Friday, 28 December 2018

A Good kind of greedy

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The scene was reminiscent of a Wild Wild West Shootout. The two men squared up to each other as an impregnable air of tension enveloped them.  Their eyes bristled with violent intent. For what seemed like eternity neither man would budge. Neither man would relent. Neither man would as much as flinch. The server deemed the serving of chips to be sufficient whereas the young man on the opposite side of the counter did not.

We looked on with bated breath anticipating a backlash from either party. Then in an entirely unprecedented move, the server relented. Despite shooting a hostile stare at the young man, he reached for his ladle and scooped up another serving of chips, begrudgingly spooning it to the man’s plate. Content, the young man left the queue and took his seat at one of tables in the dining hall.

This was an all too common scene in my time living at a hostel in Madaraka back in my campus days. That was when Sunday lunch was chips. Other days would not witness such drama or histrionics. While most of us were meek and ‘content’ with the serving of fries we got. Others were more ‘persuasive’ and insisted on getting that little bit extra no matter the glare of the server that tacitly told them to get lost.

I wish I could liken my hunger for God to that of the young man for fries. I wish I could say I am always yearning to spend time with God in scripture and prayer. I wish I could say like David, “As a deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you O God.”  I can’t however.

I don’t thirst for God as much as I should. I don’t yearn for a deeper intimacy with him. Neither do I crave for the all-satisfying presence of God with avarice. I’m merely content with just going through the motions. It’s indicative of my fallen nature. That I am all too easily content with settling for average with God.

One Sunday service of around 2 hours, that does it for us.  Then off we go to our lives for another 6 days, for another petite serving the Sunday after that. Where is the greed for more? Where is the insatiable appetite for intimacy with God? Where is the ‘spiritual  Oliver Twist’ in us? We were created for more were we not?

We have a God-sized hole in our souls but we are content with bit-sized portions of God. Maybe we are too scared and believe He will shoot us for asking for more of him. No, maybe perhaps we are too stuffed on finite things that there is little room for the infinite.  I think the reason we consume too little of him, is we believe very little about him.

We don’t believe he is all that glorious, so we affix  glory on people. We esteem their approval more than we esteem God’s. We fear their criticism more than we revere God.  We hanker for their validation more than we do for God.

We don’t believe he is all that great so we take micro-management to a whole new level.  We don’t believe he is sovereign so we are constantly looking over our shoulders for fear of being ambushed. We are constantly engaged in one-upmanship lest we fall behind. We don’t believe he calls the shorts so we ensure we do.

We don’t believe he is gracious so we interact with him on a sort of contractual and transactional basis. Where we strive to play our part and do the good we can expecting him to ‘recompense’ our piety.  We believe only in meritocracy and the thought that He can bless us independent of our worthiness to that blessing is a thought that confounds us.

We don’t believe he is good so we look for goodness elsewhere apart from him. We don’t believe he is good enough to satisfy us so we find fulfillment and pleasure outside of him. We don’t believe his blessings are good so we opt to settle in our jobs, relationships and so much more.

Little wonder that we fail to understand him. Little wonder that we feel we are missing something. Little wonder that he feels distant to us, that our faith is more of a repetitive custom with little significance outside the church walls. 

Sin has marred us to the extent that independence from God seems more natural to us than dependency. It all started with Adam and Eve seeking goodness apart from him and we have followed that legacy of independence and unbelief ever since.  Romans 3:11 states that there is no-one who understands or seeks God. Philippians 2: 21 underscores that we are more concerned about our own interests rather than those of Jesus Christ. The situation  looked desperate but God provided a remedy.

He gave us Jesus to break free from the slavery of sin. To all who put their trust in Jesus, he gave us the gift of his Spirit to work in them to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13). It is comforting that when we lapse to moments of indifference towards God, we can cry out to him to help us seek after him.  We can pray to him to help us glut on him, the bread of life, when we feel we have drifted away from him.

God never expected me to maintain an upward trajectory towards him. He knew I would lurch here and there.  He knew you would do the same as well. Thankfully, and mercifully, if I confess my unbelief to him, he purifies me from my unrighteousness and gives me more of himself to pursue him, to hunger after him when I lack the strength to do it by myself.

It’s not always a given that you will desire God. He knows that as the verses above have outlined. You can be sure, though, that he will quicken your spirit to hanker for him, if you ask him to. He loves you that much. As he sent his son to atone for you sin, so too can he fill you up to hunger for him, when you need him to.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Coming out of the closet

Photo by Daian Gan from Pexels

I’ve never been good with good-byes.  Especially when it comes to clothes. The reason there are not too many second-hand clothing items in the market is because of people like me. People who believe in extracting 200% from an item of clothing. 100% value for money from wearing it. The next 100% being from the clothing item’s reincarnation as a mopping rag or a cleaning cloth of sorts. One item of clothing however was spared that fate. A particular T-shirt of mine whose last appearance stretches back to 2015.

It was one of my favourite tees. A white T-shirt with a play button in the middle. I liked that Tee for many reasons not least the play button in the middle. It was a seamless balance of panache and austerity,  classic white tee with a dash of sophistication in a play button.

When I wore the Tee, Some people thought it prudent to ‘hit-it’ and expect me to do some version of the mannequin challenge. I don’t blame them, I would have done so too. A good friend of mine knows this all too well. Anyway, I also liked it because it was just the right fit. Finding fitting clothes for a frame like mine isn’t always easy. Either the T-shirt sleeves are too flappy or they are too clingy(excuse the pun). That is to say the T-shirt fits my arms and torso well but resembles more of a crop top. This tee however, was just the right fit, sleeves and length were just right.

We enjoyed good memories, me and that tee. The Amazing Race event I was involved in. Hiking at Ngong. My baptism. Strathmore Sport's Day where I channeled my inner 'Ezekiel Kemboi' to run around Madaraka. Then there was the Man Enough camp. What didn't I do with that Tee? Good memories they were and then it disappeared, never to be seen of again. Well that’s except for the few pictures I have of myself wearing it. God knows I would have struggled consigning that T-shirt to Mopping rag status.

It can be hard letting go of some clothing items that we hold dear to us.  Clothes that have perhaps played an integral part in shaping our personality and individuality. Clothes with which we have enjoyed cherished memories. As inevitable as the parting of ways seems to be, it doesn’t make it any less easy.

For the man or lady who accepts Christ as their Lord and saviour, they put on a new self. Jesus clothes them with his righteousness so that before God they are justified, that is to say made just as if they had never sinned.
That’s some pretty good clothing to flaunt if you ask me. Clothing to wear over and over again. Clothing that to God, spells out, “Holy, pure, flawless.” Clothing that is not mitumba but original, the real deal, not some cheap imitation.

New clothes are especially attractive when they provide what our old ones couldn’t. When our old clothes are too loose, or too tight, when they have tears, when they crease easily or lose their bright hue, we really yearn for new clothes.

Yet despite all that, we hold on to our old sinful self and occasionally ditch the apparel Jesus gave us in favour of our old sinful self. Even despite being destined for the dumpster, we still give those clothes a stay of execution. Maybe because we struggle to let go and move on. Maybe because we believe wearing them will still make us fulfilled, assertive, influential, popular, and attractive. Our old clothes promise us things.

Sin makes us promises as well.  Grandiose promises. Sin promises us satisfaction.  It promises us that insisting on our right to an apology will free us when it in fact enslaves us.  It promises us that just one lustful glance or thought will bring us the sexual pleasure we so desperately need when it in fact leads us to bondage. After that lust or fantasy, one chokes with guilt and regret when they come face to face with either the object of their lust or a man or woman well worthy of their chivalry.

It  promises us that a slothful snooze will  give us the much needed rest we need only for us to wake up and play catch up for the majority of the day. .It promises that alcohol binge will be the tonic to the pressures of work, school, family only to have us do things we later on regret in our drunken stupor and living in dependency.

Afterwards we find out, tulicheswa, tuliconniwa. We experience pleasure and comfort for only a moment or better yet, a fraction of a moment. But what our old sinful self does so well is that it give us 'accessories' aside from the pleasure or comfort we craved.  It drapes our necks with a garland of guilt, defilement and dishonor.  It pierces our ears with accusations. It bedecks our entire being with labels of addict, drunk, has-been, hypocrite. Our sin robs us of our dignity and we feel reduced to a loaf of bread. A pang of self-condemnation hangs over us like a thick cloud. We feel it hovering  over us at every turn, and raining down on us torrents of despair.

Like those old clothes in your wardrobe, that just gather up moss and dust, you know should dispel with them. You know you don’t need them, after all, they've been languishing in that wardrobe for who knows how long.  Yet we persist with them. We persist with sin. We go back to the false promises of the sinful self.  The promises that just leave us empty and used.

Christ’s clothing is much more chic. You know it’s much more comfortable. Much more bespoke to your individuality.  God tailors his righteousness  not to conceal your flaws but to accentuate them with his grace. Christ's clothing makes you find your worth in him irrespective of your mistakes.

Why is it so hard to let go? Maybe it's because of my sinful nature. Maybe it's because I like sin.  I like the pleasure and the comfort. Oh if only I got to a point of trusting God more. If only I got to a point of seriously believing that, "at  his right hand are pleasures forever more."(Psalms 16:11KJV)

That is my walk and the walk of every other believer until God glorifies me when he calls me home. It's a mistaken ideal that once you give your life to Jesus, struggle with sin is a thing of the past. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The perpetual battle with the old sinful way of life only escalates. Being made into a new creation isn't just a one-time event, it is a gradual process. A life-long one fleeing the clutches of the old sinful self. 

When Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, they needed God to cloth them. Their hastily-assembled fig outfits were insufficient and risque just as our acts of righteousness are insufficient to nullify sin. Stalwarts like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David struggled as well. Despite being paragons of faith, they too dallied with the sinful self through deception, anger, drunkenness, lust amongst others. Only Jesus intervention tipped the scales in our favour.

Christ's saving grace will help us cling to this righteousness rather than going back to our sinful self. First it will save me from sin's death sentence. Then over the course of my life, he will have to continually save me from it's tempting influence. And finally, finally, when he calls me home, I will be saved from it's pestering presence. The closet will be fully redeemed and I will don his holiness proper, a celestial robe reflective of his glory.

Friday, 5 October 2018

The fear which silently destroys us

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Do you ever get the impression that time moves quicker than it used it to do when you were younger? Like me, do you find yourself playing catch up almost every morning prior to work wondering, “Seriously, 6:36!!! Seriously?!! Kwani, where did those 23 minutes go?” If it would have been possible, the DPP would have had time arrested to nobody's regret. It can't be just me who feels a minute is way too short for a minute. It can't. Time has been short-changing us and robbing us blind. 'Awekwe ndani!" 

You'll excuse my mini-rant. I think that amounts to hate speech. You know these days bloggers can be put in for such. Let me be careful with my mouth. I can't get a little bit over-zealous sometimes. I'm good now. Anyway, time isn't all that bad. Come to think of it, time can be very philanthropic if you know what I mean.

Time seems to amble away safe in the knowledge that we are unable to do anything about it. During a normal day's work,  the minutes just crawl and lethargically slither away as if they have nothing better to do. When the clock finally does hit the 4 or 5 pm mark, spasms of joy mingled with relief well in our hearts. Our once sullen countenance brightens up with a new lease of life. There’s a buoyancy, a joie de vivre, an irrepressible giddiness within us that just brims over. It makes us capable of doing a couple of  those Fortnite dance moves Antoine Griezmann, Lingard and Pogba like so much.  We become truly alive and rearing to go, but not for more work. The office exit door assumes an irresistible allure and rarely do we need a second invitation to go through. Out of the door we trot, to cap off a day’s work.

My enthusiasm at that time of day tapers off the moment I near the Westlands terminus. You see almost every evening I have had to put up with the harrowing experience of boarding a 48 from Westlands to go home. Let me tell you, it is not one for the faint-hearted.

With horror, I have watched as men and women, scramble to board a 48. The pushing and shoving is nothing short of vicious. This is the true embodiment of survival of the fittest. This is your rugby scrum, your Tekken, Mortal Kombat, your tag of war, your Christmas-eve shopping commotion rolled in one. Only the strongest survive, the weak are mercilessly shoved aside.  In that melee of melees, loss is inevitable. You can lose your one-pack, you can lose your love handles, you can lose your flabby arm fat, you can lose your weave and just about anything. 

What confounds me is that just a few meters away, another 48 mat plying a different route lies in wait but totally devoid of the chaotic scenes depicted above. People queue to get in, in a civilized, non-rushed and tranquil manner. None of that world-war 3, WWF royal rumble stuff of the mats I use to go home. The touts don’t tolerate anybody jumping the queue. They enforce discipline unlike their other 48 counter parts who  have watched amusedly as people like myself go through near-death experiences before entering the promised land or suffer the pain of being shoved aside to wait yet again. To my surprise, yesterday, they actually did follow the lead of their orderly 48 counterparts and had us queue. My hope is this will be a permanent move to spare us from further crimes against humanity.

Contrasting experiences yield the same result though, eventually everyone will board a matatu and reach their destination. One group of people are forced to go to hell and back even before they go home. Whereas for another group, its a peaceful stroll into a PSV before inevitably arriving home

I think sometimes a misleading fear we have is that there’s not enough for everyone so we have to grab and hoard whatever we can lay our hands on for fear there will not be enough for us. I reckon that’s the fear that drives people to act so desperately to board a matatu. Unfortunately, this fear isn't just limited to those boarding matatus.

The fear of merit-based promotions not being enough can drive people to sabotage the efforts of their own workmates and shoot their organization in the foot. There’s the scarcity mentality that convinces scores of people that opportunities to earn income are not enough so they must consign themselves to a life of drudgery, slaving away at dead-end jobs that give them no fulfillment and whose sole motivating factor is a pay check at the end of the month. That or gambling in the hope they will get a quick buck or reap an unprecedented fortune.

That similar fear rears it's ugly head in buffets, compelling some diners to erect mountains of food on their plates with scant consideration for those behind them. Consequence being those after them receive meagre potions or none at all when food would have been sufficient for all if those in front hadn't proceeded to hoard it.

It appears this same fear is prevalent among the youth who believe that post 30/40 will be a long, pitiful, boredom-fest to the grave so you might as well party and travel  while you can because opportunities for fun will be few and far in the sunset years of your life and those preceding that. It's  fear that also has young men and women struggling to commit to relationships instead choosing to keep their options open whether through casual flings or through sponsors.

Speaking of relationships, a fear that there is no suitable significant other or friend for one has led many to settle for way way less than they should. Today this fear has caused us to settle for the situationships with benefits and the expensive price that come with it, be it moral compromise, over-controlling partners or even physically abusive ones. Fear has led us to settle for the all-validating primarily through social media but next to nothing in rebuking when wayward behaviour demands it. It has led us to settle for the relationships big on presence during the fun good times but equally big on absence in the bad times. Relationships which are at best parodies of what relationships and friendships ought to be. It's a similar fear that struggles to let go when these relationships don't happen as we would wish. It takes to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp to subtly stalk the ‘ones that got away.’

This list couldn’t be complete with what this fear has done to us as a nation. Our country has borne the brunt of this mind-set, losing untold billions as a result and that’s just a conservative estimate. People have taken to gorging the national or county coffers the moment they set foot in public office. The mentality is that this is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to eat or risk 'starving' because someone else will capitalize on the opportunity you wouldn't. It has become the norm to feast on public funds or that 'kakitu' such that anybody who opts for integrity over this aggrandizement is considered a fool. The means justifies the end we believe. The end may be enrichment for some, but at a great cost to others and the nation.

The passengers who queue to board their matatus do not show fear but trust. Trust that they will eventually get a matatu. Trust that they don’t have to push to get it. Trust that they will be order when they queue to get one. It is a similar trust in God and his sovereignty that we have to display in order to avoid the pitfalls of this fear or scarcity mentality. It is a trust we really have to ask God to help us have, because despite his all-loving and all-powerful and all-sovereign nature, trusting him is a struggle we are all too familiar with.

In Genesis 13, we are told of tension arising between Abram and Lot because the land  they lived on could not support them both. Despite Abram being the senior, he gave Lot the opportunity to choose which portion of land he would settle with. Lot chose the land that looked the more fertile. Abram meekly allowed him to follow through on his choice and God vindicated Abram afterwards by promising  to give Abram and his descendants even larger tracts of land. By meekly letting Lot go first, Abram trusted God’s abundance regardless of it appearing Lot got the lion's share while he, the lesser of the spoils.

It’s unfortunate that today we live at a time where Abram’s meekness would be viewed as a door-mat mentality. Abram would have been viewed as weak and subservient for letting Lot getting the better of him like that. There is a certain inevitability about God’s will that even if men or women colluded to the contrary, God’s will would still come into effect. Believing that, may lead one making ‘door-mat decisions’ as Abram did, but is it really a door-mat decision when you trust God’s word or promise to come through when it has never failed to do so?

Abraham’s abundance mentality was proved even further when God asked him to sacrifice his son. Despite the overwhelming odds of not having another child with Sarah, Abraham believed God could give him a son somehow. That wasn’t a ‘not-enough’ mindset. It was an out-of-the box mindset that was consolidated in the belief that God was sovereign and powerful to do what he promised regardless of apparent limiting factors.

Abraham’s mindset, or faith, whichever way you look at it, is increasingly rare in this post-modern world. Being rational, has made us skeptical of God’s sovereignty. It has instead led us to believe we have to take matters in our own hands or pragmatically apply well known mantras or conventions. 

When caught on the wrong side of the law, we don’t trust God to mercifully take us out or give us enormous amounts of grace to face the remand-cell or the courts. Instead, we fear it wont be enough so we opt for the bribe. When applying for a vacancy, we don’t trust God’s sovereignty to give us the job when we follow due process, instead our first thought is, “Who do I know at this organization? ” We conveniently forget that God has limitless control over the factors we don’t. He has sovereign power to overrule the factors that are beyond us, those very same factors that make us take matters in our own hands.

He has control over the cop who stopped you just like he had control on Pharaoh when Moses came calling or on the King when Nehemiah asked for permission to rebuild the wall. He has control over your future love just the way he had control over Rebekah when Abraham's servant came calling.

He has sovereign control over the tender or application process just as he had control over the battles Joshua and co. had to face. Battles whose victories he secured long before Joshua, Hezekiah and co. had even stepped on the battlefield.

He has control over the weather  just like he showed when he made the sun stand still at Joshua's request. He has control over the elements as the Israelites twice discovered when God parted the Red Sea and the Jordan to make ways where there were none. Balaam saw that God had control over animals when he spoke through a donkey, so too did Daniel and King Darius when God shut the lions’ mouths, so did Elijah when ravens fed him after fleeing Jezebel. God has such a grip on things that the devil and spirits have to ask for permission to effect destruction.(2 Chronicles 18, Job 1)

When we consider the above, we realize God has a stupendous wealth of options from which to exercise his sovereignty. Quite frankly it's ridiculous. He can do just about anything in so far as it aligns with his will. Like the man with the demonic son, we struggle with unbelief  that he has these options and we need to ask God to help us overcome it. Rather than having a scarcity mentality that is reminiscent of Andrew when he asked, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9 NLT) We ought to give him the little we have and maybe pray, “Here God, two diplomas, 5 casual jobs not related to the position I’m applying for, for your glory and my faith in you, please, surprise me.”

We have to ask God to make us realize his sovereignty like Daniel did when he said, “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No-one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”(Daniel 4:35) Like Abram we have to face the limitations, age-wise, experience-wise and still possess that abundance mentality and trust that He can still bring his will to fruition no matter what because he is God.

It takes an experience or two or three of God’s stupefying power or providence to make us trust him. It takes a prerequisite leap of faith to allow ourselves to go through these experiences of God’s stupefying power. It takes poring over his word chapter by chapter to see numerous examples of God's sovereignty that give us faith to allow ourselves to go through these experiences. It also takes being in community with other believers such as in a small group so as to hear testimonies of his grace and providence. Quite obviously, it also  takes a turning away from the scarcity mentality or fear that deceives us and a willingness to be still and know he is God. A turning away, which may not be so easy. Trust me I know, but it is a turning away that is possible because through Jesus' death on the cross, God extends his gift of grace towards us to make this turnaround from fear to trust more than a possibility.

It takes a willingness to walk 7 times around our own versions of the wall of Jericho in silence. It may mean carrying 5 stones and forsaking the armor everyone is telling you will need for your giant. We may get flack for our actions, we may be the butt of jokes and subject of mocking memes depicting us as weird or naive. Nonetheless, it isn’t na├»ve to trust the God who built this earth and for millennia has kept it going. Nor is it weird to think if he promised to work all things for our good, for those who love him, then he can fulfill his plan irrespective of our perceived limiting factors.

God isn't called 'The Sovereign Lord' for nothing. That title is one he merits without question.  He has proved it so many times . I know it's easy to fall to the tendency of fear because I've done it plenty of times. It's easy to think he is not in sovereign control when evil runs amok and pain abounds. I recall Francis Chan once said, "if life were stable I'd never need God's help." God's confounding wisdom is to allow instability so that we can need his help and see his sovereign hand at work. Confused? Struggling to understand how this is possible? Don't blame you. I've been there. Reading through scripture and having scripture revealed to me made more sense and it will for you if you ask God. Stick to believing rather than fearing. Stick to trusting. It's worked for me. The sooner we believe it, the more he'll prove he is sovereign and the less we will have to fear there not being enough and doing things far worse than scrambling to board a matatu.