gut honest faith

Month: October, 2014

Horsing around

The hubs and I are going to a party tonight. Here, we do not yet have the custom of trick or treating. Yes, Halloween has arrived as a tool to help the economy, but Germany is far from the elaborate fun Americans enjoy every year. We celebrate Reformation day today, the day Luther nailed the 95 theses to a door that inspired the upheaval later leading to the formation of protestantism. Men of faith were now allowed to marry, also certain taxes were changed, historically, this was a day with great consequence.

The rest of Germany has a day off today, but Berlin decided to give this day the finger. Tonight, we are not starting a war changing the course of history, we are attending a wine and cheese get-together. The hubs will wear a horse mask, I will be a cat, a dog will be glued to his head, and my head will sport a rooster. That way, we are some kind of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten, a German fable of a bunch of animals getting together to outwit the evil robbers that have horded food to keep for themselves.

The real fable has a donkey instead of a horse, yet we bank on the people present to be equally uneducated. We did not know either until we wikipediad it. It takes not much to frighten me, although it relies on what frame of mind I am in. Some things I can stomach easily, but a simple hiding in the dark and then bursting forth with a big “baaah” suffices. That gets me every time. No matter where I am, I would jump and scream. If the hypothetical kids in the neighbourhood knew, they would steal our hypothetical candy the night before just so they would be able to revel in the joy of watching me literally pee my pants the entire night.

I can anticipate and expect it, yet it still scares me. My brothers would always give me the creeps. On my way to the bathroom they would simply jump out from behind some door post and frighten me stiff. Yes, let’s hope by the time Halloween arrives here prim and proper no one will remember this post. In fact, no one knows where I live, right? Please say so, so I won’t have to be frightened in anticipation of being frightened. Even some of the decoration  I get to see from the USA gives me the creeps. Zombies and all, I know they are not real, but in that fraction of a second they simply remind me too much of my brothers. Be afraid, be very afraid.


Deep Freeze

Yes, our house was located in one of the most stunning areas within the Indian summer. Pennsylvania gets just so vibrant during the autumn months. Dutch county around the corner, and an engineer once working on the Apollo 11 project as the neighbour to our right, an elderly lady closely following the O.J.Simpson trial from within her greenhouse to our left. Both my host parents were affluent Professors. Interestingly enough, the psychology degree did not guard her from insecurities regarding her beak nose, so she had it done.

Their grown daughter would come round and we would take her two sheep dogs to the nearby fields. Something I now dream of doing. Autumny landscapes would inspire us all to frolic through the leaves for hours. It could have been heaven. If only there had not been the fridge, those dark nights and those myriads of tears. School got me a certificate for excellent achievements in my French class. Also, I managed to get a scholarship worth 20,000$ for art college, all the while attending overeaters anonymous meetings and binging on frozen foods only thawed by those flooding tears.

In the evenings I would go running for an hour, crawling around the neighbourhood. One patch of land in this very fancy area was inhabited by a trailer and its owner. The town was so fine, 5000 would apply for one teaching job. There was a big auditorium and I could have spent my time working on silver in the gold smith club, free of charge, understandably. Instead, I frequented the dark room developing photos. What a joy. Coming home after the after school club I would find my host parents still absent. I would open the fridge and, seeing that within a few minutes it was empty, I began ravaging the freezer.

Frozen tortellini stick in my mind from those antics. There were industrial sized packages of them, and, seeing it took too long to heat them, frozen morsels would find their way into my mouth, alternated by throwing them into the bin and then picking them back out again. All the whilst crying and sobbing at my own inability to stop this apparent nonsense. Soon I would not only frequent a therapist, but also visit OA meetings, sometimes twice a week or more. I got a sponsor and I began to identify with being a food addict.

My sponsor was a lovely chubby lady in pink sweat suits. I think I never saw her in anything other than those. I saw pictures of her being super model slim and, frankly, gorgeous, yet she claimed she was happier these days. I found it hard to believe. Soon I was taught that I would have certain trigger foods, such as starch and sugar. So, I would go around telling people I had an allergy to those food groups. And, my eating somewhat became less frantic and out of control. Yes, later in hospital I was classified as a bulimic, yet not one throwing up but a sports bulimic.

Hospital was no longer in PA though, in fact I never went back to take up that scholarship. You should have heard their reaction after I told them I would turn it down. No one in their right mind turns down a scholarship, and, I certainly agree. Well, I guess I can’t change the past, and I don’t know if I want to. I don’t go to OA anymore, even though I had a more serious stint at anorexia in between. Those days though are so far away, hidden underneath piles and piles of fallen leaves. Only occasionally the wind blows to reveal what’s underneath and prompts it to resurface for a while until it finally whithers away for good.

Please, enjoy the ride

You may think you know where this is going, but, lo and behold, you are kidding yourself. Yes, you do know more and more where this is not going, but a clear perspective is more than absent. Can you tell the speed of the ride? It is obvious you are going somewhere, only the destination is not clear.

At times you may have wished to have taken that turn two minutes earlier. Take that one job, go for the other option? And now, you feel as though the current may just drag you over the edge. In fact, this month, you will do things previously unheard of, like turning down a job, or being incredibly demanding in salary and still turning down that job.

Yes, things you never deemed possible are happening, silly things that seem too tiny to mention. Your taste may change drastically, for instance will you reach for tiny pearl earrings instead of giant statement pieces. Not something ever found written in the pages of history books. Yet you find them incredibly puzzling.

No, you can not help feeling something is happening, yet the signs are too minuscule to interpret in a proper manner. I suggest you simply enjoy the ride, revel in the new found love for the finer things in life like cashmere and silks, and trust that this ride will take you somewhere. Judging by the land marks along the road, the destination will be awesome!

The Crow

Those born into the sign of the crow generally are thought to be curious and inquisitive. Crows always figure out a way to do things and can adapt to nearly any environment. Crows are cautious in nature and tend to shy from situations that are deemed to be potentially dangerous. Crows can observe something twice and understand its workings.

Crows, though, are often viewed as a sign of doom and are not greatly loved due to their morbid exterior. They remind others of death or doom and are therefore shunned. Crows do not have a pretty exterior and are not thought off as cute and adorable. But, you have seen nothing yet, wait until they open their beaks.

Crows make noises that sound screetching and a little off tune. Not particularly harmonious, they are the black sheep within the bird family. If you are born into the sign of the crow, you too will feel at times that not matter what you say it will always sound off tune and definitely never quite desirable or something that draws people in.

Instead, you will notice how people will withdraw from you after you have said something. Crows are the orphans of the bird world. However, they tend to enjoy great freedom purely for the fact that hardly anyone ever thought of putting a crow into a cage for pure pleasure. I have, but then, I am one myself, and, I would not like to be put into a cage, so, I guess I will never own a crow.

In fact, no one owns a crow, and crows will never be looked at adoringly or with a beloved eye, except from other crows. Crows thrive on the harsh reality of their surrounding and make it work for them. I love crows, I love how they look at me almost knowingly. I love how they steal things off my balcony that serves as food.

I love how they spread their wings and with a dramatic drop fall off the balcony. Almost vampiric, like a velvet coat. There is something cumbersome and almost clumsy about them, yet they also carry with them an elegance akin to a beautiful simple mathematical formula. Yes, if I could be some animal, I would love to be the crow. I love crows.

The Moral of the story

The most hectic day of the past decade is easily the day before handing in my thesis for my bachelor degree. Closely followed by our departure for our wedding in NYC when I forgot my passport and had to take a cab back home, nearly missing our flight. Drama drama.

Speaking of drama, I can honestly say drama used to be right up there as my favourite hobby. Not consciously. In practice though it showed to take up quite a bit of my time and my money. Hubby being stoically calm has become a great influence in my life and acting like some kind of anchor to my soul.

So, Sunday, some time in 2006. Monday I had to hand in my thesis. One week before I had sent in a draft to my tutor. He had sent it back, commenting that he hadn’t made it past the first eight pages. Apparently it had been that bad. Frantically, I wrote another piece worth thirty pages. Mind, I had taken about five months to finish the first version, now I had six days.

I am now in the week before my most stressful day, it is Thursday. I send off my thesis, only to receive yet another email by my tutor rejecting this version as well. I am welcomed to write something like this for my postgrad degree, but not in an undergrad paper. Dear, things are heating up.

Two days later, Saturday,  I am about to send in the third version. Would you believe it, the computer crashed. The entire document going down into the digital abyss. I am now two days away from handing in a thesis that ideally is written in four to five months. And, I am a little run down as I have handed in two other thesis which have not been accepted, loosing the third version. A little stressed.

Sunday comes around, I decide to go to church. If you build God’s house, He will build yours, the saying goes. Returning from church, I now have roughly 24 hours to finish a vital part of my degree, without which I will not be able to get a degree at all. And, I needed those 24 hours, all of them.

I type in a trance like state, not really knowing what I am doing. 30 pages, no outline done before. I take quotes form pages of books that have randomly fallen of the shelf, and have absolutely no idea what I am doing. I keep typing, however, and never stop to even rest for thirty minutes. Toilet break? Yes. Anything else? No!

Keeping in mind at that time I had only just stopped taking anti depressants, I had not been touching alcohol, my fave go-to in times of stress, for about a year, cigarettes had dwindled to a meagre one-every-thirty-days ration, and weed had not touched my lips in over a year. I was drug free, yet under immense pressure.

I write and write and write, auto pilot long switched on, until around ten in the morning. I get up, and I feel the Spirit tell me to throw all my relevant books away. Which is mad, as I imagine having to maybe retake the whole course in case this miracle thesis is not accepted.

I can see the bin on Battersea Bridge in which I discarded off the books on the Genealogy of Morals. I walk to Uni, thinking I have until 2pm, yet, by chance, I meet my friend who informs me that I have to hand it in by 12 noon. He also tells me where I have to take it to, something I also did not know. Without meeting him I would have had no chance of even handing anything at all.

By then I am in a very strange state. Yes, that Sunday I was typing away frantically, every second counted. And, would you like to know the grade I got? A 2,1, which is like a B+, the second best grade you can get. What a day! If you like to read the thesis, I can try and find it somewhere and get it to you. Have a happy stress free read.

Schools out

Can I be taught? Do I consider myself necessary to be receiving instruction? At times in history a teacher was considered a noble position, and people of royal descent sought out notable people with a high degree of education. Alexander having been taught by Aristotle is one of such cases as is the lady who was instructed by Descartes. Having a private tutor marked one as being from a certain pedigree.

Head knowledge is well and proper and not to be dismissed. What about acquiring a certain conduct? At a royal court a certain protocol calls for very structured behaviour, something Lady Di and also Sissi, the empress of Austria, most notably suffered extremely. I was raised at the other end of the spectrum. In German pedagogy we find a school of thought that ran rampant in the seventies. It was known as anti-authoritarianism.

Understandably in light of the prior abuse of power and authoritarian structures that were prominent during the Nazi regime. Everything not in accordance with the leading opinions of mostly hateful content was destroyed, often times in crude ways of publicly burning any material deemed unworthy. Man was thought to be educated in a strict manner, women to bear children, men to fight and be blood thirsty, and above all, they were to be blond with blue eyes.

Funny coincidence that Hitler was neither blond, nor did he have blue eyes nor did he have the famous height sought in a good Arian representative. I am using this term in a derogatory manner here, and am in no shape or form adhering to anything connected to it. Yes, we often are told that we are not to do as I do, but do as I say. Strange that this incoherence in required appearance was so blatant during the Nazi regime, yet it did not deter people from embracing this hypocritical figure.

Of course, Hitler was much more than just that, but the bestiality of his person is out of question, so I won’t concern myself with that aspect here. He was a terrible leader leading his people into destruction and death and yet afterwards people sought to come to an understanding how on earth they could have been sucked into those years of madness and they found a culprit: surely it was the system of authority instead of just that particular authority.

One can only speculate in what way mankind was able to learn from such atrocities and generally I refrain from spewing out theories on how suffering leads to instruction in other people. Such concepts I can only apply to myself. And, yes, I have learned by hurt and pain. No, I do not like to admit it, but it is true. Of course I am aware how the victims were not given the luxury of learning from their experiences. Therefore I do not advocate such an approach in anyone else but one’s own person.

So, learning things in regards to my own conduct often comes at the expense of comfort. I have to let go of concepts I had held dear until then. Having concepts blown to bits usually is not something one goes out of one’s way to encounter. Actually, I seek the road that is labelled distress free too frequently. Hence I am suggesting to seek a tutor, an instructor, someone ahead of me, something like a Rabbi.

This Rabbi would teach me things and take me down routes I otherwise would avoid, since I seek comfort and pleasure as a human being, not discomfort and distress. This teacher would have to know the entirety of me and also know everything that is welcoming us on our road. Somewhat an omniscient kinda guy or gal. Someone able to anticipate things instead of merely reacting to this. Gosh, something like a God, really.

P.S. If you wonder how in one piece I can write on a horrific event of suffering and also about God, yes, I do apologize. One of these things I still truly do not quite understand how on earth they can go together. One day, maybe.

I ain’t got nobody

The closest I have ever come to an imaginary friend is believing in Jesus. Why am I saying that? Well, I guess that we never really played in the sandbox, and He never pushed my swing. Actually, at that tender age He may very well have been my friend, yet I did not really care so much. Noah’s ark was more up my alley. So, I really never had any imaginary friends at all. Weird. What would it mean?

Two brothers were making my life interesting, and constantly moving continents at times probably helped in making life exciting. Yes, an imaginary friend as such is not counted amongst those commodities I recall when dwelling on childhood. Lots of chocolates. We had those. Our day care child, a girl called Carol, had a single mum working down a chocolate factory. Whenever she would discover a mistake in the assembly line she would get paid in choccies.

Guess after a while she couldn’t stomach them any more, so we did all the more. Yum, Swiss chocolates as my childhood staple food. Who needs imaginary friends any ways? I never saw her again, that Carol. Once we moved, I had my own life to deal with and Carol vanished. She may very well be something like an imaginary friend as nothing points to her really having existed apart from stories and memories, and we all know how deceiving those memories can be.

Yes, I revisited Thalwil once, and her house had long been inhabited by someone else. Maybe I should look her up on facebook? Many of my friends had turned into imaginary friends over the years, as they disappeared as swiftly as they had entered my life. There was a Dorothee whom I shared a mosquito netting with whilst in India. We ran from those attacking rats and cockroaches by sleeping on the rooftop only to be rudely awaken in the early morning hours by a horde of villagers chasing a stray dog of it.

Then there were these friends from church who kind of disappeared into thin air once they learned I was admitted to the psych ward of a hospital some 20 years ago. Boy oh boy. It turned out that rumours managed to replace me for they now preferred talking behind my back instead of even with it. Rumours replacing people happens so fast. One friend replaced me with a rumour that I was a thieving thief. That way I gained so many more imaginary friends, namely all those who believed her spreading that rumour.

To say I have a friend in Jesus may sound to some like something coming straight out of the psych ward. Well, let me reassure you, this does not entirely apply, as I have not set foot in one ever since twenty years ago. To some it may sound like that grown version of imaginary friends. To me, it proves to be the only thing that is real. Every other friend proves to be fickle over time, that Jesus friend does not. Kind of a steady thing. Every characteristic a friend should have is found in His character.

Interested in all my garb, listening while I yap away, helpful, sometimes giving me a heads-up. I guess, that was Him with me in the psych ward. I know, I know. Doubly scary now. If you are void of an imaginary friend, may I suggest Him? He is not quite as imaginary if you give it a try, I promise. But, as experience has shown, don’t take my word for it, better to take His word for it. That way you ain’t ever gonna have to say: I ain’t got nobody!

Been there, done that

Actually, I did play baseball. once or twice. Joining some club, here in Berlin. I loved baseball gloves, mostly, and the whole style was very appealing to me. I do not know very much about baseball, though. Home run? You throw the ball (which is, btw, so incredibly stylish!) and the run, managing to pass all three bases before the ball is caught, right? Walk-off? Last minute? If that home run is not achieved, your team goes home loosing, right?

So, I played baseball about 18 years ago, Nine years ago I sat in church, dead broke, with Christmas fast approaching. I had roughly thirty pounds in my pocket, and nothing else stashed away anywhere else. That was literally the last money I owned, and there was no money coming in in the foreseeable future. Then, suddenly, I felt compelled to give twenty pounds into the bucket. Pretty stupid!

I did not see the point therein, yet the pull became stronger and stronger. And, would you believe it, I did give that money away. maybe it was due to the fact that my life seemed to be so close to the edge, what difference do these twenty now make? I went home as usual, and no angel appeared from the sky informing me that now I would soon be a millionaire or similar. Instead, it was Monday, then Tuesday, and now I had to use my final five pounds to drive into town to pick something up from university.

I walked through the doors and for the first time I saw a small sign reading something like Student Union. In all the previous years, it had not ever occurred to me to go looking for something like a union, and this sign never caught my eye before. I asked the woman at the main reception desk whether I could make an appointment. Note, this was the main reception, not the reception for the Unions office. She informed me that in order to get an appointment, one would have to get onto a waiting list of roughly six to seven weeks.

Just in that instance, the lady responsible for the Union stuck her head outside her office and called to the receptionist: “You can let her in, it’s ok, I have a minute!” Still not knowing what a Union does, I followed the lady into her office. She lead the conversation. “Why are you here?”, she asked. “I guess I was wondering if there is any help available”, I said. “Financial Hardship cases you mean?” “Actually, I am not sure what I mean.” “What did you have in mind?”

I told her how I had no money to pay the tube fare back, She was in disbelief. How come I had no money coming in, she wondered. I told her how I just had quit my job since I needed to focus on the upcoming finals. Since it was a part-time course I expected to get unemployment money, but had waited in vain for three months. Now, even if I were to get a job and thereby fail my course, I would still have nothing to live on let alone travel with. What she did next was pretty close to a miracle.

She opened her drawers and still, shaking her head, mumbled to herself. “No money at all? Too weird…” She then proceeded to hand me 70£. “This is all I have right now. We will file an official application for some more funds.” With those words she handed me some paperwork to sign, and soon thereafter I left the office. Roughly three days later I had 700 more pounds in my account. A letter arrived at my place informing me of a further 500 to arrive in the new year. Also, all my student fees would be paid for by the fund for hardship, and I would get a counsellor assigned to me helping me with whatever needs to be done.

That Christmas was so bizarre. I went to a homeless shelter, since I now had money to pay for the fare. There I met a man who had just come out of prison. He came to church with me. Three months later he finds me in church, yelling my name across the foyer, informing me how he had found a flat and a job and a church. I had spoken to him on boxing day as I saw him pray before eating his meal. Christmas I had helped, too, and was so dire touched by all the sadness welcoming me at the homeless shelter. I went home that night crying to God how it seemed that He was of no help to those people most in need. The next day God answered my prayer and probably many of his, too.

Christmas I bought sea food and Lindor Lindt Chocolates. It was the most magical Christmas. There are thousands of those stories. Yet, in the past eight years there has not been one single home run like that with God. No miracles anywhere to be found. Nada, nothing. Trust me, miracles are so fun. And often times in those eight years I thought I would die without a miracle. Yet, I am still here. Why do we sometimes hit a home run and other times we just stumble, having to eat dust off the ground? You know, I have absolutely NO IDEA. Only, If there ever is another home run, man, you will hear me cheer around the entire globe! Trust me! It’s the best there is!

Being Peter

For a very long time I did not care very much about my life. It seemed like such a drag, buckling under the heavy weight of work and routine. A death wish was more acute at times, at other times it subsided, but never entirely for good. I am with not Peter, but Paul on this issue: To live is Christ, to die is gain. No doubt in my mind about death being somewhat leading to a superior place to here.

There are so many verses that speak of the human condition being arduous. For in this life you will have trials and tribulations, but fear not, for I have overcome the world. We are ambassadors of Christ, the creation groans as in childbirth awaiting the Saviour. Job, when experiencing suffering, calls out it would have been better for him to have not been born, and Solomon, too, exclaims that best off is he who never sees the light of day.

Pretty bleak, right? I do not disqualify niceties of this life, by no means. Especially the fact that we can behold our Saviour, something even the angels marvel at yet never quite understand. This life surely holds beauty and truth, yet also so much suffering. I watched a show on the tsunami yesterday captured by those who were themselves victims of it in one way or another. This life always holds death in close proximity, only some get to have a crystal clear impression of that fact whilst others get to be lulled in by sufficient distractions to not notice.

Lana del Rey sings that you and I, we were born to die. What I had to realize was not the fact that I would die, but that I had to do quite a bit of living before. To me, dying is the easy part. I know, there are horrific deaths, and I do not intend to belittle those falling victim to terror and heart ache. Probably I see this quite differently in the face of death. Let me tell you a little story: My Grandma had been in a coma like state for over a week. She refused to eat, and had no longer communicated with anyone. Previously, she had particularly asked to not be force fed if such a situation would ever arise.

There she was, breathing heavily, her stink was terrifying as she had not eaten in days. Her mouth was so dry. I opened the Bible, and it was at Revelation, speaking of the rivers that flow through heaven. At first I was pretty reluctant to read this to her, it seemed to laugh in the face of her state. Yet I kept at it, and her breath became calmer. Eventually, she stopped. I was livid! Running out to my dad I screamed! “Dad, Dad! She died!” My Dad is a Pastor, I thought he would know what to do now.

He came into the room, and shortly after she began breathing again. I was still very upset. A few days later she died. I was told it whilst out shopping, and I was so joyful! I really know that she is in a better place now. Life had been so hard on her. Her husband had been taken to prison at night leaving her to fend for herself. Later he came back a broken man, only to cheat on her a few years later. Her kids pretty much abandoned her, and, eventually, I would turn my back on her, too. There was not much left of her when we buried her.

Yesterday I heard about what William Booth of the Salvation Army encouraged his co-workers to focus on. The annual letter, after many years, grew shorter and shorter. At the end it only contained one word: Others! I guess learning to live for me meant to take my eyes off myself and place them on Jesus. Yep, not others, but Him. For He will direct my path to walk through the valley of death that I am in, this valley of pain and injustice and hurts and brokenness. I can act as a co-worker in bringing resurrection to this broken state by being forgiving and loving. That is the meaning of life right there. Just in case someone asks.

Merry, go round!

“Hi, is this the Gingerbread House?”

“Oh, gosh, sorry, no! My darling, you seem to have gotten quite a bit off the path to get here.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know how exactly I can get there?”

“Sweetiepie! Of course. Nothing easier than that!Easy-peasy-lemon-squeazy-easy! First, you have to get a cake.”

“A cake?”

“Yes, but not just any cake will do. It will have to be a black forest cake.”

“Ok, well, black forest cake it is then!”

“Darling, go to the corner that you see there, turn right and walk up until you get to the shop that sells black forest cake.”

“Sure thing, nothing easier than that.”

“Now, listen here, you will need a bottle of red wine. Do not show up at the gingerbread house without one.”

“Oh, dear, thanks for reminding me. I would have looked quite the fool, eh?”

“Nothing to worry about, you are save now! Once you leave the black forest cake shop, turn right and continue walking. You will see a Weimaraner at the corner. He always stands there. On that corner, take a left.”

“A Weimaraner? Like, a live one?”

“Oh, yes, sorry, not made from porcelain. They used to have a porcelain porcupine on that very corner, now it is a live Weimaraner.”

“Ah, see, that’s why. I recall the porcupine so well. Thanks for that added detail.”

“Sure, no problem. So, after you have turned left, keep walking. You will walk past a mountain of snow. People are sledding down from it.”

“Ok, the one at Potsdamer Platz? By the big train station?”

“Yes. Once you are there, you won’t be able to miss it.”

“Thank you so much!”

“Not to worry! Oh, one last thing: Do not eat the house!”

“Oh, dear, ok, sure!”

“And don’t believe the wolf telling you he is a grandmother. The wolf is the worst liar there is!”

“Thanks, thanks, I would have never found it without you!”