Friday, 28 April 2017

Honour your father and mother

It is a fact that some of us, if we're fortunate, will grow old. And as we grow old, some of us may well become ill, some will live alone, some will struggle with day to day tasks, and many will have their families living far away.

Our children will grow up and move to other places to find jobs and to start a family. Other children will probably fall out with their parents, perhaps as a result of a family argument, and cease to contact their parents. Whilst some other children will just be too busy with the day-to-day stresses of life to maintain contact with their parents.

It is also a fact that some of us, as we grow older, will become cantankerous, argumentative pains in the neck working our way down South. Not everyone can be as pleasant and nice to be with as me. And so it follows, that such old people will make it difficult for their families to visit them as often as they should. In some cases, perhaps for safety's sake, it will be necessary for children and parents to meet no longer.

Then there is another fact. Many years ago, God commanded on a tablet of stone, "Honour your father and mother."

Now I ask myself, how much of a duty is that on every son and daughter, and how serious a sin is it if we ignore it?

Many amongst us can claim that our lives are too busy with the responsibilities of work, raising a family, looking after our own children, and so on and so forth, to be able to visit our parents frequently. Especially if they live too far away.

Others can claim that they fell out with their parents because of a serious family dispute, and indeed it is for their own safety, and that of their children, that they don't visit their parents anymore.

Others will claim that their parents have become the proverbial in-laws; and whenever they visit them, their parents are always criticising and creating a dividing wedge between husband and wife; especially if they never approved of their choice of partners in the first place.

These, and many other supposedly valid reasons have resulted in parents and children no longer seeing each other.

I have known several lonely elderly people in my time. One old lady was so lonely seeing no one from day to day that every week she took the bus to town and back just to be with other people on the journey.

Another left the TV or radio on all day and night just to hear the voice of someone speaking; and she left the lights on all night for fear of being alone in the dark.

Another old lady living alone just talked to her dog just to exercise her vocal chords. She said her throat dries up if she does not speak to anyone all day.

And yet another old man died alone at home and was not discovered until days later when the postman wondered why his mail was piling up behind his door.

Loneliness, especially in old age, is the scourge of a modern society awash with electronic communications devices.

What is the point of having hundreds of "friends and followers" on social media if none visit you when you're old?

So, my message to every son and daughter is: "What will you say to God when you meet Him about the way you honoured your parents"?

And for every parent, old and not so old, "What will you say to God about the way you helped your children obey that commandment?"

I wonder what God would respond.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Faith is not enough

FAITH IS NOT ENOUGH ...

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Fear that grips us all

Fear is a natural emotion. We all experience fear at one time or another in our lives. Fear can be a good thing at times because it  stops us from taking un-necessary risks. From being reckless and un-thoughtful in what you do.

But there are times when fear itself breeds more fear and grips us to the extent of ruling our lives.

Few of us are really immune to it.

The fear of losing our job and not being able to provide for our families. The fear of missing payments on our mortgage and losing our house. The fear of failure and being unable to work again. The fear of our very lives crumbling in front of our eyes.
The fear of a marriage breakdown. Infidelity. Divorce and its many heartaches. The tearing apart of a family. How it affects one's children. Separation. Costs. Access to children. Being no longer a part of their lives. The feeling of failure and betrayal.
The fear of growing old. Being alone. Especially at night. Forgotten with only one's memories for comfort. The fear of being unable to cope any more. The fear of losing control as others decide for you what is best. The fear that everyone you relied upon is now no longer there.
The fear of being ill. With no prospects of getting better. Relying on others and perhaps being a burden on family and friends. The fear of incapacity. The fear of being unable to make any decisions. The fear of being unable to afford treatment. The fear of un-ending pain.
The fear for others. Children. Grand-children. Other relatives or friends. How they are coping. How will they cope. The fear of the future and what it might bring. In an ever changing world, the very fear of opening a newspaper or seeing the news that something or other has happened that will adversely affect you or your loved ones.
Few of us can claim not to have experienced the real darkness of fear as it grips our minds, our imaginations and indeed our realities.

Because all these fears outlined above, and others besides not mentioned here, have actually happened to others and can very well happen to us.

One day we are living our lives happily and the next ... a quick change in circumstances can easily propel us into any of the fearful scenarios described above.

Christ taught us not to be afraid. That our God loves us. He cares for us. He will not let us perish. He is always by our side.

Yet ... these fearful events are real and have happened to others, those who love and obey God, and those who don't; and can so easily happen to us. So we feel, perhaps, that our fears are justified.

Until we consider, for a moment or two, how God feels about our so-called justified fears.

Isn't our fear, justified as it might be, a sign that we don't truly trust Him? A real profession of faith that, when it comes down to it, we don't really trust Him? Somehow, somewhere, in the back of our minds, we harbour that doubt, that worry, that when things will go bad for us, as they will inevitably be for some of us, we don't really trust Him enough to be by our side in our moment of need.

Now how do you think God feels about your lack of trust in Him?

We may not be able to help these fears when they attack our minds, perhaps sub-consciously, but we can fight against them with prayer. Real prayer. Through gritted teeth even. Admitting to God that we are fearful and yet, trying, through every fibre of our being to trust in Him, in His love and in His caring.

Fear will try to grip us all. It is how we handle it that is our salvation. And with His grace and help we will succeed.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

A Place At The Table



Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Train



The train with no wheels

Going nowhere

But the stations are moving

Showing the passing of time



There goes 1914

Then 39 too

The 40s and 50s

And the others pass thru



Humanity at war

Knowing no peace

The world in turmoil

For ever it seems



When will this train stop?

For cease-fire and respite

And let the flower of love

Get a chance to re-birth



The train with no wheels

That is going nowhere

Will never reach Peace

‘Til we learn to forgive!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Nature of Sin

It's not often in this Blog that we engage in intellectual, theological, philosophical or any other ...al ending discussion. So let's change that and talk about something we are all expert on - - - SIN.

What is sin? Why do we do it? Is it because it is pleasurable in some form or another? Or are we somehow pre-programmed to do it?

The Bible tells us that sin is something that upsets God. It is against His will for us, and hurts His love for us.

I guess the first sin was when the angel Lucifer rebelled against God. The second sin was when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

We are told that as a result of Adam and Eve's sin we are all born in sin and we have to struggle and toil for all our lives and suffer death.

I'm not sure I buy that. Why is it that I have to take the blame for someone else's sin? I wasn't even there at the time; and had I been there I would have probably dissuaded them from listening to the snake and advised them to enjoy their nakedness instead.

But anyway ... now all those years later we have sin. There are of course small sins, like telling a little lie every now and then, or eating too many cakes, or in my case ginger marmalade. And there are really big sins like adultery, robbing a bank and murder.

The Catholic Church, to help (or confuse) matters further, have described sins as venial sins and mortal sins. I say to confuse matters further because today many Catholics cannot distinguish venial from mortal sins; and they consider very serious sins as being ... well, quaint weaknesses really!

According to the Catholic Church venial sins are the small ones which you can ask God to forgive in your prayers and you're OK. No need to go to regular Confession for these, (so we've been told by our church).

Mortal sins are really big whoppers like adultery, stealing and killing. Basically, they are the ones which disobey the Ten Commandments and ... the rules of the Catholic Church as imposed by its teachings. (I must buy such a book just in case I'm doing something wrong and don't know it!)

Now then ... according to the Catholic Church, if you die with a mortal sin on your soul you're going down without a parachute my friend. No hope for you.

If you die with a venial sin or sins then you'll spend some time in Purgatory before going to Heaven. It's like a car-wash where they clean your soul and put a sparkle on it.

Here again I am confused.

No where in the Bible does it mention Purgatory. So we don't really know if it exists or what it's like there. Is there a burning fire like in hell but a little cooler? Are there devils poking you with blunt forks, or angels cleaning your soul? How long do you have to stay in Purgatory? Is it a day for each venial sin, a week, or longer? These Catholics don't half confuse things!

When Jesus hung dying on the Cross, He said to the thief next to Him, "Today you'll be with me in Paradise." He didn't say, "But you need to spend some time in Purgatory first!"

But let's leave the Catholic dogma to one side for a moment. Let us look at the nature of sin as viewed by God; if we could be so presumptuous as to try and see like God.

Does He view all sins with the same degree of seriousness and "badness", if there is such a word?

Does my being greedy with ginger marmalade rank in the same seriousness as adultery? Is an adulterer not also being greedy in a similar manner as me? (OK ... stop smirking. I realise there's a lot of difference between a spoonful of ginger marmalade and sex. I'm trying to be serious here, and you're making up your own jokes.)

Does God categorise sin into different levels of seriousness and does He judge us accordingly?

When we die, will He send an unrepentant adulterer, thief or murderer down? All three have broken one of His Commandments. How about an unrepentant gourmand or a lazy husband who will not paint the garden gate and fence, or mow the lawn, even though his wife asked him a million times?

Does a lazy man who does not do what his wife asks him, like mowing the lawn, deserve to go to hell? (Don't ask my wife!)

Does God judge the sin, or the intent behind the sin?

An adulterer, thief, or murderer knows he is doing something wrong. He knows it is against God's will. Yet he knowingly does it all the same regardless of the seriousness of the matter. That's what a serious, or mortal, sin is: knowing that doing something is seriously wrong, yet doing it all the same without any pressure or influence from anyone else; doing it in defiance of God.

Being lazy, or greedy, are weaknesses of human nature. God knows that; because He created us and He knows all our weaknesses. God knows that the intent behind these sins are our weaknesses rather than a clear-minded decision to do wrong, and to defy God.

The sin of Adam and Eve was not a sin of greediness because they liked the fruit. Or indeed a sin of disobedience because God told them not to eat the fruit. It was a sin of defiance. They knowingly defied God. They were told that by eating the fruit they "will be like God". (Genesis 3:5).

Not so dissimilar from Lucifer's sin. He wanted to be like God.

I believe that when God comes to judge us, He will look at the intent behind our actions. Have we lived a life as best as we can following His Commandments, loving Him, and trying our best to please Him?

Or have we lived a life in defiance of Him? Not believing in His existence. And pursuing our own purpose in life.

Father Francis Maple in one of his sermons makes a good point about our relationship with God by referring to a leaning tree. Here's what he says:
 
I think of a life as a tree. If a tree leans in one direction when it dies it will fall in that direction. It is not going to fall in the opposite direction. So, too, with our lives. If all the time we are leaning towards God, very likely, with God's grace we shall fall into His arms when we die. But if our lives never point to God, it is very likely that when we die we shall die in enmity with God.

NOTE: This is the second post regarding matters relating to our Christian Faith. Let's have a discussion. I welcome your views, opinions and disagreements also; for it is by an exchange of thoughts that we learn from each other. Anonymous comments welcome.

If you would like to suggest a subject which we can discuss on future posts please write to me at: enquiries@holyvisions.co.uk Your e-mail will reach my desk only and I will respond to every one I receive.

God bless.

Friday, 14 April 2017

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