Christ and Sleep Training

Lem sleepingWhen I got our first two children, I either was completely ignorant of all the parenting techniques, tips and helps, or I was simply being unconsciously organic in raising them. In fact I remember only reading a book titled What to Expect In Baby’s First Year. My area of focus then was on milestones, diet, and baby safety.

Seven years down the line, things seem to have changed a whole lot. Besides me being older, we also have a lot of information at our disposal through the internet. From this, I have gathered that there are now numerous new tools, technologies, methods and helps to aid mother and baby in a variety of ways. Baby bum fans,  breastfeeding simulators,white or natural noise and  artificial baby cuddling chests to replace you so that you can focus on more important things are just a few examples. I leave it to your judgment whether these are actually good advancements or complications that the human race has added to itself.

The one I have interacted with a bit more is literature on sleep training, A good friend gave me a book on this, fearing that life would be quite hectic for me with a new born plus homeschooling two super-active boys. Thank you friend.

The baby came soon after I had read and decided how to implement the suggested sleep system. However, there was one problem. He did not fit into the script of the book… He came premature, later suffered from severe jaundice and hence needed a different way of handling. Both mother and baby became frustrated trying to work according to the script that was supposed to make life easier.

In the heat of this frustration, I heard that still small voice “Dheri  (our second born) was a good sleeper and you had nothing to do with it.” I prayed and surrendered our little one’s sleep pattern to God. Since then, baby has been having what I can call good night’s sleep. 11 pm to 4 am. Not bad at all for his age.. All this with no effort I can attribute to myself.

This small issue of sleep training can cause a serious divide splitting us right in the middle with some swearing by systematic training and others vowing by a natural or  organic approach. Our Christian walk is faced by the same conflict- should we simply accept that we are in Christ and hence cannot do anything but by Him and in Him?  or should we look at him as an outside enabler of a good life? See, in an age of qualifications, many in the body of Christ are asking; what do I need to do to walk more righteously, what do I need to do to live a successful Christian life etc. We focus on what we should do.

When I look at what Christ offered, I see he offered ‘organic life in Him’ as opposed to a man driven life. This is what I mean:

In the planting, God chose the best seed for us to shoot from:

But I was the one who planted you, choosing a vine of the purest stock—the very best (Christ).How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine? No amount of soap or lye (human strength, techniques) can make you clean. I still see the stain of your guilt. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken! (Jeremiah 2: 20-22 NLT)

Our Lord gave us salvation out of no effort of our own:

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5: 8 NLT)

He desires that our fruit be borne out of simply abiding in Him with the Father working in us to fulfill His good pleasure.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. (John 15: 1-4 NLT)

What will you choose? I hope we choose the rest that comes from being qualified by Him, birthed and sustained by Him and life through Him and for Him.

In Him,

Virginia

Note: Emphasis in the brackets mine

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Winter and More Winter

winter 3I don’t have an experience of a proper winter as I have lived in this warm country called Kenya for the better part of my life. However, we  have different seasons here with the coldest period being between mid June and mid August. In the Central region where I grew up, there would be about seven days which would be extremely cold. These days were rightly named Muoria – Nyoni. This in my mother tongue means ‘the one that causes birds to rot’. Yes, weaver birds and crows would fall dead from the trees in these few days. The encouragement to face these days however, was in the fact that these days marked the beginning of the end of the cold season.

In life we also bear the hardest part of an experience with the hope of a better and brighter tomorrow. For example the process of child bearing is not easy and in my case, the last few weeks of a pregnancy are the worst.  I know many expectant mothers endure excessive heat, round ligament pain, dizziness, breathlessness, heartburn and sleeplessness for the joy of holding that baby in their arms.  In other matters of life too, we hold on to the idiom that the darkest hour is the one before dawn. We therefore brave the dark night for the hope of day.

Conversely, in my life and in the lives of some of my brethren, I have observed a different pattern from the one above. This is where a prolonged battle which we have been praying about ends in victory, but before we have even finished the sound  ‘d’ in Praise the Lord, another challenge or battle comes crashing into our lives. In short winter follows winter. King David paints a very good picture of this experience:

Save me, O God!For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, Where there is no standing;  I have come into deep waters, Where the floods overflow me. (Psalms 69:1-2 NKJV)

Yes, he has no solid ground for his feet, the waters have come to his neck and he is still sinking….wha!

What is a Christian to say or do in these circumstances?

Whenever this happens, the Spirit reminds me that the enemy is using the wiles of distraction so that we may lose sight of the Lord.  This kind of distraction is actually the very characteristic of the enemy. He will sometimes bring tribulation after tribulation so that we may focus on him and lose sight of our Lord. In the same way, he brings tribulation shortly after a victory so that we do not offer our praises to God.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NKJV)

Notice progression of the intensity of the circumstances in the above scripture; winter and more winter.

We must take courage for Jesus himself experienced sufferings to the point of death. For us to guard the victory that Christ already acquired for us on the cross we must however not lose sight of Him. He experienced this and desires that we press on regardless of how our seasons fall.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:1-4 NKJV- emphasis mine)

He does not unreasonably require this focus of us. He well understands our limitations and therefore dwells in us and empowers us to face our gloomy times with peace and a focus on eternal things even though we know that another winter might knock on the door before we have even had a breather.

Summer, winter or more winter let us fix our eyes on Him.

Virginia

He Loves Me If

Love images 3Last month, I fulfilled one of God’s instructions to man, specifically the one about multiplying and filling the earth. Well, I did not fill the whole earth but at least part of it. We can now coin a slogan- filling the earth one child at a time (smile).  Having done that, I of course received a sticker worth God’s extra love on the merit chart he maintains for all Christians. I am sure that by now you are finding me sounding either absurd or seriously challenged in my theology. Yes, it is seriously absurd to think that we earn more of God’s love and acceptance when we fulfill the law or fulfill certain religious duties and obligations.

This article,  IF by Mark at 3rdRace.org articulates something that has been in my heart. Please read and be blessed by another part of this Glorious Body of Christ as I recover from my sleep deprivation.

“Grant us a King we Pray…..”

King_Francis'_Coronation
Image from Reign Wiki

Kenya, the country God has placed me in is soon going to the five yearly elections in August this year and thankfully many Christians are praying that we may get good political leaders. However, this post has nothing to do with the political season this country is in, but it still has everything to do with the conscious daily choice of a leader, ruler or king.

The subject of kings in the bible and their conquests makes for an interesting reading; there are great lessons to be learned and reminders of God’s faithfulness to be observed. The eighth chapter of Samuel caught my attention a while back, not because of the beauty and might of the incoming king at the time, but because of God’s take on the Israelites’ request for a King.

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. (1 Samuel 8: 6-7 NKJV)

Our omniscient God, knowing the weaknesses of the natural man, had preempted the fact that Israel would at some point demand and have kings. He had indeed earlier given them a list of qualities to be found in a good king in Deuteronomy 17:16 -17. God knew very well that a human king however good, was going to fall short, and would never be a flawless replacement of Himself. None, it seems would fit the above description, therefore he gives the Israelites this reality:

And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties; he will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.  And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”(1 Samuel 8: 11-18 NKJV)

The desire for a human visible king, one whom we can relate to, and one who can lead us and set up a safe kingdom for us did not end with the Israelites. Consequently, the rejection of God and His designed ruler-ship continues not only in the world but sadly even in our Christian circles. How does this rejection manifest itself in today’s Christian circles? At least in my country, I have seen people identify more with groupings and the personalities that lead them than with Christ Himself.

We are wowed by the charisma, talents and revelations of those we have crowned kings over our lives. We soon become comfortable and complacent being followers and call it discipleship, we change our manner of dressing, our talk, and our relationships and completely become little clones of our spiritual leaders.

Some of the ways this becomes apparent is in our Christian lingo:

“Our Man of God says ………”

“Papa or dad said…….”

“Mom says………..”

“Our church does this and that……”

“Finally the leaders say: My Church…………”

This substitution of Lordship, like in Samuel’s time comes with a hefty cost ranging from stunted Christian growth, disappointment and disillusionment  to outright spiritual abuse.

Am I simply pointing fingers? Have I been immune to this disease? No, I have at one point suffered from this disease and will soon share this in a booklet titled The Bride is Free to be released later in the year.

So what posture are we to take? Where do we start? With the help of the Holy Spirit we have to reestablish Jesus Christ as our One and only King. Our allegiance and accountability must be firstly and solely to Him and this will transform our inadequacies, perspectives, and tendencies that lead to a need for a human king. He has already made a way for this to happen as He fulfills us in a way that eradicates the need for human applause and validation.

 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:9-10 NKJV)

He is the only flawless King.

He is Love.

He is Just.

He does not seek to gratify himself but He Who Sent Him.

He is not looking for slaves but brothers and friends.

He is the only worthy King.

His qualities as the perfect Lord cannot be exhausted, I’d love to hear more of them from you dear reader.

Above all, He never grieves God the Father and the Father will not regret ever making Him King.

So, let us crown Him King and Lord,

Virginia

 

 

The New Address

tents 2

When Patrick and I were courting, he asked me a question which at the time, I thought was simple and straightforward. The question was,  “Are you willing to live in tents?” This must have been inspired from Abraham’s walk of faith.

(Hebrews 11:8-10 NLT) It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.  And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God

I answered in the affirmative. At the time, I thought that God would be giving us very clear instructions and sending us to well defined, hopefully comfortable ministry assignments. When I look back, I see that I had a very glamorous idea on how this living in tents would work out in our lives. Fast forward, over eleven years later, as I was writing my last post, and the question was rekindled in my heart by the Spirit.

This then forms the follow up of that last post – Now that I have moved, what is my new address?

As I look back on our lives, I notice that the glory I had anticipated has been very different from what God has availed to us. We have not been moved from city to city with dramatic instructions. Ministry work through us has not been as I had anticipated. If anything, God has led us on a journey of stripping so many things in our belief system, that depended on our perceived abilities. There has been a redefining of our own perceptions of and expectations on God in addition to  a deconstruction of our ideas on how to best please Him. I know this sounds like He has just been demolishing and taking away, but the beauty is that he has not been leaving the cleaner house unoccupied. He has been filling the void with Himself; He has been reconstructing and guiding us forward.

Much as there has been limited physical movement, there has been spiritual movement. This is how our living in tents has worked out- that regardless of how beautiful the new spot of revelation is and how conducive it is for us to permanently dwell there, He urges us on. He allows for just enough time before we have to carry our tent and move on with Him. Does this make for a fairy tale, easy Christianity? Not at all. Would I desire it otherwise? Not at all. Paul put it very well when he wrote:

(Hebrews 11:15 – 16 NLT) If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

This continuous experience reminds me of the Transfiguration account in Mark 9: 2 -7. Peter was so enthralled by the glory he beheld. He wanted to contain the experience and the personalities -Moses and Elijah. He wanted to make a dwelling out of and for this experience. How human that is. Do you agree? We want to hold on to that one experience, one revelation, one miracle. Yes we turn them into a doctrine, structure a permanent dwelling.

The desire of God is however very different. Immediately Peter took this stance, God withdrew Moses and Elijah and left only Christ. Yes, He stripped off everything else and left Christ alone for them to behold, hang onto and permanently dwell in.  He glorified Christ and instructed them; Hear Ye Him.

With this, I have come to the conclusion that as believers, our new address is Hearing and Following Christ. It is a progressive journey, it is a living in tents and I sure hope to encourage at least one saint- let us on His call, pull down our tents and move with Him. There is more to Him than we have experienced.

In Him,

Virginia

I Have Moved

New AddressRecently, I joined Facebook. My reasons for being such a late entrant is because I prefer having deeper, authentic one on one relationships; something that platforms like Facebook are unable to offer. Well, I joined because two of my very good friends were leaving our beautiful country – Kenya and they  mainly  use Facebook  to update their friends and supporters on life and ministry. At least with them, I hope we will still maintain the one on one besides general updates on FB.

On signing up, I received a warm welcome with numerous friend requests. In fact, I was rather overwhelmed. The requests mainly came from people I have interacted with in my past. These are my childhood and village friends, people from churches I have been involved in and others are friends of friends.  Before I clicked each confirm button, I would find myself reminiscing on parts of life I have shared with these people. I was grateful for each contribution they have made in my life.

With these thoughts, I also became increasingly aware that these people do not know the Virginia I am today. Neither do I know the people they have become. In short we know each other and are probably relating from history.

History while informative and sometimes good, can also be limiting and detrimental. Do you see how blinded with the past the older son in the Prodigal Son story was (Luke 15:11-32). Instead of enjoying and embracing the present, he concentrated on his brothers past faults.He could not see his brother beyond his previous choices. I happen to have a medical history that receives the same reaction from people. Whenever I go to two of the city’s hospitals where my huge files exist, the doctors tend to treat me with too much caution, even when the symptoms are totally unrelated and even though that condition was healed over ten(10) years ago. In addition, when I meet with my high school friends they remember me as ‘the one who was sickly’.

Without belaboring the point too much ,I simply no longer reside on that address.  I, like Paul have desired and decided to shed off things in my past, both good and bad, that I may press in to Christ. That I may know more of His joys , ops and His sufferings. and that He may continually conform me to His image.

(Philippians 3:12-14 , NLT) I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

 

On the same breadth, I choose to know none of my friends according to their history, both good and otherwise. I chose to see Christ in them. I choose to see the beautiful parts of the body they are being turned into. So help me God.

(2 Corinthians : 5: 16-17, NLT) We have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Together and individually let us adventure forward in Him.

Virginia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“HUYO NI MTOTO WA NANI?” WHOSE CHILD IS THAT?

tab-dec2016-3455Some time back, I went for a family party/ gathering with our two boys. I had them well groomed as my extended family values neatness. However, one of the boys seems to think that fun is synonymous with dirt and within a few hours he was the dirtiest kid in the vicinity. When my sisters commented on his state, I, in embarrassment and deflecting the question, simply asked “huyo mtoto ni wa nani?” (Whose child is that?). We can laugh about this question but this got me thinking on parenting.

I am a great proponent of highly involved and conscious parenting. In fact I subscribe entirely to the verse:

(Proverbs 22:6 KJV)  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

 

However, I have observed an enormous unnecessary burden carried by the parents. This is sometimes self- imposed but is also mostly heaped on the parents by society. How many times do we hear or ask, “did you know what so and so’s child did?”  The so and so will most likely be a person we esteem highly. In church circles it will be a pastor or any person deemed a spiritual authority. Home-schoolers form another category whose children and parents are viewed with a lot of scrutiny. The truth is, these categories of children have like passions with those not scrutinized and they go through largely the same experiences and stages of growth.

My short experience as a parent has caused me to think what God has to say about parenting. Above the usual admonition to parents, the most encouraging and liberating words on this topic I have found is

(Isaiah 54:13 KJV)  And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

While this scripture largely applies to the operation of the church (maybe I’ll do a post on this later), I believe it also has merit in the raising of biological families.

While I urge us to do our best in nurturing those under our care biological or otherwise, any effective parenting or nurture cannot be done without God’s empowerment. The reality is that even after doing all we know to do as parents, at one time or another; our children will make choices that we do not approve of. I like a certain scene in the movie Lion King 1. Zazu, the Hornbill encourages Mufasa “there is one in every family sire, two in mine actually and they always manage to ruin special occasions”. This is how common the problem is. Yes, our children, siblings and people we love, might choose lifestyle paths that even prompt us to ask;  huyo mototo ni wa nani? And this is a good question.

 

You guessed the answer right. That child belongs to God; .and God more than you, desires for his or her earthly and eternal well-being.

(1 Timothy 2:4 KJV)  Who wills/ desires all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

The same way this God found us, He will find our erring children, siblings and friends. Yes, He will orchestrate events and relationships that will be used to draw them back to the Father. Let us entirely entrust them to Him. I call this surrendered parenting- where God parents us,  in us, through us, despite us and even without us.

It would be nice to hear your testimonies and thoughts on surrendered parenting.

In Him,

Virginia