Landmarks, Milestones and Trails…..

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“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
I could spend hours dwelling on the ups and downs of life’s unfair paths however it is more beneficial to realize that we are a product of the choices we make regardless of the position we find ourselves. There will always be seasons but the longevity or the brief span it covers is something that we will never be able to control and so it makes common sense that we utilize the seasons to the best of our capabilities.

Within the brief time I have been blessed with, I have known lots of extremes; I have hosted and dined with royalty and nobles and I have huddled together with the hungry for warmth and together, ushered many sincere prayers for security and a hot meal. I have experienced the vitality and exuberance of youthfulness and also known the despair of learning to be dependent on others. I have known and experienced the short-termed high of opulence and also known the despondency of acute lack staring me in the face; an unwanted but inevitable companion. All of these I have since learned are the signs and milestones of life’s journey which we all take irrespective of who you are. I have experienced the wisdom of being a lender as well as the painful lesson of being an ignored borrower. In all of these, a truth stands clear – there is great wisdom learnt in the house of mourning.

Trail

Trail

I have on several occasions learned to ask myself if I was acting from a stance of courage or of abject fear, and the answers have always varied but what remains constant is that there will always be seasons and the choices I make in those seasons determine to a very large extent how quickly I learn the lessons for that season or how patiently I must wait to ensure that my teaching is effective and the feedback appropriate. Life will never be all roses or all thorns however the beauty of life is that even amongst the dying embers of a funeral pyre, a phoenix can emerge. The fragrance of the roses will always waft but woe betide those who in abject ignorance believe that it is theirs forever because that in itself shows a level of understanding utterly ludicrous in itself. Dynamism will always be inevitable and learning how to break a fall whilst in the safe confines of a trampoline in your back yard is an endeavor that will never be regretted.

The beauty of life’s journey usually lies in those moments that will forever be etched on your memory; some will be cherished forever whilst others will be termed experience because of the searing hurt that came with them. As I write, I recall vividly the number of times that I was surprisingly blessed as well as those moments that I was left with my jaw on the floor, stunned beyond words. Dystonia and Myoclonus will be landmarks on my sojourn however inasmuch as it was a transforming moment but in comparison with events like being a Christian, becoming a father, a lifetime companion, it sort of pales into insignificance. Now being able to carefully balance life scales is a skill we learn as we navigate life because the choice to focus on the dark moments as against focusing on the bright moments and looking forward with unquenchable hope to getting to our destination is one that is personalized. The destination that is charted by our purpose on earth should be the star that shines through even in the darkest of nights.

I recently had to weigh in on a trending situation about faith and religion, and trust me, I try absolutely to make my stance clear. There is absolutely no points scored in kicking one who is already down neither is there anything vaguely resembling authority when you hide behind the innocuous threats of a past life in order to pillage that which you are supposed to be watching over. It bothers on the absurd when you manipulate lives that should be influenced by you, and then strip away the dignity and glory from the innocent lives that you can reach. Choosing instead to trample and flaunt as against encouraging and building, the truth associated with that is there will always be a time of reckoning, that is something that is a certainty. In that era of accountability and reckoning, nothing of material value will hold any worth but what transcends every arena is the compassion, kindness and assistance we apply to every situation we find ourselves.

Landmark

Landmark

I recall with a degree of humor, how many people have literally tried to stump me down because I made a choice to be vulnerable with them. I am still standing and the truth is that whilst my bouquet of medication might soar in price, my trust in God soars even higher. I recall these words; ‘What you make (or receive) is an earning but when you give, you touch (or make) a life.’ Now the question so erroneously ignored is that what you earn is entirely yours to do as you please but how and what put the field out there for you to earn from? I am still nursing a damaged rotator cuff because getting it repaired has just not been affordable but I have neither forgotten those who gave of the little they had nor those who chose to ignore. Infact I will always remember how easily man forgets his beginnings and with the headiness of strong liquor, gives because others are giving and then turns around and demands that he be refunded as the liquor bars and the stripper poles are of more value to him. Ignorance? Maybe…..nonetheless when we can bless but through indifference want to curse, we forget that we are spirit beings on a human journey – every action counts.

Do I have regrets? None even though it still is such an intense journey filled with twists and turns but what I can count on is that my destination is sure and each day, I obediently take one step at a time, knowing that His faithfulness is forever. It is almost a decade since I was diagnosed and never have I found myself on the road pan-handling or begging bread even when there was truly no bread in the pantry. Each year in its unfolding gives me a deeper layer of understanding what real priorities are and despite those scary times when the trail stretches unendingly in the dead of the night with no light to see milestone markers or landmarks, I cannot accommodate the thought of giving up. When the taunts of ignorant men, seemingly secure in their wealth, tend to hurt, I remember that even though sticks, stones and words might hurt me but the decision to get up and keep going is mine to make and mine alone. I may not have to give what you specifically request but what I have, I have learned to freely share because not only does it lighten my burden and brighten another’s day, it also frees up room for wisdom to guide me through my journey.

To the many companions and helpers raised in my path, I will forever be grateful because giving is a sacrifice in itself and someday the return on that sacrifice will blow your minds. To the many who choose to be ignorant and believe they hold all the chips, thank you for the lessons in humility and enabling me not to acquiesce to desperation. These are not just fancy words but the expressions from a heart within a battered body, candid and sincere and to all those who feel they must succumb to desperation, despair and despondency in the light of the many who have refused to help, note this – the race is never determined by how swift you are or the victory on the battlefield determined by the strength of an army. As long as you choose each day never to give up, you are chalking up points where it counts and being a beacon of light to the weary, oppressed and downtrodden all around us. We can never change the world but we can change a life, so go ahead and give a lending hand to that outstretched arm and if that is all you do, be content and press on.

Remember, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

עד שניפגש שוב, מי ייתן ובהירות ארשת פניו תמשיך להאיר את דרכך ולתת תקוו

Adios!

Days, Events, People!…..

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I am in the habit of sharing my thoughts in some of the most ingenious way because sometimes the world just seems too gloomy for inhabitation. I had a tank top made in London with the caption; ‘Everything seems funnier when you are not allowed to LAUGH!’ Now that is my general overview of the human emotions and the workings of this complex system we call our bodies. Up one day and down the next, and this is deniably the trend for a majority of us however when you get that feeling that something is really off with you then it is best to check it out. A full bellied laugh is such good medicine to the soul but we do not have to wait to be pigeon holed before we act as human beings.

Within the last 6 – 8 weeks, I have been barely active on social media (which includes this) because for some unknown reason, it just seems like my body is gradually coming apart at the seams. Wracked with relentless bouts of severe back spasms, unpredictable as usual, it has been more than a task to sometimes breathe freely and although the words, ‘NEVER GIVE UP’, are always within eye sight, it just seems that every round might be the one that finally bests me. Nonetheless, still I strive and with the unsure gait of someone who seems to be inebriated, I choose to take it one step at a time. And when I do have to let out the occasional groan, it is not for want of attention but rather a vent to all the pain going on inside.

All over the world, calendars are marked full with international celebrations (the dates may differ depending on where you are) and it is quite amusing that we still are wary of seizing our destiny or better still yielding to the capable Hands of Our Creator. We are creatures of purpose but the inevitability glaring us in the face is that without identifying and then understanding our purpose, abuse is certain. And as is oft the case with me, i take a step back and just try and grasp my own perspective of things. May 12 marked Mother’s Day in North America and what a beautiful day it was, there was no rain despite the fact that the day before the roads were flooded and the forecast was pretty grim. But still it was a beautiful day to celebrate mothers; that unique category of individuals who are for the lack of a cape, our modern day superheroes. Mothers in this post is a title that transcends biology, age, race and cultural proliferation!

Happy Mother’s Day!
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Truth be told, there are men too who would unashamedly be celebrated because of their parenting skills even with the added difficulty of being a single parent but then what about the countless women who single-handedly make the world a less dangerous place for their children. And for the men just mentioned above, the truth is that without a mother, it would be a case worthy of debate that you might very well not be the man you are today. Parenting, undeniably is hard work and just some hours ago I had a conversation with a friend who I had texted ‘Happy Mother’s Day!’. It was almost the same conversation as she bemoaned how difficult it was just trying to keep the home in one piece without letting the bills breach the hull of her home. Did I have the wise words that would make it all disappear? Definitely not, however I did let her know that we never know our best and if we let the pursuit of the tangible break us then what a twist of fate it is. It is my own opinion that life wants to put you on a treadmill with broken control knobs and if you choose to remain on that treadmill then better get properly strapped in because there is really no end in sight until you keel over in exhaustion and transit this life.

I have since learned that even though there are certain dates marked off on calendars hanging on the kitchen wall, it does not require a feat of supernatural strength to simply appreciate on a daily basis the sacrifices people make on our behalf. I remember when I was liquidating every asset I had at the onset of this battle with dystonia, and literally going around with cap in hand (if only I had an inkling as to how expensive the battle would be…), I was asked by a few would be helpers; “have you disposed of everything in your name?”. Summarily and predictably, they never did show up with their funds and my question till date is; when you see a need, do your actions depend on what the needy already have or do you just give regardless and move on. Funny but many of us are wannabe givers but then we need some justification that your hard-earned money will be the last piece to make the puzzle complete. It is just another tiny detail that we very often forget; we made our entrance naked and will depart in the same way so all that you gloat over daily isn’t really yours. Please work hard but remember every blessing we receive is a gift from God!

Mother’s Day! Heck there are 365 days in which to tell a mother that she is truly appreciated, why wait for that one day and oh by the way if you are on the taciturn side then there are also 365 days to tell people that you encounter daily how special they are. It is rather amusing that we bind ourselves to a piece of paper that seemingly dictates how to appreciate people. Unfortunately, I recently lost a mate and despite the pleas not to stress myself, I wanted to and eventually did give something to ensure his family is not left desolate. Did it cost me something? Oh it definitely cost me a lot but what a joy it is that I could be part of something that defining – letting someone else know that they are not alone. For me, hearing conversations like, ‘the family seems to be doing well’ or ‘the family is financially buoyant’ is just a huge downer. Give because you want to and not because you think they are desperate. I can assure you that desperate times are not the best of times to act especially when there were windows of opportunities to act in good faith.

For every breath we take, I know there is no record keeping of how much air we consume neither is there a quota that you are entitled to. And so if that is the case and we truly acknowledge that, then be as generous as you can when you can. There is such profound joy in giving, ignorance is a choice you make intentionally. I bade my family every night with these words, “Sweet dreams, I love you and I’ll see you tomorrow!”. I am by no stretch of imagination the timekeeper but I do know that now is all I have got and so it definitely falls within the category of the wise to make NOW count. My dad told me this years ago and they are still relevant, “A parent who is unable to ensure his offsprings have the opportunity to become better than him or her should be deemed to have failed.”. I do know that it is subject to debate because there are choices to be made however what we can do today is look around and put a little glimmer of sunshine in someone else’s life.

And so to all the mothers (this transcends biology) out there who consistently refused to be overwhelmed by the dictates of child upbringing, I celebrate you today, tomorrow and the next. Thank you for the sacrifices made because now we can invest in the next generation without tying the investments to the portfolio size that makes us feel comfortable.

פרידה עד שנפגשנו שוב בתזמון שלו, וייתכן שאהבתו של אלוהים להיות אמיתית לך!

Adios!

Gifts, Promises and Thank-yous….

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Staying aglow

So I did promise myself a birthday gift – going out shopping and giving out gifts to others however I’ve not been able to go shopping. I did something worthwhile though considering this will be the 42nd time (ever since I could count) that I get to try and reset, I took a long cold shower (heat triggers dystonic episodes). I would have gone swimming but I’m nursing a shoulder and a back that has been giving out too many notices for me to ignore. I remember the porch light of my neighbor coming on and his concerned question, ‘why are you swimming in the freezing pool? Are you a polar bear?’ I did try to explain but not many have the time to listen and then try and make sense of your reasons so just do you.

It has been nigh on a decade when my journey veered into terrains i had never imagined. And although I do love traveling however this has been more of putting one foot in front of the other rather than taking in the sights and sounds. The shower was quite exhilarating and the concept of beginning this year spanking clean is really quite nice because all the grime and dirt from the past day gets washed away. Time doesn’t stop, it does however give me the opportunity to document this and I’m truly grateful. In a couple of days, we lose an hour as the seasons continue their transition. I have gained a year and in retrospect, I cannot wait to embark on the adventures of this new year.

Notwithstanding that a lot has taken place, I look forward to the future regardless of how long I have got. Nevertheless I am thankful for the gift of a clean slate, a clean body and an open mind. It is the little details, usually taken for granted, that ultimately define us and I know that I am here now because it all fits into a grand scheme of things. None of the party poppers (sic) et al, I am grateful for the comfort of a silent night even as I write. And with nought but a fairly sound mind, a spirit that refuses to be conquered, the wavering light within and the ability to choose, I begin another chapter. A chapter where I can write, amend what errors might come up and basically differentiate between doing what is right and doing what seems to be right (despite the deceptive allure of what seems right)

I am truly grateful for the friends who have stuck with prickly me, glad for the opportunity to meet and interact with new acquaintances but above all, I am thankful for hope that cannot be overwhelmed. The hope that resonates with the washing away of the dirt of past years and the hope that makes me choose responsibly each day. It’s another 365 days and the count is on, I am careful to back off where need be and doggedly push through no matter how exhausted I may be. My prayer is wherever He leads me, may my obedience be borne from a desire to get the best of what He’s got from me and completely yield in every aspect.

Today, I remind myself that both the warmth of the sunshine and the coolness of the twilight are a blessing. So today, I unfurl my sails and pray for fair winds and when the waves turn choppy and rough, I know that there will always be beginnings and endings.

Adios!

Feasts, sacrifices and puzzles….

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Celebrating in style…

One of my favorite genres in movies is action themed medieval films, especially those trying to reenact history. I do remember that during my growing up years, I loved and dreamed of being born then because it seemed like a good sword fight and banquets with huge boars (or any animal deemed a good catch and unfortunate to be killed) roasting over huge flames went hand in hand. However what fierce battles raged then (some for reasons unknown or lost with time), times when men and women were usually valued based on the formidability of their strength in battle – skill and brains combined. Why go to war if you could win over territories by the sheer knowledge of your previous conquests preceding you?

Approximately between 1050 – 1030 b.c, it was a tumultuous time for the Israelites as they vacillated between the era of judges; some notable for leading in righteousness and those infamous for allowing unrighteousness prosper. You see, it was really quite simple back then as it still is today – 2 options; one based on doing right by God’s standards and the other based on the opposite, the crowd pleaser. God’s standard was not that difficult to discern, much easier these days with the ability to read almost an ability that is taken for granted. I just remember the opulence of their feasts, carving up an entire hog with casks of ale flowing….cholesterol wasn’t an issue, actually they outlived us by centuries and it was definitely not because they lacked medicine (I dare opine that they actually had better and so much more affordable healthcare than we do today).

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve unfortunately been discomfited by frequent (and very painful) back spasms that I’ve been forced to unearth my lumbar belt – a wide inflatable belt with magnet inserts. There are those unfortunate periods when fashion and other trivialities go out the windows as we try to get some degree of comfort in the midst of some medically influencing torrid times. I digress because I trust that the season is over now and thus apply myself to more noble pursuits. One event during the Israelites circuitous journey to acknowledging God’s sovereignty was when their colour party (The Ark of Covenant) was captured. For anybody versed in these matters, your colour party must never be captured in battle because that in essence is who you are. However they (The Israelites) lost it due to sheer disobedience and thinking righteousness could be obtained by lavish sacrifices, just like attempting to put on a slap-on band aid on a gashing cut . Disobedience can never be wiped away with lavish sacrifices because obedience in itself is a sacrifice worthy of God’s attention.

It’s best imagined what feasts the Philistines threw with the capture of God’s Ark (not forgetting the massacre of over 35,000 fighting Israelites too….). Now nothing can be further from the truth in these words, ‘abuse is inevitable when purpose is unknown’ and so heady with the victory, the Philistines placed God’s Ark in the temple of one of their many esteemed god’s temple. What humiliation Dagon suffered in his temple because the idol was first cast to the ground in the first night and the next night after being restored, not only was it cast down but both hands and feet were cut off. Now, that situation right there is not something you can immediately restore and no matter how much mead or ale has been consumed, whatever fogs still remain are sure to clear. The Philistines knew without a doubt that they were way in over their head…..

The events unfold in subsequent pages but it kind of reminds me of times when I’ve in folly tried to combine two insoluble events together. The results are usually catastrophic and filed under ‘past experiences’ many times, and ironically till date we still make the same mistakes (I often wonder happened to learning from history). We allow the headiness of triumphs (obtained by God and delivered to us) cloud our senses and inadvertently we find ourselves on the seat of our pants, a laughable sight as we try to shake out the clouds of dust from our hair and clothes. In reality, everything around us was created and therefore our response should be a deserved reverence for The Creator but even as life zips by digitally, it often takes a crash to make us aware that the solution to puzzling events staring us in the face cannot be gotten from neither our feeble minds nor our shallow and limited understanding.

Puzzling….in our faces

For some reason, puzzles will always be a part of life’s package and regardless of how much time we spend trying to decipher them, the solution is usually right there just that we fail to see it. I remember a dear friend, with tears unchecked and rolling down, telling me a couple of weeks back, “I just got a call that my father has only a week to live!” Now that I truly can understand because that single call is one of those moments that define you going foward. Is this a storm that you hunker down and wait out or do you take it on head on? For me, that is an alarm screaming for you to pause and be sure that you’re in His Hands because in situations like that, where else can you be? Events like these will always pop up and how they transform you is ultimately determined by how you respond.

I have long learned that emotional stress is a definite trigger for dystonic episodes and so even when everything about me is itching to gear up for battle, I look down and see scars that remind me to pause, step back and reevaluate my position. ‘Anything worth living for is worth dying for!’ is not just the utterance of a mind in drunken stupor but one that should be carefully understood. Preceding every feast is a triumph but the most notable of triumphs are those gotten without lifting a Honjõ Masamune or wielding a C15 M4 Type Carbine (configured like an M4-style carbine with a flat-top upper) from Bushmaster. The greatest weapons are usually largely invisible and most often less thought of.

In our journey through life’s seas, prioritizing is a skill best learned early. Storms are a certainty however our preparation prior to the storm cannot be taken for granted because very many people define success as opportunity meeting preparedness. I define success as being thankful for where I am today and the liberty of making the right choices. Chance befalls us all, choice differentiates us and so taking time to realize how significant our choices will be to a great extent defines how much merriment awaits us ahead. The success of our journeys is a combination of controllable and uncontrollable events and the choices we make.

Enjoy the journey and try to get better every day. And don’t lose the passion and the love for what you do.” – Nadia Comaneci, and remember that “he/she is no fool to give up cannot be kep to gain what cannot afford to be lost” – Jim Elliot.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

Whistles, Cheers and a new path….

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Be You!

Happy new year to everyone of you who has chosen to spare a moment or two to read what I write. Without you, there would be no redzhis.com and admittedly my felicitation might be viewed as belated however I opine, ‘better late than never!’ Coming from a Catholic background as a child, “bless me….my last confession was in September 2018!” However thank God for a clearer, easier path to starting afresh. It does seem that writing may not be a very lucrative career however life isn’t all about money. It sure helps but it is not ALL there is.

For the first time in nearly 3 decades, I slept (not rested) through into the new year and it is in my nature to be particular about the little things and details however just that minor aberration gave me something to hold onto. No matter how hard I try to make the best of situations from my own limited perspective, there is so much that I absolutely have no control over. Therefore, I’ve decided to really try hard to take better care of myself because if I don’t, I’m certain at least one person in the 8 billion population would mind. Oh well, it’s never going to be about me rather it is an evaluation of history (2018), celebrating and building on the victories and learning from the upsets. Like a stream, we each are adrift and the least we can do is keep your vessel properly maintained and pray for fair winds.

I am truly thankful for the air I breathe and the oft taken for granted fact that each day we awake is a blessing – what we do with it however is up to each person. I have no regrets because the learning points I received are just pointers to the direction I should take. Things like resentment, frustration, despondency and despair actually don’t appear in my journal, although like the masked burglar, creep in they will regardless of how fortified I think I’ve made my city. Have I been given the all clear from the relentless battle with myoclonus? Nope, experts are hard at work trying to figure it out and it would be foolhardy for me to watch the seconds go by in idleness, tweedling my thumb waiting for some answer from someone. There truly is no phase of life, private or public, that is free of responsibility. The question therefore is, ‘what is my responsibility?’

Self-care, being considerate of others, being kind and compassionate to as many as I come across are pretty much a good place to start from. Undeniably, there will be spill overs from history however our response determines who’s in charge. One of the spillovers I received was from an acquaintance who needed some space (I’m not in charge of apportioning space so take as much as satisfies you) although it brought to the fore this age old quote, “the greatest battle we fight in life is trying to be you in a world that consistently wants to make you someone else.” I will be me, while you be you and if life inexplicably allows our paths to cross then there can be only one of two options applicable. Flee as though the banshees from hell are after you (in my words, blaming anything else but you) or stay awhile and make that brief encounter count for something.

One invaluable lesson I’ve gotten is that regardless of the whistles and cheers, there must always come a time when you’re left to your own whims and if you never gave that some thought then buckle in and get ready for a roller coaster ride. We are each equipped with a distinct set of skills best used by you, however if burying your head in the sand like the ostrich while trying to hide behind a deluge of excuses is your choice, then I must bade you farewell. Just as the sun rises each new day, so also must we, determined and ready to face the day or like Scripture aptly puts it, “stay hidden beneath your bedsheets because there could be a lion outside your door waiting to devour you” (my summation).

Life will not cease because you are so wrapped up in yourself that you forget that neither the wrappings nor yourself are actually yours. However when we acknowledge that the rains fall upon both the good, the bad and the ugly….then that might make us rethink our priorities. In the void left by friends who have transitioned, I see an opportunity to live my life honored to have met them. And when my time comes as surely as all things created, I hope one person can be bold enough to say, ‘it was indeed an honor walking a while with you!’ Now that is no easy statement in spite of the political correctness of our current system, yet truth rings out, incapable of being silenced; we are neither animals nor creatures of monotony. There is a task for me and you, and the sooner we get to it, the more fulfilling our lives would be.

Life’s stage is big enough for everyone however be ready to give the best performance (sincere and without an iota of pretense) of your life when the light is cast on you.

Each morning, I awake with a thankful heart and a new song

And despite the agonies of myoclonus or the lack of knowledge

I pour out myself, desperate to revel not in my own understanding but in an unshakeable trust in My Creator.

Sing me an ode, a ballad or give an eulogy but this life I’ve got now has calls only I can make.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

In the Eclipse……

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“The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?” – Oscar Wilde

I remember vaguely the first time I witnessed a solar eclipse, and though there had been the usual fore-warnings, it still seemed very eerie. Suddenly but gradually watching the day turn to night and feeling as though time was standing still. I recollect wondering if that was how the end of the world would look like however several years later, with the benefit of knowledge and the chances I encountered, I know with absolute certainty that we will never tell what the future holds but we can with absolute certainty live our lives each day as though it were our last.

In the space of three days, I have sadly witnessed the passing on of three lives – three individuals who at different stages of my life left an impression on me. Even as I write now, it is still almost unreal however I know how fleeting life can be and how with the appropriate knowledge, we can make our lives at the very least count for something. A high school mate in his 40s, leaving behind a wife and two little kids. An amazing pastor in his 60s leaving behind a wife, two daughters and grandkids and most painful of all, a friend and sister succumbing to cancer just today. How do I feel? Shell-shocked and sorrowful but mourn them I will because it was indeed a privilege to have crossed paths and shared in each other’s life tales.

In the middle of the darkest phase of my life, when I was diagnosed with myoclonus dystonia, I remember how numbing it was to have my life turned upside down. And as I grappled with comprehending this major shift in my life, I desperately wanted to be left alone because I needed the time to process what life-transforming changes were taking place. Nonetheless, it is not unnatural to grieve but how we allow these moments of sheer grief and sorrow shape us is entirely up to each one of us. I remember how painful it was to lose everything that hitherto seemed priceless and begin to re-learn what the word priority meant and what things truly counted in life. I remember listening to the sermon titled ‘An ordinary life in the hands of an Extraordinary God!’ and bawling my eyes out as I sat unnoticed and brand new in Bethel London Riverside Church. For me, that was the beginning of another chapter of my life as I gradually began to make choices that counted for something.

That was where I met Pastor Ken Williamson; soft spoken and mild mannered along with a couple of others that I am truly honored to still call my friends. When I could barely afford the devastating fees associated with dystonia management, least of all muster the strength to feed myself, the church was there (a family of strangers bound together by the love of God) picking me up for service and dropping me off. Getting a welfare package regularly and getting to meet some of the nicest people on earth, I learned that it is really an awesome responsibility when your current location is but a vantage point that allows you see a need, because you see the need in order to attend to it. It is not all about money (that is a vital resource), it is the ability to put your storms/issues behind and stretch out a hand to someone else who is at the risk of succumbing to their own storm. Life is a journey whose distance we will never know and so how wise is it to ensure that each day is lived as an expression of gratitude to God as well as an expression of kindness to the lives we come across.

I remember vividly the first day I met Christina – jaunty and with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes and smile, clad in a simple black skirt and plaid shirt with tails tied together above her skirt. I remember how independent she always wanted to be, yet she never spared an ounce of kindness and concern wherever she was. That was the beginning of a relationship that would span a lifetime, through the good times and bad times. I remember being treated as a son by her parents, their house probably the only place I could get to without asking questions (I really suck with directions/navigation). I remember being there at the start of what would eventually be her marriage (recall her twinkly disbelieving laugh when I told her this was going to be it), and working very hard behind the scenes on her wedding day. Neither of us knowing where our paths would take us but completely eager to live a purposeful life.

And when my storms all but broke me down, she was there with me helping cater to the needs of my daughter and I. Selflessly setting her own issues afar and loving the best way only she could. And even when I got her to talk about her challenges, she did so with that unique style of making it sound as though it was nothing at all. A loyal friend, easy to talk with regardless of the thousands of miles that separated us – she was that friend who sticks closer than a brother. I remember the call, utter disbelief in her voice, informing me that she had been diagnosed with cancer. As always, I listened and together we encouraged ourselves, with me being the one with the ‘most’ experience. Reminding her that medical science can have its say but as long as we never give up, someday the eclipse would be over. Experience has taught me never to ask why because we actually lack the ability to comprehend even if we are privy to the answer. And when she told me that the doctors had said the chemotherapy was not working, I told her what I tell myself every morning – “this is my life and I choose to live it without surrendering!”

Today, I got the dreaded message and in this case, the third time wasn’t a charm in anyway. After a year of fighting hard, long after the date given by doctors, she finally succumbed and I envy her because I know for certain that she is finally rid of it all. She is in a place where there are no eclipses, where the horrifying grip of pain and anguish is not allowed….but still I mourn! I mourn because so many have intentionally deceived themselves into believing that money will get them the best boat, boats that have been certified ‘indestructible’ by men just like them. I mourn because amidst a world filled with hurting people, many intentionally turn a blind eye and when they are forced to see, their response is a torrent of meaningless ‘well-wishes’, copied prayers and total apathy. We will not be judged by what we have but rather what we have given, and someday when the inevitability of the end arrives, it will be clear what a life of misery and selfishness we have lived.

My battle is far from over but today I celebrate the lives of my friends whose giving has influenced who and where I am. I hoist aloft a banner of victory on their behalf, praying that when my time comes, someone will do the same for me. As I journey on with tattered sails, a battered vessel, I hear the voices rooting in my corner for me and the only option I choose is to pay it forward, regardless of recognition or reward. I choose to remember the words of William J.H. Boetcker that ‘the difficulties and struggles of today are but the price we must pay for the accomplishments and victories of tomorrow’ and so I press on even in the darkness of the eclipse, eyes searching out those who have all but given up. Giving a helping hand, listening ears and a piece of my bread so that together we will press on armed with the knowledge expressed by Elie Wiesel, ‘There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win!’

פרידה עד שנפגשנו שוב בתזמון שלו, וייתכן שאהבתו של אלוהים להיות אמיתית לך!

Adios!

The reverberation of silence…..

Standard

Silence!

“Be (known as) a person of persistence and endurance. One person with persistence, commitment and endurance will accomplish more than a thousand people with interest alone.” – J. Mason

When and where we are birthed is not a decision that provides room for our opinions to weigh in. We emerge, most times, angry at the doctor or nurse who swatted our bum while we also vociferously complain at the change in our residing address. That really does nothing to the process of childbirth and/or family building, we eventually get to accept (some of us pretty early and others pretty late) that there are things/events we can change and others that would be a manifestation of sheer naivety and wrongful application of energy were we to attempt changing them. That’s where serenity comes to play, giving us peace to go through those events we have no control over however wisdom is a prerequisite to enable us tell the difference.

I recall my first solo Christian outreach as a University graduate some 16years ago and was it an eye opener indeed. Not only did it satisfy my urge to go to new places but it also made me realize that entitlement is a unique word and not the very best to use in our common, everyday conversations. There I was, in a little village populated by about 100 families who had chosen to question the predominant religion. No schools, no water, no electricity but all around them these same ‘necessities’ were available to others, a reward for their conformity and reliable apprehension at rocking the boat. I juggled having summer classes, learning the language, helping on farms and talking about intangible treasures that are stoutly backed by infallible and unbreakable promises. Talking about streets of gold to someone who had never seen an asphalt road is not just a gigantic stretch in imagination but it also kindles hope, strength of purpose and incomprehensible peace.

Trust is something that is inevitable to life. From the moment you open your eyes to a new day to the moment you shut them at the end is a journey of faith. You unknowingly believe that you will live, you believe the atmosphere can sustain your respiratory system, you believe that your feet will hold you up……you believe without an iota of doubt because that’s what science says. Who made science? There is always a source, an origin if we choose to apply ourselves to searching however there will always be the plethora of unanswered questions that make life more of a mystery than just a monotonous exercise. And those unanswered questions, we believe will be answered someday. That in a nutshell was one of the minor reasons that made me enjoy my stay and plan another visit the next summer.

On the faces of children and adults, I could see contentment and unbridled joy because they chose not to dwell on their lack (they were not anticipating a turn around so soon or the coming of a messiah) but rather focus on The One who holds all of life in His hands. They could relate with that! They could relate with the fact that life in itself is a season, and just like every agricultural community, they understood seasons – every season begins and ends someday. From the starry eyed kids in their worn-out clothing to the fierce gleam of defiance in the eyes of adults, I learned that what we need the most in life is companions that are eager and willing to walk some way with us as we journey through life. And not just any company but the distinct few who walk in agreement with us, come rain or scorching heat. I learned the beauty of silence, not the silence of indifference and nonchalance, but the silence that brings the realization of our existence as humans devoid of all the frenzy of the big cities and wholly dependent on Our Creator.

Like Spinoza says, “no matter how thin a slice is, there will always be two sides.” We may choose to butter both sides and deal with ensuring we don’t get dirt on our faces and clothing or we may choose to be thankful for that slice regardless of the availability of butter or not. I recalled this life changing experience because once again, I’m embarking on something completely foreign to me as I grapple with dystonia. An entirely unprecedented chain of events for those who know me just a bit. However with a life as unique as mine, you develop the knack of ignoring the bumps (& associated pain) from the thrown lemons and focus on making some lemonade. It’s not just trying to survive (a puny task I dare to opine), it is instead recognizing the circumstance and adapting to ensure your purpose is not derailed. The purpose always counts, and what we put in today and tomorrow will always determine if we are striving for excellence or just pretending to enjoy (while cringing internally in absolute terror) the waters as we are hurled along in no direction by the strong currents of life.

…..and you are???

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – MLK Jr. No life can be lived in isolation and although we do not get to pick our families but we do get to pick our friends, and yet again we believe that most of them will be there for the long haul despite the occasional squabbles. The journey we all embark on will have its fair share of storms, and sometimes during those storms, what we crave the most from our friends is not just a deluge of words alone but sometimes that walm hand that is quietly slipped into your hand, reassuring you that you are not alone. So many times, we are so unsettled by the silence that we fail to see and appreciate how consistent and little our true friends are. Their actions are not preceded by a definitely not-so eloquent speech or a forwarded ‘do not break the chain’ prayer (insincere and bothersome). True friends are found in the silence.

However there will be those times when ego has even gone to ground (for fear of identifing with you) and your outstretched hand is completely ignored. It is in those times that silence, if permitted, becomes a complete set of percussion instruments all wailing in discordance. That is when silence becomes a banshee whose voice threatens your peace of mind. It is that silence that cuts the most deeply, leaving a wound that may seemingly never heal. And still, even as the silence reverberates all around you, there is still a choice to be made – give into the insanity that the cruel, intentional silence of friends offer or find that quiet place deep in the recesses of your mind where no hand can touch. Retreat there to ponder on the fact that life is a process and it is the approval and relationship of God that counts the most. On the many occasions when friends align with the enemy through their silence and it becomes nigh impossible to differentiate friend from foe, then you are forced to remind yourself that no man has a plan that makes total provision for you, it is then you just must find Him.

I learned from that first experience, even in the silence, beauty can still exist. When the words from the lips of companions are like the falling of brown leaves, lifeless, insincere and meaningless. When their gestures threaten to extinguish the sliver of light you have because their intent is not to act but to be seen as being active. It is in times like these that I cling fervently to the promises of a good God who is not man that He would dare cast shadow on His Word. I remember that it is not the seeming abundance (just provocatively beyond your grasp) around you that counts but the ability to bask in what you have been blessed with; hope, purpose and a destination, that is what counts when the silence descends on you.

Remember, We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!