My walk through Judges

judges

I have been reading the book of Judges. It is one of those Bible books I like to ignore because I think I know all bout the story of Samson and of judge Deborah. But lately this book has been capturing my attention and imagination.

First I am confused by the Israelites – why they expressly chose to ignore God’s commands of conquering all the land. Why would one choose to leave an enemy when you were guaranteed of victory? They failed to remove some tribes among them the Philistines , Jebusites, Hivites, Sidonians, Canaanites, Amorites among others. Did they become lazy? Contented? Told themselves they have “arrived”? They intermarried with these nations and served their gods. They became as bad as the heathen nations God was removing from the land for their wickedness. This became their undoing.

Secondly, I find it interesting how quickly they forget the God who fought their battles and gave them a land they did not own and how they easily served Baal and other idol gods. God had done mighty things among them, no doubt. What made Baal so worth worshiping? But don’t we fall in the same trap, that of forgetting what victories God won for us last year, the diseases he healed; the hospital beds he got us from; provision; breakthrough; salvation? Don’t we forget who our true king is and prostrate ourselves before mighty men, money, media, influence?

Then there is this woman called Jael in Chapter 4. She was the wife of Heber the Kenite, who sympathised with the enemies of Israel. Sisera, an army general fighting against Israel, was fleeing battle and ran to Heber’s tent for refuge. Jael welcomed him into her tent, fed him and when he fell asleep she drove a tent peg into his skull delivering Israelites. Smart but brave woman who knew to fight the Lord’s battles not just going with status quo.

Gideon is the other page turner in Judges. He’s timid to the point of being annoying; but God calls him and sends him out on a major job he is underequipped for with assurance of victory. Clearly when God calls he qualifies. He calls even the unqualified.

Israel was living subdued by the Midianites who would burn their fields and harvest leaving the Israelites to starve. Gideon was hiding in a wine press, threshing wheat, afraid of the Midianites. An angel appears to him and tells him. “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you.”

Gideon must have looked up at him and rolled his eyes while wondering who this man was who was mocking him. Mighty hero indeed, hiding in a wine press. But God saw him in the future, not timid self and God-doubting Gideon.

gideon

The Lord told him, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you.”

I would love God to tell me that: “ Brenda, go as you are and do what I have told you to do. I am sending you.”

But doesn’t he? Do I obey? No. Like Gideon I start giving excuses. Gideon said, “How can I rescue Israel?  My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh and I am the least in my entire family.”

God reassured him: “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

At this point I am expecting Gideon to march forth bravely. Most of us have embarked on major projects or battles with less assurance from God. Surely Gideon, God is calling you mighty warrior.

But Gideon asks for a sign. I like his guts. He gets the sign.

Gideon goes ahead to bring down the altar to Baal put up by his father and the poles to the goddess Asherah and to instead build an altar to God but he is so scared of his family he does this by night.

But he doesn’t mobilise for war as yet. He asks God for a second sign. God honors the request. Gideon asks for  another sign the next day.He must have looked from his outpost to the Midianite army camped in the valley and remembered who he was – the least in his family, from the weakest clan. He told himself, “Nah, I need to be really sure this thing is gonna go as I was told.” Again God honors his request.

Finally he sets out for battle with 32,000 soldiers. God tells him he has too many warriors. “If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.” 22,000 men leave the army leaving 10,000. Finally Gideon goes to battle with 300 men.

Gideon must have sat in his tent with his 300 men thinking: “I am kidding who! 300 men to war against an army of fighters?”

The Lord knows Gideon is afraid so he sends him to the Midianite camp at night to overhear a conversation that stirs up courage in him and he goes forth to win a battle for the Lord’s people. God is patient with’ wuss’ Gideon and uses him despite himself.

Then we get to the clincher- the story of Samson. A man born dedicated to the Lord but who couldn’t keep off Philistine women. Apart from growing his hair and keeping him off liquor, did his parents do enough to prepare him up to be the Nazarite that he was called to be?

Samson strikes me as someone who is careless with his anointing and calling. The women of course were his undoing, especially Delilah. He gets tricked by a woman over and over, knows he is getting tricked but still entertains her and the trickery! Hands up for someone who is toying with, entertaining and feeding a Delilah, knows it but still continues to visit her tent? Watch out. Ask Samson about being left bare, blind, humiliated and separated from your destiny.

“Ananyoa nyoa, Delilah ananyoanyoa aa”

The amazing thing is that God still uses Samson to avenge Israel against her enemies, despite his personal failure. God’s plans prevail in spite of and because of ourselves.

concubine-cut-up

Judges 19 is one of those stories I have never heard preached. May be no pastor wants  to preach about a concubine being used, raped and dismembered.

That story disturbs me. Here is a Levite, a man who is supposedly consecrated to serve God at his altar who is as lost as the rest of Israel. The man has a concubine, whom he doesn’t seem to give too much regard to. She leaves him, he goes after her in her father’s house. He is in her father’s house eating and drinking for several [5] days and there seems to be a sort of power struggle between the Levite and his father-in-law. He went to get his woman but seems more concerned with partying and pleasing his father-in-law. Doesn’t speak much of the Levite’s character either.

Finally the Levite leaves for his home but an unfortunate thing happens along the way. Because he was not principled enough to set early on his journey, he has to spend the night in a town called Gibeah along the way. The men of Gibeah are so wicked they want to rape the Levite but his host offers his virgin daughter and the concubine to the marauding crowd and tells them to do whatever they wish with them but to leave the Levite alone. Hold on there. Is it that two women would rather be raped than a man? Is it okay to sacrifice a woman that a man who called himself husband and father may live?

The Levite pushes his concubine out of the door where the men abuse her all night. He protects himself. No one goes to look for her and when she finally collapses at the door, no one notices. At daybreak the Levite finds her lying at the door face down and tells her: “Get up! Let’s go.” Who does that to a woman who was gang raped all night Did he even expect her to make the journey? Unfortunately the woman is dead.

Yes, that’s a story in the Bible and not about Sodom but about the tribe of Benjamin.

He takes her body home, then cuts it into 12 pieces and sends a piece to each tribe of Israel. Such a horrible story. Why didn’t the men protect the women even at the expense of their own lives? Couldn’t they have trusted in God’s protection? There was no godly man/woman in Gibeah to stage a rescue? Were there no leaders to speak out? Why doesn’t the Levite claim personal responsibility for the part he played or failed to play in the whole saga?

The chapter ends with these words: “Everyone who saw it said: “Such a horrible crime has not been committed since Israel left Egypt. Shouldn’t we speak up and do something?”

Phyllis Trible in her book Texts of Terror writes: “The betrayal, rape, torture, murder, and dismemberment of an unnamed woman is a story we want to forget but are commanded to speak.”

Trible adds: “Of all the characters in scripture, she is the least. Appearing at the beginning and close of a story that rapes her, she is alone in a world of her own. Neither the other characters nor the narrator recognizes her humanity. She is property, object, tool, and literary device. Without name, speech, or power, she has no friends to aid her in life or mourn her in death. Passing her back and forth among themsleves, the men of Israel have obliterated her totally….In the end, she is no more than the oxen that Saul will later cut in pieces and send throughout all the territory of Israel as a call to war (1 Samuel 117).

The Israelites do avenge the nameless woman by almost annihilating one of their tribes in Chapter 20 after gross exaggeration by the Levite of what happened.

The book of Judges ends with a verse that is quite common at the beginning of the chapters: “In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”

I’m hoping to hear a sermon on these last two chapters of Judges soon.

 

 

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Dear university students

 

beautiful female african college student in lecture room

Photo: Courtesy

 

Every time I meet university students in town I find myself shaking my head, amused. Every time I see UoN students throwing stones at motorists on University Way I am even more confounded. College students amaze me. It is hard to come across so much bravado, naivety, vanity, invincibility and hope all packaged together in one. That could be admirable. But then I wonder how many are making the best of that wonderful phase of life that most of us remember with nostalgia? How many are going to waste their lives or make mistakes that will be hard recovering from? How many will look back grateful for the opportunities they grabbed?

For the university students in my life and those who will come across the post – Sue, Linda, Sharon and your friends… Campus life is a treasure. Cherish it; protect it. It grants grants you opportunities to grow up, meet new people, learn new things even those that are off your course outline. Grab those opportunities.

  1. Make lots of friends. You have ample free time, lots of chances for unplanned interaction and the space to open up and create intimacy with others. Your college friends are likely to stick with you a long time afterwards. They are also the people you will bump into in board rooms and interview panels many years to come. Don’t waste your time being a loner or a snob. You want even the acquaintances to remember you warmly when they bump into you at the airport 10 years down the line. You may even end up marrying some of these people. I know; I did.
  2. Expand your experiences. Don’t be stuck in your college room with your Econ books and Bible. Join that tree planting session by the Red Cross club. Go for hiking with your tribal association. Join the Presidential Award Scheme and make unlikely friends and know unlikely places as you test your limits. Apply for an exchange programme. Gatecrash a party. Eat food you have never eaten before. Go visit your roommate’s shags over the holiday. You will discover that once you hit the job market, such opportunities become rare and expensive.
  3. You are not invincible. You may feel invincible as a student because of that thing called comrade power. It’s a fake security blanket so don’t do anything stupid in front of cameras and especially in front of the police. Media houses do keep file video footage that they reuse often of university students being stupid. You do not want to be on that footage.Neither do you want a picture of you throwing stones or breaking chairs on the news.
  4. The Internet never forgets. I saw a picture of this university girl that sends all the wrong innuendos. I imagined her 20 years post campus, big shot in corporate circles, married and with teenage kids. She will surely be embarrassed to her dark roots for that photo that is now on Instagram or Facebook. Photos of your crazy night out blacked out on the pavement or selfies of you in underwear in your bathroom can haunt your wall, your job search, dating life, future political or pulpit career… oh, and your parents now know why you are always broke and scoring Ds like you are on a salary.
  5. Make smart mistakes. Really. Like mistakes you can learn from without damaging your future. Getting pregnant in First Year is not one of those neither is getting HIV. Getting kicked out of college for leading a strike, failing to attend classes or selling drugs also are not in that list. While you can rebound from a lot more now than in the future, be wise about what you chose to get reckless in. Look at your future and ask yourself what mistakes you can afford to live with.
  6. Everyone has issues. Yours is paying school fees. For someone else it is the parents who keep fighting at home. Another is depressed. Someone else is in a relationship that’s sucking the life out of them. You have your coursemate who is always floating in class. Trust God. Toughen up. Seek help. Pray.
  7. Don’t stress about money. Majority of the students in campus are broke, just like you. We never died from eating Ugali Sukuma, Rice Madondo and black tea semester after semester. Your phone takes pixelated pictures that leave you looking like a ghost while everyone seems to have an iPhone. Your clothes may be so 2001 and your hair competes with that of the cleaners but don’t fret and don’t be greedy. This is college not Project Runway. You can be excused for anything, especially your clothes. So forget about sponsors and get-rich-quick schemes. If you are patient, money will come.
  8. Your reputation is worth protecting. Ever read someone’s profile interview and it has mentions of the person they were in campus 30 years ago? There is a possibility that you will be a public figure some day. Then everyone will remember all your dirt and publish it all over. There is this chic who is today quite famous yet all many of us remember about her is how loose she was in campo. We still see her through that lens, unfortunately.
  9. Get your degree. That’s why you are at the university in the first place.Get the timetable, know where the library is and run some books on your lib card, attend at least 75 per cent of the classes and don’t miss exams and CATs. A degree is still one of the best bets to a good job and good pay. Oh, and stop stupid strikes that could make you graduate in five instead of four years. Redeem time.
  10. Discover your self and what you are truly good at. Many of our politicians today cut their teeth in student leadership. I discovered what I am passionate about while I was at the university. use the opportunities available and the people in your close circle to learn your strengths and weaknesses. Start practising your 10,000 hours in whatever you love or want to pursue in the future this early and you will have an advantage over everybody else. Want to write? Start now. Do you play the piano? You have enough free time to put in 2,000 hours. Want to be a politician? Start public speaking and leading your comrades.
  11. Starting small is fine. When you graduate or during internship, don’t be afraid to work for small companies. Don’t be focused on the money or the name. As Jack Ma of Alibaba said in a speech to young South Koreans: “When you go to a small company, you learn the passion, you learn the dreams. You learn to do a lot of things at one time. So before 30 years old, it’s not which company you go to, it’s which boss you follow. A good boss teaches you differently.” Focus on building a network of non-school references. Focus on learning skills. Nurture relationships.
  12. Give your first job your all. You will most likely be single, young with lots of energy and little responsibilities or accountability. You can afford to burn the midnight oil and be the early bird. You will most likely be the office KYM who fetches lunches and gets assigned jobs no one else wants to do. At that point your work is your life. Prove yourself as a worker. Learn quickly; become indispensable; show you can deliver. Soon you will be trusted as an important cog in the system and you will quickly rise up the ladder to here the money is. Then you can start worrying about work life balance because you have peers waiting for you for a round of golf, a wife/husband waiting for you at the dinner table and kids to tuck into bed.
  13. Get your Masters early. As part of a growing population of people who never completed their MAs and MBAs, I can tell you that juggling high adrenaline jobs that sometimes involve travel, family and school work isn’t a walk in the park. Gumbaro si mchezo. Your attention span is greatly reduced as you age, work demands and responsibilities are more and you probably have a young family that needs your attention 24/7. Get your masters early if you can.
  14. You really do not need to have everything figured out. You have until age 30 to do that. Your 20-somethings are said to be just practice for life 🙂

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10 gifts your children will never forget

African American mother and daughter

Photo: Courtesy.

Very few of my childhood memories include the gifts I received. African parents at that time, and especially those in dire economic straits, could barely afford necessities like pens, pencils, books and clothes leave alone parties and gifts.

I got clothes on my birthday or on Christmas and the random toy here or there, but the most vivid gift I ever remember receiving was a home-made doll that had blue hair, which I got from my cousin. To me that was such a beautiful thing to own and to think she would give it to me for keeps! It was a gift of generosity, imagination, and opening up new world for me. That doll opened my eyes to the fact that I could make my own toys to entertain me. So although they were no display-worthy stuff, I did start sewing together patches of cloth to make my own doll family. And what joy those dolls gave the budding introvert who loved to imagine banana trees were people and the grove my own little word.

Gifts are good, and particularly when they resonate deeply with the receiver. What gifts can we give to our children that will truly impact them for a long time like that rugged doll did for me?

  1. Self confidence: I always admire children who can stand before adults and speak their minds, or articulate issues bravely and clearly. I also admire people with high self-esteem because I realize that these are gifts you nurture at home, by letting your child know that no obstacle is insurmountable, and no one should make them doubt their capabilities. Affirm your children and let them know that they are equipped enough to face any circumstances life throws their way. Let them know they are enough as they are. Celebrate their milestones and let them know you believe in them.
  2. Time: Time spent together — whether playing, working at a project or on the farm, reading, or just talking – builds lifetime memories for parent and child and what a treasure to bestow your children. It also provides a forum to nurture, mentor and share values, as well as pick on the influences your child is gaining from. That’s when you know who their friends are, and what music they have been listening to. Time builds commonness and togetherness. Time builds traditions that can be passed on. As I grow older I find myself reaching out to the people I spent most of my childhood with. And they say when it comes to parenting the amount of time you spend with your children when they are small is equitable to the amount they will spend with you when you are old. Talk of a gift that pays itself back.
  3. Challenge, adventure and curiosity: Teach your children that the world is their playfield, full of opportunity and wonder, if only they can get out of their comfort zone to explore and seek new experiences. They will pass the same onwards to their children.
  4. Discipline. Yes, this starts at home. And they may hate it as they receive it, but will be eternally grateful that you did not let wickedness grow in their hearts.
  5. Hugs, kisses, your lap and many many “I love yous”. There is a saying that hugs were invented to let people know we love them without having to say anything. These are not things I saw a lot when growing up, but I have learnt the healing power of a hug when a child is upset or how a simple “I love you” can make everything right. Let your children find on your lap a safe little haven to remind them they are children.
  6. Imagination: I miss the story telling around the fire that accompanied our growing up. I’m embarrassed I cannot tell my son a story in all the gory and beautiful details as my grandmother did. But that rich culture gave me a rich imagination, and I wish to bestow that to my children so they can discover that the world is not limited by what they can physically perceive. The power in their minds to create their world is infinite.
  7. Share your faith: Your child may not take up the God you taught them when they were little, but they will always know you shared something deep and worthwhile with them. Pray with your children and teach them to pray because you will not always be there for them, or be strong enough for them, but God will. And when God answers prayers, remind them, that they may learn to trust in Him.
  8. A welcoming home: Your children should love to come home (and bring their friends over) because there they find warmth, food, laughter, jokes, acceptance and a place they can play and just be. You will buy new sofas and carpets and glasses once the children grow up, so let them find in their home a place to learn, make mistakes, learn and grow.
  9. Friendship: If my children can find me approachable, understanding, a confidant, and hopefully make me the first person they can run to when they are in trouble, at whatever age I will be happy. And I hope from they learn how to make and keep life-long friendships.
  10. Godly values: People grow up and choose what to believe and live by. But let your child not be one who failed to received any anchoring on the important pillars of life that will enable him/her weather all manner of storms. Teach them kindness and hard work, generosity, honesty and integrity. Teach them compassion. Teach them character.

Bonus tip: Leave your children an inheritance. The Bible says that a godly man leaves an inheritance for his children and their children’s children.