Run No. 9 – The ‘How Do?’ reverberation

Ripples in Water ca. 2000

Time 41’ 43”                      Total Distance 7.3 km (4.54 miles)

I try to be a friendly, polite runner, and so as I pass people (or they overtake me!) I throw out a cheery ‘Good morning!’

Birstall, being a friendly place, most of the time I get a response.

Today as I chugged slowly around Watermeads (my times are getting progressively slower, which is most galling) I was stopped short by an old man who replied to my ‘Morning!’ with a ‘How do?’

Those two words brought back the most powerful evocation of my Grandad, who died almost 40 years ago. He was a Black Country boy and ‘How do?’ was how he always greeted people.

Now, if you had asked me that, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. But just hearing those two words brought that memory back.

In that moment of memory, lots of stuff came flooding back.

I remembered how he smelt. He was an outdoors man. He worked as a track layer for British Rail and when he wasn’t out in all weathers laying track, he was in his large garden and two allotments, growing vegetables. He seemed to keep his whole family and several friends and neighbours in fruit and veg. He always smelt of the earth. He always had dirt under his fingernails. He always smelt of Golden Virginia rolling tobacco. He had a machine that rolled his cigarettes and I would love to sit on his knee and roll them for him.

I remembered the scratchy wool jackets he used to wear and the blue cotton jacket (presumably railway issue!) that he always wore when gardening.

I remembered his voice. The twinkle in his eyes. He was always a little boy inside. His pockets were always full of interesting stuff. Stones that he picked up, bits of metal, pen-knives.

I remembered he was always curious about how things worked. He had a shed where he would take things apart, just to see how they operated. Unfortunately, as a man who laid railway track for a living he was very strong and somewhat ham-fisted! So often he achieved the taking to bits phase, but never managed the putting back together! So his shed was full of dismantled clocks and mechanisms that were in the process of ‘being repaired’!

I remembered his affection for me, his first grandson. I remembered my love for him.

Two words ‘How do?’ brought all that back in an instant. In that moment of time my dear old grandad, Bill Goodman, was as present to me today as he ever was when he was alive.

All of which made me realise how unutterable false and stupid is our cultural notion that the past is passed and gone. It is never gone.

The Christian faith denies the notion of time.

When a person turns from their rebellion against God and accepts the free gift of reconciliation made available through Christ’s death on the cross, time no longer exists for them.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3 NUVUK)

To be united to God is to be outside of time.

In a nutshell, God will not allow Himself to be separated from His beloved children, the ones who have been bought by His own precious blood. He will not allow His children to die.

For the child of God, such petty things as time and geography no longer apply.

In the letter to the Hebrews the author used the image of the Roman games as a metaphor for the Christian life. He pictures those Christians currently living as the athletes competing, and the saints in glory as the crowd cheering them on to victory.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1 NIVUK)

Heaven and earth are not separated, but vitally interlinked, we are one with;

… thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect

And those who go to God before us are completely absorbed in us and in our struggles, for it was their struggle too.

I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.  They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’

One of the earliest symbols in Christian iconography was the skull and crossbones. It originated out of the necessity to remove Christian graves. As the hope of the resurrection of the body is a central aspect of Christian belief, it was wondered, how much of a person physical remains does God need to be able to bring them back? After theological debate it was agreed that, God being God, probably He didn’t need any physical remains – given that He made us out of nothing originally! But, just to be on the safe side, whenever a Christian grave was loved the two long bones and the skull would be kept together.

The tomb of every Christian should be inscribed with the skull and crossbones, it is a sign of our hope of the resurrection.

When my time comes, place on my tombstone the skull and crossbones, and carve these words:

‘By the unstoppable power of the Risen Christ,

By the impossibility that God should lie,

I’m coming back baby.

All is grace’

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