He is not here

The end of a rope. I have not had an occasion to run out of rope. However, we did run out of road this one time. Hilarious right! So we were cruising on Mombasa road heading back to Malindi, and part of that road was so bad, you didn’t know whether you were on the road or off the road. Well, not quite. It was really bumpy, so at one point, we noticed how smooth it has gotten. Only to hear our driver say, “oops, we run out of road!” We were driving on the shoulders at that point. He quickly course corrected and we were back to our jostling.

Not so many situations are this great. Most of the Hallmark movies have a scene where the family of the patient are in the waiting room and the surgeon walks in, still in his scrubs,and says ‘Doctors have done all they can… but he/she didn’t make it!’ Hearts broken. Sad theme music. And it’s done. You may rewind but you will always get back to that point and the doctor will walk to the waiting room in his scrubs. There is a finality about death.

Then there was COVID and the dynamics changed completely. No more wakes. No more ashes to ashes and dust to dust by the grave side. No more laying wreaths on caskets. No more viewing the body. Just the ‘angels’ coming in, spraying their paths with chloroquine. And ensuring everyone stays far away. Strangers burying a strangers. Loved ones estranged. There is a stillness about death.l

https://www.afro.who.int/sites/default/files/2020-10/WHO_2554.JPG

Early, one Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary made her way to the tomb to finish dressing the body of her Rabbi, Jesus. She finds the tomb empty and goes back to tell Simon Peter. Simon and John run to the tomb, to find indeed it is as she said. They return to their homes. The emptiness of this phrase points to the hollowness of death. Mary remains in the garden distraught, weeping and recounting the same phrase as grief is bound to do. The angels ask why she is weeping. They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him. Even after the angels have told her. She looks up to see someone and in her grief, she recounts the same phrase for him.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

John 20:15 NKJV

Mary’s pain is raw. The raw pain missed in Hallmark movies. I was hurrying to the hospital when the call came, it was my dad. He calmly asked where I was and I told him I was rushing to the hospital and apologized because I was so late. I cannot remember anything else he said, but I do recall that he told me mummy passed away in the early hours of the morning. Ohhhh, those words cut through my brain like a butcher’s knife. Right to my physical heart, the only response was a loud wail. I stopped the car in the middle of the road. I felt the sun had to stop rising and darkness should come and cover me. But it did not. I felt like my life was over but it was not. I just kept repeating over and over, mummy has passed on. It void statement. It was devoid of meaning. Because what was a world without a mummy. From the day of my birth, mummy had been there. When I cried, I would cry for my mummy. When I was in labour, my mummy was there. Now in the moment that was like the worst, she was not there. There is a loneliness about death.

Jesus, just like He did for Mary, whispered, ‘Dora, why are you weeping?’ She is not here. She is risen. May hope arise dear reader in your heart. The One who is the Resurrection and the Life. The One who is the firstborn over all creation. He is not dead, He is Alive. Because He lives you can face anything. Look to Him, He is your Lifeline and Waymaker.

There is a Balm in Gilead

Jeremiah laments a lot for the daughters of Judah. He is the one who speaks of Rachel weeping for her children. This prophecy was fulfilled when Herod went on his murderous spree to remove all trace of the Messiah. His lament is almost 600 years earlier, but the words hang over Judea like a wet blanket. Mothers wailing for their sons, no home left untouched.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

I had always thought this balm was a figure of speech but it is a real thing. There is actually a balm, similar to our shea butter, ghee, Avocado oil, tea tree oil. It has amazing healing properties for the body. You get the drift. Though I shall stick with my figure of speech, thank you very much.

Every mum has that quick fix or go to balm for aches, pains and colds. For most mums, it was Vicks. That is until Dragon balm came. My mum used it as the cure of all things! Ha ha! You have a cold? Dragon balm. You have a headache? Dragon Balm. You are just out of sorts. Dragon Balm. It had such a strong scent, you went around smelling like a peppermint tree. And guess what? It worked.

22 Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery For the health of the daughter of my people?

Jeremiah 8:22 NKJV

Is there no balm in Gilead? Will I never have relief from this cold? Will this headache never end? Will I never wake up without pain all over? Is there no balm in Gilead?

Dr. Luke does not record her name, clearly client confidentiality did not start recently. This woman has been bleeding for twelve years. She had gone through all of Judea looking for the balm in Gilead. With every visit to the doctors, her hopes were raised and with every visit her hopes were dashed. Because even though she had spent all the money as required and done all she needed to do, the bleeding did not stop. She did not have a regular cycle. She did not have children. She only had those bloody menstrual clothes to look at each day. Those bloody menstrual cloths to smell each day. Those bloody menstrual clothes to wash each day. Those bloody menstrual cloths to ask her every day, is there no balm in Gilead?

Is there no balm in Gilead? Your situation remains unchanged, despite doing all you can. Your health deteriorates, there is no relief from pain. You feel drained and tired, there is no comfort.

Jesus is on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter. She has heard about Him, the Great Teacher. Some say He is the Messiah. The Messiah whom Herod did not kill. If He is indeed the Messiah, she thinks, I shall be healed. There is no more thought about protocols and cleansing laws. The opportunity is now.

She crawls into the crowd.

And touches the Hem of Jesus’ garment. Immediately, the blood stops flowing. Is this true? She can feel it, but she has to get away to check and confirm. Then Jesus stops and asks that question, ‘Who touched Me?’

The woman with the issue of blood. Photo credit: Pinterest

Oohhh, the dread. I am fine now, can we all just get along with our lives? You know it’s me, Jesus. I know it’s you, let’s just move on. Jesus stops and is almost dismissive of Peter’s questions.

She stands up and walks to Him. There must have been a hush falling on the crowd as they recognized her. Jesus speaks to her. The unclean one. The one who had spent most of her life in isolation. He exhorts her to be of good cheer! Stand up, Rise up, your faith has made you well.

It’s over. She can go home and have dinner with her family. She can smile again. She can laugh again. There is a balm in Gilead. His name is Jesus, He heals and makes you whole. He is the Balm that keeps on healing. Laughter is good medicine. The Balm of Gilead not only soothes, He brings recovery.

Be of good cheer and come to Jesus. He will heal your sin-sick soul. He will heal your ailing body. He will make you laugh.

Cracked

So many memes on the internet about Gamer’s rage. It is real. Things do not work as advertised, they work in real time. In real time, things slow down. Things depreciate. Friction happens.

The real game changer is inertia; it feels like you are moving forward, only to catch yourself in a holding pattern. For the creative, going through an intense design time, all the pieces are falling into place. The mind and fingers are in sync- momentum is gained. Suddenly, the key board is not working. The mouse freezes; the touch screen is not responding.

It must be the sweat or dust. This is easily resolved with a bit of tissue. Nothing that a cool water break cannot resolve. Still nothing! This cannot be happening. I have deadlines. I was nearly done.

Photo credit:Pinterest

What began as seething, is now rage. And the object becomes the screen. You pound at it, throw it far from you. Glass doesn’t always break but it always cracks. Sometimes visible to the naked eye. Sometimes invisible to the naked eye. Cracked glass is fascinating as an art piece but not as crockery. One is never sure when it will give way.

Adam cracked us all; we are volatile. One way this moment. Another way in the next moment. It became cute and we have nice cliches to describe our art pieces; perks, phobias, addictions, defects etcetera, etcetera…We got stuck and were not fit for purpose. Till Jesus paid it all.

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

I Corinthians 15:22 NKJV

Jesus paid it all. You can live through inertia. Through sticky keys. Through being stuck. No need to rage, just breathe. Life it goes on beyond this moment because Jesus has made you alive.

The Author-ity

When you take a pen, write your story and publish it, you become a published author. What does it mean to be an author? Does it mean you have a way with words or that you appeal to a particular group of readers? Are you entertaining or do you generate excitment?

Authority is derived from a Latin word meaning ‘orginator. It may also mean the state of being an author. Authors are the origin of their works. Wow, that sounds so grand and like a Life purpose.

But what does originator mean? Authors are finite beings, so they really cannot be at any origin. Charles Dickens, Shakespeare do not live any more, unlike the origin of the River Nile that has never changed. Whereas that is true, they did bring unique writing style into this world. There are not too many Chinua Achebe’s nor Soyinkas.

8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Luke 7:8 NKJV

I find this conversation with the Centurion a most fascinating one because Jesus doesn’t actually talk to him but rather to the Jewish elders he sends. Each group carries not their own words but the centurion’s words.

Photo credit: Pinterest

To be an author-ity is to carry another’s words. Like the elders carried the centurion’s, every author-ity is a carrier of another’s words. We pull words from every precipice of our minds, our environments and weave them into stories for our audiences. The Jewish elders could speak to Jesus in a way the centurion could not. They were elders in their own right, custodians of God’s promises to the nations of Israel. They were authors of Jewish customs and norms in Jesus’ day.

On this day, they carried the words of a Gentile. And they came under his author-ity. They carried his words to Jesus and the servant was healed. The Jews continued to benefit from the kindness of the centurion. Becoming an authority is a trust, a trust that you shall be faithful to the originator.

After you have read others’ stories, write your own. Become an author-ity.

The Boxing Glove

Nicky Gumbel of HTB narrates a story of a visit to a teenage prison and his use of a boxing glove as an illustration of our lives.

I brought in a boxing glove as a visual aid. I dangled the glove and showed how ineffective it was without a hand in it. Then I put my hand in the glove, made a fist and punched the air so that everyone could see the difference it made to the power of the glove. Nicky Gumbel, Bible in One Year, Day 256.

He used this illustration to depict our lives without Christ. Boxing gloves are not as soft as made out in the illustration above. It is true that the glove looks whipped and harmless until it is put on a hand. But not just any hand, I thought.

When David was brought before Saul to prepare for his battle with Goliath, he did not find Saul’s armour very helpful. So I thought, neither would I be any use with that glove.

Muhammad Ali Art. Photo credit: Pinterest

But in the hands of Muhammad Ali. That glove is mighty in the Boxing ring. It is power packed. And so it is with us.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

In Christ, we are new and power packed. There is no remembrance of our former weakened state. Like the gloves in the hands of Muhammad Ali, no one recalls that just a few minutes ago, the gloves were no better than their decorative type. We are faster and mightier. We are waiting but in the real thick of the action. We are not formless, we have a purpose and our destinies are shaped.

Most importantly, we are in the hand of the winner. When He spread his hands out in victory, we are also spread out. We bring nothing to this fight other than belonging to the fighter.

Did you wake up feeling powerless? Allow Jesus to adorn you in His strength that you may be like a boxing glove in the hands of Muhammad Ali.

Cut it off!

Pluck it out.

My MIL had this love for trees, in particular Avocado trees. Yes, her avocadoes were out of this Kampala. Huge, as in one could feed our little family of four. For context, the avocadoes I ate in school, one could only sufficiently feed me. And I don’t really fancy avocado that much. Really! So anyway, these avocadoes had that real avocado green color, wow. Peeling one was delightful, the flesh fell exactly where you wanted it. If you have peeled one that got mushy and collapsed into insy winsy bits ina bowl, you know the painnn. The pain of being robbed of a salsa and left with guacamole. Cry me a river.

We would rave on and on about her Avocadoes whenever we were at her home. Her Generosity was unmatched, she shared everything. So if you wanted avocadoes, she sent them by almost sackfuls. It was Avocado paradise. Well, when we finally moved into our home, she decided to give us our very own tree. You think she gave us one, not in the least. She came and planted, by herself two avocado trees. All the while, lamenting how she failed to find one exactly like her own. How she knew these ones would not be exactly like hers but would come close. There we were surrounded by avocadoes, true to her word, they were not exactly like the ones she had. They were huge but not the Avocado green. Oh well, we could always get the ones she picked from her home.

One day, I am passing by one of the trees and I notice these unusual orange flowers on it. I was in a hurry, so it was a really cursory glance. I had spotted some creepers trying to strangle our golden duranta, this was closer to the ground. I pulled them out and moved along. When I got back in, I attempted to find the creeper that turned to be an orange trumpet vine but I couldn’t trace it. Immediately, I knew the tree was in danger. Please I cut all my Agriculture lessons, so it was just a sense.

The cancer

My husband quickly identified this lump and we had to cut off the branches that were affected. The lump where the flame vine had attached itself to the branch and started to grow as an Avocado branch. The orange flowers were pretty but they were not avocadoes. That lump just looked like a cancer to me!! While the men were busy sawing off branches and carrying them away, I was running around shouting ‘O my gosh, this is like a cancer!’ while taking pictures and moving closer to observe. Sigh. Sigh. God loves me just this way, is all I am saying.

Why must a cancer be cut out or nuked out of your body? Because it won’t stop growing. It attaches itself to your body and grows with everything else. Only, instead of adding to your beauty, it begins to drain the life out of you. That tree looked bright, all right but that lump is ugly. Also you are not as productive as you need to be. The flowers on avocado tree signal fruit is coming. These flaming orange trumpets look great on a fence but not on a tree.

So it is with sin. Paul writing to the Romans teaches them that the wages of sin is death. When it comes to dealing with sin in our lives, we cannot be complacent. We have to cut it out. You could choose to ignore it, but eventually it chokes you to death.

43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

Mark 9:43 ESV

Pluck it out.

Henna Blossoms in the Vineyard

Bees. I watched a movie about bees as a young girl that put the fear of bees into my heart. Because those bees were genetically morphed into killer bees. The swarm of bees was a destroyer, they killed every living thing in sight. How terrifying. In my short life, my memories of bees have been to point me in the direction of sweet, aromatic and beautiful flowers.

14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms In the vineyards of En Gedi.

Song of Solomon 1:14 NKJV

This beautiful text has held my attention, as an image of luxury. Flowering vineyards would already attract so many bees. Imagine with me scent of grape vines in blossom, and how the air is filled with expectation. The humming of the bees as the move around enjoying the nectar and pollinating the flowers.

This vineyard is near a waterfall, En Gedi. Such a luscious place.The sound of a cascading waterfall. En Gedi is the last fresh water spring before one reaches the Dead Sea. The place is bursting with life in a place close to death.

Somewhere in there, henna blossoms. Henna is commonly used as a dye for human art and hair. Its blossoms are beautifully soft and scented. Not as strong as grape blossoms but strong enough to attract insects.

Why would she describe her beloved in this manner? Because she has found the one whom her soul desires. I recall being sold the story about finding a soul mate. At the time, it seemed credible and plausible but not quite. Your soul wants many things. It has your emotions, it has your mind and it has your will. Most times, these three especially for a woman do not agree. Case in point is chocolate fudge cake. Your mind knows that moment on the lips will be a life time on the hips. Your emotions do not agree at all, because well, chocolate fudge cake is just melts on your tongue-like how good does chocolate have to taste. Your will depending on what time of the day and events may assent to the mind’s suggestion and help you wolf down the cake in the fastest time possible. Or allow you to savor it, forkful by forkful. But for this little conundrum, a mate would suffice.

Her beloved was not just one way and never another. He was henna blossoms- attractive, appealing and pleasing to her eyes. The promise of fruitfulness is held in the Vineyard. It is tended and cared for, not for it’s beauty but,its ability to produce grapes. There is loads of activity, pleasant activity. He smells good, yes. And even though, death may be round the corner, he is refreshing and nurturing. A cool,refreshing drink on any day.

Mates just don’t cut it for this. And it may be possible to find this person, but ultimately, Solomon brings us to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only One who can fully satisfy your soul. Jesus knows everything about you, the good, the bad and the ugly, and He still loves you. Jesus became man so He could take your place in death. His words can bring healing to all the crevices of your soul, no matter how hidden and how dark. Need I add, that He was the Word in the Beginning. So, He is the One we all yearn for.

If you are longing for a luxurious life, the one you do not escape from, Jesus is your cluster of henna blossoms in the Vineyard of En Gedi. He restores your soul. (Psalm 23:3)