Saturday 29 September 2018

Why did Jesus have to die?

Why did Jesus have to suffer and die in order that we might be forgiven? Surely, if God wanted to forgive us, and to redeem us, He could have done so without Jesus having to suffer such a cruel death.

These are questions which may have crossed our mind from time to time. I don't claim to have the answer; but here are my thoughts on the matter.

When God created us, He had two choices. He could have created a race of robots, all pre-programmed with His will, all doing as He would have wished. There would have been no wrong-doings, no sin, no evil; and everyone living happily ever after in Heaven.

But God in His infinite love and generosity gave us a gift. The gift of free will. The choice to make our own decisions and to do as we wished. Even to deny His very existence and to rebel against Him.

And humanity did just that. Humanity rebelled. We chose sin time and again, from one generation to the next, and the chances are we will always choose sin.

God wanted to give us a second chance. And yes; He could have said, "If you truly repent, then you're forgiven. You are redeemed. Saved. All is well again between us!"

But God wanted us to meet Him face to face. To see Him as a human. Just like us. To learn from Him. To see His love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and power. Power to heal, power to forgive, power to raise people from the dead. So God sent His only Son, Jesus, so that we may see Him and learn from Him.

Yet God did not take away from us our freedom to choose. We still retained the gift to mock this Man who claimed to be His Son. To turn the other way. To rebel against Him and kill Him even.

Let us not forget that God knew we would turn against His Son long before it happened. It was predicted by the prophets in the Old Testament many years previously. Yet God allowed it to happen. He allowed His Son to come to earth and be rebelled against and killed.

Jesus always existed as God; He did not just start to exist when He was born on earth. He always existed and always knew that by coming to earth He will be rebelled against and killed. Yet, He accepted His mission in obedience to God and in love for us. 

I can appreciate here the possible confusion in many minds. How can a "grown up" Jesus who always existed appear again as a baby on earth. This is one of the great mysteries of our faith; and I doubt anyone has a suitable explanation. In my mind, I think that as a Spirit Jesus always existed. His birth as a baby was as a human being. God decreed that He would be born of a human as a vulnerable child, growing amongst us, learning our ways, and living with us. The alternative would have been to appear suddenly as a Superman type character with many powers that would astound and baffle our brains. Hardly the act of a loving, caring, God. Is it?

So Jesus came to earth as a human; just like us, albeit He was/is God at the same time.

Because of our sin, from generation to generation, everyone in humanity has to suffer. It is the price we pay for making the wrong decisions. It is, perhaps, the cross we have to bear, as Jesus put it in one of His sermons.

Everyone of us carries his own cross. For some it is poverty, for others it is some illness or ailment, for others it is the work we do, or the difficulties of unemployment. Everyone of us has his own share of suffering that we go through in life.

This is not a punishment for our own personal sin; but a consequence of humanity's rebellion over many generations and its propensity to sin; to choose evil instead of good. There is no one in the world, whether rich or poor, whether great or small, old or young, who has not his own share of suffering. It goes with the territory. It is part of life. The good news is that God does not allow us more suffering than we are capable of bearing.

It follows, therefore, that Jesus, being human, as well as being God, had to suffer the pain and cruelty of a terrible death. Not because of His own personal sins; because He was without sin. But because of the consequences of humanity's sins throughout the generations. Sinning humans rebelled against Him and put Him to death; thus fulfilling the prophesies about Him which God knew about all along.

God knew that when He sent His Son to earth we would attack and kill Him. Yet He allowed it to happen. Had He interfered He would have been interfering with our freedom to choose; our freedom to do evil; our free will! A freedom we have used for generations to sow death and destruction throughout the world.

When Jesus prayed to His Father in the garden on the Mount of Olives "not my will, however, but your will be done"; He meant, "not your will that I should suffer, but your will that they may have and exercise their freedom of choice!"

Later, on the Cross, Jesus says, "forgive them Father! They don't know what they are doing," (by exercising their freedom of choice).

It is us who put Jesus to such suffering and cruel death, not God. God knew it would happen and allowed it to happen because of His love for us; because He wanted us to see Him and meet Him face to face; to learn repentance and forgiveness and redemptions through Him. Instead, we behaved true to our evil nature.

When we study the life of Jesus, there are more than 300 prophesies about Him in the Old Testament that He fulfilled in His life. Some prophesies He had no personal control over - like where He would be born, the manner of His death and suffering, where He would be buried. The fact that on His Death the Romans would not break His legs as they did to the other two crucified with Him. The fact that the Roman soldiers would divide His clothes amongst themselves and gamble for His robe whilst He hung from the Cross.

But there is more to it than just Jesus suffering death in such a way. God needed to show us that He can conquer sin. He can conquer death. And He did so by resurrecting His only Son for us to believe. For us to know that He was/is the Son of God. The one who died for us, to forgive our sins, and was raised again by His Father, our God.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Heavenly Verdict

A man dies and goes to Heaven.

He is surprised to be lead into a well-furnished room where St Peter is sitting at a large desk in front of a computer.

St Peter invites him to sit down and taps his details into the computer.

“I’m surprised to see a computer here,” says the man hesitantly, trying to make polite conversation, “I thought you’d have a big book with parchment paper and all our names written there.”

“Oh … that’s a common misconception,” replies St Peter, “we replaced the big books years ago. They were a bit unwieldy and heavy; and they were a bit slow to use. You know what it’s like … searching pages after pages for someone’s name!”

“Yes …” says the man nervously, “computers are much faster.”

“They sure are,” smiles St Peter clicking away on the keyboard, “a few key strokes here and there and we have all the information we need on view … the whole of one’s life is here for me to read.”

“Does the computer ever go wrong?” asks the man, sweating a little with concern about his prospects of entry, “I know they often went wrong on earth …”

“Oh yes …” replies the Saint chuckling quietly, “computers are computers whether on earth or here in Heaven. It’s just a machine … and all machines go wrong now and then. Not like a book … what is written there remains there … unless it is altered or the page is torn away … which is obvious to the eye. You can easily see an alteration in a book.

“But computers sometimes freeze up … or play up every now and then and you can’t move forward to the next screen.

“Thumping the computer on the side with an old fish I caught recently doesn’t always work. I find that Control Alt and Delete does the trick but only sometimes. Either that, or I just switch it off and on again … ha ha ha … that sorts it all right! Don't try hitting the computer with something hard like a tin of sardines though. It really hurts if you get your fingers caught!” The Saint chuckled uncontrollably.

A few moments later St Peter stops chuckling to himself for a while and starts scratching his long white beard before deciding what to input next on his computer.

“But … but … what if the database is wrong? An input error somewhere in the system?” splutters the man in a panic, “you could send a poor soul in the wrong place by mistake!”

“No one goes to hell by mistake … that never happens,” said the Saint confidently, “we have a fail safe system for that.

“God is supervising every transaction in another room. He has a monitor on His desk and He automatically checks every decision I make here on my computer. He is good that way … and He NEVER makes mistakes !!!

"The other day I had a guy here who had been a good man all his life. Never broke the law, was faithful to his wife, loved his children, worked hard … that sort of thing … he even went to church now and then.

“But he’d only done one good thing in his entire life … he once gave ten cents to a beggar in the street.

“I didn’t know what to decide; so I e-mailed God. A few seconds later He replied:

“ ‘Give him his ten cents back and tell him to go to hell!’

"You see ... God is very wise. No one goes to hell by mistake. He doesn't send anyone to hell really. It is people with their own actions who send themselves to hell."

Moral of the story:

"Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what my Father in Heaven wants them to do." Matthew 7:21

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Unmasking A Truth

They say that an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters might be able to write the complete works of William Shakespeare.

What nonsense. And who are "they" who often pronounce these and other words of wisdom which, in the best part, are meaningless?

Words like, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." More nonsense. If you want to keep people away try garlic. Try it for a week or so and it should prove grounds for divorce.

Or, "Take one day at a time." Even more nonsense. Personally I would like to take a whole week at a time, but I can't. Because I don't control time. The days come one by one. And anyway, I never leave for tomorrow what can be left for the day after that; or for ever.

What is the point of mowing the lawn if it will grow again anyway? Or painting that damn fence and garden gate? I've been told about it a million times and it still has not been painted. Has the world come to an end? Have the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come riding by to proclaim that the world will end because I have not painted the gate and fence? No. So why I am being reminded of it daily? Does it really matter so much?

"They", (again), call all these sayings, and similar advisory stories "old wives tales". How unfair. How ageist. Why "old" wives? Why not young wives? Is it always old wives who say things like "if at first you don't succeed try and try again"? More nonsense. Personally, I think that if you don't succeed it is because you are not meant to. You are not up to it. Better give up and let someone better than you do it.

How many "do it yourself" jobs in the house have had to be put right by professional plumbers, carpenters, painters, and the like? Come to think of it, why doesn't a professional painter, Picasso perhaps come and paint the garden gate and fence; and whilst he's at it he can paint the bedroom ceiling which I am reminded of every time ... ... ...

Anyway, as I was saying about old wives tales, it is not always old people who say daft things. Have you been on social media lately and seen what young, and not so young, wives, and single people, write? On Facebook recently a friend of mine announced to the whole world that she had bought a pair of new shoes. I'm surprised you do not know about it. Was it not on your TV News? What is the point of going on Facebook, Twitter and all the other sites and announce stupid things that no one cares about?

In order to join this modern trend, I now walk the streets and every so often announce in a loud voice something meaningless and totally pointless. I do it on the train, the bus, anywhere. I say, "I will have my hair cut today ... we bought some roses to plant in the garden ... I like eating mayonnaise on toast ... " and so on. So far I have two followers in white coats and big butterfly nets.

Let's move on. As I was saying, I do not believe that if you put a lot of monkeys together they will write the works of Shakespeare. Not in a million years. They would not even write the works of Dante, Moliere, Victor Hugo or anyone else.

As a sideline, if I may, the other day I asked my Literary Agent, Bonzo Bookshelf, whether he thought one of these days my works would be as famous as Shakespeare's or Dante's or the other great writers. His reaction is captured in the photo above.

So, in order to prove the monkeys experiment, I put a number of pigeons in a room with a number of computer keyboards linked to computers in another room. I wanted to see whether at least one pigeon would peck at at least one key on any of the keyboards.

After hours of having several pigeons sitting on keyboards I had nothing to show for it other than a lot of keyboards covered with pigeon droppings ingrained in between the keys. They obviously wanted to make a more obvious public statement instead. So what hope have an infinite number of monkeys apart from even more crap on the keyboards?

BTW - You can click on Bonzo Bookshelf's name if you wish.

Monday 24 September 2018

A Night At The Opera

I inadvertently mentioned at home that my boss had given me two tickets to the opera followed by a booked table at a great restaurant. I really shouldn't have done that. I really shouldn't ...

Next thing … we were sitting in one of those private balcony seats watching a lot of people on stage shouting at each other in song and walking about as if they’re constipated.

What was all that about?

I've never understood opera, and after that performance I understood it even less.

I smiled and feigned enjoyment. In order to educate myself in one easy lesson I quickly read the brochure we were given at the entrance to find out how many intervals there were, and whether this theatre had a bar or not.

As there wasn't much else of interest to read I resigned myself to glancing at the summary of the plot of this play, or musical, or whatever it was that we were watching.

Now please pay attention. This is quite complicated.

Apparently there's this fellow called Gelato. He's the one with tight trousers and a squeaky voice as if his ... are caught in a bear trap. He is a knight and he loves the lovely Princess Miranda.

One day as Gelato was riding through the forest on his way to visit Miranda he bumps his head against a low lying branch from a tree and falls unconscious from his horse. And it's good night for our brave squeaky knight.

Gelato is later found dazed in the forest by a young and beautiful peasant girl called Amnesia. She takes him home to her lover Memorandum. She and her lover look after the handsome Gelato and nurse him back to health. But sadly, his forest experience has wiped his memory of the love of his life, Princess Miranda. He now has eyes only for Amnesia ... no wonder he's so forgetful.

Amnesia is confused and doesn't know who to love more. Her faithful Memorandum who stood by her all this time, or the forgetful Gelato who has declared undying love for her but doesn't even know who he is.

Meanwhile, Princess Miranda back at her palace, not having seen her squeaky knight for such a long time, presumes him dead; eaten by a vegetarian dragon; and feels that her love for her Gelato cooling off as each night passes.

So she gives up hope of ever finding a knight with whom to spend a night.

Eventually, she falls in love with a restaurant waiter called Risotto. Their love develops into a recipe for happiness ever after. Princess Miranda decides to marry Risotto.

On the day she was to marry Risotto, the waiter, she invites the whole town to the palace and ... as it happens ... Gelato the forgetful knight, Amnesia his peasant girlfriend, and Memorandum who originally loved Amnesia, are all invited as guests.

The music rises to a crescendo. (That's Italian for a gradual increase in loudness in a piece of music; and not the name of another character in this opera. Please pay attention!)

On one side of the stage stands Princess Miranda with her beloved waiter Risotto whom she is about to marry.

On the other side of the stage stands the dazed forgetful knight Gelato, his newly beloved peasant Amnesia, and her previous lover Memorandum.

In the middle of the stage is a crowd representing the whole town folk singing in unison something in Italian which I do not understand. Hopefully, it is the menu of the restaurant we are due to visit later after the show.

Upon seeing Gelato, Princess Miranda recognises him and falls in love with him all over again, pushing her Risotto to one side. (How fickle can you get?) I don't blame her though ... a Risotto isn't much fun when you have Gelato on the menu; is it?

Anyway ... somehow, on seeing Miranda, Gelato suddenly regains his memory and declares his undying love for his Princess. After all, better marry a rich Princess than a pauper like Amnesia ... what?

Amnesia is beside herself with indignation and embarrassment. (I never understood what beside yourself means; do you?)

Anyway, Amnesia now turns to her former lover Memorandum for affection and forgiveness and a bit of a cuddle and hugs and ... However, Memorandum who is now rather angry at having been spurned by Amnesia turns his amourous glances towards Risotto. Or was it Gelato? By now I was totally confused and getting rather hungry. Maybe it was Princess Miranda he fancied.

As you would expect in any good opera; an argument erupts between Princess Miranda, Gelato the squeaky knight, Amnesia the peasant, her ex Memorandum and the side-lined Risotto the waiter.

They all break out into song each out crying each other louder and louder.

At one point a chorus of about thirty people standing in the middle of  the stage join in the screaming as if their lives depended on it.

"Do you love me?" screams Princess Miranda in Italian. "Mi ami?" she sings at the top of her voice.

"Ti amo. Ti amo. Tu mi ami?" responds the handsome squeaky knight Gelato even louder.

"Mi ami? Mi ami? Mi ami?" Amnesia and Memorandum ask each other over and again accompanied by the choir of thirty or so town folks.

"Ti amo. Mi ami?" scream Miranda and Gelato.

"Doesn't anybody love me?" screams the side-lined waiter Risotto who feels rejected like a half-eaten meal.

At this point a duel breaks out between the knight Gelato and the waiter Risotto. I can't quite make out the reason for this duel. But apparently you must have one in each opera. It says so in the brochure they gave us when we entered the theatre.

Gelato uses his sword and shield whilst Risotto uses his serving tray as a shield and an Italian breadstick as a sword. He also keeps throwing bits of mortadella at Gelato. (Not cool - nor sporting thing to do).

At one point in this duel accompanied by a crescendo of music and singing, Gelato is hit in the eye by Risotto's Italian breadstick.

Gelato falls to the ground holding his chest and singing ever so loudly.

“Son morto … son morto …” which means I am dead.

Instead of calling for an ambulance and taking him to the ER room at the hospital; the rest of the cast, including the chorus, join in the singing.

The more they sang, the more Gelato screamed "son morto" still holding his chest although I clearly saw he was hit with the Italian breadstick in the eye.

Suddenly Risotto breaks into the finale song ...

"Mangerò Mangerò Mangerò ..." he sings " All'alba Mangeeeeeeeeeeròòòòòòòòòòò !!!!!!!!" 

(Caruso and Pavarotti would have been proud of him. But they were not, because they are both dead).

The audience stands up on its feet to rapturous applause which lasted over 7.58 minutes.

I really enjoyed that evening at the restaurant afterwards. Best chianti I had for ages.

NOTE: Lulu (see below) is sharing this post with her friends. Why not do the same and share the laughter around with your loved ones? 

Saturday 22 September 2018

Who's the sower?

When we read the parable of Jesus about the sower and how some seeds ended on the footpath, and others on rocky ground, and others among thorns and only a few on good ground, we think of the Word of God spread amongst many who would not listen. (Luke 8:4-15).

But let's consider who is the sower? Is it God teaching us? Or Jesus preaching throughout the Holy Land? Or the prophets and Disciples?

The sower is of course all of these. But he is us too. Yes ... you and me.

We have a duty and responsibility to evangelise and spread the Word of God to everyone, far and wide. Not just Christians.

Today, I had the Jehovah's Witnesses knocking at my door. They were preaching to a converted. But I must say, I admire their courage and perseverance knocking at one door after another and being told to go away, we're busy, we have no time to listen. For some reason, they seem to visit our street quite often. Usually once a month.

The other day, in town, there was a man standing by a table full of leaflets and preaching in a loud voice about Jesus. He was handing leaflets to passers-by. Again, I admire his courage and perseverance. People were passing by and ignoring him; yet he continued preaching.

I couldn't do that. I couldn't stand in the streets preaching; or knocking from door to door telling people about Christ. I did knock on many doors years ago for political reasons; trying to get people to vote for the candidate I supported. That was difficult enough. I couldn't do it all over again for Jesus. (What does that say about me?)

But the Word of God is meant for everyone.

If the Word of God was meant for just Christians we would dig a long furrow and make sure that the seeds are planted one by one carefully in the furrow and none are wasted. But Jesus does not say that in this parable. He spreads the seeds far and wide and if people do not want to listen that is their problem. Not ours.

Of course we're not all good at preaching from the pulpit, or standing in street corners, or knocking at doors telling everyone about Jesus.

But we could preach about Jesus by our actions and the way we live.

Say for instance someone invites you to go fishing, or playing golf or whatever on Sunday. And you say you can't because on Sunday you're in church. That comment alone is your sermon.

If you're in a restaurant and do the sign of the Cross before eating. That alone is your sermon.

Then there's social media. How many opportunities we have in social media to give our own personal sermons?

We don't need to have University Degrees in theology, religion or whatever to tell others about God. There are many learned people out there with Christian Blogs and websites that would put you to sleep in the very first sentence. Good luck to them. They're doing a great job curing insomnia.

Our Blogs need only be simple and speak about our journey hand in hand with Christ as simply as we can. We never know who might visit us and not leave a comment. To many people, our Blog may be the only opportunity to learn about God.

Let your Blog be the one Jesus would want to read.

Friday 21 September 2018

What the ... ?

What are these people looking at?

Their feet?

Their knees?

Or something higher up?

Click to enlarge ... the photo I mean!!!

Check the size of the one on the right!!! He's got big feet hasn't he?

These creatures are satyrs. In Greek mythology, a satyr, also known as a silenos, is a male nature spirit. One of a class of lustful, drunken woodland gods.

These four large statues of satyrs looking down all standing in a circle are at the Louvre. Dating from the second century AD. Found in Rome.

Have you guessed what they are looking at?

How about Omphaloskepsis? 

These four statues are depicting Omphaloskepsis

No ... it is not what you think.

Omphaloskepsis or navel-gazing is contemplation of one's navel as an aid to meditation. They are looking at their navels ... and nothing else. 

It's something we should all do from time to time to help us think things through. I do it often !!!

Did you know, for example, that the male navel collects more lint than a female one? Now that's an interesting fact you could use in conversation at a party. As you're mingling there with your friends, drink in hand, just say, "The male navel collects more lint than a female one!"

That will really astound the rest of the guests. They will think you are really well-read and intelligent. You can then add, "The lint in men's navels is more differently coloured than that found in the female navel! This is because men wear different coloured underwear."

As more guests gather around you to learn about navels, you can tell them that there are many types of navels. Innies and outies for instance. Vertical/oblong shape. Horizontal shape. Oval shape. And off centre.

Navels can be fitted with light bulbs so that you can see your way around should there be a power cut whilst in the bathroom.

Adam and Eve did not have navels. That's why they were easily led by the snake. Had they had navels they would have considered their options by contemplating their navels before being tempted. Also, when they sinned, the reason they covered themselves up is because they were ashamed that they had no navels.

You should not play with your navel because it can get undone and then all the air inside you will come out and you'll fly through the air as you deflate like a party balloon that's been let go.

Well ... you can't say that you don't learn anything from this blog.

Thursday 20 September 2018

My Unexpected Halloween

We were young and full of fun. We were prepared for anything but we knew our limits. We knew where to draw the line and where enough was enough.

It was getting close to Halloween. We were invited to a Halloween party on a Saturday night and we were asked to come in appropriate costumes.

Not my cup of tea. I do not like themed parties and especially parties where you have to dress up. But John and his wife Julie were colleagues from work and it would be churlish to turn up at their party wearing my work suit, or casual jeans and T shirt. So I hired a costume and arrived as Merlin the wizard from the times of King Arthur and his Knights of the round table. Not exactly Halloween costume, but it was the only one available at the rental shop that fitted me.

The party was OK, I suppose. A lot of people in their twenties mingling together, talking, eating, drinking and generally having a subdued party of sorts. There was some soft music in the background, but no dancing. John and Julie's house was not big enough for dancing. So we stood, or sat and chatted about this and that and everything else.

Then Julie suggested we try something different seeing it was Halloween. Why don't we sit down quietly round the table and try to contact the other side on her Luigi Board, (it was made in Italy).

Now that is definitely not my thing. Getting dressed in a stupid costume is one thing. Getting involved with the other side is another. I do believe in the spirit world; I believe that when we die we still continue to live in a spiritual world. Yet I do not believe it is wise or prudent to try and contact spirits; certainly not for fun. Whether it is Halloween or not.

What could I do? I could not leave. I had been driven there out in the country by friends. They were keen to stay and try the Luigi Board. So I was trapped. I could not leave and to protest and not take part would be rather rude. Besides, I am a coward by nature; and too scared to walk in the countryside in the dark.

So we sat down round this table. Julie brought out the Luigi Board. We held hands, or the tips of the fingers on this heart shaped piece of wood, (planchette), on the board and Julie asked: "Is anyone there?"

Our fingers moved the planchette in unison on the board. The answer was: "No!"

We were all riveted in confusion. If there was no one there then who answered "No!" ???

Julie was not deterred. We moved the planchette to its original starting position and Julie asked: "Is there anything you like to say?"

Again, the fingers moved the wooden heart on the board in unison. I was not putting any pressure on the wood, but felt as if I was being "led" by the rest of the group.

The answer from the "other side" was: "Yoo ave no knew massages!"

We all stopped simultaneously and no one said anything. I could tell we were all wondering what was happening here. If there was no one there, then who is answering that there are no messages for anyone? Is it our collective subconscious making the wooden piece move? If so, how come we were all thinking the same thing? How come we all answered "No ... No messages"?

"This has never happened before," said Julie showing her frustration, "is there anyone here who does not believe in spirits, or thinks it is wrong to communicate with them?"

At first no one answered. So I dismissed my natural cowardice and said, "I believe in spirits. Both real ones and those in bottles. I don't think we should talk to them though!"

Julie looked at me in anger. I knew that if she had her dictionary with her she would have said something rude to me; since her swear words vocabulary was rather limited. But she retained her composure. She remembered she was the hostess; and her husband was my boss. She smiled and suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea if I did not take part.

I pulled back my hand and sat a little further back from the table. She replaced the heart in its original position and asked: "Is anyone there?"

Again, the fingers of the remaining participants moved in unison on the board. They spelled the word, "Nein".

"There's nine of them," said one of the guests.

"Either that, or the spirit is dyslexic," I joked.

Julie's husband, John, laughed heartily. Because he was the boss, the other guests joined in the laughter. Julie looked at her husband with one of those stares that said, "I'll sort you out later!"

You don't need a Luigi Board to translate what that look of death meant.

Her husband stopped laughing, picked up a bottle of whisky and asked, "Spirits anyone?"

I offered him my glass with a smile. He filled it and winked at me.

Julie said that perhaps the spirits were not being communicative this evening. She packed up the Luigi Board and suggested we try the trifle which she had made earlier. It contained a generous portion of sherry and port.

Another couple of spirits I am well acquainted with.

It was a great Halloween after all.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Close Encounter of the Ghostly Kind

There are times in life when you’re compromised in a situation and you have to do the best you can to get out of it.

This happened many years ago when three friends and I went out on a Friday night. Colin was driving his old Mini and Peter was sitting next to him. Harry and I were at the back.

I thought we were going to a pub somewhere in the countryside and was somewhat concerned when we stopped outside an old cottage somewhere remote.

“What are we doing here?” I asked, and was assured that it’ll be OK and I’ll like it really.

We entered the house and were greeted by a middle-aged lady who ushered us into a waiting room were another five people were waiting. An old man, two middle aged women, a young woman and a man in his thirties or so.

Eventually we were led into a darkened room lit by a couple of candles and asked to sit in a circle round a large table. It was obvious that we were to witness a séance where a medium would attempt to communicate with the other side.

Peter had mentioned the subject a few days earlier and Colin had shown an interest in attending such an event. I had made it perfectly plain at the time that I did not approve of such things which explains why they had not told me where we were going.

So there I was, sitting round a table with Harry on my left and the old gentleman on my right.

The woman who greeted us when we arrived entered the room and sat opposite me. We were asked to remain silent and hold hands.

After a few seconds the so-called spiritualist asked “Is anyone there?” and at that very moment, as bad luck would have it, my stomach started to rumble. I had not eaten for a while and I was somewhat hungry.

“I heard something,” said one of the women “it sounded distant and from a great depth!"

“Yes, I heard it too …” said someone else “it was creepy ...”

My stomach rumbled again in response.

“Please remain silent” said the medium sternly.

And my stomach gurgled yet again defiantly.

The medium then started breathing heavily and deeply.

“What’s the matter with her?” asked the old man sitting on my right; and the young lady sitting on his right whispered gently “She’s in a trance!”

“She’s going to dance?” he asked, “why is that?”

“In a trance …” I whispered emphatically under my breath.

“In France? How can she be in France and sitting right there?” he asked loud enough to be heard by one and all.

“Please be quiet!” reprimanded the medium.

It was then that I noticed Harry on my left sniggering and having great difficulty stifling a laugh.

This didn’t help me one bit as I too tried hard not too laugh. I looked at Harry and noticed in the dark his shoulders shaking uncontrollably in silent laughter. I closed my eyes tightly and tried to think of something serious … something dire and terrible to make me stop laughing.

But no … my vivid imagination got the better of me. I could see in my mind’s eye the medium doing a dance in France. The cancan it was. There she was kicking her legs high in the air as the lively music which usually accompanies that dance whirled round in my head ever so louder.

The harder I tried to suppress my laughter the worst it got, especially as I heard the old man on my right say to his companion “this chap here said the medium is going to France!”

I blurted out a laugh and pretended to sneeze. Harry did the same and “sneezed” too as the old man said “bless you!”

It was then that I felt a presence in the room. It wiped any shred of hilarity within my body as I froze solid.

I kid you not … there definitely was a presence in that room.

Something brushed gently against my left leg and then seconds later against my right leg … ever so gently but forcefully enough to turn my suppressed laughter into total panic.

It certainly stopped my stomach gurgling once and for all. In fact it was the best cure to stomach noises in the whole universe albeit it could have triggered other natural reactions!

I opened my eyes and looked at Harry and the old man on my right. Harry had stopped laughing and the man on my right was silent too. No one had noticed the evil presence in the room. They silently looked ahead at the medium still breathing deeply and heavily in and out.

The presence brushed against my legs once again.

I was petrified with fear.

I looked down and saw a cat walk past my legs and out of the room.

The séance ended soon afterwards with no spirits calling on us that evening. I suspect they were all in the pub enjoying a drink!

Tuesday 18 September 2018


WARNING to all of you using a vacuum cleaner. NEVER use a vacuum cleaner indoors with the windows shut. The vacuum cleaner will suck in all the oxygen in the room with dangerous dire effects to all there.

This happened to me the other day. I was at home alone, except for the cat, and I decided to vacuum clean the carpet in the front room. The windows in the house were shut. After a while I felt a little light-headed, then I felt rather faint. I must have lost consciousness and fell to the ground.

Unfortunately, the vacuum cleaner was still on and it tried to suck me and the cat within it.

In seconds, the cat had gone into the vacuum. I gripped tightly into the carpet to try and save myself as I felt I was being dragged into the infernal machine. I was afraid that once inside no one would hear my cries of help since sound does not travel in a vacuum. Especially if the dust bag is full.

I slowly eased myself forward an inch at a time until I reached the electric socket in the wall and I unplugged the vacuum cleaner.

I opened the window to let in some air in the room as I was gasping for breath.

I then reversed the vacuum cleaner controls from suck to blow and switched it on. The cat shot out of the nozzle at speed and flew out of the window upwards, past the tree in our front garden, and into the open window of our neighbour's bathroom, and landed into our neighbour's lap as she was lying there in a warm bubble bath.
Her screams could be heard for miles around as she shot out of her bath tub.

I'll leave the rest of the scenario to your imagination as I stood there watching at her window and asking for our cat back!

Monday 17 September 2018

Going To Church With Rain Man

I recently went to church with a young autistic lady aged about twenty and her mother.

The young girl behaves and acts very much like Rain Man (Raymond Babbitt) in the Dustin Hoffman film of that name.

We were not at Mass. This was an evening meeting where we had a visiting speaker going on for hours on end discussing missionary work in various countries around the world.

The young lady’s mother left her with me and went to the kitchen just by the Sacristy to help prepare the teas and coffees and other refreshments for after the talk is over.

The talk started and the young lady’s mother had not returned, so we sat down and listened to the visiting speaker relating stories from various far off lands.

It was a very hot summer’s evening; and after a few minutes of sitting there, the hardness of the wooden church pews combined with the humid stickiness of the atmosphere to create a very uncomfortable feeling in the Southern regions of the human anatomy.

To be fair, my companion stayed quiet throughout the long ordeal although it was obvious she was getting a little uncomfortable and tired with the monotony of it all.

Eventually the visiting speaker stopped and the priest asked us to stand up for final prayers.

As we stood up I noticed that the woman in the pew just in front of me must have been wearing a thong. Either that, or she was not wearing any underwear at all. The reason I say this, apart from its obviousness, is that as she stood up her delicate flowing skirt got caught or wedged within the crack of her voluptuous derriere revealing its ample contours and curvatures.

Now normally one would tend to ignore such a distraction and look the other way; and believe me I tried; even though she was standing only inches in front of me. But what was an unexpected distraction for me became something completely different to my young lady friend. For her this was not right at all.

To my horror, she lent forward and carefully pulled out the skirt from whence it was caught.

Surprisingly, the woman in front of me did not feel a thing and did not react whatsoever.

I shook my head violently and whispered to my friend to leave it as it is.

To my double horror and near heart-attack she proceeded to lean forward once again and replace the skirt in its previously wedged position.

This time the woman felt someone touching her particular sunset; she turned round suddenly to see me standing right behind her and my companion busily reading the hymn book she’d picked up.

She was about to slap my face when she suddenly remembered where she was.

She sat down promptly and said nothing.

We waited until prayers were over and everyone was leaving. I asked my young friend to go and help her mother in the kitchen, and then I tried to explain to the unfortunate woman what had happened and that it was not really me who tried to do what I did not do.

I doubt she believed me and she left without saying another word.

And that’s another confession I’ll have to explain to my priest. He said once he looks forward to my confessions as he’s never laughed so much in his life.

Sunday 16 September 2018


Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus said to the disciples, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven ..."

A more modern interpretation of the passage above is that we should forgive, forget, and reconcile with (love) our enemies.

Easier said than done.

God knows that, and He understands when, often, we cannot achieve this commandment to the letter.

Let us analyse it a little further.

Forgiveness is an act, a positive act, not a feeling. We cannot say I feel I have forgiven him, therefore I have. We must decide to forgive, whether or not the other person has sought forgiveness or even cares whether we have forgiven him or not. We decide, deep in our hearts, that we no longer bear any ill-will towards that person. No longer do we want revenge, punishment or retribution of any kind. We have totally forgiven them once and for all - and ... here is the difficult bit: WE CAN PROVE IT TO GOD SHOULD HE ASK US TO.

So ... we have dealt with the first bit of the equation. We have truly forgiven.

The second bit is forgetting. This is almost impossible. God created us with a memory and short of hypnotism or some accident or action that leads to loss of memory, we will remember.

The deeper the hurt done to us, the more we will remember. The slightest thing will trigger that memory. A song perhaps, a picture, visiting a place, something someone says ... and we will remember once again the hurt done to us. We may resent the hurt done to us. We may become bitter and perhaps angry. This is natural and we should not reproach ourselves about it. God knows about these feelings because He created us this way - with a memory that brings back to life the bad times in our lives.

Let us use these bad memories to forgive once again. Let them be a trigger to decide once more to forgive the one who hurt us. Let them be an opportunity to pray for that person and hand them over to God. To ask Him to take care of them and to get them to know Him better.

The final bit of the equation is to "love" or reconcile with our enemy. The one who hurt us.

As an ideal state, this is worth pursuing. But let us not fool ourselves. There are times when this is impossible, or indeed it is imperative that we do not reconcile with the one who has hurt us.

Let me explain.

As human beings one of our basic instincts is to protect ourselves, and our loved ones, from danger and from evil. Again ... God created us this way.

There are times when to reconcile with the one who hurt us puts us, or our loved ones, back into a situation of danger.

Let's look at an example scenario:

Imagine a case of divorce. Is it really possible that the couple reconcile again to the extent that they live together again as husband and wife as before ... as if nothing had happened? To live together without the slightest doubt, suspicion, fear or feelings that led to the divorce in the first place?

Let us raise the stakes a little.

What if the actions of one of the spouses had created havoc in their life as well as yours? What if that action repeated itself over and over again with not the slightest intent or effort to improve the situation. Is it still possible for you to reconcile totally knowing full well that the chances are there will be a repeat of that action, putting you and yours in danger? Would it be the prudent thing for you to do? To reconcile totally and keep your fingers crossed and hope against hope?

Let us raise the stakes some more.

What if the actions of your spouse had hurt badly someone you love? Your parents for instance, or your offspring? What if to reconcile and return back to your spouse would mean hurting these people once again; or indeed put them in some danger? Would you still reconcile totally?

I think I made my point.

To forgive that individual who hurt us is a decision that we can make; and we can forgive them again and again every time the memories come back to haunt us. God asks no more than that.

But to reconcile totally and go back to a situation as it was before is not always possible.

God does not ask for that. He does not ask us to put ourselves and others in danger for the sake of "loving our enemies".

God does not want us to go back to a situation where we would be hurt again and again. Sometimes evil exists in some people. To go back and court and flirt with evil once again, after we have been hurt before, is very imprudent to say the least.

What we must do is to forgive and walk away. Sometimes this is essential to protect our loved ones as well as ourselves.

We can easily love them from a distance. We love them in our hearts in as much as we pray for them and re-affirm again and again in our hearts that we have forgiven them.

Christ did say to His disciples that at times they should leave certain places and shake the dust from their sandals.

He did not say return there again and put yourself in danger of being attacked, arrested or killed.

When some of His followers could no longer accept His teachings when He said, "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him"; they got up and left Him. He did not call them back and attempt to explain. He just let them go. He forgave them and let them go.

That is what we are asked to do ... some times ... to those who have hurt us. To forgive them ... again and again ... and let them go.

Saturday 15 September 2018

No Regrets


You are probably familiar with Édith Piaf's song No Regrets or Non, Je ne regrette rien, to give it its original French title.

Now some would say that to go through life and have no regrets whatsoever smacks a little of arrogance. Surely, we all have some regrets of things we have done in the past, or things we have not done, or indeed things that have been done to us.

Regrets come with the territory. They are part of life. There is always the fleeting thought of what might have been if things turned out differently. If we decided differently than we actually did. Or if events did not happen as they actually did.

It is part of human nature to look back. It's why we have been given memories. They say that a fish has a memory span of just a few seconds. After that, it forgets what has just happened. Or that if you come face to face with a gorilla, and slowly with no sudden movement you hide behind a tree, he will ignore you. Because, for him, out of sight is out of mind. His memory span has forgotten you.

Well, I've never met a gorilla. So I cannot vouch for that advice. But I have had regrets in my life. As Frank Sinatra sang, they were too few to mention. But the important thing is to learn from them.

Whatever our regrets are. Whether it is something we have done, or not done, or events and things done to us, the first thing to learn is that we cannot turn the clock back. It's happened. It's gone. It is pointless hanging on to that memory and making ourselves sad all over again, or indeed ill.

The second thing to learn is to find out what have we learnt from that experience. Is there anything we would do differently if similar circumstances arise in our lives today?

The third thing to learn is that, if someone has hurt us and did us wrong, we should forgive them. Really forgive them. Even if they don't ask for forgiveness.

The fourth thing to learn is that, if we have hurt someone, and it is still possible, we should now ask their forgiveness. If the individual in question has passed away, then we should leave it at that. There is no point agonising about the situation. That individual is now face to face with God and has seen the situation as it really is. It is now in God's hand.

Finally, if we were in the wrong, we should also seek God's forgiveness. And do so honestly. And believe that He has forgiven us, and to accept that forgiveness gracefully. No point going back over and again on the situation in our mind. To do so means that we have not accepted God's forgiveness. That He was wrong to forgive us. We must truly believe that in His infinite mercy and love, He has forgiven us.

Have you got any regrets? Do they still gnaw into you to the point of making you ill?

Friday 14 September 2018

Embarrassing Shopping

When you go shopping at the supermarket and you are pushing your trolley along, putting something in every now and then according to your shopping list, do you cover up some items, the cheap ones perhaps, with more expensive ones until you get to the checkout?

I do hate to meet people in the supermarket when I am shopping, don't you? I mean, people I know, not just ordinary shoppers.

You have to stop and say hello and pretend to be interested when all you want to do is get your shopping done and get out of the shop as quickly as possible. And worse still when you see their eyes looking downwards at your trolley and noticing that you bought some cheap item or other instead of the best brand available on the shelf. And you're such a miser that you bought the "buy one get one free" offer of coffee which is no more than burnt horse manure and not one coffee bean has been used in its making.

Or even more worse still, when I get to meet the priest at the supermarket and he eyes the brand of whisky I have just bought, or the quality wines and beer; and I always pretend that I don't drink really. "It's just in case someone visits us at home, Father. Honestly! And don't take that as a hint of an invitation. This whisky is mine and mine alone. You can have the cheap one when you visit us. I always decant it into an empty bottle with an expensive label on!"

Anyway, where is all this leading to, I hear you ask. Yes ... I can hear you all right.

Well, the other day I was at the supermarket and I bumped into a lady friend from work. She's a lively young thing of about thirty or so, always bubbly and laughing. We stopped and talked, about work ... what else. As we're standing there chatting I notice that in her trolley there were no fewer than six packets of condoms; all of various types and quality/flavour (???)

She had made no effort whatsoever to hide them under the large packet of cornflakes or the super big box of energy drinks cans.

Six packets containing five condoms each equates to quite a lot of exercise for her and her husband or boyfriend, I thought.

As we were talking inanely about work she noticed from my eyes that I had noticed what was lying there on top of her trolley.

She picked up a packet and said "These are our favourite brand, if you were wondering! Which ones do you use?"

As I said ... I hate meeting people in the supermarket. Whether I know them or not.

Which supermarket do you go to and when, so I can avoid meeting you?

Thursday 13 September 2018

Weird Happenings

Something weird happened to me today. Weird is the exact word for it. That, or possibly perplexing. Either way, I felt very disturbed at the time.

I went out in the garden, and there, in the corner by the pear tree was a panther. He was sitting there, on alert, ready to pounce on its prey.

I couldn't believe my eyes. So I tried believing my ears instead and listened. Nothing. Not a sound. It just sat there staring at me staring at him.

It could have been a black cat. Everything seems to be bigger than it really is since I wore these new glasses. The optician may have given me someone else's prescription by mistake. When I left his shop I could not find my red Mini car. Where I parked it there was a huge red Jeep instead. So I walked home.

Have you noticed how everyone seems to be putting a lot of weight on lately. I was like a dwarf amongst giants.

These glasses certainly make everything appear huge. I'll loan them to my wife some evening.

This is not the first time my optician made such silly mistakes. Especially since I only went there for a haircut. The last time I visited him he trimmed my beard and moustache too short.

He told me once that he is totally self-taught. He does not believe in all this wasting time at college and university to get a degree and fancy letters after your name. Anyone can be a hairdresser, he said. All you need is practice and he got all the practice he needs when he was a gardener cutting trees and hedges and mowing the lawn.

Whilst I don't mind having my eyes checked by him, I would certainly not have him shave me with one of those very sharp razor blades. Not again. Not after the last time.

I remember staying very still and very afraid as the sharp blade reached my throat. Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw an ear on the floor amongst all the cut hairs.

I said, "Look here ... there's an ear down here on the floor. Whose ear is it here?"

He replied, "Touch it. If it is still warm it is yours!"

Another thing about him, like all hairdressers, they like to talk whilst cutting your hair and always ask if you've been on holiday or are going on holiday. What is it about hairdressers and holidays?

On another occasion, after testing my eyes and then cutting my hair he asked, "Have you been on holiday?"

"Oh yes ..." I replied, "I have been to Rome. I went to the Vatican and met the Pope. I had an audience with the Pope and met him in his Pope Room!"

Being a Catholic, my optician and hairdresser was most impressed. He wanted to learn more.

"Really?" he asked, "You met His Popiness the Pope? What did he say to you?"

I hesitated and then said, "he said, tell me who cut your hair so badly and I'll get your money back!"

My hairdresser stopped sharpening his razor for a moment and then asked, "And did you tell him?"
In his job one has to be very discreet and not repeat what one hears or learns about one's clients. It's like going to confession to a priest. What one hears one does not repeat.

I remember years ago, when I was young and single, whilst he was cutting my hair, I told him about an indiscretion with a young lady.

"Was it Margaret who works at the butcher's?" he asked.

I said, "No!"

"Oh ... it must have been Jennifer then. She works at the supermarket down the road."

Again, he got it wrong.

"If not Jennifer, then it must have been Dorothy. She too is one for the boys!" he declared with a smile.

"Definitely not." I said. 

After a few more wrong guesses, he still did not know who my girl-friend was. But I got some useful contacts I did not know about.

I wonder whose glasses he gave me by mistake.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

What's your Tattoo?

Once again, I return to the subject of tattoos.

The last time I mentioned a woman I know who went to the tattoo parlour, dropped her underwear, and had a tattoo in a foreign language printed on her backside. She did not know what it meant. Turns out it said, "Washing Machine Instructions."

Obviously the tattooist saw the words on some booklet or other and copied them adding beautiful roses and hearts all around.

The reason I mention tattoos again is because I saw an unusual one in the supermarket today. It's been hot in the UK recently. So hot that women are wearing very low cut tops and very short skirts, or shorts. But I'm not complaining.

This woman in the supermarket had a large tattoo on her back of the globe. A big multi-coloured circle showing the whole world with all the countries and oceans and seas. I did not run fast enough to find out what she had tattooed on her front. Probably the sun and moon on each breast!

It was a beautiful painting of the globe, I must say. But what I don't understand is; why have such an elaborate work of art on one's back? She can't see it. And if she looks in the mirror it would be back to front and all the countries in the wrong place. So it will not help her in the geography exams.

Years ago tattoos were only fashionable with sailors, or military people. Now everyone seems to have them. And in all sorts of places too. Not just the arms, but on one's legs, back, chest and even private places.

Have you got a tattoo? What is it of? And where is it?

I've been thinking of having a tattoo but do not know what to choose as a drawing. An anchor? A flower? Some nice words? Or a name of a loved one, like "Pepperoni Pizza"?

What do you suggest?

I don't want it to be easily visible to all and sundry. I want it to be discreet and almost unnoticeable.

Perhaps I should have a tattoo on my bottom. It would be a life-size tattoo of a bottom on my bottom. That would then not be noticeable.

What do you think?

What are your views and suggestions about tattoos? And whether you have any?

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Stand By Me


Monday 10 September 2018

Old Technology

Old technology is no good. You can easily make mistakes leading to serious problems.

I did something really stupid today. I accidentally sent the wrong photo to everyone on my address book.

It cost me a fortune in stamps!

Sunday 9 September 2018

At Heaven's Gate

One day I died and went straight to Heaven where I was met by St Peter at the Gates.

“Ah … you’ve arrived!” he said looking at his electronic notepad, “it says here that you claimed to have a sense of humour when alive … let’s test that shall we?

“Tell me a joke … make me laugh and I’ll let you in!”

I was astounded at his attitude on such a solemn occasion; I stumbled to find the right thing to say.

“Ah … not so funny now, are you?” continued the Saint.

“But … ehm …” I mumbled sensing my throat getting drier with nervousness.    

“So … what will it be? A funny joke … or will you go straight down without a parachute?” chuckled St Peter through his thick beard.

“You’ve just laughed … a little …” I pointed out sheepishly, but not without a modicum of forlorn hope, “surely that counts as a joke!”

“That’s true …” replied St Peter, “you’ve always been ridiculous to look at anyway … so I’ll let you in.”

I smiled, wiping the cold sweat from my brow.

“Not so fast … not so fast …” said St Peter standing at the doorway blocking my view of who was already there. “I need to check a few things first to see whether you need to spend some time at the Purification Center.”

“Purification Center?” I asked.

“Yes …” he replied with a chuckle, “you Catholics call it Purgatory. It’s like a car-wash to make sure everyone who enters here is cleansed.”

I gulped and waited as he tapped furiously on his electronic notepad. It bleeped once or twice and then he said.

“I see that a few years ago you prayed an indulgence to St Victor; your namesake. I remember he was quite pleased about it at the time. Not many people tend to mention him in prayers and for weeks he went around with a big smile on his face. Normally people pray to the more popular Saints … First Division Saints, you know.

“It works both ways I suppose. It’s nice to get so many prayers and requests; but quite honestly I get so many that I hardly have time to read them all.

“Anyway … for your indulgence to St Victor you get one week off from the Purification Center.”

I smiled silently.

“What’s this I see … you also started another indulgence to some obscure Saint I’ve never met. This place is so large it’s just full of Saints. You can hardly walk a few yards without bumping into one. But I’ve never met this one.”

I tried to remember that particular indulgence but couldn’t.

“That’s a pity …” said St Peter, “you never finished the indulgence. So it doesn’t count. In fact I’ll have to add two extra weeks in the Purification Center.”

I began to despair when the telephone in the little guard-house by Heaven’s Gate rang. He answered it and then said.

“Hmmm … it looks like you have friends in high places here. I’ve been asked to let you in.”

I smiled and moved forwards a few feet; but he blocked my way yet again.

“You’ll have to get changed first.” he said, “Go behind that curtain and put this white gown on … we all wear them here!”

“But …” I hesitated gaining a little confidence, “this looks very much like the gowns they give you in hospital … it is all open at the back!”

“That’s right …” he replied, “it is exactly the same gown. As I said, we all wear them here … just don’t stand too close to a hot radiator, and watch out when you sit on a cold park bench! It's either that, or you can wear it back to front, if you like!” then he chuckled very loudly once again.

He saw my hesitation and then continued in a much gentler voice with as serious a face as he could muster.  

“We like people to be helpful to each other here in Heaven; it’s not a selfish place you know. When you wear this gown, go around and find someone who is very handy with a thread and needle and ask them to sew it up at the back. That’s what everybody does. Help each other.

“In time, you’ll learn to sew and then you too will be able to help newcomers.

“Also, this gown will teach you humility. You’ll be able to swallow your pride and ask others for help. You’ve always been a bit proud and a little independent … Now’s the time to learn how to rely on other people and to accept their offer of help. Oh … and be grateful too when they help you. Don’t forget to say: Thank you!”

“I will … I will …” I replied timidly.

“Remember” he said, “this gown open at the back will teach you to help one another, will give you humility, make you accept people’s offer of help, and remind you to say Thank you! You’ll also learn how to sew, and of course how not to stand too close to a hot radiator!”

He laughed heartily once again and then said, “So, what will it be? Will you wear the gown or are you going down with no parachute?”

I grasped the gown from his hands and woke up in a cold sweat clutching the bedcovers tightly in my hands.

I must stop having cheese and whisky before bedtime!