Tuesday, 24 February 2015

God's Bias

It's very hard not to get cross at yet another scandal involving politicians cosying up to the wealthy and offering their 'services' in exchange for obscene amounts of money. Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind are both adamant that they have done nothing wrong, that they followed the rules. What??? Is it any wonder that the general populace is so turned off by politics? 

Somebody said something like, "MP's should have two jobs, because it keeps them in touch with the world outside Westminster"

Cynical laughter.

I might be a lot less cynical if the second job involved helping with a soup run, or serving in the Salvation Army Charity Shop, or working in a Job Centre on little more than the minimum wage. Our politics would be the better for it. But widening your experience of being a pig by rooting deeper into the trough? Oh! Please! 

I rant. 

Here's today's meditation from Franciscan, Father Richard Rohr. A perspective that we inhabitants of a nominally 'Christian' country with politicians still willing to nail their colours to the cross, need to be clear about:

Most of political and church history has been controlled and written by people on the Right, because they, more than those on the Left, have the access, the power, and the education to write books and get them published. One of the few subversive texts in history, believe it or not, is the Bible! The Bible is most extraordinary because it repeatedly and invariably legitimizes the people on the bottom, and not the people on the top. The rejected son, the barren woman, the sinner, the leper, or the outsider is always the one chosen of God! Please do not take my word on this, check it out. It is rather obvious, but for some reason the obvious needs to be pointed out to us. In every case, we are presented with some form of powerlessness--and from that situation God creates a new kind of power. This is the constant pattern, hidden in plain sight.

So many barren women are mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures that you begin to wonder if there was a problem with the water! Sarah, Abraham's wife, was barren--and old, too--before God blessed her with baby Isaac (Genesis 17:15-19). Rachel, Jacob's wife, was barren before God "opened her womb" and she bore Joseph (Genesis 30:22-24). Barren Hannah poured out her soul before the Lord, and God gave her Samuel (see 1 Samuel 1).

Even before Moses, God chose a nobody, Abraham, and made him a somebody. God chose Jacob over Esau, even though Esau is the elder and more earnest son and Jacob is a shifty, even deceitful, character. Election has nothing to do with worthiness but only usability, and in the Bible, usability ironically comes from facing one's own wrongness or littleness, as we see in Mary. God chose Saul to be King out of the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest and weakest tribe in Israel. The pattern does seem to be: "The last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16).

One of the more dramatic biblical stories in this regard is the story of David. God chose David, the youngest and least experienced son of Jesse, to be king over the nation. Jesse had not even mentioned him as a possibility, but left him out in the fields (1 Samuel 16). In fact, he was a totally forgotten son, who then finds his power on a new level. Yahweh evened up the odds and David, just a young boy with a slingshot (powerlessness), brought the giant Goliath (power) down (1 Samuel 17). This is the constant pattern of redemptive suffering and trial that finds its final revelation on the cross where Jesus is abject powerlessness, and in this very state he redeems the world!

God's bias toward the little ones, the powerless, and those on the bottom has been rediscovered by those who learn to see deeply and with compassion: Francis of Assisi, Thérèse of Lisieux, Mother Teresa, and 12-Step spirituality being well known examples, but even they are usually marginalized by the establishment mind and the Right. Notice the shock when a Pope took the name of a non-establishment saint, "Francis."
Adapted from
Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer, p. 93;
and The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament, pp. 49-50
(published by Franciscan Media) 

Gateway to Silence:

God hears the cry of the poor.

#MicroblogMondays:""Wrong Prince!"

"The work of children is play." Jean Piaget

'Woman's Hour' may seem a little anachronistic in these days of approaching gender- equity, but it's a great podcast of a long-running BBC magazine programme that pulls no punches. And has a jolly good serial too. I was listening, not without sympathy, to a discussion promoted by a parent who found playing with her toddler 'boring'.

I LOVE playing with my grandchildren. Rosie used to call me, 'Grandma Play', and i was tickled pink by it.

Mind you, there has to be a "play-life" balance, and I'm not above inventing games that largely involve grandma lying on the sofa with her eyes closed. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking of patenting "The Wrong Prince". I think Disney might be interested. This is how it goes. Grandma lies on the sofa with her eyes closed pretending to be The Sleeping Beauty. Grandchild approaches and kisses her on the cheek. Grandma wakes up and shouts, "WRONG PRINCE" and everybody collapse in gales of laughter.

Even after playing it for the fiftieth time, it never gets boring!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Sick, Sore, and Sorry For Myself

Don't you be sorry for me though, all I have is a lingering cold, which has kept me confined to quarters for a few days.

(Cough, cough.)

I am extraordinarily fortunate to be able to do this. Midday, sitting up in bed, a virtual pile of books to devour, some great music to listen to, a few games to play ... All on my iPad, which I came close to giving a name to, once. I shall muse on it. '"Boswell" might fit the bill ...

Well, Bos, do your duty. This Blog was started for my friends (such as are interested, I thank you) and my family as a true-ish record of my life which I fondly imagine my descendents scouring with interest when I am gone.

No, really, I only have a COLD. My interest in my own mortality is prompted by my recent study of Buddhist practice, where the reality of impermanence is much to the fore. And a good thing too.

I shall remain a Catholic, if they'll have me, because I rather like ritual, and I love the people. I would almost certainly love Buddhists too, but there aren't any around here.

I was listening to a Dharma talk by Jack Kornfield the other day, and he, a GREAT story-teller recalled being contacted by Cosmopolitan (or Time, I forget) for hints on, "How to make New Year's Resolutions More Permanent". To which he replied, gently, "Buddhists aren't really into permanence."

Besides, and I am thinking of my former denomination-skipping activities here, the real truth lies within you. Jesus and The Buddah both taught this. Sit still, hold the silence, quieten your mind, open your heart and you will find your own truth, descendants, that's what I say.

Monday, 16 February 2015

#MicroblogMondays:It's Because I Remember ...

I have been listening to the debate over chilhood vaccination prompted in the US by the re-emergence of measles, in Disneyland, of all places. 

I'm four years old. I'm in a isolation hospital, which is now, thank God, a superior housing development, and I am in a coma. 

My parents are desperate. My mother climbed onto the old bridge over the River Severn. She wanted to jump. 

I recovered. Recovery was so rare, the doctors called it a miracle. I had a cerebral heamorrhage precipitated by whooping cough. I remember it. My earlist memories were of coughing fit to burst until something did burst, a vessel in my brain. I recovered, but with a limp, and I had seizures for years afterwards. I remember waking up from them, ravenous, and my father and mother, so relieved, so glad to have me back, willing to go out in the middle of the night to get me anything I wanted. 

My best friend and constant playmate, in those earliest years, was Gary, the boy next door. One bright summer's day we fished for tiddlers and plashed unheedingly in the stream behind the shops at Matson. I remember the sun on the water, our laughter ...

Three days later, Gary couldn't come out to play. Three weeks later he was dead. I know where he is buried, in the churchyard at St Katherine's, Matson. For years afterwards I would go and sit beside his grave and chat to him. His tiny memorial, ' From Friends and Neighbours' has long since vanished, as has the bent yew tree under which he was buried. 

"Polio" My parents whispered, so glad it wasn't me, so sad for Agnes and Brian, going through the agony of losing a child. 

I remember.

Thirty years ago I had to think about having my daughters vaccinated. It was a tough decision, really it was, but because I remembered, I hardly hesitated. 

I feel for parents of babies today who have to weigh the possibilities and choose for their own children.
Talk to people who remember the terrible days when babies and young children:- their friends, brothers, class-mates, cousins - died of vaccine-preventable deseases. And listen. We're better than the internet, because we were there.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Our Art

My lovely friend Darlene Pollard is recovering at home from hip surgery (Hi Darlene!). I wanted to send her a card to wish her well, so I looked to the good old BBC. The BBC is Britain's gift to the world, yes it is, and I love it because I get to watch amazing television for around £12 a month, which compared with commercial rivals ( that make obscene amounts of money carrying advertising that I neither want nor need) is a BARGAIN! We Brits need to fight for Aunty B, because greed and politics keep her constantly under threat of extinction.

Oops, I got carried away a bit there, I do apologise. Not so very far though, because the BBC website hosts the nation's art collection, and I wanted something special for Darlene's card. This is what I picked - a watercolour by Marianne North:

The original is in an amazing gallery in Kew Gardens. I tell you, it's worth the entrance fee to the gardens just to see Ms North's watercolours.

The website is:


(Do as the doctor tells you Darlene! Stay well.)


Monday, 9 February 2015

Missed The Deadline

My intention to blog every Monday fell by tye wayside this week.

I have a heavy cold, and paying attention to that seems to have robbed me of inspiration, though that rarely stopped me in the past!

Mum's amaryllis:

My mother died in June 2002. This beautiful amaryllis was hers. Someone gave it to her for Christmas in 1998. It has bloomed at least once a year since then, and it bloomed once more this week. Every time it does, I remember her, and her special beauty - that of a devoted mother and adoring grandmother. Loved, and missed.

John and Lynsay's Wedding


Somebody got something stuck up in the rafters, and everybody's trying to work out how to get it down again. Deja-vu. A reference only my family will understand!

Went to the park with Rosie and Abigail. Had fun.





Thursday, 5 February 2015

War Of Words

I am quite a passionate person, and when I get cross about something, I am rather inclined to close my mind and open my mouth and let rip. Not proud of it, but there you are, I am that I am. 
I got really, really cross when our government ( that includes LIBERALS for God's sake) stopped allowing prisoners access to books from 'outside'. I believe I may have gone as far as signing an online petition. I had no expectation that my two penn'oth would achieve anything: I put my trust rather in the authors, artists, and other worthies who have punch in political circles; and indeed the Justice Minister quickly saw sense and the ruling was reversed. 
That might have been the end of the matter, except that I was so pleased at this outbreak of humanity, that I wrote to the Justice Miminster and said 'Thank You'. 
Now writing to a minister is, I know, a bit naughty because the correct procedure is to write to your own representative and S/HE will then contact the minister on your behalf. It works! Our bureaucracy is extraordinarily mindful of its duty to those of us who write, knowing that we are also the ones who will vote. That's a bit cynical: really, your opinion IS important to them
(Let them have it via 'WriteToThem.org) 
Anyway, having got my 'thank you' off my chest - and I received a very polite but entirely routine letter reminding me that I should write to my MP - I concluded the matter with, 'No reply needed, I only wanted to say 'thank you'.
But there is more! Yesterday I received the email, copied below. You can read  it yourself in a minute, but before you do, I want to say. " WOW! We have a government 'group' dedicated to behaving humanely!" (Officialy the 'Equality, Rights and Decency Group'. Double WOW!!!)  So in future, my war of words is going to get a lot more peaceful.  Some of it, anyway. 
Here's the email: 
Policy and Regulation Team
Equality, Rights and Decency Group
National Offender Management Service (NOMS)
4th Floor, Turquoise Zone, Post point 4.16
Clive House
70 Petty France
London  SW1H 9EX
Ms Mary Francis
Email: francismef@me.com
Our ref: TO15/1
Dear Ms Francis
                                                    BOOKS IN PRISONS
Thank you for your email of 20 December 2014 to the Secretary of State, about prisoner access to books.  Your letter has been passed to the National Offender Management Service for reply.  
Thank you for taking time to provide positive feedback.  Your comments have been noted.
Yours sincerely
 Policy and Regulation Team
Equality, Rights and Decency Group