Just Zoë, Just Life

Category Archives: The Thinking Follower

  • Exposing children to sexual content before they are of an age to understand is abusive.
  • It is forbidden in schools and colleges, yet your local shop will happily have sexualised images in full view.
  • As the years go by, the pictures are becoming more and more explicit.
  • Exposing children to sexualised content makes vulnerable children more open to exploitation and teaches boys to view the opposite sex as objects.

Click the link to sign the petition. Let’s get explicit ‘Lads Mags’ covered with a modesty wrap.

Incidentally, if you think ‘it does no harm’, that’s exactly what they said in the 70s, when the Paedophile Information Exchange (yes, such a thing existed openly!) got together with the NCCL (now Liberty) to propose that images of childhood sexual abuse were harmless unless it was proven to be causing damage to a child. You may be surprised to learn that this campaign was promoted by none other than Harriet Harman!

While I keep my political inclinations private, this report from The Telegraph  recently was just as shocking as the Savile revelations:


You can read more about Harriet Harman and Liberty’s past association with paedophiles here:



Made in My Image, A Poem

I don’t seem to be able to upload the actual video, just a link. I’ll keep trying! In the meantime, please click the link to see the animation 🙂

Love the cartoon! Personally, I like the ‘lights party’ idea as the best response a Christian can have to hallowe’en. I don’t want to look like I’m passing judgement and spoiling everyone’s fun.

I think Squidge managed to answer the door last year and announced, in her high-pitched squeak, “Sorreee! We don’t do hallowe’en!” and slammed the door in their face. Which is another way of tackling an issue. Get yourself a Squidge. o_O

The Vicar's Wife

Saw this great cartoon by Crimperman yesterday about some traditional Christian responses to Halloween:

As regular readers will know, we now like to carve a Christian pumpkin and tell our callers about it before giving them sweeties and a tract. Mez McConnell in Niddrie has been thinking through his responses to Halloween with the help of a thought-provoking blog by Steve Utley.

We in the Vicarage are going to have to do some extra thinking through this week as the Joker has been invited to a Halloween party this week and we need to work out how to respond. What will you be doing this Wednesday evening?

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The children are away for the week, with my parents. Did you know that the day has twice as many hours in it when there are no children around? Remarkable! 


You may have noticed my new facebook page. I left facebook just over a year ago. I was going through a rough patch. Really, all I wanted and needed were real friends. Not fakebook friends.


Every time I was on facebook, I would see someone’s post about how light and lovely their life was, or how successful they were in their chosen sphere, or how wonderfully blessed they had been, ‘hallelujah’ (sometimes true, but sometimes boasting). Or it would be utterly, godforsaken, inane babble about whether Bob is going to choose fish ‘n’ chips or curry for tea, or  Betty’s endless posts about kittens doing Awww! Cutesy-wutesy kitteny stuff. Or the posts from Kelly about shoes and being a ‘yummy mummy’ to a perfect baby. Lots of people vying to compare themselves with one another.


Then there was the time I was bullied on facebook by classmates while studying for my Access to H.E. Diploma. These were adults resorting to playground bullying. Before I’d even had the chance to say anything, someone had reported it to the college. The would-be bullies were jealous because I’d scored distinction. Pathetic. On another occasion, someone I’d never even met started posting vile things about me. She had mental health problems, which she used as an excuse to be vicious, and expected people to be ok with that because of her ‘illness’ (and many were not only ok, but jumping on the bandwagon). No flippin’ way, José! I spent a decade doing that for the ex-husband and his ‘illness’.


Nowadays, some of my real friends are on facebook, but because they’re already my friends, we stay in touch in other ways. And people who were my ‘friends’ on facebook but who made little effort to know me in real life were probably quite relieved when I disappeared. It was a lifeline when I was an isolated single mother with a hyperactive autistic child, but other than that… well, if you like fakebook, good for you, but you get my drift. I left, and I have not looked back.


Anyway, today, while revising something on the Just Zoë, Just Life facebook page, I made a mortal error. I began looking up people I used to know, and used to be ‘friends’ with on facebook. Bad move. Even though I couldn’t see people’s ‘timelines’, there was the ‘I got such-and-such a degree at such-and-such a university’, ‘I went to such-and-such school’, ‘I work for such-and-such’. To someone like me, it’s rubbing my nose in how awesome everyone else’s life is, and how mine just hasn’t been, and still isn’t (though it’s a lot better). Even when it’s not how ‘awesome’ someone’s life is, just the fact they’ve had it fairly normal is enough to make me feel unworthy. I haven’t had the chance to do a lot – most – of those things. My youth, my dreams, are long gone, sacrificed through coercion to motherhood (NB my children come first, whether I chose to be a mother or not). Negative thoughts, feelings of envy and ‘why me?’ and ‘I’m different’ began to surface.


But I sighed and clicked the little red cross in the top right corner. Because I have learned that I have choices. I don’t choose to continually put myself up for display, ready to be admired or scorned, or anything. I’m just doing my best to be me.


Paul, at the end of his letter to the church at Philippi, says, ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.’  Philippians 4:8,9


That’s what I’ve held onto since I left facebook, and it’s done wonders.


People seem to exist for the sake of labels sometimes. And for the labelling of those different from themselves. Facebook is the epitome of this! Some labels are helpful, for example my son’s diagnosis of autism. Most are not. They try to control the world by putting people into boxes.


The box I struggle with most often is the ‘What a Woman Should Be’ box. This box is everywhere, and filled with a different idea every time (facebook is overflowing with boxes)! There are cultural boxes that say I should work, and that housewives are leeching scum, misogynistic boxes that say all women must be sexually available at all times and should look like Barbie (have you seen the number of young women who look so similar they’re like plastic Barbie clones?), and supposedly-biblical boxes that say I must be a godly woman, who is genetically programmed to enjoy baking, sewing and housework. Either way, the labels on the boxes insist I must be the best woman that I can be.


But… I don’t want to bethe best woman that I can be.


I want to be the best me that I can be.


More importantly, the best me that God made me to be. If God’s the one who dishes out talents, I trust Him to get that right.


God made me. And He has given me loads of stuff that I’m good at, and I like doing. I don’t care about shoes (shoes? aren’t they something you wear on your feet so they don’t get cold and wet?) or make-up. I don’t particularly like baking. I don’t like needlework. I really don’t get any satisfaction from housework. I do it because I do it, but I never chose to be a housewife. Being a grown-up means getting on with it. My mother seems a natural housewife, which is great, but it’s not me. I find small-talk a challenge. It bores the pants off me. FlyLady, and a compassionate heart, are the reasons I have success at this job. There’s nothing innate in my DNA.


I’m just not a very girly girl. I like maths, music, writing, reading, experimenting with creating natural cleaning products (with a view to beginning a business one day), historical engineering, theology, science fiction… I love talking about big ideas. I really enjoyed the few chances I’ve had to preach, and I know I was good at it. I’ve discovered abilities in myself by way of leadership that I never knew I had. Strengths, a sense of ‘this is where I belong’ and ‘I need to follow this’.


I owe it to God, and I owe it to myself, to be the best me that I can be. 


What about you? Do you feel that you are the best you that you can be, or are you jumping into boxes because you think you should?

This is the spine-tingling Taizé that was echoing through my head last night. The words are wonderful:

Bless the Lord, my soul,
And bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul,
Who leads me into life.

‘Who leads me into life’… wow. Sometimes there are not words to express the depth, or the height of this union, this life with Christ. My mind is blown. I am in awe.

I have just had an interesting encounter with some more of our <ahem> delightful new neighbours. A woman banged on our front door at half past ten at night and loudly demanded that I move my car, “Because it’s blocking the road and no one can get past!”

I was very puzzled by this. When I had parked my car, my dad, who is visiting, dropped the children off from his car and drove straight past me. And his is a big car, so there was definitely room. I walked outside and saw that no, my car remained as it had been, but some great lummocking car had parked right beside mine on the opposite side, effectively blocking the street.

Shouty Lady demanded I move my car. I said I had parked my car before the other one. How long had I lived on the street, she asked, “because everyone knows you don’t park there – it’s illegal!” (indicating my car). I replied, calmly but firmly, that how long I had lived there didn’t matter. I had parked first. I had not parked illegally. Shouty Lady threatened to call the police. I said, still calm but firm, ok, call the police then.

Then another lady, who is the only neighbour to have actually spoken to us since we arrived, came over to me. I don’t know if she was there all along. She spoke gently to Shouty Lady in my defence saying it wasn’t my fault, that the other person had parked wrongly. Shouty Lady continued to threaten to call the police. Kind Lady looked worried, and walked over to knock on another front door, saying to me, “It’s just… they’re not answering.”

“I didn’t park blocking the road.” I said, “I wouldn’t do that.”

“I know you wouldn’t.” Kind Lady said to me.

Grateful for this much, and desiring to stop Shouty Lady from being more and more Shouty, I agreed to move my car. I fetched my keys and pulled away. Shouty Lady stopped threatening to call the police, got into her car and pulled away. As it is a one-way street, at the end I turned right so I could double back on myself. Shouty Lady turned left.

By the time I got back to our street, there was nowhere left to park. My anxious husband was stood outside waiting. I wound down the window and said crossly, “I’ve moved out the way, and now they’ve buggered off all gone – but where am I supposed to park? The only space is two-minutes walk away and it’s dark and I’m not walking on my own in the dark!”

My dear Frank, in his wonderful, gentle way, said, “I’ll lock the door. We’ll only be a few minutes.”

So we hurried round the corner and onto the next street, where I had seen a parking space as I drove past. I hated leaving the children in the house for even a few minutes. If HRH had discovered us gone he might have panicked. He didn’t. We were back in no time. All’s grace, to quote Ann Voskamp.

And funnily enough, all is grace. I had been listening to some wonderful Taizé music just prior to all this. I confess if they’d caught me earlier in the day I may not have been so yielding. So I thanked God for His goodness (I had the Taizé echoing through my head the whole time) and puzzled over the very obvious lesson that had just been demonstrated to me.

I smiled and asked God, “What was that all about?”

And I think I understand the answer. It’s a very pertinent answer to some very pointed questions I have been asking lately. Questions that get right to the heart of what Looking Like Jesus is really like. Here goes:

As Christians, some of us are very good at demanding we are in the right (e.g. the recent petition against the changing of the definition of marriage). The letter of the law backs us up in this belief.

But we forget about kindness.

We forget about mercy. We forget that, although we meet at this point in time, the other person has travelled a very different path in life to ours, even if, right at this moment, they are there, in the same place, at the same time. What was that American Indian expression – something about ‘walking a mile in another man’s moccasins’? Jesus himself says ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. Am I getting too esoteric here? I’ll try to stay straightforward!

Jesus, when He interacted with people, never let mercy and compassion be overruled by the letter of the law. He knew that none of us – ever – manages to stay sinless. He was the only one. And yet, the One who was always sinless does not act in condemnation and wrath to the sinners he meets, he shows them kindness, warmth, mercy, even the gift of friendship.*

If you are a Christian, consider, for a moment, do you spend more time being right, or doing right?

Can you walk away, even when you know that technically you are not the one in the wrong, because being kind matters more?

 *If you’re wondering who it was Jesus was telling off (because he did go round telling some people off in no-nonsense terms) – it was those who had the outward appearance of godliness, or those in positions of authority, who were not living up to these outward appearances, though they were making sure those lower than themselves were made to pay for wrongs, or their situation in life. I won’t stick myriad bible verses in here – it’s all right there in black and white. If you haven’t read any gospels before, I’d suggest beginning with the Gospel of John, maybe using The Message version, because it is easily accessible http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=MSG.


Be blessed 🙂



Addendum: After discussion with a trusted friend and Frank, we decided that maybe The Good News Translation is easier to read than The Message, and that the Gospel of Mark, being the most compact, might be better for anyone new to the bible. So here’s a link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+1&version=GNT

This Jimmy Savile business http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/18/jimmy-savile-protected-media?commentpage=3#start-of-comments has been very distressing for me, because it has stirred up so many memories, particularly at a time when police are still investigating what I told them, back in June. I am blessed to have the support of my family through this investigation, despite how horrible it must be for them to have to dredge up something which they thought they had been able to let go, at least to a degree.

In reality, the lack of investigation when the crimes of my abuser were reported to the police by my parents, 20 years ago, affected all our lives. It made all of us, my parents, sister and I, believe that maybe there was something inappropriate about our reaction, our devastation as a family. The fact that my parents remain married is testament to their deep commitment to one another. They have truly lived ‘for better, for worse’ in a way that most people would only imagine in their worst nightmare.

Abusers make sure that victims feel responsible for what occurs. The police confirmed this by not investigating. I believed, to the very depths of my being, that there must be something inherent in me. This is why I then married so very young, and stayed married, to an abusive husband. The marriage ended when he too was revealed to be a paedophile.

I have stayed quiet as the JS story has unravelled. I don’t have too much to say about it directly, other than that I hope it opens people’s eyes to the reality that paedophilia is perpetrated throughout society.

Trying to demonise the entire Catholic church, for example (as some cynical anti-faith types have tried to do #ahem# Richard Dawkins #ahem#) as unique in its having paedophiles – and cover-ups – has in the end only done a disservice to all victims of sexual abuse.

In all things child protection, we must remember the one golden rule:

The wolf will always hide among the sheep.

Christ himself warned of this level of deceit when he addressed the scribes and pharisees: “You are like white-washed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all kinds of rottenness. For you appear like good men on the outside—but inside you are a mass of pretence and wickedness.”

Matthew 23:27,28 JBPT 

He warned his followers:

“I am sending you out like sheep with wolves all round you; so be as wise as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”

Matthew 10:16 JBPT

The wolf will always hide among the sheep

Please don’t dismiss what this really means, or use it to create problems where the risk is very small, e.g. the notion of ‘stranger danger’ when most victims are abused by someone they know. I am not Catholic, but I thank God the Catholic church has begun to address the seriousness of this problem. Let’s hope the rest of society can follow.

Also, I would not have been considered in any way a ‘vulnerable child’. I came from a relatively well-off, middle-class family. No neglect, no alcohol, no violence, no financial deprivation. On the contrary, my father worked hard for his family and my mother was as sweet and gentle a mother as anyone could wish for. So being a ‘vulnerable’ child (as in the Rochdale incidents) could not have been used as a reason why the police did not even investigate the allegation of repeated rape of a child.

Given the JS case, where repeated, separate allegations were made to people in positions of power, including the police, and given my own circumstances, where I know for myself the same attitude, how can the Catholic church be held up for condemnation when even the police (whose very existence is to prosecute criminals) treat the victim, by default, as ‘a troublemaker’?

It doesn’t make the abuse of children by priests excusable (of course not!), but it shines a different light on the situation. That light shows that wolves like to hide among the sheep. In the church, we even use the words ‘sheep’ and ‘flock’ to refer to the congregation, and ‘shepherd’ to refer to God. But ‘wolves’ and ‘sheep’ can be anywhere: a church, a family, a school, the BBC… We must all act with wisdom.


I hope, if nothing else, that the JS story is the beginning of a sea-change in our culture, where paedophilia is not so taboo that its recognition becomes a witch-hunt (which is of no use to victims, but devastating to the falsely accused), and that real, genuine recognition and healing can take place. Above all, I hope it leads to a situation which protects children from lives blighted by unnamed shadows.

I have lived a life of shadows.

That said, I have come from shadows into light, and I would like to end this post with Jesus’ golden words:

I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

John 10:25-28 NIV

The Good Shepherd, 3rd century, catacombs, Rome (one of the earliest depictions)