Tempus … what?

Hebrews is a very dense book. I made the mistake of starting to read it last week, which was a bit of an emotional time for many of us here. After dutifully scanning a chapter,  I realised that I’d taken nothing in, and I do mean nothing. So I started again. Nope. Nothing stayed long enough in my puddled brain to be of any use at all. So I read about the book of Hebrews. No. None of that stayed either.

The question is, what book will I start tomorrow in the place of Hebrews? I know what I ought to read – one I’m not familiar with, Exodus or Deuteronomy or Chronicles. But… but…. “But what, Luce?”

Oh, I don’t know. Just ‘but’.

I might revert to the familiar loved ones, Isaiah or Job or Jonah or Habakkuk or Peter or Ecclesiastes. Because, you know what? Here comes my ‘but’…. I think I’m beginning to feel my age cognitively. And that’s no bad thing. If I find it a bit harder to grasp a principal or story, to retain new info, it might just humble me a tiny tadge. You never know.

There’s a real danger as we grow older that we become erm… what can I say… bloody-minded, cantankerous, stubborn, unteachable, stuck-in-the-mud, stunted, selfish, pompous  and deluded. But apart from that we’re brilliant, us oldies.

I’m not saying that I’m losing my marbles – just this week I read a fabulous book on the parable of the prodigal son and have retained it and loved it and I’m writing a play about it (not yet commissioned, but my producer at the BBC is up for it) so I do still have brain power. Please understand, I am FAR from writing myself off, but I once had a painful and yet valuable experience that shapes my thinking;

I worked for a stress-filled year with a famous and respected old journalist. The problem was that he was not as famous and well-respected as he wanted to be and, even as an octogenarian, his ambition to be the brightest, most challenging person in the room was exhausting. He didn’t recognise (or maybe just didn’t want to)  that he was no longer the iconoclast and original thinker that once he was. He had researched an interesting story for several years in America and now wanted to make a feature film about it. Having already chewed up (and spat out) one experienced screenwriter and a couple of script editors he was now looking to me to rescue his project. The problem was that while it was an interesting idea, it wasn’t intriguing. It was the sort of story that, in an anecdote, could have been sketched out in four or five sentences, and the listener would have said  “Something like that happened in Milton Keynes.” Or Moscow or Delhi or Huddersfield.  The bare facts revealed very little about human nature that was not already known (cops can be lazy, people lie, booze gets you drunk). A script would have to work bloody hard to keep the story rollicking along, and there wasn’t a single richly drawn character to inhabit the screen and steal the show. It was a story just-about worth pursuing but we knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy job. It would have to go up a notch to be financed and made.

It was our job, the producers and writer, to look behind the plot and find the heart. That was what the process had to be, and we knew that there was a hidden heart.  But this ex-journo was grand and eloquent, and he waded into the world of drama with all the authority he had wielded thirty years ago in news-gathering. He didn’t understand that as he gave forth at length about investigative techniques and his never ending search for the truth, everyone else in the room was unimpressed, knew more than he did, was quicker on their feet, and understood – unlike him – the pitfalls facing us. And we knew him. And we knew a bit about drama.  And we knew there was more to this story than he had spotted, that there was another layer.

I also knew that in a few short months he would speak as disparagingly of me as he now did of the first writer and, if the producers failed to raise the money, he’d treat them the same way, but still he waxed lyrical about truth and justice and the effect this story would have on the American legal system.

He was the definition of hubris and I thought then, “When my life’s little day* is done, and the shadows steal over me, I hope that I will understand and be content.”

And my life’s little day, my sugar lumps, has been so action-packed! From the age of about 5 when my Mum started to go blind to right now, today, my life has been full of event and surprise and grief, pain, delight, damage and fabulous, fabulous healing. I know that whatever God has brought me to, physically, mentally or spiritually, he is with me and he always has been! That’s an amazing revelation given to me only about  three years ago when the pieces of my violent childhood fell into place, when I remembered a prayer and a place and knew, knew that God was with me even then.

And so I know that whatever lies ahead, it will be wonderful because it’s from him. Every good thing is from him, and in fact ‘all things work to the good for those who love the Lord’ so even when stuff seems bad, it ain’t! It’s all good.

I know that some of you, reading this blog, are fixers and comforters and you’re all a kind lot, but don’t rush to tell me that I’m as bright as ever, because I’m the only one who knows what’s going on in my head. Shadows are coming.

IMG_0767.jpgThat’s OK. There’s enough daylight left to see what I need to see today. I already wear glasses, and next week I get my hearing aids, and two weeks ago my pal died, and …. tempus fugit.

Can I tell you a funny story about ‘tempus fugit’? My dad had trained to be an RC priest, but left the seminary early and joined the army (and many years later I left a convent and joined the army). He loved Greek and Latin but rebelled against what he saw as ‘lazy Church Latin’, particularly as pronounced by Irish priests. He said ‘fugit’ with a hard ‘G’, and when a priest once, in a sermon, pronounced it with a soft ‘G’  my dad said, quite loud and very clearly, ‘FUGGGGGIT’.

When an Irish  nun at the convent said ‘Tempus fugit’ I did what my dad did, I said, very loud and very clearly ‘FUGGGGGIT”.

I was sent out of the room. It wasn’t until years later that I realised what the nun had thought I’d said.  Think about it.

* Nicked from the hymn ‘Abide with me’;

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

 

 

 

Thank you

I’ve done a load of thinking about friendship recently. It started a couple of weeks ago when I read James’ epistle, and when I was spending a lot of time with a poorly friend, and I thought about it some more when she died, and was reminded about friendship when I wrote a eulogy,  and again when a friend dropped a book off, when my daughter (and friend) sent flowers and a silly cheerful message to make me laugh aloud….  everywhere I’ve looked the subject of ‘friendship’ has cropped up.

James is all about real friendship, proper solid practical friendship, not soppy ‘oooh, give us a hug you poor thing’ stuff. I love a hug, from the right people, but hugs are easy. Hugs are, like sentimentality, without cost. Hug me but when the hug is done for pity’s sake, don’t just walk away. Stay long enough to meet my eyes and to have a real moment.

Hey – can I tell you about someone I had dinner with a little while ago? She doesn’t read this blog and no names will be mentioned to protect the guilty, but this lady is a great talker and doer and achiever of wonderful things. Really. She is a high high high achiever. My daughter once said “Mum, time how long it is before she asks you how you’re doing.” and that evening it was 45 minutes of her life and adventures before she met my eyes, as if just waking up to the fact that I was there, and asked “So, how are you doing, Luce?”  But I do like this woman, and two weeks ago we went for an Indian meal.  We met in the carpark  and walked, chatting, to the restaurant. We waited, chatting, for a table, we ate our poppadoms, and we ordered our main course, and then we ate it, and we had coffee and then, as we waited for the bill, my dining companion turned to me with a big smile and said “Come on then, Luce, what’s been happening in your life?”  This time it was nearly two hours!

Is this lady a friend? Yep, that’s what I call her, but there’s friends and there’s real friends. You know?

I suppose we have to define terms right at the beginning – I’m not talking here about meeting for a meal, or a coffee and a chat.  My definition of a real friend? Someone I trust with my darkest realest self, someone to laugh with even when the laughter is unwise, someone who could call me at 4am , or I can call at 2am (never done that!), someone I understand and fail to judge just as they fail to judge me, someone who makes me smile when they walk through the door, someone I can be unreasonable with, unload to, someone whose load I’m ready to take on my shoulders, someone indeed whose load I want to take on my shoulders, someone I can trust to say when I’m going wrong, when I’m selfish, unfair, too loud, too sullen, too anything. Someone I think of when I see something they might enjoy, someone I never fail to pray for. Someone I trust so much that when they say  “Don’t do that, Luce.” I  listen, knowing they’re wiser than me in this one tiny instance (because, obviously, I am much much wiser than them in the great scheme of things). Someone, who, to repeat myself I can trust with my darkest, realest self.

So. I lost one of those real friends a couple of weeks ago, and it’s her funeral today, in two hours. She didn’t fulfil all those criteria, no one could, but she fulfilled enough of them for me, and I fulfilled enough of them for her. She wasn’t flawless, and in that we were a perfect pair.

There aren’t a lot of these real friends in any one life.  And I’ve realised this last month or so, that it’s completely unreasonable to look for them. They come into view unexpectedly, from all sorts of weird angles and random backgrounds, and they are surprise gifts. They can’t be manufactured. I can’t set out to find a friend like this. I can’t create that magical relationship, because it grows of its own accord, over time, as social muscles relax, and we begin to recognise ourselves in each other.

I’ve realised something else too, something that was said from the pulpit a few weeks ago (we don’t have a pulpit, but you know what I mean); when we are right with God, when we are following him, or living in and with him, then all our other relationships, thrive. When we live as God intended us to live, we create the conditions in which friendship can grow. When we submit to his love, it tumbles into our laps, cascading down like a waterfall, too much to hold, too much to absorb, and so it tumbles on from us to others, God’s love and friendship,

‘ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’

I think that sometimes my late dear pal and me got it wrong. I think we took a tad too much delight in laughing, a tad too much sharp joy in our own witticisms, and we looked too much at others with a degree of judgment. So, we didn’t get it right all the time. But we got it right a lot of the time. And the times when we got it right, well, they came from God.

I’m thanking God for my real friend, Jane. Right now, I’m thanking him. ‘Thank you.’

OK. Time to put on my best top and bung my earrings in….  funeral, here I come.

 

 

 

I’d do anything for love (but I won’t do that)

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Do you remember that Meatloaf song? I had a soft spot for Meatloaf. Still do. I can fancy only blokes who are older than me and he just squeezes in, by 14 months.

I read something today that made me wince; “Let me give you a litmus test to determine if you are engaging in a spiritual discipline. 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?

That’s in the book ‘Shaped By The Word’ and when I read it a few months ago I drew a large exclamation mark next to that little passage. Then I hastily moved on before conviction could grab at my withered little soul, knowing that this was a litmus test I failed. Today I’m revisiting it and asking that question of myself, and I’ll keep on asking it until I can answer in the clear and unambiguous and joyful affirmative. Will I truly do anything for God, or do I whisper as a sort of afterthought “but I won’t do that”?

BECAUSE, my little chickens, much as I like bleating on and on about submission, this is something I really struggle with. I think it reveals all sorts of stuff about me, A for arrogance, B for bloody-mindedness, C for contrariness, D for defiance, E for ego, F for … well, I’ve run out of alphabetic relevance. Oh! I know…  F for frustration.

This is exactly where I’ve found myself for the last few years – offering my days to God, asking Him to use them, do whatever he wants to with them (and I add all sorts of good pious stuff like “You are the potter and I am the clay” ) but when he hasn’t seemed to take them and use them, I am left feeling, well, miffed. The very opposite of submitted to His will.

I mean, here I am, champing at the bit, pawing the ground… charging into this space and that space, elbowing my way in, full of bright Luce ideas…. and none of them are wanted! Not a single idea out of my many ‘brilliant’ ideas has been wanted. In 5 rotten years!

Aaaargh!!!!!!

But here’s the thing; All my ideas were good ideas but none of them are suited to the place where I now live, the church where I worship, the times that I’m in. I am a square peg in a round hole. They were good ideas but not God ideas. No one likes to think of themselves as a busybody but I think that’s what I am. Was. Am. Whatever.

Ages ago I typed up “Treat people the way they need” and put it on my fridge…. great idea but I realise that I am still treating people and church the way that I need.

I’ve realised that I will do anything for God, but I’m a bit shirty about waiting on him. Give me heroic stuff to do, Lord! Lifesaving, blues and twos, rushing to the rescue stuff! That’s what I’m good at!  Give me your problems, Lord, and I’ll show you how to sort them.

Isn’t that terrible?

Oh, stop looking at me like that. I bet you’re nearly as bad.

And God loves me anyway. So there.

Hey, Chickadees,  I’ve just been sent studio dates for my Christmas play on radio 4 and so now we start the casting, talking about soundscapes, all that. This one’s from God because everyone wants it to happen.

I think.

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Oh, Meatloaf….  you can go off a guy, you know.

What?

I’ve gone(temporarily) deaf. It’s nothing dramatic- the audiologist recommend ear drops before my hearing aids arrive and it seemed like a good idea. Apparently some people go deaf after using these drops. It can last a day or two or even two weeks. The first couple of days were weird, my little dumplings – the deafness was total. I’d slam the car door and hear absolutely nothing, start the car and not hear the engine, chew something crunchy and hear nothing (how to make a packet of crisps taste like a salty marshmallow). I discovered not only that sensations are complicated but that deafness can be dangerous: I  stepped in front of a car and walked down a country lane oblivious that the Poppit Rocket (a bus) was patiently shadowing me, waiting to pass. And I met a stranger on the beach who told me “Your pocket is beeping” (it was a daily alarm on my phone).

But the great thing about being suddenly and temporarily deaf is that I gave everyone a good laugh. Even me. As I explained what had happened to fellow dog walkers every single damn one of them started to grin, and then laugh, and finally walk away shaking their heads, holding onto each other in wild merriment. And the town is suddenly full of mime artists, ho ho ho. Quite a few have said “It could only happen to you!”, which is not true because, if you google it, you’ll find it’s happened to loads of people.

I think this should-be-distressing side effect is fading, after four days, and sounds are returning. I could hear people talking this morning (as if from miles away) and even managed to follow a sermon (dimly as through a pillow). Hurrah.

This afternoon friends  (using the term very loosely) called in with something to help me…. word cards…..

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And there were other cards, featuring asterisks, suggestions and threats that aren’t suitable for a public blog.

I love my friends. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest their armpits.

I really do love my friends. Every time I think of moving, they remind me how lovely they are and how I will miss them.

Humility and strength

There’s a bit in Thessalonians that warmed the cockles of my heart this morning – you may not even have noticed it. If you had a loving father, or if you are a loving father, it may have been too obvious for you to even think about, but it gave me new insight. Is this what a father does?  Jesus taught us to call God our father, so is that who God is? No, I mean, not metaphorically, but really? Really?

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.’

Is it normal for a dad to be encouraging and comforting? Cor. That’s amazing. Dead good. Some dads don’t do that. My dad didn’t. Not never, he didnae. A dad for me is someone you fear and revere and then you keep your distance. Wary.

As I thought about Paul and his gentle, loving attitude to the Thessalonians, I heard ( I listen to David Suchet reading the Bible as I walk) Paul calling the church   ‘our glory and joy.’ and I wondered if my little church is our Pastor’s glory and joy. I leave that question hanging, not sure I want to hear the answer. But it made me smile, and I wondered if Paul and our leadership team will meet one day in heaven and have such a lot to say to each other, anecdotes and laughter….. shared experiences, rueful memories.

But I was a child in a sweetie shop on the beach today so I didn’t stop there. After hearing Thessalonians  (it’s short) three times, I then nipped off into Isaiah for chapters 40 to 43, which must surely be the MOST exciting, amazing, revealing, awesome, beautiful, heartening, terrifying chapters in all of mankind’s history….. and then as I thanked God for His Word, alive and personal and speaking to us every day of our lives, I remembered the verse that grabbed me yesterday “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”  (Jeremiah 33:3)

Once again, I was hornswaggled by the richness and vibrancy of the Bible, bewildered  by its vast array of goodies and gifts and blessings. Some read the Bible in a year but I don’t know how they do that – I can get stuck on one verse for a week, revisiting the same chapter, pulled back into Isaiah over and over again, breathless with the excitement of Acts, left grateful and marvelling at the passion of Christ, tickled pink by this revelation or that question. It’s amazing, my little dumplings! The Bible is amazing. It prompts questions, and keeps me there thinking about them, sometimes for days (in Isaiah’s case for years)  until – as yesterday – I get a “eureka!” moment.

I love hearing testimonies about what God is doing in the world, and I’m a sucker for good teaching, prayer and (sometimes) fellowship,  but I don’t go in for books about Christianity. I don’t. It’s not because I lack interest in them, or I know it all, but I’m aware that at 70 my time on this earth is limited and I’ve wasted most of my life reading and writing tripe, so now I don’t want to get distracted from what I know is absolutely the best (the Bible). There are just so many devotional, do-it-this-way, five-easy-steps-to-a-better-life books!  And they devour so many hours, when I could be receiving insight not from some author but from God. Why would I do that? Of course, there’s a bit of me, the horrid ‘stand apart’ side of me, that just doesn’t want to read bad writing, or lazy writing, and there’s a deal of it about.

I often choose wine by the label – I’m a marketer’s dream. But a book can have the most intriguing title, a striking cover, a terrific write-up on the back page, and I will be unmoved. When I read anything other than the Bible and commentaries, it’s either because I know of and trust the author, or because someone discerning has recommended it and although I rarely pass these recommendations on,  I do recommend (very highly)  ‘Shaped By The Word’ by M.Robert Mulholland Jnr. I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s brought me a new awareness of how to read the Word of God in a constructive and life-changing way. It’s thought provoking and intelligent, and although the writing is dense at times and a bit pre-war (Crimean War, sorry), it’s a fab read. It’s changed my approach to the Bible.

I can point to four life changing events in my past;
1) Coming to faith  2) Walking into a little red church 3) Hearing a sermon on ‘Submit to one another’ and now 4) Reading ‘Shaped By The Word’. Each of these events demanded and explored submission. The book I’m recommending could be summed up in one sentence ‘Submit to the Word and it will shape you’. 

Submission is an adventure in trust. It’s a journey into humility and a discovery of strength. I am so very grateful for the Word of God and for good teaching. I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve this overwhelming of joy.  Nothing.

I’m simply a child in a sweetie shop and God’s gifts to me, His words, are piled high on the shelves, ready to be taken down, weighed out, handed over. Delicious, mouth watering, life-giving, energising gifts. For me.  I can’t wait to shove them all into my hungry mouth, cramming them in, clambering up to reach the ones on the top shelf, shouting “Oooh! Try this one! This one’s amazing!”

I think I can hear my God saying ‘One at a time, Luce. One at a time.’

The Bible. So very very exciting. But you have to be hungry.  The more I cram into my bulging hamster cheeks, the hungrier I am. Thessalonians and Isaiah today and a quick sideways glance at Jeremiah.  Does it sound a lot? It isn’t. The reading takes only a few minutes, but the brain work, the submission to the teaching, that’s ongoing, all-day.  Your brain never stops working, so why waste a second of it? You can think about all sorts of things as you buy bread and clean the loo and walk the dogs, and blog… so why not think about the God who loves you and gives you life?  Do all those things with Him. It’s possible. It’s wonderful. It’s giddying.

If you don’t read the Bible, why not give it a go? What have you got to lose? I promise it will  rot neither your teeth nor your brain.

 

 

 

 

 

Great and hidden things

I booked a hearing test and when I told my granddaughter, without the slightest pause  she asked “By popular demand, Nana?”

Funny girl.

There’s a theory that the isolation resulting from deafness creates a tendency to dementia, and I would quite like to avoid that fate. I am, therefore, going to do whatever I can to stave it off for a bit and if that means a chunk of plastic down my lughole, well, so be it.

Anyway, I’m back from the test and the very nice audiologist said there’s been a rapid degeneration in the auditory nerve endings since the last test two years ago. So, there you go. Apparently I’m getting older and stuff happens.

Hey, how’s your hearing? Did you hear a huge and heavy penny drop this morning? Did trees shake and the earth tilt just a bit? Yes? Well, I can tell you what that’s all about! I read a small piece of encouragement in an email and I forwarded it to two people, and one replied ‘God is so good.’  And yes, He is. I know it. I’ve known it for ages. I smiled and put the phone away. But you know when the beginning of a thought meets the end of the thought and the concept becomes whole, and so much a part of your life that you’ll never lose sight of it again? That was the huge huge penny-drop for me. A clang of momentous proportions that may baffle seismologists as they trace a brief earthquake in West Wales.

I must have heard the quote ‘every good and perfect gift comes from above’ many many times, and I’ve believed it. Or rather,  I haven’t disbelieved it. But I don’t think I realised it until this morning.

When something like that hits home, it’s good to look back over the last few days and see where the revelation, has been sown and grown. On Sunday I heard once again that faith comes from God, and I tussled with that for a few minutes, not disbelieving it but unable wrap my head around it. It’s a hard hard concept. So when I went home I looked up a few verses about faith, and I went to bed last night remembering a friend saying “I wish I had your faith” and how I had been at a loss to answer, so sure that faith was hers for the asking.  I didn’t know what to say. I knew  that I hadn’t ‘done’ anything to get this faith, I knew it was by God’s grace, so how to answer ?  I was perplexed.

Last night, looking up those verses, I found Ephesians 2 : “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We read that at church recently, and I thought I had grasped it. Obviously not.

This morning,  as I sat in the audiologist’s chair, I dutifully pressed a button every time the headphones bleeped but I was still pre-occupied. Funny old place for a revelation, but apparently God is everywhere. And suddenly – there it was – understanding! I realised that of course it’s true that every good thing comes from Him, because, of ourselves, we can’t do or think anything that is entirely good, totally pure and selfless. We’re  grubby, messy, stumbling people, and our humanity cannot be denied, yes, we’re loveable (God loves us to death and back), but wrong. How can anything, anything we do in our own strength be totally pure? Everything I do as me is tainted by something from me- impatience, or frustration, or resentment that I have to do this thing, or the desire to get it over and done with quickly, or with half an eye on my ego. Something human.  So of course my faith, the one good thing in my life, comes from God, not from me.

Hah! Now I get it!

God spoke to Jeremiah “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” 

He brought me all the way to West Wales to tell me these things. I’m so grateful.  He will give us only good things because that is His nature, so even when life feels really rotten, I belong to God, I am loved by God, and He can do only good. And when life is rollicking along with a tra-la-la, all beer and skittles, well, that’s from God too, innit?

If I understand that truth, then when I’m in pain, or sad, when I’m humbled by my deafness and have to ask yet again for words to be repeated… and even if dementia is going to be my lot… I can face today and tomorrow with joy and trust. The moment when I turned to Christ in faith was the first good thing in my life, and from faith come all other graces and blessings, so it must come from Him. It can’t come from me.

Am I going on a bit? Sorry, my little fruitloops. It’s just so exciting.

Everything in a submitted life is in Him and through Him, and with Him.

I’m  beginning to understand. Just beginning. And it’s amazing. Amazing grace, forgiveness, love, belonging,  deafness and hearing aids, they all come from God.

So why should I fret about any single bloomin’ thing? All things work to the good for those who love the Lord….

See how it all joins up? So perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammatical errors, eternal truth.

Do you know what happens when a good friend dies? All sorts of things. In the first 24 hours I had broken my coffee machine, smashed my mobile phone, forgotten how to park, and set fire to toast. The place was thick with smoke and tears, and still smells a bit of charred bread and bad language.

I used to say to my late friend “Another fine mess you’ve gotten me into” and she’s still doing it. I’m easily confused at the moment, so get ready for all sorts of mistakes and gaffes –  I’ve just had an email from a bloke pointing out that I used the word ‘internment’ instead of ‘interment’ in an email about the funeral. Hah! Pernickety snickerty. But on the same day, I’ve been sent a lovely armful of flowers and in the last little while all sorts of friends have popped in, stayed for a chat, sharing memories of our lost pal and they didn’t correct my grammar. Our pastor says ‘It’s better to be kind than to be right.” and there’s a lot of kindness around just now – a lot. We can put up with a little thoughtlessness. Yes, you can Luce.

When Jane (why be coy avoiding names?) was so very ill, she liked us to read the Bible to her. I usually chose either the Gospels or the Psalms, because these were familiar and loved. Over and over again (12 times I think) the Psalmist asks ‘How long, Lord?’

Sometimes he was asking how long must he wait for God, for peace, for his enemies to be overthrown, for God’s mercy, for justice… How long? How long? And Jane would ask that too, in her prayers as she longed for release from this world and entry into God’s peace, ‘How long, Lord?’

There are many other Biblical references to waiting, to patience, to asking, and they all seem open and honest, speaking to God without pretence, admitting need, vulnerability, our desperate dependance, but always confessing our human exasperation. If we are impatient and exasperated, God knows it. Who are we kidding when we say all the right words, with churning stomachs and rebellious hearts? We’re certainly not fooling God. The Psalmist is honest and I love him for that.

One of my favourite Psalms is Psalm 40 and it starts off:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
     he turned to me and heard my cry.”

and the first few hundred times I read those words I barely noticed the space between the lines. ‘The space between the lines’?  Well,  sitting at Jane’s bedside, long days of waiting on God,  I noticed that there is no time scale in that nano-story. In those two lines there is David’s patience and there is God’s ‘turning’ but we have no idea how long that patience was needed. The gap between the printed lines… double spacing or single…. was it a month, a year, twelve years? We don’t know. We can look at David’s life, all those towering heights and all those plummeting depths and wonder, but that’s all we can do.  And then I realised that time isn’t the issue, we’re the issue, our love and patience, trust and expectancy and submission. If we get them right, or a bit righter, time falls away  (Oh, grammar chum, what would you make of that? You would be distressed bigly).  I realised that timing isn’t our problem. It’s God’s gift. 

And now Jane has gone.  Her time in this world has run its course.  I woke last night remembering that I hadn’t rubbed cream into her feet that day, worrying that they would be painful, forgetting for a tiny moment that she’s safely home where there is no pain. When I remembered… a tiny stab of loss but a flood of relief. She’s OK, my friend is OK. The time for pain has gone, patience has been rewarded, and in eternity there is only joy. James tells us “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” which would be quite a glum sort of thought were it not for other verses like

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die’ John 11:25

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

And one of Jane’s favourites:  Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Psalm 23:6

I discovered anew, on the day Jane died, that sometimes God steps into our time scale and works a miracle of timing – this isn’t an airy fairy theory or wishful thinking. I know it to be true; two hours after Jane died I came home and sat at my table, disoriented, tired and sad. I wondered what I would do with the rest of the empty day.  You know the sort of tiredness and sadness that makes you feel a bit sick? Grey and sick. And then a dear dear friend came and we talked for an hour or more, not just about Jane but all sorts of things – youngsters, social media, our town, our church, all sorts, and we smiled at the memory of Jane who in life had made us smile often. And he prayed and it was lovely. Then I had an email telling me that family is coming for two weeks in the Summer, and then another friend called in – not knowing about Jane – and we prayed too and talked and drank coffee. Then a phone call, news that my radio play will be recorded in August and a lively long chat with the director…. and that’s not all..  lo and behold, another dear friend popped in (also not knowing about Jane) and then a neighbour…. and there we were;

“Captain’s log, Stardate 10072019.19. Our destination? Planet eternity…”

It was seven o clock on a lovely summer’s evening and all was well with the world.

Thank you, Lord.  Thank you for friendship and for Jane.

If you’re reading this, watching someone you love as they die, or if you’re grieving a loss, take heart. It’s good to be a mist, it’s good to be grass that withers, it’s a process, the process we were created for, complete and wonderful when we leave this world to enter eternity. All will be well, and all will be well. In grief we blunder and sob, and break coffee machines and smash mobile phones, and misspell words, but in eternity ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

Let me tell you something to make you smile – I’m growing quite deaf and hearing aids so far haven’t helped. I try hard to concentrate and lip read but I have a vivid imagination and sometimes fill in the gaps with words that weren’t said, to my granddaughter’s obvious delight and hilarity. After one mammoth misunderstanding (and much merriment) I said that my conversation must be tedious when I keep asking for things to be repeated,  so sometimes I pretend to have heard when I haven’t got a clue.  I even said that I might give the latest sort of hearing aid a try, although I really really don’t want to. My granddaughter said “Oh, no, Nana, don’t get a hearing aid… it’s so iconic when you can’t hear what anyone’s saying.”

At last, I’m an icon!

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