Friday 31 August 2007


Dozavtra has been gone for precisely one month and I have my first crisis. There is a spider in the bath, and I kid you just a little, it is the size of a horse. Now, small spiders I can deal with - I just flush them down the plughole. I know that is a terrible way to treat my fellow creatures and I am a horrible person for doing it, but there you have it; they shouldn't be in my bath in the first place.

But this thing, and I'm serious here, is too big to fit down the plughole. Seriously, it's bigger than the taps. It is by far the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life. I don't wish to give too much away, but when I was sitting on the toilet I had half a mind to ask it to look away and give me some privacy, THAT is how big it is.

I have texted everyone I have numbers for in a half mile radius, hoping someone will come and get rid of it, but no joy so far. Mark phoned me back though, and advised me to do the old glass-and-bit-of-cardboard trick, but really, I just can't. I'd have to use a bowl anyway, this beast is so huge, and there is just way too much risk of dropping it on the way down the stairs.

I considered spraying it with something, like furniture polish or Windolene or something, to try to gas it, and then maybe setting fire to it, but I think that's a bit cruel, even by my standards. Plus, it might just get mad if I did that, and I really don't think I want to get it upset.

There is no way I could bring myself to squish it.

Maybe if I made my house really really hot, or really really cold, it would leave. But I don't think it can get out of the bath (I really, really, really hope it can't).

I wondered about putting the plug in the bath and then putting water in, to try to drown it, but there's a chance it can swim, and then what? Besides, I'd have to reach across it to get to the plughole and taps.

So I think the only remaining option is to leave it there until it dies. If anyone has any idea how long that might take, please let me know. I think I'll Google it. I may need alternative accommodation until then. And even then, there's still the dread, what if it just disappears? What if it just isn't there some day? Where will it have gone?

Oh help. Seriously, I am nearly crying. Would it be too embarrassing if I went and got one of my neighbours to get rid of it? I guess I could do that in the morning if it's still there.

If anyone has any suggestions, please phone or text asap, or come round and dispose of it for me. Thanks.

Thursday 30 August 2007

Something theological

This post is somewhat unusual, being, as it is, an attempt at something vaguely serious and thought-provoking. It may not work, in which case please accept both my apologies and my assurance that normal service (i.e. inane and riotous comedy) will be resumed as soon as possible. For now, though, please humour me. I guess this is also a post mainly for the faith heads out there, rather than the heathens among us, but the latter are, naturally, welcome to pull up a metaphorical pew and join the debate (of course, true God-botherers will be pulling up something much more comfy than a pew, since most churches dispensed with such pain-inducing seating arrangements years ago in what was marketed as an attempt to be more 'welcoming' but which, in effect, has just made it more comfy for the regulars because, frankly, why is anyone going to come to church just because the seats are nice? - but I digress).

I've been off work for a fortnight now, and have enjoyed the chance to do a lot more reading, cycling, pottering, nothing and studying than is generally possible while my nose is to the grindstone and I'm working my little butt off (those who work with me, please refrain from laughing - remember, you're in church). And it is to the subject of the studying that we now turn.

I've been reading a book called 'The message of the cross', and one of the chapters focussed on Psalm 22, the one that starts 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' - words echoed in Matthew's account of Christ's crucifixion. I'll not go into the full details of the chapter here, nor indeed into the particular angle focussed on in the book, but part of what this psalm deals with is how to reconcile the difference between theology and experience, and that's what got me thinking.

Probably a lot of you know that I've suffered from various forms of depression for a good few years now, so I've often done a lot of thinking in this around how that can be so in light of God's promises for believers. I've listened to my share of cliches, Bible verses and platitudes but I've also been fortunate to have some brilliant friends who let me process things in my own time. I've discovered that what I claim to believe does not always match up to what's going on in my life. The Bible contains all kinds of wonderful promises, and great claims about God and things He has done, and as a Christian I believe the Bible to be true. But my life contains all kinds of messes and pain and emptiness and fear, and as a human I want those things to be recognised too. So here's the thing: what do I do when I read 'Perfect love casts out fear' (1 John 4v18) but then find myself taking a panic attack while lying in bed at night? How do I reconcile the verse that says 'Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart' (Psalm 37v4) with being single and, at times, lonely? What do I do when God seems far away?

Now, there is clearly a place here for putting these verses in context and reading them as part of a wider picture. But even allowing for that, this kind of dilemma is much more common than we admit; on Sunday mornings it's often all smiles and cheeriness, but how many of us really find that what we believe and sing and affirm on Sunday is really always backed up by what we experience the rest of the week? What do we do about that? What do we say when our theology and our experience are at war? I think there are 3 options.

The first is probably the commonest, or at least the most obvious in Christian circles today (or at least in the ones I move in): ignore our experience, and only really acknowledge things which we think we should be experiencing. Try to pretend that we're OK. Ignore the pain and the hurt and the anger, and try to convince ourselves that "it's all part of God's plan; He will bring good out of it". Like martyrs, we carry on, convincing ourselves and others (with varying degrees of success) that we're glad of this lesson we're being taught - we're learning to "crucify the flesh" and "submit our desires to God's will". Except that we're not. We're just ignoring them and adding some Christian-sounding phrases to explain them away. Churches are full of people with happy masks on, pretending that it's all OK and that all troubles (except maybe for really "big" troubles like death or serious illness) are a positive learning experience. So nothing gets talked about, nothing gets brought into the open - and nothing really gets brought to God. The pain is buried under a mountain of soundbites and cliches, and the reality of God keeps its distance. Meanwhile, hearts harden as we try to ignore them.

The second option is the opposite: tone down our theology and bring it into line with our experience. We agree that God is good; but in our hearts He's a little bit less good than we used to think. We agree He is just, but we're not sure how just. Our confidence in those things goes down; maybe we've interpreted them wrongly, we think, so we're just a little bit more cautious, and a little bit less ready to fling ourselves on God than we used to be. Of course we still sing the songs and we still say the right things - but we see them as ideals, not as reality. The real thing is harsher than we thought. So we bring the pain to God, let Him have a look, maybe let Him shed a few tears over it too, and then we pick it up and carry it on again. Dissatisfaction becomes the norm. Joy shrinks, and fear increases, as we work that bit harder to convince ourselves it's all true.

The problem with these 2 options is that they both start with me, and what I think should happen. They feed into each other, and start a downward spiral: I start with something in my life that I want solved and I think about praying about it. I figure out the solution, put it into nice words and present and explain it to God; I leave out the more unpleasant aspects of the problem because they seem too difficult for now. Then I'm disappointed when (often as not) He doesn't do what I asked. So I lower my expectations. I figure I need to give God something easier to work on. And so, I bury the really hard stuff and it goes un-dealt with, God stays in His little box, and I trudge on, disillusioned.

The third possibility is, of course, what we should do (I hate that word 'should'; somehow in my head, it always adds an invisible 'but don't' on the end). We need to balance the reality of our experience with what we know to be true; crucially, we need to start with God.

We need first to fully acknowledge that God is Lord, and is good and that He is holy. He is not at our beck and call; He need not answer or act in the way we want Him to, but nor can He act in a way that contradicts what He has revealed of Himself. So we must be open to the fact that God may not 'prove' His promises and claims in the way that we would expect; He may well do something wildly different. We must not limit Him in our heads just because we can't see how things will work out.

Then we need to fully acknowledge the pain and hurt and confusion of difficult times. We need to burrow into it; not to wallow in it, as self-pity would do, but to acknowledge it and explore it and open it out. We need not be afraid of it, precisely because of God's promises, even when they say something that we don't experience as true. We have to bring all of our anguish (and not our perceived solutions) to God, in its full ugliness and painfulness, and let Him show us that what He said is true. He has made promises and claims; let's dig them out and let Him prove them.

I must start with God. I read His promises of love and care and justice and faithfulness. Those are what should allow me to bring all my experiences before Him, without filtering out the stuff that I think I shouldn't be feeling or thinking, and without worrying about how things didn't work out how I wanted them to last time. By throwing those things on God (and not presenting Him with a nicely packaged solution), I then get the opportunity to experience Him making good on His promises. I experience joy and wonder at what He does.

I guess there will always be gaps between theology and experience. But these are precisely where God is best seen. My theology is only my limited understanding of God. My experience is tainted with my sin and wrong attitudes. But God can reconcile them in an awesome way, bringing me fresh revelation, and a new experience of joy and peace that's beyond my understanding.

So let's have honesty; let's ditch the cliches and let's let ourselves grieve and hurt when we need to; let's not try to fix ourselves, but let's bring ourselves and each other to the almighty and holy God we claim to believe in, and let Him get on with it.

Monday 27 August 2007

Q and B, Part Deux

My, it has been a while. You see, I've been off work, and therefore had things to do other than write my blog. I'm still off work, as it happens, but thought I should write something, in case you're missing me.

So on Friday night I was at the rugby (Ireland vs Italy), and discovered the slightly disappointing fact that the crowd shots at these events are mostly staged. What happens is, the cameraman points a camera at you while you stand in the crowd at a quiet moment (obviously if there's anything remotely interesting happening on the pitch, they'll be filming that, so crowd shots are only used as fillers), and tries to whip you into a frenzy. Obviously one doesn't want to look like a prat live on TV, so one must feign some kind of enthusiasm, but I tell you, that's not so easy after the first 30 seconds.

You'll be pleased to hear we have a further development in the Q&B story (if you're new to the blog, check back around the April/May archives for the first installment of this sorry tale). Needless to say, no one from Q&B ever called me back, so on Thursday there I went to the warehouse to try again. I took my dad too, labouring under the delusion that he might be scarier than me.

So we went to the girl at the kitchen department, and explained the tale, and I said I wanted (a) someone to bring a new cupboard door, (b) someone to fit the new cupboard door and (c) someone to take away the pile of old cupboard doors and the cupboard which, you will recall, was erroneously sent by Steve some months back. She was very sorry about the whole thing and phoned a manager. Then she said I could buy a new cupboard door, and then bring the old one back and get my money back; also, she'd arrange a fitter to come and fit the new door.

Now, I was not so keen to hand over more money (although it was only £4), but my dad seemed temporarily to be possessed by insanity and said 'oh, yes, let's buy a new one, and sure I'll fit it for you. And we can take the old doors to the dump ourselves and you can bring the extra cupboard back'.

Great. So let's let Q&B off the hook and do it all ourselves. Incidentally, how did my dad suddenly become able to fit cupboard doors? Where was that skill when I was handing over thousands of pounds to Q&B to come and mess my house up? As it turned out, of course, my dad couldn't install it, but only because he didn't have a drill with him, so after a brief excursion to my parents' house, the new door is attached, and looking different from all the others, since they appear to have changed how the doors are sealed since I got the last lot. But it's on.

Anyway, I refused to agree to take the doors to the dump myself - they'd never all fit in my car, plus the guys at the local dump get tetchy if you try to dispose of more than a sweet wrapper there. So the lady in Q&B said she'd arrange for someone to come and pick them up. So I'm waiting for them to call back. Ha.

In other news, today saw my annual shopping trip, and I finally managed to get the birthday present from my parents sorted out. I never got round to ordering the jeans in Next, but I got new shoes today instead, so whatever else happens, my feet will not be naked. I also got new sexy underwear and a book called 'The Confessions of St Augustine', which is a sort of 4th Century Christian version of Heat magazine, only it's a book instead of a magazine.

Incidentally, I hear they're bringing Wispas back. Is anyone else finding themselves a little bit too excited about this?

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Your challenge....

First, an update. I feel a little better today, thanks for asking, but my tummy is still a little hostile towards food.

Secondly, a number of people have commented on how blogging seems to have dried up a bit over the summer - not just here, but all over. Clearly there's not much happening. Obviously lots of people are away - The Soapbox has been to Peru, Me In My Small Corner is in Hungary, being eaten by ticks... Lilytodd and Voxo have been learning the hard way that if you're going to keep secrets from your parents, then it's probably not wise to confide in your three-your-old.

So since there's not a lot happening, I decided I'd set you a challenge. Please read this story, and supply a context in which the final sentence makes any kind of sense.

Comments may be left below.

Thank you.

Sunday 12 August 2007

Because you have a right to know...

Now I don't want to cause anyone the slightest undue alarm, but your Favourite Smile is sick, and I feel you have a right to know. Before you go out of your minds with worry, I should add that at the moment I expect to make a full recovery; I will of course notify you immediately if that changes.

I woke up this morning feeling OK, but a tad sleepy. I got out of bed to get ready for church and felt the most almighty of all stomach spasms. Of course, being the soldier I am, I carried on getting washed, dressed etc, before finally conceeding defeat and getting undressed and back into bed.

So I am now in bed feeling rather sorry for myself, because of course Dozavtra is not here so I am all by myself. I am getting intermittent stomach cramps and feeling very tired. Just half an hour ago I got up to go down for some Bicarbonate of Soda (my mother's suggestion), but my legs seem to have turned to jelly so I got straight back into bed.

So there you have it. I was considering posting hourly bulletins on the front gate, such as happens at Buckingham Palace when the Queen is ill, but I'm not sure the front gate is up to it.

In the meantime I am staying in bed reading, sleeping and crocheting popcorn.

Monday 6 August 2007

Break in transmission

Apologies for the break in transmission there. It was due to essential maintenance work. Namely, I was trying to maintain my current status as an employed person, by doing some work. I succeeded, so that was good. But the blog suffered, as you saw.

I have also become addicted to Facebook. I still don't really understand it, but I managed to throw some sheep at people and have started a game of Scrabble with Lilytodd, so all the important agnles are covered. I found this application that allows you to add books you're reading and have read. Needless to say, I intend to add every book I've ever read, in an attempt to get my picture on everyone's profiles as the most prolific reader of all time. I've got a good 100 or so Enid Blytons alone, so we're getting there.

Not much other news. I've been making a large banner for church - it says 'I am the Good Shepherd' and has a picture of a shepherd and some sheep (or at least it will do and it will have once it's done), so evenings have been spent cutting and sticking and sewing. It's like giant Fuzzy Felt, for those of you from the 80's.

I may post some thoughts at lunch time, but for now I wanted you all to know I'm still alive.