Sunday, November 27, 2005

Things I could do without

I'm finding this really hard because I don't really consume much...but...

I could do without Christmas- not just from a work load POV but also I don't go a bundle on presents necessarily. It seems silly to buy something just to be able to give someone something and galling that you know that item will be reduced a few days later.

I could do without buying cheap stuff from Primark- I know that cheap is good but the savings have got to be made somewhere and I'm sure that somewhere must include cheap labour. I would like to buy clothes more ethically...

I could do without the bargains at Waitrose towards the end of the day- bargains=spending on things that just aren't needed. Just because it is 30p, it doesn't mean it has a place in your shopping trolley. Repeat to yourself Helen, put down the chocolate mousses and move away...

Buy Nothing Day

Yesterday was Buy Nothing Day (thanks Carl for highlighting this!) The premise is that we all start to think about the amount we consume and ask ourselves if we really need the things that we buy. The day itself is a way of exercising control and, a day where you challenge yourself, your family and friends to switch off from shopping and tune into life.

As Saturday was a study day for me, it wasn't particularly difficult for me not to spend. BUT it is tricky for me to get out of the mindset that "We haven't got any noodles, I'll just pop over to Waitrose to get them!"
Luckily, Julian reminded me and we spent nothing! Yay!

But the challenge is now on: how do I incorporate this philosophy into my life? It could possibly mean that I look at not shopping on a Sunday. I know I shouldn't but that pesky Waitrose is sooooo close! Maybe this means I will nominate one day weekly where I will buy nothing. It could be Sunday but it could quite easily be another day. The next challenge will be Buy Nothing Christmas an idea I tried to introduce during Lauren's first Christmas which was met with disapproval by my mother so it never really took off. Fortunately, we have never spent vast fortunes at Christmas, so making and enjoying a minimalist Christmas will be a fun challenge.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Doubting one's abilities

Had quite a rough session at my new youth club last night which made me ponder on my abilities to engage with young people. It's quite hard to seperate a bad session from bad judgement calls or poor planning. On the whole, I don't think my skills (or indeed the skills of my colleagues) were to blame. We have a new youth club, in a rough area with very little equipment- it was enough to lead to a challenging evening. For new recruits, my fellow youth workers on the project are great- they seemed undaunted and worked really well.

I feel like sometime soon I'm going to be "found out" that I'm not actually a good youth worker and that they'll chuck me out of my new job for being a fraud! After talking to Julian, it seems that he thinks along similar lines. I guess we all doubt our abilities and when we have skills that come easily to us and that seem like second nature, it is hard to believe that they are highly developed and highly sort after skills.

Looking forward to Friday's session which is altogether calmer...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Random Acts of Kindness

I'm not tbe biggest Scott Mills fan in the world but his Random Act of Kindness feature is an interesting one. The other day an American woman had phoned in to say that a shop keeper at the train station had seen that she was upset that she was unable to buy her train ticket and had offered her the £40 she needed without hesitation. Scott Mills then rang up the man and said that his act had been above and beyond the call of duty and that he had won him and his family an expensive meal out as a way of saying thank you. At the time I thought "He's a Christian" even though I know acts of kindness are not only a hallmark of Christianity but I just had that feeling...
The following day, Scott referred to the same man, highlighting the story and what had happened and said "Julie (or whoever it was) is in tears. Come on Julie, tell us what has just happened." It turned out that the shop keeper from the day before had rung in to say thank you for his prize. Julie continued the story, choking back tears "He said that he is lucky to be blessed with food on his table every day and that he would rather that we gave the money for the meal to Children in Need." Julie stifles a sob. "What a lovely man!" More sound of tears.
Scott says "And she's not the only one touched. What a lovely man! If only there were more like him".

If only... :)

Smoothie makers

Been looking for the best smoothie maker to buy for youth club. I want one that is sturdy, easy to clean and will stand up to quite heavy use. Kenwood seem to be the most prolific producer and so I will probably end up with one of theirs but I can't decide whether I want the top of the range one, which apart from a half litre larger capacity and a smarter brushed metal appearance, is exactly the same as the one that is £10 cheaper.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Theology of Guilt

Yesterday's sermon was another one that I struggled with. I'm beginning to wonder if it's the place I'm in, which would make sense. The problem was manifold: firstly it was to be found in a family service, secondly it was too long for a family service and thirdly because of the content.
A family or all age service should aim to be inclusive to all ages which means in my mind it should be an hour or less in length and be made up of different elements to suit a variety of ages and learning/experiential styles. This means shorter, "sound bite" type components to keep/attract the attention of the very young (2/3+) and to be aware of and either accomodate or give alternatives to those who have little mobility or have older age infirmities.
I am of the opinion that shorter in time doesn't mean "dumbing down" and that an elderly, even scholarly person can gain as much from a two minute piece in a family service as they can from a 20 minute sermon.
The compromise for our family services is that James can do up to 10 minutes in a "talk" and over the last 8 months or so, it has become clear that this is the "adult slot" for the service. James calls it "the meat". It is there because it is expected. The option for colouring packs is given to the "young folk" in order that they have something to occupy them while the sermon is underway. I do like the idea because small children may not be able to concentrate for the whole hour but I do object to calling a service accessible and then deliberately making it inaccessible. Also, the arrogance of adults thinking that they can only "get something from" a 20 minute talk from an ordained minister is really beyond my comprehension.
So the sermon is in there, but fortunately, only a 10 minute one. Well, usually 10 minutes: yesterday the sermon was pushing 20 minutes (between 15 and 20, I'm unsure how long precisely).
The topic for the service as a whole was how the awesomeness of God is reflected in His creation, how mighty He is, is plain to see. James' sermon was on the call of Isaiah and how Isaiah was excited and keen to get that call. He compared that to how perhaps we respond to the call of God, with provisos, doubt and plain reluctance. Admittedly James did say he was talking about himself too as he said this but I was already irritated. What about the people who are obedient to God's call to stay in a dead end job, with no gamour, support and no recognition? It's all very well that people feel called to go to be a missionary in Tagalog but who is going to be a bin man in Catton? Or a shelf stacker in Fakenham? Or a nurse at the N&N?

This is what I hate about the church. We are always made to feel like what we do is second best. Buying Fairtrade? Well you should really go over to Tanzania and help those people in co-operatives to develop their businesses. Been 15 years in the same office? Well you really ought to have heard the call of God into ministry by now. Donated money to the Bulgarian orphange? Well you still have a cosy home and enough money to go to the cinema. Converted any people this week? Cooked for forty? Visited the sick in hospital? Given away your belongings?
Whatever we do, it will never be enough. However we hear the voice of God and respond to it, it won't be enough. Whatever we give, it will never be enough. I don't need a 20 minute sermon to tell me this.

It's becoming clear to me that God is calling people to stay where they are. He is calling people to be a missionary to their families. He wants people to do what they do and to do it to the best of their abilities. Just as much as he wants the evangelists, missionaries abroad and the ordained. I don't want to be made to feel guilty that I haven't done enough. I've done loads.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

We went to see HPatGF at 9 o'clock this morning and it was the best HP film yet! The film had to hurtle through the plot like a cheetah on steroids but it worked. Some classic moments were when Harry was in the prefect's bathroom and the Yuletide Ball. I thought that the film would be a lot creepier and more frightening but it wasn't. As far as I can see, the 12 certificate must be for swearing more than terror. Maybe that's just because I knew what was going to happen...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Twelfth Night

I went to see Twelfth Night with Lauren on Tuesday night at the Theatre Royal and it was really good. It was interesting to see Matthew Kelly playing Malvolio, the pompous steward to a grieving Maria.

The set was simple and beautiful

with shutter like panels that opened and closed to create rooms or pillars.

And of course The Fool (Feste played by Hilton McRae) is the pivotal character, the foolish and yet most wise. With a beautiful singing voice and impressive command of the stage, his performance really stole the show for me.

An enjoyable night out...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

guilt blogging

Feel I ought to blog...don't feel I have anything to say of interest.

Perhaps childrens names...?

I heard a news report that people are now more likely to give their children unusal names. Here are some names that I would never call my child:

Pandora, Tabitha, Tiffany, Celeste, Cressida, Lola, Tori, Jacinta

Alfie, Stanley, Bernard, Jasper, Fraser, Fergus, Dennis

There are more but time has run out... What names do you NOT want to call your (fictional) offspring?

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Lost

I'm struggling with the Christian concept of The Lost. This is a term that encompasses all those who have not made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ and I'm wondering if I'm struggling with the term or all it implies. Because of the Great Commission at the end of Matthew we are all, as Christians, duty bound to convert all unbelievers.
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
This is currently problematic for me as I am finding the authority of the bible a difficult concept to grasp so by saying "It's biblical" really doesn't help.
Also evangelising is a difficult and especially gifted thing to be able to do. It doesn't suit everyone and yet all Christians are made to feel that they should be "doing it" whatever their skills or giftings.
And then there is the arguement that "just being" a Christian will move people to want to be with us and discover more about our faith. Well if they stick by me long enough, I'm bound to throw spanners in the works by gossiping or something unChristian. And what am I going to offer if they seek to discover what is "different" about me? A Sunday club? A way of fitting in extra things into a busy schedule and feeling guilty that that STILL isn't enough?

I have also worked out that I need to work through what happens to The Lost when they die. I think I believe in hell from the point of view of people realising that they're missing out on the glories that God offers. I'm unsure whether this lasts forever or whether there is possible redemption from that. I would like to think that a merciful God would offer some hope of redemption, even at that late stage. So maybe I'm coming back to a Catholic notion of Purgatory- a place of holding, of not quite being ready to face God but being eventually able to enter heaven.
The evangelical, free (and tied) church says all who don't proclaim Jesus as their Lord will perish. Jesus is THE way, the truth and the life and no one will get to the Father except through Him. I don't have a problem with Jesus being a gatekeeper and a bridge between the wrath of God and the sinfulness of man but I do take issue that we can issue such a huge blanket statement about salvation that will condemn most of humanity, past and present to Hell. I have a lot more thinking to do before I could even begin to start rationalising and formulating arguements on this.

I was listening to the song "Led to the Lost" and thinking I didn't agree with it. I feel like some cheesy salesman trying to get unsuspecting customers to sign up to my wonderful eternal life policy. Trying to be the number one salesman of the week, plotted on the graph and winner of the weekend for two to Aruba by being able to smash the last target of 23 souls in one week. I think for me that eternity although assured, I could never be complacent about. If our human form is based on that of a creative and working God, then surely we are built to mimic that design pattern? So an eternity of kicking back can't surely be on the cards? An eternity of singing praises to God wearing a white sheet and glowing slightly doesn't inspire me to long for an early death and I doubt it will for The Lost too. If heaven is complex and our God is complex, what does this mean for the available routes into the afterlife? Or is this just my way of trying to wriggle out of talking to people about God? What I do know is that I don't want to convert people, that I don't feel upset that they will perish, that I'm not a good enough example and no, I don't feel Led to the Lost.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Cosmetic Surgery

Saw a programme with Joan Collins in yesterday who must be all of 70 (her profile on IMDB tells me that she's 72) She dresses well well and from what you can see has a very good figure. She carries herself like a younger woman and obviously her face looks a lot younger than her 70 years. She was wearing a large amount of make up and you could see she has had several face lifts. Does this matter? Is this just a natural "extention" from wearing make-up? She looks good and is in show business where you have to look good but does this create an ideal that women try to live up to?
It makes me wonder if I would ever have any cosmetic procedure. On the whole, I would think not. I think that seeing the person as an entirity is important so knowing that lines and wrinkles and saggy bits are all a part of an aging process that include wisdom and refinement. But on the other hand to have surgery to correct something that deviates from the norm would be different. If I had an accident and a op would minimise the visual effects of that then I would probably go for it.
I know a few people who have gone under the knife. Sometime ago a girl at Wymondham Leisure Centre had a breast enlargement and she showed us what it looked like. Someone I worked with got a tummy tuck and now my friend Hannah has had a breast reduction. But for me? I wouldn't want to interfere surgically with something that didn't need altering because of the risks of being under anathestic, because of scarring and the cost. I think that being imperfect is partly the charm of being human. I also think that focusing as our society does on outward appearance at all costs that we lose the beauty of discovering the beauty of personality and character. At the end of the day, I couldn't afford it and there are things that I would rather spend the money on. Anyway, where would I start? ;-)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Funeral thoughts...

Yesterday was Zak's funeral at St. Mary's Church Attleborough. I arrived 15 minutes early and the place was already full. I stood at the back. The service was simple. His sister read beautifully some readings, the priest did the eulogy and we dutifully sang "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and "Lord of the Dance". The thing that interests me is the choice of pop songs as ways of remembering the deceased. Bev had chosen "Let me Entertain You" to begin with (which failed to play) and "Bicycle Race" by Queen as they exited. I thought both were a fitting choice and gave me a bit of a smile. In Bicycle Race there are a couple of lines that go like this:

You say Rolls I say Royce
You say God give me a choice
You say Lord I say Christ
I don't believe in Peter Pan
Frankenstein or Superman
All I wanna do is

and later...

Cartier I say please
Income tax I say Jesus
I don't want to be a candidate for
Vietnam or Watergate
'Cos all I wanna do is

I love the song and the group but I was wondering as it was playing, is it actually suitable to be played at a funeral with two instances of blasphemy and a drugs reference? I'm guessing the answer was yes but all the same it felt odd to be in God's house with His name being taken in vain. And what if it had been a rap or RnB song with swearing? I guess it's going to be an increasing problem and I'm glad I don't have to make those calls. What I shall take away with me is the memory of all the people from cycling clubs who came in their lycra cycling outfits. It was a fitting tribute...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


My feelings on Hallowe'en have been changing and it's quite hard for me to try and vocalise them but I'm going to try here.

I have never liked Hallowe'en. I don't like scary movies and I've never been fascinated by the macabre. When I became a Christian, it seemed I had even clearer reasons to dislike it. It was described as a celebration of evil and focusing on the power of Satan. This combined with a friendship with someone who as a child had suffered extreme satanic abuse at the hands of her parents and others who was aware of the significance that Hallowe'en plays in the satanic calendar, meant that I had enough ammuniton to totally reject anything to do with the day.

This was hard on my children in part because they see the hype growing around them as the years increase. My view is that card and novelty producers are deliberately hyping up the day in order to sell card, sweets and masks. Just look at the U.S. to see how lucrative the market is and I didn't want to be part of that cash generating system. I also believe that "Trick or Treat" is wrong. Sending children around the area (safety concerns anyone?), knocking on people's doors (known or unknown) and letting them demand sweets with threats is twisted. For every other day of the year, parents instill in their offspring that they mustn't accept sweets from strangers and yet marching up to someone's house and demanding goodies is fine on this night because it's all a bit of fun. Let's just think of the people it isn't fun for: how about mums with young babies who don't want their door bell waking up the little one? How about people have mental illnesses or the elderly? How about those who are single or those like my friend who are terrified because they know the sinister side of Hallowe'en? I would be mortified to approach or allow my children to approach the homes of these people which is a refuge and a safe haven in order to request sweets.

And if you're on the receiving end of trick or treaters, what do you do? Have something sweet there just to give them and make them go away quickly? Have little pamphlets oulining the spiritual dangers of Hallowe'en to give away? Open the door and tell them why they are wrong and they should just all leave people alone and go away? Or just shut yourself in and ignore the doorbell?

Poppy has a friend at school who's birthday is around this time and she always has a Hallowe'en party. This was the first year that I let her go. In my more relaxed state of mind I believe it right firstly that she makes her own informed decisions but I also believe in Christians being fun people, not dirty horrible kill joys! I'm unsure whether this was the right decision to make but I think so as I try to work out some new boundaries here.

There is a side of us that likes the macabre and to test our limits of fear. Why else would there be horror films, rollercoaster rides and bungee jumping? None of them particularly appeal to me and hence the macabre side of Hallowe'en holds no joy or excitement for me. I'm thinking now that exploring this side of our natures is quite healthy but delving into the seemy side or allowing this to get a foothold that takes over in our lives is dangerous. I don't know if once the flood gates are open it's very difficult to stem the tide but it may be that by stepping over the boundary from time to time we can see where to mark and guard the boundary in the future.

And as for pumpkins? They are just vegetables! And mankind have been using them as lanterns for thousands of years. I like the imagery of letting the light flood through, the way the Light of the World lights up our lives and if He lives inside us we shine.

Have a very Good All Saints Day!