Tag Archives: faith

#11~ For Sowing

SowingTalking about money is awkward at the best of times. But I like being awkward, and this certainly isn’t the worst of times. So here goes.

Coming to University my finances weren’t great. Like many, my family faced the middle class squeeze. When you have three children all in the same year at elite institutions and Student Finance only reads what’s on the paper and doesn’t take account of whats in your actual pocket, sometimes you fare worse than those termed the ‘poorest’. But I have been very privileged to attend a college that is proficient if not exceptional in financial support. The only problem however, is timing. By my second week of University I had run out of money. My loan didn’t cover my room bill let alone food and though I knew that grants were hopefully coming, they weren’t coming any time soon. In real time my savings were wiped with 32p being all that I owned in the entire world. Seriously. I’m not kidding, it looked as mournful to me on the screen as it does to you reading.

I was open and honest about my financial situ with my mother who kept reminding me (sometimes very forcefully) that if needs be she could make it work, she would make it work. But that’s a parents job. To put their children before them. However, I think when you’re a child of the economic crunch you start to learn how to add pretty fast, and you know that even as they scrimp and save here and there, a massive deficit is looming – and as you get older your parents become less capable of hiding it from you. Unlike the Bogeyman, debt, poverty and financial limitations really do exist, and they don’t hide in the shadows. So I refused. I told her i’d hold out. I had enough in my fridge, I had all my essentials, i didn’t need money per se, what I needed was some kind of financial security, but seeing as I wasn’t going to get evicted anytime soon, we could wait.  When she came up by my third week of Uni to watch my play, my mother brought a box of instant noodles and some homemade food. I shelved and froze it all, and as the days went by salvaged a limited variety of meals from that hamper. There’s a lot you can do with instant noodles if you have to.

I wasn’t the only person struggling in my house. One of my closest friends was in a similar situation, and so together we worked to make ends meet. Last year when she was in particular difficulty I had the means to support her. It was ironic this time round, 4 weeks into term when she returned the favour. How quickly positions and situations are flipped around. But I was extremely, extremely grateful. However, 2 weeks ago, bar about 12 packets of noodles, I ran out of food. Nothing, unless you count half a dried leek, 3/4 of scotch bonnet pepper, and 1/4 of butter. Realising that All Purpose Seasoning, Salt, Pepper, Basil, Oregano and Dried Chilli Pepper don’t constitute a meal, hunger loomed expectantly before me. Said friend and I had taken to eating dried granola at night as I boiled yet another pot of hot water for instant noodles. We hadn’t had breakfast for about a month. I’d taken to going to Chapel on Sunday mornings not just because it was a great space to worship in, but, and I won’t lie, because of the more or less free english breakfast served afterwards. That meal would also make up for lunch, while extras were packed into a container for later and then we’d be back on the noodles in the evening.

I have a PhD student living in my house from India. His name is Rajesh and i’ll write about him at a later period, but for now, just know that he is an official legend. After seeing me eating yet another packet of instant noodles (thus depleting my limited stock, which at this point only consisted of 2 flavours – Chicken and Stir Fry), he took to feeding me the fresh vegetarian curries he made every day. In an 8 week term Rajesh has fed me 6 times. Every time I tell him that before the year is up i’ll cook him some real Nigerian food. He aways replies – I don’t need your food, I just want to make sure you’re eating well. He reminds me of a father figure, except he’s too young and too funny. So maybe an older brother. He cooks really well, and luckily he’s always let me have seconds.

Considering the 32p in the bank account wasn’t accumulating any interest and there’s only so many noodles any one person can eat in any given week, I had, I admit, also taken to common thievery at my church. Every Tuesday before student group they have a Student Dinner, with a required £3 donation. There were a number of weeks when I turned up and ate without paying. I also took left overs. That made up dinner and a good 4 subsequent meals for the coming week between myself and my housemate, carefully rationed but eaten with gusto (and sometimes more salt than necessary). I will pay my church back the difference.

It’s not so much that I was walking around hungry. Luckily I don’t get that hungry. And it’s not so much that I was in dire, dire, straits. I had chosen to refuse my mums offer of money, not because I wanted to be a martyr, but because I wanted to exhaust all possible avenues. I figured, once I literally had nothing – had finished all the noodles and had gotten round to eating the frozen container of egusi soup – then I’d reach out for help. Because to be honest, food is food. Sure lack of variety isn’t great, but I wasn’t starving. Some people have it much worse.

But it was still a pretty shitty experience. I’d been in a similar situation in my first year and had managed to write a funny (in my opinion) post about it (read it here). But this time round Sainsbury’s basics wasn’t even on the cards. Just a lot of water…and noodles (i’m going to start a thread called Broke Friday with ingenious recipes for times like these).

I say all this because last year, and for all my previous years at Uni, I was known as Miss Hospitality. I cooked meals for my friends, if people were in a bad way, they new my room always had a fresh supply of tea, probably even some form of home made vegetable soup (and even homemade bread if you were lucky). My mother’s love language is service, so all of us know how to be excellent hosts. So, I think I sowed a lot of seeds, fed a lot of people, definitely made a lot of herbal tea.

And this time round, during these past 6 weeks when I couldn’t even afford to buy asthma pumps and discovered that the placebo effect is a real thing because if you press your empty inhaler and inhale normal air, somehow, your lungs wish themselves to relax – and they do (mind over matter) – but this time round, I had the privilege to reap.

None of my friends, bar my housemate, knew about my situation. There was no reason for them to know, I was too busy writing essays and doing my thang to even think about it till I got home. I’m only writing about it now because the situation has been rectified, and I can now look back and see that I was blessed. Because over these past 8 weeks, for random reasons, friends have, out of the blue, offered to take me to lunch. Or bought me apples, oranges, lemons. Made rice, stew and chicken and just because, have handed it to me in the library (you know us Nigerians at Uni, we gotta stick together when it comes to home cooking). Little, Random, Acts of Important Kindness. ‘Cause those random meals weren’t just feeding me, they were feeding my friend too. And they all tasted so good. They kept us going.

There’s a saying in the Bible which is applicable to all life – you reap what you sow. Most people relate it to good and bad deeds, and I guess that’s the general gist. But I think it’s even more than that. I believe in a God who provides, I really do, and I have seen God provide for me in fantastic ways, and often in financial ways too. Some might be skeptical, but i’m not preaching a prosperity gospel here. I’m talking about a God who doesn’t turn his back on those in need. See when I had much, or at least enough because grants had come through on time, having been raised to share I shared. And there were times i’ll admit last year when I was like – all my friends do is take, take, take. They come, they eat, they don’t wash up, they leave. Sometimes I got tired of doing the right thing, of being aware that said neighbour needed food, or had had an awful essay week and maybe some hot choc would pick them up. And now here I am, a year later, being the one that can’t feed herself sufficiently. But I had the privilege to reap, to receive. See, I don’t think God (and for those of you that don’t believe in God, let’s call it Universal Kindness,or Goodness whatever suits your fancy), I don’t think God always provides by dropping a cash sum at your doorstep. But I do believe that God provides through the little acts of kindness. Through people buying you tea, or buying you apples, or bringing you left over food. I believe God, through friends, strangers and neighbours has sustained me over these past 2 months when I was in need. And it’s really humbling.

Obviously I interpret these things from a place of faith. For those that don’t have faith, I do hope however you can recognise similar instances when you’ve been helped at a time of need – maybe you put it down to Human Goodness. The thing is, however you see/interpret/understand it, it’s important to pay it forwards.

Tonight I shared this, somewhat embarrassing experience (because money is always embarrassing) with members of my student group. It was weird being that vulnerable. But after the service a guy by the name of Dave came up to me and said – this is for sowing – handing me an envelope.

This is for Sowing. 

We always have something that we can give and we can share – even a packet of noodles can go far between friends. This morning,  my friend and I ate our first breakfast at home for the first time in a month – cereal and bananas never tasted so good. I also went on a “massive” (as in, in comparison to the nothing I had before, boy!) grocery spree and my shelf is now flooded with vegetables – you don’t know how much you miss greens till they’re gone! But, saying all that, now I have food in my fridge I will make Rajesh a Nigerian dinner. I will pay back my church for the ‘stolen’ meals. I will keep sharing my food with my housemate. I will keep my eyes open and my heart ready for others who are in need. And sometimes it doesn’t have to be overt, you don’t need to put your name on the envelope so people feel ‘indebted’. You can sow quietly. You, the receiver and God know – that’s enough.

So Dave, thank you – it will go to sowing. To everyone else who has helped me in the little ways, my family, my friends and the strangers – I look forward to the day when I’ve helped pay it so far forwards it makes you smile when it comes back round again.

For those that know me in real life – i’m OK. Don’t feel obliged to now overwhelm my doorstep or pidgeon hole with goods. Honestly. There’s someone you sit next to everyday in the library who needs it way more. There’s someone on your corridor or in your lecture hall who would love you to take them to dinner, because they’re really hungry and can’t face another bowl of cereal without milk (that’s if they even have any more cereal). So sow into them. Pay any goodness you’ve experienced this term to them. And #payitforwards with gusto, that’s the only way you grow big trees.

This is for sowing. Life is for sowing. And quiet joy is found in an unexpected reaping.

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#354 ~ Life Lesson No. 41

Sometimes the intentions of our hearts are well placed, but the mode in which they are presented, and the attitude in which they are received leave out the actual grace.

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#328 ~ 7 Things About Christmas.7 – The End

The 25th of December is an arbitrary day.

So Christmas isn’t really about Santa. No, I have no shame stating that, because even the people who propagate that foolishness don’t even have the decency to tell their children who Santa really is. Stop being geographically ignorant, Russia isn’t the North Pole and neither is Greece or Turkey. Aha, you are now confused. Good. Let me instruct you on a lesson (kindly passed on from the greatest Academic this world has ever known, Wikipedia). Santa is an abbreviation of Santa Claus, which is a contraction (and most likely an Americanization) of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was a 4th Century Bishop from Greece who pastored part of modern day Turkey and, in the long and short of it, was compassionate. Amongst many of his great exploits, he was known for helping those in need. In one case he anonymously gave a man who couldn’t pay his daughters dowry the money necessary to prevent them falling into prostitution as they were able to have honourable marriages. Revered in Russia, he’s also known for giving presents to children, especially orphans and the needy. In medieval times nuns would deposit food and gifts on the doorsteps of the homeless or impoverished on his feast day, 6th December. That’s right. If you want celebrate Santa then do it on the 6th of December. If you want to be an orthodox and wait until the Wisemen actually got to Bethlehem to drop off their Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense, then do it on the 6th January, which is known as Epiphany. If you want to be a pagan and celebrate the darkest time of the year with a celebration of light, do it on the 25th. If you want to celebrate Christ, do it all year round. 

a true light has a constant supply.

24hours are only so long. You eat, you sleep, it’s Boxing day and half the world is at the Sales. Like I mentioned in Post 2, what we view as Christmas Day today is a celebration of Christ, the Messiah and Saviour of the World, who loves every individual whether it’s the people who believe in Santa or the people who just want to make money – they’re all precious in his sight. The 25th of December is an arbitrary day. What’s important it what it means for you. If you believe it’s a time to remember to be a light in the extremely dark world where warfare, rape, violence, depression, isolation and anger are clamouring for a space, then be that light in the best way you know how. Show love, be love, be joy, happiness, peace and patience. Show good will to all mankind. Be hopeful for something better to come along. Do. But don’t just acknowledge the street sweeper on Christmas. Acknowledge him always as a fellow human who deserves to be loved. Don’t just be gracious to your sister on Christmas. Be gracious to her always as she’s a beautiful woman/girl who deserves to be loved and treated with respect. Don’t just tolerate or be grateful to your parents on Christmas. Show it always. Because a true light never goes out, ever. It keeps burning. Why? Because a true light has a constant supply.

whether you’re a believer of my faith or your own, shine brightly.

There is so much I love about Christmas. I even love the fact that people of other faiths (and atheism my friends is a faith, it’s a faith that believes there is no higher power, it’s a religion of its own so there), i love that they take time out to show love to those they care about. As a Christian I do believe that Christ exits, and that in showing love, we reflect God’s character and his goodness. But I don’t believe we should confine that light to 24 hours. We use up so much electricity just watching that banal Christmas movie, i’m sure we could light many more bulbs instead. So do. Go, whether you’re a believer of my faith or your own, shine brightly. Burn with a passion to see Justice birthed in this world. Burn with a hunger to see Peace made manifest in this world. Burn with a desire to see Love take on a deeper meaning than the scrawl on the tag of a present. Shine Brightly. Shine like the Sun/Son. Shine and be light and life in this world that asks for death.

If I ruled the world i’d banish the 25th of December. Because in reality, Christmas should be every day.

So Shine. 

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#320 ~ Abimaro & The Free


ABZ2

Very rarely does one hear a piece of music that isn’t just a beautiful concoction of perfectly placed chords, mellifluous vocals with just enough air to make the notes sigh through your speakers, and a subtle but groovy bass line to make you smile, that, on top of all that, also has exquisitely worded and humorously constructed lyrics as Abimaro & the Free. Using conceits such as tea making, in the refreshingly honest and sincerely poignant track Ginger Tea, the three-piece band manage to take the Christian faith and present it in an accessible and stripped down recounting of the heart. The mundane is the simple basis of their lyrics. Tear drenched eyes are described as being like earl grey tea, the process of being refined and purified synonymous to frying lemon till it’s just the right gold to add a zesty flavour to the ultimate brewing of the human spirit. Abimaro & the Free have a solemnity in their compilation of four tracks, Books, which echoes within one’s heart long after the haunting trill of Matthew’s ‘Jerusalem’ hook has faded. The temptations of life are uncompromisingly placed as idols which decorate our rooms reflecting our faces, a reality which most of us can attest to, but can’t quite express. Words don’t quite capture the essence of their music which deserves to be aired on the air waves, or played in cafe’s. There is an intimacy in their music which the pop charts have reduced to sexual antics, and which religious music hasn’t quite been able to express. Instead of lifting lines from the Word, Abimaro & the Free have delicately reinterpreted and represented the Word as a living, breathing and evocative presence in the lives of very real, very normal humans and how they relate to the mystery of God in today’s world. Whether you believe in a benign creator, or just want to hear something fresh, humorous and which makes the grey tinge of the world, if only for a second, flicker into Technicolor, listen to Abimaro & the Free (check out the video below and follow the link to band camp for a free download of their album Books) and remind yourself that honesty and vulnerability can be beautifully captured in today’s music, and wait for the echo of the music speaking back to you.

Abimaro and the Free: Website

//abimaroandthefree.bandcamp.com/:

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#289 ~ Psalm Series. 3

Consider how I love your precepts!

Yet as I peer in the mirror, I am the faithless one that i contort and view with disgust.

I can recite the repentance prayer, the serenity prayer, the Hail Mary prayer

I can recite the Eucharist and declare it to be and mean all that there

is to life

I can state my love, all-consuming, for your Word

But do I act?

Dare I act?

Am I the talking drum, hollow like the doun doun

as I swerve from your statues

swerve from your law, which I claim to adore…

Psalm 119 vs 159: “Consider how I love your precepts” vs 156: “But I do not swerve from your testimonies.” vs 158 “I look at the faithless with disgust.”

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#158 ~ Awkward Incidence

So, you feel convicted to do something, not particularly out of the ordinary for you, but still unusual. You want to send a message to someone you don’t really know that well, but kinda-sorta feel like maybe some words you’ve had floating around your head in connection with their name/face/something that signifies their person, could potentially be pertinent or resonate in their lives.

So you sit down, write out the message, keep it short, to the point and vaguely clinical. Then you set off. Of all days, you walk past said person, on your way to post them their ‘possibly helpful, most likely random-esque’ words of wisdom.

“Hey”

Awkward head nod. You pass by, then you stop. Do you hand them said card now? No…looks strange, keep going.

You make it, post what needs to be posted and feel relief. Yes, you were committed and followed through with ‘The Plan’. Free to disengage you munch that traditional Cornish pasty like a bad-man, and in your Birkenstocks shoes trudge through the rain: relief.

Lo and behold you meet said person again. Conspiracy? I think so!

“Hey.”

This time awkward head shake won’t suffice. You converse in a ‘normative’ fashion, not at all awkward, and after a decent and genuinely interested conversation, part ways.

You stop – do you warn them what to expect and hope they don’t now think you’ve planned some strange escapade, seeing the coincidentally random meetings as a contrived set up.

Yes. No. Maybe?

You go home, the pasty has gone and the aftertaste has soothed you.

What happens when you meet again? Awkward Incidence no.3?

What happens if your wise words weren’t wise at all?

Awkward incidence no.4?

What happens if you then write about it on your blog?

Awkward Incidence no.5?

And if they read it?

Too many awkward Incidences in this students life.

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#155 ~ Free Fall into/with Me

Like the rain that pelts these single glazed window panes

The consonant rhyme helping to keep these lines in time

You ask me to free fall

With no cord or bungee support

Off the side of Control-Cliff

Expertly engineered under My high Way

Into an abyss of nothing-ness.

The optimum word in the sentence is trust

The first thought that flashes through my mind

Is that I will bust my ass on the rocks that form

the gorge pool, elaborately covered by the foams of a turquoise plunge pool.

It’s my strength that we are relying on

But these muscles are tired from

Rowing against the tide

Undergoing that long distance ride

Until massages can’t even hide

The distorted form of this bruised and blotchy human side.

My intellectual faculties of comprehension and eloquent expression

Were the tools I used to further my profession.

The basis, the foundation, the Cephas of my self-governed nation

A kingdom of grey matter, over which I am the only Father

And now you say it’s all crumbled to dust

I the Creator must become the Desecrator

Bulldozing through the temple, erasing the remnants

Till it reintegrates into the cycle: from dust to dust.

And instead of that knowledge that sometimes transpired into wisdom

I should return to a distant voice

Overpowered, under-shouted, over roared by the thunder, the lightning, the earthquakes and the ever-present heart that is thumping.

Instead – of course there’s always a stead, a steed of a different breed that will return me to the Foreign Homestead

I should bend my ear, to the faintly heard whisper

and seek to honour a Governor who controls no boarders I can see

No militant lines, raises up no National Boundary Signs

Of this here terra…


…and in giving up my desire

I will find a path that will lead me to the higher realm, design, functioning plan of your regimes prime

goal, inspired

to march through the mire, to a different drum beat, which promises to make this yearning heartbeat

secure, in His ultimate desire.

Well…I’ll try not to make the prospect seem too dire.

In the process, I’ll be she, the one that is attempting to trust in the vision which claims to be, and resolutely is

higher than mine.

The will of the divine.

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