Father Martin writes:-
Christmas will soon be upon us and our thoughts are probably already turning to presents and food. Now those of us of a certain age will remember that as children we nearly always received each year a large, rectangular box that was about one and a half inches deep. The lid of this box would contain pictures of the many different board games that were contained within the box; yes I’m talking about that former great staple of Aunties and Uncles, a ‘compendium of Games’. There would always be Snakes and Ladders, Draughts (or Checkers for the Americans) and Ludo. Posh sets might even have contained Backgammon or Chess which I always thought were meant for adults if only because they might understand the rules.
One of the great things about such board games is that families used to come together to sit around the table and play them, this encouraged social interaction and an understanding of the importance of playing by the rules, things that are vital in helping younger people to grow and develop into well rounded adults.
Of all the games that I both enjoyed and at times came to loathe was Ludo. In the late 1960’s an American company, now a part of the Hasbro group of companies, took this simple board game and completely overhauled it by encasing it in plastic and placing in the middle of the game board a plastic bubble encasing a dice on a piece of spring steel. Yes the Pop-O-Matic dice shaker with its characteristic popping noise was born. That noise would come to drive any non players in a room where the game was being played totally bonkers as would looking for the oil barrel shaped playing pieces which always managed to escape from the box between games.
There were no new rules and as a game it was marketed and sold separately from any other game, it was a brilliant bit of marketing that made the company a lot of money for virtually no development work and cost. So popular was this game that original sets, still in their boxes, fetch very high prices at toy auctions and the latest production of the game is still on sale (Amazon UK £13.14 +P&P). For those of you who have not already worked it out the game was and is sold in the UK under the trade name of ‘Frustration’. An appropriate name if just as you were about to complete the game you were caught and had to start again with that particular piece. I wonder how many tantrums have taken place across the years or pieces have been thrown across the room.
I have come to thinking about this game as I try to resolve the situation of replacing our failed hall boiler. This has been an incredibly frustrating process that has seemed to be one step forward and two steps back. A step forward was placing the order for the new boiler, two steps back was that the new boiler was not delivered on time and that when it was delivered the removal of the old boiler was held up by the problems of finding asbestos. Such were the problems (and as I write this they are ongoing) that in all truth it felt like walking through treacle and yes it did make me scream and I certainly offered up a lot of prayers.
The ultimate piece of frustrating news must surely have been that after a 14 hour day installing the new boiler the two engineers discovered that the cowl which is meant to go on the outside wall and duct away any fumes was in fact not in the box that it should have been in. So everything ready to go, but stopped for the want of a piece of shaped metal, or at least that’s how I see it. Doubtless it is a bit more complicated than that since in reality things are seldom as simple as what they seem.
Life in general is full of frustrating little things, or so it seems to me, from the childproof medicine bottle caps that only a child can ever open to those apparently endless miles of traffic cones on the motorway, which when you finally reach the road works they are protecting have no one working at them. Now I cannot condone so called ‘road rage’ but after half an hour of stop start traffic for no apparent good reason I can certainly begin to understand it.
The Christian life is, of course, equally prone to its own frustrating events, indeed the bible gives us examples of events that challenged even Jesus himself as can clearly be seen from the accounts of Jesus agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. As we try to prepare ourselves spiritually to once again welcome him amongst us and at the same time prepare ourselves for the secular side of Christmas, we find that we are torn by these conflicting demands.
These conflicting interests often create a great deal of frustration and frequently raised voices. Jesus himself cried out to his father as he wrestled with the conflicting demands of his earthly and heavenly roles, but it is he himself who shows us how we ought to react, when he utters those words ‘thy will not mine be done’.
There can be no denying on my part that the whole process of replacing the hall boiler has at times led me to want to scream and bang my head against the wall. The needs of dealing with the various engineers (They really have tried very hard to get the job done, but have equally been frustrated by various problems.) and hall users did often disrupt my prayer life which in itself distressed me further. In such a frame of mind it is frequently hard to pray as I ought however, at such times I follow Jesus own advice to his disciples by saying that prayer which he taught them. This then is my recommendation to all of you when you find yourselves torn between conflicting interests this Christmas and indeed at any time. If you say no other prayer, then pray The Lord’s Prayer.
May God grant you every blessing