Saturday, 30 November 2019

Floating Memories In My Mind

It will soon be Christmas. Time for preparations. Spiritual as well as more mundane preparations like decorating the house, buying presents, food, drinks and so on. Sending Christmas cards. Meeting friends and relatives, going to parties, and so on and on.

Every so often in life we all find ourselves sitting back and remembering times gone by and perhaps weighing up past events against what is likely to happen in the future.

Certain occasions seem to trigger such reveries from the many dark corners of our minds. It could be at the time around Christmas or the New Year when we look back wistfully at the year just ended and wonder what the next twelve months will bring. Or it could be at the time of one's birthday, or other anniversary like a wedding anniversary, or 25 or so years in marriage, that these memories come floating by to the front of  your head and keeps you pondering.

Imagine for instance you're lying there in your bath, relaxing amongst the soap bubbles and warm water, perhaps reading one of my books, when suddenly a thought strikes you from nowhere ...

Which is in fact precisely what happened to me the other day ... ... ...
There I was, enjoying a warm bath and a good read, when somehow my thoughts turned to death. I don't know why such thoughts crossed my mind but I wondered what happens after death.

I know what we are taught about eternal life and the here-after; but somehow I wondered what if there actually was re-incarnation? Can you imagine? Returning back as a tin of evaporated milk?

It was made from contented cows, you know!
How did the cows know to stop when the tin of milk was full? Did they stop in mid flow, I wondered.

Also, how do chickens know the precise size of the egg cup when we have soft-boiled eggs?

And why is it when I am sitting there in the bath, or you are sitting there in the bath ... another bath of course, not the one I am in ... why is it that the soap bubbles gather in groups here, there and elsewhere? Why can't they all gather together in one big group? What if you add more liquid soap? Would there be more bubbles than water in your bath?

What comes first? Do you put the liquid soap in the bath first and then add the water? Or do you run the water in the bath and add the soap afterwards?

It's like the chicken and egg situation, although I would advise you don't have a chicken with you in the bath. Or an egg for that matter.

Anyway, about animals in Heaven ...

Can you imagine meeting that wasp, or yellowjacket, you killed last summer when you're in Heaven? It might well sting you in the backside in revenge; because they don't wear anything under those long robes they give you in Heaven, you know!
I imagined Saint Peter warning me about the yellowjackets and me holding my legs tightly together to protect my manhood.

That made the bubbles in my bath move to one side.

By the way, did you hear about the hypochondriac mosquito? She died of malaria!

Somehow, the thought made me smile and then laugh out loud.

What is laughter? I asked myself, but did not reply.

I thought about it for a while. It is a build up of energy that starts somewhere deep within one's diagram, (just above the belly button), and rushes up your asparagus, and comes out as a loud noise out of your mouth.

From anywhere else and you're in trouble!

Anyway, this train of thoughts somehow took a turning back to death and family members now long gone.

I remembered my dear old grandad. He always used to say to me "take every thing with a pinch of salt!" Mind you, he made a terrible cup of tea.

He told me once that when I was born in hospital I was very ugly indeed. Apparently the nurse slapped me on the backside and hit my dad in the mouth.

But as I grew up, like the ugly duckling, I became really good looking. I recall when I worked in London I was stopped in the street by a very beautiful woman who said, "Hello handsome. Can you direct me to the optician please?"

In my reverie, sitting there in the bath, I recalled my dear old uncle. He was a very well educated man and a professor at the local University where he taught graffiti and hooliganism.

He used to tell his students: "Sticks and stones may break my bones. But words will never hurt me!" Then one day a printing press fell on him.

He went to the hardware store once and said to the shop-assistant, "I want a ladder." The assistant asked, "How long do you want it?" My uncle replied, "I want to keep it for ever!"

He was quite a character my uncle. Once he put a cake and custard in his wife's nylon tights and then declared, "Never trifle with a woman's affection!"

My aunt was quite a figure to look at and wonder. A real hour-glass figure, she had. She said she had been on a peanut and melon diet. The peanuts didn't do much good but the melons ...

One night whilst in bed with her husband she said to my uncle, "Set the alarm clock for six!" He replied, "Why? There's only two of us!"

My other uncle was a glazier. You know, a person whose trade is fitting glass into windows and doors. Once, working at this multi-storey block of offices, he spent all day changing the glass in over 100 windows. Then he realised he had a crack in his spectacles.

By this time the water in the bath was getting a little cold and it was time I got out and practised my body-building poses in front of the full length mirror. It reminded me of the time when I went to see the doctor. He asked me, "Do you have trouble passing water?"

I replied, "I get a little dizzy when travelling over a bridge!"

He was a great Shakespearean actor, my doctor. Toured the USA and other countries for years. His favourite role was in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Have you seen his Bottom? Or perhaps caught a glimpse of his Malvolio on the Twelfth Night?

Anyway, enough of me and my bathing memories.

At least they are better than those of yet another uncle of mine. His doctor told him to keep away from all dampness because of his rheumatism. So he sat in an empty bath and vacuum cleaned himself!

Friday, 29 November 2019

It will soon be Christmas

It will soon be CHRISTMAS

Over the next few days I shall be posting mostly Christmas stories to help us all get ready for the Season and to celebrate the birth of our Lord.

Meanwhile, if you'll pardon the advert, 
here are some ideas for Christmas presents for your loved ones.


All books modestly priced.

Some available to download FREE

from WWW.HOLYVISIONS.CO.UK
 

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

What to ask for ...


We sometimes pray for other people. Our spouse, children, grand-children, other relatives and friends. We pray for good health, a happy life, a good job and marriage, and many other good things we wish for the people we love.

But then ... God knows the needs of these people. It is good that we pray for them. It shows a generosity of spirit on our part and a love for others.

Would it not be far better to pray for something that is also God's wish for these people?

This way our prayers and God's wish would be in tune; and it would be perhaps more likely that our prayers may be answered.

God's wish is that everyone of us should get to know and experience His love. But He has given us free will. It is our choice whether we respond to His love or not. To experience it or not.

So let us pray that everyone we love and care for should get to know the Lord and to experience His love.

Some may have gone astray, like the lost sheep. Others perhaps not. But our prayers that they may focus their lives on the Lord our Saviour would be the greatest gift we could possibly give them.

I thank you, dear friends and readers, as you gather with your families to celebrate Thanksgiving, for all the support and encouragement you have given me.

May God be with you always and bless you and your loved ones.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Undercover Boss

I'm sure you've all seen or heard of the TV Series called "Undercover Boss" which has been franchised in many countries.

The idea is that a Chief Executive Officer, or senior manager, of a large organisation visits various outlets of their own company in disguise to find out how things really work at the customer end of the business. They pretend to be working there, but all the time they are studying how their employees work and reward the good ones, or re-direct the not so good onto the right path.

It's a great programme, because senior managers find out how their policies developed at boardroom level are implemented by their employees, and how this affects the whole running of the organisation. Usually, senior managers and CEOs meet really hard-working and devoted staff, whom they reward afterwards when they meet them again in the boardroom and they identify themselves. Sometimes, they meet employees who fail to meet the grade.

Imagine ... that Jesus came into our lives in disguise. He would not be wearing the long robe we associate with Him as we see in the movies. Or have long hair and a beard. Or a kind smile.

He would probably look like a beggar starving in the street and asking us for some money.

Or a sick person in hospital with no one to visit him.

Or an elderly person living alone and no longer able to do simple tasks like cooking for themselves, going out shopping, or cleaning the house. Or someone just wanting company and another voice to hear in the house and to talk to, instead of having the TV or radio always on just for company.

There are so many other disguises Jesus could use in our lives. Like the new inexperienced employee at work not sure what to do and how to get on.

Or the quiet wallflower at a party sitting silently in the corner not speaking with anyone nor mixing with any body.

There are so many disguises He could use.

And when He takes off his disguise and we see Him as He truly is ... what would He say gently and calmly to us?

"Thank you for being so kind to me and for reading to me whilst I was sick in hospital."

"I am so grateful that you found the time to visit me at home and help me with the cooking. Or just chatting with me for a while. I so looked forwards to our little chats. Sometimes, when I am alone and don't speak to anyone for hours on end my throat dries up and I have to cough to clear the dryness. I often speak to the people on the radio just to hear the sound of my own voice. Your visits were the only company I ever had!"

Or will Jesus say to us ...

"Why did you ignore me when I was freezing in the cold sitting on the wet ground in the street?"

"Depart from Me ... For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me." Matthew 25:41-43.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Adultery


Once upon a time there was a priest who got fed up with the number of parishioners who confessed that they committed adultery. Every week, in the confessional, it was the same thing - adultery.

One Sunday he said in his sermon that he was angry about this continuous sin of adultery amongst his congregation. He promised that if he heard this sin one more time he'd give up the priesthood and leave town for ever.

His congregation loved him and did not want to lose him. They agreed a secret code amongst themselves. From now on, instead of saying they committed adultery, they would say they have "fallen".

All went well for years until eventualy the bishop moved the priest to another Parish and replaced him with a new one.

The new priest did not know the code. He was most disturbed that so many parishioners kept falling so he complained to the Mayor that the sidewalks in town are un-even and that he should do something about it to stop people from falling.

The Mayor, knowing the code, laughed out loudly.

The priest said: "I don't know what you're laughing about. Your wife fell three times this week."

Do you remember when the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery?

According to Jewish law she had to be stoned to death for that sin. We’re told in the Gospel of John that Jesus wrote in the sand with His finger. We’re not told what He wrote. I guess He wrote ‘Dear God … will they never learn?’

But that’s not important; what is important is that after He said let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone, and when they all left one by one, Jesus turned to the woman and asked ‘Is there no one left to condemn you?’

She said ‘No one …’

And Jesus replied ‘I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.’

Now Jesus did not mean do not sin any sin whatsoever ever again for the rest of your life!

He knew that that would be impossible. The woman was human, and it is natural that she would sin again. Jesus knows our human nature and He knows that we are liable to sin again and again …

What Jesus said to the woman is, do not commit that particular sin again … it is serious enough to get you into a lot of trouble with the Pharisees as well as with God Himself.

And that’s what Jesus is saying to us today.

He knows we are weak … He knows that we will sin … which is why we have the Holy Sacrament of Confession.

By saying ‘do not sin again’ Jesus is warning us to beware of those particular sins which are serious enough to lead us into damnation, and into an eternity of exclusion from our Father in Heaven.

As we prepare for our weekly confession we need to consider carefully the seriousness of our sins. Which ones are venial sins; and which ones are grave enough to exclude us from God’s ever lasting love.

In our propensity to sin, God is loving and caring enough to forgive us again and again.

But with our confession there should also be remorse and guilt for what we have done. Confession should not be just a laborious recitation of the same old sins; and a futile exercise which serves no one and certainly does not fool God Himself.

Without true remorse, and a genuine resolve not to repeat our sins; then confession means nothing. And it would be better not to go to confession at all. At least that is honest in the eyes of God.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Missing You



Then He led them out of the city as far as Bethany, where He raised His hands and blessed them. As He was blessing them, He departed from them and was taken up into Heaven. Luke 24:50.

After saying this, He was taken up to Heaven as they watched Him, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They still had their eyes fixed on the sky as He went away, when two men dressed in white suddenly stood beside them and said, “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw Him go to Heaven.” Acts 1:9.

A few days after the Resurrection Jesus was raised to Heaven in full sight of His disciples.

Can you imagine how they must have felt?

They’d been with Him for three years or so. Saw Him preach and heal the sick. Witnessed His arrest, death and Resurrection. And now … He was gone.

They must have missed Him very badly as they walked back to their homes. Confusion, fear and doubts must have crossed their minds several times.

He is gone … and He is missed.

Missing somebody is a sign that their presence had an influence on your life, your well-being and your happiness.

Their absence now has created a void in your life. An emptiness, and a longing to be with them once again.

We’ve all missed someone at one time or another in our lives. It is usually someone who has been kind to us.

Are we ever missed when we are no longer there? Have we done something nice to someone who will remember us and miss our presence in their lives?

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Friday, 22 November 2019

I cannot forgive



Father Ignatius got an unexpected confession when sitting in his confessional on Saturday. The unknown voice on the other side of the small window of the wooden confessional said clearly “Father, I cannot forgive!”

The priest waited a second or two before asking “Have you tried to forgive?”

“Yes Father,” said the voice, “I’ve tried and tried and I cannot forgive. I don’t see the point of being here right now. Even if you absolve me, I just cannot forgive!”

Father Ignatius said a quick silent prayer, as he often did when he needed Divine help, and then said “Why don’t you wait in church for a while. After all confessions are over, perhaps we can have a chat and discuss this a bit more!”

When confessions had finished the priest got out of his confessional to find a well-dressed man in a pin-striped suit sitting alone at the front of the church, just by the statue of the Virgin Mary. The very place where Father Ignatius often sits to recite the Rosary.
The priest approached him and asked “Are you waiting to see me?”

Moments later the two men were sitting in the sacristy. The man started “Father, you don’t know me. I don’t come to this church …”

“There is no need to know you …” interrupted Father Ignatius, “feel free to tell me what’s on your mind!”

The man smiled and continued “I’ve had a health scare … the doctors aren’t happy with my condition.

“I’ve come here to make my peace with God, but I just can’t. It got to the point where I cannot say the Lord’s Prayer because of that bit about forgiving others’ sins.”

The priest nodded encouragingly and said nothing.

“Some years ago we had a family dispute,” said the man, “As disputes go this was really a big one … and as you can imagine we were all at fault. Everyone took entrenched positions and every one was of course in the right … as we all thought at the time.

“The result of this is that one individual hurt someone close to me very badly … so badly that it is still affecting their life even now. That individual has now moved on and we no longer communicate. But I cannot forgive the hurt done to my close relative.

“I was hurt too … and somehow I think I can forgive that. I was just as guilty as anyone else I suppose. But I just cannot forgive the hurt that was done, and is still being done, to my close relative who was innocent and not involved in the dispute!”

The man stopped talking. His clenched fists on either side of his body betrayed long-held pent-up anger and frustration.

Once again the priest asked for Divine inspiration in a silent prayer for this stranger and his family.

“Look at that painting on the wall …” he said eventually, “It depicts the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of her Son just as He has been brought down from the Cross.

“Moments earlier He was hanging up there in agony as He breathed His last at the hands of His enemies.

“Moments earlier he had asked His Father to forgive His enemies. I don’t know how He did it. I would probably not have forgiven them had all this happened to me. But He did forgive them. That’s very important.

“Now look at Mary’s face. Look at the pain still in her heart, having witnessed this most cruel of deaths to her innocent Son. She gave birth to Him and raised Him from a baby to the Divine man He became. And now here He is, dead in her arms. Can you imagine the agony of this mother at this particular moment in her life?

“Do you think she forgave the people who did all this? The Pharisees and Sadducees, the Romans and all the enemies of Christ?

“I suppose at the time this painting depicts she probably did not forgive them. We have no way of knowing of course. I’m only guessing. How can a loving mother forgive what has been done to her Son when emotions are still raw and the pain at its most intense?

“But I’m sure that with time she did forgive them. Especially when she saw her Son rise again in Glory.”

The priest stopped for a while, as he often did, to accentuate what he had just said.

“You still hurt …” continued Father Ignatius, “not so much for yourself, but for your close relative who still suffers the wrong done to him or her.

“You know … this is good.

“It is good that you still hurt. It shows a generosity of spirit and a love towards your close relative that is Christ-like.

“I believe that when Jesus met the poor, the destitute, the lame, the blind, deaf, dumb and all those who were ill … even the dead and their grieving relatives. He suffered with them. He felt their pain and their agonies. He took pity on them and He made them better.

“Note that on every occasion … on every occasion … He approached the individual on a personal basis and spoke to them and helped them as individuals.

“He was all powerful. He could have clicked his fingers and all the sick people in the crowd would have been healed.

“But He did not do that. He stopped and approached the blind man shouting His name in the crowd. He talked to the woman who dared touch His gown to be healed.

“Your love for that close relative of yours is portrayed in the way you still carry their hurt. Even though you may not be aware of it!”

The man brought his hand to his eyes pretending to wipe some imaginary dust from his eye lid.

The priest continued “And now … what do we do with the situation regarding your lack of forgiveness towards the person who caused the hurt?”

The man sat straight in his chair.

“In difficult situations I always delegate upwards!” said the priest with a smile. “I ask God for help. I tell Him honestly how I feel and ask for His help and guidance.

“Tell God how you feel about the situation … just as you told me. Tell Him that you find it difficult to forgive and ask Christ’s help, and Mother Mary’s too.

“And when you feel the resentment and anger towards that person who created all this hurt, why not pray for them?

“Just like Jesus, ask God to forgive them. Tell Him you still feel the pain and you would ask Him to forgive them instead. Hold these people up to God.

“The hurt in your heart may never go away; but let it be an opportunity, every time it surfaces, to hand over these people to God and to ask for His forgiveness.”

The man brought his hand to his eye once again and said “It’s very dry in this room … it must be the air-conditioning!”

“I’m sure it is …” replied the priest, “now go in peace and consider yourself absolved.”

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Of Church Mice And Church Men


I visited an old church in the countryside the other evening.

There was this historian giving a talk entitled “The influence of the Church in England from Chaucer to Henry the Eighth and Beyond”.

Given a choice between listening to that lecture and watching an important football match on TV I would choose the lecture every time. You know me, always willing to oblige and to please … Why is it that old fashioned marriage vows included the words “to love and obey”? Was there not a clause about football games in those vows? There should have been!

Anyway, the old historian did not disappoint. He lived up to my every expectation and went on and on giving us every minute detail about this most fascinating subject. He reminded me of one of the priests who visited our church recently; Father Ontoo Long!

He too went on ad infinitum reading his sermon from notes he must have typed on an old type-writer and stopping at every punctuation mark to add boredom to everlasting tedium.

I wondered as I sat there on those hard wooden pews which very soon numb the lower parts of your body … I wondered, if this historian stood side by side with Father Ontoo Long and they talked in unison would they put us to sleep in stereo?

My boredom was soon to be relieved by an unexpected distraction.

I noticed a few feet away just by the radiator standing against the wall a mouse crawling slowly towards me. He’d probably been disturbed by the historian’s monotonous voice, I thought.

The mouse stopped suddenly then ran back towards the wall. No one noticed him except me.

He then walked ever so slowly close to the wall towards the left of the radiator. Then he stopped again. Moments later he was joined by another mouse following a few feet behind. He too stopped and then the first mouse turned round facing the second mouse. They faced each other for a few seconds then the second mouse ran back towards the radiator followed by the first!

I bet those mice are married, I thought. Probably having an argument I shouldn’t wonder. Something like this:

Mr Mouse: Oh … why do we have to go to church every Sunday? That priest is so boring!

Mrs Mouse: We don’t go to church to see the priest. We go to meet God and to pray.

Mr Mouse: But God is everywhere. Why can’t we meet Him at home? I bet He’d love to watch the football match on TV!

At that point a sharp elbow dug deeply into my side and a harsh voice whispered “Stop snoring!”

Oh well … back to Chaucer and Henry the Eighth I suppose. Did they have church mice then?

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Celebrity and Talents

Someone once said something clever about being famous and a celebrity. I can't remember who it was ... perhaps it was me. Or maybe it was someone else ...

Anyway, as I was about to say before I interrupted my train of thoughts ...

Funny things trains ... they're always late I find. Why is that? I read the other day that the train people will rectify their lateness by replacing timetables with calendars. That way they'll be more accurate.

"The train on platform 3 will arrive in London tomorrow!" Now that's more accurate I think.

The other day they said on the loud speaker at the station that the train was late due to shortage of staff. Why can't they recruit taller people?

Now then ... where was I? Oh yes ... someone once said "I could have been very famous if I had a voice like Sinatra's!"

A lot of truth in that. If I could sing like Sinatra or some other great singer I could be famous too.

Personally, I sing well in the shower. But no one appreciates my singing. I am not appreciated in my own time it seems ... or ever. Some neighbours seem to appreciate my singing though. They have broken our windows to hear me better. They even invited the police to my impromptu shower concerts.

Anyway ... about celebrities ... if I could run fast as an Olympic athlete, or play football well, or if I were a great writer, or musician, or an actor, or whatever else passes as worthy of adulation these days, I too could be a famous celebrity recognised and welcome everywhere.

And that's the problem in this modern world of ours. Everyone wants to be famous and a celebrity instantly. Without any hard work, or patience ... instant fame is the name of the game.

Talking of instant ... I read the other day that the scientist who invented an instant laxative has been fired from his job. But I digress.

Whenever you turn on the TV you see youngsters, and not so young people, all hoping to win a talent show and become famous celebrities. Some can't sing, dance, or do anything else to save their lives ... but they all want to be famous.

Does anyone ever stop and think, I wonder, where all the talent comes from?

If someone can sing, dance, play a musical instrument, be great at athletics, play sports well, or be a great businessman, doctor, lawyer, or whatever else ... have they ever wondered where all this talent comes from?

Did they do the slightest thing all by themselves to achieve such greatness?

Didn't God give them all the talents and the ability to do whatever they are good at?

You may have a great voice perhaps. Or the ability to dance, or be good at sports, business, medicine or whatever.

Didn't God give you the brains to be able to study, concentrate, and work wonders in medicine, science or whatever else people are good at? Didn't God give people the good health and good fortune to become in life what they have become today?

Yet ... when you watch famous celebrities on TV ... or aspiring celebrities ... have you notice how many of them are full of themselves and proud of what they have achieved; rather than acknowledging where their talents and abilities come from and thank God for their good fortune.

In the parable of the talents, (Luke 19:11-28), Jesus tells the story of the nobleman who gives his three slaves one coin each. When he returns from his travels he calls the three slaves. One of them has managed to invest his coin and he made ten more coins, the second slave managed to make five more coins, whilst the third has hidden the coin away and returned it with no interest or profit.

The nobleman rewards the two slaves and punishes the one who made nothing.

What Jesus is teaching here is that it is good and worthy to work and become rich. It is good to use our talents, whatever they are, to the full, and for the benefit of us and others. 

But we should not forget where our talents come from.

God gave us all talents to use in order to glorify Him. And it is right that we use our talents to their full extent.

As Jesus said: "No one lights a lamp and hides it under a bowl or puts it under a bed. ... " (Luke 8:16). 

It should be made to shine to honour and glorify God.

Although, personally, I would never put a lamp under a bed as it might start a fire throughout the house. Where's the talent in that?

But I digress once again.

So ... as I was saying ... let's not be shy about our God-given talents; but let's use them wisely for God.

Even if your talent is ... (like mine) ... writing Blogs that nobody reads.

At least Jesus is reading them and chuckling to Himself.

God bless.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

And another thing ...

"And another thing, son ... I know you mean well and all that, but you should stop buying us all these techno gadgets as presents!"

"I'm trying to get you to be modern, dad ..."

"I don't know about modern ... that compooter you got us. Your mom has hardly used it, she thinks it will blow up if she presses the wrong keys. It takes too much space too ..."

"It's called a computer, not compooter ... actually it is a laptop!"

"Laptop? ... ... Laptop? When I was your age boy the only thing I had on my lap was your young mother. Lovely she was. Admittedly she has put on a bit of weight since then but I'd rather have her on my lap than your confounded machine."



"That machine is your gateway to the world, dad ..."

"Gateway my foot ... I don't understand why people should need the tinternit or whatever it's called."

"Internet ... imagine it as a link to every computer in the world. You type about something and you immediately get linked to a computer somewhere with an article about what you asked for. It is also great for sending letters instantly to anyone anywhere in the world."

"And what's wrong with sending letters like old times? If God wanted us to communicate with each other instantly He would have given us a better Postal service. Instead, in olden times, He gave us epistles written on parchments. St Paul, may he rest in peace, and all of them writers, may they also rest in peace, left us words of wisdom on parchment papers for us to read. In perfect English they were too ... They did not write their Gospels on compooters ... that's because they had no electricity then, you see. So they wrote with ink on parchment paper as God intended. Admittedly, He wrote His Commandments on stone tablets. That's because He wanted them to last longer, you understand. Unfortunately, modern people of today have re-interpreted the Commandments to suit their selfish needs."

"Very philosophical, dad!"


"Don't give me none of your lip, boy. And by the way, that telephone machine you got us don't work."

"What do you mean?"

"When I answered the phone the other day, a woman's voice on the machine kept saying we are sorry we cannot take your call please leave a message. Fred who rang us thought he got the wrong number. I told him it was me and he asked me why I had a woman's voice. He thought I sat on something sharp. I tried to explain but the woman's voice kept talking over me. So I pulled the electric plug off the wall to shut her up."

"That woman's voice was your Out-Going Message. It is what people will hear when they phone you and the machine answers the phone. You must have picked up the phone at the same time as the Out-going Message was playing. Let me show you how the machine works, dad ..."

"When I was a young boy my dad used to deliver coal. He was a coal merchant, he was. People phoned him and he delivered coal to warm their house; he used a horse and cart. He had no answering machine. My mom, your gran, used to answer the phone and take the orders for coal. She did not say, your call is important to us, please wait until my husband gets out of the toilet. She took the orders straight away."

"Anything else you'd like to complain about?"

"Look lad, you're a good kid, I know. And you like to make us happy with all your technical gizmos. But we're old fashioned, you see. Take that bedside lamp you bought us ..."

"What's wrong with it?"

"It's supposed to come on and off every time you snap your fingers or clap your hands. It is sound activated you said. Well ... every time I break wind in bed the lights come on. It's like a lighthouse here some nights. And ... it is not very conducive when your mom and I are being friendly ... if you know what I mean!"

"All right dad ... no more ... I can't wipe out the image from my mind. From now on, no more technical gifts. By the way, for Christmas I have signed you up to the yearly World Foods Club."

"What's that?"

"In December you'll get a box of foods from a country. For example it could be Italy, and the box will contain pastas, tomato sauces, raviolis, salamis and so on ..." 

"Oh yeh?"

"And in January you'll get another box delivered with items from France probably. It will contain frogs legs, snails, French cheeses, that sort of thing."

"How long will this go on for?"

"A whole year. Every month you'll get a different box with foods from a different country. Pies from England, stuffed vine leaves from Greece, bratwurst from Germany and so on ..."

"You're mad, son ... a whole year of foreign foods. What's wrong with our own wholesome food?  Better cancel it quick. It's bad enough me having to put up with your mother's cooking without her experimenting with something different each month."

Monday, 18 November 2019

Modern Technology


"You know son, as your father, it is incumbent upon me to warn you when you do things wrong and all that ..."

"What do you mean?"

"Take your portable telephone gizmo that you have. I've read it is dangerous. A man at work the other day had one just like yours and he was watching something on the screen and fell off the ladder he did ... Kept going up and did not realise he had run out of ladder ..."

"Very funny, dad!"

"It's true boy. Also these contraptions emit bad things like microphone waves or something. They'll fry whatever little brain you got left. Like this thing you have always stuck to your ear."

"Dad, I have Bluetooth!"

"There you are then. It started already. You must see a dentist before it gets worse."

"Dad, it is called Bluetooth."

"I don't care what it's called boy. We didn't have it when we were young. Just the odd bit of tartar on our teeth, or a cavity every now and then. Not electro what's it illnesses like now. Also they let off magnets these gadgets. Magnetism gets out of them on your fingers when you touch the screen. It's even worse ... the magnet thingies fly off the screen and into you. Pretty soon when you get in the kitchen all the metal utensils will stick to you."

"Dad, you really don't understand about technology. It doesn't work like that. There are no little magnets and ..."

"Don't patronise me boy. I know more about technology than you'll ever know. Those table mats things, like the one you have, are just as bad!"

"They are called tablets! Mine is an Apple."

"An apple? When we were young that was a fruit, that was. You'll be telling me you have a blackberry next. Your grand-mother, may she rest in peace, used to make lovely apple and blackberry pies, she did. I'll tell you something else boy. There's no mention of technology in the Bible. When God told Moses to come up the mountain He gave him the ten commandments on real tablets of stone, He did. Not plastic tablets. They were well carved by a top class sculptor, I shouldn't wonder. God would have used the best of craftsmen to make His commandments; so they would last for ever. Mind you ... that careless Moses broke the first set didn't he, the clumsy oaf! But God had another set as a spare copy ..."

"Made on a photocopier, no doubt!"

"Don't be insulting, boy. Which reminds me ... that stupid microphone oven you got your mom in the kitchen. It's trash. It does not work. I put a few slices of bread the other day to make toast and they went round and round and were all soggy. Not toasty at all; like in the toaster."

"You did what? It's not meant to make toast. Why did you not use the toaster?"

"It was broke as well. The bread got stuck and I tried to get it out with a fork and got an electric shock! When we were young we used to make toast by holding the bread in front of the open fire."

"Are you against all form of modern technology dad? Shall I take away the washing machine too?"

"You might as well ... for all the good it's done. The other day I put my red shirt amongst the washing your mom put in and everything turned pink. She was furious you know. She blamed me instead of the machine, and withdrew her favors for at least a week ..."

"Poor dad ..."

"Don't mock me, boy. I know you're not listening and I might as well be talking to myself. I'll just go and watch the football on TV."

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Finding Jesus

 
A man is stumbling by the riverside totally drunk pulling his horse behind him. He is just too drunk to even be able to ride the horse, having tried several times and fallen off within minutes.

As he walks by the river with his horse he comes upon a preacher baptising people in the river and shouting in a loud voice "Repent you sinners. Repent and find Jesus!"

He staggers to the river’s edge and subsequently he falls in dragging his horse behind him. 

The preacher turns around and is almost overcome by the smell of alcohol. He asks the drunk, “Are you ready to find Jesus?”

The drunk answers, “Yes I am”.

So the preacher grabs him and dunks him in the water. He pulls him up and asks the drunk, “Brother, have you found Jesus?”

The drunk replies, “No, I haven’t”.

The preacher shocked at the answer, dunks him into the water again for a little longer this time. He again pulls him out of the water and asks, “Have you found Jesus, my brother?”

The drunk answers again, “No, I haven’t”.

By this time the preacher is at his wits end and he dunks the drunk in the water again, but this time he holds him down for about 30 seconds, and when he begins kicking his arms and legs, he pulls him up. 

The preacher again asks the drunk, “For the love of God, have you found Jesus?”

The drunk wipes his eyes and catches his breath and says to the preacher, “Are you sure this is where He fell in?”

There’s a message in this joke for us Christians. How often, whilst well-meaning, we try to tell others about our beliefs and end up confusing them and perhaps, un-wittingly, driving them away from God rather than towards Him.

It is worth remembering that not everyone is at the same stage of knowing God as perhaps we are. You wouldn’t feed a new-born baby pizza or French fries; would you? So let’s go easy with new Christians or people who have yet to know the Lord as we do.

The best way to teach Christianity is by living it as Jesus would want us to.

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” St Francis of Assisi.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

What if ...

What I am about to say may sound a little complicated, but please have patience with me, and tell me what you think.

When we look at a globe, or a map, we are accustomed to seeing the USA, Britain and Europe in the Northern hemisphere, and Australia and New Zealand and other countries in the Southern hemisphere. We recognise the North and South poles.

But what if the world, in real life, is upside down and we do not know it?

Let me explain.

Imagine the world is a big ball hanging there in mid-air in a big expanse we call space. Imagine space as a huge large box. A massive box filled with earth, moons and other planets. All hanging in mid-air and spinning round.

The earth is spinning from left to right, giving us the impression that the sun rises from the right if we are facing North. But in effect the sun does not rise at all. It is in one stationary point and it is our spinning that makes us think it rises from the East.

East is just a word we invented. We could have called it something else. We could have called North, Norma, and South, Suzanne for all it matters.

By the way, and just as an aside, my uncle Ernest discovered the East Pole. It was somewhere on the equator but because the earth kept spinning he could not quite locate it.

Anyway, as I was saying ... imagine the big box we call space is itself upside down and all its content is upside down. The earth would look like this.




And we would not know it. We would still be living on earth like normal. It would probably spin from right to left, but because we don't know it, we would still see the sun rise from what we call East.

I know some people would say that when we send rockets into outer space the astronauts see the earth with North at the top. But for all we know, the spaceship could be travelling upside down and the people inside it don't realise it. For in outer space there is no up or down. It is one big huge box and regardless of how people are travelling in the box there is no real up or real down.

It is just space. And we and the whole earth is in it. And all the planets. All, upside down.

Which explains why some people get headaches.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Animals in Heaven


You know what it's like. People start a conversation at work, or at a party. At first you listen and say nothing, and then you get drawn in even if you don't want to, someone says, "what do you think about this?" and you mumble and offer an opinion, and before you know it you are in the debate you did not want to partake in in the first place.

A few friends were discussing religion and the conversation turned to Heaven. What it is like. Who will and who will not be there. What if someone we don't like is there. And so on.

Then someone asked whether animals go to Heaven.

Some thought this unlikely since animals have no souls; others believed they’ll meet their pets in Heaven. Their pet cat or dog will be there waiting for them.

This set me thinking.

Which animals in particular would go to Heaven? The good ones? Whilst the bad ones are destined for hell.

Are there bad animals? Do they think, plot and plan like humans, or are they slaves to their own instincts? Can they possibly sin? When a dog is bad and bites people is it because he is inherently evil, or is it a defence mechanism? Just instinct?

Would all animals go to Heaven? Including the cows, pigs, sheep and chickens we kill to eat?

I would hate to come face to face with my Sunday roast admonishing me for what I have done.

What about the mosquito I killed in the garden this morning? Will it haunt me for eternity? Buzzing around me and biting my bottom. For I heard somewhere that they wear gowns open at the back in Heaven, just like the ones you get in hospital. This is to allow your angel wings to grow on your shoulders apparently.

And all those fishes caught by Peter and the disciples when asked to cast their nets in the lake by Jesus. Will they be there too?

The point I’m trying to make here is that religion relies on Faith. When Christians engage in debate such as this not only do they risk confusing themselves, but they also risk confusing those who are new in their walk with the Lord.

I really don’t know whether my beloved Max will greet me in Heaven wagging his tail. In the meantime, I try to steer clear from such hypothetical discussions.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Otto Bare

Otto Bare was a nice old man. So was his wife Hilda. She made delicious cakes.

Otto was a little peculiar in that he had wonderful eyesight when seeing things far away. I remember once we were out playing golf and I remarked about a herd of cows in the field beyond the course and he said they were being bothered by flies. He could even tell the sex of the flies from that distance. I doubt I could do that if the fly was inches away from me.

But seeing things very close was difficult for Otto. He needed thick glasses for that. He lifted the glasses on top of his forehead to see far away, and brought them down for reading and seeing close. A bit of a Mr Magoo in reverse.

I don't play golf. I am bad at it. But Otto insisted we go out to his club. I followed him sheepishly whilst he played rather well.

At one point we were near the river. There were some ducks with their young. Some were very young; still covered in their yellow fluff rather than feathers.

With his glasses above his head Otto looked for his yellow golf ball. Some of the ducks moved away, but a little baby duckling, all lovely and yellow, sat there on the grass unperturbed by his approach.

He lifted his golf club in the air, swung it down at great speed and sent the baby duckling hurtling through the air in a rainbow trajectory. Up it went in a big arc only to land what seemed miles away.

Because he did not have his glasses on, Otto looked in the distance and said, "Hole in one!"

I was flabbergasted to see that poor duckling one minute sunning itself quietly on the grass and the next being whacked so hard as a golf ball to land a million miles away.

Otto put his golf club in the bag and walked towards the green.

I mumbled, "Otto ... that was ... that was ... a little birdie!"

"No it wasn't ..." he declared, "it was a hole in one. Known as an ace in America I believe. Unlike your attempt at golf ... a hole in about 300 hits!"

I said nothing until we approached the hole. He put his hand in and pulled out a totally dead baby duckling.

"Ha ha ha ..." he laughed, "now that IS a birdie! Has been dead for a while judging by it being half-eaten by maggots. Now ... where in damnation is my golf ball?"

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Neighbours from Up North

We have new neighbours. They moved in yesterday.

This morning the doorbell rang. I opened the door and there they were. Husband, wife and two children.

"Hello," they said, "we're your new neighbours. I am Alan, my wife is Helen and these are Jack and Jill. We moved in yesterday. We came from up North, near the border with Scotland."

I was slightly taken aback by the direct approach. I don't usually like people I do not know. They say a stranger is a friend you have yet to meet. I say a stranger is a person who should keep away from me!

"Hello," I mumbled, "I saw the moving-in van yesterday!"

"We've come for a cup of tea and biscuits. So we can get to know one another!"

I was further taken aback into my own house. What a cheek, I thought. Complete strangers wanting to get to know me. How do you say "Go away!" politely. I did not know how to respond.

Our dog was barking furiously behind me having been disturbed by the doorbell. At least he was making his true feelings known. That's what I like about dogs. If they don't like you they bite you.

"Oh, you have a dog!" said Helen. "We don't like dogs. We're cat people. We have two cats, a hamster, a goldfish, two rabbits and a macaw. You'll hear the macaw singing every now and then. He never stops actually!"

"Oh really?" I said unenthusiastically. My mind had already made up a list of insults but I chose to keep quiet.

"Aren't you going to invite us in?" asked Alan.

"Well, it's not convenient really ..." I mumbled almost apologetically; wondering why I should be feeling guilty at all. It was them who disturbed me in the first place. Coming all the way from "up North" ringing my doorbell.

And then, I don't know why I said that really, I added, "I am washing the crocodile right now. He gets a bit dirty when lying on the wet grass and mud!"

"I told you people down South are different," said Helen to her husband, "they are not as friendly as up North!"

Alan nodded and said, "Up where we come from people are always calling on their neighbours for a chat and a cup of tea. Or borrowing things from each other, like a cup of sugar, or some eggs, or the lawnmower or such like. Do you have a lawn mower? Is it electric or petrol driven? I prefer electric myself, much neater!"

"Actually I have a goat," I replied, "I let it eat the grass. Much neater than an electric lawnmower because it eats right up to the edge of the fence, which you can't do with a lawn mower."

"Oh ... you don't have to be sarcastic!" said Helen, "is it because we're from up North? Is that why you're being unfriendly?"

At this point the two children started cutting the roses from my prized bush. I kept my cool and said nothing about it.

"No ..." I replied getting a little irritated, "it is not because you're from up North. Let me tell you that I am devoid of all forms of prejudice. I dislike all people equally! And for your information, my wife is from Scotland; that's as far North as you can get without falling into the sea!"

"Well, she made a mistake marrying you then," retorted Helen.

Before I could say anything, albeit my mind was blank, her husband said, "Calm down dear. It's not worth it. He can't help the way he is. You know how some people are when they get to a certain age!"

"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked angrily. "I'm younger than you by all accounts!"

"Well ... thank you for the flowers," added Alan soothingly, "we'd better go and put them in some water. They don't look as if they'd last long anyway!"

Once again I was at a loss for words. If I had a dictionary at hand I would have responded more appropriately ... perhaps by hitting him over the head with it.

As they were leaving he asked, "Does that mean we can't borrow the lawn mower?"

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Imagine

FATHER FRANCIS MAPLE

Monday, 11 November 2019

The windmills of my mind


Sometimes, when I am alone, I sit there and think. I could also sit over here; but it is usually there. Next to the window. Looking out into our back garden.

Sometimes, I sit there, or here, and think silently. At other times I think loudly. Speaking to myself as it were.

Thoughts cross my mind. Going round and round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending nor beginning, on an ever-spinning reel. Like the circles that you find, in the windmills of your mind.

I do hate plagiarism.

It is so cheap and so bad. I wish people would stop doing it.

Would it not be wonderful if everyone was original and there was no plagiarism? You, may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. I hope someday you will join us. And the world will be as one.

Free from plagiarism.

I think to myself. And then I say whispering to myself, "I think, therefore I am".

RenĂ© Descartes the philosopher said that. He was making the point that if you are able to think therefore you exist. 

I may use this saying some day in discussion to prove I am educated. That's not plagiarism. It is research. If you repeat something someone considered to be important said, then you are learned. It is not plagiarism. Everyone considers you to be clever for even knowing who Descarte is, never mind quoting him. That's the subtle difference between plagiarism and straight cheating and stealing someone else's clever sayings.

So I repeated to myself, "I think, therefore I am".

"I am"... I said. To no one there. And no one heard at all. Not even the chair.

Then I realised I was speaking to myself.

So I decided to phone Neil Diamond to find out why the chair did not listen to him either. Was he being boring perhaps?

But I could not phone him because I did not have his number.

For a while there, or here, can't remember where, I just sat thinking.

For once in my life I was lost for words.

That's because I did not have my dictionary with me. Not that it would have helped because it is an Italian dictionary and I always think in English.

That's a point, I thought.

Do foreign people think in their own languages? The Italians, French and so on? Or do they think in images, pictures cross their mind rather than words. 

How do I think, I thought. In words or images? 

Or is it in images which my mind simultaneously interprets into words faster than the speed of light?

And is there anything faster than the speed of light? What if light itself was in a fast car? Would it be faster than itself. 

But no one heard me. The chair stood there as dumb as ever.

So I phoned my friend, Ivor Rowbottom. That's not his real name. His original name was Ivor Sorebottom but he changed it by Deed Poll which you can do in the UK.

Anyway, I asked Ivor, "why did the chair not hear me?"

"Because it is an inanimate object, you idiot!" he replied.

"But what about Neil Diamond and his chair?" I asked again to prove my point.

"I don't know," he said, "maybe his chair is deaf. You know how these artists are. They write lyrics that originate round and round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending nor beginning, in an ever-spinning reel. Like the circles that you find, in the windmills of their mind."

At this point my family came in from shopping and interrupted my train of thoughts.

Why are trains so late these days? The other day at my railway station they said it was because of shortage of staff. Why can't they employ taller ones?

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Saturday, 9 November 2019

My Dog Is On Twitter


My dog has joined Twitter.

He has just tweeted the following:

"Went for a walk. Did a poo. Victor picked it up. LOL!"
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