part of the country the restrictions have been followed, there have been few deaths, and it’s a shock to turn on the tv and to see the mass graves in New York. It’s a wake-up call to think of and pray for friends in South Africa, in Italy, in London, in the Midlands, in the USA.

We have to make an effort to remember, when we are so far apart, that there is real grief in a world of mourning, that yes, we’re human and flawed and so we make jokes about lemon drizzle cakes and drains, but this is a time when our priority is to pray, and to extend love those who are suffering deep loss. A time for prayer. A time to grow.

Lockdown has had its small triumphs and good lessons well as floods and landslides…. I’ve learned a lot about love, and about friendship.

“A friend in need” the saying goes “is a friend indeed.”

A more colloquial rendering of that wisdom is “A friend in need is a bloody nuisance.”

Many of us have discovered friendship in this time of real need. The supermarkets are full of people who are shopping for those who are self-isolating, and there are stories of kindness and selflessness running alongside all the stories of stupidity and greed. In my village people are baking for each other, checking that the elderly are OK, showing real care and concern, not just clapping the NHS . How I hated that little ritual…

But I do appreciate the real kindness I’ve been shown and, as I can’t go on the street and applaud my friends, I’ll tell you about them instead:

With no outside space of my own, I’ve appreciated being invited to join neighbours in their gardens – in fact just four homely low-key visits have been life savers. True friendship isn’t about shared belief, or age, or gender, or nationality. It’s not talking about love. Friendship is a rickety chair on uneven ground and a mug of tea and the sun overhead, and laughter. These friends are as different from me as anyone could possibly be, different beliefs, lifestyles, ages, nationalities, sexualities, histories, we have nothing in common at all. At the start of lockdown I was studying James and I’ve just closed the commentary on it, sated and happy. In the second chapter there’s a warning against saying the right and ‘kindly’ thing but then doing nothing – James tells us that it’s no good wishing someone was warm and fed if we then walk away, leaving them cold and starving. Saying the right things to ease us through the moment, giving false hope and empty comfort, is hypocritical. It’s also something that us people of faith do quite a bit. But James warns us that when do this, our faith is dead.

These neighbours of mine who have offered friendship, are not the ones who say all the right things at all, it would never occur to them to say “We love you.” Instead they say “We’ve got the kettle on so come round right now, we’ll sit in the garden and we’ll see how much nonsense we can come up with.” I am so appreciative – they’re all partnered, they have each other, they don’t need my company, but they offer theirs.

Here’s another pertinent saying; “They put their money where their mouth is.”

I thank God for my non Christian friends. Pagans, agnostics, atheists all. They are a gift from God. He loves them. They are amazing.

Jaw dropping

In the middle of the night, scrabbling around sleepily for a piece of paper and a pen (writers do that sort of thing), in the drawer next to my bed I found a tiny red book that I’d forgotten about. I started it about 6 years ago, jotting down some things I heard that just ‘stuck’ and I didn’t want to lose.

I left the notebook out and as I flicked through it this morning, I found a simple phrase from 24th May 2015 which has held me captive ever since ‘submission is a universal Christian obligation.‘ It made me smile because that phrase changed my life. I remember hearing it so very clearly and I promise you, my jaw did truly drop. I don’t think I will ever forget it. I hadn’t known until that moment that jaw-dropping was a real thing! I actually mentioned that phrase in a face-time conversation on Friday. It’s become a part of my internal world.

Our pastor does a lot of careful studying before a sermon, and praying and thinking and all that stuff, so that by the time he speaks to us he brings clarity and simplicity to even the deepest truths. That day I learnt that submission is a way of life, not just an act, not a doing, not just a thing a wife offers to her husband or a husband offers to his wife. It’s a universal obligation. If we all do it…. if we all do it… oh, man! Think, if we all do that! I know that here and now the phrase won’t mean as much to you as it did to me back then, when it came as a building block in the sermon, but it bears repeating.

We are all to submit. The command is universal. That means we are all servants of each other. No exceptions. There is none raised high, and none laid low. I wish I could give you that sermon, I wish, I wish, but I can only … here… hang on…… I’ve just scrabbled around and found my sermon notes going back to 2015 and here you go…

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.‘ Ephesians 5:21,

Page one of three, and some afterthoughts.

It excites me all over again to read ‘No matter where you go, this word and command is for all of us. None of the other commands (love, live in the light etc) are possible (attainable) if we don’t first live a submissive life. That makes me long to live that way, thrilled at the idea of it.

And of course, the submissive life was defined further in the sermon- the submissive life is one surrendered to God. Our greatest priority and our greatest joy is submitting to God. It’s good submitting to Billy Bloggs, and as an act of obedience it has its own quiet reward, but submitting to God! Submitting, as the verse says ‘out of reverence for Christ’. That’s a whole other ball-game and it brings huge sweeping joy and laughter and delight because submission isn’t servility, Uriah Heep bowing and scraping. It’s a strong and peaceful way of life. It’s a joyful life choice. We decide to submit to God and to one another – freely – not in slavery.

Sometimes our pastor’s definitions are taken from other speakers and writers, but sometimes these aphorisms (concise statements, sharp observations containing truth) are his. These are the ones I get worked up about because they shouldn’t be lost. I love words, communication and learning and I hate the thought of these carefully distilled concepts not being written down, to be treasured and explored by people in the future. What a waste! I can chew on these simple truths for days, weeks, months. How wonderful if others could do the same. He’s spent hours crafting them – what a waste if they’re lost! And you know, biased as I am, I believe that the written word is even more powerful than the spoken word – because it can be visited and re-visited.

Books. That’s the answer.

BUT here’s the thing – there are so many millions of how-to books that you’d think the world doesn’t need any more. We have how-to be happy/content/thin/successful/beautiful/funny/fit and even how-to pray. Enough already! But when I look back and see my life shaped by good teaching, oh, man! I so long for these words to be wondered at. I want jaws all over the world to drop. Our sermons used to be recorded on cd’s, and then went online, but the online platform makes them available for only two years, so their life is short. Maybe now, on youtube, they’ll last longer, be heard way into the future, but there are so many things to look at, to listen to, to be distracted by, will they still be lost? There’s no other form of teaching as sturdy and long lasting and focussed as a book.

Are my horrible scrawled notes, the only record we have of that wonderful sermon five years ago? What a waste! Of course some patient and wiser soul will email me now and tell me that God will use the spoken word, that those who need to hear will hear. Yeah, yeah. I know. Of course. And the pastoral role is to the people who hear, the people of the community, and God’s work is done pastorally. Yes! I get it. I still reckon there should be a written record. So shoot me.

Hey – yesterday, or the day before (lockdown… all the days blur into one long yawn) I was asked ‘Is Covid from the devil or is it God’s judgment?’ When I’d stopped laughing at the idea that anyone would ever ask me anything theological, this was my answer: I don’t trust my judgment and neither should you, but we know where to find the answer. Here are some thoughts from a much greater authority than me or any other human being:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16&17

‘All things were created’ and the ‘all’ includes Covid as a virus. The world is full of viral life, teeming with it, and with bacteria too. They are created life forms, just like the elephant, the flea, the amoeba and everything in-between. But it was man who created the disease/pandemic. It was man who, by his greed and corrupt systems, created a poverty ridden underclass, ignorant of hygiene and desperate for food, any food. Man caused the pandemic but God has allowed it. There will be lessons for us in it. 

I form the light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.’ Isaiah 45:7

That’s hard to fathom, but just as I’m wondering about justice in any of this, a verse later we read: 

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, 
those who are nothing but potsherds
    among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
    “What are you making?”
Does your work say,
    “The potter has no hands”?

That brings me right back to a place of calm surrender. He’s right! I’m a potsherd (a shard of pottery, a broken vessel) That’s me! These verses and loads of others tell us that God is sovereign and nothing happens unless he allows it. And they put us in our place. And how. But then just as things look a bit bleak, I think of: 

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:5

And the lessons we learn in Covid will be good ones because:

we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

And finally
God is love.  1 John 4:8

Hang on… one more… just before I go….

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Now , that’s what I call jaw-dropping!

(and it’s written in proper booky book, so it’s lasted 2000 years and reached even us)

Stories

I’ve had two lovely long chats today with good pals in the village, and it was really good, after so long in lockdown (still in it but relaxing a tad), to rekindle friendships and chew the fat. We all have stories to share – we think our lives are mundane but they are rich, rich, rich.

I remembered back to when I was a new Mum, when money was tight, and I really needed a job. I could work at night because my husband would be home to look after our baby, and I would be there during the day, napping when she napped. I belonged to a nursing agency and one night I was called to care for a dying woman in her own home. I arrived after dark at the 1930’s bungalow – nothing unusual about it at all, the traditional two bay windows, a decent sized bedroom, space to sit beside her through the night. The family left to return to their homes and I read her notes, checked her medications, all the usual stuff. There was not much to do except hold her hand, keep her comfortable and warm, maybe rub her heels, be ready to give comfort. By about 3am I was half asleep myself, in that hushed, peaceful state of a night vigil. The room was only dimly lit, cosy, the only sounds were her soft breathing and the tick of the clock in the hall. As if we were wrapped in a blanket, that sort of night. And then, right by my ear, strident and and rough, coming out of nowhere and no one, “What time is it?

Well! I nearly hit the roof! It’s the nearest I have ever come to a heart attack.

The family had forgotten to tell me that, in the bay window, behind the curtain, there was a birdcage and a mynah bird. When I’d picked myself up from the floor and stopped swearing, I found myself answering “Twenty past three.” The bird put its head on one side, blinked slowly, and said again “What time is it?”

That bloody bird asked the same question every two minutes for the next half hour. Hardly an ideal deathbed companion. So much for serenely departing this life. I moved the cage to the other room.

Funny things happen in the strangest, most tense and emotional moments. Mostly, they’re not very funny at all, but we find them hilarious because we so need to escape from the weight and the emotion of the moment, to be silly old us, sniggling and giggling, rather than sombre strangers the occasion seems to demand. At my husband’s funeral, the hearse driver didn’t bother with signals and seemed to apply the brakes randomly. In the following car we got the giggles.

In my village there’s a woman I worked with on two films, she was the set designer, and strangely we’ve ended up living a quarter of a mile away from each other. Today we sat on the wall outside my house and remembered an old friend, now dead, a much loved actor – one of those precious ‘national treasures’ – and what joy it was to have him come alive to both of us, as we remembered his sweet and silly ways.

Stories draw us close, stories are windows to human nature, tributes to humanity. Stories reveal so much. They say to me “You’re not so different from everyone else” and they say to you “You are not alone.” and I think that a good story, honestly told, teaches us to forgive. It teaches us that we are all flawed, that we are none of us apart and better than others, that we all deserve love. That loneliness kills.

Something about the conversations I’ve had today has released the desire to write and so I’ve finished the first chapter of my second book. Hoorah! I think that when we remember how full of humour and nonsense and love and grief and rage and contradiction our lives are, we can’t help but tell each other all about it. These are our stories. I do love our stories.

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog about my newly discovered covetousness. I had an email from someone I’ve never met telling me that she has just had the very same experience! On the very same day, she had realised that her discontent wasn’t harmless ‘thinking’ but damaging, corrosive covetousness! Like me, she was a bit shocked. Like me, it woke her up.

Stories, see? They whisper “Me, too, sister.” They tell us that we are forgiven, that we are loved, acceptable, and that even when we are no earthly use to anyone, we are eternally valued by God, and that with his help, we can learn and grow.

Whinge whinge

We have a heat wave here in the UK and that’s just fabulous. The sky is amazingly heart-piercingly blue. OK, not ‘heart piercingly’ but so pure and blue and deep and wide that it brings tears to your eyes. So beautiful.

But we can’t see the sky from our house, or only a small patch of it. And there’s nowhere to sit outside in the sun, and indoors it’s cool and darkish, which is lovely when you first come in from the sun but not so great if you’re there all day while the sun is cracking the tarmac.

This morning I paddled in the sea for two whole hours and it was wonderful, but I was home by 8 with the long day indoors stretching ahead. I can’t go for the meandering walk I long for because my back won’t let me, I can only amble very slowly and when my back ‘goes out’ I have to stop and bend down until the spine rights itself. Or sit down. And you can’t do that walking on the pavements and roads. So here I am, stranded. Scuppered.

Mid afternoon I could stand it no longer, I grabbed my granddaughter by her ear and like an ancient old couple we set off for a drive. We drove past Fred and Freda’s house, and saw them in the garden. Past Bert and Bertha’s house and admired their sea view, past Pat and Patricia’s house and admired their decking, past Simon and Simone’s and wondered how long it took to cut that huge lawn, past Dave and Davina’s and remarked on the length of their drive…. and you know what? I was beginning to feel really hard-done- to. All these people with all these gardens, all that space and sky and sunshine… and all we could do was drive past. We headed towards Mwnt to sit on the cliff top and gaze at the sea, hoping for dolphins, but the road was closed (Covid, I think) and so we chuntered on to Aberporth but there the car parks were also closed, and with double yellow lines everywhere we couldn’t even stop. I was feeling a bit miffed with life by then. I started to enjoy a quiet seethe.

“I’m stuck here,” I said to God, “for another blinkin’ year, and no one cares a damn. Including you.” I may even have had a little thought about George being dead for, like, a hundred years and everyone else, truly everyone else in the whole damn world, married. I don’t see the point of saying the ‘right’ things to him, if my heart says something else. I told God that it was never meant to be like this, life and stuff. I think by now my thoughts were tumbling and incoherent even to me. I asked him if he remembered my lovely plans for a garden when I moved into my current house. Everyone else I can think of has one….. well, apart from a friend in a London flat and she’s got flipping London on her doorstep and over there they’re free to move around and meet and greet and visit and everything…. but me, I’m here in Welsh Wales (“where, incidentally, Lord, I never intended to live at all”) and I’m stuck, aren’t I? Proper bloomin’ stuck. And then .. and then…. and then….. I had a serious , first time ever thought…. is this what it is to covet?

Am I coveting my neighbour’s gardens? Their company? Their lives?

I think I am.

So I smiled at myself (because I know God was smiling too) and kicked myself (because he wouldn’t) and said sorry, and admitted (silently) that I had never before thought that I had any weakness in the area of coveting. Never! I don’t like owning things, I don’t hanker after success, I just don’t have the knack of holding onto money or stuff and nor do I want to. If you have a six bedroom house .. so what? So did I once, and that went the way of everything else. And you can live in only one room at a time, sleep in one room at a time. And success is crap. So is money. And I don’t want posh holidays. And I’ve had fast cars and I’m over it. And I always knew they were just nonsense trappings anyway. Give it away, I say… give it away! So I have never had a problem with coveting. But this afternoon… boy! I was covetous to the power of ten (whatever that means). And I felt alone and washed up and friendless. Really really, no, really sorry for myself.

Here’s the funny thing. Trying not to show my granddaughter how utterly pissed off I was, I was making all sorts of flat conversational segways. One of them was “Do you know what I’d really like now? I’d really really like a Mr Whippy ice-cream.” and warming to my theme I went on “You’d think, with cafes closed, that ice-cream vans would make a killing in Covid, especially on a day like this. But you never see ice cream vans these days, do you? Maybe there aren’t any left. It’s years since I saw…. “

And I kid you not, at that very moment, as a tractor turned off in front of me, there, in a lay-by…. Mr Whippy!

It was more than I deserved. Far far more. But I really enjoyed that ice cream. It must be about ten years since I had a 99.

So. I may be sour and human and flawed and full of self, but God knew just what I needed and he had pity on me.

I ain’t a preacher but I’m telling you now, as one who knows; don’t covet. It takes the colour out of the day.

And I have nothing, absolutely nothing, to moan about. This is the photo I took this morning, as I paddled. The sea was a long way out, and we were all alone with the blue blue sky and our great great God. You know, the God who gives ice cream to spoilt brats.

End of a chapter

About six years ago, I’d just finished a TV series, I was deep in a radio play and toying with the idea of writing my autobiography, leading a happy and busy and messy life. I’d been a writer for half a lifetime and in that time I’d been widowed, gone through surgery, seen my daughter married, become a grandmother…. busy, busy, busy. Razamatazz. But something was missing.

From a standing start, someone who had been to the theatre only once and left school at 16, I’d become a writer and exec producer, and it was a good life because it was always about the thrill of writing, not about success. Starting out, I had been over-awed by meetings full of intellectuals, graduates, execs, Oxbridge types, middle class men with suave confidence, but over the years I had come to realise that I belonged there. Whatever else I was, or wasn’t, I was a dramatist. These clever people were all there because I was there. Without a writer, there would be nothing to make. Without them nothing would be made. Equals. At home in that environment.

But the awareness of that ‘something missing’ persisted and when I wandered into a little red church and heard a challenge “We are called to lead a holy life. Are you leading a holy life?” the question hit me where it hurts. It took my breath away. Stunned.

I knew what I was looking for, a life with God, a life I’d slipped away from when I started writing.

I dutifully finished my current projects but since then I’ve written only radio plays, work that could be done from home, not in pre-production meetings or post-production edit suites, not in studios or on set, just quietly tapping away at my desk and missing nothing of church life. From going to London every few days, rising at four to attend morning meetings, returning at midnight, working and planning and having FUN, driving fast cars too fast, busy, busy, there was suddenly …. stillness. Aloneness.

After such single-minded non-stop writing, I really couldn’t talk about anything other than scripts and film making. I had no small talk. Still don’t. The church was lovely and accepting but we spoke different languages and overnight, like some sort of internal collapse, all my confidence fled. Who was I? A fish out of water, that was me. The church was small so it didn’t take a whole lot of people to make it feel crowded, too many strangers and conversations to navigate so I decided I needed something to do. You know – something to do – a way to be useful, carving out a little niche to hide in when the chatter was going on. I persevered, trying to find a role. I tried this, I tried that. Nothing doing.

One day I mentioned to an established bloke in the church that I was really looking for a role in church life and he said “People always want cakes. You could try baking cakes.” What???? Fortunately I wasn’t holding a gun or a baseball bat. I was speechless. Is this who God wanted, a cake-baking old woman? But my companion didn’t notice my silence – he said that firemen always wanted cakes, and then there’s the ambulance crews, the nurses, the bin collectors…. I managed not to choke the life out of him.

I have to tell you… my cakes are NOTHING like this

Fast forward a few years to the Covid lockdown, and like many others I’m much more domestic than usual. A couple of days ago I made a cake for friends and drove to their house to deliver it. My granddaughter nipped out and knocked on their door and when she came back to the car she was smiling – she had told our friend ‘Nana has a new ministry – cake making.’

Wow! That sent me back to that day when I could have cheerfully strangled a perfectly nice man for suggesting the very same thing. What I so deplored has come about. Flip me! Is this a lesson? What is God telling me? What is he showing me? He wasn’t finished, the lesson concluded today:

This morning two very different new writers asked me for advice. One is just about to begin drawing together a dozen threads with no clear vision yet of what she’s weaving, and one is preparing for his first commissioning meeting with an embryonic ‘good idea’. Neither of them quite know where their narrative is leading and both are uncertain about how to proceed. The advice I gave them both was “Distill all the ideas you have about this piece, decide where the core truth is, and then chase that core truth and nothing else. You don’t have to know where it’s taking you, truth will find its own ending.”

I didn’t say it that clearly – I write better than I speak. It’s something I’ve come to believe through my work because in any story told with truth, truthful characters, truthful intentions, truthful consequences, light and shade, there will be a natural conclusion. It may not be the neat ending you hoped for or planned at the beginning of the process but it will be true.

A few hours later, as I drove through the beautiful countryside (yes, delivering another cake, weird, eh?) my thoughts came together with startling clarity. I’ve come full circle, from competent writer to inefficient idler and occasional cake maker. I’ve lost myself along the way but I know now that this is what I needed to do all along. And now God has drawn a line under this strange few years, the lesson is learned, and it’s time to move on. How do I know? I know because this narrative has reached a perfectly satisfying conclusion, told in truth. My narrative is that drawing near to God is all about being, not doing. That I don’t have to be the sorter-outer of problems, or the writer who gets an audience of millions, I don’t have to drive across country at dawn to auditions in London (just as well – one pre-dawn I hit a fox and wrote off a Jaguar and nearly killed myself) but neither do I have to be busy and productive in church, because I don’t have to belong there. I don’t have to belong to any group of people. I already belong, to God.

God loves me even when I’m no earthly use to anyone.

I read ‘Shaped by the Word’ a couple of years ago and although I’m not in the habit of marking up books, I underlined one paragraph and drew a great big exclamation mark next to it. I knew then it meant something very pertinent for me but it’s taken a while to grasp it.

‘Are you willing to offer something to God as a discipline and to keep offering it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year – to continue offering it for God to use in whatever way God wants in your life and have God do absolutely nothing with it? If you are (and don’t answer that too quickly) then you are engaging in a spiritual discipline that will cut to the heart of all those debilitating dynamics of our culture…’

Well, Robert Mulholland Jr, thank you (the emphasis is his). This meant so much to me that today, two years later, I remembered where that passage was, the top of a right hand page, towards the end of the book, and I went straight to it. The paragraph was seared in my mind.

For five years, I’ve offered my service to God day after day, on the beach, at my desk, ankle deep in the Irish Sea, going around Tescos, always asking God to use me whatever I was doing, whether it was worshipping, helping old ladies across the road, or pulling the injured out of blazing buildings (OK, I’m going too far now). I’ve offered and offered and offered and God has done absolutely nothing with those offers. Say that again, Luce….

‘I’ve offered and offered and offered and God has done absolutely nothing with those offers.’

Yes, that’s what I said but ahhh! That’s where I’ve been getting it SO wrong. He’s done a whole load with every day and every prayer, and taught me so much while all that ‘nothing’ was going on; that all he wants from messy old me is messy old me.

So, story told. This chapter in my life is ending. I’m going back to England next year. I don’t know why. I just know that this is where I must go next. The advice I gave to my writer friends is advice God has given to me, “You don’t have to know where it’s taking you, truth will find its own ending.”

I’m here until my granddaughter finishes school next July and then I’ll be off. No regrets, no looking back, just ‘off’ and I know that even if God has nothing in store for me to do over there, his ‘nothing’ will be perfect and exactly what I need. There will be new lessons in that nothing, a closer walk with God. Peace comes when he leads and I follow, even when I don’t seem to be moving at all.

So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose. For he knew all about us before we were born and he destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of his Son.

Romans 8:28-29 The Passion Translation

Oh, do give it a rest!

I went shopping for an elderly couple this morning, but this is week 12 of this lockdown routine and so I could write their shopping list for them – very little varies from week to week. Their cat eats the same every day and so do they, well, almost. So when I got to the till and another queue, dull witted with boredom and in quite a bit of pain, for the first time in about ten years and on a whim, I picked up a magazine, paid for it, brought it home. I’ve just flicked through it.

Now I remember why I haven’t picked up a magazine for ten years.

Listen to what this one copy promises: A renaissance of kindness, mood boosters to lift the spirits, the key to happiness, and in another article joy. There’s a whole spread about how to fear less and live more (one of the ways to do this, apparently, is to laugh more) And oh! Look – on page 40 there’s even more ways to find joy, ‘new ways’ this time. Next comes a list of 50 podcasts I NEED, and then a few suggestions to give me a good life in July, and then an article about beauty that works (as opposed to beauty that doesn’t?) In these pages I can learn how to ‘boost my wellness’, and how to do something wonderful to my immune system, keep my feet in good shape, fight ageing, ‘eat better, get fitter and feel happier with Joe Wicks’ (he’ll have to shave that stupid beard off first) and then there’s some stuff about sex getting better with age (try not to roll your eyes). If you want to create ‘a sea of calm’ in your home, knock a wall down, obviously. There are instructions on how to sleep better, enjoy my garden, make fabulous food (mint and pea ice cream apparently) and there are many many recommendations for skin care, reflexology, anti-wrinkling, bronzing products, probiotic creams (make up a word and wear a white coat and we’ll buy anything). There’s an amazing article on how good posture is an anti-ageing trick and a load of stuff about how to wear clothes. So much for so little!

The cover promises 233 moments of JOY and that ‘simple pleasure starts right here’.

By the time I’d flicked to page 198 and read ‘Island hop in the untouched Hebrides’ I was a gibbering wreck, shouting to the universe “This magazine is crap” and my granddaughter yelled back from her bedroom “I knew you’d say that.”

Page 198 just about sums the whole magazine for me – it’s an ad for a cruise to the Hebrides, on a ship with a passenger capacity of hundreds, so a crew of goodness knows how many, a gross tonnage of over 7,000, and 8 decks high, towering over the waves. Those ‘untouched’ Hebrides won’t stay untouched for long. But there’s a little pic of a puffin with its beak full of fish, and a beautiful sunset above an untroubled sea, so that’s OK. Promise the plainly impossible and you’ll get away with it.

And that ad sums up the whole damn magazine industry, our culture, our dreams and hopes. They promise eternal youth, alluring beauty, deep contentment, perfect joy. Find it by crowding onto an uncrowded island, or by fighting the ageing process with 8.000mg of hydrolysed marine peptide collagen (only £1.92 a day), or by disguising your nail fungus (so much better than treating it!) so your feet are beauoooootiful again, or indulge yourself in the Caribbean, or…..

Flip me. That blinkin’ magazine has properly amused, enraged, surprised and depressed me. Are we so shallow? Are we so easily persuaded? I don’t think we are. So who keeps these publications going? It can’t be fools like me who splash out once a decade.

And anyway, what’s wrong with growing old? What’s so bloody wrong with growing old? I have wrinkles, I have a saggy chin, I have the tributary of the River Nile etched carefully on my upper chest…. my hair is grey, my spine locks out of place whenever it feels like it (usually at the till in Tesco), my shoulders ache like billy-oh…. I fall over occasionally (it’s a sort of hobby)… and no amount of cream or spray or backward-dog, yoga, running, dieting or or cosmetics or trickery will stop me growing old and one day dying.

AND I LIKE IT THAT WAY!

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be fun

I have friends of all shapes and sizes and persuasions, cultures, politics and beliefs. I have family I love. I have dogs I love. Why on earth did I think a magazine, written by flighty clever-dicks in a glossy glassy office block might give my one brain cell something to chew on?

There is more joy and wisdom and interest to be found in one verse of the Bible than in a hundred self-help articles, or a million ads, or a billion bright new 21st Century ways to find happiness.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ MATTHEW 6

Flash, bam alakazam!

She couldn’t quite find the words she wanted at first, maybe she wondered if she should even be saying them, or thinking them, but eventually, with a half shrug of apology, my granddaughter asked “I mean, why is God, like, you know… so… I mean, maybe I’ve got it wrong, but it seems like he.. you know, always wanting praise and stuff, and all that… I mean, what I keep wondering is…”

“Just say it, Nance.”

“Nana, I keep wondering, why is God so needy? Why does he want us to praise him all the time and worship him and tell him how great he is?”

That was a few months ago and I can’t remember how I answered but I remembered Nancy’s question today because this morning, walking on the beach, I was filled – absolutely taken over – by a desire to worship. The desire was immense. It stunned me, this overwhelming impulse and craving to see, know, hear, honour, serve, praise and love God. Amazing God. Too amazing for me to get my tiny mind around. ‘Amazing’ a stupid over-used and mis-used word, all my words ineffectual and weak and stupid. But the word ‘worship’ still holds meaning. I craved to worship. Honestly! Me. There on the beach, on an ordinary summer’s day, with no warning at all, it was as if I was drowning in desire, lungs filling not with oxygen but with longing. I needed, absolutely needed, to worship.

Flip me. That was a bit of a surprise. Where did that come from? I sat on the rocks for a while, knowing that there is nothing I can offer God but everything. He wants everything and yet he wants nothing. He wants everything of me but, oxymoronic, that ‘everything’ must be my nothingness. Not me but him. By the ‘eck, it’s a puzzle, my friends. A right riddle and conundrum, beyond me, but not beyond him.

I started to smile because it reminded me of a strange saying we have in Derbyshire… if someone asks “I’ve run out of milk – could you spare some?” then the strange answer might be “Of course – we’re short of nothing we’ve got!” It’s a Derby way of saying “We have enough to spare and share.” I thought about that, and I thought yes, I don’t know how to wrap my head around the idea of worship, or what to make of this strange sudden compulsion, but God has enough understanding to spare and share.

Where did it come from, this strange overwhelming longing? And why today? And I mean, come onnnnn….. what? Lord, what? I mean, WHAT? I was walking with a friend, and we were flitting in and out of a desultory, relaxed conversation, so why now? Right now, like this? So that every other thought melts away and I can’t string two words together. Just when I look out at the sea and thank you for the day we have – BAM! WHAM! Alaka – Hang on, Nat King Cole sang it, and if I fiddle with the words just a tiny bit…

 I was walking along minding my business
When worship came and hit me in the eye
Flash, bam, alakazam!
Out of a bright blue crystal colored,
Pretty white cloud dotted sky
Flash, bam, alakazam and I’m just wondering ‘why?’

Out of the blue, this morning, by the grace of God

Worship. What do you want me to do with this word, Lord?

My Pastor said once that when we feel we have a word from God we should ask for confirmation. So I did. I said something like, mumbling and stumbling, ” I feel like a drug addict desperate for a fix, Lord. Longing with every breath and every beat of my heart, so that my pulse seems to whisper over and over again ‘worship worship worship’. That’s totally weird and not something I decided on. So if this is from you, will you let me know? And if it isn’t, will you let me know that too? If I’m just wallowing in some sort of emotional flux, that’s not good. But if this longing is from you, then it can be only good.”

My thoughts raced in and flooded out. I was unsettled by the ferocity of this need. The word ‘worship’ was taking me over. I knew that there was one person who I had to share it with. I knew this for certain. Just that one word.

I came home knowing that I couldn’t empty my mind and turn it over to God until the stuff of the day was clear. I sent an email to the person I had to share the word ‘worship’ with, and then settled down to my petty chores, to clear the clutter from my mind before giving every other minute of the day to him. Now then, here’s the thing: last night, just before bed, I was sent an email to send out to the whole church. It’s nothing heavy, a loving greeting to a woman’s group, but there were photos attached and interwoven with the text and it was a document that had been scanned so I knew I would have to fiddle with it to put it in an email. I couldn’t do it justice at that time of night so I left it to this morning.

When I came back from the beach I opened it and began to cut and paste and play around… and do you know what it was about? It was about LONGING. The email ended with “The more we feast on God the more of him we want. And his riches are inexhaustible.

That sent me back to a blog I write last week, quoting Mark 4:24, the words of Jesus, ” according to the depth of your longing to understand, much more will be added to you. For those who listen with open hearts will receive more revelation.

Now I know how to answer Nancy’s question. Our loving God demands worship because when we worship we lose ourselves and discover him, we find joy and truth, we draw nearer to being the people we were created to be. We find a Godly ecstasy, not the mindless ungoverned elation of drugs or booze or some other fleeting happiness, but a deep peaceful ecstasy of rightness with God. Acknowledging him, knowing ourselves, seeing eternity, being drawn ever deeper. His Spirit reaches out to meet our longing. “Deep calls unto deep.” Psalm 42:7 When we worship we grow.

God wants our worship because he wants the very best for us.

Here’s my revised answer to your question, Nancy: There is true lasting joy in worship. We don’t worship to make God feel good. We worship to fulfil the purpose for which we were made, union and peace and joy with God. Deep deep joy. When we live in Christ and he in us, everything we do, or think, or say, is worship. This funny old blog, is worship. It’s clumsy worship, and sometimes silly, but it’s worship. Written in love.

Today is worship.

The Manufacture of Madness

When I was a psychiatric nurse we studied a text by someone called, I think, Szasz (it was a long time ago) and his premise was that psychiatric medicine had replaced religion in abusing and denouncing those viewed by society as ‘different’ , and that now medicine labels as ‘insane’ those the priests had once labelled ‘wicked’. His book, The Manufacture of Madness, made some valid points but, for me, he stretched the analogy too far and too thin.

There’s a woman I’ve never met, whose husband accuses her of religious mania. She lives in far far Scotland and sends me brief and apologetic emails, usually appreciating the sermons from our church which she listens to online. Her husband, she tells me, has ‘forbidden’ her from church meetings, she can’t talk to him about God, and as she has no Christian friends this poor soul is really alone. She seems timid and vulnerable so it’s hard to know how best to support her, and to gauge how much contact she wants or can safely have. Her emails don’t sound as if she has a mania, just as if she’s desperate for contact with another soul like her.

In this time of enforced solitude for so many people, when you don’t have to be hundreds of miles away to be isolated and lonely, I’ve been thinking about mental health and wondering how best to make contact with those who are struggling. This woman has more than physical isolation to cope with – she has a husband she holds in awe. Or maybe she’s just anxious not to rock the marital boat. I’m sure, from what she says, that he’s a kindly man, and he genuinely wants to keep her safe, but he has become her parent as much as her husband, so anxious is he about her faith and her need to worship. He tries to limit her devotion, to keep her safe from God.

When the world worships science with all its uncertainties, controversies and dogma, it’s become acceptable to consider someone who lives by faith in God to be insane.

I suppose I’ve thought about mental health as much as anyone has. And I’ve come to some small understanding that God is in this, even this. My Mother died of a brain tumour and in the later stages of her life she hallucinated, before going blind, when everything became chaos for her. She could no longer believe in God because her cognitive ability was fractured, and she lived her last months in frightened bewilderment. But I know that God is just and loving, and I know that he was there in even that terrible time. My Aunty Lucy, who I was named after, spent most of her adult life in Winwick Mental Asylum, and of all my aunties, she was my favourite. She lived in the grip of a condition we didn’t even have a name for. She wore dozens of bangles and a great garland of necklaces and her clothes clanked with brooches and pins, there were plastic flowers in her hair and she was just amazingly resplendent and grand and colourful and loveable and ‘other’. In a family where there was no love or razzamatazz anywhere else, I thought she was amazing.

A clinical definition of insanity is when ‘a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behaviour.’ Many atheists would say that my belief in Jesus, in spite of the life I led as a child, the evil of the family I grew up in, is a retreat into fantasy. I believe that, on the contrary, it is a recognition of reality.

A more often quoted definition of insanity comes from some wit who said that it is “Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.”

Well, we all do that. Take democracy for starters – we keep on voting, hoping against hope that this time, this election, we’ll get a good leader (how’s that working out?). Take New Year’s Resolutions – when did they ever last beyond March? But we keep on making them. I do the same stuff over and over in hope, but that hope is never realised. I keep on and on attempting to communicate what’s on my heart when I know, deep down, that it’s impossible. Only God knows my heart. But I keep on and on.

When I read the Bible and something leaps out at me I want to shout “Look! Look! Look what I’ve found.” and to hear an answering yell of “Yeah! Wow! Amazing!” It’s a bit like catching a glimpse of a hippo wallowing in the Thames or a vulture carrying off a bank manager – you’d just have to turn to the person nearest to you , clap them on the shoulder and shout “Did you see that?” But of course, in my Bible reading or prayer life, no one has at that exact moment seen what I’ve seen, felt what I’ve felt. And even if they had, they probably wouldn’t respond as I do, because while we each have our own wonderful discoveries, we aren’t all brash and shouty about them, or scribbling them down into the wee small hours, like me.

This from the Times yesterday…. won’t someone yell at that bloke “Behind you! Behind you! Oh, look – how amazing is that?”

And so maybe, just maybe, I seem a bit mad.

Of course I don’t always obey my impulse to share but surely moments of celebration, wonder and joy shouldn’t be hidden? But how can I do that without making myself a damn nuisance? I reason that a phone call is intrusive, and I’m not great in conversation, so I communicate in an email, telling myself that the recipient will read it in their own time, and it won’t be too annoying. Hah! How we wheedle our way into doing what we want to do anyway. How we excuse our own foibles.

But here’s something that makes me wonder; I never, have absolutely never, received an unsolicited, spontaneous email from someone also bubbling over with wonder/excitement/joy/thankfulness and just needing to share it. Let rip. Never had an email from someone who’s just discovered something AMAZING from reading the Word. Hah! How strange. I thought that in a church I might find others like me, splurgers, but not so. Square pin, round hole, me. Maybe friends don’t trust me, maybe I am too trusting. Maybe I’m just not in the right place at the right time. I don’t know.

Even this blog is me ‘letting rip’ I suppose. I don’t get much response from this, either… but my madness is that I keep on doing it!

Am I just plain wrong to go on like this? Annoying? Tedious? Arrogant? Shoutey? Am I like the bloke walking around Speaker’s Corner with a sandwich board declaring “The end of the world is nigh”? Do I have a borderline case of religious mania? And do I want to be cured, if I have?

No. Even if I the world thinks I’m nuts, even if you think I’m barmy, I don’t want to be cured of this amazing joy. Yes, I’d like to share the asylum with a few other lunatics, but I don’t want to be cured.

I hope that my email friend in the far reaches of Scotland doesn’t feel that she has to be cured. I hope that she gets stronger, braver. And that her husband will one day listen to one of those online sermons with her so that she will not, for that moment at least, feel alone. That they’ll both think about the amazing miracle of life and God’s goodness together.

I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Isaiah 61:10

How can we gauge our own sanity? We can’t. All we can do is give a true and honest account of our lives and our certainties. I have some certainties, God is good, God loves me, God loves you.

How can I stop from singing, exclaiming, writing, shouting , when I know this with total certainty?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

I