Signs always speak, and this is how to read them…

signs

I didn’t really think I was capable of private revelation until recently when a particular and peculiar realization dawned on me. It dawned on me that Jesus had appeared to me in my childhood; and He would speak the same words to me many times every day. The words He spoke were: “THEN CAME JESUS.” Am I blaspheming? Will you throw me out like the Jews would have thrown Jesus down the hill upon which their city was built had He not thought it wise to slip through the crowd? Before you even contemplate doing that, let me explain myself. The Jesus that spoke to me was a drawing on the wall of the house I grew up in. Those words were part of the drawing and ran on the halo upon his head; I saw that drawing many times every day; and those words always came to me as a voice, even at a time when I didn’t understand them one bit. And then I grew up to make sense out of them; Jesus always comes to the rescue of them that believe in him.

It doesn’t just start raining; the clouds even go as far as telling us how much it is going to rain. When the clouds signal a heavy downpour, we get ready to receive it. If we get our day messed up by being caught unawares by the rains, it would be our fault; we either failed to read the sign or took our reading of the cloud with a pinch of salt. Again, though it is in the nature of accidents to happen accidentally, they usually don’t just happen; they give a sign or series of signs. A gas explosion, for instance, usually begins with a gas leakage that was either undetected or taken for granted. In the same vein, an auto crash occurs after a number of signs: reckless driving, bad road, poor vehicular condition, etc. – these things are knowable ahead of time.

Furthermore, couples don’t just file for divorce the morning after the first night. No. We know it usually starts off as the best thing ever, progresses to a climax, gets better and better if the going is great, or starts tumbling down if the reverse is the case. However, before it comes crashing down, certain signs, such as depression, stress, nagging, constant quarrels, stare them in the eyes. Failure to read those warning signs finds them filing for divorce on the “baddest” day.

To say that our entire life depends on the ability to read signs is to even say it lightly. Simply, if we can’t read danger, then we’re endangered. In the social circle it is called trend, and means the direction the society is taking or the line she is toeing. Here, it is said, if you don’t move with the trend of time the trend of time will move you. Of course this excludes those who blaze new trends. To function meaningfully as a member of society and to profit greatly as an entrepreneur, the ability to read trends is nonnegotiable. To put it forcefully, it is do or die!

Everything depends on our ability to read – books, faces, signs, trends, etc.

Given that signs speak and continue to do so, what is the way forward? We find our answer with the late Catholic pontiff, St. John Paul II, who wrote: “When hearts are enkindled and minds are enlightened, signs begin to speak.” Actually, the enkindling of the heart and the enlightening of the mind aren’t what would make signs speak; they will only open the ears of our heart and mind to understand what those signs are already and keep saying. To put it better: …signs begin to speak to us.

The next challenge is in understanding what enkindled heart and enlightened mind are. An enkindled heart is one that burns with the fire of love. After all, the word enkindle means to set afire. The heart that loves is the heart that knows, the heart that feels, and the heart that sobs. This heart listens to the pains and frustrations of others, and it just has this way of knowing when danger is around the corner. On the contrary, a stony or frozen heart is not moved, is indifferent, and doesn’t care a thing about anything; it is characteristically deaf.

On the other hand, the enlightened mind is the mind that knows, the mind that understands. After all, the word enlighten means to give light, to dispel darkness, to instruct ignorance. It is the mind that knows that signs speak that would be keenly attentive to hear it out.

We Christians are a peculiar people. We only need the gift of the Holy Spirit to enkindle our hearts with the fire of the love of God and to enlighten our minds with the light of Christ. In this new state – of enkindled hearts and enlightened minds – we can spot virtually everything: betrayal of best friends, attack of sworn enemies, demonic manipulation, environmental changes, etc.

For everyone, including Christians, one sure way to be truly enlightened is through reading books.

3 things I took home from meeting Nollywood ace actor, Chief Chiukwuwetalu

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Simply, my meeting with ace Nollywood actor, Chief Chiukwuwetalu, was for an interview; the recorders on that desk say it all. I’ve to start on this note because I seize every opportunity to insist that I’m not celebrity-crazy, particularly because I’m personally not comfortable with the way my generation confers celebrity status on people. In this light, I’ve read a number of people say they go nude to buy that title.

But Chief Chiukwuwetalu is different; meeting him, like meeting Sammie on Lagos Island, changed everything for me forever. That’s why I’m fronting him on this platform, to say how much he did for me. To say it lightly, he rebranded me for good.

I surely can’t say so much, given that the interview’s got a copyright owner who could sue me, but I wish to share these three points that make the Chief stand out as a person:

The principles and laws haven’t changed one bit
One thing about success is that it runs on the fuel of principles and laws. And the only way to succeed is order one’s life in line with those principles and laws. Hard work has always paid off. Sowing and reaping is an eternal truth. Consistency is nonnegotiable. Networking means everything. Charity is more magic than magic. Focus is wow! Listening to the full version of his life and odyssey, I found that his success wasn’t accidental; he paid every dime of his dues and is now very glad he did. You wish to succeed? Simple: keep the commandments – of success.

Originality and initiative are assets No. 1
Ours is a world of copycats! And these copycats dub next to everything and are darn great at their copycraft. And so, the originals are dope! Very good, I mean. With a market value to match. In a world of a multitude of conformists, those who dare to chart new courses by taking initiative are deified. You choose: copycat or original; mediocre or trailblazer? Chief did me the favour of leaving me just one option: original and trailblazer. And trailblazing is simple enough: be more than the rest of the pack; leaving good behind and going for better.

God is everything; man is nothing
We humans are notoriously limited; we can’t even plan for this tomorrow with a good degree of certainty. And so, we must all immerse ourselves in the pool of grace, that the Almighty may look kindly upon us and shed the light of his benevolence on us.

When the full gist comes to town, I’ll spread the word. This is my job: to spread the word of knowledge.

4 points to note on being a “real human being”

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One way I stay mentally up-to-date is read online articles. They’re dope! Very good, I mean. Of course, I carefully select them; I endeavour not to let junks into my mental space, as there’s no gainsaying that there’re pieces of information that are more destructive than productive. Trust me, I’ve tested both sides, and can tell the difference. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to rid myself of some ‘evil spirits’ I picked up from the pages of books. I bet you don’t want to try your legs in my shoes.

May I suggest the following sites: psychologytoday.com, entrepreneur.com, inc.com, richdad.com, robinsharma.com, samuelokonkwok.blogspot.com, businessinsider.com… One article from each site everyday can make a tremendous difference at the end of the day. In this game of information gathering, every little counts – and amount to much at the long run. And as much as you go crazy about specialization (knowing everything about something), make some room for generalization (knowing something about everything). We’re in the Information Age, remember? So, a lot depends on versatility. Get this straight from me: Go versatile or go volatile.

Back to the point in question: real human being. And this leans against the backdrop that other variants of “human being” exist. Of course, the opposite of real is virtual and fake. Therefore, we’ve at least the following calibers of human beings: real human beings, virtual human beings, and fake human beings.

Firstly, virtual human beings. You meet them on social media, especially Facebook and WhatsApp, and they’re darn good at putting up appearances. Their clothes are always sparkling, their hairdos are always dope, and their profile pictures are always killing. They’re always happy and never sad; their relationships are always perfect. They sound too gentlemanly to be real when you chat them up, and their courtesies are tantalizing. For these ones, many have given up their real-time relationships, because they are fun to have on the other end of the line.

Secondly, fake human beings. They can be in the virtual category too, but the parting line is the fact that they live lies. To say the least, everything about them is fake! They say they live on the Island when it’s actually Ajegunle. They say their parents are these when they’re actually those. They take snapshots at Shoprite and say they went shopping in Dubai. They ride in a friend’s car and say they just bought themselves one. They dress in borrowed robes and come out feeling on top of the world. Without mincing words, these are the worst human beings to have around our personal space.

Thirdly and finally, the real human beings. It is for this reason that I kick-started this piece by talking about my penchant for reading online articles. I wasn’t braggadocious about it; needed to push a point through with it. I read a piece yesterday where a certain Nour Essa described Pope Francis in these words: Francis is a real human being. And so it got me thinking…

What did Pope Francis do to have been described in those gracious words? This is it. On his way home from one of his foreign trips, the Pope tagged along three Syrian-Muslims families in his usually Alitalia-chartered flight back to Rome, to get them started on new lives there. This is squarely unusual, so striking that one of them commented: “…what the Pope did with us has never been done by an Arabic leader or by a Muslim religious man.”

Without much ado, four of what it takes to be really human includes:

No one is perfect; don’t feel like one

No matter how much one tries, perfection is out of reach. No one is flawless. So, why try selling others the impression that one is perfect. That’s fake! Be human. Embrace imperfection. Why do some ladies, for instance, forbid being seen without wearing makeup? I’m not suggesting they walk around town without being in their best, but they shouldn’t feel so embarrassed when someone runs into them when without makeup and other attachments. May I quickly add: while we can’t be perfect, we can aspire to it so as to reach “excellent.” Some said it best: We can reach for excellence, but perfection is God’s business. And excellence begins from 70% – not 100%

Don’t feel too strong

It is not part of being really human to feel too strong. Strong is just fine; too strong is off the mark. If you’ve lost someone truly dear, why not cry. If you truly love someone, why not say it. If something is painful, why not say it is. If a condition is not favorable anymore, why not quit. If you can’t take it anymore, why not report you can’t take it anymore. Come to think of it, what do we gain portraying “too strong”? Others’ admiration, right? And what makes us think others care? Sincerely, they really don’t care.

Be sympathetic and empathetic

These are awesome attributes of the real human being; the ability to feel pity for the other, and the ability to get into the other’s shoes – to feel where it pinches them. This is where Pope Francis’ action falls. He felt it for the Syrian families and got himself into their shoes. Feeling what they felt, he was moved on to pull them over to Rome.

Understand that failure is part of the game

The fake and virtual guys only showcase the sunny side of life. But life is never all sunny. Life can be messy, gloomy, tough, nasty, and even brutish. We must embrace all these sides of life whenever they come around our neighborhood. And we should talk about them (not dwell on them) and never be sorry for or ashamed of them. One thing about failure is that it can be a reliable teacher.

 

#Be_Real-ly_Human

Choosing between “one you love” and “one who loves you”

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The Christian Bible is more than a religious book; it is as well a thorough guide to meaningful living. That is why many non-Christians read and even love this book of books – The Bible. Ask the Hindu-Indian Mahatma Gandhi and he would let you into the profound influence the life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth had on him, especially as it related to his campaign against the then English Regime in India. And with the employ of civil disobedience, characterized by nonviolence, he saw his countrymen to not just a moral victory but political freedom. Frankly, the Holy Bible is dope! Very good, I mean.

Love is the fever! And in search of love, we contract next to all forms of relationships, especially friendship, courtship leading to marriage. We crave to feature No. 1 on another’s list of the very important human beings in their life. We feel on-top-of-the-world when we know for a fact that a fellow human being can take a bullet for us, given that our natural programming is self-preservation and selfishness.

But love is a peculiar experience. I’m not an expert here, but I’m human enough to feel it, and then to say it. I’m not so experienced here, but I’m experienced enough to share something about love. Love is such that every person is free to fire it at any other person he/she pleases. Here’s how the drama of love happens: “A” fires at “B.” And given that “B” is as free as “A” to fire in any direction, “B” fires at “C” – not back to “A.” What do we observe? “A” gets nothing from his/her object of love, because “B” is crazily in love with “C.” And guess what? While “A” is busy trying to get through to “B,” who is trying to woo “C,” a certain “D” is firing at “B-obsessed-A” from his/her end. For me, this is the comedy of love; it is very funny.

Are you complaining that the one you’re in love with doesn’t even care if you exist or not? You probably know why now. He/she just happens to be firing in another direction; he/she loves another – or just doesn’t love you or anyone yet. To be loved back is not automatic, else we would all be madly in love with Jesus who loved us so much and died for us – but we’re all not. It’s just too rare to find two people fire love at each other simultaneously from the word go.

I’d kick-started with some praise for the Christian Bible. It comes in handy to help us out of this situation. Not just this situation, but next to every other situation we may find ourselves in life. Yes, the Bible has acquired this reputation, integrity, and has proven it over a span of 2,000 years.

John 13:23 and four other instances in the gospel of John talks of the one Jesus loved. Some quarters of thought respectively identify this “beloved of Jesus” with John Zebedee, Lazarus of Bethany, and Mary Magdalene. It’s not my intent to go into this, but to highlight that Jesus fired his love at them – at least John and Lazarus were clearly portrayed in this “beloved” light.

There is a second side to “Jesus’ love life”: the one that loved Him most, Mary of Magdala. Do you remember the woman that washed His feet with her tears, wiped the tears with her hair, and anointed it with an alabaster jar of costly ointment, so costly that it got Judas’ tongue wagging? She hung around at the crucifixion.  And John accounts that she was the first to show up at the empty tomb on the resurrection morning, and also the first to behold the Risen Lord. Do you remember this conversion? Woman, why are you weeping? They’ve taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they’ve laid him. …Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you’ve laid him, and I will take him away. Lo and behold it was Jesus! Rabonni, she called him – Teacher.

We glean one very significant point from this episode: the most important revelation in human history, that Christ lives, was first ever made to “the one who loved” Jesus before the “one or ones loved” by Jesus.

And then it got down to time for real business, to establish succession for his saving work, Jesus turns to Peter, in the presence of “Beloved John” and asked him three times: “Simon, Son of John, do you love me?” In fact, the first of the three seemingly same questions bore this variant: “…more than these others?” And Simon did love Him to his last breath, and said: “Lord I love you, and you know it, you know all things.” Don’t forget that John the Beloved was there present while this conversation lasted; he didn’t protest. Perhaps he himself knew that although Jesus loved him most, he didn’t love Jesus back as much as Simon did. Isn’t it a pointer to the fact that those that love us are more dependable when the die is cast? Does common sense not dictate that those we love – but don’t love us back – will either take our business for granted or abandon us for those they love after all is said and done?

On the whole, I’m not suggesting that those we love are not worth featuring in our serious businesses such as marriage. I’m far from that! I’m only suggesting, inspired by the above exposition, that they should only come into the picture after they’ve confessed their love for us or settled in to reciprocate our love for them.

It is also important to note that who loved first is not as important as who loved last; the one who loves last might love best. My point is simple: we may need to, and, in fact, take the responsibility of initiating the love relationship. And then patiently love on. Loving back is a choice and a journey, and like every journey, it happens within the context of time. Give it time; you decide how long. And be wise enough to know when time’s up, so you don’t keep trying to raise the dead. But if the initiation comes from the other person, don’t be too blind to see, and then to reciprocate after taking due diligence.

Finally, the question remains: “Who do you get to choose between the “one you love” and the “one who loves you”? Having explained things to this point, I leave the answer to you. But bear in mind: He who loves loves best.

Happy Sunday!

 

Valentine called it “THE VOCATION OF SITTING DOWN.” And what he meant will inspire you

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As soon as he had his copy of my new book in his hands, The Wonder of Books, he made this striking remark: “Congratulations for answering to the vocation of sitting down.” The idea was entirely new to me; haven’t heard that there was such a vocation. I only knew two: marriage and pastoring. It happened that my friend, Valentine, just came up with a third, one we should all aspire to. Of course, I asked him to explain, the details of which I herein share.

To kick-start his lecture, he waved the book across my face and asked me, “Can you sum up the entire time, from the very start to finish, it took you to getting this piece out, especially with respect to arriving at this quality and volume?” I couldn’t immediately do that summation because arriving at an answer that is close to the truth should take pretty much time; I’d never even given it a thought. But it was a rhetorical question; Val already could guess it took some great deal of time, and it truly and really did.

He was getting at a point I didn’t suspect with that question, as he wanted to put it to me that the work got me sitting down way more than the average person could – not even he himself. I felt my ego raise its head in response to those kind words, but since I wasn’t in for an ego trip and was hell-bent on getting the full gist on the vocation of sitting down, I queried further, “How is sitting down a vocation, then?

Beginning from his own routine, and proceeding to implicate those with whom he lived and worked, he made this explanation: “Running around is easy, just being busy being busy is fun and anyone can do that. But those who dare to sit down for as long as it would take to produce a fine work of art, of course through creative thinking and continuous reflection, are very much in the minority. And they are the ones that change the world.” I was starting to feel like a world changer when he continued, “My dear friend, it is just not easy; I can’t. I even struggle to get by with my coursework.” Knowing that he was being both sincere and truthful, I gently concurred, and then got us another topic to discuss.

My case was that of writing a book, but the vocation of sitting down is a universal call. Given that we all aspire to stand out, then sitting down is the way. And here is what happens when we dare to sit down, and practically “sit down” I mean: we generate original ideas and conjure up creativity from the depth of our being, which when deployed to our various and varied stations in life yield striking accomplishments and birth unusual discoveries. In fact, in sitting down, in the company of sober reflection, we become one with God!

In a noisy world like ours, and one that privileges activity over productivity, this vocation may not only be challenging but frustrating. Next to every neighbor turns up the volume of their stereo like they’re the only ones in town, next to every driver blares the horn like they’re pushing the other driver to jump the queue and pay a fine, next to every convoy menaces the peace of the neighborhood with their ostentatious sirens, next to every loved one wants us to unendingly lend them our ears – to fill them with gossips and junks. Personally, I’d to sometimes put writing on hold for a sibling to watch a movie or blast the music stereo. These realities further complicate things for us – with regards this vocation.

However, we can dare to try. Just try. Why not wake up early before dawn to answer to the vocation of sitting down. After all, Longfellow revealed that great men got there by doing their thing while their ‘companions’ slept. Why not watch your social network outing. Why not take a walk to a lonely place. Why not turn off your phone. Why not just try…