and lent on line

Lent Thoughts from Week Four welcome.


At the cat show held last weekend in Madison Square Garden, owners were discussing the relative attributes of different breeds. The hairless Sphynx is low-maintenance, said Sandy Adler. "There are no hairballs, and you can wear black." The silver spotted Egyptian Mau loves to swim, countered owner Carol Babel. "If you don't want him in the shower or bathtub, you'd better close the door." Alas, the black Bombay has nothing fancy to offer, said owner John Clark. “Unlike a lot of the cats here, the Bombay doesn't do anything," he said. "He has no skills. He just is."

On hand for the occasion was therapist Carole Wilbourn. For £200 she’ll come to your home and offer your cat relaxation therapy. She didn’t seem to be doing much business. "Does this cat look like he needs a therapist?" asked Ronnie Fischler as she combed a huge fluffy Persian sprawled on a table. "If he got any more relaxed, he'd be dead." No wonder cats that are being cared for and loved with such dedication don’t need therapy. The apple of their owner’s eyes, what is there to cause them stress? There is none of the pressure human beings feel to provide for their own needs, to sustain relationships with others, to justify their existence.

In our more complicated lives, we need to discover ways of dealing with tension. Many people know from experience that when they are the apple of someone else’s eye, as daughter, son, lover, parent, friend, this provides a context for living in which life takes on a more relaxed perspective. Let’s be glad today if we are fortunate enough to have someone who thinks of us like that.

Each of us is also the apple of God’s eye. We can receive that kind of totally accepting regard from God, even when we have nothing fancy to offer. God’s care for us doesn’t always amount to the kind of physical pampering received by the cats on display in New York but basking in the delight of being loved by God can have a deeply relaxing effect.

Sun, not water, may soon become the main cleansing agent. Scientists at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have discovered that clothing coated with tiny particles of titanium dioxide has only to be exposed to sunlight in order to automatically remove dirt from clothes. Activated by the light, the particles – each one 2,500 times narrower than a human hair - break down carbon-based molecules.

Removing the discomfort of an uneasy conscience or sense of failure is not so easy. Feelings of guilt or inadequacy can nag away at us until we long for some way of cleansing them from our minds and hearts. This is often done most effectively when we become aware of the warmth of someone’s love for us.

Such love need not be uncritical but it should be un-condemning. To be seen as we are, yet not judged, is a liberating experience and when such light shines on us, our capacity for self-acceptance begins to operate and drive away our malaise.

This is the nature of God’s love for us. God’s love transforms because it first of all affirms. It shines on us regardless of our failings. We can also offer such accepting love to each other. Let’s today try and love those around us with a similar affirming and cleansing love.

Dave and Sue Lupton have to sit on the floor when they watch TV. Their three pet Vietnamese pot bellied pigs not only hog the remote control, they fill the sofa. In fact, at 180lbs each, Poppy, Danny and Duwee take up most of the couple's tiny bungalow at St Breward, Cornwall. “But,” said Sue, “We love them being in the house - they're my babies, even when they are being difficult.”

Feeling squeezed can be, for many of us, a familiar experience. It might be our work, family commitments, or supporting a friend through a tough time, that takes away our feeling of being able to spread ourselves. Sometimes the appropriate response is to push out of the way what’s making us feel restricted. Sometimes we make space for the extra burdens out of love.

Jesus sometimes went off by himself to escape the pressure of the crowds. But as his final challenge to Jerusalem approached, his love led him to accept increasingly limited options. The demands from the people for healing, the pressure from his opponents and his own understanding of where he was heading combined to squeeze him into a path which led eventually to the utter immobility of the cross.

Perhaps we may feel today that our space or our time is being invaded. We can choose whether to allow that or not. Often the right thing to do is to persevere. Our commitment may lead to our own needs being displaced but our love for the people concerned or our dedication to the particular task makes the sacrifice a joy.

A new website provides an opportunity for confession. invites anonymous postcards containing secrets. “My boyfriend and my family thought I quit smoking two years ago. I didn't (and still smoke)," said one, signed "Closet Smoker". "I say I'm a vegetarian. But I eat meat on the sly!" said another, with a sketch of a steak and steak knife as evidence. There are also other more intimate secrets. "Some of the people mailing in secrets seem to be searching for absolution. They want to lighten their burden," said Frank Warren who created the site.

Relief is nearly always what follows the revealing of a secret. Those which have been accompanied by guilt or regret seem to lose their power when told to someone else. But the success of the website may indicate that there are many of us who don’t have a human being who we would share such things with.

Jesus seems to have been the kind of person people opened up to. A woman with a secret illness, a tax collector who had never before admitted his thieving ways, a religious leader who was finding orthodoxy unsatisfying, were all truthful in his presence. These are just the confidences we know about. There were no doubt others he took with him to the grave and beyond.

Let’s today be grateful for those in whom we feel we can confide. For Christians that may still be a quality found in Jesus whose life continues beyond his resurrection. Perhaps too, because a website can’t offer the acceptance that guilty and regretful people need, it’s worth fostering in ourselves those qualities which would make us trusted and available listeners.

As the spring cleaning season begins, Henjai Kagoshi from Osaka has had an idea. He’s invented a special set of duster slippers for cats. The miniature shoes with dusters on the end are strapped to cat’s paws, after which the cat is left to roam the house, inadvertently dusting as it goes. “For a more thorough dust I prod my cat with rolled up newspaper. That makes it go faster and get into all the corners. When it comes to a full-scale clean-up, however, I release a few mice. The cat goes berserk and the place is soon shining like new”.

It seems, however, that many of us don’t want a spring clean of our homes or work place. Forty percent in a survey this week said their messy desk drove them mad but they couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it. It’s perhaps more likely that it’s other people’s space, or even other people’s lives, that we’d like to get our tidying hands on. The disarray of their environment or the chaotic state of their relationships or their diary upsets us. We allow it to irritate us so much that we’d love to be a cat with dusters zooming through their life sorting them out.

One of the hardest types of loving is to let people be themselves. They may ask for our view of how their lives could be improved or our opinion on their situation. Sometimes it may be right to offer unsolicited advice to a friend, especially if their behaviour is giving others problems. In the end, though, people are responsible for themselves. Jesus, who could give sight back to blind people, once asked a blind man “What do you want me to do for you?”.

Perhaps today we should keep our dusters to ourselves. Not everyone wants their lives or their environment spring cleaned by others.