Monday, 5 June 2023

The man and the ostrich

 


A man and an ostrich

The man goes into the bar and sits down, followed by an ostrich. The barman comes over. The man says:  I’ll have a beer. The barman looks at the ostrich who says: Same for me, please.

That’ll be £5.20, please. The man puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out the exact amount and gives it to the barman. The next day, the man and the ostrich come back and exactly the same happens.

Every evening the same routine happens. - The usual? asks the barman. - No, thanks. I’ll have a double scotch this time. - And the same for me, adds the ostrich. - That’s £5.80 then. Again, the man puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out the exact amount of money.

At this point the barman just has to know why. “Excuse me for asking, but how do you manage to pull out the exact amount of money every time?”

“Well, it might sound funny but I was clearing my attic and I found an old lamp. I rubbed it (as one would) and a genie popped out and gave me any two wishes.”

My first was to be able to pay for whatever I wanted to buy simply by putting my hand in my pocket and I would always have the correct amount. “Very clever, smiled the barman. Most people would have asked for a million pounds, or something like that, but you chose a way of being rich for ever”.

Absolutely: whether it’s for a newspaper or a Porsche 911 the exact amount is always in my pocket.

So what’s the story about the ostrich, then? - That’s where I messed up as, for my second wish, I asked for a chick with long legs …

Sunday, 4 June 2023

A serious question

 

Pay attention now folks. This is serious ...

If you knew for certain, no hesitation, no doubts, that Jesus was returning to earth next Wednesday at 10:15 am as it says in the Bible ...

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11

If you knew of His return for certain ... is there anything you need to do? 

Are you ready to meet Jesus?

Are there any things in your life still left undone? 

Sins long forgotten or hidden which need to be repented on and confessed?

People whom you need to forgive truly and fully?

People from whom you need to seek forgiveness?

Wrongdoings which need to be put right?

Are you really really ready to meet Jesus next Wednesday on Judgement Day? Or next Tuesday? Or tomorrow? Or now?

Just asking ... ... ...

Saturday, 3 June 2023

What were you in a previous life?

 

Years ago when in London I knew this well-to-do young lady who was quite wealthy, (or her dad was), and she lived on a different plain than myself. I was a young manager struggling my way up the hierarchy and she was not. She loved the high-life and went to posh restaurants, horse racing events, and other things rich people do.

She also loved to go to a therapist, a fashion stylist, a life-style guru, a dietician, a fitness coach and other such counsellors and advisers to help her in her meagre existence as a rich person. 

She once told me that her therapist hypnotised her and she went back in time and discovered that she was the wife of a Roman Senator in a previous life. I smiled politely and said nothing.

She suggested, insisted even, that I go to her therapist and discover my real self. I had no intention of doing so. I knew well enough who I was by looking at the full-length mirror when I got out of the shower every morning.

She said, "OK ... how about going to a different therapist rather than mine?"

She was not very bright and had not worked out that I had no intention of visiting any therapist and had no desire to discover who I was in a previous life. Without consulting me she booked an appointment with another therapist. I was very annoyed but she was the big boss' daughter so I put my foot down and agreed to go.

Damn ... turned out I knew the guy from the golf club. I knew him vaguely but we never actually spoke.

I thought I'd go in disguise. First thing I did was to shave my beard. Then I put on a fake beard. This made me look exactly as before. So I took off my glasses and wore my spare ones. I still looked the same. I changed my normally sober tie to a bright yellow one with red spots. That did the trick. He'll never recognise me in this disguise.

He said he was going to hypnotise me and find out who I was in a previous life. I scoffed politely. He said, "Don't you believe in re-incarnation?"

I replied, "What? Come back as a tin of condensed milk?"

I don't think he understood me. I hope you have!

He said, "If you were to be re-born in a future life, what would you like to come back as?"

I said, "A chicken!"

He asked, "Why?"

I said, "If I were in a room with those very long curtains that come down to the ground, I could hide behind a curtain; then if anyone might see my feet they'd never guess it was me! They'd say, what is a chicken doing behind a curtain?"

"OH!" he said as he wrote is down on his note pad.

"Or a duck," I continued, "no one would recognise me with ducks legs. And I could waddle away into a nearby pond. Or a kangaroo, although my feet would protrude too much from under the curtain ... no ... forget about the kangaroo. What animal would you like to come back as?"

He did not reply and said our time is up.

I learnt later that my therapist had gone to see my girl-friend's therapist. They consulted each other, hypnotised each other, and convinced each other that they were Tom and Jerry.

Friday, 2 June 2023

Are our priests Christian enough?

 

By priests, I mean all denominations, not just the Catholics of whose Church I belong. 

It seems to me that there is a trend, here in the UK at least, for priests, (vicars, ministers, pastors and so on), to be trendy, modern, fashionable, likeable/lovable rather than being Christian and proclaim Christ's message as He meant it to be.

You see it often on TV where people of the cloth propound their own personal opinion on subjects not directly pertinent to Christianity. They talk on matters of politics, the environment, saving the planet, even Brexit, and so on in a personalised manner rather than focusing on the true message of Christianity.

I am not saying that the Church should not be political.

Christ was political and suffered death as a result. But the important difference is that His politics was based on God's Word primarily focussing on the Commandment to love God and to love one another, including our enemies. 

At no time did He pronounce on relationships between the Jews and the occupying Roman forces. When tricked by the Pharisees and Herodians about paying taxes, He uttered the immortal phrase “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Mark 12:17

This is often seen as an unambiguous message to the extent that it commands people to respect state authority.

Today, it seems that our modern priests have wandered somewhat from this path and they air their opinions on matters of economics, government policies, ecology, immigration, education and many others. 

No one's suggesting that priests should not have a personal opinion in these matters. Of course they should; it is an obligation in a democracy to have serious opinions on issues of the day. But I do not think that the Sunday pulpit, or TV and radio, are the place for such opinions to be proclaimed.

When a priest stands in church on Sunday, (or on the media), and questions government policy he has immediately divided his audience (congregation). Some will agree with what he says, and others will strongly disagree. As a result those who disagree will see him in a new light and will, subconsciously at least, feel (or be) distanced from him. 

This does Christianity no good and does not serve God well.

By being political and by siding for or against State matters such a priest can no longer serve two masters - God and his personal political and other beliefs. 

Instead of preaching politics from the pulpit, I would like to see our priests talking about sin, hell, Satan, greed, adultery, abortion, euthanasia ... ... ... Gather the sheep, Father; don't divide them!

Discuss.

Thursday, 1 June 2023

Hell

 Father Francis Maple
Homily from Fr Francis for the 26th Sunday of the year.

Mark 9: 38-43, 47-48

I was once giving a parish Mission and I remember knocking on the door of one home. The moment I entered I sensed a very unhappy, cold atmosphere.Something wasn't right. If I spoke to the husband, the wife didn't exist. If I spoke to the wife, the husband didn't exist. You could sense that there was no communication between them. There was a coldness and hostility. After being with them for 15 minutes I decided to move on to the next Catholic home. The husband saw me to the door and said, "Father, do you ever preach on Hell?" I said, "I do." "Then whenever you preach on Hell in the future always use the example of my wife and I, because in this house there is no love. It is a living Hell. We live our separate lives under one roof. We just can't stand each other's company. We cook our own meals and eat on our own. I have my own living room and bedroom and she has hers. We decided to live like this for the last twelve years. We agreed that going through a divorce is too much trouble. I tell you, Father, living like this is like living in Hell. So when you next preach on Hell use us as an example because there is no love in our home. That is precisely what Hell is! There is a complete breakdown in our relationship."

That man went to the heart of the matter of Hell when he said it was a place where no love exists. I have heard some Catholics say there is no Hell. How can a loving God create such a place? We Catholics must believe that Hell exists. Jesus Himself refers to its existence when He says, "Fear Him, (meaning God,) who has power to cast body and soul into Hell." Hell is the home of Satan and his fallen angels. Is there anyone else in Hell? We just don't know, but Jesus in His parable of the Sheep and Goats warns us that we could find ourselves in Hell if we don't love. He described the sending of those to Hell in these words, "Depart from Me into the fire of Hell prepared for the devil and His angels." Those words indicate that there has been a complete breakdown in people's relationship with God and their neighbour.

What is Hell like? No one knows exactly, because no one has ever come back from Hell to describe it for us. Jesus speaks of Hell in terms of everlasting fire. It is not the fire we see at a barbecue or a bonfire.That fire could not afflict the soul, which is a spirit. To be thrown into fire causes extreme pain and fire is mentioned to indicate the extreme suffering one will experience in Hell. The real excruciating suffering in Hell is the pain of loss. The pain of loss is the eternal separation from God, which constitutes the worst of Hell's suffering. The persons in Hell know that the only Person who can make them happy is God and yet they hate Him. Hell is being fully aware that God is waiting for us with open arms and we can never be with Him through our own fault because we have rejected him. It is similar to the ache in the heart of lovers who are separated. All they want is to be with each other, but this is impossible. That pain is nothing compared to the pain of never again being able to love and possess God.

There has to be a tremendous loneliness in Hell, hating God, hating everyone and hating yourself. It is no good thinking if your friend goes to Hell that you will be able to enjoy each other’s company and console each other. You will be hating each other, wishing you could just turn back the clock and be given another chance to love God and your neighbour. My Mum used to tell us, in Hell there is a clock, which ticks and says, "Forever and ever! Forever and ever!" No picture can paint the reality of Hell. May God forbid anyone of us going there!

I love this illustration of the difference between Heaven and Hell. A man dies and was first shown Hell. He saw everyone sitting at a sumptuous banquet with the finest food and drink, but was surprised to see that everyone was starving. Then he noticed a weak man trying to feed himself. He couldn't, for the forks, spoons and knives were all six foot long and he couldn't get the food to his mouth. Next he was shown Heaven and there he saw exactly the same scene, a sumptuous banquet. But here no one was starving. He noticed when anyone was hungry the person opposite just picked up their spoon and fed them. In Hell there is only hate and selfishness, but in Heaven there is only love and thoughtfulness.

To deserve to go to Hell, we must have broken our relationship completely with God. Let us take an example. The Church, knowing the tremendous worth and God's wish to be adored by all Catholics through Sunday Mass, teaches that deliberately, and without good reason, to miss Mass on Sunday (or on the Saturday evening instead) is a mortal sin, and you can't go to Holy Communion again unless you first confess that sin in Confession and receive absolution. To commit any mortal sin requires three conditions to be present. These are, one, that the sin must be of grave matter. The Church considers that missing Mass on Sundays is a grave sin breaking one of God's Ten Commandments - “Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day”- and turning down God's invitation to worship Him with His children as He wants. The second condition is that you know it is a serious offence against God, and the third condition is you deliberately commit the sin.

Supposing you were to die the next day after missing Mass and without repenting, then according to moral theologians, those who die in mortal sin will go to Hell for all eternity. But my own personal thought is that this would be unlikely to happen because to be condemned to Hell for one failing seems too harsh a punishment! For missing Mass once on Sunday does not necessarily entail a complete breakdown in our relationship with God. However, the danger is that having missed Mass without good reason once, it will be easier to miss again and again, and then again…until not going to Mass becomes a “normal” part of life as God’s Commandments are forgotten which, in time is likely to lead to a complete breakdown in the relationship. That is why it is not okay to miss Mass even on the odd occasion. I repeat it is a mortal sin, a great offence against God's love, and you cannot receive Our Lord in Holy Communion until you have confessed that sin with sorrow in your next Confession, which you should make as soon as is practicable.

I think of a life as a tree. If a tree leans in one direction when it dies it will fall in that direction. It is not going to fall in the opposite direction. So, too, with our lives. If all the time we are leaning towards God, very likely, with God's grace we shall fall into His arms when we die. But if our lives never point to God, it is very likely that when we die we shall die in enmity with God.

In fact I would advocate that you try to attend daily Mass as the best way of expressing love for God. If you want to avoid Hell make sure you have in your heart love for God and your neighbour. Remember that each of us is one of God's children. He never wants to lose any and would never send anyone to Hell. If someone goes there it will be because of the life which that person has chosen to live. Should we go to Hell it must break His heart. Knowing this a prayer I like to say very often is, "Heavenly Father, do not consider what we truly deserve, but forgive us our sins and lead us all to Heaven to be happy with You forever."

Wednesday, 31 May 2023

WARNING - Do not read this.

 

 

WARNING 

This article will make you think and may well change your mind. 

Read no further if you do not wish to be affected.

 Imagine you were omnipotent. You had supernatural powers and you could do anything you like. You could be anywhere you wanted by just thinking it. Your very thoughts controlled all your actions.

What would you do?

Would you sort out all the ills in the world? Eliminate poverty? Stop evil doings? Stop disasters like earthquakes, droughts, famines, tornadoes and so on?

Would you find a cure to cancer and all other terrible diseases? 

What else would you do with your new-found power? Would you let someone you like fall in love with you? Would you make someone change their ways from doing something wrong to going the right way?

If you miss someone dearly, a loved one, would you bring them back from the dead?

Think about it for a moment. You are omnipotent. You can do what you want. What would you do?

Now let's think some more. 

By doing some of these things we mentioned, are you really imposing your will on someone else? Often, when bad things happen it is because people made them happen. Poverty, droughts, famines and so on. It was once said that someone's sunshine and good weather can be a drought for a farmer. Or the farmer's rain can be a flood for someone else.

If you made someone love you, is that really true love or control on your part?

If you bring a dear one from the dead are you imposing your will on them? Maybe they don't want to be brought back into this world as it presently is.

With power, omnipotent power, comes responsibility.

God/Jesus is/are omnipotent. They can do all the things we've discussed and more besides. But they don't. 

Jesus did heal the sick, and help the poor, and even raised people from the dead. But every time He performed a miracle it was at the request of someone else in need. At no time did He impose His will on others. 

God can stop all bad things in the world from happening, but He does not do so. He allows them to happen. Why? It is because He does not want to impose His will upon us; even though we may pray daily "Thy will be done". He responds, "Yes, but I am also aware of your will too!"

Even when He decreed that Jesus would be born as a human, He asked Mary for her permission first.

People often confuse God's omnipotent power and our gift of free-will. God can influence people to His ways, but at all times He leaves the final choice to us and will not impose His will. We always have a choice to walk away, to say "no" and to turn the other way. Even to the point of denying His very existence.

Adam and Eve's sin was not one of disobedience. It was one of wanting omnipotence and power. To be like God.

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Treasure Hunt ...

 

There's this group of elderly people, about twenty of them, who meet at our church hall every week for a few hours to pass the time and to fight loneliness. We offer them tea and biscuits and have a chat or play bingo or invite guest speakers. We've had someone from the fire brigade talking about fire hazards, someone from the police talking about security and various scams, and someone from the hospital talking about accidents and injuries. Did you know that over 50% of accidents happen in the home? Now these old folks sleep in the garden to be safe. 

I sometimes call out the bingo numbers. I call them in Latin to make sure only the Catholics win. Father Frederic told me this is unfair and a sin. So now I call the numbers in Aramaic and confuse everyone including our priest. Last week I won every bingo game. Is it OK for the bingo caller to be a player as well?

To introduce variety, we decided to have a treasure hunt. A bit like the egg hunts at Easter. The idea was to hide various clues in the form of questions all over the grounds of the church compound, and the people working in pairs would search for the laminated cards and try to answer the questions therein. I tried to keep the questions simple to make the game fun and to encourage people along. See if you can answer some of them:

Q1 - Name all the elements in the periodic table. 

Q2 - Explain what Einstein meant by e = mc2. 

Q3 - What is the difference between amps, voltage and resistance?

Unfortunately, none of the old folks were as bright as I anticipated. That's because they did not have the gumption to find the hidden laminated cards. For a start, they all followed each other and started searching the same place. One of them opened a cupboard containing church votive candles and they all followed suit looking inside the same cupboard instead of spreading out somewhere else. There were votive candles all over the floor. Some broke and were useless. Others got trodden on.

I remember I distinctly said the cards were hidden outside the building, specifically to stop them from opening cupboards and various rooms. So I repeated the instructions and sent them all out in the church gardens. I stayed indoors and picked up all the candles from the floor. 

When I went out I discovered that once more they were all working as one group; all 20 of them. They did not work in pairs as instructed. They had opened the garage and were pulling out a ladder. I asked them what the **** they were doing and they explained they wanted to search the chimney on Father Frederic's house. 

I assured them that all the laminated cards were at ground level. They could easily find them by not raising one foot. In fact they could glide along and find the damn cards. 

Father Frederic heard me and told me not to swear. He said I should confess that sin. I told him to wait until Saturday when no doubt I would have much more serious sins to confess as well. 

I noticed the old folks were gathered in a huddle in the middle of the car park. I thought they were talking about me. I approached them and asked what's the matter; why are they not searching for the laminated cards. They said they were looking for Agnes Murgatroid.

Somehow, she had gone missing. She definitely did turn up at the beginning of the meeting but somehow she had vanished and no one could remember when they last saw her. In my frustration I lost my normal cool demeanour and said, "this would not have happened if you worked in pairs as instructed ... but NOOOOOOO ... you decided to work in a pair of 20 people. Well 20 is not a pair in my mathematics book!"

Helen Snodgrass started crying. Captain Sullivan said, "steady on old boy ... we need to search for Agnes ... what?"

So the treasure hunt for laminated cards turned into a missing person enquiry. It reminded me of that TV series "Missing Without a Trace" with Anthony LaPaglia. Only we were much more thorough in our search.

I suggested ... again ... they work in pairs whilst I take crying Helen Snodgrass to Father Frederic for some solemn consolation. 

Once more, they ignored my instructions and all 18 of them went into the kitchen. They had opened the fridge and were taking stuff out.

I said, "the trail for missing Agnes is not that cold that you need look into the damn fridge ..." 

"We're making a snack before we start searching," said the Captain.

He was of course right. That's exactly what Anthony LaPaglia did in every episode of "Missing Without a Trace". He started by making sandwiches all round. 

I went out in the garden and started by searching the garage, then the fields behind the church in case she had fallen amongst the bushes. I found nothing.

I got back in the house and found them still in the kitchen enjoying tea and biscuits and cake. Agnes Murgatroid was also with them. No one had noticed her return. 

I asked her, "where the **** have you been?"

Apparently she had locked herself in the toilet and could not get out. Eventually, a volunteer cleaner opened the door for her.

Now I need to remember how many times I swore for my next confession.

Monday, 29 May 2023

Don't mind me ... I'm thinking aloud.

 

There are too many thoughts on my mind right now. I can't shake them off. Why can't we shake ourselves like wet dogs do and get rid of all our thoughts for a while?

For example, I have noticed in many films and TV dramas that when women start crying, as they often do, the man always hands them a neatly folded extra clean handkerchief. Do men carry handkerchiefs especially for such occasions? Not me. In the past when a woman burst out crying next to me I just joined her and cried even louder and asked her for a handkerchief. That usually stopped her. If she did not stop crying I just walked away. 

Talking of which, I walked to the stationery shop to buy some envelopes. It had moved. It really surprised me. 

There's been an increase in crime in our multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many levels.

 

There was an accident outside the car-park. A lorry-load of tortoises crashed into a van filled with terrapins. What a turtle disaster that was. In the mayhem that ensued a tortoise was mugged by a snail. When the police asked for details the tortoise said it happened so quickly.

I hate it when people are so slow. The other day I had dinner with a world chess champion. At our table there was a check tablecloth. It took him twenty minutes to pass me the salt.

At the restaurant I met Bruce Lee's vegetarian brother. Brocko Lee.

There were a couple at the restaurant holding hands. How romantic. I like to hold hands at the movies, which always seems to startle strangers.

I think every married man should hold hands every now and then and forget past mistakes he's made. There's no point in two people remembering the same thing. Like the day my wife asked me to stop impersonating a flamingo. I had to put my foot down.

I went to a wedding the other day. The photographer said, "would all married men stand next to the person who made their life worth while!" The bartender was almost crushed to death.

Wives are strange creatures. Mine waits up until 3 in the morning just to ask me "do you know what time it is?" The other day she started shouting at half-passed-midnight. "Golf ... golf ... golf ..." she cried, "you do nothing other than play golf!" She nearly gave me a heart attack. I did not expect her on the golf course at that hour.

Right now I'm thinking which came first? The chicken or the egg? I've ordered both from Amazon and will let you know when they arrive.

I sometimes wish I lived in a big house. But then who is going to do all the cleaning? Or take the trash bins out? Such a long walk to the side-walk!

Who takes the trash bins out in your household?

 
 

Sunday, 28 May 2023

The Holy Spirit? What's it all about?

 

There’s some logic which sometimes escapes us Christians.

We say we believe in God. We also believe in Jesus His only Son. And … hesitantly perhaps … we also believe in the Holy Spirit.

I say hesitantly because most people believe even though they might not know what to believe. And that’s not always their fault.

Sure, they’ve heard what happened at Pentecost, and how the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. They’ve heard of the Annunciation and the Virgin Birth, and the Holy Spirit appearing at Christ’s baptism.

But apart from these and other stories about the Holy Spirit, people are left with a void, a mystery. To many, the Holy Spirit is something or someone to believe in without question. To them, the Holy Spirit is confined to the pages of the Bible, to be believed in and not dwelt upon for too long.

The important questions are rarely asked:

Is the Holy Spirit relevant to them today? Is the Holy Spirit here now?

Of course He is. And what is more, He is here to guide us throughout our lives, through difficult times and good ones, showing us the way, and teaching us what to say and do.

Yet many people, Christians in every other respect, are unaware of this fact. 

To the followers of Jesus gathered together at Pentecost, 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. To them, receiving the Holy Spirit was a life-changing event.

Imagine for instance some major event happening in your life. Imagine having to 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. It's not just a story you are telling. It is real.

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.

Perhaps it's because people don't understand the Holy Spirit. They have not been told, they have not been taught. Perhaps too it is because of their confusion in accepting and comprehending the Holy Spirit in-dwelling within ourselves.

Why is the church sometimes so reticent in proclaiming this – the greatest news and central message of our Christianity?

God, Christ, is/are with us right now. Through the Holy Spirit. In-dwelling in our souls if we so desire.

Friday, 26 May 2023

Learning from the past

 


Hello and welcome to Time for Reflections.

I’ve often wondered why it took the Israelites forty years to walk from Egypt to the Promised Land. Geographically speaking it is a very short distance. Why did it take them so long and is there a lesson there for us?

You can read the story on how Moses got the Israelites out of Egypt in the book of Exodus in the Bible. And I think the lesson there is about people putting their will above the will of God.

If you were one of the Israelites in Egypt I you would have seen many signs from God. You remember Moses asked the Pharaoh to release the Israelites, and when the Pharaoh refused God sent ten different plagues on Egypt. And eventually when he released the Israelites, the Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army after them. Moses divided the Red Sea and the Israelites crossed safely to the other side; and then the waters came back together again and stopped the Egyptian army from pursuing.

But even then, when they were safely across the Israelites started moaning and arguing amongst themselves.

They wanted food and drink; God provided them with water, God provided them with manna from Heaven.

But they still continued to rebel against Moses. To rebel against God. To build a golden calf to worship. And to argue as to the way ahead.

Even when they eventually reached the Promised Land, they were not sure whether to go ahead and enter the Promised Land or not; and continued walking round in circles for forty years.

A typical example of putting man’s will above the will of God, rather than looking back at the signs that God provided them in the past that He was looking after them and caring for them.

Move forward to today and look at us right now.

I’m sure we’ve all had difficult times in our lives from time to time. When this happens, what do we do? Do we kick against God and blaming for the difficult time we’re going through? Or do we stop and think into the past when we had difficulties and God was by our side all the time and He helped us along?

Whatever the difficulties that we met, the difficulties that He allowed to happen, He saw us through those difficulties to better times.

Are we perhaps like those Israelites at the time of Moses? Do we moan about today and our difficulties right now, rather than looking at the past when God was by our side and He helped us through our difficulties?

Thank you very much for listening to Time for Reflections. This is Vic Moubarak saying bye bye for now and God bless.   

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

A Tall Tale

 

Milton Flowery-Underpants was a tall man. Taller than the average tall man. Tall men are usually 5 feet 11 inches, or 6 feet tall or more so. I never knew how tall Milton Flowery-Underpants was because he measured himself in metres.

He was born Milton Flowery but put on the Underpants when he got married to please his wife.

That day in his office he paced up and down in front of his desk whilst I sat not a distance away awaiting his instructions. Moments later he began to speak.

"I cannot understand why sales are down," he said, "research says the public think our product is expensive. But it isn't considering the high quality ingredients therein!"

I picked up the tin of dog food and read the ingredients. I noticed that caviar and saffron were not amongst them. It was the usual type of ingredients you'd expect in a tin of dog food. Cereals, fat, meat derivatives, blah blah blah ....

"Perhaps we should spell out in percentage terms what the ingredients in the tin are and their cost," he continued, "cereal products 40%, fat 24%, meat derivatives 12% and so on ..."

"It's not very clever to tell your customers you're basically selling them third rate cereals," I thought but said nothing. 64% of the product is a mixture of boiled wheat and rice mixed with fat.

"Or perhaps we could also print another list," he declared, "spelling out how the overall price is reached. Ingredients cost 10%, production 22%, transport 23%, advertising 40% and so on ..."   

"That's not clever either," I thought but remained silent, "basically we are spending 40% of the product cost on advertising cheap ingredients".

He looked at me and continued pacing up and down. He knew from past experience that when I did not speak it was because I did not agree with him. 

"Well ... what do you think?" he said, "we could tell them that the product is quality tested by humans. Remember that chap ... what was his name? Oh yes ... Flea-Ridden Fido ... he used to taste every batch of dog food before it was put in the tins!"

"I remember he ended up in the Emergency Room at the hospital," I mumbled.

"Oh yes ..." Milton said, "I recall he developed an unfortunate habit. He stepped off a curb to sniff a poodle's butt and a car hit him!"

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Were you there when it happened?

 

My grandfather was there and he tried to warn them about the Titanic. He screamed and shouted about the iceberg and how the ship was going to sink, but all they did was throw him out of the cinema.  

I was there when Barry Manilow gave an open-air concert in England. I'd managed to get hold of two rare tickets and took a young lady who liked him very much at the time. I remember the loudspeakers were too noisy and they did disturb my sleep.

I was also there when Elvis Presley met my milkman. It was in London. A group of us went to this up-market hotel for a business conference. As we tried to get in, some security people stopped us on the side-walk and said Elvis was coming out to leave in his limousine. Just then, a milk delivery van drew up outside the hotel. I recognised our milkman and he recognised me. I was surprised to see him since we lived in Scotland at the time. He must have had a big deliver route from Scotland to London.

Moments later Elvis got out of the hotel. He walked to the milkman and greeted him. He bought a bottle of milk and said, "I'm all shook up"; and was driven away in his limousine. 

Another event I was at last week is when my wife incinerated our Sunday roast. Burnt to a cinder it was. I don't blame her really. She learnt cooking at the local iron smelting foundry. She makes toast for the workers by shovelling slices of bread in the furnace.

Any momentous occasion you have been at?

Monday, 22 May 2023

I Watch The Sunrise

 


FATHER FRANCIS MAPLE

WEBSITE

I watch the sunriseLighting the skyCasting its shadows nearAnd on this morningBright though it beI feel those shadowsNear me
 
But you are always close to meFollowing all my waysMay I be always close to youFollowing all your ways, Lord
 
I watch the sunlightShine through the cloudsWarming the earth belowAnd at the mid-dayLife seems to sayI feel your brightnessNear me
 
For you are always close to meFollowing all my waysMay I be always close to youFollowing all your ways, Lord
 
I watch the sunset fading awayLighting the clouds with sleepAnd as the evening closes its eyesI feel your presence near me
 
For you are always close to meFollowing all my waysMay I be always close to youFollowing all your ways, Lord
 
I watch the moonlightGuarding the nightWaiting 'til morning comesThe air is silentEarth is at restOnly your peace is near me
 
Yes, you are always close to meFollowing all my waysMay I be always close to youFollowing all your ways, Lord
 
May I be always close to youFollowing all your ways, Lord

Sunday, 21 May 2023

Good morning grumpy

 

The Angels were looking down from a window in Heaven and saying, "1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ...."

Jesus walks past and asks, "What are you doing?"

Gabriel replies, "We are counting how many people say 'Good morning God', when they wake up!"

Well, how about you?

I sometimes wake up grumpy in the morning. At other times I just let her sleep!

No ... wait ... let's be serious for a moment.

Do you welcome a new day as you wake up each morning? Do you thank God that you made it through the night and are ready to face a new day? Or do you dread another day full of chores, worry and difficulties?

How does God see you as you wake up? Does He smile at your cheerfulness and hope. Or does He say, "Oh ... here we go again! Moan moan moan and not an ounce of Faith despite the many prayers!"

Just asking.

Saturday, 20 May 2023

The buzzard, the bat and the bee.

 


A Buzzard, a Bat and a Bee

What do a buzzard, a bat, and a bee have in common? Consider how they respond to specific circumstances. Each one has amazing abilities. Yet each one also has extreme limitation in other circumstances.

A Buzzard

If you put a buzzard in a pen six or eight feet square and entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of his ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of ten or twelve feet. Without space to run, as is his habit, he will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

A Bat

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkably nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.

A Bee

A Bumblebee if dropped into an open tumbler, it will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

People?

In many ways, how many people are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. They struggle about with all their problems and frustrations, not realizing that the answer is right there "above" them.

Friday, 19 May 2023

What would you say?

 

This man goes to Heaven and knocks at the door. Saint Peter opens up and asks, "Yes? What do you want?"

The man says, "I want to go to Heaven!"

Saint Peter asks, "Why?"

The man responds, "Because I want to spend eternity with God."

Saint Peter replies, "And what makes you think God wants to spend eternity with you?"

Now let us consider for a moment that Saint Peter asks this question of you. What would you say?

Some might respond that God loves them, and that they have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus on the Cross, or that they are saved, or that they have done good works throughout their lives, or a variety of other reasons, (or excuses), as to why they are fit and worthy to enter Heaven. 

Most often, sadly, these are phrases that people have learnt by heart to explain/justify their faith in entering Paradise. Harsh criticism from me perhaps, but let's consider further.

In reality, why do you think you should go to Heaven for eternity?

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

What does God, our Father in Heaven, wants us to do? Do we "earn" entry to Heaven or is it a free gift for us from God through Jesus?

The Bible is full of examples and instructions on what we should do; like helping others, being kind, generous to the poor, forgiving more than seven times, blah ... blah ... blah ...

But is this enough? There are many people who do not believe in God who are very kind, generous, forgiving and so on; much more so than some Christians I have known.

Surely they deserve to enter Heaven. 

Fortunately, the decision is not mine to make; nor yours. Only God decides who enters Heaven. And it could be that certain individuals deliberately exclude themselves from Heaven by their deliberate actions and obstinate beliefs.

"The Gates of hell are locked on the inside" C S Lewis. 

But for those hoping and wishing to enter Heaven, the same question applies. Why should they be allowed in? Why should you, or I, enter Heaven?

Having accepted that no one is really worthy to enter Heaven on their own merit, and that God desires that all of us should spend eternity with Him, then what distinguishes you, (or me), from any other good person wishing to enter? What have we done in life that distinguishes us from all those people who are excluded from Paradise?

Is it faith alone? Or good deeds too that God requires?

"My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” — if you don't give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead." James 2:14-17.

So the question still arises: If you are sure you will get into Heaven; ask yourself WHY?

Stock phrases like "God loves me" and "I am saved" will really not do.

Points to ponder next time we carry out a self-examen.

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Medical Treatment

 

I needed medical treatment of the bedroom kind. This is very embarrassing and probably not a subject for this Blog. But I've always been honest with you folks and told you about myself and things happening in my life. So here goes ...

I fell out of bed. I was dreaming of playing football and kicked the ball very hard. My foot hit a bedside cupboard nearby, and I fell out of bed. Result: torn ligament.

I don't know what torn ligament means. The doctor tried to explain but I was not interested. All I knew is that it hurts badly. Worse than a paper cut on your finger.

He suggested I go to a physiotherapist. 

Now I don't know about you, but I hate going to all types of medics. I don't like being prodded and checked here and there and everywhere. Especially there!

I remember going to a dentist once and when he said "Open wide" he fell into my mouth. They had to bring a rescue team with ropes to fish him out again.

I don't understand much about medical matters. Did you know that 9 out of 10 doctors agree that 1 out of 10 doctors is an idiot? 

Whatever ailment you have the doctor will say it's a virus; which really means "I don't know!"

So I went to church to pray about this forthcoming physiotherapist visit. As luck would have it, there was another man also there a few pews away. He was praying in a loud enough voice for me to hear. He pleaded with God for some money to feed his family. I don't know if it was true or not; maybe he is in financial difficulties or maybe he was a gambler and lost all his money. Whatever, he was disturbing me. So I got up and gave him all the money I had; then I turned to God and said, "now may I have Your undivided attention?"

I prayed that I did not want to go to the physiotherapist. So God pushed him down the stairs!

(JOKE ... It's a joke, people. As if God would push the physiotherapist down the stairs. Trip him maybe ... but not push!)

Anyway, I reluctantly went to see the physiotherapist. You should have seen how much he charges. It would have been cheaper to buy the whole practice and have him work for me.

He suggested the best treatment for a torn ligament in my leg is for me to take up ballet dancing. 

I hate the ballet; especially men dressed in those very tight pants revealing all their bits. 

I told the physiotherapist that wearing those pants with a mixed group of people would be very embarrassing for me. 

He said, "yes, but it would take your mind off the torn ligament."

So there you have it. If you're feeling unwell be thankful that it could always be worse.

Let's hope I dream something more pleasant tonight.


Monday, 15 May 2023

The Advocate

 


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.

‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’

Who is this Advocate? Some might ask.

Jesus here is speaking of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God, and Jesus Himself, who will come down from Heaven at Pentecost and be within the disciples.

There's often confusion in people's minds about the Holy Spirit. Who is He exactly?

We are taught about God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit … He doesn’t seem to have a title or description.

St Hilary of Poitiers, a Bishop in the 3rd Century AD, described the Holy Spirit as “the Gift”.

He is the gift given to us by God after Jesus ascended into Heaven.

He is the very Spirit of God, God Himself, come back to us on earth to dwell within us and to help us in our Christian life.

That’s why He is sometimes referred to as the Helper, the Counselor, God’s own Being living within us.

The Holy Spirit didn't just descend on the disciples at Pentecost and that's it. A once in a lifetime event. He is present here and now today and is within some people who ask for His presence within them.

Now that last fact itself, God's own Being living within us, causes even more confusion amongst Christians and non-Christians alike.

Sure, Christians believe the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost teaching them what to say in various languages and how to proclaim the Good News to all. But now? Today? Does the Holy Spirit enter our very souls today?

Can you imagine that?

God. Living within us. Guiding us. Helping us. Teaching us. Advising us when to speak and when to remain silent. What to say and what to do.

Isn’t that wonderful? Or is it too difficult to imagine or believe?

If you were to say to a non-Christian that God is living within you in the form of the Holy Spirit they would most probably scoff, or smile politely or perhaps think you've lost your mind.

The very concept is difficult for many Christians to believe; never mind those who don't believe at all.

And yet ... Isn’t it a tragedy that in this day and age, when many are too willing to believe that the devil can possess an individual unwillingly and reap havoc in their lives; many people find it difficult to understand that the Spirit of God is willing to abide within us and lead us to an eternal better life in Heaven.

But only if we ask Him.

Unlike the devil, the Holy Spirit will not abide in a person unless He is asked. Unless He is invited.

All we have to do is to believe and to invite the Holy Spirit to be within us.

Friday, 12 May 2023

In my ignorance

 

Lord, in my ignorance I trust you. In my innocence I trust you.

There is so much we do not know about God. We all have our own idea or imagination of Who or what God is. But in reality, we are so far off the mark in our knowledge or beliefs.

Some see God as an omnipotent all-powerful and an all-knowing living Deity Who has created all and everything and has always existed. That much is true.

Others see Him as a King Who begrudgingly tolerates us and punishes us if we step out of line.

Whereas others see Him as partially revealing His existence and power to only a few chosen learned souls whilst the rest of us are left fumbling in the darkness of our lack of knowledge.

In reality, there is much we do not know about God.

Jesus said to Thomas, "If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him." John 14:1-12

And then Jesus says to Philip, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father ... Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" 

What Jesus is trying to explain here is that God is a Spirit. Jesus too is a Spirit who has always existed. He did not begin to exist when He was born as a baby on earth. He always existed.

Jesus and God, and the Holy Spirit are one. The Holy Trinity. Jesus is explaining here that if you have seen Him, (the Spirit incarnate), then you have seen the Father.

The disciples do not understand this until Pentecost, when they receive the Holy Spirit.

Christ's disciples and followers were fortunate in that they saw Jesus in the flesh. They witnessed His power and heard Him describe God, His Father and ours, as a loving and caring God.

But many years later, we, us, living today, mostly have the Scriptures and faith on which to base our beliefs. A few, very fortunate ones amongst us, have indeed met and known God and His Son in very real terms. Not a figure of speech; but in reality.

But for most of us, we rely on pure faith and trust in our beliefs and knowledge of God.

After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and said to Thomas, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29

Whenever we have doubts and confusion, our prayer should be, "Lord, in my ignorance I trust you. In my innocence I trust you."