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Here’s what I read in my quiet time this morning:

“Jacob… I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again…”

Genesis 46:2-4

Some context: This comes at the end of what we’d call the story of Joseph (of technicolour dreamcoat fame) in Genesis. If you remember, Joseph was pretty irritating to his older brothers, a bit of a spoiled brat, and he annoyed them so much that one day they sold him into slavery in Egypt – and to further cut a long story short, Joseph ended up being in charge of all Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. He forgave his brothers, who came to Egypt from their home in Canaan in search of food in a time of famine, and invited his whole family to join him. This included his father Jacob.

Jacob was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. God had promised to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and give them the land of Canaan…. the same land that Jacob’s son Joseph was inviting him to move out of. What was Jacob to do? He was delighted that Joseph, who for many years he thought was dead, was alive; but how could he leave the land that God had promised?

God’s plans are bigger than ours. We can’t always see where He’s leading us; and sometimes it can seem like we’re going in the wrong direction. But can you see what God’s doing here? If you read ahead through the next few books of the Bible you can see that God takes Jacob and his family to Goshen, a good part of Egypt where they flourish and become a nation. Exodus 1:7 says that they became a very strong nation there and filled the land. Could they have flourished that well back in Canaan? Personally, I don’t have the historical knowledge to comment but since God works in all things for the good of those who love Him I wouldn’t be surprised if He took Israel to Egypt so they could grow and flourish into a great nation before He led them to take Canaan some generations later.

God says to Jacob, “Go to Egypt” – in the opposite direction to the promised land – “for there I will fulfil the promise I gave to you, your father, and his father before him.” God has the power to send us in the opposite direction from where we think we should go, and it still be Him leading us in the right direction for His purposes. As He says in verse 4 above, He goes with us when He leads us. He will take us there, and He will lead us out again.

(Or, a study in my TV-watching habits over the last few months)

We British are funny people. Most of the time, we’re cynical, self-deprecating sceptics who moan about the government, the weather, the NHS, and so many things that we have in our country. Yet we also have moments of great patriotism, like the Queen’s Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (I say ‘patriotism’, but it’s not quite the gung-ho patriotism of our American cousins. More like lots of flag-waving and choruses of Chariots of Fire. That’s the new national anthem, isn’t it?). We love understatement, rooting for the underdog, and (for some of us) proper spelling. We’re just weird. But we do have an attractive flag:

UK flag. Oh, the beauty of the red, white and blue! ‘Tis pretty funky, methinks. Shamelessly taken from glamorousliving.co.uk (http://www.glamorousliving.co.uk/viewitem.php?productid=291)

Maybe our slightly depressed national attitude comes from our weather – lots of grey days, and as Bill Bailey said: “The rainy season started around the 13th Century, and has continued pretty much ever since…” Still, I have been thinking about our national identity and what we think of ourselves as a country. Stirred by Shakespeare’s poetry such as this:

This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,–This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

(Richard II)

whilst watching a fantastic new adaptation of some history plays (The Hollow Crown, 2012 BBC adaptations of Richard II, Henry IV i & ii, Henry V – well worth watching); I wondered why we don’t love our country more. Sure, it rains, but the UK can be so pretty! We’ve been blessed with green fields and trees and beautiful rugged landscape. Why don’t we delight in our land more?

And then came the Olympics, and how brilliant they were! The whole nation got behind our athletes, waving their flags and getting into the spirit of things. So we can pull some national pride out of the bag, after all.

Historically, we seem to be suffering the after-effects of Imperial guilt and self-pity. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands recently so I’ve been watching factual programmes like Ian Hislop’s Stiff Upper Lip and Andrew Marr’s History of the World and finding out all sorts of facts that I’ve been boring my friends with for the last few weeks. And basically, with the Empire and everything, we really thought that Great Britain was the bee’s knees. Stiff upper lip, jolly hockey sticks, tickety-boo old bean, and all that. But the horrifying truth didn’t quite get home to Blighty: all our wars weren’t all about the glory of battle and the honour of fighting to increase our nation’s marvellous influence by civilising the natives. The truth is much worse. You see, the Brits were probably some of the first drug barons, using force to make China trade opium for tea. Africa is most likely in the poor state that it is because European countries fought a land war over it, increasing their empires by stealing wealth and enslaving the people. It’s not good.

And the First World War more or less put an end to our national self-importance. For the first time in centuries, the fighting was on our doorstep and the suffering we saw was horrifying. The Empire all of a sudden didn’t look like all it was cracked up to be. So now, after Britain doesn’t ‘rule the waves’ we have a bit of an underlying sense of self-pity and guilt. And it’s not just a British thing. OK, so the glumness may be, but it’s the story of many empires that rise and fall – bloodshed and self-interest.

I’m not saying that the UK is a rubbish country. Everywhere has its problems and history that it’s probably not that proud of. And I think there are lot of things that we take for granted that other places don’t have. We’ve got brilliant emergency services, we have a welfare state that aims to look after the needy and desperate. We have mountains, rivers, stunning coastline and beautiful winter sunrises. We’ve got cute dormice and majestic eagles. And basking sharks. And we have great accents.

Yet as much as I love my country and have a great affection for the place I live, if I left it there I think I would be missing something. Of course, we should delight and be thankful for the blessings we have and what we enjoy about our own country, whichever one it is. But there is something more.

If we are Christians, national identity does not first and foremost define who we are. To an extent, we are products of our culture and there’s the obvious genetic element in how we are physiologically and language and stuff. But if we are God’s people, we are citizens of heaven above all. And our hearts should be fixed there, not on a map or pretty-coloured piece of material. As it says in Revelation 21:26, “the glory and honour of the nations” will be brought into heaven – people and cultures from all parts of the world. Here is isn’t about national patriotism. It’s not about one homogenised empire, but about all nations bringing their own taste of the variety and creativity of their Maker. We glorify God by being different! And we are citizens of heaven, destined to spend eternity in our God’s presence. This is what we look forward to, and it should influence our attitude now. We can be thankful for our nation and cry out in prayer for it, but we must also be thankful for other nations and ask that God would be known all over the world.

So, as much as I love the UK, I would call myself a Christian first, and British second.

PS – Also, can I just add, here’s some terminology (sorry, couldn’t let it go):

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – the official name of the UK. It’s made up of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With some other bits and pieces around the world.

Great Britain – the island that is made up of England, Wales and Scotland.

England– NOT the whole country! Seriously guys, get it right (I’m looking at YOU, America). Here’s a picture to help you:

I’ve used ‘Britain’ and ‘UK’ interchangeably in my post. Maybe I should learn to get it right too.

I’ve just moved into a new house! Yaaaay! 😀 As you can see, I was so excited I made a rookie attempt to draw it on the computer 😛

New things are always very exciting to me. It’s why I like presents – something new to look at and discover and play with, and all the more fun if I have to rip off pretty paper before I can get to my prize. But this house is all the more exciting because: a) it has a garden; b) it has a conservatory (something I’ve never had before); c) it has a greenhouse; d) it’s in Lovely Suburbia rather than Grotty Studentland; and e) there was a time when I didn’t have a house. And THAT’s a whole saga! Basically, the System meant that it took more time to process everything than we had before the contract on the old house ran out, so I had almost a week of living out of a suitcase at a very kind friend’s house while I was waiting to move in.

But what I love the most about this house is that it feels like a home now; like somewhere more permanent and settled where I could enjoy living for more than just a year. OK, so I am by myself in it at the moment – Blondie and Smiff (not their real names) are away in various places of the world at the moment so it’s just been me for a few days. It’s quite nice being in the house by yourself for a bit, you can just do whatever without having to think about when dinner is/who’s watching the TV/whether housemates will be annoyed at you making noise; but it has its limits.

Aaanyway, back to the point – home is nice. Home is safe, permanent, and somewhere where you can relax. Much like my parents’ house. I loved visiting them last weekend. They’ve been living in that house since I was very young, so it’s always been home to me. One of a few constants in the ever-changing life of a young adult.

“Home is where the heart is,” as the saying goes. So where is a person’s heart focussed? Things made of bricks and mortar and glass, as nice as they are to live in, aren’t permanent. Everything in life can change. So do we focus our desires and hopes on buildings? Or on the things we want, but don’t have yet? Or on the people we love?

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) So where your desires, hopes, and what you most value are, that’s where the core of your being is centred. As a Christian, my heart is supposed to be set on heaven, and much more, on God, who is the whole point of heaven anyway. But I find it just so easy to not set my sights that high. After all, it’s probably going to be another 60 years or so before I drop dead. And heaven is after you die, right? So what about the meantime?

Being a Christian is not, and never has been, just about getting into heaven so that we have somewhere nice to go after we die. It’s a whole life thing. It’s about the everyday boring stuff like paying bills and getting the bus to work. The question is, how do I set my heart on heaven while I’m paying the water bill or going to the supermarket? Our attitude – not just what we let others see, but what we don’t expose to the outside world – is very important in this. It shows where our heart, our treasure, our home is.

I can’t wait till I move into the house that I will live in for the next 5/10/20 years. I’d love to settle in a place. But is the most important thing in my life a building? It might be home, but it’s not quite Home – that, my friends, is far, far better.

There is a thing that we all fear, that (let’s face it) few of us understand, but we all experience.

This strikes panic into the heart.

It is the formidable Blue Screen Of Death *cue music of DOOM!*

My laptop has served me faithfully for five years. We’ve had our ups and downs. It started off with a ridiculously loud fan whir that took taking out the battery to fix. And then it had a phase of taking forever to log in, and slowly things have got worse as it’s got older, and now the poor thing is on its last legs. Most times I turn it on it’s a toss-up as to whether I’ll encounter the dreaded screen of sapphire menace. And even now, I’m wondering whether being able to post this is a race against time! It’s never a good thing when you have to pray that your computer will last just a little while longer.

Seriously, it’s getting ridiculous. It BSODs (‘blue screen of death’s) when I open the internet, it BSODs when it’s just sitting there, and even BSODs when I just turn the thing on! The poor afflicted machine is in its last days, and I can almost hear the death rattle of the hard drive spinning its final revolutions. *sigh* Bless, it tries.

I wonder what laptop heaven would look like? Probably devoid of messy humans who tinker and drop crumbs and spill drinks on the keyboard. And no dust to clog things up. So a clean, sterile place. With air conditioning. And probably no lights, either, because laptops don’t need to see – unless they use their built-in webcams. And they would all talk in that Microsoft Sam voice. Lots and lots of Microsoft Sams. And Microsoft Annas. Maybe Microsoft Sam and Anna would meet finally, after having to be two voices on one programme. Maybe, just maybe, every computer holds a silent agony of longing between Microsoft Sam and Anna, of the same machine, but forever to be absent while the other speaks. Poor Sam and Anna. So this absent romance would flourish in that cold, white, sterile room; a spark of colour in an otherwise impersonal place. Hmm…

So maybe all this BSODing is my laptop longing for that bliss, Sam and Anna fighting so hard to be together that it overloads circuits and trips up the poor machine’s function.

Maybe.

Rain, rain, rain

Rain, rain, rain

Apparently, June is the monsoon season in Britain.

British weather is never that predictable. It’s probably why we Brits talk about it so much. For example, these last few days have been monsoon rain in the early morning, followed by lots of sun and humidity, with maybe a hail storm in the afternoon. And we get a lot of rain in this country!

More often than not, we don’t appreciate just how well off we are, or even just how vital our wet weather is. We may moan, we may have grey days for half the year, but actually this is probably more beneficial than we realise. OK, so grey days are depressing and our lack of sun isn’t great for those suffering from seasonal disorders, yet rain is a blessing. It means we have plenty of water – we don’t have to walk for miles to reach any form of water, let alone clean drinking water – and it means our countryside is as lush and green as it is. It means we have this:

Ahh, the beautiful Cornish countryside. Who wouldn’t want to live here?

Something that many places around the world can only dream of.

God provides for us in ways we might not realise, and we can’t always tell what His plan is at the time. We shouldn’t get frustrated with what He has given us, because He works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), even when life is hard and all we want to do is bail out. Even in tiny things like missing the bus. Or being put with a lab partner who annoys you. Or having a week of typical British weather. I’m not just saying count your blessings, but trust the One who gives. Trust that He loves perfectly enough to let painful or annoying things happen because it will be good for you in the end.

Put up the umbrella and enjoy the rain.

Hi everyone, and welcome to the blog!

I guess I should start by introducing myself. I’m Kathryn, a biology geek by training (and general geek anyway), but also a Christian by faith.

I am an avid Lord of the Rings fan (best story and film IN THE WORLD – I genuinely love it all, the huge detail Tolkein uses, how much effort was put into the films, SO GOOD), and was brought up in the beautiful city of Oxford, so I naturally think it’s the centre of the universe – oh, and obviously Tolkein’s Shire was based on Oxfordshire. The rolling hills, the clean air, the sheep… I could talk for hours.

So why start a blog? Following the crowd? Maybe. But I hope that sharing my thoughts/reviews/whatever  here will be somehow entertaining/encouraging/helpful rather than a waste of space.

So stay tuned, and read on!

– Kathryn

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