dry wells

I am  tired despite returning  from a holiday at the beginning of the week.
We have family that live near Almeria and I had never been out to see them and where they live. So this year (and thanks to a kind Christmas present) we flew over to the south of Spain on the new, improved, nice and caring Ryanair for a week. Which is how we ended up spending a few nights in a nice Spanish village

This time last week I was walking around the beautiful Spanish village of Mojacar on a holiday.
If that sounds lovely you should also know that a fight with your wife is still a fight with your wife no matter if it’s a lovely village and knowing that you’re spending money in something that you don’t do very often but having a fight instead of making the most of it can make you pretty miserable.

So although it was nice to be away I’m knackered and didn’t find the holiday relaxing. Heat tires me and my inner Presbyterian couldn’t get the hang of the resting in the afternoon business.  I never got the hang of when you are supposed to eat lunch and dinner. The language as well.

That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Spain and seeing where my nephew and niece live because I like seeing new places. Some might think that the endless acres of plastic greenhouses that supply Europe with tomatoes and watermelons are an eyesore but I find them interesting:-
Where are the getting the water to grow watermelons in the driest part of Europe? Are they going to desalinate seawater and use it? How is climate change going to effect this area and how is that going to effect my sister and brother-in-law. my nephew and niece?

Then  it starts boiling over into the problems with the world:-
How do people work inside those greenhouses in what must be phenomenal heat? Are the migrant workers treated fairly? Do you realise that flying on your Ryanair flight on holidays is contributing to climate change here in Almeria? 

The one thing I really wanted to do over in Spain was to see new colours and draw new things, to feel a surge of inspiration surging and to be creative again. I feel like any wells of creativity that I had have dried up, a bit like the countryside and river beds around Almeria. But I felt uninspired and too awkward to create. No paints, no markers, no skill.

On the way home from the airport I was complaining to H about the way people act on Ryanair flights. ‘There are schoolgirls having to walk miles each day to get clean drinking water and then there are 50 yr old men who throw their dummies out of the pram when an air hostess moves their hand luggage a few metres away to section 29A’
 I said ‘People are so fortunate to be able to go on holidays, they should recognise this and stop acting like they….etc etc.’

Of course I was doing the exact same the whole holiday, moaning about the heat and my lack of ability to order a tapas without embarrassment. There a kids sleeping in refugee camps tonight and I’m having a meltdown because I have to sit under a sun shade and it’s making me sweat. Saying that out loud seems to make perfect sense. I need to get a grip.

Yet I’m tired as well. And I also think that saying things like ‘We should get a grip because we have it pretty good compared to so many in the world’ is a bit arrogant (?) in a way or perhaps untrue. It sounds as if we’re not really that sick or needy and screwed up and under the thumb of oppressive systems which as a Christian I don’t believe. ‘The World’ or Kingdom of Death or however you want to phrase the way Satan works against us is an ever present reality. Just because I don’t live in a country that persecutes or oppresses Christians by throwing them in jail doesn’t meant that we’re not oppressed. Like the sense of hopelessness that I get from absorbing the ways of the world does a pretty good job of robbing me of vitality for life or for serving.

I was thinking about this sense of hopelessness  or why we complain in the face of so much privilege while reading Jacques Ellul.

‘One can prove to the members of our modern societies that our ancestors never enjoyed this much means, freedom, happiness, well-being, available opportunities, long life, culture, pleasure, leisure, communication, and dialogue, but one will never convince the person in our modern society that he is living in a little paradise’


‘In the most pacified and guaranteed society which has ever existed, man is living in uncertainty and growing fear. In the most scientific of societies, man is living in the irrational. In the most liberal of societies, man is living ‘repression,’ and even hyper-repression. In a society in which the means of communication are the most highly developed, man is living a sort of phantasmagoria. In a society in which everything is done to establish relationships, man is living in solitude…’



the excellence of a a plum

plumThey didn’t have to take me into their home back in 2002 but they did. I was  about 23yrs old and had just completed a degree in environmental chemistry, a couple of volunteer years to get away from the  environmental chemistry degree which I hated and I was a little lost, or to be honest, I was a lot more than a little lost.

When after a week or so of moving into their home there was terrible news from a MRI scan and a major operation needed I fully expected to have to move out, to find somewhere else to live to allow them space at this difficult time.
Yet, that never happened.
Grace was shown to me by this couple (and family) at a time when I fully expected to pack my bags.

Now that I am a little bit older and a ministers spouse in a manse I am amazed at that decision to let someone like me stay in their home, especially maybe someone like me with my household habits and ability to eat breakfast cereals.
I like my space, I don’t want to be around people. If someone comes to stay for more than a few days I get cranky.
More than that, if I get sick my immediate reaction is to avoid people.
So to have welcomed me into their home as they did in such difficult circumstances humbles and surprises me. That is grace in action, not just preached.

I was remembering things like this over the weekend after having a service of thanksgiving for the lives of T + C in my old church as he retires after over 30yrs in one congregation and community.It has been one long weekend of reflection, memories and surprises.

It was the old faces I haven’t seen for 10 or more years who seemed delighted to see me again.
It was the kids I used to interact with in Sunday school when I ‘taught’ them. They would have been 9-10yrs old back then and now they are young men and women with boyfriends.There where kids I didn’t remember so well who remembered me.

It was other memories and things as well too personal or small to type out on a blog. In a way it has brought out my melancholic side because although it was an occasion of joyfulness and thanksgiving it also made me remember how much I miss my old church and the people there.

It also made me think about how much of my past life I have forgotten, the way I need to re-remember real experiences in my life again.Not so I can be nostalgic about them but so I can get my bearings again, that I can remember the roots of my past and see that God has been faithful to me despite my best efforts to stuff everything up.

I was reading and re-reading a page of Jacques Ellul today because it fascinates me and seems true in a world of Twitter feeds and hyperlinks. I’ve spent so much time obsessing on the shadows at the expense of the ‘little personal experiences’. I want to remember the excellence of the plums and the kindness and grace shown to me by people like T + C and not get obsessed with the shadows, because the shadows can suck the life out of you like the Ringwraiths do in Lord of the Rings.

‘..everyday day he [man] learns a thousand things from his newspaper and his wireless, and very important, very sensational things. Can he help it, that his little personal experiences, which deal, perhaps, with the excellence of a plum or of a razor blade, are drowned in this flood of important illusions concerning the atomic bomb, the fate of Germany, strikes and the like. …modern man, submerged by this flood of images which he cannot verify, is utterly unable to master them. They are not co-ordinated, for news succeeds new without ceasing. For instance, in the columns of the newspaper he will read one day about an affair which quickly disappears from the paper, and also from the brain of the reader. It is replaced by others; it is forgotten. A man gets used to living like this, without a present and without a past. He gets used to living in a complete incoherence, because all his intellectual activity is taken up with these fugitive visions, themselves without a past and without a future, and without any substance even in the present.’
Jacques Ellul


‘We have lost the testimony of a profound life, action which comes from the heart, which is the product of faith, and not of a myth, or of propaganda, or of Mammon! What matters is to live, and not to act.  In this world,this is a revolutionary attitude, for the world only desires (utilitarian) action, and has no desire for life at all. We cannot exaggerate the significance of the fact of being spiritually alive. We must cease to believe that life depends only on vitamins, hormones, and physical culture’

Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom