It’s what’s inside that makes it go up

When I was young, and most people believed that to have white skin made you superior to someone with black skin, a man was selling balloons at a carnival. He had balloons of various colours, which he filled with helium gas. Every now and then he would release one of them into the air and kids would come from everywhere to buy one. While he was busy with his young customers, he felt someone tug at his jacket. He turned around to see a little West Indian boy standing there. The boy said: ‘Mister, if you release a black balloon will it fly just as high?’ That man put his hand on the boy’s head and said: ‘Son, it’s not the colour of the balloon that counts, it’s what’s inside that makes it go up.’
And nothing has changed. As the Bible says: Man may look on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.’

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Grandchildren really make you think

In the long and painful history of Arab/Israeli conflict there was one bright moment when President Jimmy Carter persuaded Israeli Prime Minister Begin and Egyptian President Sadat to meet at Camp David for peace talks. But the Israeli Prime minister flatly rejected the final proposal. However, before they departed Jimmy Carter and Menachim Begin agreed to sign photographs for each other’s families. President Carter then showed the prime minister photographs of his grandchildren, and Prime Minister Begin did likewise. As they looked at the pictures tears filled their eyes and Begin returned to his cabin. Five minutes later he re-emerged and asked to look at the peace proposal once again.
Reflecting on the legacy we are about to leave to our grandkids can change the most stubborn heart.

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Is there life after birth?

There’s an old story about a twin sister and brother talking to each other in the womb. She said: ‘I believe there’s life after birth!’ But he disagreed: ‘No, this is all there is.’ But the little girl insisted that there had to be something more; but she couldn’t convince her brother. Then she said: ‘And that’s not all, but I think there’s a mother!’ ‘What are you talking about?’ he said. ‘I’ve never seen a mother and neither have you.’ Finally, she said: ‘Don’t you feel this pressure sometimes? It’s can be quite painful.’ ‘Yes,’ he answered. ‘But what’s special about that?’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘I think this pressure is there to get us ready for another place, much better than this, where we’ll see our mother face to face!’
Is there life after birth? Sounds very much like the question of is there life after death

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Worry – a disease of the spirit

There’s an old parable about a man meeting the Grim Reaper, who told him he was going to take 100 people that day. But 1,000 people died, and that evening he met Death again and accused him of breaking his word. But Death replied: ‘I kept my word. I only took a hundred people. Worry took the others.’
That parable illustrates what the US National Mental Health Committee reported a few years ago – half of all the people in America’s hospitals are constant worriers. Mental distress can lead to everything from migraine headaches to depression. It’s the greatest enemy of quality of life. Worry, essentially, is a disease of the spirit, for its beginning signals the end of faith. The only cure for it is faith – that simple trust that whatever happens, God is at work in all things for the good of those that love Him.

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Fear, Worry | Leave a comment

Hidden by the light

When I was a schoolboy and had little contact with the Church, I used to be fascinated by a line from a hymn we used to sing to sing at the school assembly that said: ‘All laud we would render, Oh help us to see; ‘Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.’ Way back then it was clear to my young mind that whatever problems I may have in seeing God in life are not because there is no God but rather are due to the fact that I am like someone emerging from a dark room into the brilliant light of the sun, and it’s the very brilliance of light that causes me not to be able to see it. On the other hand, as the old Maori proverb says: ‘If you turn your face to the sun, all the shadows will fall behind you;’ which sounds very similar to what Jesus meant when he said: ‘Seek and you will find.’

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New eyes, not new visions

There are some people who say there is no God because they see no evidence for such a being. There are others who think there has to be something – some being, force or entity outside of this dimension of time and space in order to account for the mathematically unimaginable series of chances that atheists say brought everything into existence. But even so, they believe that such an entity is so far removed from us as to be unknowable. And then there are those who sense and see God everywhere. What is it that lets them see and feel what other people don’t? Is it just superstition or is it what the famous French writer Marcel Proust was talking about when he said that it’s not new intellectual concepts we need, it’s new eyes to see what’s already there.

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That ‘gnawing pain’ at the centre of our being

Ever since I watched him being savaged by two reporters in a television interview, while trying to get them to listen to why he was introducing Medicare, I’ve admired Bill Hayden, one of Australia’s iconic Labor leaders and former Governor General. But I always hoped that Bill, a lifelong atheist, who displayed such compassion for people and concern for justice might, himself, encounter Christ, who is the source and inspiration of those things. And now it’s happened. At the age of 85 he was recently baptized in St Mary’s Catholic Church in Ipswich. ‘There’s been a gnawing pain in my heart and soul about what is the meaning of life,’ he said. ‘I can no longer accept that human existence is self-sufficient and isolated…From this day forward, I’m going to vouch for God.’ All I can say is: me too!

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Chasing one’s tail

There’s a story about an old dog was watching a puppy chasing its tail and asked: ‘Why are you chasing your tail?’ The puppy said: ‘I have solved the problem, which no dog has ever before been able to solve. I’ve learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness, and that happiness is in my tail. Therefore, I am chasing it, and when I catch it, I shall have it.’
‘My son,’ said the old dog, ‘I too have considered that problem and have also judged that happiness is in my tail. But I’ve noticed that when I chase it, it just keeps running away from me; but when I go about my business. It follows me wherever I go.’
I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said: ‘Put God first in your life. Don’t worry about missing out, and you’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.’

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A lesson from Japan

A friend who grew up in Japan told me that the Japanese prefer to own one thing of beauty rather than many, because if you own one thing you will look at it and truly appreciate it, whereas if you own many things the beauty of each gets lost in the crowd and you appreciate none of them. G. K. Chesterton said: ‘The modern world has had far too little understanding of the art of keeping young. Its notion of progress has been to pile one thing on top of another, without caring if each thing was crushed in turn. People forgot that the human soul can enjoy a thing most when there is time to think about it and be thankful for it. And by crowding things together they lost the sense of surprise; and surprise is the secret of joy.’
So, it’s not how much you have that counts, but how much you appreciate it.

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Never underestimate a grandmother’s prayers

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who brought an end to the Cold War, was born into a family of committed atheists. But his grandmother had him secretly baptized by a Russian Orthodox priest, and she put an icon of Jesus on the wall in every room in the house. Gorbachev’s father, who was a staunch Communist, countered by putting a picture of Stalin next to each picture of Jesus. But in December 1989, just after the breaking down of the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev went to the Vatican to meet Pope John Paul II. The two met and spoke in the Pope’s private library for seventy minutes. No one knows what they discussed, but what we do know is that what followed was the end of history’s first atheistic state. But I think the seeds of it were in that old grandmother’s faith.

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