Frau Beckstein lived in Austria at the fag end of the 19th century. She was a noble and idealistic school teacher and she loved poetry, novels, opera and painting. To say that Frau Beckstein was cultured would be an understatement. She loved the life of the artist and she swooned when she pondered the inspiring story of the eccentric, poverty-stricken bohemian living in a rat-infested garret.
Yesterday I went with Gareth 'Taffy' Jones to conduct a sixth form conference at the Emmanuel School in Newcastle. The idea being that Taffy would provide an objective and distinctively Welsh perspective on the day's proceedings. I hail from Hertfordshire and my observations are often blinkered and half-baked. Taffy has assured me that this report is reliable and corresponds to what he saw and heard.
Oh and by the way Taffy has a PhD and is a very sharp lad.
When people talk about Christian education, many people think about the archetypal Bible-basher. Someone who attacks you with Scripture.
This is tragic.
In my view Christian education should be about wisdom, discernment and understanding the brutal stories that ruin countless lives. Consider this.
Every Wednesday in Hartford, Conn. USA homeless people can get a free haircut. However 82-year-old retired barber Anthony Cymerys does ask for a hug in return.
Inspired 25 years ago by a church sermon about the homeless, Anthony decided he wanted to do something for those who have no home. His clients line up on park benches and wait their turn for a haircut and a hug.
"I love these guys," Cymerys said about them. He paused and turned to his client in the chair, "You know I love you, right?"
In the UK, it is estimated that around 350,000 people are suffering from a gambling addiction. It is now easier than ever before to gamble, with a huge number of online betting shops enabling people to gamble 24 hours a day. Every year over 7 billion pounds is spent on gambling.
If a gambling problem is left to fester, debts can spiral out of control and people can become withdrawn, depressed and even suicidal!
Here is a story that can help us discuss this important social issue with young people.
I'm exploring role models in my blog. Here is an Italian woman who has become a bit of a celebrity for her Christian response to the Mafia.
In May 1992 Mafia thug Giovanni Brusca set off a huge bomb in the small Sicilian village of Capaci that killed antimafia investigating magistrate Giovanni Falcone, several police officers and his wife.
At the state funeral of Falcone and the other murdered government officials, Rosario Schifani, the widow of one of the dead police officers said the following:
Here are four I've found but I need more! Can you help me?
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.