Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Is anyone listening?

 
It is said that we have been on this earth for millions of years. I know it feels like it to me sometimes when I experience aches and pains … but that’s another story.

So let’s stop interrupting and get back on course.

For all these years, as long as man could reason and comprehend … (some women believe this has never happened).

I really must stop interrupting myself.

As I was saying … for all these years, as long as humanity could reason and comprehend, God has spoken to us and shown us the Way back to Him.

No generation has been left without a sure sign of His existence and the Way back to Him.

At first, God spoke through people like Abraham, Moses, Elijah and other prophets. He spoke through the many poets and songsters who wrote the psalms. And through ordinary people so that their contemporaries could understand.

Had God appeared on earth as a majestic Divine Ruler, Creator and King of the whole universe, omnipotent, all knowing and all powerful; He would most probably have caused havoc, fear, awe, and eventually total submission.

Hardly the acts of a loving Father.

So God at first chose the gentler way of speaking and teaching the people. He spoke through enlightened open minded leaders like Moses. People who could translate His message to generations in a language they could understand.

He taught them of His love for them, and for His plans to come to them in person, as often prophesised in the Old Testament.

But many did not listen.

Later on, when they were ready, God sent His Son on earth as a human in the shape of Jesus.

He showed them many signs of His divinity through healing miracles and raising of the dead. He died for them and us, and was raised from the dead.

But many still did not listen or believe.

After Jesus was raised to Heaven He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us, help us, and be with us every step of the eventual Way to the Father.

The Holy Spirit is with us today. Right now. A reality not just a figure of speech.

Many have received Him with open hearts.

But as for countless others …

They’re still not listening ... perhaps they'll never will.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Does God play tennis?

In the UK, every summer, we have a major tennis tournament called Wimbledon. My American readers will know all about it since their tennis champions have won it many times.

Years ago, I had an employee who always took his holidays during Wimbledon fortnight because of the tennis. We always thought he was very dedicated and he certainly knew a lot about the game and the many competing players.

I once asked him if he enjoyed the games and which ones did he attend.

"None ..." he said, "I didn't go to the games. I never do!"

This surprised me and I enquired further. Maybe he watched the games on TV? No ... he didn't do that either.

Apparently, every day he went to the local park not far from his home and listened to the games on his small radio. He said by not watching the games on TV he could sit there and imagine what was happening at Wimbledon and enjoy the atmosphere better.

Now I wonder, would we show as much dedication if our God asked us, once a week, to go and visit Him in church?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Aunt Gertrude’s Wild Life



It is said that in millions of years from now man will become extinct. This is because there is something wrong with the male chromosome which means that for a while humans will only produce female offspring; and then human beings will no longer be able to reproduce.

Well, I don’t know about you. But if the world had no more men who would take the spiders out of the bath tub?

The reason I mention this is because I am a hero in my own household.

The other day there was a big spider in the toilet and the whole family panicked. I was sent in to capture it and take it out in the garden.

I basked in my new found glory until Auntie Gertrude came home from her walk in the park and was told of my intrepid exploits.

“Is that all cobber?” she said deflating my ego like a burst balloon, “once when I was in the bush I found a snake in the dunny.”

“Really? What did you do?” she was asked as all the family’s attention deserted me and turned to her.

“Only one thing to do mate” she exclaimed, “I stood on its head and killed it. I wasn’t going to give him a front row seat in the audience whilst I sat on the dunny!”

As the family ooohed and aaahed in amazement Auntie went on “On another occasion whilst I was having a shower at home I saw a small lizard looking at me and counting my wrinkles. Fortunately I only have one wrinkle, the one I sit on!”

The family laughed as Auntie Gertrude continued to entertain her audience and dimming the limelight which hitherto shone on me. I mean … tackling a spider is quite a feat you know.

“In Australia we have all sorts of wildlife” she declared, “I once found a baby koala in the kitchen. The door was open and the poor mite came in. He was weak and starving the little fella!”

“What did you do Auntie?” they all asked.

“Oh I phoned the animal rescue people and they took him away,” she went on to the delight of her attentive audience.

“A neighbour of ours has a lizard for a pet” Auntie explained, “the creature is always perched on his shoulder as he walks around the house.”

“Did his parrot die?” I asked sarcastically.

“No, he has a parrot as well,” she replied having missed my comment completely, “and a dog, two cats and a white rabbit.”

“Tell us about them …” they all cried in unison.

At which point I left the room and let her enjoy her moment of fame. At least whilst she is entertaining the family she is not getting at me.

Monday, 16 September 2013

At Peter's Gate


Saint Peter sat at his computer, cleaned his spectacles, scratched his beard, tapped on the keyboard and shouted "NEXT!"

A diminutive little man came in trembling in hesitation and carrying his copy of the Catechism.

"Oh not another Catholic are you?" said the Saint frowning at him.

"Yes Sir ... your Sainthood ..." mumbled the little man.

"I thougth so as soon as I saw your Catechism," continued Saint Peter, "yet another Catholic trying to get in here."

"Is there a quota, Sir?" asked the man fearing the worst.

"No, of course not!" replied the Saint raising his voice a little, "there is no quota as such. Everyone enters Heaven on his merit. But Catholics can be ... ehm ... let me explain. Sit down over there for a minute.

"Now tell me. What do you understand about Vatican II?"

The man felt his throat and mouth go dry simultaneously. He tried to talk but no words would come out. He gulped once or twice and then said, "I have been married for over 25 years and I still don't understand my wife. How can I understand Vatican II?"

The Saint smiled, "precisely!" he cried, "precisely!"

"You see ..." he continued, "down there on earth there are many Catholics still arguing about Vatican II. What it meant and what it did.

"Jesus and I look down on them and smile at all their debates. They argue about which Form of Mass is better and more valid. Whether the priest should face the altar or the congregation. Whether it is OK to sing in Latin, or have guitars in church or female altar servers!

"Phooey ... that's what I say ... Phooey.

"Our Lord, my Master, said it plainly enough. Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what my Father in Heaven wants them to do.

"In other words people should love God with all their might and love one another as Jesus loved them. His sacrifice on the Cross was not a prelude to endless debates amongst His followers about the technicalities of religion.

"Deeds ... action ... compassion and love. that's what God wants of people. Not sanctimonious Pharisees debating the finer points of religion." 

The Saint scratched his beard again.

"Don't misunderstand me ... many of these eternal debaters are good at heart really. They do good in life and many find a welcome in Heaven. But oh ... their endless display of knowledge makes me reach out for the headache tablets!"

The small man smiled feebly and said nothing, grateful that he never had the intellect to understand let alone debate the many intricacies of religion.

Saint Peter tapped at the computer keyboard and stared at the monitor for a while.

"I read here that you've been a good man ... trying your best as you got on in life," he said finally, 

"Your wife has been quite a handful I see. I understand now your earlier comment about not understanding her ways." he chuckled.

"She misses you ... you know. She means well and she appreciates you more now that you're gone."

The man wiped his eye with the back of his sleeve.

"Yep ... all is in order." declared the Saint, "you can come in. But take my advice. Always carry with you a tin of sardines in your pocket. Some Catholics in here still insist on eating fish on Fridays.They keep asking me if I have a haddock. I remind them that I gave up fishing long ago."

Friday, 13 September 2013

Missing Without A Trace



I’ve been missing for three days. Without a trace. No one knew I was missing … except me of course. I suspect none of you noticed my absence.

On Tuesday the family decided to take Aunt Gertrude down South to visit friends leaving me at home alone with the dog, the cat and the goldfish. Oh bliss … a whole three days without Auntie's Australian accent grating on my nerves. Without a family demanding this and that and volunteering me for all sorts of things.


As long as I can keep the pets well fed I’ll have a peaceful break all to myself. Although at times the goldfish can be quite noisy when they chatter and laugh at me from their fishtank.

Let me explain that we live in a very old Victorian house which has a cellar spanning the whole floor area of the property. You enter the cellar from a door just under the staircase.

We don’t use this basement often, it’s mostly a storage area nowadays where we keep half a dozen bottles of wine lying lazily on a shelf which I built myself … slightly leaning to one side mind you … but still OK if you wedge a book at the end and it stops the bottles from rolling off.

We also keep some foodstuff down there, mostly tins of soup, various tins of vegetables and fruits and other household goods like detergents, washing liquids and so on. And books. plenty of books. I built a few more shelves in one corner which I call the library and we've put annumber of books which we refer to every now and then. You get the idea … it's just a storage area for things we use now and then.

The basement used to be a small apartment for a servant or butler in years gone by … it has a small kitchenette and bathroom still fully plumbed in and in working order, and a tiny living/sleeping area. Originally I wanted to send our guest from Australia, Aunt Gertrude, down there; but I was over-ruled, as often happens in our houshold, much to the amusement of the goldfish.

Now where was I? In the basement … or about to enter the basement to be precise. I needed a book about Australian parasites so off I went downstairs as one would in such circumstances. 

As I got to the corner where the books are, there was an almighty crash in the house as the dog started chasing the cat who followed me down in the basement. 

The dog … huge as he is … did not quite fit in under the staircase where the basement door is situated, but his immense stature slammed the door shut. That’s when I heard a clunk … clunk … clunk … sound all the way down the stairs and at my feet.

Perhaps I should have mentioned that the door handle has always been a little loose. I’ve always planned to fix it … Lord knows I’ve been told often enough … but with that and the leaning shelves it was all a question of priorities. Which one to fix first … and neither was done!

I picked up the door handle and tried to open the door. No use … it would not work. And that’s how I went missing without a trace in my own house.

No one knew I was there. No use shouting for help. No one would hear me. No point in phoning for help. I didn’t have the cell-phone with me.

Try as I might to open the door but it was all in vain. An hour or so later I heard the phone ring in the house and the loudspeaker on the answering machine said “Hello … we’ve arrived safely … Oh … you must be out. See you Thursday evening. Bye!”

Great … what a prospect. Trapped in my own house for three whole days.

Now it is said that in such circumstances of extreme trauma one should sit down calmly, take deep breaths and concentrate. No need to panic.

Calm down and concentrate.

And nothing aids concentration more than a drop or two of wine.

Fortunately we have plenty of that here. Or beer if one prefers … which is also easily to hand.

After an hour or so of concentration I still had no idea on how to get out of my prison.

My mind was getting a little hazy … perhaps it’s the lack of air down here. There’s a small window at the far end of the basement leading to the back garden of the house. It’s at ground level when you’re out in the garden … if you see what I mean. It’s too small to get out of; and it is barred anyway. I did tell you wine aids concentration didn’t I?

Now then … if I could get the cat out of the window he could go for help! (Hic ... pardon me ... hiccup!)

I could tie a message to his collar! No that won’t do … he doesn’t wear a collar. Too dangerous you see, he could get caught on a tree branch and injure himself. So we’ve never put a collar on him. Perhaps I could go out and buy him a collar. Ooops ... I can't get out ... hic!

Perhaps I could tattoo a distress message on his body … a bit extreme I must say! It’ll stay with him for life. “HELP … I’m trapped in the basement!”

The problem is I have no tattooing equipment whatsoever down here, and I’ve never tattooed anyone in my life let alone a cat.

What if I cut a message in his fur with scissors? Like some people do with their hairstyle when they cut their hair in different patterns? Would the cat stay still long enough until I finish cutting his fur I wonder?

I think I need another drink … hic!

Ah … I got it. This is certain to work. I could empty all these tins of peas … well some of them anyway … no one likes peas. I could tie them to one another with a long string and tie that to the cat’s tail.

He’d make such a noise running all over town that someone is sure to find him and read my message which will be written on one of the tins.

I emptied about a dozen tins. Peas taste awful when eaten cold you know … even washed down with beer. 

I tied the tins together. Wrote a message on several tins to make sure it is read. 

I called the cat sleeping happily in the corner. I tripped on the Australian book lying on the floor. The cat suddenly got up and shot out through the window.

Typical of that cat … un-cooperative to the last. He just would not help me in my hour of need.

I was found fast asleep on Thursday evening.

More stories about my cat in my FREE E Book  
"FELINE CATASTROPHES"

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Cops Encounter of the Gertrude Kind



 
I really wish that my Australian Aunt Gertrude would learn to keep her mouth shut. Since she’s been holidaying with us her loud Australian accent and innate shatter has got me in trouble more than once.

Last evening she decided to stay late in church after the Prayer Meeting to have a cup of tea and a chat. Nothing wrong with that, except that at about ten o’clock I was made to volunteer to go and pick her up. I had just got home after a long day at work, I had not eaten since I don’t know when, I was a little tired and yet … when you are volunteered … well, I’m sure you understand!

On our way back from church my stomach rumbled once or twice.

“Swallowed a frog have you cobber?” said Auntie with a laugh.

I apologized and let the incident pass. But a few moments later, there it was again, a louder rumble.

“I heard better noise from the depth of my billabong!” she exclaimed, “Trapped wind is it? Well don’t let it out in the car mate!” 

I ignored her and prayed that we’d get home soon. But my prayers may have been mislaid in a pending tray somewhere in Heaven because a few yards later we were stopped by a police vehicle parked up ahead.

“Good evening sir, mam,” said the policeman, “We’re conducting a routine vehicle check. It won’t take a moment!”

Before I could say anything Auntie Gertrude, sitting in the passenger seat beside me, said “I can assure you he hasn’t been drinking officer!”

I froze in my seat and did not know what to say. My stomach spoke for me with a loud rumble.

“At least I did not see him drink,” continued Auntie, “I’ve been in church you see. He picked me up so I doubt he would have drunk and driven at the same time, cobber!”

The policeman looked at me and asked. “Have you been drinking sir?”

“No, of course not …” I replied in a dry throat, fearing where all this would lead to.

“Would you to get out of the car please?” he said sternly.

I got out and so did she. The policeman went to his car and spoke with his colleague. I asked Auntie to get back in the car but she wouldn’t.

“Don’t worry mate! I’ll get you out of any trouble. I get stopped by the police all the time in Adelaide!”

The two policemen came back to our vehicle and explained the procedure involved in taking a breathalyzer test.

I blew in the bag and it was negative, as indeed I expected and hoped for.

“Is this your vehicle, sir?” asked one of the policemen.

“Yes …” I nodded.

“No it isn’t, cobber!” retorted Auntie, “you told me it was a company vehicle!”

I explained as calmly as I could that it was the firm’s vehicle registered in my name.

“Has he done something wrong?” asked Auntie, “because I can vouch for him. He is not the brightest penny in the universe; but he gets along poor soul.”

“Please mam,” said one of the men, “would you return to the car whilst we talk to your husband!”

“She is not my wife!” I protested.

It’s bad enough having her for an Aunt, an elderly one at that, than to have her mistaken as my wife.

“She’s a visiting relative from Australia” I explained.

“Are you going to do the good cop bad cop bit?” interjected Auntie again making a bad situation worse, “I doubt he’d know which is which; the poor wallaby!”

One of the policemen stayed with her by the car whilst the other one took me aside towards his vehicle. He checked my identity and paperwork and explained that it was a routine check and all was in order. He explained that he had to breathalize me following Auntie’s comments, and sympathized somewhat with my predicament. “Some elderly folk like to be seen to help!” he remarked.

As we drove away Auntie commented with a gleeful smile, “They had to let you go, cobber! I told the policeman who stayed with me that in the dictionary the word wimp has a picture of you next to it!”

Monday, 9 September 2013

Gertrude and Caruso



My Aunt Gertrude from Australia certainly does not miss an opportunity to embarrass me.

We were having tea and coffee in the Parish Center after Mass and got into a discussion about singing and music with other parishioners. One admitted that he was totally ignorant about music to which Auntie quickly retorted "if ignorance is bliss, how come there aren't more happy people in the world?"

I gulped my coffee and said nothing.

Later on she suggested to the choir master "You need some new talent in the choir mate!"
 
The choir master, a man whom I have secretly christened Caruso because of his posture and loud voice when he stands up front and sings, replied politely that indeed he needed new volunteers for the choir.

“Don’t look at me cobber!” she exclaimed, “I’m from Adelaide you know and I’d be going back soon!”

“Not soon enough” I thought rather unkindly.

Before my mind could enjoy the thought of Auntie going back to her billabong in Australia she burst my moment of happiness by adding, “If you want someone for your choir why not have my nephew here. It’ll make a change from hearing him sing in the bath. His voice is a bit croaky mind. But he's so loud that the neighbours have often invited the police to enjoy the fruits of his vocal chords!”

Before I could say anything the choir master agreed and Auntie promised that we’d be at their next rehearsals.

We all met at the Parish Centre and were welcomed by Caruso.

He started by taking down our names and asking us about our singing voice – some said tenor, others said contralto, some said soprano and so on.

He asked me about my voice range. I did not know what to say. Whenever I sing in church on Sunday, God reaches out for the headache tablets and Jesus puts cotton wool in His ears.

Before I uttered a word Aunt Gertrude suggested “his voice is more like a strangled cat … but I’m sure you can make him improve!”

Caruso smiled and said nothing. He scribbled in his notebook and then asked me to do something embarrassing in front of all those people.

He said “sing FIGAAAARO, Figaro Figaro Figaro Figaaaarooooo!”

I told him I did not know that particular hymn. I thought I’d be part of the choir and we’d all sing “Amazing Grace” or whatever hymns are scheduled for that Sunday.

He insisted he wanted to test my voice range.

So rather than sing I said a few times weakly “Figaro!”

He said “Yes … quite!” and walked away.

I felt somewhat patronized by his “Yes … quite” and I was ready to leave when Auntie interjected, “I told you he’d be a good laugh cobber! But beggars can’t be choosers can they?”

Caruso got us together and we practiced a few hymns to help him gauge how good we were and how much work he had on his hands to improve the bad lot he had as volunteers.

After an hour or so we had a short break and Caruso suggested I stand at the back of the choir and sing softly, almost miming, as if I was singing a lullaby for baby Jesus to go to sleep.

I took that to mean he didn’t think much of my voice range and power. I nodded and made a mental note not to go to any more rehearsals.

On the way home in the car Auntie Gertrude remarked “well at least we’ve solved one mystery tonight cobber!”

I raised an eyebrow and said nothing.

“You’re as talent less when singing in the bath as when hiding amongst a choir. A frog with laryngitis would do a better job! There are plenty in our billabong back home who can testify to that.”

For a moment I wished and prayed that she was in that far away billabong.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Take up your cross

 
The sermon in church today was from Matthew 16:21-27 where Jesus says to his disciples: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me”.

When I got home I thought I’d do something nice. I gave my wife a big hug and a kiss, and carried her indoors.

Startled she snapped "What’s wrong with you, have you gone crazy?"

"No my dear,” I replied. "Didn’t you hear the sermon? Jesus said pick up your cross and follow Me".

I got a slap in the face and severe backache. No Sunday lunch either!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

From bad to ...



Jack was a lovely man. Well loved by his wife, three children and four grand-children, as well as his wider family and friends.

When they all went to church together they filled the two front rows on the left of the Altar. But that wasn’t often, because they usually attended different Masses at St Vincent.

One day, out of the blue, Jack was taken severely ill and admitted to hospital. The whole family was devastated and it is fair to say that their Faith took quite a beating.

But not Jack. He remained calm and somehow, accepted the will of God. Of course, he was a little scared, but accepted what was happening to him willingly, trusting God that all would be well.

Father Ignatius visited him in the hospital often, and was greatly humbled by the man’s Faith and cheerfulness, despite the obvious pain he was in at times.

Jack remained in hospital for a while, receiving family visitors as well as his priest every now and then.

One day, whilst Father Ignatius was the only visitor Jack said to him:

“See that man over there Father, in the bed just opposite me?”

The priest nodded silently.

“He doesn’t believe in God Father …” continued Jack, “and he’s scared to death. He has the same symptoms and the same problems as me … and to be honest the doctors don’t hold much hope for either of us …”

Father Ignatius held Jack’s hand.

“Hey … I know what’s what Father. Both of us will have an operation soon and the chances are … well, I wouldn’t bet my shirt on it …”

Jack laughed weakly.

“You know what I did Father …”

The priest shook his head.

“Yesterday, I went over to that man. His name is Larry. And I said to Larry that Jesus will look after him. I told him that everything will be OK and he is not to worry about the operation.

“I don’t think he believed me, or in Jesus … but I think it calmed him down a bit.

“At least I’ve noticed that he’s stopped crying. He used to sit there and wipe his eyes and feel sorry for himself. He’s stopped that now. Maybe Jesus has started working on him … hein?”

Father Ignatius nodded weakly. He prayed silently for Jack and thanked the Lord for this man’s Faith in such adversity. Not only to believe in Christ’s healing power but to announce it boldly to someone who didn’t believe at all.

“Hey Father … you’d better give me Communion now; before the family turns up … you know how emotional they get … especially my wife ...” said Jack with a weak smile.

The priest prayed with Jack for a while after giving him Communion and waited until his family arrived before leaving the hospital.

A few days later Jack and Larry were operated on. Both operations were successful and after a period of recuperation in hospital and at home both fully recovered.

Jack and Larry became friends. Larry and his wife and daughter became Christian and attend church at St Vincent.

Jack’s severe illness and his stay in hospital were the channel for a family of un-believers to get to know and love Christ.

(Based on a true story).

Sunday, 1 September 2013

When disasters happen


“We interrupt this programme to bring you a News Flash …” blared the radio in the kitchen.

Father Ignatius stopped his cooking for a minute and listened attentively. There had been a train crash not far from where he lived. Somehow the train was de-railed and fell down a steep embankment into a nearby river. There were a number of casualties as well as many injuries.

The priest rang the emergency number given by the radio announcer to enquire how he might help. He was asked to go to the local hospital to donate blood, and also to help comfort some of the not seriously wounded.

An hour or so later he was consoled that many of the town’s folk had responded to the appeal and a long queue had formed to donate blood.

That disaster had shaken the town’s morale badly. Father Ignatius decided, unconventionally as it might seem, to make the train crash the subject of his sermon on Sunday.

He approached the lectern and said: “Let us pray for the victims and the injured of the train crash which happened a few days ago; as well as for their family and friends.

“This train crash has come as quite a shock to all of us, especially as it comes so close to the tragedy last week when a bus driver lost control of his bus and killed several school children walking on the sidewalk.

“When such disasters happen, some of us get a little confused and ask why God made it happen. Some even blame Him for the disaster believing that a loving God should have prevented it.

“I say … Praise the Lord!”

Father Ignatius paused for a while to allow the murmurs in church to die down.

“I can see from your faces that some of you think I’ve gone mad,” he continued.

“Father Ignatius has lost his marbles … he is a few Hail Mary’s short of a Rosary … his little grey cells have turned to ashes … and whatever other metaphors you wish to make up to describe my sanity or lack of it.

“Of course I recognise and I'm deeply shocked by the terrible tragedies that have befallen this town in the last few days. Especially when we consider as well the severe economic crisis we’re living through and how it is affecting many families facing loss of work and income. And how misery tends to enjoy company and has visited many local communities lately.

“Please don’t misunderstand me … when such disasters happen we must help in every practical way we can.

“But I also wish to ask you to consider this … Where do you think God is when a disaster happens?

“Is He hiding behind the settee cringing in fear at what is happening in the world today? How it’s all gone wrong and He can’t handle it anymore?

“Or is He still in control of all that is happening in the universe?

“When we praise Him, we’re not doing so because of the disaster, but because He is still in control of this and every situation.

“In doing so, we acknowledge His greatness, His omnipotence and that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

“By praising Him, no matter what the situation, we somehow open a channel for His grace to shine upon us and, if it is His will, a good outcome will result from a bad situation.

“The alternative of course is to rebel and blame Him for the bad situation that befalls us. And where will this lead us I ask you?

“How dare we … insignificant minuscule little creatures that we are … how dare we question His will and in so doing distance ourselves from His love and mercy?

“Of course we’re hurt and shocked by what has happened recently and we’re confused. We wouldn’t be humans if we weren’t.

“But I urge you, having prayed for the victims and their families and friends, having helped practically where we can, let us now stand and confidently praise the Lord that He is still in control of everything.”