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At the Hour of our DEATH…

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Two years ago, my father, in the presence of his devoted wife and his eldest son, kissed the world goodbye. I am trying to cultivate a habit of attending mass on his memorial. Today on my way to mass I pondered many things. Yes I miss my father but after the end of my ponders, all I could say was Laudate Yesus Kristus- Praise be to Jesus.

All parents have dreams for their children. They pray for success for them, that they may live a good life, that they may not fall, that the world would be kind to them, that their dreams may come true. All noble and valid dreams. They can only hope we live the dreams. Sometimes, many times, we disappoints, but the candle of their hope always burns. The irony is the values and character instilled in us by those long gone manifest brighter because we try to live true to those things they inspired us to become… Laudate Yesus Kristus

I had dreams with/for my father. I prayed that I would finish high school well, and that he would be there when I graduated. God granted me that. I prayed that he would see me graduate from college. God kept him healthy not only for my undergraduate, but for my graduate degree too. I prayed that he would walk me down the isle. God made it happen. I prayed that he would see his grandchildren by me, and yes, God made that happen too. My regret is he did not get to meet his granddaughter, but then maybe I am dreaming too much. I thank God because I lived my dream moments with him. Not all, but then again, God is faithful… Laudate Yesus Kristus.

Grief is hard. There is no formula for going through grief. A part of us dies when those we love die. We handle grief differently. Some of us shut ourselves in. Others will want to be constantly in the presence of others. Others choose silence. Others chooses bitterness and self pity. Others just survive, one day at a time. Others do all these all at a go or in phases. In my grief, I found someone to be strong for. My daughter. Maybe my formula can work for someone else. Who can we be strong for in our grief? Our parents? Our spouses? Our siblings? Best friend? Who can act as that pillar so that every time we look or feel them we are encouraged to soldier on? When grief strikes, it is easy to let it swallow us but when all is gone, we must go on. They have lived their life. They have fought their wars. They have run their race. We still have a race to run. We must soldier on. This can be something to help us grieve in strength… Laudate Yesus Kristus

Every hour that passes brings us closer to the hour of our death. Today reminded me that each passing moment I get closer to the hour of my death. How am I preparing for this hour, for myself and for those I love. I know that my dad did many things for us before he left. The toughest most families face is administration of their estates. He did it all. Am I prepared for departure? May we live in a way that when that hour comes we will not start a bargain with Christ, if we will have a chance, but we will say, here I am Lord, I am ready to come home… Laudate Yesus Kristus

Friendships count. I cry many times when I think of my father. I would cry because he was gone. I still cry, but not because I will not see him again. I cry  because of the kindness of the friends in my life. Their sacrifices were beyond what any human person could imagine. I can never repay that, but my dear friends, just know in my heart I give thanks to God for you and I pray that whenever you will need a shoulder to cry on, some pillar to lean on, someone to smile with and laugh and be silly and pray with and for you, that God will provide one for you, maybe not me, but for sure God will remember your kindness and for the same measure you gave, it will be measured to you, plus a little more to overflow… Laudate Yesu Kristus

 

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Article 49- The Sanctity and the dignity of the Human Person- Part II Dignity

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Merriam Webster Dictionary defines dignity as the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect. Human dignity is a central consideration of Christian philosophy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church insists the dignity of the human person is rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God. This augments the argument on the sanctity of the person. Because man is created holy due to the fact that he is in the image and likeness of God who is Holy, then, each human person is worthy of honor and respect. Human dignity is something that can’t be taken away. Catholic Social Teaching states that each and every person has value, are worthy of great respect and must be free from slavery, manipulation and exploitation. “Catholic social teaching believes that human beings, created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), have by their very existence an inherent value, worth, and distinction” (Daniel Groody “Globalization, Spirituality and Justice”).

The Bible teaches us that we are all one in Christ and should therefore be treated equally without discrimination – Galatians 3:28 ; There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Treating others with dignity follows the golden rule, that is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated. If you would wish to be given a drink when thirsty, then give a drink to the thirsty, if you would not wish anyone to steal your property, then do not steal, if you desire to be respected, please respect, if you want to be treated kindly and with mercy, the be kind and merciful. There are many ways of treating each other with dignity and honor and respect for instance respect, food provision, security, clothing and use of proper language.

SexualityI am however going to focus my article on sexuality. A contemporary definition of Human sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves sexually.  This includes physical, emotional, social and biological ways among others. The biological and physical aspects of sexuality largely concern the human reproductive functions including the human sexual response cycle for both male and female. Physical and emotional aspects of sexuality involve the bonds that are expressed through physical manifestations like touching, kissing, caressing and the conjugal act, or emotional manifestations like trust, love and care.  Social aspects express the effects of human society on one’s sexuality.

Sexuality 2The Catholic Church teaches that human life and human sexuality are inseparable. From deductive reasoning, since God created human beings in His own image and likeness, hence our holiness, and he found His creation to be very good, human body and sex then must also be very good. The Church considers the expression of love between husband and wife in the conjugal act to be an elevated form of human activity, joining husband and wife in complete, mutual self-giving, and opening their relationship to new life. Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. And this marks the church’s teaching of application of the conjugal act.  In the Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI explained that the sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is noble and worthy and very good. The church teaches that sex is unitive and procreative, purposes which are not mutually exclusive. You cannot achieve one purpose and exclude the other. And since it is designated for couples, it exclusive to that particular couple. The conjugal love aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul since marriage is a sign of the Love between God and Humanity.

The Catechism further teaches about chastity as a way of respect of ones sexuality. It explains that chastity is the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman. Meaning that how we express ourselves sexually should be a way in honor of that special bond between a man and woman. Anything that contradicts this love and honor becomes wrong and offends not only the intention but also the people violating the intentions. Chastity is thus a way of dignifying our sexuality. Chastity is a journey of self-mastery where either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. Human Dignity requires each one of us to act towards self-mastery, by freely choosing to do what is right by his diligence and skill, ensuring that he/she does not offend the virtue of chastity, whether his/her own or of those he/she interacts with.  We should cultivate chastity in the way that is suited to our state of life. Married people are called to live conjugal chastity or conjugal fidelity.

Societal trends view the body as an object of pleasure or as a machine for manipulation. In these cases, sexual expression is sought outside sacramental marriage for the sole purpose of selfish pleasure or lustful reasons and the procreative function of sexual expression within marriage is deliberately frustrated. In sexuality this is manifested by individual pursuit of satisfaction of lust. Lust is a disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. For instance in;

Masturbation where there is deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure;

Fornication which is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman – contrary to the intention of sex naturally ordered for the good of the spouses and transmission of life;

Adultery which refers to marital infidelity, that is, two partners, of whom at least one is married to another party, have sexual relations – even transient ones; Incest which is intimate relations between relatives within which marriage is prohibited against them;

Pornography which consists of removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties thus offending chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, that is,  the intimate giving of spouses to each other, it does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, and the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others and it immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world;

Prostitution which does injury to the dignity of the person who engages in it, reducing the person to an instrument of sexual pleasure while the one who pays sins gravely against himself by violating his own gift of chastity and offending the one he pays by objectifying the person; and

Rape which is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person – deeply wounding the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life.

 In the Theology of the Body, St. John Paul II encourages a true reverence for the gift of our sexuality and challenges us to live it in a way worthy of our great dignity as human persons. We are therefore called to live worthy and honorable lives with regard to our sexuality. We should live chaste lives with regard to our state of life, whether unmarried, celibate or married. We should pray for graces to avoid anything that offends our own chastity and the chastity of those we interact with because in doing so we are treating them with the sexual dignity that we all deserve.

Article 48- The Sanctity and the Dignity of the Human Person- Part I ;Sanctity

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sactityMerriam Webster Dictionary defines Sanctity as the quality or state of being holy or sacred or Holiness of life and character. Holy means devoted entirely to God, or consecrated to God, or set apart for God. According to Catholic Resources website, The Catholic church teaches that Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, Who is its sole end.

From the scripture, we gather that each of us is unique and special to God and each of us here is on a special assignment. Jeremiah 1:5 says “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” This implies that we are not here by accident, the Lord fashioned us, not just to be but for Himself. Psalms 139:13-16 further says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” From the moment of conception, God delights in us because the author of Psalms further proclaims this by saying that God’s works are wonderful. This is augmented in Genesis where after creation of man God says that He looked at everything and saw it was VERY GOOD.

From the scripture we also gather that we are not only unique and special, but also holy. This is because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Because God is Holy and we are created in His likeness, we too are Holy. It is in this regard that we are constantly urged in the scripture to live holy and pure lives, consecrated to God. 1 Peter 1:15 says that He that called us and consecrated us is Holy and we too need to be Holy in all manner of conversations. Not only in conversations but also in total offering of ourselves, mind body and soul, as pleasing sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2).

It is a general trend to treat places of worship with respect. People dress decently, they approach the places with lowliness, we observe silence, avoiding social activities in places of worship e.g. partying and drinking, we maintain order, we keep them sparkling clean, we decorate them with flowers, we even avoid any form of distraction like ringing phones, texting and others even do not wear shoes to such places. We avoid any form of behavior that we would associate with lack of holiness. We revere this places and treat them with the respect and dignity which they deserve. One thing every major religion has in common is an aversion to scantily-clad mortals in its houses of worship. For guys, shorts are almost always a no-no, and for girls, short skirts, visible shoulders and under-arms are often frowned upon and cleavage exposure are equally taboo. It is uncommon to fight in church, to display pornographic content, hold beer parties, and walk naked into these places or conduct trade among others. We believe that these activities would be disrespectful to God. It is a general understanding that we should not do anything to defile these places. Christ, when he found people trading in the temple whipped and chased them all away because they were defiling what is Holy with unholy acts. Before we even treat the buildings with the holiness they deserve, we should remember that we are the first temple and should treat ourselves and each other as Holy temples of God.

The scriptures declare that the body is a temple (1 Cor. 3:16–17). It requires us therefore to treat ourselves and those who we interact with as temples of God. What would happen if we truly treated our bodies as temples? The result would be a dramatic increase in chastity, modesty, observance of the Word, decrease in the problems of pornography, abuse -physical, emotional, sexual, economic, verbal,etc-, immorality, slander, lying, adultery, fornication,  among others for we would regard the body, like the temple, as a sacred sanctuary of the Spirit. Just as no unclean thing may enter the temple, we would be vigilant to keep impurity of any sort from entering the temple of our bodies. These impurities are acquired through the things we see, the thoughts we entertain, our acts and our words. This encourages us today to ask ourselves, is what I am doing defiling the temple that I am? Am I thinking pure thoughts? Is what I intend to do going to defile the sanctity of my friend, my child, my spouse, my neighbor? Paul in His letter to the Philippians urges us that “In your relationships with one another, we should have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)”.  Would Jesus be filming that pornographic video and putting it online? Would he be downloading and watching? Would he be capturing nude photos of my girlfriend for purpose of sending it to others? Would He be beating the wife or planning to kill her? Would He be encouraging young people to procure abortions? Would he be tapping that a**. Would he be scheming how to rape his daughter or be involved in paedophile? Would he be organising mass bombings?

In conclusion, our bodies are God’s sacred creation. We should respect them as a gift from God and not defile them in any way. We should live constantly questioning ourselves what churches we are providing for Christ in our bodies and what respect we accord God’s church in regard to how we treat others’ bodies. We should live in such a way we always exalt Christ so we may not ashame Him in life or in death (Philippians 1:20).

Therefore let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

In Death we are alive in Christ; Deathly Meditation

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Ever since my dad passed on, I have been meditating a lot about death. I don’t know if meditation is the right word. I have been thinking about death a lot anyway. It strikes me that although we all appreciate its eventuality, and its certainty, and we all know it does come, we are never really prepared for it. It still strikes us with  a blow that leaves us breathless, leaves us wanting just one more second, one more hour, one more day with those whom we loved and are gone.

I wonder, given a chance, those who have gone, would they also wish for the same? One more day on earth; One more second with their beloved; One more time to make things right. Why would that be so? Is it because of the uncertainty of the end of one phase and the beginning of the perceived next?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Death is the end of earthly Life. Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, we grow old, we die. Death is a norm to life. The aspect of death however leads to a realization that we are here for a limited time.   Death is a fact, but its the condition of death that is in doubt. For those who die in Christ’s Grace, it is a participation in the death of the Lord so that they can share in his resurrection. To rise in Christ, we must die in Christ. We must, in that time of departure, be away from the body and be at home with the Lord. To a christian then, death is a gain not a loss.

We know then that to get to heaven, we must die in a state of grace, a state of no sin, a state of purity for nothing untainted can enter heaven. Each of us sins within the minute in thoughts, words and deed. Is it even possible to die in a state of grace? How do we work on ourselves so that if we do meet our maker we will be granted the gift of heaven? What are our constant thoughts? Planning evil against someone? How we will tell that juicy story about someones mistakes to that seat mate in class who doesn’t care? How we will yell at our bosses for offending us? What clouds our thoughts most days? What clouds our actions? Are we lying? Seducing the secretary who we well know is married? Promoting pornography by sharing that explicit image or video? What are we constantly saying? A kind and encouraging word or that abuse that makes people block their children’s ears? Are we backbiting? Spreading rumors? Building the courage of someone? If I am to die this moment what will be my state? How then do we attain heaven in our continuous sinful state?

This brings me to my next fascination. Religious Martyrs. Their passion in preaching Christ and their zeal in dying for that which they believed in. There are those who died very gross deaths, “Hang, Drawn and Quartered (Many English Martyrs)”, beheading (St. Cecilia), stoning (St. Stephen), goring by and angry bull (Perpetua and Felicity), starvation, burning (Joan of Arc), being shot, yet the potential of that end did not deter them from doing good, renouncing evil even in presence of authority that would endanger that messenger.  Death was a welcome joy. It was a desired end to attain a greater life to come. While we dread this end, many of these saints looked forward, yearned, hungered for it. What is the difference? What differentiates them from us? I will pretend I understand when St. Paul said “My desire is to depart and be with Christ”; or when he says “My earthly desire has been crucified;. . . there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me; Come to the Father. I want to see God and in order to see Him I must die. I am not dying, I am entering life“; or  St. Francis of Assisi in his song “All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death, From whose embrace no mortal can escape.Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your will!The second death can do them no harm.Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks. And serve him with great humility“; St. Augustine of Hippo when he said, “Christ’s martyrs feared neither death nor pain. He triumphed in them who lived in them; and they, who lived not for themselves but for Him, found in death itself the way to life”; St. Clare, on her deathbed speaking to herself Said, “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear; for He that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be Thou, O God, for having created me,”; or the Holy Hermit in the words, “I have always kept death before my eyes and therefore, now that it has arrived, I see nothing new in it.”  

The Church encourages us to prepare for the hour of our death. It even invokes intercession of our mother Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Why is his important, because we know not the day or the hour. I have visited patients in ICU, and I know how helpless it is to watch one we love at that state, between life and death. I do not know what capacity they have, but I assume they are in no position whatsoever to pray for themselves. I assume, maybe they can pray for themselves. I do not know what transpires between one and his or her creator before they breath their last. I know that we all need to live in constant penance and confession and avoidance of mortal sin. Penance for ourselves, penance for those who needs our prayers for the hour of their death, and penance for those gone before us. Why do they need penance? Why do we need penance? Penance is form of “punishment” for wrongdoing. It follows the logic that when we wrong the people we wrong, even when we do confess, we need a form of compensation for the sin, some kind of reparation for the consequence of our wrong doing. For instance, if I steal a cow from my neighbor, I confess my wrong doing, I am expected to return this cow, or equivalent for reparation of the consequences of the wrong inflicted. I cannot do away with all the consequences of that. Some sins however do not have direct consequence, so as a reparation for them, we perform acts of charity or prayers or any other acceptable noble activity to repair this wounded relationship, between ourselves and God, within ourselves and between ourselves and fellow men. The bigger question will be, if I stole a cow, I confess my sins, and I die, before I return the cow or its equivalent, will I go to heaven? am I in a sate of grace?

The church teaches us that every of our actions, every thought, should be of those who expect to die before the day ends. Death should no longer be a terror for us if we have a quiet conscience. We need to keep it clear of sin instead of running away from death. If we are not ready for death today, it is highly unlikely we will be tomorrow. May our long gone before saints inspire us with their words to live this life with eternity in our minds, because, death is just a gateway to eternity. St Bonaventure says that, “…to lead a good life a man should always imagine himself at the hour of death…”, St. Alphonsus augments this argument in his sayings “…if you believe that you must die, that there is an eternity, that you can die only once, and that if you then err your error will be forever, irreparable, why do you not resolve to begin at this moment, to do all in your power to secure a good death?…; …Oh! hasten to apply a remedy in time, resolve to give yourself sincerely to God, and begin from this moment a life which, at the hour of death, will be to you a source, not of affliction, but of consolation. Give yourself up to prayer, frequent the sacraments, avoid all dangerous occasions, and, if necessary, leave the world, secure yourself eternal salvation, and be persuaded that to secure eternal life no precaution can be too great, and , “…if you wish to live well, spend the remaining days of life with death before your eyes.”

Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.  It therefore implies that facing the hour of death unprepared could easily be the greatest mistake of our lives. We do not know the day nor the hour, but we do know with iron-clad certitude that death comes for us all. The only logical conclusion to be reached is that we must begin training for this final confrontation today. We must strengthen ourselves against our vices and our attachment to sins, through prayer and penance. We must become dedicated to never losing the state of grace, and to rooting out even the smaller sins to which we have become habituated. If we cannot win a simple battle with our unseen tempters while we are yet strong and in good health, how can we hope to overcome their final, tangible assault as we lay weak and dying? Does this mean we stop living and start dieing? No, it means we live with the end in mind. We start living our heaven here. We make every moment count so that the answer to the question, “If Christ was to come now would you continue doing what He currently finds you doing?”, Would be a resounding YES. May we be prepared, may we live in readiness, may we always be ready for the transformation to the life of the world to come.

 

Life Lessons – On Marriage

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Two months ago, on 2nd September, 2017,   I attended a friends’ wedding at the Holy Family Basilica. There are many things that make weddings exciting, from the flowers, the happy faces, the smiling people, the wonderfully adorned bride and the her carefully selected bridal party, the charming girls and boys, the music… the list is endless. While weddings still make me cry, I want to share the teachings from this one from the celebrating priest…

  1. The people who cause us so much heartache and pain are the people we love the most. Those who are supposed to bring joy into our life. The pain can be caused by anything, from continued neglection, criticism, lack of responsibility, distancing self from your spouse, cheating, not defending your spouse from externalities from other people among others. Our spouses will hurt us, more than once. We are human and it is that weakness that make us wrong those we come in contact with many times. Our humanity though is perfected in Christ. In Christ we can look at the other person, acknowledge our weakness and tell them, I am sorry. In apologizing we acknowledge that we are ready to start all over. In a clean slate. In seeking forgiveness, we acknowledge we have caused hurt, and that we are ready to mend the wound that we have inflicted. We acknowledge responsibility of inflicting that wound and seek never to wound again.
  2. God institutes Marriage. God sustains marriage. He cannot sustain it if we do not commit it to Him. The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator. God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator (Catechism of the Catholic Church-1603). There are joys in Marriage. In the contemporary society, wine is usually shared in joyous moments. In the Bible, during the wedding at Canaan, the wedding ceremony was running out and the hosts were expressing anxiety. Christ, who was invited as a guest, restored that joy by bringing in new wine, in His own way. We must invite Christ to our marriages, so that when our wines run out, He will always be there to restore that which we have lost, squandered, rejected, or left behind. With Christ,there is abundance Joy. In Him, our marriages will last. He will rejuvenate when we run dry. May we always remember to invite Christ. May we always consult Him who instituted it when challenges come.
  3. We should not found our marriages on “Accidents”. I have talked severally of accidents and substance in my previous write ups (Article 46: Accidents VS Substance-A new Hope for Kenya; Accidents vs Substance…). We may want to found our marriage on physical appearance, financial stability, tribal lines, political views etc. All these are transitory. We cannot found lasting marriages on something transitory. We have to found our marriages in Christ. Christ enables our human selves to always appreciate our substance, the substance in our spouses. The closer we are to Christ, the closer in communion we remain in Christ, as a couple, the closer we remain in communion with each other.
  4. Let our love be perfect. We are human beings. The many divine things we are endowed are limited by our humanness. Love is a gift of the Holy spirit. While we may receive it with abundance, exercising  it is limited by the fact that we are human. We, more often than not, notice the imperfections in the other and that which made us look at each other in awe, disappears and in its place we look at each other in disgust. Christs instructs us to love each other as He has loved us. We are very imperfect people in the eyes of God, but He loves us still. We are also called to love our imperfect spouses the way Christ loves us. Love their imperfections as much as we love their perfections. Imperfections can be overcome, but only if we are willing to surrender to the inspiration that Jesus brings to the union. Personal imperfections can also be overcome, when we work hard to grow in faith, and in love that Christ instills in us. We commit ourselves to being better than yesterday.
  5. Forgiveness. Forgiveness is the salve that heals wounds we inflict on each other often. In forgiveness we sacrifice, even our rights, for the well being of the institution, for the well being of our spouse. Many are the times we will wound the gift of love, out of our weakness, out of pride, out of our belief in entitlement, out of arrogance, out of our fears and complexities. However being offended should not be the last word, just like sin is not the last word with our relationship with Christ.

Let the Lord build our house and watch over our city. If God does not do it, we labor in vain. May we always invite God to journey with us in our marriages. In Him, we will always have the joys of marriage, just like they were when we first got married. Not because there wont be problems, not because there wont be storms but because, with Christ, we will have the grace to sing and dance in the rain.

Article 47:- The Many faces of Friends

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…A faithful friend is a strong defence,

A faithful friend is the medicine of life…

bdr

The beginning of the climb

23rd September 2017. I joined my friend Eric on his 4th Journey up Mt. Longonot. I had promised myself severally how I needed to do this, my own Bucket List activity off the chart. But then there is this friend who has traveled with me in many journeys of life. He has known my downs and my ups, my frustrations and my achievements, my laughter, my celebrations, the toast moments and the lets keep it under the table moments. Eric. He lost his sight sometime back. Every year, through the Kenya Society of the Blind annual Longonot climb, ever since he lost his sight, he goes up the Longonot. This year, I decided to do this with him, as a thank you for the journeys he has traveled with me. The climb attracted quite a gathering. It was flagged off at the entrance to the park and up we went, a step at a time, one meter after another. As much as it was a check off my bucket list, it was a great learning experience especially on friendships. I learnt, on that climb that friendships presents itself in many faces. I will just highlight a few…

The fall back:-

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TEAM ERIC!

The climbers were from several representations. We called ourselves TEAM ERIC. It was a group of Eric, his parents, his neighbour, a gentleman nicknamed Governor, Muthenya and myself. When we started the climb, everyone was all energetic. We had a pacesetter, and the rest of us trooped behind him or her. But as we went up, the energy levels went low. By the time we got to rest post 1, Eric was a bit dizzy. We all took a break. Muthenya snacked all of us. We took out water. And we waited for Eric to get better. How many times do we feel drained in this life we keep walking? How many of us can always look out for that one person who will be there for us at such low moments, when we know that no  matter our lows, someone will stand and wait for us to rethink, refocus, gain back the energy. Someone will give us that boost of energy. That word that will let us know, it is okay to feel weak, it is okay when we don’t have the energy to move on, it is okay to take a break, it is okay to be weak, it is okay to need a shoulder to lean on. All this is a phase of life. And it will pass. We will not be weak forever, we will rise and conquer the rest of the mountain.

The bounce back/motivator:-

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Crater Point

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After the rest, we continued our climb. We got to the first summit-Crater point. Here one can appreciate the distance traveled. You can see base down below. You can see the crater. Very beautiful. There is a group of people taking rest after the torturous climb. Some who arrived way earlier have already started their descent, others have started going round the crater. We take a breather, a few photos. Then we have to decide whether we are going round or not. Eric’s parents decide not to. Muthenya and Governor are already decided, they are going round. The set off. Eric is undecided. It’s a whole 7.2Km walk. I challenge him. He hesitates. Eventually he falls for the temptation. We set off too. We call the other two to wait up. Another climb to summit 2 begins, Team Eric now a smaller group. Off we go, one step at a time. It is more challenging than the firs climb, but eventually, after a little crawling and falling, a little slipping and trudging, silence and small talks, we get to KILELE NGAMIA. Wohoo! We all need that friend to challenge us to the next level. That friend who realizes our potential even when we don’t know we have it. That person who reminds us that our limit is only our own selves. We can finish the climb together. We shall travel it together. When you lack the energy, you can lean on me, but climbing we must. I remembered the many climbers we passed on. Literally holding on to others to take the next height, the “keep on going” voices behind them, those who gave up but with their team members were kept on their feet. Who with all this motivation got to the top, whichever summit.

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The energy sucker:-

While the motivator challenges us to achieve new heights, this one is the exact opposite. This friends will drain all the energy left in you. Whatever little. They will tell you how much you cannot make in life. How much you don’t have the energy to finish. How untalented you are, how unfit, how feeble, how much a loser you are. I do not know if they are friends or “friends”. Whichever the case, they have a way of making life all doom and gloom. I may not have a perfect example from the climb, but it occurred to me that there are those who probably did not make it to the top because of that voice. Sometimes this voice is our own selves. We tell our selves how much we have not exercised, so we cannot finish the climb. How much unprepared we are for the interview, how many people have failed in life and it won’t be no different, how hard the task is and it should be performed by someone better than ourselves. We kill our own innovation, we drain our own strength. We kill our own self-belief.

The advocate:-

I have learnt that when something happens to us, there are those friends who will be called to answer on our behalf. It is good to have them because they know the real us. They can always speak on our behalf. They can say when we are afraid, they can say when we are being foolish, they can tell when we are falling off the road and going in a tangent of our desired positions. They are the other us. They are our voice when we have none. They can loudly tell one who is trying to make us look bad, “Whatever you say, I dont believe you, because I know her…”. They know that when we fall, we can count on them to lift us up and not laugh and jeer when everyone else is. They know that when my feet refuse o move that one step, its probably because I have a boil in the thigh or a blister on my toe. They don’t judge, they want to know the reason why. They can even explain that why we we do not have the reason.

The twin:-

One thing that has stayed in my mind is this group of two boys, both visually impaired, they passed us in the ascend to the first summit, stumbling, trudging but holding each other up. I think one was partially blind or both were, I do not know, but the determination in their faces and the arms they kept around each other spoke volumes. They passed us the second time just before we got to the second summit. When they did, we cheered them on. They really inspired me. There are those friends who literally walk with us in this wake of life. They stumble when we stumble, they rise when we rise, they laugh with us, they cry with us, they celebrate with us, and they struggle with us in our daily endeavors. They do not necessarily do what we do, they are not necessarily present, but they share in our every moments.

While we all know that faithful friends are hard to come by, while we also appreciate that some friends are multi faced in our lives, we live to thank God because, we have a defense to always lean on, depend on, look up to, and are always nourished in by their presence. A faithful friend is the medicine for life.

What to consider when going to meet someone you do not know so well…

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I walked into a coffee house yesterday with a friend. It was in the evening and there were several people in enjoying their drinks of choice. We sat in the table next to a gentle man and a lady. They were an arms-reach from our table. We ordered. We get engrossed into our discussion. After a while, the lady walks out. For a toilet break I think. She leaves her handbag on the table. Nothing unusual. After a short while, the guy stands and walks out. He leaves the handbag on the table. That is very unusual. It is a non written rule in my head that if I am having a meal or drink, I need to watch the belongings of my companion if they take a toilet break. I shouldn’t take a break when she or he is still away. unless there is a third part. The rule applies to the party too. Or I guessed. Wrong. especially for the scene unfolding. I tell my companion. It is strange that the guy walked out and left the ladies handbag. My statement was more suggestive though, I used the word girlfriend. My companion tells me the guy unzipped the handbag and picked a phone, stood and left. It shouldn’t ring a bell still. In any case,once in a while my husband tells me to put his wallet and phone in my bag, right? Wrong. The waitress comes and puts reserved notice on the table. The ladies handbag is still there. The lady comes back. Runs into the waitress and asks, where the guy went to. She says he just walked down. But little did we know he was not coming back. She comes and sits. Goes through her bag, then she casts a look across and asks if the guy took her phone. My companion answers yes. Then she goes, “Oh My God”.

Of course we inform the management (through the waitress). The waitress says there are many such cases. She also says the guy frequents there. Maybe with fresh bait every time. This brought back memories of what I used to be told when I was growing up on precautions to take. I am going to share a few tips I gathered a long the way in my journey of life:-

I do not drink alcohol, and probably one of the reasons why was for my own safety. Drinking to some extent reduces the rational capacity of a person. The level of loss is different. Others need only one glass of one, others need a whole crate of beer. I have never wanted to test my limits. Some say that you limit your alcohol consumption. I have learnt that , sometimes in some company this rule does not work. If it is a group outing, it is always easy to volunteer to be the designated driver, or the cab advisor when everyone else has since stopped being themselves. In the least you will ensure everyone is home safe and sound.

One of the safety tips I remember my brother ever mentioning to me way before I joined college was when you are having a drink with anyone, if you need to pee, finish your drink first. If you had not, order a fresh one when you get back. It may look unusual to those who you will be with but just in case your drink was spiked, you will be okay. This does not only apply to alcohol, but also to the teas, coffees we do with friends, prospective clients or customers, and even strangers on blind dates.

It is good to let someone know where you are. It is also good to let this person know at least one person you are with. We may assume we are in control of things, but stuff happens. Picture a guy who goes out for a drink with friends. He drinks later than them. His drink is spiked. He goes Missing in Action (MIA). Or those thieves who unleashes things that you breath and pass out. When someone has been keeping track of your movements it would be easy for them to, in the least know where to start looking for you or who was last with you and what happened when you parted ways. It may be strange but I try my level minimum to always let my spouse know where I am, who I am meeting, where. Even when he is not around, I still let him know.

It is also good to have at least one contact off head. This is where the back up phone mentioned in My Accident… My Lessons makes sense. This will make sure that when tragedy happens to you, even if your phone is dead or has been stolen and you cannot access your contacts list, you can contact one person, hopefully this person is the same as the one you had told where you are.

I also remember a friend of mine telling me never go out without extra cash, enough to cater for your food and drinks just in case the person you are meeting bails out on the bill. Make sure you also have enough money to get you home. This may come in handy when group outings go in a direction you did not anticipate and you need to flee them. You may not have to tell them you are leaving. Excusing yourself for a pee will give you time to walk out on company you do not want to be in discreetly.

In addition to all these, ladies, carry your handbag to wherever you are going in case you are taking a break from the company you are with. Unless that person is your spouse or fiance or your really bestest of friends.  In the least this should apply. If you go to the loo, go with it, if you want to go to the counter for an extra order, please don’t leave it, if you want to walk across the room and say hi to a long lost friend who just walked into the restaurant, that bag is not so heavy, pick it, walk with it. A lady,s bag has everything, from her friends spare keys to her identification documents. If that bag goes MIA can you survive a week without its contents? If not, please make it a part of you.

other advise gathered online include googling the person you are meeting, pepper spay, meeting is busy places, watch for disturbing behaviors and if your instincts say run, then just run.

I asked the girl if she knew the guy well. She she knew him but not so much. I hope in the least she gets her phone back. I also appreciate the restaurants that have CCTV, though I highly doubt they assist much. Maybe another caution should be to sit within camera range. Either way, hopefully this can stop someone from getting into the same pit.

 

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