changing hell into paradise

“The path to paradise begins in hell.”
Dante Alighieri


(Georgios Klontzas, 16th Century icon)

No matter one’s concept of hell, I think most Believers would agree…
Hell is the total absence of God.

An endless, as in never ending, void of the Divine…
ergo no hope, light, joy, love, compassion….
you get the idea…

So leave it to an Orthodox monk to offer an interesting thought concerning
how the demons handle the desire of a condemned’s longing for God….

And yet what an interesting thought it is…that even in hell the demons quake
at the notion of one reaching upward to the Almighty…

One day we met on the site where the construction of the new church had begun,
and the Elder said, “It is a difficult thing today to build a church.
All the demons will rise up.”
And he told me an anecdote that he had heard in Russia:

“Someone went to hell, but he wanted there to be a church there too so that
he could pray. Despite his sinfulness, he loved God and wanted to pray.
He began to measure the site in order to lay foundations.
A devil asked him what he was doing.
He replied: Ί want to build a church so that I can pray.’
The devil was uneasy, because it was impossible for a church to be built in hell,
and he tried to stop him. He did not manage.
He summoned other demons. They could not do anything either.
They reported it to their leader.
Then many demons gathered and they threw him out of hell,
to prevent a church being built.”

And he continued:
“So we build churches to change hell into Paradise,
and if we do not manage to do that,
we will succeed in not being accepted by the devil in hell.”
And he laughed wholeheartedly.

—Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. I Know a Man in Christ:
Elder Sophrony the Hesychast and Theologian

As seen on Discerning Thoughts:
(https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/someone-went-to-hell-but-he-wanted-there-to-be-a-church/)

exhausted

Sometimes, exhausted
with toil and endeavour,
I wish I could sleep
for ever and ever;
but then this reflection
my longing allays:
I shall be doing it
one of these days.”

― Piet Hein


(the cake was divine—Cakes by Darcy — Julie Cook / 2017)

Well I must say all the planning and hard work paid off—our little shower shindig on Sunday was wonderful—as a good time was had by all—
good food, good friends and loving family with 60 plus folks
gathered to celebrate mom, dad and baby to be….
aka my son and his most pregnant wife.

The most special moment of the day, for me at least, was when we got all the festive revelers quiet long enough and gathered together in one area, those both young and old,
those both new and old friends, in order that the minister who had actually
married Brenton and Abby, could bless the house.

I first told everyone gathered, through my tears, that it was in 1962 when my small
family moved into the house—Dad, mom and me…
and that the house, over the years, had seen a lot of sadness, anger, dysfunction,
sorrow, sickness, as well as death—
and so now that a new life, a new chapter was about to appear and about to be opened,
it was only fitting that we ask for God’s blessing.

Lance prayed the most heartfelt and most earnest prayer.
He prayed for healing, for restoration and for the grace to bring a child into
our current tumultuous world…that those gathered would each lend a hand in seeing
that this granddaughter of ours would be cared for, cherished, supported and loved.

He proceeded to anoint the nursery as well as the crib.

So now that we have finally gotten back home and it is late in the evening and I am exhausted—tomorrow, we’ll get back to more pressing matters here in blogville….
but for now, I”ll get ready to head to bed for tomorrow it’ll be time to pick up,
clean up and sort as I have a car load of platters, plates and “stuff” that needs to be emptied and put away…

And the tile man will be back bright and early…sigh….

But for now, I will relish the thoughts of this special day and of the special time
we have to look forward to….

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

Ecclesiastes 11:5

a tale about Felix, thought crimes and division

A church divided will not stand.
Bishops Gavin Ashenden


(a new little pillow for the nursery / Julie Cook / 2017)

Remember it’s a busy weekend as I’ve taken the baby shower on the road…
so time is not exactly my own….

Yet with that said…I did have a few minutes Friday night in between cleaning up the
latest layer of dust from the tile man as I packed up the coolers for a party on wheels…
to catch the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted featuring our favorite
Anglican prelate, Bishop Gavin Ashenden.

The good Bishop addressed several glaring issues, issues that the Church of England seems
to be either ignoring or simply ignorant over…issues that a church worth its salt,
as the Church is the earthly voice of the One Sovereign God and therefore should be more than willing to stand up as well as speak up…yet the Church sends out mixed signals or worse, is woefully silent.

The first story is about a young man named Felix who it seems was booted out of his university in Sheffield for having offered his opinion.

Felix expressed an opinion—not an argument, not a protest but rather a mere opinion.

He had quoted scripture when expressing his view concerning same sex unions,
and therefore was expelled from the school.
As ridiculous as that sounds, it is an actual case that has made its way to the high court in London.
For it appears that English law understands Felix has an opinion but does not have the right to express his opinion.

And surprisingly the lead professor who chaired the committee on campus that heard the
case of Felix’s dismissal is a leading LGTB proponent…

As the segment continued, Bishop Ashenden noted that it appears as if the Church is
being “lead by a pastoral staff of clergy who present God as some sort of
Divine therapist. Yet we don’t need another therapist as there are all sorts of
therapists out there…
So we don’t go to church for therapy…we go to church to be saved from hell,
to be saved from ourselves and to help save a dying world.
We need a Church that is willing to tell the truth about the Gospel…”

And so I offer you the link in order that you may hear for yourself this very wise
cleric…to ponder his rather ominous words regarding the fate of the Church of England
and in turn Christianity in much of Western Civilization…

Anglican Unscripted:- Freedom of Speech & the English Thought Police.

‘Judgement and the Church of England.’ A sermon for the Last Sunday after Trinity 2017, following the Hereford Diocesan Synod.

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

Colossians 1:18

people of the book

“We are dealing with a nation of high culture, with ” a people of the book.”
Germany has become a madhouse–mad for books. Say what you will, I fear such
people! Where plunder is based on an ideology, on a world outlook which in essence is spiritual, it cannot be equalled in strength and durability…
The Nazi has robbed us not only of material possessions, but also of our good
name as “the people of the Book.” The Nazi has both book and sword, and this is his strength and might”

Excerpt from the the 1939 diary of Chaim Kaplan, a Jewish teacher in Warsaw


(an old friend’s family Hebrew bible / Julie Cook / 2014)

According to Wikipedia, the origin of the term “people of the book” is Islamic
in nature.

The Quran uses the term in reference to Jews, Christians and Sabians
(those from the land of Sheba) in a variety of contexts, from religious polemics
to passages emphasizing community of faith between those who possess
monotheistic scriptures.
The term was later extended to other religious communities that fell under
Muslim rule, including even polytheistic Indians.
Historically, these communities were subject to the dhimma contract in an
Islamic state.

In Judaism the term “People of the Book” (Hebrew: עם הספר, Am HaSefer)
has come to refer to the Jewish people and the Torah.

Members of some Christian denominations, such as the Baptists, Methodists, Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as Puritans and Shakers, have embraced the term “People of the Book” in reference to themselves.

Growing up in an Episcopal Sunday School, the only year I can remember really
delving into Scripture, other than later in high school during youth group,
was when I was in the 5th grade and the teacher had us memorize Bible verses.

This sweet woman was bound and determined that we would commit various pieces of
scripture to memory if it was to be her last act on this earth.
And unlike learning weekly spelling words for school, learning the verses was both
positive and fun as she made it game-like by “rewarding” us with various little
Christian trinkets.

That was the carrot for the 9 and 10 year old mindset—learn and recite a verse and
“win” a cool glow in the dark little plastic cross.

This was great for warding off vampires in the middle of the night as this was the time that most kids my age raced home from school to watch Dark Shadows—a campy daytime TV drama in the mid 1960’s about what else, vampires, werewolves and witches…
seems television just can’t get enough of the dark side…..

As I type this, I’m shaking my head as there is just so much wrong with that one memory from childhood that it’s almost comical.

Yet I am so appreciative for that 5th grade Sunday School teacher as I believe that
that was the year in which a true spiritual foundation was actually poured and made solid.

Now I’ve always loved singing hymns, even in “children’s church, as those lines,
stanzas and tunes have stayed with me for most of my life but those Bible verses
from 5th grade, with also having memorized the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s prayer,
The 23 Psalm, and the Agnus Dei….they have each played a pivotal role in my
spiritual growth.

I almost find myself laughing out loud over the thought of what if that Sunday School classroom experience was today…can you imagine how some parents would think such
practice would be considered extreme, cruel or perhaps harmful to the psyche
of the child!? They’d proclaim that every child should have a glow in the dark cross
just for showing up and why should it just be a cross, why not a crows foot lest we discriminate against the wickens…
on and on the 21st century dysfunction goes.

Over the years I have read many a harrowing account of those who were imprisoned in
various death camps, as well as accounts of those who have been held as prisoners
of war, who claimed that it was the memory and the ability to recall those once
memorized and recited scriptures and or hymns that they had learned as children which
was the key that helped to keep them not only sane but actually sustained their
will to survive.

For we are indeed a people of the Book.

A Book that is the divinely inspired words of a very real living God.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish
one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Colossians 3:16

Thoughts no longer your own….

Denouncing your neighbour for a ‘thought-crime’ was a favourite past time
in the old Soviet Union.
The problem for anyone accused of having the ‘wrong thoughts’ is that it’s
impossible to defend yourself.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(stock image CNN Soviet Army Parade)

“Well the practice is back.
‘Hate crime’ is the new thought crime.
If someone else’s views makes you feel uncomfortable,
all you need to do is to accuse them of either ‘hate’ or, if you prefer, ‘extremism’,
or best of all, both.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

I read the latest posting by Bishop Ashenden this morning as he continues to address the maddening debacle of a Church of England church school kicking out a Christian
organization because parents complained that the group was too Christian for their children.

Remember we’re talking about a Christian church school and a Christian organization…
You may read the post here as I’m still in disbelief:

Hatred, like beauty maybe in the eye of the beholder; cowardice, complicity and the Church of England

And I have found myself ruminating over this whole incident on and off since first
reading about it over on the Wee Flee blog of the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.

https://theweeflea.com

However it was more than what the good Bishop added today to the story that reignited
my ire over all of this, it was what he said about our very thoughts that disturbed
me more than anything else.

You may recall my having mentioned reading the book The Book Thieves
by Anders Rydell
The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return A Literary Inheritance

I’ve yet to finish the book.
It is a very difficult read…for all sorts of reasons.
It is a story that I have had to put down for extended periods as it is not easy
processing the sheer overwhelming information—
the tragedies, the unbelievable acts and the mercurial madness of humans
against other humans

Mr Rydell has done an exceptional job with the devastating facts and figures…
that of the cities, the towns, the libraries, both public and private,
that were decimated.
He has traveled extensively all over Europe, as well as into Russia,
in search of recovery efforts.
He has followed the often frustrating breadcrumbs left by owners…trails that
eventually lead to various death camps or simply stopped as abruptly as they
had begun.

Millions of priceless, and the not so priceless, manuscripts, books, torahs, diaries, incurables that were stolen, plundered, confiscated, hidden, burned or reduced to pulp
the for Nazi’s own paper needs…
With many important collections simply being scattered to the four corners
of the globe…
As there is now a race against time underway to reunite families with the
recovered “treasures” of lost, and sometimes forgotten, loved ones.

But the one thing that Mr Rydell has actually unearthed is the reasoning as to why
the Nazis would go to such extensive and meticulous extremes to confiscate books
along with entire libraries across all of Europe and Russia—
a reason which was more than merely amassing of war booty—
it was something so much darker.

It was to be the complete eradication of the spirit and soul of the
People of the Book.

“The Nazis knew how important books were to the Jews. Reading makes you into
a human being. When someone takes it away from you they also steal your thoughts.
They wanted to destroy the Jews by robbing them of what was most important to them”

Michal Bušek

And so today with Bishop Ashenden’s words of recounting the notion of
“thought crimes”–something the Nazi’s and later the Soviets would each attempt
to master, we are reminded that such practice is now alive and well with a key focus
on the Christian thought….

“If it were possible for any nation to fathom another people’s bitter experience
through a book, how much easier its future fate would become and how many
calamities and mistakes it could avoid.
But it is very difficult.
There always is this fallacious belief:
‘It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.’

Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

the bittersweet

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy
are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but
to mature and transfigure us.”

― Hermann Hesse

“Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley


(image of the bittersweet herb Rue as seen on an herbal supplement site)

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint,
rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.
You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Luke 14:42

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are numerous references to
both plants and herbs.
With each, along with salt, having been seen as taxable commodities.

Since these were items that were sold, traded and bartered,
and whereas people were making money from the sales of such items,
officials naturally wanted to impose a tax.

And with such an early example of something so simple being taxed,
is it any wonder that something like tea, which would lead to a
rebellious bunch of colonists tossing crates of such leaves into a harbor, be of
any surprise…

And since both plants and herbs were playing such a pivotal role in early commerce
we began to divide them into categories…
with both sweet and bitter being the frontrunners in the categories of taste, use,
perception and enjoyment.

Enter the Passover seder with it’s mix of bitter herbs
And they shall eat flesh in that night, roast with fire,
and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Exodus 12:8

Or the admonishment of self restraint and to approach things with moderation….
A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

So all of this talk of herbs and bitter and sweet came flooding in yesterday…
not because of Seders, or cooking, or bartering, or taxes or planting or even quiet reflective Biblical readings..
It actually came about as I busied myself getting ready for of all things…
to take a baby shower on the road.

For you see this is the first big family event that is taking place
without well, family.

We’re having a big baby shower in Atlanta for my son and daughter-n-law this weekend
and I’m the one putting this little shindig together.
There will be about 60 friends and family, old and young, near and far who will
come help them, as well as the grandparents to be, celebrate…

It will be there at what was Dad’s house…with what was once my childhood room now becoming a nursery.

Usually when I do these sorts of events, my trusted helper is and always has been,
right by my side—that being Aunt Maaaatha (aka Martha).

She would have flown up earlier this week, coming with her sleeves rolled up,
ready to jump in with both feet as we’d cook, prepare, buy, shlep,
and haul things here, there and yon.

And whereas I’ve been busy making plans, making orders, purchasing,
cooking and packing everything up… getting ready to transport
things to the big city, I can’t help but feel that tinge of bittersweetness.

What has always been a team effort is now a solo event…
Each time I stop long enough to take a breath, I am a bit haunted by what’s missing.

My dad’s only remaining cousin, who at 92 is the oldest and last living member
of that clan, will be making the trip.
My aunt, my dad’s sister-n-law, who is also 92, will join us as well.
As the top tier of the family now prepare to welcome the newest forthcoming member.

Yet knowing who won’t be with us physically at this party has left me a bit wistful.
But whereas I know there will be those who will not be with us physically,
I do know they will there in spirit.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Mutiny….

The Royal Navy is not a humorous institution, sir,
and insubordination is no laughing matter.

Vice Admiral William Bligh


(1814 painting of Vice Admiral William Bligh)

Time hasn’t been much my own as of late so I’m a bit behind in wanting to address,
add to, or simply acknowledge the most recent offering in the way of my
favorite former Church of England prelate.

And with the recent addition of a black eye patch, Bishop Ashenden is looking quite
the part of a rebel…
but in the case of the good Bishop, he is a rebel with great cause.

The other day I referenced Bishop Ashenden having had emergency surgery to reattach
a torn retina—hence the patch.
My understanding is that he will make a full recovery,
which is a tremendous blessing.

The latest video uplink of Anglican Unscripted covers a couple of issues
that I have previously touched upon as noted by the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
One being the the church school that kicked out a Christian organization
from presenting a program in the school…an organization that was considered to
be “too Christian” for some of the more secular leaning parents.

If you’re going to enroll your child in a Christian Church school,
I think it would be a safe bet to assume that Christian organizations would,
at some point, come calling.

I liken such thought to the notion of whether or not there is salt in sea water??

The real concern of the matter however is over the headmaster who capitulated to
these complaints and demands of these put-upon parents.
The headmaster acknowledged that Cross Teach, the Christian organization that has been operating now for 16 years, does a wonderful job with the kids but he cowardly
“uninvited” them and let it be known that they are not welcome to come back.

This is not only a shame and a pity, but this is really actually a travesty.

A Church School feeling compelled to dismiss a very respected and noteworthy Christian organization from visiting the school and working with its students,
students who by the way greatly enjoy and greatly benefit from the interaction
with the Cross Teach team, all due to a few parents not wanting a “Christian”
influence on their children…in a Christian School of all places

Again…let it sink in… concern over Christian influence within a Christian church school… all within a Church of England school.

What about any of that makes any sort of sense!!??

Yet the greater area of concern and or worry is with the Church of England’s response.
The Church is in full agreement with its headmaster….who if the truth be told
is not wanting to ignite the ire within the hierarchy of the Church.

Bishop Ashenden notes that there is a new spiritual discourse taking place that
is changing Christian anthropology…and that there is actually a spiritual
disease now affecting the Church.

Whereas the Church will “offically” state that the Love of Christ is a truism,
in turn they are hard at work making a new culture within the church—
and this new culture is a Christian crisis…
as it runs counter to the Word of God and the Gospel as we have known it.

The good Bishop notes that there is a tragedy of ethics taking place as we see
leading clergy within the same diocese at odds on church teaching…
much like talking out of both sides of one’s head really….
Be it same sex marriage, women in the priesthood, transgenderism or any other cultural issue to come down the pike…the clergy, let alone the Church,
are not on the same page.

So how will the sheep of the fold know which shepherd to follow….

It is such a crisis that we now have leadership in a global Church
reinterpreting of Scripture in order to appease popular cultural progressivism…
and this will indeed be the Church’s undoing.

Bishop Ashenden notes that there is a great deal of pride in the Church and within
her leadership as it and they feel a sense of superiority for embracing cultural norms. There is that sense of being cutting edge,
as in leading the oh so progressive way…and in that pride lies her sin and her
eventual undoing.

Perhaps it would behoove us to put the hierarchy of the Church of England, and her cousins
running the Episcopal Church of America, adrift at sea…as perhaps a bit of mutiny
might be in order Mr. Christian…

Anglican Unscripted- The Diocese of Hereford goes heterodox & ‘Crossteach’ is excommunicated by a C of E school.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7