Wednesday, March 3, 2021
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Eden Myrrh Toohey

The Way Life’s Set Up

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In an article in Quartz, Aimee Groth explored and dispelled the common myth of whether entrepreneurs have a special gene for risk. “Entrepreneurs don’t have a special gene for risk – they come from families with money,” reads her title. She goes on to say that although resilience is undoubtedly a necessary trait for success, and many successful entrepreneurs only experienced success after attempting (many) failed ventures – because tolerance (the mysterious ‘risk gene’) to risk is developed and learned over time; the barrier to entry into the market is very high; and that barrier to entry is money – capital; whatever you need to startup i.e. your dreams, your life and so forth.

Read the rest of the article here: http://qz.com/455109/entrepreneurs-dont-have-a-special-gene-for-risk-they-come-from-families-with-money/

Not too long ago, I walked into the home of some people who I was doing some new music work with. As much as I thought that they were great people, their work (on a level from 50 – 100) wasn’t that amazing. However, they were still going. They were mediocre, but they were making it. What they lacked in skill they made up for in a large amount of STARTUP CAPITAL. They had barely gotten loans for their equipment and they were building their own houses and driving fancy cars.

If there’s anything that I’ve learnt, it is that what seems like the easiest route, is often not; and while you might take long to reach your goal – It is about the journey!

Believe me, you’d better start enjoying the journey you’re on sooner rather than later or else your life will be miserable, and you will start to resent your path. I know, I’ve been there.

A little story:

I recently got my first car. I’ve been waiting six years for this to happen. My parent’s wouldn’t let me buy it unless it was cash. When I was eighteen, I was roughly handled by some strange men and mugged while commuting in taxis from one city to the other, on a daily basis, to study music. I swear, I cursed the fact that I couldn’t drive my own vehicle (because I didn’t have one) nearly every day. Plus, during that same year, I was helping my sister raise money to go to ballet school (we usually shared the costs for each of our hustles to get more done) and so, we ran a brownie business on the side. This meant leaving home at 6:30am using a lift club to get to Durban, to take a taxi to University to practice and go to lectures. All the while carrying a huge tub of biscuits that I sold during the day, and sat on my lap on top of my backpack when I left for home at 6:00pm in the evening. Only to get out the transport I took, and go straight to church where I served at least three to four nights a week. After which I would come home, eat, and practice until 12:30am. Repeat.

While, I worked hard then and maybe even cried a few tears, nothing could have prepared me for how hard I was going to work this year. In truth though, everything in my life up until now, prepared me for what I was going to take on this year. I worked so hard that my body really battled to get used to the new schedules that I was keeping.

The difference is, this year (which is a few years later), I’ve learnt how to be content in the sovereignty of God, and also content with who I am and where I’ve been positioned.

Really, I’ve seen God come through for me in ways that shock me.

The way that life’s set up is that not everyone starts out with an equal chance, but everyone is given an equal amount of heart!

Trust me, everything leads to and adds to the next thing.

Breakthroughs and success are coming sooner than you think, and in the most unlikely way. All this time you’ve been building the character and resistance (the superhero risk gene) to succeed, and I can’t wait until you do, when you do.

Until then, you might need a bit more supernatural strength to get you through your situation without always feeling that you were given the bad end of the stick… Why don’t you click on the banner below if you want to know more about this?

A Little Here, A Little There

The other day my family and I sat around the table after dinner like we normally do, talking about our week, our month, all of the things that we’re thankful for, all of the things that we’re believing for and more.

“So, what do you think that God has been teaching you over the last few months, what good has come from all of this?” Mum said as she turned to me. She was referring to an experience that I had just had over the last three months while being placed in a different environment than I was normally used to. Now that it was over, I was recalibrating with the family.

I firmly believe that if one just looks, one will be able to see the hand of God in everything. So I did. And I found it.

Let me just say that finding the positive in other people, as well as in my own life and experiences, hasn’t come naturally at all.

Some people are naturally positive, and while I generally am,  I also have always kind of swayed to the negative side of things – easily falling into depression, always finding the black in the white painting and so on.  Getting out of that has been a choice that I’ve had to make over and over again since a little girl:

I will choose joy, I will choose joy, and I will choose joy.

Because it’s been something that I’ve been working on for so many years, I now rarely find myself slipping into a dark hole, and if I feel that there is a temptation to, then I force myself to worship God until I am out of it – until I feel peace.

I’ve had to take up the challenge to “adjust” by renewing my mindset (Matthew 9:17); “adjusting forward by taking small steps to complete a 1000 foot journey.”

The trick however, is knowing where to adjust. A lot of the time, we have all of the right ingredients to be great, but the wrong priorities.

Let me break it down: God has put inside us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) – everything we need to prosper at the life we live, but if we prioritize wrong, for example, focusing on ourselves instead of him, then we are very easily left thinking that life is a lot harder and more depressing than it needs to be.

Happiness, and asking God to help you see the bigger picture doesn’t always come naturally. As with anything – a little bit, regularly done, goes a long way.

Isaiah 28:10 (THE VOICE)

“Who is left for God to instruct in knowledge? Who will listen and understand His message? Maybe those infants just weaned off of milk, those innocents just taken from the breast? For here is how it goes: Command after command, command on top of command. Rule after rule. Rule on top of rule. A little here, a little there….”

If we’re willing, he’s ready to instruct us, and help us to see the bigger picture… little by little… a little here, a little there…

“My mother says, “Your whole life’s in the hand of God.” – Jon Bellion, Hands of God

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Series Review: ATLANTA FX

There’s no denying that it’s definitely series season and the world is going crazy because it’s not just saying hello to a new series of New Girl, no…. it’s also saying hello to a new season of Narcos, The Last Man On Earth, Modern Family, Scorpion, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, South Park, HTGAWM, American Horror Story… LUKE CAGE!

Yes, right before exams – and for some of us, final exams – we’re faced with this temptation. Anyway, it was Jesus who said that he’d never give us more than we can carry, and that’s why I’d like to put it to you that if you’re going to watch anything of the series nature that it would be Atlanta.

New to the FX network and the brain child of, rapper (Childish Gambino) / singer / producer / actor / writer and comedian, Donald Glover – who I also consider a creative genius – Atlanta follows the life of aspiring rapper Alfred Miles, who, like so many other ‘young’un’s’ in ATL are trying to make a name for themselves.

Miles’ cousin, Earn (Glover) gets caught up in it all after returning to ATL, and attempts to use his skill as a visionary to become Miles’ manager and take him to the next level.

Even though “Earnest Earn” is a visionary, and tries to be the most ‘fire’ manager for his cousin, he struggles to execute the vision that he has for his family, and battles to be a good enough partner, to the love of his life and best friend, Vanessa (Van) and father to their child.

Already 8 – comedy length – episodes in, the series attempts to address serious issues such as family life, diversity: growing up black, the struggles, the joys… It’s honest, intimate sincerity has won even the toughest critics over.

As a ready-made fan of all of Glover’s work since Community, I had high hopes since first seeing the show’s trailer shared by friends of mine who themselves stay in Atlanta. It wasn’t only the aesthetic but also Glover’s unfailing off-center comedic-genius that I looked forward to.

No, you will not be laughing from the get go, but, your heart-strings will be pulled. You will empathize with the  characters and the people around them while seeing the similarities between their lives and your own. And if you’re anything like me, you will be won over.

The show isn’t trying to sell you dreams by showing you rich recording artists and their debauchery (crazy parties with a whole lot of booze, women and drugs)… no. It’s about normal people trying to catch a break in life. Trying, trying – so hard.

I told as many people as I knew would appreciate it about the show as soon as I watched it, and some of them became such mega fans that they are now reminding me about the show every Tuesday.

The almost desperate nature of the lives of the characters to make something of themselves and to realize/fulfill an ideal, reminded me of the desperate nature that I see around me in a lot of the communities that I have lived, worked, played in, and see my families and friends in today.

There is a lifestyle that lot of artists/celebrities/the people we see on Instagram sell (all of them privileged – no matter the colour) through their art (music and lifestyle) is not only scary, but also dishonest, as many of them don’t ‘do’ what they ‘say’ – they only pretend to.

The emergence of this, particularly in music (many years ago) plays a huge part in creating cycles of violence, fornication and frivolity that are a force to be reckoned with. Yes, I agree that there are many other factors that come into play when it comes to our communities (for example racial discrimination), but they are not our focus now.

In Atlanta they sell drugs to fund a gift that they know they have but don’t see any other way to invest in it. In Cape Town, they live and die for the same and more.

I always keep on coming back to John 10:10 because it’s that GOOD! While there is a thief that approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter (and we see it happening) and destroy, there is Jesus who came to give life in ABUNDANCE. That abundant life, should as much as it can, be expressed through our art, daily living and more. The world needs it.

If I’ve peaked your interest, why don’t you click on the banner below to learn more?

Lessons about God from X-Men’s Apocalypse

If there’s anything that any comic fan has to be used to, it is the endless amount of reboots. Just when you love a hero, a villain, a love-interest, a story line and the actors (actresses) they chose to fit those roles, they reboot – endlessly. Which brings me to the latest reboot and ninth installment in the X-Men film series.

It’s been quite a bit of time since X-Men Apocalypse premiered in London on the 9th of May 2016, bringing in $543,4 million at the box-office. Yes, it brought in significantly less as the sequel to X-Men: Days Of Future Past (around $200 million less), but it’s more than safe to say the film didn’t disappoint as much where the story line is concerned – one of my main reasons for being so nervous and taking so long to actually see it!

Amazing performances by James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence (best role she ever had other than “Joy”) amongst others brought life to the story that was conceived by director Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, and Dan Harris.

Although they could have done better in the way of casting the new Jean Grey, Sophie Turner (it’s super hard to love anyone after Famke Janssen) could have tried a bit harder for better continuity, and at least given teen superhero Jubilee a scene where she showed us her cool powers. Comic relief was given in the form of a lot of tied up loose ends, and the magnificent Nightcrawler.

*** Spolier alert! ***

Inspired by the X-Factor storyline, Fall of The Mutants, and the Ultimate X-Men’s Apocalypse arc, the story is about an ancient mutant (the first), En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse) who wakes up in 1983 and decides that he wants to wipe out modern civilisation and try to… well, duh, take over the world…

The first thing he does is go on a mission to look for four henchmen to run around with him and eventually, at the very end, fight. These henchmen, rather than resembling the biblical four horsemen of the apocalypse (which we were all so quick to assume when watching the trailers), were actually designed to resemble the four factions that are typically found in a cult: Military (Archangel), Politics (Magneto), Sex (Psylocke!), and Youth (Storm). Super interesting!

En Sabah Nur is one of the most powerful beings that we’ve ever seen in a mutant and it was exciting to watch his powers unfold as the story does. What does become tiring though, is how often he has to convince the rest of the mutants that he is “god”, and their father.

Apocalypse really a god?

Apocalypse (En Sabah Nur) was in a deep sleep, only to have to be incidentally awakened after many years (read: thousands) by Agent Moira MacTaggert. After waking up he has no idea what has happened on the earth and has to “learn” about modern civilisation through the television… What happened to “all-knowing”? Umm… awkward.

Later, in a successful attempt to recruit Magneto, Apocalypse takes him to the concentration camp where it all began (we see the full story in X-Men: The Last Stand). He tells Magneto to feed on his anger and “shows” him that he has much more power than he realises. Magneto asks Apocalypse where he was when he was going through enormous amounts of pain as a child and throughout his life, and disappointingly, Apocalypse replies with the following, “I was sleeping…”

Lastly, when Charles Xavier uses Cerebro to find Magneto, Apocalypse senses him “in his head” and experiences power like he never has before. He then decides to go after Dr. X and force him to join his squad so that he can take his gifts. Dr. X refuses and Apocalypse decides to use force against him.

Now firstly, I don’t know about you, but I can’t trust a God that sleeps. When I was a kid, I used to have terrible nightmares for many years, and if there was one comforting fact it was that God never sleeps:

“The True God never sleeps and always resides in the city of joy; He makes it unstoppable, unshakable. When it awakes at dawn, the True God has already been at work.” – Psalm 46:5

“What a relief! The One who watches over Israel never leaves for rest or sleep.” – Psalm 121:4

And… what kind of father takes gifts away from his children because he doesn’t have them himself? That sounds more like something that the biggest bully on the primary school playground would do.

 

“Some of you are fathers, so ask yourselves this: if your son comes up to you and asks for a fish for dinner, will you give him a snake instead? If your boy wants an egg to eat, will you give him a scorpion? Look, all of you are flawed in so many ways, yet in spite of all your faults, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to all who ask?” – Luke 11:11

Do you ever think that the reason why a lot of us are so jaded is because we maybe walk around with the idea that God is like Apocalypse? That he doesn’t already see us as good enough; that we have to work super hard to be accepted; that we should punish ourselves with things that we don’t enjoy because we aren’t worth enjoyable experiences; that he’s here to take away the best of what we have and that he was sleeping when bad things were happening to us… when in fact the opposite is true: We are infinitely loved far beyond what we could ever realise and nothing that we’ve done or could do can change that!

I find myself falling into the trap of bad thinking far too often and have to remind myself of my actual identity on a daily basis.

If you dare to learn a bit more and dig a bit deeper why don’t you click on the banner below?

Leeland – Invisible: Album Review

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame was the first movie that I ever saw in a cinema. I went with my aunt, my mother’s sister; I was a kid overtaken by the colours and characters, the script, and most of all, the soundtrack.

Up until this day it is one of my  favourite Disney animation scores ever, and so naturally, I was super interested to hear what Leeland was going to do in an opening track with a name like Bells of Notre Dame Pt. 1 (there is a Pt. 2, too). The song (introductory track) is a chant-like chorus sung to the chime of multiple bells – a build up of ethereal sound, starting softly, and then rising in volume and vigour until it bursts into first verse of the title track, Invisible:

“They say what you see is what you get

There’s more to life than meets the eye

They don’t believe what they don’t understand

I’ve touched your hands

I’ve felt your side

Close enough to whisper – to hear my cry

In the light of morning – in the dead of night…

… I see you standing in the wind and waves, I’m never alone – You’re not invisible…

… I see you walking from an empty grave, I’m never alone – You’re not invisible…”

It was a bold production style that started the creative process for multi- Grammy-award-winning band Leeland’s first album release since joining the Bethel Music Collective in 2015. Those descriptive words are mine, and don’t let them put you off! This is no copy-cat band, or album, and if there’s one more “worship” album you buy for the year, let it be this one.

Anchored to themes of identity, joy, and freedom, Leeland (Leeland Mooring and Casey Moore) were inspired by the Bible verse Philippians 3:12 and the album as a whole speaks to the “acceptance available in Jesus and how such a love compels us to become like Him.”

I’ve been listening to the album non-stop for the last few weeks now, sometimes just stuck on one song for the whole day – or even a week – allowing for proper marinating!

In my second week of listening to the album, I was stuck on track number seven, Ever Love You, and was playing it every day. One of the days, I put the song on repeat while cooking dinner for the family, and (because we have an open plan lounge, dining room, and kitchen) I waltzed across them singing out the words of the song’s bridge loudly:

“Jesus you, had hope for me, believed in me, endured for me…

When I was still a sinner, Lord you bleed and died for me…

When I was still a sinner, You never gave up on me…”

One minute I was singing with passion, and the next minute I was caught up in the reality of the lyrics and just became so overcome by appreciation and love for Jesus that I started crying (ugly crying). I was so caught up that I didn’t hear my sister calling me to check on my pot, and then laughing, she said, “That’s how I know you really love a song – it’s hit home…”

Yes, it hits home when you can hear the authenticity of the message that the artist is trying to portray – when it’s real for them!

By beautifully presenting the simple gospel that “Jesus has made a way for authentic relationship with His people,” through 13 original songs, and co-writing efforts with the likes of Darlene Zschech (Beloved), Steffany Gretzinger (Perfect Love) and Brian Johnson (When The Son Was Lifted Up), the band hopes that Invisible would encourage the listener to seek deeper intimacy with God, and honestly, that’s exactly what the album did for me.

It’s been a little while since I last bought a worship album that embodied pure elation. Elation – “an exhilarating psychological state of pride and optimism”. Elation – where your spirit rises with the truth that you proclaim loudly through song, the truth of ones’ identity in Christ Jesus.

Edifying truth:

“But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display — the Anointed One died for us.” – Romans 5:8

This is the kind of stuff I like to listen to after a long day at work, or just before a long day at work where there are very real distractions and circumstances, tests of my character, patience, and joy!

South Africans shine in Honey 3

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If we’re talking about dance movies then Honey (2003 starring Jessica Alba as Honey Daniels) is always mentioned as one of “them”. You know, “them”? All dance movies have weak storylines – we already know this. But if your dance movie can somehow rise to the top of the cheesy pack, enough for your moves to be used in every church youth dance group, then you’ve definitely made it to be one of “them.”

Each of “them” have something defining or memorable about them. Examples?

  • Coyote Ugly (2000): The first time we heard that LeAnn Rimes song! Rimes’ music was all over that movie; she even made an appearance – someone’s manager was working very hard there!
  • You Got Served (2004): The long-time Godfather of all dance movies! Seriously, who doesn’t remember Megan Good’s character saying, “It’s beautiful, with an e-lll.” After the girls in that movie did some of their moves with their huge Afros swinging back and forth, every single girl had to have their hair open when dancing hip-hop, and there was that run-like-a-doggy move as well. Then there was Omarian, Lil’ Kim, and the rest of the star-studded cast, and songs like B2K’s Do that thing that made the epic opening scene… No other dance movie has made a more epic opening scene – none. Although, one that comes close is *drum roll*…
  • Step Up 2: The 2008 sequel to 2006’s Step Up, where Channing Tatum does the opening club dance sequence on the trampolines and then doesn’t show for the rest of the movie  (talk about lifting our hopes only to dash them.)
  • And then there was the 2007 Stomp The Yard, the infamous empty pool scene and all of the moves and war cries that came with it, and oh my goodness – Columbus Short!
  • Lastly, Honey and it’s infamous penultimate dance scene where they eventually put out the dance production that Honey Daniels has always dreamed of and they do the last dance to Yolanda Adams’ I believe I can, introducing about three moves to society that I know so well but can’t name so they’ll stay in my head… 

As you’ve probably gathered, I could go on and on about dance movies, but I’ll stop there because we came here to talk about Honey 3 (2016). Directed by Billie Woodruff and written by Catherine Cyran, the film follows the story of Melea Martin, who’s attending UCT in Cape Town and living with her late mother’s brother in the Bo-Kaap. Martin has problems at school, but presses on to achieve her ultimate dream: putting on a hip-hop performance of Romeo and Juliet as her thesis project. In order to do so she rents a failing theatre (in Main Road), and employs the help of an enemy, “but much like the Capulets and Montagues, conflicts between cast members threaten to bring the whole performance to a halt…”

The movie stars Cassie Ventura (as Melea Mertin) Kenny Wormald, Dena Kaplan, Cape Town, and a whole host of impressive South African dancers (and personal friends of mine) including the recently very well known Rudi Smit in the opening dance battle.

My happiness was at its peak when I heard Black Coffee’s Dance again (ft. Nakhane Toure) start to pulsate through my speakers and the South African choreographers and dancers did not disappoint or fail to deliver, although their hard work would have shone with better song selection throughout the movie, and in most cases, a better script.

Although it’s a dance movie, there’s just so much dancing that by the time you’ve skipped through the cringe-worthy scenes (and there are a lot!), and watched some of the others at twice the speed to get to the end, you’re not only underwhelmed, but tired.

One of the most frustrating things about the movie is that that 90% of the main characters speak with an American accent (even the ones who aren’t from America), which doesn’t make sense when you want to showcase the beauty of South Africa, and it is quite off-putting, to be honest.

However, whenever the strong South African accents do come through, they sound quite beautiful, especially because of the surprisingly good quality aesthetic of the production.

All in all, the mega 5,2 out of 10 that the movie scored on Rotten Tomatoes is well justified.

As if I wasn’t already sure I’m now surer than ever that South Africa is capable of holding its own. When we’re ready to put aside the need for international leads and international approval, we can do something as, if not more relevant, than Sarafina was in its day (Sarafina is still very poignant, by the way), speaking to the world and the culture through all that God has so uniquely gifted to us in this country.

Arise and shine, South Africa, for your time has come (Isaiah 60), you (we) are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, that is God’s own, so that you (we) may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who has called you (us) out of inky darkness into shimmering light (1 Peter 2:9). Out of inferiority into purpose, passion, and power!

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Who cares about hair?

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Over the last week, South Africa has been in uproar over the protesting of girls from Pretoria Girl’s High after a pupil was barred from writing an exam over her Afro hair.

“I felt ugly. I felt unworthy…” said one alumni, who, since the uncovering of this story, has come forward with many others to speak of their experience at the school. Read the full story here.

Here’s a poem for you:

“A rose by any other name wouldn’t smell as sweet,

Just like hair by any other name, yes hair, wouldn’t be as deep…”

It was a rather bad running joke in my family that if, for some godforsaken reason we would have to go through the pencil test to determine different racial identities (like during Apartheid) we would end up separated.

As a little girl I envied my mother with her silky smooth thread – a product of Cape Malay, Indian, and Japanese descent and a stark contrast to my father’s loose but coarse curls – the same kind that you’d expect to find if you mixed Griwqa, Zulu, Irish, and English all together in a big pot.

I was born with a curly coarse mixture of the two, but still the kinkiest thread in comparison to my sisters.

School was a nightmare. All the other coloured kids that I knew from the neighbourhood had tight, neat, plaits – just like the ones that my granny used to do in my hair when she looked after us. Those same ones that were as close to your forehead as possible; the ones that didn’t allow any space for stray baby hairs in the front. Submission was demanded by baby hairs – beating them into place with a slap of oil and a tough brush that brushed both your forehead and your hair.

Too bad mom couldn’t do what all the neighbourhood kids’ moms could do. Mom couldn’t handle my thick mop, and was clueless when it came to making me look “presentable” for the class. I was the only coloured kid in an all-white pre-primary class, and my dark olive skin earned me the nickname “that Indian girl” without me having to try too hard.

When mom’s lack of knowledge became too embarrassing, and my parents got tired of my tears, dad taught me how to plait my own hair. I can still remember us sitting on the floor, backs against the wall, with Barbie dolls positioned tightly between our thighs… and, when I cried again – because my tresses demanded more than one reinforcement to hold them in place, broke all of the swimming caps I was supposed to wear for squad practices, and damaged my hair so much that I strongly contemplated going “GI Jane” from 5th grade – they bought me a blow dryer to teach myself how to “smoothen” it out.

I left the swimming squad.

And later – a lot later, when I finally stopped burning my scalp with relaxers and fully embraced my natural hair, not even a, “Aren’t you going to do your hair?” said in passing by a high school crush could deter me from my new-found passion – being me, naturally.

I went to the Model C and private schools; I was told to look for a boy with “good hair” so that my children would have “good hair,” and witnessed much of what those Pretoria Girls High girls are experiencing plus more.

Now, rules are rules. We all know that:

Rules are good; order is good…

Rules are comforting and give protection;

Rules, in most cases, enable more than they disable…

The question, in this case, is not whether rules in themselves are good, but whether these specific ones are good, and who exactly they were written for. If a number of parties are being “ruled” then all of those parties should be represented when they were written – without one party feeling the need to conform to the mindset of the “historic oppressor.”

I guess we never really asked questions because we were too scared to. Too scared of our blackness. Too scared of not being cool. Too scared of having it all wrong. Too in awe of whiteness, setting it on a pedestal. Too aware of everything we didn’t have to confront and own what we did. But I am seeing more and more, that these questions need to be asked – and we need answers. Not on behalf of one girl. Although you might only see one girl as the face of “this struggle,” but on behalf of many. All of them. All of them that have now, in their own time and place, had to spend years working on building love for themselves, reworking the conditioning of their primary years.

How do you handle this type of thing as a Christian?

Firstly, it would be good to acknowledge the reality of others, even if it isn’t your own. Sweeping statements like #HumanityNeedsHelp or #TheWholeWorldNeedsHealing doesn’t help anyone get anywhere constructively, or take away any pain for anyone.

By saying these types of things people give all the work to the Jesus in their heads, and forget that there is Jesus revealed in their hands, their feet, and in their mouths if they should choose to act and use them.

I love that straight after the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, where Jesus blesses different types of people individually mentioning their plight (e.g. “the spiritually poor, those who mourn, the meek and gentle, and the pure in heart, the persecuted, despised, denigrated” – the black lives? Oops!), he goes on to talk about each one of us having the ability to be both salt and light!

Salt, we know, draws out the flavour of the food, and hopefully, the food is always different – and never the same night after night!

I don’t think it a coincidence that Jesus gives his blessing by naming different people in different situations and then goes on to say that we have the power to bring the flavour of the Kingdom into whatever we might encounter, whatever and wherever the situation is! One is not more important than the other, just different.

There are no wet blanket statements here.

And, that is exactly why I choose the Gospel (good news) over any other religion or faith.

Jesus is personal, and so our response to people’s pain must be a personal one, which, if can’t be understood, must at least be acknowledged and not belittled.

Seriously. That’s good stuff in a world where one of the most often asked questions is, “Am I noticed? Do I have meaning? Does anyone even care about the things I go through?”

Yes, Jesus does, and he even cares about something as seemingly small as … hair.

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Why delay?

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So you’ve got a plan, right? Not just any plan, a good plan. But unlike the five others you’ve had before you’re sure that this one is going to work. You’re desperate to make it work, and so you start working on it.

But, then, as always, you find loopholes and you realise that your plan isn’t exactly fool-proof, or that you don’t have all of the resources to get it done pronto. You’re a perfectionist, but you’re a walking paradox – I mean, it’s because of your drive for perfection that you hardly get anything done, if anything at all.

I’ve been there, done that, been that, am that, and am still trying to get over that. Anyone who’s lived a bit of life knows that you can’t control it at all – life has a way of sedating even the most OCD among us, but sometimes, the sedation – in the form of discouragement, pain, frustration, or betrayal – can even move to paralyse us until we do nothing at all because we are so fear driven.

What to do next? Just get started!

“With the right strategy the battle is half won; the strategy succeeds only with professional execution tactics. Problems arise when planning is separated from execution. This is like separating thinking from doing and diffuses responsibility. The important thing is to get started. Too much time spent in planning can breed indecisiveness and error. It is often better to engage in some form of simultaneous planning and implementation…” – Gerald E. Michaelson

Here are some quick pointers that I’ve adapted given to apply to ones’ life by Michaelson, in his book Sun Tzu: The Art of War for Managers – 50 Strategic Rules:

Why must you start now, make time to ally, and avoid delay?

  • Because, “as a rule” the more time you save in making a decision, the more time you gain;
  • Fast action turns into fast execution;
  • Acting fast is simultaneous action;
  • The more urgent the need for a decision, the longer it takes, but delayed decisions inevitably lose their positive quality;
  • All of the positive consequences of speedy decisions go to those who act first (not act without thinking, but act instead of being paralysed…)

The less you delay in making those important decisions …

  • … The less apt you are to being surprised by anything that may come your way;
  • … The less ready your competitor (i.e. situation, thing to overcome, barrier) will be…

“Throughout history, winning generals developed disciplines any systems for moving faster than their opponents… Sun Tzu’s point is not that speed can overcome stupidity. Operations must be completed rapidly because when actions take too long the chance increases for errors and unforeseen events to contribute to failure.” – Gerald E. Michaelson

If there’s something that I wonder at, it is how we want God to always move fast to meet us and our need (even if it’s the answer we don’t want or at a time that we don’t deem convenient!), but we take so long to commit to the things that we say that we are going to do, getting angry at Him as if we were any better.

“If you make a vow to the LORD your GOD, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.” –Deuteronomy 23:21

The Voice, a simple translation of the Bible, says when you make a vow, pay it promptly… on time, in a punctual manner, with no delay.

Let your yes be a yes and your no be a no (Matthew 5:37). Let’s try – even if it’s for a week, after committing our plans to the Lord, to do what we said we were going to do and see what comes of it. I’ve started already and found that there is miraculous provision for the plans that you go ahead with in faith and not fear.

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The heart speaks in whispers

Yes, we all very aware that Frank Ocean has released not one, but two records over the last week, giving some kind of healing to broken hearts all over the world who have been lugging their pain around for the last three years.  However, while everyone concentrates on Blonde, I found myself listening to something else.

I’ve been training myself to sincerely appreciate artistic offerings that people present in whatever form, by really relaxing when I consume the art so that I can fully appreciate the work. And so that’s what I did when I decided to take a listen to Corinne Bailey Rae’s recent offering, The Heart Speaks In Whispers.

Honestly, it took me three, almost four listens, to warm up to the new work and shed any preconceived ideas of what I thought that it should be, especially after how great The Sea (2010) was.

Fans of the British songstress waited way longer than three years for this offering – add on two more years why don’t you, and I’ll give you two more if that’s what it takes to heal your broken heart and produce a work as beautiful and whole as this one – because I’m tired of listening to stories about heartache.

The album starts its 16-song journey on an up-beat tip with The Skies Will Break, keeping us grooving well into the sixth song, Green Aphrodisiac, and almost into the seventh, Horse Print Dress. It steadily gets slower and slower until the listener is presented with the stripped down last few songs.

Instead of that being super frustrating for me, I find that the album actually gets better the nearer it gets to the end (a great feat for any artist!) with the sweet, sweet, sweet High.

Like High, the album is an ode to Rae’s newfound love and happiness after a long bout of devastation when her husband and first love committed suicide.

There is a sweet maturity that rings throughout the songs: She is older, she is wiser, she is different, she has gone through pain and heartbreak, but has also allowed herself to heal, and she is stronger – this is new love; this is not wild love, this is tender love; this is cherished love.

It’s almost as if she didn’t expect herself to find anything like she’d experienced before, and there is a sort of reverence for what she has now…

My darling, you make me do everything differently. Your love is taking me high as the moon, don’t want to move ‘cause I don’t want to break the spell. Now that you’re mine, I’m staying quiet ‘cause my words are useless. They only confuse us… I know they probably want me to open the door and tell it all to the world like I’ve done before, but it’s the things that you do when there’s nobody watching…”

It’s amazing what pain or weakness does to us. How it makes us wiser to beauty and thankful for mercy – if we’ll allow it to shape us.

I love Romans 8:26-30:

“… when we are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words. Don’t you know that he who pursues and explores the human heart intimately knows the Spirit’s mind because He pleads to God for His Saints to align their lives with the will of God? We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept his invitation to live according to His plan. From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be his one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His son…”

Although it’s important that we consistently pursue Jesus throughout the good and the bad times, it is often in our weakness that we draw closer to God. The good news is that, during those times when we don’t have anything to say, there is one who knows the innermost parts of our hearts intimately, aligning our hearts to his plan when we are confronted by the sobriety of life.

He was always waiting for us, but sometimes it’s just so easy for us to get caught up in the love of other things that we so gladly scream our love and support for from the hilltops! The love that Jesus has for us is like a fine wine: it’s been waiting, getting better and better with time.

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The worst kind of liars

“If you can’t be honest with yourself, you’re the worst kind of liar…”

I remember being 17 and sitting on the bed with my bed friend who was five years older than me. All my friends were always older than me.

We were going through very different phases in our lives (I only fully understand this now) but she still had so much patience with me – and I could speak freely about the things that mattered most to me. Things like personal identity, boys, my parents, school, and God. 

It is a popular opinion that one’s best friend shouldn’t be one’s main soundboard because they’re only going to tell you the things that you want to hear, but she wasn’t that kind of friend. She let me rant endlessly and would applaud any humility (recognition of wrong) on my part. On the other hand, when I was wrong, showed no remorse, and wanted to wallow in self-pity, she would tell me why I was wrong and nudge me in the right direction – gently.

I valued her opinion and thereafter, being self-aware, and constantly searching myself after conflict, disagreement, or even offence became a very important thing for me. It’s years later; I’m not 17 anymore, and my friend has long since moved away, gotten married and had children – but still, this lesson is something that I am working to build into my psyche. 

In his The Art Of War For Managers: 50 Strategic Rules Gerald A. Michaelson cites a commentary written by David Halberstam on the auto industry called The Reckoning. Halberstam wrote that Ford had the problem of having men whose strength was in hearing the truth in their own voices. Therefore, “there were, it was believed, few honest answers during (then-President of Ford) McNamara’s years because there were few honest questions.”

Gerald A. Michaelson goes on to say that he has observed that when managers (or, in this case, normal people like you and me) don’t ask the right questions the answers don’t make a difference. This creates something that Michaelson calls, “high-level dumb” situations! 

Two high level dumb questions to avoid:

Extreme self-reliance and absence of trust in God:

“Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on Him completely; never depend on your own ideas and inventions. Give Him credit for everything that you accomplish, and he will smooth out and straighten the road that lies ahead. And don’t think that you can decide on your own, what is right and wrong. Respect the Eternal; turn and run from evil. If you depend on Him, your body and mind will be free from the stain of a sinful life, and you will experience healing and health and be strengthened at the core!”– Proverbs 3:5-8 

In other versions of the Bible they use the word “understanding” (don’t lean on your own understanding) – an inclination to support or be loyal to or to agree with an opinion, the capacity for rational thought or inference or discrimination. To me, this means that all inclination to support or agree with our own “soul-ish” opinions and rational thought should be turned and handed over to God! This is the only way to find real fulfilment! Romans 1:28 says that when people don’t “have a mind to follow God” He turns them over to their own depraved desires/minds, and we really, really, don’t want that.

• Unreasonable, extreme self-doubt and anxiety:

Many of us find ourselves on the other side of the spectrum – harbouring extreme self-doubt, so much so that we are unable to live in peace and suffer from extreme anxiety because we glorify our situations more than God. This is “high level dumb” because so many times people that find themselves here will refuse to listen to any voice of reason and truth about who they really are.

“…and I know God has made everything beautiful in its time. God has placed in our minds a sense of eternity… we cannot understand the doings of God.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

“’Be still, be calm, see, and understand that I am the true God, I am honored among all the nations. I am honored over all the earth.’ You know the Eternal, the commander of the heavenly armies, surrounds us and protects us; the True God of Jacob is our shelter, close to his heart.” – Psalms 46:10-11 

Both of the aforementioned points can lead us to live many years in denial, hurting us and causing many harmful spiraling “high-level dumb” situations. 

Why don’t you promise to be honest with yourself today with God’s help?

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