Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Just living

Should you just stop trying then? 

That’s a question we ask when we have come to the end of our strength and are still unable to make headway. What’s the point of trying if you are just going to fail? What’s the point of even trying a little if you fall flat on your face every time?

Well, as tempting as it may be to sit back and throw in the towel, it really is not an option. I have learnt that playing a game isn’t always about winning. Sometimes it is the process and what you learn along the way that matters. You must have put in some level of work, commitment and perseverance, all of which goes towards building the strength of your character.

So maybe the aim of living isn’t about the end point we set for ourselves but the process of transforming us into the person we become. Ask yourself, will I let myself become bitter from a mistreatment or will I become a stronger, more steady person? After all, living is about being involved, existing is just about taking in air. So, quit existing, start living. Yes, as long as you are living, failure will come along on the way to success, but it’s all part of the process. So, fail, learn and keep moving and transforming into the person that God created you to be.

It’s all a part of life.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Perception: The mystery of the two white bedsheets.

Little children have overactive imaginations, which is why they see life through colored lenses. One afternoon, two little boys were playing together in their backyard, when one decided to get mom’s white bedsheets to build a fort. They draped the sheets over the low branches of the tree that stood in the middle of the backyard garden. It was the perfect hiding spot for them as they escaped into their pretend world of pirates.

An hour later, their mom called them for dinner. They dropped their toys and ran inside, leaving the bedsheets hanging over the branches. When dinner was done, Mom asked them to say their prayers, brush their teeth and go straight to bed. It had been a busy day, so the boys went up, each to his room. They retired to bed and drifted off to sleep smiling as the thoughts of their fun day lingered in their minds.

In the middle of the night, one of the boys woke up to use the bathroom. As he sat up, he glanced out his bedroom window. He thought he saw something, which sent chills down his spine. Could it be? He shook his head in disbelief as fear gripped his entire body. He started to tremble, not from the pressing feeling to use the toiletoh, nobut from the feeling of danger lurking nearby.

There, in the middle of the yard, stood two creatures. They seemed to be moving gently, swaying with the wind on this quiet night. The lights in the backyard were turned off, but he could see their outlines in the reflection of the moonlight. One creature seemed to plunge forward and . . .  At that point, the boy screamed and ran to his parents’ room.

“Dad! Dad!” he yelled.

His father got up, startled, and held his son, trying to calm him down. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“There . . .  there are . . . ,“ the little boy stammered as he tried to find the words to explain. But all he could do was point while muttering, “. . . monsters in the garden.”

His dad knew that this was impossible, but he also knew that he had to check on what had scared his son so badly. He held his little boy by the hand and led him back to his room. He said calmly, “Why don’t you wait here, and I’ll go down to scare the monsters away.”

Reluctantly, the little boy let go of his father’s hand as he climbed back into bed. Forming a protective circle with his pillows, he glanced at the window from time to time. A few seconds later, his father went down to the backyard, turned on the lights and called his little boy to look out the window. Sitting up, the boy looked out and realized that the monsters were not monsters after all; they were the bedsheets he and his brother had been playing with all afternoon.

It’s interesting how our perception of a situation changes when our knowledge of it increases. Think about how many times you’ve had reservations about someone you just met. Reservations are sometimes based on unconscious bias, but when we take the time to engage and get to know the person, our perception about them often changes.

What about a time you took on an assignment that you thought was a total waste of your energy? However, as you worked on it and learned more, you realized that you didn’t know as much as you thought you did.

As humans, it’s only natural to make judgement calls based on your what we think we know. However, the truth is that there is always more to know if you choose to learn.

We can change our life when we change our perception, and we can change our perception when we increase our knowledge. This month, make a pact with yourself to learn something new.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

A word to encourage you - You will be just fine, eventually.

Don’t we all love happy endings? Isn’t that what makes fairytale stories so heartwarming and appealing? Everyone wants to see the villain defeated at the end and the hero win. Everyone likes when good triumphs over bad. Wouldn’t it be great if this was a given in our everyday life? If we could go through our day knowing it will end well?

Imagine the new lease on life you would have if you knew for a fact that there was light at the end of the tunnel. That the current tough times you are undergoing will end and it will turn out just fine eventually. While fairytale differs greatly from reality, happy endings don’t have to be a myth after all. 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV) 

This morning I read this verse from the bible and at first, I was stuck on the phrase “after you have suffered a little while”. I wondered why the suffering was even necessary in the beginning, as the pain we see all around humanity sometimes can be very disheartening. It’s everywhere you turn.

At the flick on of the TV, the news blazes on with tales of conflict, hatred, and injustice. You hear the pain in the voice of the man who chats with you at the restaurant. You see it in the eyes of the child that waves at you at the park. The pain and injustice that has risen from greed and indifference in our world. So what exactly is the point of all these suffering? And to what end?

But as I continued to ponder on the first phrase, my eyes settle slowly on to the second part of the verse: “… the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV). Now that’s very reassuring.

First of all, God’s grace will be there through the harsh realities we face and he will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. That’s sound way better than the endings of a fairytale. It’s going to be just fine, eventually.

So in the meantime, keep the faith and hope in the dreams of tomorrow as you work out your today. Allow the grace of God to restore your joy, let him confirm his promises to you, see him strengthen your feeble heart and establish your feet firmly on the paths you decide to walk through. You’ll be just fine, eventually.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Managing your day with space to breathe

I was listening to a message over the weekend about the absolute importance of living life with some margin – space to breathe between activities. What I found fascinating about the whole conversation was that the idea wasn’t in the least new or groundbreaking, at least not to me, for I had always prided myself on balance, or at least I thought I did.

But as I listened to the message, I realised that it wasn’t about taking that vacation or sleeping in an hour longer; it was a state of heart and mind – a deliberate attempt to pause during a very busy day or life and just breathe, soak up some much-needed air and exhale all that pent-up tension. Like the white spaces in the notepad we all write on, our lives need some time and place when we allow our entire being to relax and just be.

No rushing to the next appointment, no getting out of bed in a frenzy, no hurrying off to achieve the next big thing – just letting go for a few minutes and allowing nature take its course. One of my best phrases for this is 'vegging-out'.

Everything in life happens at a time and for a reason. You can try to speed things up, change their course and manipulate the outcome, but inevitably, life does happen when it chooses to. So by all means, work hard for the goal you are trying to achieve, but don’t go overboard. When you can, take a few minutes to breathe. If you don’t get what I mean, how about this – imagine you plant a seed today and then you stand there and plan to watch it grow. Will your staring down at the ground make your seed grow any faster? Absolutely not.

In the same way, going crazy and driving everyone else crazy while trying to achieve your goal will not necessarily get you there any sooner. As a matter of fact, this sometimes delays you because people get tired of your insanity and give up on you. So breathe; it’s okay for things to fall out of place sometimes. It’s okay to experience some delays – it’s definitely not the end of the world.

Some breathing space during your day refreshes you, releases the pent-up tension of trying to be and allows you to draw new inspiration and see new opportunities that you might have missed had you remained on your fast lane driving like a lunatic through life. Slow it down a notch.

One of my favorite quotes from the Bible is ‘to everything, there is a time and season’. There is a season for everything in life; don’t force it, don’t attempt to manipulate it. When the time is right, you’ll know, and it will work out just fine. Not a second before or after. I think that nature figured out the just-in-time concept before we all did, and it has orchestrated the cycles in life to work out exactly the way they should.

So if everything else in life is on a calendar, why should you worry yourself to death about something you can’t speed up or change? Why not just work at it, give yourself some breathing space and pace yourself to a sensible rhythm?

Some achieve greatness as kids, some as young adults, others may very well get to their senior years before they can even get the big break they have always dreamed off. The point is that it will happen at some point in time. Why burn out before the spotlight is turned on you? Why die before your time?

Take some time to breathe, turn down the insanity in your life. Cancel some trips, call off some appointments, put in some blank space in your life – time to veg-out. You can sit, sleep, run, walk; whatever you need to do to relax; go ahead and do it. Time chimes back softly, our days on this side of the earth is really short, and the truth is that you can’t control everything.

Take your life in strides, your task in chunks, your achievements in moments – as sure as the day comes, the night will follow and then the day again and the night and so on. All of life is perfectly balanced – life, death, life, death – on and on and on it goes.

When life gets crazy and it seems as if it’s all spinning out of your control, breathe, perhaps recite the serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference’. This prayer sums it up so beautifully.

Now, as someone who naturally likes to run things on a schedule, I can tell you that I find this extremely difficult to do. I belong to the percentage of humans who need to fill in every second of the day with an activity. I need to know what we are doing, when, how, by when; I need to be in ‘control’ of every moment of my day. I know how difficult this whole ‘space’ concept can be and how irritating ‘waiting’ can be to some of us. But I have also learned that life rarely goes your way, so you had better leave space for the contingencies when this happens.

If you take anything out of this, let it be this: breathe, pace yourself, breathe again. I’d love to hear how you are creatively adding some spaces into your daily life. Would you please share in the comments? Thanks.