alas, life is now a living satire

Dennis: Come and see the violence inherent in the system.
Help! Help! I’m being repressed!
King Arthur: Bloody peasant!
Dennis: Oh, what a giveaway!
Did you hear that?
Did you hear that, eh?
That’s what I’m on about!
Did you see him repressing me?
You saw him, didn’t you?
(lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail)


(Monty Python and the Holy Grail / the killer rabbit scene)

Way back in 1975 I can remember going to the theater to see a rather bizarre movie.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

At the time I was not up on my British comedies and was unfamiliar with Monty Python
let alone their often avant garde and most irreverent humor

As a young girl, I was always more serious than silly so the often blatant silly
comedic humor was lost on me as I found it just too…well, silly.

Having a keen interest in history…
which first started out with a love of history of heritage…
of which took me back to roots found buried deep in the soil of the British
and Irish Isles, coupled with my often vivid imagination…
well, I could envision myself mucking about with a metal detector trying to locate Excalibur, believing Arthur to have been once a living breathing king, I would then
be claiming that mythical sword in the name of some long lost relative.

So when I first watched Monty Python’s take on Arthur and the quest of the Holy Grail..
well I wasn’t sure how I felt about it or what to make of it.

But one thing was certain, I did develop a life long enjoyment from watching
John Cleese in action.

Yet what brought Monty Python to the forefront of thought today was not some fun or
amusing sketch I glanced while perusing the web but rather it came from the latest blog offering by the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.

Perhaps an odd coupling….

His most recent posting is actually an article written for Premiere Christianity
and is written in response to an article about a troubling incident where a church school there in the UK has deemed a Christian organization of being, well, too Christian to be
permitted in a church school.

And so here is where we que the insulting French knight who sadly is not showing up.

As in here is where the overt satire of the likes of Monty Python deviates to reality…
A sort of surrealism that just happens to be real….
In such that one just can’t make this kind of stuff up….
as in it is just so over the top and so so sad and so so troubling and ridiculous
all rolled into one, that one is left standing mouth agape.

A Christian group has been banned from a Church school because a few parents have complained that Christian teaching is extremist. Premier Christianity asked me to write a response – you can get the original here – (some of the comments afterwards from people who profess to be Christian are quite chilling – not least the two professing Christians arguing that to ask for a Christian group to be able to speak at a Christian school is intolerant, discriminatory and against the teaching of Jesus!)

As a retired educator this story certainly had my attention.
Now whereas I spent my career in the often anemic sector of public education that
basks in its secularization and the separation of church and state–
so much so that there are districts who have told their educators that they may not
have a Bible in the classroom but an Islamic prayer rug is ok….
if that makes any sense….
so I understand the raised eyebrows over religious groups coming in
to address the students….
But when an actual church school claims a Christian organization is just too Christian..
well we’ve got bigger troubles then I ever imagined…

3) There is a patronising and dangerous ideology that is being used to teach our children.

Education used to be about teaching children how to think. Now it is about teaching them what to think. And nothing must be allowed to deviate from that. Instead of education our schools are being turned into centres of social engineering where the secular Brave New World is indoctrinated into our children. Our children are being taught that marriage has nothing to do with gender. And now they are being taught Queer theory; that gender either doesn’t exist, or has nothing to do with biology, or is ‘fluid’. Now there’s a really harmful and dangerous ideology!

And the good Pastor goes on to then offer the following points…
(you’ll have to click the link below in order to read the commentary for
each of the points)

4) Those of us who warned that the introduction of Same Sex Marriage would quickly move from being a permissive to being a prohibitive decree have been proven right.

5) The Church only has itself to blame –

Jesus wept.

Christ wept over Jerusalem.
We must weep at the insanity that is gripping the UK, *[and might I add the US]
of which this incident is only the tip of the iceberg.
Christ’s sternest warning was for those who would harm any of “these little ones”.
Maybe its time for the Church to reflect the priorities of the Christ who said
“let the little children come to me,
and do not forbid them”?
Maybe for the sake of the children we should come out of our own comfort
zones and challenge the new State-imposed fundamentalist doctrines that
cause so much harm. If we are to be accused of extremism,
then let’s make sure that it is the kind of extreme and courageous love
that Jesus showed.
Whatever the cost.

* my little input

So just when we thought the likes of Monty Python to be just a mere comedic group
of both stage and theater, we see that they are actually becoming quite real…
quite real indeed….

Now teaching Christian doctrine at a church school is ‘extremist’. Move over Monty Python.

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!…
You are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful,
but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.

Matt. 23:24, 27

taking it down to the foundation

Most things can be born with a sense of the presence of God,
and very little can be born without it.

Gavin Ashenden

“The last thing that those of the top of the pyramid want is to see that
pyramid inverted! In a Western world which is increasingly dominated by an
anti-Christ secularism it’s maybe not a bad thing when those in power seek
to silence the church because we are too dangerous!”

David Robertson


(the current condition of my shower / Julie Cook / 2017)

The other day, I wrote a post based on a news feed coming out of England regarding a college within the Oxford University system that had opted to deny an on-campus
Christian organization from participating in a welcoming fair for the incoming
freshman class.

Our friend the good Scottish Pastor David Robertson has weighed in on the same
news story and since he is on that side of the pond,
I thought he might have a better perspective
than I had…so I’ve included the link below allowing you to read his close
and personal perspective.

A Dangerous Church? The Elephant in the Balliol College Freshers Fair

I’ve been known to often quote both David Robertson and Gavin Ashenden,
Christian clerics of vastly different denominations, because each man has a crystal
clear vision of what is ailing not only our world but, even more, what is ailing
our very own Christian faith.

Each man brings a wealth of academic prowess, real world experience and battle tested
war wounds as they each express this plight or ours oh so succinctly.

There are many in the fold who cannot see, or who actually refuse to see, the growing
and even sinister trouble gnawing at our collective Church.
For you see…the now unavoidable decline of Western Civilization,
the growing notion of progressivism, the pandemic of post modernism coupled with denominational infighting are each sounding a death knell….
and the thing is….
nobody is really listening….

Let’s change the subject slightly…..

Twenty years ago when we built our house, my husband acted as contractor.
He had a good many friends in the building business so he solicited their
expertise while overseeing the whole operation.
The only area in this building process that he did not know anyone was in the
department of laying tile.
We had to go off of recommendations…
more or less choosing the lesser of evils as our area,
at the time, did not have a lot of choice as far as tile was concerned.

We saw right off the bat that things were not going to go as we would expect or like.
In fact half way finished we parted ways with the company of which went out of
business shortly thereafter.

Our shower in the master bath has had problems with leaking from the get go.
We’ve patched and patched till we can patch no more. Chiseling out grout,
re-grouting, sealing, re-sealing…at one point water had seeped under the floor into
our closet, buckling the wood floor.
Finally in desperation my husband recently asked a customer of his who
is a long time tile man–asking him to please come look at our quandary
and see what he could do.

The only fix…
tear it all out and start over.

Sigh.

Have you ever had to have a jack hammer in your house?
In your bathroom?
Well we now have.

Once he removed a ledge, he found about two inches of water sitting hidden underneath
the tile floor.
With the water shopvaced out, the jack hammer finished loosening the grout,
tile and thin-set as a nice layer of masonry dust now covered my world.
1800 pounds of debris, tile, wood, tile board and cement was hauled out of the house.

We had put down drop cloths, plastic sheeting, hung barriers against doors…
but the dust has been relentless.

Currently, we’re down to the base studs with several areas of wood having to be
replaced due to water rot.
The plumber is due out Monday, then soon the re-tiling can begin.

Twenty years of slow leaks, standing water with no way of evaporation,
and I just might have ended up in the basement, while showering,
dropping through a rotten floor.

I relay this little tale of woe because it reminds me very much of what we are
witnessing in the collective Christian Church.

Things started out solid and sure.
There was a strong base and foundation built literally with the blood, sweat and
even the very lives of the faithful.

But over time, really unbeknownst to the obvious, things began to creep in and
erode what was there.
Power, fame, ego, pride, corruption, translation disputes, schisms and heresies…
add to that the army of the unbelieving who are led by our ancient Adversary,
as they work to weedle away at what remains…

All while we’ve ignored the signs.

We’ve missed the growing mold, the erosions, the leaks….
The facade still looks ok but underneath is now barely supporting itself.

It’s time to strip things down to the very foundation…
and in order to do that, we need those who are willing to do the dirty hard work.
Otherwise what you’ve taken for granted is going to implode upon itself..
leaving you standing in an unfamiliar place wondering what the heck just happened.

…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus
himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined
together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which
God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 2:20-22

Oh really?

“Jesus is not one of many ways to approach God,
nor is He the best of several ways;
He is the only way.”

A. W. Tozer


(The Stoning of St Stephen by Rembrandt who just happens to make a small cameo appearance in the scene…the awkward face peeking out from just under the raised arm
of the man with the large stone / 1625 / Musée des beaux-arts, Lyon, France

Day before yesterday I wrote a post featuring a story about the first Christian
martyr– Stephen.

I gave a bit of the back story behind what led to Stephen’s martyrdom.
We learned that Stephen would not back down from his conviction of belief even
when faced with his own imminent demise.
He wasn’t about to start back peddling when he knew what the Truth of life
and living actually was all about…despite facing a horrific death.

That truth which was the chief cornerstone to Stephen’s very existence, was a living
and breathing knowledge of God as Father and Christ as Son
and the Spirit as mediator.

Stephen did not waiver or waffle nor did he mince his words to the those in authority
as to what his life’s choice would be…and that was to stand as a man who believed
in Jesus Christ as both his Lord and Savior….there was no thought of cost or hurt feelings or loss…

And yet the cost for him was pretty tremendous as far as the world was concerned..
It cost Stephen his earthly life.

Not his friends, not his job, not his security, not his comfort, but his life.

Conviction….a fixed or firm belief..

Stephen had such conviction.

So yesterday I came across a story in the news about a college in the Oxford
University system there in England that banned a campus Christian organization
from participating in a welcoming fair for the incoming freshman class.

Another rampant example of waffling and wavering.

I can remember when I was a college freshman.
I recall that near ecstatic level of excitement of all that was new.
New faces, new places, new friends, new opportunities…
With some of those opportunities being right up my alley and some of them not…

And isn’t that what something like this is all about…the choices offered to us?
We pick and choose…what looks appealing while discarding that which does not.

Life is like that sort of endless buffet of picking and choosing is it not?
Yet what happens when that buffet is gravely limited due to others deciding options
should not be made available.
It is then that the buffet becomes something very different from
a buffet—it becomes more of a pre fixed plate of flavorless offerings.

The opportunity for intellectual and spiritual growth becomes near stagnant
when the powers that be decide the masses might just become too dangerous if they
are given too much choice.

When only the few decide for the many that the freedom of choice and the ability
of personal decision should be a limited offering, then there is no true human growth.

A college of Oxford University banned a student Christian group from appearing at a freshman fair out of fear it would lead to “alienating” students who practice other religions.

Yet did they opt to ban the Jewish organizations, perhaps b’nai b’rith?
What of the Muslim organizations?
Perhaps any sort of pagan organization?
What of the Buddhists?
What of any political organizations?

Here is the reasoning….if one can call such reasoning rational thought….

The Christian Union of Oxford’s Balliol College was initially banned by an
event organizer who felt students might feel “unwelcome” due to what he calls
the Christian religion being “an excuse for homophobia and neo-colonialism,”
The Times of London reported.

Potts added: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has
been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice,
and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”

At last check, there is a massive difference between something perceived as a
phobia, or irrational fear, verses simply following the tenants of one’s faith.

“Many students, especially students of colour and of other faiths, may already feel alienated and vulnerable in Oxford, a university with a reputation for racism and lack of diversity, and a city with barely any appropriate places of worship for non-Christians,” Potts said, according to The Telegraph.

Ahh, so the issue here is now of overcompensation…
the act of apologizing, once again, on behalf of a past time period…
an act that is neither productive or even necessary as we are not them and they
were not us…as in days gone by….

A time period that is far removed from modern times—

So are those mutton chop young men of all things British Academia,
say the 17th and 18th centuries, during the reign of monarchs who were setting
sail in exporation in the name of the Crown, are those such young men still haunting the halls of places such as Oxford or Cambridge….I think not.

And last I checked, if I wanted to attend school in say Beijing or Riyadh,
I think I would be hard pressed in either city on finding an openly Christian place to
worship…and I would certainly not be surprised at such as neither of these cities
have a deep Christian heritage as say England—- quiet the contrary in fact.

So is this particular school spokesperson suggesting that a predominately historical Christian country, such as England, should now do away with its own heritage in order to bend over backwards…
doing away with Christian houses of worship in order to construct more mosques as a
form of overt appeasement or as some sort of welcome mat?

“A spokesperson with the Church of England told The Times that the ban was not
in line with “freedom of religion and belief,” and “is at odds with the kind of society
we are all seeking to promote.”

Finally is there actually a bit of clarity coming from the Church of England…
really???

“Leaders of the Balliol student body reportedly condemned the ban, and passed a motion calling the ban a “violation of free speech, a violation of religious freedom, and sets dangerous precedents regarding the relationship between specific faiths and religious freedom,” according to The Daily Telegraph.

Maybe there does remain a few brave souls not afraid and who will not backdown or recant
the Word of God when push comes to shove….

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/10/11/christian-group-at-oxford-university-banned-from-fair-out-fear-it-would-alienate-students.html

Be on your guard;
stand firm in the faith;
be courageous;
be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

won’t back down

“You can stand me up at the gates of Hell,
but I won’t back down!”

Tom Petty


(rod iron fence to Colonial Cemetery / Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2016)

The first official Christian martyr, or protomartyr,
was Stephen, who was killed in 36 AD.

What we know about Stephen comes to us from the Book of Acts.

A Greek speaking foreign born Jew, Stephen was elected to serve as a deacon to his community. Stephen, along with others, had appealed to the apostles that the
elderly widows within their community were being passed over and forgotten.
So Stephen, along with 6 others, were elected as official deacons who would in turn
attend to these elderly widows.

Yet Stephen was also known for being quite the evangelist.
He was an ardent speaker and witness of a new faith based on the teachings
of Jesus of Nazareth.
Stephen was known to lead many Jews to conversion.

Now we must remember that Stephen was both a Jew, born and raised,
as well as a follower of the Resurrected Christ.
A conundrum in dry and dusty Palestine.
As a Jew, he was still expected to answer to the Jewish governing body.

It was however his gift of speech and witness, along with the numerous conversions
of Jews, that would lead to Stephen’s swift demise.

Stephen was brought before the ruling Sanhedrin on charges of blaspheming.
The council believed Stephen to be nothing more than a heretic.

Eloquently, standing before the tribunal, Stephen presented his case as he spoke
of a natural and holy thread of events spiraling down through the ages as he linked
Abraham, Moses, Solomon, the Temple, David and finally culminating with Jesus Christ–
the inevitable final link in the chain.

Stephen continued explaining that the true Son of God who will come again to
judge both the living and the dead….
As he told those gathered that God’s kingdom was not to be found here on earth and
was not to be found in manmade buildings such as the Temple or in earthly accumulated treasures but rather was to be found only in the the risen Son.

Stephen closed his testimony by turning his gaze upward while announcing to those
gathered that
“I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
(Acts 7:58)
At which point the members of the council descended into chaos as they shouted and
covered their ears against hearing such seditious and heretical talk.

Shadows of Caiaphas tearing his clothes over the words of Jesus…
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you:
From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the
Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 26:64

Stephen was immediately sentenced death…being stoned to death.

Remember this was the time of pre Christian Paul–rather this was the dangerous
time of Saul, Paul’s ‘old man’ of persecution and hate…
For it was Saul who was the agent who took keen personal interest in crushing
any and all ‘heretics’ who were promoting the teaching of the crucified Nazarene.

It was Saul who paved the way for Stephen’s death and it was Saul who approved it.

Now imagine if you will what would have happened if Stephen had recanted
his teachings?
What would have happened had Stephen been frightened by the knowledge that he would
be sentenced to death.
What if the thought of having people throwing rocks at him until he died…
a death brought about slowly and painfully from rocks beating against his body,
what if the thought of such a horrific death made him change his mind?
What would have happened had he thought it would best, be easier, if he just opted
to cooperate and renounce his preachings?

What example would be set?
What presedent would then be set as a witness to other followers.
What if other followers had been too afraid?
Afraid for their own physical wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families?
How would those decisions of so long impact today?

But Stephen had seen Christ in all His glory—
there was no backing down.
There was no turning back.
He would stand against the gates of Hell and he would not back down.

…..and it was this tale of Stephen and the sacrifice of faith that came
flooding front and center to my thoughts when I read the follwing
words offered by the Scottish Pastor David Robertson regarding the latest
news coming out of both England and Scotland regarding the Anglican Church.

“The Anglican Church is officially distancing itself from biblical and historic Christianity.”
David Robertson

Whoa!

The Church, the very bride of the Christ the groom, is actually distancing herself
from Jesus Christ???!!
As she is currently turning away from the Word of the God and the tenants of Biblical teaching… choosing rather instead to go the way of the current culture gods….

We are at present witnessing the Church of Western Civilization turning herself
away from her very foundation and yet thankfully, at the same time, we are witnessing
the Church of Africa rising powerfully to the defense and forefront of that same faith…
steeped in the Truth of God’s word….

The Bishop of Uganda has addressed this very issue….

“Archbishop “The British sent missionaries to Africa in the 19th Century telling us to trust the Bible as the Word of God, now they are telling us not to”
Archbishop of Uganda

“It is one way, Henry Orombi says,
of keeping faith with those long-ago Englishmen in muttonchop whiskers who brought
the church to Africa.
“A hundred or so years ago, the fire was in the Western world,” Orombi says.
“And many of their great people went over to the countries in the Southern Hemisphere,
and reached out there, and planted seeds there.
And then things changed in the Northern Hemisphere. . . .
It now looks like the Western world is tired and old.
But, praise God, the Southern Hemisphere,
which is a product of the missionary outreach,
is young and vital and exuberant.
So, in a way, I think that what God has done is he took seeds and he planted them
in the Southern Hemisphere, and now they’re going to come back,
right to the Northern Hemisphere.
It is happening.
It is happening.”
(excerpt from an article in The New Yorker / A Church Asunder April 2017)

As I pray that Bishop Orombi is correct…

May those of us of the Faith, as we find ourselves now standing against the
very gates of Hell, may we hold fast to God’s word, being not afraid of what the world
may do to us as we continue to proclaim His Glory…

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,
and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

quiet and still—allowing God to dwell within

The first stage of this tranquility consists in silencing the lips when
the heart is excited.
The second, in silencing the mind when the soul is still excited.
The goal is a perfect peacefulness even in the middle of the raging storm.”

St. John Climacus


(the beauty of the tiny shelf fungus scattered amongst the debris deep in the woods /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Yesterday I read the following words on an Orthodox blogging site and found them to be
both comforting and soothing…
while I also desperately recognized the need to seek that same sense
of hesychia
the seeking of an inner quiet and stillness…
both of which are of the utmost importance–

This as our times are crying so utterly loudly…screaming at us in such a way that
we are actually failing in our attempts at seeking a quiet inner stillness–
We are so full from the madness of our times, so much so, that the place that God
seeks to dwell within our very being is already so terribly full…

Hesychia, stillness [quietude], is essential for man’s purification and perfection,
which means his salvation.
St. Gregory the Theologian says epigrammatically:
“One must be still in order to have clear converse with God and to bring the nous
a little away from those wandering in error”.
Through hesychia a man purifies his heart and nous from passions and thus attains
communion and union with God.
This communion with God, precisely because it is man’s union with God,
also constitutes man’s salvation.

Hesychia is nothing other than “keeping one’s heart away from giving and taking and pleasing people, and the other activities”.
When a person frees his heart [nous] from thoughts and passions,
when all the powers of his soul are transformed and turned away from earthly
[corruptible / decaying / perishable] things and towards God,
then he is experiencing Orthodox hesychia.
St. John of the Ladder writes that stillness of soul is
“the accurate knowledge of one’s thoughts and is an unassailable nous”.
Therefore hesychia is an inner state; it is “dwelling in God”.

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos.

is it well with my soul?

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”

stanza from the hymn It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio G. Spafford


(an end season skipper visits a blooming wildflower/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Is all well with your soul?

Probably not.

I know it’s not with mine….not in recent months…

If you are a breathing, sensory processing, thinking, feeling sort of human being,
chances are, that given the current day and times, all is not well with
your soul either.

How could it be?

I for one have gravitated from being an observer to what all is currently happening
around us to feeling angry, helpless, sad and frustrated.

From natural disasters that seem to ride in on each incoming wave to to the human
tragedies as seen in Las Vegas, to just our constant state of civil unrest and
disdain for our fellow citizens…
this oh so divided nation is breaking my heart.

Add in to that each of our own personal struggles and tragedies—
and life is becoming heavy to say the least.

Those of us of the faith pray, we read scripture, we listen and often we grow weary
by the weight of it all.

Those non believers amongst us often then jump on that weariness as some sort of sign of
our waffling and inner struggle as they gleefully shout that they told us all along…
there is no loving God….

And of course we know better than that…but it sure gets frustrating because we pray
and we pay and we just keep wrestling with the never-ending madness.

Growing up in the Episcopal church, the hymn It Is Well With My Soul was not
one of the hymns we sang…however I was familiar with it none the less…

So as I sat here today stewing a bit with the current condition of my “soul”—
as the heaviness just seems a bit heavier today than usual,
I did a little digging into the background of the hymn.

What I found was heart wrenching to say the least.
If there was a soul who wrestled with the heaviness and frustration and heartbreak
of life, it was Horatio G. Spafford…a successful businessman out of Chicago during
the mid 19th century.

I offer to you the following back story to this well know hymn…a story of reality, tragedy and eventually peace….
a peace in knowing that there is One who is always greater
than any trial, tragedy or frustration that we will ever face in this life….
A peace in knowing that there is One who has overcome each and every sorrow…

It Is Well with My Soul”
Horatio G. Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

With this hymn comes one of the most heartrending stories in the annals of hymnody.

The author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago.
He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was
also a devout Christian.
Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous
Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago.

Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline,
he lost everything overnight.
In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster.
But the worst was yet to come.

Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story:
“Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join
and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns
in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873.
In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments,
he had to remain in Chicago,
but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the
S.S. Ville du Havre.
He expected to follow in a few days.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic,
the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger.
Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck.
She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed
that God would spare them if that could be His will,
or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them.
Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath
the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers
including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down,
spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage.
It was Anna, still alive.
He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which,
nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales.

Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying,
“God gave me four daughters.
Now they have been taken from me.
Someday I will understand why.”

From there she wired her husband a message which began,
“Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.
Spafford left immediately to join his wife.
This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean
thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk.

Another daughter, Bertha, was born in 1878 as well as a son, Horatio, in 1880,
though he later died of scarlet fever.
After the birth of daughter Grace in 1881,
Spafford and his wife moved to Jerusalem out of a deep interest in the Holy Land.
There they established the American Colony,
a Christian utopian society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews,
Muslims and Christians.

After decades of benevolent activities, the Colony ceased to be a communal society
in the 1950s, though it continued in a second life as the American Colony Hotel,
the first home of the talks between Palestine and Israel that eventually led to the 1983 Oslo Peace Accords

(excerpted from both an article written for the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries
by Dr. Hawn who is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU as well as from a story that ran in the St Augustine Record)

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,
shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

the desperation for a happy ending

“The presence of conflict does not mean there is to be no peace…
Peace is God’s presence within that conflict…”

(the paraphrasing of a sign as seen outside of a small country church)


(Judi Dench in the role of Queen Victoria in the 1997 movie Mrs Brown)

My father adored Dame Judi Dench.
He was once willing to extend a trip to London just to catch this quintessential
actress on a London stage.

My aunt adored Dame Judi Dench’s haircut and had her hair stylist to cut her hair
just like Dame Dench’s despite the warnings from said stylist—
My aunt was too tall and had a double cowlick—simply not the right shape to pull off
such a cut—and yes, the truth be told, the cut looked much better of Dame Dench
than on Aunt Maaatha.

My son adored Dame Judi Dench in her role as M on the latest series of the Daniel Craig Bond films and was devastated when her character was killed off.

For me, I don’t think anyone has ever quite played Queen Victoria like Dame Judi Dench.

The first time I saw her playing the perpetually mourning monarch was in the 1997 movie Mrs Brown.

I had previously read the book The Empress Brown…a book written by Tom Cullen and published in 1969.
It is the tale of the life of the bereaved Monarch following the death of her beloved prince consort, Prince Albert.

John Brown was the Queen’s Scottish groom and attendant for 34 years
following the death of Albert.
It has been widely speculated that John Brown was more than just a key figure in pulling Victoria’s life back up following Albert’s death.
There has even been rumor that the two had been secretly wed.

As to whether the relationship was purely platonic or something much more will never
be known–but what is known is that the friendship was a strong remedy for a
broken hearted Queen. The friendship was a great comfort to a grieving Victoria who wore
mourning clothes for the remainder of her life.

Both Albert and Victoria were 42 when Albert died suddenly of typhoid fever.
Following his death, Victoria would continue to lay out Albert’s clothes each morning—leaving them on his bed only to be put away by an attendant each evening.

John Brown was held in great disdain by those closest to Victoria who resented any sort
of influence the brusk Scotsman may have had on the Queen as well as upon
her policy making. Yet the fact remains that John Brown was probably the closest friend
the overtly guarded Queen had during those remaining 39 years of her adult life.

There is a new movie soon to be out that once again has Dame Dench reprising her role
as an aging Queen Victoria.
This time the movie is entitled Victoria and Abdul.
The story based on the relationship between Victoria and an Indian servant,
Abdul Karim.

I read the review offered by our good friend the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
The good Wee Flea pastor did go to see the movie and offered a more historical and more accurate view of an aging Queen and an Indian servant based on the facts of the House of Hanover.

The script writers, in typical Hollywood fashion, have decided that their take on the historical facts and the relationship between a monarch, who was also the head of the Church of England and her Muslim friend, made for a much better story than that of the actual truth.
Going so far as to even insinuate that the Queen may have even had a death bed
conversion from Christianity to that of Islam.

(https://theweeflea.com/2017/09/26/victoria-and-abdul-re-writing-history-to-indoctrinate-todays-society/)

The good pastor, in his picking apart fact from fiction, references another Hollywood attempt at portraying a historical figure as something ‘other than’ in the depiction of
the Scottish warrior, William Wallace, in the film Braveheart

Whereas the legendary Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace is certainly the stuff of legend and lore, the underlying story of love and loss in Hollywood’s adaptation of the life of William Wallace makes for a much better storyline and movie than the straight
facts behind the man himself.

As I must confess that I was certainly taken by Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Wallace as to this day I often think I catch that most valiant cry of FREEDOM riding in on
an easterly blowing wind.

Yet that’s the thing.
We love a good story.
We love a happy ending.
We actually yearn for a happy ending.

Throw in some rich cinematography, a beautiful musical score and we’ll have bought in, hook, line and sinker.

As we prefer our history lessons to be of such entertaining wonderment.

But contrary to Hollywood, or anyone else for that matter, life, real life,
is not all about happy endings.

We’ve just witnessed such in the latest mass shooting coming out of Vegas.

There is no happy ending there nor will there ever be.
Yet we want desperately to hear of such.

And so our news folks, our media, our politicians and eventually our very selves will
each spin, twist and distort whatever we can in order to assuage the overwhelming and incompressible pain.
There will be continued deflection in an attempt to dodge the very real and very sad
hard truth.

We can pass laws, we can rewrite the events as we distort the facts…
but when all is left open and bare…the truth is that there will always be man…
a fallen and broken creature who makes his (and her) way in a fallen world that is the battleground of both Good and Evil.

Gun laws will come and go, other laws and demands will come and go, arguments
and hateful rhetoric will come and go as we desperately try to stave the literal bleeding….but man, bent on evil acts, will continue to carry out the heinous and
the unbelievable because there is no stopping the Evil that walks
this planet.

There is no Nirvana, no Heaven nor Valhalla on this earth…no perfect place where the people live in some sort of scripted perfect unity and utopia and despite all the laws written and all the regulations passed and all the rhetoric spewed forth…
we can never rid ourselves of the duality of ourselves—
that being both the Good and Evil of man.

That is not to say that we can’t do our best to safe guard our way of life—
but we know that those broken, wounded and lost will continue to carry out acts of
hate and destruction and violence despite our best efforts.
Despite the current finger pointing and ranting.
We can’t rewrite, let alone stop, what took place that fateful day in a garden
so long ago.

No matter how hard we want to rewrite this fact into something other than, into
our own lovely notion of some far fetched happy ending…the only fact,
the only healing, the only saving Grace will be found in the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ—bottom line and end of sentence.
The saving Grace found in the Blood of the Lamb….

And until that fact is figured out—we will live in the middle of a fallen, evil,
hate filled world.

Hollywood and the politicians can’t write us out of that….

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not
justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified
by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law,
because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin?
Absolutely not!
If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained
through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Galatians 2:15-21