….Stripped bare!

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Its eerily quiet, you can barely hear the wind whistling by but you can feel it surely. She stands all alone, you can sense the pain of loneliness, her feeling of raw emotion barely checked. It’s almost palpable; the despondency that she holds at bay even as she acknowledges the inevitability of her sorrow. Deep sorrow, coursing through her like the rivulets of a slow flowing stream but still she stands. Grasping with bruised knuckles, the rags of reality that barely cloaks her nudity….yet she stands with head upraised and that steely gleam of resilience in her eyes, because she knows. She acknowledges. She has been there before.

Its fall season, and very soon the biting cold of winter will creep in as surely as the sun shines. She stands unadorned of any finery, yet regal in her posture because she knows that what defines her is not what can be taken away by the whims of life. Like the elderly matriarch at family gatherings, she stands with outstretched arms still and not cowering in fear like all hope is lost. Every scar is visible to the eye, some as recent as today made by the very same that she had readily accommodated in their helplessness. As of today, they are all gone but she knows that in no distant future, some would still find solace beneath her boughs as soon as they encounter the  genuiness of her stability. There are no chirping birds, no scurrying animals, none of the lovebirds with their outspread blanket and picnic basket….they are all gone and even as they pass her, warmly ensconced in their bulky garments, they barely spare her a glance but she knows that despite being stripped bare, soon this season will end.

Below lies the foliage that once was the allure of all eyes, every leaf stripped off her not because she chose to but because life is a stage and we are all cast members, someday we will each have our time on stage and regardless of the role cast on us, we must make every moment count. Nothing can prepare you for the curved balls that life  throws at you but with discernment and past experiences, I know that life is a cycle. Sometimes just as you’re recovering from being sucker punched, you get blindsided yet again but with gritted teeth, teary eyes, you painfully draw in breath and stagger to your feet because you know that your place is not in the dirt. No matter how many times you get knocked down, arise you must or else your role will never be played and what a woeful tale that will be, that you lived a life without purpose.

Now to me personally, the Book of Job is a synopsis of life! Those very things that you once thought defined you could be taken away in an instant and then what would you be left with? Afterall fortunes are lost in the blink of an eye regardless of the safeguards carefully placed, because it never really was yours to keep in the very first place. What a shame if that’s all you are – the temporary possessions and provisions that have been leased to you for the benefit of others. Now some of you have never been knocked down and so with barely concealed contempt, you trot with disdain around those struggling through their knockdowns but I can assure you that life is like the four seasons and you must someday get to experience all the seasons…..and till you do, keep your tongue in cheek because you definitely cannot relate with that pain and anguish someone else might be going through. A life lived is one that is accompanied with precise choices, esteeming others higher than yourself as you make every day count for something.

To my friend struggling with medical issues, to the husband/wife who has been so viciously betrayed by their partner, to the parent with a seriously ailing child, to the addict refusing to give into withdrawal symptoms just for the brief pointless escape, to the chap who just lost his job and just had his only home foreclosed in the same day…..hear me, there’s a reason behind every season and at the very least, see beyond the pain of the instant because your experiences if you choose right will be the panacea to somebody else’s down the lane. How much wisdom can you impart if you have learned nothing or refused to learn? How much care and empathy can you show if you lack the warmth from having walked in those same shoes? Words are but a balm but when accompanied with the requisite action, they become an avenue for hope rekindled. How can you stir up flames from the burning embers of a dying fire if you have never kindled one yourself or known the cold from the lack of a fire?

Life is best lived when we make the right choices, and how do we know what choices exist if you have never encountered and overcome the despair of arriving at a crossroad? Whatever you may be passing through right now is just to strengthen you so that you in turn can strengthen another, for sorrow when shared is halved but joy shared is doubled. Learning to embrace yourself for who He says you are despite the season, is the beginning of a triumphant life. Learning to heal from the hurts of others actions is the beginning of a joyous walk in freedom. Now forgiveness is a divine ability however we do not have to seek it like the Golden Fleece because we were forgiven before we even acknowledged our erring ways. To forget the pain of betrayal, spite and abandonment might not come easy but as you embrace another down your own path, you etch deeper in your heart the knowledge that this is just a season.

Seek to cauterise that wound before it becomes gangrenous. The scars will not disappear but with time they become not just scars only but the marks of triumph gained through persistence and dependence on Him who’s made and called you for a purpose. With each knock down, you realise that rising up is not as difficult as it was the first time……and then you suddenly realise that there is still strength to help another to his feet. It begins with choosing to ignore the fair weather acquaintances  of fame, cheap accolades and sycophancy; and focus on those who are experiencing their own stripping, therein lies a worthier cause. Gather your garments around you and stand to your feet, let that gleam come alive in your eyes as you look around and become a conduit of hope and comfort to someone else.

Remember “Let us learn to appreciate there will be times when the trees will be bare, for then we can better appreciate the times when those trees will abound with fruits”

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

 Adios!

Second chances, One change…..

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Make that chance count!

 Make it count!

Separation is almost as applicable to man as is the desire for the achievement of set goals and dreams. When a man (or woman) is stripped bare of the fineries of material riches and geographical comfort, our response or reaction usually marks the distinguishing factor between individuals. I’ve had friends break away from glitz, glamour and fame just to go into isolation and rehab because the clarity of realisation suddenly dawns on them that there’s so much more to life than what today’s world offers. Am I inferring reclusion as being the best way of life? That I certainly am not doing….however I acknowledge that most times, change is preceded by separation or else how would you achieve any change by remaining in just that one spot?

I was recently faced with a friend’s dilemma (and when I say friend, I mean that he’s not just kicking cancer’s butt, but he is also one of the nicest and most modest people I’ve been blessed to meet). It was actually one of those ‘moments’ for me, when he told me that he’d been diagnosed with cancer, and yet you could see that he was committed to making every moment count each time we interacted.  It’s funny but the best perspectives are usually gotten from people who have had their fair share of life throwing both the kitchen sink and the entire plumbing at them. Now it’s more meaningful to me why he was so beat up when I recall our last conversation. He’s an instructor and as is the norm today, a basic requirement for any career/job/internship is the inevitable drug test. What was his dilemma? He just lost a couple of his bright student trainees because they failed their drug test/urine-analysis and he was so beat up about it because he felt that these people were trying to turn their life around and for some reason, the system would not let them.

Now that right there is the beauty of association, it offers a different perspective because when I heard the news, I took the well trodden path that people should assume responsibility for the consequences of their actions (more of harsh truth, less of tenderness…oops!). I opined that it is common knowledge that you must pass a drug test prior to being accepted as a new employee or as an intern, and just incase my opinion is skewed….it is always clearly stated in bold print usually that one of the first requirements is that you are subjected to and must pass a drug test. It’s done everywhere; sports, blue and white-collar jobs, even in jail and so more often than not, you have the opportunity to discontinue what wrong habit you have been indulging in (separate yourself) because chances for change do not come everyday. I feel bad hearing such news and it’s closer to heart when I am somewhat involved with such persons. Why is it so difficult for people to admit to themselves the truth that they’ve made mistakes or are still making them but are man enough to be willing to face the consequences? From experience, the consequences (when there’s an admission, realisation and repentance) are a little more than a smack on the back of their hand because not only is forgiveness divine but there’s a love so profound that when we do acknowledge and give in to it, we luxuriate in the truth that He’s borne it all just for you.

The startling truth is that, more often than not, we reject the most profound of loves and the best of relationships and naively or ‘wisely’ choose the ever-present short cuts in life and convince ourselves into believing that we can get to a destination on our own terms without breaking a sweat. Nope! Life is one hard task master; so experience has taught me that the short cuts in life are usually still under construction and so in our bid to be smart, we find ourselves stuck all by ourselves surrounded by others like us amidst tons of debris, completely unable to make it to the other end. (And I kid you not when I say that’s definitely not a venue for making worthwhile relationships, heck!you cannot stay calm or be at your best whilst you’re being smothered and sucked under debris). Is life unfair? It sure has to be in order to accommodate everyone, the difference is our response to our perceived unfairness of life. Separation is indeed a hard choice to make, sometimes we don’t even get to claim the bragging rights, because it’s just what it is at that moment of intervention. In hindsight however, separation precedes change. We have all been given second chances, some are on their ninth chance but irrespective of it being your second or ninth, it’s still another chance and could very well be the last.

The trifling issue is if we are ready to make that change, then the harsh losses associated with separation is something that we must be ready to put up with. The pains arising from withdrawal symptoms, the discomfort of the transformation, the loneliness et al are things we must be prepared to face. I remember the words of my swimming instructor during my late teenage years when I had barely two weeks to learn swimming and prepare for a comprehensive certification exam; a prerequisite for working in the oil sector…”keep your eyes focussed on the prize (in this scenario, it was the end of a 50m pool) and as long as you see that wall, I know you’ll ace the test”. Needless to say, I did both of us proud by passing my certification exam in swimming and today, swimming still remains one hobby that is no longer just a means to an end but it’s become many things; therapy, an avenue to meditate and a place to clear my head.

Now, unfortunately for many of us, we convince ourselves that we can beat these tests of life – I’ve heard quite a few ‘intelligent’ comments –

‘buy a bottle of detox (I don’t even still know what that is) and drink it at least 48 hours prior, then you will be fine!’ (#geniusforfree)

‘get someone to pee for you, so you can swap the containers cos your employers don’t really care how you pass’

‘turn up your charm knob to the maximum, and talk your way through it, they’ll remember your personality and not care about your performance!’

I can go on and on but in all reality, there’s usually always one casualty and that’s you. When we realise that it’s in our nature to err, we must always realise also that for us to be better, we must separate ourselves from that recurring error (elementary mathematics!). Admission always precedes repentance! If we don’t, the change that you so desperately crave will be gone before you even realise it, and not only does it ruin your chance for change but it gets put on your personal records (personal yet public) – still grappling with what I just said? I leave it to your imagination to paint the domino effect you’ve just set in play that will irretrievably affect your future. Regardless of the errors we made in the past, remember that there will be an opportunity to right that wrong and therefore we must be prepared to recognise the chance when it comes and make that change we so desperately need.

‘He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, just to gain that which he cannot lose’ – Jim Elliot. We are all created for a purpose, the passion needed to fulfil that purpose is inherent in us but first we must pass through the ordeal of separation so as to emerge tried, tested and proven. As we face our fears, let us confront them with faith that despite the glaringly difficult and thorny road that stares us in the face, there are roses too, but run we must because the moment we stop running with God who alone can strengthen you, then we feel the thorns prickling us on all sides. God never promised us smooth sailing, but He did promise that He’d be with us through it all and guess what….we will see clearly when the rain is gone. Our lives depend so greatly on how much of our good (status, riches, comfort..) we are willing to sacrifice for the best that we deserve, and even though we be besieged on all sides be it in the form of dystonia or cancer or addictions or the relentless pressure from the world to be someone else, we must keep our eyes open and make that chance count.

The chance to be nice, the chance to be less self-centred and more selfless, the chance to be a shoulder for another, the chance to rewrite our story and give another hope just from reading it, the chance to surmount our physical limitations and soar on wings as eagles, the chance to give and not always take, the chance to empathise and share another’s burden, the chance to love even if we’re not loved back, the chance to just sow some good in the lives we meet, the chance to be a friend to some stranger and/or be rebuffed but still not give up on other strangers, the chance to spread a message of love, hope and faith….because not only do we actually become better people when we take these chances but we also reach out and touch someone who is going through tough times and give them a reason to forge ahead. We can make it if we really want, but we must try – allow The Perfect One all the room He needs so He can take the wheel of our lives and steer us right. That should be our story, long told after we are gone, that he fought the good fight and now there’s an example to follow.

Remember, keep your eyes focussed on Christ cos He’s the author and finisher of our faith. Strap yourselves in, we’ve got some smooth sailing ahead and even when the storm hits as it will certainly do, pick yourself up because someday you’ll hear these words……’Land ahoy!’

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

Adios!