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Hell is still hot?

  Sometimes it's good when people say things we disagree with. Not always; it can be irritating, frustrating, or wounding. But sometimes it arouses our curiosity, causes us to examine our assumptions, and sets us off on a trail of new discoveries. So it was when somebody posted this image on Facebook.   It says, in emphatic block capitals: We need preachers who preach that hell is still hot, that heaven is still real, that sin is still wrong, that the Bible is God's word, and that Jesus is the only way of salvation. After my initial reaction of, "We certainly do not! " the curiosity kicked in. What was it about this particular formulation of the Christian faith that I didn't like? If I wouldn't preach that, what would I preach? Given that hell is not a major topic of the Bible, how on earth did we get Christians who think it merits headline billing in the gospel? What's wrong with it? Picking something apart is always the easy bit. I partly object to what
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Interior Castle: Spiritual Formation Book 11

"We cannot enter by any efforts of our own; His Majesty must put us right into the centre of our soul, and must enter there Himself."   St Teresa of Avila reluctantly began to write Interior Castle (or The Mansions ) in 1577, complaining that "this writing under obedience tires me and makes my head worse". She set herself to the task of explaining her vision of the soul being like "a castle made of a single diamond... in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions".  Her writing is engaging but dense; I found it difficult to read more than about ten pages at a time. She also has a habit of introducing terms like favours or intellectual visions and talking about them for a while, before finally defining what they mean several chapters later. This gets confusing. On the other hand, St Teresa is good at thinking of illustrations to explain what she means. She frequently exclaims that these visions are impossible to describe to any

National Forest Way: Final Thoughts

As you may have gathered from my blog posts, I've really enjoyed walking the National Forest Way. I found myself eagerly anticipating each walk, and happily inking the route on the map when I'd done it. The National Forest Way is an ideal starter long-distance walk. There are no enormous mountains or exposed cliff edges. The route is never too far from a village, a car park, or a cafe. But there are some lovely views over sunny fields, some beautiful patches of woodland, and some industrial history along the way. I very rarely found it boring.   An advantage that I didn't appreciate when I started is that the Way forms a giant zigzag. This means it fits 75 miles of path into a relatively compact space, making it easy to reach all of it. From my home in south Derbyshire, every section was within a 40 minute drive. The distance between Beacon Hill and the National Memorial Arboretum is only about 25 miles. The countryside is lovely, and generally overlooked in favour of the P

National Forest Way: The End!

The National Forest Way finishes at Beacon Hill, Leicestershire, with beautiful wide-ranging views in all directions. I'd been hoping for a sunny day, and this one certainly fit the bill. The frosty earth lay under a glorious canopy of shining blue sky. I parked at Swithland Wood, close to where we finished the previous walk. Finding the waymarker on the first gate was bittersweet - this was the last time I would be following these familiar circles.   Swithland Wood had been acquired by the Rotary Club in 1931, and later passed on to Bradgate Park Trust. The lumpy terrain was due to slate quarrying. I skirted a couple of fenced-off pits. As I left the wood, I passed a lake which I assumed was another flooded quarry, but with an odd little tower next to the water. I followed a road up a steady hill towards Woodhouse Eaves. Many of the houses were surrounded by walls of the local slate. Woodhouse Eaves was a prosperous-looking village with some nice old buildings. Crossing the wide

National Forest Way: Bradgate Park

I'd been anxiously scanning the weather forecast, and the morning of New Year's Day was due to be sunny. "Right," I said, "Family trip to Bradgate Park. You can drop me off at Groby Pool." Groby Pool So far, so good. Groby Pool was very pretty in the morning sunlight. I headed south to cross the A50. Fortunately there was very little traffic, as there wasn't a proper crossing at this point, and it would normally be a busy dual carriageway. I worked my way through an estate of neat bungalows in Groby. One had a garden full of frogs! At the end of Woodland Lane I found the path from Martinshaw Wood, and I was back on the National Forest Way. This took me back down to the A50 (there was a pedestrian crossing here, but I didn't need it). joining the NFW A track took me into the pleasant Lady Hay Wood. There was still a lot of water around. At this rate I feel like I'm going to be walking in wellies until June! We have had so much rain this winter. Ap

Merry Christmas! 2023

Merry Christmas to you all! Didn't it feel as if everyone put their Christmas lights up really early this year? We put our tree up on 3rd December, and felt quite behind the times. Still, that was the day it snowed, so at least it was seasonal. After that it poured with rain for the rest of December. As if to compensate for the early Christmas lights, the school term insisted on running up to the 22nd. The boys were barely staggering in for the final weeks. I had a very busy last week at cafe (record takings!) so I was pleased to reach the end, too. Plus, I'd rashly booked in new carpet to be fitted on the 21st. That meant taking up the old stair carpet and the one in Toby's room, painting all the skirting boards, and clearing out Toby's furniture. Then replacing it all in time for Graham's mum to occupy the spare room the next day. It'll be fine, I said.   out with the old... Well, it was. With grateful thanks to Graham's friends Rich and Simon, who came ov