The burning of over 30 churches in Niger, after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last year got me reflecting on what it had been like being in a religious minority when I lived there. Having grown up in a society where Christianity is lauded made me comfortable. We are often commended for our strong faith and our boldness when we speak about God. Sometimes, even admired.
But wait… what happens when you’re accused of being a Christian? For about 2 seconds, you weigh your options. Perhaps you imagine what the consequences could be if you boldly confess your faith… It is not ever automatic that you accept an accusation.
Peter denied Christ three times (Luke 22: 54- 62), a thing he regretted deeply. The consequences for boldly confessing His faith at that time would have been death. I do not think I would have done anything differently from Peter. Many Christians living as a minority in some countries live in fear of death too.
Sometimes, the consequences for some of us Christians, in this day and age are trivial? Perhaps friends will reject you? Or maybe you’ll be the uncool friend. You won’t make as much money? Most of us are truly living in a time of grace when declaring our faith could mean minor repercussions. We have become comfortable. We hide our faith in our hearts because it is more comfortable that way.
If we remain in such comfort then where will the harvesters (John 4: 35) that Christ is calling on, come from? How can we win over any souls for Christ if we can barely even confess boldly (not loudly) that we follow Christ?
I remembered a story that a close friend shared with me recently about a rough patch she had been through. Her landlord came looking for rent that she just did not have. She kept away from him for a while since she had no money. Finally, he stood by the door to her apartment right before she came in. As is expected he threatened to expel her from the building if she was unable to raise the rent.
She finally gave in and told him that she did not have the money but she had asked her father for help. She promised the landlord that her Father would send the money. He would have his rent.
When the landlord left, she fell on her knees and reminded God, He was the one she was waiting on.
The truth is my friend lost both her Mother and Father a long time ago. Though the landlord walked away believing her father would send the money, she knew she was depending totally on God, our heavenly father.
Sometimes I wonder, when was the last time I leaned on God to that extent… when I trusted only in His provision. Jesus says it clearly, cast your burdens on Him… my yoke is easy… but often in the business of life we slowly start to think we can do it alone…
God is not intimidated by that huge risk we take when we declare, « my Father will come through for me ! » It’s called having faith and without that, we cannot please God
After seeing how bad it feels to have your movement restricted, I’ve always felt a burden to work out. I say burden because I do it even when it is the last thing I want to do. I feel strongly about living; strong and healthy because it reflects on my long-term view of the life God has given me.
I saw this in a generic message from Joel Osteen:
“A famous doctor once said, “It is easier to maintain good health than it is to try to regain your health once you’ve lost it.” That’s why it’s so important to take care of your body and consider the long-term implications of your health choices. God has great plans for you on this earth, but if your body is worn down; if you are tired all the time and your health is poor, you won’t be able to accomplish what you could otherwise.”
If you don’t know where to begin, how about you get your fit on here? The site is called popsugar and it has to be the most down to earth fitness sites I’ve come across… with something for whatever mood you’re in 🙂
1 Corinthians 9:27- But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
It ‘s here for a little while then is gone…
I came across a post on a website (not just any website but forbes.com) that talks about getting your act right (financially) as you get to 35 and above. I thought it was so full of helpful questions. I have found that a lot of helpful information is in the response to questions you ask…
Why don’t we do things we know we should be doing? Like we just ignore the need to save money… Or we know it is good for our health if we eat well, but we gorge ourselves on junk food that is often expensive. We know that taking care of health is cheaper than medical costs but we just don’t exercise…
If you weren’t scared what would you do? Would you dare to start a business? Speak the truth to a relative who is literally a financial parasite and yet is capable of fending for the themselves?
How do others perceive you? Hopefully people would have good things to say about you, like how you give good advice on fincances.
Please go to the site and check it out… this article covers all the important areas…
A few days ago, while I was taking an evening walk (in my version of « brisk ») I passed by a lady. She was probably in her fifties. She had a huge bundle of firewood tied to her head, resting on her back. I imagined it was for her family. It seemed heavy and she seemed weighed down but she kept walking. Whatever she planned to use the firewood for, it seemed important to her, to keep it close.
All I had to carry was my phone, my iPod and my keys. They weigh nothing compared to the firewood this lady was carrying. Yet when I walked out of my house it was to « clear my mind ». Since I too, I thought, have burdens.
Sometimes, we walk around imagining we have such a huge weight on our shoulders because of every day demands on us. Rent, fees, shopping, the latest trends, a plot, building… the list is endless. A lady carrying firewood is a lady with a real load to carry. That firewood is probably directly linked to her livelihood. Unlike her, I am sure that at the end of the day, I’ll be ok.
When I see a lady carrying such a huge load, I realise my issues are not really that big. Maybe I am just the one whose not taken the time to « clean my lenses » and realize that there are way more blessings to be thankful for than the asks I imagine I have.
It is never easy when we have to take huge risks in life or when we face situations that are so dreadful we do not even know how to put them into perspective. Some times the situations last minutes, days or even weeks.
Imagine how when you get on a flight, you are given safety instructions on what to do in case of an emergency. In some places I’ve worked at, we did fire drills to prepare for that kind of emergency etc.
When we follow Christ, we can be sure about one thing, we have 2 great safety nets:
- The grace of God: We can face any situation thrown our way knowing that God’s grace is sufficient. It is undeserved and it is not earned. It is not up to us and how good we are or how good we can be (thankfully). It is a gift that truly keeps on giving.
- The finished work of Jesus Christ: When Jesus died for our sins on the cross; he truly did pay the price. He paid the price for our sins, for our healing, for our abundant life and for our eternity.
We have to face life and what it throws at us. Discouragement will come in full loads and so will suffering but what should encourage us, is that we are not facing anything blindly. By His grace and by our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we can forge ahead.
I recently heard a story about a lady who had been going through an intense depression. She had made up her mind to end her life. On the day she planned to do it, at the very moment when all she had left to do was tie the noose around her neck, there was a persistent knock on her door that stopped her. She went and opened the door. There, before her, was an adorable little boy who said he just wanted to tell her that Jesus loves her and he handed her a pamphlet.
She got back into the house, sat down and studiously read every word on the pamphlet. As a result of the interaction with the little boy, she did not take her life. She came out of that depression and is living a fuller life today.
How often do we allow God to use us the way he used that little boy? If it had not been for that little boy, this woman would have taken her life and what a waste that would be. How often do we make it our work to reach out to someone that might be hurting?
Before leaving this earth, Jesus left us with the responsibility of reaching out to people. In Matthew 25: 34- 46 we are told that we will be judged based on our own outreach. We are guaranteed that whomever we help in His name, we end up helping Him. All of the distressing things going on around us make this a crucial time to spread love. How often are we reaching out to those around us?
I love vanilla! It is one of the most famous spices and most expensive as well. One of the islands that produce vanilla is Madagascar…
I use vanilla in everything; maandazi (aka beignets, donuts), pancakes, biscuits… most baked or fried sweets.
This post is not about the vanilla; it is more about how you store the vanilla. I think Malgache people have some of the most artistic items for every day use…. One of those items is this vanilla box.
It’s made from wood and has the word vanilla curved into the top. It closes quite securely and has enough space for two packs of vanilla. You just put them in, close it and store it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
The black vanilla is the caviar from the bean while the brown vanilla one is from the cured pods. I love them both…
Back to the box, it is curved by hand and sold at Curio stores in Antananarive (aka Tana). If you’re ever there, go looking for it and get it. Support African artists… Oh! And buy the vanilla too 😀
When King Solomon made the decision to begin building the temple, all he needed was available around him. He got cedar wood from Lebanon, gold from Ophir etc. The amounts of these items were astronomical but they were made available and were procured the way you would procure for a hugely successful project. God did not create a special stairway to send down the supplies needed for the temple.
When the temple was completed and King Solomon was dedicating it to God, the meat was set up on the altar ready to be set on fire and what does God do, he sends fire from heaven. This fire consumed the meat. That was probably unexpected, a true show of when God crosses through the Spiritual to the Physical realm.
My brother was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors in 2008 and was told that the only possible surgery would have to be “gamma knife therapy”. We couldn’t afford the cost of it, so we asked friends to help. Friends put money together and with that, my Mother was able to buy the tickets and pay for their stay there… All of the things that could be procured in the normal way, my mother was able to do with that money that was gathered by friends…
A day before the surgery, while the doctors and surgeons were running tests, the surgeon comes in and asks my brother and mother a few questions. He then goes on to tell them that somewhere in between the original diagnosis and that exact moment, the tumors were gone. He could not explain it and was simply baffled.
What had God done? He had reached into my brother’s brain at an unknown moment and taken out multiple tumors. Truly God works in mysterious ways sometimes, He provides for us through those around us but other times, he crosses that spiritual/ physical barrier… He does things that can only be done by Him. One thing is true though, either way, He always shows up and shows out!
My view when I go walking. Nice ain’t it? I like it.
On a normal day in Niamey, during the hot season, it easily gets to 45 degrees Celsius… aside from the heat there is the dust, finer than you’ve ever seen. The high pollution and the lack of proper health care…
Long story short, because of exposure to all of these things and especially to the air-conditioning that is often blasted on maximum… I picked myself some asthma… I only discovered this when I came back to Nairobi.
When my doctor first gave me the diagnosis, I thought… there you have it! You go out to tough places believing it’s where God wants you to be then you come back with a condition you might have to live with. But hey, such is life.
I’ve since woken up to it. This is how I am managing:
- I use my inhaler faithfully as prescribed by my doctor
- I alternate walking jogging about 4 kilometres, 4 days in a week
- I dress warmly and avoid getting exposed to the cold
- I avoid (like the plague) smoke of all kinds
- In the cold season, I wear a scarf over my nose to sort of filter and warm the air
- I avoid stress and keep positive company
It’s not a death sentence.
Some times, it feels like a crime having kinky hair in Africa. When I lived in Niamey, Niger, I noticed one hairdresser who would sigh (deeply, sadly sigh) every time I walked into the salon with my Afro. I would give her my biggest smile back.
God made my hair the way He did and I love it. I love having an Afro, I love dreadlocks, braids, cornrows etc… I agree detangling hair can sometimes make you want to scream… Many Africans on the continent feel that kinky hair just needs to be made straight, period.
Most stores, in for example Kenya, Senegal or Niger do not cater for kinky hair… These stores have aisles and aisles full of hair products that are not at all useful to kinky or nappy haired women… Strangely the nappy haired women are probably the majority.
No one seems to dedicate an aisle to the different types of African hair. Thankfully, there are all sorts of blogs out there with « nappy haired sisters » opting to use all natural products… so, that is always an option…
I decided a while back to go natural because I got fed up with all the creams out there that just seem to eat away at my hair. I think it is a personal decision and this is my choice.
It seems like one thing we often forget as Christians is that very little of what is required of us is based on how we feel. We can’t – pray, or be nice, or be kind or be loving- when we feel like it. When Jesus went to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, he cried out twice to the Father to spare him but quickly declared, « not my will but yours » be done.
Christ died for us, sacrificed himself for us, not because he felt like doing it but because it was the will of the Father. It was what had to be done to save us. Putting his feelings aside, he took on a burden and bore our sins, accepted punishment on our behalf without feeling like it, but he did it.
How can we consider it such a burden then to do things for the brethren?
The Bible tells us that it does not work as would be expected; you won’t always see the 2 and 2 that makes 4… Trust the hunch that tells you to pray for (or be generous to, or be kind to) someone over the hunch that tells you not to… All we do, we do by faith! Your one act (be it of kindness, mercy etc.) might change a life somewhere. When your mind tells you that it makes no sense to pray or worship or give of your time when you are not feeling like it or you are so tired, or just bored… think twice. Think about Christ whom we follow and make a sacrifice.
I picked up these trays at the Marche Artisanale in Niamey, Niger. They are made of leather and wood. The wood is smoothed out with sand paper and the designs are carved out onto the wood. A thin layer of leather (still supple enough) is pulled tightly over the wood.
As the leather is pulled over the wood, the artist makes sure to mould it according the designs made on the wood…
I find West African art detailed and beautiful. I bet you, you can’t learn to do this in school. Isn’t that pretty.
Proverbs 3:3- Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
God is described as being love (1 John 4: 16) and also as being faithful (1 Cor. 10: 13). God is love and God is faithfulness.
In James we are told to draw near to God and He will draw near to us.
If I do as the Bible says in Proverbs 3:3, I am in essence keeping God as close to me as possible. How do I do what the verse requires me to do? In Corinthians we are told that love is paramount and in Hebrews we are told that it is impossible to please God without faith…
The way I see it, if I want to draw near to God and to have God draw near to me, I must practice love everyday of my life and I must believe (have faith) that even if I cannot see God seeing me, he does see me.
Be good to people, do right by people and appreciate that if you are not loving them, then you are in essence not allowing God to draw near to you.
Matthew 6: 10- Your Kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
I grew up with a sick brother who had one of those conditions that appeared to be shrouded in mystery. Being a Christian family, we often had people come to the house to pray with use so his illness would go away. Many of the prayers said rotated around the words “God’s will”…
With time, I developed a huge fear for God’s will. I loved God and I loved Jesus but I just felt God’s will was sinister. If He could will that my brother be sick then… maybe it was better to be cautious with prayer…
I even developed the habit of not quite mouthing the words, “Your will be done”. I had no problem with the “Kingdom coming” part but the “will” was scary to me. I imagined God’s will was bad and if I willingly asked for it to come, I might even get sick too. Over the years my stance softened and I began to understand that God is good and caring.
In recent days, I got a book written by Myles Monroe as a birthday gift and it clarified something I had struggled with.
God’s will is not bad. God’s will is good. God wants for us to be healthy, happy and fulfilled here on earth as He is in the heavens. That is why Jesus told us to pray that way, because He knew that once we get it, we will understand that His good and perfect will for us, can bring us no harm.
Imagine sitting in a little boat floating on calm waters, and moving slowly towards thick mangrove. Through the reeds you can see a beautiful land, you can even hear beautiful singing. The reeds open up effortlessly for your boat to make its way through to this land. Behind you however, you see your family and friends crying, mourning and weeping. You try to signal to them that you are happy with where you are going but they cannot see you. You try to shout to them but they do not hear you either. You simply have to go.
On the 4th of August when my friend who was also my pastor died, my Mother knowing how distraught I was shared the above analogy with me. It gave me more peace than I imagined.
As a Community, we had prayed, trusted and believed that our sick pastor would walk the earth again. We were even convinced he would tell us what the near death experience was like. Exactly, forty days after falling ill, he died. During the entire period he was never well enough to tell us how he was feeling or what he hoped for. God had other plans.
We find peace in knowing that to go to this wonderful heaven that we sing about all the time, we must all cross over through death. For the eternity that Christ died for to take effect, we must first die. I miss my pastor greatly but I truly believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Father in Spirit.
A close friend was hospitalised, recently. It was all very sudden. I had seen this friend on a Tuesday evening and by Saturday morning they had suffered a serious stroke. As soon as I began to process the news, I set into panic mode and began to ask “why”. The kind of why which comes from a place of anger not curiosity.
It took me a while to remember that I have been in the exact same situation before and that though it is always hard, I should have learned a thing or two. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. All that happens to us goes through His hands. It is all part of His good and perfect will.
When the God asks us to pray without ceasing and to know that all we go through is His will for us, these words are not to mock us. These words are meant to remind us that the battle is in the Lord’s hands and He always comes out on top. We are conquerors.
As my friend lays on a hospital bed, the situation looks bleak but I take comfort in knowing, even this is part of God’s perfect will for Him. All things work together eventually no matter how thorny the situation feels.
I have seen a good number of books about prayer and how to pray the right way. I have not had much of an opportunity to read too many of them. I also struggle with how to pray sometimes… especially when it seems hopeless to pray. I’ve read one book about prayer and this is how it asks us to pray:
Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Yours are the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Living Bible
Matthew 6: 9-15
Eating clean? That struggle is real… especially if you love cake like me! I am determined to eat less carbs but I am unwilling to give up cake so I am on a constant search for flourless cake recipes. Over the weekend I tried the chickpea cake.
I got the basic recipe online but I tweaked it since I wanted it to be moist but I paid a heavy price, mine took extra long… First off, I decided I wanted to add some of the yogurt I made at home, just because I could. Then I couldn’t find chocolate chips at the store so I decided to use a bar of dark chocolate instead. Anyway, after like an 2 hours in my charcoal oven, it was ready. It looks more like a sheet cake.
Here is how I made mine
- 1 bar of dark chocolate
- 2 tablespoons plain cocoa powder
- 1 tin of chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ -1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3-4 eggs
- 2 table spoons of thick yogurt (optional)
- Preheat your oven to around 175degrees Celsius.
- Melt the chocolate bar -use a microwave and a good microwave proof bowl- for about 10 seconds then mix it then another 10 seconds… until its melted
- Blend or process the beans and the eggs. (I think it is best to use a machine because the beans really have to break down)
- Add the sugar and baking powder and mix it some more
- Add the chocolate, cocoa and yogurt
- Say a prayer and throw it in the hot oven… it should take 40 minutes but mine took more probably because of the yogurt.
- I served mine with a dollop of more yogurt
While I was living in what is considered to be one of the world’s poorest countries, I had a colleague who constantly insisted that some people like their problems. At the time I thought it was a mean thing to say even though it always got me thinking.
Have you ever known someone that kept coming to you with the same problem? A toothache? A headache? Unfairness? At first you imagine they just need advice on what to do, so you give the advice you can. Then they come back with the same complaint and yet they haven’t followed any of your initial advice. They do it over and over. If you have met that kind of person and are caught up in trying to sort them out… Here’s my thought, let them be.
Not everybody seeks to be happy. Some people enjoy having the attention on them. They like to be the one needing something, that no one can quite give them. If you have this kind of a person in your life, you have two choices… cut down time spent around them or ignore them.
Constantly feeding these kinds of people will waste the precious time you could be using to live out your God given purpose here on earth.
I love yogurt and I’d always wanted to make it at home. The reason I had never made it at home was that the idea of ideal temperatures scares me. I don’t trust myself to just feel it out and know when to add what. Also, there is the aspect of time and how long it is supposed to incubate. If yogurt incubates for too little time it might be too runny and not really taste right but if it incubates for too long, it can easily become too sour or even bitter.
I decided to buy a yogurt-making machine. I got a lovely one through an online store called Bespoke that advertises on Facebook. Click here to visit their Facebook page. I have not been disappointed at all. Here is how I make my yogurt at home:
1 litre of milk
6 tablespoons of any yogurt with live bacteria (should be at room temperature)
4 tablespoons of milk powder
6 tablespoons of sugar
- Put milk into a pot and boil the milk till it’s foaming at the top then turn it off (I add vanilla to mine at this stage to give it flavour).
- Mix the milk powder and the sugar together then add it into the hot milk. Make sure it mixes in well. (I use a sieve while adding it into the milk so that it doesn’t make it grainy).
- Let the milk (now with milk powder and sugar added in)cool down until it is warm enough to give a baby. Quickly take a cup of it and add it into the bowl with the yogurt and mix in well so that it has no lumps. Add it back into the warm milk in the pot.
- Now, if you are using a machine like me, quickly but carefully pour the milk into the individual cups and set it to 7 hours (if you want thick yogurt) then let it incubate.
- In 7 hours you can take it out of the machine and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, which allows it to set.
- After about 2 hours it is ready to eat with fruit, on its own… as you please…