The God-factor Sells

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I am annoyed. I dislike the way people are using the name of God. In fact, I hate it. What is that?

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The first I noticed was from celebrities. I have seen a number of posts on their Facebook pages where they write a motivational Christian message and then slap their photo on the post. “With God, you are always a winner. Say Amen to this”, then you see a picture of this celebrity at the beach accompanying this post. Really? Are you evangelizing or promoting yourself? Am I the only one who has noticed that they are only doing this to gain more likes on their page? Or am I taking life too seriously? Well, yes, if it comes to God, I definitely must.

The politicians are doing the same thing. “God loves Ghana and so he will make sure XYZ wins the election.” Then their supporters respond with a resounding “Amen!”. Puh-leaze! Oh yes, God loves Ghana. Oh yes, He will give us the leader that is best for us. But does this politician really mean what he is saying or he is just saying it because it sells? He will get more nods from his supporters. Am I not right?

Frauds? That is their weapon too! “God has revealed to me that your will get a job in Australia. Pay this money for blah blah.” Thanks, sir for your revelation, but can I please pray about it? If God really has this message for me, dear stranger, you won’t be the only one He will reveal it to.

And then the forwarded Whatsapp messages. I saw one recently that was for SHS graduates. If they forwarded the message, somehow, that was their only ticket to acing their exams. Somehow, God has become so dependent on Whatsapp as we are that He needs them to forward the message before He can bless them. How sorry I feel for the unfortunate graduate who does not have a phone and hence cannot forward the message. How tragic!

What is happening? Does our Christianity have any roots at all? Do we know the God we serve? Do we know what we make Him out to be when we belittle Him by falling for such stunts?

I am hurt by who our God appears to be, a God so weak that only humans can give Him power.

Can we stop selling God so cheaply?

I Ain’t Sitting in that Trotro

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A few weeks ago, I had a chance to be a too-known middle-class English speaking Ghanaian. You know the kind of people I am talking about right? You are one. In fact we all are.:-)

Anyway, I currently live in Tema. I got to the station behind the mall where I usually join a Tema trotro. On arriving at the point where the car loads, I was quite confused. A trotro was available and loading alright, but there were several people standing outside as though waiting for a car. In my confusion, I chose to join those standing outside.

I overheard one lady tell another about how little space there was between the seats. That gave me a picture of what was happening. Nonetheless, I asked the gentleman I was standing next to what was happening  but he was as clueless as I was. As I stood there, their grumblings made me realize that this group of elite 🙂 passengers were simply not willing to sit in the trotro that was loading.

A lady came by a few minutes later and obviously as confused as I was, asked what was happening.

When she asked, I told her what I knew : “The chairs are not comfortable so we are waiting for the next car.” She only nodded and joined the car.

She immediately alighted, came back to me and said : “I get what you mean.”

So we stood there and two things happened.

The mate – Oh was he upset! He just could not understand why we were not willing to sit in his car. In his opinion, we should only refuse to sit in a car that was damaged. Charley, if he had his own way, he would have ensured that we slept at the station that day.

Other guy at the station (bookman , another driver, another mate? Not sure) – He was of the view that we were wasting our time. He pleaded with us to fill up the trotro so the next one, which was a nice Sprinter will begin loading. I wonder how that was supposed to motivate us.

Slowly, the car got full. Most of the too-known middle-class looking people joined the bystanders though. You know, there was just something that made each “newcomer” feel like they belonged outside.

Finally, the rickety Benz bus which had a P registration plate (registered in the year 1998) moved. The Sprinter that followed got full within a short time with some guys (elite class of course) emphasizing that passengers must be respected and not be compelled to accept any car.

Sprinter

Mercedes Benz Sprinter. Credit http://commercial.autotrader.co.za/

Now, if you know me well, I am usually not too-known, neither do I enjoy segregation, but charley, I have to agree with my fellow middle-class Ghanaians. We must really be respected as passengers. The fact that I do not own a car doesn’t mean I should settle for less especially when I can afford to pay for quality. Back when I was in tech, there were several options to get to Kumasi – 207 buses, Yutong, VIP. I took what I could afford. (Take a wild guess) There was even the option of going by air which was the usual route for those who could afford. Oh the joy of having a choice.

I have heard some people talk about creating some kind of intra-city transport system with a mobile app that allows you to opt to join a trotro from a specific point. Hopefully, for a service like that, only classy trotros with properly groomed drivers and mates will be allowed to sign on.

Coincidentally, there is a Trotro Hackathon this weekend. I can’t make it but I do hope you will make it to share my woes and yours as well. We deserve a better transportation system.

I ain’t sitting in no rickety trotro. Neither am I taking a taxi which will cost me an arm and a leg. I need my middle-class trotro to be available always. What do you say?

 

What is failure?

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For a while now, I have been pondering over failure. Does failure really exist? Or is it the result of doing something that you are not cut out to do rather than what you are?

So I take an exam in Biology and completely flunk it while I make top grades in a Literature paper. I know for a fact that I will rather be an Arts student than a Science student. Did I really fail Biology? Or my grades were as a result of my abilities? Is it possible that I could have burnt the midnight oil to come out with a pass grade?

Judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree - What is failure

 

You see, I have been thinking a lot about this because of the message of motivational speakers (no offence, but they just got me thinking).

“You can do it!”

“You can be anything you want!”

“Hardwork and determination can get you there!”

Is this really true? Can I? Can you? If you know my personality (quiet on most occasions, a chatterbox around those I am most comfortable around) you will probably agree with me that I will suck at being an MC. Assign me as the MC for your wedding reception and you will have your guests nodding off in no time. Or will they really? Should I be so determined to prepare for that day by reading tips and putting in hours of practice or should that role be left to people with personalities of KSM, Kwame Sefa Kayi, Kafui Dey and the like? Am I being lazy when I tell you I can’t do it or should I be “determined” and “work hard” to be an outstanding MC? Can hours of reading and practice put me on the same level as a sanguine or I will fall short of the standard no matter how hard I try?

I am beginning to feel there is a thin line between being lazy about putting in the hardwork and determination to get to the top versus being unable to do something because charley, you just can’t do it. But like every thin line, it is hard to get a clear picture of where one state ends and where the other state begins.

Let me open a more personal chapter just because I think it is a very relevant example. No, you don’t need to be sorry for me because I do not feel sorry for myself 🙂

While in my final year in the university, there was a lot of talk (and there still is ) about becoming an entrepreneur because “there are no jobs”. I always argued that not everyone can be an entrepreneur so some people can go on to start their companies and create jobs for others. Somewhere along the line, I believed the  lie  motivational messages that I can be anything I want to be. I decided I can be an entrepreneur after all. I am smart enough and with sufficient training, I can definitely make it. So I went on to apply to be trained as an entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong, I learnt amazing things during my two-year training. In fact, I believe this training was of such high quality that I finally believed I was not being lazy after all when I thought I was not cut out to be an entrepreneur. I just did not have that entrepreneurial juice – that “takashi” heart. I was in a class of true entrepreneurs who grabbed every opportunity to make money  while I sat by my computer and followed the rules by reading entrepreneurial books and submitting my assignments. Eventually, I realized I was good at giving relevant perspective to my friends who were running their companies. I was that person who saw beyond the excitement entrepreneurs are known to have and point out intrinsic details that are usually missed. I seemed to be pessimistic in the face of all the entrepreneurial optimism but in truth, the detailed analysis I provided did help. Hehe.

So here I am, not an entrepreneur but with a gift/skill that every entrepreneur needs in their company. So I am not that bad after all. 🙂 Or am I? Have I failed by not becoming an entrepreneur after my training? Should I go on with hardwork and determination to become an entrepreneur at all cost because I can be anything I want to be? Or should I do what I can naturally do such as providing business analysis services to entrepreneurs?

Am I being lazy and just determined to remain in my comfort zone or am I pursuing my passion and not being a square peg in a round hole?

Does failure really exist or is it that happening which occurs when you have been wandering in the desert to find food when you have food in your pocket?

Really, what is failure?

I wish I had answers.

 

Where hides the child in us?

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It was a Sunday afternoon and I attended a wedding reception at church. It was an invite-only adult-only reception. On entering the hall, I realized the room was hot so I opted to sit outside until the distribution of refreshment. After all, isn’t that why we all go for receptions? 🙂

Naturally, I had nothing more exciting to do than to fidget with my phone and watch as others went in and out of the reception.

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At a point, I heard a small voice say, “Dzifa, come and let’s go.” Since I am called Dzifa, this caught my attention, although I knew I was not the one she was addressing. I noticed a child not older than seven holding the hand of a younger child and pulling her away from the hall.

A woman with them, their aunt/mum asked in anger where they were going. To this, the older child responded, “They say children is not among.”  I smiled. But then it got me thinking.

I don’t know how she had heard about being uninvited even before her aunt/mum had. But amazingly, she had just accepted this and was going away peacefully with Dzifa. Imagine she was ten years older, about seventeen. Imagine she was your age or my age. Will she do this? I know for sure that I definitely wouldn’t. My first action will be to ask aunt/mum why I am not allowed in and try to prove I deserve to be in.

Oh, yes. That was her aunt/mum’s reaction anyway. She was very upset at this rule. Why should she be given an invite but not be allowed to have her kids come along with her? She complained about this for a while and then asked the random lady sitting outside (yours truly :)) if she could leave the children with her for a while. I agreed, assuring her that I will be out there for a while.

Dzifa, the older girl (Joana, I came to know) and two others were left in my care. They screamed, played, talked…you know, did the things children have fun with.

At a point, Joana says, “If Sunday school was open, like we will go and play there and when the parents have finish, then we will go” (Joana’s grammar, not mine)

This young lady made me smile again. No care in the world. No desperation to be at the reception. She was just thinking of ways to occupy herself.

Somewhere, sometime, somehow in life, the child in us gets hidden. We lose our simplicity and trust. We worry about everything and assign reasons to why we are treated one way or the other.

Growth is necessary. Reflecting on the reasons why life happens this way or that is necessary. But sometimes, let’s be Joana. Let’s be simple, happy and free.

Be the child you once were once in a while in life. Life is too short to worry about everything.

Attention at First Sight

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This story could or could not be about me. Don’t ask.

Love at first sight is a concept I have never believed in. I mean how could all the chemical elements that combine to create this thing we call love happen in just one day and one moment? For my lack of belief, I like to call this encounter attention at first sight.

It’s been nearly six years since this happened but I have still been unable to figure out what it was. Was it the smile? The shy disposition? The cuteness that came as a result of the shy disposition? I can’t tell.

I attended my first meeting of a group in my church that late Saturday afternoon. Since it was a meeting to welcome new members, it was a day of introduction and interaction. This was going on when he arrived. At first glance, he intrigued me. Just by looking at him, I felt there were a lot of questions that I wanted him to answer. Only problem was I could not put a finger on those questions. Just when he had sat down, the moderator for the day introduced him and made a side remark about his late arrival. Everyone laughed while he covered his face shyly. I was not using Whatsapp then but I can say today that he really looked like the monkey covering his eyes. Of course, in a good way. In a cute way. A very cute way. I don’t remember what happened for the rest of that meeting.

The next time I saw him was at another church group meeting. This time, I was annoyed to realize he was part of this group as well. Worse still, he was the moderator for that meeting. I had struggled to keep his cute expressions out of my mind so seeing him was definitely not part of the plan for that day. I did all I could to avoid him.

About a week later, we had a retreat. Our group (the first one) was in charge of setting up. I got there at the required time and took active part in the set-up. The program went well. I paid attention. Not to him. Well, until the end when he was called up to give the vote of thanks. He walked up shyly. He spoke shyly. Confident, but shy. The curiousity I had on the first day returned. I silently ignored it. After we had packed up, it was time to say a prayer as a group when he announced that he had to commend someone, a new member who had impressed him by arriving early for the set-up and staying till the end. As he called on the group to give me a hand, my heart was jubilating at the prospect that I had caught his attention. Of course, that was not what I set out to do by responding to the call of duty to God but was glad that it had brought me a reward. Later that evening, he called to commend me once again. He had gotten my number from my ministry head. Wohoo! I was excited that we could finally break the ice.

Did that happen? Unfortunately, no. I had to endure the hard truth over the next few weeks – I was just a hardworking group member that he had commended.

The next heart-lifting moment came one Tuesday evening after Mass. I had put some books I was holding on a pew as our group shared the grace. Just when I was about to pick the books up, he grabbed them, gave me a wide smile and asked if he could walk me to my room. Of course I agreed. We took the fifteen minute walk chatting like friends who had known each other for years. I loved it so much. When we got to my room, he had an expression of wanting to stay a while but at the same time unsure if he could. I said nothing and he chose the latter.

Although he did not walk me to my room everyday after that, I was glad the ice had been broken. On the days he did walk me, we talked in a very relaxed way.

On the last day of the semester, he came by to bid me farewell. We talked as usual and shared our first true hug. There was something about that hug. A kind of confirmation that between all the walks and talks, I had fallen for him.

I thought the vacation was going to put a strain on our thin friendship. Was I wrong! He called me the day I arrived home. He called me every day after that. I called him too. The minutes we spent on the phone turned into hours. We sacrificed our sleep at night to chat. I finally got to ask him all the questions I could think of. The most interesting part was that the more I got to know him, the more he intrigued me. I never got to the point of knowing him enough.

One day, he broke my heart. Without knowing it of course. I finally gathered courage to ask about his love life. He told me that he had great ambitions to achieve before thinking about getting himself a woman who could be his wife. Ouch. I should have stopped there, right? But no. My desire to know him more did not die with those words.

On 31st night, I sent him a message thanking him for his friendship and for being a part of my year. His reply ended with a prayer that our friendship would go to greater heights. What did that mean? I pretended not to know.

Just before we resumed, he told me he would like us to have a discussion when we get back to school. I pretended not to think this was the moment I had unconsciously waited for. I convinced myself that there were several other things he could want us to discuss. The tiny voice in my head told me to stop lying to myself but I didn’t listen.

The moment arrived. We were sitting on my roommate’s bed. I could read the nervousness in his eyes. His words were fewer. He seemed restless. And then, he finally said it. He had found a treasure and that treasure was me.

I lost view of the world I was sitting in and entered another world. He smiled and I smiled back.

Where would you be in 15 years?

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A few days ago, I was heading home when I met a man who knew me by my name and happened to know all my family as well. He had a very familiar face. After a few minutes, I got to know how he we knew each other. He was the cobbler (shoeshine boy) who used to come by our house regularly to polish our shoes about 15 years ago! He told his cobbler stand is currently at the bus stop. I smiled, had a brief chat with him and left.

15 years

As I left however, he got me thinking. Why should someone be working on shoes for fifteen+ years and his only ‘upgrade’ is a kiosk at a bus stop?

Or consider the bag repairer who told my mum that he used to sew bags for GNTC back in the 80s. Do you know where he is today? He is repairing bags by the roadside with a tiny, barely visible sign board.

I thought about these and concluded that being too content has been the killer for these two people. A cobbler walks from neighbourhood to neighbourhood seeking to make at least 5 cedis in order that he can feed himself that day. After hitting his target, he doesn’t go on to do more. He seemly closes for the day, grabs some food and joins his friends around the single television in the market to enjoy a good football match.

I am not in any way suggesting that relaxing is bad. Or maybe, one ought to break his back as he works each day. I only think many of us (including myself) tend to be too content with the little we achieve and do not push ourselves to do more.

We all know our true comfort zones and our true limits. Challenge yourself more. 15 years is too long not to have a significant change in earnings or status.

The next time the lazy bug bites you, ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in 15 years?”

Wake up and do more!

Runaway Love

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This is a confession.

You are the first to know about this.

Do not tell anyone. No one!

Back in the days when I was in SSS, I was one of those girls who seemed “hard” but was very soft at heart. To be sincere, I fell for several of the guys that I interacted with but I made sure to always give this very cool look like I was so disinterested.

There was this particular guy who was just so so interesting! Let’s call him Kwame. I met Kwame during one of the Interco days that I was on duty at the Red Cross stand. The beautiful thing about being at the Red Cross stand was that you were not supposed to cheer but only work, that is take care of the hurt athletes. Of course, one has to chat while working, right? So you can imagine how beautiful being at that stand was! I could spend my whole time during Interco “working” with guys while my mates would be shooed away to “shi gyama” anytime they were caught talking to a guy.

So back to Kwame. Kwame is not your average good-looking guy but there was something beautiful about him! He had a way with words which was understandable because he was a good writer. He had really cute mannerisms as he spoke and he told really interesting stories. He came to the Red Cross stand to visit a friend of mine who was his mate back in JSS. She introduced him to me and that was it! We spent the rest of the time together chatting away. Ei. Sorry! I mean working. I left with a smile across my heart.

The following day, I went back to Interco. Guess what? It wasn’t Kwame I met this time around. I met his friend. Let’s call him Ansah. Oh Ansah! Ansah was cuuuuute! I mean how could a guy be so cute?! And his smile? Charley! His eyes literally danced when he smiled. I didn’t need to talk to Ansah for too long before falling for him.

Shortly after Interco, my school had our Speech and Prize Giving Day. Interestingly, both Kwame and Ansah came around to see several friends in my school. After my family had left, I joined my other friends to chat with Kwame and Ansah. When visiting time was almost over, the rest of my friends left to prepare for prep but I stayed to chat till the warning bell went. I was mesmerized! I doubt I learnt anything during prep that day. In fact, prep right after visiting time was such a mistake! But well. Those were the rules.

Two weeks later, I knew in my heart that Kwame and Ansah would come to visit. No, neither of them had written but I just knew it. Unfortunately, that was the day “my too known came”. I was angry with myself for liking two guys who were friends at the same time and entertaining them every now and then. When it was visiting time, I went off to hide my self in a room that people study in during visiting time when they are very sure they would not get a visitor because it is the only quiet place on campus during that time. I “learnt” throughout visiting.

A few minutes to prep, I went to the house to get a snack from the pantry. Virtually everyone I met told me of the two guys from Botwe who came to visit me. I was told they waited for so long to see me but no one could find me. I feigned surprise.

I think I hurt myself that day. I spent prep thinking about the conversation that never was.

Women. Why do we run away from love sometimes?

When Death Strikes

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Death. The one certainty that we would rather not hear about. Death is so final. It’s just the end. Last stop. Last goodbye. Never again would that person be seen alive here on earth.

There’s something that rings in my heart so much with respect to friendship when a person dies.

We as a nation are mourning someone that really made a mark here and went on to make impact outside our country. God bless Komla Dumor for the impact he made and may his soul rest in perfect peace. 

So what has been ringing in my heart? Ever since we heard of his death on Saturday, almost every station (radio and television) has run a program on him, particularly mentioning the fact that he made a lot of impact. As I listen to these programs, I also hear a lot of people pass comments that are variants of “We remember people only after they are dead.” I cannot help but agree with them. I know you agree too. I have lost some two or three friends in the last few years. Just after they died, their Facebook walls were filled with messages from their friends and loved ones. Facebook walls that had been virtually empty for days, weeks or even months. So it’s true, we only remember people in their death. 

But then I ask, “Do we like to be remembered while we are alive?”

Take this whatsapp conversation that I bet you have had at least once:-

Sender: Hello

You: Hi

Sender: Wassup?

You: Cool. U?

Sender: Cool too. Where are you now?

You: In school. U? 

Sender:I’m also in school.

(After a few minutes)

Sender:Well, I just wanted to check up on you. Have a nice day.

You: Oh ok. Thx. 

But deep down, you get this feeling of wasn’t that an annoying conversation? Or you wonder if the person truly contacted you to just check up on you. 

Another typical conversation:-

Sender:Hi. How are you doing?

You:Good. U?

Sender:Good. Could I get ABC’s number?

You:Okay. (Number sent)

Deep down however, you are saying to yourself “<Sender’s name> only remembers me when he/she needs something.”

This trend is too common in our fast-paced world that people would rather communicate with their colleagues and those they have a deeper relationship with. You know, those 5% of Facebook friends that are really friends. They wouldn’t want to be known as the person who only remembers his friend when he needs something. Neither would he want to have an awkward conservation just because he wants to do his best to be “checking on” his friends. 

So really, are we to blame to remember people only in their death? Wouldn’t it feel awkward if a radio station simply decides to talk a lot about a person throughout a week just to praise his good works at a point in time? I do not know about you but it would sure feel awkward to me. 

So can we say man by nature does not naturally praise people as often as they deserve praise? I really wonder a lot about these but honestly, I have no answers. 

What do you think? What kind of friend would you want to be? 

-A whisper from Dzifa