Slimy pit

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

That’s a Psalm that is. Psalm 40. It’s not a neat polite prayer murmured in a chapel….. it’s a heartfelt cry from David. David the messy, the brave, the sinful, the lustful, the murderer, liar, hero. Him. Messy bloke.

This blog is written by another messy person. About a mess.

This is the first time I’ve written publicly about this. It’s been sitting in a file on my computer for a few months and I put it down in a document just for me, no one else. Why did I keep it locked away? Because there’s a part of me that doesn’t want anyone to know, and a part of me that thinks there may be repercussions that I can’t defend myself from, and a part of me that doesn’t want to remember my first husband. My second husband cancelled him out, obliterated him, and it feels like a sort of disloyalty to give any thought now to that first stupid marriage, to Rob.

So, why am I spilling the beans now? Because, a couple of months ago a woman told me that she wasn’t the sort of person who can come to church, because the life she’s had has been too messy. And it’s been kinda niggling away at me ever since, as I wondered how I could explain to her;

We are all messy. That’s why we need more than ourselves. That’s why we need rescuing. That’s why. How can I explain to her that for every person sitting neatly in a church there’s a bloody great mess behind them? The only way I can do it is by being open and honest, and personal. And that demands time and quiet and a sort of sociable intimacy we didn’t have right then. And I’ve regretted my silence ever since – why couldn’t I communicate that all of us are messy, lost, broken?

It’s interesting that I’ve spoken of my lousy childhood, but never about my first marriage, not openly anyway. Why is that? I think that it’s because I felt subconsciously that while no one would blame me for my childhood, for my father colluding with abusers, they would be less understanding when it came to a marriage I entered into at 19, an adult, supposedly responsible.

Well, listen. Mea culpa. I have had a messy life. Exciting and wonderful, yes, but also messy. And a lot of that, a LOT of that was my choice. . And if God can find me and rescue me, he can rescue anyone.

How messy, exactly? Pin back your lugholes, my friends….

It was 1967, boom years, exciting times, the Beatles, Carnaby Street, the contraceptive pill, mini skirts and recreational drugs.. it was all happening and I was 19, living in London in the middle of it all. Rob was tall, blond, charming, and as an ex-paratrooper he was a part of the world I knew, had grown up in. In the way that only young people do, Rob and I fell into marriage, a cut price wedding at Kingston Registry Office, on a fine Summer day.

Best bib and tucker.. look at the cars!

It was about 6 months later, when we were living in Kent, that I discovered who my husband was. He was about to start as a fireman and this was wonderful because it meant that we would have a fire brigade house and could leave the old boat we were living on. Our partnership wasn’t  great but what young bride hasn’t felt that? He was 29 and brimming with confidence, I was 19 and had never known a real family life, so maybe I had it all wrong.

And certainly my ex Para hero was everything I expected a man to be. I knew men like him, I had grown up with soldiers, as an Army brat, and the stories he told had the ring of familiarity, and made me feel at home with him. His red beret was on the locker on his side of the bed, a Regimental Crest on the wall, a button from his Number1 Dress Uniform on his keyring… small momentoes. Sometimes I would find myself smiling at the way he seemed to be mirroring John Wayne, making just a bit too much of his military past, his training exploits, his old comrades, but it was just a foible and I could live with it, and even love him for those funny little ways. He was one of the last troops to leave Aden in 1967 so he’d seen real military service and that gave him a right to a bit of boasting, didn’t it? If I felt uncomfortable sometimes it was only because – surrounded by the military – I had never known soldiers who harped on quite so much with their old soldier’s tales, and I wondered why he lived so much in the past when we were just setting out into our future.

We were on a rare visit to his parents, and as his Mum busied making tea with me, and Rob was with Pop, I said something like “You must be so glad to have Rob back in civvy street. “ I remember so clearly how she casually said “What, dear?” and I added something like “Now that he’s out of the Paras.” She stopped what she was doing and looked at me as if I was talking the language of the mountain folk, “Rob? In the Paras? No, no. He was never in the …. No… you’re mixing him up with Charlie.” And that’s how I discovered that the history my husband had claimed as his own belonged to his brother, a real paratrooper. The stories he told were handed down from Charlie or read in books, or seen in films. Even the red beret had been a gift from his big brother.

 It was shattering, bewildering, but I felt sad for him, more than anything else. I was always wary of him, a sort of understated fear, recognising that there was a steeliness to him that I wasn’t equipped to deal with. Now I sensed fragility and vulnerability too, and I was at a loss. So I let his Mum chat on and I didn’t ask any questions, didn’t explore the confusion. And then, afterwards, I didn’t say anything to Rob either! Never let him know that I knew.  I continued to listen to his stories, to laugh at the right moments, to imagine the scenes as he recounted them even knowing they were a fiction.

I tried to understand why anyone would do this, but I couldn’t. He was so good at it! Even knowing that it was all lies, I could never detect a flaw in the stories he told, even though I no longer knew who he was, or where he had been, or what he had done. Why didn’t I say anything? Because I was afraid to. I’m not proud of this – I was out of my depth. Maybe I knew instinctively that bringing it into the open would provoke the tiger.

When we met the other fire brigade couples I listened as Rob told his Army stories, and again I laughed with him, and cheered him on, smiling at his lies. That first year of marriage was a tense time, learning that he was fiercely sentimental but personally cold, sexually attractive but asexual, a man who liked glamour photographs more than he liked women, or sex. Like my father he was ready with a casual slap, nothing to leave a mark but short and sharp and always shocking. Pregnant women sickened him, naked women embarrassed him. He was a complicated character to cope with. He liked me in a mini skirt and high heels more than he liked to be in bed with me. The relationship was strained, I was forever tentative, unsure of myself, and he was forever confident and centre stage.

And then, on an ordinary evening, in a rare moment of honesty, the fragile structure of our marriage began to crumble: Charlie was having a birthday party and we were due to drive up to the party the next day. It would be only the second time I’d met Charlie  and the first time I’d spent any time at all with his wider family. Rob was subdued, even sulky. I sensed trouble brewing and wanted to head it off, wary not just of his temper but somehow knowing that this tension was even more unbearable for him than it was for me. Wanting to help. Charlie was always a touchy subject for Rob and I knew it was because he had stolen his brother’s history, and felt uncomfortable when Charlie emerged in conversation as a separate and real person. I knew too that Rob must be nervous that I would say something to unmask him in front of everyone. So, in my most reassuring and supportive voice, a good-wife sort of voice, I made a mistake that was to prove the undoing of our fragile marriage, I said “You have nothing to be ashamed of, Rob.” He was immediately wary. I was aware of the air between us, glacial, sharp as razors. If the ground could have swallowed me, it would have been welcome.

I tried to soften whatever it was I was going to come out with next, but I already knew that this was a mistake. I think I tried to laugh it away, to let the words trail off, but he was waiting and so I ploughed on , something like “Every teenager must have a hero figure and Charlie was everything….” Rob turned on me, silent controlled anger, and I finished lamely “you wanted to be. As a young boy, I mean. Not now. Of course not now. “ 

I think that’s how it went. I don’t think I said any more than that. I never accused him of a lie, never had to. The truth was real between us, like a solid wall. He got up and walked out of the house. I stood there, wondering what the hell would happen next, sick with fear that he wouldn’t return, or that he’d kick me out. I had nowhere else to go.

He came back in the middle of the night, got into bed in silence. In the morning his para’s beret was no longer at his side of the bed. I never saw it again. We never spoke about that evening, he stopped telling me his soldier’s tales, but he carried on with them when we were out with friends. Occasionally he would glance at me, a harsh defiant glare, daring me to correct him, or to look away. I would smile and maintain eye contact, bright and sunny, until he looked away. 

Something deep and dangerous had been uncovered that night, something that challenged him in the very marrow of his bones, and our relationship shifted. Became dangerous. A partnership built on a carefully constructed lie is already just about as bad as it can be, but now we were teetering on a cliff edge. Now the slightest disagreement or moment of conflict meant a blow to my stomach, a twisting of my hair, or hands at my throat. In the next couple of years I fell down the stairs, damaging both shoulders, stupidly put my hand on the radiant cooker top, twisted my wrist somehow on that same cooker top, burning the back of my hand and broke my nose tripping over the cat. My GP was a woman and she saw the truth behind these ‘accidents’. When I gave her yet another hospital report, she held the flimsy paper for a long moment, picking her words carefully. And then she said, slowly, carefully, “When you come into the surgery, I never know what it will be this time. I don’t know what it will be next time, and neither do you, but most importantly, neither does your husband. I can’t protect you, and he can’t stop himself. Will you be on the mortuary slab the next time I see you? I don’t know. Maybe.” And she told me to get away from him, as far away as I could. 

When I got home I packed a small suitcase, scrounged up all the cash I could, and stowed it under the stairs. Rob came home from his shift and asked what the doctor had said, I told him that the injury would heal itself. That evening there was a call-out to a fire somewhere in the Medway Towns and I watched him as he ran out of the house, down the garden, leaping over the fence to the fire station beyond. He came back in the wee small hours, smelling of smoke, exhausted, and clambered into bed beside me.

The next morning he wasn’t on duty early because of the night shout, and so he stayed in bed as I did all the usual stuff, fed the dogs, walked them, had coffee, and then, as I left the house I took the suitcase from the under-stairs cupboard and called up the stairs “That’s it, then, Rob. I’m off to work.” And he called back “If they make any funny remarks about your face…” and I shouted up “They won’t. See you tonight. Have a good rest.”

I took the usual bus to Maidstone but instead of going into work I caught the train to London. By that evening I was a chambermaid at a hotel in Windmill Hill. Three years later I conducted my own postal divorce. 

That’s a messy life. From the moment of my birth to the moment I accepted Jesus as my Saviour, my life was as messy as hell, as messy as all get-out. It started with a mother’s death, with child abuse, with lovelessness, and then, when I was old enough to walk away from the mess…. I just got into even more mess, even deeper.

And now, peace. Joy. Certainty.

So, if you are reading this and you think that you are too messed up, too chaotic to be accepted, too wrong for God, too confused to find a new way, too ashamed of your mess and history, too far gone to start again…. think again.

You are the reason why God became man. God became man, and died, because he loves you, mess and all. Your mess and his love are the greatest story ever told.

Don’t look at Christianity and think it’s just for others, don’t look at Christians, at church goers maybe, and think that they have never lived as you have lived. Whatever our history, we are all flawed and broken, we have all had our battles, and the longer we’ve lived the more we have learned about the love of God.

If he can rescue me…..

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

Me! Me! Me!

We are going through quite trying times. These days are, for many of us, worrying, frustrating, confusing, unsettling and plain aggravating. It seems that the world is full of incompetence and thoughtlessness; well worn procedures are failing, waiting lists for just about everything are growing longer, the suer-duper technology of 21st Century communication can’t even get a simple message from A to B, computer systems crash, bills rise, and savings dwindle. Governments fall, politicians turn out to be grubby (who’da thought it?) and now there are going to be strikes as well as war and famine and inflation and Covid (Oh, yes, much better, thank you for asking).

I mean, its all a mess, isn’t it?

A damn good thrashing

Who can blame us for getting cross and frustrated and grumpy?

The crosser we get, the the crosser we get. And much good it does us.

But in spite of all the mayhem and contumely assailing us on every side, this morning the sea rolled in, the world turned as it should, clouds scudded and birds soared. The breeze was busy breezing, my dogs were happy, the log I sat on was only slightly damp, my breathing is returning to normal, and I wished, with all my heart, that I could have all my friends there with me, on the beach. Any and all of you, including those who have been provoked and tested by life recently. It seemed to me that if I could just have you there with me then all your cares and all your exasperation would, surely… surely… fade away. We could sit in silence, maybe smiling at each other occasionally, turning our faces to the wind, inhaling the ozone and the salt and the goodness. Or we could tell each other daft little things that have happened this week. I could tell you about the tweet I saw

‘We had a complaint that there was no water in front of the restaurant
but there was in the photos.
We explained that the tide would be back in shortly.’

And we could watch the life-saving club youngsters arrive, the flags and tents being erected, the sailboarders and the gambolling silly dogs, and when the cafe opened we could have a Sunday communion of breakfast baps and coffee. We could even sing a hymn or two.

Sitting there, on my slightly mouldy throne, it occurred to me that whatever we’ve all lived through this week, however bad or good, whether it’s been exasperations and frustration or grief or joy, it’s all done and dusted. Over. All things pass.

This is now. A moment to savour. We are in eternity. We are in eternity. We are in the sacred.

Listen to me, listen to me, while I try to say the unsayable and to explain the unexplainable – we are in eternity.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:24

We are in eternity right now. We have passed over from death into life. These little things that trip us up, they’re nothing. There are some bigger, heavier things like grief and depression and they slow us down and tug on our hearts, and bring us to tears, but even they cannot drag us back into death. We are in life.

Flip me, isn’t that something to celebrate? What the hell do all the little petty annoyances of life matter, how do they even register, when we have that great truth in our heads and our hearts, foremost?

Here’s a hard fact that I think is true. Argue with me, let’s get a discussion going;

impatience and frustration are totally and essentially selfish.

They are our emotions flooding in, shouting out ‘Me! Me! Me!’ They are small barely disguised temper tantrums, flaring up when we don’t get our own way, when we have a sense of foiled entitlement, when we feel that our time is important, that they ought to do better, that we deserve more than this. These reactions are not Godly, we all know that, but I think that sometimes we forget that if they are not Godly then they are just plain bad. UnGodly. Against God.

And they’re daft. They’re as daft as Basil Fawlty beating the living daylights out of a lump of metal.

I know a woman (she doesn’t do blogs so I’m safe telling you this) who worries and worries and worries over what might happen, about weather and illness and debt and safety. She owns a snug house, with a good income, and she’s fit and loved by her family. She can’t understand that by worrying about all the things that she has no control over, things that may never happen, she is robbing today of its joy. I have none of her advantages and yet I have no worry. She doesn’t understand me, she pities me, sees me as a simpleton. I tell her that the love of God, and living with God is full of joy, but she just doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand that her worry has turned into seething anger robbing every day of its warmth and fun. She fumes and frets and complains when things go askew, when people are late, when they’re early, when they don’t meet her expectations, when she feels a right to be disappointed… her search for perfect peace is wearing her down. Or is she searching for control? Maybe that’s it. Maybe she feels that if she could only control everything in her life, her life would be perfect. Maybe she thinks that only she can be trusted to do everything right.

….blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Jeremiah. He’s another one I want to meet one day. Him and Isaiah and Job and Habbakuk. But that’s just me being silly – I don’t really think I’ll ever meet them. I think I’ll be too busy soaking up the radiance of God and delighting in Him to be conscious of anyone else. That’s something, isn’t it?

Eternity with the one we love. That’s where we are now. In eternity. So why don’t we remember that? Why do we waste energy and love and life on fretting?

No more Me! Me! Me!

Instead Him! Him! Him!

Lemonade

You know that really annoying platitudinous platitude, ‘When life give you lemons, make lemonade.’?

Well, I have my own version. When life gives you Covid, do a jigsaw

And then there’s that other option; listen to an audio book.
If you’re feeling very self-indulgent, do them both at the same time.

One of the church families went to The Big Church Day Out (or I may have that the wrong way round, it may be The Church Big Day Out) and I have no idea what went on there (not being the gregarious kind) but they all came back with Covid. Of course they stayed away from everyone like good responsible people and we’re certainly getting used to ‘Covid, the gift that keeps on giving’. Thankfully the infection seems to be growing milder and when Sunday comes around we behave sensibly, no crowding, no hugging, doors open etc but even with all that…. church is the only place I could have caught it. I’m infected and so is Mark who sat next to me. I’m sure that others will be, like ripples spreading outwards.

What’s the lesson in that there series of facts? I reckon it’s ‘In this life you will have trouble.’ No matter how many hymns you sing, or services you turn up for, how ever many pews you warm…. you aren’t immune from the chaos and unpredictability of life. Thank goodness! And who wants to stay locked away for ever? Imagine never being able to meet your friends again, to give ’em a hug, to tell silly jokes, to sing and bicker and all that jazz. This is a small price to pay for friendship and community.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as I’ve stopped coughing.

Laugh? I nearly died.

Do you ever play the three words game? The idea is to sum up someone you know, or yourself, in three words. The three words, when the game works well, should present a sort of micro-portrait of the subject; their personality and their character and whatever points to their uniqueness. I remembered the three word game this morning as I lay on a cold wet beach, flattened and breathless.

I had been strolling along with two friends, enjoying the cold morning (it’s supposed to be flaming June. It isn’t, yet) and my three dogs were playing with their three when one of them began to eat something unspeakable (so I won’t speak about it). The three humans who were with the six dogs all yelled as one “No! Nina! No!” and leapt towards the offending hound. Somehow, on the way, one of my legs hit an unexpectedly lumpy lump of air (cunningly invisible), and I was sent flailing and wailing towards the earth. It happens, roughly, once a year. Every year it gets a little bit harder to get back on my feet and every year it knocks the wind out of me and I end up rolling around, like a beetle on its back, gasping for breath and helpless with laughter. An uncomfortable combination. This morning, as my friends yelped with concern and hurried to see if I was broken, I rolled onto my back and looked up at the grey sky and I laughed and laughed and laughed. That’s when I remembered the three words game and I knew that one of them, for me, without fail, is ‘absurd’.

I am absurd.

I like being absurd, though. It’s always entertaining, often takes me surprise, and it enables me to stand outside myself and say “For crying out loud, woman. Look at the state of you!” This morning on the wet cold sand I stood outside myself and saw the two worried pals helping me to my feet, the dogs running around, excited by this new game, the gasping woman covered in sand and bruises, doubled over and struggling for air and yet laughing fit to bust, and I thought, with great clarity, ‘Absurd’.

We human beings are so clumsy, so flawed, so resilient, so foolish, so wayward, you just have to laugh.

Are you wondering what my other two words are? I think maybe I won’t tell you both of them, it would be a confidence taken just a tiny step too far. But I’ll tell you my second word – ‘loved‘.

I am absurd and I am loved.

That’ll do me. I am loved by God and also, also, listen, I am loved by the love of God in the people around me. Loved.

And so, whoever you are, are you. You are loved as you read these words. And that makes you strong. That means that when you are knocked down, or fall over nothing, or trip over a trouble, or smack into a brick wall, or are overcome with grief, or feel the weight of years, you are strong. You’re strong not just because you’re amazing (you are!) but because God loves you.

He will gather the lambs in His arms and carry them close to His heart.
He will be gentle in leading those that are with young
.
Isaiah 40:11

Not me, but I couldn’t resist it.

It is not about Fargo again. Honest.

I was sent two documents today, both of them were treatments for TV series (a treatment is the initial pitch document, presented to commissioners and film companies) and they were professional, glossy and clever and really well written. They were sent to me in the hopes that I’d consider script editing one of the series as it went to the next stage of production. One was an unashamed rip-off of an American series that finished its run a couple of years ago, and one was a futuristic fantasy. The fantasy, with all its colour photos and clever imagery, its snappy ’30 second elevator pitch’ page…. well, I skimmed through that. Dr Who on speed. Not my sort of thing at all. Brash unbelievable characters, garish world, ludicrous fantasy. I cannot abide fantasy. That one was easy to delete from my screen. The second one grabbed my attention, and had more going for it.

But it didn’t hold me for long – it’s all about illegal drugs and every single character in it (and there’s a huge cast list) is involved in this trade, benefits from it and so goes on to murder, steal or scheme their way through every episode. I sat at my desk, with a sense of growing glumness (I was going to say ‘despair’ but that’s over-egging it) as I read plot twist after plot twist. It’s a clever, clever document, showing skill and imagination, presenting fully rounded characters, offering terrific moments of drama and surprise, and it has substance. It shouts ‘We’ve been to University and we’ve learned our lessons well’. It lacks only one thing – any degree or hint or consideration of morality.

A few years ago there was a very successful series called ‘Shameless’ in the UK. It made a huge impact, shining a light on the culture and lives of a deprived and neglected strata of our society. The premise was that out of their desperation and deprivation, defiance took the place of shame. The main character was feckless, idle, swearing, amoral, drunken and dirty. Crime was petty but constant, theft was commonplace, sexual appetites were gratified regardless of relationships or family… you get the drift. But somehow, the writer showed us the heart of the characters, we understood that the shamelessness was plugging the hole left by something precious, and that each of them deserved better, each life was unfulfilled. It was reflection of our uncaring society. It made a huge impact because it was the first time we had taken such a long and considered look at that seamy side of life. It was well conceived by a good writer, it asked a thousand questions, and it deserved to do so well.

But what was so shocking on our screens then, would be tame and unnoticed now. Then even the title ‘Shameless’ was startling, shocking. Now we don’t have any understanding of the word. We don’t even know what shame is any more. When you can turn on the TV in the late evening and see a parade of naked men being physically assessed by a naked woman…. there is no shame left.

Back to the treatment I read this morning – two clever youngish men had dreamed up a series glorifying and celebrating the illegal drug trade in rural Britain but there was no counterpoint to the drama. Victims were created and abandoned as the next plot twist came thundering towards the screen; there was no time for reflection, no understanding, no consequence, no central theme. Just amoral creatures stumbling through a broken landscape.

Maybe they thought they were writing another Sopranos, but Tony Soprano was a tortured conflicted man, a clash of ideals and beliefs. Watching him, we became aware of our own conflicts, watching him I found myself surprised that I could care about this psychopath and I had to question my reactions all the time, at every turn. Maybe they thought they were writing another Fargo, but Fargo has a strong central theme in every series, as a small and shabby little sin (just an unspoken wish in the first series) spirals into mayhem and murder and evil. Fargo explores morality, takes a long cold look at the amoral, shows the cost of evil. Maybe they thought they were writing Ozark, but Ozark is all about a man who takes a wrong turn in fear for his family and then plunges ever deeper, helplessly and hopelessly, into the chaos of evil. The treatment I read this morning had no central theme, just a lot of clever words. And clever is not enough when it comes to drama.

We are a society that demands to be entertained at all times. If I sit down in front of my TV I have a sense of entitlement , I scan the channels expecting to be fed something that will amuse or intrigue or terrify me. Streaming means that I can demand this entertainment 24 hours a day, and our commercial world responds by hurrying to gain my attention, my money, my loyalty. I know people of my age who put the telly on as soon as they get up, and there it sits all day, the terrestrial channels churning out garish sofa-shows, old sitcoms, rubbishy films that have never made it to peak-time, repeats, idiot quizzes, and cheap soaps until the evening. And then, on come the reality shows. Oh, those reality shows. Botox faces, fake tans, sexual innuendo, naked bodies… and a couple of years ago we crossed the line of live sex on terrestrial TV. Anything goes. Everything goes. If terrestrial channels bore us, we have all the streaming services, more of the same but usually more competently made, better – as they say – ‘production values’. It’s a real treat when there’s something worth watching.

I love TV drama. I’ve worked in that world for most of my adult life. But maybe we’ve reached saturation point. Maybe its time to say that we don’t need round-the-clock entertainment, that less truly could be more… more worthwhile, more thought provoking, more truthful. Maybe it’s time to take the production of drama out of the hands of the financiers and put it back into the hands of people who love drama. Drama is just one more commodity now, and like all commodities we debase it in the market place, we cut corners and hurry the production along, we replace good ingredients with cheaper ones, we pile ’em high, from dawn to dawn, never pausing.

And here’s a terrible thought….. while the money men decide what dramas will be made, and what programming will fill our hours, their morality will inform everything we watch. Their morality, these unseen men and women. Their morality will influence our youngsters. A few years ago I heard a TV exec say ‘We’ve gone past the good versus bad stories.’ But every story that’s worth telling is all about good versus bad. Of course good shouldn’t always win (in real life it doesn’t) and nor should there be spotless heroes and dyed-in-the-wool villains, but we need an ongoing exploration of what is good, what is bad, what is constructive, and what destroys us. It’s about the good in us warring with the bad, the pure struggling against the impure in every life, in every heart. It’s about us. Not them. Us. And because it’s about you and me, and because it helps us to understand our world and each other, we need good drama, not cheap dross. We need honesty, not sensation.

My old pal Isaiah knew what was what…. Isaiah 5:20

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter.

Am I going to take the script editing job? What do you think? I wouldn’t touch it with a

A small life

‘ ….and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.” That’s the start of the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. He asks her for a drink and then there follows a conversation, a courteous conversation, which ends (wait for it… wait for it….) with Jesus stating that he is ‘I am’. He is God.

That woman, that fortunate woman, heard from his own lips that he was God. When she set out with her water jar she wasn’t expecting to come across the God of all creation, to make the most startling discovery ever made, to hear the greatest claim that could ever be spoken… but that’s what her ordinary day held for her. She didn’t imagine that the great Messiah who was to rescue Israel and conquer the world would be a dusty, weary, hot and thirsty wandering Jew. But he was.

‘The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Wowser! Her trudge to the well, in the blazing heat of midday (forget all the theories about why she was drawing water at noon), became a monumental moment, written in history, a central point in Theology, and maybe (who knows?) the turning point in that woman’s life.

Sometimes, when the day is long and the work seems thankless, when the water we draw will soon leave an empty jar that needs to be filled again, and again and again…. when the walk to the well is lonely, and we’re a bit fed up with the same old routine….. and the people we’re serving are just plain ungrateful…. we can be lost in our thoughts so that we hardly notice the man sitting at the well, waiting.

We talk so much about the Samaritan woman, but how much thought do we give to the thirsty man? Yes, yes, we know Jesus is God, but how much thought do we give to Jesus the man? It was noon. The disciples had gone to find food. He was weary and so he sat down, in the blazing sun. Maybe his lips were cracked, maybe his mouth was dry, maybe his muscles ached. The God of all creation. And he wanted water. The God of all creation, that ordinary man, had no cup. The water was there, and he couldn’t reach it. He wasn’t Superman or Batman or any other super hero, able to use his superpower to satisfy his whim. He was our servant God, our fully human Creator. You know, when you’re really thirsty and you’re in a dry climate under a blazing sun, and you come across a well, you can almost smell the water. The God of all creation, and he was thirsty! The God of all creation could see the water in his mind’s eye, taste it in his longing, smell it in his need.

I can’t think of a single instance in the Gospels when Jesus used his omnipotence to serve himself. And he didn’t now, at the well, when all he wanted was a simple drink of water. He came to Earth as man and that’s how he lived.

I’ve always had the habit , when I hear a narrative that doesn’t come to a conclusion, of finding my own conclusion and mentally ‘writing it in’. We don’t know if the woman gave Jesus a drink. We aren’t told. But in my narrative, as she lowers the bucket into the well she says a wry smile, “You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do you get that living water ?” and – in my mind – as Jesus replies, he leans across and hauls the bucket onto the wall of the well for her, precious water splashing onto the mud bricks… and (again, in my narrative) there’s quiet amusement in his voice as he replies “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.’ and he plunges his hands into the glistening water, scooping, ” … the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” And then, in my narrative, he lowers his head and drinks and drinks and drinks, delighting in it… and the woman watches him and turns the words over in her mind, and sees something unworldly in this simple man, and she asks “Sir, give me this water, so I’ll never be thirsty again.”

Anyway, that’s what I imagine. My lovely God, delighting in cool water in the heat of the day. Totally divine and completely man. Ahead of him lay shame and suffering and death, but he was never only a man of sorrows… he was also a man who gathered friends, a man people flocked to be with, a man who ate with his adopted family, who drank fresh water, who shared wine, who built a fire and baked fish (Ah, hang on, Luce, that was the Resurrected Christ… maybe the fire was not so much built as spoken into being!), who slept in the gunnels of the boat, who felt pity and anger and sadness, a man who prayed, who exasperated his friends and a man who wept. He was a man we can all love. A man of simple pleasures.

That’s a lesson for all of us. Jesus led a small life. His pleasures were simple.

What are our simple pleasures, the daily gifts we can really delight in and give thanks for? Shall I tell you one of mine? Well, you can’t stop me, so here goes – my morning ritual, when I return from walking the dogs is unvarying. I make a strong coffee, heat the milk, toast two waffles, slice a pear and then I sit down with it at my desk and read the news section of theTimes online.

Sometimes I add strawberries!

Such joy in small things.

I do pray, sometimes, that when Jesus walked the Earth as man, he knew loads of small pleasures. Daily. I pray that daily he found comfort and joy in little moments of grace. Maybe he loved being man? I hope so. That maybe, even as wholly man, as he drank that wonderful crystal water, he sensed that one day a woman in West Wales would think of him with love, and that maybe, just maybe, that was one of those tiny moments of joy. Knowing that he was loved, is loved.

We all need to know that we are loved. And we are.

There’s another moment of joy, just knowing that we are loved.

You’re irresistible

I’m should be working on my next book, but instead I’m writing to you. You are irresistible. You are! There’s something about blogging that’s warm and immediate, and you know what? You’re good company.

A little while ago I wrote in one of these blogs: 

Do I really believe that the Creator hears one piping voice in a million billion, clamouring over all the centuries? 

I believe he hears not just my words but all my unspoken thoughts, ALL my unworded longings. My silent voice. And even more than this, I believe that prayer is powerful. Not because of those who pray, but because of the one who listens. “

Now. The thing about blogs is, they’re like last week’s breakfast. You might remember what you ate this morning but you’d struggle to recall what you ate last Tuesday. Blogs don’t last. They are words spinning off into space, never to be seen again. And like a lot of breakfasts, sometimes they’re rubbish. But sometimes, as I write, I have get a tiny glimpse of new insight that I want to keep for a while, and think about.  That last sentence I read was one of those new insights:

“I believe that prayer is powerful. Not because of those who pray, but because of the one who listens. “

I don’t ever want to stop questioning my beliefs, so that set me off on a mini-study, about the God who listens. Does he really listen? Is that just a cosy churchy idea that we take easy comfort from or is it a fact? Does it stand the test of the Word? 

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.1 John 5:14

If we are asking according to his will, or ‘in the `Spirit’  God will hear us? How do we do that? How does awkward, wayward, stubborn Luce pray in the Spirit of God? I looked for examples – we have the Lord’s prayer, we have the Psalms, and we have, in Ephesians, a great example of praying according to God’s will: Ephesians 1:16-19

I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that he has done for you. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can see something of the future he has called you to share. I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him. 

Everything in that prayer is to the glory of God. Paul is praying for Timothy but not for wealth or even health in this case, but that Timothy will be drawn closer to God. That’s praying in the Spirit. And those words are so helpful to us when we’re praying for friends, when our own words fail. Often when we need them most, words fail us. But God has the answer, always – look;

And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as he pleads for us in harmony with God’s own will. Roman 8:26-27

Maybe when words fail us completely and we are reduced to silence before God, maybe those moments are our greatest prayers, because that’s when the Holy Spirit steps in-

 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17

 The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Sometimes silence is prayer. I’m so glad. I find it hard to pray aloud with others, not because of shyness or anything like that, but simply because the words don’t come, the words are fluid, they swirl around in my consciousness, reaching out, reaching up, barely formulated. Praying on my own, silent and conscious of the presence of God, of course there are words but then into my mind floods a knowledge of someone I care about, and I lift them up in love, no words needed – or the grief of Ukraine comes to mind, or gratitude for the death of Jesus, and these too, seamlessly, are all lifted up, without words. He knows my thoughts before I have them, and so I offer them to him as prayer. God doesn’t require my perfect syntax, my wisdom, my amazing vocabulary, my thirteen languages (OK, one). He doesn’t need me to speak in tongues. He doesn’t need me. He loves me instead. And love accepts all weakness.

 These are just my meanderings, but when I was thinking about God listening I came up with 5 jolly good reasons to pray. You may have 5 different reasons. Here’s my top five;  

  1. I pray because I’m in love with God and I want to be obedient. I pray because we are told to pray, to pray continuously, without ceasing, to pray daily, to pray humbly, to pray together, to pray alone, to pray for all we need, to pray thanks for all we have, to pray praise for all God has done. I could give you all those verses but you know them and you can find them easily enough.
  2. I pray because prayer reminds me who God is and who I am. There’s adventure in prayer, because in prayer we discover God! We discover! Un-cover. Find an aspect of God that maybe we have never understood before.
    Jeremiah 33:3. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
    When we want to hear God, we pray. If I don’t pray it’s daft to complain that he doesn’t answer!
  3. I pray because prayer places me, even when I’m teetering on the edge of rebellion, in a place of submission. Somehow, turning to God, puts me in a better place. It’s a balm to a troubled soul. Poetic, eh? Don’t roll your eyes at me, you know what I mean. Just turning to God is the first step in joy.
  4. You know that good old standby question when we are wondering about some course of action? “What would Jesus do?” It’s a question I occasionally ask myself (usually when I’m really tempted to go the other way) and – guess what – he would pray! Before his ministry began he prayed for 40 days, at his baptism he prayed, when he healed people, when he broke bread, when he raised Lazarus from the dead, he prayed in Gethsemane, and as he died he prayed. What would Jesus do, day to day, in good times and bad? He would pray!
  5. And one more reason, if I need one, to pray? A selfish reason. Prayer is sublime, uplifting, our greatest joy. It’s walking with God in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, before sin entered the world. Prayer is reaching out a hand and finding the hand of God. Prayer is rewarding, demanding, difficult, amazingly easy, essential, intrinsic to life. Everyday life. The ups and downs of it.

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. James 5:13

Martin Luther said “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

Prayer is an open door. It’s a time we enter, and a space we walk into. What a privilege!  There’s a sense of excitement as we approach prayer . Think for a moment of those Old Testament High Priests fasting and getting all robed up, hours of ritual, then having a rope tied around them, before they entered the Holy of Holies, the Sanctuary. Just one man, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, stepping into the presence of God… terrified, knees shaking. The rope was there to pull his body out if God struck him dead! Hah! That was before Christ. And now, now? Because of Jesus we step into his presence, God’s presence and reality,  with confidence and trust. Right now. Whenever. Wherever.

Doesn’t that just delight you?

 Some love praying with a prayer partner, or in groups, or in a whole great echoing cathedral. Some love praying in the forest, sitting in the garden, chanting soulfully in a hallowed abbey, striding down Oxford Street with a sandwich board and a loud hailer. One of my favourite prayer times is on the beach, another is driving on the open road, and another is sitting at my table, with music playing, and a glass of wine in my hand. Why not? Jesus dined with sinners. 

Prayer is every moment of the Christian’s life, when that life is submitted to God. 

Yep. It was a good thought, that blog thought of a few days ago…..

‘Prayer is powerful not because of those of who pray, but because of the one who listens.’

Publication Day!

A friend reminded me that today my Do Drama book is published. He heard from the fb post of another friend, and I don’t know how she knew. I’m supposed to be flooding social media with self promotion. Easier said than done. I have – I think – 8 followers on Instagram, and probably the same on fb (three of them are granddaughters) so it’s not so much a flood as a trickle.

And then there’s you, so, dutifully, here goes –

Other books are available

It seems that I’m as good on social media as I am at business generally. I just hate this self-promotion thing. Just hate it. Don’t get it. Wouldn’t it be great if money didn’t make the world go around? If we had no need of it? If each of us had a skill we could barter for the things we need in life, like in the old days? ‘Need’, not ‘want’. Maybe then I would have ditched the written word to learn something useful like weaving, or rearing goats, or growing mushrooms.

Still feeling a bit queasy and dizzy, I went to lie down at lunchtime, and immediately, I mean IMMEDIATELY, I had these three sitting on my shoulders, chest and tummy. Actually those little paws in my torso seemed to help. A sort of satisfyingly painful massage.

Beady eyes and whiskery chins. And that’s just me.

It’s a lovely Spring day, the sun is streaming in, and as I was lying there I was watching a wasp in the rooflight. All that sunshine, all those miles of countryside just half an inch away, hillsides white with daises, roadsides shimmering with bluebells, and that poor wasp was battering himself against my window, hopelessly. He has maybe two or three days of life and tomorrow it’s going to rain. Did you know that wasps are immensely valuable to the world? They eat the aphids and tiny creatures that devour roots and mangle leaves. We all make a big fuss of bees, loving them and protecting them and all that, but wasps – their much misunderstood cousins – are more sinned against than sinning.

Poor wasp. Such a short life to spend hours battering against a pane of glass, bewildered.

I found myself trying to work out how to help him – I could get the vacuum cleaner, turn it to ‘blow’ instead of ‘suck’, climb up a step ladder, and gently blow him away and out into the big warm world. If I knew how to turn the machine from suck to blow, and had a step ladder, and could climb it, and had an extension cord to reach the plug and… and… and..

But I don’t have any of those things so I stayed there, sympathising with the wasp, and absolutely no earthly use to him, with the dogs pinning me down, as the world carried on regardless.

That has to be a metaphor for something.

Do you ever hear me complain?

Oh, man, I have been at death’s door. I have suffered. Let me count the ways…. let me give you the gory details, at length, of my suffering on this Earth. No, maybe not. In shorthand, then, I have been quite ill. Proper poorly as they say up north.

The point is not the suffering (man, it was bad!) but my reaction to it. We (dogs and me) have been housebound for days on end, blinds down, door locked, unseen and unseeing, and it was only yesterday that I managed to take them out so that they could at least get a change of scenery, even if an actual walk wasn’t involved.

The sun was shining, the sky was huge and wonderful, it was a Bank Holiday so there were quite a few people around and, sometimes, Wales is lovely.

That sounds great, doesn’t it? But as I left home, my soul wasn’t in a good place. I felt ill, in pain, tired and alone and just plain fed up. I couldn’t see the point. Of anything. Seriously. You know, I never imagined that I would end up here. I didn’t. I’ve been a wife and a mum and a grandma, busy busy busy, living in England, up and down to London, working with huge teams of people, supporting parents and daughter and employing people and all that, a helter-skelter sometimes messy life, and now I’m alone and doing nothing. For no one. With no one. In six years it’s all gone to hell in a handcart. Weird, eh? But this is where God has been leading me, so am I going to complain and moan?

Well, yeah. Of course I am. Don’t be daft.

I have my moments with God. He gets an earful occasionally. And a mega earful yesterday. Five miles of steadily building complaint, as I drove through the village, along the main road, through the town, down towards the sea.

When I arrived at a shingle beach, parked up and found a nearby rock to sit on, I was in full flood of righteous indignation. I had no sense of his displeasure as my rant grew. There was no guilt trip or thunderbolt from heaven. He just let me rip, and then brought one single verse to mind that sorted it all out for me…. it was as I looked out over this scene….

that I remembered a verse from Isaiah

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?

And I remembered God. Simply, I remembered God. And the gripes, whinges, moans and wheedling went…. what did I have to moan about? In this world, on this shore, on that day, with my dogs… what did I have to moan about? Out of nothing God created everything. As a writer I respond to good writing, and when it springs into my mind, it’s as if I’m reading the words… this is Psalm 19, not good writing but great writing

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

Let me tell you about the scene down there on May Bank Holiday; I think that it’s easy to buy into the myth that all children now are interested only in screen time but yesterday gave the lie to that – there were youngsters in wet suits larking about in the muddy channels of the estuary, others on paddle boards, a multi-generational family was crabbing on the pontoon, teenagers were kayaking, and of course there were children of all shapes and sizes running with their dogs, and playing in the rocks.

There were more mature people too; in the distance on the mud flats, there were elderly men, ‘mucking about in boats’, some were washing decks, some fiddling with engines, two chaps in the harbour master’s rib were trying (for hours!) to get the outboard going. Three elderly women passed by, one was like a character out of Miss Marple, all flowery cottons and a floppy sun hat (it wasn’t that hot!) and white sandals, and the others were in bright pink and starling electric blue tops and white trousers. They talked and laughed as they picked their uncertain way across the shingle, grabbing at each other for support. Lovely. Made your heart glad to see them. Like a Beryl Cooke trio. They found a place to sit, on the grubby old pontoon and proceeded to unpack an elaborate picnic. That scene was a gift, dropped into my lap. I’m so glad we have moments like this to enjoy. We don’t have to be part of it, just seeing those moments can be enough, hearing laughter, distant shouts, the splashes and yells of children, their delight as another tiny muddy crab was caught, the chatter of three old ladies, the blokes doing blokish things… it fed my grizzled soul.

When I came home I looked up that verse – it’s Isaiah 40:12, but that whole chapter is so full of Theological truth, so full of God, so full of life. Man, it’s amazing. I’ve just read it again. So good.

Isaiah is my go-to Old Testament book but I also find myself returning time and again to the Book of Job. Job, now there was one totally honest man! No side to him. He probably wouldn’t have been a revered elder in a local church, far too honest. Too spiky. Not for him the pious ‘right thing to say’. He wasn’t great with words, he didn’t set out to put anyone right, he didn’t swerve and dodge, or present his best side to the world…. and he was ready to have a serious word with his Creator. Listen to what he says in chapter 24

Even today my complaining is bitter. His (God’s) hand is heavy even when I cry inside myself.  If only I knew where to find Him, that I might go where He is!  I would tell Him how things are with me, and my mouth would be ready to argue.  I would know His answer, and could think about what He would say to me.  Would He go against me using His great power? No, He would listen to me.  There a man who is right could reason with Him. And I would be set free by my Judge.’

I love that Job is unafraid to complain, knowing that God listens, hears us, and sets us free. Free of what? I suppose of whatever is grinding our wheels right then.

 So I am afraid to be with Him. When I think about it, I am very afraid of Him.  God has made my heart weak. The All-powerful has filled me with fear.  But I am not made quiet by the darkness or the deep shadow which covers my face.”

Don’t you just cheer at the honesty of the man? Yep, he’s fearful of God, he’s in awe of Him, but he’s ‘not made quiet by the darkness’. Kind of undefeated.

When I arrived at that shingle beach yesterday, I was full of rebellion. I even told God that I have lost enough people and been to enough bloody funerals and that the only one I will attend in the future will be my own. All snarled up in a mare’s nest of confusion and loneliness, but by the time I left, he had set me free.

This all might seem like I’m great at remembering Bible verses but I’m not. I’m not a Bible scholar, it’s just that some passages resonate. There’s a verse in Jeremiah 15 that I’m taking out of context, because the imagery is so strong that I can’t resist it ‘

When your words came, I ate them;
    they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
    Lord God Almighty.

The Word of God is more than great poetry, or writing, or wisdom. It’s life. It’s now.

PS
Hey, something really strange happened last night. In an email to a pal I said that I hoped his road ahead was becoming clearer to him. Our thoughts are prayers, eh? Maybe that was what I was thinking about as I fell asleep, I don’t know, those last minutes in the day are lost in drowsiness, but this morning as I woke up I had such a clear thought, something outside of me, simply saying “The road will rise up to meet him.”
That’s an old Irish blessing for a journey ‘May the road rise up to meet you”
Was it my all too human sub-conscious, or was it an assurance from God, an answer to my prayer?

So there you go, bloggers all, may the road rise up to meet you.

Life Story

I’ve been told that I should write a book about the people I meet on the beach. I’m not going to, but their stories could certainly fill a few blogs; this morning I met Tom (not his real name), he’s about my age, maybe a bit older, and lives just 100 yards from the beach in a small wooden house that his mother bought for £300 many years ago. He’s had an adventurous life, travelled the world as a sailor, spent years in the far West of Canada, still owns a huge old (very old) wooden cabin cruiser, and he now has leukaemia. He ricochets around the countryside in a battered old pick-up, his garden is full of boats and engines and paraphernalia, and he’s a cheerful and busy bloke, rueful about his disease but undefeated. If you’re reading this in the UK I can best describe him as a slimmed down version of the old Captain Birdseye. Most days he ambles slowly across the small beach to the water’s edge, where he stands for a few moments before returning home, leaning on a rather nifty, highly polished cane. This morning he told me that when he was walking in Canada, many years ago, on a mountain path, he spotted a slender piece of wood in a tangle of saplings and undergrowth. The length of it, about a metre, was absolutely straight and unblemished, as if it had been planed or turned, and at the top there was a graceful curved handle, with a stubby thumb continuing the straight run for maybe an inch. Something about this simple piece of wood spoke to Tom, as if it was asking him to take it home, so he did. It was crying out to be used as a walking stick but, of course, young and fit and strong as he was, he had no need of one. Why then did he take it? For some reason he did and for years it stood in the corner of the room, and occasionally he would sit and polish it, not knowing why, just enjoying the warmth of the wood, the straight lines, the grain. When he returned to the UK it slipped easily into a corner of his packing case and so it made the journey across the ocean. Now, about fifty years later, that simple piece of wood has come into its own, and when he wanders down to the sea each day he carries it almost jauntily, putting it down at each step with a tiny defiant swagger, as if to say ” Here I am – not finished yet”. This morning he showed me the curve of the handle, and gave me the story he’s woven around it;

“In its first winter, when it was no more than a sapling, the weight of the Canadian snow made it bow down, just at the tip, where the growth was newest, so that it curved over and became this handle. See? But then, in the spring, a shoot grew out of it, on the angle…. this little nub of wood, see?” and his old hands smoothed the glowing wood and his eyes sparkled, meeting mine “And then I came along that mountain path. And now here we are. “

I like that story. I like that it shrinks the world and the years, that a mountain walk has lasted a lifetime, that the vital young heart of so many years ago still beats in the frail old man lost in memories, and that today, under a billowing Welsh sky, I held a tiny piece of Canada in my hands and thought of friends who are there right now.

I like that a tiny moment can bridge half a century, conjure up a man’s history, bring two strangers together, vividly bringing those we love to mind, and so become a fleeting prayer. Sometimes a tiny moment is so weighted with wonder that there are no words.

In the dunes, a few feet from where we stood, there are rare orchids, so rare that people travel miles just to see them. They’re hard to find, lost in the ever changing pattern of sand dunes, under grasses and gorse, it takes time and patience and a readiness to fail to search them out, but they are beautiful. The world doesn’t rave about them, there is no price on them, if they’re taken from their hiding place they die, and when their season is over no one mourns them. But when they are here, they are enough. Do you know the poem ‘She dwelt among untrodden ways” by William Wordsworth? It’s worth reading, and I’ll tag it on to this blog (ignore the ‘Lucy’ bit!). I’m adding it for friends who are going through grief at the moment, two have lost their mothers, another has lost her husband, and a mother has lost her son – the last verse of that poem is for them, surely.

Sometimes the days seem full of meaning, too full for this writer to find the words. Among all the shrapnel and mayhem of this broken world, there are perfect jewels, sometimes so small we might pass by, not seeing them. Sometimes as small as a walking cane, or a hidden flower. Sometimes as small as a long life, lived well, a small life that leaves so much love in its wake. It’s good to pause and remember with gratitude and wonder.

She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
William Wordsworth

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
—Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!