QUESTION TIME

Who? Why? What? When? Where? How? Six questions posed by journalists, children, and every other ponderer of life.

Who is in charge of life? Why is the universe so huge and an ant so small? What is the purpose of a stinging nettle? When will there be an end to suffering and evil? Where can I find inner strength? How does God fit into the picture of life, if at all? All sorts of subjects and subsequent questions arise – simply from being a human being on a beautiful but troubled planet that spins through space as a tiny speck in an immeasurable universe.

Philosophers, theologians, politicians try to come up with answers – often trite, sometimes helpful. I like Albert Einstein’s words: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”  The Bible’s Psalms are full of questions: “Why are you so far away, O Lord?” is typical. Christians believe that God is in control of his universe. Which poses another question: “Really?” Sometimes even believers query whether God has gone AWOL.

With the gift of each new day we move forward, balancing questions with faith, fear with courage, despair with hope. In the Bible there’s a long lament with little sparkles of hope: “The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so I put my hope in him.”

 

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HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN YOU GET ON A SEESAW?

How many people can you get on a seesaw? No, this isn’t a groan-inducing riddle but a happy reality. Answer? 11. Six adults and five children. This spontaneous scene was turned into a fun group photo.  The picture, now set as wallpaper on my laptop screen (because the 11 are members of my family,) shows an adult at each end of the seesaw, and then assorted big and little people filling up the rest of it. The tiniest two are being held tightly by Responsible Persons, the rest have taken pot luck in the precariousness stakes.

Sometimes the ‘seesaw’ of life is horizontal – steady, balanced, ordinary… Other times something happens to plummet us down with a bump – bereavement, divorce, illness… Sometimes we rise to heights of joy and happiness – with the birth of a child, a walk in sunshine, watching a butterfly…

When you’re at your most vulnerable, you may feel like a tiny tot who needs a Responsible Person – family member or friend – to put their arms round you and hold you in your unease. It’s good to be able to share each other’s sorrows – and joys. There’s strength in mutual love and care. We were made for companionship. The best relationship any of us can have is with God himself – who’s reliable, constant, and eager to share the ups and downs of a seesaw life with us .

 

 

POWER AND PEACE

“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….” The countdown is perfectly timed as the Red Arrows zoom from inland and appear just above the Bournemouth cliffs before flying out over the sea with a roar of power and acceleration. What a sight! What a sound! The display of the Royal Air Force jets thrills the thousands of people watching from the beach, promenade, cliff tops and from little boats on the sparkling sea.

The commentary during the display of aerobatics emphasises the role of the RAF. For all the jets’ power and the daring and skill of the pilots, the RAF’s work is to defend UK interests, make the world a safer place – and keep the peace. The Red Arrows’ aerobatics display demonstrates power in a peaceful setting.

There is power in peace. A love of power can result in conflict and violence, but the power of love can lead to peace.

If you’re a new mum you may long for a bit of peace as you wonder at the power of your baby’s lungs! My new book, “HELP! I’M A NEW MUM!” is a gift book of 3-minute prayers for new mums. Do have a look at the Books page on this website to read all about it!

KEEP CALM AND ENJOY SUNFLOWERS

Bird food has great qualities. Delicious, nutritious, blooming lovely. I benefit from it enormously – though I don’t eat it…

Greenfinches guzzle greedily. They drop bits from the feeders onto the grass below, where wood pigeons plod along to eat the left-overs. Feasting done, the finches flit off, and the rotund pigeons waddle to the pond where one does a belly-flop into the water. The other – more sensible – watches from the edge as its mate, with much flapping and splashing, struggles for lift-off.

What great entertainment – and all due to the humble seeds of the common British sunflower. Thanks to the birds’ somewhat clumsy eating habits, tiny seedlings pushed their way up through the grass. Now a mini-forest of sunflowers blooms happily, each flower turning its head to the sun throughout the day.

A nearby farmer edged his wheat field with sunflowers, a sight that put smiles on the faces of  bus passengers travelling through the harvest countryside.

In a world that was rife with fear and uncertainty, Jesus told his anxious listeners to, “Look at the birds…” and “Look at the flowers…” And went on to say, “Don’t worry…” Today, the bright and amusing aspects of nature can be as welcome and calming an influence as in Jesus’ time. In today’s jargon: “Keep calm and enjoy sunflowers.”

 

CAULIWOBBLES

I get the collywobbles about the amount of food that is wasted. A case in point was when eating out recently. My husband and I were given 12 roast potatoes to share – plus other vegetables. No way could we munch our way through 12 spuds. The waiter, when questioned, admitted that anything we didn’t eat would be thrown away.

Around the same time as the potato incident, I heard a radio programme about gleaning. Gleaning goes back centuries. Remember the Biblical story of Ruth? She had emigrated to a new country with her mother-in-law. They were both widows and in need of food. Local farmer, Boaz, let Ruth glean from his fields. Moreover, he asked his workers to deliberately leave extra bits on the ground for Ruth. She gleaned enough food for herself and Naomi – and ended up marrying the farmer!

The recent radio programme reported from a farm where cauliflowers were being gleaned by volunteers. The harvested vegetables were to be distributed where the food was needed and would be appreciated.

Do we moan about increased food prices? Do we buy stuff we don’t really need? Do we chuck out some food? Do we have a conscience about the unfair distribution of wealth and food? What do we do about it? Having the ‘cauli’wobbles can be a good thing if it prompts us to think and act. If you want to find out more about modern day gleaning, google ‘gleaning network’.

THE JOY OF BLACKBERRIES

Foraging is a risky business. Even with blackberry-picking you can be stung by nettles, festooned with spiders’ silk or stung by a feisty wasp who thinks blackberries are for him alone. But big blackberries, swollen with juice, leaning from the hedge, are just asking to be picked. So the other day I succumbed and, a couple of hours after picking, had made ice cream with blackberry juice rippled through it, a blackberry juice and windfall apple compote and a juice-soaked cake. And all without a pip in sight as I cooked, whizzed and sieved the blackberries to avoid pips getting stuck in teeth.

Much riskier – for the untrained eye, hand and mouth – is foraging for other food: fungi, leaves, other berries, flowers… Which are edible? Which are likely to give you tummy ache – or worse? How do I, as a non-expert, learn? I could ask someone who is knowledgeable, I could get a good book. Probably best of all, is to go with an expert on a joint adventure into the wilds.

Maybe this is true of any new thing. Companionship is of benefit to both parties – teacher and learner. There is pleasure in observation – pointing out interesting objects to each other; delight in conversation – asking and listening; walking and talking. And then, hopefully, at the end of the day, eating together. Without tummy ache.

 

 

 

THE WISDOM OF A FOUR YEAR OLD

“You know that film I watched? It was a PG. But it wasn’t scary. So I really don’t need parental guidance.”

So said a 4 year old to her dad. Hard for the little girl’s dad to argue with such youthful logic!

I heard the snippet of conversation as I walked past the pair. How would the girl’s dad respond? “No, you’re quite right, my girl. You have good judgement at all times and so I absolve myself of further responsibility for you.” Or, “Well, I’m your dad and, though you’re pretty savvy on some things, you might just possibly need a bit of guidance now and again.”

How I’d love to have heard the dad’s real response!

A government website sets out in terse terms what it perceives to be parental responsibility. A dictionary defines ‘guidance’ as, ‘Help and advice about how to do something or about how to deal with problems.’

If I dared to define parental guidance, I might try: ‘Equipping a child for life.’ But no human parent gets it right all the time. Parents, indeed all adults, need guidance too – for their own lives as well as for the lives of children. Where do we find that guidance? Government? Traditional or social media? The shrill voices of drum-bangers? God? God’s guidelines have stood the test of time. It could be the place to start…

Meanwhile, top marks to that 4 year old who talks to her dad, and top marks to him for listening – and, presumably, for continuing the conversation. I wonder which film she was referring to…