about writing and life and God

Whatever the weather

on June 19, 2013

I think it’s just possible that we’ve got summer today. I spent the morning holed up in my study working on next Sunday morning’s service, then had lunch in front of Bargain Hunt before going out to the supermarket to ensure the cats and I don’t starve. And that’s when I discovered the sun was shining, and warm.

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Is there something mole-like about writers? At least the kind who follow their noses, tunnelling their way along and discovering juicy morsels en route? I think that’s me. When I’m immersed in work – whether writing or service preparation – it really doesn’t matter what the weather’s doing. If I’m writing fiction, the weather is whatever I’ve made it in the story: sun or snow. Then when I come up for coffee, I’m invariably surprised to see daylight or sunshine or whatever isn’t happening on the page.

At the moment, in my story, it’s December, and Robbie and Chrissie have just got married. Their wedding day is a Saturday, and Christmas Eve.  Where I come from we don’t do Christmas much. Or at least, we didn’t when I was young. Maybe it was the influence of hard-line Calvinism. Instead, New Year was an important date in the calendar with lots of ritual house-cleaning on Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve), then the traditional laden table and tiny glasses of sherry to welcome in the New Year on the last chime of midnight.

My home town always had a massive bonfire to celebrate New Year and my research notes reveal that was the case in the 1920s. Usually an occasion for excessive drinking (we do have a distillery in town), rowdiness and fights, the New Year celebrations in 1921 were quite different from previous years. As usual a huge crowd had gathered but instead of drunken revelry,  the Dundee Courier of 11 January 1922 reported that ”well-known Salvation Army choruses were sung by hundreds of converts who gathered at the huge open-air meeting.”  I was amused to note that in the past some of the fuel for the huge bonfire was provided illicitly – in fact, stolen! But the 1922 bonfire was fuelled by donated materials.

It’s clear that the Revival had a major impact on all the towns involved and on the lifestyle of the people. In a world that seems to celebrate bad behaviour, the sordid and the scandalous, writing about these changes feels unfamiliar, and difficult to make interesting. But just this morning I was reading Tom Wright’s commentary on Colossians (Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters). He writes: “Don’t be fobbed off with the idea that ‘sin’ or ‘wickedness means ‘having a good time’ when God wants you to have a rotten time. That’s a typical example of the muddled thinking that people get into when they ignore or forget the true God.”

Too often righteousness can appear to be equated with long faces and no fun. Wrong! God has the monopoly on joy and I need to get that across in my story – and maybe in Sunday’s sermon too!



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