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Warning – Contains Cruelty to Religious Images

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  I killed a crucifix today. It isn’t that I am anti-crucifix, or anti-religious images generally.   I don’t venerate them, as though images of the sacred were themselves part of God (except to the extent that God is everywhere), but if they help people in praying, I’ve got nothing against that. This crucifix, however, wasn’t calculated to inspire devotion to Jesus’s love, or grief at his suffering, or anything much else.   It was a tiny, battered old pendant which PDB11 and I found in a box of bits and pieces of costume jewellery.   Its face and features were worn away to nothing, if it had ever had any.   On the other hand – well, it was a symbol of something important: a reminder that Jesus loved us enough to die to save us.   We didn’t particularly want to keep it, but letting it be melted down as scrap metal seemed disrespectful.   PDB11 suggested that it might be best to cremate it on the Easter bonfire.   That way, a depiction of death died as we celebrated Jesus’s victory

What Should I Give Up?

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For the last few years, I haven’t been reading the Bible very often, mainly because reading chunks of it out of context and without explanation did me more harm than good.   Besides, I already knew much of it, especially the gospels, by heart, and obsessed over them. This Lent, however, PDB11 and I are working through one of those Lent books with a Bible passage for each day followed by a short essay about the passage, a question to reflect on, and a suggested prayer.   As you can imagine, this can be stressful for both of us, as my default response to reading the Bible is to look for evidence that God is malevolent.   I don’t always find the author’s comments particularly enlightening, often because the points he picks up on in the Bible extract aren’t the ones I’m worried about.   Nevertheless, coming back to Bible stories I thought I knew well is proving more helpful than I thought – if only because I notice things that are obvious to everyone else but which I had overlooked.

The Upside of Lockdown

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  It is half-term – though admittedly, for many parents who have been home-schooling children for much of the past year, it probably doesn’t feel much different to any other week.   This time last year, I was following my normal holiday practice of inviting myself to stay with my parents while catching up on seeing as many friends as I could in a few days’ stay.   My appointments diary for 19 th February 2020 schedules a frantic whirl of activity: coffee with one friend in the morning, lunch and a sh ort walk with another friend, mah-jongg with family in the afternoon, and attending a student production of HMS Pinafore  on the university campus in the evening. My father, much as he enjoys Gilbert and Sullivan, decided to give HMS Pinafore a miss.   At the time, I assumed that this was just because he was feeling tired, or because theatre seats have insufficient legroom.   But perhaps he was also being cautious about the new virus which was spreading across the world.   After all,

God of the Poor - or God of Everyone?

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  One pitfall of writing blog posts about anything going well in my life, any sign of progress, is that something then generally happens to remind me how often I fall short in this area, and then I feel like a hypocrite. But the real hypocrisy would be to show only the highlights and not write about my failures, so this Lent I will try to be honest. After I’d written the last two posts, about the joys of praying together during lockdown and singing hymns , my lovely partner PDB11 and I decided to have a prayer session, and finish with a hymn.   As I’d been choosing songs to play on my recorder, I thought it was PDB11’s turn to choose one to play on the piano.   As we’d been praying about persecution and poverty across the world, he chose Graham Kendrick’s ‘ Beauty for Brokenness ’ . The song made me feel uncomfortable, not because of Kendrick’s message of compassion (which is one we need to hear), but because of the way my mind looks for the most depressing interpretation possibl

Ash Wednesday

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  Today is Ash Wednesday.   In a normal year, I would probably be at church to mark the start of Lent.   In February 2021, we are nowhere near back to normality yet. Since the first lockdown began last March, I have been to few church events.   One was a drive-in Harvest Festival  in a field behind the church, a combined event between the local Anglican and Methodist churches, with a tractor collecting donations for food banks.   As we were socially distanced by sitting in cars, we were allowed to sing, including a version of Estelle White’s ‘ AutumnDays ’ rewritten for 2020 (so that instead of referring to aeroplanes being refuelled, it rejoiced that ‘September’s here – no-one’s being home-schooled!’ and gave thanks for ‘floral face-masks’ and ‘the village Facebook page’). I also attended a socially distanced carol concert just before Christmas, with all of us standing around in the churchyard singing to each other, to passers-by in the lane, and to a couple of horses in a field.  

Shrove Tuesday

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Today is Shrove Tuesday, which means that tomorrow is the beginning of Lent.   Shrove Tuesday is easy to deal with – it’s an opportunity to have one last unhealthy, self-indulgent meal (pasta carbonara, quite possibly followed by ice-cream and/or any chocolate biscuits left over from St Valentine’s Day) before sticking to plain food during Lent.   As I quite like abstemious, vegetarian meals anyway, in practice this means that in return for my agreeing to the Beloved Partner’s (henceforth known as PDB11 's ) request for pasta carbonara this week, he agrees to my cooking bean and fennel casserole next week. Lent, though, is a different matter.   It’s not just about giving up chocolate or your favourite time-wasting internet site until Easter.   For Christians, Lent is supposed to be about drawing closer to God, which would often involve spending more time praying, meditating and reading the Bible.   At the start of last Lent, I resolved to attend three midweek prayer meetings every

Is It All Right to Want to Recover

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In the five years since I met my partner, and especially the three and a half since we got married, I have suffered less from depression than at any time in my life.   I have far more reason to be happy; I live with someone whom I love and who loves me, and who doesn’t expect me to leave home when I grow up.   Also, I know that when I make myself miserable, it makes him miserable, so I have more reason to try to overcome my problems. However, for most of the past week I’ve been suffering worse depression than I have for over a year.   For the first time since last Christmas, I woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep, unable to see anything to hope for, unable to do anything but cry and (eventually) distract myself by playing computer games. A large part of the problem, and one that may be unique to me, is that I can’t quite believe that God doesn’t want me to be depressed.   There are a number of books and web articles aimed at Christians facing depression, inclu