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Blog Ya Takondwa

My Faith. My Africa. My Journey.

Jesus, Wonderings and Wanderings

If you are like me, and have grown up hard in that church game, something happens to you. Something happens when you’ve grown up hearing bible stories. When you’ve grown up going to church every Sunday. When you’ve grown up singing Jesus Songs and reading Jesus Books and going to Jesus Camps. The stories lose their wonder. The books lose their depth. The Camps lose their meaning. It becomes routine, and it becomes religion. And it breeds questions. Questions that you fear asking, because “God knows,” and “operates in mysterious ways”. Because you’re busy having it figured out.

You start to wonder how much of this truth you claim to have is really yours- how much of it you own. You start to wonder if yours is true salvation, or if it’s a loosely-fitting hand-me-down faith that you have on. You start to wonder why some of the worst people you know are Christians, and how some of the most love-joy-peace-patience-kindness-goodness-faithfulness-gentleness-and-self-control embodying people do not know Jesus. You start to wonder why there are so many politics in the church, why praise team members can’t wear pants, why church mothers cringe when they hear that a seventeen year old has a boyfriend. You start to wonder why Jesus, in many, looks so unattractive.

You start to wonder. And wander.

You start to wonder, and on some days your wonderings are bottled up and kept simmering- bothering you as you sit in church, struggling to listen to the sermon. Other times, you loosen the cap and they float out aimlessly, levitating in the expanse of confusion and fear.

You wander, and your wanderings take you places where there is comfort. Where you are okay with just being. Where maybe it’s okay not to pray for a little while. Where maybe you feel a lot imperfect, and not so on top of your game as you used to. You wander because frankly, the things inside of you right now have become a little messy, and it’s a mess God can’t live with, but you can deal with, so maybe it’s best to be apart.

There is a story Jesus told. A father and his son. A son who didn’t feel he wanted to be with the father any more. A son who upped and left, taking all his treasures, to live his life, free of his father’s rules, free of his father’s work, free, free, free. A son who later returned, broken, and in need of his father. A weary son at a distance. Broken, and coming home. His father saw him far at a distance and he ran to his son. Threw him a humongous party and everything. As if he had never left. As if he had never upped and left to live his life, free, free, free. As if there was no mess in his heart that was just a bit much for The Father. As if it wasn’t best that they were apart.

I’ve gone through my little droughts. My spells of questions. But one thing I have learnt is this, “What good are questions if they ask for no answers?”

I’ve seen this Jesus that multitudes claim in a very few, but in the few that I’ve seen, His light has shone so bright and lovingly that it leaves me convinced that yes, this is the path for me.  And yes, I want to know him for me. That yes, my walk may look different than most. That yes, some rules may be broken. And yes, I, too, am accepted by the God that I worship. So hello brokenness. Hello surrender. Hello questions, walk in and have a seat, and have long back-and-forths with Jesus.

I haven’t blogged about Jesus in a while. My walk with Him has taken some very interesting turns. The bottom line, however, is that more than ever, I am cognizant of how held I am. I cannot come away from this truth that I believe in. I feel so held. As if no matter how far my heart or mind may wander, there in God’s arms, I remain, held, held, held. As if God has me tightly clenched in His fist. To be quite frank, considering the weird aliveness I feel when I am in God, its the perfect place to be stuck.

This is one of my all-time favourite songs;

He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand

Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Featured post

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”
A.W. Toze

#7 What Are You Doing Here? Refocussing Faith- Intro (Devotional)

This would have marked a month since I posted a Monday devotional. It has been on my mind. Rather than a product of procrastination, my silence has been a result of losing focus. My next short series of devotionals will delve into the theme. For now, I want to share what has led me to center my study on this.

I get distracted. Life can be distracting. Between majors and hair-days and ambitions and projects and dreams and hopes and fears, it’s easy to take my eyes off Christ.

In the thick of all my thinkings and endeavors (and sometimes, the lack thereof), my time with God became a dull affair. On the few days that I did, I would sit down to read my bible and breeze through it, and then say a short general prayer. Prayers I meant, but prayers I prayed with a little bit of obligatory exasperation.Thank you God for your love and faithfulness. Thank you for your word. Help me to live for you. (or something of the sort)

And then off I would go. Back to my life, back to my daily grind. Isn’t it so easy? To go so easy in this faith journey, that we loosen our grip and slip away? In times past, this has happened, and it has been the point at which my walk with God took and stale break. I know that days without time spent focused on God and his word in earnest lead to weeks, and then months. Suddenly, church becomes unappealing, and reading God’s word not only becomes something I procrastinate- it morphs into an inconvenience.

Oh, but how faithful God is, my friends! How marvelously faithful He is!

In church yesterday, we read about Elijah. He’d just gone through a dark spell and been strengthened by God, when on his journey, he walked into a cave and slept.

But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, theLord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but theLord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19

What are you doing here? This is direction of my conviction. What am I doing just getting by? What am I doing waffling about in this walk with God?

Do I realize what awesome value and privilege I have to have access to a Holy God? God, in all his vast splendour and magnitude, desires intimacy with little old ME. He desires my heart. My intentions. My hopes and my dreams.

When I think of why we stay away from God, or get comfortable on the surface, I think we’re afraid of where God will take us. We’re afraid of who he’ll ask us to become. Sometimes, I think we keep away from him with a creeping fear in the back of our minds that he will ignore our ambitions and obliterate our dreams.

In a post I wrote months ago, I wrote this, and it spoke to me.

A thought came to me. To stop holding my dreams and desires tightly in my clenched fist, hidden behind me as I step into God’s light. As if to keep them away from Him. As if he is the snatcher and shredder and burner of dreams (and as if these are tasks he executes while he laughs fiendishly). As if those dreams aren’t more precious to Him than they are to me. As if they aren’t His…

Read full post here

What are you doing here? What am I doing in my faith. Why am I here, following this Jesus. Where am I going with this? What am I giving to God? The bits and pieces of myself that I care the least about? Or all of it- my failures and successes. My fears as well as my dearest, most lofty ambitions?

What am I doing here? Before a Holy and mighty God, whose greatness goes beyond my desire for him, and yet he calls for it. Whose Glory is not reliant on my praise, and yet he dwells in it. God, who is the reason for my existence. Who loves me with an unimaginable love. Who waits so patiently, and is the still, loving voice in the midst of the noise of my little life.

What am I doing here?

Today, I am thankful for the Holy Spirit, who does not let me wander too far off before he asks me what I’m doing there. My prayer going forward is for focus. For a dead-on gaze on my God that stands fixed, undistracted from things that will pass away. A love for him that is shown in the way that I treat opportunities, relationships, gifts, hopes, fears and dreams that I have.

I hope you will journey with me in the coming posts, and that together, our eyes will be turned to Jesus.

Recommended Readings:

1 Kings 19: Elijah’s story

Matthew 14:22-36: Peter and Jesus walk on the Water

Featured image from here.

For Amayi (My Grandmother)

UWe call my paternal grandmother Amayi.

Amayi is a short woman with a slight, hunched-forward wobble to her walk. A few years ago, right before of my grandfather’s passing, she fell ill and lost her speech. Her speech went from the heavily accented Chichewa to being virtually nonexistent and in my grandfather’s final days, he took up the role of her translator. (I suppose decades spent with one person inherently deposits the ability inside of you to decipher their innermost thoughts and feelings, even when those thoughts and feelings manifest themselves as a mishmash of words) My grandfather, with an air as calm as there ever was, turned her mumbles into requests which, when met, sent my grandmother’s face awash with a brightness, a relief that someone could understand her.

Amayi 2
Amayi in her Jewellery looking all dolled up. That handbag print is giving me life.

When he passed away, I remember watching Amayi weeping over the mound of newly filled grave, her husky cries peppered with cryptic mutterings. From then on, she did not say very much. What was once confident gibberish morphed into spells of frustrated silence thrust contemptuously between futile attempts at enunciation. I could not blame her. Being quite the talker, I cannot imagine not being understood, not having my thoughts translated into the words I mean to speak.

Over the years, we have watched her take albeit small steps to recovery. We have heard her speak more often. In place of the frustration, we have seen a quiet patience settle in. We have heard the familiar words and popcorn out amidst the jumble that she speaks, with a reassuring frequency.

I do not know what is wrong with Amayi. I know she cannot speak, but I do not know where her speech went, or when it will come back. I do not know what her condition is called. I do not know if it is progressive, and I do not know if I should carry on waiting to hear her full thoughts articulated.

~~~

I used to be quite irritated on our occasional visits with her when I was younger. My sister and I, both usually in trousers, would have to wear zitenje (wraps) over them to avoid both my grandparents’ religious and traditional disapproving glares. As I have reflected over the past few years, however, I imagine what a whirlwind both their lives were in an ever-changing colonial, then post-colonial country.

I have estimated that there are over 50 years between my grandmother and I. I have estimated eons between the ways we think. I have estimated that when she looks around, Malawi is a completely different place than it was when she grew up.

In her Malawi, modesty was paramount. In my Malawi, we are at war to dress as we please (or not at all, it sometimes seems!). In her Malawi, girls kneel down when they greet. In mine, a mere handshake suffices. In her Malawi, a boy in the family is a gem. In my Malawi…well, in my parents’ home, I never felt less important than my brother.

I have come to accept her offerings of zitenje for me to cover up as her own brand of affection- her own way of meaning well. I have come to see, in her lack of words, a genuine delight and craving for fellowship. I have come to understand that I matter to my grandmother.

I wish now, that I could ask her about her girlhood. I long to have conversations with her about the games she played, the songs she sang, how she met my grandfather. But these are all conversations I can no longer have with her. I don’t know if I could if she could speak, either. My grandfather was always the talkative one. In fact, I don’t recall my grandmother ever speaking too much. She is a stark contrast to my maternal grandmother, Anamasina. But Anamasina’s is a post for another day.

Amayi
Probably my favourite photo of her.

Amayi has taught me patience. She has taught me tenderness. She taught me to respect culture. Even though I bitterly wore those zitenje over my trousers, I learnt that reverence matters. That just because I believe differently, or embrace freedoms that others deem not only unimportant, but abomination, does not mean I should condescendingly wave my freedom in their faces. That sometimes, love is expressed in our own discomfort.

Amayi taught me to value words so much more. To treasure this inclination that I have towards them. It’s funny, because in her wordless season, so much of what I have learnt from her has to do with words. I have learnt that in our one-way exchanges, my words to her matter as much as those she wishes she could speak. I have learnt to sing songs and be grateful that I can. The image is still etched so vividly in my mind of her rocking back and forth to hymns playing rustily on the radio that I once heard her sing. She has taught me that God is present. I see it in how she bows her head when we pray, in how she nods her sincere ‘Amen’ when we are through.

Today, in a rather uneventful stint at work, I thought of Amayi. Today, I am thankful for my grandmother.

Photo Credit: Uncle Rev Zacc, and Aunt Rev Aidah, and Rev Dad (family of pastors, y’all!)

#6 Let’s be Real: Uncertainty, Inadequacy, and Hope (Devotional)

This was going to be my final post on the book of Job. I finished reading it on Friday, and I think I must emphasize how quickly it went by. Something about it right from the onset made me anticipate ploughing through it, but it was honestly an easy read, which I am incredibly thankful for.

However, I think I want to share something else with you. It’s one of those spells in my walk. Inadequacy has given me some blows over the past several days. I have been clouded with uncertainty about my future. Today, it has manifested physically- I feel physically exhausted, and spiritually drained. It’s one of those times when I sit down to read my bible and my mind is half there, and half adrift in nothingness.

Whenever times like these come (and they do), I am reminded of something my mother said in a context I cannot quite recall. She said some words which have become something of an assurance whenever these sorts of dry spells come. She said that very often, the times we feel the least like praying are the times we need to pray the most. 

I always take that as a reminder whenever I feel this way to cling to my faith. My friend Alheri is relentlessly reminding me to guard my salvation with fear and trembling. When I meditate on the bit of scripture from whence I know her counsel comes, I am also reminded of God’s Holy Spirit, which I know according to his promise is constantly at work in me.

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Phillipians 2:12-13

All that said, I have to confess that I have not posted my blog post in part because of how I was feeling. I want my words to edify, and how can they when I feel so fragile? As I reflect, I realize that this is often my instinct when I hit a bump in the road- to withdraw into my own little world until everything feels right. I also realize however, that if and when my focus is on Christ when I write, even the broken bits of me will reflect his glory. God is a master at making beautiful things out of the dust. He is a master at taking our mess and uncertainty and turning it into healing, hope and restoration.

So today, I trust him completely- to take all that I’m feeling and this fatigue, and use it as he wills for someone. I pray that in my dimness, a bright ray of light will shine for someone. I trust, too, that he is with me, always and forever. THIS, I do not doubt for a second! He is with me, even when I feel so out-of-sync.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139

Since I finished my Job plan, I picked up my devotional by Sarah Young, which I don’t use every single day, but revert to whenever I have no other course of action in my bible reading. The entries over the past few days have been so instrumental in reassuring me, and I want to share them with you in closing.

unnamed unnamed-1unnamed-3

It is well! Have a Blessed remainder of your week!

<3

Music Monday! Archduke ft Jenee Jones <3

All this really is is poetry laced with a little bit of music. So rare to find such good, clean, innovative music.

Absolute mastery!

P/s My devotional will be up tomorrow! I’m seriously considering calling them Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday Devotionals- HA!

Thank you, and enjoy this music. <3

Can We Not With Chimamanda’s Baby Bump?

Guess what? Strong women have babies- it happens.

It seems to me that the the talk around town about Chimamanda Adichie being spotted with a baby bump has been met with a collective gasp from the masses. The literary/African/nosey corner of my social media has blown up into a fit of tweets and titters- all sharing the same blurry image of Adichie in a checkered dress sporting what looks like a baby bump (by virtue of my writing this post, that places me in that literary/African/nosey cluster). A lot of the tweets, if not exclaiming with glee, are filled with tongue-in-cheek references to the irony of this pregnancy given her acclaim as a prominent voice for feminism.

It’s fascinating – almost as if we can’t imagine a woman who, in many ways has been vocal about women challenging their societally prescribed roles, housing a bun in the oven. This is a political pregnancy.  As much as I want to give a joint whack over the heads of all these Internet trolls bickering saying things like “see the feminist now”, I think it’s time we all just took several seats and let. the. woman. be.

Whether or not the rumours are true, it is foolish to think that motherhood and strength are mutually exclusive.

I can’t even go on with this. She is [allegedly] pregnant. Congratulations to her. Let her live her life.

Bye.

“I Will Marry When I Want”- Woman Crush Wednesday

#WCW

A couple of months ago I was thrilled to hear that my country, Malawi, officially raised the legal marriage age for girls from 15 to 18 years old. Today, I am equally excited to share this story, of a young woman for whom this is a particularly momentous feat.

Child marriage is something I don’t have to look too far to find. Several of my own cousins my age, living in rural Malawi, are married by now, with children. These are cousins I played with when we visited our village when I was younger. The story Memory Banda tells is this video is not an anomaly- not for Malawi, where only 10 percent of women finish with their secondary schooling.

I think that for Africans, when we have been fortunate enough to have had access to uninterrupted education, it is easy to forget that in many ways WE are the anomaly. It is easy to get caught up in showing the world images of our cushioned lives and forget that Africa’s Image is hardly the only thing we should be working to fix. I absolutely love this TED Talk, because it shows the agency of a woman. It shows a citizen concerned with the matters of her destiny, and consequently, that of others like her.

I also have to acknowledge that the passing of the marriage bill is hardly indicative of complete transformation in the cultural and educational landscape for women in Malawi. Memory perfectly put it in her talk that:

“We know that a law is not a law until it is enforced.”

Nevertheless, THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is what change looks like- change wears a beautifully fitted yellow dress, rallies many to her cause, actively participates in building her nation, speaks with spellbinding eloquence, and acknowledges, without faltering for a second, that She. Is. [Very] Fabulous.

So worth Watching. #MalawianQueen.

(Also, Happy Belated 51st to my country- I can think of no better way to celebrate.)

Job’s Rants and Reverence- (Checking In) ‘Monday’ Devotional #5

Hi everyone,

Those of you who have been following my devotional posts on Mondays know that I have been reading through the book of Job. I’m currently on chapter 28 and I thought I would give an update about my impressions, struggles, aha-moments. I have the feeling this update will be one that many of you will find useful.

What I expected:

I suppose I expected to be challenged to love God more, and to be more confident in my faithfulness to him. I was also keen to learn more deeply about Job’s frame of mind when he went through all he did. Besides from that, I quite frankly had little else down by way of strategy.

What I have learned, noticed, admire, etc:

  • Job was not happy. Ha! Not by a long-shot. For some reason that is beyond me, I had this subconscious image of Job as this guy who was so poor and so ill and had suffered so much loss but ‘still rejoiced in the Lord!’ LOOOOOOL! I don’t know where I got that idea, because from the words that he spoke, Job was not a happy man.
    I think we have this admiration for people who go through hardship and remain perky and put on a smile. You see it a lot in “First-world-saves-third-world” media. They have so little yet they still manage to smile. In the same way, I expected Job to be singing praises only, talking about how much hope he has in the Lord, how he knows that everything happens for a reason – you know, spitting some new-agey unbiblical truths, y’all! But no, Job was depressed! (He even cursed his birthday. You know life just got real when someone curses their birthday)

“Let the day of my birth be erased,
    and the night I was conceived.
Let that day be turned to darkness.
    Let it be lost even to God on high,
    and let no light shine on it.

Job 3:3-4

  • Job was a whole other sort of confident: I talked about this quite a bit in last week’s post, but this remains my biggest impression of Job. Job did not doubt for a second that he was right with His God. Even when his friends advised him to repent. Even when they asked him to “turn from his evil ways”, Job firmly served them some “Ain’t nobody got time for that” because he knew without a shadow of a doubt that his walk was beyond legit. I want that confidence. I want that closeness with God where I can boldly claim with a side-dish of backhanded sass that I am right with my father.
  • Job’s understanding of God’s bigness. I will probably do a post on this. It’s so easy to reduce God to our pews and pulpits, his word to the physical size of the bibles in our hands, his worth to the offering we give on Sundays. It’s SO easy to lose sight of God’s grandeur, and honestly, when Job is not reflecting on His misery, he (as well as his friends as they offer him “counsel”) is going on about God’s greatness and sovereignty.

I. Want. That. Wonder.

Things I have had a hard time with:

  • Job was not a happy man: Ha! Yes, oh. There is something a little disconcerting about seeing a follower of God speak so bleakly about his life. I suppose this is in part on account of the fact that I have grown on that “speak life” theology. So when Job goes off on a rant about how he is completely disgusted by his life and he wants his friends to allow him to complain, and how he wishes God would crush him, I cringe internally. I almost want to reach out and nudge him and say, “Job, come on man- power of the tongue (haha!)”. It’s hard to read his negativity sometimes, you know. Some of the stuff he says would today be brandished as blasphemy. So I have to shake off the shackles of religion and really read through what he’s saying, why he’s saying it, and contextualize, and examine, and also not get bogged down.
  • Job was a whole other sort of confident, and this makes for the perfect recipe for Priscilla to feel inadequate. For me to wonder if I can stand up and make the claims that Job did. When I examine myself, I fear what I will find.
  • The book of Job is an easy read: I know- this must sound more like a plus than a minus. For me, however, because the book of Job reads like poetry, I find myself getting lost in its rhythmic style and losing sight of context and content- which is rather detrimental when you’re trying to study the word and listen. Being aware of it helps me a lot though. One thing that I have actively incorporated in my bible reading is taking notes- writing down themes that come to mind as I read, verses that perplex me, and things I want to revisit. I’ve also turned my weekend bible-reading time into recap time, so I comb through my notes and reread everything I went through during the week. This, along with my awareness of the fact that I get lost in the lyrics has made for an effective remedy, and has kept me alert to what I’m reading.

I’ll have to break here for the sake of you, dear readers! I won’t write a whole new bible when there’s one already- ha! This is the section where I would normally insert my suggested readings. Today, I have suggested rants. Ideally, I would love for you to go down this journey, too. Read the book of Job! It is saturated with So. Much. Realness!

Have an incredible week!

(p/s, I know I didn’t technically post this on a Monday. I sincerely apologize.)

Suggested rants: 

The Self-Pity-Filled Rant Job 10,

The Frustrated “Stop Telling Me To Repent” Rant Job 6

The Even More Frustrated “Stop Telling Me To Repent” Rant (With a side of Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That)  Job 12

The “Who Am I?” Rant (Yes, that IS a Casting Crowns referrence. lol) Job 14

Photo source.

You’re Beautiful!

Happy Friday!

A little reminder to you to keep your chin up and be confident! You matter and you belong- stand firmly in this truth. Bring your energy and light to the world around you. God’s thoughts towards you are countless. He, who is above and beyond everything our minds can comprehend LOVES YOU!

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8

You ARE beautiful.

Have a good weekend. <3

Image Source here!

Junya Watanabe’s Africa-themed fashion show was missing a key element: black models

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