where angels fear to tread.
– Joy Behar
Fear is foolish.
where angels fear to tread.
– Joy Behar
Fear is foolish.
on Saint Patrick’s Day!
Since the 17th century Ireland has been in a state of intractable political issues with the United Kingdom- best known to us as Great Britain. Although North Ireland has been a part of the U.K. for 800 years now it has also been divided from most of Ireland since 1921, politically and religiously and much longer than that concerning the Crown. Some of the troubles (as the Irish prefer to call this dissent) were alleviated with the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998 although a bonafide truce for some is still shaky ground and not at all settled.
Even so, you will not get a finer or better welcome in any country like you will in Ireland. Keep in mind that if you travel its entirety to make sure you have the correct currency for either side. In the Republic of Ireland you will exchange dollars for punt but in North Ireland you will trade for Pounds Sterling as if you were in England. Americans are famously welcomed with open arms and plenty of generosity of spirit and plain good fun. In short, they like us and you’ll like them!
Castle Hotels abound all over Ireland and I’m only going to mention two here, briefly, but Ireland is a hodgepodge historically with authentic historical castles in various states of ruin along with castles which don’t really fit the bill as being authentically medieval. You will be amazed at what may be called a castle in Ireland but there are many which fit the bill to a tee. If you ever want to do a grand tour of Ireland’s castles, let me know and I’ll put you on my list for exploring and sorting out the venues as we go. How does that sound? At any rate let me introduce you to two, both 13th century castles in the Republic- one of which is world famous because of the Guinness family and another more recent rescue which resides in Ireland’s only designated Environment Park!
Ashford Castle near Cong in County Mayo along Ireland’s west coast is situated on the north shores of Lough Corrib about thirty miles north of Galway on the L101. This is a castle hotel you won’t ever forget if you visit it because it has the rare distinction of being one of the finest luxury hotels in the world and won the prestigious Gold Plate award! You may feel like you’ve walked into a fantastic dream when you experience its authentic exterior, the unbelievably elegant interior and the extensive and lovely grounds. It is mammoth by sheer size alone but its charms will bring you back!
The original portion is the 13th century Norman castle owned by the de Burghs until the 16th century when Queen Elizabeth took it by force to be an English fortress. Indistinguishable on the grounds from many other portions, a study tour is essential to understand how Ashford became the wonder it truly is- and for 80 years now!
You will cross over a towered drawbridge with a portcullis when you enter the grounds. The drive up to the entrance reveals both the original castle along with a Chateauesque portion which was added onto the structure in the 18th century. Its present reveal was executed over one hundred years ago when Benjamin Guinness, heir to the Dublin brewing company discovered the castle when he was searching for properties to purchase. He bought extensively throughout the Lough Corrib area and his son Sir Arthur inherited 27,000 acres in County Galway alone. His inheritance also encompassed 33 islands off Lough Corrib. With Ashford, he employed architect Joseph Fuller to incorporate the old portion with the newer and the result speaks for itself.
After that undertaking, Queen Victoria bequeathed the rare honor of giving him peerage of the realm and he and his family became the Ardilauns- that is, Lord and Lady Ardilaun. After Lord Ardilaun’s decease in 1915 his wife erected an obelisk in memoriam to him on the grounds of the castle and continued to live there until 1939 when she passed on. Interestingly, the castle and all its contents were sold at an auction which took two weeks to conduct and the Irish government bought the entire property, reforesting over 35 acres of the surrounding land. An Irish-American industrialist, John Mulcahy, bought the castle in 1970 and carried out complete renovations- enlarging the castle even further and then opened its doors as a lux hotel with a nine-hole golf course built by Eddie Hackett in 1973.
The Great Hall is decorated with rich paneling, fine period furnishings, objets d’art and masterpiece paintings. 83 guest rooms feature high ceilings, large bathrooms and take in beautiful views of the grounds, a lake and golf course. A special billiard room was built for King Edward VII because he was a frequent guest, as was Oscar Wilde.The main dining room offers superb continental and traditional menus, while the gourmet restaurant, The Connaught Room ironically specializes in excellent French cuisine. Dungeon Bar guests are entertained by a harpist or pianist before and after dinner hours. Ashford Castle offers 25 miles of paths to stroll around the lovely grounds with gardens and a full range of country sports, including trout and salmon fishing on Lough Corrib, clay pigeon shooting, equestrian riding, the exclusive 9-hole golf course and Ireland’s only school of falconry. The hotel has a modern health spa comprising of a whirlpool, sauna, steam room, fully equipped gymnasium and conservatory. Ashford’s location is an ideal base for touring West Ireland. Kylemore Abbey, Westport House and the medieval town of Galway are within an easy touring distance.
Price Guide: Single/twin/double 194-466 to 517-902
T- 00 353 94 954 6003 www.ashfordcastle.com
A bit closer to Dublin and right in the middle of Ireland in County Offaly, Kinnitty Castle is closest to the pretty village of Kinnitty, ideally set against the backdrop of Slieve Bloom (mountains). It has a long and turbulent history dating from 1209. This castle was destroyed and rebuilt twice and reputed to be haunted by a monk. Only in Ireland!
Kinnitty offers its own relaxation amenities which includes 37 guest rooms and 60 acres of forest and walks around the grounds. It is couple friendly and offers such homey anomalies as dog kennels to bring your best furry friend along and bikes to explore further than you would on foot. This is the place where you can leave 21st century life behind so you won’t find 56” HD TVs but the atmosphere which is pristine and lovely. Only country-side, singing birds and the wind in the trees wafting something good for dinner. Enjoy!
Located only 90 minutes from Dublin, Kinnitty is a great stop off point for journeys further west or southwards to Tipperary, Castle Waterford and more. It is an exceptional place for lovers of good food and the great outdoors and is also a great wedding venue.
+353 (0) 57 9137318 e-mail: email@example.com
Emily Dickinson wasn’t given over to writing love poems in the truest sense of the word but she did pen a few that not only tug on the heart strings but also illuminate the trials that love can cast upon a yearning soul. It was her own experience she brought to the ‘love poetry’ table and it is viable, palpable and inevitable especially in the modern world from which she was never a part or to witness. Her genius of love resounds the same today as it did to her ears so many years ago, I imagine. Here are a few such examples. – The Castle Lady
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear a victory,
As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.
(published in 1896, a decade after Emily’s decease)
I took my power in my hand
And went against the world;
’Twas not so much as David had,
But I was twice as bold.
I aimed my pebble, but myself
Was all the one that fell.
Was it Goliath was too large,
Or only I too small?
I had no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.
Nor had I time to love; but since
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.
Here’s something unique to share with everyone !
Would you like to know more about Emily? I recommend this biography:
Emily Dickinson by Cynthia Griffin Wolff
published by Knopf in 1986
Not only is my title from a very popular old song but it seems to be the way of the world concerning fresh beginnings. Wouldn’t it be a great name for a company that uses recycled materials? There may be a certain amount of wisdom in it but it is also a cynical world view as well, which doesn’t quite mix with the philosophy of just two weeks ago when we were supposed to be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, savior of the world.
If you ask people what Christmas means to them in the current world view, most will tell you that it signifies a time to be with family or of good will toward people in dire need. (And by the words dire need, I do not mean an Xbox for little Timmy or another doll for Suzy, by the way!) While I might think that the former meaning is necessary and welcome or the latter is a given care for those who understand want and poverty, I am taken quite aback at the lack of understanding of what holidays should mean to us all.
Sharing your faith with others is a nearly obsolete diversion in the year 2020. Ministries are getting very clever about how to get the word out about their faith and I applaud them for it. Necessity of these tactics, however, may be missing their mark. We all have faith in something or none of us would get up in the morning and the human race would have died off a long time ago without it. Not being quite aware of it, each person harbors a certain amount of faith in themselves or the world. What circumscribes your faith however, is much more important for you than you might think. It’s when we take the time to ask ourselves the really tough questions that we realize we should have good answers to those questions but we often don’t or won’t face those answers head-on.
For instance, if we say we don’t really believe in God but are willing to pray for someone when they’re ill or in trouble, what (or better yet, who) are we praying to and why? Many people have pared down prayer to just having a solid minute of silence. I suppose keeping that sustained silence any longer than a minute might clear too much nonsense out of the mind and they might start asking themselves those deep questions. Those things we find difficult to face are our fears- the opposite of faith.
In the Bible, the message to ‘fear not’ is conveyed more than a hundred times so the message is clear that belief in God and faith to stand by him is not only in our best interests but is a standard by which we can measure our faith. 1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love casts out all fear and this makes sense considering that God is also love (1 John 4:16). If this is the season of love as we sing (or hear sung) each year around this time, then it is actually a time to shed our fears and start building our faith. Focusing on Jesus will help us understand what it all means. Greater love hath no man than this, that he would lay down his life for a friend…John 15:13
Dreams are what guide us, art is what defines us, math is what makes it all possible and love is what lights our way.
Hanukkah finales can be quite an occasion with more celebrating going on than most of this lengthy holy week. Very few people know that it became a part of the White House traditions in 1951, when Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion presented then-President Harry Truman with a chanukia. However, it wasn’t until 1979 that our president (who happened to be Jimmy Carter), took part in a public Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and was followed many years later with the first official lighting ceremony at the White House itself, presided over by President Bill Clinton.
In 2001, fifty years after the Prime Minister’s gift was presented, President George W. Bush held an official public Hanukkah reception in the White House in conjunction with a candle-lighting ceremony, and has since been an annual tradition attended by Jewish leaders throughout the U.S. By 2008, Bush linked the occasion to the 1951 gift by using that same menorah for the ceremony, with grandsons of Ben-Gurion and of Truman lighting the candles!
For a momentous Hanukkah occasion, November 28th of 2013 will probably never be outdone. That year the first day of Hanukkah happened to coincide with Thanksgiving. It did not escape Barack Obama’s attention and he remarked, “For the first time since the late 1800s – and for the last time until some 70,000 years from now – the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving. It’s an event so rare some have even coined it Thanksgivukkah. As we gather with loved ones around the turkey, the menorah, or both, we celebrate some fortunate timing and give thanks for miracles both great and small.”
What he didn’t mention, and may not have known, was that until that day Hanukkah had never been a feast holy day. Normally, there are seven Hebrew feasts throughout the year. In 2013 Hanukkah became a feast day along with Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover, (among four others) making eight in all! Just a coincidence? That it occurred during a time when we had welcomed, for the first time in the United States history, a man of color in the Oval Office of the White House adds to this happy convergence a sign of hope, acceptance and approval from up above. People used to say that truth is stranger than fiction but I tend to think that something fell in accord at just the right time. It’s just like God to give us a sign in the form of a miracle. Praise God!
May the year bless you beyond measure!
A time when the Lion of Judah will unite with the Lamb of God. Shalom Aleichem! Amen! Isaiah 42
them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice,
and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
Not only has winter officially arrived, it has coincided with the first day of Hanukkah which began Sunday night at sundown. I have put up other entries occasionally to recognize the holiday but this time I wanted to give a little more comprehensive overview of what Hanukkah is about historically and symbolically, especially this year. More importantly, I wanted to give my readership a basic idea of what Hanukkah means to me as a Christian. Many Christians do not know what I’m about to impart because it involves a part of the history of the Jewish people which is not covered in the Bible but the Talmud. Because of this, people may think the two faiths are mutually exclusive but in truth, that isn’t possible. Never before in history have both schools been more intrinsic because of impending prophecies to be fulfilled and this is why I decided to write about it.
I don’t know how many gentiles (non-Jewish persons) know the difference between a regular menorah and a hanukiah but most of what is known by people, in general, about the Jewish holy days- which, in this case, lasts exactly eight days- is immaterial fluff such as Hanukkah gelt (chocolate medallions wrapped in gold foil) for children and spinning a dreidel, which actually is a teaching toy for kids learning the Hebrew alphabet.
(Ironical traditions for an ancient religion continuing to struggle for public relevance in a world bent on trivializing all religious observance. I’m not saying that those two traditions don’t have their place, either! As a matter of fact, during this Festival of Lights, specific songs and hymns are sung, the candles are blessed before lighting with prayers and some participants have unique family traditions in the strict orthodox community.) I would impress on anyone who is concerned about showing respect for all religions that this information is very important; Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, Catholics and Methodists alike should sit up and take note. Non-Christians are not exempt if they wish to show respect for people of faith.
A standard menorah is depicted as a part of the coat-of-arms of Israel which I’m sure many people have seen on postage stamps. It consists of seven vessels on top of seven candleholders with the elongated servant lamp in the center and three semi-circular branches which adds up to seven candleholders, total. The servant (Shamash) lamp denotes the precedence of the Messiah. You will see the Shamash, always, on all menorahs. On Israel’s modern coat-of-arms the menorah is flanked by two long olive branches attached to the Hebrew word for Israel underneath the base of the menorah. They are ‘rooted in the word’ and this is important because it is meant to imply the oil from them continually supplies fuel for the lamps (or candles). Those olive branches are chronicled in Revelation 11:4 and Zechariah chapter 4 for those who think there is no correlation between Jesus and the messiah.
The hanukiah is a special menorah which has nine lamps- consisting of a Shamash and four semi-circular branches (eight, total, on either side of it) – originally a commemoration of events of (ca.) 163-165 BC. when Antiochus IV Epiphanes, King of Syria, attempted to suppress the Jewish people by forbidding them to practice the rituals of the Law of Moses. He issued decrees against observance of the Sabbath, all feast days, circumcision and many important Jewish rites. His most crushing act was destroying copies of the Torah publicly. That’s not all.
His next act was to set up one of his own idols in their temple- that of Zeus- for them to worship and placed at the altar where the Jews made burnt offerings to Jehovah. He went himself to offer the meat of a pig which would desecrate the altar and the temple. Afterward, he ordered them to make the same offering on the 25th of every month which would coincide with his own birth day. These actions set off what is historically known as the Maccabean Revolt in which they annihilated his armies.
Afterward, on the 24th day of Kislev (usually part of December; in 2005 it landed right on Christmas day) of 165 BC the Temple was cleansed and rededicated. This became the Jewish feast of Hanukkah. Presently, the House of Shammai hanukiah tradition is to light the Shamash and one other candle on the first night and then an additional candle is added each night until, after eight days, all of the candles are lit for the final night totaling nine as opposed to the usual number of seven with a regular menorah. The Hanukkah miracle centers on the lack of supply of consecrated oil available on the first rededication of the temple, so many years ago. Even though it was only enough for one day, the oil supply lasted for eight days, until new oil could be obtained and consecrated for the temple. In the Jewish faith there is no such thing as a minor miracle (Zechariah 4:10). Also, the anointing that the oil supply and menorah signify gives both Hebrew and Gentile believer great hope through a dynamic which is referred to as grace.
“Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” Zech. 4:7
In the blockbuster book entitled, The Mystery of the Menorah it states that the promise of the headstone refers to Jesus the Christ and the stone which the builders rejected, which also appears in Acts 4:11, is obvious in the sacrifice Jesus endured on the cross. Through his rejection and sacrifice at Calvary a new covenant (Matthew 26:28) was instituted ushering in the Covenant of Grace. Jesus spoke of the arrival of the Holy Spirit, part of the Trinity, which was recorded in Acts 2 (:4) before he ascended to Heaven in the first chapter of Acts (1:8). Verse 10 and 11 affirms this with two spiritual witnesses who spoke to the apostles after they witnessed Jesus ascension. In Revelation prophecy, two spiritual witnesses show up, again, in chapter 11 with the 3rd and 4th verses.
Many scholars believe these two witnesses (the two olive branches) correspond to the Law and the Prophets exemplified by Moses and Elijah. It is truly a revelation to see that these two exalted offices are poised for temple building, just as in the days of Zerubbabel and that they again take on the role of exhortation and empowerment. This time the dynamic will be in opposition to the antichrist who will claim sole right to the temple and the throne of God! They will stand against him as a protection to the remnant of Jehovah’s faithful and in opposition to the antichrist after losing their lives against the beast (antichrist). As living symbols of Israel’s modern shield these are the two olive branches depicted on Israel’s coat-of-arms. (These are not the only appearances of the two witnesses recorded in the New Testament.)
In conclusion, it is easy to see how much meaning and promise envelops both the Jewish and Christian faiths in the Hanukkah tradition, especially in the present day. This tradition points to bringing all the faithful, Jew and Gentile, together as a body of believers in Jesus as the true Messiah. This is not only actually happening currently, it has been going on for decades! Check out the following ministries: Jews for Jesus (ifcg.org), which was founded in 1983 by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. Rabbi Schneider has a T.V. ministry called The Jewish Jesus in a similar vein and a particularly spiritual ministry and outreach is a decades-old show hosted by Sid Roth, a former Jewish agnostic! Another is Jewish Voice hosted by Jonathan Bernis. The 15th chapter of Revelation heralds this movement with the words: “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
Recommended additional reading:
Matthew 5:3-11, Galatians 5:22 (Nine beatitudes, nine fruits of the spirit)
The Mystery of the Menorah and the Hebrew Alphabet
by J.R. Church & Gary Stearman
When one reads the newspapers, turns on the nightly newscast on T.V. or talks to people, in passing or at length, about current events it’s rather common to get a little discouraged. In this country we seem to be focused on the negative side of controversies and calamities. It’s not to say that there isn’t reason for concern. Personally, I’m more worried than ever about the State of the Union. When the smoke clears, however, I perceive that we are still more privileged, autonomous and affluent on-the-whole than most countries of the world, especially by comparison. Any U.S. citizen who has traveled extensively outside this country will tell you that- no matter where they’ve been in the world- and we really should be thankful just for what we have here.
My title for this entry is a truncated reiteration of a quote by Al Green which I’ve kept with me everywhere I go for many years now and I can repeat it with honesty again and again. Gratitude is a game changer and a perspective adjuster so this quote reminds me that circumstances are always colored by attitude. When we expect the worst isn’t it ironic that everything turns that way? It’s not just ironic; it becomes inevitable the more we ride on that negative track. Depression is an alarming epidemic in the U.S. and is spreading across the globe and I believe that this is a direct result of hanging onto discouragement, repeating negativity and agreeing with greed rather than being satisfied with our obvious wealth.
If you want to turn the daily news around, take a look around you, roll up your sleeves and begin to make a difference in the lives of people who you perceive or know to be less privileged than yourself. You don’t have to donate funds to change a life but you can make life better for many people just by donating your time to a cause or outreach, sharing and sometimes just caring for others, in general. Taking the time to listen to someone who tells you that no one ever listens to them is a start to a better day for all of us and it may surprise you how much your general outlook on life and our times improve when you give of yourself. The truth is, to a stranger, you are the world! Does it matter to you that you are a representative of the entire world when you cut someone off in heavy traffic? Somewhere down the road it will matter to you eventually, even if it doesn’t now!
This also works two ways, you know. When I look around me and see how much I’ve been given or have acquired in my life it really almost overwhelms me at times and I know when I feel this way that a lot of these blessings are meant to be shared, not just for the need itself, but also because we need each other more than anything else. We need each other more than we need more things. When you think of someone first before you think of yourself you have reached a new level of thankfulness that will make you internally wealthier than you ever could have imagined. Your soul bank account is what you bring when you arrive at the pearly gates and not a smidge of the worldly old, acquisitive accounts will get past those gates. This is right and fair. Think about this last paragraph a lot and see how much your life will change as you continue to think this way. You’re not just part of a village; you’re part of a galaxy where you are a guest, a visitor or someone passing through.