Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Tall Oder For a Short Person

I have been looking for a Bible verse to lead me into 2012. I know it sounds super spiritual and maybe a tad legalistic – but it is neither. 2011 whizzed by in a bit of a blurr. Maybe the older one gets, the quicker these things pass by. I would like 2012 to pass at a more sedate rate and for me to not stand at the end of it and wonder where they days went.

I suppose I could churn out the resolutions that I made last year and the year before that and see if I get beyond January with them still intact. I could think that maybe this year will be different. History tells me that it won’t.

It’s not the New Year yet, but according to the Bible Notes I bought the other day, it’s 4th January. I thought I would get a head start. Once work crashes in, and it will crash, things will get busy, and one or two days may get missed. We are looking at 2 Corinthians – a letter that I am not so well acquainted with. Paul has this to say in verse 12.

“We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.” 2 Cor 1:12 NLT

Wouldn’t that be quite something to say at the end of 2012?

This is not a Bible verse to lead anyone through just one year. It governs not just a year, or Paul’s dealings with just one church. It’s a hallmark stamped upon the whole of a faith-walk from start of finish.

• I have a God-given holiness that should be seen in all of my dealings.

• I want to be sincere – but not to be sincerely wrong. (It seems a measure of humility is needed here.)

• I want to put aside my own human wisdom, with all of its successes and failures. (Sometimes the successes of human wisdom are more dangerous than the failures)

• My faith-walk began with God’s grace and should continue that way. (I will not switch suppliers!)

• The way I conduct myself between the world and the church, my home and my neighbourhood shouldn’t vary. (The end of “work Mel” and “holiday Mel”)

If I put these things in place, the other things, will fall into place.
I would say that it’s a tall order for someone not like Paul – but then Paul probably found it a tall order too but did it anyway.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Sticky Situation

I made myself a promise yesterday and almost wrote it on a pink sticky so I wouldn’t forget. After work I promised myself to visit the police station. I wasn’t going to confess to some horrible crime, but to ask if someone, a taxi driver, had handed in a walking stick in the last month or so.

There might have been a flicker of de javu in the eyes of the woman behind the counter. I’d asked her the same question a couple of years ago – a different walking stick, but just as lost. Her reply gave me hope when I was asked to describe the stick. It would have been nice if she had done a line-up of recently handed in walking sticks and asked me if I recognised any. It would have been nice to say “The second one from the end,” but the conversation didn’t go that way. My description didn’t match the one stick she had in the locker room. Red, metal and folding was not my stick. There was another ray of hope when she said that things not claimed after six weeks are given to the Highland Hospice charity shop.

I had a parking ticket to see me through the next couple of hours so I decided to stroll along to the shop to see if the walking stick, not the current lost one, but the previous lost one, was there somewhere. The door was in the process of being locked and the bolts drawn when I got there, but pulling a sad face seemed to do the trick. I was informed that there were no walking sticks.

I have done this charity shop crawl before looking for walking sticks, but the Highland Hospice had slipped through the net. I navigated a route around the town taking in the rest of the charity shops, trying to make sure I didn’t cross my path, or walk down the same street twice – quite a feat after a long day and trying to reach the shops before they closed.

• PDSA - new ones, black, metal and folding with pretty red flowers.
• Care in the Community – no sticks.
• Heart Foundation – no sticks.
• Oxfam – there were a couple of ski sticks, white with red flames on them
• Barnardos – no sticks, but directions to the mobility shop who sold new ones.
• Children First – “Yes”, said the woman confidently, “We have a stick!” She scoured the shelves and had to admit that they must have sold it.

As I was leaving the shop, I saw something in the window. It was a hybrid of sorts – a walking stick/umbrella combination. My husband’s friend had lent him something similar on the day of the Unions’ Day of Protest last month. There was no way Joe would have made it through the picketing and marching without something to lean on. He showed it me. It was a little smaller that was comfortable but better than nothing.

I picked it from the window display. It was just like the one his friend had lent him. Smaller than was comfortable but it was better than nothing. The price tag seemed a little steep for a charity shop and I swithered.

“Are you going to buy that?”

I turned to find a small aged gentleman standing beside me. I’m usually the smallest person in any meeting of two people over the age of ten.

He looked longingly at the object I was swithering about.

I surrendered it to him to try out, hoping that he didn’t really want it. They were obviously meant for each other. They matched size-wise and the umbrella part of it was even colour co-ordinated to match his dark coat.

“If you want to buy it…I mean, you did see it first…”

I did want to buy it, but it would have felt like some kind of robbery to deny him his prize.

“You take it,” I said.

I confess that I walked around the block, back around to the shop just in case he decided not the buy it, but it was gone.

A final stop on the way back to the car was in order. My parking ticket may have been good for another hour but the charity shops were closing quicker than I could get to them, and my boots were not made for walking. I decided to stop off at the railway station. We had checked the lost property office just day after the loss of the stick. I could picture it then lounging in the overhead luggage rack on the train from Glasgow to Inverness, blending in with the surroundings, ignored by the cleaners. It could have gone unnoticed for weeks.

“Any walking sticks handed in over the last few weeks?”

“Not recently…but…” The man went on to say that they had lots of lost property including lots of walking sticks. What kind of stick was I looking for? So high, dark wood with a curved handle I told him. He disappeared for a while and returned some time later with two sticks that fitted the bill, except that one was white and obviously used to belong to a blind person. The other wasn’t my lost stick either. It was black metal and folding but without the pretty red flowers. It was very sturdy looking and just the right height.

It had been rattling around the lost luggage locker for a long time unclaimed.

As I jauntily walked back to the car, imagining myself wielding the stick to defend myself against muggers in a poorly lit alley way on the way to the car park, I wondered whether to wrap it up and make my husband wait until Christmas, or just hand it over.

I handed it over. I couldn’t wait for Christmas to see his delight!

A Christmas Recipe

Some poems are worth re-posting particularly at this time of the year. I wrote this three years ago and I still love it! Enjoy.

A Christmas Recipe

Begin with a night, so silent and still
Across the expanse a million stars spill
Cast into the heavens a star really bright
That fair draws the eye, with radiant light

Stir in a stable, a mother with child
A manger to lay him with hay freshly piled
A father to watch them, a smile on his face
Amazed to be part of God's glorious grace

Fold into the mixture a trio of kings
Complete with their camels and valuable things
Empty the gold, frankincense, myrrh
Hearts full of worship and gently stir

A pinch of shepherds, and handful of sheep
On a Bethlehem hillside sharp and steep
Blend in a choir with a heavenly tune
In the warm silver glow of a cold winter moon

Generously spread a dollop of joy
Lashings of laughter for a Saviour boy
Sprinkle with wishes for peace on the earth
Liberally douse with a belly of mirth

Cook in a prophecy, a secret foretold
Wrapped in a promise, spoken of old
Simmer and watch tepid hearts start to glow
Bear witness as mustard seed faith starts to grow

Dole out a portion to each hungry soul
That fills hollow hearts and makes all men whole
A dish to remember as each year goes by
The taste in our tongues no money can buy

(c) Melanie Kerr 2008

Friday, December 16, 2011

£16,000 or Nothing

It has been a while since I have slept the night through. Last night was no exception. I woke up perhaps two or three times. I don’t remember long stretches of wakefulness between times. If I need to go to the bathroom, I make it a policy to keep my eyes shut, and not turn on the bathroom light. I don’t want my brain to wake up so no sensory stimulus is permitted.

Last night, just before the last sleep of the night, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a prayer, but I thought it would be nice to have an uplifting dream – a God-revelation inspired one, rather than a Mel-stress generated one.

I dreamt I was sitting with a group of friends having a cup of coffee. The table was strewn with newspapers and we were having a lazy morning, reading papers, drinking coffee and chilling out together.

Suddenly someone pointed out a page of poetry. It was one of the big daily papers, not a local rag. They were honouring new poets on the literary scene.

“It’s one of your poems! You are in the paper!”

There were just two poems on the page, and mine took up a small section of one column – so it wasn’t a long poem. There wasn’t any critical evaluation next to it – it was just my poem. Now that I am wide awake, I don’t remember which poem it was – just that I knew it was mine.

I was aware that the radio was playing in the background. It was one of those programmes where there were two people doing the show. They were singing a song making the tune up as they went along. The words were familiar – it was yet another one of my poems.

Neither the newspaper editor, nor the radio hosts, had said anything to me about using my poetry. I felt that I was owed some kind of royalties. It was my material they were making use of, without my permission.

I got into a taxi and headed off the radio station. I spoke to the head of broadcasting and pointed out that they were breaching copyright laws by singing the words to my poem without my permission. He didn’t seem particularly worried and wrote a five figure sum on the back of an envelope. £16,000 or nothing. I could take it or leave it. If I wanted to make an issue of it I could see him in court,

At that point I woke up. I could still hear the tune playing in my ear and see the back of the envelope with £16,000 written on it.

It felt so real that, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a prayer, I found myself asking God whether it was a prophetic or not.

If God could be said to have eyebrows, He arched one rather dramatically.

And said nothing at all.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Skin to Skin Immanuel

I long to see your face
Without the tears
Each time I touch you
I long to see your joy
And not feel your sorrow
Every time I draw near

We met in a garden
In the cool of the day
And walked
And laughed
And loved

I want to speak
Gentle words and
Throw away my angry men
Spilling rage and
Warning words and
Dire threats

We talked in a garden
In the cool of the day
Devoted lovers
Sharing secrets
Cherishing communion

I want to stop time
Stay the passing
Of minutes, hours and days
Lest you forget forever
What life was like
When you loved me

There was only me
And my voice
And my presence
To fill your days
And flood your heart

I want to stop
The past between us
Forever staining the future
I want to stop
The future we will share
Forever following the path of the past

Once more
We will meet
No garden rendezvous
No mystery, no majesty
But skin to skin
I will be Immanuel

Inspired by Amos 9:5 "The Lord, the LORD Almighty, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who live in it mourn..."

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Piggy Banks and Pension Schemes

On Wednesday afternoon, crammed into the function room of the used-to-be-called Caledonian Hotel in Church Street, a few hundred union members taking a day of strike action, listened to more than a few stirring speeches.

Earlier in the day I had dropped off my husband to join his picket line and we had arranged to meet outside the Calley Hotel at lunchtime. There was a mass rally, speeches and a march through the town centre.

I arrived at the appointed hour and the crowd outside the hotel was just a few dozen. The word “mass” was an inappropriate term. What I had failed to realise was that it was all happening at the back of the hotel, in the car park. There was a “mass” back there. Apparently the Fire Brigade was handing out soup and sandwiches and the outside door to the function room was open.

Three hotel receptionists of club bouncer physique told people the meeting in the function room was full, so I believed them and waited patiently outside for Joe to come and find me, unaware that he was scanning the crowd in the car park looking for me. At this point a mobile phone would have been useful. Joe’s was at home. Mine was in the handbag with a dead battery.

Cold and slightly miffed that I was not allowed inside I used the excuse of needing the toilet to get past the bouncers and slipped down the stairs to the function room. It was full, but there was standing room. I listened to the tail end of the speeches while looking for Joe. He had retired to the bar at this point – I should have guessed!

I have never been on strike before. The last time teachers went on strike I was out of the country teaching in a small private school in Cyprus. I am not sure that had I been in the country I would have been on strike. In those days I was a political dummy. I was a union member but not really convinced my subs were money well spent.

So there I was, leaning against the wall, scanning the crowds for a glimpse of Joe, listening to speeches, some stirring, some not so stirring.

Then, out of the blue, a picture came to mind, a memory of something that I saw months, if not years, ago. I was standing in the queue at the local Co-op. I don’t know what time of day or what I was buying. I dare say there was chocolate involved. The man in front of me was buying a bottle of alcohol. If it was whisky, it wasn’t an expensive label. It might have been a bottle of wine. To pay for the bottle, the man tipped out a bag containing lots of very small coins, one penny, two pence and the occasional five pence coin. It was a fair pile and it took a while for the checkout assistant to count them all. Once the transaction was done, he left with the bottle tucked in his pocket.

I am not the most patient of people in checkout queues, and I might have had a look on my face that indicated as much.

The assistant looked at me and said, “I know him…he lives nearby. Those coins…he has raided his sister’s piggy bank to get them. It’s really sad...” I wasn’t sure who to be sorry for – the man who could not get through the day without alcohol or the sister with an empty piggy bank or even the checkout assistant who became almost an accessory to the crime.

So there I was, on Wednesday, leaning against the wall in the hotel function room, scanning the crowds for a glimpse of Joe, listening to speeches…and I remembered the man and the bottle of wine and the money taken from someone else’s piggy bank.

There was something of an echo. It feels like it’s my piggy bank that is being raided by the big brother. It’s not a huge pile of money – not gold plated like they say.

They do know, don’t they, where the real money is? In the pockets of the fat cat bankers!