A Slice of Raw Life

 

Allow me to share with you a slice of raw life, that I encounted when I attended the funeral of Danny.  A moment when the frills and thrills of life are stripped away to a moment in time when raw life is seen in the corridors of death.

Danny was merely an acquaintance.  I had met him very briefly a few years ago.  But he had shown a kindness to my son, had gone way out of his way to give him a lift back home – and for that reason I had decided to attend his funeral
Apart from being kind, Danny was also a very unlikely saint, but a saint nevertheless.
I knew very little about him, except that he had had a very hard life.
So it was with intense interest that I listened to the eulogies of some of the people who had been influenced by his life.

The Pastor spoke of how he had known Danny for a short while.  Had spent much time, in the last days of his life with him, and learned that Danny’s whole life was nothing but rejection.  He had known rejection so well.  He had grown up as a child being a beggar on the streets, and found his food in dustbins. He became a drug addict, and ended up in a Rehabilitation Centre.
When he joined “normal life’ he took Kelven under his wing, gave him a home, a safe haven, and an education.
Danny had a Prison ministry, but  when he was approached by the Correctional officer to temper the gospel message, Danny gave it up, as he was not prepared to dilute the Gospel of Jesus .

The lady from the Compassionate Hands Shelter, spoke softly but gently about Danny.   How she had been an addict and on the streets, wanted to take her own life, then met Danny – an unlikely helper, who walked the walk with her through her pregnancies.  Today she is free from drugs, is raising two children, and helping to run the Shelter – all because Danny took the time to love her unconditionally through the hard times.

Kelven, Danny’s ‘adopted son’ spoke briefly.   But those of us listening to these testimonies of his life,  were all choked up, because of the emotions that ran so deep in Kelven.   Kelven spoke of how he had been in prison, and when he came out, it was Danny who took him in, and gave him a home.   Five times he had tried to commit suicide,  but it was Danny’s strong and unconditional love that pulled him through those moments.  Danny’s strict and sometimes harsh ways never faltered at loving him.
“He never judged me, he just loved me unconditionally”  were Kelven’s final words on Danny.  I think if some of us could sob out loud we would have done so, but being polite restrained the 100 tears that wanted to flow at such a love, and to comfort Kelven.

The lady from the Bible study group said that Danny may have been a rough diamond, but that they understood that some of his crustiness was just a protection from all the pain inside him.    He was a student of God’s Word, and loved to share his knowledge with all who would listen.    And he made time to listen to those who needed to speak, he made time to be available to those who needed to talk.

It was a simple, but beautiful service.   Full of respect and dignity for one of their own, who knew the hard life of the streets, at rehab and shelter centres – the places where life in the raw occurs.
There were many people at the funeral, for one who was so humble and almost ‘insignificant’, but so great in the work of the kingdom of God.  God’s ways are not our ways, that’s for sure.
There were people from different walks of life, but particularly from the many broken lives, who knew and loved Danny.
Jesus was one of the esteemed dignitaries present at that funeral.  This was so evident when hands were raised in praise, as we sang and cried through that beautiful song – Great is thy Faithfulness, – words that broken lives attest to so well.

It was a humbling experience, tasting life in the raw.  Being in the company of those who had to face God through their own personal hell.  Being in the invisible presence of God, where everyone and everything is diminished to its own insignificant smallness.  Where love permeates the room.

It made me think how easily we tend to overlook those who are destitute and battling life at the raw edge.
We are so consumed with materialism, pumped up with pictures of the ‘good life’ wanting the niceties from life,  that we become oblivious of any other kind of life, little realising that  ‘there by the grace of God go I’

A timely reminder from a life lived strong with unconditional love, a life lived through God’s love.   May his tribe increase.
Rest in peace Danny.

Red rose

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Hold that thought.

 

 

New year 2019

 

It’s a new year dawning.  We have another twelve months, as blank chapters to write our lives on.  As we begin, and move forward,  lets hold this brief but deep thought from
2 Corinthians 5:17,   before us

….    old things have passed away, behold all things have become new. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Touching Opulence

Breaking paradigms is often a good thing.

I have always had a soft spot for the poor and needy in community, and had in years past been privileged to go into areas where poor people lived and worked and raised their families.  I had always come away humbled and grateful at the same time.
I realised that it would take a mind shift to go from poverty to progress, even prosperity, and that it was a long road.  Governments and policies can change, but having a poverty mind-set will keep communities in poverty.

Over the years I have come to know that there are levels of poverty, and there are levels of wealth.   That is the way of life.  Secretly I have always had an inclination to regard the rich with a bit of disdain.  Why I do not know.  Perhaps it is a wrong perception, perhaps it was unfair judging of those who think they have it all, but more often than not,  have the arrogance to match it.  There is nothing wrong with being wealthy.  But it brings with it a lurking arrogance, that can morph into  greed, and that will stealthily steal from man’s character.   Few can wear wealth well.

But then I suppose, there are degrees of arrogance in all of us, whether rich or poor or somewhere in between.

In recent years I have had the privilege to live among those who seemingly have more than enough wealth.   It is good to live in an area where money can buy and maintain a beautiful environment, – necessarily so for the many wealthy tourists who come to visit, and spend their money in our ‘little village’

Umhlanga Rocks has an interesting history.  The Oyster Box Hotel is one of the oldest, and one of the beautiful hotels where the rich and famous reside when they visit our shores.  The iconic Umhlanga Light House is right on the beach in front of the hotel, which makes it that more special.
In years gone by, the hotel was first a shack, then a tea garden, owned by a brother and sister.   Later,  it became a restaurant.
In 1954 the hotel was built, and has grown into a five-star status hotel.

Beach & lighthouse
It has always been a little dream of mine, to one day, have afternoon tea at the famous Oyster Box Hotel.   Well I can tell you that dreams do come true.
My son Gareth and his friend Kerry came for a visit.   Now Gareth has an inclination to spoil, and Kerry loves cake,  as I do !   He decided to arrange for Kerry and I to have High Tea at  – the Oyster Box !!

Entrance Oyster Box
A sense of old colonial charm.

Near the stairway, in the lobby,  was a stunning floral arrangement.  At first glance it looked like a giant pineapple.  It was made up of bright red, and costly Antirrhinum flowers.

flowers at OB
It was a fascinating experience.   Just walking into the hotel is an assault on the sense of  opulence.    It speaks of bigger, better and brighter.  The lobby had, within it, an alcove surrounded by mirrored glass.  Glass table tops and white furniture gave the impression of a transparent but secret meeting place.

Lobby

In The Palm Court, the palm pots were bigger than usual, the ceilings higher with many fans cooling the air, and the palms grew high and large, to give a sense of tropical fullness.

Palm court palms
The Palm Court, where the High Tea is served.

A man was playing a piano in the Tea room, as we were ushered in and shown our reserved table.   The tea cups were of fine porcelain, with a pretty pink flower design.   A white starched napkin, was unfolded and placed on my lap by a friendly hostess.
You could choose your tea of preference from a box of assorted teas that was presented to you with a gloved hand.   Boiling water arrived in a little glass tea-pot, which you could pour when you were ready to do so.
The cake and savouries, were all arranged on a centre table, that were literally loaded on all sides, with all kinds of everything delightful and delectable.  A feast for the eyes and the  palate.

IMG_0418.JPG
A delightful and delectable feast of cakes and treats.

cup cakes at OB

My words could not do justice to the charm of the day,  so I hope these few pictures will give you a better appreciation of the opulence I touched in the Palm Court of the Oyster Box Hotel, one sunny afternoon in Umhlanga Rocks, situated this side of paradise !

Pretty Kerry.JPG
Lovely Kerry, my companion in an encounter with opulence.

An old song I once heard, went something like this  ‘ You gotta have a dream to have a dream come true.’     So dream on, it may come along quicker than you think.
And thank you to Gareth and Kerry for making my dream come true !!

Go and break some paradigms, and extend the horizon of your appreciations.

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.

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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.