Pope Francis puts ‘quit whining’ notice on his door – good for him

The Pope has put up a notice on the door to his private quarters telling all comers (presumably cardinals, Vatican staff and sundry religious people)

that:

‘Complaining is Forbidden… To become the best of yourself, you must focus on your own potential and not on your limits. So stop complaining and act to change your life for the better”

Elsewhere he is reported as telling a gathering of the faithful ‘Sometimes there are melancholic Christians with faces like pickled peppers, rather than being joyful for the beautiful life they have’.

I think this may be the kind of expression he had in mind: church leaders see it quite often!

pickled pepper face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But look:  even peppers can be happy!                             happy peppers

In honour of such an excellent message, here is what’s on my study door

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I love the double meaning of the final word.

 

Praying as ‘Watching’

There are a number of people close to me at the moment who are in very difficult situations. Some of them are in a place of peace with God even though they are in huge pain, they know God is far too big to ‘fit in their pocket’. Some of them are frustrated, furious and feel downright annoyed with God for not coming through for them  (this is the camp I’m most usually in whenever things get desperate). Some of them are being hugely self-reliant and are only vaguely aware of God on the fringes of their life.

As you’d expect, I’m praying for them all  … but every Christian who prays (vicars included) sometimes feel a sense of frustration over prayer, I would desperately long to change all of these situations, right now, in an instant but prayer isn’t like that and God doesn’t often respond in that way. Occasionally dramatic things happen, jobs are found or something shifts seismically altering the situation. But mostly what I see is the slow gentle transformation of me and of them and their situations – and this too is miraculous.

This week I realised that all of these seemingingly impossible, overwhelming and distressing situations all have two things in common:

  1. I care about all the people involved but
  2. everything about their situations is beyond my control.

I talked to God about this and asked him

  1. what was HE doing?  but (more importantly because after all the answer to that question is God’s business not mine)
  2. what did he want ME to be ‘doing’ in these situations?

Having asked these questions, I took some time to shut up and just be in God’s presence. Listening to music helps to put me in that place and not wanting to make any other decisions I just picked up the first CD off the pile and put it in the player (yes I know, very low tech).

The song was a 10 minute version of Stay with Me, a Taize chant.  You can hear it here:

The entire lyrics are ‘Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray… watch and pray’

I thought about how this was a request from Jesus to his friends in his moment of extreme pain.  He just wanted them present, he wanted them to watch and he wanted them to pray.

‘Watching’ has got a bad reputation recently – it has lost its positive Biblical connotations of being present,  attentive and alert. In the Bible there is nothing passive about watching: watchmen wait for the dawn, guarding their community who sleep peacefully knowing there is a night watchman, looking out for enemies. Jesus told stories about bridesmaids who were meant to be watching for the bridegroom.

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These days we think of watching as somewhat voyeuristic, we think of the TV phenomenon of watching and being ‘entertained’ by someone else’s misfortune (schadenfreude) even if that’s ‘only’ being voted off a game show.

I left the place where I had worshipped in stillness but God hadn’t finished talking to me about watching, that it was not a passive, disinterested state of doing ‘nothing’.

First I thought of how a three year old will shout ‘watch me Mummy, watch me’. Any parent will know that a cursory glance in their direction will not suffice. Only a sustained observation of their latest skill will do – and that kind of ‘watching’ communicates love, affection and bestows a vital sense of importance and value to the child being so watched.

Then I saw a dog! Dogs have so much to teach us.

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The dog I saw had been tied to a post outside a bank while his mistress went in. He was very good, didn’t make a sound but never for one moment did he take his eyes off the door of the bank.  People came past and tried to pet him but he just dodged his eyes around their legs to keep his view clear of the door. Finally she emerged and he was there, rewarded, tail wagging.  Totally confident, I suspect, that his owners return was purely down to his diligent watching for her.

‘That is what I want you to do for your friends’ said Jesus.

‘I want you to ‘Stay with me and Stay with them and watch and pray’. That is a Not a nothing thing to do’.

It in this way that God watches over us – as we are repeatedly told in the Bible.  On the day of this conversation with God my morning verse had been 1 Peter 5:7 which in the Amplified version reads

‘Casting the whole of your care, all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns once and for all on him for he cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.’

then today Psalm 86:15

‘But O you God are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love and you never, never quit’

(The Message version)

God does that for me… can I do that for others?

 

Northern Spain – what’s not to like?

We have just had a wonderful proper long holiday in Northern Spain and I have come to the conclusion, not for the first time in my life that I could easily live here.

For starters if you are in a holiday place it’s very unlikely that anywhere would serve you breakfast before 9 am. 10 am is much more acceptable. You SLEEP till 9am, why else would you need those very effective shutters? I have no idea how anyone goes to school or work, both of which allegedly start before then (I haven’t been up early enough to find out).

Nothing much happens around town till about 1pm when all the street cafes will suddenly fill up with locals having a quick, usually alcholic drink, after having picked up the kids from school and before going home for the main meal of the day.

If you are going to fit in here you have to overcome any disinclination to eat large meals along with copious quantities of wine at around 2.30 in the afternoon. After which it is perfectly acceptable to go back to sleep (not difficult after all that wine) and begin the day again around 5pm. Schools and businesses and shops all reopen till around 8 or even later, supper is at 10pm.

If you try to eat your main meal at 7 or 8 pm, you’ll get some odd looks. It’s not impossible, especially in places that are used to tourists but you’ll mostly be dining alone.

We have adapted to the timetable but I still get odd looks, these are usually reserved until I am two or three sentences into any conversation in Spanish. Not only do I look Spanish (the dark eyebrows), I also sound Spanish, so long as I stick to grammatically simple expressions. Living in Spain for a year 30 years ago means my accent is very good but my grammar is very poor! So I give off very confusing mixed messages: a  woman who looks Spanish, initially sounds Spanish but suddenly unravels and starts speaking like a 5 year old!!

Oh well, never mind. It’s fun to try and  on virtually all occasions I have spoken better Spanish then the locals have spoken English which makes a refreshing change on holiday.

Northern Spain is amazingly beautiful, it has stunning sandy beaches and wonderful seaside towns, plus really decent sized mountains less than an hours drive inland (the Picos de Europa). As someone we met here said, it’s like a little chunk of Switzerland beside the sea.

There are lots of things you can see here that you would rarely/never see in England:

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For example men wearing wooden clogs. Not a great photo I know but one needs to be discrete when taking photos of locals.

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A motorway service station all set up and ready for the mid day meal service (note the wine glasses!)

A ‘bridge’ that hangs on wires and shuttles back and forth from one side of the river to the other:

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The hanging bridge in Getxo.

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A stork’s nest on a telegraph pole (but they prefer the top of church bell towers) – you will only see one of these south of the mountains. They are a sure sign you have arrived on the central plateau of Spain.

Also in the category of things not seen in England, what is this man doing? (Answer at the end of the blog)

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An early morning rainbow (okay it was about 10 am) over the Picos – beautiful.

I could also mention the mountain roads which are very scary. Or even very, very scary depending on who is driving. I drove up and through and over and down the ” Puerto de San Glorio” pass and at NO point in the entire 90 minute experience did David relax and enjoy the views. Neither could he bring himself to say anything remotely encouraging, merely restricting himself to short utterances along the lines of “second gear now”or “not so fast” or “bit close to the edge!” I loved it!

I got my own back though on the Fuente De cable car – 750 ish metres of ascent on a single cable. He closed his eyes and hummed for the whole 3 minutes and 40 seconds. My fingers were crushed, he held my hand so tightly but at least he did it.

imageEverywhere though has its own delights. Son number one is currently in Denmark, the land of Lego and Scandanvian orderliness where you eat “snegles” for breakfast and where a hill that is only 147 metres high is called “sky view”. That’s so funny given that the village where we stayed in in the Picos was higher than Ben Nevis!

The other thing you see around here a lot is this:

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This man is a “peregrino”, he is walking the “Camino de Santiago”. Hundreds of people do this, some where the shell as the mark of a pilgrim but many don’t. It’s a blinking long way, full credit to them.

But aren’t we all pilgrims in one way or another? There is a lot to learn though from observing those whose pilgrimage is so obvious: the only way to get there is to just keep going, to carry sufficient supplies, have good travelling companions and keep an eye out for the signs.

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Here is one although the more simple yellow she’ll on a blue background is more common.

On our last afternoon we found ourselves in ‘Poo’ it’s a place about 1.5km out of Llanes, it has ‘Poo’ beach, ‘Poo’ island and ‘Poo’ pueblo. Contrary to expectations it was actually all very beautiful. From the beach you could see the lovely green Picos, which does bring me to the one thing not to like about Northern Spain: it does rain. We only had one day of totally clear blue skies but we had many days of beautiful sunshine and showers and it was warm at all times.

Oh well back to normality soon: up at 6.30am,  bed by 10pm and no wine in the afternoon. The rest, the beauty and the immersion in Spanish, has done me a world of good. The pilgrim lessons will stay with me as will several excellent quotes from Eugene Peterson which I came across in Practise Resurrection, his excellent commentary on Ephesians.

“Christian maturity is not a matter of doing more for God;it is God doing more In and through us. Immaturity is noisy with anxiety fuelled self importance.” This quote needs to be read alongside his version of Galatians 2:20.

I also like this one by Brother Mark Brown “Deep gratitude and reconciliation belong to everyday, not just our last. (Nor just our holidays I could add) The things that would be the most important to us if time were short are the very same things that ought to be important to us should the time be long.”

p.s. The waiter was pouring cider into a glass by holding it as low as he could in his left hand while holding the bottle as high as upheld could with his right hand. Something to do with gas, but I never found out what!

 

 

Not affected by the migrants at Calais?

Don’t be so sure: it doesn’t do any of us any good to live in a society that oppresses the marginalised and shuts the door in the face of those seeking sanctuary. Here is a most impressive little story

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

“What food might this contain?” the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed this warning: “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.”

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”

The mouse turned to the cow and said, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.”

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap . . . alone.

mousetrap

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house — the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it — a venomous snake whose tail was caught in the trap. The snake bit the farmer’s wife.

The farmer rushed her to the hospital. When she returned home she still had a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup.

So the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient:

But his wife’s sickness continued. Friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

But, alas, the farmer’s wife did not get well. She died.

So many people came for her funeral that the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them for the funeral luncheon.

And the mouse looked upon it all, from his crack in the wall, with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem, and you think it doesn’t concern you, remember . . .

When one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.

Remember — each of us is a vital thread in another person’s tapestry. Our lives are woven together for a reason. One of the best things to hold onto in this world is a friend.

 

(Shared on Mike’s Funnies – forwarded by Jerry Lambert)