Saturday, 23 June 2018

Does God Love The Devil?


We are taught that God is love. His love is such that He gave us free will to either love Him back or not. We even have the choice to turn our back on Him. Not believe in Him. And to preach and teach against Him and His existence; and to mock those who believe in Him. His love is such that He allows us all these luxuries and freedoms to choose as we wish.

The devil was one of God's loved creations. He chose to rebel and love God no more. God allowed him this choice. I guess, (although I have no proof of this), God still loved him despite the devil's rebellion. But it was the devil's free choice to go his own way.

Many humans choose the same path of the devil. And, I guess, are still loved by God.

But then, one day, comes decision time. We die either in love with, and in gratitude to, God, for all He has done for us; or in enmity with God.

It is this free choice at death that leads us to Heaven or Hell. It is as if God says to us: "Thy will be done. You choose to go to hell; then go!" (To quote C S Lewis).

Does God still love those in hell, including the devil? My guess is probably yes. If God is love then He loves everyone; even those who rebelled against Him.

Will God forgive those in hell and welcome them back to Heaven, including the devil? There is no Biblical evidence or teaching of that. In Christ's parable about the rich man and poor Lazarus at his door, Jesus says that there is a great chasm between Heaven and hell and neither side can traverse it. So it does seem that those in hell are there for eternity since Jesus taught so. They are there for eternity because they chose to go there. The gates of hell are locked from the inside by those who would rather be there, and had made that choice at the time of their death.  

So to answer the original question: Does God love the devil? My guess is yes, as He has always done, despite his rebellion. Just like many parents would love a child who goes astray.

Will God forgive the devil, and all those who rebelled, and welcome them back to Heaven? There is no Biblical evidence or teaching of that. But then everything is possible to God. The devil and his followers can be forgiven ... ... ... if they really want to!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Art Critique - Titian - Oil on canvas

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio, or Titian in English

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio, or Titian in English, was born somewhere between 1488 and 1490 (must have been a long pregnancy!) and died on 27 August 1576 (can't tell you the exact time).

He was an Italian painter and the most important one of the 16th Century Venetian school.

He was known as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars" (a line from Dante's "Paradiso") because of his mastery of the paintbrush. You can see above his self portrait painted in about 1567. 

He was very versatile painting portraits, landscape backgrounds and mythological and religious subjects and was famous for his use of colour - no black and white monochromes from good old Titian.

The subject of our video today is Titian's masterpiece entitled "Venus and Organist and Little Dog" painted in 1550.

It is worth remembering that there have been many paintings and sculptures of Venus by many artists over the years, but this one is perhaps the most studied. Traditionally, old masters and sculptors have often used nudity as part of their art, for example Michelangelo's David, Rodin's The Kiss, and Ruben's fully rounded female nudes. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. However, Titian's interpretation of Venus is the one that has caused most controversy. There have been many versions of this painting by Titian, and it is believed that they were perhaps painted by his pupils in his "studio" which explains why they all bare his name.

In the painting Venus is shown naked reclining on pillows playing with her small dog. A musician beside her at the end of the bed is playing with his organ. Although his back is to her, he has turned round to admire her ample figure. This has led to debate and various theories. Why is the musician not facing the musical organ in front of him and has turned round to look at Venus? Was it forbidden in those days to look at Venus? Was he perhaps taking a quick glance? Or was he in that position for longer? How does Venus feel being ogled or admired in this fashion?

Study the painting carefully, look at the characters, what they are doing, and why. Look at the expression Venus' face? And his face too. Remember, this is a famous painting by a famous artist painted over 400 years ago. What is the painter, Titian, trying to tell you here? Why did he paint this scene the way he did? Is it realistic? What does the whole tableau meant to represent?

We will discuss this painting later. The video with music only lasts two minutes to give you time to study it properly.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Squirrel Whisperer

For the past few weeks I have been taking secret lessons from a colleague at work in being a squirrel whisperer. She is an expert in animal behaviour, or so she said, and I thought it would be a great idea if I learnt to talk to squirrels and then use my newly learnt skills as a party trick when we all met as a family, with friends, and neighbours. Say at our next barbecue gathering, or such like party. Our garden is often visited by squirrels; so I can call them for a chat. What a great party trick that would be to amaze my friends with!

In order to impress everyone I had to learn how to talk to squirrels in secret. So my colleague and I decided that she would visit our home when the rest of the family is away shopping, or whatever, then we'd go out in the garden and try to communicate with the many squirrels we have visiting us.

The first thing my instructor said is that to talk to squirrels I must "be" a squirrel.

She taught me to crouch down on the ground as if I were a little ball, and to balance my whole body on my feet without falling over. I had to put my hands close to my mouth as if I was feeding myself nuts, and try to walk, not hop, in that crouching position; just like a squirrel.

In order to imitate the squirrel perfectly, she brought a big false squirrel tail made out of fur of some kind and stuffed it into my trousers at the back. I must admit that I found that personal intrusion somewhat disturbing. When I was crouching on the ground she pulled out the back of my trousers and stuffed this false tail right in. I mean ... that was a bit too close and personal, don't you think? But I said nothing because I was so eager to learn to communicate with these animals.

She asked me to walk fast in that crouching position and by wiggling my bottom left and right it would accentuate the movement of my tail upright behind me. I must admit I found this rather difficult and fell over a number of times. Walking fast in a crouching position is difficult enough without having to wiggle your bottom at the same time. Have you ever tried it?

Anyway ... having half-mastered the walking whilst crouching bit, her next lesson was to get me to stuff as many peanuts in my mouth as possible so that my cheeks would puff out like a squirrel's. I had to run whilst crouching, and not falling over, stop, pick up some peanuts in my hands from the ground, (in a plate), and quickly put them all in my mouth. Easier said than done. A lot of the peanuts missed my mouth altogether. At one point I coughed and the peanuts shot out of my mouth spraying in front of me like a machine gun. Then the exercise was stopped when a peanut went the wrong way and nearly choked me to death. She slapped my back several times and then resorted to the Heimlich manoeuvre to save me from becoming a dead squirrel.

Not to give up too easily, I decided to continue with the next lesson the following week. This entailed running fast in a crouching position, whilst wiggling my bottom left and right, and climbing a tree as fast as a real squirrel would do. I must say at this point that she seemed to enjoy placing my false tail at the back of my trousers. She kept stopping the exercise to "re-arrange" my tail properly. But I said nothing, so eager I was to learn to communicate with squirrels.

In order to climb up the tree she placed a ladder against a big oak tree in our garden, well hidden behind the thick trunk, and taught me to climb the ladder quickly pretending to be a squirrel. I tell you, this is not easily done in a crouching position but I practised and practised as if my life depended on it.

Last Saturday, whilst the family was away visiting a relative, and I was alone at home, I decided to practise climbing up the tree.

I placed the ladder against the oak tree and ran up it as fast as I could right up to the top of the ladder. Unfortunately, as I reached the top I felt the ladder wobble underneath me. I quickly grabbed a nearby branch and just about managed to hop on another branch thick enough to carry my weight; whilst the ladder crashed to the ground with a heavy thud.

So there I was. Right up the oak tree. All alone with no one to help me down again.

At this point I need to say that this oak tree is right by the fence between our house and our neighbour next door. Our neighbour is a young lady solicitor living alone. From where I was standing I could see her showering in her bathroom.

Anyway ... ... ... the police did not believe my version of events and had an entirely different point of view as to what I was doing up that tree.

My family, sadly, chose to believe the police's side of the story.

I called my colleague on the phone to put in a good word on my behalf. She said that squirrels are very shy and somewhat stupid creatures and that it is not possible to communicate with them. She denied ever teaching me or anyone else at being an animal whisperer.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Mystery At Status Manor

When a heavy storm and subsequent flooding cut off Status Manor from the rest of the world the hosts of a weekend gathering and their guests are trapped in what turns out to be a murder mystery situation like they’ve never experienced before.

This tale has all the ingredients you’d expect – believable characters including a beautiful vulnerable young woman, a hapless hero, danger at every corner, a missing backgammon disc, an unexpected attack, visit to the dead, a shower scene, a bloody knife, a body, a threatening note and nocturnal goings-on. Oh … and a good serving of humour too.

What else do you want from a good read? 

Yes folks ... the story which you may have already seen serialised on this Blog in 12 daily posts, written in as many days, is now available in paperback and Kindle formats.

Get your copy today ... CLICK HERE

Sunday, 17 June 2018

My secret confession

I think one of the great difficulties of being a Catholic and having to go to Confession is that your local priest, who no doubt knows you from your voice, will eventually build up a picture in his mind of the type of person you are.

I mean ... can you imagine me going to my usual church, where we only have one priest, so there's no chance of spreading my sins around, and telling the same guy every time what I have done ... again!

Let's face it; how can I actually tell him that I fall asleep during his sermons?

(I don't really ... just an example to demonstrate a Catholic dilemma. Although I'll admit to noticing other people asleep, or pretending to be thinking, whilst the sermon is on. In my case, falling asleep is quickly followed by a sharp elbow in the ribs).

No ... my sin is somewhat worse than falling asleep during a sermon. I just could not bring myself to tell our priest about it. He would not see me in the same light ever again.

In order to get round this technical difficulty I decided to do something else. Now I am not sure whether this is allowed in the Catechism or not. I haven't checked.

When I was in London recently on a business trip I decided to go to a church and confess there. The priest doesn't know me ... simple. Tell him my secret sin and go away.

I told the priest in Confession that I find it difficult to be a Christian because I simply do not like people. I am not prejudiced you see. I don't like people in general.

Now before you take offence at this, let me quickly explain.

I don't like certain people mostly ... most of the time ... most of them. I like some people, of course, but not all of them.

I don't like my boss for instance because he is always in a bad mood and thinks of nothing else other than of profits and productivity.

I don't like most of my colleagues because I have nothing or little in common with them. I don't talk football with them, cricket, rugby or any other sport because I don't like sport. I don't talk politics because I know I am right and they are always wrong. I don't talk about anything else with them because none of them likes the arts, opera, ballet, the theatre or can discuss Édouard Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe".

I don't like the newsagent where I get my papers because he is pompous and pretends to know everything. But I have to go there because he is near where I live.

I don't like the barman in our pub because ... I don't know ... I just don't like him.

I don't like the mother-in-law because of ... many reasons. In fact I like her from afar. The further away she lives, and stays there, the more I like her.

So you see why I could not confess this sin to my priest. He'd think I don't like him either.

Anyway, I told this in Confession to an unknown priest in London. He told me I should try harder to like everybody because God commanded us to love one another. Jesus loved everyone He met. He loved them so much that He forgave them when hanging on the Cross.

I told the priest that Jesus loved everyone because He was God. God is love. Jesus was Divine. There is no way we can love as Jesus does because we are not gods. We are humans with human failings.

He thought I was making excuses and told me to try harder to like everyone.

I told him, surely there are some people he most probably does not like. The Bishop for instance. Or a fellow priest. Or some parishioners. Especially the pompous snooty ones that most churches seem to have.

He thought about this and confessed, perhaps unwisely, he did not like it when the Bishop addressed him by his surname. Or when one of his fellow priests has too short sermons. Or the parishioner who believes she is an expert at flower arranging. Or the choir leader who thinks she is a prima donna at the opera.

It was a long Confession. And we agreed we cannot be like Jesus, but we should try.

I wonder who he will confess his sins to? Maybe he'll visit my church and confess to my priest.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Bucket List

Every now and then you hear conversation about peoples' bucket list. Your know what they are. A wish list of things individuals would like to do before they die. Go on a great adventure. Visit some far off country. Or whatever else one would like to do before dying.

Personally, I would like to cycle with dolphins. Most peoples' bucket list includes swimming with dolphins; but let's face it, what is so clever about that? The dolphins are in their environment and they swim, and you swim with them.

I would like to do something more challenging. I like to get the dolphins out of their comfort zone. I can cycle. Let's see how clever they are! I challenge them to a cycle race round the park in my town; or a leisurely cycle trip in the countryside.

Seriously though, people have all these grand ideas of things they would like to do before they die. I wonder how many have on their list the wish to:

Prepare to die.

What? What do I mean to prepare to die?

I mean:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Trying to Understand Women

It was very strange. It was about 11:30 last night when suddenly my wife shouted, "Golf ... Golf ... Golf ... That's all you speak about. That's all you do. Golf ... Always golf!"

I tell you. It was out of the blue, and I was startled out of my life. I never expected to see her on the golf course at that time of night. I was practising quietly and there she was. Shouting at the top of her voice.

I will never understand women.

What do you think?
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