Quit Bellyaching!

One of the most interesting aspects of any catastrophe is the number of experts the situation produces. Those who don’t quite have the cheek to pronounce themselves all-knowing are amazingly adept at producing doctors, epidemiologists, scientists, good hold hacks who all know it all. The nation of “They say…” my late husband always asked: who are ‘they’? and so should we.

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago, entitled, Who is Victor? Turned out Victor was an amazingly reliable chap, related to someone’s friend, who also had special status. At the end of the day, no one knew who Victor was and why he should be given such prominence.

The arguments flow back and forth. Some sound plausible, even have a ring of logic to them. Others are downright bunkum. The sad fact is that almost all the big arguments raging across social media have at their core, the well-being of the person waxing forth.

Me, myself and I reign in shrill and uninterrupted cacophony.

I have been told a number of times that the rules in Europe are better than ours, that they are handling the pandemic differently making it more bearable for their residents. Really? What publications are you reading? What newscasts are you listening to? What members of those populations are you talking to?

Sky News is reporting that Brits can forget about haircuts and trips to the pub until July. That’s the word from Dominic Raab. Elsewhere in Europe lockdowns are being extended, as the virus teases on graphs, steadying for a couple of days, only to rise again and knock everyone’s optimism into a cocked hat. Poor old Donald Trump is having to change his mind more frequently than his tweets.

I have a friend in Switzerland, who spent six weeks alone in her apartment. Restrictions there have been marginally eased, and she is able to go to work. She and three others. Four in a four story building. One per floor. I heard no grumbling from her. What I did hear, which was so refreshing, was her dedication to finding a way to help others through this crisis, to think creatively to minimise the effects, particularly in poorer regions of the world.

You see, in Europe, they understand the reasoning behind rules, and are prepared to submit, not just to ensure their own safety, but that of those around them. The rule of law is respected, no energy is spent in finding ways to circumvent it. We, I fear, have yet to learn that here in Africa.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us had that view, that outlook that regards the welfare of others above our own, that seeks to help and not hinder with never ending carping and criticising?

Others point to the figures. They are low, too low in the grand scheme of things to worry about. Yup, I looked at the figures. It worries me that the recovery rate is well less than half the number of those infected, so there are millions that may or may not recover. Weeks ago we were told Italy was over the worst. Have you checked the death rate in Italy recently? Or Spain? Or Britain? Or America? Or Brazil? Or India? Have you looked at the column that gives how many deaths per million population? Have you understood that we are nowhere near a final mortality figure yet, so quoting a percentage against GDP is a waste of time.

I was called a fear-lobotomised fascist on Twitter for daring to suggest human life mattered. I enjoyed that, made me laugh.

But I have a problem with people bewailing the loss of the civil liberties that they never paid much heed to until they were removed. Suddenly life pinches, because you are being asked to sacrifice your freedom, your desires, for the greater good and that doesn’t sit well. I also was told seriously how the lockdown was going to affect the poor, the TB rate. I doubt the person telling me that had ever thought about the poor, or TB numbers until now. Spurious arguments.

If you have never been inside a hovel, spoken to the poor, seen first hand how the live, held the hand of a young mother dying of HIV/Aids, desperate with grief at leaving her children to a cruel and uncaring world, you have no right to talk on behalf of the poor and dying.

The poor don’t give a toss about GDP, your business, jobs all the rest of the guff. They need food, shelter, preferably one made of more substantial material than cardboard and rusted corrugated iron, they need someone to care enough to take a real stand on their behalf, not use them as an excuse to get your home comforts back.

I believe we should give aid to the farmers, get food production going on a massive scale so we can feed the hungry. This would increase the job market, and given employment to many rural dwellers. Thereafter we can look at jobs, businesses small or medium or large, at education, and in the process improve every aspect of life for our ALL our citizens.

Let’s plant vegies on our sidewalks, and teach those we can, to read, and to write. Make a plan. After all you have plenty of time right now. Do something constructive.

Just please, please, stop bellyaching about every little thing.

Let’s investment in Farmers, develop the land and ensure food security for all. In the process, we may provide for more jobs!

Privilege Equals = ?

This is the story of two families, one father, two mothers. Or one husband and two wives. The man is my father. I am from the second wife. We lived in Swaziland.

The first wife had two children, a daughter and a son. Sadly, she died at a young age, leaving her two small children with a man, who had no family to assist him in taking care of them. He was convinced by well-meaning friends, and the children’s godmother, that he should allow them to be adopted. She had a wealthy family lined up.

My dad was a policeman who earned enough money to get his family through each month, but not much room for luxuries. He agreed, believing he was doing the right thing.

I spent many happy hours fishing in the rivers of Swaziland with my Dad

Enter my mother, they got married and a year later I appeared. My father was sixteen years older than my mother, but that did not seem to matter to any of us. My childhood was happy. He was transferred to Piggs Peak, where he was the commandant of the station, with a large area to supervise. He would often take me with him to outlying posts, and we would always stop on the way home for a spot of fishing in one of the two rivers of the area, Komati or Lomati.

Fishing, cricket and tennis consumed most weekends. They were times when I met up with friends who lived spread through the forests, and we played on see-saws and maypoles and swings, and watched our parents behave quite badly it would seem in retrospect. Much drinking, little concern about getting us home to bed at a reasonable hour. I remember a number of nights waking up cramped and cold on the floor at the back of the police Land Rover.

It didn’t matter back in the fifties and sixties. That was how it was.

He had made an agreement with the adoption agency that he would be allowed to see his children when his daughter turned eighteen. On the appointed day he travelled to Johannesburg only to have the door firmly closed in his face.

“Your children are no longer on the continent, and you will never see them again!”

A few months later he died. My mother was 34 and I was 9.

It was many decades before I caught up with my siblings. What an exciting moment that was!

We met up in America where they had been living. The, I want to call her ‘wicked’ or ‘nasty’, but suppose I shouldn’t really, Godmother had not lied. They family who adopted them was enormously wealthy. They lived in New York City, in one of the best suburbs – Gramercy Park. They attended the best schools and to all intents and purposes had an idyllic life.

All that money, however, did not buy them happiness. Their lives were marked by unhappy squabbles, always struggling to fit into their new identity, and no amount of money or privilege could give them the peace and happiness they craved, and deserved.

Why am I telling this tale?

I see so much on twitter and other for a about privilege, and the perception of how people of supposed privilege think and live. What you see is not always what is true on the inside.

Please don’t think for one moment that I am negating the plight of the poor. The living conditions of the majority of Africans appalls me. The level of poverty is so intense in places that I don’t know how people get up in the morning. A friend and I used to help in an impoverished area in Swaziland.

Each time we went there, our hearts broke a little more because what we did, the food parcels we took, were such a tiny drop in an enormous ocean that at times it hardly seemed worth the effort.

Each and every person who has enough, and by that I mean a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food in your belly and certain degree of security that this will continue to be the state in which you live, needs to do something about those who live in shacks, without toilets, running water, in some places no water, no jobs, nothing. Pointing accusatory fingers and making suspect judgment calls are not the way to go.

We need every bit of energy, every resource be it donations or ways to impact political leaders, locally and nationally, to address the wrongs of the huge divide between rich and poor, the haves and the have nots.

The saying goes ‘Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.’ I believe evil flourishes when men are so busy throwing stones they do not see the child lying motionless, trampled underfoot.

Suffering For Christ

I don’t believe there is a born again Christian on the face of this earth who does not desire to know Jesus, God the Father more intimately, to have the confidence to proclaim as Paul did in Phillipians 3 v 8:

Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

What a statement of love and commitment!

But one that causes confusion at times. There was a time, a long time if I recall, where I thought I could work my way into God’s favour, and that the more I suffered while doing it, the better chance I had of getting to that extraordinary oneness that I sought in and with God.

When it didn’t work out the way I believed it would, I thought the resultant ‘suffering’ was it, the same trials and agonies as Paul, Peter, John and others went through.

Like Peter, I didn’t really get the message. I had the cart before the horse. We cannot reach Him by causing ourselves to suffer. We suffer because of our relationship with Him, and until we understand that and start seeking His company, we aren’t going to experience that extraordinary joy, that certainty of knowing that He is, no matter what our circumstances

Paul goes on to say in Phillipians 3vv9,10

… be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith,

10. that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death,

Paul desired Christ for Christ’s sake, not his own, and he did not count the cost of seeking Him. As Stephen Fry says in the notes of the New Spirit-Filled Bible, He was a lover of God, not a user of God. Whether he moved in Christ’s resurrection power, or was stretched to his last ounce of endurance, it mattered little in Paul’s journey to truly knowing God.

It is that relationship of total commitment, total yielding, that marks the lives of the great men and women of God. The more they were persecuted the closer they drew to the Lord, until they could say with utter conviction: “count your sufferings as joy.” The pain they went through was as nothing compared to the pleasure of serving Him, and Him alone.

Without understanding and embracing the full measure of God’s plan of grace we cannot get to this place. Without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit we struggle to find the courage, strength and wisdom to achieve the goal of the full measure of Christ, rooted and grounded and built up in Him.

It is in this place that we can exercise our faith to do the works we are sent to do. It is here that the words of James begin to make sense:

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith with deeds.

James 2 v 18

If we try to perform Christian duty in any way other than as a response to our love for Jesus, then as Paul says in Romans 4 v4:

Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

Empty works. It doesn’t mean that they were not good works. But works that are powered by our motives, our flesh, and not in submission to the will of God, are just that: works.

1 Corinthians 3 vv 13-16

Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

14. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

15. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

16. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Work that you your works may endure, do as the Holy Spirit directs, and you will find yourself coming into that inexplicable relationship, where we take comfort in knowing that no matter what we may have to endure, our Father is constantly on hand to help us through the challenges. We are not left alone as orphans.

So, draw near to your Father. He promises that as you do, He will draw near to you, and as He does He brings the glow of His peace into the essence of your being, and to experience even a minute of that Presence, is worth the suffering that at times must be a part of this process called life.

Life After Lockdown

In so many ways the last four weeks have dragged, yet the time has flown by. I have achieved a small number of ticks against my long list, because somehow the uncertainties of the future made many of the activities seem futile, unimportant.

Yet, there is a future, and there is a hope. The challenge is to find a way to embrace that, to visualise what this future might look like. Everyone says the world is going to be a very different place. How different? In what way? Are we suddenly going to be better behaved and treat our planet the way we were ordained to? Are we going to stop stealing and pillaging and slagging each other off? How will life be in this different world?

Wallowing in the mud…is this us in the new world?

I read this week one of many lovely pieces about how the virus is a good thing, because the incarceration of man, the halting of the paraphernalia and industry that is part and parcel of what our lives have become,  has given the earth a chance to recover from the hammering it has taken. But it spoke of the virus as having a mind of its own, that it determined to spread its brand of havoc in order to save the planet from certain destruction.

My reaction was visceral: Not the Virus. No, it doesn’t have a mind or the ability to reason. In place of the virus, write ‘God’. Do you think God is pleased with the way man has mismanaged the earth over which he was given dominion? I don’t see how He can be.

The definition of ‘dominion’ in Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus is:

Control or authority

Young’s Bible Dictionary puts it this way:

       To be master of, to rule, to have power over, to have authority.

Surely together with authority, power, rule comes responsibility? How angry do we get when leaders renege on their promises, forget they are responsible for and to us, and impact our lives for the worse? But they, and we, have forgotten this side of the coin, the side that says with ruling and authority comes responsibility, an expectation to the best you can for all that has been entrusted to your rule.

We confused dominion with domination, ruling responsibly with tyranny, uncaringly raping the earth in search of riches and power. Industrialists and political leaders have rebelliously kowtowed to economic power blocks, ignoring the cries and pleas of naturalists and conservationists, to slow down, limit the damage, the earth is bleeding and there is not much time left before the planet bleeds out.

A pristine valley in Mpumalanga, South Africa, shrouded with the haze of pollution.

This time is spoken of in the bible. Romans 8 vv19-22:

19. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God

20. for the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope,

21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God

22 for we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.

Jeremiah 12 v 4

How long will the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither?

The beasts and birds are consumed, for the wickedness of those who dwell there, because they said, “He will not see our final end.”

V11 They have made it desolate, desolate it mourns to Me, the whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart.

Couldn’t be clearer to my way of thinking. I hope the lockdown continues for a while yet, that the earth may heal completely, the animals enjoy some freedom, and for humanity to decide to behave a lot better in the new world all talk of so glibly.

The beauty of our planet – will it be restored, or is this simply a hiatus before worse devastation is unleashed?

A Flight of Whimsy

Something different for today. This is a piece I wrote a number of years back for fun, really. I needed to get a flow going and this is what happened. My challenge to you is to finish it, or to add the next scene. Between 200 and 500 words.

Are you up for it?

At the end of the street, near the pastureland, is a small structure, almost hidden by vegetation. So hidden, that it was some three months after I moved into the street that I saw it.

“Who lives there?” I asked of my landlady.

“Oh, that’s old Joyce – she’s as mad as a hatter!”

“Who takes care of her?”

“I think she takes care of herself. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen her for ages.”

The next day, as I set off on my daily walk, my feet unbidden set off towards the hidden house. As I came close, I heard singing – a joyous, uplifting sound, the notes lilting on the early morning rays.

The house whispered into view. The windows sparkled in the burgeoning sunlight. I could see a cat indolently sunning itself in the open doorway. I was drawn to the wooden gate, festooned on either side with creepers of old-fashioned dog roses.

The light emanating from the house beckoned, the singing mesmerized.

I stood, uncertain, my hand hovering near the latch on the gate. I wanted to make contact. I wanted to see the owner of the voice, and I oh so desperately wanted to peek inside the little house that nestled gem-like in its Edenic garden.

As if sensing my presence, the singing stopped. A shadow shuffled across the doorway, and the tiniest figure materialised out of the glistening dust motes. Bright eyes pierced towards me.

I smiled.

The eyes twinkled, a finger beckoned.

I opened the gate.

who is victor?

I have no doubt the majority of people reading this, certainly in South Africa, have had a letter from ‘my friend Victor’ whose niece is a pharmacologist in Italy, who tells us all how to behave in the second week of lockdown if we aren’t all to die an excruciating death.

Well intentioned advice, possibly accurate. But who is Victor? And who is his niece? On what authority does she speak?

Most important: Why do we believe them?

There has been an abundance of these well-meaning, or maybe not so well-intentioned, epistles doing the rounds, all purporting to be from someone, usually nameless, certainly unidentifiable, who knows something the rest of us does not. They are sometimes given nebulous titles, but as they are nameless, their credentials cannot be checked.

It seems everyone I know accepts them at face value, believes them implicitly, and reacts by immediately forwarding them to everyone they can think of. I have had the ‘Victor’ one 7 times now.

“Enough!” I cry. Time for common sense to prevail.

I am currently reading the book of Acts and having a good giggle at the stir Paul caused all through Asia. Reminded me so much of here – unruly crowds causing huge commotion, the majority having no idea what they are shouting about, but adamant justice should be done. The authorities time and again shrug their shoulders at such shenanigans in those early days after the advent of our Lord.

In amongst those tales, in Chapter 19 vv 13 to 16, we hear about Jewish exorcists taking it upon themselves to call on the name of Jesus to exorcise spirits. Here is what happened:

V15. The evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

And then proceeded to beat them up.

Even the Devil knows to ask: Who are you? What is your qualification to act in this case? Who are you representing? Where is your evidence?

Here we are, in a crisis of global proportions, and we are running around like headless chickens believing every bit of nonsense that appears on our cell screens, without asking the most obvious of questions: Who is this person? On what authority do they speak? What company or institution do they represent? How can we trust their credentials?

Without knowing these basic facts, how do I trust you?

If there is no answer to any of those questions, you have to figure out that the ‘facts’ they present are dubious, not to be trusted.

In some cases overworked medical personnel are having their time wasted in order to put out the flames caused by these messages, such as the one purporting to be from the Head of Virology at Groote Schuur. That was a corker! A nasty, twisted, ten minutes that should get her a life time sentence for the fear she generated in the hearts of all who heard that message.

Wicked, wicked scare mongering for what purpose? I praise God for a President who has outlawed fake news and look forward to seeing convictions soon.

Another one that is causing a mighty stir, particularly among the residents of our neighbour, Eswatini, from whence I was first sent the clip, is the 5G story. ‘Pastor Jonathan’, again no surname, no way of checking his authenticity, claims there is no Corona virus, only radiation poisoning by 5G. The good people of Eswatini have fallen so hook, line and sinker for this, they have started a petition to prevent the rolling out of 5G.

I am not going to go into that here, but this link will answer every claim made by the unidentifiable Pastor Jonathan:  

https://www.incontextinternational.org/2020/04/02/covid-19-and-5g-biggest-cover-up-in-history-true-or-false/

King David when preparing his son Solomon to take over the reins of power, directed him in Proverbs to seek Wisdom, get Understanding for very good reason.

Proverbs 2, vv 6-9:

For the Lord gives wisdom;

From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

7. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;

He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;

8. He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.

9. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.

Saints, do not be fooled. Be wise. Ask simple questions, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and guard against the fear tactics and scare mongering of the world.

Paul writing in 1 Thessalonians, 5 v 21 says: “Test all things; hold fast to what is good.”

The beloved apostle John, in his first letter, 1 John 4 v 1 instructs us:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Continue reading to verse 6.

We need to use this time wisely, to draw into our Lord, learn from Him, be His light to the world, beacons of hope and love, not harbingers of gloom, doom and despair.

There are good sites where you can find accurate information. The World Health Organisation has all the information you need. The South African Government COVID-19 site is a little slow on uploading the latest data, but the information is sound.

Do not be fooled, be wise, keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and use what sense the Father has given you to discern what is true and what is fantasy.

Be blessed, stay safe.

Street walker

It is interesting how sound is magnified by silence.

I live close to a main road and am used to the almost non-stop hum and rumble of traffic. Until it gets stopped. Or drastically curtailed. Now I am astounded as to how one car, not even a truck, can sound louder and more irritating than a blustering dowager demanding tea and scones on a rainy day.

The same goes for voices and footsteps.

I wake up early, as early as 4 am some days. Today was one of them.

Being on lockdown and restricted to a small space I find I have this urgent need to get out onto my stoep at odd moments through the day, and the evening. So, I grabbed the keys and opened the door, although it was still pitch dark. It was wonderfully quiet. I could hear the Robin begin to mutter, the crickets were in full cry, a guinea fowl clucked. There was mist and the lightest of rains gently coating the ground.

Then I heard a strange sound. One that did not belong. Slap, slap, slap. A figure dressed in black outlined in the streetlamp. Hurried footsteps. I recognised the shape. He often power walks around the park my house looks out onto. Ten minutes later, round two. I wanted to call out “I see you”, but  I didn’t. Maybe tomorrow I will.

Why is it that some people consider their need for exercise to be that much more important than anyone else’s? Why should he get to do his power walk when the rest of us find another way to keep fit?

I don’t know the answer. That’s the way it is. Some feel entitled. Others don’t. Some fret. Others chill. He might get away with it, scurrying around the streets at the witching hour, then again, he might not. I’d still like to see his reaction if I call out, and I might just do it for a laugh!

Stay safe all. Don’t let the idiots get to you!

There is one

When I am alone

Drowning in sadness

The music of unrequited love

Throbbing through my mind

There is One whose arms fold gently around

When fear overwhelms

In owl calling night

There is One whose wings beat

Away the demons of fright

Allowing me to welcome the dawn

And give voice to the morn

When cruel words

Burn deep in my soul

There is One whose love

reaches out to make me whole

When I am confused

Unsure, seeking, which way, how, why

There is One whose word reaches

Out and gently teaches

When I collapse in despair

Shrieking panic into the silent air

There is One who Comforts

As, with repetitive assurance

He says

Trust, believe, I Am He,

I Am the great I Am

Walk in my ways

And all will be well with your soul

Review: Deception Point

Deception Point by Dan Brown

Conspiracy theories, how I thrive on them!

Dan Brown has delivered a fabulous holiday read, a distraction from the mundane in Deception Point.

Set in the freezing wastelands of the arctic, the gales blow from murder to murder as the plot unfolds. I was duped, quite sure I knew who the villain of the piece was only to be astounded along with the rest of the crew when the true culprit stood up.

That is the gift of a master story teller as Dan Brown surely is. From the first sentence to the last the reader is taken through a series of hoops, given fascinating insight into the natural world, the scheming of politicians, the concerns of the intelligence agencies entrusted with keeping the avarice of industry in check.

A fabulous romp when and if you need an escape for a few hours.

Tobacco wars

Tobacco Wars by Johann van Loggerenberg

Tafelberg, an imprint of NB Publishershttp://www.tafelberg.com

It is said that books unravelling South African politics and detailing the antics of those in positions of power are better than any fiction. This is certainly true of the revelations by Johann van Loggerenberg in Tobacco Wars.

Initially I found my mind flailed by too much information, having to stop for breath to uncramp my thoughts, and wondered at the intelligence and derring-do of the author. What an officer the South African Revenue Services have lost, how much has South Africa lost by him and other honest officials so summarily dismissed.

The format was a hard to follow in the beginning, traversing the time line as van Loggerenberg does. My head was spinning as I was sent back to the early teens, then brought up to today, and sent back to the mid-teens. The story is so complex I realise he has no choice but to guide us through the merry dance as best he can, and the page came where I was happily a part of the time line, understanding where I was in the sequence of things.

I found the same with the players. I had to concentrate to get each cartel, each group of players established so the narrative made sense.  Once I had that all sorted the story overwhelmed, gob-stopped and infuriated.

This is not the easiest of reads, well though it is written, even for someone who loves crime and mystery fiction, because of the complexity of the deception and dishonesty. It is hard to believe that what is being told is unembellished truth, facts that left me breathless with disbelief.

A must read for anyone with a stake in South Africa today, or indeed in the tobacco industry.

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