Knitting

There are some sisters in Good Counsel Hill, Mankato, Minnesota who seem to have gained the edge over the rest of mankind in mental and physical health. The Covent of the School Sisters of Notre Dame have been studied with a pioneering brain-science experiment by David Snowdon of Sanders-Brown Centre on Ageing and the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

The study was conducted into the mental health and ageing in general of 678 Catholic sisters recruited in 1991 between that ages of 75 –107.  Their miraculous longevity – they boast seven centurions and many others well on their way – is attributed to their impeccable lifestyle. “They don’t drink or smoke they live quietly in community, they are spiritual and calm and eat healthily and in moderation.”

Some of the sisters have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, but many have avoided any kind of dementia and senility. A strange occurrence is that one sister who lived until she was 104, in a post-mortem showed no signs of excessive ageing in her brain, whereas other sisters who showed no outward signs of senility were discovered to have brains apparently ravaged by dementia!

A common denominator amongst them was they each had the right amount of the vitamin folate, early verbal ability and positive emotions which showed in essays they wrote in their twenties when they took their vows. They engaged in several activities such as crosswords, knitting and exercising holding to the adage “use it or lose it.” Their spirituality was also a contributing factor. As one nun said: “Think no evil, do no evil, hear no evil, and you will never write a best-selling novel!”

There are several recommended ways of improving your brainpower as you age. It is said that: “you are what you eat” and your brain is the greediest organ of your body, with some specific dietary requirements. The first essential is eating breakfast, for the brain is best fuelled by a steady supply of glucose. That does not mean eating sugary cereals like kids do, for they apparently perform at the level of a 70-year old, it seems that beans on toast is a far better meal, for they have proved that a high-fibre diet improves cognition.  The Bible says: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Ps 34:8). The best diet?

It is also suggested that music may tune you up your thinking, but you cannot just crank up the volume and expect to be a genius. Frances Rauscher of the University in Wisconsin has proved that for rats, at least, a Mozart piano sonata seems to stimulate activity in three genes involved in nerve cell signalling to the brain. Researchers think that music makes you feel better, more relaxed and stimulated all at the same time. They also found that six-year old children who were taught music for two years as opposed to drama scored up to 3 points more in their IQ test. Keep singing the hymns! “They lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” (2 Chr 5:13-14).

The brain’s short-term information storage system is the workbench for the solving of mental problems. It is called the working memory (WM) and the amount of information it can hold relates to general intelligence. If this WM is trained they have found that in children their IQ can leap as much as 8 percent. It is thought therefore that memory training can unlock brainpower. The Bible says “Thy word have I hidden (memorised) in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11).

Lastly, sleep on it. “If you have been awake for 21 hours straight, your abilities are equivalent to someone who is legally drunk.”  Also, two or three late nights and early mornings do the same. More or adequate sleep periods enable people to concentrate better and respond to mental stimuli. “Attention is the base of a mental pyramid,” says Sean Drummond from the University of San Diego. Professor Biggs of Cambridge says that no one can study (undisrupted attention) realistically for more than 20 minutes at a time. Whilst we sleep the mind goes into problem-solving mode.

There’s a thought of resting that sleep implies and the Bibles again comes to our aid: “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret . . . (Ps 37:7). If we feed and simulate the brain and keep active, cut out smoking and drinking, and take up knitting who knows how long we’ll live; best to start now.

Britannia

At the height of Roman Britain, the Empire included all of Britannia, the Latin name for Great Britain (first invaded by Julius Caesar in 55 BC). People living in the Roman province of Britannia were called Britanni. The Emperor Claudius paid a visit while Britain was being pacified and was honoured with the agnomen Britannicus as if he were the conqueror. But, the noteworthy thing is that the island of Great Britain has never been completely conquered, even in Roman days.

Britannia was personified under Hadrian and Antonius Pius and depicted as a beautiful young woman, wearing a Centurion’s helmet and wrapped in a white toga with her right breast exposed. She is usually shown seated on a rock, holding a spear, and with a spiked shield propped beside her.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Britannia lost most of its symbolic meaning until the rise of British influence and later, the British Empire.  As British power and influence rose in the 1700s, Britannia became an increasingly more important symbol and a strong rallying point among Britons.

By the Victorian time, Britain renewed Britannia. Still depicted as a young woman with brown or golden hair, she kept her Corinthian helmet and her white robes, but now held Poseidon’s three-pronged trident and often stood in the ocean, representing British naval supremacy. She also usually held or stood beside a Greek hoplon shield, which sported the British Union Jack: also at her feet was often the British Lion, the national animal of England. Another change was that she was no longer bare breasted, due to the prudishness of Victorian Britain.

In the Renaissance tradition, Britannia came to be viewed as the embodiment of Britain, in imagery that was developed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Britannia first appeared on the farthing in 1672, followed by the halfpenny later the same year; the female model used, then and later, was Charles II’s mistress, the Duchess of Richmond, who appeared on the penny coin between 1797 and 1970, and on the 50 pence coin since 1969. When the Bank of England was granted a charter in 1694, the directors decided within days that the device for their official seal should represent “Britannia sitting looking on a Bank of Money”

With the disestablishment of the British Empire there have been moves to remove Britannia from the back of our 50 pence coin and portray an image more current to our society, and this led me to muse on the symbols of Christianity, and the current day tendency, through aggressive materialism and atheism, to reject the public wearing of a cross.  I was wondering therefore how these old-age symbols could be changed in keeping with the present manic trend of being politically correct and reflecting the contemporary trends in church society. Instead of a fire we could have an iceberg, instead of a cross, a personified saint indicating another way to God.

The old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t mend it” comes to mind. Why must we change anything, just because world systems and values become undermined and corrupted? The image or representation of Christianity is a cross and a fire: the one indicating Calvary and the other Pentecost. The death of Christ speaks of forgiveness, supreme love, and eternal life and the upper room outpouring of the Holy Spirit testifies of quickening and gift impartation. In reality the church is now known by the fire rather than the cross, as the book of Acts has not closed, but the fire and the cross are unshakable to Christianity.

“Ah!” You say, “That’s a sign of age,” well, thank God for that. If youth and middle age means we throw everything away that speaks of value, and undermine foundations of greatness, then may I be the only dissenting voice. The reason Billy Graham, now over 90 is honoured world-wide, is because he has never changed his message. He refuses to be political, although he has advised most Presidents over the last forty years. He preaches the simple unadulterated gospel; good news to all, repentance from sin, acceptance of the cross as the only means of salvation. Who can doubt the supreme importance of the cross and the fire-intensity of his life?

Politicians may be able to remove Britannia from our coins and England from the map, but they can’t rub out the marks of Christ in an individual life. Theologians may try and subvert the church, but they cannot change one sinner to resemble Christ, but the Holy Spirit can. He puts his indelible stamp on the coinage of Christendom.

Why go to Church?

I have written down 15 reasons why we should attend a worship service. It could be more, but we will leave it at that number. This knowledge can be used as an evangelising tool as the reason we gather together weekly but not weakly! It is always wise to have a reason for the faith we hold and the practise we adopt. Here they are:

    1. Because people who attend church usually find a sense of peace and spiritual refreshment not found in a worldly atmosphere.
    2. Because those people who are really saved enjoy the fellowship of other Christians.
    3. Because they are able to hear God speaking in and through the prophetically preached word.
    4. Because they can participate in true worship with others as preparation for that great and final all-eternity everlasting praise time.
    5. Because it is a place where they can partake and be part of supernatural surprises.
    6. Because it is a place where God can speak to their heart about destiny and guidance.
    7. Because it is a living testimony to their neighbours that we are committed Christians.
    8. Because it is a place where communion is dispensed and they remember Christ’s death, resurrection and second coming.
    9. Because people who attend church usually live longer [a proven fact].
    10. Because God commands itdo not forsake the assembling of yourselves together” [Hebrews 10:25].
    11. Because it is a place where healing, renewal and revival occurs.
    12. Because it is a place where multinational unity exists as opposed to the frictional world system. It is a microcosm of heaven.
    13. It is a place where money is not worshipped and greed is discouraged and advice is given on how debt can be conquered and cured.
    14. Because it is a place where fellowship can grow into friendship and friendship into relationship.
    15. Because it sets a right example to our children [If we have any] and helps brings them up in the way of God in their formative years. They will do what you do not what you say!

Recently, I read an article entitled “Why a rest is as good for you as sleep.” It was a synopsis by Louise Atkinson who analysed a book by Dr. Matthew Edmund, The Power of Rest, she extracts various facts and concludes the article like this “Praying has similar benefits. U.S. research has shown that people who regularly attend religious services live longer than those who do not.” This is the point I made in No. 9 above! I had already discovered that fact in my own research several years ago. It is the best longevity pill on the Market!

We have to ask therefore why there are possibly more Christians outside the church than in it. Perhaps it is because they have forgotten that the principle of the tithe also includes their time, which amounts to 16.8 hours weekly freely given to God for his worship and service. The New Testament Christians realised this and set an example that is hard to follow. Hear God’s word:  “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple,” [Acts 2:46]. The result was this: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” [Acts 2:47]. The example of the early disciples was such that it attracted a multitude of people who saw that their faith was real; so real that it was manifested in a daily expression of congregational unity and worship.

I ask myself if the modern Christian understands what Christ has really done for them; the complete and wonderful salvation, with sins forgiven, and destiny secured. Have they marked-time in their growth seeing Christ only as a Saviour, failing to embrace him as the ‘beloved?’ Perhaps their faith is just a cursory appreciation of his help in kicking the sin habit, or even less than that?  I ask myself the question: ‘maybe my salvation is different from theirs?’ but wonder how that could be, because we are one family with Christ as head of the body. I know that one day it will be church for eternity, so in the now I want to be prepared for that by attempting to mix with people I will see in that future time.