Wednesday, 30 December 2009

It isn't fair

I was listening to an interview with the painter David Hockney. Hockney is a charming man. He is now in his seventies and has returned to his native Yorkshire to live. He was talking about how he treasures every day. He was asked rather bluntly what he thought about dying and he said it was his next adventure. He hinted that he believed that objects did not have a natural colour but only what the light gave them. We may consider certain objects to be gray but in some light they are olive. He sounded like a man at ease with himself.

Vincent Van Gogh was a totally different soul. Tortured by demons in his head and misunderstood most of his life. Were it not for his kindly brother, Theo, his life would have been worse probably. We all know of his severing his ear. He was dead by 37. He died by his own hand. Above is his famous painting Starry Night. It oozes originality.

Hockney has been a very successful man and he has been able to have positive publicity most of his life. He seems always to have been able to use life to his advantage. He is probably the UK's best known painter. He is known as a playboy artist. He has had several homes in California.
I once talked to a painter and he referred to Hockney as the Noel Coward of art. He is an entertainer but I could tell he did not regard him highly. Van Gogh is now seen as one of the greats in art. His use of colour was revolutionary. I once went into a gallery and I found my eye immediately drawn to a painting. It was Van Gogh.

Life is not 'fair.' The talented are overlooked and the untalented ( and I do not refer to Hockney here ) are praised. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Yet time has a way of redressing the balance in life sometimes. In time lies are discovered and truths appreciated. To me this is even more reason for dedicating one's life to God. Men and women are capricious in their appreciation and so easily led by the latest marketing campaign. God however is truth.

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. Ecclesiastes 9.11

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


A friend and I were having what we jokingly call our works' dinner. We are both freelance ie out of work most of the time and not being part of a firm we get together at Christmas and have dinner just the two of us. We were talking about our weaknesses and we both agreed how judgmental we could be. I said it might be because we are both a bit prudish deep down. Who knows. In Matthew 7 our Lord talks about the same type of judgement that we use being applied to us.

We can all be very good at missing the specks in our own eyes.

I have recently moved to a tradition that practices the right of reconciliation ie confession. To be honest I am still getting used to it. It is one thing to be aware of your wickedness and another thing to have to spell it out. In my tradition you do this literally on your knees. I have to say though confession is good for the soul and the conscience. I come away with a much lighter heart. I feel sorry for the priest who has to listen to all this muck.

After confession I wandered through the City of London. It was Friday night and Christmas is not far off. The decorations were splendid and there were folks spilling out of the pub onto the street drinks in hand. Almost as an automatic reaction I started to be judgmental imagining all sorts of debauchery that might ensue from this drinking. It is prudery I swear. I then remembered what I had to spell out in the confessional just a short while ago. I was judging people I did not know of the same things I got up to.

The only one who does have the right to judge says this: God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

anger management

An Anglican nun I know said that when she was interviewed for religious life in a convent they asked her how she thought she would get on with the others in the community. She replied,
"I'll be fine; it's the others I'm not too sure about."

The life of prayer and contemplation is hard enough with its distractions but the life with others is even harder. We are all of us rubbed up the wrong way and often we look for ways of justifying our anger or seek revenge.

In the film the Godfather, Sonny Corleone is lured to his death by his known temper. His pregnant sister is violently abused by her husband and he is told of an alleged incident of this. Rushing to punish his brother in law he walks into an ambush.

Spend a few moments with this passage of the Bible. Matthew 14.13 Herod is having an adulterous relationship with Herodias whom history has it uses the liaison to climb the social ladder. John the Baptist is known to disapprove of the relationship and she has him killed by colluding with her daughter. News of his death reaches Jesus. Look at how He deals with the situation.

I am watching the TV series The Wire about drug barons in Baltimore. Normally the gang leader sends out his thugs to kill anyone who has double crossed a friend, family member or ally. In life revenge is often the norm. Do you struggle with anger?It is one of the passions as much as lust. Last night I wanted to punch someone who rode their bike at me on the pavement. I was shocked by the anger and potential for violence inside me. I was returning from a meeting on prayer!!!

But when a person is spiritually awakened, even if something irritates him, the bond of love is not dissolved; rekindling himself with the warmth of the love of God, he quickly recovers
himself and with great joy seeks his neighbour's love, even though he has been gravely wronged or insulted by him. For the sweetness of God completely consumes the bitterness of the quarrel. St Diadochos

Maybe Our Lord was seeking to rekindle himself with the warmth of the love of God. Maybe it was His version of counting to ten before reacting. What do you think He did in that lonely place?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Hardest Task

A friend of mine recently became pastor of a small church. The minister with oversight for the area said the main problem they will have is prayer and I assuming he meant getting people to practise it. The main problem, please note, would not be the difficult member who creates havoc, not the roof which needs mending and not the lack of attendance. This is such an irony. You don't have to pay to pray, you don't have to leave your home and no one knows whether you succeed or fail. Yet, why is it so hard to do?

Perhaps one reason is that you rarely get any praise for praying. I know a little shy Italian lady who prays regularly in my local church. I am not sure if the clergy notice her but I have never heard them mention her. She seems to keep to regular times and draws no attention to herself. No one pats her on the back and says well done. She is never wins 'parishioner of the year' awards. 'But more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of'' the poet Tennyson said. Who knows what is achieved by God with this little lady through prayer. They say English is a language of prepositions and I am careful of using them here. God invites us to join in His work through the medium of prayer. Now, I hope I have got it right. Now why are there so few who accept his invitation?

Spiritual discourse always keeps the soul free from self- esteem, for it gives every part of the soul a sense of light, so that it no longer needs the praise of men. St Diadochos

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Passions

The word passion has changed in meaning. It is now a positive word. If you are passionate about your profession you attack it with gusto. Passion can summon up the tango, steamy tropical nights, hot blooded lovers, Italian divas singing opera and on and on. Once however it had negative connotations. The passions were things in your head and heart that you struggled against. To the writers of early Christian works the passions were what kept you from living a holy and God centred life.
All who want to follow God seriously will probably be up against the 'passions' they suggested.

..those who are beginning the life of holiness should try to hinder the activity of the passions. At this stage they are still driven frantic by the pleasures that accompany the passions.. The Philokalia

So if like everyone who is trying to serve God you are being distracted by anger, lust, envy, avarice how do we deal with it? To try and suppress the passions is not the way. Like water in a shoe- it will find a way out somehow. The 'trick' the same writer of the above suggests is to have an opposing passion- the love of God and His wisdom. When you burn yourself you are so taken up by the pain of the burn your mind is concentrated on this to the exclusion of everything else. Replace the burning pain with the fire of God in your heart!

Thus opposing passions are mutually exclusive and will never unite the Philokalia continues.

Recentering your passions will probably not happen overnight. God perhaps will want to know you mean business first.
It is good to know there is a game plan though. Go well.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

All that glitters

This photo always catches my eye. I took it a couple of years ago. A firm were promoting a product or service in the City of London. I can't remember what was being advertised but I remember the girls!! Like any man I am drawn by a pretty face and a shapely figure. I suppose also it was the incongruity of these glittery showgirls amongst the soberly dressed outside Liverpool Street Station.

Mackerel can be caught on just a hook covered in silver paper. We are drawn to the brightly coloured and our eye is drawn by the beautiful.

I was reading the Philokalia today which is a collection of writings mainly by monks. There is great wisdom in this book. One of its features is to try and keep those in religious life from being distracted by things that glitter both in front of the eyes and in the memory.

We do not appreciate how much better the blessings of the spiritual world are than the tawdry attractions of this present world, which dazzle us with their specious glory and draw all our desire to them. In the absence of what is better, what is worse will take its place and be held and be held in honour. If only we had a deeper understanding of the realities of the divine world, we would not be taken in by the attractions of this world. St Neilos the Ascetic

St Neilos alludes to a technique that might help should you want to not be dominated by such distractions if you find them unhelpful. If you are drawn by the superficial try and fill your thoughts with the substantial, something better.

Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life. Proverbs 4.23
Don't try and repress the thoughts as this will make things worse but just try and take them somewhere else. Phillipians 4.8 is worth having in your memory bank.

Also it is good to use a bit of common sense for it is silly of me to think that those pretty girls would take an interest in me were they not hired to do so!!!
Go well!! MG

Sunday, 1 November 2009

First day

Hi folks, my name is Mal Grosch and this is Groschblog. It is dedicated to God and is simply my walk in the world and my reflections on it. I live in Bethnal Green, London, England.
Today is Sunday 1st November 2009. This morning I went to my church. I didn't want to go but I am glad I did. My friend John Boy was telling me his priest was talking about Divine Energy and maybe it was that that got me to church.
Last week I went to a talk on Calvin at the Protestant Truth Society. A wise man wrote to me this week and said if you read the Lord's prayer there is no mention of any denomination. He is right. We love to hang onto our differences. I heard a bit of sniping at the PTS but it was made up for by a friendly welcome. You can have wonderful worship, great preaching and so on but without a warm welcome the former is meaningless. The Book of James ( James 2.15 ) agrees with me.
So bless you Sarah at the Protestant Truth Society!! You are wiser probably than many of the
writers of the books you stock. You have got the basics right. A cup of tea for the stranger!!
So there you have it. Do read the Groschblog and may the Lord bless you and keep.
The mog in the picture is Charlie. He is my mate Pete's cat. He is very wise- he doesn't work and doesn't pay council tax yet he has a nice flat and eats very well. Also he loves being loved.