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On Gifts, Talent, Wealth, and Privilege

"In the end, we win." - Priscilla Shirer

That's legit the best news of the gospel. In the end, we win. The devil knows this; it feels like some of us aren't fully aware of this though, so we don't act like conquerors, we act like the conquered. But that's not why we are here today.

Aretha Franklin passed today. I wrote on Twitter and Instagram that my dad first told me about her legendary song, "Respect" when I was about 16 or so.  I'm not a music person per se, but I loved that song so much that for several years after I called it my best song. Now, I no longer believe in such absolutes but I will always love what that song embodies—what Aretha Franklin herself embodied. So rest in peace, you Queen of Soul. She was in every sense of the word, legendary.

Now why we are here.

I reread a parable in Matthew 25 (14-30); it's a parable on talents. The popular one in which a rich farmer left some coins for his servants and went on a journey, and then when he came back, the ones with the most talent made the most of it. And the one with 1 bag of gold literally went and buried/hid the master's money.

I thought perhaps this is more that just gifts or talents that God has blessed us with, though those certainly matter. It could more broadly apply to what we do with our lives; the privileges, opportunities, families, abilities that we have been blessed with, how do we use them? It goes way beyond money, in my opinion. How do we make the best use of our privileges and opportunities, and how do we use it to benefit and impact others. Often, we think that making an impact means something GRAND, but it is usually not. We must make sure not to be too egoistical as to think the deliverance of the world lies within our hands. Get over yourself, honey. Rather, think about the unique way you can help even just one person. It could be mentoring. It could be volunteering. But what are you doing with what you have. This also means if you are one of the people with the privilege of getting an education, you better apply yourself to it, because not everyone has that privilege. If it's a job, do it well too. Remember, God did not distribute talents and gifts and privileges and everything equally, and he expects according to what we have.

While we should not be greedy, we also must never be complacent or play it safe in life or even worse, do nothing. Many people do this: choose the option of doing nothing or playing it safe because, well Jesus can come anytime or YOLO. Nah B. We have to make excellent use of each moment spent on earth so that ultimately Jesus can say, "Well done, thy good and faithful servant".

Bottom line is, Jesus IS coming back and will most definitely require us to give account of how we spent out lives. He does and will hold us accountable.

For whoever has, more will be added and they will have in abundance. Whoever doesn't have, even what they have will be take from them. v.29



Friday Reflections

1.) One thing about Chimamanda that most people would know if they bothered to even read about her is her ability to include nuance even in very difficult conversations. This interview was another instance.

2.) Trevor Noah is a comedic genius. I mean, Trevor is what happens when you are talented, but you are also very well read.

3.) This is the closest to an academic explanation of the identity cleavage in liberalism generally, and specifically, the clash between French Ambassador Araud and Trevor Noah. I stand by my initial argument that both had valid arguments and were in fact both right, but Trevor was righter: context matters in everything!

4.) Research shows that positive thinking might be helpful in anti-poverty programs. What that research doesn't mention, which I think might be significant is that the beneficiaries watched people who look like them.

5.) There is an underlying millennial financial resentment, and it was obvious in the recent Money Diary that trended on Refinery 29 about a very rich millennial. This New Yorker article perfectly describes that angst. Can you blame us though?

6.) Shonda is business, man.

7.) Please read this author's description of her great grandfather's atrocities, and her family's way of coming to terms with it. I gotta say, I wish Americans would read this.

8.) The hierarchy of a Nigerian wedding. Yup, you guessed right: the single woman is a the bottom of the totem.

9.) Her son's death at 23 gave her a crazy gift, and I think it might give you too.

Book of the Month: Gender Roles

I particularly like how the book of this month has been helpful in helping me reconcile my identities as a Christian and a feminist. This was also one of the books my friends got me! Aren't I lucky?

Of the many things I struggled with as a Christian, the one that shook me to my core and made me extremely uncomfortable was the [wrong] message that God created me (as a woman) to be inferior. That God created me simply to be “under the covering of a man”. I didn’t understand. And more recently, this became a prevalent notion. Even beyond gender imbalances and inequality in our secular society; I find that in the church and Christian communities, respected people of God keep claiming the woman has no say; that the woman was only created for the purpose of the man; that the woman is not allow to lead or preach in the church; that the woman is meant to submit; and that the man is the head. Of course, variants of these are somewhat true. Most are blatantly wrong.  It was everywhere, and so I begun my own personal research and I prayed hard to God to help me understand. I wanted to know God for myself (for one), but I also wanted the know the truth about the place of a woman. The thing with God is he really does answer prayers.

Most of what Taffi Dollar wrote in this book, I already knew. Because I found it in the word myself. I am glad someone with such authority wrote it though, and that more and more we are having this conversation.  I quit waiting for other people to tell me what the bible says and dug in myself.  And I found out about Deborah. I found out about Phoebe, Priscilla.  I  read about Mary, Martha; I read about Jesus's reverence for women. I saw how Peter called us equals; I saw where Paul declared no division, but only equals among followers of Christ; I saw Paul acknowledge strong women who contributed, strengthened, and LED the mission of spreading the gospel. Don't worry, this book touches on most of these. One of my favorite bible stories is in Numbers 27:  Zelophehad had just died, and only male sons were allowed to inherit properties of their fathers. Unfortunately for Zelophehad's children, they were all girls. So they went to Moses, Eleazer, the leaders, and the whole assembly to complain.  You can read the continuation of that story in the last paragraph here. But what God did through Moses in that instance was counter-culture. Because honestly, as this book  explains at length, and as the Bible reveals, Jesus was very counter-culture.

I heard that an author wrote a book saying if you are a feminist, you are not ready to get married. In that case I will never be ready. From the beginning of time, people have twisted the word of God for their own personal reasons. It's not surprising though. When a system benefits the oppressor, he does everything in his power to maintain status quo. Hell, American leaders used the Bible to justify the inhumane act of separating little babies from their parents. Centuries ago, people used the Bible to justify slavery. This book demystifies all that nonsense: in simple and plain words she shows what exactly Jesus said. I particularly love her analogy of the creation of Eve, and how the Greek version of the Bible refers to woman (Eve) and God with the same term, ezer. Is God then inferior? So much to say, so little the time. So read this book for a better understanding of who you are in Jesus, and read the Bible and do your own research yourself! It would suck to live your entire life thinking you are inferior to men or to your husband, or that you are so useless that God couldn't even muster up the energy to create you for a unique purpose, and that all he could do was serve you up to a man. Hell no.

I want to say, I stand by what I said in this post: I don't wander into people's marriages and what you do with your marriage is ultimately up to you. But in this society where you and I live, I will be damned if I accept that one man is superior to me because of the XY chromosomes. I am after all, wonderfully and fearfully made. I am the daughter of the most high God. Don't test me, please. 



What Does Faith Look Like in Action?

Why do we find it so hard to have faith. Or is the real question, what does faith look like in action? Is it tireless and passionate prayer? Or is it a simple prayer and moving on with your life? Is it shameless persistence? Or is it delusional, you know acting like it already happened? Is it just forgetting about it? Perhaps it's resigning to fate? What exactly is it? A lot of times we are very quick to say if it's God's will for something to happen, it will. And we go about our business. No passionate request to God. Nothing. But Bishop TD Jakes told a story about the lepers and their call to Jesus that made me see things in a different light. Jesus was legit not even minding them; he was going about his own business. But they saw Jesus and CALLED out passionately and DESPERATELY to him to heal them. If they sat down in the same ole spot and thought you know what, if God wants us well, we will be; nothing would have happened to them. They would have remained ill.

Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!

There is something about a loud, piercing cry to God. In the same analogy, TD Jakes gave an example of a mom whose kids are always bickering, and making noise that she becomes used to it. So you know how the kids are making their foolish noise in the background, reporting each other every second, but the mom pays them no mind. She is probably still on a call, cleaning and just ignoring them. Until she hears a loud, piercing scream; the kind that makes her tell her friend on the phone: hold on, SOMETHING is wrong with one of my kids. She just recognizes, yeah that is panic, that is different.

Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!

Sometimes, you gotta yell out to God. Sometimes, you gotta be like yeah, God no this ain't cutting it. Shameless persistence. I will never forget seeing that phrase in the bible. Jesus was teaching about praying, when he told a story. He said if you go to a friend's house at midnight, wanting to borrow food, but your friend is already asleep and locked his doors, so he tells you to leave him alone. If you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.  He told the story to explain that just keep asking and knocking, and eventually you will get. That verse changed the game for me. I'm shamelessly persistent in my prayers now. But you must also be willing to do as he says, even though most times it seems illogical. Back to the lepers, Jesus told them to show themselves to the priests. Like, what?! We just asked for mercy in desperation and that's the best you can respond with? Just do, sometimes even when it makes no sense to you or to those around you. All the times in the bible that Jesus is gobsmacked by remarkable faith (think woman with the issue of blood; guys bringing their friend through the roof for healing; centurion on behalf of his servant) it was with desperate people, whom Jesus wasn't even minding but all of whom went OUT OF THEIR WAY to desperately plead and ask him for a miracle. None of those guys just merely waited.

So what does faith look like in action? Sorry, I don't know either. I don't know for sure. I think it looks like confidence in God's ability. It looks like trust. It looks like believing even when it makes no sense; especially when it makes no sense. I think it looks nothing like folding your arms or complacency. I think it's being afraid, but still believing in God. It looks like hope. It is being desperate.  I think it looks like yelling with everything in you:

Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!



P.S: if you are interested in any of the biblical stories, they can be found in Luke 17: 11 -19; Luke 11:5-8; Luke 8:43-48; Luke 5:17-39; and Luke 7:1- 10) For this post, I referenced the NLT version.

I Fell Down And I Wrote About It

Today, I was speaking with my siblings on my way back to work after lunch with my friend. And then I tripped and fell. I mean face flat, legs scattered, body sprawled kind of fall. The contents of my purse were all over the floor. My pants tore, my shoes fell off, my phone screen is completely shattered (with shards literally falling off), and my body was bruised and scraped. When I got back up, I didn't realize how bad it was because adrenaline kicked in. It wasn't until I took a couple of steps and my legs, face, and hand burned that I realized how bad it was. I'm fine now haha.

But let's trace my steps back, shall we? I remember I had just been telling my siblings about an alternate path I could have taken. I didn't mean that literally; I was talking about an alternate life/career path I could have taken instead of the one I'm on now. I remember saying I don't regret what I'm doing now, I'm just not sure I have the patience for it [anymore]. I was tired of waiting. It's funny I mention waiting. I met my friend for lunch a couple of blocks away, so I could have waited 11 minutes for a bus or walked back (about 18 minutes walk). I remember thinking because of recent sunburns, I should probably wait and not walk. But I looked at the time, looked up and saw that the sun had gone down a bit, so I decided to begin walking and if a bus came along, I would get on. I was tired of waiting. And so I walked. An d then I fell.

Earlier this morning after I woke up, the Bible verse from my devotional said:

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. - Colossians 3:12-13

I remember thinking about how much I need patience. I truly need patience and it's something I have always struggled with, so it's not particularly new to me. I also remember thinking I need to learn to forgive more—honestly, not forgive as much as "allow for people's faults". I don't extend as much grace to others. I always rationalize this by saying if I have set such low expectations for you, and you still fall short then you don't deserve grace. But that is truly, truly hostile. So grace. I remember also saying I needed God to remind me more often of these things. And then I got up and started my day.

I was literally telling my siblings about someone's incredible selfishness and how I couldn't believe their heart was so desperately wicked because of what they did. And then I tripped and fell; face flat, legs scattered, body sprawled kind of fall. One way or another God was going to remind me to be patient and to allow for people's faults. One way or another, I was going to have to listen. With a bandage over a knee already riddled with years old injuries from being bullied in secondary school, a bandaid over my hand, and a shattered phone screen, I guess I have no choice but to listen. I am listening. I am learning.

I am learning that people don't always think like me and that's okay. That everyone makes flimsy mistakes. That people sometimes think and talk carelessly. That people are sometimes selfish. There is no need to hold on to it so tightly. Let it go. I am learning that time and pressure happens to all things. That patience is a tremendous virtue. That if God brings you on a journey, he will never forsake or leave you. I am learning. I won't stop.



Black Excellence

Happy Independence Day, America! I was at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and you know how that place gets you beaming with pride. I'm telling ya, you always leave feeling so black and so proud. Black people are actually pretty cool and awesome, no matter the current climate and the denigrating comments white supremacists and neo-nazis make. Historically, despite constant obstacles and hostilities, black people have managed to surpass expectations and have gone on to record-breaking achievements. Black women are increasingly becoming the most educated group in the United States, yet they only make up 8 percent of private sector jobs and are among the least paid. The probability of educated black women getting married has also significantly reduced, and we know the economic benefits of marriage. Black people are killing it in entertainment, in sports, and frankly every walk of life. And don't even get me started on our culture...to put it simply, we are hella cool. And this museum does that and more to remind you that. I even got some pictures to prove that.

This is certainly a good reminder to continually fight for equality of all persons regardless of race, gender, religion, background, country, sexual orientation, and creed.

THIS! I honestly wonder and quite frankly envy those who are able to just ignore everything; no matter what is happening. Hell, let the world be burning, they are fine, as long as snapchat and Instagram are still available for them to post their cute selfies.

 In the spirit of the ongoing world cup, I found this especially poignant. I remember when Nigeria played and gosh, even the greatest enemies had something in common that day: a shared love for Nigeria, and a desperate hope for the team to play well. America is kinda the only place where even sports becomes problematic; when this current regime (yes regime) thinks that the "sons of bitches" playing ball have no right to protest injustice. Shout out to Colin Kaepernick for having strong principles and sticking with them even when it cost him millions.

Forever mood hahaha. I love this. Everything about it. I am black. And I am proud. 

Hair. Black hair was and will always be political. So wear it as you like, but kill the idea that the straighter or curler hair is, the better. Kinky, nappy, coily hair is fabulous. I know this because, duh I have it. Black magic.

Decades later, colorism is still a problem. If you think only light skinned people are beautiful; or that lighter skinned folks are the more beautiful or *ahem* cuter ones; if you bleach; or if you denigrate darker skinned people, you're part of the problem. 

Well, that's it for today. I just loved seeing all of that and felt like I needed to share for people to see, you know. 



Book of the Month: Broke Millenial

Happy new month! It's the beginning of the second half of the year. I don't even want to say I don't know where the year went to: I do. What a year.  Although this year I have slacked with blogging (since I literally could not be bothered), one major reason I like blogging is the ability to see how far you have come. Of course, you can also do that with your personal journalling, but I like some sort of record showing you how far you have come. So for me the year hasn't flown by, it has been 6 months of grueling hard-work, some anxiety, some failures, and lots of successes. So bring it on second half, let's do this!

It also is an opportunity to look at your vision board, list of resolutions, goals for 2018 and re evaluate how you can achieve some of the things on the list. I'm not so naive that I wouldn't know that many people don't have this privilege; for some, they just want to survive. Which brings me to all the insanity in Nigeria, and the many lives that have been wasted within the past couple of weeks.  Lives are being wasted due to happenings that can be avoided. We really are all tired and angry and frustrated. I know everyone keeps talking about getting your PVC and those of you who can vote, please do get your PVC. The truth though is I think more focus should be placed on the National Assembly and local leaders/governance. I feel it is necessary to mention that I think am sure our current president is a disaster, but we all know that already. Anyway, here's hoping for better governance. On a lighter note, I have a book of the month today yayyy *throws confetti* Without much ado*, let's get to it.

I have been digging non-fiction a lot lately. I have also been a little obsessed with personal and responsible finance generally. I think we are merchants in the marketplace and must be both diligent and faithful with whatever God has blessed us with. With that, this year I took a slightly aggressive approach to my finance: not being miserly/frugal as much as knowing where every dollar goes to and making responsible decisions. I wish more people would do this too. You know, think twice about that weekly trip to designer stores for things you know you don't need. Think about investing; think about retirement and your future financial plans; and think about [getting out of] your debts; think about giving; think about your credit score.  But there can be an extreme measure to this, as with most things in life, too much of everything is bad. [As Christians] Our hope is (or should be) ultimately in God's ability to provide for us and his grace, not so much in that we know how to spend.

The book of this month is therefore on  personal finance, called Broke Millennial: stop scraping by and get your financial life together. Honestly, the title already tells you everything you need to know. I first heard of the author on The Financial Diet, another personal finance blog/vlog. And then I put her book on my wishlist, and my awesome friends got me tons of books for my birthday, and this was one of them.

I like the matter of fact nature of the book; but not as much as I love her personal anecdotes and relatable way of communicating. The book does a good job of  touching on everything: negotiating your income; navigating the anxiety-inducing, often overwhelming, and borderline destructive concept that is your student loans; finding the right financial products; credit scores and credit reports; how to navigate declining to split bills evenly; getting financially naked with your partner; investing; buying a house (YES, millennials too are buying houses); and retirement (like how does roth IRA differ from traditional IRA?). The best part is the approach to these are not overwhelming at all. She also tries to come at it with finesse, not the way most people address it by scaring you with sensational headlines like "Millennials will never afford houses" or "Millennials are doomed forever with their loans" or "How stupid can you be to take student loans?". She doesn't do any of that nonsense.  It’s basically a finance bible. Something you can reference if confused about any concept. It also does it without complicated jargon. I love that.

Like I said, I implore you to read this book or any other finance book/blogs out there or just take charge or just pay attention to your finances. Think about it, you are not just taking care of you this way but sort of, kind of, in your future generations as well. Privilege is never having to take student loans because grandpa left a hefty inheritance for you lol. Again,  I also worry about being so obsessed with your finances that you forget to live! It’s exactly like living a healthy lifestyle/eating clean: you can begin to obsess over every detail and then judge those who aren't. Don't do that. The same way you don't want to be the friend who makes the choice of where to eat dinner tedious, since they don't eat gluten or eat carbs or eat meat and fish or eat eggs but also prefer their veggies grown in a farm where dogs are treated like kings. Get the hell out of here with your impossible standards. Set a realistic goal: be out of debt by 30 or buy a house at 35 etc. but also know life is wayyyy more than a bunch of checklists, and what is success to others isn’t necessarily success to you. Define success for you, and live within your means. At the end of the day, every single financial book, blog, video, advice out there can be summarized to that: live within your means.



*much ado being the last time I did one was almost a year ago!

P.S. for real, for real now, I am back to blogging this second half of the year...probably :)