A "Black Swan Event" is when the unexpected occurs, causing a huge mindshift and change in how the world works. People never imagined that Black Swans existed, until the discovery of the first Black Swan... (as per book "The Black Swan", by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007, that sold over 3 million copies)

Is a perception change the next Black Swan Event? Consider that by changing perception we might change the world. Look at everyday things from different angles. Find beauty in the unexpected...
Change our thinking, change our actions, change our world!

See that all people are part of God's puzzle and have something to give. Black swans do exist. The ugly duckling was actually a swan who needed to discover himself and where he fitted and be who he was meant to be. To the last, the lost and the least, you are beautiful as you are.
May all who visit this page feel God's touch and experience His blessing...

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Leadership / Life Skills: Conflict Management: The Relationship and The Issue

I've previously briefly mentioned how conflict management may be handled in diverse ways depending on one's culture and you can read the blog post here: Do You Know People You Run From? Is Change Possible? A Few Thoughts.... Conflict management skills are vital to ongoing relationships.

When I attended a training course on conflict management, I learnt there are two key aspects to conflict: the relationship and the issue. If conflict arises with a stranger whom you may never see again, it is much easier to say exactly what you feel for you know you may never see the person again. Or you may hope you never do. For example, if you buy an item of clothing and need to return it, you may become quite abrasive if a store person refuses to return your money. Your goal is to obtain what you paid for the item, and the relationship may be negligible because you see this as a once-off transaction. You may react in a hard and fast way if you experience resistance and you may demand your money back or you will take the matter further. Of course, mutual respect should always be a part of any relationship transaction, even if you don't have an ongoing relationship with someone. However, if conflict arises in your marriage, you are invested in the relationship and need to tread more carefully. The issue may take second place in preference to ensuring your relationship remains intact, depending how much the issue means to you. But sometimes the issue is of such great importance that this takes precedence. There are some hard conversations that need to take place, for example, if you feel your spouse is abusive, you may decide to push the issue even if it means a relationship breakdown.

I believe it is best to get conflict into the open, especially if you will have an ongoing relationship with someone, or it may fester. Sometimes one may be unaware there is unresolved conflict with another person, and if you suspect something seems to be bothering someone else, then ask, but if they say everything's okay, then leave it at that. You can only work on what you know about and you have asked so your conscience is clear.

To aid in conflict management, I see assertiveness as going hand in hand. Assertiveness is a healthy means of communicating and you can read a blog post I wrote on assertiveness here: Leadership / Life Skills: Assertiveness

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Half-Brother? No, He's Your Brother

I've been wondering about the terms half-brother and half-sister I've often heard used. I've used these terms myself too with my own family. Why do we do this? In the Bible, Joseph refers to his eleven other brothers, though only Benjamin was a full brother with the same mother as Joseph. All of these twelve brothers had the same father.

From a legal point of view it seems to me that halves have just as much rights as full, which can seen in migration when they have as much right to migrate by virtue of family line. They are brothers and sisters in the eyes of the law.

I suppose people like to categorise differences explicitly. Some people may even use different parentage as an excuse to say, that person isn't really my brother or sister, but they are.

I realise I use this terminology in my fiction book and I need to change it now. I use the term step-brother, when this person is actually my protagonist's brother by virtue of adoption, and I must change all references to half-brother, to merely say brother.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Only You Can Say Who You Are: Which Culture Do You Identify As?

Many groups and people are trying to save tribal rights of Bushmen in the Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, which I wholly support. Recently I discovered that some of the people asking to be allowed to live in the Kalahari Game Reserve seem at a glance to be culturally and even ethnically different from people I think of as Bushmen, because these people, who I thought were pastoralists, own livestock and ride horses and look very different to Bushmen. Bushmen are traditionally known as a people of very short stature, with an almost yellow skin that is very wrinkled, mongoloid eyes, and very curly black hair that is sparse. But I was told it doesn't matter if these people are originally Bushmen or not, they identify as Bushmen.

What a person looks like seems to be giving way in favour of culture, probably because, in this changed global world, people can belong to the same country and therefore the same culture irrespective of looks. In Australia, where I now live, it is disconcerting for me to hear some people use the term African only for certain darker coloured people, even if they are Australian citizens. Yet I assume that all people who come to Australia will embrace Australia's culture, even if this is done at the level of the next generation, or why else come to Australia. There is a song sung here at citizenship ceremonies called, "We Are One, But We Are Many", and personal culture differences are allowed, but there is one overriding Australian culture too that people embrace. African isn't a term used much in South Africa because there are so many different types of South Africans, though some people claim it. I am South African, but I am white. I am a citizen of Africa and therefore I am an African. I am an Australian too.

In Australia many documents and forms ask whether or not one identifies with particular groups of people. To adopt these cultures, the decision must be driven from the heart of a person who wants to embrace a wholly new culture and way of life. From what I have gleaned, it seems that people who have never traditionally been hunter/gatherer Bushmen are doing just this: they identify as Bushmen and in so doing they live with the Bushmen and obtain rights to use the land that's earmarked for the Bushmen, as well as rights to hunt for wild game. Essentially they have decided to embrace the Bushmen's culture. I found this a fascinating insight. Some other cultures have a slightly different protocol: to become Jewish, for example, one undergoes a strict conversion process in synagogue, though still, the conversion decision comes from the heart of the person who wants to identify as Jewish and to truly belong to the new community.

It seems to me, the decision to adopt a new culture, regardless of previous background, rests largely with an individual. Is my assumption correct? I would love to hear other people's thoughts.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Some People Sink and Some People Swim: Same Circumstances, Different Outcomes

Have you ever wondered, how do some people seem to have everything together, in spite of all they have been through? This is a topic on my heart, and can be seen as the main theme of my unpublished fiction book, about two sisters who both experience trauma, yet who follow widely divergent paths in their onward journeys through life. I've described is as: when you are thrown into a swirling sea, you either sink or you swim.

When trouble is experienced on an ongoing basis, for example as in the case of trauma, there are often general behavioural coping strategies survivors can be expected to take. But of course, these are expected patterns only, not definitive patterns. So, the same situation can affect two people quite differently and one person may experience a psychic collapse while another may be able to overcome the trauma and function quite well. One therefore cannot say one must expect a certain outcome after certain situations. If one person can successfully overcome a troubled past, so can another. And just because most people who have experienced a particular type of troubled life have difficulty functioning, doesn't mean you must too if you have experienced the same dynamics.

Joyce Meyer has openly spoken about her traumatic childhood, yet she is now very successful and uses her past pain in many of her sermons to show people she has overcome with God's help. Oprah Winfrey is another celebrity who has overcome a difficult life. If some people can shrug off a troubled past, so can you, if you have experienced past pain. I believe the real key to doing this is to think and write about your journey, and also to tell your story to people you trust well. Sometimes past pain is as a vast non-verbal vagueness, difficult to even quantify, let alone talk about, but when it's spoken of, the story becomes clearer, even understandable in time, and one may then be able to step back from the pain and see it for what it was. The past may have affected you, but doesn't have to affect your future.

Link to related blog article: Your Past Doesn't Define You

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Problem With Some Memories

A few studies done in the 1990s (Wikipedia article on memory implantation) demonstrate that it is possible to manufacture memories. People were shown fake photos of themselves as children riding in a hot air balloon or being lost in a mall, and they remembered the experience...
...but these were faked photos and the experiences never happened.

That said, I attended a workshop recently where a few people spoke of recovered memories. I do believe that flashbacks may be real and that memory may be suppressed and recovered, especially traumatic memories. At the same time, I am cognisant of how easy it is to falsify memories.

For your own safety, be aware if you are on the receiving end of well meaning, but misdirected, suggestive questioning about your past. And from the other point of view, in dealing with anyone, be they child or adult, make sure they are the ones doing the recovering of memories, and avoid helping them along, for example, "could this have happened to you...?" Don't show children photos to jog memories along, or suggest something with the use of aids, because you might be implanting memories instead of recovering memories.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Are You Able To Say "No" to Manipulation?

I read an article yesterday called, Parents, It's Time to Let Your Daughter Say "No". In summary, a little girl is afraid to go on rides at a showground and her dad tries his best to entice her to go, but the mom pulls the dad aside and reminds him that, later on in life, their daughter will need to say "no" to other men who might want to date her, and she needs to be able to say "no" then. Powerful point.

Something similar I learnt as a child is how vital it is to say "no" to the approach of an abuser. Most often, an abuser will target a child who will easily comply with his or her requests. If I had complied with the approach of one particular teacher, who wanted me to leave a door open to him one night on a school tour, I can only imagine what might have happened. If a child firmly says "no" when approached as a target, the child will more than likely be protected--not always, but most often. Teach your child the importance of being able to say "no", especially if it's to what seems like gentle, friendly manipulation from an adult, commonly called grooming.

The best way to thwart any abuse is to ensure you don't allow it, and this applies as an adult too.

The Good That May Come From Tragedy: Flight MH370

Flight MH370 is missing. Grieving family members are in the spotlight. The world holds her breath and watches for news. One by one, nations from around the world step forward to provide sensitive satellite data to help find the missing plane. People from varied cultures wait for news and band together to search through satellite images. Malaysia provides the assistance she can, and then Thailand, America, Australia, China, New Zealand, and others provide their information and many send ships and airforce planes to scour the search zone. Where there is collaboration, competition flees.

I pray the missing flight is found and, at the same time, I am awed at how this tragedy has brought the world together. I see God's Hand at work in this sad situation, so that good may come from evil and tragedy. Evil may happen in this world, but God can turn any situation around so that His kingdom will emerge victorious.

Link to related article:
Collaboration Wins Over Competition

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Peeling Away Layers of Pain

A matroyshka doll is a series of wooden dolls that each hold a smaller doll within. This is a good analogy for healing the layers of pain that may surround people. Someone may desire to work on an obvious limiting pattern, for example, a reluctance to form attachments with others. Once this has been quantified and dealt with, a deeper pain may be exposed, and so on, sometimes all the way down to an inner originating trauma. It is only when one layer of defenses has been removed that the next more hidden layer can be healed. People may function quite well for much of their lives with a topmost mask in place, akin to a matroyshka doll, but when the mask is lifted, which may be purely by accident, deeper pain may surface. True healing comes when the originating cause is brought to light and healed. But it may be a difficult process that can take years. Do you have matroyshka dolls within yourself?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Your Past Doesn't Define You

I recently wrote a blog post that I called, I Didn't Act Like a Victim: Key to Overcoming the Past. Following on from that, have you ever done or experienced something in the past that hurt you or that you are ashamed of or you feel guilty of? I am sure many of us have things we wish we could forget, but that may haunt us still. Some things are small, and we can brush these off, but there are some things that may be bigger, for example, if you were bullied in school, or even if you were the one doing the bullying. Perhaps these things feel like a huge part of you, as if you are carrying them around within your very being wherever you go. But, these things can be thrown off, as the unnecessary baggage that they are. I heard an excellent sermon in church on this subject recently too, that your past doesn't define your future. Declare to yourself that the things that still dog you are in the past. You can learn from the past, but your past isn't you and isn't your future. Forgive where necessary and move on, for your own peace of mind. There are many successful people who have left behind traumatic experiences, for example, Oprah. She knows the past happened and she has spoken about her past, but she doesn't let the past drag her down. She knows that her past doesn't define her future. Joyce Meyer is another example of someone who lived through an abusive childhood, yet she is now very successful and she uses the messages from her past to help others. The Bible tells us in many ways that the past is the past. Paul murdered many Christians, yet He transformed after an encounter with Jesus and he became one of the biggest evangelists for Christ. Stories such as this show that transformation is possible. Are you allowing your past to keep you from experiencing a better present and a better future?

Sunday, 9 March 2014

I Didn't Act Like a Victim: Key to Overcoming the Past

I heard an excellent sermon in church yesterday. The Pastor showed us scenes of the January 2011 floods in Brisbane and how his house had been affected, and then he said something like, "People were surprised at how well I coped, because I didn't act like a flood victim." That statement stayed with me. What a powerful message. It resounded more so with me because earlier in the day someone invited me to join a support group because of a traumatic experience earlier in my life. But I'm over that, I thought. Well, in truth I may not be totally over the experience and I may have some work to do still, but I don't feel support is currently applicable for me. Maybe it's also because I have never been one for group work. This all might change of course if I ever dig deeper into my past and uncover anything that still requires work and I may need support then. There is a time and a place for support groups, but the time for support was when I first began to feel aftereffects of the experience, and I have moved on. I feel as if I am now in overcomer mode.

The point I'm trying to make is, the more I mull over the problems of my past, the more the past has a hold on me. I need to move on so that the past doesn't affect my future. The more I say to myself, I have overcome and moved on, the more I feel I have. And I also have God to lean on now, and He helps me immensely.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Seeing the End Result

I love to watch the Olympic Games, both Summer and Winter. Ice skaters swirl about on ice and leap effortlessly into the air. Athletes race against each other and the clock. From my couch chair, I might wonder when someone makes a silly mistake, for example, dives with too big a splash into the pool as these athletes make what they do look so easy. But yet what I don't see are the hours and hours of training that these athletes put into honing their craft. They all have immense natural talent. To get to the Olympic Games one needs innate talent. But they have also worked incredibly hard to get to where they are now. I wonder, do all of these athletes have passion for what they do? To keep persevering, one must have passion for one's craft to keep on and on going, working away at something. Sadly though, I imagine that there may be a few athletes who have trained since childhood to be where they are now and their path in life was never their choice to make, though this is perhaps the only life they now know--spare a thought for these people. Hopefully they may feel joy at competing and realise the wonderful innate talent they have.

How does one keep persevering before one has reached the destination? And perseverance may be a skill in its own right, though also a trait one can decide to adopt and slowly work at. I love to write and I especially love to write when an idea strikes as writing then comes effortlessly, but there are many times when I have an idea but the expression comes with difficulty. Vision helps one to persevere: Vision to see the end result before it has been achieved. Vision that one can create something from nothing. Vision that one can hone a skill enough to be a competitive athlete.

There are people who set out to compete at the Olympics and who never make it, sometimes even ending up in a different career choice, and they may have all the necessary ingredients in talent and passion and perseverance and vision, so what is also needed is a measure of good fortune, perhaps to be in the right place at the right time.

But if one stops before one has even tried, one has already failed. Keep persevering, and sometimes the impossible may just become possible.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

When We Don't Realise the Facts are Wrong

I previously wrote about the Bushmen in Ode to the San: I wrote of a Bushmen hunter who brought down an antelope with a poisoned arrow and I assumed the poison worked quickly. I discovered today that the poison may work very slowly, and a Bushmen hunter may need to track a prey for hours, even days, until the poison takes effect. Firstly I have a quandary whether or not to change my book to show this new fact, and secondly, I have learnt much more about the Bushmen.

What really gripped me was the tracking capability of a Bushman hunter. The craft is learnt over hours and days of tracking animals and is an integral part of Bushman culture. It struck me too that an animal might not associate a Bushmen hunter with death, because the wound inflicted from an arrow is slight and the poison is what really does the work and the animal does not die immediately it is hit. Poison used may be varied, from that of shrubs or of snakes or the larvae of insects. It can be a lot of hard work to gather and prepare the poison, for example, larvae that are used for poison are dug up from the ground, so one needs to locate the specific beetle larvae first.

When I wrote about the Bushmen, I did so assuming I knew my facts and I didn't realise a salient piece of information was incorrect. I may never have discovered that this fact was wrong, but thankfully I did from additional research I did. I wonder, what else may I be oblivious to, in day to day life, in a word spoken to someone in passing, or in an assumption I make about what I have read? What may you be missing?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

When What Seems Wrong is Actually Right: Kalahari Bushmen and Waterholes

I was previously upset when I read that the Botswana government closed waterholes of the Kalahari that were used by Bushmen (San / Basarwa), but since then I have discovered that waterholes were never needed by Kalahari Bushmen, as they used to be a people who survived without surface water (as per this National Geographic article about Bushmen). Then I discovered that the creation of waterholes for use by people has been the source of problems for the Bushmen of the Kalahari.

Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari for thousands of years, living off the land without need for anything else. Pastoralists moved in to the area only in the last hundred years and they created waterholes, and by doing so, they invaded the Bushmen's traditional lands and in some cases even laid claim to the Bushmen's identity. In fact, from a bit of research I've done, it sounds as if in many cases Bushmen are seen as servants, almost slaves, of the Pastoralists and there has been some intermarriage. I fear for the original Bushmen. Sometimes the ones who need help the most are forgotten with the louder voices that step forward. Africa is complex and there are so many different tribes of people, but I doubt they would lay claim to being tribal people in the strictest sense of the word, living off the land only in a hunter-gatherer type existence. I would suggest that Bushmen determine which people can say they are Bushmen, just as Jewish people accept new converts to Judaism via a strict conversion process to become Jewish. Often the people who should be helped the most, in this case the Bushmen, are lost in the cause, as other people step in and lay claim to their heritage, because of what is on offer in land and food and wealth.

I now suggest that Bushmen be allowed within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve only if they follow a strictly hunter-gatherer lifestyle, without any livestock and without waterholes. Game Reserves are needed in Africa, and sometimes people do need to make way to enable conservation and this has been done in many countries, but hunter-gatherer Bushmen who practice an age old culture are also a national treasure and this way of life should be cherished too. Where Bushmen are unable to survive in this harsh environment, either because they have lost this knowledge or else because they have decided to change and embrace a different way of life, I suggest that they be provided with an area where they can live in peace and flourish and practice their own unique cultural heritage, perhaps in an area adjoining the game reserve, where they may be able to be themselves.

I believe Bushmen would probably make wonderful nature conservationists as many of these people often have a wonderful love of nature and animals and understand conservation dynamics. Imagine perhaps a conservation model where Bushmen live on the outside of the reserve but take part in managing the reserve and the wildlife and conservation and work to restore land areas and also act as tourist guides.

I hope that Bushmen are able to rediscover their identity and culture once again, and be a people proud of their heritage. I realise that many of the Bushmen may no longer be able to throw off the trappings of a modern day world and be totally at one with the environment again, but I also believe their hearts beat for wide open spaces and freedom. Perhaps education is the answer for the Bushmen, to learn the skills needed to take their place in their new world, and also so the elders may continue to teach their children what they know, handed down from generation to generation, especially their unique melodic click language and tracking skills.

Link to related blog article: Ode to the San

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Different Generations, Different Influences

Shirley Temple died on Monday at the age of 85. She was a child star of the 1930s. She retired from Hollywood in her early twenties, while she was still famous. Shirley Temple was the youngest person ever to receive an academy award at the age of six years old. I've previously looked up a few video clips of her singing and dancing, because my dad named me after her. It's one of the few facts I know about him because my mother never spoke of him; she was too heartbroken at his early death from meningitis, which happened when I was six months old.

I saw the news of Shirley Temple's death and I did more research into her life and I discovered a few things I didn't know about her, for example, that she later went into politics. I am struck by how different the influences from generation to generation can be. My grandparents knew of Shirley Temple, and her fame carried through to my father and my mother, yet I wouldn't have known about her if I hadn't known I was called Shirley because of her. When I was a child, I watched E.T., a movie that was gripping and sad, and Jaws, which terrified me. I remember Back to the Future, Star Wars, McGyver, Maya the Bee, V and the X Files. At school I watched Justin Morgan Had a Horse, a wonderful movie with an amazing message, yet children of today won't see it, unless, as I've now done for my children, their parents buy it and show it to them.

How amazing the different influences each generation experiences, which moulds some of our outlook on life into our later years.

Link to an article about the life of Shirley Temple: What Modern Day Child Stars Could Learn From Shirley Temple

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Danger of Taking Sides Based on Feelings Instead of Facts

Yesterday I wrote about different points of view, where the same situation may be experienced and viewed very differently by the people who are involved. I mentioned the example of a friend who is fired by an organisation.

Imagine you were to take your friend's side in this matter; perhaps you feel so strongly that she was wronged that you begin to air your grievances about the company involved to others. However, maybe a few people who know of the situation are staunch supporters of the organisation involved and they side with the company. You may stick up for your friend in spite of evidence you hear to the contrary and the same applies for the people who side with the organisation. People may take sides based purely on a feeling of allegiance, instead of based on facts.

But, what if you are wrong? What if your friend was fired for a legitimate reason? The same applies to the people on the other side, as perhaps the company they support so loyally may be the one in the wrong. Often we will take sides and cheer our side on as the winner and we are convinced that we are right because it feels right. But maybe we are wrong. It is dangerous to take sides based on feelings of allegiance alone.

Different Points of View

There's a song that goes something like, "there's two sides, to every situation, yes there's two sides, two interpretations, a laugh is a cry, hello means goodbye..." For example, maybe your friend tells you that she has been fired from a long time job and when you hear her story you fume at the unfair treatment she received. Yet, if you were to ask the other person or people involved why your friend was fired, you most surely would get a totally different point of view. Yes, it is okay to give your friend a shoulder to cry on, but what if her version of events isn't the whole truth and you blindly support her? Gossip and hearsay are very dangerous, both to the people who believe it blindly and to the people involved in the story being repeated. There are normally always at least two sides to every situation and often these viewpoints are a dichotomy with the real truth somewhere in the middle. You therefore trust what someone says about another person or situation at your own risk.

People are fallible and people make mistakes and sometimes people aren't even aware of what they themselves might have missed. We all have blind spots. Is it possible your friend sees the world from a skewed lens of perception, through past pains and hurts that have nothing to do with the current situation? I've taken other peoples' sides before, "gone to war" to defend someone as it were, only to find out that the person was keeping key facts from me, sometime intentionally, sometimes unawares. So try to be aware that the first version of an event that you hear might not be the whole truth, but often it is the one we tend to trust, especially when it comes from someone whom we know and we like.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Inspiring Life of King David

The life of King David of the Old Testament has been the focus of a few church sermons I've heard recently. I've since reread parts of the Bible and am astounded at David's life story and the lessons to be learnt from this. I have summarised his story below, but there are many more details I have left out.

David was the youngest of Jesse's eight sons, a shepherd, yet he was chosen over his brothers and God commanded Samuel to anoint him. David then found his way into King Saul's castle, after Saul requested a musician to calm him when he was troubled and David played the harp to him and became his armour bearer. Later, David was the one who stepped forward to kill Goliath, of the Philistines. Saul gave David his armour with which to fight, but David threw it off as it was too bulky for him, and instead he stepped forward armed only with a sling and five stones. Thus was the mighty Goliath felled by a tiny stone flung by a mere boy. Saul then placed David in charge of his army, and people soon began to sing David's praises, 1 Samuel 18:7 (KJV) "And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Even Saul's own son, Jonathan, who was the heir to the throne, recognised David as Saul's successor, the future King. David at this point was on King Saul's side and he brought glory to Saul's kingdom, yet Saul became jealous of David and he was overtaken by an evil spirit. Instead of welcoming David's successes, Saul tried to get rid of him and so Saul offered his daughter's hand in marriage to David, initially his first daughter, but this offer fell through, and then his second daughter, Michal, fell in love with David, and David agreed. David was asked to bring 100 Philistine foreskins to King Saul for Michal's hand in marriage, and by doing so King Saul secretly hoped that David would fall at the hands of the Philistines, yet instead David triumphed and brought back 200 foreskins. Jonathan later warned David that King Saul, his father, planned to kill David and David fled, leaving behind his wife. Sometime after this, David spared King Saul's life twice when he came upon him, though he had King Saul easily within reach and even though he knew King Saul desired to kill him. David then found abode in Ziklag, ironically, a Philistine town. How sad that a mighty champion of Saul's people fled into the wilderness, right into the camp of the enemy, to find safety for a time and to rebuild his life. Sometime during this period, David almost joined together with the Philistine army to fight with them, but one of the Philistine leaders asked that David be sent away. Meanwhile, Saul consulted a medium, even though doing so was against God's commandments, and Saul was told that David would be King someday and that Saul and his sons would die at the hand of the Philistines. When David arrived back home in Ziklag, he found Ziklag ransacked and burnt down by Amalekites, who had carried away all David owned, including his two wives and all of the town's inhabitants. David's men turned on David in their anguish, but the first thing David did was to consult God to ask what he must do, and then he pursued the raiders with 600 men, 200 of whom couldn't complete the entire journey, and David regained his entire household and all of his belongings and more. He shared what he obtained with the surrounding Israelites, even with the 200 men who couldn't complete the journey with him, and his former fame was rekindled. King Saul was killed in the battle David was turned away from, and Saul fell on his own sword, surrounded by Philistines, and Jonathan and another two of King Saul's sons succumbed at this battle too. I wonder, if David had been part of King Saul's kingdom, would King Saul still have died in this way? Many years later, the Israelites approached David, who was anointed and then appointed as King Of Israel. It seems to me that David was always destined to be King, with or without Saul, and I wonder if Saul's outcome might have been different if Saul had accepted David instead of rejecting him, consequently fighting against God who was with David?

David was far from perfect and later he committed adultery with Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David attempted to conceal the resultant pregnancy by bringing Uriah back from battle so he could sleep with his pregnant wife, but Uriah refused and David then commanded that Uriah be killed. God however punished David for these incorrect choices. What set David's life apart was that he worshiped God through all, even when his son died he accepted God's decision, and David also refused to harm any of God's anointed even were this to be to his favour, Saul being the best example.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Jahi McMath's Story and Life Blood

Jahi McMath went into hospital on the 9th December last year, for a tonsillectomy and other throat surgery. She began to bleed after surgery and bled for hours until she went into cardiac arrest and then had emergency surgery and was hooked up to life support. Three days later her parents were asked to switch off life support, because Jahi was declared brain dead by the hospital. Jahi's mother said Jahi was moving and didn't want to switch off the ventilator, but the hospital insisted. Jahi's mom then went to court to extend Jahi's life support and this led to a bit more than three weeks of extra support. During Jahi's extended life support, the hospital didn't feed her, at all, for 26 days. Her mom took her out of the hospital into outside care a couple of days before the 7 January deadline to switch off the ventilator--at this point the coroner gave Jahi a death certificate backdated to the 12th December. Jahi is now said to be improving, though many people still want to turn off her life support because they say she is "dead" and that a "corpse" shouldn't be treated. Jahi has quickly improved since being fed and being treated with antibiotics and apparently she even moves her head and neck now. I wonder if she still meets the criteria for brain death and I hope she will be legally reassessed. Is it possible that we are wrong about what brain death really means, at least in some cases? Or were doctors horribly mistaken in their diagnosis? I prefer to ignore the possibility that Jahi's medical records were intentionally falsified. Worrying for me is why Jahi's family had to go to court to keep her on life support, as I truly hope that the decision to turn off life support will always rest with the loved one's family.

Whatever one believes, this case gives one much to think about regarding brain death and the resultant complexity of organ donation. Brain death is a somewhat recent criteria to diagnose death, defined during the 1960s, and is a way to harvest hearts that are still beating for organ donation. Some people say donors experience pain on the operating table, because their blood pressure and heart rates soar, and if they aren't given paralysing drugs, then many move. I wonder if the only true criteria for death is when the heart stops beating and therefore when life blood stops circulating. At the very least, organ donors should understand exactly what happens during organ donation, so it's informed consent. The Bible says, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." (Leviticus 17:11 KJV)

If Jahi recovers, then God has performed a wondrous miracle. I do see God's mighty hand working in Jahi's situation. As someone said, maybe this was allowed to happen so that Jahi's organs weren't used for donation, as per the family's personal and religious beliefs, and that her case causes people to question where the criteria for brain death is leading the world, whatever Jahi's outcome may be. Thank you God.

(Note: I may have a few dates slightly wrong, especially due to world time zone differences)

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Our Cat and Problem Eating: the Self Regulation Trap

We used to have a skinny cat. We left dry food out for her all day, so she could help herself to what she needed. Then she began to put on weight. We noticed she was snacking every so often, sometimes 15 minutes after she had just eaten a huge meal, adding up to way more than she should eat. She seemed to be snacking when she was bored, wandering aimlessly around the house, spending less time outside. Then I took the constant food supply away and in the beginning she complained loudly when she wanted food, now she can wait a bit longer before I give in. She looks a bit thinner already, but it's going to take time. Self regulation can be a huge problem. And to think, this happens with people too. We are expected to regulate our meals, but often there's a constant supply of choice. Lots to learn from a cat and her eating.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Assertiveness: The Ability to Say "No"

Do you struggle to say "No"? I thought I was okay with turning requests down, until I volunteered to help out with an event. Well, actually what happened is that I went to an information desk to find out if I needed to book to attend a free music concert. The person thought I was there to find out about volunteering for the event, because people were told to go to the desk to put their names down, and she began rummaging around looking for a piece of paper so I could give her my details. So there I was, only thoughts of attending on my mind and then I ending up feeling obliged to put my name down as a volunteer. What would the woman in front of me think if I said "No, I only want to attend"? I thought. Would this seem extremely selfish of me? I had come to the information desk's attention and I was no longer just one of the crowd of event goers, I was a potential helper. So I smiled nervously and gave her my details. I said I'd be an usher. I hoped they had ushering available. I was sure this would be an easy task to do, because I really wanted to see the event too. Then someone phoned me and said would I stay to clean up afterwards, and I said, "No", quite legitimately, because I said I had children I would need to get home to. "Oh, would you help out with the kid's program on the night?" she asked. "Would I still see the concert?", I said. "No, only the kid's concert", she replied. Well, I do have children, I thought--though I had been thinking of leaving them at home on the night--and I could then bring them with me and watch over them. "Okay" I said. I put the phone down.

How did I go from merely wanting to find out if I needed to book a ticket to a free music event to missing the concert totally? I felt manipulated by the phone calls and the outcome, but I did it all to myself! I phoned back and said, "I don't want to miss the main concert". The person was quite understanding and took my name off the kid's concert roster and said she'd get someone to phone me back with something else to do so I wouldn't miss seeing the concert. Now I'm not sure what I will be given to do. When someone phones me back, if they do, I have resolved to say, "I have changed my mind. I don't want to be a volunteer." I hope no-one phones me.

How much easier things would have been if I had just said, "No", when I was first misunderstood.

Link to related blog article

Leadership / Life Skills Series: Assertiveness

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Father Christmases in Your Life

"Ho, ho, ho" the man in the huge red suit says loudly, his face aglow under his red cap. His white wihskers twitch as he chuckles. Your child stares in amazement at the large brown sack draped at the man's feet and at the golden statues of reindeers strung across the floor. A huge Christmas tree stretches loftily behind the man and the branches are decorated in a sparkling adornment of tinsel and ornaments. This is the epitome of the year for your son or your daughter. All year your child has been told to be good and promises await in an abundance of presents under the tree this year.

Have you ever wondered at the above scenario? No, not because of Santa, who is a figment of imagination. Because of the importance we place on Santa and how important such an event becomes to us and our children. Huge promise is wrapped up in his arrival, yet he is a fleeting once a year event.

Do you have other Santas in your life? Maybe it's a dear uncle or a wonderful friend you see occasionally and you love seeing these people so much that you base your whole life around the when moment--when you next see them. Maybe your children do this too, in a friend who visits every three months for a barbeque and brings them gifts and plays with them all day. They are hyped up when they hear of the friend's arrival. But it's fleeting contact. Or maybe you live all year for your once a year holiday that is a brief couple of week's long and then gone.

Perhaps you could try the following exercise, which I did myself once at a personal development training course: Draw a circle to represent yourself on paper and then draw circles to represent each of your key relationships. If they are close relationships, then draw the circles close to you, even interlinked. Make the bubbles bigger or smaller to depict the importance of the relationship to you. This exercise may be easy for some of you to do and others of you may struggle. Take a step back and have a look at what you see. Do you agree with the picture? Are there people who are emotionally distant you would like to see closer? Or are some of the people who are close, perhaps even enmeshed with you, too close? It is a personal exercise and only you know if you obtain any insights from doing this. It was helpful to me when I did it. I have never taken a step further and asked, are some of these people Father Christmases in my life. Something to ponder on perhaps. Perhaps there are some everyday people we could appreciate more and maybe others we could give more time to but currently all but ignore.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Woman at the Well Shows You Do Belong

The Bible (John 4) mentions a woman from Samaria who Jesus met at a water well as she went to draw water alone in the heat of day. Jesus knew she was a woman who had been married five times before and was now living with a man, and she may therefore have been considered a pariah of society, yet Jesus spoke with her and revealed Himself to her fully and she ran back to the village and told everyone about Jesus. 2000 years later and her story still sparks discussion.

This tale intrigues me because it was a real story, instead of a parable, and also because it shows how down to earth and full of empathy and compassion Jesus was. Jewish people and Samaritans, who were of mixed race, never associated, yet Jesus, who was Jewish, spoke directly to her and used her utensils. He gave her His time and treated her with dignity, a woman whom others may have shunned and she in turn dropped what she was doing and ran back and told the men back in her village about Jesus. It is interesting to me that the verses don't mention her telling other women and there are a few possibilities: she may have been shunned by women and she may have isolated herself  based on what she thought others thought of her or she may have felt what she had to say was so important that she needed to tell the men first. Men of the time would ordinarily ignore much of what women said, yet these men listened to her news and went in search of Jesus. And most importantly, Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman and treated her respectfully.

Jesus saw each person as having value. We are all people, though we may look a bit different and have different colour skins and different backgrounds. Ethnicity doesn't mean much and it didn't mean anything to Jesus in the story above. In fact, it bugs me when people join together across countries based solely on their colour. Shouldn't we join together based on common values instead? For example, I live in Australia now but used to live in South Africa. Many previously tried to imply I didn't belong in Africa because of the colour of my skin. I will always be African. I was born African and now I am Australian, but I will always be an African too. No matter one's colour, one is an inclusive member of one's country of citizenship. I find it unfortunate that the word African is used to denote colour, because I therefore have to say I am a white African, but I am an African nonetheless. I've heard the word Australian used to refer to someone who is a white Australian, but yet colour means nothing. I hope all people who live in Australia and who may look so different from each other will all consider themselves Australians. People may have different personal cultures, but I hope they embrace the culture of the country where they live too.

I see that this principle applies in other facets of life, too. Do you feel unwelcome from society because of some thing, for example, maybe you look different or you just feel different. Maybe you feel others scorn you, and maybe some do. But, you do belong. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Some of you may have been hurt by many people in the past, but leave your past behind. It's not about them, it's about changing the way you feel about you, and then you will likely forget there's a them. Treat everyone you meet with respect and equanimity. We all need relationships. And I hope you bump into Jesus along the way.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Leadership / Life Skills: Personal Values

Your core values are key to personal growth. I have spoken about values before and you may wonder what I mean: values comprise your internal belief system and are beliefs that are important to you. Each person has a different set of values that they use to make decisions with. For example, a career woman who is also a mother will probably place the value of family before all else, even at the expense of her career. If her child's school phones to say her child is ill, she will dash home to fetch her child from school even if she is in the middle of a very important meeting. This woman places the value of family uppermost. Another career woman may have a different set of values and may have decided to delay having children until later in her career. Having a family is unimportant to such a woman and her career is her most important value. Each person is different and will have a set of values that drives his or her decision making. Values become part of a person's integral set of beliefs and drive behaviour.

Do you know what your values are? Try the following exercise--list 7 or more of your key values. Some examples could be: relationships, family, career, faith, relationships, wealth, honesty, your home.

Once you have decided on a list of values, recorder your values and place those that are most important to you first and ones that are least important last. If you value relationships above all else, then make that value number 1, but if honesty is more important to you than relationships then change the order. It may take some time to sift through your list. The placement of your values provides insight, because a different set of values means different behaviour, for example, if you always keep the peace even at the expense of honesty, then your personal values will be very different to someone who is always honest, even at the expense of relationships with people. There may be occasions when you swap the order of your values around, but generally you will have an overriding set of values you fall back on under pressure.

Knowing one's values is a key step in knowing one's core self. Personal values explain why people make different decisions and have different ethics given the same set of circumstances. For example, some people are against abortion and others are for abortion given certain circumstances, and these individual views, which are ethics, are a direct consequence of each one's personal set of values.

This exercise may be easy for some people to do and quite difficult for others. I found it quite challenging to list my values when I first attempted to, as I had never thought about the driving forces behind my behaviour before. Now I realise that my values underpin much of my life and my core beliefs.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Leadership / Life Skills: Assertiveness

Assertiveness is a style in which you openly communicate your thoughts without forcing them onto others.

Four communication modes are part of an assertiveness continuum:
  • Passive: your wants and needs are avoided or denied
  • Passive-aggressive: you want to push your own agenda without seeming to or you say what you want indirectly
  • Assertive: you communicate your thoughts openly and directly without aggression 
  • Aggressive: you push what you want aggressively, with no thought of the other person

For example, if you and your friend are discussing plans for lunch and your friend asks, "Where would you like to go for lunch?", a passive answer might be, "I don't know, you choose". In this case, you prefer to leave the choice totally to your friend, as you either don't mind at all where you go or else you feel you cannot offer your own opinion. However, if your friend makes a choice and you don't like the venue but don't want to say so directly, you might switch to a passive-aggressive response and say, "Well, I suppose that's okay. Wasn't that a bit boring the last time we went there?" You are giving a strong hint that the choice is unsuitable, but you do so in an indirect way; you might find yourself agreeing to go to the venue even if you prefer not to. Passive-aggressive responses are often manipulative responses. An assertive response instead would be, "No, I don't like that venue as I thought it was boring there the last time we went. What about the place we went to on your birthday?" In an assertive response, you openly state what you think without fear of ridicule. An aggressive response in this scenario might be, "That's a terrible venue. I want to go to the place we went to on your birthday and if we don't go there then I am not going." In an aggressive response, you push your point of view. There is often a fine line between aggressive and assertive responses, as sometimes you may need to be assertive repeatedly to protect your boundaries, which could seem like aggression, but when you are assertive, you avoid showing anger and pushing your own point of view. You might never change your mind about a specific point of view, but you are comfortable if others disagree with you and you are comfortable when you disagree with others.

Assertiveness includes the ability to say, "No", for example, if someone asks you if you would like to go for coffee and you prefer not to, then say no. If you are assertive when you communicate with others, you are less likely to mull over bad choices you feel you were coerced into and that you shouldn't have made.

You may find that the more you make use of an assertiveness style, the higher your self esteem may be.

Jesus said, "But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No' be 'No.' Whatever is more than these is of the evil one." (Matthew 5:37 WEB)

Link to related articles:
A follow on article: Assertiveness: the ability to say "No"
I discovered this website which has articles about required leadership skills: Leadership Skills You Need

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Education is Key to Life: Leadership Skills for Everyone

Do you want to change your life? Perhaps you feel life is a boring routine, or maybe you constantly repeat patterns you wish you could break free from, or else you are stuck in poverty and have no idea how to break the cycle. Or perhaps you are working in a job you dislike and you never followed your true calling and there's no time to even think of planning a different future.

Well, you have made it through to the right door. This blog contains many topics that I hope will provide inspiration and strategies to a different future. I believe that education is key to change. And not only education that comes from memorising a set of facts at school, but education on basic life skills, which encompasses leadership skills. I have already blogged about concepts such as this in previous topics, and over the coming weeks I plan to focus on topics like assertiveness, conflict management, communication skills, defining your personal set of values, emotional intelligence and more. Many of these skills I learnt when I attended short courses at a management training college when I worked for a large organisation. Some of the topics I plan to blog about were reserved for upper echelons of management, yet when I learnt about them I thought, wow, I wish I had known some of these principles sooner as they help with life. Many people do learn about, for example, successful conflict management if they grow up in families where this is successfully modelled by the parents, but many other children grow up in families where conflict management means a physical beating or where it is avoided.

When you read about some of the skills you might think, that's so obvious, yet often many struggle to quantify these skills and seeing some of these principles simply stated makes it so much easier to put into practice. Something I have discovered is that often what seems simple to many, is the very key people have been searching for.

I have realised though that I may sometimes explain things differently to how others would explain them, so please mull over what I say and see if you can turn it around to fit your situation. Maybe I have already provided some keys earlier in this blog, or even in my first book which is easier to read than my blog--it's free to read at the moment on issuu, just look for the link on one of the pages on my blog.

Often There is Room For More Than One Right Answer

"Can anyone explain to me what an even number is and what an odd number is?" the teacher asks.
Hands shoot into the air, many seven year olds eager to show they know the answer.
The teacher points at one sandy haired boy. He smiles and says proudly, "Well, an even number is, for example, 10 and if you break it into two equal parts you get 5 each".
The teacher stares at him for hardly a moment and says scornfully, "No, that's not an even number" She explains the concept in a different way, saying an even number gets bigger in twos, and then writes a few even numbers and a few odd number on the board.

I mull over what has just happened. I realise the boy was trying to say you are able to divide an even number in half and the result is a whole number, which is indeed what an even number is. The teacher used different words to explain the same concept, yet thought the boy's answer was wrong as she just did not understand his use of language. The teacher may have even thought the boy was stupid because of the way he explained the concept, yet perhaps he understood the concept better than any other child there. I said to him afterwards, sometimes people don't understand what others are saying, and he said "Yes" in reply with a serious look on his face. I hope, if he experiences this problem a few times in coming years, that he is able to learn to live in a world that may struggle to understand his point of view.

I wonder, how often do we miss what someone else is trying to say because we are so focused on the way something has always been done, that we miss seeing an enlightening new possibility. Often there is room for more than one right answer. Sometimes the people we laugh at may actually be ahead of us, not behind.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

What Does a Second Chance Look Like?

I believe in giving people second chances. I know that God gives people second chances. But what does a second chance look like in the world we live in?

For example, perhaps you said and did quite a few wrong things to your colleagues at work and your manager fired you. You now have to find another company that will hire you, but your record says that you were fired. Or it is even possible that you approach your previous manager again after a few months, wholly repentant, and you ask for another opportunity to prove your worth. In any of these scenarios, you will count yourself fortunate if you are given a second chance to work in that line of work again and to make things work out.

But what will your second chance look like? Your record shows the mistakes that you are prone to make and perhaps you are prone to repeat patternd of behaviour you are unable to shake. Perhaps you are even unable to totally see where you are going wrong, but you know something is amiss and needs to change. Your second chance may be couched in tough terms, for example, the manager may say you may work here, but these are the conditions you must work under and after three months we will give you more freedom in your role, but this is a necessary probation period to prove that you have changed. Will you take this opportunity, which is a seocnd chance, though it might look like a set of confining conditions, or do you walk away?

Second chances in this world don't necessarily mean all is forgiven and the slate is wiped clean and you are free to start from scratch again. People may have been hurt. People have long memories. Second chances sometimes mean you have to prove yourself and to start below where you started out initially. You have to earn trust. You have to show you are repentant and that you have changed.

Don't waste the second chances you are given because they seem to have too strict conditions attached. You were at fault and you need to make amends and to work for your freedom. People may understand that you have been through a tough life and that you may have patterns that need to change, but they will not accept, at least not more than a few times, continual negative patterns of destructive behaviour that impact others. You have a choice--you can change. Recognise that this opportunity may never come your way again and work hard to show you can break through the barriers of the past, and change your limiting behaviour patterns. Grab hold of your second chances when they come your way.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Lesson From Bella--Being Unaware of Wrongdoing

In my blog post titled, Lesson From Bella--Just Stay Where You Are, I mentioned that Bella the dog sneaks onto a softer blanket than her designated blanket at any opportunity, yet when I find her there and get angry because she has moved there yet again, she cowers as if unaware of what she has done. Surely this time she must know that she has done wrong, I think, yet still Bella cowers and stays put until I pick her up and carry her back to her blanket. I have realised that if she truly did know that she was doing wrong, she would show guilt and run back to her own blanket as soon as she saw me walk into the room.

I have realised that the same concept may apply to people, for example, I might think someone is deliberately being tardy if he or she is always late for meetings; it is easy to draw the conclusion that the person is doing this deliberately and wilfully, especially if it is a pattern of regular behaviour. Yet assumptions are dangerous and I need to check my assumption with the person concerned. More importantly, I should tell the person exactly what is bothering me, or the situation may continue unchecked and may be detrimental to both of us eventually. And there may be valid reasons for the person constantly arriving late. A general statement in the office that states that people must be on time might not  resolve the problem, for the person might genuinely believe that being five minutes late is on time.

So often we see slights against us or we assume deliberate malignant behaviour, yet perhaps most of the time people are innocent and oblivious to their own faulty patterns of behaviour. Clarifying assumptions and clear communication might avoid much hurt later.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Problem with Money When Motivating For Charity

Fictitious case study: Volunteers decide to start a charity out of compassion for people. The charity grows so big it is able to begin to pay the volunteers for their time. People move into positions of power. They ask for volunteers to keep running the tasks that help the community directly. Paid employees do the "real work", like data reports and admin. The charity influences the government to cut social security payments, so people in the community can go back to work and rely on them less, but what really happens is that the demand for the charity's services grow. The charity now puts out word that they need more funding. Most of the funding goes to keep the charity's staff employed. Volunteers keep running the community services.
This is  a hypothetical situation and there are many wonderful charities out there, with wonderful intentions, but there may also be some organisations out there where there good intentions are a front for self interest.  Hopefully we will be able to tell the difference.
  • How does one ensure that most of the funding given to charities goes to the people in the community who need it, not to support the charity's structures?
  • How do you ensure that volunteers are still willing to give time when they see people around them being paid to do the same tasks that they do, or sometimes even less work? Or do you make it a rule to pay all or none?
  • Awareness  of the dynamics that exist between organisations and their network structures, e.g. between this charity and government. If a charity can influence government decisions, why did they make the request to cut people's source of money? Was it to do good to the community, or to assist themselves?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Lesson From Bella--Just Stay Where You Are

We have a small dog called Bella. I have written about her before. Bella loves to lie on soft blankets. I will often spread out a blanket for her to lie on, usually on the couch, so that she can be part of the family life inside. The problem with Bella is that she is not satisfied staying on that blanket. She will sometimes wait until I am out of the room and then sneak into another spot, often onto a softer blanket. When she does this, I tell her she is a bad dog for not listening and I expect her to act as if she is guilty and to move, yet usually she cowers where she is and doesn't seem to understand what she has done wrong. I guess from her point of view, she was merely moving to where it seemed warmer, and then I came in and began to yell at her for no reason that she understood. This is like wondering why someone keeps doing the same thing wrong over and over, but have you ever explained to the person what he or she was doing wrong? Maybe the person has no idea! Of course, if Bella keeps doing this, I'm going to send her outside or to another spot where she can't get onto the other blankets, so she should have remained where she was.

Something else that Bella will sometimes do is get up from where she was lying down quite comfortably, to see what I am doing in the kitchen. Normally I am not doing much that would interest her, and then I get irritated when I see Bella hovering, watching me, so I open the kitchen door and let her out. Of course she didn't really want to go outside, she wanted to see what I am doing, in case she missed something, and I might hear her whining outside to be let in a short while later. If only she would understand that she should remain where she is in the first place, as it is much more comfortable, than to make a nuisance of herself.

So, on the one hand, Bella sneaks off to find a more comfortable spot, or on the other hand, she sneaks off to see what other people are up to. Both times, if she only stayed where she was, she might be happier. I guess there is a lesson for people in that too!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse

I read an article today that said that consensual sex between a child and an adult is not really rape--I can vaguely see why this man would say this, because he thought the child went along with what he wanted. But did the child really? A child does not normally go around wanting to have sex with adults. A child has no concept of sex unless this is taught to the child by someone else, be this by an adult, from a growing up program at school (leading to experimentation), or from other children. So, somehow, the child thought or learnt that this behaviour would be rewarded. I would suggest that if someone has what he terms, "consensual sex" with a child, that that someone was devious enough to manipulate such a child into rewarding sexual behaviour, perhaps for treats or by giving and withholding love.

If you ask most children, do you want to try this, be it anything, the child will agree, often not knowing what is to come. Children have a real desire to please adults. What happens when a child is asked to show their privates to a trusted adult? Some will agree. Not all of them, but then these children are excluded from further grooming if there are other children available as targets. If there are no other targets, for example, in a closed family environment, the perpetrator might try just the harder to convince the child to trade favours. All the while, the perpetrator will make sure the child keeps a secret and also that the child knows that he or she is party to this deviant behaviour, so that the child feels enough shame and guilt to keep quiet. Often a child will keep quiet because there is genuine love for the perpetrator and the child does not want him or her to get into trouble.

What can be done? Firstly, all child sexual abuse is wrong. If you are approached by a child sexually, make sure you  ignore the behaviour. Don't be fooled into thinking the child truly desires sex, especially if puberty hasn't hit. Make sure you report the behaviour too. Sometimes this behaviour can be learnt innocently on the playground, because children do have a fascination for differences, or else it could have been learnt from an older child (this could even be an abused child), but what if it was learnt by an adult's approach? Secondly, teach your child to say a firm, "no!" if approached. Perpetrators choose their targets carefully, and a child who is firm about boundaries will likely be safer. Thirdly, never condone sexual acts on children!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Devil Is In the Details--Musing on Interpretation

I've wondered about the expression, the devil is in the details. Today I read in Wikipedia that a similar expression is, God is in the detail. So, right from the beginning of my blog article, I spot a difference of interpretation!

I grew up in a family home that God was not part of. Sundays were days to go and visit family. Church was ignored. I changed my beliefs only a few short years ago in my adult years and began to go to church. I became fixated on which denomination was the right one for me. And then I tried to volunteer at the first church I attended in earnest and found this was a difficult thing to do. Why?! I understand now that I was perhaps too impatient and did not understand cultural norms, but that particular church did not feel right for me then, especially when a Pastor ignored my questioning this, and I walked on. I began to attend a few churches, to see which one felt right. None did. For example, I wondered why none of the churches emphasised the Ten Commandments. This was important to me, something I kept as a marker in the back of my mind, perhaps a holdover from attending Catholic Church a few times with my mom. I brought the topic up in a training course for new Christians at the next church, one I was invited to and which I then decided on, and they said The Law was done away with for new Christians. I didn't know what they meant: of course I was not going to celebrate Passover, but surely the Ten Commandments was still important? So I began to attend a church that kept the Saturday Sabbath, because maybe that was what the Ten Commandments was trying to tell me. And then an elderly person I met there died of cancer, and I felt lost again, and in addition I wondered why they collected money on the Sabbath, for Jewish people do not collect money on their Saturday Sabbath, and after that I lost my desire to celebrate Saturday Sabbath. So I was back to wondering which church was right for me. I decided to go back to one I left. It is difficult to find a church if you have not grown up as part of a particular denomination. In fact, I discovered people questioned why I wanted to attend some of the churches I did, because they seemed to find it odd that I would just arrive out of nowhere. I think I have settled on a church now and I pray God leads the way for me.

In all of the above, I see that the devil may be in the detail. One can say one follows God, but are the Ten Commandments important, or aren't they? Is the name of God, Jehovah and/or Yahweh, or should we just say God or LORD or Lord? And some people say Jesus is Yahweh and some say He is the Son of God, not to be confused with Yahweh, God the Father. So, the devil may be in the details, because these details can lead us astray from following God. In many ways I wish I could but say, I am a Christian and I follow the Bible the best way I can, and there are no denominations, only churches with different cultures and their own different ways of interpreting the Bible, but the Bible is the real cornerstone. Yet, even Bibles have different translations, and I learnt recently that the original Hebrew that used to have written YHWH (Yahweh) and Adonai was replaced by LORD and Lord respectively. I used to think Lord and LORD were the same, just the one with more of an emphasis, but they actually reference the names of different divinities  Should I therefore just use the word God so I don't go wrong? But I was once present in a room where many people took an oath under God, and there were many different religions present--they were taking oaths to different Gods. I would like to know my God by name.

Just as the devil may be in the details, God is also in the detail, because there is untruth and somehow, somewhere, there is also God's truth.

Father God in Heaven, I pray that from this moment on, you lead us into truth, so we may worship you in spirit and in truth. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Friday, 2 August 2013

My Personal Brand: a Different View of Life

I missed attending a short training course I was told about called "Building a Personal Brand", but it is a topic I have thought about and it has relevance for me as a writer.

How would I describe my personal brand to my readers? I write about different ways to view everyday subjects and thereby a change in perception. I write about my view of the world, which is often very different from the norm. I write about all I have learnt on my own journey, much of this from leadership skills trainig courses, yet I see that this information learnt is of relevance to everyone, not only to leaders. And I see that I write about what people are normally advised to steer clear of. I write about the things I see that irritate me and where I think things should be different. I write about religion and sometimes about politics, though not politics from a political party point of view, just things that I see as possibly pertaining to politics, for example, that I disagree with majority votes or my views on discimination. In short, what I write is personal opinion.

A book expert once asked me, how am I qualified to write about the topics that I do write about. My first reaction was to go on the defensive, as I felt on the backfoot, and to retaliate with my expertise: I mentioned that I have a degree with a major in psychology and that I have attended a number of short personal leadership courses, but yet I realise that this did not really qualify. For me to be seen as an expert, I would need to study more. But would a postgraduate degree really make a difference to who I already am? Ultimately, no, though many of my ideas are fluid and change as I gain new insights. I hope the ideas can stand on their own, irrespective of who I actually am, and for my readers to ponder and come to their own insights. I see myself as a catalyst for change, as people may disagree with what I write, but then this may spark additional views and insight.

What is important to me is that I write about what I know. I am qualified to write about my topics because I have lived them. I have not researched my topics extensively, in fact when I first began to write, I made a point to steer clear of research so I could write what I know and how I see things without being influenced by others. Of course, I did not come to these insights alone and I have read widely and some of what I write about may have been part of my psychology studies too, but I don't always remember which parts were, because the knowledge is an innate part of me now and is the sum total of my experiences.

I may research my topics more extensively to write further books, especially as I would like to put down some of the key learnings I found useful. Hopefully I will get there someday.

My personal brand is life; complicated and oft painful life as I see it through my own lenses of perception. I hope you may find some of your own insights through my viewpoints. I would love to take a journey with all who read my thoughts and thereby to expand my perception to greater insights in future.

Link to related blog articles:
What is the business case for my blog?
Who do I write to?
Why did I write my (first) book?