Thursday, 26 December 2013

Is THIS Love?

I am thinking about soul stuff again. 

The wisdom- tradition handed down to us by St Francis of Assissi is that the soul resides below the heart. I like this, because the soul is the dwelling place of God- within, and when waiting for God, who always comes, this is from where. I have never seen a blinding light, heard a booming voice, or even had a conversation with an Angel. He comes as a gentle upwelling, and an out-flowing : of joy, and laughter or sorrow, and tears, it all depends, and always fits. 

Trumpets and Angel-song is for Christmas, and for babies I find: a different reality.

If, of course, I am describing any kind of reality at all - you know me, believing what I like - I am open to the possibility of error. (But not very...) 

I never claim to be good, because, in fact, I am not. Not for the want of trying, to be fair, but something about me always reassesrts itself when I am at my goodest - An inbuilt tendency to rebellion that is part of me, and is impervious to persuasion, or prayer. The Church calls it 'original sin' and has come up with a myth to explain it, which works, in a funny sort of way.  And yet, and yet... Let me try to make sense of it.

I am as I am because I am a conscious being with a conscience. This is elementary stuff,  I know. In addition I am graced by an amazing set of circumstances that brings me to you now, happy, fulfilled, imperfect, good enough, sometimes... Forgiven at others. In short, at peace. 

So the myth. It's all too easy to get tangled up in the free-will thing, which is always too simplistic and rarely satisfying. (Pretty much knocked on the head by neuro-science too, for the record.) I am thinking that perhaps after all, we didn't screw up in the beginning because God let us, just to be disappointed in us. 

Eve, the proto-mother in the myth, was sinless when deceived by the voice of the serpent into biting into the apple. In order to be disobedient, she would have had to be capable of knowing what disobedience WAS:this is a foundational tenet of human justice, one can hardly suppose it to be absent from the divine. She didn't, so she wasn't, so the whole thing is more about finding a way out of a state of sublime innocence than laying all the troubles of this world on the actions of a woman - for which all women must be eternally blamed. 

Look, I know this is heresy, but as I intimated earlier, rebellion is in my nature, and better out than in, say I. I am not feeling the least bit condemned: though I am pretty sure if this were the seventeenth century, I wouldn't be blogging it... 

There is one Question God-within invites all who can, to answer when called to judgement: "Is this what Love would do?" Pretty fundamental, if you ask me. Many of the dearest people I know have no truck with conventional religion, and really, who can blame them? Not me. The news is full of grudge-taking revenge attacks by adherents to this or that god-bent, by faith-full people inventing new and worse ways of harming each other, in order, usually, to attach God to their pursuit of power, or wealth.  All equally convinced of the rightness of their cause, never asking, "Is THIS Love?" 

I long ago realised that I had to give up the notion of an 'anything' God. I mean by that a God  OF justice or a God Of love. A being that will necessarily attach himself to any of my causes, or shield me from any of the stuff that comes to everyone else. (I mean, how just would that be?) He isn't OF anything - She just IS. 

With Eve, I walked out of belief in the easy life in the Garden. I have sorrow and joy, I love and lose, I am well and sick, I am good and bad... I enjoy and endure and enjoy again. This is to be human - to be conscious with a conscience and it is GOOD.

So what then, is 'faith' all about..? It is knowing that God is not a distant Other. But a living, loving Inner. Here, dwelling among us, upholding us  and  experiencing his creation through us. He, not me, is the innocent one. She is Love.

He is perfectly presented to us as a baby, born to live a precarious life in a troubled world, with an inevitable and messy death. just like the rest of us.

Thankfully, that is NOT the whole story.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Is It REALLY Saturday Again?

I ask because last week, I thought Friday was Saturday, and had, as a consequence, TWO Saturdays, which was great, and sorted out by the time Sunday came around, which was manic because my friend John Gow came unexpectedly to Mass and I was keeping an eye on Abigail, collecting cyclamen, and asking for contributions for Gloucester City Mission Christmas Hampers all at the same time.. It is to be hoped the three will not be subject to confusion and deposited In the wrong resting place. Highly unlikely, as Abigail, a two-year old who knows her own mind, will not take kindly to be given away to a homeless person, or being used to decorate the window sills for the Feast of The Nativity.

I can't believe how quickly the week has flown by! It was relatively successful, especially in the joke department. I say, and it used to be true,  that I only know two jokes: though now I strain to recall what the one that wasn't about George Washington and the cherry tree, was. I rather hope it will return unscathed, but these days, there's no guarantee.

Monday was the Salvation Army Christmas Dinner. It was everything you'd expect, with a real brass ensemble playing carols. Although, come to think of it,  you might reasonably expect that at the Salvation Army.

Here's the first joke:

Three drunks approached a night-club. The gentleman on the door, AKA' a Bouncer', refused them entry because they weren't wearing an item of Christmas cheer. The first drunk went away and returned with a sprig of holly pinned to his jacket, and was allowed in. The second, likewise, only sporting a bunch of mistletoe. The third came back with a pair of knickers on his head. " You can't come in wearing THOSE. There's nothing. Christmassy about them!" Exclaimed The Bouncer.

"Oh yes there is!" Our third friend retorted. "They're Carol's!"

Ho ho ho. 

The second joke is worse than the first, so you may wish to give up and go home at this point. Oh Lord! I've just remembered, it might be construed as anti-religious, so I'd best be careful. 

An Anglican, a Catholic and a Calvinist went to heaven. At the Pearly Gates they entered into a pact to come back and let each other know how they got on. 

The Anglican went in first, and after ten minutes came out to make his report:

"Well, that wasn't too bad... I was wrong about a few things, but they let me in."

The. Catholic went in next, and SHE came out looking very relieved. "I was wrong about a few things too!" She said, but I'm in.

The Calvinist went next and was gone a very long time. Eventually, Jesus came out... 

"I was wrong about a few things ... "

Oh! Well, you'll either get it or you won't.

Merry Christmas Everyone! 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Anti-Shopping: An End To Spending

I have reached that stage in my life when I own more stuff than I know what to do with, an embarrassing proportion of which I have forgotten that I have. There is the occasional squeal of delight as some forgotten treasure, or especially poignant piece of memorabilia comes to light:Marylyn's baby shoes, silk flowers from a chocolate box,a whistle I confiscated from the naughtiest boy I ever taught. (Darren Gibbons. 1988/89) 

On Saturday, Ray and I went shopping for a sofa, as the one I am lounging on to write this, is seriously compromised by the snapping of a third of its supporting wooden slats. First stop, the Emmaus outlet near the old Drill Hall in Tredworth. Nothing suitable there, but we did succeed at the Furniture Recyclying Depot: a fabulous green corner unit in sea green, for £60. An multi-colour African throw completes the look. 

Whilst browsing around the shops I invented a brand-new shopping experience for the seriously over endowed (with stuff!) who nevertheless love the thrill of acquisition. Anti-shopping. 

Anti-shopping works like this. You browse your favourite outlets and spot things you would LOVE to own. You make a note of the price and keep a tally. At the end of the session you can tot up how much you haven't spent, and use the money for a treat that doesn't sit gathering dust at the back of the cupboard.  I saved £250 by anti-buying a bread maker, a deep-fat fryer and a fireside rug.

I shall use the savings to enjoy a Spa Day with my friend Jeanette.

I have yet to persuade the family financier of the legitimacy of this exercise, but that, I think, is just a matter of time.