Archive for August, 2011

Love Wins

August 31, 2011
Love Wins - Rob Bell

Love Wins - Rob Bell

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8

If you judge people, you have no time to love them. — Mother Teresa

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels … and though I have the gift of prophecy … and have all the faith so that I could remove mountains … and have not love, I am nothing. — Saint Paul

Pictures at an Exhibition.
A quote from Ghandi.
A note is pinned.
Ghandi is in hell.
Who says?
How do you know?
Are you sure?

If Ghandi is in hell, what hope is there for the rest of us?

If darkness is the absence of light, then evil is the lack of good.

Good cop v bad cop. God the bad cop, Jesus the good cop.

What is good, what is evil? Why are some thrown into hell, not others?

We sit in judgement on others. How do we decide what is right, what is wrong?

Why would a loving God wish to throw us into hell, see us suffer?

Those who wish to see us cast into hell, always seem to belong to the group who will be saved.

Jan Hus, a Czech religious reformer, was burnt at the stake in 1415 for heresy for offering the chalice of of communion to the laity as well as the clergy. Even today there are those who can and those who cannot accept Holy Communion.

In the Witch of Portobello, Athena is denied Holy Communion when it is learnt she is divorced. She curses the church. Jesus is portrayed outside looking in saying even He would not be welcome there.

During His life Jesus welcomed all. At the Last Supper, he offered the wine as His blood, the bread as His body.

The popular misconception of heaven is as an otherwordly place some place else where people wander around aimlessly looking lost. St Peter is a bouncer at the gate ensuring only those on a higly selective guest list gain access.

The one word to describe this heaven would be boredom. For many it would be hell.

In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus explicitly said where heaven was. It was not some place else. It was all around and within us. Seek and ye shall find.

Christians mumble some half undestood litergy. Sing His praises, but everyone else can go hang.

Do we do good to gain that much valued ticket into heaven, or should we do good because it is the right thing to do?

The Koran recognises and preaches tolerance of other religions. Those who believed in the one God and did good had a special place, theirs was the path to salvation.

Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in the last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from the Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

What do I have to do to do good for eternal life, who is my neighbour? These were put to Jesus. He answered with the story of the Good Samaritan.

Dalai Lama:

I am convinced that human nature is basically affectionate and good. If our behavior follows our kind and loving nature, immense benefits will result, not only for ourselves, but also for the society to which we belong. I generally refer to this sort of love and affection as a universal religion. Everyone needs it, believers as much as non-believers. This attitude constitutes the very basis of morality.

To understand the life of Jesus and what he said, we have have to understand the first century context, the Roman-Greek-Jewish culture.

Many prophets spoke of heaven. It was not someplace else but the earth in another age, an age to come.

If our behaviour is bad now, greed, failure to care for the environment, why should it be any better in heaven? Why therefore should we be granted access to heaven?

It is what we do now, we bring heaven into our era.

Our role is as custodians of Gaia, partners with God.

The Greek word aion has two meaning. Another era or age but also a different state. Heaven was also used to mean God. There are some who even today, for example Canon Andrew White, who out of respect and awe, use G-d not God.

If our popular misconception of heaven is wrong, what of hell? Is it not a pit of burning flames and nashing of teeth into which we will be cast?

Would a loving God cast us into hell to to be tortured for all eternity for wrongs in a finite life? Worse still, because we do not believe that which fundamentalists say we must believe?

Do we not have free will? Are we not free to choose? If yes, then we have to be free to choose what we believe.

When Jesus spoke of hell he was talking of a valley outside Jerusalem where the rubbish was dumped. Fires burnt day and night to consume the rubbish, wild animals fought over the scraps of food.

Man is more than capable of creating his own man-made hell.

The trenches of World War One.
The Soviet Gulags.
Nazi death camps.
Pol Pot killing fields in Cambodia.

Hell is when we love someone, we think they love us, then they go out of their way to destroy us.

The eyes are a window into the soul. Look into the eyes of a heroin addict to get a glimpse of hell.

A paradox: Those who work hard to eliminate hell on earth seem less concerned about a mythical hell in a mythical afterlife. Those who worry about hell in the afterlife turn a blind eye to the hell here on earth.

Fundamentalists use hell to generate fear, a crude control mechanism. If anyone is to be cast in hell, they must surely be first in line.

Jews asks questions, Christians seek answers. Jesus answered questions with a question. That is the style of Rob Bell.

There are those who do not go into church for fear a thunderbolt will strike. There are those who think themselves superior to those weaklings who need a crutch. There are those who just feel uncomfortable.

Rob Bell sheds a much needed spotlight on the perversion of scripture, the damage to people’s lives by Christian fundamentalists.

Controversial? No.

Unpopular with Christian fundamentalists? Yes.

Whilst reading Love Wins, passages from The Shack kept coming to mind. Love Wins is the ideal companion to The Shack, but read The Shack first.

Aleph is a good follow on to Love Wins.

Francis Chan has written ‎Erasing Hell as a counter to Love Wins. It begs the question why?

Christians are hypocrites. They are quick to tell Muslims to put their house in order, to deal with Muslim extremists, then turn a blind eye to their own extremists and the damage they do.

Christian funadamentalits are not envoys for Christianity, on the contrary they cause a lot of harm and give Christianity a bad name.

Meddling by Christian fundamentalists in Iraq has led directly to the slaughter of Christians.

Love Wins is a breath of fresh air, Rob Bell shines a light onto the activities of Christian fundamentalists, their perversion of Scripture, the spreading of poison, the destruction of lives.

Some of the most unpleasant people I have met have been Christian fundamentalists, rude, intolerant, ignorant, lacking in grace.

What is it with evangelical Christians?
Why are evangalists such a pain in the arse?
A lack of grace

I was in the courtyard of New Mosque in the old city of Istanbul. I had an interesting discussion with three young Muslim women on whether or not the Koran demands the wearing of a headscarf. The discussion was held without rancour, in good humour. I cannot imagine a similar discussion with Christian fundamentalists.

Jesus was offered an easy route when he encountered the Devil in the desert. He declined. His disciples asked that he used his powers to gain believers. He said no.

Dostoevsky tells a story, retold by Philip Yancey and Paulo Coelho, of Jesus visiting Spain during the Inquisition. Jesus is recognised and thrown into prison. He is told he will have to be executed as he cannot be allowed to undo the good work of the Church, that he should have accepted the offer from the Devil. [see The Grand Inquisitor

Paulo Coelho in Aleph has a chilling account of the Inquisition. People were tortured to confess their sins, thrown on a fire so that flames could cleanse their unclean souls.

You cannot force people to believe. They will not believe in their souls.

Rob Bell welcomes debate and discussion. A Christian bookshop invited discussion, then censored the discussion.

Muslim fundamentalists are not brainwashed by evil clerics, they are self brainwashed. They read a book or watch a video from a Muslim bookshop, or hear something in the mosque. This changes their worldview. This worldview then filters what they see, reinforces itself. before we know it, they are on their way to a training camp in Pakistan.

It follows, Christian bookshops need to be very careful what they are promoting, that they are not on a slippery slope to hell.

We saw in Norway what happens when Christian fundamentalists have access to weapons. Slaughter of the innocents follows.

Intolerance is not a pleasant characteristic, on the other hand there are things we should not tolerate. The sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and the cover-up by the Church. The rape and pillage of the planet. The lack of clean water. Torture.

Synchronicity: I had almost finished reading Love Wins when I read The Redeemer. Much of Love Wins can be found in The Redeemer.

The Shack
Aleph

Before God

August 30, 2011
in the Grand Bazaar

in the Grand Bazaar

30 August: End of Ramadan. Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim friends here! — Paulo Coelho

An old man sold toys in the Baghdad market. Knowing that his sight was not quite perfect, his customers sometimes paid him with fake money.

The old man discovered the ruse, but did not say anything.

In his prayers he asked God to forgive those who cheated him.

“Perhaps they’re short of money and want to buy presents for their children,” he said to himself.

The time passed and the old man died. Standing before the gates of Heaven, he prayed once more:

– Lord! – he said. – I am a sinner. I did many wrong things, I am no better than the false coins I was paid. Forgive me!

At that moment the gates swung open and a Voice was heard:

– Forgive what? How can I judge someone who all through his life never once passed judgment on others?

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog to mark Eid Mubarak, end of Ramadan.

Dumb pointless ideas for National Book Week

August 30, 2011

Please, don’t leave me alone here. The journey is my salvation.

It’s National Book week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status. Don’t mention the book. Post these rules as part of your facebook status.

I have cheated slightly and added the sixth sentence as a clue.

Seems a bloody dumb way to promote National Book Week. Give a sentence from a book almost chosen at random it may as well be then not declare the book. At the very least first sentence.

Here is a very easy one …

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

A very difficult one …

Oh, no, not another ritual!

This is actually a way for developing a very secure code, but promoting National Book Week!

A far better idea would be to give a favourite book to someone at random. I often do this.

Or for National Book Week: Piss off Waterstone’s.

Go in your local Waterstone’s look at their latest releases chalked up, then ask why no mention of Aleph by Paulo Coelho due out in two days time. When they tell you he is not a well known author pick yourself up off the floor from laughing. [see Paulo Coelho unknown author]

And when is National Book Week?

No idea. It could have been last week, it could be this week. It could have been many weeks ago, these dumb ideas, or at least one dumb idea, ricocheting around the net.

National Book Week was of course dispayed in Waterstone’s. Er, no. But then Guildford Waterstone’s has not mentioned the Guildford Bookfestival for the last two years, let alone release of an eagerly awaited book, Aleph, by a well known author.

Afternoon trip to Alton

August 30, 2011

It is a pleasant train trip down to Alton, or at least it is if you get a train. The last time I made the trip to Alton was a few weeks ago to the Alton Food Festival (which was not worth visiting) and what should have been a train trip was a nightmare journey by bus instead. Luckily on Saturday the trains were running.

I set off rather late, and as a result did not arrive in Alton until late afternoon.

I was disappointed to find I had not long missed a steam train. Talking to station staff I learnt a steam train was due to arrive in 15 minutes. More like half an hour, but it was worth the wait.

I passed by Alton Secondhand Books, an excellent secondhand bookshop. They had a good selection of books, including books by Paulo Coelho. I picked up a copy of Veronika Decides to Die.

Passing by Lantern Foods I was sorry to see that it was closing the following week unless a buyer could be found as the owners were retiring.

I looked in Waterstone’s. No mention on their new releases of Aleph by Paulo Coelho due out in less than a week’s time. I asked. The staff were not aware of Aleph. They looked it up on their system, it was availabe at a discount but no idea at what discount. No pre-orders. [see Paulo Coelho unknown author]

Paulo Coelho is not that well known in England, at least that was the reasoning of the staff at Waterstone’s Alton. But is it true for Alton? Alton Secondhand Books had a good selection of books by Paulo Coelho and furthermore told me he was a very popular author.

I went for a walk through the watermeadows. The river bed had dried up, more so than my last visit a few weeks earlier. There had been heavy rain for the last week, but I guess not sufficient to recharge the underground aquifers which feed the River Wey.

A measure of how poor the Alton Food Festival a few weeks ago, I came away with zilch. This trip I was laden down and that was from two shops, Lantern Foods and the local greengrocer.

Alton is a small relatively unspoilt market town, the source of the River Wey.

Bus trip to Godalming

August 26, 2011

It was raining in Guildford so I hopped on a bus to Godalming.

Godalming is a classic example of how to destory a small market town. Inappropriate buildings, inappropriate shop fronts.

Greed writ large. Corrupt and incompetent planners writ large. Clone town writ large.

But it is well worth a visit.

As you approach it on the bus, you cross the bridge over the River Wey and pass by water meadows. On the edge of the town centre small independent businesses, and down the side streets, especially Church Street leading down to the Parish Church.

Inside the church remains of an old Saxon font, believed to be the oldest in the country.

A lovely little museum which is well worth a visit. There was an exhibition of hand-carved furniture and musical instruments. Fantastic craftmanship using wood from native trees. I was even able to pick up an album of beautiful haunting music made on the instruments, Out of our Woods (instruments made and played by Mervyn Mewis and Kathryn Young). Walk through the museum into a lovely little garden. I was very surprised to learn the spherical flowers were hydrangeas as they are usually flat umbells.

In the centre of Godalming a Waterstone’s bookshop which just happens to also be the Post Office. On the chalk board of new releases no mention of Aleph by Paulo Coelho due out in exactly one week’s time on 1 September 2011. But to their credit they had far more releases chalked up than Waterstone’s in Guildford. The girl I spoke to was very helpful but sadly did not know of Aleph. [see Paulo Coelho unknown author]

Godalming still has a baker, greengrocer and butcher.

The River Wey runs alongside the back of Godalming with watermeadows beyond.

Getting to Godalming by bus was easy, getting back problematic. It was a pleasant evening and I went and sat by the river and as a result found that I had missed a bus by 20 minutes. The next bus was over an hour wait, being the last bus at 1954. Not wishing to wait, I walked to the station and caught a train.

Godalming is a small market town south of Guildford on the River Wey. It can be reached from Guildford by either bus or train.

Happy Birthday Paulo Coelho!

August 24, 2011
Happy Birthday Paulo - Ken Crane

Happy Birthday Paulo - Ken Crane

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

— Psalm 91, 9:13

Aleph de Paulo Coelho

August 24, 2011

Gracias Rosa!

Aleph by Paulo Coelho is due for publication in UK 1 September 2011 (USA 27 September 2011).

Paulo Coelho unknown author

Listening to the sound of silence

August 22, 2011

O, God, when I listen to the voices of animals, the sounds of trees, the murmurings of water, the singing of birds, the whispering of the wind, or the boom of thunder, I see in them evidence of Your unity; I feel that You are supreme power, omniscience, supreme knowledge, and supreme justice. — J

Find a quiet location, relax, discharge your mind of all thoughts, then listen to the sound of silence.

I did just that Sunday afternoon sitting in a woodland glade at the bottom of my garden.

I could hear a whooshing, rustling sound, it was the wind in the trees. Nearby a a bird or birds singing. Somewhere in the distance, a motorbike, a plane, a child playing.

Walking through woods we can enjoys the silence. Stop and listen and we hear many sounds.

Two weeks earlier I had walked with a friend through watermeadows outside Farnham. Once we we were beyond the sound of traffic on a busy road we could hear the birds singing. [see An afternoon walk along the River Wey to Waverley Abbey]

One of the quietest places we can be is inside an anechoic chamber, a soundproof room.

In the late 1970s I was sat on a chair in one such place. The chair had a panic button as one can go mad. Was it silent? No, I could hear the blood circulating in my body!

The Pilgrimage

Cobbstock III

August 22, 2011

Walking through Gostrey Meadow by the River Wey in Farnham I could hear music.

Curious, I followed it to its source and found myself at a hog roast and rockabilly festival at the back of the William Cobbett. The music was good, as was the hog roast. Welcome to Cobbstock III.

I then carried on my way, walking through Downing Street.

Whoever said Farnham was clone town is a either a fool or a knave. Clone town it is not.

Downing Street is becoming a little food oasis. A butcher, green grocer, Deli, which I had not seen before, and a Cook shop which I had not seen before. From the Cook shop I got delicious cheesecake the like of which I had never tasted before.

There used to be a marvelous Hammick’s bookshop in Downing Street. It alone was worth a visit to Farnham. It relocated, was taken over by Ottaker’s, who in turn were taken over by Waterstone’s.

Did what was now Waterstone’s list Aleph by Paulo Coelho as a new release? Sadly not, they were not even aware it was due for release on 1 September, nor could they even find it on their system. They had a vague awareness of Paulo Coelho. [see Paulo Coelho unknown author]

I had hoped to go back to the William Cobbett, but was too tired, so set off home.

The William Cobbett, formerly The Jolly Farmer (renamed in the 1970s in honour of William Cobbett), home of William Cobbett. At the time of Cobbett’s birth (1762) it was a farmhouse. The William Cobbett contains a framed copy of the Political Register, the political journal founded by Cobbett.

William Cobbett (1762-1835), farmer, pamphleteer, radical, social commentator, started out in life as a crow-scarer and ploughboy. As an assiduous student he mastered French, rhetoric, geometry, logic and fortifications. He served six years in America where he was placed in charge of the regimental accounts and registers. On his return to England he married the daughter of a soldier, spent some time in France, then returned to America. After a couple of years the fiery contents of his leaflets forced him to return to England.

Farnham is an old market town on the side of the River Wey.

Sometimes we are delayed for a reason. I was delayed by heavy rain for two hours, the train was twenty minutes late. It was mid-afternoon when I was walking through Gostrey Meadows. Had I not been delayed I would not have heard the music, not found Cobbstock III. [see The Zahir]

Hazelnuts

August 20, 2011
hazelnuts

hazelnuts

This last week, hazelnuts, or cob nuts as they are also known, have been falling off the trees.

Very unusual to have them this early, mid-August, it is usually mid-September, when I never seen them as just before they are ready, the squirrels steal them.

Yet another example of shifting seasons as the climate warms up.

Shifting seasons