Thursday, 30 May 2013

Graven images

Aagh!  I have been thinking about a variety of things, turning them over slowly in my mind, wanting to talk to you about them but not yet having come to a clarity.

And now look what’s happened!  An emergency editing project has landed on my desk – oh yes, 85,000 words to be turned around in a fortnight!  Gulp.  So if you wonder where I am over the next few days, now you know.

But something I have been mulling over, and coming to no conclusions, is the teaching in Deuteronomy (and elsewhere) on graven images.

Personally, I love graven images, and have cheerfully ignored this teaching all my life.  I know that in Judaism and Islam they still observe this commandment, and following through lectionary readings from Deuteronomy in Morning Prayer has made me think about it.

This is one of these teachings – like headcovering and women keeping silence in the great assembly – that seems to make no real sense.  Broadly in the church it’s ignored – as are the teachings on divorce and usury – but I wonder . . .

I have been thinking, if we could do this . . . if we could get back to biblical living, what would it be like?

I know there are things in the Bible like stoning people to death and polygamous marriage that seem like a less good idea, but following through into the teaching of Jesus and the apostles leads us out of those things just as Abraham led the people out of infant sacrifice.  I’m assuming we are taking seriously the teaching to bless not curse, to love and forgiveness, to patience and gentleness and peace.

In our church I have offered myself to preach.  It felt that the Lord was calling me to that again – but now, I wonder?  The word burns inside me when I keep silence in the great congregation, but . . . I wonder . . .  What is it that burns?  The word of life or my need to offer an opinion on every possible occasion?

And graven images.  When I thought about it, graven images create something small in our spirituality, diminishing the focus of our faith.  In making to ourselves no graven images, could we be taking steps towards entering the intimacy of mystery, learning to know the unseen God, encounter the invisible?  Might graven images pander always to our penchant for metaphor, for definition, pigeonholing the limitless divine into the frame of reference that starts and ends with me?  When I make to myself graven images, they reflect my preferences, my aesthetic, my culture – my choices; this saint and not that.  

“Behold the Lamb of God” – before we make a graven image of that, how large a concept it is!  Lamb that is roast meat smoking on the altar – the bleeding Christ raised on his cross in the midday heat of Palestine, “I thirst”.  A newborn lamb all in a radiance of innocence – the vulnerable, helpless Christ in the manger, reaching out to us in His purity, not almighty now but at our mercy.  The Lamb upon the throne – accepting the reign of simplicity in the Peaceable Kingdom.  But the minute we have a graven image, all the possibilities are reduced by what we see – usually a sheep with a flag.

Buddhists speak of “the uncarved block” – the limitless potential of that which has not yet been carved or shaped.  Perhaps that’s why God prohibited the formation of graven images – because they stunt our imagination, causing us to see so little, to set our sights too low, to content ourselves with what is seen, what is physical.  They get between us and Mystery, obscuring our view.  I wonder.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Social phobia

This is what it looks like


in a house where nearly all the people


have more than a touch of


social phobia



Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Wretched Wretch et la belle Sardine



Soon my daughter Buzzfloyd's second baby will be born - in a month or six weeks; that sort of time.  A while ago, she went to bed feeling rather 'big with child' as they used to say, and had a dream that her baby had been born and she had chosen her name.  In the morning, she texted me to say, "Sardine is a girl's name, right?"

And this evening I have been busy on eBay and elsewhere, stocking up with the newborn essentials for la belle Sardine.  

Meanwhile, the Wretched Wretch, their firstborn (in the photo above, exploring the Science Museum with his long-suffering parents), will be four years old  this week.  Today he has been playing in his sandpit in the garden, rushing in briefly to tell us he had dug a deep hole and found his great granddad (^

He had a woeful incident at chapel this morning.  It was Pentecost.  He had been out in the Sunday School with the other children, but came through as the worship was nearing its end, and surprised the preacher in the midst of his closing remarks by soaring exuberantly up the aisle and rushing in a glad circle around the space at the front.  His mama hastily intercepted him, but he went into total meltdown as she bore him away into the church hall where the Sunday School took place.  “Not the hall!  No!  Not the hall!” he wailed as she carried him out.

Then as the blessing concluded, the other children from Sunday School were released into the chapel, soaring up the aisle and swarming gaily round the space at the front, red and yellow balloons and crepe ribbons streaming along behind them, images of the wind and flame of Pentecost.

I went to find the red-eyed and blotchy Wretched Wretch being comforted by his preternaturally calm and kind mama, then the Badger picked us up (the chapel is out in the country beyond the reach of public transport) and we set off home.  A mile along the road light dawned.  He hadn’t been larking about à propos of nothing in the chapel at the end there.  He must have taken in his Sunday School teacher’s preparatory instructions to the assembled throng, and somewhat pre-empted the performance.  “Not yet, Balloo!” is the banner nailed over his life.

He continues to fascinate and delight us.  His parents post his sayings on Facebook for our edification from time to time.  This week’s offerings:

To his father: “There shall be no more cuddles until the rainy season!”

Heard off-stage in the adjacent room by his mama: “I’m the King of the Castle and the King of the Dirty Rascals!”  Followed by a thump. “Are you all right?” she called.  “Yes,” came the reply; then, “Mummy, I can’t cartwheel but I can cartweasel.”

La belle Sardine will not be short of entertainment.




Friday, 17 May 2013

Slip away



So they went off in a boat
to a quiet place
where they could be by themselves

(Mark 6:32)





Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Spring


For every person who has ever lived 
there has come, at last, 
a spring he will never see. 
Glory then 
in the springs that are yours. 


~ Pam Brown

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Death Be Not Proud - interview with author C.F.Dunn


In May of last year a new kid on the block, Claire Dunn, took the world of Christian fiction by storm with her first novel, Mortal Fire, book 1 of The Secret of the Journal series.  A gripping narrative billed as a romantic thriller, Mortal Fire  has hardly a dull moment as Emma D'Eresby fends off unwanted romantic advances, encounters a creepy villain and falls in love with a man for whom ‘unusual’ is hardly an adequate word!



We had to wait a whole nother year for the sequel to Mortal Fire, but finally Death Be Not Proud is out, available for all those readers left chewing their nails in suspense, wondering what happens next.



In Death Be Not Proud, Emma ‘comes to terms with a shattering revelation, and, just when she thinks she has the answers, faces her worst nightmare...’  Oh my goodness!  That sounds so exciting!

Down here in the wilds of Sussex our in-house cabal of writers got together to brainstorm the questions we would like to ask Claire, on the publication of her new book.

Several of our questions – where did the idea for the book come from, which actors would you choose to play your characters if it is ever made into a movie, who or what inspired you to write this book – have already been answered here in The Next Big Thing.   But that wasn’t all we wanted to know!

So Claire kindly agreed to be our guest on this blog and tell us the things we still wanted to know.  Gentle reader, without further ado – C.F.Dunn on her new book Death Be Not Proud!



Death Be Not Proud is part of the new wave of Christian fiction finally gaining ground in the UK, primarily through the determined efforts of C.F.Dunn’s publishers (Lion Fiction).  So can you tell us, Claire – what aspects of the Christian faith are you particularly exploring in Death Be Not Proud, or in the series as a whole?

Thanks for inviting me onto your site, Pen, and for tickling my brain cells with lots of thought-provoking questions, which I’ll do my best to answer. Here goes…

Although the series is intended to reach a general readership, it is inevitable and desirable that Christianity underlies the moral themes of the books given my own outlook and that of the two main characters. For Emma and Matthew, their quite different unresolved issues relate to their past relationships, and it is relationships - personal, intimate, communal - that drives the plot. Certain faith-related themes become clear over the series: the need to find acceptance as an individual, personal responsibility, love, forgiveness, tolerance, compassion, and above all, hope.

Clearly (or so we think down here in our Sussex burrow) influenced by the Twilight series, the supernatural is essential to your unfolding story in Mortal Fire and Death Be Not Proud.  As a Christian believer, what are the boundaries for you in exploring the supernatural – in fiction and in real life?

Ah, now, I understand why this might be raised and it’s a good question, so forgive me if the answer is a little long. First of all, I avoid anything to do with the occult, demonology and the like, both in everyday life, and in this series, and exploration of such subject matter is not something I encourage in others or undertake myself. Despite initial appearances, my books are less about the ‘supernatural’ and more about the ‘preternatural’, that is, those aspects of nature which have yet to be fully understood, but which have no connection to the belief or practice of witchcraft, demonology, or occultism. Any reference to monsters and magic, darkness and evil in my books, is more to do with how people perceive difference in others, the actions they take to modify those differences, and the potential for darkness and light which lies within each of us and how we choose to act upon it.  You will note, here, that I’m being very cagey because I don’t want to give the game away. Suffice to say that events run contrary to the norm in my books!

Secondly, the historian part of me has always wondered what would happen if time was tweaked. I took such a premise and asked what might be the result of such a change: what moral, social and personal issues might an individual face were they subjected to a set of circumstances beyond the norm.

The genesis for the series came some time ago from a visit to a medieval church in a small rural village in which the remains of a once fine tomb stood. The tomb had been deliberately defaced and the sadness this evoked in me as an impressionable young woman, stayed for many years. The two questions I asked then were: what had the individual done to be so reviled and, what could drive the perpetrator to purposefully vandalise someone’s memory in so sacred a setting? This expression of rejection is something that bothers me greatly, because it is such intolerance throughout history that has led to the persecution of individuals and groups, and which runs contrary to the precepts of my faith. As Emma says to Matthew at one point in Mortal Fire, she is scared of witches, monsters, and demons, but it is the ‘monster in the man’ that frightens her most.

Many thinkers are drawn to focus on moral or theological issues to which they return again and again – so that their lives develop themes, or preoccupations.  What would you say are the questions or principles that have shaped your life and thought?

Besides that which I outlined above, I suppose that I had always been quite a spiritually inquisitive child, and developed on a diet of adventure stories and black and white films, the majority of which had clear Christian moral themes. These, and my parents’ careful guidance developed in me a strong sense of honour, duty, responsibility and fierce loyalty. I also had a martial strain, was a terrible tomboy, and would happily play soldiers late into dusk on the RAF station on which I lived. Any bloodthirsty tendencies were tempered, however, by a desire to nurture and protect the vulnerable, which became stronger as I became an adult. This proved an ideal platform from which my new-found faith could grow when, at the age of eighteen, I became a Christian. My preoccupations are centred on a number of related themes, namely: compassion, promotion of tolerance, encouragement, forgiveness, loyalty, and hope. People can be so quick to judge, but sometimes God alone knows what motivates the judges.

There is a dark vein of violence in general and torture in particular running through these stories – what appears to be a horrified fascination with how people hurt one another.  Where has that come from, in you as a writer?

You can’t spend a lifetime studying history without being acutely aware of Man’s tendency to inflict pain and suffering on others, nor the exemplary behaviour of individuals who resist taking this route. Like Emma, I have no interest in the mechanics of state or church-regularised torture, the means of which are varied and mind-numbingly sickening. What has always interested me, however, is the cultural, spiritual and psychological aspects of a society that believes that the use of torture is acceptable as a tool for controlling or punishing those individuals or groups which fall outside the ‘norm’ for that period.

The main character in this series, Emma D'Eresby, seems to have a lot in common with Claire Dunn.  To what extent do you identify with your heroine; or are you playing safe and observing a wise practice of sticking to what you really know in what you’ve chosen to portray in your fiction?

A bit of both, to be honest. I think that Emma and I would be good friends should our paths cross. We have much in common, such as our love of history, and we both come from Lincolnshire. We enjoy the same music, read similar books and, of course, we are both Christian. We are loyal to those we love, and feel strongly about protecting the vulnerable - especially those singled out as being different in some way. But there the similarities stop. Emma has a checkered past, and some of her experiences have driven her to build a fortress of her emotions from which she surveys the world, rather than risk being part of it.  Her spiritual reactions to some of those experiences are unique to her development as a character, but they are not mine. While it is easier, in some respects, to draw on the familiar when constructing a story, there is greater freedom to explore the nuances of a character if you step outside that zone of comfort and, in putting a person in challenging situations, watch how they react. On this note, I am thankful to say that I have never met a black bear at close quarters!

Who – or, if you prefer, what – has influenced you as a writer, as a person, as a pilgrim?

That’s a tricky one. How can I sum up all the influences that have made me the person I am? My parents and their unstinting belief in what I have ever set out to do must be the first determiner. Next, my husband and children, without whose absolute support I could never have written these books. Then the experiences - too many to mention here - that have steered me down one course or another over the years.  But the greatest influence, without a doubt, has been coming to Christ, without whom none of this would have been possible and whose presence shapes every day.

What authors do you enjoy reading?

On reading this question I went to have a rumble around the bookshelves that line our home to remind myself of all the books I’ve read over the years. There are those I read for pleasure and others for information or instruction. Sometimes I hit on an author who combines both, such as Giles Milton. Then there’s the Russian classics - Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, and the English - Austen and the Bronte sisters, as well as some of the French, although I couldn’t stand Madame Bovary, and won’t be in a hurry to read Zola on a rainy day again. The modern classics, including Tolkien and CS Lewis have a special place on my bookshelves, but Lewis Carol doesn’t - Alice in Wonderland is a nightmare writ large. It is a long time since I read Desmond Bagley and Hammond Innes, Mary Stewart and Anya Seton, but I remember them with great fondness. I love Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, the modern poetry of Vernon Scannell, and the metaphysical poets, Herbert, Marvel, and Donne. When I finish editing book three in The Secret Of The Journal series - Rope of Sand - I’ll settle down with Katherine Swift’s ‘The Morville Hours’ followed by Patrick Leigh Fermor’s ‘A Time of Gifts’, before continuing with my next writing project.

Do you have a particular writing routine?

I like routine. I do my best work without distraction although, if the sun is out, I allow for the deviation of gardening in my schedule, and our dog takes me for a daily walk. During term time I also have the school to run, leaving me with precious hours in the evening in which to write. During the holidays, however, I can settle down to concentrated writing. If planning or editing a book, I usually manage an eight to ten-hour day; but when writing, time expands until I am forced to put my laptop away around midnight. Walks on the beach keep me from atrophy, coffee keeps me going, and music sets the mood.




[“The school” that Claire mentions is her wonderful Trinity School, for children aged 6 to 18 with a diagnosis of speech, language and communication difficulties, including dyslexia, dyspraxia, high-functioning autism and Asperger's Syndrome,  seeing each child as an important and valued individual for whom personal success and a sense of achievement are both possible and attainable.  UK readers, they are in Rochester, Kent, and their open day is next week, on Tuesday May 14th]

I wondered, after reading what you said about liking routine - would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extravert?  My own observations of you lead me to suspect an introvert with a frill of flamboyance round the edge.

Well, having completed four different personality profiles and come up with four different results, I would say that I'm an extroverted introvert, or introverted extrovert - take your pick. I might have been an extrovert had I not been dyslexic, which neatly put the kibosh on that. The trouble is that I like managing things; do introverts do that? I enjoy meeting people but am equally happy in my own company, so the short answer is - I haven't a clue, but I like your description whatever.

In moving from private fantasy and writing for fun to becoming a professional author, what have you learned?  What’s different now?

I’m not entirely sure about the ‘private fantasy’ bit of the question as I have always daydreamed in books and films. In other words whatever I imagine or daydream, I see in terms of creating a whole story that might appeal to someone else. As a result, although I started writing out stories without knowing whether I would - or could - finish them, I did it with a view to publication because how else could people enjoy what I wrote? However, working in sweet ignorance, I didn’t have a clue about the publishing industry, so didn’t know about word count, or synopsis and submission. I have learned a tremendous amount from contact with other authors and with the patient guidance of editors. Now, as much as I love writing, I believe that I have a responsibility to maintain the highest standards of professionalism for my readers and publisher. But, whatever happens in the future, since this is where I’ve been led, I’ll continue to place my work before God and let Him shape it. It makes for an interesting journey.

Claire, thank you so much for taking the time to satisfy our curiosity.  We wish you every success with Death Be Not Proud – a rattling good read – and with the rest of the story to follow in The Secrets of the Journal series.  I’ll be looking out for them!  Well done!!

Pen, thank you so much for your encouragement and for inviting me.


Fans of C.F.Dunn’s work may be interested to know that she is collaborating with me Pen Wilcock and her publisher Tony Collins (known to you normally as the Badger!) in leading a retreat for writers of Christian fiction, in November this year.  Details on the retreat house website here.









Anchoring the Light




Yesterday, May 8th, was (in the Church of England at any rate) the feast of Dame Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth century anchoress who wrote the wonderful Revelations of Divine Love.

You can read about anchoresses and anchorites here.  An anchoress would in a little house called an anchorhold, built against the exterior wall of a church.   As I understand it, the anchorhold had a window into the church, through which the anchoress might receive the blessed Sacrament, and a window into the market-place through which she might give her godly counsel to those who sought her wisdom. There is an anchorhold still at All Saints Church, Kings Lynn - see here.

The Ancrene Riwle (sometimes called the Ancrene Wisse; text here, intro here) is the rule of life written for the medieval anchoresses, and gives vivid insight into their lives. Each lived as a recluse, not going forth from the anchorhold, but having two domestic servants to care for her needs and go out into the world for that purpose – much like the extern sisters in a contemplative community.

The anchoress’s life was modelled on that of Mary of Bethany, who sat at the feet of Jesus, in contrast to her busy sister Martha.  In the Ancrene Riwle, Martha is seen as the type of the housewife, occupied with the care and wellbeing, the many tasks, of her household; Mary is the type of the anchoress, freed from all domestic responsibility to focus on Jesus.

I have always been inspired by the concept of living retiredly and quietly, neither part of the busy world nor part of the busy church, in such simplicity as to leave space for the work of the soul in the presence of Jesus.  I love the idea of the anchorhold being on the very edge of the church, one wind-eye opening into the church and one into the marketplace.  It resonates within my soul.

Pictures of Julian of Norwich often show her with her cat.  Anchoresses were discouraged from keeping domestic animals (cows, goats) as, in the free-ranging pre-enclosure Middle Ages, the care and containment of animals required application and vigilance which would have been a distraction from the prayer focus of the anchoress.  But everyone had mice and rats, so she was allowed a cat.  And Dame Julian loved her cat dearly (see this post at The Cat’s Whiskers blog).

What I hadn’t realised before I read that blog post, was why they were called anchoresses, and their dwellings anchor-holds.  That it was because they were called to anchor the Light to the Earth, each in the place where she lived.

There is so much in this that I find wildly exciting.  Living as Mary, at the feet of Jesus; living in seclusion, ‘dead to the world’; living with one window opening onto the sanctuary, one onto the marketplace, in a dwelling built onto the very edge of the church exterior – so, actually, outside the church in the world, not in it; occupied with anchoring the Light for this part of the Earth, in this time.

I cannot be a physical, literal anchoress, because I am a married woman with family obligations; but I recognise in the anchoress’s life something very akin to the life to which I am called and drawn.

  • To anchor the Light in my day and situation
  • To live on the boundary between the church and the world, built onto the church but in the world
  • To live in quietness, simplicity and seclusion
  • To be not idle, working with my hands about the house and garden and in writing, but living in such simplicity, retiredness and non-attachment as to be not busy or involved.
  • To sit close to the feet of Jesus, listen to Him and keep my eyes fixed upon Him.




Friday, 3 May 2013

A funny thing happened





Our cats kill birds.

Last year they had two wrens, this year already a blackcap.

We hate this. 

After the blackcap, I thought we should take the advice often proffered by others, and put collars with bells on them.  A delegation accordingly went forth and selected suitable collars – ones that would break under sudden pressure so they couldn’t accidentally hang themselves in a tree.  The people they like best put them on.  And all hell broke loose.

I’d expected they wouldn’t like them at first, but not this.  Convinced they were being pursued by alien beings impossible to shake off, they rushed wildly round the house like mad things.  Edwin (yes, I know – well he’s a cat with Presence) took off down the garden and off into the woodland beyond, and Miguel charged upstairs and pooed himself under Alice’s bed.

Alice picked him up and cleaned him off, soothed him and petted him.  Edwin returned and charged madly up into Hebe’s room, which they regard as their Final Sanctuary.  We had thought we ought to persevere for a while, give them a chance to get used to the things; but seeing how terribly distressed he was, they took the collar off.

Meanwhile Miguel had taken off like a rocket over the garden wall and off into the woods.  But he didn’t come back.

We searched and we called, after two nights went by we notified PetLog Lost and Found online, we notified the vet and the neighbours.  A delegation went down to where the woods extend, calling and calling.  Edwin kept vigil in the garden.  The birds (who don’t care much about Edwin because he’s black and white and they can see him; Miguel is black and an incomparable hunter) had a field day, flying everywhere, swinging on the creepers and perching on the fences, enjoying the seed-feeders.

Another night went by.  A pall of heaviness, a miasmic mist of sorrow and sadness descended over and right into the household.   Lost.  Injured?  Trapped?  Hurt?  Frightened?  Attacked?  The household grieved.

Of course, we also prayed.  Prayed and prayed and prayed.  Each in her own way.

And a funny thing happened.

My friend Pearl is a very spiritual woman.  She lives in the thin place between earth and heaven, and in her every waking and sleeping moment she is alert to each movement of the Spirit, the quietest whisper of the divine.  And though she had already not long ago kindly given me two notebooks, the last time I saw her she gave me another one, with watercolours on it by her gifted friend Wendy Yeo, which I liked so much I made it into my intercessions book, being both beautiful and the perfect size.  You are all in it.  Yes, you.  If you are reading this, you are in it and I pray for you most days.

And yesterday morning as usual, in my prayers, regarding the day and its tasks I prayed for what the day held.  For the world and its needs I asked for the things the world needs most – reverence for God and love for the Earth, kindness and humility, simplicity, integrity in government; and, especially in these present days, hope.  For the Church and her life I prayed that she might live the Gospel she preaches, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Then, before the closing prayers, as always I picked up my little intercessions book and prayed through the list.   I added Miguel’s and Edwin’s names to the list, thinking that I had been remiss in not doing this long ago; they are, after all, members of our household.  And I prayed and prayed and prayed for Miguel.  I beseeched the Lord, who knows when even a sparrow falls, to watch over him, wherever he was.  I asked Him to see him safely home.  The Lord thought maybe Heaven was his home like everybody, but I insisted that here on Earth our house was his home, and he should come back here, the place of refuge God had given him, little rescue cat, on Earth.

After some time of bending the Lord’s ear, it was time to get on with the day, so I finished off the closing prayers.  But before I packed up, the Lord suggested I look properly at my intercessions notebook.  He pointed out to me the picture on it, which I have got so used to seeing I no longer see it at all – I just see an intercessions book not a picture, now.

This is the picture on the front.



And this is the picture on the back.



Let me remind you.

Miguel, a little black cat with yellow-green eyes, lost in the wood.  Wearing his collar we had put on to keep the birds in the garden safe.  Petitioning on his account the Lord whose eye is on the sparrow.

And I knew then that the Lord had heard.  Further, I knew that He knew about this moment from all time.  Pearl does whatever she does at the prompting of the Spirit, and He prompted her to give me that book, and He knew back then that the day would come when I would definitely need an answer to this urgent prayer – not a particular outcome, but the knowledge that He had heard, that He knew and He cared.

And then there was something else.  The other members of the household all agreed, from their various prayings and sendings, that they felt Miguel was still alive, and that he would return.  All of us women in this house are by nature cautious and realistic to the border of pessimism, but when they searched within themselves, they honestly thought he would return.  No one knew what Edwin thought, but he kept vigil, and never went away on his usual walkabouts.   And what I thought was, if the Lord actually wanted this incident visibly attached to my intercessions book, perhaps He had in mind some future incident, in life not yet unfolded, when I would look at the intercessions book and be reminded, ‘Remember that?  He answered that one, didn’t He?’

So we waited.  But another night and another morning came, and we were all in our various burrows doing our morning things when SUDDENLY there came this thundering of feet and jangling of a bell, up the stairs and into Hebe’s bedroom, the refuge of cats that need safety and peace, under her bed into the box where the fluffy slippers are. 

He had paint on his whiskers, and was ravenously hungry, and obviously traumatised, still afraid.

But he came home, and he’s all right now.  And this morning Edwin has felt free to go on his usual walkabouts.

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He’s watching me.

Thank you, my Lord, for going with him, and for bringing him safe home.  

But it’s not about outcomes.  There are those whose prayers watch over their sons who are soldiers in Afghanistan, their daughters with drug habits who left home long ago and roam midnight streets, lost and vulnerable.   The picture on my intercessions book tells me, He knows, already, and He goes with them where we cannot follow.   The picture on my intercessions book is not to remind me that everything we pray for will come out right - you know this yourself, that praying is not a quick fix, that's not how it works.  It's to remind me that He knows, and He cares.

Psalm 139, innit.