Saturday, November 28, 2015

street riddles

One of the nice things about being a priest in parish ministry is that for the most part I set my own schedule. This means that I can, on occasion, walk my youngest to school in the morning. He's eight and there's something very special about being able to walk down the road, hand in hand, chatting about random things.

At the moment he's on a riddle-kick. I think his teacher was explaining them at school. Now, of course, I approve of teachers filling my child's head with new and interesting information. I am a little less enthusiastic when it results in:

'Dad, dad, dad! Do you know any riddles?'
Not because I don't like riddles, but because I don't really know any. There's one that I learned when I was a child and still remember; but that's rude and not really suitable. Then there's the ones from the famous riddle-duel between Bilbo and Gollum in The Hobbit; but I only half-know those ... and since I've read the book to son number four, he knows them better. 

I decided to try for a deflection.
'Well there's Tom Riddle, but I don't really know him because he's in a book.'
'Ha! Good one, dad!'
For a while we talked about Tom Riddle and Harry Potter and I thought the deflection had worked. But I'd only bought myself a hundred yards of breathing space. Then:
'So, dad - any riddles?'
I groaned.
'I don't really know any.'
'So make one up!'
Ah - the confidence of a young boy in his father! How could I disappoint? I glanced around desperately, seeking inspiration from the street. Something up ahead gave me an idea.
'What can be light no matter how heavy it is?'
He thought for a moment.
'It's not wood.'
'But wood floats. It can be heavy and still float. That makes it light.'
'It's a good answer. But it's not what I was thinking of. Think about the different meanings a word can have.'
He thought a while. We were almost halfway to his school.
'I give up.'
'Are you sure. What can be light no matter how heavy it is? The clue is that the same word can have more than one meaning.'
He thought some more than shook his head.
'No idea.'
'A lamp.'
'A lamp?'
'A lamp.'
'Oh, I get it. A lamp can be heavy and still give off light. Good one dad. Did you make that up?'
'Yup. I looked at one of those tall, metal street lights as we were walking along and that gave me the idea.'
'It's a good one. I thought it was wood. Because wood floats'

We spent the rest of the journey talking about why it was that some things can float and others don't. That kept us going riddle-free to the school gate. There he took a quick look around to make sure there was no one to see before he kissed me good-bye and trotted off into school. 

The fact that he won't let me walk him to the door and makes sure he's not seen by his friends kissing me goodbye reminds me that there's probably not too much time left that he'll be happy to hold my hand walking along the street. Sad to think such a simple pleasure will soon be gone from my life. I'll have to be careful to treasure such moments while I still have them. 

prayer diary Saturday 28 November 2015

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with … the worries of this life and that day does not catch you unexpectedly.' 
Luke 21.34

The temptations of this world are not limited to its pleasures. It is all too easy to be so distracted by the cares of daily living that you forget about both God and godly living. Take care: there is nothing of this life important enough to risk the next for.

Friday, November 27, 2015

haiku: sudden downpour

sudden downpour
~the robin at the feeder

prayer diary Friday 27 November 2015

'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.' 
Luke 21.33

God's word is eternal. It's truth is for all people in all places; it does not alter for the fashions of the age.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

happy thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday. Interestingly, its one, I think, that immigrants 'fresh off the boat' have no trouble adopting with speed and enthusiasm. I remember as a child in New York going to a Thanksgiving dinner with my family at a friend's house when I was about five. The place was crammed with people - all Irish born adults with their children. Overwhelmed by the amazing turkey dinner with all the trimmings I engaged in some extravagant praise of our hostess:

'This is the best dinner ever!' I cried. 

She looked pleased. Ah yes, I had a way with words even then! Alas, I was still learning ... so I took things too far and added 'You really should learn to cook like this mom!'

My mother was decidedly cool with me on the way home. I tried to make amends by claiming I was just trying to be polite to our hostess, but no one was buying it, especially not my mom. Oh well; I'm sure she had forgiven me by the time I left home.

Of course, when we returned to Ireland a few years later, the holiday was pretty much forgotten. I think the next time it came up in conversation was when I was in Navy boot camp, nearly 20 years later. One of the other recruits - I'm thinking an Iowa farmboy, but I could be mis-remembering - asked how we celebrated Thanksgiving in Ireland.

'We don't,' I said, a little surprised he should ask.
'You don't?' he said, far more surprised than I. He peered at me earnestly through the thick-framed spectacles we called BC glasses.
'Of course not,' I said. 'Thanksgiving is an American holiday.'
He processed that for a while, his brow furrowed beneath the red stubble of his hair. Then he asked:
'So do you celebrate Christmas?'

Ah yes, happy days! 

I had great fun at Thanksgiving dinners during my times in the states and in the service. I have to say that things were made much simpler by the fact that I didn't go vegetarian until the final years of my time in uniform! But, of course, once back in Ireland the holiday went back into the mothballs of my mind as far as celebrating it was concerned. Still, I do make an effort to phone my one American friend living in Ireland to wish him a happy Thanksgiving - pretty much on the grounds that if I won't, who will? 

And this year I thought I'd do the same to all those out there reading the blog who are Americans - I know you have plenty at home who will as well, but I just thought I'd let you know there was someone in Ireland who is not only thinking of you, but knows what Thanksgiving is as well!

Therefore, from Ireland, may I wish you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving! 

different days

We are truly living in interesting times. Who would have thought the day would come when the Preacher of Papal Household would be addressing the General Synod of the Church of England ... with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance? Or that he be saying stuff like this:

Justification by faith, for example, ought to be preached by the whole Church—and with more vigour than ever. Not in opposition to good works – the issue is already settled - but rather in opposition to the claim of people today that they can save themselves thanks to their science, technology or their man-made spirituality, without the need for a redeemer coming from outside humanity. Self-justification! I am convinced that if they were alive today this is the way Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer would preach justification through faith!

You can read the rest of what Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa had to say to those gathered here

prayer diary Thursday 26 November 2015

'They will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory.' 
Luke 21.27

Christ will come again. But we know not when. Therefore live as if it might be the very next moment from now.