Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Canis non grata?

My dog Penne is the finest dog in the world  (except for yours).

It has long been our pleasure that when I have been working on my computer  (in my bedroom), Penne would hop up onto my bed.  She would stay there until she heard the computer "dings" which indicate that I have logged off.

That was until last Saturday (25th January 2015) when for some reason or other she would not come into the room, let alone get on the bed.

I managed to get her to enter the room, but when I patted the bed and said "Penne, get on to Papa's bed" she slunk off and hid behind a chair.

I patted her all over to see if I could find a lump or something which would explain a possible illness.  There was no such thing.

I wondered if she was getting arthritic, but she has jumped into the back seat of my car with ease when I have taken her for a ride (her favourite activity).

On Monday I lifted her and placed her on the bed, all the while "sweet-talking" her, and telling her that I wanted her to be there.

She stayed on the bed, but  she turned her back to me, and hopped off the bed the moment I left the room.

Today I tried to lift her again, but she ran away.  

Later today, after one of our walks, I took her into the room with her leash on..  At my bidding she jumped up onto the bed  --- but just as soon as I removed her leash -  she hopped off.

She is eating well.  She is walking well.  She is pooping well.  She greets me with enthusiasm when I return to my home after any absence.

Nothing has changed in my bedroom.  I even checked under the bed to see if perchance there was a monster there  (or a dead mouse or rat).

But she still  refuses to enter my bedroom, let alone to rest on my bed, with one beady eye on me as I work on the computer, which has been our pleasure for six or seven years.

She has decided that she is "Canis non grata" in my bedroom.

The ways of our dogs are beyond our  understanding.

And they "know" that human ways are also mysterious and inscrutable.

Monday, 26 January 2015

It's so hard for (some/most) men to simply listen.

A few week ago at the sermon/bible study group I attend  (four or five men, one woman) we somehow strayed into chatting about the need which many men have for male/male friendships.

I've been thinking a lot about this and have come to a few tentative conclusions, (please excuse my generalisations), about why this is so difficult.

1.  That men frequently fear intimate friendships with other men, because they find it hard to separate intimacy from sexuality.

2.  Lots of male friendships (particularly in groups) resort to banter and teasing, thus side-stepping any chance of deeper conversations.  (This is certainly the case within the group of gay men, single and partnered, with whom I hang out.  They are good guys, but we are for ever teasing each other).

3.  Men have often been taught to be self-reliant.

4. Males tend to be better at giving advice than they are at listening carefully. We formulate our "answers" before the question has been asked!

Generalisations?   But of course. 

Those of you who hang around with me know that I am a talker.  In company I am a compulsive talker!  It goes against my grain to listen.

But I am trying to "take the cotton (wool) out of my ears and to put it in my mouth".

Last week I spent some time with a friend, an entirely competent and professional woman, whose boss does not respect her.  She is overwhelmed with anger and sadness. We drank tea and coffee and chatted for nearly two hours.

I know her boss, so I utterly understood and empathized with her anger and sadness. 

I tried so hard not to give her advice.  She is well able to make her own wise decisions, and does not need or want my two cents' worth.

But dammit it was hard.  I so much wanted to segway into my "wise male advice giving mode". But that was not the purpose of our conversation.

The purpose is epitomised in one word:  EMPATHY.   My good friend did not seek or desire my wisdom.  She simply wanted to know that I heard her, and that I respected her.

Yesterday evening a neighbour, M-ry A-ne,  rang my door-bell and asked if we could chat,  I invited her into my home.

She told me about her son R, a thirty something married man, with a three year old son Z, and another child on the way.

R. had a non-malignant tumour removed from his brain last year.  Sans medical insurance he and his wife face enormous hospital bills.

Now R is battling debilitating ulcerated colitis, and is once again in the hospital.  He is utterly scared about his life and health; for his wife J; for his wee son; and for the yet to be born baby.

They face yet more hospital bills, and the prospect of declaring bankruptcy.

"Would I" asked M-ry A-ne, "visit him in the hospital, and encourage him to pray".

Of course I agreed to make that hospital call, but I promised M-ry A-ne that I would do no more than to listen to R,

I visited him today (it's not easy but priests and ministers are often asked to make hospital calls "sight unseen").

R. had been alerted that I might visit him.  He received me graciously (I had never before met him). 

He told me his story, and he cried.

I listened to his story and I got weepy.  I resisted every impulse to give him "good advice". I asked his permission to pray for him, and he assented to my request.

I ventured to say that if he decided to pray he should simply be honest with G-d: "no nice words, but utter frankness in his prayers".

Please God I was able to listen well to R. today,







Sunday, 25 January 2015

Church today, and my family. Simon, Andrew, James, and John.

Here is the Gospel passage we read in Church today:

Mark 1:14-20

14Now after John (the Baptist) was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
 
My friend and colleague the Revd. Andi (Andrea) Taylor preached a fine sermon based on this passage.
 
But the names caught my imagination
 
I thought of some family members, and I prayed for them.  
 
1.  My nephew Simon Povey, his wife Abby, and their infant son Miles.
 
2.  My brother Andrew Povey and his wife Izzy  (Isobel).
 
3.  My great-nephew James Theobald, and his partner Zoe.
 
4. My sister Jean Thacker and her husband John.
 
What fun it was to see the names of four of my family members in the Gospel reading, and then to pray for them.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Anti-Muslim activity will lead to nothing good: A conservative Prime Minister knows this!

 Of course the anti-Muslim movements in the U.S.A. and in western Europe are as bad as the anti-Jewish movements in Italy, France and Germany, which caused so much miserable violence and slaughter between 1933 and 1945.

Just as there is no wisdom in being unreservedly anti-Semitic, there is no wisdom in being unreservedly anti-Islam,  (or being anti-Christian in certain majority Muslim States in the near-East, and in parts of Africa). (Note also that there have been Christian massacres of Muslims in places such as Nigeria and the Central African Republic.)
 
But the anti- Islam movements have some traction.
 
For instance:
 
 In Germany    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/23/germany-anti-islam-protest_n_6372634.html

 In France http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/04/05/marine-le-pen-national-front-pork_n_5095798.html

(Will Jewish students also be forced to eat pork,  or go hungry?)
 
In the U.S.A, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/20/anti-sharia-law-a-solutio_n_864389.html
 
( British and American law already recognizes Jewish and Roman Catholic family and marriage laws, provided that they are subservient to national law.  Why, oh why, can we not understand that "Sharia Law"  is not a fixed and formal Islamic code (there are many versions of Sharia Laws); and they are  above all religious codes to be applied within Islamic groups, ( just so long as they do not contradict secular law).
 
 (Whether or not "we" agree with these codes is not apposite in the context of Civil Law).
 
 In the United Kingdomhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britain_First
 
I resent the claims of Brit-in First by which they  assert  that they are a Christian organisation. "They will know we are Christians by our love" according to the New Testament.
 
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In the meantime, British Conservative Premier David Cameron had this to say last year.   I applaud his words (even though he has also had less than helpful words regarding British Islam)
 

Transcript of speech by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Muslim News Awards for Excellence, Grosvenor House, Park Lane on Monday 31 March 2014.

"Thank you for having me here tonight.
 
There are two reasons why I think an event like tonight is so important.
 
First, this is about celebrating the huge contribution Muslims make to Britain.
 
Second, events like this challenge the narrow, intolerant view about Muslims and about Islam that still exists in parts of our country today.
 
And I’d like to say a word on each.
 
First, celebrating excellence.
 
I’ll take any chance to champion the massive contribution that British Muslims make in our country.
I see it every single day:
 
I turn on the radio – and it’s Mishal Husain presenting the Today programme.
 
I go to Parliament – and it’s Sayeeda Warsi, Sajid Javid, Tariq Ahmad and Mohamed Sheikh representing us on the Government benches.
 
And when I go Europe, yes I see Syed Kamall, not just a British Muslim in the Conservative Party in Brussels but leading the Conservative Party in Brussels in the vital work in the European Parliament
.
I visit the businesses that are bringing growth back to Britain – and its Asian firms that are innovating and working all the hours they can.
 
I get home and read the back pages of the newspapers, and it’s Amir Khan fighting for those titles, Mo running for those golds, and Muslim Premier League stars scoring those goals.
 
This is something we should celebrate in our country tonight. But we should be absolutely clear; the job has not been done. There are still glass ceilings and walls we need to break down in our country so that talented Asians from every community in every part of our community can make it to the top. To the top in politics; to the top in the Army; to the top in the judiciary to the top in the media; to the top in the Police. That is what I want to see in our country and when we achieve that we’ll be a truly diverse and equal nation.
 
 
But when we celebrate the contribution of British Muslims it’s not just those in the spotlight.
 
Muslims give more to charity than any other faith group.
 
And they play a huge role in our communities, day in, day out.
 
This winter I’ve been up and down the country visiting places that have been devastated by flooding.
We saw the worst of weather, but the best of Britain.
 
And the Muslim community certainly did their bit.
 
Like the young Muslims from Huddersfield. They got together with other faith and voluntary groups, they layed sandbags in Worcester protected a church in Surrey from the deluge and showed above all that our British community spirit could never be dampened.
 
And tonight this year is a particularly poignant year to be remembering the Muslim contribution to Britain.
 
It is nearly a century since the outbreak of the First World War. We’ll be commemorating that in August.
 
More than a million servicemen from an undivided India fought for Britain.
 
Hundreds of thousands were Muslim.
 
The sepoys poised with their guns, holding the lines from the Western Front to the Middle East.
 
They showed outstanding courage like the first South Asian winner of the Victoria Cross, Khudadad Khan.
 
Many thousands lost their lives, fighting for the freedom that we enjoy today
.
So tonight we should remember them and all those British Asians and Muslims who serve in our Armed Forces because their legacy, their work is our liberty
 
Second, let me say this.
 
We need to keep on challenging the intolerant view of Muslims that exists in some parts of our country.
 
That is why have done more than any other Government to try and tackle Islamophobia:
 
We set up a cross-government working group on tackling anti-Muslim hatred – no Government has done that before.
 
We helped set up a service for people to report anti-Muslim attacks – again, no Government has done that before.
 
And of course, we launched Srebrenica Memorial Day, to educate the next generation about the terrifying, tragic consequences of hatred.
 
But these are just the basics.
 
Really tackling Islamophobia means making absolutely sure that no person is held back from living their life or reaching their goals simply because of the faith they follow.
 
So yes – we are delivering on Sharia-compliant student loans, Help to Buy deposits and entrepreneur funds.
 
And yes – we aim to be the first country in the West to offer an Islamic bond: a Sukuk and I’m so proud of that.
 
And let me make absolutely clear that while I’m Prime Minister of this country Halal is safe in Britain.
 
It is all part of this Government’s overriding aim: to remove the barriers that stop people playing their part in society and give everyone, whatever their background, the opportunities they need to get on in life.
 
So those unsung heroes – let’s sing their praises.
 
Their huge contribution to Britain – let's put it in the spotlight.
The intolerance that blights people’s lives – let’s stamp it out once and for all.
And together, let’s celebrate all that's great about Britain’s Muslims.
Thank you – and above all well done to all those who have taken part tonight, all those who will win, but all those who have been nominated and the organisers for laying on such a splendid evening.
 
Thank you very much indeed."
 
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 From jmp
 
 
I iterate my title to this posting:
 
Anti-Muslim activity will lead to nothing good.