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Saturday, 28 July 2018

North Wales, Over Half A Century...

The two primary school teachers who supervised us both looked stern and serious as we were compelled to walk in an orderly double line along the quayside, each one of us having a partner, as we walked in almost military fashion towards what is to be the smallest house in Great Britain.

Of course, being just a boy with still quite a bit of growing up yet to accomplish, the property did not look that impressive. Rather it was big enough for me to enter easily, with plenty of room to spare. So concluded a coach trip to Conway, or as the Welsh spell it, Conwy, whilst staying at a special hostel, purposely built to accommodate city school children for up to two weeks at a time. The hostel was well-situated on the outskirts of Llangollen, another Welsh town crossed by the River Dee and towered over by the ruins of Dinas Bran Castle. 

The ruins of Dinas Bran dominates over Llangollen. 
Castelle Dinas Bran (possible meaning: Crow Castle), or rather what remains of it, sits on the summit of a hill overlooking the town of Llangollen, and therefore looking straight into our bedroom and lounge windows. Even while young, I was rather fascinated by the hilltop structure, and I even asked our teachers about any history of it. But without the Internet, they knew no more about it than this curious lad. At least, throughout the getaway, it was not military-style discipline all the time. After all, we were all children, and the staff were fully aware of this. And so, after a trip out, whether it was to buy candy with the pocket money supplied by our parents, a climb up the hill to play on the manicured lawn which was once the castle's flooring, or after a coach trip to Conwy, we were allowed some time at the swing park located nicely between the hostel and the fast-flowing river.

Of all primary school trips, this one, somewhere between 1960-1962, stands out in memory to this day. I always recall the excitement as we assembled at Paddington Station for the express train to what I believe was Ruabon Station, a few miles out of Llangollen. For the benefit of railway enthusiasts, in those days such a route was served by London Paddington. Nowadays it is served by London Euston. But as my father was so proud with owning and driving his own family car, it came as no surprise that as a child I hardly ever saw the inside of a train. Therefore such a journey made with the school was a unique experience. Other school Summer trips, such as to Swanage a year earlier, was always done by coach.

Whether Castelle Dinas Bran boded good or ill for me I cannot say. But in 1998, I made an effort to cycle all the way to Llangollen from my apartment in Bracknell. I did well as I passed through Henley on Thames, the posh venue for the famous annual Regatta, through Oxford with its magnificent University buildings, then through Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, then through Birmingham as I headed towards Wolverhampton. It was while on a fast downhill burn-up when the bicycle frame suddenly snapped near the crankshaft, and I found myself wavering along the highway, on a zig-zag course which could have got me killed if another vehicle had gotten involved! Therefore I had no other option but to limp into Wolverhampton for an overnight stay at a pre-booked hotel to spend the night before locking up the crippled mount in the city centre and then finishing the journey by train and bus.

Gutted, utterly gutted, by thankful to God for sparing my life, or even from an ambulance trip to hospital. The break in the frame was a clean one caused by metal fatigue, and I wondered whether I could have had it welded back together at a bicycle shop. But not finding one straightaway, along with the possibly of the appropriate mechanic shaking his head in hopelessness, the cycle trip was therefore abandoned, but I still wanted to get to my final destination. This included passing through the Welsh town of Wrexham, which was actually on the scheduled cycle route.

From Wrexham station I sat alone in the train with my chin touching the floor in self-pity, leading to depression. I tried to convince myself that I did not abandon the ride out of choice or through physical or mental exhaustion, but through mechanical failure. Nevertheless, I felt as though I have failed.

 At the Smallest House to give the scale.

I eventually arrived at Llangollen, and claimed my bed at the backpacker's hostel which was quite a distance from town and even further away from our former school hostel. The place was almost empty of guests, except for one Spanish student who came into the UK to cycle around the country. When he saw me, he took an instant liking to me straight away, and at table, he began to talk to me with an endless torrent of incomprehensible Spanish. By asking him to slow down, I managed to pick out what he was attempting to tell me; that he was studying to be an accountant and was taking a break with a trip to the UK to see the sights on a bicycle. I cannot remember whether he brought his own bicycle here with him or whether he bought or hired a mount after arriving here.

At least he was able to raise my spirits, and gave me new hope. Even if I felt a failure, at least he didn't see me that way. Rather, he saw me as a source of encouragement, not to give up on his tour, even when feeling tired. The next morning he set off on his next leg of his journey on his bicycle while I sauntered into town on foot. As I looked up to Dinas Bran, it appeared at quite a different angle to the one so familiar, but as I walked on, this slowly changed. As I approached the town, feelings of reminiscence began to rise. After such a long time nothing had changed. The town remained the same, with the High Street continuing over the River Dee on a Medieval bridge. After crossing the river, it wasn't far to the start of a modern trail (which wasn't there before) leading up the hill to the ruins of Dinas Bran.

The setting was exactly the same as when I was a junior schoolboy. A sat there alone, meditating on my schooldays. From time to time families arrived and departed, but I remained on the summit for quite a while without any teachers or authority figures keeping an eye. After this, I walked on to find the very school hostel building I stayed at, and the swing park behind it. Sure enough, it was still there, unoccupied at that moment, but getting ready to receive another school group. It's original purpose hadn't changed either. Then I couldn't resist mounting one of the swings, perhaps the very same one I used some 36-38 years earlier. Not long after, I watched two elderly ladies, definitely pensioners, having a whale of a time laughing while swinging on the same swings! Without doubt, that hostel must have been serving its purpose long before I was even born.

Reminiscence! Reminiscence! How effective all this was. And just as well. For after just a few weeks after that failed bicycle ride, I met my future wife Alex.

And it was just this week when Alex and I boarded a fast train to North Wales from London Euston. Although we had to change trains at Chester, the remainder of the journey was uneventful. We arrived at Conwy station on time, which was just a couple of minutes walk to our hotel. 

Which goes to show how much love can overcome the problems a wheelchair can pose, especially laden with luggage. Guards were willingly at hand to help my wife to board and alight from each train using special ramps. Admittingly, we were both looked upon as someone special - or was it with a degree of pity? Either way, it was very helpful to see the work of Jesus Christ in action with these people, whether they were true believers or not.

She wanted to visit Conwy Castle, and I took her there. Fortunately for her, it was the time of day when she was partially mobile and she made an effort, unaided, to climb the spiral stairway in one of the turrets, quite an achievement for her. Then she returned to her wheelchair within the castle itself while I explored the rest of this Medieval fortress. Later, I took her to the Smallest House in Great Britain, which is built into the city wall, and facing the tidal estuary of the Afon Conwy with its many boats and a large sandbank island exposed during low spring tide. Indeed, everything seemed so different from the days of school trips. Even groups of young students in uniform appeared far more casual than what we had to go through, looking far more like a tour group than a school trip.

A short, ten minute train journey from nearby Llandudno Junction station to Llandudno terminus allowed a full day at this lovely Victorian seaside resort of Llandudno. From the pebbly beach I was able to bathe in the sea, as well as mingle in the thick crowds which populated the pier with its line of stalls selling anything between fish-n-chips to trinkets, both cheap and trashy to more expensive ornaments. Alex's wheelchair wasn't the only one there. We saw quite a number of disabled individuals in wheelchairs, some manual, some electric, as we strolled along the pier, and admiring the magnificent layered rock formation of Great Orme.

Great Orme, a mountainous headland which is difficult to believe that it was once an island before the formation of the peninsula on which the resort is now built. From its summit the Isle of Man can be seen, along with the Cumbrian mountains of the Lake District, on any clear day. Unfortunately, because of the wheelchair, we could not make it to its summit.

Great Orme Headland, taken July 2018. 

Then came the day we had to return home. Our train was not due to leave Llandudno Junction until mid-afternoon, and for a direct journey to London Euston without the need to change trains. Therefore, after checking out of our hotel in the morning, we had a few leisurely hours before making our way to the station. Once on board the train, at first all was well. However it was later in the journey when things began to go pear-shaped.

Alex developed a severe back pain which only Oramorph can relieve. Oramorph is actually Morphine, but taken orally rather than intravenously. When we left home a few days earlier, we left home prepared and made sure we were adequately stocked. The medicine we had did relieve the pain, but her back remained stiff, giving her much discomfort. After the train had pulled out of Milton Keynes station, the guard, who looked alarmed at the situation, offered to have the train emergency stop at Watford Junction. We declined the offer, saying that we much prefer to visit a London hospital. And so the train flew through Watford Junction station as scheduled. At London Euston Alex was as if paralysed in her wheelchair. The station staff helped us board a taxi to the nearest hospital, which was just around the corner from the terminus.

At Accident & Emergency, although the doctor visited, there was no treatment necessary. With my help, Alex was already recovering and her back muscles loosened. We agreed on a quick discharge in order to board the last train home from Waterloo Station. After our train was cancelled due to a signalling problem, we eventually arrived home near midnight, several hours later than originally planned.  

In such a condition, would we be able to travel long distance again in the future? Alex insist that we will. But I'm not too sure. To be honest, I'm now afraid to take her anywhere. I guess we have to wait and see.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Wow! A Fossilised Pocket Watch.

As the plane soared above the stunning Scottish mountains, I sat there by the window with a sense of astonishment of the view as the airline soared some 35,000 feet 10,670 metres into the clear sky, with the sunshine contrasting the land with the almost black sea and lochs. But with the stunning beauty way below, I also felt a sense of apprehension on what would lie ahead, for this particular 1977 journey from London to Toronto was my first long-haul flight I had ever taken. 

Not that I hadn't flown before. The last trip I took was only a year earlier in 1976, a flight to Tel Aviv. But was that particular flight the longest short-haul flight classified, or the shortest long-haul? After all, a flight from London to Amman, only a small fraction longer, was - and I guess still is - categorised as long-haul. The two preceding flights out of London, one to the Spanish airport of Girona in 1972, and the other to Milan in 1974, were indeed short-haul. Even though I was already nineteen years of age when I first ever boarded a plane, due to my late father's averse to flying combined with his love for the steering wheel, I had never flown with any of my family members.

Therefore sitting alone inside a sealed capsule among complete strangers, I felt a need for divine assurance. And so, during the in-flight meal, I took the bread roll, broke it, and quietly proclaimed,
This is the body of Christ broken for me. And I ate whilst meditating. Then I took the glass of red wine and said,
This is the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for me. I'll shall drink it in memory of Him, which I proceeded to do.

I did ponder whether I had bestowed a blessing on myself, or whether I had committed a deadly sin, for according to the Catholic Church, I have violated a sacred sacrament by taking it without priestly authority.

And if all that was not enough, a year later in 1978, once again I found myself on board a transatlantic flight, this time from London to New York. And during a mid-flight meal I repeated the sacrament of eating a piece of bread and drinking red wine symbolising the body and blood of Jesus Christ broken and shed whilst hanging on that cross.

Dripping with sweat, inside head of Statue of Liberty, 1978.

I'm glad to say that no harm had ever came to me as a result of these mid-flight self-administered Holy Communion meals, despite what the Church of Rome might think. So far I didn't die and then finding myself tumbling into the eternal fires of Hell. Rather, on both these backpacking trips I felt as if I was blessed. Being close to God, feeling his protective presence where ever I went, never coming across any difficulty in finding a room at every hotel reception I called at.

However, as I sat in the aeroplane full of strangers, there was another important reason on why I self-administered a Communion meal other than for seeking assurance. As a son of Adam and Eve, I was unfortunate enough to inherit original sin from them, which has caused spiritual death and separation from God, with physical death to follow, and a lost eternity spent separated from God's personal presence. But because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through faith in him I was acquitted from the penalty with all my sins forgiven - past, present and future - and the Righteousness of Christ was credited to my account, and I was adopted into his family as a son of God.

The righteousness credited to my account was Christ's righteousness, not my own! As the Scripture says, 
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Romans 4:4-5.

Therefore the truth of Eternal Security of the Believer, or Once Saved Always Saved, must stand with this truth of justification by faith because such emanates from this truth of the Gospel. Therefore the eating of the Body of Christ and the drinking of his Blood by means of bread and wine attest of eternal salvation gotten through Jesus Christ - a glorious truth in the face of the uncertainty facing me after landing.

But to take Holy Communion mid-flight with such conviction on both trips - surely such a sacrament must be based on factual history. Did Jesus Christ really exist some two millennia previously? Did the Last Supper, on which my in-flight Communion was based upon, itself actually took place? Furthermore, was it him who was crucified and died while still fastened to the cross? After all, Islam insists that it was Judas Iscariot who hung there. And after burial, did he actually rise from the dead? According to one national newspaper, it was thought that Jesus Christ did not actually die, but instead fell unconscious, and was buried in that state, as if he was suffering from catalepsy. Then after waking up, somehow with unimaginable strength, he managed to move the stone covering the mouth of the tomb, and then walked away, probably to a remote desert, never to be seen again.

If any of these things occurred, all which differed to what is recorded in the four Gospels, then really, our faith is in vain, remaining futile, there is no salvation, and all that time spent in church - even if I enjoy singing, praising, praying to God, and listening to sermons, as well as trying hard to love one another despite our different opinions - it would have turned out to be a total waste of time and effort. If I attend church for up to two hours every Sunday for fifty weeks of the year, that would be as much as an annual top up of a hundred hours, or four full 24-hour days where I would be better off spending at a luxury hotel by the seaside. Furthermore, those sacraments taken whilst mid-flight would serve no other purpose but to make a fool of myself in view of anyone watching.

All these things came to mind while we were watching a television documentary about the Jurassic Coast, presented by Dan Snow, Lucy Cooke, and wheelchair-bound Niall Strawson. This three-part series occupied an hour-long slot on BBC Four, therefore down from peak evening viewing of BBC One. As we were watching the third programme, I felt my spirit sink into sadness and hopelessness as the words evolve, evolution, and evolutionary were constantly repeated. Throughout the entire three hours of broadcast, not one word about God, Supernatural Creation or Noah's Flood was mentioned. However, it was Lucy Cooke who, with a moment of hesitation, used the word designed in her description of a fossil with intricate detail.

Perhaps the Lord, with a sense of humour, does allow the presenter to let her guard slip on occasions. And no doubt, as I see it, the Jurassic Coast is a testimony of the Biblical Deluge, which stretches from Old Harry Rocks which are the chalk stacks east of Swanage, all the way west to Exmouth, on the River Exe estuary. The resort of Lyme Regis, where many fossils are displayed and sold, lies on the Dorset side of the border with Devon, itself midway along the Jurassic Coast.

And so the public is fed to the hilt with how these fossils of mainly marine creatures, are out-and-out proof of organic evolution - despite that these lifeforms look to all have died together at one instance. And how my spirit sank in very much the same way those creatures sank to the bottom of the ocean. Because, like the newspaper testimony above, if evolution is a scientific fact, then my faith in Christ is a sham and the Christian faith is a worthless ideology. For Darwinism is a direct denial that Jesus is the Christ who atoned for our sins.

While Dan Snow dealt mainly with human history around that stretch of coast, particularly of wartime tanks and submarines, Lucy Cooke narrated on the fossils so frequently found here. A fossil expert who was with Cooke picked up what looked like a large rounded limestone pebble. He then struck it with a hammer, and the two halves came apart to reveal a beautifully-detailed fossil ammonite. When asked how he knew that this ordinary-looking pebble contained such a intricate fossil, his answer was that by looking at the surface, some detail of the edge can be seen. I guess this can be referred to as a ham-roll effect. Only the edge of the ham at the outer surface can reveal its presence between the two bread roll halves.

The ammonite remains represent the ideal fossil of a creature which lived in the Jurassic Period somewhere between 145,000,000-200,000,000 years ago. That's pretty old, and such remains found embedded in limestone are classed as a true fossil, a thought-view which carries the notion that it takes millions of years for a dead organism to fossilize. And this theory of tremendous longevity is essential for Darwin's evolutionary theories to hold true. And such theories are spoon-fed to the public which in turn accept without any ado. And furthermore, no one in his right mind would dare throw a challenge. If the challenger is a man in the street, he would simply be ignored. If a graduate or a university professor and civil engineering, such as the late Henry M. Morris, then its likely that he will be ostracised by the scientific community, who will write papers debunking his Creationist stance. 

It was within the first fifteen minutes of the second show when something I consider to be very remarkable. Here stood Lucy Cooke talking to an expert about some sealed bottled perfumes, together with a couple of china vessels and statuettes, all of them around a hundred years old, found at a shipwreck off the coast of Dorset. And next to the porcelain was an insignificant-looking lump of rock. And fully embedded in the rock was what looked like a man-made artifact. After thorough cleaning and examination, the artifact turned out to be a pocket watch, almost entirely entombed in solid rock in virtually the same way the ammonite was entombed in a limestone pebble.

The rock featured on the BBC: A watch "fossilized".

A pocket watch embedded in "crud" - solidified mud.

Interestingly enough, Cooke remarks that it will take a further 130,000,000 years before the watch will be a "proper" fossil. But going by the hardness of the rock, isn't it a fossil already? What is the real difference between it and that of the ammonite? Except for its age and of different rock composition? The rock in which the watch is embedded is given a name "crud", which is mud consolidated into rock. What I find so fantastically remarkable about this exhibit is that if a man-made artifact of little more than a hundred years of age can be entombed in solid rock at an amazingly quick time, then why does the ammonite need millions of years to achieve the same result?

It is as if God is desperately trying to tell us something, and just by looking at all the fossils found around the coast and elsewhere, one obvious conclusion can be drawn, and that is all fossilised organisms - whether its marine life, plant and trees, birds, or land animals including Dinosaurs, must have died very quickly, were buried and preserved as fossils over a very short duration. At is as if God is saying, Hey, look guys. What I have written in my Book is historic and true. There was a universal Deluge in the days of Noah, and you are looking at the evidence right now. Oh, so you want more proof that fossilization is quick and recent? Well there you are, a watch preserved in stone. There you have it.

As I stand, this revelation is vital for the Christian faith. Mythologize any part of the Bible, especially the early chapters of Genesis, and the Christian faith will go down like a house of cards. But even the reality of Noah's Flood isn't by means all and end all. Rather it's the historical truth of Adam and Eve. For the reality of Jesus Christ can only stand if Adam and Eve were real too, along with Divine Creation and the Fall, as well as the Deluge, the cause of the formation of fossils. Because through their transgression sin entered the world and death to all men. This concept, which is within the very heart of the Christian faith, can only stand if there was an Adam and Eve, and they were created direct from the ground as the Bible teaches, and were not descended from a human line gradually going back to the primates, as all of these must have died already, before the Fall, therefore nullifying the purpose of Jesus Christ and the Atonement he made on the Cross. 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Moment a Ray of Light Shone

Wednesday of the past week was not untypical, at least for the last few weeks. Feeling depressed as I sat alone in the stationary train at a terminus platform of Reading Station, I watched as the carriage began to fill with other passengers. That is, except at my particular section, which consisted of two rows of triple seats facing each other, in which I remained a sole occupant. People passing through the central aisle seemed to glance at me sitting there, then quickly make up their minds to find other still-vacant seats elsewhere.

Am I imagining all this? Or is there a kind of negative aura surrounding my person in such a way that its affecting everyone who comes too close to its proximity? At last, a middle-age businessman, minus a tie, takes the seat directly opposite to where I was sitting, the two of us facing each other as the train began to pull out of its bay. A little way into the journey, as I looked out of the window towards the sky, he suddenly rose from his seat and moved to a vacant seat on the opposite side of the carriage without alighting at any scheduled stops.

Maybe the fellow has a preference for the more restricted airline seating arrangement fitted at the other side of the carriage. Or more disturbingly, could it be the energy generated by such a negative aura surrounding me to be strong enough to make this businessman decide to move away?

A state of depression. It was as if in the midst of deep darkness, imprisoned within the most gloomy chamber I can imagine. How strong and binding it was. Yet I wasn't even sure what was the cause of such emotions. I just couldn't put my finger on it. It seems that no amount of prayer or meditation can shift it. I was thinking whether I need counselling. Would talking to a stranger really unload my burdens? Yet it has been like this now for several weeks. It is as if something was slowly turning the screw, gradually intensifying the feelings of perpetual sadness, fear and trepidation. To the extent of impairing my judgement. As, for example, while fumbling about with this Blogger page on my laptop, I found myself staring at a prompt highlighted on the screen. I'm sure the prompt read, Comments awaiting moderation. Yes, I have a moderation system in place. This is not to dissuade any form of argument or disagreement with what I have written and posted. Rather, it is to keep off any input or contribution carrying links to other websites promoting product sales.

Seeing so many comments under the heading Comments Awaiting Moderation (so I thought), I clicked the Delete All prompt - then suddenly realised what I have just done. I have literally wiped out every comment that was ever posted on the page, probably numbering up to a thousand. It was a disaster, but one which occurred due to a befuddled judgement caused by constant depression. Not surprisingly, by that Wednesday evening such emotions reached near-panic stage.

We were watching Holby City (a soap based on a fictitious Bristol hospital) when I felt a need for both of us (Alex and myself) to pray, and to pray fervently. After the program ended, we both got down to prayer. Perhaps some 15-20 minutes into praying, a disturbance could be heard coming from one of our neighbours.

My heart fell.
"Someone has scored a goal!" I exclaimed, realising that the match between England and Croatia must have gone into extra time, it being rather late in the evening.

As the banging on the wall continued, I decided to put on some relaxing music to act as a background noise-shield for our praying. But after that incident, I couldn't pray anymore. I felt discouraged, and all I wanted to do was to bury my head into a corner of the sofa, which I actually did. But Alex kept on praying, asking God to help her husband find relief from his ongoing depression. She spent a considerable amount of time pleading to the Almighty on my behalf while the gentle music played. At last, after an undefined period, Alex ended her praying and asked if I can give her some refreshment.

I rose and walked into the kitchen and casually looked out of the window. I had to blink twice. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Those two houses on the opposite side of our street. For the last few weeks, giant English St. George flags were draped from the front bedroom windows. I stared at the properties. All the flags had gone! Suddenly it was as if a ray of light had pierced the darkness of my heart. Could it be? Yes, could it be...?

As I was preparing a snack for both of us, for the first time I began to feel my depression lift. But I was very cautious, reasoning to myself on why the flags were down if the World Cup Final is still a few days away. Could it be that such "underdogs" such as Croatia had knocked the mighty and proud Three Lions out of the tournament? Surely, this was too good to be true.

Until I checked the Internet. Sure indeed, the little nation of Croatia had eliminated England during extra time, and the timing of the deciding goal coincided with the disturbance heard from next door. The noise was not of cheering but of disappointment and frustration. By contrast, the depression which had me gripped in its power began to lose its hold, and with great surprise with the result, I began to feel a rush of relief, and for a first time after a long while, a sense of happiness.

The reader can be forgiven for wondering why I was so against England winning the World Cup. Simply this: with Italian origins, I felt threatened. And that despite earlier that evening, before kick-off, I actually posted a wish for England to do well on Facebook, as well as writing last week's blog in support. And there were other times when I spoke positively for our national team. But thinking back, I don't think my heart was in any of this well-wishing rhetoric. Rather it was done to save face if England made it into the Final and won. In other words, a form of self-preservation.

It was during the days following their 2-0 victory against Sweden in the Quarter-final when three words became apparent, according to Media outlets. Those words looking to be most appropriate are proud and arrogant. Over and over again, the phrase Football is coming home was constantly repeated as if a mantra. There was a high level of pride and optimism that the trophy will return home this time. And the semi-final against Croatia? Never mind about that. Croatia is a non-entity, we will wipe them out as easily as a cloth wiping water off a table. After all, what significance has such a small nation in a tournament of giants, with the Three Lions being the greatest giant of all? A giant which was motherland to history's greatest Empire, which remained ongoing for around four hundred years.

And also in a geographical sense, the motherland of the greatest Empire in history happens to be an island off the north coast of mainland Europe. This gives a mentality of isolation and with it the ability to rule from a distance, without the need for international borders which would encourage foreign invasion. The way I picture it, Britain is rather like a schoolmaster standing at a distance from all the young students, facing them and delivering his edict with full authority and a sense of unquestionable individual superiority, without a single student daring to butt in. As I see it, that's how the English have always perceived the rest of the world. One nation leads, the rest follow with subordination. Indeed, such source of pride is steeped in history.

And what pride! What optimism after defeating Sweden! It is as if such a tiny, insignificant nation such as Croatia had no relevance at all. An easy win. Yea! the Final, here we come! And return home with the trophy. Indeed. But God had other thoughts. As written in Scripture I happen to be reading by chance this morning:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9.

And again:

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Matthew 23:12, also Luke 14:11.

Maybe Jesus had a foreknowledge of international football and all the self-exaltation and national glory-seeking which will go with it, even if it's two millennia after his time! Maybe England has a lesson here to learn, what it means to be humble. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word humble is defined as, having or showing a low estimate of one's own importance. Maybe, who knows, if England had such a characteristic on a national scale, chances that it would have won the Cup several times in its long half-century history of dwelling in the sporting wilderness.

Which leads to thinking. When France beat Belgium in its 2018 semi-final, its fans showed quite a high level of arrogance by causing crowd havoc in the streets of Paris. Could this mean that France will forfeit its chances of taking home the trophy - which would be for the second time since only 1998? Yes, that is possible. But hand-on-heart, I would prefer Croatia to win. At least in its short history, for them it will be the first Cup victory since October 1991, when this small country gained independence from former Yugoslavia.

But at the time of writing, I have just less than 24 hours to find out. If Croatia does win, who knows, perhaps there is further truth in God showing mercy to the weaker side. But if France win - well, God's thoughts and his ways are higher than ours, who can fathom them?

Whichever way the coin will fall, this I know: after prayer that Wednesday evening, a ray of light pierced through the darkness of my heart, and the heavy depression started to lift. I have to wait to see what happens in four years from now.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Comments - A Terrible Mistake I Made!!!

Dear all Blogger readers and followers who has commented on my posts,

BY MISTAKE I have deleted every comment published in all my posts by clicking a wrong key.

I have sent a request on feedback to the Blogger Administration asking whether all your comments can be restored.

Please note: This was a genuine mistake and there was no prejudice connected with the action.

Therefore I ask you with full sincerity to continue to comment on my posts.

Many thanks.

Frank E. Blasi

Saturday, 7 July 2018

The Real Meaning for Living...

There is one true story which occurred in the not-too-distant past. A couple who has been married for more than twenty years had drifted apart until the husband found himself in a relationship with an office colleague half his age. Pretty and youthful this office colleague happened to be, and full of vitality, such a growing relationship has settled in his mind that divorce from his longstanding wife was inevitable After all, compared to his new partner, she was gradually becoming thin and apparently weak. So he arrived home one evening and presented his divorce papers to her to sign.

She did not react to the news with any drama. It was as if she had already saw it coming. Instead, she will agree to sign the divorce procedure if he will first make a vow to carry her across the threshold every morning for a month, like he did on their wedding night, before he drives off to the office. He thought of this as burdensome, but reluctantly agreed to the deal.

And so the next morning he carried his wife through the front door before leaving for work. He thought of it as a nuisance but he was also surprised to see how his teenage children reacted with positive gestures. Morning after morning, as he carried his wife across the threshold, not only the act began to be less of a burden, but he began to enjoy it. He also realised that his kids were beginning to expect the gesture as a new normality and quickly became accustomed to watching it.

He began to feel the same affection revive towards her as when she was a young bride. Also, his feelings for his work colleague also began to wane until the day he explained to her that his love for his own wife was far more real than he imagined, therefore must bring this affair to an end. The husband grew more and more fond of his wife as he carried her through the threshold each morning, as he also watched his son and daughter both looking far happier as well as showing a rise in schoolwork performance and markings.

Even before the month has finally passed, the two sat on the sofa, looking into each other's eyes with love and affection, both knowing that their marriage had revived to full robustness, but the sadness in her eyes arousing his curiosity, he asked what the matter was.

"I did not want to tell you or want our children to know, but I have terminal cancer. I had it for the last couple of years, and whilst you were at work, I made frequent trips to both the doctor's office and hospital alike. After diagnosis and some treatment, they all agreed that there is no lasting cure."

Not long after this, she died, leaving behind her husband, son and daughter.

And that is a true story. Some of you readers may already be familiar with it. A video version of the story appeared on my Facebook wall earlier this year. It is a kind of story which sticks in the mind, never able to forget it. And it has made a big impression in my life, allowing me to reflect on the health of our own marriage and to improve on any necessary area.

Looking at the Biblical perspective, it looks to me that this is the purpose of all mankind, together with a love and spiritual devotion to God. It is a bit like a triune relationship - God, husband, wife. Not surprising in a way, for our Trinitarian God is also a God who is love, according to 1 John 4:7-8.

God is Love, not merely a source of love. For example, how the Father loves the Son and the Holy Spirit! How the Son loves the Father and the Holy Spirit! How the Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son! The eternal Trinity had never needed an object for him to love, for his love is within himself.

And so with his initial Creation. After creating the heavens and the earth in six literal days, he formed Adam out of the ground - a supernatural occurrence which never happened ever again. Adam stood up and acknowledged God as his Creator. Not long after, God brought all land creatures for Adam to give names to. With every known species arriving in pairs for the naming ceremony, poor Adam began to realise that there was something seriously wrong.

Whilst every species consisted of a single pair, a male with a female mate, he saw that he was alone. He knew that he was never able to pair up with a horse, hippopotamus or even a monkey, yet he missed a mate for himself. At least God knew of Adam's problem. So he caused him to fall into a deep sleep, a kind of being under anesthesia, except without the gas or fluid administered. From Adam's side a rib was taken and from it he created a woman. When Adam eventually woke up after the completion of the operation and saw her, he became wildly excited, and with joy, exclaimed, 
At last! Flesh of my flesh and bones of my bones. She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Genesis 2:18-25.

How the trio were happy in the Garden of Eden. That is, until curiosity had gotten the better of Eve in particular, over a certain tree planted in the middle of the garden. Strange in a way, had it been me, I would have been racing for the Tree of Life, and by eating its fruit, seal my immortality. But Eve had other ideas - her quest for power. And she knew where to get it, so she believed. Because there, a talking snake bade her to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A talking snake? Yes, a talking snake, and neither Adam or Eve were taken aback on what they were witnessing. And why should I be so skeptical? Is it because I had never seen or heard a talking animal of any kind? Indeed it takes faith to believe in it, very much like that of the Meteor Crater in Arizona. I have never seen the meteor or its moment of impact as it struck the ground, but I have no qualms in believing that is exactly what happened. It is a matter of faith.

Meteor Crater, Arizona

The quest for power, an elevating from human to divinity by means of eating from this particular tree. Godhood! - the means of attaining knowledge which was at that moment still out of their reach, and once attained, to become like God himself. It is a form of evolution, to transform upward from one level to a higher plane. Their attempt to become like God resulted in exactly the opposite - a fall from perfection into a state of sin and death, demonstrating the serpent's deceit as the Edenic Lie. 

When they discovered that they had fallen rather than elevated, guilt set in and found themselves embarrassed by their nakedness, and in their duel attempt to make it up to God, they began to sew fig leaves together and to make aprons to cover their embarrassment. Then when God himself appeared in the garden, the couple realised that their aprons had no effect at all in making atonement. Therefore God, with total disregard of their aprons, had to slay an innocent animal substitute and, with its skin, clothe them himself before driving them out of the garden. But they also believed the Promise made by God to the serpent of the coming Seed of the Woman which will eventually slay the creature. It was by believing this revelation which turned Adam and Eve into saints, the acquittal from sin and God's own righteousness credited to their accounts by grace through faith in his revelation of a future Messiah (Genesis 3:15).

Although acquitted in their spirits, their bodies remain sinful and therefore still had to be driven out of the Garden and be permanently clothed. Furthermore, while their spirits after death may go to be with Christ, their bodies goes to the grave and remain there. This is quite easy to realise. For a start, nobody would leave his house entirely naked. Even in hot weather, the least one would wear is a pair of shorts and if going to a public area, a shirt too. Even the most devoted of Christian believers cannot`be out at a public square entirely naked - such embarrassment would be too much! The fact that no other species of animal wear clothing puts Darwin in a difficult situation here, even if the grave awaits both man and beast alike. Indeed, we all wear clothing - not so much to keep ourselves warm in cold weather but as a direct result of the Fall.

Here I'm not advocating myth or poetry. Rather, I'm narrating history. Actual real historic truth of the first chapters of the Bible. In other words, every historic account documented recorded in the Bible had happened. And it is in this matter of supernatural Creation, the Fall and the Flood where I will make a stand in a secular world of Lyell's Uniformitarianism and Darwin's Evolution. If anyone laughs or teases me, or the ultimate worst - to ignore me, I would not renege. For to deny the historicity of Adam and Eve as our first parents is to deny Christ and his Atonement made on the Cross. 

To believe in Evolution comes from this sense of pride and arrogance along with the avoidance from the belief in Judgement, as well as the belief in much of this type of learning elevating the student towards divinity which is in accordance with the Edenic Lie. The worst thing about all this is that such heresy is often preached from the church pulpit, leaving the preacher unaware that by such talk, he has denied Christ and advocated the Edenic Lie.  

Ah, pride of achievement - to be elevated into some form of divine realm. The Edenic lie lives on. While I'm writing this, I have just found out that in the World Cup tournament, England has beaten Sweden to make it into the semi-finals for the first time after 28 years. Actually, there is nothing wrong in any of that. It is a football contest, meant to be taken as entertainment, a leisure pursuit, something which everybody need for a distraction from day-to-day mundane and humdrum living. Personally, I prefer watching athletics, including the Triathlon. Such viewing is for me vicariously partaking in the sport which I actually competed in during my younger years. Nostalgia indeed. But why there is so much celebration over England's placing in the tournament while very little ado is made when Britain did well in the Olympics, I cannot say. Whether it's the World Cup or the Olympics, there is nothing wrong in winning a sporting contest, whether it's local or international.

As I wrote last week, if England does win the trophy, this - combined with Brexit - will lead to arrogance at its highest level, and that is what I find to be a threat. Winning an international football contest is one thing. Becoming arrogant is quite another. As I see it, this is one of the oddities of life. 

When two British brothers both won medals, one Gold, the other Bronze, in the 2012 London Olympic Triathlon, I was glad for them (the Silver went to a Spaniard). No sense of arrogance. Instead, this was one event I purposely took time off work to watch with thorough enjoyment. The joy of watching the Sporting Trinity of swimming, cycling and running - three disciplines in one race, was exuberant, as I recall more than thirty years earlier when I could be seen in the midst of all other triathletes competing in the event, whether in a mass-start as in the Olympic event, or through one-by-one pool feed as characteristic of smaller, inter-club events. This is what I believe is enjoying watching sport, especially those events I myself took part in.

Competing at a Triathlon, Winchester, 1987.

The World Cup patriotic spirit, as I see it, is very different from the joy of watching the Olympic Triathlon. For example, the English oft-used phrase, the Cup is coming home, is a misnomer for a start. Maybe not many realise this (I didn't either until this week), but when FIFA wanted the design for a new trophy after 1970 to replace the French Jules Rimet cup, won by England in 1966, various new designs were submitted. Among 53 applications, FIFA accepted one submitted by Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga of two figures holding up a globe. It was manufactured near Milan in readiness for the 1974 World Cup, which was won by Germany. Therefore the proper home of the World Cup trophy is Italy, not England.

But I fear the English will not see it that way. To them, the Cup is coming home. As Guardian journalist Jonathan Agnew had written in his brilliant newspaper article, the English feel they have special rights to forever hold the Cup, as having held history's greatest empire, they proudly see themselves as superior to all other nations, a nation out to win every battle, whether it's a war or international football - and also ahead of the evolutionary scale.

The Edenic Lie once again at work here. By heck, will it ever diminish? 

It goes to show that the Bible is indeed historically accurate after all. And that is something to be well concerned about. Because if the Bible can be so accurate on the origins of humanity, could it be that what it says about the final destiny is also accurate when it comes to arrogance being a gateway to a lost eternity? Pretty heavy stuff!

Surely, life must be much better than Nationalism with its arrogant pride, which itself is a highway to Hell. It must have a far greater, a more meaningful purpose than either patriotism or international football can provide. Rather, God initial creation was a man and a woman to love God and each other, a triune set up. And for the Earth to be filled with beautiful people, all loving towards each other and all honouring the Great King. And one day this will come.

I really hope that that dear wife who died with cancer also had faith in Christ. And her husband and her children too, having faith in Christ. Because really, that was a heart-rending story. But it has also brought out the real reason - the only reason - why we are here:
To love God and to love our wives and our neighbour. Now that is living!