Finding wholeness in your story

Yesterday something interesting happened to me. I had started gathering together my thoughts for this post and all of a sudden I had writer’s block. So I decided to put the post aside and pick it up again after church and guess what we talked about in church? The power of sharing your story! I know without a shadow of doubt God is telling me something important and so here goes.

I have spent the last three weeks thinking about wholeness and how to find it after going through harsh life experiences (whether it was by your own doing or not!). I had been reflecting particularly about the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and how she was transformed from the woman who went to fetch water at midday so no one would see her, to one who run into the city screaming and drawing attention to herself. I concluded that sometime during her encounter with Jesus and when she left her pot and run she found wholeness.

For those of you who do not know the story, it is found in John 4:1-42. Jesus tells this woman about the things in her life that had brought her shame and instead of pushing those things into the deepest, farthest corner of her heart and mind, she brings it all into the light and allows God to replace her brokenness with wholeness. She had a sordid and maybe scandalous history with men and so she goes to the well when no one can see her or gossip about her and yet after her encounter with Jesus we see her running into the city screaming “come and see a man”. The very thing that had impugned her, we see her declaring with all boldness, “I have met a man”

There is something liberating about owning your story and being prepared to speak to the transformation that happens after we encounter Jesus. Personally, I believe that is how we manifest and live the wholeness that God perfects on our inside on the outside. Something powerful happens when we own and tell our story: the shame and condemnation that secretly creeps up on us when we dare look in that deep dark place in our minds where we hide our past sins and failures lose their power. Those areas get illuminated by God’s light as we bring them to light through our stories.

But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 NIV

When we encounter Jesus in our situations, and allow Him to, He makes us whole. But feeling whole is a different story! Here is where embracing the concept of growth becomes important. To feel whole, we need to give ourselves permission to grow from our experiences. The Samaritan woman would have never had the confidence to speak about any man (let alone a Jew) in public if she did not embrace this concept of growth. There is a quote that I have come to adore that spells this out clearly:

Just because you did something wrong in the past does not mean you cannot advocate against it now. It does not make you a hypocrite, you grew. Don’t let yourself or others use your past to invalidate your current mindset. Growth is a concept. Embrace it.

UNKNOWN and I have modified.

Growth means being able to appreciate how far you have come and that means being honest with yourself about where you’ve been. Many Christians “conveniently forget” or to be blunt pretend they have never done anything wrong even to themselves all in the name of “old things have passed away”. And while I am not advocating for constantly dredging up the past, I believe it is important to acknowledge it and be willing to confront every aspect of you, the good, bad and ugly so none of it has a lasting hold on you.

For some, telling our stories means being consistent in telling people about God’s goodness in our lives. And for others it means James 5:16. But for most of us, it means acknowledging that thing that we are so ashamed of in our lives and then refocusing on what matters most. The samaritan woman did this: she acknowledged that she was living a scandalous life but did not stop there… she took the conversation further to explore how this dark thing in her life had affected other areas of her life… primarily her ability to worship God freely; and that is how she became whole.

Wholeness is within our grasp and one way it can be found is in having the boldness to share your story of how God transformed you and how he has brought you into His light.

Yours Truly

Priorities

Last week I came to the end of what has been weeks of binge watching the show New Amsterdam and the natural consequence of that was that I started to internalize the show. I spent the entire weekend asking myself “like some of those unlucky patients on the show, what if I was given 4-6 weeks to live; what will my priorities be?”

As I pondered over that, I thought about the things that have taken front and center stage in my life recently particularly, my job, my family, my educational pursuits, my acts of service and my pursuit of God (in no particular order). And believe me it was not an exercise in futility. I quickly realized what I would give up in a heartbeat to make space for other things in my life. And not only that, I found I had no space for regret, no space to look back; all I could think of was what I was yet to accomplish and how I could do all of that in 4-6 weeks.

Far too often we are robbed of precious time by cluttering our lives with priorities that have very little substance to add to our lives or we live stuck in the shadows of our past; be it past glories or failures. Thankfully, God has an encouragement for us through the words of Apostle Paul:

 But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

I don’t know why this scripture invokes the image of someone running a race but this was such a rich encouragement after going through my exercise and coming across this scripture in my bible readings. I felt God saying to me, “there is no time like the present to readjust your priorities and set your sights forwards and heavenwards”. I realize that what I value and prioritize will differ from others and so I offer no suggestions except one: that your priorities get you closer to the prize for which God has called and culled you to Himself. And I end with this food for thought:

 Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV

Yours Truly.

How deep is your love?

As we close the chapter on the month of love, I cannot help but ponder over a scripture I came across in my readings a few days ago which I will share with you momentarily.

Whenever, I read about love in the bible, my mind goes right away to the people in my bubble: my family and close friends. Do I love them? Absolutely! But lately, God is working on expanding my reach in terms of love. He wants to make my bubble bigger and so I have had to think about what it means to love my neighbour. If you asked me if i loved my neighbour my response would be yes- I do not wish them any ills, in fact, I do not wish them anything at all. I will say I am at peace with my neighbour but that is because I do not interact with them at all. I pray for them but that’s because I am actually praying for myself- for example, if their house burns down, my house burns down so I pray against accidental fires. In reality, while I do not think evil of and for my neighbours, I do not think about them at all. As I reflect, I realize the path of least resistance for me is to coexist peacefully with my neighbours without being intentional in loving them. This method has worked for me for many years so I keep asking why God is making me uncomfortable with my quota of “love” for my neighbours and people outside of my bubble? Perhaps my answer is found in Philippians 1:9-10

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ

Philippians 1:9-10 NIV

When I think of what’s best for me, I think of God’s plans for my life to prosper me on all sides. I think of the manifold blessings of health and wealth. I think of climbing many social ladders and having great acclaim. I have never thought that God’s best for me may be in relation to how I interact with the world around me in love. I guess this is why my love needs to be shrouded in knowledge and insight so that I can understand God’s heartbeat and what He wants to do in the world through His love manifested in my love. I need my love to not be superficial or simply vainglorious but to be effective in helping me discern what God’s best is for me and for the world at large. I need my love to be driven by purpose so that it makes me pure and blameless before God.

So I conclude by asking you: How deep is your love?

Yours Truly.

Hope in Lament

Two years ago, I made a commitment to read the entire bible again. However, this time instead of doing it it a year, I wanted to slow it down so I could savor every reading and so I opted for a three year reading plan. For the past month so I have been “stuck” in the book of Psalms and I use the word “stuck” because as much as I love the Psalms, oh boy is it ever so dreary! The first 40 chapters are full of lots of lamenting so much so that I stopped looking forward to my daily readings. In fact I remember telling God how tired I was reading all of these laments because I could not find any fodder for my blogpost from them! You can imagine my great joy yesterday when my reading plan switched gears to the book of Philippians. Despite my relief, I still asked God what lessons there were to be learnt from lament and the answer came today in our Ash Wednesday Service at church dubbed “Hope in Lament”. This is what I learnt:

As Christians, we sometimes encounter situations where there is a disconnect between what we know to be true of God and our reality here on earth. Cerebrally, we know God to be good, kind, and loving and yet we sometimes encounter situations that make us question God’s goodness, his kindness and love towards us. If you are a “good African Christian” you would have been told explicitly or implicitly at some point that to question God and to ask why questions His sovereignty and is an expression of a lack of complete trust in His will and plan. But this is where lament comes in. Lamenting gives us the opportunity to be real with God and to have a safe space and outlet to tell God exactly what we are feeling and thinking without holding back. We can come to God with our raw emotions without censoring ourselves for fear we will offend His majesty. David, the apple of God’s eye, certainly knew the value of being real with God. In the Psalms, he speaks openly to God about his mental health, his physical health, his emotional health and his spiritual health. In his laments, he acknowledges God for who He is, sovereign and all and does not hesitate to lay it all- the good, bad and ugly before His Sovereign King. Jesus himself just before the cross found value in lament- in not letting the anguish he felt in his soul consume him but to find an outlet in crying out that the cup be taken away from him! In one of his darkest moments, he lamented to God.

So today I have learnt the value of lamenting- it is a healthy outlet God provides for his children so we can let out some steam when the world beats down on us. It is not ungodly to lament, rather, it is another way God proves to us that He understands what it is like to be human- that He understands that sometimes our emotions get so pent up within us we feel like we are going to explode and He invites us to lament to Him- no judgements! In fact he encourages it so much that when the bible was being compiled He ensured that there was a whole book called Lamentations to model for us that it’s okay to lament. Now while I am not looking forward to the book of Lamentations, I am grateful for the lesson that I can come to God with any and every thing in my mind and heart without censoring or judgement. There truly is hope in lament!

Yours Truly.

P.S. shout out to Pastor Colin of Living Hope Alliance Church for an awesome service!

Do not settle!

Have you ever felt the passion of a dream get snuffed out and you had no desire to pursue that dream any longer? Have you lost the oomph for something that you once held so dear? Have you every given up the pursuit of some ambition? I certainly have. When I was much younger I thought I would grow up to be a doctor. Every thing I did in my childhood, my elementary, and secondary education had prepared me for this dream. In fact, I had started on the course in pursuit of a career as a medical doctor but along the way I settled for something else.

This past sunday, my pastor drew my attention to a passage of scripture that I have glossed over many a times. This is the story of Abraham’s father Terah:

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.

Genesis 11: 31-32 NIV

Terah had started a journey to Canaan- a land that becomes very symbolic and important to the Israelites many generations later; a land that was to be the promised land of the Israelites. Whether by his own design or by God’s divine providence, Terah had a desire to relocate to Canaan. God’s desire was for his chosen people whom he had not called out as at yet to always possess the land of ancient Canaan. That dream had been conceived in the heart of Terah and whether he knew it then or not, he had answered the call. But something interesting happens: somewhere between Ur of the Chaldeans and the promised land, Terah settles. We know from Chapter 12 that Terah settles in Harran so much so that he establishes his household in Harran and becomes a full citizen of Harran along with his entire household. He stops in Harran, he establishes himself in Harran, and finally he dies in Harran without ever making it to the promised land.

So I ask again, have you every given up the pursuit of an ambition and settled for less than? There is an interesting passage from the psalm that gives me lots of comfort in times of uncertainty with my ambitions and desires:

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 BSB

Over the years, I have come to interpret this that not just that God giving us the things we desire but also that He places those desires in our hearts in the first place- just as He may have done for Terah to motivate him to move to Canaan. As I delight myself in God he gives me desires towards my life’s ambition to fulfil the purpose for which he has called me. And so my encouragement for myself and to you dear reader is to persevere and not settle in Harran (whatever your Harran may be).

There is another great lesson to be learnt from this story that I cannot overlook, with more eternal ramifications. Just like Terah, we are only to be sojourners on this earth. Your starting point – your Ur of the Chaldeans- is your geographical location on earth but the end point – your Canaan and promised land- is in Heaven with our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Many, like Terah, have settled for the pleasures of Harran (things of earthly benefits but certainly little to no eternal ones) and have missed out on all the good things of Canaan (Heaven). Lets take a lesson from Terah… set your sight on the end goal.. persevere to the end where the reward of eternal life far outweighs any reward of the life here on earth. I leave you with a verse to ponder:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

Yours Truly.

Shout out to Pastor Kirk Cowman of Living Hope Alliance Church.

Hello 2021

Oh my! I can’t believe we are at the end of January and already my new year resolutions seem to be going the way of the dodo! My commitment to you my dear readers was that this year, I will consistently send out a post each week which highlights how God is teaching me to live a spirit-empowered life but alas, the busyness of life had had the better of my weeks.

In fact this segues nicely into a scripture I read this week:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.

PSALM 32:8-9NIV

This scripture serves as both a reassurance and a reminder. I am reminded that God wants to be the center of my affection and my attention. He wants to lead and guide me even through the hustle and bustle of my days. More importantly, God reminds me to seek his counsel and guidance willingly and wholeheartedly. In 2021, I do not have to wait until I am in dire straits or at my wits end or encumbered with the weights of this world like a bridled horse before I turn to God.

So dear readers, I will like to start your year off with this encouragement: don’t let life’s circumstances force you to include God in your plans but rather be intentional in doing so and my prayer for you is found in Proverbs 16:3; that as you commit everything to the LORD, He will cause your plans to succeed and be established. Catch you next week!

Yours Truly.

Why did we get married?

When my husband and I were preparing for our wedding, I remember meeting his family for the first time and his aunt pulled us aside and asked “why do you want to get married?” In that moment I thought this must be some trick question… you know how in-laws can be… and so wanting to make a good impression, I said because we love each other and we believe this is what God wants us to do. She responded in the most unusual way and that moment is forever etched in my memory. She said while my response was all well and good, the reason God ordained marriage was found in this scripture:

Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.

MALACHI 2:15 NLT

As my husband and I have added years on to our nuptials and with that children, the responsibility to raise godly children weighs heavily on us. Last year as I was reading through the book of Judges, I came across many instances where “a whole generation did not know God” and in wondering how this was ever possible, I realized the importance of marriage.

In marriage, a family is born and that is the only physical representation we have on earth of what God envisions of a His glorious church- Christ the Bridegroom and his church the bride. Jesus promises that he will build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt 16:18) . One of the ways God builds His Church is through the union of marriage in the creation of families. As godly children are raised in families, God’s kingdom is advanced and established on earth. Generations are born who know God and can raise generations that know God and so forth. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Parents can also be complicit in raising generations that do neither know God nor serve Him. This is why marriage as an institution is very prone to the devil’s attacks. If the enemy can tear down the basic unit of the church, then it appears he is winning but he will NEVER win. Because every time our children (biological or otherwise) lift up praise to God, the enemy is defeated

From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger.

PSALM 8:2BSB

Yours Truly

I’ve Found It!

2020 has been a very strange year and I have had countless conversations about the meaning of life in light of year. A few days ago, my husband and I were chatting along these lines and we landed on a topic that gave me pause: finding one’s purpose in life.

There are some people who readily know the answer to this question and others who will never answer this question for themselves in their lifetime. Understanding your purpose, knowing your why (why do you exist) helps to make meaning of and give meaning to our hopes, dreams, aspirations, motives, motivations. It propels us towards the future that God envisions for us (…Oh this bring me back to my post from February…Your future is within you). God speaks our future into being… then creates us… and knowing our purpose helps us to walk the path to our expected end.

Michael jr., a Christian comedian, does a great job of talking about knowing your why (And this is an aside… my husband and I became a running joke on his recent live comedy show). Here is a clip about knowing your why:

Still deeply contemplating my purpose, I read a scripture that revealed my why to me as clear as day:

For I am [emphasis mine] God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

What an eye opener! After all these many years of living (…and this is my Jesus year…) I have found it! I have read this scripture many times but I had never connected to it this way until I approached God and asked for him to show me my why. But now it does not end here. This is just the beginning. Its time to figure out my what? who ? how? when?

I started by saying 2020 has been a strange year. It has had its up and downs but this year has blessed me with this great gift of discovering my why. I leave you with this thought and something to prayerfully consider as we draw the curtains on 2020:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” 

Mark Twain

Yours Truly

Where is wisdom found?

So last week I started a new job and to be honest my week felt like it had been ripped right out of the “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” movie script. I ended the week with one prayer: “God, please give me wisdom!” and I reached out to people to pray the same for me.

Interestingly, a couple days ago my daily bible reading landed me on this passage of scripture and because it is very serendipitous and self-explanatory, I will just let you read it for yourself without my commentary:

 Where then does wisdom come from?
 Where does understanding dwell?
 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
 concealed even from the birds in the sky.
 Destruction and Death say,
 “Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.”
 God understands the way to it
 and he alone knows where it dwells,
 for he views the ends of the earth
 and sees everything under the heavens.
 When he established the force of the wind
 and measured out the waters,
 when he made a decree for the rain
 and a path for the thunderstorm,
 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
 he confirmed it and tested it.
 And he said to the human race,
 “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
 and to shun evil is understanding. Job 28: 20-28 NIV

This passage stopped me right in my tracks. It was like God Himself had stepped out of eternity to speak this to me. So I started my week praying “God give me wisdom” and I am ending my week with an entirely different prayer: “God teach me to fear you!”

Yours Truly.

How will you bow?

Lets start with an exercise: Think about your best image of God. Who is He? What is He like? How would you describe Him to a 3-year old? For the past few weeks I have been reading the book of Job and although this will be at least the third time I have read this book, I am seeing it from such a new perspective. Job talks about God’s superiority and sovereignty in ways that are both awe-inspiring but can also leave you feeling very helpless before this powerful God. He says things like:

“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. What he tears down cannot be rebuilt; those he imprisons cannot be released. If he holds back the waters, there is drought; if he lets them loose, they devastate the land. To him belong strength and insight; both deceived and deceiver are his. He leads rulers away stripped and makes fools of judges. He takes off the shackles put on by king and ties a loincloth around their waist. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows officials long established. He silences the lips of trusted advisers and takes away the discernment of elders. He pours contempt on nobles and disarms the mighty. He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light. He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them. He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason; he makes them wander in a trackless waste. They grope in darkness with no light; he makes them stagger like drunkards.” Job 12:13-35 NIV.

Job and his friends described the God-man relationship in a manner where God is this inapproachable powerful being. They described God by his deeds; the things they had seen or heard or imagined Him do. Similarly, the Israelites’ perspectives of God versus that of Moses were very different. The Israelites looked to God for things: the meeting of their physical needs of food, water, shelter; protection from their enemies; healing from diseases and so on and so forth. The Israelites only knew God for his deeds but Moses’ relationship was different. He actually knew God for who he truly was.

He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel.

Psalm 103:7 NLT

Job’s characterizations of his relationship with God so far (up until Job 12 that is) is nothing compared to our modern-day- live-under-grace characterizations. While everything Job says about God’s nature is truth, God still invites us by virtue of grace into relationship where we can know him for who He truly is . Unfortunately instead of grace giving us the advantage of a deeper relationship where we can know God beyond our needs, many of us relegate God to the position of all powerful being who we call upon when we cannot figure out things for ourselves. This genie-in -the-bottle mentality pedaled as the essence of Christianity and preached as the “prosperity” gospel (although many of us will not deign to admit that we treat God this way) only serves to rob us of having a deeper connection to our amazing God.

This week in church the pastor made a statement that inspired this post. Now for some mental exercise:

Come back to your image of who God is and picture this: You are standing before God at the end of your time here on earth and then in enters Jesus in all his majestic splendor. In accordance with the scripture says that “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…Phil 2: 10ESV” you WILL bow, but how will you bow? Will you bow in reverent worship and recognition of the great King with whom you had formed a relationship with while you walked the earth? Will you bow in excitement that you’ve finally made it across the other side of eternity and you can finally get to see the full image of God who had been showing glimpses of himself to you all through your journey on earth? Will it be like meeting a date for the first time after years of zoom calls and facetiming? OR will you bow in abject terror of this God because your “genie” turned out to be nothing like you imagined? Will your knees buckle at the realization that you missed out on the great opportunity earth afforded you to get to know God and now you are in the presence of a stranger? Would you bow in shame, pleadingly asking for mercy?

So here’s the question of the week: How will you bow?

Yours Truly

P.S. The food box is going great! I will do a post about it in a few weeks but for those of you eager to hear about it: it has inspired something within the community and people have anonymously thrown in cans of food. Thanks to all who have donated so far and to all who have encouraged me through prayer and kind words. Together, we are on mission for God!