Day 7: The Sabbath #28DayChallenge

Every seven days, we begin a “new” week. Our seven-day week usually includes 5 or 6 days of work and 1 or 2 days of rest. If you are unlucky, you have to work round the week and don’t have one day of the week set apart for rest. Hopefully, you are still able to make out time to rest regularly.

The Bible teaches the principle of rest and the pattern of “sevens” as a means to honor God and revitalize our lives. God created the earth in “6 days” and then rested on the seventh day, thus instituting the Sabbath as a day set apart for rest and worship. God’s command to the Jews was to strictly do no work on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath calls us to take a break from exerting ourselves and turn our attention to something which replenishes us. All kinds of work drain our physical and emotional energy. But reconnecting with our Creator and our loved ones replenishes our energy. That is what the Sabbath should be spent on – worship and nurturing relationships.

Furthermore, the Sabbath is symbolic of our dependence on God, as we acknowledge that our efforts are not all we need to accomplish our plans and desires. It achieves rest for our bodies and souls, but also turns our focus to our Creator as we seek to renew our relationship with Him and receive His guidance.

In reality, the Sabbath is a reminder of how we should live every day, taking regular breaks to renew our strength (such as night sleep or regular work breaks) and worshipping our God and Maker as we connect with Him through prayer and reading His Word. It is the pattern of life that guarantees maximum efficiency snd fulfillment of purpose.

Okay…I’ll stop here for today…and continue elsewhere tomorrow…have yourself a proper weekend rest!

Day 6: The Teacher #28DayChallenge

I love to teach. I have a natural inclination to it, and I think being a teacher in any form, is the greatest way to shape people. Since I enjoyed the privilege of having great teachers simplify concepts and make them relatable for me, I also feel like I owe it to others to help them simplify the things they need to learn, if I am knowledgeable enough to do that. While I admire people who can easily grasp complex ideas taught with abstract words, I believe the majority of us need be taught using simplified ideas, lots of examples, and simple words.

Having taught at different points in life, I recognize that preparing to teach is a lot of work. The teacher not only needs to lay out their teaching plan, but they also need to find relatable examples for the specific audience and anticipate various kinds of questions. In the teaching session, connecting with those you are trying to teach and keeping them engaged requires ongoing effort and continuous development on the part of the teacher. Maintaining decorum and order also becomes critical if you are teaching a large number of people.

Teaching is a broad term and can include academic or religious content, one-on-one or group lessons, or the transfer of a knowledge or a skill. Whatever the context, teaching is different from just any kind of speaking because it requires deliberate effort to break down or simplify concepts and must always include opportunities for questions to be asked. The goal is for the learner to acquire some new knowledge or skill that they can put to use or even teach another person. Until there is a successful transfer of knowledge or skill (confirmed by an exam, assessment or some other check), teaching has not happened.

Since students or learners can be people of all ages, colors, backgrounds, or abilities, teaching methods need to vary significantly to cater to the need of various students. It is not uncommon to find a teacher combining several tools to communicate the same concepts in the same class. This is often necessary because while some are visual learners, others may be verbal learners. Some may learn better by listening and reflecting, while others move faster when they are doing something with the knowledge as they learn.

Here lies the teacher’s great task: understanding the diversity of their student population and catering to their needs as much as possible. If you ever had teacher who was really great at equipping you with some knowledge or skill in the past, now is a good time to call them and say “Thank You!”. It was likely not just about them getting paid: teachers do far more than they could ever get fairly compensated for! And that will be all for today…I’ll be back tomorrow. See ya!

Day 5: The Learner #28DayChallenge

Against all odds, I made it to Day 5 of my 28-Day Writing Challenge. I’d have thought it too early to start getting tired or blank, but I must admit I’ve felt that way today, to the point of wondering why I’m even doing this. As the saying goes in local Nigerian parlance: “Who send me”? Anyhow, here we are. So, on to today’s ramble…

I love learning. I love getting knowledge and acquiring new skills. As I assume the case is with many other people, acquiring new knowledge or skills makes me more confident, almost to the point of feeling powerful. Even learning a little new trick I can do with Microsoft Excel is very tickling to me. Always excited about the idea of learning something new, I am forever poring through pages of information on the internet to just learn about people, places, and things, whether historical or current, essential or trivial.

Interestingly, I have a bone to pick with most formal education systems (at least in Nigeria where I have studied) because I feel like they do a great disservice to the purpose for which they were purportedly set up – to educate people. Not only does one have to work extra to get knowledge and understand concepts, the assessment system does not quite test ability to find and use knowledge or innovation as much as it tests ability to memorize information as received. I found my passion for knowledge was more stimulated by real-life happenings around me than by my classroom experiences.

As you can imagine, I am super grateful I have grown with the internet. From using Yahoo in the early days to making ‘the Google switch’, I have been blessed with a stockpile of information literally at my fingertips – things that might have taken me weeks to find. This in turn has fueled my indifference towards the formal education system. That is not to say that the internet competes directly with schools. They, in fact, complement each other – it just feels like schools need to become less arrogant or more flexible because there are many willing teachers in many corners of the world, all accessible via the internet.

This leads to my last line of thought. Interestingly, I found that my learning experience has been best when I have a teacher who is deliberate about explaining concepts, answering questions and providing relevant examples to contextualize the learning. Even in the inadequate systems in which I have been educated, I have had quite a few of these outstanding teachers, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Their painstaking effort in transferring knowledge and pushing me to learn more will never be forgotten or unappreciated. Outstanding among these great teachers is Dr. Tolulase Ajayi, who also doubled as my undergraduate project supervisor. Fantastic woman, she is!

And that, dear readers, is where I draw the curtains for today….I’ll be here again tomorrow!

Day 4: The Loner #28DayChallenge

Day 4 of 28: proud of my progress! If you are reading this, thank you for being a part of this special writing journey, no matter when you are reading. Today, I want to slide across from yesterday’s theme and talk about the opposite of having friends: having none. I am a fan of Liverpool Football Club, and like many other fans, I like to croon along to the club anthem on the special occasions where it is sung, singing loudest at the last and most important line: “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

In practice, however, we do walk alone sometimes. In fact, we all need some seasons of walking or being alone to come into our own. I am not talking about deliberately ostracizing yourself or strangling relationships around you so people can leave you alone. Rather, I am talking about periods of life, when by divine design or seeming coincidence, you just happen to have no close friend or confidante you speak to about your life affairs. If, however, this describes your default lifestyle, then you need to make a change! No one functions well continuously without a support system.

Seasons of solitude may last anywhere from days to months (or years?) and can be very useful for reflection on our personal values and convictions. They help us see who we are in the absence of others, and possibly identify strengths we need to amplify or weaknesses we need to fortify. Solitude is crucial to our development as individuals. Depending on who you are, however, it is very possible that you always avoid solitude and instead seek the company of others. I encourage you to consider that being alone for a time is not a malady; it may even be a blessing in the long run.

God’s call to the Jewish patriarch, Abraham, was a call to him ALONE. It was a call that separated him from his family and friends on placed him on a special mission. He would make new friends and build a family of his own, but I bet that his first few months or years as a sojourner must have felt very lonely. This is the thing with solitude: it is not always pleasant. We may feel the urgent need to socialize or connect with others but we must learn through practice when to remain alone with our thoughts and our God. Eventually, seasons of solitude often pass on their own, with new relationships emerging along with a renewed person.

Thanks for taking the time to read, and I’ll be back here tomorrow to share some other thoughts. Cheers!

Day 3: The Friend #28DayChallenge

Thanks for coming by today! This is Day 3 of my 28-Day writing challenge. Today, I want to talk a bit about friendships. I’ve enjoyed great friendships through the years, and I believe that is the product of divine blessing and a mutual commitment to one another’s growth that my friends and I possess. I have also experienced seasons of intense loneliness, which I think are necessary for the formation of every person’s character. Sometimes, you do not know who you are until you are alone. In solitude, our true nature is revealed.

We all take on the shape of the interactions we have with others. Said differently, our personalities are products of traits built through various relationships, from familial and professional relationships to social and community relationships. So, friendships have a powerful influence on who we become and how we become that person. Like familial relationships, they influence what we believe and what we practice. But unlike familial relationships, we can choose who we connect with and how often we connect.

Naturally, we gravitate toward people we admire or feel a connection with, and friendships can be a powerful tool to steer our lives in the direction we want to go. Our friends can reflect our past, present or our future. They are a strong indication of where our minds are situated or what makes us comfortable. Because true friendships are not forced, who we make friends with say a lot about who we are. And even if they are not our true friends, who we spend our time with reflects our values, our priorities, and our sincerity.

Friends are those people to whom you gravitate in periods of intense emotion or clouded thoughts. When you are happy, sad, confused, or excited, you likely want to share your thoughts or feelings with your friends. While some people have different friends for different occasions, others have the same friend(s) for all seasons. Friends give you a chance to share your thoughts freely and receive honest feedback from others. Friends are those people with whom we love to share experiences. The best friends are like siblings to us, or even better. And those who have such close-knit friendships are truly blessed!

Sadly, people don’t always feel the same way towards each other, and someone you see as a friend or want to be friends with may see you just as a colleague or neighbor, or acquaintance and no more. Wisdom is knowing when to draw the line rather than foist an unwanted friendship on someone. Friendships sometimes grow stale because people grow in different directions, or because one or both parties were insincere to start with. Again, discernment is knowing when to pull back and avoid becoming a burden to another.

Friendships sometimes go sour because of offense or betrayal. Having a forgiving heart is important as with every relationship. Taking precautions to avoid future hurt is also important. Love should be freely given, but trust needs to be earned. Great friends are a gift from God, but they need to be nurtured through care and communication. No one likes to be the only giver in any relationship. We are all built through consistent giving and receiving.

And that is where I draw the curtain today…we go again tomorrow. See you, then!

Day 2: The Author #28DayChallenge

Welcome to Day 2. In case you’re just joining me or have randomly stumbled upon this blog post, this is the second of what I intend to be twenty-eight consecutive posts on my blog, one for every passing day. I started yesterday with some reflections on my journey into writing and blogging. I want to extend those thoughts by reflecting on how I moved from blogger and writer to published author in 2021.

My author’s story is inevitably intertwined with the coronavirus pandemic. COVID transformed the way we work and provided a flexibility that we all plan never to let go of. Working from home meant I saved a couple of hours from driving through traffic, and I could now spend that time with family or on hobbies. Writing automatically got some more allocation. Before March 2020, my last two blog posts had been in Feb 2017 and Sep 2018. Then I posted twice in late March 2020, and have posted every month since then.

Writing regularly meant getting more ideas about other things to write. And then I started setting harder targets for myself on how often to write. Then one day in February 2021, about a year into COVID, the idea struck me like lightning. I had been praying with a few friends for an hour every Sunday evening for about five months. On one of those Sundays, after the prayer, the thought to write a book was strongly impressed on my mind. The outline was clear, and I knew what the title would be.

That same evening, I picked up the phone and called my friend and brother, Olawale Perfect. He runs a media outfit (wigradio.com) and had published a number of his own books. He even started writing the first book while we were undergraduate students at the University of Lagos. I wanted to get help from a hands-on person, who knew exactly what to do from first word to first print, and who could give me a timeline and modest budget for whatever quality I wanted. Perfect was my man for the moment.

After that call, I drafted the outline and started writing the day after. My focus was to complete the first draft in the shortest time possible; edits could follow afterwards. There is never a perfect time for any important task, and getting started is key to getting going. I found from experience that things become easier to achieve once you get started – the goal comes closer to sight with every step. And so it was, less than five months after the idea first came into my mind, that I was having a virtual launch of my first book.

Now that you are a Christian was first published in July 2021, with one-thousand copies initially printed and distributed freely within a few months. Another thousand copies were printed in February 2022, and are still in distribution (free of charge as well). From COVID-enabled writing to friendship-enabled publishing, the unrelated events that made a conviction come to life in such a short time can only be traced to a combination of God’s wisdom and man’s diligence in pursuit of purpose. See you tomorrow!

Day 1: The Writer #28DayChallenge

I have decided to start a challenge to post on my blog for twenty-eight days continuously, starting today. This challenge should take me to the end of April 2022 and will stretch me beyond my longest blogging streak, which I think is four or five days. My goal is to improve my writing and increase my fluidity in expressing my thoughts. There will be no particular topic or theme for this series. I am open to ideas or suggestions from my readers on what to write about and will write on them if I have sufficient knowledge or experience to string a few thoughts together.

I want to start today by reflecting on how I got into writing and blogging. I studied engineering for my undergraduate program, but have always had a flair for some other form of expression outside the sciences. However, aside from writing an article or two for my campus Christian fellowship magazine and writing a few devotionals for the daily devotional we used to publish (Truth for Times), I did not do much else to hone my writing skills, neither did I really take writing as a serious endeavor. It was always a tool to achieve other things I considered more important.

I began to give writing and publishing my thoughts more attention after completing my undergraduate program. During my NYSC program in Ebonyi State, Nigeria, I was selected to serve as Editor for NCCF Ebonyi and then successfully ran for election as NYSC Ebonyi Corps Editor. I oversaw the publication of two magazines for NYSC (Ebokopa) and NCCF (Flint Magazine) respectively. Those experiences emboldened me to pay more attention to a new skill I was unsheathing, one which is turning out to be critical in fulfilling my life’s purpose. I eventually started my WordPress blog in 2012 after completing my NYSC program.

Having a friend like Gbenga Awomodu (a very fine writer and editor) also influenced my decision to start a blog. Gbenga had run a blog on WordPress for the longest time. He even had his own domain name long before I paid attention to what those were. Because he’s been a close friend and brother through the years, I can’t even tell how much of what I am doing today was learned from him. I just know he’s been the greatest influence in my journey of learning to share my thoughts with others via writing.

Writing for me has encompassed a lot of study and practice. Although I have mostly written non-fiction, I have also tried my hands on fiction and spent lots of time writing poetry. I can confidently say that writing for me has been a journey of discovery and influence, one of learning from others and sharing with others. I want to keep it that way for a long time to come. I’ll pause here today and pick up my thoughts tomorrow…Cheers!

NYSC – National Youth Service Corps – a mandatory one year program to be completed after undergraduate studies in Nigeria. It is a requirement for employment in most organizations

NCCF – Nigerian Christian Corpers’ Fellowship – the association of Christians currently serving in NYSC