Crises as springboards to greater heights – Part 1

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“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Those were words attributed to Sir Winston Churchill from many decades ago.

With the speedy help of Google, I found out that a crisis can be defined as any of the following:

  1. a time of intense difficulty or danger.
  2. a time when a difficult or important decision must be made.
  3. the turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death.

One word that jumps at me again and again from Churchill’s admonition above is the adjective “good”. Can a crisis be good? What makes one crisis good and the other bad? Perhaps it is all about attitude – how we respond to periods of intense difficulty or danger when they arise in our lives, and/or in the lives of friends and loved ones. As long as we live, we will always encounter crises, and crises come to us in various forms.

Certain events in my life over the past year or two easily qualified as crises and they have come a long way in helping me to reflect on life and the purpose for which I am here. I am grateful to be alive and still standing, in spite of the thorns and thistles that have tested my resolve and helped to build my faith in God.

What do you think about crises; is there such a thing as a good crisis? Care to share your experience and thoughts? Please feel free to do so in the comments section below. I will be back next week.

Pastor is a Liverpool Fan! And other Notes from Last Sunday

So pastor steps up to the podium and I run his usual lines ahead of him, “Let’s open our Bibles to…” He says that, but pauses on a second thought, “Let’s just open our Bibles.” Everybody giggles, some laugh out loud. He then explains that we will not be starting with the scriptures today. I should have known by now that he is up to something. Then, he fires the salvo: “Let us welcome all Arsenal fans into the healing presence of…” That is it! It is no news that Pastor is a Liverpool fan.

The day before (last Saturday), the depleted Arsenal team lost at home at the Emirates stadium to Liverpool. It was 2-0. I have been pro-Arsenal for half-a-decade, but I’m likely to finally join Barca alongside Cesc Fabregas this season because I’m all for results, and not just some needless experimentation, unbridled frugality, and ‘teenage player exploitation’. Not to even think I almost bought an Arsenal jersey after we won Barca in the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals. A broken relationship is better than a failed marriage. Time will tell.

So, Pastor did not preach all football. There’s some stuff I’d like to share from the sermon. In what he titled, “If You Want to Fail, Kindly Keep These Commandments”, he outlined four rules for guaranteed failure. First off, he defined success as “improving your own situation, and by so doing, becoming a more valuable and useful person to those around you. Here goes:

FOUR RULES FOR GUARANTEED FAILURE

  1. Make sure you don’t learn from your mistakes: If you want guaranteed failure, never accept that you have made any mistake(s), not to even talk of learn from such. Failures are those who have made the same mistake(s) more than three times. The modern society is based on the principle of ‘See something, say something.’ This way, evil and wrong doing are not aided and abetted. Proverbs 28:13 instructs us to confess our wrongdoings so that we may be forgiven and thus, prosper. If you want to make progress, respect your establishment – the rules that govern your society. This was evident in the case of Abdul-Mutallab, whose dad had reported to the U.S. authorities as soon as he observed questionable moves in the life of his son. He put the respect for the establishment over his relationship with his son. This way, the case has been handled with less severity compared to if the authorities had not been forewarned and reported to beforehand.

  2. Disregard intelligence and courage: Intelligence in this regard is beyond intelligence quotient (IQ). It is linked to emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is measured by empathy – putting oneself in the shoes of others. With empathy comes intercession.

  3. Be hasty in spirit: If you want to succeed, research thoroughly. Catching up is easier/better cleaning up. Read. Gather the data and find out facts.

  4. Be inflexible: It is suicidal when everything around you changes, but you remain the same. Don’t worship the past. Change is often gradual. Hold to your core values, but recognize that the method of implementation will always change. At a point, J.J. Okocha learnt and perfected his free-kick skills and that that added value to him and made him more relevant on a constantly evolving and competitive national football team. There was a time when if you had a Walkman, you were the man. Today, you’ll probably be ‘walked out’ of an electronics shop, if you go there looking to buy a Walkman, when others are buying iPods, iPads, and what have you.

Photo credit: motd2u.blogspot.com; watchprem.com

“It is God’s Blessing, No?” – Lessons in Honesty & Integrity

So, there I was in front of my laptop on Wednesday 1 June 2011 at work, online as usual. Suddenly, my faithful Nokia phone beeped. I checked my Yahoo! mailbox a little longer, clicked on an e-mail, and then picked up the phone. The SMS read “N3, 000 was transferred to you from the 0803*** on 01/06/11 11:35 via Share & Sell. Your new account balance is N3, 198.9.” That was quite interesting because I was expecting that exact amount from someone.

I verified the sender’s number with the one I had, but the phone numbers were different. Then, my first reaction was to call the sender, and that was what I did. It turned out my phone line had been wrongly credited by a Hausa man who was supposed to recharge his boss’ phone. He was happy I called, quickly switched from his native language to English, and happily told me how to re-credit his phone with the amount. Some fifteen minutes later, I was able to do so. He called and was very excited as he thanked me and said some prayers. When I eventually opened the Yahoo! Mail tab, guess what the e-mail was about?

Here’s the devotional I had received on that day from Pastors Joel & Victoria Osteen:

The Power of Integrity

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE:

“The Lord judges the people; judge me, O Lord, and do me justice according to my righteousness [my rightness, justice, and right standing with You] and according to the integrity that is in me” (Psalm 7:8, AMP)

TODAY’S WORD from Joel and Victoria:

Integrity is a powerful attribute in the life of the believer. Integrity means that you are dependable. You are a person of your word. You’re consistent and honest.

You might say, “Oh, I’m a pretty good person. I do the right thing most of the time.” But understand, it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine. You can veer off course just a little bit, and before you know it, you’re miles away from your destination. Don’t allow the little things to keep you from your destiny; choose integrity — even when no one is looking. For instance, you might need some paper at home, but you shouldn’t take supplies from the office. Or, you might be running into a store for just a minute, but don’t park in the handicap parking spot unless you’re supposed to. If the checkout clerk makes a mistake and gives you too much money back, that’s not God’s provision, that’s a test of integrity!

Remember, if you’ll be faithful and choose integrity in the little things, God will make you ruler over much. Be a person of integrity and open the door for God’s blessing and honor all the days of your life!

A PRAYER FOR TODAY

Father God, today I commit to live a life of integrity. I choose a life of excellence and ask for Your hand of favor. Show me any area that is not pleasing to You so that I can continue to grow and increase in You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
— Joel & Victoria Osteen

You can be sure I gasped! I nodded quietly to myself. Yes, that amount was not that much (it’s barely $15, you know?), but leading a life of honesty and integrity begins with the little things.

Just last month, I had been faced with a related test. I had gone to interview a celebrity for a story that would be run less than an hour from the time I got the scoop. As I made to leave the venue, I received a ‘white’ envelope from the interviewee’s PR person, who told me it was for my transport. However, the amount I counted was at least fifteen times the total amount I spent biking to and from the venue, back to the office. I contemplated for some hours and even called a senior friend in the media for advice and insight ‘into these things’. Not to even think that a Facebook friend had sought my opinion about the ‘brown’ envelop syndrome in the Nigerian media some months earlier, and I had never encountered such. Of course, there it is common practice and there are standards for paying honorarium (at press conferences, etc.) in the media world, but when you reward me for something I am being paid for by my employers, I might as well respectfully reject it, or declare it to my boss. It is not uncommon for writers and journalists in the print media to receive such ‘packages’ in order to expedite their action in ensuring their reports on such events are written and published in time. My organisation does not do such, and I am wary of such myself. I called my boss later that evening and duly informed her. [Truth is, on the bike back to the office that day, a thought had flashed through my mind that ‘See how God sends his blessings!’ But, I was not one to be fooled by that. God is not a dubious God.] I’d rather borrow, than claim what is not legally mine. Of course, like they told us in moral instruction classes in the elementary school, a good name is better than silver and gold. I prefer a good name, and I guard it with so much passion. But, beyond just that, I want to be honest and continue to be a man of integrity, fundamentally because it is the right thing to do!

To wrap this post up, last Sunday one of the salient points Pastor Poju Oyemade (Covenant Christian Centre, Lagos) made was that: if you are an employee, approach and handle your job as a steward and not as a digger. I want to operate much better with this mindset – a steward must give account so he must be responsible and treat his jurisdiction like he is the owner of the company, not just a digger who is in it just for his personal gains (only!). If you want to grow and be a CEO, then handle other people’s affairs with utmost care and a sense of ownership and accountability. It should not just be about you waiting for the next paycheck, and you’re out! Be honest and trustworthy, because it is right. Mostly, what goes around comes around. -GN

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Photo Credit: www.dvh-engr.com; www.lifecoachmary.com; kammikunkel.wordpress.com

The Continuous Search for a Life in Full

Hi friends,

Today I’ll be going down memory lane.

One night, in the summer of 1998, I got home to find some piece of good news. It had been a busy day – going to school and running errands at the shop run by my mum and granny. The good news was in a bulky brown envelop. No, it was not money! It was my first installment of a bible correspondence course.

I had subscribed to the Voice of Truth Bible School, Kano, after seeing some of their study materials with Gbolahan Akinlosotu, one of my classmates in Primary Six. That night, I was elated and overwhelmed at the number of books and the personalized letter sent to me. As I lay excitedly on my mat and unseal the package, I offered sincere prayers to God and felt like the most special being in the world. The books, though not the trendiest, were full of graphic illustrations and each had questions at the end. I loved writing exams and tests. I loved answering questions, so I soon consumed everything and returned my answers via the Onipanu Post Office.

In another three months, I received the next installment and the cycle continued till I got to the advanced level with tougher questions to answer. It was always a thrilling and fulfilling exercise whenever I received those study materials.

When I stopped receiving the course materials sometimes around 2000/2001, I was not happy. I was rather disturbed, but I soon reasoned that the school might have run out of funds or perhaps, they had been forced to close down, considering the spate of inter-tribal and religious conflicts in the Northern part of the country. Many churches and mosques had been burnt down during such bloody clashes. Thankfully, I had grown in my faith and could now move on conveniently to other materials and associations to ensure my sustained spiritual growth.

Today, when I look back at those days, I realize how far I have come. I seem to be too caught up in the New Testament, especially the epistles and all the ‘Rhema sturvs’… lol! What happened to the parables and the stories of the Old Testament? I recall with nostalgia, the tenacious childhood passion I had for bible study and how insatiable I was; how I could go to any length to find out things about the scriptures and how diligently I participated in bible study as a Sunday school kid back then. I believe it was even partly responsible for the giant leaps I had in my academics. I was just curious. In church, I won the annual Bible Genius competition back-to-back and was on my way for the third (in JSS2) when I was disqualified because I had earlier in the year been drafted into the main church choir. The following year, I represented my church in a quiz competition in another church. Two contestants were meant to represent each church, but I had to prepare and go alone; and I won!

Why go through the entire story? Well, I still love God and seek to please him in all things, but I think I’ve lost some of those fundamentals. By that, I mean, how many Bible facts and statistics do I remember? Truth is: then, we learnt those details and memorized those verses out of routine and to earn some respect as the “Bible Genius”, but looking back I believe they became handy in helping to form character. Today, I still remember a handful of those memory verses I learnt a dozen years ago. Remember the portion that says, *“Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee”? or *“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”?

Also, I live and breathe analogies, so how could I have done away with those stories? Most of my writings – poetry and prose – are filled with analogies, metaphors, allegories, name it! As a child I learnt to observe a lot, think deeply, and connect happenings in my environment. Even Jesus Christ used a lot of those elements in connecting with people in his time. Stories are powerful and good stories are much more powerful! My writing sure dates back to those memorable days.

Today, I have made a decision to begin and finish reading the whole Bible by the end of the year – four or five chapters every day will get me there. This does not sideline my regular bible study programmes/plans as well as listening to my favourite podcasts courtesy Creflo & Taffy Dollar, Joel & Victoria Osteen, and Joyce Meyer. I am excited that I will be reminded about things I have long forgotten; I also stand a big opportunity to explore a wealth of new revelations as I journey through the word of God. I want to experience God through His Word, both as a curious child who reads for the specific details, and as an adult who consciously studies the scriptures, patiently receives revelations, and receives grace to apply the biblical truths in everyday life. It’s sure going to be quite tasking, but I’m ready to invest in this worthwhile adventure.

How about you? What steps are you taking to become more spiritually attuned today? I’d like to hear from you! –GN!

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*Psalm 119 vs. 11
*Psalm 119 vs. 105

Photo credit: www.livingfaithri.org; www.fbcbuna.com; www.way-of-grace.org