A Story of a Sparrow

 

Let my sparrow drawing bring you a tender story.

Mossie

Written in the annals of our nation’s very diverse history is a story of a sparrow.

The background is the Anglo Boer war of 1901.
With the discovery of gold and diamonds, the British Empire came to occupy the land.
The British desperately tried to bring the pioneer Boers to submission.   The Boers,  fiercely resisted, fighting their enemy with guerrilla warfare,  that cost the British much.  Eventually a ‘scorched earth policy’ was implemented, where their farmsteads were burnt down, their fields salted so that they could not grow crops to survive.  Their women and children were taken to concentration camps.   But there was, overcrowding, bad hygiene, severe malnutrition, and endemic contagious diseases.  Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps of the Anglo Boer war.  The women in particular knew immeasurable grief as they  helplessly watched their children suffer, and give them over to death.
One such woman was Anette Marais, and the story goes …

“Anette Marais sat on a log and shook the dust off her tatty clothes.  Around her sit a group of women with familiar but weary faces.  Just a few feet away is the high wire fence of the concentration camp.
She opens her Bible and begins to read.   She had wrestled with God in the dark hours of the night, and begged Him for a message of hope for these women,  for who knows how much longer……!

Anette reads the words of Matthew 10:29 .
 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?   And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows
.
While she is busy reading these words, a small insignificant sparrow comes and sits upon her shoulder.
The group of women stare in surprise at the incident unfolding before their eyes.
And so the sparrow becomes a sign of hope in the impossible situation of the concentration camp at Bethulie.

It is fantastic to see how in the following months the sparrow of Bethulie became a beacon of faith and hope for these women.    On May 1902 the Anglo Boer war ended.
Anette, on returning to her home, met a women of influence, and told her the sparrow story.    She,  in turn, retold the story.
In 1923 General Jan Smuts had two sparrows minted on the smallest coin of the then South African currency.”
-cent-south-africa-1963.jpg

So remember the story of the sparrow on days you may feel small, insignificant, forlorn or forgotten.   May faith and hope be a beacon in our lives too.

PS     In South Africa, the sparrow is known as a Mossie.   I translated the story from Afrikaans.  The author is unknown.  More Afrikaans sparrow stories can be found in my Menu bar, just click on Random Writings and scroll down to Mossie Dag.
Reference on the background of the Anglo Boer War is from Wikipedia, should you want to know more.

download

Advertisements

Knowing Me from the Inside Out

 

October seems to be the month that highlights some global afflictions and diseases.
It is always good to be aware and to speak of our issues, devastating as they may be, but I wonder, why always highlight the negative ?   Why not, just sometimes, highlight the positive ?  Which month can we choose to highlight, the month of Good Health, that we can be aware of our blessings with thanksgiving, instead of curses, living with fear and trepidation.   Who invents these months of  Whatever anyway ?

Mental affliction is one, and lately Cancer has found its niche of awareness in October too.   As I said, it is good to hear the stories of others who have suffered these afflictions and diseases.  It is good to know that one is not alone in difficult times – as long as it leaves a residue of hope.

Where I live, October is well on its way to Spring, and Spring speaks of new life, and new life always brings hope.
I hope that as I share my encounter with cancer it will leave that residue of hope.

imagespeach blossom

On reflection now, I thought I saw the ghost of cancer in the corridors of the Scan Imagining building, when I visited there a few weeks ago.
She was a little, seemingly old, lady who had an ashen face, with a turban on her head.
She was small and quiet, with knowing eyes that were observing the comings and goings of the other patients there, while she waited for her turn for treatment.  It seemed obvious that she had been there before, and suffered the chemo therapy, that may have left her looking like the ghost of cancer.
I did not pay her much attention at the time.    And I am sorry now, for I missed the random opportunity, as I passed her by,  to give her a warm smile of encouragement – which she may well not have needed, as she seemed surrendered in her wait.

I was preoccupied with getting through the procedures of the day.  Foreign procedures of bone scans, drinking lots of liquids in waiting rooms marked  ‘Nuclear Medicine’ !!  Enough to send the ‘majeebees’ down the spine and ignite the imagination into orbit.   These scans would show up images, that could reveal the tell-tale signs of cancer in the internal parts of the body.
The scene was fitting too, for the huge scanning machines were quite intimidating, impressive, but intimidating.  Like a giant submarine, ready for launching into the deep.
And into the deep I went, with many images being taken of my ‘insides’.

As I lay there, between scans, my eye caught the little screen above to the left, which I thought at the time, were reflecting the images of my internal organs.    “At the end of this,”  I thought, “these people will know me from the inside out” – chuckle !   But I turned my gaze away, for I did not need to look at something I could not make head or tail of.

So instead I took the time to ponder on just how fearfully and wonderfully I am made.  The body is just the outer part of me, then there is the internal me, that makes me function well on the outside.  A whole marvellous, (maybe not as pretty as our magnificent universe out there among the stars),   but our very own inside universe, real in its own right !  Carefully designed, expertly operational, well orchestrated for detailed absorption, nourishment and distribution for me to be functional and healthy.
The human me – a walking talking miracle !

“But wait, there is more” I thought as the time passed.    Beyond the internal organs, there is the soul me.    Not quite sure of its exact location in the body.  Probably in the brain with its own magnificent design and structures to house the intellect, the will, and the emotions embedded in memory, with the ability of consciousness or awareness that harnesses the signals coming from without, … and the thought life from within !

You would think that this is enough marvellous creation-force to complete the whole of the human me.    But no – there is more !
There is the spirit me – a very delicate work indeed.   The invisible spirit me, which is the real me.   This creature called Me, goes very deep.  You have to dig deep if you want to know the real me …. if I allow you !
It is in the arena of the invisible, the impartial subconscious – and this, I believe, is linked to the spirit realm.  A personal porthole, if you like, into a much bigger story, …. of glory !

Now, enter a new scene in the adventures of me. The spiritual realm is a mystery.   It is a place where my Creator lives.  He is the original Originator !  He fearfully and wonderfully made me,  with light and probable nuclear forces at work too.   He designed and knitted me together in my mother’s womb –  my bones, my sinews, my muscles, my precious organs and my flesh.
A place where the impossible is possible, where wisdom and knowledge are kept in waiting rooms – not marked Nuclear Medicine, but Truth and Revelation.  A place where Joy and Peace live side by side.

But, there is another story at play.   The spiritual realm is also a place where huge battles are fought, sometimes won, sometimes lost.  A place of very dark vicious and powerful influences !  Influences that want to steal, kill, and destroy the whole of  me.
So my God, in His wisdom,  made a battle plan for victories to be won.   A plan to destroy the works and influences of darkness.
The plan is the gospel of Jesus Christ.    It makes for a most amazing, wonderful story – the greatest story ever written !  You will find it in a book called The Bible – an all time best seller !  Put it on your ‘Must Read List”

In the Book, the plot is centred around Jesus Christ.   God says when I accept Jesus, His Son, as the Saviour and Lord of my soul, and thus my life, I become reborn.    I become a new creation.   A brand new me !  Yes, there is a new world coming !
And so begins new adventures for me !

For a new creation person in this world, it does not mean the discarding of the ghosts of cancer.  Cancer which can and does thrive on harbouring fear, ignorance, (which often work together) intimidation, manipulation, mangled mutations, malignant growths and even awful mutilation – all products from the horror factory.    Not to mention an intense  strangling and plummeting of the emotions, for all concerned in the cancer story.  Cause as much deformation and destruction as far and wide as possible, – is the end goal of evil.

But a new creation person can overcome these evil negative things  – (and therein lies yet another story!)      There is always faith hope and love in their armoury, stout weapons that carry weight and power, to the ultimate victory in Christ.
For it is in-Christ, that we are made more ready for, and indeed become the New Creation.   Yes, there is a new world coming !

Go ahead and read the long,  and very brilliantly written interwoven stories that make up the amazing story of God and His love.   A story of victory and beautiful, beautiful restoration !     A story He has written for all,  and let it pertain to you too.    Become an Over-comer, get to know the story,  and become part of the New Creation that is coming.
Make it your adventure too.
And take Hope home !

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.

 

light peach blooms

Bring in the Gold

gold in rocks.jpg

In the ordinariness of life, gold is found !

It was the first Saturday of Spring,  for those living on the south end of the Equator.  There was a definite whiff of something in the air.   Perhaps there was a change of frequency as the season changed from Winter to Spring, or perhaps it was a warming up of the weather, but something was stirring, a promise was coming !

The day was warm and welcoming, and there was a skip in my step as I set out to the  doctor’s waiting room.   I parked my car in the underground parking area and headed out to the Mall.
I had a lovely morning taking in the sights and sounds of the milling crowd, even did a little unplanned shopping, that always gives a lift to the mundane.   Stopped by for a  coffee, that goes so well with ‘retail therapy’  – and just soaked up the ordinariness of life.

It was when I went back down to the parking lot and paid at the underground parking station that I heard them.  Two old minstrels  strumming their guitar and banjo, and making the joy of music for those who would but listen.

I felt my heart stir, and went over to place an appreciation in their basket.   They made such a lovely picture, that on the spur of the moment, I asked if I may take a photo of them.   They kindly consented, as if it were the order of their day.

I lingered just a little longer to ask their names, and where they were from.  Just a little light conversation to seal the moment.   As I turned to walk away I heard myself say “You are such lovely people !”  Just in time, I caught the smile in Conrad’s eye as he said “You are too miss”    And right there was the gold, the exchange of community kindness.    What a lovely brief moment in time !    I walked away on a little cloud that had been the promise of that Spring day.

Buskers

Conrad and Raymond, the two minstrels  that have been playing and entertaining the ‘car-parkers’ and shoppers at that Mall for many Saturdays – and over the Christmas season too.   They are indeed a delightful feature an added bonus to the Mall, yet tucked away in the underground parking area.
Two old minstrels, with I am sure, stories to tell of their hard lives,  and yet they are  notably abandoned in the music they so diligently play for the passers-by.

Bring in the gold – threads of gold found in an ordinary day, in the lives of ordinary people.   Bring in the gold I say !

 

gold nuggets

 

 

 

 

Re-bloom

 

beauty bouganvilla

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

 

hedge bouganvilla

A sunbeam-lit  Bougainvillea hedge

 

bouganvilla

Keep memory alive in a pot of beauty.

It was last year that I wrote on Beautiful Bougainvillea, so at the risk of being repetitive I am posting these pictures of the beauty that surrounds me,  to share it with you. The motivational gurus say if you want to be smart surround yourself with smart people.  I reckon if you want to be beautiful surround yourself with beauty.   And where can one find beauty at its best but in a garden.

I just could not helped being amazed at the lovely tangerine/pink Bougainvillea that I woke up to one morning, and met its beauty in a moment.   I mean it had been there all along, growing quietly and unnoticed until one morning it just said ” hello there ,  it’s re-bloom time again!”   And re-bloom it has, together with the other Bougainville’s in my garden.

It was John Keats who wrote in his poem Endymion ” a thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its beauty increases.”     I don’t think that we can be in a garden and fully appreciate the loveliness of nature in all its forms.   Amazingly God first created a garden and then man, to care and maintain it.   What a setting He created for man, and for the story of man, to unfold itself from – a garden!   Not the cosmos, not a distant star or a shallow pool of chemical soup  – no, a garden !

One of the lessons I like to take from the garden is the grace of the re-bloom.  Just when you think you have ‘arrived’ reached the top of the pile with nowhere else to go , or sunk so low that you cannot breathe with the waters of despair wallowing around you, or all is so futile and irrelevant – and begin to think what really matters in life?,  or even when all seems done and dusted, there is then the time of the re-bloom.   Re-bloom – it’s a thread woven into the life of the Garden.   And into the garden of  Life it is called the second chance, or the grace of God.   It is a thing woven in and throughout the fabric of life – our lives and the principles in nature.   I have been heard to whisper (even if only in my own mind)  – it’s never over till it’s over.

And that is perhaps why I relate so strongly to the Bougainvillea, apart from its beauty and the sheer joy it gives in its abundant profusion of colourful little petals that have the capacity to mass itself in awesome displays, for those along the highway of life.
And if you pass by that way often, you will encounter their re-bloom, and then remember for yourself – the grace of God, the God of the second chance.

shine throu bogan

Bougainvillea a thing of beauty indeed.

Exuberance in Russia

 

Stadium at Nizhny Novgorod
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Russia

Exuberance is the only word that adequately expresses the goings-on in Russia this past month, with the nations competing against each other at the amazing 2018 World Cup Soccer event.
It will surely be remembered as the Soccer World Cup of last-minute-goals.  This is what brought out the exuberance of the players, the fans, and the TV world watchers around the world,  of which I was one ardent couch spectator.

What excitement and happiness and what disappointment and despair all wrapped up in this extreme emotion of exuberance – blatantly and un-ashamedly displayed for all to see.  How nice to see man at his best –  happy !  (and isn’t man at his happiest when he is chasing a ball !!)    Nevertheless, it was as if a veil was momentarily lifted and license had been given to be who you are and who you shout the loudest for.      All the trappings of pretence and reserve removed in a moment of patriotic loyalty;  done without threat or fear, in the manner that the sport of Soccer provided for four weeks for the whole world to see.

Amazing was the fitness and stamina of these players.  Honed through months, and for some years, hard practise, discipline and dedication.  To be coached, mentored and primed to this pinnacle event, held every four years.   Soldiers of Soccer prepared for gigantic battles to be fought with everything that is in them.    The last time I viewed such absolute verve and determination was with the movie Brave Heart, but that was just a movie – this is real-life passion, played out in Soccer.  The passion that drove these young men was astounding to observe.  Their never give up attitudes, their falling down, some spiralling  extra spins for show and penalties, some vehemently arguing their way out of yellow cards, and in some cases unfair decisions – letting the moment of frenzy play out to their advantage.    Soccer is seemingly not just a sport of great scintillating foot skills, but  clever psychological manoeuvres as well.  A combination of clever head and footwork !   But it is the combination of stamina and that vital ingredient passion that made me watch men at their best, doing what they do best.

Interestingly too, was the transition taking place.  One generation of soccer players moving on to make room for a new generation of younger players.  That was perhaps the reason for the unexpected wins of the less likely teams to go through to the quarter and semi finals.  One could almost see a wave breaking, and  new time players and teams emerging onto this world stage.

Loved “braziliant”  Brazil, as my son named them, and their samba soccer. Such exciting soccer to watch.  The  English and Belgium teams, grounded and steadfast. The Colombians were a little too hot-headed and undisciplined.  The sad, but perhaps timely exit of the “old establishment” soccer nations.   And all the noisy grandstanding crowds ridiculous yet colourful in their apparel of capes and wigs and painted faces.  A real carnival of the nations.

Russian soccer fans.jpg

Happy times make happy memories, and this Russia has surely provided.  What a memorable, and extremely well organised event, that show-cased their nation in the best way possible  – capitalizing on making Russia a definite win, in spite of their courageous team, not quite making it to the grand finale.

 

Russia's Moscow
Moscow,  Russia

 

grand-cascade-peterhof-st-petersburg-38418472
Saint Petersburg, Russia

At the end of it all, Soccer as a sport, scored the final winning goal, by bringing the nations together.
Its been exciting, exhilarating and exuberant to watch – momentary escapism at its best !

Now excuse me as I mount up my munchies bowl and puff up my cushion to take up the best seat, for the last week of this grand tournament of  super soccer nations, my couch.
And may the best team win.

Nations soccer ball

 

 

Lessons from My Ostrich

Draw close then back off, and see the whole picture.

I have been at it again.   This drawing thing has drawn me in !  And I find myself so engaged that time flies and things get left undone.

An awful lot of concentration goes into preparing the matrix of a drawing.
Draw rub out, draw rub out and so on until some semblance of sense comes out of it all.  Then comes the rub – chuckle, sorry, full of puns today !! – to create something presentable and colourful that gives me a sense of achievement, and something pleasant to look at and to glee over.
Not every drawing turns out that way.  There are some that don’t get the desired effect,  they stand out as ‘lessons-learnt’ in my art journal – with perhaps a quote to distract from the flop !

But one fruitful lesson learnt came from the Ostrich, a peculiar, but interesting bird. Seemingly easy to draw in its simplicity until you get to the mouth and the eyes.  These  are always a challenge for me.

I had deeply engaged with the Ostrich until in exhausted frustration I tossed him aside, to take a walk.   As I passed him by, I threw him a sorry look.   That is when he popped out at me !  I saw him from a distance, I saw him as a whole, I saw him as quite beautiful in his peculiarity, and I saw where  I had to make adjustments  to make him more presentable.

My Ostrich taught me a lesson in drawing – draw close, then back off and see the whole picture.   And isn’t that too, the way we see some people.   We look to intently at them and see their peculiarities, their faults, inefficiencies, even uglinesses,  but when we back off  – from our judgemental notions and ever-ready criticism  – we may see them differently.   Viewed from a distance, as a whole in a bigger setting, they become acceptable, and sometimes their silly faces can even make one smile surreptitiously !

My Ostrich is not a perfect image of the reference I used to draw him from.   But then who of us are the perfect image of the original intention of our Creator ?  We’re all less beautiful than we should be, a little distorted even dysfunctional and in no way perfect, but we are accepted and loved nevertheless in the Beloved.

 

Ostrich

My Ostrich, may not be a master-piece, more a piece of the master !   But to me he is just fine, not perfect but acceptable in his ugliness – and his silly face does makes me smile.  But you be the judge.

scale with 3d man

My Ostrich and I have spent a lot of time together, rubbed off of each other you might say ! –  but the important life-lesson,  read more  reminded me of the wise words found in  Matthew 7:1

    Judge not, that you be not judged.

Pencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Influence

 

wind in trees

Now Influence is an interesting thing.
Perhaps we should ask the Scientists to explain it more readily for they would surely understand it better, even give an equation or formula to help us recognise its force ! But to a layman’s eye, we can only but muse and observe, and venture to write about its power.

Influence is invisible, but to the observers, its effect is at times a visible thing.  Just think of the wind.  You cannot see it, but you can see its effects on trees and clouds.

There is also, Influence of a different kind.
Outside one of our local suburban grocery stores they had put up a bright stand with a canopy, to sell pancakes and doughnuts.  I love pancakes.  On this particular autumn afternoon I decided to buy pancakes to take home to my family.  I placed my order and sat down on a bench to wait.  Along came a man and his daughter and bought doughnuts.   “Mmmm,”  he said, and I could almost hear his lips smacking as he took his second bite “they’re still warm”.   Well, I am going to buy pancakes, not doughnuts !  As I went forward to collect my pancakes I heard myself say, “and I’ll take three doughnuts too”.    doughnuts.jpg

Such is the power of invisible Influence, seducing my taste buds
and will power.

Let me go more regional.
I have a friend who lives up-country in the heart of South Africa, where the winters get really cold, with frosty winds that cut across anything warm.    She is a  passionate woman and is always crocheting blankets for community projects.
This winter Ronelle and her sister Dalene have embarked on  a campaign by making up community bags filled with necessities to distribute to those in service of others.  They have  influenced other knitting friends to help in their projects, and so their efforts have been able to extend and multiply.

R's Project bags
Community Bags ready for delivery.

The need is great.  She tells me that two Bloemfontein State hospitals frequently request blankets for the premature babies that are born there.  These young mommies, often unmarried women from the poor communities have nothing as they come in to deliver their babies.    These crocheted blankets provide for the babies to be wrapped up in kindness, as they go out.

R's blankets
A show of Blankets for Premature Babies

Then there is her outreach project to ten guys who go through garbage bins to collect anything recyclable, which they resell.   All this to create a job for themselves, to alleviate their poverty, and sustain their lives with a miniscule income.  They too receive a parcel of goodies from her project.
Furthermore, one of the Churches in Bloem have an outreach project to feed needy children with soup once a week.  This projects needs faithful volunteers who gather, cut, slice dice and make up the soup.   Ronelle has made up  parcels for these eight ladies who are instrumental in feeding 1500 children every week !

Ronelle is a community observer and worker at heart.    Not only does she influence and encourage others to participate in her community projects,  she acknowledges those volunteers who serve others,  observe those who alleviate their own poverty by standing up and doing something for themselves.
I would say that Ronelle is a strong Influence in her region.
You could say that the power of influence equals the power of one !   It takes just one person to make a difference in someone else’s world.

Chasing Influence wider, allow me to go global.
Mr Trump of the United States of America and Mr Kim Jong Un of North Korea have agreed, then disagreed,  and maybe will agree again,  that the summit planned to neutralise the use of the missile power-play of the North Koreans should go ahead and be resolved.     What hangs in the balance is the possible aversion of a global nuclear war !  Mr Moon of China has been very influential in the persuasion of Mr Kim to not only negotiate with the Americans,  but perhaps be a catalyst in freeing his very own people from the terror oppression of his former generation – for seemingly it was a reign of terror that put dread and fear in the hearts of the North Korean people, that have held them down like dead men standing !
Of course there are many working behind the scenes.  A lot of influencing, a lot of negotiating for the benefit for all the countries concerned – but that is just politics, and politics is all about power and influence !
The outcome of these talks can be disastrous for a world tottering on the brink of self-destruction, but if positive influence and common sense, and good sound negotiation, can prevail the outcomes will be so much more meaningful to a world wanting to grow and to be free, in trade and harmony and peace.

But Influence is not only the prerogative of politicians and the rich, it goes way beyond our world. Look at a night sky full of sparkling stars.  Gasp at the orbits of the planets !  See the influence of our moon on the ocean’s high and low tides.   Remember Newton’s apple ? – and wonder at gravity.    Gravity, now there is a powerful Influence of note, whose mystery still needs to be told.    There is Influence everywhere !

Stars in orbit

 

But of all the areas of Influence, the pinnacle, to my mind, is personal Influence.
Take Jabez for instance.  We do not know much about him.    He may have been a warrior king or a farmer.     We do not know.  What we do know is that he was an honourable man,  perhaps even a sensitive man, for he prayed the following prayer

…… Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”    So God granted him what he requested. 
He’s story is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10  in the Bible.   To this very generation many, including me, often pray the Prayer of Jabez.   How is that for Influence down the ages !

Having said all that, it must be noted that the power of Influence, although invisible is very important.   For that reason I must, more often than not, ask myself – who is influencing me ?  And even more astutely – who am I influencing  ?

We are not merely an entity of being but a sphere of influence too, whether positive or negative, good or bad.     And may we have the wisdom to know, and the courage to make, big or small,  an influential difference in our world.

melting-candle-clipart-candle-flame-1