I haven’t been here for a few days, because I’ve been writing writing writing.

I had to finish off this book, which will be published next March.

It’s a book that a person could work with on their own at home, just for their own forays into the Bible, their thinking and questioning; but mostly it’s written for small groups.

I’ve led a variety of small groups from time to time, and always wished a book like this had been available, so I thought it was time to write one.  In leading a group (I don’t even much care for the term ‘leading’ really) I’ve never felt inclined to be too directive.  I always felt the group should be a place for the insights and wisdom of its members, and for the comfort and encouragement of sharing and affirming.  And for praying and singing and ministry and drinking coffee and laughter and friendship.

The Bible study materials I managed to find always had too much in.  What I wanted was a theme, a Bible passage, a short commentary on the theme to get us thinking, and some searching, open questions to help start the discussion.  And nothing else.  No complicated timed exercises or directives starting with “Now get the group to . . .” and interrupted by “call a halt to this after five minutes.”    There were always instructions like “Each person in the pair should report back to the full group on their partner’s story”; and this never worked because either the pair had spent ages listening to one story and run out of time for the second or else they didn’t want to tell the other person’s story – they wanted to tell their own.

Oh, I have been a hopeless study group leader.  But we drank a lot of coffee and had a lot of fun, and now I’ve written my own book.  You can’t ‘Look Inside’ on Amazon yet because I’ve only just sent in the manuscript.  But if you lead a study group and think the book looks interesting, and you’d like to test-drive a sample, let me know and I’ll send you a few to have a go with – and then you can let me know how it went.  There are sections on Bible characters, the life and ministry of Jesus, the dominant themes of each of the four Gospels, the Christian character, the liturgical year, and insights from the Law and the Prophets.  The main approach is not on filling our heads with data or telling us what to think, but encouraging us to find links between our own lives and the stories of the Bible – discovering that this Book has our story in it.

So, look out for it next spring – I’ll remind you nearer the time – and I hope you enjoy it.  And I’ve just rushed panting from finishing that to starting on a Lent book of Bible studies / devotions, which I have to have well underway this autumn.

But that was just explaining where I’ve been – what I really wanted to say was something else, about lines.

You would think, from perusing media articles on ageing, that the really Big Deal about growing old is getting wrinkles. 

When I was a young teenager, helping my mother take Meals-on-Wheels to frail elderly people in our village, we used to take a meal to Mrs Alsford.  She was old and fat with rheumatism and wild white hair stained tobacco yellow all round the front from smoking.  She was deaf from bomb blasts during the war; a Cockney who had somehow ended up in a small estate of bungalows for old people in our little corner of rural Hertfordshire.  And Mrs Alsford used to say to my mother, and her voice was sad, “Don’t grow old, duck – don’t grow old.”

I don’t think it was the lines on her face she had in mind.

I’ve nursed a woman with cancer erupting from so many places on her abdomen it was hard to find a patch of skin to stick the dressings, a woman with necrotic pressure sores infected by perpetually oozing diahorrea who screamed every time we entered the room (yes, don’t ask, I’ve worked in some grim places), a man gone deaf and blind with gangrene starting in his toes who sat motionless all day in his chair, a woman who sat crying pitifully for her mummy, and another one who occupied the small hours of the night smearing shit around the walls and the carpet and putting her coat on over her nightie and under her dress before escaping from her room to ride up and down in the elevator.   Wrinkles are not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Here is my face in our bathroom first thing in the morning.

I think I look a little crazy, and I see I have many lines.  But they are lines of poetry – Leonard Cohen meets Emily Dickinson meets Sylvia Plath or something.  Life has been writing poetry on my face, and when I read it I am surprised by its kaleidoscopic observations.

The lines life has written on my face sound something like this

and it scares and haunts and delights me.

How strange life is.  I never would have believed.  But I tell you what – with all that I have seen and gone through, and even with all that may lie ahead – I am glad I got to come here and be part of this.  I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

365 366 Day 267 – Sunday September 23rd

Er . . . right . . . I think this is a pillowcase.

365 366 Day 266 – Saturday September 22nd

Oh, this was a jolly nice long tunic-y t-shirt-y kind of think in a really pretty colour.  I got it dirt cheap on eBay and it fitted just right.  Only problem was, it didn’t suit me.

365 366 Day 265 – Friday September 21st

Aaagh!  A nylon slip!  Must have been a desperation purchase – you know how it is when your skirts crawl determinedly up your legs when you walk fast?

365 366 Day 264 – Thursday September 20th

Some books, obviously.

365 366 Day 263 – Wednesday September 19th

Oh dear – this was a back-scrubbing brush for the shower the Badger and I bought during our very happy holiday in Penzance visiting his unusual and interesting family.  It looked just like the Really Good one we have at home, but first use disclosed it to be in fact a Really Useless one, more of a back-stroking brush.  We put it on the fire.

365 366 Day 262 – Tuesday September 18th

This is a man’s perfume that I bought anyway because it smells lovely.  My perspicacious mama said if it’s a man’s perfume why don’t you give it to the Badger, you can still smell it then.  So I did.

365 366 Day 261 – Monday September 17th

Stuff for polishing brass.  But I don’t.  If I need to polish up my brass candlestick I sit out on the back step and scrub it with sand from the Wretched Wretch’s sandpit.  So this went to our Hebe who uses Brasso in the process of painting coffin plates.

365 366 Day 260 – Sunday September 16th

“What Does the Bible Really Teach?”  Came from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Certain difference of opinion here.  But I like how they call Jesus “the Faithful Witness”.  I think that’s beautiful.  They get that from the Bible too.  We do have some things in common.

365 366 Day 259 – Saturday September 15th

Sample pots of paint.

365 366 Day 258 – Friday September 14th

Yet another table lamp.