Monday, March 30, 2020

Lock Down

our eyes are fixed on
a forty-two inch screen of two
thin glass sheets, colour filters
liquid crystals, an unrelenting
message of doom, interrupted by
a llama looking in someone’s window and
a man in lycra shorts doing push-ups

we bounce around our four walls
yearning for outside
even if it’s raining
wishing we had a big dog that
needed more than one walk
we play endless games of Ludo and
argue over words on a scrabble board

it’s a microscopic tyrant
who holds our freedom to ransom
no white flags of truce to
discuss terms of surrender
no army of enemy troops
setting siege to castle walls
just a dry, rasping cough

not designed to be confined
the law flouters meet in the park
sharing a box of Marlboro Gold
the slightly deflated ball they kick around
reflects their slightly deflated mood
someone behind twitched curtains clipes
the police give them marching orders

hope is the last thing to die
now it breathes through a ventilator
the Dunkirk spirit flails and
not even the llama can rescue it
but wait…there's a promise 
God will have pity on our ruins
the wilderness will blossom again

He opens a window to a
fresh morning breeze

(Isaiah 51:3)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

God's Pockets

Yesterday the Breathe Writers met. Before you start tut-tutting about self-isolation and social distancing – there were just three of us and there were no hugs and we sat well apart in our front room. I appreciate that all the rules are there for our protection and I also appreciate that there isn’t a lot of wriggle room – but as yet, it is advice and not yet law. “Sensible” is the word that is being bandied about and we met that criteria.

The poem “Ten Things Found in a Shipwrecked Sailor's Pocket” - by Ian McMillan has probably been done to death as far as creative writing prompts go. Change the shipwrecked sailor to a hairdresser, an astronaut or a farmer and you have endless permutations of what can be found in pockets.

If God wore a jacket that had pockets, make a list of ten items that might be found in them:-

My List – note that I resisted the urge to make anything rhyme!

The first star that ever fell
A blood-stained nail
A fist full of music notes
A tooth from Jonah’s whale
A handkerchief that Paul prayed over
A letter from Charlotte asking for blue eyes
A little black book full of empty pages
A cure for cancer
Six hours of silence for a very dark day

My husband’s List – he was thinking about what men might carry in their pockets.

A very small version of the Book of Life
A photo of “My beloved child” (which miraculously transforms so every believer can see themselves when He shows it to them
A wallet that contains an infinite amount of blessings
A comb – Jesus has long hair and a neat parting in most of the pictures
A pen for adding names to the book of life
A handkerchief for mourning the things that break His heart
A swiss army knife = because every prayer can have a different solution
A mobile phone because everyone else has got one
A watch because He knows the day, the hour, the minute and the second
A slice of mystery – He chooses who and when to reveal it to

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Take now my grateful heart
There is no other like it
Like the rest of me, it is unique

Pieced together with wonder
Fashioned and shaped with awe
The smallest feature intended

For this singular being, a place
Set aside in the vast universe
Belongs to me alone

This knowledge, so precious
I carry in the deepest part of me
It’s woven into my soul

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Seeing the Very Good

Genesis 1:31 – “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”

I was asked this morning whether I had any aches and pains by the Healing on the Streets team. I did a quick mental journey around the body and could come up with nothing. It occurred to me then that my aches and pains are not physical ones but ones of the heart and the mind.  My troubles were not external ones, but internal.

Years ago, two of the members of the Scripture Union group that met at lunchtime at school asked me if there was a way where they didn’t have to read the set texts for English. I can’t remember the offending book, but they did not want to read it. It wasn’t wholesome. There might have been swear words in them. I have always held that we should not hide away from unpleasant things. Things that confront our faith, or mock it, are not things we ought to run from. We need to look at them squarely in the face and call them out. Thinking that faith will buckle beneath things that mock or ridicule what we hold sacred it to have a poor understanding of just who we have faith in. I may have said something along those lines, or I may have told them to talk to their English teacher about the issue. The might be alternative books they could read.

Lately I have found myself in that same situation, having to read a book I’d rather not have to read. Set books, books chosen because they exemplify a specific writing device, is part and parcel of the creative writing degree I am doing. It’s not a Christian creative writing degree course so the books are not chosen to build my faith. All the choices given me are not books I would choose to read. Perhaps I’d start to read but if the characters or the plot become unpleasant, I usually stop reading. I have an essay to write, an analysis of the structure and techniques used by the author. Not reading the book is not an option.

I made my choice and read the book. I didn’t enjoy the book. There seemed to be no characters that I sympathised with. I wasn’t cheering anyone on. The plot left a bad taste in my mouth. When I came to the end of the book, it was with a sigh of relief that it was over. There was no wish to leaf back and read favourite bits because here weren’t any.

Words spoken, words written, words read silently or out loud – words are powerful things. They are creative. They are destructive. The right ones can heal. The wrong ones can destroy. String them together and tell a story and the words seep into the soul.

This week there have been no giants felled or strongholds demolished. I have not lived up to being “more than a conqueror”. I haven’t particularly been conquered either. It has not been an easy week. I have been quite grouchy and for no good reason. Oh, well, there’s the whole thing about the new bus timetable but let’s not go there.

I think it’s the book. It’s a kind of slow poison that has crept off the page and lodged somewhere in my soul, like a stain.

I read Genesis 1:31 in an afternoon quiet time.

Even before I had reached the end of the sentence, I saw myself standing before the word with arms crossed over, perhaps tapping a foot lightly, saying, “Yes, but it isn’t, is it?” All that He has made isn’t very good at all. I did not quite tick off all the ills of the world on my fingers, but it was there – the list.

Then I imagined God, off His throne, storming towards me. He was in my face, punctuating every word with a pause, “I saw all that I had made, and it was very good.” This was not a prelude to a debate It was a this-is-what-it-says-and-what-it-says-is-what-it-is. I kind of saw myself marching out of throne room and slamming the door. If I had a room that’s where I was headed slamming that door too.

“The problem,” said God, standing outside the door I had just mentally slammed, “is not with the word. It’s with you. You have gone sour!”

As a species we have a natural character flaw to pick fault and see the worst in things. Maybe I’m doing the human species a disservice and it’s just me. The papers are full of the not so very good stuff that people do. My ability to see what is good is always under attack. Perhaps there is wisdom in not reading certain stuff like newspapers – but that is hiding, and faith hates to hide.

“Come on out,” said God, “Le Me wet-wipe your inner lens and wipe away all the stuff that has accumulated, all that stands in the way of you seeing clearly.

God wants me to look at His world and echo His words that it is “very good” because it is. It’s not about pretending that it’s not damaged, but about having and using His gift to see beneath the damage, to see the beauty that is there.