Dual Citizen

31+ years of living in Nairobi. 3+ years since the application was submitted. Today, I became a Kenyan citizen. After three years of being told ‘Be patient and wait,’ we were called last week toDiane Citizen collect the certificate.

No fanfare, no pledge of allegiance, no questions to answer. Just an overworked lady in a tiny, overcrowded office on the 7th floor of the infamous Nyayo House. I paid. I signed. I carried it away.

The day was so typical, but in ways that are iconically and uniquely Kenyan.

  • We left the house at 6 a.m., trying to ‘beat’ Nairobi traffic. While driving along, suddenly oncoming traffic was speeding down one of the lanes that would normally be ‘ours.’ No signs. No warning. Only large cement blocks in the middle of the road that made it impossible to mistake the new traffic pattern. Whew – we got through safely.
  • At some point, 2 policemen on foot crossed the road two cars in front of me and stopped a vehicle. Both lanes of traffic remained at a standstill while the officers had a not-very-friendly conversation with the driver. After 3 or 4 minutes, the car pulled to the side of the road. Great – we are moving again.
  • After 2 ½ hours on the road (distance of 11 miles with a short detour), I arrived at work. Our new term in college was scheduled to start today. Two out of seven returning students were present. But starting dates and times in academic institutions, including the best of them, are very relative and often just pretense here. Okay – no cause for alarm.

After class, and wanting to avoid the impossibilities of parking in the city, I boarded a matatu (public mini-bus) to go to the immigration office. Music booming and vehicle often off the road – but we arrived.

  • At the first counter, I was told I would need to pay 10,000 shillings ($100) to renew my alien registration prior to getting the citizenship certificate. But after a short conversation in Dholuo about where our “home” is (rural tribal roots in Luo-land) and how many children we have, I was told “Bring 5,000.” Tribalism, or what? But I did not object.
  • After going to the second and third and fourth desk, I was told that the person who could help me had gone out and would be back at 2 p.m. It was around 12:30. Oooh – I hate waiting!

I wandered to a nearby Christian bookstore to pass the time. A magazine titled “Africa Leadership Today” attracted my attention. But how disturbing to find that all the articles were written by Americans, with examples about “a growing church in Colorado,” “the pastor from Fairhaven Church in Dayton, Ohio….” on and on. Africa leadership?  ‘How dare they?’ I moaned.

  • Back in the immigration office at 2 p.m., nothing was happening. When I ventured to ask around 2:30 if I would actually be served, I was told “people are on lunch break.” Listening to the Swahili conversation around me, I realized that there had been someone would could have helped me in the morning, but just didn’t feel like it. Not in the mood, I guess. “Do I really want to be a citizen of this country?” I fumed under the courteous façade.
  • The high-in-demand clerk arrived around 2:45 and scolded those in the office for making me wait. She had left someone to take care of clients, she insisted. Anyway, within about 30 minutes, the certificate was in my hands. WOW!

Now back to the bus. On board, a crippled beggar was circulating with a letter, stamped and signed by a local hospital, saying that he was in need of financial help for medical treatment. I gave him 200 shillings ($2.) He was elated. After collecting donations from a few other passengers, he literally fell out of the bus at the next stop. But he was still smiling as we drove off. Such harsh realities.

Nearing my destination, the driver cut through a corner going the wrong direction. The conductor motioned for me to get out, in the middle of the busy intersection. I was just glad the bus had actually stopped for me.

Now, back home, I am deeply thankful. Okay – I missed several other appointments, but not a big deal; it’s normal. Yes, this is the frustrating, unpredictable, intriguing life and country I have come to love. And now I officially belong.

~ Diane

P.S. The certificate is date 23 October 2015. Apparently they were not in the ‘mood’ to notify us until January?

 

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Good Reasons to Hope

During this Christmas season, the message of HOPE burned strong in my spirit. Jesus’ birth was a declaration to the world that all was not lost; the Expectation of generations had been Fulfilled.

With so many things whirling around us that aim to discourage, hope is a much needed commodity these days. The hope we have in Christ is not simply the type that says “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow” or “I hope I win a million dollars.” That type of hope is more of a ‘wish’ – with no guarantee of it ever coming true. The hope we have in Christ is a sure hope; a hope that will not disappoint us.1 It provides an anchor2 for our soul. It keeps us in place and makes us strong.

So where can we find, and on what can we found, our hope?

  • Rhema revelation – the words and promises that God has specifically spoken and revealed to us – give hope when things do not seem to be working. Simeon maintained hope that he would see the Christ-child before he died, because of what God had revealed to him.3 Paul had been promised that he would appear before Caesar in Rome, and withstood shipwreck and snake-bite because he was convinced of God’s promise.4 The list could go on and on….
  • Our experiences with God in the past can be a source of hope. When I feel discouraged, I often recite to myself the many things that God has already done. I ‘bring to remembrance’ the miracles, breakthroughs, and answered prayers, just as the children of Israel were often implored to do.
  • The knowledge of God’s nature is also a source of hope. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”5 The Promise-er is not just any random person whom we may or may not be able to trust. Our hope is in GOD, and Him alone!
  • Even when all in the world fails, we have the promise of eternal life in the presence of our Father. That, of course, requires a choice on our part. I ‘hope’ that is a choice you have made.

What inspires your hope today? Is it a word that God has spoken? An experience of His faithfulness? Whatever it is, I encourage you to find the anchor of hope and hold it tight! Have a wonderful 2016!

~Diane

1Romans 5:5; 2Hebrews 6:19; 3Luke 2:25-31; 4Acts 23:11; 5Hebrews 10:23

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A Special Day

I hereby absolve from judgment or guilt any person who has forgotten my birthday, anniversary, or other important day – ever. (Let he who is without guilt omondis 2cast the first stone!)

Today seemed to be “business as usual.” I was up early, taking care of this and that. A few letters to mail, a few emails to respond to, a few checks to write, essays to mark, a financial report, a team itinerary, a staff meeting. . . . Around noon, Ibrahim asked me, “Did you actually forget our anniversary?” I was dumbfounded. Ooooh my! Yes, I did forget. A very senior senior-moment.

I thank God for 32 years of marriage with an amazing man who has been my best friend, inspiration, encourager, pastor, co-worker, advisor, listening ear, and much, much more. He has pushed me beyond the comfort zone many times, always insisting, “Yes, you can.”

Could God grant us 32 more wonderful years? That would be awesome!

~ Diane

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Like a Child: Quite a Journey~

Ooooh my goodness. When I started the “Like a Child” series exactly one year ago, I had no idea it would have so many posts. This has been quite a learning experience for me!

Several of you have commented on this series ‘about children.’ Thank you. But it was not intended to be about children > but about the traits of children that God would want to see in us.

I had not disclosed a rather backwards inspiration for starting this topic in the first place. That was, during a discussion with my father, somehow we stumbled on Jesus words’ about “unless you change and become like little children.” Father pondered out loud, “So what does that mean anyway? We certainly are not supposed to be like children, are we?”

Mine was to dispute that conclusion. “Yes, we should be child-like. I can think of several ways.” It reminded me of the list I had compiled when our first child was born, almost 29 years before.

In this series, we have observed that children:

  • Are trusting, and believe what they are told
  • Are totally dependent
  • Look like (and act like) their parents
  • Want to be ‘with’ – Daddy, or Mommy
  • Learn by doing
  • Are concerned about process, not product
  • Believe that all things are possible
  • Sleep through the storms
  • Are not pleasers of men
  • Know that “Daddy will fight for me”
  • Are easy to influence
  • Live in the moment
  • Understand that rules are rules, and can’t be broken
  • Are quick to forgive
  • Are totally honest
  • Are enthusiastic
  • Are naive
  • Ask many questions
  • Are free from shame
  • Are humble
  • Take life easy, and
  • Receive the Kingdom by allowing it to shape and form them.

Whew! Thank you for walking on this journey into child-like faith with us. If anything, I have now become even more keenly interested in being with, observing, and absorbing the godly traits of children.

…And I seriously look forward to having grandchildren one day — of course in God’s timing! <:)

With much gratitude,

Diane

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Like a Child: Humble

It would seem incorrect to conclude this series on “Like a Child” without talking about humility, since “humbling oneself like a child” is specifically identified by Jesus as a key to the Kingdom.

Humility. This virtue has often eluded me. Because, thinking less of (or thinking down on) oneself is not necessarily being humble. More often than not, that way of thinking results in some kind of false humility, self-abasement, or a refusal to use God-given gifts or talents for fear of being seen as “proud.” We know the pattern.

This one statement about humility has helped me tremendously: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less” (C.S. Lewis).

So, when I spend time thinking about myself, even when the thoughts are not about how good, but how ‘not good’ I am, I am not being humble. The focus is still on me! A humble attitude is one that understands that it is “not about me!” Humble or not, excellent or not, good-looking or not, worthy or not… all that does not really matter. Other people are more important; other people deserve my attention more than I deserve it for myself.

But talk about a ‘catch-22’ dilemma! If I try harder to be humble, I will be focusing more on myself. And that is the opposite of humility! O my.

What about children? Humility is not a trait that we quickly associate with childhood. Children can actually seem to be very ‘proud’ — or give that impression through boastful words. They are also egocentric, viewing things only from their own perspective. Yet Jesus said that children are humble. Hmm.

On second thought, it is true that young children are too busy with life to sit down and start wondering what other people think of them. When a child does boast, it is often not about himself but about his Daddy or Mommy. And a child knows very well that he or she is not ‘all grown up.’ He does not think of himself “more highly than he ought.”

A young child is also highly dependent on adults – he realizes that he cannot manage to do things by himself, and definitely needs help. A child’s view of himself and his abilities is realistic. . .

So maybe children are humble, after all. And maybe we do not often imagine them to be so because we tend to misunderstand this virtue to start with.

Whatever the case, the Word exhorts us ‘be completely humble.’ Gracious Father, I need your help with that!

~ Diane

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Like a Child: Life is Easy

I don’t know about you, but I often find life to be very difficult. Or at best, complicated. So many things to do. So many problems to figure out. So many burdens to carry. So many wrongs that can never possibly be made right. Then enter something like the terror in Paris this week (aagh)! Injustice. . . pain. . . so much to try to comprehend and so little that I actually understand. Does that resonate?

Children, on the other hand, are not weighed down by the “worries of this life.” They just live life, and love it! Life is easy.

It is relaxing to watch little children, and just admire them. They seem so carefree. (The ironic thing is that children, instead of reveling in their childhood, believe that life will be so much better when they ‘grow up’; that being an adult is the best thing in the world. And we, in turn, are thinking: “IF YOU ONLY KNEW! You do not want to grow up. Just enjoy being a child!”)

Yes, Jesus said we must become like little children. But isn’t that backwards? Why would regressing to an earlier stage of life actually be equated with becoming mature in faith? Well, welcome to the upside-down Kingdom! In order to grow, we need to go back. It is a total paradox.

When I am feeling particularly burdened and people tell me, “Just trust the Lord,” I want to shout back “What a cop-out! The Christian walk is not about having a Jesus who you use as a Magic Wand to solve all the problems.” I resolve that life is just hard, and I better learn to grind my way through it!

But can that attitude really be called child-like?

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:29-30).

~ Diane

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Like a Child: Receive the Kingdom

This morning my Bible reading took me to Mark 10. It was one of those times when something ‘hits’ afresh. “I tell you the truth, anyone who does not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Matthew 18:16 has been the text for this “Like a Child” series. There, Jesus says that we must “change and become like little children.” But the emphasis in the Mark 10 verse is different. It speaks of receiving the Kingdom of God.

How does a little child receive the Kingdom? How would a little child receive anything? It made me think.

Young children don’t receive information about their environment by remembering it, but by absorbing it. It is called implicit memory, or unconscious memory. None of us ‘remember’ being born, or remember our first birthday. In fact, we might not remember anything about the first several years of life. Yet, those years have shaped us and largely influenced the persons we are today. The experiences of a young child are not received by rote memory, but are incorporated into his very being.

What does this mean for us and the Kingdom? Yes, we need to learn about the Kingdom of God. But perhaps Jesus is saying here that we need to do more than that — we need to become the Kingdom. The ‘upside-down-ness’ (or is it right-side-up-ness?) of the Kingdom should be our norm. The values of the Kingdom should be burned in our soul. The Kingdom principles should be those that we naturally live by. That is, the Kingdom should be part of us. The Kingdom of God is who we are.

Maybe that is why we must be born again — so that we become infants in the spirit and receive, then grow into, the Kingdom of God even as a child would. Otherwise, according to Jesus, we can never enter.

 ~ Diane

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