Today I Preach

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I have been a religious educator for nearly three decades.  I, along my spiritual journey, have also been a chaplain and a “pulpit minister.”  For ten years I preached on average three times a week, and found the exhilaration of bringing the Word of God to an audience.  I then made the lateral step into full time teaching, and with that move, my “pulpit time” dropped to occasional filling in for others, and to chaplaincy events.   The number of engagements has dropped even more in recent years (though my educational and advisory roles have increased).  So it is with mixed feelings that I face the challenge of God’s call today.  I am scheduled to deliver not one but two messages in a single day, at two separate churches. I am excited, but I am also apprehensive to be entrusted with the burden of God’s Word.

The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 9:16 said, ” For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”  I well understand him.  I preach not for my glory, but His.  The message of the gospel is compelling.  Woe to me, if I do not share, teach, admonish and comfort with it.

So, here I am preparing to stand before those who have all the usual human needs.  I trust that God’s Spirit will make me worthy and capable to meet those needs, not through my strength, but His.

Padre

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Windmills On My Mind

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Spanish Windmill

Don Quixote battled them and for centuries they produced the flour that made our bread.  Windmills or wind pumps have processed our grain, drained fen land, and now even provide electricity. But they are also great landmarks and photo ops for travelers.

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I live in the East of England, a region with large areas of reclaimed land.  This new agricultural landscape, much of it great flat expanses were perfect areas for grain, and with the grain came the mills.  Both these wind pumps and mills still feature on the landscape.

Many people think these are beautiful, historical features and believe they add to the character and atmosphere of the area.  They are photographed, admired, and oft visited.  Some are working mills with tours, and fresh locally produced flour (and sometimes even baked products) for sale.  Others, like the mill in East Dereham in Norfolk, operate as museums and have visitor centres and cafes.

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Dereham Mill

These wonders of technology, which convert the energy of the wind to do amazing feats of lifting, grinding and pumping are not just a British affair.  The header photo used today is from Spain, and I have found beautiful examples around the world including the city mill in Amsterdam and the Rehavia Mill in Jerusalem.

But these beautiful artifacts of our past had practical functions.  They were not built as tourist attractions, but as working machines.  They played important roles in the functioning of society.  Today, wind power has again come into vogue as it is a renewable “non-polluting” source of energy.  It is not without its critics.  Huge (massively larger than the mills of yore) turbines have sprung up.  They often exist in large batteries whether on hill tops or off shore.  Some say they destroy the natural beauty.  Others say they are away of preserving that self-same environment.  Some say they are beautiful and  calming to watch, others an eyesore. For now, the jury is out.  But in time they may come to have the same iconic status of their lofty ancestors.

Padre

Amsterdam By Canal Bus

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Canal Buses

It is no secret that I am a great fan of Hop on Hop off services.  I find these an incredibly convenient way to get the feel of a new city, and to work out my priorities of “things to see and do.” Amsterdam provides a great twist in this, as the Hop on Hop off service is via Canal Bus.  These boats make the rounds of the city’s canal system, and make a really pleasurable way to explore the town.

Amsterdam grew as as town after the dam was built on the Amstel.  Over time the rings of canals were added to facilitate continued expansion of the city. This system of waterways is perfect to connect the various parts of the city, and to tour from.

Stops include the central station, the Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank’s House, and the bus can be joined at any of these [plus several more].  So we started at the train station and began our day of leisurely discovery.

As the water bus made its way around the rings of canals, we were able to take in the Dutch architecture and, as it was a Hop on Hop off, to do some souvenir shopping including the “must have” wooden shoes.

We had several great foodie moments in Amsterdam as well, and the canal based eateries were really easy to reach from the Hop on Hop off.  Hard Rock Cafe is always a favourite of ours, and several coffee houses are found on the banks as well, providing places to chill and watch the water traffic.

The open harbour area has several “must see” attractions including the Nemo Museum, A Dutch East Indiaman (museum), and a floating Chinese restaurant.

There is a large park near the Rijksmuseum where the I am sterdam sign/monument is located, and the museum itself if full of national treasures including Rembrandt’s Night Watch. This is a really impressive painting, and for Pratchett fans, the inspiration of one of the Vimes novels.

[Here is a great video of a Flashmob stunt which was staged to mark the return of Rembrandt’s Night Watch to the Rijksmuseum].

Amsterdam is a great city to visit, and the Canal Bus option is a real winner to aid you in your explorations.

Padre

Canal Bus Link

North Norfolk Getaway

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We recently had a country getaway in North Norfolk.  We made our base of operations the Scarborough Hill Country Inn.  This is a special place for us as we have had several getaways here, including our honeymoon.

This is a quirky little inn but with rustic grounds, and relatively easy access to the Norfolk Coast, the Broads, and to Norwich.  It has several guestrooms and two themed suites, The Lord Nelson and the Lady Hamilton. What a great Norfolk theme.

We have stayed in both suites and both are nice.  Both have sunken baths, and the Nelson has a very comfortable sitting room with a fireplace.  The Nelson is a mix of Georgian and Art Deco, while the Hamilton is more classic with both having hints of a maritime theme.

 

The meals are very good, and the inn uses local produce and specialty jams and teas.  The dining room is in a modern conservatory, though most of the property is period.  There are wedding facilities including a marquee.  As I said before the grounds are rustic but well cared for, and it makes for a quiet escape.

On our recent getaway we stayed in the Nelson, and had a great opportunity to visit nearby Blickling Estate.  It is not too distant from Felbrigg Hall as well.  A little further afield there are the beaches, but North Norfolk also offers numerous dunes, tidal flats, and other places to take in nature.

Scarborough Hill is also just a place to chill, and unwind.  A much needed pass time these days.

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North Norfolk Coastal Views

For the (not so overly) wild and wonderful North Norfolk has a lot to offer.  It is well worth the exploring.

Padre

Felbrigg Post

Blickling Post

A Visit to Blickling Estate

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Blickling Hall

The Blickling Estate was gifted to the nation via the National Trust by Lord Lothian. It is a beautiful hall and gardens, and it has been a pleasure for me to visit it on a few occasions.

The gardens are extensive and very well maintained.  The give a wonderful foretaste of the luxury of the hall itself.

Entry to the hall is via a grand frontage with a classic lawn.  These too give a feel of what is in store.

Once inside there is a grand stairway with a tremendous amount of art including portraits of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. This leads you upstairs to a phenomenal library and a room of beautiful tapestries.

The bedrooms are luxury itself, and and ceilings, fireplaces, and fittings are opulent.

Even the kitchens are first rate, and the National Trust (while unintentional) has really given the Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton feel.

The music rooms and instruments are also wonderful to see.

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This being a National Trust property there is also the tearoom and shop one would expect, and a museum dedicated to the air base which operated from the property in WW2 is also on site.

If in Northeast Norfolk this is a “must see” location.

Padre

An Outpouring of Grief

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The massacre in Las Vegas has once again brought society to a point of despair. The tangible grief of my fellow bloggers (and I am sure people everywhere) is plain.  Three bloggers I admire have made very different secondary discussions on the fact that a 64 year old man, on his own, could and did destroy so many lives.

What we do have in common is our primary pain.  Yes, it pales in the face of the families and friends directly involved, but our common humanity calls on us to mourn and to pray.

The first blog I read on the Las Vegas atrocity was posted by Irish, a woman I greatly respect and who has overcome so much in her life.  She offered her frustrations that the evils of this world seem to amass and amass. Irish’s blog was a plea that all of us must feel at times like this.  I wrote to her to say her grief and frustration is what shows we still have hope as a people.

I next read the reflections of another young woman who I admire for her faith and the journey of healing she has made.  She was overwhelmed by the political callousness of many in the wake of the atrocity.  Political one-up-man-ship, and pro or con gun control agendas where there should have been prayer and condolence. BeautyBeyondBone’s blog was moving in its call for prayer and its focus of the motives of ill and destructive people over those of “guns.” She was clear however on the priority of the human and spiritual arguments rather than the political. I have long admired the heart of this young woman.

Chaplain Ian did draw the question of weapons into focus, but not without a Christian heart and one that called us to remember all who have suffered from gun crime, including the latest perpetrator’s own family.  His Christianity and pastoral heart were made plain.

It is this spirit of love and humanity that I find in all three that move me.  Here are three people of very different backgrounds, but all want a better world.  One in which love rather than hatred prevail.

Let us pray for Las Vegas, but also for a hurting world.  Let us love and show love.  Let us find the common ground with all, even those with whom we disagree.  Let us strive to make that difference on relationship or opinion at a time.

Padre

Conspiracy

I am really not much of one for conspiracy thories. I am reluctant to give credence to governments spending vast quantities to dupe their citizens (Moonlanding, etc). However, I must admit it has happened (Watergate).  There is no clearer evidence of this than in 2 Samuel 11.

Israel is at war with the Ammonites.  While the siege of Rabbah is being conducted, King David notices,  from his vantage point at the palace, the wife of one of his officers having a bath.  The king falls into lust and seduces the woman who becomes pregnant by the encounter.

So far so bad.  David wants to cover this up so recalls the officer, Uriah, to Jerusalem with the hopes that he will sleep with his wife and thus cover up the adultery. Things don’t go to plan.  This dedicated warrior is unprepared to satisfy his own desires while his men were still at the front.

What is a king to do?  The answer, he intensified the conspiracy. “14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.” 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.”

An illicit affair, an attempted cover up, the sacrifice of loyal subordinates. No, not Watergate, but Rabbah gates.  But like the Watergate it was found out.  Schemes and plans often do.  But the whistle blower this time was not a reporter for The Post, but the Prophet Nathan.  No leak, no paper trail, but rather the testimony of God was the evidence.

Are we like David?  Do we try cover ups?  God sees.  But, I John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Why hide the undeniable? Why conspire and plot, when it will in all likelihood just “dig you deeper?” David failed to see this.  God always sees.

Padre

Reflections on Old Lublin

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Lublin Castle

I have written about the Brama Grodzka in the past (link), and its role in preserving the memory of Old Lublin.  I have watched several Yiddish films recently (yes, with subtitles) and found the portrayal of Jewish life at the turn of the 20th Century, amazingly consistent with the images of pre-WW2 life I have studied while in Lublin.

It is purely by coincidence that my wife was reading Singer’s Magician of Lublin, at the same time I was watching the films. Which led me to reflect on the time I spent in Lublin. Lublin is a historic city, and the castle and old town areas are wonderful examples of progress and continuity.

Notable in this are the legacy of the city’s Jewish past.  These include an impressive Yeshiva, and the old cemetery.

The Grodzka Gate is in similar style found throughout the old quarter of the city.  Its features blend wonderfully with those of the castle, yeshiva, and even the train station.

It is easy to imagine the way old Lublin would have been, as many areas still have this distinctive architecture and cobbled streets. Brama Grodzka has some great pictures and models that accentuate this.

The city also offers the elegance of bygone ages as well.   I stayed at the Grand Lublin Hotel (Grand Hotel Lublinianka).  The building is magnificent  and the entire place had the feel of turn of the 20th Century luxury and charm.  The breakfasts were abundant, and very tasty.

This is not to say that Lublin is a “living museum” or a throw back.  It is in many ways a modern city as well with good restaurants and an excellent train service (which I made a great day trip to Warsaw).

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This is a city of the old and the new.  The flavour of its Yiddish speaking past, and its European Union present makes for a great blend.  The prices are reasonable (if not down right cheap by UK and USA standards) and the  people I found to be friendly.  This is a place for culture and for reflection.

Padre

Link to Grand Lublin Hotel

Link to Brama Grodzka

A Tiny Taste of IWM Duxford

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Lancaster and “friends”

I attended a meeting hosted by IWM Duxford and had the opportunity to has a tiny taster of what the aviation museum has to offer.  Let me first of all say that the complex is huge with hangers, museum spaces, and an operating airstrip.  There are dedicated areas to commemorate WWI, and a section for the USAAF of World War Two.  The larger facility also incorporates the British WW2 barracks, and mess facilities, and it provides a wide range of exhibits for aviation and military history enthusiasts. The Museum also has conference and educational facilities and hosts regular air shows as well.

There is a very good museum shop which provides not just the usual stuff to mark a visit, but a wide range of books as well including ones on the specs and histories of various aircraft types.

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Shop

The range of exhibits takes the visitor through the entire range of human air flight.  There is a full sized model of Da Vinci’s flying machine, as well as an actual Concorde airliner.  Military displays include the canvas machines of the First World War through the missiles of the modern age.

Flying Machine

First Attempts

This is a great venue to explore, and there is much more to see than my brief excursion allowed for.  Whether you interests are in aircraft, or history more generally, the IWM has a lot to discover.

Padre

 

 

 

Pentecost – Guidance from God

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Word and Spirit

The Christian celebration of Pentecost stems from the gathering of the apostles and others on the Jewish festival day.  While gathered the Spirit of God came upon them with the sound of rushing wind, and with tongues of fire above them.  They could then speak miraculously in the languages of all that heard them (Acts 2).  This receiving of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning of the church, and the power which allowed a small band of believers to fulfill their charge “to go into all the world, and make disciples.”

I Corinthians 12: 7- 11 (NIV) states: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”  These gifts gave the guidance and power necessary to change the world.

The first Pentecost was not the one in Jerusalem in circa 30 A.D. however.  It occurred in the Sinai fifty days after the escape from Egypt. It was here that Israel received the commandments of God.  A mission if you will.  They would be God’s people, and He their God. The guidance they would need was provided via Moses in God’s own words.

At Jerusalem God again gave a mission.  It was the empowering of His people to go into all the world, and to bring others into the fold.  On this day it would not be written word, but the living Spirit of God to guide them.

Are we up to that mission (of word and of power) today?  His guidance awaits us.

Padre