learning from Job

Job 1:1-11
Accepts the unknown and he trusts God in it
The word of God changes lives

Job was a man
Just a human being
Just like you or me

Stuff happened to this man
This human being
This person just like me or you

Are you stuck in the stuff?
The mire of life.
No way out, no hope

Follow Job’s example
Put your trust in The Lord
He is Hope in this hopeless place

The word of God changes lives
It might be in a chapter
It might be in a verse

Transforming power
Magnificent grace
Touching people, healing lives

chloed clichéd

Cliched driven life was how her world was moving. Her diary remained empty, her computer screen blank and her phone showed no record of any texts. Eyes peered over her shoulder constantly and she jumped involuntarily each time they caught her own.
Her husband, a cardboard replica of the man she married, was charm itself. He should change his name to charm, because that was all that was left. The rest of his personality had ebbed away as each year passed. Or was she getting harder to please?
Chloe paused, applied her eyeliner one more time, hiding the red rimmed eyes. How could she have been so blind for so long? There was a song that played in her head from the seventies, when they first met, he knows that she knows that he knows… She should have known better, her first husband was, how did they say it, as straight as a die. He would tell her if she looked daft in some get up. Oh and they had some get ups back then. Orange corduroy hot pants, her chubby white legs squeezed out like pasta from an extruder. Cheesecloth tops with elasticated bodices, oh the days of dancing barefoot in the park. Denis was her first love, she wondered would they still be married if he hadn’t gone and died on her. Young enough to start again but with the motivation of a hedgehog crossing a darkened road.
Tim sidled alongside her without her really noticing. Before long there were bouquets of flowers every week and tickets to the local flicks. She didn’t notice it was always his choice, just like she hadn’t really noticed they always watched his choice on telly. She sighed as she realised, she hadn’t noticed much in the fifteen years of marriage but now she had woken up from a dream.
Little Terry from next door, well she supposed, big Terry now, she had minded him since he was two and bawling at his big sister to get away from him. Shirley, his mam was one of those overwrought women that could quite grasp being a mother to all her children so Chloe looked out for Terry and he would come and do his homework at her table whilst she made Tim’s tea for six o’clock. Terry came to see her last week, he was all formal and wouldn’t look her in the eye, shuffling from one foot to the next. Eventually he blurted his story, well it wasn’t his, it was Tim’s.
He stood in the middle of her kitchen and told her he was getting engaged, before she could congratulate him he said very quietly, “I won’t treat her like Tim treats you,” and then pointed out a few things. Little things, that don’t add up to much in ones and twos but put in a big list like he did. She saw with clarity what her life had become.
Very slowly she had drifted away from her friends, her writing had dried up, her food became his, everything was on his terms with no compromise. Tim would flash that smile, benign to a stranger but with lethal intent to her. He had hollowed her out and filled her with nothing. When Terry left she began to weep, and still she cried. He was forever changing her, he bought her clothes, making her feel like mutton dressed as a slaughtered lamb to be sacrificed for Tim and Tim alone.
Her first few plans to leave came to nothing, he would read her emails and texts and ask her to explain what they were about. Money was another issue, she was kept on a meagre budget, no room to squirrel anything away and yet just as caged birds sing she began to dream of freedom, of getting out of the ridiculous situation.
With the new sense of seeing she now had, his flashy grin belied a controlling and manipulating man.
She began to write, she wrote letters to her younger self, she wrote to a nameless future self. She wrote poetry, making the painful existence beautiful and she wrote prayers, long detailed prayers and short to the point prayers. She wanted a way out and writing in the middle of the day was her outlet. She threw everything away, even the page underneath that he might find and shade. She was beginning very slowly to be as sneaky as him.
David Trickett lived next door to Chloe and Tim, on the other side to the overwhelmed Shirley. He had an odd kind of life, since getting TB as a youngster he was too weak to work and needed the heat on constantly, even in the summer. He could just about manage to get to the corner shop, but Mrs Khan had to get young Didi to deliver his groceries. He had lived here longer than anyone else, having seen booth his parents die in this house, having seen children come and go, couples move in and move out. He watched life outside his windows, whilst he waited slowly for his time to pass.
The mornings he watched the people leave their houses and go to school or work. He had watched long enough for three recessions to change the way people did work. Mr Tanner across the road was a year out of work before his wife found out, he had piled up debt with some local shark and it was when she was called to the hospital, with him lying their all tubes and bruises that she learned the truth.
In the afternoons he moved to the back window, he watched the birds flit down to eat the crumbs left out after lunch. For the last few weeks he watched Chloe rush down to the dustbin around three o’clock every day armed with paper that she tore up and placed under other rubbish.

After the third day he decided to investigate. The first attempt at gaining access to the bin ended in disaster and nettle stings in places he’d rather forget. It made him press on even more and so very slowly he cleared the patch of nettles, it took him a few days as even the smallest amount of exercise tired him out so much. It was in the middle of the second week that he got as far as the bin and delved in to find the pages.

Safely back in his bed and with sellotape in hand he pieced them back together. Oh he exclaimed when reading the first one. It was poem, beautiful phrasing with an ethereal presence. He copied the pages into his own notebook. He continued each day, saving and reconstructing pages and then transcribing them.

Last week he sent the poems off to a publisher and today he got a phone call from them. He dressed with care and leaving his front door he turned to Chloe’s door and began a journey that was to take both of them to a different world, far away from Tim and the rest of Jubilee Street.

sight or faith

Charlie left the office reeling, two weeks before Christmas he had been told to up sticks and move across country. No satisfactory explanation, he was to move on January 2nd. How was he going to tell the kids, they had always lived in Pinkerton. Their friends and neighbours would be sorely missed.

After a few minutes of self pity he got on with the logistics of a move around Christmas. He told few people, but found a lovely three bedroom house in the suburbs of Newcastle Upon Tyne. It was in a road called Kingsway. He trusted that this was a sign of his walk in the Lord, he was walking not by sight but by faith alone.

The children took the news well, he made it sound like a fun adventure. He showed them the house on google maps and they saw the garden. They had never had a garden and only just moved into a flat with a separate bedroom. Up till then they had been in a bedsit, no bigger than a hotel room.

During the Christmas period, Charlie and the kids were spoilt rotten by their friends, not one day went by without a party or a meal. Only on the 25th did he think sadly of what he was leaving behind, he thought of his wife. Oh how he missed her. She died during the birth of Anna, his gorgeous eight year old daughter who jumped in puddles and dreamed of snow.

He prayed a lot, Lord, he said, I know you will provide, I know you will keep us protected, I know you love us. Lord I love you so much. I am so grateful for all you have done for me already, the gifts of Anna and Elijah, so grateful we will have a roof over our head and food in our bellies. Use me Lord, however you will and help us find a place to worship in our new town. Amen

Across town, on the day Charlie had reeled out of the office, Billy sulked. A new supervisor had come with new ideas and people liked them, Billy was feeling left out. His way of supervising was being sidelined and his popularity was waning. He felt resentment against the new woman. He blamed his feeling on her and their boss. Billy was a political animal, so he tried to get people on his side against this new one. But people tried to change Billy’s hardened heart. In his intransigent state, there was no turning. He believed God had told him to work in this way, he believed that his way was the only way and he believed that the new supervisor was not as good as him. By Christmas Day he had worked himself into a frenzy and wrote a letter of resignation.

With a very heavy heart, hardened by resentment and bitterness Billy went looking for a new job in the New Year and he was got Charlie’s old job. Everyone in this office told Billy about Charlie, about how he was told to leave and how he did just that. How he lived his life by faith not by sight. The whole office had been changed by Charlie and his faith, openly they talked about the Bible and the Lord. Billy felt blessed.

In time as Billy and his heart were softened, he saw that he had been wrong, he had been trying to not change. But he was learning that he was supposed to change, each day to change more like Jesus. He thought of the new supervisor and her ways and he saw how actually he was jealous of her talents and gifts in getting the people to do the work. He thought about Charlie and all he had to go through and one night, on his knees, he cried out to God.

Romans 2

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a] To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favouritism

skeleton story

Sally watched Billy as he ate his lunch. Huge bites of sandwich, snip, snap, snout, sandwich finished. Billy looked up, his brooding eyes catching hers and she smiled.

The smile crossed the borders of their relationship, it jumped over the hurdles, one, two, three and landed into the pools of moody eyes.

The chasm created by too many arguments, too many battles, too many long nights in separate beds, was dispelled in a simple gesture of goodwill.

He reached across the table and she, still smiling held his hand.

girl meets boy

Once upon a time there was a young girl.
Every day, she would avoid contact with all humans.
One day a boy followed her and wouldn’t stop.
Because of that, she ended up talking to him.
Because of that, some other boys got jealous.
Until finally only her and the boy were left.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hilary lived in a strange little room, in a strange little house with strange people. She wasn’t allowed to talk to people, not even them. Every day she was sent out to collect wood for the fire, bottles for one of the people who filled it with liquid and sold it, old newspapers for another who created bowls and vases from them after mushing them up. She avoided people so she couldn’t be talked to. Sometimes not talking to people was worse to the people than talking. She didn’t really know so she just kept to herself. A lot of her day was spent in the wood on the edge of the town collecting twigs and cutting branches into smaller pieces. Little forays into the town for the bottles and newspapers and then back to the more comfortable woods.

Billy watched Hilary for a week before he followed her. He was a curious chap, new to town and already ostracised by the cool kids. He was geeky enough to put kids off from being friends but not geeky enough to not care, he was in his own world at the same time as being part of the bigger one. He followed her from town to the woods, on her second trip that day, at first he treated it like a spy story being thirteen he wasn’t quite old enough to find playing uncool but was just on the cusp of it all.

“Why you followin’ me boy?” Hillary sprung from behind a tree.

“Oh, hello, my name is Billy, I am new, I want to be friends. I have no friends. Will you be friends?

“I ain’t allowed. Go away!”

“No seriously, the kids in town, they don’t want to know me and there is no one else. Please!” Billy countered, not willing to give up after spending all week watching.

“Okay, kinda, only in here, only in the woods, and not all the time. I have work to do. I don’t have friends either. It might be nice. There isn’t much that’s nice, here,” Hilary was softening.

Over the summer they got to know each other, odd they may have been but fun they had. Halfway between childhood and adulthood, not quite one or the other, there was fleeting hugs, fleeting kisses, all chaste, not quite ready for anything else, not quite ready to even know.

One September evening they were just saying goodbye when Jeremy Spencer and Rob Dickinson were running through the woods away from some mischief at a nearby farm. All tallness, angles and the beginnings of muscles they circled the two youngsters.

“What do we have here Mr Spencer?” Rob began.

Later, much later, Hilary half limped, half crawled to her strange little house. She knew what had happened, so did Billy, being forced to watch. Hilary didn’t go to the wood for three days. The people did not like this, they needed the wood, the bottle and the newspapers. On the fourth day Hilary went. Billy went too. They found they couldn’t look each other in the eye. They wanted to talk but found they couldn’t. They wanted to cry, to comfort, to love but found they couldn’t.

Billy killed Jeremy and Rob, everyone thought it was an accident because the rest of the world didn’t know. There was a fire in the shed of the strange little house, everyone thought the still had blown up because the rest of the world didn’t know.

Billy’s parents, pastors at the new church, brought Hilary to live with them. She didn’t need to be told to not talk anymore. She no longer tried. Billy looked at her but couldn’t see her eyes anymore. They lived in the same house but might as well be on different continents. As they grew up Billy continued killing and Hilary continued being mute. Both traumatised by an event in the wood, that no one was left to talk about and the ones who should talk about it, unable.