Birthday Celebration Invitation 2014

Today is the first day of December 2014 and here is your personal invitation to my birthday celebrations, which begins today. In the interest of our shortening attention span with age, I shall be brief.

This year our theme is UNPACK. Relocating had literally held me captive. I found myself living for quite a while in the suitcase mode; Everyday turning things over and stuffing them back in, using the same stuff over and over and leaving others unopened as we may need to move again. I have recently found such liberation in truly unpacking. Finding things I had long forgotten, realizing that there are things I thought I had that I really didn’t. Throwing out things that had long expired and creating more space by dumping the boxes.

The same is so true for my LIFE…can you identify?

lets unpack  and stop living like we are in transit. You get one go in this life so use all you’ve got and do all you can NOW.

This years challenge is:

Unpack your STUFF!

I have made it to 45.

4 + 5 = 9, so here are 9 suggestions

1. Use an item you have put away for special occasion…this is the occasion

2. Give away an item you have been hanging on to but haven’t used for any or no reason.

3. Unpack your list of friends and re-rank them based on not what you ‘wish’ but ‘what is’. Then let the top nine keepers know they made the list.

4. Unpack your everyday life and find a free or cheap opportunity that you may have overlooked then indulge.

5. Unpack or refresh your bucket list and plan to achieve one this month.

6. Unpack your to-do-list and finally do one thing that keeps re-making the list because you keep putting it off

7. Unpack your busyness and give God one-tenth of your waking day

8. Unpack and release one unforgiving hurt.

9. Identify something I didn’t mention and let me know.

You have 9 days to plan and execute your UNPACKING. On Wednesday December 10, post any of your chosen activities on my Facebook or email and lets celebrate together.

Happy Birthday to me.

Patrice

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Porridge Without Whiskey

Porridge Without Whiskey

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Isa 43: 18-19 NIV

The breakfast plates remained on the table for a while longer than usual as we exchanged childhood stories of pranks and schemes that colures the landscape of growing up. Ray has always been selective about his food. He likes soup but it has to be thin. He likes rice but it has to be sticky. He likes puddings but it has to be smooth.

Porridge was another story. There was no alteration that his mother made to this dish that made it appealing for him. He always approached it with grumbling and much resistance, making a mess before it eventually disappeared.

One day Ray made a discovery that changed the porridge ordeal and so without much stress the porridge would always disappear. What mother has not to this day figured out, is that all her yummy porridge was not reaching its desired destination, Ray’s stomach. Ray discovered that whiskey was good with porridge. Not Whiskey from the liquor store but rather Whiskey, the puppy for next door. Once porridge was on the menu whiskey was a welcomed guest, under the table. Both himself and his sister Marsha would skillfully orchestrate the disappearance of their porridge to a happy and quiet puppy. This continued for months; once porridge was served with Whiskey, there would be no more fuss.

Then one day while visiting their grandmother, what do you suppose she served for breakfast? PORRIDGE! Ray shot  a look of panic towards Marsha and without a single word she accurately interpreted ” How can we have porridge without whiskey?” They both knew there was no discussion with grandma who never for a moment let them out of her sight. The painful journey begun, one half filled spoons slowly to the mouth. Emmmh! this porridge was different. Both kids looked at each other with surprise and the pace of consumption quickened followed by a second helping for both. They quickly realized they didn’t need whiskey for this porridge.

Grandma’s porridge was the best.

I wonder how many times we have traded or even refused an offer based on bad past experiences. Have you turned your back on an active social life because of being scoffed at in the past? Maybe you have allowed a failing grade in a subject to turn you off from your dream career. Is a healthy diet on your taboo list because of a yucky tasting alternative?
Could it be that your Christian journey has been previously studded with unfortunate encounters with uncommitted church members or a seeming unanswered prayer and now you have given up on your walk with God? Whatever your previous experiences may have been, make a new start today. It may blow your mind as to what you have been missing all this time.

© 2014 Patrice Williams-Gordon

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Where Do Birds Go To Retire?

Where Do Old Birds Retire?

Patrice Williams-Gordon

Like fallen coins in the supermarket parking lot, the differences in color as a flower ages or the change in the angle of a dogs ear as his mood alters, life really takes on new meaning when you live slowly enough to notice the otherwise insignificant stuff. My morning walks seem to exercise my mind harder than it does my body for then it is that I see things along the road that the average commuter misses. This morning in particular, it was a dead bird. Yes! With no sign of injury, he laid there on its side, motionless, lifeless. That’s when my mind caressed the life journey of a simple bird.

The life of a bird
Writers and artists have often tantalized our imagination with the beginnings of a bird’s life. Stories have been told of birds dating, mating and laying eggs. The tenderness with which parent birds prepare for and care for their eggs have been the theme of many a portraits and postcards. Some species such as the Turtledoves, Albatross, Swans and Bald Eagles are reported as being monogamous. Ornithologists have discovered that the feeding instinct in parental birds is extremely strong. After the eggs have hatched, parent birds hunt specially selected, high protein meals for their young, often neglecting their own desires for food. Their preferred method of feeding the fledglings is where we get the romantic notion of ‘bird-style feeding’, mouth-to-mouth. As they grow the cycle begins again, they date, they mate, they lay, they grow. But aren’t we forgetting something? Where do old birds go to retire? Where do dead birds fall? With the millions of birds populating the heavens with relatively short lifespans, isn’t it strange that we don’t see dead birds littering the streets or falling in our paths?

Geriatric Birds
Bird enthusiasts and ecologists account for this disappearance of dead birds by the food chain, others suggest that the fallen are gobbled up as carrion before we even notice, but that still doesn’t satisfy my inquisition. Though many birds may succumb to habitat quality, hunting, or the food chain, there are still many who will survive to old age. The famous wild albatross, Wisdom, gave birth to yet another offspring at the daunting age of 62 years and is still alive. Though this is exceptional, the average life span for birds in the wild range from 3 to 37 years. Scientists agree that once birds survive to the breeding stage they have a good chance of reaching old age. They also suggest that on average the larger the bird the longer its expected life span.

Biblical Allusion

Jesus, while trying to make the point of the value of man, sought to use a scale of reference. At the lowest end of the scale was the sparrow and the highest end was man. There are several interesting facts about the sparrow that may have led Jesus to use them in his sermon.

1.   They represent one of the most common birds in the world, occurring in one hundred and forty species across every continent.

2.   Compared to many other birds, Sparrows are significantly more comfortable living close to humans and as such are easily recognized.

3.   They have poor, untidy building skills and are known to be fast fliers, reaching speeds of up to 50 km/ hr.

4.   The sparrow is one of the smallest birds in the wild and hence very prone to predators, especially the inexperienced birdies just leaving the nests.

5.   For those who make it to adulthood, Sparrows have a very short lifespan of 4-5 years in the wild.

Whatever their fate, the Bible records in Matthew 10: 29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care”. Imagine that! These small, well-known, prone-to-predator, dime-a-dozen birds have the undivided attention of my omnipotent God. The scriptures continue, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”. The great news is that God’s interest and provisions for man, you and me, far outweighs His retirement plans for birds.

Prescription for Worry

One of my most comforting paragraphs is:

Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son. (Steps to Christ)

Live your Value

So what is your stressor? Is it that you can’t afford insurance, your retirement funds are depleted, or you don’t have much inheritance to leave for your grandchildren? Maybe it is the fear of a nursing home, being a burden to your busy family, losing control of your body functions, not being able to afford health care or dying alone. Perhaps retirement is a long way off for you but you worry about finding your purpose, making a difference in the world, succeeding in school, finding a mate, or owning a home. There is nothing wrong in thinking about these matters but they should not stop your praise, deprive you of sleep or make you sick. You have a great God who puts a premium price on you. A God with so much at His disposal, He can afford to pamper sparrows. So tell me, what’s your worthwhile worry? None of the afore mentioned concerns stop the nightingale from singing, the woodpecker from pecking, the humming bird from humming or the sparrow from dust-bathing. Now, live, praise and love like you have a big and awesome God because you do.

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Mother’s Left Leg

So often our oral history is lost because we take for granted each other’s presence, willingness to share and mental alacrity. In my early days after relocating to the Bahamas, I enjoyed sharing the recollection of Helen Hall, my adopted Bahamian Grandmother who continues to give without reservations the details of her life that defines who she has become. Her intimate disclosures helped to make this foreign land home-away-from-home.  Below is just one compilations of our many warm conversations.

Mother’s Left Leg

Tell me a story

Make it true

Some tale of me

But mostly ‘bout you

Of life and living

Of caring and giving

Tell me that story

The way only you do.

Patrice Williams-Gordon

One of the many things mother did well was to tell stories; she had everything that made it just right. She had a memory like that of an elephant that stored with accuracy all the details of the simplest happenings. She also had the most exciting vocabulary that in turn made your imagination super active, and simultaneously used all your senses. When she was done, you had to struggle to remind yourself that in fact you were not actually present at the scene of the story many years before. Then her voice, gentle enough to massage your mind so you think of nothing else but the unfolding saga, but all the time undulating in tone, pitch and intensity to hold you captive until it was all over. There is no such thing as a brief visit with mother, being enchanted by her life tales was an inevitable treat.

Allow me to transport you to the world of Mother in just four of the many stories which live in her body and soul. Today she told me about her left foot. Though a little pudgy from recent heart complications and fluid retention, mother had many stories literally inscribed on her left leg.

‘Soleful’ Wail

The first story was inscribed on the sole of her foot when she was only six years old; a round dark scar marked the spot. Running around barefooted was not a sign of poverty but rather a fleeting childhood privilege. Children were fortunate to be one with the earth, toes unbridled by fancy shoes as they scampered across the spacious outdoors. Before today, danger never seemed to lie lurking on the familiar terrain but that was soon to change. The land was being cleared for planting new crops, shrubs and weeds were plucked up, the larger trees were chopped down and the wood burnt. Stumps that remained from the cut trees were burnt so as to prevent anyone tripping.

Helen, the name mother was given at birth, made her way around the yard as she had done on countless occasions but this time with heightened excitement at the sight of a wider expanse of cleared yard. There were chickens to be chased and adults to amuse. Then cutting the stillness of the midmorning air was a shriek of panic, which soon became an inconsolable wail. Baby Helen had stepped on a smoldering tree stump that burnt through the tender skin on the sole of her left foot. Of course she doesn’t remember much more details of that unfortunate incident but that scare seals the trace remnants of memory and so begun the tales on mother’s left leg.

Bloody Landing

The second story was marked by an interesting semi circular scar etched on the inner side just above the instep, again on the left foot. Helen was growing up, she was now half way between her ninth and tenth birthday. With the perceived restrictions of ladylike demeanor looming a few years in the distance she relished the freedom that came with rambunctious playing and climbing trees. Her favorite trees for climbing were sea grape trees with its relatively smooth bark and many low branches. With no thorns to encounter, swinging from branch to branch made her feel powerful and free; almost as if she was in charge of the world. On this fateful day, however her older sister, Doris, joined her for this climbing adventure. All went well for a while as the echoes of laughter that seemed to envelope the whole yard, marked the fun. Then without warning the peels of laughter was replaced firstly by, a loud thud followed by one groan, then another then a gasping scream for help. Of the many available sea grape trees, only one seemed to beckon the girls, of the numerous limbs that spread out from that sea grape tree only one held inescapable allure. Doris had chosen the very same tree and the very same limb that Helen had chosen, a limb that chose not to support both their weights; it snapped and they both came crashing down. There were no broken bones but wait, there was blood and more blood!

The deceptious carpet of leaves beneath the tree had concealed the top of a broken Coco Cola bottle, which sliced through Helens foot and remained stuck there. This was no ordinary cut and necessitated a visit to the Royal Air Force medical station. There was triple fear resident in little Helens heart, she was afraid of the uniformed gentlemen, she was afraid of the doctor with his strange tools and she was afraid of pain. Whatever transpired passed as a blur amid all that fear, but again, there left behind as if to autograph the end of yet another story was an indelible reminder, another mark on Mother’s left leg.

The Day The Dogs Dug In

Many years passed, with other interesting occurrences but not inscribed on mothers left leg. There were marks on her hands, on her head, on her right leg but the left leg seemed to have been on retirement for a little over twenty years. Helen was now a grown woman with responsibilities of her own. Her legs had by now rocked several babies to sleep, they had taken her down the isle to meet the debonair John William Hall, they had stood for hours as she worked to keep the family business going and they made many a mini skirts the talk of the town. Then one afternoon in June, as she rode her bicycle to attend to business a little distance from home, a new tale was written.

The noonday sun was warm enough to make you break a sweat but the light, crisp summer breeze kept the heat at bay. Riding, the most common mode of commute, offered the additional advantage of exercise and so many young ladies embraced the invitation for toned and sexy legs. Helen was lost in thought as she casually rode down the dirt path that joined her community to the next. With the wind playfully teasing her hair she smiled as an idle butterfly interrupted her daydream. The silence of the afternoon was suddenly broken by sharp barking. At first, it sounded like idle dogs in search of attention, but their incessant barking seemed not to fade as she rode on her way. In fact it seemed to be following her and not at a comfortable distant either. Now she not only heard the barks but she could hear panting between the barks; this seemed serious, they were gaining on her. Before she had time to look around, she could feel the hot air, from their exaggerated breathing, on her heels. Her palms grew wet and her knees felt fluid, her heart raced as she pedaled like never before. She did not have to look back now to see the ravenous canine; they had just about surrounded her.

Until today nobody knows whether, it was the dogs that actually charged into the bicycle causing it to overturn, or it was panic resulting in loss of balance. One thing is for sure, Helen not only fell to the ground, bruising her body all over but she received an indelible keepsake, again on her left leg. On the upper side of her left leg a few inches from the ankle, sits the whole story “The Day the Dogs Dug In”.

A Scar for Life

The final story to date is somewhat different from all the others. This was no accident, it was deliberate, it was not against her will it was voluntary, this was not outdoors but behind heavy steel doors this time it did not threaten to take her life but rather to restore it.

After years of hard work and compromised health, mother complained of not feeling her best; in fact she had suffered a stroke. Myriads of medical investigations revealed that Helen’s heart was failing, she would need to do an evasive heart surgery. No time, effort or resources were spared to get her the best medical attention possible. This was indeed a long and formidable trip, from the tranquil island of New Providence Bahamas to the chaotic yet technologically advanced country of North America. Her granddaughter Phyllis stayed by her side as far as was possible, she could not however go beyond those heavy steel doors which led into the operating theatre. It was there that her latest story was penned or do I say cut! Way up, from the soft of her left groin all the way down to the middle of her shin the scar remains to tell the tale, of the vein that was removed to preserve her life. She now laughs at the fact that the scare is more obvious where it is not readily seen (above her knee) and neatly disguised by a mole on her shin.

The real story

As I listened to mother recapture the causalities of her left leg, I did not hear the whimpering voice of a victim but rather the celebrations of a victor, she didn’t struggle with a sense of pity but basked in radiant pride, I didn’t hear the hallow echo of regret but rather the pulsating rhythm of a life lived without hesitation. I am inspired to embrace my own scrapes and scars as the defining marks of my unique experience, capturing in color the journey of my own life so that I too can recount in years to come the road I traveled.

To some it may be a passing statement but Helen Hall knows the meaning “to cost an arm and a leg” if only but a left leg! A lifetime of experiences, marked by flesh and blood, all on mother’s left leg.

Copyright Patrice Williams-Gordon 2007

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Lost and Found

Lost and Found

Especially for those who have felt lost, been found or miss those who use to be home.


It was my maiden voyage of walking in the snow. Like most anticipated experiences it was embossed with excitement and hemmed in with borrowed expectations. What started out as a brief stroll transitioned into an attempt to make up for lost exercise, a long, long walk. I savored the crisp clean winter air and the imposing presence of the naked giant Maple trees that lined the streets. The new plan was to make a rectangular path that would end where I begun, so no need to make mental markers of the route.

When I was supposedly on the last leg of my walking and eager to see the familiar signs of home, the street signs failed to read E. Grand. The thought that I was lost was too daunting to entertain so I kept moving forward. When the main thoroughfare was in view I knew without a doubt that I was lost. There was however no panic for I figured, worst-case scenario, I could retrace my steps though it meant twice the distance. Further, there was someone at home awaiting my return and would come looking for me if my stroll was too extended. That is when the thoughts hit me, “when one is lost, it is more inviting to turn back than to keep moving forward”.

Is that a disconcerting thought in the context of the Christian walk, or does it hold the mandate of those who seek to recover the lost? I dare say, BOTH.

Lost in the Church

As sad as it may seem, there are members in all churches who are lost in the pews. For many and varied reasons they begun the Christian journey having no expectations of being lost but soon they find themselves cold and alone, engulfed with a sense of panic that they may never find the home they expected. Then the thought often surfaces, ”let me retrace my step from whence I came, its safer than going ahead” The results: Apostasy, backsliding or bench warming. They find the habits, friends and beliefs of their past life more inviting than the promise of a new life that seems so distant and illusive. When one is lost, it is more inviting to turn back than to keep moving forward”.

It is the responsibility of every disciple of Christ to make the Kingdom of Heaven visible and tangible to every person who shares their influence. Through shared experiences of answered prayers and spiritual growth the faith of others will be strengthened and the allure of the road behind them will diminish.

Recovering the Lost

The attrition rate among Christians is disappointingly high. Though reported baptism rates are high, so are the rates of apostasy. If the church is considered the first love, home, then those who have left the faith will see the church pews in their rare view mirror and will look longing to retrace their steps instead of going further ahead. That is assuming that memories of what they left behind is warmer and holds more appeal than the chaotic, dangerous alleys of a life without Christ. Hopefully the value of those they have left behind is heightened as they anticipate the aid that is forthcoming from those who “seek the lost”.

A Place Called Home

The story of the lost boy, as recorded in St. Luke 15, presents a picture of home that is inviting, safe and able to satisfy needs. The Lost Boy was aware of the possibility of rejection however counted it safer to return than to stay away. When one is lost, it is more inviting to turn back than to keep moving forward”.

“That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

“But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

Today the call is for all Christians to keep the Church, the most attractive option for those who are lost and want to return. To make the aroma of fellowship and acceptance entice those who have left ‘home’. It is also the true Christian’s responsibility to keep the Church reflecting the saving vision of Christ, so those who are in will never find the path they once abandoned more understanding and forgiving than the pews they now call home.

So I did eventually find my way home. The familiar sight of the front door was only outdone by the worried faces that stood behind the door, my family, dressed and ready to come rescue me from extended stroll.

Patrice Williams-Gordon ©2014

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The Marriage Apartment

The Marriage Apartment

Patrice Williams-Gordon

After being married myself for twenty two years and having friends married for greater than and lesser than I have, I have come to learn that there’re more than just a few concepts in marriage that may be considered universal. John Grey in his book Men are From Mars Women are From Venus refers to the intentional emotional distancing between spouses as a man retreating to his “cave’ and the anxious hunt of the woman as ‘stalking the mouth of the cave’. It took me years to accept the inevitability of this phenomenon and its accompanying frustrations. I do also concede that personality traits can alter and in some cases completely flip the roles described below. One thing is however certain, a positive and optimistic approach yields favorable outcomes. Some may call it the emotional roller-coaster of two becoming one, for me its the permanent occupancy of the Marriage Apartment and the power of a mind sealed in commitment.

In the Beginning

I have the deed for this Apartment of Matrimony. I also have the key, one key.  Given only one key I assumed that behind this one large door, with its one shiny lock, laid one open space to be occupied as we both desired. We pleasured ourselves in this open space as we planned for the future and intoxicated ourselves with each other’s daring intimacies. This had to last forever. This was our destiny. We had closed that door behind us, locked it with the key, Commitment. Pledging to ourselves and to each other, “There will be no way out”, we enjoyed the allure of new love.

Alone

But one day I found myself alone in the large space. I panicked at the thought of separation. Rushing to the front door, I was awash with relief to find it still locked. You had to be here, but where? Wasn’t there only one space in matrimony? Keen observation proved me wrong. Around this large space were a few other concealed doors that bordered the open space.The shocking reality of the possibility of being alone in Matrimony crippled me.  I called for you and you did answer me from behind a door. The sound of your voice consoled me as I anxiously waited for you to come to me, but not even your shadow moved. For days disappointment and fear held me riveted in the large open space. Doors mockingly stared at me, with my one key. When finally I was completely overwhelmed by loneliness, wisdom and previous instruction from  external sources prodded me to make the move and  examine the doors. Cautiously I approached the first door and noticed it was slightly ajar. Energized with excitement and yet slightly deterred by the shame of unfounded fear I made a jubilant entry and found you occupied with your own thoughts. Alleviated from the weight of possible abandonment I silently sat in a corner content with your presence, swearing never to fear an inner door again.

Alone Again.

Time passed then once again I could not find you. I searched all the familiar spots behind the slightly turned doors but there was no you. I called, no answer. I frantically  raced around the open space and that was when I saw a door that was shut closed. No crack for escaping sounds or rays of light. My heart sank and old fears returned. You had again distanced yourself from me an this time you shut the door. Then after days of stewing in hurt, with reluctance I turned the knob and it opened. There you were lost in a world of your own but accepting of my company. I’d now learnt that with a little more confidence in my own strength and timing I could always find you, somewhere behind the big door within this apartment of Matrimony. Whether doors were open, slightly ajar or shut I could find you. With unbridled credence I embraced personal space, even finding pleasure in occupying empty rooms and closing the door behind me knowing that you could and would find me when you needed to. I will admit that often I have remained behind a closed door hoping to heighten my passion by your pursuit. Teasing each other with safe distance was often intriguing, building up intimate tension that deepened desire.

What if?

Years passed and I was confident that doors could never again intimidate me, that was until the day I met a locked door. The knob never yielded to my most aggressive turning power. My knocks yielded no answers. And my search of every other space was futile. You had to be in there. The suffocating pressure of loneliness was only outrun by my fear that this may be permanent. What if I had lost you forever? What if you had outgrown your love for me? What if I would never again laugh and hear your laughter  echoing my joy? What if I would never again feel safe in the comforting embrace of your profound silence? What if I would never again feel confident by the reassurance of your affirming nod? Or have you sneak up on me to playfully slap my behind or kiss the nape of my neck?

The Battle

There was a battle within me. Resentment and Longing were tearing me apart.

“Why was she always the one to hunt for her lover?”, Resentment growled.

” Would you rather she live alone than hunt her way to company?”, retorted Longing.

“Is her company so revolting that he would rather lock himself away and leave no trace  of his retreat?”, snapped Resentment.

“Isn’t it still true that his absence makes her heart grow fonder?”, hissed Longing.

“Is this how she’ll spend the rest of her life hunting then losing him again, sitting in a corner while he silently processes his thoughts, enjoying his company with reservation that he may soon be missing again?”, shouted Resentment.

This dealt a hard blow to Longing who staggered but rebounded with one final but fatal blow. “She still has the key, the only tool she needs to open any door that separates them: Commitment.”

With that said new vitality returned to the core of my being. I do have the key. With deliberate strides I approached the locked door, inserted my one key and steadily turned until it clicked. The knob turned without resistance and the door opened revealing your pensive face. I was puzzled. Did your countenance say ‘annoyance at disturbance’ or ‘relief for discovery’? Was it ‘insistence on privacy’ or a subtle, inviting welcome? Then I recognized it, as I looked beyond my suppositions and judgements, the mirror image of my own longing, your longing for me.

The Moment of Clarity

I now think I know the power that drives the locomotive of isolation in matrimony. It is the experiences of our past, the conflicting emotions associated with new responsibilities, the pressure of extended family and friends, the turning process of maturity, the evading handle of understanding self and the ever changing reality of two becoming one. Without this occasional retreat one cannot make space for the deep intimacy we crave. It is in these periods of alone time that we answer for ourselves the questions we have not been able to answer to each other. Like a flower bud which assembles itself in the privacy of inclosure then slowly opens unveiling the intricate beauty that warms the observers heart. So we each  seem to crave the solace of a space behind a door, sometimes even a locked door. Though often times it seems you  more so than me.

Pledge

There may still lay ahead of us days when emotional distance will seek to threaten our composure but I’ll never forget the final blow dealt to Resentment by Longing, “She still has commitment, the key that defies all doors that threaten togetherness in matrimony”. All I’ll ever need, all we’ll ever need to remain in this apartment together, is commitment. Accepting that there is no alternative to togetherness I re pledge my love to you, Till death do we part.

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Baggage Claim

Baggage Claim

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isa 40:4-5 NIV

Tired, hungry and despondent, I made my way through the mad crowd in the large Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport. The departure time for my flight had been rescheduled making me one and a half hours behind my scheduled arrival and upon arrival there was further delay due to a congested airstrip. I had my fill of delays and all I needed now was a hot meal and a warm bed. Following the signs I rushed to the baggage claim area and was pleased to be one of the first passengers to arrive. That meant positioning myself for a quick and easy retrieval of my luggage. Five minutes, ten minutes, still no bags. That’s when an airline attendant casually mentioned that our luggage was arriving on another carousel down the hall. I was not amused!

Of course by the time I got to the new location all the prime positions were taken and I seethed with resentment as now I stood behind other waiting passengers. I thought of squirming to the front but was dissuaded by a calm Presence, “Just wait where you are, you’ll be just fine.” Two minutes…, five minutes…, then ten minutes and still no sign of my bags. By now almost everyone else seemed to have retrieved their personal belongings, leaving the area scanty. Finally my bags came shooting down the belt. Can you believe by then there was no one in the way of my getting my luggage? Without a hassle I gathered my belongings leaving the airport with two suitcases and a huge life lesson.

Many times in life we fuss and become anxious only to find that your impatience is unnecessary. Had I pushed my way to the front of the line I would only have gotten in other persons way and maybe even bounced by someone collecting their bags. I really had no need to be in the front or even to resent those ahead of me; It was just not time for my bags. Like magic when my time came along the way was clear. That’s the same way God works in our lives. We lose such peace of mind when we rush ahead, sometimes getting tossed around and even scarred by circumstances we viewed necessary for our progress. If we simply allow for God’s timing we would find our way clear just in time. Didn’t God promise in Isa 48:17-18

“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

So the next time you are tempted to be impatient with your present circumstances, anxiously rearranging your position in life, listen for the direction of that calming Presence. Remember he knows how long your wait will be and he promises to clear the way.

© copyright Patrice Williams-Gordon 2009

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Against the Flow

Against the Flow

Most towns have at least one; a busy main road that allows traffic in one direction only, a one way street. The beauty of a one-way street is that you don’t have to be on the look out for upcoming traffic, everyone is heading the same way.

It was peak hour and the traffic was flowing steadily down Shirley Street when out of nowhere appeared the flashing blue lights of a police vehicle with blaring sirens to match. In quick pursuit was a dignified looking black car and on its tail was another noisy police vehicle. What was more astonishing was the fact that they were going against the flow of traffic on this one-way street. I gathered from other bystanders that the Prime minister was on his way to a function for which he may have been late. What a Privilege! Without his outriders this could have proven to be an extremely dangerous situation, for at that speed the chances of a fatal head-on collision was great. Also without his escorts, this attempt to save time may have been futile, as he would most defiantly attract the attention of a ticket cop.

As I waited, my imagination transported me momentarily to a life studded with the conveniences of being a privileged citizen. My fantasy world lasted only a few moments as I was quickly escorted back to reality by the blaring horns of frustrated common citizens perplexed by the slowing traffic on this once again, one-way street.

For many of us the New Year hands us what looks like a one-way street: the only convenient way to go is with the flow of the traffic. You may think, making changes will only insight head on collisions with others who prefer your former style. Also you may conclude that it will take significant adjustments and delays to do things in a NEW way. These anxious feelings are natural but not accurate. I have good news for you: you wont have to do it alone. You are guaranteed outriders who will go before and behind you to make your path safe. The Psalmist records in Psalm 85: 13

Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.

It can be frightening to turn your back on the way you have grown accustomed to doing things like

  • rushing through the day without worship or
  • eating for pleasure and not for health or
  • reading for entertainment and not for knowledge or
  • sharing for convenience and not for compassion or
  • praying out of necessity and not for love

But with God as your guide you can safely go against the flow. He promises in Psalm 37: 23, 24

The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

You are a privileged citizen, a child of the king and He has decreed:

“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? (Isa. 43; 18, 19 MSG)

So embrace this New Year with confidence and live at full speed, knowing that in God’s strength you will successfully accomplish God’s will for your life even if it means going against the flow.

ÓCopyright Patrice Williams-Gordon 2011

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The Christian Assassination Of Culture

Food for thought!

I have often time felt cheated of the elements that make me different form others. Those non-tangibles that seem to struggle for a face in the definition of who I am. The emancipating yet inhibited sway of my hips to the reggae beat, the clinging but suppressed warmth of oneness I feel with cultural icons, the the clarity of expression I struggle to contain emerging from my delicious dialect, patois! These and more leave me all but mourning the slow and deliberate death of a part of me, My cultural Identity. Read on as I respectfully chide my church for the role they play in this demise, then tell me what your thoughts are.

The Christian Assassination of Culture

The Caribbean is easily recognizable by its intensely colorful costumes, pulsating and intoxicating rhythms, vivid and compelling dialects, engaging and exciting social activities. Isn’t it disappointing that all this vim and vivacity dissipates as one transitions to the religious sector of the same people? Why should the stimulation of cultural actualization give way to swamping guilt brought on by of spiritual awareness? This is the emotional colic often experienced by Christians who have savored the refreshing sense of wholeness that accompanies finding authentic expression in his bequeathed heritage, only to be chastised by those who think it an antagonistic relationship with true spirituality. Church leaders, parents and church- school administrators must clearly understand that the passive undermining of one’s national culture, nurtures a generation of social retards and  offers an unfair ultimatum: to be a Christian or to be cultural. It is my conviction that until we embrace the cultural reality of our existence we will never be whole and our incompleteness will cripple the advancement of the church’s mission.

The position of the church has been traditionally substantiated by points such as:

  1. We are expected to be ‘in the world but not of the world’; of such we must not be flavored by anything associated with the world including cultural expressions. Any union of the secular and spiritual is considered a deadly compromise.
  2. Prevention is better than cure; therefore it is better to avoid any involvement and remain pure than to allow innocent forms and eventually lose control.
  3. The proponents of our cultural forms are not spiritually inspired and as such, have a hidden agenda to promote ungodliness.

Though these positions have held sway for decades there is evidence that they are giving way to new positions. In a recently published article, the Anglican Church in Jamaica defends its plans to include reggae hymns, including lyrics from renowned singers Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, in its hymnal. It is of paramount importance that the vanguards of spiritual interest revisit their stance of absolute separation of church and culture or the pending revolution could result in a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Culture refers to the customs, practices, languages, values and world views that define social groups such as those based on nationality, ethnicity, region or common interests. It is a tool for personalizing and identifying with the larger world. When a Christian is stripped of his cultural identity he his forced to endure a borrowed religious experience and be judged by references and standards that are foreign to him.

The distancing of the church from cultural expression is most often passive and therefore not considered intentionally destructive. This however does not reduce the causalities. Passive undermining has several faces. When a church refrains from celebrating the culture of its people it is synonymous to denouncing it. By the same token, to not accept is to reject and to trade for something new is to devalue what you previously owned.

Cultural identity is important for people’s sense of self and how they relate to others. When a Trinidadian church refuses to allow the playing of the steel pans in its services but allows the use of the violin, isn’t that a strong message that the music originating from the Trinidadian’s soul is inferior, or worst yet sinful, when compared to that of the classical European?

When the dialect of the Jamaican Christian must be replaced in worship by the foreign, archaic strains of formal old English rhetoric, does it not send a strong message of inferiority and a sense of cultural preference from the perspective of God?

My understanding of the biblical Christian experiences suggests that as the Christian develops in the spiritual practice it is expected that the facades are peeled away and an authentic self eventually emerges. If, however, the individual feels pressured to repress parts of his true being (including the cultural context of expressions), one can only expect diminishing self esteem, frustration and ultimately unsatisfactory compromises. It may be reasonable then to propose that the rate of attrition in our churches may very well be tied to people in search of a spirituality which allows them to unite their authentic, culturally liberated souls to their spiritual convictions.

The Hebrew nation showed no distinction between its secular and religious practices; theirs was a holistic expression. The biblical account of the Christianity, respectfully recognized and fêted the culture of the people as they commemorated holidays and practices that marked their identity. It is as we seek to create a dichotomy that we precipitate a secular culture void of Christian principles. As it now stands, the decline in moral principles of the secular world is largely caused by the alienation of the church from cultural and civic issues. Rather than condemning the cultural expressions of the secular world the church must urgently acknowledge and celebrate the relevance to the holistic expression of its members. When done correctly, the ongoing transformation of cultural expressions will be flavored by the philosophies and graces of the Christian lifestyle.

With grace, dignity and moderation, the integration of cultural expression into the regular flow of Christian activities and traditions will promote a genuine experience that will be both rewarding and stimulating to member, church and country. After all, it is possible to be both cultural and Christian.

Works Cited

“Cultural Identity.” Social Report. 2009. [(Online]. Available: http://www.socialreport.msd.govt.nz/cultural-identity/. Retrieved April 8, 2010

“Jamaica Church defends reggae hymns.”[Online].  Available: http://guyanafriends.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/…/m/20310577141. Retrieved April 8, 2010

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Daughters Of God

Daughters of God

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