Wednesday, 25 February 2015

An Open Letter to Elijah

Dear Elijah,
It has been quite a long time since we exchanged words let alone words on paper and this being an open letter it is not expected I will or should receive a reply but I feel the letter has to be written. As it has significance to thoughts that have been going through my head for a while and as it concern views I have expressed to more people than just you the letter just has to be an open one. You, however are probably the first person to whom I expressed these views first and because of the way you took them at the time, with much wisdom, it only make sense that you be the main recipient of this letter.

I recall not too long ago at a Kabwata Baptist Church Youth Camp coming up to you, you were the camp chief at the time if memory serves, and I was quite unhappy that for another year in a row the issue of dating and relationships was the main topic of a few seminars. I was not too pleased with that. If you can recall I was not happy with it because it seemed that year after year the same speech was being given, and I was getting tired of it. I thought that the seminar had become mundane and irrelevant because it was given to the same people, pretty much by the same people. And once again after a couple hard hits intermingled with jokes people would walk out and go do the same things that were spoken against.

In hindsight, at the time I was speaking more out of frustration and pride than any actual want or need for change and/or improvement in the system. I had nothing to replace what I wanted removed and to some extent all that was on my mind was getting the satisfaction of being right in my observation. To date I can remember how you let me finish my rant without interrupting and soon gave me some very valid reasons for the seminars to be there. I did not want to listen to the reasons at the time but they made so much sense and in light of a book I read recently I absolutely agree with you. Given that it is an open letter I will fill those who are reading in on your reasons and why I agree before getting into ‘Why I write this letter.’

The first reason was that there are new comers to the Camp who needed to hear this as they had not had the chance to hear such things before. This reason is head and shoulders above the others because a lot of times as regulars who have heard the same message we lose sight of the importance of the message to those who have not heard it before. I am sure a number of people heard it and took it to heart. There are always those people and they should not be overlooked.

The second reason was that there are always messages that should be heard over and over to make them sink in more and more. Understanding increases as we hear the same thing over and over. Eventually even continuous drops of water damage the toughest of rocks. This is another thing that in my pride I overlooked, it is very likely that had I not taken it on me to shut down mentally during the seminars I would have gotten more from them. Alas the pride of young Mwansa can only be rivalled by the headstrongness of this Mwansa but the Holy Spirit is not through with me yet.

These reasons were perfectly valid and in my pride and unwillingness to listen I threw them down and kept seeking different people to run the same points by hoping to find one who would agree and fail to beat my logic, unfortunately for me I found one or two. But you were right all along. This was a message that was and is to remain relevant because to borrow, paraphrase and use slightly out of context the words of the apostle Paul ‘where sin abounds, grace must abound all the more’. That drum must be beat on till the cows come home. Till we see fruit in the listeners and then some. Elijah you were right.

At this point I humbly submit that I was onto a little something myself, I just never knew what it was till a couple days ago. I was tempted to title this letter, Elijah you were right… but I was right too. But that would have reeked of a pompousness I am trying not to have. The thing is I think I was onto something in that to some extent the point of emphasis of a few of those seminars could have been somewhere else. I recently came across a book called Best Friends Forever which gave me a total deck reshuffle in terms of my thinking of “Dating and Relationships” and this last bit is where my suggestion comes from.

I think that whereas the having of the semesters is a good thing and will produce fruit, it would be good if a couple of seminars where put in alongside these with the aim of promoting friendship amongst the sexes. Guys can be friends with girls and relate to each other in a group without any need for things to take a romantic detour. This line of thinking is not common and not especially cultivated among a lot of young people today. Whenever such a friendship rears it’s head one party would think too much of it, romantically, or even the view of it from the outside would be that there are romantic connotations to it. I think this is wrong.

If any place needs to be the vanguard of the propagation of genuine friendship between guys and girls, should it not be the Church? Should the church not preach more of the virtue of genuine friendship between guys and girls than just preaching against dating? Don’t get me wrong, preaching against dating and it’s many flaws has to be done but what is the use of taking away a belief and not replacing it with another. Do we not leave room for the Devil to bring in more nonsense? It is possible that just like last time I do not know as much as I think I know but I am led to believe this Is something that should be looked into.

It is my hope that this may be looked into deeper than the phrase that we will use to mask the same discussion about Dating and relationships. Apologies if proud Mwansa reared his head a couple times in there. God bless,
Mwansa N Mbewe

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Best Friends For Life: A Review

I was invited to Pastor Andrew and Daphne Swanson’s home recently for the day. It was good times with sweet fellowship and a lot of time in Pastor Andrew’s library. If there is anything that you should know about me by now it is that I love me a good library. I like old books, new books, books in tatters, books that are yet to be broken, books that have been broken, books with former owner’s notes in them… I think you get the picture. In this regard there are very few libraries like Pastor Swanson, in fact I am convinced the gravity of a library has just as much to do with the owner of it as it does with the quality and quantity of the books therein. As I was perusing through his collection of books my eyes strayed to this nice paperback titled ‘Best Friends For Life’. I picked it up and the journey begun.

It looked like a fairly new book but also seemed out of place because it was in the library of a couple who have been married for a very long time, they have a son who has been married for twenty years ergo they have been married a very long time. I figured the book must be a decent read for that reason alone and as I read the Introduction I was not disappointed. I will get into my review of the book soon but I first have to say that, I had a massive disinterest for all topics related to relationships. This is because I am tired of the preoccupation of my peers with it. Every conference and seminar needs to have something or other on it and I found that grating on the nerves but to say the least I have had a change of heart and this, as well as the proceeding blog post, should shed more light on this.

Down to the book. The thing that fascinated me the most about the book and led me to read more and more of it on that first day was that it focussed more on the friendship between the guy and the girl rather than the romance. This theory blew my mind. Isn’t a relationship about romance and attraction? With a lot of talk in this day and age about ‘The Friend Zone’, which is basically the guy or the girl treating the person on the other end as nothing more than a friend then doesn’t that and this amount to the same thing? What is a relationship between a male and a female without the romance?

The book tackles this by laying down a couple of assumptions. These are firstly that a relationship between a man and a woman should be started with marriage as the end product. Secondly that the friendship and knowledge are the proper basis of such a relationship. Thirdly that the excessive diluting of friendship and knowledge with Romance produces a skewed view of the other person in the relationship that after the mist of the romantic high fades leaves each person wondering what they signed up for. Fourthly that not all relationships that begin with romance as the basis fail but in terms of numbers a relationship based off friendship lasts longer and tends to be more stable.

A good father would want to know well the man to whom he gives his daughter

I will not lay down the whole book but I will lay down three sections or phases of the relationship process and these may seem extreme to begin with but are grounded in proper truth and make good sense if thought upon. The first being the courtship phase. During this phase the man who is interested in pursuing a woman approaches the father first about seeking a relationship with his daughter. It is at this point that the father will take time to get to know the young man, over a series of conversations, to ascertain as it were the calibre/character of the man. If the father is sufficiently impressed he allows the young man to begin courting his daughter.

This courting involves a non-romantic relation to the woman and her father. The father of the woman is heavily involved in the whole process and it is his job to get to know the man just as much if not more, initially, than the woman. There are strong elements of trust involved here as the woman trusts her father to look into the character of the man to see if he is of good character as he will see things through the experienced and realistic lenses. This stage involves the man relating to the woman in a group environment more than one on one as this shows more of the character of each individual in relation to others than a one on one would, it has less pretense.

The second phase, if the first is successful, would be the engagement. This is when the father feels the man is responsible and worthy and of his daughters hand and some level of premarital counselling as well as life counselling begins. This is all done as the man and his parents relate to the woman and her parents, I will explain the significance of this as they do in the next part. This part involves the man getting his life in order to take on the responsibility of a wife and this is helped along through the guidance of the father of the woman. The woman would also be receiving guidance from the parents of the man.

A lot of the process is requires a submission by the young man

I will immediately jump into phase three because there is an extent of overlap between stages two and three. Stage three involves apprenticeship. This is when the man spends a year, give or take ‘a few’ months, in the home of the parents of the woman and vice versa. During this time the man lives with them as well as works with or for the father. It is during this time that a lot of the discipleship happens as the man gets to see another example of a functioning marriage in action as well as being observed by the parents of the wife to be.

One can pretend to be something he is not over frequent meetings but in such close quarters over a good period of time the real nature of the man and woman is brought to light. Things like temperament, laziness levels, relation to others etc. are easily visible and can be worked or exposed before they become a bigger problem. It also gives the man and the woman a chance to view the parents of the other in close proximity. We echo similarities with our parents and even though we do not turn into carbon copies of them there are things that can be seen. Traits that will help the man or woman understand the person they hope to hitched to till death.

At this point I must say that the full point of the book cannot be gotten by a review and I do encourage all who can to read it as it is a very good book. There are a couple issues that arise and I will mention two that impress me about all this as hope to press upon you the interest in the book.

What happens when the lovey-dovey-ness is low and there is no
friendship foundation

The first, is that I see a lot of relationships these days are based on either the glossy eyed affection or the fun new toy kind of affection. The first one leaves you without a proper understanding of who the person next to you really is and results in you doubting the relationship when the persons true character starts to show and the second is all about what other people think of the person next to you and not the actual person. It is very important after everyone is gone and no one is looking to be able to talk to the person next to you, I think that is great! If a relationship is based off of mutual appreciation of the individual as well as the romance then physical trauma will not diminish love but grow it.

Secondly, as radical and impractical as these ideas may sound a proper reading of the book in full will give a proper understanding of the idea in private thought and meditation as you work through what has been read you will be able to try to put things in place with the paradigm in which you are placed. If at all love is for the benefit of the other person then wouldn’t you want the other person to know the real you so they don’t get shocked in future. Wouldn’t you want the person to have as much a knowledge of you as possible? Would you not be willing to submit to the authority of another for a period of time to show some seriousness as well as grow under their guidance?

This book is nice if not just for the discussion that it brings about. There are dozens of reason why this book should be read but I’m yet to think of one reason why it shouldn’t

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Isn’t It Enough To Just Be a Good Guy?

A good friend of mine from my time here has been Logman Garayev, I’m sure I have mentioned him once or twice. Logman is a nice chap, very nice guy to be around. Every once in a while when I am over in his room after enjoying some tea and goof conversation and am about to leave he says something like. Mwansa you are a good guy. It’s a very interesting phrase that one, you are a good guy, I kinda like it. I accepted it from the first time I heard it up until recently when I thought about it. It is a compliment of course, from one friend to another showing appreciation of the other guy’s character but what does it really mean?

It is only natural to think of good and bad in terms of comparison, I mean, is there any other way to look at it. Me, being a good guy would be in some reference to other guys not being good guys. Maybe it would be in reference to how the characteristics that I have are things that he values and enjoys in his company with me, ergo I have good characteristics, not to be mixed up with features though I do have an absolutely smashing afro. At the end of the day the compliment remains a compliment and me being only human I enjoy the compliment. But then it hit me, Is it enough to be known as a good guy without people knowing why you are a good guy? Isn’t the reason just as important as the virtue?

To borrow and paraphrase Harold Abrahams from Chariots of fire, I am a Christian first and last. That is the reason behind the little good in me and it does disservice to the creator of the good not to give him credit for the goodness. This sets up two questions right of the bat, How and Why? These two questions are why you, my one reader, are here, so here goes.

How? To some extent being seen as a good guy is a step in the right direction in that at some level it must be seen that there is a difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. This is because it provides the opportunity to speak of why one is considered good. Jesus did so himself when called ‘good teacher’ and his example is the very answer to the question of ‘how?’ It is important that I expressly show and explain whenever the opportunity comes up why it would be that I am considered good.  After all if anyone is aware that there is nothing good in me, it is me. I get to look into the mirror of introspection every day and see myself looking back and the sight is not pretty and so for someone to look at this mess and even think good guy, then the one who makes one good needs all the mentioning I can put in.

Can't fault the saviors way in, straight and to the point

As for ‘Why?’ That one would stem from the reason one would be considered good in the first place. Because I know what I really am, which is far from good, if anything good can be seen in me I must be sure to point in the direction of he who makes me look good that he may get credit. If I were to use a garden metaphor, at the end of the day grass, trees and flowers mask dirt, which is not the most appealing sight especially considering the manure that is also there. So if any credit at all should be given when one looks at a garden, shouldn’t it go to the one who made all look so good instead of the giving all credit to the garden itself. I give credit for all that I am and have to God because I know without a shadow of a doubt that he is the reason for it all and without him I am nothing. Strictly speaking there is no other option, ask an angel why it sings praise to God and you would likely see a puzzled face as he asks back, what other option is there for one so great as he.

I end with this. Being seen as good is not a bad thing but taking credit for what is good in me would be because there is little if any good in me. At times I may overlook this but all credit must go where it is due. I do like and appreciate all that God is doing in my life and that is why every time I hear those words from Logman as the door closes and I head to my room I usually pause and smile, God is doing a bang up job on this walking blob of dirt

Monday, 16 February 2015

What ever happened to the Artist in Church.. He left

For close to a while now I have been fascinated by the arts, fascinated by the variety of them and the variety of the variety. I have been fascinated by their use to express so much, sometimes more than words but with less clarity, sometimes able to express things alongside words. I have been fascinated in the use of the Arts by the East and the West to convey so much emotion; fear, anger, happiness, sadness even hatred. Such a tool deserves to be looked at more than once and I do admit at times I have concentrated more on the beauty of the art-form forgetting the creator of the art and the artist.

The thing is in this day and age if I speak of an artist you mainly think of a guy holding a pencil and a sketchbook or a pretentious guy with a barrette and a canvas or even the guy buy the street corner with bare feet who uses charcoal but produces fine work. But if I speak of the artist in a church set up the image changes to a musician rather than the guy with the pencil, why is this? Why is it that in this day and age the visual art is sort of thrown under the bus in lieu of its audio sibling.

Well this past week I came across a three part documentary by an artist I hold in high esteem called Scott Erickson. I came across Scott through a video he did with Jefferson Bethke called The Greatest Artist of All Time, Jefferson was doing his spoken word and Scott was painting. The progression of the video fascinated me, still does. You see the movement of the art work and it gives an extra dimension, if you will, to the words. I immediately, through the power of social media begun to follow Scott Erickson and I have not been disappointed. I was even happier to see the short documentary on art in the church because I had been thinking along the same lines.

I will not try to add to the documentary but I will plug the videos below so you can see them for yourself. It adds up to about 15 minutes worth of watching time so you can enjoy them all at once as you eat any of your meals. I would like to set up a few premises before I speak my peace. Firstly, to a large extent I am speaking of the use of visual arts in the Reformed Baptist Circles, as I can only speak of its use in a forum I know well. Secondly I do not see the use of visual arts in and of themselves to be the way forward, they are one colour on the pallet that is used to paint God’s love and grace to the non-believer, I wrote more on this here. And thirdly, this is a topic that requires much discussion into the means of use of visual art.

If you have ever set eyes on good art work then you know of its effect. One of the great paintings of minimalism is The Black Square by Kasimir Malevich, it is a very simple painting at first sight but once you know about the circumstances surrounding the painting it gains a whole other dimension. There is so much that can be done in terms of instruction and communication of biblical truths through the medium of paintings, in fact early church artisans used visual arts as a way to communicate biblical truths to a largely illiterate people. They saw the need for it and used their God given gifts to explain and express such things.

Such expression was seen in paintings in and around the church, stained glass windows and in some rare but popular examples the buildings themselves were used to express these things and they were appreciated greatly. The appreciation came from the ability of art to reach us and communicate to us extra value that in some senses words cannot. Back then a statue of Abraham walking with Isaac up the mountain would express visually the words that had been heard and a statue done right would show little things that would provoke the mind to thought. The expression on Abrahams face as they went up, the age of Isaac etc.

Fast forward it to this day and age and it could be argued that there is no need for such expression but then again the type of need may change but the need still exists. There always has to be some element of thought into how the gifts God has given may be used in his service. But speaking of it from a negative point of view, why would it be that the musician may express his art in service to God and receive support but the artist not so? Aren’t they both forms of art? These are gifts that God gave to express his glory and they should be used as such. But I must mention that I do not argue for the change in the method of Church worship. I do not say the Artist should walk up with the preacher and do his stuff. However there are other forums in which they can be used, such as evangelism, youth meetings, etc.

Lastly, I think that there may be a few gifts of individuals that are not being used in the church because of a failure to think over and discuss their use in reference to the bible. The lack of use of some of these gifts may be due to the negligence of not just the individual but also the church body as a unit

Saturday, 14 February 2015

It's Prayer not Masturbation

I have seen and heard quite a few prayers in my time, as short as that may be, prayers from Pastors as well as members, Adults as well as children, believers as well as non-believers but the most shocking type of them all Is one type that I experienced in full force here and it made me drastically rethink my understanding of Prayer. But what brought this on? Well I’m glad you asked.

This week we have been having a bit of a Conference at LPC (Lefkosa Protestant Church) and one of the topics being tackled by one of the speakers is Prayer. A lot of this has been eye opening stuff, as all good preaching must be. In my thinking over what I have learned from all of this I thought upon the prayers I have heard and one in particular hit me. You see this one time I was in the presence of a guy who was praying, he wasn’t going anywhere and neither was I so he got started while I was doing my own thing.

He started off by playing what could be called ‘worship music’ which John MacArthur would call 7/11 music. Seven words repeated eleven times then repeat the cycle. He literally worked himself into a frenzy that had him crying apologising to God for his frailties and failings. He was in such a state it was as though he forgot I was also there or even that he was where he was, it was a private place by the way not out in the street.

My problem with all this was not him crying, I am all for brokenness before the lord though not all the time after all there is a time for everything. My problem was not in him doing all that while I was around or him raising his voice, considering the circumstances such actions were not that far-fetched. My problem was in the need to work himself into a frenzy in order to pray, almost as though you need to be in a specific zone to feel as though your prayer is having any effect. My problem was the need he felt to force himself into a feeling that he was not having.

I see prayer as a conversation between a believer and God and whether the prayer is happening in public or in private it must be remembered that at the end of the day it is the Christian talking to God. I don’t know about you but when I am having a conversation with some other person I am not always ‘hubbly bubbly’ nor am I always broken. I could be one of those or any in between but when I go into that conversation I do not go in pretending to be/feel what I am not after all the listener prizes sincerity. This applies even more in prayer, God wants us to be sincere in our prayer not faking something we do not feel.

There are times when I do not feel like praying, there are times when I feel tired, frustrated even hungry. Sincerity with God is bringing all this before him and not pretending to be something I am not. Sincerity is very important because God knows our hearts after all so we are fooling no one. All attempts at faking a feeling are like trying to water a lawn behind a brick wall by pouring water onto the wall, completely and utterly pointless.

But why the comparison to masturbation? Isn’t that more crass a comparison than is needed. No, in fact I think it rarely comes any closer to the truth. Masturbation is working one’s self into a frenzy or a feeling of sexual arousal without the actual partner, in short it is a profanity of the God given act of sex. It is the individual forcing a situation that does not actually exist in order to feel a closer connection or feeling but at the end of the day there is no satisfaction from that because no proper satisfaction can be gotten from the profane.

Prayer is not to be treated as such. It must be something that we come to honestly, with what we have, baggage and all. God gives us the opportunity and the avenue through which we can go to him and pour out our hearts to him because he is the only one who can truly understand what we are going through. What benefit is it to us if we go in faking what is actually going on with us. Who are we fooling anyway, God is not fooled. If I can make one more conjecture and this one is more personal in nature. Not all poor use or abuse of prayer involves working one’s self into a frenzy, the other type is the need to hide what we are truly feeling from God. The thought that we should not pray since we are not in the mood, or tired, or feel utterly sinful.

The best time to pray is now. Whatever situation you may be in you need God and the need for God means that you must pray, whether you feel up to it or not. And if there is one thing that I know and often forget, much like a lot of us, it is when we feel far from grace that grace comes and wraps its arms around us and in that moment there is very little that can surpass that knowledge

Friday, 13 February 2015

The Red Bus

Feels like I have been standing here for ages
Looking up the road for the red blob with the light on its forehead
It should be here by now, shouldn’t it?
I have better things to do than sit and wait, I think
In reality I don’t, I am here because I have to be
Maybe I missed it, maybe I should have come here five minutes earlier
Now I have to come back after two hours
After all it’s the holidays
Before the depression sets in I catch a glint of red in the corner of me eye
Here it comes, the bus, and I am buzzing
Can you get here faster, I have been waiting for ages
Oh my goodness! How are there so many people trying to get to campus
Can’t you guys get a cab or something?
I squeeze myself in past people who have no intention of moving aside
Work my way to the unoccupied part of the bus and sit on the step at the back
After all there are no seats and I’m not particular
The guys behind me laugh, seems sitting on the step is not common
I don’t mind, I’m not particular
There is a girl further up sneaking glances at me sitting there
Must be shocked I’m sitting on a step
Or maybe it’s the Afro, I do have a pretty good afro
And would you talk to the person next to you!
There is always that one guy in the bus who is pointlessly loud
Dude your story is private, I don’t want to know why your female is leaving you
Looks like a seat to my left is freeing up
The girl who was stealing the glances looks like she wants to snatch the seat before me
I let her take it, I’m not particular
Two stops down the seat next to her frees up, this will be awkward
I take the window seat and pretend my earphones are sending music to my ears
My phone battery died a while back but I don’t mind, I’m not particular
I put my right foot on the seat and look out the window
Looks like winter is almost over, the green is returning
I see a sea of green with an overlay of small yellow flowers
I’ve always liked the site of the green and yellow
It’s like a sea of nature, which waves as the wind blows
Wave upon wave upon wave of green and yellow, I barely even notice the buildings in the backdrop
I’m lost in the moment fascinated by the sight then the guy who can’t whisper takes it up a notch
I clench my fists and grit my teeth, five minutes to campus
I look around, there is that one guy who always get seconds in the cafeteria
And the girl who is never away from her boyfriend
I wonder where her boyfriend is, I can’t see him
To be honest I don’t care, I’m not particular. Second last stop before campus
The bus is a lot less packed, one or two people left standing
I can see the relief on the bus driver’s face, his shift must be ending
There is some level of silence, turns out loud guy got out
I smile
The bus reaches campus and people stand to get to the door before the bus stops
No idea why they do that
I drum my fingers on my right leg dreading the two minute walk to my room and the flight of stairs
People begin to file out, I just sit there
A few glances at me from people, I see no reason to rush for the door
Last person files out and I get up to walk out
I nod in the direction of the driver as a courtesy, he ignores me

I don’t mind, I’m not particular