Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Iris (Book Review)

This is the first time I write a book review.

At the beginning of the year I realised that I have completely gotten out of the habit of reading books. I used to read all the time, and - if I had found a book that really grabbed me - could be spotted reading whilst knitting or even cooking.

So why have I stopped?
I expect lack of time has something to do with it. But mostly I blame social media.

So I decided to make it a daily practice to set time aside for reading.

The first book I picked up was "Iris", an biography about Dame Iris Murdock by her husband John Bayley.
I vaguely remember watching the film with Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet, and quite enjoying it.

It took me a while to get into the book, perhaps because I am out of the habit.
I came close to giving up, but persevered, perhaps because I didn't want to give up my new reading venture yet.

Perhaps the truth is that I like to find at least one character in a novel I can identify and journey with.

I found no such character in "Iris". This somewhat eccentric couple of academics in the literary world of 1950s Oxford seemed really quite alien and far removed.

More interesting to me was how Iris changed with her advancing Alzheimers. Perhaps all the more because she had been such a brilliant mind.
And I guess I needed to know the young Iris to understand how the dementia changed her...

I'm not sure if I would recommend the book, but perhaps I should try reading one of Iris' many novels one day?

But for now, what should I read next? Answer on a postcard...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Why do you believe [in God]?"

"Why do you believe?" - That was the question I was asked early on Sunday morning and I have been mulling it over for the last 8 hours.

Why do I believe in God?
I suppose the simplest answer is because I have believed in God for as long as I can remember and I cannot imagine not believing in God.
Those who know me, know that I am not adversed to questioning and scrutinising religious teaching, scripture and authority. I do it all the time. It's my questions, my doubts and my criticisms which shape my faith.
But never, not in my darkest moments or times of doubt have I not believed in God.God simply is part of my life.

In my mind seeking God is deeply ingrained into the human psyche, whether we are religious or not, or believe in God or not. Perhaps we call that seeking by different names.
I know that I can only speak from my own perception and experience, so forgive me if I do, but I sometimes wonder how atheists can deny that God-shaped hole in their lives. The only way I can imagine it being denied is, well, by denial.
(I am sure many of my atheist friends will disagree. And that's okay. I'll probably hear about it.) :)

To any who at this stage feel inclined to say "So you believe in God. That's fine ... but which of the thousands of G/gods out there??" I would reply that I don't think it matters all that much. Religions are simply human attempts to put the concept of God into human words.
Different religions seem to emphasize different attributes of G/god(s) and at the same time share many similarities.
But outside of all those human concepts G/god(s) does exist or not. Regardless of what we believe about him/her/them (or not).

Why then am I a Christian?
I am sure much is to do with culture and familiarity. If I was born in Afghanistan I'd be more likely a Muslim, if in India a Hindu. It just so happens that I was born in Europe into a Roman Catholic family.

I think my criticism of Christian doctrine may put me on the periphery of Christianity. I quite like the words of Richard Rohr who calls it "being on the edge of the inside". That sounds like a good place to me!
Occasionally people have said to me that I am deist, not a Christian.
I disagree.
Despite being on the edge of the inside, I feel quite firmly part of the Christian faith. Perhaps it's the person of Jesus that keeps me there. Jesus, who said "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" and "I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you" leaves me believing that his teachings, words and example are worth reading, mulling over and putting into practice.

By that I don't mean blindly following what others tell me. Quite the contrary. It requires me to dig deep and search for myself what it means to "be like Jesus" in this world here and now, wherever I go and whoever I meet.
I know how Jesus' teachings fitted into first century Palestine because the gospel writers left their records.
And I know from Paul's letters how he felt it should be applied as he travelled to other countries and engaged with other cultures.

One of the beauties of the Christin faith is that we believe that we are all flawed and prone to make mistakes. And that gives me the right, or even the responsibility, to scrutinise what others think and say about my faith. And to discern for myself whether they are right or wrong.
The gospel writers and Paul are not here to live according to Jesus' teachings in secular Britain in the 21st century. But I am!

So yes, I do believe that one day I will meet God and that I will account for the things I said (and didn't say) and that things I did (and didn't do), as well as my thoughts and attitudes towards others.
And it won't do any good to say "I did these things because my pastor or vicar or imam or guru or teacher or parent or husband etc told me so".
It will be down to me, and me alone.

Will I always be a Christian? It may be arrogant to claim that I will, although I cannot imagine ever not to be.
But wherever my faith journey takes me, I don't think I can ever be an atheist and not believe that God is here.

There you have it, @hellboy2112. I don't know if it answered your question, but it has passed a rainy Sunday.
Much love. :)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 The Recap

I know, I know. 2015 is so LAST YEAR!
But before 2016 really gets going, it's not such a bad idea to have a brief look at what the last year had to offer.

2015 was, all in all, not a bad year.

It started with the birth of the #ToriesMustGo beanie - born out of the desire to see the back of the Tory party in government, inspired by a Twitter hashtag and thought up by @SkelMawhrin who still valiantly wears it in his Twitter avi. The free pattern is available on Ravelry.

Sadly the message that #ToriesMustGo did not spread far and wide enough as the general election in May was to prove.
So 2015 became the year in which I became a member of the Labour party and emailed all undecided Labour MPs in June, urging them to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership contest. And (by the skin of their teeth) they did. :)

In July I joined some marching buddies at the Durham Miner's Gala. Definitely an experience and hoping to join again this year.

Crowds, much laughter and even more drinking...

Oh yes, and political speeches ...

More political action in October, when I joined Walking the Breadline and a group of Scousers in their march from Liverpool to Manchester to the Tory Conference.
We held up some traffic and shouted until we were hoarse.

I also had the opportunity to meet up with @davegore2005 and @VonGrime, two of my fave Twitter friends. A bit exciting and a huge pleasure to meet you guys for the first time.

2015 was also the year our youngest left home to go to university.

That gave hubby and me the opportunity to remind ourselves what it is like to be (just) a couple again.
We spent much time cycling and under floorboards together and found out that we indeed still like each other's company. Bonus!

2015 was the year we raised chicks from eggs and I finally started to take the allotment more seriously.

So all in all a productive year and a joyful one.

I have so much to be grateful for. So many friends, acquaintances and loved ones. So many interests, hobbies and areas I can learn more about and develop further.

Possibly one of my greatest joys is to create and make new things, to develop new ideas and let them grow.
So I am looking forward to doing more of that in the future.

Thank you to all of you who are my friends. For your support, honesty and inspiration. I would be a far lesser person without you.
I hope you'll stick around in 2016. x