Monday, 22 December 2014

FORGETFUL ME

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Yesterday was my birthday and it’s just so amazing how time imperceptibly tip toed past my beclouded – and yes, bespectacled – eyes. Eyes that were so busy roving over history books of yesterdays, clouded by the past that they forgot to see time dancing past.
 
I am particularly big on history. I believe, for one, that if we want to move ahead in the future and not make the mistakes we did in the past, there is a need to dust up our books and take stock. That sounds like a perfectly logical thing to do. Right?



Which was why yesterday, I decided to settle down and think of my past. I thought of my childhood (*smug smile* yes, I said childhood), my teenage years (ok, don’t roll your eyes now – I meant the major parts) and my…now. From where I sat on my bed that morning, the view looked very colourful, with some white, black, red, green and even grey areas. 

At that point I got confused; what part do I focus my lens on, really? Those times when I did things I wasn’t so proud of? Or those ones where I could beat my puffed up chest? Either way the lens went, one thing was evident, there was no helping my future with this. I tried so hard to spot mistakes and think up new strategies to advance. Nada. Zilch. Nothing! I tried resolutions and wishing lists. Didn’t work. Because somewhere in my heart I couldn’t find a motivation, a springboard to hop on to my new year.

I kept searching.

And searching….

Then it hit me! 

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19 - NIV)

I finally got it. God is doing something new! He is making ways and springing upwelling of waters. This is the trend. And He’s calling me, drawing my attention and wondering how I could be so alarmingly obtuse. “I’m doing it! Open your eyes and see it. Perceive it. Don’t be so insensitive”. There is relief for me in this arid place. There are spurts of revitalizing waters in this desert but somehow I couldn’t see it and God’s gift to me is this, “Look!”

But there is a problem.

The new is great and exciting. It is all I want and all I look forward to, old news is getting boring and frustrating. But there’s more to this promise than just looking and seeing it. To enter my brand new future, there has to be a “letting go”. I need to forget the past, no matter how ugly and frayed or how sparkly and glorious because going over history will keep me from the new, it would build a misty cloud over my eyes so I miss my “new” twirling past me.

 “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put wine in old, cracked bottles; you get strong, clean bottles for your fresh vintage wine. And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.” (Luke 5:36 – The Message).

So, no matter how much I fancy my old clothes, there is no patching them up with the new silk. Nope. God would not build a new skyscraper on an old foundation, he would not make do with the old. He would not build on my yesterday. I have to forget the past. Forget it and how comfortable it is, forget how cozy its familiarity feels, forget its glories and shame. Everything.

I’m dropping my thick-leather-back history tome, placing it in a fancy chariot and hurling it at a 60 degree tangent straight into the Red Sea; chariot and all.

I’m turning my back.
 
And I’m getting forgetful.

That. Is. My. Happy Birthday.


Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” (Isaiah 43:19 – The Message Bible).

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

HE WASN’T KIDDING! (II) – Wow!

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There are a handful of things I could say I have learned from kids, that is, when I allowed myself look beyond the gurgles and wailings to the true essence of innocence, beauty and…wonder. A few of these I could see reflected directly in scripture’s directives.

One of them is WONDER. There was a time my little cousin was fascinated by butterflies. Most kids would squeal and run in circles when they saw one. Not my cousin. If he was squealing or running in circles, it was because he was too excited and wanted to catch the critter. He would “ooh!” and “aah!” all over, much to my irritation. I mean jeez, it was just a butterfly. Who stands wide-eyed at a flappy critter? Apparently, he did.

I am not wide-eyed.

And I say that with all sense of pride and smugness. Life and society have taught me to be practical. You are not a “village” girl. Staring wide eyed at city lights and buildings. Practicality…down-to-earth. It’s the stuff of sophistication and well…maturity. Of course, there are some occasions when I see something and go, “wow”, like say a technology or an art. But only those things I can understand, at least to the extent where I know it must have cost a lot to make it that “wow” inspiring. If God is too awesome for us, we’d probably probe and prod till we lose the stars in our eyes. We run to science to explain the phenomenon behind it. As if to say, “How dare You do something so amazing I can’t understand?” 

God is great, I say that all the time. But somehow it has grown so…familiar. Yeah, God parted the sea for His children to walk through, so what? It sounds cool but I wouldn’t allow myself drool all over my Bible because of it. He is God. He is expected to do these things, right? Besides, I’ve heard that a dozen plus times.

He stills the sun, he roars in lightening and cloud, formed the world in six days,  he walks on water, restores unseeing eyes, he multiplies loaves of bread…litters the pages of the Bible with awe-inspiring exploits and still manages to be everywhere at the same time. Yet, somehow I do not see the wonder in this. My eyes don’t grow wide, I don’t gasp and mouth “wow” in amazement, my mouth doesn’t go agape. It doesn’t occur to my slow brain and familiar heart that THIS IS NOT NORMAL. People don’t generally go about doing these kinda stuff.

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive and accept and welcome the kingdom of God like a little child [does] positively shall not enter it at all” (Jesus in Mark 10:15 – AMP)

But somehow I could feel God pulling my heartstrings with his word. He tells me to receive his kingdom like a child, first with blind-eyed belief, then with wide-eyed wonder and finally with open arms. JUST LIKE A CHILD. A child who somehow thinks everything is fascinating. A child who isn’t too familiar with the wonders of God. A child who would stop to stare at the vastness of the sky and cry, “look!”,  a child who jumps in excitement to see a bird. 

I’m not awesome, He is. He gracefully and powerfully causes His enemies to bow, He paints the sky with elegant and fluid strokes, splattering His nature all over for us to see, He provides meals from the sky, heals the sick, changes the heart of people.

Hangs on the cross.

He is awesome. And he has called me to receive the beauty of His kingdom. He didn’t call me to probe it. But to stand and watch with wide eyed wonder and parted lips at his bruised battered face, bloodied body on a wooden cross till I cannot but fall to my knees in worship. He has called me to the very Kingdom He purchased for me with his punctured hands, those same mighty hands that formed me…that same heart that loves me.

I am called to receive, called to accept, called to welcome. If the call was in a still small voice pulling my heart or in a thunderous voice accompanied by lightening, it is not my duty to probe it but to stand in wonder and brokenness and simply whisper, “Yes, Lord.” 

God wants me to worship Him in the beauty and wonder of His holiness and mightiness. His deeds and works should elicit wonder. His kingdom should not be one I take lightly because I’ve heard it a trillion times. His Kingdom should be one where its sheer beauty, power and righteousness causes me to be awed. 
  
I should receive His kingdom with a WOW!

"Let be and be still , and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:10 - AMP)

Side note: When last have you allowed yourself give the skies more than just a passing glance? When last did you let out a shout of amazement because the wonders of God cannot be contained? When last did you wonder about the hand of God in a person?

Well, the other day, I was walking home and I was able to capture the sky on camera;


God is awesome.

Photo credit: via Lightstock

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

HE WASN’T KIDDING! (I) - Faith like a child

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I love children. It is an affection that has spurred me to study every fascinating detail of them.  I love their big, bright eyes, their cute gurgles, their endless ramblings on related and unrelated topics, their smell, their naughtiness, their cute and funny repartees, their cute little toes and fingers. Their ignorance.

But as much as I love kids, I do not admire them. How could I? I mean, they are KIDS. One of the greatest insults I thought I could ever get as a very grown girl from a person was when they looked me square in the eyes and allowed, “You’re acting like a child!” drop from their mouth. Now, I consider myself a quite genial person but maan, call me a kid and my head could heat up. I avoided this like the plague, had spent almost my whole life trying to prove it.

I AM NOT A CHILD. 
 
It became my favorite mantra, a sword I would wield in anyone’s face as soon as I saw any red lights screaming, “Kid-accusation alert!” The rules were formed, I didn’t have to try so hard, society and conventions defined them.

RULE NO. 1: BE INDEPENDENT

I adopted this rule as often as I could. 

Mum: “You should not do this like this. Here, let me help you”

Me: “Ugh! No, Mum! Geez, I’m not a child!”

This was the format of me and my Mum’s arguments as I grew to be a teenager. I could do stuff myself. I didn’t need anyone to teach me or help me (especially the ones I thought I could well handle). I prided myself in this. I thought it was a very…mature way of thinking.

And it wasn’t surprising when I and God started having these arguments too. ”Lord, I know I need you but surely there has to be SOMETHING I can do myself!”

Plus, I am a very rational human being. I don’t believe in Santa Clause, nor the man in the moon. I know everyone isn’t perfect, so I never trust them. If God says I’ll do" A", boy it has to be censored by my high-beam-lie-detecting equipment. "Did he really mean that?" I think too much. And that is a good thing. Right?

But as always, God has a way of bursting my painfully inflated bubbles.

“I assure you, anyone who doesn't have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God." (Mark 10:15-16 – NLT)

Annnd…there goes my bubble!

Jesus dropped the bomb in carefully succinct words. So short, with no parables of any sort, that it is soo easy for us, rational-independent adults to miss.

Independent. Reasonable. These are words we love to be described by, but Jesus sunk our boats on this one. He never told us to be super strong, independent and rational. Nope, He asked us to be like a child. Kids aren’t independent or rational. They are clingy and completely unreasonable. No way was I having them as my role model. BUT, THAT IS WHAT JESUS EXPECTS! 

He expects that when He tells me He’d do something as ridiculous as say…sanctify me and make me (ME, you guys!) like himself, I should just believe Him and hang to His every word. No questions or theories to explain whether he will or how he will. He expects that I cling to Him for my EVERY need including the ones I feel I am big enough to handle…like say, making my own decisions. That’s the difference, a child would believe anything his/her parents tell him/her, even something as ridiculous as talking donkeys. 


This picture of helplessness, gullibility and unshakable trust is what God wants. It trumps all my fancy "miss-independent-and-rational" fumes out the window. Funny how He seeks the little things. He doesn’t need my big muscled faith, he wants my quiet tiny mustard seed. He wants me to trust in Him like a child with wide eyed belief and no specs of suspicion, rationality or doubt. 

He assures me that EXCEPT I receive him in child-like faith, I CANNOT see the Kingdom. Thus, you should know He was pretty serious. So, when Jesus said, “BE LIKE A KID,” HE WASN’T KIDDING! It was with a straight, un-laughing face. He wants me to continually look to Him with outstretched arms and wide, believing eyes. Seriously.

"Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can't do a thing.” (John 15:5 – TLB).

How helpless and gullible are you?



Monday, 20 October 2014

THE WITNESS II

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 ...continued


DAY TWO: EVERYONE TO YOUR TENTS!


Fruits of the Spirit


‘’Sisters, you have about thirty minutes left to dress up, pack up your belongings and vacate the hostel. If you’re still sleeping by now, you are very wrong.’’ 


The lady’s shrill voice rang out through the cacophony of the hostel’s early morning hustle and bustle. She was the ‘’captain’’ in charge of our hostel and was now going around each hall to make the announcements. I lay back on the bunk, observing the happenings around me. I was fully dressed and ready to move out at the ‘’go’’. This was what gave me the nerve to be in such a reclining position even as I watched other girls go frenzied. 


“Hey! That’s my bucket,” a short, plump girl shrieked as she struggled out of her bed to confront the tall girl who had picked a bucket beside her bunk. She seemed to have been sleeping, but she was wide awake now. 


“You carry bucket come this place? Abi dem write ya name on top am?”(Check the glossary if you don’t speak Naija Pidgin) the tall girl countered in an I-will- not-be-ignored thick voice and an undeniable Igbo accent. 


“But I was the one who picked it first,” plump one said quietly now as she gauged her opponent to be more than her match. She was obviously an ‘ajebo’ and probably didn’t want any kind of trouble. 
 

“And so?” Tall-girl prompted, hands akimbo and neck cocked in angle 45, battle ready. Several seconds of pregnant silence passed and I watched with amusement as Plumb-ajebo’s shoulders finally sagged in defeat.


“Alright, you can use it. But please when you’re done, give it back to me,” she said half-heartedly. If she had been expecting a boot-kissing gratitude for her act of “valour”, she was sorely disappointed as tall-girl did a 180 degrees in the direction of the door without so much as a “thank you” much less boot-kissing (plump-ajebo wasn’t wearing boots anyways, so it was just as well).


I shook my head in pity and amusement; plump-ajebo had nothing more than twenty minutes to get ready and now because of her cowardice-inspired gallantry, didn’t even have a bucket. I thought of how she had to also go in search of water, then wait on a long queue before she could have access to the bathroom and felt really sorry for her. But hers was even better as there were other girls who were still sleeping and those around did not even bother to wake them. Mortals!


Fifteen minutes later, I and my fellowship friends packed our stuff and headed out to the auditorium, we got there just in time for the opening prayers. An hour of worship led us into God’s presence in a way that felt familiar but strange also…sounds weird, I know but that was just how it felt to me. Familiar because I had been there before, strange because it was different also (don’t try to understand it, I don’t too). I felt really refreshed after the worship, having shook off the last shreds of ill-feel at the disappointment of the day before.


Soon after, we were grouped according to our zones in order for the registration to commence. We waited for several hours for that to be done as the zonal officials ran around to ensure that everyone in their zones got registered so they could be entitled to accommodation, feeding and the conference materials (a satchel, ID card, books, biro, programme booklet, bible study manuals, C.Ds, Bible). 

Well, fortunately, our zone was an…unorganized one, so it took longer than necessary for all that to be done – hours - and when at last we were able to get registered, we were handed the left overs. Luckily for us, this meant we got the worst of the hostels. There were 3 hostels for girls – Joy, Love and Endurance and 2 for guys – Love and Long-suffering (sure you guessed where that came from). Like I said earlier the place was still under construction, so the other hostels were unavailable. We girls were flung to Endurance while the guys landed squarely in Long-suffering. 


Funny names, I thought idly as I picked my bag.


Don’t rain on my parade!

So, we packed our bags with sweaty palms from the sweltering heat and headed to our fruits of the Spirit (I mean hostels). We girls walked to the building which housed our hostel. On an iron gate was boldly inscribed “ENDURANCE” and with relief coursing through my veins for the fact that a warm, cosy bed and a gateway for my tired bones to get a respite awaited, I walked through the gate and what I saw blew me away. Not the knock-your-socks-off kinda ‘blown away’. No sir. But the knock-your-head-to-check-if-you’re-hallucinating kinda ‘blown away’. I’m not sure if you’re beginning see the trend here yet. The movement of totally unforeseen turns. 


Now, here’s what I saw; two very big bungalow buildings with warm, comfy bunks in the rooms…all the amenities in place. Well, that is actually not the problem but the fix was, we were not standing in front of the bungalow. I also saw a grass covered ground towered by a large tent.


So, there we were with our big bags in hand and befuddled expressions firmly in place on our faces as we stood under the large tent flanked on both sides by the two other hostels.


“Where’s the hostel now?” I asked no one in particular, as I dropped my bag on the grass, looking around the large area with hands akimbo; as if expecting the hostel to magically appear, hit me on the head and yell, “Here I am. Bat!” I saw several mattresses on the ground with some girls sitted on them, looking all comfy, with their eyes all over me. What was going on here? Why couldn’t they join me in the search instead of staring at me like I had “idiot” written over my forehead? Well, apparently I was the only one not seeing this oh-so-visible hostel. Great. 


After doing a sweeping glance at the situation on ground, taking in the mattresses and suitcases, Florence, one of my group members (the one who sat beside me in the bus) looked at me and tilted her head upward, motioning to the tent overhead, her brain and eyes apparently in better condition than mine. I took one look at the other girls in the tent and I wanted to make a run for it (insert “blown-away” now). Melons! This was it! This was Endurance hostel!


And suddenly the joke was on me. Again.


“This is Endurance, right?” I whispered as though if I said it too loud, my nightmare would take on flesh. The tent was in between Joy and Peace, with its large tarpaulin towering over several mattresses, bags and…girls. Okay, so here I was again standing in the puddle of my disenchantment and trying to make a meaning of it. God was up to something, I didn’t know what but I just hung on to my dear sanity.


 So, I calmly dropped my bag on the grass, called my friends and we went to the secretariat to pick our mattresses. We found a space on the grass, set our beds and I tried to relax (Amazingly I did not lose my cool…hold your applause, thank you very much). Through the din which rose around me, I was able to suppress it all; willing my mind to zero off all sounds as I tried to sleep. It was past 3pm. 

So, I had landed in Kwali, instead of Abuja. So what? So I was now sleeping under a tent that was to house me (or “tent” me) for the next five days instead of a warm, cosy hostel I had imagined (like the one I could see on both sides of me). What did it matter? Besides, it was a missions’ conference, so maybe this was part of the training. I thought sensibly. Who knows? It could even be fun, I thought with forced optimism, squinting as I tried to look on the brighter side of the whole situation. I mean it couldn’t possibly get any worse than this. Could it?


So I’m sleeping now.



I sigh as cool breeze fans my heated skin, Lord knows I needed it. This was definitely a welcome development. Aha! A brighter side; tents are more airy, I thought enthusiastically. I rolled over, trying to find a better position on the small bed.


The breeze got cooler…colder. I frowned. Odd. That was definitely no breeze. It felt like…like… wind! My eyes flew open and a tiny moan escaped my lips. Oh puppies, no!


The whole place had gone shadowy, as clouds floated gloomily in the sky, promising an outpouring of pent up rage. Rain! I stared dazedly as the floodgates flew open minutes later, delivering the promise straight to our tents. The whole place was in an uproar then, as everyone tried to move her things away from the rain’s cold, watery grip. I blinked. You gotta be kidding me! Rain?! I thought in alarm as it finally sank.


 My teeth clenched in anger. This vendetta had lasted too long. I had not paid the few thousand naira I did and come all the way to this…this…village to be beleaguered by the forces of expectations. I looked longingly at the two hostels, seeing as its occupants closed their windows and crawled up under the covers while we ran helter skelter looking for dry spots to put ourselves and things. This wasn’t fair! We paid the same amount with them, so why did we have to be the ones to bear the brunt of all this? Endurance indeed! I should have known.


The water now filled the canopy, threatening to bring it down under its weight with gallons of water spurting out. Some men came around and used sticks to relieve the canopy of its burden, in the process wetting what little dry ground was left. Our bags were clutched tightly to our chests and mattresses dripping wet. There we all stood, looking all wet and forlorn, like street urchins locked out in the rain.


Someone had gone out-and-out to meritoriously and vindictively rain on my parade, in every sense of the word. And now my umbrella had been blown away by the wind.

I sighed resignedly. One more fruit of the Spirit couldn’t hurt now, could it? I thought. So, I endured…


Blankets and rainbows

The endurance test by rain finally stopped, leaving cold, wet and weary girls in its wake. But we weren’t the only ones who suffered. Some damage had been done on the grounds; tents had been raised down, the power went out and some other reparations I can’t really say (ask the technical crew) had been inflicted. This meant a change in schedule. We on the other hand sought to change our stations, we had endured enough and now we sought better. While I packed, the National Director, Uncle Bala, came around to apologize to us for the inconvenience. He also promised a better reception next time.


We left the tent in search of greener pastures. Joy proved abortive as it was already full. Peace was no better. I finally decided to settle at the corridor of Joy (no pun at all intended) with my sodden mattress. I was cold and frustrated. This was not how I imagined my trip. Don’t even get me started on that one.


However, you know how there is always a promise preceding every storm and how strips of colours glow in the sky to show there’s a brighter side? You, know…rainbow? Well, mine finally showed up when I got the news that Florence (bus partner, remember?) had acquired a bed-space in Peace hostel and needed someone to stay with her, since it was two per bed-space. Who knew she'd eventually become my savior? And then, I felt guilty for not being so friendly to her on the bus.

Well, the long and short of it was that I finally got my warm, comfy bed complete with a blanket (not literally though). I could go on and on about how happy and relieved I was to finally see the light at the end of my tunnel, but I’ll spare you the whole sappy drama. But, really I learned something from the whole experience (Don’t roll your eyes now). It sounds corny, I know but it’s true. 

Lessons:
1. There’s always a rainbow at the end of every storm. God’s special promise. And maybe a blanket too…

2.  You never know who'd save your behind tomorrow. Be good to everyone you meet.

3. Be careful what you wish for, you never know what fairy's eavesdropping your mind.

There’s more (like never ever ever ask thoughtless, obvious questions no matter how stumped you are…yeah, that type and many other really thoughtful lessons) but let’s stick to these ones. 

Funny the things God does to get our attention sometimes.

Glossary
- Ajebo – a person born with a silver spoon in their mouth…or one who acts as such .
“You carry bucket come this place? Abi dem write ya name on top am?” - “Did you bring a bucket to this place? Or did they write your name on it?”

Here's for those who missed the beginning of the story. 

Side note: Is that the end? You ask. Honestly, I don't know but I guess, yeah. We'll just have to see. Thanks for sticking around and sharing my story!

AdiĆ³s queridos! 
 
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