20 September 2017

Reality by Ruth Ravey

Well hello! How are you? I’m Ruth and I’m really glad you’ve taken the time for us to have a little chat. How are things going for you? Is life good or are you having a bit of a rough time? If your life is like mine it’s a bit of both; some highs, some lows and a lot of in betweens!

If, like me, you have kids, a lot of the highs, lows and in betweens will definitely be attributed to them! I have four children and I have to say as they’ve become older their attitudes have become bigger, my hair has definitely become lighter (please note I say lighter not greyer – I will not give in to the power of grey just yet) and due to the amount of comfort eating I do while trying to make good parenting decisions, size ten has become elusive! In fact, I think the only chance I have of experiencing size ten now is if I have a sudden and unexplained increase in my shoe size! That whole thing about hitting forty and your metabolism going into reverse is so right!!

Life is busy, and I find that ‘me’ time doesn’t exist. Now maybe that sounds a little bit ‘moany’ but it’s intended more as a statement of fact! ‘Me’ time is not something that there is a lot of – and I know that there are bound to be dozens of you out there who know exactly what I mean. By the time you sort out the house – which let’s be honest at times resembles the aftermath of a huge tornado; the children – who are under the misapprehension that you are a full-time cook, cleaner, psychologist, professor, bank owner and local taxi service; the ironing – that multiplies quicker than the bacteria on the inside of a toilet and the grocery shopping – that costs more than the average person earns and vanishes quicker than the low fat digestives at a meeting of Weightwatchers, you have precisely no time to think about anything and your flip has very definitely lost its flop!

How many times have you planned to sit down with a ‘wee cup of tea’ or a ‘coffee’ only to have your plans derailed by a cranky toddler, a riot in the play room, a request for help with homework or a phone call saying those all too familiar words, “Will somebody come and get me now?” Or what about your plan to watch some mindless dribble on TV like ‘Diagnosis Murder’? How often is it thwarted by ‘Peppa Pig’ or some other random animal that has suddenly acquired the ability to dress like a human and speak?

My idea of bliss would be a huge cappuccino, with some cinnamon on the top, a bar of chocolate (I’m thinking Galaxy), a hugely comfortable sofa and silence…except for the sound of a classic movie playing in the background. You know the type of movie I mean: an old fashioned storyline, glamorous costumes, singing, dancing, a touch of humour and romance – a bit of a love story where the girl always gets the boy of her dreams and a happy ending to boot! The final touch would be the rain tapping on the window adding to the feeling of comfort I would be having as I’m on the inside looking out.

Close your eyes. Can’t you just imagine yourself sitting back in the seat and breathing a deep and contented sigh?

And then you wake up and smell the coffee – the coffee that has just been spilt all over the carpet by one of your little darlings as they have invaded your sacred ‘me’ space. The same little darlings, or indeed big grumpy teenage darlings, who have hurled themselves onto the sofa, your sofa, to see, “What you watching?” and ask for a piece of your precious chocolate and go on to criticise your choice of film, repeatedly asking if there’s nothing better on! Sound familiar?

At times you can persuade everyone to sit down quietly and sort of hoodwink them into thinking the film they are watching is brilliant – you just haven’t come to the best bits yet. They will sit attentively until the moment of realisation dawns; when the music starts, the actors’ lungs swell and they begin to sing!

With one voice the invaders in the room all chorus together, “Oh no, not one of those dopey musicals.”

“M.u.m…all they do is sing!”

“Tell me you’re not watching this mum!”

Huge sighs are released as time after time the dialogue is broken to allow the cast to burst into song!

“This is so stupid,” they say.

“Who goes through the day singing this much? Why can’t they just talk like normal people?”

“Oh no, not another song. What’s he singing about now?”

The final insult is when a fight scene is about to begin and just as the key moment arrives the main characters stand up tall, look each other fairly and squarely in the eye and reach for…their song book! My younger boy in particular goes mad, proclaiming that if somebody in school was going to ‘deck him’ the last thing he would do is sing at him!

Sometimes you weather the storm and persevere until the end of the film…other times you just give up and go and water the Begonias instead.

The old musicals are so engaging though and filled with a sort of ‘joie de vivre’ lacking in many of today’s films. Even when the going gets tough, the tough are encouraged to keep going. They tell us to think of our ‘Favourite Things’, when we are frightened, to ‘Give a Little Whistle’ when we’ve run out of ideas and don’t know what to do and to ‘Whistle a Happy Tune’ whenever we feel afraid and want to camouflage our feelings! They encourage us to ‘Whistle While You Work’; take a ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ to help us on our way and, ‘Climb Every Mountain!’ Admittedly, singing animals impart much of this advice, so its credibility is probably open to scrutiny!

By contrast though, advice given in the Bible is true and certain. When Paul and Silas were in jail things must have seemed pretty grim. Separated from friends and family, at the mercy of Roman guards and a legal system that was out to get them they would have had every reason to hide in the corner and feel very sorry for themselves. But there was no chance of that. They decided to rejoice, to sing praise to God. I’m sure some of the prison guards felt like my children and thought Paul and Silas had lost the plot completely bursting into song at this highly inappropriate time! Roger Bennet described them saying, “They didn’t despair, they sang praises and that became their weapon.” What a thought. Praise became their weapon! David said in Psalm 34:3, “Magnify the Lord with me, let us exalt his name together,” and in Psalm 71:8 wrote, “My mouth is filled with Your praise…all day long.” Imagine if we adopted the Psalmist’s approach and praised all day long – we would not only rejoice but possess a weapon that could eliminate and destroy every attack by the evil one! By focusing on God and making Him the object of our praise we go to our battles armed and dangerous!

So, the next time you are suffering from a lack of ‘me’ time don’t get all down and depressed thinking that the light at the end of the tunnel is actually the light of an on-coming train, just open up your heart and sing!! (If nothing else it might just keep the kids away!)

Ruth Ravey