Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Highlife Highland Learning Awards

Last Friday I was invited to attend the Highlife Highland Learning Awards. I am a supporter of Creativity in Care and really enjoy meeting with them for Poetry in Motion most months.

One of our lads, I use the term loosely, Colin, was to collect an award and I was there to clap wildly! Well into his eighties, with a twinkle in his eye and a saucy comment on his lips, he is one of life’s enjoyers, although he can’t always remember which bits of life he has enjoyed so far. He was not able to attend because of ill health. Karrie collected the award on his behalf, taking the opportunity to read one of Colin’s poems.

There were quite a few absent award winners. Easter is the only time when the Highlands and Islands University building is available for these kinds of things.  The afternoon key speaker was a young man from Nairn – he looked schoolboy young but he wasn’t. Learning doesn’t always come in the form of a classroom and a whiteboard and projector.  Mark had done most of his important learning in various countries volunteering. He talked about making the most of opportunities that come our way. Some people would exclude themselves – they don’t have the time or the money or the imagination to make it happen. Not everything falls into your lap and sometimes you need to work hard to make things happen. What you learn in those far off places, doing things you never thought you could do, he says, changes you.  You become something better through the experience.

We should all be, as adults, learners. Last night I went to the cinema to see The Lost City of Z. Somewhere in the film, the wife of the explorer, speaking to one of her sons quoted a line from a poem by Robert Browning - “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?”

The actual building the university is housed in is a new build – but I think the architects and builders must have had Robert Browning’s poem in mind. I am not a fan of new builds. They can sometimes look quite same-ish – all windows and metal and square and anonymous. We had the opportunity to look into the way the place was built – the colours of carpets and walls mimicked nature. I work in a building of garish oranges and greens that almost hurt the eye. The UHI is subtle – soft tones like the mountains in autumn and the valleys in springtime. They took pictures, pixelated them and chose their colours carefully. The building isn’t one of sharp angles, but curves and soft lines.

In my younger days, when they built an extension on to the primary school I attended they installed a green blackboard.  The thinking at the time was that green is a comforting colour. God was there long before the education authority caught on with His green grass and green trees. The UHI building lets you feel at ease and comfortable in the learning environment.

Poetry in Motion held a workshop in the afternoon and provided us with a chance to play with poetry.

UHI

Embark on your learning journey
Step through the revolving door
Moving forwards, passing through
In and out
Lines and light
Shape and shades
Curves and contours
Space and air
A promise
“Create your own future”
“Be whatever you want to be”
No history to restrain
No tradition to live up to
No clutter or cobwebs
No round pegs or square holes
All ages and abilities invited
Greenhouse windows
For student saplings
Called to learn and grow

 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Watch He Keeps

The maker of heaven and earth sees me
And hears my plea
Lost, I cry out and He comes to my aid
His power displayed

Secure I am held in His loving hand
Shielded I stand
He slumbers not, my Saviour never sleeps
A watch He keeps

He lifts His hand to hide me from the sun
A shade is spun
And when the cold moon casts its eerie glow
His peace I know

On battlefields He stands with me
We’re back to back against my foes
I triumph o’er my enemy
Defeated now no threat to pose

He watches over all my days
The sweat of work, the still of rest
He teaches me His gentle ways
His life in me each day expressed

Today, tomorrow - Hs promised word
A covenant He’s made with me
Throughout the heavens and earth it’s heard
Beside me He will always be

(Psalm 121)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Anima Christi

There are times when I need to scratch the Roman Catholic itch in me. I confess to missing some of the milestones along the Christian year that many churches choose not to celebrate or remember. I don’t want to follow a liturgy written down and parrot-fashion say the bits expected of me, but there is a beauty in the liturgy that calls to my heart. It doesn’t replace what my heart wants to say, or even say it for me so I don’t need to. It stirs me to think and reflect.

I went to St Mary’s on Sunday. Yes, I wanted my palm cross – but having read my way through a Lenten study book, I wanted to mark the day – Palm Sunday. Part of the service was reading through the gospel narrative from the Last Supper to Jesus’ death on the cross. It was at least four pages in the mass book. I closed my eyes and let the story fill me.

Standing under the spoken word of scripture is such a powerful thing. Not needing to see the words, shape them in my mind or sound them out and then onto the next one – hearing it read, being the audience to the words, not the writer or the reader, does something to the spirit rather than the mind.

This morning, into the last few days of my Lent book, the focus was on suffering. There’s nothing noble about suffering. It’s evil. Yes, it can draw out strength in some, but it can pull other people apart. What we end up suffering for is often our own personal kingdoms being threatened.

Jesus read the words of Isaiah – to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free – Jesus lived the words and in so living made enemies with the religious elite. They were content to allow the poor to stay poor because it suited them. “To keep quiet in the face of injustice and oppression, doing nothing to oppose it is a refusal to enter into the passion of Christ.”

The devotional ended with the words of Latin prayer “Anima Christi”. I don’t know Latin but I can guess that “anima” is something to do with animation and giving life to something. I choose to think is about the life of Christ in me.  This is a contemporary version.

I choose to breathe the breath of Christ
 that makes all life holy.
I choose to live the flesh of Christ
 that outlasts sin’s corrosion and decay.
I choose the blood of Christ
 along my veins and in my heart
 that dizzies me with joy.
I choose the living waters flowing from his side
 to wash and clean my own self and the world itself.
I choose the awful agony of Christ
 to charge my senseless sorrows with meaning
 and to make my pain pregnant with power.
I choose you, good Jesus, you know.
I choose you, good Lord;
 count me among the victories
 that you have won in bitter wounded-ness.
Never number me among those alien to you.
Make me safe from all that seeks to destroy me.
Summon me to come to you.
Stand me solid among angels and saints
 chanting yes to all you have done,
 exulting in all you mean to do forever and ever.
Then for this time, Father of all,
 keep me, from the core of my self,
 choosing Christ in the world.  Amen.

– Joseph Tetlow SJ

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Rhythm, River and Roads

Saturday afternoon and the sun was shining. People everywhere were peeling off winter layers. Sunshine has that habit of fooling you into thinking it’s warmer than it really is. The queue at the ice cream shop was a long one.

Creativity in Care’s “Poetry in Motion” monthly meeting met in the Dunbar Centre in Inverness. Clip boards and pens, poems and prompts – we talked poetry. Some of the usual suspects hadn’t been able to come. The Easter holidays had started and the qualified minibus drivers were somewhere warm and exotic. There were other new and unfamiliar faces, and one or two can’t-quite-place-where-I know-you-from faces. My Polish friend from Pol-UK, Joanna, joined us.

We read through a couple of poems to get us thinking about roads and rivers. The poems themselves – “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost and an extract from “To The River Charles” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – provided us with the rhythm.

We began thinking about our own rhythms as we paid attention to our breathing. I am not a deep breather, dragging enough oxygen into the lungs to function, but with nothing left over. My blood isn’t as oxygen rich as it could be, I suspect. We then felt our pulse, another rhythm of the body. It was nice to sit so quietly and be relaxed.

We set off for a twenty minute walk with a list of things to look for and think about.

·         Notice the rhythm of your footsteps
·         Look for texts in the pavement
·         Simply record colours, smells, sights and sounds
·         Notice how you feel about the place
·         Write down any odd ideas that pop into your head even if they are not related to the rhythm, road or river theme
·         Capture a passing piece of conversation

Standing on the Grieg Street footbridge always evokes a certain memory. I came up to Inverness to be a part of a Gospel Outreach team in October 1989. The very first morning, after the very long journey up the A9 to get to Inverness, I stood on the bridge. It’s a suspension bridge, rather wobbly, as people cross – their own particular rhythm making you constantly adjust your own stance so you don’t fall over. I stood on the bridge that first morning and looked upriver. I had such a sense of coming home. I never felt a stranger.  If the city could have spoken it would have said, “Ah, at last, you have arrived. I’ve been waiting.”

The captured conversation was not quite a passing one. I was standing on the bridge, with my clip board, my mind acting like a thesaurus, staring at the water passing underneath. A friend, Athol, stopped and touched me on the shoulder.

“Are you OK, love?” he asked, perhaps thinking I was contemplating throwing myself off the bridge as some unhappy people are inclined to do. I showed him the clip board and my scribblings.

“I’m writing poetry, Athol.” I answered and he left.

Our time was up and we returned to the centre for tea, chocolate brownie squares and a quiet space to see if a poem emerged.

There was a sense in which I felt I was cheating a little. A couple of years ago I had been involved in a poetry project connected to the river. A group of us, along with a local poet, were composing circle poems to decorate the flood wall that was being built at the time. We had explored all of the sense ideas. I had thought about settlers and sojourners, trying to link it in to the idea of the river inhaling the settlers and exhaling the sojourners. It wouldn’t fit into a neat circle poem. So, I wrote about a fisherman instead.

We read around the table. We mumbled about the lack of time and said we were not sure that we had done a good enough job, as you do. But what creative people we turned out to be! Faced with the same river and the same road, we had seen such different things – it was awesome. The green man from the road crossing walked into every poem.

I tried hard to make my poem rhyme but it didn’t want to so I didn’t insist. I had written down a phrase early on in my river stroll – “always moving somewhere” – people, the cars, the river itself – always moving somewhere.

I think sometimes that poetry is about making the reader, or the listener, stop for a moment, catch a glimpse of something extraordinary. Good poetry leaves its mark somewhere.

The River of Life

Road like blood vein through the city
Cars and bikes and taxis moving
Red light halting, green man bleeping
Waiting drivers, fingers tapping
Hop on, hop off tourists staring
People posing, cameras clicking
Noisy bustle interfering
Masking urgent conversations
Cycle riders pavement weaving
Push-chair mothers scolding babies
Ice cream licking, melting, dripping
The river of life flows shifting, glinting

Sending out the Nine

God’s mathematics – 9 divided by 4 plus 2 equals lots of people prayed for and blessed plus 2 balls of knitting wool. That describes my yesterday activities.

The nine – myself, Andy, Carla and Daniel, Ellie and Angus, Michael, Andrew and Raymond. Jesus sent his disciples, whether the twelve or the seventy two into the surrounding towns and villages to preach and teach, heal diseases and cast out demons. It’s a vision that our church has made regular practice for the last few months. It was the first time that I joined them, Friday usually being a work day. It brought back memories of Gospel Outreach team days – these particular days of talking to strangers were never the ones I enjoyed. I’m not that good at the one-to-one encounters.

The four – four cars. Obviously we could have fitted into fewer cars but we weren’t all starting off at the same place. I sat next to Raymond. I know his wife and his wife’s sister and his wife’s sister’s husband but I have never had the chance to get to know Raymond. He works for a tourist company called Happy Tours that run mini busses around the Highlands and islands. The busses are apparently small and the driver is the tour guide and gives all the interesting commentary of the places they visit.

As well as the conversation with Raymond, I loved not being the driver in the car. I love to gaze out of the window. The previous day, driving out to see Heather at Moniack, a pheasant in the ploughed field the other side of the hedge had run beside the car, keeping up the pace – so I was keen to see if I could spot anymore of them.

The two – two villages along the A9 heading north, Golspie and Broara. I visited Golspie High School a number of years ago when the education system had money to send teachers out to interesting places to learn stuff by watching the experts. I went there to look at co-operative learning in action.  Broara had a whisky distillery – enough said! The man that used to be a green keeper at the golf course at Broara also used to be our part timer in the department.

The lots of people prayed for – we arrived at the carpark in Golspie and broke off into teams of three people.  I was with the other two ladies. Ellie and I were pretty much first timers and left most of the talking to Carla. Most people were too busy to stop, too healthy to want prayer for any aches and pains, and although polite about it, they were not interested.

There were a couple of people who claimed an acquaintance with me. A young man, Adam, putting up a new sign for the local newspaper office said I had taught him a decade or two ago. He listened but he really wanted to get on with his job. The other man, George, insisted he knew me from the Red Cross House in Inverness. I’d known and visited a young man there but our dates, George’s and mine, didn’t match up. George was happy for us to pray for him. He reminded me of a friend of mine in Inverness who says “I know” to everything I say even when he probably doesn’t know at all.

Carla, Ellie and I walked down to the sea front. I regretted not bringing my camera and trying out a few panorama shots. The sea, the sand, the rock pools and the clouds were a perfect picture.

We spoke to a man called Bert.  He was happy to listen as he polished his car – not the outside, but all the bits under the bonnet. I wanted to tell him that for all the car he took over his car, God took that much care and more over his life. Bert took that much care so that the performance of the car would always be at its best – God wants to live the best life we can with His care. I didn’t say it – I think about saying a lot of things that I never say. Carla talked with him about baptism. He’s been baptised as a baby in the Roman Catholic Church and didn’t see the need for another baptism. I took the opportunity to talk about my own Roman Catholic childhood. We prayed a blessing over Bert.  He was a man of peace and even the short time we spent with him he has stopped to talk to friends and neighbours and told us of the burdens they were carrying.

After lunch we headed along to Broara. We swapped about the teams and Andrew, Angus and I headed off to pray with people. Again, the village was quiet and there were few people about. A street lamp was decorated with knitting – my first ever real experience of yarn-bombing. Then I noticed the knitting everywhere. Broara was hosting a yarn bombing festival – why did I not see all the people knitting in the cafĂ©? Did I not yearn to join in? I spoke to one lady about the yarn bombing and asked whether any of the knitting was hers. She said she used to knit but arthritis in her hands had brought it all to an end. Cue for healing prayer – a perfect opportunity! She must have read my mind and she had already said to the lads that Ibuprofen tablets sorted out her pain. She swiftly walked away.

I talked to and prayed with a couple of other people, offering a prayer of blessing which they seemed to like. One lady hugged me afterwards. Another lady looked a little bemused that someone would take time to walk very slowly along the road with her and he zimmer frame – not offering healing, but just letting her talk about things and not feel so on her own.

How do you define success in these kind of things? One of the lads was disappointed not to have had the opportunity to pray for healing. I was thinking of myself – whether a prayer of blessing was a cop out.

“Mel,” said God, “You have been out there, way out of your comfort zone. You found a way to do things your way, not Carla’s way. You approached people, talked to them, found bridges to them – the Roman Catholic stuff, the yarn bombing stuff – and you connected. You prayed for people – blessings. In my book, it was a good day.”

The two balls of wool – I am going to have to go back to Broara to the wool shop. I left the boys to go into the wool shop. The smell of the wool was glorious. There were the usual top brand wools in packs of six wrapped in cellophane, but there were also shelves of other wool – local spun stuff in earthy shades. I bought two balls from the scraps basket.

Friday, April 07, 2017

My Narrow Stretch of Grass

Catching up on one of the Lent readings and meditations I had missed earlier in the week, I read the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

I almost sighed and asked myself if there was anything I didn’t know about the parable. I have books and pictures of it. I have taught it to school pupils and preached it in churches. I have produced power point presentations of it and acted it out. I have written short stories and poems based on it.  I have even re-written it into text-speech to see what it might look and sound like. Over-kill and yet here it is again.

There’s not much in the parable that really relates to me on the literal level. I don’t see myself in any of the characters of the story.

I am not a parent, not a father and I have never watched my child leave home. I don’t remember much about my own father, and although I had a stepfather, his influence over me was quite limited. I was an intimidating teenager.

In the spiritual sense we are all the younger son having strayed from God and demanded our independence. In the physical sense there might have been minor rebellions but I have never left the way the younger son did. I went places – for a while I was the most travelled in the family – but I always came home for holidays and I wrote endless long letters. I have never been a phone person.

I have never been the squandering type – just ask the moths in the purse! I am not a fritterer-away of stuff. Perhaps part of that is having had so little money and knowing too much, and also too little about poverty, I like my rainy day fund and my definition of rainy days are like Noah’s flood rainy days.

If I have hit the bottom of any barrels, they haven’t been deep barrels or particularly dirty ones. I have lived too carefully and cautiously for the bad barrels to be a part of my history.

“If I was the father in the parable,” said God, “OK, I am the father in the parable – if I was a father, not the Father, and you were my daughter – I would have packed your case and thrown you out of the house! I would have told you to squander stuff and go and feed pigs.”

I am not a risk taker. I play it safe. And sometimes that means that I don’t really lick the lid of the yoghurt top of life. I need to not live my life on a fairly narrow stretch of grass but be part of the bigger world.

In the parable the father is always there to welcome back the son. God is always there not to welcome me back if I wander – but to have my back in the new adventures I should be embracing. I should be brave.

Why would God have my back? Why does it matter to Him that my experience of the world should be more than my narrow stretch of grass? He created me, He fashioned me and He filled me with gifts and abilities, and He filled me with dreams. My narrow stretch of grass is not a big enough arena for me to find these things and live in the good of them.

God doesn’t have another Mel. He wants the one He has to be the Mel He had in mind when he created me – not the Mel that I think is sufficient, or the world would like me to be.

The character I might come closest to might be the older son – but even then, I’m not like him either. I don’t work as hard as he does. I don’t whine about parties. I quite like younger brothers returning to the fold. Yes, there are times when I have felt passed over – a Christian friend seems to fall into a good life without any apparent struggles and I limp form crisis to crisis.

I read somewhere that the love the father expressed to the older son was not in a party of his own which he never got but in the invitation to work with him to organise and host the feast for the younger son. That was the better gift, the real honour – working with the father to throw a party.

God invites us to help him to throw a party for all the younger sons that come home.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sussing Out the Secrets to a Short Story

I spoke to a friend earlier this week and mentioned his absence at the Moniack Mhor inspired weekly writing classes. Discovering that it was all about short stories, characters, settings and so on, he declared that he had been there, done it, bought the T-shirt and written numerous stories. Come to think of it, so have I, but it didn’t stop me.

We began with creating a character. Claire gave us a list of things and we set to the task. I like my man Ivan. He’s not a remarkable character, but once placed in a setting and given something to talk about, he became interesting. It seems that he has the potential to feature in a series of stories according to the folks around the table.

Not allowed to simply read through the list, we were to imagine finding a bag, and the contents of the bag would reveal the character.  Some people described the bag in detail and there was always something in the bag that made people go “Ah”.

The bag was resting against a wall beside the bus stop. It was just a plastic carrier with a supermarket logo in primary colours. A quick look around, an empty road, no returning person.

There was an elaborate Mother’s Day card poking out of the top of the bag. A huge vase of flowers covered the front with purple petals picked out in soft cardboard, and a sprinkling of glitter. There was nothing subtle about it – purchased for a mother most definitely loved.

A bag of bird feed nestled next to the card. It was from the farm and poultry shop on the other side of town. Not your usual peanuts or suet balls. Something for hens perhaps? Maybe he kept hens. But no. There was a home-made looking magazine printed on cheap paper with the title “The Pigeon Fancier”. In a police station the same sort of thing might have had pictures of local criminals, but these pages were filled with photographs of pigeons, artfully posed, eying the camera, feathers smoothed and oiled.

I warned you that he wasn’t a remarkable person. At the end of the road where I live there is a man with a shed full of pigeons. There are quite few other birds that settle on the roof of his house and along the wooden fence. It has a feel about it like visitor’s time in a prison, chatting through the bars.

The next task was to write a setting. My man Ivan disliked anything to do with football – so I took him out of his comfort zone and into a football stadium.  I have been to one or two games. We were asked to work through the different senses in describing the place. The first time I went to see a live game we were way up in the top seats. The players were like ants. I hadn’t realised how much I needed the commentary that TV provides. They didn’t tell you who had the ball, who they passed it to, who fouled them, who took the free kick – all the essential stuff.

Dialogue was next on the list.  Claire was looking for a dozen lines.

“So, you want in, then? A piece of the action? Need to move it, mate, before them birds are all bought?”

“I’d like to see the birds first if I may. I don’t like buying birds without having a good feel.”

“Yeah, well. Feeling ‘em up - when does it stop, eh? Wouldn’t we all like to feel ‘em. Then they’d be damaged goods, see?”

“Damaged?  They can’t be that sturdy if you can damage them that easily. Where did you say they were from? Do you have their passports?”

“Passports? Are you kidding? They don’t come with passports. We ship them in. Slip an envelope into the right hands at the passport control.”

You have perhaps worked it out already. The bird seller took a while to catch on. Poor Ivan didn’t. 

Next we marry the dialogue to the setting.

Ivan was becoming uncomfortable not just with the way the conversation was going.  He didn’t like football or football grounds. He wondered why they couldn’t have met somewhere else. They were standing beside the food kiosk. The bird seller was reaching into his pocket for loose change. The smell of chip fat oil was nauseating and Ivan had spilt hot coffee on his hand and it stung.

“Got any brown sauce, mate?” The man pushed the polystyrene tray along the counter.

Ivan was hoping the man had a Spanish dovetail to sell – grey feathers if possible. The ad in the local paper had been in large bold print – “Birds for sale!” The talk of no passports worried Ivan. He needed to know the breeding background of the birds.  It surprised him that the bird seller didn’t seem to find it that important.

I’ll skip the middle bit of the story – it goes on a bit. Someone scores a goal.  There’s a lot of singing. I plundered my setting chart and covered all the senses. The bird seller tried to pressure Ivan into a decision. His voice took on a threatening note.

The bird seller looked around, eyes shifting from a group of me leaning against the coarse brickwork to a single man loitering beneath a poster.

“Something’s not right.”

A hand slapped against Ivan’s chest, feeling the fabric of his shirt.

“Are you wired?”

“Wired?”

“You’re an effing cop! I’m being set up. The whole conversation on tape! I should have known!”

Ivan, small man that he was, tried to make himself even smaller.

“I just want a Spanish dovetail with grey feathers,” he said soflty.

“A Spanish dovetail?”  A dawning look crept over the bird seller face.  “Birds? Real birds? With feathers? Not birds, then? Not women?”

Scorn poured into every word.  It stung more than the spilt coffee.

“Effing ‘ell” said the seller shaking his head as he walked away.

And there you have it - a complete story, apparently, in first draft form. I don’t know whether Spanish dovetails with grey feathers actually exist – but I had you convinced they did, didn’t I?

Monday, March 27, 2017

What’s so wrong about serving?

We’ve just got back from a weekend away at a wedding. Friday afternoon flight, Saturday wedding and a Sunday flight home made for a very quick visit – but a lovely one none-the-less.

I was asked to do one of the readings at the wedding. The original plan had been to write and to read a poem for Emma and Joseph, but there was a service written out and coming off script wasn’t encouraged. The passage, not familiar to me, is taken from Ecclesiasticus which sits somewhere in the Apocrypha, that middle section between the Old and New Testaments where most Protestants don’t visit.

Happy the husband of a really good wife;
The number of his days will be doubled.
A perfect wife is the joy of her husband,
He will live out the years of his life in peace.
A good wife is the best of portions,
Reserved for those who fear the Lord;
Rich or poor, they will be glad of heart,
Cheerful of face, whatever the season.
The grace of a wife will charm her husband,
Her accomplishments will make him stronger.
A silent wife is a gift from the Lord,
No price can be put on a well-trained character.
A modest wife is a boon twice over,
A chaste character cannot be weighed on scales.
Like the sun rising over the mountains of the Lord
is the beauty of a good wife in a well-kept house
(Ecclesiasticus 26:1-4, 16-21)

I thought there were one or two lines to take issue with.  It doesn’t really describe a modern marriage, does it? I have always had a bit of a problem with the silent part of anything. The well-kept house would be nice but doesn’t happen very often. Describing anyone in terms of how they benefit another person seems to do an injustice to both partners in a marriage.

I tracked down the missing verses, the bits between v4 and v16.  They describe the kind of wife that a man wouldn’t want to have – the selfish, vain woman who nags him.

I sit somewhere between the two women.

I wasn’t sure I could do justice to the passage. It wasn’t something that I felt I had signed up to myself.  Perhaps my husband has a different view of me as a wife. Maybe I am his joy and he lives out his life in peace because of me. Maybe. If the lenses in my glasses were of an up-to-date prescription I might have seen from my lectern position the eyes of all the women in the room rolling at one line or another. The church, yet again, failing to keep up with today’s world.

“What’s so wrong about serving?” asked God this morning.

Take away the context of a marriage and if people put that kind of thinking into any relationship the world would be a different place.

Why can’t we all be the joy in the lives of other people? Why can’t someone else have years of peace because of the way I live my life as their friend? Do I have to surrender my gladness when the end of the month comes and my wage packet is all spent? Should other people have to live with my misery? “Cheerful of face, whatever the season” – we all respond to a cheerful face.

Silence is not always the option that we choose. We are so quick to defend or justify ourselves.  We feel the need to supply the context for our actions and insist on not being misunderstood. Our silence allows the other person to be free to supply the context and to misunderstand. Yes, there are times when silence is not the right option – there are things that need to be talked about, discussed, air cleared and so on. But there are a lot of things said that need not be.

The “well-trained character” seems to apply more to the dog than to the wife – but let’s not forget that we are all in training for righteousness as Christians.

I do yearn for a “well-kept house” – not particularly for my husband’s benefit but for my own. We all need a place of peace and our surroundings contribute to that.

“There’s nothing wrong with serving,” I admitted, “but why is all down to the wife? Where is the husband’s part in it all?”

“Why not be the instigator?” said God. “Why not set the tenor of the relationship? Why not be the starter of all things good in any relationship? The alternative it to be in a relationship where you have to earn or deserve the good.  The good become something to barter over, to withdraw at times – and that’s not the kind of love that reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church which is what marriage is all about. It’s not the way I do love and it’s not supposed to be the way you do it either.”

Happy the wife of a really good husband;
The number of her days will be doubled.
A perfect husband is the joy of his wife,
She will live out the years of her life in peace.

We should all be the instigators in every relationship we have, setting the tenor, being the starter of all good things – acting rather than reacting.