Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Home Sweet Home


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Do you enjoy the warm feeling of being in your home? That assumes, of course, that you have a home, you enjoy being at home, or your home is in a fit state to live in. However, home life can be a nightmare for many people. It is often a place of confrontation, where you are on edge, unsure what will happen next. For others, home just doesnt exist. Its a dream, something that, so far, just hasnt happened for them – couch surfing, shared accommodation or, at worst, they have ended up living on the street. 


Ive been privileged to travel extensively in the last 10 to 15 years. There seemed to be abundant wealth in North America, but despite Uganda being a beautiful country, there is significant poverty. Yet, at the same time, the people are really happy. In Pakistan, for the average person, life is just so hard, and it’s incredible to see what some people call home - tents, etc. Those living in comfortable, safe, dry homes should be grateful and appreciative.


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Learning Lessons from the Four Seasons


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The church where I am a member hosts an event for people with memory problems once a month. The aim is to support the carers and individuals increasingly struggling with cognitive-related issues. It’s a great morning and seems to benefit all who come.

At the start, someone does a brief session to ensure everyone is orientated - time, day, month, year, place, season, etc. Most of us need help identifying the season at certain times of the year (usually at the beginning and the end of each season). 

In the United Kingdom, we have four clearly defined seasons, as do ‘most countries at a similar latitude (the same distance away from the equator) to the UK. Other parts of the world may only have two seasons - a winter and a summer, or a wet and a dry season 1. I find it fascinating that despite all the climate change that is suggested, discussed and debated, in the main, seasons are still the same as defined in one of the oldest records of human history, the Bible. Genesis chapter 8 verse 22 records the promise of God to Noah (after the worldwide flood - another event that reoccurs in the history of many ancient civilisations) - ‘While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease’.


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Cadbury’s Chocolate

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The name Cadbury is associated, in many peoples minds, with their range of chocolate products but there is more to their story than the production of sweet confectionery.

In 1879 George and Richard Cadbury moved their factory out of the centre of Birmingham into the healthy clear air of the rural Bournbrook Estate. George Cadbury was appalled at the terrible living conditions of workers in the city and he wanted better lives for those he employed. So alongside the new factory a village was constructed. The brothers adopted a french sounding name Bournville, for the area, as France had a good reputation for food and they thought that this might help in boosting sales of their products.

An Architect was employed to design the village. Rules were strict, each house was not to occupy more than a quarter of the building plot. Gardens had to be not less than one sixth of an acre and have at least six fruit trees.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Morning has broken - a song of encouragement

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The popular and well-known Christian hymn ‘Morning has broken” was first published in 1931. It has words by English author Eleanor Farjeon, and is set to a traditional Scottish Gaelic tune known as "Bunessan" and is often sung in children's services. In 1971, a hit version of "Morning Has Broken" was recorded by British singer Cat Stevens, helping to popularise the hymn in the UK and North America. 

A morning prayer is a wonderful way to focus our time and attention on seeking God's plan for the day ahead. With the current problems in Ukraine and Gaza we certainly need encouragement, peace, strength, and rest. Thankfully God can meet us in a very real and present way when we come before Him with a humble heart. We need to seek  God's presence each morning before our energy and attention is pulled by all the tasks we have ahead. Here is a poem by an unknown author to encourage us to seek God today and every day:-


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Brutal Honesty

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Moments of brutal honesty about ourselves are rare. We go to great lengths trying to present ourselves in the best light possible. We either deny our failures or apologise for them:- 
“That wasn't the real me.”
“That was a weak moment when I messed up.”
“My inner demons won that time, but that's really not who I am."

The world was shocked when the news broke that Philip Seymour Hoffman died at 46.  Every major North American media outlet immediately elevated the breaking story to headline status. The winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor had died in his apartment. In less than twenty five years Philip Seymour Hoffman had appeared in more than fifty films, winning multiple awards and numerous nominations. As the sad news broke, accolades and words of praise for this most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation, flooded social media and news channels.

Those who knew him were well aware of his struggles with drugs and alcohol. Although he battled addictions for years, he managed to stay clean for twenty years, but on 2 February 2014 the world became painfully aware that he had succumbed to chemicals once again.  

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Operation Mincemeat

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In a cemetery in Aberbargoed stands a memorial stone. On it is the inscription, “In recognition to the allied war effort by Glyndwr Michael of Aberbargoed”. But who was Glyndwr Michael and what did he do?

Glyndwr Michael was a homeless tramp who had died from eating rat poison.  The poison had caused pneumonia and he had died without any known relatives to mourn him.

So the question remains, “What did this penniless, insignificant man do to contribute to the war effort in 1943?”
The answer is found in an enigmatic inscription on the top of the memorial stone.

“Y dyn na fu erioed”.

Below is the English translation.

“The man who never was”.

Glyndwr Michael was, unknowingly, instrumental as one of the greatest deceptions named Operation Mincemeat which was carried out by British Intelligence to fool the enemy.  His body was acquired by the Intelligence service who then created a wholly fictitious person by the name of Major William Martin (Royal Marines).


Wednesday, February 07, 2024

A hole in the world?

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The Eagles, an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1971, are one of the world's best-selling bands of all time, having sold more than 200 million records.  One of their songs, "Hole in the World" begins like this:
There's a hole in the world tonight.
There's a cloud of fear and sorrow. 
There's a hole in the world tonight.
Don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.

Even if we are optimists and constantly look for the best, it does seem, at least at times, that there is a hole in the world. We live in a day of almost unrestrained violence. Children can be snatched from homes and killed at school. Bombs and missiles are exploded in public places. There is war in Ukraine, Gaza and many other less publicized places. No community, no race, no nation is immune to, nor protected from a growing culture of violence. It is as if there is a hole in the world. Now, more than ever, we need to learn a different way, for the path we are following leads to a dark and dangerous wilderness.

I like the way of Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix, two men who experienced first hand a cloud of fear and sorrow. One deadly evening in 1995, 14-year-old Tony Hicks shot and killed a 20-year-old college student and pizza deliveryman in San Diego, California. Tony and several other gang members ordered pizza and, when it was delivered, Tony was told by his gang to shoot the young man, Tariq Khamisa, who delivered the food.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side.

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John Milton was born in London in 1608 and educated at St Paul’s School, followed by the University of Cambridge. He knew at least ten languages, and was enormously well-read in literature, history, theology, philosophy and natural sciences. Milton’s Commonplace Book, in which he made notes on his extensive reading, is now held at the British Library.

In February of 1652 Milton went completely blind. Many great artists have suffered blindness, but the twist in Milton's case is that he went blind before he wrote his best works, including the immortal epic poem Paradise Lost. Milton had written a few great poems before 1652, but he was not a famous poet by this point.  In fact, Milton was more famous as a servant of the government of Oliver Cromwell, the "Lord Protector" of England during the period between the kings Charles I and Charles II. 

When John Milton went blind, he must have felt like modern athletes feel when they suffer a career-ending injury. You spend your whole life working toward a goal, pour your heart and soul into practising, and then some uncontrollable event or freak accident puts you back in the shoes of a regular person.  John Milton's life plan was to be of service to God. He felt he could best achieve this goal by using his intelligence and especially his writing. In the days when Milton was alive, it was very hard to write when you had no sight. He was entirely dependent on other people to write down his work and read to him. Thankfully, Milton's blindness was not as crippling as he thought it would be, and he eventually adapted to the condition enough to write some of the world's great works of literature.
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