PSALM 23: STILL WATERS

Jabal in spring, Dhofar province of Oman

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness  for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:

For Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff  they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence  of mine enemies:

Thou anointest my head with oil;  my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Cross overlooking the Dead Sea in Jordan

 

Psalm 23, from the Old Testament, often just referred to as “The Lord is My Shepherd,” is the most loved of all the psalms,  revered by Christians and Jews alike.

But while the language is soothing and as musical as a Shakespearean sonnet, one must look beneath the lines in order to discover their meaning.

Foremost is to accept the Lord as our guide to shepherd us through the undercurrents of life.

The green pastures and still waters symbolise the things He will teach us on the journey to set our spiritual lives in order.

Essentially to love one another and though at times we may walk through the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” to fear no Evil.

And if we believe, and follow His example for righteous living during out time on Earth, at the end of life there will be a place for us in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Read more:

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/bible/story/the-23rd-psalm/latin-vulgata-clementina

HOLI, THE FESTIVAL OF COLOURS

Hindu kids have fun at the holi festival India

HOLI SPRING FESTIVAL OF COLOURS

 

It is usual for people to dress up for a festival. To wear their best clothes. At the colourful Indian festival of Holi, however, it is the opposite. People put on their oldest clothes which will get soaked during the merriment..

Holi is commonly believed to have origins in the Hindu legend of Holika, the demon goddess in the 7th century Sanskrit drama, the Ratnavali.

Holika is said to have colluded with the demon king Hiranyakashyap to kill his son Prahlada who worshipped the God Vishnu, instead of his father.

 

Hinduism: children celebrating Holi, spring India

CHILDREN CELEBRATE HOLI IN INDIA

 

A  plan was hatched for Holika to sit Prahlada on her lap into the middle of a bonfire in the belief that he would perish and that she would survive.

But the reverse happened. Holika was consumed by flames and Prahlada was saved by Vishnu, the moral of the story being the triumph of good over evil.

Held in spring, the 11th month of the Hindu calendar, the festival celebrates new life and good fortune for the growing season. 

On the eve of the full moon, many villagers build a bonfire with an effigy of Holika. Known as Holika Daha, it is a reminder of the symbolic victory of the forces of good over evil.

 

Bonfire built to celebrate Holi in India

BONFIRES ARE BUILT ON THE EVE OF THE FULL MOON

 

While the theme is serious, Holi is filled with good humoured fun. Caste, age and religious differences are abandoned as revellers throng the streets singing and dancing and bombarding each other with water mixed with coloured powders.

Natural colours derived from burnt-yellow turmeric and ruby-red dhak have now been largely replaced by commercial pigments, but the effect is the same.

This is why Holi is known as the Festival of Colours:  red for love, green for prosperity, orange for success and pink for happiness.

 

Hoil procession Delhi

HOLI PROCESSION IN A TOWN IN UTTAR PRADESH

2016: YEAR OF THE MONKEY

Chinese new year dragon

CHINESE NEW YEAR DRAGON

The Year of the Monkey─ninth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac—begins with a bang on 8th February 2016.

Chinese New Year is celebrated with colourful pageantry by Chinese communities all over the world.  Sydney, where Chinese-born Australians and students make up some 5 per cent of the population,is set to stage the biggest festivities outside Beijing.

Chinese crowd offerings with incense and joss sticks for Chinese new year in Hong Kong

BURNING JOSS STICKS AND PAPER MONEY IS AN ANCIENT TRADITION

Red, the colour of Fire, one of the five elements in the Chinese zodaic, corresponds with the Monkey, accordingly 2016 is the Red Fire Monkey Year.

In Chinese culture, monkeys are considered intelligent and quick-witted and while it is illegal to breed and train them without a licence, one village is exempt.

Villagers in Baowan, in rural Henan province, have been training monkeys using harsh methods for many centuries. Macaques are taught to walk on stilts and to even catch knives while balancing on a board.

monkey-farm-baowan-village-China

MONKEY FARM IN BAOWAN VILLAGE CHINA

While the Chinese have a particular  reputation for animal cruelty,  I have seen monkeys riding bicycles in India and monkeys in fancy dress posing with tourists in Thailand. In Marrakech one morning, I saw a monkey defy its owner who swung it around on its chain and cracked its head on its box.

Amid the dancing, drumming and exploding fire-crackers for Chinese New Year, spare a thought for other primates such as the orangutan which shares 97% of DNA in common with humans. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 3,000 orangutans have died in fires, a result of forest clearing to make way for palm oil plantations in Indonesia.

Chinese new year dancers London

DANCING IN THE CHINESE NEW YEAR

So in this Year of the Monkey with primates even more likely to be used as tourist attractions, do your bit by refusing to take photographs. And boycott products in your supermarket without an RSPO label certifying they were made using sustainable palm oil.

Harvesting palm oil nuts

PALM OIL PLANTATION

Orangutan burnt by forest fires

ORANGUTAN BURNT IN FOREST FIRES

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/photos-show-that-year-of-the-monkey-is-no-celebration-for-performance-primates/

http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/not-sustainable-palm-oil-bandwagon-yet-might-convince-you/

http://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil

BIBLE CARDS FROM SUNDAY SCHOOL

Old bible card depicting Jesus feeding the 5000  The beginning of the Christian church, Bible card  Old Bible card depicting the Israelites exodus from Egypt

Old bible card depicting Jesus betrayed, John 18:1-27  Antique bible lesson card depicting the conversion of Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus  Ascension artwork old bible lesson card Acts 1:1-14

Do you remember when we used to get little bible cards at Sunday school?

Getting a card was to me the best part of attending a lesson from the bible when I would far rather have been fishing with my father. Or playing with my toys in the sandpit under the palm tree.

Although she did not go to church herself, mother made a great fuss about my sister and I attending  Sunday school which was held in an ante room of Saint Augustine’s Anglican Church in Neutral Bay.

Our curly hair was brushed a hundred times.  This painful ritual over, it was pulled into bunches — you couldn’t call them plaits—and tied with bows to match  our blue seersucker frocks, a popular textile in Sydney’s hot summer climate.

Bible Cards, or Holy Cards, were first popularised  by the Catholic faithful in the late 19th century. They were used to mark baptisms, confirmations, funerals and to celebrate important occasions in the religious calendar.

The cards spoke volumes, even though most were not larger  than the size of a postage stamp. Not simply for the inspirational message, usually a popular biblical  quote, but for the images of Jesus and Mary and the disciples, beautifully and reverently illustrated. Left blank, the reverse side was used for personal handwritten  messages.

Swapping bible cards was popular with the dozen or so children who attended our Sunday school class.

I still have a box of them. Most are a little yellow, and dog-eared from all those years ago.

CHURCH MOUSE FAUX PAS

Church mouse

“A church mouse,eh? Well take your shoes off, this is a goddamned mosque!

 

Cartoon from The Bulletin, in approximately 1971.

The Bulletin was an Australian magazine first published in Sydney on 31 January 1880. The publication’s focus was politics and business, with some literary content, and editions were often accompanied by cartoons and other illustrations.  The final issue was published in January 2008.

Photographer Prem Kapoor

Prem Kapoor

PHOTOGRAPHER PREM KAPOOR

The photographer who took the striking picture on the front cover of Among Believers is Prem Kapoor who lives in New Delhi.

Prem’s interest in photography began in the 1950s when he was pursuing law studies in Kanpur, a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

While still an amateur photographer, he began winning awards for images published in both Indian and foreign magazines. An early achievement was having a photograph selected as a First Children’s Day Postage Stamp, released by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on 14th November, 1957. Another success was a photo taken of the Indian festival of Diwali used as a cover on Reader’s Digest.

During Prem’s early days as a photographer, there were no proper roads to sacred sites such as Badrinath and Gangotri in the foothills of the Himalayas. To reach such places and record rarely photographed Hindu rituals, often meant a tough overland trek.

In 1959 Prem left the law profession to join Bharat Heavy Metals as an industrial photographer. Later he joined the Photo Division of the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in New Delhi which afforded many historic photo opportunities including coverage of the Indo-Pak War in 1971. He also accompanied both the President and Prime Minister of India on their various foreign trips.

In 1974 a generous French publisher gifted Prem with a Hasselblad which travelled with him for many years — together with a Nikon F2, won as part of an award from the Asian Cultural Centre for UNESCO in 1979.

On retiring from the ministry in 1990, Prem joined the Working News Cameramen’s Association of which he became the Patron. In 2015 in recognition of twenty-two years work as a freelance photojournalist, he received lifelong accreditation from the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India.

Whatever else he may have been doing at the time, Prem always kept his camera ready to photograph India’s colourful Hindu and Sikh festivals. He also attended several kumbha melas — mass bathing occasions — in sacred sites such as Allahabad and Haridwar when, surrounded by millions of pilgrims, taking pictures is not for anyone without the experience of religious photography.

Now in his early eighties, Prem is still active doing Feature Photography but instead of a darkroom, he uses Photoshop.

World Religions Photo Library has represented Prem Kapoor since 2002.