Let No One Despise Your Devotion

Your devotion is like your story; no one can define it better than you. It is like your shoes; no one else knows how it truly feels.

Let me tell you my funny exercise story from a few days back. 👩🏾 I have been wearing my smartwatch almost everyday since last year as my personal commitment to physical wellness. With the restrictions imposed on everyone due to the pandemic, I am happy that it can tell me how many hours I stood up or moved about, and how many calories I had expended daily. On my most active days, I am very happy to see the rings close.

Unfortunately, on this blessed day last week or so, I woke up with a sparkling 💡 idea. Why don’t I set even higher daily exercise targets?

So, I did a quick google search: How many calories should a young woman burn daily, on the average? 🤔

Now, Google was kind. 😊 One of the pages I opened asked me for clarification; “Is this woman in question an active person or more sedentary sort of?” (Folks, I work an office job. From home. Do the math.) 

Ever the optimist, I chose a new target that was greater than the amount mentioned for not-so-active ladies but less than the amount for very-active ladies. Fair, ain’t it? 🤷🏽‍♀️

Alas, it was a whooping 1500+ calories from my former daily target! 😁

That day, I stayed active! I moved forward, backward, left, right, up and down. In the evening, I hopped on a treadmill and covered more laps than I had done in weeks… After it all, I checked my rings…

Ladies and gentlemen, it was as if the red ring did not budge. The other 2 rings almost closed, but this one was very very far from closing. 🤣🤣🤣

Did I do more exercise on that day? Yes. Was the progress all that obvious from my watch? Sadly, no!

There are seasons in our lives when our progress will be evident to all. There are other seasons when it would seem as though we are in a backstage.

No matter what phase I am in, I am learning NOT to despise my efforts.

No matter what phase I am in, I am learning NOT to despise my efforts. I am also determined not to let anyone despise my efforts, at least within my hearing. They can talk all they want behind my back. But if someone says something in my presence, I immediately set the records right, lest their words somehow enter my gateway and influence the way that I perceive my journey.

Devotion is anything and everything that a person does consistently in order to cultivate and maintain a relationship with God. 

Peradventure, you are in a season when your time is so demanding; like when your daily commute to work takes so long that you get to leave the house at the crack of dawn and you have resorted to reading your Bible and praying in the bus; or you are caring for a sick relative around the clock and all you can do is plug your ears and listen to audio bible passages; or you are a mom with a handful of little humans needing your attention all day long so that you are mostly on your feet and the best you can do is stick bible verses on your refrigerator, your washroom mirror and everywhere else you might bump into during the day! (this last one I heard from Priscilla Shirer as her experience some years back).

What do you think matters more to God? The fact that we mark off some arbitrary standard (like closing out self-imposed rings of time and volume) or the fact that we are consistently making efforts to reach Him?

If you know anything about God’s love, you will agree with me that it is definitely the latter. That is why the Bible says that we should draw near to God and He would in turn draw near to us. (James 4:8) I dare say that when we stretch our hands towards Him, He closes the gap and pulls us into His awesome presence.

So daily, we fight the devil’s lies, we silence the guilt of not being able to spend as many hours as we would love to; and we just reach into God. 

We just sing a love-song to Him as we wake up, and we thank Him for every good thing He has blessed us with. We chew on some bible verse. We set reminders at different times to interrupt our day and lead us into His presence again even if for just a few minutes. We paste verses in our phone Notepads and our PC wallpapers. We subscribe to uplifting channels and we play gospel songs from our devices. We do everything to keep the connection with God intact in this busy and fast-paced world. 

We enjoy God on the days we get 15 minutes as well as the days we get 120 minutes.

Because really, it is our personal relationship with Him; our tête-à-tête; our rendezvous with the Lord.

He loves it. We love it. We meet with Him. We enjoy Him.

Therefore, if we should not worry about the turns that our daily devotions may take, the only thing that really bothers me is that I do not want to lose the fascination and the pleasure of going into God’s presence everyday.

I do not want to not-go. I do not want to not-want-to-go.

So, I pray, “May I never lose the wonder… Keep me interested. Draw me in. I want a deep and stayed hunger for Your presence, your Word and prayer. Help me to always come in. Every day. And to meet with You. Because You matter the most. You are my every reason. Dear Lord, help me to come in daily.” 🙏🏽

Closing exercise rings does have some value, devoting to meeting with God daily is valuable in every way!

The Marriage Requirements List

“Hey Simi, what qualities would you have on your marriage requirements checklist?”

“My what now?” My BFF coughs, sputtering her drink.

I give her a pointed look.

“Wow Ticg, for someone who is mostly reticent, you sure know how to dig out really deep conversations.”

One corner of my lips lifts in a small smile. 🙂

Everyone calls me “Tris” as a short-form for Beatrice while my twin brother Bitrus was dubbed “Truce” by his rather obnoxious friends. 🤨 But somewhere along our very unlikely friendship journey, my best friend decided that I should go by “Ticg“(which she pronounces somewhat like “Tick” by the way) as an acronym for That-Introvert-Christian-Girl. Of course, everyone else kindly refused to adopt that nickname for me, but she stubbornly continues to call me that. So now, it’s kind of our thing. Not that I mind the name anyway; it is everything that I am – I am a christian, I am very introverted and I am a girl. 🤷🏽‍♀️

“Fine! I will humour you.” says Simi.

I notice that the room has gone quiet and that Bitrus, Chuks and Judith are now listening to us. Simi does a slight hair fling, immensely enjoying the attention before proceeding. “In order of importance, I would like to marry a guy who is God fearing, visionary, TDH, richhhhh and romantic, as in veryyy caring and understanding.”

“TDH?” snickers Chuks.

“Tall, Dark and Handsome” Judith provides.

“Oh, cool. This is getting interesting. 😀 Why don’t you go next, Twinnie?” Bitrus says to me.

I count with my fingers as I think aloud about my expectations;

“My must-haves… The guy must be born again. Spirit filled, He must have good character; it’s very important to me that I see him actually bearing the fruit of the Spirit, being loving, patient with others, kind and at the same time in control of himself…” I pause, “He must have a serious job or business, or at least be willing and ready to work. He must have the same values as I. He must have respect for everyone – he must not be abusive of others but must treat the weak, women, children and poor people with respect.”

I suddenly realize that I have held everyone’s attention for a few minutes so I grow self-conscious and smile sheepishly, apologizing.

“Sorry guys, I got into my head for a while there.” 🤦🏽‍♀️ 😁

“No, actually that was really good, Tris” Chuks encourages.

The others concur and Simi squeezes my hand affectionately, “Now you make me sound so superficial” she whispers so that only me can hear and I pat her hand to reassure her, “Of course not, Simz. You are one of the deepest people I know.”

“What are your nice-to haves, Beatrice?” Judith urges me on with a quiet, contemplative tone.

“Umm… It would be nice if my man plays an instrument, sings, paints or something” I confide shyly.“Oh, I would love it if he teaches the Word.”

Everyone breaks into a grin and Bitrus gives Chuks a high-five. I do not know what that is about.

“Finally, maybe he could have a nice British accent, have a healthy sense of humour and know how to cook.”

“Preach it sisturr! I like me a brother who can whip together some real meal for his pregnant wife! Simi practically yells.

If you haven’t figured that out, Simi can be extra but I love her just the way she is. We are almost polar opposites. One of us loves being expressive and in the spotlight; the other is rather reserved and mostly observant but we understand each other just as well.

“Pregnant! How did this discussion drift to that direction so quickly?” Chuks shakes his head and we all laugh heartily. Simi and Chuks are usually the life of the party. 

When our laughter dies down, Chuks offers, “I can share now.” 

“Here are my deal-makers. She must be born again, Spirit-filled and must have good character, especially respect and kindness.”

“Only 3 must-haves?” Judith’s question echoes my own surprise.

“You have no idea how hard it is to find those seemingly common qualities altogether in just one person.”

We all take a moment to reflect on Chuks’ statement. 🤔🤔

It is true that Chuks tends to put up a jovial-boy persona but anyone who knows him well knows his deep and unwavering Christian conviction. Chuks and Bitrus are leaders of our youth fellowship.

“Sadly, most people these days chase ephemeral goals and temporary fills. People are addicted, anxious and easily distracted, with only skin-deep beauty or a given number of pack abs. Yet, we lack true compassion and selflessness.” 🙁

He lets out a long sigh and lightly scratches his beard. “Anyway, I have hope. By the consistent work devoted by my buddy Truce,” he slaps Bitrus’ shoulder loudly, “and by reason of these kinds of meaningful conversations, I think better days are just ahead.”

“Amen!” “PreachIt!” “Yeap!” Everyone around the room nod their agreement. 

After a beat, Simi says, “What about your nice-to haves? After you’ve had your say, Judith will share hers and we will end with Truce.”

Chuks responds enthusiastically, “Let’s see… An intelligent woman! Neat – no mouth and body odour. Hardworking. It would be cool if she has long and beautiful hair. 👩🏾 BUT I won’t hold it against anyone who doesn’t, because well, she isn’t her own creator now, is she?”

I love my friends. And I love this space right here. I love that it is a safe space and that we can each express opinions or preferences without judgement. 💜💜

We all turn to Judith as it is her turn.

“What?? 🙄 You guys know that I am never getting married. I’ve told you that like a million times before.” Judith snaps at us. Then she seems to notice our sad eyes and backtracks, “However, if I decide to go hypothetical, my singular dealmaker for a marriage relationship would be integrity.” 😐

Her voice breaks at the end of the sentence as she sniffs and Simi walks across the room and to give her a warm hug. 👐🏽

Having all grown up together, we witnessed how Judith had to deal with having an absentee father most of her childhood. Her father provided Judith and her mom with the finer things in life including a large mansion in our town and a few sleek cars but sadly, he never lived with them. There were ugly rumours about his other family in the big city. To makes things worse, during her teenage years when Judith and her mom had grown to become a part of the church family here, they learned that her dad had been arrested for insider-trading and had been sentenced to prison. The news shattered them, to say the least. They lost most of their possession after her dad was convicted but thanks to her mom’s hard work and our loving community, they sure have come a long way. Judith did not attend school for a whole term hiding away at home. When she finally resumed, she became this resentful and bitter girl. She still tags along to church and hangs out with us but she told us categorically that she had lost her faith in God’s goodness. We do our best to be just the friends she needs and whenever she starts a conversation, we respond as best we can.

I watch her now as she sniffs again, subtly wiping her eyes and sipping her drink. I smile at her to say, “I understand. It’s going to get better. You are much stronger for it” and she nods in acknowledgement.

Everyone turns to Bitrus to tell us about his marriage requirements list but I peek at Judith for a couple more seconds because I saw something else that others probably missed.

You see, that is one of the perks of being a conscious introvert like myself. There is an adage that goes thus, “The raving eyes see the roaming legs.” In my quietness, I tend to perceive more about my environment than is evidently visible, but I have learned to keep such perceptions hidden within my heart while I bid time like Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus. 

Because I can almost bet you that in those seconds while Judith tells us about her hypothetical, singular dealmaker, she held my brother’s gaze with hope in her eyes.

I am not saying anything 😜 but if you ask me, perhaps MrTruce will be receiving a heavenly vision soon. Perhaps our friend will not stay single forever. 😍 Hopefully, God would heal her heart and join her heart with one of his son’s. 🙏🏽

Never say never, unless God says so!

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Bitrus clears his throat, “It’s my turn now, isn’t it?”

“Uh-huh,” Simi responds.

“Heads-up folks! firstly, I have a rather long list.” 😬

“Bring it on!” 💪🏽 Chuks says, good naturedly.

My twin pushes his spectacles further up his nose and starts rattling off with a smile.

“The woman I am trusting God to marry must be a child of God – born again. She must be a committed worker in church. I want someone with whom I can do God’s work like evangelism and mission visits. You know, someone who is interested in fruitful works. She must be reasonably intelligent – basic IQ level. She must be moderately fashion-conscious. She must be generous, even when she has just a little.”

“That’s a really tall list, Truce.” Simi points out.

“I know… 😩😩” Bitrus groans, pinching his nose again, “Which is why I need God to either break any idol that I have in my mind, or go back into His factory if such a human is nonexistent yet.” 🤦🏾‍♂️

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

 “I don’t think that those requirements are unrealistic or impossible.” Judith says meditatively, surprising us all. 😮😲

“Yea?” I ask.

“I mean, isn’t Truce’s favourite Bible quote, “All things that pertain to life and godliness?”

Now we are staring at her like she grew three heads overnight. 😮😲😱

“So, if God feels you need someone with those qualities for doing all He planned for your life, I bet He has already thought to provide it.” Judith finishes.

“Wow! If it isn’t from the mouth of babes and sucklings.” Before Chuks can complete the statement, Judith flings a throw-pillow squarely at his chest and he doubles over laughing hysterically. 😆😆

Bitrus jumps in to complete his part, “My good-to-haves! Equally juicy, I really hope for a curvy woman.”

“Carnal!” Chuks says under his breath but loud enough to be heard. We all laugh at Bitrus’ expense.

“What? Not all of us were designed to prefer beauty model figures like you do.” My twin brother defends his choice. Simi catches me rolling my eyes and punches my arm. 😃

Bitrus continues, “Now where was I? Nicely shaped and preferably dark-skinned. And I will like a spouse who is homely and caring. That’s it from me.” 

“So, a true African beauty.” Chuks concludes.

“Yea, man. That’s exactly it.” They do their signature fist-bump. 👊🏽

“What I am hearing from all of us is that basically, we mostly want a professing, practicing and spiritual Christian.”  Simi says thoughtfully. “Because, a practicing Christian would be respectful of others,” she points at Chuks and me, “They would have integrity,” she looks at Judith. “A spiritual Christian would have a heart for kingdom work, be generous and kind,” she briefly faces Bitrus, “and they would be mindful of the divine vision planted in their hearts by God.” Simi finishes pointing at herself.

“Basically, yea.” Chuks acquiesces.

“Hmm… I have another question.” I drawl.

“Not again, Ticg. You started all this in the first place. Now, I’m hungry. What wants pizza?” 

I know LORD, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.

Jeremiah 10:23

Nota Bene: Thanks to Amaka, Brighto, Trisha, Oma, Mercy and Chiomy for sharing their marriage dealbreakers and dealmakers with me. With their permission, I have cooked those up in creating the above story about my favourite fictional characters, Ticg and her friends. I hope that this article blesses you so much, because their personal values are a great inspiration! ❤️

SUCCESS & SERENITY

I have written a number of blog posts on academic success in the past but in this article, I am so excited to be drawing specifically from a recent personal experience.

A couple of years ago, I decided to enrol in college for a one-year course to hone my skillset and prepare for a professional exam.

From the onset, I told myself that I was going to excel in the program. I had a lot of motivation for this goal. Firstly, it was important to me to prove to myself and my loved ones once again that if I gave a pursuit my best, I could ace it and bring something beautiful out of it. Also, as a recent immigrant who wished to pave her path in her new country, I wanted my result to be a testimonial to my competence. 

However, there were a few small complications that seemed to position themselves against my target.

  1. I was pregnant throughout the course of the program, having to combine the unique ride that is called “first-time pregnancy” with school work. In addition, looking at the school year calendar, there was the slight chance that I would not be able to complete the course before my baby arrived.
  2. The program I went in for was heavily team-performance-based, meaning that if your team has an A in a project, then you have an A. But if your team flukes, sorry that would also be a Fail for you. And you, dear reader, will agree that human beings are not the easiest to manage.

In spite of these and many other unlisted obstacles, I am glad to say that I did in fact complete the course successfully and even made it on the Dean’s honours list. 

Wow! I was beyond thrilled. It meant so much to me because I looked back to all the times when I was nauseous, sickly or simply worried that I might not actually complete the school year at the same time as my colleagues. I looked back at the time when I performed rather poorly in a test and almost gave up hope of making a distinction in that course. So, you can imagine the ecstasy I experienced when we graduated and I received the congratulatory mail whilst cuddling my baby. God is indeed gracious and He is the giver of all good gifts.

I cannot in all sincerity take credit for everything that went into succeeding with flying colours because I had the kind help of my darling husband, my parents and siblings, my friends, my team members, my other classmates and my professors. In fact, there was a lot that I had no control over. 

However, I would like to mention 3 tips regarding academic success from that experience. It is interesting that the 3 recommendations I have are found in the the Serenity Prayer, commonly quoted thus:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

The Serenity Prayer

One key to success in life is to ride on the things we can change and to rest on the things we can’t.

For exploits in academics and other life endeavours:

  1. Get a strong head start
  2. Add an extra to the ordinary
  3. Rest to the things you cannot personally change

A Head Start:

Getting a strong head start is something I would almost always recommend for any life endeavour. As much as possible, do something early in the game that can influence your outcome positively. The advantage that your head-start gives you would especially come in handy when you hit some murky waters ahead. It would provide a cushion to bounce back on.

In my case, a dear friend of mine volunteered to give me a tour of the campus before school opened for the year. Then she shared with me a tool on excel that I could use to stay organized and ahead on my deliverables throughout the semester, which turned out to be quite helpful as the program progressed.

Getting a strong head start in an academic pursuit also involves getting the required reading materials early on, choosing like-minded study partners, rearranging your schedule and planning your next several months to accommodate study time, making a study time-table, attending tutorial classes ahead of the semester, and so on. 

Getting a strong head start is something we can control, it is a part we can influence. And when we do, we enhance our likelihood for success.

Do the extraOrdinary:

To excel implies that one performed above average, one had additional touches beyond the basic, an icing on their cake. The bare minimum does not cut it.

Back in my first year in the university years ago, my slogan was “My best for God.”

My best for God! 

Four little words so powerful and profound, they drove me to long hours in the library, haha.

I did not share the slogan with anyone. I simply wrote the words in my personal notebook where I could stumble on them and be stirred afresh to work hard.

This time around, extraOrdinary for me meant being present at every single class, no matter how boring that professor was or how much my lower back ached especially towards the last trimester of pregnancy. It meant turning in every assignment, including the ones that had just 1 mark attached to it. It was just 1 mark out of 100, right? What difference could that make? A world of difference, actually. That was the extra in my ordinary.

ExtraOrdinary for me meant taking on a little bit of extra work in the tasks that were demanding, including pulling my weight when a team member was unavailable. It is the same in a relay race (and in most daily activities). If one person drops the baton and the whole team does not complete the race, it ends up being a sad day for all.

I wonder what might be the extra, the little final brush that would ensure the success in your next endeavour. Perhaps a kind word, a reminder email to a team member, or a few hours in the midnight.

The extra is another thing we can change. That too we can influence – the extra in our ordinary.

What is the Christian motivation for excellence?

I have to clarify that doing the extraordinary does not in any way encourage an unhealthy obsession over success, distinctions or fame because our identity as christians is not founded on anything that we acquire or possess. Our identity is rooted in the fact that we are deeply loved by God just the way we are, and this has nothing to do with whatever we have or do. Just loved. Absolutely loved.

Our identity as Christians is not founded on anything we possess. It is rooted in the fact that we are deeply loved by God just the way we are. Just loved. Absolutely loved.

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That said, the basis for reaching towards excellence as Christians should be that we want to be all that God wants us to be.

I pray that God will spark and sustain in us the desire and strength for the extraordinary. Sometimes, it gets wearisome. Other times, we couldn’t care less and there’s no real passion to pursue excellence. It takes God to spark the drive in us.

Rest:

Do your best and leave the rest.

There is a tendency to feel worked up over the things we cannot control. We spend a considerable amount of time worrying or complaining about them. But what good does that ever do? For instance, throughout the school year, I often wondered if the dates would align to enable me complete my course at once. I may also have whined a bit the few times when my team members were not pulling their weight, lol. But no matter how long I thought about those things, they weren’t in my power to change. So, I confided in a few friends and my family to pray that somehow the calendar would work in my favour. I did what I could to cover my team’s bases. And God did the rest!

It may look like this last tip is a passive activity in achieving one’s goals but it is an equally important one! Rest. Rest over the things you cannot change by yourself and enjoy divine serenity in the process. Once it comes into your thought to worry you, convert that thought to a sentence of prayer. You may not be able to change everything but God can! He can control seasons, kings, world leaders, inanimate objects and wicked people. And yes, He will control them all in our favour!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus

Philippians 4:6-7

As we launch into a new week and month, may the Lord show us everything that we should do to change the things we can, and fill us with rest over everything we must trust Him to do.

Unwinding

Hi friend, 🙋🏽‍♀️
How did you “unwind” this weekend? 🤣🤣🤣

There was a season in my life when my modus unwindi 🤪 after a particularly long week or a stressful season was to buy this pricey brand of shortbread, and just enjoy it. Haha. Please do not judge me right now. There was something about the way that those crunchy creamy cookies crumbled and melted in my mouth that instantly relaxed my wound-up nerves and muscles; and made everything a lot better. 😅

In another season, it was a warmly lit, quiet room with a good storybook.

In yet another season, I loved to give myself a treat of barbecue fish and creamed coleslaw every Friday to celebrate yet another win at this game called adult-life. 😅

The small pleasures of life. The seemingly little things that keep all the big sacrifices, long hours going.

Some people unwind by listening to music.

For others, unwinding comes from taking looooong showers.

Even naps or extended sleeping hours do it for another set of people.

Relaxation, refreshing. Bliss!

Therefore the question is, if taking time out to unwind can be so revitalizing, why do we often go very long without taking breaks, even when our bodies and minds give us every indication to?

Why do we experience burnouts and disillusionment; why do we work and stretch to the point where we become bitter at ourselves, our loved ones, our employers and everyone else?
If taking time off would make us bounce back better in body, mind and mood 😆 , why do we not do ourselves and others the favour?

Perhaps because in the sincerity of our minds, we are drawn by the deceit of “Just one more.”
“I’ll just finished working on this last paragraph.”
“I’ll just mark off this one more thing on the To-Do list.”
“Oh, it’s just 1 more chore and then I would turn in for the night.”

In our minds, it’s possibly the one extra thing completed that would leave us fulfilled at the end of the day. But we fail to take into account the much which we have already accomplished; and whether it would be healthy for our minds or bodies take on any more tasks.

Or maybe, the pressure to do work to the point of breaking down comes from the deceptive lure of “This can’t wait.” We feel an urgency for the responsibility that sometimes isn’t even real!
“This can’t wait. This really can’t wait. I gotta complete it today.”
Overtime. Long hours after work. Unnecessary midnight candle burned.
But really, can it not wait?

I’ll tell you a story – a very sad story. 😔

I’ll let everyone be the judge of how urgent our heaps of files, unread emails and To-Do items really are.

There once was a lady; let’s say her name was Jill. She was a sophisticated, modern and upwardly mobile woman. She believed in the dignity of labour. She hated half-measures. So she worked hard. She had her sights on a promotion at her workplace but she also had a personal business which she had built from the ground up and was already becoming a brand. 🤩
Unfortunately, all these consumed the entirety of Jill’s time because she had to prove herself deserving of the position she was aspired for, and at the same time nail her target in the business world. She told herself that this was her season! She had to make it now as things were booming. Who knows? With the email she received last month, it looked like she was being considered for Forbes Under 30 2022. It’s now or never.
So, Jill drove herself. Long work hours, longer hours at night. Proper nutrition was ignored because who cares about food when the world has bigger problems? Right? Sleep was neglected because “My dreams are so big, they keep me awake at night!” [or whatever that quote is that they are so fond of.] 😊


I guess you can tell what happened to Jill. She broke down. Oh, she broke down. Her body and mind closed shop.
Unfortunately, her employers didn’t- they got someone else to fill Jill’s coveted position. Her business, however, suffered. The visionary could not see it through. Her dream got cut short because she didn’t delegate much in a bid to deliver excellence all by herself.

I do not like these kinds of stories. 😬 Personally, I prefer happily ever after’s. So, I’m going to rewrite Jill’s story, if you all agree.

I’m going to say that Jill set all her goals on sight. She also did the work, the grind and the hustle. But Jill also knew to unwind. She listened to her body, noticed when she was worn out and took long breaks. She gave herself treats.
She kept doing excellent work, delegated the tasks she could, made time to call her loved ones, enjoyed some quiet evenings and showed up every next day to slay more! 🤩
And then, happily ever after: she got her promotion and her business became a global brand. Woohoo!!!

By the way, if we wanted to add to Jill’s story, should we also say that she also made it on Forbes list? 😁🍭🍬

I mean, the Most High God took a day to rest after the work of creation.
I think to myself that if God our Heavenly Father who is omnipotent – able to do all things took the time to rest, it is definitely His pointer to us that this is a matter of principle, His design for our optimum performance.

Unwinding here we come!

Note that this does not in any way advocate for laziness. Unwinding is specifically for those that have worked. May the Lord help us to continue to uphold the dignity of work.

The good thing about unwinding is that we do not need to break the bank. Unwinding is not about your next vacation because relaxation is something we need way more frequently than an annual vacation.

In fact, the higher level is when we move unwinding from “as needed” to “a part of the schedule.” 👌🏽

Right there in the calendar! Along with other important items like “attending that meeting” or “Grocery shopping.”

Unwinding is essential. Unwinding is a necessity.
There are different ways that people plan it into the schedule: some couples have date nights. Some families have movie nights. Some individuals have 30 minutes blocked out daily under the title, “Me-time.” One thing or another.

Because unwinding is an essential!

I acknowledge that there are some rare seasons in one’s life when it is almost impossible to get breaks. For instance, for a new mom who has to watch her little one 24/7, it feels like long cycles of working and even when her support system is intact, it won’t take long before she needs rest again. Or for a company that is rounding up a fiscal year – it is often quite intense in those peak periods. One can only hope for that phase to pass as soon as it can.

Ultimately, our Christian hope is for that time when our bodies would be released from all suffering; when we would take on our new bodies prepared for us by our Heavenly Father, woohoo!!! 🎉🎉 At that time, we would no more experience wearying or troubles. It would be unending bliss! (Romans 8: 23)

Suffice it to say that at that time, we will be forever unwound! 😁

Give Your “Problems” Time

“Give your problems time.” I caught this statement echoing in my mind on countless occasions this past year; and each time, it brought me fantastic results and great peace.

SCENARIOS

Let’s say that you wake up one morning to see an outbreak of red rashes on a part of your face. Or you arrive at work one morning to find a note from your boss who has been unusually silent in the past week, “I need to have a conversation with you and Craig before noon today. Contact me at your earliest convenience.” (**insert panic music theme, lol)

What would you do?

Generally, in Scenario 1, you may immediately pull up Google and search “red rashes on skin,” or “causes of rashes on face” or something along those lines.

Next, you would scroll through the results that to an article from American Academy of Dermatology; “Umm… that one looks credible.” You may click on it to find that they have provided 10 possible reasons why your face is red. You skim through familiar and ambiguous medical terms – dermatitis, allergic reaction, reaction to medication, till you get towards the end of the list – Lupus, Rare cancer.

And then, your imagination could begin to run wild, “Is it possible that I have a viral infection, or could this be the beginning signs of a rare cancer known as T-cell cutaneous lymphoma?”

You take a moment to inspect a few photos online and compare them with your skin, then you conclude, “Oh no! I most definitely have shingles.”

You take rapid pictures of the affected area of your face and text your fun best friend who unfortunately also easily freaks out, “Morning! I think I might have shingles. And guess what, I need to do something fast because without adequate treatment, it could permanently damage my eyesight!!!” (You insert *broken heart emoji, *teary face and *pleading face). Both of you go back and forth with the messaging, predicting, panicking and connecting emotionally till you really need to leave for work or you would miss the bus!

Afterwards, you set out on your day with a heavy heart and a head full of medical gibberish. lol

Okay, I might have blown up the image a little, but isn’t that what we tend to do when faced with anything that is out of the ordinary? I imagine how much more beautiful things would go if we desisted from imagining the worst, from accepting the worst as our reality; if we gave our problems just a little bit of time.

Give your problems time.

At first glance, one may wondered if that statement is an expression of lack of faith or worse still, if it is un-christian. One might think, “Why give room to the problem at all, to the extent of allowing it to fester?

I am learning that the ability to refrain from hasty conclusions, to hold off quick fixes, to rather direct our concerns to the Lord and wait for Him to act are indicators of spiritual maturity and growing faith.

First, let us establish a fact. Life in itself is dynamic. Things are always changing. Even if your daily activities are structured, fixed and consistent, you will agree with me that somehow, your Tuesday ends significantly different from your Monday. Same schedule, a different outcome or experience. That is life. It is also the essence of the second of thermodynamics:

the entropy of the universe (the ultimate isolated system) only increases and never decreases.

Second law of thermodynamics

Entropy is simply a measure of randomness or uncertainty. This means that the universe can be seen as a system that does not exchange either energy or matter at all with any other system beyond it, and all the energy transformations that take place within the universe results in increasing, increasing, increasing entropy (randomness, disorder).

Jesus also said it in John 16:33 and I particularly like the way that the Wycliffe Bible translation phrases the statement; they use the word dis-ease: the stoppage of ease, the deviation from normal/familiar.

These things I have spoken to you, that ye have peace in me; in the world ye shall have dis-ease [in the world ye shall have pressing, or overlaying], but trust ye, I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Everyday in life, we are bound to encounter uncertainties. “Uncertainties are certain in life,” I love me a good paradox, lol.

The second thing that we must establish is in the second portion of the same verse: “Jesus has overcome the world!

You know what that means? It means that we are on the winning side. The result of the battle was announced even before we engaged the challenge and everyone who believes in Jesus are declared victors because we are on His side!

Uncertainties are certain in life but we win anyway!


This truth is what we must ingrain into our subconsciousness. We must believe it, think it and declare it until we can say it easily and with deep assurance. May the Lord open our spiritual eyes to see the victory that He has won and to appropriate it in our situations so that we can experience this victory always.

HOW-TO

So what do we do when the actual uncertainty arises? I’ve got 3 recommendations: Defer, Declare, Connect.

  1. Defer Judgement: Oh, you gotta wait before you put a label on that problem. This action of biding time is really counter-intuitive to the human nature, because we all tend to get anxious, try to fix faulty things by ourselves or to talk about the issues that trouble us. I have observed over time that as I give time to different concerns as I let a few days or weeks pass, some of those concerns ceased to exist. And for others which didn’t quite disappear, I understood better how to handle them.
    Isn’t this what the medical practitioners do? That when you tell them your symptoms, they diagnose and run tests before they conclude? Isn’t it what project managers and business analysts do? That to carry out quality checks or to manage risks, they conduct a root-cause analysis?

  1. Declare the Lord’s report: In that moment between the symptom and the diagnosis, you gotta declare God’s promises over your life!

That period is so important because that is often when fear or faith would have the opportunity to arise in our hearts. And since we know just how powerful our words are, how profitable would it be to dig into the arsenal of God’s word in your heart to use it to cast down every imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of God in our hearts and to make those fearful thoughts captives? (II Corinthians 10:5) How powerful would it be to reach into our armour, to draw out our swords and cut off the heads of our enemy – the devil and his schemes? And you know the sword of the spirit is the word of God! (Ephesians 6:17)

Guess what? Prayer works! Prayer changes situations! The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results. (James 5:16)

So, if I will take us back to the scenarios we had painted earlier, but this time the person (let’s say his/her name is Exceller) wakes up to see red rashes on their skin. They are shocked and concerned, no doubt. In fact, they check Google for possible causes and remedies as well. But immediately, they lay hands on the affected area and declare, “In Jesus’ name, disappear. I speak wellness to my body. By the stripes of Jesus, I am healed; by His wounds, I am made whole.” Any impending fear crumbles and they go about their day with great expectation. They proceed to book an appointment with a physician. But before we say jack, they wake up the next day to see that the rashes have begun to dry and clear away. They have no option but to explain to the physician and to cancel the appointment – no need anymore, problem got solved.

Or maybe Exceller bided their time and prayed, and then the thing that seemed like a rash steadily increases in size, becoming a bump. When they meet up with the expert, correct diagnosis is provided and oh, Exceller has atopic dermatitis, not shingles. Then, treatment is offered and problem gets solved. Exceller has neither rash nor worries!

Either way, you win! Ultimately, you win!

  1. Connect with like-minds: Oh, you gotta let a sistur’s iron sharpens yours!

God has placed our family and friends in our lives to bear our burdens as we bear theirs. A problem shared is a problem half solved! Everyone has someone in their lives who would speak an uplifting word to their situation and give them a hug to say, I understand that this is a tough situation you are in.

If after you have prayed the fear maintains a deep root or you need to engage intercessory or corporate prayers, connect.

Should you reach out to an expert in that area, the information they provide is still subject to God’s love and promises. When Prophet Agabus came to Paul and other believers in Caesarea, Agabus revealed to them by the Holy Spirit that Paul was going to be arrested if he went to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:10-14) But Paul decided that in spite of that information, he would go to Jerusalem. He chose to write how the rest of his story would go, because he knew one thing for sure – that no matter what, he wins! That is the enormous power of God at work in us.

How amazing would it be if at the point when you were really troubled with that concern, you replaced it with a word of prayer and a confession of faith. And then, the next day or the next week, that concern turns into a praise report and you end up telling your friend or your family the good news instead?

BENEFITS

There are many dividends from giving our problems time, all the while dictating the narrative on the premise of God’s precious promises.

For one, we cultivate patience which is the fruit of the spirit. We also enjoy peace. We learn to trust God and demonstrate faith and reap its reach harvest. In addition, we become carriers of glad tidings. And even when the news does not appear to be great from the physical eyes, we know what others may not know, which is that ultimately, we win!

This verse of the Bible right here is golden; “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

May all our concerns metamorphose to testimonies, even before we get the chance to label them, to worry about them or talk about them. Cheers!

Sunday School – Down the Memory Lane

Hiya friend!

Did you attend Sunday school today? I sure did! If we could take a trip down the memory lane, how was your childhood Sunday school or Bible Club experience, if you had one? Fun? Or boring?

About a month ago, I read a heart-warming story about the history of Sunday School in England from my Bible In One Year 2021 with Nicky Gumbel reading plan on YouVersion. It was the 18th century and there was a high rate of moral depravity and godlessness in the United Kingdom, much as we have around the world today. Church attendance had greatly reduced and people would not be bothered. In that thick darkness, God stirred His servants like John Wesley and George Whitefield to preach, and thousands of people started to get saved. In 1780, Robert Raikes started the first Sunday School and as a result of the singular idea of Sunday School, 300,000 children who had never been in church were reached within 5 years! And it didn’t stop because by 1910, 5 million children were in Sunday school!

I am in awe at how much impact that Sunday Schools and Sunday school teachers in particular have made in innumerable lives – children and adults alike.

A big shoutout to all wonderful children teachers, children workers and children evangelists who give their all to teach children about God and the Bible.

Don’t you just imagine that if only a few professions would receive greater rewards in heaven, one of those would be teachers?

For those who have never heard about Sunday schools, they are classes that are a part of church services, often held before the Sunday worship services but on some occasions, at a later time in the day. These classes are usually organized like a regular educational class, complete with a topic, a main text, an outline of lessons and a memory verse which is a Bible verse that is central to the lesson that you may be expected to memorize. Sunday School classes are designed to teach people about the christian faith – to impart the knowledge of the Bible and to teach christians about the values, doctrines, and tenets of the faith.

HOW IT STARTED

I recall that as a child, our children teachers had to put up with a lot of inconvenience in order to show up every Sunday and minister hope and light into our souls.

Photo Credit: Children’s Ministry Deal

At that time in our church, over two decades ago, they coped with the rowdiness of a classroom full of children of varying age groups and attitudes. The ventilation system was not great and if you are familiar with how hot a tropical country like Nigeria can get when tens of excited kids sit in an enclosed room, you would appreciate just how much they gave. Some of the classes had no public address system at the time, so the children teachers had to speak at the top of their voices above wailing babies or mischievous children.

But these amazing persons never complained nor were they deterred. They taught us with their hearts. They showed up happily and punctually, brought their Sunday School manuals, Bibles, teaching aids and formulated demonstration songs. They spoke loudly and clearly in as many languages as it took to get the message across, managed to carry as many children along, assisted very young children on their multiple toilet trips, asked and answered questions and gave out incentives. They conducted quizzes and competitions to see how much we had learned over a period of time. They held weekly preparatory classes for themselves and attended interdenominational children teachers/workers/evangelists conference because they wanted to keep giving more.

And oh my, did it pay off! God prospered their efforts. The children-now-turned-adults who passed through the Children Sunday School of my childhood church are literally arrows in the Lord’s quiver to this day. It probably wasn’t the largest church in the small town where I grow up but they sure did Christian service with a heart full of love and selflessness.

I guess it’s like Mother Theresa’s quote,

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Mother Theresa

My teachers did great things with great love!

The not-so-fun part of Sunday school classes is probably during the question and answers section when the teacher would ask random questions on what had been taught. God bless your soul, be clueless. Lol.

The fun times came when a birthday celebrant gave us a pack of biscuits and each of us got a single stick or two by the time it was distributed, lol. Children are so easy to impress. I also really enjoyed when we sang our demonstrative songs out loud with joy, sometimes messing up the lines. Guess what? Some of those songs are still fresh and green, I sometimes look them up on Spotify and play for my child! Maybe one of these days, I would show him our choreography, if I can remember the steps at all, lol!

My parents were also super amazing (still are!), doing their responsibility to check that my siblings and I have actually learned what was taught in church.

Back then as children, my siblings and I knew that the family devotion either on Sunday evening or Monday morning would automatically be a review of the Sunday school or sermon. Lol

Once everyone is settled and seated, my dad would ask each of us questions, from the oldest to the youngest (or in the reverse order). The level of difficulty of the question you receive would be proportional to your maturity.

“What was the Sunday school topic?”

“Memory verse?”

“Your benefits?”

And as we got older, “What were the lesson outlines?”

And so on.

Although you would not be punished if you missed your question, none of us wanted to fail ours because that would only indicate that you probably weren’t paying attention or you skipped class.

My childhood Sunday school class has since been reorganized to allow only a manageable number of kids to be taught in each class, but with what I believe is a matching amount of fervour and impact. I know this because shortly after I became a teenager, I felt burdened to go back to the children department and help my former teachers. So, during school breaks, I would walk past adult church which had ceiling fans, glittering clothing and modern musical instruments into the children classes with characteristic loud drumming, tambourines and disorderly but joyful noise. It was quite fulfilling. I was more a child than an adult myself at the time but I would not be stopped. One cardinal Bible verse for me in that season of life was;

“Let no one despise your youth.”

I Timothy 4:12

So I knew I was making a difference. A few times, I gave into the temptation to go straight to adult service and I enjoyed it very much, lol. But for the most part, it was such a pleasure to give back in this small way. A few other teenagers and young adults were also children workers. The old teachers embraced us and didn’t hesitate to engage us with responsibilities. I told you, they all have hearts of gold!

Then again, with my parents’ suggestion, I made the effort to attend adult Sunday school classes held during the week because I had to be with the children on Sundays and they didn’t want me missing out on the treasure in the adult classes. Such wisdom and love we all receive from parents and guardians, yea?

I served with the children department while I could, until I had to relocate to a city too far away to be a part; but the fond memories and impact they made on me stays fresh.

HOW IT IS GOING

Another thing that occurred to me from reading about the origin of Sunday School in UK is how far Sunday school has been sustained over the years, all the while making blazing impact.

I am particularly thankful for adult Sunday school, for all the doctrines and Christian principles taught here. In my present family church, I always look forward to the Sunday school classes because I am quite certain that I would learn something new. The teachers are seasoned and God’s word gets sweeter with every dip we take.

During the lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed like this all-essential arm of Christian worship would suffer. But no, Sunday school has continued to thrive and make impact. For instance, my church has now adopted both on-site Sunday school classes and online classes complete with breakout rooms, outlines accessible from the Cloud and even Kahoot quizzes! How thrilling! For those who do not know, Kahoot is a game-based learning platform and I am yet to meet even one person who does not enjoy play-learning!

It is no doubt that the church is marching on and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!

God bless all our children and adult Sunday school teachers today and always.

Hopefully, these stories of mine have warmed your heart to the idea of always attending Sunday school in your church assembly, going forward. 😊