Monthly Archives: July 2010

Cutting a slice of life

Long silence due to the business of a family wedding. On Thursday Duncan and Kenneth tied the knot. After a beautiful and moving ceremony at the Lothian Chambers, in Edinburgh, we went to the ‘Cave’ venue, where they cut a slice out of this beautiful cake, both the cakes and roses (seventy of them) decorating it made by themselves.

It was a lovely, happy family occasion. Enjoy, readers! (but sadly no cake for most of you, and it was delicious too!)

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Blessings

It has been a taxing week, complete with a friend who has gone through a horrible expereince, a sick sheep, and (trivial I know) a dress for my son’s wedding providing traumas of its own.

But there were blessings. A kind and supportive vet. A friend prepared to go to great lengths to sort out the dress, and make her help seem like fun. A cluck of little chicks running round the yard. And although I did have to make a separate journey to have the under-warranty car’s rear-view mirror glued back on, at least they washed the car for me!

Dragons, and other angels

I have been busy with practical business this summer. First the house, then my outfit for my son’s wedding. I have enjoyed all of it, but it has left a side of myself feeling a bit thwarted. You might thing one book still desperately seeking a publisher would be enough to make one give up, but it is not.

The first prompting was the creative hairdresser. The next was an excellent video clip of a graphic artist (hat tip Kimberly) which had me thinking of more allusive possible ways of illustrating a book, and of the need for books bridging the gap between child and adult. Books which work on several levels. A title for this possible book came to me. It is, Dragons, and other angels. Then the sermon this morning, which ended with a short extract from a bible story.

This should have had me rushing back to a formula which I know I can do, but it did not. The brass eagle, who I have made into an icon of John’s angel symbol, stared beadily at me, and I found myself thinking about angels.

The trouble is, I don’t know if I can do it – I do not know how to pitch the story, or how to tell it, so that children can follow it, and it has enough layers for adults. I would be wiser to go back to bible stories. But I don;t have a clear idea for a book there, and I do for the angels. And I hope angels will prove able to cast a wider net. We shall see.

… they will mount up with eagles’ wings

It strikes me that competent people, skilful, able people, have certain things in common. In private life they may be a mass of insecurities. They may get rattled, and call the cat a furry pest, and shriek at the sight of a large spider, and agonise over the tops of their thighs, but get them into their own sphere, and that falls away. They become calm, confident. They have a certain authority which rubs off on others and gives them a genuine liberty. In that sphere, and often there alone, they rise up like soaring eagles, and others are drawn along in the slip-stream to explore their own individuality.

And it can be any sphere. The surgeon, the artist, the priest at the altar. One sees it at once, or rather, those who know anything about the area in question see it. There will, of course, be those who are blinded to art, and do not recognise excellence, because it comes from a potter and not a performance artist, or those totally deaf to the rhythms of liturgy, or…

But if one cultivates a certain sensitivity, it appears. And the encouragement of excellence in others – not sloppy anything-goes-ness, which true excellence can rarely tolerate, but high-achieving individuality -is a very good prognostication of its presence. Hence, it was with rising hope that today I realised that the hairdressers in the salon all sported very different hair styles, and dress styles. That I realised my stylist, after an initial consultation, and then an exasperated: ‘There are about four different hair styles in here fighting to get out!’ was working in silence and concentration.

At last, I have something at least resembling a hair style, though apparently the cutting into my fringe will simple have to grow out and will take time. I even paid the absurd bill with a grateful smile.

Women are images of God.

So, a man who has shot three people has finally taken his own life, and 100 people on Facebook are applauding his actions in punishing his cheating girlfriend – according to Today.

Why be surprised? After all, about two women a week are killed by domestic violence. Let me put that another way. We live in a society where, every week, two men think it is perfectly all right to murder women they used to claim they loved. To ‘punish’ them for the way they dress, who they speak to, not having dinner on the table at the right time or some other trivia. So shooting the poor lass, murdering her partner and seriously injuring some other bloke doing his job is par for the course, actually. I mean, who would not want to stay in a relationship with an abusive man as long as he apologises for his violence at intervals?

And I fear that domestic violence is the unacceptable end of a continuum of an attitude to women which finds clergy and laity of the C of E promising to leave the church if they cannot be promised a system for appointing bishops which is untouched by female authority at any point whatever – if at no point a woman has any command over them at all. Oh yes, these men would not of course beat up a woman. They are not violent, they are not (in that way) cruel. And that is really true, I am not being ironic. If any of them read this, they will be very angry to see themselves in any way bracketed with Raoul Moat. I can understand why. All the same, and at risk of hurting people I do actually like individually, I think they are part of the same problem, part of the same continuum.

It boils down to this. Either women are are really people, in just the same why as men are, or they are not. If they are, then they deserve respect and to be heard in every area and on all issues. If they are not, they do not. People are made in the image of God, and they can carry parts of his authority for him. Those who are not people, cannot. End of.

And although I do not want to hurt otherwise nice people, it is time for them to come to terms with the fact that women are people too. End of.

… as it is written

Recently there has been a move to actually read the Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). Not to read what should be written, or might have been written. Not, and this is important, to read the simplest possible interpretation of what is written, but to read the thing intelligently, as though reading Middlemarch. To assume that those writing it, while inspired, were also not fools. To assume that God, in picking them, might actually have had some sense, and picked people who could write.

The results of this are incredible, impressive. I think particularly of Alan J. Hauser, and I am grateful for his From Carmel to Horeb: Elijah in crisis (Sheffield, Almond Press, 1990). In it he argues that the text shows that Elijah is actually told by God to appoint his successor, Elisha. Elijah is, effectively, dismissed. True in due course the blow is softened by his amazing ascent in a fiery chariot. But he has gone fatally wrong somewhere. It set me thinking: where? I have come to believe it is in slaughtering the prophets of Baal. When one reads the story in a continuum with the Elisha narratives, this makes sense. There is much in Elisha about the need to tolerate foreigners and foreign worship. There is much that is gob-smacking, as AKMA points out.

Joep Dubbink, ‘Getting closer to Jeremiah: the Word of YHWH and the Literary-Theological Person of a Prophet’, Readings in the Book of Jeremiah, A Search for Coherence, ed Martin Kessler (Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2004) does something almost equally astonishing with the book of Jeremiah. The pinacle of Jeremiah’s understanding, he says, comes when Jeremiah realises that God’s suffering in pulling down Israel, is so much greater than that of the faithful old man, by now skin and bones, who has been persuced by his countrymen and lived through a horrific seige and seen his countrymen slaughtered and now must live out what is left of his life in a foreign country. That’s right YHWH has it worse.

Or Jacob, coming back from his night-long crippling struggle with God, and seeing God’s face in that of the brother he has wronged. Or …

Look, any one of these might be wrong.

But what I would like to know is why many who allegedly hold the Bible in the greatest respect, refuse to read it as though it was a great complex book ?

And they wonder why churches are closing.

About forty years ago, I sat and listened to an already very old lady who described herself as a feminist – she had been one since she was my age. She had been a suffragette, had worked on equal terms with men, and stoutly believed that the sexes were equal. She was the generation before my mother’s. If my mother was alive today she would be 96. My mother worked. She had been a career journalist in the thirties and forties. She had been an editor.

And here we are, in 2010 being told that it will take ‘more time’ before substantial parts of the C of E, a western church in the same country that saw the suffragettes one hundred years ago and then the career women of the 30s, can bring themselves to believe that a woman can represent the authority of God on earth. Now is too soon.

I do ask myself what country these people have been living in. Plainly not the same England (sic) as that in which I spent my girlhood. Not the same England that my mother spent her girlhood in either. Probably, come to that, not even Edwardian England, either.

I had thought these discussions were perhaps part of a truly lunatic fringe, but discussions this week have, depressingly, convinced me that I know all too many men, and perhaps even the occasional woman, who really thinks like this – thinks, by implication, that God cannot be represented by a woman and that there is something in men which makes them uniquely the image of God and more Christ-like.

And they wonder why churches are closing.