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!

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!