Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dull Orange Planets

My optician took the whole looking into my eyes thing a step further this afternoon. He went so far as to take phtographs.

I seem to have reached a new mark in deteriorating vision. The NHS has stepped in the shoulder some of the expense of new glasses. I have moved into the next category or lenses too – a millimetre or two thicker and a whole lot more expensive to boot.

I remember the days of my youth when I used to try to memorise the letters on the card in the moments where the man was fiddling with lenses, just a few minutes before he asked me to take my glasses off. I felt sorry that my eyes were not improving at all and I didn’t want to discourage him, or make him think whatever he was doing wasn’t working.

Now I am bleakly honest. I am having a tough time reading the big letters, loet alone the next line down. I confessed that we were moving into the realm of guess work. I couldn’t see them clearly but knew enough to know the tall ones could be T and L, and the wider ones could be W and M – anything else was pretty much a hazy blob. Just because I guessed right didn’t actually mean I could see them!

“Can you read the last line?”

I laughed. They were the tiniest dots that could have been absolutley anything. They were beyond deciphering.

He had a good look at the back of my eye by shining a light in them. I couldn’t help but take my eye off the light I was supposed to be looking at to marvel at all the tiny little blood vessels that I could see. Amazingly delicate and fragile – it just made we think about how wonderfully and fearfully I am made.

Then came the highlight – the photograph. If 20/20 is perfect vision, I am more than half blind in one eye at least. With diabetes cropping up in the family, the back of my eye is getting more attention.

The picture he downloaded to his computer looked like a dull orange planet.

He muttered and mumbled as he entered data into a programme and I resisted the urge to tell him to speak up. Wihtout my glasses on, I am a tad hard of hearing. He gave the eyes a clean bill of health and told me to come back in two years time – or earlier if I felt like it.

I’d asked him if there were any eye exercises I could do to improve my vision. He told me that the eye wasn’t a muscle, so exercising wasn’t going to help. Not really believing him I checked out the internet. A million webpages seem to disagree with him. I could, apparently, improve my vision and reduce my presription by half if I stare at dots on the screen whilst holding a pencil somewhere near the end of my nose.

I actually think I look better with glasses than without – so I will pass on the dots and the pencil.

It's a Mystery

Joe and I went to the theatre yesterday to see a play. It was, according to the flyer we picked up earlier in the week, an “enchanting adaptation of a medieval mystery play about the beginning of everything”.

Mystery plays are plays based on Bible stories. In a medieval world where very few people could read or write, one way of teaching Bible stories was through drama. This performance included music, dance, singing and a backdrop screen with famous paintings of various Bible scenes projected on to it.

In terms of performance I would say the music was good. The harp player was excellent. A flute played a merry little tune every so often, and a cello created mood by playing a single haunting note. The singers were adequate, the dancers too – but they weren’t professionals.

As the scenes progressed – it put me in mind of my time in South Africa when we took the film “Jesus” to various outdoor venues around the black townships of Durban. We had a big screen, a projector and a generator. The film was in Zulu, so but knew the story well enough to provide my own mental dialogue.

The film wasn’t watched in silence. The audience joined in. There was a lot of hissing at snakes and bad people, and a lot of clapping for miracles performed. There were sharp intakes of breath when the nails were hammered into Jesus’ palms and there were sobs when he surrendered his spirit. I am not sure if the film took it as far as the resurrection scenes – I seem to remember not, but I am sure that there would have been some loud cheers at the empty tomb.

Then - it wasn’t s silent audience.

I have a “joining in” gene that gets switched on sometimes. Last night, I wanted to “join in”. The audience at the theatre wasn’t a big one. We were competing with the pantomime in the main theatre – so we had a select few. There might actually have been more people on stage than there were watching. I got the impression that many of the audience were friends or relatives of the people on stage, there to show solidarity. There wasn’t an invitation given openly, or not, to join in. The pantomime in the main theatre would have encouraged joining in (Oh no it wouldn’t!), but not this play.

I imagined medieval days, and being outside and the mystery plays performed to various village and town crowds. What the audience watched was familiar to them from previous years. The Bible stories they told had been told last year and the year before that. The audience knew when to hiss, clap, sob and cheer – and they were not a silent audience. Heaven and hell were realities to them. Excommunication was a threat they dreaded. They wanted to see the devil come to a sticky end and they wanted to see the saints triumph. They wanted to hear the booming voice of God.

It’s hard to imagine that there are children growing up that don’t know the full repertoire of Bible stories that I know. They are told that it’s all superstitious nonsense and that rational people don’t think believe these things any more. There may be interesting moral lessons to learn – but you can get those same messages from Harry Potter books.

I enjoyed the plays. I was not quite sure that the Authorised Version narrative helped make the message accessible. I think I saw at least one person I knew on stage. What I loved about last night was not having to read the Bible account for myself and imagine the changing scenes but watch as it played out for me.

I immersed myself in the stories and, if I couldn’t visibly join in, I did so invisibly.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Feet as Sure as a Cat's

We are into the second week of snow. There have only been two or three actual snowfalls, but with temperatures well into the minus numbers, the snow hasn’t had the chance to melt. It has just iced over.

It’s boot weather. Some people seem to wear boots well. They look fashionable in them. I look like some Siberian peasant in my boots. They are practical and for the most part keep my feet dry. I would say warm and dry, but the warm bit doesn’t really happen much without thick socks.

I have tended to wear the boots to get to work, then change into a pair of ordinary shoes. At the end of the day I change back into the boots for the homeward journey. On Thursday I couldn’t be bothered to change back into the boots, figuring the short journey through to car-park would not be difficult. I figured wrong. I minced my way to the car, taking very small baby steps, sliding everywhere.

There was an advert in one of the weekend newspapers. For a reasonable price I could have bought one-size-fits-all snow grips.

It brought to mind a Bible verse that I had read earlier in the week.

“The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.” Psalm 37:30-31.

I quite like the way The Message puts v31:-

“His heart pumps God's Word like blood through his veins; his feet are as sure as a cat's.”

Pumping God’s word like blood through the veins is a very strong image. It’s not something you can do in a few snatched minutes here and there. It takes the physical heart less than one minute to pump blood to every cell in the body. Amazing! It seems to take a lot longer for my spirit to pump truth all around my spiritual body!

Sometimes, with my encounters with people throughout the day, I do not always feel like I am on firm ground. It is good to know that there is a way we can walk securely – with the law of God in our hearts.

If truth is being pumped into the right places – my feet will be sure as a cat’s.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

On Being a Sluggard

“I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense, thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.” Proverbs 24:30-31

Let’s just move past the word “field” and the word “vineyard”. I don’t own a field or a vineyard. If only I could tiptoe past the words “thorns” and “weeds”. I do own a garden and those two words describe the state of it really well. My husband would love to replace the badly mowed grass, and the weed infested borders with gravel, but I resist, and he is too scared of me to press his case!

Snow is a great leveller when it comes to gardens. My next door neighbours, on both sides of the house, have immaculate gardens. The lawns are well manicured, the borders filled with a harmonious range of perennials and not a weed in sight. With the snow covering everything, who is to know what lurks under six inches of snow? Mowed lawns and neat edges there may be BUT it’s all hidden under the snow. At last, my garden is on an equal par with theirs!

In the physical world, I may not own a field or a vineyard – but what about in the spiritual world? Fields and vineyards perhaps equate to ministries or even just our daily walk with God.

I was aware as I went to bed last night that as well as being physically tired (I am sure that I have a very switched on hibernation gene!), I was also feeling weary of heart

One of the effects of being snowed upon is that it takes a little longer in the morning to de-ice and warm up the car. I am leaving the house a little earlier than usual. It’s not just iced up cars, but iced up roads. I am trundling along very slowly.

There is a missing fifteen minutes to my morning routine, and my quiet time is suffering. I am a morning person. That is when I am at my most receptive, my most creative and my most energetic. As much as I try to catch up after school with quiet times, the connection isn’t always great.

As I drifted off to sleep, God’s spoke.

“If the late afternoon or evening isn’t working for you, why not get up fifteen minutes earlier than usual to make up the time?”

At this point the word “sluggard” comes to mind! The dictionary defines the word as “A self-indulgent person who spends time avoiding work or other useful activity.” I think the key word her for me is “useful”. I wouldn’t say that I avoid work but I don’t always do what is useful. “Self-indulgent”? Ouch!

It’s not just for my own benefit to feel connected to God, but I want to be able to share my vineyard harvest with other people. I want to be able to confidently declare what God has done for me, not just at the hour I asked Jesus to be my saviour, but on a day to day basis.

Of course, what I really need to remember is that I can connect with God in a variety of ways. My Bible reading routine can become – well, just that – a routine. I can start to get all legal about it and think that God and I are not connected if I don’t read my Bible! Truth is, there are more times than I can count when, even with the open Bible on my knee, I am feeling disconnected!

God will find ways to talk to me as long as I am open to listen. He is not looking for His fifteen minute slot in my day but wants the whole twenty four hours! I should not be finding ways to give him a fifteen minute slot, but open up my whole twenty four hours to Him - which may include a specific fifteen minute slot, earlier than usual for Bible reading.