Let No One Despise Your Devotion

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!

Unwinding

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

“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

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. 😊

You Are It!

You Are It!

Different Pencil Strokes. Image from Cult Pens website
Different Strokes. Image from Cult Pens website

The day I knew just how very different we all are, was the day I had a debate with a dear friend of mine concerning the fact that I believe that people usually have very specific preferences in taste regarding food or consumables, generally.

But she said, no. People simply eat something because they have to.

Then, I said, no. I don’t agree with you. If everyone buys anything to eat, why do people have favourite restaurants? Why would someone have a freezer full of local and continental assortments but on a particular night, crave fried rice from a specific Chinese or Thai restaurant, and then proceed to drive halfway across town to buy just that? Why?

Well, she said, “I don’t know, I won’t do that.”

And a professor whom I really respect immediately agreed, “I wouldn’t.”

I looked at their faces and they were dead serious. Like, they weren’t just insisting on this to win an argument; they meant it.

And I was shocked, to say the least. Because I know for certain that I have preferences and sometimes, I insist and go out of my way to get them. I know regular people and celebrities all around the world who always wear a specific design of T-shirts or swear by coffee from a specific franchise.

But I also respect my friend and that professor. And that night, although I strongly knew what I knew, I agreed to disagree with them. I was reminded that we are all very different. Or as I would prefer to put it, Unique. Pencils in the hand of the Creator, our God. Each to leave a different mark. Each endowed with specific mindset, thinking pattern, experience, background and journey. All different from the next person beside you. And each of us deserving of respect.

Because if you think differently, it means that there is a unique side that you will bring to the table, and that counts for something.

So, the next time someone questions your worth, you ought to hold your head high and say under your breath, “I’m unique. I’m special. I’m it!” And then, you go ahead and believe it.

JEHOVAH EL – HAPPENSTANCE (Case Study – Ruth)

JEHOVAH EL – HAPPENSTANCE (Case Study – Ruth)

This morning, I was reading the story of Ruth and Boaz and it struck me how God exploits the ordinary occurrences in our everyday lives to bring to pass His good intentions and to take us where He wants us. 

God is sovereign, He is a master strategist, the CEO of the entire world and of our lives – the Master of the Universe. 

I mean, if you imagine this world to be an organization, then God is definitely sitting on the Board, making policies and rolling out strategic plans, programs and projects that would all coordinate to achieve the business value of His kingdom. This is without doubt a very powerful position – top management and all. Normally we should be concerned about one single Being having such enormous influence under His wing but guess what? We aren’t! We are not concerned or worried about God’s greatness. On the contrary, we are thrilled by it because we know that God is absolutely loving and is working for our good at ALL times.

And every now and then, He utilizes the situations of our lives, the people we meet and the even our mundane routines to accomplish the most amazing things.

Check out what happened with Ruth.

She had just migrated to a new country in search of greener pastures with only a single family member (who was a dependent!) and a baggage of bereavement, personal loss and uncertainties. She must have been plagued with the concerns that every single/widowed, immigrant woman would have, even in the best of circumstances: 

  • Will life in Bethlehem be significantly different from my country of origin Moab?
  • Will I experience the much-spoken-of culture shock?
  • If I do, how long would it take me to overcome it?
  • Would my skills be relevant in the foreign land?
  • Will I be able to make a livelihood and care for my mother-in-law who is now advancing in age and very much depends on me?
  • Will I get a second chance at love and marriage?
  • How much would it matter that I had once been married?
  • Will I have the opportunity to mother a child?
  • How different will I be? Will my difference matter?
  • How receptive will the Israelites be of a formerly heathen woman?
  • Nothing seems to be working right now. What if I ‘fail’ at life again?

To be clear, these are very legitimate concerns that anyone in Ruth’s shoes could have. In fact, these considerations may be helpful for preparing one’s self for what lies ahead. For instance, if an immigrant woman notices that her skills are inadequate, she might consider acquiring skills that are suitable for her new location. 

But very often, the unknowns in our lives fast become worry- or depression- traps. 

Last year, I was doing a research for work on the various personality traits and I found IBM’s (now deprecated but enlightening) description  of someone who has a high range of depression as a person who “thinks quite often about the things they are unhappy about;” and someone who is prone to worry is described as a person who “often feels like something unpleasant, threatening, or dangerous is about to happen.”

Needless to say, depression and worry are two emotions we definitely should not cultivate or aid in any way. And guess what breeds them: dwelling on unhappy circumstances or unpleasant happenstances.

So, what did Ruth do in her case?

She refused to succumb to the appeal of depression or worry. She would not throw in the towel. She braved the unfortunate situations of her life and faced the uncertainties with her back as straight as a ramrod and her eyes in the future. I imagine that she woke up one morning a week after their move, had the talk with herself, took a bath, threw on some clean cloths, made breakfast for herself and Mamma Naomi, and set out! You know the talk I mean. That frank conversation we often have with ourselves when we need to come to terms with some hard realities in our lives and then proceed to take definite decisions or steps. I have had the talk countless times in my own life and I am sure that you also have. 

I can picture Ruth having that conversation in her head maybe in front of a mirror,

“Girl, let’s face it, life's been tough! These past few years have been dry and unpleasant with the famine and hardship in my home country, the demise of hubby  and Papa Elimelech, and Mamma breaking down in despair, now merely a shadow of herself. And now, you both live in this unfamiliar land. Honestly, you are all  you’ve got, gurl. Yes, everyone has been warm and supportive so far but very importantly, you’ve got to be strong for yourself and for Mamma, and if the God  of Israel is anything like Mamma Naomi says, then I think that things will get  better. The future that now looks bleak would become bright! But first, I need  to get up and get out!” 
Ruth gleaning. Photo credit: https://images.app.goo.gl/AJtSmAWMGQbD98dn8

We read in Ruth 2 that she said to her mother-in-law, “Mamma, I’m going to work; I’m going out to glean among the sheaves, following after some harvester who will treat me kindly.” (MSG translation paraphrased) and Naomi gave her thumbs up.

Now, see Jehovah El-happenstance at work! See how the Lord ordered Ruth’s steps in a most spectacular way on this day that anything – good or bad – could have happened.

Ruth 2: 3-4, “And so she set out. She went and started gleaning in a field, following in the wake of the harvesters. Eventually she ended up in the part of the field owned by Boaz, her father-in-law Elimelech’s relative. A little later Boaz came out from Bethlehem, greeting his harvesters, “God be with you!” They replied, “And God bless you!”

Wow! What coincidence? In an unexplainable turn of events, Ruth just happened to walk into the area of the field owned by Boaz who also happened to be her late husband’s relative. Bear in mind that it was normal practice in those days in Israel for the less privileged to glean after the owner of the land had harvested. This was part of the policies that God had given his people to ensure that the poor or foreigners were fed; you do not get to harvest ALL your crops – you leave some behind for anyone who might need them! (Leviticus 23:22) Therefore, as a matter of fact, Ruth could have been in any other person’s farmland at the time because everyone left gleanings behind. But I am persuaded that God in His infinite wisdom and power controlled Ruth’s steps to somehow come into Boaz’s portion at when she did!

And yet in another baffling coincidence, Boaz happened to come out to greet his workers at the same time when Ruth was still in his farmland! And as every responsible business owner would do, he noticed an unfamiliar face, asked to know who it was and when he heard that Ruth was that Moabite woman who had shown kindness to Naomi his relative and when he heard about Ruth’s stellar work ethic, he instantly gave her an open cheque and open arms. I imagine him saying to her, “From now on, please do not bother to go to any other farmland, stay with my people, work with my young women, harvest, harvest, harvest all you want. Take breaks with us and eat whatever we are eating! I’ve got you, and in all humility, I am a prosperous man. Frankly, this is the least that I could do because my dear woman, you will be immensely blessed by God for all the help you give Naomi!”

No way! Ruth couldn’t believe her eyes. Just yesterday, it looked like her and Naomi’s morning would never break. But today, the God of Israel has changed their story! She was beyond excited! She took the goodies home and told Naomi everything. The latter was shocked! She said, “Why, God bless that man! God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!” This was the same Naomi who not in the distant past had lost all hope and even legit changed her name to Bitter-lyn because she just couldn’t!

But from that day, their good fortune did not end. Things got better and better. 

  • Ruth very much enjoyed her new and significantly different life in Judah
  • Her skills and values were relevant and even commended in the foreign land
  • She made a living and secured a good life for Naomi and herself!
  • God gifted her a second chance at love because in yet another wonderful chance occurrence, albeit aided by an idea given to her by her beloved Mama Naomi, Ruth eventually got married to Boaz her benefactor and guess what, they had a son together! Apparently, it didn’t matter to Boaz that she was a widow. If anything, that may have been a catalyst itself!
  • Ruth served the God of Naomi, the God of Israel, the God whom she realized loves them very much!
  • She was accepted and became a part of the community. The towns-women literarily threw a dance party for Naomi after her delivery.
  • Ruth’s life was a huge success, so much so that she, a once bereaved, seemingly-forsaken and once foreign/heathen woman became a part of the direct lineage of Jesus the Messiah. Her name is one of the few five female names listed in this prestigious family tree of Jesus! That is like modern day Guinness book of records, but in a class of its own. She was an all-round success.

Personally, I have had countless ‘coincidences’ that in retrospect could only have been God’s hand at work, pulling through His good plans. Many of the people who made significant impact in my life seem like I met them by chance, which makes me wonder, “Was it a coincidence after all? Or was it as a result of a master plan from a Master Strategist?

Anyone who feels like they have had it with life, that everything seems so wrong; or anyone who has been expecting a particular thing for such a long time that they are on the verge of giving up hope must remember this passage;

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

There is a God who created the heavens and the earth, who has a good purpose, and who will work out all the many details of your life if you love Him. Just picture a master chess player and the way they maneuver the pawns till they win. God is a way better strategist and He always wins. And every time He wins, you win also!

To wrap this up, there are 3 considerations I would like you my dear reader to mind:

  1. Notice the condition for the Romans 8:28 promise where God works out the details of life for our good: We have to love God. What does it mean to love God? It means to obey Him; to treasure His words and do what He asks us to in the Bible. It means saying, “I will no longer be in charge, I want the God who created all things to be my master. I accept forgiveness for my past wrongs because Jesus – God’s son died for my total pardon and redemption. From now on, I am free to serve God!
  2. I have learned that sometimes, in the course of life, we have to wait! In those seasons, God is working behind the scenes and all we have to do is wait. I mean, no matter how thrilled an expecting mother is at the prospect of receiving her baby, she still has to wait some 9 months for the baby to be fully formed.
  3. While waiting, by all means, we must do what we can. Do whatever the present situation allows you that is fair and right. 

There is a Jehovah El-coincidence – a God who would maximize our situations and efforts to give us a story as beautiful as Ruth’s.