The Soil – Part 2

How are you today? Have you given any thought to our last discussion, you know, the one about what has been rolling down the road of your heart, hardening it with each rotation? Yes? Have you made any progress in remedying the situation? Do you know that under that hard exterior lies fertile ground that given the right attention, will bear much fruit? Ama I leave you to your thoughts? Ok.

Well, we need to talk about the second type of soil. By the way, you might want to also refer to my post on The Power of Seed – you can find it here. It’s a good read, I promise.

So… the soil. As we read further, Jesus goes on to say that some of the seed fell on rocky places where the seeds sprung up quickly but was soon scorched by the heat of the sun. By the way, notice it said rocky – not stony (the Bible is very deliberate in its choice and use of language). The land has soil, yes, but it also has rocks. In fact, more rocks than soil. Which means that the little soil cover is seriously lacking in depth and therefore any seeds sown will not sink roots. They face the real risk of being easily uprooted and washed away by the rain or wind, or withering in the scorching heat.

This rocky soil reminds me of how often our minds and hearts carry weights – rocks and boulders. Granted, the rocks will eventually break down and form part of the soil. But that is a process that will most definitely take a bit of time. The funny thing is, the land (that is, the owner of the heart) is completely unaware of its state. I think the fact that there is some bit of soil visible creates a false sense of comfort – eh? That after all, si you can see some soil? How can you judge this land just because there are a few rocks here and there? Oh..now you’re judging me. (By the way, Kenyans are an emotional bunch! You have to be extremely bold to try to correct someone – its an extreme sport nani!)

Another thing is, the longer we refuse to address the rocky state of our hearts, the more rocks we collect, and i dare say, some people are audacious enough to throw their own rocks into our hearts. Sadly, we are often so out of touch with ourselves that we don’t even realise it! Anyway, so the Bible says that in this type of soil, the seeds easily sprout – but die quickly.

In my more than 30 years’ walk with Jesus, i can tell you my heart has been in this condition more than once. Let me not dwell on how and why I would find myself in that state and instead, focus on how i responded while there. In retrospect, i can tell you that whenever my soil is rocky, i immediately become erratic and just…….shallow. So, i will look for and listen to speakers who appeal more to my emotions and avoid those who will provoke me to really examine my life in the light of God’s word. In fact, i am sure that if I’m in the room while they are speaking, I’ll probably shout and scream the loudest – emotions. Hey!! No offence to those that receive the word in this manner; I’m just telling you that for me, that’s how i respond when in this condition. Disclaimer!!

The sad part is that after a few weeks in this state, i will be worse off because the word that i heard (up there) has had little impact on my life. Infact, by the way, the weights, the rocks and boulders will look and feel heavier than before!! Its like a dry dry place. Drier than a biscuit. Now, before you start looking at me somehow, ati i am judging the preacher and all, remember, the issue was not the preacher or the word that he spoke, no. (Because i believe that the same message was transformative to someone else – in a deep way). The issue here is the state and condition of my heart. Ok? Ok.

So, how does this turn around?

After days, or probably weeks in this state, i usually have a come to Jesus moment. It’ll get so bad that I’ll have no option but to examine the real condition of my heart, and examine each rock under the light of God’s word. And as i do that, His word that is a hammer and a double edged sword will break down my defences, arguments and justifications and reveal ME to ME. The best response at this point is repentance, receiving the grace of God and allowing Him to lead me back to the place of fruitfulness.

And in no time, the weights are gone and the dryness is replaced by times of refreshing in His presence.

As we continue, allow me to encourage you. The many seasons of life have given me a deeper appreciation of the grace of God – how boundless and inexhaustible it is. There is no state that His love and grace cannot embrace and turn around, no matter how bad and hard it looks. I know how hard those rocks look. You probably know when and where you collected them and some have been there so long, you have forgotten how it feels not to have them… There is no rock that can stand in the face of the hammer of God’s word, no condition that his word cannot slice through and dissect and no stain that it cannot cleanse. We only need to allow Him total unhindered and surrendered access to our hearts.

Prayer: Lord, here’s my heart, rocks and all. Today, I surrender each one to you that you may break them down, and some, simply throw away. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Soil – Part 1

Back in the day when we offered my Mom free labour, we on occasion needed to fertilize the soil with manure. Don’t ask me which type we used, that’s not the focus here. All i remember is how awful that stuff smelt! At no point during this season did i worry about how the smell would be eliminated from the soil, or even how it worked. All I know is that we harvested the sweetest maize this side of the sahara!

Often times, our up bringing influences how we understand and apply the word of God. For instance, if you were born and bred in a concrete jungle, you may not fully appreciate the village night life. Therefore, you may struggle to understand our longing for the sights and sounds of mashambani – the smell of cow dung, goats and sheep, the crickets and fire flies, the sky and the stars. You may equally struggle to appreciate some of the parables Jesus used to teach.

Case in point? The parable of the sower in Mark 4 .

Jesus was teaching on the Kingdom and in this instance, chose the parable of the sower. We read that this man, woke up one fine morning and went out to the farm to sow seed. In the process, we observe that the seed fell in four different environments.

Let’s examine each one over the next few weeks, shall we?

The first environment we encounter is the wayside where the birds came and quickly devoured the seeds that had been sown. Yaani, punde, si punde, ghafla bin hu, ndege wenye miraba minne na misuli tinginya, wali zingira na kupora hilo neno ( no sooner had the word landed than army(ed) birds came and stole the word). There was no time for the seeds to even sink a few millimeters into the ground?! Jesus later explained that the birds represented the devil who quickly comes and steals the word. (By the way, with the amount of word stolen, one would think the devil has eaten enough to change. You don’t think so? No? Ok). So, basically, the devil steals the word and the farmer suffers double loss – he can’t salvage the seeds and there is no harvest.

I also noticed one more detail- the description of the environment into which the seeds fell.

By the way, have you been on Mombasa Road of late? No? Ok. We are currently meeting and making new friends in traffic courtesy of the ongoing road works. At this rate, we might as well just form a sacco and start saving. Because, me let me tell you- its for tears. Trenches, heavy machinery, disappeared lanes, dust, noise- name it! Recently, i found myself in mad traffic (- but si that’s daily??!!) as a compactor went over a section of the road over and over again. With each trip, the marram was compacted and made smoother and smoother, readying it for tarmac. Now, imagine if you decided to be a macmende and plant wheat, maize, millet falling on that surface. What are the chances it will take root and germinate? Zero, right?

Ok.

The road side represents your very hard heart. Yes, you. It is obvious your heart has had some traffic given how smooth and hard it is. Ebu tell me – What compactors have been treading all over your heart? What situations, offences, challenges, ideologies have been added with each day to the existing rollers, increasing the weight as they rolled down the slope of your heart? How many times have you blocked the hammer of God’s word from breaking up that marram and turning it into fertile ground? Have you noticed how of late, the verses you had once memorised have become harder to recall? How you’d much rather read the directory than a chapter in the Bible? Have you realised the subtle changes to your language? Thoughts? Anything?

What are you doing about it? Ama you remained focused on the devil? The devil this, and the devil that!

Let me assure you friend, as long as you remain focused on the birds (the devil), you will fail to recognise the state of your heart and miss the opportunity to make critical shifts. May you find courage to allow the hammer of God’s word to break the resistance and change your heart so that the next time you hear the word, it will sink roots and eventually, it will yield a harvest.

Prayer: Lord, break through my resistance so that i can receive your word and bear much fruit- Amen.

The God of Jacob, and Joseph

I developed a love for journaling in my first year of college. My many journals hold a mixture of prayers, bible expositions, decisions and life’s experiences. They are a reminder of how far the Lord has brought me. And its a mighty mighty long way.

I recently took an unexpected, yet very necessary “holiday” – let’s just say that God has a serious sense of humour. I’m still shaking my head at His ways. During my time alone, i took time to go through my journals covering a timespan of about 21 years. Yes. 21 years. I know, some of you are a few off that mark in age, yes? I’ve been writing for a looong time. I’ll tell you one thing, it was an afternoon very well spent. I had moments where i deeply marveled at the things God showed me and taught me. Political events and family situations that later came to pass, dreams, visions and prophetic words that are etched in heaven, as He watches over His word to perform it.

I also had heart breaking moments – i noticed specific issues that have been my prayer points for which i have raised silent and loud petitions to the throne room consistently and persistently, over the last 10 years.10 years. Some of the entries were so bang! (can’t put a clap here so, bang!) that i had to confirm the dates – you mean this was 7 years ago, 5 years ago? This wasn’t this morning? Maaaaann, that hit a spot. Has it been that long since i started banging on heaven’s door? Why hasn’t God answered? Is there “something” I need to do or stop doing to get an answer.

Ah, “something”.

Do you realise that we, people of this soil, are naturally inclined to be superstitious? No? You don’t think that in some way, we think or make God an “oracle”? The one in the villages that demands a chicken for a magic portion and any disobedience meant misfortune? No? Ok. How many have seen anointed salt/oil/brooms on sale – for a blessing? Is that closer home? Ok. Let me go back to my story. We’ll come back to this one day.

Anyway, my journal entries evoked two very strong emotions – first i was really sad and i spent a few days beating myself because i reasoned that God must be keeping me here, delaying the answer because i had a poor attitude, or had not learnt the lesson He was trying to teach me. Did you do tie and dye? No? Ok. When you are dying a material, it must be tied up and immersed into the dye where it must stay until the colour catches. This process can repeated severally depending on the desired outcome. So, i wondered if i wasn’t being dipped into successive tubs of dye. After a few days of turning this over and over in my heart, i then found a spot of hope – maybe God was allowing me to walk through this valley so that one day i can encourage someone! Eventually, i had had enough of my monologue and decided to seek an answer from Watumishi wa Mungu (Wafundis) whose counsel i have come to trust. And….. i was pointed to the word and reminded the stories of two characters who waited 20 years and 13 years respectively for God to turn the page of their lives and make sense of the pain – Jacob and Joseph (Genesis 27 – 50).

Jacob was born to Isaac, the son of Abraham. The young lad, for no fault of his, was given a name that no child deserves. Jacob was translated “thief, deceiver”. Do you know the saddest part? He in many ways actually manifested these traits. By the way, free advise – be careful what names you give your children, and, now as you read this, what you allow people to call you. The man was such a witty thief that he identified an opportunity and moment of weakness in Esau’s life and successfully negotiated and acquired the birth right from his elder brother. Hakumalizia hapo (he didn’t stop there). He later conspired with his mother to deceive his blind and old Father into giving him the blessing of the first born. He did not at any time think it was important to mention that he had rightly acquired it through legal tender? Any way, we know what followed – God is not to be played. This trait needed to be sorted out. Poor fellow became a fugitive. But guess what? God led him straight into the home of the REAL thug – his father in law, Laban. This man Laban manipulated Jacob into marrying Leah, then made him work a further 7 years for Rachel (tchaiii! Those two sisters were not friends by the way) changed his wages 10 times and robbed him blind! I’m talking about an abusive relationship that lasted 20 years. Eventually, when we were all tired, God shows up – in the 21st year. By this time, i am convinced that Jacob was a changed man. Then to teach Laban a lesson, God paid back Jacob for all those years, so much so that it made Laban look poor!! Finally, the ultimate restoration happened when his name was changed from “Thief” to” Prince with God”. Hah!! This God is amazing!! He had been working behind the scenes, all along, intentionally setting up Jacob for His glory.

Joseph was born to Jacob, the son of Issac. He’s the one whose story is used in sermons like “From the Pit to the Palace” or “From Prisoner to Prime Minister” or “In 24 hours!!” or ….. Ok let’s go on. Joseph had the misfortune of being the son of Jacob’s true love, Rachel and was therefore, the apple of his father’s eye. The problem was that Jacob made no effort to hide his soft spot for Joseph. The result was that the other 10 sons grew to really resent the young man. But come to think of it, even Joseph surely! His mehe mehe (no translation available) was too much. This guy had no discretion at all. He consistently talked about his dreams oh bla bla even when he clearly saw they rubbed his brothers the wrong way. Anyway, his dreams eventually landed him in a pit from where he was sold into slavery and eventually, landed in Egypt.

Can you imagine the agony and despair he felt? The raging anger towards his brothers? The tears? The pain of separation from his father and younger brother? What about the Lord? Why would God give him dreams that now, given the circumstances would never come to pass? Why did he allow his brothers to sell him into slavery? How, in this distant land, does God imagine that his father and brothers would ever find him, and then, psshhhh, bow to him? Who? A prisoner? Never ever. I imagine that his dreams had died with each step further away from the familiar and closer to a land he had no idea existed and a culture he was not equipped to survive. Let me pause to wipe my tears. This just hit a spot.

Ok. Where were we…. Joseph. Yes.

The Bible goes on to tell us of Joseph’s unwavering devotion to God despite the circumstances, his spirit of excellence in the midst of a terrifying existence and his request to the butler to speak well of him to Pharaoh. Yet, even then, the butler went ahead and forgot. Until the day God gave Pharaoh a dream no one could interpret. Then, in 24 hours, Joseph moved from the pit to the palace, from prisoner to prime minister. That dream, the one he had many years ago and which must have been filed away “impossi-cant” category manifested so fast, Joseph was left in a head spin. Can you imagine that?

Child of God, the God of Jacob and Joseph is very much at work today. I’ll be honest enough and tell you that have not yet received the answers to my decade long prayer points, or seen the prophetic words come to pass. But i am persuaded of one thing – that when God finally answers, he will show up, show off and show out!!

I know beyond a shadow of doubt, that i will receive from his hand what i have asked. I know he will not let his word over my life, and yours, fall to the ground. I know this very well. So, is today especially rough because of the weight and wait? Ok. Pause, shed those tears, and then, keep watching, keep walking, keep waiting. He is just around the corner, ready to do what only He can do – show up, show off and show out!

Prayer: Lord, this year, i ask for one thing, that you be with me – Whenever i pray, answer me; whenever i stand, stand with me; and wherever i go, go with me. Amen.

Fallow Ground..

One of my many treasured memories is tilling my Mom’s patch of soil. Yes. Kulima na jembe. The land my Dad bought was in one of the leafy locations on the outskirts of Nairobi. Those ones that sat on a minimum of an acre? You know them? Where neighbours are far between, but near enough for you to know their dogs and other domestic animals? Yes? Ok. There! </p>

Now, this land was extremely fertile. The previous owner had really not done much with it and had opted to only plant avocados. Many of them. Before i continue, let me tell you about those avocados. They were amazing! Yanni one bite and you’d be huko thanking God for the manure, the soil, the roots, the stem, the branches and leaves of each tree!!  Yaani those avocados!! Kashaya! Endebosa!! Mhhhh!!! (No translation available…). Anyway… the land was full of avocados……..and weeds.

We were still dancing in excitement when some one (a “nani”)  put ideas in my Mother’s head and let’s just say, she decided this idea of having a house surrounded by avocados was not her style. I mean, which self respecting Kenyan mother, wife to a man from greater Nyanza will not want chingoko, managu, terere, chinsaga and chibando? So….before we knew which side was North, there was a plan in place! The land was fenced, the staff quarters built and then, boom! We were put to work.

Do you remember that song that used to play at around 6:00am every single day in the 80’s? “Nahata wewe mwanangu, amka kumekucha… kamata jembe na panga, twende shamba…” (Loosely translated – “Psst!!! Boy get up! Pick up your implements, the farm will not till itself!!”) Baaaassss! That song materialised haraka upesi! (as in, fast fast). In no time, our Saturday after school plans consisted of head scarfs, old skirts, gum boots and jembes! Remember this place only had avocado trees and weeds before this, eh? And now, my mother wanted her maize and beans in the soil before the next short rains. Wueh!  Let me tell you… Tulilima! Nail polish and all! That fallow ground had to be broken into. I remember thinking my parents did not like us at all. In fact i was convinced we were born to provide cheap labor. There was no way my mother was tilling that land alone, never ever! We used to arrive, change and wait to be shown our portion for the day, usually described as “from here to theeeere….. where the stone will land”.

The process of breaking fallow ground is as tedious as it is exciting. The sound of the jembe hitting the ground, tearing through thick grass, weeds and roots is satisfying at a level i can’t explain. We toiled over several weeks and slowly, but surely, the soil was turned. We then went over it one more time but this time, digging holes into which we dropped seeds and manure then pushing back the soil with our feet. I will not even start on the weeding process.

In Jeremiah 4:3, the Prophet Jeremiah was reciting a lamentation over the House of Israel, calling them back to repentance – to turn their wayward hearts back to the Lord. Since the House of Israel were predominantly farmers, they were familiar with the principle of resting land for a  year between harvests then returning to till and sow it. They therefore understood, very well i must add, exactly  what Jeremiah was communicating. He was simply telling them that their hearts had been overrun by weeds and in desperate need of attention. The beauty of the message is hidden in the words “fallow ground”.

Why?

Because fallow ground describes land that had previously been fertile and productive and which, with effort and resilience, can be turned back  into a fruitful field. But, that’s not all. We go on to understand that this will need hard work!  It is obvious (at least a reading of the Bible will show) that the House of Israel had gotten into the habit of playing hide and seek with the Lord – One season they would walk in obedience and the very next, bow to idols only to return in the wake of a disaster, war, captivity or Prophetic warnings.

As i meditated on this word, i realised how easy it is for our hearts to turn fallow. It does not take much by the way. It can be as subtle as a hidden offence, or even understandable, nice things like general busyness of life (life ni ku-hustle bana), or worse still, as acceptable as reading books more than the word and hearing the preacher more than the Holy Spirit. Even more dangerous is the justification we give for our state- after all, we all agree that the land must rest to restore fertility levels, right? So, we go around saying how you’re taking time off to “sit back and exhale”.  Meanwhile? Weeds are sprouting! Remember the land was fertile, so the weeds will grow like crazy. By the time we realise, we have a bumper harvest, but not of a thriving spiritual life, no! Of a prayer-less, word-less, fellowship- less life. Yaani, Meh!!

So now? What to do?

Kamata jembe na panga, twende shamba! Break up that ground, eradicate the weeds and get back on the path to fruitfulness. By all means, do not get back to sowing seed until all the thorns have been cleared. Like a farmer, do one thing before you move to the next. Slowly but surely, rebuild your spiritual life. It will take hard work and you will definitely face resistance in the process. But keep going.

Realise that God always calls us to repentance because he loves us and desires that we walk in fellowship with Him. Just like we assisted my mother, God has given us a Helper, His Holy Spirit to guide us as we weed out the nasty and turn the soil of our hearts over so that we can bear much fruit. It’s not easy, i repeat. Some areas will need more than a machete and may require tractors to uproot tree stumps. But he promised that when we call on him, he will answer and show us great things. And the beauty is that once he is done with us, it’s a complete, 100% restoration. I encourage you to trust him.

It is worth it in the end. I promise.

Prayer: Lord, i realise my heart is overrun by weeds and tares and that your word is no longer yielding fruit. Forgive me and by  your Holy Spirit, break up the fallow ground of my heart that i may bear fruits of righteousness. Amen