When you’re crying out for manna.

Today I’m really struggling. Emotions are raw and near the surface. This morning, early, on the beach, in prayer, I felt the weight of some unnamed dread and greyness. I chose Joy instead.

I did. Jesus is Joy.

And here I am, ten to two in the afternoon, and I’m choosing Joy all over again. And I may need to choose Joy all over again, again, again, later.

We need to be honest, us human beings. Sometimes we are side-swiped by sorrow, engulfed. And Christians are … guess what ? Human.

I know that there are millions upon millions of people out there who live alone and are susceptible to the introspection and the sense of remoteness that solitude brings. In normal life we can dilute those feelings by social interaction. We have friends who will, somehow, feed the bits of us that our own minds can’t quite reach. Friends who understand in part how we are feeling and who we are.

But now, like so many, I am in four walls. Isolated. Like so many I’ve barely spoken to anyone today, just one brief conversation on a pavement, and the day stretching ahead into the long night, and more of the same tomorrow. And Tuesday. A brief trip to the shop on Wednesday. There’s such a temptation to email and face-time and phone… but I have no right to drag others down, and even if I wanted to,  I don’t have the words… there is no soul-mate to understand and accept, wordless, that I am shaken today…… no one to see.

That’s the bad news. Where’s the good news? Do you think I’m going to get all chirpy now and Patience-Strong-ish and say brave and wonderful things?

How about this:  “In this life you will have trouble.”

Jesus said that. The next bit is a tad more hopeful…. but we need to understand the context to get the full meaning. First of all Jesus said “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone.” 

He was talking about his own death, the persecution of his followers, their grief and loss. He was talking about bereavement, distress, we could even say he was talking about covid. He was anticipating that there would be days when all seemed grim and bleak. He didn’t expect life for his followers to be forever jolly and cheerful and mindlessly smiling. There would be grief and he knew it.

He doesn’t expect me to be capering all over the beach in my quiet time, in a state of eternal bliss. Well, not every day. He knows I’m no good at cartwheels, for a start.

Maybe he saw their expressions, their disappointment, because in his empathy he reached out again and said  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. “

So, Jesus told us that there would be trouble in our lives in order that in the middle of that trouble we would know we could also have peace.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

So, I can be fed-up. So can you. If that’s how you feel today, don’t be ashamed. Don’t be proud either (she said hastily) because it isn’t good, this sad corner. It’s not where anyone wants to dwell for long, so today has become a bit messy as I keep turning back to God, waiting to be rescued, knowing that he’s there, here, with me. And he is the one who rescues.

Today I need to reach out for help, and I need to explore this some more: is this sadness and loneliness from God? Is it brought into my life to turn me to him? If so, if today as I turn and turn again, seeking him, I learn more about my desperate dependance on him, will that have been a lesson worth learning?

Who do I write this blog for? I write it for me. I talk to me. When no one else can get in my head and understand me, I talk to my God and myself. If you are going through a hard time, talk to God, and listen, listen, for his love.

I discovered Psalm 62:1 last week and I’ve read and re-read it every day.

I stand silently to listen for the one I love,
waiting as long as it takes for the Lord to rescue me.
For God alone has become my Saviour.

I wondered why it meant so much to me. Now I know. I was being prepared for today. Our wonderful God. Every day , whatever the day, whatever the day, we have enough. We lack nothing. Manna.

Listen, bloggies, if you’re struggling, ‘take heart’! You don’t have to be inspiring and amazing and wonderful. You just have to be you. The you God loves and knows, and understands.

Forgiven

We had some teaching on forgiveness this week. The ‘we’  is my church, a happy assortment of ages and histories and temperaments, not at all uniform, some of us quite conventional, some less so, and some quite…well… erm…. individual. So, don’t, please think that this teaching involved a grey haired stern old man shaking his finger at us, as we all sat straight-backed and demure, eyes cast down. Do you think church is like that? Church ain’t like that. Our Pastor ain’t like that. The message ain’t like that. And we don’t go into the church building right now so there ain’t even no pews to keep us upright. I listened to the talk on forgiveness at my desk, knitting, and with a cup of coffee. Even when we’re in church we don’t do the demure thing. We are family, and families are full of nonsense and love and life. And stuff.

I called it ‘teaching’ because I don’t like the word ‘sermon’. We don’t really have a weekly sermon. We have a grace-filled, interesting, informative, instructive, encouraging and challenging discourse. Bit of a mouthful, but all those things are different.. a thing can be informative without being interesting (cast your mind back to Maths lessons) and instructive without being encouraging (Maths again). So, for brevity’s sake, we’ll stick with ‘teaching’ although it’s much more personal, focussed, gracious than a lesson. And the great thing is, it’s Biblical.

Anyway, the point is, I didn’t need the stuff on forgiveness. Me? Listen, love, I have trouble with a load of flaws and failings but I don’t have any trouble with forgiveness.

Hmmm. But gradually as the days dwindled past at this new lock-down pace, I realised that I still had some stuff to learn after all, and I’ve had to think again about my so-amazing gift of forgiveness. I have forgiven. I know that for sure. And for me, by God’s grace, forgiveness came easily. I think it also came easily because emotionally I’m quite lazy. “Do you want to dwell on past wrongs, Luce?”  “Nah, I’d rather have a cake, thanks.” But there are layers, I’ve learned this week, to forgiveness. You can forgive, and still not quite be filled with love for the person forgiven.  Yes, you forgive, because that’s the choice you’ve made, but I learned this week that even when that choice has been made, the act of forgiveness can grow deeper, more generous, more loving.  It can become joyful.

This week I’ve learned that digging deeper into forgiveness is a delight. That explored forgiveness restores lost love. That if we truly understand our own need for forgiveness, offence vanishes and hurt diminishes to the vanishing point. Part of our message on how to forgive others was that forgiveness is not forgetting, but it’s accepting the consequences of another’s sin. Or you could say ‘another’s actions’. I see now that the consequences of my parents actions have affected my life and I completely and happily, and openly welcome those consequences. Hah! It sounds strange, doesn’t it? But I do.

I  accept without rancour that I find it difficult to enter someone’s house, to spend time with a couple, to have the confidence to say aloud what I think (I do it in writing!). I often  feel worthless and ugly so that I need to escape when eyes meet mine, feeling that my presence in a roomful of people ruins it for all of them. That I am loathsome. I accept these as consequences of my parent’s behaviour. I don’t bow down to them, or agree with these things, because I know for absolute sure that they’re not true, that it was wrong of them, but I also know now to say “That’s OK. That’s life. It’s what it did to them as well as to me. It didn’t come out of nowhere, their lives had led them to this point.”

And I’m far far far from the only one. Loads of people of my age were brought up by parents scarred by war and by poverty.  75 years ago today the Second World War ended in Europe. Think of the consequences of that war! The consequences of that war, that sin, the Nazi regime, are still felt all over the world. They have damaged generations. Today is a day for remembering and for forgiving. My generation, coming up to 70 and 80,  grew up with parents who had been through 6 years of hell. There are consequences to sin. They had to live with them, and sometimes they passed those consequences down to us. And we need to forgive.

My Dad was trained for the priesthood, a seminarian who joined the Army, who was evacuated at Dunkirk, a soldier who carried a poetry book wherever he went, a young man who later witnessed the brutality of the Mau-mau, a father who didn’t see any of his children until they were already walking, who lost his first wife to cancer, and two sons in infancy… what right do I – battered old me –  have to withhold my forgiveness from this man? None. I’ve always understood that.

But have I felt the same way about my stepmother? No, hand on heart, I have struggled to love her. I realise now that this is because she was a respectable and successful woman, and I thought as a child that she was the cat’s whiskers. Then I discovered that she was a martinet, a snob, cold and demanding, and I saw only her flaws and was hurt by them, and I was so busy being hurt that I didn’t look for the causes. I went to her at 8 years old, desperate for a Mam, and I found her instead. I never looked behind that disappointment to discover why she was as she was. Yesterday, for the first time in years, I remembered her father, Mr Donoghue, a stern and aggressively correct Edwardian. She served him as I served her. She was the consequence of his lovelessness and I was the consequence of hers. And so the sins of the fathers are passed to the sons and daughters. And yesterday, I softened. Into the forgiveness came love. Acceptance. Wow. I accept the consequences of my stepmother’s actions. And I ask forgiveness for not loving her.

Oh, blimey. What does that do? That sends me right back to the cross. A stunning thought; who accepted the consequence of my sin? Jesus. Who looks beyond my sin to my heart? Who forgives it so wholly that it no longer exists? There is no hurt or harm, no consequence left. It’s all there, on the cross. He doesn’t look at my flaws and failings, my sins, he just loves me.

It gives a whole new layer of meaning and passion to the simple words ‘I am forgiven’.

 

Better to be kind than to be right (eous)

There’s a lot of talk about ‘the times we’re in’. It’s a time like no other, a time of testing, a unique time, a time of sorrow and pain, a time of…. well, the list goes on.

I think this time is a mirror.  A telling and revealing time.

What does it reveal? It reveals the sort of people we are.

When facism was on the rise in Germany, in the 1930’s, it was the obedient civilian, the person who wanted most to please the new regime, who ultimately elevated this new  social monster to power. Without the good and law abiding citizen the Nazi regime would never have survived.

When this embryonic legalistic regime printed its edicts and new laws, it was the respectable and entirely law-abiding citizen who complied with the most zeal. Their self-righteous adherence to the law bolstered the groundswell of this new and unpleasant social attitude.  I think we need to reflect on that.

The entirely ordinary men and women, who like you and me loved children and were kind to animals, these were the good people who betrayed their friends to the authorities, amassed  ‘proof’ of imagined crimes, shouted insults, called names, accused and judged and despised others.

Good people, when they try too hard to be seen as good, end up doing bad things. 

Good people, when they make judgments too quickly and too harshly, end up doing bad things.

Good people, even really good people, when they are afraid,  can end up doing unpleasant things. 

Good people, when they feel in the right, can be unthinkingly cruel. 

It’s a true saying that Covid has brought out the best and the worst of us. The best is the care we have for each other, the worst is the creeping vigilanteism, the  desire to ‘name and shame’, and the proud display of self-righteous anger.

You know, if someone from miles away comes into the town or village, at risk of bringing disease to the community, we have a duty to politely ask them if they need to be here. Politely. Kindly. And we have a duty to listen to their answer, and to try to understand their reasons. To care about them. And if they shouldn’t be here, we have the right to politely remind them about the current situation and if needed to report them so that they can be returned home. But we don’t have the right to shout at them, to assume the worst of them, to take a photograph of them, to shame them in any way, to call them idiots or any other derogatory term. This is aggression, and it’s ugly.

This is not a good way for society to develop. It’s not good for anyone, either the person judging or the person being judged.

Think the best of people, talk to them, don’t point the finger and accuse.

I don’t want my grandchildren to grow up in a society which is all about judgmentalism, legalism, sanctimony. I don’t want them to grow into self-righteous vigilant adults, forever spying on others,  thinking the worst of people in order to bolster their own worth.

I want my grandchildren to grow up in society which is about kindness, love, care and responsibility so that they will become kind, loving, responsible adults.

The choice is ours, and this is the time when we have to make that choice. This is the time when ‘the rubber hits the road’.

This is the time, this Covid time, when we discover what sort of people we are.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

 

 

Old and bonkers

I’ve just made myself laugh aloud. There have been a few blips and hitches in our church routine today – the Sunday sermon has been delayed on youtube and all morning I’ve had emails pinging in, like some piece of atonal modern ‘music’. They were from people who weren’t quite sure if they were doing something wrong, or if the sermon wasn’t yet online. I don’t have any role in the church, but I have the church laptop and so I am the one who sends out emails. I soon found myself answering these perfectly reasonable questions quite abruptly. I had a stern word with myself and softened, but it’s hard to answer one person sweetly when another two messages are pinging in, queueing up.

As the morning slipped into lunchtime and there was still no sermon posted to listen to, I was asked to send out a church email to say that the service would now be scheduled for this evening. In reply someone thanked me for ‘all you do’, and then someone else thanked me for ‘the techno stuff’ and then someone else said “You do so much”

I gently demurred. They insisted.

“Listen up!” I wanted to shout, enough with the thanks. I do not load stuff onto youtube, I don’t record it, I don’t preach or teach, I don’t do anything except send out one or two emails a week. Others do the clever stuff, the hard work stuff, the inspirational encouraging stuff.

‘Pshaw!” is the response, “You do far more than that.” And I start to laugh with a trace of exasperation.

“No, seriously, I don’t.”

“You do so much.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, well, we know you do.”

I have never had a problem with false modesty. If I say I do nowt, then you can take it as true that I do nowt. It’s what I’m good at, doing nowt.

In mounting desperation to direct the thanks to where it should go, I answered one thanker with the simple phrase “I just send emails, erratically.”

I love that. It sums up my life. Next time I’m asked what I do, I will answer “I just send emails erratically.” That makes me laugh. Aged 71, what do I do?

Menial tasks, erratically.

The things I can do and can do well, no one wants. The things they want me to do, I do badly.

I was asked last week if I would return to nursing in this time of crisis. I replied that I’m 71, so according to many I shouldn’t even be allowed out of doors, it’s 40 years since I trod the wards, I’m overweight, with high blood pressure and sciatica and problems with my inner ear. But apart from that – step aside Dr Kildare, I’m coming through!

Life is funny, eh? You get to 71 and still nobody knows who the hell you are.

Nobody can step inside my brain to marvel with me at the gentle chaos, the vague ideas and fleeting thoughts, like so much flotsam and jetsam, all bumping against each other on a sluggish and uncertain tide. I’m as unknown now as I was when I came mewling into the world, a whole lifetime ago. Unknown. I wonder if you feel that way too? I think some will.

That’s a bit wonderful, don’t you think? We are all our own universe.

I have found in this last week a really deep and unexpected peace about who I am and the life I’ve led. I’m shabby and my life has been a mess. But I am also a precious jewel and my life has sparkled. Both are true. Both are held in perfect tension. And I don’t need correction or reassurance or sympathy or disagreement… it’s all water off a duck’s back. I have peace.

It’s not my peace. It has nothing to do with security in this world, or wealth, or health, or the absence of war, nothing to do with how able I am (or amn’t!) , the work I do, or the work I’ve done. It’s the peace of God and it really does beat all understanding.

It certainly beats mine.

How unexpected, but how human, to find such a depth of joy and peace as this strange pandemic creeps among us. How schizoid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think it was just the alpacas…..

Maybe it was the unusual sight of alpacas that sharpened my senses this morning, or maybe it was a short conversation with a friend in this time of isolation, or maybe I came  a little more alive with the familiar sensation of speed, the car swooping around bends, dipping on cambers, accelerating up hills…. but, whatever the cause, my senses were suddenly flooded, overwhelmed, with awe at the miracle of existence. Drowning in wonder. How has this come to be? Look at the world. Look.

It was an ordinary, routine trip to deliver shopping to friends and now  I was driving home, just a few familiar miles. As I crested a hill, the empty road rolling out before me like a ribbon, I was acutely conscious that this is all a gift from God. Everything. Every second, every breath, my hands on the steering wheel, the thrum of the engine, the ripple of breeze, the flowers at the roadside, the blossoms in the hedgerow, the sunlight, every blade of grass. All his gifts. Undeserved. What have I done to deserve any of this? Above me the sharp clear blue of His huge sky, the tumbling white cathedral clouds, the concept of space and time eternal, and a silent red kite soaring, sharp eyed. In the distance below us, the smokey grey of the sea, all around us trees in new leaf so startlingly green against the crystal dome of sky that I lost my breath, senses sated. Colours so rich, the light so vibrant, that I couldn’t absorb it all.  I had to stop.

To give God back that moment.  The car creaking and sighing, ticking, as the engine cooled. Windows open for birdsong.

Drunk with that strange meld of deep sorrow for so much grief and death, and yet surging, defiant joy that God is good. That all He gives is good and He reigns supreme. And that He is love. A defiant knowledge. Exulting.

Sometimes, only by His gifting, we catch a little glimpse of God, and of heaven. We can’t schedule it, book a zoom meeting, reserve some small portion of our day for ecstasy. It comes at the strangest times; at three o clock in the morning after a dream of terror, in the middle of the day on a beautiful beach, as we reach for a loaf of bread in a busy shop, as we drive home full of drifting thoughts of His love and forgiveness, and sometimes it comes when we recognise how small we are and how great He is.

The red kite and me.  Arrested in time, sharing that moment, His creatures.

His world, His love, His timing. His gift. Thank you. Even the desire to say thank you, His gift. Everything is His. Everything. Every letter on this screen, every desire to worship, every tear and every moment of love and surrender. All His.

IMG_1001.jpeg

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100: 1-5

 

PS: No filter on that photo. As God made it.

 

May You Live In Interesting Times

There’s an old Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.”

You can’t get much more interesting than the time we’re in right now. We’re ‘interested’ in finding out how long the lock-down will last, how many people will die, how many will be infected again when they’ve already had it and recovered, how many will survive and with what post-infection effects, what will the new normal look like in a year’s time, will there be a vaccine, will we ever eradicate it like smallpox, will we bring it under control like TB, will it mutate into a less fatal pathogen, will it come back again and again, year after year? And will ingesting a gallon of bleach cure us?  (I’m joking. Don’t try this at home, boys and girls) Will the government survive, will the economy ever recover, how many businesses have already gone bust, how many more will follow? When can we hug again, or shake hands, or kiss?

Has there ever been such a time of uncertainty? Yes. There bloomin’ well has. How about when Adam and Eve found themselves outside paradise,  fearful and inexperienced? And the wandering Israelites as they were captured and killed or enslaved? They must have been terrified about their future, completely helpless in the face of overwhelming power, full of uncertainty. And the apostles, bewildered by the death of their Master, hiding behind  locked doors, afraid to go out….the future bleak and terrifying.

But I think that uncertainty comes as a shock for us because we have lived for so long as contented cats, purring on our velvet cushions. The people of the Bible always lived in interesting times, when life was hard and short and cruel and they expected only danger and hardship, while we have become complacent. And how. The rest of the world could face disease and poverty and war, babies dying at birth, children starving, genocide and brutality… but it was all always ‘over there’. We were secure.  Western. First world. Safe. Foolish.

Tonight many of us don’t feel even a tiny bit safe.  How deep did our security go?

This is from an article in the Times today and it really dragged me down for, ooh, at least half an hour. The writer is Janice Turner, considering the future of lockdown:

An enforced elderly lockdown, the former home secretary Lord Blunkett worries, may confuse the public. Could a measure designed for the old’s protection be misconstrued as protecting the public from the old, leading to anger if they’re seen out?

Certainly ageism, the last permissible prejudice, is never far away. Remain-ultras liked to gloat that Brexiteers were dying off, and good riddance, too. In Australia, coronavirus is called the “Boomer Remover”: in the US, gun-toting Trumpian back-to-workers talk of “sacrificing the weak”. You can foresee young workers, struggling with unemployment and poverty, lashing out: “We lost everything protecting you — go home!” Some suggest over-70s should live freely only if they sign away rights to ICU care if they get ill.

Going a bit OTT? Well, on Thursday morning, at ten past seven, as I came off the beach I was yelled at by a man of about, I would think, 50. Fit, very muscular, with a bull terrier on a tight leash, and a trekking pole in the other hand, he saw that I’d driven there, just a mile or so away from my home and he was furious. He yelled at me that I am disgusting, I should be indoors, and then he added something about England. I didn’t hear what he had to say about England, because he was walking away, but he was very Welsh so I don’t imagine it was a tribute to all things English. Should I have told him that I have had sciatica for 2 years and have been told not to tackle hills or stairs and I live – without a garden – on a hill? I didn’t even try because he was too furious to listen, too full of hatred and foaming spittle and I was just glad that the social distancing meant he did it all from several feet away. Why his fear and hatred boiled over just then I have no idea, I was nowhere near him, there was no one else on the beach, there was no danger. I discovered today, talking to a fellow dog walker, a man, that earlier that same day my shouty bloke had passed him and his wife as they were getting into their car, parked near mine … and shouty man hadn’t said a word. Bullies go for the people who are alone and older than themselves and, sometimes, women.

And that’s not an isolated case. Just the day before, another woman, a bit younger than me, was walking her dogs through the village and a man in a car (not the same man) wound his window down and yelled at her repeatedly to ‘go home.’ He wasn’t interested in the fact that she lives here, she is already at home.

So, will the future with all those unanswered questions about the virus, lead to even more vigilante hatred against those who are judged to be most vulnerable to infection? Will we, as Janice posits, become victims of anger if we’re seen out and about, and we’re over 70? Or will it be 65? Or 60? Will we wear stars on our coats? Are the old to be the scapegoats for an indiscriminate virus?

Interesting times. I’m not afraid of the virus. I’m not afraid of dying. I’m a bit afraid of infecting others, and I’m conscious that people are dying afraid and alone and unsaved. Sad times. And I’m quite wary of shouty angry men and the slippery slope to vigilanteism. Fear makes people angry and cruel. It’s not how I imagined seeing out my days.

Shouty man has unsettled me and some thoughts today have been dark. But fleeting.  They’ll come back, of course they will. If I see shouty man again they may surface (what if he slashes my tyres? hits the dogs?) BUT this is when we discover how deeply we trust in God. A few months ago when I surrendered my life each morning to Jesus, it was a known life I was surrendering. Or it was a life I foolishly thought I knew. Now, I know that I am on the edge, as we all are, of a cliff , in swirling mist so deep we don’t know which way to step. But step we must because life goes on, until we are called home.

Do I trust God with my life in lockdown and during this pandemic? I do. I really do. Do I know that He will guide my feet? I do. And when I slip and begin to fret, I know where to turn. To my loving, living, present God.

Yesterday I was delivering shopping to lock-ins so I didn’t go down to the beach but I’ll whisper a little secret – come closer – I was sort of whistling in the wind, telling myself that I didn’t go down there because of the shopping and a busy morning, but secretly, between you and me and God, I was afraid to. Shouty man had done for me.

Even as I told myself that he hadn’t scared me at all, I knew it was a lie. He’d proper undone me.

But last night I found myself studying Hebrews and it took me to Isaiah, and a verse about the uselessness of man’s works….  and that reminded me of a catechism answer drummed into me as a child, an answer I still remember and love , love LOVE to recite….  all about the new covenant of Christ’s blood…. the mystery of faith…. and so this morning as I woke up I remembered that I stand in the protection of Jesus, washed in His blood, claimed by Him…. and that His protection is complete and all I need. Desperately dependant on Him and Him alone.

So this morning I was back on that beach.

And here it is, just for you, Poppit Beach at 7.05 when God ruled my world. Not Covid. And not shouty man either.

IMG_1111.JPGFear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
you will be seated in the high place. Proverbs 29:25 (TPT) 

 

 

 

 

 

I appreciate you (shush, don’t tell anyone)

 

Today, because lamb joints were  half price after our strange lockdown Easter, I’m roasting some lamb. It’s ages since I cooked a joint of any kind and it felt almost ceremonial as I rubbed the meat with salt, herbs and oil and left it at room temperature to breathe… it felt like a proper old fashioned Sunday and I felt like a proper old-fashioned huss’iff.

My husband would have enjoyed this one-week-late Easter feast but I know he would have said, as I served up the three veg and the roasties and the gravy and the Yorkshire pud, “Oh, not sausage and mash?” He could be really really annoying.  If he hadn’t died naturally, I might have been driven to kill him.

In that strange way that our thoughts wander off-piste, I started thinking about appreciation, how we show it, how encouraging it is, when it can be a bit patronising, when it’s simply flattery and pointless….. and I realised that I am not good at giving encouragement, and many others are just as bad. There are things I do in everyday life that seem to be done in a vacuum, with no response from anyone, so that I never know if they need to be done differently, or ditched completely.  Because there’s no response at all, and I see no results, I don’t know how to improve and grow and it’s easy to lose heart and kick it all in the bin. I have no idea if what I’m doing annoys people, or if these small chores are even needed. Not really. What a waste of time if they’re actually unwelcome or even irritating. I could use the time some other way – take up hang-gliding or bog snorkelling. And then I thought about these blogs;

I don’t have millions of readers, and I don’t want millions. I don’t even have hundreds. I don’t ‘do’ media platforms, or advertise my blogs, or even tell people how to find them. I just write them. Those who come, come, and that’s fair enough. Some regulars will respond but it’s always the same four  people (you know if it’s you). Most leave no comment at all, add nothing, criticise nothing, no feed-back, zilch, vanish without a trace. That’s OK, it’s who they are, and I have no argument with them but it means that from time to time I feel self-conscious about prattling on to an empty room. But I love writing and it’s how I marshal my thoughts so I always come back, even when I’m wondering if there’s any point.

At that very minute, right then, as I put the lamb into the oven, with my head full of ‘It’s all completely pointless and I’m going to jack it in’ thoughts, an email pinged in. It was from friends in Holland, a kindly Sunday message,  and in it they said ” Keep writing, Lucy. We read your blog every time it drops into our email box. We are hungry to read it.”

Do you know, that gave me such a lift!  I’m one of those awkward writers who has never ever read reviews, ever. Good or bad, I simply don’t read them. From the very beginning of my writing career I understood that writing isn’t about approval or fame or money. It’s about writing. My stepmother used to ring me up, trying to read my reviews to me and I could never quite get her to understand that I didn’t write for reviewers. One incident that I remember so clearly, was when she rang me up to say that a well known British critic, Peter Paterson,  who really hated my work, had given me a good review. I said I didn’t want to hear it, she insisted.  I said I didn’t want to hear it and she said “But it’s good“.  I said I didn’t want to hear it and she said “But he’s praising you!” and I said… anyway, she spoke over me, in the way that sometimes happens in phone calls and she said “Listen, listen, Peter Paterson says “This is a small step up from Lucy Gannon’s usual lack-lustre offerings.”

Hahahaha. I think maybe she did it on purpose.

And when they made a South Bank Show about me and AA Gill gave me only a very reluctant ‘almost-good’ review, my pals were furious but I was delighted. I loved the late AA Gill, I miss him, his wit and insight, and it was a privilege to be even in his consciousness.

I don’t need or want praise, it’s crap. It’s not a good reason to do anything. Praise is empty and belongs only to God.  But there’s a huge difference between praise and appreciation, and today Wendy and Henk showed appreciation, and I am so grateful. Maybe I’ll keep keeping on for a bit longer.

And they sent me a great pic of my favourite animal, the hare.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, Hebrews 10:24

 

 

What do you want to write?

I sent this to a friend today. It made me smile, so I’m sending it to you.

I want to write

all I know and all I have experienced

and all I have dreamed,

and present it to the world,

so that the world says

“Ahhhh…. That’s what life is about.”

and

“Now we see.”

and

“That makes sense”

I want to hold out on my open palm, tragedy and love, courage and cruelty and hope,

saying

“Look! Look who you are! This is you. You! You!  No wonder God loves you so.”

So the world will be amazed at the rich and teeming, chaotic and bleeding

precious

perished

world in my hand,

and recognise the God who made it all,

who loves it all,

who pities and cherishes in equal measure.

I want to write the world,

the world He loves,

and I want the world to see.

To see.

To see.

And when I’ve done all that, I’ll have a bacon sandwich.

I wonder, I wonder…

I wonder what your lives are like just now? Of all the people I know, my life should be least affected by this social distancing thing. I live alone (usually, although my granddaughter is with me just now), I work from home, I walk alone, eat alone, I rarely go out, most of my conversation is with my dogs… life is pretty well disciplined and routine…  lockdown will be the same old, same old, or so you might think. But no, life seems to have morphed into something strange and rather refreshing, a life of lassitude and calm, where the clock is meaningless and Thursday creeps up on me, when bedtime is late and mornings are all over the place…… when poetry books are dusted off and enjoyed, and there’s time to read again a book I loved last year…. when we eat lunch at 3.15 one day and 11.20 the next, when there’s no need to eat dinner at all because there is no dinner time, when the day is filled with… being busy and doing nothing.

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Tomorrow we’re having a virtual curry night with friends.  That’s new. Today I sat on the wall, on the pavement, as cars and joggers and walkers passed by. That’s new. I intended  to read my book but people just love to chat, and so I put the book down and we chatted. Why not? That’s new. And then I came into the cool of the house (these old church buildings are fabulously cool in the summer, warm in the winter) and guess what! I wrote a pitch document that wasn’t in my head yesterday! That’s new!

I’ve discovered today that groundhogs are real, not mythical. And an American friend has discovered, through my instagram, that milkmen are real, not mythical. In the roadside verge I’ve found sweet cow parsley, bluebells, lady’s shoe trefoil, primroses and some other wild flowers I don’t know the names of, all growing in riotous abundance. I’ve listened to blackbirds and thrushes and a tiny fat wren (she was there yesterday too) while an irritable woodpecker sent his objections across the valley and over the river to us.

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And I’ve read again something wonderful:

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.

I am going to add something to that;

Your lockdown days are never so isolated that you are apart from God’s grace. 

I know that there will be days when it feels as if we are truly alone, more insignificant that the microscopic virus we are hiding from. There will be days when we feel separated from not just the world but from God. We’re human. Our emotions will try to whisper sadness and misery to us. Take no flipping notice! Banish them blues. Turn to God. He’s the one who promises “Call to me and I will answer you.” He’s the one who stands at the the door and knocks.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, from my funny little home in Wales, here’s something from God:

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love.  There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!

Romans 8:38&39 (The Passion Translation) 

And because I love both translations, here’s the NIV version:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Covid19 can do many things to us, but it will never separate us from the love and the grace of God.

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Courage

You may not know about Eyam. Well, here’s the true history of that busy and prosperous village in Derbyshire, not far from Chatsworth House:

Eyam has become known as ‘the plague village’ and its story is one of heroism and selflessness, almost beyond belief, putting our recent troubles with Covid 19 into perspective;

In 1665  a bale of cloth was sent from London to Eyam. Nothing unusual in that, except that in the damp folds of cloth there was a flea from plague ridden London.  A tailor, George Viccars, hung the cloth out to air and so the flea found a new host and George became the first of the plague’s victims in the village.

In the next three months 42 villagers died and by the spring of 1666, the remaining villagers were planning to flee from the village but the vicar, William Mompesson, begged them to stay where they were, so that they wouldn’t spread the disease to the population of Sheffield and to the mill towns, quarries and the many industries in the area.

Mompesson begged his parishioners to go into lock-down,  sealing the village off completely, and the Earl of Devonshire, who lived nearby at Chatsworth, promised to send in food and supplies. The vicar, at first meeting anger and opposition in all the fear, vowed that he would stay with them, in the village , and face whatever they faced. Slowly and surely he won them over.

Here’s an excerpt from the  BBC website about the village:

Dr Michael Sweet, a wildlife disease specialist at the University of Derby, said: “The decision to quarantine the village meant that human-to-human contact, especially with those outside of the village was basically eliminated which would have certainly significantly reduced the potential of the spread of the pathogen.

“Without the restraint of the villagers many more people, especially from neighbouring villages, would have more than likely have succumbed to the disease. The weather was remarkably hot that summer, which meant the fleas were more active, and the pestilence spread unchecked throughout the village.

Despite this, hardly anyone broke the cordon; even those who were reluctant to stay saw it through. The same month, Elizabeth Hancock buried six of her children and her husband close to the family farm. They had all perished in the space of just eight days

Mrs Plant, who is a direct descendant of Margaret Blackwell, one of the few villagers to have survived the plague, said: “It must have been terrifying, but every single family would have had that strong belief in God, and would not have feared death.”

During the outbreak, Eyam’s mortality rate was higher than that suffered by the citizens of London as a result of the plague. In just over a year, 260 of the village’s inhabitants, from no fewer than 76 different families, had died. 

Mompesson knew his actions, and the courage of his parishioners, had probably saved thousands more.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habbakuk 3: 17&18