Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lost Things


I have just finished reading a book on my kindle – but before I tell you anything about the book, just let me tell you about my kindle cover!

I had knitted a cover, a purple creation with cables and wonderful striped buttons. Sadly, I lost it somewhere – actually that could be quite relevant to the book that I have just read. My sister, Mags, dug through a drawer and found a cover replacement – not plastic, but thick stretchy fabric, the kind of fabric that might make up a swim suit for a well-padded lady to reign in all the flabby bits. There was an orange lady on the front. It did the job and I hadn’t yet thought about knitting a new cover. A group of young ladies completing a textile and fabric course were showing their wares – stuff sewn, pillows, dresses, waistcoats…and kindle/I-pad covers. I asked the tutor if any of the girls would be willing to sell me a cover for my kindle.  A couple of the girls came knocking at my door later on in the day. We didn’t exactly haggle – she possibly might have given it away but I paid a fair price. It’s pink and padded with a heart on a front pocket. It’s good! I can now drop my kindle from a great height, not that I would, and my kindle is safe.

Back to the book – “The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan. I won’t tell you any spoilers. The start of the story, I suppose, is a man losing two precious things. The first is his fiancé to a road accident. The second is a gold medallion that his fiancé had given to him, that he promised always to keep, but it slipped out of his pocket. He never recovers from the loss of either and would like to stay beneath the blankets of his bed. A friend rouses him and persuades him that life is still worth living. He begins to collect lost things – a button, an umbrella, a jigsaw puzzle piece and fills up the shelves and the drawers of his study with all these items making a careful note of when and where he found them. The intention is to find the owners and reunite them with their last property.

A quick aside about lost things. My husband recently lost his walking stick. It’s not the first time. I am a familiar face at the lost property office of the police station. No one it seems hands in walking sticks. We have replaced more than a few. This particular stick had lasted a long time. Then it was lost. A friend at work described Joe without his walking stick as “Bambi on ice”. Imagine his surprise then while waiting at a taxi office for a ride when a driver of another taxi, a different company, pulls up, jumps out, waves the lost walking stick with the words, “Sir, Sir, I have been looking for you…”

Back to the book. So the book is really a collection of short tales about the owners of the lost items and how they came to lose them. The different people meet and their paths cross, and all the characters are so well written. It’s a lovely book. The last couple of chapters made me cry.

Having read the book, I felt the urge to go for a walk, much as he did, and try to find something lost. Fetching the Sunday papers from the co-op seemed to fit the bill. I chose not to take a direct route but walk the path around the estate. There was little to be gleaned in the things lost and I had to resort to poetic licence to claim anything significant.

There were a lot of cigarette butts and bottle tops and the occasional scattering of a broken bottle. The council hadn’t weeded the path so it looked somewhat neglected. I picked up a torn page from a notebook which had a picture of a horse drawn on to it in red ink. I folded it up and put it in my pocket.

I passed dogs and dog owners. Some owners were in the process of losing their patience as the dog stopped at every tree and lamp post along the path to sniff and lift a leg. One dog had lost his freedom to bark, or bite, his face muzzled. Another dog was just on the verge of losing his puppy cuteness.

Trees were losing their blossom to the wind and I walked beneath a shower of confetti. Daffodils and tulips were losing their spring newness. A girl on a swing was never in danger of losing a ball she clutched in her palm. A heron beside the burn lost the grip gravity had on him and flapping long wings lifted into the air.

It was a nice walk, perhaps made nicer because I wasn’t head down, marching forward, but looking about me, eyes searching everywhere. There was nothing lost to claim, to reunite with an owner. There was the folded paper in my pocket, but it wasn’t anyone’s masterpiece. Perhaps I lost a few of my inner cobwebs.

Loosing and finding – I was reminded of a different day, a different walk to a different co-op. It was cold and frosty, the ground beneath my feet satisfyingly crunchy. There was no gate as such out of the field, just a hole. Beside the hole, slipped into the chinks of the wire fencing was a pair of glasses. They were kid-sized, NHS coloured plastic frames. Had I read the book at that point I might have tucked them into a pocket. I thought about writing a short story explaining the events leading up to the glasses being abandoned in such a way. I have met too many young people, yes, even been one of them once upon a time, who resent having to wear glasses, hate being called four eyes, when they clearly had just the two. I would never have had the courage to leave mine anywhere – it would be risking life and limb with just blurred blobs in front of me. And facing my mother without them? Risking life and limb, indeed.

I have a feeling that had Jesus been walking with me today he would have found plenty of lost things. He would have noticed the heron, and the blossom, and the various dogs – but I think he would have noticed the lost people.

Some forty years ago, a different day, a different walk, not particularly to a co-op, He found me – as lost as they come. He didn’t quite tuck me into His pocket, but he took me home to His Father. I have rarely been lost ever since!


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Me, my Shadow and Fibonacci

It was early evening. The sun was behind me and my shadow stretched out in front of me on the footpath at the back of our house. It was a lovely shadow with perfect proportions. Had it been standing up rather than lying down, it would have been tall enough – not the three inches shorter than the four foot eleven and a half inches I had claimed to be in my younger days. It was slim enough – not a size zero by any means, but not excessively wide at any point. Even the shadow hair looked good. I smiled at my shadow and just for a moment or two wished I was it – the tall enough, the slim enough and with a nice hairdo.

I am reading a book “Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me” by Karen Swallow Prior. It’s not really a book I would have chosen to read, but I am a member of an online book club and it is someone else’s choice – but I am enjoying it. There’s not much Karen and I have in common apart from a love of reading. She has been reading a lot longer than I have and I‘ve not yet come to the chapter on Mills and Boon’s romances where I really cut my reading teeth! The quality of her books is way above mine. I have read a few classics but not that many.

A chapter a week, we are up to chapter 3 – “God of the Awkward, the Freckled and the Strange: Gerard Manley Hopkins’s "Pied Beauty". It’s about the people that don’t fit in – dogs too. There’s a pattern, a formula or a mould that the world uses to decide who fits in and who doesn’t. It’s not God’s formula – but we grow up in a world where people don’t necessarily listen to God but they do pay attention to the world.

I have spent a lot of time and energy, effort and money trying to fit in. I don’t fit the formula. I remember once, in university, a male friend commenting on my group of friends. None of them apparently fitted the formula – one was too thin, two were not thin enough and another too old. I, at the time, had all the right proportions but I was too short.

If I am on a diet right now, and I am, it’s not a fitting-in diet but a must-bring-my-sugar-levels-down diet. Just recently I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I’m informed that I can backtrack a little with a low carb diet. I spent the morning trailing around the health shops looking for almond flour to bake low carb bread. Perhaps part of the weight loss contributed to the slim Mel shadow! I battle daily with my sweet tooth – and the tooth wins all too often.

The poem "Pied Beauty" picks up on the fickle and the freckled, the swift and the slow, the sweet and the sour, the dazzling and the dim – the things that are on the wrong side the formula fence. There’s a lot of alliteration throughout the poem that I like.

“Glory be to God” he begins, then lists all the oddities about nature and people. He ends with “Praise Him”. He says it’s all beautiful. The world might not say so but the world isn’t always right about these things.

I was reminded of a poem I wrote a few years ago.

1:1.62

Beauty has been plucked
from the eye of the beholder
and lies in mathematical formulae
proposed by
Fibonacci

The face carefully measured
Length and width
One divided by the other
1:1.62
The Golden ratio

The face in three acts
Hairline to eyes
Eyes to nose
Nose to chin
A trinity of equal numbers

Nature’s symmetry presented
Length of ear and length of nose
The same
Width of eye and distance between
The same

Luck would have it
Most faces
match the measurements
and for those that don’t
the right hairstyle disguises imperfections

Fibonacci has uncovered
the fingerprint of
the Maker
God sings creation into being
ofttimes flaunting the formulae

Beauty is never in
the eye of the beholder
or in the mathematics
of Fibonacci
but in the design of God

He looks
not for a Golden Ratio
but for a tender heart
God weighs the heart of Fibonacci
and He weighs the heart of me

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Highlife Highland Learning Awards

Last Friday I was invited to attend the Highlife Highland Learning Awards. I am a supporter of Creativity in Care and really enjoy meeting with them for Poetry in Motion most months.

One of our lads, I use the term loosely, Colin, was to collect an award and I was there to clap wildly! Well into his eighties, with a twinkle in his eye and a saucy comment on his lips, he is one of life’s enjoyers, although he can’t always remember which bits of life he has enjoyed so far. He was not able to attend because of ill health. Karrie collected the award on his behalf, taking the opportunity to read one of Colin’s poems.

There were quite a few absent award winners. Easter is the only time when the Highlands and Islands University building is available for these kinds of things.  The afternoon key speaker was a young man from Nairn – he looked schoolboy young but he wasn’t. Learning doesn’t always come in the form of a classroom and a whiteboard and projector.  Mark had done most of his important learning in various countries volunteering. He talked about making the most of opportunities that come our way. Some people would exclude themselves – they don’t have the time or the money or the imagination to make it happen. Not everything falls into your lap and sometimes you need to work hard to make things happen. What you learn in those far off places, doing things you never thought you could do, he says, changes you.  You become something better through the experience.

We should all be, as adults, learners. Last night I went to the cinema to see The Lost City of Z. Somewhere in the film, the wife of the explorer, speaking to one of her sons quoted a line from a poem by Robert Browning - “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?”

The actual building the university is housed in is a new build – but I think the architects and builders must have had Robert Browning’s poem in mind. I am not a fan of new builds. They can sometimes look quite same-ish – all windows and metal and square and anonymous. We had the opportunity to look into the way the place was built – the colours of carpets and walls mimicked nature. I work in a building of garish oranges and greens that almost hurt the eye. The UHI is subtle – soft tones like the mountains in autumn and the valleys in springtime. They took pictures, pixelated them and chose their colours carefully. The building isn’t one of sharp angles, but curves and soft lines.

In my younger days, when they built an extension on to the primary school I attended they installed a green blackboard.  The thinking at the time was that green is a comforting colour. God was there long before the education authority caught on with His green grass and green trees. The UHI building lets you feel at ease and comfortable in the learning environment.

Poetry in Motion held a workshop in the afternoon and provided us with a chance to play with poetry.

UHI

Embark on your learning journey
Step through the revolving door
Moving forwards, passing through
In and out
Lines and light
Shape and shades
Curves and contours
Space and air
A promise
“Create your own future”
“Be whatever you want to be”
No history to restrain
No tradition to live up to
No clutter or cobwebs
No round pegs or square holes
All ages and abilities invited
Greenhouse windows
For student saplings
Called to learn and grow

 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Watch He Keeps

The maker of heaven and earth sees me
And hears my plea
Lost, I cry out and He comes to my aid
His power displayed

Secure I am held in His loving hand
Shielded I stand
He slumbers not, my Saviour never sleeps
A watch He keeps

He lifts His hand to hide me from the sun
A shade is spun
And when the cold moon casts its eerie glow
His peace I know

On battlefields He stands with me
We’re back to back against my foes
I triumph o’er my enemy
Defeated now no threat to pose

He watches over all my days
The sweat of work, the still of rest
He teaches me His gentle ways
His life in me each day expressed

Today, tomorrow - Hs promised word
A covenant He’s made with me
Throughout the heavens and earth it’s heard
Beside me He will always be

(Psalm 121)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Anima Christi

There are times when I need to scratch the Roman Catholic itch in me. I confess to missing some of the milestones along the Christian year that many churches choose not to celebrate or remember. I don’t want to follow a liturgy written down and parrot-fashion say the bits expected of me, but there is a beauty in the liturgy that calls to my heart. It doesn’t replace what my heart wants to say, or even say it for me so I don’t need to. It stirs me to think and reflect.

I went to St Mary’s on Sunday. Yes, I wanted my palm cross – but having read my way through a Lenten study book, I wanted to mark the day – Palm Sunday. Part of the service was reading through the gospel narrative from the Last Supper to Jesus’ death on the cross. It was at least four pages in the mass book. I closed my eyes and let the story fill me.

Standing under the spoken word of scripture is such a powerful thing. Not needing to see the words, shape them in my mind or sound them out and then onto the next one – hearing it read, being the audience to the words, not the writer or the reader, does something to the spirit rather than the mind.

This morning, into the last few days of my Lent book, the focus was on suffering. There’s nothing noble about suffering. It’s evil. Yes, it can draw out strength in some, but it can pull other people apart. What we end up suffering for is often our own personal kingdoms being threatened.

Jesus read the words of Isaiah – to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free – Jesus lived the words and in so living made enemies with the religious elite. They were content to allow the poor to stay poor because it suited them. “To keep quiet in the face of injustice and oppression, doing nothing to oppose it is a refusal to enter into the passion of Christ.”

The devotional ended with the words of Latin prayer “Anima Christi”. I don’t know Latin but I can guess that “anima” is something to do with animation and giving life to something. I choose to think is about the life of Christ in me.  This is a contemporary version.

I choose to breathe the breath of Christ
 that makes all life holy.
I choose to live the flesh of Christ
 that outlasts sin’s corrosion and decay.
I choose the blood of Christ
 along my veins and in my heart
 that dizzies me with joy.
I choose the living waters flowing from his side
 to wash and clean my own self and the world itself.
I choose the awful agony of Christ
 to charge my senseless sorrows with meaning
 and to make my pain pregnant with power.
I choose you, good Jesus, you know.
I choose you, good Lord;
 count me among the victories
 that you have won in bitter wounded-ness.
Never number me among those alien to you.
Make me safe from all that seeks to destroy me.
Summon me to come to you.
Stand me solid among angels and saints
 chanting yes to all you have done,
 exulting in all you mean to do forever and ever.
Then for this time, Father of all,
 keep me, from the core of my self,
 choosing Christ in the world.  Amen.

– Joseph Tetlow SJ

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Rhythm, River and Roads

Saturday afternoon and the sun was shining. People everywhere were peeling off winter layers. Sunshine has that habit of fooling you into thinking it’s warmer than it really is. The queue at the ice cream shop was a long one.

Creativity in Care’s “Poetry in Motion” monthly meeting met in the Dunbar Centre in Inverness. Clip boards and pens, poems and prompts – we talked poetry. Some of the usual suspects hadn’t been able to come. The Easter holidays had started and the qualified minibus drivers were somewhere warm and exotic. There were other new and unfamiliar faces, and one or two can’t-quite-place-where-I know-you-from faces. My Polish friend from Pol-UK, Joanna, joined us.

We read through a couple of poems to get us thinking about roads and rivers. The poems themselves – “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost and an extract from “To The River Charles” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – provided us with the rhythm.

We began thinking about our own rhythms as we paid attention to our breathing. I am not a deep breather, dragging enough oxygen into the lungs to function, but with nothing left over. My blood isn’t as oxygen rich as it could be, I suspect. We then felt our pulse, another rhythm of the body. It was nice to sit so quietly and be relaxed.

We set off for a twenty minute walk with a list of things to look for and think about.

·         Notice the rhythm of your footsteps
·         Look for texts in the pavement
·         Simply record colours, smells, sights and sounds
·         Notice how you feel about the place
·         Write down any odd ideas that pop into your head even if they are not related to the rhythm, road or river theme
·         Capture a passing piece of conversation

Standing on the Grieg Street footbridge always evokes a certain memory. I came up to Inverness to be a part of a Gospel Outreach team in October 1989. The very first morning, after the very long journey up the A9 to get to Inverness, I stood on the bridge. It’s a suspension bridge, rather wobbly, as people cross – their own particular rhythm making you constantly adjust your own stance so you don’t fall over. I stood on the bridge that first morning and looked upriver. I had such a sense of coming home. I never felt a stranger.  If the city could have spoken it would have said, “Ah, at last, you have arrived. I’ve been waiting.”

The captured conversation was not quite a passing one. I was standing on the bridge, with my clip board, my mind acting like a thesaurus, staring at the water passing underneath. A friend, Athol, stopped and touched me on the shoulder.

“Are you OK, love?” he asked, perhaps thinking I was contemplating throwing myself off the bridge as some unhappy people are inclined to do. I showed him the clip board and my scribblings.

“I’m writing poetry, Athol.” I answered and he left.

Our time was up and we returned to the centre for tea, chocolate brownie squares and a quiet space to see if a poem emerged.

There was a sense in which I felt I was cheating a little. A couple of years ago I had been involved in a poetry project connected to the river. A group of us, along with a local poet, were composing circle poems to decorate the flood wall that was being built at the time. We had explored all of the sense ideas. I had thought about settlers and sojourners, trying to link it in to the idea of the river inhaling the settlers and exhaling the sojourners. It wouldn’t fit into a neat circle poem. So, I wrote about a fisherman instead.

We read around the table. We mumbled about the lack of time and said we were not sure that we had done a good enough job, as you do. But what creative people we turned out to be! Faced with the same river and the same road, we had seen such different things – it was awesome. The green man from the road crossing walked into every poem.

I tried hard to make my poem rhyme but it didn’t want to so I didn’t insist. I had written down a phrase early on in my river stroll – “always moving somewhere” – people, the cars, the river itself – always moving somewhere.

I think sometimes that poetry is about making the reader, or the listener, stop for a moment, catch a glimpse of something extraordinary. Good poetry leaves its mark somewhere.

The River of Life

Road like blood vein through the city
Cars and bikes and taxis moving
Red light halting, green man bleeping
Waiting drivers, fingers tapping
Hop on, hop off tourists staring
People posing, cameras clicking
Noisy bustle interfering
Masking urgent conversations
Cycle riders pavement weaving
Push-chair mothers scolding babies
Ice cream licking, melting, dripping
The river of life flows shifting, glinting

Sending out the Nine

God’s mathematics – 9 divided by 4 plus 2 equals lots of people prayed for and blessed plus 2 balls of knitting wool. That describes my yesterday activities.

The nine – myself, Andy, Carla and Daniel, Ellie and Angus, Michael, Andrew and Raymond. Jesus sent his disciples, whether the twelve or the seventy two into the surrounding towns and villages to preach and teach, heal diseases and cast out demons. It’s a vision that our church has made regular practice for the last few months. It was the first time that I joined them, Friday usually being a work day. It brought back memories of Gospel Outreach team days – these particular days of talking to strangers were never the ones I enjoyed. I’m not that good at the one-to-one encounters.

The four – four cars. Obviously we could have fitted into fewer cars but we weren’t all starting off at the same place. I sat next to Raymond. I know his wife and his wife’s sister and his wife’s sister’s husband but I have never had the chance to get to know Raymond. He works for a tourist company called Happy Tours that run mini busses around the Highlands and islands. The busses are apparently small and the driver is the tour guide and gives all the interesting commentary of the places they visit.

As well as the conversation with Raymond, I loved not being the driver in the car. I love to gaze out of the window. The previous day, driving out to see Heather at Moniack, a pheasant in the ploughed field the other side of the hedge had run beside the car, keeping up the pace – so I was keen to see if I could spot anymore of them.

The two – two villages along the A9 heading north, Golspie and Broara. I visited Golspie High School a number of years ago when the education system had money to send teachers out to interesting places to learn stuff by watching the experts. I went there to look at co-operative learning in action.  Broara had a whisky distillery – enough said! The man that used to be a green keeper at the golf course at Broara also used to be our part timer in the department.

The lots of people prayed for – we arrived at the carpark in Golspie and broke off into teams of three people.  I was with the other two ladies. Ellie and I were pretty much first timers and left most of the talking to Carla. Most people were too busy to stop, too healthy to want prayer for any aches and pains, and although polite about it, they were not interested.

There were a couple of people who claimed an acquaintance with me. A young man, Adam, putting up a new sign for the local newspaper office said I had taught him a decade or two ago. He listened but he really wanted to get on with his job. The other man, George, insisted he knew me from the Red Cross House in Inverness. I’d known and visited a young man there but our dates, George’s and mine, didn’t match up. George was happy for us to pray for him. He reminded me of a friend of mine in Inverness who says “I know” to everything I say even when he probably doesn’t know at all.

Carla, Ellie and I walked down to the sea front. I regretted not bringing my camera and trying out a few panorama shots. The sea, the sand, the rock pools and the clouds were a perfect picture.

We spoke to a man called Bert.  He was happy to listen as he polished his car – not the outside, but all the bits under the bonnet. I wanted to tell him that for all the car he took over his car, God took that much care and more over his life. Bert took that much care so that the performance of the car would always be at its best – God wants to live the best life we can with His care. I didn’t say it – I think about saying a lot of things that I never say. Carla talked with him about baptism. He’s been baptised as a baby in the Roman Catholic Church and didn’t see the need for another baptism. I took the opportunity to talk about my own Roman Catholic childhood. We prayed a blessing over Bert.  He was a man of peace and even the short time we spent with him he has stopped to talk to friends and neighbours and told us of the burdens they were carrying.

After lunch we headed along to Broara. We swapped about the teams and Andrew, Angus and I headed off to pray with people. Again, the village was quiet and there were few people about. A street lamp was decorated with knitting – my first ever real experience of yarn-bombing. Then I noticed the knitting everywhere. Broara was hosting a yarn bombing festival – why did I not see all the people knitting in the café? Did I not yearn to join in? I spoke to one lady about the yarn bombing and asked whether any of the knitting was hers. She said she used to knit but arthritis in her hands had brought it all to an end. Cue for healing prayer – a perfect opportunity! She must have read my mind and she had already said to the lads that Ibuprofen tablets sorted out her pain. She swiftly walked away.

I talked to and prayed with a couple of other people, offering a prayer of blessing which they seemed to like. One lady hugged me afterwards. Another lady looked a little bemused that someone would take time to walk very slowly along the road with her and he zimmer frame – not offering healing, but just letting her talk about things and not feel so on her own.

How do you define success in these kind of things? One of the lads was disappointed not to have had the opportunity to pray for healing. I was thinking of myself – whether a prayer of blessing was a cop out.

“Mel,” said God, “You have been out there, way out of your comfort zone. You found a way to do things your way, not Carla’s way. You approached people, talked to them, found bridges to them – the Roman Catholic stuff, the yarn bombing stuff – and you connected. You prayed for people – blessings. In my book, it was a good day.”

The two balls of wool – I am going to have to go back to Broara to the wool shop. I left the boys to go into the wool shop. The smell of the wool was glorious. There were the usual top brand wools in packs of six wrapped in cellophane, but there were also shelves of other wool – local spun stuff in earthy shades. I bought two balls from the scraps basket.

Friday, April 07, 2017

My Narrow Stretch of Grass

Catching up on one of the Lent readings and meditations I had missed earlier in the week, I read the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

I almost sighed and asked myself if there was anything I didn’t know about the parable. I have books and pictures of it. I have taught it to school pupils and preached it in churches. I have produced power point presentations of it and acted it out. I have written short stories and poems based on it.  I have even re-written it into text-speech to see what it might look and sound like. Over-kill and yet here it is again.

There’s not much in the parable that really relates to me on the literal level. I don’t see myself in any of the characters of the story.

I am not a parent, not a father and I have never watched my child leave home. I don’t remember much about my own father, and although I had a stepfather, his influence over me was quite limited. I was an intimidating teenager.

In the spiritual sense we are all the younger son having strayed from God and demanded our independence. In the physical sense there might have been minor rebellions but I have never left the way the younger son did. I went places – for a while I was the most travelled in the family – but I always came home for holidays and I wrote endless long letters. I have never been a phone person.

I have never been the squandering type – just ask the moths in the purse! I am not a fritterer-away of stuff. Perhaps part of that is having had so little money and knowing too much, and also too little about poverty, I like my rainy day fund and my definition of rainy days are like Noah’s flood rainy days.

If I have hit the bottom of any barrels, they haven’t been deep barrels or particularly dirty ones. I have lived too carefully and cautiously for the bad barrels to be a part of my history.

“If I was the father in the parable,” said God, “OK, I am the father in the parable – if I was a father, not the Father, and you were my daughter – I would have packed your case and thrown you out of the house! I would have told you to squander stuff and go and feed pigs.”

I am not a risk taker. I play it safe. And sometimes that means that I don’t really lick the lid of the yoghurt top of life. I need to not live my life on a fairly narrow stretch of grass but be part of the bigger world.

In the parable the father is always there to welcome back the son. God is always there not to welcome me back if I wander – but to have my back in the new adventures I should be embracing. I should be brave.

Why would God have my back? Why does it matter to Him that my experience of the world should be more than my narrow stretch of grass? He created me, He fashioned me and He filled me with gifts and abilities, and He filled me with dreams. My narrow stretch of grass is not a big enough arena for me to find these things and live in the good of them.

God doesn’t have another Mel. He wants the one He has to be the Mel He had in mind when he created me – not the Mel that I think is sufficient, or the world would like me to be.

The character I might come closest to might be the older son – but even then, I’m not like him either. I don’t work as hard as he does. I don’t whine about parties. I quite like younger brothers returning to the fold. Yes, there are times when I have felt passed over – a Christian friend seems to fall into a good life without any apparent struggles and I limp form crisis to crisis.

I read somewhere that the love the father expressed to the older son was not in a party of his own which he never got but in the invitation to work with him to organise and host the feast for the younger son. That was the better gift, the real honour – working with the father to throw a party.

God invites us to help him to throw a party for all the younger sons that come home.