Category Archives: Family

Deb Moore: A Friend


We lost a dear friend last week.  We joined the family and other friends on Friday to share our tears and to celebrate her life.  Debs was a private person, and I can’t claim to have known her well, but she always made you feel special, as if your joys and concerns were all that mattered.  Her faithfulness in prayer, and her courage in the terrible suffering she endured, were a gift and an encouragement to all.

The tributes paid by her family and friends echoed the love and the loss of all our hearts.  Her daughter said she loved coming home—how many teenagers would admit to that?  And not many students, except for the laundry benefits.  She loved coming home because her mother was so positive.  “She believed in me.  She made me feel that everything was possible.”

That’s not easy for a parent to convey.  There are so many pitfalls, so much for us to worry about.  How many of us manage to set our children free, to give them the gift of believing in them instead of restricting them with the impossibilities of our own fears?  Of course they are legitimate fears, we fear for their safety, for their future, but they restrict nonetheless. 

As Deb’s daughter spoke we could nod in appreciation.   This was indeed the Debs we knew and loved.

Debs pointed her family to Romans 12:12: “Be joyful in hope; be patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.”  It is a verse that sums up how we experienced Debs.  Joy was a constant companion, and hope her driving force.  Her patience in the terrible suffering she endured was heroic (not that she would ever have considered herself a hero).  I often thought that Debs wanted to be free of it all, not for her sake but so that her family and friends would not have to endure it all.  And Debs was a prayer warrior.  She was one of those who left you feeling a little more secure, a little more confident, because Debs was praying.  But her prayers were not intellectual exercises; they led her to action.  Debs was one of those who would pray as if God was our only hope, and act as if God had left it all up to her.

One of her friends said that she (the friend) had only been a Christian for ten years, a spiritual youngster in the prayer group she belonged to with Debs.  But she always knew that, when she grew up, she wanted to be like Debs.

I echo that, but such love and faithfulness, such joy and peace, do not come overnight.  Paul rightly calls these fruit of the Spirit.  Fruit grows and develops through a long process of watering and nurturing; it isn’t stuck on at the last minute.  The fruit of the Spirit grows within us as we offer ourselves to God every day; it develops little by little through random acts of kindness; it ripens as we make small decisions to be positive, to put aside our critical inclinations, and to offer encouragement and hope to a daughter, a friend, a stranger.

It starts, perhaps, through being faithful in prayer as we ask God every day for opportunities to live out our prayers, and courage to take the opportunities presented to reach out to others.

Thank you Debs for the gifts you gave us.  Thank you for encouraging us to live as Jesus in the world, and for demonstrating that it is indeed possible to do so.

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Honesty, and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”


We watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel last weekend, and began thinking about honesty in relationships.

The film is certain to delight the heart and tickle the funny bone.  Seven English retirees, from a charlady to a High Court judge, are lured to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, India, through what can only be described as the most optimistic brochure imaginable.  The brochure was produced, and the hotel managed, by an enthusiastically positive young part-owner. He doesn’t see his “optimistic” take on reality as dishonest. He prefers to speak of things as he hopes they will be in the future, rather than dwell on the unpleasant details of the present. His motto is, “Everything will be alright in the end; if everything is not alright, it is not yet the end.” A wonderful philosophy, but a touch of reality may occasionally be required.

Others also wrestled with honesty.  Graham, the retired judge, had lived in India as a youngster, where he had a gay relationship with a young Indian childhood friend. The relationship ended in disgrace for the Indian boy while Graham was able to retreat to university in England, and a distinguished legal career. Now, 40 years later, he seeks out his friend to find healing for the pain and guilt of a lifetime. The friend’s openness towards his wife, from whom he had no secrets, meant that there was no awkwardness, only joy, at the reunion.

Evelyn (Judi Dench) discovers at the beginning of the movie that her husband of 40 years should not have been trusted, at least not with the family finances.  When asked about trust in a marriage, she spoke of the time she met her husband on a rickety carousel. He put his arms around her and said, “Trust me.”  And so she did, for 40 years, while he made all the decisions.  His favourite saying was, “End of discussion,” when there had been no discussion at all.  At his death she discovered that he had failed her miserably. She would have to sell her flat and would still have precious little to live on.  To the horror of her family she decides to take charge for the first time in her life, and retire to India.

Norman and Madge, both looking for love, and pretending to be more than they are, have little success in meeting interested singles. When Norman admits to being nothing more or less than lonely, he connects with a similarly lonely Englishwoman who has been in India all her life.

Jean and Douglas’s marriage has lasted nearly forty years.  His loyalty has survived her complete negativity towards everyone and everything, but enough is enough.  When Jean determines to go back to England, she leaves him behind in a traffic jam recognising something of her own failure reflected in his righteousness.

Probably the most honest of them all is Muriel (Maggie Smith).  Deeply racist, her brutal honesty gets her into all sorts of trouble until she begins to discover the humanity of others.  She stops running from her past as a charlady, and embraces those same strengths to carve a place for herself in this exotic land.

Honesty is clearly not a straightforward thing; the challenge is at the very least to be honest about honesty.

We also watched “The Dilemma” on TV the same weekend.  Yes, I know, but that was all there was.  In this movie a man tries to intervene in his friend’s marriage when he discovers his friend’s wife is having an affair.  He becomes obsessed with honesty, but somehow misses honesty in his own relationships.  During the 40th wedding anniversary celebration of his girlfriend’s parents, he insists that the main ingredient for a successful marriage is honesty.  The father interjects, “…and love.”

“Yes,” our hero replies. “But honesty is key.” His simplistic view of honesty is pretty scary.

Another take on honesty is provided by Sue Townsend in The Woman who went to Bed for a  Year.   One of the characters in the book, Brian Jnr, asks seven-year-old Venus to define goodness.

Venus replies, “Goodness means telling good lies, so that people won’t get hurt by true words.”

I would suggest that only love is strong enough to differentiate between “good lies” and bad, between truth that builds and truth that destroys.

What do you think?  Is honesty more complicated than we make it out to be?  Do share your comments below.

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Electrical failure and a failure of faith


We were plunged into darkness the other evening.

To be brutally honest, I received a call from my ever-loving wife to say that we had no electricity, and that there was a blue slip in the post box from the municipality stating that, since we had not paid our account, they had cut us off.

Not only were a hot bath and hot dinner in jeopardy but, far more serious, we were busy watching Doc Martin, Series 5, with the final episode to go.  While we could have watched an episode on the laptop, the DVD was sitting inside the DVD player, which cannot be opened without electricity.  Well, it can be opened with a screwdriver or hammer, of course, but I managed to dissuade my lovely wife from such drastic action.  I had to tread carefully, mind you, since there was the danger that either implement (or both) could have been used on me, it being my responsibility to pay such accounts.

Candles are very romantic but the romance wears very thin when their use is forced on one.  Or, put more correctly, when they are forced on one because of the forgetfulness of another.  A friend of mine who is single asked, “Is that really how far love is supposed to go?” Fortunately the question was put to me, rather than to my wife, and I was able to respond with a confident, “Yes, of course.”

We’ve been reading about Sarah and Abraham in our quiet times over the past couple of weeks.  Today we read about Sarah’s death and burial at the age of 127.  I suspect that her death was more peaceful than her life.  Sarah suffered greatly as a result of Abraham’s uncertainty about God’s faithfulness over the years.  He put Sarah into grave danger all too easily whenever he felt his own life might be threatened. 

“Yes, very beautiful; she’s my sister.”
“Yes, take her by all means.”

Fortunately Sarah wasn’t able to have children during those years, otherwise how many might there have been?  But that led to frustration because they were not able to produce the child God had promised them.  Did Abraham also nag Sarah about it?  We don’t know, but she eventually gave him her servant girl, Hagar, to produce the child of promise. That didn’t exactly lead to a happy family either.

For 25 years God worked with this couple until they finally understood and believed God, and finally trusted him.  They even trusted him enough to sacrifice their child of promise.

Don’t think for a moment that I am pointing fingers at Abraham. His faith and his faithfulness, and his willingness to follow wherever God led, were, at their very weakest, on a different planet from mine.  But I am greatly encouraged by God’s willingness to work with us, growing our faith, and encouraging our trust; his endless patience with his slow-to-learn children.  That is, for me, an essential element of the story of Abraham and Sarah.

Of course, it’s also useful to hint to my beloved how gracious Sarah was, and that she had a lot more to forgive than Abraham forgetting to pay his electricity bill.

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Wives, Submit?


Angus Buchan (and others) may be right.  Perhaps the biblical command for wives to submit to their husbands is a valid principle and God’s preferred way of families operating.  I have my own views which aren’t particularly important.  There are, however two problems with the stance of Buchan and others.

First, it is rather over the top to suggest (as some letter-writers have) that, because wives don’t submit to their husbands, the family is breaking up and the world is going to pot.  That’s rather like the Gospel story of the woman caught in the act of adultery.  I like to think Luke intended us to see the irony in the fact that there appears to have been no man involved.  Could it perhaps be the failure of men to learn how to love that has caused the breakup of the family and the world going to pot?  We have a recent horror case of a woman jailed for adultery in Afghanistan because she had a child as a result of rape, and then being offered pardon on condition that she corrects her situation by marrying the father of the child (her rapist).  For some this is simply the logical next step in blaming women for all the world’s woes.

The other issue is that, even if men do have a position of authority and responsibility in the home, men of all faiths and those of none have so abused our position that we can no longer be trusted with the responsibility.  We have the all-too-short 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse precisely because women and children need urgent protection against men, including (and often especially) their husbands and fathers.  Submissive wives, and submissive women generally, tend to be trodden on and abused.  As men we have lost the right to tell women about any duty to submit.

What we (and Buchan particularly since his is a ministry to men) should be doing is teaching men to love their wives.  That is the important second part of Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian Church.  It is a message men desperately need to hear.  I confess that it’s a message I thought I knew during my first marriage but failed dismally to practice.

There will always be controversy about submission, but love is an unequivocal call to all of us.  When we, as men, get that right, when we love our wives as we have been loved, no one will have to tell anyone to submit; there will be loving cooperation all round.  But until we get it right we are not entitled to tell our wives what they should or should not be doing. 

Forgive the analogy, but it’s rather like a thief insisting that his victims must forgive him.  The thief’s ‘duty’ is remorse and reparation.  If he gets that right forgiveness may follow but it will always be a gift freely given, never demanded.  If one is counselling victims of theft (or worse) one may want to lead them towards forgiveness in order to help them move beyond the trauma.  But if one is working with perpetrators, forgiveness doesn’t come into it.  One helps them face the consequences of their actions whether they are forgiven or not.

Perhaps we spend too much time worrying about how to be head of the house, and too little time asking, “How can I love my wife?”  In an article entitled, “What is a man?” (Witness, 18 September 2009) Suntosh Pillay wrote about “encouraging new forms of masculinity that are more adaptive, more flexible, more balanced and more engaged with the people around them, which in turn allows men to better understand themselves and their identities.”  That I would suggest is an appropriate focus for a ministry to men.  Let’s keep clear of what our wives should or shouldn’t be doing, at least until we get this right.

(This article was published in The Witness on 14 December 2011–I have made a couple of amendments above)

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