Day Dreaming

chris hadfield
Famous Astronaut Chris Hadfield

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield, Space Commander of Expedition 35, is very popular in Canada.  He charmed us with his singing and strumming his guitar in the Space Station on March 17, 2013.  When asked by Maclean Magazine about his space experience, he jokingly replied that he is still dreaming in the day time.  Joke or not, his quick-witted response stayed with me.  Well, with a name like Daniel Paul, and a subject like dreaming, what do you expect?  By the way, I must be biased or something, he has good choice, singing “Oh Danny Boy.”

Whether a King like Nebuchadnessar or a slave from Israel like Daniel, all men are created equal, endowed by their creator, and we all dream.  It is not easy, but let us try to dismantle the super halo normally ascribed to Bible Characters.  Imagine “Neb” and Daniel as ordinary human beings with like passions for a few minutes. Turn the clock back to 600 BC.  Neb had a dream one night, and by morning, forgot the content of the dream.  He could not get over it and his wise men could not reconstruct his dream either.  Do not miss the fact that God, who is no respecter of persons, was graciously dealing with a pagan autocrat.  This might surprise some, God was taking time to show Neb prophetic events to come, of course, using his faithful servant Daniel to interpret.  It took years but the dream came true.  Historically we know that, years later, a group of wise men from that region, aided by the stars, took a journey to Bethlehem, seeking the baby king (perhaps a future blog post).

A destitute runaway, Jacob, dreamt about a stairway from earth to heaven with angels going up and down.  Furthermore, God assured Jacob a safe return home.  It took some years, but the dream became a reality.  Once again, God used a dream to fulfill his purpose.  Finally, we have none other than Joseph the Dreamer. The dream initially brought him untold calamity from his brothers, but eventually it came to pass.  The point of all these is God used dreams to show His plans as well as to encourage the dreamers to continue on in faith. The dream was the whole; Neb, Jacob, Daniel and Joseph were the parts.

mlk jr
A Famous Dreamer

Now fast-forward to a modern day dreamer – a black clergyman, the late Dr. Martin Luther King.  Famously titled “I have a dream” and he interpreted it 50 years ago at Washington, D.C.  This dream was not a one night event with his head on a pillow.  He day-dreamed all his life, though for a short while. Wonderfully, others started dreaming along with him too.

That dream became an historic movement.  Let us not take it lightly, in that we are live witnesses of a “partial” fulfillment of that dream, with another black man and family currently occupying the White House in Washington D.C.

I was curious to find out more about Hadfield, the famous astronaut.  He grew up like any ordinary Canadian boy, on a farm near Sarnia, Southern Ontario.  He was inspired, though young, watching the Apollo moon landing.  We can see how the dream flowed seamlessly into his life.   He joined the Canadian Air Force, studied engineering, and became a fighter pilot.  The day dreaming continued and blossomed till he commanded the space station.

Reverently, Jesus was a dreamer too.  The mission of redemption consumed him.    Throughout his life, he carried the dream of a kingdom in his bosom until, finally, he gathered enough strength and breath at the cross, to shout victoriously: “It Is Finished!”   He imparted that dream to a group of no-name men and, through them, turned the whole world right side up.  The dream continues.

What about us?  Do we dream? It is never too early and never too late.  What I write in my blog, I encourage my grandchildren to day dream, like Chris Hadfield, the boy from Sarnia.  We must resist negativity.  St. Peter said: “In the last days, I(God) will pour out my spirit upon all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men (and women) will dream dreams.”

After all, is this not what the good book says?  Train up a child….to dream?

God bless, Danny Paul

The Lord Mayor – Part II

One of my readers wrote me a good and constructive critique to my last blog post.  He wrote you “did’t take a stand and lacked purpose”.  While it is not easy to deal with a chronic age old problem with an 800 words blog post, I appreciate the critique and will go at it once more, as part 2.

First, just like you, I have few questions.  How did Rob Ford become the Mayor of Toronto?  Evidently he is elected through the usual process by the people.  Did Torontonians swallow hook line and sinker, all his election promises and conservative ideals without detecting any cover ups for his weaknesses?  One can fool some for sometime but all for all the time?  They got what they deserved? Do Torontonians accept, at least in part, the responsibility of putting him there?  Without integrity both words like Conservative and liberal are deceptive, just party terminologies.

While we ponder on these questions, grant him the benefit of the doubt. I am sure Rob Ford had good intentions.  But then again, so goes the old dictum “the road to hell is lined with good intentions”.  From what I read he has a successful business, must have worked hard, and is pretty well to do.  He did volunteer work coaching etc.  I think he was smart enough to sense the political temperature in Toronto and saw the necessity and more so the opportunity to place himself as a leader.  The Torontonians felt for it.

What went wrong?  One of my Blog readers, now travelling in the United Kingdom and Ireland wrote “referring to your illustrious Mayor Rob Ford, bad news travel fast”.  It is the talk of the town in the old countries, in fact the whole world.

I still believe, even under these circumstances, he has a better course of action and that is to acknowledge the error of his ways, humble himself, beseech pardon and reverse the course, 180 degrees. In its stead it appears he and his close advisors are still leading him to a comic circle of denying first and later admitting and so on, without a genuine repentance or remorse.  I am reminded of a pair of twins in the first book of the Bible, Esau and Jacob. “Esau traded his birthright as the first born son for a single meal.  You know that afterward when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears (Hebrews 12:16-17 NLT)

I am not a professional psychologist or a Clergyman to analyze his weak or vulnerable points that brought him down and along with him the reputation of the Mayoral office of this great and good city, to a tail spin of racket, governmental inaction, and finally the butt of worldwide jokes.  Where is the virtue of moderation?  Did none of his councillors including his own brother and close family members notice him quenching his thirst with Russian Vodka or “crack up as Jay Leno put it?  For many, when a husband thinks the wife knows already!  Were they afraid when he was bullying staff or using abusive language even to ladies?

My readers may ask or write, Danny, don’t you know this is human nature?  Of course I do and wholeheartedly agree.  This is human weakness and it is universal.  The good book calls it “the fallen nature” of man.  The good news is there is a solution.  There is a remedy and cure, “there is a balm in Gilead” as the old hymn goes.  Let me make that clear and simple in two words:

Repentence and forgiveness: these two go hand in hand, first to God and then to fellow men.  I do not know if Rob Ford has a minister or priest.  It is preferable to go through this noble process with them, in their presence. This should not be a half hearted apology as Rob Ford has been doing all along. It should be genuine, felt, seen and witnessed.  There are plenty of instances in the good book particularly King David.  This is the Hall Mark of Christianity.  As mentioned before there is forgiveness and consequences.

rob ford - better days
Remembering Rob Ford – in better days

I must be forthright in expressing my one lingering concern.  I hope and pray that Rob Ford, if any honour left in him, will not use this holy and reverential “redemption plan”, as my Catholic friends call it “the hail Mary prayer” till the storm passes by.  My Hindu friends call it “crossing the bamboo bridge in the monsoon”.  My Evangelical friends have their own version and they call it “come to Jesus” prayer strangely just prior to their elections.

Most gracious and merciful Father, kindly intervene and answer the prayers of thy children!

God bless,    Danny Paul

The Lord Mayor

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The Lord Mayor Rob Ford

They used to address the mayors of cities in the olden days as The Lord Mayor.  Few nations called their mayor Chief Magistrate. I do not know if they still do.  If they continue, it is a stretch and a stress to give that exalted title to the current Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford.  The newspapers, here in Toronto and around the world, are filled with the latest shenanigans of Mayor Ford.  Let me depict a cartoon that recently appeared in our local county newspaper.  Picture in your mind an old couple arguing, which is not unusual, on what to watch on the late night TV:

Old lady: I am sick of hearing about the Rob Ford fiasco, put on Jay leno

Jay Leno Show: How about that Toronto Mayor?  He really cracks me up.  Get it, “cracks me” (crack, Cocaine)me up, yuk yuk

Old lady:  I’m going to bed

That pretty well sums up the mood of Torontonians.  My readers know I do not enter into politics or news except for items or articles that fit to my theme, In Search of Moderation.

Having said all that, while I do not wish to elaborate on the Lord Mayor’s troubles of his making, I may list a few one-liners for the benefit of my blog readers: mayor takes drugs and keeps bad company. Has short fuse, vents angry outbursts, mouthy with racial slurs, misogynistic comments.  Uses filthy (needs lots of soap and tooth brushes) language. Is given to heavy drinking binges, imbibes at the office, erratic work habits, unexplained absences and missed meetings.

God only knows what else will be revealed as the days go by. This is plenty for any decent man to resign and seek help.  Not Rob Ford.  He even wants Toronto to re-elect him for a second term. It seems there is no one to bell the cat.  No, there was one, a veteran.  He refused to shake hands publicly with the Mayor at a Remembrance Day function!

Here is my take on it.  There is one thing that we can all learn from his fiasco – the importance of shame.  I hate to say this, but shame is one of the last bastions against such leaders.  A sense of shame has stopped many in their tracks.  St. Paul wrote to Corinthian Believers: “I write to shame you.  Is it so that there is not one wise man among you?”  King David, who should have known better, put into song: “O Lord put me not to shame”.  Once shame is gone, it is a slippery slope!

Secondly, it is clear the Mayor desperately needs the wound of a friend*.  I did not think he got it from his own brother Doug Ford, his right hand man and a fellow Councillor of his cabinet.  In fact, Doug Ford denied his brother’s misdemeanours until the Toronto Chief of Police, fearing for the city, revealed it at a press conference.  The Mayor’s mother and sister (I really sympathize with them) still feel it is the pressure of work and the public ought to give him time to recover and get back to work.

Thirdly, I do not believe his pastor, minister (if he has any) or a Priest or Bishop of his denomination, not another politician, confronted him.  Have they boldly persuaded to restore him in meekness lest he also be tempted, not necessarily through a sermon from a comfortable pew or a blog, but face to face.  He horribly needs a Nathan who would say forthrightly “thou art the man”.

Lastly, We do not like to hear it, but there is a bit of Rob in all of us.  No, no, I am not condoning this man. We can all say there go I but for the mercy of God.  Even then, there is forgiveness but also consequences.  The same king David, who was forgiven, had to face horrible consequences, starting in his own family.  For Torontonians, it is a bitter pill to swallow, in that this city used to be called Toronto “the good”.   Whether we like it or not, we are considered a Christian Nation – still.  There is a general slide, which starts from the top down and this is a wake-up call from above to humble ourselves and seek God.

One prominent newspaper had a headline on the front page on Ford: “A solitary battle, and a chance at redemption”.  Ah, that is the word I am looking for – redemption.  This may sound corny, but the fact remains that the Lord Mayor really needs the Lord Almighty and his redemption**.  Who knows, the penny might still drop one day for the Ford nation.

God bless,         Danny Paul

*see my blog “wound of a friend” 30 Sep. 2013

**see my blog “ modern day parable of 10 Nov. 2013

PS:  For a good laugh, watch this video (a spoof on Rob Ford – Saturday Night Live)

No Name Brand

No FrillsThere is a Grocery Chain Store in Ontario called No Frills.  The idea of promoting goods with a name like that is not uncommon.  During my working days, we bought large quantities of glass and plasticware for medical research and hospitals in Toronto.  I believe the manufacturers and dealers collaborated on a promotion strategy. They sold name brand products with a slightly higher price and “no name” brands with a slightly lower price, possibly all manufactured in the same factory, but packaged differently.  I am borrowing this title, in line with my theme of moderation, to highlight some of the lesser known names in the scripture.  These persons inspire and prompt us to study them further.

Recall Ananias who prayed for Saul of Tarsus.  We do not know much about him; no mention about his background, his tribe or his father’s name, his standing in the early church.  Nothing at all about anything he wrote – nothing!

As far as I know, he was not an evangelist, deacon, a bishop or part of the group of seven, as seen in Acts 6:5.  He was not from the head office at Jerusalem and no one from there ever mentioned about him either.  He was a local layman, simply called a disciple, which by the way, is saying in current terms, a Christian.  It was left to another lay man, Luke the Physician-cum-Journalist, to write about him.   Luke mentioned him only once (actually twice), both related to the same event.  He was like Lucius Cincinatus, who stepped in at the right time and stepped out after a heroic work.  Please read  my blog post “Stepping in and out” (8 April 2013) on Cincinatus; Cincinnati, Ohio named after him.  Have you met, rather sought after people like that?  They are exemplary, besides they are like antigens against factions, divisions or cults.

No-name or not, Scripture revealed him as a devout man with a good report from all the Jews who dwelt there.  Evidently that was rare in those days.  What a testimony to the Believers around the world!

This simple man was open and obedient to the vision God gave him.   He did ask God – once – “But Lord, exclaimed Ananias, I have heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the Believers in Jerusalem.  And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest those who call upon your name.  But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to the kings as well as people of Israel.  And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake’ ”. (God willing, I will write a blog post on this).

No more questions, he took off to meet Saul.  Did you observe the difference in the responses to visions from the Lord, between Ananias and the Apostle Peter?  Peter was very reticent to go to Cornelius, a Gentile.  He did finally give in.  Ananias did not have that baggage.

Notice how Ananias addressed Saul, the notorious one-man wrecking crew, Brother Saul, instant brotherhood status extended.  There was no hesitation on his part.  He did not hang around there to wait and see whether Saul’s conversion was genuine or not.  In fact, Ananias persuaded Saul to take baptism then and there!

men through roofGod always looks for people simple enough to believe Him and do his bidding.  Recall one Simeon at the dedication of baby Jesus at the temple?  This old man took Jesus in his arms and made one of the most profound prophesies on both Jesus and Mary.  After that we never heard of him again.  What a no name brand!  Think of the four who opened the roof and lowered the man suffering from palsy with his fragile cot (or mat) for Jesus to heal him.  It is not written, but let our imagination roll at their joy and excitement When Jesus said, first, “Your sins are forgiven” and later said “Stand up, pick up your mat and go home”!  Thinking about lowering with rope, imagine the joy of those in Damascus, who rescued Paul by lowering him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.  Those no-name brands risked their lives to save Paul’s life.  What if they didn’t?

My home town Newmarket belongs to York Region in Ontario.  The York Regional Police have this motto printed on their stationery and painted on all their Vehicles and Cruisers: “Deeds Speak”.  May the Lord grant us grace that others see our deeds and glorify the Father who is in heaven.

God bless,    Danny Paul

 

A Modern Day Parable

Robin Hannah constantly talks to Prodigioso, who's blind in his right eye, when they're working. The former racetrack horse has become a confident jumper.
Robin Hannah constantly talks to Prodigioso, who’s blind in his right eye, when they’re working. The former racetrack horse has become a confident jumper.

No, it is not the Good Samaritan parable which Jesus spoke, but close to it.  Instead of the one who fell among thieves on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, it was a horse named Prodigioso. The story came out recently in the Toronto Star.  Please feel free to read the article at your leisure

According to the paper, he is a thoroughbred race horse, sleek and chestnut with a white spot on his forehead.  Unfortunately Prodigioso did not make it good in the racing world.  “When horses are not winning races and not covering the cost of their upkeep, some owners will just give them away and wash their hands off.  He was reduced to a starving rack of bones.  The frightened horse had rope burns on his back ankles, which were tied to a bucket of cement.  He had been dragging the bucket along in search of food and water.  He also had scars on his face, feet that oozed with a painful thrush infection and a right eye that had been freshly blinded”.

The Good Samaritan(s) in this case are a mother and daughter from St. Catherines, Ontario, about an hour and half drive from my home.  They found him in Florida and brought him to Canada to care for him.  Initially, the horse was nervous, but the new owners helped him along to recovery. He gained weight, “and flies over jumps, knees tucked, ears pointed and you would never know now that the same horse was found starved and partially blinded in the Everglades.”  What a touching and redemptive story!

My kudos go to this newspaper, for publishing this story, on their front page with the picture and the head line: “One-eyed Wonder”.  There is so much gloom and doom spread around these days that in my opinion, this article is like a stream in the desert.  There are, of course, decays and damages, but the world has not gone to the dogs and that God Almighty has, is, and will always be in control.  There are people who care and newspapers who dare to publish them.

Like the Good Samaritan, these women were moved with compassion.  Something touched their hearts to take a second look, and be willing to transport this horse all the way from Florida to Ontario, and care for him.  I guess they spent a lot of time and finance to restore. Compassion is not cheap; it is precious and costly!

The new owners changed the name of the horse from Prodigioso to Piper.  There is something far deeper here; it is like a new life.  In other words, this horse is a new creature.  Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Thinking of the name change, do you recall Jacob?  He was, as his name indicated a sub-planter, in simple term a deceiver, from day one.  He cheated others and in greater measure, others cheated him.  His freedom from this awful bent in his nature came much later at a place called Peniel, where he had an encounter with God, who appeared in the form of man. There God asked him a simple but probing question: “What is your name?  Jacob confessed his name was Jacob.  God said your name will no longer be Jacob.  From now on you will be called Israel.”   A fitting name for a patriarch.

Back to the news story, the mother and daughter noticed something very important.  The road to recovery was not only the caring for the physical; there was something else – fear!  They said “to help him cope with the vision loss, they did a lot of different things, assuring him constantly and showing him there is nothing to be afraid of.”  The owners now say “he is special and he knows it”;  reducing fear increases self confidence.  Jesus emphasized this frequently.  His famous words are “fear not” and “do not worry”.

Has this modern day parable of a horse anything to do with human beings?  Like Prodigioso, do we know someone that had possibilities but could not succeed in life?  Do we call them losers?  St. Luke observed many like that and called them the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind.

There is always a Good Samaritan that comes to our lives, seen or sometimes unseen. It may be parents, a teacher, (old saying, the teacher touches lives) friend, customer, and at times strangers.  These are the Angels Without Halos.   If we can trace, it is always the unseen hand of a loving God.  While typing my posts, I normally catch myself whistling or singing to myself an old hymn or a chorus that comes to my mind.  Guess what is on tonight?  It is the old song by Austin Miles: “There’ a new name written down in glory, and its mine, yes its mine”.  Is it yours?

God bless,    Danny Paul