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What is Reality?

Is what I see and experience reality?  Of course most of us believe so, but think about it…..

Do we see things in the same way as the person next to us? Perhaps if we did there would never be any disagreements. Or do we have different perceptions and perspectives based on our cultural and religious beliefs, our values and past experiences, likes and dislikes, labels and preconceived ideas? Whose way of seeing things is reality?

When we look at a scene do we see what is really there, or focus on the aspects that attract our attention? It’s amazing how a photograph can reveal the detail that we missed.

On my previous drives from Delhi to The Leprosy Mission’s office in Noida I have seen rubbish, dust, poverty

. NOida

and traffic….

 

Noida traffic

 

Today I chose to focus on nature and saw what I had never seen before, that at every moment of my journey I could see trees and bushes, often covered in seed pods and flowers, sometimes with butterflies, and bees pollinating the flowers.  There were birds in the trees and dogs sitting under the shade of the branches, an abundance of life and beauty.

Trees

Butterfly Mystery Pondi

So what is reality?  Are Delhi and Noida cities of beauty, places of poverty, or both? Do they really need a label? Perhaps their diversity it too vast to be contained in a single description and that can be said for all the situations we encounter.  We will never under all aspects of the true situation we find ourselves in, the thoughts and feelings experienced by others or the reasons for their actions or motives.  Only God, in all his infinite wisdom knows the true reality.  Reality is how God sees things.

1 Corinthians 1:25  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Evelyn Underhill in ‘Practical Mysticism’ says that to understand Reality i.e. gain an insight into the wisdom and plans of the Almighty, we need to clear our minds of the whirlpools, twists and currents that prevent us from focusing on God and give Him space to show us Reality.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

My next blog will explore the steps we can take to experience Reality – otherwise defined as communion with God.

 

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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in butterfly, cities, India, Reflections

 

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A day exploring Pondicherry (of Life of Pi fame)

Pondicherry, it is believed, is a French corruption of the more ancient name of the town of Puducheri. The French were the fourth colonial power to reside on these Indian shores, following the Portuguese (16th Century), the Danes (c. 1616) and soon after the Dutch with whom the French battled for control in the late 1600s. Then they then were conquered by the British in the late 1700s and Pondicherry was eventually returned to them in 1816. French rule continued for another 138 years, with them clinging on to the territory even after the rest of India gained independence from the British in 1947. It was not until November 1st 1954 that Pondicherry finally became a Union Territory under Indian rule.

This Indian coastal city on the Bay of Bengal, 160 km south of Chennai, still has evidence of its former French colonial roots. Take a walk along the 1.5km promenade….

Promenade Pondicherry 210813

and you come across the French War Memorial

War Memorial 210813

 and Le Café

Le Cafe Pondicherry 210313

side by side the 4.25m statue of Gandhi – just to remind you that you are still in India!

Gandhi (2) Pondi

Gandhi Monument Pondi

‘White town’ houses buildings with French Style architecture and tea rooms like ‘La Maison Rose’ where is it more common to hear French spoken than Tamil.

La Maison Pondi

In fact there are over 55 languages spoken in the 290km2 area with Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam, French and English being the five official languages, many of which can be heard as you wander down the promenade, either during the day….

Icecreams Pondi

Or during the hustle and bustle of an evening….

Evening promenade Pondi (11)

Peace and quiet is not easy to find in Indian cities, streets are not only the domain of cars, bikes and autos beeping their horns, but also dogs, people….

Coconut sellers

And cows….

Cow street Pondi

Including those being milked on the street.

Milking roadside

It is no wonder that churches and temples are so common.

Cathedral Pondicherry 210813

Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges (The Church of Our Lady of Angels), Pondicherry

Sacred Heart of Jesus Basilica Pondi inside

Temple close up

Temple corner Pondi

….places to try and escape the noise of the horns, traffic and chatter to concentrate on the divine.

Other spaces to escape the struggles of daily life and meditate on the Almighty or to spend time with the family include gazing at the waves from the promenade….

Family watching the waves Pondicherry 210813

or sitting under the trees in Bharat Park….

Bharati Park

Although even here your peace is likely to be disturbed by the caws of the House Crows

House crow Pondicherry 210813

and the squawks of the Common Myna birds.

Common Myna Pair Pondicherry 210813

If you are lucky you might get to see a Tawny Coster butterfly as you tuck into your ice-cream.

Butterfly Tawny Coster 2 Pondi 180813

There is no zoo in Pondicherry (despite what the Life of Pi may have led you to believe) so another option to try to escape the city noise and get back to nature is to visit the rather dilapidated Botanical Gardens.  A lot of it is overgrown, but if you are lucky you can get glimpses of Common Crow and Dark Blue Tiger butterflies.

Common Crow Butterfly 2 Pondi 180813

Dark Blue Tiger Pondi

And you might get green fruits landing on your head as the Rose Ringed Parrokeets pluck them and throw them from the trees.

Rose ringed parakeet Pondi 180813

Make sure you don’t get run over by the ‘Joy Train’ through.

Joy train Botanical Gardens

This mix of Indian and French makes Pondicherry an interesting stop on a trip around India.  Don’t miss drinking the juice of a green coconut….

Coconut Pondi

pleasing the children by taking their photo…..

Lads in the park

and exploring the stalls on the promenade in the evening….

Evening promenade Pondi (17)

Evening promenade Pondi (10)

Evening promenade Pondi (8)

And as your roam the streets at night…. watch out for Bengal Tigers 😉

Then after a tasty Indian feast return to The Richmond, an oasis from the heat, noise and smells of this cross cultural city.

Richmond Hotel Pondicherry 210813

Before sleep kneel down and thank God for blessing you with the wonderful luxuries you have compared to the many thousands of people, just outside your door, who have no air conditioning, limited food, no clean toilet and no refreshing shower in their makeshift homes or on the street.

Children in the street

We are truly blessed!

Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges (The Church of Our Lady of Angels), Pondicherry Crucifix

 

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History on our doorstep

I’ve travelled the world to see historical sites, but have driven past this sign every morning on my way to work for the last five years and have never taken time to find out what is on my doorstep.

Flagfen sign

Well today was the day!

Situated just south of Peterborough Flag Fen gives you an opportunity to explore what life was like 3,000 years ago in Britain. During the 1960s and early 1970s evidence of Bronze Age farming was discovered on the site.  But is was not until a chilly day in November 1982 that archeologist France Pryor noticed an oak post in the mud in the dyke near Fengate. The post had been worked with a small axe.  Further exploration found this to be part of a timber platform the size of Wembley stadium, dating back to 1350 BC.

This causeway was made up of over 60,000 timbers and stretched for a kilometre from Whittlesey Island to Fengate (part of what is now the city of Peterborough) across the wet fenland. It is presumed that the small island part way across was where religious rituals were performed.  Flag Fen houses a small museum of artifacts and is trying to preserve some of these ancient timbers….

Causeway Flagfen 100813

You can also see examples of two round houses, giving a flavour of what life was like in the Bronze and Iron Age.

This is the one depicting a house of the Bronze Age, with the meadow on the roof 😉

Roundhouse Flagfen 100813

And the other is depicting an Iron Age roundhouse…. just like being back in rural Africa…

Roundhouse Flagfen 100813 (2)

Then there were their boats made from hollowed logs…

Boat Flagfen100813

This is a replica, but original  Must Farm Boats were discovered at nearby Must Farm and are in the process of being restored on the site.

Then as well as seeing an exposed section of the Roman road known as the Fen Causeway, you can walk along a reconstruction of a prehistoric droveway.  This is a great place for nature spotting.

Look at the 7-spoted ladybird…

7-spot ladybird (2) Flagfen 100813

Comma….

Comma Flagfen 100813

Meadow Brown…

Meadow Brown open Flagfen 100813

A small tortoiseshell caterpillar…

Small Tortoiseshell Caterpiller Flagfen 100813And lots of his friends…

Small tortoiseshell Caterpillars on mass FlagFen 100813

Then along the dyke were plenty of birds singing in the reeds…. although it was difficult to spot them…

Flagfen habitat 100813

..including juvenile Goldfinches…

Juvenile Goldfinches Flagfen 100813

As well as Mute swans….

Flagfen Swans 100813

Swans dipping Flagfen 100813

Mute Swans Flagfen 100813

There is a lakeside walk where I heard lots of action but is was hard to see the birds through the reeds. I did spot lots of Harlequin ladybirds though; a very interesting find and more will follow in my next blog. Here is just one as a taster…

Harlequin Closeup Yellow 16-spot  Flagfen 100813

Back near the visitor’s centre were the Soay Sheep…

Soay Sheep Flagfen 100813

Soay Sheep 3 Flagfen 100813

…..beautiful waterlilies…

Lily Flagfen 100813

and some very friendly swallows…

Pair of Swallows Flagfen 100813

Swallow Flagfen 100813

….. then you can sit on the cafe veranda and admire the view.

Flagfen Landscape 100813

All in all, an interesting few hours exploring a site of historical and natural interest, just 8 miles from my door.  I wonder what else I am missing?

Click here for more information on Flag Fen and for a location Map

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Bird, butterfly, History, Insects, Landscape

 

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Taking time to listen

What is prayer all about? Until a few weeks ago I think I would have said “talking to God”, because that is what I had always done during my prayer time…. jabber, jabber, jabber.  So much talking that God could not get a word in edgeways.  I was a bit like the bumble bee, buzzing here and there and never giving God any peace.

Bumble Bee on yellow flower 040813

Do you pray like a buzzing bee, noisily trying to annoy God into action to address your desires?

I would reel off my shopping list of things that I wanted God’s help with, thank Him for a few things (if I remembered) and then mentally tick off that I had had my prayer time. Then it was time to flutter onto the next thing in my busy schedule.

Ringlet, Crowland 060813

Are you like a butterfly, unable to keep still long enough to focus on God?

Over the last few weeks I’ve come to realise that my prayer life has been more about ME than about God. I have been so busy talking I’ve never given time for God to speak. How can I expect God to guide my life if I am not taking time to listen to what he says?  You can’t have much of a relationship if one person never listens to the other.

But the light has now dawned….

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,,,,and I have come to realise the importance of being still and listening.

Now my prayer time is not so much God’s todo list, rather its asking Him to reveal his message to me through the scriptures. I ask God to speak to me and as I open the Bible He takes me to a passage and I reflect on it.  It’s an exciting spiritual journey that I am just at the start of and amazing things are happening which I am entering in a journal.  For example, many of the passages I read last week were the focus of the sermon on Sunday – God-incidence!!!

However, I find being still at home difficult, there are too many distractions, my mind often wanders.  Yet spending time outside, looking and listening to the beauty of God’s creation is just what I need to still my mind and focus on the Almighty.

Staring at the grace and beauty of a butterfly……

Peacock, Crowland 060813

,,,,,,or appreciating the colours, agility and song of a bird….

Chaffinch, Crowland 060813

Looking up at the cloud formations in the heavens….

Clouds, Crowland 280713

…. or listening to the wind blowing through the fields….

Oats Crowland 280713

…..the lapping of the water as the moorhen swims through the reeds….

Moorhen 3, Crowland 060813

…..feeling the dew on my feet and the warmth of the morning sun on my skin….

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These things enable me to be still and rest in God; and oh what peace it brings!

Oswald Chamber states that “the point of prayer is not to get answers from God but to have oneness with Him”.

So if you feel distanced from God, ask yourself whether it is because you are not giving Him space to come into your life. Prayer is about a relationship with God, a special time of coming together.  It does not have to be full of talk and noise, it can just be resting in each others company and listening to what He has to say.

Even Jesus took time out to go to a quiet place to be with God and to listen to him (Luke 4:42).  So if it is good for Jesus then it must surely be good for us.

Find a peaceful place, be still and take time to listen, so he can refill you with His strength and reveal his plans for you.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Great promises, so be still, listen and give God the time to share them with you….

 
 

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Housebound

A day off, great!  A long walk, lots of photos…. or that was the plan.  However, the good ole British weather had other ideas.  Rain….. so no new pics today I thought.

However, amazingly rather than just the sparrows and starlings, we had some new visitors to the garden in the rain. And thanks to my birdie friend James I now know what they are called.

My first newcomer was a bit of a mystery.  My initial thought was that it was a blue tit, but it was missing the blue!

Bluetit Juvenile 2 Crowland 050813

Now I realise that it is a juvenile and they are know to be more yellow. It had a good feast on the nuts…

Bluetit Juvenile with nuts Crowland 050813

And did lots of somersaults on the bird feeders… flitting from one to the other until the starlings scared it away.

Bluetit Juvenile Crowland 050813

The second new visitor stumped me.  I had no idea what is was…. I thought it might be some sort of thush, but was wrong.

Dunnock 2 Crowland 050813

This my friends is a Dunnock. It’s a small brown and grey bird, quiet and unobtrusive. I saw it on its own, creeping near to the bush, moving with a rather nervous, shuffling gait, flicking its wings as it went.

Dunnock 3 Crowland 050813

Some say it looks like a dull bird, but I was amazed to find out that it has a reputation for the bird with the most active sex life!! Dunnocks take just one-tenth of a second to copulate and have sex more than 100 times a day. Wow!!!  Never underestimate a Dunnock!

Dunnock Crowland 050813

In between the rain showers I managed to take Buddy for a windy walk.  In the field were some small Skippers hanging on for dear life as the wind gust across their path.

Pair of Small Skippers Crowland 050813

One had just enough time to open its wings before the next gust came.

Small Skipper Crowland 050813

And I saw a quick glimpse of a small tortoiseshell, before it was also blown away….

Small Tortoise Shell Crowland 050813

Then in the trees was another new bird.  I’m still not sure what it is but am guessing at a female Chaffinch although the light was poor and it was spitting with rain so I may be wrong. Can anyone help?

Chaffinch 2 Crowland 050813

What so you think?  Any other ideas?

Chaffinch 3 Crowland 050813

Chaffinch Crowland 050813

So all in all, what I thought was going to be a washout turned into a day blessed with new species and nice pics. Thank you Lord.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Bird, butterfly

 

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Living still

I’ve been reading a book by Abby Lewis called ‘Living Still‘.  It says, “Being B-U-S-Y can be thought of as Being Under Satan’s Yolk. Under this influence, we typically neglect resting in God’s Presence and are often distracted from what He is calling us to do. When I hear people say they are too busy, I encourage them to seek God’s direction on how to structure their time. God calls us to be active servants, but He does not desire us to be so active that we feel chaotic and lose our joy.”

I’ve been so busy lately that God has been pushed out. I realised while in Malawi that work had taken over my life and I needed to get the balance back.  Now, Iike Abby, I am trying to reconnect with God not just through setting time aside each day for reading scripture but also by appreciating the beauty of his creations and having times of stillness as I walk in the countryside.

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Walking is a great way to escape the BUSY and be still.  I am amazed at the creatures I see.  Yesterday there were hundreds of dragonflies.

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Lots and lots of Large Whites (including this female).

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All amazing creatures, but ones I had seen before. I prayed to see something new to admire.  A few steps later I saw my first Comma (Polygonia c-album).

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I’m not sure how many species of butterflies there are in Crowland but I have seen quite a few now; I hope there are more to come.

As I was walking I thanked God for the beauty of the Comma and the Peacock butterfly I had seen the other day at Ferry Meadows.  I had had to wait for it to open its wings but it was worth the wait to see its beauty.  No sooner had I prayed this then look what landed on the grass right by me….. wings outstretched in the sunshine.

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What a beautiful creation God has made and how God knows just what we need to uplift us.

 

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Flying machines

It was a dull, very cloudy morning with a cool breeze as I walked Buddy and I didn’t think I would see much of interest. But even on a dull day it is surprising what creatures are out and about.  I’ve had quite a problem identifying some of them though so your comments are appreciated if you can help me out.

Sitting on the brambles was a large brown butterfly that I think might be a slightly shaggy Ringlet or a Meadow Brown – can someone help?  It seemed bigger than the other Ringlets I have seen and the rings were not very clear. It certainly liked the brambles.

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Then there was a male Large White on a nearby leaf…. I could name that one!

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Next to that a ?? fly, help!

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And a flying yellow and black stripy thing… is it a hover fly?

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With a friendly bee….

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And then a few bigger flying creatures…. I guess the one below is a Herring Gull sitting on the chimney.

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And sitting on the garden fence… is this Mrs Blackbird?

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I wonder how many different flying creatures there are living in Crowland.  Clearly I have a lot of names to learn.,,,, help appreciated……

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Bird, butterfly, Insects

 

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