Saturday, 19 December 2015

More whimsy (to amuse you).

FROM THE BOOK "Black Diamonds" by Catherine Bailey (Penguin 2008 [UK]. 2014 [USA]

(More about this book later in the week, or after Christmas Day).


pp 91/2

"The Duke of Portland was one of the richest coal owners in England..  In the 1860's , when construction first began. a miner working at one of his collieries earned around 50 pounds a year..  The Duke's annual income was in the region of 108,000 pounds.  Whimsy, not wages, drove him to burrow underground; an eccentric and a recluse, he could not bear to be seen,

The Duke spent his life wandering his estate at Welbeck. Tenants,labourers and servants were forbidden to speak to him, or even to acknowledge his presence.. If they chanced upon the Duke. their instructions were to pass him by 'as they would a tree'.  The man who dared to touch is hat would be instantly dismissed.  The temptation to stare must have been strong.  Winter or summer, the Duke dressed in the same peculiar fashion.  His trousers were tied inches above the ankle with a piece of string; he wore a sable coat that touched the ground, and an old fashioned wig. On top of the wig, he wore a hat two feet high.  Rain or sunshine he carried an umbrella to hide beneath of anyone passed.  He never mingled in society, and was never seen at court.  When he drove out alone on his estate, it was alone, in a black carriage, drawn by black horses, with the blinds down.


p 123

In 1911 (or 1912) King George V and Queen Mary made a tour if the industrial north of England following the suggestion of Cosmo Gordon Lang, the Archbishop of York,

In Rotherham (Yorkshire) the Archbishop records overhearing the following conversation:

'Na then, which is t'King'.
'It's that little chap i' the front wi' a billycock hat'
'Nay, he ain't seech a fine man as Teddy [King Edward VII)'
'Well, anyway, he's gotten him a fine oopstanding wife.


That fine oopstanding wife was Princess Mary of Teck, a.k.a. Queen Mary, a.k.a. the Dowager Queen Mother.

I am old enough to remember when she was alive! We shared a birthday.

She was born on 26 May 1867 – , and died on 24 March 1953.

I was born on 26 May 1944, thus I was just short of ten years of age when she died,

We never met!! 

Friday, 18 December 2015


The other day I viewed a You Tube video of the the Basque song "Gabriel's Message" which (in English)  begins with the words "The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came".

It's a sweet enough song,  even though it portrays Mary as a docile woman  (that she wasn't!) .

The refrain (at the end of each verse) is "Most Highly Favoured Lady: Gloria"

But one person who had viewed this Video made a comment.  He/she  was not familiar with the biblical story,

So, she/ he did not "hear"  "Most Highly Favoured Lady: Gloria"  

 Instead that You Tube viewer thought that the words were "Most Highly Flavoured Gravy: Gloria ".

I love it!!!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Close encounters of the heart warming sort.

Ed is a a bagger at my local "Publix"  Supermarket.

He is a gentle man with "special needs".

I thanked him for bagging my groceries.

He replied "It's my pleasure".

I grinned from ear to ear because I knew that he meant what he said.  It was indeed his pleasure to bag my purchases.


I was at the Sarasota Office of the "Triple A"  (American Automobile Association) the other day, to purchase some Great Britain Pounds.

I was attended to by a genial and pleasant "Anglo" employee.

To my right an Italian speaking AAA employee was engaged in a lively conversation with an Italian customer.

Their conversation was music to my ears.

I had a vague understanding of what they were saying, but that was not the main point,

The main point was that I was excited and charmed to hear the Italian language -  surely one of the most delightful sounds for those of us who are of Western European descent ( and also for other "World Citizens" )


My Sarasota friends Ron and Charlotte stopped by last night for a snifter and some nibbles. (Our mutual friends Ben and Bob were also here). 

Ron and Charlotte rarely attend Church, but they are deeply rooted in  Christian traditions,

They are amongst the most generous, wise, thoughtful, and compassionate folks one could ever hope to meet,

Makes you think eh?  -  when we are blessed by the friendship of fabulous people who rarely attend Church.

------  of such is the Kingdom of Heaven!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Use your minds friends! (There is no "war on Christmas". and no-one has been banned from saying "Merry Christmas".)

It's the most crazy time of the year.

Once again certain segments in the "market place of ideas" are asserting that there is a "war on Christmas".

I beg to differ and ask you to bear the following in  mind:-


Retailers love Christmas.
Supermarkets love Christmas.
Restaurateurs love Christmas.
The Entertainment Industry loves Christmas.
The Sports Industry loves Christmas.
The Advertising Conglomerates love Christmas.

---- etc., etc., etc.,

In short, if there was a war on Christmas, it would be a war against capitalism and free enterprise!


In these United State NOT ONE CHRISTIAN has been banned or barred from the free expression of her or his faith at Christmas-tide.    Every Christian in America is utterly free to attend the Church of his/her faith to celebrate the birth of Jesus.


The only time in American history when the celebration of Christmas was banned was when the sincere and godly Puritans/Calvinist CHRISTIANS  ruled the roost in Massachusetts. They were godly men and women, but they were most likely mistaken in their theology.


The origins of the supposed "War on Christmas"  are in part rooted in the anti-Semitic rantings of Henry Ford.  See the following, and then pause for thought.


RE the greeting "Merry Christmas".

There is a crazy/loony idea going around that the expression "Merry Christmas"  is verboten in modern America.  This is phony/baloney at its nonsensical peak.

If you disagree with me, please  post an attested and notarized account of any lawsuit or occasion by which an American citizen has been sanctioned/punished/censured for saying "Merry Christmas".

BUT BEFORE YOU GET THERE please note this:

I encountered my Jewish neighbours A and R as we walked out this afternoon.

I asked "How would you respond if someone or other wished you a "Merry Christmas"?

R said "I would also say Merry Christmas".

R  is a wise Jewish  woman who would respond to a Christian greeting on the basis of good neighbourliness.

Of course I added  "I would not say Merry Christmas to you, because I know that you are Jewish, and do not celebrate Christmas.

You heard it right there are some people to whom I do not say "Merry Christmas" because I try to be a good and respectful neighbour, who honours the religion/s of others.

NOTE ALSO  If business leaders instruct their employees to use generic greetings such as "Happy Holidays", or "Seasons Greetings" it is not because they are Grinches who wish to steal Christmas.  It because they are business owners with an eye to the bottom line!  They are acting as good free market capitalists.



Don't fret about a non-existent problem

Filled with the joy of the Lord, have yourself a Merry Christmas

Take yourself to Church to pray, and to give thanks for the gift of God in Jesus

Do as the bible instructs and be generous to the poor

And above all, develop a gracious spirit towards those workers (especially in "retail")  who do not participate in Christian worship, but who are glad to enjoy a brief holiday.

As you enjoy our Holy Day pray that they may indeed have a Happy Holiday!


The wise and wonderful Howard Thurman must have the last word.

Great story about a Conservative Christian

Via Religion News Service.

American Christians could take a lesson from Angela Merkel (COMMENTARY)
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons | December 10, 2015 

(RNS) Time magazine’s 2015 “Person of the Year” is a self-identified conservative Christian, but not one of the many running for president of the United States. While the dynamics of faith and politics are different in Europe, German leader Angela Merkel is an example of a conservative Christian living out her faith in the public square quite differently than we see in the U.S.
Time, which calls her “Chancellor of the Free World,”  characterizes her strong leadership of economic and political crises in Europe as “no flair, no flourishes, no charisma, just a survivor’s sharp sense of power and a scientist’s devotion to data.” She may be a quantum chemist, but she’s also an Evangelical Lutheran preacher’s kid with an unwavering faith.

The chancellor has described her personal faith in several interviews. “The structure of the world relating to belief is a framework for my life that I consider very important,” she said in one. “I believe in God, and religion is also my constant companion, and has been for the whole of my life,” she told a theology student during a video interview in 2012. She kept her faith mostly quiet up until that point, which is understandable given the rising secularization of Germany.
She has held firm to her socially conservative belief that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman. (She has also voted against abortion rights.) But unlike conservative Christians in America, she has strongly favored anti-discrimination legislation. “Wherever we still find discrimination, we will continue to dismantle it,” she told influential YouTube star Florian Mundt.
Merkel’s faith-based leadership stands in stark contrast to her Christian conservative cousins in the United States.

Her shift on social issues has upset the more extremist faction within her Christian Democratic Union party, according to the New Republic. She angered right-wing Catholics on issues such as gay rights, abortion, stem cell research and the family. And in the process, she “opened up the prim party to other kinds of conservatives, even ones who happened to be single mothers, gay, or from another country.”
But she wasn’t named Time’s Person of the Year for her stances on domestic social issues. She received the honor, according to Time editor Nancy Gibbs, because “Merkel brandished a different set of values — humanity, generosity, tolerance — to demonstrate how Germany’s great strength could be used to save, rather than destroy.” That’s been on display nowhere more than her advocacy for religious tolerance in light of terrorism and the Syrian refugee crisis.
That advocacy is rooted in her own faith. “We all have the opportunity and the freedom to have our religion, to practice it and to believe in it,” she has said. “I would like to see more people who have the courage to say ‘I am a Christian believer,’ and more people who have the courage to enter into a dialogue.”
Religious intolerance can’t be the overwhelming guide to public policy. “Fear was never a good adviser,” she said. “Cultures that are marked by fear will not conquer their future.”
And her stance is unequivocal. “Every exclusion of Muslims in Germany, every general suspicion is forbidden,” she said recently. “We will not let ourselves be divided.” That faith sets her apart from Christian conservative politicians in the United States, where fear dominates and the worst parts of the American psyche are stoked.

She has good advice for defensive and fearful Germans who are engaging this topic: Go back to church. She suggests that in light of the debate about Islam, people return to the “tradition of attending a church service now and then, and having some biblical foundations.” She says this debate “could lead us (to) deal again with our own roots and to know them better.” That’s good advice for American Christians as well. For Americans, both constitutional and Christian foundations call for religious freedom. Going back to church would, in no uncertain terms, undermine the calls for religious vetting of immigrants.
Time has named a conservative Christian as Person of the Year, perhaps just the type that the United States and the world needs.

(Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons writes about faith and public policy. From 2011 to 2015, he worked at the National Immigration Forum mobilizing Christians to advocate for the value of immigrants and immigration to America. Follow him at @guthriegf)

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Splendid Festival with Sarasota/Bradenton Muslim Community.

Yesterday (Saturday 12th November 2015) together with Susan Rife (a friend from St. Boniface Church) and her husband Steve Kreidler (a Greek Orthodox Christian, and a good friend to St. Boniface) I attended the Second Annual International Food and Crafts Festival at the Islamic Society of Sarasota/Bradenton,

First, I am happy to say that there was a huge turnout at the event.  Sarasota and Manatee County residents turned out in full force.

Second, I rejoiced in this event: a time for learning, trusting, and praying.

Members of the Islamic Society of Sarasota/Bradenton were second to none in their gracious hospitality.  If my vibes were accurate, most of us felt immediately at home.

Some were there to ask questions about Islam.

Many of us were there to show solidarity with the American Muslim community which is under great siege, especially following the dangerous and divisive rhetoric of Mr. Donald Trump.

The Christian New Testament says that "there is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear".  The scriptures which Jews and Christians have in common  teach us to "love our neighbour as ourselves".

I was at the Festival in the spirit of those biblical teachings.  My understanding is that the followers of  Moses and Jesus have no mandate to hate or fear our Muslim neigbours.

The food was great:  (memories of my visit to Lebanon!)

Home made Yogurt Custard.

Lamb Kebabs.


 Rice Pilaf.


Muslim brothers and sisters were at hand to extend a welcome, and to answer questions with grace and with truth.

We were invited to attend the 1:00 p.m. Prayer Service. The only request was that we should remove our shoes.  Non-Muslim women had the option of being in the Mosque or in the Women's Gallery. (If you think that the idea a Women's Gallery is odd, do note that many Orthodox Jewish Synagogues have a separate space for women, and that in some Christian (Amish) communities men and women are segregated.)

What is most important is that Steve and I knelt together in the Mosque,

The prayers (in a language we did not understand) were for me utterly authentic.

I knew that the faithful Muslims were praying to the same God who is at the heart of my prayers.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims have different teachings and concepts of the HOLY AND ETERNAL ONE;

But if there is only one true God he/she/it is:

(a)  The ineffable and unnameable Y-H-W-E of Judaism.

(b)  The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in Christianity.

(c)  The Allah of Islam.
The Mosque from outside
Mosque Leader Shiraz Hassan. who made us especially welcome. (What a beautiful face!)

Yusuf Memon, the young Imam
Muslims and their friends in the Mosque.  To my right (as you view the photo'} Susan and Steve.  To my left, in the back row (face partly hidden)  new friend Samira Davis who  asked for the photo' to be taken.   In the department of small world --  Samira is a graduate of the University of Bristol (U.K.)  -  my home town!