Friday, April 14, 2017

What Easter Means To Me

Have you ever stopped to think about what Easter means to you? For most people it is just another holiday. And that is if you happen to live in a country where they cease most operations in order to give their employees a long break. Right now I am in a place which pretty much adopts the ‘business as usual’ policy.

Well, yesterday evening (Thursday) we had our Tenebrae church service. The service took about an hour, and was characterized mainly by singing, reading of scriptures and prayers. We were also served with Holy Communion; but it was the extinguishing of the candles after each scripture reading that to me, solemnized the event. 

That brief minute of silence as each candle was extinguished, reminded me of how near Christ was to me. He was just a moment away! He could read my thoughts, hear my whispering heart and interpret each of my pleas correctly. There was no need for me to shout. He was there with me, just as he was there in the room where the disciples were helplessly gathered with no idea as what to do next.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.
(John 20:19-23)

What is a Tenebrae service?
The word “Tenebrae” comes from the Latin meaning “darkness.” The Tenebrae is an ancient Christian Good Friday service that makes use of gradually diminishing light through the extinguishing of candles to symbolize the events of that week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus’ burial.

This increasing darkness symbolizes the approaching darkness of Jesus’ death and of hopelessness in the world without God. The service concludes in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle, carried out of the sanctuary, symbolizing the death of Jesus.  A loud noise may also sound symbolizing the closing of Jesus’ tomb. The worshippers then leave in silence to ponder the impact of Christ’s death and await the coming Resurrection.

From Google search.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In Transit Relationships

In-transit places are not always the nicest or safest places to spend time in. I remember at one time, standing in a crowded room at the border immigration post, when someone standing too close to me, reached from behind, and squeezed their hands around my waist. They must have been a thief, feeling for the wallet on me. That brief action hurt me to the core, because I felt violated in a big way. I hated being in that place, and I hated being touched in that abusive manner.

I have also been in international airports where I had to endure long hours of waiting for connecting flights. At one time I was in three airports from 6.00hrs till 23.00hrs. That journey was both scary and exhausting for me. I was traveling alone, and it was my first time being in the USA from Africa. I was supposed to arrive at my last airport by 14.00hrs and get picked up by the hotel shuttle. Nothing was going according to schedule, but I kept in touch with the hotel, and they made sure that there would be someone waiting for me at the airport. I had the guy’s name and I kept updating him on my flight changes.

When I finally arrived at the airport at 23.00hrs, this guy was there waiting for me by the luggage area. He was waiting with a surprise in his car, his wife! Oh, how that made me feel comfortable and give me peace. God knew how nervous and fearful I was already, and gave this guy the idea to bring along his wife. He suspected that I would have issues of trust, driving down the fifteen minute partly dark and deserted highway to the hotel. I thank God for taking care of that little, but delicate detail.

I continue to struggle with being in strange places and unfriendly environments. But of late, I have started looking at these places as if they were airports. I am not home but in transit, I would remind myself. So I should not expect total comfort or peace. I just have to stay conscious of the fact that God will take care of even the tiniest detail of my stay in that place.

In airports, you can also meet some people who are friendly; though the majority are mainly aloof, with a few being downright hostile like the person who molested me at the cross border transit point.

Now, places are made of people coming and going to different places. In making relationships, we need to remember that we are all passing through. Some attitudes are not worth grinding your teeth over. Let them pass you by. In one of the homes I have had the courtesy of being a guest, the girls there were exceptionally nasty to me. They were uncomfortable about sharing their spacious bedroom with a stranger. Once I took that room to be like an airport, I was okay with the nastiness; I was passing through.

In life we also need to be careful about the relationships we hold on to. In some cases, its best to say hello and move forward quickly. You cannot hold on to an airport relationship. Let them pass through. Don’t get all upset by their lack of care or aloofness; let them go. An airport does have restaurants to keep you fed, bathrooms to clean yourself in; but they will never take the place of home.

Don’t settle for the ‘in-transit’ type of relationships. They have very little to offer. ‘Above all else, guard your heart’, says the bible in Proverbs 4:23, ‘for it is the well-spring of life’.

Many years ago, I got into one such ‘in-transit’ relationship. I didn’t know that it was that kind of relationship when I got into it. It lasted six years, and in those few years, my man had other women coming and going in his life. I thought that I would outlast everyone else and remain the ‘anchor woman’, since I was the mother of his two boys. But sadly, I was no match for the competition, and for a couple more years to come, I had to nurse a broken heart and look after abandoned children.

I like the arrival lounge when I go home to Africa. Ours is a much smaller airport compared to the New York or Johannesburg international airports. But the warmth, love and compassion that awaits me from family members can never be compared to the glamor and glitter of the big airports. Just as I look forward to arriving home, I look forward to the God ordained relationship where I will know beyond any doubt that I have arrived home. Enjoy your flight! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Being a Fund Manager – Raise the Standard

When you are entrusted with an investment portfolio, say for US$100,000, and the investment return for the past three years was ranging between 10 to 20%, (example again), you need to think immediately about you can improve the return for the current year to at least 30%.

A lot of scenarios will have to be looked at; for example:
  • §  the performance of the fund over the past 3 to 5 years,
  • §  the economic, political and geographic factors affecting the fund,
  • §  the track record of the previous managers of the fund,
  • §  your forecast for the next five years,
  • §  your recommendations on how the fund owner can add more capital by cutting down on expenditure,
  • §  you might have to request for their cash flow projection.

Armed with these scenarios, plus more, you then look at ways of how to raise the bar. Being comfortable with a fund’s current performance is tantamount to negligence. There are a lot of fund managers out there who take over an account, look at it once or twice and pass it down to a junior member of the department who has no idea what they are supposed to do with it.

Be a rebuilder of a fund, and be proactive about it.
*      Nehemiah 2:11-13.
a)    Nehemiah inspected the broken walls of Jerusalem.
b)    He didn’t like what he saw.
c)    He decided to repair and reconstruct the walls.
d)    He appointed skilled people to do the job.
e)    He set a time period in which the project was to be done and completed.
f)     After completion of the job, administrators were appointed to make sure that proper maintenance became an ongoing task.

People will always remember who was a good fund manager and who was a bad fund manager long after the fund has changed hands. Leave behind a legacy of good management and proper administration of a fund.

Being a Fund Manager - Contentment

If you are going to be a good fund manager, you ought to have some level of contentment about your own finances. This will also involve being at peace with all you have and all that you are.

You cannot be a person that finds it easy to dip into other people’s wallets and manage funds responsibly. You need to be self-sufficient. Let gifts comes your way, but don’t seek them or initiate them.

A person that can be trusted with another person’s property, is one that has a balanced attitude towards money issues.
Your lifestyle must demonstrate a servant-hood spirit. You are there to serve another, with your skills towards fund management.

A few lessons from the position of a church elder – 1 Timothy 3:1-5
  • Ø  Above reproach. You must carry a good reputation; not just at the workplace but wherever you are. You cannot be a person who is popularly known for gambling, or other money chewing vices.
  • Ø  Drunkenness – this leads to sloppiness or lack of diligence and inability to think clearly and make the right decisions.
  • Ø  Not a lover of money. This is a no-no, especially with money that does not belong to you. You might want to work on your spending habits.

Manage your life well; manage your family, and manage your finances. These are the main arenas where you learn to manage other people’s affairs.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Tips on Simple Ways of Saving

Saving funds for some intended purpose is very easy once you put your mind to it.  I have done this a couple of times and am really good at it.

The first thing you need to do before you start saving is to commit yourself to the project you want to do. The second is to bring God into it. Self-will alone might not work. Then devise a systematic way of putting away a fixed amount of money on a monthly, weekly or daily basis.

The first time that I saved money was in the 80’s when I wanted to buy a stove and a fridge. I got myself some piggy banks, and I decided to save over six months. At that time the Reserve Bank had introduced a new Z$1 coin. If I got change in the form of the Z$1 coins, no matter what amount, I would not use them for purchasing anything else, but would drop them in the piggy banks. It needed a lot of discipline, especially when the Z$1 coins were a lot, and I was running short of cash. But I had told myself that I wouldn’t spend those Z$1 coins. After six months of sweating, it was a pleasure taking those piggy banks to the dealers and walking out the proud owner of a new stove and fridge.

In the years following, I would do that same saving scheme with new the Z$2 and Z$5 notes. This discipline became such a part of me that sometimes I would start saving, even without a project in mind. Those monies would come handy when an unplanned for event came by. In Africa, funerals are such events. It’s everybody’s business when a relative dies.

I also happen to be someone who likes to sleep in a good bed in a good room and a secure place. As one of the leaders in our church groups, I would get invitations to go and speak in other towns away from home. If the hosting church was not able to offer me decent accommodation, I would go on ahead and make my own arrangements from my savings.

Sleeping in a good place may not be a big deal to some people, but to me it is. I function better or deliver the best results after a good, and restful sleep. The company I worked for, used to send us to train junior staff in the subdivision units, or attend workshops and conferences held out of town. They would accommodate us in the best hotels, and that kind of set precedent for me.  

I had a way of saving from those business trips as well. While accommodation was pre-booked and paid for ahead of time, meal expenses and other travel allowances were given in cash advances. I would plan my expenses so well that I ended up saving at least half of that cash. Those are the monies I could use for church ministry activities. I didn’t have a ministry budget.

The biggest saving I have made was for US$5,000 to pay for air fares, registration fees and accommodation for two consecutive weeks of international church conferences. Firstly, I put a stop order deduction of US$50 from my monthly salary, into a three year locked up savings scheme, then deposited most of my year-end bonus earnings to the savings account and worked on other income generating projects like buying and selling African print material.

I love and enjoy travelling. Therefore, I plan well ahead of time, so I can make the most out of the trip. God blessed with a good job, an average salary and a good sense of managing finance. I would have loved to earn a much higher salary, but I was always grateful for what I had and used it generously, including tithing to the church.

There were also times of drought and disasters, when the saving schemes we invested in were eroded by hyper-inflation. That was a phase when we all became millionaires cum trillionaires as far as the Zim bank balances were concerned. We carried fat check accounts which paid for almost nothing!

I remember one time that I walked into the bank and withdrew Z$500 billion, the maximum allowed per day. I got it as one note! Before I could cross the street, someone told me that I could not buy a single item with that note. A loaf of bread had just gone up to Z$1 trillion, an equivalent to US$1.

That was the only time I could not save. A relative actually died during that time, and when it was time for contributions, I put in my Z$500 billion note. To this day, I never figured out how the total costs of that funeral were met.

Our country was finally saved through the introduction of the US$ currency running parallel to the trillion Z$. The first Sunday after this introduction, I had both the Z$1 trillion note and the US$1 note in my purse. I gave the US$1 note as my offering. It was a very small choice that I had to make, but I gave God the best of the two currencies. Hence my finances have always been blessed.

When we make a covenant with God to save for a project, regardless of whether it’s personal, family, church or nation, he always blesses it a hundred-fold. I could never have achieved what I own as possessions, and never been to the different places and continents I have been, had it not been through the covenant I have with God over my life and the finances he has blessed me with.

‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine’, declares the Lord Almighty. Haggai 2:8

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Significance of Clouds

Don’t we just love a clear and sunny day! Most people do, I sometimes do. That is because I cannot stand too much heat! So the sunnier and clearer the sky, the more uncomfortable it is to some of us!

Last Sunday, our Pastor, Dr Lewis, spoke on ‘the beauty of a cloud’. It is amazing what we overlook when we think of a cloudy day. Usually we associate the cloudy day with gloominess, rain, wind or even a storm.

But according to Dr Lewis, a cloud is God’s pulpit; and unless you are terrified of God’s presence, it should be viewed with welcoming joy. There are many instances in the Bible, where God chose to appear to His people in the form of a cloud.

1.    The Exodus
God was there as the Israelites escaped from Egypt and crossed the Red Sea going towards the Promised Land. God travelled with them in the form of a cloud by day and in the form of fire by night. The cloud gave them shade during day time, so that they would not become weary. The fire gave them light at night, so that they would not fear the night darkness. The fire also gave them warmth.

If we would trust God in whatever situation we are in, He will give us the cloud to shelter us from the harshness of negative situations; and the fire of His Word to destroy the enemy’s weaponry against us, as well as to light up our path. And God has promised in Deuteronomy 31:8 to never leave us, nor forsake us.

2.    His Glory
Clouds serve as warnings, be it of rainy, windy or chilly day. The thought of being caught up in ‘bad’ weather is something we all try to avoid. However, in the rain there is provision of water, a softer ground and a good field harvest.
Heat is also reduced by the shadow of a cloud. What we would rather avoid, has some benefits to us.

There were instances in the Old Testament, where God would come for a conversation with His people through a cloud. He did that because He knew that His glory would be too much for them to handle.
We too have situations in life whereby we might feel that God is hiding His face from us, but in reality He is demonstrating His nearness – through caring and praying friends.
For the prophet Elijah (I kings 19: 11-13) when he was waiting for God to address his misery; first came the strong wind, then the earthquake, then the fire, before God finally addressed him by speaking so softly from a cloud.

The thunder you are facing right now, or the fire you are in, could be God Himself preparing you to hear Him speak.

3.    Cloud of Witnesses
As clouds gather up in the sky, we can see them as a threat, but this takes on a different meaning when God tells us that there is a cloud of witnesses cheering us to never give up in our faith, but to keep on keeping on. Hebrews 12:1
Unlike some few bad elements around us, there are a lot of people out there who are silently praying for us, cheering us on, to continue the good work we are doing.

Dr Lewis’s sermon encouraged us not to dread the clouds, but to welcome them as God’s messengers of grace to us. Sunny days are appreciated, but let us learn to appreciate the cloudy days too.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Fanny Crosby’s Story

If anyone ever had cause to be discouraged and depressed it was Fanny Crosby. As an infant she was accidentally blinded by a country doctor’s application of a mustard poultice to her eyes. Her father passed away while she was still a small child. 

She married at the age of thirty-eight and her only child died in infancy. After twenty five years of marriage, she was widowed and lived the remainder of her life, thirty-two additional years, alone. Yet this tiny and energetic woman never became bitter or morose. Her spirit was one of joy and enthusiasm.

She went on learn to read Braille and eventually to teach. After leaving the teaching profession, Fanny devoted much of her time to writing popular songs that were set to music by G.F.Root.

She produced over 8,000 hymns; among these were: “Tell Me The Story of Jesus”, “Praise Him! Praise Him!”, “Draw Me Nearer”, “To God Be The Glory”, “He Hideth My Soul”, and “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior”.

It is said that she prayed fervently prior to setting pen to paper and that many of her hymns seemed to flow from her mind as fluidly as her conversation. Such it was with the composition of “Blessed Assurance”

Taken from ‘Hymns of Faith & Inspiration’ by Pamela J. Kennedy