Gratitude — in a new world order

So as another birth year rolls in, I find myself in a rather different head space than before. Recent world events, viz the corona virus and its unprecedented toll on human lives internationally, give one reason to pause. Pause and reflect. Reflect on the fragility of human life. Think of how it is that a microscopic, nondescript no-thing can kill, bring down economies, eradicate jobs, run businesses into bankruptcy, cancel out weddings and  ‘major’ human activities, render immobile, make even human contact a hazard etc, etc… the long list of doom is unending.

When I learnt that my favorite clothing store which I have faithfully patronized since 2011 (it has the most comfortable underwear!) had to close nationwide because of losses due to the virus, I was heartbroken.

Reduced to the basics of staying at home, and having to make the best of oneself, or with immediate family (if lucky) and praying to not be afflicted with the unspeakable, begs the question, what is the whole essence of this life’s struggles if a tiny no-thing can snuff it out without notice? But above all, it also creates a keen sense that another day is not promised, and each new day is a privilege for which we must be, and I certainly am,  grateful. COPYRIGHT DERBYLEADDS 2020

Friendships

Someone lamented that her old friends appeared to have cooled off towards her.

To that I respond:

Friendships serve varied purposes. Some friends are for life, and stay with us through thick and thin, all the way through experiences and changes in our lives, however profound. Many simply move on into different spheres in life, into different social circles and acquire lifestyles that are alien to us. Others are for a specific reason, which, once the reason is over, the friend melts away. Sometimes a person comes into our lives to comfort or help us at a difficult time. When the storm passes away, the friendship has run its course, and might not endure. We are ourselves sometimes called to be that friend and to help or nurture another through a hard phase, and this does not necessarily translate to a strong bond of a lifetime. I think that if we understand these dynamics, we’d not agonize over seemingly lost friendships.  COPYRIGHT © 2018 DERBYLEADS

 

 

JUST ASK

Sometimes all we need to do is ASK.

A tough situation or a knotty problem suddenly presents; an “acute” problem, as the doctors would say. Or someone unexpectedly creates a difficulty or a hindrance, a hurdle

And our first natural reaction is to become hopeless, or to accept it as inevitable, to rationalize it

But there’s often somebody who can help, or even that person who created the problem may be persuaded to amend their decision

I have learned in my short life to make an effort to change that unpleasant decision by asking for help, or for someone to amend a decision

And I have often been pleasantly surprised. Like this morning. Today.

So to my friends, I say, JUST ASK. COPYRIGHT © 2018 DERBYLEADS

Still on creative thinking…

Many years ago, I was on a quest that required documents from abroad within a specific time-frame. Very daunting. I had lots of discouragement from people who told me that I could not possibly get them. Forget it, they said; you cannot expect to get such sensitive documents inter-country whilst you are over here. Oh dear, what do I do! So I sat me down and thought about it for a while. Then ideas started to roll… and the phone calls began, the letters started to be written, and help was secured from electronic sources. In six weeks, the certified “impossible” documents were complete! So I realized that thinking through a knotty situation can yield good results.

“The more you think about a problem, the more you come up with solutions” COPYRIGHT © 2017 DERBYLEADS

A Near-Death Experience

It started out as a regular day in February 2017. There was nothing extraordinary about it, and not the slightest hint or sign that I would go through one of the most profound and fearsome of human experiences – a close shave with death.

The fanfare of the recent family wedding was over, leaving behind warm reminiscences of the happy celebration that it had been. I had excitedly brushed up my dancing ahead in order not to be caught unprepared when the celebratory beats took over, in what promised to a very joyful event. And indeed it was. Music was superlative and totally irresistible, thanks to expert arrangements by my dear music-director brother. Having resisted all attempts to be seated at the reception, explaining that all I wanted to do was dance, not eat, LOL, I danced away, as did we all, from engagement through to the reception! So I was exhausted, but exhilarated. A very happy day ended, and the next day, Sunday, was spent recuperating.

And so the next Tuesday, off I went to the gym/spa. Mundane, habitual stuff, or so I thought, until I started to notice an insidious buildup of reactions. First the burning pain from whatever was mixed into the massage ointment. Then dizziness and nausea, and a feeling of blacking out, but I cannot for the life of me fully describe the succession of sensations; rather like gradually losing control of one’s senses, or falling uncontrollably into a foggy drugged sleep, or shutting down, so to speak, all accompanied by extreme thirst. Anyway, I dragged myself out of the steamer and laid me down for some time. Thinking I was better, I tried again for the steamer, but this time my reaction was more serious/acute and I felt I was losing consciousness really quickly, so I gave up on that, rested again, then showered and left.

But that was just the end of Part I. I stopped by a friend’s office, where he gave me some papers to study, but I alerted him from the onset that I probably wouldn’t make much sense of it in my condition. Next thing I knew, the now familiar sensation of weakness came on me, and I was very quickly losing strength, couldn’t walk, and had to be supported by two people to the car outside. Then, suddenly the unthinkable happened. I experienced the worst chest congestion and breathing difficulty of my life, as my chest cavity became constricted. There I was, struggling to breathe, to drag in air, groaning and wheezing in the process; I could not talk any more, could only gesture helplessly whilst struggling for air…ah! My God, it was beyond horrible. Scary. I said my last prayers in my head, thinking, this is it, this is the end! I ended up in hospital where I was revived and admitted for observation through the night.

The experience was an keen reminder of our mortality, and of how very fragile our lives are. I must say that I am grateful to still be among the living. So grateful.

COPYRIGHT © 2017 DERBYLEADS

 

 

Still about Music…Titillating Music of the ’90s!

One of my earlier posts described the magnetic quality of the music of the ’80s. I think the music of that period was maturing from the more rudimentary efforts of the ’60s and ’70s. Well, ’90s music was no less spell-binding. I feel that it was music at full maturity, in full bloom, so to speak. Outstanding singers like Whitney Houston, R. Kelly, Barry White, Anita Baker, Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, and Boyz to Men, easily come to mind.

So let’s first feature the group, ‘Boyz II Men! They are one unique group that is best known for stirring a cappella harmonies and beautiful emotional ballads. Their sonorous voices which create the incredible harmonies require minimal, if any, instrumentals. And particularly striking is the undulating pattern of the voice arrangements (noticeable in the second verse of the song, ‘Bended Knee’)…altogether very, very pleasant. One is struck by the intertwining, stylishly ascending, and then descending pattern. You feel the intensity of the singer’s emotions, and you get caught in lyric after lyric, verse upon verse. Such talent! Such artistry! I have honestly never heard anything so skillful before or after them.

I was rather puzzled though, at the obviously over-sized suits that the youngsters wore in the 1990s. I pondered that it couldn’t be that they didn’t know or couldn’t find their sizes. Even if they had difficulty with sizing for whatever reason, they’d surely consult fashion experts rather than risk public ridicule. Then it hit me: their dressing is a symbolic statement, designed to represent youngsters growing into men! The oversized coats depict the maturity into which they were growing, hence their name from “Boyz II Men” !

There was also Anita Baker, oh Anita Baker! Whether it was ‘You Bring Me Joy’, ‘Priceless’, ‘Same Ole Love’, or ‘Been So Long’… anything that wonderful woman rendered was incomparable and priceless, even as she sang passionately, with intense emotion…  like one who was weeping. She is one of the few singers whom I could listen to their entire album and love every single track in it.

Truly, a selection of great singers, voices well-modulated, and a harmonious rendition are to me, transports of delight. Heaven, pure heaven on earth!

COPYRIGHT © 2016 DERBYLEADS

The Breathtaking Beauty of Autumn!

It’s the Autumn season, and as expected, all the foliage is going up in the most incredible flames of colors – yellow, gold, red, wine, burgundy, orange and pink, – all of which contrast so beautifully with the green leaves. North America names this season “Fall”, I guess in acknowledgment of that time when the leaves ultimately dry up and fall out. But I think that nomenclature is not a very apt description of this phenomenal season. For not taking into account all the glorious beauty and splendor of leaves changing into such a rich diversity of colors, it does seem rather inept. Autumn is such a remarkable time that some New England states with extensive foliage, such as Vermont, seasonally host tourists who book holidays during this period just to view and enjoy nature in its grand beauty.

By contrast, I’m not aware that African countries enjoy this beauty, and I find myself wondering why not? Is it because residents of the West love, and are so devoted to nature that the Creator deemed it proper to reward them with this perennial breathtaking beauty? Who knows? What I do know is that I love Autumn, not only for the beauty but also because it boasts comparatively good weather. Thanking God for Autumn! Thanking Him for beauty!!

COPYRIGHT © 2016 DERBYLEADS

Desperate Times and International Migration

Early in September 2016, a video was published of black people (reportedly Nigerian) in a migrant ship breaking into songs and dancing on sighting Europe. Someone sneered at their jubilation, describing their venture in scathing terms as “crass irresponsibility”.

Irresponsibility?

International migration has indeed grown significantly in modern times. The world witnessed the surge of migrants from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries into Europe in 2015. This was in the aftermath of the Arab Spring which saw uprisings in these countries with ensuing civil wars. Intolerable conditions ignited the mass movement and nationals of both Syria and neighboring countries took advantage of the times to relocate to Europe especially Germany. The migrants traveled largely by land and water.

One might criticize these migrants for the huge risks they take (sometimes with fatal consequences), and for their defiance of regular immigration rules (I am a firm believer in respecting and complying with every country’s immigration laws). But hardly can you fault them for seeking a better quality of life. Everyone is entitled to pursue a good quality of life and happiness. Millions of refugees from the Middle East flooded Europe last year, and I recall that Germany alone recorded over one million desperate migrants. Many of them were not Syrians; they were nationals from other countries who took advantage of the situation. I remember thinking at the peak of the migrant crisis last year, that it was a great opportunity for other nationals to take advantage of the temporary suspension of normal immigration laws. These countries have refugee status provisions that allow people in dire circumstances to make new homes abroad.

Nigeria is going through a recession right now, and times are really hard for millions; even those with good incomes are complaining. It’s a system significantly lacking in social support structures other than what the churches and mosques can put together. And desperate times call for desperate measures. I see desperation in that video, not irresponsibility. Until Nigeria can provide basic social welfare programs that cater to the majority, I believe that criticisms should be moderate. COPYRIGHT © 2016 DERBYLEADS

Being Circumspect about Church Instructions and Teachings

Recently, a church hosted a guest minister at a special program. While the minister preached, he used a lot of handkerchiefs to mop the sweat on his face. Afterwards, he offered the sweaty handkerchiefs to the congregation for $1,000 each. Remarkably, the church members scooped them all up.

This event beams light on odd doctrines and teachings in some churches, particularly on the subject of selecting marriage partners.

A particular church expressly prevents its young women from choosing their partners from other churches. They can only marry men from that particular church; all other churches are not to be trusted.

Another church ordered a woman to terminate a serious long-term relationship that was leading to marriage with her boyfriend because, since she’d gotten born again, they had become unequally yoked. Later when she had another serious proposal, the church again obstructed it for the same reason. But it was okay for the same man who later got born again to marry another sister in the church with the church’s blessings and approval. So she lost two suitors. Needless to say that the woman married someone else, but left the church in frustration.

Yet another church requires female members to strip all adornment including makeup, wigs, attachments, perming and jewelry. It has also disqualified some of the female members’ suitors for reason of being insufficiently spiritual. Some of the ladies are still single today whilst their contemporaries have become grandparents.

A church leader said recently that brothers should not marry women who cannot pray for an hour. But how many of these brothers can pray for an hour? And when did praying for an hour become the criterion for prayer’s efficacy? Bible says fervent, heartfelt prayer makes tremendous power available to us. It says praising God will make the earth yield its increase and for Him to bless us; with these and other guidelines we know how to approach God. Nowhere did it say praying for an hour is a requirement. How about a woman who can pray for hours but is a pretender, or a shrew and a vixen in character?

On the other hand, the pastors’ matchmakings have sometimes led to disillusionment when real character and social class played out in the marriages, as some have testified.

In the final analysis, we hold our destinies in our own hands, as our lives are the sum of our own decisions. As one wise woman said, God has given each person a mind, a heart and a conscience to think, weigh, and make decisions, and to pray for guidance. He has also given us direct access to Himself through Jesus. We need to preserve our minds so that we do not fall victims of manipulation or wrong teachings. Deification of pastors is to our undoing as they are only human. Pastors are fallible human beings, not God.