who am i?

"I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself." - CS Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Weather for Two...

Sometimes when it rains, it pours. We’re stuck where we’re at because the weather isn’t people friendly outside, it gets so cold, especially if you get soaked right before you get shelter of some sort. It's also frustrating, especially if you've had your day planned out already. That’s when we see (Nigeria) twitter try to make the best of the situation by going agog with tweets of  ‘weather for two’.
It’s the perfect weather to cuddle up in bed and just chill. Wait out the rain, and just get as comfortable as you can indoors till it reduces to a drizzle and then stops.

When your life feels like its going through a storm, its raining cats and dogs with bills and discouragements, failures, delays, loss of a loved one and sicknesses… that’s the perfect time to forget what’s happening outside and know that it’s the perfect weather for two…You and God.
Let the rain keep you inside, cuddled up in God your comfort, getting warm in His promises and the goodness of who He is, His strength and the arm of His love sustaining you and upholding you. Get so engrossed in the scent of His warmth, keep occupied with His comforting presence and the words of hope in the bible, and by the time you look up, you’ll realize the storm is over, and as horrible as it was, you came out of it protected, unhurt and comforted with renewed strength.

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”
Psalm 91:14-16(MSG)

Is it raining in your life? Perfect weather for two… get cuddled up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

On Spring, Winter, Hope and Deceit...

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
C.S Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia.

Winter is gone. The flowers are blooming. Its obviously spring, the wonderful passage to sweet sunny summer. Undeniably spring, because of the great splash of color everywhere, from the roadside flowers to the shop display windows, a burst of joy, away from the darkness and gloom of winter. The daylight stays up till late in the night savoring the new season. The shops are selling the floral dresses, the tank tops, bikinis and short shorts. But in all these, the weather remains arctic; there’s the cold, the heaters are on, and hot tea is in demand. It’s May, but the weather tries to trick you to think its January or December. But for the obvious signs of spring around, you would be deceived.
Beautiful flowers blossoming, reassuring that it really is spring, even if winter wouldn't let go easily.

It was spring, but I still went about in winter coats most of the days. No, it wasn’t the African in me reacting to a little cold in London. I had to double check to make sure I didn’t look silly holding a winter coat in spring, everyone went around with heavy coats. It got so cold on some days that everyone dressed in layers and heavy coats and boots. There was a headline on itv saying, ‘Spring turns to winter as snow falls in London.’ But that didn’t mean it wasn’t still spring. You don’t call the new season by the old because of a trace of the old. You still persevere as the new life is being birthed… 

I almost got sucked into the deceit of the weather. I found myself buying more warm clothes because the trace of the old season remained in the new. It took a conscious effort to make myself buy the light clothes the shops put on display. It didn’t feel right, seeing all the brightness, and the flowers splashed around, while still wrapped up in layers and holding a cup of hot tea/hot chocolate to warm myself up, knowing I was in spring. 

Sometimes, we step into the new and everything screams new, but there’s that whiff of the old still lurking around and causing us, and those around us to doubt our transition. Does that mean you keep buying winter gears because spring feels like winter? No! You don’t, because suddenly it’ll be all-warm and you wouldn’t have anything suitable to wear. I had bought the hideous, but really cozy and warm onesies because it was cold as much as it was spring, it was my in-house comfort clothing until one day, suddenly, it was so hot, and the onesie was a pain, and I had the ac on full blast… and I had need for light lounge wears and pajama sets. Finally, spring that felt like spring. 
Dreadful onesies, socks, hot chocolates and heaters... On a cold cold winter like spring night.

I went out and the sun caused me to feel faint… now that’s what we’re talking about. Its spring baybayyyy!
Don’t drop your expectation and be unprepared for your new season because it feels like the old is still coming over for dinner ever so often. I was able to catch myself midway and start buying light clothes and night wears because I realized that as much as it felt like winter, I had to make room for spring, for the new that was promised and surely was.
Yayyy! Sun and light clothes... Spring began to not just look like spring alone, but feel like spring as well!

When my mum was ill, at the peak of it all, when the shadow of death hung out with us, I got a clear word from God that she would be fine, nothing was wrong with her. I wondered if it was my mind telling me what it wanted to hear, but my sister heard the same thing… nothing is wrong with her. Now with that assurance, I had confidence… and the confidence increased when we saw her improve and saw the various miracles from God. We had entered a new season of recovery. Then suddenly, the same symptoms started manifesting again, right in the middle of her recovery. Wasn’t it supposed to be a season of healing? A season of the new? Fear set in, I almost started stocking up on winter gears again because spring showed symptoms of winter. It was in this circumstance that the winter spring illustration came to me, and I was encouraged. I didn’t dwell too much on what was, I didn’t want to keep praying for healing (buying warm clothing), rather, I was thankful for recovery, for the new (shopping for spring/summer), and here we are today, walking in the truth of the season… she is healed, nothing is wrong with her. Thank God!

How ready are you to accommodate your new season? Break forth!!! Make room!!! Don’t sit languishing in the mirage of the old because your faith is too small. Prepare! Sing, rejoice, can’t you see the flowers? Haven’t you noticed how long the light stays up? Haven’t you seen the shops stocked up with colors, a far cry from the gloom of winter? Break free from the limitations of the old season and boldly step into the new… if its cold, wear a cardigan, say a prayer for strength to overcome the traces of the old, so you’ll be ready when suddenly it disappears and the heat comes on.

You can’t say a woman isn’t pregnant just because her stomach is still flat. She’s entered into her pregnant season, but she still looks like a woman who isn’t pregnant, but within a few months, you would see her stomach protrude. In all that time, she begins to prepare for the new season, buying the new outfits, changing her diet and taking things easy because of what is to come... because she knows, even if it hasn't begun to show.

Sing, O childless woman,
you who have never given birth!
Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem,
you who have never been in labor.
For the desolate woman now has more children
than the woman who lives with her husband,”
says the lord.
“Enlarge your house; build an addition.
Spread out your home, and spare no expense!
For you will soon be bursting at the seams….”
 Isaiah 54:1-3   

 It may still look like winter even after words of prophecies have been spoken over you... but don't be deceived into discouragement and loosing your faith, believe and prepare for your spring!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Zeal Says... Nigeria’s Problem is NOT …..

Here's an article by Zeal Akaraiwe... It's a long post, I know. But stop with your microwave generation mindset of 140charaters and relax long enough to eat a well cooked meal. There's a whole lot of truth to chew on here.

I've held back from writing this for a while, but the events in the last few weeks and comments from Nigerians on radio and social media have made me rethink that stance.

I find it humorously exhilarating that people are generally on the same page when it comes to what our dear country's problem is NOT.

Most agree it's not the man at the top as we are aware that many of the major problems dominant today pre-existed him. It’s certainly not the poor men at the bottom, at least not in any mind boggling financial capacity. Many (I wish more) agree it's not even the widely blamed corruption as this is more a manifestation and a symptom of a major sickness.

Most, if not all, Nigerians would list at least one of the following as our biggest problem, which they believe if solved, would fix the entire nation: (1) power, (2) security, (3) education, (4) employment, (5) road-network/transportation and (6) poverty (7) corruption. What we all fail to realize, is that all of these things are merely symptoms of a much deeper issue. Compounding this problem for us, is the fact that the longer a symptom is left to fester, the more it takes on the characteristics of the problem and would almost certainly need a solution of its own. Unfortunately, our ogas-at-the-top seem, or at least pretend, to concentrate energy and resources on tackling and fighting one or more of the symptoms without ever addressing the root causes. 

I believe that most human beings, and of course Nigerians, are generally driven and motivated by their belief systems, be it faith or fear. Our character as a nation is now largely dependent on these, and the questions must be asked of faith: What is our faith? Where is our faith developed? Is our faith being developed at all? Whether you worship on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, is your faith being developed in such a way that your character is growing positively towards being your brothers’ keeper?

Of fear: What do we fear? Are we taught the punishment of The Almighty exists at all? Are we afraid of the laws of the land? Do we have a conscience that berates us for wrong doing? Do we even know what is right and wrong anymore?

I’ve been thinking about it and I’m now convinced that I may have identified one of our “ROOT” problems. Please note I said “root problem” and I also said “one of” so feel free to add yours. The problem? Religion! The institutions and the leaders.

I do not write this to critise the churches, nor their pastors, nor those who attend. I write this in the hope that all those of us who call for accountability within our government,  who call for responsibility within our political class, who abhor the decay in our society and country, see that we need to task ourselves by searching out truth within ourselves first. And where more to start, than in the institutions whose primary responsibility is to teach and propagate truth, honesty, love, kindness, decency etc.

For a start, I grew up in a society where your MORALS and VALUE systems were well built up largely in one of 3 places: home, church and school. On the home front, your parents’ morals were really built in church. In school, your teachers’ morals were also built in church and at home. So, elementary mathematics states if x=y and y=z then x=z i.e. the church plays a significant role in shaping our values, our morals, our conscience and most importantly, when we do go astray, in correcting us and reeling us back to where we ought to be.

I recall during my NYSC in the late 90s when my cousin said he wanted to go to Bible school, I was like “Dude, can you even spell Bible?” But his logic was simple, “It’s a good business to go into - easy money and tax free.” He said this despite the fact that it was sacrilege at that time to even think that you would want to start a church without a calling from The Almighty!

In my younger days in church, we were taught about right and wrong; but today I look at my generation and those following and, the truth is, nothing is ever wrong. It’s all ‘relative’ and about what is ‘convenient’. We were taught honesty and it didn’t matter if you were caught or not. Today, it’s about what you can get away with and if you get caught, it’s your ‘enemies’ plotting your downfall and if you don’t get caught, then “God himself must have orchestrated your getaway”! Just make sure you bring back the requisite 10% of the loot to appease Him and it’s all good.

I recall a friend who bought a BMW in 2001, but took “young-shall-grow” night bus to see his folks for fear that they would set the car ablaze as he couldn’t explain where the money for it came from. I can picture that scenario today in many homes – blessings and prayer would follow without a question as to how the money was made. The end justifies the means.

We were taught about kindness. I still recall that it was seen as awkward to get to church with only one occupant in a car; we used to stop at bus stops looking for people to give a ride. Do I hear you say “Nigeria was different then”? It definitely was, but who and what has made it different? US! You and I!!

We were also taught about working hard and working well – ‘going the extra mile’. These principles eliminated the cancer we have today called mediocrity – but let me not digress.

I look around today and realize, the answer to many (if not all) of our woes isn’t very far-fetched; not too hard to think about if you consider the parable our Lord gave about sowing seeds that fell amongst thorns, it’s short-lived because worldly cares choked the life out of it.

We criticize the politicians and leaders for surrounding themselves with sycophants who merely tell them what they want to hear and let the truth go to blazes; and yet, I just imagine how quickly we would abandon a church/pastor/imam who dares tells us the truth that we have erred and need to make restitution. Oops, did I say “restitution”? I can hear some ask “What is that?” Are we really any different from the so-called evil politicians?

Nigeria is plagued with liars and thieves, self-willed individuals and the blind leading the blind; we are plagued with churches and pastors (note small ‘C” and small ‘P”) who are businessmen!!

Don’t get me wrong here, I have nothing against men of God who have a calling to be Pastors and lead Churches (capital P and capital C). My problem is the fact that a lot, if not all, of those who fall into one or more of the symptomatic categories above spend all day on Sunday (or any other day their religion dictates) going to listen to a self-titled CEO, who heads a tax-free enterprise, who’s well versed in motivational speaking, gone to a theological school and stands on a pulpit with a microphone. {Not sure what you are trying to say here.}. These are those that I refer to as businessmen, though they stand on a pulpit and preach.

We are a generation of prosperity preachers and believers! I have nothing against prosperity; however, I have a major issue, when it is preached at the cost of the true gospel – honesty, kindness, hard work, being your brothers’ keeper etc. We preach that if you are making money, of which no one cares the means anymore, then The Almighty must be happy with you and therefore whatever you do/did to make the money is ok. And again, please do not forget God’s share of 10% to launder your conscience.

Ask yourself in silence and honesty, when last did you hear from a pulpit, the words holiness or kindness; fairness or equity; humility or service? Then think about the last time you heard the words prosperity, blessing, abundance, promotion. How can we sit back and believe that bad things are “not our portion” when we do nothing to prevent decay in our society; we sit and condone illegal behavior, celebrate mediocrity and even wickedness.

So, it’s neither politics, nor bad politicians; it’s not corruption nor indisciplined officials; it’s not the lack of good workers nor is it poverty. All these are certainly major problems we have, but are all symptoms of the real problem and have, with time, become so core in our system it is now hard to recognize as symptoms; hence we attack them wondering why there are no results not realizing that a symptom may dissipate, but will only manifest somewhere else as something else.

Forgive me as I attempt to link a lot of psychological and theoretic dots here – May have been sitting in a church Sunday after Sunday, for years on end, obeying, whole-heartedly, what we hear from the pulpit. This then forms into a habit. We are unable to recognize nor follow the TRUE teaching of our Faith that requires us to have a PERSONAL relationship with our creator in a way that He can speak to you. We sit under the tutelage of people who sometimes are as clueless as us, and worse, sometimes even pretenders. They give instructions for us to act upon and tell us that The Almighty has spoke through them – we believe – hook, line, sinker. We believe because we are either too lazy, too brainwashed or too scared to search the Holy Book and verify what we hear. We believe because we are too guilt laden to object. We believe because we feel that blind obedience is a small price to pay even if we are wrong; we believe because we lie to ourselves that it is better to be safe than sorry. What safety? We become like slaves to a hard master; we are in a mental state akin to drug addicts.  What does all this habit then do to us? We become psychologically intimidated and it makes us refuse to ask questions.

Expand this growing attitude a little and you will then understand why a large majority of the church-going population have formed a habit of not asking questions; of not holding accountable those in authority; for not verifying the blatant lies we hear from the ogas-at-the-top; for having an aloof attitude to our being raped, plundered, mauled emotionally, financially and psychologically  - for we have gotten used to all this and we have formed the habit of accepting, as Fela put it, sorrow, tears and blood – and I will add, torture, theft and death.

We now believe we have no option but to wait for the CREATOR to come from heaven, wear a suit, contest elections and rule us!

Can we, as a people be this naïve and idiotic……I don’t know, but I look around and I believe the answer is abundantly clear.

Nigeria isn’t a bad country, it’s the inhabitants that make it what it is.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

None Of My Business... The Kermit Way!

I would give myself a pass mark when it comes to being excited for people, and encouraging those around me in what they’re doing. I know how great it feels for someone to take interest in what you do and take time out to drop a word of encouragement. I understand we go through a lot, and taking your eyes off self and your struggles to be a voice of encouragement to someone else is a great sacrifice.

A friend mentioned his friend’s about to be published magazine, he was excited about it and that got me excited. I was given a copy and I loved the concept as it’s something I’ve thought about doing myself, but I couldn’t help noticing a lot of typos/grammatical errors that could have been avoided, especially if the fellow was looking at going nationwide in distribution. See, I had big dreams for another's dream. Thus with that mindset, when I randomly bumped into the publisher, I excitedly commended and advised.

It wasn’t a nice experience; I left her presence feeling stupid as my well-meaning advice got a stoic reception.
I’m usually the reserved type, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to talk to people, so when it was dropped in my heart to reach out, and when I actually stepped out of my comfort zone to be a voice of encouragement(?), I was hurt.
I even put myself down as I spoke, just to clear the air that it wasn’t beef. I talked about how as much as I go through my blog posts before posting; there are still a lot of errors that I could avoid. That’s why I invested in an editor for my book, and even after the manuscript got back from the editor over a year ago, I went through another editing phase because I want perfection, or near perfection.

My humble advice was for the next edition, the summary of what I was trying to say was, take time out with the editing, invest in it, because this is great work, make people impressed with the quality of the way the content is presented. If you're going to reach out to sponsors at some points, they wouldn't be interested in mediocrity. That’s all I was trying to say. Well, my advice wasn’t well received; I was told it was only one or two typos in a not so friendly manner…. Ahhh, I felt stupid, I felt bad, I felt horrible. God, why did you let me put myself out there if I was going to be received in this way? Why didn’t you let me mind my business?

I left with a heavy heart, and as soon as I got home, I got a pen and my copy of the publication, ready to go on a highlighting spree, to highlight every error I could find… and that’s with my layman eyes (I’m sure I would have been willing to send it to an editor just to prove a point beyond my point). I was going to show this person. But as I started doing this, I heard in my heart to stop and get over myself… I followed the leading of my heart to reach out the first time, and that was enough. The first time I reached out, I was doing it in love, this time, I was doing it to spite, to prove a point, with nothing close to love, and so I dropped it and let it be. I have avoided having to exchange any pleasantries with this person; I act like I never mentioned anything to her at all and we’ve never exchanged words. So much for Christian me, right?

When it comes to opinions, where do we draw the line? When do we take inspiration from Kermit the frog? I know we don’t always like corrections and other people’s opinions. (But we receive it better when it’s given in love.) I’ve heard great things about this blog and my writing, both from the sincere ones and those who just want to kiss butt. But every once in a while, I get the unpleasant comments. One was, I got bored when reading. I smiled in response and accepted the judgment with grace on the outside, but rejected it within. What was I to say? I wanted to wring his neck, but I kept my calm, don’t read if you’re bored, close the page, no one is forcing you, I didn’t beg you to look for my site. I hate criticism as well, but I receive it well, and after I have fumed (not in the face of the one who speaks), I think over the issue and evaluate. (Remember, not all criticisms are worth mulling over….)

When you notice a wrong, do you keep quiet because you are unsure of how your opinion or advice would be received, or do you still reach out because you feel you have to? Do you only reach out when it's in love, or do you feel glee in correcting with subtle spite?
Where do you draw the line? Where do you hold your peace? Are you only to reach out to your family and closest friends? Isn’t it wicked to see someone doing something wrong (or something that can be better) even a stranger, in an area you have a degree of knowledge in and ignore it with that infuriating Kermit look?

My experience has given me cold feet. I go Kermit more often than I should now.
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