One Day.

This past weekend, I was playing at a conference held by my local church, when I saw one of the older bishops who knew me from when I was a boy. I was so pleased to see him that after my set, I ran down to greet him. He was approaching eighty and was bent over, shaky and weak, but he still recognized me, and with that same charming smile, accepted my greeting and shared his time with me.

He asked how I was doing. I paused to respond with only what was relevant and succinct: “We’re not There yet but we’re getting There.” He smiled knowingly and said “good good” but then shared something with me that was very profound.

“Son, ” The Bishop said with a twinkle in his eye, “sometimes it only takes one day for everything to happen. Remember that God created the world in six days.”

I reflected on that. I remembered that in Genesis that it said it took six days for God to create the world and each day was profound. When God made dry land there was dirt, rocks and grass, lush vegetation and fruit bearing trees. And that was only the third day. Order was brought forth out of chaos in one “day”.

Now, there may be bible scholars and readers more learned than me that will declare that there is no way that one 24 hour day could have had all of that progress. Others may argue that the “day” is figurative, as 1000 years are as one day to God (Psalms 90:4) and it could easily been an eon. But the point to be drawn from this is that time may pass, but in hind sight that time is very small in comparison to the growth you have gained and especially when progress is accomplished in that time.

It is so important that though everything in your life may seem to mount as one catastrophe upon another; while you do your absolute best at a task or your job and there is always someone there to try to bring you down or point out your mistakes out of spite; you may get confirmation that you are in The Will of the Almighty and but every thing is topsy-turvy, know this: It can take one “day” and one incident where God orchestrates everything to be righted and everything comes together. All it takes is one day for the pieces to fall into place so that even your worst detractor will have to admit that something special beyond words happened.

This is how good our God is.

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A parable as told to me by Mr. Somenath Gupta

A group of automobile engineers created a new vehicle smart and efficient. which made the CEO very happy. On the day of launching the vehicle the engineers found the vehicle is 2 inches taller and can not go through the gate. The paint engineer said “There will be small scratches which I will fix later; let it go.”  The structural engineers said “Let us break the door and then fix it.” But the CEO was not convinced with either answer.

The doorman was watching the drama, and he came and said very humbly, “May I suggest something?” Everyone started snickering and was was laughing. How could a DOORMAN have any valid ideas? The doorman went on: “Release some air from the tires and it will be fine.”

An that is exactly that happened: the car left the factory without any problems.

For any problem, you do not have to think of complicated solutions. A simple solution is available for all problems. Release some air (our anger, ego, frustration) and everything will be smooth.

-S. Gupta.

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Fur Chantel

Janus is thy name, fair love, for with twain face you are betrothed
To anger me and please me so, and cause me to want to stay and go
To have me humbled, yet empowered; you my virginity and deflower-er
A lady in the hall, racous in the bed, quiet is thy speech which echoes in my head
Janus is that name, thou love of my light
For you can be two but are one of a kind.
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Put the cell phone away when you drive

MY FELLOW DRIVERS,  please stop using your cell phones when you drive. Four reasons:

1) Its dangerous. If you look down at your phone (cupholder or crotch) you can smash into something or someone, endangering lives.

2) Speeding. You tend to go faster when you are on your phone, especially on a hand set call. Go bluetooth or better yet pull over

3) You can be fined for it. As of January 1, 2016, in Alberta, Canada the fine for breaking the distracted driving law is a $287 fine AND 3 demerit points. If a driver is exhibiting more risky behaviour, they can be charged with driving carelessly and receive a fine of $402 and SIX demerit points.

4) Insurance rate increase. If you have one distracted driving ticket your premium could increase from anything from $500- $700 per year (an extra 60$ per month). If more, then your insurance company could see you as high risk, and surcharge you several thousand dollars a year.

Forward this to anyone you care about. Lives matter, and so does your money.

Thanks.

 

distracted driving

2018

So 2018 is here now. A time for new resolutions and affirmations; the time of year when people swear off old habits and get a gym membership. This is the time of year when people say “I won’t (fill in the blank)” or whip themselves up into a frenzy saying that #ThisIsMyYear or Its My Time.

Not me. I say that because I personally resent being swept up in the nostalgia drenched hoopla of New Years Eve and set a goal only to fall short. One year I wanted to become a swinging single and have a passionate love affair with an old high school fling, it never happened because it was a harmful and unrealistic goal based on poor values. Another year, I wanted to make 100k in the year, it never happened because my health, sanity, and time with family became more important. Yearly goals have changed for me as I have been forced to be more mature about my current circumstances and my responsibilities.

I have found that this past year I had only one goal: to make it through the year by any means necessary. I had learned that I must not be too proud to ask for and accept help. I have learned not to throw my money away on careless short term purposes. I have learned how to stretch a dollar. I have learned how to fast, and pray, and believe that God will work things out for the best and that someway somehow, everything works out. I have learned that being a student never ever ends and I must take learning experiences from every person I meet and take sound advice.

I found that during the year, my focuses have changed. I had become a father for the third time, so I am forced to function with even more moving parts. I could choose to be jealous of my contemporaries who are travelling, buying revenue properties and new cars while enjoying the “DINK (Dual Income No Kids)” lifestyle, or I can choose to enjoy this moment in time with two beautiful daughters under five, an amazing newborn son, and sexy and delightful wife who makes me glad that I am alive. I then realize that the latter is the envy of those of the former and that I at least have a legacy to pass on and a spouse that I am happily married to.

All of this learning has happened not when the ball dropped at midnight, but as I kept myself open and aware throughout the course of the year. And as I stayed open, I discovered that I create short term goals for myself and grow as I achieve them.

One month I needed to get a new watch, but the funds were tight. I learned that I can’t just pick the most expensive watch in the display because what other people think about what I have on my wrist doesn’t matter. I chose a practical timepiece that could help me time my breaks on shift and still have an elegance that looked handsome from a mile away. I looked at my finances, paid my bills and put 10-20 dollars away week by week. 80$ later, I bought my Casio Duro and I do not regret it at all. I had gained an appreciation for watches, telling time, and working within a constrained budget. This achievement was between March and May, showing all and teaching me that it doesn’t matter when you make the decision to change, only that you make the decision to change then and there and act on it.

And that is my point. I don’t want to wait until the new year to change my habits. I decide then and now that The New Years Eve Church Experience does not work for me and I will not destroy myself in that way anymore, I walked out (this happened in December). I decided that if I had a thought, I would put it down on paper. So I bought a pen and a notebook that I carry with me so that if my thoughts stray and mutate, I can record them then and there. And as a result, I have been blogging more often than I have in the past (that was July, I think). I decided that my wife is one of the most precious gifts that God has granted to me, so I show her that I love her as often as possible in the here and now and pursue her the same way I did before we were married (August).

So don’t make a New Years resolution, that’s silly shit for people that don’t get it. Get up and act. Now.

The Pilgrimage

(as told to and interpreted from me from Mr. S. Gupta)

There once was a man who lived in a small room. In the room was a basin, a chair, a table, a bed, and a blanket. This man would get up from bed, get washed and dressed, leave for his job at the factory, and return home to write about his day, and go to bed only to do it again the following day.

This routine went on for several years.

One day while at work, the man spoke to someone else about how his evenings were. The man told his friend about the routine and  how he would go home from work, sit in his chair, write on his writing table, and then go to bed at the end of the night. His friend told him “You should go on Pilgrimage. Going on Pilgrimage would be a nice change from such a boring routine. You would get to be enlightened and have a better life.”

So the man went home after work and decided to himself that he would go on Pilgrimage. He said to his writing table, his chair, his bed, blanket, “I will say goodbye to you, for tomorrow, I go on Pilgrimage.”

His furniture heard this and said, “Ok, this is good for you. But where is this Pilgrimage?”

The man thought to himself. He then answered, “I do not know. I was speaking to a friend at work about my routine and about all of you, and he said that my life is boring and that I need to go on Pilgrimage. Before I go out on Pilgrimage, I will ask people where to go and how to find what I am looking for.”

This sounded good to the furniture, and the man finally retired and went to sleep.

In the morning, the man got up and got ready to leave for The Pilgrimage.

Each of the furniture took their turn to say goodbye to the man.

The basin said, “For years I have washed and bathed you. I have brushed your teeth and made you clean. If you leave, I will be sad to see you go, but if you return, I will bathe you again.”

The chair said “For years I have supported you as you rested from a long day. I have helped you as you wrote your thoughts on the writing table. If you leave, I will be sad to see you go, but if you return, I will be here to support your weary back again.

Likewise the table “For years I have been here as your sturdy friend. I have held your food as you ate, and I have provided a place to write as you put your thoughts on paper. If you leave, I will be sad to see you go, but if you return, I will still be here to serve you again.”

The blanket had his turn, “I have for many years covered you from the cold. I have kept you warm when the weather was not to your liking. If you leave, I will be sad to see you go, but if you return, I will still be here to shelter you and keep you warm.”

The man then said with tears in his eyes, “I will miss you all, but I promise you that I will think about you often.” And with that, he left.

The man left his house went to the corner and saw a man selling the newspaper. “How do you get to The Pilgrimage?” he asked. The newspaper man stated, “I do not know, you will have to ask someone else.”

The man went on to woman selling vegetables in the market. “How do you get to The Pilgrimage?” he asked. The grocer stated, “I do not know, you will have to ask someone else.”

The man went on to the train station and spoke to the ticket attendant. “How do you get to The Pilgrimage,” he asked. The ticket attendant stated, “I do not know, you will have to ask someone else.”

This went on for some time, and it seemed that this question took the man from town to town to city to city, around the country. There was still no clear answer. But as he traveled, he spoke with many people in many different ways. Finally, he began to miss his friends back at his room, so he decided to return home and leave The Pilgrimage behind.

When the man returned to his home, he was welcomed by the basin and the chair, the table and the blanket. They were all so happy to see him, as was he to see them. In celebration, they went back into the routine. He washed in the basin and spent extra time cleaning as it had been so long. He then sat in the chair and wrote at great length on the writing table many thoughts and many experiences that he received as he traveled. However, he was sad that he had not gone on Pilgrimage. So he cried and went to lie on the blanket.

The blanket asked him “Why are you crying, Man?”

“I did not find out where The Pilgrimage was and as a result, I did not go.”

“Where did you go,” asked the blanket

“I went to many places. I spoke to a newspaper man, a grocer, a ticket taker; I traveled to different cities and regions, asking my question to many people, but no one had the answer to the question. Some people welcomed me, some people spurned me, but they all answered that they were not sure.”

“What was your question?”

“Where is the Pilgrimage?”

The wise old blanket replied. “But I think that you have gone to The Pilgrimage. You left on a journey to reach someplace, but what you were not looking for was not a place, but the journey to the place. It was not an important city or temple or the relic that you wanted to visit, but the fact that you tried to go there and have gotten all this knowledge from your travels. And you came back, which means to me that you learned something  very wise.”

“What wisdom is that?” sobbed the man

“You realized that everything that you were searching for was right here all along.”

The man stopped crying. He looked at his basin, and remembered that he never had a basin to wash while he traveled. He looked at the writing table and chair, and were glad for them because they were unlike any table and chair he had ever used or seen as he journeyed. He then looked at his blanket and recalled many cold nights where he did not have that blanket to keep him warm but now has given him such great insight.

There was no need for him to go away, he had everything he had right there.

Happily, the man continued his routine and still does to this day. he lives in the same small room with a basin, a chair, a table, a bed, and a blanket. He would get up from bed, get washed and dressed, leave for the day, and return home to write about his day, and go to bed only to do it again the following day, but his perspective had changed.

And he no longer worked at the factory, because his perspective changed. What happened? That is another story for another day.

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-happy-

A lady at my work once said to me that when they are having a trying day at work, she goes to her happy place in her mind, and all is well. I then wondered to myself, “Where is my happy place?”

I concluded that I don’t have one.

For me a go to happy place is a certain space in time where everything is perfect, and all is well with no worries or concerns where I am continually and perpetually happy. But it is not that simple.

I thought about things that made me happy throughout my life.

I remembered an Italian Bistro (that is no longer there) where I had that unforgettable provolone sandwich and a sparkling beverage for a wonderful 35 minutes out of my day. Classical music played in the background. So beautiful, but I was sad to enjoy that alone.

wrestlering1

Then I thought about a group event enjoyed by all, like my favorite “sport” Wrestling. My favorite gladiators fought for the ultimate prize. I used to love watching the Hardys throw themselves (and others) off of ladders and through tables as they worked to “win” the championship.

And the certain collective effervescence (Thank you, Dr. Bruce Ravelli for explaining this to me!!) experienced when like minded people emotionally experience the same thing makes the place and the moment magical. While I love pro-wrestling, I cannot share that with a lot of friends because they see it as “not a real sport” or “fake”. I therefore enjoy it alone.

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In my younger days, I imagined my happy place was being surrounded by beautiful scantily clad women waiting on my every desire. So at an impulse from a (then) friend of mine, I went to a bikini bar for lunch. My waitress did not look happy to be there, nor did she have that “look” to satisfy my Male Gaze. And I felt too ashamed to stare too (blame my Protestant Upbringing and my Catholic Conscience for that).

The other ladies on duty looked miserable and unapproachable. The food was forgettable, and I quietly swallowed my lunch and realized that I did not like it there at all. A bikini bar was not a happy place for me after all. So after striking that place off of my list, I had to determine what I truly wanted what made me happy.

I reflected based on my mornings when I used to work in the downtown core. Before work, I would grab a coffee and then sit in the luxurious lobby of the Hyatt Hotel in front of the two way gas fireplace, reading my notes and preparing for the workday.

Image result for hyatt calgary lobby

While this sounds lovely, it was still filtered by work. I sat, read my textbooks, and scribbled notes before heading into a hectic day of reviewing policy wordings, policy endorsements, legal precedents and forms. Work is not necessarily a place of solace, so this particular scene is not a comforting happy place. However I can take some elements of that scene and forward that into another happy circumstance.

fireplacecozy

A small cozy room with a bearskin rug, a roaring fire, a good book (and note book to collect my thoughts) a cheese and meatball sandwich and a great cup of Earl Grey Tea or Hot Spiced Chai as baroque music plays in the background, and there are no distractions or emergencies that have me drop what I am doing and run to lift/carry/haul/consult. This is great, and I realize that my happy place is where I am alone. But when I am alone, I find myself restless and yearning for interaction and to be present with those I am kin with.

Downton-abbey-season-5-cast-photo

So I think about my wife and my children. My wife “gets” me, and I can share with her things that I can’t share with anyone else with confidence and full disclosure. My daughters bring a smile to my face in several unique ways and my new born son brings me a joy that I have never known. I feel safe with them, I feel loved by them, and I feel happiness with them. While I am happy being a husband to a beautiful wife and a father to 3 wonderful children, they don’t always like what I like. I love watching historical dramas such as Vikings, and Downton Abbey, and as I watch them, I like a chicken dinner or a pizza to feast upon and wash it down with a glass of my favorite red (non-alcoholic). The problem with that is my wife doesn’t like historical dramas, and my children who are under 5 don’t get them. So if I am watching The Crown, they often abandon me only to call on me to attend to them or look to do something that needs attention, ending that happy moment.

Knightfall

So is there really just one ideal happy place? I have concluded no. Because we as human beings are such complex creatures that derive pleasure on several things.

Enjoying a dark roast coffee and a biscotti with your favorite book on a brisk November morning;

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Pushing your 3 year old on the swing-set on your day off;

swing

That summer where you met that girl and were walking through a field and as she took your hand you felt like your heart was about to burst;

hands

Walking alone on a beach after a hurricane knowing somehow everything was going to be ok;

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The church doors opening and watching your bride to be walk down the aisle toward you for the first time;

Image result for bride aisle alone

Doing your favorite thing with your favorite snack;

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Experiencing that moment in your house of worship when you felt contented and at peace;

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The final seconds as your favorite team won the championship;

All in all, a distinct moment that is YOUR moment based on what worked for you then in that moment in time. All of these are many of my happy places, not just one.

Have Hope.

As you read this, the bills in your in box may be higher than the funds coming in. The doctor may have said something that made you sweat. Maybe there’s a family member that is acting in a way that gives you concern and is beyond your control.

We pay our bills, we exercise and take our medicines, and raise our children to keep the wolf from the doorstep, but yet it lurks outside the door. Some days that wolf is further from the landing than others, but still it paces. Nevertheless, please know that you are not alone, and know that there is Hope that something great will happen.

Have Hope.

Hope is stubborn.

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Hope is solid and unyielding.

Hope is an anchor that does not shift with every crashing wave but stays unmoved even in the midst of darkness and the flood.

AnchorHope

Hope is a bright light. You don’t see much of it when the days are sunny and full of direction. But when it is dark around you, Hope shines a pace in front of you, using other things to guide your Way. When it’s dark and pitch black to the point that you cannot see in front of your face, the only guiding light that steers you forward is Hope.

When nothing else makes sense, Hope still remains.

Hope is not wishing upon a star, Hope IS the star: the expectation that things will happen and that change will take place. Because it takes time for you to reach your destination in the distance, it only makes sense that hope that is achieved must take time. And when the time is right and when that time is fulfilled, it is a glorious moment.

This is why Hope does not make us ashamed, because we know that something great is going to happen, even though others around us can’t see it. Hope is knowing that it will come and nothing can shake that faith.

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We cannot not go by what we feel, but what we know. And unshakable truth as unyielding as stone, as hard as steel, and is bright to our eyes is the evening star. Sailors used the North Star to guide their way home. By the same example we use Hope to steer us home.

A Bible text reads:
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain…”
-(Hebrews VI: xix)

In the same vein, a poem reads:

“In fearful day, in raging night,
With strong hearts full,  our souls ignite
When all seems lost in the war of light,
Look to the stars, for Hope burns bright.”
-(Oath of the Blue Lanterns)

Have Hope.

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What is in your hand..? (or “This Ring I Wear: Part 2”)

I went to church one night, the minister was preaching from Exodus. Moses was a stuttering, broken imbecile of a man lacking self confidence who spoke to what appeared to be a burning bush. The voice said to him “What are you holding? What is in your hand?” The response was “my walking staff.” Then a miracle happened: the stick came to life, made an impact, and then (just as suddenly) came back to being a simple walking tool again.

I feel the same way about my grad ring… But I should give you some history behind my little hunk of metal.

In the 90’s I was in high school and I was trying so hard to buck the stereotype of the black male: loud angry hip hopper, ignorant to non black culture and good at sports. I was more intellectual than scholarly, and the only sport I excelled in was track and field, which earned me a city title and provincial ranking. Me and two of my best friends got a class ring from graduating from Lester B. Pearson in 1995, and I took pride in having that track cleat emblazoned on a side of the ring.

Then I met a girl, a lovely clever girl, and I thought that I wanted to be with her. I gave her my ring as a keepsake, and left the country for the summer only to return without it. Lost on a beach somewhere in Florida… She then broke off our relationship, but swore she would pay me back for the ring. To her credit, she was true to her word, and worked extra shifts to put 180$ in my hand the following Winter.

Meanwhile, I was heartbroken and despondent. I turned to my mentor and family friend for solace and advice who was a year ahead of me at Mount Royal University. We were friends from high school and I tagged along with him everywhere. But as he was trying to find his place in the world, I was dead weight to him. He began avoiding and ducking me, and when I was finally abandoned by my “bro”, I came to realize that I was trying so very hard to walk in someone else’s shoes.  He was a gifted multi sport athlete, a clever student , and worked in a bank. I measured that as success and I therefore wanted to do what he did. But what happened was that I injured myself in my 2nd year of track, I found out that my grades were not stellar for that B.Comm I enrolled in, and the banks that I applied to for a part time job never called me back.

The hard truth was that I needed to emerge from out of my friend’s shadow and walk for myself.

My father had a hand in this as well. He had put some money aside for me when I was a boy but would only give me the funds if I decided on a “trade” (translation: a diploma, certificate or Associate Degree that would guarantee me a job upon graduation.)

So in my 3rd year I got accepted in the Insurance program. I was surprised that they accepted me. I expected rejection when I was, in fact, what they were looking for: good grades, confident public speech and an example of diversity who wasn’t afraid of hard work.  So I studied hard, and worked hard. I would cram for tests and do extra reading. I would methodically look at things through the eyes of an Underwriter and as a Claims Adjuster. Through my 4th year, I found out how to study smarter, and the importance of hustle.  The A’s were great, but if I got a C, I was still eligible for the degree. but it was the quality of the effort that brought the best results and that there was no substitute for hard work.

As I opted not to go to my convocation (a decision I regret to this day), I rewarded myself by purchasing the grad ring with my program and year engraved on the side. It is jeweler’s steel and had a price tag of 220$;  it was the cheapest ring in the catalog, but the value of this hunk of metal is so great.

The ring has seen me through hell and back, a parental separation (and reconciliation), painful break ups and uncertainty regarding my wife, a triumphant wedding ceremony, 2 houses, 3 cars, layoffs, 3 children, and other failures and victories, coupled with prayer and fasting, matched with endurance and overcoming. It is not “just a ring”, it is a part of me, it is a part of who I am during a time when I had no idea what I was about or who I was going to be. I expected failure and for things to fall flat, but somehow it worked out; by the grace of God Almighty things always work out.

My grad ring has become my talisman, my anchor, the single physical thing that I have had since my early 20’s that has seen me through my struggles both private and public. When I say that, I am not discounting my wedding ring as that is a gift from my wife that I do cherish. But this ring predates everything to My Awakening. It is a reflection of the miracle that has become my life. It is what is within my hand: an ordinary miracle. I look at it and am reminded that some how, someway things always work out.

There is no way that I can throw this ring away; it means far too much.

 

MRUring99

 

 

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