Sunday, 27 February 2011

The masterpiece, the work of art...

 The sculptor chisels away,
 A tiny bit here, a large chunk there
'Ouch, that hurts! It was only a curse!'
'That won't do you see, for it only leads to remorse'

Chisel, chisel, chisel
'But all I did was lust!'
'Next time, look away,
though his arms are quite robust'

Chisel, chisel, chisel
'Was there need for that?!'
'Just 'cause the girls are talking,
is no reason to take part'

Chisel, chisel, chisel
'Stop! It's enough!'
'Well, you should have thought,
before you walked off in a huff!'

Chisel, chisel, chisel
'I only whispered what I know'
'Girl, have you never heard,
you'll one day reap what you sow?'

Chisel, chisel, chisel
'It was just spare change I borrowed'
'Don't kid yourself my love,
stealing only leads to sorrow'

Chisel, chisel, chisel
'But I do have a better ride!'
'I guess my work here's not done,
'cause you're still so full of pride'

Chisel, chisel, chisel
'Lord, that piece was huge!'
'Once again I'll tell you,
man lives not only for food'

And just when I think I can't take any more
The sculptor stands back, and then chisels some more
It's a masterpiece, it's a work of art
It's the perfect me, as He purposed from the start.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I need an Igbo husband...apparently.

Oh, I've waited so long to voice my opinions on this one! Yes, it's the issue of tribalism. If you're African, you may understand what I'm talking about. If not, I'll try and explain. In Nigeria, we have many tribes that speak different languages and have different traditions. I happen to be from the Igbo tribe. My parents, especially my dad, want me to marry an Igbo person. Something he never mentioned until I told him I was dating a Yoruba guy. He wasn't happy. I was surprised. Apparently I should have just known that it wasn't OK. But I didn't get it. 'What's the big deal? You should be pleased the guy's Nigerian at least', I thought to myself, having correctly assumed that bringing home someone with skin other than black wouldn't have gone down so well. Turns out that anyone that isn't Igbo is a big deal. Why?

'They're too fetish; always looking for babalawo!'
Yes, some tribes are more fetish than others but did you hear about the state governor (who happened to be from my state I might add) that was caught visiting a native doctor, blood dripping all over his head and all?

'If you don't have children, and even if you do, they'll secretly marry another wife for him in the village and you'll never know...'
That actually happened to someone I know except both her and her husband were Igbo!

I really don't get it. I think it's something to do with the Biafran war, and different tribes fighting each other or something (I obviously know very little about my country's history) but I still don't see why I should let that affect my choice of husband. It is even more frustrating when you have someone like my dad who would not like just any Igbo person, but someone from the same state, capital, Local Government Area, and if possible, village. Basically, my brother. Seriously, where am I supposed to meet this guy? And why bother sending me abroad to study if there is virtually no chance of my meeting my husband there? Not that you go to school to meet your spouse but you get my drift.

The hypocrisy of some parents (and other people I guess) is what baffles me the most. How can a Yoruba person be close friends with an Igbo person but not let their child marry someone that is Igbo? What exactly is the friendship based on? As for me, if my child/relative can't marry your 'kind', then I can't be your friend. It's that simple. Or shouldn't it be?

What saddens me most is when we bring this mentality into the Church. I know so-called Christian parents that would rather die than see their child marry someone from outside their tribe. All in the name of tradition. (I heard of a dad that actually went and scattered his own daughter's wedding, just because she was marrying someone from a different tribe!) When I raise my concerns on this issue, I'm often quoted this proverb (not sure which tribe to attribute it to) that says (paraphrasing), 'what an old man can see sitting down, a child cannot see standing up'. It basically means that there are certain things that old people know and understand that young people would never understand and so should just accept. I agree with that up to a point, but I also believe that times have changed. And I like to keep things simple. And tradition seems to complicate things. Maybe I'm too young to understand but I'm pretty sure it says somewhere in the Bible that we're all one in Christ, neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female, slave nor free. We're all saved by grace. Basically, God couldn't care less what tribe you're from as long as you belong to Him.

I can't help but see tribalism as a form of racism because what's the difference between discriminating against someone because of their skin colour and discriminating against someone because they speak a different language and have different traditions? Why can't we all just get along? (that's got to be the lyric to a song surely!). We all know that being married to an Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik, white, black or even someone with the same faith is no guarantee for a successful marriage. It takes a lot more than speaking the same language and having similar cultures.

Now before any 'pro-native language' or 'culture-conservationists' (I just made that word up!) start screaming about me and future generations losing our identities, let me ask you a few questions. What makes you who you are? When you look at yourself in the mirror what do you see? If you were to describe yourself, how would you start? If I were to describe myself, 'Igbo' is not one of the first words that comes to mind. Or the second or the third. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ashamed to be Igbo. But then again I'm not 'anything' to be Igbo. I just happen to be from that tribe. It hasn't given me any special favours that I'm aware of. Like Paul said, 'I am what I am by the grace of God.'

So I've decided that when people ask me where I'm from, I'll give them my current home address. Or take an advice from a much admired pastor of mine, 'I'm a citizen of the Kingdom.' And when that most privileged man comes along, I'll go ahead and marry him. Red or yellow, black or white.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Teach me to love

Teach me to love, dear Lord, teach me to love
those who love me, yes,
but also those who don't
teach me to love dear Lord, teach me to love
those who smile at me,
but especially those who won't.

Teach me to love, dear Lord, teach me to love
those who uphold me before you
but also, those that add to my plight
teach me to love, dear Lord, teach me to love
those who belong to you,
but especially those who just won't see the light.

Teach me to love, dear Lord, teach me to love
not just when I feel like it,
but also when I don't
teach me to love, dear Lord, teach me to love
not for what I can gain in return,
but even when my heart's torn.

Teach me to love, dear Lord, teach me to love
not just on lovers' day,
but on other days too
teach me to love, dear Lord, teach me to love
not just 'cause it's the right thing to do,
but 'cause your word says to.

Friday, 11 February 2011

All for one day of love: A Valentine's day special

So Valentine's day is round the corner again. I've heard some people say they don't celebrate this particular day because it's just another way for retailers to make money off people. We should show love to our spouse/loved one every day of the year and not just on one particular day. Whilst I actually agree with this I still think there is a valid counterargument for one specific lovers' day. And it's not just because I love the flowers and gifts. You see, I don't think it's realistic to expect the same level of affection that you get on Valentine's day on every other day of the year. What can I say, I'm a realist. It's just not possible. Think about it. The effort that goes into making that day special for a loved one can be exhausting at times. I don't think it can be replicated 365 days a year, do you? OK, I know it need not be exhausting (I once opened a free magazine on the bus and found a tip for a Valentine's day present which turned out to be one of the best I ever gave! I think it was anyway...). But even trying to come up with something original apart from the usual card and chocolates/flowers thing can be tiring! And you can't do that everyday of the year; there's just so much other stuff to do!

Ever watched that movie, 'Christmas Everyday'? If you haven't, look it up on Google. Or Wikipedia. The name kinda says it all though. A kid is basically forced to relive Christmas everyday thanks to a wish his sister makes. Everyday he wakes up is the same; he knows exactly what to expect. Imagine if that happened with Valentine's day. Everyday you wake up, there's a beautiful bunch of flowers for you, a lovely box of chocolates, a personalised card saying 'I love you', tickets to the cinema, a reservation at your favourite restaurant, the list goes on. I don't know about you but that sounds like a nightmare to me!

OK, OK...I know that's not the idea behind the anti-Valentine's day argument, but that is what comes to my mind when someone says 'show them the same kind of love and affection you would on Valentine's day, everyday'. You can say 'I love you' (and mean it) everyday, buy her flowers maybe once a week, let him have a guys' night maybe once a month, but you can't make everyday Valentine's day. So don't try to. One day of some extra lovin' is all we need. So, take her out. Cook his favourite meal. Buy that jewellery she's been staring at in the catalogue for weeks. Go away for the weekend. I dunno, do something extra-nice. Go on, you know you want to.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

How I killed Fear

So I've been sat here for over half an hour trying to decide whether or not I should write and publish a particular blog I have in mind. You might be wondering what the big deal is but you see I'm one of those people that really cares what people think. If you knew the title of the blog in mind you may understand my concern. The dilemma got me thinking though. Why do I care so much? What's the worst that could happen? Someone may not like it or agree with me and may post a nasty comment but I'm pretty sure that's about it. I hope.

I think it might be related to this thing called fear. For me I guess in this situation it would be fear of rejection of some sort. Fear that some people may not like me. Or agree with my opinion. But I'm a grown woman for goodness sake! If I don't start sharing my opinion now, when will I? Ah, but fear has no regard for age. Both the ten year old kid and the sixty-five year pensioner are victims. Even though I'm okay with the fact that I'm not always going to be the most popular person in school or university or at work, somehow I find myself still wanting to be accepted. Nothing wrong with that you might say. But, I ask myself, accepted by whom? A bunch of people that don't even know me? Why? By my friends? Surely they know my views already and if they decide not to be friends with me any more because of something I posted online then maybe they weren't really friends in the first place right?

But seriously though, why do we care so much about what people think? I read and hear a lot of things I don't agree with personally but you don't see me going to attack the person that wrote or said it. In fact, recently, I bought a book that I thought would be very helpful to me in a particular situation I was facing. After reading just a few pages, I realised that it was a mistake (both buying the book and the book itself). The book wasn't what I thought it was. The title and an excerpt from one of the pages deceived me. In fact, I completely disagreed with the author's opinions and was a bit concerned that other people would read the book and accept everything written in it. But what did I do? I read the book to the end because I thought it was interesting (plus, I paid good money for it!). I didn't agree with it but I read it nonetheless. The guy expressed his opinion and even made some money from me in the process. Now come to think of it, maybe I should write to the author and tell him my thoughts. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is this; Fear of what people might think or say shouldn't stop anyone from having an opinion and voicing it for that matter. Yes, we know that some people have very extreme views and are not afraid to voice it but hey, that's the world we live in.

Many a famous person in the world today got to where they are because they were willing to take a risk. Or say something. Have an opinion. Other people may not agree with it but who cares? I have to remind myself that I might not change anyone's life by my writings but then again what if I do? What if somebody read what I wrote and decided to change their life for the better? I would never know if I didn't write it. If I was too scared to press 'publish', for fear that a few people might snigger or turn their noses up. Or think I'm weird. Some of the weirdest people in the world are also the richest. But that's another topic altogether. I believe every person on this earth can make a difference. Let me borrow a quote from a certain Marianne Williamson (and not Nelson Mandela as I originally thought-thank you Google!)- 'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure'. Or as I like to paraphrase, 'Our deepest fear is that we have so much potential within us that if we searched deep and utilised even half of it, it would blow our minds what would happen'. Someone once said that the richest places on earth are graveyards, because countless potentials are buried there. How true.

Thinking back, I realise that what I'm battling with sitting in front of my computer is the same thing I've battled with for years. Remember sitting in class and the teacher asks a question and you think you know the answer but you don't want to say anything in case you get it wrong and other students (who definitely don't know the answer) laugh at you? That happened to me a few times. I was always mad at myself though when someone else answered and said just what I was thinking and got applauded. Some people even take this same mindset into the workplace. You're in a meeting and your boss asks for innovative ideas for the next major project. You come up with a couple of ideas in your mind but you don't say them because you think they'll sound silly. Next thing, one of your colleagues suggests one of your ideas and a few months later, gets an award for it. Fear. Or my personal favourite (because I've been there several times)- You're in a lecture or listening to a presentation and something is said that you don't understand. Instead of asking the lecturer to explain the point, you stay quiet because you don't want to look stupid, or for people to think you weren't paying attention. 'Maybe it'll make sense as he goes along', you think to yourself. But it doesn't make any sense because you needed to understand that little bit to understand the rest of the presentation. So you sit there for the next forty-five minutes and the guy might as well be speaking a different language. Fear.

It's funny because as I'm writing this I'm still holding myself back from writing certain things that are on my mind. Fear. There's only one way to rise above it. Face it head-on. And that's one of the reasons I started blogging. It's about time I voiced my opinions, regardless of what people might think. Like they say, 'Feel the fear and do it anyway'. What's the worst that could happen? (That Dr Pepper advert comes to mind)

As I write this I'm thinking of the numerous times I've wanted to tell my friends about God and how much He loves them and wants to have a relationship with them. And that just being a good person isn't it. But I don't. At least not in a way that would make them really listen. Why? I mean I say I care about these people and yet I can't talk to them about the most important aspect of my life? The Gospel is supposed to be Good News but for some reason this good news doesn't seem so easy to share. I mean, I can share that I just passed my driving test, or that I got a new job, or I have free tickets to the cinema but I can't share that I have the answer to life after death? Come on!

This one's actually been going on for quite a while. Check this out; a friend of mine with slightly different beliefs actually said to me once, 'You know, what if it's true, this whole Heaven and Hell stuff?' Talk about an opportunity! It doesn't happen often I can tell you. But, I was like, 'Err...well...I think Heaven and Hell definitely exist and I hope to go to Heaven at some point...' or something along those lines. And at the same time I was thinking, 'please please, don't ask any more questions...' What??? Afterwards I was like, 'Urenna. Seriously?!' So what if I'd said a bit more and she said 'that's great Urenna, but not for me, thanks'? Would the world have come to an end? I don't think so. Or at least not at that exact moment. But what if she accepted what I had to say and joined me on this amazing journey? I believe I would've changed a life. And made a difference. And after all, isn't that why we're all placed here in the first place?