Tuesday 29 December 2009

A Christmas Puzzle.

As it is Christmas, here's a little puzzle to get the little grey cells in your brain working.

Study this diagram carefully.

There are two rooms side by side in a corridor. Room A and Room B.

You are in Room A. You cannot see Room B or what is in it.

Room A has three electric switches on a table - switch 1, switch 2 and 3.

Each switch connects to a light bulb in Room B. But you do not know which switch connects to which light bulb.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify which switch connects to which light bulb.

You are only allowed to visit Room B ONCE only. That is the time when you identify which light bulb connects to its correct switch.

Once you leave Room A you cannot go back there - you have to go to Room B to identify the light bulbs.

How do you do it?

Answers in the comments box below. Thanx. Happy thinking.

P.S. I'll post the answer in the comments box shortly. Good luck!

Wednesday 9 December 2009

I'm losing my Faith.

Father Ignatius was in the Sacristy tidying up after morning’s Mass when one of his parishioners came in and asked if he could have a quick chat. Being quite approachable, the priest glanced quickly at his watch and agreed to spend a few minutes with the young man, in his mid-twenties.

“Father … I’m losing my Faith …” was the abrupt introduction.

Father Ignatius said nothing, encouraging the young man to continue with a nod. “I’ve been a Christian all my life, but there are times when I’m totally confused. I ask myself whether God really exists … whether it’s all real … or just some invention. I wonder whether God … Jesus and the whole of Christianity have just been invented over the years by society … just to regulate itself … I sometimes find it a real struggle to believe that God exists … but the more I try to believe the more I doubt.”

“I don’t blame you,” replied the priest, and this had the desired effect of gaining the young man’s full attention.

“We’re living in difficult times,” continued Father Ignatius, “times of confusion, half-truths and miss-information. The world is in financial crisis and turmoil. People are losing their jobs and their livelihoods. They fear for the future. Nothing seems as it should be. It is no wonder people get confused and don’t know what to believe anymore. And in their confusion and daily worries they can’t keep their focus on God. They hear and read so many conflicting stories they don’t know what to think anymore … to the point where they even start doubting God’s very existence.

"You’re not the only one who came to me recently saying what you’ve just said. That you doubt God exists.”

“Oh …” said the man.

“When the Jews left Egypt, they were confused too …” the priest went on, “they had left the relative safety of slavery behind them, where they were fed and watered, and here they were, going round in circles in the desert following a man promising them jam tomorrow … or was it milk and honey?”

The young man smiled.

“So they rebelled against Moses. They didn’t want to believe in His God, leading them to safety. Despite what they had seen that God did for them … dividing the sea so they could cross safely, sending food from Heaven and so on … they still doubted and rebelled. They were more interested in placing their Faith in a statue made of solid gold. At least this was something they could see and touch and admire!

“Years later we read in the Bible about other people doubting and in confusion … just as you feel right now.

“Peter had been with Christ for at least three years and had seen His miracles and heard His sermons. He witnessed the healings, the raising from the dead, walking on water, feeding the thousands. He of all people had no reason to doubt. Yet when it came to the crunch he too doubted and denied knowing Christ … not once, but he denied knowing Him three times.

“How does that compare with you … hmmm?

“As for the disciple Thomas … well he just refused to believe period.

“So you’re in good company young man. You’re not alone in doubting about the very existence of God your Creator.”

At this the young man was totally confused and didn’t know what to ask next.

Perhaps he had expected some magic formula to restore his ailing Faith, a wave of a wand, or some soothing words from his priest … but alas no … the priest just confounded his thoughts by affirming that his doubts are neither unusual nor unexpected.

Father Ignatius smiled and said, “That didn’t help did it?”

“Well …” hesitated the young man.

“There once was a man whose son was very ill, and He came to Jesus for help” continued Father Ignatius, “ ‘Help us if you can,’ he asked Jesus. Jesus replied ‘Everything is possible if you have Faith,’ to which the man said ‘I do have Faith, but not enough, help me to have more.’

“Jesus healed this man’s son. He saw that the man was struggling with his Faith, as you’re doing right now. So He helped him.

“We don’t all have the same strength and vigour of Faith. Some, like you’ve admitted, are a little weak and waver from time to time. Just like Peter and Thomas did.

“But don’t tell me about it. Tell God, in your own words. Tell Him you’re struggling to believe; ask Him to help you.

“Say over and again I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.

“The good Lord will help you … but only if you are willing to believe … if you’re willing to fight your doubts, and your fears, and your confusion.

“God loves you, and He does not wish to see you go astray, away from Him. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond your capabilities. He is not in the business of losing souls you know …”

Father Ignatius paused for a while and then continued in his gentle voice.

“There’s an old Cherokee Indian legend about a youth’s rite of passage, when he becomes a man so to speak.

“When the child is of a certain age his father takes him to the forest where he has to sit blindfolded overnight. He shouldn’t take off the blindfold but sit there, in the darkness, hearing all the noises of the night … animals howling, the rustling of the trees and so on, and conquer his fears.

“The next morning, at sunrise, he takes off his blindfold and looks around him only to find that his father had been sitting with him all night, protecting him from danger. He shouldn’t tell what happened to anyone else, so others may experience the love of their fathers too.

“You are now blindfolded and confused. But God your Father in Heaven is right beside you, protecting you at all times. Because He loves you, more than any earthly father can love his children.”

The young man smiled and wiped his eye with the back of his hand.

“OK … I think you’re already on the first steps towards recovery … I suggest you pray time and again … especially when you feel doubts coming on … recite the Rosary … have you got one?”

The man nodded.

“Our Lady will always protect you if you ask her. Don’t be afraid to tell her how you feel.”

As the man left the Sacristy much relieved than when he first came in Father Ignatius added, “and whilst you’re praying, don’t forget to say one for me!”

Saturday 5 December 2009

Timely Reminder.

No matter how long you’ve lived in a town, there are always places where you’ve never been and you don’t even know about.

Today, quite by accident, I drove in a part of town where I’ve never been before and turned into a cul-de-sac with the street name of: GODSO CLOSE.

Indeed He is. No further than a prayer away.

A timely reminder if ever one was needed in this Advent Season.

God bless.

Friday 4 December 2009

Think manners.

Sometimes events coincide together, almost by conspiracy, only to accentuate something which you knew already but had kept at the back of your mind.

Father Ignatius went to his usual supermarket this morning and as he approached the door the customer immediately in front of him let go of the door which swung shut in the priest’s face.

It was obvious that the man saw Father Ignatius behind him as he looked back on entering the store; but he just didn’t bother to hold the door open.

Father Ignatius on the other hand, entered the supermarket and held the door open for the old lady following him. She entered, followed by a young woman pushing a pram, then two teenagers, then a young couple, and then two men talking with each other.

None of them acknowledged him standing there or thanked him for holding the door open. They walked past him and totally ignored him.

He found a trolley and started his shopping.

A few moments later a young man coming up one of the narrow aisles bumped his trolley with his; and continued on without apologizing.

Whilst buying his favourite ginger marmalade a short lady came up to him and asked: “Could you pass me that jar of honey up there? I can’t reach.”

He handed her the jar which she put in her trolley and walked away.

At this, the priest stopped for a moment of contemplation as he saw her turn in a hurry down another aisle.

“When I was young …” he thought to himself, “my mother always insisted on me saying please and thank you whenever I needed something … yet neither this lady nor any of those people coming through the door said thank you, or nodded, or even smiled … and that young man who hit my trolley didn’t bother to say sorry …”

And at that point his charitable nature came to the fore as his train of thoughts continued, “I bet none of these people are bad people … they don’t set out in the morning with the express desire to be nasty or rude … they’re just too busy and so rushed with the many things they have to do that they forget about the little niceties of life … unlike me … who only works on Sundays and have little else to do the rest of the time …” he chuckled to himself.

His thoughts then turned to the ten men healed by Jesus of a skin disease. Only one came back to thank Jesus.

“Where are the other nine?” asked Jesus.

“Perhaps they’re too busy doing their shopping …” thought Father Ignatius to himself, “… and I bet the five thousand who were fed by Him didn’t bother to thank Him or pay for the food either …”

On his way back to his car the priest witnessed an unusual event which pleased him no end.

A man drove by, parked his car, got out of the driving seat and walked to the other side to open the door for his wife.

The priest couldn’t believe his eyes.

He approached them quietly and with a smile said: “I’m so pleased to see that chivalry is still alive and doing well …”

“Chivalry has nothing to do with it mister …” replied the wife, “the car door on my side does not open from inside!”

Saturday 28 November 2009

Illogical logic.

Logic it seems isn’t always what it is perceived to be and no matter how much you try to understand the other person’s logic you might end up failing. This could be either because of your inability to understand, or because the other person’s logic is faulty – as Father Ignatius can testify.

He was walking round town the other day and happened to enter a bookshop advertising “Reduced Prices throughout the Store !!!”.

He made his way to the “Religion” shelf to see what was on offer and eventually found a book about Jesus which he wished to purchase. It had a big red label on it saying: Reduced price - £9.99.

He thought of buying two copies, one for him and another for a parishioner who would benefit from reading it. He looked around on the shelf and found another identical book; but without the red label.

When he reached the cashier to pay for both items purchased she said: “£29.99 please.”

“Why?” said the priest, rather puzzled.

“This book is priced £20.00 and this one is £9.99” replied the robotic assistant.

“But they’re identical, and they’re reduced in price aren’t they?” enquired Father Ignatius.

“Only the one with the red label is on offer for £9.99; the other book is charged at the full price of £20.00” replied the cashier monotonously.

At this moment the manager happened to be passing by and overheard the conversation.

“May I help you Sir … Reverend … Father …” he mumbled when he noticed the priest’s white collar.

“Let me explain,” continued the manager, “every morning we go to check our stock of books and stick red labels on some of them. Those with the labels are reduced in price; whilst others are not.”

“I understand,” reasoned Father Ignatius, “but both these books are identical. Surely they should be priced the same?”

“Not so,” insisted the manager who obviously knew best. He was, after all, in charge of the shop, “not so at all … this book with the label we’ll sell at £9.99 whereas the other one we’ll sell at the full price of £20.00; regardless whether they are identical or not.”

Father Ignatius is a tenacious character when he feels it needs it; and he certainly likes a challenge of wits. So he tried one more time to make the man see sense:

“Tell me … it is possible, is it not, that when you stick these labels in the morning, that you stick the red labels on two identical books?”

“Oh yes … it happens frequently …”

“And when it happens, then you’d sell two copies of the same book at the reduced price?” said the priest sensing a minor but very important victory.

“Oh yes … in that case we would sell two or more copies of the same book at the reduced price, provided they had the red labels on them.”

Father Ignatius smiled broadly. “Game, set and match!” he thought to himself.

“But on this occasion unfortunately we stuck a label on only one book. So you’ll have to buy this one for £9.99 and this one for the full price of £20.00.”

The priest’s smile soon faded when the manager continued:

“May I suggest you buy the book with the label today, and come back tomorrow? It is possible that there will be another identical book with a label on it then. Although I can’t guarantee it … but if you come back every other day or so then perhaps you’ll find another copy of the book reduced in price then !!!”

Father Ignatius gave up. There’s no point in engaging in a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

He now had to make a quick decision and had three choices:

To leave the shop and not buy the books.

To buy both books for the asking price of £29.99 and effectively, tacitly, agree with the manager’s faulty logic.

To buy the cheaper of the two books and leave it at that. Which is what he did.

“It’s a shame” he thought to himself,” as he left the shop. I would have liked to give a copy of this book to Mark. He’s always a helpful parishioner when we need him … perhaps he can borrow my copy when I’ve read it …”

It seems that the angels may well have overheard his thoughts because a little further down the road he came across another bookshop.

“I wonder …” said Father Ignatius.

And sure enough, he found there an identical book selling even cheaper at £8.99. A saving of £1; which he put in the collection box at St Vincent Church.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Father Ignatius in Court.

Father Ignatius knelt at the front pew just by the statue of Our Lady and read the letter once again. Tomorrow was the day when he had to go to Court; there was no escaping that fact. He put the letter back in his pocket and took out his Rosary and started praying.

The following morning he offered Mass early and focused his private prayers on the day ahead. He said his goodbyes to Fr Donald and Mrs Davenport the housekeeper and explained that he did not know when he’d be back, or indeed whether he’d be back that evening.

He decided to walk to Court, about a mile away from St Vincent Church, which gave him plenty of time to pray another Rosary.

He showed the letter to an attendant at the door and he was led into a large room, dimly lit, and smelling of stale tobacco smoke. He was asked to stay there and await instructions.

In the following hour or so the room slowly filled as more people were brought in one at a time and left waiting, just like Father Ignatius.

They were advised not to talk with each other, and most obeyed and spent their waiting time reading books or smoking to the point that you could now see the smoke floating in mid-air around the dirty brown lampshades, and tobacco stained curtains.

Eventually an officious looking individual, tall, thin and with a tiny moustache came in and asked for their attention.

He explained the various procedures involved in being a member of the jury. He thanked them for their attendance and said that, depending on the case they were assigned to, it is possible that they would not be returning home that evening. In which case they would be taken to a hotel where they would stay the night, and every night, until the case was over.

Eventually, Father Ignatius and eleven other people were called by name and led into the Courtroom where they were asked to sit on the Jury’s benches.

It had already been explained to them by the officious Court clerk that before they are to be sworn in as members of the jury both the prosecution and defending lawyers had the right to object to certain individuals from sitting as jurors. They need not give any reasons for their objections.

And sure enough, as soon as the twelve were seated, both teams of lawyers got into separate huddles to talk in whispers. Eventually a lawyer from each team approached the judge who, after listening to them, passed a piece of paper to another Court official.

Father Ignatius heard his name called and he was asked to leave the Courtroom. A young pleasant lady then asked him to go home as he was no longer needed. She said with a smile, “Please don’t take it personally … it sometimes happens that a person is not accepted as a member of the jury … thank you so much for responding to our invitation … have a nice day!”

“Don’t take it personally …” the words rang in his head as Father Ignatius made his way back to the church. How could he not take it personally? Someone had taken objection to him. Why? Is it because of his age? Is it because they wanted a better balance on the jury between men and women? If so, why not pick on another man to leave? Why him? Why not someone else?

The questions buzzed round his head like a swarm of bees flitting over a bed of flowers searching for nectar. But his thoughts were far from sweet … more tinged with the bitterness of rejection.

As he arrived at St Vincent he concluded that perhaps he’d been rejected because the prosecution lawyers, seeing his clerical collar, surmised that he’d be overly lenient towards the defendant.

“That’s it …” he said to himself, “they think I’m too soft and too forgiving …” And that thought helped soothe his hurt feelings.

Weeks later he heard through a solicitor friend of his that he had been rejected by the defendant. Apparently, he had suffered at the hands of a priest years earlier and he felt he wouldn’t get a fair hearing from Father Ignatius.

Father Ignatius was deeply hurt on hearing this news. To think that an individual had been so profoundly scarred by a member of the clergy … someone meant to represent Our Lord and to portray His love and caring on earth!

That evening Father Ignatius offered a special Mass for that un-named defendant, a man he’d hardly seen for more than a few minutes in Court; yet a man who would haunt his conscience for the rest of his life.

Monday 23 November 2009

You are invited ...

It is said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. At least that was the opinion of the Bishop when he decided to invite a number of priests from his Diocese to a Teamwork Seminar led by a prominent firm of Management Consultants.

Father Ignatius sat at his desk and read the same letter for the fifth time. He had hoped it was addressed to someone else. Father Donald maybe, Mrs Davenport the housekeeper, or even Canis the dog sleeping happily in the corner.

But alas no … it was addressed to him alright.

Here was a command from the Bishop to attend a seminar run at a Monastery some miles away. For a summons indeed it was, despite the polite “You are invited” blurb in the opening paragraph.

You can’t easily decline an invitation like this, since by doing so it implies that you do not agree with the boss that you are indeed in need of Teamwork training – whatever that is.

So Father Ignatius decided to do the next best thing. He would appeal to a Higher Authority. For days he prayed that the seminar might be cancelled, or that some other urgent appointment may force him to pull out at the last minute, or anything, just anything might happen to avoid his attendance. But it seems that God agreed with the Bishop on this one and nothing happened to excuse Father Ignatius from attending the seminar.

Reluctantly, he drove to the Monastery that day and met there thirty or so other priests from the Diocese in need of the same improvement opportunities that the seminar might provide. He was pleased of course to meet some old friends and catch up on old news, and make the acquaintance of new priests he’d not met before.

As for the seminar … well … it was led by three young Management Consultants who used every cliché in the book to spout various platitudes and truisms one could not really disagree with. The course attendees were made to discuss their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. They were asked to identify positive and negative traits in themselves. And to undertake various banal exercises and debates leading to nowhere.

Father Ignatius is nothing but polite and co-operative so he took part in the various tasks without question. “No point being churlish about it,” he thought to himself.

At one stage the priests were divided into small groups of five and asked to consider a scenario where they were driving through the desert and their vehicle had broken down. They had to decide whether to stay with the vehicle in the hope of being rescued, or whether they should move on and attempt to find shelter from the unforgiving sun. They also had to decide which five items to take with them if they moved away from the vehicle.

Some priests wanted to take binoculars with them; others preferred the knife and map, whereas a couple insisted on taking the bottle of water, the umbrella and the blanket.

The young consultant managing the exercise noticed that Father Ignatius was rather quiet and asked him, “What would you take with you Father if you moved on?”

After a few moments of consideration Father Ignatius replied, “the door off the vehicle.”

Rather puzzled the consultant enquired, “the door … whatever for?”

“If it gets too hot, I can always open the window,” replied the priest.

A few days later whilst enjoying his breakfast Father Ignatius received a greetings card from Father Simon, a priest he had met at the seminar. It read:

“Dear Ignatius, I so much enjoyed meeting you at the seminar. Like you, I thought it unnecessary and hoped to be anywhere else but there. Yet your jovial attitude and constant cheerfulness kept me going. I shall never forget your joke about the car door.”

Father Ignatius realized that no matter how low you feel, or how superfluous you consider yourself to be, or reluctant to attend a gathering or event, you are always a welcome gift to someone else who may value your presence.

You don’t have to be a celebrity or a famous personality; just being yourself is in itself a gift to others. Whether you’re a spouse or a parent, a son or daughter, uncle or aunt or any other relative or friend; you are important to someone and they cherish your presence, your very being with them. The greatest present we can give others is our time, our attention, our love and our caring – it’s worth more than any material gift we buy them.

Give yourself to others. Just like Christ did. And still does.

Thursday 19 November 2009

On His knee.

Father Ignatius approached the pulpit and in his clear crisp voice he started his Sunday sermon:

“Although Heaven is mentioned often in the Bible there’s one instance where we have a glimpse of a description. In today’s reading from John 14:2 Jesus says: ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.’

“Let’s think about this for a moment. Is Heaven a building somewhere in the sky, or wherever you perceive it to be, with many rooms as Jesus said? Or is it something or some place totally different?

“I suspect that Jesus used the description of a house because He wanted an example that his listeners could relate to. The people of His time were used to seeing palaces and mansions; so describing Heaven as a building is quite an apt description which they can come to terms with in their minds.

“Better than saying Heaven is a state of being where our souls float freely in the presence of God and His angels. Would Christ’s contemporaries understand that I wonder?

“So a large building it is; with many rooms of course.

“Presumably the multiplicity of rooms is to ensure that our Lord keeps all the denominations separately to avoid their incessant arguments and so give Him some peace and quiet in His Heavenly domain.” said Father Ignatius jokingly.

“Why is it” he asked, “that we seem to spend so much time as Christians arguing about the details that separate us rather than rejoice in the Divine facts which unite us?

“One God, one Son of God, the Lord Jesus, and one Holy Spirit sent to help us and to guide us back to our Creator.

“That’s our fundamental message of Christianity” Father Ignatius declared clearly.

After a short pause, he continued:

“People today have different interpretations of what Heaven must be like. Some believe it is a physical place with buildings and a big Pearly Gate. Others see it as a state of consciousness where our souls enjoy God’s presence. In reality, we really don’t know what it’s like but we believe it exists because our Lord told us so.

“Think about it for a moment or two. What do you think Heaven is like?”

He paused again to give his parishioners time to reflect.

“You know … … Someone asked me the other day whether there are animals in Heaven. She wanted to know whether her loved pet dog will be with her there.

“Well, I don’t know about that … Imagine animals in Heaven … I’d hate to come face to face with the Sunday roast admonishing me for what I had done to it !!!”

Father Ignatius waited for the laughter to die down then went on:

“Some time ago, I came across another description of Heaven.

“Imagine for a moment that when we die and meet God, He will sit us on His lap like a loving Father sits his little child.

“And then He will show us our life all over again, exactly as we have lived it. Just like a movie.

“There, sitting on God’s knee, we will see all the good and the bad we have done. We will be reminded of all the opportunities we missed when we could have helped others less fortunate than ourselves. We will re-live all the hurt we have caused to others by what we have done or said, whether intentionally or not.

“All our sins will be there on a big screen for us to see and remember once again. Even those secret sins which we kept hidden to ourselves; never confessed, and never forgiven and absolved.

“And as we see our life once again, there, on His lap, will be our own Heaven or our own hell.”

Father Ignatius stopped for a moment to allow the message to sink in. He then went on in a more soothing voice:

“Now imagine if it were really so … Imagine that one day you will be seeing your whole life once again as a movie … Imagine that this movie or video will be made available for every one else to see …

“Imagine also that you are a famous Film Director … what a marvelous opportunity you have right now, within your grasp, to make sure your own personal movie will have a happy ending !!!”

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Did she see Him?

Father Ignatius was busy in his office dealing with some paper work when Eric, a young man in his mid-twenties, came in.

“I’ve changed the oil Father and gave the engine a good run. It’s as good as new.”

Eric was a car mechanic at the local garage and every now and then he came over to the parochial house to maintain the priest’s car and undertake any minor jobs that needed doing.

“Thank you” replied Father Ignatius, “I’ll await the invoice from your boss in due course.”

“Oh I see you got that picture of Jesus …” said Eric pointing at the wall. “The boss has the same one in his office at work.”

“It’s very popular …” mumbled the priest hoping that the youngster would soon leave. He had plenty of paperwork to get on with and he could really not afford the time for a chat.

“Did He really look like that?” continued Eric.


“Jesus … did He look like that? This is the picture painted by that nun isn’t it? What’s her name?”

Father Ignatius put down the letter he was reading and turned to Eric. It was obvious that although he wished to get on with his work the Good Lord had other plans for him.

“Her name is Sister Faustina. Her real name at birth was Helena Kowalska.”

“Greek was she?” asked Eric making himself comfortable in the armchair near the window.

Father Ignatius took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with his right hand, as if to summon every once of patience that the Good Lord might send him. “Why now, when I’m busy,” he prayed silently.

“No Eric,” he said with a smile, “she was Polish.”

“That’s right; I knew it was somewhere foreign. Near Jerusalem where Jesus came from …”

“Not quite near Jerusalem …”

“And she actually saw Jesus and painted Him. That’s what I have been told. Do you believe that?” interrupted the young man eagerly.

“Well …”

“I mean … she could have been lying. Can you prove that she actually saw Jesus and He looks like that picture?”

“Despite my age,” said the priest abruptly, “I can assure you I was not around when Sister Faustina was around. So I can’t actually prove what you ask for.” He then immediately regretted what he had said and continued in a more gentle voice.

“Look Eric, we are told that Sister Faustina back in 1931 had a Vision of our Lord. She saw Him dressed in white and standing very much as in the picture there. From His heart rays came out, one red and another pale, as you can see.

“The Lord spoke to her and asked her to paint an image according to the Vision she can see and to write ‘Jesus I trust in you.’

“And that’s how we came to have this picture."

“Oh …” said Eric.

“Now you and I have two choices to make,” continued the priest.

“We can believe this is all true. Or we can believe she was lying and nothing really happened.

“If indeed the story is true and we chose to ignore it we would have lost a great opportunity to venerate the image of Christ; as He has asked us to do when He spoke to Sister Faustina.

“And what a great pity, and tragedy that would be! To ignore a request made by our Lord Himself.”

“I see …” said Eric pensively.

“Our Faith has a number of mysteries Eric,” continued the priest in his gentle tone, “things that we are invited to believe without any proof and without any evidence. That’s why they call it Faith. To believe in something when your common sense tells you otherwise.”

There followed a few moments silence whilst Eric digested the information he’d just heard.

“Does Jesus appear and speak to people these days too?” he asked finally.

“I believe He does,” replied Father Ignatius, “He certainly spoke through the Holy Spirit to Father John Woolley. Here, you can borrow his book …”

Eric picked up the book handed by the priest and read the title, “I am with you.”

He then asked, “Jesus performed miracles when He was on earth … Does He do so now? Do miracles happen now Father?”

“Yes … they do. Miracles happen every day to a lot of people. The sad fact is that too many are not willing to believe that they happen.

“Christ is alive and is amongst us now as He ever was. He speaks to us and guides us through His Holy Spirit.

“But hearts have hardened Eric. Plenty are not willing to believe.

“They may consider themselves Christians or Catholics but they don’t know what to believe anymore. They just go through the motions by going to church and by claiming they’re Christians.

“Christianity is not just a label Eric. Or a brand name. It is real. Christ is real and is alive today as He ever was. It is not an event that happened two thousand years ago which we commemorate as a Remembrance every Sunday. Christ is alive and here today. He is here in the Eucharist; He is here in the Holy Spirit who abides in our very soul, if we let Him. If we invite Him …”

Eric hesitated for a while and then asked “I’d like to really believe in all these things Father. I don’t know how …”

“That’s a good start … wanting to believe. Opening your mind and heart to the Lord.

“Pray about it. Ask God to help you believe. If you like come and join us at the Bible classes we hold every now and then here at the Parish center.

“Ask for God’s help and leave the rest to Him.

“Say what you can read in that picture on the wall, ‘Jesus, I trust in you’ and mean it every time you say it.”

Note: I am with you. Author John A Woolley ISBN 09508840-7-3

Friday 13 November 2009

Left holding the baby.

Father Ignatius had finished his weekly shopping at the supermarket. He jumped into his car and drove to the gas filling station across the road.

It was one of those self-service stations where drivers were expected to fill up their cars by themselves at the pump. The priest got out of the driving seat and began his purchase when he was approached by a young lady in her early twenties pushing a baby in a pram.

“Are you a priest?” she asked.

He was wearing his white collar at the time so he nodded and replied “Yes, I am. How can I help you?”

“It’s an emergency you see …” she said, “I have to go to the toilet quickly. Can you look after my baby for a few minutes please?”

“Well I …” he hesitated.

“I can’t wait …” she cried and ran across the street towards the supermarket, narrowly avoiding a car by inches. Within seconds she was out of sight behind some bushes and trees in the supermarket’s car park.

The priest looked down at the pram at a child who was about to start crying. He leaned down to the child and that was the signal for it to howl loudly.

“There … there … little one,” said Father Ignatius trying to soothe the child by shaking the pram gently. But the more he tried the more the baby cried louder.

By now other cars had queued behind him to get their gas. One or two impatient drivers tooted their car horns. Another opened his car window and let out a profanity only to realize who he was speaking to and then apologized profusely.

The priest looked at his watch and towards the supermarket. The young lady was nowhere to be seen. He ushered the drivers to use another pump.

He waited and waited but the mother never arrived. The baby continued to cry louder and louder. So he decided to pick it up and it was soon obvious what the problem was.

The baby smelled to high heaven having answered the call of nature.

“What do I do now?” thought the priest. “Changing diapers is not something they taught us when I trained for the priesthood.”

He decided to lock his car and made his way, baby held tightly in his arms for fear of dropping it, towards the small shop where you pay for your gas purchases.

It was quite a sight when he entered the shop with a howling smelling baby.

A young dude said: “Hey man … I thought you folks are meant to be celibate. What have you done?”

One or two others laughed as the priest approached the shop counter.

“Your baby stinks …” said the young cashier.

“I know …” replied Father Ignatius gritting his teeth. “Can you please call the police?”

“Why …”

“Because I asked you to ... Hand me your phone … This is an emergency.” replied the priest losing for a brief moment his usual calmness and serenity.

About fourty minutes or so later the police arrived.

Obviously they did not consider the situation an emergency as the priest had described. By then the baby had stopped crying as he slept in the priest’s arms. All the time Father Ignatius mind was focused on the large tub of ice cream melting gently in his car. “Funny how your mind wanders at moments like this,” he thought to himself.

The police officers took their time taking the details of the situation. They recorded his name and address and asked him to describe the young mother. He couldn’t remember much of the brief encounter but helped as best as possible under the circumstances.

Eventually, over an hour and a half since he’d first met the young mother, the police officers decided to take the baby away with them, as well as the pram which by now had been soaked by the rain pouring outside.

Father Ignatius drove back to St Vincent Church and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning ice cream from the back seat of the car.

That evening the priest sat down by the fireside to reflect on his afternoon adventures when the door bell rang.

It was the police. They advised him that they had found the mother and re-united her with her child. She wanted to see him at the hospital.

“At the hospital?” asked the priest.

“Yes sir. Apparently on her way back from the supermarket to collect her child from you she slipped on something and was concussed. An ambulance was called and she was taken to hospital. When she woke up she told us what happened and we re-united her with her baby.”

The priest visited the mother at the hospital that same evening and met her husband as well as other members of her family.

The mother’s wish was for Father Ignatius to baptize their baby.

The young family is now members of his congregation.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

On the tongue.

Father Ignatius considered himself a “traditionalist priest”, as he liked to call himself.

Sure enough, he accepted that changes happen in life generally as well as in the Catholic Church, and that he had to accept them; but it didn’t mean that he agreed with the changes that came his way from “earthly above” – a term he used to describe the church’s hierarchy, as opposed to “Heavenly above” when he referred to the Almighty.

One particular new development which the priest didn’t like was handing the Host during Communion to people in their hands. He preferred the traditional placing of the Host on the tongue, and for people to genuflect by the altar rail to receive Communion. But change he did, and he gave way to new procedures as an obedient priest must.

This Sunday, however, his concerns were put to the test.

As he gave out Communion to the queue of parishioners walking up the center aisle he noticed two youngsters, both aged about eighteen or so, coming towards him. He had not seen them in church before and assumed they were visitors to town. As they came to him in turn, they both held out their hands and he placed the Host in it.

A sixth sense perhaps prompted him to keep an eye on them as they moved away. And he noticed than neither placed the Host in their mouths but walked away slowly.

“Would you please stop” he said sternly, at which point they both hurried and then ran away. Unfortunately in doing so one of them dropped the Host on the floor.

The priest went to recover the fallen Host and shouted “Stop those two …” but unfortunately they escaped through a side door followed by two parishioners.

By the time they came out the parishioners found the car park totally empty … there was no one in sight.

“Which way did they go?” asked one.

“They were too quick … didn’t see them …” replied the other; and after a few moments’ conversation they went back into the church.

That would have been the end of it … but God had other plans.

At that very moment Father Donald was coming out of the parochial house and making his way to the church. He had seen the youngsters running and overheard the conversation of their pursuers. Rather than continue his way towards the church to find out what had happened he had the presence of mind to follow the youngsters at a distance.

They made their way into the park opposite the church and eventually sat down on one of the benches. Father Donald approached quietly and hid behind a tree.

“Have you got it then?” he heard one of them ask.

“Yeh … here it is” replied the second youth, “where’s yours?”

“I dropped it in church.”

“Idiot …”

“Sorry … let me see it … it looks like a piece of thin paper or card … why do they call it a Host?”

At this point Father Donald realized what had happened and knew he had to act quickly. He approached the bench from behind and grabbed both individuals simultaneously from the back of their shirts. He was really strong and knew how to take care of himself. A skill he had learnt in his native Glasgow where he fought many a street fight in his youth.

He asked them to turn round slowly and face him, kneeling on the bench whilst doing so.

Perhaps because of his broad Glaswegian accent, or perhaps because of his stature and the fact that they were taken by surprise, both youngsters obliged and turned round slowly. Neither made an attempt to escape or pull back. They knelt on the bench facing him whilst his strong hands held them tight by the back of the neck.

“Now then …” he said calmly, “which one of you has the Host?”

“I have Mister …” replied one of them.

“OK … I’ll let you on my right go. Please walk away slowly and stand by that tree.” said the priest releasing the youngster without the Host, who obediently walked way towards the tree.

“As for you young man, please place the Host in my hand,” continued Father Donald holding out his hand and retrieving the stolen Host.

After releasing the second teenager the priest stood there and asked them “Do you realize the seriousness of what you have done?”

They shook their heads “No …” said one of them.

It was certainly not the time for a discussion on Christianity or the reality that is the Eucharist. The priest had to say something to end this encounter.

“In the name of God whom you do not know I forgive you and so does He. I pray for you that you may yet get to know Him.”

He turned back towards the church and never saw the two of them again.

NOTE: Fr Ignatius and Fr Donald are characters from the book "Visions" by the same author. See details on the right of this Blog.

Monday 9 November 2009

Reminiscences of a priest.

Father Ignatius put the phone down and settled in the armchair near the fireplace. It was a cold winter evening so he warmed his hands by the fire then picked up his cup of cocoa and took a sip or two. There was nothing to capture his interest on television, so after watching the usual dismal news he switched it off and turned his thoughts to the phone call.

It had been some months since he last spoke to his great friend Monsignor Thomas. They had trained together for the priesthood in Rome many years ago, and he hadn’t seen the Monsignor for some time now. As usual, Monsignor Thomas ended the telephone conversation by saying: “Dominus vobiscum” and Father Ignatius replied “Et cum spiritu tuo”.

The Latin words reverberated in his mind. It’s such a long time that he celebrated Mass in Latin he thought.

“Yet there was a time when all Masses were said in Latin,” thought the priest as he put down his cup of cocoa.

His mind wandered to his youth, as a young priest, and how different life was back then. In those days sermons were different too, he thought. “There was more meat to them,” he mumbled to himself.

“We were not afraid to say things the way they were; and still are now. We warned our flock of the dangers of sin, and an eternity in hell. We told them what was right and what was wrong …”

He remembered a particular sermon where he spoke against trying to contact spirits and visiting so-called mediums.

Now sermons seem to have been toned down for fear of up-setting the congregation.

“We have to be politically correct” he said to himself.

He realised that things change over the years, and change is sometimes inevitable. But it isn’t always for the better, he argued with himself.

“Back then,” he thought, “people used to fast for twelve hours before taking Holy Communion. They used to genuflect at the Altar rail and take the Host on the tongue. None of this queuing up the center aisle and holding the Host in your hand business as we do now.”

His sighed quietly as he recalled other changes which befell the Catholic Church over the years. People used to kneel as they entered the church or took their place in the pews. Women had their heads covered; either with a hat or a scarf.

He brought to mind an incident last summer when a young lady attempted to enter the church for Sunday Mass dressed in a bikini top and short pants. He happened to be at the entrance of the church and he stopped her.

“You must let me in,” she protested, “I have a perfect right!”

“Madam,” Father Ignatius replied in his stern voice, “you have a perfect left too, but you’re not coming in dressed like that!”

He smiled at the way he handled the situation and was awakened from his reveries by Father Donald entering the room.

“What’s on TV?” asked Father Donald in his broad Scottish accent.

“Only dust …” replied Ignatius still smiling.

“I like it,” said Father Donald laughing, “I’ll tell the housekeeper in the morning. I’m sure she’ll appreciate your joke!”

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Hell ?

Father Ignatius visited the local Catholic School to address the 15 years-old children at Catechism Class.

One of them asked: “Father, is it true that hell is full of fire and devils poking you with big forks and all that …”

“And all that …” repeated Father Ignatius with a smile.

“Hell has been described as a burning place many times in the Bible,” continued Father Ignatius. “Jesus tells us the story of a rich man who did not care for poor Lazarus starving at his gate. When both of them died, Lazarus went to Heaven whereas the rich man went to hell.

“Jesus says in this story that the rich man was in torment in the fire, so much so that he begged for a drop of water to cool his tongue.”

“So it is a fiery hot place; is it Father?” asked one of the children.

Father Ignatius cleaned his glasses of imaginary smudges. A habit he had acquired when he wanted to buy more thinking time.

A few seconds later he said: “The Bible often refers to hell as a fiery place where the flames never stop burning.

“When I was a young priest, and that’s many years ago as you can imagine, the message we gave from the pulpit on Sunday was that hell is indeed a fiery place, where torment is eternal and the worms that eat you never die. Fire and brimstone was the message of the day back then.

“A place where there will be crying and gnashing of teeth as it says in the Bible. Although I’ve often wondered what would happen to people with no teeth … perhaps they’ll be provided with dentures to gnash!”

The children laughed in unison.

“These days, however, the message has changed,” continued Father Ignatius pensively, “we no longer seem to talk much about hell in our sermons.”

“Why?” asked a child.

“Good question. I suppose because people have become hardened and they no longer believe, or no longer wish to believe.

“If I were to say in my sermon on Sunday that hell is a burning place full of demons with long spears, as one of you described it, the congregation would scoff in disbelief. They would just not want to buy such an imagery of hell.

“It seems to me that today’s generation wishes to believe in a nice place called Heaven, whatever they perceive it to be. And everyone seems to think that they are destined there.

“If you were to ask people in the street about Heaven most of those who believe in such a place hope they’ll go there. That’s because people consider themselves to be good and worthy of Heaven regardless of the way they live their lives.

“They’d rather not think about hell or what it’s like. Some may mention fire and damnation, but do they really believe it?

“And the only one laughing secretly at this state of affairs is the devil. For he exists all right although he’d rather we think he didn’t exist.”

The children were attentive to his every word. The priest continued in his gentle soothing voice:

“Someone once described hell as a place or a state of being totally without God.

“When I look around me these days I see many people in that state right now. They live without God in their lives. Totally unaware of Him; some even rejecting publicly His very existence. Others revel in the fact that they don’t believe in God, and consider themselves somewhat superior to the rest of us who believe in a supreme Creator of the Universe and all that is in it.

“So is hell just a state of being totally devoid of God’s love?

“Personally, I’d like to describe hell as a place not only totally devoid of God and His love, but also with a big difference.

“It is a place where you know for certain that God exists. You are made aware of His existence, His omnipotence, and His love for mankind. A place where you realize how wrong you were in choosing not to believe in Him, to reject Him and to mock Him in your lifetime.

"A place where you know of His eternal love for us and you see this love being shared amongst His followers in Heaven. Yet you are totally excluded from His presence and His love.

“It is denied to you because of the choices you have made when you were free to choose.

“Can you imagine that? Knowing for certain that God exists yet being excluded from Him.

“Isn’t that worse than any eternal fire?” asked the priest.

“Wow …” muttered one of the children.

Father Ignatius smiled reassuringly. “So, what is it to be,” he asked, “a fiery place or a place devoid of God?”

A child raised his hand and said: “I think it’s a place where I would rather not be!”

“That’s very wise,” remarked the priest, as the bell rang to indicate the end of Catechism lesson.

Thursday 22 October 2009

I'm more famous than ...

Have you noticed how these days if you’re “famous” or a “celebrity” your opinion on any subject is suddenly sought after, even though you might not be an expert in that subject, or any subject at all for that matter.

The other day they had a young entertainer on TV. A few months ago a total unknown. But because of success at some TV show or other this “personality” was being interviewed about a topical political issue of the day. The answers given were non-committal, almost nonsensical, and obviously prepared before-hand by some advisor or other.

Of course, we’re all entitled to our views on political and other issues; but are these celebrities' opinions any more relevant than yours or mine? They're interviewed because they are famous and we are not.

It seems these days we are regaled on TV, the news media and magazines with the views of singers, actors, sportsmen and all sort of famous personalities on a variety of subjects totally unrelated to their field of so-called expertise. We are told how they live, who they are currently dating, marrying, divorcing or just going out with. What they wear, whether they are on a diet and how well or not they’re doing. And so on and so forth.

Good entertainment – perhaps. Certainly it sells papers and magazines, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Is there?

But of more importance is that these people, because of who they are, have become opinion formers. Their views count. What they say and their advice is followed by many. They are emulated by their admirers. In short: they are role models.

This set me thinking. Was Jesus a celebrity?

He preached. His views and opinions were certainly novel as well as controversial for the time. He turned water into wine. He walked on water. He healed the sick. He even raised the dead back to life again.

He certainly had a following – as many as five thousand people at one time. He was listened to not just because of what He said and did, but because of who He was – or claimed He was.

His utterings, just like those of today’s celebrities, were aimed at changing lifestyles and life-long habits. But His message was different.

He didn’t advise people on the latest fashions, or how to improve their homes, or prepare a sumptuous meal. He didn’t talk about diets or all the superficial issues discussed by celebrities today.

He talked about God’s love for us, and how we should love Him back and love each other – even our enemies. He taught us to forgive – time and again. He asked us to turn the other cheek. He told us He was the Son of God. He came to forgive sins. He promised us eternal life.

A powerful and controversial message indeed. One which not only could change lifestyles at that time – but also eternally even after death.

His message was relevant then. It is still relevant today. Sadly, too many are tuned in to the wrong celebrities.

Friday 16 October 2009

Jesus is on Twitter.

As you know a “tweet” is a text-based message of up to 140 characters which your “friends” can receive and respond to. Here are some tweets sent by Jesus:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Love your neighbour as yourself.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.

Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way as you judge others.

Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.

Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.

Peace be with you.

I will be with you always, to the end of the age.

I say: This is great advice from our Lord, Jesus.

Are you a follower?

Friday 9 October 2009

Judgmental ?

I had reason to take someone to hospital. The waiting room was empty so we sat there reading some old magazines.

(Why are magazines always old at the doctor’s and dentist? The one I read announced the sinking of a ship called Titanic. But I digress).

A few minutes later a man in his thirties came in. He was dressed in scruffy jeans, T shirt and coat. He had long stringy hair and a beard. He sat there mumbling to himself. He looked a bit like a hobo.

A few moments longer and another man came in. He too looked untidy. As soon as he entered the waiting room the first man asked him: “Have you got a smoke?”

The second man handed him a pouch of tobacco and the first man proceeded to roll himself a cigarette – which thankfully he did not light up.

A little while more and a couple came in – a man and a woman. They too looked … not too well in the sartorial department. They cheerfully greeted the others in loud voices: “You’re looking good … your cheeks are rosy … not pale like the last time”.

Others kept coming in … men and women. All looked similar in that some were un-shaven (the men of course), all looked poor and unfed, and all spoke loudly with each other.

“Good Heavens, everyone’s here today …” “How are you doing me old mucker?” and so on and so forth with plenty of fruity expletive bad language to boot.

In conversation one of them pulled out a book entitled “Alcoholic’s Anonymous” and it didn’t take long from their conversations to establish that they were all here together for a regular check-up. One proudly announced that she hadn’t touched a drop for 18 days whilst the others congratulated her for her efforts.

By then I noticed that the other “normal” patients (whatever that means) who had arrived since, congregated at the other side of the large waiting room. Some stood by the door, some waited outside in the corridor, but none said anything about this motley lot speaking loudly. It was obvious that they were being judgmental by their looks and their haughty silence.

I must admit in shame that when they first arrived in the room, I too felt a little uncomfortable and intimidated by their presence. They were not violent. Just loud, unkempt and in some cases obviously sleeping rough. One complained that last night was particularly freezing and he slept wearing his overcoat whilst tucked into the sleeping bag he was carrying with him.

This set me thinking.

Jesus must have met quite a number of people like them in His time. The poor, destitute, down and outs, the sick and the lame. Lepers even. These people were shunned and ignored by society in general.

But how did Jesus react? Unlike me, He was not uncomfortable and intimidated by them. Whether He met them singly or ten lepers at a time.

He reacted with love, pity and compassion. And in most cases He healed them and returned them to a better life.

Years later, Father Damien De Veuster followed Christ’s example and went to help the lepers of Molokai.

Mother Theresa dedicated her life to the poor of Calcutta.

I’m sure you can name others who also did similar charitable works instead of feeling threatened, intimidated and uncomfortable.

As I was!

Wednesday 30 September 2009

I'm proud.

“I’m proud … Standing here on top of the hill … Master of all I survey … Watching you down there … struggling to reach the top … Yes, I’m proud of my achievements.”

It is inevitable that in life some of us will be more successful than others. Whoever you are, there will always be someone better and someone worse off than you.

Some will reach the top of their profession or vocation – be it business executive, politician, lawyer, doctor … or bishop, archbishop or cardinal.

There’s nothing wrong of course in being successful. God wants good Christians to reach positions of influence in this world; for it is only by having Christians there do we stand a chance of improving the lives of many.

But as we rise higher in our careers there’s something we need to remember. Who got us there?

We may be clever, intelligent, hard-working, diligent … or even just lucky to get to the top. But, really … was it all of our making?

Was it not God who gave us intelligence, good health, determination and the other good qualities to help us along the way? Or did we create our own intelligence and cleverness?

Sure, let’s be proud of our success and achievements. But our pride should be served with an equal, if not larger, portion of humility.

“When He had finished washing their feet, He put on his clothes and returned to His place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them’ “. John 13:12-17.

Friday 25 September 2009

Hope Lost Hope Regained.

A few days ago I wrote about people who, faced with incurable disease, choose to end their lives.

I suppose it is fair to say that their actions are, to some extent at least, motivated by loss of hope. And that’s what I wish to address today.

Perhaps one of the most tragic and damaging thing that can befall man is the loss of hope. Whatever our situation may be, if we lose hope, if we cannot see the prospect of our situation changing for the better, we are in danger of shutting down completely and accepting the inevitable outcome.

We live in difficult times. Financial crises are affecting many people. Millions are losing their jobs, their homes and their livelihood.

Those aged fifty or more would find it very difficult to find a comparable job again, if indeed they can find any job at all. More tragically, the thousands of youngsters leaving colleges and universities with good qualifications, and little prospects of employment. They feel cheated. They did what they were advised to do. They stayed in education, they worked hard, they probably amassed large debts and loans to help sustain them whilst they studied – and now there are no jobs to go to.

There are of course other circumstances which can lead us to lose hope, besides illness, or lack of work and so on. Broken relationships with no prospect of reconciliation, addictions, failures etc … all can lead us to the temptation to just give up.

Where’s all this leading to? – I hear you ask.

I’d like you for a moment to consider some facts.

Whatever happens in life one thing is for certain: God is still in control. He is not hiding away behind the settee crying: “Woe woe … look at what is happening out there!”

He is in total control of the situation which He has allowed to happen, and which, in most circumstances, we have created for ourselves.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews knew what he was saying when he wrote: To have Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for … (Hebrews 11).

And the important thing, whatever our circumstances, is to hold on to that Faith and to believe, in all certainty, that God is in control. And to thank Him and praise Him for being in control. To re-affirm and acknowledge our belief that He is in control.

By doing so, somehow, we open a channel for God to turn our situation to the good. I’ve seen this happen several times.

Think of the alternative. By turning our back on God, by ignoring Him, blaming Him even for our situation – He will hardly feel inclined to help us. Will He? Of course, He’ll remain in control, waiting for us, with Fatherly patience, love and understanding, for the moment we return to Him like the prodigal son and be welcomed in His arms.

But what do you do if someone else has lost hope – even though you may not have yourself?

Preaching will not help. It may drive them further away.

Love, sympathy, compassion, whatever practical help you can offer may well help a little.

But most important is prayer. Silent prayer even. Without them knowing about it.

Let your Faith and your hope work for them. Even though they may have little or no Faith at all, your Faith is enough.

The best listened to and answered prayers are those we pray for other people. They show God our generosity of spirit, our love, our compassion, and most of all, our Faith in Him.

Don’t suggest solutions to God; like “Please help Him find a job”, but earnestly and in all Faith hand the situation over to Him. He knows what to do, in His time and in His own way.

Just say: “Thy will be done” and mean it.

And watch His miracles at work.

Friday 18 September 2009

Are you a slum?

Given a free choice, where would you rather live? In an immaculately beautiful, well-decorated, and fully appointed with every modern convenience, luxurious house in a well-sought after area of town.

Or in a decrepit, run-down, dirty, unkempt hovel, not worthy to shelter a cockroach?

Or would you prefer a house built on solid foundations and strong enough, but requiring a little care and attention and a bit of maintenance here and there?

When Jesus was raised to Heaven He sent us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to guide us throughout life. I mean this quite literally; not as a figure of speech.

What home does He find in us?

A pious, obedient, prayerful, loving, caring and welcoming soul?

Or a rebellious, self-assured, defiant, insolent and un-believing one?

Or are we perhaps, like most Christians, well-meaning believers, but what a realtor estate agent would describe as: “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) type of person?

The sort of person whose foundations are solid enough but whose structures often have to withstand the rigours of battering which life’s storms and thunders throws our way. And we don't fare well in such circumstances.

Is our soul welcoming enough for our Lord to dwell within us, albeit badly in need of a lick of paint here and there and a little attention which prayerful devotion would soon restore?

The Lord often knocks at our door. He may not find us all spick-and-span and immaculate but at least may He find us with good honest intentions. Ready to recognize our failings and willing to put them right for His sake and in thanksgiving for what He has done for us.

“Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him, and he will eat with me.” Revelation 3:20.

“How much more, then, will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Expensive ... I tell you!

You never win in this life do you?

The suggestion was that we go somewhere very expensive for our Anniversary – never mind the cost … somewhere really expensive.

So we went to the petrol (gas) station.

And that’s how the argument started!

Sunday 13 September 2009

Faith and Action.

What does it mean to be a Christian? To have Faith?

We proclaim we are Christians, we go to church on Sunday, other days even, we pray, and we fast perhaps. But is that enough?

When we get to meet God, will we say: “I helped in church every week. I cleaned the church and arranged the flowers. Please let me in Heaven.” or “I served on the church council for years, I was responsible for the readers’ rota and I read in church on Sundays many times. I typed and printed the weekly church newsletter. Please let me in.”

Is this what it means to be a Christian?

Or should we be a channel of His peace as St Francis of Assisi prayed. Or help the poor and destitute as Mother Theresa did.

"My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” — if you don't give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead." James 2:14-17.

Friday 11 September 2009

Moving mountains.

“It was because you haven’t enough Faith,” answered Jesus. “I assure you that if you have Faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything." Matthew 17:20.

Sometimes, we tend to take the Bible too literally. We forget that when Jesus spoke to His listeners He used the idiom and phrases commonly used at the time.

In Britain there’s a saying “Keep your hair on”, which means calm down, don’t get so excited and worked up, relax a little.

It would be wrong if 2000 years from now that saying were interpreted to mean an adverse comment on male baldness.

When Jesus referred to moving a hill He did not mean it literally. Miracles are not magic tricks, and the Holy Spirit, for it is He who performs miracles, not the disciples, and certainly not us – the Holy Spirit would not perform a miracle for no purpose.

In this context, the disciples had failed to drive out a demon from a young child. They asked Jesus why they had failed.

Jesus taught them, and us, that a pre-requisite to performing miracles is to have Faith in Him, in God, and in the Holy Spirit.

And yes … miracles do happen in this day and age, today even.

The problem is that we are too un-willing to believe.

Friday 4 September 2009

Idle thoughts.

You’re going along fine with life and then a thought comes into your mind. You ignore it at first hoping it will go away. But it comes back. You get on with your life, your work and with what you were doing. The thought is still there. Niggling away at your mind. Distracting you to the point of irritation.

Sometimes I wish we could shake ourselves left and right just like a wet dog does and get rid of all our troubles and our unwanted thoughts.

But we can’t.

These thoughts come from nowhere and if we give them room in our minds they can slowly lead us astray from God.

We must learn to recognize them before they become hard to control. We need to be alert to their very first influences on our soul and readily turn them over to God.

For make no mistake about it; alone, we cannot overcome them.

Evil will introduce these thoughts when we least expect them or when we’re at our weakest. Tired maybe, or upset about something that’s just happened in our lives; whatever the occasion – as soon as we focus away from God, the devil will seize the opportunity to gain an advantage.

Turn your thoughts, whatever they are, to God always and seek His help.

The devil is a liar. John 8:44.

"Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'?” … He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly." Mark 7:18-22.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Wish List.

You must have read or heard about the wish lists of things to do before you die.

Usually they are entitled 20 things to do before you die. The number may well vary but the intention is always the same.

The list sets out such things like undertaking a parachute jump, or swimming with dolphins – always a popular one this, I can’t understand why. Or seeing a blue whale, or bungee jumping, and similar adventures ranging from the normally acceptable to the outright dangerous.

I’ve never seen on the list of things to do before you die the wish:

To prepare to die.

What? What do you mean to prepare to die?

I mean:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Why Blog?

To Blog or not to Blog
That is the question.
Whether it is nobler in the mind
To keep one’s thoughts to oneself
Than reveal them to all
On screens large and small.
And by doing such
Suffer the slings and arrows
Of outrageous readers
Who’d rather Block you
Than read your feeble Tweeters.
Or to bravely face your qualms
And courageously Blog on
Regardless of your audience
Be it great or be it small;
Just Blog on into eternity
And have yourself a ball!

Sunday 30 August 2009

Christ's wobbly table.

If I may quote Martin Luther King: If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.

Many people go through life enduring their job from day to day and treat it as a means to earn a living – and no more. And as time goes by, so does the pride they have in their work, and inevitably their standard of performance deteriorates.

Whatever job we have to do in life, whether it is an influential position of power or a carpenter like Christ, it is our duty, surely, to give it all the attention and skill that we possess. Can you imagine Jesus making a table with a wobbly leg?


Then why should we? Whatever task we have been given to do – let’s make sure it is not wobbly.

Wednesday 26 August 2009


Not much is spoken about the devil these days. When’s the last time you heard speaking of him in a sermon on Sunday?

His job description is easy: keep people away from God.

And by keeping silent about him, is not the church unwittingly complicit in the devil’s attempts to make us believe he does not really exist?

Our world is full of temptations to lure us away from God and all it takes is a slight diversion of attention, a momentary loss of focus, and we can so easily drift away.

Jesus warned us about this, for He too was tempted, several times. He prayed to His Father as we should too, using His words:

“And lead us not into temptation … but deliver us from evil.”

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Ready to use.

Make me a channel of your peace … (St Francis of Assisi).

It is not a condition for God to use us as a channel of His peace and love in the lives of others that we should be full of Faith, strong in spirit, and in control of every situation.

Moses was hesitant at first, when approached by God, citing his stammer as an impediment to the task ahead. But look what he achieved.

Paul was a declared enemy of God, in fact he fought God by killing the early Christians. And look what he accomplished.

Peter denied Jesus - three times. Yet see what he did after that in preaching the Word.

To be a channel for God’s use we need to be willing to listen to Him, to obey Him and to trust Him in every respect.

Difficult isn’t it?

Is it?

Sunday 23 August 2009

Donate a Prayer

Just before He was arrested, Jesus prayed for His disciples. (John 17).

Then He prayed for us – yes, you and me. He said:

“I pray not only for them, (the disciples), but also for those who believe in me because of their message. I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.” John 17: 20-21.

Prayer is the greatest gift we can give each other. It shows generosity of spirit, it shows caring, and it shows love on our part for someone else.

Please pray for me.

Please pray for others.

For every comment below promising or requesting a prayer; I promise to pray for the intention mentioned.

God bless.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Christ's Prayer for us.

Just before He was arrested, Jesus prayed for His disciples. (John 17).

Then He prayed for us – yes, you and me. He said:

“I pray not only for them, (the disciples), but also for those who believe in me because of their message. I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.” John 17: 20-21.

Two thousand years later Christians are still disagreeing with each other. The more we dispute on minor things the more we throw doubts and confusion on the Christian message to this world.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

The missing logic.

There’s some logic which sometimes escapes us Christians.

We say we believe in God. We also believe in Jesus His only Son. And … hesitantly perhaps … we also believe in the Holy Spirit.

I say hesitantly because most people believe even though they might not know what to believe. And that’s not always their fault.

Sure, they’ve heard what happened at Pentecost, and how the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. They’ve heard of the Annunciation and the Virgin Birth, and the Holy Spirit appearing at Christ’s baptism.

But apart from these and other stories about the Holy Spirit, people are left with a void, a mystery, something or someone to believe in without question. To them, the Holy Spirit is confined to the pages of the Bible, to be believed in and not dwelt upon for too long.

The important questions are rarely asked:

Is the Holy Spirit relevant to them today? Is the Holy Spirit here now?

Of course He is. And what is more, He is here to guide us throughout our lives, through difficult times and good ones, showing us the way, and teaching us what to say and do.

Yet many people, Christians in every other respect, are unaware of this fact.

Perhaps because they don’t understand, they have not been told, they have not been taught. Perhaps too because of their confusion in accepting and comprehending the Holy Spirit in-dwelling within ourselves.

Why is the church sometimes so reticent in proclaiming this – the greatest news and central message of our Christianity?

God, Christ, is/are with us right now. Through the Holy Spirit.

Monday 17 August 2009

Inner Style.

Switch on the TV, pick up any magazine, and you’d be surprised how many programs and articles there are devoted to improving our modern life styles.

How to improve one’s home, one’s garden, how to dress better, have a more stylish car, lose weight, be a better cook, etc … etc … The list seems endless on how we can become more sophisticated and more accepted in today’s stylish society.

But I haven’t seen anything said about how we can improve ourselves, our inner being, our very soul.

Nothing said about how we can become kinder to others, more generous, loving, attentive, caring, and so on.

Too difficult I suppose. And not as instant as putting a bit of paint on one’s face or wearing some fancy clothes.

But then, Sunday sermons are supposed to cater for our inner selves, aren’t they?

OK, if you happen to go to church. But don’t put something like that on TV … it won’t attract the viewers my dear … nor sell copy in magazines!

Sunday 16 August 2009

God Relations.

Intelligence and knowledge increases from one generation to the next. What you and I know, our parents didn’t. And what our parents knew, their parents and grandparents didn’t.

The same applies to relationships and the nature of relationships, I suppose.

Some people today have a personal relationship with God and His Son Jesus. They are not just characters in a book, or in the Bible. They are living Beings with whom we communicate and who communicate with us, help us, guide us, and protect us throughout our lives in preparation for the next.

These are no glib words; but a true reality for some people today.

Others, however, believe in God alright, but He is a little distant. Sitting somewhere up there in the clouds, on His throne, looking at us, and ready to help us when we ask Him. They go to church alright, but to them at least, their relationship with their maker is not a close one. Full of reverence, of course, and perhaps tinged with a modicum of fear.

Our grandparents' sermons were full of God’s wrath, fire and brimstone, and the dread of eternal damnation in hell.

But today, a sermon like that would not go down too well – would it? It would probably not be taken too seriously by church attendants, never mind those who don’t go to church.

So how do we communicate God, Jesus, Heaven and hell in today’s sophisticated modern world full of cynicism, bitterness and bile?

Some describe hell as being in the complete absence of God for eternity. But then, there are those in this state right now, in this very lifetime; so how can they see or understand the concept of hell, never mind fear it?

Perhaps one way is to accentuate the positive in a personal and close relationship with God. Not then … in Heaven … sometime in the future.

But here and now, today, and every day.

Through the Holy Spirit. The third person in the Holy Trinity. The gift. As described by St Hilary of Poitiers, (Bishop in the 3rd Century AD). Sent to us by Jesus after He was raised to Heaven.

Not much is said about the Holy Spirit in church these days.

Yet He is here, living, loving, and ready to guide us in this life, in preparation for an eternity with God, in the next.

If we let Him.

And these are no glib words either ... but meant quite literally.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Moaner Lisa.

I asked a sick old man how he was doing, just as a conversation starter. He replied: I can’t complain ... there are so many others worse than me.

This set me thinking. When we complain about our situation, it may be a big thing, or a small matter ... a little grumble ... you know what I mean ... what are we doing exactly?

We are opening the door one tiny little bit for the devil to sneak in and play havoc with our thoughts. One tiny complaint leads to another ... and soon we become a Moaner Lisa !!!

If our Walk with Christ is to be perfect we should trust Him in everything. So the slightest complaint, grumble or moan is a hint that perhaps we don’t trust Him as much as we should or as much as we claim.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Don't panic ... don't panic !!!

Crises will happen to us from time to time. God permits them for His own purpose and for His own reasons.

Our natural reaction may be to panic.

Our un-natural reaction is to remain calm. Take a deep breath and trust in God.

At times of crisis we need to proceed slowly, in the conscious knowledge that God is with us and will protect us.

I repeat: in the conscious knowledge.

We should speak our truth quietly, as the opportunity arises, and as the Holy Spirit guides us.

We should avoid needless talk, or needless worries and concerns. But nurture a peace in our hearts that comes from Him, who cares and will protect us. If we allow Him to.

Our prayers should be focused on His will, and His plans for us in this critical situation; in the sure belief that He will see us through it just as He has brought us to it.

Monday 10 August 2009

Percentage Belief.

A man named Jarius pleaded with Jesus for help because his daughter was dying. (Luke 8:40-56).

On His way to Jarius’ house, with a crowd following, there was a woman who had been ill for some time and doctors could do nothing for her. She thought: “if only I could get close enough to Jesus and touch His cloak, I’ll be healed.”

And so she did, and she was healed. Jesus felt her touching Him and said to her: “Your Faith has healed you.”

As He continued His journey a messenger came and told Jarius that his daughter was dead. “Don’t disturb Jesus any further.”

Jesus said to Jarius: “Don’t be afraid; only believe and she will be well.”

He then went to the house and raised the child from the dead.

As He was leaving that place, two blind men followed Jesus. (Matthew 9:27-31).

They begged Him to be healed.

So Jesus asked them: “Do you believe that I can heal you?”

“Yes” they answered.

Jesus touched their eyes and said: “Let it happen, then, just as you believe!”

And their sight was restored.

The common theme in these three incidents is that the individuals concerned believed in Jesus and in His power of healing.

The woman did not even have to ask Him. She believed that touching Him alone would heal her.

Jarius must have been devastated to hear of his daughter’s death; but Jesus told him to believe. He had a quick choice to make: carry on towards the house with Jesus, or send Him away. He believed in Jesus.

The two blind men were asked directly: “Do you believe that I can heal you?”

What a challenge from Jesus Himself. Do you really believe? Or are you here because you may have heard so much about me, or as a gamble that it might work, or for some other reason?

When we earnestly pray to God and ask for something; what percentage in us really believes that He can help us? Or is there that minute 1% of a doubt lurking there, at the back of our mind, making us doubt His willingness, or ability, to help?

Thursday 6 August 2009

Twisting the Word of God.

Once upon a time Jesus was in a synagogue on the Sabbath; and there was a man with a paralysed hand. (Matthew 12:9–14).

Some people wanted to accuse Him of doing wrong and asked Him whether it is against their Law to heal (work) on the Sabbath.

Jesus asked them if any of them had a sheep which fell into a deep hole on the Sabbath whether they would rescue it. Then to prove His point, He healed the man with the paralysed hand.

So what is Jesus saying here?

Is He encouraging people to break one of the Ten Commandments?

Of course not.

Jesus is saying: Beware of those who would use God’s Word for their own ends. They would either take it literally or miss-quote it to suit their own argument and to their benefit.

God has given you a brain. Use it.

It is there to help you discern what is right and what is wrong. The Commandments are there to guide you through life. Not to be used by you and interpreted in such a way so that you can twist their meaning for your own selfish needs.