The Gift of Work

The Myth of Retirement. Part III

Usually when facing a job interview panel, one of the questions you must prepare for is ‘Why would you like this job?’ Or it’s variant, ‘Why do you think you are the best candidate for this job?’ As the applicant you then draw from your experience, your competencies and your networks, to convince the panel that you can get the job done. Sometimes you get it right, other times you don’t.

God has placed within each one of us a unique purpose. This purpose is crafted into your DNA, woven into your genes before you knew you, before your mother knew you. You will remain insatiable until you find the work that God designed you for.

When God formed Adam from the dust and pulled Eve out of him, he gave him work. Adam’s work was to tend the Garden of Eden as part of fulfilling the Creation Mandate.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The Creation Mandate, Genesis 1:27-28

Adam and Eve were never meant to live happily ever after in the Garden of Eden. Neither were you created to live in whatever variation of the Garden you imagine. You have been blessed with work so you can be a blessing to the world through your fruitfulness, multiplication and power to subdue. This is latent energy in you.

Since you are made in the likeness of God, your capabilities are immense. Forget your classification as a mammal, your ancestor Adam named all the mammals plus more animals besides. (Genesis 2:19-20). His sons designed the practices of agriculture. Abel without being taught by any priest brought the fat portions of the first born of his flock as a sacrifice to God. (Genesis 4:4). And on and on, till we get to you. Do you feel underwhelmed by the job interview panel yet? No?

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

I Corinthians 15:10 NKJV

Paul explains that he was able to labor more abundantly because of the grace of God. Labor is a synonym of work. Grace is unmerited favor. Unmerited means you don’t work for it. Yes. So how then can the grace of God lead to laboring more abundantly?

Man was created on the 6th day, the last day of creation. It meant that Adam’s first day of work was the Sabbath day. Wait, what? Yes, so on his first day at work, Adam was chilling with God. Compare that with your first day. The familiarization tour. The endless introductions. The numerous forms, IDs, passwords, thumb or retina scans. The new acronyms. The policy documents. Adam had none of that, he learned to work from rest. Rest with God. Rest in God. Unmerited. Who earns a day off on the first day? You, God’s favorite, do.

Dr. Eunice Adubango, shares a story about how she started Eunie’s kitchen. Her dad, she says, dotted on her and made sure that she lacked no good thing. He never let her use her airtime to call him. He bought her newspapers every day so she could ace what was not even a major course module for her, communication. When he fell sick, she found that the job she had could not cater for his bills. She could not sit helpless and watch him not get the care he deserved. So she decided to run a paid cookery lesson for ladies. Her social media post attracted many respondents and she was able to carry out the lesson. From her earnings, she was able to give her father access to good health care.

Her starting out was a response to the love her father had lavished on her. Many of us may relate to the desparation of an ill parent, and many times we view the desparation as our driving force. The driving force behind the actions is love. So if we can labor, drawing from love wells of our earthly fathers how much more the love of our Heavenly Father.

That’s why Paul says he labored much more abundantly by the grace of God. The Grace of God empowers and compels us to work. God’s love working in our lives leads us to do immeasurably more than we ever imagined or thought. (Ephesians 3:20) This is the gift of Work.

What would MAGUFULI do

18th March 2021. Social media was awash with the news of his passing. Our typical response in the post COVID era to announcements on social media is cyncism or at best a frenzied search for cross references. This time, the news came cross referenced. It was difficult to believe. Even more difficult to accept. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli at the age of 61 had succumbed to a heart condition, Vice President Samia Suluhu announced.

He had rested from his labor. In 2015, when he burst on the scene, he made it crystal clear that his priority would be Tanzania. One of my most memorable quotes from him is:

Our home was grass thatched and like many boys I was assigned to herd cattle, as well as selling milk and fish to support my family, I know what it means to be poor. I will strive to help improve people’s welfare

John Pombe Joseph Magufuli

Bill Hybels in his book, Courageous Leadership entreats leaders to have a compelling vision. A leader sees the vision. Rais John Pombe Magufuli had a very compelling vision for Tanzania. In His Tanzania, it was possible for all citizens to prosper. He painted this vision continually, whether it was mineral rights, or education, or roads, the Tanzanian citizens were always first. First things first, corruption either in terms of money or time was dealt with swiftly. It robbed the citizens. He would show up unannounced in government offices and ask difficult questions.

You cannot talk of preserving environment when the majority of the citizens are depending on charcol or wood for most of their energy source.

John Pombe Joseph Magufuli

He felt so deeply about this that became so famous for his austerity. He barred unnecessary foreign travel, cut his own salary to USD 4,000. At one point, he chose to clean up to curb the spread of Cholera rather than hold national independence celebrations. What? Was this in Africa? Whose that guy? And so came the trending hashtag which is the title of this blog. #WhatwouldMagufulido.

We were awestruck. We were inspired. Could this be the rise of a new breed of leaders? How long would he last? We watched his every move with bated breath. We tweeted and retweeted his lastest actions. We dramatized every single action of his.

Indeed, even when COVID-19 struck, he did not disappoint. While everyone was scrambling to lockdown, Tanzanian borders were open and it was business as usual. The Magufuli approach. There were pictures of him praying in various places, but the most iconic were the ones where he was without a mask. We were all masked, in our homes, shut in tightly. He looked like some renegade cowboy or modern John Rambo, just ready to shoot down this virus. It was in the same 2020 that Tanzania moved to lower middle income status. We clapped and celebrated with them, while hoping and praying for the end of our lockdown and a return to the normal.

While we were locked down, he managed to convince our own President to take a trip down to Tanzania to expedite the harmonization of pending issues on the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project in Chato, Tanzania.
This is East Africa’s first major oil pipeline. The $3.5bn project will connect Uganda’s oil fields to port Tanga of Tanzania on the Indian Ocean for about 1,445 km (898 miles). extraction agreements. Tanzania was kind enough to allow the Ugandan oil pipeline to pass through their territory to the coast. He built so many bridges, physical and mental.

The bilateral meeting in Chato, Tanzania. Source; web

Visions are priceless. They are holy entrustments from God that must be taken seriously. To squander a vision is an unthinkable sin.

Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership

Habbakuk reminds us that all visions have an appointed time. (Habbakuk 2:3) As leaders, it is imperative that we know the seasons of our visions so that they speak in their time. We are grateful for the gift of John Pombe Joseph Magufuli and his emulation of a visionary leader. May His Soul Rest in Peace.

A celebration of my midwife: Sorry, I didn’t get your name

My gynaecologist, Dr Biryabarema had given instructions that I should check in on 7th November, whether or not I was in labour. Both my sons, as described by my brother, seemed to enjoy 1st class facilities in my womb and they never arrived on their due dates. This was the case that morning.

We arrived to a very quiet Ward 5&6, at Mulago Hospital. This was rare but there we were. I plonked myself on the bench and waited for the doctor. She came sweeping in a few minutes later, she never walks, she kind of glides through that hospital. She saw me, paused, greeted us mid-glide and off she went to begin admissions.

The ward was full so I was taken directly into the labour room as we waited for a bed or room. My things would have to remain in the car, I had my little (light enough to fit in aircraft hand luggage) emergency bag, so I had all I needed until the baby arrived. Triage. Bed next to window. No more eating. Only black tea. You know the drill. Aye, aye, Captain.

The midwife, burst in and started to check on the patients. I could not see her but I could hear her frenzied movements. One of the ladies was having a difficult labour, she needed to be prepped for theatre. The one next to me was progressing well. Nothing was happening on my side, so I was to be induced, no use being in the labour ward doing nothing. This is not a resort. With such swift efficiency, she had identified the vein (usually takes about 20 minutes for any vein to show up on my arm) and connected it to the line. Off she went.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

When she returned, a few minutes later with a colleague from another ward. She gave her instructions on what to do while she prepped herself for theatre. Apparently, the other nurses and midwives had not shown up for duty and she was on duty alone. I was not a risk, she was to keep checking on how the contractions were progressing. She was to monitor the lady next to me keenly to ensure that nothing went wrong. Right? Right? Scrubs on. She moved to surgery with the lady opposite me.

My faithful labour ward companion showed up and the stories started. Laughter and jokes. Catching up on the news. She remembered she had an Auntie who was a nurse. She left to go check on her. On their return, they found the fill in nurse and both agreed I was still far from active labour. I should take it easy, drink more black tea and rest if I felt tired. It was starting to sound like a resort after all.

The mid wife came back, this time she is on phone checking on how far her child is in the queue to see the doctor. She had left her baby with the maid in a queue in the Paediatric clinic. Her maid also needed to go queue up in the eye clinic before it closed. She ceased to be the midwife and became a mother, a wife, a woman to me. Well, she didn’t have time for that, my neighbor had to be rushed for an emergency C-section. Back to theatre.

My mum came in, and another round of stories started and more jokes. I had some slight pain but not discomforting and neither was it electrifying. Our auntie Sister passes by and finds me laughing with everyone, ‘you are still laughing, you are not about!’ She smiles and leaves.

‘Madam, you were not feeling the baby’s head?’, the midwife asked after taking a peak in between my legs. Is that what it was? I thought to myself. ‘Eh, your baby is ready to come out, prepare to bear down,’ she exclaims as she snaps on a fresh pair of gloves. ‘What does bear down mean again? I wonder. ‘Wama, mummy ono jangu omuyambe aterere, tugenda kuzala kati, omutwe gwa baby guguno’. My mum, woke up as if from slumber, gave quick instructions and at once l was ready. Did I mention my mother gave birth to my baby brother at home by herself? So there we are, from smiling to active labour. My husband and faithful companion had gone to bring up the luggage, we had found a room. Boy, were they in for the shock of their lives.

‘Ok, on the count of three, push’. I pushed. ‘Ok hold it, there is something obstructing the baby:. I thank God that at this time, the nerves go on some vacation and it’s only the contractions that I could feel. Her hands go in and out comes my baby.

The cord had been wrapped round his neck, she had unwound it. I pushed and out he came with such force and a loud cry. She quickly rushed him off. Following closely at her heels, was my mother aka Kaaka to my son, Baby Joe. She run the APGAR assessment and he scored highly. Ever the calm baby, he cried a bit and slept off.

She returned for what we describe as the second labour. The delivery of the placenta. The placenta had been severed from my baby but not from me. Now it had to be torn from my womb. With a few twists and turns, it started to severe and finally it was out. She put it away and cleaned up all the blood. Within micro seconds, the room was back to normal. No bloody mess, just one exhausted mum. My faithful companion walks in to let me know that the room had been allocated and was ready. She inquired, ‘how far?’ lol. I asked her whether she hadn’t seen my mum with a baby. :Eeehhh’, she exclaimed!

I don’t remember the name of my midwife. I will remember the waiter with the tag. I will remember the boda boda guy who told me his name. But I will not remember the name of the lady who saved me and my baby. Maybe I should have been more conscious of others than I was of my pain. For all the what ifs, I still did not get her name and for that I am sorry.

Thank you dear midwives for your care and love.

they shall not grow old

The title is taken from a poem written during World War I. It was eventually set to music by Karl Jenkins. The somber rendition in the link, would have made a great sound track for my history lesson this week as I taught my students about the death toll at Verdun (700,000 men) and the Somme (over 1 million men). As we worked through the imagery of incessant shelling, gas bombs, artillery bombardments and the trenches, the words of the poem came to mind. Those who survived must have lived it over and over and over.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon, FOR THE FALLEN

World War I seems like ages ago but not death. Each time, I receive a notification about a peer who has passed on, it’s very jarring. Jarring because I guess I was sold a lie about growing up.

When you grow up, you shall be able to do whatever you want. You can do that when you are older. Be patient, your time will come. What once seemed like sage advice now rings hollow. Hollow and shallow platitudes.

Because some do not grow old. In my senior six vacation, just before, we joined campus, to study our desired courses….I received the news that a dear friend, Gordon Mulinzi had been in an accident with his family. Some members had passed away but he was still in a coma. Even after his brave fight, he passed away. What?! After the hustle of reading for our A’levels, the discussions, the winter, the jubilation over being admitted to Makerere University on government sponsorship…he will always be a vacist, never a graduate.

‘Annet has died,’ were the few words my distraught friend managed to choke out as we packed our bags to leave at the end of our university. Annet had told me about her plans to go conclude with her fieldwork supervisor. She did not return. A boda boda knocked her down. It was Annet who held my hand when I despaired of learning, she faithfully took down her notes neatly and dropped off her books for me to copy. She made sure I was always in her discussion groups so she could ensure my name got onto the assignment. She carried me to meet lecturers, so they would put a face to my name. Annet will always be a student.

Gloria, very vibrant with such wise and subtle cracks, lay on her sick bed. A shadow of her former self. Cancer. She had a baby girl and a dotting husband. She managed to get us all to laugh again, even though she herself could only manage a weak smile. A few weeks later, I woke up to a notification, ‘Gloria has gone to be with the Lord’. There will be no reunions for her. No baptisms. No graduations. No firsts for her baby. Gloria will always be a bride.

Simon, recently succumbed to COVID-19. We were appointed as managers together to lead a new imitative. I fluked his honeymoon, cause we had to go and study and he decided to carry his young bride with him. It was fun. It was exciting. There were challenges but we always cracked solutions. He loved his work. He loved taking pictures. He loved people. Ever early. Ever reliable. I retired. Simon remained. Simon will always be working.

I remember them. We remember them. More as we age. They shall never grow old.

Photo credit: Pinterest

And maybe neither shall we, in the end we are The Fallen. Carpe diem, my friends. Carpe diem.

Shattered glass

Butter fingers. Soft, tender and dreamily melting in the mouth butter. It started with a cabbage that literally flew like a missile out of my hands into next stall, knocked over a bowl (katasa) of tomatoes, rolled into the peppers then somersaulted into the carrots. The drama of that cabbage.🙄 The stall owner totally unamused, narrowed her eyes and gave me THE LOOK! (For shame). But Jesus took my shame. I quickly gathered my fingers and wits, apologised profusely and rescued the errant cabbage.

This morning I broke a glass. Well, I wouldn’t quite say that I broke it. That would imply malice and aforethought. It slipped out of my fingers. Well, not quite slipped either. Let’s say, it bounced on and off my fingers, danced onto my finger tips and as we were just getting the hang of this waltz, it slipped off. And slid to the floor, where it made the most earth shattering noise! What had been a very quiet morning, was rudely interrupted by the crash and subsequent splattering of glass everywhere. Ssshhhhh

Photo credit: Pinterest

Why can’t glass keep silent as it shatters? Why does it have to spread every where? Why are the pieces so tiny? How do the pieces get into all those hard to reach crevices and nooks? Why is glass transparent?

The Quiet returns. But my mind was undulated as all these thoughts and more started to race through it. I quickly run to sweep up the glass shards. I had to do it quickly and swiftly. Because my once happy go to glass, was now a danger to anyone who came near it. Like porcupine quills, it’s shards keep everyone far away.

I sweep the debris into the dustpan. Sweep again to get any remaining pieces . Sweep again, this time, further away, shards do fly! The last sweep brings no glass. We are done with the cleanup. I get back to putting away the other glasses.

In that moment, I realized I could vow to never touch a glass again. I could make it public. I could even get accountability partners. I could give away all the glasses I have and replace them with all this trendy almost but not glass things. I could even sit my children, nieces and nephews down and lecture them on the dangers of glass and implore them to stay away from glass. Why? Because glass is dangerous. It shatters.

But then who sits and wails over a broken glass. Who calls their friend for comfort over a broken glass? A broken glass is replaceable and life it goes on.

Well, my dear reader, so it is with every other failure. Yes, it may seem like the world is coming to an end. It may seem like without this opportunity, you have reached the end of your road. Shame. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Not so.

Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it, is what makes the difference.

Virginia Satir

Because you carry around a mental image of a picture perfect life, failure will rattle you to your core. Take time to mourn your broken glass. Gather up the shards so you are not bleeding on people who didn’t hurt you. Pick the lesson and dispose of the debris. Soul debris takes a while to unravel, like pieces of glass hidden in the crevices, you keep finding bits you didn’t know we’re there. Trust the process.

When you are ready, put the rest of the glasses away. Or better yet, pour your favorite drink and savor the taste of goodness.

Never Enough

The Myth of Retirement. Part II

‘You need to save for your retirement,’ became the clarion call for all of us to move to the start of the rat race! The statement by itself maybe right but all information is filtered through the lenses of society and experience.

I finally got round to watching The Greatest Showman and observing the P.T. Barnum, it was like looking into a mirror. He finally lands the deal of a lifetime,Jenny Lind. You know that deal that we are all praying and looking for. The one that will propel us further up the societal curve and land us closer to retirement. The context of retirement in this case is included in an earlier blog. So, he lands this deal, in the form of a tour. And off he goes, he leaves his circus, his family, his wealth and pursues the deal with all his heart, nothing shall stop him.

Your salary is never enough to give you, the retirement you want: the pina colada sipping by the beach- kind, the golf playing by the ocean- kind, the house on acres of land- kind. Armed with this knowledge, we became deal (a.k.a some ka money chasers), what was trending? Could it be sold for profit? What kind of margins would it bring me? If they were good, they were added to the job. In addition to my employment business card, I added another and another and another. If there was money 💰 clinking into the pocket, it meant it was working. Not so?

Well, not quite. The insurance sales man, all dressed to kill, walks in and teaches us a new thing, it’s called life insurance. The compounding effect is unbelievable. Yes, we must do this! What does it entail? More money! So back to the drawing board, how much longer must I work to achieve this? How much more money must I squeeze out of these margins? That’s when, the walls came crumbling down, all these clinks in the back were not money. They were chocolate covered stones. At least there is chocolate, let’s continue!

Back to the rat race! But it was never enough. Doors continually opened. Doors continually closed. Time remained finite even when I dared to defy it. The sun set at the same time and rose at the same time. Every morning carried a work load from the previous day and the day before that and the day before that. Yet, still, each day came with it’s own work load, ‘a woman’s work is never done,’ I quipped and carried on.

Lying on that hard hospital bed, with a canula attached and the whole clinic looking for what was wrong? I slowly came to the realization that this would never work. Either I was going to die trying or simply die. From where I lay, there were no pina coladas, no golf courses, no home baked goodies, just endless white ceiling.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:3 NKJV

Eternal means never ending. If I have eternal life, I have never ending life. It means that if my life is never ending, I need to live it better. I need to make better choices. It gets better.

Jesus Christ continues to say that life is about knowing God, the only true God and knowing Jesus Christ. Knowing, like knowing knowing? Or knowing like knowing? 😂😂

Thank God for the Greek word, ginóskó that is more definitive. To know experientially, first hand. Like the intimate knowledge of a husband and a wife. Wow.

Repeat it again.

So you mean that eternal life is not living forever and ever. It is, because God is eternal. Knowing God will take you through to eternity.

When Mary, the sister of Martha met Jesus, she decided that her singular purpose in life would be to sit at the feet of Jesus. Her sister, Martha even complained to Jesus about her workload and Mary not lifting even a finger to help, Mary did not bat an eyelid. Being seated is a position of rest, she rested. She found such delight in knowing Jesus that she was the only one privileged to prepare his body for death. Her very expensive perfume (worth an entire year’s wages) was nothing compared to the joy she found using the perfume to anoint his feet and body. This same Mary was the first person to meet the risen Jesus. Jesus Is Enough.

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41‭-‬42 NKJV

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!

Is the phrase, with which Patrick Henry ended his now Famous Speech (a link to a very passionate rendition) at St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia. In August 1775. This is the speech that sealed the resolution of the thirteen colonies to secede from the British Empire. Henry then, began his role in arming a militia that would lead the American revolutionaries to the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776.

Liberty in the United States is even immortalised in the statue of Lady Liberty, or Libertas. A gift from the French people to celebrate American freedom. (the idea was conceived in 1865 and Lady Liberty took her place on Ellis Island in 1886.)

What is liberty? Why is it so important that a man would rather die than live without it? As a young girl, I always assumed that everyone was free to do as they please, within the bounds of the law of course. For as long as what I did made my parents happy, I was free to do as I pleased. My perception of liberty was forged in furnace of my neighborhood and formed on the anvil of school. In school, as long as I did what made my parents and teachers happy, I was at liberty and I never had to die for it. I imagine that if I had read Patrick Henry’s speech in school, I would have been plunged into this liberty discourse earlier.

Permit me, dear reader to introduce you to the idea that there is freedom beyond the law and the anti-thesis; that laws can curtail freedom. The Magna Carta and philosophers of the Enlightenment belabored the anti-thesis- creating alternatives for liberty under the law. Some elevated reason and though they recognized natural laws, they rejected the One who made these laws.

Cogito, ergo sum – ‘ I think, therefore I am,’ has been sang in different variations since the 17th century but it has not lead to liberty. Philosophers like Spinoza, Hobbes struggled with the issue of evil, because if one thinks evil, then they are evil. Without laws to curtail the freedoms of evil people, where would society end? Men would need to give up their liberty in exchange for protection from governments, Hobbes argued. John Locke, on the other hand, believed men created governments only to safe guard their rights to liberty, life and property. It seems then that the role of a government is to protect the liberty of the governed, whether as an exchange or as a ‘social contract.’

Almost two centuries later, after Patrick Henry’s speech, in my own country, Uganda, a group of young lads with 27 guns, took to the bush in 1981 because they were seeking liberty. Their government had not protected their Liberty, so they too took up arms. Today, we commemorate their liberation of Uganda on 26th January 1986.

Seated here, 35 years later, it is evident that we as a people have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The existing laws cannot redeem any man from depravity. We still cry about hunger, injustice, corruption, extra judicial killings, illiteracy, unemployment, violence, rape, fake UMEME, wars etcetera etcetera. Having spent most of my time locked down in 2020, because of a COVID-19 virus pandemic, I am very cognizant of the inability of the government to protect me in exchange for my liberty. Because the virus, bacteria and other disease causing germs do not exchange their liberty to any government, they are at liberty to do as they please. Where does one go when those assigned to protect are unable to do so?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord .”

Luke 4:18-19 NKJV

Luke records Jesus Christ as reading this text written by Prophet Isaiah in a synagogue in Nazareth where he had grown up. The Jews threw him out, for one, they were still under the very oppressive rule of the Romans. He could not state such things and leave them as they are. Secondly, they knew Him. He was their homeboy, he could not be the Messiah.

Well, two millennia later, we know better. But we still need to believe better. Our liberty was proclaimed and Jesus has all the authority in Heaven and on Earth. (Matthew 28:19NKJV) The government is on His shoulder. (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV) He is the One we should run to for Liberty.

Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:7 NKJV

Advent 2020: Living in the shadow of Death

The Christmas season started early at my home. My husband and sons decided that November 1st the Christmas tree should come up, and up it went. It’s been a long year. We have been locked down at home since March experiencing the ‘new normal’, why shouldn’t the Christmas traditions change?

The new normal brought with it, a lot more quiet. A restrictive quiet. A solitary confinement quiet. A naughty corner quiet. The infamous SOPs- wear a mask, sanitize frequently, temperature checks and curfew have made a quick dash to the market or grocery store so inconvenient. The social distance that needs to be maintained at public gatherings means I cannot share jokes with my neighbors, there are no more hugs and handshakes, it’s not fun anymore. I have spent more time online and in quiet nooks looking for the best network signal than anywhere else. Very introverted but it became the perfect setting for the reflection of Advent and revisiting the Christmas story.

When I first heard of the coronavirus, it was a bug like flu somewhere in China and everyone was wearing masks. China seemed so far away, so distant, totally unrelated to my equatorial corner of sub-Saharan Africa (we are not even in the same hemisphere) and so much less to my own environment. Then the devastation began, with lockdowns and massive death counts. As I was reviewing material for a Sociology lesson, a CNN interview of nurses from one of the worst hit nursing homes in Washington state, I began to observe the devastating toil the disease had on emotions of the nurses and families. To observe through a glass darkly, the effects of quarantine and the immediate need for ventilators. My niece, Keitangaza who passed away on 28th December 2017, needed a ventilator to breathe and there was none available. This took my breath away for a moment. When it hit the Octogenarians in Italy and wiped them out like a plague, the number counter became a siren wail. Uganda still has a very young population but my parents’ generation, most of them are Octogenarians. It was too close for comfort, anxiety set in and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Then it came for us, Uganda managed to contain the deaths and spread. With the gradual reopening, it has come close to home. I know people who have had it and survived and I know people who have had it and died. Such terror and distress.

While reading the Matthew and Luke’s elaborate details of the Birth of Jesus, it soon became apparent that our ‘Christmas spirit’ as portrayed in most of the Christmas movies is slightly off the mark. Actually, if the Christmas movies had been set in 2020, they would have been so on point.

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Luke 2:16-18 NKJV

The shepherds, were going about an ordinary day’s work, in a season where Augustus Caesar had ordered a census throughout the Roman Empire. Every man had to go back to his home town. Israel was an occupied territory, and so Bethlehem as one of the towns of Judah must have been packed with so many long lost relatives, Romans, transit travellers, yet the shepherds did not have time for chit chat. They were tending their sheep in the field. God, in His wisdom, found it very important to send a host of angels to these busy men. Not the innkeeper who turned Mary and Joseph away, and not to the Romans who were conducting the census. Rather to shepherds, forgotten like David.

The shepherds, left their sheep and rushed to the place the angels told them and found Jesus lying in a manger. This was exactly what the angels had said they would find. They rejoiced to find the Messiah and shared the news widely. How exciting it must have been to see the Word incarnate.

Christmas is the Season to rejoice for those who like the shepherds have received Jesus as their Savior and Lord- we have received peace and goodwill. Tis the Season to make widely known the good news, ‘the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want even in the valley of the shadow of death because ‘our the Christ (the anointed one who saves) was born on Christmas day.’

Later, as a child, Jesus is visited by the Wise Men. These Wise Men make a long journey following a star to worship Jesus. In Jerusalem, where they stop, no one had paid attention to the very same star and no one had heard the news from Bethlehem. The Wise men were warned by an angel not to go back to Herod. And Joseph was instructed to take his family to Egypt by an angel. After the visit, the young family had to flee to Egypt by night. And Bethlehem experienced grief like none other, was it not the Messiah they rejoiced to receive? All their young males under the age of two, were massacred by Herod. The heart gripping pain of losing a young child senselessly, who would console them?

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

Matthew 2:16 NKJV

Within the Christmas carols is one about Good King Wenceslas, who looked out on the Feast of Stephen. Traditionally, that would be today, Boxing Day. Stephen was one of the seven men ‘of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom’ appointed to handle the Church business so the Apostles could continue with the Ministry of the Word and prayer. (Acts 6).

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 6:8 NKJV

For all this glowing tribute from Dr. Luke, Stephen is the first Christian martyr. He was falsely accused for blasphemy and even when the Council saw his countenance as one of an angel, and were cut to the heart by his words, they did not receive Jesus as the Christ and stoned him death in Jerusalem. His death was witnessed by a young Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus, who later became Paul, a bondservant of Christ.

How does one move from gorging themselves on so much turkey and rich Christmas cake to a celebration of martyrdom? One does not. Christianity carries within all its celebration, the death and resurrection of Christ. Christianity also carries within all its death, the life of Christ, eternal and glorious. It is impossible to separate Christmas from Good Friday and from Easter. It is impossible to separate the pain and suffering of calvary from the joy of Christmas and the glory of the resurrection.

It is in beholding the lamb of God, swaddled in remains of priestly garb lying in an ordinary manger that we are able to see Him carry our sins at Calvary and then at last like Stephen, see the Lion of Judah seated at the Right Hand of the Father.

Lord, thank You that while troubles and pain will come, your tender mercies sustain me through them giving me life and peace. In uncertainty and instability, I choose today to re-anchor my life in Your goodness, Your faithfulness and Your mercy towards me. Amen From Lectio365

Vanilla Essence

Or maybe I should call it The myth of retirement. Part 1. All through school, we always heard about and planned for retirement at some ripe old age. It was the utopian idea that at this age, one would have time to take all those holidays they missed, take a cruise around the world, run a farm and maybe play golf all day. Getting into the fast and furious rat race, I quickly realized this was too good to be true. There was just no one around me who lived like this. The only pensioners I knew were in their homes, in Kabale, where my parents grew up. And they were still very active in the political and economic life of Kigezi. Plus, the only reason I knew they were pensioners was because they were always coming to Kampala to fill out some forms to enable them to get their pension. This journey is about 500kms and because the roads were worse for wear, it took almost 24 hrs. All of my life. 😏

So what was retirement then? Did it simply mean that I was too old for formal employment? Not everyone is was formally employed, some were self employed. There, lived around the periphery of Makerere University, a group of elderly Batooro men who peddled anything and everything. One of the peddled recycled bottles, he collected glass bottles from our households, at that time everything was bottled in glass. He cleaned them up and sold them off. Would he retire? When would he retire? My nanny, was so old, Maria, bless her heart. She plucked out all my milk teeth, never needed a dentist. Would she retire as well? When would she retire?

Then came the Structural Adjustment Programs that saw the massive layoffs of public servants. They were given severance pay and overnight, they were no longer civil servants. Were they retired? Apparently, they were. But they were too young for cruises and yet too old for their former jobs. They reinvented the wheel. Early retirement became an option.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is a description of the buzz around me when I decided to retire. Nevertheless, when I opted to retire, time took on an elastic quality. I would have all the time to do everything, I had wanted to do. So I bought vanilla essence. I was going to be baking fresh muffins for breakfast and desserts for my family, so they could also live the life. I have a very sweet tooth.  It did not help matters that one of my retirement gifts was a desserts recipe book.  I would like to take a moment here and laugh 😂🤣 at this plan. Four years down the road, the essence is a running joke among my sons. I never baked a cake or dessert or any such thing.

…Life it goes on

Robert Frost

School schedules remained the same. Traffic jam remained the same. The earth still orbited the sun for 24 hrs. The dry and rainy seasons still remained. The visa application process for those long boat cruises remained just as rigorous if not more. Morning routines remained. Meal times remained.

And so it was that I found myself grappling with the word retirement and its meaning. Would it vanish like Santa and the tooth fairy? Only to reappear when my own children were learning about milk teeth and Christmas gifts. Would it be deleted from my word bank? Would it take on a new meaning? The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah, there were prophecies by great famous prophets like Elijah and Isaiah and little known ones like Micah and Joel. This Jesus who had just fed over five thousand of them with two fish and five loaves, might be the one. They followed Jesus in small boats across the Sea of Tiberius to Capernaum. After all, Moses had fed their forefathers with manna, surely Jesus could do better. Maybe He could even show them how He did it.

Jesus answered, “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One whom He has sent.”
John 6:29 AMP

Surely, it could not be that simple. There should be a miracle he could perform. But, just like it was for me, the realisation that life is the journey of believing and trusting in Jesus is the ultimate mythbuster. Many of them walked away that day. Ultimately, the goal of life is not retirement but to believe in Jesus. Totally blew my sails out! This was not what I was expecting but it was how I had always lived. So if I had lived this way, was living this way, surely I should continue to live like so?

The essence of life is to believe in Jesus, the One sent by God. The Bread of life that satisfies my hungry soul.

A tale of how salary conspired against me.

It all began a long time ago; once a upon a December, I received a call asking me to pick my appointment letter. My parents were very excited, I was working, finally! My linear progression scale also agreed- kindergarten- check, primary school-check, O’level-check, A’level-check, bachelor’s degree-check. All checked. I picked my letter with a litany of requirements, one of them was opening a bank account. My dad wrote my reference to his bankers and it should have been easy, only this was a long time ago. I needed to explain why I wanted to open the account and what the purpose of the account was. And so began the games that salary would play with me. Each account had charges, minimum bank balances and an insy, winsy bit of interest. I selected the one that only required one letter of reference, it had no interest and required an immediate deposit for it to be opened. I was already indebted to myself, or was it the bank, before I even started working. Never forget salary.

Do not wait till your first job, start saving on all monies you receive.

Moral. ⚠

The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender.
Proverbs 22:7 NKJV

And with that sorted, we started work. Salary was sometimes late, sometimes early, sometimes just on time. Salary and time were clearly having issues. I decided to work with time, because well, time was more predictable. Salary’s mood swings were legendary, every one complained about her, whenever we were with time. Which was always.

Your most constant resource is time. If you manage your time well, money shall follow.

Moral ⚠

So be very careful how you live, not being like those with no understanding, but live honorably with true wisdom, for we are living in evil times. Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes.
Ephesians 5:15‭-‬16 TPT

It was not long before I was introduced to advance. The office grape vine always has a vine dedicated to options that are available to maintain your current and dream lifestyle. So advance, had limits and could be contained within your salary for one month. Well, that did not sound too bad. Let us try this advance. And advance😀 was always on time. Advance was always in a good mood, it was easier than accounts opening. You even received a phone call when advance was paid. Wow. Advance became my new best friend, goodbye salary! But Advance was jealous, very jealous. I had so many conversations about my relationship with salary, and told advance it was nothing personal but I owed salary alot in life. Well, that did not go down well, advance started to sabotage my dreams. The more, I pursued advance, the less I had to spend on my lifestyle. Salary was constantly complaining because the bills were piling up and we could not keep up.

Advance is debt. Stay away from advance on your salary. Choose contentment.

Moral ⚠

Those who love pleasure become poor; those who love wine and luxury will never be rich.
Proverbs 21:17 NLT

With the ‘millennium bug’, came new innovations. The first one being a salary account, all one needed was a letter of reference ans, voila you had an account. It had no minimum balance and minimal charges on withdrawal. Little did we know, this was a setup.

Not all that glitters is gold. Read the fine print. Read the times.

Word to the wise ⚠

The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5 NKJV

In they came, trip trapping on our bridges, unmoved by our troll nature. They walked in, all suave and kempt, high heeled and polished. They spoke English English, a bit accented and their words rolled off their tongues like it was their mother tongue. Once in a while, they switched to their mother tongue, fluidity just. The latest crop of banking relationship managers ushered in by the ‘millennium bug’ and the Great Recession aka the Crash of 2008. They sold us salary loans. If you had a salary account, it was easy peasy. Sign here, sign here, and voila, within four days, you could be a millionaire! If you did not, it might take slightly longer, more signatures, but you too could join the club. ✒️? So it was, that within a few months, we were all millionaires. It took us a few years to catch on that interest rate, the one in tiny letters that you could not read, was not our friend. By then, most of us were so indebted, even advance would not pick our calls. We had mortgaged our future. And we still had to live in it.

Salary loans are an overdrawn future. Walk away from debt.

Moral ⚠

A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered.
Proverbs 22:3 MSG

Promotion and an adjusted salary structure brought great reprieve. The same relationship manager who once ruthlessly sold loans to beat targets advised to defer gratification and save over time to achieve my goals. He gave the illustration of the cumulative effect of saving over the same period vis a vis paying off a loan. And without the interest component, wow. It looked doable. I could also wait, even with inflation, the cost was so much lower. That’s how I started saving.

Never spend your money before you have it

Thomas Jefferson ⚠

The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.
Proverbs 21:20 NLT

So there is this series being run by Worship Harvest Ministries, catch it here if you have not yet watched it.