Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thirty Days Ministering Gratitude To God And More

In a weekly newsletter written by a dear brother on August 30th, 2014, he noted that a decision to be a Minister of Gratitude is a great concept. He made reference to 1 Chronicles 16:4, where David appointed some Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord—to invoke His blessings, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.

Inspired by this article and by David’s decision in Psalm 119:164, I committed myself to Thirty (30) days of Ministering Gratitude to God. After all it, takes only twenty-one days to form a habit.

Seven times each day I stop and shout praises for the way You keep everything running right.
 (Psalms 119:164. The Message).
I will praise You seven times a day because all Your regulations are just. (NLT).
Seven times a day and all day long do I praise You because of Your righteous decrees. (AMP).

This is a classic example of thanks-living. All day long praise to God. All day long ministering gratitude to God.  It takes a determined decision executed with a conscious and deliberate effort. Consequently, I decided that I will daily minister gratitude to God ALL DAY LONG for the next One Hundred days, and by then, it would have truly become a lifestyle for me to do so on a daily basis without effort.

I determined that I will consciously pause several times in the course of a day to acknowledge the goodness of God in my life and in the lives of my husband, sons, families and friends. I will stop and give praise to God for great is His faithfulness.

Ps 50:23a says that it is a praising life that honours God. There is nothing I desire much more than to honour God in my life.

It’s the praising life that honors me. (MSG)
But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. (NLT)
He who brings an offering of praise and thanksgiving honors and glorifies Me; (AMP)
Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: (KJV)

Thirty Days, How Far?
The more I gave thanks to God for His goodness and wonderful works in my life, the more I found more reasons to give thanks to God. The Holy Spirit kept bringing remembrances of God’s many acts of wonder in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. For these and many more, I paused and ministered gratitude to God—aloud, in songs and in my heart.

It was interesting to note how the Holy Spirit kept reminding me of many old songs and Hymns. Sometimes, I just remembered the tune or a line, then I went in search of the songs and had a glorious time singing them to bless and honour God.

I’ll bless Your name into eternity.
 I’ll bless you every day, and keep it up from now to eternity.
God, You are magnificent; You can never be praised enough.
There are no boundaries to Your greatness.
I compose songs on Your wonders.
I could write a book full of the details of your greatness.
Ps 145 (The Message, paraphrased)

Psalm 145 indicated that praise is prompted by the unique nature of God. God has been generous. In response to His generosity, we want to honor God by ministering praise and thanks to Him.

It was a joy to recall the blessing my parents, parents-in-law and my friends have been to me, and to announce it publicly. I am grateful for my parents who gave me a legacy of solid education, sound home training, and a prayer-oriented life.  Without the foundation they gave me, I could not have been who I am today. I am grateful for my parents-in-law, who love me, care for me and took me as one of their own. These ones are a rarity and I am truly blessed with them.I am grateful for Friends, who have sown seeds of goodness into my life and whose acts of kindness have left indelible marks on me.

There are many more people in my life who are a gift of God and a blessing to me. I give praise to God for them and I will surely be announcing them publicly in the coming days.

September, A Month To Remember:
As I noted in my earlier posts this year, I entered 2014 with mind-boggling expectations. I knew it was going to be an eventful year. I trusted God for the grace to do great exploits for Him. As we come to the end of the 9th month of 2014 and I look back, I am amazed at how much God has done in our lives, how much that has transpired in our lives this year and how many opportunities He opened to me to fulfill His calling on my life. Choosing to minister gratitude to God this month gave me the opportunity to look back, and to see the works of God’s hands in our lives. Indeed, I have had to stop many times and declare, “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God.” I am so grateful because God is Who He says He is and He does what He says He will do.

I cannot recount them all but let me share a few of them of what God has done for us in September:

He said, "I will restore....." And indeed, He restored my health. He renewed my strength. He gave me new life. He rejuvenated me. He restored me to sound state of being. In this month, I regained much of my autonomy and independence. I can now take care of my day-to-day needs with limited support. Praise be to God. With my physiotherapist, I was able to walk outdoors up to 1.2km, up-and down-hill. I had a ride to the shops and took the bus back home, walking 500m from the Bus-stop home unaccompanied and unsupported. I have not been on the bus for at least 8 years! On top of this, I walked 1176 steps outdoors in one day without the cane. Believe me, I am hollering Hosanna!!!!

He renewed, refreshed and revitalized my visage. To the extent that I have lost count of the number of persons who have commented on how well I am looking. And I remember the days I stared at the frail, gaunt and fatigued image in the mirror, wondering how and when restoration would come. My goodness, because God has been so good to me and I am helped by Him, I cannot but holler Hallelujah!!!

I am so grateful to God for restoring our fortunes like the streams of Negev and for putting us on the path to recover all that we have lost, all that have been stolen, wasted and destroyed in our lives. He is truly a God of restoration.

To cap it all, last Saturday, 27th of September, I reconnected with my book after three months of a massive block and resistance, and busy schedule. More on that in another post.

And More:
As 365 days roll away today, I stand at the verge of a new year and a new beginning on October 1st, all I have to say is “Thank You, God……”

I am Alive
              I am Blessed
                             I am Content
I am Determined
                                                         I am Energized
I am Favoured
                                                                                      And I am GRATEFUL
I am Healed
I am Invigorated
I am Pursuing destiny
I am Ransomed,
Revitalized and
And I am Thankful.

Join me, dear Friends, to minister gratitude, praise and thanks to God.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer's praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!

My gracious Master and My Lord
Assist me to proclaim
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honours of Thy Name

- Charles Wesley

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Take That Step, No Matter How Small

“I will not go to my grave with my dreams. I will either accomplish them or pass them on as a legacy for others to complete. Either way, my dreams will not die unaccomplished.”

My dear Sista and friend wrote the equation below in a message shared with me and other Sista:

Dreams + execution = Destiny in motion.

The words hit me like a thunderbolt. It was at a time that I was pondering on all my many dreams and wondering how I was going to accomplish them. So I modified the equation and kept it in view as a constant reminder of what I need to do to live my dreams.

Dreams + Action (even if baby steps) = Destiny in motion.
Dreams – Action  = Daydreaming / Wishful thinking (a waste of valuable time).

Identifying the actions to take and how to manage all of them within the time available in each day, however, is not and has not been an easy task. In fact, this is the real task. Believe me, you don’t want to know how many times and how much valuable time I have spent in conflict with myself trying to figure out how to keep myself on track and focused on all the things that I know I need to do.

I resolved to keep taking one step after another, no matter how small, on each of my tasks and assignments towards accomplishing my dream. I kept myself reminded that someone is waiting at the other end to be a recipient of what God has asked me to do. I cannot afford to fail God and I cannot afford to fail that child of God waiting for me.

It is a constant and daily prayer, asking God for guidance and wisdom to know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. And also grace to limit and avoid distractions.

Another Milestone Reached Touching Lives:
On Tuesday, September 16th at around 7:30pm, my resolve received a monumental boost. I was hollering Hallelujah, praise be to God…..!!! I had opened the dashboard of my blog to check the statistics and apparently twenty minutes earlier, the number of page-views on the blog got to 20,000!

I love counting numbers, because numbers established milestones for me. With every milestone reached, I feel a sense of accomplishment. But more importantly, it is a reference point for me to stop, look back to see how far I have come, AND to give praise to the Almighty God Who brought me thus far. Honestly, every reason and opportunity to give praise and thanks to God is well worth it.

My heart is full of gratitude to God for this milestone for a number of reasons. Let me share some with you:
-          When I started this blog less than three years ago, I had no clue where God is taking it to. It was simply a step of faith. I am overwhelmed, amazed and astonished at what God had done with the blog in thirty-four months.
-          Sharing the story of my life so publicly was not an easy decision. I knew once I put it out there, I could not retrieve. I could not have shared our lives this way without the support of my husband and our sons. They believed with me that God wants to use our story to touch lives for good and to inspire hope in the lives of those who read it.
-          Through the blog, God has given me a platform to share the message of His amazing love and sustaining grace with so many people that I could never have reached in person. I am blown out to note the places where visitors come from. From Norway to New Zealand and over 100 countries in-between. From big countries like USA, Canada, Russia, China, Nigeria to Islands in the middle of the Oceans,
-    I am particularly grateful for the many people who have been inspired to hold on and not give up on hope through this blog and for the many new friends I have made on the platform.

I am so full of appreciation to God that this blog is touching lives for good. My heart is overwhelmed when I read the comments. Sometimes what I struggled the most to write is what God has used to touch someone at their point of need. Then, I turn my face towards heaven and say. “Thank You, Lord, for helping me to release that piece.” I am so grateful for every single one of you who visit the blog and interacted with it. You give me a reason to keep taking each step forward every day.

Beyond Writing A Blog:
Two weeks ago, in a land far away at 7:38am, someone got on the blog and read at least ten blog post within a short space of time. By the end of the day, this precious child of God had sixty-seven page views, perhaps more than one of them but it was all from one country—Ukraine, and at the same time. I look through the blog posts read and wondered what this precious child of God was going through at the time he/she came to the blog.

Until recently, I could not have located Ukraine on the map. But I heard of their crisis in the past over the gas from Russia. Checking further, I found that Ukraine is one of the top ten countries from where I get the most visitors since I started the blog. And now in the midst of the current crisis in that country, someone there found something to read on the blog, which I am trusting God to use to minister to him/her.

I stopped and gave thanks to God for the situation that He took me through and the grace He gave me in it, which inspired each article that is posted on the blog. Then it occurred to me, that there are many Christians out there not only in Ukraine but in many other countries such as Iraq, Sudan, Northern part of Nigeria, who need encouragement during this difficult and challenging times they are in. I stopped again and obeyed the nudging of the Holy Spirit to pray for them.

It is written in Acts 1:18:

“but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

It is an honour and a privilege to be a witness for Jesus in all these countries from where visitors come to the blog. This is the Great Commission to which we have all been called.

“And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come” 
– Matthew 24:14 (NLT)

The pivot of my dreams—the foundation upon which they are anchored—is to fulfil my God-ordained destiny. Central to that is to accomplish God’s calling and mandate for my life—being a witness for Jesus and taking the Good News to all nations is primordial in this. Every single one of my dreams has to be anchored on this goal—to turn lives towards God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

This must be the driving force for me and for you, my dear friends—for us to keep taking steps each day, no matter how small, towards accomplishing those tasks and assignments God has given us. And taking those actions that will lead us towards fulfilling our dreams.

Someone out there is waiting for what God has placed in you—the talents, skills and gifts—and the dreams you have conceived by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Don’t let the dreams and talents go to the grave with you. I encourage you to work on them and use them to touch lives for good and to turn hearts towards God.

I, Irene Olumese, resolve today that I will not go to my grave with my dreams. I will either accomplish them by the grace of God or pass them on as a legacy for others to complete. Either way, my dreams will not die unaccomplished.

What about you?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ministering Gratitude in Difficult Times

Sometimes, life happens. And it happens in a way that we least anticipated. It happens and threatens with such ferocity that can rip a house off its foundation. It feels like a tornado just touched down at our doorsteps.

Yes, I am talking about those seasons in our lives, when everything appears to be as dry and empty as in a desert, and we feel isolated. Those seasons when things appear to be all jumbled and tangled together as in a wilderness. It is a mess, one problem after the other, one dead end after the other, and we feel lost. We cannot see a way out.

Even in the driest desert, if we look close enough, we will see a form of life thriving—junipers and cactus, for example. On a dry patchy land we see budding plant. There is also God’s promise that He will cause rivers to flow in the desert. In the wilderness where tree branches are twisted and tangled together, there is the promise of God that He will make a way.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1Thess 5:18 (NLT).

We are called to give thanks and minister gratitude to God in ALL situations. Definitely not FOR all situations. This tells me that in those difficult and challenging situations, I can give thanks simply because God is God and because that is the will of God for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And I belong to Jesus. I can also give thanks in that situation because I have the assurance of God’s presence. He promised, He will NEVER leave us, forsake us or abandon us. He is ever-present with us even when it seems imperceptible or difficult to believe.

The sweet deal is that whatever kind of storm is whirling and roaring around us, that storm did not catch God unawares. NOTHING, I mean absolutely NOTHING, catches God unawares. He knew about it before it came and it is already in His hands. If He allows it, then there is a reason and a purpose for that storm—that difficult and challenging situation facing you like a looming mountain.

It is at such times that I love to sing this lovely chorus:

My God is bigger than all my problems
Bigger than all my cares
God is bigger than any mountain
I can or cannot see

This is very true. God is bigger than any mountain. He is bigger than any challenge we may be faced with. He is bigger than any issue we may have to deal with. He is bigger than the fiercest storm whirling around us.

The Psalmist said, “I will bless the Lord AT ALL TIMES, and His praises SHALL continually be in my mouth” (Ps 34:1). He declared that he will speak constantly of God’s praise. Believe me, this was at a time when he was pretending to be insane so that he could escape from Abimelech. Through he was threatened with death, yet he purposed in his mind to put the praises of God upon his lips.

‘I WILL’ is a determined decision, so is ‘I SHALL.’ Therefore, it means that irrespective of what that TIME of life or season of life David was faced with, he made a determined and conscious decision that he WILL bless the Lord and he WILL ensure that God’s praises are in his mouth. Not complaints, not grumbling and not curses but praises.

I have to purpose in my heart that I will rejoice in the Lord when I am hurting, when things are not going the right way, and when I have no answers to the numerous questions pounding my brain until I feel the vein pulsating hard on my temple.  My heart will sing praise to God even when only groaning escape from my lips. When pain sears through the core of my being like a hot iron, even then, I will praise Him. Because, I know He is with me. Because I know He is a God of all-knowing and He knows where I am. Because my High Priest, Jesus Christ, is not unmoved by my feeling of infirmity. He hears the silent and unvoiced cry from the deep recesses of my soul. God has to find praise in my heart when my body is contorted in pain and my soul is troubled within me.

Ponder on these questions:
What are we seeing in the midst of the storm? What are we focusing our attention on in the desert of  difficulties ? Whose voice are we hearing in the valley of the shadow of death?

On Wednesday, June 5th, 2013, barely a week after the amputation of my legs, I was wheeled out of the intensive care unit. I was taken to the regular ward on the 8th floor—an internal medicine ward—the place where I had many frequent stays for over ten years managing the chronic respiratory disease I suffered from. The nurses knew me very well and I had become quite close to some of them. Tears welled up in their eyes as they received me. “Why this on top of everything she had been through? What has amputation got to do with the lungs?” These and more were the questions I overheard them asking among themselves.

Shortly afterwards, doctors came to evaluate my mental state. They told me it was ok to be angry or to cry if I felt like doing so. They wanted me to be willing to talk about how I was feeling about the situation—a case of being dealt with a bad hand, anyone would say. After all, I had many reasons to be angry, after twenty years of living with a chronic and debilitating respiratory disease, with my life literally hanging on a thread spun with spider webs during the later seven years, why should I have to go through another calamity when I just got a miraculous victory over the respiratory problem? I certainly had every right to throw mega fits of anger. But I did not.

They thought I was in denial. They thought I was depressed because I did not want to talk to them about my emotions and they recommended anti-depressants. It was not that I wasn't in deep pain in my heart over the loss of my legs. It was not that I wasn't even angry at some time. But it did not serve any useful purpose to discuss my emotions with those would not understand the position I had chosen to take or help me. I made up my mind a long time ago that I will not be a subject of pity. I refused to be a victim.

I had to tell my longest serving nurse, who was very upset that I could not confide in her that I had decided a long time ago never to give up on hope.

“J'ai décidé longtemps que je ne jamais renouncé l’espoir.”

I am not without hope. Because of all I had been through over the past years, I knew that to be alive at that point in time and breathing without any support or effort in itself is a miracle and a precious gift. Grace kept directing and leading me to focus on that miracle. That became the focus of my attention. It became my raison d'etre to give thanks and praise to God in the midst of the continuing storm. Grace enabled me to latch on the word of assurance God gave me a few days before the amputation—He has given me the Feet of Grace.

The grace of God is always abundantly available and sufficient for every storm, for every difficult situation and every challenging circumstance that we go through in life. But we have to choose to lay hold of it as if our next breath depends on it.

I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.

I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know God could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do
-          Through It All by Andrea Crouch.

Dear Friends, when we know God is Who He says He is and we keep our focus on that, we are able sing praise and minister gratitude to Him in the difficult times. You can be assured that He is there in it with you.

I pray that these songs will inspire an outburst of praise where you may be right now.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Memory-Making Moments_Destiny Helpers

We are God’s masterpiece. We are His workmanship—a being of His making. We are wonderfully created and fashioned anew by God to do what He has called up to do and to fulfil His mandate for our lives. Each one of us is uniquely created for a unique purpose.

The more I meditate on this truth, the more I realize that I do not have to struggle for a space in God’s Kingdom agenda. There is a unique mandate for my life that God has purposed for me to accomplish before I was conceived in my mother’s womb—a purpose for which He has been preparing me to fulfill since I was born.

Destiny Helpers:
This truth was brightly illuminated for me during the week of July 16th – 19th, 2014. I was in Lagos, Nigeria to participate in the Return Of The Helpers 2014 Conference. Prior to the commencement of the conference, WE gathered on July 16th, at the residence of the Convener, Bidemi Mark-Mordi, to celebrate her birthday. And that was where I met some of them.

I have heard a lot about THEM. I have even become friends with some of them on Facebook. I had spoken with two of them once. And I longed to meet them physically. They are Bidemi’s Sistas. This is a group of women who recognize who they are in God, who have an understanding of God’s unique purpose for their lives. Because of this understanding, they do not struggle with each other for a space to manifest their mandate, rather they support each other in the journey towards fulfilling their God-ordained destiny. They embraced the uniqueness in their calling and preparation, and joyously celebrate each other’s manifestation.

Before meeting the Sistas, I had the honour of being introduced to a unique lady, an epitome of a servant-leader. Her name is Roz Knighten-Warfield. We fondly call her Lady Roz. She is of the sort that held up Moses’ arms. She is an armour bearer. She is a destiny helper. She is a sparker—she lights up others. Within a couple of hours, we had bonded so much that it felt as if I had known her for years. Older in age than most of us, yet, Lady Roz ministered help and served with grace.

She came all the way from US to Lagos at her own expense, just to wait on Bidemi and hold her hand up in the final stages of preparation for ROTH. She cooked, cleaned, prayed, encouraged, and ensured that what Bidemi needed was within her reach. Lady Roz was at hand to wait on each of us as we ministered during the Conference. She was on her feet through the duration of our ministration. Handing over a glass of water or a tissue paper when needed. She left an indelible mark on my heart. And even more on my first son, Ose. She inspired Ose to take his love for photography to the next level and spoke prophetically concerning him. The outcome is a Facebook page tagged "Momma Sees Photography" where Ose's photos are on display. The name was inspired by Lady Roz.

The Sistas are Audrey Joe-Ezigbo, Inyang Sami-Orugbe, Bola ‘Salt’ Essien-Nelson, Enife Atobiloye, Nneka Nwobi and Ini Onuk. I had learnt of how the Sistas fervently interceded for me when I was in the valley of the shadow of death in April/May 2013. They only knew me by my association with Bidemi, they had never met or even spoken with me at that time, yet they prayed as if I was one of theirs. They sure left a lasting impression on me—women who do not feel the need to struggle with each other or outshine the other but help each other to fulfil destiny, hhmmm!

Closely associated with the Sistas is Coach Anna McCoy. I got connected with her through Bidemi and I have read her book, “Woman Act Now!” She was not at the conference in Lagos but I had the pleasure of meeting her when she passed through Geneva on her way from US to South Africa in May. She simply wanted to meet with Bidemi and support her in the run-up to ROTH 2014. Sitting on my dining table, Coach Anna challenged me and held me accountable for the completion of my book. That was quite an unforgettable experience. My son, who was listening, still reminds me of Coach Anna’s words and my commitment to complete this assignment God has given me. She is a passionate and persuasive proclaimer.

I got close to two of the Sista’s. The first one is Audrey Joe-Ezigbo, she is Bidemi’s accountability partner and “truth serum,” and a business woman per excellence. She spoke on Business, A Spiritual Mandate, at the conference. “You are an individual fragment and fragrance of the living God,” she said. Therefore business ran by Christians must be based on godly principles. She asked very deep questions which every Christian need to be reminded of each day in the marketplace and in the workplace: “Is your business reflecting the light of God in you? Is your life in church at variance with your lifestyle in the workplace?” Food for thought indeed.

I learnt more at “Audrey’s school of business” when she freely gave me advice to help me  manage my business profitably. Audrey brought tears to my eyes when I read the post she did on me on her blog – Grace...Sufficient for when life happens! It was deeply touching to read my story from another person’s point of view. It left quite an impact on me.

The second Sista I got close to calls herself “SALT.” That’s what she aspires to be each day—Salt of the earth. When Bola Essien-Nelson met me at the Conference, she hugged like a long-lost friend. You would have thought we had known each other forever, meeting again after a long break. It was heart-warming. Equally touching was the blog she posted on Salt Chronicles subsequently-ROTH 2014 God Ordains His Best

ROTH 2014_Mandate, Harvest and Glory:
This seventh edition of ROTH conference was a gold mine and rich pasture to glean from. Believe me, I came away laden with nuggets that are still resounding in my heart. The atmosphere was electric with authentic praise and worship. My first intention was write a summary of the message presented by each of the Speaker. After several attempts at summarizing my notes, I gave up on the idea. You will have to visit the Facebook page (Return of the Helpers Conference) for snippets from the conference. Here are some teasers:

Mayokun Oreofe appeared quiet and demure from a distance, but she swiftly morphed into a firebrand when she began to minister. You will know immediately that this is a woman who dwelt in the word and in the place of prayer. Her message was based on Jeremiah 33:3. Well-known verse but so beautiful expounded. I got brand new revelation from this old and much-read scripture; “Call upon me, I will answer you, and show you hidden things which you do not know.”

"Call upon me is not a request, it is an instruction," she reminded us several times. It sank in. The verse has been ringing in my mind since then. It has formed the foundation of my prayers on a number of issues and redirected the focus of my intercession. I have a blog post devoted to this verse coming soon.

Elizabeth Taylor is a CIV woman in her singleness—a Capable, Intelligent and Virtuous woman. She said, “When the reason for existence of something is not known, abuse is inevitable” and demonstrated that a woman can be fruitful in fulfilling her calling irrespective of her marital status.

Nkechi Olalere explained to us why our Spirit, Body and Soul must aligned for God’s glory and how healthy lifestyles will keep our bodies function as the temple of the living God. Three lifestyle habits stood out—Nutrition, Sedentary lifestyle and Caffeine. Believing me, I am counting my steps per day now.

Pam Ross, author of Serving, Loving and Leading, expounded this subject with real life illustrations. “Serving is a key to success; Take your amazing self and serve someone; and Don’t be the cook that is always cooking but never serving” – these are some of my take-away from her ministration. The last one surely got me. Everyone in leadership position needs to read this book.

I can write a whole blog post on Bidemi Mark-Mordi’s exposition on fulfilling Mandate, and I would not have done any justice to it. You need to get a copy of her book, Destiny Navigational Application and learn how to discover your God-given mandate and how to walk in the fullness of it—“You are put on earth to produce, no one is barren.”

The memories of these divinely orchestrated connections with these destiny helpers have been intricately woven into the tapestry of my memory.

Here is the question you and I need to ponder on: 
How are we supporting, helping and encouraging those around us to fulfill the call and mandate of God on their lives? 

Photo credit: Return of the Helpers Conference and Momma Sees Photography.