How To Deal With Those Pesky Beggar Kids in Nairobi

“These street kids are everywhere these days, it is like an infestation.”

Those were the words that left my lips last Saturday at our weekly community group meeting. A few gasps followed the sentence, and then nervous laughter. Someone volunteered an explanation: “we have a doctor in the room, and the word ‘infestation’ carries a lot of weight in the medical world.”

Perhaps “infestation” was a strong word, especially since I was using it to describe human beings. I was talking about the surge of street kids in Nairobi and how they seem to have filled every nook and cranny of our city and the government is not doing much to control them. I was complaining about how most of these street families have been found to be nothing but con-artists feigning poverty to enrich themselves by manipulating the compassion and generosity of unsuspecting Kenyans. Honestly, I have grown to feel towards them the way I would feel towards pests and parasites, hence my choice of words above.

I was in the middle of explaining why I have become so cynical lately that I seldom pay any attention to any child who approaches me on the sidewalk and says Continue reading

When Being Honest and Sincere is a Bad Thing

“What matters is that you are sincere” sounds like good advise, and it is, as we shall see in a moment. But it can also be the worst advise to give anyone. God does, indeed, want us to be sincere about what we do. A common dictionary definition of sincere is “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings”. It is wrong to be pretentious and deceitful. We must always strive to be genuine, honest, in other words, sincere. Integrity.

Photo credit: genius.com

Photo credit: genius.com

But what if being true to who we are involves doing something that is hurtful and unkind and unloving? What if I genuinely don’t care about the homeless and the sick? Should I be sincere even then? Would it be pretentious to “do” caring things to such people because that is “the right thing to do”? Such questions lead us to something that often goes un-examined when we talk about “being sincere”: It matters what we are being sincere about. In other words, our personal feelings are not the ultimate standard of what is right or wrong. We are not automatically doing right just because we are doing what we feel like doing. There seems to be a standard of right or wrong, outside of our feelings.

Does this, then, mean that our feelings don’t matter? No. It only means that our feelings are Continue reading

Why I Don’t Believe in Miracles

The year was 2006, I was in my first year of college and just a few months into salvation. My friend, Mark Masai, was visiting me at the “Prefabs” hostels. On this particular day, he needed a data cable to transfer some photos from his phone into my computer.  I had lent mine to another friend. I picked up my phone,  dialed that friend’s number and put the phone to my ear. After several rings, the phone went to voice-mail.

“F*%#!” I blurted out.

I redialed the number,  “please leave your message after the beep.”

“S#%@ man,” I said as I scratched my head, “what are we going to do now?”

But Mark didn’t offer any suggestion, and he didn’t seem to share in my frustration.

He simply gave me a long, hard, look and shook his head.

“What?” I asked him, confused.

“OKOKA KIJANA!!” (Get saved, young man!) He told me with a strange firmness in his voice and a steely look in his eyes.

Believe it or not, that was the last day I ever cursed or even felt the urge to let out another expletive.

To understand the significance of this moment, you have to know me in the months and years preceding this moment. Until that particular day, I never had a problem with cursing — I would do it any time, anywhere.

My sentences were punctuated with curse words and my lips would spit out four letter unprintables with the ease of a drunken sailor. Yes, I had accepted Christ just a few months earlier, but some habits were simply too ingrained to drop, and cursing was one of them. I cursed unconsciously. It was like sneezing, never premeditated.

I recall this day I was in church, standing at the third pew from the pulpit during “praise and worship” when this beautiful lady stepped onto the stage to lead the session.

“S#%@!” I said reflexively, albeit inaudibly.

Then when I realized I had just cursed in church I went “F*%#!”

It was that bad.

But on this day, I don’t know what went through Mark’s mind, and why he said those words. But something happened that day. In the blink of an eye, I lost a habit that had become part of my being. It was a miracle.

Yet, even as I say that word, miracle, I am a bit reluctant. The thoughts going through my head are “I am supposed to be a cessasionist”, “I should not believe in miracles”, “there must be some other explanation to what happened”. For the longest time, I tried to convince myself otherwise. But it was futile. No psychological or sociological theory could explain away what happened. Not under those circumstances. People don’t just drop habits like cursing in a heartbeat.

But God does, and I believe what happened that day was His doing.

The truth is that I still don’t believe IN miracles, because I believe in God.

And He delivered me from a bad habit without having to go through the long path of “process”. God simply chose to do it with the snap of His finger.

Yes, I don’t believe IN miracles, but I do believe miracles.

And I thank God for making me privy to such a powerful one.

Cornell

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The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.” – G.K. Chesterton

Lights, Camera, Action!

In a way, we are all Public Relations officers.

We spend most of our time managing and manipulating appearances. We care too much what people think about us. And of course it is not wrong to care what people think of us. Jesus calls us to be a light to the world. The salt of the earth. It matters what people think of us and see in us.

But sadly, for many of us, what people think of us is not what God thinks of us. The image we present to people is not an image formed and informed by our Faith. We care too much about looking good than actually being good. We worry too much about looking righteous instead of confessing the righteousness of Christ.

We are actors on a stage. Characters on a page. But God is seldom the author of the story. We are acting off a different script, our own script. Our friends barely know the real us, because we have bought them tickets and they are sitting in the theater, watching the edited movie of us. Our colleagues at work only get to see the rehearsed version of us.

But the backstage is empty. We don’t allow people there. The changing room is out of bounds. We don’t want them to see the skeletons in our closets and realize we are human like them. We are sinners like them. We are foolish. Like them.

We don’t want them to see that we too get lost, that we get confused about life and we often don’t have clue about what we are doing or what we want in life. We don’t want our friends to see that we follow our feelings more than our minds. We don’t want them to know that we often make decisions putting our own selfish interests first. No. We feign selflessness. We fake compassion. We manufacture charity.

But this does not have to be. It is hard to change. But God does not call us to change. He calls us to Himself. he calls us to believe and trust, AND THEN He will change us. He bids us to come, and then He makes us want to come and then He gives us the strength to come. It is all of grace because it is all of God.

May God redeem our story. May He re-write the script and yank us off that director’s chair. May we release our grip on the manuscript of our lives and let God’s Word be the script we rehearse and act out. May God’s story become our story and may Jesus be the star of the show.

And when the CREDITS go up at the end of our lives, may the name of Christ be the only name on that list.

Because He alone deserves the glory.

 

For the fame of His name.

Cornell

The Storm Rages On…

On this day five months ago, I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. She said yes, and I placed the rock on her finger. A few weeks later, at the beginning of this year, I stood before a group of fellow Christian journalists at our monthly Inter-Media Fellowship meeting and thanked God for her.

“Last year, she said ‘yes’, and this year, I am praying she says ‘I do’,” I said confidently as the room filled with applause.

forgivenWell, it’s four months since I said those words, and I have to face the reality that she won’t be saying ‘I do’ this year. At least not to me. Somewhere between then and now, a series of tragic events led to a heart-crushing break-up about two months ago. She is no longer my fiancee, and I am no longer her fiance. We had dated for five years.

I have lived with this reality for months now, and I have not been able to confront it publicly until now. I have only told a handful of friends about the break-up, and even then, the details were shaky. Many of you will find out through this post if you didn’t suspect it already. I was determined to keep this rock in my chest intact. I will not be vulnerable. I will not break. I will go through the death of this relationship without shedding a single mournful tear. I will be fine.

Well, I am not fine, yet. And no, I am not going to divulge the details of the break-up on a blog-post. I am sorry to disappoint you. This is neither the time nor the place. Some things are better left to the discretion of a few trusted friends and family.

Which is why I still don’t understand how the first people I alienated after the break-up were my closest friends and family. I guess it’s because I am a rock. I like to be in control. Vulnerability doesn’t suit me. You can come to me with your woes and worries but don’t expect the reciprocal. I am a rock, and I was determined to stay that way. After the break-up, I immediately broke contact with my closest friends. People tried to reach me to no avail. I ignored calls, sent one-worded replies to texts and basically made it clear I did not want to talk.

Most people find it difficult to live through the break-up by having to explain what happened and the reasons to friends. But I found it difficult to just admit that there will no longer be a wedding. I could not even tell the men who would be standing beside me on my wedding day! I was too proud. Too self-conscious. Too self-preserving. A rock.

Which doesn’t make any sense. How can I keep something like a broken marriage engagement from my closest friends? How did I expect to see that play out? To be honest, I didn’t think it through, and I didn’t care. To keep myself busy, I buried myself in work. My editor has been singing my praises. I became an outstanding reporter within a few weeks of working in the newsroom. I wrote stories fast, well, and with the enthusiasm of a toddler who was high on sugar. This rock needed a mask, and the mask of work fit me perfectly.

But I could only keep up appearances for so long. I was not going to avoid and evade my friends forever. Soon, I will start bumping into them. Soon I will have no choice but to confront the reality of what happened between me and her. I will have to re-live and truly mourn, the bad break-up. The rock will soon have to crumble. Storms have been known to weather away even the hardest rocks.

As I type this post, I am slowly realizing the man I had become over the weeks of hiding. First, I began to detest fellowship. I stopped going to my usual church because, among many other reasons, I was not ready to confront the inevitable barrage of questions. Then I stopped reading my Bible, the burden on my conscience was too much to bear. I had long stopped praying by then. I did away with listening to sermons and reading books that got too close to my heart

I hated the person that these mirrors of truth reflected back to me.

I hated the selfish heart I saw reflected in my Bible.

I hated the proud heart I saw reflected in many sermons on following Christ.

I hated the songs that always moved me to repentance because I knew Jesus would not have half-hearted repentance from me.

It became impossible to love Jesus and avoid the church, so I avoided Jesus too.

This rock stayed away from The Rock.

And it gets worse. I will not go into the details, but I will tell you one thing, it is impossible to embrace Christ when your hands and feet are running away from Him. There’s no faking it with the Creator of the universe. You cannot outsmart Him. Luckily, you also cannot outrun Him. These words from a spoken-word piece I wrote some years back seem more relevant now more than ever:

 

 Stuck at the intersection of all the men I could be,

I look up to the heavens for guidance.

Yet my eyes look at Him with great avoidance,

“Good-riddance” crosses my mind, I want to dance around this bind, and daily pretend that I am blind,

I am hoping to leave this maze behind, Cos I am amazed that He’s so kind, amazed that am one of a kind, dazed that I am no longer blind, fazed by His love that binds.

I have seen God’s hand, but I am struggling to take it,

I can see God’s love and I am ready to receive it;

But I’ve sinned so much, I am tempted to reject it;

 

If you’re waiting for a deep, transforming conclusion that will wrap up this post, you will have to wait a little longer. There is none today. I end here, acknowledging how tired I suddenly feel. I thought there would be some relief in writing this down. I always feel better when I write things down. I guess today is different. I know what God wants me to do. I know I need to go back to the Gospel and let it wash over me once more. I need healing. I need Jesus. But this only sounds like empty ideas than a reality to me right now.

I can see the rock flaking, but it still feels too difficult to break.

Sigh.

Pray for Persecuted Muslims

Muslims are dying in Central African Republic (CAR). Actually, people have been dying in the country for weeks now. Nothing new there, people die all the time.

But reports say that these Muslims are dying in the hands of Christians. Innocent men and women are being massacred, not because of any crime they have committed, but because they have a different religious affiliation. Children are murdered because they were born in the “wrong” religion. In a way, this is both news and not news.

Muslim civilians prepare to board trucks in Bangui to flee violence in the Central African Republic's capital. AFP

Muslim civilians prepare to board trucks in Bangui to flee violence in the Central African Republic’s capital. AFP

Religious extremists commit such heinous crimes all the time. Christians should not be surprised that fellow believers are being killed in the Middle East. The Bible says this will happen. It is to be expected and acknowledged, even if it will not be enjoyed. But should Christians be surprised that Muslims are dying at the hands of Christians?

DISOWNING THE EXTREMISTS

As Christians, reports of fellow Christians killing people who belong to a different religion are disturbing. And we are quick to dismiss them as the work of “religious extremists” who are not true Christians. We are careful to qualify how we refer to such people, as “professing” Christians who are not true Christians at all. We do not want to be associated with such barbarism. Because we know the Jesus we worship is a peaceful King. A king who embraced women and adored children, no matter which god they worshiped or where they did their worshiping. Our Jesus vehemently condemned the killing of the innocent — the last and the least among us. Continue reading

Ravi Zacharias on the Problem of Pleasure

I just finished reading Ravi Zacharias’ Why Jesus? Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality, and I found his thoughts on pleasure interesting. This was especially more insightful when compared and contrasted to the problem of pain:

Although I agree that the problem of pain may be one of the greatest challenges of faith in God, I dare suggest that it is the problem of pleasure that more often drives us to think of spiritual things. Sexuality, greed, fame, and momentary thrills are actually the most precarious attractions in the world.

Pain forces us to accept our finitude. It can breed cynicism, weariness and fatigue in just living. Pain sends us in search of a greater power. Introspection, superstition, ceremony, and vows can all come as a result of pain. But disappointment in pleasure is a completely different thing. While pain can often be seen as a means to a greater end, pleasure is seen as an end in itself. And when pleasure has run its course, a sense of despondency can creep into one’s soul that may often lead to self-destruction.

Pain can often be temporary; but disappointment in pleasure gives rise to emptiness… not just for a moment, but for life. There can seem to be no reason to life, no pre-configured purpose, if even pleasure brings no lasting fulfillment. The truth is that I have known people who in the peak of their success have turned to God, and I have known others, drowning in pain and defeat, who seek God for an answer.

Either extreme leaves haunting questions. God alone knows how we will respond to either.

The struggle between pain and pleasure gives spirituality a more defined goal. People in pain may look for comfort and explanations. people disappointed in pleasure look for purpose.

Get the book, it may not be the easiest read (especially the first half), but it has many nutritious nuggets.