Sunday 31 May 2020

Pentecost? What is that?

ACTS 2:1-4

When the day of Pentecost came, the believers were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Pentecost is a Christian festival celebrated the 49th day (the seventh Sunday) after Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks (Acts 2:1-31).

The term Pentecost comes from the Greek Πεντηκοστή (Pentēkostē) meaning "fiftieth".

If we read the whole passage, we learn that this must have been a very traumatic experience to the Apostles and all others gathered together in that house in fear of the authorities. Christ, their leader, had been crucified and then raised from the dead. Many had seen Him and were witness to His resurrection and were there when He was raised to Heaven. Now they were in hiding. Confused. Not knowing what to do next.

Suddenly there's a mighty sound and flames of fire on their heads.

Now I don't know about you; but if my few hairs suddenly turned into instant combustion I'd certainly not sit there quietly praying.

We do not have a record in Acts of how the followers of Jesus reacted to the fire; but we know what happened next.

They were filled with the Holy Spirit.

This means that, the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, let's call Him the Spirit, (soul) of God, descended on them and became one with their very souls.

Their soul and the Holy Spirit were one. And this union of the human and the Divine manifested itself in many ways. For a start they all had the courage to speak up. They were no longer afraid. These very people who days before had ran away when Jesus was arrested, suddenly gained new courage given them by the Holy Spirit.

They knew the truth about Jesus and His Resurrection and they were no longer afraid to keep the secret to themselves. They had the courage to stand up and shout their truth to all willing to hear. They were not afraid of the consequences.

Jesus had sent them His Holy Spirit as promised.

John 14:15-21

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you."

And what's more, by receiving the Holy Spirit the followers of Jesus gained a new ability as well as courage. They were all able to speak in different languages that up to then they knew nothing about. There were many people in Jerusalem at the time.

There were "... Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism; Cretans and Arabs - we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

To the early disciples, the Holy Spirit was real indeed. They had experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. They received Him at Pentecost in tongues of fire and they were able to speak to the crowds that gathered in different languages. Peter explained to the crowd that the disciples had received God's Holy Spirit.

The disciples, and early Christians, now knew for certain that the one and only living God they believed in, whom Abraham, Moses, and the prophets had spoken of, had sent His only Son Jesus to earth. Because they had met Jesus. They also knew that Jesus had sent His Holy Spirit upon them, because they had experienced the Holy Spirit.

To them this was all a reality. Something they had seen, experienced and understood. Not some sort of Holy Trinity puzzle of three in one yet each one separate from the three. 

Because the disciples had experienced the Holy Spirit, He became such a force in their lives, giving them strength to spread the Good News that Jesus had taught them, enabling them to live as Jesus had lived.

It was they who handed on to us this mystery that in one God there are three Persons. Because they had experienced it in their lives.

Can you imagine that? Imagine that you suddenly not only had the courage to proclaim your belief in God at work, or at the supermarket, or in the street; but you also could speak your beliefs in French, German, or any other language that you do not know to make yourself understood by your audience.

Think about it for a moment. Not only do you suddenly have the courage to speak up; but you can do it in any language.

To the followers of Jesus gathered there on that day, receiving the Holy Spirit was a real event in their lives. It was not something they had read about in some old scrolls, or heard about it from some prophet. To them this was real indeed. And it became real for the rest of their lives. When they met and spoke about receiving the Holy Spirit they meant exactly that.

And afterwards, even though some people had been baptised as followers of Christ, it was not until they too had received the Holy Spirit that their lives truly changed. (Acts 8:14-17).

Imagine for instance some major event happening in your life. In future, when you describe this event to others who had not been there; to you, this event was and will always be a reality. It happened. You witnessed it. You were there. And now you can tell others about it.

Sadly though, with the passage of time, the story of Pentecost, or more precisely, the significance and understanding of receiving the Holy Spirit, has been diluted over the years.

People these days do not understand what it means to receive the Holy Spirit. Some don't even believe it. Others think that it was a once in a lifetime event. It happened years ago the the followers of Christ. What has it to do with me right now, today?

The reality is that we can all receive the Holy Spirit into our souls today. All we have to do is to believe it is possible; and to sincerely ask God to send us the Holy Spirit.

I have known people with the Holy Spirit. They are usually more at peace with themselves and the world than the rest of us. Assured of God's love and protection. Always calm and able to speak God's Word and to give advice when needed in a peaceful reassuring way.

I find it difficult to describe such people and their demeanour and attitude to life. But believe me, once you know someone with the Holy Spirit you will certainly know and notice that they are different to other people.

Friday 29 May 2020

Visiting Ghosts

I was home alone. You know how when you're alone you hear all sorts of sounds you'd never noticed before? Floorboards creaking for no reason. Window rattling at the wind outside. Silence that sounds louder than a whole thunderstorm. Echoing the storms from your past.

Poetic don't you think? I'm such a good writer I often surprise myself. Anyway ... let's move on.

I was so frightened that I hid under the bed. And that's when he appeared.

It was a ghost. I knew because he said so. He said, "I am the ghost of Christmas past!"

"It's not Christmas," I replied, looking from under my bed.

"Shut up and don't interrupt," he said, "get out of there. What are you doing under the bed?"

"Looking for monsters," I hesitated a response.

"Don't be an idiot. Get out," he commanded, "We're going on a journey! We will visit your past and I'll show you what you did, in case you forgot!"

He then took me right back to my late teen years. "Do you know who she is?" he asked.

"It's Melba," I said, "she was my girl-friend at college. We were nineteen. We grew very fond of each other. I remember taking her out for a meal when we were young. We went to a fast-food restaurant and bought burgers and milkshakes which we ate at the back by the bicycle shed. How romantic it was. I wonder what happened to her?"

"You just grew apart," said the ghost from my past, "she grew and grew and grew, mainly on burgers and French fries. She married another friend of yours, remember Peter? Then she became a heavyweight wrestler."
"Poor Peter," I thought. He was always a great thinker. I wonder what's pressing on his mind right now.

The ghost then took me to my early twenties when I worked for a big firm in London. He took me to a scene in an elevator in our headquarters.
"Do you remember what happened then?" he asked.

I blushed.

"You broke wind in a crowded elevator," he reprimanded, "now I know you were poor at the time and ate a lot of baked beans. But farting in an elevator is wrong on so many levels. What is worse, you blamed it on poor Miss Valentine standing next to you. Remember her? An elderly secretary looking forward to retirement. You kept pointing at her surreptitiously so that the other passengers would think it was she who created the stench from hell. Because of you, she was known as Stinky Valentine from that day!"

I felt ashamed at my behaviour ... poor Stinky Valentine. She was sent a rotten fish as a present on Valentine's Day. All because of me.

The ghost then took me back to my wedding day. "Remember that night in your hotel room?" he asked, "You and your new wife. Remember how you behaved?"

I blushed again. I certainly did not want to see that again.

"All that banging against the wall," he said, "non-stop banging ... and the continuous shouting 'Oh Lord ... Oh Lord ... Is any one there? Is any one there? I have fallen once again? Is there anyone there?' "

I held my hands over my eyes, peeking a little not wanting to see what I should not see, yet giving way to temptation.

"And you ignored her," the ghost said harshly, "you did not care. And it was not until the next morning that you discovered that poor old woman in the room next door had fallen and was crying for help!"

The ghost then left and handed me over to another ghost.
"I am the ghost of Christmas present!" he said.

"Will you give me presents?" I asked in anticipation.

"Don't be an idiot," he said, "the other ghost told me about you. A bit stupid I think. I shall show you what you have now become after all these years."

"I know who I am!" I said proudly, "I am a model citizen!"

"Only if the model is a still life, or an inanimate object," he said, "you certainly are no Adonis!"

"Who?" I asked.

"Adonis," he repeated, "the Greek god of beauty and desire. You're nothing like that. You're more like a badly drawn Picasso. The only one who'd desire you is a woman who does not care. Someone easily pleased!"

"You don't have to be insulting," I said, "I'll tell my wife about you when she gets home."

But there was no pulling back from the insults. The ghost continued, "you look like an overweight David by Michelangelo."
"You're so fat, at the zoo elephants throw peanuts at you." he continued, "So heavy you broke your family tree. You need group insurance; rather than insure for one. You're so large people jump over you rather than go round. So big that when your cell-phone goes off people think you're backing up. You really are overweight, I bet your blood type is Ragu. Or is it Mayonnaise? And you're so stupid as well. So dumb that blondes tell jokes about you."

"Why are you being so insulting?" I asked, holding back the tears in a big tub I was carrying at the time.

He smiled and said, "I know it's all an exaggeration," as his grin grew larger. "But it is for your own good really. If I said good things about you, about your kindness, your generosity and all that, your head would grow too big. So I'm deflating you a bit. Only because the tide is waiting to come in ..."

He then laughed so loudly as he disappeared from view, followed by yet another ghost.
"I am the ghost of Christmas future," he said.

"Oh yeh?" I replied. "No doubt you too have come to torment me. To tell me how bad I was back then, and how bad I am right now, and how I'll end up in total badness for eternity."

"On the contrary," he said, "I have come to tell you that many people in this world today think that they are good.

They believe that they are perfect even.

That they do no wrong; and that they can justify everything that they do.

They have a clever answer to everything.

They believe that they are always right; and that the present as well as the future is theirs.

"Well, I tell you; they are wrong.

"I have come to warn you not to be like them!"

POINTS TO PONDER: If the ghosts visited you, what would they say?

Thursday 28 May 2020

Cataclysmic Catastrophies

Some friends of ours arranged that we’d all go as two families to a beautiful stately home out in the country. The intention was to visit the mansion and also have a picnic in the park. Apparently there was also a Garden Fair in the surrounding grounds which would add to the fun and excitement of the day.

“Not as good as watching football on TV” I thought, but I was outnumbered a million to one. They all seem to have more votes than me somehow!

On the day in question our friends turned up to our house in a mini-van type vehicle, like a small bus. Everyone got into their car with picnic baskets and what have you.

Everyone except me that is. There was no room for me. I tried to use this as an excuse to watch the football … but I was outnumbered.

Apparently, there was a cat beauty competition at the Garden Fair and it was decided, (outnumbered as ever), that as my car was at the garage for service, I’d follow our friend’s mini-van in a taxi; with our cat in one of those special cages to carry pets in.

I waited on the sidewalk for the taxi. When it arrived I put the cat on the back seat and said to the driver “We’re following that car!”

How often had I seen this particular scene in movies, and how much I longed to jump in a taxi and say: “Follow that car!” – Well, now it was my turn to say it. And I said it with authority. Just like a movie hero would.

I then realized that I did not have my hat. You know the one. A cowboy hat made of green felt with a large feather on the side. I never go anywhere without it.

I got back in the house to get the hat and when I returned the taxi had gone. So had my friends!

I stood there in a daze. What’s happened? I looked at the empty space where the taxi was, perhaps hoping for its sudden re-appearance. 

I looked up the street … down the street … don’t know why … they’d hardly reverse all the way to the stately home … nothing. No friends, no taxi … nothing. Not even anyone to ask if they’d seen what happened.

Now the intelligent thing to do is to go in the house and watch football on TV.

Not me … after a few examinations of conscience on what I should do, I phoned the taxi firm. They confirmed the booking. They said they’d contact the taxi by radio and ring me back.

Twenty minutes later the taxi firm rang back. The taxi arrived at 49 Acacia Avenue and the owners there did not want the cat.

The cat … I’d forgotten about the cat. It was on the back seat of the taxi in its box. 

Apparently, the taxi driver followed another car instead of my friends’ mini-van type vehicle. No wonder the people in Acacia Avenue were confused when they were gifted a cat.

I asked the taxi firm to return my cat to me.

Whilst I waited I tried in vain to remember the name of the stupid stately home we’re supposed to be at. Our friends had mentioned it but I didn’t make a mental note, seeing I was not interested in the whole adventure anyway.

I tried phoning them on the cell-phones. There’s at least three cell-phones in that van whose numbers I have recorded here on my phone … no replies. Phones switched off.

What is the point of having a cell-phone if it is kept switched off? You might as well have a fridge which you never bother to plug into the mains electricity, or a cat entering a cat competition without being there!

I left messages on the cell-phones. I waited for the cat to get home which, I hasten to say, cost me a fortune in taxi fares going all the way to Acacia Avenue and back again.

There was no point taking the taxi to a stately home whose name I did not know.

So I finally did the intelligent thing. I settled down to watch the football on TV with a glass of cool Guinness.

The family never forgave me for my absence … or should I say the cat’s absence. Apparently a mangy old black cat won instead of our beautiful ginger tom.

Wednesday 27 May 2020

My sensitivity.

I think I am generally a sensitive person always caring for other people's feelings as best I can; even though at times my own feelings are really hurt; like the many times Lego bricks are left lying on the carpet and I step on one of them in bare feet. I politely say "By Jove, that was a tad uncomfortable!" and move on, rather than let my real feelings come to the fore.

The point I'm trying to make here is that although I try my best in the "caring" department there are times when circumstances conspire to make me appear insensitive.

Years ago we had a guinea pig called Porcus. Why a Latin name, I don't know. I would have gladly named him Pork, or Bacon, or Ham ... but hey ... the family chose Porcus and that's what it was.

For a few days I was at home alone. The family had gone away and left me in charge of the dog, the cat, the goldfish and Porcus the guinea pig. Not a difficult task really, and plenty of time to watch a series of football games on TV.

All was well in the household until one morning ...

I got up and found Porcus dead in his cage. I shook him up to wake him ... but no, he would not move. I rattled the cage and shouted "Wakey Wakey Porcus" but he did not respond. He was as deaf as a deaf bat! (Best simile I could think of at the time).

I bounced him up and down on the floor but he still would not move. He was well and truly dead.

What an inconsiderate stupid creature! Why could he not die at any other time? Why choose the only time I am alone at home to decide to die? Was it because of the football? Was the TV too loud? Did he not like who won the game last night? Why die now and have everyone blaming me for not taking care of the animals in my care? It was meant to be an easy task after all!

More important ... what do I do with the dead Porcus?

I can't keep him until they come back because he'll begin to smell. Unless I keep him in the freezer! No ... that's stupid ... I'll be blamed for accidentally freezing him to death! Unless I keep him in the freezer and thaw him out in the microwave a few hours before they return! No ... that's stupid too ... I'll be asked when he died. If I tell the truth I'll be asked how come he is still "fresh" and not smelling after a few days of dying. If I lie that he'd just died, I'd have to go to Confession for lying. It's sometimes inconvenient being a Catholic and having to confess.

I've decided ... I have to get rid of Porcus.

How do I do that? Throw him in the trash can? That's not too dignified is it? Bury him in the garden? That's a possibility ...

For some unknown reason I decided to take the easy way out and give him a naval burial by flushing Porcus down the toilet.

Porcus took his revenge by blocking the toilet system. He got stuck in one of the pipes and would not go away.

I called a plumber ... have you tried calling a plumber in an emergency? They are all too busy for the next century and a half. The most amenable could only come in ten years' time. He said he'll be here in the afternoon because he was busy that morning!

Eventually a plumber arrived and sent Porcus on his way to a watery grave. He asked me what I'll do when the family gets home ... and suggested a replacement would ease the grief and get everyone to focus on naming the new pet.

Good idea ... off to the pet shop I went ... and then the next pet shop ... and the next ... there were no more guinea pigs in the whole wide world. We tried the planet next door, the whole galaxy ... no guinea pigs ...

I was offered a selection of hamsters. In sheer desperation I chose a hamster the same colour and size as Porcus.

As soon as they returned home and looked at the cage I heard "That's not a guinea pig ... it is a hamster!"

Why is it they have to educate children to know the difference between a guinea pig and a hamster? I mean ... does it really matter? It's small ... furry ... and fits in a cage!

So I had to admit it was a hamster and it was not Porcus doing an imitation of a hamster. I explained that Porcus had been swapped for a hamster because he was homesick and pining to see his family again.

They bought it ... phew ... my sensitivity had triumphed once again!

Tuesday 26 May 2020

I don't understand the movies any more!

I've been watching a lot of TV lately. Mostly various movies and reality shows. Better than watching the dust settle on the screen I suppose. Why doesn't someone clean around here? Is there a button on the remote control that clears away the dust from the TV screen?
I've learnt a lot from watching TV.

For example, in a fight the enemies will always wait patiently to attack the hero one by one, dancing around in a threatening manner until the hero has knocked out their predecessors. The hero must never show pain whilst fighting but he must always wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.

In bedroom scenes it is important to have a special L-shaped sheet that reach the armpit level of the woman, but only the waist level of the man lying beside her. If staying in a haunted house, women should always investigate any strange noises in their most revealing underwear. Even if it is freezing outside and the wind is howling through the open windows.

In Apocalypse type movies, or Doomsday films, when all is destroyed and only a few people remain alive; I have noticed that the first shortage of items will be razor blades. Because immediately the men have stubble or beards growing on their faces.

Women, however, always seem to have a hidden supply of razor blades or electric shavers, because they do not have armpit hair or hair growing on their legs. They somehow remain beautiful throughout. Even if their clothes get dirty and torn; they're still good to wear to cover their modesty.

The peoples' ordeal in such dire situations as the end of civilisation may go on for days; but their clothes remain fit to wear. Men might lose their shirts, but definitely not their trousers. For they are made of different hard-wearing material which remains intact right through Doomsday and beyond!

I've also noticed a new reality type program on TV called "Naked and Afraid". The idea is to put two individuals, (1 man 1 woman), who never met before, naked in some kind of wild environment. It could be a forest, a jungle or whatever. And they have to survive, naked, for 21 days. I said naked, not baked; although in that heat some parts would be well baked all right!!!

To be honest, I am not sure I understand the purpose of this program. We are shown two naked people in the jungle. The title of the program would no doubt attract people who want to see their nakedness. Yet their private parts are hidden from the viewers at home.

Although the contestants are naked at the time of filming, the interesting bits are always covered in pixelations. You know, those blurred areas on the TV screen that cover the person's naughty parts.

I looked closely to see where those blurred areas were hanging from. Perhaps there's a thin invisible string that hangs the blurred square on the body like a photo hanging on the wall.

Whenever the people moved, that annoying blurred square moved with them covering the whole purpose of the program.

Let's imagine for instance that they meet a wild animal, like a lion; is their nakedness a relevant factor in the danger the situation presents? Surely if you meet a lion, or a bear, the danger is the same whether you're naked or not. If they were attacked, would the film crew continue filming until they die and then say, "Oooops ... perhaps we should have helped them instead"?

I am told that the blurred squares, or pixelations, are put electronically on the film afterwards by the computer.

The people are really naked throughout when filming them!


Now I remember years ago I made some training films for an organisation I worked for. I didn't actually operate the camera, but I hired a film crew. I was the producer I guess. The person who pays for the whole thing.

The film crew consisted of the camera man and his team, the sound engineer and his team, the lights engineer, the director shouting "cut" every now and then, the director's assistant and so on. You get the idea. About a dozen people or so including actors. And they all often interrupted the filming because the light is not OK, or the sound is not clear enough, or the actors forget their lines and so on. I recall a half-hour film used to take all day to shoot with umpteen stops and restarts and edits.

I presume that a similar number of crew are also in the jungle with these two naked people. They are not on their own, otherwise there would be no one to make the film. 

There's also a whole orchestra there with them to play the incidental music when required. How many people do they need to carry and move the grand piano to different parts of the jungle, I wonder? There's at least another 50 people or so in an orchestra. All out in the jungle with their various organs - musical ones.

And are all these film crew totally naked as well? Or are they clothed?

It would be unfair if they are all dressed and the only naked people are the two contestants airing their differences for all to see.

What if a mosquito bites their backside? Do they have a special ointment to put on in between filming?

And is it fair that we, the audiences watching them on TV at home, are fully clothed whilst those two in the jungle are not?

In honour of those two in the jungle, and as a sign of respect, I too shall join in and watch them naked.

Now then ... where's my pixelation gone?

Sunday 24 May 2020

Live For Today

Difficult as it might be; living one day at a time is a wholesome self-control mechanism which teaches us patience and genuine reliance on our Lord.

Of course, we all like to plan ahead, to be in control of our future, and to prepare for all eventualities. There’s nothing wrong in that, and it would be foolhardy to leave all to chance and do nothing.

Yet, at the same time, we should balance our every plan with the reality of what is now. We should live each day in gratitude for what God has given us today, rather than look ahead to what is yet to come.

They say, “You never know what’s round the next corner”. How true. All it takes is a sudden event, an illness, an accident, something out of our control, to put all our plans into disarray.

Thank you Lord for another today. Please teach me to walk closer beside you step by step every day.

Saturday 23 May 2020

Guinea Pig Story

Man enters pet shop and looks around. Shop assistant approaches him.

Man: I would like to buy this Guinea pig please?

Shop Assistant: Certainly sir, let me get him for you.

Assistant picks up Guinea pig and puts him in a small box with holes on cover for it to breathe. Buyer looks at animal which instantly rolls over with feet pointing upwards.

Man: Hey ... this Guinea pig is dead. He is as stiff as a board. Look how he rolled over.

Shop Assistant: He is not dead, sir. He is hibernating.

Man: Hibernating? It is the middle of June!

Shop Assistant: Yes sir, he is from South America. They hibernate in summer in South America. If he was from Northern Europe he would hibernate in winter.

Man: So he will remain stiff until winter?

Shop Assistant: Not necessarily. A quick ten seconds in the microwave oven will soon revive him.

Man: I don't believe you. He seems dead to me. Look, his eyes are wide open, and his fur is beginning to fall off.

Shop Assistant: All right. I'll let you have it for half-price.

Man: Half-price? I'd expect a bigger discount for a dead hamster.

Shop Assistant: Guinea pig ...

Man: All right. A dead Guinea pig ...

Shop Assistant: I tell you what ... I'll let you have it for free if you buy another Guinea pig as well.

Man: OK ... I'll have that one too.

Shop Assistant places another Guinea pig in the box.

Man: He seems rather slow moving to me ...

Shop Assistant: That's because he has a bit of a migraine. He was at a party last night. You know ... all that dancing and singing ... and the drinks and the girls ... He must have a bit of a hangover this morning.

Man: A party? He was at a party?

Shop Assistant: A funeral actually. And a get-together afterwards to celebrate the deceased's life.

Man: Who died?

Shop Assistant: This other Guinea pig. But he did not turn up to his own funeral.

Man: Why not?

Shop Assistant: He was up for sale at a reduced price!


Friday 22 May 2020

How not to carry fruit and vegetables.

Yes ... I know that some of you, my dear readers, do not believe every thing I write here. But I don't blame you really. There are times when I don't believe what I write either.

They say that truth will out. And honesty is the best policy.

But then ... "what is truth?" as Pontius Pilate said.

Or ... "you can't handle the truth!" as Jack Nicholson said.

So, I'll tell you the story and leave you to decide whether it is true or not; and whether you can handle it once you've decided on its veracity.

I had gone to the green grocers about half a mile or so from our house. I bought some apples, some pears, some potatoes and some carrots. They were quite heavy. About two kilos each of apples, pears and carrots and three kilos of potatoes.

The green grocer put them in a plastic bag which I carried back home. It was a long walk with all that weight.

Then suddenly the bag burst under all this weight and there were apples, pears, potatoes and carrots all over the ground.

How do I carry them home, I thought. Then genius struck.

I took off the shoe laces from my boots and tied them very tight round the legs of my trousers; just above the ankles.

Then I put the fruits and vegetables down my trousers. I put them in from the waist ... I can read your minds, you know.

When they were all tucked in my trouser legs I tightened my belt even more so as not to lose my trousers and held on to them by putting my hands in my pockets.

My legs were swollen by the weight of the fruits and vegetables therein.

I started my walk back home. It was like walking in the sea with water up to my waist. Very slow and very tiring.

Because I had no shoe laces I risked losing my boots if I lifted my feet up.

So I slid one foot a few inches forward; then slid the other foot next to it, then slid my foot a little further forward again, and slid my other foot near it.

Because my legs were swollen to more than twice their original size; the sliding forward was done in a semi-circle fashion rather than straight ahead as you would expect.

This walking, or sliding forward a few inches at a time, with my hands in my pockets was quite tiring, I tell you.

Everyone was watching me and wondering what was wrong with me. People coming up ahead towards me, suddenly stopped and crossed the road on the other side. They did not want to meet me in case my swollen legs syndrome was catching.

Others wondered why I had my hands in my pockets and shouted obscenities at me.

Cars nearly bumped into each other as they stopped to look at me rather than the way ahead.

Some drivers wound their windows down and shouted something unrepeatable here.

I eventually got home. My wife was not impressed by my ingenuity at carrying the fruits and vegetables home.

So what do you think? Truth or lies?

Whilst you're thinking about it ... why not just smile and let's sing this song together.

Thursday 21 May 2020

The Car Wash In Heaven

I like it when my readers engage in conversation about the posts I publish here. Sometimes I am questioned in the comments box, and sometimes readers prefer to write me privately by e-mail; in which case I respond privately.

Yesterday, JoeH asked an interesting question. He said: "So, is it either Heaven or Hell? Punishment is not commensurate with the sin?"

This train of thought has been debated amongst theologians and intellectuals for years. If someone dies with small sins, like me, having a penchant for chocolates and being a little too greedy. Does that mean going down fast without a parachute? No redemption or forgiveness?

Enter the Catholics with their invention.


Many Catholics and non-Catholics have wondered about Purgatory. Does it exist? There's no mention of it in the Bible. Is it just a Catholic invention to make money by asking people to pay for prayers and Masses to be celebrated for the repose of dead family members and friends?

How long do souls stay in Purgatory? Is it a day for every venial sin? A week? A month? Longer?

How many days off do they gain when we pray for these souls or celebrate Mass for them?

What does Purgatory look like? Does it have a fire like hell? Is it hot or cold there? Or is it perhaps just warm so you feel uncomfortable but you don’t burn?

Does it have devils looking after all the inmates; like in hell, or are they a little kinder perhaps?

Are we in pain when in Purgatory? Like the fire in hell?

The notion that Purgatory is some sort of Purification Centre or Car Wash where all souls with venial sins go to be made clean before entering Heaven has long vexed many wise minds.

The Catholic Church bases its teaching from Scripture. In Revelation Chapter 21 Verse 27 it says ‘Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven.’ So, strictly speaking, if we die with venial sins on our conscience we’re not spiritually cleaned; and that’s why we go to Purgatory.

The belief in the existence of Purgatory goes back to the early Christians; and other Christian denominations also believe in such a place where souls go before they are ready to enter Heaven.

Given that very few of us will die with no sins whatsoever on our conscience, the Church teaches that there must exist a place, or a state of being, or a state of purification, where we are cleansed of our sins and we can enter Heaven. This place, or state of being, is known as Purgatory.

Jesus did describe Heaven at one time as a mansion with many rooms. So it follows, perhaps, that in our imagination we visualize Purgatory as a physical place too.

The pertinent point, however, is that the Church teaches that there is a stage where souls destined for Heaven undergo a period of purification. 

St. Therese of Lisieux, who is a doctor of the church, has her own view of Purgatory.  She maintains that one does not need to go to Purgatory. While still only a novice, she spoke to Sister Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to Heaven without passing through Purgatory.

Therese’s response was, “You do not have enough trust.  You have too much fear before the good God.  I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask God to take you straight to Heaven. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. It is then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.”

So, as you can see, even Catholics had their different views and disagreements about Purgatory.

May I add that when Jesus was hanging on the Cross He turned to Dismas, the Repentant Thief and said, "I promise you this very day you will be with me in Paradise!"

He didn't say, "But you'll have to spend some time in Purgatory first!" 

I don't know if this answers JoeH's or your questions. Does Purgatory exist? Do people with minor sins go straight to hell? Or do they go somewhere to be made clean first before entering Heaven? Is it either Heaven or hell. Or is punishment, (if punishment it is), not commensurate with the sin?"

NOTE: I am grateful to Father Francis Maple for the information this post contains. Father Francis publishes a daily homily - Please click HERE.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Hello Sinners !!!

Hello Sinners ... how are you?

I've often wondered. If I were to hold a Sinners Convention, how many people would turn up?

I guess not many, and I'd lose a lot of money hiring the venue and having refreshments ready.

The reason I suppose is because most of us don't consider ourselves to be sinners. Not big ones anyway.

For the most part, we all believe we're good people really. Deep down we're OK and we will eventually go to Heaven. It's all a matter of time really. As long as we go on the way we always do, we will eventually get to Heaven. Those of us who believe in Heaven anyway.

The rest can go to hell. What do we care about them?

But most of us are OK. We'll get to Heaven one day. We're not big sinners.

I mean ... when is the last time you killed someone?

Or robbed a bank?

Or embezzled from your employer or business?

Or coveted your neighbour's wife/husband, or ass?

(I must admit I'm very envious of my neighbour's roses. Why does he grow better flowers than me?)

OK ... I know ... I know ... some people do partake in that coveting sin. They cheat on their partners and think nothing of it. Well ... you know how it is? It could be just a one off ... or sometimes because they are not happy at home anyway. I mean ... It's their right to be happy in life is it not? (Or so they think!)

And that's where the problem lies ... "or so they think".

They believe that a slight flirtation is OK.

They think that having a fixation on materialism is harmless really. What's wrong with having a big house, car, plenty of jewellery or whatever? I worked hard for it. I earned it. Why should I care about those less well off? They should work harder.

What's wrong with gossiping and telling tales about other people? It's harmless fun.

So what if they don't have time to look after elderly parents living alone? They live too far anyway, and life is busy these days with work, looking after the kids and so on.

And don't tell me that taking the odd bit of stationery home from work is wrong. Or some other bits and pieces from our employers. It's not stealing is it? Not like robbing a bank.

And what's wrong with having a long lunch hour? Or getting to work late or leaving early? Really! Everyone else does it. Even the boss.

And anyway ... all these are all small sins, if sins at all. Not like killing and really stealing from a bank which are mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

On reflection, no wonder not many people would attend my Sinners Convention ... there aren't that many sinners in the world today.

Perhaps some people are sleep-walking their way into hell.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Getting old is easy

Getting old is easy. All you have to do is keep living.

Right now it seems there is a great divide between the young and the old. Resentment even. The young consider the older generation as responsible for all the ills in the world today. The truth is that the world has always had its difficult time. Every generation it seems went through a crisis or more. And I don't remember me blaming the previous generation for inventing nuclear bombs, or the Cold War, or the Iron Curtain, or the Berlin Wall, or those dreary small screen black and white TVs.

Anyway, what exactly is old? When I was young I considered anyone over 35 as being old. But is that so? Or is it over 40, or 50, 60 or more?

There's some advantage to growing old, and, let's call it retired to give a focus on what age we're talking about.

For a start, once you're old you can not care any more. I'm quite an expert at it. I find I care less about more and more things every day. In fact I consider myself a professor in non-caring. I should run courses and give out diplomas in non-caring.

Also, once you're old you can behave any way you like, within reasons, and people will think you're eccentric. For example, you can wear tatty clothes and a pullover with a hole in it and no one seems to mind, as long as it's clean of course. Men can pull up their trousers all the way to their nipples and hold it in place with a tight belt as well as braces and it's acceptable. I have a friend who dresses just like that with a jacket with those leather patches at the elbow. Never understood those patches in jackets myself. He always wears a brightly coloured tartan shirt, red, yellow or even orange. Trousers pulled up high revealing white socks and sandals. He has teeth like the Ten Commandments; all broken. And always with a pipe in mouth. Now that's not very modern or fashionable is it? I've not seen any one smoking a pipe for ages. But he does. I think he is a sex symbol for women who do not care.

Despite his age his brain is as sharp as a pin. But he acts eccentric as a way of giving the finger to the world. And why not? He deserves it and should be allowed his moment of joy rather than feeding on the daily diet of bad news they serve on TV these days.

He has bought a cell-phone which he hardly uses. He keeps it switched on in case his wife or grown-up children ring him, and also for emergencies. But he also has fun with it. I witnessed it.

On the bus one day he took out his cell phone and pretended to dial. Then he started talking not too loud but loud enough he could be heard. He said things like "I think we should buy as many shares in this Company as we can afford. They've invented a cure for excess hairs growing out of one's ears you know. The ointment can be used for other un-wanted hair too in delicate places. Buy me about £300,000 worth please."

You should have seen the faces of the other passengers thinking they were sharing the bus with a millionaire.

Unfortunately, half-way through his pretend conversation the cell-phone rang as someone called him. He did not lose his cool. Without batting an eye-lid he said to his pretend conversation, "I'll have to go now. I have another call coming in on my other line!" Then he pressed a button and answered the real call. Now that's cool don't you think?

And he says the funniest things without seeming to care. The other day we were at the supermarket. I help carry his shopping.

As we were at the check-out, a woman standing behind us in line as we were paying for our goods, started a conversation just to be friendly. She saw a bag of "Woof Woof" dog food, and asked him: "Do you have a dog?"

I know he has a small dog, but he replied, "No ... this is for me. I am on a dog diet. I probably should stop because the last time I did it I ended in Intensive Care in Hospital."

I was puzzled at his response, and she was intrigued and asked him to explain.

He said that essentially dog food is the perfect diet which is nutritionally complete. He puts some "Woof Woof" pellets in his pocket and whenever he is hungry he eats a few.

By this time everyone in the queue was listening attentively.

Horrified, she asked him if he ended up in Intensive Care because the dog food had poisoned him.

"No ..." he replied, "I just stepped off the curb to sniff a poodle's butt and a car hit me!"

I could not keep a straight face, but had to, to give credence to his story which he related as seriously as the occasion demanded.

He resents having to go to the doctors or nurses for regular check-ups. He knows it is for his own good, but he logically confides that going to the hospital reminds him that there is something wrong with him. He told me he particularly dislikes a matronly type of nurse which he had to visit on a regular basis to check his blood pressure. The visit, once a week, lasts about 15 minutes or so but it seems like a lifetime to him. She always has a friendly, but seemingly patronising comment to make. Like, "My my we are putting on weight aren't we? I think we should diet!"

He replied, "I'll dye mine pink, which colour will you dye yours?"

She did not understand his joke and tried to explain what a diet is.

On another occasion she mentioned the fact that his clothes, albeit clean, are not colour coordinated. A red tartan shirt does not go with green corduroy trousers apparently.

The following visit he smeared a little yoghurt on his shoulder. Just enough to be visible. When he entered her insulting room he apologised that his parrot had diarrhoea. She stupidly asked where was the parrot. He replied, "I've sent him home to get cleaned up and have a shower!"

So there you have it. If you consider yourself old, remember that you are not. You are just mature enough to know how not act mature and to have fun at the world's expense.

God bless you, whatever age you are.

Monday 18 May 2020

What are you?

You know, if you go out in the street and asked people about the Holy Spirit, I wonder how many will give a coherent, intelligent, well thought out answer?

I guess this is because we don't think much about our spirit. Our soul as it is more often called.

We think of ourselves as our bodies. Perhaps that is because when we stub our toe against something it is our toe that hurts, not our soul. From the moment we are born everyone thinks about the body. They talk about the weight of the baby, and that he is doing well. His body that is, not his soul.

As we grow up we get more focussed on the body. When we meet a pretty lady we look at and admire her body. It is the physical attraction that first draws us towards a person, or away from that person, if we don't like something in their appearance.

We focus on the body because that is the part that is visible. It is what distinguishes us from one another. We see the body and instantly recognise who that person is.

We don't often discuss a person's soul. I suppose we give it a different title. We call it a person's personality. Their character. Their temperament. Rather than their living spirit, their soul. What makes them who they really are.

It was C S Lewis, I believe, who said, "you don't have a soul. You ARE a soul. You have a body!"

I wonder how many people understood that he meant by we are all spirits.

There is such a thing as a spirit world. An invisible world all around us consisting of spirits. These are the spirits of those who have passed away.

When we recite the Creed we say that God is the "Maker of Heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

He is so almighty that He has made everything. Visible and invisible.

This bit is important. It says visible and invisible. Not seen and unseen. If I were to leave one room and enter another I become unseen. But I am not invisible.

The use of the word invisible is to underline the fact that there is an invisible, spiritual, world which we do not see. We are both visible in human form and invisible in our spiritual form - our soul.

There is also an invisible world of angels and spirits of those departed from this world. As well, of course, as the invisible Holy Spirit.

But at the same time, there is our world as we know it right now. It too consists of spirits. Also, invisible spirits because, for the time being, they are covered by a body.

Yes ... you and I are spirits. Our souls, spirits, abide within us invisible. What we see is the body that contains the spirit/soul and that's how we recognise each other. The way the body behaves and acts is controlled by the soul. The spirit within. Not by the brain, or by some chemicals or other; as some people would have us believe.

If a person is good and does good, it is because his soul/spirit is good. That person's soul has accepted God and he acts and behaves as God has taught us and commanded.

If a person is bad, it is because their soul has rejected God and His teaching.

This all sounds all too complicated. No wonder it's a discussion best left for another day. Or for other people to have.

Most of us consider ourselves as people with bodies and that is enough thinking for now.

Some even believe that when the body has ceased to function and it is known as being dead; that's it. The end of it all. To them, there is no such thing as a soul or spirit that goes on living in another world and in the after-life.

And that's precisely why, if you go out in the streets, very few people will be able to discuss the Holy Spirit. They may be able to talk about God; and perhaps Jesus as His only Son.

The Holy Spirit? What is that exactly? We heard about it, or Him, when young in church, or at school. We didn't understand it then, and understand it even less now.

Pentecost? What is that? Something to do with the church I guess. I don't go to church often anyway. Besides, if you'll excuse me, I'm a little busy doing the weekly shopping for the family.

Saturday 16 May 2020



Friday 15 May 2020

What's your worth old one?

There's one thing I don't understand that maybe you clever people could enlighten me on. Why is it that people have a love for ancient antique things but don't care very much for old people? They either put them in senior citizens homes, or worse still, they are left to live alone in their homes. The children have grown up and left the nest and never get in touch or visit. And the neighbours, for the most part, either don't take any notice of the elderly lonely person living next door, or are too busy to care anyway.

Not me though. I care for my elderly neighbour who lives alone a few houses down the road. I visited her the other day to see if she wanted anything bought from the supermarket. She needed a number of items which she had run out of. So I gave her my shopping list too. There's no point in both of us going out is there?

Anyway, that is not the point of this post today. And something without a point is pointless. Especially a pointless pencil. What's the point in that?

What I wanted to talk about is real antiques. Not antique people with wrinkles so deep they look like an ancient Roman or Greek urn. Do you know what's a Greek urn? About 200 Euros a month, depending on what work he does. A Roman urn might cost a bit more.

Let's talk antiques. Why do we value old things so much? Old paintings, old furniture like Louis XIV furniture, Stradivarius violin, pottery, jewellery and so on?

There are so many programs on TV devoted to valuing, buying and selling antiques, and it surprises me what people are willing to pay for some items that are hundreds or more years old.

Let's say for instance that you own a famous Van Gogh. It would be worth thousands of £s, or $s, plus an ear I'd guess.

But why? Why is it that your ownership of such a painting would value it so high? After all, he painted other paintings owned by other people. And they are all also worth a fortune. And other painters like Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Constable and Picasso also painted many paintings. Why is each one of them worth a different fortune? It is after all paint on canvass or wood or whatever.

Or that old Chinese vase, or the antique watch, or the Chippendale chair, or whatever else you care to mention. Why are they worth so much?

And what do you do when you have them?

You have a unique painting. Someone else has a unique marble statue. Another person has a unique antique cell-phone used by Shakespeare.

So what? What is the point of having this unique item? And once you have it, you have to take care it is not stolen from you. You have to care it is not damaged or broken. Some painting I understand can be ruined by moisture, dampness, sun light or whatever.

Although it does not seem to have affected the painting I did years ago which has been stored in the garage for years. It is covered with dust (or patina) but it is still worthless.

Some people even collect wine as an investment. I don't mean wine you buy at the supermarket; but expensive ancient wines from ancient vineyards and crops. Wines with names like Châteaux Expensive, or Châteaux Exorbitant. And the bottles are kept in special cellars with the right temperature and dampness and dust. It will never be drunk but kept as an investment. Some organisations will buy and sell the wine on your behalf and charge you a fee. You'll never see the bottles you own as such, the organisation will do all the buying/selling work for you and send you the paperwork informing you of your investment.

Why is it if you own such an item as wine, antique or whatever it is valued at a fortune? I appreciate that it is unique. But then, so is the impression I made the other day when I sat on a newly painted garden bench. The size and shape of my bottom on that bench is unique. There is no other bench like it. Why is it not worth a fortune? Should I take it to the Antiques Road Show do you think? The bench, not my bottom. Although my bottom would accompany me as well.

You see my point. Why is it that the age, and rarity, or uniqueness of an item is worth so much to some people?

But then ... each one of us is unique. Each one is different? And some are more ancient than others. Why is it we do not appreciate each other more? Why is it we do not appreciate old people more?

I don't understand. I believe each one of us is priceless. Yet we do not appreciate our true value and worth. We should invest in people not things!

I think I'll paint the shape of my bottom on a framed canvass and make a fortune.

Thursday 14 May 2020

Lady Godiva - English History

It is perhaps unfair that Lady Godiva is best remembered for one act which historians dispute whether it actually happened or not. But that's the way of the world isn't it? You do just one thing and everyone is talking about it for ever on end. But more of that later.

Lady Godiva, was an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who lived in Britain all that time ago. She was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia and they had a son called Aelfgar. (I suppose when you're rich and famous you can name your children what you want. Personally, I prefer "Hey You" as a name; but I digress).

Both Lady Godiva and her husband Leofric were very generous benefactors to religious houses. (Can you imagine being called Leofric? O Leofric, Leofric! Wherefore art thou Leofric? Doesn't sound right does it? But I digress once again. OK ... let's concentrate now and get on with the story).

As I was saying, they were both very generous and in 1043 Leofric founded and endowed a Benedictine Monastry in Coventry, England. Apparently Godiva was the persuasive force behind this generosity and she moaned and moaned "Leofric, build me a monastry. Leofric, build me a monastry ..." until he gave up and built her a monastry.

You know how persuasive women can be when they want something?

They go on and on and on ... clear the footpath of snow, don't forget to mow the lawn, the house needs re-painting, have you taken the trash bins out? Ehm ... sorry ... my mind was wandering a bit there ... thinking aloud what?

Well, at least I've never been asked to build a monastry. I suppose clearing the footpath is better and cheaper than having to build a monastry. Although I must admit, if it was a choice between visiting the mother-in-law and building a monastry, I would build a monastry any day. It is less stressful with much less moaning on and on in stereo !!!

But I digress yet again. Stop interrupting me!

In 1050 the couple also gave land for the St Mary's Monastry in Worcester and for the minster in Stow St Mary in Lincolnshire.They are also benefactors of other monasteries in Leominster, Chester, Much Wenlock and Evesham.

Lady Godiva also gave a lot of jewellery and precious metals to various causes over her lifetime.

So all in all, she was an all round good egg as we normally say; and the sort of person you would like to meet and befriend. Especially if you're short of a penny or two.

Until we come to the legend of what she once did, (or did not do, depending on who you believe). 

It seems that Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry who were paying too much taxes imposed by her husband on the town. She appealed to her husband to lower the taxes and moaned and moaned for days on end "Please lower the taxes ... Please lower the taxes ... Please ... Pretty Please ..." You know how women go on and on when they want something? Have I mentioned that to you?  

Well this time Leofric would not listen. But she went on and on about lowering the taxes. Eventually, to shut her up, (he must have had a terrible headache poor soul), he said "I'll lower the taxes if you strip naked and ride a horse through the streets of Coventry!"

To his surprise she agreed. Now that's dedication for you. Would any of us go to such lengths for our fellow man? (Don't answer that).

Lady Godiva issued a proclamation that on a certain day everyone should remain indoors and shut all their windows because she was going to ride naked on a horse throughout town. (I wonder how many horses volunteered for the job).

Now how naive is that? Did she really expect everyone to stay indoors after such an announcement? Would you?

Are you really telling me that NO ONE was tempted to take a photo with their cell-phones and post it on Facebook?

On the day in question Lady Godiva rode naked on a horse and paraded throughout town.

But a tailor called Tom succumbed to temptation. He made a small hole in his window shutters and had a good look at what he should not have been looking at. And that's where the name Peeping Tom originates from.

Apparently he was struck blind after the event.

His friend Ivan Eyeful was wiser and more cautious because he chanced one eye through his peep hole.

Anyway, believe it or not, her husband kept his word and abolished the taxes.

Now why can't the wives of our politicians do the same thing and lower our taxes?

As I said, the veracity of this story is hotly disputed amongst historians.

But it raises an important question:

Assuming that Lady Godiva did as it is said in order to help the poor people of Coventry; is it OK to strip naked for a good cause? To help one's fellow man?

There are many instances of men and women being photographed nude for calendars which are then sold to raise a lot of money for a charitable cause.

Is this a good (fun) thing to do to help others; or is it wrong? Especially when we consider the amount of money that can, and has, been raised this way for causes like medical research, helping the elderly, ease starvation and so on.

If the cause is one that is very dear to your heart; would you go nude for charity?