PRAYER. PROCESS… PRODUCT

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There is a strong longing in the heart of most persons to succeed. That’s a given. By “succeed” I mean a desire to be accomplished in life so that others might reckon with such status attained. You hear severally from the lips of men how they hope not to die a commoner but to leave their marks in the history of humanity, and claim fame for their legacies. This leads to all manner of pursuit. We set targets for ourselves, compete with our imagination of others, and are pushed constantly by the perception of the external environment.

These false projections in the world are further complicated by our perception of time and its effect on desire. Many feel a sense of urgency as age furthers, so as to avoid a loss of motivation and energy to chase their dreams later. To be 40 years without owning a home, a car, stable income, proper savings, or a family is generally seen as unacceptable in society.

All these seething within a person’s mind and baked by the environment of extreme materialism, is a soul-numbing combination that really hinders the true development of sound character required for a qualitative life.

This is the context of the heart with which many come to Father God. Actually, many find Father in the spaces between need and wants, where what dominates the heart is the desire for things – healing, work, family, food, house, prosperity, education, etc. While the love of the Father will almost always take care of such desires with time, He certainly moves past the things that we want to challenge our notion of where the true value of life lies.

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HEARING AND SEEING GOD IN YOUR LIFE

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For the patient minded, read on.

One of the most frustrating things that we often have to deal with in our lives is the question of the existence of God. If you are human, you probably would have pondered on the issue and wondered if at the end this was all a big lie. Often times, you rebuke the thought and “keep the faith” because you have been taught to believe the consequences of streaming along that thought is quite dire, and damnation awaits the one who finalises that position. For those who have pushed that envelop further, it can take a course requiring some empirical evidence, such as saying “if you are God, can you…”, or “if you really exist, blow some cool air on my face”.

Even for those who tend to take their faith in God seriously, there are moments when they arrive at a seeming inaneness of it all, staying spiritually aloof for a time and floating in the nothingness of conviction. It can be quite painful and grievous for some. Most will deflect the matter from causing pain and pray out something like this: “I wish You would speak to me and let me hear you beyond any reasonable doubt”. Oh! The number of times I have wallowed in those moments, even after extended periods of deeply fulfilling spiritual renewals. 

We are often challenged with the concern of building our faith on what we have heard and received from others, or sources other than the self. We hear others speak glowingly of encounters with God and we rejoice momentarily, sometimes shiver from an attack of goosebumps, and join a collective frenzied expression of exuberant praise. However, we soon settle back to human nature and realise how dominant our emotions have played a huge part of what we profess. While this isn’t  necessarily demeaning, it leaves much to be desired; for we are yet to touch something more tangible to our inner person, and we know it.

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DUST OFF THAT BAG

dooney-and-bourke-hobo-bag-black-516956 A few days ago, I was slouching on the bed early in the morning and subjecting my thoughts to The Father when I suddenly noticed a hand bag belonging to my wife neatly tucked in the shoe rack. This is the first time I was paying attention to the location of bag. It is a black, mid-sized, Dooney and Burke hand bag (women will understand the fashion value), and I remember that my wife spent a little bit to acquire this a few years ago. She carried it everywhere and it was probably one of the most precious functional day-to-day fashion asset for her at some point. Today, it is displaced and finds itself among the shoes gathering dust.

Right there, The Father shifted my attention to the bag and as common with Him, taught me within a flashing second what the bag represented in my life. How did such a prized bag, still in a great condition, end up in the wrong place and become unattractive and unnoticed? Something else took its place. Obviously another possession was acquired and all of a sudden this one lost it place and fell out of favour, even though it retains it actual value for which it was initially acquired. What is even more interesting is that the bag has no tears or marks of depreciation.
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13 LESSONS FROM 2013

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The year 2013 for me was one of discoveries and re-imagination. I set my heart to be taught and to learn from even the smallest of persons or situations. I carefully noted lessons for the year drawn from my activities both at work and home. So this is my attempt to summarize, with key points, what I learned in 365 days.

Some of you have left this level a long time ago. But pardon me for taking time to relearn some of these finer details of life and sharing them with you. I also thought I knew these until certain circumstances revealed my apparent divorce of knowledge and practice.

I have chosen thirteen of the several lessons and tried to shorten this note because I know folks are pretty distracted these days and reading through an article is painful enough. But like the internet promises go, “read this to the end and you will receive a miracle in 13 days.”  

So here we go.

1. NEVER MISTAKE YOUR HELP FOR YOUR SOURCE. The lesson here is often quite bitter for those who may know what I am talking about. This lesson has changed my perspective about how to treat people and the kind of attachments I have to their abilities and capacities. I thought I knew my source. In truth, I have even exhorted others about knowing their true source. In 2013, I understood by occasion who my source was, and that has also altered my lingo, for those who may perceive it. Nuff said!

 2. MEN RESPOND TO YOU BASED ON THE VALUE THEY PLACE ON YOU. You might think you carry value which others may need, but until such value is perceived and truly relatable to others, you are only as good as the newly moved in next door neighbor. So do not be troubled by how people respond to you. It only answers to the kind of value they place on you. Note also that when people make promises to you, their performance of such is limited by the value they place on you as much as their capacity to perform.

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OF A PARTY IN LAGOS AND JESUS

I have been in Lagos for over ten days now and cannot but admire the resilience of the people. Admittedly, a lot of Nigerians are very aware and Lagos is filled with highly educated people who are hopeful of a change given the amount of hard work already imputed into the rusty system. Here, people work very hard in productive labour, despite the fact that there is a lot of disorder that inherently promotes corrupt practices even within glossy financial institutions.  Looking at all the bus drivers, the okada riders, the budding bankers, the street traders, and the mid to senior executives on the streets, you get a sense of an economy on the move. Although it is still very questionable or debatable what exactly our economy produces, if intensity of work spells productivity, then by all means our streets will be soon paved with gold.

Flowing from this, every time I see Lagosians party heavily, I always make an excuse for them in my heart that a lot of the people at these parties work very hard, thereby find consoling such social escapes. Even though such gatherings are spiced with overkill of apparel, music, wine and food, you get a sense of satisfaction in the air of celebration as a reward for diligence to duty. I attended one of such society events a few days ago as an accomplice to grandiose living. I must add that it was due to filial respect and promissory servanthood that I acceded to the demands of socializing. On location at Ahmadu Bello way, we were cramped into a hall that didn’t respect the laws of space economics. The food was good I must admit and was well-organized in terms of distribution. Wine flowed like water and the dancing was without mercy, especially being to the beat of the legendary King Sunny Ade, who is known to jazz his audience with mid-tempo rhythms that spell-binds the hearer into a legal tender spraying frenzy. Interestingly, to add colour to the proceedings, a full representation of the clergy was present in their full regalia and conspicuous emblems of religion. Of course they were escorted to the choicest of seats, closer to the noise ready sound emitters and I asked myself the question if this was a proof of God’s endorsement.

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THE CHURCH FRANCHISE

Recently, someone sent into my mail box a funny email listing the outrageous names of some churches in Nigeria. Although I do not believe that some of the names listed are real churches, I am also not without proof of they some do exist. There are a few from the list which I believe may exist, names such as:

–          Strong Hand of God ministry

–          Accredited Church of God

–          Holyfire Overflow Ministries

–          Angels on Fire Chapel of Peace

–          Strong Hand of God ministry

The names that are far too ludicrous for anyone to believe include names like:

–          Guided Missiles Church

–          Jehovah Sharp Sharp Ministry

–          Liquid Fire Ministry

–          Ministry of the Naked Wire

–          Trigger Happy Ministry

–          Seven Thunders of Jesus

However comical and factual in existence some of these names are, it speaks to a larger concern in the religious climate in Nigeria today. I am not exactly qualified to comment on these phenomena, but I must say that the trend has become very laughable and is becoming more of a mockery to those who are walking and living in truth. I am actually more interested in another trend more worrisome to me, and that is the style of church expansion in the country and indeed around the world; it is not peculiar to Nigeria.
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MY GREATEST FEAR

A few days ago I had a brief conversation over lunch with a friend from East Africa. It was one of those talks resulting from perceived tardy reasoning when we hoped that our leaders in Africa would have been what we keep dreaming about. But what struck me more was the sudden time travel I was thrown into when thinking about the daunting task of changing the outlook of a continent besieged by many troubles and laden with much burden. I wondered how I would feel on the day that I am to die. Would I be bubbling with excitement that my exit is deserved and my legacy is undoubted? Or would I be crowded by the feeling of wasted opportunities? My feelings were mixed because I have trained myself to believe I will not die an ordinary man, especially being influenced heavily by motivational messages that fill your gut and warrants self confidence from a newly defined self-concept. It was mixed because I saw great chances to make things better and without much cost to me or to my surroundings. But the pot pourri of feelings was not without the the thoughts of ‘what if nothing you do makes any sense and changes anything?’ The rest of that day was filled with random emotions spurned out of the ‘what is’ and the ‘what ought to be’.

Back in school, after sitting under inspiring lectures, particularly those that spin African history into an emotional overtone and overdose, making you feel a spark or a tinge of activism, I entered into endless debates on what role we young men will play in shaping the future we so desire. I met so many like minded folks who confessed exhausted faith in the drama we called nation building. We pressured ourselves into believing we were the gifts of God to our continent, and that we held the ace that will call home the game in our favour. Yet with the fervour, we met peeps who could extinguish your fire with a kind of infectious apathy and unconscionable inanition towards the issue of a progressive society. I will never forget the day, after a hot conversation on disabling executive corruption, that a few guys around simply sneered at all we said and stated clearly why they will grab every opportunity to monetize their virtues. What was more worrisome was their display of cognitive dissonance (the kind I usually ascribe to the Obama era Republican party) in acknowledging the need for honest men and good governance, and yet advising me  “Reggie, stop deceiving yourself. You can’t change anything. Eat your own and go your way.” Well, some things were clear at the least, I certainly knew who not to vote for if that time comes…lol
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CHURCHIANITY, CHURCHIANICS, THE CHURCHED AND CHURCH – Part 1

church-meetingsAs far back as I can remember, I have been a church boy. I started out being committed to church life by singing in a children’s choir at age 11. Can you imagine that at that age, I sang the bass part at a Methodist Church in Calabar, Nigeria. This laid the foundation for what became my long romance with the church and the mechanisms behind its functioning.  As young as I was, my innocence was characterized by the raw appreciation of the beauty of the church system, and the intricacies of its workings left deep very deep impressions on my tender heart that last to this day. I loved the spirit people put up; the singing, the preaching, the fellowship, and the strife as well.

I eventually ‘progressed’ from an orthodox setting to a liberal Pentecostal assembly, where there was more intense recognition of the spiritual essence of man. I become more conscious of the scriptures and its meaning as explicated by pastors. The former assembly was one with more of designations, form, static routines, programs, and rules, while the latter assembly provided more room for personal expression and a liberal form of doctrinal interpretations. In all, I was well suited to function without complain because I was a church boy, and was fully immersed into the Christian ethics and rhetoric.

From that period I have often swung between these two settings which could range from the very extreme to the very moderate and the very prudish to the most relaxed. I sometimes amaze me by how well I fit into these congregations and adopt their philosophies without complaint. It isn’t a lack of self awareness or the presence of ignorance I think, I just had the capacity to explain away things that weren’t palatable and take on the positives for the sake of peace. I was sure we all knew in part and that as life goes on, we would have a clearer picture of what this is all about. Church was my home, my backing, my comfort, and certainly my joy. The friendship I struck were priceless, the bonds formed irreplaceable, and the opportunities enjoyed are innumerable. My life has changed greatly for the better because of my contact with the church, and I do not regret ever being a ‘churched’ boy.

However, I have come to a point where, like the fading mist of the early morning, things are beginning to really clear up and a more defined picture of what things are and ought to be is presenting itself all so rapidly. A lot more questions have arisen in my heart about the whole idea of church and its purpose. Sometime back, it would have been emotionally or spiritually dangerous to question the idea of the church, as it was infallible in concept and practice. Whatever dropped from the pulpit was the final say to how your life should be designed and what exactly to make of the complexities of life. And truthfully, I have walked in such a culture for a very long time. In fact, being ‘Born Again’ brought its own bouts of new allegiance and loyalties in my journey to understanding the will of God for my life. However, the closer I got to the one who is the centre of attraction, the more there was a dismantling of my belief system that had been built by the church. I admit that some of it was built by my own interpretation of what the church did and said, but what else could I do when others were doing the same?  I simply went with the flow, and it was good for me at the time and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Today, I am presented with a different challenge of understanding the purpose behind everything.  Because anything without a defined purpose is subject to abuse, I have been engaged in thorough appraisal of what I believe and why I believe what I believe. I believe that things personally discovered are things eternally uncovered. So I have been asking myself what I believe and what informs what I believe. Why have I held on to these things and what is it I am willing to let go of if it has no root in the truth. Part of this focuses on what the church really stands for and what was God’s intent for the church. I have found myself often trying to defend the church and its activities without recourse to a better understanding of its history and its ordained purpose. Now that things are different with me and how I think, I am writing to question and expand on the prevailing ideas of church and its role in society. So what is stated by headings below is what I have come to see and understand the church to be.  I will then state what I now understand it should be and how God has designed it to function.


WHAT I LEARNT FROM MY FATHER

img_0507I didn’t grow up with my dad for most of my childhood days. Constructing my world view from the protective arms of my mother did create a series of didactic thought processes in me, one of which is instant judgment. This was in direct contradiction to my dad who had a knack for delayed judgment. Here I was sandwiched between the impulsiveness of a entrepreneurial woman, and the pragmatism of a legal analyst… and I was supposed to make safe sense out of life, and carve out my very own personality. I could imagine the genes floating around me and struggling for relevance and dominance, and I wished I could scan them thoroughly and choose which is vital to success and every point in time. My childhood was filled with inner deliberations and attempts at creating what was to be called my world, and also the possibilities of recruiting humans into my predefined parameters of living.

However, my dad, as far away as he was, seemed to be my balancing factor (more like an exogenous treatment to the experiment I was conducting). I sometime wanted to hate him for being so far away, but again his absence increased his worth to me and every time I saw him, his words were laden with depth that I desired to hear each day. I said to myself when he is around: “this is my start point, not my end point”. To me he knew everything and faltered in none. He approached every issue with maximum attention, imputing highly cerebral calculations to the unknown to arrive at rationality and common sense. I was awestruck each time he spoke and then knew that I would not outgrow the man. I let his every word sink in like a boulder in a calm stream, assuming a significant space in my mind. Even when my days of rebellion came, I still trod softly because I couldn’t deny the markings of his grip on me.

Here I want to share seven vital lessons I learned from my dad. Some of them he said verbatim to me, while some I drew out of his parabolic nature. Through him I learned to understand the context of what a man says and what the man did not say. Because every word spoken has implications for what it is and what it isn’t. Therefore when he spoke I understood, but when he didn’t speak, I understood even more. These seven lessons are more than material wealth and I wish he could have willed even more of his mind to me. I proceed with careful assertion to retain and preserve the originality of his mind communicated in this discourse.

1. Absolute fear for nothing. This was my baptism into boldness. As most of my friends know, I proceeded from there into the realms of stupid arrogance and at worse described myself as a jingoist of self confidence. The older I grew the more I came to understand from my conversation with him, that absolute fearlessness ended in God. He said to me in Efik: “Eyen kpono Abasi”, meaning – “Child, Revere God”. For a man who feared nothing to ask me in his old age to fear God, trust me, I needed no further counsel. He showed me that nothing is as it appears, only God is true to his form. Every other thing has a form which it takes on to create respect in others, and for which I must learn to see beyond its appearance. When I knew this my ‘baloonish’ pride was pricked and I sheathed my arrogance to take on stronger challenges rather than personalities.

2. Circumspection. Applied as being prudent and cautious in every facet of life. This warning to me arose because of my tendency for extreme passion in whatever I lay my hands to do. He saw this in me and chided me for a blind characterization of what I then called faith. Initially I branded him a persecutor and a Pharisee, but as I negotiated the corners of life and reflected more on the essence of the Almighty in my life, I found a pillow in his counsel. I knew for sure that for everything I think I know, therein lies the claim that I do not know. Hence, whatever lies in my hands to do or execute, I always now flip the other side and my perspective will dramatically change and my understanding becomes better. Circumspection is one of the trailing residues of wise initiatives.

3. Discretion is the better part of Valour. Hmmm…in this case, I couldn’t agree more as I saw many mighty men fall not for failing power, but for a lack of discretion. While valour accounts for a tenth of an accomplishment, the 90% success rate is determined by discretion. Discretion is the trait of judging wisely and objectively, and also learning to put aside what your perceived strengths are and allowing the seeming weaker parts have a say in your goings. He said to me Reginald, “Discretion distinguishes Kings and their subjects, for every time you follow its path, you sit at the Kings’ table.” “Mere men rely on energy, that’s why they must eat all the time and feed their lusts and ambitions to protect a future that is not subject to assumptions, and while doing this, they inflict much pain on themselves, their children and society.” Amazing lines of thought huh? Today and ever so true, I cannot recover from how much these words have guided me and given me an edge over my circumstances.

4. History repeats itself because we are all fools. I learnt from him that the mistakes we see men make, is a pointer to their ignorance of history. History is the hidden stories that are cocooned by time to be hidden from fools, but to be cracked by the wise for their security and safety of their generations. As he admonishes me to fear God, he still yells to me “Look at history!!!!” Everything repeats itself, but clothed in the intricacies of the present time. This is why you must have a sense of delayed judgment, for time reveals more of a matter and with such you can skip the hurdles of erroneous choices. He said once to me, “if you make my mistakes, you are a fool.” That line resounded continuously in my head like a clashing cymbal and today I draw lessons not just from the past, but from the happenings of today, because they will be the references of tomorrow either for sorrow, or for victory.

5. What you live in others, outlives you. I saw in my father a man absolutely committed to the well being of every one around him. He listened to everyone and advised anyone who cared to listen. He spoke his heart out and went the extra mile to satisfy the need of those who were needy. I saw that largeness of heart is a rare gift which one is born with, however can be cultivated when you have respect unto the existence of others. I saw how frustrated he was when he knew something was beyond his power to change and how active he was when he could do something about it. I saw him argue to help people correct their perspective about life hoping they wouldn’t leave his presence the same way they came in. He did all he can, with what he had and the influence he could muster to alter the course of failure for a person. I remember when I was not doing well in my secondary education because I was bored by school, he saw me and said to me “you are more than this”. He never said another word about it. That was was too hot for me to handle. I slapped myself back to reality and jerked my mind to life. He left something in me no doubt.

6. Ambidexterity. This describes individuals who are equally capable of performing tasks with the right or left side of their bodies. He was a soccer fan and a left winger himself in his younger days. He could play with both legs and write with both hands comfortably. His writing with both hands was particularly striking to me and I decided that I was going to practice writing with my left hand. I wouldn’t say how successful I did, but I will say that beyond the reality of his capability, was what this meant to me. He was both logical and poetic, mechanical and artistic; a microcosm of the human personality variety. I believe that it is possible to be ambidextrous in life, leaving no area of weakness; a total man, loving and taming, cultivating and uprooting, stroking and striking, being something in everything to everything while lacking in no faculty in life.

7. Stay strong till you die. A few days before he died, he was still encouraging me that everything will be just fine, displaying high self worth and self confidence, even when at the mercy of the doctors. His voice showed no signs of an ending life, as he still spoke of what work he has to do and how he wants to bring his entire family together. He remained relevant to life, thinking through solutions he wanted to see through for his ethnic people and how he wanted to empower them with education. His bones, mind and spirit were sound and without injury, telling me how excited he was at Obama’s victory and wishing he could shake the young man’s hand. A few days before he went home, we were still discussing a book he was reading on the emergence of India and China in global economics, and sharing with me the trajectory he thinks global production processes will take. He lived till he died. He didn’t wither nor wane, falter nor fumble, he simply stayed the course and finished strong. I must finish strong.

I now understand why some people never die. They simply transit from one person to another. My father didn’t die, he simply emptied himself of the matters of this plane, and assumed another dimension of relevance. Therefore, I say to myself that where his feet didn’t tread, mine will. Who his hands didn’t touch, mine will. Where his voice wasn’t heard, mine will. What his eyes couldn’t see, mine will. What he couldn’t comprehend, I will. Where he didn’t sit I will, and where he couldn’t stand, I will. For I choose this day to be the extension of his life, to repaint and recolour the paragon he intended, and to give a true definition to the legacy he attempted to build. For now I understand that some plant, others water, But God is ever ready to give and increase. I am am his waterer.

To my mentor and my instructor…..keep living!

Your boy,

Reggie

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