Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Memories (2)

Lately, I've displayed a particular tenacity towards dealing with some things that have really troubled my mind..the kind of all-out tenaciousness that just makes you drop everything and commit to the fact that either you or the offending matter will be put to rest once and for all.

Recently, a friend asked me what drives me, especially when I show passion for a task that in all likelihood is thankless and something most people are already ambivalent about. Truth be told, I didn't have a smart answer...no answer at all for that matter; but the thing about people is that they are a sum total of their reactions to all their experiences in life (past & present).

That brings me to the core of the story, this gem from times past. Recently, I recalled my first trip to Messiah College. The journey was a whole bunch of firsts for me: first time leaving home, being on my own, leaving the country, getting to the States, seeing a 5 pm sunset on arriving at Chicago O'hare etc. I was totally out of my element. I don't know about you, but when I get to a new place, I am totally hopeless; a fish-out-of-water. 

At the end of all that, finally made it to Harrisburg Airport. Unless things have changed lately, Harrisburg Airport must still be really small; that only served to accentuate the fact that outside lay a complex world that I definitely wasn't equipped to handle. At that moment, I noticed from a side glance that two people who were looking at me. I had been in correspondence with the school so I was hoping they kept their promise to meet me at the airport. Sure enough, Irwin and Elaine were there for me. (They must have been told to look out for the "most-lost" looking individual)...they came looking for a "Robert" though, but I won't hold that against them :-)

And that was my first experience with Messiah College (stateside), and words can't capture what it meant to me. Now, some of my friends might say that since I went to a private college it was the kind of mommy-coddling they had to do because their fees are higher than public universities. But I'd argue that there's only so much that money can buy you.

As I write this out, I'm reminded of someone else who reached out to me in a big way: Stephanie Phillips. While I was back home making the transition to get to Messiah, she answered all my emails and gave me a heads up on what to expect. (...that first email I sent her would be fun to look at now, in retrospect; I was so scared when I wrote it). And she even showed me the ropes when I got to Messiah and was a great friend of mine, a fellow member of ISA/MK. Pity I haven't gotten to talk to her since she graduated.

Putting all these tangents together, they are some of the reasons why I get passionate about some things. A lot of people made great impressions on my life, but sadly I never got the chance to pay them back; I'm speaking of course of a "token" payback, because you never really can pay someone back for an act of kindness. However, you can "pay things forward'...if anything, at least in a manner that a predecessor already showed you, and as time goes by, you can learn more ways to show off the kindness in your heart, birthed from a Benevelonce above.

My sister told me recently,
all these material things you accumulate can be taken away from you at any moment. But the way you make someone feel, what you do for them in their time of need, no one will ever be able to take that from you
So I guess I'll keep her words in mind when I'm being passionate about doing what I do.

Thank God for a little pure passion, no matter how it's inspired within us.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mark Schultz - Closer to You

From time to time, I love to just peruse the internet looking for the sentiments other people express concerning a song that I like. I haven't been able to find much in the way of comments relating to Mark Schultz's "Closer to you" from his Stories and Songs  CD. One other track in particular stood out from this album: "He will carry me"; it was used to accompany an especially well-performed ballet at Acclamation 2004/5 (Messiah College), and thus I was introduced to the work of Mark Schultz; coincidentally, my full introduction occurred when my elder brother played me the track when I was back home in Kenya.

Anyway, only this year did I fully listen to his whole CD; "He Will Carry Me" still carries the same poignant message that made it appeal to so many people, but practically tucked away at the end of the CD is the song "Closer to you". I remember someone describing it as someone recommitting their life to God, but at its core this song is the tale of someone who's transitioning to Eternity, and a most elegant portrayal of it in fact.

At the outset, we can tell that the person is in the firm grip of infirmity, and that their spirit is weary; NOT the kind of weariness that gives rise to hopelessness and desperation, but the kind that reminds us of the short-lived mist that every precious human lifetime really is; drawing us closer to the Ultimate Source of our strength and hope.
Closer to me, I'm tired and I'm weak.
And every breath within me is longing just to be
Closer to you, so I face the road ahead
'Cause I know there's no comparing
To what's waiting at the end.
So let the rain start falling where it will, and I will run through this valley, just to climb to that hill, and if they ask why I'm smiling, after all I've been through...it's 'cause I'm just a day closer to you
An adept storyteller, Mr. Schultz uses the third line in his chorus - which is the only varying element in each chorus - to shift us steadily through time, and through the deterioration of the person's life (smiling though weary - acceptance, dancing in the thick of things - ultimate trust, singing through to the end - embracing eternity)
Closer to me, I hear you whisper on the wind
You say although my life is fading, a new one will begin
Closer to you, and I know I'm not alone
'Cause I can hear you in the distance, saying you are nearly home
So let the rain start falling where it will, and I will run through this valley, just to climb to that hill, and if they ask why I'm dancing, though my days may be few...it's 'cause I'm just a day closer to you

No doubt most of us have lived this song with one of our loved ones, and the last verse is a testament to this. Even in the face of our weakness and limitation, we reach out to each other, affirming the reason for the hope that we have; and this act of mercy is never wasted.
Closer to me, you're in the laughter and the tears
Of the ones I leave behind me, who have prayed me through the years
Closer to you, and I know it won't be long
Till you're running down the path way, to come take me in your arms
So let the rain start falling where it will, and I will run through this valley, just to climb to that hill, and if they ask why I'm singing, though my life's almost through...it's 'cause I'm just a day closer to you , I'm just a day closer, 
I'm just a day closer to you
I lived out this whole experience with my Father, and I don't quite remember at which point it happened, but he found a deep semblance of peace, and that peace prevailed till the end. So for me, personally, this song is a celebration of my Father, the beautiful life he lived, and his strong finish despite all the things life may bring.

I'm reminded of something I read once regarding human weakness. It goes thus
Pain is a gift. Humanity without pain, would know neither fear nor pity. Without fear, there could be no humility, and every man would be a monster. The recognition of pain and fear in others gives rise in us to pity, and in our pity is our humanity, our redemption. (Dean Koontz, VELOCITY)
Thank you Mr. Schultz for celebrating the weakness which no person can run from, and in turn celebrating that which makes us most brave and brings about our redemption, reminding us to look to someone Greater for our hope and sustenance.

To God be the Glory.