A day away from roads, brambles, plough and paths that lead nowhere. A day to sort out the car, get clothes cleaned and have a good night’s rest. Breakfast with younger daughter – always a joy – and lunch with her beloved sister so our cup of happiness floweth over. Kariba danced with joy when we arrived back,
There’s a lot to be said for counting one’s blessings, and this we have been doing. Our lives have been as full of snakes and ladders as most readers: so we just get on with it and turn to whatever next confronts us, as do ZANE donors.
Last night, more or less comatose with tiredness, we found ourselves watching a snippet of the life and loves of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I had forgotten most of the story, and we were, at the same time, both enthralled and horrified by the saga. Taylor was married eight times, twice to Burton. Their tempestuous relationship was a never-ending battle with booze and with one another.
They were both supremely gifted with an abundance of looks, sex appeal, acting ability, and charisma. If you have never seen the film “Whose afraid of Virginia Wool” or heard Burton’s “Under Milk Wood,” then do so. They are works of genius.
But it seems that none of their Huge gifts satisfied them.
They were like comets soaring far into the night and then burning out. Burton died aged 58 of alcohol. After his death, Taylor was never happy.
The old saying: “ there’s only one thing worse than not getting your heart’s desire and that’s getting it”, has to be true.
Walking the Talk
As I’ve already mentioned, there are five subjects I choose to write about: sex, politics, religion, money and death. So, allow me to turn now to an old theme, the matter of faith…
I always thought that people who once heard the Gospel walked away because they thought it was fabricated nonsense or wishful thinking. I thought their scepticism was best answered by St Augustine or Tertullian who wrote, Credo quia absurdum – “I believe because it is absurd.” This gives a straight answer to those who think it plain daft.
This year marks the centenary of the birth of John Stott, one of the most influential Christians of the twentieth century. Stott was an astounding global preacher and Bible teacher. He believed that people rejected the Gospel, not because they think it false but because they think it “irrelevant”. They claim that “Christianity doesn’t listen”.
Yet the contemporary world is positively reverberating with cries of anger, frustration and pain – and all too often, we turn a deaf ear to those anguished voices. The better way is to read the gospel before we judge it ineffective.
Stott’s concern extended beyond his tribe, theological tradition and culture. He had a global outlook and he listened to the voices in Latin America, Asia and Africa. He campaigned for climate change, the eradication of poverty and the abolition of arsenals of weapons.
He wrote, “I hope our agenda is not too narrow.” He campaigned against the “sacred secular divide”, and the idea that some parts of life – church services, praying, reading scripture – are important to God, but that everything else – work, the arts, science and sport – is secular.
Stott wrote, “We must not marginalise God or try to squeeze him from the non-religious sections of our lives.” He was committed to the “liberalisation” of the laity, recognising that while the clergy have a crucial job to do, so do solicitors, actors, social workers, scientists, journalists and homemakers.
Stott walked the talk. He didn’t presume to start “Stott’s International Ministries” and during his magnificent life there was never a whisper of impropriety. He gave his money away as he well knew that “pride is without doubt the greatest temptation for Christian leaders”.
It goes against the spirit of our age to think that anyone born 100 years ago has anything to say to today’s young and affect the culture of the moment. But Stott’s writing and vision could not be more relevant or needed by the modern age.
“Daddy taught me how to play chess last week. Grandad, can we have a game?”
So trilled nine-year-old Amelie Benyon, our delightful elder granddaughter.
I set out the board and reminded Amelie of the moves each piece could make. This was taking candy from a kid! Boring really, but still – this is what grandads are for!
Three moves in and I needed a pee. When I returned, I was surprised to see Amelie with a triumphant grin. Butter wouldn’t melt.
“Did you mean to lose your queen so early in the game?”
I stared with horror. I had tried to check her in four moves… and failed to watch her bishop.
I tried to pretend this was all part of a clever ploy, but she wasn’t remotely fooled. She knew!
The rest of the game was mess. By the end of the evening, Amelie had phoned her mother and father and her other grandfather to tell them in lurid detail exactly what had happened and how she, a total beginner, had hammered Grandad.
I tried to laugh it off. Unsuccessfully. Jane roared with merriment.
Moral: Never underestimate Amelie Benyon.