Are you comfortably numb?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Guten Morgan

I'm feeling really happy at the moment. Things are on track. My spiritual life is moving forwards not backwards, by the grace of God. Have been thinking a lot about how gracious God is recently. I don't mean that in a vague 'oh isn't God good' way, in a real, thinking about how disgusting we are, and how God loves us anyway... and loves loving us. It blows my mind. I think going through Hosea has been really helpful. Perhaps because the illustration of an adulterous wife/husband is really incredibly tangible for us, and so when our relationship with God is placed in that context, we come to a new realisation of how much our sin grieves and angers God.

When I think about all the times I have 'cheated on God', I find it unbelievable that he would take me back time and time again, and it's a bit scary thinking that, because a part of you thinks 'suppose eventually it's one time too many'. But amazingly it will never be one time too many.

I've started doing some publicity for the crisis pregnancy centre, which has so far involved visiting pubs and asking to stick stickers on the back of the girls' loo doors. Truly PUBlicity! Sorry... anyway, it went really well on Saturday, although I only had time to visit 4 pubs. Only 1 said no, 1 said they'd keep the stickers and check with their managers, and the other 2 were very enthusiastic... but I was particularly pleased because those 2 are the ones that are most likely to have people in there to whom these issues are most relevant. V. worthwhile. The quest continues!

Well I've successfully wasted about half an hour here, I ought to get going. Busy day ahead of me!

Now playing: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons - Spring (great song to wake up to!)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Upside down... boy you turn me, inside out

Diana Ross is the best.

I'm in a pensive mood. I need to eat something, but given its 22:09, I am reluctant to consume carbohydrates, which makes deciding what to eat vastly more complicated.

I want a boyfriend (pathetic, but honest).

Tomorrow is the first Monday in ages I don't have to get up early.

Life is good.

Nick preached well tonight, even though at points I thought I was going to fall asleep.

God is good.

How many statements can I make without having to write more than one sentence on a subject?

I think I will have some fish with sweetcorn and peas, and of course tartare sauce.


Saturday, November 27, 2004

Saturday kitchen

Or as it should be known, how to make the greasiest food known to man, ever, in the whole history of the world.

I switched on the TV hoping to find some light entertainment on a Saturday morn, or at least an interesting historical documentary on UKTV history (that wasn't about Hitler, the Nazis, Hitler, Germany, the Second World War, Hitler, or the Nazis), but being faced with disappointment decided I would have to watch Saturday Kitchen whilst I consumed my breakfast of Alpen and a cup of tea (not in the same bowl I hasten to add). I quite like watching the cooking progs. now and then as they do tend to give you inspiration. However, I was disgusted at what I saw! In fact it's still on now. Anthony WT is just POURING oil, butter, grease and lard into the saucepans WILLY NILLY, without a thought to heart or arteries. Why can't they show you how to cook healthy stuff that still tastes nice? I know some would think this is a contradiction in terms...

Anyway, enough whinging about Saturday telly. Friday night telly was great last night! In an amazing flash of brilliance my boss asked me to work Saturday night instead of Friday night. So that meant I had Friday night AND Saturday day off! SPICEWORLD! So in the spirit of spending an evening in a worthwhile way I slumped in front of the box for the evening. After slaving away over a hot stove and doing 3 weeks' worth of ironing, in case you think I am a complete couch potato. And I have to say, Friday night TV is AMAZING. The banter! The wit! The informative jokes! Have I Got News for You is THE BEST. And once again Ian Hislop couldn't help but reveal his pro-Christian attitude... Paul Merton, making a joke about an alternative version of Christianity which involved Jesus not dying on the cross, referred to this as a 'happy ending'. "Grhgmmph", is I think an accurate description of the noise I made on hearing this, but quick as a flash Hislop responded, "there is more you know... he comes back from the dead", leading Christians everywhere to breathe a sigh of relief as Merton's point went not unchallenged.

Anyway, you can tell I've not been awake for very long, if all I can spout on about is television. England versus Australia later. Oooooh the tension. It should be good.

On the Christmas note, I think I may actually boycott the Christmas services. Not as a permanent decision, but a trial run to see if I feel comfortable with it. See, that's probably the only way that people will get to know of your discomfort and then actually think through the issues themselves. And at least then it means I take a consistent stance on the issue. I hate inconsistency. Although I suppose we are all inconsistent when it comes to any beliefs on deep issues. Such as sweat shops. And taxes.

Enough rambling. Must get on. Sorry this has been the most useless post I've ever written!

Now playing: Gary Rhodes and Anthony Worrall Thompson - How to Double Your Cholesterol in 30 Days!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

It's that time of year once again...

The time where you groan because the decorations are up in November. The cards have been in the shops since September, and catalogues full of attractive gift-wrapped products are falling through your letterbox at a rate of knots. Yes it's nearly CHRISTMAS time. But despite all the listed irritations, none of them gets my proverbial goat so much as Christians and their incessant harping on about the TRUE MEANING of Christmas.

Maybe we really should do a talk about the true meaning of Christmas... hmm, let's see. A load of pagans eating as much as they can, getting as drunk as they can, and most probably having a few orgies in order to cheer themselves up because it's cold. Christmas is not about Jesus!!! It's not! So why do Christians rant on about the true meaning of Christmas... because Jesus was probably born in September, like all the best people.

And if they really think that Jesus' birth is the true meaning of Christmas, why do they give each other presents, put decorations up and eat a big meal? What has that got to do with Jesus' birth? Hmm, it's someone else's birthday, so let's give EACH OTHER presents... sense no make.

Having said that, it's obviously not a bad thing to have a special time where we focus on the incarnation. In fact, I will go so far as to say that that is a good thing. But I wish there could be a way to separate the ridiculous fusion of a pagan festival and a spiritual mystery. And I always get caught in a dilemma because I would rather just forget the whole pretense of it being Jesus' birthday and just have a good time for one day in the year, but then I obviously don't want to boycott all the church services that focus on Him.

If anyone has any answers I would be grateful... otherwise, let us eat, drink and be merry... for it's Jesus' fake birthday!


Bec the Cynic

Pain is good, when it comes to exercise

...or so I keep telling myself. Yes, that feeling of your muscles burning, your lungs about to burst, your breath short and your face grimaced, is indeed healthy.

I went to my first schools work session yesterday with a lady called Jan from the centre. Unfortunately it went a bit wrong, because, as Jan had warned me, the teacher whose class we were visiting likes to do things 'her way'. Although she was very nice and a good teacher, she didn't let us do any of the actual schools work format, which I personally think is excellent. She sort of just asked the class questions and referred them to Jan when she didn't know the answers, which was a bit of a waste of time, frankly. But at least she seems quite anti-abortion and also has a 'young mums' scheme where teenage mums come in and talk about their crisis pregancies and why they decided to keep the babies. It was a bit annoying that I didn't get to see the actual format in practice, but it was still good experience. Weird going back to school as a visitor though, especially given how we used to crucify many of our guests at secondary school.

Anyway that's just a quick update of life. Will write more later.

Now playing: Paul Simon - Hearts and Bones (it's amazing)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Man, why do I get the urge to post when I SO need my bed?

I don't know. Anyway here I am. I think I need to dust this place, I'm wiping my finger along the virtual shelves and it's not looking pretty.

So, due to popular demand (no, I'm not kidding, which is surely a glitch in the system), here's a new post. I much object to being labelled on a certain blog as someone who accuses others of not having anything worthwhile to post, as I like to think I take the prize for posts least worthy of posting.

See, this is what happens when I write posts at this time of night... they are both incomprehensible, gratuituously long, and generally a waste of time, both for reader and writer. Rather like most articles in the Daily Telegraph. (If you're reading, sorry Granddad).

I know you all are dying to know what fun and games I have been up to, but I'm not going to tell you, because I can't be bothered and it's boring. Suffice to say, everything is fine. I finished my training course yesterday. I'm really going to miss everyone. And I can't say I feel fully trained, but oh well - tis the end of an era. On the up side I'm going to go along to my first school's work session tomorrow with a lady who works with the pregnancy crisis centre I'm involved with. The schools work involves going into classes of mainly year 10s, and talking with them about pregnancy, abortion, when life begins etc. It's very interactive; I've seen examples of the talks and they're fantastic. And this kind of work is right up my street so I'm quite excited about it. I just hope the little blighters don't get too mouthy, I might feel murderous urges surging through my veins. After all they are in year 10, the stage where you think you know everything because you're doing your GCSEs which are 'proper' exams. Obviously I'm well past that stage, being NINETEEN and all.

It's not long till we make the voyage over to the glorious land which is the southern hemisphere, meaning - yes - heat! Woohoo. Although with my new winter coat (yes it's better than yours Si) I am snuggly warm, all the time (or 24/7 as the kids on the block now say). And in case I haven't told you (unlikely if you've ever met me in your entire life), the lining is detachable so I can wear it in the summer too! Anyway, yes I'm definitely looking forward to going to see the old parental units. In my previous words I just want to get a tan and eat lots - two things I'm pretty good at. I think it won't be that hard to do them. Woohoo!

Tom's just come in and said 'yayyyy, you're posting'. Well what can I say, just one example of the verbal fan mail I receive. My fans are also internationally based, in places like Brazil. Wow... my fame is indeed massive.

Work has been a bit crap recently, what with loads of issues between employers, employees, employees and employees. If you can make sense of that sentence I applaud you. In fact one could say you could make it a 'sensence'. Oh dear, it really is 12:45 am. Anyway to cut a long story short on the work front, two certain employees are making life rather difficult. But I have decided to stay there. Well, it has been decided for me that I am going to stay there, mainly because there aren't any other good jobs available. Speaking of which, had a cracker from a customer today:

Scene: 4 fairly old people, well mid 60s anyway, obviously out for nice lunch to celebrate something or other.

Me: carrying 3 very hot plates, 2 of which contain gammon - one gammon hock, one gammon steak.

Me: Gammon? (I forgot there were 2.)

2 elderly men: *both put hands up*

Me: Gammon hock?

2 elderly men: *both put hands up*

Me: The hock?

Elderly woman: Oh, that's BOB'S.

My thoughts: I don't know who Bob is.

Woman: Yes, that's Bob's, the hock's for Bob.

My thoughts: I DON'T KNOW WHO BOB IS.

Bob eventually puts his hand up and hot dish is deposited in his place.

Bec's hands: burnt to a crisp.

Well I exaggerate but you get the pic.

Enough is enough, I am tired and have a manic day tomorrow.

Goodnight my children.


Saturday, November 06, 2004

God has his plan... the information's unavailable to the mortal man?

Enough of all this politics stuff! It's time for another ramble. I'm in a really going out mood but unfortunately have just got home from work and am faced with having to go to bed in a while. So my only outlet for my frustration is here - ooh I bet all you lucky readers are on tenterhooks waiting for the literary treat that awaits you!

There's so much to ramble about... where to start.

Tonight was bonfire night. As is usual for a pub worker on this night, the pub is basically quiet all evening till about 9:30, when all the people who have been to the Lindfield bonfire decide to go for a drink before heading home. Result: you make no money, and have cleared the whole pub down when a load of people come and make it all messy again. Oh well!

Things that are really annoying:

1) You're trying to peel a sticker off something and just when you think you've managed it it tears down the middle.
2) You get a missed call on your mobile and it's from 'no number'.
3) A DVD jumps in the middle of your favourite scene and cleaning it by rubbing it on your cotton t-shirt doesn't work.
4) DJs get things ridiculously wrong: "And that's the latest from Outkast, an amazing NEW BAND don't you think"
5) People who haven't heard of John Peel.
6) Women in couples who, when you offer them sauces when waitressing, say about their husbands, "Ooh he's got enough of his own already!" HO HO HO HAVEN'T HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE! Tell it again, do!
7) Labels on clothes that itch but when you cut them out they itch even more.
8) Apostrophes in the wrong place!!!! And bad grammar in general. Stuff like this really annoy's me. In fact people who do these thing's should be locked up. There all really annoying.
9) Needing the loo and being thirsty AT THE SAME TIME. I mean what's that about!
10) Drivers who brake before they indicate!

Okay enough of that.

They call it call it call it call it... HIP HOP HIP HOP HIP HOP...

Do you ever feel like life is a dream? Like you're just going through the motions, day after day, for no reason... sometimes when I'm on the treadmill at the gym I think, this is what life is for most people. Is life like that for me? Am I just doing the same things over and over, occasionally with slightly variations, having enough of a good time to keep going? And then you think, actually, there's another whole massive spiritual realm out there, and I'm part of it, and we all are. But you look around you and you see all these people who have little or no concept of it... and you think... wow this is like a huge massive conspiracy. We are all pawns in a game most of us have no tangible experience of. But not pawns... because the game-maker loves us. Sometimes I just want to yell really loudly about how this isn't all there is, this isn't all that life holds for us, this isn't IT. But everything around us is so touchable, so smellable, so seeable, that most of us can't even contemplate the concept of it just being a mere shadow of what is to come. How bizarre.

And on that philosophical note I will leave you... goodnight.

Friday, November 05, 2004

What's so amazing about "What's So Amazing About Grace?"

So, Philip Yancey. I've now finished the book and I still think it's really good. If you read it in the right context. The right context being...

1) Don't read it like it's a commentary or a biblical exposition. That's not what it's supposed to be, and yes it's okay for Christian books not to be like that! Nor does Yancey 'define' grace - this is deliberate, although he has been criticised for it. At the start he says he chooses not to 'explain' grace, which is refreshingly non-academic.

2) The fact that he is an American, writing largely about the American church. While it would be wrong to thus think 'ah yes, we in Britain are fine' it is important to remember that much of what he is talking about refers to singularly American issues such as the Bible Belt of the southern states. Nevertheless what he says is relevant to all of us.

What he actually does is identify a severe problem in the church: the lack of grace and its substitute, the 'noxious fumes of ungrace' as he calls them. He cites the severity of this as being not just because God has shown us grace and called us to reflect this grace in our own lives, but because grace is something the church can UNIQUELY offer.

Yancey uses many real-life illustrations to help us understand both God's incredible grace to us and how far we fall short of demonstrating grace to our fellow fallen human beings. He writes cogently and artistically, making for a challenging yet lyrical read.

While he does not 'explain' or 'define' grace he does a good job, in my opinion, of exploring the facets of grace, and showing the reader the wonderful power grace has. Favourite parts of the book include:

1) A story of a Christian black civil rights activist whose close friend is killed by a 'redneck Kluxer' because of his liberal beliefs. After initial feelings of intense anger and frustration that those he relates to best are those who would denounce his religious beliefs, he realises his lack of understanding of grace. Having been challenged before to explain his beliefs in less than 10 words by a journalist, he immediately replies, "We're all b******s but God loves us anyway'. He realises that his Christian dead friend was just as much a "b*****d" in God's eyes as was the man who killed him. He then left the civil rights movement to go and bring the Gospel to racist whites in the Southern states.

2) The story of a leading evangelical, a friend of Yancey's, who chose to leave his wife and family to lead a homosexual lifestyle. He became a prominent leader of the Christian gay movement and received unremitting, vicious abuse from Christians across all of America. When his mother was asked what she thought about the abomination her son was, she replied, "He may be an abomination, but he is still my pride and joy." Yancey goes on to repeat the phrase "We are still God's pride and joy" despite the utter abominations we are to him.

What is perhaps most shocking and revealing, and ultimately refreshing about the book, is Yancey's observation of the hatred that can stem from Christians. He cites many examples of the American Christian right spewing venom towards pro-abortionists, gays, Democrats, you name it. He quotes letters from such people. He tells of personal abuse directed towards him. It is a relief to hear of an American Christian recognise the vicious aggression of the general American church. He writes reams about how American Christians have prioritised politics over the Gospel, and cites one evangelical leader who said, "Revival will come only after legislative reform", saying, "Doesn't he have it the wrong way round?" Yancey's book is a breath of fresh air in that way. Yet it would be all too easy to point the finger and say, "Ah yes, the Americans have got it wrong once again. After all, they voted Bush in... it was those evangelicals who did it." Yet surely this is missing the point. We are, after all, no better than the people who yell abuse at the homosexual, the prostitute, the stem cell researcher, the Kerry supporter. And who are we to in turn fling mud at those who endorse Bush?

Babette's Feast is indeed a story of grace. The giving of something so precious it costs everything for the giver and nothing for the receiver. Yet how often do we withhold what we have to those who need it from us?

One story which particularly struck me, given what I am doing at the moment, was that of a woman who runs a pregnancy crisis counselling centre in the States, near a university. Being Catholic, she is anti-abortion, and counsels the women she sees as such. Her centre is the focus of much protest. One snowy day in the winter lots of protesters turned up to yell about the wrongs of the pro-life movement. Yet instead of yelling back (the American way) or ignoring them (the British way) she ordered doughnuts and hot coffee and served it to them herself.

Now I know you may be sitting there thinking... what a pushover. But actually that is gracious. I know I would never have done something like that.

I can't do the book justice here. It has been particularly helpful during the election, to know that there is at least one American Christian who writes clearly about the relationship between church and state in the USA. But mostly it is helpful for all of life, and I recommend it to anyone who is not going to read it assuming Yancey isn't sound! In my opinion he has done an excellent job of exploring the depths of God's amazing grace. Reading it will make you want to be more gracious. And it will make you want to love even more the God who loved you when you were utterly unlovely and unlovable.