The Heart of a Child

One of the joys of general cleaning (usually done annually by men) is stumbling across the things of old that draw a smile across your face. In carrying out this annual event I came across this article that I wrote towards the end of my 1st year in campus. Reading through it, I couldn’t help laugh at myself. As the old adage goes, a joy shared is a double delight. Hence I have chosen to present to you dear reader, this article in its original form. Although the temptation to edit it was enormous, I didn’t yield in. I hope that you will be able to thank God that I didn’t.

The Heart of a Child

If there is anything sweeter than a goodnight sleep, it is child hood memories. Those days when you were a kid and with no care in the world. You didn’t have to worry about what you wear, where your next meal is going to come from or where you are going to sleep tonight. All that was on your mind was play and more play. No more. No less. Of course there were bitter moments like being spanked for licking sugar, breaking a window, climbing too tall trees…but these were quickly forgotten. Those were the days. However, time moves on so very fast and before you know it, you are all grown up with lots of responsibilities and life issues in your hands. Before long you are worn out, tired and entangled in a web of life cares.
In spite of all these, God reveals to us instances that remind us of our childhood. Allow me to share one that He brought my way. My younger brother (currently in form 2) has a picture which was taken when he was 1 year old. You should see the kid in that picture. Chubby cheeks, a big smile that reveals 4 well-spaced teeth and so very curdly. I love that old picture. However, like so many people out there, he outgrew the picture. All that is left of it is a young man who needs some direction in life. But that is my instance. You have yours too. It may be the chuckle of a child or primary school kids at break. It may be the sight of a naughty little boy climbing a tree or children singing nursery rhymes. It may be children gathered at the feet of their grandmother listening to the “once upon a times”. At this point I am sure you are wondering where are we going with all this children business? Well, let’s take it home.
Somewhere along the hard-line of life, we long to be like a child again; to be young at heart and free from all the cares of this world. However, we do not know how. We do not know anyone who can give us this “rest” that we so much crave for. We become lonesome wanderers searching for our own true identities in all the wrong places…and people too. We hold out our right hands hoping that someone would catch it and pull us out of the pits that we dug ourselves in. That is the bad news but there is good news and a way out.
We have a Father who loves and cares for us very much. So much that He sent His one and only son to redeem us from the pits that our sinful nature dug. Because of these “pits”, we were at one time objects of wrath to the Father. However, by believing in the son, he gives us the right to become His children. Children who partake of His joy, mercy and love each and every day. This son is called Jesus. He calls out to all those who are weak and heavily laden and gives them rest. He is giving you a chance to relive those sweet childhood memories. Maybe you have taken this chance and are experiencing fullness of life in Him. Maybe you haven’t and your heart is craving to be like a child’s again. If I were you I would take this chance. God bless you my friend.

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Our Longing to Belong

Deep within each heart lies a seemingly insatiable yearning to be part of; to fit in the whole. To be accepted and loved for who we are. This is most reflected by the words so common in our home wall hangings.

“To love and be loved is the greatest source of joy”.

It was this deep longing that drove us to seek a circle of friends wherein we could relate and share our lives; the highs and lows, the parties and perils. This circle of friends was made even wider with the advancement of communication technology. At the click of a mouse, messages could be sent back and forth, miles and miles across the earth. It was hard to imagine that lonely would still be an adjective with which we would use to describe our current status then. In spite of this, many of us walked with our heads hung low and hearts sunk deep. We had been hurt, rejected and considered outcasts for reasons that were beyond us. Physical nature, level of education, and family names are just but the few that were deviously used to discriminate and to add to the scars of discrimination, incriminate. Questions that were the scourge of untold suffering revolved in our minds. “Am I that ugly? Am I not cool enough? Where did I go wrong? What did I say? What did I not say? What did I do? What did I not do? Was it my dressing? Was the label archaic? The peak of meditating upon the answers to these questions, only the many tears on our pillows could tell; the many nights we cried ourselves to sleep wondering how our loved ones could be so cold. Soon we developed ways of building up defenses never to be hurt again. We became loners; not that we wanted to but we thought it was the only way to protect our fragile hearts. A friendly “hi” was treated with the greatest suspicion. Tasks that required teamwork were loathed and much of our academic advances were made on solitary effort.
In spite of all these, the longing to belong was still there. No matter how much we suppressed it, it didn’t die out. The little flame kept burning. Somehow it survived the massive torrents of lonely winds that we sent its way. It seemed to have a life of its own. It cried out for nurturing to blossom to its full nature… but no! Our fragile hearts wouldn’t allow it to glow again. We kept true to the old adage “once beaten, twice shy.” We had been down that rugged road. Memories of loneliness, pain, tears, and scars got while trudging upon it caused us to turn our backs on it. Yet the little flame called out. The gap within longed to be filled. The question was with what? With what were we supposed to fill it and be at rest. We had tried people. Family. They disappointed us. Friends. They deserted us. Lovers. They broke us. We had tried substances. Alcohol. It mocked us. Cigarettes. They punctured us. Drugs. They played tricks on us. We tried everything that our time and energy could allow us to get a hold of. Yet the emptiness prevailed. We searched for answers but all to no avail. We were either searching in the wrong places or wrong people. If ever these answers were presented to us, we deliberately became obtuse. We hung a veil over our faces and could not see the truth right under our noses. Our intellectual pride barred us from this truth. Too simple it seemed, not for achievers such as we. Our hearts hardened. We cannot recollect the exact moment or place but a solemn decision was made. From then henceforth, we devoted our time and energy to the things that seemed logical and real. Work and studies took over us. Climbing up the corporate ladder became our life ambition. Revising our resumes became an everyday thing. Our feet paced up and down institutions of higher learning. We sought the glory of earthly wisdom and nothing could stand in our way. Our treasure chests were filled with transcripts and honorary degrees, short-courses certificates and recommendations. Family photos, letters from friends of long ago and life-giving literatures became squatters in a foreign land. The Bible was not given much thought. Christianity was not an “option” we were ready to consider and if we did, it was kept at the periphery of our “focused” minds. We were successful. We were secure. Anything that threatened to disturb this deceptive security was quickly pushed away and buried deep in the crypt of callousness.

However, life has a way of bringing the high and lofty to their knees. Soon the dark cloud of vanity enfolded us taking away the little sunshine we had. There we stood heavily soaked in drops of loneliness. We dragged our feet inside our homes. We figured that maybe the antidote for this debilitating disease could be found within the family. We figured wrong. Tears brimming in our reddened eyes, we sought solace within the cold walls of our bedrooms. Amidst fits of rage, rage against God and man, we thumped our clenched fits against the walls. Finally, realizing that we were fighting a losing battle, we leaned, our backs against the inanimate foe and slid down amid torrents of tears and sobs. Once again we were back at the drawing board. Only this time, our defenses had been brought down. We lay there naked and vulnerable. We felt all wretched inside. The feeling of utter helplessness was too much to bear. At this moment of despair, we looked up and cried out to God whom we believed He doesn’t exist and if He did, He cared less about man’s affairs; the details of our lives. A conviction to open His Holy Book arose within us. We rose up with it and reached for the book shelf. Therein, lay the Bible that had not been opened in recent history. The dust was blown off and the pages savored.

“I have seen the burden God has laid upon men.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
Yet they cannot fathom what God has done
from the beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:10-11

Quickly we wanted to put the Book away. Never before had blunt truth been put before us in such a manner. We could have sworn the words spoke. And we listened. A voice from without prompted us to put it aside. “It is all flowery poetry,” was its subtle insinuation. However, our little Bible knowledge reminded us that these words were penned down by a very wise man. He must have known the truth in them. We turned another page.

“They are not just idle words for you-they are your life…”
Deuteronomy 32: 47a

Life. That was what we needed right then. All our friends and family could not give us this. Our work and academic degrees could not either. We needed this “life”. Frantically, in search of it, we turned another page.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
And have it in full.”
John 10:10

“I am a part of ‘they’,” we told ourselves. Knowledge of an adversary whose sole mission was our destruction jolted us to our true senses. Our hearts became fully committed to finding this Giver of life; life in its fullness. Another page was turned.

“I am!”
John 8:58; 18:5b

“I am the Bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry,
And he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 6:35

I am the way the truth and the life.
No one comes to Father except through me.
John 14: 6

The authority behind those words made us shudder. It made us feel small. We were desperate for this new life. However, preconceived ideas of authority and bureaucracies shied us away. Once again, the feeling of helplessness crept in. A voice spoke. Certain and ever so gentle. This time from within. It urged us to open the last pages. Revelation. The mention of the word sent chills down our spines. Our fingers trembled and our palms became sweaty. Yet divine strength was obtained for opening the pages that we were nudged to. Where it came from, only heaven knows.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. In anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
Revelation 3:20

The words melted our hearts. We expected rejection. We found an invitation. The voice was familiar. We had heard it before. Looking back in retrospect, we recalled the many times we heard the invitation but turned it down for another. Now, our very selves stolen from us, killed and destroyed within, we threw ourselves into this invitation of life. Our hearts of stone were melted and we cried out to the gracious and loving Father. His acceptance through His son Jesus Christ overwhelmed us. A peace that surpasses human understanding flooded our souls. We had never felt that way before. We felt new. We felt beautiful. We knew we had begun life on a new page. A second chance had been given. A second birth had been made possible. We were born-again. No matter how much we tried to explain it to our Christian friends over the phone, we could not put the words together. We bubbled in excitement. When this wasn’t enough, we broke down in tears. Tears of joy. They too cried with us for they knew what it meant to meet the Giver of life. Then in between sobs, they prayed with us.

The next day being a Sunday, we accompanied our neighbors to church. Its walls that seemed so cold and condemning were now warm and welcoming. Looking around the joyous faces, we were glad to be among them. The brotherly hugs received drew tears from our eyes. Deep down, we whispered to ourselves, “we could get used to this”. We loved it. Recalling the words of life we read last night, we sang the following hymn with gratitude in our hearts. Grateful that therein was no longer a longing to belong, an empty gap to be filled but a King who had chosen to make our hearts His throne.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God;
Born of His spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story this is my song
Praising my savior all the day long

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above,
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in his love.

Fanny .J. Crosby 1820-1915.

We love you all.

Weekend In Lira

It was on a Monday night when I alighted from the bus having spent the weekend in Lira. Dragging my feet down the noisy Nakulabye road, I couldn’t help reminisce of the quite times I had in the past two days. The sound and sweet sleep with the song of the crickets and the occasional crowing of the cock praising their Creator was something to be cherished. The meals that reminded a city boy of what it means to eat right were not to be forgotten either. The friendly faces and warm smiles of the Lango people made me feel at home miles and miles away from my family in Kenya. I guess after the scourge of war, the little pleasures of life are embraced with an enormous grip. I recalled of Dan, the passenger seated next to me on my way to Lira. As the conversation ensued, both our hearts were glad to get away from the hustle and bustle of Kampala City. Though it was for two days only, every moment was looked forward to with a child-like eagerness. We talked at length. The conversation ranged across various issues culminating into matters of faith. He wasn’t saved neither did he decide to get saved during our travel. However, just like any other time that one decides to talk to another about Jesus Christ, a chord that vibrates into eternity is struck.

WELCOME TO LIRA

Such were the words on a large signpost that ushered me into this well planned urban area. Canopied under lush green trees, this town in Northern Uganda was beautiful and most captivating. The bus named “White Bull”, a symbol of peace pact made between two rival communities, elegantly made its way into the bus park; its home for the night. It was then that I caught sight of the reason for my visit, Emmanuel Akeny. A man that I had grown to respect as a revolutionary leader and love as a brother. Jimmy okori, a student at Makerere University was with him too. Upon alighting, brotherly hugs were exchanged and after exchanging contacts with Dan, I bade him goodbye. As we rode on bicycles to my home for the next few days, my eyes wandered across the vast clear sky and I marveled at the moon and the shining stars. My heart was led to recall of how the Psalmist called unto these heavenly bodies to praise the name of the Living God.

“Praise Him, Sun and moon,
Praise Him, all you shining stars.”
(Psalms 148:3)

Surely praise Him. Who would ever think that a rugged young man in Eldoret, Kenya, who used to get himself drunk every weekend, would be up in Northern Uganda with the sole intention of fellowship sweet? He truly is an amazing God.
The evening was spent catching up. However, due to fatigue caused by travel, we couldn’t go the long mile.
A lion’s share of Saturday was spent under the cool shade of a guava tree deeply engrossed in conversation. We virtually talked about everything; marriage, family, politics, academics etc. A lingering query was “what does God say about this?” It was a fine time of one man sharpening another just as iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) The day was crowned by dinner at Jimmy’s. Sumptuous would be an understatement in describing the meal. It drew saliva from the deepest gorges of our hungry mouths. At that very moment, I wouldn’t have liked to be anywhere else in the world. Ok! Maybe I am exaggerating. It just goes to show how everything was.
Sunday morning found us at Dara Christian High School (DCHS). It is always a joy to share your experiences with the younger generation and inspiring them to a higher notch in life. This is especially so in their walk with the Lord. I wasn’t surprised that Emma’s sermon was titled “History Makers”. Just like the revolutionary figure that he is.
Noble characters are found in the most unusual places. I was cordially introduced to the owner and director of the school whom I found to be quite humble. He had a good command of the English language and his simple dressing won him much admiration. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. His wife approached me and greeted me in her native language; Kikuyu! The embarrassment that followed as I mumbled words in discord in an attempt to respond was evident to all. She was a jolly one. Her hearty laughter brought a leap of joy to all who heard it. My respect for her husband was gorged deeper when I learnt how he earned his daily bread. His was no insignificant job. Let’s just say that his day to day decisions greatly affect the economy of Uganda.
Jimmy and Tony (an electrical engineer graduate) joined us for lunch at Emma’s. After some good fun of men poking fun at each other, we set off to town in a parade of bicycles for some good ‘ol pork. As Emma and I rode back home, we paid a courtesy call to Pastor James Okello. Tea was served and a heart-to-heart conversation was stirred. Listening to him talk, one couldn’t help recall of Jesus’ teaching; him who has been forgiven much loves much. (Luke 7:47). He had seen the best and the worst of the world. He didn’t want any of it anymore and was sure glad that he has been redeemed. His heart cried out for the youth who walked on the quick sand of alcoholism. His moist eyes met mine and I knew he knew I had been there before. Maybe someday we would work together and help these young men find freedom in Christ.

Knowledge of departure the next day led Emma and I chatting way into the night. This rare occasion of one man opening his heart to another was something to be cherished. We then retired to our beds pondering over the happenings of the day. A peaceful night it was. However, waking up to the fact of having to say goodbye wasn’t so pleasant. This was compounded by Emma’s witty and hilarious Grandma who suggested I get myself a Lango wife. I have to admit that the respect, diligence and decency accorded by the Lango women had certainly caught my attention. The mode of greeting and presentation of food was bound to stir up the young man looking for a noble wife. Perhaps Emma’s grandma thought I was one. I bade goodbye to Emma’s sister, Mercy, knowing that her hubby-to-be is a very privileged man.
As I traveled back to Kampala, I took another journey to the green picturesque countryside of England. “When the mind is blind” was the book and William Doyle was its author. Once in awhile I took my eyes off the lives of these individuals struggling with the debilitating disease of dementia in a loved one and stared out into nature, blinking off impending tears. Through the eyes of the world, this was a tragic true love story but through the eyes of heaven this was the story genuine love between man and for God.

A camera wasn’t available to capture all the fond memories of Lira so I did what the Hebrew forefathers would have done. I came back with a memoir. I went with brown shoes, I came back with black.

I love you all.