Thursday 13 June 2024

Thought Picnic: My strength in faith over adversity

And so I learnt

It was information I was already privy to due to indiscretions and the mismanagement of information from departments first and then blamed on computer systems. I suppose, unlike my first encounter with this experience, I was not going to approach it with denial and allow it to take hold to the point of a life-threatening emergency.

At the same time, I contacted the hospital to remonstrate the unfortunate abuse of process, someone should have been proofreading and assessing any communication before the send button was pressed.

I got an apologetic call from the doctor with the offer to have the said indication redacted. Well, how helpful is erasing information you have already read when you are not living in the reality of a “Men In Black” movie?

I know the truth

In any case, I took the information with the view that the battles ahead have been won for me, and my trust in Him will make a way. I will call those things that are not as though they were, rather than call the things that are as if they were not. [BibleHub: Romans 4:17]

This is usually the confusion of faith we need to unlearn, relearn, understand and reaffirm. In matters of life and death, you want to know who and what you believe and be sure that you are believing right.

On the cross of Calvary, He bore our sin and sins. Still, before He was nailed to the cross of agonising death at the hands of the Roman state, He took stripes, a relentless whipping that tore strips of flesh off his body that according to Scripture and observation, he was impossible to behold for the wounds on him. Those wounds represent every manner of disease and illness that visits humankind in its mildness and extremity. [Bible Gateway: Isaiah 53:1-5 (NLT)]

I know I’m healed

Jesus Christ was spoken of by the prophets, and when He came to the world, “He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” Matthew 8:16. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” (NLT) [BibleHub: Matthew 8:17] Healing is present and available as it was then and it will be until He returns, I live in the truth of what Jesus did for me.

That is why I am not afraid but emboldened to face the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, and the years ahead. I will constantly be encouraged by the Word of God, and by the anointed preaching of the Word on faith, healing, living, and prospering in my soul and body.

I will frame my own world by the Word of God [Hebrew 11:3]. This is His will for me, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (KJV) [BibleHub: 3 John 2]

Men's things - IX

It is serious stuff

My decision to share my experience of what men face with prostate cancer is one I do not treat with any levity. You will read humour and maybe laugh at my expression; it does not take away from the seriousness of what a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of the prostate might present.

Cancer is part of the human experience, it does not have to define your outlook as the end of the road of your existence, the greatest battle you will have is in your mind rather than in the prospects, the treatment, your recovery, and much else. If you believe at the receipt of such news that you will die, you quite likely would, if you choose that you will live, you have everything to live for.

Take the fine part

I speak as someone who 15 years ago received a cancer diagnosis with the prospect in the words of my consultant who had the weight of medical expertise on his side of his prognosis. He said, “We can treat this, but it depends on how your body can take the treatment, if you can tolerate it, you’ll be fine, otherwise, you probably have 5 weeks.”

I took the fine part and left the weeks part in the dust of history, and that has become my testimony of living and living well.

All with a friend

For my appointment to get the results of the transperineal prostate biopsy that was taken a month ago, I already had a good idea of the situation, the rest was to understand what they had observed towards the conclusions they would draw which would give me a handle on what I need to address.

We boarded the Uber taxicab, my friend had come as support because I was invited to bring someone to accompany me, when he called me to confirm, I was almost with the mind to tell him not to be too bothered, but he came over and I am glad for his support.

The driver asked where we were going and I said the Peter Mount Building, and it is ironic that a building where men are checked for men’s things, where manliness, masculinity, and patriarchy meet the humbling of disease has mount in the name. Surely, someone is having a joke at our expense.

Balls, nuts, very salty

He knew where the building was at as I told him, I had been there before because someone had a staplegun to my goolies, a month before. I guess I used goolies as a collective for everything pertaining to men’s things in that area. He asked if I still had them, I do, as my friend opined about how the man rumoured to only have one brought the world to ruin in World War II.

The driver half took the hint that he needed to check his men’s things and we all agreed that we do not talk freely enough about men’s things to have the prospect of early diagnoses if anything is awry. He said he was going to spend the rest of the day thinking of Akin’s nuts, I suggested he should try them salty. We all laughed until our sides ached. I was dressed as if I was going to a party.

Cut to the chase

Arriving quite early, the waiting room was busy, I took a seat and occupied myself with studying a map of the west of Manchester, I even found an error on the map. Soon, I was called into a consulting room where I showed the consultant that I was already aware, for over a week, of the information he was about to share, and that he should cut to the chase.

Blog - The note that crept in

Without dwelling on the point, we discussed what the future might be, from a medical perspective, and I thought of a different future blessed by what my belief grants me. Even as I positively attended to the information, I felt a little tremor in my hands, partly out of shock that you will naturally expect and at the same time, you must overwhelm the circumstances with a greater sense of personal and Godly hope.

Leaflets, pamphlets, and booklets later, we departed for a hearty brunch. Please, have a brief look and feel at your men’s things, the earlier you know, the better your prospects. I will continue to write about this. It is well with my soul and yours.

Blog - Men's things

Blog - Men's things - II

Blog - Men's things - III

Blog - Men's things - IV

Blog - Men's things - V

Blog - Men's things - VI

Blog - Men's things - VII

Blog - Men's things - VIII

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Faith is making the impossible normal

Take off the limits

To dare to dream the impossible when the dreams are inspired by God who declares through Jesus Christ that with God nothing shall be impossible to him that believes is one key aspect of faith that becomes very personal to those who have experiences in life when looking back cannot explain but fully appreciate with gratitude that they have lived impossible dreams.

I am constantly challenging the frame of reference within which I exist about its limitations, the creeping claws of doubt, disbelief, and despair seek to clamp you down into the perfunctory, the crimps offer what is run-of-mill, as you limp along in life with nothing exceptional for a story or an existence.

Latch unto the extraordinary

Then from within you rises a storm of protest, defying every known physical, mental, or structural boundary, telling you that the lived experience of people who did wonders and told of miracles is not the stuff of fantasy left in the unimaginative construct of the cessationist who has determined and declared that modern day has no need of miraculous living.

Be it the ideas that blow the mind and move the footsteps of mankind in strides too grand to fathom, the thoughts that defy every natural force, the belief that you can write a better story that even fiction would struggle to express, or the knowledge that with God on your side, everything is rigged in your favour, just because it is God’s will and it exists because God so loved the world and for that, He gave us Jesus Christ.

Think the impossible

I feed my thoughts with inspiration and revelation, mountains are to be moved, and problems will pass into the memory of insignificance with the triumph wrought on the cross and lived by faith in God. The insurmountable is reduced to a plain and a man given just 5 weeks to live at prognosis is writing blogs of a miraculous existence some 15 years later. It is no achievement of mine, just the lovingkindness of God, great mercy, amazing favour, and a love that no words can satisfactorily describe.

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. [BibleHub: I Corinthians 2:9] What God has prepared for my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and my mind to imagine is predicated on my willingness to believe that God can do everything I can find examples and references about God in the Bible that has been done and duly recorded, with the promise that even greater things than those documented things are possible.

Live a different testimony

It is a world ready to be lived in, not many have found the spaceship of faith piloted by Jesus Christ and facilitated by the Holy Spirit to enjoy the stupendous splendour of that world. Until my last breath, I seek to walk and bask the in reality of that world, for that is why I exist.

Monday 10 June 2024

Dancing with their babies

Read with Parental Guidance

Repartee is an art of conversation that is quick, witty, and usually humorous, to establish it effectively is to leave such nuggets of memory that cannot be forgotten even as in your retelling of it, you might lose the effect it had at the point of your original hearing.

It is not essentially truth or fact, it could be an intelligent or mocking play on words, the knowledge of geography or any other thing is not particular when it is ideas set alight in directions that cannot predetermined. As for innuendo, there might be plenty of it, you take your rib-cracking laughs and your jaw-aching cackles to confession at a much later time.

In a conversation that might have been overheard, who can say who was involved? Selby and Niko have these exchanges all the time with one accusing the other of leading the other astray, the saint is further away from the sinner even as the former presents innocence better.

And so…

Selby: I trust he had a great experience in Kenya, I’m sure he has very interesting stories to tell you all about.

Niko: I don’t want to hear his stories. The thought is shocking enough. He won’t be able to complete confession in the allotted time.

Selby: [Much later, recalling the tail end of that conversation] I laughed when I read your response.

Niko: He was most likely at the receiving end of some Masai Mara.

Selby: They are probably still jumping in him. [If this needs explaining, you do not need to know.]

[Niko is in shock and laughter at the same time, every corruptly shocking interpretation of whatever he meant paints the situation in too vivid detail for polite conversation. Our friend has a reputation that would make pages on which it is written red with embarrassment and the ends curl almost in revulsion and indescribable glee.]

[At which time, Selby is half-weeping and Niko is proverbially rolling on the floor, and Selby is not done yet, he rues his big mouth, but you'll love his free expression, almost naïve and truly deadpan, like Rose Nylund from The Golden Girls.]

Selby: Did he have the whole dancing troupe?

[At which point, Niko had a picture of a line of men of enviable renown, starved of it and ready to find the totally ecstatic excitement of lascivious relief at the sight of a starfish with the unmistakable groans of the earth moving violently. No fault was left untouched; the rift cracked open to its fullest extent. It is East Africa, after all.]

Niko: You’ll have to ask him. [The stories Niko didn’t want to hear had already been told by Selby either like a witness of the event, or because Selby has had some experiences in the African bush that he has hinted at but never really told. Farm boys hosing down fires like the fire brigade.]

Is that, you wonder, a ticket to Seren-get-him?

Sunday 9 June 2024

A Sunday of shifting devotional gears

An early start

What a long Sunday it was, a full engagement in religious activities that were a great blessing. I had set the alarm for 8:00 AM to get up for my first service which I had intended would be for the 9:00 AM service at !Audacious Church.

It has become an occasional activity to give my Christian experience on a Sunday the widest latitude. Over time, I have acculturated to the kind of vibe in that atmosphere than I found able to adapt to about a decade ago. Its evangelical and Pentecostal slant is quite an energetic early start to a Sunday morning. The praise and worship music and ministration of the word, are scripted into just under 75 minutes.

Blog - !Audacious Church, Manchester (March 2014)

From contemporary to traditional

With just half a mile (0.8 kilometres) between !Audacious Church and Manchester Cathedral, on days I am not on the rota to be a church steward at the cathedral, I can have a brisk walk in about 10 minutes to the cathedral for the Sung Eucharist at 10:30 AM.

The gears are totally changed between church customs, my familiarity with both and the way I feel quite blessed with participation in one and the involved community of the other is something I cannot explain that well. The former is quite a youthful contemporary church with some songs sounding like what you would hear on an Oasis album, at least I felt that way this morning.

The solemnity of a choir accompanied by the Stoller Organ singing traditional tuneful hymns with a structured service format and the Holy Communion registers a different yet impactful devotion. The congregation has no pretensions, the doors are open, and the setting is welcoming.

After the Sung Eucharist, I participated in the bible study which for this month is about women in the bible, the topic was on the character, leadership, and activities of Deborah and Jael. In the book of Judges, chapters 4 and 5. It was a robust and lively conversation of thoughts and views that ran for over an hour. [Renew.org: Deborah and Jael: Unexpected Leaders]

The bishop in the Village

Returning home, I did not have much time to prepare for the Village Church, an initiative supported by the Anglican Church to support the spirituality of the LGBTQ+ community in the centre of the Manchester Gay Village. The LGBT Foundation lends its premises to this ministry for free on Sunday afternoons every second and fourth Sunday of the month. [Anglican Diocese of Manchester: Village Church launches in Manchester]

This has been happening for almost a year and is just around the corner from my home. We had the pleasure of the Bishop of Manchester as the president and preacher for this Sung Eucharist. It exemplifies the sense that our local Christian community does not just pay lip service to inclusivity but involves itself fully in allowing spiritual expression and fellowship, regardless of persuasion.

Blog - Stewarding at the Pride Eucharist (August 2023)

Jesus died for all, and the diocesan leadership have determined to encourage, embrace, and serve everyone genuinely yearning for Christian fellowship. As we finished and cleared up at the venue, it was almost 6:00 PM. I might have retired soon after, at home, if I had not entertained some congregants.

I felt a sense of wanting to be involved, engaged, contributing, giving and participating, the broad lesson at the beginning of All Together which touched on Tithes (resources), Talent (skills & abilities), Time (capacity), resonated with me, it is this kind of mindfulness that prepares you for a great blessing. It was a wonderful day that the Lord hath made.

Saturday 8 June 2024

Dispute Resolution 101: Make it a reasonable and respectful appeal to their good nature

The sweet fragrance of language

Just a few hours after someone suggested that the way I write is ornate, I had to dig into the reserves of that sometimes flowery and elegant use of the English language to dispute a penalty fine and write an appeal.

As I was about to pay for a service yesterday, I found that my bank card had been blocked, a penalty fine had been applied to my account that my bank in their probably aggressive fraud checks decided was questionable, so they held up the transaction and blocked my card.

Looking up what had happened, our local transport service provider had applied a penalty charge on my card for my journey back home from the hospital, I got a bit emotional.

Banking on prudent checks

My bank sent a text message early in the morning to ask if I recognised the transaction, I knew the vendor, but I did not recognise the one-handed cash grab, something inadvertent had happened, and this was grounds for appeal.

I disputed the charge, called the bank and at the third time of asking the obsequious and unintelligent bot, it handed me over to a human being. It eventually realised, “Can I speak to a human being?” meant just that.

The bank with their layers of security and protocols lifted the pending charge but said I must contact the vendor and be ready to prove that I had done that as part of the dispute resolution process. My card was unblocked, and then I logged on to the vendor site to address the matter of penalty fares.

Circumstances are part of the story

My visit to the hospital left me a bit troubled but I also wanted to stop along the way back home to do some shopping. Using my phone, I tapped the contactless reader at the beginning of my journey and disembarked at the next stop. 

That was where I had forgotten to tap out for that journey. 30 minutes later, after doing my shopping, I was back at the same stop where I tapped in again and remembering my earlier mistake, I tried to tap again, but the system indicated I was tapping in twice.

I boarded the tram and at the following stop ticket inspectors got on and checked passengers for evidence of valid travel tickets for their journeys, my phone bleeped their device and I thought that was the situation resolved. I then tapped out at my destination and walked home. The penalty charge of £60 came 2 days later.

The scaffolding of an appeal

Thankfully, my phone records the exact times of tapping the contactless reader, with all the series of taps documented. After filling in the mandatory fields on the vendor website, these were the characteristics of my appeal and dispute.

  • I shared the circumstances and my state of mind after my hospital visit.
  • I logged every instance of using the contactless reader and agreed that I might have forgotten to tap out at the first stop out of the distraction indicative of my hospital visit.
  • I then detailed all the other encounters before appealing that these were extenuating circumstances to rescind both the penalty fine and any further proceedings related to the journeys of the said day.
  • I closed my appeal by thanking them for their understanding.

Appeal by appealing to their good nature

Now, I have seen appeals and disputes written by some rather more erudite and learned people than me, everything suggested their appeal would not be successful for many reasons. They were angry, ranting and raving about the system, projecting their superiority and emotions into their arguments, and making demands and threats.

The whole reason for an appeal is to appeal to the good nature of whoever might read your disputation. You do this respectfully knowing they have a job to do, you invite them to walk in your shoes, so they are persuaded to see things from your perspective and engage others if there is an escalation, to agree with your viewpoint.

You appreciate what they do and ask for their consideration of what you desire, a refund without dragging out the dispute, then close the appeal with thanks.

Do what works not what rankles

The art of effective communication is in the use of language and the appreciation and respect of the reader. It has worked for me in many places, at work, in business, and in my general writing, especially for formal communication. Deploy the skill deftly.

When I need to be fierce, ranting, debunking, condemning, and excoriating, that only applies to other issues where I am not seeking a dispute resolution in an appeal process.

Yes, my appeal was successful, I will be refunded the penalty charge, that is what I wanted to achieve and nothing more. The lesson is that the tap-in tap-out system works best when there are barrier gates at the entry and exit points, else, if you forget, the system is not as forgiving as you might expect.

The person who reviewed my appeal did say, “As it appears you intended to touch in for this journey, we have upheld your appeal on this occasion. We will shortly be refunding £60 to your account and recalculate your charges for the day to what you would have paid had the correct touches been made.” They came onside and were amenable to my wishes. That is what matters.

Friday 7 June 2024

Gosh! I'm giving writing advice

Maybe I can write

I inadvertently found myself giving some advice on writing the other day on my way to the hospital. I get commended more for my ability to write even if I rarely appreciate the talent I am supposed to have in expressing myself in words.

Then, after over 20 years of blogging, I might have earned a basic status from the act of practice, called experience that may help others along the way. I know there is no formula to it, but we tend to stress ourselves so much that we are left incapable of doing what we hope to do.

How I tend to write

Putting my views into basic tips, it can all boil down to the following:

  • Writer's block happens to everyone, you're overthinking the piece like counting your chicks before they are hatched, and that’s why it seems quite hard to start.
  • Discipline yourself to just start writing and the rest would flow. You can review it later to make the adjustments, clarifications, and editing later. And much later after it has been published.
  • I have rarely written a blog the way I originally imagined it would turn out. In most cases, I have just a word or a phrase, I develop it like a seed and water it with words that follow.
  • Trust the process, trust your skill, start the journey and follow the route wherever it takes you to any amazing destination you get to.
  • You can abandon something for a while until the framework or ideas reform into something you can use. Do not beat yourself up for that.
  • Only what you publish gets read, what is left in draft form is like opening a restaurant but serving no customers.

This may only work for some; you eventually emerge with your own way and style of writing that you begin to type, and your new tapestry of ideas begins to unfold. However, what you must never do is stymie or kill the urge to write. Your story matters, you never know who will benefit from your experience.