The reverberation of silence…..

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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!

In the stillness…

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Be Still

There will always be that time when it seems like I can barely escape the shadows. When all else quietens, and the sound of my beating heart reverberates through the silence. It is in those times that I reminisce on the topsy turvy of the journey I call my life’s tale and find true beauty in the ashes.

From the plucky little chap in his bright shorts and shirt, tugging on the leash of my toy doggie; Snoopy. The world in all of its enormity, a conquest to be had with nothing looking remotely like an obstacle. I remember how much of a daredevil I was, mischief twinkling in my eyes with hands and feet that couldn’t stay still for long. Searching for and accepting the craziest dares, it looked like I was invisible but life is a mystery box and when jack pops up – it is either of two options, a heart attack or a rush of adrenaline. Regardless of how neatly life appeared, a neatly stacked line of dominoes, nothing really prepares you for the uncertainties.

Even through high school, when friends were made anew with a promise of always being there, life was like a walk in the amusement park with a pocketful of quarters. Never hungry or butt naked, every phase was a trail to attaining a milestone and life was truly beautiful. Sneaking through the pantry with mother’s catering books, whipping out pastries and trying out recipes, nothing could possibly have been better. However there’s always going to be that turn in the road, when visibility is so limited and despite how hard one tries, you cannot see beyond the turn. Stopping, getting down and re-evaluating is not always feasible especially when the thrill of the ride is euphoric.

I remember the concussion I suffered when in my haste (why I always ran is still unfathomable) I ran through the discus sector and got hit by the discus. I remember having my fair share of being picked on and childhood fights. I remember walking home in tattered clothes because my ‘experiment’ blew up in my face and gave me 2nd degree burns (earning the nickname Acidman). I remember being so sick only to find out I had weird allergies. I remember witnessing a nurturing home and loving relationship being torn apart by folly and the influence of wrong company. I remember my first automobile accident, tumbling over and over. I remember being shot at. I remember waking up one night unable to breathe, the race to the ER. I remember journeys to strange places and encounters best left unshared. …….but I survived because of God’s mercy and love.

I recall the university years, being the enigma to many even as I sought to stay true to myself. Plunging headfirst into as many events as I could, getting the down side of misplaced priorities when I chose to continue my internship despite the fact that lectures had commenced. Grateful for the fact that I could be the ear to those in need, a shoulder to cry on for the broken and the elixir for the depressed. Life was beautiful indeed and with the mixture of highs and low, exhilarating describes it best. Graduating from university and going off to the unknown, I knew I would survive because that was just who I was. A blend of healthy spiritual fundamentals and a healthy body, I blossomed within an awesome relationship with God. I was prepared for anything!

Commencing my work career, I thought I had it all planned out and even when I dropped the white collar job for a stint in the military, the confusions of many was the least of my worries. Parenthood was another season and as always I had it all planned out in my head. Setting up a trust for tuition, acquiring what I wanted, it was all going well but it’s in our nature to plan however it is God who decides. Knowing I had that relationship served as a buffer when things went south occasionally, however I had been raised to believe in myself and so I always did. Just when it seemed like I had it all together, life happened. Series of events that I never imagined started unfolding bringing to fore the idiom, ‘when it rains, it pours!’

The culmination of a life in tatters was in December 2011, all around me that carefully built life in heaps of wreckage and just like a skilled burglar, night had suddenly and swiftly crept up on me. Struggling with those fiercely entwining tendrils of darkness, it was a struggle to make head of it all. And each time, I chose to head for the light, the darkness just got longer. This was no medical condition, this was my life now, almost completely subjected to the dictates of the rare, incurable neurological condition termed dystonia. Then it hit me right in the gut; there were no voices lifted in celebration to be heard, no hand to lift me up, no strength to light a match. This was now my life, like a pariah condemned to dwell outside the city walls, isolation was a welcome thing. However, we are a result of our choices and so I learned to bargain with an adroitness I never knew existed. Learned to lace my own shoes with brow furrowed in pain, every little gesture a battle of wits, things previously taken for granted were now things I had to relearn. Circumventing steps to conserve my little energy, being the object of compassion either as I was wheeled in a chair or as I struggled to make my way home leaning heavily on my cane.

In the stillness, my eyes slowly adapted to the darkness and my ears became attuned to the groans of those fallen around me. This was my life but still there was a purpose to it and regardless of the absence of ‘friends’ or ‘family’, one truth stood out; this was my life and so every choice I made had to count. When the cold hands of depression sought to console me, I chose to shrug them off and in the stillness, I found hope that I hitherto believed was lost. I found friends who became brothers and I realized that purpose is not shaped by your experiences rather it is given more clarity during those experiences. Today, I am not just a survivor but I am a victor because even though I have been scorched by the flames, I am now stronger just by the process of walking through the raging flames.

It is in the stillness that you learn some of the hardest lessons, letting go of pride and ambition whilst embracing compassion and aspiration. It is in the stillness that I have learned that my life is not dictated by the size of material wealth but by the riches of intangible values. It is in the stillness, empathy assumes meaning and pain can be shared. I have known abundance and lack, however I have also learned that contentment is wanting what you have, kindness is giving when all else is screaming, ‘save for the rainy day’. It is in the stillness that I have learned that it is better standing in the rain with a friend or someone in need than struggling not to get wet beneath a poncho. In the stillness, I have learned what true strength is, what trusting God means and what living actually means.

Sticks, stones and words will hurt but the resilience of the human spirit is so much more greater. That is what will define you when all else has gone silent. That is what nothing can take away from you except you choose to let it go. It is all about the stillness….

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

CEO, Inspiration Inc…..

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To start with a rueful comment about how frustrating writing can get is right about apt because how else could I tag the emotions I felt 7 hours ago? Finished up a piece and was putting on the bells and whistles, suddenly Shazam!it’s gone and when the device in use is my back-up, suddenly the realization of how much I miss my laptop is suddenly brought to the fore…..Oh well, since I do not want to ‘join’ the vanished piece then I guess the best course of action is to shut down, call a time-out and welcome the new day. That I would categorize as being one of the unsavory duties of a CEO, there is no other table for the buck to go to. This event along with the ones happening in recent times make me question how busier can living be? How can I live without writing? It started off being an avenue to channel all the hurt, bitterness and resentment in a positive way but now it is becoming a vital part of who I am daily.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those men who dream in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the morning to find it was but vanity but those men who dream by day – these are dangerous men, for they dream with open eyes to make their dreams comes true.” – T.E Lawrence. Right off the top of that, I think I class myself as being ‘dangerous’ and were it not for the constraints of dystonia, I probably would have pursued a career in which danger played a huge role. Why? Danger lurks around every corner so why not best it as quickly and as often as you can however it is essential that you know yourself – stick to the shallow side of the pool if that’s the extent to which you can push yourself.

I have since learned not to view myself as strange whenever I tell people that I do not dream (and this is whenever I am able to wrestle insomnia to submission) but dreaming due to the heavy influence of lofty aspirations and objectives, that therein is a totally different subject matter. This is what I do when life chucks lemonades at me, I pick myself up, ignore the bruises and welts and find the nearest food processor and make some lemonades (summer is fast approaching anyway). Although turning and tossing, watching the hours slip by elusively is no fun but rather than give in to grumpiness and full-blown irritation, I dream and then act because I know time is no servant of any creation. Developing that uncanny ability of identifying the pros and cons is not very difficult but transforming the cons to pros is where the heavy lifting is done. Can all men dream? Most definitely! Can all embark on making those dreams come true? That is a question best posed and answered by individuals whose lives are greatly determined by their personal choices.

Some weeks ago, I posted something on social media and one of the many comments (in interpretation and in literal candor) was ‘you are an inspiration!’. Well dystonia or not, compliments are a pretty good boost to one’s psyche however over the years, I have somewhat become adept at separating the default comments from the sincere, unreserved comments. Now I do get to hear that comment frequently but for some reason, this particular day’s comment got the huge wheels in my head churning (which is something I try very hard to avoid because of the adverse consequences, it is so wearying getting them to stop) and I alluded to the fact that inspiration is a lifetime career with a lot of pomp and allure but ironically no financial remuneration. Oh, that sounds really grim especially when today’s world operates on the measure of tangible wealth that translates to an individual’s net worth. I do opine however (and most assuredly this is not borne from a place of lack) that if we were to tag everything in our lives with a physical cost, that would be utter shameful because then it would be most uncomfortable explaining why many lives are constantly in the red.

I remember that during those ‘ship-up or ship-out’ regular exercises as a growing child, one of the oft repeated phrased associated with those exercises was, ‘this exercise will help stop you from behaving like a gutter bred child!’ It took me a couple of years to completely decipher the meaning especially since it was associated with those frequent exercises and despite the fact that I truly was a ferocious reader and hungry for idioms and definitions but even those were not strong enough motives to ask a visibly upset parent to explain what that phrase meant. In the acquisition of knowledge, seeking the truth and/or definition yourself usually is the best way to go because when you do get the meaning, you somewhat get a personal patent that ensures nobody can take it away from you. And so attempting to tag a price to everything we do is akin to behaving like a gutter bred child, however the gutter has never been ranked on the list of suitable accommodation for humans. So get the heck out if you think you are in one or have been told most of your life that the gutter is where you deserve to be.

Every new day, I am thankful for the countless opportunities to be inspired by the lives and events that occur around me but most especially I am inspired by the false facade that many put up because when you just genuinely show some humanity, then you are confronted by the turmoils that many face and are trying to hide from by concealing them beneath this thin veneer. Just as the trickle on the surface of an aging dam is a sure sign of the torrent that will follow closely, so is the certainty that someday that facade will crumble underneath the pressure of trying to avoid charting your own path. It takes little or nothing to travel on a well worn path but remember that just as our DNA varies so do our purposes and so investing energy into determining your own purpose amidst the jungle of society and swinging at it with a machete will ensure that you forge your own path and help another begin theirs. We are all interwoven at some stage in life and we may begin together but remember that ‘in life, we meet to part and part to meet’

Life is an exercise in attaining balance; giving vs receiving, listening vs talking, empathy vs cynicism, kindness vs cruelty…the list goes on and at every milestone we attain in life, we must choose what side we want to be on. Seeking ensures finding, asking ensures knowing and knocking ensures access to doors we hitherto presumed were non-existent. It is no easy feat living your life but jumping on the band wagon is not an option because you really have no say as to the direction of the wagon. Being an inspiration means that more often than we think, we give a fellow traveler some company for some distance but then she/he must veer off when the time comes. Sprawled on the canvas of a boxing ring after a flurry of jabs, hooks and flush upper cuts does not give me the license to remain there and be counted out and so despite the urge to remain there, I must get to my feet and give it all I have got and some. And even when it is just the rings that are keeping me upright, there is a person or two out there who can truly draw strength from your fight, so keep at it until the bell rings.

With every new day, I strive to push myself just a tad more than I did yesterday and even when my body is playing out a symphony of agony and pain, that is not enough reason for me to stop, I just have to rest a while and then forge on. And when the inevitable opportunity of meeting a fellow traveler down on his back shows up, I will yet lend him an arm and pull him up. With arms interlocked, feet struggling to keep going, I can still whistle up a jaunty tune to make those moments worthwhile. We are a sum total of many parts and lives, and so to everyone who has played some role in my story, I say, “thank you for being an inspiration!” Because although today seems like it could be my last, I know with certainty that my destination is a place where the constraints of this feeble body will be no more. And so I apply myself as much as I can, without the lurking shadow of doubt to scare me, knowing fully well that ’tis but one chance I have got and so regardless of the cards in my hand, I will do the best I can with them.

Remember that “the real measure of one’s wealth is how much we would be worth if we lost all our money” – Zig Ziglar. Now that is a tough pill to swallow but as long as we remain adrift on the sea of life, we must acknowledge that time and chance happens to all.

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

Adios!

The Flip Side…..

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Age, my dad once said(still hear him) is a matter of the mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Now that I’m on the back end of my race, I appreciate the wisdom within those words however reality bites just when you think you are all alone. It’s the wee hours of my birthday and it’s quite surreal because the silence of the night can either be unnerving or welcome. For me, it has always been the latter and the ticking of the clock reminds me that time inevitably continues its passage and with its passage comes the realization that being alone is not always dreary or boring. I do apologize for the long break however writing without a suitable device can be a turn-off.

I have absolutely no regrets because every time life tries to make me accede to regrets, I choose instead to see a learning point. My life sometimes feels like a hospital corridor, busy during the day and as the day winds down so does the traffic till eventually it is just devoid of human presence. The flip side is not the predictability but rather the incongruous relationship between the interaction that occurs during the day and the silence of the night to muse over. So much to muse about and quite a lot probably still left to do however I’ve learned that life is best lived when you acknowledge that all we have is a collection of moments. Some seized hurriedly, others like the fermenting of wine gradually but surely assuming shape and content.

Contentment is one of those words that should not be used lightly because you can put up a facade resembling it and yet without an iota of doubt, you know that much effort can be applied to things that really do not matter. The worst thing a man can do to himself is convince himself fo believe in a made-up lie. Does the sun cast its warmth and glow on a select few? Do the stars twinkle for just a select few? No, it is our choices in response to the fluid constants of life that determines how much we are committed to being purposeful. Does time and the light of day wait for the man who slumbers all day? Undeniably, he who chooses to toil at night most likely has his own reasons.

I am thankful for the lives I’ve been blessed to encounter. Grateful for the opportunity to empathize with those who continuously battle the demon hordes of sickness, pain and death. To every season, there is always the start and the finish. Where you decide to stack your chips is a choice you have to make yourself otherwise you face an absolutely horrifying life of trying unsuccessfully to make sense of the choices you inadvertently allowed others make for you. I made my own choices and true, not all were right however I did it my own way. There is truly beauty in brokenness and as long as I put the brokenness in retrospect, I can focus on the beauty.

For me, this is a new year and today as always, I reassess and reevaluate, not for lack of activities but rather to ensure that I am still aligned with my identity and purpose. I know that there can be no darkness without light, so I choose to look for the light even when the darkness threatens to overwhelm me. It will never be about how far but rather how well and with that in mind, I choose to wear myself out as against rusting out. No man, to the best of my puny knowledge, has had it all nicely put together like a rubic cube. Regardless of the roughness or smoothness of my path, I choose to make it a path well walked and with every new day, I choose not to give up. And when those times come again when I’m all alone (because they must surely come), I can encourage myself by saying, “I did it my own way!”

Adios!

Staying True…..

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Staying True

In a few weeks, we will be saying farewell to 2017 and ushering in, with bated breaths and the hope of better things to come, a brand new year. And again as usual, many journals, note pads et al will be whipped out so that the annual yet publicly unrecognized event of New Year Resolution writing will begin. For me, it is a time of evaluation, assessment and preparation because what future will there be to look forward to if we are still perplexed as to our purpose here on earth. Has the dystonia been cured? Nope! Are there new proven medical approaches towards ending this relentless battle with dystonia? Not to my knowledge but the ultimate question I ask myself is “what was there to be thankful for?” And my answer is, much more than I anticipated because it is really not about if my eggs were scrambled right or my account balance is quite ‘attractive’, it is about realizing that I have been through 365 days and still standing.

I recently unearthed my quotes book from one of my many traveling bags, brown and well thumbed, ink slightly fading (thank God I used red and green ink) and the first question my daughter asks me is, “Daddy, can I keep it?”……..Uhmmm! Of course not, you have more writing and reading materials that I had at your age but in that brief exchange, I can truly be grateful for the prayers answered, those pending and those that I received when I didn’t ask for. It is weird when people are taken aback at how leisurely I handle some stuff but then there is always a back story, and it is within those stories that life lessons are passed down from generation to generation. I am not a witness to any man-made life transforming physical attribute, the emergence of an Adonis or the perfect being but I am and will be a witness to the countless things that we take for granted because we are in our carefully carved out comfort zones.

I am thankful for the many friends that have passed through my life, some still there for the long haul while others have moved on as their life purposes direct them. I want to without permission talk about the relationships that have left indelible marks on who I am becoming and as I write I cannot help but marvel at the laurel, awards, certificates that bear my child’s name because she represents the next generation and whilst there is breath in my lungs, together we will journey for as long as I can and even when the wagon wheels fall off and I am unable to put them back on, I know that there’s help just around the corner. One thing I do not mind telling her everyday is that she is not an option but a priority and I am thoroughly stoked that we journey together and when the time comes for her to leave the nest or for me to transition to grander lodgings, I will proclaim that I do not have any regrets.

For me, regrets are an admission of not being able to retrieve a learning point from every experience and like I tell my few friends, I have seen more than my fair share of curved balls. And so it is not about how hard the balls hit but what they made me acknowledge even as I move on. Photography will always be a hobby of mine and even though it is becoming increasingly difficult to engage in it as much as I would want to but the stories that my pictures tell are worth lifetimes. It is in the brief or prolonged encounter that I have had with the lives that I have been greatly privileged to meet that make me truly say I have no regrets and to a great extent, I have stayed true to who I am, which is just another way of saying that I have tried to walk the paths laid out and defined for me by God. He truly is the bane of truth and no compelling discourse will change the foundations upon which I have built my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove through the night with tears cascading down my cheeks because no matter how many tough storms you have been through, the reality is that each storm actually reveals layers that you might never have known existed. And I have learned that even when you are down, you will always find strength to reach out to a friend who is desperately in need. In my opinion, there are those people who for some unfathomable reason are unable to grasp how important they have been to me and so it is not uncommon to tell people that I love them just for who they are. And so the tears were for a friend who is counting down the days to a miracle or to a transition to loftier dwellings. I have since learned the futility of asking why does it seem that bad things happen to good people because I have also realized that it is because those events are suited for a particular cadre of people, who do not even know their own strengths and so inadvertently it is not so much about bad things happening but the evolution and growth of truly unique individuals.

Keep hope alive

I know first hand, what a torrent of feelings you experience when you are told that the medical issue that you have persistently battled with is not going away. It almost seems like a black hole has just opened up in front of you and is desperately tugging at you but what if you refuse to give in and just fight. Sometimes every other person will tell you that it is pointless to do however remember that people did not give up on you, and so even if it’s seeming like your twilight has come, remember that the choice is ours to create memories that will not be so easily forgotten. Even when you are being pummeled and the obvious option is to just give in, remember that there are lives around you and regardless of the time of day, hope is like a little flame that shines through the darkness that seemingly grows in magnitude every day. I may not be as mobile as I used to be however when I realize with stunning clarity the countless privileges I have received, the least I can do is to pay it forward. And so even when it hurts to smile, and you can can barely get up from your bed because the slightest pain causes you to break out in sweat, when it seems like curling up in the fetal position looks quite appropriate, let this fact not escape you – there’s something you can still do.

More often than not the battle of life rages in the mind and so its not about how many iron man competitions you have participated or how many marathons you have run or your ranking in obstacle races, when life hits you – the battlefield rages in your mind and yours only, and as long as you do not give in to the wilting of the mind by focusing on the horrifying monster in front of you, you can still be a beacon of hope. Hope that you live is hope that heals and you may have been written off by people but in the fullness of time, God always comes through on your behalf. That is a message that you must share because in all reality the world is increasingly becoming like the Dead Sea but the sliver of hope that you hold, the little spark of kinder can light someone else’s candle and so that in itself is a purpose and one thing I know is that one of the greatest gifts you can ever have is the opportunity to finish strong. Refuse to let the circumstances around you – the hair loss, the painful torquing of your spine, the inability to keep food down, the weight loss etc do not let them define you because I know you and I have loved every moment I spent with you.

Those moments where your laugh rang out, when your eyes twinkled in mischief, when your company was the only thing that kept me going – there is more than enough for me to treasure you forever. And when you hear that the chemotherapy is not working and your life is reduced to the slowly running out sand in the hourglass, stay true because you may not have gotten all the gifts others take for granted but you still have time to share the tale of a walk with God or the life transforming event that has over the years given you the grace to press on. When the finish line looms ahead, be thankful for being able to run this race, be thankful that you chose to be you because that is who God made. We will never in all entirety have all the answers but there is a certainty that cannot be questioned and that is you were made for a purpose. Cancer may be wreaking havoc in this fragile body but I am glad that I ran alongside with you, I am glad for the sacrifices you made but above all I am glad for the love that we shared, the conflicts we had, the disagreements etc because I can say that I lived amongst angels. This for me is not an eulogy and yes every loss requires grieving however I choose not to dwell on the inevitability of saying farewell because we part today to meet again in a place where sickness, stress, loss, sorrow cannot dwell.

As the night star shines brightly, that is what you will always be to me – an angel, a bright star. Like the balance scale, good will always triumph over evil and even if we do not experience the victory physically, we know without an iota of doubt that there is a future that awaits us where treasure that cannot be defiled by man lies in store for us. A place where man’s opinion does not count, where there are no pity parties – that is the ultimate hope that we have, that’s something that no sickness or nightmarish conditions can take from us and as long as we breathe, every breath is an offering of thanksgiving to a Creator whose best cannot be grasped by our feeble minds. And when the breath ceases, we know for sure that the finish line has been breasted because it is not about how far but how well. Today is a day that I am thankful for and despite the inexplicable relapses that have plagued me in recent weeks, I am still standing and obviously not on my own strength (heck I can barely walk 500 feet without stifling the cry of agony) but on The Source that is inexhaustible, for that I am thankful.

“The great miraculous bell of translucent ice is suspended in mid-air. It rings to announce endings and beginnings. And it rings because there is fresh promise and wonder in the skies. Its clear tones resound in the placid silence of the winter day, and echo long into the silver-blue serenity of night. The bell can only be seen at the turning of the year, when the days wind down into nothing, and get ready to march out again. When you hear the bell, you feel a tug at your heart. It is your immortal inspiration.” – Vera Naz

פרידה עד שנפגש שוב בתזמון שלו עצמו

Adios!

Out on a limb….

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Out on a limb

Every action is preceded by a desire, and without mincing words or trying to fancy paint it, I really wish I could be more determined to more regularly writing. However, there is the inevitable issue of life and its unpredictability, and just having to navigate each day is a victory all by itself. It is another Wednesday; my own personal holiday and suffice me to say that while it is just another day in a week of days, it holds special value to me and along with experiences from the past, I chose long ago to make Wednesday my special day. From the viewpoint of someone who has worked in four continents, I have since realized that acknowledging that our bodies need rest is not a thing of shame because on the flip side, when we fail to acknowledge that, the long mounds of broken bodies littered along the road as we journey through life will definitely remind us that we just might end up as another broken body if we do not apply wisdom and caution.

One of my daily slogans is ‘life is all about moments and it is either we are bold enough to seize them (if we can but recognize them) or we spend the rest of our lives ruing those missed moments.’ Last week, I was at the hospital again for my bi-annual routine check-up and this is really always a big deal because I don’t like hospitals or crowded places at such (it is a proven trigger for a Dystonic episode). Now what makes this particular visit special was that it was to have taken place in the first quarter of the year but when you are confronted by bills of all shapes and sizes, the associated cost of just living a life especially one like mine that is rife with special needs, you need to be very careful about what you bite and chew. In line with the uniqueness of this visit, whenever the reminder popped up on my calendar, it was almost natural to cancel and reschedule whilst believing that the funds for yet another expense would be made available as promised by God. And so, I kept on rescheduling, even when I knew from the warning signs of my body that this was not an event that should be placed in the category of ‘to be done during leisure’. And then there is that niggling voice that keeps on nagging you about the growing changes associated with the journey of one battling dystonia, that I sort of had to belatedly admit to myself that faith is not an easy activity. In the words borrowed from my devotional, it is going out on a limb.

Oh the joy of childhood, when there were no bills to pay, no accounts to balance, no praying for the kids, nigh on zero responsibility save for that of ensuring you came home with an academic result. Not just any result but one that would like a grand jury, justify to my parents that the legacy of good education was properly being bequeathed to me and that I also properly understood that even though as my parents, they were obligated to invest in me but I also had to hold up my own part of the bargain. And so in the summer holidays, during those long trips to my (actually paternally influenced) hometown, there was always that giddy headiness of being free to run around more (just a bit more than was ordinarily allowed). Not that I was allowed to run riot, far from my imagination anyway, but there was just that teeny weeny bit of slack with regards to the daily structured regimen of waking up early, diving straight (still half asleep) into family devotion and then off to the races; daily chores, prepping for school, school itself (and the added but necessary skill of avoiding being bullied by senior students), home (lunch, siesta and homework), preparing the family meal (I was responsible for Wednesdays and Saturdays), more study, night devotion and bedtime (with the regular foray at night into the sitting room to watch the late night movie while everybody was asleep). Childhood was fun and just adds credence to the truth that we should be childlike in our walk with God, not childish but child-like.

Today, I still find it amazing that I have never broken a bone (or maybe I do not remember breaking one) because I still remember how swanky it looked with an arm in a sling or a limb immobilized within a cast. Why the amazement? I was quite the plucky adventurous kid with a daring attitude that almost bordered on insanity – leaping off , balconies and buses just for the fun of it, accepting the dare to roll under dump trucks as they were passing and for my grand finale; almost burning down my high school science laboratory and myself because I was surrounded by all types of acid reagents, no teacher and the curiosity that has killed many cats (after-all Sir Newton, Robert Hooke, Henry Le Chatelier, K.F Braun allowed that curiosity to drive them into becoming science legends). Mine was a childhood that was far from being uneventful, but my dabbling into my memory cauldron is specific: remembering how beautiful life was when the trees bloomed with fruits. I remember learning how to scurry up a tree, adrenaline dousing the pain of the grazes, scratches and the occasional wasp bite just to get out on that limb in order to reach and retrieve the fat juicy mango, guava or Indian almond. The objective was the fruit at the end of that tree limb that was somehow so hidden that attempting to pluck it by hurling stones, twigs et al was an exercise in futility, and regardless of how tiny the limb looked, getting the fruit was all that mattered at that moment in time. Oh, I remember how many times the limb snapped because of my added weight but the stars that swung around in my head after the fall was nothing compared to the fruit in my hand. That was what childhood encompassed; learning how to be street savvy, learning what my interests and dislikes were, learning that each of us is as distinct as the stars in the sky and learning that loyalty, blind trust in God, faith that good will always trounce evil and relationships were values that each person needed to learn in preparation for the life ahead.

Faith is....Doing!

And so today, when it seems as though my responses to life’s challenges are extraordinary, it is just an embellishment of the truth that the best laid plans are those laid by God. I am simply an ordinary bloke in the hands of an extraordinary God, with each day another opportunity to just trust God and get out on that limb. As I got myself ready for my neurologist, I asked (with bated breath) Amanda at the front desk/window, “how much would this consult cost because at the moment, I do not have any insurance?” Her response was matter of factly delivered without even looking up and since the option of paying by check was available, I opted for that, believing that before they cashed the check, I would have the funds ready. I have always maintained that I believe that I’ve got the best neurologist in the world and so as the consult went on, every new change discussed and medication reviewed, I just voiced out how difficult it was getting any form of meaningful medical assistance especially for people living with rare conditions. That was immediately acquiesced by her and then she asked how much I was charged, now that right there is a rarity because most doctors are completely unaware of the fine details of billing. In response to my answer, she said she would go see what could be done because naturally she always wants to know what activities (especially in terms of income)I am engaged in with respect to the symptoms associated with the horrendous fiend known as dystonia. Suffice me to say that as I exited the consulting room and went to get the next appointment date, the bill had been reduced by 45%!!!

Now it is not all about me, however I can only share my own experiences and that moment (the entire consult) was literally me going out on a limb not because I knew I could wheedle some discount but because I am reassured each day that as I long as I remember that the battle’s victory is not defined by the parameters of strength and might, nor is the the race victory defined by the swiftness of feet then I know that His mercies and provisions are there for the asking. Most assuredly, I say that being logical is one of my strengths but when it comes to just waking up each day and living life, I refuse to allow myself be restrained by the limits of logic. As long as I see a need, I am convinced beyond all doubts that there is something I can do; it is not always about the material things you can give rather it is those intangible things that you give when the material is lacking that make the most meaning. Just having the time to listen to someone else going through a storm might just be what is needed to get the bilge pumps turned on and subsequently prevent his vessel from going under. Most times, we fail to admit that we don’t always know the answers, heck we do not even know what the next moment holds for anybody but we can acknowledge that in the effort lies victory and sometimes that victory is right at the end of that limb. All we need do is step out on that limb! You can drive yourself crazy by applying all known theories, calculating the relationship between our body weight (oh remember that also involves getting a scale etc) and the physical traits of the branch but until we stop and put aside the white board, the text books, the calculators, we are just just going to remain at one end engaged in pointless reasoning and failing to realize that we are not even moving. And if we are not moving then how can our steps be guided? If our steps are not guided, then how do we know that we are not just wandering around in tiny circles? Seeing the same things every day and not even aware they are the same things because we are so preoccupied with attempting to solve things using our puny brain and brawn.

Today is another new day, another rare opportunity to make our lives count for something. Staying all swaddled up in the ‘security’ of our comfort zones is not it because remember that the rain falls on both the good and the bad so who says that where you are today and the accompanying luxuries are yours to keep forever? It never ceases to amaze me when I am confronted by ‘experts’ with their fail-safe solutions prattling non-stop and inadvertently gloating also. The neurosurgeon says that Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is the answer to dystonia and my follow-up question is have you undergone the procedure? Do you have dystonia? Hold on for just a second and listen because wisdom is not exclusively categorized by how old you are. We do not create, neither do we hold the plans and answers but what we have are a pair of hands and a pair of ears and my self recommendation each day that I am blessed to see is that I ensure that I use what I have been blessed with to bless just one other person. Remember that it is impossible to change the world we live in at once but we can start that change by beginning with ourselves and letting others see that change because whether you choose to admit or not, someone is watching you. Be less of a talker and more of a doer because doers evoke change and everyone needs some respite from a world that has suddenly been besieged by a horde of talkers who have completed murdered their ability to listen. Kindly stop!….and just get out on that limb, that is the very least you owe yourself.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

Rocking the boat….

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The capacity of the human brain is a gigantic expanse and a mystery that will never be fully understood by man. Sometimes, I find myself saying things that I honestly do not remember hearing but on the other hand there are those things that were  drummed into my head while growing up that I wouldn’t lose a moment’s sleep (I really sincerely wish for that) if it was suddenly revealed that I used to say it in my sleep, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” That was one of the first proverbial statements I heard as a child especially when I was shirking doing something important and relevant, the abject truth is that even without being stolen, time like the ponderous ferry making its way across the lake, is slowly but steadily leaving in its wake so many dreams, unfulfilled purposes and quite a large number of unmarked headstones. We have slowly but surely become creations of our own flawed and erroneous concepts and sadly, the stench of decay has almost lost its noxious fumes because it is no longer offensive but actually more familiar as we cave in daily to the mounting pressures of life and its frenzied minions. “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness” – Charles Spurgeon. There is more effort put into just existing than actually living, with the resultant effect being that inadvertently, many of us have actually crossed off happiness on our to-do lists. The natural reaction of the human body is fight or flee but these days, lives have been so beaten down that a frightening insensitivity to what is happening around us is beginning to set in. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was honored to be invited to sit on a panel of highly articulate Christian individuals at a growing Singles’ Group; The Summit and over a period of four weeks, there was ample room to share and learn candid, practicable approaches to dealing with issues relating to living a Christian life in a society that has insidiously replaced stunning virtues with an alternate antonym cunningly masked as synonyms. One of the very first questions asked was if there was actually a difference between compromise and tolerance especially in today’s world where we must allow every thought conjured in the heart of man to be given free reign all in the name of tolerance. For me, I am finding it all the more difficult acknowledging that the silver cord is loosed, that the golden bowl is broken, that the wheel has truly been broken at the cistern and so it is becoming alarmingly difficult to draw up water (which constitutes 70% of our body) from the cistern when the wheel is broken. But hold on, life seems to have continued and at a truly accelerated pace – what fuels such activities? Why are there more debilitating medical conditions than ever before? What of the incessant need to acquire more knowledge that is in no way related to alleviating the sordid conditions we live in? How on earth can you be in a boat on the sea of life and hope, with fists clenched and teeth set, that we dare not rock the boat? How does one progress if one is unwilling to move because of the fear of bucking the system. We can tolerate because we are each on a different path with different purposes, throw in the mix of our background, upbringing and beliefs and tolerance just has to be, ‘Seek to be at peace with all men…”. Compromising on the other hand is a complete wilting of the very fundamentals that should make us distinct, the question that begs answering is when are we going to look up and see the mess that we have inadvertently set ourselves in just because we were too afraid to be different. 

Completely undercutting ourselves at the knee and wondering why we are hobbling on inappropriate crutches is no longer a point of concern, we just allow ourselves be swept along with the tide, after all that is a path of no resistance. Allowing our homes to become a continuation of the chaos that is seemingly thriving daily on the outside as we scurry about in the day and night money-chasing and hoping that somehow there can be an eclipse that will keep us hidden from the world we live in. If our foundations are being closely inspected and cracks are glaringly obvious, how long do we have before our lives come crashing down like a poorly stacked pile of dominoes? Who do we have to blame now because we blamed it on the rain in the 90s and the pool of blame options has so rapidly shrunk that we are faced with a grainy image of our features in a little puddle on our path, where we have started finding ‘comfort’ sprawled out like an inebriated teen on a Friday night. One thing I have learned through the years is that the first time to be knocked to the ground, trying to rise up is always a difficult ordeal but as we develop an immunity and a predilection for staying on the ground especially when a bully is standing over us, it almost seems that staying on the ground is where you are actually meant to be – and nothing can be further from the truth than that. We are creations of God’s love and Pleasure and the ground is rarely where the pleasure is. However, in order to enjoy the pleasures, we must first believe that there are unimaginable pleasures that lie just ahead of us and with that shield of faith, we must apply those aching muscles into getting to our feet. “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading” – Oswald Chambers

I am rarely moved to talk about the many personal videos I receive from social media but this one just literally became that straw that broke the camel’s back. I am going to share the story of a courageous lady who put up a video (I rarely watch them because so many are just a waste of time due to the lack of content). The first thing I noticed in the video was how distraught she was and that just spurred me to keep on watching, I kid you not when I say I felt really awful at the end of the video. Now I am in no way calling for a boycott or attempting to tarnish any image but it is the reality of the life that we currently live in. This courageous doctor, a widow who had lost her husband during his 20-year military service to his country, was aboard a flight and observed that a fallen soldier was being escorted home for burial. And like many of the greatest ideas that have marked our evolution, she had the urge to (and yielded completely) go around the aircraft cabin in mid-air asking complete strangers if they would not mind joining her to sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ as a way of honoring the fallen soldier and his military escort as they made their way home where he would be laid to rest. One of the things I truly believe in is that when you lose that ability to feel shame then it’s time to give out whatever meager possessions you might have amassed because that is a life not worth living. And even before Dr Pam Gaudry uttered how thoroughly ashamed she was, anyone watching it could feel the shame she felt…..after going round the aircraft and politely asking if people could join her (of course there were the nays, that’s what makes life unique), she returned to her seat buoyed by the number of affirmative responses she received and glad that she could just maybe inject some hope in what seemed like a hopeless situation.

A few minutes into the descent, she was approached by the Head Flight Stewardess (Cabin Crew team lead) and told that she could not sing the US Anthem aboard a US airline within US airspace because it was ‘against company policy’ and as she battled with that stunning piece of revelatory information, her question was what would happen to to all those who had without a thought acquiesced to her appeal. Again, in the face of so much uncertainty in t his era of not rocking the boat, she wrestled with the possible outcome if she dared disobeyed the stewardess’ curt warning and of course time waits for no man, so whilst she battled with disobeying an ‘authority’, the aircraft landed and the fallen soldier and his escort were swiftly whisked off the the aircraft. The opportunity was gone, never to repeat itself again, and it was the shame of being compelled to constrain her freedom that was tearing this unique lady apart. I reached out to her and in very clear and certain terms, I told her that it was not courage she lacked – how else would you describe going from seat to seat on an aircraft in mid-flight asking strangers if they would be willing to join her sing the US Anthem, it was the fact that we have become so convoluted as a society that wrong becomes right in the name of compromise. Now that brief video clip got me out of bed even though I meant to take the day off recuperating from the activities of the previous day and feeling the cold, unfeeling hands of Dystonia trying to stifle me. I am glad she posted that video because it gave me a boost to persist even when it seems like I stand alone, because in reality you are never alone – you might not enjoy the physical presence of a fellow sojourner who grapples with similar circumstances but all across time and space, we are bound together not by the shackles of an unknown disease but by the persistence to be different, stand strong in our battles and be proud about it even when we are told that liberty has its limits.


I look around today and cease contemplating how we got ourselves into this quagmire of selfishness and total lack of feeling for the chap next to us, instead I have realized that it serves me better when I can bring a smile to someone other than myself. Let us remember how small we will be, wrapped up in ourselves when there are over 6 billion individuals going through their own hoops and for those who have wrapped themselves in the cocoon of invisisibility, take heed lest you become the Emperor with no clothes on. You might be actually be the only person marooned in your fantasy world because the crowd currently chanting your name will disappear in a puff of smoke when the scales fall of your eyes and you realize that you and you alone have been both the king as well as the court jester. I always opine that it is never too late to begin again however the truth is that you just might be at the end of your journey and what a woeful life it would be that you spent the entirety of your years clamouring for and getting drunk on the cheap accolades of people with no vision or knowledge. It is the beginning of a new day, it is the beginning of making choices that truly count for eternity as against laying sprawled out and hoisted by the naive. I have tasted the sweetness of abundance and dwelt in the caverns of despondency, and today as I take the time to make choices that either make me a better teacher or a better student, I am grateful that there is only One whose summons are my priorities and it is to Him alone that I look unto for the strength to be different. For me, that is what keeps me going each day, faith that regardless of the bleakness of the circumstance or the mirage that shimmers in the distance, He is working it out according to His best plans for me and so here or not – my thoughts are not solely focused on how broken I am but on the fact that even while broken I can be of use, that in itself is so much to live for.

Enough of the flimsy excuses and the fleeting delight in moments of fantasy, there is a path that beckons to me and while I still can, I choose to apply myself as much as I can…and some more, just to let you know that you are not alone. “The hardest thing to remember is that what we each really want is the truth of our lives, good or bad. Not rocking the boat is an illusion that can only be maintained by the unspoken agreement not to feel and in the long run it never really works. Let go of saving the boat and save the passengers instead” – Kenny Loggins

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!