Tuesday, 22 August 2017

God's Invitation


Someone asked me whether God wants everyone to come to Him.

And, since He knows everything, if anyone refuses to follow God’s Word, then did this man really have a choice, or was it pre-determined that he would not follow God.

Pre-determination and free will have been debated by Christians and non-Christians for years. So I hope I am not adding to the confusion by sharing my views on it.

God's invitation is to everyone - without exception. When He invites us to love Him, He wants us to choose freely - without any pressure on His part to influence our decision. We choose to love Him and come to God through Jesus Christ: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6.

Of course, some choose not to accept the invitation. They decide to walk away from God. Not to believe in Him and in Jesus as His only Son. That is their free choice.

God in His infinite wisdom and in His loving kindness allows us to make that decision for ourselves. Of course, He knows our decision before we even make it - but He does not influence it in any way. He allows it to happen. If He were to force us in any way then He would have taken away our free will to decide. He might as well have created a race of robots pre-programmed with His every wish and command. But he didn't. He created us free to choose our own destiny. Our own will.

I believe that God has given each of us a mission in life. Some achieve this mission by being great preachers, church leaders, politicians, and so on. Whilst most of us can achieve our mission by the small things we do in life, our acts of kindness, love and caring for the rest of humanity.

Of course, some people choose to ignore their mission to "love one another as I have loved you"; and decide to go their own way. Not only to ignore their mission but also not to believe in the very existence of their Creator.

God allows this to happen.

There are times however when God does try to nudge us in the right direction. He encourages us to be aware of our mission and to attempt to achieve it.

Note that I say “encourage” and not force our decision.

Why He does that only in some cases we really don’t know.

A well known example is the way He “encouraged” Paul on the way to Damascus. I suppose Paul could still have walked away and not followed God’s Word; although I doubt many would have done so under the circumstances! God saw the good qualities in Paul and encouraged him to use them to good effect. Paul chose to accept God and the rest, as they say, is history.

Even today God does nudge some of us in the right direction.

How?

Perhaps through chance meetings with someone who might talk to us about God and encourage us to accept His Word and take up His invitation to love Him.

Maybe He allows certain things to happen in our lives which make us turn to Him.

But the fact is that God does talk to us today. He does encourage us to come to Him through Jesus Christ.

Perhaps some of us just aren't listening.

But here’s the important distinction to remember. God tries to encourage us, or nudge us, in the right direction. He invites us all to accept His Word.

But He never forces us.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

That wee cat chat again


Those readers who read this column, which includes me and a member or two of my family, will know that we have a problem with neighbours' cats visiting our garden and leaving their calling cards everywhere.

I have written about this once before HERE. Why don't you check it out. It is worth a read.

The problem is that the cats continue to visit us come what may.

Now, I have just heard about some unusual deterrent and I would like your advice about it.

As you know, cats, dogs and other creatures wee on various trees and bushes to mark their territory. It is their way of saying "this is mine" and warn other animals to keep off or else.

I read in an article that if we were also to wee all over our garden we would in effect mark it as our territory and it would keep the cats from visiting us. All we have to do is sprinkle our scented eau de toilette on various bushes and trees and it will do the trick.

We can of course do this the natural way; making sure first that the neighbours are not watching and taking photos to share later on social media. Or we could fill a bottle in the privacy of our own bathroom and sprinkle its content all over the garden.

The article does not specify whether male or female scent is more effective or whether it makes no difference.

So I'm asking for your advice.

Have you heard of this rather unusual, and seemingly feasible, way of deterring cats and other animals from one's property?

Have you ever tried it?

Does it work?

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The fear of fear is the greatest of all fears


If we are honest, we all have a secret fear which perhaps we don't tell anyone else. It could be the fear of confined spaces, (claustrophobia), or open spaces (agoraphobia), or outer spaces (Star Trek, Star Wars and so on).

When I was very young I had many fears. For example I was afraid to look up to the sun in case I got blind and always walked with my head down in the street in case I accidentally looked up my mistake. This led to my hitting my head against lamp-posts, trees, traffic lights and road signs which in itself led to a fear of street furniture generally. I thought they had it in for me and were out to get me. For a while I thought that perhaps I was a vampire destined to go out only at night.

I was also afraid of glass glasses in case when I drink I might bite on the glass and therefore swallow bits of glass whilst I was drinking which would necessitate me going to hospital and removing the glass from my stomach. This led to me fearing hospitals, doctors, nurses and anything to do with the medical profession in general. This fear was punctuated when later in life, in my twenties, a psychiatrist nearly killed me. I was going down a narrow lane when he drove at me on the wrong side of the road. From that day I have avoided psychiatrists altogether.

Hypnotists too. I went to see a hypnotist to discuss my fear of hypnotists. He sat me down on a chair, stood behind me and went "BOOO !!!" 

As a child, I also feared getting sunstroke or burning from the sun when out on the beach in summer. My parents used to cover me with factor 1,000,000 sun cream but this led to the fear that I might be absorbing all this sun cream through my skin and doing myself more harm than being burnt to a frazzle by the sun. So I decided to wear thick clothing on the beach. I remember spending a holiday in Malta one summer wearing a heavy coat throughout. I lost a lot of weight that year.

Also, I feared going for a swim after having just eaten in case I'd get stomach cramp and drown because the coat was too heavy having absorbed all that water. I always waited for two weeks before going for a swim after eating by which time the holiday was over and we had to return home.

As a child, I went to a very old school which looked more like a big manor in the country rather than a school. It had long dark corridors and large classrooms with wooden desks arranged in rows. Down one of the long dark corridors there were paintings of portraits along both walls as you walked down the corridor to my classroom. The portraits were of old school headmasters dating back to the 1800s. They were all dressed in the clothing fashionable at the time and they looked down at me, from both sides of the walls, as I hurried to my classroom. From that day I was afraid of portraits. I always thought they'd be looking at me. Just like you see in some horror films where the portrait on the wall has someone behind it looking at you from the holes in the eyes.

This led to the fear of mirrors in case the reflection in the mirror was looking at me looking at it.

The neighbours had a black cat always sitting on the partition wall out in the garden between our houses. At night his eyes would shine sometimes in the dark. This made me afraid of black cats. From that day I would never walk under a black cat. Did you know if a black cat crosses your path at night it is because he is going somewhere? This fear of cats led to other fears and superstitions. For instance, if I ever broke a mirror I would quickly sweep it up in case someone trod on it in bare feet.

Reading books at school did nothing to allay my many fears, but served to add to them. For example, although I love chocolates I have always had a fear of visiting a chocolate factory in case the Oompa-Loompas attacked me.

I was also afraid of beans as a young lad. I had read the book Jack and the Beanstalk and I feared eating beans in case one of them was magic and it would grow in my stomach and a plant would come out of my bottom sending me up to the sky.

I was also afraid to visit my grandma in case she was the big bad wolf in disguise. I remember at school once my English teacher said "your grammar stinks!" I told my father when I got home and he was very upset, especially since my grandma always smelled of sweet lavender perfume. He did say, however, that my other grandma smells of pot-pourri.

So ... have you got any secret fears? What are they? I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Desperate Prayer




Thursday, 10 August 2017

Weird Happenings


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said, "No!"

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

Again, he got it wrong.

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

"Definitely not." I said. 

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

I wonder whose glasses he gave me by mistake.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Reality Check


What is reality? I asked myself the other day as I sat out in the garden. I had to ask myself, because there was no one else there.

What I mean, and what I also meant when I asked myself the question, and got no answer. Albeit, I might add, the dog barked for no apparent reason. He always does that when I sit quietly talking to myself. I don't know why.

Anyway, what I meant by the question, if you can still remember that far, is that, what is reality to us, might not be so, or have been so to other people in the past. Something can be real to us, but not to others.

Let me explain.

Take my great great great grand-parents for instance. If you can find them. If you told them that you could be sitting at home, writing on your computer, and someone else many miles away could be receiving your e-mail within seconds and respond to it whilst you're enjoying your cappuccino coffee. They would not understand our reality of the internet, e-mails, texts, tweets, and so on and they would most probably reply, "What's a cappuccino?" Because they didn't have that in their time. It may be reality to us, but not to them.

Take another example, for instance. The other day my wife was looking through a ladies' magazine and she came across a lovely brown winter coat. She looked at me and said, "I'd like that!" So I cut the picture out and gave it to her. It was not reality to her ... but the consequences of my action were a reality to me.

So you see, reality is how you perceive it to be. It's like looking at a mirage which is not there. Which, when you think about it, in reality is not there. Because that's what a mirage means: a hallucination, a vision, an illusion. If it was there for real then it would not be a mirage, would it? For instance, is a marriage a mirage? Or is it real? If it is real then why does my predictive text type marriage when I mean mirage? Come to think of it, many couples lead a mirage type of marriage. They pretend to love each other but in reality they only stay married for many other reasons: the children, their religious beliefs, the cost and heart-ache of divorce, or just because they are plain lazy to do anything else.

And here's another example of reality not being real. The other day I met a friend I had not seen for ages. When he was young he was a boy. Then when he grew up he had a beard and he became an accountant. The last time I saw him at college he had no beard. Then two years later I saw him again and he had grown a beard and became an accountant. I'm not sure if the two incidents were related or not. So which one of these three instances is real? My friend being a young boy? Growing up and having a beard? Or being an accountant? Which leads to the question: can someone be an accountant and not have a beard?

Anyway, the other day I met him again after a period of six years or so of not seeing him. He was clean-shaven again and no longer an accountant. He became an undertaker. He was so popular that people are dying to meet him. They always signed letters to him; "Eventually yours ..."

I said to him, "If you had a moustache you'd look exactly like my mother-in-law!"

He replied, "I do not have a moustache!"

I said, "But my mother-in-law has."

The moustache was a reality, but it was on the wrong person.

This friend of mine is very rich now. Obviously either accounting or undertaking has suited him well as a career. He has a house with a cinema in it. The problem is that when there's a bad film on he has to leave his own home.

And that's what reality is. It is what it is perceived to be.

I am sitting here writing this Blog day in day out. But how do I know that you out there reading it are real? Are you a reality? Ordinary or extra-ordinary people in your own homes in far flung places reading my daily writings? Or not?
 
What if you are a figment of my imagination? What if I am a figment of your imagination? What if we are all a figment of each others' imagination and none of us really exist?

Who is writing this Blog then? And how do you know that it has been written and it is not a figment of your and my imagination?

Just because RenĂ© Descartes said, "Cogito ergo sum" does not mean that he is not a figment of his own imagination. He then translated it into "je pense, donc je suis" which as you know means, "I think, therefore I am!" But what does all that prove anyway? 

I started this whole Blog post with the thought, "What is reality?"

Does this prove that I am? Does it prove that I exist? Maybe I just thought or imagined that I thought what reality is? And maybe I don't really exist but the thought that I thought it does exist?

Hein? Have you thought about that? 

Share your views in the comments box below. That is if you truly exist.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Miracles


Father Ignatius approached the pulpit and said, “Hands up all those who have been to Lourdes!”

Quite a few hands went up.

“Keep your hands up,” he said, “now hands up those who went to Fatima, Knock or any other Holy Shrine!”

A few more hands went up.

“OK …” continued the priest, “hands down. Now hands up again anyone who has had a miracle happen to them at any of these places!”

No hands went up.

The priest waited a few seconds and then continued.

“Just as I thought! No one considers that a miracle has happened to them. Which of course begs the question; Do miracles happen these days?

“The truth is that miracles do happen these days; but people are not willing to believe in them.

“Perhaps they expect spectacular miracles to happen … Raising of the dead. Walking on water, changing water into wine … now that was a good one!

“Anything less than that and our Faith has not been stimulated enough to even consider it as a miracle, let alone believe it has happened.”

He stopped once again, as he usually did in his sermons, to allow the challenge to sink into the parishioners’ minds.

“I’d like us to consider for a while what is a miracle and who actually performs it when it happens.

“Spectacular miracles, as you would wish them to be, like healings from incurable illnesses and diseases do happen at Lourdes and elsewhere even today. There is plenty of documented evidence if you wish to research it.

“Many people have been healed suddenly with no explanation from medical or scientific sources. They remain unexplained and are accepted as miracles performed at the many Shrines visited by the sick person.

“Miracles happen elsewhere too … not just at these Shrines. Miracles can happen in churches, hospitals or even at your homes … if it is the will of God that they should happen.

“This then leads to the second question. Who performs these miracles?

“Is it Our Lady, the Mother of God at Lourdes or her other Shrines? Is it the particular Saint you happen to be praying to for help? Or is it God?

“And when we pray to individuals before they become Saints for a particular favor, or miracle even … like Padre Pio, Pere Charbel, and so on before they were made Saints by the Vatican … who performed the miracles do you think? Was it the particular person prayed to or was it God?

“Isn’t it after all the performance of miracles, or the answers to prayers, one of the tests which our Church considers as a requirement to Sainthood?”

He paused yet again.

“There are those who say that only God or Jesus can perform miracles; and to pray to Saints, or even people who have not even yet been considered as Saints, is wrong.

“Let me read you something from Acts of the Apostles … you can look it up yourselves at Acts 3.

“You’ll remember that as Peter and John went into the Temple to pray they met a man at The Beautiful Gate, as it was called, who had been lame all his life.

“The beggar expected money from the two apostles. Peter turned to him and said, ‘I don’t have silver or gold. But what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth get up and walk!’ And of course the man was healed.

“Later on in Acts 5 Verse 12 we read that many miracles were performed by the apostles. Sick people lay in the streets so that Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and heal them. And indeed many were healed.

“The important thing to note here is that Peter said ‘in the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk.’

“So yes … the apostles whilst they walked this earth, and now they are in Heaven, can and do perform miracles; they have not lost their ability to perform miracles, in the name of Jesus, just because they’re in Heaven.

“And so does Our Lady perform miracles in the name of her Son Jesus. As do Padre Pio, Pere Charbel and many other Saints. But they do so in the name of Jesus. It is very important to remember that.”

Father Ignatius stopped once again having pressed his point home.

“And now we move on to our last question,” he said, “for today at least!

“What role does our Faith has to play in the performance of miracles?

“Jesus said time and again to the sick, ‘Your Faith has healed you. Your Faith has saved you.’

“He did not say, ‘Wait … let me click my fingers and hey presto you’ll be healed … Because I’m great at miracles!’ ”

The congregation laughed. The priest continued.

“He made a point of saying that the people’s Faith played a great part in their healing and in their salvation.

“The sick did not stay at home and think ‘Oh well … if Jesus wants to heal me, He’ll do so in good time … I don’t need to go and see Him!’

“They went out to seek Him. They believed in this man who was different. A holy man, a teacher, a healer, the Son of God.

“They had heard about Him, and now He’s in their town or village they went out to find Him … in hope, in desperation perhaps, and even in Faith … as small as a mustard seed! But that little Faith, however tiny it was, is what saved and healed them.

“The blind man shouted at the top of his voice to attract Christ’s attention and to be healed.

“The old lady pushed her way through the crowds in order to get close enough to just touch His cloak and be healed.

“The Roman soldier believed in Jesus so much that he thought just one word from Him would bring healing.

“That’s what I mean by true Faith … it plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“It need not be our Faith that saves us … the Faith of others, on our behalf can and does bring miracles and healing to us.

“The Roman soldier was asking for healing for his servant, not for himself. His Faith helped heal his servant.

“The men who broke the roof off a house and lowered the man in his sick bed down to Jesus showed Faith on behalf of their friend … and their Faith was rewarded.

“All the people who lay in the streets hoping that Peter’s shadow may fall upon them showed great Faith too.

“As indeed do all those who visit Lourdes, Fatima, Knock and all the Holy Shrines.

“Let me conclude by saying that miracles do indeed happen today. Both great and small. They are performed by Saints and those yet to be Saints through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ

“Faith plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“And before you ask … we do not have to go to the Holy Shrines for our prayers to be heard, or for our miracles to happen. All we need is to trust in God and be willing to accept His will in His time and in His way.

“We need a little Faith … not much, just a mustard seed’s worth!”

MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE
 
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