Friday, May 22, 2015

A missionary to the natives

'Have you ever done mission work?'
'Only in Swansea.'

I don't think that was considered the right answer by the person asking me. I suspect mission work for them meant abroad, preaching to the natives.

At the end of the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus tells his followers to go and make disciples of all nations. He doesn't pick out a few of his followers for this task but addresses them all and I believe his words are still relevant today and for all of us wherever we are.

In our lives we have the opportunity to set an example. By the way we treat others, talk to them, behave with them: this is surely everyday ordinary mission work. As Francis of Assisi is alleged to have said, 'Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.'

Sadly I am very aware of how often I fail to follow Jesus' lead, and I let him and those around me down. But that doesn't stop me trying.

Gay baking

There's been a lot of fuss in the media recently after a Christian-owned bakery was found guilty of discrimination by refusing to make a cake with a message in support of gay marriage. It's generally been greeted as a good result but I'm not sure.

I am sometimes asked to make cakes. If someone asked me to make a cake for a rally demanding the legalisation of fox-hunting I'd say, 'I'm sorry; I don't agree with that. Would you mind asking someone else to make your cake?' I can't imagine that a reasonable person would have objected to that.

Now I realise I'm not in business professionally but, when the bakery refused, wouldn't the sensible thing have been for the customer to have said, 'Fine, I'll take my money elsewhere.'

I believe the customer in this case was an activist so I can't help thinking that this was, if not a set-up, then at least a situation that was profited from.

Incidentally if any of my gay friends asked me to make a wedding cake I would say, 'Are you sure? I'm not very good!' Then if they insisted I'd say, 'I'd be delighted and honoured.'

Monday, May 18, 2015

Say No to Plastic!

As many of you know, Younger Son and Nuora live 9 months of the year in the Perhentian Islands, as Blue Temple Conservation, working with local communities to raise awareness of marine issues and create sustainable lifestyles.

One of the tasks they regularly undertake is beach clean-ups. 
Here YS is helped by their next-door-neighbour to gather some of the many plastic bottles and bags washed up or dumped on the beautiful south sea island shore. Horrified by the amount of plastic rubbish they see they've set up their own campaign, Say No to Plastic.

What a good idea, I thought. I can do that too and encourage others as well. Then I looked around my bathroom - where I was when I had this brilliant idea. At the shampoo, hair conditioner, shower gel and even soap in plastic bottles. Then I thought about the laundry room (that's a posh term for a shed). All my washing powder and fabric conditioner comes in plastic bottles as do most other things around the house. I'd never really thought about how much plastic we use every day.

How can I cut that down?! 

I asked Younger Son who explained that he didn't mean every plastic container: that would be a ginormous if not impossible job. He meant plastic water bottles and plastic bags, the ones I put fruit in when I go to the supermarket for instance. 'Cut down on the ones you don't really need,' he said.

That's a bit more manageable. I could try and do that. I already re-use my plastic shopping carrier bags along with the non-plastic ones. (For some years we've been charged 5p a carrier bag in Wales. It took a while to remember to take bags with me but it's second nature now.) And I don't need to put my fruit and veg in bags - and I should stop buying them ready-bagged.

Estimates suggest that each year between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed, amounting to approximately one million plastic bags per minute. Further, on average, a person will use a plastic bag for only 12 minutes. 

The damage that plastic does to the oceans and the life therein is widespread and long-lasting. It wouldn't take much effort on my part to do my little bit to help. 

One other thing: YS explained that squirty soap contains micro-beads to help make it more lathery. Micro-beads are very bad for the oceans!* I've only recently swapped over to squirty soap instead of bars of soap so I'll have to revert. (Have you notice the sparsity of bars of soap in shops?)

And now for something that can be done with rubbish!
Go creative!

Could you Say No to Plastic?

* An aside: an article published last week in National Geographic says that the tiny metal particles in sun screen may harm marine creatures by damaging their defence mechanisms that protect their embryos. The micro metal particles are also used in toothpaste and cosmetics. 

Mrs Hemingway used to be king until the colour shifted

I've just finished reading We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster. A little difficult to get into initially because of the way it's written and, I confess, I am only guessing what some of it meant - I'm not making this sound very appealing, am I? - but well worth it. Apart from the end. I won't tell you what the end is but it's not happy.

That's the second book on the trot that hasn't had a happy ending and the one I'm reading now, Shifting Colours by Fiona Sussman,  is excellent but sad, although I do have hopes for a happy ending. I am a glutton for punishment. 

But I'd decided I'd give the light easy-read romantic novels a break and try some lesser-known authors and styles of writing. 

Also read Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood recently. I know very little about Ernest and the book didn't tell me any more except I suppose that he must have been attractive to women as he had four wives. I liked Hadley, the first one, best.

I am rubbish at writing book reviews so I'll settle for a star system.
We Used to Be Kings 4*
Shifting Colours (although I've not finished it yet) 5*
Mrs Hemingway 3*

Christianity for the Confused

I think I shall call my next book 'Christianity for the Confused.'

Then again the vehemence with which some Christians argue for or against particular biblical principles/theological theories makes me think I wouldn't be able to cope with the flak so perhaps I won't.

The thing is that Christianity is confusing. Or maybe it's the bible that's confusing: it quite often contradicts itself. Or appears to. Or it says things that make me say, 'What?' in response to which Other Wiser People Than I explain it by saying, 'Well, that's not really what it means; you have to look at the bigger picture/the cultural relevance/what Dr EvenWiserMan says about it in his highly acclaimed book, What the Bible Means.

But is it meant to be that difficult? 

Jesus spoke mostly to fairly simple people and lots of them seemed to get it from his words and his actions. (Having said that he did tell some complicated parables that he had to explain to the disciples but the explanation is included in the bible so we can understand today.)

I have a simple faith but when I've defended this to OWPTI by quoting Jesus words, 'unless you become like little children', they've come back at me with Paul's words, 'stop thinking like children.' See what I mean? It contradicts itself.

So then I was thinking: what if we only had the gospels?

After all it was Man who decided which books would go in the New Testament. According to the Bible Society, in the middle of the 2nd century AD, groups on the fringe of the Christian movement started to come up with their own gospels and letters. This forced the mainstream Church to define which works were part of the New Testament; they did this in the Council of Carthage at the end of the 3rd century AD.

Nothing new under the sun and even today now and again you'll hear reports of newly-discovered scrolls that are proclaimed as being So'n'So's Gospel and usually in Daily Mail style make grandiose claims that they disprove that a) Jesus died; b) it was Judas who betrayed him; c) it was an accident that killed Diana.

Also the Roman Catholic and Anglican bibles are different: the RC bible has more books in the NT.

So what if we only had the gospels? And our knowledge of our faith were based simply on the words and actions of Christ without any of the letters from Paul or other disciples. What difference would that make? Not a subject for a hasty blog post.

Although that's quite a good title for a book: What if we only had the gospels?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

5 items or ...?

Went to town today to buy a present for a friend but was distracted by bathing costumes. I had some time to spare so I decided I'd try one on. A very pretty flowery red one with a little frill around the bottom.

I am convinced they would sell more clothes if the lighting in changing rooms was better, by which I mean less bright obviously. I liked the costume a lot especially as it boasted tummy and hip control. Sadly it was no match for my tummy and hips.

I didn't really need a new bathing costume anyway. 

On the other hand kudos to Sainsburys. In their newly-refurbished entrance bit they have a sign saying, '5 items or fewer.' I was so pleased to see fewer instead of less I would have taken a photo if I'd had my camera.

Sainsburys also has bee hotels at 100 of its stores. I knew there were good reasons I shopped there.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thank you for the invitation but who are you?

On Wednesday we received an invitation to a wedding evening reception. That was very lovely - except we had no idea who the bride and groom were.

With a bit of Sherlock masterminding we found the happy couple on Facebook but still didn't recognise them. Nor did we know any of their friends. 

A dilemma: should we turn down the invite; accept and hope for the best; or come clean? It seemed rather rude to say thank you but who are you? And the reception was in a venue that undeniably did good food.

The invite came through the post so whoever they were they had our address but they hadn't used our surname so could we be the wrong couple? But even so, we must be in someone's address book.

I put it off for 2 days before replying and suggesting that possibly the invite had come to us by mistake.

Turns out it hadn't. The groom's mother is one of my oldest (in that we've been friends since childhood) friends. 

How was I to know?!

What I have that Sean doesn't and it's not just boobs

But we've survived.

Dentist and circuit training Monday, Social Services meeting Tuesday, speaking to a women's meeting on Wednesday, and circuits and leading bible study on Thursday. Add to that unexpectedly leading Zac's on Tuesday evening, visiting uncle at home and uncle's friend (still in hospital after having cardiac arrest and a pacemaker fitted - apparently she can't hold her mobile phone on the side that has the pacemaker and she must run through security gates at airports) and you begin to get the picture. Not to mention having to keep a close eye on new Granddaughter.

Whoever said that you can take it easy when you retire?

Sean was suffering with concussion after having come between a charging rhino and a group of grey-haired missionary ladies. (No, not really but being bashed by a van door doesn't sound so exciting.) The result was that he wasn't able to lead on Tuesday so I stepped in. 

When I lead the study on Tuesdays I have something that Sean and Steve don't have and it's not just boobs. I have a 2-year-old clambering over me. As an aside, little boys seem to develop a fascination with breasts early on, be it poking them or peering down t-shirts. GrandSon2 is the same: he pokes me and giggles, 'Boobs.'

Anyway, as it was last minute Sean suggested winging it but I'm not good at that so I re-used one of the studies we've already done in our women's group. It went well with only a minor near riot. And Chrissy liked her birthday cake.

I'd forgotten I was booked to talk about Zac's on Wednesday until I received a reminder email last weekend. Fortunately I still had the notes from the last talk I gave so only needed to go through those and make some new memory cards. Unfortunately I'd not seen the TED talk about how to give an effective talk at that point or I would definitely have waved my arms around some more. One lady with an encouraging smile who laughed at the right times gave me confidence; the rest I ignored.

Then there were nine of us for the women's group on Thursday. We were considering the idea of God as father and that naturally led to discussion about our own experiences of fathers and mothers. Amazing in such a small group that there was such diversity. It's a lovely group of like-minded imperfect people. Spectacularly like-minded in fact.

At the end I prayed and said, 'because of the wonderful things you do,' then had to quickly say, 'amen' as I was about to giggle as my brain had tripped off to the Land of Oz. I apologised and said I'd been thinking of a silly song and Tamsin said, 'The Wizard of Oz?' Yes, scarily like-minded.

P.S. I thought of another thing that Sean and Steve don't have when leading bible study: people grinning at me (in a 'supportive' kind of way!) when they realise I have lost even any pretence of control.

Monday, May 11, 2015

In which George outmanoeuvres me

'I'm sorry, George,' I say, 'but I've come to the conclusion that the only way I'm going to have a clean house is by getting rid of you.'
George ponders this for a moment then says, 'May I put forward an alternative solution?'
'Of course. I am not one to deprive you of your human rights.'
'Huh hm, canine,' he coughs.
'Of course, I mean canine rights.'
'It is my belief,' he says, 'that there is only one answer to the how-to-get-a-clean-house question: you have to go.'
'Me? I don't create the dirt you do!'
He shakes his paw. 'No, no, I'm not suggesting that you do.'
'What then?'
'It is my suggestion that we exchange you for a woman who likes to clean.'
'Oh,' I hold my hand to my heart. 'Cut me to the quick why don't you?'
'And do you think my skin is impenetrable to your jibes?'
We both pause and think. Eventually I speak.
'Let's agree to disagree and, tell you what: if you don't tell Husband your idea, I won't tell him mine.'
We shake on it.

And I go back to cleaning.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Just waiting for a call from the Pope

I am feeling so saintly. Having washed and ironed for both my Daughter and uncle I am busy polishing my halo while I wait for the phone call from the Pope that is sure to come any minute now.

But I wrote the post about my busy week not for sainthood - although if you're reading this, your Popeship -  but partly because a week like that doesn't happen often (thank heavens) and partly to remind myself that I achieve far more when I am under pressure than I do normally.

Most days when I have nothing special in mind I will dilly dally and waste time on the computer meaning I get to the end of the day and am annoyed with myself for not having done anything from the to-do list that is constantly in my head.

This last week wasn't like that though. Admittedly there was less achieving and more running around in circles but I could go to my bed each night feeling satisfied that I'd earned a good rest. Which probably says something about my upbringing and age.

My gran didn't have a washing machine or even a fridge. She did have a coal fire that needed frequent attention and a collection of brass that she kept sparkling clean. She never had a dilly dally sort of day so if she rewarded herself with a nightly glass of beer in the pub - or a scotch if someone else was buying - who can blame her?

The Park Inn in Mumbles with landlord Ronnie Jenkins and several members of my family at the bar.
At the front from right: Auntie Eva, Uncle Bun, my gran, 2 unknown ladies (possibly the cousins from Crewe), Auntie Connie.
Behind: Auntie Gay singing enthusiastically, Auntie Evelyn (not really my auntie) and my grandfather.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Don't panic, Captain Mainwaring!

My great-aunt phoned me today. I said I'd call her back when I'd spoken to my uncle. Minutes later I phoned her and there was no reply.

I decided she must have gone to the toilet and hung up.

A little later I call again: no reply. Maybe she is in the kitchen. She is nearly 95 after all and can't move very fast.

Later on I call and still no reply. I am beginning to worry now but I am in the middle of making a cake so decide to give it one more go a bit later.

When she still doesn't answer I give Husband instructions as to what to do with the cake when the pinger goes and drive down to Mumbles to check up on her. After the week I've had I fully anticipate another hospital trip. Maybe Fate felt I was suffering from hospital deprivation not having been in one for more than 24 hours.

Great-aunt is fine. The phone hasn't rung all afternoon she says. It isn't off the hook and is making the right noise when she picks it up to check. I tell her I'd imagined her lying on the floor unable to move. She shows me the emergency button she always carries with her so she can call help.

I should have realised. She has a daughter-in-law and grandchildren living close by; they would have made sure she could get help in an emergency. 

Must switch off 'whatever-can-go-wrong-is-going-to-go-wrong' button in head and ... breathe.

Why did no-one warn me about Jemima Puddleduck?

I have a confession. The only Beatrix Potter story I read as a child was The Tale of Mrs Tiggy Winkle, a delightful story about a hedgehog who takes in washing. I still have my original book albeit slightly worn, falling apart and scribbled on - and as I discovered last night missing two pages - and last Friday when the grandchildren stayed I read it to GrandDaughter1.

She was charmed by it and wanted so much to believe that it was true. (I still suspect it is true and that there is a hedgehog who does the ironing for all the other little woodland creatures, for, as Beatrix Potter herself asks, how else did Lucie find her pocket-handkerchiefs?)

Last night, when they slept over, she wanted it read again and when I'd finished, as GrandSon2 hadn't quite fallen asleep, I picked up The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck, a book I think I must have found in a charity shop. GrandDaughter1 quickly identified the foxy gentleman reading a newspaper and I was relieved when Kep, the collie, appeared and saved the day. Relieved that is until the two fox-hounds he'd brought in to help him ate Jemima's eggs!

Even the slightly happier ending was spoiled because only four of her next lot of eggs hatched because she wasn't very good at sitting on them! 

Really, why didn't someone warn me? 

* * * * * * * * *

This afternoon I finished reading The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton.Based on the camel library that was set up to take books - and literacy - to outlying African villages, it's a fictional tale of what happens when two of the books go missing. With wonderful descriptions of the customs and traditions retained by nomadic tribes as well as beautifully drawn characters it is a delight.

I do recommend it even though I am not happy with the ending. Then again I have still not come to terms with the fact that Jo didn't marry Laurie in Little Women.