Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013.

2012 was an amazing year in the sense that it was very foundational for the rest of my life. I’ve truly experienced God’s grace this year in ways I did not expect. And yet, I knew God had a load of surprises up his sleeve for me this year, so in a way I expected him to come through in a big way…anywho. Tonight marks the official termination of my time as a ministry intern at my local church. I’m not going to lie, I’ll miss walking straight to the toilet and putting on my badge; making sure it looks straight before heading out to my office…perfectionism much? 😉

One thing that may be noticed is that I didn’t blog much  this year and that’s because a lot of the changes and experiences were not meant for display but for my inward reflection hence the need to not document the roller coaster that was my life in 2012. As I’ve said, there were a number of new things this year and revelations as well. Some of these include:

  • Realising that deep down I still love economics. (As a result of this i have decided to pursue a career in economic research. So grateful to God for his affirmation in this.)
  • Writing will be a big part of my life especially in ministry.
  • I always thought at least before entering the internship program that i was a 4 point Calvinist. Turns out the more I studied theology, the more I realised that I just didn’t understand the doctrine of limited atonement well and was in fact, and still remain, a 5 pointer.
  • Also, I changed from an all out egalitarian to a quasi-complementarian…HA! Whodathunk?!
  • I’m crazy passionate about discipleship and apologetics.
  • I’m not going to be a chef like i thought i would but I do still have a quirky desire to make cheese, bake bread and brew beer. All the ‘obnoxious’ stuff foodies like to do. Then again, I AM a foodie. Just not the pretentious post-modern types you’d likely find in an episode of Portlandia.
  • My prayer life has totally transformed. I’m not at a peak but I’m definitely not where I was two years ago.
  • Travelled to Rwanda, Mombasa, Malindi and Pokot this year. My first time out of the country, and more opportunities to travel within for leisure and mission work happened.
  • I still LOVE books! I bought about 30 books this year…that’s a lot. I’ve only read about a sixth of them so next year will be quite a year of reading for me.
  • …so much more than i can place here.

Here are a few things Lord willing, that i hope will happen in 2013.

  • Moving out.
  • Publishing my first collection of short stories.
  • Commencing work on my heavy metal band’s ep.
  • Beginning drum classes at The Conservatoire.
  • Enrolling for a diploma in counselling at Daystar University.

All in all, i can honestly say that I’ve seen God’s hand at work this year. It wasn’t always great times but overall, it was a blessing of a year.

So here’s to the next year! Let us celebrate the goodness of God because he truly is a good God!

May the coming year be a time of deep reflection, spiritual growth and advancement for God’s kingdom, his glory and our good!

Fellowship Amongst Christians

Last week on Thursday, i was in Kibera with a group to do community service. I arrived earlier than everyone else so I opted to have breakfast at a  nearby cafe while I waited.

Soon after, i met our contact person on the ground-an ex con turned pastor with an interesting story about how his life was turned around. Listening to it was amazing; it sounded like something akin to Saul’s conversion when the extremities in lifestyle pre and post conversion are compared. The intention for the day was as I assumed, to help the women make cards out of recycled paper. However that was not to be-we ended up doing door to door evangelism instead; something that we had been told not to do, as it was already done before. I must admit I wasn’t pleased at what I perceived to be poor planning but then i figured, you know what, the planning and communication may not have been the best, but out of it,  we were granted the opportunity to talk about Jesus to people some who we’d hoped would encounter this message for the first time. I guess all things work for good. 🙂

So off we went-catching up with converts in the slum, meeting one non receptive woman who was more into moralistic traditionalism than Christianity. We then  visited another man’s house; a man named Mark who had just been saved. It was at Mark’s house that we had a turning point.

Mark identified himself as a Catholic, but recently accepted Jesus Christ into his life as well as his wife. From my estimation, it had been no more than a month since his conversion. Mark let us in and we had a good chat with him and his wife. I was rather dismayed at how small their house is and the fact that they have two children none of whom is old enough to go to school yet. He’d spoken of getting a few bananas for us to eat-he insisted prior to us entering his one-room shack and once we were in he set off to get them. However when he was back, he came with a loaf of bread and two one-litre sodas’ a coke and fanta orange. The feeling around the room was one of uncertainty. Because you see, we know the statistics. People in Kibera are very poor. A lot of the time, people work more than one job to scrape a living. N.G.O’s are usually here doing one thing or another. A lot of the time the impression given is that it is they who ought to receive and that poor slum dwellers are incapable of offering anything…or so we think.

Prior to doing our little door to door mission around Kibera slums, we’d been told by the guys in charge who too are residents of Kibera, that we need to communicate love to the guys. That they hear people preaching and probably have for many people, the ‘furniture’ necessary to understand the gospel but have rarely seen the love that ought to come with it. We were to communicate the reality of love and fellowship that comes in its purest forms only from the gospel. And here we were in a one-room shack being given an example of what it would look like, only this time, it was us receiving this lesson.

I honestly felt blessed being in Mark’s home with his wife and two kids. We talk about hospitality and fellowship amongst believers as loft and beautiful ideas but when the rubber meets the road, there’s a number of reasons ‘why it just can’t work as we’d hoped’…i believe that as Christian believers who are at the very least middle class (you have internet access don’t you? ) we need to repent continuously and be transformed by the renewing of our minds on this. If a man can bring a day’s salary worth of food for unexpected guests and go out of his way to make us feel comfortable in his home, then what keeps us back from doing the same?

In Mark’s home, i kept thinking to myself, the hope and joy that are inherent in his and his wife’s conversations with us cannot be conjured up by the futile and decrepit arguments of New Atheism or whatever other misguided philosophy out there so why don’t we do what naturally comes to us? Fear?Disobedience? These are things worth pondering about.

In an article dubbed Answering Skeptics Without A Word; Christ Castaldo shows how important acts of mercy and I’d add hospitality are in accompanying the gospel. I feel you ought to read it for yourself lest I expound on something that’s already been said.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is, let us not downplay hospitality. You simply need to read The Acts of the apostles and see how God uses the gift of hospitality to edify the church and draw people to himself.

All in all, let us be known by our love for each other as believers no matter the ‘cost’ to us.

Contemplations along The Way…

It’s been a while since i posted…again. For the past few months, i have been meditating on the fallen nature of man and the the greatness of God with somewhat of an unhealthy focus on the former.

It’s been a great three months of internship at my home church and i’ve learned a great deal. I turned 26 this year, learned about Luke 6:26 in a practical way when we were accused of a number of unfortunate events in one of the dailies! Fortunately, it was all cleared up but it still stings. I guess we ought to be grateful for such as Christians. I also realised that my ways aren’t always in tandem with the Lord’s because the heart is a lot more corrupt than we realise; that even things such as ministry can be turned by the heart into things we glorify. How have i learned the latter?

In my first service assisting duty, i realised as one of our elders preached, that i had glorified ministry and raised it up over God. Seeing as i had severed ties to the life of the church, i thought upon ‘coming back’ that God could only use me in a church setting and that any other avenue would be my own misguided direction. How wrong i was. God humbled me as i served into realising that ministry had become my idol. That in a desire for the ‘familial’ and a sense of certainty which i failed to realise was informed by a corrupted perspective, God had for a while ceased to be object of my worship and Christian ministry now was. Such realisation can sting especially when you think you’re doing things for God’s glory. But God’s word is like a double edged sword; a blade that can cut and yet save. But it is also God’s intention to have our perspectives changed and to always be on our guard; relying on Him for everything rather than on the gains of our continual renewal.

That same day i realised that God’s intention for me this year is to learn how lead and to employ my creative abilities to disciple and serve people. I think i’m done running from what God has been trying to tell me…that as long as we are in Christ, the guy ushering is just as important as the preacher, accountant, teacher, chef, journalist and pr guy. Because God is not a respecter of persons and instead looks at how we serve not at what we do. Which is why Colossians 3:22-24 has become my theme for my year in Christian ministry.

I must admit that it’s been a bit hard to do as God has been telling me because a lot of what he says doesn’t always make sense and doubt crept in. However, i realise that with every step, faith is crucial. Lately i’ve seen how the discipleship ministry God is calling me to has begun taking shape and how he’s setting me up for it in amazing ways. It’s not going to be all easy-peasy but i’m glad that as always even when my perspective is obscured, that God is with me ordering my steps to the glory of His name.

To the ‘Unknown God’…

I remember listening to this song and loving it. I still do. I think Sting is one of those musicians whose musical honesty is above most others who try to simply shock and make money rather than be artistic. The truth is, I listen to a lot of ‘secular’ music- a lot more than ‘Christian’ music. (I’ve always wondered about that term ‘secular’ and where it came from…) and it’s a deliberate choice as ‘controversial’ as it may sound to some…or many.

Even with those who are not in Christ, there is a strange affinity towards this God that they don’t know in a saving sense, but who represents their greatest of hopes especially in times when they look around and see that the ‘Church’ and politicians and science all on their own…just aren’t enough. However, this affinity all on its own can never be fully realised outside of Christ neither is it ever fully acknowledged for what it really is; a desire for true worship.

So even for people in this ‘arena’, their despair when expressed openly and honestly, in fact serves God’s plan (shock!) because they realise that hope cannot and will never come from within our human constructs; that salvation has to be found from ‘outside’-all of which explains what John 15:15 says; that there are people serving God’s plan even when they don’t know it, but as sons we can see the pattern of common grace in history, creation and culture and know that God is still at work and that if one is to follow this pattern in faith, they may actually be led to a saving grace.

I know it sounds like a stretch…but i guess that’s just the way i see it!

Miracles Still Happen.

Sometimes i wonder how it would be to not have left the faith nor questioned it beyond the point of ‘stepping out’ and it seems that it’s a reality i can’t fathom. It gets really awkward a lot and strange when explaining my spiritual history thus far. So i rarely speak about it.
I was speaking to a friend this Saturday about Jesus, and life in general. One thing that really stood out is the fact that in as much as grace is a gift, so is faith. Never in my unbelief could i fathom the truths of Christianity and now that i am a follower of Christ, i can’t believe that my life was so fundamentally split and fractured so much so, that it is the absolute truth that i could not have come to a knowledge of God on my own. It had to be a gift.
Right now i’m about half way through a sermon preached by John Piper regarding The Unwasted Life.
I simply had to pause it and write this down; a recognition of grace and faith. That miracles do happen, and they happen everyday. We just need to be receptive and consistently aware of their possibility and occurrence.

My Testimony; How I Became a Follower of Jesus Christ.

“A man must completely despair of himself in order to become fit to obtain the grace of Christ.”
– Martin Luther

This is going to be a long one…

I am thankful to be very observant. I’ve seen great beauty and marvelled at the wonders of our world as well as perused through the present and also history at its darkest moments. I’ve had the chance to exercise the gift of reflection and immerse myself into the questions that rise out of the human condition and the world as we have come to know it. I was always this way; very inquisitive even in childhood; noticing things others my age did not and paying heed to things I shouldn’t have as well.
I remember a conversation about Richard Leakey taking place at home. I cannot recall when or where it happened but the essence of it gripped me greatly – I heard of his escape from death and his subsequent claim; that despite having survived a fall from the sky in an aeroplane, and had his legs amputated, that he wouldn’t acknowledge God’s mercy in his survival. I wondered who this was who could ‘defy God’ and live. The man was one of Kenya’s most brilliant sons and an atheist.
You could say that I’ve been interested ever since about religion and worldviews. I may have been about 9 years old but the interest began early as well as the realization that I saw myself as an alien; an outsider to the Christian worldview. So you could say that I had an inward leaning towards atheism from around the age of 9. However I never professed it with my mouth.
If you’re African or at least have had an interaction with African culture in general, then you know that everyone is a relative and that we are defined by community. It was in my silent musings over spirituality that I realised I was never ‘always’ a Christian or Seventh Day Adventist for that matter (as I have a Seventh Day Adventist background) because according to my understanding, culture was an unending and unbroken stream of which I was a part but my mother was brought up a Catholic (whilst straddling the line between Catholicism and S.D.A) during her short upbringing in Central Province. Her father; my grandfather, was himself a Catholic after his conversion from Islam. His name was Alsalmus having changed it from Saleh. Not much is known about his life in Islam prior to marriage. My father from the little I can remember wasn’t exceptionally religious though he was brought up an S.D.A. Eventually after their marriage, they attended a Kenya Assemblies of God Church on a couple of occasions (not P.C.E.A as I thought a while back) before fully immersing themselves into the Seventh Day Adventist community. Additionally, a ‘cousin’ (and if you’re Kenyan/African, then you know what that means!) was in fact an adherent of the Baha’i faith. So if indeed I was the product of my community, then I too could make a choice regarding what I believe. And atheism was now one of many factors in the equation.
Given the trouble I had in my childhood; consistently facing bullying throughout primary school also partly in high school, I wondered wildly if this was the product of my Christian upbringing. Bullying further heightened my introverted and reflective nature… Salvation when I considered it, was an unattainable goal and yet one that ought to be worked for. In essence, my mind was unable to fathom what salvation really was about because I believed it to mean total freedom from trouble. I’m sure I wasn’t even ten by the time I decided to remove myself from emotional ties to objectively evaluate from the outside the merits of Christianity from community and family. Whatever merit I saw in my own family life would taint my objectivity due to familial ties and could not be relied upon no matter how true they were. It was my observations and especially my disregard of grace in light of human frailty that really emboldened my irreligious leanings from childhood up to adulthood.
However, something still attracted me to the life of the church. On hindsight I believe it was the traditions and the form of piety that was attached to a romanticized spirituality that attracted me. Not the historical Jesus Christ of the faith. There had been a time when I sought to reconcile Christ to the term Christian but passed over that task given the counterintuitive actions of professing Christians around me. So I swiftly without much inquiry, concluded that there was no power to be found within the model of a flourishing Christian society. Christ had now subconsciously become a bothersome hindrance to the enjoyment I sought from the cultural and familial. However, I dared not confess this even to myself lest I lost the ties that bound…
Reflecting on the lives of people who I deemed to be successful, I realised that not everyone was a Christian and I wondered what their fate would be on the other side of eternity. I had no assurance that I wouldn’t end up the same way and I realised that no bridge constructed by human resource and effort had ever bridged life and death. Was there someone who could bridge this gap, and proclaim what lay beyond no matter what it was? I didn’t linger for too long on the thought. I had no desire to do so, nor could I find any answer. Bible verses made no real sense because I just didn’t get what they meant. One thing was for sure though; my human efforts were susceptible to time and memory. No matter how lofty my victories would be, someone could very well surpass them or they would be forgotten in their entirety.
While in high school I was baptized in form 1; believing I would somehow understand what life; the spiritual life, was really about and that even though in my heart I didn’t believe a word of what was written in the vows (which we mouthed at the stage of Maxwell Adventist Church), that somehow, when I got out of that water, clarity would come. It never came and my pious, ‘God talk’ cover-ups betrayed the fact that there had been no inward change…
Three years passed, and K.C.S.E was near. I had recently rediscovered my love for writing and wrote more than I studied. I had lost all value for my life or others and was no longer driven. My drive for salvation had been replaced by a nihilistic complacency; once, one of my sisters asked me why I was no longer driven like I was as a child. Little did we know that these were the obvious signs of ‘a lifeless life’ as it were…
One more obvious sign was when I beat up a friend who would not let me into the library at night during night prep. Though I cried afterward and followed him to beg for his forgiveness because I did not know what came over me, I really didn’t understand why I was behaving the way I did. I didn’t understand why I had to ask his forgiveness and tried to explain to him that I just…pounced…for no apparent reason.
Reflecting on my life from the age of 9 till 18, I realised I was not honest with myself. I had to admit what was apparent and get my life sorted from there on. So I did what I had desired to do for so many years before. I opened one of the classroom windows and yelled expletives at the world declaring that there was no God. I renounced God in 2004.
Almost immediately I felt immense liberation. No longer did my conscience bother me. I was rid of it and its haranguing nature. My mind was clear for the first time. What followed was a life rife with explicit blasphemy and an addiction to immoral living. I could have cared less. I was no longer attached to false traditions especially that ‘worthless’ human tradition passed down in every society; the concept of God…
The ‘freedom’ didn’t last for too long. Before I knew it, I was having anxiety attacks and sleepless nights. I was still at home surrounded by Bibles and around religious people. My newfound reality surfaced at home once in a while through my increased aggression, and my one time open mockery of prayer when its use was suggested by my sister to my father in light of my father’s business problems…
When my KCSE results came out, I realised I wasn’t going to join public university as I’d hoped. I scored well, but competition was great. The only option was to join a private college/university. During one of my many anxiety attacks, I made a ‘futile prayer’ – to join the Christian university I’d applied to, to do a B.Sc. in Economics and to be surrounded by real Christians. I never really meant the prayer but God answered it anyway despite having faked a testimony in the application…
So once in, I forgot about that ‘futile prayer’ and continued to blaspheme God…his mercy towards me is beyond comprehension. In his mercy and grace, he also surrounded me with people from varying tribes and nationalities who had a real love for Jesus as well as people who had a ‘by name only’ affiliation to Christ. It was apparent what was real and what wasn’t. I could sense for the first time, the power to live out the model for a flourishing life. And as hard as I tried to be the tough irreligious don’t care guy, I knew I wanted in. I also had the opportunity to read  ‘The Death of Ivan Illych’ by Leo Tolstoy in my literature class and it gave me for the very first time a realisation that the spiritual life was not a tradition but a real fact. It was also in my university years that I listened to a lot more heavy metal music than I do now, a lot of which was Christian.  Bands such as Extol from Norway and Becoming the Archetype who I still listen to, reflected the same despair I saw in my own writing but dared to follow it to its logical end and literally scream Jesus Christ as the answer to all of my despair. Not only did they do so, but they also proclaimed a life in Christ that I thought was a fantasy; a life worth having.
In July 2008, two years after joining university I was confronted with the frailty of human endeavours especially my own. It was ‘blocks’ or summer classes as some may know them, and I was home, having opted not to attend university that term. I had felt suicidal numerous times but today was different…so I left the house, with an unkempt afro, and walked to Yaya Centre looking for a vantage point from which to jump off…I’d had enough. Life within the construct I envisioned would never work. I was at the end of myself. I remember seeing a guy in the elevator who I knew from childhood carrying produce in a box; he was a chef now. He glanced at me and I ignored him. I did not need any distractions…
I can’t be sure how I got home but I did. I was coming from Gatundu Road to Siaya Road on foot. I should have been coming from Othaya Road but I was not coming from the most obvious direction.  I believe God led me home. Whether by matatu or on foot I can’t quite remember. All I remember as I headed back home was the fact that everything ends. That death is the most natural course there is, and yet I had a strong desire to live. I couldn’t make sense of it because the desire was not my own. It was a gift.
That same night, in the middle of the night with my two brothers sleeping in the same room was one of the loneliest nights I’ve ever been through. And yet I couldn’t stop thinking about the now alien worldview I had trashed so many years ago. All the logical conclusions affirming the historic views of Christianity were now all I had but they were not enough to give me new life…it was all head knowledge. it was at that point that I remembered a clip I had watched of an Indian guy on TV talking about how a true change had to not only be in the mind but also had to move down to the heart to be real or else it was futile. That man was Ravi Zacharias.
I wondered how this change would come to me. How this abundant life could be received. I was absolutely exhausted of having to account for myself. I had no limitless perspective. I couldn’t see into the future to ascertain my life…it was then that I sensed a ‘dark impression’ of sorts. It wasn’t a voice or a vision but more like one sweeping emotion that conveyed one statement; that I would remain this way forever – like someone seeing the promised land through a seeing glass from a concentration camp and forever unable to cross over. And it made me realise that knowledge was not enough, an experience was necessary.
Suddenly in my despair and in my questioning in the middle of the night, Bible verses came to mind in a way that I had not encountered before. The Holy Spirit convinced me that in the face of death, Christ’s love constrains me and that I would live. I believe now that this communicated truth is in fact in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.
I wondered to myself, how then would I be brought to life? And a second impression came upon me. That I had to come as a child. I believe this is captured in the verse Matthew 18:1-3. In wondering how I would do that, I realised that a child comes to the father in this way: The child knows the father won’t let him fall because they see how strong the father is, but that’s not the reason why they come. They come because they have faith that the father will hold them and has every good intention for them despite having the strength and seeing it with their own eyes. The response to sight alone limits, but the faith in one’s heart brings about a wholesome reaction.  The cognitive is important but it is the faith which moves that is more important.
In a wave of emotions, I surrendered to his sovereign grace. It was no longer me dictating the terms. It was not me answering the door to a desperate and hapless Jesus begging me to let him in. It was an absolute surrender of my life and my future to his irresistible, most alluring grace. I knew from then on without a doubt that I was his, and that I would never be grabbed from my Lord. That he meant what he said when he said in John 6:47, “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life,”
I understood that every moment in my life was bringing me to this point in my life. That I was known and loved before I ever was.
In that ‘summer of 2008’, the 3rd of July, I received the ultimate gift; eternal life. And as if that wasn’t enough, that same night, I got a gift only a loving father could have given to this son; a restful night at last.