40

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

“40/40, why not 50/50 or 70/30?” These are some of the questions that I have had to answer overtime. First,I laugh, and then begin to share our story. This season is the reason for 40, and not any other number. When you think of it, the Bible did love the number 40 🙂

Four years ago, I sat, as I am now, typing away on a keyboard just a few days after Ash Wednesday. A thought had crept up in my mind the night before and thankfully, I had written it down (write your dreams and ideas people) I would then open a facebook group that would change my life and that of others.

Every February since, I have been reminded of that little dream that found its little feet and started to walk without any knowledge of what lay ahead. I don’t know what you plan on giving up this lent (if anything) but I urge you to go a step further and give something on top of denying yourself certain pleasures. I could sit here and tell you that 40-40 is the place to go and donate but I won’t. Instead, I hope that you can find a cause that is dear to your heart, something you have thought of but never done or simply procrastinated upon. It could be a member of your family who is struggling with a mental illness, a lady in the neighbourhood who has no one, that child you’ve thought of adopting, heck it could even be you that needs saving. Whatever you choose to do, whoever you choose to give, I pray that you’ll find peace and fulfillment.

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Google image

 

“Whether one believes in a religion or not and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”

I have also learnt not to hide under the umbrella of charity. Just because it is what I do, doesn’t mean there isn’t much more good I can do, more of me that I can give.It is something I constantly remind myself. Don’t cross your hands and say, “But I already pay school fees for Mary.” I wonder what would happen if God responded to our prayer with “But I already blessed you last year.” <Forgive the guilt trip> There is so much to share, so many people to forgive (including yourself) and deep cleansing that can be done in different ways. Use this period as an ‘excuse’ to dust those cobwebs. We have an opportunity for transformation within ourselves and our surroundings.

giveI pray that this season is one of great reflection for you. I hope that you can block out all the noise (literal and figurative) and focus on that which makes your heart dance. Jesus’ death and resurrection tells of a great love that is still difficult to fathom all these years later. We continue to learn, to be reborn. We can be ambassadors of that love, everyday in many different ways.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as this but “Happy Ash Wednesday.” May HIS love abide in your hearts for all eternity.

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War room

I had it on my to do list to watch the movie ‘War room’ but the opportunity did not present itself until last night. I am glad it did because I have an uncanny talent that leads me to watch movies several months or even years after their release *SOS*

From the on-set, you can tell that it did not cost an arm and leg to shoot this movie. The actors were unknown to me, which was both a good an bad thing. Good because you get to discover new talent and bad because there are scenes in which I had someone in my mind who I thought could have given a stronger performance. Nonetheless, the message was brought safely home and that is the most important part.
P.S If you have watched Courageous or Fireproof, the brothers behind it; Stephen and Alex Kendrick produced War room. If you haven’t, I recommend them 🙂

Without giving away too much; In the movie, Elizabeth is married to Tony and they have one daughter, Danielle. Elizabeth is unhappy in her marriage mainly because her husband does not listen to her, verbally abuses her, is drawn to other women and has no time for her or their daughter. When Elizabeth meets an elderly lady, Clara during her rounds as a realtor, she is introduced to ‘The war room.’ This room is a small room that was once a closet but Clara turned into a prayer room to pray for her husband and family. Here, she spends quiet time with the Lord and articulates her needs while crying out to him.  She tries to encourage Elizabeth to do the same. Elizabeth is adamant at the beginning but later submits. It is when she (Elizabeth) is fully immersed in faith and belief in the power of prayer that her life begins to turn around.

If you are a Christian or a spiritual person watching this movie, it presents moments of conviction, learning and reflection among other things. If you are agnostic or even an atheist, there will probably be moments when you’ll roll your eyes till you can see your brain. Hopefully though, after the eye roll, you can appreciate one or two messages therein.

On a personal level, I could relate to this movie in many ways. I actually remember a time a few years ago when the phrase ‘I’ll pray for you’ sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. It is not that I did not believe in the power of prayer, it is that I wanted it to be backed by some tangible support. If hypothetically I told someone we are trying to raise money for a loved one who needed an urgent operation. I expected them to either offer support, ideas, ask me how they could help or at the very least offer to/spread the word. If there first reaction was ‘I’ll pray for you,’ I felt cheated for lack of a better word. However, I have come to realise that if it the prayer is more than just a promise, if someone is actually going out of their way to pray for you, prayer does indeed change things. Fast forward to the ‘current me,’ I am now the one ‘stressing’ people with my I’ll pray for you. I am very much still an advocate of backing prayer with action. After all, faith without actions is dead. So, for example, while I pray for my unemployed friends to get job, I shall also send them links for jobs, offer to proof read their applications and then provide as much moral support as possible. You need not restrain yourself from going the extra mile, in prayer or action.

prayer

In the movie, the underlying theme is prayer so you might think, “If my spouse is abusing me, should I just go into a closet and pray?” There are obviously many other courses of action but I believe the writers/producers saw the need to remind us that before we should not involve the world or fight battles alone when we can begin with letting it all go and submitting to the Lord. Once you know that ‘someone’ stronger, mightier and more capable than you is taking care of your business, it is easier to worry less and sleep more.

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Last week, I had my own rock chasing me downhill. I was not able or willing to reveal its full intensity. One night,I decided to seek out to a few friends whom I knew would pray with/for me even when I failed to myself. I mentioned exactly what I wanted and then I went to sleep. The next day I woke up with that “I believe I can fly” attitude. I was singing and dancing in my room like I was being paid. Had all my problems vanished overnight? Not at all. Did I believe that they would? Yes. Did reminding myself that I was incapable of fighting alone help? Yes. Did my prayer and that of my loved ones change things? Oh yes!

faith

I am no expert in these matters, far from it. However, I have seen what suffering does to people. I have seen what it does to me. I know what it is like to feel like there is nowhere to turn, like God has forsaken you. Except, that is when he is working overtime! He allows trouble to pursue you and I. Through these troubles, he leads us to discover the gifts in darkness, the lessons from tribulation. I can’t reiterate enough what joy there is in learning how to wait, to be still in anticipation of his next move. While me may need to wait for him sometimes, other times he calls us to leap. To leave everything we know and love and go on a journey. Think of all the faithful men and women in the Bible. Now begin to meditate on the trials each of them overcame. Did God test them because he hated them or did he allow their faith to transform them? And so the learning continues…

John-1010

Overall, it was a good watch, with many learning points. It would be nice to watch it with your spouse and is suitable for family viewing.

Recommended music from the movie

Shake loose- Vickie Winans

Press on- Mandisa

Warrior – Steven Curtis Chapman

Crazy faith- John Waller

To know you- Casting Crowns

Healing begins- Tenth Avenue North

What were your thoughts when you watched the movie?Do share 🙂

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Every teardrop is a waterfall

 

Do you have some habits that are ‘okay’ when you are among friends but seem bizarre when you are exposed to a new environment?

I find it difficult to stifle laughter. Loud laughter is widely accepted in my circles. In fact, I have consolation from people with worse laughs than my own :p

One friend (Hi friend) is so ahead of the game, that before a date, the best advice we can share is try not to laugh. It has gone as far as “Princess laugh” lessons. One would argue she should be herself so that the Prince knows what he is signing up for.

During this workshop, I have caught myself bursting into laughter several times,when the room is quiet only to find the others laughing at my laughter and not the joke. I find this trait more pleasant than a grumpy attitude so I have decided to embrace it, unashamedly. “We want more laughs” is the chant the little people in my head have come up with.

However, yesterday I was shaken when I abruptly found a reason to cry rather than attract stares for my outbursts.

For context, the training I am attending has participants from both Uganda and Burundi. Sessions are carried out in English and French.

I had engaged Ambrose* in a conversation about the situation back home over dinner once before. He gave me a summary based on his experience as a journalist talking about the media houses that have been shut down and the incessant censoring. We had moved swiftly to more appropriate dinner conversation.

This time, it was different.

Ambrose had been helping the facilitators to translate during certain sessions. This time after the trainer finished submitting a point, she turned to find a pensive Ambrose. He was lost in thought and did not move until he was called three times.

He was startled back to reality and explained the reason for his distraction.

“Every now and again, my mind drifts off to my people back home. There are several triggers from simple words or actions that constantly take me away from here. I do not know who is safe anymore and that makes me uncomfortable,” he said.
He went on to add, “I am happy to be spending this week in Uganda. At least I am sure that I will safely go to sleep and wake up to a peaceful environment the next day. I cannot say the same for my people.”

Sigh.

I do not know what got into my eyes at this point but it instantly became a waterfall.

We might be helpless in many ways, but depending on who/what you believe in, do spare time and pray for Burundi.

We have more than we can ever be grateful for in one lifetime.

prayer

To belong…

Years ago when I was in High School, I envied the girls who had a group to which they belonged. Most of them went to churches which had activities for teens like camps during the holidays.
When they spoke about them in unison, I felt like I was missing out on a significant part of growing up. Later on, they would confess that they declared a longer period of the camp to their parents so that they would have some extra days to indulge in different kinds of fun. It is such declarations that made me rethink my envy. If I tried those tricks, my nose would definitely elongate akin to Pinocchio’s.
Time went by and I realised that I did not need a group. A few meaningful relationships were more than enough. Instead of being with people who shared one common interest, I could have several and each of them could represent a different world.

belonging
Without noticing it, 4040 became a hub for my teenage desires interconnected with bonds that I had not even anticipated at the time. This enigmatic mix of different characters who may have a common goal but still stand tall as separate individuals with their fears, joys and everything in between.
For the past three years, we have had an ‘overnight’ as the year comes to an end. This night starts with music,games, ordinary (or not) conversations, food and culminates into different variations of prayer and sharing.
They have become more serious over time. You can literally evaluate growth when you are there. At least I find myself doing it sub consciously. Who was here last year and is no longer with us. Why? What does this mean to us? What did we pray for last time and how far have we come since? These and other questions go through my mind even as I laugh heartily at a joke or internally sob when a member describes a traumatic incident from their past year.
Over the weekend, as we sat around, making light of difficult moments and going silent when it mattered, I was reminded of how brittle we all are as human beings. I felt the crumbling of hearts as we stripped our souls, as if oblivious that there was an audience. Once again, I saw how easy it is to meet and talk to people almost every day and still have no idea what goes on in their lives when the curtains fall.
As we gave our testimonies and shared tales, there was this young man who happened to be in the house although he is not part of the team. I shall call him Eric. He sat in a corner with the largest of headsets and a laptop in front of him. From the onset, I could tell that he was neither listening to music nor watching a movie. Despite not making any eye contact with these strangers who were now in his abode, he quietly listened.
Time went by and we wondered when he would go to bed. Time check 4.30 a.m. I was in ‘my zone’ for several reasons. On an ordinary day, I would be struggling with the hunt for some shut eye alone while the whole world is asleep. This time, I had some of my favourite people in one room and we were all wake! Ha! All I could think was *must maximise this* I digress.
We called upon Eric to share his own pain and/or testimony. He declared that he’d been going through an experience similar to one that had been mentioned by one of our very own. Like with everyone else, we offered advice or support where we could. It was now almost 5 a.m and time to pray over everything. Most people were beyond sleepy at this point. Eric declared, he had forgotten how to pray. He had not done so for years.
Sigh.
I cannot say I know much about prayer. I am as bleak as the next guy. But. I feel that the spirit sat with us and in that moment, shone upon Eric. I thought, perhaps this entire night had happened because of him <God’s mysterious ways, you know>
As we huddled for the final prayer, I felt relief wash over me. There was no bright light, rather a whisper that one could easily miss, saying “It will be okay.”

light
So, yes, I found that ‘group’ but it wouldn’t be of any importance if it wasn’t valuable too.
The older we grow, the more difficult and weird it gets for ‘just friends’ to have a ‘sleepover.’ You might find that the only times this happens is in times of anguish, at a hospital, a vigil…
If you can create the environment before any of these, by all means do. Who was it that said people are generally more honest after midnight? *wink*
I honestly find that many people need to be aided in order to admit their ‘dark side.’ I mean if we sometimes find it difficult to share our achievements, imagine how we feel about that pain that resides deep inside? No matter how you do it, it is important that you make it easy for your loved ones to admit their brokenness. Be very deliberate about it.
Age has led me to become more intentional about my relationships. Who deserves my time, who doesn’t? Who needs it but won’t say? I teach myself to procrastinate less when it comes to my loved ones. The truth is, excuses will always be in plenty but meaningful relationships won’t.
As a parting shot, regarding our parents/guardians/elders, my approach is standard, give them all the time they request no matter how inconvenient, and then do it again and again…

Finding Joy

I found Joy over the weekend. The best part about her is her story.
I thought I would share ‘my’ Joy with you.
Joy is a 40 something mother of three. She is resilient and beautiful.

She is Joy 🙂
Twelve years ago her husband and then sole bread winner got a stroke that left his paralysed. Everything changed instantly.
While she had to nurse him and cater to his every need, (and I mean every need) she also had young children to raise. The couple’s savings quickly ran out as you can imagine.
Most members of the family became scarce, barely checking in or providing any support. I suppose they were too busy worrying about their own problems. Joy knocked at a few doors and then stood still.
Fast forward to today. Her eldest son is yet to join University and the two daughters are in Secondary school. She has managed by doing odd jobs from being a porter, working as a supermarket attendant to selling second hand clothes.
The ‘bigger’ bills have been taken care of by good Samaritans. Speaking of, the gentleman who was paying her son’s school fees recently had to relocate to Europe. He is quite mature and as such may not easily find work let alone continue supporting them.
I met Joy a few months ago and this was her  biggest worry. How in the world was she going to pay tuition for her son, Mark?

The Lord will provide

Her, my mum and I were actually together when she raised the issue. Her son was keen on studying law. The UACE results weren’t out yet but she was secretly hoping his grades weren’t good enough for the (more) expensive law degree. At least if he did something like Business Administration (his second choice). She didn’t know where the funds for that would come from either but it was a shorter, more manageable course.
Well, it turns out BBA was not in the cards for this young man. The results finally came out and he had done well, not the top grade but well enough.

Still, there was the issue of Pre-entry examinations.
Joy comforted Mark in advance. She let him know even if he failed, it would not be the end of the world.

He listened and kept his eye on the prize.

81% of the students who sat for this pre-entry exam failed. Mark was not one of them.
The joy! The fear of being inadequately prepared!

Let your will be done Lord

The list of students on Government sponsorship was released soon after. Mark’s name shone bright on this list.
Would Joy’s husband stick it out with her if tables were turned? I have no idea. Would I be as strong as her in those shoes? Would you be?
I don’t have the answers but I am glad I found Joy.
You can’t tell by looking at her that her heart has patches and her soul is bleeding. This makes her an even more magnificent sight.
Have you found ‘your’ Joy?

 

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