Spring Cleaning!

I’ve spent a happy day spring-cleaning this blog. I deleted everything to start with and then reposted just a handful of blogs. Why? Because each week teaches something new and each week I experience 7 day’s worth of change, and what I wrote two years ago is nowhere near what I would write today.

Once in a blue blue moon we discover something that changes everything, and a thought that came to me last week changed absolutely everything in my life (hence the Spring clean!)

I don’t know how you view the first few chapters of Genesis. Do you believe in it absolutely and literally, as a historical and recordable document, that there was a snake who spoke, the embodiment of evil, and an apple tree in the middle of a garden….? Or do you regard it as a wonderful metaphor revealing the nature of God and the miracle of creation, a metaphor of truth, couched in terms our puny human minds can grasp? I think of it as the latter. This isn’t to say that I don’t believe it. I believe every word of it, the truth shines through the language and imagery. I know that God made man, the first man we now call Adam. I know that the world he knew was perfect, self-sustaining, unspoilt, and I know that his union with God was total, because he came from God. I know that there is evil, and that is what we call ‘the devil’ and I know that the devil is a powerful and active influence, an entity that no one with eyes to see can deny. Live long enough and you will see evil. I know that when there was society (man and woman in the metaphor) we listened to each other rather than to God, and that, given the choice between God and self, we chose self. And I know that from that moment on, the world was no longer perfect.

I’ve known and believed all that for years. But if you believe that Genesis 1 through 3 are literally and historically factual, you may be right. Let’s not waste time arguing the toss.

Here’s the thing – this last few days I’ve learned something new, and something that will influence the rest of my life, every day until I pop my clogs, showing me where to go next, what to do next, how to be next;

The unGodly aspect of man, what we call ‘sin’, is not primarily about what we do or say. Our actions are the symptoms of a much deeper problem. That first instance of sin in Genesis is not about disobedience, or deceit. I’ve always thought it was about those two things – man disobeyed the commands of God and then hid from him, prevaricated and tried to deceive him. A perfect illustration of our sins of commission and omission. But I’ve been wrong – I’ve joined the story too late. The very first instance of sin, of stepping away from God, was man’s lack of trust in God’s inherent goodness.

First of all, before the apple and the snake and the fig leaves and all that… man chose to distrust the goodness and truth of God. Disobedience didn’t come first. Lack of trust came first and from that lack of trust came all the ruin and waste and chaos of life. When mankind doubted the goodness and perfect provision of God, the God who created every feather, droplet and breath in the whole blinkin’ universe, our relationship with him was broken. Not the bloomin’ apple, great though that imagery is.

What broke God’s heart (another metaphor, forgive me) was not theft and disobedience, it was our lack of loving trust. Mankind’s tendency to turn away from God, believing him to be as devious as we are.

If God was a God made of fire and we were creatures of water, how would we co-exist? If God was a God of light and we were little fat clouds of pitch black night, how could we co-exist? He is love, and love cannot co-exist with accusation and doubt. This is why man was banished from the Garden of Eden, from Paradise, a world of perfection. Not because of God’s decision and anger (although that was true) but primarily because fire and water, light and darkness, love and accusation are incompatible.

And the story can be completed by…. by what? By man? No chance. The story can be completed only by God. And so he completed it. He completed it in Jesus. A man of perfect trust, and perfect love. Our God of perfect provision and perfect love.

I haven’t trusted him wholeheartedly. I’m resolving right now to live in total trust from now on. Serene and all that stuff, always joyfully mindful of the goodness of God, as sure as the waters cover the sea. Promise. I am a creature of perfect trust from now on.

Yep, OK, you know me and I know me and so we all know that there are going to be days when I slip-side backwards with little grace. But this is for real, and I feel a great lightness, knowing that he is to be trusted. Understanding.

Not just ‘knowing and believing’ but knowing in very marrow of my bones.

And that changes everything. It changes what I will be doing this year and next, until I’m done and dusted. It changes tomorrow, it changes now.

I trust God with me. I trust God with all those I love and care for. I trust God with the future for all of us.

A drone flies on Mars…

This week the tide is way out in the mornings, so that when we reach the edge of the waves and look back at the beach, there is a new perspective, a new sense of distance, so that I see with new eyes, how beautiful the world is, and how rich we are. I’m aware, with wonder, that God has given us life, and beauty, space, time, thought, love, laughter, grief, our beating hearts, our every breath. Given us all these things. How fabulous. How wonderful. How amazing.

A small drone flies on Mars and that’s amazing. Man walks on the Moon and we are lost in wonder. Luce walks on the beach and … wow.

All these photos have been taken in the last week or so, in my quiet time. Does that sound monastic? Don’t be fooled. My quiet time isn’t always ever so quiet! There are dogs scampering, and chasing birds, and yesterday Pico took furious umbrage at a buoy bobbing in the channel and had to be dragged away, and sometimes I’ll meet someone and we’ll chat for a while, sometimes we’ll even pray as their dogs and mine chase and squabble…. and sometimes there’s an inquisitive seal staring at us from the waves…..but mostly it’s peaceful, mostly it’s solitary, mostly it’s prayer.

Looking back

It does seem to me that when we pray we approach Eden again. I don’t think we can know the full joy of Eden, because we carry with us all our worldly experience, good and bad, and there, at the break of time, there was only innocence and newness, but I believe that we come closer to God in prayer, so that we can share his delight and peace and savour his perfect love.

In prayer, everywhere we look, God’s hand is there, whether we look up at the sky

Or down at the ground

Where the sea leaves a million ripples

In prayer, we find God. Evidence of God, everywhere.

Today, trying to work out how to take a screen shot I inadvertently brought this up…. the information on that last photo, the sand ripples

Look! I was in the sea! That’s how far we had walked. And now, as I type this, the sand we walked on is under metres of water, rolling waves, teeming with fish and crabs and seals.

This is the world God has given us. When life gets between us and God, as it does, when there is illness and loss and pain, we can lose sight of all his gifts, forget to gaze in wonder at the fact that we even exist.

He gave us Eden. And he walked with us there. He walks with us still. He made us because he delights in us, and when we delight in him we are fulfilled.

The Quiet Man

George was an engineer, a man of science, and he was my husband. He had been brought up by strict Presbyterian parents, his father a lay preacher, but the home wasn’t a place of acceptance and love, far from it. His family was all about appearances, doing well, and achieving some standing in the community. He was a kind man, but stoic, taking the ‘strong silent type’ concept very seriously, which is probably why I fell for him initially – I too had grown up in a world that valued men of steel, men who would never weep, or bend. My dad was a Sergeant Major, and even when his wife and then his two sons died, he showed no emotion. I thought that was how men should be.

So George met all my criteria – intelligent, smart, capable, steady. Handsome (it helps). Athletic. He was witty and quick thinking, and he could reduce me to helpless laughter with a quiet observation, or a silly quip. He was great company. But we both had one failed marriage behind us, and we carried the faults of those first marriages into our second. I was too young for him, too impractical, and far too impulsive and selfish. He loved rowing and running, judo and archery. I loved books. We fancied each other like mad, we told ourselves that this was love, and we plunged in, regardless. It’s no wonder that the brand new marriage was falling apart just a couple of years later and so – ludicrous decision!- we moved to South Africa, because that was going to sort it, wasn’t it? Looking back …. what twits!

After his childhood, cold father and dreadful Sundays (church three times and no amusement allowed) George had no time for church, for personal religion and he didn’t believe in God. I believed there was a God, I even believed that Jesus was God, but I didn’t think much of him, I thought he was arbitrary and capricious and I could do without him. Why on earth didn’t we pause and look at our lives and ask “How’s that working out so far?”

You know that terrifying winter sport, the Skeleton? As we flew out to South Africa that was us, hurtling down the hillside, eyes closed, holding on to each other for grim death.

In Johannesburg George was a project engineer constructing sugar refineries. It was a high-pressure but fulfilling life for him and hellishly boring for me, stuck at home in Bezuidenhout Valley knowing no one. Within a year he had been head-hunted so we uprooted and moved to Durban to improve his prospects. More stress for him, more boredom for me, in a shabby bungalow with a three year old child and nothing much to do (reminds me of lockdown!). When you live with someone you see their vulnerabilities as well as their defences and while, to the rest of the world, he appeared confident and high-achieving, he was plagued by stress-related psoriasis and smoked constantly – from his first breath in the morning to his last gasp at night. Tough guy. I had married a good, old fashioned sturdy Glaswegian, someone I could (selfishly) lean on, but now I discovered that all was not as it seemed. The harsh truth is, I know now, that he was plagued with guilt and grief for his first family and he felt responsible for bringing me and our daughter half way across the world only to fail again. I was a huge disappointment to him, life out there was not what he had imagined, and so he immersed himself more and more in his work.

This blog isn’t about me so I won’t go into how I came to faith (at Durban North Baptist Church) but he was pretty disgusted and it made our shaky marriage even shakier. He tried to understand but couldn’t, and I was far from wise and gracious in my new found happiness and purpose! I know I was a real pain in the neck. My enthusiasm and happiness infuriated him. My determination to ‘make a go of it’ seemed childish, simplistic and arrogant. I’m sure I was all these things. Within weeks he said that this was never going to work, and he didn’t want this marriage any more, so as my only income was from a part-time job in a children’s nursery, he ‘suggested’ that I should return to the UK with our daughter. So I did.

A few weeks later, sitting all alone in a hotel room in downtown Durban, with his cigarette and a whisky nightcap, he looked back on his life and realised that he wanted more than this. That his Godless life wasn’t doing much for his heart and his soul. That none of it made sense. And he turned to God in anger and honesty, and he said that if God was there, if God existed, this was his last chance to make himself known. He said something like “If you exist and if you care, show me.”

I don’t know what else was in the prayer, in the anger and sadness and desperation. All I know is what he told me… that he went to sleep that night and when he woke up he was a new man. That’s how he put it, and that’s what I came to know for myself. When George woke up he knew that there is God, that God loved him, and he knew that he wanted to follow Jesus for ever. That day he called me, for the first time in weeks, and asked me to return to South Africa. When he told me that he had given his life to Jesus I was so stunned I said “Sorry, I don’t understand” three times – which is not the reception you want when your life is saved and rainbows are forming all around you, and the world is new and wonderful, and all the angels in heaven are blowing trumpets and throwing a shindig and dancing a jig.

And we all lived happily ever after? Not quite. There were struggles and mistakes and we had a lot of mending to do. But we did it with Jesus. We did it in obedience. George never softened to church but he was no longer the unbending man of steel. That night George was made new. Truly new. The man we flew back to was warm and tender, a man who could weep. He could forgive and repair. He was still my quiet man, still witty and quick thinking, and he could still reduce me to helpless laughter with a quiet observation, or a silly quip. Now his heart was lighter, and many of my most vivid memories are all about laughter, not stress; the time we had to walk around the block before going into our hotel because our laughter and snorting and nonsense would wake everyone up, and as we approached the entrance doors for the second time we erupted all over again and had to do the circuit again and again, getting more and more exasperated and helpless, and then there were all the times our daughter plaintively called from her bedroom “Stop laughing, you two, I’m trying to sleep”, and (less funny for me!) the time I fell in the brambles and both of them were laughing so hard they couldn’t pull me out. But for all that, his soul was quiet and prayerful. He was steady and measured and refused to argue (so infuriating!) and he was a peaceful partner. .

We had another nine years together. And we grew closer, and closer, and closer.

Here he is, the day before he died. It’s my favourite photo but I made the mistake of having it printed on a special backing, so it looks a bit like a canvas, doesn’t it? I made quite a few (and much bigger) mistakes in the months after the shock of his death. Ah, well. It’s still my favourite.

We were on holiday when the photo was taken, on a motor cruiser on the Caledonian Canal. I was two years into my new career as a script writer so life had been exciting and hectic, and we really needed this wind-down time. Our daughter was 14 and she had brought a friend along, Amanda. It really was an idyllic two weeks, slowly cruising across Scotland, all the way from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the north east. We day dreamed across the lochs, laughed and chivvied through the locks, drank wine on deck in wonderful sunsets, moaned a bit in the morning rain…. and George was in his element.

The Captain of my ship. Or dinghy.

George had lived in England for most of his life, and he hadn’t expected to be moved by this Scottish holiday, but he was. He just loved the whole experience. Although he wasn’t a bird watcher, he had always wanted to see an eagle flying wild and the day before we left for home, a huge golden eagle soared above us, for all the world like a gift to George Marshall and no one else!

The next morning as we prepared to leave the boat, drinking our last cup of coffee before heading off, I took that precious photo, George, happy and relaxed, rested. And about to go to glory.

Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new. 2 Cor 5:17 (TPT)

Prepare to be amazed!

I’m a bit deaf and I have tinnitus, so sometimes I misinterpret sound. It can create some surreal images and certainly gives us all a laugh at times. Today I heard a news report that after a decade in league football the Pope has sustained brain injuries, as a result of heading the ball. I replayed the sounds in my mind but I still don’t know what was actually said. My granddaughter walked through in her pj’s one night and declared that she was just going to take a maths exam and then would be painting her head. She also regularly asks me if I want anything from Top of the Pops (I ask for John Lennon and Ray Davies) and other much stranger things. Before you ask, yes, I’ve tried hearing aids but they don’t help – they just add more confusion to the white noise, squeaks and pops. I know my deafness can get a bit tedious for friends, and I do sometimes pretend I’ve heard when I haven’t, making a non-committal sort of response, and hoping for the best. I think I may be turning into my Dad who was so stubborn that when the doctor told him to stop taking his glass of wine every evening, and I said “Oh, Dad, that’s a shame. What are you going to do?” He replied, quick as a flash “Change my doctor.”

I don’t blame him. If you can’t have a drop of wine for your stomach’s sake when you’re 90, it’s a bad do, right enough. Age has to bring some privileges and consolations. And there are definite consolations to being deaf; I appreciate silence now, and even treasure it. It’s a shame I didn’t appreciate it years ago, just as I didn’t appreciate the sky, just as I didn’t appreciate peace. But I’m making up for it now.

Silence, sky and peace, yesterday morning.

It’s been a few days since I blogged, because I’ve been thinking a whole lot about being a disciple, preoccupied with the subject really, but not quite ready to talk about it. In our church we’ve embarked on a year of exploring the full meaning of discipleship, a year for forming small disciple groups, and for being being committed to that way of life.

I want to be a fully committed disciple so much that everything I read and hear seems to resonate with the theme (not entirely deaf, then). I became a Christian when I was 35, but my commitment dwindled away and the world and the daily round took over. I know that for the next thirty years I didn’t grow or mature spiritually. Doldrums. I called myself a Christian but there wasn’t any sign of Christ in my life. This week I was arrested by a simple statement “We are responsible for our own spiritual growth.” That struck me as such an exciting thought. I was brought up as a Catholic and taught the doctrine of sacramental grace, conferred by the priest, earned by attending Mass and going through the sacraments. Now, attending a Baptist Church we sometimes go to the other extreme – speaking as if we can do nothing, take absolutely nothing worth taking to the altar.

I don’t think that’s quite right. We can lay down our hearts and our commitment at the altar, our willingness to be obedient, our commitment to rely on God for everything, and him alone. He doesn’t want our rituals and all the paraphernalia of religion. We are told in Isaiah 1:

‘The multitude of your sacrifices –
    what are they to me?’ says the Lord.
‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
    of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
    in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
 When you come to appear before me,
    who has asked this of you,
    this trampling of my courts?
 Stop bringing meaningless offerings
!

But when you love someone you need to give them all you have, all you value. So, what can we take to our God? What can we give to the one we love and worship? Psalm 51:17 tells us;

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

God wants our hearts, our love, our commitment. That’s all. Not deeds or derring-do. Not cleverness or ability or world beating records, or incense or cathedrals. Just us.

My Uncle Frank was a real character, he took to his bed at the age of 50 and spent the next 20 years plus as an invalid. The docs could find nothing wrong with him, but one fine day he just decided that he had a weak heart, and that was it. He believed his own words. For the next quarter of a century he lived in comfortable luxury, upstairs, with a radio and – later- a TV, eating heartily as his wife waited on him from morning till night, entertaining friends and family regally from a mound of pillows. No one made a fuss about the wasted life, it was his to waste, and my aunty thought he was a wonder, his charm and twinkly good humour winning her over completely so that she was always his devoted slave. He was committed to being a helpless invalid and so he became one.

When I was a student nurse we had a man of about 40 brought in to our medical ward, a merchant seaman, who had decided to die and to die soon. There was nothing physically wrong with him – he was put through weeks of tests of every conceivable kind. His appetite was normal, he drank normally, he helped around the ward, but he was convinced he was dying and he was losing weight at an alarming rate. Fading away as we looked on helplessly. Here’s the thing – he wanted to die so resolutely that he did. In a couple of months this fit, youngish, strong man, was skeletal and dead. He had already received psychiatric care, and no mental illness was detected, no abnormality, apart from this one fixed idea. We considered him deluded but he was right and we were wrong – he died. His commitment to dying never wavered, and so he did.

Commitment holds mighty power. Commitment to a lie is always destructive but commitment to the truth transforms lives for the good.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

God is committed to our transformation, and when God is involved…. stand back and prepare to be amazed! He will transform you. He will do the good work in you. That is his commitment. Ours is to submit to his teaching, to be his disciples, to follow him faithfully, just as if we were there with him 2,000 years ago.

The Amazingly Astonishing Story

I’m reposting a blog from my publisher:


Lucy Gannon introduces The Amazingly Astonishing Story

 ~ LEAVE A COMMENT

Award-winning TV writer Lucy Gannon introduces her new memoir The Amazingly Astonishing Story which is published today.

By turns laugh out loud funny and deeply sad, The Amazingly Astonishing Story is a frank and surprising look into a child’s tumultuous mind, a classic story of a working-class girl growing up in the 60s. Her Catholic upbringing, a father torn between daughter and new wife, her irreverent imagination and determination to enjoy life, mean this really is an amazing story (including meeting the Beatles). 

“The saddest, happiest, funniest book I’ve read for ages” – Dawn French

“In her own real life story she excels herself… she’ll have you in tears, barking in anger, and laughing out loud in the space of one beautifully crafted sentence.” – Kevin Whateley

One of the questions writers grow used to, and tired of, and flummoxed by, is “What makes a writer?” and another one is “Where do you get your ideas from?”

The answers I give are usually apologetic shrugs followed by lame and unsatisfactory suggestions, because both those questions are unanswerable. Until now. From now on, in answer, I can point to this book and say “I think the clues are in there.”

This book tells, of course, just the beginning of a long and eventful life. It’s a start, you could say.

Dickens was onto something when he said “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That’s life. And my life has been an adventure from first cry right through to now and Covid, losing my mother at 7, living through a crash landing at Orly Airport, nearly drowning in the Med, surviving a boating disaster in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, coming off a motorbike on an icy road, spending  Christmas Eve in a small tent in a gale on Beachy Head, going through a divorce, being broke, marrying again, becoming a Mum, winning The Richard Burton Drama Award, being widowed at 43, and going on from there to have a successful and happy career as a dramatist.

This morning, at 71 years old,  I stood on the beach, deafened by the roar of the wind, under a wild and beautiful sky, and it was as if I saw myself, on this small stretch of sand, on the edge of an ocean, and then as if I saw beyond and beyond – to the billions of stars and suns and moons and the wildness of the cosmos. My eyes saw waves and sky and wheeling gulls, but my mind saw everything.  My wonderful mind. Your wonderful mind. Our minds, eh? They reach out to each other. That’s what this book does. It reaches out. I hope it finds you.

I wrote it for many reasons, but the essential hope was that it would show that from the coldest of beginnings, life can spin into something rich and warm and wonderful. To say that there is more to every life than whatever we are going through at this moment, that the future can be tumultuous and exciting, and even that in the  middle of loneliness or need , we all have wonderful internal worlds, we can carry on a funny, loving conversation within our own minds, we can reach out and sense the eternal and the wonderful life force. We can meet that life force. We can meet God.

A rich life is made up of the best and the worst, both the greatest joy and the deepest sorrow. I am very, very blessed to have had both in great big spadefuls and I wouldn’t change a single day or hour of it, and I wouldn’t miss out on  meeting any of the rich characters in all the crazy episodes along the way.  

So, should I have called this memoir “The making of a writer”?

Maybe.

Lucy Gannon

The Amazingly Astonishing Story is available on the Seren website: £12.99

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On a day like this

I live in building that was once a church vestry. It’s not quaint or pretty or even particularly old, built in 1926 on the side of a big chapel, a utilitarian building really, bare bones to serve the congregation. It amuses me that before they built the vestry they had to knock down a pub! Strange neighbours, eh? I wonder if there was ever a time when both the pub and the chapel were active? When the fishermen and labourers, wending their drunken way home in the wee small hours, crossed paths with the church deacons who were opening up for a day of worship? I like to think so, and I hope that sometimes the doughty church men might have paused in their Sunday chores to lead any lost sheep safely home.

I do like my once-vestry. It’s just two bedrooms, a bathroom and the living room, which is an open plan kitchen and sitting room. The high ceiling gives a great sense of space in what is really a small home. There’s no garden, no drive, no views – the front door opens onto the pavement on the busy main street of my village, so there are lorries and vans and cars, bikes, people, dogs…. life. It’s been a comfortable home and I know that when I move I will miss the sense of air and light and space.

When decorating isn’t a DIY job

We’ve been happy enough here, me and my dogs, a few wood lice and some spiders. Some really big spiders. I like spiders. I don’t understand why most people don’t – they’re usually harmless, always quiet and unobtrusive, they do their job without complaining, and you don’t have to feed or insure them. Or take them to be groomed. What’s not to like? But at this time of year they’re busy catching flies and although I don’t like breaking entire webs, if they’re old and broken, clearly abandoned, I do try to clear them. I have an extending feather duster but it doesn’t reach quite far enough, and no matter how much I rax to my fullest extent I simply can’t get anywhere near them. Even my granddaughter, standing on the worktop, stretching as high as she can…. no way. I’m adept at deliberately forgetting things that would otherwise clutter up my head, and I have happily forgotten these webs for quite a few months but I thought of them again today, as I drove to the beach in the early morning. In the early sunshine I was sharply aware that all around me, all around me, seen and unseen, there was abundant, vibrant life, and I was thankful for it, for all those scurrying, hurrying, peaceful, restful, feathered, fanged, claw and beak lives.

Come with me? The lane to the beach is narrow, and just after dawn the road is alive with birds, squirrels and rabbits. I drive with more care than is usual for me, slowly and guiltily, aware that I’m disturbing the peace, and trying not to harm any of them. Once I saw a fox and once a badger, the fox standing stock still in the dappled light where trees overhang the road, and the badger trundling, scurrying fatly, up a farm track. In the last stretch of road, past the mouth of the estuary there are flocks of Canadian Geese, a few swans, little fat ducks. In the dunes there are unseen adders, voles, mice, and rats. On the beach the gulls wheel and the swallows dart, gannets dive out at sea, little flocks of chirpy things (I’m no ornithologist) skim across the breaking waves, sending Pip into a frenzy. As she races to and fro, hopelessly chasing these tiny murmurations, I paddle at the sea’s edge, past all the different kinds of jellyfish washed up on the high tide mark. We crunch – the dogs and me – through the discarded shells of crabs (and, once, a lobster) Two or three times a year curious seals pop up to stare, and sometimes to shadow us, as we walk from one side of the sands to the other. A few times I’ve seen dolphins. Under our feet are the tracks of pea crabs, and worm casts and leaping sandflies. Under the sand, ominously, there may be weever fish, unthinkingly toxic.

This is my world. Dogs and spiders, fish, fowl and rodents. On a day like this I think of Genesis 1:

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”  So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 

On a day like this it is as if my skin is alive and electric, my eyes peeled, every sense raw. The miracle of life is too much to grasp, that all this should have come from nothing… from nothing. That I exist, and have thought, and have had life, and known so much joy and so much grief, and lived so fully and so long….and all of this a gift. From nothing. We are bacteria, we are virus, we are cell, and fibre, bone and iron, we are pulse and breath and thought and fear and love. Everything we are, we are because it has been given to us. Freely given.

We are loved and precious, and claimed. On a day like this I know it to be true. God loves me. God loves you. We live because he loves us, we are created because he is love.

On a day like this, I know God’s love.

On a day like this, I listen for his voice. There he is. In the birdsong and the waves, there he is. In the wind, in the silence, there he is.

He is.

Giving thanks for ALL things.

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.

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….