God and ASDA

Stories and thoughts: past, present and future


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New Year

“Well,” as my Mum used to say on 2nd January each year, “it’s all over for another year”

I’ve never given much thought to her remark until this morning, when I realised I’d been saying the same thing myself for years!!!

It’s odd, don’t you think, that from September onwards every year Christmas and New Year are everywhere: in the shops, on the radio and T.V., in the newspapers. If some cataclysmic event happens somewhere in the world we tend to say, “What a shame it’s happened at Christmas”, but the tragic event would be just as dreadful were it to happen on 12th June, or 31st October.

Christmas, as most of us know, is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, albeit probably not on the precise date. But do we put as much effort into celebrating that wonderful event as we do with the shopping and gift wrapping that means Christmas to so many?

When I was a child I rarely went to church. I remember attending Sunday School but (dare I say) only to collect the picture stickers that would eventually add up to receiving a book, the value of which would reflect how many stickers I’d collected over the year. What’s more I would be eligible to go on the Sunday School outing, the details of which I have no recollection – it must have been somewhat low-key, I fear!

I can’t remember, either, whether or not we had a Nativity Play, but I’m sure there would have been one. I don’t recall ever taking part.

So from this you can see that the religious side of Christmas meant very little to me.

We always had presents and extra food, Santa always came and left us a pillow-case with fruit and sweets in. I know for sure he came because Dad always left him a mince pie and a glass of beer. Next morning they had gone but Santa had left us a note saying, “Thank you” – and Rudolf thanked us for the carrot – magical times!!

New Year was celebrated with a party for Mum and Dad’s friends and we had to go to bed as usual at 7 o’clock. However, at 11.45 Dad would come and wake us up to see the New Year in with them. We’d all stand round the radio waiting for Big Ben to strike twelve and on the final “bong” everyone would cheer and toast the New Year. We kids had to be satisfied with a glass of lemonade, then, back to bed we’d go. I wasn’t sure what it was all about but everyone else seemed to know what was going on!!

Almost Midnight

This year, my husband and I were in bed by 10 p.m. and were undisturbed all night. If there were any fireworks we didn’t hear them – it all passed us by. Perhaps I’m getting too old for strenuous celebrations.

So, may I wish you all a very happy New Year and may 2014 bring you all you desire.

Happy New Year 2014

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No Signal!

Returning from a holiday recently, I switched on the PC in order to catch up with our email messages that would have come in whilst we were away. Imagine my surprise when I tried to connect to the internet and the screen remained blank – nothing – no signal! It was as if I’d suddenly lost some important faculty – sight, feeling, mobility. For a few seconds I was completely stumped. “What’s happened,” I thought.

We set to and began checking all the connections, plugs, sockets – even the mains switch. But they were all securely plugged in or switched on. Then we looked at the hub. It was blank – dead! Whilst there should have been a series of four blue lights, each one telling us that a particular function was operating, there was, in fact, nothing! Now what? (And we hadn’t even unpacked the suitcases!!).

We tried to get online (just in case the hub was fibbing!), but all we got was a huge exclamation mark and a message telling us that it was not possible for us to be connected. I wanted to shout at the screen, “We know that already!” However, all was not lost as also in the screen was another message taking us step-by-step through an elimination process to discover the problem.

Eventually it transpired that there was a break in the connection between our house and the phone company’s box 50 metres away. The final message read: “Please contact your telephone company………” “We haven’t got a phone that works”, I shouted at the screen. But, of course, I do have a mobile phone, albeit a very ancient model, and this proved to be our final hope.

It took two days and three phone calls on my mobile (in an area that receives practically no signal at all), but we got it sorted and it was great to be back in touch with the world once more.

Hoorah!

And, once again, this set me thinking about how much we take things for granted.

Just stop for a moment and imagine living in a place where there is no electricity, running water or sanitation? There are no shops in this place (no, not even an Asda!). There are no roads to get from one place to another. And yet, there really are places like this in our world today. It’s hard for us to imagine if we’ve never been there, because we are surrounded by all these things. I’ve often wondered how people living in such places manage without all the mod cons that we take for granted, but they do because they’ve never had them.

I was born at a time when none of the modern household gadgets was available to us. We had no phone, no car, no washing machine, no fridge or freezer. In my early life we had no T.V. and, of course, no computers. The list of the things we didn’t have is endless, and yet, ask anyone who is my age what it was like, and they will probably say the same as me – “we got along O.K. without them”.

But there is one thing that I didn’t know about when I was little and that was just how much God loves me. Yes, I went to Sunday School and yes, I heard about Jesus but since I gave Him my life thirty years ago, I now know Him as my Lord and Saviour. Jesus died for me and He died for you, also.

In our mid-week Communion meeting at Church this week, our Pastor read the account of Jesus’ Last Supper, arrest and crucifixion. He didn’t just read it – he made us be there. We stood beside Jesus as He was mocked, beaten, whipped and insulted. We walked with Him up the hill to the place where He was crucified and we stood at the foot of the Cross and looked up at Him. It was so very moving and made me realise just what He went through for each and every one of us. Throughout it all He never once spoke ill of His accusers. He knew that that is what He’d come for – to take all our guilt and shame and to die for us.

Your guilt and shame is nailed to that Cross. Jesus did it for you.

May I suggest you read the following verses from Matthew’s Gospel?:

Chapter 26 verses 17-29; then verses 36-46;
Chapter 27 verses 27-50

It’s a lot to read I grant you, but it may be the best read you’ll ever have!


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Use Your Imagination

I was watching a T.V. programme recently about Australian Art. With all due respect I thought that this title was an oxymoron, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some really beautiful works of art by Australian artists from years ago. More modern stuff exhibited was, in my humble opinion, rubbish!! As I was muttering to myself about the exorbitant prices charged for paintings that an eight-year-old could do, I was reminded of my art lessons in school.

If you’ve been following my Blogs you will already know that I was not good at much at school and included in the list was art. I had no interest whatsoever; therefore, I made no effort – until one day when I had no option!

We arrived in the art room to find a large piece of drawing paper on each desk. We took our places and the art mistress came into the room. “Good morning, girls”, she said in an unusually bright and bouncy voice.

“Uh, uh, “, I thought, “what now?”

Another Masterpiece completed!

“This morning I want you all to use your imagination.” she said. “You can paint anything you like but it must be your own work and entirely original. I will give you no ideas, suggestions or assistance on what to do – in fact, I’m having the morning off!” And with that, she left the room. We sat for a while in stunned silence and then gradually, as we decided something had to be done, we set to work. That is, all except me! I had absolutely no idea at all what to do. I just sat there looking at this great expanse of paper waiting for me to fill it with some wonderful creation. “What can I do”, I thought.

Perhaps not! How about this one?

No, perhaps a bit too much like Van Gogh!

But, in the end, I knew I had to get something done, so I decided to do a beach scene, but my way. I divided the paper into three horizontal sections for the sky, sea and sand and set about daubing paint all over it. For the sea I used purple, then I made an orange, green and yellow sky and finally I added a bit of wish-washy brown for the sand. That was it! I had spent all my energy and imagination – it was all I could offer. It only took about fifteen minutes to do!

Imagine my surprise when I received a “Well done” from the art mistress the next time I saw her. “You really must have put a lot of thought into that painting.” she remarked. (I have never managed to work out whether she was being sarcastic or genuinely magnanimous !)

I had been given a blank canvas on which to create something which someone (apparently) thought was good.

So now it’s your turn. Close your eyes and imagine complete darkness – nothing. Absolutely nothing and nothing to go by. No-one to tell you what to put where, which colour to use, what compliments another thing. The blackness is everywhere and you are in charge of making something from nothing. You have to create the earth.

We can all imagine what we would do, because everything is already there, so we have images in our mind’s eye. But imagine how God created the heavens and the earth from nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The Bible tells us that God created all that in six days. Six Days!!.

Have you ever wondered how the planets, stars, sun and moon all spin in space without falling? How is the earth suspended? How was water made? I know that scientists give glib answers, but for me there is only one answer. God made all this Himself, without any help, plans or drawings. Don’t you think that’s just awesome?

How sad it is to think how much we are harming His beautiful Creation with our selfish ways. It won’t always be here, because when Jesus comes back it will all end. It is all vividly told in the last book of the Bible – Revelation. If you haven’t ever given much thought to the End of the World I urge you to read Revelation. There are modern translations of the Bible, so no-one can say that it’s all in archaic language.

Don’t get left behind on that Day. There won’t be a second chance.


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The X Factor

It’s quite possible that you’ve done a Google search for the “X Factor” talent show and come up with this, but please read on!

Almost five years ago I returned to U.K. after having lived in France for some years. Whilst we were there we became used to living without English language T.V., so you can imagine what delights awaited us on our return! Amongst many changes that had taken place in our absence was the arrival of “The X Factor” talent show. Thinking about this recently I began reflecting on earlier shows in the same genre, but 1970s style not 2010s. In those days we were less sophisticated than people are nowadays and these talent shows would send a modern audience to sleep in ten seconds flat! I was watching some of those old programmes whilst researching for this blog and, oh my!, they really were cringe-worthy! It merits a visit to You Tube to see them. Look for “New Faces” and “Opportunity Knocks”

Today’s X Factor (and Britain’s Got Talent) are so very different to the ones I’d remembered. Now there are huge audiences, star-studded judging panels, mentoring and heats taking place in exotic locations, but when it all boils down to the final analysis, nothing really changes. It’s all fake – the tears, the drama, the “tension” – and what is there afterwards for these people? Maybe a lucrative career, maybe not.

But, in actual fact, my blog has absolutely nothing at all to do with talent shows. It’s the title “X Factor” that’s important.

With Christmas fast approaching I’ve been noticing things in the stores that have changed from last year. We all know that for years that Christmas has become less to do with Jesus’ birth and more to do with retailing. This year I’ve noticed that cakes and mince pies are labelled “Seasonal Cakes” or “Festive Mince Pies”. No more Christmas cakes it seems! We’ve already had the Yule Log with us for years. However, the one thing that’s been around the longest and hurts me the most is the use of the word “Xmas“. Everywhere you look on packaging, signs, cards – almost everything is “Xmas” Why replace Christ with an “X”? Can people no longer say His name? And if they don’t believe in Jesus or have no time for Him, then why celebrate the time of His birth at all?

    The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas.
    Billy Graham

Yes, we all like to receive gifts at Christmas. Just remember, the greatest gift that was ever given was when God gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin, lived in obscurity until He was thirty, died on the Cross, rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God.

Make Him part of your Christmas this year.

Nativity Scene

(Luke chapter 2 verses 8 to 20 N.I.V.)

    “8. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
    13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
    14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
    15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
    16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”


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The First Day

All of us have experienced a “first day” in something or other, whether it’s the first day at school, the first day at work or the first day of a holiday – there are always “first days” in all of our lives.

I can’t remember the very first day I started school because I was only three years old. At that time (1945) there was a scheme in place for working mothers, especially those engaged in war work, to be able to send their very young children to school before the age of five years. It was, I suppose, something like the modern play school or activity group, but at that time it was ground-breaking.

The men were, mostly, in the armed forces serving their country and the women, mostly, stayed at home. However, in 1941 women were called to do war work. Mum worked in a munitions factory, filling bomb cases with phosphorous – a most unpleasant task, you will agree. But it was a necessary job and someone had to do it. Because of the dangerous nature of working with ammunition, nobody was allowed to take anything into the workshops that could cause an explosion. This meant no matches, coins, hairpins, rings or anything metallic. They were searched as they entered the factory. She often told us that at night her fingers would glow from the phosphorus that remained under her nails. Needless to say, I don’t remember any of that.

And the same goes for my first day at Junior School. All I can remember is the playground and it seemed massively large to me. We could run around, skip, chase each other but when the whistle was blown by the teacher we would all form a line and march back into the classroom. I must have eaten school dinner that day, but have no memory of it whatsoever.

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog (Big School) my first day at Grammar School, which I remember with vivid clarity. Whenever I think about it I can still feel the excitement combined with trepidation.

My first day at work was in 1957 when I was 15 years old. I had left school with no qualifications and had always dreamed of being an air hostess. The idea of travelling to places I’d only read about in books appealed to me, but there was not much chance of that job with my school reports telling how I must try harder! So, for me, the next best thing was to work in a shop. Something of a step down from my dreams into reality, but I thought it would be fun. My shop was a sweet shop.

I’d often played shops when I was much younger and it seemed to be quite good fun. Mum or Dad must have seen an advertisement relating to the job because there I was, on the bus, going to the next town to start work. My pay was to be £2.5.0d (£2.25p) a week from 8.45 a.m. until 6 p.m. six days a week. I was so excited and for the short time I was there I really enjoyed it. The owner taught me how to wrap a box of chocolates that was to be given as a gift and how to speak to customers and recommend “just that little bit extra” to buy. I do remember three ladies who came into the shop every Friday evening at 5 o’clock to buy their sweets for the coming week. They always had the same order and I was soon able to remember how much each one cost and what the total would be. (They thought my addition skills were superb!). Sadly, after six months, I left as we moved house to another town.

Again, in a previous blog (18 to 20) you can read of my first day in the W.R.A.F., travelling up to Grantham for the basic training and how I was admonished by the corporal before I’d even set foot on the training camp!!

Since then I’ve had many first days. First day as a Mum, first day in an airplane, first day as a grandma, my first day as a Christian and so it goes on.

But have you ever thought about the very First Day?

Imagine, if you will, nothing. Absolutely nothing. That’s not easy to do because we’ve always been surrounded by “something”. But try to imagine NOTHING. Close your eyes. What can you see? Nothing. But you know when you open them again you will see something.

The very first chapter of the Bible tells us of there being Nothing.

Read the following slowly and imagine each thing mentioned happening.

We’ll begin at Verse 2 of Genesis chapter 1:

2. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
4. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
5. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

The earth was formless – no shape – nothing.
Darkness was over the surface of the deep – there was nothing.
And God said: “Let there be light” – suddenly there was something.
God saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness – day and night.
And there was evening, and there was morning – The First Day.

Everything has to start somewhere. Only God can make Something from Nothing.

If you haven’t thought much about this before, read those four verses again, slowly. Take it all in. God is our Creator. He made everything.

And, what’s more, He sent His Son to die for us so that our wrongdoings can be forgiven.

Check it out. It’s worth it. He’s worth it!


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Parcels From Canada

When I was a child in the 1940s, there were no such things as beefburgers, pizzas, chicken nuggets and no-one owned a home freezer, so shopping had to be done regularly. During the Second World War food was severely rationed in the U.K. and many families often had to go without some of the most basic provisions – things that we take for granted in these affluent days of the 21st century. Ration books were issued and families had to register in order to have one, and the coupons were handed over to the butcher or grocer in order to ensure that no-one was hoarding food.

At this time, there were organisations that arranged food parcels from abroad, and people in Canada and America could be linked with a British family and send the occasional parcel of items which were not available in England. Recipient families had to qualify to receive such parcels and my family was one of those that did. It was probably because my Dad had served in the Auxiliary Fire Service during the Blitz. I think that maybe he was classed as being unfit for military service. I’m sure there was some kind of means test involved, too. But I have no idea how the system worked, or how it was set up. All I remember is the excitement in the house the day a parcel arrived.

We would all gather around the table as Dad opened the box and we looked inside to see what had been included. The box contained dreamed-of luxuries like tea, sugar and coffee packed in little wooden containers, tins of jam and a selection of tinned fruits and sweets. I think the thing Mum liked most of all, though, was the nylon stockings which were always included. That was her treat and no-one else’s. It was a really exciting time and, for a few days following the arrival of the parcel, we had tinned fruit for tea perhaps twice a week instead of only on Sundays.

The donor family lived in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, and they kept in touch with my parents after the war. When they visited England in the early 1950s they called round to the house to look us up. Unfortunately there was no-one home but me and I was forbidden from opening the door to anyone, so they left a note to say they’d called. How sad that we weren’t able to meet them after all their kindness over the years.

These parcels were a free gift from one kind and loving family to people they didn’t even know, and eventually never got to meet.

There is another sort of love available, free, to all. God’s love, which is unconditional. He loves you and me even though He knows all about us and sees all the things we do and hears all the things we say. We might think we’re the bees knees because we don’t commit murders, or steal, or damage people’s property. But we ALL do bad things, called sin, and God still loves us. In fact, He loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to live amongst us and teach us the right way to live.

Jesus died on the Cross at Calvary for each and every one of us. That was the price God paid for us to be saved from an eternity of darkness. We who are believers know that we will one day be with Him in Heaven. And Jesus is coming back soon. If you leave it any longer to get to know Him and accept Him as your Lord and Saviour, it may be too late. The Bible tells us quite clearly what will happen when He comes back. Check it out. NOW!

    Brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (Thessalonians 5 verses 1-3)

And we’re told how much God loves us:

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3 verse 16)

    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3 verse 23)

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14 verse 6)

    (All scriptures taken from the New International Version 1980)


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Fish

I was doing my weekly shop recently (in Asda, of course!) and picked up a leaflet produced by the Marine Conservation Society. It’s a guide on how to choose sustainable seafood, showing which species are well managed, well caught and so on. This set me thinking about fish and fishermen around the world. We buy our fish from the supermarket or wherever but do we ever think of the way it’s caught, landed and prepared? I seldom did until I read this leaflet. So, from now on I shall never eat shark or ray!!

But seriously, fishing has been an important part of life for thousands of years. It’s one of those things that we, the consumer, takes for granted.

Fishing was also a part of my young life, but none of my “catches” were ever eaten.

We lived, as I’ve said before, in the industrial Midlands and the sea was something we visited, perhaps, once every couple of years – it was a big adventure! Nearby where we lived was one of many branches of the canal network that ran through the area.

Dudley Canal

This is where we would often go fishing , boys and girls together.

Unlike many of today’s children, we wouldn’t just pop down to the shops and buy all the gear – ours was made from scratch. Dad was very adept at making “something from nothing” and so it was with my fishing gear. He took a piece of wire and formed it into a circle, twisting the ends together to form a point which he would place securely inside one of his tomato canes. He then “borrowed“ one of Mum‘s old stockings, cut off the upper part and used the foot part for a “net“. This was carefully folded over the wire circle and secured with a few stitches. Voila, a fishing net!!

Next he found an old jam jar, tied string around the neck and formed a carrying handle.

Then, off we’d go down to the canal (known locally as the “cut”). We’d find a good clear space, fill our jars with water, lie down on our tummies and dip the net into the water. Whatever was in the net we’d tip into the jar, hoping for tadpoles or even a tiddler (our name for a stickleback).

I loved it when I caught something because I knew that Dad would be so proud of me when I got home. We’d watch the little tadpoles grow legs and marvel at their metamorphosis into frogs. (If they survived that long!)

Sometimes we’d take them into school to put on the nature table in the classroom. Our teacher would write our names on them so that all the class would know who had brought them in. This kind of recognition was very important to me at that age, being the middle one of three who usually took all the flak for the other two!! (I love you both really!)

My Dad had his own fishing rod at some stage and he always maintained that sitting on the canal bank with his rod and line often helped him to sort out problems; but my kind of fishing will always be a very happy memory.

Fishing occurs quite a lot in the Bible and Jesus often uses it to illustrate His stories and teaching.

He tells the disciples that He will make them “fishers of men” (Matthew 4 verse 19)

And He uses loaves and fishes to feed the people who gathered around Him.

In Matthew 14 we see that the disciples were afraid that there would be too many people to feed so they suggested that the crowd be sent away to buy food.

Verse 18 says:

“Bring them here to me,” He (Jesus) said.

19 And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.

20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Did you know that in the years following the ascension of the resurrected Jesus to heaven, the Christian church grew rapidly. Christians soon found themselves to be the subjects of persecution by both the Romans and the Jews. In many places it became dangerous to be known as a Christian, thus, when two strangers met and thought maybe they were fellow believers, one of them would draw, on the ground, the upper half of the fish symbol. Recognizing the symbol, the stranger would add a second curved line and complete the drawing of a fish.

It is a very simple shape to draw – just two curved strokes. It could be drawn quickly, and erased just as quickly if there was no sign of recognition on the part of the stranger.

So next time you see a fish on the back of the vehicle in front of you, you now know what it means – the vehicle in front of you belongs to a Christian – it might even by me!!