We need to be abnormal to find normal in life… (Daily Prompt)

Daily Prompt: The Normal

by michelle w. on June 9, 2013

Is being “normal” — whatever that means to you — a good thing, or a bad thing? Neither?

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“Normal” is one of the most cruel words ever thought up by man. Because “Normal” says there is a standard against which you are being measured. Inside certain parameters you get the green light- you are acceptable to family/ your teacher’s expectations/ society in general. But if you are an individual, with your own point of view, you are falling outside the boundaries of “Normal”, and you become “abnormal”- and that is not good for your standing in society.  But who decides what is normal and what not?  What if the society is wrong about what “normal” means? Who will then dare to stand up against “normal”, and change the system?  This one comes very close to my skin. Because I grew up white in South Africa. Apartheid was “normal” in  our society. It was abnormal to question how society operated. It took even me years to discover: we were wrong. We had the abnormal point of view.  And for all my years of blindness to injustice, I am very sorry. I believed “normal” because it was the way to do things. I have to adjust from an abnormal view to a normal one- a society in which everyone has equal value, and equal opportunities.  I am afraid that my country is still not there. My sons will have the legacy that they will forever hear the words that they may not desire to be managers, or senior officers of the army, or get a loan to buy a farm… because they are white…  We are not yet at “normal” where everybody has the same opportunities because of what they are putting into education, and hard work. Society has not reached “normal” yet, and probably will not in my lifetime. Who will stand up and change the system again?

Enough heavy stuff- that was just my fingers running automatically over the keyboard.

“Normal” is good.  But you have to make certain of what you accept as “normal”.  Normal is good in this sense- on a normal day I do not experience any pain.  On a normal day I work to provide for my family. On a normal day I do have enough to eat, and I sleep in a warm bed.  On a normal day there is so little time for doing fun stuff with my kids, reading as much as I would like to. On a normal day I do not get the chance to take one of my motorbikes out for a spin.

Normal is good. But normal can become very boring. Normal has the ability to trap you in golden cages of comfort.  And then you become like the old circus lion, all your needs are provided for, but the light in your eyes is slowly dying out.  You long to be free, you long, you accept, you are, you die.

We need “Abnormal” to make the “Normal” worth living. That is why I travel. That is why I like to hike in wild nature. I need the times that are uncomfortable, so that I can appreciate my warm bed at home. I need to eat hiking food, to appreciate good home cooking. I need to get wet and cold and miserable, to appreciate all the good times that I take for granted, and never see how privileged I truly am.

Abnormal teaches us such valuable lessons in life. It teaches us to question normality, and make us set much higher standards for what we accept as normal.

Does this writing make any sense at all? For some people were shot in my country for much less…

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circuszooanimals.blogspot.com

Love is a beautiful song… and more… (Daily Prompt)

Daily Prompt: I Want to Know What Love Is

by michelle w. on May 11, 2013

We each have many types of love relationships — parents, children, spouses, friends. And they’re not always with people; you may love an animal, or a place. Is there a single idea or definition that runs through all the varieties of “love”?

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Foreigner asked this question when I was much younger… : “I want to know what love is…”   And since then, this question is still bugging me, and keeping me busy in my thoughts.  For I am a wedding official in our country.  Our Department of Home Affairs licenced me to perform weddings, that is binding by law…

As a marriage official, I have seen so much couples over the past two decades. And each of them had a song in their heart, with which they opened the dance floor after the wedding.  Some sing to each other the words of Josh Groban: “You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains…”   They sing to each other with Savage Garden: “Truly, madly deeply…” They look deep into each other’s eyes later in the evening and sing with Queen: “ You’re my best friend”  or Joe Cocker crones for them: “You are so beautiful…”   As the evening progresses the Boyz II Men promise: “I’ll make love to you...”  and one of my favourite songs… Eric Clapton, the master- “Beautiful Tonight…”  

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itsabrideslife.com

But how can a late night at the wedding reception not have Barry White, in that deep voice, singing: “My first, my last, my everything…”   or Elvis, the King, sings “ Love me tender…”   How could a wedding feast not have the Righteous Brothers singing: “Unchained Melody…”  or Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross with ” Endless LOve

The beginning of love is a beautiful song…

But I, as a pastor, also see the other end of the journey in so many lives…

Even here are some songs applicable: U2- “With or without you…”   Sometimes doubt sets in… Tina Turner asks: “What’s love, but a secondhand emotion?

When there are no change of direction, Def Leppard cries: “Love hurts…”  The BeeGees begins to aslk: How deep is your love? 

It’s a sad day when Air Supply begins to say: “I’m all out of love”   And Joe Cocker cries: “Unbreak my heart…”   Like Heart, you can feel so “Alone” 

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urbanlegendkampala.com

Then the whole Country genre of music kicks in- your horse dies,, your dog bites you, all goes South…  “You piiiicked a fine time to leave me Lucille…” (Kenny Rogers)   And Shania Twain asks “Whose bed have your boots been under?”  Bummer.

Over a drink you cry with R.E.M “Everybody hurts...”  Till Roy Orbison declares: “It’s over…”   You go with Elvis to the “Heartbreak Hotel”.  Your “significant other is now, in your eyes, as Pat Benatar declares, a “Heartbreaker…”  You wish for just “ONe more night” with Phil Collins, but you had your chance…  And Linda Ronstadt says “It hurts so bad…”  Later all you can think about is: “Yesterday” (the Beatles). Yip, Bob MArley- “No woman no cry”

I have seen love’s beginning, and I have seen love’s end. Love does not have to end!  But it takes hard work to keep it alive and growing…

How to save your love?

  1.  Boston has it right. Love is “More than a feeling!”
  2.  Treasure each other- Shania Twain: “You’re still the one…
  3.  “Don’t you forget about me” – Simple Minds- Make the other one feel special.
  4. Nothing compares to you“- Sinead o’ Connor- wise words! Don’t Compare!
  5. You are always on my mind” Elvis- Think about how to be a good companion for life’s journey!
  6. In the arms of the angel” Sarah Maclachlin-  Give each other hugs, celebrate each other’s bodies…
  7.  “The first time, I ever saw your face” Roberta Flack – Remember, and celebrate your journey together!
  8.  “To where you are” Josh Groban- time spent together is important, make it count!
  9.  “I believe I can Fly” by R Kelly- Believe when you can’t see…
  10.  “The Greatest Love of all”– Whitney Housten- BE that to your lover!

But in the end- Foreigner still have the best answer to the question: “I want to know what Love is…” And that is… “I want you to show me…

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positivemed.com

The key to blogging: Respect (Daily Prompt)

Daily Prompt: Key Takeaway

by michelle w. on May 7, 2013

Give your newer sisters and brothers-in-WordPress one piece of advice based on your experiences blogging.

If you’re a new blogger, what’s one question you’d like to ask other bloggers?

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There are many millions of us in the WordPress family. We live all across the world. We are from every possible nation, race, religion, political view. We travel all over the world, and share our experiences on our blogs. We think our own thoughts, based on our own paradigm of life.  We cook and taste, then share recipes. We take photos, and admire the photos of others. We share books and poetry. We listen to music, all possible genres of it. . In our own little corner, every one of us has a place called Home. Ok, some live out of suitcases and motorbike panniers for decades (lucky them!).  Most of us has a certain country’s passport. And a certain address we return to, to work, to earn, to plan for our next trip from.

In this beautiful world we are the kaleidoscope of humanity. Each one of our posts represent a small part of the Story of Mankind. A small piece of history. A small piece of our own heart. We dare to say: Look world, here I am, this is me!

I try to remember that in every post I write. Yes, I am so used to my little South African town, that it can feel like the whole wide world to me. I can be so used to my culture, that I think everybody must think like me, and see the world through my point of view.  So it takes an effort to see that here- we are talking to one another. It is amazing to see the blog of somebody in Hawaii, which is 12 time zones away from me, on totally the opposite side of the world. It is so wonderful to read the story of somebody in Japan, or Moscow, or Peru- places I have never been.

So- when I write, it is always with the knowledge that I only write about what I know. There is so much more than that out there- so much other people see and do, that I know nothing about. I read blogs to learn more about life. I love people. I love hearing their stories.  So when I read, I read with RESPECT. I am not in their shoes, I do not understand their world in which they grew up. I do not judge,  I do not tell them the answers to their questions. I respect. I observe. I listen and I learn. And that enriches my life!

When I write, I write with respect for my reader. You do not have to share my point of view.  I tell it like I experience it, and you are more than welcome to have another, totally different interpretation than me.  That is what makes this world such an exciting place to be. If everybody was the same, all the food tasted the same, every building looked the same, what would be the point of travelling, and meeting new friends across the world?

So yes, dear new blogger- learn to listen with respect. Learn to write with respect. As you soweth, so shall you reapeth… (My Good Book: Galatians 6:7)

Make love, not war!

I didn’t know we could choose…  (old SA Army joke)

In 2004 I had a work-related visit to Belgium. We had one day off, so I decided to go to the World War 1 battlefields and cemeteries around Ieper, where some of the most horrific battles in the history of humankind took place.  I have always been fascinated by history, and believe what Benjamin Disraeli said about those who do not learn from history, are destined to repeat the lessons…

The trenches of World War 1 sounds like the most stupid thing a human mind has ever conceived. I am just so glad that I didn’t live then, and had to go over the wall one misty morning… This is the result: The Allied military cemetery of Passchendaele (btw- that was an awesome movie… Passchendaele)

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These  photos were the last I have taken with the old Canon A1 35mm film camera, before I too went the way of megapixels…

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It was just not possible to capture the immense scale of how many war graves there are in just this one cemetery. Not all bodies were recognizable…

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And yes- some of my countrymen also fell on Flanders’ fields…   jut recognizable by the Springbok emblem on his uniform as such…

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But the saddest part of this battlefield is the Menin Gate in Ieper. It has the names of hundreds of thousands of soldiers engraved on it, so blown to bits by artillery bombardments that their bodies were never found- technically still M.I.A. Image

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This is what really got me: On 11 November 1918, at 23h11 the guns fell silent on the Western Front.  Millions of young men have killed each other. A generation was lost. And 21 years later, their sons went at it again…

When I was a boy, I wished I could be a soldier in a war,  Later on, we had to be soldiers or go to jail. Now, as a father, I look upon war as the most senseless thing a human being can do. And I pray that my sons will be spared the experience of taking up arms against another.  I am not entirely a pacifist- I believe Thoreau’s quote that all that evil needs to flourish is for good men to do nothing.  I still have huge respect for the men and women who have to take up arms against the dictators of this world, and it may be the last resolve to right some injustices.

I sometimes work with combat veterans. I see the price soldiers pay for politicians wars. Their scars and wounds are not always visible. But it is there, for years and years afterwards. And so I am with the hippies in the Vietnam era on this one: Rather make love than war!

Friday morning is for the birds…

Friday is my day off. That is if there is no funeral to lead, no serious crisis in the congregation, no church meetings like a Synod, no fundraising event…. Sometimes I even get to have a day off on Friday…

This morning I decided: I need to be creative with my hands again. There is just one serious problem with that- I have NO technical ability whatsoever. And no art talent at all.  But- the need to express myself remains…

I do own a welding machine. Also two angle grinders- a big one and a small one. In my back yard there is also a heap of old scrap metal. And in the garage I do have old, old tins of paint. i think some of these paint were used to paint the Colloseum in Rome when it was first  finished.

I live in an area that is widely known for it’s variety of wild birds. There are really hundreds of species of birds in the Bushveld around us. I love birds. I even tried for a while to breed birds, but that is another sad, sad story.

So this morning early I jumped into my oldest clothes. I grabbed my angle grinder, and soon the sparks where flying. Fortunately nothing caught fire this time…

And soon, the picture in my mind started to take the form I wanted it to be. No, I do not have tha ability to first draw a plan on paper. And no, I could not find my tape measure anywhere- I have three sons, remember?

So I just cut some pieces of metal in roughly the shape I wanted them to be, and then welded them together. A boilermaker or welder by trade would cry in their beer right about now- sorry guys (and girls- remember the original Flashdance movie?) Image

I do not own a work bench with any kind of clamp. I also can not find my welding gloves anywhere. So it was really a struggle, keeping the iron upright between my toes, welding it without burning my little toe too much…

After a few hours, and utilizing a lot of scrap metal, and an old numberplate, my artwork is finished. I found an old, old, old can of white enamel paint. When I opened the lid, the sight inside resembled something out of an Alien movie. But Sigourney Weaver did not beam down to rescue me.  Unfortunately, neither did Milla Jovovich…  I stirred the paint vigorously, and finally something looking vaguely like white paint emerged. This I painted onto my creation. Half on me, half on the ironworks. As usual;

I also had a tin of Massey Ferguson Red enamel somewhere, but my youngest painted his guns with it a few months ago, and forgot to close the lid. So, dear 3 readers, my wild birds will just have to stay in the White House for now. (Does the FBI still check up on all things with the words White House in it on the Internet? Hi guys!  Can I get a Green Card and a job in Montana? Please?  Can I go into the Witness Protection program?  And get a new identity?)

In any case- this is the sin I have committed with the Lord’s good gift of Iron ore…

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I really think this is a piece of… art! I did my best, I expressed myself. And I am feeding the birds at the same time. I really just think it needs a red roof. What do you think?

The Ayes have it- the roof became Post Office red…

But now I find I did not do it careful enough… I have a serious problem with arc-eyes!  It feels as if I swam open eyed through the Sahara desert!

Daily Post: Clone Wars!

The question was asked: “If you could clone yourself, how would you split up your responsibilities?”

What a good few minutes of daydreaming followed after hearing this challenge. Because who of us really feel we have enough time in our lives? Cecil John Rhodes famously said on his deathbed: “So little done, so much to do.” And he only wanted to conquer the whole of Africa for the British Empire…

I have a job where it is possible to work 12 hours a day, for 7 days a week, and still never be done.  There are always more unhappy people in this world that need a shoulder to cry on, more hungry people that need to be fed.  Time management is the one big challenge in our work. We need to draw the line somewhere, and go home, and be with our families without feeling guilty.

So, one day my doorbell rings. It is the delivery of my clone- Beta-Me.  He looks exactly like me, with the same abilities.

Immediately the phone rings.  His job has just started. He handles whatever is on the other side of that line. Some husband is beating his wife. Beta-Me goes to sort it out. Actually I wish he is much stronger than I am- he goes to beat up the scumbag who dare to lift his hands against a woman!  He also goes and visit all the lonely people in town, who just need someone who will listen to their stories. He goes out to fix the leaking water pipe behind the church, he visits the people in the Alzheimer’s part of the retirement village. He goes out to those people who has been married for 7 + years, and now hate each other.

And Alpha-Me, that being me- what do I want to do? I take the opportunity to eat every meal at home with my wife and kids. I get to play more ballgames with my sons in the afternoon. I get to sit on my bench in the garden, and read the book I want to read for so long time now.

And yes, I also want to do some of my work. I get to teach the Bible study classes, interacting with positive people. I get to visit all the young couples who just had a baby in hospital. I take the people who wants to get married soon, on a journey of discovery about themselves, their personality, their communication skills, conflict handling… You catch my drift? Alpha Me handles everything that is about love and beauty. Beta Me handles the hate and ugly parts that I have to deal with professionally.

While doing all that, Alpha Me gets to be superfit, riding his bicycle every morning while the kids are at school. I also get to be a much better than average motorbiker, because I get to spend more time on the twisties…

It is so good to think about these things today. Because that doorbell will not ring and bring the clone- I will have to do all those things by myself.

But it teaches me to prioritize.  I need to work on my own marriage, and make it a nice place for my wife to be. I need to be an attentive dad, sharing good times with my children, because the time they spend in my house is running out so fast.

I need to stop and smell the flowers along the way. I have to get better coping skills in place, to handle it better when I am confronted by the violence and hate in some people’s lives.

A clone would be good, but till it arrives- I just have to make the best of every single day of my life! I need to make a difference for the world to be a better place…

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Picture from: www.coloribus.com (Greenpeace– yeah!)

Calvinistic men and their women…

The whole world knows by now that our beloved Blade Runner, Oscar Pistorius, is being charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. This is an absolute tragedy for all of us, as Oscar gained so much respect in the way he handles himself and his disability on the track. I do not wish to make any judgement on that case!

But now our “honorable” minister of women, children and disabled persons, Lulu Xinwana, has really gone and make a sweeping statement in an interview with ABC.

“Xingwana told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that young Afrikaner men were raised to believe they owned women and children.

“Young Afrikaner men are brought up in the Calvinist religion believing that they own a woman, they own a child, they own everything and therefore they can take that life because they own it,” she said during the interview aired on Monday.

(- See more at: http://news.iafrica.com/sa/845215.html#sthash.D7SA3AGw.dpuf

In today’s newspaper she does offer an apology. But this is the problem of South Africa- we all have our own favourite little piece of prejudice against one another of different cultures.

It is also a very sad truth that South Africa has the top statistics on the prevailance of rape in the world. It would be just as wrong to conclude that because most rapists who do get punished by the law, is black, would mean that black men have this tendency to rape.  Before you reach for the tyre and petrol-can- hear me out:  It is wrong to stereotype people!

I am a pastor in a Calvinist tradition church. I also am an Afrikaner male. It would be a small stretch of the truth to still call me young.

So- Minister Lulu Xinwana- I think I am qualified to speak about men and women in the Calvinist tradition. But maybe more qualified to speak about how I see my wife and children and their role in my life.

Minister Xinwana- in my tradition of understanding life, the universe and everything, I would like to point out some things I believe:

  • God created man and woman in His image, as equals, to help each other to live a much better life together than they would separately. This is a symbiotic relationship- it is supposed to benefit all. The equality point of Genesis 1:27 is mostly overlooked by some people.  In my marriage, my wife is not my property. She is the most valuable person in my life, I share everything with her, and her presence in my life makes me a better person. 
  •  Out of the love between us in our marriage, children were born. They are not my property. I believe that they are gifts from God, and that my responsability is to feed them, nurture them, and protect them from harm. I have to guide them to adulthood, so that they may live their own lives as well balanced, happy people, able to make their own moral choices in life.
  • I believe that every woman has the right to feel safe against the predators that some males seems to be. I believe that every woman has the right to say no to any form of sexual advances, and that right must be protected with the full extent of the law.
  •  I teach my young Calvinistic sons to respect and honor women. If they like a girl, they need to approach her with honor and respect.  It is a value I uphold dearly in my house- a woman will always feel safe around me and my sons.

So, minister Xinwana, with all the tragedies happening around us every day in South Africa against women and children, we also feel deeply saddened by the brokenness of this world.  We choose to be part of the solution, a safe haven to the women in our lives.  So no, your sweeping statement to the Australian public  is seen with contempt from this Calvinistic family.

And by the way- even though our church has some Calvinistic roots, I prefer to think of our congregation as followers of Jesus, who want to live in love and peace with God and all humanity. We pray for South Africa’s broken women, and we pray for the restoration of respect towards all in this beautiful country. After we prayed, we go out into our community, trying our best to be a part of the solution of this country’s desperate search for love and understanding.