Attitude Makes All The Difference

My Dad is very strict, yaani, ni mkali!! (If you doubt me, ask my family and close friends. And he makes no effort to hide it). He’s Christ-lover who governs his life by prayer and the Word of God. I mean, if it’s not collaborated by scripture, there will be no debate about it. My mother on the other hand is not mkali. She is calm but firm. Looking back, I don’t remember a time mother raised her voice at us, she was not a member of the “shouters club”, no. But we all knew never to defy her; my dad would finish you. She is also a Christ-lover  and His Word is and has always been her true north. I can confidently say that my parents shaped and influenced my walk as a Christ – lover. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

My dad and mom met in a national school. That was when a national school was headed by a “Mr Pen” from Ireland. My parents led their respective classes all the way to the “O” and “A” Levels (I’ve seen the report-cards).  My dad was also a serious athlete who made a light job of cross country races. He went on to become a telecommunications engineer and my mother became a teacher. So, I have very strong brains behind me.

My dad. Very strict. And just as he was known back in his high school and college days (I have met his friends), it is also known today: my Dad does not suffer fools!! NO!! His tolerance for foolishness and nonsense is zero. He also does not believe in being led- he leads!!! He once told us that he not raising  sympathy seekers and sissies (for real..). He still does not understand nor use the words ‘give up’ and ‘too hard’ in relation to anything he is doing. As long as someone else is/has done it, he will do it, and do it better than any one else.

He expected us to be the top students in class and no, he did not commend us when we did. My mother would celebrate us, naturally. But my dad, he would scrutinize the marks and ask questions like ” Kiswahili you scored 90. Where did you take 10 marks?” Closing day for us were usually interesting, in an equally interesting way. Basically, by the time we turned in for the night, our time tables for the holiday would have been drawn up. Play came after books.

One incident that comes to mind was when I was in Std 7. I, daughter of my father, had failed Mathematics. I can’t remember what I had scored. All I remember was that I was in big trouble.  My friend, there was fire!

My top-of-his-class-telecommunications engineer- Dad could not make peace with my marks!! He demanded an explanation for my dismal performance. And what did I do?  I opened my mouth, this one of mine, and told him it was hard. WEH!!! Niliona siku ndefu (You know, some phrases can only be said in Kiswahili. Because, really, the direct translation of that up there is “I saw a long day” and that does not make sense! But for the benefit of non-swahili readers, that simply means “I saw stars”. Together, yes?)

My Dad wasted no time!! He did not sit me down for a motivational talk. No. He took swift action in line with Proverbs 23:13 !! You see, in my part of the world, my Dad’s generation of parents did not send us to a naughty corner, or reason with us as I now find myself doing with my boys. NOOOO!!! Corner for who??? Reason with who for what??? Those  corners were already occupied by our mothers’ money plants! This business of “naughty corner” parents talk nowadays is recent. And for the record, my corners are occupied by pots so there are no corners in my house either!

Back to my story…. my Dad reminded me that the following were never to be repeated in our home: It’s too hard; I don’t understand; I don’t like the teacher (kwanza that one! ; I don’t like the subject.  As far as he was concerned, as long as someone else aced it, I was expected to ace it as well!! I quickly realized that my attitude needed to change quickly, immediately, NOW!! Niliona nyota!! Let’s just say that by the time my  Dad was done giving me his version of a motivational talk, my attitude had been re-calibrated, my head was correct, and I was in love with Mathematics!! Yaani my Dad’s RRI (Rapid Response Initiatives) were RAPID.

That experience taught me one thing: attitude makes all the difference.  You see, attitude not only determines and defines your learning curve but it also determines how fast you rise.  When added to your drive and hunger to succeed, attitude will propel you faster toward your goal. I also believe attitude either attracts or repels people. It is what will cause a teacher to spend more time with a student who, though struggling, is determined to improve.

So I dove back into my books under his supervision. Let me tell you, it worked. My attitude changed by fire by force, and my performance soared. Unfortunately, when I got to high school, mathematics and I parted ways due to irreconcilable differences but by then my dad had made his point. Nothing is hard; you just need to change your attitude.

So for the next few days, wear the right attitude. You’ll see the results.

I promise.







Public announcements

May, 1992.

I am and always have been a teacher’s child (“mtoto wa mwalimu”); my mother began teaching long before I was born and is about to finally retire (yey!! Party loading!) At one point, she was a teacher in the primary school I attended. That had its privileges and limitations. Naturally, I was treated  in a certain, often uncomfortable, manner by my peers in school.  In fact, I was sure a hidden list of expectations had been drawn up for all teachers’ children that we were expected to meet.  Otherwise, we would be severely reprimanded. So really, I did not need to draw more attention, yes?

In May 1992, I put myself on a scale, added an even bigger list of expectations to the existing one and allowed my audience to write out the marking scheme.  What did I do?  I announced that I had given my life to Christ over the Easter Break of 1992. And I have to tell you-  I. WAS. NOT. PREPARED. I was not prepared.  I mean, if I lied, it was amplified; if I dared say I listened to  a boy band that was popular then, it was head line news; if I dared say I had a crush, it was national news, “fresh off the press”!!!  I. WAS. NOT. PREPARED.

With time, I realized that for the rest of my life, everything I did would be weighed and measured against that announcement. And I have to be honest with  you, there are times it would have been easier to walk away.  But then,  I found grace and mercy for when I missed the mark, and decided to aim at being, as my Mother once told me, “Spiritually natural and naturally spiritual.”

In the Gospel of Luke, it is written that Jesus walked into the synagogue in the city of Nazareth and made his own “public announcement” (You can read more about that in Luke 4:16-30). True to form, the community immediately pulled out their version of a marking scheme. They did not waste time, those men. No. Their conclusion?  Jesus was up to no good!!

They first told Him, “We know your father” . His response made an already bad situation worse, I mean, their blood boiled. Then they took action. They marched Him out of the city, found the nearest cliff and were intent on killing him!  In fact, I suspect that some of the witnesses who testified at His trial relied on this incident to strengthen the case against Him. (By the way, could this be the origin of Kenyan key board warrior-ism? You don’t think so?  Ebu try make an outrageous announcement of how you intend to lift living standards in your community if elected into bla bla office…. We Kenyans, we will waste no time!! By the time your mother gets the news that you are seeking nomination, we will have found and interviewed your kindergarten teacher, high school dorm matron, your dean of students in campus, first employer, first boy/girl friend, dug up your past for dirt, found a record (any record!) of your wrong doing and in 24 hours, throw you off a cliff!  Chills are for penguins, I say!!! But, I digress.)

Being a Christian is a tough call. Many times society and friends will remind you, ” We know your Father! We even have videos of you doing such and such! We were with you the other day at …. doing …..” Our weaknesses are amplified. We stumble and fall short of the mark many, many times. But we cannot give up.

So keep lifting the standard of Jesus high. When you stumble, pick yourself up. Make that public announcement as often as you can: I am a Christian.

And even when society wants to throw us off a cliff, Jesus will cause us to walk right through the crowd and find safety. I promise.



God’s back can be trusted.

Have you ever gone through storms in life that did not make sense? Or made you ask questions like, “Who did i offend? Who cursed me? Why me? Why now?”

If you answered yes, then you are in good company.

A few years ago, I went through a storm of magnanimous proportions. I mean, that thing gathered the strongest monsoon winds, added a few hurricanes, traveled around the globe picking the coldest and hardest hail stones, then collected a few fallen trees from the Amazon and Mau forests before hitting me when I least expected!!!  I remember looking around me and thinking, “What in the name of all that is holy is this??? What just happened?” and most importantly, “Did God’s watch break, because this timing is OFF!!!” (That question must have put a smile on God’s face. Like really?? How can the creator of time have a broken watch??) But through it all, as I spent many hours on my knees hiding in the cleft of the rock, I had a strong witness that it would all make sense one day.

Looking back now, I can tell you it all makes sense now. I know that season worked  resilience in me and made my faith in God unshakable. I walked out sure, beyond a shadow of  a doubt, that there is a God and He answers prayers. It also broke my fallow ground and sunk the foundation for what I know God is now building. I can now look back and like Jacob, say that God was in that place but I did not perceive it. God walked ahead of me, all I did was follow His back.

Some of the seasons we go through cannot make sense in the present. In the midst of a furnace, our senses only register the heat of the fire. After all, that is all we see, feel and hear.In fact, in that moment, we are incapable of seeing how this will “work out for my good”. It’s only after the storm that we look back and see that God had not only been with us in the furnace, but had also gone ahead of us. That we had all along been following his back. Just like Moses.

In Exodus 33, a conversation between God and Moses is recorded from Verse 12 – 23. God had just promised Moses that his presence would go with them as they journeyed to the promised land but for reasons only known to Moses, he wanted more than just the presence of God!! He wanted to see God.  “Show me your face”, he asked audaciously. In modern parlance, Moses was saying, “Show me what you are planning, let me have sight of tomorrow. I need to be prepared”.

But when you think about it, if God shows you all He is planning, you would probably try and change some of the experiences. I know I would. Especially that storm up there. Instead, God in His wisdom and mercy chooses to show us His back and then , and only then are able to understand the why, where and how of our journey.

So, if you’re facing Hurricane XYZ or Tropical Storm UVW, take heart. If you cannot see beyond the next minute, it’s because he has covered you as He passes by and tests the water and furnace to ensure it does not overwhelm you. Once He is sure you will make it through, He will let you see His back. And when He does, follow.

I promise you, His back can be trusted.