Monday, 22 September 2008

A long article, put on the net, with no intention to offend, just to inform.

In another one of my alter egos I occasionally write articles for my parish magazine. I go to St Peter's Church Woolton.

It's a nice middle class church in a nice middle class suburb of Liverpool. Its biggest claim to fame is that the church hall is where John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the first time. There's a plaque and all sorts of tourists, mostly Japanese and American, come by to go Wow! Also, Eleanor Rigby is buried in the church yard. Apparently John Lennon had lots of time to hang around in church yards. Who knew?

Any way, at 2 this morning inspiration struck. It's always 2am, never 2pm. Still small voice, I expect, the one I can't hear during the day for the TV, the kids, the husband asking for his tea....

Anyway, I am proud of this article and so, though I hate to inflict a much longer post than usual on you I wanted to give you the sneek preview. I've sent this off for the November issue of the Mag', so you really are reading it a month ahead. I hope it helps anyone who is in need, and that those of us facing a downsizing in our available cash (that would be all of us, then) will find some comfort and support in the message. Apologies to any non-Christians reading it; but since this is the God of Jacob and Abraham, Habakkuk counts as a prophet for Jews, Christians and probably Muslims, so there' s only Sikhs and Hindus to be offended.

Habakkuk; The Credit Crunch Prophet.

A few weeks ago what most people already knew was finally made official; the world’s economy was in decline and we were, for better or worse, in a recession.
And by the end of September the situation was dire; Lehman Brother’s Bank went down, AIG rescued by the American Government and HBOS amalgamated with Lloyds TSB in a merger that promised as few job losses as they could and everywhere, everywhere, the words Credit Crunch on everybody’s lips.

One wisecracker joked that the credit crunch was like a new kids’ cereal: sweet to eat but no good for you in the long run. I suspect that many people in the country have come to rely on their easy credit as just another available source of income, and that the current recession is a nasty slap in the face to many high spending fashionistas and low earning families who need to bridge the gap between income and expenditure. To paraphrase Mr McCawber; when your outgoings are more than your income the result is misery.
So, in a time of global recession and worldwide need, who do we turn to for help? Well, practically there is always Martyn Lewis’, but for true support and real advice, I think it has to be God, doesn’t it? And, I think, for a salutary lesson and support for the time ahead, Habakkuk takes the prize.

Written in the 6th century BC as Babylon rose to prominence as a world power, Habakkuk is a short 3 chapter book that acts almost like a Question Time for God, but without David Dimbleby. Habakkuk had deep questions to ask about serious problems and wasted no time lamenting his situation. His first sentence is a question; “How long, Oh Lord, must I call for help?” Hab 1:1 Anyone who has ever phoned an automated bank phone line to try to arrange a temporary overdraft knows what that question feels like.

Habakkuk sees a violent and greedy world around him; “Must I forever see this sin and misery all around me? Wherever I look I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed and useless, and there is no justice given in the courts. The wicked far out number the righteous and justice is perverted with bribes and trickery.” Hab 1:3-4 Familiar, eh?
And God replies, much as he does to us today; “Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” Hab 1:5 God felt the need to punish the Israelites and was going to use the Babylonians as his instrument of correction. Perhaps he can also use sub-prime mortgages or an increasing level of personal debt: however, he doesn’t mean to destroy. Habakkuk asks him, “Is your plan in all of this to wipe us out? Surely not!” Hab 1:12 and he asks God how long this will last, “Will you let them get away with this forever?” Hab 1:17
And God answers: “Slowly, steadily, surely the time is coming when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” Hab 2:3
And this part of Habakkuk is really so meaningful in the modern world it is almost as though God wrote it for this time—now, even though it was written two and a half thousand years ago. What God has to say about wealth and its acquisition could be repeated to any of the City Bankers now staring defeat in the face (and looking elsewhere for gainful employment; enquiries into teaching as a career change have gone up by over 30% in the past month) and also to us: Any of these statements is true, but to have so many gathered together in such a small book gives each one extra weight.

Wealth is treacherous and the arrogant are never at rest.” Hab 2:5
Look at the proud! They trust in themselves and their lives are crooked.” Hab 2:4
You believe wealth will buy security, putting your families beyond the reach of danger.” Hab 2:9
Has not the Lord Almighty promised that the wealth of nations will turn to ashes? They work so hard, but all in vain.” Hab 2:13
What have you gained by worshipping all your man-made idols?” Hab 2:18
Can an idol speak for God? They may be overlaid with gold and silver, but they are lifeless inside.” Hab 2:19

In a modern (post-modern) materialistic world we are encouraged to put idols above God. When somebody can pay £10 million literally for the Golden Calf the same day the world economy has its biggest collapse since 1929, well, isn’t that an example of mis-placed priorities? God says it here; we thought wealth would make our families secure. But it doesn’t and it hasn’t.
I can only just remember the recession of the early 80’s, with GissaJob Yosser Hughes and high unemployment. I remember less of the 70’s with power blackouts and shortages (I do remember my Mum making bread: whether we ate it or used it as a door stop, I don’t know. I do know she had at least 12 recipes to stretch ½ lb of mince to feed 7 people) There are many in this church who can remember these times; some who even remember Austerity Britain and the hardship of the post-war world (you don’t need to admit this, unless you want to). For so long now we have been a nation of haves and have-mores. It was fun while it lasted, but the price must be paid.

Much will be said in the coming months of how to ride out the recession. Advice will flood the media of how to save as much money as possible, of what the safest return will be. There will be a lot of figurative and literal belt-tightening going on. And for Christians? Turn to Habakkuk chapter 3.
I have heard about you, Lord, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy.” Hab 3:2

I watched a Christmas special of the Vicar of Dibley last week, the 2004 episode when everyone was persuaded to wear white armbands and stamp out global poverty. It made me cry (but so does Danny Boy) but it also made me worry; would such a campaign make any impact this year with all the expenditure cutting going around? Will charity be one of the lifestyle luxuries edited in our audits? I hope not. However bad this economy gets, I hope we will always be able to help those less fortunate than ourselves. And I hope we can take our cue from Habakkuk’s final hymn of praise. In chapter 3 verse 17 he talks of the olive crops failing, the fig tree lying barren and the cattle barns standing empty. I own neither olive trees nor heads of cattle to call my own so, with apologies to Habakkuk and inspired by an online group I found who have dedicated themselves to making Hab 3:17 their way of life, I prefer to alter it to suit me.

Even though the cupboards are empty and the freezer is bare, even though my savings account yields no interest and the mortgage rate rises daily, even though my work dries up and the car in the garage lies still from lack of petrol, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The sovereign Lord is my strength. He will make me as safe as a tax-free ISA and bring me safe over the credit-crunch mountains!

*All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of the Church as a whole.

If you want to read more on handling debt and saving money, the following are useful websites and sources of information.

Martyn Lewis’s website offers ideas and forums to give you practical help in saving money. He also offers a weekly e-mail and can be seen from time to time on TV, most recently in the Channel 5 series, It pays to Watch this. is a site of frugal living tips, including frugal food and a frugal Christmas. It’s small but a good place to check out.
The Citizen’s advice bureau is a good place to start if you need help with a large debt. Their website is or you can get the number of the local branch in the telephone book.

If you do have problems, don’t suffer in silence. Ask for help and please remember that there are people around to help you. Together we will make it through. See you on the other side of the mountain!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Falling with style; some reminiscences

I hope I spelled reminiscenses right. can't be bothered to check; someone out there will tell me if it's wrong.

Anyhoo, the kids are having a nostalgia day. My 10, 8 and 6 year old are all sat (bouncing) watching Toy Story (cert U) which they haven't watched in.... 2 years? 3 years? It is nice to know that they are still soft enough to get pleasure from that... especially as I just taped Cars for them to watch wondering whether Pixar still had the power to hold them. Yes, it does.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

I had nothing better to do than to look outside my window.

It's a nice day. That is to say, it's not raining.

I wonder if English people always viewed a day when it wasn't raining as nice. There must be a reason why as a country we so eagerly embraced the umbrella. I don't suppose it was for its properties as a parasol. My favourite book ever starts, "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day..." just because it was raining. And there must be a very good reason why we like to talk about the weather.How many stilted polite conversations have opened with, "Lovely day, isn't it?" or "Raining again!" It's as if the psyche and the weather are connected.

Yesterday was all gloom and despondency, the US banks were folding (and my comiserations go to anyone caught up in that fiasco) and we waited with baited (bated? I should look it up; you know I won't, so delete as applicable) breath to see what would happen to HBOS. It took me until 10am this morning to realise that HBOS WAS Halifax Bank Of Scotland and not HawaiiBurmaOhioStuttgart or any other combination of letters. I went through my local Halifax today; there were people closing their accounts; elderly people mostly, and asking for their hundreds of savings "in ten pounds will do", as one doddering old man said. And yesterday's weather was gloomy, overcast, grey skied dismality.

Today we had sunshine, and a merger on the cards. Hope it works out. Hope the world regains its confidence and that the period of instability we are in is followed by a sensible time of pecuniary caution, rather than a boom and bust cycle that neither encourages stability or engenders hope in the future.

And I hope that we learn our lessons; that money doesn't make us happy; although I know a distinct lack of it doesn't mean instant happiness, there is a point beyond which we have enough and more is too much. As I sat yesterday writing out my Christmas shopping lists and compiling my budget I was very conscious that my three didn't need too much more, that they knew this and that there was a pleasing lack of big-ticket items on their lists. They almost naturally seem to have gone for things that encourage play; lego, card games (OK, from the latest TV hit, but still a game to play together) and Sylvanian families; my daughter is desperate for everything HSM and I am desperate to hold her off, if only for another year. Go for the cute furry rabbits, Princess, and leave the Troys alone.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Bragging a little and showing off my impressive knowledge of technology.

I've got the new Marie Claire idees. I have a friend whose husband works in France and gets it for me. Na na na na na.

I scanned the front in to my little scanner and here it is.

I also wanted to scan an inside page as well, but when the scanner made a definite clunk and said there were 15 minutes to go until the scan was done, I used my great powers of detection and figured out it's fubarred. (I think that's a rude acronym, but it works and I would never use the whole sentence in front of anyone)

So I got on the website and found this.

And this.

I've officially started my Christmas shopping. Tee hee.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

My (ever so dead) camera

It has finally given up the ghost.... just before we went away, my little point and press finally breathed its last. Three years of close confinement in a Cath Kidston pouch and it had finally had enough.
It has been sadly missed the last few weeks.
Here are my children paddling at Bourton on the Water...
Here we are watching the Big Spider in Liverpool....
And here is Number Two hanging off the edge of his new top bunk, while long-suffering DP squeezes into a small bottom bunk.
I need a camera. I really need a camera

Oh, and, by the way, I'm back.....