Thursday, December 18, 2008

As a Substitute teacher myself, this cartoon is very close to the mark - both in terms of the students perception of the supply teacher and that of the schools. I got this off a Facebook group called "Supply/Substitute Teachers Have No Real Power (Lets Be Honest)"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Baby P

This story encapsulates the worst of human kind. Three adults gang up on and torture a baby, visiting the most horrific injuries and eventually killing the little one at age 17 months. To make it worse, the so-called Child-Protective services were aware that there was a problem but failed to intervene and as a result the child died. The arrogance of the officials leaves one cold.

Apparently the baby's mother has since become pregnant and given birth to a little girl while in prison. She is demanding access to this child. She should not be allowed to see that child - the little one must be put up for adoption and all links with the mother definitely severed. That child should be protected from ever knowing she had an older brother and what happened to him.

If this were a one-off it would be bad enough but we heard yesterday of two children in Manchester who were killed (I think stabbed) by their mother - who had serious mental problems to the extent that she needed to be sectioned.

Also, the real story behind Shannon Matthews disappearance is emerging and we learn it was a scam - I want it to be noted that it is a mistaken idea to think that Shannon was not harmed - apart from the fact that they drugged her up - this whole thing must have been to some extent terrifying to the child. Clearly her mother will lose custody of Shannon, and that is only right, but it also means that Shannon, loses her mum and that must be awful for any child to endure.

This is in the United Kingdom, but every country in the world can point to some incidentents of extreme cruelty and barbarism. That an adult could do such things to small children, let alone their own offspring, is beyond understanding.

The papers say that the identity of Baby P should remain a secret. I do not understand why this is, since the child is dead. The only person who would be protected by this secrecy is the mother of the baby, and she has no right to this protection.

I do invite comments on this blog. If you want to know the details please put "Baby P" in a search engine. I could not bring myself to repeat the horrendous things that this little child went through.

I was also astounded by the ineptitude of the child protection services of Harringey.

This is in the UK - but I know these things repeat themselves in

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Final Chapter - I did get there in the end.

I stood there on the platform at Stratford, my cardboard box looking a little worse for wear as a result of the pushing and shoving and picking up and putting down. I was cross with myself for not having closed it with sellotape. Well the train pulled up at the platform and I loaded the two items onto the train for the last time. I was being phoned by the taxi-cab company that had been commissioned to collect me. I explained that I was on my way to Ilford station and when I arrived I disembarked one last time. I called the taxi-company back but they could not come in unless they had bought a ticket. Eventually I managed to get all my katundu (things) along the platform and up the stairs and Muhammed the taxi driver came and helped me with the last few meters. After picking up the key and the the paperwork for new residence he took me to Romford and to my new accommodation. What a relief to be able to go and sit down. After I regained my strength - I unpacked the box and the suitcase and threw away the box!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

John's journey to Romford - chapter Two

On the 14:30 to Liverpool Street - London - due to disembark at Chelmsford. The train went through Diss, Ipswitch, and on to Chelmsford - I hear an announcement over the PA - "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are about to stop in Chelmsford" - if you are getting off here please ensure you have all your personal belongings. Next stop - Chelmsford. I move towards the section where my cardboard box and suitcase are stowed. By the time the announcement was finished the train was stopped at the Chelmsford station - I manoeuvre the box towards the door, and was about to open it when the train started moving off again. Oh no!

I spoke to the conductor when he came through and told him what happened - he must of thought I was a real idiot. Anyway he said the next stop was Stratford. So I pushed the box back into its place and put the suitcase back too. I got a phone call from my manager asking when I would be arriving in Romford - I explained what happened and that I would be needing to get back to Romford from Stratford. After a few minutes he phoned me back and told me to catch the train to Ilford - and not Romford and he would have a taxi waiting for me there.

This time I watched intently and waited with my box and suitcase by the door so that i could get out as soon as the train stopped. It did and I managed to disembark with all my encumbrances. I had a laptop case - that was safely slung over my shoulder, a pull along suitcase and a cardboard box that was becoming difficult to keep closed. I was wearing my 'double jacket' and a 'money belt' strapped around my middle.

So there I stood on Stratford Platform number 9 - and i had to get to another platform - not entirely sure which one. I carried my case a few meters - say 5, and then went to get my box which I carried pass the suitcase and put it down and so I progressed along the platform, down the stairs into a subway and along. I kept on hearing the announcement "Ladies and Gentleman, please ensure that you keep all personal belongings with you at all times." - Any luggage found unattended may be destroyed." - and so I had this huge dilemma - How to move these things along without 'leaving them' and making sure that none of them are unaccompanied. Eventually I managed to get to platform 8 - with the help of a young rail official who kindly carried my suitcase - leaving me to worry about the box that was feeling the effects of the journey as it was coming unstuck. I eventually got up onto platform 8 and needed to buy a ticket - I found out about the ticket machine and purchased a ticket to Ilford and ran back to my belongings - whew they were still there. Pushing the box up to the yellow line, I stood at the ready.

Here comes chapter three. Told you this would be a cliffhanger! Come back tomorrow for the final exciting instalment.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

John’s journey to Romford

On Tuesday, I had just finished my day at a Primary, and my Area manager came and met me and told me that they wanted me to transfer to Romford sooner rather than later and so, I had to hastily organise a train trip to Romford, Essex. However, Romford is by no means a sleepy little village it is for all intents and purposes part of Greater London.

So, I went to Staples a big stationery chain store ad bought a cardboard box into which I would pack my non-clothing possessions. I also booked a train ticket using the Internet. I was pleased that I managed to get a ticket to Romford for just £15.

On Thursday, the day of the trip, I ordered a taxi to pick me up at 12:30 pm. I loaded into the taxi, a cardboard box, a suitcase and my laptop bag that contained important documents etc.

I arrived at Great Yarmouth Station in good time for the 13:17 to Norwich.

At this juncture, I need to explain how my journey was supposed to have worked! As you can guess – it didn’t pan out as expected.

Depart Great Yarmouth 13:17 arrive Norwich 13:50
Depart Norwich 14:00 arrive Shenfield 15:29
Depart Shenfield 15:34 arrive Romford 15:48

So I loaded my big box and my suitcase on the train at Great Yarmouth and we proceeded to Norwich and arrived at the scheduled 13:50 I get off the train and unload said box and suitcase fully expecting to grab a handy trolley and proceed to next train – how na├»ve I was. I couldn’t find a trolley and I am no superman to carry to pieces of luggage simultaneously. So I asked a uniformed man on the platform where the trolleys were – he pointed in a direction and said they were their – I went there and had to be redirected. I eventually found the trolleys and dashed to get one. Problem: I needed a pound to release it. Fortunately I found a coin and after working out how the contraption worked released the trolley and ran (dangerously) to get my bags that, contrary to all the public announcements I had left unattended on platform 1 – fortunately they had not grown legs and nobody had blown them up.

I loaded them on my trolley and dashed at high speed back to platform three to see the train I was supposed to have been aboard pulling out of the station! How fed up I was.

I went to the ticket office half expecting to have to pay a full fare for another ticket to Romford (the internet fare is a lot cheaper). But fortunately after I explained my difficulty with the luggage and the lack of a trolley, they kindly let me catch a later train at no further cost. The train I caught was the 14:30 to London-Liverpool Street. Unfortunately, this train was not scheduled to stop in Shenfield. When aboard the 14:30 – I asked the conductor where I should disembark in order to get to Romford. He said Chelmsford.
I will call this the end of chapter one! But do not go away - stay tuned for the next exciting episode John's journey to Romford!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Black Hole Machine

by Martin Newell

Since science today is rasher
And doubtful of divinity
They made an atom-smasher
To peer into infinity
Research had been extensive
To analyse such dust
And fearfully expensive
Though analyse, they must.

A few expressed their fears
Still others thought it odd.
We'd labour all these years
To find a speckof God
Or something so unknown
It didn't have a name
And if the truth were shown
Life might not be the same.

Yet in the streets outside
The birds still sang in tune
The earth did not collide
With sun that afternoon
And if, as doomsayers choose
The world was nearly through
Then nothing on the news
Confirmed that it was true.

Our feet still felt the ground
All early qualms were banished
As particles whizzed round
the planet hadn't vanished
And with this new appliance
A victor claimed the day
But whether God or science
Was difficult to say.

I found this clever poem in the Sunday Express . I was amused by it and thought it would amuse many of you too.

As my friend said - I know who the VICTOR is! Do you?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mother 'drowned daughter because of cerebral palsy'

I was distressed this morning to see this horrific headline. I copy the link here. one who is so keen to help children with special needs I felt outrage and dispair to think that a person could do this to a little child. My heart goes out to the father of this little girl, who according to the report did love the child. Sad that he did not realise what danger the girl was in with the child's mother. In a society where a mother can abort her child because it is 'inconvenient' and without consulting the child's father, I suppose it is not a big step to getting rid of children post-birth. (In their minds) God forbid that a child should cramp their style. I can only hope that a sentence will be passed down that will reflect the gravity of this crime, though, unfortunately capital punishment is no longer an option.

This is the little girl who was killed.
Much to my surprise two people have told me Facebook blooked this note. I wonder if it is connected to the picture?

I am providing alternative links for this story that I found.

Please add comments

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hate Speech

I am trying to maintain some sense of perspective at the moment, but actually I am seething. I cannot believe what I have just read on the Internet. Anybody who knows me knows I love kids, particularly kids with disabilities – probably because I was a kid with disabilities. I have a soft spot for them, and really rejoice when they achieve something which previously that had struggled with, even if that achievement may be mundane for other children. I also know that by and large children with disabilities have the most generous spirits and are,for want of a better word, more loving and accepting of others.

This is why when I read the words of a savage, I mean of Dr. Savage, I am shocked to the core. Before I continue, I need to point out that I had never heard of this Dr. Savage previously, and so I have no axe to grind. Well, I didn't but now I do. You bet, I do. Before reading on, I need to say that the following quote contains language that is defamatory and unkind and is sure to upset many readers. If you choose to read on, do so, knowing that the author of this article distances himself from it entirely and only quotes it in order to give the reader some context. If you have read his words before, I suggest you jump over it and read after the quote.

Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is. In 99% of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is.... What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.' Autism—everybody has an illness. If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, 'Don't behave like a fool.' The worst thing he said—'Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry.' That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. (The Savage Nation: 16 July 2008)

He speaks as though illness were a fashion accessory. Whichever way you turn it, Autism is an illness – and it is a widely researched illness, with sufferers all over the world. People do not generally go shopping for an illness, as Dr. Savage implies. Even if they did, I doubt that Autism would be the “illness of choice” as he implies. From the testimonies of many parents of children with Autism, one learns that the arrival of a child with autism in the family results in one's life being turned upside down. Friends desert you because they can't handle it – and why should they? – It's not their kid. The child is emotionally very disturbed and needs lots of patient and loving reassurance even after the parent is at the end of their tether. One can't leave the child with a babysitter – or drop him off at Granny's because he will be too traumatized by the separation. Who in their right mind would wish that on themselves, to say nothing of the kid.

He asks “You know what autism is?” Sure – I think I have a better idea than you, Dr. Savage. I would however not claim to have encyclopedic knowledge of the condition, although I have done quite a lot of reading on the matter. As a teacher, I had to work with a lad with Autism. It was not easy, but he was in his teens and so, despite his intellectual challenges , I guess he was easier to deal with than a younger child. From his comments, it is clear the Dr. Savage has little understanding or exposure to children with Autism.

His claim that 99% of cases where the diagnosis has been made, it was a “brat” who was acting up just leaves me cold. I think that the specialists should take him to task and sue him for slander – he has quoted a 'statistic' which he should therefore be able to prove statistically. i.e. He should be able to prove with actual case histories that 99% of diagnoses are incorrect. If he can't then he should be sued until he has to sell the shirt on his back and live on food stamps. Making a statement you cannot back up with fact is called slander and when you slander somebody or a group of people, you cannot say it is “free speech” - it is lies and you are responsible for your speech and the consequences of that speech.

Dr. Savage should be held accountable and made to pay for this deep deep insult to already hurting people. I don't know how much he is worth in terms of his personal wealth but I reckon it must be a six-digit figure. I reckon that since he sucked this percentage (99%) out of the air, he should be required to pay 99% of his personal wealth to an organisation that will fund research into autism and help families who are battling because of the financial burden of Autism.

Let us look at some of the inflammatory language employed by this public speaker.

BRAT: an ill-mannered child. What can be more ill-mannered than the incendiary statements made by this man. Polite people do not use the words that he used. He has no right to make blanket generalisations about people he does not even know.

MORON: interesting that he should use this term – it actually is an obsolete term for a mentally retarded person with a mental age of between eight and twelve years old. Given that many autistic children are also developmentally delayed, it is like insulting a blind person by saying “You blind idiot” - nice one.

PUTZ: I dare not put the meaning of this word in this blog – it is so obscene. Look it up if you must – but I am completely gobsmacked that he would dare use such language – I can only think that he never bothered to find out what this word actually means – if he did, and his father really called him that, I would say, he would hate his father. I hope his father is not still alive because he is probably mortified by his son quoting him in this way. Well if he is embarrassed he should be. What a terrible thing to say to one's own child. I can only guess this affirming speech is what set the young savage on his way – like father, like son.

IDIOT: No need to look this word up, it is all too common in daily use, but I must admit, it is not the sort of word I associate with fathers speaking to their children.

FOOL: Well this is giving us an interesting insight into the father-son relationship in the Savage household.

GIRL: (directed at a boy) Well, Savage must have been crying and in the book of social conservatives like Savage, “Boys don't cry!” and so to cry is to be effeminate? This gives us some insight into the emotionally stable Mr. Savage.

THAT'S WHAT I WAS RAISED WITH. THAT'S WHAT YOU SHOULD RAISE YOUR CHILDREN WITH. Really? And so on what basis should we choose to model our parenting on that of your father, Mr. Savage? I know you have a high opinion of yourself, but this arrogance takes the biscuit. If anything, you are proof that that parenting style is bad for children.

LOSERS AND BEATEN MEN: You are a loser, Savage. You have nothing better to do than attack defenseless people who have done nothing to deserve it.

While I believe that appropriate discipline is necessary when bringing up a child, and where a child throws a tantrum in order to get his or her own way, that child should be disciplined, with a smack if necessary. Even in cases where parents have to take a strong hand with their children, the parent should definitely not sink to the level of that child with the name calling and general nastiness and vindictiveness that Savage is suggesting is proper parenting. They say a child learns a lot from what they see their parents doing. When children see their parents modelling good behaviour, they tend to behave well themselves. Equally a child sees his father behaving inappropriately, and children tend to see a lot more than parents often realise, that child will behave inappropriately too. “Daddy smokes, so I will smoke.” “Daddy gets drunk and hits Mummy, so I will drink and hit people” “If Daddy wants something he shouts, so if I want something I should shout too.” However, I am speaking about rearing children without the challenge of Autism – when this comes into the picture, child rearing is a completely new ball game, and basically each parent has to work it out for him- or herself. However yelling at the child is probably the one thing every parent of an autistic child will say does NOT work. It is akin, in my book, to beating and shaking newborn babies because they cry too much or because they mess their nappies/diapers.

Not surprisingly, Savage's words gave rise to a howl of protests. One advertiser has wisely withdrawn their advertisements from stations that air the program and there are calls for Savage's dismissal. I tend to agree that such a malcontent needs to be silenced, or at least have his megaphone taken away. However what is fascinating is this numbskull's defense of words that he spoke and are indefensible. He said,

It is The Savage Nation. The autism controversy is very important because true autism is extremely heartbreaking. I have devoted my entire life, even as a child, to defending the helpless, mainly the helpless children because of a tragedy in my own family, and it's ironic that people who hate families and children -- a group called Media Matters, filled with anti-family individuals who do not marry; they're men who like men -- would take out of context comments that I made last week directed at the misdiagnosed, the falsely diagnosed, and the outright fakers in the autism field and try to make you, the parents of the truly autistic, attack me.1

This man is in the media – he knows, or should do anyway, that what he says on his show becomes a matter of public record. Anybody can get hold of the broadcast in which he spoke those words and see if indeed Media Matters took his words out of context or not. If they had taken an excerpt where he was quoting some other idiot and then cut it off before he has the chance to say that those are idiotic words I would have to say, his words were taken out of context, but as far I can see, those were his words and the only “context” was that they were part of one his “Savage nation” commentaries – he said 99% - not Media Matters – He said that they were brats, morons, etc. He, as a person in media himself, must be held accountable for his own words. His judgment of Media Matters personnel is clearly an attempt to cloud the issue and to distract from the issue at hand. He said that his words were directed at the “misdiagnosed, falsely diagnosed, and outright fakers” which Savage had himself had attributed to 99% of the cases. I'm not saying that there are NO misdiagnoses, or even fakers, though, as I said I find it very hard to see why a parent would put himself and his family through such a trauma. However to suggest that this comprises 99% of the cases is ludicrous.

All Media matters had to do was say, “Listen to this!” – and anyone with half an ounce of brain in their head would realise that what this guy is saying is complete and utter garbage. What's more, I don't think it was ONLY Media Matters who objected to the commentary.

I try to give a balanced outlook on this matter and therefore include the following excerpt from the Emaxhealth website:

Dr. Savage has clarified that his July 16th statements concerning autism were not directed at those who are in fact challenged by this horrible affliction, but were instead addressing efforts to broaden the concept of autism beyond those who truly are autistic to a broader "autistic spectrum" of behavioral symptoms which are also manifested by persons who do not suffer from autism, and his concern that many children are being misdiagnosed as autistic due to the subjective nature of autism diagnosis (due to the lack of known biomedical indicators, such as blood tests, to definitively confirm or deny the actual existence of autism). Dr. Savage has also explained his belief that there have been efforts by certain professionals and professional organizations to expand diagnoses of autism more broadly, for various reasons, and his concern that this victimizes and stigmatizes children who are misdiagnosed as autistic. On multiple other occasions Dr. Savage has expressed his concerns that other conditions, such as ADD and ADHD, are overdiagnosed and result in improper medication of young children, which Dr. Savage regards as abusive.2

Dr. Savage claims that his words on July 16th do not constitute his whole opinion on Autism, but this I'm afraid does not absolve him of the responsibility for the hurtful words used in that broadcast. If anything, his admission that he knows more about autism than we previously had suspected, makes the utterance on the 16th more odious. Just because a biomedical test, such as a blood test or an MRI cannot define Autism does not mean that the condition is imaginary. I am not a medical man, but from what I have read about autism, it is a very complex process that involves not a single doctor but a team of specialists over a period of time to conclude that a child is Autistic.

Whether Dr. Savage likes it or not – there is an “Autistic Spectrum” and and it is for this reason that diagnosing Autism is very complex, it does not manifest in only one way but affects different individual differently.

I have just discovered that Michael Savage is not his real name. His real name is Michael Weiner, which sounds like whiner – no wonder he changed his name – though his choice of “Savage” is mystifying – it is obviously how he charaterises himself – though if you ask me – he sounds more like whiner.3

I wondered what kind of doctorate Weiner has – it turns out it is a doctorate in “medical botany and medical anthropology.”from University of California, Berkley.4 That certainly qualifies him to address the highly complex field of Autism. I'm sure the university is proud of its proud of their alma mater. It seems he is nothing more than a homeopathist – in Africa we call them n'angas or sangomas.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"He turns our mourning into dancing"

Today, 20 July 2008, in the Jewish Calendar starts a three week period of mourning. Today marks the anniversaries of three significant, but sad days in Jewish History.

On this day, Tammuz 17, according to Jewish tradition,

* Moses smashed the tablets of Stone that had the Ten Commandments written on them when He saw the people of Israel worshiping the golden calf idol. (1491 BC)
* Service in the first temple was disrupted on Tammuz 17, and this preceeded the destruction of the first temple that took place on Av 9. (423 BC)
* The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans on Tammuz 17, and three weeks later on Av 9 the the second temple was razed to the ground when it was set ablaze. (AD 70)

All of these events were devastating for those Jewish people who experienced them and even successive generations felt the impact of these events. So this period is indeed a time of mourning.

However, we read that this state of mourning is not and never was intended to be permanent.

In Psalm 30 we read about the the transformation that takes place:

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
O LORD my God, I called to you for help and You healed me.
O LORD you brought me up from the grave; and you spared me from going down into the pit.

Sing to the LORD, you saints of His; praise His holy name.
For His anger lasts only a moment but His favour lasts a lifetime;
Weeping may remain for a night but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said, "I will not be shaken."
O LORD, when you favoured me you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

To you, O LORD, I called; to the LORD I cried for mercy:
"What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it proclaim Your faithfulness?
Hear O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help."

You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD My God, I will give you thanks forever.

If God has turned (past tense) our mourning - or as it is in this version - wailing - into dancing, then how did he do this?

Let's look in brief at the three events that Jews commemorate today, and see how each one was turned around to represent something wonderful:

1. Moses breaks the tablets of stone.
Moses had ascended Mount Sinai and spent 40 days in the presence of the Lord. He received from God the Law that he was to teach the people. This is summarised in what we call today "The Ten Commandments" - God did warn Moses that things were not good amongst the people but still, his rage resulted in him throwing the tablets of stone down on the ground and their being broken into pieces. What made him so cross? The first commandment says "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me." Before they got past first base - they had broken that one already for they were bowing down like a bunch of ignorant pagans, to a gold statue of a calf. No wonder Moses lost it! God had, at that point every right to destroy the entire nation and start over. However, the story works out differently - we read on to see that Moses returned to the mountain and got two new tablets of stone, and again the Law was carefully written down. We see from this that our God is merciful - the God of second, third, fourth, etc. chances.

Jesus said: "Blessed are they that mourn; for they will be comforted" (Matt 5:4)
Jesus was not speaking about mourning the loss of a friend - but He was talking of those who mourn about how they have sinned. When we are truly penitant, God comes along side and says, "Cheer up - that sin is dealt with - no longer to be counted against you. That debt, that is beyond your ability to pay, has been paid in full, by my Son, Jesus, when He died on the Cross."

In the Psalm we read that His anger lasts only for a moment - yes - God was very angry that day - so angry that all those who were directly responsible for the worshipping of of the calf were annihilated that day. However, His favour lasts a lifetime. God didn't wipe out the entire Israeli race. His favour was with them through their wilderness wanderings. He provided them with food and drink and their clothes and shoes did not wear out.

2. The destruction of the First Temple and the exile into Babylon.
Because the nation of Israel had forsaken the way of the Lord and was worshipping the gods of the nations around about, God used Babylon (and later Assyria) to punish it by taking its people into captivity and exile from their land. In the process their centre of worship - the Temple, where sacrifices to God were offered, was destroyed and left in ruins - and for a period of 70 years the Jewish people were again enslaved and forced to serve foreign masters. The exile was as a result of the chastisement of the Lord, but out of it, we got Daniel; Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego; Mordechai and Esther; Jeremiah; Ezra and Nehemiah, to name a few shining examples of faith.

We learn that "the Lord disciplines those he loves" (Prov. 3;12, Heb 12:6) "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those trained by it." (Heb 12:11) Ask any little boy or girl who has been spanked by their parent, and I'm confident that at the time when the discipline was administered there was "much wailing and gnashing of teeth"! It is not likely that at that time, the child would have the maturity and presence of mind to be thankful for the loving discipline being applied. All that child knows is that "It's sore" and tears flow. However, if the discipline has been applied appropriately and justly, the young person will learn that the behaviour that induced the discipline was inappropriate and thus, the discipline, as the scripture says, will produce a "harvest of righteousness and peace." We know that the season of harvest follows a season of sowing - and so - if we are to we are to enjoy the harvest that is promised, we have to endure the sowing (which also involves ploughing and breaking up of fallow ground.) So as Jewish people remember the exile, they can have a "godly sorrow" for the behaviour, the idolatry, that resulted in the exile, while at the same time, they can look up to their Heavenly Father, and say, "Thank you for caring enough to discipline us."

After the exile, the people returned to Israel, and under Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of the city, and rebuilt the temple, and under Ezra, re-established the worship of the Lord.

3. The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the second temple by Rome, in AD 70.
The core of Jewish life and worship was the Temple. Almost two thirds of a Jew's religious duties were contingent on the existence of the Temple. The whole sacrificial system fell into abeyance when the temple was destroyed. It is believed by Jews that the Messiah will come and rebuild that temple. The destruction, in the words of one Jewish website, is regarded as "the greatest tragedy of our history." The ground on which that temple stood is a flash point in modern times in the middle east, with the "Dome of the Rock" a mosque built on that very place held most sacred by Jews. Right next to it, is the "Western Wall" - (or the "Wailing Wall" This term is not used by Jews themselves) is the place where Jewish men come to pray. It is what remains of the Second Temple, a retaining wall, built by Herod the Great, in about 19 BC.

On the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av) Jews mourn the destruction of the second temple and look forward to the day when the Messiah will come. Now, as I said before, what seems like disaster to a person when going through trouble, is often "for the greater good" - though people going through it at the time may have a hard time seeing it. Paul, in the letter to the Romans, puts it this way: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28)

For the Christian, the sacrificial system that was disrupted by the fall of Jerusalem in AD. 70 had already been made redundant by the one death of Jesus Christ, when He was crucified some 40 years previously. What is more, just as, from AD 70, Jerusalem ceased to be the centre of Jewish spiritual life - prior to that, it was the duty of every Jewish person, if at all possible, to go to Jerusalem to celebrate the major feasts and for Yom Kippur.

The centre of religious life for the early Church also started in Jerusalem, but in accordance with Jesus' words to the disciples before he ascended, that "You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth," (Acts 1:8) the Church spread out beyond Jerusalem, to Antioch, and then into Asia Minor (Turkey) and into Europe and other parts of the world. The destruction of Jerusalem aided in the dispersal of the Gospel.

Finally, as to the destruction of the Temple: The physical edifice that was in Jerusalem, was a copy of the actual Temple that is in heaven. Also, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:16 "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's Temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" - We are not constrained and confined to a single geographic place to meet with and worship our God, but wherever we are, we can worship Him, and give Him a sacrifice of praise. Also, the good news is that this Temple is open 24/7/365 so that whatever the hour we can give him thanks and praise for all His goodness to us.

Personal mourning
Finally, I titled this message "He turned my mourning into dancing." I have focused on the Jewish three weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Temple, but I feel it is appropriate to share some personal mourning that I have done recently. A very close friend of mine, Joann, went to be with Jesus, after a bout with cancer. It is hard for me to put briefly how close and special she was to me. I have many precious memories of my times with her - when the news reached me that she had died I was deeply saddened for myself. It so happened that she passed into glory the day before she was to turn 60. I wished I could have been in Zimbabwe to hold her hand and to say goodbye - that was not to be. Well, I was sad to hear the news, especially since I had not known she was ill, and in the past couple of weeks I did mourn, but God has even turned this mourning into to dancing, when I heard an account of her last few moments on earth. She was lying in bed, and suddenly she looked up with wide open eyes and exclaimed "Oh that's great, that's wonderful!" and with that word, "wonderful" on her lips - she died, as peaceful as ever, with the smile that so often characterised my friend. So while I surely will miss my dear friend, I know that we will meet again someday, when I go to be with Jesus.

The death of a friend or a family member is a hard thing for us who are left behind to endure - especially when that person is very young or their death occurs in an unnatural way - e.g. as a result of crime, but we can know that God is still sovereign and He still has everything in His control, so even these terrible things will be worked for good for those who love Him. Hard as that may be to understand, it remains the truth. So I rejoice and yes, dance to celebrate that my friend is with Jesus!

So brother or sister - are you mourning? God will turn that mourning into dancing - in due course. He will help you make sense of everything that has happened.

For much of my information about the Jewish observance of these days I referred to this Chabad webpage.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I am posting this to my blog because I cannot access Facebook - I am not sure why this is, but I am hoping that this will be transmitted as a note Facebook so that people who have sent me messages, etc. will know I am not ignoring them, but this is due to a technical problem.

I understand that this problem with accessing Facebook is fairly widespread.

Hope it gets sorted out!

ps I am still accessible on my email and if you see this on my blog you can post a comment and I will get to read it - if you do not want to publish but just want me to see it - say so in the comment. I will simply disallow.

In facebook, if you can access it - just message me and it comes through to my email.

For obvious reasons, I am not publishing my email address.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Diary of a Xenophobe
by Jeffrey Jaiyeola Plumbline

See, I’m a grown man, I’m my own man. I hung around for ages with sages and tapped into the wisdom inherent in their pages so that my mind can evolve into a gold-mine.

But see, I’m a cold man, my heart is frozen I can’t feel a thing, like the Stone man. I’m a tad barbaric, though I’ve mastered Latin to Amharic and I get so, so didactic but that won’t change a thing, ‘cos in the end, I’m still a lone man.

Still a prone man, many times, scared of my own plan, a victim of my own fears, so I pick a crow bar and slam it hard on a member of my own clan.
See, I blame everybody for my pain, for every travail that has come my way, for AIDS, for the waste of my race, mine is the culture of hate, but I go on all the same, Shame!
I was brought up not to talk to strangers, now I hate that, so it’s not strange that I did at the onset along with my other African brothers and that was the beginning of a long history of murders; mothers buried their kids Three-feet beneath because Six-feet was too deep to conceal their grief!
Nkosi Sikelel’Africa! My brothers the Zims, peeps from Mozambique, and all over the Gulf of Guinea: Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and Gambia, musicians, movie makers got revolutionary and their sound was heard. The world learnt there was fire in the ghetto of SOWETO!
Pardon my amnesia, and if it is hard to stomach get some milk of magnesia, for I suddenly forgot what Joseph did for Egypt. How did the world know Mandela was locked up in Robben? When Steve Biko was dropping and the mamas of Hector Pietersen and Hastings Ndlovu were sobbing, how on Earth did the world know?
I’m quick to forget how men with conscience from the West unequivocally condemned Apartheid and that word became one of the first tri-syllabic words any African kid in the 80's would know.
The only thing I remember is waking up from slumber to see all the Makwerekwere flooding South Africa. That explains sort of, why I ever lifted my klepto-hands, against a fellow man!
October 19, 2007, Lucky Dube was shot dead right in front, of his son... Our way of saying "Thank You For demanding our freedom with your songs"...
Nkosi Sikelel’ Africa! God bless Africa
PS: The Crowbar is messy, can I get a gun?
Republished here with permission from the author. There are some pictures that go with this. I will post them as soon as I am able.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Eternal Punishment

This post arises out of a discussion on the Facebook Group "The Bible Study Facebook Group" on the Existance of Hell and Eternal Punishment. If you have a Facebook account you can check it out at: - Oh join the group while you're there.

As some of you are aware, this “essay” has been worked on over a few days and as such, some of the points that are mentioned here may in fact have been made by other contributors. My objective in writing this is to examine the idea put forward by Nicole that at some point the souls of those who are lost will cease to exist, and consequently to research what seems to be an inconsistency is what Scripture teaches in regard to the fate of those who are not saved. I apologise for the length of this post but it is necessary to do justice to what is a very serious matter.

I have found in my study of the Bible, that from time to time one will come across, or have pointed out to you by a skeptic, a prima facie contradiction in what is said in one part of the Bible in relation to another, and between what is recorded in the Bible and what appears to be the facts in reality. There are “theologians” – albeit non-believing ones, who make it their life’s work to disprove the Bible. A case in point is Richard Dawkins who wrote The God delusion. There are issues such as:
  • “The Problem of Evil” – in other words: if God is omnipotent and all-loving, how could he allow the existence of evil.
  • There is the whole “Predestination versus Free-Will” discussion that has resulted in schisms in the Church.
  • You may be asked if you are amillennialist, premillennialist or postmillennialist – and you may be justified in saying that is a preposterous question. (get it? A – PRE – POSTerous: Thanks David Pawson.)

The point is that all of these discussions including the one that is exercising our minds here: namely the meaning of ETERNAL PUNISHMENT is that they are based on our understanding of what the Bible teaches. As Nicole said, many people claim to be basing their theologies on the Bible, but since people are coming to conclusions that are diametrically opposed, it must mean that one or both of the parties are mistaken about what the Bible is saying.

If, as we do in this group, we agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant word – in other words there are no mistakes and we understand that if there were contradictions in the Bible they would represent a mistake, we have to come to the conclusion that THERE ARE NO ACTUAL CONTRADICTIONS IN THE WORD OF GOD.

I used the expression prima facie before – this is a legal term meaning “on the face of it” – A prosecutor can take an accused to trial based on prima facie evidence that the accused committed the crime, however, it is up to the court to determine if in fact that prima facie evidence is true before they can convict the accused of the crime. In the same way, when we come across what appears to be a contradiction we must not accept it at face value but research more deeply and really understand what the Bible is saying, and we will then, I am confident, see that there was no contradiction after all, but that we had misunderstood what the Bible was saying.

Since we are discussing the nature of eternal punishment, let us look at a very well known verse: John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him (the Son) shall NOT PERISH but have ETERNAL LIFE.

Looking at this verse and seeing what we can learn from it I discover that there are two possible outcomes spoken of here: 1) Perishing 2) Eternal Life. It would seem therefore that since the “reward side” is ETERNAL LIFE that the “punishment side” would be exactly opposite to eternal life. Well, one could conclude that therefore it is, if you’ll the excuse expression “non-eternal death”. I am however making too many suppositions here. It is not necessarily “non-eternal death” but ETERNAL DEATH that is the opposite of ETERNAL LIFE. However, the question remains, and cannot be answered by this verse alone, what is the nature of this death? Does death really mean one ceases to exist?

Based on Hebrews 9:27, which says, “It is appointed unto man ONCE to die and THEN the judgment, we can ascertain that DEATH is not the endpoint in a human’s existence. We know that in physical death, a corpse does not dematerialize. It remains and those who are nearest and dearest have to dispose of the corpse, either by burial or by cremation. As the years go by, that body breaks down and gradually over many years, becomes part of the environment it has been placed in. A basic knowledge of science states that matter is not destroyed. It changes but it does not simply disappear. God does have the right to eradicate the souls He has created, but the Word of God suggests that this He has not done and has no intention of doing.

It is appointed unto man that he should die once and then face the Judgment. The questions remains, “What about after the Judgment?” If we look at the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus says in Matthew 25:46 “And then they (the “goats”) will go away to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.” Here we have a juxtapositioning of eternal life with eternal punishment.

J.C. Ryle, commenting on this verse says

The state of things after the judgment is changeless and without end. The misery of the lost and the blessedness of the saved are both alike for ever. The eternity of God and of heaven and hell all stand on the same foundation. As surely as God is eternal, so surely is heaven an endless day without night and hell an endless night without day.” Ryle J.C. (Sheehan R. ed.) Daily Readings from all four Gospels for Morning and Evening, 1998, Evangelical Press, Darlington, England, November 3 Morning

As David has already indicated in other passages so it is here – the same word “eternal” describes both the punishment of the wicked and the life of the righteous – and thus in regard to the dimension of time, the property of both of these outcomes is alike.

I wanted to come back to the use of the word “perish” as it appears in John 3:16. Watching a DVD the teaching on the End Times, David Pawson said that that word – “Perish” does not mean – to be destroyed, but to become useless. A tyre-tube that perishes becomes unusable – you can’t pump it up as it has holes, and so you chuck it out. Jesus spoke about the Salt and the Light. He said it the salt loses its saltiness it becomes useless – you chuck it out. The actual Greek word for perish is not used in that context. However, I have done a word study on Perish and I find something rather interesting.

The Greek word for “Perish” in John 3:16 is “apolaetai” and appears seven other times in the New Testament and it is used twice in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament).

  • Matthew 5:29 + 30 “It is better for you to LOSE (destroy) one part of your body than…”
  • Matthew 18:14 “It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones PERISH” (Parable of the lost sheep)
  • Luke 21:18 “But not a hair on your head will be DESTROYED” – context Jesus was prophesying what would happen to us at the end of time.
  • John 3:15 + 16 – We know what it says there – it is interesting however that verse 15 says virtually the same thing as verse 16 – verbatim.
  • John 6:12 “Let nothing be WASTED” – context after feeding 5000.
  • John 11:50 “Do you not realise it is better that one man die for the people than that the whole nation PERISH.”

    Old Testament
  • Deuteronomy 22:3 – Speaking of animals that had STRAYED or any item that had clearly been MISLAID and the responsibility of a person finding the animal or item to return it to its rightful owner.
  • Isaiah 38:17 – “Pit of CORRUPTION” – also pit of DESTRUCTION –


Looking at the use of these words the general idea of “apolaetai” is “to be lost” - Therefore applying this meaning into John 3:16 – “Shall not be lost, but have eternal life.” Removing thus the incorrect notion of obliteration – which I find nowhere in Scripture, we have the idea that the two possible outcomes described in John 3:16 are: Eternal life for the righteous or being lost forever for those who do not believe.

I therefore conclude that John 3:16 does not preclude an eternal punishment for those who do not believe. In the light of other scriptures, I feel that an eternal lake of fire does await those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of Life.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Benji gets very excited when he notices strange animals on TV!
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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Learning Difficulties - or is there more to it?

The headline: "Learning Difficulty adults degraded" screamed for attention. I am one who will always campaign for the rights of the disabled. I urge you to read the article above, but if you haven't got time, you can read the following summary:
A Joint Committee on Human Rights for the UK Parliament has found that there is widespread mistreatment of adults with "learning difficulties" throughout Britain. Two specific cases were highlighted:
  1. A man with Down's Syndrome was locked in a minibus for a whole night and his foot was broken by one of the so-called carers.
  2. A 20 year old died as a result of serious health problems after spending 96 days (Almost 14 weeks) in an NHS psychiatric assessment unit without the appropriate staff to support him.

This makes my blood boil that people so vulnerable can be treated in such a cavalier and uncaring fashion, and I hope and pray that now that the Joint Committee has exposed the abuse, that there will be swift action and that those responsible for harmful abuse, as in the case of the Down's Syndrome man will be dismissed and never allowed to work with disabled people or any child ever again, and where neglect is the problem that will be attended to.

However I would like to address an issue that also irritates me and that is how the media refer to such people. It seems that in an attempt to be politically correct, the term intellectual/mental disability is being shunned and the term Learning Difficulty is put in its place.

Here's where I stand on this - Learning Difficulty does not accurately or completely describe what these people are experiencing - true, as a result of the 'problem' they may experience "Learning difficulties" - but the learning difficulty is not the sum total of their challenge. Also,

Generally "learning difficulties" are associated with children, and we do not usually associate learning with adults in other contexts - Even when we talk about an adult who is undergoing tertiary education or further training, we tend to prefer the term "studying" or "training" - Thus this very term is a put down as it immediately associates them with children. Also, we seem to have no problem acknowledging if a person is physically disabled referring to the disability as a disability and not creating unnecessary euphemisms, and where people do try to do this, the disabled person will usually give them short-shrift, and tell them, I'm blind/paraplegic/have cerebral palsy and if you can't handle that fact, you are the one with the issue - not me. The thing is, due to the nature of the problem, people with intellectual disabilities are unable to understand the issue and its implications - so well-meaning people such as myself attempt to speak on their behalf. My contention is that by euphemising (if that is not a word - it should be) you are implying that there is something shameful about the fact that the person has an intellectual disability.

Not too long ago, it was regarded as something shameful to have cancer. If the term was used at all, it was whispered. When HIV and AIDS first reared its head, due to the way the disease is tranmitted from one person to another, it had such a huge stigma. Now thankfully most people are more sensible about these things realise that they are diseases and that being ashamed is pointless and unhelpful. Instead, realising that one has the disease, one can get the necessary intervention, that if it cannot cure it, can at least, make our lives easier with it.

Well there is no shame in having a intellectual disability either - and as soon we send that message load and clear, we can also more easily tackle the abuse spoken about in the article.

Another aspect of the labelling such people as having "learning difficulties" is that those with real learnig difficulties, such as people who cnnot read (maybe due to dyslexia) or struggle to retain information, are bracketed together with people who have intellectual disability and thus unnecessarily stigmatises them, and may hinder any remedial action to help the person who cannot read from learning to read. This will stigmatise learning difficulties and thus people who experience barriers to learning may resist getting help and will suffer in silence rather than expose their deep secret.

Let us fight stigma in all its forms so that we can be more caring communities that accept all people as they are and realise that no matter what difficulties a person experiences in life, that they are accepted and valued and not discriminated against.

I really want comments on this one!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Martin Luther King Day
(January 21st, 2008)

Well I don’t usually write about secular holidays but this is one I am willing to make an exception for. The more I hear and read about this man, the more I like him. No – I don’t put him on a pedestal, and I am prepared to accept that he had human failings like other people, but he was at the front of the Civil Rights movement of America, and in that, he exhibited bravery that is seldom seen in this day and age.

I was just watching a retrospective documentary on his life on CNN, and it was very interesting to hear a first hand accounts of the people who worked closely with the man. In the past, I have heard snippets here and there, bits about the bus boycott, and the march on Washington, oh, and who hasn’t heard about the famous “I have a dream” speech, and his assassination at a motel in Memphis. It was good to hear how these things linked together. I think I need to watch that documentary again, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

On a personal note, something that really made an impact on me was the coincidence of his dates with mine. He was 39 when he was killed, – I’m 39. He died the year before I was born, 1968. I was trying to find out why the holiday is set for this time of year. It turns out his birthday was 15th January 1929, forty years, almost to the day before I was born. My brother was congratulating me yesterday on earning my degree before I turned 40 – well, I think Martin Luther King put that achievement into perspective. (This is not to say I am not pleased with my achievement. It was hard work, and I am glad I did it, though I always say that it was only with God’s help that I have succeeded.) Martin may have been a very young man, but he had an “old head” on those young shoulders. He spoke passionately and so well. He was described on that documentary as a poet. I believe that is right.

So what impresses me about Martin Luther King?

  • His resolute stand against violence. He told his followers at the end of the bus boycott, when they got back on the buses that if anyone struck them, they should not retaliate, and that if it got too difficult they should rather get off the bus and walk some more than to respond in kind. This was his consistent stand as far as I could gather.

  • His genuine belief in the Gospel. You may be sceptical, but I believe when I hear the words of Martin Luther King that they were consistent with the Gospel. In a sermon on “Loving your enemies” he said that regardless of what the white people would do to him, that he would continue to love them, and ultimately he would win. He spoke about having gone to the mountain top (after winning the Nobel prize), but having to return to the valley. In his Speech on August 23, 1963 on the steps of the Lincolm Memorial, he said “I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. (This is talking about the Second Coming).

  • He was, a humble man. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he accepted it, on behalf of the negro people who at that time still faced discrimination.

  • He was a man who did not fear man, but God. Speaking about the now famous speech in which he said “I have a dream” – his advisers had told him not to use that bit. He said, “Thank you for your counsel but now I will go and consult with my Lord.” He went ahead and said “I have a dream…” and the rest as they say is history.

Some might wonder why this white South African boy is interested in a political leader from the States. Well it goes beyond the mere coincidence of the dates, but it is because what Martin Luther King helped achieve in America, has had international implications.

It started in the USA, with the Civil rights movement where the message came loud and clear that it is not right for one race to dominate and persecute another, to use and abuse people or to regard them as inferior. It started there, but the message spread, and countries such as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Apartheid South Africa became pariah states subjected to international sanctions because of their policies of racism. It began with Martin Luther King, and spread, even after he was brutally gunned down in 1968, the effects of what he did and stood for, reverberated though history. I wish more political leaders of this era would take a leaf out of Martin Luther King’s book and be willing to stand up against injustice, rather than being the perpetrators of injustice themselves.

Who knows, but maybe on Martin Luther King Day (next year), the first black president, Barak Obama could be sworn into office.

Martin Luther King, like his namesake of the reformation, was a revolutionary. But in noting that his weapons were not AK47’s or violence, but peaceful resistance, speeches and writing, we see a man who stood up against injustice, and even though he paid an awful price for his troubles, not only in his assassination, but in his being thrown into prison numerous times, and beaten and badly treated, he refused to back down.

I honour this man.

You can read the whole text of the “I have a dream, speech” at the following link.