Thursday, October 31, 2013

Musical Musings

Having dabbled in the occasional spot of songwriting, let me share some firsthand views from experience.
I admire songwriters and hymn writers with a great admiration. It takes genius to condense sublime spiritual truths into rhyming poetic phrases. It is quite another feat of talent to weave said phrases into rhythms and melodies that stir the spirits or sooth the soul. The inspiration that attended to Reformation-era Christian hymns is of a higher order, simply heavenly. It’s easy to take a finished work for granted, but I implore you to look again, closely. For example:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
My amateurish efforts at composing music continue. It’s nowhere near the scale of mastery attained by the inspired labors of the hymn writers, nor even that contemporary soulful song "Imela". Still, I thank GOD for the inspiration. It’s fulfilling to see the tracks taking shape, the melodies, harmonies, all that. Plus, I have a close friend who gives my oft-flagging encouragement the occasional kick-start via her infectious enthusiastic personality and encouraging comments. I thank GOD for her too.

PSALM 103:1-8
BLESS the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me bless His holy name
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD executeth righteousness and judgement for all that are oppressed.
He has made known His ways to Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger; and plenteous in mercy.

Sing a hymn of praise today.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Raw Nerve

My maternal grandma’s palms are so calloused that when she’s cooking on firewood, and one glowing ember strays from the flame, she picks it up and puts it back in the fire. Sometimes she even squeezes a red hot coal between her knotted fingers - as if to feel for its temperature! I tried that stunt one day and the resulting burn was too painful to describe, yet I hadn’t even raised the coal yet.

That’s the kind of unexpected shock that jolts me whenever I run into The Ex. Long absences convince me that I am truly over her, until I trick myself that I have forgotten. But a single chance meeting resurrects swarms of butterflies in my stomach. Her inscrutable expressions upon spotting me don’t give anything away.

Usually when we meet it’s around five pm; I’m rushing to the soccer pitch and she’s walking from work. It’s plenty awkward. The eyes are the window to the soul, but staring contests are not my forte. In the spirit of stoicism, much goes unsaid. Every sort of uncertainty breeds in the nuanced tones of voice, to say nothing of undetected residues of resentment over ancient grievances. The dialogues are nothing to write home about - perfunctory greetings immediately succeeded by relieved goodbyes.

When we part I go my way unsettled, with my thoughts profoundly disturbed. I wish I could effortlessly pick up my hot embers too.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Celebrating heroes, spurning their values

Kenyans, collectively speaking, our fathers fought for independence. We know all about it; we are enjoying the fruits of that independence today. So we declare national holidays and build monuments in their honor (if budget permits). But we don't do as they did. It is a tragedy of Biblical proportions.
Matthew 23:29,30
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous,
and say,” If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”
We collectively declare dead people heroes, while neglecting those principles by which said heroes lived. The problem is, the dead are dead, not somewhere watching to see whether and how they are being remembered. They’re unconscious of it all. The real question is “What do the living profit by the memory of the dead?” Were they examples or warnings to their survivors? Does the late heroes’ example and sacrifice inspire similar high ideals in the beneficiaries of their struggle?

Mention of heroes gives any speech a patriotic sheen, so we are certain that we will hear about them interminably. In the meantime, living people who actualize these dead heroes’ principles are ignored. Will they be remembered when they are dead, who while they live are ill considered? Will their flag-waving descendants perpetuate their principles, or merely rally around their monuments?
Matthew 23:34
Wherefore behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Original Tyrant

Early in my university days we students were presented with two opposing theories on human nature. People are by nature either inherently good, thus government should treat them nice, or inherently bad, thus government should suppress them. A big deal was made of the controversy that rages between supporters of the philosophers responsible for these contrary assumptions. I got caught up in the liberal faction of the squabble.

But I had forgotten one thing. Christianity has always known that one of the planet earth’s many aliases is “the realm of Satan”. It is his by usurpation, not by right. Anyone who challenges the claim that Satan is the king of this world need only discern the spirits, powers and principalities for themselves. Scripture records the fact that Satan offered to Jesus Christ all his world kingdoms if Jesus would only bow to him - Jesus Christ, to whom it rightly belongs, twice His, by creation and then by redemption with His blood, who will in due time take back His own in righteousness and judgment. AMEN.

The enemy Satan comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. In his work he is aided by unwitting dupes who know not that their evil master deems them expendable, hates them as much as the people he uses them against. They do not know that no human can make a covenant with death – the inevitable penalty of sin. Those misguided fellows who consider Illuminati membership a glamorous association are twice blinded: “success” thus purchased is, first, no success at all and second, too costly. To quote Jesus, What shall it benefit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? (After all, we take nothing to the grave with us.)And this was the principle by which Jesus would not bow to Satan: only GOD is to be worshipped.

The devil must resort to tyranny at the last. Simply put, all tyranny is of the devil. He wants to be worshipped undeservedly whether the worshipper likes it or not. As time runs out on him, it ill suits his designs to let his case argue its own merits in the public square. In an open contest, the Gospel, the WORD, far outshines whatever allurements doctrines of devils may try to bait men with. Many faithful ones refuse to be seduced to sin, so Satan, enraged, strives to force them into sin. Failing that, to destroy the saints. This is the true background of religious persecution – to make conscientious obedience to GOD illegal and punishable by civil laws and the force of government. ]

Quite naturally, arms array themselves on the side of the rebel. Satan resorts to manipulation, deception, brute force to get his way. The way of peace is foreign to him. He hoped by battle to unseat GOD from His heavenly throne. Such pride and daring met ignominious failure and banishment from heaven, he, along with his rebellious angelic followers, now called demons. Since then he has battled against mankind, to obtain the supremacy over men by keeping them in bondage to sin. His success in martyrdoms of the saints constitutes a great death toll, but these have escaped his power, for the grave shall yield her prisoners. Far more devastating is the sum of multitudes he has deceived into spiritual ruin since time began, who await condemnation in the Judgment.

The devil’s ruin is sure, his judgment is only a matter of time.

“Wherefore take unto you the full armour of GOD, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

Good Read - Paradise Lost, published 1667

Methinks John Milton took some extravagant liberties with his rendition of the fall of man in "Paradise Lost." All the same, it is a true  classic, well worth the time spent reading it, if you can stomach long sentences held together by innumerable semicolons. I recommend it even if the English in it is harder to digest than Authorized King James Bible, and even though I roundly reject the idea of immortality of the soul as unbiblical. Nevertheless the narration details the fall of Lucifer from heaven after his rebellion led to a war between the angels, the creation of the universe, the temptation and fall of man, in short, Paradise Lost.  Every page turned the plot thickens, tragedy and victory. Even though the reader thinks they know the plot in and out, knows exactly what is going to happen next, the details and spiritual principles breathe life into the whole tale. I especially liked Milton's rendition of the perfect relationship of love and trust between Adam and Eve before the fall. Made me jealous I admit. More importantly, Milton's words trace as close a sketch of Satan's character, cunning, wickedness, pride etc. as I have ever encountered. Last but not least the reader's knowledge will be stretched to the limit in trying to make head or tail of references to a host of other classical works and legends which pepper the book. By all means read Paradise Lost. Even if it was once banned - it remains o the internet as a downloadable PDF. I'm not even done reading it but here I am waxing lyrical.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Abbreviating Emotional Distance

Intimacy presumes trust. Sadly, trust, though it ought to be inviolable, is too often broken instead. Broken trusts are fatal to relationships, a cancer that prevents and kills emotional intimacy slowly but surely.

The formerly firm friendship between Anita and I has stalled, if not regressed significantly. “The small stuff matters,” Anita tells me, “First people trust you with little things; if you prove yourself, they give you slightly bigger responsibilities.” She says it a lot of late. It may seem lost on my carefree spirit, but I can discern a heartfelt warning when I hear one. It’s a hint - my side of the friend bargain is a sorry sight.

In the past I have lost friends who were good, interesting people to hang around, due to a little neglect by me or by them. Ultimately, why do people drift apart? It’s the insignificant things. Alone, they are truly microscopic; but they pile up. Just like an individual speck of mud does not hold itself entirely responsible for a pig’s filthy state, neither does that ignored text bear all the responsibility for collapsed correspondence. One too many tiny slips and trust is clean chipped away.

As Pearl unapologetically puts it, flaky people are simply irritating. Many agree. According to Pearl’s impassioned arguments, if you said you’d do something tiny and didn’t do it, you’re not likely to be depended on next time, nor required in the long run. If you come late to the first day at work, you’ll not be expected early on subsequent days, and at long last you’ll be unburdened of days at work altogether.

Thus, trust is a fragile abstraction to sustain: besides being imperiled across a wide spectrum of situations, it thrives when it is both “given” and “received” together. In other words, the perception and acknowledgment of trust strengthens the trust. For the optimal running of any relationship, trust is an integral program in the software. Before two build a life together, the foundation must be laid in trust, trust must be laid on the foundation. Trying to salvage a valued friendship teaches me: on the way to trust, there are no shortcuts. If you simply are not there yet, the journey continues.

And once one is trusted, it’s just the beginning. Guard that trust jealously, lest it slip away.