Friday, 31 January 2014

Dog Food lands me in hospital

At the supermarket today buying a bag of Woof dog food for my dog.
Whilst at the check-out line a woman behind me asked if I had a dog.
Why else would I be buying dog food, RIGHT ???
So on impulse I told her that no, I didn't have a dog, I was starting the Woof Diet again, and that I probably shouldn't because I ended up in the hospital last time; but that I'd lost 50 pounds before I awakened in intensive care with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms. 
I told her that it was essentially a Perfect Diet and all you do is load your pockets with Woof Nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. The food is nutritionally complete so it works well and I was going to try it again.
(I have to mention here that practically everyone in line was now enthralled with my story.)
Horrified, she asked if I ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me.
I told her no, I stepped off a curb to sniff a poodle's butt and a car hit me.
I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack he was laughing so hard.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Man's instructions. God's instructions.


I don't know about you but I'm getting rather confused with all the instructions or rules written for us by so called experts and people in authority.

My problem is that these instructions are often unclear and open to interpretation with, for me, perplexing and/or dire results.

Let me give you some examples.

I bought a large "Family Pack" of already shelled almonds and cashew nuts. Enough for all of us to enjoy whilst watching the slimming programs on TV. It said on the packet "Once opened keep cool and dry and away from sunlight and strong odours". But it doesn't say what to do to keep the nuts fresh. How can the fact that I keep cool, dry and so on affect the freshness of the nuts?

Another confusing instruction came with a packet of quick-cook rice. The writing on the packet said “Take sachet out of packet and stand in boiling water for 10 minutes”. I did that and burnt my feet.

I also read in my Cookery Recipe Book that to avoid tears whilst peeling and cutting onions you should do it under water. It works, but you have to come up for air every few seconds.

Even my doctor can be unclear with his instructions. I told him that I get a pain in my eye every time I drink coffee or tea. He said: Take the spoon out of the cup first.

This same doctor advised a friend of mine suffering from rheumatism to keep away from all dampness. Now he sits in the bath and vacuum cleans himself. 

God's instructions on the other hand are quite clear.

When He gave us the Ten Commandments He meant just that: ten rules or instructions for us to follow in our lives.

He did not mean ten suggestions or proposals for us to debate and alter to suit our selfish modern lifestyles.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Why bother to Blog?

Here we go again. Blogging week in week out with very few, if any comments, and "followers". Makes you wonder why we bother to Blog!

We really never get to know who visits our Blogs and never leave a comment.

Comments often tend to be from the same loyal and friendly readers and, welcome as they are, we'd all like to see new visitors and commenters if we're really honest with ourselves.

It's good of course to have our loyal readers encouraging us and supporting us in what we write. And it's also good and polite for us to reply to their comments on our Blogs; and to visit them on their Blogs and comment there.

It all builds up and strengthens an Internet Community of like-minded Christians spreading the Good News of God. These are real people at the other computer far away from you; not just names and avatars on our own computer screens!

But as I said eralier, we never get to know those people who visit us and never leave a comment. The silent visitor reading what we write without our knowledge and moving away without saying a word. What's on their mind, I wonder, when they read what we've written.

To some, what we write can turn out to be very important indeed. There are many people "out there" who have never heard of God or Jesus and what we write on our Blogs could very well be the first time they get to hear about Christ.

Let us not assume that everyone everywhere knows about God or believes in Him even.

It could very well happen that what we've written starts an interest in an individual far away and perhaps encourage him or her to learn more about God. Our Blog could well be a starting point, the first few steps, of a journey of discovery into Christianity.

What a priviledge that is. To learn that our Blog has brought someone to Christ. Can you imagine that? What we've written has made someone to get to experience the love of God.
 
If only one person turns to Christ because of our writing ... just one person ... then all of our posts over the years would have been worthwhile.

Of course, we'll never know this; and the chances are we will never meet that one person who was introduced to and found Jesus through us.

But when we get to meet St Peter at Heaven's Gate he will look at his computer database - I'm reliably informed he no longer uses old parchment papers ... less reliable!

Anyway, Peter will look at his computer monitor and say "Do you remember that post you wrote all those years ago? Well, it brought one person to Christ and Heaven!"

And that should bring a smile to our face, and his.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

God in adversity

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).

Thursday, 23 January 2014

There was a woman in my bed



It was late in the evening when I entered my hotel room. It had been a long day at work with one meeting following another, and then I had to attend a Conference where they discussed ways to extrapolate sales and costs figures against profits in order to estimate how many paper clips we’ll need five years from now. It was so exhilarating that I could not sleep at all throughout the Conference.

Anyway, I got to my hotel room late and got myself in by using one of those electronic cards you put in a slot and the door opens. I did not bother to switch all lights on. A small light shone from a nearby table-lamp and this was enough. I intended to fall into bed and dream of better days.

As I took my jacket off a man got out of the en-suite bathroom in his pajamas. Why he had an en-suite bathroom in his pajamas I do not know. Maybe he was rich and could afford an en-suite bathroom in his pajamas; whilst the rest of us have to be content with an elastic band or a cord to keep our pajama pants up.

I don’t know what nationality he was, but as soon as he saw me the man said: “Qui ĂȘtes-vous? Que faites-vous ici?”

I know exactly what he said because I remember writing it down at the time. I then took out a dictionary to translate but could not understand a word. It was an Italian dictionary.

The man shouted at me and beckoned me to get out of my room. At which point an enormously rotund woman got up from my bed and she too started shouting at me “Allez-vous en!  Allez-vous en!” and waving her hands in the air. 

I wrote that down too but could not find a translation in my Italian dictionary.                             .

I picked up my jacket and as I turned to get out I accidentally knocked a large whicker basket which was on the table beside me. The top of the basket opened and a flock of pigeons came flying out into the room. They flew everywhere, trying to land on something high up. Luckily the bedroom door was shut and they eventually settled on the wardrobe, hanged from the chandelier, (it was a posh hotel), and one settled on the man’s head.

There was cooing and flapping of wings everywhere. A few feathers floated in the air before settling to the ground. The pigeons did what most animals do when frightened and started leaving deposits everywhere. Including on the man’s head.

I was totally stunned by what had just happened and stood perfectly still. The rotund woman picked up the phone on the bedside table and started shouting in broken English “pee john pee john …”

Moments later a hotel porter entered the room and disturbed all the pigeons which started flying all over again and dropping deposits all over the place.

We waited until they had settled down and then he asked me “Why do you have pigeons in your room, Sir? Pets are not allowed in this hotel!”

I was astounded that he asked me about the pigeons and had totally ignored the fact that I also had a rotund woman in my bed and a man with an en-suite bathroom in his pajamas.

He asked for my electronic card which he tested on the door. It worked. He then took the man’s electronic card. It worked too.

You guessed it. It was a double booking and we’d both been given the same cards.

I picked up my luggage and was moved to another room.

By now you may be asking why there were pigeons in a wicker basket in my room.

Simple.

I was told the man was a magician and he used the pigeons in his act by making them appear and disappear out of a hat. Apparently his wife, whilst younger and less rotund, was a stripper and she too used the pigeons in her act. For an encore the pigeons used to take their feathers off!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Blessed are the poor


Once upon a time there was an old man in his nineties living alone in a small cottage in the countryside. He'd farmed there all his life and now he spent the rest of his days there with a dog as old as he.

Once a week a friend visited him for a while for a chat and to help around the house. Just for fun, the old man gave his friend £1 a week to buy him a lottery ticket.

This went on for ages and the friend always checked the old man's lottery ticket for any winnings. One day to his surprise he discovered the old man won £2m.

He was both pleased and very concerned about this. If he told the old man of the winnings the shock could easily kill him.

So he went to the priest for advice and after much debate he convinced the priest that he was better placed to break the news to the old man. After all, priests are trained for all circumstances.

The priest visited the old man and after enjoying a cup of tea and biscuits he approached the subject carefully as the old man was seated down comfortably.

"Life certainly has its twists and turns" started the priest, "and you've certainly seen many in your life I should say!"

The old man nodded.

"Imagine" continued the priest, "another unexpected twist. Imagine ... say ... you won £2m in the lottery. What would you do?"

The old man smiled and said "At my age I've outlived all my relatives and I have few friends to speak of. I suppose if I won £2m I'd give it all to you."

On hearing this the priest had a heart attack and died.

And the moral of the story is:

When you're a certain age never play the lottery.

No ... that's not it.

The moral of the story is never give a priest £2m.

No ... that's not it either. I'm sure there's a moral here but I don't get it.

Sometimes it pays to know when we're already happy.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Intrepid Gertrude



We went as a family to a town not so far away for a short holiday break. It was also an opportunity to take our Australian Auntie Gertrude out sightseeing.

One evening, whilst the rest of the family decided to stay in the hotel, Auntie and I took the bus to town to visit the museum. Afterwards we decided to go for a short walk in a nearby park and perhaps enjoy a meal in a restaurant before going back to the hotel.

Despite her outspoken personality Auntie Gertrude can be quite nice at times and good company. Especially when reminiscing on times past when as a young woman she went to Australia to start a new life.

It was early dusk as we walked through the park when suddenly, out of the bushes, a young man stepped out towards us brandishing a small knife.

“Quick … give me your wallet mister!” He said menacingly waving his hand left and right.

I froze and felt my knees starting to tremble a little.

“Call that a knife, cobber?” said Auntie, for ever not knowing when to keep quiet, “ye’re pathetic mate, and ought to be ashamed of yourself! In Australia we use such a small blade to pick food from our teeth!”

The young man kept eyeing us both and moving his hand left and right ready to thrust the knife forward.

“Hurry up. Give me your wallet!” he threatened moving his hand slightly forward towards me.

I was really frightened by the whole experience and must have cried a little because I felt tears trickling down my leg.

“You too old woman …” he said, “give me your handbag!”

“No worries mate,” replied Auntie, “you can have it!”  

And with that she swung the handbag in the air and hit him right in the face.

I don’t know what she carries in that bag; six cans of amber nectar for all I know. But as soon as it hit him the man fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

“You’ve killed him!” I exclaimed.

The man attempted to get up and reach out for the knife which he had dropped.

Auntie quickly stepped on his hand with her foot. For some reason she always wears slightly raised shoes with a heavy heel the size of a small brick.

The man screamed in agony.

“Quick cobber!” she cried out, “grab the knife!”

As I picked up the knife she quickly walked away towards the exit of the park. I followed her as fast as I could and eventually threw the knife in one of the bushes.

By the time I reached her she’d already stopped a taxi.

I said nothing throughout the journey. And to be fair she did not mention the incident at all. Not even to the rest of the family when we got to the hotel.

“Come on cobber,” she said, “let’s call the family and gather in the restaurant. I’m so hungry I could eat a kangaroo!”

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Silly Dreams of Shakespearean origin

We all have dreams from time to time. Some are dramatic and perhaps disturbing, whilst others are easily forgotten or not remembered at all when we wake up.
 
Have you ever dreamt that you were a chicken wearing a pin striped suit to work and they would not let you in because your tie was the wrong color?

Or dreamt that you went to see a hypnotist to cure you of the compulsion to visit hypnotists?

Whilst at the hypnotist you asked him also to cure you of your fear of heights? He did so; and when you woke up you were on top of the cupboard?

No? Never had such dreams?

Well, neither have I.

My dreams tend to be memorable. Last week I dreamt that I was in a marshmallow factory, a bit like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book by Roald Dahl.

Anyway ... I dreamt I was in a marshmallow factory and when I woke up I'd eaten the pillow.

I remember being told off in the morning for ruining the pillow!

The best dreams of course are those that inspire us to greater things. They can be dreams we have when asleep or indeed something we think about when awake and mull over in our minds and spur us into action.

Many a great idea started with a day dream, an inspiration, a word of encouragement ...

The ideal dream is to make life better for someone else. It need not necessarily be a big thing that you do. Perhaps a kindness to someone. A smile. A helping hand.

For when our time is at an end, we should not be remembered for who we have been, but for what we have done.

You're the best friend ...


You've been here beside me and shared all my dreams through the years
We’ve shared all the laughter and sometime you dried all my tears
You stood close beside me and held me when good times turned bad
I need you to know you're the best friend that I've ever had

Together we've laughed as we walked hand in hand in the rain
All the good times we've had comes back to my memory again
Now as the years pass they're turning from silver to gold
I pray we will share them together as we're growing old

You're my best friend the one friend I know will be there come what may
You're the one I depend on the one friend I turn to each day
So if sometimes I hurt you and the things that I say makes you sad
Remember I love you and you're the best friend that I've ever had

Remember I love you and you're the best friend that I've ever had.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The ball of wool

Once upon a time there was a little boy of about ten going home from school. As he crossed through the woods he met an old lady who stopped and talked to him. He told her that he was sad because he was unhappy at school. She gave him a gift of a ball of wool.

"Whenever you're unhappy" she said, "just unwind some of this wool and your unhappiness will pass away!"

For a few days he did nothing with his new gift. But one day he got home really upset because he was being bullied by the other children. He took out the ball of wool and unwound it a few turns to see what would happen.

Suddenly, he was a couple of years older, still at the same school, but no longer bullied.

He was a young teenager now, enjoying school, but he wished he could go out late in the evenings and at weekends with his friends. His parents would not let him do so however out of love and parental caring.

"If only I was a bit older" he thought, "then my parents would allow me to go out whenever I want!"

He unwound a few more turns of the ball of wool and he was soon nineteen years old; a young man able to drive and go out with friends. 

He got to like a particular young lady he met at college and wished they could date. But he was still a student, he did not have a steady job and money to buy her all the gifts he thought she deserved; and go on holidays together and enjoy themselves.

A few more turns of the ball of wool and he was in his late twenties.

Married to the girl of his dreams and with a young family. A good job and a beautiful house. But the young children were a bit of a problem. The baby up all night, the older toddler wanting to play all the time, teething problems, childhood sickness, and all the difficulties one has with a young family that obscured his real happiness and joy. He was always tired in the mornings not having slept all night because of the baby crying. His wife tried her best to raise the family and keep home, but somehow life was difficult for all of them with all the chores one has to do.

"If only the children were a bit older" he thought; and a few more turns of the ball of wool and the kids were about eleven and nine. But sadly at this time his father became very ill and died.

The young man was totally distraught and could not get over his father's death. He lost all interest in family, work, and life in general.

"Make the pain go away" he cried as he unwound a few more turns of the ball of wool.

The children were much older now and studying at University. His hairs had gone grey a little and he struggled to go to work every day, having to drive long distances and cope with ever increasing responsibilites. He also suffered from a few minor pains and aches one gets as one gets older. His mother had grown older too and was frequently unwell. As a good son he often took her to the doctor's and for frequent hospital visits. This added to his ever increasing workload.

He felt sorry for his mother in old age, he felt sorry for his wife also getting older and struggling a little with daily life, he worried about his children having left the nest and taking their first steps into adult life. He became concerned as to how much longer he could keep working with his many ailments.

He unwound the ball of wool a little more to get out of his meloncholy.

As he did so, his mother grew ever so older and eventually died.

This tragedy broke his heart more than losing his father. His children had grown up and moved away with families of their own. His wife was grey haired too and ever lovingly by his side. His minor pains and aches had developed into painful ailments and illnesses requiring constant care and medication. It was now his turn to visit doctors and hospitals for frequent check-ups.

He became ever so sad at having lost his parents and children so far away from home that he rarely saw them. He longed to be with his grandchildren but they lived so far that he could not manage the travelling involved.

Every day became a struggle as he stayed at home nursing his many ailments and being looked after by his loving wife. He regretted his state of affairs and the fact that life could not be better.

One night, sitting in his room, he held the ball of wool now no bigger than his thumb in his trembling weak hands, and wondered where all the years had gone. He cursed the old lady who gave it to him as a gift all that long ago.

In his tiredness he fell asleep and the ball of wool fell to the ground and unwound itself completely. With a last gasp of breath he died.

The little boy of ten had lived all his life in a matter of weeks.

MORAL OF THE STORY

Know when you are really happy and thank God for it.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

No door-to-door salesmen in Heaven

A door-to-door salesman called on me the other day and he was selling doors.

He had three doors strapped on his back to show potential clients the different qualities available; and he was also carrying two suitcases. One was full of locks and handles for clients to choose, and the other case was full of hinges of different sizes and materials.

As he stooped down to place the two suitcases he was carrying on the ground, he bent forward a little, and the doors on his back hit me hard on the forehead.

I had a cut on my head and it started bleeding.

"Do you have any Band-Aid and bandage dressing?" he asked.

"Do you need some too?" I replied, "where did you hurt yourself?"

"Not for me ... for you ..." he said. "Anyway ... it's stopped bleeding now and I'm glad you didn't damage my doors."

He then unstrapped the three doors off his back and proceeded to explain how well made they were. One was made of oak, another of mahogany, and the third was cheap plastic in case I couldn't afford the other two.

"It's the de-lux economy version ..." he called it.

I explained that I already had a door which suited me quite nicely, thank you.

He suggested I buy a door as a spare in case something happened to my existing front door. Or alternatively I could replace my existing door which, he said, looked rather cheap and lowered the tone of the neighborhood.

Before I could protest at his insult he opened both suitcases and showed me all the beautiful brass hinges, or steel ones if I'd prefer, and the many locks and door handles which would fit any of the three model doors he was carrying.

It was impossible to get rid of him, even though I politely told him more than once that I had a lifetime supply of doors in my house - front door, back door and a door to every room in the house.

Eventually, he left with no sale.

But he reminded me of another soul-to-soul salesman. He is more subtle in his technique. He leads us to believe that what he is tempting us with is actually what we really want and need and desire. He finds out our weakness and vulnerability and in time makes us believe that what we wish for is really not a sin at all.

I bet he could sell us as many doors as he wants and make us feel that we could not possibly do without them!

I then wondered! Are there cloud-to-cloud salesmen in Heaven? Will they call on me and offer to re-tune my harp?

Friday, 10 January 2014

The leaning tree



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.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Have you heard the one about ...

The comedian stood on the stage and shouted "12".

And the audience laughed in unison.

He then said "15" and they laughed even louder.

He cried out "23" and they stamped their feet with delight as they laughed and applauded.

He continued with his repertoire "24 ... 33 ... 39 ..." and the audience were in tears with laughter as he kept calling out various numbers.

After about fifteen minutes or so on stage I asked him afterwards in his room what all that was about.

He explained, "This is a very loyal audience who follow me everywhere wherever I do a show. Over the years they got to know all my jokes and they enjoy hearing them over and again. In order to make the show go faster, and so that I can pack in more jokes, I have printed them all out and numbered them. The audience have memorised all the jokes. Now all I have to do is call out the number, they remember the joke, and laugh at it!"

I was amazed at what he had just said. "Why ..." I asked hesitantly, "why did they not laugh when you said 42?"

"They had not heard that joke before!" he answered.

Over the passed few days we have heard the story of Christmas read out in church several times.

A pregnant Virgin and her husband go to Bethlehem on a donkey. There is no room in the inn. They go to the stable where a baby is born and placed in a manger. An Angel appears to shepherds and announces the Birth; and a star guides three Kings from the East to the stable.

We've all heard the story many times before and no doubt we will hear it again next Christmas and beyond.

Is it yet another old story from folklore which tradition repeats every twelve months and, like that comedian's audience, we remember once again and smile silently as we celebrate with family and friends?

Or is it perhaps something more important than that? In fact, the most important event that has ever happened in the history of the world.

God, the Creator of the whole Universe and what is in it and beyond it, loved us so much that He decided to make Himself flesh and visit us on earth as a human being.

I wonder how many people, as they celebrate the "12" days of Christmas from the 25th to the 6th, stop for a moment and really and seriously think about the awesomeness that this event really means?  

1? ... 3? ... 7? ... 100? ... More?

Monday, 6 January 2014

Theodore's Mince

It was just after Christmas day when Theodore Luxton-Joyce called on Father Ignatius at the Parish House to return a book he had borrowed. The priest was not at home so Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, invited Theodore for a cup of tea and a slice or two of her best Dundee cake in the kitchen whilst she was preparing the day’s meal.

“I say this is a decent piece of cake … what?” exclaimed Theodore, “better than any I have ever tasted … did you make it yourself Mrs D?”

“Of course …” she said with a smile big enough to brighten up a cold and grey winter day.

“Then you’ll have to give the recipe to our cook,” replied Theodore helping himself to another slice of cake, “then perhaps we’d have a decent slice of cake more often … what?

“I’ve often said to my dear wife Rose, if you were not the housekeeper here I’d have you in charge of the kitchen up at the mansion in no time … But I suppose the poor Padre deserves a decent meal every now and then … and it’s a good thing you’re here to look after him!”

Mrs Davenport was now glowing with pride as she brought Theodore a plate full of her latest batch of mince pies which she had just made.

“I’ve made these too …” she said rather coyly.

“By Jove … you’re a marvel Mrs D … have you made the mince meat too?”

“But of course,” she replied very pleased with herself, “I use a secret recipe my grandmother gave our family. I mix together raisins, currants, sultanas, orange and lemon peel, honey, sugar and spices, a little salt, suet to hold it all together, and to give it a little crunchiness I add crushed walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pecans … and for extra taste I put a generous measure of whisky AND brandy! Not many people do that!”

At this very point Father Ignatius came into the kitchen.

“Ah … Mrs Davenport’s famous mince pies …” he exclaimed as he picked one from the plate. “Better than any you can buy at the finest establishments in London or anywhere else. Royalty doesn’t know what it’s missing, Theodore!

“Mrs Davenport makes her own mince meat, you know. A secret recipe she’ll reveal to no one … Even the Bishop remarked the other day on the excellence of these pies!

“Which reminds me … I have to visit the Bishop today. I’ll be going in about an hour or so … I have some paper work to deal with first. Could I take two jars of your mince meat for the Bishop Mrs Davenport?”

And with that, the priest picked another pie and went up to his office.

Mrs Davenport’s warm prideful glow turned into an ashen gray as if she was at death’s door, as she sat down on a nearby chair.

“What is the matter?” asked Theodore, “you suddenly look as if you’ve seen a ghost … what!”

“If only I had, Mr Joyce,” she lamented, “it’s worse than that. I’ve no jars of mince meat left. I made twenty five two days ago and some went in the pies whilst others were given away …”

“Calamity indeed …” exclaimed Theodore … “but all may not be lost … what? Is this the jar you use?” he asked picking up an open jar of mince meat.

“Yes … it’s an ordinary jar. Then I make my own labels with the words ‘Mrs Davenport’s Mince Meat’ and I stick them on the jars.”

“All is not lost indeed …” cried Theodore as he stood up suddenly knocking the chair over as he did so, “you make two more labels Mrs D … I’ll be back presently.”

Before she had time to ask him he’d rushed out of the kitchen as fast as he could and promptly ran as quickly as his old legs could manage, avoiding slipping in the thick snow, and went to the grocery shop across the road.

Moments later he returned to the kitchen with two of the best quality mince meat jars that money can buy.

“Not up to the standard of your recipe …” he declared, “I’ll soon have these labels off by soaking the jars in some water … then we can put your labels on!”

“But … but, that’s cheating …” she hesitated.

“Cheating … what? Of course not! Would you have the poor old Padre heartbroken as he drove gift-less to the Bishop? The wise men brought with them great gifts all those years ago … and our Padre will take to the Bishop something no less valuable. Not as good as your original, mind you! But he’ll never know!

“And the Bishop … well, he lives from day to day pining for a spoonful of your mince meat to spread on his hot tea cakes and muffins.

“So you’d be doing two men of the cloth a great favor … think of all the days off Purgatory that would buy you!”

Before Mrs Davenport could protest some more, Theodore’s enthusiasm had the old labels off the two bought jars of mince and Mrs D’s labels stuck on.

He was drying out the jars carefully of any smudges of glue when Father Ignatius came in the kitchen with briefcase in hand. 

“Ah … you’ve got me your mince meat” he said placing the jars in his case carefully, “thank you Mrs Davenport … the Bishop will be delighted I’m sure … you’re a Saint!”

Theodore waited until he heard the priest drive off and then he beamed “Did you hear that Mrs D … the Bishop will be delighted … you’re a Saint!”

He chuckled to himself as he drove off to his mansion on the hill.

A few days later Father Ignatius took Theodore aside after Mass on Sunday.

“Have you anything to confess?” he asked him gently.

“Ehm … no Padre! I’m far too busy to sin … what!”

“Something about two jars of mince meat, perhaps?”

“Oh … she told you!”

“The poor lady was beside herself with guilt,” explained the priest, “she told me as soon as I returned from the Bishop’s.

“You implicated me in your deceit knowing full well she did not make those two jars!”

“Not the jars … what! I doubt Mrs D is any good at glass-making …” said Theodore feebly.

“You know full well what I mean.” continued Father Ignatius, “you leave me no choice but to absolve you of your well-meaning sin and for your penance I suggest you apologize to Mrs Davenport.”

“I’ll do better than that …” declared Theodore, “I’ll buy her a huge box of chocolates … women forgive you easier with chocolates … what!”

He jumped in his car as he left a smiling Father Ignatius waving him goodbye.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Distant Kings? Distant God?

 
At prayer meeting the other day a newcomer, a middle aged man we’d never met before, said he was about to celebrate his 27th Wedding Anniversary. We all congratulated him.

He said like all marriages, his had its ups and downs, including arguments and silent treatments, but overall it was OK. For their 25th Anniversary he took his wife to Paris. He said the last two years were the happiest of his marriage.

“How will you celebrate your 27th?” he was asked.

“I’m returning to Paris to bring the wife back!”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder – they say. Or - out of sight out of mind.

It all depends on your point of view.

Sometimes, wrongly, we feel God has ignored us. He is not listening. Abandoned us even. So we give Him the silent treatment. Stop praying. Stop going to church. And eventually we may drift away. We become distant. Out of sight, and out of prayer, is out of mind too.

If only we stop and think. When we feel distanced from God it is only because we have moved away. He has not left us. He is always there. Ready to welcome us back in His arms with love and forgiveness.

The three wise men followed a star and travelled a long distance to find God. May we too follow our Faith and realise that God is only a prayer away.
 
I will be with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Aunt Gertrude's New Year.



New Year’s Eve in our household was a pretty low key affair. A few friends came round and everyone was gathered in the front room chatting, listening to music and enjoying lovely mince pies, fruit cakes and a selection of drinks.

A few minutes before midnight I went to the kitchen to get something and there was Aunt Gertrude, our Australian Aunt who has been staying with us for a (long) time.

“Are you doing first footing, cobber?” she asked.

Let me explain. It is a Scottish tradition that after midnight on New Year’s Eve the first person to enter a house would bring good fortune for the coming year. The "first footer" is often a stranger (neighbour or friend) who would bring with him some gifts like a coin which represents financial stability, some bread for food throughout the year, salt to represent flavour, a piece coal for warmth and a drink, usually whisky, for good cheer.

Sometimes a member of the household, usually a male, would leave the house just before midnight, and then knock at the door and enter after midnight bearing the said gifts.

“No … I’m not doing first footing,” I replied, “It's snowing. It’s too cold and I live here. I’m not a stranger!”

“Of course you are,” she replied “you’re very strange. I’ve never known someone more strange than you! Positively weird, I’d say!”

As I was adamant not to go out in the freezing cold Aunt Gertrude decided to go out instead. She gathered the said gifts in a bag and went out in the front garden.

At about midnight the phone rang which I answered. It was some Australian relatives phoning to wish us a Happy New Year. I got on talking with them and forgot about Aunt Gertrude outside in the cold snow.

At midnight everyone in the front room cheered and started singing Auld Lang Syne and other songs. Someone started playing the bagpipes.

I heard the front door ring but I ignored it and continued my phone conversation, believing that someone else would answer it.

The singing and cheering went on for about half-an-hour when our guests decided to leave.

As the household quietened down a little we all realized that Aunt Gertrude was missing. Where could she possibly be? Gone back to Australia? Hopefully!

I then remembered that the last time I’d seen her was when she went out before midnight to prepare to first-foot the New Year.

“Did you not answer the bell when she rang?” I asked.

“No … why didn’t you? You were here by the phone!”

This was no time for recrimination. It was time to find a missing Aunt Gertrude. Possibly turned into a snowman in the front garden with all this freezing snow which just would not stop.

We went out to look for her. She was nowhere to be seen. Not in the front or back garden or in the street either. And she definitely was not in the house.

What do we do? Phone the police and say we lost an Aunt?

“No officer, not an ant … an aunt … our auntie … She's Australian ... Her name is Gertrude ... no ... we do not have an Australian pet insect called Gertrude ... She's an aunt ... not ant ... She's a female Uncle Gertrude ... Does she have any distinguishing features? ... She has a very pronounced Australian accent which can be quite grating and annoying in her own way. When did she go missing? well ... we haven't seen her since last year ... which was only about an hour ago ... An hour is not enough to declare someone missing? Believe me ... I wish she'd been missing for longer ... she came here to visit some time ago and I've aged a lot since ... wait a minute officer ...”

Just then, the front door bell rang. It was Aunt Gertrude. Apparently she got tired waiting outside in the cold so she went first-footing at our neighbour’s house. They welcomed her in and she’d been enjoying their hospitality for the last hour.

“They have better whisky than you, cobber!” she said as she went up to her room.