Category Archives: Photography

Kipoo… in the Garden


Kipoo was dosing off to sleep.  He felt he deserves the rest. It had been a long and tiring season last year with all the visitors trudging all over him to take one last look at his receding hairline.  Yes, his receding hairline.  He never thought it would ever come to this. He was always so proud of his wonderful snow white crown.  But now it was slowly fading away… along with all the glory of his yesterdays.  No more would he be able to stand proudly among the rest of his peers as the tallest, most handsome one, with that awe inspiring crown of white on his head.

He has been privy to conversations about his receding hairline.  Apparently the only solution is some growth activator called tree.  It is said that this growth activator was what had kept that crown on his head for so long.  Kipoo just could not understand it all.  How come that growth activator was not there anymore? He is sure he did nothing to remove it.  What had his people been doing with it?

Then he thought…. it must be Mawenzi’s fault.  Mawenzi must have become jealous of him after that incident so many years ago.  Yes, maybe Mawenzi was at fault.  After all, that incident was related to fire, and fire requires wood, … and does wood not come from tree?

As Kipoo lay on his bed, he began to recall the events that culminated in that incident, way back when… he was not so young, but certainly younger than he is now… and boy was he handsome then.

It was a time when the people in his territory were so much fewer.  As the chief, he knew his people, and he had been able ensure they took care of their environment.  Things have changed a lot since then.

Anyway, at that time he had a friend called Mawenzi.  Mawenzi was just as handsome, and just as tall.  Mawenzi was the chief of the territory next to Kipoo’s.  They were good friends, but Mawenzi had a little problem.  Kipoo could never understand why Mawenzi was always coming to him for embers of coal from his fire.  He thought it was strange, but then, this was his friend, so he let it be for some time.

Now, Kipoo has always been a patient one,  known for calmly and silently watching his surroundings and letting things be.  But after many years of this behavior, Kipoo just had to ask Mawenzi: “My friend, why is it that you always come to get embers from my fire to start your own fire?  Why is it that you cannot start your fire from your own embers?”

Mawenzi was startled, and looked down with embarrassment. He never thought Kipoo would ever ask him this question.  As Mawenzi looked down, Kipoo looked at him with concern.  “Mawenzi,”, he said, “what is it that you cannot tell me?  You make me worried when you look down like that.  What is the matter?”

Mawenzi sighed.  He took a deep breath, and sighed again.  He stood up and said, “My friend Kipoo, if you do not want to give me any more embers from your fire, just tell me.  All I want is just a little coal to take with me to my home so that I can cook for myself. Why is that becoming a problem for you today?”

Kipoo did not like this response.  He felt that Mawenzi was not being honest with him, and Kipoo was beginning to get angry.  A simple explanation would do, but instead Mawenzi was trying to make him feel guilty about not giving him something that did not belong to him.  He pushed Mawenzi harder for an answer but Mawenzi would not tell him.

Kipoo sat still and thought, “If I do not give in to him, we will lose our friendship.”  So, he decided to give Mawenzi the embers of coal, and then find out the truth another way.

When Mawenzi had gone, Kipoo followed him quietly to see what he would do with the embers and what it was that Mawenzi was hiding from him.  When Mawenzi got home, Kipoo hid, and watched Mawenzi start his fire and cook his meal. As Mawenzi cooked, Kipo became hungry.  He should also have been cooking his own meal, but was now here watching Mawenzi cook.  The food Mawenzi was cooking was smelling really good, and Kipo almost came out of his hiding place to invite himself to Mawenzi’s meal. Surely Mawenzi would be happy to see him?

But he stopped himself. He still had not accomplished his mission, and today he had decided he was going to get to the bottom of the embers story. As Mawenzi ate his food, Kipoo licked his lips… hungry.  Boy was Mawenzi enjoying that meal!

When Mawenzi finished his meal, Kipoo got up to return home.  Kipo felt that this mission had proved to be a waste of time. But… suddenly, Mawenzi stood up and facing the fire, urinated all over it! He was putting out the fire completely!

Kipoo was livid!  “What?!”, he thought, “Is this what Mawenzi has been doing all these years?! Putting out his fire and then coming to beg me for embers from my fire?! Surely Mawenzi knew better than that!”

This upset Kipoo too much. A hungry man is an angry man they say, and without thinking, Kipoo got out of his hiding place and confronted Mawenzi.  Kipoo was angry, and Mawenzi was angrier still.  Mawenzi could not imagine that his long time friend had the audacity to sneak up on him and peep into his home like a thief.  There was an altercation, and then a fight.

Kipoo was too angry to remember that this was his friend, and eventually he picked up a big stick and smashed Mawenzi’s head with it.  Mawenzi’s head was shattered.  Gone was that wonderful crown of white on Mawenzi’s head.  Kipoo stepped back, waiting for Mawenzi to come back at him, but, wounded, Mawenzi could not fight any more.

Kipoo left Mawenzi’s home triumphant, he had won the fight, but he had also lost a friend.

Image

Now, many years later, Kipoo’s hairline was receding, and soon he would end up almost as short and ragged as Mawenzi.  How would he, proud Kipoo, stand up among his peers again?

He turned on his side and thought: “If only, if only someone would bring back enough of that growth activator called tree… if only…”

As Kipoo fell asleep, he prayed that God would bring more growth activators so that the crown on his head would grow back again.  He would be ever so thankful. “Maybe God will guide those people who are visiting me to see my receding hairline to do something… “, he thought, “maybe they will bring more growth activators to him… maybe… just maybe…”

Come… Walk with me in the Garden.

 

Copyright © 2014, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

 

Kipoo is the local pronunciation for Kibo Peak of Mt Kilimanjaro.  Mawenzi is the second tallest peak on Mt Kilimanjaro.  The incident between Kipoo and Mawenzi is an adaptation of a folk tale of the Chagga people who traditionally live on and around Mt Kilimanjaro.

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Growing for Life … in the Garden


Sunrise and a new Life ... In the Garden

Sunrise and a new Life … In the Garden

There are no elephants around me these days….nor are there any giraffe. The closest I can get to any wildlife are birds, squirrels and bats. Of course the domestic animals are always there… to remind me of the fact that I am in human territory now… the goats, sheep, cows, pigs and … yes… those pesky little geckos. The bats squeak so loud I have learned the sound they make, and I can now differentiate between the geckos and the squirrels. I never thought I would ever come to know the sound of a gecko… or a bat … but there you go.

This brings me to the various perspectives we have in life. So much of our life perspective depends on the environment around us, that we become part of the surroundings without ever knowing. When the environment teaches us that something is good, we accept it… because it is the norm… or perhaps because it is more the norm (or safe?) to do what the society does in order to be accepted by it.

Yet, often, that very environment, that very society that we use as our sounding board for what is right and what is wrong, can be the source of our failure, the reason why our lives are more difficult than they need or ought to be, the reason for us to end up losing our souls.

When I was living in that little corner of the Garden with all the larger wild animals, I only saw the big ones… yes, I noticed the smaller ones and tried to learn something from them as well, but they just could not match the larger ones in stature and obviousness of their presence. I could see them clearly… they stood out in front of me large and clear, and so I took my lessons and joy of the beauty of God’s creation from them. Thankfully they had positive lessons to share.

Yet, little though they may be, the little ones have lessons to share too. I still struggle to see those lessons since they spend so much of their time running away from me or being in my way at the most inopportune moment, that I find I do not learn from them… like we often find the lessons from God to be perhaps?

As I watch the squirrels run and chase each other from tree to tree and along the fence, I realize that even though they are wont to digging up my yet-to-germinate seed from the ground in this little corner of the Garden (much to my frustration), they are still God’s beautiful creation …much loved by Him… and they know how to play.

But what does this teach us about our environment, our perspectives and the ruination of our souls? Much too often the loudest noise in our community or in society takes up our greatest attention. Much too often the loudest sound comes from that which is not rooted in the truth of God. Much too often, because the noise founded on falsehood is so loud, we think that the majority are in agreement with it, and that in order to survive, we have to conform to it. … and so begins our journey into darkness in spirit.

Yet, if we stood still for a moment to truly understand what the noise means, its implications for us, our society and our relationship with God, and whether it is teaching us a good or bad lesson. If we stood still and took the time to find out whether those closest to us really agree with the loud noise or are also silent victims of the noise … silently shaking inside and wondering when, if ever, someone will come to rescue them from this falsehood.

All I know is, that God sees, God hears, and God rescues those who turn to Him, whether in this life or in the next. And so my friends… a loud noise is sweeping the Garden today. It is loud and abrasive, and brings with it the end of life, in faith, in wisdom, in health and in the very essence of creation. I urge you to join me… choose life today…. chose life in marriage… and in the womb … as God created us and commanded us to live.

A sign of Life ... in the Garden

A sign of Life … in the Garden

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Copyright © 2013, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Out of focus … in the Garden


It was another Sunday afternoon. It was the beginning of the year and was rather warm… no …hot!

Fortunately, there was a slight breeze rustling the trees and giving the impression that it just might be cool.  It was quiet .. except for that distant sound of a praying group that seems to be playing the music rather loud … and the cockerel that seems to think it is morning every 10 minutes… ‘wake up! … it is morning! .. time to get up and do something! … let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go! … he seemed to be saying.

Only it was now 4:30 in the afternoon and in fact the day was almost done.

Something seemed to be wrong with the cockerel’s body clock … rather like ours goes off sometimes.  Yes, those of us who want to just keep going, never stopping for a break, never stopping to spend some me time, never stopping long enough to recognize that the time to go has past, and it is now time to take a break.  And much like the cockerel drives those around it crazy, so do we, with our insistence on the urgency of the matter as though it were in fact a life and death issue… when to others, there are more important things that matter.

The cockerel was clearly not understanding what was happening in its surroundings and was giving a false alarm every 10 minutes or so.  It sounded confused, and many simply wanted it to shut up.

Are you like this?  Are you focusing on the wrong things in your surroundings and life?  Are you looking at the big picture or are you only noticing that thin ray of light coming through the cracks, and feeling the pressure to do something about it right now!  Are you constantly putting yourself under pressure, sounding the alarm for action lest there be certain failure in getting your daily bread?

Or have you instead stopped for a moment… just long enough to recognize that it is God who gives? Have you stopped long enough to recognize that running longer and putting yourself and others under pressure  more and more does not necessarily allow you to reap and enjoy those benefits you are running so hard to receive?  Are you losing sight of the vision … the real reason why you are doing what you are doing… to live a better life?  Have you stopped long enough to remember God, pray and even recognize the blessings that He is giving you already?

Yes, hard work pays, and is necessary… but so is some rest… just enough to allow you to re-focus on the right things, pray to God for guidance, and gain the wisdom and strength you need to forge ahead successfully, peacefully and in harmony with your environment much like the wise old elephant strolling peacefully through the Garden.

Young elephant on the age-old path - in the Garden

Young elephant on the age-old path – in the Garden

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Life can be beautiful in God’s light … In the Garden


“42 When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual.

43 When the days of the feast were over and they set off home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it.

44 They assumed he was somewhere in the party, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances.

45 When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

46 It happened that, three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions;

47 and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies.

48 They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’

49 He replied, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’

50 But they did not understand what he meant.” Luke 2: 42-50 (New Jerusalem Bible)

… and neither did I.

For the longest time I have pondered and wondered at this action that Jesus took. Yes, he would be expected to want to share with others who know much about God, His Father in Heaven.  But … why could he not have told his parents that he would be staying behind?  Why did he not care enough to let them know so that they would not be worried? How could he be so insensitive?  Was he being a typical teenager?  Could he have been simply beginning to express his teenage need or desire for independence? Yet, he was expected to be wiser and more considerate than this surely?

Of all the issues surrounding his disappearance, the worry he caused his parents concerned me the most… especially with the knowledge of how they had to run away in the night to a different country in order to save his life when he was born!

… so there has been this missing link in my understanding of this reading until today.   Eureka indeed.  The Holy Spirit of God spoke and I finally heard.

Luke – 2:49 “ … Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus’ parents Mary and Joseph were worried.  Today I learned that the 3 days of searching for him were symbolic of the three days it would take for Jesus to rise from the dead many years later.  But more importantly for me, I finally understood that the entire episode culminating in the words in Luke 2: 49 as always was not just a lesson for his parents Mary and Joseph, but for us all.  It is a profound message and lesson.

 Mary and Joseph had no reason to be worried … because so long as Jesus was in His Father’s house he was safe.  Simple… Jesus was safe because he was in his Father’s house, in his Father’s hands, in his Father’s protective care .. in fact, not just while he was in the Temple. It was not yet his time. He knew it, he was confident about it, and he wanted his parents on earth to begin to be confident about it. Nothing would happen to him before the time laid out for him to suffer and die for the sake of mankind. Everything was in God’s hands… there was no need for them to worry. That was his message and lesson for them.

… and that was his message for us… so long as we are in God’s hands, walking in His light, doing His will and obeying Him, nothing will happen that is not allowed by God in God’s time.  Challenges will come (not may, but will), but by being close to God, and open to His counsel, guidance, wisdom and grace, every challenge will be understood and may even be an important lesson in the journey of life towards God’s heavenly kingdom.  Every challenge will be overcome and be easier to address than we ever thought possible.

It is truly that simple… so long as we too are in our Father’s (God’s) house we are safe.  The key is to obey God and do all we do according to His commandments and will… as Jesus was doing… sharing his understanding and knowledge with the well educated in the faith to their astonishment considering his tender age.. he was beginning to show the world who he was, and he was starting early enough to make it clear even to the skeptics that he was different… even as he taught his parents and us all, this profound message of the safety of being in His Father’s house:

That by being in God’s presence in our lives, the struggle, the pain, the challenges, will be easier to bear, easier to address until peace good health in mind, body, spirit and soul come back to us once again. By putting ourselves consciously in God’s hands we actually give Him room to take care of us and keep us safe. It is our choice… to try and do it ourselves and be consumed by worry about all manner of things… or to live in God’s presence and let His Holy Spirit guide us safely through it.

This is my missing link finally found.  Do you have a missing link?  Do you want to find it? Share it with us… send us a comment in the Garden.

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Life Can Be Beautiful in Gods Bright Light ... in the Garden

Life Can Be Beautiful in Gods Bright Light … in the Garden

Copyright © 2012. Ophelia Swai.  All Rights Reserved.

When you think you know what God wants you to do … in the Garden


The afternoon was hot as usual … the continental music playing on the iPod rhythmically.  The smell of rain came too late… the rain was already coming down.  Some thunder was rumbling in the background… and a deep breath of fresh air was in order. Ahhh.

Yes, it was a wonderful Sunday afternoon.

Much had been done that year.  Much work towards a goal that seemed to never arrive as deadline after deadline passed.  Definitely with progress, but not as much as expected.  Maybe I had too high an expectation.  I wanted this phase of the project to be complete soon so that I could work on the next phase … the more exciting phase… where the real work began… where the idea either came alive, or crashed to the ground and reminded me once again that I am a mortal human being.

Yes, I was sure that what I was doing was right.  That God would be happy with the path I had chosen for my life and I prayed I would succeed in doing that which would glorify His name in my endeavors, in my own small way, one little bit at a time.

But in the back of my mind, I understood that my contribution to the fulfillment of God’s purpose for me in life was not defined merely by my wishes and desires, but guided by the will of God and His workings in my life.  I had learned this before… that when we think we know what God would want us to do, we need to think twice and pray for guidance.  Often, His will is quite in another direction… often, His will for each one of us is right within our grasp.  You are maybe even already doing it, but don’t consider it anything special.  But the way in which you put your heart into it and your love for others in it, makes it your special sacrifice that God loves and is happy with.

Using your gifts to survive and Glorify God - in the Garden

Using your gifts to survive and Glorify God – in the Garden

Are you looking for what God wants you to do?  Look around you.  The answer is right there in front of you… use your talents and do the best you can in God’s light, lovingly and earnestly.  See how God works through this.

Do join me in God’s beautiful Garden … pray that God will guide your paths to the fulfillment of His unique purpose for you each day of your life.

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Copyright © 2012, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved

Accountability … in the Garden


I was thinking about my experiences and encounters recently, which have been vastly different from those I had in that picturesque little corner of the Garden where I used to live … yes, the one with all the exotic wild animals.

Anyway, sooner or later, something has to change, and so began a new life in a corner of the Garden that is not quite a town … not quite a village, but certainly much more filled with human beings than animals.

I got to this corner of the Garden and thought it was time to build me a little place to work during the day – my new office.  It was a journey into the unknown because not only was I getting something built for the first time in my life, I was doing it the hard way – acting as my own contractor and getting different teams to build different elements – with the help of a very kind engineer thankfully.  It is almost done, by the Grace of God, but not without its challenges.

You would think that doing the finishing would be the biggest challenge, but in this case, plastering the walls was it.  Aside from plastering over many sockets completely and not wanting to have anything to do with rectification of the same, one thing struck me about the leader of this particular team.

He laughed at my system to keep track of what materials were taken out of the store, and to have whoever took materials out sign for it… and then 2 things hit me all at once.  They hit me so hard I reeled and nearly fell over.

‘I had seen this before!’  This was a classic symptom of leadership accountability failure. The first thing that hit me was that the leader of the team was the source of his team’s behavior.  As a leader is, so shall his/her subjects be. This is age old wisdom.

The second thing that hit me was that he did not want to be held accountable for anything: neither the materials and any issues that arose with their use, hence the resistance to records and requisite mockery of the system to uphold it; nor the workmanship of the work that was being done, hence the complaints about water, tools, corrections and everything relating to the work.  It had to be someone else’s responsibility as far as he and his entire team were concerned.

As I slowly recovered from the shock, the question that kept cycling through my mind was: ‘how did I end up with this in my project?!’

No, he never owned up to his responsibilities, but that is a different problem.  Today I just ask the questions … How many times do we pass the buck of our failures to someone else?  How many times do we fear that we will fail and begin making a fuss even before the project has begun?  How often do we do something that we don’t really want to, and so do a shoddy job just to get over with it?

Yes, we are all different, and we do have different skills and levels of understanding of different things. That is why it is so important to find our true talents and passion (not hobby), and make sure we are honest with ourselves and strive to be the best we can be at everything that we seek to do. It is only by God’s grace that we can find this place where we can be the best we could be … for He knows how He created us.

I turn today to God to guide me along the way even as I look inside myself and work hard to make sure I am following the right way.  I turn to God to guide me in being honest about who I am and what I am capable of doing, first with myself, and then with others around me.

Will you join me?

A different place ... in the Garden

A different place … in the Garden

Come … walk with me in the Garden

Copyright © 2012, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Too Tired to be Inspired … in the Garden


Yep! That’s right… it is that treadmill again.  This time, the treadmill has practically run me over. The race for the finish line, like a never ending track race, keeps me going day and half the night … on and on and on …

The vision calls, the energy is high… I know I will finish this today… just a little longer…

And then the vision fades, as the details of my feet on the treadmill, and the pain of my lungs gasping for air keep me focused on the path rather than the destination.

So .. yes, now I am still working towards the vision, still have lots of energy and passion, but am wondering where all the new ideas have gone… where the story of life has gone … why the details keep increasing and the destination seems to only get further away.

Something has to change.  I have to to stop and take a look at the horizon and make sure I am still running in the right direction.  Maybe a good old break will do me some good.

Yes, that’s it!  That is exactly it!  A break. Not just a holiday, but a break long enough each day to allow me to review the vision and confirm my destination… and ascertain that the path I am taking … all those details … will actually get me to that far off place, that should be getting closer every day… not further away.

Yep! Even the lions take a good break each day after a good night of hunting.  Who am I to think that I can run endlessly and succeed? Even the lion has more sense!

Resting Peacefully in the Garden

Resting Peacefully in the Garden

I am taking my cue from God’s creation again… and making a resolution to take a good break each day … to review my destination, and to pray and listen more keenly to what God is saying… about the path I should take … about the mistakes I have made and what I should learn from them… about how to overcome the challenges I am facing and may face … about everything that God has to say to me for the path He has set for my life … for God’s way is truly and always the best.

Yes, it is good to balance work and rest … to take a break every now and then.  Will you join me?

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Copyright © 2012, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

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