The 21st Century Church and the Mugumo Tree

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When I opened my dashboard to write a post, I was not going to write about the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) or anything about its politics. (Bear in mind that this post is not just about the PCEA church, but really about any church out there.) I was going to write about a Mugumo tree analogy I heard in yesterday’s sermon. But somehow, the post became what it is now. I was going to write about how I have this little church I go to when I feel like my church is too much. This is a church across the highway from home called PCEA Joseph Ngwaci Memorial Church. I have attended it for two consecutive Sundays now and I love it. I have been toying with the idea of completely relocating to it. Why? I will tell you in a bit.

Yes. I am a full member of PCEA, complete with a little holy communion book that gets signed every time I take holy communion. The church is my home, with all its drama, Practice and Procedures Manual. We fondly refer to this manual as P and P though I have never actually seen or read it, I just know it exists. On the flipside, they are those who say that PCEA stands for Please Collect Everything Available. My church, the one in which I am an actual member, the one is which I would not fidget if they asked if ‘there is a visitor in our midst’, is PCEA Kikuyu Township. I even teach Sunday School. I love my little sweet beginners and they love me too. I think. Or they just love the songs I teach them. :)

But I have been avoiding it of late, clearly. You see the Please Collect Everything Available joke is very close to serious business, especially in my church. You will never get into that church without someone telling us how we should contribute to building the resource centre and many other group activities. Anyone who has been to Kikuyu has seen the structure that will be the resource centre rising above the compound. It’s getting on fine and will be complete in the near future. I have no qualms about development at all. Maendeleo ni mazuri. I am all about giving too. Give and it shall come back to you. My problem is when all these development matters are given pre-eminence over matters of the heart and soul.

Truth be told, sermons and everything else we actually go to church for have been known to be cut short so that money could be collected. Even in my own Sunday School department, kids will be left without a teacher so that merchandise will be sold at the church entrance apparently to support the very same Sunday School ministry. I just want to teach those children in the way they should go without getting a million text messages about meetings to raise money to buy insignificant things. That is exactly why I have not been to my church these past two Sundays. I will definitely go back because of my kids, but other than that, there is virtually nothing that draws me back. Oh, except the Kikuyu Service praise and worship session. That is the ultimate experience for me. Singing those close-to-akorino-like songs to the Almighty gives me some inexplicable joy.

I will not even mention the Reverend David Githii fiasco here. That is another story that needs some serious thought. He has a website though, if you want to see what his issues have been with PCEA for years. And by the way, this man is a thinker and I actually like him. He may go a tad too far with his claims but they have a basis. The politics that are appointments of reverends to a specific church, kirk session wrangles and so on are expected. We are human anyway. We all fall short of the glory of God. The problem is if we know we have fallen and just stick down there without giving proper thought to our goal as the church. Are we here to fulfil the great commission or ensure that we are the church with the richest folk and tallest buildings?

The little church I have been going to is very homely and deep in the village. Probably why I shouldn’t even compare the two. The members are not building any resource centre neither are they buying a Sunday School bus. We can learn from them. Church is that place that I go to have that unwinding moment. To praise God and to fellowship with my fellow believers. I can do the former anywhere else. The latter, is what I am on about. That fellowship described in Acts 2:42-47. That fellowship that draws people to the church, not that which makes them say, ‘Kama kuokoka ni kwa kina Shiku, hiyo sitaki.” We should not be the church where a preacher is given 5 minutes to give a conclusive sermon. We should not be the church that dedicates all its efforts to monetary issues that may not even help an actual needy person within the church or even out there.

The mugumo tree analogy was given by a woman on the pulpit yesterday. The mugumo tree is ubiquitous in the Kikuyu community, just as the PCEA church is. It is also called the strangler fig. It strangles other trees for its survival. It starts out as an epiphyte on other trees then grows its roots downward to envelop the host tree while still growing upward to reach into the sunlight. Eventually, the host tree dies and the mugumo tree grows in splendour. The preacher gave the analogy in reference to the evils we allow to encroach our lives. I will use it to refer to the church, even beyond PCEA. This could very well be the story of the church. Our church, the host tree, could be strangled by unnecessary ‘growth’ that we attribute to the 21st century. It will be strangled, giving rise to a strange new establishment that we will not recognize any more. That is if we do nothing about the direction we are taking. Think about it.

Shot a little further up the tree.

Strangler fig (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You Can’t Eat Beauty, Don’t Let It Eat You Up

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A few months ago, I wrote a post on beauty and received some significant feedback about beauty both from men and women. I knew beauty held a special place in our hearts and minds even before I wrote it and so the feedback was just a validation. It even led to a friend opening up about her beauty issues and how much they have made her do what she does.

Then recently, Lupita Nyong’o happened. Besides the fact that she acted a heart-wrenching role in 12 Years a Slave and won an Oscar, the other prevalent debate, especially on social media, is her beauty. I remember writing then that you may not be considered beautiful here but absolutely stunning in another part of the world. Lupita is your proof. I stumbled upon this beautiful speech she gives to black women here and I would urge to listen to it. She talks of a time she used to pray to God to make her a little lighter, which of course did not happen. Then Alek Wek stepped into the scene and made her start looking at herself a bit differently.

Alek Wek’s response to Lupita’s mention is just as beautiful as she is. The one statement that stood out for me: Beauty should not be culturally relevant, it should be universal.

I will be brief today. Like Lupita’s mum told her, you cannot eat beauty. You have to think beyond your external looks. Lupita would not be where she is just because of her beauty. That is a fact.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Again, I ask you: You are beautiful, but what next?

Also, listen to one of my favourites by Jonny Diaz, More Beautiful You.

So turn around you’re not too far
To back away, be who you are
To change your path go another way
It’s not too late, you can be saved
If you feel depressed with past regrets
The shameful nights hope to forget

Can disappear, they can all be washed away
By the one whose strong, can right your wrongs
Can rid your fears, dry all your tears
And change the way you look at this big world
He will take your dark distorted view
And with His light He will show you truth
And again you’ll see through the eyes of a little girl

There could never be a more beautiful you
Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops they make you jump through
You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you
There could never be a more beautiful you

This Is How Far I Have Fallen

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Guest Post

This is for the girls who love the Lord, but at times let the world get into their minds.

I grew up ugly. I had the worst acne for close to 15 years. I never thought any boy would look at me twice, and I was right. However, I was talented, and I loved the Lord. Singing to Him was my passion and I did it excellently, because it was I believe what He wants. I am afraid of the Lord. I believe that you cannot mess with Him, if you do, you will regret it. Somehow, I managed to have the most intense four-year experience without even realizing how far I had fallen.

My first day of university was full of promises to myself. I would make it work somehow and live a quiet, fulfilled life. It started out that way, but not for long. I was introduced to wine in 2010, and it was forbidden fruit I loved to taste. It made me sharper, I could recite formulae that I couldn’t have had I been sober. I was the kind of girl who dressed in t-shirts and jeans, and when I say t-shirts, I mean the round-neck long ones, not the girly things that are so common now. My life was fine then. I would attend class faithfully during the week. I would avoid large crowds of people, men, because I knew I was ugly. And in the weekend, I would drink myself to a shut-down and wait for Monday.

In my second semester, I met a third year student in the most random of situations in school. Then he began to pursue me. I did my research on him. My sources said he was a good guy and I let myself fall into the fantasy. He cooked for me, went on night walks with me, massaged my feet on weekends and his kisses were amazing. He was tall and strong and when he kissed me, he would lift me (yes, like those scenes in movies). I remember changing my dressing instantly during that time. I wanted to impress him and it worked. When he said he wanted to sleep with me, I told him I was a virgin. We were under our usual tree and it was the first time I said aloud that I didn’t intend to wait for marriage, but I was still scared. I regret that day. Let me cut the story short, I didn’t sleep with him, and our relationship fell apart.

During the holidays, I reconnected with an old friend. He is deathly handsome and I thought he would never look at me twice, but he did. I remember someone mocking me that he was too handsome for me, and since that day, it stuck in my mind subconsciously. I fell hopelessly in love and my life revolved around him. After a year, I gave in and slept with him, and never looked back. He still stayed with me for another one, until things began to crumble. And here is my reason why:

A woman who feels ugly can never feel beautiful. A woman who sees herself as ugly can never accept in her heart that an incredibly handsome guy, or any other guy for that matter, wants her because of her beauty. And a woman needs to feel beautiful, it is one of those things that can only come from within. No amount of make up or trendy clothes will make the feeling of ugliness go away. His beautiful female friends will always haunt you at the back of your mind. When normal arguments come up, you will always feel like he is going to leave you. You will always feel like he can do way better, and because of these feelings you will overcompensate. You will go out of your way to make him happy, you will compromise on your values, and bend over backwards (or forward) to meet his every need.

This is how far I have fallen. I like drinking myself to a shut-down when things get thick, but only matters relationship. Alcohol makes things seem easier; I am not advocating for its consumption, in fact it’s a habit I am in the process of shedding, but the ease of situations is only temporary. When you awaken, you will have a terrible hangover, and things will be just as bad.

This is how far I have fallen, being unable to sing for the Lord in an actual altar, though I know that the Lord’s mercy is beyond human comprehension. Deep in my heart, I love Him, yet I still sin at times, but again, this is a work in progress.

This is how far I have fallen. It is indelibly etched in my mind that I am ugly, and I deserve no man. 20% of my brain and 100% of my heart knows this is not true, and again it’s a work in progress.

One day, I will walk around confidently and look at people in the eye. One day, I will have a man, who makes me feel beautiful and special. He shall love the Lord as much as I do and I will never blame myself for mistakes I have not made. One day, I will sit my daughter down and give her the story of how far I fell one time. One day, I shall know what it means to be beautiful, and I shall teach her and instill it deep in her mind. That even if she will have the terrible fate I have and not look at her face in the mirror for 15 years without shedding a tear or wanting to punch the mirror, that it is alright. One day it will all end, and everything will be alright.

One day

This is the story of someone really close to a friend of mine. She wrote it to her and wanted her to spread it to other women, so that they may know what some of us go through, and to reassure those with similar stories that they are not alone. My friend thought that I would want to post it here because she could relate to it in such a realistic way. Writer will remain anonymous.

Valentine’s Day Resolution for a Single Christian Lady

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Guest Post 

By Alice Adalla

Valentine’s Day is here again. It’s ‘the season of love’, and for those of us who are single, it may just mean another Valentine’s alone. To some of us, the day is a cruel reminder of how lonely we are, and we wish that by some form of magic, we would be ferried to wonderland like the little Alice and come back when it is all over. But now, that won’t happen, right? We are just going to have to live through it. But how do we live, not only through this Valentine’s, but for the rest of our lives as singles and even beyond.  This is my resolution this Valentine’s as a single lady.

One, I choose not to feel incomplete, because I know that I do not need the opposite sex to be complete. I understand God’s mathematics, not that 0.5+0.5=1, but that 1+1=1. I understand that when He says, Therefore, shall man leave his mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24), He did not mean that half a man and neither did he mean half a woman, but a complete man and a complete woman. Complete in Him and in Him alone. I have found my identity in God and not in man and so I am complete in God so that when the complete me and the complete him meet, we shall be one and complete in God. So I will not be anxious, rather I will be glad for I know who I am. I am single and yet complete.

Two, I have resolved that I will maintain purity, not just until I get into a relationship, but even in marriage. I understand that God has said that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that I was bought at a price (2 Corinthians 6:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 7:23). So in view of God’s mercy, in view of His amazing display of love on the cross, I will remain pure. (Romans 12:1-2)

I will not have sex with anyone till I am married and even when I am married I will only have sex with my husband. This is my conviction and I will hold on to it even when I am the only one not having sex. I will remain a virgin as long as I am single, even when it seems so stupid and even when time seems to be running out. I will not yield to pressure for I know who I am.

I have also understood that it is not enough just to be a virgin in the physical. I move a step further. I will be emotionally pure. I will remember the advice that Paul gave to Timothy concerning how he was to relate with others. He said, 1 Timothy 5: 1-2, Rebuke not an elder, but treat him as a father and younger men as brethren; the elder woman as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.  I will personalize this and I will relate to the young men in my life as my brothers. I will not flirt or get emotionally entangled with a person of the opposite sex just to quench my thirst desires for attention or to feel like I am still on top of the game. I know flirting is teasing, it’s like dangling a banana at a monkey, and I would not want to be teased. Nobody likes to be teased so I will not tease another person, especially not in ways that compromise my position in Christ, because I value this above all. So I will not specialize in my friendship, but I pursue genuine and pure friendships loving all with a pure heart, a clean conscience and a sincere faith.

Flirting is like dangling a banana at a monkey

 

That’s my resolution this Valentine’s. I will not give any man the privileges that only my husband, and yes I mean only my husband, should enjoy. I will reserve them only for him. I will not promise myself to anyone until I have made commitments to them.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

 

Alice Adalla is as passionate as she sounds in whatever she sets her heart to do. A great friend since our days as freshmen back in Moi Univeristy, all I can say is: What she said. :)

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You’re Beautiful, but What Next?

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My sister turns eight this February. She knows she’s beautiful. Mum tells her that every chance she gets. Other people tell her too. Of late though, she’s grown big at quite a fast rate. Now people, including me, tell her she should not eat too much. A woman made a joke about signing her up for Slim Possible the other day. A little girl who has no control over her body is getting unwarranted comments about her looks.

When I was her age, I joined a new school. Like her, my mum had told me I was beautiful every chance she got. However I got into Kidfarmaco Primary School and this group of girls in my class began to taunt me almost immediately. I remember it was something about my lips. No one had ever made fun of my looks before. I got depressed. My eight-year-old self fell sick several times that year, even staying home for weeks.

Eventually I got over it and moved on. I had more pressing issues to focus on like reading and cuddling my new baby brother. But I never forgot. And it registered in my brain.

Fast forward to the year 2014, and I have continued to register comments about me in a special compartment in my brain. I remember both the good and the bad. No matter how much I want to pretend they do not affect me, they do. Funny enough, I never noticed half the things I am conscious about until someone mentioned them.

In the age of uploading photos to social networking sites and tagging a bunch of people who will approve of it and probably make you feel awesome, you are bound to feel low every now and then. We want this approval so bad we have invested in selfies. (I am a pro in selfies by the way). We will delete them if no one likes them on Instagram. We seek to be told we are beautiful so bad that we will go to great lengths to make ourselves up. We want to convince people we are beautiful by literally shouting #nofilter and #teamnomakeup all over the place like we are not sure we are beautiful.

They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The same people that tell my sister to cut down on her eating are the same people who tell me to eat because I am too small. And I ask, what do people want? More importantly, what do I want?

Singers have sung to women, telling us we are beautiful. MercyMe, Plumb, Lecrae, Casting Crowns, name them. They will continue to release tracks on the same subject. Funny enough I have never heard a song telling men they are handsome. This is because men and women are different by design and from societal expectations. Even when most of lifestyle magazines and online gossip websites talk about women, they rarely escape to mention beauty, no matter how irrelevant it is to the story. It does not seem irrelevant to the reader because it is rather expected. The other day someone asked me if the reason I had never considered broadcast media (TV) was because I felt I was not beautiful enough for the screen. Well, that was a legitimate speculation and I do not blame him. That is how it is.

Even in the Bible, beauty is important, from Jacob’s Rachel, who it is implied was more beautiful than Leah, (Gen 29:17) to Bathsheba. Men like Saul and David are also described as handsome. Women became queens because they were beautiful. Remember Queen Vashti and Esther?

Beauty is so important that we always wonder whether Jesus was handsome. Isaiah 53:3 seems to suggest otherwise but it has been argued that the statement that takes most people by shock: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” refers to the state he was in after he was tortured. No one really knows how Jesus looked like since his image has been distorted by philosophers’ writings and artists’ paintings. The photograph of the Shroud of Turin is one of the most controversial relics in history. It appeared in later centuries and is said to contain the actual image of Jesus since it was his burial shroud. Developments come up every day on this shroud. Google it.

1 Peter 3:3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Why should it matter whether Jesus was handsome or not? Is it connected to the fact that we are created in God’s image? Who knows what beauty looked like back then anyway? For instance back in Kenya, Kikuyu women shaved their heads to complete baldness and that was beauty to them. Tell me to shave right now and I will really wonder what your deal is; why you want to take away my crown.

After a while, you realize that it’s all about you and what you choose to focus on. I attended a funeral recently and the preacher was awkwardly hilarious. I laughed so much I felt guilty to be so happy at a funeral. He talked about having an identity or kwaga kwirigwo in Kikuyu. He pointed to the old women and men, going into details about how their beauty had faded away to the extent that if one of them laughed, we would be confused about whether they were laughing or crying as they had probably lost their teeth. His point was that focusing on something as fading as beauty was completely misdirected and pointless.

Proverbs 31:30 ​​​​​​​Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, ​​​​​​but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised.

David was handsome, yes, but we do not remember him for his handsomeness. That would be ridiculous. Esther was beautiful, but we remember her for saving an entire nation. We definitely do not know about Jesus because he was fly. We know him for what he said and what he did.

It is a wonderful thing to be beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with seeking to look your best everyday. Just don’t let it consume you. Don’t let people set your standards for you. If people say you are not beautiful, move on. Chances are you would be considered beautiful in another part of the world. If people say you are beautiful but you don’t even think you are, find out why you prefer to think so lowly of yourself. According to Dove, only 4% of women in the world consider themselves beautiful. They performed a beautiful experiment to prove it.

After that, remember that we will remember you for what you did and get to work doing it if you have not already. You’re beautiful. You’re more than beautiful. You can do more.

I may never be the one that gets a second glance
I may never be the one they call the prettiest
But that’s alright with me

And maybe I don’t follow every crazy passion
Spend all my time trying to get a good reaction
But that’s okay with me

This world is like a trampoline
High and low no in between
Jumping at the chance to please
Everyone but that’s not me

Cause all that matters is
All that matters is
I know your love has set me free
And that’s all that matters to me ~ Addison Road

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Waiting for Real

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For some reason, I have never talked about love and relationships on this blog. When I say love and relationships, I mean that between a man and a woman who are not blood relatives. That is really strange because at least 20% of my thoughts a day are dedicated to thinking about love and when I will find it. Also, I have another space that is mostly dedicated to these thoughts here.

Today, I bring the conversation here because I have been rethinking my stand on love as a Christian. I have been reading a lot of pieces on what love is and how it is manifested in several blogs by Christians. I stumble upon the shared links on Facebook every other day. (It is important to note I said Facebook, not Twitter. In Kenya, the Facebook crowd is completely different from that on Twitter, especially in matters pertaining spirituality. That will be a story for another day.)

I am single. I have been single for years now. However, in all fairness and truthfulness, that is not entirely true. I have been in trial and error affairs that almost ended in legit relationships. One of the blogs I read the other day was by a lady who described the very same thing I practice, reading men and playing around with them without actually committing or doing anything ‘dangerous’. In fact, one of my male friends copied a paragraph and sent it to me a few days after I had read it because he knew I was an expert in the said act. The post is entitled “Being a Virgin isn’t Enough”. You have probably read it too.

You see a title like that and you will click and read, especially if it speaks to you the way it spoke to me. Through the entire piece, I could relate.

“I shy away from relationships, but not men. My personality is one that revels in winning. As such, I became a master of the game. I enjoyed mind games and the sense of conquest that came with them, and the man who was the quintessential flirt was my perfect prey. I took pleasure in my ability to make a man fall, but remain detached.”

This is part of the excerpt my friend copied to my inbox, describing me down to the last letter. The last sentence, not so much though. I just happen to be the kind of girl who delights in being loved but not ready to love back without some serious rationalization.

To cut to the chase. It is very true. Being a virgin is not enough. Being one with a man does not involve just physical sex. It goes over and above that. It starts from the head in the first place. Sex begins in the head. I am guilty of being overly friendly with men. Or to put it more clearly, flirting with men. At the back of my mind, I know it is wrong but I just go on doing it because I have managed to convince myself that I am not having sex.

And that is where everything goes haywire. When we start asking how far is too far. I believe that is what Chadia was communicating in her post. Yes, you may be saving yourself for that man you have been praying for but you are getting emotionally attached to others along the way. I know I am. So what is the point if all I am saving is the physical body? Who am I kidding?

When I think about it, it is possible that the only reason I am a virgin is because the whole concept of sex scares me. There, I said it. This is where it becomes clear that I am more bent on playing safe than actually being pure and waiting for real.

The fact is, most times, we find ourselves conforming to worldly standards without even knowing it because we are not really willing to give up all that we should. Just yesterday, I stumbled upon a tweet on my Timeline. It was in line with a conversation that has been going on about what a relationship entails. There are a lot of relationship experts online nowadays. Someone was wise enough to tweet that if you have never had sex with someone then you cannot call that a relationship. And I paused. I thought about it. I wondered what that meant for me.

Then I remembered a sermon I sat through in my first year in campus. The speaker was quick to note that the Bible does not speak about girlfriends and boyfriends anywhere. Think about it. It does not. It just talks about relationships that led or almost led to marriages. Think Samson, David, Mary and Joseph and so forth. Basically this translates to the notion that relationships are not engagements you get into out of the need to fit in or avoid loneliness. They are serious entities that you get into because you need to commit for the long haul.

Reducing relationships and marriages to sex is ludicrous to an extent. Christian or not, we are humans with feelings. We need to choose how to channel our thoughts and actions towards living a life that is dignified. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Your body is made of many parts, and the brain is part of the mix. As you think, so shall you become. (If you Google that statement, they say Bruce Lee said it but really it is in Proverbs 23:7.)

What am I saying? Have that boyfriend or girlfriend for the right reasons. If you do not have one, don’t go for trial and errors where you leave feeling emotionally exhausted. I am a victim of that. I say I am just friends but really, all I am doing is not taking on the label of girlfriend. Pray for your future husband and wife and consider he or she might just be the person you see every day. Don’t lock yourself out but don’t rush it either.

If it doesn’t feel right, it is not right. Jesus loved to talk about love and what it means to love. Love your neighbour as you love yourself. If I love that man, I will avoid all situations that will end up hurting him. It is not about winning. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Love must be sincere. Romans 12:9.

As usual, I will have to quote a song, one I have been playing this week after I discovered the awesomeness that is Group 1 Crew’s Outta Space Love. (It has been lying around my disk space for years. I cannot believe the things I ignore sometimes. It is a treasure!)

I remember the days when my momma would tell me
You’re too busy runnin’ ’round need to calm always lookin for love, she told me love ain’t easy baby believe me,
It can break your heart make you fall apart so you gotta be careful there’s no need to rush it
Now I’m getting older and each winters getting colder now, hope I’ll find you somehow

I’ll patiently wait
For you to come my way
And I won’t hesitate when you
Make a way right to my heart
And I’ll patiently wait
Till that one sweet day
That you’ll appear in my life
I won’t know when or why but can’t wait
Till I meet you one day

Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDIS0LbrVVk

That’s right. I am waiting, for real this time. Meanwhile, it is still me and Jesus. My friend somewhere would rather I say Jesus and me since putting myself first is not really the good thing to do in life but hey, grammar lessons will be somewhere else soon.

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Boasting

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I am never one to write on controversial issues, but when everything is pointing me towards them, I am expectedly inspired to do so. This Thursday, Kenyans on Twitter ganged up on the renowned Bishop T.D. Jakes after his session on trashing Preachers of L.A. continued into, much to his oblivion, uncalled for comments about Kenya. (Kenya crops up everywhere nowadays. We’re famous people y’all!)

First of all, back in the day, before we all had Twitter and Internet, no one would have known that he had said that and he would not have had to apologize. Enter the year 2013 and anyone who says anything in the glare of cameras has to apologize to #KOT every time they say the slightest thing that rubs them the wrong way. It happened to Botswana, CNN, NMG… Who knows who or what is next?

Anyway, that is beside the point. The reason Jakes ended up mentioning “the natives all over Kenya” is because he felt the need to boast about his works. It is never rosy once you go down that path travelled by many. One moment you’re talking about how someone else is showing off and you’re not and the next you’re taking it a notch higher than him.

It happened that on the very same Thursday, I opened the Bible randomly and found myself on 2 Corinthians 10. (It happens.) Paul is quick to defend his ministry, pretty much the same thing Jakes was trying to do. He just took a different approach. Paul begins by ‘beseeching’ the Corinthians ‘by the meekness and gentleness of Christ’. He talks about boldness and boasting in the Lord.

For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. 2 Corinthians 10:18 (I had to go all KJV on you today.)

I will be brief today, because I believe that is all I need to say. Boasting does not make you any better or even lovable. Boasting may end up in hurting people whether you think it was your intent or not. I learnt a new word after reading the statement from Bishop T.D. Jakes by the way. Extemporaneous. He says his extemporaneous comments were taken out of context. Yes, boasting of your works will make you come up with big words like this one to cover up for whatever you said. As I have always said, words can build you up and words can bring you down.

And while we are at it, another English ‘guru’ on Wazua thought it wise to claim that Kenyans are not well versed in English and should not be up in arms for being referred to as natives. Well, that is a story for another day.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. James 4:17

Be careful little mouth what you say.

Of course this will not be complete if I do not sign off with lyrics from good ol’ Lecrae’s Boasting. (Technically, it’s Anthony Evans.)

If this life has anything to gain at all,
I’ll count it lost if I can’t hear you, feel you, ’cause I need you,
Can’t walk this earth alone.
I recognize I’m not my own, so before I fall
I need to hear you, feel you, as I live to make my boast in you alone.

 

 

Remember September

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A lot was running through my mind last month. Yes, it is October already. Time flies. My internship came to an end (to my relief) ushering in the interview season. I attended so many interviews that I simply stopped freaking out. (Ignore the exaggeration.) My internship season is not over yet, I will be an intern where I am going. Lots to learn and miles to go before I get to where I need to be. All factors held constant, I am not complaining, and you know why? I will tell you. The Teacher, he who authored Ecclesiastes, will help me do that. He was very wise, that guy.

A few days ago, I was going to blog about how depressed I was.  How I could not understand why things were working so slow for me. The interesting bit is if someone else from the outside was looking at my life, they would wonder why I was down. The truth is I have a weakness. I have this belief that I should not fail in whatever I try. I can also be very impatient. It turned out I was just worrying for no real reason. I had forgotten that even when He’s four days late, He’s still on time. Plus He (Jesus) was very clear, no point worrying about tomorrow when each day has enough trouble of its own.

Nugget 1: He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

I did not like my mandatory internship for very many reasons. All the same, I did everything I was told to do to the best of my ability. Sometimes I would whine about it and sometimes I would get really depressed to the point of regret but I would come back to my senses on my own and with help from my friends who knew every single thing I was doing (thanks to WhatsApp). I learnt to be content with what I had at the moment and do my best in it.

Nugget 2: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10

My internship ended the first week of September, and I felt free again to pursue my dreams. Towards the end of this period, I had applied for every kind of job on the Internet. This is despite the fact that throughout this time, I had been told that the only sure way you could get a job in Kenya was by having ‘very tall relatives’. I was also told that there was no way I was going to find a job on the Internet.

Well, here I am to tell you not to listen to everything people say. It never hurts to try. I became a regular at BrighterMonday.co.ke and applied for several openings. Soon, my phone started ringing. Soon after that I attended interviews. The funny thing is, I attended them and kept going for follow-ups instead of just settling for one. Needless to say, I learnt a lot. I also had to make tough choices, including what offer to accept and what to reject. I also know a friend of mine who was trying his hand at two jobs and was faced with such a dilemma. That’s life. The Teacher backs me up on that one:

Nugget 3: Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. Ecclesiastes 11:6

Throughout September, the spirit of friendship came alive around me. Despite how uncomfortable I was at my place of internship, I was surrounded my great colleagues who made me feel at home. My friends urged me on from wherever they were and my family always commended how changed I was. Oh yes, I could sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am. That was totally unheard of for this girl who had claimed to be nocturnal for the better part of her campus life.

Friends and family matter. They look out for you, they want the best for you even when some people will claim that humans are not innately good. Look at how phenomenal Kenyans’ response to the terrorist attack at Westgate was. Even the terrorists were bent on convincing little children that they were not monsters. Cultivate your relationships, you are not an island.

Nugget 4: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

All through September, I could go quiet on people and some got mad. I tend to recoil back into my cocoon to keep from saying stuff I shouldn’t be saying. I am pretty sure that is not a bad thing. The bad part is where I may never tell you if you did something wrong. That is selfish. I am working on that very earnestly and I know someone somewhere who knows that. September saw me become quite open with people. I used to subtweet people a lot but I cut down on that. You have to be careful what you say or type. Words can build and they can also destroy. Like Andy Mineo raps in Still Bleeding, “God used words to create this planet so be careful with ‘em.”

Nugget 5: Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2

and

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9

Finally, September was the month I read pieces and listened to TED talks addressed to 20-somethings which got me thinking. I am not as young as I’d like to believe. I’d like to believe that I have all the time in the world to waste before I am 30, but that is not true. Like Meg Jay said, 30 is not the new 20. I also feel if you never read this piece on Forbes and you’re my fellow 20-something, you should.

Don’t waste your life. Don’t wait for that degree certificate to start doing something. Don’t wait for the day you’ll get a job in a big company and look down on opportunities in startups and obscure companies. The truth is that you may gain so much more from these ‘unknown’ outfits than from renown giants in the industry. That is the one bit I agree with Sheryl Sandberg in her book, Lean In. She says that the words that made her stick with Google when it was ‘tiny and disorganized’ were these wise ones from Eric Schmidt: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.”  

(I cannot believe I am writing this. That was not me a few months ago. It was either a job at Safaricom or nothing. ;)) 

Nugget 6: Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” Ecclesiastes 12:1

Let me wrap this up, lest I end up writing forever and not doing my work. In the process, I also read the whole Ecclesiastes in a few minutes. It is that simple once you want to read the Bible seriously.

Till next time, have a beautiful October people! Live life to the fullest, something else the Teacher said.

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.  | Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

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I have kept the faith

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I was sent away to campus with all sorts of speeches from concerned parties about the ‘hellhole’ that it is. I was to be extremely careful lest I’d be swallowed whole within its confines. I was told not to get lost in the moment or get ‘cheated’ by campus men or even forget what took me to Moi University. I was also told that campus was a place that would challenge my beliefs. Well, all the claims turned out true with some slight hyperbole here and there. All the same, here I stand. Keeping the faith.

The first instance I thought seriously about my faith was in the first semester of my first year. I had to take an elective course titled ‘Introduction to Philosophy and Religion’. Frankly, I expected it to be a little more exciting than it was but for what it’s worth, it made me start thinking a lot about life and why we are here. Throughout the four years, I met people who’d look at me funny after I proclaimed my faith in Jesus Christ. I will not even mention the friends who suddenly became atheists somewhere along the way.

I will not lie and say I never have doubts. I will not front to be 100% sure in what I believe. I remember I wrote a post about reading the Bible last year and, not surprisingly, got some atheists’ attention. Apparently, one of them became an atheist by “reading the Bible cover to cover”. Well, my quest to read the Bible that way is still in progress. I have friends who are atheists. I am yet to get a good reason from one on why they are so. Sometimes I think they choose to be because nothing will change. Some went through a traumatic experience, maybe lost someone and decided that life really had no supernatural dimension. There is no afterlife. It is just a way of cheating humanity into being good to each other in return for something they cannot verify. Trust in some non-existent Superhuman being with the promise of everlasting life that is simply not there.

One major reason why I have never bought the atheism idea is because, instead of pointing me to the facts of the concept; like tell me why there is no God, I only see proponents discrediting my belief. Atheism revolves around proving that Christianity and other religions have loopholes. I am not defending Christians here, by the way. They are as guilty as the atheists. For instance, I will want to know how they are okay with all the things that science cannot explain. We have made it a war, a show of who can defend his/her belief better. But you know what? It does not matter.

If I do not live according to the teachings of Jesus, I have no right telling one who does not believe in Him to believe. I will go on and quote Mahatma Gandhi, even though it must be the most quoted quote in the Christianity vs. other schools of thought arena. (Sometimes I even think he didn’t say it, you never know how people twist history.) It goes, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” He was right. I don’t want that to ring true in my life.

Do not think for one minute that I am saying that debate is a bad thing. I love debate. It has made me very open-minded. All I am saying, actions speak louder than words. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). Spreading hatred in the name of religion is the unfortunate bit. Atheists and Christians can be friends. I do not think atheists are irrational. They have some solid arguments. I just think we need to understand each other. There are more ways than one to pass a message. When a lecturer made a joke about God in class, I would laugh and think about it. If a friend asked me a question that bordered on blasphemy, I would answer it. But rather than doubt what I believe, I chose to solidify my already founded belief.

Call me stupid, but I am willing to pay the price. If being an intellectual is trying so hard to trash the existence of God, I will pass. Like Lecrae, I will say that either I am certain, or I am certainly insane. I will go with the former. In the meantime, I will not support any relativist arguments. There is right and there is wrong. I believe in God and Jesus Christ. I even hope and pray everyone will do the same one day. I will keep writing and acting as He taught and hopefully I will lead a few more into His fold.

I have kept the faith and I will keep on keeping it. Out of campus, the situation is even worse. Immorality is rife. I have people around me talking about their escapades right into my ears. Sometimes I feel I am missing out. Sometimes I think I look like the girl who has no life. A very close friend of mine shocked me the other day when he openly declared that I should not claim my way is the only way to go. I was confused. He is a Christian, one of those people I am sure of being in the same boat with. He did not sound sure on this day. He asked me if I thought everyone who did not believe in Jesus would end up in hell. I said yes before he even finished the question. Later in the night, I thought about it afresh. Frankly, I am not sure I would answer yes as fast now.

In the meantime, I will keep in communion with my Jesus. And live the life that He lived.

I will pen off by quoting Propaganda:

“Maybe I’m wrong, maybe you’re right.

Maybe we’ll find out the day after the world ends.

Yeah, I guess we’re all a little inconsistent,

SO MAYBE WE CAN JUST SHOW EACH OTHER SOME GRACE.”

And Casting Crowns:

“Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded,

What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did.”

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). The sequel ends here.

I have finished the race…

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Remember my last post? I was seated in my campus room writing about how my coding project seemed like it would never end. Well, here I am, at home this time, with my project handed in a week ago. I fought the good fight, I have finished the race…This is the sequel.

The program has its logical bugs but that is expected of any version 1.0, even Microsoft updates its software all the time because of bugs or some security vulnerability. In short, I have finished that part of the race. Though it is not the end of my studies (far from it), it is one step closer to achieving my long term goals.

On Sunday, our dear reverend talked about completing tasks and how important it is to have support from others. He gave an example of Naaman. The guy’s leprosy was healed simply because different people from different backgrounds and in different capacities helped him.

The dude was great, “a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded” (2 Kings 5:5) but he could not find Elisha on his own, as mighty a soldier as he was. First, it took a mere servant girl in his house to tell his wife about Elisha. Then Naaman had to seek assistance from his king who in turn sent him to the king of Israel. Eventually, Elisha helped him out. Furthermore, this was only after Naaman’s servants convinced him to do as he was told by the prophet. If it were not for them, his haughty self could have headed back to Damascus rather than wash in the waters of the Jordan River.

The whole time I was working on my project, a lot of people helped me, whether directly or indirectly. There was the supervisor who set me on the right track in terms of algorithms and understanding what exactly I was to do with the binary search tree data structure. There were my fellow students who were sailing in the same boat, wondering how the theory we were taught in third year was supposed to be transformed into running software. We encouraged each other all the way. In fact, several lines of my code were the brainchild of a fellow IT student who I never could have even thought would have helped me. (Yeah, I had that Naaman syndrome too, I have to admit.)

There was Google and Stack Overflow, awesome websites these ones. I don’t know where I would be without them. Half my project time was spent on them, looking for answers. Truth be told, they do not have all of them but they help you figure them out your own.

I cannot forget my parents. Mum would even ask what I was up to even though she has no clue what programming is all about. My folks will help me do anything I want to do (so long as it’s sane). I hope I got those genes mixed up nicely in me.

Those who gave me indirect help are numerous. From the system administrator who ensured I had Wi-Fi (however unstable it was) to the friends who encouraged me, I appreciate them all. I have finished that part of the race and I am not going back. The task is complete. I thank you all for the help. I hope I helped you in some way too.

I am on my internship now and I have to do a lot of hardware troubleshooting that I have never done before. It’s surprisingly fun. What I am not used to is the early rising and getting home late. But I will finish this one too and come out with a wealth of experience and ability to appreciate everyone for making a difference in my life.

Support someone today. Help them help you and together, finish the race.

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