Monday, March 1, 2021
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Wanda Du Toit

god of mischief : adopted

At the end of 2013 Thor: The Dark World was released in theaters all over the world.  I was wildly excited to see the next instalment from Marvel Studios and even re-watched Thor and The Avengers before I bought myself a ticket to go and see the latest movie.  Who doesn’t like a good Superhero movie filled with interesting characters and breathtaking fight-scenes; not to mention the sharp-edged wit?

But most of all I was interested to see Loki, the god of mischief, and his emotional progression (or shall I say digression).  With a name that practically gives you the right to be naughty, and a free pass to have fun, he had the potential to be the centre of attention and life of the party.  But he lived in the shadow of his brother Thor.  Now, I’m sure that, even though they most probably fought like the brothers that they were most of the time, they loved each other dearly.  This is evident in Loki’s diplomatic nudges to help keep Thor out of trouble, and Thor’s trust of his little brother’s judgment.

THOR

And then Loki’s world gets ripped apart.  I don’t have the qualification to even venture a guess as to what psychological trauma it might cause a child to find out that he is adopted.  More so when he learns that he was the “spoils of war”, because his adoptive father conquered the race to which he and his biological father belonged.

He was adopted in war, yes, but he was raised with love, accepted as part of the family and treated equally to Thor, heir to the throne of Asgard.

Learning that a part of your past has been hidden from you cannot be an easy thing to deal with, and Loki had one of two options:  He could allow anger to turn his focus to the betrayal he surely must have felt in those first few moments; or he could allow himself to feel the love and acceptance of an adoptive family who have never made a secret of their love for him.

He chose anger. He allowed the feeling of betrayal to wash over him like a raging ocean and he made no attempt to rise above it.  The evidence of love from his parents and brother throughout the years were clouded by his pain and hate, and he turned his back on the people who still accepted him into their family.

QUOTEEven when he resurfaced a long while later, having aligned himself with a very dark and evil force, Thor still reached out to him, trying to make him see reason, trying to make him see that, if he chose to, he could come back home. This made me realize how easy it is to allow emotions and untruths to steer our life onto a destructive and lonely path. Which got me thinking about  God our Father making a way for us to be co-heirs with Jesus to the Heavenly throne – and our at times reckless or indifferent response to that.   But I also think about our biological family here on earth as well as our extended spiritual family: the people we live life with, hang out with, climb mountains with and dance through the streets with.

These are the imperfect people that  we get to love and be loved by.   Don’t let anger force them to become strangers – because we are all adopted, all accepted, all loved.

THOR blog

Ladies & Gentlemen Your Attention Please

Whenever I think of a lady or a gentleman, my mind automatically wanders to  the Victorian era with its beautiful gowns, horse-drawn coaches and well-dressed gentlemen.  But what makes a real lady or a true gentleman?

It’s about things that are a lot more important than the clothes we wear and the cultural biases we are raised to follow.

It’s about a simple please or thank you.

LADIES & GENTLEMEN

It’s about respecting your fellow man.  By acknowledging their worth and their importance, you immediately give them space to develop, grow and change the world in a positive way.

It’s about the way you speak to people, the words you use, the attitude you have towards them, the respect you show for their privacy, their pain and their joy.

It’s about doing something for someone who won’t necessarily be able to return the favour…and not expecting anything in return.

It’s not a job, it’s not a set of rules, it’s a way of living your life.

I for one am very glad that I don’t have to wear corsets and ride to work on a carriage!  And let’s face it, those Victorian people may have dressed like ladies and gentlemen, but we all know that they gossiped like hooligans!  So you see, it’s not about the way you look, but about the way you conduct yourself.

LADIES & GENTLEMEN

I’m excited though.  I’m sure that a revolution of ladylike and gentlemanly behaviour is on the horizon; and I’m eager to be a part of it (as long as I don’t have to wear a corset!).

Are We There Yet?

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It’s been a while, but I remember watching Shrek 2 and laughing at the ultimate annoying road trip question: “Are we there yet?”  And Donkey did it so well; and by “well” I mean that he managed to be extremely annoying.

I love road trips because I enjoy the promise of the open road.  You pack all your favourite CD’s, or create a playlist on your iPod; you pack snacks and drinks; you dress comfortably, put your shades on and prop your feet up on the dash (rebellion at its best, because we all know our parents would never allow us to do that).  Even if you are not traveling very far, it’s still a wonderful feeling to get into your car and head towards a new place.  I think it’s the sense of adventure that’s so enjoyable.  And then, of course, it’s also about your road trip companions.

I have, however, been asking “Are we there yet?” because of a not-so-fun reason.  In all honesty, I have to admit that this year has been feeling a bit long.  I’m pretty sure it doesn’t just have 365 days…there’s definitely more!  This road trip is a long one, and you know how your bum starts complaining when you’ve sat down too long?  Well, I think this year has reached the “numb bum” section a long time ago.

The CD’s have been on repeat one too many times and the snacks are all gone; your feet are red from being propped up on that dash in the scorching sun, and even your road trip buddies are starting to become annoying.

ARE WE THERE YET?

To be honest, I have no idea how to get over the “Are we there yet” feeling at the end of a long and tiring year.  But there is one piece of advice I could give you: Don’t make rash decisions.

Don’t quit your job at this time of the year; don’t get into a fight with your friends and run the risk of ruining your friendship; don’t lose focus of why you made the resolutions or decisions you made at the beginning of the year; and especially don’t give up on your reliance on God.

It’s so extremely easy to make these emotional decisions when you feel weak and exhausted, but remember, you are stronger than that.  You’ve been through more than one “Are we there yet?” moment and you’ve made it to the other side…alive (might I add).

So, stop at the next petrol station, give your numb bum a rest, get some yummy snacks and tackle the rest of the journey with renewed strength.

Now…where did I put my Bon Jovi CD?  It’s time for the last leg of the road trip…let’s do this!

Share Your Island

“No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.” 

I’m pretty sure the poet, a man by the name of John Donne, was a very intelligent individual for his time.  It’s not really hard to see that from the four lines of poetry quoted above; and if you take the time to read up about him, it’s interesting to see how he has grown out of poverty to become a member of parliament as well as the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.

He’s right, of course, nobody could really lock themselves away from civilization and expect to prosper.  But I have to admit, I’m not so sure that I’m comfortable with the idea of sharing my island with people.

Just think about all the amazing photographs you’ve ever seen of small secluded islands; think of all the secret wishes you’ve sighed to the heavens when you see that beautiful idyllic piece of land far away from the idiots and lunatics you have to share your space with.

Some time ago I realized exactly how easy it was for me to become a hermit.  Let’s face it, it’s much easier to convince yourself to stay at home with a good book, a good movie or great music than it is to dress up and subject yourself to meeting new people and making small talk.

Or maybe it’s just me.  Fine, I’ll admit it, whenever I’m invited to something my first instinct is always to make an excuse.  I love being at home, by myself doing what I love.  And it’s hard work to meet new people and try to find common ground for a conversation.

SHARE YOUR ISLAND

But I also realized that building walls around myself is not healthy at all.  I tend to become quiet in conversation once I’ve been in seclusion for a while, which gives the impression that I’m not interested, and that’s rude.  When you’re perceived as being rude, people generally start keeping you at arm’s length.  At first you might think that is the perfect response, because you like being alone anyway, right?

Nope, in the end you’ll have pushed everyone away and what do you have left?  Yourself.  And we all know that our own conversation has the ability to get boring very soon.

That’s not all though.  We need people in our life to grow, to bounce ideas off of, to build dreams with, to make plans with, and to conquer fears with.  Our closest friends are the ones that pull us out of the emotional turmoil we might be stuck in, they’re the ones who shift our focus in the right direction.

I’m not saying you should fill your life with a thousand friends if that’s not your style.  I’m saying that you should allow people in your life that build you up, make you laugh and kick your behind when you’re being stupid.

Those are the ones worth sharing your island with.

It isn’t easy.  How do I know if someone is worth allowing in my life?  Let me tell you what I do.  My general rule of thumb is:  If they know how to laugh at themselves and don’t take life too seriously, they’re definitely a candidate for my island.  So find that one thing that’s the most important to you and make that the Backstage Pass to your island.

SHARE YOUR ISLAND

*Free Gift With Purchase

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A couple of days ago I impulsively decided to buy a CD.  Now, usually I don’t spend money impulsively; I generally invest a lot of time into research and making sure that I’m getting a good chunk of value for what I’m spending.  And let’s face it, it’s always a gamble with CD’s, right?  You inevitably only like about 3 songs on there and the rest of it is rubbish or boring.  But I just closed my eyes and bought it, because I really liked that one song.

To be honest, I didn’t even know the band existed until a few months ago; I didn’t know if they had any other albums; and I certainly had no idea whether any of the songs on that CD would even be something I would like.

Boy, was I surprised!  Pleasantly surprised!  I popped it into the CD player of my car on my way home and by the time song number 5 came around, I was air-punching with pure ecstasy.  There was no doubt in my mind, I got value for my money.

We all know that it doesn’t always work like that, right?  I’ve had my fair share of disappointments over the years because the thing I bought just didn’t do what it said on the tin.  Or maybe I just expected more than was ever intended, I don’t know.  The fact remains, more often than not we expect something and then it’s not what we had hoped for.

An experience like that has the potential to dull our spirits and turn us sour.  Inevitably we approach the world with a cynicism that poisons us from the inside, influencing our behaviour in a negative way.

There is one thing though; one glorious and amazing thing that turns out to be exactly what it says on the tin.  No, wait, it’s actually more.  It is so much more.

Salvation…

…the saving of the soul from sin and its consequences.

art-2

This is something big and to delve into the absolute meaning of salvation is going to make my head spin, in all honesty.  But what I do know is that my salvation through Jesus Christ is abundantly more than I could ever imagine or think.  I “purchased” the decision to give everything I am, everything I worry about and everything I dream about over to the One and Only God.  And in return I received the “free gift” of eternal life, freedom from sin and the love of God; the One who has my best interest at heart.  The One who won’t let any harm come to me.

Forget about that free bag you get when you buy a specified quantity of cosmetic products.  Forget about the free hands-free set you get when you purchase a new phone.  Forget about the 11 other songs on that CD that turned out to be just as good as the one I liked in the beginning.

The most important *Free Gift With Purchase you will ever receive is the gift of eternal life from a God that loves you unreservedly and unconditionally.

VERSE

Age of Integrity

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First, let me apologize for the cold sweat and the shivers down your spine that the word up there just caused. I know the feeling and let me tell you, I’m not a big fan of the discomfort I feel whenever I’m confronted with the big “I”. When this word first cropped up in the recesses of my mind, I decided to Google it. Big mistake let me tell you. A big mistake if you hate the truth, I have to add. I spent approximately five seconds looking at the definition and realized that I, like so many others, had no idea exactly what it meant.

Wikipedia’s first sentence immediately had me swallowing uncomfortably:  “…a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes.”

Dictionary.com didn’t help much either: “…soundness of moral character, honesty.”

And the Mirriam Webster version added the final accusing nail to the already doomed coffin of justification: “…Incorruptibility; an unimpaired condition; the quality or state of being complete or undivided.”

I don’t know about you, but all of a sudden I feel completely and utterly useless and incompetent.  It begs the question: Who can truly live up to displaying a life of integrity?

And then the justification steps in. That coffin I mentioned earlier?  It’s made up entirely of our justifications; trying to convince ourselves that integrity is an unobtainable virtue and as soon as we’ve convinced ourselves that integrity is not as important as we are lead to believe, we bury ourselves in a life of mediocrity and slavery to lies.

Do you know what I do when confronted with something like integrity? I close my eyes and hope it goes away. Like an ostrich I try and ignore my responsibilities. It’s not right, it’s not healthy and it won’t help me in the long run, but I still do it.

What do you think will happen if we keep ignoring integrity and it becomes extinct? I believe it will be an apocalypse of sorts. We will wake up to a world of ash and dust, breathing in chemicals that will leave us gasping for air. We will have to start a revolution just to ensure that integrity becomes a part of everyday life again.

And here’s the thing, integrity isn’t optional. God tells us in His Word: “Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” (Matthew 5:37 MSG); and also in James 5:12 (MSG): “Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you.” It doesn’t get simpler than that: Say what you mean, mean what you say and do what is right.  Don’t bend the truth to cover your behind and if you’re doing something that is technically not illegal but you still feel uncomfortable doing it? Guess what, integrity demands that you stop doing it immediately. We shouldn’t even be wandering around in the “grey areas”.

Look, I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do, but it’s definitely something we are all called and empowered to do. We have to be soldiers and warriors of the age of integrity. Ha! I’m getting all excited! I’ve always wanted to be a warrior. And look, I’ve even found us an anthem:

“I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones, enough to make my systems blow, welcome to the new age;” – Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.

AGE OF INTEGRITY 2

Your Hall of Fame

Throughout my life I’ve found myself simultaneously inspired and impressed by individuals who have become so extremely good at what they do, that the world can’t help but take note.  These people have figured out what they are passionate about and they’ve made the decision to pursue it.

I’m not talking about prodigies; that would be a whole different level of genius.  No, I’m talking about people who have put in the effort, the blood, sweat, tears, hours and hard work to become exceptionally good at what they love.  They didn’t sit back and wait for something to fall in their lap; they didn’t become famous for being famous; and they certainly didn’t expect anyone to do it for them.

I just know that you’re dying to hear an example…right?  Here you go;

Let’s have a look at a guy named Rick Allen.  He is 49 years old and he is the drummer for Def Leppard.  He has one arm.  The clincher is he had to have his arm amputated after he had already been playing with the band for a while.  Now, in my opinion he would have been completely justified if he decided to stop playing altogether and pursue a different career path.  He didn’t.  He looked at his situation and took a different approach to drumming to enable him to keep doing what he loves most.

Rick Allen

Maybe you have encountered someone in your life that has inspired you; someone that has beaten all odds to do what no-one else thought they would be able to do.

Sometimes I’m motivated by other people’s success and sometimes (I have to be brutally honest) I’m just a little bit intimidated.  If I’m not careful I could easily become depressed when I look at what others have done with their life compared to my own.

hall of fame stars

Look, I’m not talking about seeking fame here.  Being famous is not the end goal of life.  Yes, I know I’ve chosen to call this “Your Hall of Fame”, but that’s just the point: This is your hall of fame.  Once you’ve discovered the one thing in life that you are willing to sacrifice for, it doesn’t matter whether other people approve or not.  Your hall of fame is not a place where you are being worshiped as a celebrity, dishing out autographs on the red carpet, smiling at the camera and fighting off crazed fans.

Your hall of fame is a private place, the place where you know that you have given it your all and the result has made you happy and the world around you a better place.

I’m also not saying that becoming famous for a natural talent that you have cultivated and dedicated yourself to is wrong.  No, this is not about distinguishing between “good” and “better” talents and passions.  This is about knowing what you want to achieve in life and making every effort to do it.

Oh, here’s another thing that I used to struggle with: I always thought that I had to have my destiny, passion and talents figured out by the time I was 18 (at the latest), because that’s what Hollywood tells you; that’s what the 4 year old with his little fire truck makes you believe.  Let me tell you a secret: I’m 35 years old and I only recently figured out exactly what I would love to do with the rest of my life.

Let me leave you with one last thought, because these guys say it better than I could:

quote-FAME

Breaking The Deadline

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I have to admit, it’s rather ironic that the one word that kept running around in my mind these past few weeks, is “deadline”.  Ironic in the sense that the deadline for this blog crept up on me like Luke Skywalker on that ominous Death Star; I did not see it coming!  But here I am, penning down a piece about deadlines while almost missing my deadline on this piece about deadlines.

In all honesty, I (and I suspect many of you) thoroughly and passionately hate deadlines.  Unfortunately deadlines are an integral part of our daily lives and unless you strap on a jetpack and leave this planet, you’ll find it very hard to escape them.  And, to be fair, they are actually a necessary part of helping a business or company achieve their goals, reaching their ideals and delivering on their promises.  I guess you could say in a sense a promise is just a lie if there’s no deadline.

But I’ve come to realize that I have gotten into the habit of burdening myself with deadlines that shouldn’t even be deadlines.  At first this thought seemed ridiculous to me, but the more I spent time on it, I realized that somewhere in the back of my mind I always found that I was racing towards something; putting time limits on things that no-one forced me to put a time limit on in the first place.

For instance, I find myself forever dividing my evenings into how much time I have before I absolutely have to go to sleep, because that would dictate how many episodes of my favourite series I can squeeze in.  I know I’m the only person in the whole wide world that does this, right?  Also, I constantly have to stop myself from feeling like I’m missing out on stuff because I haven’t had the time yet to experience them, mainly because you think you have to have certain things in your life in place by the time you reach a certain age.

This kind of thinking definitely has a negative effect on my emotions and if I don’t make my self-inflicted deadline, I feel disappointed and that I have somehow failed at something.  Writing it down like this causes a cock-your-head-to-the-side-with-a-“duh”-frown reaction, because how do I not know this?  Isn’t this supposed to be common sense?

Not so much.  I get sucked in by the busyness and deadlines around me and I am pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Stress-free life

So I’ve made a decision: walk slower.  Just let those two words sink in for a second. I realized that by deliberately walking slower I allow myself more time to see things, hear things, experience things, meet people.  It forces me to spend more time in a particular place, putting me in the perfect position to open up to things that I otherwise never would have noticed were there.

Let me tell you, I’ve been doing this for the past month and I’ve noticed a difference.  The less I rush towards imaginary deadlines, the more I carefully pick the things I want to spend time on; and that means that my spirit and my heart becomes healthier, which opens them up to even more invigorating experiences and moments.  Even my mind has started wandering towards more creative places, and we all know that a creative mind is a healthy mind!

If you’re up for the challenge I dare you to deliberately focus your mind away from unnecessary deadlines.  In doing so you will be breaking the deadline and opening up your life to so much more. Walk slower.

No more stress

Born To Run

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The opening scenes of two of my favourite TV shows feature someone running for dear life:  One of them is running through snow-covered woods in the middle of the night, while the other is scaling treacherous mountainous terrain on an uncharted island on an overcast day.  Both of them are running because their lives depend on it.

As the snow turns her bare feet into ice and the woods loom over her like the bringer of doom it always appears to be in the dark, Max is running away from captivity, experimentation, torture and militant brainwashing. Oliver’s tortured body barely even registers the pain inflicted by the sharp and jagged edges of the mountains he’s grown so accustomed to during the last five years, but now at least he is running towards something: his home, his family and his destiny.

The above situations aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.  In its most basic form it stands to reason that when you are running away from something it also means that you are running towards something else.  More than once in my life I’ve run.  I’m still running.

Let me ask you this:

Do you ever feel like you are standing outside of your life?  Even with everyone and everything around you, do you feel isolated, maybe even hunted?  It might even seem that you are parallel to this world you exist in, but you are not in it?  Almost like two train tracks that run alongside each other but they never intersect.

 

Athlete

 

You’ve considered running, physically running away and starting a life somewhere different; somewhere that allows you to start with a clean slate, a new vision, a different mind-set.  But where do you run?  What would you have to do to run away completely, disappear completely?  Or do you just distance yourself emotionally and mentally from everyone and everything around you?  How would that affect the people in your life that care about you?  What do you tell them when you stand at the door with a bag in your hand and no real plans for the immediate future?

In all honesty, I’ve had this feeling many times before.  I’ve dreamed of packing a bag with the bare necessities, skipping town (skipping my life) and making my way somewhere so different it would force me to be completely different.  I even had a mental checklist:  Close bank accounts, delete email accounts, Facebook accounts, all social media traces.

I’ve found myself longing for the open road, a new beginning and an opportunity at anonymity in a strange and new land, but I didn’t know why I had this turmoil inside of me, why my heart ached for such freedom and my soul longed for a new identity.  Sometimes you experience urgency inside your spirit that pushes you so hard that you feel you need to take drastic steps to distance yourself from whatever is holding you back.  Maybe your gift, your passion, your calling, your destiny is setting you apart.  Maybe that is the thing that is hiking up your heart rate, causing the shallow breathing; almost like you are being chased.

Does running help?  Maybe.  If not running, what then?  Could running be channelled into something else?  Possibly.  Every single one of us is unique.  So my urgency to run will definitely be different from yours.  It doesn’t mean it’s wrong; it doesn’t mean it’s right.  All it means is that we need to figure out why we feel compelled to run and where we are being pushed towards.

So figure out your why and where.  The best way to do this?  I would suggest that it’s about having an open and honest heart to heart with God.  After all, He’s the one that created you for exactly this time and place.

So turn to Him.  You might end up running into the outstretched arms of your destiny…

 

Hebrews 12:1

Our Born Identity

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When I was younger (and when I say younger, I have to admit that I’m still convinced I’m “younger”) I used to think it would be really cool to discover that I have hidden talents.  Almost like being a secret agent.  More specifically, I would have loved to discover that I was Jason Bourne.

When you think about the Bourne movies and the fact that Jason Bourne can’t remember who he is, what makes him unique or what his character flaws or attributes are, it’s pretty scary.  But then his muscles, his body, the synapses in his brain remember how to move, how to defend and how to disarm.  Him discovering that he has skills that he is unable to recall until it is absolutely needed, must be amazing, but also alarming at the same time.   How did he come by these skills?  How did he get trained?  Who is he?  What is he?

Apart from the obvious setbacks of course I’d love to be able to discover some hidden awesomeness about myself that makes me the best there is in a particular field. I wouldn’t want to lose my memory or my sense of self though.  Funnily enough, I think I may have stumbled across something that I didn’t know I had in me until the moment presented itself.

A few weeks ago my character and integrity was attacked out of the blue and I was accused of things that simply weren’t true.  Now normally (as I believe most people would react) I would rant and rave about how unfair it is that another person could think that they have the right to judge me when they haven’t made the time to even get to know me.  Bear in mind that this person has never been in my immediate world, which means they have never seen how I conduct myself.  I’m sure you will agree that I would have been justified in displaying a temper flare-up.

The weird thing was though, I didn’t react negatively.I didn’t go off at anybody within ear-shot about how unfair this judgment was and I didn’t get offended or blame that person for saying those things.  In that second, that moment, my anger didn’t dictate my actions; I didn’t even feel any anger.  I was simply able to take a tiny step back and see it for what it was: not a true reflection of me.

Thinking back now, I’d love to say that I exhibited my inner Wolverine in that moment.  Wolverine probably had no idea that first day that he would be able to control his anger even a little bit.  When the scientists first experimented on him he must have been in extreme and excruciating pain and that pain grew into anger.  To such an extent that he became a recluse, because he had no control over his anger and what it could make him do.  But life placed him in situations, in moments, that slowly but surely taught him to be in control of his emotions, which in turn kept him from hurting innocents.

Born Identity

 

I think that is what happens to all of us.  We don’t become Superheroes overnight; and even the most composed person on earth still has to make a conscious decision to not get angry.  I believe that growth is the answer; and not just growth, but the choice to grow through your circumstances, through your negative moments and through uncontrollable outside influence.

We have all been “trained” like Jason Bourne, whether we remember the moments or not, so that when we are placed in a situation that requires a particular skill set, we are ready.  Once you choose to grow and learn, you will eventually turn into someone that is able to distribute amazing maturity and contentment, no matter what is thrown your way.

No, I’m not saying that we will turn into emotionless, tactless, uniform robots.  We will be better versions of ourselves, and essentially that is where I want to be: A better version of myself.

 

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