“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission. Every hair on your head has been …Worth More Than Sparrows
Sun rays filled the Visual room, streaming in through all the open windows. Pastor Rex hugged every one of his students as they prepared for their first class in 2021. He noticed Ngozi’s demeanor. It wasn’t lit like the room.
They were all sitting on the floor with the Pastor when Ngozi asked the question.
“How do we experience the fullness of joy?”
Pastor Rex smiled, happy she opened up.
“You can only find that in the presence of God.” He replied.
“Are we not all in the presence of God, right now, all the time?” She asked.
The others nodded as they all waited for the Pastor’s response. He looked at them, then around the room and stood.
“Femi, Christian, and Tony, please help me close all the blinds. I want as much darkness as possible in the room.”
The guys stood and went to do as he asked.
He nodded when they finished. “Thank you. I want everybody to sit on the floor as before. Close your eyes tight. Let no light penetrate.” He instructed.
They all sat. Pastor Rex gave them a minute in the darkness. With his eyes closed, and his voice low, he started the class.
“What if you were standing in the presence of God? What if, in His presence, the concept of time has no meaning and changes at His will? He made all things according to the counsel of His will. You stand before the throne of His majesty. The one before whom the sun dulls, and the moon withers.
“Imagine you are standing in the presence of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The solution, the source of life, the fountain that never dries out. Before Him, petitions are granted, life is restored, and transformed. Truth prevails. Imagine. Ngozi, if you were standing there, what would you ask our Father?”
A whimper. “Father, have mercy,” Ngozi said, crying softly.
“By mercy, we are not consumed. We are in His presence because of it. Tell Him what is in your heart.” Pastor Rex said, prodding her on.
“2021 is supposed to be the year of relief, but every new day dawns with bad news. Where do your children run to, Father? Are we to be affected too? When do we feel the joy of your presence in our lives?” She said, crying out.
Pastor Rex allowed a minute to pass after the outburst.
“Open your eyes.” He said.
They all did, and he motioned the guys to the blinds. They opened them and returned to their seating positions.
“God told Abram to journey into the unknown to seek Him. However, His covenant with Abram was established years later, with God’s command, to walk before Him and be blameless. God established a covenant with Abram and transformed him to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah. Abraham believed in God and was circumcised with every male in his house, disregarding the exercise’s intense pain because he had faith in God’s faithfulness.
“The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness, yes, but to be in the presence of God is an intentional act. It must be your top-most priority because you have articulated its necessity in your life by the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know what you expected from 2021, but I have thought you to be led by God. This year, we will practice remaining in His presence at all hours of the day.
“In His presence, you abide under His shadow. You experience the fullness of joy regardless of your external environment. You learn to wait, knowing that there, you are made strong for every situation life throws at you.”
“How do we practice His presence?” Ngozi asked.
Pastor Rex smiled. “Remain in the place of prayer all day, regardless of your daily activities. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Practice this every hour of every day. When you forget, return. When you err, ask for forgiveness and return. You are a son, return, and the Father will accept you with love. Keep at it until it becomes your life.”
“Will our lives change?” Funke asked.
Pastor Rex smiled again. “Your lives will show the result of where you’ve been in the spirit. You can’t hide transformation; it comes with God’s glory. So, journal your experiences, keep tabs on your daily encounters with God. Change is coming.” He said and walked off.
Till next time, be transformed!!
What a year, right?!
EndSARS happened in Nigeria.
Poverty, sickness, death all happened and are still happening.
The Father may seem like one of those gods, sitting on his throne, powerless and ineffective, but that’s far from the truth.
Jesus, the Christ, came to give us abundant life and asks for little in return.
Only believe, and you will see God’s glory.
I have experienced grace, peace, and the best year of my life.
My Father is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
He is looking out for me, present and powerful everywhere that I am.
I found this wisdom along the way, and I am still learning that everything He allows is for my good.
I am learning obedience through all the obstacles the enemy is throwing on my path, and I can’t have it any other way.
Broke through some months in the year, He would say, “focus on me. I’ve got you.”
No matter my position, no matter my account balance, I would wake up and say, this is the day the Lord has made, and I choose to rejoice. (Sometimes with tears in my eyes.)
I learned most of all, to stop looking to change the externals in my life. I am looking within. Distracted sometimes, I would tug my chin back to the throne of grace. Thrown by the enemy’s catapults, I’d pick myself up and continue to walk, even with a sprained or broken leg.
He is worth it. My Father is worth the pain of dying to live. He is better than all the silver and gold. After all these years, how much of them have I acquired anyway?
If you didn’t read or understand anything I wrote this year, understand this, He is, and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him with diligence.
God bless you, and don’t forget, until next time, be transformed!!
He stepped into the house and heard the sound of the air conditioner cooling the hallway. It also cooled him and restored strength.
“This way, please. Madam is waiting for you.”
He nodded and followed the maid in uniform down the hall to an office on the left. She opened the door and announced him as she stepped aside for him to enter.
“Thank you.” He said, giving her a smile.
Mrs. Elliot, the Head of the Deacons in the Church they both attended, smiled at him and pointed to the seat before her writing table.
“Please sit, Pastor David. It’s so good of you to visit. Tea?”
Pastor David smiled. “Cold water would do, Deaconess, thank you.”
She pressed a knob on the table by her side and bent her head as she continued reading the book before her. Pastor David decided to wait, as well.
A few seconds later, a soft knock sounded on the door, and the maid entered again.
“Cold water for our guest, please.”
When the door closed, the Deaconess turned to the Pastor again with a smile.
“To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”
Pastor David smiled at the question. She always got straight to the point, too busy for shenanigans.
“In my dream, last night, I saw you.” He said, also unwilling to waste her time.
She leaned forward. “Hmm, what was it about?”
“I saw you and Damion.”
She leaned back, and the smile evaporated like water in the desert.
“That name is never mentioned in my presence.”
“Will you listen to the dream? I’ll leave when I’m done.”
She stood. “I’m sorry, but I will not hear anything that concerns that boy. Have a good day.”
He nodded in understanding and stood as well.
“Please, listen for five minutes. I’ll go, and I promise not to talk about Damion ever again.”
She sat. “I respect your position as my pastor, and I will allow this.”
He almost bowed. “Thank you.” He said, taking his seat.
There was another knock, and the drink bearer entered with a tray. She set a glass tumbler before him, on a coaster, and poured water from a glass jug.
“Thank you.” He said, smiling at her as she turned to leave. He took the glass cup and downed the water. He hoped to cool his parched tongue. Done, he set the tumbler down and faced Mrs. Elliot.
“Deaconess, in the dream, you were dying. Damion was by your side, and our savior, Jesus, was on the other hand. They were both pleading with you to avoid the darkness and chose light. Someone else was in your hospital room, crying, the mother of Damion’s child, with a baby in her arms. I couldn’t see faces with clarity, but she seemed to be the one because she stood by his side and away from you.”
Mrs. Elliot lifted a hand. “Stop right there, Pastor. You talk like I am the one in the wrong. I gave that boy the best education by God’s grace. Renowned Pastors tutored him in the things of God, and what does he do? He impregnates a girl left in his care. A small child of eighteen! He, a Master’s degree holder, who was working for his Ph.D.? Are you saying I was wrong in taking the action I did? How else can one cut off evil from good? How else could I show others that I am innocent of such a behavior?”
“I understand, Deaconess. There is a time to punish and a time to forgive. It is time to forgive and to move on from this.”
She shook her head, not looking at him. She was mired in her thoughts, and he didn’t think she heard him.
“The shame, the horrible embarrassment that boy has caused me. I can’t even lift my head in public.” She said, and laughed. Bitterness lined her beautiful face as she looked at him.
“Public? I’ve not left my house in months. I am so ashamed.”
The Pastor leaned forward. “It is time you allow God to judge this matter. I saw you sick on a hospital bed in the dream, and if you feel this way still, I fear for you.”
She stood. “Then why remind me of things best forgotten? Why come here to talk about dreams that don’t help?”
“You may not talk about it, but it doesn’t mean you don’t think about it or that you are not affected by it. You told me yourself you don’t leave the house anymore. That can’t be healthy.”
“How else do I live it down? I, the Deaconess, known most for calling out other people’s children for wrong-doing. I headed women’s groups with efficiency only corporations can boast about, ensuring they maintained their ranks and homes as women of God. I am now the talk of gossipy house-wives. The butt of people’s jokes.” She said and sighed.
“What does God say?”
She smiled—a faraway look in her eye. “One can only guess, Pastor. One can only guess.”
“Deaconess, the God I serve, is a God of light. With Him, there is no darkness or shadow of turning.”
She rested an elbow on the table and put a hand under her chin, focusing on him.
“Damion made a mistake. We understand your anger and need to execute punishment, but won’t we lose him if this continues, soul and all. I met your son once, at the beginning of my work in the Church, and there was an aura of peace around him, I can’t explain it.
“I came here today because of my dream, but I won’t deny that the stories I have heard about you, your son, and the young lady, have troubled me in a big way. The young lady was kicked out of her parent’s home and is living on the streets. Your son is living in a friend’s home, trying to make a living. Is something not wrong with this picture, Deaconess?” He asked, looking up at her.
She was glaring at him. “They should struggle. When you decide to eat the food meant for elders, you do the work meant for them as well.”
“The prodigal was forgiven.”
“What exactly do you want me to do, Pastor?”
“Forgive. Death is also a platform that epitomizes shame, pain, fear, etc. Why don’t we look to the light, where forgiveness, perfect love that casts out fear, joy exist. What has happened, has happened, and we can’t do anything about it, but wouldn’t God want us to do things His way, now that the ball is in our court?”
The Deaconess bowed her head, laying it on the table. The Pastor was about to rise in alarm, thinking she was crying when she sat up and stood.
“Thank you, Pastor, for your visit. I have heard all you have said.”
He looked up at her, still shocked, then collected himself and stood as well.
“Thank you, Deaconess, for your time. God bless you.” He said and made his way to the door.
The door opened from outside, and the maid gestured for him to exit the room. He did; she closed the door behind him and ushered him out.
Three weeks later, Deaconess Elliot came to Church and sought out the Pastor. She found him in a nearby cafe.
“Good afternoon, Pastor. Is that lunch or breakfast?” She asked, trying not to smile at the shock on his face.
He rose from his seat. “Good afternoon, Deaconess. How are you doing today?”
She sat in the seat opposite his. “Sit, Pastor, don’t choke on your food.”
“Yes, ma’am. What brings you out here?” He asked, his food forgotten.
“I came to see Pastor Nathan and to see others in Church. I decided to see you too. I have news.”
He nodded, looking at her.
“My son is back home, with the girl. I came to see if Pastor Nathan would marry them since both are willing.”
“Wow, God be praised!” The Pastor said, his face alive with joy.
“I went back to God, Pastor, you were right. I was slumping around in such darkness, and now I have decided to live. I want my peace back. I want my son back as well, and a grandchild is not all bad.” She said, smiling at him.
“No, Deaconess, it’s not at all. I praise God for you.”
“No, I thank God for you. You spoke the truth in my house that day, ushering in light. I would have still been bound under the chains of the enemy, which I yielded to on my own.” She took his hand and held it, looking into his eyes.
“Thank you, Pastor. May the good Lord bless you.
Till next time, be transformed!!
They walked into the town late because the bus driver refused to drive into the city. Nkoli couldn’t blame him. The whole place looked deserted and dark. There were no streetlights, and when Nkoli looked up, she knew why. They had all been broken.
She held her son’s hand tight. Her heartbeat picked up at all the what-could-happens at such a time. She noticed the slight shivering of his little hand. The night was cold, but she knew it wasn’t the reason Benji, her son, shook. She looked down at the boy and forward, still walking on the dirt road.
“Are you scared?” Nkoli asked.
Benji shook his head, looking ahead. “No, I’m not afraid of anything.”
Nkoli smiled to herself. Her brave ten-year-old. “It’s okay to be scared, son, and you can tell your mummy if you are. I’ll keep your secret, I promise.”
“Do brave men get scared?” He asked in a small voice.
“All the time. The point is to continue doing what you need to do, though you are afraid. I am scared too, but I know who is with us, and because God is here, I’m okay.”
“You are scared too?” Benji asked, looking up at her.
Nkoli smiled at him and walked forward, more determined. She hoped her actions would be proof of her faith.
“Yes, but still, I walk.”
“How do you do it, mummy?”
“My mother told me a story that comforts me whenever I’m afraid. Do you want to hear it?”
She drew him along as she started her tale. “There was once a prophet of God in Israel. He was a great man and performed significant feats for his God. Due to his divine wisdom and knowledge, an enemy king couldn’t defeat the King of Israel. When the enemy King kept trying and failing, his servants informed him that the Prophet gave the King of Israel information about their attack plans.
“The enemy king sent an army to capture the man of God, and they surrounded the city where the Prophet lived. When the Prophet’s servant saw the enemy surrounding them, he cried out to his master in fear. Do you know what the master said?”
Benji shook his head.
“He told him not to be afraid because those who were with them were greater than those who came to fight them. He asked God to open his servant’s eyes so he could see, and God did. Do you know what the servant saw?”
Benji looked up at her. “What?”
“The mountain around them was full of chariots and horses of fire. God was protecting them.”
“What happened next, mummy?”
Nkoli smiled. “The Prophet asked God to blind the army of the enemy King, and he dealt with them from there.”
“Wow, is the story true?”
“Yes, son. I need you to have faith that our God is greater than anything we face out here.”
“I’m still afraid,” Benji said, in the small voice again, as he looked around the dark road.
Nkoli understood the boy’s fear. The sounds of the night seemed to grow and gather strength as they moved forward.
“Believe God has sent angels to defend us tonight. Trust God, even though you can’t see them.”
A man appeared at the end of the street in front of them and stopped. It looked like he was waiting for them. They stopped as well, so did their hearts.
Do you believe? Nkoli heard in her mind.
With her heart beating like a drum beaten by an insane drummer, she clutched her son’s hand tight and walked forward. The man could be anybody, even one sent by her brother.
They took slow steps. Benji had to be dragged along at that point. He wasn’t confident like his mummy. Another male figure joined the first one, and they walked forward, striding towards them with purpose. They were two huge men, and that’s all Nkoli could see. She looked around for street corners, checked for possible hideouts, and then decided to turn round.
“He that is with me…” She said to herself, hesitating.
She stood still, waiting and watching the men approach, wondering if she had gone mad. Her heart was still drumming like it wanted to jump out of her chest, and Benji became the one dragging, but this time, backward.
“Mummy, let’s turn back. Let’s run.” He whispered.
The men came closer, walking together. When they were one meter away from her, Nkoli took her first step back. Something odd happened at the same time. One of the men made way for them to pass through on the narrow road.
“Good evening,” both men said, as they passed Nkoli and Benji, who still stood at the same spot, looking at them, their eyes wide and their mouths opening to shout.
“Good…evening,” Nkoli said as she watched the men walk past and away. The two watched the backs of the men as they moved for some minutes. Benji breathed a sigh of relief when they were out of sight.
“Mummy, they are gone.”
Nkoli nodded. “Let’s get to your uncle’s house.”
They walked up the street and turned right, their steps faster. The road they entered was quiet and dark. One house on the left still had lights on.
“Your uncle is waiting up for us. Let’s get to the house with the lights.”
Once her brother opened the door and they entered the house, Nkoli allowed the tears to fall. She hugged him with relief. They told the family the story of their ordeal. How God led them through the night to safety, but what they didn’t know was that angels did guard them.
The King of Kings blanked out the minds of the two most notorious thieves in the city, turning them from hoodlums to gentlemen in minutes. The angels stood in front and at the back of the mother and her son. The one against them was powerless to fight the living God.
Till next time, be transformed!!
“I want you all to stand. There are people behind you who are here to help us today.” The instructor said.
The students obeyed, looking back at the helpers, and wondering at their presence, but none did so out loud.
The Studio’s large space, about 600 square feet, was wide enough for any activity scheduled for the seven students. The instructor, Pastor Rex, called it the Visual room.
The helpers had been instructed on their tasks, and each one walked forward to stand behind a student.
“I will give them seven scarves, which they will bind over your eyes. Are you ready?” Pastor Rex asked, smiling at the looks on the faces of his students. “I will take your silence as yes.”
He moved towards them and handed a scarf to all the helpers, who used them as directed. When they finished, the Pastor nodded at them, and they left the room, leaving him with the students.
“I want you to tell me what you see.” He said.
“Good. I want you all to try and move forward. Walk the room.” Pastor Rex said.
“With the blindfolds on?”
Pastor Rex smiled. “Yes.”
The students moved forward. Some stopped and moved sideways. A lot of bumping happened: heads, bodies, hands. Some feet stepped on others, resulting in yelps, and shouts. Some of the students stopped moving, some experienced accidents along the way and didn’t want to anymore, while others didn’t want to continue after hearing the shouts of pain. It didn’t help though. They still got bumped into, stepped on, or pushed, as others groped along.
“Stop. Remove the blindfolds.”
The students did so. Some laughed at the game, and others massaged their feet or parts where they were affected.
“Tell me how you felt bumping along in the dark?”
“Pastor Rex, it was confusing.”
“I tried to listen for movement, to avoid any collisions, but it still happened.”
“I was afraid of being bumped or stepped on.”
“I moved away from the sound of the group after a while to avoid being hit by anybody.”
“In real cases, death is the result.” Pastor Rex said, smiling. “Please sit.”
He walked to the writing board in front of the class and wrote on it with a marker.
Light vs. Darkness.
“This is our topic for today.” He scribbled down all the effects the students encountered in the dark, dropped the marker, and walked back to stand before them.
“When God created the world, he didn’t intend for us to grope around for Him. Now, the darkness you found so hard to adapt to is the norm. Humanity is thriving in spiritual darkness. A state of death, fear, worry, confusion, shame, and worst of all, destinies are crushed.
He gestured to a student with his hand. “By moving away from the sound of the group to avoid a collision, two things may happen. You move towards God or into yourself, and your destiny will remain unachieved. Can someone tell me what the solution to this dilemma is?”
Pastor Rex nodded. “Perfect. People are walking in darkness on different levels. Some have built systems that will enable them thrive. Some are living by those systems and hustling to succeed. Others have given up on themselves and God ever coming through. There are a scant few still hoping, and waiting for the Messiah.
“So, Jesus the Christ, the anointed one, came and died as the light of the world, also called the light of life. He came to provide light in the darkness for everyone who believes in Him. Another exercise. I want you all to stand and to walk around the room.”
This time no bumping occurred. They walked with confidence, avoiding each other. The students knew where they wanted to go and moved as they wished.
“Stop, please, but remain standing.” Pastor Rex said. “How did you feel walking in the light?”
“Confident. I know where I’m going.”
“Not afraid anymore.”
“Able to avoid collisions now, thank God!”
They all laughed, and Pastor Rex smiled at them.
“I will invite the helpers one last time, and they will bind your eyes with the scarves as before.”
The helpers came in holding their scarves, and stood behind the students, who looked confused again. They wrapped the scarves over the students’ eyes and left the room at the Pastor’s nod.
“When you walked in the light, did any of you ask God for help?” Pastor Rex asked.
No one answered.
“That’s because you could, or you thought you could. The lie of darkness is to make you think you are like God, able to do anything you want, go anywhere you will, and achieve any of your heart’s desires. That’s the reason many people walking in darkness have no problems with it. They have succeeded at being gods and don’t need another. I want you all to listen to me for this next exercise. If I don’t call your name, don’t move.”
“Femi, move forward by two steps, and stop.”
“Christian, move forward by five steps, and stop.”
“Funke, turn to your left and move forward a step, and stop.”
“Ngozi, turn right, move three steps.”
“Kemi, move backward by a step, and stop.”
“Tony, move forward, by a step, and stop.”
“Dabs, stay where you are. Now, please remove the blindfolds.”
They did, and some gasped. Some students were standing right in front of others. Others stood in front of the class, and some, behind.
“When you follow Christ, you deny yourself, which means you give up any right to do things your way. It’s all about Him. We follow the leading of the Spirit by faith, believing that regardless of where we seem to be at any point, we are okay.
“So the people in front will not presume they are ahead of others, and swagger. It’s just a location and a temporary one. The ones at the back should not think they’ve been forgotten because when the Spirit leads you, it’s for your good, and it’s a temporary location as well. The guys in the middle were protected from bumping into each other and kept safe.
“The light without Christ is still darkness. The illusion of sight is temporary. You will bump into a roadblock on your path, which was always there but unseen in the natural. When people live like they can take care of themselves, they have assumed the role of gods. Why would they need the savior?”
“So we need God in everything we do?”
Pastor Rex nodded at the student. “Everything. Nothing should be left out. Psalm 91:1 states it with no double meaning, dwell in the secret place. In John 15:4, Jesus said, abide. Without the living word, you cannot bear fruit.”
The Pastor looked at his watch and the students with a smile.
“Our class for today is almost done. Do you have any questions?”
“You mean we need to unlearn everything we know about living life?”
The Pastor nodded. “Yes, if you are not abiding in Him, and ensuring that God is part of everything you do. If that’s the case, back to the drawing board. Any other questions?”
He waited and prayed for wisdom. The Pastor also prayed for the Father to enlighten the eyes of their understanding.
“If there are none, have a good week. See you next Friday.”
Ifeoma passed by Baba’s bungalow, without turning, as was the custom when her mother lived. She remembered it most of the time, and like those times, ignored the reflex to look and greet Baba, who was always seated on the balcony.
She stopped and turned to him after a few seconds. The man was still their landlord, even if the reason for their one-time closeness had passed on.
“Come here.” He said, beckoning with his hand.
Ifeoma strolled to stand in front of him. “Good evening, Baba.”
“Good evening, where are you going?”
“I’m going to see a friend in the next street.”
“Spare me five minutes of your time?” Baba asked with a smile.
Ifeoma nodded, wondering what the man wanted with her.
“Go into the living room, and pick a plastic chair for yourself. I want you to sit beside me as you used to when you visited with your mother.”
Ifeoma looked down as the memories of happier times assailed her. Periods of constant laughter and joy, when love was given and received. She stepped into the house as instructed, chose a chair, and returned with it.
“Sit,” Baba said, looking at her face. “I stopped seeing you at service, some months after your mother died. I guessed back then your father didn’t have time to take you and left it. Now, I have noticed some changes in your behavior, which are worrisome to me.
“I noticed that since your father remarried, which tallies with the time you graduated from secondary school, you’ve changed. I see the company you keep, and the time you pass my house on the way home, and these changes bother me, Ifeoma.”
He stopped, still looking at her. Ifeoma looked up at him for the first time since he started speaking.
“Baba, you don’t need to worry about me. I’m a big girl now, and my step-mom doesn’t mind me coming home late. Dad’s always at work, so it’s okay.”
Baba shook his head. “No, Ifeoma, it’s not okay. Your Step-Mother may not worry, and your Dad might be busy, but are those reasons to step out of the right path?” Baba asked, his tone quiet.
“I don’t understand, Baba. Why would you think my path is not right?”
“I see your friends. The girl with heavy makeup all the time that enters big cars at every opportunity. She will soon introduce you to that life. What of that boy, what’s his name? Your school accused him of theft and suspended him? Do you know what he does now?”
Ifeoma did not speak, enraged at the man. She wasn’t his daughter or granddaughter. What right did he have to say such things about her friends?
“Baba, the people you mentioned, Kanne, and Ahmed are my bosom friends. They accept me and take care of me. My Dad traveled when I was taking my mock exams last year, and my Step-Mom couldn’t provide money for the exams; Kanne bailed me out. I fell sick with typhoid two months ago and almost died, if not for Ahmed’s prompt intervention. They are my people. They’ve got my back, which is something I can’t say about anybody else in my life.”
Baba shook his head at the wickedness of death.
“When your mother was alive—”
“Baba, she’s dead. Let her stay dead. There is nothing she can do for me now. I need to grow and move up in the world, and it seems I have to do it myself. I have my people to help me along the way. I’m good.” Ifeoma said, standing from her seat.
Baba looked up at her. “Sit down.” His tone brokered no argument. Ifeoma sat without hesitation.
“I’ll tell you a story. Do you remember chanting story time when you’d visit with your mother? You’d bring your small stool, place it in front of me, and demand a story. Well, today is my turn, and I require that you listen.
“An uncle and his nephew lived in a vast land. Each had his wealth, but they lived together because they were family. After a while, it became troublesome to manage their riches, as one’s servants would demand more resources, denying the other’s servants, and vice versa.
“The struggle continued until the uncle called his nephew in for a meeting. He advised that they separate to remain in good faith. Living together didn’t seem to be working out for them. He asked his nephew to look through the land and to choose where he preferred.
“The nephew turned and looked to the South, West, North, and then to the East, and spotted what one would call the garden of Eden. A green and fruitful land, overflowing with the proverbial milk and honey. He chose to go East at once, and his uncle blessed him and let him go with all his wealth and servants.
“Do you know the source of their wealth?” Baba asked Ifeoma, who was had moved closer to listen. She shook her head.
“God. Earlier on, He allowed them to pass through a country where the king himself blessed the uncle with abundance. Part of that affluence spilled over to the nephew. The uncle had a relationship with God, which the nephew did not deem necessary.
“When the nephew left with all he had, God visited the uncle. He asked him to look through the land, East, West, North, and South. God promised his uncle everything, including the land where his nephew moved to, of course. There is something else you should know about the land the nephew chose. It was filled with wickedness and had been slated for destruction by God. Human wisdom is foolishness before God.”
Ifeoma wondered why Baba was telling her Abraham and Lot’s story. How did it apply?
“Psalm 14:1-3 says, the fool has said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt; they have done abominable works, none does good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside; they have together become corrupt; none does good, no, not one.” He said, stopping to allow the verses to work.
“Ifeoma, following people whose paths are not right with God because they are useful to you, will not work well for you in the end. There is nothing given for free in this world, especially by its god. One day, they will demand payment in kind for all they’ve done, and you will have to comply, as indebted to them as you feel.
“Your mother brought you here to fellowship with me whenever your father traveled, and she needed company. We sharpened each other, and she believed in God. She hoped you would grow up with the same belief. It is also God’s will for you.”
Ifeoma looked up at Baba. Her glare told him she was ready for answers. “Yes, about God. Where was He when I couldn’t pay for my mock exams, or when I lay alone, watching life leave my body? Where was this God you are talking about now?”
Baba let out a noisy breath as he looked at her.
“He was right there with you. He is also here, a part of our discussion, hoping you’ll listen and give Him a chance to soothe your pain. He has always been with you, Ifeoma. He never left your side.”
She looked down, deciding that arguing with the older man was futile.
“I hope you’ll give Him a chance to show you His love. It’s worth all the treasure in the world.”
“Thank you, Baba.”
He nodded, knowing when to stop. “I am here for you. If you need anything, anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask. You may go to your friend’s place now.”
Ifeoma nodded, unable to look at him, and stood. She returned the seat, remembering how her mum would always remind her to do so when they visited. By the time she left the house, the tears had escaped, blinding her. She turned back from her chosen path, deciding she was in no state to visit Kanne. She would have problems explaining the cause of her grief and look weak.
Back at home, Ifeoma locked her bedroom door, and cried on her bed, muffling her cries with her pillow. She remembered it all: her mother’s smile and ready hugs, the stories, and coke at Baba’s place, the aroma of food on her mother when it was time to eat, and kisses would be rained on her, coaxing her to try her mother’s cooking. She remembered her mother’s love for God, and her constant prayer that Ifeoma would love Him as well. It all came back to her.
“Where were you? Why let her die if she loved you that much? I miss her, and I need her. What was the purpose of her death, God, what?” She asked in a whisper as she cried.
There was no response.
Ifeoma cried herself to sleep. She woke up the next morning, and she knew what she needed to do. After a bath, she got ready and went back to Baba. She had questions she required him to answer about God.
Till next time, be transformed!!!
“Imagine being told to leave the life you know, for a place you have no inkling about?” Ola said.
The light in the room was dim, as the day darkened into night. The three women preferred it. The cushioned chairs were worn but comfortable, upholstered in velvet, maybe a million years ago, but still able to give warmth. The rug was soft and fluffy, like real animal fur. The antique stools had gold bars by the side. The women had asked themselves more than once if the bars were real gold.
They gathered twice a week in Mrs. Obed’s house for bible study. Mrs. Obed was eighty that year and unable to attend the day’s meeting due to a cold. She allowed the women, who were daughters to her, to hold the bible meeting while lying in bed upstairs in her room.
“Imagine what it would mean for us at this time?” Ngozi asked, looking at the other ladies.
“I believe God was telling Abraham to get away from external influences. To allow God to be his chief influencer. God was introducing to a new way of life in a way.” Toni, the quiet one, said.
“That’s a wise way of putting it, Toni. Thanks.” Ola said, smiling.
“So, God was doing a new thing in his life?” Ngozi said in response.
Toni nodded. “Yes, it’s like telling us that by following Christ’s lead, we have become new creatures. When we allow Him to have total control, He renews us, from the inside, which manifests in the external-the new thing.”
“I guess Isaiah 43:19 applies as well. He will do a new thing, make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. He took a childless man from being a nobody in his homeland to become a great nation and a blessing in a land where he was unknown. I have a question though, how did Abraham know to answer and obey the voice? God’s requirements were quite steep.” Ola asked.
Toni shook her head. “I don’t think it was a moment’s decision for Abraham. God saw something in the man, and Abraham might have been seeking Him for change. For us though, what does it mean to be new creatures in Christ, based on today’s discussions?”
“I believe God is calling us out, as well. To get out from under the influence of the material world. John 1:12, 13 says as many believe in His name, He gave the right to become sons of God; those born of God, not the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, and not of blood. To be led by His Spirit.” Ngozi said and took a sip of tea.
“1 John 5 also says whatever is born of God overcomes the world, and the victory over the world is our faith. Once Abraham believed and obeyed the living word, he was an overcomer. God led him, and started doing new things in his life, making a way where there was none, and rivers in the desert.” Ola said.
Toni slipped from her chair and sat cross-legged on the rug. “Once we allow Him total control, He also begins to do new things in our lives. Let’s be more specific. What does it mean to give Him total control?”
The three remained quiet in meditation.
“To control is to exert influence or authority. Jesus is Lord, so we allow Jesus to be the ruler over everything in our lives. Our decisions, thoughts, actions, families, gatherings, country, etc.” Toni said, looking at the rest.
Ngozi nodded. “Amen to that. He is the light in our darkness, which means He will manifest light over every aspect of our lives that we allow Him to control, chasing away fear, worry, and doubt. Death conquered.”
“Word,” Ola said, smiling in agreement.
“Wonderful, ladies.” A voice said from behind the door of the room.
They all turned as Mrs. Obed entered the room, smiling.
“I came down ten minutes ago, heard your discussion, and stopped. I have been following your line of thought, and I like where it’s going.”
“Thank you, ma. We are almost done. How are you feeling?” Ola asked.
Mrs. Obed waved a hand. “I’m as strong as an ox. I’ll survive. I have a question for all of you before you go. What if you handed Him total control, and nothing happens?”
“Nothing happens? I don’t understand, ma, how can nothing happen with God?” Toni asked.
“What if you wait for the promised children like Abraham did, and the years pass by? Wouldn’t it make sense to offer up your servant for the Master’s use? What if you keep waiting and your husband decides he wants you to get a surrogate? Won’t that start looking like the same thing after a while, though God gave specific promises to Abraham?”
The ladies remained quiet, lost in thought. The question wasn’t one they could answer lightly.
“We will wait,” Toni said, answering the question.
“We will wait.” Ola and Ngozi said in unison.
Mrs. Obed smiled at all of them. “See that you do. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are higher. Stand in faith as long as you heard from Him. See you on Friday.”
Till next time, be transformed!!
“Tell me what was going on in your mind at the time of the incident?” Pastor Kunle asked.
Ayo let out a harsh breath. “Anger and pain. I expected her to understand. I have been overwhelmed by a lot of the things happening around me. The company’s management, where I work, are thinking of downsizing, and none of us know our fate. Peter has been sick for some time, so I have been taking a lot of time off to care for the boy, since Maria traveled. My mum’s shop in the market was razed to the ground with the recent fire outbreak, and I am back to being their primary financial support. When she returned and blamed me for Peter’s condition, I struck.”
Pastor Kunle nodded in understanding. “I know it’s not easy to deal with the challenges of life, Ayo, but you must know God is with you.”
Ayo laughed, a mirthless laugh.
“I kept believing the grace of God would see me through. I kept praying for strength and holding on for a break. I have no idea how I became so angry, so fast. I still can’t believe I hit my wife.” Ayo said, his voice thinning into a whisper as he shook his head.
Pastor Kunle stood from his chair and walked around the table to sit next to him.
“Ayo, I believe you gave in to the pressure of the external. The fear of losing your job, Peter’s sickness, Maria’s unavailability, and the new financial burden clouded your mind, distracting you from your position in Christ.
“God promises that in the waters, He is with us; In the rivers, we shall not be overwhelmed, and in the fire, we will not be burned, nor scorched by its flames. The verse is easy to quote, but do we believe and live them out? God tells us in straightforward sentences that waters, rivers, and fire will come to test and strengthen us and that He will be with us through all of it.
“You believe in God’s grace, but you admit you felt overwhelmed. You worried about too many things, forgetting to lay each one of them down before God, leaving them at His feet. Instead of walking in his strength, you prayed to Him but depended on yourself. You forgot that the most important place to be at all times is in God’s presence and prioritized your situation over it. You lost your peace from there.
“Ayo, what happens on your inside is more important than what’s happening on the outside. If you can overcome inside your mind and heart, you will triumph in the physical.”
Ayo nodded and turned to the Pastor.
“What do I do now? How do I go home to face her and the kids?”
Pastor Kunle smiled as he patted Ayo’s shoulder. “First, you need to forgive yourself. God loves you with an everlasting love, and He will keep drawing you with love and kindness, so believe He has forgiven you.
“I will give you a series of scripture verses I want you to study and pray. We will be praying with and for you. I will speak with your wife as well, to pray with you. Perfect love casts out fear because fear brings torment. You will need to grow in the perfect love of God, as do we all.
“You will return home and apologize to your wife and children. Tell them such a thing will not happen again. Love and cherish them, as God gives you grace.”
“What if it happens again? I heard that once you beat a woman, you will continue to do so.” Ayo said, lowering his head.
Pastor Kunle smiled. “Ayo,” he waited till the other man raised his head and looked at him. “That’s the lie of the devil. Please don’t believe it. The choice is yours, though. When you walk in the spirit and the Most High’s strength, you will not give in to such bouts of madness, but when you fall back into depending on yourself and facing life alone, God alone knows what can happen.
“You are a child of God, and the Spirit of God resides in you, Ayo, have faith, and live it. Don’t allow the enemy’s lies to distract and destroy what God is doing in you.”
Ayo nodded. “I see now how important it is to be careful about what one hears and thinks. I will immerse myself in the word of God.”
Pastor Kunle smiled again. “Study and listen to Him too. God has a word for you every day. Immerse yourself in the living word of God available for each day.”
The Pastor turned and tore out a small sheet of paper from his table, took out his pen, and wrote down some verses. He handed the paper to Ayo.
“Study and pray these verses until the Spirit of God gives you leave to do something else. Depend on God, Ayo, that’s all we do here, or else the challenges of life would suck us dry.” Pastor Kunle said as he stood and walked back to his seat.
Ayo stood as well. “Thank you, Pastor, for all you’ve done since last night. If not for you and your wife, I don’t know how I could have managed until now. My mind was a war zone yesterday.”
“Yes, the enemy would try at that time to ensure you stay down in the darkness instead of seeking the light of life. Thank God you made the right choice. Let’s pray.”
The Pastor prayed for grace, mercy, and strength in the inner man. He also gave thanks for Ayo’s life.
Once he was done, they shook hands, and Ayo left the office. As soon as he shut the door behind him, a question popped into his mind. How is it possible to change so fast?
Ayo stopped, pondered the question, and smiled. “I understand God loves me more than I can ever know and is willing to carry my burdens. I will lay down my problems before my father rather than carry them around like a beast of burden. I will continue to deal with issues and questions that arise in my mind, rather than making the problems in the physical my priority.” He said out loud as he walked away, still smiling.
Till next time, be transformed!!
Today is a day I will never forget.
After my last meeting, I was tired and hungry. I took a taxi home, and once the vehicle turned into my street, the chaos happening on it made the driver slow down. People were running to the end of the road where a crowd gathered. It almost seemed like they were in front of my compound.
“Should I keep going, madam?” The driver asked.
As we drove down the street, I saw my neighbors and friends standing and talking. Some were shouting. The car stopped and parked in front of the compound opposite mine.
I paid the driver and slowly got out of the vehicle, trying to find the easiest way into my house without being noticed.
“Mama Toby, welcome.”
I had been caught. I turned with a smile to meet five women looking at me.
“Women of God, what’s happening?” I asked.
I had been appointed the leader of the Women’s Fellowship in Church, and I was still adjusting to the role and its responsibilities.
“Mommy Toby, so if not for Iya Risi, you would have crept into your house to hide?” Ada’s mummy asked, the one adept at troublemaking.
“To tell you all the truth, I am tired and hungry, and I have no idea what is happening on our street. Yes, I would have entered my house to rest until it’s time to pick Toby from school.”
Ada’s mummy hissed and clapped her hands. “Leader.” She said, her mouth turned up. The job should have been hers, but favor entrusted it in my care.
“Mommy Toby, your friend is in trouble.” Aiden’s mum, my next-door neighbor, said in a whisper.
“Which friend?” I asked, turning to her.
She took my hand and led me to the crowd of women and children. We moved forward wherever we saw space, excusing ourselves and apologizing until we got to the front, and I looked down at the horrible spectacle, my eyes widening.
My young friend, Emma, was almost naked on the ground. She had been beaten, people were still spitting on her, and she wasn’t moving. Her eyes were shut, and I couldn’t see movement in her chest area. The women and children were shouting insults and obscenities at her.
“Would you please hand me your second Ankara?” I asked Aiden’s mum.
She looked at me for a minute, knowing what I intended to do. She untied the material from around her waist and handed it to me.
“Be careful. This crowd is unforgiving.” She said.
I walked forward with caution and covered Emma with the material. She shivered as the cloth touched her bare skin but did nothing else. The crowd erupted with no’s.
“Remove that nonsense, and let her suffer.” Someone said, shouting.
“Chief supporter, go and sleep.” Someone else said.
“Are you her madam?” Yet another person said from behind me.
“Mama Toby, what do you think you’re doing?” Ada’s mummy asked as she and the other ladies circled me like a protective shield.
“We need to take this girl out of here before these people kill her,” I said, looking at the ladies one after the other, hoping they would agree with my plan.
“Why? Do you know what she did?” Ada’s mummy asked, folding her arms.
“It doesn’t matter what she did. This kind of treatment is inhuman. If she committed a crime, the police should be called into the matter. Let’s not let this crowd take the law into their hands.”
The crowd had quietened for a bit, and most of them heard what I said.
“She is a prostitute. She sleeps with married men who live on this street. We have caught her today.” A woman shouted from the crowd, and the rest of the people agreed.
“Did you hear that? This girl, your friend, sleeps with the married men on our street and blackmails them for money. We caught her today because her last victim had the sense to confess to his wife, who set a trap for her.
“The man’s wife took her phone by force and opened up her photo gallery. All she told us was that there are many more men who might have been blackmailed by your friend and that she would delete all the photos to save people’s marriages. This girl needs to be taught a lesson!” Ada’s mummy said, her tone high, her eyes narrowed in anger.
“Yes!” The crowd chorused.
“People like her should pay for their wicked ways so that they can change.” Ada’s mummy said, continuing to work the crowd.
I wondered if she was angry at me or something else.
“How many women here has she slept with their husbands?” I asked, shouting out the question.
Nobody said a word.
“The person this girl owes an apology is the woman who caught her. Why are we trying to kill someone who hasn’t done us any harm?”
“Are you sure your husband is not one of her victims?” Someone asked, and people laughed.
I looked at Emma, who still lay on the ground, unmoving.
“I am not a judge, and I will not condemn her. I was a spinster once, and I know the life I lived before God saved me.”
“Birds of the same feather.” A woman shouted from the crowd.
“Yes, you can say that. I have been saved by grace in Christ, and I praise God for it. I am not like most of you who were good from birth and never sinned or did wrong. No, I can stand because I have been washed by the blood of Jesus from my sinful ways, not by my righteousness. Since we are birds of the same feather, please do to me what you’ve been doing to this girl.” I said, challenging them.
I had no idea what made me say that. My anger may have unhooked a bolt in my brain. I almost cowered before the crowd in fear. I stood tall against the panic I felt, hoping and praying they would not take the bait and deal with me.
“Mama Toby,” A voice called from behind me.
I turned, and it was Iya, the oldest landlady on the street. A kind and no-nonsense woman who didn’t tolerate wrongdoing. In her, I saw our deliverance.
“Doesn’t she deserve to be beaten for what she has done? Fornicating with the men on her home turf? She has no sense at all.” Iya said.
“Mama, God doesn’t give us what we deserve.”
“We are not God, Mama Toby. Leave us to handle this the right way.”
I sighed, not ready to give up. “If Lade, my daughter, was caught in a situation like this, would I be happy to see her left to the crowd? Would any of you leave your children at the mercy of people who would hurt them? God created this girl, and He is her Father. Let Him deal with her the way He sees fit.
“I serve a living God who asks me to leave all judgment to Him. How will I pray, praise, or worship Him, if I judge and condemn this girl?” I asked, looking at the faces in the crowd.
The women remained quiet. I heard the noise of the children alone as I waited for their decision. Mine was not to leave the place without Emma.
Iya hissed at me and turned to walk away. People made way for her. Next, Ada’s mummy walked away with the women who protected me. One by one, they departed until I was left with the crowd. They also dispersed.
One woman remained, with Emma and me.
“Tell her to leave this place. She must pack out of this street, or I swear, the next time I see her, she will not leave my presence whole.” The woman said and walked away.
“That’s the wife of the man your friend went to blackmail. It’s her day, I suppose.” Aiden’s mum said from behind me.
“Please help me with this girl. I need to take her to the hospital.”
We covered Emma with the material and rushed her to the hospital. She received treatment for her bruises. Emma refused to look at or talk to me the whole time until we dropped her in front of her house.
I hope she heard, understood, and believes.
Till next time, be transformed!!!