Sunday, September 30, 2012

From Vienna to Dublin - Days 11 to 19

Leaving Vienna, we dead-headed to London for a brief overnight rest before boarding an Edinburgh-bound train.  It was a favorite highlight of trip, and such a good way to see some amazing countryside.  North England and all of Scotland is steeped in antiquity; rock cottages & quaint farms occupying the lush terrain upon which fact & fiction collide.

A favorite memory: train & coach rides

A favorite sensation - Understanding "remote"

Even now, Scotland captivates me.  It is the place of a few of my ancestors - MacDonalds, Campbells (who were warring factions against each other in 1692 when the Massacre of Glen Coe occurred) &  others.  Thus my heart felt right at home in this amazing land.

There are commercial elements to Scotland, but far less so than our other travel experiences.  It has commercial elements to it, but mostly Scotland has maintained a sense of yesterday, of yesteryear.

Of interest:  Our visit coincided with the worst rain & wind storms in 35 years.  Go figure.  But for two web-footed Washingtonians, it slowed us down not even a wee bit.

Once settled at our hotel in Edinburgh, we quickly arranged to tour the Scottish Highlands by coach (no danger of our driving here:  on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road).  Scotland is land dotted with lochs, mountains, glens, rivers & moors.  It's impossible to travel in any direction without being assaulted by beauty.  Though we encountered rain & clouds, they only added to the magic of the moment.

Favorite Glen - The Great Glen of Scotland

There's no way to select a favorite loch or castle, so this
will have to be one among the many:  
Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle

From Scotland we flew to Dublin, where we rented a flat on Dublin Bay for a week.  In hindsight, I wish I'd booked a week in Scotland and but 3 days in Ireland ... Oh well, hindsight makes for better tours in the future. 

Ireland is aptly named, The Emerald Isle.  The countryside is truly painted with the most vivid shades of green, now dotted with splashes of Fall golds, reds & oranges.  Our little roost, complete with a halltree & funky shower (pictures cannot do it justice), is 3 miles from the heart of Dublin.

Our favorite perch - Sandymount/Dublin, Ireland

Before rains set in, we quickly cobbled a 14 hour tour to see as much of the countryside as possible.  After a good night's sleep, we headed out early to roam far and away ... From Galway Bay to the Castle of Dunquire we were amazed at the vast, largely unpopulated countryside.  As we passed through the village of Kinvarra we thought we'd found home.  It was a Norman Rockwellian experience, to say the least!

Eventually we found ourselves at the Cliffs of Moher - a magnificent formation that made our knees quiver.   Walking the rim is not for the faint of heart!

A favorite view - the Cliffs of Moher
We also enjoyed Dublin's Hop On/Hop Off tour buses, which allowed us to see a good deal of Dublin without exhausting our reserves.

Dublin is a city of foot traffic, and thousands of pairs of them!  The crush of tourist traffic surprised up given the "off season" nature of September.  And the pubs - 1,746 of them in Dublin alone!  Oh my goodness.  I can see why the call one tourist attraction a "Pub Crawl".  We opted out of that in favor of something far more personal ...

Favorite meal:  Flanagan's Restaurant!

As I mentioned, the city center is about 3 miles from us.  We've used the distance for our daily walks, opting out of bus transport unless or until we're too tired to walk.  Besides, given the chocolate, pastry, bread & butter (LOTS of butter) here, we NEED to walk.

Favorite surprise:  Sailboats on Dublin Bay 
(across from our flat)

I will spare you a glut of pictures.  I've got plenty of them.  We have another two days here in Dublin, so I'll conclude it all when we make our way home again.

Home again.  It's beginning to sound like yet another adventure I'm more than ready to claim.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

From Munich to Vienna - Days 1 to 10

"It's the worst storm in 35 years!"  

That's just one small snippet of the adventures that have hallmarked our European sojourn.  

We began our walkabout (literally) in Munich, Germany - - a place & latitude very much like Washington State.  Hubby had business demands the first week of our trip, so mostly I entertained myself  (more about that another day) during that time.  We logged an average of eight miles a day on foot, and many more via rail.  

 A favorite memory - Hubby telling me:  
"I think we go left here."
By day #3 my feet were complaining, so I put away the shoes I'd packed and bought a pair of Hush Puppies that have been a mainstay since.  

Throughout these early days of our trip, Fall was just beginning to taunt us, with a nip in the air and a hint of color to foliages. 

 A favorite restaurant - the Augustiner/Old Town

A favorite walk - The Englisher Garten

The next leg of our journey took us by train from Munich across the Bavarian countryside enroute to Vienna, Austria.  The hills are truly alive with the sound of music there; and the imagination runs wild with visions of other eras.  Time stops altogether just as you arrive in Salzburg.

A favorite scene - the Bavarian countryside

Arriving in Vienna, we began vacationing in earnest.  Hubby put away his computer (or, rather, he loaned it to me), and we settled into our hotel on the Danube River.  

What an amazing, historically rich city is Vienna.  With so little time we missed far too many sights, but we absorbed the best of it. 

   A favorite sight - flocks of swans on the Danube River

An amazing artifact - Belvedere Castle

From Vienna we prepared to make our way to Scotland via London.  More about that to come ...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gnostic Gnonsense

Three things:  I just figured out how to access Blogger from my remote home in the U.K.  AND I simply had to share this body of thought on the latest headline about Jesus' wife. FINALLY, I'll be touching base soon from my roost in Scotland or Ireland ...

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife? When Sensationalism Masquerades as Scholarship

The whole world changed on Tuesday. At least, that is what many would have us to believe. Smithsonian magazine, published by the Smithsonian Institution, declares that the news released Tuesday was “apt to send jolts through the world of biblical scholarship — and beyond.” Really?
What was this news? Professor Karen King of the Harvard Divinity School announced at a conference in Rome that she had identified an ancient papyrus fragment that includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” Within hours, headlines around the world advertised the announcement with headlines like “Ancient Papyrus Could Be Evidence that Jesus Had a Wife” (The Telegraph).

The Smithsonian article states that “the announcement at an academic conference in Rome is sure to send shock waves through the Christian world.” The magazine’s breathless enthusiasm for the news about the papyrus probably has more to do with advertising its upcoming television documentary than anything else, but the nation’s most prestigious museum can only injure its reputation with this kind of sensationalism.
A Fragment of a Text, an Even More Fragmentary Argument

What Karen King revealed on Tuesday was a tiny papyrus fragment with Coptic script on both sides. On one side the fragment includes about 30 words on eight fragmentary lines of script. The New York Times described the fragment as “smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass.” The lines are all fragmentary, with the third line reading “deny. Mary is worthy of it,” and the next reading “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” The fifth states, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The papyrus fragment, believed to be from the fourth century, was delivered to Professor King by an anonymous source who secured the artifact from a German-American dealer, who had bought it years ago from a source in East Germany. As news reports made clear, the fragment is believed by many to be an authentic text from the fourth century, though two of three authorities originally consulted by the editors of the Harvard Theological Review expressed doubts. Such a find would be interesting, to be sure, but hardly worthy of the international headlines.

The little piece of ancient papyrus with its fragmentary lines of text is now, in the hands of the media, transformed into proof that Jesus had a wife, and that she was most likely Mary Magdalene. Professor King will bear personal responsibility for most of this over-reaching. She has called the fragment nothing less than “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” — a title The Boston Globe rightly deemed “provocative.” That same paper reported that Professor King decided to publicize her findings before additional tests could verify the fragment’s authenticity because she “feared word could leak out about its existence in a way that sensationalized its meaning.” Seriously? King was so concerned about avoiding sensationalism that she titled the fragment “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?”

This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. One British newspaper notes that the claims about a married Jesus seem more worthy of fans of Dan Brown’s fictional work, The Da Vinci Code, than “real-life Harvard professors.” If the fragment is authenticated, the existence of this little document will be of interest to historians of the era, but it is insanity to make the claims now running through the media.

Professor King claims that these few words and phrases should be understood as presenting a different story of Jesus, a different gospel. She then argues that the words should be read as claiming that Jesus was married, that Mary Magdalene was likely his wife. She argues further that, while this document provides evidence of Jesus’ marital status, the phrases do not necessarily mean he was married. More than anything else, she argues against the claim that Christianity is a unified body of commonly-held truths.

Those familiar with Karen King’s research and writings will recognize the argument. Her 2003 book, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, argued that another text from the era presented Mary Magdalene as the very model for apostleship.

A Preference for Heterodoxy

The thread that ties all these texts and arguments together is the 1945 discovery of some 52 ancient texts near the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. These texts are known to scholars as Gnostic literature. The texts present heretical narratives and claims about Jesus and his message, and they have been a treasure trove for those seeking to replace orthodox Christianity with something different.

Several ambitions drive this effort. Feminists have sought to use the Nag Hammadi texts to argue that women have been sidelined by the orthodox tradition, and that these Gnostic texts prove that women were central to the leadership of the early church, perhaps even superior to the men. Others have used the Nag Hammadi texts to argue that Christianity was diverse movement marked by few doctrinal concerns until it was hijacked by political and ecclesiastical leaders, who constructed theological orthodoxy as a way of establishing churchly power in the Roman Empire and then stifling dissent. Still others argue that Christianity’s moral prohibitions concerning sexuality, and especially homosexuality, were part of this forced orthodoxy which, they argue, was not the essence of true Christianity. More than anything else, many have used the Nag Hammadi texts as leverage for their argument that Christianity was originally a way of spirituality centered in the teachings of a merely human Christ — not a message of salvation through faith in a divine Jesus who saves sinners through the atonement he accomplished in his death and resurrection.

Professor King, along with Princeton’s Elaine Pagels, has argued that the politically powerful leaders who established what became orthodox Christianity silenced other voices, but that these voices now speak through the Nag Hammadi texts and other Gnostic writings. Writing together, King and Pagels argue that “the traditional history of Christianity is written almost solely from the viewpoint of the side that won, which was remarkably successful in silencing or distorting other voices, destroying their writings, and suppressing any who disagreed with them as dangerous and obstinate ‘heretics.’”

King and Pagels both reject traditional Christianity, and they clearly prefer the voices of the heretics. They argue for the superiority of heterodoxy over orthodoxy. In the Smithsonian article, King’s scholarship is described as “a kind of sustained critique of what she called the ‘master story’ of Christianity: a narrative that casts the canonical texts of the New Testament as a divine revelation that passed through Jesus in ‘an unbroken chain’ to the apostles and their successors — church fathers, ministers, priests and bishops who carried  these truths into the present day.”

King actually argues against the use of terms like “heresy” and even “Gnostic,” claiming that the very use of these terms gives power to the forces of orthodoxy and normative Christianity. Nevertheless, she cannot avoid using the terms herself (even in the titles of her own books). She told Ariel Sabar of Smithsonian, “You’re talking to someone who’s trying to integrate a whole set of ‘heretical’ literature into the standard history.”

Orthodoxy and Heresy: The Continual Struggle

Those who use Gnostic texts like those found at Nag Hammadi attempt to redefine Christianity so that classic, biblical, orthodox Christianity is replaced with a very different religion. The Gnostic texts reduce Jesus to the status of a worldly teacher who instructs his followers to look within themselves for the truth. These texts promise salvation through enlightenment, not through faith and repentance. Their Jesus is not the fully human and fully divine Savior and there is no bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Were these writings found at Nag Hammadi evidence of the fact that the early church opposed and attempted to eliminate what it understood to be false teachings? Of course. That is what the church said it was doing and what the Apostles called upon the church to do. The believing church did not see heresy as an irritation — it saw heterodoxy as spiritual death. Those arguing for the superiority of the Gnostic texts deny the divine inspiration of the New Testament and prefer the heterodox teachings of the Gnostic heretics. Hauntingly, the worldview of the ancient Gnostics is very similar, in many respects, to various worldviews and spiritualities around us today.

The energy behind all this is directed to the replacement of orthodox Christianity, its truth claims, its doctrines, its moral convictions, and its vision of both history and eternity with a secularized — indeed, Gnositicized — new version.

Just look at the attention this tiny fragment of papyrus has garnered. Its few words and broken phrases are supposed to cast doubt on the New Testament and the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. A tiny little fragment which, even if authentically from the fourth century, is placed over against the four New Testament Gospels, all written within decades of Jesus’ earthy ministry.

“The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?” Not hardly. This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. Nevertheless, do not miss what all this really represents — an effort to replace biblical Christianity with an entirely new faith.

SOURCE:  Albert Mohler Blog

Ariel Sabar, “The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus,” Smithsonian, Tuesday, September 18, 2012.
Lisa Wangsness, “Harvard Professor Identifies Scrap of Papyrus Suggesting Some Early Christians Believed Jesus Was Married,” The Boston Globe, Tuesday, September 18, 2012.
Laurie Goodstein, “A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’s Wife,” The New York Times, Tuesday, September 18, 2012.
Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (New York: Viking, 2007).
Karen L. King, The Secret Revelation to John (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Beannacht Dé leat!

Until October 3, I will be meandering somewhere in the Alps, or the forests, glens & mulls of the Celtic Isles.

Beannacht Dé leat!
(God's blessing to you)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Daringly Delicate

Words. What would life be without them, especially to a word junkie like me? 

I'm sure there have been ad nauseum studies on the subject, like the number of words we speak, read and/or hear each day. Suffice it to say: Words (or the intent behind them) generate stuff. 

The same holds true for the lack of them, for surely actions do speak volumes.  Unwords connote stuff too.

I think that's why I was so taken with a phrase I read in one of my daily devotionals. The devotee collected his thoughts with these words:
"... the most delicate shades of Christian love
are manifested (in sacrificial living) ... ".

Can't you just see it? Instead of hues vermillion or chartreuse, the sort of living described is best painted in pastels with words the shade of apricot, butter, mint.  

Such living - the type born of selflessness - is anything but garish or obtuse (think Rodney Dangerfield); nor does it need or beg notice.  No bullhorn is required.  A banner isn't necessary to herald one's entry.   

No, such a life is gentle, nuanced, exquisite (think Helen Keller).  It makes it's way quietly, circumspectly, without demand.  It doesn't draw attention, though it may be captivating if discovered.  It's the embodiment of Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 13. 

Delicate shades of Christian love ...

If that isn't a word-picture I don't know what is.

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are,
as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good
and evil they become int he hands of one who
knows how to combine them.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne 
Words which do not give the light of Christ
increase the darkness.
~ Mother Theresa
A good man brings good things out of the
good stored up in his heart,
and an evil man brings evil things out of the
evil stored up in his heart.
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
~ Luke 6:45

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Time Travel

Shortly, and for the better part of the next month, I will be far, far away on yet another of our many adventures. 

Planes, trains & automobiles will take us to the magical lands of our ancestral homes.  Armed with names, locations & a good deal of information - - some of it dating back to the 600s - - I will walk the highways, byways, moors & mulls of those that came long before me. 

We begin in the city of Munich.  I have a smattering of heritage in Germany, though mostly our visit there will consist of work for hubby.  While he attends to business, I'll make my way around the culture-rich city and the countryside that frames it. 

From Munich we'll embark on the serious vacation portion of our trek, taking a scenic train ride onto Austria.  There we will focus primarily on Vienna, not so much for the sake of ancestry, but because we've longed to see this city and more of the Bavarian Alps.  

When we bid farewell to Vienna, it will be with our sights set on Scotland.  We fly into London, where we'll grab yet another train for the scenic-rich journey north to Edinburgh.  Using Edinburgh as home base, we'll tour a number of regions in Scotland, focusing mostly on the Western shore & the Highlands.

Eventually we'll reach our final destinantion:  Ireland.  We've nixed our hotel-staying & opted instead to lease a flat (through VRBO/Vacation Rental by Owner) on the bay just outside the city proper.  We'll enjoy both city culture and country charm.  I'm not so sure about the Pub Crawls, but I can assure you we'll be making our way across the entire country to discover the ancestral headwaters of clans McFadden, O'Breslin, Kelly, O'Flanagan, O'Neal, McDonnell & Campbell (to name a few). 

I have often wondered why this particular song, The Mull of Kintyre, grips me so.  Having spent the better part of ten years researching my ancestry, I now understand it better.  My kin  - or many of them - once lived in Kintyre (Scotland), if not upon the Mull itself.

Sweep through the heather like deer in the glen
Carry me back to the days I knew then.
Nights when we sang like a heavenly choir
Of the life and the time of the mull of kintyre.
I hope to visit you before I actually depart. But, should I miss you, know that I'll make up for it upon my return.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Well ... It Sounded Like a Good Idea at the Time

I'd be a wealthy retiree if I had $5 for every time I used the phrase:  "Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time." 

In looking back, I think I see where the trouble, folly mis-thinking, erroneous boldness, flaw formed; the headwaters of my particular penchant for segues.

While playing in mother's garden as a child, I dug a trench of some 10 or 12 feet.  No doubt my original intent was to make a row for planting something, but a foot into the project it began to curve this way, then that.  By the time my row was completed, it looked like a snake, or like one of Washington's many, winding rivers.   


I next hauled a length of hose to my newly formed crevasse and began to fill it with water.  (Everyone knows a river isn't truly a river without H20).  With diligence, my vision was not satisfied until I had filled the trough to the brim; crafted a dam or two; added some pebbles to the riverbed; then fixed a branch or leaf here-and-there to give it that lush overgrowth common to nature.   

As I labored & toiled, new thoughts began to form.  My visions grew large & larger.  My goldfish came to mind.


When I was sure the river was amply readied, I sneaked into the house to grab two very boring, unsuspecting Nemo-types.  Two minutes later my once-bound fish were free of their glass cage; totally  unfettered to swim the length & breadth of my newly formed habitat (begin humming "Born Free" now). 

At last I grew weary of excavation & fish husbandry, leaving both with some great notion to return shortly for a visit.

Shortly means different things to different people, especially people of roughly 4 years of age.

Whether it was two hours or two days, I cannot tell you.  But the story, as you have imagined, did not end well for the fish.  By the time I actually got back to my nature preserve, something very bad had happened.  The river had breached its banks, and what hadn't caved in had esaped out one end with nary a remaining trickle.  It was obvious the sun had slaked its thirst.

The fish, I now know, had been either buried alive, or deprived of water long enough to cause their expiration.  I didn't dig lest I be assaulted by a grim find.  But I still remember the stupor, then shame that claimed my here-to-fore exuberance.

Well ... It seemed like a good idea at the time.

All that to say, it didn't end there.  As I said in opening, I've had many a brainstorm that ended badly.  And if not badly, then not in ways I had hoped or planned.  Most were born in those same headwaters, the ones of my dirt digging, mud crafting childhood:  hopeful, enthusiastic, eager, creative, fun-loving or hope-filled.  (I own a few mean-spirited, not-so-nice-meant-to-be-hurtful ones too). 

Even so, I've learned as much - maybe more - from such flawed escapades than all of my sound routines combined.  That doesn't make them brilliant, or right, or worthwhile in/of themselves; just the raw ingredients for something more useful ... wisdom (AND, a few hysterically funny memories).

The men who try to do something and fail
are infinitely better than those who try to
do nothing and succeed. 
~Lloyd Jones

Failure sometimes enlarges the spirit. 
You have to fall back upon humanity and God. 
~ Charles Horton Cooley