Faithful Last Words

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The attitude of the faithful when facing the end of earthly life is inspiring. The last words of many of these show not only their own belief that they are mere pilgrims passing through this world below, but also give those who witness these parting words strength and comfort as well.

In extreme cases there have been the martyrs who have laid down their lives for the faith.  Their words are witness to their motivation. Among the most famous of these are the words of Polycarp, who was killed by the Romans in circa 155,

“For eighty and six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” 

Sir Thomas More is another great example, as he was executed for refusing to accept Henry VIII as the supreme head of the church.  He expressed his civil loyalty, but his loyalty to God had to come first, even at the cost of his life,

“I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first.”  July 6, 1535

Dietrich Bonhoffer, a German theologian, showed a similar faith, and made a claim of faith in God’s promises, even as he faced a Nazi firing squad for his refusal to put Hitler first,

 “This may seem to be the end for me, but it is just the beginning.”

Not all of the faithful die martyrs, of course. Many die surrounded by family and friends.  But no matter what the cause of death, the reflections on God’s promise is clear. Stephen, the first Christian martyr shows this with his words of Acts 7: 56,

“Then Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”

He was not alone in this.  On 10 May 1863, the devout Christian, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died after uttering the words,

“Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

This passing over to rest and home was seen in the dying words of the missionary David Livingstone in Africa as well,

“Build me a hut to die in. I am going home.”

The Christian artist Michelangelo, famed for his David, Moses, and Sistene Chapel saw his destination as a better place as well,

“I die in the faith of Jesus Christ, and in the firm hope of a better life.”

The Christian evangelist D.L. Moody died on 22 December 1899 and saw his own passing as a victory,

“This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!”

The author and preacher John Bunyan told those assembled at his death bed,

“Weep not for me, but for yourselves. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, through the mediation of His blessed Son, receives me, though a sinner. We shall meet to sing the new song, and remain everlastingly happy.”   August 31, 1688 

What wonderful witness, let us all look forward to the New Song.

Padre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Brief Stop in Aberystwyth

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Aberystwyth Pier

When our daughter was at university in Wales, we had several occasions to visit the West Coast. One of the nice seaside stops was Aberystwyth.  This town is a classic British beach setting with a beach, pier, and over looking cliffs.

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Cliffs 

The beach is below the promenade and makes an arch around Cardigan Bay from the edge of town to the cliffs.

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Beach and Cardigan Bay

I enjoyed the promenade as a place to enjoy the views and to relax on the serpent themed benches.  After a brief “soaking it in” be headed to the pier for some ice cream and a pie.

Don Gelato’s  Ice Cream Parlour is part of the Royal Pier complex and is adjoined to the Inn on the Pier. There were multiple cone types, but ice cream/gelato flavours are the real choices to make. We had Turkish delight, strawberry, and chocolate. They were flavourful, and had a really great texture. The scoops were relatively large compared to some seafront cones we have had, and while not cheap, they are good value for money considering the quality. There was some queuing to be served, but the quality of the ice cream was worth it, and the staff were doing their best to accommodate everyone. This really has to be the place to get your seaside cone on a warm day.

Padre
 

Great Sustainer

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God is the Great Sustainer.  There are many things in life that overwhelm.  There are sustainers which attempt to help us through these trials, but ultimately – these while talented and well-meaning still fall short of providing us with “peace that is beyond all understanding.”

Cancer treatment is a great case in point. Oncologists are generally suburb in what they do – treating the symptoms of cancer.  They may through their God-given skills and talents arrest the disease, and even reverse it by either physically removing it from the body, or “killing” it within.  What they don’t do generally in their limited focus on the “disease” is tell the patients what the consequences of treatment are.  “We will beat this,” sounds great, but it means we will get rid of the tumor.  They really don’t seem to see the effects as “major”, after all you are still alive.  Yes, alive burned from radiation.  Yes, alive with adhesions in your internal organs.  Yes, alive psychologically afraid of all things clinical. Yes, alive but “chemo brained” and forgetful.

These are nonetheless dedicated sustainers of life.  They really do have positive motives, and care for some aspects of well being.  They merely lack a bigger picture, which only God sees.  I as a minister care deeply for the souls and spiritual well-being of those with whom I serve.  I counsel, care, and even cry with people.  I too am a sustainer.  But I am limited.  I can’t treat cancer. I can’t fix your plumbing. I can’t repair your car. Nor, with my limited abilities, would you want me to try.

Each of us sustains those around us in little ways.  Some in even “major” ways (doctors). But all pale in comparison to the Great Sustainer, Who I am in more need of today than ever.

Lord, please sustain us today.

Padre

Very Berry Cooler

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Here is another cooling summer drink which is great after an afternoon of gardening.  It uses grape juice, cordial, and coulis for a great fruity blend, and sugar-free lemonade for a hint of fizz. Chilled nicely it really hits the spot.

Ingredients:

  • White Grape Juice 200 ml
  • Strawberry Cordial 75 ml
  • Raspberry Coulis 2 Tbs
  • Diet Lemonade (Sprite) 50 – 100 ml (to top off)

Method:

Stir cordial and coulis together in a glass, and add the chilled grape juice. Give a stir, and then add the chilled lemonade to top off.  Again a simple drink, and very tasty. Garnish with a fresh berry on the side of the glass.

Padre

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Strawberry and Shloer Rossini (Mocktail)

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Another sparkling wine based cocktail is the Strawberry and Prosecco Rossini.  Usually made with fresh berries and chilled wine, this drink is then “boosted” (or “boozed”) with a shot of vodka.  This non-alcoholic alternative, however, has all the sweetness without the bite (or the non-favourable effects for kids, the pregnant, or us non-drinkers).

Ingredients:

  • White Grape Shloer (or other sparkling Grape Juice) 250 ml
  • Strawberries 6 (hulled and sliced in half)
  • Sugar 1 rounded Tbs
  • Strawberry Flavoured Syrup 1 tsp (optional)
  • Lemon Juice 1 tsp

Method:

Place berries, sugar, syrup, and lemon juice in a blender and blitz until smooth.  Pour mixture into chilled champagne flutes (or drinks glass) and slowly pour in chilled grape juice.  That’s all there is to it.

Padre

Cuddles on the Beach (Mocktail)

 

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One of the most eye catching names for a cocktail is the provocative “Sex on the Beach.” The non-alcoholic parallel drink is “Cuddles on the Beach.” I like the innocence of the name, and the drink isn’t bad either.  Here is an easy “summer drink” version.

Ingredients:

  • Cranberry Juice 100 ml
  • Grapefruit Juice 100 ml
  • Pear Nectar 75 ml
  • Lemonade (Sprite) 30 – 50 ml
  • Ice

Method:

Place 3 or 4 ice cubes in a glass, and add the cranberry juice.   Then add the remaining juices and stir gently.  Top off glass with the fizzy lemonade and serve.  It is that easy.

Padre

 

“Let Them Eat Cake”

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No, I am not referring to France in the close of the Old Order, but rather Britain in 2018.  Let me first comment that I am a pescetarian (vegetarian diet with seafood). I often, however, go for the vegetarian options when eating out.  I was at a function held at (and catered by) a major international hotel chain.  While the organisers had requested vegetarian, and vegan options, these offerings were at first centred around salad and dessert.  All other dishes were meat related.

Such is the nature of eating out on a limited diet. It really was a case of “let them eat cake.” To be fair, after commenting, the ubiquitous cheese and tomato sandwiches arrived, and more salad (vegan option).

This type of experience has several other cultural applications for travellers.   I have found that pancakes are the “go to” choice in parts of eastern Europe (mushroom or cheese filled usually), and pasta in the Med areas.  But veggie options are often hit and miss.

The UK’s biggest grocery chain is a case in point. Veggie ready made sandwiches at Tesco are usually cheese and pickle, ploughman’s, or egg and cress.  They have only recently teamed up with Wicked Kitchens for more exciting veggie fare.  I hope to review these options shortly.

Eating at another persons home is something to consider as well.  I am always flattered to be invited to eat with another family.  It is an intimate social occasion, and should always be appreciated as such. But it can create a broad spectrum of issues such as religious standards (halal, kosher); health-related (gluten intolerance); and lifestyle/ethical questions (vegetarian).

Here is a real life scenario. The vegetarian dutifully explains to the host/hostess that they are a vegetarian, and is assured that that will be no problem. When dinner is served, chicken is in pride of place as the main course. “I hope that’s alright,” the host says, “we made sure that there was no meat.”

What is one to do?

Maybe, just eat cake (or salad).

Padre

 

 

Loving Obedience

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Brother Joe brought a thoughtful message to us this week on the theme of obedience.  He prefaced his remarks with a reminder that all of our actions as Christians are potentially worship, from our expressions of praise, our singing, our prayer, and yes, our obedience.

Such worshipful obedience has love at its root. And it is because of this love first shown to us that we reciprocate. We love because He first loved us.

John’s gospel says of obedience,

If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him (John 14: 15, 21, and 23).”

And Jesus’ words are clear, we are to love the lord our God with all of our heart, mind, and strength.  Here is the root of obedience.  To follow the examples, and commands he has give us.  This is not an act of legalistic obligation, nor as a “purchase” of salvation, but as a manifestation of thanksgiving, and of mutual love and relationship with God.

Our obedience is merely a reflection of the indwelling of His love and Spirit within us.  We are transformed by Him, and we have become loving people.  I John 4 says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (verses 7 -8).”

Being thus born of God, in love it is now our nature to follow the two great commandments: to love God, and to love our neighbours. If we look at the most obvious framework, in obedience (the Ten Commandments) we see that these clearly address these two aspects of relationship.

Our worshipful obedience is about relationship.  It is reflecting back to God, what He has bestowed on us.  Let us not therefore seek to be rule keepers, but rather to be mirrors of righteousness.  Let us be beacons of worship, and of love.

Padre

 

 

 

 

 

In the Footsteps of William

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Bayeux Panel from http://www.medievalists.net

Autumn 1066 just a few miles north of Hastings, Harold Godwinson formed his shield wall on a rise between the coast and London. His English army was battle weary and foot sore, but with them rested the future of the island kingdom. What happened next is much studied, and in some aspects controversial.  Did William of Normandy win the day, or did Harold lose it?

My wife and I have made several trips over the years following the footsteps of William and the Hastings story.  These journeys have taken us to Normandy, Yorkshire, and the south coast of England.  It has been a great learning experience and one which has enriched my understanding of Medieval history.

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Château de Falaise

Our journey began at William’s castle, Château de Falaise in Normandy.  This was the centre of his power and authority as Duke of Normandy. This “Cliff Castle” is impressive, though what is now seen is not William’s motte and bailey structure, but a later stone fortification completed by his heirs.

The village of Falaise has a lot of William touristy venues, but there is a really striking scupture of William in the square which is really worth seeing.

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William

Most of what many people know about the 1066 invasion comes from the pictorial account commissioned by William’s half brother, Bishop Odo. Now known as the Bayeux Tapestry this massive “comic strip” of the events of the invasion is housed in The Museum La Tapisserie de Bayeux in Normandy.  It is over 70 metres long, and records the events leading to the conquest up through William’s coronation as King of England. The tapestry is enclosed in glass in subdued light, and a headset is issued which explains each panel as you work your way through the account.  There is also a reproduction of a Norman ship (boat) outside the museum.

While not technically in the footsteps of William, Stanford Bridge in Yorkshire was our next destination.  This battle between the English and Danish claimants to the throne was pivotal in William’s fortunes.  The English army under Harold had been waiting for William’s arrival on the south coast of England when news arrived that the Vikings had invaded in the north.  The English marched the length of the country to attack the Danes in Yorkshire on the 25th of September. This was an English victory, but at the cost of good men, and the exhaustion of the army, which then had to make the return trip to meet William’s army.

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A rainy Stamford Bridge

The Battle of Hasting itself  was fought a few miles north of Hastings on the south coast. Battle Abbey is administered by English Heritage and is the site of the famous battle. The Englsih controlled the high ground and had a formidable shield wall.  The Normans and their allies made several attempts to break this defensive line, and failed in each.  But the untrained English allowed the wall to break in order to chase fleeing Bretons, weakening the position.  William capitalised on this, and made it a battle strategy to runaway, then turn on the pursuers. By the end of the day, Harold was dead, and William was on his way to London.

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Battle Abbey

The present abbey grounds are well kept, and again their are several themed souvenir shops and cafes in the area.  We did find parking a little tricky, but with some effort spaces can be found.

Our journey then went full circle, and we visited the final venue back in Normandy in the town of Caen and the final resting place of William.  He had returned on several occasions to his lands in Normandy, and when he died was buried in the monastery of  Abbaye aux Hommes.  This is a really splendid building, and there are some nice gardens adjoining it. We were able to finish our journey with a pleasant park visit in a gentle breeze.

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Padre

“Just Peachy” Fruit and Milk Drink

 

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Here is a summer drink that is a pseudo-smoothie, and has a very nice flavour to it.  It blends fresh fruit, juice, and milk to make a satisfying drink.  I have made it with rice milk as it has a relatively unintrusive taste (unlike soy or coconut), but cow’s milk could be used as well.

Ingredients:

  • Ripe Peach 1
  • Peach Nectar 100 ml (chilled)
  • Rice Milk 200 ml (chilled)

Method:

Remove stone from the peach and cut into pieces. [The peach can be peeled, though I leave the skin on]. Put peach in a blender and add the peach nectar.  Blend until smooth, then add the milk and blend again until evenly mixed.  Serve in a chilled glass.

Padre