Sunday, 9 December 2018

#Pause for Advent 2

Here is the second in my '#Pause for Advent' posts. If you would like to read what other bloggers have written in this series, go to

This is the collect for the second Sunday in Advent, from the Book of Common Prayer;

BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

', mark, learn, and inwardly digest....'  these words are very familiar to me. I think it was the English teacher, or maybe my History teacher, who used to use them 'at us' in their lessons. They were both thin, grey-haired 'older ladies' who glared at us over half glasses and spoke in perfectly constructed sentences.

Some books are just full of quotations.... the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and Shakespeare being the three that first come to mind.

If I am going to 'mark, learn, and inwardly digest' something, then I will have to take time; maybe 'ponder the words in my heart' (Luke 2, 19), rather than rushing off to the next thing. Time to listen properly, or read attentively.

In the Lent book 'The Art of Lent' by Jane Williams, today's picture is this da Vinci sketch

Leonardo da Vinci - Virgin and Child with Ss Anne and John the Baptist.jpg
 Left to the 'devices and desires of my own heart' (General Confession, Book of Common Prayer) I would look at the picture for a few moments, and then move on to the next thing - tidying up, making a cup of tea, writing a letter...

and completely fail to notice the details and connections that Jane Williams brings to our attention - How St Anne (Mary's mother) is pointing to heaven, linking the scene to God above, how Jesus is blessing St John, how St John seems already to be on the edge, looking in, how St Anne is looking at Mary, but Mary is looking at Jesus...

It takes time to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.

The word 'wise' has pinged my brain - in its old meaning of 'manner' or 'way', and in the narrower modern meaning of 'wisdom'. Now 'manner' is adding its resonance to the phrase - as in 'respect' and also resonating with the Manna that God provided for the Israelites in the desert fleeing from Pharaoh...

The collect seems to adjure me to hear and read the Scriptures in a respectful, thoughtful way, and take nourishment from them. To chew over the meaning properly, and get the full benefit of the words.

What riches come to those who pause to meditate, not to empty their minds, but to fill them...   

The painting below is from the same wikipedia site, but by Bernadino Luini. He has clearly used the same composition.

Holy Family with St Anne and the infant John the BaptistBernardino Luini

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Tuesday 4th December - The Official 'OK'

Today was chest clinic day

That meant setting the alarm for 5 am, and aiming to be in the car for 6.15 am, to catch the early train to London. The moon was a sharp little silver crescent, still shining in through the front bedroom window when I opened the curtains. It has usually got itself round to the back windows by the time I like to get up!

 So - lung function tests followed by a chat with the consultant was the plan for the first part of the day.

Lung function tests mean breathing in special and slightly complicated ways into a machine - sometimes slowly, sometimes fast, sometimes holding your breath, sometimes changing from in to out, or out to in as quickly as you can - it takes a surprising amount of concentration to re-arrange your diaphragm from 'in' to 'out' quickly enough without losing control! They also take a blood sample to test haemoglobin oxygen levels. If you are lucky, they just do a finger-prick. If you are unlucky, they stab your earlobe. I was unlucky, so spent the rest of the day wandering around London with a bulky dressing encasing one earlobe.

The results weren't as good as last time, back in the Summer, and I was a little apprehensive when it came to the time to discuss them. But the consultant decided they were 'fine' - considering that I had a cough and a cold and had just finished a course of antibiotics everything was in line with expectations. Good-oh. We went merrily on our way to enjoy the rest of our time in London.

At the beginning of the year I took out a membership of the V and A museum - sheer luxury - but it has transformed our visits. We can have a reasonably priced meal in the member's room -  a peaceful haven on the fifth floor, and then free entry to an exhibition, and explore whatever catches our attention on the day.

At the moment they have an exhibition on computer games;

So we went for a look-see. It was very interesting (and loud, and colourful and energetic). My main interest was in the art and story-boarding. There were lots of pictures and sketchbooks to look at.

Some of the games were of the doom and horror and blood and gore variety.

Time for a cup of tea or coffee? We went to the cafe on the ground floor in one of the three rooms created as refreshment rooms when the museum was built. Look at the beautiful tiles in this room, which was designed for serving 'broiled and grilled meats'.  Aren't they fabulous?

Presumably the meats were broiled and grilled on this enormous range.

So how they can furnish the room with white plastic tables and chairs, and serve cakes on paper plates, and milk in paper cups, and tea in cups without saucers?  That's just distressing. (And espresso coffee should always be served IN HOT CUPS. Just saying)

Oh well. We made our way through the shop, buying almost nothing for once, and caught the bus back to Victoria. 

Home sweet home, and happily so.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Sunday 2nd December - Journeys

'Journeys' was the subject of today's church service.

We went to church in a panda. I should think our journey was much more comfortable than many of the journeys in the Bible (consider Jonah travelling by whale, with his face wrapped in seaweed. Ugh)

Obviously the 'journeys' at church did not involve pandas. (I don't think pandas are actually mentioned in the Bible.)

The first one was Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem, by donkey.
The second one was the shepherds going on foot to Bethlehem.
The third journey was the several wise men going by camel (really - does it mention camels in the Bible version of the story?) also to Bethlehem.

We went to Chichester rather than Bethlehem after church, again by panda, to meet up with The Offsprings, finish my birthday celebrations (presents! presents!), break bread, or rather pizza, together, and then do a little Christmas shoppery on the way back to the car.

We saw a spectacular Christmas Tree constructed from green plastic bottles.

We also accomplished The Taking Of Photographs, as requested by my father, and The Synchronisation of Christmas and New Year Plans, or at least creating several possible variations thereof.

Then we drove back through the darkening light, trees silhouetted against an inky grey sky. In the panda. Of course.

All in all a greatly lovely day.

I have set fire to one of my birthday presents.