Saturday 27 June 2015

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.

Thursday 25 June 2015

The Millionaire

Theodore Luxton-Joyce was a millionaire widower. He inherited wealth from his father Lord Joyce and he lived in a mansion on the edge of town in beautiful countryside surroundings. He drove a very old classic car which he prized above all else – or so it seemed, and he always wore a three-piece suit made of heavy woolen cloth and a Sherlock Holmes type hat. He carried an expensive gold watch in a small pocket in his vest with a gold chain leading up to a button hole to which it was attached.

He had a thick white toothbrush moustache punctuating a clean shaven thick set jaw and square face.

He often carried a walking stick with a silver plated lion’s head for a handle. It was just for effect of course, he being a fit and truly handsome sixty year old gentleman.

He was certainly quite a sight around town in his luxury old automobile, his attire and walking stick, not to mention of course his perfect English accent no doubt taught him in the best private schools.

He was often teased by people saying he’d been born in the wrong age; and he’d fit better in Victorian times or thereabouts. He’d chuckle heartily and say “And what grand times they were for England … I’d certainly would have improved them by my mere presence …”

Perhaps he didn’t know it, but he was a real romantic at heart, not that he would admit it to anyone of course. It would probably ruin his image, he thought, as the tough talking lord of the manor with no time for such nonsense.

Deep down, however, he was a kind and gentle man and had never forgotten his beloved departed wife. He prayed for her, as best he could, and often asked Father Ignatius to celebrate Mass for the repose of her soul; on her birthday, their wedding day and on the anniversary of her death.

But secretly of course … he never announced the Mass intention in the Church’s Newsletter as was customary in St Vincent Parish. The Mass, always on a Sunday, would be posted in the Newsletter as “Private Intention” and he’d attend and sit on the front pew, and wink gently at Father Ignatius as he came out of the Sacristy and on to the Altar.

One evening Father Ignatius visited Theodore in his mansion, at the man’s invitation, for a private chat.

Father Ignatius was rather intrigued as he waited in the large library filled with books which had never been opened or read for ages. He’d never visited the mansion before, and from what he had seen so far, he understood why people suggested Theodore was born in the wrong age. He’d only been there for half-an-hour and he’d already met the gardener busily pruning the prize rose bushes, the butler who opened the front door and the maid who brought him tea served in the best porcelain and expensive biscuits which you would certainly not find at the supermarket!

Theodore claimed he lived alone, which is strictly true, if you don’t count the live-in entourage of staff to look after the house and surrounding land.

Moments later the butler opened the door and in came Theodore. He was wearing bright red tartan trousers, a dark blue open-necked shirt and a large cravat round his neck held together by a red jewel on a ring, and a navy blue blazer with the initials TLJ embroidered in gold on the lapel.

Father Ignatius did not flinch a muscle, but smiled silently deep within his soul.

“How nice of you to agree to meet me …” said Theodore, as the butler left the room closing the door behind him, “I’d like a private chat if I may … one cannot be seen visiting you in Church you understand!”

“I understand …” said the priest sitting down again.

“Jolly good … but first let me offer you something stronger than Darjeeling tea … I have the finest selection of single malt whisky … or a glass of vintage wine if you prefer …”

Father Ignatius preferred to continue with the pot of tea, whilst Theodore helped himself to some wine.

“Well …” he hesitated, “I’d like your opinion on certain delicate matters … you being such a knowledgeable individual and all that …”

The priest smiled feebly.

“It’s about my dear wife …” he hesitated again, “I really miss her … do you think she’s in Heaven?”

“I would say so …” replied the priest hesitating in turn and wondering where this was leading to, “she was a good person, and I was there in hospital administering the last Sacraments when she died … so I would say the angels were with her that night …”

“Jolly good … jolly good …” repeated Theodore as he sipped a little wine, “I really miss her … as I said … terrible thing her dying so quickly after such a short illness …”

“I understand …” repeated the priest still confused about this conversation.

“How long is it decent to mourn for someone’s death … do you think?” asked Theodore abruptly.

“Well …” Father Ignatius was taken aback by the question, “there’s no set period of decency as such … different people deal with death in their own way and in their own time. Matilda died six years ago if I remember right …”

“You remember too damn right …” interrupted Theodore, “pardon my language Father … and not a day passes by without me thinking about her and hoping she’d be with me here …”

The priest said nothing and put his cup down on the table.

“Is it right for an old man like me to be in love?” he asked, “I am 60 you know …”

“There is no set age to be in love …” continued the priest gently as he was interrupted once again.

“The thing is … I love my wife … I love her dearly believe me … But …” he hesitated once again, and the priest said nothing, now totally baffled at what was going on here.

“Ok … let’s get to the point …” Theodore blurted out putting down his glass of wine, “the thing is I have needed an accountant for the last six months or so. I don’t have a head for figures and all that … it is all Greek to me … yet the tax people want the accounts properly audited and all that … sheer nonsense I say … so I spoke to my solicitors … you probably know them … Sterling Cash and Banks in the High Street …”

The priest nodded silently, now totally overcome with confusion at what Theodore was leading to.

“Anyway …” said Theodore, “the solicitors put me in touch with this accountant … Geraldine Leamington … a lovely young lady of thirty odd years … she’s very competent you know … if ever you want an accountant to do the Sunday collection for you …

“Anyway … as I said … Geraldine has been coming here for at least six months now … she’s like a magician you know … she went through those figures like a hot knife through butter … she checked the books for the past six years … I’d made a right mess of them apparently … all Greek to me as I say …

“Ha ha …” he laughed heartily pouring himself another glass of wine, “turns out I’d made such a pig’s ear of the accounts that the tax man apparently owes me money … I’ve been overpaying for years … she managed to claim back a tidy sum I tell you … I received the check from the tax man last week …

“You don’t need her to count the Sunday collection do you?”

“No thanks …” mumbled Father Ignatius politely.

“Back to business …” continued Theodore, “the thing is … she’s been coming here for six months or so and we got to know each other and her family … and, not to put too fine a point on it, I’ve fallen in love again and wish to get married … is that all right do you think?”

“You wish to marry the young lady?” asked the priest cautiously.

“Of course not …” said Theodore getting a little red in the face, “what do you think I am? She is half my age you know … wouldn’t have the energy old boy …

“No … you’re way off beam Padre … I wish to marry her mother. She’s a widow … about my age … fifty-nine actually … but don’t tell her I told you. Women you know … they never reveal their age apparently …

“I’ve been meeting Geraldine’s mother in secret for a while … we meet in the Grand Hotel for tea … do you know it … in the High Street.

“We get on rather well … but I’m not so sure about love at my age … is it possible? And is it OK to marry again? Will my dear wife understand?”

Father Ignatius asked for a drop of vintage whisky to calm his nerves a little.

The wedding is scheduled in four months time at St Vincent Church with Father Ignatius officiating.

Theodore has still to decide on what music will be played in church on that day. Father Ignatius suggested that he leaves all decisions to his bride to be … at least then matters would be organized in time!

You can download the book "Theodore Luxton Joyce - Lovable Eccentric" FREE - yes FREE from HERE 

Read more about Theodore's wedding HERE

Monday 22 June 2015

This Man

Imagine you’re a person of authority in a Court of Law.

The judge, the final arbiter, whatever you say happens.

And they bring to you a man. He is fairly ordinary looking and they accuse Him of saying He is the Son of God. And this is blasphemy according to the Law and He should be put to death.

Before you make such a momentous decision on the man’s life, you decide to do some investigations.

You check and you find that this man has been around for about three years or so. He has been travelling up and down the land, and He has indeed said several times that He is the Son of God. He preaches to people and He tells them to repent from their sins and to follow the Way of the Lord.

So you wonder about this and you think “Well, maybe if I can prove that this man is mad, I could let Him off. I could tell the people that He is insane, and they should let Him go, and I could warn Him not to repeat what He says because it would get Him into deep trouble”.

So you check on the man’s sanity and you find that indeed He is not mad at all. Many people can testify to the fact that he has preached in the temples, and He has debated with religious elders, and shows no sign of being mentally insane whatsoever. Indeed, He is very wise.

And you also find that this man seems to have some supernatural powers because He has healed many people up and down the country. The blind can see, the deaf can hear, the dumb can talk and the lame can walk. And there’s plenty of evidence for what He has done. There’s even a Roman Officer who can testify that He has healed. What better evidence do you want?

And also, you understand, that apparently He has raised people from the dead. Now that’s very strange. No one has ever done that before. But again there’s plenty of evidence of that. There’s the family of a man called Lazarus who apparently had died and had been entombed for a few days yet Jesus raised him from the dead and raised other people from the dead.

And when He preaches He says to people “Your Faith has saved you” whatever that means. And He heals them.

He doesn’t charge at all for what He is doing. He just wants people to repent and follow the Lord.

So you wonder whether He’s some sort of trickster, some sort of charlatan. So you order your soldiers to beat Him up and to rough Him a bit to see whether He admits to being a liar, a cheat.

Your soldiers torture Him, beat Him up, they put a crown of thorns on His head because He claims to being a King of some sort. But after all that the man still does not say anything in His defence.

So you give up. You think, “Well, He is one of their people. He is not one of us. So what’s it to do with me if they want to kill Him.”

So you give orders for Him to be put to death.

Your soldiers put a Cross on His back and ask Him to carry it all the way to the place where He is nailed to that Cross and left there to die.

And just before He dies He asks God in Heaven, to forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing.

What’s more strange is that three days later this very man is Himself raised from the dead.  And a lot of people see Him and can testify to his Resurrection.

Now I wonder. Is this enough evidence that this man is really the Son of God?

Because it is for me.

Friday 19 June 2015


Amazing the things we gather and collect over the years. Take the music and video field for instance. How many DVDs and music CDs do we have at home? Have we listened to all of them more than once? How many times can we see the same DVD feature movie; or the Series of that famous TV show we like?

Time was when all these movies were on VHS tapes; and our music collection was either cassette tapes or old vinyl. Then the system changed; and we had to change too.

Now it’s DVDs and CDs soon to be replaced by Blu-Ray, MP3s and a variety of other formats no doubt.

And there’s also all those photos we took with our modern cameras. In the old days it was a film which had to be developed and printed on paper. It cost money – so we were careful how many photos we took. Now it’s digital and we can click away to our heart’s content and put all these photos on CDs and build a large collection which we see once and then forget about it.

I wonder, will there be time in Heaven to sit back and see all those DVD movies we never have time to watch? Or our favourite TV shows which ran for several Series? Or all those photos we took of all the holidays and events we went to? And listen to all our music collections we amassed over the years?

And will they have a machine in Heaven which runs all formats regardless whether your memories are saved on Betamax, VHS or the latest digital system?

And how about our lovely shoe collection? One pair for each occasion? Or our lovely handbags … dresses … hats … ties … sets of golf clubs … watches … and numerous other things we buy and collect over a lifetime?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6: 19-21.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

It's all about birds

"No, it's not you. It's me. That's the way I am. It's just not my scene."

Not far from where we live, about two hours' drive or so, there is a bird sanctuary. A place designated where birds can live in peace undisturbed and that's the way I like it. However, I was persuaded against my better nature that it would make a nice day out.

"It'll be fun ... They have many birds there we can watch with binoculars. And there are some in cages. Come on ... Drive us there!"

"What? Drive for two hours just to see some birds? The only birds I like to see are the frozen ones in the supermarket!"

Well, it was just as I predicted. A huge area of countryside and semi-forest where we had to walk, and walk, and walk, and every so often stop and listen to different sounds in the trees and try to identify which bird it is. Or search the various branches with binoculars to discover where they were hiding or nesting.

To be honest, I can't tell the difference between a sparrow and an eagle and could not care less. As long as they live in this nature reserve and I live in mine that's all that matters. How would we like it if these birds came to visit our towns and cities to gawp at us getting on with our business? Remember that film by Hitchcock? Even his name was invaded by a bird!

This sanctuary also had an area where a number of birds were kept safe in large cages whilst others were perched on perches and tied by chains to stop their escape. Hundreds and hundreds they were, or so it seemed, all kept together according to species.
"Yes ... I have seen all the owls! They are all the same to me. I realise they are all different sizes and have different coloured plumage; but does it really matter? They are owls and do what owls do. They sit there on their perch looking at you passing by.

"Yes ... yes ... I have also seen all the hawks. They too all look the same apart from size and a small variation in the colour of their plumage. And very excited I was identifying where they originate from; although I noticed none are destined for our oven!

"And I did notice that their beaks, being birds of prey, (or is it pray?), are different looking from a sparrow's beak or that of a pelican."

[NOTE: Yes - there were even pelicans and ostriches there, and penguins too!] 

"Why can't we go to the restaurant for a rest and something to eat? Do they have a KFC here?"

Instead, I was frogmarched to the souvenir shop. Well, at least I didn't waddle like a duck or hop like a sparrow or blackbird!

You've guessed it. The souvenir shop was full of ... souvenirs of birds. There were pictures of birds, and posters of birds, and jigsaw puzzles of birds, and key rings, and statues, and postcards, and pencils and pens and a million other things I never imagined existed in the same sentence as birds. I mean ... whoever wants a toilet roll holder with a picture of a swan on it? Whose idea was it to juxtapose the two together? What is the missing link which I am missing here?

"And no ... we do not want that lovely poster of an owl. What will we do with it? Hang it in the bedroom? I would have nightmares if I had those round eyes staring at me as I fell asleep. He looks as if he is ready to attack his prey ... namely me!!!"

Anyway, that was our day at the nature reserve which is only about two hours' drive from where we live and not far enough as far as I am concerned.

We returned home with a car load of souvenirs ... and they did not have a KFC there either!

Saturday 13 June 2015

Animals in Heaven

A few friends were discussing religion and the conversation turned to whether animals go to Heaven.

Some thought this unlikely since animals have no souls; others believed they’ll meet their pets in Heaven.

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?

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?

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.

Monday 1 June 2015

Les Parrots

An eccentric friend of mine went to a high class pet shop and bought two parrots which he displayed proudly in the grounds of his house out in the country. He was told that one of the parrots was a fluent talker, whilst the other was rather shy and had never said a word; albeit he showed promise and needed a little care and attention.

Once he had the pair home he approached their enclosure and started repeating inane words like "Pretty Polly ... who's a pretty boy ..." and so on, in the hope that the parrots would repeat what he said; which is what parrots are supposed to do.

To his surprise, the talkative parrot replied in French "Vous êtes un imbécile, monsieur!"

My friend was totally surprised, not so much at the insult, but at the fact that the parrot addressed him in French. Parrots are supposed to speak in English aren't they?

Before my friend could utter another word, and plenty came readily to mind, believe me, the French parrot started reciting Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables".

On and on he continued reciting from Victor Hugo, Molliere, Racine, Camus and others, so well read in French literature that parrot was. My friend was totally mesmerised at this even though he could not understand a word the parrot was saying.

He tried to get the other parrot to speak, but to no avail. The silent one remained ever so.

The problem was that my friend could not tell apart which parrot was which, they were so identical. So he could not proudly tell his friends he has a French talking parrot if, as sometimes happened, neither would oblige. So he rang the pet shop for advice.

The pet shop owner said that the French speaking parrot was the male, and he was very amourous. All that my friend had to do is creep on the pair late at night and when he spied the French parrot saying to the other one "Je t'aime mon amour!", all he had to do is to put a collar on him to distinguish him as the talking male.

This my friend did quite successfully and he collared the male parrot as advised.

A few days later my friend had a few visitors to come and see the parrots, and amongst them was the local Parish priest. As the group approached the birds' cage the male parrot said to the priest in a French accent "Alors, mon ami. I see zey caught you at it too!"

To which the other parrot said in a Spanish accent "Hola señor!"