You Were Made For More!

It was a few months to the KCPE exams. The obligatory family prayers were organized to solicit divine assistance for the beloved candidate. At some point during the event, the grizzled, wise grandpa pulled aside the young student for a chat. He asked him what he was planning to do after he passed his exams. The bright, young boy answered without hesitation, ‘I want to get accepted into a prestigious national school’.

grandpa‘And then what?’ asked grandpa. ‘Well, then I’ll work hard in high school, pass all my exams and go to a prestigious college for a business degree. After that I’ll start a business and make a lot of money!’

Undeterred, grandpa asked again; ‘and then what?’ ‘Well, I’ll buy a good house, drive a brand new German car and get married to a beautiful lady. We’ll have three children, and we’ll take them to the best schools so that they can also be successful’.

As more gathered to listen in on the conversation, grandpa asked yet again, ‘and then what?’ ‘Hmmm, and then I’ll make a lot of money and become very famous. I’ll win many awards and recognitions. I’ll be on TV all the time. And then my wife and I will retire, play golf every day and see the world. Once in a while, we’ll visit our children and their families and they can also visit us in our big house when we’re old’

With a twinkle in his eye, grandpa persisted, ‘and then what?’ ‘What else is there to do?’ the flustered boy asked. ‘We’ll grow old together with my wife and one day we’ll die!’

‘And then what?’, asked grandpa smiling gently. This time the young man scratched his head and was silent. He really didn’t have an answer.

createdThe old man’s point of course was that there is more to life than being born, making money, having a family and then dying. As an old preacher said, ‘we were not just created to be hatched, matched and dispatched’! There is much more to life – there is a God-designed purpose in each of us that we were created for.

Your passions, personality, abilities and experiences, both good and bad, are clues about what you are uniquely gifted to accomplish. Your purpose is not just to make you comfortable but to impact others and to leave this world a better place than you found it.

As Paul of Tarsus wrote almost 2000 years ago, ‘we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago’ (Ephesians 2:10)

So by all means, be ambitious. Excel at what you do. Aim for the stars! But in the process, don’t loose sight of the fact that your life is not a random accident. There’s a unique role you were created for. And you owe it to yourself to discover what it is.

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Escaping The Debt Trap

repossessionThe grim faced men stormed past our front door and up the stairs. I heard them knocking loudly. After a few minutes, they descended again, this time carrying household items; fridge, TV, microwave and sofa sets. ‘I didn’t know our upstairs neighbors were moving!’ I remarked to my next-door neighbor. ‘I don’t think they are’, he replied. ‘Those are not movers, they’re auctioneers!’

Being repossessed or otherwise harassed because of failure to pay a debt is one of the most humiliating experiences you can ever go through! Many people discover too late that debt is often a path not to quick wealth but to humiliation and poverty. Debt is also one of the surest ways the enemy uses to destroy people’s  purpose and destiny today!

So what if you’re already heavily in debt? How can you escape the debt trap?

gazelleThe richest man of his time once gave this advice to people in debt – “Free yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter” (Proverbs 6:5). This is not a cute little metaphor! When a gazelle catches wind of a predator, it takes off with all its might. . Even a cheetah, the fastest animal in the world, has a kill rate of only 5% when it comes to gazelles. Is it because the gazelle is faster? No! It’s because it is focused. The lesson from King Solomon is that you’ll only escape the debt trap if you have gazelle-like intensity!

In my book ‘Financial Fitness’, I explain the following four steps to get out of debt. STEP ONE is to take a deep hard look inside to discover what led to your situation. Constant indebtedness is often a symptom of underlying fear, pride, or a get-rich-quick mentality.  You need to be able to face the truth and ask God’s help to think and act differently. You need to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). This may also mean forgiving others who may have let you down. True repentance may mean cutting up your credit cards and making a commitment; ‘I will never borrow again’. As the saying goes, if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you want to do is stop digging! Then ask God for wisdom to build wealth the right way (see James 1:5)

pay debtSTEP TWO is to create a survivor budget, which includes only absolute necessities; basic food, shelter, utilities, clothing and transport. You may need to sell your furniture or car, move back to your parent’s home or cheaper house, or look for a second job. I know it sounds crazy but when you’re on a cheetah’s breakfast menu, only gazelle-focused intensity will save you!

Remember, if all the Joneses (the cool looking broke people) still think you’re cool, you’re probably not focused enough. You have to get passionate about it. Your destiny is at stake… This is war!

no debtSTEP THREE is to make a plan to pay off all your creditors, starting with the smallest debt first. Paying off the smallest first creates quick wins, which increases your motivation. Plan to negotiate with the rest of your creditors to make a minimum payment on each of your debts except the smallest. Every extra shilling you can squeeze from your survival budget goes towards the smallest debt until it’s paid. Once done, turn attention to the next smallest one and then the next. Every time you pay off one, the amount available for payments gets larger and your momentum increases.

STEP FOUR is talk to all your creditors. Show them that you have a plan and intend to pay something each month until you do. The worst thing you can do is go quiet on them. Ask God to help them see your sincerity and extend grace to you.

All this is certainly not easy and it may take several months or even years, but the result is freedom to start again. So are you ready to start? Remember, it will take gazelle-like focus and intensity to escape the debt trap!

God and debt

This weekend, catch Pst Oscar at Mavuno Church as he continues with the counter-cultural and transformative series, ‘The Four Horsemen Of Financial Ruin’

Celebrating Fathers

commercialism2I’m not always sure I know what to do with the different imported holidays that have become fixtures on our calendar. Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and so on have gained such prominence you’d almost think they were national public holidays! Even Chinese New Year and Halloween have seem to have gained their small (and markedly elite) groups of followers here! All these are clearly indicators of the globalized world we live in. They are also great opportunities for retailers to create demand for goods we don’t really need!

All that said though, I do believe if any of these holidays would be a good candidate for global public holidays, Father’s Day would be it. Celebrated widely on the third Sunday of June, it was first declared a public holiday in the US by president Woodrow Wilson in 1972, 58 years after Mothers day became a public holiday. Clearly, fathers don’t have the same sentimental appeal that mothers do!

In today’s world, men are often seen as the villain – and it is certainly the case that men are often the cause of great pain in the lives of their spouses and children. When I visit our various prisons, I find that most inmates had a poor or no relationship with a father figure. Abusive, passive or absent fathers are the cause of much societal destruction in our nation.

father's loveWhich is all the more reason we must celebrate those men who are doing their best to be good husbands and fathers! It’s much more effective to applaud good deeds and examples than to bile about or simply ignore the bad ones. Because it’s true that you get what you celebrate. Let’s celebrate even those who haven’t done as well for whatever little they did right!

It’s not easy to be a dad in today’s world. Most men have few examples of what good fatherhood should look like. My friend, pastor Simon Mbevi, runs a class called ‘Man Enough’ that teaches men their role in family and society. I’m always amazed at how valuable the experience is to the many who take it.

fatherAnd so here’s to all those fathers out there who are working hard to provide for their children. Here’s to all the baby daddies who at least make an effort to visit their children regularly. Here’s to the single fathers who have chosen to faithfully bring up their children (I know quite a few remarkable ones!) Here’s to those men who are seeking to develop a relationship with their kids even though they didn’t have one with their own fathers. Here’s to those guys who take their kids to church because they want them to grow up with good morals. Here’s to those who are passionate to see their kids have what they didn’t have when they were growing up.

To all those fathers out there, I say to you, Happy Fathers Day!

father's day

An Easter Story

single momThey were brought up by their mother. She worked long hours to ensure they ate well. In the evenings after a hard day at work, she pushed them to do their homework and taught them to believe in themselves. You see, their dad had abandoned her when they were young. He just took off one day and went to live with a younger woman. He never visited them. Singlehandedly and painstakingly, mom had brought them up and now they were all successful professionals.
medicineThat’s why it seemed like poetic justice when they heard that their dad was now jobless, broke and sick in hospital, abandoned by the other woman. Their reaction was ‘serves him right!’ But guess what their mom did next? She left everything in Nairobi and went where he was. There, she used her retirement money to pay the hospital bills and spent the next couple of years nursing and caring for him until he passed away.

As my friend shared about his family, I thought, ‘how unfair is that?’ It sounded completely warped to me that the one who was wronged against would end up being the one who paid to fix things up. Either there was something really messed up about this woman, or there was something extremely good and right! When I met her some time later, I confirmed the latter. She is a confident, attractive and likable woman with a kind heart and strong faith. There was not a trace of bitterness in her voice as she spoke about her husband. I greatly admired her strength and selflessness!

 

three crosses bIn many ways, she reminded me of the Easter story. You see, at the cross, God took on the pain of the very people who had wronged Him. Instead of demanding that humans pay for what we had done, He paid with His own life. He took the consequences of our rebellion on Himself, creating the possibility of our going back to Him, and living the life that He originally created us for.

Yep, either very messed up or extremely good and right! As the good book says ‘by his wounds, we are healed’. Easter brings the possibility of healing from rejection, abuse and pain. Because of the cross, those painful memories that have scarred us in the past can become stories of hope and inspiration. Because of what God did, we can forgive those who have wronged us. And by doing so, we free ourselves from the spiral of bitterness and revenge.

As Gandhi is thought to have said, ‘an eye will only make the whole world blind’. This Easter, I pray that you will find the grace to treat those who have wronged you the way God treated you. And that in forgiveness you will find not only find freedom from bitterness, but strength to live the life you were created to live!

forgiveness

Christmas Traditions

christmas5Did you know that Jesus was most likely not born on December 25th?

The story behind this widely accepted date is a fascinating one. The most likely date of Christ’s birth is thought to have been in the autumn, around the time of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. The earliest records of a feast in honor of this birth are from a church in Alexandria, Egypt in 200AD, although the celebration only became widely accepted in the third and fourth centuries.

christmas6As early Christians spread across Roman Europe, they found widespread celebration of the feast celebrating the Roman god Saturn. In northern Europe, they were exposed to the Feast of Yule, a widespread solstice celebration for many tribes and clans. In the East, the Festival of the Invincible Sun was the major winter celebration. Along the way, in order to communicate their faith in a way that was relevant to the cultures they were in, they decided to take over these traditions and turn them into a celebration of Christ’s birth. The celebration thus moved into the winter season.

christmas10In the process, many customs and traditions associated with the older festivals became part of the Christian tradition. Many homes today still celebrate Christmas with decorations of evergreen wreaths, holly, and mistletoe, along with Christmas trees and colored lights. Santa Claus or Father Christmas, caroling throughout neighborhoods, exchanging presents, and attending parties are other ancient traditions assimilated into the celebration of Christ’s birth.

All these are examples of contextualization – which has been referred to by some as ‘the genius of the Christian faith’. Biblical faith should not force you to abandon your culture. Rather, it embraces the best parts of culture as having been placed there by God since creation as signposts to and indicators of God’s existence. Consequently, there is no culture that is superior to others. Each culture uniquely reflects the beauty of God’s creation!

Most churches in the East began observing the feast on January 6th while Western churches observed it on 25th of December. By the end of the fourth century however, almost all Christian churches had accepted the December date. It was not until the 11th Century, that the word ‘Christmas’ was first used, from the Old English phrase ‘Cristes Maesse’, which means “the Mass of Christ.”

christmas11Across the world, different cultures have added their own twist to Christmas celebrations. Coptic Christians in Ethiopia and Egypt celebrate Christmas on 7th of January. In India, they decorate banana or mango trees, while in Ghana, palm trees are laden with candles. In Finland, people visit graves of their relatives to light a candle on Christmas Eve.

christmas12In the Philippines, children leave their brightly polished shoes and washed socks on windowsills for the three kings to fill at night. In Ghana, Christmas dinner is not complete without fufu and okra soup while in Liberia, rice, beef and biscuits are what make it happen! Zimbabweans make sure they have plenty of bread, jam and tea to eat along with their goat meat.

christmas9In our own part of the world, the entire region literally shuts down for two weeks as people travel upcountry to celebrate with family members and loved ones. Matatu fares shoot up in the process, and malls and bars everywhere are filled with revelers. Churches throng with worshippers singing Christmas Carols. Goats and chickens are consumed in great numbers.

All this to celebrate the momentous life that changed history!

Reason For The Season

christmas1Wow, it’s so hard to believe that 2013 is almost over! The radio stations are filling the airwaves with Christmas Carols and the malls have put up their giant Christmas trees. Traffic is a lot more bearable because of the school holidays. Sale signs are everywhere, as retailers prepare for an influx of shoppers. For many companies, it’s that frantic time to complete work targets before the year ends. But despite that, there’s that feeling in the air that the Christmas holiday is almost here!

christmas2And so we enter what is a favorite time of the year for many. A time when our economy practically shuts down for two weeks so that Kenyans can travel upcountry and join family members in end-of-year festivities. A time when countless goats and chickens give up their lives to satiate the hunger of many who have toiled through the year for this moment. And bars across the nation stock up so as not to run dry before the pockets of their reveling patrons do!

As we prepare for the celebrations, it is appropriate that we pause for a moment to reflect on the reason for the season. Christmas is a celebration of the moment that divided history into two. According to the bible, an unprecedented event took place two thousand years ago in the nondescript village of Bethlehem, Judah. The creator intervened in human affairs by being born to a peasant family and then for thirty-three years lived among humans as one of us, sharing our tribulations and frailty, in order to demonstrate how He had originally intended for us to live.

christmas3Ultimately, Christmas is a celebration of God’s love. That humans are not alone in the universe. And that we have a Creator who cares enough for us to step down into our space, and to help us who cannot help ourselves.

In light of that, we have every reason to celebrate the Christmas season! By all means shop and eat and spend time with your loved ones. But an even more appropriate way to celebrate the season is by being a blessing to those who do not have what we have. In the same way that our Creator sacrificially gave to us, we too are called to give to others!

christmas4There are myriad ways to do this. You could as a family host a Christmas party for a children’s home. You could take in a foster child for a few weeks. You could visit and share supplies with spinal injury or cancer patients in your local hospital. You could give a year’s education scholarship to one of your worker’s children. The list is as long as your imagination!

We need to teach our children how to have an attitude of gratitude and not of entitlement. We need to teach them that it is more blessed to give than to receive. And Christmas is a great opportunity to do this.

I dare you to celebrate this Christmas season differently, and to be a blessing as you yourself have been blessed.

We Need A Reformation Of Manners!

WilberforceWilliam Wilberforce is famous as the British MP who fought for the abolition of the Slave Trade. Against great odds, he led the fight against an activity that was thought vital by most of his fellow citizens because of its huge economic value to the British Empire. He was branded a traitor and opposed by powerful corporates and politicians. His struggle lasted fifty years and it was only three days before he died that Wilberforce heard the news that slavery had been abolished across the empire. His incredible contribution has been referred to by historians as ‘one of the turning events in the history of the world’.

But Wilberforce’s goal was much bigger than changing his nation’s laws. He set out to do nothing less than inform and shape the nation’s social conscience.  He called this “the reformation of manners.” Before his time, a respectable citizen could stroll past an eleven year-old prostitute on a London street without feeling a twinge of outrage. But Wilberforce set out to change the status quo, and challenge the evils tolerated by ‘polite society’. His goal was to change not just the law but people’s hearts and minds, so that social evils like slavery, child prostitution, alcoholism, public profanity and extreme poverty would not be contemplated or tolerated by good citizens. 

nairobiI believe our own nation desperately needs Wilberforces today! We live in a time when greed has been enshrined as a virtue; when young schoolboys hold up corrupt politicians as role models for how to get rich quickly without hard work. Soldiers are accused of looting the citizens they should be protecting but those same citizens will gleefully loot an overturned fuel or beer truck on the highway. Immigration officers turn a blind eye to illegal aliens. Drug dealers sell their wares with impunity. City council workers ignore the abuse of building regulations. The rich and middle class are oblivious to the extreme income disparities across our nation.

It’s not enough for us to express our disgust with the status quo on social media! We each need to begin to see our vocation as our space to bring about the reformation of manners. If you are a parent, you need to take your role of bringing up children with strong moral values seriously. If you are a media practitioner or entertainer, use your platform for the betterment of society. If you are an accountant or lawyer or farmer or marketer how is your practice or career or business not just adding to your bottom line but also helping create a better nation?

The second law of thermodynamics states that disorder is the natural state of things. Things generally move towards a state of less energy and more decay unless fresh energy is injected from an outside source. History confirms this. Things don’t just get better over time; someone must act boldly and sacrificially for our nation to change for the better.

As Edmund Burke, another 18th Century British parliamentarian once said, ‘All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing’.