Saturday, April 13, 2013

Happy Americanniversary! ~ My Story Part 1

Today marks ELEVEN years that I officially migrated to the United States, leaving every inch of familiarity behind in Nigeria. At 17, almost 18 years old I was plunged to a world I had only seen in the movies, and which I was to find out was not much like it was in those movies. At the time of departure, school systems in Nigeria were unstable, and I didn't perform up to par on our version of SAT called JAMB. Needless to say, I was yet to begin college like many of my peers and it was rubbed in very thoroughly at home and away from home. As a background, I am the only girl and my parents were extremely protective of me- going out of the state I grew up in wasn't an option, thus abroad was never even a thought. At least not until those 2 years of passing time while the world moved on. Aunts and uncles in the States began to convince my parents how great of an idea it was to send me here for a better opportunity at succeeding.

I remember that day like it was yesterday- my parents called me in their bedroom privately. They informed me of their plan to send me to the United States for a more stable educational system and a better chance for me. I was told my flight departed in a few days and I wasn't to tell any friends or family, because this wasn't a real move- just a summer over there to do SAT, etc and to see if I would get in a school. I also remember getting mixed messages about whether to pack all or some of my things on this mysterious journey. The last thing I recall from that conversation was when I was told "Don't forget the child of whose you are, all eyes are on you".

Can you say PRESSURE!

I entered U.S through Chicago, but settled down with my aunt and her family in Maryland. The first few months were extremely difficult, not because of my new home dynamics but because of what I deemed an improper separation from home. I was able to say goodbye to only a handful of my friends, at the time also the youth choir leader just left and placed me and another person as new heads; and off I was far away from the one thing at that time that kept my heart super happy. For the first few months all I did was study for all kinds of exams and placement tests. And I aced every single one of them. The fear of failure and the desire to please my parents were my drive. I didn't recognize it as that until I read chapter 3 of Rick Warren's "Purpose driven life".


That realization began my deep soul searching. I began journaling again & pouring out my soul onto paper. It was therapeutic and that was my entry point into genuinely seeking God. Not just going to church & having a blast with friends in the youth choir like I did growing up. The weight that I felt began to lift the more I drew closer to that all-consuming love of God that I had known of but not truly experienced. The church in Maryland was a breath of fresh air at the time, and my love relationship with worship and music began to soar as I joined the choir there.

To be continued....

Thursday, January 31, 2013

True display of love..

Over the past year, I would say more than ever before, my passion to serve the less privileged, and see the lost come to the Kingdom of light has increased. And I certainly wouldn't say its a thing unique to me; for all over Scripture it is evident that God loves all things justice, service and love. He is the one who put within us the capacity to love like He does. Thus our only means of being LIKE Him is knowing Him first. 

Matthew 25: 35-43 further breaks this down: In this excerpt, Jesus narrated what would occur in judgement when the righteous would be rewarded for having fed, visited and clothed Jesus when He was in need; and the unrighteous would be likewise punished for doing otherwise. In both cases, neither group knew WHILE doing those things, to whom it was being done. But here was His response to that query- "To the extent that you did it to these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me". Proverbs 19:17 also reminds us, "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done." 

In essence, we are reminded, that our declaration of faith means nought when we do not have outward workings of it. A true disciple seeks to be as the one he follows. Our Lord's heart was for the lost, the broken, the sick, the demon-possessed, the love-deprived, the cast-outs. So should ours. And friends, this kind of heart isn't fully developed over night. It's something that grows as our relationship with God and our sensitivity to His Spirit within increases. It becomes our true display of love and obedience to Him. So the true challenge is this- draw close to God, He will draw only closer. And then will flow out of our renewed hearts sincere kindness,  fair justice & LOVE

The poem below expresses this message more eloquently than I ever could: 

       Take Care of Him
"Thou whom I love, for whom I died, 
    Lovest thou Me, My bride?"-- 
Low on my knees I love Thee, Lord, 
    Believed in and adored. 

"That I love thee the proof is plain: 
    How dost thou love again?"-- 
In prayer, in toil, in earthly loss, 
    In a long-carried cross. 

"Yea, thou dost love: yet one adept 
    Brings more for Me to accept."-- 
I mould my will to match with Thine, 
    My wishes I resign. 

"Thou givest much: then give the whole 
    For solace of My soul."-- 
More would I give, if I could get: 
    But, Lord, what lack I yet? 

"In Me thou lovest Me: I call 
    Thee to love Me in all."-- 
Brim full my heart, dear Lord, that so 
    My love may overflow. 

"Love Me in sinners and in saints, 
    In each who needs or faints."-- 
Lord, I will love Thee as I can 
    In every brother man. 

"All sore, all crippled, all who ache, 
    Tend all for My dear sake."-- 
All for Thy sake, Lord: I will see 
    In every sufferer, Thee. 

"So I at last, upon My Throne 
    Of glory, Judge alone, 
So I at last will say to thee: 
    Thou diddest it to Me."

       - Christina G. Rossetti

Friday, June 8, 2012

Perfect Christian?

In recent years, upon entry into the 'real world', I have come to understand that there exists a lot of misconceptions about Christians. These misconceptions have hindered many unbelievers from seeking our God. 

Unfortunately, we are partly responsible for making outsiders believe that we are self-sufficiently righteous! That they dare not approach Christ without first ceasing their ways, When Christ on earth wanted them close so HE could do the cleansing work. I am committed to saying this any chance I get- Even the most sincerely authentic Jesus follower needs His grace to stay on the narrow path

We are not at all perfect. We NEED Jesus to Be like Him! And in order to make any lasting impact, a true Jesus follower must be desperately dependent on His Spirit within! I could try and further elaborate this point; but Maya Angelou did a fantastic job of it. Please read the poem below slowly, re-read if you must. And remember, God loves you, and He desires that ALL of us come to a relationship with Him through Jesus. Kick all those barriers out of your way, and Go to Him, just the way you are.

I'M A CHRISTIAN By Maya Angelou

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin."
I'm whispering "I was lost,"
Now I'm found and forgiven.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need CHRIST to be my guide.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
and need HIS strength to carry on.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
and need God to clean my mess.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
but, God believes I am worth it.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain,
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
who received God's good grace, somehow.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The makings of a true disciple

A few weeks ago, I ordered a book titled "Found Faithful" by Elizabeth Skoglund. It's not my typical read but for a while I had sought to read a volume on the timeless stories of spiritual leaders that impacted the world in their generation and beyond. Being half-way done now, the theme is recurrent through and through. And it is this: The life of a true disciple of Jesus is along a path of great resistance and difficulty, but the one who stays close to Him will maintain an inner stability that comes only from intimacy.

This central theme is often overlooked today. Many christians- old and new in the faith carry close to our hearts a sense of entitlement. That prideful thought that the creator-God owes us good health, a gorgeous spouse, overflowing riches and an all-sweet pass through life. Don't get me wrong- these are good things that He delights in giving to His children! James 1:17 reiterates it- "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.."

But the point is this- more important than all those things; He desires to build sound character in us, through the inner work of His Holy Spirit within us. Many times the process of building us into who Jesus is will strip us of riches, perfect health and/or friendships. Christ while on earth mentioned this, " this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world"- John 6:33.

The entitlement that we often consistently feel to the good things of life is rooted in a lack of understanding of His love. Indeed, that love is vast beyond full comprehension no doubt! But a thorough digesting of His Word, coupled with an intimate relationship with Him will certainly displace that entitlement. Basking in that unearned, unchanging and perfect love that we so freely enjoy from God, births and nourishes a desire to love Him back!

And so to tie it all together, follow this thought pattern: When we develop the habit of basking in and reinforcing God's love(by studying the Bible + spending time alone with Him), there is a spontaneity in responding! And in loving Him(by obeying the commands we receive from the Word and Quiet time), Romans 8:28 becomes so comforting!-"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, and who are called according to His purpose" Please read this paragraph one more time, slowly.

So like the old mothers and fathers of faith that went before us, we can also live a life that is full indeed. One of major impact in every circle of influence we find ourselves, and that transcends our time here on earth. Such a life continually fights to deny self; and certainly we will not arrive there in a day- but it is worth the journey there! Let's travel together friends, toward that life that is overflowing with intimacy with God and consistency in integrity and faithfulness amidst all of life's unpredictable seasons.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Let it shine!

I've been for the last week studying the book of Mark and on chapter 4, I pause, convicted. In Mark 4:21(emphasis mine), Jesus asks His disciples..."A lamp isn't brought to be put under a basket, is it? or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put ON a lampstand? "

When I measure myself to God's Word in the verse above, I come to the conclusion that I unconciously and sometimes intentionlly keep the light that I am under the bed. Why? Fear keeps me from positioning myself on a lampstand. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the not-so-well-known. Will I be perceived as proud? Flaunting my gifts? Will my motives be completely misunderstood? Even when God graciously sends someone to talk me out from under the bed, I plead to be left there.

In searching for the reason behind the hesitancy, I realize what does matter is that Jesus whom I love and serve calls for me to come out from under the bed. The enemy doesn't because that will mean living out God's purpose...and he doesn't benefit from that. The flesh doesn't really want it either because it will take incredible focus and some discomfort when all flesh wants is fun and sleep. Being atop that lamp stand is a matter of obedience and trust, and nothing else.

Many of you reading this could probably come up with a bunch of your own very personal questions. The real ones that keep your bright light out of sight, under the bed of a dark room that needs it so. Feel free to share those questions, there's a freedom that comes from dispelling a false belief in one's heart. More importantly confess them to God, and let His Word(written & spoken) dispel those fears.

There is no freedom without learning the truth. God's Word is what continues to keep me centered in life. I continually stay sensitive to, convicted and motivated by the Truth that Jesus is. It is imperative that we take the time to let the truths of the Bible simmer in, and cause an inward then outward transforming liberation!

Jesus, the one who we say Lords over us reminds us today...A lamp isn't brought to be put under a basket or a bed but instead on a lamp stand. Lets turn those often doubtful rhetorical questions of ours around! In those times of fearful query the Holy Spirit poses to me the right questions, I share them with you so you can ponder them too.. How about those you have encouraged with your gifts, your time, your life? Why limit your continuing impact in partnership with the King? Where is your faith? And the one response that always stills my anxious heart....I AM WITH YOU.

In that last phrase lies the very essence of boldness and courage. And so in closing, be strengthened by God's Word to you in Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ And so let us together, use all our gifts and abilities with all our hearts, and in service to others...and surely we shall shine for HIS glory.

Friday, July 22, 2011

God doesn't care...Or does He?

A few weeks ago, my fiancé and I had a brief interaction with a homeless guy-Carl on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. He was sharing with my fiancé how people often totally ignore him and he overhears all their insensitive comments about him but to one another. After I met him and exchanged pleasantries, we had to leave because I had to work- and as he walked away my fiancé told him, “I’ll be praying for God to come through for you, and when He does know it's because He loves you!” and in response Carl said as he walked away; “urrggh, God don’t give a **** about me.”

That comment has haunted me since. It made me wonder how many dejected people are walking around fully persuaded of that conclusion. More importantly, I wonder how unhappy God must feel, that the humanity He came to gave His all for- feel lost, dejected and unloved.

God, the maker of all things- LOVES YOU! Not in a superficial, temporary or inconsistent manner, but in a dependable way. First and foremost, it is important to state the foundational truth found in 1st John 4:16, which is that “God is love.” This phrase is more than just a cliché term thrown around by Christians; it clearly and accurately states a comforting truth that God himself wants us to keep at the forefront of our minds.

In His holy Word we are reminded by Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 13:8 that His love never fails! Friends, what a comfort that is- to know that regardless of our shortcomings and imperfection, His love never ceases to reach out to us. He continues to chase after us without ever retreating. Which brings us to the big question WHY so much love?? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16(emphasis mine). In essence, He loves us so much because He made us and we are His. He desires for us to have an impactful, purposeful life on earth telling others about Him and fulfilling His purposes here. And even better still, as promised…those who believe in Jesus, will enjoy an eternity in heaven!

And so to my fellow believers; I issue a challenge: Love people! Rooted in these 2 Scriptures are the commands that Jesus Himself gives us to live by- Matthew 5:44 “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and Mark 12:29-31“The most important commandment is this: love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these.” No doubt it isn't easy to live these out, but with God living inside of us, it is possible! With His strength we can look beyond our needs, and meet the needs of those we encounter. If we all can share the good news of the Gospel alongside exhibiting the life-changing love of God to people, I am certain that we can completely transform our world!

So friends, let’s go and live out this commandment…in high hopes that people in our spheres of influence, like Carl the homeless guy, and maybe some close friends who may be amidst hopeless circumstances, may know without a doubt through us, that God loves them relentlessly!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Jesus models forgiveness; Can we follow?

For most of my 20 something years on earth celebrating Easter was a must- we dressed especially nice on Easter sunday, and had family gatherings with lots of food and laughter after service. Also, that was one of the Sundays that people you hadn't seen in months came to church; so it was a reunion of sorts. All in all, the entire Easter weekend was always eventful and festive, but in recent years, a question has lingered: Is Jesus who is the essence of Easter carried beyond the religious activities?

This lingering question in my heart has in recent years birthed a deeper longing within. That longing is to abstain from the 'religiousness' of this crucial season and to instead draw closer to the One who gave up so much for the gifts we freely enjoy. More than ever, I am thoroughly convinced, that instead of trying to live our lives the most holy on holy week, God desires for us to walk with him DAILY, all year round.

Easter isn't just a time to acknowledge and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is a time to also re-learn the character of our King. This year what has moved me the most, is the power of forgiveness that Christ exhibited amidst his trials. And so, how many of us today will choose to endure one percent of what Jesus endured on this weekend many eons ago? Better yet, endure it gracefully and without sin? It is hard to fathom that Jesus, as a hundred percent flesh like you and I, in the midst of unjust suffering and intense pain never once blamed those falsely accusing Him. As painful, heart-breaking, and depressing as His circumstances were, He looked beyond both the ignorance and evil of his accusers and prayed to the Father to forgive them.

Right there on the cross, after he had been scourged, spat on and treated worse than a criminal, Jesus never once wished evil on His adversaries. Indeed, after the immense pain of long sharp nails going through both hands and both feet, He still had the right outlook on his temporarily despondent condition. And with that mindset alone, could he have according to Luke 23:34 prayed "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" Those words ought to completely revolutionize our thinking and hearts!

Jesus on the cross not only brings to life the many quotable teachings in his lifetime on forgiveness, but He also models it! How many times have we felt justified to hold a grudge? lash out, or get revenge? Well, if we are indeed striving to be Christlike, there's our model! The dying Jesus- who had more reason than any of us ever could have to curse and be upset, prayed for his offenders in all sincerity. Friends, that moves me to my very core. It is imperative that we release all bitterness and unforgiveness towards anyone from our hearts. It is my heartfelt prayer; that God will lavish us all with the limitless grace needed to love and forgive like him.

In closing, ponder the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:14; "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Happy Easter all! Please post your comments, additional insight & questions for the benefit of all!