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

Grasshopper Mentality

A few days ago, I was chatting with a long time friend whom I treasure dearly. It had been a few weeks since we had talked and there was much to catch up on. After we had given the usual updates – family, work, ministry, life- he asked me a really interesting question: “So, what are you up to this year apart from reading the Bible cover to cover?”

I was not ready. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I know what I wanted to achieve this year. It was just that no one else had asked me that question. Anyone who knows me to a certain degree will tell you I am not the “Que Sera Sera” type. No. I think, I plan, I set targets and I adjust those targets until I am satisfied; then I work the plan. So, after I’d laughed quietly to myself, I promised I’d get back once my head was put together.

The truth is, my answer was purely because I was buying time. As I said, I know what I want. I just needed to give a response that completely captured my “vision” in a manner that could be easily understood. Most importantly, i needed to silence the Negative Committee in my head.

You see, early the previous day, the chairperson (of the negative committee) had summoned an urgent meeting whose sole agenda was to convince me that my dreams are worthless. Yes. The meeting had gone on for hours and through out, Mr. Doubt-flames, Mrs Doitlater and Ms. Fearspring had made submissions, projections and research findings to prove that if I set out on my ridiculous and bold attempt at my dreams, I had less than 10% chances of survival.

And me, in my front frontness, I had foolishly wandered into their meeting just as the chairperson was giving a summary of the presentations and their unanimous findings: “The Negative Committee has upon examining all the facts, resolved that this journey should be retired under the “most likely to fail” category with immediate effect”. Wehhhh…. let me tell you…… Kwanza, tumbo lilijaa maji (my stomach suddenly hosted a dam), macho yakajaa machozi, my hands and feet suddenly felt as heavy as lead… Basically, I could not function…… 😞

As I contemplated my next steps, I remembered the story of the Children of Israel.

As they left Egypt and journeyed towards the promised land, they faced challenges and miracles of incredible proportions. Imagine walking through a sea, then having a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day…light to see even in the darkest night and a cloud to shield you from the hot sun…..I’m telling you if these guys had been Kenyans….. heh… we’d never know peace! Hatungepumua! From business names and ventures and Red Sea Crossing CDs…. you know what I mean.

Anyway, after many days’ journey, they arrived in the Wilderness of Paran. (Numbers 13- just flip over and follow with me). Moses, one of the most patient men to walk the earth, sends out 12 grown men with very simple instructions. Go, see, bring fruit. Simple. Very simple. They were not asked to engage the inhabitants. No just cross, see, bring fruit. Now, the Bible says that these men went and spies out the land from end to end; from Zin, to Hebron for 40 days. When they came to the valley of Eschol, they cut down a cluster of grapes so big, it took two men to carry on a pole. They also carried pomegranates and figs. Assignment: done.

As faithful men, they came back to Moses and submitted their report: the vastness of the land and how it was indeed, flowing with milk and honey; and to prove the point, they had the fruits!! Had they stopped talking at that point, all would have been fantastic!!! ( I don’t know who came up with the notion that men have few words…. did you see any woman in that list above? No. But then again, what do I know?) I mean, you tell me the land is flowing with milk and honey and I refuse to cross? If a bunch of grapes needs two men to carry, can you imagine the size of the pineapples? Who wouldn’t have gathered courage to cross? These people sincerely needed no other motivation to cross. So what happened??

The negative committee.

Oh my word. In two sentences, 10 strong men ruined everything. Everything!!! Oh, the land will swallow us! Oh, the people are stronger than us! Oh, we were like grasshoppers! By the time they were done, some guys were headed back to Egypt!! Nowwwwww…… For you to prefer death in the hands of your oppressor than move into your inheritance, you must be really in bad shape. Your mind must be so opposed to change that status quo, no matter how bad, smelly, disgustingly or oppressive will be a quicker option than to go fight the sons of Anak. You’re in bad shape my Fren, bad shape.

BUT, two men stood out: Caleb the son of Nun and Joshua the son of Jephunneh, who were of different spirit. The Bible says they tried to implore the congregation not to rebel against the Lord. (Just read Numbers 14 please, I need to finish this). These were the right people to speak. But the message by the 10 strong men had already killed the cowards. There was nothing Caleb and Joshua could do other than watch helplessly as the congregation literally rioted. In the midst of all the chaos, Joshua speaks up in Numbers 14:9. If you read that slowly, you will realize that the decision to turn away from the conquest, and to see themselves small was an act of rebellion against God.

In other words, if God has shown you where he wants to take you, and sets out to you the things you may need to fight to get there, including yourself, and you choose to maintain status quo, my friend, you are walking in rebellion.

That verse was all it took for me to walk back into that meeting room and fire the negative committee. Man, I was angry! Angry at how often I had allowed myself to be convinced out of my victory; angry at the opportunities I had allowed to pass me by out of fear and self doubt. Angry that all along, by maintaining the status quo, I was effectively living under the oppression of my slave master. So angry… After I fired the committee, I set my face like flint and matched across the Jordan to kick Anak out of my land. Was it easy? Hell No!!!

But… I did it afraid. I was trembling all the way, ignoring members of the negative committee that tried to call me back, but I matched in steady and strong and drove my stake into the ground! Have I won over all my lost ground? Not yet. But I know one thing- the people of the land are my bread and their protection has departed from them and most important, the Lord is with me.

Will you join me? Come. Fire those chaps and come join me as we take what is rightfully ours. Refuse to maintain status quo – these things are ours! And you know what? We will win. Why?

He promised.

Men like trees, walking….

Hey…… I am back! I took a short break (sorry, long break) to sit exams and ease back into life post exams and before i knew it, it’s 2019!

Oh and on that note, Happy New Year!! I trust you crossed over victoriously? Yes? And now ready to face the next 12 months with renewed energy and vigor? Yes?!!  I am so excited about this year, but more about that later. Yes?

Can you imagine having your sight restored? The wonder, awe and joy? Ok.

Well, I can.  

I started wearing spectacles when I was in Form 1 (or grade 9). Before then, i had been accustomed to squinting my eyes in order to see the blackboard, or watch TV. I actually thought that was normal for everyone.  When I went to High School, we could not ignore it any longer. So, I visited an ophthalmologist and… well… I got spectacles. I remember them:  big red frames that covered half my cheeks.  They were delivered to school by my Dad who instructed me to wear them immediately. And oh boy…. the difference was like night and day!

First, I almost fell on my way back to class; I actually had to use the walls and fence for support. I mean, the floor was suddenly closer and I wasn’t sure I was stepping up here or down there….👀

Then, as my eyes adjusted to the lenses, I remember staring at the trees and flowers and blades of grass….. and oh… the black board!! I could not believe it! The leaves looked beautiful, way up there in the tree! I could see things at a distance without squinting to make out their features, colors, shapes and sizes! Is this what i had been missing all this time?  It was as if a veil, a cloud, mist had been lifted from my eyes! I could see!!! Clearly!!! 

 As we celebrated the last Sunday of 2018, my heart was drawn to Mark 8:22-26. In there, the Bible records how Jesus healed a blind man at Bethsaida (or Bethesda). Shall we read together? Yes? Ok.  I like the New King James Version….. here we go: 

22 Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. 23 So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.

24 And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.”

25 Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. 26 Then He sent him away to his house, saying, <sup class="footnote" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px;" data-fn="#fen-NKJV-24527d" data-link="[d]” data-mce-style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px;”>[d]“Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.”

Now… stay with me. 

This blind man was brought to him while he was in Bethsaida. Isn’t that the same town in which Jesus healed a man who had been lying by a pool for loooooong in John 5? I think so. Were the healings (yes, healings…. ) done in the same period? I don’t know. 

Anyway…. let’s continue. 

Mark records that Jesus deliberately drew him out of the town… interesting. Why? Could it be that Jesus did not want a crowd around to witness the healing? Is it possible that the reason for the separation was to create opportunity for  Jesus to minister to him away from an audience? Maybe…. we’ll find out shortly.

Anyway…. let’s continue. 

After Jesus had put a distance between them and the town, the Bible records that Jesus spat on  his eyes and touched them. Wait!!!! Yaani…. Wait…. Spit. You know, spitting on any one can be taken to mean many things and depending on the circumstances, will elicit several reactions.

Mimi?? I would have wiped that spit and stormed off… I mean, really?? Is that the best you can do? Hata kama I wanted healing…. Spit?? Because there is no water around? We couldn’t  have gone to that porch in John 5 and used the water instead? You couldn’t have spoken a word and restored my sight? Or waved your hands over my face or something? Anything? But this man? He just stood there! Come to think of it…..maybe that’s why they went out of the town…..so that they don’t get sneered at by the crowd like you did a few minutes ago…. Ebu stop sneering… ! (By the way… Ever been to India? Seen the pan? Seen how its chewed and spat out? Ok…. You get the picture? Cool.) 

Back to the story. Jesus then asked him if he saw anything to which he responded  “I see men like trees walking.”

Did you hear that? He could see, but not very well. Isn’t that better than total blindness? Isn’t it better to see men like trees walking than to see nothing at all? Mkenya would have told you ” Pambana na hali yako. Of importance is life.” Maybe that’s why the miracles were in Israel not Kenya 🤔😏

But you know, this man Jesus, is so full of mercy and grace. He knew that was not total restoration. Without total restoration of sight, this man would not live life to its full. He’d miss out on seeing the blades of grass and pollen on flower – the little details that add colour to life. And of what benefit would that be? None, yes? 

So Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes and made him look up. And just like that, the healing was complete and the man’s perspective changed; he could see clearly! Can you imagine how that felt? To see clearly what moments earlier looked like trees walking? I can… to  a small extent. 

Jesus then told him something very interesting: go home. Don’t go back from where we came, neither tell it there – they might not appreciate it. Go home. 

Let’s put this together, shall we?  The story speaks to three stages in our growth: 

Blind –  in this stage, we are totally unaware of  who or what we are, or where we want to go. We are groping around in the dark for direction and stability while trying to make progress. Mercifully, there are some around us gifted with vision; they see you, your gifts and potential but have no power to open your eyes…. Not that they don’t want to, no. They simply cannot. So don’t be mad at them, don’t misunderstand them. They want the best for you, but are incapable of giving you what you need the most. They may help you get from point A to point B; but that is all they can do. 

Men like trees – in the midst of life, you meet with the Healer who takes you out of town.  After the initial interaction, you gain a measure of vision. You can identify things around you, but not fully. That’s why your best description is that men are walking like trees

Interestingly, such encounters are always intimate, away from the crowd. Personal to you. He will not heal you the same way he healed another, no. He will not use conventional means either. He will choose the where and how. We only need to follow, trust and wait. By the way, where are the ones who took you to the Healer? They remained in the town where they most likely will remain. 

Clarity –  the Healer touches your eyes again and now, your vision is restored. Your sight is perfect. You can see!! Everything!! Your potential, your height, your gifts. “What? Is this all I have? Is this all I am? Is this who I can be?”  Wait…. He’s not done. He lifts your chin  and  causes you to look up – look up from where shame and low esteem had bent your shoulders and your back… And when you do, what do you see? Not just men like trees walking. NO. You see them for who they are. The minute details, around you. You can make decisions on where to go, what to do, who to see….. Freedom! 

Final Instructions: Go home – Don’t go back where you came from. Don’t even go announce your healing there. No. That chapter is closed, it’s time to move. Go home. Where you matter, where they will recognise you and rejoice with and over you and your miracle. Most important, go where He will send you. 

This year, may your vision be restored. May the mist, cloud, veil or whatever has obscured and limited your ability to see clearly be lifted. So that you may see clearly. And when that happens, remember to listen and follow His instructions. 

They (those ahead) will receive you, rejoice with you and celebrate you. 

I promise. 





Blessed and Broken

I have a confession – I am plagued by the feeling of inadequacy.

Many times, it grips my heart, its cold iron fist squeezing the breath out of my lungs and suddenly, where I was previously moving along with steady and increasing speed, I find myself screeching to a halt. It’s like this Nairobi weather which creeps up on us and turns a sunny morning into a wet and rainy afternoon, catching us all off-guard and before we know it, the entire city grinds to a halt. In those moments, I find myself struggling to do or even complete tasks which a day earlier, were almost second nature.  The worst thing about these moments is that its tentacles touch every area of my existence; nothing and I mean, nothing is spared from it’s cold icy touch. So in no time, I find myself second guessing all my decisions and actions, I suddenly doubt everything about myself and my steady, strong stride becomes a slow and laboured slouch. I become the judge, jury and ruthless executioner of me.

The cloud may linger for an hour, a day or at worst, a week.

With time, I have noticed how devastating the effects of these moments are. If not reigned in soon enough, I could very easily find myself at the bottom of a ladder I had earlier struggled to climb. I also noticed that it is easier to resign and remain in that place of utter helplessness than to climb out of it: unless…… Unless I deliberately, fiercely and fearlessly face that bull and slay it. Unless I speak louder than the voice of inadequacy.

I am glad to report that with time, these episodes have become less and less. I have spent less sleepless nights in the last several months, shed fewer tears and enjoyed life a lot more. In fact, I am able to trace back to the day I chose to face this bull. I remember that night, many nights ago. I had characteristically lost sleep at around 2:00am. As usual, as soon as my eyes opened, my mind roared to life like a race car and before long, I was cruising along, turning things over and over in my mind. I made mental notes, checked items off mental lists and did an appraisal to determine where “we were”, what improvements to make and what adjustments were required. I reviewed my list of expectations both real and imagined, self imposed and society imposed, and at that point, realized it was all too much for me. I did not have all the requirements to deliver on those expectations. I most certainly did not have adequate resources to even scratch the surface. And instead of pointing my mental vehicle heavenward, I started to turn onto “Inadequacy Avenue”. I felt the icy fingers begin to tighten around my heart and my mind started to spin.

BUT. GOD.

At that moment, that very moment I remembered the story of how Jesus had fed 5,000 men (beside women and children). I took my mobile device and looked through the gospels and found the story as recorded in Mark 6. Here, the Bible records that Jesus and his disciples had set off to a remote place with the hopes of getting some much needed  rest. However, the multitude that had earlier crowded around Jesus saw them leave and followed them on foot, actually running and arrived at the “remote place” ahead of Jesus and the disciples. These guys were determined!  What did Jesus do? He was moved with compassion and sat down to teach them. Soon, evening was approaching, so the disciples suggested that the multitude be sent away to the nearby towns to find food. You know I can relate with the disciples – this was a crowd that decided to crowd their private space! They should go wherever and sort themselves out. Kwani? But Jesus ni nani? He told them to give the multitude food. Now, imagine, uhuru park, jam packed, then Jesus tells you – feed them! 12 men, who last time I checked, had no sustainable source of income, to feed 5,000 people. One word-  I.M.P.O.S.S.I.B.L.E! So after Peter and the rest recovered from the shock, Jesus tells them to go and find out how much bread they had.

That caught my attention-  it means that they had some bread. They had something. It may not have been much, but it was something.

So they went, checked and came back with a report – 2 fish and 5 loaves, they said.  Now, they not only knew the what, they knew how many – the quantity of the “something”. Jesus did not fall over is shock, or tell them they were joking. No. Or ask how that was meant to feed even him alone. No. Why? He knew it was enough. So,He instructed them to sit the crowd in groups, ranks of 50s and 100s – that is in order. They needed to know what they were up against, yes? Have you tried counting tomatoes in a gunia…. you must remove them and group them as you count. Yes? Anyway…… after they had sat, Jesus took the 2 fish and 5 loaves, blessed and broke it, and gave the disciples to feed the multitude.

Did you see that? He gave them to feed the multitude. It was multiplied in their hands! The only breaking Jesus did was the initial one.

You see, as long as the small boy retained possession of the 2 fish and 5 loaves, it remained just 2 fish and 5 loaves. But as soon as he surrendered the basket to Jesus, He blessed it, broke it (multiplied it) and gave to the 12 disciples.

End result? 5,000 men besides women and children were fed AND……. 12 baskets of remains were collected – one for each disciple.

As I read and meditated, I noted several things:

  • As long as I focus on the multitude, I will want to make it someone else’s problem. Send them away. 
  • As soon as I send them away, I will not take time to evaluate what I have. My something.
  • Also, as long as I don’t know what I have, I will not come to the place of releasing it to the Lord for His use. Surrender.
  • And as long as I am not surrendered, He will nothing to break. Multiplication.

So before I drove further down “Inadequacy Street”, I screeched to a halt, turned my “car” around and headed up towards Heaven. And oh the joy?! At that moment, I released EVERYTHING. Everything – the 2 fish (smallest) and the 5 loaves (biggest). I emptied my basket…

I simply asked Him to take it all, bless it and break it….. then feed the multitude.

You see, He has seen the multitude and He knows I only have 2 fish and 5 loaves. Once I surrender it to Him, I know He will bless it, break it and give it back to  me to feed the 5,000. And in the end??  I will have 1 basket full of remains to meet my needs.

Imagine that: 2 fish + 5 loaves = 1 basket full for me.

Nowadays? I don’t thing twice- I simply appraise the multitude, take stock of what I have, surrender it and wait. I can’t wait to see which multitudes He wants me to feed next. But when He shows me, you know what I intend to do – surrender.

I promise.

 

The power of a seed

Remember I told you I was born in ushago? Ok.

One of my earliest and fondest yet creepy (yes) memories is sitting on a dried cow’s hide outside my grandmother’s house with my cousins – swallowing “tembe” or tablets. Only that our tembes were bean seeds. (A personal favourite of mine were the small red one…oh… and the slightly bigger one with white spots.)

Why? Because we admired how our grandfather would throw a capsule into his mouth and swallow it with a big gulp of water. We actually thought it was cool!! So we copied… much to the distress of my mother and grand mother.They tried to dissuade us but… we were not interested. In fact, me, Grace, I had even better ideas.

I decided the beans needed an escort.

So, I ate soil. Yes. (By the way, I stopped eating soil a year to my wedding. Yep! I was an addict- I abused soil for over 25 years. Kwanza the red one, baked in the hot Nairobi sun…. goodness. Now add the “smell” of rain and I would be panting for a fix). Anyway…. My Mom devised many a plan to cure me of my addiction to beans and soil. One was to scare me: she told me that one day, all those bean seeds would germinate and grow out through my ears. Si I waited…. in horror ….. but, nothing!  The only things that “grew” were worms… let me tell you!! De-worming me was a horrible process, I will not describe it. Those things…… weh!!! But  you know what, I still did not kick my “habit”. Like any self respecting addict,  I simply found another way to maintain it. I swallowed beans while Mom was away teaching the local school then ate soil in bed … I mean, \o/ what else was i to do. Funny thing is how it made me go looking for answers…..

In my many adventures around my grandfather’s farm, I got interested by the process of germination- I mean,  I noticed how we would “bury” two bean seeds and they would magically grow into plants producing several pods. I wondered how it multiplied itself into so many “beans”? (Maharagwe mingi  \o/ ). My greatest question was why the seeds survived in the ground but not in the soil in my stomach. I mean, I diligently swallowed the seeds and soil and watered them generously, but… nothing!! Of course school ilinitoa ujinga!! Thank God for school.

In the famous parable of the sower (Matthew 13), Jesus taught how a sower went out one fine morning to sow seed. I always imagine him waking up at dawn, splashing water on his face and watching the sun rise as he waited for his wife to serve him breakfast. Seeing the red sky, I imagine he would conclude, as Jesus later explained, that the day will certainly be a good day. That’s found here Matt 16:2. After a sumptuous meal, he would have picked up his bag and head off to the freshly dug up farm to sow. In the account in Matthew, Jesus goes on to explain that as the sower sowed seed (by the way, in those days, the farmers would scatter seed randomly), the seeds fell in four different locations/ conditions/ environments (choose one!!): the path way, the rocky place, the thorny patch and the fertile ground. He (as in, Jesus, not the sower…… Focus!! ) then teaches us (and akina Matthew hapo kando) that the location/condition/environment influenced the life  and success of the seed –  some were stolen by birds, others did not take root, others took root but were chocked yet others…. thrived!!

I’m sure by now you know where this is headed, yes?? Ok.

The seed that fell on the first three environments were no different than the ones that fell on the fertile ground. Agreed? Yes. Each possessed the same creative power – to die, germinate and bring forth a harvest. Yes?  So,  what was the problem?

Yes Class, I asked what was the problem?? Who said the environment? You’re absolutely correct! Please give that student a clap, good job!!

You see, the word of God is the seed. The farm represents our hearts that many times exhibits all four environments. Here’s why: Some of us hear the word spoken every other day in fact, majority of us have Bible Apps on our many gadgets, yes? Complete with an alert to remind us to read the Word (by the way, who reminds you to take your coffee? Yet you need a reminder for the word? But what do I know??) Yet with all that hearing/reading, some areas in our lives remain the same. Yaani, the SAME!! Year in, year out (Miaka nenda, miaka rudi- Kiswahili, kipenzi changu!) Why?

Because of the condition of our hearts, just like the many bean seeds I swallowed never made me a millionaire exporter of fresh produce to the West due to the corrosive environment in my stomach!! I have realized with time that the only Word that bears fruit is the one that falls in the right (fertile) places in our hearts, the areas that are ready to receive and let it germinate and bear fruit –  areas prepared by trials and watered by our tears, or those that have been prepared through a season of surrender to the Master’s hand for thorough plowing. By the way, that fertile place changes with seasons – Yes! How else would you explain it?? Further, I am convinces that as soon as the Word lands in the fertile place, it takes root, it germinates, it bears fruit.

So now?? I’m glad you asked.

I have been challenged to really look — I mean, really examine the harvest that  I am now experiencing because I am convinced that it will reveal to me which “section” of my heart is the most fertile in this season. And I can tell you – the results have shocked me. It has broken me, it has driven me to my knees. I have resolved to pay closer attention to my fertile place at any given time. Because now more than ever, I need a harvest.

I haven’t swallowed seeds in a looong time. And I haven’t eaten soil for over a decade. My palate now desires different things- finer things… #wink. The seed of the Word. And I see progress – first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head (Mark 4:28). Try it; you’ll see results. 

I promise.

 

The Art of Cooking Ugali

My Dad taught me how to cook Ugali.

Let me explain: By the time I finished high school, my mother had taught me how to cook a wide variety of food:   fried rice, steamed rice, fish fillet, fish fry, chicken (broiler and free range yaani, kienyeji), meat stew, githeri, vegetables, tea, porridge, cakes, buns and pastries- but not ugali. (By the way, anytime we ate anything other than ugali more than once, my Dad would ask, “Leo hakuna chakula?” (“Is there no food today?”)).

So, as far as he was concerned, I needed to learn how to cook food.

So one fine evening, after I had subjected my folks to half cooked ugali for a few weeks, my Dad decided it was time for an intervention! He’d had enough!! I had to learn how to cook cooked ugali (no, that’s correct!). So, he sat in his favourite armchair and called the class to order – the lesson started (by the way, he was a teacher at some point before i left heaven). He instructed me to place the sufuria (pot) of water on the stove  (yaani, gas cooker) and bring it to boil.  Of course I complied, with the full expectation that once  the water started boiling, my Dad would come to the kitchen and cook the Ugali. Yeah, i know…. i was being rediculoius!!!! My Dad, a Kisii man, father of an adult daughter, in the kitchen, cooking, ugali…….not happening.

Anyway, the lesson continued –  i was to add a small amount of maize/corn flour (approximately half of what was needed) and let it boil some more, yaani, itokote kama uji (how is that said in English?). So, I did. And then, just as I was about to pick up the mwiko (cooking stick) to start fighting with the ugali (as I had always done), he said almost on cue, “do not start mixing until I tell you!”. So, I froze.  After tabout 5 minutes, my Dad said, “anza kukoroga sasa ukiongeza unga hadi ishikane. Then wait for my signal.”. I complied – turning the cooking stick all the while huffing and puffing like i was climbing ngong hills.  A century and aching arms later, the ugali did pfffff!! (my sisters and brothers from that side of Kenya know what that means..).

Just as i was planning to put an end to the unplanned session of arm wrestling, he  said , “Imenukia sasa. Toa kwa moto”. (“It has now smelt, take it off the stove”. Remember I said that some phrases are best said in Kiswahili? This one cannot be said in any other way, no, I can’t translate it. You just know it means the ugali has smelt, yes?).  That ugali was ammmmaaaaazing…. Ladies and gentlemen, it was perfect!!! The texture, the taste, the aroma….wow!! (If  you’ve eaten ugali in a kibanda cooked over a jiko by a person well experienced in the art then you know what I mean. Watu wa 5-star and buffet, please, one side.) There was no looking back after that. I was now a certified “food” cook!

Lesson learnt: Ugali is not hard to prepare; you just need to know the right time to add flour, how long to let it boil before fighting with the mwiko, and how to “smell” it.  And by the way, it must do pfffff!!! Otherwise, you’ve done nothing!! Had my Dad not given me a step by step guide that evening, the ugali would have tasted like under boiled porridge.

Hmm…..

In Malachi 3, God describes himself as a refiner and purifier. He sits and works on us until we are rid of all dross. In Jeremiah, God is described as a potter working at the wheel while Job falls short of calling him a butcher (well, the butcher is the one who slays. Ama? ). In all these, I see a God given to detail, especially in the process of forming and shaping you and I. He knows that one bad move, one additional piece of fire wood, one additional turn on the wheel will ruin the master piece. So he remains focused on the process!!!  In fact, I read somewhere that as a silversmith works on a piece of silver, s/he must watch the silver at all times while it is under the flame to ensure the silver is not ruined by the process.

Paul described it beautifully in Ephesians 2:10- he says that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Imagine that! I’m a master piece. My personality and idiosyncrasies, my likes and dislikes, personal preferences and aversions: all of it. A. MASTERPIECE. He sat down and deliberately and masterfully shaped me with my destiny and purpose in mind; nothing was added by mistake, everything was just right-  he was intentional. He then tested and tried me (and still does) under the right temperature, conditions and environment to verify readiness for use. I now know that every experience has served to add the texture, value and depth required for my assignment. And when I am ready, He will say, “Amenukia sasa, mtoe kwa moto!” (She’s ready. Get her off the flames.)

And you know what, He’s doing the exact same thing with you!!  For some of you reading this, the process has just began and the flames are hot!! But worry not. He’s on the job;He’s watching the process and best of all, He’s in there with you. And very soon, you will be ready. Flames –  out!

I promise.

 

 

 

 

Attitude Makes All The Difference

My Dad is very strict, yaani, ni mkali!! (If you doubt me, ask my family and close friends. And he makes no effort to hide it). He’s Christ-lover who governs his life by prayer and the Word of God. I mean, if it’s not collaborated by scripture, there will be no debate about it. My mother on the other hand is not mkali. She is calm but firm. Looking back, I don’t remember a time mother raised her voice at us, she was not a member of the “shouters club”, no. But we all knew never to defy her; my dad would finish you. She is also a Christ-lover  and His Word is and has always been her true north. I can confidently say that my parents shaped and influenced my walk as a Christ – lover. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

My dad and mom met in a national school. That was when a national school was headed by a “Mr Pen” from Ireland. My parents led their respective classes all the way to the “O” and “A” Levels (I’ve seen the report-cards).  My dad was also a serious athlete who made a light job of cross country races. He went on to become a telecommunications engineer and my mother became a teacher. So, I have very strong brains behind me.

My dad. Very strict. And just as he was known back in his high school and college days (I have met his friends), it is also known today: my Dad does not suffer fools!! NO!! His tolerance for foolishness and nonsense is zero. He also does not believe in being led- he leads!!! He once told us that he not raising  sympathy seekers and sissies (for real..). He still does not understand nor use the words ‘give up’ and ‘too hard’ in relation to anything he is doing. As long as someone else is/has done it, he will do it, and do it better than any one else.

He expected us to be the top students in class and no, he did not commend us when we did. My mother would celebrate us, naturally. But my dad, he would scrutinize the marks and ask questions like ” Kiswahili you scored 90. Where did you take 10 marks?” Closing day for us were usually interesting, in an equally interesting way. Basically, by the time we turned in for the night, our time tables for the holiday would have been drawn up. Play came after books.

One incident that comes to mind was when I was in Std 7. I, daughter of my father, had failed Mathematics. I can’t remember what I had scored. All I remember was that I was in big trouble.  My friend, there was fire!

My top-of-his-class-telecommunications engineer- Dad could not make peace with my marks!! He demanded an explanation for my dismal performance. And what did I do?  I opened my mouth, this one of mine, and told him it was hard. WEH!!! Niliona siku ndefu (You know, some phrases can only be said in Kiswahili. Because, really, the direct translation of that up there is “I saw a long day” and that does not make sense! But for the benefit of non-swahili readers, that simply means “I saw stars”. Together, yes?)

My Dad wasted no time!! He did not sit me down for a motivational talk. No. He took swift action in line with Proverbs 23:13 !! You see, in my part of the world, my Dad’s generation of parents did not send us to a naughty corner, or reason with us as I now find myself doing with my boys. NOOOO!!! Corner for who??? Reason with who for what??? Those  corners were already occupied by our mothers’ money plants! This business of “naughty corner” parents talk nowadays is recent. And for the record, my corners are occupied by pots so there are no corners in my house either!

Back to my story…. my Dad reminded me that the following were never to be repeated in our home: It’s too hard; I don’t understand; I don’t like the teacher (kwanza that one! ; I don’t like the subject.  As far as he was concerned, as long as someone else aced it, I was expected to ace it as well!! I quickly realized that my attitude needed to change quickly, immediately, NOW!! Niliona nyota!! Let’s just say that by the time my  Dad was done giving me his version of a motivational talk, my attitude had been re-calibrated, my head was correct, and I was in love with Mathematics!! Yaani my Dad’s RRI (Rapid Response Initiatives) were RAPID.

That experience taught me one thing: attitude makes all the difference.  You see, attitude not only determines and defines your learning curve but it also determines how fast you rise.  When added to your drive and hunger to succeed, attitude will propel you faster toward your goal. I also believe attitude either attracts or repels people. It is what will cause a teacher to spend more time with a student who, though struggling, is determined to improve.

So I dove back into my books under his supervision. Let me tell you, it worked. My attitude changed by fire by force, and my performance soared. Unfortunately, when I got to high school, mathematics and I parted ways due to irreconcilable differences but by then my dad had made his point. Nothing is hard; you just need to change your attitude.

So for the next few days, wear the right attitude. You’ll see the results.

I promise.

 

 

 

 

 

Public announcements

May, 1992.

I am and always have been a teacher’s child (“mtoto wa mwalimu”); my mother began teaching long before I was born and is about to finally retire (yey!! Party loading!) At one point, she was a teacher in the primary school I attended. That had its privileges and limitations. Naturally, I was treated  in a certain, often uncomfortable, manner by my peers in school.  In fact, I was sure a hidden list of expectations had been drawn up for all teachers’ children that we were expected to meet.  Otherwise, we would be severely reprimanded. So really, I did not need to draw more attention, yes?

In May 1992, I put myself on a scale, added an even bigger list of expectations to the existing one and allowed my audience to write out the marking scheme.  What did I do?  I announced that I had given my life to Christ over the Easter Break of 1992. And I have to tell you-  I. WAS. NOT. PREPARED. I was not prepared.  I mean, if I lied, it was amplified; if I dared say I listened to  a boy band that was popular then, it was head line news; if I dared say I had a crush, it was national news, “fresh off the press”!!!  I. WAS. NOT. PREPARED.

With time, I realized that for the rest of my life, everything I did would be weighed and measured against that announcement. And I have to be honest with  you, there are times it would have been easier to walk away.  But then,  I found grace and mercy for when I missed the mark, and decided to aim at being, as my Mother once told me, “Spiritually natural and naturally spiritual.”

In the Gospel of Luke, it is written that Jesus walked into the synagogue in the city of Nazareth and made his own “public announcement” (You can read more about that in Luke 4:16-30). True to form, the community immediately pulled out their version of a marking scheme. They did not waste time, those men. No. Their conclusion?  Jesus was up to no good!!

They first told Him, “We know your father” . His response made an already bad situation worse, I mean, their blood boiled. Then they took action. They marched Him out of the city, found the nearest cliff and were intent on killing him!  In fact, I suspect that some of the witnesses who testified at His trial relied on this incident to strengthen the case against Him. (By the way, could this be the origin of Kenyan key board warrior-ism? You don’t think so?  Ebu try make an outrageous announcement of how you intend to lift living standards in your community if elected into bla bla office…. We Kenyans, we will waste no time!! By the time your mother gets the news that you are seeking nomination, we will have found and interviewed your kindergarten teacher, high school dorm matron, your dean of students in campus, first employer, first boy/girl friend, dug up your past for dirt, found a record (any record!) of your wrong doing and in 24 hours, throw you off a cliff!  Chills are for penguins, I say!!! But, I digress.)

Being a Christian is a tough call. Many times society and friends will remind you, ” We know your Father! We even have videos of you doing such and such! We were with you the other day at …. doing …..” Our weaknesses are amplified. We stumble and fall short of the mark many, many times. But we cannot give up.

So keep lifting the standard of Jesus high. When you stumble, pick yourself up. Make that public announcement as often as you can: I am a Christian.

And even when society wants to throw us off a cliff, Jesus will cause us to walk right through the crowd and find safety. I promise.

 

 

God’s back can be trusted.

Have you ever gone through storms in life that did not make sense? Or made you ask questions like, “Who did i offend? Who cursed me? Why me? Why now?”

If you answered yes, then you are in good company.

A few years ago, I went through a storm of magnanimous proportions. I mean, that thing gathered the strongest monsoon winds, added a few hurricanes, traveled around the globe picking the coldest and hardest hail stones, then collected a few fallen trees from the Amazon and Mau forests before hitting me when I least expected!!!  I remember looking around me and thinking, “What in the name of all that is holy is this??? What just happened?” and most importantly, “Did God’s watch break, because this timing is OFF!!!” (That question must have put a smile on God’s face. Like really?? How can the creator of time have a broken watch??) But through it all, as I spent many hours on my knees hiding in the cleft of the rock, I had a strong witness that it would all make sense one day.

Looking back now, I can tell you it all makes sense now. I know that season worked  resilience in me and made my faith in God unshakable. I walked out sure, beyond a shadow of  a doubt, that there is a God and He answers prayers. It also broke my fallow ground and sunk the foundation for what I know God is now building. I can now look back and like Jacob, say that God was in that place but I did not perceive it. God walked ahead of me, all I did was follow His back.

Some of the seasons we go through cannot make sense in the present. In the midst of a furnace, our senses only register the heat of the fire. After all, that is all we see, feel and hear.In fact, in that moment, we are incapable of seeing how this will “work out for my good”. It’s only after the storm that we look back and see that God had not only been with us in the furnace, but had also gone ahead of us. That we had all along been following his back. Just like Moses.

In Exodus 33, a conversation between God and Moses is recorded from Verse 12 – 23. God had just promised Moses that his presence would go with them as they journeyed to the promised land but for reasons only known to Moses, he wanted more than just the presence of God!! He wanted to see God.  “Show me your face”, he asked audaciously. In modern parlance, Moses was saying, “Show me what you are planning, let me have sight of tomorrow. I need to be prepared”.

But when you think about it, if God shows you all He is planning, you would probably try and change some of the experiences. I know I would. Especially that storm up there. Instead, God in His wisdom and mercy chooses to show us His back and then , and only then are able to understand the why, where and how of our journey.

So, if you’re facing Hurricane XYZ or Tropical Storm UVW, take heart. If you cannot see beyond the next minute, it’s because he has covered you as He passes by and tests the water and furnace to ensure it does not overwhelm you. Once He is sure you will make it through, He will let you see His back. And when He does, follow.

I promise you, His back can be trusted.

 

 

 

Hello, World!

Quote

Hello, World. Welcome to my blog.

I first setup this blog in 2011; a whole lifetime ago!!! At the time, i was looking for a channel through which to share my thoughts and give expression to my internal conversations ( i call it “the destructive trinity of me, myself and I”). Well, i ended up putting those conversations in my journals….  Story for another day.

Since then, a whole  LOT has changed both in my personal space and in the world around me. Of greatest significance and perhaps, relevance to me is the construction and completion of Thika Super Highway, the Eastern By-Pass  and the Southern By-Pass (more about that in my next post). During the same period, we got our second child (“the landlord”),  changed jobs , and moved houses twice. In addition, we (my husband and I ) have recently stepped into bigger and more demanding roles both individually and as a couple one of which includes taking care of a young congregation. Now,  I promise this blog will not focus on that. Maybe one day, in the not so distant future, but for now, no. However, much of my content will be draw from my experiences and influenced by my journey.

So, it is in this new role that i recently found myself standing in front of our precious congregation to speak on a subject very close to my heart. Several days after the event, i found myself pondering on some of the things i said and many that i did not say and i thought, why not write about it?

I did. In my journal.

However, laaaaater, after a tear jerking phone call with one of my mates, i thought…. how about i post my thoughts, experiences and lessons on a blog? It could help someone out there, yes? What’s the worst that could happen? What do i have to lose? Well, only time will tell.

The longer i toyed with the thought, the more urgency it created.

I thought of how best to begin, perhaps a fancy title?  Or “deep” content? No. An introduction!! Yes.

So, since i was raised well, allow me to introduce myself….

My name is Grace Mandela. (No, no relation to Nelson Mandela). I am a wife to one husband, a mother of two boys, a sister to three brothers and two sisters,  a daughter to great parents and friend to many.

I love cooking (Indian food….my word) and singing-  I am a worship leader. I am a lawyer by training but most important, a follower of Christ. I have zero tolerance for nonsense but i enjoy a good laugh.

My dream is to raise a company of women who know who they are, whose they are and where they are going. I have crazy ideas… and even crazier ambitions. For the women and my boys. With time, i will give a little peek… just a little.

Warning: I have zero blogging experience, but i promise you will not be bored. We will grow together, you and I.

Finally, i consider myself a woman covered by grace.

Welcome!!!