Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Patrick the self-isolater (and Lent #3)

 Happy St Patrick's Day! He didn't get any mad parades and green Guinness either. And no, he didn't have a government telling him to stay in for a few months, but he did have Irish slave traders who grabbed him and sold him to Miliucc who condemned him to six long, cold, lonely years on a very rocky and uncomfortable bump of a hill not too far from here.

It's interesting to us in these days especially, I think, to imagine how Patrick chose to spend his time. He would have been entirely dependant on God and presumably others to feed him. He would have been devoid of all stimulation and entertainment. He records later that what he did was pray, all day and all night. One hundred times in daytime. One hundred times at night. We worked this out at our little Scripture Union in school last week: that's one pray every seven minutes.

Prayer is definitely becoming my theme for Lent. And Lent seems to be becoming C-time for us all. I often complain to myself, make excuses to myself, that I haven't time to read my Bible, or sit for a decent time meditating on that reading, listening to the God who loves me extravagantly. Well, aren't we getting more time than we've ever had? I sincerely hope that we won't have six years to combat loneliness and deprivation, but I do also sincerely pray that we'll look back on these weeks of self-isolation with recognition of how they brought us closer to God.

I even think that these weeks will bring us closer to others as well. We can, as so many are saying now, use our multitudinous communication technologies to communicate with each other. So, a very happy St Patrick's day to you all. I wish you lots of prayer time! We'll be reading this book, and praying these words of Patrick's too,

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Lent #2

(Another wonderful image from the wonderful Mackesy book that will be first in my March books!)

The storms continue Outside. but there has been blessed relief this week Inside. (I refuse to class C whatsit as a storm just yet, despite the fact that I anticipate half of my grocery order not arriving tomorrow afternoon because of C whatsit panic.)

So, I seem to have set myself the target of this over Lent: pray without ceasing, thank without flinching, and remember without doubting. That's easier to do when storms abate, undoubtedly.

I read an interesting thing about prayer yesterday. Gretchen Joanna and I sort of met when she and I were both skirting around the idea of reading Kierkegaard most of ten years ago. (Really, GJ? Really most of ten years ago?!) So we have finally started, and are joint reading The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air. This week we're both aiming to share what we have made of it all thus far.

Suffice to say at this point, that the First Discourse has led me on in an interesting way from last Sunday's aspiration.

He became silent... He had thought that to pray was to talk; he learned that to pray is not only to keep silent, but to listen.

As I pray, thank, remember this Lent, there must also be silence and listening. First of all I'll only hear the stormy wind. And I might hear the lamentations once more of men. If I don't avoid social media I'll hear panic and fear. These storms will pass: And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

Another lesson I'm taking from the lily and the bird is not to worry about toilet roll, Calpol and paracetamol. The Lord provides. And there are still tulips.

Friday, 6 March 2020

World Book Day

I have been really interested in all the talk around World Book Day this year. From my little spot in the social media circle it seems to have come from folk called The Curiosity Approach and they had these excellent words earlier in the week.

I certainly remember all sorts of "mummy homework" when the boys were at primary school. I usually heard about them the night before the sock puppet/Christmas angel/pirate outfit/book day costume was required, although my particular brand of Life with Boys acknowledges that said homework could have been a long established requirement! Nonetheless, for us, World Book Day was definitely more of a dressing up stress than a celebration of story. Bravo to anyone who pulls it back to its roots.

Apparently its roots lie under the mighty UNESCO oak. They wanted to "promote reading and a love of books". The Curiosity Approach's article also cites research that describes one in eleven UK children who do not own one single book of their own at home. In a school like the one where I work, that number would be one in eight. What shocked me even more was the idea that children who did have at least one book at home had in fact, on average, 51 books. That's some jump.

On Thursday (World Book Day) the small group of 16 year-old boys who are in my English class got their January exam results. They are all boys with a history of failing in English. Most of them went up two or even three grades from their summer result. Do not take this as a sign of my teaching prowess: for only three of them was this enough to get them over the pass line. We're pushing on hard to the final exam this summer.

I took them cake on Thursday and a huge bag of books from our shelves. I think we have safely more than 51 books in this house. I think I can safely guess that my school boys do not. I took all our picture and short story books that were not babyish. We ate cake and read. One of them apparently said that he had just read his first book. I had this picture up on the screen. It's from this quite fabulous book. "If at first you don't succeed, have some cake." Hopefully it will work every time! All prayers for them (and me!) would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Lent #1

Ang is hosting Lenten thinkers again this year. A few Lents ago I really felt, even after years of professing faith, that I didn't have any true understanding of Easter. Outside of the story and the theology, I mean. I wanted it to be real to me. What was it about? By Easter I knew that it was about me. About you. About all of us. Laying it all down at that horrific cross, because that's where our love and life start.

I think that year was the one after That was the same year I did Outside Tea in Lent where I drank a cup of tea outside (nearly) every day in Lent and spent Easter on strong antibiotics against an absolutely miserable chest infection!

Then there was the Lent of Rend music. That was a good one.

So: I have been wondering about Lent this year. I always love reading Dormouse's challenges, and I'm trying to keep abreast of those through her. But I'm grateful for Ang's words too this year, the "benefit of Lent is that it gives a person time to reflect on their lifestyle, and consider what changes would be good and right for them. For 40 days - or maybe for ever after."

You know me; Ebenezers are the thing. The big stone raised up by Samuel to remember that, "Thus far the Lord has helped us". So I'm raising Ebenezers, because the stormy weather here shows no sign of abating and neither do the storms of Life with Boys and the rest, so I want to pray my way through Lent, pray without ceasing, thank without flinching, and remember without doubting. That's what I would like to do for 40 days, and maybe for ever after.

I'm also going to eat lots of hot cross buns, and buy lots of tulips. Because those are my two favourite things at this time of year. And you can still do those when Outside and Inside are blowing a gale. Here's hoping that March really will come in like a lion and out like a (paschal) lamb.

Lenten blessings be yours (with hot cross buns and tulips) x

Time stands still

 Hello! Sending you all lots of love from Northern Ireland, where nothing much changes just as everything changes, as usual. Time has stood ...