Windscreen, Windshield, Boot or Trunk?

One of today’s Headlines: Donald Trump wins in Nevada.

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Well, not that much of a win, then. Or, to put it in a way we can more easily understand:

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Another headline: Florida has withdrawn a proposed transgender “bathroom” bill.

I’m beginning to think you can prove anything with figures and we need to beware of words as well. We’re getting to the stage where we need a simple dictionary and some way of interpreting numbers and symbols to help us seek the truth.

A ‘Bathroom’ in America will almost always contain a WC. What we would call a cloakroom with only a WC  would be a ‘Half Bath’ in the US. Someone commenting on another blog thought a Restroom  was a place of ‘peace and relaxation’ rather than a loo.

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When I was young we talked about ‘a lav’ or, in school-girl parlance, “George.” Don’t ask—I’ve no idea why. Correctly, it was a lavatory, though people with pretensions always used the word ‘toilet’.

(In Welsh it’s a ‘ty bach’, ‘little house.’ As a very new Welsh learner I once asked for cottage cheese in the village shop. I called it ‘caws ty bach’. Back came the reply “Would that be the bog standard cheddar you’re wanting?”)

Over here we already have gender neutral lavatories. We call them Uni-sex toilets and you can find them in cafes, bars, garages, any place where there is no space for His and Hers. I have noticed elderly ladies, queuing outside a unisex loo, looking seriously displeased when a man has come out, but they are probably the sort of women who enjoy being seriously displeased as a way of life.

What we call ‘Changing Rooms,’ are ‘Locker Rooms’ over there. Those are the places which are being targeted by Transgender people in the States. In some places Gender Neutral Locker Rooms, i.e. places where you can strip and shower regardless of your sex, are already the law. In Washington, for example, though not yet in Florida.

I can completely understand why many women are unhappy about this. It’s a long time since I came off a lacrosse field, longing only to strip off and get under a hot shower. At 13 or 14 I was sensitive, vulnerable and easily embarrassed, though perhaps less so than today’s teenagers, because our obsession with appearance was less. I would have been appalled to find an individual with a penis wandering around the same room with me, no matter what was going on in his head and I strongly suspect that a majority of young women still feel the same today.

Look at those symbols again. Don’t they imply that there are equal numbers of women, men and transgender people? If the symbols imply any proportion the baby would be considerable larger and the transgender symbol would be about the size of the baby’s big toe.

I would like to warn all members of LGBTTQQIAAP of the harm they are doing to themselves by this sort of manipulation and distortion. Many people are already unhappy with the sledgehammer tactics too often employed by the activists. If they begin to doubt your figures and symbols they’ll doubt your words as well. Once trust is lost it is the devil of a job to regain it.

 

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What a laugh

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Do you doubt that God has a sense of humour? Where else does a squirrel get his sense of joy and fun? After a work out on my “squirrel proof” bird feeders he comes and sits on my windowsill to share the joke with me. No, it’s not just my sense of humour. God and the squirrel and I are in this together.

“Those were the days, my friend . . .”

We thought they’d never end” . . .  and how wrong we were. I don’t think, in our worst nightmares, we ever thought we’d get to where we are now.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and therefore quite an important day in the Church calendar. During Lent we remember the temptations of our Lord in the wilderness, temptations which He overcame, as an encouragement for us to overcome our own temptations. This year the Cardiff Chaplaincy held no Ash Wednesday service.

 

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After the Ash Wednesday Service by the Anglican Chaplaincy in Cardiff 1964.

The following Wednesday, last Wednesday, a Church of England clergyman was invited to speak there about his life with his husband. Not that I’m blaming the poor fellow. Making him discuss his personal confusion is the fault of the arrogant halfwits who invited him. Despite the Primates meeting, which was conducted with grace, courtesy and sensitivity, such people still think they know what’s best for the ever dwindling Church in Wales.

Are they the same people I wonder who think ‘dressing down’ will help to fill our churches once again? They’re wrong. I have just been listening to complaints about a local Vicar who conducted a Service for the Burying of Ashes wearing jeans and a sweater. Perhaps she hoped the family would feel more at home with someone in casual dress; feel less threatened. In fact, they were upset by what they saw as a lack of respect for their loved one, and for their family.

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There’s not a sweater nor an anorak in sight and it’s not surprising the Bishops’ congregations then were more than double what they are to day.

“Oh, when will they ever learn?”

A Good Book for Lent

Here are some comforting words from today’s Daily Prayer.

“Sustain us when our hearts are heavy and our wells have run dry.” Clearly written by someone battling with the aftermath of viral influenza!

Still in that state myself I wish to confess to being both intolerant and short tempered at the moment. In the circumstances it was probably not a good idea for my husband to suggest my broken arm was well enough to have my first drive of the year, and in our new car. I used to be forgiving of people who drive around Snowdonia without knowing how to reverse — not any more. Nor will I reverse uphill now, having burnt out two clutches that way. When I met a lady who refused to come up passed me our resulting ‘domestic’ sorely tried my marriage vows since it was nothing to do with my one-and-only-so-far. (Yes, I’m so old I promised to obey!)

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A little bit of witch hazel for a little bit of Spring cheer

That is a digression. Actually, I want to write about books I enjoy re-reading in Lent.

‘Why go to Church?’, subtitled ‘The Drama of the Eucharist’, by Timothy Radcliffe, was Archbishop Rowan William’s Lent book in 2009. I’d forgotten what he said though I remembered reading the book with both enjoyment and profit and it is well worth re-reading now. I’m again appreciating what a light touch he has, interspersing his words of wisdom with funny stories. He quotes, for example, G K Chesterton’s assertion that angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly. Certainly Christians who take themselves too seriously can be fearfully pompous and self-righteous. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves in order to see clearly. I don’t think God is ever given enough credit for His wonderful sense of humour.

The book is divided into Scenes and Acts, building to a resounding climax like all good drama. It reminds me, over and over again, why I’m there, what I am supposed to do by being there, and how vital is my participation. It is much easier for the clergy to appreciate the shape and form and dynamic movement. For the pew sitter, struggling with constantly changing booklets and various pieces of paper, the service can become very fragmented and it is much harder to concentrate on the whole.

‘John as Storyteller’ by Mark W G Stibbe, not a Lent book, is heavier going than the Radcliffe book, which is why Lent is a good time to make the effort. Perhaps I read too many novels and watch too many plays but again I found considering John’s Gospel as a dramatic narrative immensely helpful, particularly Part II which concentrates on John 18 – 19.

‘The Mind of the Maker’ by Dorothy L Sayers is not a Lent book either, but if you begin it now you can finish it by Trinity Sunday, and that will be a bonus. In this book Sayers explains the doctrine of the Trinity by relating it to creating a work of fiction, which, she argues, is a threefold creation. (One wouldn’t normally think of Lord Peter Wimsey and the Trinity together!) First you have the vision, then you pour your soul into your story, finally you send it out to spread the word. That’s simplifying her thesis horribly but I had a clearer understanding of the Trinity after reading this book than I’d ever had before. (And a clearer understanding than I’ve had from many sermons on the subject!)

Finally, leaving the best till last, Esther de Waal’s Lent book of 1984. ‘Seeking God. The Way of St Benedict.’ I will just quote the blurb on the back.

‘In “Seeking God” Esther de Waal shows how his Rule, practical and totally relevant for today, can guide us towards a growth into wholeness, a balance in every aspect of our being —body, mind and spirit — through which we can become truly human and truly one with God.”

Relevant in 1984 and even more relevant more than thirty years later.

Again I can say ‘I told you so!’

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Not a joint of beef this time. Just a bag of flour.

 

I intended to post this blog first thing this morning; however, although Storm Irritating Imogen was little more than a windbag, a nameless wind all day blew away my wifi.

I do love it when I can say “I told you so!” I’ve ranted on before about modern persecution of devout Christians, haven’t I, and how terrifyingly secular our society has become. I have also tub-thumped about the need to support Christian marriage and Christian families, Now I have some big guns supporting me. The Pope and the Patriarch, no less. They may have had to meet in a Departure Lounge (or possibly an Arrival Lounge) in Cuba’s airport of all unlikely venues but that just shows that they clearly live in the same mad world we inhabit, which is encouraging.

Two of the points they made at the end of their discussions gladden my heart. Probably all the points they made are equally pertinent but I’m not up in schisms and heresies although I do remember coping with the Albigensians at some stage in history classes. These days world problems just leave me feeling both hopeless and helpless.

Here’s some of what they had to say.

“We observe that the transformation of some countries into secular societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not outright discrimination.”

That’s Britain for you. Secularisation is already so firmly entrenched in our society that I wonder how Christians can begin fight back. Given the restrictions and hurdles put in the way of free speech how are we going to achieve the Week of Evangelism the Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed for the week before Pentecost. I was quite serious when I asked, in an earlier blog, if I would be allowed to invite a group of teenagers to my house to talk about my faith.

I have already written about discrimination, in cases like that affecting the Asher Bakery in Northern Ireland. Is that an isolated case? Have other bakers, perhaps because they lack a supportive family or a supportive church, been too scared to make such a stand? In my North Wales valley it could well have been the Vicar and her “husband/wife” who wanted the cake decorated with Support Gay Marriage.

The Pope and the Patriarch also make a strong call for preserving the “natural family” based on marriage between a man and a woman, and the “right to life,” including opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

Well, of course they want to support natural families based on marriage between a man and a woman because common sense tells them, just as it does me, that it works. In addition there are plenty of sound studies to prove that that is still by far the best environment in which to bring up healthy, well-balanced children.

If that wasn’t enough to bring joy to my heart and a smug grin to my face here is Stephen Fry twittering what I, too, have written about* though I wasn’t quite as fluent!

“A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended — worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know. It’s as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined. It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists . . . the ghastliness is absolutely the same. It makes sensible people want to take an absolutely opposite point of view. I’ve heard people shriek their secularism in such a way as to make me want instantly to become an evangelical Christian.”

Don’t do that, Stephen. Many evangelical Christians can shriek just as loudly, and for the same “deeply offended” reasons. Become a quiet, old-fashioned, middle of the road Anglican. For one thing I think you would find the Psalms a wonderful antidote to Twitter.

To have two great clerics and a celebrity speaking out about three of my biggest worries is immensely encouraging. I shall continue to rant.

*see my blog ‘The sensitive liberals who would censor raindrops.’

 

Is it me or is it Them?

Being a misfit is a somewhat uncomfortable and lonely thing to be but being a confused misfit makes me begin to wonder if I really am beginning to lose my marbles. Surely I must be misinterpreting much of the stuff I read online. “They”, whoever the They of the day may be, couldn’t be that daft, could they?

This week three things have convinced me that either “They” are that daft, or the media are stupid enough to misinterpret what is being said. And where God is concerned many if not most do seem to be, if not stupid, then woefully ignorant.

On AncientBriton’s brilliant blog he had a photo of Putin, with the Pope, under the heading “Defender of the Faith”. A week ago Putin was a murderer and now he’s a Christian saviour. Don’t laugh – read on.

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The Pope and an Enigma

“According to Pope Francis, Putin is ‘the only one with whom the Catholic church can unite to defend Christians in the East.’” If that is true perhaps he, (Putin, not the Pope) could then be persuaded to come here and defend Christians in the West. (He’ll have to be quick if he wants to save the Church in Wales.) The only troubling thing about this is the fact that the report comes from the Assyrian International News Agency about which I know nothing, and the photo comes from Sputnik about which I can only guess. What is certain – it’s in the Guardian – is that the Pope is in Cuba as I write to meet Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church. Perhaps His Holiness is hoping to pick up a few tips. If you have ever watched a Russian Orthodox service on You Tube you will see packed churches like we can only dream of. I don’t understand what is going on, some of it seems OTT but those services leave you in no doubt that their God is definitely a bit special and wholly worthy of all the glory and honour and worship of which they are capable.

Which leads me on to my next cause of confusion. This from the Daily Telegraph. “The Church of England takes first step to relaxing clerical dress rules in an effort to become more relevant to the 21st century.” A local vicar always wears Doc Martens and jeans. How much more under dressed does she need to be? Who the blazes are the morons who come up with these ideas? In the last 40 years nothing, absolutely nothing, has brought people flocking into church. The more “relevant” to secular life the church becomes the less relevant it is to people’s lives. Which brings me back to Patriarch Kirill. Can you imagine him in jeans and a T shirt emblazoned with “God loves U”? I would have thought, if our churches had any sense, they would institute Dressed Up Sundays instead. I rather fancy wearing a mantilla.

 

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Patriach Kirill of Moscow

My third bit of confusion was caused by the following headline in the Daily Telegraph. “Christians are now a minority in Britain like persecuted Roman Catholics during the Reformation say top clerics”. The top clerics are Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishop Richard Chartres. I hope they didn’t say exactly those words. Undoubtedly they’re right that Christians are in a minority but I don’t think that even the combined forces of Richard Dawkins and the entire National Secular Society contemplate burning either cleric at the stake or hanging, drawing and quartering anyone else. Such horrifying persecution is certainly happening in other parts of the world and I can’t help wondering how many of us “dressed down” Anglicans would actually die for our faith.

 

“Set our hearts on fire with love for you . . .

 

Thursday, 4th February — Date of writing. Date of posting depends on BT

 

I thought Horrible Henry had blown through leaving me unscathed but we are without our phone again and the broadband is so slow that it can’t send blogs.

 

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Good boy. Bad dog!

We did have a disaster last weekend but it was self-inflicted, as it were. We were expecting a dear friend from Cardiff for a few days so we left a joint of beef on the kitchen counter prior to roasting. Our Labrador is old and very arthritic; he walks very slowly, and can hardly manage steps, but in his youth, I have to admit, he was a thief.

When my ‘one and only husband so far’ couldn’t find the beef to put it in the oven he looked all over the house, including the utility, the garage and the boiler room, then he yelled for me. I looked at the dog. The dog, however, would not look at me, nor did he wag his tail, and when I made him stand I knew exactly where that three pound piece of rolled rib was.

Fortunately our guest had brought faggots from Cardiff market – a most satisfactory alternative.

Now to get to the purpose of this blog. Our two Archbishops, Canterbury and York, have just announced a week of evangelism in the Church of England. The week before Pentecost is being dedicated to the work of spreading the Gospel to the young.

I think this has great potential. For a start it’s only a week. We can easily maintain fervour and enthusiasm for seven days. I always thought Archbishop Carey’s idea of a Decade of Evangelism was a totally daft idea. Even a saint would give up hope at the prospect. I’m not surprised he’s in favour of assisted dying.

Thankfully, prayer is one of the few things that we can still do. It may have to be silent and in secret but that’s all right. (Matt 6 v6) The other half of the equation is a little more difficult. That will involve people of simple faith chatting about how it suffuses their lives. Where? When? How?

Quote the wrong bit of Scripture in the prison chapel and you’re likely to lose your job. Try and teach religious studies, even in a faith school, and you risk offending the British Humanist Society and anyone else who fancies being offended. Bring your children up to believe that Christian marriage – a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman – is best for fulfilled family life and you risk having those children whipped into care. It has already happened.

I would be happy to invite a group of youngsters into my home, to sit around the kitchen counter and chat and ask and answer questions, but would I be allowed to in this day and age? Would they need safe guarding, or would I?

And those prayers, secret and silent though they may be, are going to have to be very fervent considering what we’re up against. We have an enormous problem. How do we set on fire the hearts of youngsters who appear to have it All already. Many behave as if the  whole world was in their pocket, on their phones and their tablets. Almost nothing is forbidden now and everything they want is available, instantly, at the touch of a button and the click of a switch. Somehow we have to encourage them to think about what they don’t have, ideas more valuable and wonderful than they have ever dreamed of. Some of them will believe us and will make the effort to discover these greater truths.

We will all have to pray with our hearts on fire. I think we all realise that we are fighting in the very last-ditch. That should give wings to our words and passion to our pleas.

Matt 21 v22 “and whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

–0–

An afterthought from “More One Minute Madness” by Father Anthony de Mello

Allow me to explain the Good News my religion proclaims,’ said the preacher.

The Master was all attention.

“God is love. And He loves and rewards us for ever if we observe His commandments.”

IF?” said the Master. ‘Then the news is not all good, is it?”

 

 

The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la . .

Have nothing to do with the caseIMG_2172 (1).jpg,” but, despite the best efforts of the storms, they are beautiful symbols of sanity in an increasingly mad world.

For the second time I have been silenced by weather. First I was wiped out by Blankety Blank Frank, and now I’ve been interrupted by Shirty Gerty, who took out the phone yet again, though after almost a month without it we barely noticed. Then the electricity went, but at my age candlelight is so much more flattering. But very soon, real disaster. The Aga died!

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Normally, when I can’t post a particular blog I ditch it and write something more topical. I have already ranted about the sex education booklets which are  deemed, by “experts” to be suitable for five to seven year olds. The Christian Institute considers the material unsuitable for young children but what would they know. Now this gender stuff is so worrying that I have got to try and make sense of it. So far I’ve failed. It’s one thing for sex to dominate adult life but quite another for kinky sex to be thrust down the throats of our children.

The person who has made me doubt my own sanity is Anne Longfield, OBE, the Children’s Commissioner. This isn’t a woman/father breast-feeding his baby on a Huffington Post video. This lady holds a government appointment with a big (£2m) budget. This has to be taken very seriously.

Specifically, my credulity has been strained by a government survey for children from 13 years and upwards as part of a campaign to find out how gender matters to young people. One of its authors describes it as “committed to feminist methodologies”, whatever that means. No, honestly, I’m not making it up. I couldn’t. The children have to choose from 25 different genders!

OK. Here we go.**

Girl. Boy. Female. Male. Young Woman. Young Man. Trans-Girl. Trans-Boy. Gender Fluid. Gender. Androgynous. Bi-Gender. Non-Binary. Demi-Boy. Demi-Girl. Genderqueer. Gender Non-conforming. Ti-gender. All genders. In the middle of Boy and Girl. Intersex. There are also boxes for Not Sure, Rather not say, and Other.

This seems to be so ill thought out and so thoroughly stupid that I wondered at first if it were a joke. Suppose I had to answer it. Certainly, at 13 I was girl, and also a tomboy, though I didn’t know that was a gender. Gender was something I worried about in Latin. I was also a female and by the age of 16 I was a young woman, with physical evidence to prove it. Aren’t they all more or less the same thing? A female and a young woman are possibly older and more shapely than a girl and a tomboy but surely not four different genders.

Coming as it does from an government department this is far from being funny (though I can’t help but find some of the categories hilarious) but indeed it is deeply worrying. This is Humpty Dumpty speak with a vengeance. You decide what a word means, just as you decide what gender you are and the rest of us—most of us—pay the price.

News from New York seems to suggest that if you are a six foot man with a penis and a thick beard, or if you are a woman with heavy makeup and very big boobs and I misgender you, on the evidence of my own eyes, you are entitled to sue me because it’s what’s in your head that counts. I bet the lawyers are going to love that one.

I am truly sorry for children who are completely confused, guilt ridden and depressed about their gender and I have every sympathy with their parents trying to make sense of this problem. But, and it’s a very big BUT, I don’t think it is the business of the Children’s Commissioner to try and survey all children in all schools about it. This smacks to me of politically motivated pseudo research.

The Children and Families Act 2014 says the work of the Children’s Commissioner must “have particular regard to the rights of children who are within section 8A (children living away from home or receiving social care) and other groups of children who the Commissioner considers to be at particular risk of having their rights infringed.” So clearly not every child. I hope parents and Head Teachers can opt out.

In any case, I hope kids today, in spite of the pressures put on them, are still pretty much like kids way back then. I can still call to mind the faces, and most of the names, of my 13 year old friends. Presented with such a survey in the early 50s (how utterly unimaginable) we would have gleefully ticked every single box, and it’s best not to enquire what we might have put in the Other box!

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**I tried to reproduce the actual copy of the survey in this post but after three hours gave up the attempt. I tried saving it in different formats, copying it in different disguises and scanning it all over the place. Nothing worked. If any one could recommend a book on playing with WordPress quickly and easily I will be most grateful.