The Simple Life

My Unexpected Teacher


On one of my many public commuter journeys I met an amazing and unexpected teacher. I had a brief encounter but it was a Masters class. It was at about 6pm and I was on my way home at the Railways bus station. It had rained and so as it typical in Kenya, the public commuter vehicles had hiked the fare by at least 50% while on some routes fare had gone up 100%. Added to this fact was the reality that many of the vehicles were trapped in traffic on the way to town so there were few to no vehicles at that normally bustling bus Amazing Rock-splashes-at-sunset-resizecrop--station. This day the place was thick with people and thin with vehicles.

At about 6.30pm, vehicles started coming but none of them were willing to get onto our route. You see, only part of the road is tarmac and the rest is all weather but it is rough and it goes on for about 10km. There was no other option so we stood for quite a while and waited. Ok…it is be a stretch to say we waited patiently because we were antsy, fidgety, tired and many were complaining. Finally, one bus came and they said they would go as far as the end of the tarmac and many of us quickly got on. I like seats near the front, so I got to sit in the seat next to the conductor a young man I will call Karis. He is a very polite young man who intrigued me from the start. Those who know me well know that when I am intrigued I want to know more and understand the person on the other end.

We started talking when I gave him a crisp Kshs 200 note and told him I don’t want dirty money for change. He smiled and said that he has learnt to be fair and give people what they give him. If you give him old notes you get your change in old notes; if you give him clean notes you get your change in clean notes. Hahaha! That was the funniest thing I had heard all day. I got my crisp Kshs 100 shilling note back and off he went to collect money from the rest of the commuters. Once done, he came back, sat down and we began chatting. I learnt so much from him I couldn’t believe it.

This young man is 26, he has four other siblings and they are orphans. Their parents died when they were teenagers and they were raised by their aunts and uncles. He was raised in the church but because of lack of fees he never went far in his education. However, he said something so profound I was reminded of it this week. He said, “In life there those who are educated and those who are wise. The people who are successful are the wise and not necessarily the educated because wisdom helps you make good choices.” This was the start of an hour long conversation because that day there was traffic.

Amazing Two-lovable-babies-resizecrop--The highlights for me were several:

  • Your start doesn’t matter: where you were born doesn’t determine where you will end up. He was not born rich but he lives well and has found joy. He worked for a garbage collection firm and arrived at work at 4am and left at 10pm so he had no time to waste. All he did was eat and sleep in the evening and then get back to work in the morning.
  • A good upbringing makes a difference: he was raised in the church and taught to love God, focus on life and avoid a loose wasteful life. He was also taught to work hard and dream about the future. He also saw what alcohol, smoking and living loosely did to his colleagues and opted not to get involved.
  • Saving: it is important to put money aside and invest it. He saves at least Kshs 4000 a week. He learnt that as long as he is able to eat and sleep every day he can put aside all that he didn’t use. You see, most conductors earn at least Kshs 1000 daily. If he spends less than Kshs 300 daily it leaves him to save Kshs 700 a day which translates to Kshs 4900 a week. there are days when it’s more.
  • Never give up: a few years ago he was dating this girl and he was really serious about and he gave it his all. In the scheme of things the relationship ended after about a year and she left him high, dry and broke. He had to find the strength to go on and start again. He moved out and away to start away
  • Always look for quality at a good price: it was interesting when he said that he was looking for leads on expatriate sales so that he could get good deals on quality furniture.
  • Have a plan: know where you want to be in a set number of years. Clear goals. Set timelines. Clear action plan.
  • Never give up: life will send things your way that may be huge to get over or through. Don’t let the obstacles keep you from getting what you want to. The important thing is to keep moving and life will work out.
  • Appreciate the people around you who care about you: Karis owes a lot in his life to his uncle who gave him opportunities to grown and encouraged him when things were thick. He also let him know when it was time for him to stand on his own and be a man. He also has an older sister who took care of them when they were younger until they could stand on their own. It was never easy but they stood together.
  • The importance of salvation: In his words, ‘Imani yangu ndio imeniweka kwa yote imehappen…Kama sio Mungu…’ (‘My faith is the only thing that has kept me through all that I have been through. If it wasn’t for God…). Enough said.
  • Seek to be wise over and above schooling: Schooling without wisdom gets you nowhere…seek both and reach higher in life. In his definition, schooling happens when someone just goes through school and comes out with papers while wisdom is the ability to assess situations and survive because of street smarts. I use schooling because I believe the education is what is left when all else is forgotten, so it is beyond schooling. I am still unpacking this one lesson and when I am done you know what will happen around here.

Suddenly I was at the end of my journey and had to get off the bus but there was so much to think about as I walked the last distance to the house. We were all dropped at the start of the dirt road to proceed to our respective homes as the driver and Karis turned around to head back into town for a few more trips to the nearby areas. In that instant I realised that his shift was far from over but he hadAmazing-tornado-over-water-resizecrop-- taken time to talk to and inspire another person.

I am totally inspired every time I think of Karis because when I am honest with myself, he is doing so much better than I am with so much less than I have. My decision from that day has been to be grateful for what I have and use it to make life better for me and those around me. I also decided that my life has to have value and be shared with others so that I can make the kind of difference in their lives like Karis made in mine.

THE CHRISTIAN WALK, The Simple Life

Unexpected Perspectives of Life


I have had the opportunity of using public transport a lot in recent months and it has totally changed my perspective on life. I have been struck by so many different things it is amazing in and of itself. I have a new found respect for people who use this as their primary means of mobility. Wow!
If you work 8-5 and live in my neighbourhood chances are that you wake up at 4.45am and will leave home at 5.50am. Once out, you will either walk to the main road or take a motorbike taxi there or occasionally get the few ‘Matatus’ these are 14, 29 or 38 seater minibuses. My oh my…the cold at this time is unreal. Add dust from some of the dirt roads, the lights from the cars rushing out, the beeps of motorbike horns, the whiz as they pass by…it is amazing. I can only call it energy.

Photo courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura
Photo courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura

When you get to the main road, you have to cross one single lane road then two, two lane roads to get to the inbound bus stop. Imagine crossing a busy road under the cover of darkness. I wondered if I could be seen. Are my clothes reflective or at least light coloured? Have I properly calculated the speed the oncoming vehicle has? Is it a Land Cruiser Prado or any make of Subaru? I found that you can outrun or properly anticipate the speed of all other cars except these two. So I stand there for about ten minutes before I can safely cross the road. Oh I am the only one who takes so long most people are used to it so they are across in a couple of minutes. Wah… finally I am safely across and my heart is pounding and the adrenaline is flowing. I need a couple of minutes to recover from that yet the journey has only just began.

After a brief wait a ‘matatu’ or two arrive and begin calling for customers. I find it funny that different operators have different prices as well as routes. There are two ways to get to town namely through Uhuru Highway or through Jogoo Road. The latter is a new route that came about when the main roads into town would be too congested. There also other sub routes where the operators don’t reach the CBD but stop at different points along the route. Anyway, back to the ‘matatus’. In my opinion, these vehicles play very loud music. They also have coloured internal lights that are not helpful for reading (well most people aren’t into that) but are for seeing passengers and empty seats. Often the easiest thing to do is put in earphones and listen to something on your phone or catch a nap. Now, owing to the fact that I have already been up for two hours that nap is elusive yet not quite so for some of my fellow passengers. I choose to sing along with the radio station and laugh at the comments of the presenters. The most interesting thing is that most of them tune in to the same station so if you get off one and onto another you don’t lose much on that show if you are interested.

It is at least a 45 minute commute that ends at one end or the other of the Railway Station depending on which commuter sacco vehicle you have travelled in. If the energy on the way in is anything, the energy in this lower end of town is insane. You pass the main Nairobi market and it is bustling with people, trucks and buses as wares are sold. The streets are teeming with people walking to work and there are restaurants open and already doing booming business. What time do these people get up? When do they get all these things going? The thing I found most amazing was that there were several shoe shops already open and doing business at this time of the morning. I was amazed because it I have never seen a shoe shop open at 6.45am!
There is another category of people I had also noticed as I sat in the ‘matatu’. There are many, many people who walk to work. I have honestly known that many walk yet this time it really hit me just how many. There are droves of people from different places and directions walking in the cold and dark morning. I realised that some people walk all the way, others take a vehicle part of the way and walk the rest of the day. Yet in this mix you see people talking to each other and laughing, listening to music or radio or just walking in silence…just like those in the commuter service vehicles. Some are walking free others are heavily laden with their wares often from the market. Alongside them are the handcart pushers. These guys pull handcarts loaded with merchandise from one end of the city to another. The bulk of the ones I see are ferrying food from the market to the residential areas for the vegetable vendors to sell. It is a sight to behold as many of them are sweaty and in a light t-shirt yet it is cold and the rest of us are bundled up and shivering.

This journey isn’t ending in town though; I am heading to the other side of the city so I walk across town to

Picture courtesy of www.frazerfamily.ca
Picture courtesy of http://www.frazerfamily.ca
get my next vehicle. As I get further away from the lower end of the city the situation is totally different. There are very few people around, shops are still shut up tight it is clear that the day hasn’t started. The first time I took this route I didn’t realise this because I walked most of the way through the busy lower streets parallel. On the following trip I took a different route and that was when I realised the difference. The two sides of the city are so different in terms of when and how they come alive and when and how they shut down.

As usual this got me thinking…

Picture courtesy of Stephen Ananda
Picture courtesy of Stephen Ananda

• Are there things going on around me that I had never seen?
• Are there things in my life I need to sit up and recognise so that I can reach the next level?
• Are there people I need to listen to or at least appreciate more for their labour?
• Are there noises around my life that I either need to tune out or tune in to?

Even as these questions are running through my mind, I have so much I can pick up as lessons. I have to decide clearly what I want to do and make the choices count by doing something about it every day. #MyTakeHome from this experience is:
• I need to develop a sense of consciousness about my life and the things around me. There is no room to
walk around oblivious to the things going on.
• I need to stop and listen to the music of life, savour every situation and appreciate the gift of life
• Always look for the good and the great lessons in life
• Ask every question and ensure you have an answer for each.

Here’s to a great life full of listening, learning and sharing.

Picture courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura
Picture courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura
THE CHRISTIAN WALK

#Renewed by Nature


I am continually struck by the beauty of creation and the glory of the fullness of God. As I sit at my desk and I need inspiration, I find myself looking at beautiful pictures, lively colours, simple things and quotes. I have begun to find deep peace and inspiration in the simple things that God created and the lovely people that He has given us to live with. I am astounded every day at how small things can inspire. There are scriptures that inspire me too and below is one of the greatest ones.

Picture courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura
Picture courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura

Psalm 24 (KJV)

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?

He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, theLord mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

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I walk more these days and the experience of the outdoors has opened up doors and ideas of things that I may never have found. In the outdoors I have experienced greater peace and calmness yet at the same time, the serenity has opened my heart and mind to face some deeply hidden parts of me. The parts and levels that I may never have reached because of the pressures of my life. In this place I came to realise that there is order and sense we need to make about this life that cannot be done if we are not truthful to ourselves and find places of stillness and peace.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein.” V1

Picture courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura
Picture courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura

This resonates with me because I realise that I am here on a very set and established timeline and for a set and established purpose. The purpose question stayed with me a lot. I realised that I could be looking for my purpose in big things and deep connections yet it was in small and seemingly insignificant things. Simple things came to me in different and amazing places. I realised that walking along the roadside and driving along in a car provides very different perspectives. Travelling in a public transport vehicle and riding on the back of a public service motorbike also gives astoundingly different perspectives.

The bigger question is how these perspectives affect how I live out my God given purpose.

I decided to let go of my previous perceptions and learn to seek new explanations and opportunities where I am. That is when I realised that I have met amazing people as I have walked some really long distances. The biting cold wind on the back of a motorbike gave me incredibly fresh thoughts (no pun intended). I discovered many things about me as I was sitting in the traffic listening to a radio station I naturally wouldn’t pick just because I was in a public vehicle. I have had personal and social conversations with travellers are we drove together in personal vehicles from A to B. I have walked along newly paved and lit roads at night that in the past were no go zones. The variety of these experiences has inspired me and created valuable and life changing experiences. I discovered things I didn’t know about myself that I now love.

Recently I took a motor bike to get to a meeting and I found myself leaning into the direction of the turn as the driver took corners and sitting upright behind the driver to avoid excess wind. I was suddenly aware that I had become comfortable with bikes (as long as they aren’t being driven at high speeds). My heart was no longer in my throat as we drove along. A few weeks before the motor bike experience, I was walking from one side of a suburb to another and the pace I was keeping caught the attention of a fellow walker. He was an older gentleman and we walked together for a long distance. He shared lots of insights and laughs that made the distance much shorter than it would have been if I was alone. I learnt so much from him and my spirits lifted. As we parted, a friend I needed to speak with called me and he was across the road from where I was and was headed in the direction I was heading. You can imagine my excitement when the day ended and I sat to think it through.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness there of… This fullness means that my life has meaning and purpose and every day has a purpose that must be fulfilled. I must therefore live in an ever present state of awareness that there are things to do, words to say, prayers to make and places to visit that will help me fulfil my purpose as well as help others fulfil theirs. In the book, Divine Inspiration; the key to extraordinary living; Dr. Albert Odulele says something I find totally profound…he says:

“There is ‘substantial creativity’ in you and many await it for the alleviation of their sufferings. When the things locked in you are

Picture courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura
Picture courtesy of Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura

unveiled, joy, peace and an improved quality of life will be the direct by-product for all those who benefit from it.”

So the questions I ask myself every night…

  • Am I living the life I was sent here to live?
  • Am I having the impact that was designed for me?
  • Am I concerned about the insignificant or significant?
  • Has my day lived up to its full potential and impact?

Wow…let’s keep walking this faith walk

 

 

THE CHRISTIAN WALK, The Simple Life

Mind of Its Own


There are things in life that we are good at times and therefore take for granted especially when we have done them for a long time. This is especially true if it is things that we do well, naturally and with little or no thought. What do you think would happen if one day you set out to do the thing you have always done well and it doesn’t work? Take a moment to think about.

Recently, that very thing happened to me and I was devastated. Growing up in our home there were things we had to learn to do to enable us to survive. We had to do well in school, be good at all we did and be able to take care of the home which included cooking, cleaning and any other task at hand. I had a great interest in the kitchen and so I was encouraged me to begin to do these things. I was in the kitchen cooking on a stool from when I was six years old and by the age of eleven, I could bake. From that point on my mother and sister were relived of baking duties and I thrived in that department. Over the years I gained experience and for those who have tasted my cakes can attest they are nice.

Over time, I have played with and adapted recipes time and again to suit the situation, style or size I needed. However, for the first time in over twenty years of baking things changed. An acquaintance asked if I could bake a milk cake. A what? Ok, let me be honest, I had never heard of a milk cake or if I had, I had dismissed the whole notion. My initial response was to laugh and then forget the discussion. However, I was prompted again after a few days so I googled it and sure enough there are hundreds if not thousands of milk cake recipes with varying complexities. After a long search, I selected a recipe and tried it. Voila…it was easy as brushing my teeth…one try and it was all good, even better than good. It was my new favourite cake. I sent a taste piece out and it was approved and the order placed.

Remember I am confident about my skills so I simply mixed another batch of the cake and put it in the oven and waited for it to cook. Lo and Behold, when I pulled it out of the oven it was cooked but had sunk in the centre. What? How did this happen? Absolutely confident that I could remedy the situation, I mixed another batch and put it to cook. Once again the same thing happened…it cooked through but sunk. This time, I almost fell. My lil man saw my face and actually came to give me a hug to make me feel better. How could this be happening to me? I was sure I had followed the recipe to the letter and I was a seasoned baker! Over the next three days I re-tried the recipe again and the same thing happened and now I really had to stop and think.

As I worked through the process I asked a series of questions to find out what was missing:

  • Were the quantities right?
  • Was the process right?
  • Was the temperature right?
  • Where did I go wrong?

After some thinking and questioning, I finally found the answer. The problem was in the process. Let me explain. I had inexplicably used the milk and butter mix when it was too hot, didn’t cream the eggs and sugar enough and the oven was too hot. Simple things yes, but they totally changed the final outcome. The cake was cooked through and very tasty but it was not as appealing as it should have been. Once I revised the process and adjusted for the errors it worked out well. Then I realised what was wrong.

This made me think about my life and walk with God. There are daily challenges in life and my response to the instructions received from God determines my success in life. So I have to ask several questions:

  • I Am I walking as I should be?
  • Am I listening for direction and following exactly?
  • Am I in the place I need to be when I need to?
  • Are there subtle changes I have made in the process that are affecting the outcome of my life?

As you read this, can you relate to me on this issue? I am sure someone can. What do you need to assess and reconnect to that will change the course of your life?

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THE CHRISTIAN WALK, The Simple Life

It’s not that hard…just ask


Last week I posted the lesson below on my Facebook page…

#‎WeeklyLessons‬….

This week I have been reminded that I don’t know it all and I need to learn to ask for help when I’m not sure what to do…
Asking for help provides insight and knowledge
Asking for help gives another person a chance to share knowledge
Asking for help isn’t easy by any length of string
Asking for help is very humbling

One step at a time…but one step everyday…one move all the way…

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Once written it seems so easy but in all honesty it is much harder in practice. Remember how we mull over the issues going on in our lives and feel the need to be all to all and find the answers for ourselves? How much easier would life be if we realised that we cannot indeed find all the answers in ourselves. There are important external sources of information and ideas and neither of us is the custodian of all the information.

I found that the inability to ask for help is born from FEAR…not one kind but fear of many things. Some of the options are…the Fear of:
1. Being vulnerable
2. Losing control
3. Confirming the thoughts of others
4. Loss of image or influence
5. And anything else that you can add as you recognise what scares you

My reality became that not everyone is out to make me look bad and I could actually use the different point of view. In the family that God has positioned around me I have found the strength to seek support and ask questions and get guidance. However, the greatest source of answers I am finding is in my relationship with Papa.

May we all find courage to follow Papa and all the instructions to get help and support.

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THE CHRISTIAN WALK

Life has changed me…


purple flowers 3

The focus in Nairobi off late has been all about #Westgate and it has been so hard to get through every day. I have been glued to my sources of media and this is a new one for me. If I wasn’t on TV I was on Twitter, or Facebook or email. I have sat in many conversations and heard many things and there has been a distinct sense of loss and desperation in all of us regardless of where the person is or where they come from. Any past divisions I know about were discarded in a split second and replaced by concern, fear, terror, prayer and then patriotism. Yes, patriotism. As a nation we have grown in leaps and bounds since Saturday when it all. This afternoon when it all ended there was an almost palpable sigh of relief. I caught up with the story much later but somehow as the day had progressed I had innately sensed a change in the atmosphere as if the cloud had lifted. Indeed the cloud over the nation had lifted and our beloved nation was free again.

I am introspective and like to think deeply. Off late I have been challenged to learn from every situation so of course I have been reflecting on the things I have heard said and thought. There are indeed lessons I have gleaned from the happenings of the last few days. I have drawn key lessons for myself from discussions around me as follows:

  1. We choose our attitude. One profound statement I heard recently…”They sowed hate but love has conquered all.” We all had a choice to hate or love each other based on the happenings. In our case, we chose to love, share our blood, give life and money for the good of our beloved nation.
  2. We must have courage. “Do not faint for fear of what man can do.” This stood out for me. In my humble assessment Courage is the only way out. We cannot move forward or make progress without courage. Courage will give us the ability, interest and desire to move on and make life work for us.
  3. Faith is our anchor. Faith provides the basis for growth, stability and a strong future. My new reality is that we are nothing without Papa. Yes, I know, there are times when it seems like nothing will work. So I have learnt that even when things are hard and seemingly out of control faith has to be the basis of my strength and ability to walk. “Even in hard times God stands.”
  4. Keep walking. There’s no retreat, there’s no surrender. We cannot make it to the end by giving up and looking back. We must keep walking tall and with confidence even when the path is not as clear as we would like. We must walk in trust based on our anchor of faith.
  5. Strategic preparation. We cannot keep our eyes on today and now. We cannot be reactive, we must be proactive. We must look ahead, focus on the future and all the possibilities of the same. Strategic thinking means that we must:
    1. Work through the issues of the past
    2. Focus on the future
    3. Be alert and walk with our eyes open
    4. Keep to our plans and agendas
    5. Avoid distractions and confusion
    6. Seek wisdom and clarity for implementation
    7. Seek out people who push us to the next level
    8. Build bridges
    9. Explore all options
    10. Never stop looking

purple flowers 9Simple things yet today they are as profound to me as if I never heard or thought them before. I have learnt a few things about myself. I learnt that I love my homeland, I love my people, I love the passion and heart of my people but most of all I love my God

THE CHRISTIAN WALK

On the mountain


On the mountain

So was in beautiful Sondu last weekend. We travelled from the lowlands of the Kano plains to the top of the Nyabondo Plateau in Sondu South Nyanza. The view was breathtaking and the people gracious as ever. To get to the homestead, we walked down the other side of the plateau along the path in this picture. It was wet, rocky, steep , treacherous in some places and scary to say the least, but we had to make it to the bottom. We were on assignment and nothing would stand in the way of our assignment. We were determined to reach the goal set before us.

On the way down the pressure was on our knees and at the bottom we felt like out legs would give out under us. On the way back up, the pressure was in the muscles on the back of our thighs. We even stopped halfway up to catch our breath, rest our muscles, enjoy the view and take pictures.

Once on top we cleaned our shoes and boots, washed our hands, sat and had tea and snacks. We were recharged and ready for the next phase of the journey that was the trip back to Nairobi that would take the whole night.

As I looked at this picture again I realised that the mountain top experience is amazing, exhilarating, breathtaking and full of relief joy and rest but remember there was a hard climb to get up there and there is a hard climb awaiting us on the way down. The exhilaration is the reward of the long arduous climb.

The parallel I could see was the move from one dispensation to another. When we are moving to a new dispensation and are walking in a new understanding of our destiny there will definitely be mountain top experiences. However, there will have been a steep climb to get there.

May the mountain top experience and the expectation of another experience in the near future be the energy we need to keep walking.

There are many parallels to this walk in my life right now and in the past and there will be more in the future. I pray that I will always remember the experience at the top and hold on to Papa’s hand because even as I walk up or down the mountain or as I enjoy the vista at the top….He will never leave my side and I am certain He is true and He will always be beside me.

Keep walking.