Medical Check Up 

 

Their eyes scanning like MRI

With precision, to pierce my soul. 

Their eyes speak so loudly, I wear ear plugs

So I can hear your voice alone. 

 

Copying faster than IBM

So Sharp, their words canon with deafening volume

It spreads so quickly, I wear body armour

So you can protect me. 

 

Searching for breaks in my structure like an X-ray

So they can magnify my flaws

These breaks show a history of battles

Some won, some lost

And the ones you restored. 

 

Ears with ultra-sound accuracy

To find new news to spread

Instead they hear the sound wind blowing

As you breathe new life within. 

 

New things I see, new seeds in me

Thought I was buried, but I was planted. 

Springing forth, bursting through

You in me, and I, in you. 

You in me, and I, in you.

Written By Stephen John

©2020

Published S2J2 Enterprises Ltd.

 

Five Sense Living 

 

I shook my purse, dug deep in my pocket

One, two, three, four, five, sense. 

Is that making any sense?

How can I live on five sense? Is that even possible?

I’ve done it all my life, but, thinking about it, five sense isn’t much.

 

I went to shopping with my five sense,

I saw my favorite fruit  

But I could only watch, five sense can’t buy squat.

Seeing is no fun when you can’t buy.

A five sense budget is, a crime!

 

The aroma tickles my nose, while passing the bakery mmmmm, 

The sign said $10 a loaf, 

I smell melting butter, I smell melting cheese

But my nose deceives me

Five sense can’t buy these!

 

I feel like a captive

Five sense living keeps me bound

Can’t get ahead in living, 

Even with opportunities around

 

Is there another sense to acquire?

A sixth, without seeing death?

Currency, purchasing power, bargaining with confidence

I need a sixth sense

 

A seventh sense! An eighth sense!

A ninth sense! A tenth sense!

Getting me closer to a dollar, Got me some power!

More than my pocket can hold.

 

Can’t live on five sense

On my knees…I get my sixth sense

I stand tall, brave, bold…

 

Written by Stephen John

© 2018

Published S2J2 Enterprises Ltd.

 

 

Temporal Loop 

I have been thinking recently about certain experiences I have had with you, my fellow humans. Some of these experiences seemed to keep me trapped in a loop, where I would be having the same conversation or experiencing the same feelings every time I was in the company of certain individuals or experiences. This became a burden to me and I began to feel “Ah how” as we say here in Trinidad and Tobago.

I recognize that there are a few things that aided in keeping me stuck in a loop. The first being Nostalgia and the next Grudges.

Meriam Webster dictionary describes nostalgia as “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for, return to, or of, some past period or irrecoverable condition.” Who among us doesn’t like to reminisce? We remember the “good old days” or remembering a pleasurable experience and we want to relive them again and again. The thing is, holding on so tightly to the past really robbed me of enjoying the present. I robbed myself of enjoying the new changes that took place within me and within those around me. I found myself getting stuck in trying to relive and recreate what was no longer possible with those around me. Memories are good, smiling and laughing at things past is good but I have been learning that memories are just one capsule of time in our minds. It is ok to revisit them, however, I need to move on. 

 

Grudges are incredibly powerful and like nostalgia, they keep us trapped in the past but for a different reason. I believe there are two types of offences that occur as we interact with each other, regular or unintentional offences and intentional offences. Regular ones occur in the day to day activities of life, where we have general misunderstandings. I have found these are easy to deal with and to get over. Intentional ones are totally a different kettle of fish for me. Although I think most times we can tell the difference between the two, intentional ones cut deeper and are often puzzling and make us feel to enact revenge. When others intentionally choose to offend us, we can choose to ignore, attack, or release them. I have found that holding a grudge against my offender allowed the person to live in my mind, which created an unhappy prison for me.  I lived stuck in the past, stuck in the loop of allowing the offence and individual to control me. 

The beautiful thing is we can change, we can break the loop of nostalgia and grudges. I have not been on earth long but here are some suggestions I have gathered

  1. Celebrate each moment and each experience fervently. It will never come again, ever… 
  2. Don’t hold on to so tightly that you can’t adapt. Adapting gave me the freedom to acknowledge the past was good (or bad) and also allowed me to plan and look forward to new things.
  3. Where offences are concerned, even the intentional ones, the majority of times it had nothing to do with me as a person or my abilities, but the way the other person viewed themselves and their perception of who they thought I was.
  4. If I have the right mind-set, every experience – whether good and bad – is meant to make me into a better person. When I was in the midst of the experience, it did not make any sense. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I could see why I had to go through the experience.
  5. I am finite, I can only exist in the present. God is the only person that exists in the past, present and future at the same time. Growing to trust him is challenging but it works out for my good. 

I am still growing, I have not arrived, and at times I still get shaken and stuck. I do hope that we all can break whatever loop we have found ourselves caught in.

 

Stephen…

A Son In The Sun 

 

I recently willingly sat for a sun tan. Not because I needed to get darker, but because my son needed me to sit in the sun. 

Now when I say needed, it was not that he was doing a school project or in any physical need per-se. My son is a budding cricketer, he was being affected by some off the field issues and it was affecting his game. Two days before the game we had a few man to man heart to heart conversations. 

The conversations didn’t surround wallowing in pity, hell no! Instead I pointed out that the things off the field are beyond his control and to focus on the things that he can control. His thoughts, his feelings, his actions.

Having had my own struggles, I knew what it is like fighting off feelings of self-pity and it really is not easy. It’s ok to cry, scream and release the tension in some healthy physical way, pray. Do whatever is needed to get the negative feelings and toxins out of your headspace and body. 

Then go back and face the world again. We were designed so wonderfully that our bodies naturally detoxify when we sweat, exhale, and use the toilet. The same goes for our emotional, mental and spiritual selves. 

The video above was the result. I sat in the sun for his innings and cheered every dot ball, every single, and every boundary. 

So my tan was worth it, I got to see my son break his cycle of low scores but more so, develop some character to fight. 

Who are you cheering today?

How Did We Get Hair? 

 

Growing naturally from the roots of blackness, curling like the cerebrum encased below.

People once thought to be less than human, illiterate, savages.

How did we get hair?

 

Centuries of innovation, decades of mathematicians, years of oceanic navigation.

Crossing channels, like the rows of corn neatly parted on my crown. 

How did we get hair?

 

From sharing knowledge with humanity, to fighting, shedding blood to enter a university.

Still in 2023, I look at brick and mortar laid by the hands of my ancestors and wonder…

How did we get hair?

 

Peeping through your stained window

Wanting to use the other word for donkey

However, I will keep my dignity and my class

 

Hair! Is not where I want to be. 

Hair! Is not where we should be as a society.

Hair! Cannot be the measure of my humanity.

Hair! Is not the measure of my character.

Hair! Is not a moral barometer.

 

Oh…the Trinity of curls, roots and cerebrum beneath.

Has me thinking, in 2023, futuristically begging the almighty.

Please, don’t let 2024 leave me without and answer, to this question

How Did We Get Hair?

 

Copyright Stephen John 

June 29th 2023

Friendly Fire 

 

 

Growing up in church was and is always interesting. You are certain to hear the stories of the Israelites forever fighting against their enemies the “Ites”. Amalakites, Perrizites, Cananites and Philistines in your Sunday school classes. 

 

We are captivated by the heroics of David defeating Goliath, the exploits and victories of Joshua, Gideon and Deborah. We are encouraged to model and imitate these heroes of the faith and know that we will be attacked by those who don’t share our belief system.

 

However, what happens when the enemy is an “ite” but of a friendly nature? When the enemy shares your beliefs? When the enemy is an Israelite?

 

What do we do, how do you handle the attack? We can learn a few things from scripture. David was pursued by his own son Absalom. Psalm chapter 3 gives us a hint as to how David in the midst of panic and confusion was able to be resilient. He still had to fight, he still had to face fear. He, however, rested and slept knowing that God would protect him from his enemies. 

Imagine asking God to defend you from your own family. Definitely not a happy place. 

 

Joseph was sold into slavery, not by the evil enemies of his father but his very own brothers. What was the root of this? Just plain jealousy. Joseph was the youngest sibling and simply shared a vision, a dream that he had, his God-given life purpose. His brothers didn’t appreciate the fact that he would one day “rule” over them.

We have the advantage of reading the narrative from beginning to end, however, Joseph had to live it. He endured every second of slave trading, every second of deceit, every second of jail. It is only at the end Joseph could say, you all meant this for evil but, in hindsight it was for all of our good. 

 

There are more examples I could list however, I would just do the best model of all Jesus. Jesus was a Jew who came to the Jews; the Jews rejected him and were the loudest voices and instigators for his crucifixion. Judas was hand-picked to become the rat that would hand Jesus over, the sell-out. When Jesus taught the disciples, he taught Judas too. When he prayed for them, he prayed for Judas too. When he washed their feet, he washed Judas’ as well. Funny that Jesus picked the man that would sell him out (that is for another time). Jesus never ill-treated Judas, he stayed mostly silent during his interrogations while the people he came to cried to crucify him, and still he asked his heavenly father to forgive them. 

 

As I survey my life, I recognize most of the attacks I have received did not come from hostile fire, it came from within the community that share the same beliefs that I do. The thing about the Sunday school stories is that they don’t prepare you for friendly fire. You anticipate attacks to come from the liars, fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals that exist outside, not from the community. Truthfully, many times I received more help, more grace, more support from outside. Not because I gave up my beliefs, but because I do my best to respect people and to work well with all who cross my path. 

 

How to deal with friendly fire? Here’s what I learned so far in my short sojourn on earth.

 

  1. It’s not about me – I am only responsible for and in control of my thoughts, my feelings, my action and my words. 
  2. Propulsion – I let it propel me to pursue my goals, my peace, things that I enjoy and people that have a genuine interest and care in seeing me do well.
  3. Silence – Silence is gold. I don’t always have to defend myself, I don’t always have to share my opinions and thoughts, I don’t always have to share my goals and plans. 
  4. Speak up – There is a time for everything. I choose wisely when to fight and when to walk. Sometimes walking is part of the fight. 

 

What do you do when the attack comes from friendly fire?

 

 

Patiently Weighting  

 

I have been in many situations where things don’t go as planned, where there are delays or where things just move rather slowly. I have been told that I am overly patient, many times to my own detriment. 

I have still been giving thought to my ability to not become anxious and or irritated when I experience delays. 

Weighting implies importance, something that is given priority. It speaks to special allocation, allowance made in special circumstances. What do I give priority to when there are delays? What do I emphasize while I wait? The issue isn’t only about attaining and satisfying the goal, but giving priority to my emotional, mental, physical and spiritual betterment. Allocating time and energy to develop softer skills, to adding new skills instead of complaining and or comparing myself to others proved to be the better option. This gave me a sense of contentment and calm that allowed me to keep working. 

Patience is not the easiest virtue to develop and apply. It requires a disposition that goes against the need to immediately gain relief, pleasure, acknowledgement or fulfilment. The question I have started asking myself while I wait is “who am I becoming?” 

We all desire things to go well, but very often life has other plans. We don’t always get what we want, how we want it, where we want and when we want. One reason for this is the fact that many of our goals require the assistance of other individuals for them to materialize. I acknowledge that I can acquire the things I want quickly if I wanted to, however, who am I becoming?

If I get that dream job, would that make me kinder? If I get the acknowledgement, would it make me less selfish? If I can get the relationship I desire, would it make me more loving? 

What if I got all that I desired, would I be altogether healthy? The comfort and relief of getting the things I want immediately, was contrary to the growth that I needed. Learning to control my unhealthy desires, learning to be tenacious and learning greater assertiveness only occurred when I had the right attitude while I waited. Placing the priority and emphasis on learning, growing and becoming more self-aware, was of greater benefit than attaining whatever I was waiting on. This allowed me to change my focus from the unfulfilled desire and the disappointment it could bring, to focus on the beauty and gratitude for what I have. 

In my family we have a tradition called the “Thankful Bottle”. Throughout the year we make little notes of things we are thankful for and place it in the bottle. On New Year’s morning, we open the bottle and read all the notes. What this has helped with is recognising that more things often went well than not. It shows us that even while we keep working on our goals, progress has been made. 

I have learned to appreciate every moment and to be thankful for what I currently have. I hope that we all learn to Patiently Weight as we push towards achieving our goals. James 1:4 “Let patience finish its work, that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Bless…

Daddy Thoughts 

 

I prayed over you in the womb before I saw your face.
I sang songs that made you dance and run and giggle in that wee little space.
A boy? A girl? Who could tell? Anxiety grew inside, all that mattered was ten tiny fingers... ten tiny toes and a killer screaming cry. 

Diapers by the dozen, bottles by the case. Sleep!? What's that again? There is no escape.
Cries turn into chatter, little feet walk and run. A stumble, a fall, I secretly watch, get up, get up my child, you're ok, come on run... 

Fingers scribble on paper, "daddy that is you", numbers are easy 2×1=2!!
Lunch kits all packed, after school chats, secret stops for a snack.
Cheering from the stands for Cricket, Gymnastics and Track. 

Disagreements, disappointments, apologies, can you forgive me please? Daddy does not always get it right, though I try with supernatural might. 

Some days it feels I failed, some days I am amazed, some days I feel accomplished, then shudder at the work unfinished. 

One day you all will fly away, I will trust God with the rest. Knowing as your daddy, I would have done my best. 

 

No Free Lunches 

 

My parents’ marriage didn’t work out - my mother and father divorced when I was around ten  years old. I am now aware as an adult that my mother was advised, by persons in the church community, to stay in the marriage relationship despite the fact that it was abusive on many different levels. Today, I am thankful that she didn’t as the storyline of my life would have been very different.

This preamble of my blog is crucial information to the content of this piece. You see, at that time (and it still happens today) divorcees and their children were treated as lepers and outcasts: kept on the outskirts of the community, given what some may consider non-important ministry during service and treated as “less than saints”.

Allow me to share with you one of the most devastating memories I have of our life at that time. It was one of the few occasions that we as children were allowed to see my mother’s pain, allowed to see her wounded. Things were always tight financially and around that time our roof badly needed repairs. My mother approached the church, our churchfor some sheets of roofing that were lying around unoccupied on the church compound to assist with repairs to our home. The person responsible for the roofing sheets said to my mother “There are no free lunches in life.” Needless to say, we did not receive the sheets.

As I peruse the scripture, I notice that God was very much concerned about social justice and those who were disenfranchised by the circumstances of life. Some of these are Malachi 3:5, Deuteronomy 15 and James 1:27, just to list a few.

The Israelites were commanded to seek after the welfare of each member of their society. This was not an option. Deuteronomy 15:7 and 8 says”…do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your poor brother. Rather be open-handed and freely lend him whatever he needs.” There was concern for every member of the community. The statement that the fellow church member made to my mother years aback has to some degree haunted me since then as it is in direct contradiction to the statues God has given. The sense of community, and collective responsibility to the less fortunate is crucial to the growth and prosperity of the church community (James 1:27, Micah 6:8). We can sing songs of deliverance, claim and decree and declare in our worship but if we are not obedient to God’s word, how can the church experience genuine, godly success and blessing? (1 Cor 13)

I thank God that my mother was a fighter; she was resilient, determined and faithful to God. Things may have turned out very different for us as a family if she wasn’t. My sisters and I have not, by the grace of God, followed the script written for us by society as children of a broken home with a single-parent divorced mother. As a family we strive to be intentional in our support and encouragement of each other as we celebrate our successes, and failures in the different stages and milestones of life. We love tangibly

It is my earnest prayer that we the church do some introspection and with the Spirit’s enablement, intentionally and lovingly meet the needs of those around us and become the community that God intended.

Lessons from photography 

During the height of the Covid 19 pandemic I picked up photography. A friend of mine encouraged me after seeing some photos I took with my mobile phone. 2021 has long come and gone, however, here a few things that I have been learning and or reminded of during my photography journey. 

1. If you want to learn something new, just start.

There is no reason to sit around and wonder if I can, or if I would be good enough. The only way to know, is to start.

2. Beauty is everywhere, even in the ugliest of spaces and places.

I have been to garbage heaps, dry spaces, gardens. Beauty can be found if I look for it.

3. Only I can determine what is beautiful to me.

The old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is true only I can determine what I consider beautiful.

4. Somethings are better experienced than captured.

I have really grown to appreciate, just allowing things to be in my memory only. That moment, scenery, person or flower is just as beautiful in my mind as on a screen or printed picture.

5. Having multiple lenses/views is good for perspective.

I am getting better at appreciating different perspectives. I see much clearer and understand better.

6. Having multiple lenses/views can be bad, too much choice.

I have come to understand the Nike slogan “Just Do It” and the power of one. It is good to have options, however the power of one makes life much simpler and also brings out a level of creativity. 

7. Know which lens/vision to use when.

Having tools is useless, if I don't know why I should use it, when I should use it and where I should use it. Get to know the resources I have.

8. Sometime I just need to zoom in to understand

Getting a closer look can really cut away a lot of clutter and misunderstanding. This works for conversations, ask  for clarity.  

9. I need light.

This is kind of self-explanatory, I can't function too well without light. 

10. Too much light is not always good.

I think too much of anything is not good. Too much heat, too much cold, too much light spoils a photo. I need balance.

11. A mentor is not there to validate your every decision but to guide you to find your own eye.

My mentor to this date has never said “yea this nice” or “good work”. He always asks me question. Why did I choose this lighting? Why did I choose this angle? What is the story I am trying to tell? He is not being harsh, but he is causing me to focusing on improving and thinking in a deeper way about the choices I make. I appreciate that. 

12. Not everyone is happy about your development.

This is a harsh reality of life. Not everyone wants to see me progress. I live with it and move on. 

13. Darkness is important.

Some of the best growth and development take place where the light is not shining. It is difficult, but when I look back I see that some of my best songs and best development took place when I was in dark moments.

14. Being still is very important.

Being active is good. I now know that to get a solid view and perspective I need to stay still. Movement cause blur. I need to just shut up and be still for the best view. 

15. Only I can truly explain my story, everyone else is assuming.

Nobody else knows what I truly feel and experience. Therefore I am the best storyteller. I am the only person on the planet than can tell my story, I won't leave it to another person to misrepresent my view and perspective. 

What journey are you on? What is it teaching you?

Bless…