The evolution of impunity, from Eden to “Utado?”

It is a bit silly to start a post by talking of my next post, but I will do it anyway. There is a song by Casting Crowns that I will post this Friday. It is called Slow Fade. It talked about how the slide towards turning your back fully against God is not an event but a long process that begins with small steps.

This last week I had a brief chance to hear Bishop Rev. David Oginde talk about how sometimes believers take a step by step walk from childlike innocence to Gaddafi-like, full-blown impunity. Basically, one does not suddenly wake up and find himself far from God. Pastor Oscar Muriu alluded to this once in a sermon when he talked about five red flags that David ignored and bridges he crossed in his path towards adultery and eventually murder.

These two respected christian leaders made me ponder about my own life and areas in which I may have slowly began the drift towards impunity. It is easy to look at others and judge, but I have desired to look instead at myself and ask myself hard questions in regard to my walk with the Lord. So what are these stages that we go through before we find ourselves far from God and into the land of impunity where we simply ask those we hurt, Utado? (what are you going to do about my behaviour?)

1. Innocence of the garden of Eden

This is the blissful place that the Lord has created us in. We love the Lord and are quick to ask for His forgiveness whenever our very sharp and active conscience alerts us of the slight possibility that we have done something that does not please God. We are ‘naked and unashamed’. We can be rebuked by anyone and our gut response is to fall to our knees and ask the Lord to forgive us without any questions or attempts to justify the sin we have been rebuked of. This is the child-like innocence. The first love we keep asking God to take us back to. As believers many of us like to give the impression that this is where we are. But we cannot lie to ourselves. We know when we have moved away. It shows in our attitudes, our demeanour towards the things of God and in our day to day behaviour. This place is not our default setting. We have to actively endeavour to stay here. We cannot just sit around and do nothing as far as ‘working out our salvation’ is concerned and expect to remain here. Getting and remaining here requires daily deliberate choice on a consistent basis.

2. Oops!

At this stage our conscience is extremely sensitive. We will know immediately when we do something wrong. We lie and catch ourselves almost mid-sentence and are quick to apologise and seek forgiveness and even to make amends quickly. This is like when we are out of home but still in the neighbourhood. You feel the change in weather but you know home is not far. We are still naked but we feel ashamed when caught ‘with our pants down’ pun intended. ST this stage you have committed a first offence. You can even be seen to be uncomfortable with being here. People never stay at this stage, they will normally either go back to stage one or proceed to stage three.

3. Ugingo

I’m not sure whether this is more populated than stage four but I am certain more people live here than in stage one and two. You still have a conscience but it is not as sharp. You are not a first offender, but maybe you have become ‘hooked’ on grace. You sort of realise that without God’s grace you cannot go back and stay in stage one. You get away with it so many times that you begin to think that there really are no consequences to deal with for your choices. You tend to become gentle with yourself and allow yourself to believe that God will surely understand and forgive you when you explain if you need to. You also see several familiar faces and begin to feel rather comfortable seeing that you are not alone at this stage. People who find themselves and each other here do not judge. They try to mind their own business and dare not rebuke each other. It is a kind of ‘glass houses’ situation.

4. Migingo

At this stage your conscience is beginning to tire. It is ‘seared’ to use a biblical term. You know what you are doing is wrong but you are tired of hearing your conscience or other people tell you that it is. Accountability is at its lowest. Things of God barely interest you and you honestly do not care anymore. You advise many people especially young people who are trying to love right that you’ve been there, done that, bought the tshirt and traded it in. You tell them that you will be there when they finally end up there with you. Sin is habitual at this stage. It doesn’t bug you or even strike you as sin anymore. Guilt doesn’t bug you as it used to before. It is not even urgent to repent or confess it. Some people even try to justify being in this stage citing some warped ‘spiritual awakening’. After all, God surely did not mean it when he said …

5. Utado?

Your conscience is now officially dead. No pulse. Who is God? Isn’t that me? You are master of your own destiny. You have managed to convince yourself that even God would behave like this in your shoes. You now not only do not care about seeing injustice but you actually perpetrate injustices of your own. You are God’s gift to this world. You wonder how come those who come to seek your advice on success do not seem to recognise you enough and how great the privilege of your audience should strike them to be. You can shout back with arrogance to your victims. “Mtado?”

Uko stage gani? Which stage are you?

Tuendelee kuongea

David Sanborn – The Dream

Have you ever tried to find an instrumental song on the Internet that you did not know the title of? It is not easy. I could only remember how it sounds! With difficulty I was finally able to remember the name of the musician. There was a time I was so hooked to this song. I love the sax. It is able to communicate emotions that are hard to put in words. I don’t know about you but I often wonder how they name these songs. A better sounding version can be found here

See you Monday.

Tuendelee kuongea.

Who will be at your funeral?

There is a chapter in the book by Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People that starts with a description of a funeral service. Then Stephen (I love the fact that sometimes the author and I are on first-name terms) asks the reader to imagine that it is his own funeral. If you are like me and if you have read this book, chances are you did not pause as instructed and visualise it. We don’t like to think about death, not even our own. Today, I will try to envision five types of people who will attend my funeral. This is not a fun thing to do but it is a serious thing and provokes a lot of thought. We Africans don’t like to talk about dying. In fact already I am concerned about this week. Is it a premonition? Don’t think too much about it. If nothing happens to me and I write next week’s post, will it be a post-monition? Anyway, assuming one day I will have a funeral, here goes…

1. Family

This is the group I dare not joke about. My family is very important to me. These are my wife and two kids, my two brothers, their wives and kids, my two sisters, their husbands and kids, our parents. When you refer to ‘my people’, this is the group you are referring to. I’m glad to have all of them. Warts and all. These have seen me all my life, seen me go through good and bad times. God never gave us the option of choosing our family, and rightly so I think. We all belong to a family and no one should think they have more right to be in a family than the other. We cannot choose family, tribe, gender, colour or region where we will be born. So the majority of this group will not have a choice about attending. There are many funerals we will not have a choice as to whether we will attend or not. My only plea to them, coz I do not want to make threats or ridiculous requirements about what to do or not to do during the funeral, or whether to cremate, bury or whatever to do to my body so long as they confirm kabisa that I’m dead. My only plea to them, please don’t say this in any eulogy (why do some people say euology?) or testimony

“ni kwithiwa Ngai nuumweendie mbee wa undu tumwendete…”

Loosely translated this means “since God has loved him more than we love him…” I find this a very ridiculous thing to say at a funeral. It implies that the reason you are alive today is that God does not love you enough yet to call you to himself.

2. Extended family

The best way I can think of to define these people is this. Look above, all those people in the first group, their brothers, their sisters, their wives, children, parents and relatives. Of course now these will be hundreds. In our place, everyone is related to everyone. Usually this group end up giving testimonies that only the person being buried can get up and dispute. Their way of coping or handling this is to share something that connects them to me in this case. Something really deep I told them, some random good deed I initiated that changed their lives. Some principle I held on to, lived by and refused to ever compromise. Some humility that I showed despite my immense wealth and status in society (hey, it’s my funeral, I can dream). These people should also be given their chance to speak. They are my family’s support group and will be grieving too. In different ways but grieving nonetheless. Just don’t allow someone to say sijui I promised them that they can take any of my stuff when I die.

3. Friends from church and ministry

Since I have been involved in church and ministry for close to thirty years, from CU in secondary school till now, this could be a very large group I believe or hope. From my stint at AIC Ziwani in the 80s, Nairobi Baptist then Nairobi Chapel and its offspring churches, particularly Lifespring Chapel and now Mamlaka Hill Chapel. Or course during all these years, don’t exclude ABC Syombuku, my church in shags which has sort of all this time understood my ‘dual-citizenship’ in these ‘Nairobi’ churches. This group is my community of faith. Many of the people in this group are lifelong friends. Tumetoka mbali. For many, we have ended up in different parts of the world and I understand, life happens, people move on and live the lives the good Lord had for them. I once bumped into a guy who was my classmate in primary school. After greetings, he started listing to me all the classmates we had and who had kept contact and who ‘tupad’ him. Up to this point it was ok, but he started freaking me out when he went on about how ‘all of us’ had deserted him and just decided he meant nothing to us. In my mind I was like, “move on dude” that was primary school. Life happened. Get over it. There was no contract that I had to keep in touch with all my former classmates all through school. Ok now I realise he was just ranting. If he had made a few more steps, this guy could have invented Facebook. Silly guy would be a millionaire now. Anyway these are people I have grown up with spiritually and who we share values and lives with. My desire is that they would remember how awesome God has been in our lives and how far he has brought us all these years. I would like them to remember to be real to themselves and each other and not to treat church like some club to belong to. That they would not forget that we are saved by grace. That we cannot earn or deserve the salvation God has freely given us.

4. Friends from business and work

I have been in business and work for close to twenty years. In this time I have met and made many great friends. A lot of these people will belong to the third group as well. We have shared different experiences in the business and work world. I’m hoping these will remember the times we shared about my desire for excellence, that my work matters to God and that I endeavoured to testify with my work, that software is hard to write, computers are difficult gadgets and deadlines are hard to meet but I always did my best. This group will move on very quickly, don’t worry guys, I will understand. Business is business.

5. Na kadhalika

This is a net supposed to trap all the rest who did not fit into any of the above groups. From my kinyozi who cut my hair for close to ten years and who I fired coz he got into the bad habit of tipping himself and keeping change every time he cut my hair, the random bike and car mechanics who have taught me so much about mobility solutions (big term I have coined to incorporate Vitz drivers), people we have been on the same flight with (ahem), watchmen who have opened many gates, numerous times for me, bank tellers – there is one who we have a deal, I come to the counter and say loudly “I would like to withdraw the nine million now please” and her response is supposed to be even louder “so we leave the balance at 89 million?” and I ask “huh?” and she repeats even louder.

To all these people I say, you may not think you mattered to me, but you did, every one of you, everyday.

What about you? How do you think your funeral will be?

Tuendelee kuongea

Life For Rent – Dido

Have you ever listened to a song and thought about the lyrics and gone “hmmm…”? This for me is one such song. It is hard to tell what the writer had in mind when they wrote it, but I think there is some interesting thought in place. I am torn between completely agreeing and completely disagreeing. I disagree because it is true that our lives are for rent by default and are never truly ours to begin with. I mean this in a “This world is not my home…” kind of way. But I also agree in the sense that unless we own our lives, seize the day, eat life with a big spoon, we never really live…

What do you think? See you Monday.

Tuendelee kuongea

Church, really?

There was a time I went through what I would call crazy personal conflict about how I felt in relation to the church. Something seemed to have disconnected between my life as a Christian on one hand and my ‘church’ life. During this time I even thought of maybe taking a break from church, a sort of ‘strategic retreat’ to evaluate this disconnection. I was overwhelmed by a gentle voice in my heart that soon became a nagging loud line “I love Jesus, but I hate the church”. At some point I thought “hmmm… That would be a great title for a book”. It turns out, someone already had written a book with the exact same title. There is even a website. Aiii.

So what was going on? What is it that was making me uncomfortable after such a long time of church involvement? This situation has not changed much even now. Questions abound in my mind about whether what we now call church is what the Lord had in mind in the beginning. I raise these questions not out of a self-righteous attitude. It is more of a “guys, look what we are becoming…” sort of stand point.

1. The church and money

In the last few weeks, there was a ‘wikileaks’ of pictures of the home of one of the pastors of a certain megachurch (where did this word even come from?) in Nairobi. This home is palatial, with state of the art lounges and grounds. At first you get so impressed and amazed. Then when you are told who it belongs to, ok at least it happened to me, I felt the same way I feel when I see a deadly car with all the ‘madoidos’, then realise it is a government vehicle. You are glad to see it yes, but you just feel that it is in the hands of someone who would probably not have it if they focused on their ‘core business’, mandate and/or calling. It just gives you the feeling of, aiii, where did all this money come from? The same way the church gets money from one source, it’s members, the government gets money from one source, it’s subjects. Both are expected to spend this money in a manner that is transparent and in line with good stewardship. You keep insisting that I plant a seed, are you the right/only soil? Some churches do not have an elders’ court or oversight board to hold the senior pastors accountable but even many of those who do, seem to only have such boards as rubber-stamps to hoodwink the congregations into believing they being held accountable. If we are to be Christlike in our relationship to money as church leaders, then my Pastor should be able to tell me sincerely and truthfully “Danzo, imitate me as I imitate Christ…” without any shame. This Christ had no place to lay his head, used a borrowed colt, boat and even grave, lived humbly and being in very nature God did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped.

2. The church and leadership

Rick Warren, I love this guy, recently tweeted “If you have to put “Apostle” on your business card, you likely arent one”. Kenya seems to be getting too many “Apostles”. I know that a pastor needs to have a sense of a career path of sorts, but who determines these titles? It just seems as though we are taking “from one degree of glory to another” too literally. Others have allowed themselves to think that their ‘popularity’ on the pulpit can become a platform for even going for national leadership. For others ‘servant leadership’ is more of a political buzzword yet they want to be treated like royalty. Again, let’s look at Christ, he was not trying to compete with Caesar. He was already King of kings and did not find it necessary to prove it. One of the things I have loved about the Nairobi Chapel and its sister/daughter churches like Karura Community, Mamlaka Hill, Lifespring, Mavuno etc. is the deliberate leadership development programmes embedded in their vision and mission. The churches have developed many phenomenal leaders in this way. Success without successors is failure.

3. The church and ministry

One of the areas of ministry I seem to have ‘beef’ with of late is music. I love good music. Kenyan gospel music has come a long way. But it worries me to think that this long journey is not achieving it’s purpose. The idea was not for gospel music to be so catchy that there is no difference between it and ‘secular’ music was it? Has gospel music been rendered so irreverent that it can be played and danced to in bars and pubs and have no impact at all? Don’t get me wrong, I would rather dance to Kuna Dawa, Tobina and even Sudu than Busta Rhymes. But what is my motivation? I know this is where I will be referred to as a dinosaur but can we please sing songs that make sense? What happened to the hymns? Can we praise God respectfully. He is still God. Can we worship him without suggestively gyrating our hips towards each other. What’s next, gospel strip clubs? Yes I have heard of decaffeinated coffee, non-alcoholic wine, but we cannot and should not ‘de-Christ’ our music or ministry. No we should not ‘market’ our church and ministry. We should preach Christ and leave the results to God. The more is not the merrier all the time. I could go on but I think you get the point.

4. The church and prayer

There is no shortcut to prayer. We cannot have a discussion about prayer or share prayer requests and think we have prayed. We have not prayed until we have prayed. Now Jesus example of starting very early makes sense to me. I do not understand keshas though. I also do not believe that repeating my prayer loudly several times makes it more effective. Nor does it help to pray in a manner that is strange. I am not more spiritual when I pray like I am shivering or on the verge of an epileptic feat. Decorum and personal discipline should not be sacrificed at the altar of ‘as the Spirit leads’. So many people have said this that I actually cannot say without doubt who this quote originally came from,

“Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance, but taking hold of God’s willingness.”

5. The church and grace

There is a book by Philip Yancey called “What’s so amazing about Grace”. I love it.
We have been saved by grace through faith. This is a statement whose depth eludes many. Grace is not preached enough in my opinion. There is too much emphasis on works and doing stuff as a christian. Sometimes this confuses one into thinking they can earn or deserve the salvation we have. Grace is the undeserved, unmerited favour of God.

1. Justice – Getting what you deserve
2. Mercy – Not getting what you deserve, usually punishment
3. Grace – Getting what you do not deserve

I’ll have number 3 please, with some salad and vinaigrette dressing please!

What do you not like about church?

Tuendelee kuongea

PS: This week marks six months since this blog began. How do you celebrate a half anniversary? Any ideas?

Morning after pill

Trust condoms have a TV ad campaign with a tag line “Life, bila regrets”. In it they show a number of situations where young people are so angry with themselves for having made wrong choices, presumably sex without a condom. Each of them is shouting “No, no, no…” as they consider events in their recent past. I do not want to hate on them or anything but there seems to be an underlying lie in this message. That sex is okay so long as you use a condom. Sex with anyone? They don’t quite say it but one gets that ka-impression. I believe there are times when there is a lot of regret even when condoms are involved. There is no condom for the conscience.

This week a friend of mine and I were discussing a quote from a mutual friend who said shame and pride are sisters. Both are a result of an unhealthy view of oneself. That brief discussion added a new dimension to this week’s post. I had planned to talk about regret. Regret is a morning after pill. So as we were discussing this, I thought “Hmmm… does regret have a sister too?”. I found her. Regret’s sister is Worry.
Regret and worry seem to be exactly the same and only differ in perspective. Regret looks at the past, worry looks at the future.

1. They are both concerns about circumstances

Regret is concern about past circumstances, worry is concern about future circumstances. We all have spent time looking back at past choices and wondered whether if we were given another chance, we would make the same choices again. Of course if your answer is yes to such a question, then that is not a regret. Regret sets in when we are sure that if we were to turn back the hands of time, there are things we would do differently or not at all. Sometimes we look at the past and in the present we worry that the past will repeat itself in the future.

2. They are both exaggerated

One of the blogs on my blogroll (I will let you figure out which one!) has the tag line “Relax. It’s Only Life”. I like that. Sometimes we take life too seriously. Things are often not as bad as they look. Someone once said failure is only failure when we fail to learn from it. So what if we lost a lot of money? If we had that money to lose in the first place then we can make it again. So what if you lost an opportunity? Another one is coming. So what if you’re pregnant with a child you did not want? That child you are carrying could be the most wonderful person you or many others will ever meet. So what if a relationship has gone to the dogs? Check yourself and see if there are things about you that you need to change and grow in to ensure future relationships are not messed up by the same things. So what if you can’t find a job? Thank God you can still keep looking. Today, someone somewhere is wishing they had the chance you have, the health you have, the family you have, the looks you have, the freedom you have etc. Instead of regretting, we should seek out lessons we have learn from mistakes of our past to ensure that we do make them again. The same thing applies to worrying about the future. The things you are worried about will probably never happen and even if they do, it will probably not be as bad as you think. As you worry if you will make it to the end of the month, someone somewhere is worrying if they will make to lunch time.

3. They are both futile, pointless and ineffective

Jesus could not have put it better in Matthew 6:27 when he asked “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” or add an inch to his height? There is absolutely no point. You cannot change the past. Focusing on your failures of the past does not make them disappear. In fact it seems to be the way to guarantee that they will happen again in the future. God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) I love the words of the old hymn

Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine
Help me today, show me the way one day at a time

4. They both paralyze

If there is anything worry or regret do best, it is to paralyze us and mess up the present. Regrets about the past and worries about the future both rob us the focus and presence of mind we need to be effective in the present. A long time ago I was walking in Ngara, (no, this is not another version of Walking in Memphis) and I saw a guy driving a sleek Mercedes Benz. Traffic slowed him down. Two street kids tapped the front wheel caps and stole them. He got out of his car and tried to catch them. As he did, two other street kids helped themselves to the rear ones. Sometimes life does that to us as well. Regret and worry can work as a team and completely mess up our lives.

5. They can both be treated by the same drug

Trust (no, not the condoms) seems to be able to deal with regret and her sister. Trusting God about the past and the future can eradicate regret and worry. When we trust that he has a plan for our lives that is unfolding daily, we look at how far he has brought us with joy and look to the future with confidence.

trust   [truhst] noun
1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2. confident expectation of something; hope.
3. confidence in the certainty of future payment for property or goods received; credit: to sell merchandise on trust.
4. a person on whom or thing on which one relies: God is my trust.
5. the condition of one to whom something has been entrusted.

Need I say more?

Tuendelee kuongea

Furi Furi Dance – D. K. & Jimmy Gait

This is an amazing video that has been making the rounds in the social media.

I love the energy, the fun, excellent choreography and a wonderful message. I like the ‘retro’ feel and can’t get over the guy dancing without involving his head at 0:27. I also like the ka-old ford classic car. It is like the whole song is a climax, maintaining the energy from beginning to end.

It basically is a song for a believer giving his ‘rife’ ‘furi’ to God.

I don’t have the lyrics yet. Enjoy.

see you Monday.

Tuendelee kuongea

God vs. Google

My last post and this one are from a discussion I had with two ladies last weekend about men, their relationships with their loved ones, themselves and with God. A question that arose was

“So Danzo, how do men keep themselves in check? Men who live by values, how do they ensure that they keep the values and the big picture on focus?”

Here was my attempt, trying not to sound like “Pastor Danzo”

Short answer : In my opinion most men are, by default, on a free-fall. Finding themselves in one crisis or another, many brought on them by themselves and a few by other men around them.

Long answer :

God knows how he created us and treats us with that in mind

One of my favourite verses in the Bible is James 1:5. I play around with it a lot. There are many words that could have been left out, but they were not. Every word in that verse adds more value and meaning to it. Look at the differences in the following options.

1. If any of you lacks wisdom, it will be given to you

We are by nature inclined towards looking for and achieving anything we feel we lack. No man finds it easy to admit not having wisdom. We hate looking stupid. We hate looking stupid so much we look stupid trying not to look stupid. Being in a class learning something is in itself evidence that we do not know it and that we are there to learn. One of the things I love about google is that you can go to it privately without looking or feeling foolish and ask what we need more information about. I think many of us would cringe if wikileaks revealed the things we have googled in our lifetime.

2. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you

God is the source of true wisdom (sorry google, you do not compare to God). We may look in many places for wisdom but it is only found in Him. What we find in other places may look like wisdom but earthly wisdom does not compare to Godly wisdom.

3. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously, and it will be given to you.

God gives, and he gives generously. The only thing that God doesn’t give generously is the punishment we truly deserve. Everything about God is generous, grand, abundant, great and amazing. When you think about the sand in the sea, the stars in the sky, the waters of the oceans, the air we breathe. There is nothing kidogo about the way God operates. God doesn’t sprinkle, He lavishes, he doesn’t hold back any good thing from those who love His ways. Ps. 84:11.

4. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all, and it will be given to you.

He gives to all. Not just to me or those like me. To all. There is no difference. He favours no one. He is no respecter of persons. When we go to Him, no one deserves or is worthy of wisdom more than the other. We are all the same in His eyes. The sun rises for everyone, including the idiot next to you, whether you like it or not.

5. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all, without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Can you imagine if google laughed at us before giving us answers? Someone once told me “kuuliza si ujinga, aulizaye ndiye mjinga”, loosely translated, there are no stupid questions, only stupid people. Before God we are naked. We cannot hide anything from him. We cannot pretend to know without him noticing it.

Tuendelee kuongea