What happens when men encounter the grace of God?

I find myself pondering on the relationship between diligence in study and the grace of God; wondering whether the grace of God removes the discipline of study or empowers it.
As a History teacher, I went back in time.

Photo credit: PINtrest

Martin Luther was a Professor at the time he encountered the grace of God, not merely a lowly monk. He had a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Theology. He was one of the first professors to lecture in German instead of Latin, a great feat, in a time with no German Bible for reference. All this in the Roman Catholic Church with it’s rigor for study. When he encountered the grace of God, he wrote ninety five (95) theses!
John Calvin, an accomplished French lawyer. When he encountered the grace of God at age 26, he wrote a simple catechism in Latin and French, Institutes of the Christian religion, to date one of the foundational expositions of the Protestant Church.
Ham Mukasa, a regent in the Buganda kingdom, the Sekibobo of Kyaggwe wrote a commentary of the Gospel according toMatthew in Luganda. Matthew is deemed to be one of the most detailed and complex gospels because it is written through a Jewish lens. Apollo Kivebulaya, with only a passion for Jesus, studies day and night and translates the gospel of Matthew from Luganda to Rutooro.

What shall we say about Moses the stuttering prince who recorded the laws in great detail and built a replica of heaven in the tabernacle. Peter, a despised fisherman, who went on to write very eloquent letters to the Jews in the diaspora. Paul, a prisoner in chains, formerly a zealous persecutor the church, whose letters are still read to this day- his passage on love in 1 Corinthians 13 is the read at nearly every wedding in the church. Even John Mark whom Paul cast aside wrote a very brief version of the gospel.

The grace of God empowers the study. Paul writes this,

the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives” (Titus 2:11).

It is not possible that having encountered the grace of God that one would fail to be diligent in study.

“I am prepared to die in the army of Jesus.” Janani Luwum

Photo Credit: The Monitor Publications

Today is Janani Luwum day. We set aside days so we never forget what is important. Janani Luwum was the Archbishop of Anglican Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga (Zaire) from 1971-1977.

In 1971, Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada became President of the Republic of Ugands through a coup de tat. The deposed President, Dr. Apollo Milton Obote was being hosted as an exile in Tanzania. There was trouble everywhere in Uganda including the borders with Tanzania. The army purges to cleanse the army of troops deemed hostile to the President were ongoing. The purges later spread to all Luo speakers and later to all professionals. Israelis were expelled. Indians were expelled.

Janani, together with Festo Kivengere, and other bishops stood up to Idi Amin. I thought this post would be about Janani alone but it is not possible for me to separate the two. Like Paul and Luke, their voices blended into one voice that challenged illegal detentions and extra judicial killings because they believed in a God who is just and good. They believed that their leaders should be good and just. They did this in sermons, in meetings with the President, in books, in their living rooms, in their prayers.

Janani is quoted as saying, we need to be Jesus to these people. Which people? The ones looking for their loved ones. The ones on the run. The ones facing injustice. The ones being hunted down. The ones no one cared about. They needed to be a voice of the distressed nation to a leader whose ears had dulled to his people.

Janani was ‘implicated in a coup’ arrested and murdered. Even in death, his memory was slandered- The government of the day said he was an escaped convict, killed in the act of escape. Festo left his cherished Uganda and became a refugee in exile. He later wrote a book, ‘I love Idi Amin.’

Church, I would like us to take a moment to consider the cost of our faith. On this day, what are you willing to stand for?

Who will be Christ to the hungry? Orphaned by corruption and greed. Who will be Christ to the thirsty? Watching the filth from our industries roll past their homes.

Who will be Christ to the naked? The victims of violence clothed in shame and ridicule.

Who will be Christ to the homeless? Carrying their boxes from street to street searching for a spot on the street to call home.

Who will be Christ to the sick? Searching for a doctor, a teacher,who is working three jobs to make ends meet? The leaders with more questions than answers. With solutions that come up short of the mark, every single time.

The despairing, crushed and lifeless youth stuck in the wheel of life rolling on. Filling up the mental wards. Trudging aimlessly from town to town.

Who will be Christ to the prisoner? Chained by impossible dreams. Crushed by unfulfilled hopes.

What is the price of your faith?

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
Hebrews 11:24‭-‬26 NKJV

Moses is a witnesses of our faith, he left the passing comforts of Pharaoh’s household to suffer with God’s people. Have Pharaoh’s comforts veiled your eyes, Bride of Christ?

Will you accept the status quo or will you rise as the Son of God creation is anticipating?

On Gratitude

One fine day, as I was flipping through channels and settled for News updates on BBC, I watched the Australian Prime Minister heckled as he visited one of the areas devastated by fires. It was a totally different reaction from the usual visits by a leader of the Government. One of the residents followed him while loudly complaining that their area was forgotten because it was not Sydney and not naturally endowed. The government rescue efforts were always late and sub-par.

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Starting Now

2019 started off as a marathon that quickly became a never-ending 100m dash each and every day. Some days I didn’t know whether I was coming or whether I was going. I didn’t think for a moment I would have time for my favorite pastime, reading.

My sister started a book club to read books by African Writers. She coopted my skeptical self. We managed to read a book each month as planned. As she was recollecting, the achievements of her year, it turned out I had read all 11 books and had teas with most of the Ugandan authors.

This wasn’t part of the sprint but yeaayyyy. I did it!

I decided to collect all the books and count them and check my e-book reader. Wow. I had read 20 books, which comes to about one book every two weeks. I am also a polygamist reader, so, I have like 8 other books at different levels of progress. I read all the syllabus material that was required for teaching as well.

I read!!!

How? By focusing on my priorities.

Habit 3 of Stephen Covey’s Put First Things First has a matrix for prioritization. These priorities are drawn from your personal mission statement. Quadrant 2 is the Quadrant of effectiveness.

Put First Things First is at the heart of effective self-management. It’s the ability to organize our time around the most important things.

7 Habits app

I wrote my personal mission statement two years ago and practiced scheduling my big rocks on a weekly basis. It was tough, it was grueling. Some days I wondered why the fuss.

The hardest part is starting. Once you get that out of the way, you’ll find the rest of the journey much easier.

— Simon Sinek

Two years later, I am reaping the benefits without flinching….ok not quite…I have fallen asleep in books. I have carried books around but didn’t open a page. I have piled books next to my bedside and not opened a page for days. I read only a paragraph on some days.

If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Set your goal, schedule time for it and start. You will get to the finish line.

Happy 2020.

Pie Jesu

How would I describe 2019? Like a whirlwind. There have been so many heart-stopping moments between short pauses. Apprehensive yet hopeful.

As hopeful as POTUS crossing the DMZ. With all the James Bond movies, I had watched, I was sure there would be a last-minute curveball. Surprisingly, there wasn’t.

This has been 2019. I set goals to blog once a week. I had all the drafts and story outlines written out in my mind. The actual blogs never saw the light of day. I was blogging. I was outlining. Very hopeful.

I started my books. Outlined all of them. I lost all the outlines and my heart with them.

I lost my temper. I lost my mind. I lost my marbles. I lost myself. In the whirlwind of life, I started to lose my essence. During a short pause, I breathed. I gulped all the air I could and began the slow path to recovery.

I find myself drawn to this meditation, this Advent season. My preferred soloist is Cecilia Bartoli.

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. (×2)
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Pious Lord Jesus,
Give them rest.
Pious Lord Jesus,
Give them everlasting rest.

The Latin lyrics and the English rendering of the last stanza of Dies Irae (Day of Wrath).

I have found unusual comfort in the knowledge that even on the Day of Wrath or Judgement day, it is Jesus who gives me rest. I have wrestled with the concept of rest and its application to my life this year. I set goals for rest -daily, weekly, annual- and never achieved them.

This meditation is a reminder that even when all my failures gather and conspire against me, Jesus gives me rest. Everlasting rest.

5 years

It’s been five years since I last heard your voice. What was it’s pitch? How did you inflect? How did you Intonate?

It’s been five years since I last heard you sing. Sometimes strumming an imaginary violin. Sometimes conducting an imaginary orchestra. Sometimes high pitched. Sometimes in Rukiga.

It’s been five years since I looked into your eyes. What color were they? How they popped out as you told us animated stories?

It’s been five years since you smiled at me. What was that curl in your lips? What was the sound of your smile?

It’s been five years since you called my name. Dora.

It’s been five years since your number rang on my phone. It’s been a long since mummy lit up my screen.

Five. 5. V.

A lifetime or a number.

A shift or a permutation.

The gap, the void it remains.

A mummy shaped hole that only you filled.

Do not be disheartened.

The Lord is with you.

I am grateful and thankful.

Thank you for being my mummy.

Thank you for teaching me compassion.

Thank you for surrounding me with virtuous women.

Thank you for watching over me like a hawk.

Thank you for good food;

Thank you for good music;

Thank you for fashion;

Thank you for keeping it real.

Thank you for good grooming.

Thank you for supporting me to the utmost.

Thank you for leading me to Jesus.

Nsiimye

28.12.2017

The day my niece passed away.

A dark day. A very dark day indeed.

So many questions with no answers. Why didn’t she wake up when her mummy called her? Why didn’t she continue breathing even after surfactant? Why didn’t she wake up after her auntie had read the entire Psalm 119? Why was she so silent?

Where are you, God? God who raised Lazarus? God who triumphed over death? God who calmed the storm? God who is Love?

The darkest moments were still loading. We were not allowed to mourn her passing. It was a thing that happened and passed on silently. You need to make this pass on quietly? You need to move on? Don’t make it a big deal?

But there was nothing quiet about Keitangaza. From her mother’s cravings for sharwamas. From her love for oranges. From her rejection of that beautiful scent of baking cookies. From her very loud entry into the world. From her beautiful wardrobe. She was a star.

Stars explode as they die.

During her funeral service, my siblings and I learned that we too had lost three siblings before I was born. I grew up as the first born. My identity had been built around being a first born. You are the first born. You are responsible for your siblings. You are to set an example.

Not any more.

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
Benj Pasek, This is Me

Who were these three siblings? Were they male? Were they female? What would their favorite colors have been? Which subjects would they have loved? Hobbies? Favourite food?

This year, we join the rest of the World in the Global Wave of Light. On 15th October 2019. 7pm in your time zone.

The global Wave of Light is an opportunity to join with bereaved parents, families and friends around the globe to commemorate all babies who sadly died too soon.

I will remember my three siblings. The unknown ones in whose shadow I was raised.

Who do you need to remember? Who do you need to invite? Who do you need to accompany?

Rabbit holes of multinationalism

Alice discovers Wonderland after chasing a rabbit down a rabbit hole. The character, Alice, is based on a young girl, Alice Liddell. I found Lewis Carroll’s answers to her very many questions, I imagine, very intriguing. The curiosity built up in young children requires the kind of imagination in his book. His ability to blend the real with the imaginary makes a very good read.

The World Economic Forum on Africa (wef) ended on September 6th 2019. The theme led me down a rabbit hole, but unlike Alice, to a different kind of Wonderland.

#AF19 whose theme this year is “Shaping Inclusive Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. The agenda will cover four key areas: innovation, sustainable development, digitalization and governance.

Inclusive. shared. sustainable. digitalization.

These words like Alice’s characters sounded fascinating. There are so many fascinating scenes in the cartoon, I shall restrict my musings to the caterpillar scene.

Data from the African Development Bank (AFD) shows Africa’s GDP growth reached roughly 3.5% last year, about the same as a year earlier, and up 1.4 percentage points from the 2.1% in 2016.The continent’s growth this year is projected to accelerate to 4% and 4.1% in 2020. While higher than other emerging and developing countries, Africa’s growth remains insufficient to make a dent on unemployment and poverty. These challenges manifest amid an imperative for Africa’s growth to be shared by everyone, particularly by providing our growing populations with good jobs and social protection. What can be done to address these challenges? Let me underscore three priorities for South Africans, and for the continent as a whole: greater cooperation, policy injection and human capital development.

The caterpillar asks Alice who she is and she does not know. She has changed so many times.

Photo credit: Pinterest

It seems like Alice that we shall show up only three inches tall rather than what we were earlier. The caterpillar on the other hand, is three inches tall and happy about it! He has the ability to metamorphose. This he does right before Alice’s own eyes. His parting remarks as a butterfly are instructions on eating a mushroom.

Shall we eat the mushroom?

In March, the African Union launched the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This landmark agreement aims to create a single market expected to generate a combined GDP of more than $3.4 trillion and benefit over 1 billion people. Alex Liu

The free trade area creates a single market and and has similar laws governing goods and services and dispute settlement. The AfCFTA was signed by 54 out of 55 countries. By the time, it was operationalized in July 2019, only 27 countries had ratified it. The requirement was 22 countries. We are not the same as we were this morning.

While we may not metamorphose, there is a mushroom that we can eat, one side will make us taller. Another side will make us shorter.

4IR is going to be the fastest revolution because it builds on existing technologies and enhances their capabilities. Like transformers, the ability to change in seconds will be achieved for most of our technologies. Take the duration from 4G to 5G, some of us are still migrating from 3G to 4G.

The speed at which we adapt to change in Africa has to increase. The speed at which we or our governments adopt changes to laws and to policies needs to increase.

Overcoming the ‘xenophobic’ attacks and never ending wars requires a mindset change. It is one thing to open our countries for exchange of goods. Services come with people. Different people. Their cultures are different. Their language is different. They do not find your jokes funny.

The notion of open borders shall indeed shift in our metrics of success and growth. Our little and sometimes shallow thinking shall be stretched. Our imagination needs to grow beyond our little safety nets. Our identity will not be based on how strong our affiliation for our nation is but how agile we are at navigating the free trade area. Diversify or die.

If our collective growth is not sufficient to overcome poverty, the gap between the rich and the poor will widen. Will the rich barricade themselves in their wealth or will the poor in true Marxist style lead a revolution?Or shall we really begin to love our neighbor?

One side will make us taller and another side will make us shorter. Tradeoffs have to be made, big ones for certain nations and smaller ones for others.

One African sky. A single African passport. Border less continent. Shift from extractive to value addition.

We shall not be the same as we were this morning.

It is my hope that like Alice at the Hatter’s party we also celebrate, with the rest of the world, our happy unbirthday!

The Author of Wonder

“I don’t believe that the child has yet been born who didn’t look at the world around it with those fresh eyes and wonder.

“If you lose that first wonder, you’ve lost one of the most greatest sources of delight and pleasure and beauty in the whole of the universe. Caring for that brings a joy and enlightenment which is irreplaceable. That is one of the great pleasures of life.”

Sir David Attenborough

I shall begin my trail of thought with this quote from an adorable naturalist. His documentaries taught me so much about a world and allowed me to visit, unbothered by visa applications, these other worlds. I celebrate his work.

There are huge pipes by our road side and the children in my car, are always happy to stop and look at the huge diggers and caterpillars, lift and place pipes into the ground. They crowd around one window and all scream with glee at the diggers!! I, on the other hand, am miffed about the delay in traffic. I sit there wondering when this will all be over and hope none of the pipes falls on my car.

Two kinds of wonder, one full of hope and joy and the other despondent. Growing up, I always thought that hope and joy compounded. Adults, in my view, were the happiest people in the world because they got to do anything they wanted, when they wanted! I hear the loud echoes of laughter fading even as I write that last line.

Time stealers and irrational schemes attack and rob us of hope and joy. They force their way into our memory and cram their bile onto our neural paths. Our wonder is corrupted. It is no longer colorful and cheerful (Tigger) but rather gray and despondent.( Eeyore)

Those honor nature well, who teach she can speak on everything, even on theology.Blaise Pascal

Nature is our gift from God to bring the delight of wonder back. More importantly, to lead us to God.

When I take a moment to consider the different birds, insects and trees in my little village of Kiwanga, I am amazed at the diversity and how they coexist. I recall my biology and science lessons about the different veins in leaves. The different methods of propagation. The different sizes. The different shades of green. The smell of soil after the rain. Our God loves diversity. Our God is an Artist and a Scientist. Our God is beautiful.

One fine day, I found bees buzzing around ,what I thought as, not very impressive flowers. Flowers of one of my palm trees. The bees found these nondescript flowers attractive. Our God is mindful. Our God is the provider.

Bruna, one of our numerous dogs gave birth. The puppies were so different from each other, in appearance and character. Dogs have character. Imagine that. The day we gave away one of the puppies, the rest of the puppies huddled with Bruna, and suckled. Dogs feel. Our God is caring.

Nature will lead us back to God to wonder about Him and His awesomely good and great character. It will cause us to think like the Psalmist,

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
Psalms 8:3‭-‬4 NKJV

Slow down, like a child, smell the roses. Keep your wonder, it will lead you to God.

Purpose

For most people, maybe the larger majority, their key take home from Transform 2019 shall be momentum.

Mine will be purpose. The shuttle orbits and is able to break out of earth’s gravitational pull because it was designed for this. It was fitted for its purpose. My lungs are the size of the tennis court because of the amazing role that oxygen and its partner, water play in my metabolism. My DNA is 70 trips to the sun and back because I am complex and designed to dominate.

For each session, like gravity, I was pulled back to my purpose. Two years ago, I sat down to write my mission statement. The first time I had been asked to do it, I had drawn blanks in my mind. I knew the organization’s mission. I knew the mission of every Christian but I had never needed to think about my mission.

This time round was different. We were going through a two day session on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This was Habit 2, Begin with the End in Mind. I had written my end so many times but not like this.

Begin with the end in mind also means to determine our own life’s purpose. It ensures that as we’re climbing the ladder of success, it’s leaning against the right wall.

I did not want to reach my life’s end and find my ladder was against the wrong wall. I still did not know how neither what to write.

Thankfully, the Franklin Covey team had thought of me. Jesus, you love me too much oh, excess love oh. The app, and it was an app, had questions about my passions, my dislikes, my bucket list, my many things that I hope to do when I retire….At the end it put all of them together into one statement.

Creating a Legacy founded on our rich African heritage and built on the eternal rock, Jesus. All wrapped in the goodness and grace our Lord has lavished on us.

The statement looked like me. Even with certain things undone, it looked like me. Wow. Jesus, you love me too much oh, excess love oh

These two days, I have gone through the same epiphany. I have reflected on how all the people I spend time with are passionate about the things that I am passionate about.

The app sessions I walked into with Pastor Muriithi and Pastor Jumba, I might as well have gone through a tesseracts- a wrinkle in time. I could have been chatting with my dear friend Hannah or having breakfast with JoyLiz at a cafe. Or chatting with Stella or Noreen about the place of culture and history in the life of the 21st century child. In reality, I was at Transform 2019 discussing World views, failing forward, the church is the solution to all the pain in the world, culture alignment, discipleship, global perspectives – conversations that I have had over the last two years. Ongoing conversations that keep me awake at night, conversations that lead me down rabbit holes, conversations that I carry to my prayer room. Jesus, you love me too much oh, excess love oh.

Do you have your mission statement down? Write it down. I found a beautiful Japanese concept, ikigai Aka your purpose in life that is able to guide you.

Focus and intensity. As I reflected on this aspect, purpose popped up yet again. Focus and intensity are powered by Purpose. Like focusing light through a magnifying glass.

Your final success is the sum total of our successes and failures, Dr. Ian Clarke.

Purpose helped me to accurately reflect on this statement and to fail forward rather than wallow in the mire of failure. Jesus, you love me too much oh, excess love oh.

No ladders on wrong walls, all ducks in a row. Is this how I envisage my 65+ reflective years? Absolutely. Will my Legacy be my end in mind? Without a doubt.

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1‭-‬2 NKJV