Sunday 31 March 2019

Distant God

It was Good Friday, about nine in the evening, as Father Ignatius settled down in his armchair by the fire. It was still cold for this time of year and snowing yet again. He put a couple of logs on the open fire and picked up a book to read.

Moments later Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, entered the large living room and announced that Geoff Henderson had just called in and was waiting in the reception room.

“Oh let him in …” said Father Ignatius standing up to greet his visitor.

Geoff Henderson was an architect and he had brought with him some plans to discuss some alterations to the Parish Hall and the area behind the garage. After their discussions were over the priest said:

“How are you these days Geoff? I haven’t seen you in church for a while now!”

Geoff hesitated as he gathered his papers together and sipped a little coffee.

“To be honest Father …” he said finally, “I’ve been rather busy lately …”

“Too busy to go to church?” asked Father Ignatius.

“Well … actually, I feel that God is distant these days …” confessed the architect standing up to leave.

At that point Canis the dog, who was lying by the fire, yawned heavily as he made himself more comfortable.

“That’s not a comment on what you’ve just said,” joked the priest, “sit down Geoff if you have a minute to spare.”

The architect sat down again.

“This dog and I have a special relationship,” said Father Ignatius, “when I take him for a walk in the park I sometimes let him off the lead. He runs away like mad here there and everywhere in no particular direction. He is free and he’ll go where he wants. Sometimes he is quite far away. It is he who has distanced himself from me Geoff; and not the other way round.

“Do you see what I mean?”

“Yes … I do … I suppose it is me who’s distanced myself from God,” replied the architect, “but I suppose it is because I no longer see Him as relevant in my life.”

“I wonder whether Canis sees me as relevant in his life?” asked the priest, “the other day I was cleaning the back garden and he looked at me as if to say ‘I like this … I poo wherever I want and you get to pick it up … that’s a special relationship all right!’ ”

Geoff smiled.

“And what’s more …” continued the priest, “he seems to be absolutely useless. He is certainly no guard dog. If we were to have a burglar in the house he would probably show him where I’ve hidden my stash of chocolates.

“The other day he came face to face with a cat in the back garden. He stood still like a statue. Then turned his head towards me expecting me to run and bark after the cat.

“I did not move. The cat started to panic and run but then stopped in total confusion and looked at the dog.

“Canis looked at me and then at the cat once or twice, and then he whined and ran inside the house to hide in his bed.”

Geoff chuckled quietly.

“But I like him Geoff,” said the priest, “and I wouldn’t part with him. And he seems to like me.

“Do you know … I think God likes you. In fact I know He loves you for sure, because He said so, many times in the Bible.

“I suspect you’re off the lead now and you’re running successfully all over the place. You don’t need God really … you have a great business, a lovely car which I must admit I envy, and a good life. No wonder He seems distant.

“But God is there all the same Geoff. Protecting you from more ills than you can imagine without you knowing it. All because He loves you.

“When you get the time, come and visit Him in church just to say Hello!”

Geoff said nothing.

“I don’t mean to be critical,” continued Father Ignatius gently, “we all get distanced from God at some stage or other in our lives Geoff.

“It would be wrong of me to see this happen to you and say nothing.

“Take one step at a time. Come to church on Sunday, and when you feel ready come to Confession. Or come again and see me for a quiet talk.

“You’ll find God will welcome you back in His loving arms like a father welcoming his prodigal son.

“You’re a good man Geoff deep down. I wouldn’t be doing business with you otherwise. I’ll be praying for you.”

“Thank you …” said Geoff quietly.

“I’ll be praying also that you won’t charge me too much for the building extension!” said Father Ignatius.

Saturday 30 March 2019

The Cauldron of Hatred

Looking from the sidelines, it seems to me that there is a big Cauldron of Hatred out there in the world filled with anxiety, bitterness, anger and even hatred amongst its other ingredients of evil.

It seems that in whatever walk of life, be it religion, politics, science or the arts, even dare I say, in one's personal life, there are unhappy people who resent their current situation, regardless of how rich or poor they are, regardless of how healthy or not, and regardless of anything else that can be used as a yardstick to measure their anxiety and angst.

People are generally unhappy and they are dumping their anger and frustrations in this huge Cauldron of Hatred which exists somewhere or other on this earth. It could be in the newspapers, on television and radio, on social media on the Internet, or indeed in their personal lives at work, at play, or even at home when they argue and vent with their spouse, children, neighbours or even the poor cat who gets kicked for no apparent reason.

Have you not noticed the negative tone of some of the stories in your newspaper? Or on TV programs, whether it is the News or even soap programs perpetrating sadness and bitterness as if art imitates real life and or vice versa? Have you not noticed the many postings on social media where individuals pour out their anger and malcontent for all to see and share? And in personal life too; can you not remember the last time the cat has had to hide in a panic to safeguard what is left of his nine lives?

Why all this negativeness? I hear you ask.

I am waiting ... are you asking as I'm expecting?

Why all this vile forever filling the Cauldron of Hatred?

Has it to do with the diets we are all eating? A shortage of good old fashioned roughage such as bran, for instance? Or a good spoonful of cod liver oil before going to bed?

Why are so many of us so upset about this and that and the other thing? Especially the other thing. You know what they say. If it is not this it is always the mother (in-law)!

Is it because we have become greedy and we all want what the other person has and more besides?

Where is the peace we are supposed to have towards each other? Loving one's neighbours and turning the other cheek? (By the way, I mean facial cheek, not your backside!).

Where is the forgiveness time and again and not just seven times seventy?

That's why we are behaving in the despicable way that we do. It has nothing to do with a lack of broccoli or other vile vegetables in our meals.

It is because we have forgotten to "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:35.

It is because people have forgotten to be grateful for what they have and to count their blessings.

Meanwhile, the Cauldron of Hatred keeps filling to overspilling.

Friday 29 March 2019


Diogenes is certainly an interesting character from ancient history. He was also known as Diogenes the Cynic (you'll learn why later) and was born in either 412 or 404 BC (not sure which) and died in 323 BC.

He was a controversial figure. His father was a banker who minted coins for a living, and for a while Diogenes worked with him. There was a banker's scandal and Diogenes was banished from Sinope, the city where he lived.

He moved to Athens where he proclaimed many of his theories:

He believed that virtue is better shown in action rather than in theory.

He criticised the social values and institutions and the corruption in society.

He believed in living the simple life without too many possessions and clutter. (He did not even have a TV because it was yet to be invented).

Diogenes made a virtue of poverty and begged for a living. He slept in a large ceramic jar (or tub) in the marketplace; and was notorious for his philosophical stunts - like carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man.

When he arrived in Athens Diogenes had a slave called Manes who ran away from him. Diogenes declared: "If Manes can live without Diogenes, why not Diogenes without Manes?" explaining that it was wrong for a master to have a servant doing things for him.

As I mentioned earlier, he lived in poverty in a tub in the market place with no possesions but a small bowl from which he drank. One day he saw a boy drinking from the hollow of his hands; so Diogenes destroyed the bowl and was much grieved that for years he had a useless possession.

In those days it was forbiden to eat in the marketplace. Remember it was the days before fast-food outlets and milkshakes - even chocolate ones, because chocolate too, like TV, had not yet been invented.

Notwithstanding the lack of a good hamburger, Diogenes would still eat in the markeplace. When he was told off he replied: "It's when I'm in the marketplace that I am hungry; not somewhere else!" A logic which today would have earned him a punch on the nose.

In those days in Athens there were other clever men like Plato, (I believe he could spin twenty plates on long sticks which he would shake every now and then to keep them spinning) and Socrates who much enjoyed the show and made 10% from ticket sales.

During one of his performances Plato described man as a "featherless biped" and the audience applauded in delight at this joke. Easily pleased I suppose!

So Diogenes plucked a chicken and declared to Plato "Behold! I've brought you a man." It is not recorded how Plato reacted; but no doubt the distraction made him loose concentration and he smashed many plates spinning on sticks.

Thursday 28 March 2019

This makes less sense

I recently wrote (yesterday) that nothing makes sense any more in this crazy world of ours. It seems to me that we are all being slowly, (or not so slowly), influenced by social media, by TV and by magazines to behave in a way we would not have thought of behaving forthwith, (or fore before - if there is such a word).

I read two articles recently which seem to me to be crazy, yet they portray how you can influence behaviour in this modern sophisticated crazy world we live in.

The first one suggests that we should do our household chores in the nude. "It is liberating", explained the article. It makes you break free and uninhibited from the tedious essentials of housework which entrap us all.

We all have to sweep, and dust, and vacuum clean every now and then. Or make the beds, or tidy up, or load the washing machine, the dishwasher or whatever else we have to do at home. These are essentials that we cannot escape. So why not escape them mentally, if not physically, by taking all our clothes off and do these tedious boring jobs in the nude. Totally naked. As the day we were born. As nature intended.

The magazine article had a number of pictures of men and women doing various jobs in their birthday suits and several quotes from various people, (real or fictitious - I don't know), saying how they enjoyed the new experience of working naked and how they recommend it to others.

I can see how this would influence some people to try it for themselves. Although personally I would dread being naked in close proximity of a vacuum cleaner nozzle.

The second article is just as crazy.

It suggested that a number of people are using social media to show off their houses and gardens by posting fake pictures of various rooms in their home. They show off a new kitchen for instance, or a new lounge, dining room or whatever. But the photos used are fake taken from the internet or from other photo sources. Similarly, they show off new gardens they have had re-designed, swimming pools, cars and so on.

In effect, it is keeping up with the Joneses on social media rather than for real.

In these days when everyone seems to have a million "friends" on social media, (and perhaps none in real life), it feels good to boast about one's home, garden or whatever without the risk of ever being found out as being a fake.

I guess this too is liberating in some form or another. You are living the dream on the internet, and in your mind, if not in real life.

So ... what do you think of either or both of these stories?

Would you consider doing your housework totally naked? (I remember reading about an old gentleman who hired a cleaner and paid good money as long as she cleaned his home in the nude - but that's another story).

Or would you post a fake photo of your home to show off how well you are doing in life?

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Nothing Makes Sense

Nothing makes sense any more. Whenever I look at the world around me, near and far, I see things changing so fast that they make no sense whatsoever. Either the whole world has gone mad. Or it is me that is mad. Seeing that there are more people in the world than just me, I have concluded that it is the whole world which has gone mad. I am the only sensible one around folks.

Let me give you some examples. For years people have been known to love a drink or two. I like a drop of whisky, and also Guinness every now and then. People also like ice cream. My favourite is chocolate flavoured. There's nothing wrong with liking a drink or ice cream or whatever foods you prefer. The other day in the supermarket I discovered Gin and Tonic ice cream. There were other drinks too. I don't mean G and T flavour but actual gin in it. It even had a warning not to be sold to under 18s and it stated on the packet the amount of alcohol in it.

I asked myself why? But as I was the only one around I did not answer myself.

Why would someone want to have an ice cream at home with alcohol in it? And if this is your particular weakness, why not buy ordinary ice cream and pour whatever drink you wish on it?

And another thing. Many people around here have hanging baskets outside their homes, one on each side of the front door, in which they plant things like fuchsias, daisies and so on. They look lovely. Now you can buy ready made hanging baskets with plastic plants and flowers you don't need to water or look after. What is the point of that? Why not have plastic lawn in your garden with plastic trees, bushes, hedgehogs, birds and whatever else you wish; like plastic fish in your pond? Better still, why not concrete the whole area and have a large picture of a garden all around the fence marking your territory?

When I was growing up shopping was a little easier. You went to the butcher for meat, the greengrocer for fruit and vegetables, the stationers for pens and papers and envelopes and so on. You get the idea. Now with supermarkets you get everything under one roof. As well as your food you can buy electric appliances like toasters and kettles, (our supermarket even sells fridges and washing machines), and some supermarkets have their own bank and can give you a loan, or a credit card. What's all that about? Is it progress or are we putting small traders out of business?

The other day I went to the optician. He always likes to sell me some new glasses, (after cutting my hair). He suggested reading glasses for downstairs when reading the newspapers; and another pair by the bedside when reading my tablet or a book. The other day he suggested a new kind of purchase.

"Would you like some new glasses?" he said, as he finished trimming my beard.

"I already have enough glasses," I replied.

"These are different," he interrupted. "These are glasses you can drink from. We have a new line in whisky glasses, wine glasses, champagne flutes, and whatever else you like." And indeed he had. He had started a new line of business playing on the word glasses. I ended up buying a couple of beer mugs to pacify him.

So there you have it. My cell phone takes photos, and every time it rings I press the wrong button and take a picture of my ear. The car talks to me and tells me I have left a door open. And my old friend whom I visit at home had a suppository in her ear. When I told her about it she wondered where she had put her hearing aid.

Nothing makes sense any more. 

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Forgiving You

A married man was having an affair with his secretary. One day they went to her place and made love all afternoon. Later that evening the man hurriedly dressed and told his lover to take his shoes outside and rub them in the grass and dirt.

He put on his shoes and drove home.

"Where have you been?" his wife demanded.

"I can't lie to you," he replied, "I'm having an affair with my secretary."

She looked down at his shoes and said: "You're lying to me! You've been playing golf!"

Adultery is no laughing matter, of course, although these days it is so common that it has become the subject of jokes. Many years ago adultery was a very serious matter indeed.

We all know the story when the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery.

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

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

She said ‘No one …’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now when God has forgiven us that should be the end of the matter. He does not keep a little black book in which He writes what we have done and reminds us again and again when we sin again. He knows that our weakness will overcome us; and what He asks is that we at least try not to repeat our sins again. Certainly so for the more serious ones; like adultery for instance.

However, often, our human nature is less forgiving than God's nature. With an honest repentance we are certainly forgiven by God but not by us. We feel we are not forgiven. We feel so ashamed of our sin that we do not forgive ourselves and we torture ourselves by re-calling our sins in our mind and feel unforgiven.

Our inner voice tells us we are unforgiven and reproaches us for what we have done. In some cases this is to such an extent that it stops us moving forward with our lives and hinders our progress towards a loving God waiting to hug us with open arms.

Such a reaction to sin may indeed be a natural human emotion, but it is wrong. It is like slapping God's face and saying that we do not accept His forgiveness or that His forgiveness was wrong. And that itself is another sin on our conscience.

We must learn, and indeed accept, that once God has forgiven us that should be the end of it. And not carry the sense of guilt with us for ever more. Let us move on freely and with a resolve not to sin that particular sin again.

Monday 25 March 2019

At the Zoo

Why is it that people with children like to go to the zoo over and again? What's so fun about going to the zoo? They're such a waste of time and money.

I think zoos should only have five animals. The rest are a total unnecessary waste.

Children go to zoos to see the lion, the tiger, the elephant, the giraffe and of course the monkeys. The rest are not important.

Who really cares about going to the zoo and seeing a tortoise? Or a frog? Or snakes?

"Oh ... here is a snake. Let's stop and watch him not moving for at least ten minutes!" They are all not moving. They are most probably asleep or dead with boredom at being in a glass tank under such a hot light.

Would you go to the zoo to watch an earwig or a centipede?

Which reminds me. Did you know that if a centipede is attacked it detaches some of its legs and throws them at his attacker? That way the attacker stops to eat the leg and the centipede runs away and hides.

It's true, I tell you. I read it in a book called the Legless Centipede which I am currently writing. The book will contain 100 pages with perforations near the spine. That way, as the book is read the pages will tear off and you'll be left with just the cover. Clever, don't you think? There will be a version with edible paper so you can eat the pages as you tear them off the book."Feed the Mind AND the Stomach" is my new motto!

Back to the zoo ... of course, there is the interminable collection of animals who look very much the same but have different names. There's the reindeer, the white tailed deer, the elk, the moose, the fallow deer, the Siberian roe deer, the piebald deer, the Père David's deer and the I don't care what type of deer you are deer. You are all boring me to death!

And it's the same for other animals. The zebra for example is just a horse painted in black and white lines. What's so clever about that? The bison and the buffalo are just cows like any other cow or ox but with a fancy name to earn them a place in the zoo.

And don't tell me about the interminable collection of birds of every size, colour and shape? Do I really care about the difference between one hawk and another, or one owl and another, or one parrot and another? Do children really care?

We stood there for what seemed years watching some feathered creatures in various cages. I forgot, nor cared, what they were called; but I remember they ate fruit because on the ground and stuck to various branches in the cage were pieces of apples which the keepers put there.

The cages had various labels naming the different birds, where they originate from, and whether they were extinct or not. A misnomer if there ever was one. Extinct means they don't exist. Since these birds were here in the cage wasting my time and keeping me from a well-earned Guinness proves the fact that they are not extinct. YET!!!

Personally, the only birds I care for are the ones I find at my favourite Kentucky Fried restaurant. I wonder why they don't serve Kentucky Fried parrot, or hawk or owl? There's plenty of scope for diversifying in that restaurant. Like Kentucky Fried ostrich or rabbit. Although they would need bigger fryers for the elephants!

That asides, I noticed that on some of the apples were a few flies enjoying the nectar of the fruit. I called one of the zoo keepers and asked him which kind of flies these were. He looked puzzled and said "I don't know; they're just flies!" I complained that since all the birds had been named by their individual labels why are there not any labels on the cage explaining more about the flies and their life cycle?

Before we left this tedious collection of creatures I don't care much about, we just had to visit the souvenir shop. Every trip to the zoo must end with a visit to the souvenir shop. It's traditional and another opportunity to waste your hard-earned cash on a lot of things you really don't need. Of course the children love the stuffed toy animals. What's better than a stuffed toy lion? Or a giraffe perhaps?

I asked the shop attendant whether she had a stuffed toy fly. She looked at me with the same air of puzzlement as the bird keeper earlier on. I explained that I had seen a fly on an apple earlier on and I would like as a souvenir of my visit to the zoo to purchase a stuffed toy fly. She asked the manageress who assured me that there is not much demand for such toys and would a toy hippopotamus do instead?

Anyway, we eventually left the zoo, with the children so tired they slept in the car cuddling their toy animals and me counting how much money we had spent. This is probably the fifth time at least we have visited different zoos during the holidays, and they are all the same. Not much fun really!

Sunday 24 March 2019

Love One Another

Every so often a good song comes and goes. 
Yet the lyrics are such that everyone should read and remember them.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Rattus Goawayus

It was a wonderful early Spring afternoon. We went driving to the countryside. It was warm and semi-sunny and the family decided to go out for a walk. We parked the car and I must admit it was a beautiful afternoon to go for a walk in the countryside, all the way up the narrow lane, leading to the village about half a mile away renowned for its beautiful thatched cottages and small shops. It was like visiting back in time before modern society and materialism took over.

It was either that, or staying in the car and listening to a football game on the radio.

I did what any sane person would do. I stayed in the car and let the family go on their walk if they wanted to.

As I sat there in the driving seat listening to the radio, I noticed ahead of me, some two yards away, something moving amongst the bushes. I switched off the radio and concentrated. It happened again. It moved a few inches to the left, then ran into the bushes again. It was a rat. At first I thought it was some other country creature. A squirrel maybe. Or perhaps a mole or anything else that inhabits the countryside and is small and brownish. But it was a rat all right. It came our again. Ran left and right. But stood still for long enough for me to identify him as a rat. Perhaps it was foraging for food.

I panicked. I quickly shut all the car windows and made sure all the doors were locked.

I lowered myself down in the seat so he would not see me.

I read somewhere that rats can be dangerous if they attack you. I could not drive away of course because I was waiting for my family to return from their stupid country walk. They'd been gone for at least ten minutes; when will they return? Isn't ten minutes enough for stupid country walks?

I had to either frighten the rat away or attack him. I searched the car for something I could use as a weapon.

I found a bra.

Let us not debate what a bra was doing in the car. I could use it as a sling shot or catapult. If David had this bra in the Bible he could have killed two Goliaths simultaneously.

Problem is, I did not have any pebbles or stones in the car. I could use the bra to hit the rat with if he attacked I suppose. I kept it close to hand.

I had read somewhere that rats can travel hundreds of miles. Apparently they hang on the underside of cars and as you drive away you inadvertently take them to your home.

I raised myself a little in my seat to keep an eye on the ninja rodent in case he jumped and hid under our car.

Eventually the family returned from their stupid walk.

I hid the bra in the glove compartment and asked them to stamp their feet loudly before they entered the car quickly. I thought the noise would frighten the rat away.

They asked me why I asked them to stamp their feet. I told them it was a new game I'd invented. They thought it was stupid.

I drove away fast and every so often, when it was safe, I hit the brakes suddenly to dislodge any rats hanging on the underside of the vehicle. I looked in the rear view mirror to see if any rats fell off but there was nothing.

The family was not amused by my driving and thought I was a jerk. Little did they know I was saving them from a rat infestation.

We got home safely. When they were in the house, I bent right down on the ground searching for any rats hanging on to the underside of the car. There were none.

Maybe none managed to jump onto the car, or perhaps they fell when I hit the brakes.

What do you think?

Friday 22 March 2019

Of Church Mice And Church Men

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

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

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

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

He too went on ad infinitum reading his sermon from notes he must have typed on an old type-writer and stopping at every punctuation mark to add boredom to everlasting tedium. I remember, that Sunday in church there was a young couple sitting in front of us. By the time Father Ontoo Long finished his sermon they were playing with their grand children.

I wondered as I sat there on those hard wooden pews which very soon numb the lower parts of your body … You can't lean back either because one's backside slides off the well polished pews ... I wondered, if this historian stood side by side with Father Ontoo Long and they talked in unison would they put us to sleep in stereo?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 21 March 2019

Rich Man - Poor Man - And you

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ Luke 16:19-31.

I am sure you all know this parable by Jesus. The story continues that the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to go and warn the rich man's family to mend their ways. And this request too is denied.

So ... what have we to learn from this parable in today's modern times?

These days we have people so rich that they treat their pets better than many poor people are treated. Years ago I knew a couple who had a little dog. You know the kind ... a little bijou type dog like a small poodle or such like. They liked that dog very much. So much so that they put a plate full of best cuts of ham, or other meats, on the table and then they would lift the dog on a high chair and he would eat at table with them.

The first time this happened I was astounded. I said nothing of course; but somehow I felt bad that the dog was fed the best meat one could buy when there are so many folks going hungry.

For all I know, maybe this couple were very generous in life. Maybe they gave a lot of money to charity, or looked after the down-and-outs in the local homeless shelter. But somehow, seeing that dog eating expensive meats that I could not afford made me feel bad.

What do we learn from the Lazarus story?

How much should we give to charity? What is enough? Or not enough?

In another parable Jesus tells us of the poor widow who gave her last pennies in the collection plate. He says that her gift was worth more than that of rich people, because she gave until it hurt.

What does give until it hurts mean for us these days? Is it OK to give to charities so much that it begins to affect our family and our loved ones? Is it acceptable that our children should go without something because we have been generous towards the poor? Where do you draw the line between your family not having something at the expense of a poor man having a good meal for the first time in ages.

I once was having a meal with a priest. There were many of us round the table. I was young and perhaps foolish in what I thought or said. I asked him, "Father, is it OK for us to be having such a feast here; when there are so many people starving in the world?"

He was a wise man. He smiled and said, "There will always be starving people in the world. I know the temptation is to give all you have to the poor to the point of you going without. But if you did that, then you too will be poor and relying on others for charity. What you should do is give to the poor as much as you can afford, and thank God that you have plenty for yourself, and trust Him that He will look after the poor. You are God's instrument in life to give to those less well off than yourself."

I suppose the lesson to be learnt here is that we should not deny things for ourselves and our families. There's nothing wrong in working hard and being well-off. Indeed, Christ encourages people to work hard in the parable of the servants given talents which they increase in time.

But in our riches, we need to remember those less well-off than us; and to give them "enough" as much as we can.

What is enough? Or not enough?

This is something you will have to discuss with God when you get to meet Him.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

It's been a while since I wrote here and shared my deepest feelings and inner thoughts. In all truth, a lot has been happening lately and I feel rather melancholy. I have this heavy weight on my heart which makes me rather sad.

Perhaps I should not have had so much ravioli. I pride myself in always having a well-balanced meal. Ravioli for starters. Ravioli for the main meal. And ravioli for dessert. Perhaps it was the honey on that last plate of ravioli which did it for me!

Anyway, on Monday I did some gardening. Whilst pruning the branches off a tree I fell off the ladder and hurt my foot. I didn't cry so much since that day when I lost 20 pence!

But sad and painful as that day was, I mean Monday, as well as that day years ago when I lost 20 pence, Tuesday was much much worse.

On Tuesday morning I went to the doctor about my hurt foot. The receptionist would not let me in because I did not have an appointment. She said I should have phoned for an appointment first before turning up un-announced. I told her I did not know I was going to fall off the ladder; but she still would not let me in to see the doctor.

I took out my cell-phone, and there and then, in front of her, I phoned for an appointment. She answered the phone and said that the doctor would see me in ten days' time. 

Apparently, like many people, he is avoiding me. I don't know why.

She explained, (I knew she was lying by the tone of her face), that the earliest appointment for all patients, not just me, is in ten days' time.

I told her that in ten days' time some patients may well be dead. She replied that in that case they should ring her again and cancel the appointment.

Eventually, she let me see the doctor. 

As I got into his insulting room a nun came out crying her heart out.

I asked him what was wrong with her. He broke the doctor patient confidentiality code, (ha ... ha ... as if there is such a thing when his nurses and receptionists can all read your intimate details on the computer); anyway ... he broke confidentiality and said, "I told that nun that she is pregnant!"

"Is she pregnant?" I asked.

"No ..." he smiled, "but I sure cured her hiccups!"

Whilst he was examining my hurt foot I told him that I believe I have fluid on the knee. He said, "You're not aiming straight!"

On my way back from the doctor I called on the baker's and asked him for a wasp. "We don't sell wasps!" he said. "You've got one in the shop window!" I replied.

As I made my way home I got mugged. A young man pointed a plastic knife at me and said, "Your money or your life!" It took me a couple of minutes or so to decide my options. I thought he said, 
"your money or your wife". As she was not with me at the time, I did not know how I could agree to his demands. The knife blade was at least two inches long so, eventually, I decided to give him my money. I gave him all I had on me - 60 pence.

When the man ran away I went to the police station and reported the mugging. They asked me for a description and I said the 50 pence coin was dated 2006 and the 10 pence coin was 2008.They still haven't found the money to return to me.

They said they wanted a description of the mugger. I told them that I wanted my money back not the mugger.

On Wednesday evening there were a lot of birds chirping and settling for the night in the trees in our back garden. It was wonderful to hear them and see it all. I called the family to come and see the birds. My mother-in-law, who sadly was staying with us that evening, came out in the garden with her hair in curlers and her face all creamed up. It was a white cream to make her skin soft and less crinkly. She looks as if she needs ironing or something. She was quite a sight. The cat got frightened and rushed up the tree. The dog, for some reason, barked and then bit my leg.

The sight of my mother-in-law with all that cream on her face had quite an effect on the birds. The next day they returned all the seeds they had taken from our garden the previous years!

I'm glad Dear Diary that no one reads you except me. The things I write here ...

Actually, I’ll tell you a secret. I keep two diaries. You and a decoy one I leave lying around in case it is read. In it I say kind things like how nice the green dress my wife bought looks; even though it is hideous and makes her look like a stick of broccoli.

At lunchtime on Thursday I went to a Department Store with Helen, my secretary. She picked up a pink see-through negligent from the display unit, put it across her and with a smile she said expectantly, "Do you like this?" 

I gulped and replied, "I don't look good in a negligent!" She frowned and said nothing. Pink isn't even my favourite colour!

On Thursday evening our goldfish in the tank in the living room died. I grilled him and had him on toast with tomato ketchup. Afterwards the family said they wanted to bury him in the garden. I quickly produced a small box filled with sand which we ceremoniously buried. I said the farewell prayers, "Wherever you are Toby. May you digest in peace." I was asked what digest means. I said it was like saying "Earth to earth and dust to dust".

By the way, I had stomach ache that evening.

On Thursday night Friday morning my neighbour knocked on my door at 2:30 in the morning. Can you believe that, 2:30am?! Luckily for him I was still up playing my bagpipes.

On Friday at work we had a new receptionist join us at work. Her name is Matilda. I welcomed her and congratulated her on her pregnancy. A few minutes later I saw her cry and some women were with her consoling her.

My manager told me that she is rotund by nature, and not pregnant at all. I asked: "Are you sure?"

After my Friday's faux-pas, I decided to go to Confession on Saturday. I arrived a little late and noticed the priest get out of the confessional quickly and hurry into the Sacristy. I'm sure he'd seen me, but he pretended not to.

I followed him into the Sacristy and asked to go to Confession. He said if it is the same sins as last week he'd give me absolution there and then.

I explained that this was a new sin; never sinned before, and that I needed to go to Confession. He said: "All right ... if you must!" and he sat down in the Sacristy and asked me what was on my mind. I told him about the receptionist’s pregnancy that never was. He asked me to stop wasting his time and suggested that in future I go to Confession elsewhere. I don’t think he likes me.

Today is Sunday and I've had three courses of ravioli. I suppose this is greedy. I'll confess it next week.

That's all for now Diary.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Joseph's Legacy

Joseph is not mentioned often in the Bible. We read about him before the birth of Jesus when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and asked him to take Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:18).

Imagine his dilemma. He was engaged to Mary when she found out she was due to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. At first he considered doing what many men with a pregnant girl friend whose baby is not theirs would have done - run a mile in the opposite direction.

Being an honourable man he decided to break the engagement privately so as not to disgrace her.

Then the angel appeared to him in a dream; and based on that dream alone he decided to marry Mary and raise her son as if He were his own.

Joseph was an ordinary good Jew, obedient to the Jewish Law. But God intervened and shattered his life-expectations. He is called to a new level of obedience. That of God.

Joseph was there when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and we read about him when he took Jesus and Mary to Egypt to escape from Herod (Matthew 2:13) and then when they returned to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19).

He is also mentioned when the boy Jesus was twelve years old and found in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41).

So as Jesus' foster father he was there during His early years protecting Him from Herod and providing a loving family for the Son of God.

What a wonderful man he must have been. Working quietly in the background, without much recognition, doing God's will in raising His Son on earth.

So, what is his legacy to us?

Obedience and trust.

Despite what his common sense told him to do, he did not walk away from Mary. He trusted and obeyed God and decided to stay with Mary. He decided to provide for her and a child who was not his. He taught the child carpentry and raised Him up as his own.

May his obedience and trust be an example to us all. Especially when we are called by God to obey what He commands.

This prayer to St Joseph is said to be over 1900 years old. It was found in the fiftieth year of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the 1500's it was sent by the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. It is a novena to be prayed for nine consecutive mornings for anything you may desire. It has seldom been known to fail.

“O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.”

Monday 18 March 2019

What's Your Attitude?

I don't know if it's my imagination, but a lot of people are going around these days with a face as if they have a permanent bad smell under their nose.

I know it is not possible to be always happy and cheerful and go along singing and shouting "Praise the Lord!". But some people I know seem to be permanently gloomy as if they're carrying the world's garbage on their shoulders. I accept that at times we all have our bad hair day, the days when things aren't as they should be; that's natural and to be expected. But let's not make a habit of always looking like a mouldy ten year old sandwich in a caffeteria.

Imagine a party, or a barbeque, where everyone is happy and chatty, and the food and drink are perfect, and the weather is wonderful, and the music is playing, and ... one sour faced person looking as if they have just tasted a vinaigrette gateau - if there is such a thing. And if there isn't, then there should be to help me make my point.

That person's attitude will spoil the whole event for everyone. People will remember their face, their behaviour, their demeanour for years to come. If any one is taking photos then that will be permanently recorded for posteriority too. (I know there is no such word - I've just made it up to add effect to my writing).

So let's look in the mirror more often and watch our attitude. Is the person looking back at us the sort of person we'd like to meet? Does he or she make us happy?

Even if it is difficult, which I accept it sometimes is for some, let's make an effort to break a smile. I said break a smile; not break wind. That's an all together different story for another day.

Let's smile more often. If not for us, then for others. A smile every now and then makes someone else happy. Let's tickle ourselves to make ourselves smile. I always carry a feather in my trouser pocket for such a purpose.

Let's watch our attitude.

The other day the postman dropped his hat accidentally and my dog rushed upon it and tore it to pieces. The postman complained to me saying "Your dog chewed my hat!"

I remembered my attitude and smiled broadly.

He said, "I don't like your attitude!"

I replied "It's not my 'at he chewed. It's your 'at he chewed!"

Keep smiling.

Saturday 16 March 2019

Hand me down my Bible

Oho glory-o, now I am the Lord's disciple
Oho glory-o, now hand me down my Bible

I like my liquor and my livin' hard
May the Lord save my soul
My salvation was the turn of a card
My heart's as black as coal
But everybody's got the right to go wrong
Everybody's got to sing my song
Everybody's got the right to go wrong
Sing my song, sing my song

Oho glory-o, now I am the Lord's disciple
Oho glory-o, now hand me down my Bible

Oho glory-o, now I am the Lord's disciple
Oho glory-o, now hand me down my Bible

I don't give a damn for any man
As all the world can see
The time has come to make a stand
To shine your light on me
Come on people let the world begin
Come on now let the sun shine in
Come on people let the world begin
Let it in, let it in

Oho glory-o, now I am the Lord's disciple
Oho glory-o, now hand me down my Bible

Oho glory-o, now I am the Lord's disciple
Oho glory-o, now hand me down my Bible

Oho glory-o, now I am the Lord's disciple
Oho glory-o, now hand me down my Bible

Friday 15 March 2019

Our Father ...

"Our Father who art in heaven....."

“Yes. How can I help you?”

”Hein? Who’s that?”

“You called me. I’m listening …”

”I didn’t call anybody … I was just praying … The Lord’s Prayer! Our Father who art in Heaven …”

“That’s me … Your Father in Heaven … now carry on praying …”

“Eh … Hallowed be Thy name …”

“Ha … Do you remember when you were very young you used to say ‘Harold be Thy name’? For a long time you were convinced my name is Harold; until someone put you right. What does it mean anyway … Hallowed be Thy name?”

“Eh … hmmm … does it mean you are Holy?”

“That’s right … carry on …”

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

“Hold it just there … Do you really mean what you just said?”

“Sure, of course I do …”

“Or do you mean ‘Thy will be done’ as long as it is what you want? Do you really accept my will all the time? Even when it’s not convenient for you, or when life gets a little difficult?”

“Well … sometimes when things get really bad I get very worried …”

“At least you’re honest. Remember this always; when things are really bad for you it is still my will. I allow it to happen but I never abandon you. I’m always close to you … all you have to do is trust me.”

“Gee … thanks.”

“Carry on …”

“Give us this day our daily bread …”

“Let’s stop again … This means that I will provide for all your needs. It’s good of you to ask; but rest assured that I will always provide you with what you need. Go on with your prayer …”

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us …”

“Even your neighbour?”


“You never forgave your neighbour after that argument you had a few days ago … In fact you still hope that you’ll get even some day …”

“But … but … You know it was his fault!”

“Of course it was … and he did apologise. But unless you truly forgive him, you truly no longer hold a grudge and have no ill-will or ill-feelings towards him; it doesn’t count does it?”

“That’s not always easy …”

“I agree … But true forgiveness means that you no longer wish any retribution or revenge against those who have hurt you. Sure … you’ll always remember the wrong done to you, but let that be a reminder to forgive them once again and to pray for them.”

“Can I go on now?”

“Yes …”

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

“This bit is a reminder that Satan is always there trying to take you away from me. He tried to tempt my only Son Jesus, so you’re not going to be much of a challenge to him. Whenever he tries to lead you astray repeat those words over and again and I will come to your help.”

“Thank you …”

“It’s getting late … go to sleep now!”

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Understanding St Paul's Letter to the Corinthians

I entered the house after delivering another load of tents to the local Outdoor Pursuits Shop.
Paul was sitting at the table writing on another pile of parchment papers.

“Hello” I said, “would you like a hot drink?”

“What have you to offer?” he asked without looking up.

“Hot boiled fish water sweetened with honey …” I replied casually.

“The same old brew …” he mumbled in disgust, “when will someone discover coffee, or tea or hot chocolate drink?”

“There’s also hot milk and honey from the Promised Land!” I said encouragingly; but he did not answer.

I asked him what he was writing.

“It’s a letter to the people of Corinth …” he said, “I have to finish it today and send it before postage costs go up yet again …

“They’ve asked me for advice on how to live … just basic advice. I mean … can’t these people think for themselves. Here, have a read” he continued, as he passed me some bits of parchment which smelled like old goat skins.

I read … “Chapter 7 - Verse 1”

For some reason Paul always wrote his letters by numbering every chapter and every verse. I don’t know why he did that. Must be some affectation of some kind I suppose. He wrote:

“A man does well not to marry.”

“Hein?” I thought, “what’s he on about?”

I remembered God's advice to His creations. He said "Go forth and multiply!" I am told that a couple of snakes ignored Him. A year later God returned and found everyone had multiplied except the two snakes. He asked for an explanation and the snakes replied: "We're adders! We need logs to multiply!" (Logarithms).

Anyway ... after this mental distraction which I am prone to from time to time, I re-read Paul's Chapter 7 - Verse 1 where he clearly says "A man does well not to marry".

Then he goes on to say that if people are married they should have sex whenever the other person, partner, desires it; unless you have stopped to pray for a while before starting again.

I gulped and looked at him without saying a word.

I kept on reading what seemed to be rather personal advice to these Corinthian people; albeit good advice I must say, and then again, at Verse 7 he wrote:

“Actually, I would prefer if all of you were single as I am …You single people and widows, it is better if you continue to live alone; just as I do …”

I stopped and looked at him writing there. I wondered why he’d never got married. Perhaps having met my mother-in-law he got frightened out of matrimony altogether.

But his advice made no sense. How can he possibly say a man should not marry, and in fact he’d prefer all of them to remain single and live alone?

I asked him, “How would people multiply if they followed your advice?”

“What’s Mathematics to do with it?” he replied without looking up, “they can learn their multiplication tables like every one else!”

“No …” I said hesitantly, “I mean … you know … doing it … having babies …”

“Oh … I gave them a let out clause in Verse 9,” Paul continued nonchalantly, “I told them if they can’t control themselves they’d better get married anyway.

“I really can’t understand those people … why can’t they distract themselves by playing card games, or Monopoly or similar board games. The shops are full of them!”

I kept on reading and I must admit I got a bit embarrassed at the personal advice which followed. He meant well, I suppose, and maybe those Corinthians were a little slow on the up-take and needed very detailed advice on how to live as early Christians.

Then at Verse 26 he repeated his opinions again.

“If a man is unmarried he should stay this way. If he is married he should not get rid of his wife!”

“Charming,” I thought, “no doubt he’s considered the costs of divorce and alimony when giving this advice.

But then his letter continued:

“Are you unmarried? Then don't look for a wife ... I would rather spare you the everyday troubles that married people will have.”

Well, my mother-in-law certainly has had an influence on him; I thought.

I got out of the house somewhat more confused than those Corinthians will be when they receive this letter.

I was met by my wife and mother-in-law coming home from a shopping trip. Before I had time to welcome them mom-in-law said:

“What are you doing lazing in the sun? Have you no work to do?”

Tuesday 12 March 2019

A Banana Stole My Bicycle

In town there is a pedestrianised street to allow people to shop and sight-see away from any vehicles and cycles. There are bollards at either end of the street to stop any vehicles from entering and signs asking cyclists to dismount whilst going through.

I leant my bicycle against one of those bollards and walked six feet or so towards the newspaper kiosk to buy a paper.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a banana appeared, rode my bike and cycled at speed up the pedestrianised street.

I chased after it to the shouts of the paper vendor screaming: "Hey ... come back ... you haven't paid for your paper!"

The vendor's assistant got out of the kiosk and chased after me.

There we were ... banana on a bicycle chased by me being chased by the paper assistant. At one stage I believe a small dog got away from its owner and chased after us too barking like mad.

The shoppers moved aside like the parting of the Red Sea for Moses and let us run down the middle of the street. What a sight it was ... chasing a banana on a bicycle!

I suspect the public thought it was some "flash mob" type stunt; so they stopped to see what would happen next. At the time I was wearing my usual green cowboy hat with a feather on the side, turquoise shirt and red tartan trousers. I heard someone say: "It's a Candid Camera stunt! Look how this idiot is dressed!"

I could have stopped and took umbrage at being called an idiot; but my desire to recover my bicycle exceeded my taking offence at the insult. So I kept running as fast as my little legs and rotund figure could manage.

I nearly caught up with the cycling banana and at one stage almost caught him ... her ... it ... What gender is a banana anyway? But it was too slippery and gave me the slip.

Eventually I ran out of stamina or energy or whatever it is people run out of when they can run no more. I stopped; huffing and puffing and struggling for breath.

The paper boy caught up with me and started arguing. A policeman appeared out of nowhere. I tried to explain that a banana stole my bicycle. The policeman asked me if I'd been drinking and why I was dressed as a clown. The paper boy accused me of stealing a newspaper, which technically was correct, although there were proper extenuating circumstances.

As we were all talking at the same time and no one was listening there was a voice over a loudspeaker booming "Cut ... cut ..."

We looked round and there was a small crowd of people with cameras, lights, microphones and all the paraphernalia used when shooting a film. The public watching all this suddenly started applauding and whistling their appreciation.

Apparently, some film crew were making a short TV commercial for a new fruit shop which opens shortly in town. The banana man was meant to pick up a bike from the bollard point and cycle up the street to introduce the advert. He inadvertently took my cycle by mistake, and my chasing after him ruined the whole shoot.

I paid the paper boy and got my bicycle back.

The icing on the un-wanted cake was when a small group of people asked me for my autograph thinking I was part of the whole ridiculous show.

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