A PAIR OF SANDALS FOR A SOUL

A PAIR OF SANDALS FOR A SOUL

I recently participated in a week long crusade activity in the Volta Region of Ghana where I learnt an interesting lesson. I didn’t consider packing enough clothing and extra footwear for the evening crusades because I said to myself; “I will be staying only for a week and can use the prescribed “T” shirts for both day and night.” Wrong thinking! Since it was the first time I would be working on crusade grounds, I had not anticipated the amount of work involved. After a hard day’s work of helping with food distribution and arranging chairs, my “T” Shirt was smelling of perspiration and looked dirty. And although it was not the best choice for an evening night service, I had to welcome the discomfort at least for the first night.

The next day, I was determined to locate a shop nearby for extra clothing and an additional pair of sandals to relieve my aching feet. I had never been to the Volta region and had no idea how to pick a taxi, how to locate a market nearby or how to bargain with the traders.  As I walked along the road, I spotted a clothing store in which the seller spoke English making it easy for me to lament about my plight. I bought a few affordable shirts to manage with a long black skirt I had brought along. Now what was left was a decent pair of sandals. The clothing seller was kind enough to direct me to the market and give me an indication of how much pair of sandals would cost. With her help, I was able to board a taxi and mention the exact place I would alight.

With little trouble, I located the market and headed for the shoe section. As I scanned through the traders, I spotted an elderly man of about 65 years and was drawn to him thinking he would be more considerate in his pricing. I was pleasantly surprised that most of them could speak some English making our communication easier. I asked for the price of a lovely pair of sandals which also looked durable among the lot. I was surprised when he mentioned an outrageously high price. Although I have always been good at bargaining, I realized he was also tough at selling his goods.

I explained to him that it was my first time in Ho for a crusade and that I didn’t have enough money on me. We went back and forth until we settled on 50 Ghana Cedis (12 dollars). Because he refused to back down any further and went on and on about it’s durability, I thought I had paid for a pair of sandals that would last for a very long time. I then took the opportunity to invite him and others nearby to that evening’s crusade at the jubilee park. I told him about the previous night’s service and how he would not regret attending the service. I went to further explain the importance of getting to know Christ and see the powerful men of God who had travelled from Accra and outside Ghana just to be a blessing to him.

When I left the market, I had less money on me but I was happy I had invited few people to come to the crusade. In fact, even though the elderly trader told me he would make it to the crusade that evening, I did not take his word for it. I had done my part and decided to leave the rest to God.

I arrived at the jubilee park where thousands had gathered at around 8.00pm that evening. Fortunately, my friends and I found available find seats in front. That night, I was amazed by the praise and worship performed in the Ewe dialect. Almost all the local Twi songs I was familiar with were sang in Ewe. It was a delight to watch how the people danced to the glory of God. I just couldn’t be content in my seat as I saw others dancing in praise of God. Walking confidently in my new sandals, I joined other worshipers in front of the stage and began to dance with joy.

Suddenly, I became unstable on my feet because the left heel of my brand new sandals had come off. I quickly removed the right heel to give me more stability. As if that was not enough, the straps also gave way bringing my dancing to an abrupt and disappointing end. I continued to stand among the dancers looking longingly at them as I became very disappointed at the elderly trader who had knowingly taken 50 Ghana Cedis from me in exchange for a pair of shoes that could not even last a night.

As I wobbled back to my seat careful not to completely destroy my sandals, I heard someone call out to me. I wondered who could be calling me among thousands of people because I had not seen any familiar faces around. I turned to the sound of the voice and to my surprise, I saw the elderly shoe trader waving cheerfully at me. I instantly forgot that he had sold an inferior good to me, that I had to stop dancing because of him. I was just happy he had come to the crusade because of me. I was even more surprised at where he chosen to sit without any prior knowledge that he would see the one who invited him. Amidst the thousands of seats, he picked a seat where he saw me among the multitude and called out to me.

This was no coincidence; It was God at work assuring me that I had not invited him in vain. When the preacher invited people to come forward to give their lives to Christ that night, he also went forward. It didn’t matter to me that he had cheated me and left me almost barefooted as a result. It didn’t matter to me that the money I wasted could have been put to better use. All that mattered was his soul; A soul that cannot be bought with 50 Ghana Cedis. A soul that had already been paid for when Jesus died on the cross. A soul that cost a life!

I LOVE YOU BUT I LOVE HIM MORE

I LOVE YOU BUT I LOVE HIM MORE

NB: This story is purely fictional and a result of my active imaginations. It is unrelated to any person dead or alive; any such resemblance is purely coincidental.

Yvonne is a virtuous young woman from a good Christian home. Her parents, both dedicated Christians raised her with the very tenets of the Religion. Jesus was so important to her that nothing compared to her love for him. When she became friends with William Wilson, she was unprepared for the love that developed between them. He was a staunch Atheist just as convinced in his believes as she was. They become inseparable; their believes the only obstacle. When William asked her to marry him, Yvonne’s joy knew no bounds. Since none of them wanted to abandon their believes, they decided to each stick to their own separate believes. They planned to fight against their parents’ disapproval to get married. But in the night season when Yvonne’s father in heaven registered his disapproval in a convicting dream, she snaps back to reality. With a broken heart, she beseeches God to step into her heart. He alone can take her love for William out of her heart and return her back to her first love.

 

Rescue My Heart Lord,

Unlock its captivity from the grips of love. My heart has a mind of its own and is glued to William. What do I do, oh you who first loved me? If I could command my heart to stop loving him, believe me I would. But I do not have such power. You alone wield such power. You are the one who has the heart of a king in your hands and turns it in the direction you desire. My heart is in your hands oh lord; turn it back to you.

Why did you look on unconcerned as I fell deeper in love with him? I am neck deep and only your strong hand can prevent me from drowning. I love him and can’t stop thinking about him but I love you more. I miss him anytime he is away from me but I miss you more. If he leaves me I feel I will die but if you leave me, my death will be eternal.

People say love is blind but I must confess I went into this relationship with my eyes wide open. Why can’t it work when he is so good to me? Why can’t it work when my heart beats for him? Why can’t it work when you created us both in your own image? The other day when he tried to convince me to convert to his theories, I felt so much fear. If I love him so much, why is it so difficult to forsake Jesus and yield to his beliefs? It is because of you oh Lord.

The mere thought of Jesus not being a part of my life is more than I can take. What is life on earth without my Jesus? What is true love without his Love? What is the ultimate sacrifice without his sacrifice? Help me God! My heart is breaking. I love him very much but I do love you more.

If anyone told me that I would one-day attempt to disobey you like this, I would never have believed it. Now I realize I am also to blame. I should have drawn the line when he told me he was an Atheist, but he mesmerized me with his charm. He is such a gentleman, so intelligent and treats me with respect. He makes me laugh and the way he is responsible tags at my heartstrings.  His eyes so bright and beautiful stare down my soul and I melt before him.

How I wish he could convert to become a Christian. You know I have tried and prayed to you for this but his heart is steadfast in his belief and so is mine. I would have loved to walk down the aisle with him by my side. I wish I could go to church service with him and read your word with him. Oh, how I wish!

If your word did not say that no one would enter your Kingdom except through your son Jesus Christ, I would gladly sway to his side to be his bride. But I can’t risk eternity for pleasures in this passing world. I can’t sacrifice my love for you for a love that will soon fade.

I thought you would be happy with my decision to continue serving you even when i marry him. If he can stay at home while I attend church service, why can’t it work? I have heard of such stories that have worked perfectly for the couple. A fifty- fifty situation where no one loses.  Why is mine different? Why can’t I eat my cake and have it?

I know your word says I should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but I know you love him as much as you love me. The mere thought of him missing eternity is heartbreaking and I planned to convince him to convert to Christianity after we got married.

I know this is risky as he may be unchanging in his stance. I have heard him talk about his philosophies  with so much passion. If his love for me could not change his mind, then how am I sure that once we get married he will change? After all, he sees nothing wrong with his stance. He has not persuaded me to leave my religion either.

No one in his family is a Christian and even his eldest brother’s wife who used to be a Christian is now an Atheist. I will never forget what she told me the day I visited her. I did not even know she was a Christian some time ago. When she told me she had gone into the marriage to try to convert her husband but rather ended up being converted, I was shocked.

“Never attempt to change someone, either you accept them the way they are or you don’t”. These words from a woman who used to be in my position have never left my mind but I stubbornly continued in love. Forgive me lord; I have been selfish. Never have I thought of the effect all this will have on my children if I go ahead. Yesterday’s dream has taken me out of fantasy land into the world of reality.

In the dream, the two boys you gave me as children were so handsome. How they look like William! When I saw my only daughter and last child, it was as if I was looking at myself in the mirror. What a delight it will be to behold my children one day. However, my joy was short lived when I saw one of my boys dressed normally and the other as a priest.

I thought they were happy until I heard their conversation. Arguments of whose belief was better angrily rang through the room. They looked at each other with disdain as each of them justified their stance. Philosophy and the bible clashed as the two of them battled it out before their little sister who looked on in confusion with tear stained eyes.

As I stepped in to calm the situation, my second son Eric an Atheist accused me of being on his elder brother Joseph’s side because he was a Christian. I felt my heart break for I loved them equally even though I wished they were both Christians. When their father William also stepped in, Joseph accused him of loving Eric more due to his religious stance.

I saw the hurt in William’s eyes at the accusation of his son but knew he secretly wished both his sons were Atheists. He looked at me and smiled sadly, love for me still displayed in his eyes. We advised them to be tolerant of each others views and left hand in hand oblivious to the fact that their argument heatedly continued when we were out of earshot.

What broke my heart was my daughter who had dressed promiscuously unashamed as she challenged the authority of her elder brothers. Both wanted to win her to their side but were unsuccessful. She had decided to be a non- practicing Muslim because she did not want to be in the midst of the controversy.

Then I saw Joseph and myself join hands to the right side, Eric and William to the left; hands held. My precious Ingrid was in the middle as we all tried to push her towards our direction. She stood strong unwilling to give up until we pulled so strongly she was torn in two. My daughter fell dead right before our eyes as we looked on in dismay.

My sons wept in grief as William and I still looked on as if in a trance. Then Eric took a knife from his pocket and stabbed his father to death accusing him of marrying a Christian. He too stabbed himself after that and lay dead beside Ingrid and William. Joseph grabbed me as if another spirit had possessed him and looked me in the eyes saying; “I blame you for all this, you have sacrificed your children for your selfish love, love is not selfish. I am disappointed in you.” He then picked Eric’s knife and stabbed me to death with tears in his eyes after which he killed himself.

Then I saw you seated upon the throne of judgment ready to declare where each of us would spend eternity. When Ingrid came before you, you banished her from your presence as I cried inconsolably. She looked at you and said, “It’s not my fault, my mother determined my destination even before I was born.” I was so broken as your angels threw her into the pit of fire her screams piercing my heart.

When Eric came before you, you banished him also from your presence declaring he did not accept Jesus. He also turned to me and said, “Mummy, this is where your selfishness has landed me.” As the angels took him away to the fire of doom, I thought I had died all over again. All this time your eyes never left me from the throne as you looked at me with cold eyes.

Then Joseph came before you and my body began to shake as you cast him too aside calling for him to be sent into the lake of fire. He also turned to me and said “Mummy,   you turned me into a murderer, now here I am.” I threw myself to the floor and wept without tears for all my tears had fallen.

When William came before you, the judgment was the same but when he turned to look at me, what he said was more hurtful than a sharp knife pierced through my heart. “I loved you with all my heart, but marrying you is the worse decision of my life. I would have preferred to see myself in hell fire than the children we had together. Love is good but losing loved ones through our selfish choices is unforgivable.

 It was my turn to stand before you and I saw your eyes soften as you spoke. “I loved you with my life. I paid the price for your sins with the blood of my son upon the cross. You knew me but disobeyed me. Did I not tell you it is better to enter my kingdom with a missing part rather than missing it entirely? You chose to save your heart and did not wait for me to bring you someone equally yoked. Your children are all here because of you. You chose to save yourself but lost it all,” you said.

Your eyes then turned cold again as if you were not the one who had just spoke. As the angels carried me towards hell fire, I heard myself screaming, “no, no, I will wait upon you! I will wait upon you!” But it was too late. As they threw me into the fire, what I saw shook me more. William, Eric, Joseph and Ingrid all pointed accusation fingers at me blaming me for their suffering.

Then all those in hell joined them as they chanted. “Bad mother, she sacrificed her children for her  love.” They approached me as if to rip me in two but then came the blinding light. Jesus came and grabbed me from their midst, hugged me and took me to safety. “I will never leave you nor forsake you, don’t leave me; Yvonne.” I smiled at him and told him how much I loved him “I love William, but I love you more.”

When I woke up from my dream, my bed was soaked with sweat and I knew I had narrowly escaped the heat of hell. God, thank you for saving me as you did. I never thought of the children I would have one day or what I would be putting them through. I can’t bear it. I will rather die than see my children perish because of me.

From today, I have taken a sharp curve back to obedience. No love for any man can compare to the love I have for you. Quickly bring me a man who equally believes in you who can love me beyond my pain to make me forget this forbidden love. I will not gamble with eternity.

Send my true love so we can pull together towards you. I now have the courage to tell William “I love you with all my heart, but I love Jesus more and will want my children to love him too.”

If he decides to convert, fine. If not, I will still love you more and wait upon your promise.  I will wait for a man who also loves you more so our children can freely love you. Thank you Jesus for saving me, but please banish this horrible dream from my mind for my heart still beats when I think about it. Yours in waiting to be equally yoked, Yvonne.

 

RELATED BIBLE VERSE

2 Cor 6:14-17

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  17 “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

According to the story and above scripture, whom will you describe as an unbeliever?

Why does scripture admonish Christians to be unequally yoked with unbelievers?

Would you be willing to let go of the love you feel for someone in obedience to God?

Do you think it is wise to enter a relationship with someone with the hope of changing their believes?

Like the children in the story, do you prayerfully consider the effects your decisions have on your loved ones?

The above scripture does not encourage Christians to treat others with disdain, do you agree?

 

BLUE BALLS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR SEX

BLUE BALLS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR SEX

I am always at my wits end when I hear some of the ridiculous reasons why some woman give in to premarital sex against their better judgement. I have heard once too often that some have fallen prey to the popular or should I say unpopular blue balls syndrome. Since I grew up without a brother and attended a girls’ high school, I must say I am not an authority on the male anatomy. As a result, this blue balls syndrome has always piqued my curiosity.

According to wikipedia, “Blue balls is a slang term for the condition of temporary fluid congestion (vasocongestion) in the testicles accompanied by testicular pain, caused by prolonged sexual arousal in the human male without ejaculation. The term is thought to have originated in the United States, first appearing in 1916. Some urologists call the condition “epididymal hypertension; A condition that is not experienced by all males.”

Another article on cosmopolitan.com titled What exactly happens when a guy gets blue balls? Or is this just a myth?” also caught my attention.  According to the author, “If a sexually aroused guy does not ejaculate, there is a buildup of pressure, and his super sensitive balls feel the brunt of it. The sensation can range from a mild ache to worse-than-getting-kicked-in-the-crotch pain.”

He further explained that “it is not dangerous, and the guy can deal with it, whether that means helping himself out or waiting it out. The blood will eventually drain and any discomfort will disappear on its own. It’s called blue balls because the blood that has been in the scrotum for a while loses oxygen and can give the appearance of a bluish tinge.”

With a better understanding of what blue balls really is, the question that plagues my mind is whether it is a justification for a woman to give in to premarital sex. I do empathize with the men who go through this excruciating pain at the point of sexual arousal. However, I do not agree that a woman should be coerced into sex or should I rather say give in to sex to alleviate this pain.

2 Peter 1:5-7 reads “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” To the brother who feels the only way he can alleviate his pain is through sex, self- control is a better option. Men who have learned to control themselves have kept trouble at bay.

Also, according to 1 Corinthians 10:13, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Another key here is endurance and not gratification at all cost. Blue balls is not a justification for premarital sex.

Another point worthy of note is that women also experience pain. Physical pain that can be far more excruciating than blue balls. This happens just by virtue of their biological make up. These include menstrual pain, ovulation pain, child birth pain, painful miscarriages, painful sex etc.

1 Corinthians 6:18-19 says “Run from sexual sin! No other sin clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

Premarital sex has far reaching consequences than blue balls. So to a sister who thinks she is being cruel by refusing to alleviate someone’s blue balls pain through sex, I say weigh your options. Remember that apart from incurring the wrath of God, you risk dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, a sexuality transmitted disease, an abortion, guilt, shame and a possible broken heart from the same person whose blue balls pain you helped alleviate.

MY BODY IS NO LONGER FOR SALE!

MY BODY IS NO LONGER FOR SALE!

NB: This story is purely fictional and a result of my active imaginations. It is unrelated to any person dead or alive; any such resemblance is purely coincidental.

Amanda was single- handedly raised by her mother when her father died at the tender age of four. Her mother worked hard to ensure she had a good education and life’s basic comforts. Despite this, she fell into bad company when she entered the university. Lured by a group of friends who introduced her to a notorious pimp, her life took a turn for the worst. No more was she satisfied with the little her mother gave her. She became aware of the fact that with her graceful body, she could acquire more possessions for herself. Little did she know that she was gradually turning into something she had sworn never to become, a prostitute. By the time she realized where her greed had taken her, it was too late. After a year, she was afraid of leaving the group for fear of victimization. They threatened to expose her if she ever backed out. Furthermore, her shame prevented her from going home to her mother who had discovered her secret. Her mother begged her to return to the God who never left her. The beckoning of the Holy Spirit was becoming stronger by the day. An ugly encounter with her pimp was all the excuse she needed to run back to the place of security. Enough was enough, she stopped running from God and submitted to him. He was the only one who could turn her situation around.

 

 

God,

My heart bleeds in response to its ache. My body is so used and tired; I feel like 55 instead of 25. How did I get here? How did I go so far from you? How did I allow myself to be used like this, shoving the love you have for me in your face? Have I proved to you that sending your son to die for my sake was in vain?

Do you look down at me with disgust and regret creating me after your own image? Oh, how lucky I am that when you sigh, it does not blow me away into the pit of hell. That is where I deserve to be. If I could get away with it, I would take my own life and risk heaven. But I know better even though my life is bitter.

I have tried coming back to you several times but my head hangs so low; I cannot lift it up to you. I am grateful that even with my head buried in the ground my words are audible to you oh mighty God. Save me from myself! I am tired just as my body is tired. I am tired of the whispered lies of love in my ears at night. My mind is filled with Lies from men who want nothing but a moment of pleasure.

I am tired of how my body has been invaded making me an open book for every man to read. I am tired of the rough hands that daily grasp my tender breasts. I am tired of the pain and the useless gains. I am tired of my guilt, which evades my conscience reminding me of who I have become.

I am tired of the looks of lust in the eyes of men old enough to be my father. I am tired of how they disregard my mind like junk when I attempt an intelligent conversation. I am tired of the looks of pity as people pass me by; I dread the thoughts they think of me. I am tired of turning my head in another direction to avoid the looks in peoples’ eyes when they see me by the roadside. I am tired of how they move further away as if afraid I will infect them with a dreadful disease just by coming close. Oh lord, I am weary!

My disregard for the church close to where I stand at night looking for clients tears at my soul. My crime is greater because I defile my body that is your holy temple as well as the church built in which to worship you. The beauty you endowed me with has condemned me; I could not use it for your glory. I have misused the wisdom you gave me and directed it into folly. Your mercy is all I seek; I can ask of nothing more. Even though I have more belongings, I am perishing with the weight of sin.

Because of me, innocent men have fallen prey to seduction leaving them as helpless victims. Many could not survive the temptation when I exposed my breasts and my private parts to them in the dark. I am always ready to extract their riches causing them misfortunes. When the catholic priest I was able to lure into my bed run out weeping, my power over him gave me no joy. His shame was enough to destroy my gain. My conscience is dead and no longer convicts me. When did the Holy Spirit depart from me depart? I searched and found him no more.

When did the clothes that covered my body become so easy to discard? Little by little, ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I took your mercy and forgiveness for granted. I have entangled myself in a web of sin. You alone can disentangle the web in which I find myself; I cannot come out of it unless you save me. Going deeper into sin was easier for me. I could not retrace my steps because I did not know how to stop.

Night after night as I changed like a chameleon afraid to be recognized, I fooled myself. I wore wigs of different colors and skirts too short announcing my immorality. Underneath my skirts are no underwear. My blouses are so tight I can hardly breathe; My Lipsticks bright and sparkling in the dark as I call out loudly to men. My makeup makes me look older, hiding the innocence beneath. I call out to men unashamedly to come and enjoy my body.

Who will continue to love me but you? Recently, I heard someone preach about how you accept people just as they are. That I don’t need to change to come to you. The thought of change puts fear in me because this is how I have learned to survive. With my body so soiled, can you indeed come to live in me again or did you never leave me? If I come to you right now, will you turn your back on me and rather open your arms to your beautiful virgins who glorify you with their bodies? I pray you reach out and welcome me like the lost sheep that I am.

When I reached out for the bible hidden in my suitcase, I was searching for evidence of your love. I had shoved the bible beneath my clothes for fear of its reminder. To make nonsense of the sacrifice you made for me with the life of your dear son is to reject your mercy. Without your Mercy which I am better dead than alive.

The words in the bible have comforted me and given me the strength to come to you today. However, deep within me I knew you were waiting for me to come to you. The condemnations in the eyes of the preachers who have attempted to turn me from my ways always leave me more ashamed. Did these preachers expect me to follow them to church when their hands pointed disgustedly at me from afar? What safety can I find in a place where the sinner’s sin is always brought up? I do not want some boasting pastors to use me in their sermons claiming to have rescued me from the depths of hell. You alone have the power to rescue me.

You have protected me even in this dangerous profession; how can I explain how I stay healthy regardless? I have escaped Dreadful venereal diseases like HIV and Gonorrhea which have infected even those with few sexual encounters. It is a surprise that you still protect me in my sinful profession. The other day when some of my colleagues pondered how they had been spared from these infections, they claimed it was luck, but I know better. You know the deep-rooted issues in our heart’s that cause us to go astray. Thus, you do not withhold your mercy and grace from us.

Many find themselves here for reasons more tangible than mine. I do not have any excuse for what I have become. I have a hardworking mother who has supported me all this while to make my life comfortable. I may not be as rich as I wanted but I am definitely not a church mouse. Mum’s salary has been enough for both of us since she refused to marry when daddy died. Her dedication to my spiritual growth should have taught me better. Wanting more has almost succeeded in killing me. Set me free! Set me free from this self- inflicted pain.

My poor mother; I wonder how she found out about my little secret. I need to get out of this so I can see her smile again. The day she confronted me I couldn’t lie because I was confounded at her discovery. I will never forget the tears she shed as she knelt before me, begging me to stop. I know I should have changed that day but I was too far-gone. I was too ashamed to look her in the eyes. The disappointment was too much. Remember my mother’s tears as I do and help me turn my evil ways around.

When the pimp told me last week that I was nothing but a piece of trash worth less than a penny, I knew the time had come. The time had come for me to stand up and say No! The time had come to run back to you because at least I am worth more than that to you. The time had come for me to cut off all reminders of the one dime human being I had become. The time had come to wipe the tears from my mother’s eyes; she had not ceased praying to recue me out of the hands of the evil one. The time had come!

Oh, how bold I was to look him squarely in the face as I rose elegantly to my full 6feet height. I know you gave me courage because suddenly all my fear was gone. The look of shock and fear in his eyes made me realize I was worth more than he made me feel. I wonder where the words came from as they tumbled down my lips. Where did I get the strength to slap his face? “I may be worthless to you but I was so important to the one who created me that he sent his only begotten son to die that I may live; to turn this penny to a jewel so refined that you cannot identify her again”. The way he paled before me as I uttered those words made me know I had destroyed his defenses. What a relief I felt as I walked away; it was over. Just like that!

I was setting myself free. I had made him more money than his other prostitutes had but he had used me to his advantage sensing my insatiable need for material possessions. He thought I had nowhere to turn. He did not know that I had a God I who had been waiting for me to turn to him; One who was ready to carry the heavy burden I had placed on my own shoulders. A burden I gladly lay down at your feet. Make me your jewel oh lord, your word stays true. Who can wipe away my sins and set me free? Only you! Who can cause a new beginning to come out of an ugly past? Only you! Past, yes past, I am determined not to turn back to that path that leads to death. If you will not condemn me with my past, I don’t care about what anyone else says.

I put behind me a world I ignorantly entered, lured by the pleasures of life. I am returning to you realizing there is nothing better out there beyond the borders of your love. No matter what people say about me, it is better to enter your kingdom with a tarnished reputation than to miss heaven. Reading the bible like a thirsty drunk calms my spirit and makes me surer of one thing. It is a lie that you will not accept me as I am. It is for people like me that you sent your son. Like Paul, you will use me to confound those who thought it was over for me. I will no longer bow down my head in shame. You have already carried my shame on the cross!

I am no more Amanda the prostitute; I am Amanda the worthless vessel in transition to becoming a vessel of honor. Amanda the apple of your eye; that is what the word says you call your children. Come back into my heart Jesus and drive away all that is not worthy of your holy temple. Come back and take your place where I have placed others above you. Come and be seated in the comfort of my heart where you can heal all that is wrong within me for I am coming home again. Like the prodigal son, I have no more fears. You will give me your oil of gladness in your presence where there is fullness of joy. I am coming home to you right here where you never left me even though I left you a hundred times. I am back to my first love. I am here to stay!

I will no more look behind my shoulder only to see my own shadow. No more looking in the mirror to see a caricature looking at me dressed in ridiculous seductive clothing. No more ties with those who tied me down. No more believing in lies about your love for me; your word is my truth! If anyone recognizes the innocence beneath the decorated caricature, let the one pesewa coin shine as the jewel you will turn me into. I am ready to shine both day and night.

I come to you just as I am without fear of rejection. Back to the place of your security I come, where I belong. I am here to stay!

Amen.

 

 RELATED BIBLE VERSE

Psalm 32: 1-6

1          Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!

2          Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

3          When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long.

4  Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

5          _ Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them.

I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

6          Therefore, let all the godly confess their rebellion to you while there is time,

that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  1. Do you believe God is capable of forgiving Amanda for the sin of prostitution?
  2. Why was the psalmist weak and miserable when he refused to confess his sin?
  3. How did Amanda’s realization that God would not reject her despite her promiscuity set her free from bondage?
  4. When Amanda realized how important she was for God to send his only begotten son to die for her, how did she value herself?
  5. Do you know anyone who refuses to accept Jesus Christ because they feel unworthy and sinful?
  6. How will you encourage them or yourself to know that He came for the sinful and not the righteous?
UNANSWERED PRAYER FOR A HUSBAND

UNANSWERED PRAYER FOR A HUSBAND

NB: This story is purely fictional and a result of my active imaginations. It is unrelated to any person dead or alive; any such resemblance is purely coincidental.

At the age of 36, God-fearing Judith is still single and a virgin. She has been fasting and praying to God endlessly to bring her a man to call her own. Judith misses no opportunity to go to church, attend deliverance and prophetic services all in an attempt to receive God’s blessings. Many derogatory comments are passed at her back even from loved ones she least expected. It is presumed that she is unable to marry because she s choosy and snobbish. However, it is far from the truth. No serious God-fearing man had come her way yet. This bothers her so much that she approaches the Lord in prayer to come to her aid and right her wrong. She petitions God once again leaving the decision to him.

Daddy Lord,

If you will do what you will do, then why does your word tell me to pray? Do you just want to hear the words that come out of my mouth as evidence that I am still on your side? Why have you not answered my prayer when I have persisted without fail? Your word tells me that if I have faith as small as a mustard seed, I will move mountains. My faith may be small, but it is bigger than a mustard seed. So why is this mountain still in front of me? Your words say it is not good for man to be alone. So why does this goodness elude me if you are my God? Why am I alone with no man to call my own?

At the age of 36 what other form of prayer do you seek from me so I can see results? Teach me lord, I have gone through your Holy Book and prayed in all the possible ways. My prayers have ranged from Hanna’s unuttered words through David’s Psalms as well as Jabez’s prayer. I have fasted and prayed as Jesus recommended for difficult situations. I have only ended up with a stomach ulcer, the physical evidence that I have done my part.  Despite this, I have not stopped praising you. I give you thanks in all things as a good Christian ought to.

Have I not brought my tithes and offerings before you, so you will open the floodgates of heaven and poor down your blessings on me? Have I not bound demons down here on earth until there was none left to bind? Have I not brought others who share the same grief together in one accord to meet your requirement, which says; when two of us agree on something, it will be done for us? Why is my situation the same? What am I doing wrong or not doing right? All of those I prayed with are married but me.

If you are the merciful father whose anger lasts for a moment, then I know that my sins are not the issue here. Is it too much to ask that you give me a good man to call my own? What is the use of all this beauty you have endowed me with, if I am only admired but not claimed? Sometimes I wonder if I was foolish to have kept my virginity. Even my younger siblings know the pleasures on the matrimonial bed simply because they are married. If I experience the same, you will say I have fornicated. Why then will you not give me the opportunity to legally enjoy what you created? After all Paul once said it is better to marry than to burn with passion. I am burning with passion but who will hold me?

Your word stopped me when I wanted a baby for myself to call my own. If marriage is not your wish for me, at least let me have my own baby. If I do this, will I be justified? You will certainly accuse me of sexual immorality. At times, I wonder if it was a mistake to ask you into my heart. If you did not live in me, I would have had the courage to treat my body as I wanted. I would have made decisions that suited me without a pang of guilt.

If I knew prayer was so powerful, I would not have prayed to you to send away all men who would come into my life to hurt me until I met the man you created for me. Since that prayer, no one has come my way to make me feel like a woman. Please hasten to bring my man because the wait is now unbearable.

Are you afraid that the love I have for you will belong to another? Who can love a mortal and an immortal man in the same vain? No one can take your place in my heart. You are my God and true love. You are my first love.

The sermon I was listening to the other day spoke about how your answer to prayer is Yes, No or Wait. At first I thought telling me to wait was better than an outright No. I know better now, waiting upon you is the greatest cross one can carry. How I admire Abraham who waited until your promise came to pass. I wonder the feeling Elizabeth had when her baby jumped in her womb. I wish I had their patience! I know the fruits of the spirit include longsuffering but to wait upon you like this knowing your will, will prevail regardless of my plans is unbearable. You should have put in me a desire to live without a man. Why do you not take away my desire to be with a man since this desire is unfulfilled?

The prophecies and dreams regarding my marriage are so many yet none has come to pass. Other dreams and prophecies in other areas of my life have materialized but my marriage. How will I have the strength to wait upon you?

Society has placed a negative tag on me simply because I am single at my age. I was listening to a radio show the other day when one man spoke intensely about how successful women were so choosy and unwilling to settle down. Do you remember how I shook my head and laughed without mirth? What is there to choose from, when there is nothing to choose at all? Why should I not strive for success when there is nothing to tie me down? I would rather pursue my dreams because no man pursues me.

I wish society could be truthful and spare me the agony. Why rush into marriage and rush out of it? How I wish our mothers’ would be truthful like Aunty Dora. She envied my patience and my resolve to settle for nothing but your best for me. When will our Mothers’ reveal how they suffer in their marriages instead of pushing us into the same situation? If they will tell us the truth, perhaps we will have more patience, waiting on you.

Nothing frustrates me more when I hear that it is because I have been married in the spirit that I find no one here on earth to call my own. If this is the case then what did all my prayers and fasting accomplish? What were the deliverances I went through worth when my body became so weak I could hardly stand on my feet? What did the bottles of anointing oil that could have done wonders in the kitchen accomplish on my head? What was the use of the many anointed hands that placed on me?

Where can I find you, God? Clearly, you need to answer me. Are my enemies stronger than you are or does your will no longer matter to man? If a Christian woman is not married, is it because she is spiritually married? If she is barren, is it because she has spiritual babies? We need to know the truth. The bondage for which you sent your son to set us free, continues to entangle us drawing us further back into the darkness. Is your will no longer a priority?  If a Christian has waited upon you while the answer to her prayer is still pending, what can she do? How many more witches can I kill? How many more demons can I bind; I am only human.

The church has become even more unbearable for me for even there, there is no respite. People ask me when I will marry as if their happiness depends on my marriage. Do they forget that I am not God? That I do not have the answers? I have run out of polite answers to these questions and may resort to sarcastic replies if you do not keep me in check. It beats my mind that even in church the most foolish married person is sometimes regarded above the unmarried one who may be wiser. Singles have been disqualified from certain position simple because of their status regardless of their commitment to you. Help us lord or we may flee into the world.

I need to see you lift me up before my enemies. My victory will not be worth celebrating if all my enemies die. Who will see my victory? Many women have turned to other gods who quickly come to their aid. Others have stopped following you because this long suffering is long indeed. Hold on to me lord that I may not give up. Wipe the tears from my eyes and put a new song in my heart. Bless me with a good marriage for you alone bless man and add no sorrows to it. You know what is good for me and can see behind the veil covering the soul.

I have heard that those who have turned away from you get the best in life. Is this true; are your children not supposed to be the victors in this world? If you were able to differentiate between the children of Egypt and those of Israel when you sent the plaques, then I beg to differ in this view. You know your own and I am yours. Let not my worship be in vain. Open my eyes that I may see beyond and appreciate how you have protected me all this while.

The irony of the situation is that those who have strayed from you to indulge in fornication see it in their place to counsel me. They caution that you will not send a man to me from heaven. They say that I should go out there and get a man because I have all it takes. Isn’t it funny? When my colleague told me the other day to go after men since my clock was ticking, I kept quiet and listened. It was interesting because she seemed so knowledgeable about how to grab and keep a man. It was funny to me because she has been in a sexual relationship for ten years though she is not married.

Her wedding day never comes though she says it will. Does this qualify her to advice me? I don’t claim righteousness before you because you know my weakness. However, it is sad that those who ignore your laws turn around to counsel your children who patiently wait for you.

And then there is my friend Erica, jumping from men to men in her quest to find the best man. To her, God will not find a husband for you. It is sad when I see her cheapen herself despite the fact that she is a child of God. She claims she can change them and marry them but where has that left her? All the dirty clothes she washed and food she cooked for the men did not pay off. Her body has been used to satisfy their lust, yet she claims I need a man. Hmmm, I do not blame her for this wait is not easy.

Give your daughters’ the strength to wait and the ability to trust you for your word caution us not to lean on our own understanding. I wonder what would have happened if I did not heed your word. I may have ended up a second wife or agreed to marry to Cephas even though I knew he did not believe in you. I am grateful that you have kept me from desperation and guided me with your word lest I fall.

Help me as I prepare for the day when you will lay a table before me in the presence of my enemies. They think you have forsaken your children; please vindicate me. When my children jump around my house singing praises to you one day, let all those who said that it would be impossible to have children at my age marvel at your handiwork. Teach them that in the school of faith, science is disgraced. For who established the times but you. And who is wiser than you to question your ways and motives?

Have mercy on us God, for we are only humans. You alone know what is good for me though at times I feel that I know best. If Elizabeth knew that she had to be barren so John the Baptist could usher  Jesus into the world, she would not have unduly worried.

Help me understand your ways and not mine. Reveal a fraction of your mind to me and my heart will be steadfast, trusting in you. Let me see what you see and not what I want to see. Your word says your ways are not my ways nor your thoughts my thoughts. However, my mortal mind fails to comprehend this at times until your words steer me toward the truth. The day I know everything, you do and why, you will cease to be my God for my wisdom is lesser than a strand of your golden hair.

Let me live each day as a gift from you, enjoying the blessings you have so far granted unto me. You are a God of beauty who lets all things work together for good for all those who love you. Let my love for you grow to the point where I too may enjoy these promises of yours for even your name submits to your word.

Let me be the testimony of my time for all to know that you are the same God, yesterday today and forever more. I concur that whether it tarries, it shall come to pass. And even if Tomorrow never comes, let me be like Job who said that even though slays him, he will worship him. In Jesus name, I lay down my petition, until I knock at your door again. With unending love as always, it is Judith. Amen

 

RELATED BIBLE VERSES

Isaiah 40:31   but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Psalms 27:13-14   I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Psalms 37:34  Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Lamentations 3:25   The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Micah 7:7   But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

How does society force singles to enter into bad marriages?

Like Judith, do you agree that waiting for our heart’s desire can be the most difficult thing for a practicing Christian?

Do you agree that God knows best and makes all things beautiful in his time and not our time?

How can we remain faithful to God when our prayers have not yet been answered?

How does the way other Christians react to single adults worsen their plight?

 

 

 

THE THIEF CALLED BREAST CANCER

THE THIEF CALLED BREAST CANCER

NB: This story is purely fictional and a result of my active imaginations. It is unrelated to any person dead or alive; any such resemblance is purely coincidental.

Many women are dealt different blows of life from different angles, sometimes tragic and even deadly. Little did Monica know at the age of 26, she too would taste life’s bitter pill. She had suffered a lump in one of her breasts, which had become cancerous when detected. Unfortunately, her breast was removed to prevent the cancer from spreading to the rest of her body. She had always cherished her breasts since it was the most beautiful part of her body. As a child, she had fantasized about feeding her children as she played mummy. Thus, she was shattered after the operation when she beheld her bare chest in the mirror. Two weeks after the surgery, she deals with the mishap the only way she has knew how. Her father in heaven will have to hear what she thinks of this and what this experience has told her about him.

Dear lord,
If I am dear to you like you are to me, then you have an ironic way of showing it. If I earned your displeasure by showing off my cleavage, perhaps you should have dealt with me less harshly as your word attests to your mercy. If I knew, the time would come where I would have nothing to show above my chest, I would have saved many memories for a time like this. How do you see me now? The weight that graced my chest no longer tells of my identity. How will my Adam one day see me when he realizes his eve is incomplete? Will he still love me like you do and look past my chest to the love lying within, or will he turn around in disgust unsatisfied one lovely dove is gone?

Will what I have left, have the ability to satisfy the thirst of the three lovely kids I hope to have one day? And if you give me twins, who will have to sacrifice in suckling mummy’s breast first? Will what I have left be enough? How beautiful it is, to see a baby suckle his mother’s breast. How beautiful it is to me to see a husband rest his head on his wife’s bosom and like a baby, never wanted to leave its comfort. Oh, how beautiful it is to stand in the mirror in admiration of what you graciously endowed me. Were all those thoughts in vain unknowing one day soon, those fantasies will elude me?

How childhood might have laughed at me when I put the tiny insect on my nipple at age 13, with the ridiculous belief it would grow my bosom. When my friends Sandra and Victoria did this day after day, anticipating bigger breasts, it seemed to work with our vivid imagination. Little did we know those little insects stolen from the sand were needless in such circumstances. If having breasts, as a woman was not important, then why did we crave to have the same thing we saw on our mothers’ and sisters’ chests at that tender age? Why did we hope to skip childhood to adolescence? Is it not because you had put in us that innate desire? You are my father and I feel no shame baring my soul to you, for nothing I think, say or do has ever shocked you or will ever do.

I feel I have become a half woman who has no evidence of her identity. For what separates me from a man if we both have a flat chests? How will the embrace of my husband be when he feels no warmth and tenderness? Will I find one who loves me as you do? When the Doctor broke the news to me that I had a cancerous lump in my breast, oh how I prayed. How I prayed like Jesus did when he cried out to you to take away this cup, but unlike him, I never had the courage to ask for your will to prevail. So why did you not heal me? Why did you not command the traitorous lump which threatened to steal the life of your daughter, disappear into the depths of hell where it came from?

Did you not say in your word I am the apple of your eye and that you hold me in the palm of your hands? So how did harm come my way when I lay in God’s own palm? Have you not exalted your word about your name? Are you not the God who does what you will do? If so, does this mean the good plans you claim to have for me right from my mother’s womb were instead plans of evil, meant to harm me? The mere thought of this breaks my heart into a million pieces, for deep down I know the yards of old cannot measure your love. The wisest man who ever lived  cannot describe your love for me.

I know removing my left breast saved my life preventing the cancer from spreading to other parts of my body. I look forward to the reason you kept me alive. I am left with the right one, a tribute of your wisdom to why you created them in a pair. So why do I feel I have lost my most prized possession? I know the unbearable pain is gone away with it, but you alone know what it left behind. A low self-esteem and a torture only you who permeates my mind can fathom. Even though the padded bra does its best to play its role, the mirror in my room reminds me of the truth. I have become incomplete!

When I was skeptical the first day in boarding school about bathing naked, the innocent girly comments about my lovely breasts made me so happy. Even though I was shy, the compliments made me confident in my womanhood. At least if my face was not so beautiful, something of mine was. This may sound silly, but when my female colleagues voted my breasts as the most beautiful in secondary school, my joy knew no bounds. It was all a game but it made me happy. I couldn’t wait to show them to my husband on our honeymoon. You know this God, for I have not kept this fantasy from you. Between us, there are no secrets.

Am I holding on to vanity or do you feel my pain? Thank you for speaking to my spirit the other day as I looked into the mirror. When you told me I was still more beautiful to you, that the beauty within me covers my scars from your sight, oh how my heart soared. However, down here on earth where man does not think as you do, please help me survive. Help me survive with what you have graciously left me. Help me survive with the life you spared. Oh God, Help me! The tears my family and dearest friends shed upon realizing I may have lost my life make me realize it was worth the sacrifice for I am thankful you have given me such loved ones. You have blessed me with people who can look at me through your eyes and love me unceasingly.

The mere fact that my younger sister Tracy naively thought she could donate her own breast to make me happy taught me a great lesson. We hold on to what we can easily let go. There is nothing we can live without unless you whose name is Jehovah decide to take away the breath you have given to us. The only thing and the only one I cannot leave without, is you. My God, my Father and my friend! It is interesting how we love you when everything goes well for us and turn our back on you, when it happens otherwise. Oh, now I cherish Jesus the more for those of us who follow him have a great task ahead.

The crown of thorns that pierced his head would have been enough for me to say bye to you. I would have thrown the sword that pierced his side at you, had that been me. The nails that passed through his hands and feet would never have earned my forgiveness as he did forgive even those who persecuted him. The spit on his face alone would have doubled my steps back to the path of sin and the denial from his best friend would have made me reject you before the multitude. Now you know how I felt when the nurse whispered to her colleague these things happen to bad girls who allow men to manhandle their breasts.

Why do people cut you down into pieces when you are already in shreds and speak of what they know nothing about? Why do people presume the worse of an innocent victim who is already suffering? Does she know my breasts have not yet experienced the palms or lips of any man? Did she know her words made me feel worse than the physical pain I was already going through? Did she know her judgment of me could take away your mercy from her? And what about her colleague, how I wish she had defended me in speech, instead of the shocked look she displayed on her face at that utterance. I was too weak to speak out and so tongue-tied no words would have come out, had I tried.

Maybe that is what she had heard, refusing to set aside her ignorance to find out the truth. How interesting that she would cut her fellow woman to pieces, forgetting the same faith may await her one-day or a loved one so dear. Why do people forget it is a small world where no one can hide from life’s blows? Why do people feel a tragedy is so far away from them even when it has happened to a neighbor nearby? Perhaps, one day she would understand and remember the look in my eyes as I stared unblinkingly at her, as she administered the anesthetics in preparation for my moment of doom. Maybe she thought I couldn’t hear her, since she had whispered those hurtful words. Maybe she thought it was an innocent comment but the sarcasm in her voice took out its innocence. Someday she may understand misfortune does not only visit the sinful.

One thing I ask of you Lord; do not let your children be subject to the mercy of man. When I look back to the entire procedure, I realize you never left my side for a single moment. I could see you in the eyes of my loved ones and feel you in the touch of the doctor whose sincerity vibrated from within her, making me know we had the same greater being living in us. Oh, what a joy it is, to find a man who loves the lord, a man who loves his neighbor as himself and seeks to please you. It is true a lot has changed these days, in contrast to women who suffered at a time when there was no solution. I can say at least I am grateful misfortune has visited me at a time, when there is hope.

When I visited the breast cancer women’s club, I was astonished. The stories they shared moved me to tears and laughter at the same time. Hope and encouragement entered my heart as I realized I was not alone. Life must go on, with or without what I have lost. I am grateful at least in some months down the line if I decide to have my next surgery, I would have a new bosom forgetting the cold I feel there now. It doesn’t matter it will not be real, for I know reality is believing in something to be, even if it is not. I have not made the decision yet but I know even if I do, the tongues of those who do not know the reality of my condition will continue to wag. Maybe this time they will call me promiscuous, just maybe… Nevertheless, when the time comes, my head will no more hang low. Your glory will lift my head and my tongue loosened to your praise.

I will make my voice heard and glory in your salvation that all may know my God spared my life from sudden death. Oh, how I love you lord for you have spared my life. How I praise you God, for you have dealt kindly with me. I will proclaim of your goodness and mercy all the days of my life. Even at times when my flesh takes charge and my tongue speaks of how my God did not take away my cup of sorrow; please remember I am but human. A woman whose daily struggle is to live a life pleasing to you. For life, here on earth is a daily struggle, a continued race and a long journey. A journey attempted and failed is better than one never attempted. A Christian walk without trials cannot boast of standing the test of true discipleship. Therefore, help me father for I know not the next cross I may have to carry. But this I know; with you by my side I can face the world.

If the world thrown at me is that of sorrow, make it joyful for me. If it is a world without peace, let it be peaceful for me because in my own world where you dwell, I shall be victorious. Let everyone who has gone through this ordeal but does not know you come to know you. For though in my world you belong to me alone, am willing to share your love with others who need you more. I wipe away my tears and look beyond my scars where I can see what you alone can see. Daddy’s little Girl, Monica. I am the apple of your eye, unchanging in your sight and still beautiful to you. Thank you for sparing my life. Amen.

 

RELATED BIBLE VERSES

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Jeremiah 30:17
For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’

Isaiah 53:4
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

How can we support suffering people without  being judgmental?

Like Monica, do you agree that even the most intimate details of our life can be discussed with God in prayer?

How can we deal with sudden devastating events in our lives?

How does the way Christians react to suffering in their lives minister to unbelievers?

I REMEMBER THE SONG

I REMEMBER THE SONG

Come to him he has the keys of heaven. Without Jesus you can never go to God. With him all things are possible. Come to him, come to Jesus he will set you free.

Chorus

Keys of heaven are given unto him, keys of heaven are given unto dear Lord.

Keys of heaven are given unto him. Come to Jesus come to Jesus he will set you free.

By Juliana Arslanian.

 

I never knew these words had been etched into my mind until yesterday when I reconnected with the wonderful woman who thought me as a child. It’s been over twenty years but the words came back at me with a bang and I sang out loud with joy as if I had never stopped singing.

Years ago, this woman who lived in my grandma’s neigbourhood would come to visit and teach my sisters and I gospel songs she had written herself. I remember her urging us to sing from our stomachs since it was easier and sounded better.

We would laugh and ask her how possible it was to sing for our stomachs. We would try to sing from our stomachs and laugh when she told us our voices were not even coming from our throats. Unfortunately, she disappeared without a trace until yesterday when we reconnected on Facebook.

My sisters and I often wondered where she had disappeared to and whether we would ever see her again. It’s been over twenty years and although we did not hear from her, we never forgot her songs or the powerful words contained in her songs.

At the time when she used to talk to us about Jesus in her songs, I never really understood what she meant until I had my own personal encounter.

Almost at an old age, she is still singing about that man who came to shed his blood on Calvary cross.

As much as I remember the impact she had on my life, so do I remember the negative influences I experienced in my life from other people as a child.

The bible tells us in Mark 10:13–16: “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”

This verse shows clearly that children are not to be exempted from Christian teachings and practices. No wonder I still remember the words that spoke of the man Jesus as clearly as I did as a child. A child’s memory is more powerful than many adults think and that is why when the adults rebuked them, Jesus was unhappy.

Is it not arguably true that most of our insecurities, fears and believes have come to stay as a result of our childhood experiences?

And that is why we must make young ones remember us with joy and not pain when they cast their minds back as adults.

Most often, we are concerned with the harvest and not the planting time. What is there to harvest when there is no investment of time to plant and cultivate the tender heart of a child? When we shut children up and ignore their innocent questions they ask in naivety, how will they know the truth? Who will tell them about salvation?

Let us remember that they will grow like we all have. And make no mistake; they will remember you for the good or bad like I do.

DENOMINATIONAL WARS

DENOMINATIONAL WARS

It is always a pleasure to answer the question “where do you worship?” or ” which church do you attend?” With this question, I can give my naughty answer. “I do not do denominations; I am in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” I was baptized an Anglican, confirmed a Methodist, went to a Catholic school and married a Pentecostal. Come to think of it, my answer may be annoying but borne out of my experience with different denominations verses the condition of the heart. When I married my husband who is Pentecostal, well-meaning friends were more interested in the scarf that would cover my hair than my spiritual growth. They would tease me by saying “so you are now going to wear “duku” which refers to an unfashionable scarf.” Fortunately, I have been one to feel comfortable wherever Christians gather so far as Jesus is at the center of the service.

Did I choose to be baptized a Methodist? No! I was still a baby, but I have been to the Methodist church several times and love their style of worship. Did I choose to be confirmed an Anglican? Yes! But I was too young to understand what I was doing. However, I absolutely love the Anglican Church and the opportunity to serve as a Sunday school teacher for close to a decade. Did I love going to a Catholic school? Certainly! But I hated waking up so early to go for mass! But boy did I love the hymns. And yes, I love the Pentecost church with all the loud clapping and wild dancing. Am I afraid to speak against any of these churches? No! I just love the diversity in worshiping the same God. In both denominations, I have witnessed sinful behavior in full glare. And the reason is simple; both denominations are filled with human beings; all of whom have sinned and fallen short of the glory as written in Romans 3:23.

“It is very interesting to witness Christians engaging in Orthodox and Charismatic wars when the real target should be winning of souls. Last Christmas, I had the privilege of visiting both an Orthodox and a Charismatic priest. During the conversation with the Orthodox priest, he felt strongly that Orthodox was the way to go since in his opinion Charismatics are too noisy and mystical. The Charismatic priest on the other hand was of the view that Orthodox Christians were too ritualistic and lacked the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. And the list of the differences goes on and on; but are we not missing the point as Christians? These self-righteous legalities are not important in these last days when souls are perishing.

Who cares about being a Catholic, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Methodist or Anglican? Who cares about whether our worship services are filled with hymns or modern day worship? Who cares about the jumping, clapping, humming or shouting in the church auditorium when souls thirst for the living water ? As for me, I can enjoy a good old hymn as well as a Pentecostal dance with loud musical instrument so far as it is all meant to praise the Lord. After all, our God is a God of diversity who can enjoy serenity as well as earth shacking music. If one pastor prefers to shout whilst the other prefers to deliver his sermon methodically, who cares? The most important thing is that there is an audience for the one who shouts as well as the one who calmly delivers his sermon. Even more important is the fact that it is the same word of God that is being preached. At the end of the day, our personal relationship with Jesus Christ supersedes whatever denomination we are affiliated to.

In Matthew 9: 37 and 38 Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Suffice it to say, God in his own wisdom has created diversity in the workers just as much as there are considerable differences in the harvest. You sometimes hear Christians firmly defending their stance whilst belittling other believers. These personal convictions are very dangerous and can lead others astray as elaborated in Romans Chapter 18. When we read the bible for ourselves, we begin to realize that it is not about the Orthodox or the Charismatic Church. It is all about receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and personal Saviour. It is about serving him in our unique ways with our diverse gifts which draws others to him.

Isn’t it interesting that receiving Jesus Christ into our hearts can take place in the Orthodox Church as much as it can take place in the Charismatic church? Even more interesting is the fact that it can take place in the Brothel, the drinking bar, the office of the tax collector and other unusual places. Did Jesus not say in Matthew Chapter 2: 17 that “he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance?” So why do we continue to place so much emphasis on church diversity and divisions while neglecting our core mandate as Christians? In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus saidgo and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  This is our core mandate as Christians!

The first day I witnessed a tremendous miracle of healing, it was not in the Orthodox or Charismatic Church. It was not even in the church auditorium; it was in the family living room! There were no hymns or recitation of psalms, there were no harps or tambourines. But present was the word of God that came to pass as found in the following verses. Matthew 18: 20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Romans 10: 13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved and Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.”

God is not a respecter of persons; after all he created every person from the greatest to the lowest. He is not interested in religious idiosyncrasies or personal convictions that people seek to impose on others with no biblical basis. He makes it clear in Galatians 3: 28 that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. Every time we engage in these denominational wars, we make it impossible for others to freely come to Christ just as they are. Let us remove our personal convictions from the way so they do not become stumbling blocks to people’s salvation. Let us rather speak the unadulterated word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work.

JOSEPHINE QUESTIONS HER LOOKS

JOSEPHINE QUESTIONS HER LOOKS

NB: This is a story about a young woman who prays to God about her struggles with her looks. It is purely fictional and a result of my imaginations. It is unrelated to any person dead or alive; any such resemblance is purely coincidental.

Josephine is the last born of her rich parents and 3 beautiful elder sisters. She was born a midget, gifted with a very high I. Q that many envied. However, due to her structure she suffered a great deal of torment from insensitive people wherever she went. Her self-esteem suffered a greater setback at home when she compared herself to her beautiful sisters with normal heights and lovely faces. Thus, she often felt lonely regardless of the love of her family and friends. Haven cried out to God several times to make her as beautiful as her sisters were, she often downplayed the great intelligence quotient God had gifted her with and couldn’t accept the way she was. She goes to God in prayer as she always does to explain her position.

Omniscient God,
How wonderful it is to come before your presence where there is no reproach or hurtful word. A peaceful moment where I feel accepted and loved by you. You encourage me in your word not to look down on myself since everything you have created is good in thy sight. With my sight, I see the beauty all around me, but fail to see what your hands have invested in me. Who can blame me? So much beauty surrounds me, I feel lost and invisible at times. Anyone who comes to my house for the first time looks at me as if I were the scar on my perfect family. The group pictures at the hall embarrass me so much I feel like smashing it and tearing myself out of it. The smiles I display in them are fake because I hate taking pictures. I am afraid to look at them afterwards.

At times, I wonder where I come from since I look so different from my sisters and anyone in my family from both parent’s side. Why didn’t the beautiful faces of my sisters find another version unto my face with dimpled cheeks and deep brown eyes? Why did you make their skins so beautiful and bright it sparkles in the night while my own complexion makes me feel so awkward around them? If my mom had not convinced me I was hers, I would have thought she and dad adopted me from an orphanage.

Living as a midget in this cruel society is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. At less than 4 feet, I feel like an outcast living among humans. I will have taken my life long ago if you did not live in my heart. Why do you create others so perfectly while others suffer in appearance? Why did you create me this way? At age 19, my height is ridiculous especially when children pass by me. I cannot even pretend to be a child because my body tells a different story. A small person with an adult’s body that is what you made me. Hmm, it is not easy living like this.

People stare at me as if I were from space. They never stop staring even when they have seen me repeatedly. How do I stop someone from staring at me even if I hate it so much? The defensive attitude I put up to protect myself makes me look mean even if I don’t want to. Do you blame me? You know I hate being the center of attention. When my sisters walk by, the attention they attract is that of admiration while the looks I receive are scornful.

The only place where I find refuge is my bedroom at home because even at home I feel out of place. I cannot tell you my family doesn’t love me because you know the truth and see all things. I have never lacked love at home though I sometimes think it is out of pity. My elder sisters look so alike I wish I looked as they did. Maybe then, I would be happier. Even though you gave me a brain and a memory even Archimedes would envy, I yearn for someone to call me beautiful. My mom always tells me how beautiful she thinks I am but she is just being kind. It will be good to hear this from a stranger. I prefer beautiful to weird or strange. Calling me weird is like a slap on my cheek; a slap I receive all the time.

I want to know how it feels to have men whistle in admiration when I pass by instead of the applauses I receive after I have won one more price. Am I being ungrateful to you? Am I asking for too much or do you understand the tender yearnings of my heart? Is it not normal for a younger sister always to adore her elder siblings and try to be like them? Is this not what many young ones yearn for? Is that not why they cry late at night when no one can hear and comfort them? Maybe if people’s comments were not so harsh, it would be bearable.

Though I am called Daddy’s little girl who lacks no material thing, I sometimes wonder if my dad truly loves me. He eagerly introduces me to his friends when they visit only when he wants to boast about his intelligent daughter who won one price or the other. But I am not the first he calls when he wants to show off his beautiful daughters. I know everyone has their weak and strong points but it pains me that my imperfections are so visible. It takes the ones who are truly kind at heart to love me for me.

With my height, I wonder what high heels will make me move with as much grace as Tracy, Ivy or Samantha. They move with such grace even with flat heels. My self-confidence flies out of the window anytime we go out as a family. I see mummy beam with smiles when people comment about how beautiful her girls look, taking after her. They then look at me as if I were a stranger. I will never forget the day her old school mate mistakenly referred to me as the house help. I felt so bad. The way mummy reprimanded her impressed me but her words had already done damage.

Fortunately, none of my family members allow negative comments about me in their presence. Mummy who can never hide her emotions is clearly the most affected. At times, she doesn’t know what to say when such issues arise in order not to hurt me more. Innocent comments she made in the past in her motherly attempt to defend me did not go down well with me as I threw childish tantrums. Moments like that are very uncomfortable for my family. Most times, I protest when they ask me to go out with them but the sad looks on their faces always change my mind.

After I read your word that stated that you created the deaf, dumb and blind alike in your own wisdom, I stopped asking myself why you made me this way. I have came to know that I am just as important as those around me but with a destiny as different as anyone else’s. You have taught me to love myself and accept myself the way I am. I have learnt to pretend so much that no one knows when I am miserable.

I need more love; I need to be told I am beautiful every time even if people don’t mean it. And when I wear a dress that does not suit me, I need a smile and not a laugh, an alternative and not a criticism. It is only in your presence that I feel safe enough to lay down my guard. I never feel ugly when I am in your presence as I do in the presence of men. You alone know what is good for me and choose to do what you will.

Last night I did it again, even though I had promised not to. When I saw the group picture we took as a family last week, I couldn’t help noticing how different I looked. When mummy commented on how lovely I looked with sincerity ringing in her voice along with the unison in my sisters’, I knew they meant it. However as I continued to look, all I could see were my flaws and how different I looked beside them. Instead of saying thank you, I turned around and left them standing there in surprise.

Why do I always blame them for something that is not their fault? I break the hearts of those who love me the most and hurt myself in the process. I am never able to address an issue without bringing in my looks even if the issues were unrelated. I am afraid I will lose them if you don’t help me change. The other day, when Tracy called me intelligent as I sat in my small corner reading my book, I know she meant no harm. But I would have preferred her calling me beautiful instead. How I wish I could just have laughed instead of glaring at her until she paled in my presence. I felt so bad because I love her so much.

Why am I unable to see beyond my looks to appreciate my other blessings? You have blessed me with an admiring intelligence exceeding someone my age. An intelligence others wish to have instead of the beauty I crave. You have given me good friends who admire the wisdom that comes out of my mouth. They prefer to hear me speak rather than endure the dry sense of humor from even the most beautiful girls. My sisters ask me for help with academic issues although I am much younger. Lord, in your wisdom you have gifted me with what is good for me. This is what will help me fulfill destiny.

Ignorant people look at me as if I were less of a human being. Others avoid me like a virus; I wonder if they know the gem in me. It takes the wise and kind at heart to know there is more to me than my awkward appearance. No one who took the time to know me has ever regretted. This is evident in the number of friends I have. They all adore me and even fight for my attention.

When my sister Samantha fell in love with that handsome man, I knew he was not right for her. I used how you created me as an illustration to save her from a heartbreak from which she might not have recovered. I listened patiently to her about how handsome he was and how lucky she was to receive attention from him. But my simple question turned the brightness in her eyes to one of confusion and realization. “When you take away that handsome cover from him, what else do you see?” She was like a blind woman who had just regained her sight. All she saw when she looked at him was his gorgeous body. I was sad at the look in her eyes and the words she seemed to stammer, for.

I could never remember a time when she was lost for words. I am grateful that you used me to save her. Beyond the muscled chest and handsome face, the young man had nothing to offer her. The hug she gave me as she cried on my shoulder was priceless. That day, you gave me a revelation I had refused to admit to myself. The fact that I do not glitter outside does not mean that I am no gold. I am grateful that you quickly dispelled the bitterness that I initially harbored. You have been my light and taught me that the body is just a cover that conceals either good or bad just as a book whose contents are unknown unless it is read.

My height can never determine my altitude. You are able to carry me on your shoulders if I cannot see above. You are my father and my maker. If I have made you unhappy by being unhappy about how your great hands have made me, please forgive me. Give me the eyes to see your spirit within me and the heart to forgive every rude stare. Give me the humor to laugh with those who have a cause to laugh at my mistakes. Let me not read much meaning into it. Help me love myself as you have loved me forever and ever amen.

RELATED BIBLE PASSAGE
1 Samuel 16:1-7
1 _ Finally, the LORD said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel. Now fill your horn with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my new king.”
2 _ But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”
“Take a heifer with you,” the LORD replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the LORD. 3 _ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”
4 _ So Samuel did as the LORD instructed him. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the leaders of the town became afraid. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”
5 _ “Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them, too.
6 _ When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the LORD’s anointed!” 7 _ But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions.”

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Like Josephine, do you sometimes feel you are not beautiful or important enough?
2. Do you blame God for your imperfections and wish you were like someone else?
3. What does the above scripture tell you about how the Lord judges people?
4. As human beings, how can learning from how God judges people make us accept people just as they are?
5. How does wanting to be like others instead of loving ourselves make us envious and bitter people?
6. Like Josephine, do you agree that counting our blessings bring us happiness instead of wallowing in self-pity about what we don’t have?

STOP OBSESSING OVER REPUTATION

STOP OBSESSING OVER REPUTATION

Few weeks ago, I learnt a lesson about how a person’s reputation can easily be ruined without their knowledge. After attending the wedding ceremony of a dear friend, I came home to check my Facebook account to see whether I had a message. I did have a message but not the kind I was expecting. It went like this “I just want you to know your page has been hacked. I was tagged in some porn and I know it wasn’t you, who tagged me, so be careful.” This was a message from my high school mate.

In horror, I looked on my timeline and realized my account was sending out pornographic content to my contacts. I was mortified by the mere sight of the nasty pictures on my wall. Few days before I had seen similar images on a friend’s wall and reported it to face book; I realized that was how my account was also affected. It was a malware that just wouldn’t go away. Whilst I was out there supporting my friend at her wedding, my Facebook page was busily sending out porn.

I have about a thousand contacts on Facebook made up of family, close friends, old school mates, working colleagues, Sunday school teachers and students, friends of my sisters, fellow Christian bloggers, admirers and people I just accepted as friends. Being the private person that I am, it is only a few people out of the 1,000 friends on Facebook who really know me. So imagine these people tagged in pornographic content from my account! How could they vouch for me without really knowing me?

It was about 12am and I was changing passwords and doing everything possible to ensure that the problem was solved. I had not yet realized it was a malware as I continued changing passwords countless times. Anytime I changed my password, my account would just send out a new set of pornographic videos to my contacts. I knew if I did not quickly solve the problem, my reputation would be ruined. I wondered what the over 900 Facebook friends who did not know me too well would think. Would it be easy for them to believe that I wasn’t behind the images on their wall? What would they think of me?

As these questions run through my mind, I began to realize how I had quickly misjudged the gentleman who had sent the first pornographic image to my friend’s wall. Apparently, he had also been attacked by a malware and was not deliberately sending out the nasty images. But I had told my friend to unblock the gentleman for shamelessly posting the images on her wall. His reputation had been destroyed without his knowledge. I did not know him but I had made up my mind about him by virtue of the unfortunate circumstances he had not intentionally generated. In the same way, I know my reputation had been destroyed by someone who did not know me or understand the workings of computer spam.

The bible tells us in Proverbs chapter 22: 1 “a good name is better than riches and favour better than silver or gold. This verse serves as an encouragement to choose my reputation over money. But, “how can one protect his or her own reputation when they are unaware it is being destroyed in certain quarters? How do you defend yourself from falsehood when you do not even know what is being whispered at your back? When all evidence points to the fact that someone is indeed guilty when they may in fact be innocent, how can they be vindicated?

There is a popular saying that “Let them say, but let it not be true!” But what if the things people say are so damaging and worse of all what if people believe them? When I began reading the news on one of Ghana’s popular television station at a very young age, I was exposed to the world of reputation destroyers. Matilda; I heard you were dating a business tycoon. Tilly, I hear you left the television station after getting pregnant out of wedlock. I hear Matilda was dating a Married Doctor. Etc. These are just a few interesting things I heard about myself that shocked me.

They were untrue and I wondered about the motives of those who generated these lies and the rest who had time to spread them. Sometimes I wonder the things I am yet to hear and those that I will never be privy to or have the chance to refute. Previously, I would be sad when I heard something about me that was a total lie and a dent on my reputation. But one day whilst lamenting about some of the damaging things I had heard, my mum told me to prepare for more.

Her words were, “you will hear worse things and if you cannot take these little lies, then I wonder how you will react when the bigger lies surface.” That was all I needed to stop worrying unnecessarily about what someone said about me or worse still what someone thinks about me. People will continue to talk no matter how well behaved we are and as imperfect human beings, our flaws will also be discussed. An elderly woman once told me that when two people meet, it is unlikely that they would discuss a tree when human beings were passing by. A more interesting discussion would be about the passersby.

A good name is indeed better than riches; but unfortunately, innocent people have had their reputations destroyed by slanderers, gossips, plain liars and acts of carelessness. For example a newspaper may publish an untruth about a person or organization without the necessary checks only to realize it is false. A good reputation is destroyed causing emotional turmoil to the individual, organization and their loved ones. The story may be retracted and an apology written by the same newspaper. However, those who read the initial false report may never see the retraction or apology. For those people, that person or organization is just bad news.

With such happenings, should we be too concerned when our reputation is damaged out of no fault of ours? As followers of Jesus Christ, I believe we should be concerned about reputation but not obsess over it. This is because we cannot defend ourselves everywhere all the time. We can pray to God to vindicate us and use that unfortunate incident for his glory. If we get the chance to defend ourselves, we may choose to take the necessary steps to restore our damaged reputation and just move on with our lives.

In the case of the pornographic content I described above, I quickly sent out messages to apologize stating clearly that I was not the one who sent them. But I know it is not everyone who will see the message or even believe me. Do I keep on torturing myself by trying to convince everyone that I was not to blame for those nasty videos? No! Even Jesus Christ continues to have his fair share of reputation destruction despite the good works he did whilst here on earth.

If our savior Jesus Christ had been too concerned about reputation, do you think he would have dined with Zacchaeus the hated tax collector “Luke 19:1-10”? Would he have been in a private conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well “John 4: 1-26”? Do you think he would have taken the time to defend an adulterous woman “John 8: 1-11”? Would he have allowed a sinful woman to wet his feet with her tears“Matthew 26: 7”?

I believe His ministry would not have been successful had he obsessed over a good reputation. If you google Jesus’s history, you will come up with surprising information some very ridiculous. Some say he married Mary Magdalene and had children with her; yet still others rubbish His entire ministry. But with all the power he has, why does he not just wave his hands and make all those malicious lies disappear? Romans Chapter 3: 4 says “May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “that you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

In my opinion, for the truth to be made manifest, it must be placed alongside lies for discerning minds to choose what to believe. Sometimes even the most discerning minds may be confused, especially when the lies seem so truthful. However, if we are to succeed in discerning the truth, we must not be too quick to believe whatever we hear or see. It is said that seeing is believing; but I have come to realize it is not always wise to believe everything we see. For those of us whose reputation has been dented at some point in our lives, Let us encourage ourselves with the old saying; “Let them say but let it not be true!”