Points to Ponder
Whoopee! It has been raining in my home-area over the last few days. Our farm, which was looking more like a desert in its brown-yellowish colour, is now turning green. If the rains continue, I expect the farm to have turned beautifully green by this day next week. And by the way, green is my favourite colour of nature.
Today, as I observed our farm begin to turn green thanks to the rains that have been pouring in my home-area, I thought to myself as a wise man would think, "If God can do all these wonders of turning a dry area green, what if we allow Him into our lives? Perhaps He can make our lives more fruitful and full of peace and love."
There is a pumpkin plant growing behind my room. It sprouted by accident after someone threw a pumpkin seed there. While I wait for it to produce pumpkins, I have been religiously watering the plant everyday with the water I use to clean my room.
Over the past four weeks or so as I have observed the pumpkin plant grow in length, I have thought to myself as a wise man would think, "In our times of challenge, what if we turn to the same God who makes living things grow? Perhaps He can strengthen us, expand our vision, lift our spirits and pour out peace."
I agree with the Bible when it says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. A few months ago while thinking of the wonderful construction of the human body and the workings of its various parts, it dawned on me that no other organ of the body is as tightly protected as the brain. Try to poke your forehead with your fingers and you will feel the hard skull that tightly protects the brain.
As I contemplated on how tightly protected the brain is, I thought to myself as a wise man would think, "If we protect our minds from negative thoughts the way the skull protects the brain from external damage, perhaps our lives can start growing beautifully."
Today, I found myself admiring a picture of the Earth as viewed from space (see photo above). And wow! The planet looks breathtakingly beautiful in its bluish, whitish and greenish colours. It is arguably the cutest planet in the solar system.
What I find most fascinating is that the planet looks perfectly spherical when viewed from space. Not even Mt. Everest can be discerned. And mark you, Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth that only a handful of people have managed to climb since Sir Edmund Hillary's triumphant ascent in 1953.
In the photo of the Earth as viewed from space, Mt. Everest is reduced to the same level as valleys. But some valleys are visible from space by virtue of their bluish or greenish colours. That reminds me of the following verse in The Messiah by George F. Handel:
All these teaches us to be wise, humble, hopeful and repentant if we wish to be exalted from God's perspective. But if we insist on being arrogant and boastful, we shall surely be made low in heaven just like the seemingly tall Mt. Everest is made low when viewed from space.
Every valley shall be exalted;
And every mountain shall be made low,
And the crooked be made straight,
And the rough places plain.
A story is told that when the great Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Last Supper, he decided to use living models of Jesus and his twelve apostles. He first started by painting Judas Iscariot when he spotted a man whose face appeared vicious, malicious, avaricious and hypocritical. Then over the next three years, he successfully found other men who appeared like each of the other eleven apostles.
After he was through with painting the final apostle, da Vinci was lucky to spot a man whose face looked like that of Jesus in that it radiated joy, hope, love and peace. And while da Vinci was painting him as Jesus, the man asked, "Do you know who I am?"
"No, I don't know you," replied da Vinci.
"Well," the man responded, "I am the same man you painted as Judas Iscariot three years ago."
While that story is fictional, it does teach us two valuable lessons: that the appearance of our faces reflects the condition of our souls and that it is never too late to change our character.
So let us strive to become like Jesus by making our faces radiate joy, hope, love and peace. Let us strive to turn our fears into courage, our mockery into compassion, our ignorance into knowledge, our foolishness into wisdom, our idleness into moments of creativity, our anger creases into laugh lines, and our sorrows into hope of a better future on Earth and in heaven. Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on points to ponder, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Life's Like That". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Learning to Say 'No'
One Saturday evening in the year 2014, I found a missed call in my phone. I didn't know the identity of caller simply because I hadn't saved the number in my phone, so I texted back saying, "Hi there! Sorry for missing your call. How can I help you?"
Several minutes after sending the text, the caller gave me a buzz. It turned out he was one Francis who wanted me to accompany his students on the piano during their exams which were slated to take place the following Tuesday. I quickly accepted the job because I was a yes-man then.
That same Saturday evening after I accepted the job, Francis emailed me the scores of the pieces of music he wanted me to accompany on the piano. I downloaded them, printed them out, and then began practising them on my piano keyboard with the hope that I would have mastered how to play them by the following Monday when I was to meet Francis and his students for practice.
But alas! The pieces of music turned out to be a little too difficult for me to master them in less than three days. When I met Francis and his students that Monday, we practised them for a short time and then promised to work more on the pieces when I went back home.
Come Tuesday the following day, I began to feel nervous as I headed to the Kenya Conservatoire of Music where the exams were to take place. The thought of Francis's students failing their exams because of me got me worried.
During my experiences at Starehe Boys' Centre where I had my high school as well as college education, I had discovered that feeling nervous before giving a speech is virtuous because it gave me some energy to turn in a superb performance. But in piano-playing, nervousness worked against me. And I had found out that the best way to beat nervousness in piano-playing was to commit a piece of music to memory through intense practice so that when nervousness set in during the crucial performance, my fingers would keep on playing the music on the piano as if they were on auto-pilot.
The problem with me as I commuted to the Kenya Conservatoire of Music that Tuesday morning in 2014 was that I hadn't practised the pieces of music enough to commit them to memory. And there I was feeling nervous. I was surely destined to mess up during the exams and thus make Francis's students score poorly in their exams or even make them fail. How worrying it was!
As luck would have it, I met an old friend of mine called Andrew at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music. Andrew was more skilled on the piano than I was and I was pleased to find out that he had already learnt to accompany on the piano the pieces of music that Francis's students were getting tested on. So I gratefully handed over to Andrew the responsibility to accompany the students on the piano during the exams. Gosh, I felt relieved! It was like being told by a doctor that a disease in me had finally cured.
Coming to think of it today, I strongly feel that I should have said "no" to Francis's request to accompany his students on the piano during their exams. And I should have said that "no" with some firmness and some politeness. But that was the problem with me those days - I was always a yes-man. I feared saying "no" to people because of not wanting to let them down. It is the way I was brought up. And at times, I ended up saying "yes" to things that made me suffer.
Like I recall at one time in 2007, a fellow chorister of mine at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi borrowed a calculator from me for his younger brother who was about to sit for high school exams. I quickly said "yes" and gave him my calculator which I happened to have carried to the cathedral that day. And guess what! When I went back to the university at JKUAT where I was pursuing a BSc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering, I really suffered as I struggled to borrow a calculator from friends. It was very unwise of me to give out my calculator to the chorister at All Saints' Cathedral. Very unwise indeed. I should have told him "no".
Over the past three years, I have really worked hard at saying "no" to people and I am happy to report that I am getting better at it with time. These days, I prefer saying "no" even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others than say "yes" and incur my own abhorrence.
My beloved reader, I advise you to also practise saying "no" to people because being a yes-man is a frustrating way to live. Comedian Bill Cosby said it well: "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone." Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on learning to say "no", you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Developing Courage". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.