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  • Trusted Old Friends

    A trusted, old friend is very special -someone who knows you really well yet still loves you; someone who you can rant and rave at, who takes it and then makes sense of what ever it was that wound you up in the first place...  Can books be old, trusted friends?  I'd like to think they can.

    The book - or letter - of James is one my favouritest (most favourite) parts of the Bible, and I like to think it's an old friend.  It talks an awful lot of sense, has its own humour and if the traditional assertion that Jesus' kid brother wrote it is right, well then it must be pretty darned fine.  And, as it's a good friend, I got cross with it last night.

    My Bible notes had just led me through a very disappointing exploration of Genesis 1-11 and I was really looking forward to spending some time with my old friend James.

    Then he said this...


    My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.


    And I was not amused.  For some of my congregation life is frankly, 'pants' at the moment.  In fact, it is worse than 'pants' it is more like 'excrement' though they are showing remarkable decorum in how they deal with it.  "Consider it nothing but joy" my foot!  I certainly had a good rant about that one.

    Calmly James waited, and then said,


    If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.  But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.


    It seemed as if he was saying, 'Catriona, this is pants, you are quite right, but what you need here is Godly wisdom, so ask for it, and trust that God will give it to you.'

    Too often I have heard passages like this one used to bludgeon people whose prayers for healing or deliverance from trial appear to go unanswered, but that isn't what James says, he says we must trust when we ask for wisdom within the situation.  As I calmed down a bit, other verses surfaced in my mind, verses that speak of joy and sorrow, of God present in the hard places not lifting people out of them, of the kind of solid, sensible, real theology I associate with this trusted old friend.

    To read what James says when life is going well is one thing, to read it when things get tough is another.  I'm not sure I'll ever view 'suffering' or 'trials' as 'nothing but pure joy' but the potential to grow in wisdom and grace within such circumstances is a helpful perspective.  I'm hoping we won't have another set to tonight, but then as a true friend, I guess James will just shrug and let me rant a bit...

  • Improper Porridge

    (Or however one may choose to spell said foodstuff)

    Shock horror!  Yesterday I ran out of porridge oats (I have some lovely jumbo ones for flapjack but they don't seem to 'work' for porridge) so nipped to the local convenience store to get some.  All they had was the Oat So Simple lazy person's variety aimed at microwaving your porridge - sacrilege!  However, there were instructions for proper stove-top cooking so I followed them and made a bowlful of just about passable porridge.

    What fascinated me was the marketing that allows a firm to put 1/3 cup portions of porridge oats in sealed paper sachets and then put ten in a box and sell it for far more than a box of the identical oats would cost (check the ingredients list!) and then give different cooking instructions for the same stuff.  According to the Quaker Oats box, you add the oats to cold liquid, bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes (authentic Gorton porridge as made by my Glasgow trained mother!); according to the cheats porridge, you boil the milk, add the oats and simmer for 2 minutes.  Intruiguing.

    Anyway, for the record, Gorton porridge is dead easy - one part oats, three parts liquid (water, milk or a mixture, to taste; I use skimmed milk), put in a pan, bring to the boil stirring all the time, simmer for 4-5 minutes and serve immediately.  I like it as it is, but you can add salt, sugar, golden syrup or milk, or anything else that appeals.

    Now over to the real Scots for the finest porridge recipes... and of course a theology of porridge (and please no one quote that grace about cornflakes!).

  • Eyewitnesses and Accuracy?

    Yesterday I went to visit a family to discuss funeral arrangements for their elderly, widowed, aunt, who had vague connections with our church.  Trying to piece together her life story was far from easy as they really didn't know much at all about her - indeed they'd only discovered where she was born after her death.  They were pretty confident, however, that she'd been a land girl in the Second World War and thought, but were not sure, that she'd married in our church.   Returning home I hunted through our marriage records and found hers - and that she was a munitions worker; further her husband held a far lower naval rank than family lore dictates.

    So much for theories that eyewitnesses unto the third generation are dependable; here we haven't even managed one with any degree of accuracy.  Of course, in the funeral I will not be debunking family myth, though may use some careful words to avoid belying the recorded facts.

    A question that seems to arise from this is about the accuracy of any secondary sources, oral or written.  It is not that they are inauthentic or untrustworthy (in the sense of deliberately misleading) but that they perpetuate and almost undoubtedly extend inaccuracies.  I don't for one moment imagine that this family set out to deceive in the way they told and developed their family history, though as 'fishermen's tales' show us, the temptation to a little 'embroidery' is great.  (Did you ever see a carp with lazy daisy along its side?  I mix my metaphors as ever).

    If, even with careful and engaged transmission, facts - or at least details - become distorted and meaning infused, how much more so when there is greater distance and less immediacy or commitment?

    I will tell "Aunty's" story with a clear aim - to affirm and celebrate a life lived quietly in a semi-rural backwater.  It won't be an accurate account of events in her life, for few were recalled, but it will hopefully demonstrate that it had meaning, both for those who knew and loved her, and within the whole, holy, story of God's creation.

  • Children's Questions... Number 3,825,497

    At least.

    Last night the Girls' Brigade were beginning a project on 'listening' - an interesting topic for around twenty little girls who've been cooped all day - and all the last week - because it's been too wet to go outside to play at school.  The leader who was organising the session had some good activities and they'd had some fun.  Then she came to do her closing prayer - always rather 'horizontal' - such delights as 'Lord Jesus, please help us to remember it is church parade on Sunday' occur quite regularly.  Last night it was along the lines of 'please help us not to fidget or turn around when we're talking to you.'

    After the prayers I was cast in ogre role issuing the telling off for messing about in prayers, and commented that it was very rude to mess about when we're praying because God is listening.  Quick as a flash one six year-old asked "how does God hear?"

    One totally naff answer followed "God has very good hearing"

    Any better suggestions?!

  • Levity of Love

    I came across this (unnamed) poem on a blog I visited today, and it seems to say a lot...


    No revolution will come in time

    To alter this man's life

    Except the one surprise

    Of being loved.

    He has no interest in Civil Rights

    New marxisim


    Or any kind if sex.

    He has only twelve more hours to live

    So never mind about

    A cure for smoking, cancer, leprosy,

    Or osteo arthritis.

    Over this dead loss to society

    Pour your precious ointment,

    Call the bluff

    And laugh at the

    Fat and clock faced gravity

    Of our economy.

    You wash the feet that

    Will not walk tomorrow.

    Come levity of love,

    Show him, show me

    In this last step of time

    Eternity, leaping and capering.

    Sydney Carter, dedicated to Mother Theresa, quoted in Sheila Cassidy Good Friday People,  p 53-4


    To Carter it speaks of Mother Theresa, to Cassidy it speaks of the work of hospices.  To me, it just speaks...


    To what purpose this waste?  Love God, and love your neighbour as you love yourself...