Mirror, Mirror on the wall

Who’s the fairest of them all? Disney’s rendition of Snow White has the most ominous tone for these words. In my childhood, I always wondered why she had to ask the mirror. Couldn’t she tell for herself? She was the queen, couldn’t she have organized a beauty pageant like King Xerxes did…but I guess fairy tales are just that, fairy tales. More questions than answers.

How does one then tell the fairest? Is there a world standard on beauty? Is beauty only skin deep? Are we just bodies? No, of course we aren’t. This is exactly why you dear reader are able to read this blog. You are spirit, you possess a soul and you live in a body. You desire more than skin deep interactions. You are more than just dermis and sweat excretion.

Appearance is the seed for perception. As we grow older, we become experts at wearing masks. It might be your make up routine and your desire to conceal every single flaw on your face. It may be the bold and assertive spring in your walk. We go at it from morning to evening, how do I look? Mirrors are such an important part of our routine, a typical car has three. Mine has five. I have a close up mirror in the sun visor that lights up so I can detect the pores in my face. There is no excuse to appear unkempt and not altogether. You just look in the mirror, and make sure what you see is how you want to be perceived.

But the body is only a third of me. How often have you been dressed to the nines but feel so unprepared for that presentation? Everyone thinks you have it under control. (Remember perception) While you are literally looking for exits from the room and hoping the ground shall swallow you. Let’s talk about loss or failure. One fine day, I stumbled on a slightly higher tile, because whereas my eyes saw all these tiles as even from a distance, my feet did not. And there I was flat on the ground in this grand shopping mall. Luckily, no one knew me. I quickly got up and checked myself. No broken bones, no ripped jeans, just a bit of grazing on the knee…not sure how that happened and left the jeans intact. I looked for the nearest public bathroom- washed my hands. Looked at myself in the mirror and off I went. Of course more carefully. I mean these tiles are deceptive. All the while wondering why I fell? No one in that mall knew what questions were running through my mind? As I tried out shoes? Inspected clothes? Checked out price tags?

I paused for a moment to think about the other shoppers. What was going on with them? What silent battles were they facing? What were they celebrating? I could only attempt to read their faces and their gaits but there is no mirror for the soul. The bathroom did not have a mirror for me to check my own composure. How was I dealing with this fall? In Gayaza High School, it was complete and utter digiloss to fall down. It is easy to brush it aside because no one really sees what you feel. But does it make it unimportant?

Babies it turns out do not recognize themselves in the mirror till they are 18 months. Philippe Rocat’s five stages reveal that our self awareness which is our consciousness of who we are develops with time. Level 3 is where the babies can tell that the image in the mirror is them. It is also when they recognize that they are distinct from their environment but can be connected through language. So their ability to communicate develops rapidly from this point on. What a shock! Looking at babies giggling in mirrors, one would think they are aware of themselves. No, apparently that is someone. They don’t know who, just it is someone.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

James 1:25 NKJV

I thank God for James, one of the patriarchs who writes these beautiful words in this letter to the twelve tribes of Israel scattered abroad. The perfect law of liberty! I can forget like the evil queen who I am when I rely on a mirror. But not when I look at the perfect law of liberty.

The perfect law of liberty is the Love of God as written in His Word. God is love and His perfect love frees me from fear.Fear of being. Fear of not being. Fear of death. It reveals to me who I am. This mirror covers my flaws and reveals my perfection. I am liberated. It is the only mirror that can do this. This mirror is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. The Word that became flesh and dwelt amongst us.

Jesus is the fairest of them all. When I look at Him and do what He does, I am changed to look like Him. Liberté ! Viva! Viva! Viva!

Young adult, before you leave home,

Take care that you have learnt to work. But isn’t that the same thing as earning money. No, it isn’t. Work is work. Earning money is earning money.

Work according to Physicists has to do with force and motion. Yes, there must be energy in this thing and something has to change. You may imagine that just because the chair cushion deflates when you sit on it, you have worked. Not at all, my friend, the cushion has worked. You just sat there.

Work is repititive. It is usually a progression of many small tasks. Let’s take washing dishes as an example. You need to remove the dishes from the table to the sink or the general area where the washing shall be done. You clear any food remains. You get the soap and sponge, lather and begin to wash. Some pots and pans require extra energy to get the food remains out. Rinse and hang to dry. After drying, they have to be put away. You repeat this sometimes three to four times a day.

Work is responsibility. If it can be done by anyone, then it is not work. If someone has to take it up and be seen to do it, then it is work. For example, anyone can dive into a pool and swim (caution: if you have not learned to swim, this category might exclude you, cause you will not swim but rather flail), but only a lifeguard can save a swimmer in distress. So the lifeguard is working while you are swimming.

Photo courtesy: Pinterest

Work is not rosy. Yes, most of us have this grand ideas about getting a job. We shall simply be conveyed in very clean elevators to our pristine offices and type one word on a keyboard with neatly manicured nails…and it shall be 5pm. Welcome to the Bubbles bursting session! So it starts with waking up early, and this starts with getting to bed early. This means denying yourself a whole night of binging on series. It means setting alarms. It means having the clean and near clothes to wear. It means managing time. You must beat the traffic to be at work at 8am. Even if you work from home, you must beat so many pleasant thoughts of breakfast in bed to start when you said you would.

Work is a requirement. God worked. God is working. In Genesis 1, we see God at work creating our environment. He gave Adam the Garden of Eden to tend. Tending is fruitfulness and multiplication. The requirement was that Adam would multiply Eden all over the earth.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

Genesis 2:15 NKJV

Work is a resolution. Adam was not designed to keep the garden small and maintain his 50 by 100ft plot with his small family of two children. No, Adam was built for subduing and dominion. Imagine that we are now 8bn people in the entire world, from the one man Adam. That capacity is in you as well. You are not here to pass Mathematics with an A*, you are here to extend the Kingdom of God. Jesus said that His Father was working, the tense is present continuous. There is no day or night if the earth is not rotating round the sun. God is working. You should be too. The whole of creation is working, atoms with their protons and neutrons are in constant motion. Birds are forever flying. Trees are growing. Babies are growing. Everything is designed to grow. You must resolve to grow by working.

Work is rewarding. Going back to the Physics definition, you do something that causes something to be set in motion that brings a new result. I start out with raw matooke and end with hot, steaming yellow and tasty delicacy. I start out with a grimy floor and end with a sparkly, smooth feeling floor. I start with very few people interested in opening accounts and end with a greater percentage transacting their businesses through my bank.

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

John 15:8 NKJV

Young adult, before you leave home, take care that you have learned to work and to value work.

Young adult, before you leave home…

Take care that you have learned to earn money. It will shock you that money turns the world around. Yes, you have grown older and it is now time to grow your own wings. Time to see the world. You believe you can fly.

Hang on there. Who bought you these wings? Are they borrowed? Did your parents give them to you over time? Have you grown into them? Are you riding on someone’s wings?

Young person, you need to earn your own money. Everything you take for granted is now on you. Your parents may have been a call away when there was an emergency, you will need an emergency fund. You were called for meals, heyyy, you will need to go shopping, think of storage and meal preps. You will need to wash all the dishes after your meals. What is the going rate for the lady that washes clothes? Or the live in help? Let’s talk about moving from your home to work or hang out with friends.

Photo credit: Pinterest

There is a new phenomenon called bills. Bills are regular, they are delivered and even if you ignore them, they keep piling. How much is a unit of power? What about water? How many units were you using as you stood under that shower or filled the bath tub? How about the lights that never go off in your home? Did you say daddy knows these things?

First off, your salary is not enough to cover all your expenses. Yes, it looks exciting because it has so many zeros. It will not be enough. Because you must spend less than you earn.

Second, your schooling may have restricted you to do only 4 or 5 subjects. You can do so much more than the one job you now have. Even within the job, you can handle multiple things. It is the way you are designed. God made you in His image, think of all the diversity in the animals, birds and plants. You are just as diverse and even more because you have the capability of creating something out of what doesn’t exist.

If you have a head and two hands, then poverty is a choice.

Moses Mukisa, Straight Forward Financial Growth (2018)

Third, you do not exist for yourself but for others. Think about it, what is the excitement of moving out about? The prospect of meeting new people and spending more time with your friends. So you need to factor in others. What will your contribution to this world be? How will the people around you benefit from your existence? Money is a currency that can be used to access other capitals. It is the one currency that expresses how much you value a thing. So if you want people to know you value them, you must do it in a currency they understand.

Having financial resources is what enables you to turn your concern into compassion.

Moses Mukisa, Straight Forward Financial Growth (2018)

Fourth, you will not always be young. You have to plan for the future. Savings and investment. You must plan for a time when you will no longer be young and agile and when your friends will not be there to bail you out. This means you must be earning money now, right?

Fifth, your parents have invested and if I may so has the entire nation in your life this far. Your one job now is to attempt to repay them for their goodness towards you. You remember that beautiful graduation speech with tears streaming down expressing your gratitude. It’s now time to act on it.

Without work, you’d have nowhere to start, nothing to save and nothing to invest with, no matter how many opportunities show up.

Moses Mukisa, Straight Forward Financial Growth (2018)

Start by evaluating your strengths. A great hack I have found is to list down 100 things you are good at. Only 100. Get a pen or pencil and paper and write them down. You might not exhaust it in one hour because of all the negativity you may have lived through. Press on and determine to list 100. Ask your friends, your siblings and family. Reflect on all those comments and compliments you have received.

Determine which ones you would love to pursue before you die. Some people call this a bucket list. The things I must do. This is what you are passionate about. They should not exceed 25. Go over the list and cross out the ones which are not so close to your heart.

What can the market pay you for? Go over what are now your 25 ideas. Every idea has a conception, incubation, prototyping and roll out phase. Assess each of the 25 ideas. You should have at least three that you have been prototyping. If all of them are at conception, like light bulb moments, my dear young adult, stay home. Prototyping means you can sell a product or service in the market and earn some money. It may not be exactly what you like but it people are willing to pay for it. For example, you can bake 12 cupcakes and sell them all at the office. Your capacity later maybe 2000.

Before you leave home, you should be able to earn money from more than one source of income.

Focus

Vision is blurred if the light does not bend or refract correctly and focuses directly on the retina. Blurred vision is a refractive error, which is the most common disorder of the eye.

Sculpted By Design 2021

What you focus on, EXPANDS

Are your thoughts preoccupied with the concerns for today? What shall we eat? What shall we wear? Where shall we live? Have you noticed that these concerns keep growing?

Picture credit: Pinterest

Pause.
Refocus.

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Romans 8:6 NKJV

Who is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth?
Who is the Savior of the World?
Who loved you enough to die for you?
Who loved you to redeem you from death?
Who gave you new life?
Whose name is above every other name?

Pause.
Refocus.

Jesus is the Light of the World. Our gift of 24hrs is because the earth rotates around the sun. The earth never waivers, never falters, never alters. The Son should remain your singular focus just like the earth and the sun.

Your life is a series of Choices


Martha was excited to host Jesus. A very important guest. A Rabbi. Everything had to be just right. She drew up a menu and assigned roles in her mind. She ensured the guests were seated, their feet were washed. They had light refreshments. All was going well till she sent Mary to serve the guests.

Martha had many things coming at her that day. Hosting a big number of guests can do that to you. There is only so much you can achieve alone. There is also only so much you can achieve through very excited others. Little things begin to pile. You cannot find a certain table cloth. The person you sent to borrow one from your neighbor heard yellow when you specifically mentioned cream. The caterer’s truck or maybe donkey breaks down and will not move. The wood is wet! Or power goes as you place that roast in the oven.

When the many things came, Martha became anxious. Nothing was going according to plan. This was not good! She began to fret. She was troubled.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42 ESV (emphasis mine)
Photo Credit: Pinterest

Mary also had many things come at her. She was also hosting guests at her home. When she entered the room to serve the guests, she heard Jesus teach His disciples. She observed how they sat listening to Him. His words were warm and comforting. They made her heart lighter. The bustle in the kitchen was no longer important. This moment here had to last. She could not pull herself to leave the room.

She was not anxious.
She was not troubled.

She chose to sit and listen to Jesus. Jesus called it the good portion.

Moments. Life is a collection of moments. A moment is a result of a choice. You can choose one moment over another. You can reject one moment over another. Life may seem to roll on and at you, but with each roll you have the power to choose. It is never taken away.

Have you caught yourself too busy with getting things done for Jesus? It is never that serious. Selah. Breathe. Look at the stars, remember who is that called you.
Have the things of this world consumed you? The soaring prices, the never ending deadlines, the endless quest to make it in life. Selah. Pause. Look around you. Listen for the birds. Watch the leaves bristle.
Have you become troubled by all the suffering in this world? Selah. Take a seat. Go back to Calvary. Take in the cross. Take in the blood that Jesus shed. Take in His choice in Gethsemane.
Are you anxious about tomorrow? Selah. Turn back. Return to the stronghold of hope. God is your refuge.

Every day of your life, you can choose the good portion.

Sit and listen to Jesus.

It will not be taken away from you. ❤️

Remembrance Day

Is observed on 11th November to honor those who died serving their countries in World War I. There are poppies everywhere you turn on any street in England. On lapels. On billboards. On hats. Everyone has a poppy to remember. The tradition was instituted by King George V, grandfather to Queen Elizabeth II. This tradition is over 100 years old but it is as real as Christmas and as Thanksgiving. There is even an order of service for the Service of Rememberance

In October, I teach a session on the History of Uganda at Harvest Institute School of Leadership. The sessions have varied over the years, because wow, we live in interesting times. So this year, we were looking for history around us. Prior to this class, I found out from a friend that her grandfather whose home is in my neighborhood was a WWI veteran and a published author! Go figure. Do you think we have Remembrance Day in Kiwanga? Not in the least. If we were living in England, there would be a whole ceremony at the St Thomas round the corner from his home. And we would leave wreaths and little notes at the gate of his home. It is such an ordinary day.

Some of the students were not in Kampala so they needed help finding historical sites in the districts where they were. And that’s how I found out that Semei Kakungulu built a synagogue in Mbale. A synagogue. How could someone not remember to teach this in school? It is such a contrast to who he was and what we were taught that it should have found its way to the books. It didn’t.

We must choose to remember. And to remember not in part but in whole. Our lives did not begin with us so taking a moment to remember is us being grateful. Grateful for choices we did not have to make. Grateful for decisions that led to us being on this planet. Grateful for all who made it possible for you to live where you live.

On this last day of November, who do you need to remember? How can you express your gratitude?

A note to my father

There was a time in our history, the history of Uganda when intellectuals were hunted down and murdered. Several went missing and I can only imagine the terror in the faculties at the University. Getting in to work to the news that your alma mater had been murdered or had disappeared without a trace. I experienced a glimpse of this with COVID-19, when every message alert caused a bit of a flutter. Even now, as I was searching for the image for this blog, there were more images of death announcements than there were of celebrations. Yet, he remained. Even with all the options, he had to leave and start afresh.

My aunt tells the story of how they had to cross the Uganda-Kenya border with eggs. (This story is for another day). But yes, he crossed the border to shop for everything we needed. From milk to soap, there was nothing in our home that did not come from Kenya. For the longest time, waay past 1986, we did not purchase anything other than fresh food stuff and bread from Uganda. I don’t know how many miles he packed into his various cars plying the border but they are in thousands. I know that when I first crossed the border alone, some Immigration officers still remembered him plying the route.

Classic Daddy

I recall meeting one of his secretaries, she was a wife to one of the ministers in the Obote II government. She was delightful and loved to have us over to play with her children. And we loved her in equal measure. One day we awoke to the news that she had killed herself and her children. We quickly run to their home, hoping it was not true. But no one would let us anywhere near. There was no funeral for us, we were too young. I think times were too perilous, but death is cloudy. The mind selects what to focus on. All I recall was not seeing her busy in her kitchen through the big windows. Later, it would be that no one played with us anymore. There was no one to accompany home after Sunday School. There were no more simsim balls and groundnut bars. My dad still went in to work, he paused to check that we were well. And back to his routine.

The next time we heard from this family, the dad was running into exile in 1986 and requested my dad to park the official cars in our compound. My dad obliged; there was a formal handover. And he stayed while the former minister fled into exile.

Didi’s World opened with loads of fanfare, our first almost theme park. The highlight of everyone was the Pirate ship but you had to wait till you were twelve years. It was the equivalent of our rollercoaster. There was the Octopus and caterpillar but nothing beat the Pirate ship! I do not recall who had turned twelve, but we were finally all able to get into the ship. Some of us has been on it before, for the rest it was a fresh experience. My dad joined us and sat, stoic as ever. Then it started to swing. A gentle sway at first, then the speed increased and so did the height. Total mayhem.. At a certain point in its swing, one could see the Sheraton, and then it was down again. We were screaming, some children were crying. My dad, he sat there very calmly.

38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Mark 4:38 NKJV

One fine day, Jesus got into a boat on one side of the Sea of Galilee so he could cross over to the other side. It should have been a normal crossing, or maybe it was a normal crossing because such storms were common on the Sea of Galilee. I imagine it is similar to what has become common place flash flooding whenever it rains here in Kampala. Some sections of the road are cut off and crossing becomes perilous to everyone around the road. While, we tend to worry at the sight of grey clouds if caught around this section, Jesus enters the boat, finds a comfortable spot and puts a pillow under his head. He promptly falls asleep and only wakes up when roused by troubled fishermen.

Whenever I imagine this picture, I recall my dad seated in that pirate ship. In the midst of screaming and crying children, he is seated calmly taking it all in. Maybe it is the Mathematics, he might have been calculating in his mind. He shall write his story and tell all. To me, it will always be a reminder of Jesus.

You Have Authority Over Any Storm You Can Sleep In

Bill Johnson

Swords Up!

An AK 47/is a heavy prop to carry around but there she was swinging it around as she spoke with her colleague. Is there no protocol around these matters? How should a guard on duty conduct themselves?

We had to learn how to handle a gun as part of the training. Theory and practical. Take it apart, assemble it, and fire in a range. For some of the class, the shock started with the sound of the bullets up close. Mine started with the weight of the gun, especially during the recoil. One of the sergeants had to sit on my back to ensure that I was not destabilized by the recoil. Well, that would not cut it during any armed operation. So we had to learn to handle the weight of a gun on a daily. We were told to purchase specially fashioned batons known as silas. These would be our guns for the duration of our study. We marched with them to class, carried them to the dorms, even to meals. It was never lost. Wherever you appeared, you appeared with your gun.

That gun became almost an extension of each one of us. How interesting the allegory Paul painted to the Ephesians about the Sword. The average Roman Sword (gladius) weighed about 1kg. This seems so light, after all what is a kg of sugar, until you have to constantly carry it over long distances in formation. The Roman Solider was never without his armor.

African troops in Burma during World War II.

Swords Up! Such a fun game. Our Sunday school teacher used it to teach us to find Books of the Bible and then verses. It was such a joy to be the first to find the verse first, which was always easier with a well read Bible. The pages of a new Bible stick together for the much shorter books which makes it longer to find them. The last books of the Old Testament and New Testament were always the most rewarding because they were hard to find.

The Bible is delightful because it is the very Word of God. The Word from whom all things exist. The Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. Whereas the Bible looks like an ordinary book, Jesus reminds us that His words are Spirit and Life.

28 My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.

Psalms 119:28 NKJV

Your strength is found in always carrying the Word of God everywhere you go. There is no day off. There is no one time you appears without the Word or carry it in a careless manner. Every Christian must spend time learning and memorizing the Word of God. Listening to the Word being taught by their teachers of the Word so you are equipped in and out of season. It is the only offensive weapon a Christian has.

Feed the World

Let them know it’s Christmas time 🎶 You have not heard this 1984 Band-Aid favorite song? Never fear, the link is here. Or maybe you would prefer, Celine Dion’s ‘And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?’ You guessed it, the Christmas season is finally here. Is it your Most Wonderful time of the Year? We could do this all day…such fun.

Bob Geldorf and his pals were moved to avert a crisis in Ethiopia. There was a famine, a terrible famine that was documented by the BBC and caused everyone to want to do something. So that Christmas and the one after that, Band-Aid raised about £8M for the relief effort.

4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”

Matthew 4:4 NKJV

And so this is Christmas, what have you done? You have fed the hungry, well done! But Jesus, whose birthday is the reason for the Christmas celebration says there is more to life than food. Food offers temporary satisfaction, I recall all the Christmas dinners my mum cooked but that’s it. No more to feed on it again. Jesus is the Word in the Beginning, the Word that was spoken and everything we know was formed. so He should know what He is talking about.

Christmas time is indeed the most wonderful time of the year. Because our Savior was born on Christmas Day. And we need a savior because on our own we cannot save ourselves from the fallen nature of this world. When He became the Word incarnate, He showed us what to do.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Jesus did feed the hungry, 5000 of them in one go. It is important but not the most important. The most important is to feed the World with the Word of God. Every problem in this world is a sin problem. Even within relief agencies who are humanitarian, they fall short and their corrupt environment should be a reminder that there is more.

So this Christmas, would you lead someone to Jesus? So they are not only filled with a sumptuous Christmas dinner but remain with the Bread of Life all the days of their lives. The satisfaction is guaranteed by Jesus Christ.

I was glad

When they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord.

Sundays have always been such cheery days in our home. It was the one day that my dad boomed hymns and chorals all day long. But there was also just the delight of dressing up to go to church. The normally jammed lanes and pavements of the University were quiet, even the Library closed. We had all the quadrangles to explore, what made it more interesting was we could never guess in which faculty we would be having Sunday School.

But the fascination was the two Chapels, St. Francis and St. Augustine. During the week, they were inaccessible to us. But now I had all the time to gaze at the fresco’s and take in the amazing architecture. When the organ piped out those hymns, it was divine. Suffice it to say that I did not really understand what Church was about but all the pomp and ceremony was enthralling.

The order of service and how the Chaplain and the other priests moved at the altar. The endless rows of neatly arranged chairs. The baptismal pool at the back. The side aisles that people walked through very ‘humbly’ as they came back from taking Communion. Oh my, I loved doing it over and over.

When I walked to the Gayaza Chapel and found a similar arrangement, I was completely sold. Those two side access doors that we used and the drum fanfare before service. One of my favorite pastimes has become visiting ancient Cathedrals, just sitting there and imagining the countless congregations that have sat there, in war and in peace.

Namirembe Cathedral, was not a typical Sunday but rather a Christmas Carol service by the Kampala Singers. Without any microphones, we were able to hear the beautiful, harmonies from any cleft in that vast Cathedral. The organ, sounded even more glorious than the one in St. Francis. And then there were the vast terraced grounds, which we were free to roam at the time. I could never get over the different access points and would find myself wonderfully lost, trying to get back to my mother.

All Saints Kingston. Photo Credit: Pinterest

The church bells are pealing. Well, our bells never pealed. And we did not have Church bells either. I was glad to experience the actual pealing of Church bells when I visited Kingston,England. Early one Sunday morning. Oh, it was so thrilling and wonderful in contrast to the quiet in the neighborhood.

I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord.