Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are you Ready?

The Delay

I wondered
Why there was a delay
Why You denied me
My heart’s desire;

I almost fainted
All through the long journey
Of Instruction
And examples;

At the back of my mind
I looked forward to the end
Wondering what You were up to
This time around;

But I was not disappointed
For You exceeded my expectations
The timing couldn't have been better
For I was totally unprepared
Until now.

The Inspiration
Nnedinma was sixteen then. She was the youngest of the five fresh teenage girls on the block. That period of adolescence was very interesting for us all. We were just discovering some new parts of our bodies. We were beginning to have those contours like the ladies we saw in magazines as kids. We all discussed and realized we no longer shared the bathroom with our brothers. And most importantly, we never let anyone of the opposite gender see us without our make-up and best clothes.

We often met at her house every evening because she made nice chin-chin. We’d all sit outside, eating and drinking, and recounting the day’s events. “Guys” were the only topic of discussion. Some had a lot of guys hot on their trail (the well endowed ones) while the rest hoped one day the guys could look beyond their flat chest and know there was a woman inside.

These beautiful innocent meetings went on for a couple of months when we started noticing some changes in Nnedinma.
“Are you not coming out this evening?” we once asked her.
“No, not today. I have to prepared dinner for the family.”
“Are you not coming out this evening?” we asked another day.
“No, not today. I want to join my mother in prayers for the family.”
“Are you not coming out this evening?” we persisted after we had not seen her for over 2 weeks.
“No, not today. I’ve got some household chores to finish as well as an assignment. It might be late before I am done.”
“Are you not coming out this evening?” we asked, after we had missed her chin-chin for about six months.
“No, not today. I have catering classes in the evenings. I am learning some new dishes.”
“Are you not coming out this evening? That guy you had a crush on is waiting for you at the estate field.” We had not got used to her absence even after a year.
“No, not today. My dad wants me to give him details of how I spent the home’s money when mom was hospitalized. He will be back any moment from now. Maybe I will come out later.”
‘Are you coming out this evening? We have a party in the estate.” This was two year later.
“No, not today. I have a book to read. The Lady, Her Lover and Her Lord by T.D. Jakes. I recommend it for any woman.”
“Her Lover? You didn’t tell us you have a lover.”
“I don’t. I am preparing for him.”
“Oooh! How sweet! You really believe in fairy tales. Never mind, some day the knight in shining armour would come and bring you out of this house!”
“He’s on his way.”
“Are you not coming out this evening? We want to visit Mary. Her boyfriend broke her heart and she’s not been coming to school for days.” This was more than two years and we remained adamant.
“Okay, I’ll join you all. But I won’t stay long hours out with you. I want to take stock of all we sold at mummy’s shop today and prepare for tomorrow.”

We were so glad to have her with us. We spent the evening catching up on old times. Her presence lifted Mary.

“We all have boyfriends now. Who is the latest guy on your trail?” we asked her.
“There’s someone I plan on spending the rest of my life with…”
“Thinking of settling down at eighteen? You haven’t enjoyed life!”
“I’ve prayed about it. As long as God says it’s okay, I am fine with it.”
“You don’t know what you are doing. Did your parents force him on you?”
“Not at all. They only encouraged me after I told them how I felt for the man in my life.”

Within us, we did not want to argue with her. We concluded that she was making the biggest mistake of her life. In less than a year after that, she got married. We felt she had given in to slavery and bondage. How very myopic!

When I look back I realize she was prepared for what she was going into. She reminded me of the Proverbs 31 woman. At her age, she knew what it took to be a real woman. She had her values and priorities right. Most of her peers may not get it. Some may get it years later. It had nothing to do with age. It was all about being ready.

What is it you’ve been waiting on God for? Are you ready for it? Have you found out what is involved in having it? Will you be willing to make sacrifices if it calls for it? Are you waiting on God or is God waiting for you?

As you await the manifestation of that which you’ve asked God for, take out time to prepare, for preparation brings perfection [2 Chronicles 8:16].

Stay Blessed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Difficult but Possible

“Come closer,” Uncle Pat told Mina who was sitting opposite him from his table. He wore a sly smile on his face.
She stood up meekly and walked up to the side of his seat. He motioned her to lean on the table.
“What was it you were saying, my dear?” He trailed his hand from her hip to her tights sending sensuous feelings through her. She shifted uncomfortably but did not stop him. She tittered.
“Uncle, don’t tell me you didn’t hear a word of all I said.”
“I did. But I like hearing your voice,” he laughed dryly.
“Well,” she continued, “I’ll be finishing my NYSC next month. I’m looking for a job. Please can you get me a job in this organization or with one of your contractors?”
“That’s not a problem at all,” he said in amazement. “I can do anything for you. How much do you think they will pay you?”
“Uncle, I am fine with ten thousand naira a month. All I need is a steady income and a job to take me out of the house each day.”
He laughed a long sardonic laugh.
“I have an offer for you.”
“Really?” she asked excitedly. Impulsively she jumped on the table to make herself comfortable.
“Yeah. You know my wife doesn’t have a son for me. I want you to be the mother of the heir to all I have. I will give you a million naira to start up a lucrative business, a house and a car. Every month, I will give you twenty thousand naira to take care of our son. What do you think?”
The excitement was drained from her face. Her sudden confusion was reflected on her face as a thoughtful countenance. She slid slowly from the table and ran her hands through her hair.
“A million naira” she echoed in her thoughts. “And twenty thousand a month? More than the salary I dream of. My! What an opportunity!”
“Is that how you want to live for the rest of your life? As a mistress? Alone knowing that the man in your life is not truly yours? A slave to the demands of someone who sees you as an object?” That was another chain of her thoughts.
“But could it be any better? Who says you could ever get one million naira in your life? Have you got ten thousand naira to call your own? Say yes to Unlce Pat. Life could not be better.”
“Just a little effort, a little hope, a little faith, and a little patience before your story will be different!”
She could not bear the conflicting thoughts within her.
“Uncle, please give me some time to think about it!”
He stood up and pulled her closer to him. He stroked his hand down her back. He was so close that she could smell the mixture of mint and cigarette that came out of his breath. She could see the hunger in his eyes. She could feel how much he wanted her.
“You are beautiful,” he whispered huskily, “I want to bring out the best in you.” He leaned forward to kiss her but she turned her face away.
“Uncle, please stop,” she said. It was a soft plea. Some part of her wanted him to go on. She had never felt like this before.
“I want to make you happy,” he said and held her tight.
She found herself wrapping her arms around his neck. A sharp knock on the door made her extricate from him quickly.
“Uncle I have to go now. I will call you when I have made up my mind. I will surely think about it.”
She straightened her short skirt and button one of her buttons that had loosened with the contact. As she reached for her handbag, he dove his hands into his pocket.
“Transport money for you,” he said, resuming his sly smile.
“Thanks.” She always looked forward to the transport money. It came in bundles of new notes.
The second knock on the door was welcome for he was about to give her a peck.
“Talk to you later,” she said and walked away quickly. When she opened the door, it was the secretary. The both of them exchanged looks of rivalry.

She got back to the apartment she shared with an NYSC colleague. As she walked into the bedroom, she saw her flatmate singing happily while making some notes from a magazine.
“Today is my lucky day, Mina,” said Mildred her roommate.
“Please tell me some good news to brighten my day. I am already glad because this is the first time you’ve been hearty since the heartbreak four months ago.”
“When one door closes, windows and gates open,” she said giggling.
“Tell me about it,” Mina urged her friend. Both ladies sat on the bed to talk.
“You know that guy that wanted to date me for months?”
“Which one?” Mina asked teasingly. “There are so many of them that flock around beautiful Mildred!”
“I am talking about the old married man without kids.”
“Oh! Of course I know him. The one we met at the gym.”
“Exactly! He made a fantastic mouth-watering proposal today. He told me he will give me one million naira to start life after NYSC and he wants me to have a child for him. He promises to take care of me, give me a job, buy me a house in Abuja, and give me a comfortable life. Isn’t God wonderful? Afterall the heartbreaks I have had, God has brought a saviour to me!”
Mina did not share the same excitement as Mildred. The news was too coincidental.
“You are joking, right?” Mina stammered quietly.
“I’m not! Five hundred thousand has been paid into my account today and I have the details of the transaction. I can show you!” she reached for her handbag.
“Don’t worry,” Mina stopped her friend. “I am just shocked. I had a similar proposal today from Uncle Pat.”
“And you said…”
“I told him I will think about it. And I thought about it. I am scared. I cant do it.”
“Don’t tell me that all along I have been living with a silly slack girl. Uncle Pat that has been giving you money every other weekend? That nice man that can take care of you? You don’t know what you are losing. If I was the one, before he finishes his sentence, I will say yes.”
“I wasn’t convinced in my heart. I did not feel at peace. It seemed like a blessing but I am not sure that is what I want for myself. So I have decided to wait a while.”
“You don’t know anything about life. I am sorry for you. Please excuse me let me continue making the list of items for my new house.”
“Come on, Mildred. We are talking. I need your opinion.”
“Follow your heart so that when it back-fires, you have only yourself to blame. I’ve got stuff to do!”

Six years later
“Mina, Daddy needs to be flown out of the country for a major operation. This came so suddenly and I need a huge sum of money to fund his trip. Please can you lend me some money?” Mildred was talking to Mina on phone. “I know you were planning a surprise vacation for your husband and daughter, so I will appreciate any little thing you can do.”
“What do you really need? Just say it as it is.”
“We need two million naira. One million is to show we have something, so we can get a visa quickly. The other million is for his treatment and the cost of the trip for himself and mom who will be taking care of him. I cant think of who else to talk to under such short notice.”
“God help me,” Mina muttered. It was a huge demand. She thought for a moment. “Okay, what are your account details?” She took them down as Mildred called the numbers.
“Beautiful Mildred, I am contributing five hundred thousand towards Daddy’s treatment. My brother will pay the two million into your account this week. Pay back only One and half million.”
“Thanks a lot, Mina. I knew I could always rely on you.”
“What are friends for?”
“Before you drop the line, I want to tell you something.”
“I am all ears.”
“You took the right decision six years ago. I watched you struggle and turn down many offers like Uncle Pat’s. Today, noone will ever know what you went through. People will think it had always been rosy. I am so happy for you.”
“I will always remain grateful to you. You gave me the best advice then – follow your heart. That’s why I am where I am today.”
“I’ve had the children whom I thought will be the solution to my problems. But my life isn’t any better. The man has children in all parts of the country. There is nothing special about the 2 I had for him. And he is still married to his wife while I am a miserable mistress. The guy I fell in love with could not marry me because his mother openly disapproved of me. I envy you. Maybe I should have waited. What do you think?”
“I think that the God of a second chance is not done with you. It is never too late to go back to Him.”
“Thanks dear. I will keep you posted on Dad’s progress…”

For further reading:

The Indispensable Voice of God

I am not moving until you say "Go!"

Directions from Daddy

Lucy’s father had an accident the day before a scheduled tour on the facility he was managing. It came as shocking news to her when he said she should head the tour in place of him.
“Daddy, I cannot do it,” she said.
They were in the hospital. He had a bandaged leg hung from a stand by the bed. His face was also bandaged like a mummy. Her mother sat on a seat by his bedside. Lucy stood up from the bed where she was sitting and walked to a shelf in the ward. There she toyed with the fresh flowers whose mild scent overshadowed the smell of disinfectant common to hospital wards.
As the silence in the room lengthened, Lucy pondered on her father’s request. She was scared. She did not think she had adequate experience. She newly joined his organization. She had been a trainee for only 6 months and had never worked without supervision. It appeared like a huge task to take on the role of a facility supervisor when she had not understood the nitty-gritty’s of the operations and facilities.
“Lucy, your father will not ask you to do what he knows you cannot do. Your supervisors have given him good report about you.”
“Mummy, I have never witnessed a site inspection. If I was asked to head the Distributed Control System, it would have been easier for me because I have watched my supervisor do it. I am the youngest in the team. I have a lot of matured experienced people to be dealing with. They will feel Daddy chose me because I am his daughter. Can Daddy choose someone else while I watch this time? Next time I will do it on my own.”
“Lucy, you are the best person to represent me that is why I have chosen you,” her father spoke in his deep but loving tone that had a way of making her melt. “You have all it takes, except the experience. I will guide you. When you start, just call my number and I will direct you on what to do. Be bold and courageous. No one will know you do not have the experience. And you have lots of experienced people to fall back on. Even experts like me don’t know it all and we have to ask people specialized in an area.”
She smiled.
“Daddy, my credit will finish,” she said amusingly.
“We’ll load it before you go. But just a flash is enough. I will call you back.”
She paused for a moment.
“Is there anything I need to do before tomorrow?”
“Go get the documents on the procedures for all our facilities. Read them. I will talk to the other members of the team to support you. Just go out there and be yourself.”
“Yes I will.”
“That’s my girl.”

The next day, the government representatives arrived on time for the tour. Lucy and the team greeted them and welcomed them in. After the introductions and getting everyone in their right personal protective equipment, Lucy dialed her father’s number. She had an earpiece and a mouthpiece connected to the phone. It looked cool. Nobody knew it was to be in touch with her father.
“Let’s start with the ethylene tank farm closest to us,” she started.
While the people followed her directions, she listened to her father who was saying, “The use of cryogenic tanks have helped us safely store and handle ethylene in our tank farms…”
This she repeated after him.
And that was how the tour was going. She said everything her father asked her to say. When she was asked a question, she repeated it (for her father to hear) and would start by saying something like “Basically” or “Actually” to give some time to get feedback from her father. Sometimes, members of the team added explanations to buttress what she replied.

“In the event of a failure in the Distributed Control System, what measures have you put in place to ensure this place is functional?” one of the government representatives asked.
“Your call credit has been exhausted and your call terminated. Please load an all-in-one card,” was the response she got from her father’s end of the line.
She became scared. She could not think. For a moment, everywhere seemed dark and silent. She was confused.
She repeated the question is a stammer. This was no time to flash her father. There was no credit in the phone to flash.
“Yes,” the questioner asked. “All these are beautiful and functioning well with the help of the DCS. If the DCS malfunctions or there is a failure, how could you control this place?”
She had no clue. With her last element of reasoning, she asked herself, “What will Daddy do at this point? What will he say?”
She looked up and saw the face of the DCS supervisor. This was his area of area of expertise. She remembered the words of her father, “And you have lots of experienced people to fall back on. Even experts like me don’t know it all and we have to ask people specialized in an area.” Maybe Daddy would not have known the answer to this question. But he knows that Mr. Kola is specialized in this area. She smiled. She knew what to do.
“We have various procedures in place to account for failures and malfunctions of the DCS. Mr. Kola here, who is the expert in this area, will tell you all about them.”
And all the attention went to Mr. Kola. As he passionately talked about the procedures in place, Lucy used the opportunity to wipe away the fresh sweat that had broken out because of fear.
At the end of the day, the company received an excellent appraisal from the government representatives.

Each and everyone of us has been created on purpose, predestined before the foundation of the world [Ephesians 1:4]. You are not different. God has equipped you with all you need to achieve your purpose. This equipping could be gifts, talents, personalities, position or experiences. To achieve this purpose, you need to hear His voice. He is the one that can give you the right direction.

Everyday in your life, you are faced with decisions. It could be as little as whether or not to open the door for a person, whether or not to change locations or as big as whether or not to get married to a person. For some decisions, it is easy to reason it out and come up with a solution. For some it could be so confusing. Relying on your reasoning is not sufficient. The only way you can have absolute certainty is when you know you are making the right decision. That comes from hearing from God.

How can you know the voice of God? How can you differentiate the sounds you are hearing within and around you?
1. The Holy Spirit has the same voice with God. Are you born again? Is your spirit alive? God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit residing in everyone who is born again.
2. You need to know God. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. Someone can call you and you could misplace the voice. But someone you know so well, it is hard to misplace the person’s voice. It is very difficult to misplace His voice if you have been hearing it everyday. There may be times when you feel so confused that your emotions rule and you cannot hear from God. One question you could ask yourself is, “What will God say about this? What will He do about this?” Knowing Him will help you answer those questions.
3. You need to know the Word of God. When you hear God’s voice, what He is saying can never violate His Word or His principles. For instance, His Word says, “Thou shall not steal”. There is no way when speaking to you that He will say you should steal. Any voice that says anything contrary to His word is not His voice. He is consistent. One lady was hurrying to minister to some sick people
[1]. She said, “Right in front of the hospital was a crosswalk with a traffic light. As I stood at the corner I kept praying, starting to cross, even though the light was red. I mean, I was in a hurry trying to get to all those sick people! Right in the middle of the street I heard, ‘So you want to represent Me, and you can't even make it across the street without breaking the law?’”
4.Still your thoughts and emotions. When you need directions, when you need to make decision, if you want to hear from God, you need to still your thoughts and emotions. A moment of quiet time can help you hear clearly the voice of God.
5. Don’t forget the way He has spoken to you before. Hearing the voice of God is a learned skill but there may be sometimes you have had this conviction that was from God and no other. How did He speak to you before? Through His Word, through a person, through a circumstance, through the answer of peace within, or through the voice we have known before?

Hearing from God is not a luxury. It is a necessity. It is more important than the food you eat. [Matthew 4:4].

What lessons can we learn from the story of Lucy and her father? Did you see the following points?
1. Lucy’s father had confidence in her because he knew she had all it took to accomplish what he wanted of her. God has confidence in you because He knows that He has given you all you need to accomplish what He wants of you [2 Peter 1:3].
2. Lucy was focused on her shortcomings. Everyone has weaknesses and shortcomings. God has no problem with that. His strength is made perfect in weakness [2 Corinthians 12:9]. See what how Moses who stammered led the Israelites out of Egypt [Exodus 4:10]? Or how overlooked David became King of Israel [1 Samuel 16:7]?
3. Lucy’s father pointed out that she had people to fall back on. You don’t have to work alone [Romans 12:10]. There is a lot you can learn from people around you. Nobody that God puts on your path is insignificant. And you don’t know who will give you the support you are looking for.
4. Lucy trusted and depended on her father completely. Her focus was not on what she had, but on the help from her father. Similarly you do not need to focus on your money, connections, skills, etc. It will only make you proud. Acknowledge that He is your provider, He is your Father, and He is your everything, and trust and depend on Him completely [Proverbs 3:5-6].
5. Lucy prepared in the best way she could. She read the existing procedures in place. The word of God is sufficient preparatory material for you [2 Timothy 2:15]. It is lamp to your feet and light to your path [Psalms 119:105].
6. Lucy obeyed and submitted to her father’s will. There are many people who hear from God but chose to ignore it. God’s plans for you are only good and not evil. Obeying and submitting to His will is simply a step in the right direction [1 Samuel 15:22], [James 4:7].
7. In an apparently overwhelming situation, Lucy still relied on what her father will do. For example traumatic experiences or emotional experiences can make you lose touch with the Word of God and affect your relationship with God. This makes your spirit deaf to the voice of God. Knowing what He would require of you, which could be as simple as ‘pray’, is important and comes from experiencing Him [Jeremiah 6:16].
8. Lucy was able to make her father proud. Whatever you do, do it to bring glory to God not yourself [1 Corinthians 10:31]. It is fulfilling. It is indeed wonderful to know that God is smiling as He watches you and He is saying, “That’s my child!” Make your heavenly Father proud.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

True Beauty

True Beauty
True beauty
Was not in the clothes
That changed with each passing moment
And never satisfying;

True beauty
Was not in the jewelry
And so called adornments
So heavy they added weights
Of unbearable charades;

True beauty
Was not in the cosmetics
That played down rather than accentuated
What was innate and real;

It took a lesson or two
Encounters and a mind renewing
To know that true beauty came
From inside out.

The Inspiration
“I’m going to see the client today to sign my ticket, and I am not wearing any make-up. How do I look?”
She giggled.
I smiled as I appraised her.
Four months ago I would have said, “You are going no where like this!” But four months was ample time to learn what true beauty is.
I looked at her eyes. I could have suggested a little mascara so that when she sends a coquettish look, the client would wonder what could come next. But her eyes held a love that would only be dimmed by mascara. Maybe some eye shadow, I could have suggested months ago. But the laughter in her eyes would be marred by such. I was fine with the eyes.

I looked at her ears. I could have cursed for the umpteenth time why the earrings to pierce her ears did not come. Suddenly I realized how beautiful the ears were. They listened twenty-four hours a day. They listened to the spoken and unspoken words. They listened in such a manner as to bring out the best encouraging words. I was fine with the ears.

I looked at the lips. A little Angelina Jolie lip gloss could have given it that sensuous look that would leave the client staring. But I saw beyond the pout. Her lips always had this childish smile that made me know she did not mean any harm even if I felt offended. In any moment, a sweet-sounding giggle could escape those lips. I could imagine anything better than the refreshing sounds that came out of her lips in words, laughter and sighs on my behalf. I did not care less if there was anything like sensuous lips.

I took a deep breath before responding to her. The mild smell of Dove body wash filled my nostril. I could have recommended a designer perfume that would linger even after she had left the client’s office. But what lingered in my memory was this same mild smell when I could not open my eyes. At that time, she mopped my high temperature down all through the night. She stayed awake all through the night making sure I was okay. When finally I opened my eyes, it was her loving eyes and mischievous smile that I saw and have not forgotten.

In just four months, I learnt what true beauty is. It had nothing to do with the outward appearance. It came from inside out. It had nothing to do with the adornments. Those have value when the inner self is beautiful. True beauty is so beautiful that I lack enough words to describe it. It is kind, loving, understanding, forgiving, refreshing, sacrificial… True beauty is like love [1 Corinthians 13: 5 - 8]. That beauty that comes from the inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which has great worth in God’s sight. Now I know why.

“You did not hear a word of what I said,” she said, and I realized I had been day-dreaming. “I said I will call the client to postpone the meeting. It will give me ample time to make-up. From your quietness I know today’s plainness must be too bad.”

“On the contrary, you are looking so beautiful today. If I am the client, I will sign your ticket and take you out for lunch. You are a real beauty!”
“Really? You’ve made my day!” Then she started giggling in that way that always amused me.

I never knew the same person whom I once thought was plain and simple would turn out to be the most beautiful lady I have ever known. The beauty was always there. I just could not see it.

You are beautiful. Let your beauty shine, that beauty of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This is of great price in the sight of God. And those who know the worth.

Don’t Give Up the Walk

We had the morning planned out – see the receptionist; have a picnic; swim then lounge until noon. We started as planned by going to see the receptionist. Everything changed when he told us about the equator line. Little did I know that I will have a lesson to learn on my Christian walk.

“I’ll print out directions on how you can get to the equator line,” he said.
In my mind I said, we’ll accept the print out simply to please you. We have no plans of going there.
“You can’t leave Sao Tome if you’ve not visited the equator line,” he said as though reading my thoughts.
I glanced at my husband. He seemed to have that look on his face that concurred with the receptionist. I am sure my look said, “But we did not plan for that!”
He simply said, “Let’s give it a shot. If we don’t feel like it half way, we can turn back.”

That sounded nice. As my husband explained the map to me, I suddenly felt like I was on an adventure. A fresh thrill came over me. The equator line was somewhere on a hill. All we had to do was walk straight, until we see a sign board pointing right that read “ECUADOR”. It sounded simple on paper.

We were not prepared for the journey. We needed the right shoes to climb a hill. We had only slippers for the swimming pool. The sun was scorching and we were sweating before we started the journey. We had no drink or food. If we got lost, we had nothing to contact anybody. Worst of all, we did not have an idea of where we were going to. We did not know how far it was, what the terrain was, or what we were going to see. We simply wanted to get there.

After walking for about 300 meters, we had not seen the sign board to redirect us. We stopped. I complained about my hurting muscles. I reminded him of the ice water, cold juice, yoghurt and biscuit we had in the refrigerator.
“Let’s take a picture here then turn back,” he said. “When we are better prepared, we’d go on the journey.”
I smiled. We took the photograph. Somehow, I felt bad. He really wanted to see the equator line. I had always been having my way. He was always understanding and supportive. Why couldn’t I support him?
“Let’s go further,” I said, “the signboard may not be so far off.”
“Are you sure you are not tired?” he asked in his ever considerate manner.
“I know you’d carry me if I am weak,” I replied mischievously. We laughed. He took my hands and together we continued the journey.

After walking about 50 meters, we saw the signboard.
“We made it!” I squealed with excitement.
“This is just the beginning of the journey. From the map, we have about the same distance we’ve walked to get to the equator line.”
“If we’ve walked this distance, we can walk the remaining distance,” I replied. “Christ who strengthened us before will strengthen us to the very end.” I could not believe that was me talking.

The second part of the journey was more frightening. The narrow path was bushy and all sorts of creatures were going about their normal lives. Was I expecting the lizards and snakes to die because I was climbing the hill? Or the birds not to have fun because I was scared of flying creatures in dark areas? Suddenly fear and discouragement came over me.

“This journey is better with a jeep. It would be faster, we won’t get tired and we will be protected,” I said.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty…” he started.
Then I said, “For He has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.”
“Praise the Lord!”
“Let’s jog. We’ll be faster, we’ll trample on the creeping creatures, scare others away and we rely on strength from God.”
“Praise the Lord!” So he chanted.
“Hallelujah!” I replied. This was our song as we jogged up the hill.

Our minds were no longer focused on the circumstances around us. The creatures were still creeping. The slope was still steep and difficult (not impossible) to climb. The birds were still flying. The eerie sounds were still in the background. The trees were still so tall, thick and numerous, making the forest look very dark. The damp smell of grasses that had not been warmed by sunshine still filled the air. But we had our minds elsewhere. We had our minds on the faithfulness of God and His Word. And we kept on giving Him praise.

We were enjoying our song, chuckling when I went off tune, when before us stood the white tower that represented the position of equator line. A new joy filled my heart. The sight was beautiful. It stood on the map of the world and it was placed exactly where the equator crossed Sao Tome. We held our breaths for a while, admiring the combined landscape and seascape on the background of the equator line. We also appreciated the efforts of those who took out time to make a shade by the equator line for tourists like ourselves.

“We made it!” I shouted hoping the whole world would hear me. If my husband had not been holding me, I would have done a somersault (I think!).
“Thank You God!” he said, making me remember how we almost missed the opportunity of seeing this sight.
“Thank You Father,” I said. “I am so glad we made it.”
We took a couple of pictures then began our walk back. We were not afraid because we were so sure of the presence of God with us. We had time to appreciate the work of God in the forest, the special creatures and lovely birds. Then when we got to that point where we almost turned back, my husband said, “We almost turned back here. We did not know what beauty, joy, and fulfillment lay ahead of us. If we did not insist on going on and depending on God, we would never have made it. Doesn’t it remind you of your walk as a Christian?”

He was right. One thing I have realized is the Christian walk is a journey that needs faith. My Christian walk has not been perfect. And the worst times have been when I say “I have to turn back now. I know where I am coming from but I don’t know where God is taking me to. Where I am coming from was not too bad. The current circumstances around me cannot let me go on. I was not cut out to be a Christian.” Maybe Saint Paul would have spanked me but he surely would have said “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:13,14].

I have often mocked the Israelites who wanted to go back to Egypt because of the temporary setbacks they faced on their way to the Promised Land. Now I see how I was no different from them. I have often sworn that I could never have acted like Lot’s wife who looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah because she was missing the life she was used to and was not sure of where she was going to. But when I reflect on my Christian walk, I realize many times I have looked back, no, turned back, and walked to where I was coming from ignoring the promised land He is taking me to. This was because I listened to the deceitful voice that told me I could not make it because of my past, that I am not worthy of the Promised Land, and I cannot overcome the setbacks. But I thank God that I have learnt what it takes to remain focused.

I thank God for His Word. What I need in my Christian walk is His Word. His word reminds me of who I am in Christ Jesus. The word reminds me that I am a new creature and old things (even 1 second ago) have passed away. The word reminds me that I have the Holy Spirit residing in me to teach me all things and direct my path to where God wants me to be. The word reminds me that all I have to do is trust in God and give thanks to Him in everything. The word reminds me that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the word. Therefore I can overcome all setbacks. The word builds my faith for each passing moment. I cannot trade the salvation, peace, joy, love and reward from God in my walk and where I am going to because the past seems more comfortable.

Beloved child of God, where He is taking you to, eyes have not seen nor have ears heard. One thing I know for sure is He has great plans for you. Plans of good and not of evil. Plans to bring you to an expected end [Jeremiah 29:11]. If in your Christian walk you feel discouragement, doubt, fear, hopelessness, weariness or any suchlike emotions, you do not need to turn back. Where He is taking you to is surely, surely, better than where you are coming from. Take His Word, hold on to Him. The Christian walk may not be easy but it is worth it. And He is faithful that promised, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you” [Isaiah 43:2].