A good summer read

I’ve just read “Undivided” by Vicky Beeching. What a book! She writes so very well, crafting her story which includes growing up, a burgeoning stateside career in music, subsequent adventures into advocacy and journalism, TV and of course book writing.

But the main theme of the memoir is her struggle with her sexuality and the anguish of finding her courage to “come out” to the church and wider music world.  It’s heart-breaking. I am not surprised she became ill with the pressure. The sheer nastiness of the opposition to her would break anyone. She documents a botched up prayer ministry session, utter loneliness, mental anguish and increasing detachment and isolation.  The unbearable pain of not being real, of finding no one to share the struggle with.

She also writes about her theological journey. She’s a careful, intelligent thinker and a candid one. I would buy this book for youth leaders, pastors and anyone supporting friends who have the sheer guts to “come out” to them.  It took me three evenings to read and I loved it – with reservations!

But, and this is a gentle but, because I am not sure it can be anything other than that, I am now reading it again, with my thinkers head and pen and notebook.  Vicky is a superb writer and the gentle force of her story and prose argument have carried me along.  And I know we differ in theology and I don’t want to be carried away by my heart.

It is a well crafted arguement by a passionate advocate. And there are different books with different stances on the same passages in the bible.

Reading it, I am grateful for wise people who have loved me into openesss, prayed for me, and modelled both sturdy faith and good-enough marriages and the complementary beauty of sturdy faith and good-enough singleness.  I think I might have pulled hard for a same sex relationship if I had read it twenty years ago and not been well supported. As it is, I find the book “reads” me and echoes my own slow crawl into open honesty.

It’s a good book to start a dialogue, as a talking point not a secret buy, as a conversation  regarding more traditional teaching on homosexuality, as a cracking good summer read.

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Sunshine and linnets

Today I decided to beast off the weight gained with free coffee, subsidised chocolate and too much office birthday cake.  What better way than to walk East Devon’s hills on a blistering hot day?  It’s easy to underestimate the slope of Peak hill in Sidmouth – I parked at the top of it, early, setting off over a bleached field thick with some kind of hawk/sheep bit/dandelion type yellow flower.  I am no expert.  Sloping steeply up and down I catch clear views of deep blue sea, wavy grasses and grain fields.  The air hums and I think it’s a microlight or toy drone – it’s the sound of hundreds of insects in the still morning air.  It’s only 9.30am and already the sun is hot and I’m coated with an attractive sticky mixture of dust, suncream and salt!

Birdsfoot trefoil, 5ft high fox gloves, cow parsley and tall pink flowers I don’t know the names of swish along the path up to Brandy Head.  I’m planning a stop and find a lone walker who happily possesses the one bench.  As I’m walking at punishment beating pace to escape the heat which will come later, I push on, and reflect that I am enjoying being summer fit. There are only a few poppies stippling the field edges and I suspect the beast from the East may have delayed their usual abundance here.  All I can hear is the creak of my boots and the slosh of water in the metal waterbottle.  It will be tea hot by the end of the walk.

I walk up the closed road to Otterton, beautiful cool and shady with cathedrals of trees whose roots traipse over the path.  There’s a welcome village green bench for a break and I decide to cheat and walk home via Bars lane.  It’s a long, steady pull up a dusty, overhung track which is a river in winter, but is a hum of bees and scented with bonfire at this time of year. Walking up Peak hill is slightly cut off by this cheats route that runs parrallel to the cliff path, which seems to be deserted. Except I think for linnets in full song.

Sitting in a sticky car at the end of the walk I get the joy of not wearing boots!!

Marathon Training

Walking with an older friend gives perspective.  Marathon training, not a sprint.

We take the train, snatching conversation between views of trees, dappling light and too much trainline information sharing! It’s hot, really hot for a British summer, costa air con overcomes “oh let’s find somewhere independent” for coffee.

Then set off up the beautiful Tarka trail, alongside the saltmarsh, sheep grazed and river absent. We hear the burble of the curlew, there are black headed gulls in their chocolate summer hoods, the aggression of shelducks to one another.

Big skies with high, cirrus clouds; “mackeral sky”. Cyclists silent, varying in size and seriousness trundle along forcing us into the nettles.

Lunch at Fremington, and a chance encounter with the old bike pictured above.  It looks so very basic, so hard and uncomfortable.  On the way back we meet two people with fantastic electric bikes “Regal Bikes” – they look beautiful, sleek, black and gold with chunky tyres.  My friend loves to cycle so it’s a great chance to chat!!

The river’s trawled back in on the way home: I’m sun soaked and sleepy and the train chunters and clackets over the hot rails; it’s a slow train and we are a little late!

 

 

 

 

 

Because

Because a picture is a multi faceted image

Because I haven’t taken any photos since January

Because being becalmed is not forever

Because small boats on rising tides rock unsteadily

Because adventurousness is what a boat is built for.

And of course, because you shouldn’t start a sentence with because!

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Living on a little

It’s not often you find a book that literally transforms your life.  I can hand on heart recommend this one – “Living large – how to live well – even on a little” by the gloriously named J Raymond Albrektson.  Mine is a battered, chewed looking 2nd hand copy and as it was published in 2000, it’s only on Amazon as a cheap bargain option.  Get a copy!!!!

It’s an old fashioned comforting sort of read which covers savings, giving to God, thrift, planning and credit: what transformed my life was the simple teaching on how to budget.  I’ve tried various ways – “fag packet economics” or “how on earth am I going to afford what I have committed myself to? “trying to be super holy and tithe” – which stripped my cash flow and left me resentful until someone explained % of income left over to me – painful.  And this way. Which is to have separate “envelopes” – real or virtual or spreadsheet whatever, in which cash or budget is deposited each pay packet.  And that’s it.  Not rocket science you would think. I am aware sensible people use their phones…..

In the four years I used this scheme, I have bought a decent 2nd hand car, stayed in credit, saved towards the target 3 months safety net of salary (desperately hard to do)  Oh and had fun!  I’m having to replan as I start a new job at the bottom of the salary heap and I need to make things work out and find enough cash for joy.

I find a budget gives me permission to spend.  To buy clothes, to give exuberantly – but only within the framework of a totalled costed amount. To buy books and coffee and the occasional cinema ticket.  When books above the alloted amount come out the food budget, it sharpens the mind’s resolve a little (ok not a lot)

Another fantastic tool has been the “Money advice service” budget spreadsheet.

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/tools/budget-planner.  This smart bit of kit allows a non financial expert like me to put in the figures, and have the results per week/month/year, with pie charts and play around with the amounts until they balance or surplus.  I know most people are aware of this, but somehow along the way I never quite got the hang of it. (after all, it’s taken me a long time to grasp fractions)

And I certainly needed the tools.  Control is a beautiful, fun, stewardly thing.  Especially with beer and chocolate thrown in the mix sometimes.

When your friends know you too well…

I am not good in new situations: put me out of my happy comfort zone and I trigger anxiety.  It’s good for me!  I’m reading “stretch” a little book on the bible book of Daniel, a happy 1p amazon joy. I have found that reading alongside the sermon series means at least some of the teaching has a chance to stick, for this visual, hands on learner!  As for stretch, well, my good friends point out when I am looking uncomfortable!!  Not as uncomfortable as Daniel though….

My friend and I went to an event organised by church, with a fantastic band, and a lovely singer.  It was loud, it was praise, it pulled out all the awkwardness of being someone who’d rather read or swim, walk and have one on one chats than be in anywhere noisy.

I was married to a musician whose little band disturbed the neighbours – music is a real love/conflict of emotion for me.  I love to sing in the car because rooks and I have something in common – neither of us can consistently hold a tune. But powerful words can slide under my edges.

I thought I was doing a reasonable job of being cheery…paracetamol and codeine from my concerned friend and the words “I knew you were worrying” outed my flimsy pretences. Found out with a stiff back I sang some of the songs to the wakeful sparrows at 7am in revenge….

Being honest is awkward, being honest online is something that feels like hiding in plain sight somehow.  I listened to a radio interview with Vicky Beeching this morning and felt grieved at the hurt and wounding rejection received by this singer who chose to “come out” as gay, and lost a lot of her christian music prestige in the process.  It seems such a waste of God given talent. I am grateful to be loved, to feel part of church, to be held by friends, to know that it is possible to walk in open honesty at least somewhere safe. Walking a tight line held by a harness of grace. Solidly anchored, my falls arrest in safe hands.

 

 

Decisions, Decisions

I’m trying to make my mind up about something that I think might be useful, faith stretching and fun. It will also be tiring, have some personal cost and slightly infringe on a place I really enjoy escaping to and being part of. I’m having a hard time making the decision, which I don’t really need to make for a week or so, but I find it sits under the ordinary things I’m doing.  It’s the downside of living alone – not enough distractions, too much time to think! A good friend has written me a detailed email which did the thinking I was too enthusiastic and shallow to do, and I’ve taken the time to ponder it with my notebook and a coffee after a failed attempt to swim in the crowded-with-kids-no-adult lanes pool yesterday.

Faith is stepping out your comfort zone, faith is faithfulness, faith is baby steps and trusting in the dark. Faith is also saying no to things that might be hurtful and having the guts to stick by the decision.  Looking ahead down the motorway of life and reading the sign that says “take diversion, accident ahead”.

It’s an option I was open to a while ago but too scared to jump into, but offered now in a more risk averse way.  Short of prayer-by-notebook and pondering, and realising that I am ramping my own anxiety level by over thinking on a summer day when I don’t need to, I find it hard to decide. God doesn’t, in my experience, tend to start a conversation with “go to..and say..” or “here’s a big sign in the sky telling you nice and plain to do….whatever”