Ever thought you might have a famous relative; be of royal blood even? My family is famous. Whoops, think the word is infamous! Happy Families; do they really exist? All the TV ads show us pictures of happy parents, caring grandparents and lovely kids. In my forty years working in child protection I guess I got a bit biased about families and as a clergyman one doesn’t always see the positive side of family life. Maybe that’s why I’m a pessimist; always tending to see the worst aspect of things whilst occasionally being pleasantly surprised.
I have spent decades proudly quoting what I thought was George Bernard Shaw: ‘God gave us our families, but thank God we can choose our friends’. The other day I looked for proof that it is a Shaw quote, but could find nothing. Please do let me know if you have the answer! Instead I found this quote by an American author named Ethel Watts Mumford who died in 1940: “God gave us our relatives. Thank God we can choose our friends.” Sorry Mr Shaw, we all make mistakes. This is definitely one of his though: “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”
After the 2016 Referendum I decided to try to gain dual nationality; British and Irish. Shaw had both. According to the Irish Embassy in Spain I was not alone. They said they were inundated with applications, so I went on those ‘Find Your Family’ websites. I knew that my paternal great-grandfather moved from Northern Ireland to Blackpool after an accident when his legs were amputated following a rail accident. He started a weighing machine stall on the Golden Mile. My claim to fame? Anyway, the long and short of my heritage search was that my paternal grandfather was born in Blackpool. Well he never helped anyone in his alcoholic-soaked life, so why would he help me in death? No possible dual nationality for me then!
‘Feed my sheep’ – famous words from Jesus to Simon Peter in John 21 verses 15 – 17. Three times He said it. Three times Peter had denied knowing Him. Peter denied knowing Him around a fire kindled in the courtyard at the high priest’s house (Luke 22.54-62). Jesus lit a fire on the beach and told Peter to feed His sheep. It is said there are no coincidences; only God incidences. I go with the latter and do my very best to feed His sheep.
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