It had been a long day. The streetlights were on, the stars were out and traffic was jammed. The last thing I wanted was to spend the next hour half awake behind the steering wheel as minutes morphed themselves into nail-biting outbursts of “I want to go home.” For the most part, traffic seemed to meander its way through as eager citizens longed to reach their resting places. Driving up the M1 “Segway” I came across a domino of vehicles. As I peered my eyes straight ahead, shoveling through the irking headlights, I saw a huge clunk of metal firmly planted ahead. A three ton lorry had conveniently lodged itself thus blocking the entire lane. Coming from both directions were edgy drivers frantically exercising their “patient” prowess as each fumingly fought their way to get home. I was fortunate enough to trail behind those that nudged their way through first (we were five cars at most). As I approached the “one lane”, with a myriad of vehicles piled on the other side of the truck, I quickly met eyes with the driver up ahead. His headlights were dimmed by the piercing look in his eyes. He pounded on his steering wheel spilling the rage that welled within him. It was clear that he was not willing to let anyone pass (lest he blew an aneurysm). The truck driver stood between our vehicles as he frantically tossed the coin in his mind quickly deciding which car gets the right of way. I waited. And I waited. His arms flapped erratically like an uncoordinated pegged blouse in June. I soon realized that he was not willing to budge. My eyes rolled within me as I quickly played the “bigger person.” I signaled from behind and backed up slowly as I made way for my impatient counterpart. His sheer resolve to stand his ground, allowing no one but himself to pass through, leveled my respects for the car owner to an all time low. As he passed beside me (going the opposite direction), so too did those behind him. One vehicle turned into three. Three turned into twelve. It was not long that the army of vehicles that waited ahead of the truck surged their way through the “one lane.” I slouched in my seat as each vehicle whizzed by unapologetically. Stagnant and in disbelief, I waited. Attempting to flash my headlights, half looking like a crazy person playing disco, I gripped my hands tighter to the wheel hoping they would get the signal. I sheepishly laughed on the side as I passive aggressively signaled my indicators. Each minute seemed to extend itself, gently reminding me of times merciless ticks. Rolling down my window, I peered toward the truck driver. He quickly got up and stood once more in the one lane. I revved my engine as hope welled up once more. As I drove toward the incoming cars, I quickly got an angry signal from the car ahead. I pulled my breaks. I stood my ground. Adamant and unwilling to budge I quickly watched their necks twist and arms flap as mouths filled with unmentionables surging out barbarically. I gripped the wheel harder. There was only three of us waiting to get the right of way. There was no way we would let him pass. I read the “aaah’s” that spelled from his mouth as he backed away giving the rest of us room. As I drove past I momentarily felt my lips unbutton and neck twist, as thought and “reason” nudged me to “share” my deep felt “sentiments.”

“if you want to know how grown you are in the Spirit, get in a traffic jam!”

I later got home that evening. Irked by human selfishness, I quickly patted myself on the back, as thought and “reason” lifted my defenses and grenades. For the most part it made no sense why any sensible human being would bypass a line of five for their own pending agenda. It made no sense why thrashing responses trumped logic and reasoning. It simply made no sense. Fumbling through my thoughts I snickered once more at the man who adamantly stood his ground the first time. I scavenged for my phone and quickly made a mental note: “if you want to know how grown you are in the Spirit, get in a traffic jam!” My laugh saw its lifeline. Silence. Brought to the forming memory yester-now, I soon saw my reflection in the shadow of his face; I soon saw the log that had adamantly lodged itself in my eye; I soon saw intimate memories of my own parallel actions. We stood on two ends of traffic. We stood on two ends of hearty opinion. We stood on two separate fences unwilling to move. Yet our unanimous disposition centered on this: I am right. Refusing to see beyond the truck, our vision was impaired not by the colossal metal object or the beaming headlights. No.

“You. Me. Everyone.”

“Let me take the speck out of your eye.” Trucks and logs often cause us to see one way. Yet our sure ability to “see” blinds us from the spiritual cataract that malignantly latches to our minds fortitude. Seldom times are we willing to look introspectively and realize that we all fall short. Whether our fall is a “simple” trip or a lunge from immeasurable heights, we all fall short. You. Me. Everyone. The err of humanity benches itself on our resolve to strongly grip onto logs of another landowner yet ignoring the forest that is spouting in our garden. Do not read this wrong. God is not calling us to a life of self-policing and hopeless condemnation. What He is calling us to, however, is a life of grace; a life that extends grace beyond the paradigms of self; a life that see’s beyond the one way, refusing all forms of narrow visual acuity; a life that see’s the grace that daily extends itself to you and me through the One- Jesus Christ.

“ ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.’” – The Adulterous Woman (Excerpt from John 8)

At His Feet…

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“Yatuluka (it is out)!” I sat there, on my way to work, as updates and pop-ups streamed their way in echoing the unanimous mantra that had long been choked. As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months (76 days to be precise), the long overdue anticipation peaked its threshold- Wakanda! We had what many would call a “meanwhile” moment as the rest of the world sipped their tea on other business. Late to the party? Rightly so! As data bundles paid their biddings (latching on eerie reminders of 90% user consumption!), and as bandwidths grew wider, so too did the keen interest of Malawi’s people on this modern-day cinematic “I have a dream.” And I was one of them!

“Wakanda Forever!”

Thrusting my bag to the floor, ignoring the etching aura of slumbers sweet seduction, I fortified my cognitive facets to savour this cultural heroic marvel (no pun intended of-course). I was ready. Though alone in the living room WE all were ready; every single one of us across the terrain of this country. Live group chat for running commentary? Check. Dim lighting? Check. Appropriately coreagaphed and rehearsed reactionaries? Check and check. I grappled with the idea that the movie was finally here (how it got here is for another day). It did not bother me (or the rest of us) that we were light years behind everyone else in the movie frontier. No. What was important was that we were here and the here was now (crosses arms synchronically). As the credits of the blockbuster tapestry rolled down I felt the hearty “let it be” as my movie pallet came into agreement with the bandwagon of tastful social innuendos, salty humour and fiery themes plated recklessly yet beautifully. I (and we) finally got to experience the torrential hype, thrill and pride that the 2 hours and 14 minutes had to offer- in other words, we finally caught up with the rest of the world.

“When did this happen?”

Because two is often better than one, a light bulb moment sparked a gathering of sorts. A few days later, like clockwork, we all huddled around the TV screen ready to experience the motion picture again(some more than others, and counting!). For most it was their first. I snickered at the back of my mind: “been there, done that” (fallible beings aren’t we?). I humored myself at the intent gazes around me that glued themselves mercilessly at the organized static. With a more nonchalant disposition I pressed play for a second time. Besides, it was the second time with a huge chunk of the hype left for the ‘have nots.’ My obvious inattention masked itself around the idea that I had already seen it. The current re-take was a simple repertoire of Thursdays night premiere. As the movie scenes carefully rolled, each threading fragments of plot and curiosity, my heart asked my mind one crucial question: when did this happen? As the tale deepened my previous premiere moment came plummeting through the gutters. I too had my eyes glued mercilessly as each scene and chapter re-explained itself for the second time. It dawned on me that I had missed an incredible chunk of the film. The credits rolled again for the nth time. I sat and mused around my thoughts. I could’ve sworn I mentally wrote down every kick and every punch that left an imprint in my mind the first time. At most I had blinked for a total of 5 seconds as I keenly absorbed every blockbuster moment. I went to Wakanda. Dressed like a Wakandan. Even almost spoke like a Wakandan (I thought the language was well executed). Yet in my ventures towards grasping all the tweetables, riding the popular hype wave and curing myself from the fear of missing out, I wore the T-shirt, took the picture and missed out on the panther- Black Panther.

 

For centuries upon centuries the Jews awaited for a new kingdom. Tired of the political turmoil of their then rulers- the Roman Empire- they longed for a freedom they had yet to see; they longed for a freedom like that of their ancestors (Let My people Go); they longed for their covenant milk and honey. They waited. And they waited. Some gave up hope whilst others held onto it’s seemingly tattered threads, refusing to breathe their last until they see the promised Messiah. And like the break of Dawn He appeared; the stars were aligned for Him; the world shook for Him; kings and governors trembled at the sound of His name. Though some were indignant to His coming, many were thrilled. Many rode the wave of ecstasy at the pending hope of His “government.” They cheered at His miracles and sang His kingdom mantra. They quoted His scripture and His words whilst others participated in His bidding and work. Yet few (very few) actually met Him. I am not talking of a physical meeting nor a casual rendez-vous at a Canaanite wedding. No.

 

“There is nothing new under the sun.” We often ride along the popular bandwagon of Jesus, pledging allegiance to His kingdom and authority (Eternal Forever!). We wear the righteous Dashikis. We speak the language of the kingdom. We tweet His holy punch-lines and spiritual innuendos that drop in our spirit. But have we met Him? Has the commercial “love for Jesus” swept us to such blinding levels of inattention that perhaps we have not seen Him, and dare I say, met Him? Many were drawn by the charisma, glitter and tabloid headlines that surrounded His name. Yet few actually saw Him; those whose minds were not swept by commercial opinion and popular fad; those whose minds were not distracted by the merchandize and add-ons; those whose minds had been swept by the wave of the Spirit to see Him for who He truly is: Jesus, the Son of God.

“And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire, a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him…” 1 Kings 19:11a-13b (New American Standard Bible)

Have you met Him?

PS: I enjoyed the movie more the second time

At His Feet…

English class. Nothing says ‘class’ like a 2 hour film split into four different study periods. 21st century curriculum found us at our wits as we swerved every likely opportunity from the old age textbooks and mundane reading tasks. It was one thing to sit and act half interested on a Friday morning. It was another when your English periods constituted of a silver screen delectable plugged into a 40inch cube (no flat screens, just flat walls). The 2002 classic- About a Boy- tugged on our humour switch as boy meets girl played with our pre-teen psyche (watch it for yourself). It was not the heart drenching romance nor the witty edge of Hugh Grant that carved a memory in my young mind. No. It was the words of an old age poet that have since transected the fabric of our time echoing the heart beat of our societal norm: No Man is an Island (John Donne, 1624).

“Our strength finds meaning in the strengthening of another”

Growing up in Africa has strung pieces of this truth through the threads of our budding culture and humanity. In the grand scheme of things, community has offered a plethora of meaning and sanity. Seldom times do we glorify solitude and individualism. Our inclinations gravitate along the rivers of Ubuntu gently stretching across its tributaries along the terrains of our hearts (I am because we are). Their wedding is our wedding. Their funeral is our funeral. Their money is our money (can I get an amen?). Each part of the world has embedded this mantra in various degrees and tones as Sister Sledge stirs our souls with her old age classic “We are Family” whilst the late home grown Everson Matafale infused the unified message along his reggae tapestry: “yang’ana nkhope yako; yang’ana nkhope yanga; timango fanana (look at my face; look at your face; we are the same). Admittedly or not, we need each other. Our delicacy finds refuge in the delicacy of another. Our strength finds meaning in the strengthening of another. Our love finds its culmination as those around us enter into its courts. There is no me without you. There is no you without me. There is no I in team-except with God?

“Catch the foxes for me us”

 

I remember getting a phone call. The words that followed edged a sword through me: “will you share your heart at bible study?” To be honest, my heart was the last thing I wanted to share. I felt the guile and vomit that seemed to latch on mercilessly as my knees buckled at each attempt to run after the one thing I thought I knew: God. If there was ever a time I felt ‘appointed and anointed’ it was definitely not then. I looked at the corner of my bed and picked up the Bible that was neatly packed in the corner. As I attempted to patch up what was left of my spiritual life I stumbled across an old age love story: Song of Solomon. I sat there. Gritting my teeth, I listened. I sighed a few times. Mid-way through the words and pages I came across something I had never quite seen:

 

Groom: ‘…Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along. For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance . Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along.”

Bride listens…

Groom: “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom.”

Song of Solomon 2

 

It was not the flowery description nor was it the ineffable gushing of love struck emotion. No. It was the words. It was  disposition. It was the sure acknowledgement of “us”: the groom and the bride; God and His people. She was no island. Though held by the fortitude of many like her, she knew, with a sure anchorage of hope, of her groom (and ultimately, of her God); that she was able to catch the foxes for “us”; that she,Htogether with Him, was able to tend to the vineyard that belonged to “them”; that her walk with the groom was not merely her walk, but “theirs.” Before the Lord lifts us from our pits, He comes to sit with us and empathize with our pain and struggle. He knows the eerie pangs of the shadow of death. He knows the merciless fury of the darkness that lingers; He knows the savage cravings that tug at our desires edging us further from the Lord. “Our” walk with the Lord has never been a journey of solitude. Not once does He sit on His thrown as He gambles away on whether we will make it or not. He walks with us. We walk with Him. We walk together. And with Him, we catch the foxes; with Him we conquer all creatures that seek to ruin the vineyard that He is growing for “us”; with Him we bask in His ultimate goodness as clouds bow down to His eternal spring. So I dare you, next time the foxes come out to ‘play’, do not fight them alone. Fight them together.

PS: “We” have caught a few

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”- God (Hebrews 13:5)

At His Feet…

They say silence is golden. They say the words unspoken speak the loudest. As I picked myself from sleeps tender seduction, I found myself shelving the one thing I knew I ought to do. ‘I’m back’ seemed to be a cheap entrée to a badly cooked Christmas dinner. It was like trying to explain why the chicken tastes like it died. A ‘spiritual sabbatical’ would be far too pretentious of an excuse (though that would be impressive). ‘Writers block’ would pave way for head nodding and hearty agreement for those who understand the trade (safe scapegoat yes?). Yet, in the crux of my being, I knew. In the core of me I knew all too well. The depths of me echoed the shallowness that lingered in my souls treasury box beckoning whether the sparkling diamonds are mere fragmented pieces of broken glass covered in fading glitter. God did not feel distant. In fact, He never quite did. He stood there (where He said He would be). And I stood there (where He said I should be). Choosing to stand on my feet, I steadily stood up from His, wondering why I felt far, dejected and disinterested. Writing of the deep pursuit felt nothing more than an empty rhetoric squealing pitchy crescendos, attempting to deafen the music that was glaring in my face. So I did the logically illogical. Nothing.

I’m in a place of [insert vague metaphor]

We often times (more often than not) find ourselves in this space. We often find ourselves gravitating towards this vacuum that calls us for momentary ‘safe keeping.’ Overtime we purchase a bed, a few Netflix episodes and unwholesome edibles to keep us awake through the torrential night. Soon this space becomes home. Talking to a few of Gods kids, the blatancy of our shared season pondered questions that beckoned more questions. The normalcy of ‘getting by’ tethered a unified ‘perhaps this is it’ mantra. Days turned into weeks as weeks turned into months. I soon feared that this may perhaps be life. Each moment summoned a new explanation of the same thing- take your pick: valley; desert; storm (and my personal favourite: ‘I’m in a place of [insert vague metaphor]). I randomly ambled through the room dispelling the usual days musings. It was in then that I bumped into Him again- unintentionally. I felt heavens truth stream in violently gently watering the desert of my soul: ‘It is all good.’

It is all good…

As the year dawns on us again, we long for many things; better relationships; better diets; more peace of mind. Yet, the singular thing that we all unanimously look for is hope; hope for a better tomorrow; hope for a better family; hope for a better life. Our journey with God is no different. The drudgery and muck that latches onto our spiritual roots, pins us flat on our face wondering when and if things will get better; wondering when and if the storm will end; wondering when and if we will see His face. Yet God Himself each day continues to breathe hope into our souls. “The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day [1].” Though the clouds rain heavy above our heads, forecasting a shadow of despair, the sun still remains, shining ever so brightly [2]. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed [3].” “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us [4].” We are never without hope. Each struggle, each hardship and each trial is a daily reminder that we have One who lives in us; that we have One who gives us strength beyond the seen realm; that we have One who shines behind and beyond the thicket of our clouds: Jesus.

We step into the New Year with all our frailties and all our strength knowing that it is all good because He says so. We step into the New Year because He has already written the script. We step into the New Year because He says ‘Go to the other side.’ We step into the New Year knowing we have a sure hope.

Remember God. Remember hope.

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every namethat is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:18-23)

At His Feet…

References

  1. Proverbs 4:18 (New Living Translation)
  2. Unconditional Love (Movie)
  3. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (New International Version)
  4. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (New International Version)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It all seemed like a terrible joke. Each waking moment dawned on the hearts of people that perhaps it may be true; that perhaps the news that streamed down their ears was true; that perhaps the singular constant apart from birth had come earlier than anyone would have guessed let alone desired. To some he was a friend. To some he was a son and a brother. To some he was the spontaneous flame that burnt frantically, occasionally breaking off into dance, moving to the beat of his own drum. Yet to his Father, his Heavenly Father, He was a child; not just a child- but His child.

The people sat in the auditorium. Flooded from the back to the front, hearts and minds recollected memories shared and moments lived with one who many considered a friend. Tales of his charm and spunk echoed the room as each bore testament of the life that was lived; a life that stretched down to the depths of love sparking grace and more grace to all who needed it (everyone); a life that was daring to try and explore, ceasing opportunity at its horns as life and purpose leaked from his core; a life that resurrected from the pits of the world as his heart collided with the reckless unadulterated love of God. Nobody quite expected that we would be listening to his eulogies (not now, and perhaps not ever). Yet what echoed true from those who knew him was this: he lived each day as if it were his last.

“…he lived each day as if it were his last”

Birth and death are certain entities of which we must all taste to perform our human duty. Each life, each breath and each being resounds a melody that beams across the universes frontier echoing the deep sentiments of what lies within. We author our own words. We author our own notes. We author our own lives (and so we think). Yet, when God grabs a grip of our hearts He sets into pace a different tune, a different melody, a new song; a song that declares and decrees the wonders of God; a song that declares and decrees the counsel of God; a song that bears testament to eternity. Each second and each moment is our last. Yet it feels like the melody will never end. “He lives each day as if it were his last.” The transformational power of Jesus Christ found a young man in college: Evans Banda. The earthly met the heavenly as his trajectory spun around as he found his being, his intended being, in God. It was unanimously clear that beyond the charm, charisma and “ma looks” lived a God that lay resident in his heart, piecing together the brokenness and depravity that plagues mankind. He said yes to His call. He said yes to His eternal beckoning. He said yes to dance to the beat of His drum. Jesus daily calls us to live beyond ourselves; to live beyond the castles, fortitudes and glories of this world; to live for Christ Jesus our Lord (for even in dying we gain). Who will you live for?

As someone said, “we will miss his body but we shall meet again.” Our hope in Jesus Christ far supersedes all earthly surety and security. We have a definite hope- a sure anchorage for our souls. For even in the here and now, we know there is eternity.

14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.[b] 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died[c] will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18

At His Feet

For the last couple of weeks I have been waking up to a powerless home. I have often had to grudgingly get up from my bed- holding on to every thread of pessimistic “hope”- as I waddle across to the light switch. Each click floods a torrent of expected disappointment. If you are one of the lucky chosen few, whose devices are still charged, then perhaps you have noticed the colossal aggravation and tireless rants on the social media frontier. Each tweet and hashtag has thrown an even darker shade on the current darkness that seems to be blanketing our nation (every pun intended). Adjusting to this “norm” has been anything but normal. Our time schedules have morphed around the darkness as our technological world finds ways to navigate itself through this looming inconvenience (thank God for power-banks!). Our struggling adjustment has shown itself in the kicks and screams as our minds frustration voices complaint after complaint. Irrespective of our background and upbringing, something in our core agrees with the societal overview that something is wrong; that something is wrong with our inefficient power; that something is wrong with the long extended periods of blackouts; that something ought to be done.

“…something ought to be done”

“Something ought to be done.” We often hear this heavy mantra when faced with that which threatens our normality; when all that seems to stand along our trajectory serves as a tool for adversary. Often times, with sheer conviction and uncompromising determination, we seek to do something about the wrong that rudely invades our sphere. It is inexplicably easy, without a “shadow” of a doubt, that our electricity problems have placed a dent on our daily musings. It is not something we wish to simply adjust to or accept as our fate. No. Something ought to be done. This darkness is obvious. This darkness is problematic. This darkness is painfully annoying. Yet another darkness exists; one which is not so obvious; one which seeps in as a trickle through a hole; one which is hardly ever felt.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

It is easy to spot “something wrong” when the grid of normality takes a sudden left turn (key word being sudden). It is easy to spot the problem of darkness when hours of electricity boil down to an instant of darkness. It is easy to spot the spot on a perfectly white canvass. Yet, ironic as it may be, it has never been easy to spot the devil in a perfectly dark world. He often comes as an angel of light seducing our senses to his normality. He often brings his darkness in little sizable nuggets leaving us full of emptiness. He often makes his darkness appear as light before our eyes. A man once said that “it is not the turbulent current we should fear for it is easy to spot. What we ought to fear is the calm river.” Each day brings new rationales and explanations behind the evils that plague us. Each day brings a new defense as to why a day old embryo does not embody life. Each day brings a different shade of darkness counterfeiting itself as light. Yet, in a world of blindness were racial conflict, sexual distortion and hate are at its peak is the Father of Lights in whom there is no shifting of shadows (He changes not). Gods grid of normality challenges our grid of thinking beaming His ultimate light on what we deem as good and acceptable. His truth shatters the concrete hardness of our hearts as we surrender to His paradigm shift where His shadow shifts not.  What if we passionately called out the budding darkness as we do the few hours of load shedding?  What if we identified the pillars that cradle the lies that present themselves as light? What if we discerned the real darkness with such assuredness and zeal?

“…walk as children of Light… do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead  even expose them.”- Ephesians 5:7b,11

At His Feet…

 

 

 

I recently set up a Twitter poll begging the question “Do you want to be poor?” Within a few hours it was unanimously clear that the overarching social opinion gravitated towards a hearty resounding no (not one said ‘yes’). I will be honest. One internet polling does not and will not bear the muscle of solidified social opinion. Yet, we cannot escape the gnawing thought that edges at our envelopes challenging our needful wants and unwanted needs. To be more politically “gentle”, perhaps the lack of “financial blessing” may not be a portion we are willing to generously ‘receive.’

Beneath the undertones and hues (and sometimes at the frontiers!) lies a banner which we have coined as the prosperity gospel. It was interesting to note the mosaic of viewpoints and opinions held amongst fellow professing Christians regarding money and our birthright of it. Many ‘for’ and ‘against’ the popular opinion raised an even greater banner of mixed thought painted across a multiplicity of rationales.

I know He cares for my spiritual welfare, but what about my bank account?

Over the years I have found my mental faculties fall prey to this spiritual tug of war (and I soon realized that I was not alone). We sat across the table and grappled with thoughts of the here and now. Our ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’ took many forms and shapes yet we were all after the same thing: money! Admittedly or not, we needed it (and might I add, still do!). Yet what clawed at the skin of our mind were questions and doubts on how the current ‘name it and claim it’ wave plays into biblical thought as we wrestle with genuine needs and wants. To put it plainly: I know He cares for my spiritual welfare, but what about my bank account?

If we are not focusing on how God wants to bless me with a nice house, car and iPhone X (nice defined by my terms and conditions) then we slide towards the other extreme for fear of identifying ourselves with those who only prize themselves with material blessings. Our message therefore tends to gravitate towards a more ‘this is not our home’ sermon-where our greatest investment (and might I add ‘our only encouraged investment’) becomes that for my soul and eternal security (if this has pulled the threads beneath your skin then I have achieved my purpose). What do we do when our genuine need for the Lords provision and all things nice falls prey to the guilt of “am I too being swept by the ‘name it and claim it” wave? What do we do when the message of provision tends to only relate to that which is spiritual, negating our current physical reality? What do we do we when our view of God subliminally begins to suggest that perhaps our earthly fortitude is one He simply does not care about? I do not claim to have all the answers (nor do I want to). What I have known, however, is the misappropriation and reactional emphasis placed on the two positions. We are either advocating for material blessings- negating the reality of their temporary state-  or are reveling in our spiritual banks as we let His promises of genuine provision ‘skip our portion.’ Where is the pivot of the scale?

I have learned the secret

Dichotomies confuse us. Paradoxical theories leave us stretched beyond our mental faculties begging questions of “which.”  Yet the dichotomies of God serve as complimentary tools that serve to reveal more of who He is: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hungry, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me [1].” Paul bears witness to the dynamic world he lives. Yet his testament of his then human experience falls to the only solidarity and constant that cradles every human tranjectory even before the beginning of time: GOD. His earthly (and might I add temporal) prosperity and poverty played as opportunities for the Lord to reveal His sufficient strength to Him. In times of poverty he learnt the sheer art of contentment as promises of His provision lay abundant before His throne. In times of prosperity he learnt of the Lords faithfulness as scriptures of old proved to be nothing but true (“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or His children begging for bread”). We can trust in the God who boldly says “are we not more precious than these” having the sure anchorage and hope that He cares for us. We can trust in the God who promises to bless the work of our hands, rewarding those who are diligent and honest with their work (He blesses ‘the hustle’). We can trust in the God whose grace far supersedes our efforts and toils even as the economy plummets before our very eyes. Is there anything too hard for God? Did He not provide for dying children in the wilderness as mothers sought the Lord for their young ones? Did He not prevent the clothing of the Israelite from wearing out as they journeyed through the dangerous terrain for 40 years? Did inflation, bankruptcy or sin ever surprise God? Are you not more precious than any one of these?

I am not advocating for prosperity nor am I advocating for poverty. I am advocating for God (as if He needed me to). When our inner person finds its fortitude in the Personhood of God (His faithfulness and Fatherhood over our lives) we will know, with utter conviction, that He cares for us. His promises are a yes and amen in Christ Jesus. His care stretches across the here and now, reaching far and wide to the gates of heaven. Let’s work. Let’s hustle. Let’s trust!

8 Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
9 That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God. – Proverbs 30 (Solomon)

At His Feet…

References

1. Philippians 4:11-13

 

 

 

A few days ago, I managed to hitch along a ride to the distant terrains of Blantyre town (perhaps it was not that distant). We clumsily entered the hall as the body of believers welcomed us in as we all half attempted to hold our composure of seriousness as streams of silliness spilt through the cracks. We sat. We prayed. We listened. The buzz of excitement that jolted through the room echoed our inner ‘twang’ that threaded the bond of our connection. As the night drew to an end (and so we thought), a ‘stray’ comment stirred up an “unforeseen” gum gabbing that paved way to a second sermon. If one were to sheepishly walk by the room they would perhaps mistaken the bible gathering for a political rally grappling issues of race, gender roles and colonialism. Our differing yet complimentary views sounded a millennial melody of young adults contending the issues that plague their generation. Though some may appear asleep, a rising generation has picked up their mantle proclaiming the mantra of awareness and realization: Woke!

“When we have fallen asleep to the reality of our Maker, the only thing that remains ‘woke’ is the beastly condition of our heart.”

How woke are you? “Woke” made its debut as a byword in 2008 with the release of Erykah Badu’s song ‘Master Teacher.’ In recent years (and more so, in the last few months), social media frontiers and activists have echoed their deep felt sentiments towards social injustices and prejudices that dehumanize our rights and privileges (#StayWoke). Many have defined this byword within frameworks of their paradigm and grid of understanding. Yet what has cocooned as the prevailing characterization of those who are ‘woke’ is awareness: aware of the oppression that lays bare beyond their walls of privilege; aware of the injustices that claim normality yet appeal to sheer hatred and spite; aware of the need to be aware. The norm of van terrorism, racial tug of wars, and gender tension has portrayed our beastly hearts covered in bone and skin embodying the shape and form of human beings. Oppression and suffering tugs at the epicenter of our humanity begging questions of dignity and value equality. At what point did we become better than the other? At what point did the “love” for who we are morph into the hate for those who are not? At what point did marginalization become okay enough to sleep upon? Each waking moment, the fiber of our being claws at our conscious feeling for answers that will perhaps fish out the crux of our world predicament. What is the problem? Does it lie in racial wars as skin color paints canvasses of hierarchical worth, vanquishing all thought and reason behind the obvious (that the color of our skin is simply that: the color of our skin)? Does it lie in chauvinistic philosophies wrapped in misogyny that have tsunami across the cultural frontier as waves of feministic ideologies war in equal combat in the never ending battle of the sexes ? Does it lie in the fact that perhaps for so long we have been asking the wrong questions missing the fundamental answer to our human condition? When we have fallen asleep to the reality of our Maker, the only thing that remains ‘woke’ is the beastly condition of our heart. What are we to do? Better yet, what has He done?
Injustice and social oppression is not new to our millennial era. Infact, each time period serves as a reflection of the cyclical history that plays around itself, repeating only what history has taught and what our hearts have refused to learn. As we read the Scriptures we see wars against minorities and cries from those who have been enslaved by their masters; we see heroes emerge and heroes die as each plays his and her role in the sovereign plan of God to rescue humanity from humanity. Yet God ‘interjects’ the scenes of maliciousness and presents to mankind a new level of awareness- and dare I say, a new level of Woke. The death of Jesus Christ signified the death of all things that plagued us into a state of sleep. Our human condition of sin choked at His last breath as the mantra of His finished work put to death our greatest enemy: death. Yet, it did not stop there. On the third day, the Father ‘woke’ Him up. The great grace that stands beckoning at our hearts finds its footing in the fact that in Him, we too can be woke: empowered by the Spirit of God who rose Christ from the dead that we too may be ‘woke’ to the greatest reality- namely, God! For when our awareness becomes conscious of God, our hearts collide with this spell binding truth: that we were all made in the image of God; image bearers made with the intent to worship and live for our Maker. Gods heart for the oppressed has been to free hearts from the pangs of human evil that they may come into the freedom of worshipping God (the true realization of our humanity). The freedom that we receive in Jesus grants us liberty to freely love for in Him we understand the grace that God has for all of humanity.
So let us be a woke generation. A generation aware and conscious of God. A generation aware of what the gospel has done for us. A generation aware of Gods gospel plan throughout humanity. A generation aware of the social injustices that claw at our doors beckoning hate. Let us boldly pick our rod and stare oppression in the face, boldly declaring by the power of God ‘Let my people go that they may worship Him.’ For the end of all humanity has and always will be God. Stay Woke.

At His Feet…

You may remember the awkward years as ‘subliminal suggestions’ came crashing down your ears, dictating the course of your newly found teenage years. ‘Stay away from (insert danger)’ was the novelty of our age. We often shuddered in submission at the thought of getting caught beyond the walls and constructs which those before us had erected. Anarchy, with the occasional ‘you don’t know what I’m going through’, painted the perfect picture of desired adulthood trapped in the awkward growing body of an adolescent. Seldom did we appreciate the unwanted advice of how low our pants can go and how ‘short is too short’ (and lest we forget, the secret rendezvous with the hims and hers). But lo and behold, we graduate from high school and secondary school and then enroll in college or start up our business and noble ventures. Sooner or later, we find ourselves standing on our own two feet (or atleast attempting to), figuring out why every time we open the refrigerator we only seem to find ice.

“We are uncertain whether we are certain about what needs to be certain”

A few days ago a friend said something that grappled with my mind. It seemed that those around them were placing demands and deadlines along the trajectory of their life (the pressure proved real). “They warned us about our teenage years. But what about our twenties?” ‘Adulting’ seems to be the politically correct term for ‘your life is about to land on its head but try not to have a concussion.’ There were times I would mess up (really mess up), yet deep down I knew the cushions that lay before me, lovingly waiting to catch me when I fall. I remember hearing the do’s and don’ts as my eyes rolled away any sort of instruction that seemed to block ‘my prerogative.’ I remember thinking to myself of how I cannot wait to spread my own wings and fly from the nest I had known. Eventually, and assuredly, I (and we) find ourselves stepping beyond the borders of our niche as we take our first flaps attempting to catch the wind and fly. Yet, admittedly or not, we discover the painful reality that perhaps the world we had hoped for embodies not the dreams we imagined. Though we meme and tweet about adulting, seldom do we freely and openly talk about the fears that harbor within us (we are supposed to have it all together right?). A blank canvass has the potential of being filled with anything. The brushes and water paint splash constructing illustrious melodies of eye dazzling art. Yet, when the canvass of our life appears blank (we often coin this term as ‘uncertainty’), we are quick to fill it with the greys and blacks, painting a dim graveyard where dreams die and fears resurrect. We are uncertain of how we will pay the bills and bring food to the table (or floor). We are uncertain of when and if we will find our significant other as wedding invitations and copious ‘save the date’ fonts chant before us. We are uncertain whether our life will be a constant rat-race of chasing the carrot at the end of the stick, never affording the chance to take a single bite. We are uncertain whether we are certain about what needs to be certain. But what if we collectively realized that it is okay? That it is okay to not have it all figured out? That it is okay to not know the steps of all our trajectories? That it is okay to feel like a child again?

“As our view of God increases we realize that He is the sole painter of the canvass”

I always find it amazing when Jesus referred to His disciples (grown up men and women who were in the business of adulating) as His ‘little ones.’ Often times He shifted their focus from their adult perspectives to be that of little children. As we grow older and ‘fend for ourselves’ we often forget that we are children in the hands of our Father who daily fends for us. The ‘struggle’ is real. The ‘fear’ that lurks within us is real. Yet His rod and staff which daily guides us has proven to transcend the shadows that beckon fear from us. Seldom times do we see the candid acknowledgment of the fears that lingered amid the disciples hearts and all those who followed Him. Yet Jesus knew. He knew the genuine needs and worries that plagued the hearts of His people as they daily followed Him. He knew the qualms that toiled with their minds as Peter and the adult crew thought about how their families would be fed the next day (remember what Peter said, ‘we have left our own homes and followed You [1]’). Yet each time, whether asked or not, He spoke of His sheer grace and care towards His little ones. He spoke of His constant provision towards those who would trust Him. He spoke of His sheer power which calmed the raging seas and cataclysmic storms. He spoke of Himself. Through every bad decision, unpaid bill and lonely heart, He sovereignly weaves His will and good intention bringing certainty (namely Himself) were doubt and fear once lingered. As our view of God increases, so too does our hope for a better today. As our view of God increases we realize that He is the sole painter of the canvass, carefully brushing each stroke as the greys and yellows intertwine creating a canvass of His unfathomable grace.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Jesus (Matthew 6:34)

At His Feet…

Reference

  1. Luke 18:28 (New American Standard Bible)

 

 

 

 

 

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