Friday 30 March 2018

Easter Lies and Truth

As we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord let us remember that this particular event gave rise to many speculations and rumours all those years ago, and indeed over the years since then.

Let’s consider the facts as we know them.

A man claiming to be the Son of God was crucified and died a most horrible death.

After His death, His followers claimed that He rose from the dead as He had said He would.

Now let’s look at the rumours and the conspiracy theories.

It is possible that Christ’s disciples and followers stole and hid the body of Jesus to perpetuate the story that He is the Son of God and that His Father raised Him from the dead.

But if that were the case; what benefit is there to them to disseminate this story knowing full well that it is a lie? Why suffer persecution, imprisonment, torture and death for something you know to be false? Would you do that?

The other theory is that the Jews, the Sadducees or Pharisees, removed the body in order to stop any beliefs that Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God.

But if that were the case; then why not produce the body once the disciples said that Jesus rose from the dead and invalidate the story of the Resurrection right from the start? Isn't that what one would expect in such circumstances?

Another hypothesis is that Christ never died at all. He just lost consciousness or was in a coma, and He woke up once again and walked out of the tomb.

But the Romans were very thorough people. They made sure that those crucified were indeed dead by breaking their legs whilst hanging there. They did not do so to Jesus because when they checked He was already dead. Even so, they did pierce His side with a spear just to make sure.

And then; there is of course the fact:

Christ died on the Cross and rose from the dead.

Sunday 25 March 2018

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.

Saturday 24 March 2018

Is ignorance a sin?

Years ago I knew a man who did not believe in God. He was the kindest, most generous and nicest person you could wish to meet. Always smiling and helping others where he could. He just did not believe in God. He did not do it out of malice or rebellion or in any way in enmity with God. He just lived life as it came and did not venture into religion of any kind.

He was not like some people you meet today who openly proclaim their un-belief and encourage others to do the same. Or those celebrities and comedians who at every opportunity would say on TV and radio or in the press that they do not believe in an antiquated notion such as an Almighty Creator and Deity; and indeed would mock Christianity and those who profess it.

No, this friend of mine did not believe in God more out of ignorance and because he did not bother to find out more. Somehow, he never experienced the love of God in his life and he and Christ never walked side-by-side along life’s journey.

This man is long dead now; and I wonder, did his lack of belief mean that he is spending an eternity in hell? Or is his sin of ignorance, or sin of omission, somehow forgiven and God’s mercy has prevailed?

Is it right and just to treat and judge him as the same as those who not only disbelief out of rebellion, but encourage others to do the same?

How serious is the sin of ignorance, and perhaps stupidity, in the eyes of God?

What do you think?

Thursday 22 March 2018

Odd things happening

Some very odd things have been happening lately in my life. I don't know about you ... how could I know about you? I have never met you. Some odd things may well have been happening to you too. Perhaps you would tell me about them and we'd compare notes. Maybe odd things are happening all over the world and we don't know about them because we don't share them.

Anyway ...

There are times in life when one thing leads to another and another and they all get entangled with each other and I seem to have no control of events. Does that ever happen to you?

Take the other day for instance. It was about two o'clock in the morning, or should I say at night, because it was dark out there.

I was peacefully rehearsing playing the bagpipes at home when suddenly there was loud banging at the door and continuous ringing of the door bell as if it was pandemonium out there. I stopped playing the bagpipes and rushed to open the door. I did not want to wake the family with all that noise going on.

I don't know why, instinct I suppose, but before I opened the door I got hold of a large butterfly net I keep by the door. It is always there in case I have to catch the wife escaping to the shops. She's always going to the shops. Women do that apparently; but let's not go there ... I mean the subject ... as well as the shops of course. We'll leave that discussion for another day. Unless you wish to comment about it of course. Who am I to argue? We'll discuss the shops if you wish ...

Anyway, butterfly net in hand, I opened the door. It was my neighbour still ringing the door bell angrily.

"What is all that noise in the middle of the night?" he asked threateningly.

"It is you banging at the door and ringing the door bell!" I replied, "you're making all the noise."

"Not that ..." he shouted, "all that bagpipe playing. What's all that about?"

"I was practising playing 'Scotland the Brave' ", I said.

"And why have you got a net?" he asked.

"Annette? I haven't got Annette here. Only my wife and the family. They are all asleep, unless you woke them up with all your banging at the door. Who is Annette anyway?" I asked him.

He pointed at the net I was holding. "Oh ..." I said, "I thought you were my wife going shopping! Would you like a drink? I have some whisky inside."

He came in for a drink and advised me that I was playing the bagpipes out of tune. He revealed his family was from Scotland and offered to show me how to play.

About half-an-hour later there was a lot of banging on the door once again and the door bell ringing furiously. I left my neighbour playing the bagpipes and rushed to open the door before my family woke up because of the noise.

It was the police. Two policemen stood there and said that the neighbours, presumably different to the neighbour I had with me right now, had phoned them to say I was playing out of tune. They said I was playing 'Scotland the Brave' all wrong, and if I wanted to they could show me how to do it correctly because they were both from Scotland. Who would have thought it? What a coincidence to have three people from Scotland in Glasgow. My neighbour and now these two policemen. What are the odds of this happening, I asked myself, and got no answer.

Anyway, they came in and as I had a set of drums too they joined in trying to get 'Scotland the Brave' played properly on the bagpipes and drums.

With three bagpipes and a set of drums we made quite a band playing a variety of Scottish songs and tunes. It was soon morning when I gave them haggis for breakfast and they left promising to return for another session soon.

The funny thing about all this, is that the family did not wake up throughout. I found out later that they were all out shopping at the "24 Hours" mall.

If you have never visited Scotland, I suggest you do. It is just beautiful up there.

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Idiosyncrasies and me

I suspect we all have our idiosyncrasies, our particular quirks and foibles. The things that make us be us. Different from anyone else.

And I am no different in that respect.

My particular peculiarity is that whenever I have to go somewhere I have never been to before, I like to go there the day before to check how to get there, plan my route, and see where the place is.

The difficulty with this is that I have to attend many business meetings in far away towns and cities. Some requiring a long drive of up to twelve hours. So I set off early the day before my meeting, drive all the way there, and drive back home only to discover that now is the time to set off once again for my meeting the next day.

It's the same if my travels are by train. I go to the railway station the day before. Check the time the train is to leave the following day and from which platform it will leave. This is to ensure that the day in question I do not get on the wrong train and end up travelling South rather than my destination up North.

Once I asked the train driver whether he had been to that place before. His answer was somewhat unkind.

Some friends suggested that I join a self-help group in town who maybe can help me with this particular problem. I got on the internet and applied to join.

The day before the meeting of the self-help group, somewhere in town not so far away, I decided to go and find out where this place is. When I got there I found that a number of other people joining this group had also got there the day before to check where the place is.

I got talking to some of them and went for a coffee at a nearby shop.

When I got home that day, rather late past midnight, I had got an e-mail saying that the venue for the meeting the next day had been changed. So I got out again late at night and went to town to check where this new venue was. When I got there, some other members of the group were also there checking where the new venue was.

Eventually I got to the first meeting of the group. We all went to check where the gents and ladies toilets were before the meeting started.

One way of getting us to overcome our acquired habit is to blindfold the whole group, take us by bus to a secret place in town about a mile or two away, take off the blindfolds and get us to walk back to the meeting place.

It took me a week to make my way back to the meeting place. Because I first had to find my way there, then when I got there, I made my way back to the place the bus had dropped us, then I made my way to the meeting place properly.

So I gave up attending these self-help group meetings. Especially since the meetings were not always in the same room in that big building; thus necessitating extra walking backwards and forwards finding the new rooms.

I have still not got over the habit of going places the day before to check where a new place is.

In fact, my habit has got worse. I have had to write this post at least twice so far to make sure it is OK before I have to write it properly. I am not sure whether this is the last and proper version of this post or whether I have to re-visit it again. I am not even certain whether I have posted it here or not; and indeed whether once it is posted, you will have to read it more than once to ensure you read it properly when you have finally read it.

Can you help? And once you have helped, can you help again?

Friday 16 March 2018

I lost my pants !!!

I needed some new clothes for work so I visited this large Department Store in town and started looking around. Pretty soon I found the perfect pair of trousers in varying colors. What would suit me best do you think? Dark blue? Black? Gray?

I took all three and proceeded to one of those cubicles where you can try your clothes on before you buy them.

The man in charge led me to a cubicle and asked me to press a little button if I needed any help.

I got in and tried the first pair of trousers … too tight. The second pair was too long in the legs. And the third was too tight and too short.

Why can’t they make trousers that fit exactly as the size it says on the label? Admittedly the three pairs of trousers were made by different manufacturers but the labels clearly said the same size on all three. And that is my size. The size I measured myself at home and the size of my current trousers which fit me perfectly well.

I proceeded to take off the last pair of trousers and pressed the little button as instructed.

Immediately, almost instantaneously, the male attendant turned up and I explained the situation to him. He took the items away and promised to get me bigger sizes.

I turned round to get dressed and … disaster!

The silly man had taken away the trousers I was wearing when I came into the shop as well as the other three.

So there I was. Trouser-less in a cubicle, and also minus my wallet and car keys which were in my trouser pockets.

I pressed the little button frantically again. Nothing happened. I pressed and pressed and still nothing happened.

Eventually the man returned empty handed.

“I’m sorry Sir; we don’t have any other sizes!”

I explained what had happened and he went away trying to retrieve my own trousers which he had put away with the other trousers to be sold in the store.

I waited for what must have been an eternity. Trapped in a store with no trousers to my name.

Eventually a female voice was heard to say, “Try these and we’ll see if they’re OK!” and a hand came in through the thick curtain and handed me two dresses. One pink and one light blue!

Almost instinctively, I don’t know why, I took the dresses and for a few seconds stared at them. It then occurred to me to look out of the cubicle and call the female attendant back.

Too late! She too had vanished in the store never to be seen again.

“Dear God … what do I do now?” I muttered under my breath.

Well, I suppose the Good Lord must have been listening because there, standing beside the socks rack, was our Parish priest.

In desperation, I tried to attract his attention without making a scene.

“Pssst … Pssst …” I uttered nervously as if calling a cat.

At this point I should tell you that Father Frederic is somewhat old and hard of hearing. He didn’t move one inch and continued looking at different pairs of socks.

“Psst … Psst …” I went again. No response.

“Father Frederic!!!” I said quietly yet forcefully enough that he might hear.

He stopped what he was doing. Looked around and saw no one calling him. Then he looked up to Heaven and made the Sign of the Cross.

“Over here … Father!” I said more forcefully.

He saw me hiding behind the curtain of my cubicle and approached me tentatively.

“I thought the Good Lord was calling me!” he exclaimed.

“No … it was me,” I replied still holding the two dresses, “I’m in an embarrassing situation Father!”

“Oh dear …” said my priest, “it is embarrassing. I didn’t know you liked to wear women’s clothes!”

“Hein? I DON’T!!!”

“No need to be shy about it my son. You really must resist the temptation … and you must come to Confession too.”

“Father … you don’t understand … These are not my clothes!”

“No of course not,” he interrupted, “they’re women’s clothes and you can rest assured that your secret is safe with me. It’s as if you told me about it in Confession. Come to think of it, this curtain is lovely and thick … we need to change the curtains in our confessionals!”

“Father let me explain … I need a pair of trousers!” I said as calmly yet as firmly as possible.

“What? You came here without trousers? You didn’t wear a dress in public did you? That’s rather foolhardy you know. What if a parishioner saw you … you’d bring the whole congregation into disrepute you know!”

At that point I think Saint Anthony must have stepped in and come to my rescue; even though I’d forgotten to pray to him.

The male attendant returned with my original pair of trousers, and my wallet, and car keys.

A week later at Confession Father Frederic whispered to me through the brand new confessional curtains “Are you sure you have nothing else to confess? Something pink and something blue … and worn by pretty ladies!”


Wednesday 14 March 2018

Palm Trees Ahoy !!!

Very strange thing happened round our neighbourhood the other day. I was in the kitchen enjoying my breakfast of toast and ginger marmalade when there was a loud grinding type noise outside in the street. It sounded like heavy machinery. The sort of noise you hear big engines make.

I rushed to the front door and there outside our house was this huge truck, with an even more huge crane on the back, un-loading a truck full of fully grown palm trees ready planted in big concrete containers. I quickly asked my wife if she had ordered palm trees from the Internet and she denied it. I always start on neutral ground by blaming someone else first.

This truck was full of palm trees; about twenty at least, all swaying to and fro in the light breeze which was soon to rise to a full storm as my blood pressure increased. The driver was standing in the street and operating the crane which picked each tree by the base concrete container, lifted it off the truck, and gently lowered it onto the sidewalk. He carefully placed each tree side-by-side on the sidewalk regardless as to whether they blocked peoples' driveways entrance or not. He had already un-loaded four trees and blocked my driveway with my car trapped on my property.

I went to the driver in my pyjamas ... I'd better rephrase this ... the driver was not in my pyjamas. He was by the truck. I was in my pyjamas, and I was the only one in them to be precise.

As I was saying, before your thoughts interrupted me ... I went to the driver and shouted over the noise of the crane machinery to ask him what he was doing delivering all these trees and blocking peoples' driveways. By this time, I hasten to explain, he had un-loaded about seven trees and had blocked my neighbour's driveway too.

He switched off the crane and explained that he knew nothing about it. He was only the delivery man and had been told to un-load the trees side-by-side, as close to each other as possible, on both side walks on both sides of the road. He explained that there were another six or so other trucks on their way to unload their trees in our street.

The trees were heavy and in their concrete base it was impossible to move them once they were parked on the side walk.

I decided to go in and phone someone in authority, whilst a few other neighbours came out to complain and another two trucks arrived with their loads.

Who do I phone in such circumstances? I can hardly phone the police and say there are some palm trees causing a disturbance outside!

I decided to phone the mayor's office and, to cut a long story short, I was transferred from one department to another, each disclaiming responsibility for trees, road maintenance, potholes, noise disturbance, and everything else to do with everything else in this universe. Why do they employ so many people in so many departments if none of them deals with palm tree deliveries?

Eventually I was transferred to a surly sounding man appropriately named Mr Gardner, would you believe.

He asked abruptly, "Name?" I gave him my name.

"Not your name," he said, "what's the address?"

"It's a garment worn by women," I replied, "what's that got to do with the palm trees situation?"

After a few seconds' silence whilst he digested the information he asked again, "Where do you live?"

"In a detached house North of town not far from the park and golf club ..." I explained when he interrupted me.

"Look madam ..." he said, "I haven't got all day to deal with this. I also have fifty flamingos to despatcth today ..."

"How dare you call me madam" I exclaimed in as manly a voice as I could muster, "I am a HE!"

"A he what?" he asked.

"A he man," I said, "how dare you insinuate I am a woman just because I am wearing pink pyjamas!"

"I am sorry ... I have a cold ..." he apologised.

I felt sorry for him and tried to suggest a remedy. "What are the symptoms?" I asked.

"They are yellow cartoon characters on TV," he replied, "what has that to do with my cold and your palm trees?"

Anyway ... years later ... after a phone conversation which lasted a lifetime, it transpired that the trees were destined for the Avenue Park in the South of town and not Park Avenue where we happen to live.

He promised to have them re-directed, but in the meantime we had six trucks delivering about one hundred trees blocking all the driveways on both side walks all along our street for at least three days, before another load of trucks came to take them away.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Theodore Luxton-Joyce

Father Ignatius and Father Donald welcomed a visiting Franciscan priest, Father Randolph, to the Parish for the weekend to lead the Marriage Renewal Seminar.

The Seminar was held on the grounds of the Parish Gardens providing plenty of time for the participants to spend time together re-assessing their married life, in preparation for a Renewal of Vows Ceremony to be held after Mass on Saturday evening.

The two Parish priests were pleased that they managed to get twenty married couples to attend the weekend event and looked forward to a successful Seminar for all involved.

The same cannot be said however for Theodore Luxton-Joyce, the eccentric friend of Father Ignatius and very generous benefactor of St Vincent Church.

Theodore preferred to be well away from “organized love-ins”, as he called the Seminar and would not have attended for one moment had he the choice. But his lovely wife, Rose, convinced him otherwise and he, being an old romantic, albeit he hid it well, acquiesced to her request.

After lunch on Saturday the group met at the Church Hall and was addressed by Father Randolph.

He spoke about the necessity of working at a marriage to make it successful, and explained how very often couples tend to drift apart because of the pressures of modern living and having to work hard just to keep body and soul together. He went on to stress the importance of “being aware of the other person in your life”, the importance of “listening” to their feelings, and “showing love” by saying something nice every now and then, by holding hands, giving a hug every so often and not taking one’s spouse for granted.

“Love doesn’t end after the honeymoon” declared Father Randolph, “it’s a precious flower which needs nurturing and feeding every day if it is to flourish for a lifetime!”

At this point Father Randolph noted Theodore Luxton-Joyce raising his eyebrows and looking in the distance out of the window, no doubt wishing he was anywhere else but here.

“What do you think Theodore?” asked the visiting priest, “Do you think it’s important to tell your wife, Rose, that you love her?”

“Every day?” asked Theodore.

The Group laughed and Fathers Ignatius and Donald, sitting at the top table, looked at each other silently.

“Yes … every day … why not?” continued the Franciscan priest after the laughter died down.

“I don’t see the point …” replied Theodore, “Rose knows that I love her very much … (then looking at his wife) … you do know that don’t you?

“What’s the point of all this adolescent childish talk … it goes without saying that I love her … what?

“I wouldn’t have given up a weekend of good fishing and come here, if I didn’t love her … don’t you think old boy?”

The Group laughed again.

“Fifteen – love …” Father Donald whispered quietly to Father Ignatius.

But Father Randolph was not to be beaten so easily.

“No … it does not go without saying …” he responded quietly, “it is important to tell your wife, or husband, that you love them. That they are not taken for granted. It is important to say it … and say it often. It’s important to be nice and to compliment one’s spouse every now and then.

“Very often I’ve seen couples drift apart yet deep down they do really love each other. They just don’t bother, or don’t have time, to say it. With time, they forget what first attracted them to each other. And every time we forget … love dies a little!

“Let me challenge you Theodore if I may …”

“Fifteen all …” Father Donald whispered softly under his breath. “A good return from the visiting priest!” Father Ignatius sat quietly and said nothing.

“I want you to answer quickly without thinking,” Father Randolph challenged Theodore. “Are you ready? Without thinking … what first attracted you to your wife Rose?”

“She makes a decent steak and kidney pie … what?” declared Theodore.

The Group broke down into hysterics.

“Thirty – fifteen to your eccentric friend!” Father Donald said to his colleague Father Ignatius.

Father Randolph was astute enough to continue with his talk rather than get into a pointless debate with Theodore. Minutes later he asked the Group whether anyone had personal knowledge or experience of marriages breaking down after a long period together. He called them “mature divorces”.

Theodore raised his hand.

“I bet you regret inviting him …” Father Donald whispered to Father Ignatius.

“Years ago … when I was in the military, one of my people got divorced after twenty years of marriage …” said Theodore.

“I asked him why … and he said his wife was violent what? Apparently she threw things at him in an argument … Anything … Cups … saucers … cutlery … crockery … anything that came to hand.

“Turns out she threw things at him throughout the marriage … twenty years of it.

“I asked him why he took so long to decide to leave her.

“He said her aim was getting better … what?”

The Group burst into laughter to the embarrassment of Rose, whilst Father Randolph tactfully decided to call a short tea break.

“Game … set … and match!” declared Father Donald as he got up from his seat.

The rest of the weekend proceeded without further difficulties for Father Randolph, albeit Theodore was the most popular member of the Group.

As they drove back home he asked his wife, “You don’t think it necessary to say ‘I love you’ every day … do you?”

“It’s nice to hear it every now and then…” she said, “It’s reassuring you know. Women like reassurance!”

“Tell you what old girl …” he replied, “I’ll write it down big on a piece of paper. You can read it as often as you want when you need reassurance … what?” he chortled heartily.

She smiled; knowing full well that he was the world’s biggest romantic, yet his up-bringing did not allow him to show it.


Monday 12 March 2018

Unhappy Feet

There I was the other day lying on my bed looking at my feet; when suddenly one of them started to talk.

At first, I was afraid ... I was petrified ... They started singing "I will survive."

I did not know what was happening. Then one of them spoke and said to me, "It is all right you lying there doing nothing. But it is us who do all the work for you. 

"From the moment you get up in the morning we have to carry your heavy weight. Going up and down the stairs, walking down the street, or running for the bus. It is us who do all that for you.

"Even when you are driving the car, it is us who have to push on all the pedals whilst you sit there doing nothing."

I could not believe my ears. My feet were talking to me and my ears were confusing my brain. 

Then the left foot continued, "You never think about us, do you? Spending all day in the dark not knowing what is happening out there. Held captive in your tight shoes until it hurts. And having to smell your smelly socks. Why don't you change them at least once a week?"

"Yes, that's what I hate the most," said the right foot, "being in the dark. I am claustrophobic you know! Have you ever thought of that? And what's worse is when you play football. The two of us are running faster and faster not knowing where we are going when suddenly, out of the blue, I get hit in the big toe by this hard football. See if you like it if they blindfold you and hit you on the head with a football!"

For a moment I sympathised with my feet. Then one of them said, "What I hate the most is the funny jokes you humans make about us feet. Like putting one's foot in one's mouth when one of you says something stupid."

"Yeh ... or put your best foot forward," said the other, "do you realise how divisive that statement is. Which foot is the best, I ask you? Do we not both serve you well?"

"And another one ..." interrupted the other foot, "I hate when you say someone has put his foot in it. What do you mean by that exactly? How about when you humans literally put your foot in a dog's doo doo? How are we to feel about that? And the smell we have to endure!"

"And there's more," piped in my left foot, "it's when you all talk fancy in French and use phrases like faux pas. What has the wrong father to do with us feet? Are you calling us illegitimate?"

"Or when you say pas de deux ... what has the father of twins to do with us?" cried out the right foot.

"And remember that day when you stupidly walked around the house in bare feet and you stepped on a Lego brick the children left in the playroom? Oh ... the pain from that Spanish Inquisition instrument of torture ..."

I suddenly relived that pain again as a shiver ran down my spine. I could not believe my feet were speaking to me. I vowed not to have cheese and port again before going to bed.

How about you? Do any of your body parts talk to you?

Saturday 10 March 2018

More happenings in our hood

It's been a while since I wrote about what has been happening in our neighbourhood lately. Generally speaking it is a quiet area around here, a cul-de-sac as they say in French. But as we are not in France I won't mention it.

We live near the countryside, so every so often one sees people walking their dogs down the lane and on to the fields beyond.

Our neighbour is an old man who lives alone. I saw him with a dog lately. He must have named him "Help" because all day yesterday he kept calling him, "Help ... Help ... Help ..." He eventually found his dog because he stopped calling it.

A few houses up the road a new couple have moved in about a month or so ago. They are elderly too. I have not seen the old man but his wife is frequently seen coming up the hill from town carrying a large shopping bag. Her head stooped down by the many years on her shoulders, she walks slowly past our house and on to hers a few yards further on. I noticed once that she was followed by a cat. I wondered if it was hers or some other neighbour's.

A few days later I saw her again walking towards her home with her shopping bag. This time she was followed by two cats, neither of which was the cat I saw her with before.

Yesterday I saw her again. This time she was followed by at least six cats. The one I saw her with the first time was there too. They were all following her and miawooing like cats do. I have never seen such a sight before. It was like the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin followed by rats out of town. Only this time it was an old lady followed by cats.

I stopped to have a word. She seemed oblivious of the cats and we talked about the weather and such like mundane things. I noticed that she smelled of fish. So I ventured to ask whether she kept cats as pets. She looked around her and said, "Oh no ... they follow me everyday from the fishmonger all the way to my house!"

"You like fish?" I asked rather stupidly.

"No ... I hate fish, and the smell of fish," she replied, "this is for Hector!"

"Your husband?" I asked.

"No ..." she said, "the man who lives with me is not my husband. We are not married. He is my lover and we live in sin, so to speak!"

I was embarrassed and mumbled something incoherent which even I could not understand.

"Anyway, his name is not Hector. It is Ivor ... Ivor Heavybottom!"

"Oh ..." I said wishing to end this conversation and not knowing how to.

"Hector is our penguin. We keep him in the bath. He is staying with us for a while," she informed me.

"Is he on holiday?" I asked stupidly once more. Why do I ask stupid questions when I have nothing to say?

"Oh no ..." she said, "he is from the zoo. Only his mother rejected him and the zoo keepers tried to get him adopted; but apparently penguins do not like to adopt other birds' chicks. So the people at the zoo tried a walrus. But the walrus rejected him too. So they asked us to look after him until they find another animal who might adopt him until he grows up. A crocodile perhaps!"

"I see ..." I said unconvincingly.

"They are very good at the zoo, you know," she continued, "they are studying ways of finding out whether fish are depressed. You can't tell if a fish is depressed because fish don't smile, you see. It is easy with a dog, when he is happy he wags his tail. But with a fish it's different. He wags his tail to keep afloat in the water. They have an animal psychiatrist and he says one way of finding out if fish are depressed is to check their mortality rate. But when you have a tankful of dead fish it is too late to cheer them up. Anyway ... I must go. I haven't got all day to waste talking to the likes of you! Otherwise I'll be depressed too. You are not a bundle of fun are you?"

And with that she shuffled on up the road followed by the cats.

A few days later I learnt from another neighbour that this old lady's first and only husband wanted to be a lion whisperer. He achieved his ambition just before he died trying to tame a deaf lion.

Oh ... one more thing. We have had a spate of doormat swappings in our street lately. No one knows how it started. Most houses have a doormat or rug by their front doors for visitors to wipe their feet on before entering the house. Some have personalised doormats with the words "Smith Residence" or such like. Others have plain rubber doormats, or multi-coloured ones or whatever. Every one, or almost every one, has a doormat by their front door.

Only lately, these doormats have swapped places. We get up in the morning and find that instead of our doormat we have the one from a few houses up the road, and they have another doormat which does not belong to them either; and every house has a doormat which belongs to their neighbours from further up the road, rather than the one living just next door.

The first morning this happened it was pandemonium out there. Everyone was out in the street, in various stages of undress some of them, doormat in hand trying to find who has their doormat and giving away the doormat left on their doorstep.

It baffled me why people should get out in the street with their night clothes on, just to get back their own doormat. You'd be surprised what some people wear in bed these days. It was quite a revelation I tell you. And I wondered why Mr Harrison from Number 14 came out of Number 17 house in his pyjamas with the young lady from Number 17 following him in her nightdress and describing what her doormat looked like.

I got to work late that day.

The following day it all happened again. Someone at night swapped all the doormats once more. And it happened a few days later on and again yesterday.

Now we keep our doormat indoors. Whenever people visit we let them right in and ask them to wipe their feet as they leave so as not to dirty the outdoors.

Thursday 8 March 2018

The Nature of Sin

It's not often in this Blog that we engage in intellectual, theological, philosophical or any other ending discussion. So let's change that and talk about something we are all expert on - - - SIN.

What is sin? Why do we do it? Is it because it is pleasurable in some form or another? Or are we somehow pre-programmed to do it?

The Bible tells us that sin is something that upsets God. It is against His will for us, and hurts His love for us.

I guess the first sin was when the angel Lucifer rebelled against God. The second sin was when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

We are told that as a result of Adam and Eve's sin we are all born in sin and we have to struggle and toil for all our lives and suffer death.

I'm not sure I buy that. Why is it that I have to take the blame for someone else's sin? I wasn't even there at the time; and had I been there I would have probably dissuaded them from listening to the snake and advised them to enjoy their nakedness instead.

But anyway ... now all those years later we have sin. There are of course small sins, like telling a little lie every now and then, or eating too many cakes, or in my case ginger marmalade. And there are really big sins like adultery, robbing a bank and murder.

The Catholic Church, to help (or confuse) matters further, have described sins as venial sins and mortal sins. I say to confuse matters further because today many Catholics cannot distinguish venial from mortal sins; and they consider very serious sins as being ... well, quaint weaknesses really!

According to the Catholic Church venial sins are the small ones which you can ask God to forgive in your prayers and you're OK. No need to go to regular Confession for these, (so we've been told by our church).

Mortal sins are really big whoppers like adultery, stealing and killing. Basically, they are the ones which disobey the Ten Commandments and ... the rules of the Catholic Church as imposed by its teachings. (I must buy such a book just in case I'm doing something wrong and don't know it!)

Now then ... according to the Catholic Church, if you die with a mortal sin on your soul you're going down without a parachute my friend. No hope for you.

If you die with a venial sin or sins then you'll spend some time in Purgatory before going to Heaven. It's like a car-wash where they clean your soul and put a sparkle on it.

Here again I am confused.

No where in the Bible does it mention Purgatory. So we don't really know if it exists or what it's like there. Is there a burning fire like in hell but a little cooler? Are there devils poking you with blunt forks, or angels cleaning your soul? How long do you have to stay in Purgatory? Is it a day for each venial sin, a week, or longer? These Catholics don't half confuse things!

When Jesus hung dying on the Cross, He said to the thief next to Him, "Today you'll be with me in Paradise." He didn't say, "But you need to spend some time in Purgatory first!"

But let's leave the Catholic dogma to one side for a moment. Let us look at the nature of sin as viewed by God; if we could be so presumptuous as to try and see like God.

Does He view all sins with the same degree of seriousness and "badness", if there is such a word?

Does my being greedy with ginger marmalade rank in the same seriousness as adultery? Is an adulterer not also being greedy in a similar manner as me? (OK ... stop smirking. I realise there's a lot of difference between a spoonful of ginger marmalade and sex. I'm trying to be serious here, and you're making up your own jokes.)

Does God categorise sin into different levels of seriousness and does He judge us accordingly?

When we die, will He send an unrepentant adulterer, thief or murderer down? All three have broken one of His Commandments. How about an unrepentant gourmand or a lazy husband who will not paint the garden gate and fence, or mow the lawn, even though his wife asked him a million times?

Does a lazy man who does not do what his wife asks him, like mowing the lawn, deserve to go to hell? (Don't ask my wife!)

Does God judge the sin, or the intent behind the sin?

An adulterer, thief, or murderer knows he is doing something wrong. He knows it is against God's will. Yet he knowingly does it all the same regardless of the seriousness of the matter. That's what a serious, or mortal, sin is: knowing that doing something is seriously wrong, yet doing it all the same without any pressure or influence from anyone else; doing it in defiance of God.

Being lazy, or greedy, are weaknesses of human nature. God knows that; because He created us and He knows all our weaknesses. God knows that the intent behind these sins are our weaknesses rather than a clear-minded decision to do wrong, and to defy God.

The sin of Adam and Eve was not a sin of greediness because they liked the fruit. Or indeed a sin of disobedience because God told them not to eat the fruit. It was a sin of defiance. They knowingly defied God. They were told that by eating the fruit they "will be like God". (Genesis 3:5).

Not so dissimilar from Lucifer's sin. He wanted to be like God.

I believe that when God comes to judge us, He will look at the intent behind our actions. Have we lived a life as best as we can following His Commandments, loving Him, and trying our best to please Him?

Or have we lived a life in defiance of Him? Not believing in His existence. And pursuing our own purpose in life.

A friend of mine, Father Francis Maple in one of his sermons makes a good point about our relationship with God by referring to a leaning tree. Here's what he says:
I think of a life as a tree. If a tree leans in one direction when it dies it will fall in that direction. It is not going to fall in the opposite direction. So, too, with our lives. If all the time we are leaning towards God, very likely, with God's grace we shall fall into His arms when we die. But if our lives never point to God, it is very likely that when we die we shall die in enmity with God.

NOTE: Let's have a discussion. I welcome your views, opinions and disagreements also; for it is by an exchange of thoughts that we learn from each other. Anonymous comments welcome.

If you would like to suggest a subject which we can discuss on future posts please write to me at: Your e-mail will reach my desk only and I will respond to every one I receive.

God bless.

Sunday 4 March 2018

Testing ... Testing ...

Read this bit from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians a couple of times.

“Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and He will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, He will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out”. (1 Corinthians Chapter 10 Verse 13).

Let us now consider what St Paul is saying. God will not allow you to be tested beyond your power of endurance; or your tolerance level.

Let’s face it – God is not in the business of losing His followers. Those devoted to Him. It does not further His cause one bit if His own followers are so tested by the world’s evils that they loose their Faith in Him. This is contrary to His love for us. He will not allow us to just perish.

Remember also what Christ said about the shepherd who would rather leave ninety-nine sheep in a field and go looking for the one that is lost until it is found. He concludes: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine respectable people who do not need to repent”. (Luke Chapter 15 - Verses 1 – 7).

So when you’re in difficulty and troubled beyond belief, remember that God will not let you down. He will not let you be pushed to your breaking point.

Just pray and praise Him over and again, that He is still in control of the situation, however bad it seems to you, and He will provide you with a way out.

Friday 2 March 2018

Which Past Event Would You Choose To Have Been At?

Which Past Event Would You Choose To Have Been At?

We were watching TV the other day. To be honest, I was half-asleep. It was Downton Abbey, again ... For those who do not know this, it is a sleep inducing TV drama which for some reason goes on and on and on and is also often repeated to go on and on and on even more.

Anyway, in my semi-sleep I heard someone say, "What a wonderful house and setting, I wish I was there when it all happened." In vino veritas!

Someone else said, "Yeh ... me too ... I also wish I was there when Shakespeare was alive." In vino stupidity!

Before you knew it, everyone was relating what period in history, or even in the future like in Star Trek and Jean-Luc Picard, they would wish to have been in.

This actually set me thinking. I do that sometimes, especially when people interrupt my sleeping. What period in history, past or future, would I wish to have been at and witnessed, or even perhaps contributed to?

There are quite a few ...

For example, I wish I was in the kitchen last week when I burnt all the food whilst I was out in the hall answering the damn phone! Why do people insist on phoning me when I am busy doing something else? I have now even taken a phone with me in the shower. Do you realise how hot it is when you accidentally pick up the shower head by mistake and put it to your ear instead of the ringing phone?

I also wish I was there when the mother-in-law packs her bags and finally leaves from her ever lasting visits. Sadly, this never happens. She stays for ever, and eventually leaves when I am at work thus denying me that moment of elation and ecstasy and euphoria. 

I also would have liked to be present when that meteor struck the earth and killed all the dinosaurs. I would have told them not to stand all in the same place. Can you imagine what it would have been like had some of them survived. You'd be driving down the road and a dinosaur would block your way; just like being behind a caravan or motor-home.

Or can you imagine being there when David fought Goliath? I would have put a bet on David to win and made a fortune that day. Although, knowing my luck, Goliath would have worn a helmet and not be knocked out by a few pebbles.

But I tell you what is the best event I would have wished to attend. It's the time when Pythagoras, he the man who said the square on the hippopotamus is equal to the other two squares on the other side of the rhinoceros - anyway ... I would have liked to have attended one of those lectures by Pythagoras on re-incarnation. He believed that when we die we come back in the body of someone or something else, like a dog, a cat or even a tree. If you have been naughty in this life you would come back as the worst thing of all ... a woman! I would like to have taken my mother-in-law to this lecture and asked Pythagoras to explain his theory to her. That would have been great fun. Don't you think? 

How about you? What past event would you choose to have been at or seen?

Thursday 1 March 2018

The Tudor Monarchy

A long time ago there was a Royal family in England called the Tudors. They ruled from 1485 to 1603.

In those 118 years there were five kings and the most famous was Henry VIII.

He was famous for wanting a son and married many times to achieve this. His first wife Catherine of Aragon was a Catholic and she gave him a daughter. So Henry VIII divorced her which upset the Pope. Henry created the Church of England with him as head. He got rid of Catholic monasteries but he still worshipped as a Catholic ... and executed those who didn't.

Living in Tudor times was not much fun. TV had still not been invented so people could not watch soaps for hours on end.

It was not a healthy time either. They had open sewers in the streets and toilets were a hole in the ground in the back garden. They often emptied chamber pots out of the window onto the people in the streets down below. Hence the phrase "Gardyloo !!!" which roughly translated meant "watch out for the water" (and what's in it) !!!

Umbrellas had yet to be invented; but I bet the Laundry Business was quite successful.

People had very odd cures for illnesses, like swallowing live spiders, covered in butter to make them go down quicker. And swallowing powdered human skulls, or eating bone-marrow mixed with sweat. They also believed in blood-letting. You'd go to the barber and he'd cut you up and let the blood out.

A man went to the barber's once for a haircut. As the barber was working on him the man looked down and saw a human ear on the ground. "Whose ear is that?" he asked.

The barber replied, "Hold it. If it's still warm it's yours!"

Hence the phrase "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!" which is a famous line in the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616).  

It was at this time that barbers also started a side-line of piercing people's ears whilst they wait. It was very convenient not having to come back for your pierced ear the next day. Other piercings however took a little longer.

Of course in Tudor times life was not as sophisticated as it is today. People had to use quills to write with.

These were feathers of various birds which had to be sharpened daily with knives - hence the word pen-knife. Once they sharpened the quill they used it to tap the keys on their computer keyboards.

Crime was also rife in Tudor times because people were generally poor. The same people appeared in front of the same judge again and again because of their repeated crimes.

The judge eyed a man carefully once and asked him "Have you ever been up before me?"

The man replied "It depends on what time you get up!"

On another occasion the same judge had two thieves before him. He asked the first where he lived and he replied "No fixed abode!"

He asked the second man where he lived and he replied "In the apartment above him".

Life for women was terrible in Tudor times. If a woman did not marry she often stayed at home with her parents and spent her time spinning - hence the word "spinster". She could not become a nun since Henry VIII had closed all convents.

Women could be punished by law for nagging and scolding. Women were warned in church to stop nagging and if they continued they were punished by ducking. They were tied to a chair and lowered in the river a few times.

If a woman continued nagging and scolding she was made to wear a metal mask which clamped on the head with a metal bar in her mouth holding her tongue down. She was then paraded in town as a warning to other women.

Football was a favorite pastime played between two villages. The ball was a pig's bladder and they started the game at a mid-point between two villages several miles apart. The idea was to get the ball into your village. The whole village population would play and there were no rules or referee. Anything goes. Just fight everyone else and get the ball to your village. Many people got injured and hurt. Great fun!

In 1540 Henry VIII banned the game because he needed soldiers for his army and too many people were getting injured and maimed playing football.

As mentioned earlier, around this time, lived a man called William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) who wrote many plays to make a living. Actors were all men who dressed like women to play women's parts. His plays were performed in various theatres for people to enjoy.

But some clever dick at some point or other decided to make life miserable for countless of generations by insisting that they learn Shakespeare at school. 

There's as much point in that as making people learn the scripts of their favorite cartoon videos.

That's ... That's ... That's ... That's all folks !!!!