Feb 14: It’s Ester Howland’s Day

Terry Bell Writes

Yesterday, February 14, should not have been in celebration of St Valentine. And not only because such a person probably did not exist. Nor should it be a celebration of monogamous, romantic love, let alone a minor feast day in the Christian calendar.

Instead, it should be a day to celebrate entrepreneurs and retailers, especially chocolatiers, florists and others involved in the personal gifts business. And the individual to whom homage should be paid is Ester Howland, the 19th Century American artist, printer and cunning marketeer.

It was in 1850 that Ester, from Worcester in the state of Masschesetts, first hit on the idea of printing romantic cards in celebration of what was by then regarded as a day for romantically inclined gentlemen of standing to declare — usually anonymously — their love for the female they desired. Since the 17th Century this was done via bouquets of flowers or…

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Poverty and Mental Illness

Crick Lund is a Principal Investigator of the Africa Focus on Intervention Research for Mental health (AFFIRM) U19 NIMH Collaborative Hub, and CEO of the Programme for Improving Mental health care (PRIME), a DFID funded research consortium focusing on the integration of mental health into primary care in five low and middle-income countries. Crick holds a BA (Hons), MA, MSocSci (Clinical Psychology), PhD, and is Professor and Director of the Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town.

Crick wants to create greater public awareness about the links between mental health and poverty, and what can be done to break the cycle of poverty and mental illness.

Post US Election Responses

There has been a lot written and said about the US presidential elections. And mostly the response has been a reaction of one sort or another.

There are other ways of responding that do not come out of our own fears and reactive emotions. One such helpful response is by James Finley. Please have a watch:

Re-Grounding in Love: A Reflection following the Election by James Finley

Re-Grounding in Love: A Reflection following the Election

The Big Picture

The search for a new humanity

With so many disturbing events going on, recently, the killing of 49 people, and injuring many more in a nightclub in Orlando, and the murder of Jo Cox, 41 year old MP, in Yorkshire, not to mention the ongoing wars by the powerful, which destroy whole communities and nations.

15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:15-18 (NIVUK)

So we search for a transformed humanity. I sense that this search started in earnest in the 1950/60s, especially with musical movements like Woodstock and the music of people like John Lennon, especially “Imagine”

##        Woodstock – Joni Mitchell (played by Matthews Southern Comfort)


Economists talk about micro-economics and macro-economists.

As Christians we tend to focus only on micro- faith/theology. That is, my faith and how I cope with life from that faith perspective. It is about how I live my life in a Christian way.

Today I want to ask you to explore macro-faith/theology, in other words, the BIG PICTURE!

In John 19/30 we read: “When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” 
“finished” can better be translated “completed” or “accomplished”

In other words, his purpose on earth had been accomplished.

Τελος = end, finish, close, conclusion, termination

Teleology (in philosophy) is the study of the purpose of events and things.

So today I would like to focus on the special purpose of Jesus’ life and our life.

To help, I am using some insights from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest (b.1881 – d.1955).  When he was  small he saw his hair, recently cut, being burned and it disappeared. A deep impression and it is said he wanted to find something of more substance, resulting in his studying of science and especially geology, becoming a world recognised geologist and palaeontologist.  (the study of fossils as a way of getting information about the history of life on earth and the structure of rocks)

As a priest, his scientific understanding of evolution brought him into conflict with the church and his writings were banned. He was happy to explore his scientific discoveries, working as a paleontologist in China and various parts of the world. He even visited the caves at Sterkfontein in the Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg.

But let’s leave de Chardin for a while and look at some well known Scripture passages before returning to his remarkable insights. These texts meant a lot to him and influenced his faith and world view profoundly.

Remember, today we are looking at the Big Picture.

John 1/1-5, 10-14    (NRSVA)
 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  ….
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,  and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

John 17/20-22   (NRSVA)

  20 ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,

 Colossians 1/15-20   (NRSVA)

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in  him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

 1 Corinthians 15/28    (NRSVA)

 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

 Ephesians 1/8-10, 22-23   (NRSVA)

  With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. . . .
 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 3/8-10   (NRSVA)

Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see[a] what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.


Now let’s return to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

As he explored science more he began to see in some of the above Scriptures, the clues of certainty he had not found in science. Now he was able to bring together his two loves.

He saw that God is the goal of the Universe. This became the solid, consistent, Centre – the Reality he had searched for.

But let me go back to evolution and see how he connected everything together to point to God of the Universe.

According to Teilhard, there are stages of evolution in the Universe.

First came the evolution of the Geo-sphere from the Big Bang and the story of the Galaxies.

Then came the evolution of the Bio-sphere, the evolving animal world, which included the humans.

Then, the sphere where we find ourselves now is the Nous-sphere (from Greek word “nous” which means mind, intelligence, intuitive apprehension. Today we would call this “Consciousness”.

The evolution of “nous” or consciousness in mind and spirit, is energised by the Holy Spirit. And so in this evolution we discover the emergence of wisdom, love, unity, non-dual thinking, and respect of those who are different and of the natural environment.

This can be described as the unifying whole of the Body of Christ, which is seen as more than the physical church. Where there is love, wisdom, unity, there is the risen Christ.

The Nous-sphere is where we are evolving at this time in history, in the deepening of heart and mind. It can be called the neuro/spiritual evolution.

In this messy human existence, there are clear signs to see, once we look and become aware:

For example:

  • Growing concern for and work in environmental issues
  • Growing, though very slowly, a move against war. The US may even do away with private arsenals;
  • Care for children, the physically and mentally disabled, aged;
  • Recognising that difference is not a curse, but a blessing, e.g. race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, language, social status, etc;
  • The breakdown of tribal and national identities, to be replaced by humanity;
  • And you can think of other signs we see, like kindness and gentleness and forgiveness, and acceptance and love for people for who they are;
  • Have you noticed the concern for people miles away in every part of the world?


But we have not arrived! There is more evolution to come!

According to Scripture and with thanks to Teilhard de Chardin, we see the BIG Picture.

We see that Jesus of Nazareth became human to reveal the full nature of God. Jesus of Nazareth is both God and Human, as the Scriptures show.

de Chardin takes us further as he says there is a further nature  – that is The Christ (Christos is Greek for Messiah)

The Word from the beginning            

The human being in Nazareth                         ALL IN ONE

The Christ (Messiah)                              

So we come to the ultimate sphere of evolution. That is: Evolution of all humans towards Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Evolution, when as Scripture says,   all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.”   (1 Corinthians 15/28)

 Teilhard called this the “Christo-genesis” the evolution onwards and upwards towards Christ, in which we see the full love of God and neighbour.

This is the move towards total unity of all humanity, creatures, creation, with God.

This is the final point, which he called the Omega Point. Jesus Christ, the alpha and the omega, the point when God will be all in all.

Just to clarify, Teilhard de Chardin insisted that the Cosmic Christ and Jesus of Nazareth are one and the same, and he says this because of the fact of the Incarnation.

I will end this address with a collection of scripture verses, some we have read, but I am putting together key parts to read as one:

In the beginning was the Word  —  in Him was life and that life was the light of humans  —  He was in the world and the world came into being through Him  —  May they all be one. As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may he also be in us  —  When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all  —  He has set forth Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth… And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.  

(Taken from: John 1/1,4,10; John 17/21; 1 Cor.15/28; Eph.1/10,22)

 So there is the End, the Big Picture.

Be encouraged then when life seems shaky and evil seems to win. Know that the end in which Jesus Christ draws everything together, is when God will be all in all.

Every time: Come back to loving kindness in your soul. Every time

 —  oOo –

 Music from the organisation called “Playing for Change”

##        War No More    –   Playing for Change


##        Love is all   –  Playing for Change 


##        Don’t Worry  – Playing for Change


##        What a Wonderful World  –   Playing for Change