2012 is nearly over and we survived the Mayan Doomsday – yaay! Glad to see the end of the year but I always wonder what is in store for the next one.
Great things happened this year – some overseas travel to London, a really welcome break to see my other home country. The family loved the shopping I brought back and I have warm memories of that bit of retail therapy.
Lots of hard work and promising projects some delayed and one big one postponed. Looking back, it feels like a step climb and yet oddly enough, I don’t feel I got to the top. Still climbing and at this moment in time, the altitude and cold are getting to me.
I also moved offices, from a serene suburb setting to a jam-ridden near town situation and wondering why I feel so suffocated of late! One thing I do know, if I look for it, I will find it!
Through all the challenges – social, financial and family, God has been faithful to point out and work with me to resolution of a cocktail series of ridiculous issues. He reminded me that I am still in battle, with my family, in the faith, so Ephesians 6.12-18 has been a delightful mainstay for much of the year. I let the world get between me and Jesus Christ – choosing to fret and frown, when a prayer would suffice. Panic attacks and illness that led me to realize, if I have fear in these battles, then I am building faith in evil – not good! Obedience is way better than sacrifice.
When things got messy and unbearable, He led me to Psalm 149 and I have wept many times in total gratitude, blessed, comforted and healed by God’s unwavering promise to deliver me! When the challenge got too steep, God led me to Isaiah 49.23. Every time the battle got fierce, God came forward and blessed me.
Whole lists of things are not as they should be, then again, we are human and not called to perfection, so the last week, I have celebrated with Psalms 138.1-3.
So 2013, you can try and lie to me some more, just as 2012 and previous years did – my answer will always be Jesus. Hello year of Jubilee and hello life – how sweet you can be! Proverbs 4.23
Peninah sashayed into the large, dimly lit office, taking in the sumptuous furnishings, a mix of leather, mahogany, ebony and a lush dark red carpet. Behind the big desk, sat the big man she had labored to meet for four years.
She strode for what seemed to be an interminable minute. He rose, shook her hand and motioned her to visitor’s chair. Peninah smoothed her skirt before she sat, squeezing her knees together, as she steadied herself: it was really happening.
Big man was attentive and quickly summoned his personal assistant to take their beverage orders. He stared at her, recognizing her blank stare and semi-adoration. Slightly dismayed, he took his position of authority and guided their meeting to a quick conclusion.
Peninah chose the herbal tea he selected, trembling as the cup was handed to her, and she placed it on the stool in front of her. Eager, fresh faced and grappling with her fears, she attentively listened to Big Man, making hasty promises to deliver at every turn. Big Man hesitated and then quickly expressed his approval.
The meeting was over before Peninah could sip half her small cup of sweet herbal tea. Within a moment, the personal assistant was back, motioning her out of the room, lagging behind to brief Big Man on the next meeting.
The door closed behind her and a young secretary thanked her, as they walked to the main door. Peninah left dismayed that she missed her chance to convey her real intentions at their meeting. The lift opened and she finally had to leave. Downstairs, the security guards took her badge in exchange for her identity card. She stepped out into the rain, ready to face the challenge of tight deadlines and tall orders.
Peninah whipped her young inexperienced team of pretty girls into motion and three days later, prepared to receive the Big Man at the lovely evening garden soiree she had planned – if only she could pronounce the word “soiree”! Elated at the chance to host leading business persons and politicians, Peninah whizzed round the venue, paying cash for the various services.
An hour before the guests arrived, a soft drizzle turned into a downpour and her team desperately sought other accommodation at the venue. All the rooms were taken! Peninah and her young crew dizzied themselves with finishing touches on the tents. Tables ready, linen gleaming, they dashed to the garden gazebo, to await the forty guests. It turned out to be a long wait, with Friday traffic at its worst in years. The first guests and host streamed in an hour late. Other guests trotted in two-hours later. As they strode in, some of the guests noticed the muddy, slopping ground underfoot and chose to brave the day, with smiles and grace.
Guests were presented the trendy cocktails, as ordered – an air of slight confusion with fluttering waiters and event crew shifting into action they had ill-prepared for. Peninah kept to Big Man’s side, reassuring him and his inner clique that all was well.
Other guests tut-tutted; some left before the delayed speeches. Big Man was making an announcement – launching his philanthropic dreams into a reality, with a charity funded by large and international corporations. But the business leaders began to leave, as their assistants arrived with shorter speeches and smaller commitments in hand. As some guests left and others arrived, the grass and mud turned to mush, ruining many smart new shoes and fashionable clothes.
Big Man entertained his clique, as Peninah fussed over them, relieved that they had not left their seats. The drizzle continued outside, but inside the tents and little streams gathered and mingled in the soft green grass. The buffet dinner was eventually served à la carte by unsteady waiters battling the muddy mess. Peninah kept many patrons busy with free alcoholic wines and spirits.
Muddy mess forgiven, Peninah arrived at Big Man’s penthouse office, beaming with pride and certain of her path to success. She was ushered-in, and presented with a steaming cup of herbal tea. Fear and respect clouding her presence of mind. Big Man made demands and she accepted, avoiding any hint of hesitation. She put aside all memory of her recent fights with her husband about her official boundaries for these influential business characters. Peninah defended herself with indignant responses; then her husband declared he would leave her and their children, if she ignored his warning.
Peninah’s new flat was very quiet, very small, very new and uncomfortable. Her husband had kindly paid her first month’s rent plus deposit. In addition, he had sent a friend’s pick-up to move her few belongings that same weekend. Her children had been cold and distant, as any frustrated and confused teens should be. Peninah strode down the stairs of the apartment block, into her awaiting transport, comforting herself with thoughts of how cruel and intolerant her husband’s reaction had been. She had spent sleepless nights building a silent case against their early marriage. Peninah would finally be free of husband, home and in-laws, but just for a short while. In her fitful sleepless state, she dreamed of a new life with Big Man.
At their next meeting, Peninah waited patiently, as Big Man took a call on his mobile phone. He spoke tenderly, without any terms of endearment and by the time he ended the call, Peninah had to face her assumptions – Big Man was actually very happily married man and for over 32 years! She struggled to maintain her composure, as Big Man turned to her. He handed her a business card of a high-ranking politician – a business referral and no personal plans. Shattered, Peninah rose and he asked if all was well. Peninah smiled and assured him all was well, then quickly left the room.
On the street corner, Peninah’s husband walked into her, practically knocking her over. She started and stared at him, then prepared to turn and walk away. Her dear husband held her shoulders ever so gently and asked whether she was alright. She shrugged and shook, seeking her chance to turn and run. But this was Husband and he read into her confused state, in a flash. Peninah’s husband offered her a quick cup of tea and a chance for her to gather her thoughts. She crumbled, and walked unsteadily and reluctantly on his arm, into the café.
The smell of fresh coffee and bakery brought her comfort, as she relished the security of her husband’s company. Peninah burst into tears and told Ted about what had happened to her in the past two months. He listened and then asked whose life she wanted to live. Peninah stopped her tears with a mound of tissue, shocked at her total disillusioned-self and thoroughly embarrassed at her poor choices. Living a dream life with a Big Man she barely knew would never work!
Ted spent another two hours talking with his wife, forgiving her self-exploration and the weird chance to change her life. Ted cried too, deeply hurt but resolved to bring closure to this uncomfortable episode. They prayed together, resolving to honour God from that moment forward. An invisible weight lifted off her shoulders; Peninah smiled through her tears and made profuse apologies, asking after their children. Ted took her straight home and made plans to have her things sent home. Peninah cried and talked through the rest of the day with Ted. Both had cancelled their appointments and settled down to talking over all their differences in one day. A new beginning and an end to the false identity of shadowing all Big Men. Only God could fill that void!
A couple of years ago, a friend re-introduced me to an old man; a friend of the family. He had suffered a stroke and lost most of his medium and longterm memory.
Struck with pity and a determination to treat Jim with kindness, we exchanged greetings. His quizzical looks ironically stirred up great memories.
Jim often visited his children and myself while we were away in boarding school, bearing the same gifts and Sunday roast lunches for all of us! His wife did the same.
Soon after his stroke, Jim discovered he no longer loved his wife Joan. She had moved to their rural home, partly to recover and in part to hide her pain.
Their grown children were leading happy and prosperous lives in different parts of the world. They flew home to reconcile their parents but gradually accepted their demise.
Jim went on with his life, keeping the same routines and none of the same friends.
Soon, the young vultures began to close in on their isolated prey.
Jim believed he could blend in with any crowd and any age. Ordinarily, an even keeled man, his sensibilities deserted him when they were required the most.
One of the ladies worked alone. A few represented well-heeled business entities, eager to acquire Jim’s empire.
Jim danced and partied, making new friends and laughing his new life away.
Hundreds of miles away, Joan teared at the news, replaced the telephone receiver, then knelt to pray. She asked God to guard Jim’s life for His own sake.
Years of prayer and fasting began with one simple prayer. Jim was delivered after a second stroke and a vision soon after. Barely audible and mostly incoherent, Jim narrated his encounter with Jesus in a dream the sane night he had the stroke.
Jesus comforted Jim and let him know why it had happened. Jim awoke, pillows awash in tears and rejoicing at the Holy Spirit’s presence in his recently sin-filled heart.
He shared his story with doctors and nurses; a few left aghast. Only two took time to listen. Days later, they celebrated their salvation with Jim and Joan.
Then one night, his drifted off into a fitfully heavy slumber. Jim literally felt as though he was going under. He gasped for air, clawing violently at the darkness. ‘Jesus!’ he croaked, looking up at the two angels reaching out to him. Then he knew what unearthly depths of despair he had escaped.
God’s wisdom and comfort he sought each day, crying, worshiping and praising God as often as he could.
Joan prayed with him and her peace and joy were restored. God healed Jim and their marriage, leading them to a new life of ministry together.