Sunday, February 26, 2012

radio memories

In the rollercoaster ride of the last few weeks, my health took another swing downwards last night as I seemed to endure a mild fever. Alternately shivering with cold & too hot to keep the duvet on, I think I must have picked up a short-lived bug. Today I have slept most of the day, and although I'm fairly washed out, I'm a lot better.

However - I certainly wasn't up to going to Church today, and that's fairly unusual. I really don't miss very often. I'm the kind of guy who ends up in a service in a language I don't understand when on holiday just to worship & be with God's people.

But I do have a fall-back. During my St Catherine's years, we recorded four radio services for BBC Radio Wales, and I have them on my iTunes player ready to listen to. I have the songs form the broadcasts separate, so I can listen to them as worship music - they are a lovely reminder of great times, and a super selection of songs we valued in our worship.

This morning I listened to "Listening to His Voice", a service first broadcast on Father's Day 2004. It works through the idea of listening to God and being obedient to what we hear. Songs included My Hope is Built, my version of The Lord's My Shepherd, I Hear Thy Welcome Voice, & Jesus in The Name We Honour. Classics of our worship together. There was a bit of John's Gospel, some Moses, some Samuel, a bit of Isaiah and lots of lovely voices from that period in church life. Miles who was so important to so many, Gill Morgan who was leading services at that time, Joseph Davies when he was really young, lovely Phil Cox who is much missed, and John Murphy of beloved memory.

Hearing the voices of those who have gone before was a special treat. I do often say that those who have gone have not "gone" but "gone before", and the communion of saints as a concept in Christian theology is about how all God's faithful people from all times & all places are worshipping together. He is the God of the living, and in Him, we are all alive. Today I worshipped with Phil & John, who have gone before, and it was a delight to hear them as I did so.

It was also a delight to hear Joseph Davies sounding so young. He, his Mum & his Dad have been a lovely thread through my Ponty years, and I am enormously grateful for their kindness & humanity & all that they offered me.

Worshipping God is not best done by yourself. We are part of the larger body. Physically I was alone this morning, but in heart & soul I was surrounded by saints & angels.


Now this coming Thursday St Catherine's have their new vicar officially instituted. A great day for him, his family, and for St Catherine's. I wish all of you great, great joy! The Lord bless you in all that lies ahead; may you know more of that blessing than you can ask or imagine.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

pleasant memories

Sometimes, when you remember something, it seems like the past was always so much brighter. Things were better way back when.

If only you had a time machine just to check if it were really so... Well, this week, it feels like I've been granted a time machine, and the results have been lovely.

I wrote, a couple of posts back, about picking up a CD copy of the very first Syd Lawrence LP I ever had off Amazon. To be fair, not quite a copy - but the tracks off that LP all appeared a year or two later on a double LP, and it's that version that's come out. The LP I had is pictured here. Amongst Big Band aficionados it's embarrassing to admit it, but my way into the genre was through Glenn Miller music. I then add - but of course I subsequently discovered much, much more!

It's cool to like Basie, Ellington, Heath, the later Herman stuff, Kenton (it's also a bit geeky to like Kenton, either that or very clever) and so forth. But Miller? Please.

Jazz musicians - those who are self-consciously more than merely players in a swing band - never tire of looking down their noses at Miller music. After a while, you catch on and realise the errors of your youth and learn to forget that you ever really enjoyed In The Mood or knew the words to Chattanooga Choo Choo. Except ironically.

And then the time machine - the CD. You see there was always a myth about the early Syd Lawrence band playing Miller music - it was supposed to be just like the original, so close you couldn't tell the difference.


Here's Syd playing Pennsylvannia 6-5000 in 1970:

And here's a recording of the Miller band:

For me, Syd takes the original, and then adds something. Zest. Pizazz. Swing. He lifts it, and doesn't play it as it should sound, but as it could sound. Syd's trumpet solo at about the minute mark is glorious, and the rhythm section feature just afterwards could be Basie. The Miller version sounds straight-laced and a bit tired and like a dance band not a Big Band at all.

No wonder I fell for this stuff. By the time I first saw Syd's band at the end of 1979, the personnel had changed quite a lot from that 1970 clip - and I still think Syd's first band was his best - but this version of Caribbean Clipper from 1987 is the band I knew. Still swinging. Freddie Staff on lead trumpet, Ronnie Verrell on drums. All still belting out Miller music as it could be.

Don't get me wrong - I love the band that bears Syd's name today, years after Syd has left us. But they don't quite have that same passion for the Miller stuff, and although they play amazingly and I think they are fantastic (I especially love their originals, and their Basie) Syd's understanding of the Miller music and what it could be, how it could be played, the special quality he could bring to it - that has gone with him. He was quite a remarkable musician, and I have never heard anyone play the music he loved anywhere near as well as he did.

So. I have had my time machine. A CD from Amazon. I have had the chance to remember again how brilliantly something sounded in my youth - and I was right. It was brilliant. It wasn't my youthful ignorance. It was actually that good. No wonder I fell for it, and I am falling for it all over again - only, when I first heard that LP in September 1979, there was the matching reality to go and hear. Today's Syd Lawrence Orchestra are great, they play their music better than any other Big Band around, but without Syd they can't transform Glenn Miller's music into the magic Syd achieved. I don't think anyone could.

So I'll pop that CD on again, and enjoy the sound of it, and the very pleasant memories, and the fact that sometimes things really were that good. It's here on Amazon, and it's great.

Monday, February 20, 2012

be careful what you sign

At St Catherine's I conducted 80 or so weddings. It was always a privilege. The minister has a special view of proceedings matched by no-one else - you get to see the nerves, the hopes, the fears, the little signs that go on between people. Mostly, you get to see the love up close. 

It's terrific! So I support anything that supports marriage.
But I won't be supporting the Coalition for Marriage's online petition that is currently doing the rounds, & I urge you to with-hold your support as well.  
Let me explain why.
The Coalition for Marriage, on their website, have as their tagline "Don't play politics with marriage". That, however is exactly what they are doing here, and a quick look at their four statements of belief make it clear.
1.MARRIAGE IS UNIQUE: Throughout history and in virtually all human societies marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman. Marriage reflects the complementary natures of men and women. Although death and divorce may prevent it, the evidence shows that children do best with a married mother and a father.
What's wrong with that? Well, it's a bit of a twisting of history. A man & a woman? Virtually all human societies? Well, except for pretty much all Islamic nations where polygamy is still legal; and many Buddhist ones; and of course throughout Old Testament times in Israel itself polygamy was common - think David, think Solomon. Marriage has changed a lot over the years even in Anglican England, where current practices have been shaped by hundreds of years of legal, parliamentary interference as well as pure Bible thinking. After all it's not that long since any argument about the uniqueness of marriage would have referred to its "for life" status. I'm a wee bit disappointed this coalition doesn't dare go there.
2.PROFOUND CONSEQUENCES:   If marriage is redefined, those who believe in traditional marriage will be sidelined. People's careers could be harmed, couples seeking to adopt or foster could be excluded, and schools would inevitably have to teach the new definition to children. If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined to allow polygamy?
What is the logic here? This reeks of scare tactics, of Reds under the beds, of finding enemies & making people who are different into people who are evil. That's just not on. I tell you, traditional marriage has been redefined - in my time as an ordained priest - and these guys are happy with it. The change that says "divorce is OK" is in many ways far more fundamental than the change that these guys are wanting to object to. For here we are getting to the core of things. Really, they aren't just saying "marriage is good" they are saying "marriage for straights is good". They are kind of happy with the sentiment that second & third marriages are fine, for people should be allowed to make mistakes. Now, I agree. But I think all people should be allowed that right - the right to be wrong. And I’d argue it's the Church's role in the midst of that to stand tall and and say "BUT the ideal is love for life". 
Love is no respecter of orientation. And if someone is gay, why should their love be worth less? Why should we not offer them the same recognition, the same hope, the same joy? The same opportunity to begin a life - or to make a fool of themself? 
This sidelines no-one. Careers aren't harmed. As a minister I married some divorced people, and not others, so why not grant the church that role when it comes to gay weddings & the state the blanket duty? And why don't we, the Christians, instead of fighting a line that sounds frightfully close to "these dreadful people aren't quite as good as the rest of us & their love certainly doesn't get to qualify as being on our level" shout out that marriage is for life? For life! Love is for life! Let's have schools teach that new definition in the mix. 
What's to stop polygamy being allowed? For goodness sake - it already is for Moslems. And so are arranged marriages, for various sections of society, and though I don't like these, I don't think they belittle the way I'd want to get married. Creating monsters reveals ignorance. Get over it.
3. NO NEED TO REDEFINE: Civil partnerships already provide all the legal benefits of marriage so there's no need to redefine marriage. It's not discriminatory to support traditional marriage. Same-sex couples may choose to have a civil partnership but no one has the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us.
In our munificence, we have granted these people certain privileges, why are they asking for more? Where do they get off? You'd think they thought they were equal to the rest of us!
That's the issue here. This point simply stresses how much the Marriage Coalition doesn't like gay people who want to enjoy equality with their straight peers. Who want to be looked at in the same light and given the same respect and name. Who don't want to be told, "Yes, but you're not married". Gays don't want to stop anyone else getting married. They don't want to devalue marriage. They just want to have access to the same rights as everyone else. Same taxes, same vote, same value on their love. They aren't re-defining anyone else's marriage, but everyone else gets to define their relationships. Gay people don't get to tell straight people the value of their love; straight people like the Marriage Coalition believe its their right to judge others. I'm not sure it should be like that.
4. SPEAK UP: People should not feel pressurised to go along with same-sex marriage just because of political correctness. They should be free to express their views. The Government will be launching a public consultation on proposals to redefine marriage. This will provide an opportunity for members of the public to make their views known.
Because of political correctness? That doesn't enter into it. How about - because of fairness? Because of love? Because people are people? Because there's something wrong here and we can right it? How about because people feel second class & as Christians we should always fight to put that right, even if we are uncomfortable with the outcomes of that fight? It's better to raise people up than to put them down, period. That's not political correctness, that's what Jesus did. I can just see him now - he's spoken to some Canaanite woman, or to a gentile centurion, and in the background a fundamentalist pharisee says, "Political correctness gone mad; call himself the Messiah? No Messiah of mine would be seen dead talking to these folk." 
Jesus smiles. Half turns, holds his hand up and speaks just loud enough for everyone to hear: "But who needs a doctor? The well or the sick? You should learn what the Scripture means when it says - I desire mercy, not death."
Don't play politics with people. Don't play politics with love. Don't play politics that make some second class - it's unlovely, uncaring & unChristian. We may or may not be fans of marriage being for everyone regardless of orientation, but I urge you not to become one of those who thoughtlessly adds your name to the number of those who sign this petition. It's not nice.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

old and always new

Enforced bed rest means I am working my way through several DVDs that I have been meaning to watch for a while. I confess, I think I have a crush on Ryan Gosling. Carey Mulligan and Christina Hendricks in Drive is surely overcasting...

But I've also been listening to some great music.

In the summer of 1979 I was shopping in Manchester & on a pure whim bought myself the sheet music for In The Mood, and thus began my life-long love of Big Band music. I got home and my Mum had a Syd Lawrence LP with his band playing a load of Glenn Miller tunes including that one. The original, 1969 Syd Lawrence LP. I was hooked.

Vocalion have now brought this out on CD - in the version that came out a couple of years later with twice as many tracks on it. Those 1960s Phillips recordings are astounding. The Syd Lawrence Orchestra in its early days was as good as it ever got. It is all Miller stuff, which isn't my favourite Big Band music - except when it is played this well. And this is astounding. Astounding. The love of Syd for this music pours out of every bar, and I am falling in love with it all over again. It's all here - In the Mood, St Louis Blues March, American Patrol, Chattanooga Choo Choo - and each one perfect.

As someone who had the pleasure of hearing Syd, and who still loves to go see the band that bears his name these days, there is a special thrill in hearing again Syd's own trumpet playing of precious memory. Just the odd bar every now & then, and the very occasional solo. Syd was a fantastic trumpet player. He sets this music alight every time he's there. Magic.

I also downloaded another double album - this one by the Ted Heath Band of the 1950s. It features two 'live' concerts recorded at the London Palladium in 1955.

1955. So it's in mono. And you don't care. Decca were the cat's whiskers at recording Big Bands, and the depth & accuracy of this concert performance is so perfect it shames most modern, digital, stereo bells & whistle attempts.

There are 26 tunes - some I didn't know (The Great Lie - fantastic swinging jazz) and some I know very well (Woodchoppers & Flying Home are both pretty much in these arrangements featured on the 1969 studio Swing is King album, one of my very favourite of the genre). All are knock-your-socks-off Big Band gold. The best British band ever playing at the height of its powers. The jazz tenor on I DIdn't Know What Time It Was is stunning. In style, it's very different from Syd's tribute to Miller, as this music comes from a different time and is much jazzier and frankly more to my mature musical tastes than the Miller stuff that first brought me into the Big Band fold; but if you have any inclination towards music of this type these are both fantastic recordings to go for.

Just a note - as far as I can see, the Syd Lawrence one is only available as a CD. And the Amazon price is shocking, but there are other sellers listed who offer a decent alternative under a tenner, both here & in the States. Meanwhile the Ted Heath recording only seems to be a download, but at £4.49 it's a no-brainer. Do it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Richard Dawkins Is Partly Right

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason (you couldn't make it up) has revealed that not all Christians are Christian (ditto).

I have so many jokes going around my head right now - but actually I want to stop and take this seriously. Because Richard Dawkins is partly right, and there is stuff here that we Christians need to recognise.

When, in his Radio 4 interview, Dawkins made a colossal ass of himself by not being able to give the full name of the Origin of the Species, he could have sidestepped the whole problem by being charming and self-deprecating & honest. Giles Fraser asked if he knew the whole title (in order to show that fact based knowledge about detail wasn't the be-all-and-end-all as presented in Dawkins' report about Christians) and Dawkins said "of course" he knew the title. "Go on" said Fraser, or words to that effect, and then we had umming and erring and a glorious "Oh God" & a wrong answer.

If Dawkins had said, "I hope so, but I don't look at it with religious fervour so I might get this wrong" then he would've come out with no problem. Pride made him look stupid and lost him the whole debate.

This is my point.

We as Christians have a lot of pride here, and Dawkins has a lot that we need to hear. He is partly right.

The 2001 Census says 72% of people in the UK self-identify as Christian: they say they are Christians. Dawkins did a big survey in 2011 and says that number is down to 54%, though the census figure is not yet available. Straight away, we fight him - ridiculous, how dare he say it's so low!

But isn't our evangelism based on the presumption that the reality is far lower? Indeed, isn't it actually based on the very things Dawkins looks at?

For example, only 15% of the population (according to Dawkins) call themselves Christian because they believe in the teachings of Jesus. Most people in the survey say they are Christian cos they want to try to be good. Don't we actually agree with this? How many of us have said something like: "You think you're a Christian just because you're trying to be good? All your good deeds are filthy rags next to Jesus. Imagine trying to be that good - he's the standard!" What's the difference between us & Dawkins here?

I suppose one difference is the point we are making.

His point is not to show that something better is available, but rather that with so few "real" Christians around, how can Christians expect to have a special place in society, expect Bishops in Parliament, expect special treatment in law, expect to have their opinions listened to in the public arena any more etc etc etc. And that's why we get all defensive, why we claim he's wrong, wrong, wrong, and why we delight in making fun of his mistakes. But there's more here we need to see. We need to move away from being defensive. He's partly right, and we can gain from this if we will stop being so aggressive.

He goes on: Dawkins says only 40% of Census Christians read the Bible without being forced to. The remaining 60% clearly aren't proper Christians. He says two-thirds don't believe in the physical resurrection so are obviously fake, and that over half don't think Jesus is the Son of God. Christians aren't Christian!

And what is our reply?

We say: who is Richard Dawkins to judge people's souls? Who is this atheist to make such a call on other Christian people's lives? If they want to self-identify like this, let them. We tell stories of how we ourselves came to faith, knowing nothing, but how it was real none the less. We embrace those newspaper columnists (in the Mail & the Guardian!) who make fun of Dawkins & who ridicule secular extremists as "un-British" and find in them new friends. We see (suddenly) a great British hinterland of positive, if gooey, Christianity.

And then next Sunday many of us will go into our pulpits and say  - it's not enough just to come to church, it's not enough if you don't believe in a physical Resurrection, it's not enough to leave your Bible on the shelf through the week, it's not enough to call yourself a Christian but never darken the doors of a church... Make these choices and you aren't a proper Christian! And we will say this without a hint of irony. We will judge people just as cheaply and because we hope we are doing it in order to offer something better we will think it's OK.

Is it?

What if Dawkins' figures can help shake us from complacency and help us be better at helping others? What is these figures show us that there are loads of people who - for whatever reason - self-identify in some way as Christian, even if there are 'gaps'. Let's embrace them warts & all, and help bring about a deeper knowing.

Dawkins says only 25% of the population have been to church in the last year outside of a wedding or a funeral. That's less than half of the self-defined "Christians" out there.

Well - I'm amazed 25% of people have been to church this year. Fantastic! Long may that continue! That Dawkins sees half the Christians not going to Church & therefore calls them not proper Christians - here he fails to understand something that has always been a cornerstone of Reformation theology.

There is the Church visible, and the Church invisible. The Church as it is seen on earth - the people who attend; and the true believers, whose identity is known for sure only to God, though we get a pretty good idea from the fruit that comes from their lives. I'd say I've known people who show up & show very little sign of any real faith; but I'm not their judge. I also know people of real faith who have been damaged by the institution & aren't part of any fellowship right now. Dawkins doesn't get this. It's a bit subtle.

Our challenge is to build on this, to embrace everyone who comes so that what they find is both sort of what they expect (so there's no alienation) and better than they expect (so that they might come again). This is the hard work of every parish. It's adoring the Baby and finding new, warmer bathwater.

Dawkins says that socially most people - most Christians in his survey - have secular moral attitudes. He cites morality around marriage, around abortion, around gay rights. How has the church become the enemy here? As a card-carrying evangelical I upset many people with my attitude on gay rights, but I'll do it again. I think people have this right, and the church wrong - I think the church is pretty much unchristian on this and needs to sort itself out; when did Jesus back the religious texts against outsiders, oppressed people, those hurt by rules & priests & the orthodox powers of the day? He loves people and makes all people equal. We have to work that out, and if we don't we aren't working Christianly. That's not a secular agenda, Dawkins is wrong, it is the people understanding something fundamentally right. And marriage - we have a problem because for 200 years the state has given us one version of what this is & the church has colluded. What the church ought to be fighting for is not "marriage is for straights" but "marriage is for life", and pushing that agenda time & time & time again. Relentlessly & compassionately and positively in a world that throws every second person in the garbage can every ten seconds. And the church should never make life political - love stops at that point. Abortion is painful on seventy two levels. Of course I am pro-life, I am pro-people. I am pro-love. I am pro-everybody, and so should be the church. Or we make some less than us and us more than others and at that point we have lost what makes us Christian, we have lost Jesus.

We have lost humility - the humility that says: "I ought to pray more; thanks Richard for the reminder."

"I don't read the Bible as much as I should, no. You've made me think. Thanks, Richard."

"I do disagree with the church on gay rights. We'll sort this out; people are precious - God loves us you know. Thanks, Richard."

"Name the first book in the New Testament? I'm on the spot now - gosh, Richard, you're making me look stupid! But that's OK."

Humility that says: I want to help people come to know Jesus more. How can I learn from Dawkins & make this more inviting, instead of saying always "You don't make the grade yet do you, you aren't quite the real deal?" or some variation of that? That's hardly a loving way in, is it?

Because if we can find such humility, it's not just us that win. If more people get a better sight of Jesus, it's everyone.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dick France

I have just heard, courtesy of Graham Tomlin on Twitter, that Dick France has died.

Dick - RT France to many - was a phenomenal Bible scholar, particularly in Matthew, but also in Mark's Gospel. I knew him all the way through to his retirement in mid-Wales, but perhaps best as principal from my time at Wycliffe Hall.

Best, but not first.

When I first knew Dick he was principal of what was then called London Bible College, I think. I'd finished grammar school & got my place at Oxford, but hadn't yet gone. And, for whatever reason, suddenly I began to think maybe I shouldn't go. Maybe I should go to Bible College instead. I was a very enthusiastic 18 year old.

I applied, and went for interview, and was sure as I prayed about it I was doing the right thing. Lots of the Christian people around me were encouraging me. Dick interviewed me, and said - perhaps this was one of those Abraham & Isaac moments in life. Not that God wanted me to give up a place at Oxford, but wanted me to be willing to. Go, do my history degree, live a bit, and then come back & he'd see me again.

I never went back to London Bible College. But when I went to Wycliffe for interview, he was principal there. He started the interview by saying - Put my mind at rest. Are you the same Marcus Green I saw some years ago in London? How did all that work out?

How did all that work out? Without that experience, and the certainty I got from it that Oxford was the right place for me, I don't think I would have lasted. I was overwhelmed & homesick & a fish out of water in my early days there. The lad in the room next to me did leave. But I stayed - & eventually settled, & eventually loved it. And Dick played his part in that being true.

At Wycliffe, we had occasional run ins. I was hardly a model student. But we were always (at times devastatingly) honest with each other, and I learned to respect him enormously. He was constantly there to help. I found it hard to find the right first post after college. He found it for me.

We kept in touch. When I wrote Salvation's Song, I spent some time with him, asking questions, seeking advice. He was invaluable. Not agreeing with me, but pushing me, making me think, making me try harder.

In Pontypridd there were a couple of moments when I saw him because I was struggling personally. He quietly encouraged me and helped me carry on. I got to know that drive up the A470 to Llangelynin quite well. Beautiful - no - one of Britain's most stunning roads actually.

And, of course, in Pontypridd, Dick had groupies. I discovered this quite by chance. We were studying Mark, I think, in homegroup, & Kirsty & Rhian decided to do extra study together. They found Dick's commentary & used that - and loved it. They were BIG fans. When they told me, I said I'd get him to come & do a day for us in Ponty & they couldn't believe I knew him. They were truly awestruck. So we did it - a fantastic morning, looking at how the Old Testament & New Testament work together, focussing on Hebrews, but using some Matthew stuff as well, and Dick was wonderful. Perfect for a parish setting. It was a huge success, and Rhian & Kirsty, pictured, were thrilled!

Dick & Curly came down for a few days in Cardiff on that trip, and I took them one evening to a heat of the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. It was in June 2009. We had a super evening, and he enjoyed the singing enormously.

Dick was a scholar, a wise man, a thinker, a leader, a pastor, a gentleman and an inspiration. He made his mark on many, many people's lives. I'm glad mine was one of them. I shall miss him, but I can picture him now quietly revelling in his Lord's presence and wondering at things I would only half notice. His face always took on a certain expression when he was considering something, and he could do it & smile at the same time. I'm imagining that, now.

The funeral is set for Friday 17th, and recovering from my operation as I am, I fear I will not be well enough to go. It is not because I do not want to or do not care. And though I know he would understand, still I wish it were otherwise.

Thank you Lord for allowing me such a friend. Bless him, dear Jesus, beyond my mind's ability to ask.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


"Are you feeling drowsy?" asked the anaesthetist. "No," I replied.
And in a moment it was two and a half hours later & I was being brought round in the recovery room. A small op on my back was over, and it was time to start getting better.
I'm grateful for much care & prayer from many people. I'm grateful for the presence of Jesus through all this. At New Year I was with Chris & Ruth when I dreamed I would be having this op on February 9th, & I got home to the letter that had the date in it. On Wednesday evening, before going into hospital, I was again dreaming - this time of being with a group of friends, driving in the desert, and reading from Matthew's Gospel to them. The verse I focussed on was:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Of course, the words that follow these are:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow. 
I was worried; so these words made themselves heard loud & clear.
Generally, this is a time of remembering priorities. As a worshipper of Jesus, putting him first, his kingdom, the relationship with him, and trusting all else to second place - this is an important order of my life. It's good to know it seeps so deep it lies in my subconscious. It's comforting that in the re-ordering of my life that is still happening, God finds space in the quiet of the night to make sure that the most important truths will out. 
You never know what life throws at you. But taking life as it comes, and making the most of it - that's the trick. I may have felt drowsy after all, but I hope I didn't miss anything. I hope I don't miss anything. Salvation is, after all, about the road to recovery, and I have songs to sing along the way.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

scary snow

I left David MacInnes' glorious 80th birthday party & started to head home. The forecast was for heavy snow over the entire 200 mile journey, and it had already started before I left Oxford.

"Lord, keep me safe..."

Within 30 miles I was driving in impassable conditions. Still, only another 170 to go.

I have never seen anything like it. I actually didn't see the road for 60 miles at one stage - and this is driving on the M1, mind you, the main motorway artery in the country. Too much snow on it. Even when the car in front was close enough to make tracks, they were still white in the glare of my headlamps. Occasionally, there were lit stretches of road, which were much easier. Finding yourself in the middle of a six-lane highway with no idea where the road is in front of you is a fascinating experience.

I wondered about pulling over (for those of you thinking this might have been a sensible option) but I wanted to get home. So on I drove.

About Sheffield, I caught sight of tarmac again, and conditions eased all the way up until I reached Leeds & then had to negotiate side roads...

Why press on? Tomorrow I am leading worship for the first time in Calverley church, and I don't want to miss it. This has been some week: Matt has been really ill, but is much better. I have had interesting news about the recovery time for my little back op next week. And David's party, thrown by the indefatigable Clare was a glorious occasion with lots of friends, and lots of memories. Being here in my local church tomorrow is somewhere I want to be. I have reasons to be thankful, and a community in which to sing. So on I drove.

And we got here, even if at the last we skidded rather than smoothly parked the car. The house is looking lovely in the snow. And Matt is glad to be home too. I am thankful for the end of today's journey, and for the continuing one I experience in my life here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

watching and waiting

And a switch is flicked, and the remarkable health and vigour Matt has been enjoying since the New Year is all but extinguished, in a moment.

I came home from work, and he was clearly in pain. Shivering, cowering, barely able to move. A shadow of himself.

Is this it? Is this how we end? I remember Charlie's last months, the wondering, the hoping, the vacillating between the heights of health and the troughs of despair. "What next?" was always on my mind. And, "Heal him, Lord". And, "Take him".

That's the rub. Wanting this to last for ever. Wanting him always to be here. Wanting him to go peacefully and to have a swift and easy end. Wanting it to be over. For him, that he wouldn't suffer. For me, that I wouldn't. For us both, that we might have as much time yet as possible. This is the essence of conflicting emotions.

And the vet has done his magic. After a night of presuming the worst, a morning of receiving relief. My beloved heart beats on. I settled him back in the house, drove to work, and after a brief moment's discomposure made my way through the day.

Oh this is better than last time. With Charlie, I was still in parish ministry. Facing my own grief I had to help all kinds of people through theirs. It was my job to wade into everyone's emotional maelstroms & guide them, beaconlike, home. Now, I just go to my desk, speak of research projects, funding & alumni. This time work is a release & a relief and an aid to getting through, rather than a wrench and a side-piercing wound and a guilt-inducing reminder of my failings as I feel unable to be who I feel people need me to be. Amazingly, working methodically & slowly, I got a remarkable amount done today.

Matt is doing well. He is in pain, but the vet thinks he will get through this. This is just practise. Oh my.