Tag Archives: peace

Bring back Peace… in the Garden


It has been a long time since I wrote about the Garden.  Finally my heart has been touched enough to say something.  I pray that this writing blesses you, gives you hope, and brings you to thinking about a way through the darkness that I have seen in the Garden today.

I recently visited Europe.  After a long year of planning and saving, I took a short break, looking to experience something totally different from my everyday… maybe come back with some new ideas… and friends.

It has been a long time since I was last there… nearly 30 years.  But then I am not talking about the United Kingdom where I studied and subsequently visited more recently. I am talking about Europe.

What I saw and experienced shocked me. The Europe of yesterday, where the people were happy, confidently going about their business, confident in the fact that if they follow the rules and regulations, and do their best at their jobs and studies, they will be ok… the Europe of my childhood… that Europe is no more.

It happened only once, but when a lady who was at least 2 or 2 and 1/2 times my body size edged closer to the gentleman whom I assume was her husband, and then clutched his arm as we passed each other, it drove the point home. There was fear in her eyes, and I understood.

Europe … is afraid… and it made me afraid… for my own safety.

You see,  I am black… or chocolate as my father prefers.

I am lucky to have had open minded parents and open minded employers.  In fact, one of my former Caucasian employers once said to me… no one is actually white… we are all some range of cream or brown.

True… if I saw a truly white entity in the form of a human, I would immediately assume in fear that it is an apparition of some kind… in the same way, if I saw a truly black entity with only the whites of their eyes, and their nails and clothes showing, I would probably faint from fear.

Yet the world prefers to call me black, and others white.  So I will use the term that the world understands, for what it is worth… I am black. I only ‘discovered’ I was black during my first trip to the UK at the age of 24.   I had studied about colonialism, and had heard about racial discrimination, but … that is a story for another day.  So before that fateful day, the term meant completely nothing untoward to me. It was a term used to describe people of my descent… so what?

I am also a woman.  I was brought up to see myself first as a person, and only after that, recognize that ‘I am a woman’. That meant 1 thing to me: apart from matters of procreation, there was no difference between me and other members of the human species. I could do anything positive, go anywhere, and make a positive contribution to conversations, communities, humanity, my family and myself.. full stop… nothing more, nothing less.

Yet those 2 descriptions already highlight my ‘difference’ in the world I live in, and no matter what efforts my parents and caregivers put in to make me free, the world has made sure I understand that ‘I am different’.

To add to that, I have been brought up in a rather western way in a land not my own… it was not far from home, but the culture and lifestyle is different enough. So, as I was growing up, I was foreign…’I was different’… and when I come home, once again… ‘I am different’.  I do not speak the way they do, I do not think the way they do, I do not perceive life the way they do. ‘I am different’… somewhere in between…neither here, nor there… just ‘different’.

So, I know very well what it means to be a fish out of water… what it means to be set apart, or falsely accused for ‘being different’.  Yet, I am the person that I am, and my so called differences do not make me a danger to anybody.

Still, I know from my experience, that the rejections, false accusations and all manner of defensive actions are a sign that those around me fear my presence among them.  They have some fear even if only because my presence may somehow cause change in their lives. They are not ready for the change that I ‘represent’.. even if it may be a positive change. They are not ready for it because they do not perceive it that way yet.

Thankfully, I have been blessed by God to also experience and therefore know what it means to be accepted even though, or because ‘I am different’.  I chose by the grace of God to focus on the positive experiences, learn more about the people around me, take in what they do best, explain my point of view on what I know better.  I have been thus blessed with the greatest relationships with people of different walks of life. I have read somewhere that God can create good out of evil events/experiences, and I have experienced this many times.

Nonetheless, it is a painful experience to be rejected, ostracized, falsely accused or held separate just because of who you are…especially that part of your being which you cannot change… because you are ‘different’.

Yet, even those who have been rejected, also reject others… including those who have rejected them… and it might just get worse when they get ‘back home’. My point is that we are all ‘guilty’ of some prejudice at one point or another in our lives… so who is to point fingers?

Many of us separate ourselves because we do not understand, and so fear of the other builds. Thus when some rogue elements in one community cause pain to the other community, the lack of knowledge and understanding creates fear of the entire community with rogue elements. And the people of goodwill in the ‘guilty’ community end up also living in fear of reprisals and false accusations because they belong to the community with ‘rogue elements’.

The fear builds on itself and brings with it distrust, and other ills that can only escalate if something is not done to stop the evil it in its tracks.

Somewhere in the media, social or otherwise, I have seen it said that poverty and lack of education are the cause of the problems in Europe, West Africa, East Africa… Someone I know asked in consternation how a foreign person whom their country has hosted and brought up in peace and safety all their lives can turn on them and kill them so unfeelingly.

Somewhere else in the media I have seen it said that the problem is not poverty or lack of education, but rather, disillusionment of the middle class youth. Yes, the middle class youth who are well educated and really not lacking anything are apparently the ones going into war with the rest of the world… hmm….

No matter what the visible cause, I have learned something in my short life that I feel is at the core of all the perceived causes of the problems we are experiencing:  Where there is fear, evil prevails… because fear is not from God.

The fear is within our hearts and our minds, and it is palpable.

Something has to change.  Our first step towards a better life and future has to be to eliminate fear… in our hearts, our minds and our communities. The politicians cannot do this for us. They cannot eliminate fear no matter how many more security forces they put on the ground around our homes and schools and places of work and places of worship.

I have also learned that, where knowledge and understanding are lacking, fear prevails.

This is simple and basic and touches every element of life. If you do not know how to ride a bicycle, you will fear the bicycle. If you do not know who that other person is, you will have some element of fear regarding them and their intentions towards you and yours. If you do not know how to perform a task, you will fear doing it. The degree of fear changes from person to person based on life experience, but it is there all the same.

In my humble opinion therefore, while the politicians continue to do what they do best, our first step towards eliminating fear, and pulling the rug out from under the feet of evil, is knowledge and understanding of one another.  Not some superfluous knowledge scraped from some media report, but rather true knowledge of  the person next to you at work, and in your neighborhoods and communities who is considered to be ‘different’.

I am not just talking about race, or faith or gender… I am talking any kind of difference that has nothing to do with the heart’s intent of that other person. That difference which is part of who they were created to be or look like. That difference which is part of their culture or lifestyle.

I say this from my little experience in a world of being ‘different’.  When the other person understands my true intentions; when the other person understands my way of thinking; when the other person understands my misconceptions about their society or way of doing things, or culture; when the other person gets a chance to explain to me their way of doing things or their culture; when the other person gets a chance to explain to me their own fears about me and my ‘difference’; when we do this each with an open heart and mind, ready to take criticisms and explain ourselves without anger, seeking only love for one another, we powerfully weaken evil, and create peace.

So long as we are cognizant of what makes the  other hurt, and are willing to make the slight adjustments needed – even if it is only by being more understanding of their reactions – we open the door to peace.  When the other party does the same, we live in harmony.

Change will not happen in a day, a month and maybe not even in a year.  But when people begin to openly dialogue man to man, woman to woman, colleague to colleague, neighbor to neighbor, community to community, the false understandings and gaps that create so much fear begin to fade.  While politicians continue to work at the national and international level, we will have played our part in considerably weakening the chances of evil taking root or strengthening within our neighborhoods, workplaces, communities and cities.

We do not have to all become the same person… we just are better off understanding each other and our ‘differences’.

Yes, we will not suddenly all become members of one faith, or have the same perspectives or understanding or culture or lifestyle.. that is not the intention.  But we will greatly reduce the unwarranted sources of fear.  The peace that comes with this will shed light into the community bit by bit… and you know that light will always pierce through and overcome darkness. Someone just has to put on the light.

Many will not want to have anything to do with this suggestion.  Many will dismiss it out of hand as impossible. Others still will see its value and misuse it, causing pain to many.  But you who have goodwill in your heart, please do not give up hope for peace. Even if there are just 2 of you who are ‘different from each other’ and are both of goodwill, the feedback you take to your families will bring peace to them.  Through you and your families the spread of understanding that humanity needs will begin.  It will help to counter the false teachings that you or your children may be taught by some stranger of ill intent on the internet, or the street corner or the supermarket, or…

You and your family will know from a member of goodwill within the other community, the difference between truth and lies in their culture, faith, lifestyle, perceptions; and can reject the lies when you encounter them elsewhere. You can play a big part in protecting yourself or your children from being inculcated into a world of hate, and death… and you will have helped that person who is ‘different’ do the same for themselves and their families.

Am I being naive? Maybe… but something good starts with a single word or action, and the right intention in our hearts.

It may be tough to find members of the other community of goodwill. How will you know them? But I pray that all communities read this, pass on the idea, and the people of goodwill think and find a way to link with members  of goodwill within the other community … and begin the dialogue that is much needed.  So long as there is one person of good intent willing to start within a community, change will come… good and positive change.

The next step is forgiveness… but that is a story for another day.

For now, it is time to light a candle of peace in the Garden… heart to heart, mind to mind. I have lit mine… will you join me?

Come… walk with me in the Garden.

 

Copyright (c) 2015, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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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.

Being honest … in the Garden


It was a Sunday afternoon.  My vehicle had been taken to the workshop.  There was something wrong with it and I had been forced to call for assistance the night before, while trying to go up the very steep hill in that little corner of the Garden I called home…

This was the time I would normally sit down to write a story and share it with the world.  The grassland outside would be mostly quiet save for the few impala or zebra or wildebeest chomping and playing on the long grasses.

This day was however anything but quiet.  The baboons were all over the place making a racket and I was perplexed. I had never seen so many baboons around the house.  I had always found evidence of their presence in the form of a broken verandah table and scattered verandah chairs, but had not encountered them yet.  I wondered why they were here on this particular day … what had made them come to the house and cause such a racket?

I stepped out onto my verandah to see what it could be…and as soon as they sensed that I was a the doorstep they ran away… never to be seen again that day.  Hmmmm….

The next morning, I had to seek assistance with transportation.  The driver got late and by 8:00am he had not arrived yet.  It was not 10 minutes after 8:00am when the loud destructive baboons came calling again.  They disappeared when the driver arrived to pick me up and I thought no more about it…

I did not see them again, until my vehicle was in the workshop again … and I was spending the Sunday afternoon quietly writing my story… well … not so quietly then.

… the baboons were playing a game called; ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play’?  Clearly they had learned that my vehicle being parked in the front of the house meant a human being was around, and that meant they were not free … so they hid until they saw the vehicle go away.

Deceptive? Or Just afraid?

Afraid.

Is this not the real and major reason that we are so often deceptive?  Out of fear of the consequences of being honest?  Out of fear that we may be misunderstood and badly hurt because of it? Out of fear for our very existence  … our jobs, our relationships, our education, our faith?

Yes, not many people tell outright lies… most of us just hide the truth … couch it in confusing terms, hide it in the details … in the famous small print, wait until the last minute when no one can do anything about things… don’t let anyone know … see … what you are doing … planning … writing…

The baboons were exhibiting classic human behavior … right there in the middle of that beautiful corner of the Garden … and reminding me glaringly how much pain we cause each other because of it… deception brought on deep seated fear.

If only we had the courage to face the truth in ourselves, in the people around us, and in our little corner’s of the Garden.  If only we were more trusting in God, enough to be honest about our mistakes and weaknesses as leaders and as those being led.  Maybe … just maybe … we would all be able to live in true peace.

Come … walk with me in the Garden

Copyright © 2012, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Be Still … in the Garden


Say it well … say it well … if you believe it … say it well.

The sea breeze is blowing and sending cool air through my now slowly curling hair.  The palm tree leaves are swaying gently in the breeze… the air is fresh…the grass is green… the pool inviting.  No wildlife here today… just a lost crab, crab walking through the garden.  Family and friends chatting in the background as a small radio plays faith based music softly in the breeze.

As beautiful as the sea?  ... in the Garden

As beautiful as the sea? … in the Garden

The world may be tough, the challenges many … but just for this moment, it is well… by God’s grace.

Be still … I hear in my heart … be still.

I know it is God telling me to stop and recognize him in the gentle breeze.

I try to be still… and then I find peace.  That’s it … just peace.

If I find God in peace, I will be at peace in all things. So I am learning today to be still… just for a little bit each day… to be still… and recognize God in everything in God’s light around me.

Will you join me?

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Copyright © 2012, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Enough … in the Garden


So, how many times have you ever stopped and said:  “Enough… this is just enough for me.  I do not need or want any more than this.  My heart is satisfied with what I have and have enjoyed today… it is enough.”

The Zebra and wildebeest were going about their eating, playing, resting, walking, courting in peace.   The humans were going about their running, preparing, helping, serving, organizing, transporting, looking, eating in peace … each in his or her own little space, right next to each other in the Garden.  Once again, I acknowledged that this was a truly wonderful place to be… and only God could have created it as it is.  Even with man’s perceived effort in building his niche in the garden, only God could have made it so that man and beast could live so closely in peace.  Only God could have planted the idea in man’s head, and given him the heart, resources, opportunity and ability to do this.

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Today I am writing and praying thankful.  I have many blessings … and still desire many things… but I also recognize that what I have today… is enough.  A visit to the little corner of the Garden I used to live in reminded me of God’s beautiful creation in its most natural fullness … a truly great blessing.  So I say, “It is enough”.  

As I say this I begin to realize that each and every day, what God gives me is enough.  Even though I do not finish what I want to do… even though I do not receive what I expect to receive… even though there are so many things to do to get everything its right place in my view of life, even though there are many challenges to overcome whether real or perceived, I know that today, and each and every day, just as it is … is enough… in God’s light … on God’s path … in obedience to Him that is the creator of all things.

… and as I look at this life in that little corner of the Garden … in my current little corner of the Garden… experience it, remember it, and recognize God’s presence in it, I say to God: “thank You… it is enough, it is enough just as it is.  Amen”

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Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Copyright © 2012, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Enough … in the Garden


The wildebeest migration had come through again.  They always came in large numbers, but this time there were more than I had ever seen in 6 years of being in the little corner of the Garden.  They were just about everywhere… and the raucous from their rutting was almost deafening.

Sharing resources in the Garden

Sharing resources in the Garden

I had watched 2 of them fight one day… that fight that stopped as soon as they realized I was watching, even as their next of kin and friends continued about their business without butting in, whether to stop the fight or to contribute to it.  It was the rutting season for them and their fight was known to be a show of strength in competition for the females… an age old competition in creation.

The wildebeest are known to decimate the vegetation whenever they visit any place.  When they came by, the tall, tall elephant grass would be demolished so quickly, that we called them ‘the natural lawn mowers’.  Yet, even as they ate the vegetation to the ground, I did not once see any fights about food itself … something we human beings have not learned yet.  Despite their large numbers, and despite the scarcity of food when they begin to eat the food to the ground, they simply moved away to the next place, trusting that somehow there will always be a place with something to eat… trusting in nature and its ability to replenish itself so that they can feed well, even when there is a drought …

…in sharp contrast to the way we human beings live.  While the wildebeest go about freely, we live in constant fear of not having enough to eat or to entertain ourselves with … in fear of not having enough resources.  It gets harder when we have been brought up in a place where there is not enough to eat, and as we go about our days, the fear of poverty gnaws at us and drives half to death, as we struggle to get more than our fair share of daily bread… thinking that with more than enough to eat, we shall somehow prevent poverty from assaulting us in our young and old days.  Forgetting completely that God is the one that gives, we are willing to go to any lengths to assuage our needs… such lengths as to cause the death in mind, body and spirit of those around us through our words and deeds.

On the other end of the scale are those that will not lift a finger to do anything.  Don’t get me wrong … I am not talking about those that try to do something, but do not get the chance simply because there are no opportunities.  I am talking about those that have the opportunities, but simply refuse to do anything, out of laziness or pride regarding the type of jobs they will accept to do … unknowingly causing pain and distress to those around them that care for them and end up having to take care of them… unknowingly slowly killing the spirits of those who love them who are forced to watch them slowly destroy themselves.  Did God not say: ‘Thou shall not kill’?

So … the wildebeest can teach us something… that there can be enough to eat if we were all willing to work for it honestly, and then share what we can of it.  

No matter what end of the scale you are in, are you willing to make a change and give more to life … starting today?

The sun shines for everyone ... in the Garden

The sun shines for everyone ... in the Garden

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Finding your own place of peace and happiness … in the Garden


The lake looked beautiful and its waters clear as a bell.  The waves over it shimmered in the sun giving the impression of a multitude of tin roofs all lined up next to each other. 

A beautiful lake ... in the Garden

A beautiful lake ... in the Garden

To get to the lake shore one had to go down a steep slope running about 100m down. 

It seemed easy at first… the slope was gentle.  Then as we got closer to the lake surface itself, our guide gently informed us that there were going to be some tough spots and we were to watch exactly where he stepped, and step at those exact positions lest we go tumbling down to the lake shore quite unceremoniously and painfully.

My tough veneer was beginning to fade as the short walk grew tougher…. going downhill is not so easy at all, I thought… and the care we had to take stepping carefully behind our guide took its toll.  I was breathing heavily and my moccasins (certainly not made for climbing or going down steep slopes) began to pinch my toes.  I wondered how it would be going back up if going down was this tough, but somehow, I kept the pace.

We reached the bottom of the slope and onto the lake shore itself where cool waters on my feet finally eased the pain of the pinching shoes.  The view from the shores of the lake was just as beautiful as at the top, but with the added cool breeze and crystal clear water splashing against the rocks and onto my feet, this was certainly better than the top.

The walk down had been worth it. If only we could set up camp here so that we did not have to go back up.  This place was peaceful and safe, and was so much cooler than the hot, breeze-free top.

Eventually, we had to go back up… and it was surprisingly easier… until the muscles I never knew existed presented themselves the next day… 

Now that the muscles are no longer making themselves felt, I begin to ponder at the phenomenon of the difficulty of the downhill walk.  So often we think of a climb being more difficult, but as I found out, sometimes, it is the going down that is more difficult.  Yet it is possible to find a place at the bottom of that slope that is better than anything you ever thought possible… a place that is filled with the awesome power and beauty of God’s creation, a place that is a manifestation of His love and blessings beyond anything you could ever have imagined.

Sometimes going down is harder than climbing up ... in the Garden

Sometimes going down is harder than climbing up ... in the Garden

So I look at our lives today… where we work tirelessly and endlessly looking for our best way up the ladder of success, fame, fortune, happiness.  We have convinced ourselves that the only way to true happiness is up this ladder that we have ourselves created.  Yet, God’s blessings come in many forms and in many places, if only we believe in Him, trust in Him and obey Him.

Yes… sometimes it may look like we are going down the ladder of success, fame, fortune, and happiness.  By human standards and understanding, this downward slide cannot bring us to those things, yet it is right at the foot of that slope that God’s heavenly blessings are revealed… and you may never want to leave that place again … for He will show you His love, mercy, blessings, happiness, and peace beyond anything you could ever have imagined.

I have put my faith and trust in God, and know that as I obey Him, He will show me the right way to that which He has already laid out for me… wherever that may be.  I am walking closely with God in the Garden.  Will you join me?

Come … walk with me in the Garden

Copyright © 2012, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

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