Monday, 20 July 2015

What Do You See?

We all know that Life is a gift.
A gift is something we receive with no price tag attached and we receive it undeservedly.  It is given voluntarily with no exchange required.  Small or big, it is precious, valued because of the intent behind it.  It is to be treasured.  Life is to be treasured.
Yet, to me, life is much more than a gift.  A gift normally implies that I do not have a choice in the matter, as most of us do not go around telling people what to give to us.  We have very little control over what the gift is that we unwrap.  Of course, that is part of the excitement when we receive a gift - the anticipation of something wonderful.  The thing with gifts are that we all have certain expectations when we receive a gift.  Secretly we hope that it will be the exact thing we have been hoping for, that little something we would like to buy for ourselves, but never have the money for.  So, even as adults, we are filled with a sense of wonder as we unwrap the prettily decorated gift and open it up.
However, sometimes our expectations are not met.  We might already have a bottle opener, or the thought of putting on a pair of neon green socks, is just too much to get excited about. Sometimes Life is like that.  It is not what we expected it to be.  Therefore, to view Life merely as a gift, however wonderful, implies that we do not have much of a choice in the matter.  People tend to think that this is the hand Life dealt me and they must sit back and take it.  However, Life is so much more than a gift.  Life is a choice.  The gift of Life is a choice.
Let's for a moment take a look at those neon socks which you unwrapped.  Maybe your first reaction to their intense colour is one of shock and dismay, and after your initial effort of keeping a look of genuine pleasure on your face whilst exclaiming about the joys of neon coloured socks, you secretly plan to throw them into the nearest rubbish bin.  But wait a minute, before you do that, take a look at the choices this gift presents to you.  You can throw them away or you could celebrate the fact that with their vivid colour, you will definitely be visible when running at night.  You could also use them as mittens and know exactly where your hands are when you try to drink something during power shedding when the moon is low on wattage too.  You could use them for funky dusters, or you can pass them on to somebody else as a gift and enjoy their reaction as they unwrap these delightful socks.  Of course, you could also have them framed and have them as a conversation starter above your fireplace.  So many choices.  It is all a matter of vision.  It is not WHAT we are given, but HOW we look at what we are given.  What can I learn from this gift?  What is the message behind it?  It is not the gift that is bad, but it is our perception which makes it good or bad.
I remember how we as children would take the discarded cellophane wrappers of the chocolates and look through them.  Some of the wrappers were pink, others green or orange.  I loved the purple ones.  I loved how everything would take on the colour of the wrapper I was looking through.  It is the same with the gift of Life.  How we perceive Life depends on through what colour glasses we view it.  Do I see the good or the bad?  Do I see a worm or do I see the potential of the caterpillar?  Do I see the beauty of the butterfly?
When we stop looking at Life with tunnel vision it is amazing to find how Life unfolds into a world of amazing opportunities and wonder. When we widen our vision, we open ourselves up to be surprised.  We open ourselves up to the full spectrum of Life's rainbow.
So, how about it?  What will you see today? With what colour glasses will you view your gift today?

Friday, 17 July 2015


In my previous post I spoke about the obstacles we all encounter at times in our lives.  Today I want to continue with the topic.  A lot of the obstacles we get along our journey are ones created by factors outside of our control.  However, some obstacles are created by our own doing.  One of the biggest self-made obstacles is called Procrastination.  It can start off as a little cuddly animal, but before long it can become a massive elephant in our lives.

According to the Etymology Dictionary procrastination comes from Latin procrastinationem (nominative procrastinatio) "a putting off from day to day," noun of action from past participle stem of procrastinare "put off till tomorrow, defer, delay," from pro- "forward" (see pro-) + crastinus "belonging to tomorrow," from cras "tomorrow," of unknown origin.

Many people view procrastinators merely as lazy people.  And while some procrastinators may appear lazy, the truth of it is not as simple as that.  We think that we can "cure" a procrastinator simply by telling him to stop wasting time and to start doing something.  Unfortunately, that is as likely to be successful as telling a smoker to stop smoking.  It is estimated that 20 % or more of the population are chronic procrastinators.  Most people view procrastinators as irritating, but few take it seriously, yet procrastination can have serious consequences for both the procrastinator and those around him.  Many people are hindered in their careers and relationships by their procrastinating habits.

Here are just a few reasons why people procrastinate:

* They lack commitment to the task or goal.

They would like to do it, but they are not committed enough to put their every effort into it.  Their desire to achieve it is not strong enough to pursue it.  They lack the drive to chase the dream and are therefore easily distracted.

* Fear.

Often people fear that if they were to try, they might fail.  They feel safer not to try than to try and fail.  They fear that failure will only prove to themselves, and others, how useless they are.  They feel vulnerable.  Sometimes they fear success.  Being successful means having to live up to others' expectations of them, and they fear that it would be too daunting for them. 

* Leaving the comfort zone.

All procrastinators like their comfort.  They love The Zone.  They love dreaming ABOUT doing something.  They even love planning HOW to do something.  They gather all the information about where, what and how, but they do not like leaving their comfort zone.  Leaving the Zone takes effort, it means having TO DO something, and that often goes hand in hand with some form of discomfort, even some pain.

* They lack knowledge.

Procrastinators feel inadequate.  They are unsure of how or where to start a daunting task.  They have little or no knowledge about the task at hand.  They feel overwhelmed by the whole process.  They put off getting started and the result is that the elephant grows larger and larger which leads to further procrastination.  It becomes a vicious cycle.

* They have no desire to achieve the goal or tackle the task at hand.

People who have no, or very little interest in a certain job, will not be very motivated to take it on.  Often people find themselves having to live up to other people's ideas of what they should do, but they themselves have no interest in doing it.  They will use any excuse as motivation not to do it. 

Does any of this sound familiar?  Do you recognize your own behaviour? What is your reason for procrastinating?  More importantly: Do you want to break the habit of procrastination in your life?  Then I strongly recommend reading this excellent post by Tim Urban:

WARNING: I know what you are thinking - "I'll do it later."  I urge you to DO IT NOW.  Follow the link.  Get ready to take control of your life.

A few notes before you go: 

Get up - NOW!
Get ready - NOW!
Stop making excuses - NOW!
Do what you have been putting off - NOW!
Do it every day, even if it is just one step a day, but DO IT!

I say Good Night with this quote by  Mr. Brown :

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” 
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.P.S. I Love You

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Not Ever!!!

We are all familiar with them.  We have all encountered them on our journey.  Obstacles.  Roadblocks.  Here we are, happily going on our way.  We have carefully made our plans, and we are filled with so much enthusiasm and excitement, but suddenly we are faced with so many obstacles, that our best laid plans are completely derailed.  We are so overwhelmed by the problems facing us that we find ourselves drained of energy and we feel like giving up.  The obstacles seem insurmountable. Every way we turn, we encounter a problem or negativity.  Our plans seem doomed for failure.  Yet, although it seems as if giving up is the only answer, the real truth is actually that we always, ALWAYS have a choice.
We can choose to give up, we can choose to listen to the naysayers, we can choose to surrender our dreams and plans.  We can choose to use the problems and obstacles as a very good excuse to give up.  Or we can choose to take a fresh look at the obstacles presented to us.
Yes, obstacles can stop us in our tracks, they can bar the way.  However, my brother taught me that obstacles are merely stepping stones on the way to the future.  Obstacles are very useful building blocks for our journey.  He taught me that they are there to teach us perseverance and creative thinking.  They strengthen us.

Firstly, whenever we are faced with obstacles, it is important to NEVER GIVE UP!!!  Never surrender your dreams.  Instead, change your attitude from feeling defeated into one of defiance.  There is always a way.
When we are faced with obstacles, it is very important to take a good look at them and to evaluate them.  What is this problem trying to tell you?  What is it trying to teach you or warn you about?  Look at all the options and then think about all the possible solutions for it.  Think creatively.  Maybe it is necessary to approach it from a different angle, maybe view it from a different perspective.

I want to say it again: NEVER GIVE UP!  Never use the stumbling block as an excuse to give up, use it as a stepping stone to where you want to be.  Very often we give up when we encounter a problem, not necessarily because the problem is so big, but because we are actually afraid. We are afraid of change, and we are deathly afraid of failure.  We use the problem as an excuse in order to avoid facing the real issue: fear.  To be successful means to relinquish our fears and to take action.  Yes, often success means we have to change.  We have to change the way we normally do things, we have to change the way we live and maybe even where we live.  Once we understand that change is inevitable, we will be ready for the next step.  Fear of failure is a strong demotivator, yet the only failure lies in not trying in the first place.
Another obstacle we sometimes encounter is our own feelings of inadequacies and unworthiness.  We feel ill equipped to pursue our dreams and execute our plans.  We believe we are unworthy of success and we sabotage ourselves.  We demand absolute perfection from ourselves and when we cannot deliver, we consider ourselves unworthy.  This leads to disillusion and feelings of depression.
When we are faced with obstacles, it is important to keep calm and stay positive.  Keep it simple and focus on the actual problem and not the imagined complications.  Be sure in the knowledge that there is always a way to solve it, it is just a matter of finding it.  Have faith and take action.  Sometimes we are surprised that we not only find a way to climb past the road blocks, but we actually discover we have wings to fly right over them.

I leave you with these three words:


Monday, 6 July 2015

Treasure in Heaven

Since the beginning of time, mankind has been in search of something better or bigger.  We always have our sights set on the next thing.  We have dreams and goals, aspirations.  As little children we dream of one day being a doctor, fireman, teacher or astronaut.  We fantasize about living in huge castles, stables full of horses and treasure chests filled with untold riches.  
Once we step out into the world as young adults, however, we realize that it might not be as easy as we have believed.  The realities of finding work in a time of work scarcity quickly brings us down to earth.  We discover that it takes money to just make it through life day by day.  Suddenly it dawns on us why our parents said that there was no money for those new rugby togs, or a trip to the fun park.  Everyday things like paying for utilities, fuel for our vehicle and licenses eat away at our paycheck long before we get to spending money on fun and luxury items. We scrimp and save, we work overtime and fine tune our budgets to reach our goals.  We sacrifice time spent with our families and work overtime in order to make ends meet and ultimately to build our wealth.  
Every single parent wants to give his or her child more and better than what he had himself.  We want to provide for them to the best of our abilities.  It is just the way it is.  We all want to leave something behind for our children.  But this I learned from my father:  when a child asks for an ice-cream, buy him one, for there comes a day when he no longer wants an ice-cream.  Of course, this advice does not translate into giving in to our childrens' every whim, no, it means that the little things in life mean so much more than the big things.
My parents were not rich in material things, they were average people.  We lived in an average house, in a decent neighbourhood, went to good schools and college.  
They were not rich.  Yet, the inheritance they left us was wonderful.  Amazing!! Till this day my children still share in it, and I know my grandchildren will one day also benefit from it.  No, they did not leave us stocks or bonds.  We did not find a chest of gold hidden beneath their bedroom floor.  The greatest treasure they gave us, was putting our feet upon the path of the Lord.  They gave us faith, they taught us how to believe and they showed us how to live.  Nothing in the world can buy this.  It is not for sale.  The treasure map they left us is the one leading to heaven.
I never really understood the magnitude of this gift until a friend one day said that she wished she could believe like I did, but she was never taught about God.  Now, as an adult, she found it impossible to put her faith into "some or other higher being".  Suddenly it dawned on me that not only did I have the most wonderful parents anyone could have hoped for, but they also gave me an inheritance that is immeasurably valuable.  My biggest regret is that I never took the opportunity to say thank you to them for this precious gift.
I leave you with this verse from the Bible:

Matt 6: 20 "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;…

Friday, 3 July 2015

Throw Paint!

Once a week a few of us get together to paint, draw, chat and doodle.  All week long we rush around, taxi children, do chores, but come Friday it is our time, it is the start of our week-end.  For those few hours we create and recharge our batteries.  No critics are allowed, no negative talk and no self-sabotage!  What we all marvel at is the fact that although sometimes one of us might not feel in the mood, or might feel tired or depressed, by the end of our session, we all feel energized and on top of the world.  In fact, we find it extremely difficult to stop what we are doing, the creative sluices are wide open.
Being creative is one of the best forms of therapy, it brings healing and peace beyond our understanding.  I think the reason for that is that through the creative processes we draw closer to God's heart, because He is the great Creator, our creativity is not from ourselves, but from the Lord.  He bestows the gift of creativity on each and every one of his children, with no favouritism, but somehow we allow the world and its critics to steal that gift away from us.  We fall for the lies we are being told by the world - you are not talented enough, you are not creative, your talent is of little use, etc etc. 
It is amazing to watch little children drawing, painting or doing anything creative.  They do it with such absolute conviction and confidence.  Not for a second do they question that blob of red paint they've put on the paper, it IS a dog, a cat, a cow.  Of course the sky is green, the river purple and a giraffe has three legs.  They do not doubt their artistic ability or criticize their own efforts, and they are equally enthusiastic about their playmates' artwork.  Unfortunately, too soon the words and ideas of the world creep in and plant the ugly seeds of criticism and self-doubt, and that flamboyant young artist becomes an adult that 'cannot even draw a stick figure'!
Pablo Picasso said that all children are artists, the problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.  It is definitely time for everyone to close the doors to the opinion of the world and reconnect with that artist hiding inside.
Life is a canvas - so come on, throw all the paint you have at it!!!  Do it today!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Knock knock...?

Yesterday I wrote about how wonderful it is to have a place to call home.  Then this morning I read this piece in the Bible: 

Matthew 8:19-20New International Version (NIV)

19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

I spent some time thinking about this and then realised that it is so true.  We, humans, are a busy lot.  We are for ever rushing around doing this, doing that.  We are constantly under pressure to perform better, to do more and achieve greater and greater heights.  Time is often in short supply. We fill our lives with so many activities, meetings and events.  We serve on countless commitees and everybody demands its pound of flesh from us.  Often times it is our families that pay the price for our hectic lives and with it our spiritual lives take a backseat too.  We simply have no time spare, and we expect our families to understand it, and accomodate us accordingly.  We have no time for the Lord and we buy off our conscience with a hasty prayer before rushing out into yet another hectic day. Yet, if we spare a moment to evaluate our lives, we may find that a lot of our busy-ness is needless clutter. We have a place for all those little foxes that we have allowed into our lives.  Those little foxes that we read about in Song of Solomon 2:15("the little foxes that spoil the vineyards,...") .  Those things in our lives which we allow to run free, the things we perceive as harmless, yet they end up wrecking havock in our lives.  We have a place in our lives for the birds.  Beautiful, exotic things.  They fill our lives with constant noise and chirping, flying here and there, they keep us busy, busy, busy.  Yet these birds pecked up the seed and flew away with it, as we read in Matt. 13:4 (ESV)  "And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them."

We have place for so many things in our lives, but there is very little, if any, place for the Lord in our lives.  Jesus has no place to rest his head.  Everything else takes a much higher priority in our lives.  When He knocks on our door, the tavern is full.  Maybe it is time we do some de-cluttering, free up some place for the Lord of Lords in our lives.

Blessings, and you are welcome to comment on this post.