The Unsung Hero

last week as I was reading the bible something caught my eye: a very rare mention of King David’s mother. We do not know a lot about her, we do not hear stories of her but over the past few weeks she has become my unsung hero. Let me introduce you to David’s mother:

Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did.

Psalm 86:16 NIV

We do not know much about David’s mother and her relationship with God but we know a whole lot about David and his relationship with God. We know that David was so close to God, he was known as a man after God’s own heart- a beloved of God. We know that David served God wholeheartedly and even when he strayed he was still connected to God. David’s life is a role model of friendship, communion and relationship with God. But this scripture tells us a little more about his relationship with God.

David credits his relationship to God to his mother. He did not get there on his own- he observed and perhaps was taught to love and serve God the way he did by his mother. And in a time of distress, he calls on God to remember him and draws on the connection his mother had to God.

Some translations say… “save the son of thy handmaiden” (in reference to is mother). Whenever, anyone is described as a handmaiden in scripture- it connotes humility and a life of surrender and servitude. However we dice this, it says a lot about David’s mother whose name is barely mentioned in scripture if even.

I have learned this week the value of my ministry to my kids- I am their role model- the person they look up to and would one day exemplify. As they observe me everyday- who do they see? what do they see? Are they one day going to be able to pray “Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did”?

Food for thought.

Yours Truly

The faces of Jesus

We are almost halfway through the year and a lot of the non-profit agencies and charities have started sending out emails to remind people on their mailing/donor lists to consider making a donation. One scripture that is a bedrock for a lot of Christian organizations is from Matthew 25.

When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Matthew 25:38-40 BSB

All over the world, the faces of the poor, hungry, economically and sometimes socially disadvantaged have been used on fliers and infomercials to communicate this scripture very vividly. These faces represent Jesus’ mission of social justice on earth, His heartbeat for the world. This scripture gives us a glimpse into what Jesus looks like and who He is. This week I read a scripture that made me rethink how Jesus is represented here on earth:

…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Colossians 3: 10-11 NIV

Christ is all and in all. Wow. Sometimes it is easy to forget this, particularly in this “covid year” where the person next to you is perceived as a potential threat to your health or that of your loved ones. However, the pandemic has simply heightened and emphasized for me my deep-seated lack of connectedness to others. Although I have continued with my philanthropic work during the pandemic, God through this scripture is reminding me that His face is seen in more than hunger, poverty and homelessness which are the causes that are near and dear to my heart.

He is all and is in all. This includes that weed- smoking neighbour whom I have gone out of my way to avoid; that employee who has made it a point to be a thorn in my flesh; that Facebook friend whose social media posts I find slightly irritating; and even my kiddos who sometimes test the limit of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in me- Jesus is represented in all and is in all. So how is God calling me to respond to this? Well the answer is found in the rest of that scripture:

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3: 12-17 NIV

‘Nuff said.

Yours Truly

Leading People

Leading people is hard whether it’s in the secular world or in ministry- it is a work of heart. If done right, it is one of the highest acts of service and if done right, it can be the one of the most emotionally tasking endeavors. Over the past weeks I have had many opportunities to reflect on the teams I lead as well as what I bring to bear in my leadership journey. Through all the triumphs and conflicts my leadership role bring, I have discovered one of the blueprints for how to be an effective leader.

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

Psalm78:82 NIV

For the past two weeks I have been meditating on this scripture and how I can lead with integrity and skill. So lets talk about those:

What does it mean to lead with integrity of heart? Integrity appears 22 times in scripture and a read of those scriptures reveal some characteristics of having integrity: speaking the truth, being upright and righteous. Having integrity of heart as a leader means that when I deal with my reports and those I am in authority over, I do so in fairness and with truth and grace- not being swayed by who they are. I wish them no ill and seek out the best outcomes for them in every situation. This definition reminds me of the lyrics in a song we sing at church:

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly…. in all things… in all ways

The second point from the scripture has to do with leading skillfully. I once read an article that alluded to the fact that no one is born with leadership skills. It is not an innate quality. And I agree… to some extent, I believe that although some people have a propensity and affinity for leadership, effective leaders must cultivate the skill of leadership like a craftsman hones his/her craft. Leading with a skilled hand means that I do not only rely on my past experiences or propensities but I work towards mastery daily. Advancing from novice to expert in any competency involves having the right conditions and opportunities to practice and truly develop that skill.

David developed the skills to lead people effectively through the challenges that came from leading livestock: spending long hours tending to them, leading the sheep to pasture in green and luscious vegetation, dealing with threats and of course, steering the wayward ones back into the fold. Similarly, the challenges of leadership create an environment that can be conducive to honing the skill of leading. Every awkward conversation builds the confidence and competence for the next awkward conversation- as someone recently said to me “the more I know, the more I realize I do not know” (Thanks T.). This paradox is what I describe as growth. The beauty of developing a skill is that it can also be learned through knowledge external to personal experiences- so take a course, read inspirational books, listen to the wisdom of other great leaders, get a mentor- the goal is diligently working towards becoming a skilled leader.

Do you see a man skillful and experienced in his work? He will stand [in honor] before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.

Prov 22:29 AMP

I hope you are as encouraged as I am because leading people is not for the faint of heart but for those with integrity of heart and who have skillful hands.

Yours Truly

The Greatest Triumph

As we approach Holy Week, church activities, sermons, and social media will be inundated with messages about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A couple days ago, I was thinking of what my Easter post would be and realized very quickly I did not want to tell same “old” story. So I asked myself “what makes the death and resurrection of Jesus so unique that it is worth commemorating?” The answer came from an unexpected scripture in the book of Psalm:

No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them— the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—so that they should live on forever and not see decay… But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.

Psalm 49:8-9, 15 NIV

Wow! When I read this a few days ago, it was like a light bulb went on! This scripture not only emphasizes the fickleness of life but speaks volumes about the work of Jesus. This is why his death is so important. Because no one can redeem the life of another, God had to redeem us Himself. He did so by coming down to earth to be a ransom for our lives. This is Jesus’ greatest triumph. The sermon this sunday made this point even more real for me. Whenever we talk about triumph it suggests a victor. The binary of a victor usually connotes the fact that there is a vanquished or a loser. Human victories are usually at the expense of others but what makes Jesus’ ransom and victory so unique is that it was at his own expense!

His death and resurrection was sign to the whole world that the ransom had been paid. He made a payment that was enough to ensure that we could live forever and not see decay. We know this because God raised Jesus from he dead so that he himself would not see decay (Acts 13: 34-35) and made him the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18). Jesus became the poster child of a costly ransom paid. And for all of us who believe in Him and accept his redeeming work on the cross, Psalm 49 reads that “the payment is enough and we too will live on forever and not see decay”. We know with confidence that God HAS redeemed us from the realm of the dead and has already taken us to Himself. He did this victoriously when he exchanged His life for ours… He does this victoriously everyday in our lives with the work of His Holy Spirit drawing us in relationship with Him and He will do this victoriously when we close our eyes in death to this world and open them again in eternity in His presence.

This is why Jesus’ death is so important. This is why His resurrection is significant. In His death and resurrection lies our greatest triumph and victory : Eternal life.

God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.

John 3:16 CEV

Yours Truly.

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!

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.

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