25. Sweat, tears and toil
The name Winston Churchill kept popping up all over. I noticed it in an article in the Speaker’s Magazine. At the final meeting of the club for 2001 I had to give a short talk on a quote. Inspired by the article I chose Churchill’s famous quote made during his first speech as Prime Minister of a troubled Great Britain: “I promise nothing but blood, sweat, tears and toil.” I expanded on the thought and concluded that these four ingredients are the fundamentals of success. My talk finished strongly: “When you stand on the pinnacle of your mountain and raise the flag of achievement, you look into the valley of mediocrity and wonder why you have left it so long to face the challenge of climbing your mountain”.
Six weeks later, as if my friend Ricky was attending this meeting, he gave me a birthday card that showed a cat standing on a mountain top holding up a flag. Was I seeing correctly? …when you stand on the pinnacle of your mountain and raise the flag of achievement… it instantly came to mind. The caption read: “You’re at your peak this year... (inside)… which is another way of saying, almost over the hill”.
Similarly I received a birthday card from my brother in Germany. The first three letters on this card, written in English, were in the colours of traffic lights, green, yellow and red. Apart from blue, there was only one letter, the letter t (shaped like a cross) in a different colour, orange. Was this message, a secret code? What was I to do with such information? My brother was not very serious about the Christian faith. Why would he send me a birthday card that had anything to do with my colours?
What an illness did I have? It produced birthday cards matching a speech I gave six weeks earlier and letters all in my colours, except one – that of a cross? Why did I even take note? Who was behind this? Was it manipulated? Or it was again just co-incidence? More questions, more tears. This time it happened during a church service. I had to leave and go for a walk as not to embarrass anyone.
My mind went into a heightened state again. I felt the excitement mounting one moment, then confusion take over. My prayer times were more filled with questions, frustration and doubts than sentences that made sense. I started sobbing at all hours, just thinking about this amazing happening in my life.
Early in 2002 the church we attended installed big spotlights at the front. There were three of them. The colours, how could I not notice, red, yellow and green. It felt strange, my colours blazing over the auditorium every week. The colours of traffic lights still were a source of stimulation. Green was not as prominent at first. Red and yellow were the two main colours for many months.
One Sunday I noticed the green spot light had been removed from the platform at church. I casually asked the song leader, what had happened to the green light? He looked at me strangely as if I was asking a personal question. He gave an excuse for an answer. I wondered what was going on. What game was being played?
I began noticing strange links between details of my life and printed media. In the Salvation Army’s Warcry Magazine of 15/12/01 (Vol. 120, No. 50) I read an article “Seeing the signs”. It talked about meticulously observing road signs, e.g. give-way signs, stop signs, wrong way-go back”. I had written a controversial article, published on my website, pointing out that only one sign, stop signs, are needed in modern traffic. My brain imagined this article to be a response to mine. Why? How? I didn’t know.
During a driving lesson I noticed an aluminum ladder on the ground just beyond a small roundabout. I asked my student to stop the car. My car is not very big, but I knew we would fit the ladder in somehow. I picked it up, maneuvered it in between the seats and took it home to my house. There was a company name printed on the ladder. It was easy to trace the owner via the telephone book. He told me it fell off his pick-up truck and was very happy to collect it from my place. It took about seven days to drink the bottle of wine he gave me as reward.
There are two reasons why I took special notice of this everyday event. One, only a few weeks earlier Isobel and I had been shopping for just such a ladder. She loves painting and wanted a lightweight ladder to keep inside the house. The second significant factor why I took notice, was an article in “The Speaker”, the international magazine of the public speaking club. There was an article that was illustrated with a full page photograph. One person was climbing a ladder, just like my ladder, the other stretched down a hand from above as if to assist the other climbing. One person was dressed in red, the other in yellow.
Why was I tormenting my mind by linking such everyday events? How was I to handle such circumstances? Some of these were rather complex, virtually impossible to be staged. Yet I saw them, linked them and brought them to God in prayer every morning. He seemed to answer with Proverbs Chapter 3, Verse 5 and 6: “Trust in the Lord (yes, there was that word again), with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge HIM and HE will direct your paths”.
That was it. The only way I coped was to not try and make sense of it. I had learned to just keep things between me and God. He understood since HE was the director of this play. Both verses contained the word all. This small three letter word featured very prominently on the splash page of my website. It was to become very significant later.
Isobel at times was also involved with circumstances, but never linked them as I did. One day she had visited a government office and said after arriving home: “There was an aboriginal man going berserk in the reception area, shouting – I murdered my brother, I just got out of jail this morning.” He had obviously visited a pub on his first morning of freedom.
I started linking this event after seeing the title of my favourite TV show that same evening. It was “Inspector Rex”, the detective story featuring a German Shepherd dog named Rex and Alex, a young, handsome Austrian detective. I loved watching the program, because it was in my mother tongue and filmed in Vienna. That night’s episode was called “Brudermord”, murdering a brother, just like the drunkard that morning spoke of murdering his brother.
How often do co-incidences like this occur, I wondered? How should I digest such strange happening? As I pondered all this, the last scene of this episode of Inspector Rex confused me even more: It showed a scene around a barbeque. Rex, the dog, had a water hose between his teeth. Kunz, the detective’s assistant, looked at the burned meat and said: ”We in Austria eat too much meat anyway.”
It all went so fast I was flabbergasted. To top it off the first name in the acknowledgements was a “Dieter”. The surname escaped me as it scrolled down the screen. I did not know that Austrians eat that much meat or indeed have barbeques. I knew Australians eat too much meat and love their BBQ’s. I made a note to check the SBS’ (the TV station that broadcast “Inspector Rex”) website later that evening.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have done. What I noticed made even more sense to my already troubled mind: I noticed a button titled “does God come up with the goods?” What was that to mean? Was this a kind of a game? Did they want to check, if I saw the episode, notice the strange bit at the end, see my name Dieter and then email SBS? Well, this is just what I did. I sent them an email. It was early January 2002. I can’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I made a bit of a joke out of it all. Of course the email was never answered, which is what I expected.
A few weeks later, however, I noticed something out of the ordinary: Mary Kostakidis, the SBS announcer was featured in the Feb. 2002 Reader’s Digest Magazine on the back page as Australian Icon. She had been with SBS for 13 years. The newsreader, all of whom you normally only see with serious faces on TV, was photographed laughing rather heartily. What was she laughing about? Perhaps she will answer this question one day.
Whatever it was, her laughter made my troubled mind even more confused.
1. More in number 2. A sound mind 3. Now I'm found 4. Candle and the Wind
5. Realm of Nature 6. All in his Hand 7. The Wonder of it All 8. To Think God loves