Seeing Above and Beyond

July 30, 2006

I spent most of last week at the Bible Week organised by Ministries Without Borders. It was mostly hot and sticky, which provided excellent opportunities for icecream.

I lived in a tent, and whatever anyone else may say, I thought it was the best tent available. It wasn’t exactly fashionable, but it was sturdy and functional. It wasn’t mine; I borrowed it from a friend who has more camping experience than I can imagine. I think it’s a scout tent, but it certainly kept me safe and warm during last year’s hurricane. Well, it felt like a hurricane, even at the Staffordshire showground where we were staying. In fact, I think Birmingham got flooded. That was last year. In fact, having lived three one week stints in three successive years in that tent, I feel it’s a sort of home now.

I didn’t go there for the tent, I went for some spiritual encounter, and a great time with church friends. We had great speakers. You won’t have heard of Keri Jones, Tony Ling, etc; they don’t have television ministries. But they’re filed with the Holy Spirit of God, and I’ve had the pleasure of hearing them speak when they’ve visited our church, and of course at Bible week.

For me, the highlight of the week was Monday evening. The speaker was Andy Hughes, and he spoke on annointing. It wasn’t the usual talk about the power of an annointed person. He spoke on the difference between ‘glask’ and ‘horn’ annointing, using Saul and David as illustration. Saul was the first to be annointed king of Israel. He was the popular choice to lead the people into battle, partly because he stood head and shoulders above anyone else. The question was whether he was God’s choice, seeing that in the first place, monarchy wasn’t the way God had planned for the Israelites. When Saul failed, God chose the next king, David, whom He described as “a an after my heart”.

These two people were very different. When Saul was chosen to be king, he was nowhere to be found, because he’d hidden among the baggage. In fact, he’d been annointed by Samuel before then. Samuel had found him a few days before, and poured the oil from a flask which he carried for the occasion. David was also annointed before his first public appearance. In his case, Samuel had annointed him from a horn.

What’s the difference? a horn is natural, made by God, whereas, a flask is man-made. Saul was what the Israelites wanted, essentially, he was a man-made king. In fact, God who knows the hearts of man chose David, which is why he was the more successful king. The result was that Saul kept trying to please God and failing. Eventually, he disobeyed once too many, and although he remained king in name, David began to eclipse him. David on the other hand relied on God for his success. He knew where he stood in God and acted accordingly.

It’s a long story, covering most of the book of Samuel. It took him two sessions to fully develope his theme. At the end of the first evening, he made an alter call. I can’t even remember what this particular call was, only that I stood up and went forward. I won’t forget the experience in a long time. Let’s set this in a little context. I’m one of those who says that Christians should be people who walk like the miraculous is natural. Mary Mary wrote that sone, “we are ordinary people serving an extraordinary God”. I firmly believe it, because I see myself as the child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But I still wonder sometimes why I’m not fully there. Just the day before, I’d been joking with a friend. She’d said that people think I am sighted until they discover that my focus is not as good. So I’d been walking round the camp telling my friends that I’d be focussing on them. I’d also thought of that in a spiritual sense and had spent some time praying for increased spiritual focus.

What happened on Monday evening as I stepped out was that someone prayed for me. Then as he left, two other people prayed for me, and one annointed me with oil. He just kept pouring the oil. He said something to the effect that it was like God did that especially for me. Then, as he left, another person grabbed me and poured even more oil on me. I’m sure he’d have known that I was already soaked, but that didn’t stop him. I felt it was a message about God’s riches, and his extravagant love.

I still felt that I was the son of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But there was something more. While I was concentrating on focus, it was as though God was turning things around, and focussing on me. It felt like there was no other person in that room, but God and me, and that in getting that many people to pray for me, he was telling me just how special I am. Sometimes, when you say something often enough, it can lose its power. To me, this was God confirming what I’d always said to others, and telling me that it applies to me too.

I don’t think I can fully explain Monday evening to anyone. I hope the week made me see above and beyond the natural. The icecreams were nice too. I seemed to go for the rum and raisin.

An Excellent surprise

July 19, 2006

Yesterday, I got a surprise e-mail from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a few years. Her e-mail reminded me of welcome and kindness to a stranger.

On 12 September, 2001, while most people were watching the news, I found myself in Cornerbrook, a small town in Newfoundland, Canada, part of a coach load of passengers that were originally headed for Washington DC. I was with my five year old niece, and we’d spent the night in the airplane. We had access to snippets of information, some of which, even by the standards of that day were wild exaggerations.

Jacqueline worked for Social Services in Cornerbrook, and it was her duty to get us settled. She made sure that I and my niece were settled. Then, as my luggage was still in the airplane, she got her dad to take me shopping for change of clothing. In the evening, she introduced me to her boyfriend over dinner.

Now, I think that’s beyond duty, that’s friendship. To prove it, we kept in touch till I lost her address in the great hard drive crash. And she wrote me again.

Come to think of it, the Canadians really looked after us. Apart from keeping us fed and watered, they said we could make free telephone calls to inform our families that we were safe and well. I must have been so comfortable; when the captain told us we were returning to London, I spoke to him. I said we were better off in Cornerbrook, as we were closer to our final destination. I didn’t win that one and had to spend one more night in London. I spent almost 36 hours in a hotel near Heathrow. I couldn’t get out or do anything. When I wanted to tell my sister where I’d brought her daughter to, I was told I had to pay for the call.

So, thanks to all the people of Cornerbrook; Thanks Jacqueline, glad you got back in touch.


July 18, 2006

In the last week, I’ve decided again. I’ve decided that I’ll make my views known. This is not the first time I’ve made the decision, and judging by what I’ve done so far, this will not be the last. But here’s the improvement; I’m telling someone about it. Maybe somewhere in cyberspace is someone who shares my views, but will do something about it.

On Sunday morning, I was listening to Choice FM. I listen every Sunday morning to the gospel music programme, ‘Positive Inspirations’. This Sunday, the presenters shocked me by announcing that as from the 6th August, the programme will move from 6-9 AM to 0-2 AM on Monday. What! If I stayed till midnight to listen to the programme, I wouldn’t get to work on time. Mind you, it’s past 1 AM now … but still. I was so upset that I rang the station. They said I could protest on their website. I said I would. That was on Sunday morning.

Earlier on, (actually, last week Wednesday) I received an e-mail. I’m a trustee of a charity that offers music therapy to disabled people, the elderly, etc in Cumbria, just nextdoor. Well, they’ve been nominated as finalists for the BBC lottery’s Northwest awards. We were told to tell everyone to vote for our charity. I have all the details in an e-mail, somewhere. I’ve promised to check out the website. Maybe in six weeks, long after the votes have closed, I might post the details. I promise that sometime soon, (whenever that is) I’ll tick that item as ‘done’.

It’s late, if I do that now, I won’t get up on time. That’s what I say every night … or every morning.

It’s over now

July 11, 2006

“How are the mighty fallen! tell it not in Gath, Publish it not in Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice …”.

And it goes on and on, David’s lament when he heard that Saul had died. As the well fancied Argentines lost the quarter final game to Germany, I could indeed hear their Brazillian rivals dancing and rejoicing through the streets of Rio. But they didn’t know then that they only had two more days before their team would be off home too.

And as one great team after another found the German heat and their opponent’s skills too overwhelming, Zidane’s reign kept stretching for one more game. But we’ll talk about him later. How did I feel, when each of my predictions proved wrong?

Argentina: I’ve never been a great fan of Argentina, maybe because I like Brazil. I always thought that though they’re skillful, they are one of the more physical teams. But after that goal! Admittedly it was the last of six. Any team that had scored that many should be feeling quite confident, should be able to string a few passes together. But it was still a goal to be talked about. Like all the commentators, I started to fancy Argentina. But I suppose I knew they’d have a tough game against Germany, so I wasn’t too surprised that they lost.

Brazil: They didn’t play well, but every tournament, commentators say the same thing … ‘This Brazillian team isn’t good enough to win the world cup’. And every time, they’re proved wrong. So, I wasn’t too worried. I kept thinking they’d wake up, and to be honest, they did against the French, who didn’t seem destined to go far either. But the French always rise to the occasion against Brazil. They’d beaten Brazil in two of the previous five world cups, and this year, against Brazil, they played their best game of the tournament.

England: I suppose if you’ve been knocked out of three world cups in the quarter final stage, there’s a kind of consistency to your performance. It means nothing more than that England’s a top 8 team, despite their aspirations. Something has to change if they’re to move forward.

Portugal: They must have surpassed even their expectations … but they had a coach from Brazil!

Germany: Our hosts did very well this time, but of course in 1990, they’d taken the cup in Italy and consigned the hosts to a bronze medal position. Time for a reversal.

Generally, there were some great games. Of course, it could never have been as good as 1994. Then I could boast to my English friends, because their team didn’t make it and Nigeria actually did well. We even led for most of the game against the Italians. If I’d held my breath for any longer during that game, I wouldn’t be here writing this. Never mind, all my hopes are now in South Africa.

But for now, all teams are back home. I suppose it’s good that the Italians won the cup. It’ll be some consolation for the players as they face the next several days of investigations.

I never gave the Italians much of a chance in the tournament, and they got to the finals. I thought the French would win, … and then they scored. I was in a car, heading back to Lancaster from the other end of England. Good thing I wasn’t driving. I’m sure I’d have taken my hands off the steering wheel when France scored.

But the Italians equalised. I don’t think Zidane played as well as he played against Brazil. Just once or twice, the radio commentator would say ‘excellent pass from Zidane’, or ‘lovely flick from Zidane’. Against Brazil, commentators only said that when he’d made a minor contribution. The rest of the time Zidane would have the ball and the commentator would almost be rendered speechless by the skill of his drag backs, step overs and dazzling moves.

But … How are the mighty fallen! I’d still like to know what caused him to do what he did. Maybe he too would like to know. But we’d all built him up. I think he built himself up too. And he’d seen that vision which caused him to get out of retirement for this last time. It could all have ended so well … but then again, How are the mighty fallen?

I’m going back to my life again. The holiday is over, I’ll be writing about usual things like waking up in the morning, eating breakfast, taking a stroll, etc. It’ll be another four years before I’m stirred up to great prosaic sentences. I know that by then, technology would have moved on. Maybe I’d only have to think up a sentence and it’d be on screen. But if God tarries, I hope I’d still be as interested in the beautiful game as I am now, and I hope Nigeria would do the decent thing and make its football hungry citizens proud again.

Headline news!

July 6, 2006

Today, I found something out that I’d never known before. Someone left a note on my doormat which simply said ‘you’re gay’. Wow! And to think i spent all that time looking for a wife?

You know, I need to sue the psychic who came up with that one. All this time, I never knew I was being studied and analyzed. And this psychic who’d be studying me and come up with this fact which was unknown even to me decided to leave the note for someone else to pick up. He/she didn’t even throw it through my letterbox. Actually, it was a lady who read it to me … but what if she was my girlfriend or my wife! I’d have had some explaining to do … those times I traveled to Liverpool and Manchester and London … even abroad, for days, weeks, …? What was I really doing?

But it was worse; This is an infringement of my rights under the disability discrimination act. Imagine sending a note to me in a format I couldn’t access. What if the note had said that I won a cruise, or six million pounds, and I didn’t even know it was there. Anyone could have picked it up and claimed my winnings, and I’d be none the wiser.

What should I do about this stunning new revelation? Should I tell my pastor? Hire a hotshot lawyer?

Questions Questions

July 5, 2006

Yesterday, I was walking home from the station when I met two friends. One remarked on how incredible it is that I can find my way around Lancaster, to which I gave my usual reply that I’ve been here such a long time that if i couldn’t find my way by now …! But this didn’t seem to fully satisfy him.

This set me thinking. You see, so many things about me seem to provoke so many questions. People ask me where I’m from, because there’s the natural presumption that I’m not British. How do they know? When I’m away, I generally say I’m from Lancaster, and then they ask “but where are you really from”? Then people ask how come my English is so good, to which I give the standard reply that Nigeria was once a British colony. Then, they ask how come I can find my way around so well? And they remark on how impressed they are.

Maybe these questions reveal a lot about those who are asking, … how little they know of Nigeria, or of visual disability. But what does my own reaction reveal about me. I’m usually surprised that these things would impress anyone. I do things because I do them, I never attach any real significance to my ability to walk unaided round town. Why should I? I’ve been doing it forever.

I can’t imagine not being able to walk round town. If I needed to get to the shops, I’d have to ask someone, or take a taxi, or just forget it completely. What sort of a life would that be? Maybe I’d have starved to death by now, or be so miserable because I didn’t ever leave the house. Or if I constantly went out, I’d be broke because I always had to pay for a taxi, or my friends would have become tired of my constant pleas to take me to this or that place.

But then, I can find my way around; and because it wasn’t something I did suddenly and recently, or because I’ve grown into the cities I regularly visit, I don’t think it’s any big deal that I can. But is it normal? because I know many who are maybe not so comfortable with their mobility. Have I tried so much to be normal that I’ve actually become different? Because, if there were more disabled people walking around, it’d become so much a part of life, nobody would think to question it. Have I started to take things that are really consequential for granted?

The thing is that most of the visually impaired people i meet are very capable. Some people do some things better than I do, and I do some things better than others. Still, if I knew that one of them did something that I couldn’t, I’d ask how, but not in a manner to suggest that I was so impressed because I thought it would be impossible to do. I suppose it’s the same with everybody else round the world. Some can sew, some can’t; some can use computers, some can’t; some can drive, and some can’t.

Have I become so used to removing obstacles imposed by visual impairment that I don’t see them anymore? I don’t want to be stuck in the ‘I’m blind but I can do it’ mode. Some people have said that I act as though I don’t need others; if that’s true, that’s a bad thing, because I always tell others of the benefits of an active community life.

I know this is difficult for some blind people who get upset when others act like visual impairment prevents them from doing certain things. In truth, I don’t mind curiosity about how I do things. I think though that I’d worry if people were ‘impressed’ or found it ‘incredible’ that I could do something like walk round town. I think there’s a difference between ‘how do you do this’? and ‘I can’t believe you can do it’.

But to answer the question about how I find my way around towns and cities; the answer is so simple, I need to, so I get up and start walking. I’ve given some talks on disability awareness. I always tell the attendees that if I blindfolded them and told them to find their way, they’d first get up unsteadily, stretch out their hands in front of them, and walk very slowly and with great fear. But gradually, as they got familiar with their surroundings, their confidence would improve. Now, magnify that familiarity by 16 years, which is the time I’ve spent in Lancaster, and you’ll understand a little of why I can find my way round town.

Stuff happens?

July 2, 2006

I have a friend who says ‘stuff happens’ when he hears of a minor disaster. It’s his way of reminding me and all others to soldier on through to the end of the tunnel, where there’s sure to be a light.

This last week has been quite eventful for me. on the one hand, I’ve had a totally unexpected visit from my dad and niece. Right now, they’ve left me to get on with it, while they do the decent thing, … have some sleep. But it’s been great having them around.

On the other hand, I know of at least four families, who have over the past fortnight been grieving. Even my friend would consider these too serious for the ‘stuff happens’ routine. Nevertheless, as I’ve spoken to people, I’ve had to ask myself the question, ‘does it really?’

So, what could I tell my friend when she told me that her mum had suddenly collapsed in Nigeria and was in a comma? I told her that God knows every hair on her mum’s head and not one would fall to the ground unless He knew about it. And because she’s my neighbour, we talked and we prayed, well into the night.

Then on Tuesday morning, just after I received some good morning good news, I got a call to say her mum had left this world. And suddenly, all the arguments about God’s power seemed to be turned on its head. After all, the day before, we’d been hearing of improvements. i remember praying just seven hours before, and thanking God for what we’d heard about, that she’d opened her mouth to take in her medication.

As I helped my friend struggle through the sudden change in her status, I came across one of those mass circulation e-mails. This one said that God has only three answers to our prayers, “Yes”, “later” and “I have something better for you”. We now know that the answer to our prayers was neither “yes” nor “later”. It has to be “I have something better for you”. And then we need to ask the question, ‘what can be better than having my mum with me?’ Mind you, that’s relevant to me too, my mum passed away in 1998, and I still miss her.

Frankly, I can’t answer the question for my friend. But when I spoke to her yesterday, she said something which made my heart jump, and made me nearly say ‘I told you so’. About three months ago, I’d told her that when I went home for my mum’s funeral, I never knew how I’d cope. I’d felt God with me, His presence was tangible, and strengthened me and my family through what was an impossible situation. We’re a close family, and we really felt that this could be the beginning of our falling apart. But we didn’t, and if anything, we’re much closer now than we’ve ever been. And my sister is in the States, my brother and my dad in Nigeria. And I also know that what I grieved about wasn’t that my mum had gone to be with the Lord, after a wonderful, hardworking life; it was that she wasn’t still with me here on earth. If my mum had died after my 70th birthday, I’d probably still miss her.

I was on my way to the States on 11 September 2001. After crossing the atlantic twice more, I finally arrived in Washington DC on Saturday 15 September. On the Sunday morning, I heard something on the radio. I didn’t know what impact it would have on me, or I’d have noted the guy who said it. As it is, I’d love to give him credit, and I want everyone to know that this isn’t my original thought. This chap said simply,
“God is safe”
He said, and I believe I still remember his exact words:
God is Sovereign;
God is Actively working for the victory of good over evil;
God is Focussing our lives on the truth, that we couldn’t exist without him;
God is Encouraging us in His word.

That’s all he said, God is ‘SAFE’ Sovereign, Active, Focussing and Encouraging. And I still keep praying that God will reveal His higher purpose in my friend’s life, and in all the lives of Christians who are asking the question, ‘why Lord did you not answer that prayer’.

And what was the good news that woke me up on Tuesday morning? A friend we’d been praying for had an answer to her prayers. Her family had been refused their visas to join her as she studied for her doctorate. She’s a clever girl, the best student at the University of Lagos, 1998. She’s won other merits in her time, and all she wanted was to do a doctorate, and to have her family with her. On Tuesday, she rang to say that she’d had the news, the visas had been granted, and she could go home for summer, and return with her whole family. She screamed her joy over the telephone line, I thought my neighbours would have heard her. Now, I understand that to be a ‘later’ answer to prayer. And I pray for those who’re awaiting answers, that they get it in God’s sovereign time.