The Gentle Gardener

Today’s post is from a sermon delivered at my home church and published here with permission from Nairobi Chapel South.

A little backstory- last year I was going through a really hard time, battling condemnation. It was so severe that on some days I thought I would lose my mind. Like a skilled storyteller, Satan weaved in numerous colorful lies to keep the onslaught going. These lies altered my perception of God as a good father. Reading the bible became arduous because I was afraid of meeting with an angry unamused God who was never pleased with any of His children. Instead of freedom, certain scriptures brought me condemnation!

I believe that God was dealing with many erroneous theological foundations in my life. As He rooted out fears, He sent believers who were committed to teaching the truth of His word in a way that set me free. Some of the blogs I wrote were a reflection of what God was teaching me.

One particular blog, In His garden, was written from what I perceived to be God’s training in my life at the time. Listening to this sermon which is from the same passage, {John 15:1-8} illuminated the scripture further, bringing deeper understanding to me. I am glad to share this with you today.

When we read this passage of scripture, three problems present themselves.

1) The problem of translation

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” {John 15:1-3}

This passage often comes off as harsh because we may struggle to see the evidence of fruit in our lives. In a sense, we have viewed God as a farmer instead of a gardener. And there is a big difference in the two- the farmer produces crop solely for profit or subsistence, while the gardener does it simply for the joy and beauty of the plant.

There is an alternative understanding of this passage that bears some consideration. James Montgomery Boice {among others} believes that the ancient Greek verb airo, more accurately translates to lifts up as opposed to cuts off.

As was common in the ancient practice of tending vineyards, the viticulturist made sure to lift the crop off the ground that it might get more sun and bear more fruit. In the same way, the Father lifts up unproductive vines off the ground. His desire is not to cut you off, but to lift you up, to give you every opportunity to bear fruit.

On the other hand, the reality is that because God is a good gardener, He will allow situations to come your way with the ultimate goal of making you more Christ-like. Therefore, be a student of the process and learn. The quicker you learn the quicker the pruning.

2) The problem of interpretation

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” {John 15:5}

We have interpreted this passage of scripture to mean that bearing fruit is fully dependent on us. I have never seen a branch struggling to bear fruit.

Here are a few truths to consider:

  • You bear fruit not by your own power or strength, but by remaining in Christ.
  • There is nothing you can do, other than remain.
  • He decides what fruit you bear.

As you remain in him, then you do what he designed you to do.

3) The problem of recognition

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” {John 15:8}

We may forget why Christ wants us to bear fruit. It is not so that we can be famous, become recognized or even get followers, no, it is for His glory and our joy that we bear fruit.

If I pray for you and you get healed, I did nothing, God healed you. I was just a vessel, and a vessel cannot take the honor for its content. The sword does not get the glory of the battle, but the warrior does. In the same way, when people see you full of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, God is pleased- He is glorified, and that is what He desires for you.

 

Continue to remain hidden in Christ in His garden. Allow the gentle gardener to lift you off the ground, clean you and then recognize that it is He who deserves all the glory when you are a beautiful plant.

 

 

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Lost in translation: 3 ways to know that God is speaking.

LOST IN TRANSLATIONIn a recent worship practice, our worship pastor was sharing what she felt was on God’s heart for the season. As we continued to listen in, one of the members of the team asked a very important question: “How do you know that God is speaking to you?”

God speaks to His children. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. As is the joy of any good father, He longs to share His heart with those who will take the time to listen in {John 10:27}. The bible shows us different ways through which God caught the attention of His people: through his word {Acts 8:26-38} signs and wonders {Exodus 3:1-4}, dreams and visions {Acts 9:10-12}, a still small voice {1st Kings 19:11-12}, through His people {Acts 21:10-14}.

The style of communication may vary, but certain principles remain.

1) God will never contradict His word

The first and foremost place we should go to when we think we have heard from God, is back to the scriptures.

Many of God’s commands are explicit, some, not so much. For example, when the bible exhorts us: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” {Matthew 5:44} this is an explicit command and God’s will for His children. Conversely, others are more implicit, requiring the believer to search the scriptures for the heart of God in a matter.

Once I read a post on social media that claimed that the use of Reggae music in worship is abhorrent to God. In fact, the writer of the post stated that God had spoken to them and that His wrath was imminent for all those who used this kind of music in their worship.

On a light note, I thought to myself, “Poor Jamaicans, have no chance at getting into heaven” and then quickly remembered that every tribe and nation, people and language will stand before the lamb and worship Him {Revelation 9:9-10}. God created every tribe and culture, and even in our brokenness, He invites us to worship Him with the unique expressions that He has given to us.

2) At the heart of God is redemption

Nahum chapter three opens with these words “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! This vivid description was true of the city of Nineveh. Historically, it is said that the rulers of Assyria were so evil, given to many forms of wickedness: covering the walls of the cities with the skins of dissidents, decapitating rebels and building pillars from their heads, gouging out eyes, amputating limbs, burning thousands of people at a go and indulging in witchcraft {https://enduringword.com/commentary/nahum-3/}

In Jonah’s account, God sends him to give a warning message to the people there {Jonah 1:1-2}. Jonah initially resisted, finally obeyed, but became bitter at the Lord’s compassion for the people of Nineveh. God had this to say about Jonah’s reaction:

“…But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” {Jonah 4: 1-11}

Despite this city’s wickedness, God gave them 40 days to turn from their evil ways {Jonah 3: 4} or their city would be overturned. Notice that I highlight one seemingly unimportant detail {and many cattle as well}. Everything in the bible is relevant no matter how small. God was concerned about the welfare of this city, its people and animals too. When God sends a warning for repentance, He gives us a chance to repent. In Him, there is always a way out if we respond in humility and obedience.

3) God will confirm His word in the body of believers

A good place to test if what you are hearing is from God is in the company of mature believers. Paul when speaking to the church in Corinth says this, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said” {1st Corinthians 14:29} In weighing carefully, these are a few questions we can ask: Is what I am hearing consistent with the scriptures?, Is my interpretation given to bias?, Is it aligning with the revealed nature and character of God in the scriptures?, Is there a sense of peace and agreement in the hearers? Is it building up or tearing the body of Christ apart?

Humility causes us to submit to correction and new perspectives that we may have missed. It is important to note that no one Christian holds a monopoly of truth. This means that from the greatest to the least, there ought to be an attitude of learning in the church. If I assume that I have a direct line to God and that every word that comes from my mouth is pure and unadulterated then I have missed the mark completely!

So, the next time you hear a word from the Lord no matter the source, ask yourself these three questions: does it align to God’s word, is there a sense of redemption, and can other mature believers vouch for it?

3 things to do while waiting on God

A clock with the words "in the meantime" 3 things you can do while waiting on GodI recently watched a video of a street singer in Asia who was privileged to sing alongside a renowned musician who happened to be strolling the streets right before a major concert tour in that city. This was clearly a case of being in the right place at the right time. After doing the cover to a famous 80’s song, the well-known musician asked this emerging artist if he would be willing to sing at his concert- giving him a 20-25 minute set.

His kind gesture warmed my heart and brought to my mind wise counsel a music mentor recently offered me: “Don’t forget that your gift will open doors for you and you need to be ready when that happens.” In other words, do not be found unprepared when opportunity comes knocking.

Unfortunately, when we are working hard and putting in many hours into our craft, without much gain, the above statement can sound like a cliché. With a dream in your heart and no way of realizing the vision God has given you, feelings of despondency may arise. However, I believe that the one who says, “I know the plans I have for you,” {Jeremiah 29:11} is intentional and desires to bring all the good things that He has promised you to pass. But what should we do in the meantime?

1) Sharpen your axe

I imagine that the street musician experienced rejection, but he continued to present his art where everyone could hear him. I imagine that he had to prepare a repertoire of songs prior to his street performances. I also imagine that he had to work on his guitar and voice. He could not afford to just show up.

In the same way, whatever field of work that you have been assigned to needs your time and commitment, sharpening that skill. As you continue to faithfully sharpen your axe, God will establish the work of your hands {Psalm 90:17, Hebrews 6:10}. This is a constant reminder: when God calls you, it is your responsibility to show up strong and ready, having done all you can “…to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed…” {2nd Timothy 2:15}

2) Ask the Master Planner

Time and again, the bible provides examples of ordinary people who waited on God for a specific course of action. The list is endless: Joshua {Joshua 6:2-5} David {1st Chronicles 14:14-16}, Moses {Numbers 20:1-8}, the disciples {Luke 24:49} and on and on. Each time, God was faithful to them and gave them a strategy to win if they obeyed.

Like in biblical times, I believe that God desires to share with us the plans on His heart- for our lives and the world around us. What strategy is God giving you that will propel you to success and ultimately draw people into the Kingdom of God? It could be a business idea that solves a major problem, a song that causes others to run to Him, or a book, or a play…whatever it is, trust that when you ask the Master Planner, He will answer you!

3) Do not compare

Life is already difficult enough without us having to compare ourselves to others. The assignments that God has for us are so unique that no two people can do the exact same thing. If we believe that deeply, we are set free from trying to be like another human being.

To give an example from music, every instrument in the orchestra has a different timbre or sound. If the violins marched out of a concert hall because they did not sound like the cello, which instrument could possibly replace the high registers the violins reach? But together, all the instruments play an important role of bringing out the sound intended by a composer.

In the same way, God is orchestrating a wonderful masterpiece, but He is asking you to be you. Comparison will only lead to discouragement and the death of your dream and God’s purpose in your life.

 

Ultimately, “the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” {Ecclesiastes 9:11}. Recognize that promotion comes from God; resist the urge to lift yourself. Continue to faithfully sharpen your axe, seek the master planner and renounce comparison.

Careless Whispers: 3 Ways to Avoid Gossip

The words: Careless whispers: 3 ways to avoid gossip

Last year, in a blog titled the 5 stages of a worship team, I talked a little about my experience leading a team. The group started well with a promising trajectory, but closed out prematurely in the storming stage. Unfortunately, slander was a major factor in the demise of the group.

We all have endured the painful sting of gossip and we too have maligned others. As I have reflected on the effects gossip has on individuals and groups, whether we are the perpetrators or recipients, the outcome is the same; slander destroys both the hearer and the slanderer alike.

The bible is clear about what kind of talk should be avoided “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” {Ephesians 4:29}

But what should we do the next time someone is disgruntled about a team member and wants to air their frustration to you?

1) Validate

Years back, I watched a TED Talk by one of Africa’s most celebrated writers- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her talk was on the danger of a single story. While I may not agree with everything she stands for, I loved one of the quotes from this particular talk:

“…Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

The bible also has great wisdom concerning a one sided story “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” {Proverbs 18:17}

You have probably been in a situation where someone told you something from their point of view, but upon listening to the other party, found out that what the first person had to say was not entirely true. This is the danger of a single story. However, we ought to validate accusations brought against other individuals. One way to do this is to ask. Ask the aggrieved individual questions that would shed light on the matter. If you can, request to talk to the other party so as to have the full story.

2) Mediate

The work of the cross is the greatest display of reconciliation. Following Christ’s example, we ought to look for ways to bring unity into areas of division in our teams and relationships. Matthew 18:15 gives us solid advice on how to quell slander. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  There are circumstances in which someone may seek out your help in resolving a matter with another team member. You as the mediator have the sole responsibility of keeping the issue confidential so as to avoid gossip. Just between the aggrieved parties, find a way to bring peace into that situation.

3) Deviate

Years back, I attended a school that was facing major financial and administrative issues. Balls were dropped, causing many students to be unhappy. One such unhappy student approached me with these issues, and within no time, I who loved this school, was embittered and had joined a group of complainers. We would stand around in circles at break discussing how terrible the school was, instead of escalating the issue to relevant people who could address the problems.

In that moment, Proverbs 18:8 described me: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” Not only did I choose to let gossip embitter me, I allowed it to steal the joy and love I once felt being a part of this community.

In retrospect, I should have referred this student to someone in a position of authority who could handle the valid issues brought up.

 

I believe that every worship team should have systems to allow the members to air their grievances respectfully. I also encourage every leader to foster openness in their team. Let us reject the temptation to accuse and slander others, especially when we have been hurt. We are all on a journey of sanctification, one that includes our speech. Therefore let us validate, mediate and deviate. I would like to hear from you. Has slander ever affected your team, and how did you navigate through it?

 

 

 

3 Pitfalls to avoid in Stewardship

An image with the words "Stewardship and three pitfalls to avoid"

As I have been thinking about what my first post of the year will be, stewardship has been at the fore. To put this in context, a couple of weeks back, I was having a conversation with a close friend. I had asked him a question in the lines of: Does God want all believers to be rich? The answer he gave me was so simple, yet so mind blowing. He told me, “I believe God wants us to be good stewards.”

He went on to explain how God has given all believers resources in different measure and that how we choose to steward these things gives us more room and opportunity to receive more. For example, if God blesses me with a certain amount and I choose to be diligent in saving and investing and not spending it all, little by little this resource grows and multiplies. And if God can trust me with that little amount, surely he can trust me with much more.

However, today’s post is not about stewarding finances, but about the gifts and talents God has placed in every worship leader, and how we can avoid certain pitfalls as we minister so as to steward the gifts, no matter how big or small, in purity and integrity.

The dictionary meaning of the word steward varies, depending on the context, but at the core, is the idea that as a steward, what you are stewarding does not belong to you. This same thought can be seen in the biblical sense of stewardship. We find many references where God calls us, puts treasure in our hands and “demands” that we give a proper account of its use {Matthew 24:45-51, 25:14-30, Genesis 2:15}

In light of this, here are a few issues that we may face as we try to steward God’s gifts in our lives.

1) Fear and comparison

When it comes to music, I get asked a lot, how one can overcome the overwhelming fear that what you have is just not as good as the musician next to you. Creatives tend to compare their talents to others’ as opposed to celebrating what is inside them. And to be honest, that feeling can cripple you and hold you back from being all that God has called you to be or it can drive you to prove a point. However way it goes, both of these reactions are problematic. Granted, there will be better skilled musicians than you, but just like the parable of the talents, the quality of the gift is unique to you and the resolve of the giver to use you is sure {Matthew 25:14-15}.

2) Competition and Superstardom

The heartbeat of the many blogs I write is unity in the body of Christ {1st Corinthians 12:12-31}. I believe strongly that God uses us powerfully when we are committed to submit under godly men and women who can teach us, correct us and call out the wonderful gifts He has placed in us. Although God calls us to run our own unique and individual race, we are also called to a bigger race, one of taking the gospel to the very ends of the world with the help of others.

Using an analogy, what God has called us to do is like a picture puzzle; every time we align ourselves to the image in the puzzle, the body of Christ presents a beautiful picture of love and commitment to the One who has called us.

As you continue sharpening your skill, opportunities will open up, fame may come and the money too. It is at this point that you remind yourself to lay low in the presence of Jesus and to resist the temptation for stardom and competition.

3) Overconfidence and Under-preparation

It is natural to become confident about something you have been doing repeatedly. You know your strengths and limitations and are able to manipulate these so as to minister effectively- and that’s ok.

However, pride can creep in subtly tempting you to self-reliance. Self-reliance says that you can do it without God, that you are gifted enough to carry a service by yourself, that you don’t need anyone or that your vocalists are just “backing you up” as opposed to ministering beside you. Where once you sought God about His heart for those you minister to, you may find yourself rushing through, just to complete the task at hand. Where you used to sharpen your skill, laxity may have crept in making you an ineffective steward.

The greatest example of confidence has been modeled to us by Jesus. “…I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” {John 5:19}. If Jesus was fully reliant and obedient to the Father, putting his confidence in God alone, how much more should you and I commit to a life like that?

As we reflect on the gifts God has given us and these three major pitfalls, how do you fare? When all our actions and motivations are based on a view of eternity, knowing that what we do here on earth is critical in the next life, we ultimately become better stewards. Commit today to serve God with His agenda in mind, with His vision in your heart and His kingdom as your priority.

5 things you need to know about Christian blogging

StrangersHi guys, so this is the last post of the year. I am grateful for each and every one of you and I really do pray for you.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” {Ephesians 3:16-19}

For this post, I did a little reflecting on some lessons I have learned along the way in blogging. If you or someone you know wants to get into Christian blogging, here are a few thoughts you may consider.

5-things-you-need-to-know_1Christian blogging can be a great way to teach, inspire, correct and transform. Unfortunately, I have read one too many blogs that bring judgement and accusations against individuals and the body of Christ in general. One of the greatest lessons I have learned this year is how precious and loved the body of believers is to Christ. He loves us both personally and communally.

When we slander another individual or denomination, we are literally slandering ourselves. If we undermine the work of another church, we have undermined our own work. But if we pray for and exhort and support another part of the body of Christ, we are essentially building up our own.

Is there a place for correction and rebuke? Certainly, and the bible speaks about its importance {2nd Timothy 4:2-3}. But what does godly correction look like? This kind of correction causes us to look to Jesus Christ. It causes even the one correcting to view their own life in the light of the cross and see themselves as redeemed, not perfect, having a sinful nature yet constantly being sanctified. When we look at ourselves through this lens we are basically saying, “Lord Jesus, help me to be the kind of believer who will not look on as my fellow brother is messing up, yet will approach their failings from a humble position of love and redemption, knowing that I too struggle with sin.”

So, before you write that angry and vindictive blog, ask yourself, “Is this honoring the body of Christ?” “How is this blog bringing people closer to God?”

Ultimately, it is better to shelve a blog than to destroy the faith of others.

5-things-you-need-to-know_2Looking at scripture and my own life journey, I have come to appreciate the fact that God is a God of process, seasons and timings. Between the time God gives you a dream and the time it takes to realize that dream it will require patience. Time is important as it clarifies vision and ideally strengthens character. After waiting on a promise for so long, there tends to be a mellow approach to life and people.

Like building any other brand, blogging requires your time and resources. It is involving and demands that you interrogate life and your topic thoroughly before publishing so as to maintain credibility.

There are days when traffic on your site will be massive, and there are down days- when you will get only a couple of reads. For those who put extra time into their writing this can be very discouraging. The need for your work to be affirmed and validated can override the simple fact that God has called you to a ministry of one. Cliché as it may sound, could it be that God has called you, for now, to reach out to just one person who is in desperate need to hear that their Heavenly Father loves them?

As you continue to grow, God will entrust you with more readers. With time, your writing will improve too. So don’t be discouraged if only a few people read…keep doing what God has called you to.

5-things-you-need-to-know_3Prayer has been the backbone of my blog this year. As I write and publish each blog, I pray for those who will read the material. I ask God to bring healing and deliverance, to come through for those who will come across the blog. I do not know who will read the posts, but God does. I do not know where they are, but God does.

When I pray I am allowing God to work through my blog. Only He can bring salvation to my readers. There have been many times this year that God has used my seemingly weak or not well thought out posts to inspire many. On the other hand, there are times I have written what I thought to be a powerful post that brought little engagement, leading me to believe that when I am weak, then He is strong.

5-things-you-need-to-know_4Being consistent does not imply writing till you drop. It is important to carve time out to rest. Most importantly, do not neglect your significant relationships. Good success is one that does not pull you away from your loved ones. Yes, be consistent, but take time out to rest and have fun.

5-things-you-need-to-know_5Every blogger has “writing blind spots”. And it’s ok. Endeavor to grow your writing by taking professional courses if need be. Read, read, read. The more you research, the better your work becomes. Subscribe to other blogs of like interest and see what you can borrow as well.

Indelible: God has not forgotten you!

 

The word indelible etched in rock. Underneath the word indelible are the words: God has not forgotten you.

While writing last week’s post, I did a little reading into the life of Joseph. I have read this story countless times and have identified with it on so many levels, been inspired by his courage to dream, forgive and follow after God despite hardship. On re-reading this story, I was drawn to the account of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream {Genesis 41}. Joseph was by now familiar with prison life having been in and out of jail. He was also accustomed to being overlooked while others were restored {Genesis 40:14, 23}

But on this particular day, Pharaoh summoned Joseph because of a troubling dream. Joseph did what he was gifted at and interpreted the dream like he had many other times before. What struck me though was how Joseph suggested that Pharaoh appoint a wise and discerning man to overlook the famine situation {Genesis 41:33}. Basically, Joseph was saying “even though it is not me Pharaoh, go ahead and appoint a man who will get the job done!”

I do not know the state of Joseph’s mind and heart at this point because the bible is silent on it, but if I were to guess, I would say that Joseph had probably given up on ever finding freedom again. He remembered his father and little brother Benjamin with nostalgia and these were about the only memories that kept him warm at night in the cold Egyptian cells. Joseph was stuck!

However, this chance meeting with the king of Egypt transformed Joseph’s life instantaneously and eternally. Joseph, a non-Egyptian was now the vizier of Egypt.

After years of slavery, imprisonment, demotion, and false accusation, Joseph was finally free to live out the dream God had placed in his heart years back. It had come at a cost, but God was finally ready to use him. Could it be that in those cells, God had taught him to forgive his brothers, to carry purpose with honor and not to mistreat his subjects?

For whatever reason it took so many years for his dream to become a reality, Joseph was definitely a changed man. In this story, the true test of transformation is a picture of grace, of Joseph cutting his brothers loose from an offense that would well have cost him his life.

Sometimes the journey that God allows us to take can be similar to Joseph’s. Even with a dream in our hearts and a sure confirmation that God is in our situations, we may find ourselves stuck, imprisoned, demoted, and forgotten.

You may be feeling like you have been dragged into the sea, swallowed and spat out by a large whale and washed out to shore? You may be asking God if He is done with you because you just do not see a way out. You have waited in prayer, fasted, and done all that you know to do, yet nothing!

Once in a long season of waiting, I was sleeping and saw the word “indelible” in a dream. It was clear to me that God was speaking. Indelible means “not able to be forgotten or removed.”

The truth is, dear beloved, there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from His love. He has etched your name in the palm of His hand, therefore your life is ever before Him.

Just like Joseph, you could be a prisoner in a cell, hopeless and forgotten, but in one moment, your life could change forever.

Be encouraged. You are indelible. You are not forgotten. You matter to God!

Dream makers: 3 steps to realizing your dreams

 

A girl swinging and the swing is attached to the clouds.

Last year in October, I took some time out to relax and pray about the coming year. My husband and I were on a mission trip to Kigali, Rwanda. Anyone who’s travelled to that city knows that it is not as fast paced as Nairobi and so this helped me wind down, be introspective and plan.

In a previous post, I mentioned how I love to go into life with a plan. So, on a large piece of paper, I wrote down a plan of where I envisioned myself in 2016. It was probably the most sacred time I had ever spent with God, as I dared to dream what at the time seemed impossible.

Some of the hopes I put down were: I would love to publish one scholarly paper, I would love to do grade six theory of music exam {which by the way was a retake as I had failed my first attempt}, I would love to work on my second album, I would love to write consistently {you can read a few of my very inconsistent first blog posts here}, I would love to train worship teams.

At the time, these were just dreams. On paper. Impossible. Out of reach.

Nevertheless, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work, and boy did I work! {On a light note, I constantly felt that there was an evil gnome stealing time from my days}.

I believe that work is a gift from God; given to Adam before the fall and is one of the many ways believers can worship God. When we do our work effectively and honorably, we are essentially a huge signpost, pointing to Jesus Christ {Matthew 5:16}

The importance of doing our work well, so as to draw people to Jesus ChristEven when we cannot find employment, God still desires us to put our hands to work. It could mean being the best stay at home mom or dad, volunteering, taking care of the poor, taking a professional course or even starting your own organization. Whatever season you find yourself in today, you can make the most out of it.

God desires us to work closely with Him so as to realize our dreamsWhen God puts a dream in your heart, He empowers you to work alongside Him to bring the vision to pass. So if you have been asking God to bring a dream to pass and you are not seeing a breakthrough, ask yourself, “Is there something God needs me to do or work on, for this dream to become a reality?”

Sometimes we may be waiting on God, yet He is waiting on us to take the first step. Even as I write this, there are dreams that are dormant in me. Some of these are childhood dreams. Seasons of long waiting, fear of man or negative feedback have caused me to shrink back and give up. The truth is, there will never be another Anne, another Tom, another Wanjiru, and another you…no one on this earth can be a perfect replacement of the gifts, wonder and potential that God has placed in you. The moment we grasp that is the moment we begin to be comfortable in our own skin.

Everyone has special abilities and potential that cannot be replacedSo, I did work, and there were days this year I just wanted to pass out with fear.

God opened opportunities that were well out of my reach and comfort zone. I got to publish one paper internationally {scheduled to be released in a book in March 2017} and presented another at a music and dance research conference. I did my grade six theory of music exam and passed very well. I trained a couple of worship teams, wrote consistently and this November I am overcoming my fears and insecurities and going back to studio.

I may not have done all this with flawless grace and trust but then again, God takes the Gideon’s of this world and makes them a testimony of His goodness.

So as we look into the coming year, I pray that you can forget the disappointment of previous years and like me, dare to dream again. Here are a few thoughts that could help you do this.

1. Pray

The very first thing that Nehemiah did when he heard of the desolation of his home country was to pray {Nehemiah 1}. He repented, reminded God of His promises and then asked God for favor and success. We can equally use this model.

We can ask God to forgive us for unbelief. Maybe we do not believe that God is able to bring His word in our lives to pass, thereby short-circuiting faith. Or maybe we have ran from what God initially asked us to do.

One meaning of the word repentance from Ellicott’s commentary is “change of mind and purpose.” What ways can we change our minds and purpose, so as to align ourselves with what God wants to do through us?

In order to live our dreams, we ought to align our minds and purpose to GodLastly, we can ask God to give us good success, such that no matter where we find ourselves, all that we put our hands to do will prosper like in the case of Joseph {Genesis 39:2}

2. Plan

The lack of planning is a sure remedy for failure. Planning is godly and we find instances in the bible where God gave His people strategies to win {Joshua 6:2-5, Genesis 41:34-37}. In the same way, write down your vision or plan, and be specific {Habakkuk 2:2-3}. There are different tools that you can use to do this, the acronym SMART comes to mind.

3. Work

After praying and planning, begin to work on your dream. You could divide your plan into smaller goals and activities so as not to get overwhelmed by a huge dream.

For example, while working towards completing my grade six exam, I set aside a few hours each day to work on problem areas. Because the exam involved a lot of composition, I worked on one question daily. This way, I didn’t have to look at the whole syllabus at once.

Your dream in the coming year could be to lose a certain amount of weight. Work slowly towards that dream by giving yourself achievable goals, say, “I will lose 1kg a month.” This is more practical as opposed to giving yourself a self-defeating goal to achieve.

 

I hope this helps. Take some time to pray and plan for the coming year. Wondering where to start? Here is a site that could help. 

I would love to hear from you. In the past, how have your dreams become a reality through prayer, planning and work?

 

Fight of My Life: One amazing woman’s battle with cancer

After a couple of week’s rest I am back to my weekly blogging. This week as guest blogger, is a wonderful lady who has weathered all kinds of storms. Her story is one of triumph over disappointment, disease and tragedy, yet she has chosen to worship Jesus through it all. As you read this, be encouraged, and as always, if you need prayer you can contact me on here.

fight

It’s another Sabbath afternoon…

It’s been sixteen months, since that fateful day cancer decided to make a home in me, and quickly spread throughout my little pint size body, as my elder sister readily describes my physique.

I seat on my bed, staring at the beautiful blue sky, with the hues of the sun streaming in kaleidoscopic threads, on the red bricked rooftops.

My eyes glaze with unshed tears.. I can barely hold myself together, before I begin to bawl, as my shoulders heave indomitably, as though intending to purge out all the pain and sorrow that smothers me. It’s the fourth time today…
I use to hold myself together, but lately, I’m a basket case…

Allow me to whine a while…
I’m not eating well…
I’m not sleeping well…
My threshold of pain is horribly targeted at ground zero…

“Beloved, you have to hold yourself together.”
At such times, the only ones to cheer you on through such a lonely disease plagued journey, is you and the Holy Spirit, whom hopefully dwells in you.

I find myself thinking soundly of my younger sister…
Missing her and wishing I could spend some time with her…
It’s been so long since my elder sister and I have been with her…

“Beloved, you have to be strong…”
“I know…” I revert
Conversations between my reality and the Holy Spirit.

As I sat in church this morning, the instrumentalists and vocals were lovely…The choir displayed prodigious amounts of talent.

But my mind could not fathom the lovely, joyous celebration. I felt as though my head would soon delineate the outline of my brains, through my, so I believe, ‘auspicious’ scalp. The migraine that enveloped me could not even be remotely described as terrible…there was no scale for it. I wanted to go home, close my curtains and escape under the bed…that’s the only place,where I would be embraced by pin drop silence and no light piercing my retina.

My bones hurt and if I didn’t know better, I probably would have thought myself menopausal due to the indescribable temperatures that played havoc with my body. My tummy wretched in trepidation for the solemn agony it was undergoing at that moment…

I sat there…tears streaming down my face…
I tried to harden my heart and behave like the queen…
After all colonization had done for us…surely, those dead Brits would be shamed at my open emotional state with a causal factor of pain…

I rub my temple, praying that this small gesture would somewhat destroy the pain, reminiscing a conversation with my elder sister’s brother in law at the church compound.
His body was acquainted with this journey…
For him, after a few years of remission, the cancer had reared its head again…
He had recently been discharged, after undergoing surgery and completed rounds of chemo. Now, here he was a few days later, driving and so enthusiastic with life. He embraced me and joyfully inquired of my health. I responded with the usual…”I’m okay”…

But with him, my okay was not from a need to get the conversation over and done with, it came from a place of disgrace. I felt embarrassed to even begin describing my pains to him. He was worse off than I, but was cheerfully facing his days with renewed fervor, fighting the disease like a matador in a ring.

Cancer knows no bounds. It does not discriminate against the rich or the poor.
It’s the devil’s incarnate for sure…
It steals everything from you until you have nothing more to offer.

I have had three surgeries in a span of one year.
And now…the doctors want another piece of me…

I look at my torso and abdomen, lined with sporadic healing cuts like a jigsaw puzzle. I look like an alien…
“Beloved, you can see, you can walk, you can hear…
It could be worse…”
I begin to chat with my subconscious mind.
“I know…,”my reality says.
“It’s just all so mind boggling…”

You see, I feel I can deal with the cancer…and somewhat the pain too…
But the final piece the doctors want from me…
It is and still remains quite an abstruse idea..
They want my uterus. The doctors feel, I need to let go of my uterus to be healthy and pain free.

You see, years ago…as I was going home from a bible study…,
I was raped, and by the time I spoke about the incident to anyone, I was six months pregnant and clinically depressed.

My parents, were greatly grieved by the situation. In their own way, they made decisions, trusting that they were protecting me.
The doctor faithfully advised them on the way forward. I was so young…I wish that certain things were different then…

After a scan, I was quickly wheeled in for an immediate abortion. I know…it was years ago…
I know… God has forgiven me…
But the little two horned devil keeps whispering in my ear…telling me of how God is a vengeful Lord and my punishment is upon me, like that of David and his conniving act towards Uriah and Bathsheba.

I relive the scan of my baby and the hideous act I allowed myself to go through. My dream since then other than being a doctor, was to feel my baby move within me…and one day hold him or her and nurture them into God’s predisposed destiny for them.

All I wanted was to hold my baby one day…

Later on, when I began dating, and he proposed, I prayed for God to give me the words to tell him. I believed it to be the right thing to do.
So then…I remember voicing to my fiancè about the rape and abortion. He walked out. His Christianity could not allow him to take me as his wife. I was damaged…And now, many years later, I wonder, why the Lord wants to keep allowing me to be a statistic. I don’t know which Christian man would marry me with all my labels and now finally,  without a uterus.

I know I should speak positively and have faith. But my faith is down…
I believed God would heal me, but I had to go into surgery…
I believed God would heal me, but a transplant followed…
I believed healing was my portion, the pain got worse…
I believed He’s Rapha during this illness, but I lost my job…
I believed in my healing soon, but now a hysterectomy is upon me…

My academic mind tells me of the many ways my husband and I could one day have a baby if we so chose to. But right now, my reality is reamed with fear. I have to make a decision sooner rather than later. But I’m weary and tired. I desire the innocence of my childhood. My family so supportive, is also assuredly being affected by the illness. Financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually, my family and I are fully affected. My eldest sister, suffers the most. I have become her first born, she’s more than a caregiver, a best friend  and a sister. I therefore feel the burden to make a decision soon…

So…as I seat and stare blankly through my window…at the beautiful sky…and the sun rays streaming through, this Sabbath, I remember studying Psalms 31 during my quiet time that morning. I quietly murmur a prayer in my heart and know my Lord has brought me from far…

When I was in high school, a friend asked me what my goal in life was, and I said that when they met me in ten years, I would love the Lord even more than then.
So as God has considered me for this journey, I thank Him because He carries me daily, He loves me unconditionally and has promised to never leave nor forsake me…
I know He’s leading me towards a testimony…
Even when I feel the journey is so hard and painful, I will seek to immerse myself in His glory. He is El Hakabod.

Although, I’m riddled with pain and sorrow…I find joy and solace as I recount my conversation with Isaac, my sister’s brother-in-law. It honestly could be worse. I seek to emulate his attitude.

And so…dear Lord, even as I’m riddled in pain and tears flow down freely…I thank You that neither You nor I is dead.

I therefore look at my red painted toe nails, my chubby sausage like fingers and my scarred skin and duly thank God.

Jehovah, teach me to ALWAYS count my blessings.

I thank you for your resurrection power. In you I live and move and have my being.

The Interrupted Life

interrupted_lifeI am one of those who does not like the idea of change or ambiguity. I prefer a laid out plan for the future and specifics of how that future will look like. It has a lot to do with my temperament. In fact, last year during a mission, I wrote down a life plan that spans close to 30 years.

Of course life is full of uncertainty, and I cannot rely solely on a 30 year plan if I am in relationship with God {Proverbs 19:21}, and while many scriptures talk about the prudence in planning and preparation {Proverbs 6:6-8, Genesis 41:26-41, Proverbs 27:23-27, 28:19-20…}, I tend to believe that God invites us to embrace an interrupted life. This kind of life is not for the faint of heart for it comes with huge asks.

interrupted_life_q1For some, it could mean housing homeless people like a friend’s mother did. She took in two young men into her home, housing them for three months. These boys were rough around the edges, having lived on the streets all their lives. For others, it could be simpler- cook for the gateman at your residence. Whatever the situation, this kind of life may be inconveniencing at best, perilous at worst, but God still asks.

Hebrews 11:8-10 commends Abraham for leaving a familiar place and people, and pitching his tents in a foreign land. The word “tents” may imply transience. Maybe like Abraham you find yourself in-between places- a career change, a promotion, a geographical relocation or the birth of a new child. Whatever it is, this statement attributed to Mark Twain may ring true for you: The only person who likes change is a wet baby. Nevertheless, change must come and change even when good, may be daunting for some. So how should one navigate through the endless seasons of change and embrace the interrupted life? Here are a few thoughts.

Strangers1. Look up

Moses is handing over the mantle of leadership to his protégé Joshua. Although Joshua has seen it coming, the trepidation of taking up a new role and probably having his leadership scrutinized by his followers seems to overwhelm him. Moses affirms and reassures Joshua many times- “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” {Deuteronomy 31:8}. As we look at the life of Joshua we already know how the story ends because we have the advantage of seeing history unfold. The unfortunate position that Joshua found himself in was one of not knowing how the story would turn out. All he could do was to trust and obey. And God did come through.

In seasons of ambiguity, you can trust that the One who has the big picture will safely lead you into the land that He has set aside for you.

Strangers2. Say yes  

Charles Muli was a self-made millionaire when he felt convicted to take care of street children. Having been a street boy himself at the age of six, and thereafter relocating to Nairobi at sixteen to look for a livelihood, Muli rose to his success. However, an incident with a street boy left an unsettling feeling in his heart that he could not shake off. He knew that he had to do something about the worrying numbers of street families. He left his multi-million business to pursue a call from God, one that did not seem glamourous according to earthly standards.

A close friend of mine who was waiting on God for a husband bought a beautiful cathedral veil in anticipation of her wedding. Little did she know that God had other plans for that veil. One day, God instructed her to give her cherished veil to another friend who was newly engaged. To my friend the veil symbolized the hope of finding a mate and finally settling down. With a faint yes, she gave it away, believing that God would not only provide another veil but a husband as well.

StrangersGod may have instructed you to do something that may seem like a demotion or even a rip off. It may not be as dramatic as Muli’s story or the various examples in this blog. The interruption may be God asking you to visit a widow or sit with a friend through a hard time. How may God be interrupting your life right now? No matter what the ask, would you recognize the One who has called you, say yes, and then with a big bold step, enter into the interrupted life?