Impressions and appearances

The place was really stuffy. I never really cared much about places like these. Kengeles Nairobi West. There must have been a football match that everyone just had to watch. I feel nothing about football. Life has a funny way of throwing us out of our comfort zones to teach us things. I love my comfort zones. They feel safe from all harm. The problem many people (except ourselves of course) have with comfort zones is that we hardly learn anything there. When we do not learn we do not grow. When we do not grow we find it difficult to cope with change and generally struggle with life as it comes. Anyway, I digress.

Kengeles was just outside my comfort zone. That particular time, with the match and all made it even worse. There was so much noise, Mututho laws did not exist at the time. It is not really the poshness of the place that bothers me. The have good food and really nice full serviettes unlike some places. Maybe it is with the impressions I have in my head about the kind of people who go to such places. I could hardly hear myself think. The patrons ranged from rich, spoilt brats, children of prominent Kenyans who would struggle with the concept of a quiet weekend at home on one extreme and wannabes who for some reason think it matters who they are seen with and where they are seen on the other. Then all manner of permutations thereof in between. From yuppies who have too much money to spend to confused beings who think knowing the entire Barcelona or Man U lineup somehow qualifies you into a clique of Kenyans that are a cut above the rest. From those who drove themselves there to those who walked or took a matatu to get there. From those who ‘drink responsibly’ to those who will wake up then next day with no idea how they got home remembering only tidbits of the events of the previous night. I just felt completely out of place.

I think it was rather ambitious to think that I could get a seat in there so settled to just stand in front of the big screen, actually I think it was just a huge projection on the wall of the football match. Once in a while someone would tap me on the back and gently gesture that the couldn’t see through me and that it would be better if I moved. So I would move to inconvenience others. I struggled to get the attention of the busy waiters to see if any of them could serve me those grossly overpriced sodas but none seemed to notice me. It was as though even to them I was out of place. I started to wonder whether there was some code or password that ‘members’ used to get their attention.

I looked at the time. It was hard to believe that I had been there only seven minutes. Time hardly moves when you are busy judging people and being uncomfortable. I thought of calling Julius who had suggested we meet there and tell him that I will wait outside at the parking lot. It was clear that the really important meeting we were going to have could not possibly happen there. It was even likely that he was already there somewhere. I walked around the place trying to look ‘with it’. Once in a while I would be startled into a near-panic by shouts as the crowds in the place tried to synchronise their excitement with that of the crowds on the screen. After making sure that Julius was not inside the place, I started making my way out. The anticipation of being out of the place as I looked at the exit somehow hastened my steps almost like a fish at the prospect of water. I knew that once I got out of there, my comfort zone wasn’t far.

Standing out there was almost heavenly. The air was fresh, the noise was significantly lower and I could now think. I took out my cellphone and started to find Julius in the phonebook to tell him to just buzz me when he got there as I would be sitting in the car round the back of the place since there was no place to sit. Just before I dialled, some big group vacated their table. I dashed an sat down so fast you’d have thought I was playing musical chairs.

It wasn’t really a table. It was more like a wooden barrel with stools around it. I must have looked silly rushing to sit there since there was really no competition. It seemed like a waiting place for those wanting to find a place to sit inside where they could see the match better. Anyway, since I felt nothing about the match, I was quite happy to sit there. I looked at the time again and it was five minutes since the last time I looked. Why wasn’t time moving?

For those of you who do not know Kengeles Nairobi West, it is actually part of the forecourt of a petrol station. So I was now watching people drive in to fuel, watch some get into arguments with the attendants. These petrol pump attendants don’t seem to realise how far more important we motorists are than they are. Hmmm… It seemed more fun to sit out there judging motorists than it was to watch the match inside. Some of the motorists would even look at me and also judge me. I suppose it was only fair. I almost caught a waiter but he brushed me aside and promised to return, obviously adding a sprite to the list of drinks he had just memorised from the next table would make him forget everything. I couldn’t even get him to clear my table on his way back in. I looked at the time again.

Then it hit me, not a car, silly, but it may as well have been. I had been sitting for eight minutes at my table, all alone, trying to order a sprite. All this time, the table was full of empty beer bottles left there by the group that had been there last. No wonder the motorists were looking at me funny. This realisation struck me so hard that I actually stood up. What was I going to do? Twelve or so cars had passed and all the occupants had seen me sitting there like a complete drunkard. How was I going to explain to all of them that I was not the one who had emptied all those beer bottles? Who were they going to tell? Did any of them come to our church where my wife and I were serving as elders at the time? To this day, I don’t remember even whether Julius eventually turned up or not, leave alone the important things we were meeting to discuss.

We all want to be viewed positively, in good light. It seems to be an inbuilt aspect of our lives. We generally gravitate effortlessly towards people and circumstances that make us feel good about ourselves and that we view positively. Companies and individuals spend lots of time money and energy to project a positive image of themselves. Many times, the image we project and the impressions we like to give are not real.

This year I have been praying for two things about impressions and appearances. One, that I would see God as He truly is and two, that I may see myself as He sees me. A lot of our problems stem from not having these two in place.

Tuendelee kuongea.


When you say nothing at all – Allison Krauss

This is a relevant song especially given that it is our anniversary week. We received very many congratulations messages on text, facebook, twitter and phone calls. Thanks to all of you.

This song talks of the amazing connection two people who love each other can have. I wish to dedicate this to all lovers everywhere today. So while we are still in the lovey-dovey mood, enjoy!

See you Monday

Tuendelee kuongea

5 things I have learned about marriage

Tomorrow, 21st of June 2011, will be our 14th anniversary. So it is only appropriate that I share my thoughts about marriage. I have learned that while I rejoice about this particular event, I should not congratulate myself too much. There are many who have focused more on their marriages and yet they have failed. It is actually an amazing paradox. Usually it is the most likely to succeed in your mind that end up failing and vice versa. One of my recent posts alluded to that.

There are many many lessons I have learned in the past fourteen years and I believe there are many many more yet to learn. But I have picked my five and at the end I will copy and paste my wife’s exactly the way she put them. Her’s are not five and I have not changed any of them. I wanted to say it exactly as she said it. Our marriage has had very many exciting times, fun times, broke times, chummed times, happy times, sad times, fights, quarrels, interesting times and some not so interesting ones. I would not be able to do it justice in one post. So here are five things i have learned over the years.

1. Premarital counselling can be misleading

A newly wedded couple is a bit like a baby. Nobody can look a new mother in the eye and tell her how ugly they think their baby is. All babies are cute and so beautiful. We were all once beautiful babies! Nobody tells a couple how ugly and mismatched they look. I have been mc at several weddings and I have yet to see one of the people giving speeches say how he/she thinks that this couple are in for a rough time and that they will be lucky to pass the three-year mark. I only know of one couple who were advised to break up during their pre-marital counselling class since they didn’t look like they would survive marriage to each other. And even that advice was wrong since that couple have been married for more than 40 years now. I believe that since premarital counselling classes are designed to prepare young couples for real life, they should have at least the following scenarios.
They should be shown a couple in the middle of a real life disagreement, they should meet someone who has been widowed, divorced or separated and listen to them. The good things couples have been told to expect should be tempered with a true reality check. Two weeks after we got married, we met a friend of ours, a lady who was going through a very rough time in her marriage. She did not seem to share the enthusiasm of all our other friends when we told her we were newly married. She just looked at us and said

“marriage is good for you, it will wake you up and give him a chance to grow up”

she said this snearing and almost poking me in the head as she said it. We were shocked and wrote her off as a jealous and negative person. A few years later, we realised she was right.

2. Never go into marriage with an exit clause in mind

Many couples go into marriage thinking

“if he does this, that’s it, if she fails to do this, kwisha!”

If you go in with this mind-set, chances are you will not stay together for long. Marriage does not have a probation period. Go into it with forever in mind. No matter what. All those issues of sijui what is non-negotiable nini nini, should be dealt with before you get married. Those are the things dating and courting should be dealing with. Marriage is for keeps. For better for worse etc is real, it is not a joke or cliche thing we say in our vows. Dating and courtship is not for partying and engaging in sexual experimentation, it is for learning about your potential spouse, to learn about their values, their likes and dislikes and for truly deciding whether this is someone you want to spend the rest of your life with.

3. Hii kitu haina mwalimu

This thing has no teacher. What I have tried and it worked in my marriage, you cannot take and try it in yours and expect it to work the same way. Our people, the wakamba say ‘Vayī mūsyi waakawaa ta ūngi’. No home is built like the other. What may seem to me like building for my marriage will be like destroying for another. True, it has the same syllabus; in-laws (and out-laws), finances, goals, parenting, communication, sex, oneness, conflicts etc. But the situations we find ourselves in are so different in terms of effect, scope and magnitude that there are no blanket solutions or panacea-type recommendations that will work for all marriages. There are no perfect people therefore there cannot be any perfect marriages. I have seen or heard of many marriages breaking but there are three for me that when I heard they broke, foundations in my life were shaken. These marriages were never supposed to break. I had made no provision, in my mind for even the remotest probability that those marriages would end. Have you ever held something to be true in your life and built so many others dependent on that remaining true, then it is proved to be untrue? Aiii, my head was spinning for a long time. I started doubting myself and wondering what else I could have falsely held to be true. Foundations were shaken. If those three marriages could break then none of ours are safe. Ni kubaya. Hii kitu haina mwalimu.

4. Selfishness is a big enemy of marriage

This is stupidly obvious and should not even be mentioned. Selfishness will kill any relationship not just marriage. Despite how obvious it is, I am listing it here because of how easy it is to forget. Most discord in marriage, I believe, stems from this sole reason. I think this is why God chose to use the picture of marriage to symbolise the relationship between Christ and the Church. For Christ to give His life in order to present the church blameless and holy before God the Father, this has to be the most selfless act ever. As spouses, dying to self for the benefit of the other is marriage’s highest calling. Marriage, and parenting, I dare add, are impossible without dealing with one’s selfishness. Selfishness is the one thing you have when you accuse your spouse of having it. (This is deep, read it again!)

5. It is not good for man to be alone

If you have read the first few chapters of Genesis then you know that these are not my words. God was the first one to think these words. They are still true. We were made for companionship and no man is an island. A lot of things we enjoy, we enjoy by sharing. No matter how our selfish mind tries to convince us that we can enjoy something alone, deep inside we know, that life is for sharing. It is relationships that make our lives worth living. We may want to be alone once in a while, but no one wants to live alone forever. Personally, I would dread to grow old alone.

So there, my 5 things I have learned.

Sweetie, as I think about the things we have gone through in our fourteen years of marriage, especially in the last year, triggered mostly by the closest bereavement we have both ever experienced, I cannot think if anyone else (except of course, Halle Berry, and maybe Janet Jackson – long running family joke) I would rather be married to. I love you.

The next words, until tuendelee kuongea are from my wife Carol.

1. Marriage isn’t fireproof, sometimes you get burnt. It’s a bed of roses but with many thorns.
2. Communication is very vital key in marriage, speaking each other’s language of love.
3. Watch out for parasites, they can destroy your marriage.
4. The grass may always seem greener on the other side but it’s always best to work on what you have.
5. Never take each other for granted, always try to spruce up your marriage to reignite the spark.
6. It’s important to be friends in a marriage, do stuff together, enjoy each other’s company.
7. Friends may try to give you solutions and advice but that will only act as a stepping ground to help you from sinking. At the end of the day the marriage is between two people.
8. Studying one another again and praying for one another helps.
9. There is no one who is a guru in marriage, we all make mistakes but the important thing is to learn from those mistakes.
10. What may work in one marriage may not work in yours. Every marriage is unique in it’s own way.
11. Even when it may seem like the end of the world (marriage) God can always turn things around and bring healing.
12. Forgiveness is crucial, forgiving one another and forgiving yourself as well and not keeping a record of wrongs.

Tuendelee kuongea

5 things I have learned about problems are very interesting. I have been thinking about problems. One man’s problem is another man’s opportunity. What is a problem today, tomorrow we will hear you thanking God for it. Someone once said that problems are the salt with which life is eaten. I have put here a list of things I have been learning about problems. They are in no particular order, probably as a reflection of the chaotic way problems come to us sometimes.

1. Solving problems makes us stronger

There is a story about how some tribes in South America prepare a tree to be used as the main shaft in a ship. It is said that the other trees around it are cut down. Then the tree is exposed to high speed winds. By harvest time, this tree ends up being stronger than all the other trees. If you are that tree, as you grow up you would probably complain and feel as though your owner/grower does not care about you. But in the end, being chosen as the strongest tree around must make you proud.

The problems we solve today will prepare us for the problems that we will face tomorrow. Some of the things we do easily, sometimes without even thinking about it, in a state of unconscious competence, were not easy to do in the beginning. Practice does make perfect.

2. A problem identified is a problem half solved

You may have heard this said several times. It may not feel so at the time you identify your problem but we all want to know what we are facing in order to plan how we are going to deal with it. We want to know the size of the animal we are dealing with so that we can measure ourselves up against it to see if we have the resources required to adequately fight it. In so doing we can see if we will need help outside of ourselves or if we have what it takes on our own. The danger here is to get into ‘analysis paralysis’, where we spend so much time, energy and other resources studying, talking about, doing research, evaluating approaches that we do not have time or resources to deal with the problem. Identifying a problem also enables us to match a solution to it. Some problems are temporary and will be solved even without our intervention. Sometimes all we need to do is wait. It is a bit like the difference between a bacterial and a viral infection. With a bacterial infection, we just take antibiotics to help our body to fight it. In the case of a viral infection however, we only deal with the symptoms like coughing, vomiting etc and just wait it out. Some problems are imagined. We think there is a problem but there really is none. I have been pleasantly surprised to find this to be the case in some relationships, a little communication and voila! problem solved.

3. It is not a problem if it does not bug anyone enough to want to solve it

If we consider point A to be the place we are at and point B to be the place we want to be, it will take several actions steps to move from point A to B. If you are content with being in point A and see no need of making any effort to move from there, you will remain there until you do something. Now this may sound painfully obvious, but it is not necessarily as obvious in practice. We need to be uncomfortable enough or disgusted enough of dissatisfied enough with point A to want to move away from it. We also need to be attracted enough to point B to want to go there. This is the challenge of motivation. I like all manner of ‘light-bulb’ jokes but one of my favorites is the one about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light-bulb. Answer: only one, but the light-bulb has to be willing to change.

Sometimes we like to complain about our problems not because we want them solved but because it gives us some sort of excuse for where we are. Some of us would be completely lost if all the problems we complain about were to be suddenly solved. Our problems have become such a part of our identity that deep inside, we do not want them solved. In John 5:6 Jesus asked a guy who had been sick for 38 years if he wanted to be healed. I mean, duh! Not really. Jesus was not asking a stupid question. There are many people today who do not want to be healed. “They do not want to receive divine help in their problems. They do not want to be helped out of their weakness. They love their weakness, their helplessness. They are always craving the attention of others through their helplessness. They sometimes flee assuming responsibility for their own lives. I have even seen people turn their backs on a way of deliverance they knew would work because they did not want to be healed.” (Ray Stedman)

4. All of us have problems

Sometimes it takes sharing our problems with others to realize how big or small our problems are. A lot of us are spoilt either by our parents in their bringing us up, or by ourselves as we have grown and continue to take responsibility for our lives. When I spend time talking to various people in the casualty section of Kenyatta National Hospital or in the wards, it suddenly does not feel so bad that my DsTV is disconnected or that I have only two pairs of shoes. Even as we speak there is someone on their knees pleading to God to give them the chance that you have now. Think about it. It is only a matter of perspective.

A lot of us think that rich people do not have problems. It seems to us that if we were Bill Gates or Chris Kirubi then we would have no problems at all. I don’t think so. I think we would have a whole new league of problems. The rich also cry.

5. If you take too long to solve a problem, the solution can become a bit of a problem

There was a time our son locked himself in our bathroom. We had one of those door-knob kind of doors that once locked, you could only unlock from the inside. Trying to explain to a three year old how to unlock such a door, hardly being able to reach the door knob proved to be quite a challenge. There were few options. Of course waiting for him to starve and become thin enough to slide him out under the door, though considered, was not a good option. I don’t even think I actually suggested it. But you know there many things that we just think and never really say out aloud. Anyway, we got a guy who came and basically removed the door knob. Not neatly enough to be able to put it back though. We had to get a new one. The door knob, not the guy.

Getting a new door knob took a while. Actually a few weeks. We actually got used to putting our hands through the big gaping hole in the door to get into the bathroom. When we finally got the knob replaced, we suffered a lot of pain several times as we knocked our knuckles on the door knob. I actually thought of removing it again, another idea that, though thought of, was not suggested or shared out aloud.

How do you identify, deal with or solve your problems?

Tuendelee kuongea

Blessed Be The Name – Tree63

This has been a difficult week. I know of at least four families that have been bereaved including my close friend Arthur Karobia whose wife Wangui we are burying today. I want to dedicate this song to these families. There are times that are hard to praise the Lord as you go through them. This song challenges us to praise His name in good and bad times.

See you Monday.

Tuendelee kuongea

Do I really want to be rich?

There are times I hate the effect I see money having on me. We all want to be seen as people who are not overly money minded and to give the impression that we have a healthy view of money. We hardly want it to seem like the only motivator in our lives but we also do not want to seem street foolish, greedy, gullible and perpetually money-minded. This is a balance I struggle with almost on a daily basis. In my work, I want to pursue excellence and to feel that I am not taking advantage of my clients while also ensuring that bills get paid and that I am also not taken undue advantage of. Yet whether I like it or not not, money really seems to be what makes the world go round. Many of us find ourselves in a continuous rat race, chasing money and running away from those who seem to want ours.

The media seems to be to blame in all this. Actually the media gets blamed for everything. In fact of late I have really been wondering what it is that we as a society want the media to do. We seem to blame them every time. We accuse them of driving our agenda the wrong way by focusing on non-issues and ignoring really important items regarding them as not ‘news-worthy’. Of late it is becoming clear to me, that in the same way people say we get the leaders we deserve, we also get the media we deserve. All the smut in what we call the ‘gutter-press’ many of us want to read. The tabloids have buyers and though we don’t want to admit it, we love gossip, we want to know all the stuff there, we but it and devour it. If there were no customers for it, it would not be in the market. have always been wary of the perception our society has of what has come to be known as the Kenyan celeb. A lot of it revolves around money. Money makes you a celeb. The story about Samuel Wanjiru for example is staying in the news because of the money aspect. Seeing men and women somehow want to include themselves in the equation and pretending it’s not about the money is rather fascinating. This story and others like it, like that of the Kirima family fascinates us and we will read anything we see in the papers about it. A couple of weeks ago I watched a K24 interview of Dr. Frank Njenga talking to Jeff Koinange about the whole Wanjiru saga. He said that money has a very strong effect on us. If major changes occur in the amount of money we have, whether a big sudden increase or decrease, we will struggle to cope with it. A lot of us seem to think that we can handle a lot of money but really, few of us can. It does not seem to be an easy thing.

I think many of us seem to know how to handle being broke more than being quite ‘chummed’. It seems easier to explain having no money than having more than you have ever imagined. Many really ‘chummed’ Christians harbour a subtle sense of guilt when they purchase some things that would make then stand out as wealthy. In fact many do not want to be referred to as rich. So we find ourselves in a very interesting scenario. We work hard, pray hard to make a lot of money, then feel either guilty when we have a lot of it. There are times in our minds that being rich is associated with being a crook. I admit that sometimes I pray not because I believe that God will answer my prayer but because I feel it is what is required of me as a believer. I pray to fulfil my duty and also to ensure that I am referred once in a while as a prayerful person. But deep in my heart of hearts, I really do not believe that God will do or provide some of the things I pray for. Which is rather sad, not to mention, truth be told, actually stupid.

I have sometimes also wondered about my attitude to ‘chummed’ folk. Whenever I am around someone I perceive as being extremely wealthy, I usually am quite confused about how to behave. I struggle between keeping the money issue aside completely and assuming that I am talking to a mere mortal like me on one extreme, and downright begging for some on the other.

I have a small car. Once on Kenyatta Avenue in traffic, I was next to this huge Range Rover waiting for the lights to turn green. It seemed to be taking forever for them to change. I looked at the driver and felt awkward as our eyes met. In my mind I felt him looking down on me and seemed to be asking if that is all I could manage as a means of transport. He stroked his hair, not because it needed stroking, but it seemed the only way he could let me see his rolex. I felt him ask what hurry I was in yet even if the lights were to change I could not keep up with him. He just looked so important and I was a nobody. By the time the lights changed, I hated him and all people like him. Idiots who don’t seem to know that a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions. Then God spoke.

Has God ever spoken to you? My goodness. I call it a Job 38 moment. Do yourself a favour on day and read Job 38 – 41. If you have the audio version the better. Verse 3 of Job 38 begins thus,

Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

When God starts a conversation like that, you better listen.

God invited me to look at the life of the ‘stupid Range Rover guy’. Many people who own Range Rovers you will find, have more than one car. It is not their only car. They most likely will have a house as well if not several. They will have a career or business that can sustain the lifestyle they have chosen. I am not talking about wanna-be’s here. I am talking about people whose net worth is not fake and/or in doubt. Anyway, God went on and on about what percentage of that guy’s wealth that Range Rover is and that it probably is far far less than my small car (which I am still paying for) is of mine. I was reminded of the story of the poor widow who gave coins compared to the rich guys who gave a lot of money showing off during the time of offering. God does not look at what you give, he looks at what you hold back and truly sees where your heart is.

In closing He asked, “Who is the idiot now?”

Let’s just say, I had a quiet drive home that evening.

What is your attitude toward the rich? Do you want to be rich? Has God ever spoken to you in a way you couldn’t doubt it was Him?

Tuendelee kuongea.

PS: Today I would like to remember my good friend Arthur Karobia and mourn with him the passing of his wife Wangui on Friday. May he and his three young boys find true comfort in the Lord.

If I Stand – Rich Mullins

This is a truly inspiring song by a great man Rich Mullins (October 21, 1955 – September 19, 1997). It is sad that such a great musician died so young. His songs were so deep. Reminds me a lot of Keith Green.


See you Monday

Tuendelee kuongea

The lyrics…

If I Stand – Rich Mullins

There’s more that rises in the morning
Than the sun
And more that shines in the night
Than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here
That keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger
Than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies
Than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean
Than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer
Than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s
When her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things


And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home