Category Archives: Life

Start Of Christmas Decorating

We started Christmas decorating this evening. I think it’s later than we have done it in the past, but a bunch of things needed worked out, some hardware for the room needed to arrive and be put up, and everybody’s had plenty on their plates.

The sideboard we had the tree and presents on last year, this year has the CD players and record player sprawled out over it. This got a little reorganised and condensed a few days ago, then Oldest did dusting round there. Today I brought the tree and decorations up, and we managed to put it in the space it occupied last year. My wife put the lights on it, and helped the kids pick out decorations that wouldn’t smash if they fell off.

For some reason, the tree that was, for the most part, decorated by an 8-year old, a 6-year-old and a 2-year old, looks like it was decorated by an 8-year old, a 6-year-old and a 2-year old. Hopefully, Youngest can be convinced to not keep playing with the decorations, or to try and redecorate the tree.

Need to find some creative new space for presents. Big family, and the sideboard was full of them last year. Think they’ll be all over a bunch of surfaces this year. Which will have the benefit of not leaving space for all the clutter that tends to find its way onto those surfaces.

We recently got some curtain rods for the living room, with the aim of replacing the blinds. The blinds don’t seem to clean very well, and Youngest destroyed a small section of one set, a few months ago. We put the rods up a night or two ago, and while I’m not sure any final decision has been made, I hear that curtains could be arriving this week. Anyway, I heard that decoration could happen once the curtain rods were up, and they are, and one window now has lights in. And we should be able to get the curtains on, the lights being tucked behind.

The piano and the mantelpiece usually get decorated, and probably still will, more of a gradual cleaning-and-decorating process this year.

Now I have more of an urge to get the presents wrapped.

Thoughts On British Candy #1: Some Favourites

Sometimes the differences between similar cultures, can be observed in the different foodstuffs that one country has, that the other doesn’t. I thought I’d write a little about that in this entry, and my mind turned, as it is rather fond of doing, to chocolate. And then on to other sweets/candy. I haven’t bought a lot since I moved to America, but I have observed some that have bridged the gap. Milky Way, Snickers.

Some have similar equivalents: Almond Joy is suspiciously like Bounty, but with an almond stuck to the top. Whoppers are similar to Maltesers, but Maltesers are obviously far superior.

Here are some sweets/candy I like, that are less accessible in the USA.

I don’t recall seeing any tins of Roses or Quality Street around here. Around Christmas time, if you see a big tin wrapped, or a smaller box of a certain shape, you knew it would be one or the other. I think that Quality Street had the edge, because they had the toffees, and Roses had Strawberry Cremes and Orange Cremes, that tended to be a lot less popular than other varieties in the pack.

Smarties. Something similar to Refreshers has the name Smarties in the US. Smarties are like M&Ms, only bigger. Often come in a cardboard tube, the lid of which is plastic, and has a molded letter on it. Collect enough, and you can spell out words. I’m not sure anyone I know ever had enough collected at one time to spell much, but there you go.

After Eights. Dark chocolate flat squares, with soft mint in the middle. Each one comes in a kind of open envelope, and a box has a bunch of them in a line. Also yummy is the white chocolate version. I couldn’t quite eat a whole box in one go…

Wine Gums. No alcohol used in the making of them. Stick with Maynard’s variety (tried store-brand, didn’t like them so much), one of my favourites. Flavourful, and can last a long time and retain their flavour if you can manage not to chew them.

Jelly Babies. Not quite a gummy, these soft sweets have a nice gentle fruity flavour. Again, Bassett’s beats store brand. A favourite of the Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who.

Kilogram slabs of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. If they even do them anymore, in our diet-mad society.

Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. They’re not Terry’s, they’re mine. I tended to prefer the milk chocolate ones to the dark chocolate, though I am less fussy nowadays. And the Chocolate Mint variety they did (same shape, different flavour) was really good, too. I mention them even though we have found them over here (don’t think they’re widespread, but we have encountered them), because of something I noticed. When I first encountered them, they said “Tap and unwrap”, which was a traditional British understatement, meaning “hit it with a baseball bat, and the pieces might come apart”. Sport may not be my thing, and American sport even less so, but British schoolchildren are familiar with the concept of a baseball bat. Not necessarily in the context of the sport, but definitely in the context of hitting things. The chocolate orange I had from over here said “Whack and unwrap”.

fisherman’s Friends. Like mint, only so strong you can’t tell if it’s mint, or some other ingredient. Gives you a similar reaction to an extra-strong mint, if you try to drink a cold water afterwards. Serving suggestion: Fill a cup with ice cubes. Fill the rest with water. Have a Fisherman’s Friend or two (no chewing, that’s cheating). Drink some of the water.

Well, those are a few of my favourite things, and I’m sure I can revisit the topic in time. I can still think of some that were more staples than some that were on today’s list, and I can think of some that the recommendation would be to avoid, and some that just fall in the middle.

Let me know if there’s anything you want to hear about, any sweets/candies you think I missed here, that sort of thing. More fuel for future writings.

Psychopathic Quiz

I have a long-standing distaste of personality tests, the unfondness coming from questions like “Are you more like A or B?”, when I don’t think either sounds particularly like me. So, for your reading pleasure, I am going to subject myself to an “Are you a psychopath?” test that my wife sent me.

Question 1:
“You rarely catch me making plans, I’m far too spontaneous.”
You rarely catch me making plans. Plans lead to stress, pain, and disappointment.
I wouldn’t say I’m particularly spontaneous, either.
4 options on the scale from “disagree” to “agree”.
No middle spot for “you got it half right”.
Agree because they got the “making plans” part right?
Disagree because the suggested motive is wrong?
Strongly disagree because the misascribed motive invalidates the whole thing?
Question 1, and I’m already questioning the intelligence of the Oxford professor who devised this test. Agreeing or disagreeing gives the test fuel to make a value judgement about you, but dumbass questions like this don’t take into account the “why” behind the answer. The question tries to give you a “why”, which might work for some people, but really it muddies the waters.

I’m just grateful that it’s only 11 questions in this test. Though that one should have been 2.

Slightly disagree.

Question 2:
“I’d have no problem cheating on my partner if I knew I could get away with it.”
Well, that question’s easier. Strongly disagree.

Question 3:
“If I got a better offer, I wouldn’t mind cancelling long-standing plans.”
I think I’m getting better at remembering, but I’m not very good at remembering when things are going to be. Were I more in charge of social arrangements, and we did more social things, I’m sure we’d be double-booked a whole bunch.
I don’t think I can picture being quite in that situation. It keeps morphing into the new thing is some thing that I HAVE to do, not something strictly “better”. Or a balancing act between things that can be rescheduled and things that can’t.
As reorganising things and cancelling things is rather un-fun, I’m going to lean towards “disagree”. Think I’d mind doing the cancelling.

Question 4:
“I don’t get bothered by seeing animals injured or in pain.”
Disagree. A friend’s dog got shot, and had its leg amputated, and I wasn’t blase about that. A stray dog somehow got attached to us once, and I spent a bunch of the time outside with it, until it got claimed. I mourned over the loss of my pet hamsters. Saved a frog from being attacked by a cat, once.
I was less affected by a dead dog I found in the road. I was sorry it died and all, but I wasn’t overcome with grief. The thing liked escaping the fence, and running straight at the front wheel of approaching cars. Which was particularly scary one winter, when the road was all icy there. So I suppose that it wasn’t entirely surprising. Took the time to find the owner and let them know.
I suppose the question is more about actively suffering animals, rather than deceased ones, so that might not even count as consideration for the question.

Question 5:
“It would be fun to drive fast cars, ride rollercoasters and go skydiving.”
Skydiving, not a chance. Rollercoasters and I have a mixed history, sometimes I’m fine going on them, and sometimes I really don’t want to. Fast cars, I might enjoy having a go on a race track a time or two, and like accelerating to get up to the speed limit when I’m driving.
Two out of three?
I guess that I’m not really quite the type of thrill-seeker that they seem to be asking about, so I’ll err on the side of caution and say “disagree”.

Question 6:
“I think it’s OK to step over other people to achieve my own ambitions.”
Well, it rather depends on your definition of “step over”, doesn’t it? I would have no objection to skipping over a rung or two in a company’s hierarchy, if I happened to be suited to the job, applied, and beat out other applicants from the in-between rungs. I wouldn’t sabotage their applications, falsify my own, and bribe/blackmail the hiring panel.
I hope that that sense of fairness is common, but of course there would be people who think that Joe should have got the job instead, and indeed one could understand Joe himself being miffed.
That kind of office politics is not something I particularly want to get back into. In working towards running my own show, so to speak, I’d want to do better than anyone who would compete with me (or who I would be competing against), and I’d want to take opportunities, even create them, but I’d want to do my best to maintain good relationships with everyone. I just suspect that that’s not always entirely possible.
I’m going to call that one a “disagree”.

Question 7:
“I’m very persuasive, and getting people to do what I want is a real talent of mine.”
If I were, then I wouldn’t have trouble with planning things (see Question 1). I’m going to step out and go with “strongly disagree”.

Question 8:
“My ability to make quick decisions means I would suit a dangerous job.”
If I were good at quick decisions, I’d be done with this questionnaire ages ago.
Disagree.

Question 9:
“When the people around me are crumbling under pressure, I’m usually the one with a cool head.”
I think I freak out at different things to those around me. So sometimes I’m the cool head one, and sometimes I’m the freaking out one. Inconsistent? Not sure what I should put.
I’ll lean slightly on the “disagree” side.

Question 10:
“If someone gets conned who cares? They’re asking for it.”
Umm, no. People expect, and are right to expect, to be given (or to have available) enough information to make informed decisions. So, on the contrary, con men rather deserve whatever repercussions they get from their actions (and quite possibly more).
Strongly disagree.

Question 11:
“I’m rarely to blame for things going wrong; it’s usually the fault of the people around me.”
Well, there does sometimes seem to be an abundance of people being stupid. I try to acknowledge it when the stupid person is me. I think there may be times when the quote feels true, but I like to think I’m smart enough to realise that yours truly has an impact on things.
As my saying goes, “I may be stupid, but I’m not stupid”.

Results:
The results say I am 24% psychopathic.
I say  that sometimes it’s the dominant 24%, especially when confronted with stupid questions in quizzes like this. However, this quiz didn’t fare too badly: for one, it was quite short; and for another, only one question (the first) was actively stupid.

“You like to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of a situation before you act”, the summary says. That may be why it’s hard answering questions that have no accurate answer.

I’m A Published Author, I Am

A bunch of years ago, I frequented a rather busy message board. The site proper was billed as “The magazine of Christian unrest”, and would feature articles on the front page. But far more of the content was in the message board. The site is called Ship Of Fools, and the message board attracted discussion from many different varieties of Christianity, and so there were some quite varying beliefs on there. Very interesting, and very time-consuming.

There are different boards which invite different styles of discussion, and some of the content would invoke the infamous reaction, “But I thought this was a Christian website!”

Once upon a time, the site had a contest, inviting readers to contribute Bible passages condensed to text-message length. Some entries would be chosen to be in a book.

The resulting book was “R Father N Hvn”, and the site owner is listed as the author, on the cover. All the contributors from the contest, are credited next to their submissions

Two of my submissions made it into the book. And thus I stake my claim to being a published author.

On Amazon UK // on Amazon.com

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving. An American holiday, packed with food, family, fankfulness (if you’ll forgive my brief descent into Estuary English), and f-

Hmm, must be some way to start this with an “f”.

Ah, filling up shopping carts.

There we go.

Naturally, we had some tidying to do before company came over, but thanks to the game night we had the other week, the mess wasn’t deeply entrenched. Company came, and fun was had. Food was served in the afternoon. It was breakfast to me, as I knew there’d be a lot of food, and I wanted a lot of it. Also, it was probably good policy to not get in the way of the wonderful cooks, who are people I’m very thankful for.

After the main course, we took a break before dessert. In that break, games were played. The kids played Loopin’ Louie, and sometime before that (you know how days go, could have been before eating), they played Twister. I played two games of Blokus with my parents-in-law, the first also with Oldest, and the second with my sister-in-law. During the second game, I got distracted a couple of times helping youngest play Dixit. He’s not really old enough to play, so I picked a card from his hand and asked him to say a word the card made him think of. The picture was of a treasure chest in a castle, with tentacles extruding from something inhabiting the chest, and the shadow of a treasure-hunter seen through a door, he’s coming down some stairs to the room.

The clue that Youngest gave to this image, was “three”.

So it was fun hearing all that. And despite the distractions, I managed to win both games. Sometimes I worry that if I do that too much, people won’t want to play with me.

In-laws and games, I’m thankful for those.

In the evening, some of us went to Wal-Mart. Say what you want about their Black Friday sale (and many do), it’s a good opportunity to pick up Christmas presents.

Last year, they staggered the sales, so some started at 6, some at 8, some at 10, and some the next morning. Or perhaps the 110 was the next morning. Anyhoo, this time the flyer was set up in a similar way, only all the times were 6pm, pretty much. Our store seems a little too large for the area, so often when you go in, it feels pretty empty. Tonight, everyone could get around, though sometimes the main aisles took a bit of time. I think they opened their doors around 4pm, but people couldn’t check out with the Black Friday items until 6. We got there just after 6, so missed the initial rush.

In the end, I didn’t get much. My mother-in-law expected to see me with a stack of DVDs as long as my arm, and I kind of expected that, too, but not much really grabbed me. I ended up with 3 DVDs, a couple of USB flash drives (it’s amazing how the price of those things has been dropping – it was only a year or two ago that I got 16GB for what I paid for 32GB today), and some headphones.

We left there at about 8, and the extra divisions between the checkout lines, were being taken down as we queued. The big rush, for them, was already over. Black Friday had almost ended at 8 on Thursday.

Was almost tempted by 3 seasons of NCIS. I know I’ll enjoy it if I sit down and watch it, in fact part of an episode I caught before we moved here, intrigued me enough that it’s on my radar. Don’t think I’ve actually caught more than one full episode, though. Maybe one day.

Also, I did catch a bunch of deals on Amazon, in the morning. Missed out on “Inside Out”, being waitlisted when I clicked “add to cart” as soon as it was available. Got one lightning deal, and a few other things that were just cheap. Still got my eye on a couple of things that I hope will dramatically drop in price, as both did at around this time of year, last year.

The waiting game.

This evening, after coming home, I played some jigsaw puzzles with Youngest. He’s getting the hang of lifting pieces and putting them in, rather than trying to ram them together, flat on the table. Still trying to figure out turning them just that little bit more to make them fit right. Still, happy with the improvement.

My kids and wife, I’m really thankful for.

There’s been snow on the ground for a week, or maybe two (not the best at keeping track of time). This has prompted me to sing “White Thanksgiving” to the tune of “White Christmas”.

And may all your Thanksgivings be white…

On Christmas Shopping

I’m one of those annoying people who starts Christmas shopping months in advance. Indeed, I’ve now at least ordered something for everybody in the house. The last person to be ordered for was Youngest, who really doesn’t need much (with access to many toys and books from his older siblings), but I wanted to get him something, and one of those play mats with roads and buildings on, came on a reasonably good sale, and he loves him some cars.

There’s still a thing or two I’m planning to pick up (one may be dependent on whether or not it goes on a good sale this week). And I haven’t started thinking about those outside the house, yet.

I have gottent to the point of rather enjoying buying presents for people, and I think I’m getting reasonably good at choosing what people will like. Some of it’s down to observation: that thing you mentioned that you liked the look of six months ago? Probably went on a hidden Amazon wishlist, so I would remember it.

This is definitely a skill I had to develop. Cue shameful anecdote:

One year, my sister had said something she wanted for Christmas. I didn’t make adequate note, and forgot what it was (it was a chocolate fondue set – NOW I remember). Closer to Christmas, I said I’d forgotten what it was she wanted, please could she remind me. I think she thought I was joking, but alas, no. I believe I asked a couple more times (could be wrong about that, long time ago), but she wouldn’t tell me. So I didn’t get her anything.

As you can imagine, this didn’t go over very well with anyone. It was either her birthday or the following Christmas that I attempted to make up for the incident by getting her a large, expensive present. (I hope she liked it…) Anyway, we’re on speaking terms, so hopefully there’s no remaining grudge.

So there you go: keep your ears open for what your people want, make sure you don’t forget, plan ahead so you can take advantage of sales. And have a good hiding place or two, to keep the purchases where the intended recipient won’t find them.

Items Rescued From A Closing Store

Once upon a time, there was a video rental store called “Crazy Mike’s”, which my best man Mike took advantage of in his speech. That closed a while ago. There is another video store on the edge of town, apparently run by a guy called Steve, who doesn’t admit to any level of insanity in his store’s name.

Well, now this store is closing, too. I’m sorry it’s closing, but as I’m more of a buyer than a renter, I haven’t contributed to its staying around.

But they’ve been selling off their stock, so I decided to go in and see what they had.

Newer movies were on some deal, 3 or 4 for $20, I don’t remember how many. I skipped past that one, and the horror movie deal, to the “Get 4 for $10″.

A 3-2-1 Penguins had Oldest dancing around when I got home, and a Strawberry Shortcake did similar for Middlest.

Bubba Ho-Tep had been languishing on one of my hidden wishlists for a while. I’d been interested in seeing it, and so had my uncle-in-law, who gave a big cheer when I read the list out of what I’d got. In the movie, Elvis hadn’t really died. Now he lives in a retirement home. When evil, in the form of a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy, rears its ugly head, it’s up to Elvis, and a black JFK, to save the world.

Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon’s post-Avengers free-time project, we’d borrowed from the library and watched, but was also sitting on a hidden wishlist.

The rest were somewhat more opportunistic. Hot Fuzz I’d had taped off TV ages ago, but never got round to watching before we moved. I’ve seen the other two parts of the Cornetto Trilogy, so this theoretically fills the gap.

I enjoyed the first Alien vs Predator, so I picked up the sequel, though I have heard it’s not as good. Slightly bummed that though I checked the boxes of all the movies for aspect ratio, I didn’t check the discs. So I intended to get the original widescreen, but ended up with a full-screen disc. Whose dumb idea was it to produce these things in the first place? BOOOOOO!

Pirate Radio, from the makers of Love Actually. Familiar with the likes of Radio Caroline and so on, from my dad’s interest in them, and having met a former presenter of one of those stations, I’m interested to see this take on the story.

Having these in hand, I was not readily coming up with an eighth DVD, though there were many reasonable candidates. An X-Files movie, I know people in the house like X-Files. Space Cowboys, I did want to see that. More. In the end, my mother-in-law suggested a movie that she was interested in seeing, co-incidentally one I’d caught in the cinema when it was new. Don’t remember it well enough to give it a review, and my take on it would probably be different now, after the spiritual journey of the intervening years, and perhaps more than that, more exposure to the landscape of American Christianity. I picked up “Saved!”. I joked that I should find a bell to set it next to.

So there we go, my taking advantage of another casualty in the ever-changing face of physical-store-based commercial endeavours.

I expressed condolences to the guy in the store (presumably the eponymous Steve), and he said he’d had a good 12-year run. I wished him all the best for whatever his next thing would be.

It Feeds The Rich While It Buries The Poor

I saw a video on Facebook a day or two ago, giving an overview of how the US effectively turned ISIS from a powerless group into what it is today.

Link here.

This sounds somewhat familiar, as ne’erdowells such as Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Manuel Noriega, Carlos Castillo Armas, and many others were put in power, trained, propped up, or otherwise backed by the US, before becoming a thorn in the side.

I recall reading a bit about this in a book by Michael Moore, while he was on his big crusade against Bush II. That was before I discovered Mr Moore was just as misleading as the Bush regime, but on that particular point he was quite right. (He’s been suspiciously silent during the reign of Bush II’s successor, who hasn’t been any better – wait for Moore’s big comeback when the next Republican president hits)

“We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials, for example, to create a vacuum. Then we fill that vacuum. As popular war advances, peace is closer.” – quoted in Civil War by Guns ‘n’ Roses (embedded below).

It also should be pointed out that, in addition to the power vacuum mentioned in the video above, There’s lots we’ve done to encourage people to be our enemies. The humiliations we inflicted on our prisoners, which were, and were supposed to be, deeply offensive to Muslims (though I can’t imagine anyone else would particularly like it, either). Bombing the shit out of countries for no good reason isn’t going to win you any friends, either, and for all the propaganda about very precise weapons, the amount of “collateral damage” we’ve inflicted is something we should be deeply ashamed of, and is likely to turn people who might possibly be supportive of us, into personal enemies.

And I very much doubt the list stops there.

It should also be pointed out that our actions have had lethal repercussions for Christians in the middle east. The near-total elimination of Christians in Iraq (either fleeing the country, or through death), churches that dated back to the first couple of centuries AD. I recall seeing that symbol replace profile pictures on Facebook. the martyrdom of those Ethiopian Christians, in that video that did the rounds a little while ago.

A little while ago, Christian leaders in Syria were begging the West NOT to help them, it’s like they’ve seen our track record, or something. Christians in Syria are supporting Assad. Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the US are trying to oust him (mentioned in the video above, though I’ve also read France and Saudi Arabia are also against him).

Listen to “Syria, Assad, and the US” and “A No-Brainer In Syria

i don’t remember how I felt about the war in Afghanistan when it started. I’d like to think that I thought it was a knee-jerk reaction, a punishment meted out before all the evidence had come to trial, so to speak. I’d like to think I thought that, but I don’t really remember.

I remember being skeptical about the war in Iraq. That the news outlets were pushing for it (shame on you, BBC) in the run-up, the reasons for going to war being dubious, the Blair regime saying they hadn’t decided to go to war yet, when they’d already started shipping troops out, and the protest against the war, apparently the largest protest in British history, being completely ignored.

Two books on the subject, one I read a few years ago, and the other about a year ago, have proved pretty interesting. Disarming Iraq, by Hans Blix, who lays out his experiences very methodically, goes into the perspectives of the weapons inspectors. Backstabbing For Beginners, by Michael Soussan, goes into the inner workings of the Oil-For-Food program. A much more lively book, it provides insight into the political situation of Iraq at the time.

More recently, I remember the Kickstarter videos for an as-yet incomplete documentary project called “The Killing Of Tony Blair“, where George Galloway, MP, intends to prove that the former Prime Minister is guilty of War Crimes. Galloway was the only Labour MP to lose his job over opposing entering the war in Iraq. I think he’s probably got a pretty good case, though I am a bit cautious. The caution may be a natural reaction to Galloway being a politician. And, although Galloway has done all right for himself since then, the documentary may be easily dismissed by some as a “revenge piece”.

On the American side of the pond, although the current President talked a lot about peace while he was campaigning for the job the first time round, he seems to have acted as much an interventionist as his predecessors, at least as far as Truman. The only politician who’s really seemed to mean what he says about not going to war, has been Ron Paul. Recent article

I’ve seen on Facebook statements like, “if we can’t afford to care for our veterans, we shouldn’t send them to war in the first place”, which I have to say I agree with.

There’s also been kerfuffle over policies of immigration of refugees from these places. There seem to be extremes of “don’t let anybody in” and “let everybody in”, where a middle way is probably much more sane than either.

The concern over refugees is specifically about the Muslim ones, though we know Christians are trying to escape the area. It seems accurate that there has been Muslim killing Muslim, and so (most of) the refugees are trying to escape those you don’t want to let in. Seems reasonable to me.

Those concerned about the Trojan Horse factor, I don’t know. That doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable, either, but I cannot envision a vetting process that could easily catch that. Can’t say I’m terribly worried about it, but then again, I don’t live in an area that would be a priority target.

The relationship between Christians and Muslims has long been tricky, and that needs to be acknowledged. Church and State usually have tensions and disagreements, and political power is often at the expense of someone else’s, so there’s a certain amount of status quo there. Trying to compare Greece under the Turkish yoke, or Syrian Christianity under the Muslims, to Christianity in China, or in he USSR as-was – my face twists like a dog chewing toffee, just trying to think about it.

There was a story I came across in the last year or two, about previously friendly Muslim neighbours giving up a Christian family to extremists that were heading into town.

The situation’s difficult, and it’s frustrating how little acknowledgement of that, how little nuance, and how little consideration for opposing viewpoints there is.

Anyone can cherry-pick verses from the Koran (or the Bible) to show how it promotes peace, or violence. I think careful consideration needs to be given to the history of Christian/Muslim relations, and try to discern events that are purely religious, and what is political with a religious mask on.

Another thing I’ve seen on Facebook, is the uncensored version of the phrase, “Stop killing people, you f***ing twats.” I’ll agree with that one, too.

A Prayer, And For Good Reason

My family suffered a loss today, which seemed pretty sudden. Not completely blindsiding, but as deteriorations go, it was pretty rapid.

Consequently, I don’t really want to write much.

In the years of finding out about Orthodoxy, I have come across this understanding of death. Everyone goes to be in God’s presence, some people will enjoy the experience, while others will find it torment. So the difference between Heaven and Hell is not so much a matter of geography, rather a matter of perception.

“The fire of Hell is the love of God”, one saint put it. “You can’t expect to go to Heaven, yet not run into God there” – from an AFR podcast, don’t remember which one (possibly the foundations series, and possibly not word-for-word).

Even for those for whom the experience of God int he next life will be Heaven, the transition is expected to be difficult, refiner’s fire and all that. Services are held and prayers said, to help ease the transition.

I give all this background information, just so I can share this prayer. The website of St Barnabas Church in Costa Mesa, CA used to host a page of prayers, I have to use the Wayback Machine to access that page now. There’s a section of Prayers for The Departed. I share a small part of that section:

Remember, O Lord, the souls of thy departed servants, my parents NN, [if they have already fallen asleep in the Lord], and all my relatives according to the flesh. Forgive all their sins, both voluntary and involuntary. Grant them participation in thine eternal good things and the enjoyment of the eternal and blessed life.

Well my parents are just fine, but now I can say it for all my grandparents.

Lord, have mercy. And for the last sentence of the prayer, grant this, O Lord.

And I miss you guys.

Star Wars, Religion, And Magic

In Star Wars: A New Hope, there is a memorable exchange between an Imperial officer and Darth Vader:
Admiral Motti: Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you enough clairvoyance to find the rebels’ hidden fortress…
[Vader makes a pinching motion and Motti starts choking]
Darth Vader: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

In a kind of mirror encounter, Han Solo expresses a similar disbelief to Luke, while Obi-Wan listens in:
Luke Skywalker: You don’t believe in the Force, do you?
Han Solo: Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen *anything* to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. ‘Cause no mystical energy field controls *my* destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

So I think we get a sense that the general understanding in the universe at this point, is that there is no magic, no Force, religion is dismissed as not alive, perhaps not much thought about.

In one of the Force Awakens trailers, it seems the same zeitgeist permeates the universe.
Rey: There are stories about what happened.
Han Solo: It’s true. All of it. The Dark Side, the Jedi. They’re real.

This may be reading too much into the quote, but perhaps there’s a bad guy mirror scene:
Supreme Leader Snoke: There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it? The Dark side, and the Light.

I guess Luke didn’t singlehandedly rebuild the entire Jedi Council in the intervening years.

The parallels with various countries of the 20th and 21st centuries are obvious. In various places, the Communists tried to stamp out all religion, and those places are having to spend effort in recovering what they once had. And there are various currents rather obvious in English-speaking countries, either apathetic or hostile to either religion in general, or Christianity in particular. Not always without good reason.

I was thinking tonight about sites in England (springs and wells) that historically were regarded as miraculous, such claims easily dismissed now even by most Christians in the country. And miraculous things I find out about in my approach to Orthodoxy that seem really weird coming from a Protestant background, but seem to have something to them.

I don’t want to bang on too much about the subject, so I’ll just post a link instead, but there were a couple of stories like this that seemed fairly close together, this was the one I found: https://oca.org/news/headline-news/up-from-the-ashes-helping-south-boston-parish-recover

Perhaps there’s more magic in the world than people generally see.