The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day. After covering important topics, like disparaging each other's mothers and retelling semi-factual tales from our college days, our conversation turned to the mundane.
"So, how's work going?" he asked.
For those of you who don't know, I make money by teaching leadership skills and helping people learn to get along in corporate America. My wife says it's all a clever disguise so I can get up in front of large groups and tell stories.
I plead the fifth.
I answered my buddy's question with,
"Definitely feeling blessed. Last year was the best year yet for my business. And it looks like this year will be just as busy."
The words rolled off my tongue without a second thought. Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing my usual lunch order at McDonald's.
But it was a lie.
Now, before you start taking up a collection for the "Feed the Dannemillers" fund, allow me to explain. Based on last year's quest to go twelve months without buying anything, you may have the impression that our family is subsisting on Ramen noodles and free chips and salsa at the local Mexican restaurant. Not to worry, we arenot in dire straits.
Last year was the best year yet for my business.
Things are looking busy in 2014.
But that is not a blessing.
I've noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the "amen" at the end of a prayer.
"This new car is such a blessing."
"Finally closed on the house. Feeling blessed."
"Just got back from a mission trip. Realizing how blessed we are here in this country."
On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn't I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn't that the right thing to do?
As I reflected on my "feeling blessed" comment, two thoughts came to mind. I realize I'm splitting hairs here, creating an argument over semantics. But bear with me, because I believe it is critically important. It's one of those things we can't see because it's so culturally engrained that it has become normal.
But it has to stop. And here's why.
First, when I say that my material fortune is the result of God's blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. I can't help but draw parallels to how I handed out M&M's to my own kids when they followed my directions and chose to poop in the toilet rather than in their pants. Sure, God wants us to continually seek His will, and it's for our own good. But positive reinforcement?
God is not a behavioral psychologist.
Second, and more importantly, calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong. For starters, it can be offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day. You read that right. Hundreds of millions who receive a single-digit dollar "blessing" per day.
During our year in Guatemala, Gabby and I witnessed first-hand the damage done by the theology of prosperity, where faithful people scraping by to feed their families were simply told they must not be faithful enough. If they were, God would pull them out of their nightmare. Just try harder, and God will show favor.
The problem? Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture.
I'll take door number three, please.
If we're looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly (Matthew 5: 1-12).
1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,
2 And He began to teach them, saying:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I have a sneaking suspicion verses 12a 12b and 12c were omitted from the text. That's where the disciples responded by saying:
12a Waitest thou for one second, Lord. What about "blessed art thou comfortable," or 12b "blessed art thou which havest good jobs, a modest house in the suburbs, and a yearly vacation to the Florida Gulf Coast?"
12c And Jesus said unto them, "Apologies, my brothers, but those did not maketh the cut."
So there it is. Written in red. Plain as day. Even still, we ignore it all when we hijack the word "blessed" to make it fit neatly into our modern American ideals, creating a cosmic lottery where every sincere prayer buys us another scratch-off ticket. In the process, we stand the risk of alienating those we are hoping to bring to the faith.
And we have to stop playing that game.
The truth is, I have no idea why I was born where I was or why I have the opportunity I have. It's beyond comprehension. But I certainly don't believe God has chosen me above others because of the veracity of my prayers or the depth of my faith. Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. It's not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I don't believe Jesus will call me blessed.
He will call me "burdened."
He will ask,
"What will you do with it?"
"Will you use it for yourself?"
"Will you use it to help?"
"Will you hold it close for comfort?"
"Will you share it?"
So many hard choices. So few easy answers.
So my prayer today is that I understand my true blessing. It's not my house. Or my job. Or my standard of living.
My blessing is this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. And I know a God who has planted this same power within me. Within all of us.
And for this blessing, may our response always be,
"Use me."
Since I had this conversation, my new response is simply, "I'm grateful." Would love to hear your thoughts.

Blog Diaries: Volunteering.

In the spirit of thanksgiving, myself with a couple of colleagues joined a local community charity, to distribute Turkey and groceries to Seniors in the neighborhood. I promise it had nothing to do my my last post. LOL. I had signed up for it since forever, and only just decided on that post recently. But it's good to know I am not just talking, but walking the walk. Right?! Haha.

Imagine my surprise when everybody seems to find the fact that I volunteered strange, case in point MY OWN SIBLINGS. What does that say about me? I am selfish? LOL. I mean, look at this.

Sibling A: So, how was your day?

Me:           It was good, I spent the early part of the day volunteering.

Sibling A: Volunteering?

Me:            Kini Lol

Sibling A: O ya mi lenu ni (It surprised me)

With sibling E, na me go look for wahala.

Me:             I am tired. I volunteered today; we shared  some Turkeys and  groceries to Seniors who need them.

Sibling E:  *Laughing out VERY loudly* Were they going to give you Turkey too?

Me:           O_O Whattt?! I went to SERVE! Am I less privileged or a Senior who needs food? *confused face*

So, here I am thinking of my life and how selfish I must be for one sibling to be flabbergasted that I'll give my time to others. While the other sibling was sure there must have been an incentive to get me out in the freezing cold. Well well, surprise surprise :-)

The experience was a good one. However, as gratifying as it was to put a smile on people's faces, it was physically exhausting, not to talk of the very cold weather. I think I must have frozen at some point.  It was no wonder I took a nap as soon as I got home. I have since refused to leave the comfort of my comforter (see what I did there hehe) all day. I did learn some lessons though. These Seniors are lonely, and have absolutely no one to spend thanksgiving with. Even though my own family doesn't have a big celebration, it was a reminder to be thankful to have a HOME to go to. I felt so blessed to have my family to go home to for thanksgiving. An ordinary hug meant a lot to these people, some of whom are probably ill.

I am even more thankful that my own grandparents are and were never lonely, for the most part at least. I never met my paternal grandmother, but I am sure she wasn't alone. My paternal grandfather was definitely not lonely, he had us :-) And would eventually die in our home, in his room, on his bed. #Blessed. My maternal grandparents, both are alive and are certainly NOT lonely. LOL.  So I started to pray and hope that no matter how busy my silly siblings and I will be, we will have plenty of time for our parents, and make sure they are never alone. I hope they wouldn't be so in need of someone to talk to, that talking to an absolute stranger will make their day. I hope that just as they have been there for us (siblings and I) all our lives, we would also be there to cater, take care of them, but most of all, just BE THERE. Just in case I forget, this post will be a constant reminder.

So you see, it was a win-win situation. I helped out, and even took home lessons.

Till next time, blogsville; Love, love, and more love. Be kind.


Your Christians Are Very Unlike Your Christ.

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." - Mahatma Gandhi

Hello there. You! Yes, you. I see you reading, from posts to posts. I see you, because everyday Blogger tells me you are around. I sometimes wonder what you think about all these many things I write. I am thankful you take your time to read them all. I hope you are well :-) Life has been happening for me. In a good way. Thank God. What a roller-coaster year! I can't wait for December or my last post of the year, whichever comes first. Maybe, just maybe I'll be able to capture what this year has been for me, in mere words. Maybe not. I wish I was anonymous though.  Anyway, moving on.
I saw the above picture on Twitter. I was moved beyond words. I mean, this is another level of generousity. It got me thinking though. Is this man a christian? I don't know, and I didn't bother to find out. If he is, perfect! If he is not, shame on the rest of us, who call ourselves Christians. Sometime ago, I talked about wanting to blog on how unlike Christ Christians are. I was worried about stepping on toes. I may have changed my mind. Being the true daughter of my father and seeing the above picture, I threw caution to the wind and decided to say what I really feel. Okay, fine...I won't say ALL of what I am really thinking, just some. I'll try to be as politically correct as I can.

If the man in the above picture is not a Christian, then WHERE ARE THE CHRISTIANS OF THIS WORLD? Oh, yeah I know where they are. They are busy amassing wealth, and more wealth and more wealth. I feel many of us have forgotten the real essence Christianity: to be Christlike; to love our neighbors like ourselves. But many people can't even love their own families unfailingly, how much more a random stranger on the street. How much money is too much money? When will it be okay for you to stop FOR A MILLISECOND and realize their are starving people in the everywhere. When will you stop and just hand over a little something to that homeless beggar you walk pass every morning? When will that private, luxurious jet be unnecessary? You know, how about I just use these millions of dollars to send the some children to school. I mean, they want to go to school, they can't afford it. Seeing as I won't be laid to rest six feet under the ground with my diamond Rolex watch. Plus my coffin will probably be too small to accommodate a whole aircraft. How about I invest some of these money in the lives of the younger generation?

The world we are in now, it's hard to explain to people that you are fine affording the basics of life without looking mediocre. I am not saying to not aspire to great things, we all should. But we also should understand those caliber of people who really do not want very much. See, Christ called us to show the world children of who we are. We certainly can not do that by being selfish people who don't give a damn if people in a different part of the country are being senselessly murdered, day in day out. "It's kuku in the North. Let them be killing themselves." If you speak in ALL the tongues in this life, SPEAK all the words in the bible from Genesis to Revelation off the top of your head, and you have no love, you are wasting you time hunnay. Love is certainly not selfish. Love is amazingly kind, pfft Love ain't greedy too, you know. Now, forget that myth that you have to be like the man above to change the world. You don't have to change the 'world'. You are not Jesus. From the moment I realized I CAN NOT change the world, I have had more peace with myself. Say that with me, I.CAN.NOT.CHANGE.THE.WORLD. You can do so much more though. Just look around you. Volunteer because you want to, not because it will boost your Resume. I see you. LOL. Seriously though, start from loving your family, your friends. True, genuine love, not all that hypocritical nonsense. Oh, that little cousin who is bad at maths, help them. Don't delight in their failure. Those cancer survivors that need wigs, can you make one? Get on it, send to them. Just do something.

It's so bad that even INSIDE the church, Christians are...funny. For lack of a better word. I hate to talk about this, but I was in a church recently. I didn't know anybody there, heck I hardly know anyone in this whole city. People would excitedly and enthusiastically hug or shout greetings across to their 'friends' and would legit look past me with a straight face. LIKE for real. Not even a hello, not even a fake smile, you know the type Americans love to give. How can you be so nice, warm and loving to the person sitting RIGHT NEXT to me, but be so cold and stiff to me? HUH? Fellow African folks like me, people of my ETHNIC GROUP. Man, so much for being a christian. If I walked right into a club, I am sure that I would at least get all the guys grinning at me and winking at me, and all that stuff. But inside the house of God...a different story. The incident(s)--it wasn't just one Sunday-- made me think back to my childhood church, and wonder if at any point in my own life, I had been guilty of that too. Honestly, I don't know. But a church should be a community where the Love of God thrives. Christians should that same love carry around with them at all times.

That's all folks...for now.

I had a good last weekend. Two different friends came to my city. It was so good to have a real conversation, not over the phone, not over Skype. I know I say I come alive in my own space and all that, but man sometimes I just miss my friends and our gossips and all that. Hahaha.  So I am posting pictures of food for you to drool over. I love taking pictures of food. Everybody in my house knows, and they allow me to take pictures of their food before they dive in. Till I come your way, next time (which may be a really long time, again :-(. Life guys, life is happening), remember to share as much love as you can.


The Young Shall Grow.

It's my brother's birthday today. Happy Birthday to him. I can't believe how time flies. It felt like it was last month I just wrote him a birthday post. Anyway, that's not really why we are here. Usually, on birthdays of my family and friends (I would say close friends but let's face it, my close friends are about the only friends I have anyway) I usually like to have several of their pictures so I can constantly change my display picture on BBM that day. I love to make people feel special on their birthdays; I think it's that one day in every year when people deserve to feel like kings and queens. Lol. Moving on. I have a bad habit of not saving pictures so unless you directly send me pictures of you, I most likely don't have it. My brother hardly never takes photos, so I kept asking for him to at least send me something. I can't imagine putting up the whole world's pictures on their birthdays and then on my brother's birthday, nothing.

He finally sent me some pictures. One of those pictures is why I'm writing this post.

Sorry you will have to twist your neck. I rotated it on my phone but blogger won't let me do that.

So I looked at this picture. My first reaction was laughter. I thought to myself, "I believe in miracles." And then I looked again. And then I looked again. Like whaatttt? The ultimate throwback. I actually have never seen this picture in my entire life. I wonder where my brother dug it from. Well, for one I was right in this post about my brother. Second, what in the world is going on with my hair? I didn't have good hair as a child. Again, I believe in miracles. Third, why was I so skinny? I feel like throwing some burgers at myself. Fourth, why was I so skinny? Maybe people will finally understand I am just a thin person naturally. I now love my body though, and do not want to get fat or even increase in size. Yes, I said it.

But, beyond the superficial things I listed above. The picture is filled with so much memories. The picture is also remembrance that time is precious. The picture speaks growth. I had a good childhood and growing up, but I don't want to go back. I am not having the best life but I sure am enjoying this age. I am not in a hurry to grow older too. The past was beautiful, but there is a reason, it's the past. It's weird because, despite my somewhat good memory, I don't remember taking this picture. I don't even remember what house this was. Oh look at my Mum's graduation picture behind, haha. And the frame of Jesus or Mary, kneeling and praying. We used to have many paintings at home. What happened to them? Oh, how I miss childhood :-) But I don't want to go back.

I like that I have a blog. I don't have the time to maintain my journal anymore :-( but thankfully my blog is on cyberspace. One day soon, maybe in ten years or twenty, I will look at this post and marvel at how far I have come and how much I have grown. Because I grow everyday.

Oh crap, I forgot it's not me whose birthday is today. Haha. Well, happy birthday again, big bro! Love and light, oh and growth!

P.S; I am typing this on my brand new computer. Whoosh! This is literally the first thing I am doing with the computer. I remember seeing this computer (an older variation of it) two years ago, and I said to my family "I want this computer, I am going to get it".  Even I laughed at myself, while saying it. Fast forward, two years later, I needed a computer and got something else, totally forgetting I made that statement. The computer spoilt in the middle of important schoolwork! *RME* and here I am, with the same computer I always wanted. Isn't God just great?

P.P.S; don't worry if your child isn't too fine eh? He/she will outgrow it. LMAO.

P.P.P.S; I have something on my mind about 'Christians' and how unlike Christ they are. It has to do with my experience in a church. I just don't know if I should blog about it. You know, I am trying to be politically correct nowadays. I am tired of being 'opinionated' and 'overly expressive'. Plus, not every time talk, sometimes shut up. LOL