Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thankful For You All

There are people who have come into our lives and contributed to who we are today. I am deeply thankful to them.

Many years ago when I was in my second pregnancy, my husband (then), was promoted to a senior position and moved to another town to head the division there. I was to wait until my maternity leave, to resign from my job and join him in his new location. When the time came, I resigned as planned, but we both decided that I should have the baby first before moving. Good thinking; to avoid unnecessary stress for me in my late months of pregnancy.

When the baby was a month old, I started making plans to relocate and join my husband. That was when the drama began! Apparently, in the short five months he had been in the new town, he had managed to get himself a live-in girlfriend and also got her pregnant. She was two months pregnant! I was his wife with two children, one five years old and the other one month old. But if I were to proceed with moving to him, it meant that I would have to battle it out with his pregnant girlfriend. He claimed to have the situation 'under control'; but after many sleepless nights, I decided to stay put and cry out my marriage with unceasing pain.

Finally, I pulled myself up and decided to go to my old boss. I had resigned, but I was hoping for a favor. He heard my story and sympathised with me and gave me my old job back. Apparently, they had recruited a temp to hold my old job while I was on maternity leave, and they had not as yet placed someone permanently. To this day, I am eternally grateful for that boss. I continued working and was able to raise my two boys.
I am also a woman of significant standing in the Church. Again, many years ago when I eagerly feasted on the word of God and grew in my involvement in the Church, a position was opened for me to serve in a prestigious committee. I was so excited about that prospect, and praised God for noticing my zeal. However, that prospect was soon short-lived. For someone prominent, raised an alarm - "what committee are we, if we are to allow a single mother to serve in our midst"?

My dreams were shattered, my faith was shattered. I became so disgruntled that I actually stopped going to church altogether. I could not even bring myself to take my children to Sunday school; something they enjoyed so much.

Two women played a significant role during my turbulent four months out of church. One was from a new church I had just started attending and the other was from the church I had run away from. They both counseled me tirelessly and no doubt persistently prayed for me. At the new church, they advised me to go back to my old church and make peace with those who had wronged me and then come and join them, should I still wished to. I made peace and went back to my old church. They did not let me into their prestigious committee but I no longer struggled with their short-sightedness. Many years later when these ladies were either gone or too old to serve, I became the chairlady of that same prestigious committee. And I am still a single mother; the God type of a single mother! God makes all things beautiful in His time.

I dare say that over the years, God has sent many more women and men, along my path, both to help me up and to put me down. And I am totally thankful for all of them. Because without these, I wouldn't be the God-fearing and God-honoring woman I am today!

Fan into flame the spiritual gift God gave you. For God did not give you a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:6-7

Friday, June 17, 2016

Integrity - A Rare Gem In Our Day

Have you ever driven a car that breaks down ever so often? You wake up late one morning and get into a panic, rushing around so you can make it to work in time. Then when you start your car engine, what happens? The car will not start! You crank it a couple of times, but with the same result. How frustrating! And it is also at such times that you cannot catch a lift with your neighbors, because they are long gone anyway.

Both my stove and fridge are over thirty years old. I know that for a fact; because my second son is thirty two, and I bought those two household items before he was born! They were times in the past when I could have replaced them with newer models; but I have carried this principle that says, "If it isn’t broken, why throw it away". Then as time moved on, I also discovered that the newer models had a very short life span. So I hung on to my old models. Now with our economy as bad as it has become, I am hanging on very dearly to my stove and fridge, earnestly praying that they will not give in; because if they do, I will not be able to afford to replace them. The stove is no longer shiny but the oven still bakes beautiful cakes; and the fridge has been to be cleaned more regularly. But I just love my golden oldies!

Are you in a marriage, friendship, relationship, that has survived some stormy years? Give thanks to God for that blessing. Hold dearly to such relationships; they are now a rare gem. I have a niece who helps in the house once in a while. And since mine is not a permanent job for her, she sometimes works in other places. We have been good to each other over the years; but we have also had sharp disagreements, resulting in painful partings. But despite all this, whenever I get into a tight spot, she is one of the first persons to come rushing to my help. Her heart has never gone cold towards me; nor has mine.

God's word calls us to be this loving and caring towards one another, and forgiving each other's trespasses. This is the only way we can promote integrity between spouses, family members, friends, and in the community at large.

"Don't just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other". Romans 12:9-10

Friday, May 6, 2016

Young People and Alcohol Abuse

One thing that has made my heart soar is to watch how much alcoholic beverages our young people are consuming nowadays. The newer they are to the beverages, the more they seem to consume; the intention mainly to demonstrate to their colleagues just how much more they can consume.

At one time, coming from a business conference, a young man sitting across the aisle in the plane ordered a bottle of some alcoholic beverage from the air hostess; raised the bottle in a toast to his friends nearby and gulped down the contents before the hostess could even offer him a glass!

What made me sad was that this young man was shouting out a toast to friends who looked sober and were busy preoccupied on their phones to catch up on some news or messages. They also looked better dressed than him, and even healthier. He obviously was an educated guy, in order for him to have been part of the conference; but it was obvious that alcohol was stealing away every bit of decency he used to have.

I used to have a school teacher, who we as students knew to drink one too many during
weekends. But he was one of the best teachers we had in our time. Some twenty years down the road, I was walking past a vegetable market. Somewhere near the public toilet, by a dump site, lay a man on some cardboard boxes, begging for food or coins from passers-by. I wanted to ignore him, but something tagged at my heart. I went to drop one of the bananas I had just bought. As I put it by the dirty path where he was lying, my eyes looked at him. I wasn't sure; but I went away with the distinct feeling that I had met this man before. I think that from the recess of my heart, I uttered a small prayer for this wretched man.

A couple of days later, I read in the daily newspaper about a well known professor who had just passed away. I remembered the name as that of my old favorite school teacher! But what shook me, was the circumstances under which died. It had rained hard during that week, and the temperatures had dropped severely. The vagrant by vegetable market had crawled to his usual night place, the public toilet, but found it locked up due to some repairs on the drainage system. He had to endure the pouring rain and the cold temperatures all night. That, the booze in his body, the malnutrition, the loneliness and the fever that took its toll on him, was enough to destroy his life to the point of no return. How sad!

This man at one time had a family, a home, a profession, but how all that was traded for the dump site, is a story that can only be told by those who suffered and cautioned him about the dangers of alcohol abuse.

Remembering events nearer home, my cousin died in his early forties from liver cirrhosis. He was a very good man, loving and caring towards his family, with a successful career in his profession. But he drank one too many, too much and he left behind a very young wife and two small children.

Parents, we owe it to our children to live disciplined and exemplary lives. They watch us drink one too many, and when they are grown up they will drink six too many and head towards an early grave. One time I was watching some two small boys from my neighborhood playing. I caught up on their conversation, chatting amicably about their dads. One said, "But why does your father drink beer, when mine doesn't"? The other boy was quick to defend his dad, saying, "the beer my dad drinks is good, it does not make anyone drunk". Right there and then, I felt anger towards the father who was misleading his poor innocent boy, that alcohol was not intoxicating. That boy, when he grew up, would most probably drink himself into oblivion, all the time thinking he had his alcohol consumption under control!

Some Christians argue that the bible does not condemn alcoholism. But does it also condone something with such devastating consequences?

So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be sober. Night is the time for sleep and the time when people get drunk. But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.
 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9

You can also read the treacherous story of the daughters of Lot, who made their father drunk so they could take advantage of him in his drunken stupor and sleep with him. (Genesis 19:30-38). They wanted him to father their children; a detestable thing he would never have agreed to, had they attempted it while he was sober!

To this day, how many so-called acts of 'bravely' have you heard or read about, which are in reality acts of cowardice, that have been committed under the influence of alcohol?

Monday, April 11, 2016

To Love and Not Be Loved

"Life is like an egg in one's hand. So delicate; so unpredictable". Author unknown.
Have you ever desired something so much; yet every time you think you are within reach, the thing kind of vapors into thin air?

You could be single, and have been waiting and waiting for that far-off marriage proposal which never comes. Or it could be an endless search for a job, which never materialises into anything. For some, it is years and years of trying for a baby, with no success at all.

There is a woman in the Bible, whose name is Leah (Genesis 29). Leah was the daughter of a wealthy man named Laban. She was the eldest of the two daughters. Her only notable feature was her weak eyes, whether in a sexy way or not, the Bible does not say. While she had just that one characteristic, it is said of her younger sister, Rachel, that she was 'beautiful in every way, with a lovely face and shapely figure' (v17).

Given the choice, I would have loved to be a Rachel, who wouldn't? But unfortunately, the truth in life is that while some of us are Rachels, a lot of us are Leahs.

Cousin Jacob was so mesmerised by Rachel's beauty that he offered to work as her father's slave for seven long years, after which he would be rewarded with her hand in marriage. What a romantic story!

But what about weak eyed, older sister Leah? Were there any offers for her, at all, even for one year's service? Absolutely none at all, and how sad!

So at the end of seven years, Laban decided to trick Jacob, by giving him the older sister instead of the younger. He had to get her married off somehow, and this was the only opportunity.

But this arrangement did not go well with Jacob. He was upset; he had worked seven long years for the young beautiful Rachel, not for passed over, dull Leah. So Laban offered to give him Rachel in exchange for another seven long years of service; to which he quickly agreed without any hesitation. This conversation and transaction happened the morning after poor Leah's quiet entry into marriage.

Can you even start to imagine what she must have felt. After spending such a blissful night with her, Jacob quickly dismissed any romance between them, by agreeing to work seven more years for his beloved Rachel. It was good for Rachel to be loved that much, lucky girl! But how painful it must have been for Leah, to suffer such rejection and humiliation on the first morning of sharing the marriage bed with the man she had also come to love for seven years. She had to have known of her father's plan and agreed to it, and both were hoping it would work. They had figured that since Rachel was young and beautiful, she would have no problem getting another suitor.

But relations don't always work out the way we figure, do they? So for Leah, there began a marriage relationships that met the physical partnership, but mostly lacked the companionship of a couple in love.

She was so disappointed in her marriage, that she put her focus on her children; naming them as God opened her womb and closed Rachel’s.
  • 1.     Reuben - because she thought that now that she had a son, maybe her husband           would now love her. It didnt work.
  • 2.     Simeon - another son, maybe this will now work. It didnt.
  • 3.     Levi - three sons, surely my husband and I should be on the same page now. He           wasn't.
  • 4.     Judah - son number four. But this time she no longer yearned for the love of her             husband. She removed her focus from her husband and gave herself over to the           God who ordained marriage. She named her son Judah, (meaning ‘Praise’) and           turned and worshipped God. 

Leah did not walk out on her marriage; she perseved. But her focus changed, from the source of discontentment to the God who would fill every void in her heart.

"I will sing of the tender mercies of the Lord forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. Your unfailing love will last forever; Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens”. Psalm 89:1-2

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

When All Your Relationships Go Sour - Sarah's Story

Chuck Swindoll wrote a profound statement that says, “Life is ten percent what happens to us, and ninety percent how we respond to it”.

I enjoy reading about women from the Bible and learning about their ‘ten and ninety percent’ stories. One of my favourite characters is Sarah (Genesis 12 to 23). Here is a woman who had every negative relationship imaginable, pushed at her. And yet in 1 Peter 3:3-6, we read of Sarah’s submissiveness and humility towards her husband, Abraham, to the extent of calling him, ‘Lord’. ‘The holy women of old trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands’, the scripture reads.

Sarah’s story:
Sarah is most remembered for giving birth to her son Isaac, while she was already an old woman. She had remained childless most of her married years; and most probably had to endure the ridicule and contempt of her in-laws. In some cultures, a daughter-in-law who cannot conceive is considered as useless.

In such a scenario, who would blame her for getting excited when Abraham mentioned that they were to leave Haran and go to the promised land of Canaan? (Genesis 12:1-6). This meant a new beginning for Sarah, a new community, away from the stares and whispers of the familiar faces.

But as we read further, we realize that childlessness was just the beginning of Sarah’s relational problems. Next, was a severe famine in Canaan that led Abraham and Sarah to seek refuge in Egypt, where a new set of problems arose. Where do you run to when you feel trapped, powerless and abused?   Had Sarah realized that Abraham was going to trade her to Pharaoh’s harem, (Genesis 12:10-20), she would have preferred to stay under the scornful eye, but protective arm of the in-laws.

The pressure of trying to meet expectations can sometimes lead us to make the wrong choices. In Genesis 16, we see Sarah giving her servant Hagar to Abraham, so that through Hagar, a child could be born into the family. That should have worked; except the once humble maid, after falling pregnant, suddenly became scornful towards her mistress. What a cocktail of sour relationships this turned out to be for Sarah! Maybe, this turn of events to the undesirable, made Sarah more hopeful of having a child of her own womb. ‘What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see’, (Hebrews 12:1).

It was at this stage of faith in God, that Sarah finally had peace in her heart. At a later stage, even when Isaac was finally born to Sarah, Ishmael, Hagar’s son, being the older son of Abraham, also became scornful towards Isaac. Sarah’s relational wars did not come to a sudden end, but she knew the God she had put her trust in and believed that He would fight her battles for her.
‘I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him against that day’.                           2 Timothy 1:12b
There is a God in heaven who is able to do this for you, if you will only put your trust in Him.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Third Person in Relationships

For our relationships to work, we need a third person who will equalise the triangle.
When Mary, the mother of Jesus was told about her pregnancy, she quickly realized that she needed the support of another person, even with her husband-to-be Joseph, right next to her.

It is quite normal in the African culture to have this kind of triangle relationship. When the girl is about to get married, she goes to her aunt and introduces her boyfriend and tell the aunt of their intention. The aunt, in turn, goes to the girl’s father and relates the plans of the young couple. The father will either deny or give the consent for the family of the boyfriend to come and pay the bride price. The aunt does play a very crucial role in the brokering the agreement.

Because we are of a sinful nature, relationships were never designed to work outside Jesus Christ, as our mediator. He is the mediator between us, sinful mankind and the Holy God. Because of His sacrifice on the Cross, we are now able to pray and be heard by the Holy God.

Only Jesus is able to make our relationships work. We must learn to talk to Him in prayer about the things that bother us. We must also read the Bible and learn how the men and women of old fared in terms of their relationships.

In the next blog we will look at Abraham’s wife, Sarah and how she fared in her relationships.

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  1. Relationships Are Complex   -
  2. Why Relationships Are Complex  -

Friday, March 4, 2016

Why Relationships Are Complex

To continue from part one – why is it that our relationships are far from being perfect; yet the God we have come to know is perfect in all sense?

One of the reasons is because we are wired differently, and while we both desire happiness in our relationships, we go after it differently.

In their book on Relationships, Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp, talk about three relational profiles: 

1)    The Frustrated Relationship
In this type of marriage relationship, one person moves toward isolation while the other moves toward immersion. You have two different people, all after the same thing, but going after it differently. The one who desires isolation moves away emotionally from the other, while the one desiring immersion feels rejected.

2)    The Enmeshed Relationship
In this case, both partners move toward immersion. They spend a lot of time together and become so dependent on each other. But the more time they spend together, the more frustrating the relationships becomes. Their expectations of each other become more and more demanding, leading to an exhausting and frustrating relationship.

3)    The Isolated Relationship
Both partners move toward isolation. Each becomes engrossed in their ‘small’ world, or activities. They opt for safe distance from each other, maybe to avoid conflict. This type of relationship becomes impersonal, lonely and disappointing.

These types of relational profiles are as a result of the sin nature in us. We are born with it and we also pass it on to our children. Just like in the case of the first family, Adam and Eve, who passed on their sinful nature to their sons, Cain and Abel.

Adam and Eve gave each other the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). Just like a couple who are in an enmeshed relationship, who share every aspect of their lives, including the good and bad.

Cain killed his brother Abel. Here we have two different brothers, one a hunter and the other a farmer. One felt favoured and the other felt rejected; and hence resorted to murder in the first degree! Refer to Genesis 4.

We have yet two more brothers; Esau and Jacob. One was a skilful hunter, who quickly became the father’s favourite because of the provision of game meat. The other, Jacob was a ‘home boy’, who was always there to render his mother with any help she needed, and so became her favourite. (Genesis 25:27-28). 

But the differences in personalities, coupled by the parents’ favouring of one son over the other, stirred relational problems. Jacob ended up conniving with his mother in stealing the brother’s blessing. Esau was very upset about that issue, and Jacob had to flee home, in order to save his life (Genesis 27).

How then do we move forward from such sinful tendencies to the relationships God would want us to have? Read the next blog.

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