It’s been a long time since I’ve tagged a post with ‘Church of Gaia’.

Yet, this syncretic sinfulness remains alive and well.

My reader Underground Pewster recently wrote about prayer petitions from the Episcopal Church’s Blue Book, likely to be used at their General Convention which started on June 25, 2015 and ends on July 3, 2015.

What he cites reads as if it were written by people who have a death wish for humanity (emphases in the original):

Most of what follows comes from the SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS From the STANDING COMMISSION ON LITURGY AND MUSIC (SCLM)

A Litany for the Planet: 

On rocks and minerals that form the foundations for life,
Creator, have mercy.
On volcanoes and lava flows that reveal the power of earth’s core,
Creator, have mercy…

I for one pray that God will show no mercy on volcanoes and lava flows. Was that prayer written by the guys who run the lava flow cruises or helicopter rides in Hawaii?

On micro-organisms of endless variety, the complex and the simple,
Creator, have mercy (
pp 248-9)

I hoped this one would go away when I pointed it out three years ago, but I guess we will soon be praying for multidrug resistant tuberculosis along with botulism, salmonella, and HIV.

Too right! What are these people thinking?

And it gets worse. The Blue Book promotes syncretism — combining Christianity with other religions’ deities — strictly anathema. In this case, the Episcopal Church has a prayer to the Native American Great Spirit, Gitchi Manadoo. It can be found in the Blue Book on p. 243 in “Prayers of the People Honoring God in Creation”, Form 2. Briefly:

[Gichi Manidoo,] Great Spirit God,
we give you thanks for another day on this earth.
We give you thanks for this day
to enjoy the compassionate goodness of you, our Creator.

Whoa!

Underground Pewster investigated further and discovered the following information on native-languages.org. Two brief excerpts follow, with more on Pewster’s admirable post:

Gitchi Manitou is the great creator god of the Anishinaabe and many neighboring Algonquian tribes. The name literally means Great Spirit, a common phrase used to address God in many Native American cultures.
As in other Algonquian tribes, the Great Spirit is abstract, benevolent, does not directly interact with humans, and is rarely if ever personified in Anishinabe myths–

Also:

It is Gitchi Manitou who created the world, though some details of making the world as we know it today were delegated to the culture hero Nanabozho.

Hmm.

We do need to be careful about whom we are addressing our prayers and supplications. Although certain tribes consider the Great Spirit and the Christian God to be the same, He is not.

Another thing Episcopalians would do well to remember is that (emphases mine in purple):

the same SCLM geniuses who are foisting Gitchi Manitou on us are the ones who prepared the liturgies for same sex marriages

Underground Pewster followed this post up with a round-up of Episcopalian Summer Solstice services which appeal to their inner Druid.

To show the falsehood of such services, Pewster has helpfully provided a lengthy quote from St Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions, part of which is cited below. Those unfamiliar with Augustine’s personal story should note that he came to Christianity well into adulthood after years of libertinism and paganism. This is part of what he wrote about Creation:

I asked the earth; and it answered, “I am not He;” and whatsoever are therein made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the creeping things that lived, and they replied, “We are not thy God, seek higher than we.” … I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars: “Neither,” say they, “are we the God whom thou seekest.” And I answered unto all these things which stand about the door of my flesh, “Ye have told me concerning my God, that ye are not He; tell me something about Him.” And with a loud voice they exclaimed, “He made us.” … I asked the vast bulk of the earth of my God, and it answered me, “I am not He, but He made me.”

As Christians, it is essential that we remember the Creation story in Genesis, Jesus’s references to God as Creator in the Gospels and keep St Augustine’s quote in the forefront of our minds.

May we never fall into the trap of syncretic worship and break the First Commandment.

God speaks pinkerwjhharvardeduOne of my readers, LCMS member Brad Grierson, recently wrote a short but essential post on pastors’ sermons, ‘Jesus is not a cameo guest star’.

A brief excerpt follows:

Too many pastors treat Jesus as the cameo guest star. It’s absolutely amazing how these so called pastors can spend over an hour preaching on finances or good sex and never touch the gospel. They just bring Jesus out, bound and gagged mind you so that he doesn’t interfere with the message, and say, “Hey look, it’s Jesus,” thereby giving the impression that the Son of God actually approves of what is being said despite having absolutely nothing to do with him.

I couldn’t agree more. I have heard too many modern sermons from Protestant and Catholic clergymen alike who shoehorn Jesus into their preaching as if a mere mention — a sentence or two — will do. And, as Brad Grierson says, the clergyperson might be falsely linking Jesus’s sayings with unbiblical concepts.

Grierson’s advice is to hightail it out of churches where the Word is not preached. Where the Word is not preached, the Gospel is lacking.

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 7:12-14

The Golden Rule

12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

—————————————————————————–

Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount continues (Matthew 5, 6 and 7).

‘So’ in verse 12 follows on from what Jesus said in verse 11, covered in last week’s post:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

It also ties in with His words in the first two verses of Matthew 7, which I also wrote about:

7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Matthew Henry explains our Lord’s use of the Law and the Prophets in this context (emphases mine):

It is the summary of that second great commandment, which is one of the two, on which hang all the law and the prophets, Matthew 22:40. We have not this in so many words, either in the law or the prophets, but it is the concurring language of the whole. All that is there said concerning our duty towards our neighbour (and that is no little) may be reduced to this rule. Christ has here adopted it into this law so that both the Old Testament and the New agree in prescribing this to us, to do as we would be done by.

Whilst we often hear Matthew 7:12 quoted, even by secularists, we hear the next two verses much less often. It is easy to forget them in an era when everything goes in today’s churches.

Verses 13 and 14 are particularly crucial and pertinent to those notional Christians who say that everyone will be saved. That is not what Jesus says. He tells us to enter by the narrow gate. The broader way is easier and ‘leads to destruction’ — eternal condemnation.

Also worth noting is His statement that the way leading to life is ‘hard’ and ‘those who find it are few’.

Does that sound like ‘all are saved’?

A similar passage is Luke 13:22-30, which begins as follows. (Similar wording is also in Matthew 7:21-23, part of the three-year Lectionary readings.)

The Narrow Door

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

There is no excuse to be made for heresy, syncretism, sin, ‘lifestyle choices’ and whatever else today’s churches are wrongly advocating. Powerful, apostate clergy will be among those crying out for the Lord to open the door on Judgement Day and His response will be that He never knew them.

Laypeople would also do well to ensure they do not fall into the same fatal trap, in particular, telling their children that the Lord loves everyone and will save them. It isn’t going to happen.

Henry sums it up this way:

There are but two ways, right and wrong, good and evil the way to heaven, and the way to hell in the one of which we are all of us walking: no middle place hereafter, no middle way now: the distinction of the children of men into saints and sinners, godly and ungodly, will swallow up all to eternity.

Henry and John MacArthur explain more about the narrow gate. In the King James Version the words used are ‘strait’ — small, tight — and ‘narrow’.

Henry states:

First, That the gate is strait. Conversion and regeneration are the gate, by which we enter into this way, in which we begin a life of faith and serious godliness out of a state of sin into a state of grace we must pass, by the new birth, John 3:3,5. This is a strait gate, hard to find, and hard to get through like a passage between two rocks, 1 Samuel 14:4. There must be a new heart, and a new spirit, and old things must pass away. The bent of the soul must be changed, corrupt habits and customs broken off what we have been doing all our days must be undone again. We must swim against the stream much opposition must be struggled with, and broken through, from without, and from within. It is easier to set a man against all the world than against himself, and yet this must be in conversion. It is a strait gate, for we must stoop, or we cannot go in at it we must become as little children high thoughts must be brought down nay, we must strip, must deny ourselves, put off the world, put off the old man we must be willing to forsake all for our interest in Christ. The gate is strait to all, but to some straiter than others as to the rich, to some that have been long prejudiced against religion ...

Secondly, That the way is narrow. We are not in heaven as soon as we have got through the strait gate, nor in Canaan as soon as we have got through the Red Sea no, we must go through a wilderness, must travel a narrow way, hedged in by the divine law, which is exceedingly broad, and that makes the way narrow[;] self must be denied, the body kept under, corruptions mortified, that are as a right eye and a right hand daily temptations must be resisted duties must be done that are against our inclination. We must endure hardness, must wrestle and be in an agony, must watch in all things, and walk with care and circumspection. We must go through much tribulation. It is hodos tethlimmenean afflicted way, a way hedged about with thorns blessed be God, it is not hedged up. The bodies we carry about with us, and the corruptions remaining in us, make the way of our duty difficult but, as the understanding and will grow more and more sound, it will open and enlarge, and grow more and more pleasant.

Thirdly, The gate being so strait and the way so narrow, it is not strange that there are but few that find it, and choose it. Many pass it by, through carelessness they will not be at the pains to find it they are well as they are, and see no need to change their way. Others look upon it, but shun it they like not to be so limited and restrained. Those that are going to heaven are but few, compared to those that are going to hell a remnant, a little flock, like the grape-gleanings of the vintage as the eight that were saved in the ark

John MacArthur likens this small, narrow way to a turnstile, through which only one person can enter at any time. This reinforces the idea that families and groups will not be saved, rather individuals. He says that Jesus was speaking of the Pharisees and the Jewish people of His time:

… many commentators would say that the best expression of this in a contemporary way would be a turnstile.  One of those things which you have to go through all alone; the metal is very close and there’s a little arm there that you push, and you go through.  Now, I know our family, when we go to the zoo, or we go to get on a train somewhere, or go somewhere on an airplane, every once in a while you’ve got to go through something like that, a turnstile. 

And everybody is in a big hurry, and we always realize when we get there that we can’t all go through together, can we, children?  We must go through one at a time.  That’s the way it is with a narrow gate.  You don’t come to the kingdom of Christ in groups.  The Jews believed hey, we’re in the kingdom, we’re all on the road together, we all came through together, based on Abrahamic heritage, based on Jewish ancestry, based on circumcision, we’re all here together.  And I think there are people who think that they’re on the right road to heaven, they got on when they got to church.  They came to church, we’re all in the church and the whole church got on together.  There are no groups coming through the turnstile, folks

You go through all alone.  Salvation is individual.  People have never been saved in pairs.  Oh, when one believes it may influence another to believe, but everyone’s salvation is exclusive and intensely personal.  It admits only one at a time.  And that’s kind of hard, you know.  Because all our life is spent rushing around with the crowd.  All of our life is spent doing whatever everybody else does, being a part of the group, being a part of the gang, being a part of the system around us, being accepted.  And all of a sudden, Christ says, “You’re going to have to come, and you’re going to have to come through this deal all by yourself.”  And to a Pharisee, that meant you’re going to have to say goodbye to those people and that system, and step out alone.

There’s a price to pay, a real price.  It isn’t enough to claim your Abrahamic ancestry, it isn’t enough to go back to your circumcision, it isn’t enough to say, “I was born in a Christian family; I’ve been in the church all my life.”  You don’t come into the Kingdom in groups.  You come in an individual act of faith.  You must enter, you must enter the narrow gate, you must enter alone.  Listen to this one: you must enter with great difficulty – with great difficulty … 

He acknowledges that this encourages unbelievers to be hostile to Christianity. It is interesting to note that he preached on Matthew’s Gospel in the 1970s. Even then, there was hostile opposition:

People say, “You know, Christianity doesn’t give room for anybody else.”  That’s exactly right.  We don’t do that because we’re selfish, or because we’re proud, or because we’re egotistical; we do that because that’s what God said

If God said there were 48 ways to salvation, I’d preach all 48 of them.  But there aren’t.  “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be” – what – “saved.”  None other name.  Jesus – Acts 4:12.  “I am the bread of life – I am the way the truth and the life – I am the door – anyone who comes in any other way is a thief and a robber,” John 10.  “There is,” I Timothy 2, “one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”  Only one, no other name, Christ and Christ alone, it is that narrow, it is that prescribed.  There are no alternatives.  You must enter.  By an act of the will, an act of faith, you have to enter on God’s terms through God’s prescribed gate; and Christ is that gate.  He is that way.  And holy God has the right to determine the basis of salvation, and He has determined that it is Jesus Christ and Him alone, and that’s the way it is

For this reason — and because many cannot give up their attachement to the world — it is hard to accept our Lord’s teachings. MacArthur cited one pertinent example:

A West Indian who had chosen Islam over Christianity said this: “My reason is that Islam is a noble, broad path.  There is room for a man and his sins on it, and the way of Christ is far too narrow.” 

Hmm. It seems to me that man knew very little about Christianity before he converted to Islam. Whilst he was right in saying Christ’s way is very narrow, he misunderstood the concept of abundant divine grace and mercy with regard to our sins. However, Christ, with His love and forgiveness, makes no allowance for sin.

In closing, MacArthur has good observations about the Sermon on the Mount, which many people misinterpret:

Let me suggest to you there are two things you cannot do with the Sermon on the Mount.  One of them is you cannot stand back and admire it.  Jesus is not interested in bouquets for His ethics.  Jesus is not interested in folks who want to just admire the virtues of the ethical statement of the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus wants a decision about your destiny.  I believe there is a second thing you can’t do with the Sermon on the Mount, and that is to push it into some prophetic tomorrow.  I don’t think Jesus is suggesting that this is for some far future era. 

I think He is demanding a decision now, in this time …  What Jesus demanded was a choice, an act, an ultimate decision, to be made at that time and that moment, on the basis of what He had just said.  A deliberate choice has to be made.  Christ came to bring a kingdom.  He was a king.  He was the King.  He was the King of kings.  And He came with a kingdom that was unique, and special, and separate, and different from all the kingdoms of the world

The Sermon on the Mount is much more than ethics; it is about following Christ our Lord, the eternal King of Kings.

Next time: Matthew 7:15-20

Recently, my better half and I had the privilege and pleasure of spending a fortnight in Cannes.

This is the longest period of time we’ve ever spent there, and two weeks is the optimum length of time to spend in this beautiful city.

Readers who have been following Churchmouse Campanologist over the past six years will recall my earlier posts about Cannes: what happens there in a 24-hour timeframe, general advice for tourists, the churches (United Protestant Church — about which a more positive post to come for 2015 — and Catholic Latin Mass), smoking, grocery shopping, the markets, shops and sights (Le Sparkling nightclub has closed and will be redeveloped into flats and shops), sending postcards and parcels, foie gras, restaurants as well as the International Festival of Creativity — popularly known as Cannes Lions, or ad men and women.

As I’ve written before, Cannes is much more than the elegant Croisette, the street which has the grandest hotels and is the site for the annual film festival. Behind the Croisette and the shopping thoroughfare, Rue d’Antibes, are a number of streets with affordable shops, services and restaurants the locals use.

General updates follow. More specific ones will come in the next few days. Original source material and explanations are in the aforementioned linked posts.

Hotels

A number of four-star hotels have linked up with booking sites allowing tourists to book a variety of rooms at discount rates. We used one of these this year which worked remarkably well from check-in to check-out. We received superb service at breakfast, at the hotel beach, from the cleaning ladies and from the maintenance staff.

Everything was first class for an affordable price!

Please note that this will depend on what conferences are in town. Book early to avoid disappointment.

What to pack before leaving home

One never quite knows what the weather will be like in Cannes.

Whilst, generally speaking, one can be assured of an abundance of sunshine during the summer months, the unexpected can happen.

This June, for the first time, we wore our sweaters occasionally when going out for dinner. The first week we were there, the weather was quite hot — low 80s (Fahrenheit) — but we later had a few cooler days along with some sharp showers.

With that in mind, pack one sweater, rain shoes and a lightweight rain jacket.

Where general health is concerned, the warmth might wreak havoc with prickly heat and the digestive system. Magicool Plus spray and, for older children and adults, a non-drowsy antihistamine before bedtime will get rid of prickly heat within a few days’ time. Imodium LiquiCaps are perfect for the occasional upset tum and start working immediately.

Of course, pack the obvious sunscreens and, if you’re staying or touring away from the town centre, mosquito repellent.

Luxury foodstuffs

Over a decade ago, we used to stock up on French olive oil when we went to Cannes. Nicolas Alziari, based in Nice, was not available in the UK at that time.

If you’ve never tasted French olive oil, I highly recommend it. It has a light, grassy taste instead of a bold olive one.

This year, olive prices have soared because of an infestation affecting many French and northern Italian trees. As a result, artisan manufacturers in these areas have had to resort to buying olives from other European and North African countries to keep prices from going through the roof. The size of the bottles and tins has reduced as a result. It is now not unusual to find small 50cl sizes at a significantly high price.

We did not see truffle products on offer. We used to be able to buy truffle paste in the UK at our local shop, but this has not been available over the past year. Unfortunately, it did not appear to be on sale in Cannes, either.

However, more reasonably priced French terrines and rillettes are on offer. I suggest buying those from Jean Brunet, available at Casino supermarkets. €1.89 will get you a tasty traditional combination of duck and wild boar which will probably serve two or three people.

Traditional cheeses made with raw milk are available at Monoprix (in the separate cheese cabinet) and from the local family owned cheesemonger Céneri, located in Rue Meynadier. Céneri has a few hundred (or so it would seem) cheeses from which to choose in all sizes and types of milk. Although the smell of cheese permeates the shop, one quickly adapts and it is easy to spend 20 minutes deciding on what to buy! The family are very helpful in waiting on customers. Just be sure not to help yourself. Some customers have abused hygiene rules, hence the many signs instructing people to ask for service. A number of local restaurants use Céneri as their local cheese supplier.

Packing food items: Buy a sac isothermique — insulated bag which lies flat — from Monoprix’s food hall. They are stocked near the frozen food section. These bags are large and perfect for cheese and other chilled foods. Be sure to pack food in your check-in bag and not your hand luggage. Even commercially-manufactured terrines can be — and have been — confiscated from carry-ons at Nice Airport.

Cooks shops

Monoprix has a basic cooks shop on the ground floor. I bought an oyster knife there for €5.99, which was made in France. The contoured blade is interesting and not grossly sharp as many others are. I’ll write more about its performance in a future post.

A larger, more specialist shop is located at the end of Rue Teissière (the Ladurée shop is on the corner of this street and the Rue d’Antibes). Walk all the way down to the edge of Marché Gambetta and, on your right, at the corner, you’ll see a pharmacy sign and window displays of pots and pans. In addition to those larger items, you can pick up all sorts of smaller, specialised baking and cooking essentials. I bought disposable piping bags for reasonable prices.

There is also a Tout à €2 (Everything at €2) shop on Rue Jean Jaurès — across from the railway station complex — which has useful cooking and household items on the lower level. I bought a plastic clothes bag there along with ice cube bags and a few other incidentals. Before I knew it, I’d spent €16!

Perfume

Staggering perfume purchases can result in a greater number of samples for the ladies in your life to use during their stay.

Every perfume shop — as well as Galéries Lafayette — will happily gift wrap perfume purchases beautifully, at no extra charge. Take advantage of this service!

Hotel beaches

It is worth knowing the terms for a deck chair or chaise longue, the latter having fallen out of use at private beaches.

Before leaving your room, make sure you have the little card for your room key which states your name and room number. You will need to present it when you are checked in for beach use. If your hotel deal does not include complimentary use of the beach, be prepared to pay €15 per person, which will be added to your final hotel bill.

Once you are checked in at the beach, ask for a matelas (matt-uh-lass — mattress) or transat (trans-att — deckchair). One hotel we stayed at used the former and another hotel the latter. In any event, most beach staff at the better hotels speak reasonably good English, so tourists should not have any problem.

Dress well

Although many tourists travel and wander around Cannes in scruffy shorts and well-worn tee-shirts, it is worth looking presentable at all times.

Wearing attire such as polo shirts and nice tops paired with quality trousers, shorts and skirts will get you better service not only at airports but also in hotels, shops and restaurants.

Similarly, you’ll have a much easier time if your bag is pulled over for inspection by Nice Airport security!

I’ll have plenty more to write about this year’s trip to Cannes in the coming days!

Recently, we spent a lovely holiday in the south of France.

One thing that struck both SpouseMouse and me was the proliferation of people staring at their digital devices. Now that mobile connections are available on flights from start to finish, some people were attached to their screens from boarding to landing.

While we were there I ran across an article which warned about today’s obsession with non-stop digital connection, especially at mealtime. (I’ve already posted about a French etiquette expert who says that mobile devices are not invited to the table, where good food and conversation take pride of place.) The article reported on a study that showed social interaction, empathy and conviviality declined severely when dining partners continued checking messages, texting and surfing.

Nearly a year ago, I read an article on digital addiction in the French newsweekly Marianne: ‘Chéri(e), lâche ton portable!’ (‘Darling, put down your mobile!’) which appeared in the 25 – 31 July 2014 issue on pages 18 – 21. Highlights follow.

All too real cartoons

Marianne featured three tragicomic cartoons by way of illustration.

The main one showed four people sitting together in silence on their mobiles (pp 18-19):

Man No. 1: Hello. My name is Philippe and I’m a mobile telephone addict. (Tap, tap)

Man No. 2: Hello, Philippe. (Tap, tap)

Woman: Hello, Philippe :) (Tap, tap)

Man No. 3: Hi, Philippe. (Tap, tap)

The second had a couple in bed with the husband responding to a message (p. 20):

Wife: It’s your mistress.

Husband: Not at all … It’s the office …

Wife: No … Your iPhone is your mistress …

The third shows a multi-storey house with dialogue coming from the uppermost room (p. 21):

Once again you’ve taken the side of the bed where you can get a connection!

The problem

A Frenchwoman, Carol, told Marianne that her boyfriend receives audible notifications of messages at all hours (pp. 18-19):

He sleeps with his phone; he wakes up with his phone. During the night it’s ‘ding, ding, ding!’ on the phone, on the computer and on the tablet.

Portable devices have become the adult version of cuddly toys or security blankets. Seventy-four per cent of the French say they never leave the house without them! That gem comes from an Ipsos survey taken in 2013 for Google (pp. 19, 21).

Furthermore, people are using their phones and tablets as escape routes from boring conversations (p. 19).

Even worse, the article says that a survey done in England showed that 62% of women use their smartphones during sexual intercourse (p. 20)!

Marianne interviewed one phone addict who was slowly realising that he has a phone problem. Business school student Jean-Manuel, aged 22, said (p. 20):

I no longer wait for my phone to vibrate; I look at it all the time. Even when I’m having a phone conversation, I hold it away from my face so that I can glance at the screen. I’m never separated from it.

During my student trip to Budapest, I was constantly on WhatsApp to communicate with my girlfriend who was in France. As it was non-stop, I turned down invitations to parties and missed moments of conviviality with the other students … I couldn’t even appreciate my mates who came to visit me.

Whilst travelling, I went to McDonald’s rather than to traditional restaurants just for the Wifi. It was horrible.

Online games are also an issue. Stéphanie Bertholon is a psychologist and cofounder of the Centre de traitment du stress et de l’anxiété in Lyon. She has a patient who prefers to play Candy Crush rather than put his daughter to bed at night. He realised (p. 20):

it gave him a rather pitiful picture of himself as a father …

Yet:

he is completely dependent [on the phone].

Let’s hope that, one year on, he is on the road to recovery.

Two researchers who have been studying phone addicts’ behaviour — sociologist Francis Jauréguiberry and anthropologist Jocelyn Lachance — have found, independently of each other (p. 21):

– No digital addict will make a clean break with a portable device. Although digital addicts talk about it, not one has done it yet.

– No corporate executive is ever completely disconnected.

– Rather than turning off, digital users tend to get more involved with their devices over time. Mastery of applications becomes increasingly more important to them.

Lachance, the anthropologist, indicated that loved ones can become co-dependents in this behaviour:

It’s not work that encourages [the addict] to stay connected. Friends and family cannot admit that they can no longer interact with these people.

Strangely:

The ultimate argument [for staying connected] is death. ‘What if something happens to him?’ ‘What if something happens to us?’

Who will know — and when?

Practical solutions

With summer holidays just around the corner, now is a good time to try to break the habit of being online all the time. Marianne‘s interviewees offered the following suggestions (p. 21).

Jean-Manuel, the aforementioned student: When you’re having drinks with friends, everyone has to put his mobile in the middle of the table. The first one who cracks and reaches for his phone has to buy the next round of drinks … Okay, fine, but we stopped playing that game. It made everyone too nervous.

Stéphanie Bertholon, the psychologist: First thing: I recommend stopping notification of messages. Then, before taking your smartphone to the beach, ask: ‘Why am I doing this?’ Above all, it’s about discarding a ritual in order to control your behaviour.

Another suggestion — especially good for parents and other family elders to impose — comes from Sabine Lochmann, director general for BPI Group, mother of three and wife of 25 years (emphasis mine):

On holiday, my husband and I pay fines if we work or talk about work. Our eldest daughter is in charge of the kitty. And when we all spend time together, I ask everyone to lay down their ‘arms’, meaning portable phones, and put them in a basket when they enter the house.

It was shocking to see so many airline passengers on our return flight from Nice to London using these smartphones and tablets non-stop. They even missed the beauty of the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) and the Esterel (the Alpes-Maritimes nearest the coast). I’ve seen both several times on take-off; such natural beauty never fails to captivate. I could not believe the number of people who preferred gazing at a tiny glowing screen!

Conclusion

Parents and grandparents should not hesitate to ask — demand — that mobile devices be left behind or put in a basket during family gatherings. And, unless there is something urgent (i.e. doctor on call), they should stay put until the end of the meal or party.

Let’s recapture the lively art of conversation! What better time to start than during summer holiday?

https://i1.wp.com/images.foodepedia.co.uk/news/2011/may/gulls_eggs/eggs.jpgWho knew a seagull’s eggs could become a delicacy?

Yet, they have. (Photo courtesy of Foodepedia.com.)

21st century delicacy

They became popular in Britain several years ago. In 2009, The Telegraph reported:

Black-headed gulls’ eggs, which can sell for up to £5 each, were once the exclusive preserve of aristocrats with coastal estates.

They are now a staple of top restaurants such as Wiltons, Le Gavroche, The Ivy and Le Caprice, gentlemen’s clubs such as White’s, Brooks’s and Boodle’s, and are also sold at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.

The eggs are growing in popularity and around 40,000 eggs a year are sold in the UK. But suppliers say the industry could soon disappear.

There are about 25 people who have a licence to collect the eggs but sources in the industry say that only around a third of these, all over retirement age, are still actively involved.

They still seem to be going strong in 2015. I had some just a few weeks ago.

A New York Times journalist described his gulls’ eggs experience in London in 2008:

They’re special. For one thing, they cost the better part of $10 a pop in a restaurant, and I bet you can’t eat just one, as the saying goes. They can be collected only by licensed gull’s egg collectors, and only from one variety of bird: the black-headed gull …

Oh, in case you’re wondering, they taste surprisingly un-oceanic — subtle in flavor, and very good, especially the yolks, which are rich and, well, eggy and have an excellent creamy texture when they’re not overcooked.

The reality

I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from trying gulls’ eggs, but they do not taste any different to free range hen’s eggs, which I can buy for 20 pence apiece.

They are served as an introductory course — starter (British), appetizer (American).

Gulls’ eggs are normally served with celery salt. They also need fat. Mine came with a too-lightly dressed salad. The eggs could have used a small side order of mayonnaise. I put a small amount of butter on each one.

In a normal restaurant or from a retailer, gulls’ eggs are £7.50 each. In a members-only club, which was where I had mine, they will be substantially less expensive. Mine were £2.50 each. The waiter will ask how many you want. Because of their size, three is the usual number.

They come in the shell, and the waiter brings a bowl for the shells. You do the work yourself. This is so that you can see the shell and discern that they are, in fact, gulls’ eggs.

The yolks are a bright orange, but, for me, no different to those of the poultry eggs I buy for substantially less.

That said, was I glad I tried them? Yes.

Would I have them again? No.

Legalities

Few restaurants serve — and retailers sell — gulls’ eggs.

They can be taken only from black headed gulls. This requires complying with UK government regulations for sustainability. Whilst no licence is required:

You must ensure the eggs are lawfully collected and you must have documentation to prove it.

You can sell the eggs (including hiring, bartering and exchanging) and advertise that the eggs are for sale.

Gulls’ eggs can only be sold until June 30. As the season starts in April, this item is strictly seasonal.

Recommendations

By all means, try gulls’ eggs if you’ve never had them. The diners at my table probably enjoyed looking at them more than I did eating them! It’s the novelty factor.

Ask what accompanies them, e.g. mayonnaise. If there is nothing, ask if a small dish or spoonful of mayonnaise can be provided. This should not cost extra in a good establishment.

At the beginning of June 2015, the Belz sect of Hasidic Jews in London issued instructions that their women were not to drive cars.

In fact, Belz rabbis said that mothers would be prohibited from dropping their children off at the sect’s schools starting in August. The Jewish Chronicle reported:

According to the letter — which was signed by leaders from Belz educational institutions and endorsed by the group’s rabbis — there has been an increased incidence of “mothers of pupils who have started to drive” which has led to “great resentment among parents of pupils of our institutions”.

They said that the Belzer Rebbe in Israel, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, has advised them to introduce a policy of not allowing pupils to come to their schools if their mothers drive.

Whilst this is serious — more about which below — the head rabbi of the Belz sect, Belzer Rebbe (his title), gave these instructions to female adherents in 2014:

“You should shave your entire head and not leave even one single strand of hair,” Rokeach thundered.

“You should not eat at a home in which the woman does not shave her head because the food is not kosher,” Rokeach added.

Rokeach also prohibited women from applying makeup.

“The only makeup that is allowed is that of a natural color, and any eye makeup is prohibited,” the rabbi said during his speech.

The rabbi said that women should not use any perfume.

Rokeach did not forget to attack women’s shoes. 

“You should not wear any shoes that make noise while walking, as noisy shoes was the reason God destroyed ancient Israel,” he said.

It is difficult to know whether that is a satire. However, an anonymous commenter wrote that the rabbi is in competition with others to make sure one of them is the most observant — ‘frum’ — as ‘kosher’ refers to food laws. Emphases mine:

This time you are exaggerating,
I have the letter in front of me. What he actually did was put all the rules in writing. Belzer women have been shaving their heads for years and years as do all women from Hungarian, Galitzianer and Yerushalmer Chassidus. Only Russian Chassidus does not do this. He said that this is perferable and no hair should be sticking out of their tichel. If they need to wear a shaitel they should also wear a hat or headband on top so that it is obvious that it is a shaitel … for the word loud regarding the shoes, he meant not noisy but loud colors that attract attention. What bothers the women is that all of a sudden clothing that was permissible for their mothers and grandmothers became forbidden, as for makeup this was always his rule, he just never was strict about it but all of this was taught in his girl’s schools for years
You need to be accurate and not go overboard even though you and most others find his “takonos” ridiculous. Don’t forget he is in competition with his brothers in laws the Vizhnitzer Rebbes, The satmer Aharonis and Skver as to who can be the frummest!

However, another controversy in the Hasidic community arose in London — once again in 2014. Stamford Hill’s Shomrim group help to patrol the area. Posters suddenly appeared telling women on what side of the street they should walk (photo courtesy of the London Evening Standard via Twitter) . The Shomrim reaction was that the public overreacted:

Chaim Hochhauser from the Stamford Hill Shomrim group, whose Jewish volunteers support policing in the area, said …

Everyone knows this story has blown everything out of proportion. I have spoken to the organisers of the parade – they have apologised [for the signs]. They did not think it would get so public. It was just a misunderstanding.”

Thankfully, this did go public. A 26-year old filmmaker Sam Aldersley put up signs saying:

WOMEN

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO WALK WHEREVER YOU WANT ..

IT’S 2014

Stamford Hill West councillor for Hackney, Rosemary Sales, deemed the Shomrim posters ‘unacceptable’ and Hackney Council removed them.

However, Sam Aldersley’s posters telling women to walk freely through the borough were also taken down (see the photo of the young boy on a bicycle). He would have said the posters were up for a Torah procession which, for some sects, demands a segregation of the sexes.

That said, are private citizens allowed to dictate how the public byways may be used —  where people can walk — even in religious processions? It seems unlikely. Why did Hackney not see this sooner?

Now back to the driving controversy. Not all Hasidic — or mainstream Orthodox — communities forbid their women to drive. The Jewish Chronicle explains:

One Stamford Hill rabbi said that it had “always been regarded in Chasidic circles as not the done thing for a lady to drive”.

But although some Chasidic sects discourage women from driving, others such as Lubavitch have no such policy. The wives of some senior non-Chasidic strictly Orthodox rabbis drive.

One local woman said that the policy “disables women. The more kids they have, the more they need to drive.” But she believed that some women would take no notice of the policy. “They say one thing, they do another,” she said.

A Briton writing for the Daily Kos adds that there is a practical basis for Hasidic women to drive:

Stamford Hill is, well, hilly. It is built on part of the escarpment of the Thames’ river valley and as such is quite steep. For mothers with large families, the use of a car eases the burden of taking children to school, especially if the children’s ages mean they go to several different schools or nurseries (kindergarten) or to separate boys’ and girls’ schools.

Some of us will wonder how the women obtained permission from their husbands to get a driving licence in the first place. Now, all of a sudden, it’s forbidden. Hmm. There’s a story here. When an update is available, it will appear here.

At the moment, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said any move to ban women drivers would be illegal.

Some readers might say, ‘This is a Jewish problem’. No, it is not. It is a universal issue of faith. If some are reminded of the ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia, they would not be wrong. More mainstream Jews have objected to the Belz ban on women drivers.

I bring this story to Christian attention to warn against the dangers of insularity and extreme views. May we not fall into the same trap.

I have said in the past that a great danger faces Christians in that we are easily slipping into the mores and legalism of our brethren of other world faiths. Let’s look more closely before we then refuse to leap.

More on the prohibition of Belz women drivers:

‘London Rabbis run women off the road’ – Daily Beast

‘Orthodox Jewish school that bans women from driving seeks state funding’ – The Hackney Citizen

‘Minister to investigate …’ – Daily Mail

‘Orthodox Jewish Hasidic sect ‘bans’ women from driving to school’ – Evening Standard

‘Ministers probe Orthodox Jewish sect’s ‘bid to stop women driving to school’ – Evening Standard

Fireworks Barking Park londonevents2011_comWe have lift-off once again!

Comments are now back on as I am once again in a position to respond.

Feel free to react to what I’ve written here over the past fortnight, if you wish.

More on Christianity, social movements, health, food and drink to come!

One of my readers, Christian author Edmond Sanganyado, spent the early part of his life angry at God for misfortunes which had beset his family.

Now he is grace filled. Conversion came a few months after he came top in his high school class. He was so angry, though, that he was in severe physical pain. This is what happened between graduation and conversion (emphases mine):

My brother’s friend bought me a gift to celebrate that rather normal achievement. A dictionary and a Christian booklet. I chose to read the dictionary than the Christian book. To make matters worse, the Christian book had the most horrible cover I had ever s[ee]n. After my General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level exams, I set myself to read every book I could lay my hands on. Except that Christian booklet.

Even medical scientists have proven anger is one of the most dangerous emotions, it is more deadly than cancer. As anger welled my inside like a volcano on the brink of an eruption, so did my health degenerate. At one time I had a headache which so excruciating that when I wanted to check if I had a fever, I touched my pillow thinking it was my head. My stomach gave in, and I had to walk around with a packet of anti-acids. One of my high school teachers had an encyclopedia of human diseases, I studied it and carried out a self-diagnosis. I probably had depression.

The day following New Year in 2002, I hit an all time low. No book in my library could provide the escape I needed, not even the dictionary. I was in pain and I was in emotional turmoil. On my table lay the Christian booklet with its horrible cover. I picked up, not because I wanted to hear what the author talked about, rather to escape the painful reality called my life.

I flipped through the pages of the book, it was like looking at a mirror. I was only seventeen, but I saw for the first time that God was love

Only His grace could save me, and it did.

This is why I write, I write for myself and for those who read and might be in a similar situation.

I know many who are angry at God, like Edmond, mostly for family difficulties and deaths. I pray they come to conversion as Edmond has.

For those who have difficulty praying or understanding prayer, I highly recommend they read his post ‘What Is Prayer, Really?’ Excerpts follow.

If prayer is simply speaking to God, then my words should be an expression of my deepest longings. My prayer is an outpouring of what lies hidden in my heart. I tell God what I believe, knowing God has given me His word and will continue to do so.

… prayer is operationally simply an exchange of words between God and man. In prayer, God reveals His heart through the Holy Spirit. By the same Spirit, we divulge the innermost substances of our heart. It is the Holy Spirit who searches the deep things of our heart.

“What is in the deepest end of your heart?”

At the surface, I had a review to write, experiments to do, a family to support, debts to pay and a book to sell. But, there was something else at the bottom of my heart. Prayer was revealing that thing, at the bottom of my heart, before the feet of Jesus Christ.

May be tomorrow it will be something different, but today, I only want to give thanks to God. I want to laugh and jump around celebrating the might and strength and faithfulness of God …

Do not allow the stuff at the surface to rob you an opportunity to pray.

How true that is. So often we are distracted from our daily schedules, thinking only of what we need to accomplish that day. We think, ‘I’ll pray later.’ Sometimes, later never comes. We fall asleep before praising and thanking God for His many blessings.

More of Edmond’s insights are in his books The Secret Place and The Good Shepherd. I wish him all the very best with them as well as in his personal and spiritual life.

Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 7:7-11

Ask, and It Will Be Given

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

———————————————————————

Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount continues (Matthew 5, 6 and 7).

I wrote about selected ‘forbidden’ passages as follows:

Matthew 5:25-26 – Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, anger, sin, holding grudges, improper worship because of interpersonal conflict

Matthew 5:31-32 – Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, adultery, divorce, marriage

Matthew 6:7-15 – Sermon on the Mount, Lord’s Prayer, Jesus, prayer

Matthew 6:22-23 – Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, the eye as lamp of the body

Matthew 7:1-6 – Sermon on the Mount, judging others, speck v log in eye, hypocrisy

Jesus continues His discourse by telling us that, if we ask and seek things from God, He will provide them (verses 7, 8). However, John MacArthur explains that this is not automatic nor applicable to everyone (emphases mine):

asking — you have to be a child of God to receive, and an obedient child of God, and a selfless child of God. And, finally, you have to submit it all to His will. I John 5:14 and 15, “In whatever we ask, we know we receive of Him if we ask according to His will.” That’s not a blank check. It’s just that when the conditions are right — you’re His child, you’re His obedient child, you’re His unselfish child, and you ask according to His will, in order that He may be glorified — He’ll do it.

When we do not receive what we ask for, it is possible — and this often becomes apparent later — that better things lie ahead. We shouldn’t try to force situations.

MacArthur gives us an example of seeking:

Ask is very simple. A child does that. There’s no involvement in it. There’s no participation in it. You just ask. Seek is stronger than an asking. There’s a participation in it. At least you’re moving your eyes. Knock, you’re banging away. There’s a greater participation. So that even though we know everything comes from the Lord, that does not assume that we are not actively, aggressively, perseveringly involved in its fulfillment.

I mean, I don’t just sit at my office and say, “Lord, I want to preach a great sermon Sunday. Please, I ask you, give me a great sermon.” No, what I do is I ask the Lord all week for that, and then I seek that by going through the Word of God and reading and reading. And then I begin banging on the Lord, in a sense, by saying, “Lord, I’m struggling with this thing and I want to understand it,” and this one this morning, which isn’t so hot, anyway, I rewrote three times. And on and on you go, struggling with it. But the point is, I realize that God is the only one who can produce through me, but at the same time, I’ve got to be involved in that.

Matthew Henry has a marvellous exposition of these two verses:

Here is a precept in three words to the same purport, Ask, Seek, Knock (Matthew 7:7) that is, in one word, “Pray pray often pray with sincerity and seriousness pray, and pray again make conscience of prayer, and be constant in it make a business of prayer, and be earnest in it. Ask, as a beggar asks alms.” Those that would be rich in grace, must betake themselves to the poor trade of begging, and they shall find it a thriving trade. “Ask represent your wants and burthens to God, and refer yourselves to him for support and supply, according to his promise. Ask as a traveller asks the way to pray is to enquire of God, Ezekiel 36:37. Seek, as for a thing of value that we have lost, or as the merchantman that seeks goodly pearls. Seek by prayer, Daniel 9:3. Knock, as he that desires to enter into the house knocks at the door.” We would be admitted to converse with God, would be taken into his love, and favour, and kingdom sin has shut and barred the door against us by prayer, we knock Lord, Lord, open to us. Christ knocks at our door (Revelation 3:20; Song of Solomon 5:2) and allows us to knock at his, which is a favour we do not allow to common beggars. Seeking and knocking imply something more than asking and praying. 1. We must not only ask but seek we must second our prayers with our endeavors we must, in the use of the appointed means, seek for that which we ask for, else we tempt God. When the dresser of the vineyard asked for a year’s respite for the barren fig-tree, he added, I will dig about it, Luke 13:7,8. God gives knowledge and grace to those that search the scriptures, and wait at Wisdom’s gates and power against sin to those that avoid the occasions of it. 2. We must not only ask, but knock we must come to God’s door, must ask importunately not only pray, but plead and wrestle with God we must seek diligently we must continue knocking must persevere in prayer, and in the use of means must endure to the end in the duty.

In verse 9, Jesus makes this more easily understood by discussing the parent-child relationship. Does a parent give his child a tooth-breaking stone instead of bread or a serpent instead of fish (verse 10)? Of course not, unless he or she is perverse or completely unhinged. Instinctively, a parent wants to feed his children. They are his flesh and blood.

Good parents love their children and want the best for them. With that in mind, our Lord then says that God will care even more deeply for our needs and desires (verse 11). He says ‘you then, who are evil’, meaning prone to sin by nature. God, who is perfect in everything, especially love, will provide even more if only we ask, seek and knock.

Henry unpacks this for us:

First, God is more knowing[;] parents are often foolishly fond, but God is wise, infinitely so he knows what we need, what we desire, and what is fit for us. Secondly, God is more kind. If all the compassions of all the tender fathers in the world were crowded into the bowels of one, yet compared with the tender mercies of our God, they would be but as a candle to the sun, or a drop to the ocean. God is more rich, and more ready to give to his children than the fathers of our flesh can be for he is the Father of our spirits, an ever-loving, ever-living Father.

MacArthur takes this a step further:

And the point is this. If evil, unregenerate, sinful fathers give their kids the basics of life, don’t you think God’ll do that? And the idea that I see here is that God is the absolute giving Father, who gives to all what they need, knowing full well they could never give back to Him anything, in kind or measure. And if that’s the way He is, then isn’t that the way we, His children, should be toward others? See?

We will see in the next passage!

Next time: Matthew 7:12-14

 

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