Monthly Archives: June 2011

In blessing, I will bless you.

So it was for once a beautiful morning, and I needed silence as I drove to work, needed silence for something. And I drove along happily, doing – something. At first I was not quite sure what that something was. I mean, I had a shrewd idea it was something prayerful, and active. It took a bit of careful self ovservation, but in the end I caught myself out. I was looking at the hedgerows and doing something. Loving them, certainly but … ah, I was blessing them.

Blessing is something the modern church has made a somewhat circumscribed activity, and I can see why. It is very powerful. It would be highly inappropriate to have people blessing other people if those people were doing really bad things, and the pressure might sometimes be on to do just that. As a result, the laity are no longer much encouraged to think of blessing. (They used to do it: parents used to bless children, masters, servants, and farmers, fields and trees. Pretty much stopped now. The only thing the lay still are encouraged to bless is meals and diners.) But it is a beautiful thing to do, blessing.

And I was doing it before I realised it. I was driving along, calling down all the good things God is and offers on the hogweed, the last-blooming dog roses, the chaffinches and goldfinches and dunnocks in flight.

It was quite lovely, despite the ever-present heart-ache of transience and death. I have both been blessed, and offered blessings (in another denomination to my current one, with different rules). It always moves me profoundly, which ever side I find myself on, perhaps because it can be given or received, but not, as it were, self-inflicted. It is always a gift, God’s sheer grace in action.

I think, I hope, the circumscription of the church does not extend to offering blessing to the non-human world. I equally hope we could come to think a little more about blessing, because it is not thanksgiving, nor yet intercession, though it has elements of both. Also,like all prayer, it contains a promise: I have blessed you in God’s name, and now I am bound to act out towards you his love and protection. Blessing is a thing in itself, which is why I love the old Hebrew format which offers intensification as explanation: ‘In blessing, I will bless you.’

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A justified sinner

At the moment I have no kitchen. That statement is misleading, in so far as I have had no kitchen since Christmas and see no prospect of having one before the autumn at the very best. However, this kitchenless state leads to fantasies of kitchens, kitchen equipment and cooking. I find what I most yearn for is not shiny cupboards, wooden cupboards, slate surfaces (though I do yearn for slate surfaces) but most basic things like ovens – and knives. I broke my only really good knife, a proper staining steel knife, some time ago and due to the kitchenless state did nothing about it.

Until today – when at the Royal Highland Show, a wonderful array of knives came into view. At that moment I was light-headed with a sudden drop in blood sugar (previous famine foolishly relieved with a kindly-offered child’s sweet lead to one of those disastrous falls in blood sugar levels) and I did have enough sense to get a snack before returning to view the wonders on display. Then I saw before me many different kinds of really good knife. In the end I decided on the best and most horrifically expensive – a damascened steel blade, glittering with the folded layers of steel, made in Japan. I bought the set with their whet-stone.

Gentle reader, this may well lead to economies elsewhere in the kitchen (I bought my ‘new’ kitchen for £30, though it cost a further £100 to get it home, so there I made a good start) but I think it will prove well worth while. I look forward to impeccably sliced tomatoes, the finest Julienne veggies, and the ability to bone out my meat dishes perfectly when I need to. I feel the extravagance was well justified.

Fit for a King


So as I drove home, the clouds were casting rose-petals in front of the setting sun, a red-gold monstrance in the sky. It had been an evening of grace in all – the Provost’s exceptionally well-chosen, and heartfelt words, the music (glorious even to one with cloth ears like mine) and the procession. Watching the flower petals fall, I was astonished that we had mustered so many, and that any flower remained unsnatched in Glasgow. And the Vice-Provost’s ever-refilled bowl, and the beauty of the petals falling, and the joy of shared worship, and the sense of Jesus’s presence. As so often, it comes to me as much it knowing the Sacrament is THERE as it does in taking and eating. And this evening above all others is a chance to glory just in His very presence. And the wave of bowing and kneeling as He passed – and even the hoovering up afterwards, and the laughter of those who share the joke the very essence of which is the mixture of the mundane and the sacred. Oh yes, it was a holy glorious evening. And when I got home, there was no anti-climax.

For the male barn owl was taking a short break form the hunting, hunting for the hoarse, demanding babies, and he posed for me. (He is much the bolder of the two) And here he is, with and without flash. But I fear in just the same pose. Even evenings belonging wholly to the one King have their limitations on this earth.

A dialogue

Friend: But you don’t believe unreasonable things.
Self: Well we do tend to believe a-reasonable things. Like, the bread and wine to actually become in some way the blood and body of Christ.
Friend: Well you don’t have incense and processions and that kind of stuff.
Self: We do you know – but [hastily] only when we want to celebrate something important – a big festival, or something, er, something important.
Friend (desperately): Well at least you don’t bow to things, or kiss them or touch them.
Self (reflectively): Very frequently, but perhaps not yet frequently enough …

Surprised by joy

The three weeks since my last post have been pretty fun-free, really. Work on the copy-edit of my book which is tedious and de-skilling in the extreme, leaving me feeling that I simply cannot write and should quit trying, and work on the house, either the ceiling – which was back-breaking and rather ended in tears when the finish on the ceiling mysteriously turned white (it should have been a clear finish) or sanding, which results in needing to shower and change every stitch of clothing since one ends covered with grit and dust.

However, as always there are moments of joy. The rescued orange tree in my bedroom has recovered form the hormonal growth-stunting spray applied to make it a bush for Christmas 09 (not by me, I rescued it in Jan. 10) and is putting out new leaves and flowering … an orange-grove in my bedroom. The azalea I rescued in B & Q this year for 10p is growing very well, though it will take a year to look normal, I think.

Outside a family of coal tits have been using my nesting box and delighting me – a reward for finally getting the feeding right this winter. Best of all, mysterious noises come from the nest box put up for the barn owls and I see the parents regularly.