The Dungeons of Hell

 

slave-dungeon-in-elmina

 

I have been to a place that I have never been before.

I had to go in to the Oncology ward to have more scans and tests done, and because of financial reasons, I was taken to the Addington Hospital in Durban.
Understand this, I do not equate this hospital with the dungeons of hell.  In fact to the poorest of the poor, and to the sickest of the sick in our society, its is a beacon of last hope.    A place where care and treatment is given, free of charge, to those in dire need.  It is for them a beacon of shining hope and help.

Derelict, depleted old, and the long dark damp red-brick corridors brought to me what the dungeons of hell could be like.   The patients, moving in dim light and shadows, grave-faced, heavy burned, some uncomfortable and in silent pain, where there was no joy at all, patiently and stoically stood their turn for attention and treatment.

But there was too a great sense of efficiency of the systems at work.  Good work was being done in an organised and proficient manner, and getting the masses lined up for their treatment and care.   The Staff were patient, and kind.   Very kind, and understanding.   One  nurse in the Oncology ward, softly sang “put your care upon Jesus”
as she took blood samples.    I had a lovely imaginary picture of a little song-bird singing among the trepidation of the treatments that were to follow.   It gave comfort and brought hope, and smile to my face.
The ministry of soft song in suffering is powerful.

I went through the motions of the day, waiting many hours till my turn came   I sat in a waiting room that was filled with light.  It had a “sea-view”, but it was a rainy day and the day and the mood was sombre and a misty grey.   As I waited I saw the passing parade of the busy street in front of the hospital.   Life was carrying on as usual – traffic cops on duty, deliveries being made, visitors looking for sea-side parking.
I saw a new and understanding doctor, who had a heart for her patients, went through the motions, did the tests and x-rays.   Then finally referred to another hospital for follow up scans and tests.   A thorough investigation of my present condition, for which I am grateful.    And all the way through my trusty husband was there to help me get through the physical obstacles, with patience and endurance.

Once done, I was helped out to the car, where a car guard offered to help where he could, in the hope of a reward.    He was an elderly white-haired Indian man in a turquoise track suit, with hardship written on his face.   He was working in the rain for a pittance for his own survival – oh the hardships of poverty !

It is an experience that I do not cherish, but do so appreciate.   For in a moment in time,  it brought me closer to those who suffer in their poverty, and in the sicknesses and ailments.
It is in  poverty, sickness, disease and death that we may perceive the horrors of hell, where there is no joy, no hope and everlasting misery – all these linger in the dungeons of hell.

Song bird

Isaiah 61:1
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me,
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those
who are bound.

 

 

 

 

The Dung Heap

 

dung hill

Dung heaps are where you will find Dung Beetles.
Do you know of the Dung Beetle ?

Well,  Wikipedia says this :

Dung Beetles are beetles that feed on faeces (dung).
Beetles in some species of Dung Beetles can bury dung 250 times heavier than themselves in one night.
Many Dung Beetles, known as rollers, roll dung into round balls which are used as a food source or breeding chambers.
Others known as tunnelers, bury the dung wherever they find it.   A third group, the dwellers, neither roll nor burrow, they simply live in manure.

Dung Beetles play a role in Agriculture and Tropical forests.   By burying and consuming dung, they improve soil conditions and soil structure.
They are also important for the dispersal of seeds present in animal dung   …..  and more.

Although this is my story of the dung heap and the Dung Beetle, it comes with an apology to the Dung Beetle, as in real ecological terms, the Dung Beetle is a vital link, and does nature a great service, and so we all benefit.

I recently put my back out, have been immobile and rendered useless, so I decided to give myself two days bed rest to ease the muscles.   This self inflicted solitary confinement left me with nothing else but me myself and I, and my solitary thoughts.
So I decided to let my mind wonder over the years, the people in it, the friends and family, the events, the big and little incidents that go to make up an ordinary life.
Memory is a strange, but interesting place to visit.  But a little introspection is never a bad thing, if you keep a level head.

My thoughts had settled on certain people in certain situations and I was thrust into a churning of hate, anger and resentment.  I picked at the people, saw their faults, hated their actions and reactions.   I mulled over their inability to understand and love others more than they loved themselves, and I became angry all over again at the hopelessness of unsolvable situations and relationships.

Still pained and angry I heard this thought :   –  “ get off the dung heap  !”  –  Dung heap ?
I knew I had to change my thinking pattern quickly – so my thoughts turned to the Dung Beetle, which I put on the back burner until I could look up the life of the Dung Beetle, when mobile again.

Dung beetle

But if I were to translate the dung heap to that of my own soul, where the faeces of hate, anger and resentment are tightly compacted into the folds of my soul I would be wise to do a little cleaning out.   Often invisible and tucked away are these destructive faeces of unresolved  emotions.
Of course Forgiveness is the key to a good cleanse.   But forgiveness is a journey not just a once off action.   Jesus said to forgive seventy seven times seven.   When we Forgive, it becomes a lifestyle – journey a road, sometimes a long one, we have to walk through to the end.   Along that road there are the stop overs , or the residues, of hate, anger  resentment and recriminations toward others, all needing the same remedy – Forgiveness.
And it is at these stop overs that we can become stuck.
The Bible says in Song of Solomon 2:15     Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes.

Two foxes
But,  before the journey of forgiveness can be undertaken one thing is necessary.   And that is to see in myself, recognise, and acknowledge the faeces in my own soul – and to
own it  !      When I saw my hate, and began to understand my anger, I was appalled at the strong emotion, and reactions it evoked from me, and decided to walk the Forgiveness road, these emotions gradually became a little diminished.
However the residue of resentment, a little more subtle, and recriminations toward others, are the stop overs I still have to clear, with Forgiveness.

Yes, Forgiveness is a journey, but if not undertaken, watch out for the Dung Beetle, which will gleefully roll you away.
Forgive and you will be forgiven – then the Dung Beetle has no chance of eagerly adding you to his ever enlarging and nauseating  dung heap, where he will rob you of peace and joy – and eventually eat you up !

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking
be put away from you, with all malice.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4: 31,32

 

 

 

 

The Apple Tree

 

apple_trees_how_to_prune_a_tree_Rocky_Mountain_Fruit_and_Vegetable_Gardening

 

Somewhere at the back of my mind there was a quote bothering me.   So I popped into Google to find a lead or two.  I came to the realisation that our language and literature, even be it a simple quote, may well be in a state of transition.   For the most part I found quotes from Steve Jobs of Apple computer fame, and other computer geeks who have transported us into another realm of language.    Words don’t mean what they use to mean.   And stories are in danger of becoming the fake news of the day.   My, how the world has changed.   We have evolved into another era.

The closest I came to finding the right words for the quote was by Robert Schuller:

Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God knows how many apples there are in a seed.

I remembered, the quote I couldn’t find, went a little further and spoke of apple trees and apple orchards.

Apple orchard

This analogy of the apple tree speaks to me of exponential potential growth, and it was something I wanted to share with my children.  Not that I have experienced it, only heard of it, but do know that generosity is a key to unlocking prosperity, and freedom from ‘the clutter of life’
Generosity as a principle of life, can unlock doors of wealth, and more so, a generous spirit.

I had recently listened to a debate on TV by a group of young Black people, who having endured the hardship of poverty, were now either educated or had well paid employment, asked the question “should they have to pay Black Tax’ – as they called it.   Black Tax is when children give back to their struggling families, help to ease the poverty and also help the remaining siblings at home.   Some were unreservedly for it, some a little reluctant, and some refused to pay back. The culture of giving creeps into the African-centric adverts on TV too, when you see a son buying his elderly Black mom a stove or a fridge.  And often you hear how the well- to-do grown up children take pride in buying a house for their family.
Of course it depends on the individual, there is no legal law that says it must happen – except the law of the heart.
And when appreciation has been nurtured, and generosity has been learnt, giving happens more easily.

I grew up in a time when saving was the smart thing to do.   There is nothing like having a little something in reserve for a rainy day.  At that time, it was just plain common sense, because eventually your money works for you – and not you for your money !!
When we went through our ‘ financial struggle years’ I resolved to start a small savings account, and made minuscule deposits.
I called it my Apple Tree account.    And for a long time it was partly dormant, and then very slowly began to grow tiny roots.   Whenever I could I would ‘water’ my Apple Tree with a small deposit.   It began to grow and now even has some apples on it – which I pick and enjoy from time to time.

My children, bless their hearts, have out of love, been watering my Apple Tree too, with generous deposits, that have caused my tree to flourish.    I am grateful for the apples that I can pick from its growth, but more, much more, I am delighted with their acts of generosity, that I know will stand them in good stead in their years to come.
May they too plant their own Apple Trees, and continue to cultivate the fruit of generosity, and see the benefits of it, for it says in Luke 36:8

Give,  and it will be given to you,
good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over
will be put into your bosom.
For with the same measure that you use,
it will be measured back to you.   

apple-tree-1

Samosas by the Sea

 

horizen at umhlanga

 

Good mental health, is having samosas by the sea !
I write that with tongue in cheek, but with deep respect for the subject,  and for those who suffer from mental illness.    Its a subject that I am not unfamiliar with and have witnessed its devastation in family.
But I did have a taste of good mental health personally when I went to see the sea.

There is a small space,  created in the suburbs that touch the beach-line, where cars can park and people can watch the sea without having to walk on the beach.     There is also access to the beach for walkers and their dogs, paddle skiers and wind surfers should they want to embrace the ocean more intimately.   So there is something for everyone.    I discovered this little tuck-away-place, and go there for a little ‘sea therapy’ now and again

That morning I received some startling news, that left me in a quandary of doubt and disappointment.   Fortunately I had to occupy my mind with errands and could put it all on hold, which is often a good thing when indecision cloud the day.

Two samosas

Now one of my favourite snacks is samosas.   It is an Indian fried cuisine, in the shape of a triangle with a filling of beef, chicken, lamb or something tasty.  I often treat myself to one or two, and so ease my conscience for not having chosen something sweet to eat, like pecan pie, or Portuguese custard tart  !
Today was the day for some comfort food, so I bought some samosas and headed for one of my favourite places,  –  and for a little ‘sea therapy’

kite-surfing-jeremy-hayden

I sat for a long time before I felt the therapy kick in.   The concrete bricks that were perched on my shoulders began to grow wings and lift !  They were necessary though for they seemed to stop the hole in my heart from exploding from the seams.    The hole has been there for a very long time.   It seems to expand and contract, but never really goes away.  One learns to live with it, but its like living in the shadow of unhappiness all the time.
Coming face to face with mental disorders is disconcerting to say the least !   There are many disorders.  I have looked at schizophrenia and squinted at narcissism – both of which are crushing to the soul.     Mental disorders will reveal the dysfunctions in   families.   If not confronted, it will bury the flaws, that in later years,  even generations, may cause further deterioration and havoc.     Facing the deep, takes courage !
The hole is not in my pumping heart, its in my happy heart – if you know what I mean ?   I am sure there are many of us who live with a hole in the heart.   We put on our smiley faces, but live in the shadow of sadness.

I enjoyed my samosas and aloe-vera cool drink, and sat a little longer when I heard the question : ” You are having samosas by the sea, now what do you see ?”

How often is it that we don’t see what we are looking at ?
So I looked with fresh eyes at what I was looking at,  in that moment.

Firstly I became aware of the still silence, except for the small thunderous crashes of the waves on the beach.    It was then that I began to have a sense of Peace.
I have noticed that Peace likes to come when there is stillness and silence.
Peace is  always a welcome friend.

I saw a little bird perched on a dying branch, looking for crumbs left by visitors.
I saw a lazy sea-gull, slowly flap-flapping his wings along the water’s edge.
I saw the sheer whiteness of the gurgling breaking waves, as the afternoon sun caught their brilliance.
I saw the distance of mists beginning to rise from the ocean, that meant heat and humidity was on its way.
I saw the horizon, I love horizons !    And that is when the concrete bricks began to lift off my shoulders.    Distance and promise, the call of something new !

There were many many cargo ships on the waters, waiting their time to enter the Durban harbour to offload their goods from far away places.  World Trade is alive and well after all,  despite the trade wars between America and China !

From the car next to me came a couple with an ice box, who made they way to the seaside.  She had on a flimsy beach robe over her shorts, and as she reached the dune, she lifted both her arms as if to take off with the wind – and the freedom she was obviously feeling.
Then further down two young fellows parked their car and off loaded the canoe and paddle skies that would take them into the blue, and into the deep.   Brave lads !

It had been a good visit to my favourite spot, and as I enjoyed my samosas by the sea, I came away refreshed by what I had seen.   I realised that life goes on, no matter what the news, and what the problems are that would beset us.
That there are those, who despite it all enjoy life and what it has to offer.  And that we need to take hold of the good things too that come our way.

It was not only a taste of my samosas by the sea, but a taste of life that refreshed me that day.   Life is good, look for the good – and be in the moment,  that to my mind, is good mental health.

Seagull

Philippians 4 : 7

and the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds,
through Christ Jesus.

 

Waiting Rooms

 

I had to get up earlier than usual so that I could travel the distance and arrive early for my appointment at the oncologist’s waiting rooms.
The invader had returned.  And so I had to go through the process of assessment, markings, being escorted to the other building where registration,  x-rays and scans were done for more markings and measurements.    All done professionally and regimentally with precision and courtesy.  There were other patients waiting their turn, and so I had to wait my turn too.   But the waiting for me was not an inconvenience.   I love to sit and observe the passing parade, whether it be in traffic, or in the waiting rooms of life.

I  remember being in this place before, when I had to come in for the original scanning process at the beginning of my cancer challenge.   Strangely the whole building, the registration, the waiting-foyer all seemed much smaller than I remembered.

That very long corridor which I sat in waiting for the radiographer to call my name, was not so long now.
Long corridor

It still had the beautiful seascape paintings on the wall, but somehow it was not so daunting.    I wondered why.
Is it that memory shrinks the environment.  Or is it that when one is fearful of the unknown that everything seems bigger and a little overwhelming?
It is like when you return to your childhood home, or school, that everything now seems much smaller.   An interesting phenomena.

There were three others waiting for their treatment, and so I had a chunk of time to pass.
I read a magazine. And then scrutinised the paintings, thinking how I could perhaps re create them when I started my drawing again.    And then I thought to use the time to write.  I had brought my notebook with me.    All I saw was the blank wall, literally and figuratively, nothing creative would come to mind.

Gloom CloudBut what I did see was the cloud of doom hovering over the other patients’ heads.   There was a sense of gloom, and a sense of duty in the corridor as the clinic sisters hurried along with their work.   But even they seemed to have the gloom cloud over them.

Eventually all the necessary scanning preparation work was done, and I had to return to the oncologist’s rooms again.
Now more waiting.   But here was a large TV screen, and South Africa was playing India in the Cricket World Cup.   I watched for a while, but lost interest, so decided to inconspicuously observe  the other cancer patients instead.   And though the waiting room was light and colourful with flowers in vases and the TV screen there was an air of travail in the room too.   It was as if the people’s problems were very present in the room with them.  There was a certain amount of gloom in the room.     And understandably so, cancer is a serious problem, an  almost insurmountable problem, with its own sense of burden and invisible gloom. In some there was a resignation to the suffering of the disease.   In others there seem to be a bearable tolerance of the inevitable.   We were all wrestling in our own way with the fate that had befallen us.
There was a certain gloom, but there was hope too.  Treatment of whatever kind meant there was help, and the people in the medical and healing professions, who have great expertise, also  have important caring attitudes that carry the cancer patients through in times of illness and desperation.  Kindness is a good companion in the healing process.

I came away with further appointments in hand, for ongoing treatment.   But somewhere  in the waiting rooms, I had resolved not to pick up on the gloom, but to rather look on the soaring side of hope,  and choose joy when gloom wants to press in to order the mood of the moment.

soaring eagle

But those who wait on the Lord,
Shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 42:31

Bookends and Benefits

black-dog-bookend

It is always refreshing to read the good thoughts of other writers.
It brings another ‘voice’ , and other insights that can be pondered.

Alan’s writing sparked off in me a line of thought that is interesting.
If I were to sum up the bookends of my life it would be difficult, and I would need to ask that of others who know me, and don’t judge me to harshly.  One end could be contentment and the other, I hope, could be joy – well most days !
That is just a five-minute self-analysis, and I could be wrong – depends who you ask !
What are the bookends of your life – it’s a lovely line of thought and can be quite revealing. 

images.jpg open Bible

 But our lives are like books, and so could it be possible to sum up a book in two words ?  Its fun to try.

The writing further goes on to advocate Joy, and skilfully undergirds the benefits of being a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ.  These benefits, which are all  in Christ  are the bedrock of a beautiful book that can be invisibly read by those who would choose to ‘read’ a believers’ life.   Jesus truly makes all the difference in our lives.  By choosing Him as our God we have access to all these benefits and much, much more.

I hope that you too will be encouraged by Alan’s writing.
I have permission and am privileged to share with you the thoughts of Alan Webster’s Quiet Time 6-3-19 as he writes on :

Philippians 3:1   Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.

Surrounded by Joy

If love is the message of the Gospel, then the bookends are joy.
Having joy is a strength that can keep someone going despite the adversity they face.
It might not exhibit as happiness, for that is a fleeting emotion, but joy undergirds a heart during the hardest trials.   Joy in the midst of suffering exhibits as quiet peacefulness, a contentment of knowing that the present is not the end of the story.   It is trusting through the suffering, hoping beyond the pain, claiming the future glory in the present darkness.

How is joy possible ?  It is as Paul calls it – it is joy in the Lord.   If our joy were in anything else, it would finally disappoint.   But we have joy in a conquering Saviour, who even though He died, vanquished every foe and confounded every attempt to annihilate goodness.    We have a caring Intercessor who constantly consoles our circumstances and prays for us.   If nobody else knows, and nobody notices what we are enduring He has intimate knowledge and we are able to pour our emotions  at His feet. It is there that He speaks to us and fills us up with hope.   It is there that we are empowered to take another step, go another season.

We have a constant Companion who never leaves us.   The Good Shepherd never abandons us even in our dreariest days.   Even when we have failed miserably and everyone else departs, He continues to be faithful.   We can lean on Him and He will hold us up.   When we can’t He will carry us.    We have a Covenant-keeping Messiah who holds Himself to the conditions of promise.   He lavishes grace on us and ensure that we will make it to the end.  He seeks out the lost sheep, rescues the wanderers and stands beside the oppressed.
We are never alone.

With all the benefits we have, even on our worst days, we are comforted.   In the Lord, we can take hold of the rich promises which are all yes and amen in Him.   He pours His life into us and swells the living water from deep within our souls.   We can taste and see that the Lord is good. 

If our walk as believers are to be marked in any way, let it be Joy. 

          Laughing Lamb  

 

 

 

Stand and Stare

 

I had seen the notice in the newspaper and thought I would make a note to attend the cancer support group, that was to meet at the Church in the village in Durban North. .
Come the day, I had a hesitancy to go.   Not knowing what to expect, and certainly not wanting to surround myself with strangers who spoke of troubles and problems and sicknesses.   My heels were becoming more firmly entrenched in my obstinacy, when I had a sense of the Lord saying to me, with His two fingers pointing at His own eyes :  ‘Keep your eyes on Me’    So the decision was made, I had to go to the meeting.
Talk about self-sabotage  – something I will have to look into at some time !!

However, it turned out to be a lovely day.  I had a lift to the meeting, so I was free to make quiet observations along the way.
One thing I noticed as we were waiting longer than usual at a robot – ( We have power outages in our country at the moment.  It is a national crisis as our electricity generating plants are in a state of disrepair !!)  –  there was a team of municipal ladies in red overalls  weeding and sweeping the gutters in the streets.   One had a long sharp blade type cutter with which she cut the weeds, the follow-up lady would sweep up the weeds, and another two would trim and clean the pavement, sidewalk or verge as some call it.
All very proper, and although very menial it was a form of employment, so very necessary for our people.  But here is the spark that lifted my day.  One of the young ladies looked very becoming for she wore a long curly “weave” or hair piece that made her look like a career woman!   As the traffic began to move and we passed by I gave her an invisible salute, for here was a young lady holding her own, doing a days work on a  hot humid day, looking the best she can while embracing a lowly work.

The scheduled meeting was quite a large one,  and I was welcomed and acknowledged as a newcomer, and escorted to a seat with a companion throughout the meeting.
The people, mainly woman, were cancer survivors gathering to share their stories.   I sat quietly and listened.   I again realised just how good God has been to me through my own encounter with cancer.

There was both suffering and strength in the room, with an open willingness to talk about their survival journey.   There were some who had nursed mothers, fathers, brothers and loved ones through cancer.  These were  the close family members of cancer patients, (often not regarded) who go through their own particular emotional traumas when their loved ones face the cancer challenge.
Tea and cake were served and we huddled together, like mother hens, to talk around everyday normal things and events.  These are things women do best  – apart from surviving cancer !
The scheduled programme of listening to an inspirational talk on cancer was shelved as the electricity was off.  Some of the ladies spoke at random and the rest respectfully listened to their experiences.
There were one or two caregivers, who had a  wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with this disease.  A small group from Reach for Recovery, who do wonderful support work through their volunteers, had also come to the meeting.  The leader of their group later  came over to speak to me and told me of their work.    She was an elderly Indian lady, with a red dot on her forward indicating she was a Hindu,  and had so much empathy. The love was quite tangible, as she leaned in to give me a hug to say good-by.
I came away feeling emotionally cuddled, clucked over, and ‘seen’   It was so good to be with a group of genuinely caring people.

The meeting had finished a little earlier and I had to wait on the pavement for my ride to arrive.   As the Church is right in the heart of the ‘village’ there were car guards hanging around.  The Church has a crèche, and parents were arriving to collect their kids.  A lot of poverty has filtered into this little suburban region, so there is a soup kitchen on certain days.

Methodist Church

During tea I had overheard a Church member lamenting that their church have many elderly people,  little youth activities, needs repair as its 80 years old in the making.   By today’s wealthy mega Church status it may need a boost or two, but I reckon by Heaven’s standard they are right up there with the best of the best.
It’s a place where vibrant community happens, and the church is at its centre.

I was getting a little impatient waiting.   February is our hot clammy humidity season, and we have been having particularly heavy hazy, lazy days.  I looked up and saw the bluest sky I had seen in a long time.   It was a beautiful radiant bluer-than-blue sky.

corn flower
Best described I suppose would be a ‘cornflower blue’.
I sensed the Lord giving me a wink, and knew  He was watching from a clear sky.              “Just wait”,  I thought Him say.

It was then that I saw a beautiful tan and white boxer dog, tongue panting with a dry thirst, coming toward me.  I gave a little whistle, but he turned and bolted on.   Just then a car stopped,  a lady got out and shouted to the car guard to stop and catch the dog.  For just a moment he stood a little gazed then slipped off his tattered sandals and ran after the dog.  ‘Yeah, he’s not going to catch that dog’ I thought to myself.   The lady in the car sat awhile and frantically watched the scenario unfold.
Never underestimate the power of the grapevine !   The car guard shouted to someone on the opposite side of the road to stop the dog.     She then saw the plan and followed the chase in her car.    I will never know if the boxer was re united with his mistress – I hope so.   But it was an interesting way to pass the time while waiting on the street called Community.

To sum up then, my observations of the day, was a well-groomed aspiring street sweeper,  met a cuddle of caring women,  saw a real faithful old church, spied the bluest sky ever, and watched a barefoot car guard willing to go the extra mile – a nice slice of life.

So don’t hesitate when you get the opportunity to quietly observe real life as it passes by.
You won’t be disappointed.

William Davis, in his poem Leisure, said it this way :

“What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare”

 

field of cornflowers.jpg

Extra Ordinary

 

 

ordinary ele
Be Grey and White, Faithful and Strong.

My Elephant turned from grey and white to extra ordinary.
Not so much for any artistic skill,  still have a long way to go for that to happen.
I purposely penciled in different shades of colour, just because I wanted him not to be  ordinary.

I once had a flash of insight that brought me to a reality check.  It was this.   It is in the ordinary, the mundane and in the core of consistency that strength, even meaning and  purpose lie.    It is in the normal flow of everyday things –  “same old same old”  of chores, routines, duties, responsibilities, appointments, and the general ability of being available, that make up faithfulness and loyalty and friendship that are some of the strong foundations of life.
Ordinary is an anchor !

I had not always thought like that.   I wanted to fly.  I wanted to live a full life of adventure, meaning and accomplishment.  I wanted to change the world – sometimes I still do.  Maybe that is the way some of us have been wired.  And there is nothing wrong with that !
But God in His wisdom knows best, and what is best for us.  And though He allowed me to ‘fly’, when it was my season to fly, He also gave me the hindsight to know that it was for the benefit of others, and not just for my own ego trip – which in essence it was at that time !   So it has always been at the back of my mind, fly when you can fly, but land in a safe place, because Ordinary is safe !

That is all good and well.   For some people that is enough – to be in the groove of  routine and responsibility.  It is right, and it is safe, and will accomplish a good end, an expected result. There is power in consistency !
But there are some people who are daring and want to express their personalities, their creativity, their passion, and their faith.  The Ordinary shrinks these ones, and if stifled long enough will suck life out of their expressive souls, and the expected end can be described in two words –  pure frustration !

Now frustration can be a teacher too.   It is frustration that will pile up and cause disgruntleness – a displeasure at the status quo, and this could be the breeding ground of witty inventions and innovations – a seeking of new paths and expressions.   If harnessed well frustration could be the place of new beginnings.    It could be the pivotal point for a thrust forward.   And that can be a good thing – yes ? – depending what you are talking to of course.

To go from Ordinary to Extraordinary will take big courage, big determination and a lot persistence, but it can be done.   It just takes one step of faith today, then another and another, until you see a glimmer and then the result of what you want.
Hebrews 11:1  captures faith like this :

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  

There is the Extra and there is the Ordinary – if you put them together you get the
Extraordinary – another species altogether !   Those who know their own minds, their capabilities, their strengths and their weaknesses, who set out to accomplish it for themselves,  – and then go on and grow the colourfulness of others – the others being the Ordinary.

Both are equally important, the world indeed need both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary,
But the Extraordinary are just a little more colourful – like my Elephant !!

 

my elephant
Be Big Bold and Colourful

 

Threads of the Fabric

 

needle and threads

Somehow the newness of this year is still with us.   After Christmas and New Year there is this feeling of the lull lingering on before the year really starts revving up.  Perhaps it’s that the up-country visitors are still with us, or perhaps its more parking spaces at the mall, but there seems to me to be a reluctance to the start of the new year.

I have been keeping my ear open for a word of encouragement that may cement my year into a theme or a thought to follow through, or that may become a thread of what is to come.  Or perhaps just to note it, so that as the year progresses I am reminded where the year began.

What I have heard is this : joy, newness, adventures, expectations, and just recently intentions.      These are some of the threads that make up the fabric of life.
Threads I just love, as I am sure you do too ?
Sure there may be some glum days ahead, but as my previous post said … ‘Hold that thought’  and I will,  endeavour to hold these fun words, these thoughts, in suspension till I encounter them throughout the coming year.

Dr Mark Chironna, one of my favourite preachers, spoke on 1 Corinthians 13:13, which says
And now abide Faith Hope, Love,  these three;  but the greatest of these is Love.

He paralleled ‘these three’ like this :
Faith  is  anticipation
Hope is expectation
Love is intentional
Of course he expanded greatly on this.   He went wide and deep, and brought much insight to this favourite Scripture.

I gave it some reflection, and thought that it would dovetail beautifully into my new year.
These three threads – all forward-looking components, are good strands for happiness and for good mental health.

Choose Faith,   and apply a mind-set of anticipation.
Choose  Hope,  and apply  purposeful expectation.
Choose Love,  and be intentional in giving it away.

Why not weave these threads into the fabric of 2019,  and make it into something  colourful and memorable.

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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.

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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.