Poetry: Ruth, Chapter 4

And so we come to the final chapter of the Book of Ruth which recounts the tale of the romance of great-grandparents of king David of Israel, the ancestors of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God the Son. In chapter 1 we saw how Naomi brought Ruth, her daughter-in-law, to the Land of Promise after the deaths of both their husbands. The story continued in chapter 2 where we witnessed the meeting of Boaz and Ruth as she and her mother-in-law struggle to make ends-meet. He is kind to her. In chapter 3 Ruth goes to Boaz late at night to ask him to take up their cause and redeem her and her mother-in-law. The story concludes in chapter 4.

The tale of Ruth and Boaz’s love and God’s orchestration was put to verse by John Bunyan (1628-1688), the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress and of many other poems, books and tracts.

RUTH – CHAP. IV.

And Boaz went up to the city gate,

And after a short space, while there he sate,

The kinsman of whom he had spoke, came by,

To whom he said, Ho, [‹1.6›] such a one, draw nigh,

And sit down here. He came and sat him down.

Then he took ten men, elders of the town,

And caused them to sit down. Then to the man

That was of kin, thus he his speech began,

Naomi, said he, who not long since sojourn’d

Among the Moabites, is now return’d;

And doth intend to sell a piece of ground,

The which Elimelech our brother own’d.

And now to give thee notice, I thought fit,

That if thou pleasest, thou may’st purchase it.

In presence of these men assembled here.

Then if thou wilt redeem it, now declare

Thy mind, but if thou wilt not, then let me,

For thou art next of kin, and I next thee.

Then said the kinsman, I will it redeem.

Boaz reply’d, if good to thee it seem,

To buy it of the hand of Naomi,

Thou also art obliged the same to buy

Of Ruth the Moabitess, wife o’ th’ dead;

On his inheritance to raise up seed.

The kinsman said, I cannot do this thing

Myself, lest I an inconvenience bring

Upon mine own inheritance, what’s mine

By right, therefore I now to thee resign.

Now this in Israel did a custom stand,

Concerning changing and redeeming land;

To put all controversy to an end,

A man pluck’d off his shoe, and gave his friend;

And this in Israel was an evidence,

When e’er they changed an inheritance.

Then said the kinsman unto Boaz, do

Thou take my right. And off he pluck’d his shoe.

Then Boaz to the elders thus did say

And to the people, all of you this day

Appear for me as witnesses, that I

Have bought all of the land of Naomi,

That was Elimelech’s or did belong

Either to Mahlon or to Chilion:

And Ruth the Moabitess, who some time

Was Mahlon’s wife, I’ve purchas’d to be mine,

Still to preserve alive the dead man’s name

On his inheritance, lest that the same

Should in the gate where he inhabited,

Or ‘mongst his brethren be extinguished:

Behold, this day, my witnesses you are.

Then all the people that were present there,

And elders said, We are thy witnesses:

May God this woman thou hast taken bless,

That she, like Rachel, and like Leah be,

Which two did build up Israel’s family:

And thou in Ephratah exalt thy name,

And through the town of Bethl’hem spread thy fame;

And may the seed which God shall give to thee

Of this young woman, full as prosperous be,

As was the house of Pharez heretofore,

(Pharez, whom Tamar unto Judah bore.)

So he took Ruth, and as his wife he knew her,

And God was pleased, when he went in to her

To grant the blessing of conception,

And she accordingly bare him a son.

Then said the woman, Blessed be the Lord!

Bless thou him Naomi, who doth afford

To thee this day a kinsman, which shall be

Famous in Israel; and shall be to thee

As the restorer of thy life again,

And in thy drooping age shall thee sustain:

For that thy daughter-in-law, who loves thee well

And in thy sight doth seven sons excel,

Hath born this child. Then Naomi took the boy

To nurse; and did him in her bosom lay.

Her neighbours too, gave him a name, for why,

This son, say they, is born to Naomi:

They called him Obed, from whose loins did spring

Jesse, the sire of David, Israel’s king.

Poetry: Ruth, Chapter 3

On Monday, we read chapter 1 of the Book of Ruth. The story follows the meeting of Ruth and Boaz, the great-grandparents of king David of Israel and the ancestors of Jesus Christ. In chapter 1 we read about how Ruth came to the Land of Israel while in chapter 2 we witnessed the meeting of Boaz and Ruth. The love story continues in chapter 3 as we read John Bunyan’s versification of the story of these star-crossed lovers (these terms I use quite loosely).

RUTH – CHAP. III.

Then Naomi said, Shall I not, my daughter,

Seek rest for thee, that thou do well hereafter?

And is not Boaz, with whose maids thou wast,

One of the nearest kinsmen that thou hast?

Behold, this night he in his threshing floor

Is winnowing Barley, wash thyself therefore,

Anoint thee, put thy clothes on, and get down

Unto the floor; but make not thyself known,

Till he hath eat and drank, and shall prepare

To lie him down; then take good notice where

He goes about to take his night’s repose,

And go thou in there, and lift up the clothes

From off his feet, and likewise lay thee down,

And what thou hast to do he will make known.

And she made answer, Whatsoever thou

Hast me commanded, will I gladly do.

And down unto the floor she hasted, and

Forthwith fulfilled her mother-in-law’s command.

So now when Boaz had his heart refresh’d,

With meat and drink, he laid him down to rest,

Near to the heap of corn; she softly came,

Uncover’d’s feet, and lay down by the same.

And, lo! at midnight, as he turn’d him round,

He was afraid, for at his feet he found

A woman lay. Who art thou? then said he.

I am thine handmaid Ruth, replied she,

Over thine handmaid therefore spread thy skirt,

I pray, because thou a near kinsman art.

Blessed be thou, said he, because thou hast

Made manifest more kindness at the last,

Than at the first, in that thou did’st, my daughter,

No young men, whether poor or rich, go after.

And now, my daughter, be not thou afraid,

I will do to thee all that thou hast said:

For all the city of my people knows,

Thou art a woman truly virtuous;

And now though I am kin and undoubtedly,

Yet there is one that’s nearer kin than I.

Tarry this night, and when ’tis morning light,

If he will like a kinsman, do thee right,

We’ll let him, but if not, I myself will,

As the Lord lives; till morning lie thou still.

And till the morning at his feet she lay,

And then arose about the break of day;

And he gave her a charge, not to declare

That there had any womankind been there.

He also said, bring here thy veil, and hold

To me; she did, and thereinto he told

Six measures full of barley, and did lay

It on her, and she hasted thence away.

And when unto her mother-in-law she came,

Art thou, said she, my daughter come again?

Then what the man had done she told, and said,

He these six measures full of barley laid

Upon me, for said he, This I bestow,

Lest to thy mother thou should’st empty go.

Then, said she, sit still daughter, till thou see

What the event of this intrigue will be;

For till the man this day hath made an end,

No satisfaction will on him attend.

Poetry: Ruth, Chapter 2

We’re reading John Bunyan’s versification of the Book of Ruth found in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. In chapter 1 we saw Naomi and Ruth leave Moab upon hearing that the drought in Israel ended. Naomi took Ruth, her daughter-in-law, with her to Israel after much protest on Naomi’s side. Both their husbands and Naomi’s other son died in Moab. Naomi, now called Mara due to the bitterness she experienced in life, encouraged her daughter-in-law to glean some wheat from the fields to put food on their table. And so the story continues…

In Chapter 1 we saw the The story of Ruth’s introduction into Israelite society continues.

RUTH – CHAP. II.

There was a man of kin to Naomi,

One that was of her husband’s family,

His name was Boaz, and his wealth was great.

And Ruth, the Moabitess, did intreat

Her Mother’s leave, that she might go, and gather

Some ears of corn, where she should most find favour:

Go, daughter, go, said she. She went and came

Near to the reapers, to glean after them:

And lo, it was her hap to light among

The reapers, which to Boaz did belong.

Behold, now Boaz came from Bethlehem

Unto his reapers, and saluted them,

And they bless’d him again: and he enquired

Of him that was set over them he hired,

From whence the damsel was, and was inform’d

She was the Moabitess that return’d

With Naomi: and she did ask, said he,

That here amongst the reapers she might be,

And that she might have liberty to glean

Among the sheaves. And she all day hath been,

Ev’n from the morning until now, with us,

That she hath stay’d a little in the house.

Then Boaz said to Ruth, observe, my daughter,

That thou go not from hence, or follow after

The reapers of another field, but where

My maidens are, see that thou tarry there:

Observe what field they reap, and go thou there,

Have I not charged the young men to forbear

To touch thee? And when thou dost thirst, approach

And drink of what the youths have set abroach. [‹1.4›]

Then she fell on her face, and to the ground

She bow’d herself, and said, Why have I found

Such favour in thine eyes; that thou, to me

Who am a stranger, should so courteous be?

And Boaz said, it hath been fully shewn

To me, what to thy mother-in-law thou’st done,

Since of thine husband thou hast been bereft:

How thou thy father and thy mother left,

And thine own native land; to come unto

A land which thou before didst never know:

The Lord, the God of Israel, the defence

Whom now thou’st chosen, be thy recompence.

Then said she, let me in thy sight, my lord,

Find favour in that thou dost thus afford

Me comfort, and since thou so kind to me

Dost speak, though I thereof unworthy be.

And Boaz said, at meal time come thou near,

Eat of the bread, and dip i’ th’ vinegar.

And by the reapers she sat down to meat,

He gave her parched corn, and she did eat,

And was suffic’d; and left, and rose to glean:

And Boaz gave command to the young men,

Let her come in among the sheaves, said he,

To glean, and let her not reproached be.

Let fall some handfuls also purposely,

And let her take them without injury.

So she till even glean’d , and then beat out

Her barley, being an ephah [‹1.5›] or thereabout.

She took it up, and to the city went,

And to her mother-in-law did it present:

And what she had reserv’d to her she gave,

When she had took what she design’d to have.

Then unto her, her mother-in-law did say,

In what field hast thou been to glean to-day?

And where hast thou been working? Blest be he,

That thus hath taken cognizance of thee.

She told with whom, and furthermore did say,

The man’s name’s Boaz, where I wrought to-day.

And Naomi replied, may he be blest,

Even of the Lord, whose kindness manifest

Unto the living and the dead hath been:

The man’s our kinsman, yea, the next of kin.

And Ruth, the Moabitess, said, he gave

Me likewise a commandment not to leave,

Or to depart from following his young men,

Until they had brought all his harvest in.

And Naomi said unto Ruth, my daughter,

‘Tis good that thou observe to follow after

His maidens, that they meet thee not elsewhere.

So she to Boaz’s maidens still kept near,

Till barley and wheat harvest both, she saw

Were done, and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.

Poetry: Ruth, Chapter 1

The author of this poem is John Bunyan (1628-1688), an English Protestant minister and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. He versified the Book of Ruth in the Bible just for the fun of it. The Book of Ruth tells the story of king David’s great-grandmother who followed her mother-in-law Naomi back to the Land of Israel after the deaths of their husbands. I am tempted to summarise the story, but you will have to either read the account in the Bible or the narrative poem presented here. So, here is Chapter 1.

CHAP. I.

In ancient times, e’er Israel knew the way

Of kingly power, when judges bore the sway:

A certain man of Bethlehem Juda fled,

By reason of a famine that o’erspread

The land, into the land of Moab, where

He and his wife, and sons, sojourners were.

His name Elimelech, his eldest son

Was called Mahlon, t’other Chilion,

His wife was Naomi, Ephrathites they were:

They went to Moab and continued there:

Where of her husband Naomi was bereft,

And only she and her two sons were left:

Who took them wives of Moab in their youth.

The name of one was Orpah, t’other Ruth:

And there they died ere twice five years were gone;

And Naomi was wholly left alone.

Then she arose, and her step-daughters with her,

To leave the land of Moab altogether:

For she had heard the Lord had visited

Her native country, with increase of bread,

Wherefore the land of Moab she forsook,

And to her native place her course she took,

Her daughters with her: whom she did desire,

That to their mother’s house they would retire.

The Lord, said she, be kind to you again,

As you to me, and to the dead have been.

God grant you each may be with husbands blest,

And in the enjoyment of them both find rest,

Then she embraced them, and there withal,

Down from their cheeks, the tears began to fall.

They wept aloud, and said, Most surely we

Unto thy people will return with thee.

But Naomi replied, Wherefore will ye,

My daughters, thus resolve to go with me?

Are there yet any more sons in my womb,

That may your husbands be in time to come?

Return again, my daughters, go your way,

For I’m too old to marry: should I say

I’ve hope? Should I this night conceive a son?

Would either of you stay till he is grown?

Would you so long without an husband [‹1.3›] live?

Nay, nay, my daughters, for it doth me grieve

Exceedingly, even for your sakes, that I

Do under this so great affliction lie.

And here they wept again. And Orpah kiss’d

Her mother, But Ruth would be not dismiss’d

But clave unto her: unto whom she spake

And said, Behold, thy sister is gone back,

With her own gods, and people to abide,

Go thou along with her. But Ruth replied,

Intreat me not to leave thee, or return:

For where thou goest, I’ll go, where thou sojourn,

I’ll sojourn also. And what people’s thine,

And who thy God, the same shall both be mine.

Where thou shalt die, there will I die likewise,

And I’ll be buried where thy body lies.

The Lord do so to me, and more, if I

Do leave thee, or forsake thee till I die.

And when she saw the purpose of her heart,

She left off to desire her to depart.

So they two travelled along together

To Bethlehem, and when they were come thither,

Behold! the people were surprised, and cried,

What, is this Naomi? But she replied,

Oh! call me Mara, and not Naomi;

For I have been afflicted bitterly.

I went out from you full, but now I come,

As it hath pleased God, quite empty home:

Why then call ye me Naomi? Since I

Have been afflicted so exceedingly.

So Naomi return’d, and Ruth together,

Who had come from the land of Moab with her:

And unto Bethlem Judah did they come,

Just as the Barley Harvest was begun.

The Fight

Samson squeezing two pillars in a Philistine Temple

Samson bringing the house down

And now a story I shall write;
It shall be about a fight:
In Israel a man there was
With arms of steel, heart of brass
Battle-hardened stripes had he
Many sprung from trickery.
Hair as long as he was tall,
His weapon once a donkey’s jaw.
What fame he held
As he Philistines felled;
In vengeance and passion
They died in like fashion.
That is, until a woman he met.
To win her love he made a misstep,
Confiding in her where lies his strength.
So her people him to naught did rend;
For she shaved his locks of dread
And he to the Philistines was fed.
The Spirit of God from him departed
Until his faith anew was started.
His gauged out eyes deterred him not
As a servant boy led him to a spot
Between two columns he rested his arms
He prayed, the Philistines stayed unalarmed,
Then he squeezed the two columns
Turning a jovial moment solemn.
Thus, in the end, he won the fight
A man’s strength lies not in his might,
Neither in his passion nor in fashion
But being the Lord’s dearest possession.

Book Review – Prophet: a novel by Frank E. Peretti

Prophet by Frank E. Peretti

Prophet: a novel

Imagine having your world shaken to the point where you don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. Imagine having to choose the wrong just so that you don’t have to acknowledge your mistake. Imagine having to control co-workers and the stories they pursue just so that your conscience can remain violated and your secret remain undiscovered. For some people, like Tina Lewis, this is reality although they would never admit this little fact to themselves—let alone to others.

Tina Lewis, a character in Frank E. Peretti’s Prophet, is a content manager at NewsSix, the news department of Channel 6. Falling in league with the devil, she tries to suppress a story that would weaken Governor Hiram Slater’s chances of re-election. But John Barrett Jr. is determined to have the truth come out. John Barrett lost his religious kook of a father in the fight for the truth and would lose his estranged son if he did not take a stand and see the Truth prevail. In the process he sees through Tina hearing her cries and those of the City, shares his deceased father’s pain, reconciles with God, accepts his destiny and sees justice served at a cost to the chagrin of Tina Lewis and associates.

Never before have I encountered a story that is so real and has such depth. Although Peretti doesn’t delve deep into a character’s history as Lionel Trilling in The Middle of the Journey or Netta Musket in A Daughter for Julia, he does an excellent job at characterisation, communicating the characters’ backstories and their growth on the various issues explored in the novel. One of those issues being abortion as well as the privacy laws that allow minors to have abortions without parental consent or knowledge and the malpractice the secrecy engenders.

Peretti goes into a lot of detail sometimes repeating scenes and cues in the newsroom that the reader was already familiar with. Peretti spent a great amount of time describing the layout of the room and how the other reporters in the room were editing their news packages before John Barrett entered the room to edit the story he was working on. That said, he described the workings of a news room set in 1991 very well. If you did know how news gathering, sifting and broadcasting worked, you’ll have a better idea after reading this book.

His details made the story real to me. The main characters were well-crafted, the plot gripping, the gospel presentation well done, and most definitely thought provoking. One thing he set out to achieve was to have his readers consider where they stand on the issues of abortion, human rights, their relationship with Jesus, and the masks they wear. The supernatural dimension of the book was a bonus and quite refreshing for someone drawn to the supernatural and well-versed in science fiction and fantasy. Peretti also made use of different points of view not restricting himself to only telling the story from John Barretts’ perspective. At critical moments he switches views or uses John’s prophetic gift to give the reader insight into the reactions or motivations of the characters involved in a particular scene.

Prophet is 575 pages long (excluding the front and back matter) and could most probably have been cut by 10 to 15 pages due to the amount of detail. The book was published in 1992 by Living Books, a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

If you are into the fantasy, science fiction, or religious fiction, get your hands on a copy of this book. Peretti presents both sides of the abortion issue and some insight into the influence the media has on our behaviour and the choices we make. I recommend this novel to anyone interested in learning more. And if you just want to take a break from your regular diet of (genre) fiction, read Prophet. It will make you think.

Book Review – Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament

Have you ever read a book that was better the second time round? Well, that’ what it felt like reading Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament church (Autumn House ® Publishing). Jack J. Blanco picks up the Biblical narrative just before the ascension of Christ in Acts 1 and follows the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire during the time of the apostles. He retells the events St. Luke recorded in the Book of Acts using simple English and little melodrama. 

Witness: Acts through Revelation

Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament Church

Witness was written to help theology students understand the New Testament by placing the events and the letters in chronological order. To this end, he discarded with chapter and verse numbering; instead he concluded each section with Scripture references. Furthermore, he included major Christian doctrines leaving out those portions of Scripture that impeded the flow of the narrative and tended to confuse readers. I did not notice these gaps nor did they offend me because I knew that the work was intended for one’s reading pleasure and clarification. Sometimes too much information bogs you down.

The author intended the book to be a simplified, flowing version of the Bible narrative which I believe he succeeded in creating. The letters Sts. Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude wrote to their respective audiences were placed in chronological order. Jack Blanco vividly describes the shipwreck Sts. Paul and Luke experienced on the shores of the island of Malta (Acts 25,26). Portions from St. Paul’s letters were used to complete the narrative since the Book of Acts does not contain all the details of St. Paul’s imprisonment.

It was with great eagerness that I turned to the final chapters of Witness to see how Jack Blanco would simply the Book of Revelation. I was impressed with how he maintained the use of simple language. I was, however, disappointed by the portions of Scripture he left out in his paraphrasing of Revelation 1. He handled the description of Revelation chapters 10-14, 19-22 well, I think. I noticed that Witness does not include the time prophecies reminding the reader of its purpose to inform.

Overall, it was a good read. Witness answered some questions I had as it placed events and letters in context. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a plain explanation of the New Testament without the possibility of getting sidetracked by or lost in the complexity.

Below you can compare the rendering of 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 by Witness (WIT), The Message (MSG) and the No Greater Love (NGL). All three books are paraphrases of the Bible.

WIT: You need to think of us as servants who have been entrusted with the secret things of God. What is expected of servants? They must be faithful to their master. It doesn’t matter what you think of me or what a human court decides about me. I don’t even make decisions about myself. I let God do that. Even though I don’t know of anything that I’m doing wrong that doesn’t justify me before God. That’s why I leave everything about myself in the Lord’s hands. He’s the One who reads motives and brings everything to light. In time we will each receive praise from God, not from someone else.
NGL: So Appollos and I should be looked upon as Christ’s servants who distribute God’s blessings by explaining God’s secrets. Now the most important thing about a servant is that he does just what his master tells him to. What about me? Have I been a good servant? Well, I don’t worry over what you think about this, or what anyone else thinks. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but even that isn’t final proof. It is the Lord Himself who must examine me and decide. So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether someone is a good servant or not. When the Lord comes, he will turn on the light so that everyone can see exactly what each one of us is really like, deep down in our hearts. Then everyone will know why we have been doing the Lord’s work. At that time God will give each one whatever praise is coming to him.
MSG: Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge. It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I’m not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn’t mean much. The Master makes that judgment. So don’t go ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dream of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will anyone of us get to hear the “Well done!” of God.

Winds of Change: 342-333 days to go

Mini-campaign

Well, the mini-campaign is done. And I give God all the glory for the role He played in making it a success. Our speaker originated from a neighbouring country. He has lived in mine for almost seven years. He made us laugh a lot. His was the kind of humour that had a whole lot of truth in it. He spoke about the Kingdom of God.

You’re most probably wondering how I dealt with the challenges I faced last week. In one short sentence, God carried me through.

At first the Conference Youth Director couldn’t make it for Saturday, 3 May because he was out of town. I contacted the substitute he organised. At first the substitute was to picked up at his domicile by us and brought to our church. But, the substitute also had to be ordained as a church elder at another church that day. He was going to lunch by me where the brothers from that church would pick him up and take him to their church where the ordination would take place. The arrangments changed many times as new information came to light. Ultimately, we agreed that the brothers from that other church would collect him at his domicile in the morning, ordain him at their church and rush him to mine so that he could preach.

However, on Friday (341 days to go) the Conference Youth Director confirmed that he would be able to preach on Saturday. With a smile on my face and a song in my heart, I informed the youth elder who did not inform the other elders as I would learn the next day.

The Conference Youth Director preached a powerful sermon on the Kingdom of God. He really made it personal. The congregation was moved.

That Saturday night the pastor who would conduct the campaign for the rest of the week delivered his first sermon. He had us cracking just like a famous comedian from my country. Being fully bilingual, and speaking to an almost fully bilingual audience, he mixed the two languages we speak pretty well. But, the message came through loud and clear.

After we did a lot of damage control on Sunday night (337 DTG) which made us start the programme 15 minutes late, we had to stall the programme the Monday night (336 DTG) because the pastor assumed that we would begin late again. As on Saturday afternoon (339 DTG), he came just as time ran out. He was on time for the rest of the week. He came a little late tonight though but not that late!

On Tuesday night, D spoke to me about the underlying tension she sensed in the group. She referred to my cousin, S. I asked her if she meant S, she said yes. Something just told me “Level with her” occurred to me. So, I did. I explained that S was upset with D because D didn’t organise a guest artist for Sunday night and that D should’ve been prepared to sing herself since she is the worship leader. I told her that I was also angry with her because of what she said to my cousin, the sensitive, temperamental pianist. It made me look bad, uninformed and incompetent as a leader (these are her words). But, because the unity of the team is more important to me, I decided not to hold it against her. I forgave her. Only then did she realise the implications of what she had said. She apologised.

Then I asked her to speak to S to clear the air. But she had reached the point where she just didn’t care anymore. D told me that she had called musicians the whole Sunday and the week preceding it, but she couldn’t secure anyone.

That night, I told S about my conversation with D explaining D’s position. I urged her to speak to D. But, S didn’t want to.

That same night (335 DTG) we had a short debriefing meeting after the programme to explain mistakes that we made and prepare the team for the next evening’s programme. Because D had to leave early, I informed the team that D had two unconfirmed artists for the next night. One of the pianists (N) and his cousin volunteered to perform while one of the other members (R) of the praise team was going to get men’s group to perform. However, I didn’t hear correctly and thought R was L (their names are similiar). L had fallen out of favour with S three years ago during the first mini-campaign we organised as a team. So, the team was shocked that D would have L secure an act for us. (The thing between S and L was really ugly since S loved L and her brother a lot. L had hurt S by misusing her name.) I was pretty shocked myself when I heard that L was going to secure an act for us. But, I’m always happy when those who left the youth start getting involved again. Quite upset S told me not to talk rubbish. I was taken aback by her outburst. She excused herself from the meeting and high tailed it out of there. We concluded the meeting and met S outside.

As a fail safe we asked a housemate of one of the team members to go on standby for us. We would confirm it on Wednesday morning. D had to let me know if the two acts confirmed by 10 am. I called her at 11:15am to find out. None had gotten back yet. D’s sister had been scheduled to sing for one of the two “special item” slots but due to her illness she couldn’t make it. That’s why we were looking for a replacement act. D asked me to ask the stand-in to prepare one item only. I, in my wisdom, asked the stand-in to sing two items. After D confirmed that the pianist and his cousin would perform, I informed D and the housemate of the stand-in about my error in judgment. I also gave D the housemate’s number telling her to communicate with him directly. (I panicked there for a bit, but I asked God to give me wisdom to handle the situation correctly.)

That Wednesday night everything went smoothly. It was then that I told about my conversation with D and asked her to speak to D. S refused out of fear of saying something she would later regret.

Everything went well Thursday night too (333 DTG). We had refreshments to which everyone on the team contributed. S supplied cocktail bread with various toppings, tea, milk and sugar while the rest of us supplied biscuits. D brought juice. Su and Sh arranged the refreshments. The pastor was really glad about this opportunity to meet the people. It rained cats and dogs so not many of the attendees stayed for refreshments.

Tonight (332 DTG) we had a small hiccup. The pastor ran late, the team mate who saw to the slide show ran very late, the head of family ministries in our church didn’t get a chance to speak since it was not included in the slide show, and the guest artist for tonight only sang one song when he was supposed to sing two. The congregation sang Heart of Worship in the open slot.

One member of the praise tried to convice D that she should sing in that slot even if it was only Amazing Grace but D refused. Seeing that D’s mind was made up, I told him that no amount of asking or begging would persuade D to sing. She is one of those people that rigidly obey Newton’s Third Law of Motion which says,

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” –from The Physics Classroom

D agreed. But her point was not that she was stubborn. She was not prepared to sing. She kept saying that voice was the same as any other musical instrument. You need to practice before a performance. It isn’t just a matter of going on stage and singing your heart out. It became clear that D and S would never reconcile on this point while the team mate understood D better.

I had to say thank you to everyone who participated in the programme. I prayed earnestly that God would help me do say thank you to the people. I don’t usually do the thanks at events. When I do, I try to finish as quickly as possible. This makes it seem cold and unemotional. But tonight was different. God answered my prayers. A warmth characterised my voice as I thanked the contributors and participants from my heart. I even blessed the pastor and mothers (since it’s Mothers Day weekend). Blessing the mothers was unplanned.

I’m grateful that God helped me and my team safely through this week. I’m grateful that God blessed this mini-campaign and kept the team together even though it seemed as if Satan would have the upper hand. I’m grateful that He blessed those who attended and that He guided the pastor in the presentation and preparation of the messages. I am grateful for His patience and for the work He performed on my character–a work that is very important to me.

And I thank you for your patience as my posts have become irregular.

Winds of Change: 343-337 days to go

Don’t you sometimes wish that all your problems could just go away? That God would just step in and work His divine alchemy to set everything right—the way they are supposed to be? But life is rarely that simple or easy. And even though it is possible (for God can do the impossible), He rarely, if ever, chooses to exercise His power in that way. Instead He uses those situations and the people who actuate them to build our characters.

That is how I see the problems I am facing now. Tomorrow (337 days to go (DTG)) I will return to campus as a full time student. It is with much dread and trepidation that I will set my feet on campus, but it’s something I just have to do. I have to demonstrate courage in the midst of fear. But, it’s scarcely a fear worth mentioning.

A brief look at fear

We humans face all kinds of fears and some are so intrinsic that they define us. Take agoraphobia (the fear of unknown places) for example. When the grip of the fear is so strong and severe it completely interferes with its possessor’s quality of life. The possessor becomes a prisoner in his or her own home.

Fortunately, I don’t suffer from agoraphobia or claustrophobia (the fear of small places), but I do slightly suffer from atychiphobia (the fear of failure) and the fear of hurting or disappointing people (I can’t find the Greek name for this one). I also fear conflict, not because I might get hurt. No. I fear conflict because I might just lose control, say things I shouldn’t and irreparably damage a worthwhile relationship. I also fear conflict because I might not respond in the most appropriate manner and lose brownie points for not standing up for myself or whoever I represent.

The sound of music

From my last three posts, especially the last one, you will remember that my cousin, S, and I had a tiff of sorts. She accused me of meddling and causing chaos with regards to the pianists for the mini-campaign which is currently underway. A couple of days after she (for lack of a better word) humiliated me in the youth executive committee’s instant messaging group, I texted one of the pianists saying that the person we initially asked was now available and we would no longer need his services. I thanked him for his willingness to help. I left it at that.

A week passed. D, the music director for my church’s youth, got guest artists for all the nights except Sunday evening (337 DTG). The initial pianist was on board and discussed practice session times with the praise and worship team. Then, all of a sudden the initial pianist could commit. He struggled to find time in his schedule for the practice sessions and for the mini-campaign. (When I stepped in organised the pianist for mini-campaign, I had gotten two pianists: the one I cancelled with and another one. This latter one is the pianist S overheard discuss who would play when with the initial pianist.) The sun couldn’t produce enough rays to equal the amount and intensity of the rays my smile emitted. I was right. I gloated to my parents and sister. I didn’t say anything to team though. It would cause unnecessary friction and might even drive us apart. But, I really revelled in being right about the situation.

D contacted cancelled pianist but couldn’t get through to him. She asked me to ask him to play for us, but I refused. I said, “After being told that I disorganise things that were already organised, I called [the cancelled pianist] and cancelled with him telling him that the person we asked initially was no available.” She was astonished. “So,” I continued, “I will not ask him to play again . . . Why don’t you ask one of the others to ask him.” She said that she had been trying to call him but couldn’t get through. I did not respond.

Today she told the team after tonight’s mini-campaign meeting that she spoke to the cancelled pianist. She asked him to play for us. When he said that I had already cancelled with him, she said that I had not consulted with her before doing so. He wasn’t pleased. I was speechless. She had just told a very sensitive person, who at one stage refused to play in the church (for various reasons), that I, his cousin, messed with him. She had just told him that I, her leader, acted out of line, while ignoring the fact that I saved her butt when I asked my very sensitive, temperamental cousin to play. All I could say in self-defense was “Did I not do the right thing? I told him exactly why we cancelled with him.” Her response, “You did do the right thing.”

After a while anger welled up inside of me. I had seen the implications of her actions when she told us. But, I was incapable of responding in a violent or aggressive manner. But the resentment built up very quickly. I guess, I tapped into S’s anger too.

S wasn’t pleased with D’s attitude and lack of camaraderie tonight. D did not organise a guest artist tonight and refused to sing in those slots. She had us doing damage control before the meeting started. This afternoon (338 DTG) she texted S asking her if we couldn’t play a video one of the guest artist’s slots, but S “blatantly refused” according to D. It was D’s mess and D had to solve it. I agreed with S when D informed me. So, S was angry with D way before tonight’s meeting.

S also told me that I should develop a backbone towards D. I told her that I’m working on it. I told S about D and the cancelled pianist, how she dragged my name through the mud and blamed me for the whole mess with the pianists. S was not happy.

(Dis)Engaged

A lot more stuff happened on Thursday (341 DTG) and Friday (340 DTG) with regards to the Conference Youth Director who was not able to preach on Saturday (339 DTG) at first. He was not going to make it back in time. But, he made it. Some folks who attended church said that it was one of the best services ever and that that is what church should be like. I thank God that they were blessed.

The preacher for the mini-campaign (not Saturday’s preacher) acts a lot like a comedian from my country. His sense of humour is the same as a cousin mine’s. But, his messages are powerful.

Unfortunately, not a lot of youth are attending the mini-campaign. I don’t know why. Maybe they fell victim to church politics? Maybe they don’t like us? Maybe they are just not interested? Whatever the case may be, I will continue to reach out to them.

Seasoned advice

A senior pastor (who is also family) told me on Saturday after I lunched at his home that I have a defeatest attitude, that I shouldn’t resign. If I do, then, this resigning will become a habit and affect other areas of my life include my marriage and my career. I was pretty shocked. He spoke about the elders, their lack of leadership and hidden agendas. He asked me not to resign.

When I told my mom about all of these things this evening, she was upset. She asked me to resign from the youth leadership post and to focus on my studies. I assured her that I would still do it. She also advised me not to humiliate myself by saying anything to D and thus let it go. But, when I see my cousin, the cancelled pianist, again I should explain the situation to him. He would understand.

Right now, even as I prayed earlier tonight, I think that there are too many advisors. I don’t know who to trust anymore. Of course, my parents will see nothing wrong with me. I’m their angel. The consequences seem endless as I view the simple decision of resigning as youth leader. I hold the outcome of people’s futures in my hands, it seems. If I stay on as youth leader, my own future will suffer.

Free thinking

I’m also worried that I’m listening to my parents too much. When do I make my own decisions and my own mistakes? (This is where the fear of failure comes in.) The pastor who advised me is S’s father. So, does he have a hidden agenda too even though he loves me like his own son? Do I listen to my friends? Are they trustworthy? Are they wise? How do I know what God wants me to do?

How do I approach my studies? I don’t feel like a team player. I feel really stupid among my fellow students in the lab. How do I deal with my supervisors’ disappointments? Why aren’t my efforts good enough? Am I living in a dream world? Will I ever be successful? What character defects do my studies reveal about me? How do I manage or overcome those?

These are the questions I wrestle with at this moment.

On the porn front

I had wet dreams on Thursday (341 DTG) and today. I have no recollection of either dreams.

On Twitter I discovered how one reports pornographic media, profile pics and tweets. You can just report them as SPAM. Or if you want to file a more detailed report, you may do so here. You’ll have to look under “Report spam”. The URL of the media or profile is needed. At first, I opened the people’s profiles while covering the obscene images with my hand. Later, I just right-clicked on the (small) image or profile tab (with my thumb covering the pic) and selected the “copy link address” option from the pane that appeared.

The crucible of life—that’s where I find myself. Raw material for stories.

Winds of Change: 353-344 days to go Part Two

This post is forms part 2 of the 353-344 DTG series. I don’t know why I didn’t publish it. The post appears in block quotes because I had written it so long ago.

Such a lot has happened during the past few days! Due to lack of time, I will just give you the highlights.

Taking a load off

I finished all my articles for this month today (i.e. 350 days to go). Yay! My colleagues held a farewell tea for me this afternoon because I will be heading back to campus full time from 1 May. My contract with my job expires on 30 April.

With regards to my other work duties, I made some good progress with editing the audio tracks of a play I was part of. A lot of work remains to be done though.

Team playing

I suffered a major disappointment with my youth team and with the church elders. I’m still debating about the wisdom of posting my account of the events and the internal struggle I underwent. I want to post it, but it will give you guys the wrong impression of what Christians are like. I will be frank here: some of you don’t believe in God, in Jesus Christ, and have been hurt by Christian in one way or other. This is not a religious blog so I won’t write an apology. But, I’m sure you understand my hesitation. We are a infinitely far away from upholding the moral law we profess to hold, but we strive to by the grace of God. And that’s that. Just know that I really want to post it, but won’t if it damages the cause of Christ. (I already recorded the events.)

On the porn front

Things are a little shaky on the porn front. I really wanted to look at porn today, viz. to look at photos of people engaged in non-sexual nudity. But I did not. I won’t say that I ran away from Flickr but I did search for other things. I came across some very beautiful landscape, portrait, and wildlife photos.

My accountability partner has really been good to me. We had a great conversation on 350 DTG (days to go). We spoke about my fear of my lovely bride changing into a hideous monster overnight, being a sex fiend in my marriage and marrying someone I don’t really love. I asked him how one knows when one really loves someone and how important being in love is. How do you know when a woman is “the one”? And should you pray for a God-fearing wife every day of your life?

He basically said that God will show me who I am to marry. Being in love is an integral part of a romantic relationship. It’s the seed from which “loving each other” sprouts. He said that I don’t need to worry about being a brute in my marriage (or rather he agreed with my reasoning) because Christ transformed me. When you are in Christ that nature is layed aside. He then shared his experience with me. I agreed with him when he said that I don’t have to pray for a God-fearing wife every day of my life. It’s one of those things that God will supply in due course. My prayer should be that I am a God-fearing man for my wife and that God will keep us both faithful. He sent me some material on fear today.

Going digital

I got an eReader today! I was so excited! I can’t wait to load some books on it, but it’s charging now. A booklist has already been set up, I just need to buy those books. I’ve got a whole lot of books in my digital library that I want to read. It’s enough to last me a lifetime!

Why not take the poll in the pane on the right and tell us which format of books do you prefer? I’m an old fashioned guy so I like hard copy books.