Archive for July, 2006

Spiritual autobiography

Personal note: I’m not a super-Christian. I’m not extra-special. I’m merely living an ordinary life with the gracious help of an extra-ordinarily loving God.

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”

– C.S Lewis in his book Mere Christianity.

Coming to birth

My coming to faith in Christ, when I did, would have to be attributed to several events that preceded my eternal dance with Him.

The first event would have to be my having been born to a devout Christian couple. While they never shoved it down my throat, watching my parents live out their faith under extremely difficult circumstances was an exciting inspiration to me though I delayed my hour of decision till much later.

While they both gave themselves to praying with and for us daily on anything and everything, it was dad’s decision to introduce me to some of the easy-to-read books he kept with him that baited me into investigating the Christian faith on my own. This disposition to reading would, naturally, lead me on into a life-long obsession with current affairs and the workings of the world information order.

My parents helpfully facilitated my attending several youth conferences around the country and while I could not understand how people could claim they were “saved,” I nevertheless was enthused by how some of them were living their lives following their decisions.

Those who were struggling to live out their faith became another inspiration for me to explore the Christian faith just a little more; I had devoured a good number of books, including the Bible, by the time I was 10.

The second event would have to be my having fallen into the hands of men and women in primary school whose Christian lifestyles – amidst much evil around me – were a sterling example.

I desperately yearned to have the Jesus Mrs. R and others like her had; she and at least 4 other teachers I had at that level further inspired me to read widely and stirred my continued interest in current affairs.

The third event would have to be my having fallen down from a tall tree on July 11, in my eleventh year. That I fell down head first, narrowly missing the two houses under the tree (leaving a gaping hole at my point of fall), passed out for several hours, got hospitalized for 3 days and cleared without any hint of internal bleeding or severe injury shook my young, sinful self to the core.

For the first time since birth, I had been confronted with the real possibility that I could become lifeless at any moment with an eternity spent apart from God looking not so remote a reality.

While, out of caution, I immediately limited my participation in games (soccer and long distance running) it never occurred to me that what I actually needed was to confront the God I had then come to know somewhat so as to process my present and eternity with Him.

And can it be that I should gain / An interest in the Saviour’s blood? / Died He for me who caused His pain? / For me, whom Him to death pursued? / Amazing love! How can it be / That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!
Going to Canossa

My hour of decision came in my twelfth year when I found myself (with the rest of the family) in Eldoret.

One weekend in August (I do not recall the precise dates), we went visiting with some family friends in the nearby town of Ainabkoi. While there, I attended an open-air Christian meeting and – for reasons I later understood as having been mob psychology – found myself responding to the altar call that was made after the day’s sermon. I felt no remorse for my sins and was back to my old self as soon as the preacher was done.

I do not recall the precise date I made my commitment to Jesus, but I recall that it was the week following the Ainabkoi outing and during the same period as a prominent Kenyan politician passed on.

On that day’s evening, I was retiring home after an exciting match with kids from several African countries near African Inland Church’s Kao La Amani (anyone who lived or schooled near Kapsoya would know this place). I was an extremely happy youngman, having just helped my team sink our opponents with some beautiful goals (thanks to inspiration from KBC’s then Football made in Germany 🙂 …them days of Jurgen Klinsmann, Tony Yeboah, etc).

I got into the room I shared with my siblings, then suddenly broke down in tears, as my heart melted in a way that only a broken person will understand. Immediately my singleness (as an individual before God) and utter sinfulness (even at my best as a good boy) lay bare before my teary sight, the demand of God for such a reality not too distant either. It was at this moment that every step I had taken either away or towards God throughout my life was refreshed before me; I wailed in great awe, shame and need, – the depth with which the person I now believed was God was confronting me left me extremely exposed and helpless.

“I need a saviour! Somebody help!”

“Supper is only a few minutes ahead, so spare me the drama if you are hungry,” My mum said lightly as she walked into the room.

Upon realizing my true condition, however, she briefly explained the significance of what I was going through (I later learnt the big word for it is “conviction” 🙂 ) and led me into a simple prayer of repentance; I felt a peace and joy unconfined (thank God for the contributions soccer commentators make to our rhetoric 🙂 ) and there began my dance with God and eternity.

‘Tis mystery all! The immortal dies; / Who can explore His strange design? / In vain the first-born seraph tries / To sound the depths of love divine. / ‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore, / Let angel minds inquire no more.

Growing up

I spent my last two years in primary school as a young Christian, eager to live out my faith but still given to a quiet life, much of it as a result of my initially skeptic path towards my newly-found faith. My faith was very much ad hoc, even as I navigated my way around the ideas I was re-encountering both in the Scriptures as well as my then enlarging world.

That I would excel in my end-of-primary school exams and proceed to high school on a full scholarship was such an early witness of God’s commitment to my well-being on His earth, especially given my difficult background.

In my first year in high school, it became quite evident to me that I would be moving into a knowledge profession (a genre that generally includes journalism, teaching and law), what with my then increasing interest in the media.

I attended a high school that had no student newspaper and was light years away from having computers (despite having some of the best pure sciences’ lab in the country), yet found much divine favour in doing my cub reporting and pasting my stuff on the student notice board. While I left with some of my works, the school retained most of them.

I would win several awards for that effort, but also got constantly challenged to integrate not just my faith and learning but also my then growing passion for writing.

Nothing, however, prepared me for my eventual suspension from school in my last year owing to what the school authorities believed was my stubborn dedication to needlessly incite students to violence during a soccer World Cup year (I still would sit through nights and watch matches at campus even if exams would be following a few hours or minutes later…soccer flows within me 🙂 ).

That I had been sent away (alongside 13 other students – we were consequently dubbed The Manyani Fourteen) for merely asking that the we be allowed some time to watch the World Cup shook my faith to the core, for never before had I – as a Christian – fallen into the school’s bad books.

I returned a few weeks to my final examinations, dejected and despised by my teachers and peers, and to a rather low-key departure phase marked with the death of a desk-mate I had never witnessed to and less than perfect grades in my finals. Suddenly my faith wasn’t looking attractive or making sense anymore.

Ironically, the administration would afterwards write me a glowing school-leaving certificate which – for all intents and purposes – made nonsense of the grave and baseless accusations they had leveled against me previously.

He left His Father’s throne above – / So free, so infinite His grace – / Emptied Himself of all but love, / And bled for Adam’s helpless race. / ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free; / For, O my God, it found out me!

Steadying it

Gradually, two Christian friends I had met in my first year in high school warmed their way back into my life again…at a very crucial moment in my life.

Both men and their families instructed and inspired me in personal discipleship as well as a life given to holistic outreach to the world beyond myself. One of them would later link me up with a certain NGO in Nairobi where I began my first job as an errand / tea boy (call it office assistant, if you may 🙂 ) with some Kshs. 1,500/- per month as my dues.

The other would, in conjunction with the former and one other fellow, help me work around joining one of the Kenyan universities for studies in journalism and public relations. I joined the institution in question with nothing in the way of finances…it’s a miracle I went through it at all…and also that I would later even manage to get to study across the pond as I traveled around God’s world.

Those exciting years when I witnessed God’s faithfulness in my moments of need as I wrestled with the new ideas I was encountering at such high levels of learning (including my stints at some media outlets) impressed upon my heart the reality that I was very much in God’s hands; equally important was the fact that I could now trust Him to remain faithful to me despite my faithlessness and unfaithfulness towards Him.

An important lesson for me from that phase was that while life could be (and still remains hard in some ways), I could still entrust my life to Him and also trust Him to grant me the means by which I could live the said life; it was at that point that I triumphed over Mammon, I believe, for no longer could I be enslaved by any rat race for it.

It was also during this phase that I would meet some other people who have remained my mentors in matters of faith, learning and profession; men and women who are not afraid to confront me on anything, anytime, anywhere even as they stand with me in prayer each new day.

Those whose lives or published works would influence me at that point included Uncle John Stott, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, apologist Ravi Zacharias, journalist Phillip Yancey, apologists C.S Lewis and G.K Chesterton, theologian and “Christian hedonist” John Piper, culture vulture William Romanowski and media ethicist Mark Fackler.

I’m especially glad that I was able to develop life-long contacts with some of these people and others whom I haven’t listed here.

It was also during this time that – having thought out my faith a little more seriously – I came to accept the Lausanne Covenant as best capturing and expressing my statement of faith.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay / Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; / Thine eye diffused a quickening ray – / I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; / My chains fell off, my heart was free. / I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

Looking ahead

Blaise Pascal would, in his Pensees, best capture my wonderment on the future thus:

“When I consider the brief span of my life absorbed into the eternity which comes before and after – as the remembrence of a guest that tarrieth but a day – the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me, I take fright and I’m amazed to see myself here rather than there: there is no reason for me to be here rather than there, now rather than then. Who put me here? By whose command and act were this time alloted to me?”

Deeply entrenched in such wonder is the intimate knowledge of God as a real and close friend as well as the willing acceptance that He has been my greatest achievement in life; I can think of no greater vision than to make my life a daily responsible answer to the question of His call on my life in my generation. Finding Him has been finding myself.

I do not know what tomorrow holds for me (and I honestly cannot promise myself or anyone else that I have it all together), but I know He who holds my tomorrow and He tells me that it is well with my soul; I remain very much in His peace each new day.

I constantly desire to exert a redeeming influence on people, ideas and structures in society; I particularly have an enduring interest in people, issues and trends in (local and global) media, politics and Christendom.

I’ll probably have more to say about my interest in and view of Kenyan politics in the coming days, including but not limited to the joys and sometimes quite personal and intimate pains I have already encountered in the same thus far.

It would perhaps be a grave understatement to say that my life in the other spheres (media and global Christendom) has not been any easier for I carry in and with me some scars, in themselves my badges of honour against that Great Day of His as well as a fitting testament to the Wounded Healer’s abiding presence with me through it all.

I feel very uneasy, yet excited to be living in Kenya and Africa at this moment in time, thinking the road ahead of me and fellow Kenyans / Africans will be taxing and demanding on one hand but also praying for God to rule over our land and continent to make it different on the other.

The creative tension of faith in God and fear of the obvious realities before me daily provide an unenviable yet still very much inviting environment for personal growth; I’m really thankful to God for the prayers He has answered, those He has delayed or not answered at all in my short life.

I keep in that tension of fear and faith in the life I live each new day, with the firm hope that my Redeemer lives and that someday He’ll stand upon the face of the earth; daily accepting – again in the words of Pascal – that “Jesus is a God we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

No condemnation now I dread; / Jesus, and all in Him, is mine! / Alive in Him, my living Head, / And clothed in righteousness divine, / Bold I approach the eternal throne, / And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.

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July 31, 2006 at 12:08 am 22 comments

OBITUARY: Bill Clinton

Click here.

The background to that begins from here and there as well.

There is also this other speculation (preceeding the obituary).

WARNING:  PLEASE DON’T TRY ANY OF THIS AT HOME!

July 27, 2006 at 12:53 am 3 comments

‘Who Is My Neighbor’ in the Lebanon-Israel Conflict?

Well, I think few Christian conversations on this matter have impressed me more than the ones obtaining here.  Click here for other related reflections.

July 25, 2006 at 10:53 pm 5 comments

“Why not take her for a test drive?”

Via JRM.

By JENNIFER ROBACK

Research shows that cohabitation is correlated with unhappiness and domestic violence. Cohabiting couples report lower levels of satisfaction in the relationship than married couples. Women are more likely to be abused by a cohabiting boyfriend than a husband. Children are more likely to abused by their mothers’ boyfriends than by her husband, even if the boyfriend is their biological father. If a cohabiting couple ultimately marries, they have a higher propensity to divorce.

Most of the recent reports and commentaries on cohabitation report these difficulties, and at the same time, tend to downplay them.  Living together before marriage seems to resemble taking a car for a test drive.  The “trial period” gives people a chance to discover whether they are compatible. “You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, now would you?”

Here’s the problem with the car analogy: the car doesn’t have hurt feelings if the driver dumps it back at the used car lot and decides not to buy it. The analogy works great if you picture yourself as the driver. It stinks if you picture yourself as the car.

Yet this is the implication of the “test drive” metaphor. I am going to drive you around the block a few times, withholding judgement and commitment until I have satisfied myself about you. Pay no attention to my indecision, or my periodic evaluations of  your performance. Try to act as if we were  married, so I can get a clear picture of what you’re likely to be like as a spouse. You just pretend to be married; I’ll just pretend to be shopping.

The contract analogy doesn’t help much either. Living together is fine as long as both people agree to it.  The agreement amounts to this: “I am willing to let you use me as if I were a commodity, as long as you allow me to treat you as if you were a commodity.”   But this is a bogus agreement.  We can say at the outset that we agree to be the “man of steel”, but no one can credibly promise to have no feelings of remorse if the relationship fails.

There is an essential difference between sexual activity and other forms of activity.  The sexual act is by its nature, a gift of oneself to another person.  We all have a deep longing to be cherished by the person we have sex with. That longing is not fooled by our pretensions to sophistication.

Here is a better analogy:  Suppose I ask you to give me a blank check, signed and ready to cash. All I have to do is fill in the amount. Most people would be unlikely to do this. You might do it, if you snuck out and drained the money out of your account before you gave me the check. Or, you could give me the check and be scared about what I might do.

But what do you have in your checking account that is more valuable than what you give to a sexual partner?  When people live together, and sleep together, without marriage, they put themselves in a position that is similar to the person being asked to give a blank check.  They either hold back on their partner by not giving the full self in the sexual act and in their shared lives together. Or, they feel scared a lot of the time, wondering whether their partner will somehow take advantage of their vulnerability.

No one can simulate self-giving.  Half a commitment is no commitment. Cohabiting couples have one foot out the door, throughout the relationship.  They rehearse not trusting.  The social scientists that gather the data do not have an easy way to measure this kind of dynamic inside the relationship.

In my view, this accounts for the disappointing results of cohabitation. I am sorry to say that I learned this from experience. My husband and I lived together before we were married. It took us a long time to unlearn the habits of the heart that we built up during those cohabiting years.

The sexual revolution promised a humane and realistic approach to human sexuality.  Ironically, the uncommitted-sex mentality has proven to underestimate both the value and the power of sexual activity.  Lifelong, committed relationships are difficult, no doubt about it. But self-giving loving relationships still have the best chance of making us happy.

COHABITATION FAST FACTS

•    Cohabitors are more likely to be depressed than married couples.

•    The presence of children exacerbates depression among cohabitors, but not among married couples.

•    Cohabiting couples perceive their relationships as less stable.

•    Cohabitors report poorer relationship quality than married couples.

•    Cohabiting women are more likely to have “secondary sex partners” than are married women.

•    Cohabitors have lower commitment to the relationship, lower levels of happiness and worse relationships with their parents than married couples.

•    Cohabiting couples have higher rates of assault, and the violence is more severe, than among dating or married couples.

•    Cohabitors tend to be more socially isolated and this partially explains their heightened levels of domestic violence.

•    Prior cohabitants had a higher rate of pre-marital aggression than couples who did not live together.

•    According to a study of British child abuse registries, a cohabiting boyfriend is the most serious risk factor for child abuse. Children are safest living with their natural parents, married to each other, next safest living with their mother and her new husband, next safest living with their natural mother alone, still less safe with two natural parents cohabiting and the least safe with their mother and a cohabiting, but unrelated boyfriend.

•    Married couples whose marriages are preceded by cohabitation are more likely to get divorced and to report lower quality marriages.

•    The increased probability of divorce cannot be accounted for by systematic differences between those who choose to get married and those who choose to cohabit.

July 25, 2006 at 10:48 pm 19 comments

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?

Composed by: Priscila Jane Owens, 1829-99

Source:  Living Praise, Words Edition (Morgan & Scott, UK, 1983).

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life, / When the clouds unfold their wings of strife? / When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain, / Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul / Steadfast and sure while the billows roll; / Fastened to the rock which cannot move, / Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear? / When the breakers roar and the reef is near;/ While the surges rave, and the wild winds blow, / Shall the angry waves then your bark o’erflow?

Will your anchor hold in the floods of death, / When the waters cold chill your latest breath? / On the rising tide you can never fail, / While your anchor holds within the veil.

Will your eyes behold through the morning light / The city of gold and the harbour bright? / Will your anchor safe by the heavenly shore, / When life’s storms are past for evermore?

July 25, 2006 at 11:27 am 14 comments

Tagged

Tagged by the Holland propagandist.

Rules:

  • Post six weird facts/habits about yourself. These cannot be used against you later on.
  • At the bottom name the six people you will tag next.
  • Leave them a comment to let them know they’ve been tagged and to read your blog.

1.  My day begins at 7:00 a.m and ends at 2/4:00 a.m.

2.  I detest long meetings and / or speeches.  You make it long and I walk out on you, unless of course you are doing a soccer commentary 🙂  For politicians, only Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and all those in the Middle East (regardless of their rhetoric) can keep me glued to my seat for long.  I have some good grace for Church affairs, but again also just.  John Stott , Phillip Yancey and Ravi Zacharias easily win my heart here.

3.  If you must leave me alone in a room, deny me anything but reading materials.

4.  I’ll do anything to watch a soccer match, including but not limited to sitting through an entire night.  It earned me a suspension from high school…more on that in the next few days.

5.  I like sitting in a position from which I can see everyone and everything.  Picked up the habit in high school.  Served me well while I was chasing after some stories for a leading Kenyan daily a few years ago…especially on the day when my colleague and I found ourselves at a shoot-out scene between a crack police unit and some heavily armed thugs (ex-navy guys) near Nyali……

6. I can be quite noisy with the pen…sometimes…but I generally live a quiet life.  I also cherish silence.

No, sita-tag anyone else.  Jisikie huru kuandika iwapo unajihisi sawa kufanya hivyo.

July 25, 2006 at 12:32 am 5 comments

“I Told Lebanese Political Leaders We Would Abduct Israeli Soldiers”

Click here for the clip in question.

For those who do not understand Arabic, I hope you find this translation useful in the circumstances.

For comparative purposes, you might also be interested in this one by good old Bibi.

*****

One of my favourite hobbies is to read people’s comments on the BBC website regarding big stories of the day.

The suggestion(s) by some last week that a strong one-world government / army replace the troubled UN and nationalistic governments / movements in the Middle East got me thinking that we might not be so far off from a Third World War and the end of the world as we know it.

Watching Blair respond to questions at No. 10 a few hours ago, I couldn’t help but entertain the sneaking feeling that he also senses the Middle East will be the one hotspot that will consume us all someday.

July 24, 2006 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

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