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

Terror

Transformers, Dark of the Moon is what we were watching. Again for the umpteenth time. My first encounter with transformers were as fascinating toys, that came as trucks but could be changed into an action figure. Well, here we were in someone’s imagination, on what those toys could do.

When the decepticons invade Chicago to set up the bridge, their first priority is to cause terror so the humans flee and cannot stop their mission. Eventually though Sam comes with the soldiers to rescue Carly and the decepticons up their game! Shockwave brings in his drill that destroys an entire sky scraper! Horror! Where do we go to from here? In Dark of the Moon, the humans are like props on a set but being human, I cannot help but imagine if this happened in my own city, (Scooby and Shaggy teeth chattering)

It dawned on me that all terror starts in this same fashion. A few decepticons are sent to cause a few ruffles to fly. During the 1985 into 1986 war, we developed a running reflex! If you saw a group of people running in a certain direction, you dropped whatever it was you were doing and run in their direction. Why? It was the only signal we had of an attack. You just knew that people were fleeing from danger. Oh my, it was so bad, that way into the 90s, people would hear a tyre burst and run. And cause others to run as well. My children find this story very entertaining, btw.

Then the object of the terror becomes the clear focus and the intent is still to intensify terror in the hearts. As Shock wave’s drill, comes up through a street in Chicago, destroying everything in it’s path. You know, you should not be anywhere near it. However, when it systematically weaves its way through the sky scraper and crushes it like one does ice in a blender. The levels of horror in the heart have gone up. Eh! The sound effects do not make it any easier, neither do the shots of people trying to run as the building is being crushed. Horrifying. Mass graves, rape, mutilation and destruction of key land marks in war are designed for this very purpose. Terror that causes one to stand still like a deer looking at headlights.

Photo credit: Pinterest

5 You shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow (the evil plots and slanders of the wicked) that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor of the destruction and sudden death that surprise and lay waste at noonday.


Psalm 91:5-6 AMPC

And all this is going on, there is the final battle that the autobots and Optimus Prime must prepare for. The battle of slander. Sentinel Prime and Megatron seem to have outwitted the autobots and Optimus Prime. They slander Optimus, taunt him and try to weigh him down. Slander is such a wicked tool, because it tags at your heart and mind. It causes you to stay still because you are double minded. Is this person for me or against me? A person who was for me would not say such a thing? Or conversely, your enemy will offer a truce as did Megatron? But it’s a Trojan horse. Optimus Prime decapitates Megatron and destroys Sentinel Prime bringing an end to this battle.

What has terrified you? God’s promise is if you remain in His Shelter, you shall not fear. You shall not be terrified. Return to His stronghold and find reprise from the terror, from the pestilence, from destruction and sudden death.

Who has come against you? To win the battle of terror, you must be clothed in physical and mental might. All are found in the Shelter of the Most High God. Are you wearied from too much violence? Return to your shelter, let the Father dress you in His compassion.

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.

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.

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

Look at the Birds. Selah.

Credit:Pintrest

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Matthew 6:33 NKJV

This morning as I pondered these words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew, a former tax collector, three things came to mind:

  1. This verse is not misplaced. Jesus goes on about birds, lilies, food, clothing, drinks and somehere in his teaching, out pops, this verse. Furthermore, it starts with a ‘But.’ What is the connection?
  2. Birds, flowers, all creation -other than man -was spoken into being in the account in Genesis 1. God said ‘Let the land produce vegetation,’ ‘Let the birds fly above the earth.’ So if God places such care on His Word to perform it, how much more care does He place on you whom He formed and breathed life into.
  3. The Kingdom of God is eternal and cannot be shaken. If you are looking for tangible, things that remain, then you should consider first putting aside birds and flowers and such manner of things(food, clothing, drinks) as concern your life. Because the Kingdom of God is the thing. The thing that does not fade or pass away. The thing that remains when everything else is gone.

Today, choose what you shall seek first. 🐦🐧🕊🦅🌹🌺🌻💐 or the Kingdom of God.