Sunday, 29 June 2014

Who do you think I am?

In Matthew Chapter 16 verse 13 onwards we read that Jesus asked His disciples "Who do you say I am?"

Peter answered quite rightly, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God".

I now ask you "Who do you think you are?"

I am not asking you for your name, the name of your parents, or your family lineage. I am not asking you whether you are male or female, single, married, divorced, separated or in partnership with anyone. Whether you are a parent or uncle, aunt or whatever. I am not even asking you whether you are a doctor, nurse, lawyer, carpenter or whatever your job may be; if you have one.

I am asking you "Who do you think you are?"

Do you really know yourself? To know oneself deeply and fully we should consider "what makes us tick". What is it that makes us who we are, or what we have become as we grew up, or are still growing up.

We are all the product of our background, environment, parentage, up-bringing and a variety of other factors that make us what we are now. But have we ever taken the time to consider how these factors have affected us and made us what we are today?

Take for instance our opinions on any subject. Our views. Our prejudices (for we all have them no matter what we lead others to believe). Our fears real or imagined. Are these all of our own making or are they pre-set opinions or views we have heard or learnt from others and adapted them to suit our own beliefs and requirements?

How many of our views and opinions are indeed logically assessed and formulated by us as opposed to following someone else's views?

Let's go back to the Scripture quoted above. If Jesus challenged us and asked "Who do you say I am?" What would our honest, no hesitation, response be?

And if He asked "Who do you think you are?" What would our answer be?

Whatever our opinion of ourselves may be, or whatever or whoever we think we are. One think is for sure. We are all the Creations of God. Indeed we are the sons and daughters of God.

Why else would we call Him Father when we recite the Lord's prayer?

Friday, 27 June 2014

My real bad times.

A lot of people who laugh and smile at my humourous posts think that I am always cheerful and jovial. Perhaps so ... but is it a facade?

Believe me ... I've had bad times ... real bad times ...

I remember years ago when my wife went to look after an elderly relative all of a sudden and I was left at home alone with four children aged 7 and below.

I had a lot of work to do and a report which needed writing and e-mailed to the office as soon as possible if not earlier. I did not have time to do any shopping and there was very little food in the house. The kids were hungry and I did not know what to feed them. They'd had enough of sandwiches and they wanted something warm inside them.

I put the children in the car and decided to drive to town. We could go shopping or we could go for their favorite take away.

It started raining heavily. The car would not start. Try as I may I could not get the engine to start.

In desperation, I decided to get the children back in the house and phone for pizzas to be delivered.

As soon as I opened the car door the dog ran out of the car and into near by fields. I called him back. He ignored me and ran faster into the rain. I was getting drenched. Soaked all over.

I shut the car door and started walking towards the field calling for my dog to come back. I did not intend to go so far away from the children still in the car.

A few steps away and my shoe got stuck in the heavy mud underfoot. I tried to pull it out and the heel from my shoe came off altogether leaving a gaping hole in my shoe letting in even more water.

That's when I sat there on the muddy ground, took out my guitar, and started singing:
You picked a fine time to leave me loose heel
With four hungry children
And a dog in the field.
I've had some bad times
Lived through some sad times
But this time your hurtin' won't heal.
You picked a fine time to leave me loose heel.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

London Nights



Why is it that people jump to the wrong conclusion when they see me dressed in my usual attire?

Some time ago I went to London to stay with friends and I was told that one of them goes out at night with members of his church to go to London parks and feed the poor and the down-and-outs.

Would I like to join them?

On the day in question a van from his church called at his house and he and I and two others drove into London just before 10 o’clock at night.

We parked the van by the roadside and it broke my heart to see literally dozens of people sitting on the wet grass waiting our arrival.
“Word soon gets around” I was told “they tell each other that we’re here by around 10 and every time we come there’s more of them!”

“There’s another van parked a hundred yards away” I said.

“Yes … it’s another church. We’re glad they come too because we couldn’t cope on our own!”

I was given a big box full or pre-wrapped sandwiches which the ladies in church had prepared and I walked by the park edge handing them out as the vagrants got up and went to the van for a hot drink.

By the time I had emptied my box of sandwiches I had reached the other van from the other church.

“Hello … you are new here” said a middle-aged lady from near her van “I haven’t seen you before!”

“Yes … this is my first time here …” I smiled back.

“Would you like a sandwich?” she asked “and a cup of soup? We have chicken and tomatoes, which do you prefer?”

“Oh no …” I smiled, “I don’t need anything to eat … thanks!”

“Do sit down …” she interrupted, “the chicken soup is hot and tasty … I made it myself!”

Before I could answer she was joined by another lady who said “He’s probably shy, Mary! It’s very difficult for some of them to accept our help.”

I was about to explain when Mary interrupted again “You look very cold my dear … this jacket you’re wearing has seen better days … we have a spare coat in the van … about your size I should say … let me get it …”

“No … no … you don’t understand” I protested with a smile hiding the insult at my authentic 12 years old tweed jacket, “I am not one of the poor people. I came here to help with my friend from another church!”

“Now you’ve embarrassed him …” said the other lady to Mary, “either that, or the poor man is hallucinating … it happens when they’ve been drinking … does he smell of drink?”

I’ll have you know dear readers that I do not smell of drink but always of the best after-shave lotion I can buy for a few pennies down the market. This farce had got on too far and it was time I put these two lovely well-meaning ladies straight.

“Look ladies …” I said calmly yet authoritatively, “believe it or not, I am not here to ask for food or drink or clothing. I came with my friend from another church to help feed these poor people. I came in the van parked … parked … over … there!!!

“Where has the van gone? Where’s my friend and the other two people from his church? Did you see them leave?”

“Never mind …” said Mary in her sweet voice, “sit down here and try this soup and sandwich … I’ll go get you the coat!”

As she left I told the other woman, “I don’t know what’s going on. My friend is from St Bartholomew church. Do you know it?

“He’s gone and left me stranded here … can you help me please and give me a lift in your van to his house? It’s near the church.”

“Oh no …” she replied, “we’re not allowed to take passengers in our van. It’s only for us to come here and serve food …”

She walked away hurriedly and stopped Mary who was coming towards us with a coat. They both moved towards the van at speed. A man came out of the van towards me and said “Here friend … I have something for you …” and handed me two sandwiches.

He then jumped in the van and they drove off.

I gave the two sandwiches to two men sitting nearby and hurried as quickly as my legs would carry me towards the main road where I stopped a taxi and went home.

“Why did you drive off and leave me?” I asked.

“We thought you’d gone into town to see the London sites” was the jovial unperturbed reply.

“But … but … I was wearing my cowboy hat with a large feather in it … clearly visible from afar … what do you want me to do? Put on a flashing light on top so you can see it from miles away?????”
This story is dedicated to someone I know who does a lot of good work feeding the poor at night in London.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Father Ignatius Remembers



Father Ignatius was certainly the product of his up-bringing.

Raised in a poor family who had known real hardship; yet at the same time a family held together, despite all the turmoil that life threw at them, by a common bond of mutual love and basic Christian principles.

It’s because of his up-bringing, and because he grew up with very little materially, that he developed a habit of frugality and saving whatever he could rather than wasting it away.

He had taken a private vow of poverty when he became a priest, and since then he spent as little as possible on himself. He was not mean in the sense of avarice since anything he had, or whatever else came his way in terms of money or goods, he eagerly shared with the poor in his parish.

The little he kept for himself was usually either books or certain items he had collected over the years and kept for their sentimental value.

One Friday afternoon he decided to clear up the spare room of personal items he had not used for ages. He decided to donate them to the rummage sale in aid of the elderly.

As he was searching through a box full of books he found an old vinyl record; the old 45 rpm type record, black in color in a torn paper sleeve. He looked at the title of the song and sat down on a nearby chair.

Suddenly, the memories came flooding fast. He held the record in his shaking hand, as tears welled up in his eyes. He hadn’t seen nor played it for years, yet here it was, like a ghost from years long past, awakening distant memories so long forgotten.

He remembered how, as a child, he had saved all his pocket money, and went to the music store after school to buy this particular record as a birthday present for his dear father. Now departed.

The song was quite popular then.

He remembered his father’s reaction when he opened the brown paper bag and pulled out the shiny black vinyl record.

His parental eyes welled up too all those years ago, the same as Father Ignatius’ eyes are welling up right now.

His father placed the record on the table and said nothing. He just held little Ignatius tightly in his strong arms and kissed his head gently. Ignatius was held so tight that he could hear his father’s heart beating in his chest.

He could hear it beating right now, as he sat there holding the record in his shaking hand. And strangely as it may seem, the experience also brought to mind the sweet smell of cooking as they all gathered there as a family in the kitchen that cold winter evening.

His mother moved towards the table, leaving for a moment the food on the stove, and picked up the record.

“How lovely …” she said as she read the title.

She too then hugged little Ignatius as tightly as she could.

The priest remembered that that particular day was the first and only time he had seen his father cry. Silently, he had wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and quietly said: “Thank you … son”.

He was a big strong man, not given to much emotions or small talk. He had probably invented the British stiff upper lip and kept his feelings well hidden within himself. Usually silent at the best of times; mumbling the odd “yes dear …” whenever his wife asked him something. A gentle giant in every respect.

His father had known extreme poverty and hardship throughout his life, having lived through the depression and economic crisis.

Father Ignatius recalled how his father told him that many a time, when he was a child during the depression, he had gone to bed at night with nothing to eat; because there was simply no food in the house. Those were terrible times indeed, as his father often recalled.

He remembered that his father had worked the land from the age of eleven, leaving school with little or no education. It was the done thing in those days, to work hard at an early age to help the family beat off starvation.

And in later years, as young Ignatius was growing up, his father still continued to work hard on the farm to bring enough food to feed his family. His mother too, took on washing to earn a few pennies to supplement the family budget.

Yet despite their impoverished state Ignatius never had to go hungry, as his father did before him; and he was always well dressed and cared for by his parents.

He wondered about all the sacrifices his parents must have made, and how much they had gone without, to ensure that Ignatius lacked nothing as he grew up.

Father Ignatius then brought to mind the day when, as a young man, he built up the courage to tell his parents after the evening meal that he had decided he wished to become a priest.

How he had feared their reaction on hearing the news.

Although they were a good Christian family, he often suspected that his father wanted him to take over the small farm he had built up over the years. How would he react to the news that his son would not follow in his footsteps as a farmer?

“Mom … dad … I’ve been thinking and praying about this for a while. I want to become a priest …” were the opening words to an announcement that he dreaded making.

His father just smiled gently and said: “Son … I am proud of you.”

Father Ignatius could hear those words ringing in his ears, as clear as if they’d just been spoken; and he sobbed gently as he remembered his parents now both in Paradise. No doubt looking down on him, and hopefully still proud of him.

He said a silent prayer as he wiped his eyes with his handkerchief.

He then went to his room and put the record on the turntable and one more time let the lyrics come to life.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

History - A load of old bones

 

I had reason to visit our local suburban museum the other day. As I have been accused by some to being somewhat uncultured I decided to spend an hour or so looking around and educating myself in matters which will stand me in good stead in future cultured surroundings.

Here’s what I learnt:

In a large room at the museum there was a collection of various dinosaurs’ skeletons big and small with unpronounceable names such as leptospirosis and tri-cycle-steps; and they all had small labels with the dates of their various ages. One skeleton had no label so I asked the attendant in that room how old it was.

He replied with confidence “It is 230 million years and 9 months and 3 weeks old, Sir.”

“That’s very precise,” I said in amazement.

“Yes Sir,” he said, “I have been working here for 9 months and 3 weeks and it was 230 million years old when I started.”

Now that’s something I didn’t know.

I then moved on to another room which had a lot of human skeletons and different bone parts collected from various places in the world. On a table there were two skulls – a small one and a larger one. The labels both read “Skull of Ivan Eyefull - Marco Polo’s bodyguard”.

I asked the attendant to explain and he told me that one skull belonged to the bodyguard when he was a child and the other when he was a grown man.

It was fortunate that both were found by the same archaeologist in the same excavations in the desert where Marco Polo had a picnic and his bodyguard choked on a fishbone stuck in his throat.

I was amazed at what archaeologists can learn from just a pile of bones. They must be really clever with all their knowledge and research.

The museum attendant, who had knowledge written all over him, (some jokers had done it with permanent ink), told me a story I'll never forget ... You'll probably never forget it too.

He said that an archaeologist was digging in the Negev Desert in Israel and came upon a casket containing a mummy. After opening it carefully he recognised it straight away and he phoned the curator of a prestigious natural history museum. "We've just discovered a 3,000 year old mummy of a man who died of heart failure!" 
 
The curator of the museum quickly sent a team to collect the mummy for thorough examination.

A week later, the amazed curator called the archaeologist. "You were right about the mummy's age and cause of death. How in the world did you know it was heart failure?"

"Simple ... there was a piece of paper in his hand that said - 'put me down for 10,000 Shekels on Goliath'."

I also discovered something else when visiting our local museum:

Statistics of marriages and divorces over the years show that archaeologists make the best spouses. The older you get the more interested they are in you.