Friday, 2 December 2011

Saturday, 5 November 2011

A time to remember

 "Remember, remember,
the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see no reason why
Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!"
Older British citizens are known to recite this poem leading up to the date of 5th November.  That’s because on 5th November 1605 a plot to blow up Parliament and King James 1st was foiled.  The people rejoiced because the King James 1st life was spared.  Many of you have read about this in previous new letters, so I am not going to write anything about it here.  But if you want to know more, check out the website.
Tonight is called bonfire night because all over England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales people build huge pyres to burn—a tradition rooted in burning effigies of Guy Fawkes and the other Catholics who were affiliated with the Gunpowder plot.  These large bonfires bring crowds to roast potatoes, cook sausages and shoot fireworks.  I would suspect that for a lot of Brits, the original meaning is a bit lost and it’s just a good excuse to have a celebration.
Because of where we live, we can see several displays of fireworks—from a theme park about six miles from our home; the local town centre and even Windsor. 
On a family level, we also have birthdays to celebrate: 4th November:  “Mickey”, who turned five on Friday and 21st November:  “Bell Man”, who will be 14!
            Last night My Midnight Man rang “Mickey” to have a little chat with him and wish him happy birthday. 
“Happy Birthday, Mickey!”  says Grandy.
“Thank you!  Bye!”  says Mickey and hands the phone back to his Mum. 
Since “Mickey” is now five, Grandy was expecting a short conversation—just not that short!  Children can make you smile.
Tomorrow evening St. Mary’s church will be holding an “All Souls” service for the parish.  It is a special service of remembrance for those who have passed away in the parish during the last three years or so.  There are Bible readings, hymns, and then a time when the names of the deceased are read out to the congregation and candles are lit.  It will be the first time I’ve attended such a service—partly as a parishioner and partly to help serve coffee and tea after the service. 
This is a month of Remembrance—All Souls Day, Guy Fawkes Night, Remembrance Day (known as Veterans Day in America) and Thanksgiving in America. 
I can’t help but think that we should be like God in our “memory style”.  For instance, we should remember no more:
·         The mistakes and shortcomings of our past
·         The faults, mistakes and offenses of others
·         The negative people from our past, who have hurt us, but we no longer have any association.
We should and must remember:
·         The promises of God are for today and into eternity.
·         The dreams we are working to make reality
·         The Godly examples who have made a positive influence our lives
·         The lessons we learned from past mistakes
·         That our Glorious Father tenderly loves us in the same manner and to the same degree as He loves Jesus.
·         To daily receive God’s forgiveness and mercy for ourselves, and show that same grace to others.
·         Taking care of today is actually planning for tomorrow.

Our spiritual heritage is listed in Hebrews 11—from Abraham to the prophets.  The apostle Paul put it like this:   Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,”  Hebrews 12:1

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  "Lady Helene"

Friday, 4 November 2011

Something attitude

            On Wednesday and Fridays I go to the Parish office to work on the weekly news sheet and update pages for the Parish website.  Today I wanted to try something different…like writing my blog here in the office.
            Distractions are a way of life—no matter what your plans for the day.  Trying to write at home has temptations for me.   Often the wish to accomplish writing a few pages is interrupted with a phone call, or the sudden “need” for a cuppa.  Worse yet…the television is a major temptation; “I’ll just see what the movies are today.”  And all too often the movie wins and I get no writing, no sewing, and no baking done. 
            When I began my job as a parish administrator, I asked the vicar if I could use the office as a place to work on personal writing projects.  He said that I was more than welcome.  Distractions would be limited, as I knew the phone would rarely ring; there are rarely any visitors and best of all, no television.  So, here I sit. 
            Now I have to get accustomed to this version of Word.  It is amazing how quickly one gets familiar with the formats and tools of one version of software, and to use a newer or older version almost seems like learning a new skill. 
            One thing I must not do here in the office is discover if I can watch programmes on I-Player via the Internet.  Should I investigate that possibility, I would leave open a door to being seduced into time-wasting.  It would be pointless to stay here—I might as well go home and watch TV there. 
            With us being four days into November, holidays are approaching and the contrast of being an American in Great Britain becomes clear.  My American friends are focused on Thanksgiving.  For many Americans thinking about Christmas before Thanksgiving is just unacceptable.  I have always been one of these, as I love Thanksgiving. 
            As I’ve lived here in Britain, I have been surprised by the number of friends around me who want to know if I’m going to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Of course, when I came here in 2003 to not celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday felt awkward, unnatural—a trigger to homesickness for family and friends.  I did cook a turkey dinner on the Saturday and invited my Sister-in-law (Seamstress Supreme) and her husband (Mr. D.) over to share it with us.  It was an educational, as well as festive, evening for them. 
            In 2005 My Midnight Man and I went to Florida in November to be with my Mom and sister.  It was Midnight Man’s first—and so far—only time to be in the USA for Thanksgiving weekend. 
            Last year (2010) my friend, “Calla” offered to provide some food for a Thanksgiving meal, if I was willing to cook it.  It was the first time someone had approached me about Thanksgiving, instead of me inviting people over to celebrate. 
            This year, nothing has been planned so far.  “Calla” and her husband have moved out of the local vicinity.  I feel more British this year, so feel less need to make an event on that last Thursday in November. 
            After all, Thanksgiving is really about heart attitudes.  As a Christian, to give thanks and show appreciation to God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is a life-style.  Even on days when I don’t feel good, or I have truly messed up, I can still say, “Thank you Glorious Father, for the blood of my Saviour, that cleanses me from all my sins, heals all my brokenness, and restores me to fellowship with You.” 
            Thanksgiving, praising and worshipping are choices—decisions to be made on a daily basis.  For me, celebrating Thanksgiving is not about being American—its about being a Christian. 

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  “Lady Helene”

Thursday, 3 November 2011

God is into the details!

        So many times in my life, I have seen that God is in the details.  Here is a little story about our Heavenly Father revealing Himself in the detail in my life yesterday. 
        An appointment for a kidney biopsy is scheduled for me on Monday 7th November.  As part of the preparation, I must have some blood tests done.  Now I had totally forgotten about that.  As a matter of fact, blood tests were the furthest thing from my mind Wednesday afternoon.  I had a headache. 
This headache was behind my eyes, pressure on top of my head, and tension in my neck.  I’d taken some pain relievers, but they didn’t seem to be working.  So after waiting for half-an-hour, I went to the shower and sat with the hot water washing away the tension in my body and reducing the pain in my head.  I’d wrapped up warmly and crawled into bed afterward, to sleep off the residue of tiredness.  As I lay there, trying to clear my mind and drift off to sleep, the Holy Spirit softly spoke to me. 
“Monday’s procedure requires a blood draw a few days before.  Tomorrow is Thursday—you can’t have the blood test any later than Friday.”  I looked at the clock.  Yes, it was still possible to ring the local surgery and see if I could get in on Thursday or Friday.  I rolled out of bed and come to my office, where I rang the doctor’s surgery (office) and waited for my turn in the phone cue.  Thankfully the headache had totally receded—and I was simply tired.  Once the receptionist answered, I quickly explained what I needed, and scheduled an appointment for 1:10 pm on Thursday afternoon.
About 30 seconds after I’d hung up, the phone rang.  It was the nurse from Royal Berkshire hospital.  She wanted to know when I was having my blood test done, if there was someone to pick me up after the procedure and someone to be with me all night.  Wow—not even a full minute after I’d book the necessary blood test, I was being contacted about it!!!  And until ten minutes before that, I’d completely forgotten about it.  The whole situation could not have been more perfectly time! 
I was listening to Joyce Meyer on the Inspiration Channel.  She says that just as God keeps a book of remembrance, we should make a record of everything God does for us.  By doing so, our hearts will grow more and more thankful.  So, I wanted to share my thanksgiving with you.  

Have a great day!  And may you see God in the details of your life.

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  "Lady Helene"

Monday, 31 October 2011

Of Visits and Visitors

        Although many flat-dwellers are not blessed with lovely views from their windows, My Midnight Man and I are blessed with having a balcony and a lounge window that provides us with a view to a large park.  If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you will know this.  However, I wish I could share with you the beautiful colours God has blessed us with this year.  I believe it has been one of the best years for tree colours because of the wet summer and the late Indian Summer.  I’ve taken over 100 photos the last couple of days from the balcony and from out back. 
        Scarlet, gold, orange, brown and green leaves can be seen on a single tree—variegated and stunning to look at.  Only half the trees around here are empty—which usually are stripped bare by wind and rain at this time of year.  This year the leaves seem to be hanging around longer. 
        Before October is completely gone, I want to mention a few more October happenings. 
A Visit:  During a Skype call in August, My Midnight Man learned that his second sister, “Bea” and her husband, “Ven” were taking a holiday in October and wanted to spend some time with us the evening before flying back to South Africa.  “Bea” & “Ven” had been travelling for a few weeks—first to Colorado, in the USA and then on a canal trip in France and finally in England.  On Monday evening, (the 10th) “Bea” and “Ven” took us down to the local Toby Carvery restaurant to enjoy an evening of conversation—catching up with family news—even more enjoyable because restaurant staff did all the cooking and cleaning up. 
My Midnight Man, "Bea" & "Ven"
        Arrangements were made for “Ven & Bea” to come to us for breakfast on Tuesday morning (11th).  They brought the ingredients:   bacon, eggs, lovely Tiger bread, blue cheese, orange juice and a few other goodies.  Whilst John put on the coffee, I cooked breakfast.  It was so lovely to hear about their trip to Colorado and France while enjoying a home-cooked meal together.  After breakfast, “Bea” gave us a slide show of photos she’d taken on their holiday.  They were able to stay with us until about 1:30 pm, before taking the rental car back to Heathrow to catch their flight.  If you don’t know what tiger bread is or looks like, here is a photo.  And you can find a recipe here:
Tiger Bread
            Coming Visits: The middle of September, the publicity officer of HOST, UK sent an e-mail to the Langley Parish e-mail address, asking if an ad for them could be placed into the Parish Magazine.  HOST UK is an organisation that recruits volunteers to entertain adult international students during a weekend or over Christmas holiday.  The visits allow students to broaden their educational experience by being in “real homes” and tasting local British culture.  Since My Midnight Man and I are going to be home this Christmas, we agreed to sign up as HOST Volunteers.  If you are in the UK and are interested in providing hospitality and taking advantage of a ministry opportunity, simply visit the website and make contact with them.  A regional organiser will get in touch you and complete an application form.  The regional organiser for our area visited us on 17th October and we were connected with our first guest on 19th— October, and she is scheduled to visit on Remembrance Weekend.  Last week were notified of a second student who would like to come on the 25th of November. 
        I smile a bit about this because the idea is to give foreign students a taste of British life; My Midnight Man is South African/English and I’m American.  Just how British we’ve become has yet to be determined! 
            Birthday Guests:  On Friday, 21st October the phone rang and I answered it.  “Is you ‘usband there?”
            “Oh, Hi Mark.  No, he’s out right now.  Would you like me to have him ring you back?”
            “No, that’s fine.  Just wanted to know if he wanted some clothing.”
            “Yes, please.  By the way, what are you doing tomorrow?  It’s John’s birthday and I wanted to know if you wanted to come over for cake.”
            “Okay, that sounds good.  Sheri and I will be there about 4:30 p.m.”
            I spent most of the 22nd in the kitchen.  For breakfast, I fixed American biscuits and gravy.  Then I baked an applesauce cake with mixed dried fruit, as that was what Midnight Man requested.  I took a risk, making a last-minute phone call on Saturday morning to “TechPhile and Sandgroper” with an invitation to dinner for them and their children for that night.  For dinner that evening, I fixed a curried beef dinner—one spicy and one not spicy—basically because My Midnight Man and “TechPhile” enjoy HOT curries—whereas I don’t.  Happily they came and enjoyed beef curry with rice, and of course, cake.  
            It makes me happy that although my invitations were last minute, My Midnight Man’s best mates were able to make it over to our place to celebrate with him.  And the visitors were spread over the day.   Best of all, it was a warm, sunny day and My Midnight Man got to go for a bike ride.  
            The clothes that Mark brought fit My Midnight Man well.  There was an answer to prayer in the bag as well--a pair of shoes.  Midnight Man's old shoes were beginning to crack across the bottom.  Finances being tight, going to buy a new pair of shoes was not in sight for the near future.  Yet, because God is faithful, He heard my prayers and My Midnight Man has a new pair of shoes that fit, and fit well.  
             Many good things have happened this month.  I am looking forward to what God is going to do in November!

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith, "Lady Helene"
Out the Back Door