Saturday, November 18, 2006


Are Ghosts and Ghost Tales Real?
My childhood was spent in an environment where superstition and fetish practices were the norm rather than the exception. Adults used to gather the children on a moonlit night and tell tales of frightening monsters and dinosaurs that lived in the neighbourhood in times not far gone.
The fact that these stories were told by elders of the family in whom the younger ones placed so much confidence, trust and respect, made it easier to regard fables and fictions as facts. Thus, children treaded very cautiously, believing that such monstrous creatures still lurked around. These situations only helped in producing crooked boys and timid girls.
Sometimes children became so obsessed with imagining phantoms to a point of convulsing as if they had been grabbed or seized by some real monster. In most of these instances a fetish doctor would be invited to try to exorcise the supposed evil spirit.
Now, when I look back to that experience and put it side by side my experience in Christian Science, I wonder just how many people are still grappling in ignorance about such phantoms. It’s deplorable that superstitious beliefs continue to be peddled over generations only to become hard-held landmarks in the peoples’ culture. Parents should feed their offspring with truth and peace, rather than with the false belief in ghostly beings. Children should not have to wait, like me, for some opportunity to unfold later in their lives before they are told the truth. It only takes each one of us to put forth the effort to enlighten and to share the truth with the less informed in our society.
It has become clear to me that it is the mortal mind which conjures up impressions and creates images of non-existent ‘evil spirits’ that would seize an unsuspecting lad and throw him into a fit. God created man and "gave him dominion over every other creature." (Genesis 1:28). How then could a lesser being be capable of frightening or causing harm to man? If God is every where and fills all space, and “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), where else could the evil being come from and what space is there for it to occupy?
Growing up with a belief in things that are not real sometimes shapes one’s life and character. It is important to replace superstitious beliefs with the truth that God and man, the infinite Principle and His idea alone constitute the only Truth about life and existence. It’s also important to understand that "the supposition that corporeal beings are spirits or that there are good or evil spirits, is a mistake." (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, page 70:9-11). Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, also cautioned that, "children should be told not to believe in ghosts because there are no such things." (ibid. 352:26).
Let us therefore replace our primitive belief and suchlike practices with the great fact that God is the sole Cause, the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. Beside Him there is no other power.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Suspicion and apprehension: these are the words that rightly described my attitude when people would claim of ‘hearing the voice of God.’
Very often I would hear people (especially religious preachers) make claims of having been spoken to by God. My apprehensive reaction stemmed from my childhood understanding that the Biblical accounts of verbal encounters with the Almighty only involved people like Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Abraham, et cetera.
Moses was to lead the Hebrews/Israelites out of captivity. God needed to use him especially for that purpose and had to manifest himself to him in an extraordinary manner. Elijah was a radical priest who demonstrated the omnipotent power of God in very unique and distinguishing circumstances. Abraham was an icon of faith. For him to have waited over a hundred years before bearing a child so much outweighs the promise of ‘a piece of land. Their faith and deeds surely afforded them the singular privilege of communicating with the Almighty on a one-to-one basis.
When one compares these patriarchs of old with today’s Christians, the personality gap seems very disproportionate to imagine that God would choose to interact with any of us in the same manner. However, God spoke to me not long ago and though there was this childhood feeling of inadequacy in me; the unfolding events in my life opened my heart to understand differently and to know that the human measurement of personality which looks at physical appearances or status, has nothing to do with God’s assessment of people.
I have never considered myself fit to be God’s oracle, at least, by human standards, but then I elected to enlist as a full-time public practitioner of Christian Science healing which involved having to abandon my paid employment as a military officer and as an international journalist. And although I must confess that I have a track record of job turnover, I have never enjoyed the job security and satisfaction that I do with being a Christian Science Practitioner. There were young ones to tend through primary education and an elderly mother whose only son is me. There were house rent and utility bills to pay. And I was little known in the foreign land where God’s voice had led me to relocate. Above all, I had cultivated a culture of not accepting any fees for my services. Therefore, for God to speak to me a promise of unceasing sustenance is, to say the least, like a voice that needed scrutinizing. When I opened my Bible the following morning to behold involuntarily the same promise clearly delineated in Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so that thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shall be fed;” there was no telling that this truly was the voice of God. What I immediately heard was, in the words of the Psalmist, “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this;”…. Psalm 62:11.
Since then, it has dawned on me that God can speak to anybody, not on account of our human assessment of standards, but by reason of the needs of our time and environment and our personal relationship with God.
When God speaks to people, it is always for a divine purpose that will serve the overall interest of a greater majority. Jonah’s mission to be an evangelist - to the people of Nineveh started with a voice from God. An escape bid that resulted in his being thrown into the sea brought him face to face with God again. The flavor of this second encounter is the fact that his concealment within the safe repository of a fish’s belly could not hide the evangelist from the presence of God. His encounter with the mariners also serves to establish the fact that God’s command cannot be thwarted for too long.
God also provides the wherewithal to facilitate the mission. The children of Israel were to travel through a desert land to the land of promise. They had no ship to sail through the sea, but God charted a course across the great sea. He gave them manna when they seemed to have run out of ration. He stayed the pestilence when there was an epidemic outbreak. The Israelites developed an attitude of trustiness borne out of the multiple demonstration of God’s ability to supply their needs - even in dire circumstances.
A senior friend of mine demonstrated a similar sense of trusting God in turbulent times. We were on an eight-hour flight to South Africa in December 2004. About five minutes before landing, the pilot’s voice announced that the landing would be delayed because of approaching stormy weather in Johannesburg. Less than a minute thereafter, the voice came again, this time audibly shaky. It warned that he was going to drop the aircraft some meters below to avoid a head-on collision with the fierce storm. If the pilot and the crew were expressing such panic, might it be expected that the passengers would also then panic? As I looked down the aisle, I could see the hostesses curled into their seats like frightened puppies and the atmosphere had changed from one of anxiety to that of serenity. One could see the different religious blends depicted by the postures of supplication exhibited by the passengers. Prompted by the inhibited and consoling voice of the pilot, some of us could look out of the window to behold some trees and a building aflame with the lightning. However, amidst the raging flame were the fascinating evening lights which gave Johannesburg the look of Manhattan at night. Once we had landed and were queued in the arrival hall for immigration formalities, the hitherto charged atmospheric weather had assumed a serene and tranquil feeling. A passenger asked my friend why he had remained calm during the tempestuous weather. His spontaneous and emphatic response was, “I was trusty.” That statement jolted me into further inquiry. My friend said that just before the cockpit alert came on stream, he had heard the voice of God saying to him, “Be still!” And he had followed that command.
Although there were appearances that could make one relapse into doubting, I was confident that the voice of God had spoken to us, as clearly as a human voice, because there was not one sick among my close acquaintances. But my trustiness stems from a statement by the author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, that “Divine Love has met and will always meet every human need.”
I could have naturally questioned why God would choose to communicate with me or my friend, but when I had opened my Bible and the first passage that greeted me, carried a repetition of the same promise God had spoken into my ear when I first entered the public practice of Christian Science healing, I was left with no option than to accept the obvious fact; “God has spoken once, twice have I heard it…….” Not only do I know, but now I understand that anybody can hear the voice of God. Whom God chooses for his communication is entirely God’s business. But we need to be on our guard in obedience to Jesus’ command to his disciples; “What I say unto others, I say unto all, Watch.” Mark 13:37


The wise counsel to use what one has, may sound ambiguous to many who consider themselves as belonging to the category of have-nots. The ambiguity lies in the fact that people always look outside for happiness or sadness. But if we can pause for a moment and look inside of ourselves by way of introspection, we would be astonished at how much potentialities are buried within our treasure vaults.
A twentieth century philosopher says that every child comes to earth with its own supplies. This axiom, much as it is not some argument in favour of what is considered by many as the principle of predestination, points to the fact that each human being possesses in equal measure the same spiritual elements derived from our Creator. This is supported by the fact in the first Book of the Bible which says that God made man (and woman) in His image, after His likeness. (Genesis chapter 1 verse 26). A grain of rice if sowed in the soil cannot sprout forth to yield mango fruits any more than the image and likeness of God can be anything less than its Creator. God being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresence, man and woman made in his likeness must of necessity, possess all power, be all-knowing and can be ever-present. In essence, man coexists with the Creator. The image before the mirror cannot be different from who or what it reflects. This is the fact which prophet Elisha sought to establish when a widow who had lost her husband in a battle tended to believe that the end had come for her and her two sons who were about to be whisked away by creditors on account of some huge debt she had inherited from her late husband. While she looked up to her creditors for debt reschedulement or conditions other than taking away her two sons into slavery, Prophet Elisha turned her attention inward to the realization of her true worth. Obviously, a debt that would warrant the confiscation of a widow’s two male children should be worth more than the value of a mere pot of oil. But this widow had between her and the creditors a pot of oil and her two sons.
To get a clearer picture of the situation, let us look at the Hebrew meaning of pot. This word is rendered sir, a vessel made of various sizes, and of different materials, earthenware and metal; and used for manifold purposes, such as boiling flesh, reforming metals and storing water for domestic use or oil. Tracing African history back to our Jewish ancestry, one could compare the pot of oil to our ancient earthen water pots or calabash with capacity ranging from 10 to 15 litres. My mother has one.
Doesn’t it sound bizarre to ask a widow who has inherited a debt she did not incur, to go a borrowing? The average person will consider this command as a suicide bid. But that looks like what the radical prophet asked the woman to embark upon. After he had assessed the woman’s agonizing condition, and seeking to help her out of her delusion, he had inquired of her what she had left in store. That is to say, how much is she worth? Many people in responding to this type of inquiry would be inclined to answering in the negative considering the insignificant quantity of the pot of oil vis-à-vis the huge debt burden hanging on her neck like an albatross. Many a times we consider what we have as too little in proportion to our liabilities, and we end up declaring that we don’t have anything at all.
It is an established law of nature that gratitude for benefits already received engenders the opportunity for more blessings. The widow’s recognition of what resources she had, no matter how little, turned out to be the catalyst for abundant blessings that attended her confession. It didn’t matter to the prophet how little oil the woman had. It didn’t matter that she was already a celebrated debtor. It didn’t bother him that society would naturally turn down an appeal for loan from a chronic debtor. All he cared for was that this outwardly poor widow had some hidden treasure which she recognized and had acknowledged. He then says to her, "Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours’ even empty vessels; borrow not a few" (II Kings 4:3). Hard word, you think. But the first approach to obtaining our miracle is gratitude for benefits already received. This involves recognition of spiritual endowments which take various forms with various people. The second step is in humble and implicit obedience to the voice of wisdom. This can come in the form of a good counsel from an expert, a suggestion from a not-too important person by human assessment, or the still small voice. The widow’s response to those rules is most exemplary, for she promptly dispatched her two sons to the task of borrowing empty vessels of all shapes and sizes from apprehensive neighbours. She did not fear that her creditors might lay hands on the boys and kidnap them on account of the debt. She disobeyed traffic rules. She did not question what to do with empty vessels from neighbours, some of whom she had not interacted with for some time since she retired into self solitude. She simply followed orders like a soldier in the infantry division of the army. According to the Scripture, she did not go about gossiping her situation with neighbours or trying to consult other women regarding the prophet’s queer counsel. She simply locked up herself and started filling the empty vessels from the meager supply without any iota of doubt whatsoever. It appears to me that oil was in short supply at that season of the year hence she couldn’t afford more than one small pot, and there were many empty containers in the city.
Having exhausted all the empty vessels in the city, the man of God who had stood guard between the woman and the God of abundance now came down from the figurative mountain, gave thanks to the almighty and ordered the ever-grateful widow, "Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest (II Kings 4:7(b).
Looking at external exigencies of life denies us of the opportunity of recognizing the seed of God implanted in our very bosom. Comparing ourselves with others makes us loose sight of our own capabilities. It is only in recognizing our heaven-endowed treasures can we be truly grateful, which in turn, begets multiple blessings. On the other hand, constantly resorting to our inward part will link us to the voice of silence and make us aware of whatever steps or direction the almighty intends for us to follow. As the Scripture say, "thine ear shall hear a word behind thee saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left." (Isaiah 30: 21). A song I learned in early childhood says, "Count your blessings, and name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."
There is no limit to what God can do except the limitations in your thinking as to what God cannot do.


Reformation and Pardon:
In my native African village, there are ancient landmarks which are meant to benefit all members of the community without discrimination. As such, any unnecessary desecration or exploitation of any of those objects or utilities by any single member or group of persons to the exclusion of others usually attracts open disapproval by the rest of the society. I need to mention that we used to run a well organized Police state with unwritten code of conduct and prescribed penalties attached to the breaking of any of those laws. That was before the emergence of the colonial masters. Environmental sanitation exercises were monitored by the youths. If they would have cause to help any family clean their compound or their surroundings, the offending occupants were required to pay penalties ranging from some measure of meal or palm kernel or maize to tubers of yam as the case may be. Any man who failed to join in bush clearing campaign for the communal farm ran the risk of not getting a portion of farmland for that season. These stringent measures compelled a life of strict obedience and civility on my people at that time. Moral rectitude remained the norm rather than the exception.
We had just returned home from the city for a Christmas holiday. A century-old fruit-bearing tree stood at the centre of my village square. Adults consisting mainly of nursing mothers and children would sit in clusters under the shade of its extended branches. Birds and squirrels that had made their nests within the branches and hollows would occasionally lose grip of ripen fruits that will come tumbling down to the ground to incite a scramble among the women and children within the precincts of the fallen fruit, to the delight of the men who sat at the nearby thatched hut playing games and telling or listening to tales.
I could not afford the indefinite dependence on mere birds or squirrels to help me with a share of the fruits which hung generously and invitingly on the distant branches of the old tree. Up went my catapult. I aimed and brought down no less than five ripe fruits clustered together at one shot. I intended to excite the traditional scramble among the shade-dwelling fellows, but to my surprise, not one of them moved to grab my fruits. I thought they were being modest with me, so I quietly gathered my harvest and offered to share with some of my peers, but none would accept my kindness. It then dawned on me that something was amiss. My excitement suddenly waned as one old man approached and inquired after my identity. After gathering all the information as to my name and who my father was, he promptly returned to the hut and I could see him conferring with the other elders who were waiting in anticipation. There was deafening silence around me as the women and children discussed in whispers. I never felt such loneliness in all my life in the midst of a crowd. I managed to scurry home. Before I could settle down to share my experience with my mother there was an approaching long line of old men backed by half a dozen of drumming youths following my trail. They ended up in my father’s compound. They outnumbered the chairs in our house and it would be an offence to keep some of them standing. So my mother and my elder sisters expressly skipped off to borrow any seats that could be reached within the neighbourhood. After some preliminary introductory rituals it became clear to me that those men had come to penalize my father for the fruits I forced down from the community tree. As I hid behind a window blind to observe the proceedings, I could guess that the penalty far outweighed my offence. I could hear one of the elders jokingly say to my father that since he doesn’t live in the village, it was a pleasure to share of his wealth this one time. I had thought to protest but had been restrained by my mother who warned that any interruption of the proceedings would amount to contempt of court and would attract further penalties.
When I look back to that embarrassment, extortion, humiliation and disappointment suffered by my father for my sake and for a mess of porridge, so to say, I feel terribly humbled to think of the arraignment, trial and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the hands of His own people. He, who had no sin, was made to die a sinner’s death, which the Westminster’s dictionary of the Bible says “was literally a judicial murder.” (ibid. 308). After abducting Him to the house of Annas the father-in-law of Caiaphas for preliminary examination, he was hastened before Pontius Pilate to seek to obtain the governor’s approval as the lower court lacked jurisdiction to handle such a case. Seeing no basis for granting the leave of court, Governor Pilate had to order for the Messiah to be transported to President Herod Antipas who also was reluctant to exercise jurisdiction but for the pressure mounted on him by the fraudulent crowd. (Luke 22: 66-71; 23:7-11). The Holy Scriptures say that Jesus died for no crime and without any real legal process. His execution was carried out by 4 soldiers under the supervision of a centurion. With him also 2 common robbers were led to death. (John 19:23). Eye-witness account of St. John, who was not very far from the scene of crucifixion, saw blood and water issue from the wound that had been inflicted upon Jesus Christ. That goes to prove that there was apparent external bleeding. But it does appear that his eventual death was occasioned not by the outward injuries but by the broken heart exhibited by the utterances he had voiced as he hung on the accursed tree, such as “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).
In the present dispensation, a lawyer would have offered to plead my case and cause the judge to enter a verdict of ‘first offender’ and acquit me as a minor. But ignorance, they say, is no excuse. The contemplation of my inability to denounce or challenge what I considered to be undue exploitation of my father and the lack of defence on my trial left a sour taste on my tongue. I had resolved not to return home ever again for another Christmas holidays if that was how to treat an innocent fruit-loving boy. I had also resolved never again to taste that genre of fruit for all I care. But my father could not be deterred by that unfriendly attitude of his kindred.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder and Discoverer of Christian Science movement, in her book Science and Health with key to the Scriptures, writes that “the atonement of Christ reconciled man to God, not God to man, for the divine Principle of Christ is God……” (ibid 18:17). God had not at any point in time separated Himself from His creation. The Bible says that we are his image and likeness (reflection) (Genesis 1:26-27). But man sought to hide from the presence of his Creator by consequence of the sin we commit. Jesus was aware of this disposition of his false accusers hence he presently begged the Father to “forgive then, for they know not what they do.” Thus he paved the way for reconciliation between man and God. Mary Baker Eddy writes further that ‘The design of Love is to reform the sinner. If the sinner’s punishment here has been insufficient to reform him, the good man’s heaven would be a hell to the sinner. (Science & Health page 33:30-1). But if the sinner would rely on the plea made on his behalf by Jesus Christ and continue to sin and expect to be pardoned by the all-merciful Father, should this not be a mockery of the suffering that Christ bore on the cross? The purpose of that manner of death was not to erase man’s sin and license him to commit sin with reckless abandon, but to show that sin occasions punishment and that only by the destruction of sin and by true reformation can man hope of attaining eternal forgiveness. For this cause are we being admonished to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13). A pastor friend of mine once argued that the Scriptures say, “…. For we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God….” As far as I am concerned, he sounded defeatist. I had said to him, “so what?” Many people seem to share the same view that having once fallen; we should just lay there and pray for our salvation to come from the cross. I am inclined to refer once again to Mary Baker Eddy’s argument that though the principle of mathematics has already been established, but we cannot stand before the blackboard and invoke the problem of maths to solve itself. It has to be worked out by the student in accordance with the established principle; else we get the wrong answer. So is the principle of individual salvation. Jesus has mapped out the way for us to follow, and only those who tread that path can expect to get to the destination point. He had said in substance, “I am the Life, the Truth and the Way.” Therefore, if we are seeking to live our life to the fullest, we must truthfully follow along the right Way. This is the only guarantee for life eternal.
If I fail to return to my village on account of what I had considered an unjust customary practice, that would not change my status as a bona-fide citizen, neither would my dislike for apple stop the tree from bearing fruits. Man is not annihilated, nor does he lose his identity, by passing through the belief called death. We cannot continue in sin because someone has paid the penalty. Our only guarantee for peace is the abolition of any occasion of sin in our individual lives. God has given us the ability to overcome all evil and nothing can deprive us of that authority.