Friday, January 19, 2018

Lessons I learnt from my mothers part 5

This is the fifth installment on the lessons I learnt from the different women who played a significant role in raising me. My goal in this series has been to show how character rubs off on the people who observe our lives, particularly in the context of the home. Generally speaking children (dependents) are a reflection of their parents/guardians. Granted there are some (few) exceptions, but by and large principles of life are learnt in the home directly or indirectly. So though none of the women I have highlighted are perfect, they taught me quite a lot and laid the foundation for my life. For that, I am highly indebted to each of them. The fifth person who kept me and raised me was Jayne Chibuye, Auntie Jane as we fondly call her.

Determined perseverance
Auntie Jane is some sort of a maverick! She has a resolve and perseverance that is not easily broken. From as early as I can remember, she was the kind of person who relentlessly pursued her goal come rain or sunshine. One of the things that she clearly resolved early in her life was that she would not be a dependent in anyone’s home. So, after school she got a job and launched out. Through many challenges she has never looked back.

Another area where her determined perseverance shows up is in the area of entrepreneurship. She has over the years never shied away from venturing into business. Despite success or failure, her resolve never wavered! 

A full person
Auntie Jane’s motto in life was (is) “life is too short to be miserable.” She determined to live life to its fullest. When she jumped into something, she was all in! She rarely did anything half-hearted. So, when she decided to venture into a project, she was all in. When she decided to help someone, she was all in. And when she decided to have an issue with something or someone, she was all in! I remember two incidents that just epitomize her fullness. While living in Mufulira, she was angry with me for something I did, and she was ready to discipline me, so I evaded her and ran for my dear life. And to my total shock, she decided to chase me in high heels! The second incident was with a neighbor who had vicious dogs that were a terror to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, they were quite careless and inconsiderate with the way they managed them such that they would run into your own yard. After many times of drama, Auntie Jane had enough of the nonsense, and she confronted the neighbors. The dogs never came out of the gate again! She is an all or nothing kind of person. After all, “life is too short to be miserable.” I guess that kind of means in the biblical sense: whatever your hand finds to do, do it heartily as to the Lord (Col. 3:23).

Her own man
I am of course using the phrase “her own man” as a figure of speech. Our family like most families is one where everyone wants to have a say in what everyone is doing and be involved in the decision you make. The pressure can be so high that if you not careful, your life will easily be controlled by other people. Auntie Jane is not one of those whose life you can control or easily influence. She is her own person. She runs her own life, and all the best to the person who attempts to control how she lives her life!

A willing helper
Another trait I picked up from Auntie Jane that may not be entirely evident to many is her willingness to help people. Because she is a “live wire” and often speaks her mind, her kindness is often over looked. But being a full person, when she decides to help out, she often pulls out all the stops to ensure that you are helped. In fact she has such a willingness to help that at times she over commits and goes all out trying to help. I guess that’s what it means to be an all or nothing kind of person.

When I actually think about it, my family is full of “characters” which makes for some interesting relationships! But one thing is sure, parents and guardians have a great influence on the children they raise whether or not they realise it. My prayer is that every Christian mother will emulate Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois (2 Tim. 1:5, 3:15), who taught their boy the Holy Scriptures.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lessons I learnt from my mothers (part 4)

This is a fourth installment in the ongoing series of blogs on the lessons I learnt from the women who played vital roles in raising me and teaching me the essential principles of life. Some of the lessons highlighted were taught to me directly and some indirectly. In other words, learning takes place whether we are being intentional about it or not. The fourth lady in my hall of fame is Agness Kaseka. I moved into her house in my early teens and was there until I moved out to start a house of my own. So as you would expect I am highly indebted to her in ways I will never repay. So here are the lessons I picked up from her.

Gentle and firm
Mrs. K, as we fondly called her is one of those rare breeds of people who are gentle as a dove and firm as a lion. She always wears a smile on her face and having a conversation with her can often be sweet and uplifting. She has the cunning ability to diffuse a tense and hostile situation with her grace and gentleness. Many people have often taken her gentleness for weakness and so did I, especially since she was the exact opposite of my late uncle, Mr. Kaseka (Mr. K) who was a straight shooter!
I remember one time after the passing of my uncle, Mrs. K decided to call for a family meeting. We were about 13 in the house (the Kaseka’s always took in people), and yet we were not all helping out with the chores, particularly the guys most of whom were grown men. The meeting was Mrs. K at her best; she made it clear in no uncertain terms that things had to change. Whoever was not ready to chip in, the door was open, and yet she at the same time allowed for dialogue. I remember her apologizing for something offensive she had said. Let’s just say the meeting ended peacefully, and the guys started working!

Quietly strong and determined
When Mr. Kaseka passed, it was a heavy blow to the entire family. The man was the bread winner par excellence! And many people were certain Mrs. K would not pull through. The children where young (7, 5 and 3 respectively), and on top of that, there were other dependents to take care of. All kinds of advice was shared from all corners, yet she stood her ground and soldiered on. Even I in my youthful zeal doubted she would survive. 19 years later, Mrs. K is still standing and in the same house. The children are all grown. Chabala the first born is a qualified nurse and working for the government; Maria and Mark are both mid-way through college.
It is the way she has gone about her life that has been the most instructive. She has quietness of spirit and a settled determination. She does not make noise and cause confusion. She simply focuses on her life and quietly got things done and does not complain or meddle in other people’s business. 

Honest and reliable
Among the most reliable people in our family, Mrs. Kaseka is among them. You are guaranteed she will do what she says she will do. If she tells you to pick her up at 6, you will find her ready at 6. You are also guaranteed that she will be honest and not lie to you. She always kept exhorting us to tell the truth and avoid being caught up in a web of lies.

Kind and respectful
Be it in the family, the community or at church, Mrs. K’s kindness is evident to all. She goes out of her way to help people and is often the go to person when in need. She has such a sweet spirit, it is hard to hate her. She has a genuine desire to see others excel and help them along the way. The people who rent apartments from her become like family. I remember some years back she extended hospitality to the guys who came to take the readings from the water meter. To my shame, I stood there thinking to myself what a waste of food! But that is Mrs K through and through, kind and respectful to people who come in her life regardless of state or position.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Keep the main things the main things in 2018

2018 is upon us, and we yet again begin the 365-day journey through the year. I personally think the turn of the year comes with the danger of a superficial hope. Many of us have been duped into thinking that after midnight December 31st, you magically take on a new lease of life and whatever struggles and problems you faced at 11:30pm are gone at 1am. Now we all know that is not how life works and any thinking that promotes such thinking abandons all sense and reason. A new year, like a new day, offers us an opportunity to take stock of how we are living life and whether or not we are making the most of the breath God has given us. It gives us the chance to look back and evaluate, but also to look ahead with hope by planning. Planning is the operative word here. Making resolutions is good, but resolutions are good for nothing if they are not planned and executed. So my encouragement as you begin the year is make few, realistic resolutions with clear practical steps on how you will achieve them.  Allow me to suggest four areas you can work on this year.

Prioritise your relationship with God
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength (Duet. 6:4). Whatever you do seek to cultivate a health relationship with God and grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). That means you must be disciplined and intentional about cultivating a godly life. Godliness does not come accidently; one has to work hard to be godly. Exercise yourself towards godliness (1 Tim. 4:6-8) through spiritual disciplines.  Read, study, meditate and apply the words of Scripture in your life. And then let the Scriptures inform your praying. And you may add reading good, solid Christian books as a supplement to your Bible reading. If you do not know good books, ask brethren who know to recommend some. Studying the word and praying takes time and great effort, and you will struggle if not fail at times but soldier on, the same suffering has been experienced by the saints throughout time!

Be a healthy church member
The Lord has placed you in a church for a purpose. The body of Christ is there for your edification. Do not let your pride mislead you into thinking you do not need the believers in your church. You are no wiser than God so be thankful for the church He has placed you in and be a healthy church member. That means being committed to church meetings and participating whole heartedly. It also means building others up by serving them, loving them, praying for them and keeping them accountable. It further means submitting and supporting the leaders God has placed over the church. Lastly, it also means being faithful, generous and sacrificial in giving financially as the Lord blesses you.

Be committed to your family
A person’s Christianity is primarily seen in the context of the home. It is easy to pretend at church meetings and put up a face. But in the home with your spouse, children, parents and siblings a person’s true colors manifest. The family is also the best opportunity for ministry to show case transformed lives to the watching world. There is just something about a godly family that serves the Lord together. In the busyness of life and the pursuit to earn the next Kwacha, the family is the first to be neglected and before long distance and division are inevitable. You begin to live like guests in a lodge and not as a family. Whatever you do this year cultivate healthy relationships with the family: eat together, play together, pray together, read together, serve God together, go out together etc.

Do everything with all your might
Do not waste time doing things half-heartedly. Whatever you are going to engage in this year put your foot to the peddle and go all in! That obviously means you need to be sure before you jump into something. Plan well and once you decide to do it, do it with all your might. Do not be like those drivers who come to overtake the car in front of them and only start deciding if they can make it after they have pulled out. Evaluate first, then step out. Have a clear purpose why you exist, and live your life fully. Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord (Col. 3:23). If you work, do it with your all to the best of your ability with a joyful heart. If you are a student, apply yourself to those studies so you can acquire knowledge to better perform a skill and not just cram for an exam.

Life is short, do not waste time on things that do not count for eternity. Do not waste your life living in sin or pursuing the temporal. Neither should you waste it going through life half-heartedly. Grow in your walk with the Lord; be a health church member; prioritise the family, and do everything with all your might. May God bless you and keep you in 2018. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Christmas message from John the Baptist

The Christmas holidays are in full swing. People all over the world are in the celebration mood, and businesses are pulling out the stops to make money with all sorts of deals. Similarly, churches are aware of the season and carols have been sung and sermons have been preached on the birth of Christ (and hopefully the purpose of His coming). There is a growing number of sincere Christians who are voicing discomfort over the celebration of Christmas; some have gone as far as calling it pagan worship and hence idolatry. And while there is a place for a healthy discussion about the issue time, space and purpose do not allow me to venture into that debate. The words of Al Mohler on Christmas will suffice:

The Christian celebration of Christmas brings essential truths into clearer view. The central fact of the incarnation of the Son of God looms before us as the dividing line of all human history and the fulfillment of God’s promises. Priests and prophets and kings had long awaited the coming of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. At Christmas we declare what the angelic host announced to shepherds on a Bethlehem night: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” [Luke 2:14].[1]

In talking about the Christmas account, John the Baptist and his message rarely shows up. Can you imagine receiving a Christmas card with John the Baptist on the cover, with his garment of camel’s hair, a leather belt in his waist and eating locusts and honey? And then when you open the card, the message inside says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance…His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” That was part of the message John preached as recorded in the first 12 verses of Matthew chapter 3. So what makes the message of John the Baptist so unpopular such that you rarely hear a Christmas message from it? Let me offer two reasons why his message and Christ’s message was and is still unpopular.

It was a call for sinners to repent
John was a forerunner of Jesus Christ; he was sent to prepare the way and straighten the paths. His message was as dramatic as his appearance. He boldly called all to repentance. A message of repentance is a message that acknowledges people’s sinfulness and their inability to find a remedy for their sins. John was not a motivational speaker neither was he a prosperity preacher. He was a preacher of the gospel, which called people to turn from their sinful ways and humbly turn to God for forgiveness of sins.

It was a warning of coming judgement
His winning fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his own into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire—this is a graphic warning of the judgement to come. The coming of Christ was good news as it fulfilled God’s promise to send a messiah to save his people, but it is a warning that God is serious about sin and will not relent until it is fully punished. In the Bible times, a farmer would wait for harvest to separate the wheat from the tares. At harvest the farmer would pick the plants with a fork and toss them into the air; the wind would blow off the chaff and the wheat would fall to the ground. The point is unmistakably clear, God will judge the unrepentant sinner! Christ’s coming and eventual death was clear evidence that God is serious about sin and will not let it go unpunished.

No wonder John and his message were not popular. He preached a God centered message, a message that revealed the sinfulness of man, the holiness, goodness, mercy and glory of God. And that is really what the Christmas message is all about—the sinfulness of man and the greatness of God. It is no wonder that when the angels appeared, their cry was glory to God in the highest and on earth peace. Merry Christmas from John the Baptist.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Lessons I have learnt from my mothers

This is a third installment in a series on the lessons I learnt from the women who raised me at one point or the other. You will soon notice that there is an overlap on some of the lessons, and as I highlight what I learnt from each one of them, it does not mean that’s all there is to learn about them. It is a summary of my observation about them and what I particularly learnt from them. The third person who played a role in my upbringing is my auntie Elina Kambanji.

A heart to help people
Mrs. Kambanji is mum’s elder sister and second born in their family. She in many ways was a mother to many when growing up.  She opened up her home to her younger siblings and their children at different times throughout their growing years. There was always someone in the Kambanji’s home that they kept. Even the workers became family. Some of them even helped with education and eventually getting a job. In fact, we nicknamed them the Lombados after a famous Mexican soap opera that was popular in the 90’s on national television. The Lombados were wealthy people living in a mansion with a lot of relatives. The Kambanji’s residence was definitely like the Lombado’s residence in that regard, full of people.

High levels of tolerance
My dear aunt is a live wire! That is to say, she is not shy to speak her mind, and as you would expect she has over the years rattled quite a number of people just as she has equally been rattled as well. When you think of the things she has been told, and the names she has been called over the years by both young and old, intentionally or unintentionally, you would expect that she would hold grudges for life, but alas, she has developed a thick skin over the years and has learnt to move on or better yet to be tolerant. On several occasions, she narrated an argument and laughed at the insults that were thrown at her!

Being industrious
When you think Mrs. Kambanji, busy comes to mind, not aimless busy but productive. She knows how to work with her hands and get things done. What is said of the woman in Proverbs 31:13-21 is probably the best description of her.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.  She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 

The sanctity of marriage
The Kambanjis have been married for 39 years. That’s almost 4 decades of unbroken marriage. In a family of a few faithful marriages, these two have stood as a pillar and an example to many of what an enduring marriage looks like. They have lived out the vows “for better or for worse, in health and in sickness, for richer and for poorer…” and they are still going and that without scandals. Although they are from the older generation one thing that particularly stands out is their oneness and closeness. Their marriage is unlike most where the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. It is actually quite hilarious to hear them narrate their escapades even in their old age. What a breath of fresh air! The is a lot couples can learn from the Kambanji's.