Bend

Bend

“Mr latecomer, as usual, you don’t disappoint” he said waving. I stood up straight from my crouching position, stretched my back and waved back politely. I wondered again why I had chosen to return to school for a master’s degree after so long (12 years after my bachelors) and even stranger, why I had chosen this elective in theology which had nothing to do with my course of study. The truth is that I was “searching”. After recent events in my life.
I had tried to sneak into the class, but I think by now, he had made up his mind to always look out for my less than dignified entrances to his class. I don’t know why I still bother.
A hundred pairs of eyes turned my way, and as it has come to be expected, I smile and waved at the class. To which there was a corresponding wave back.

“So as I was saying, sometimes we have to bend for peace.”

We do it everyday. If done right, no one comes away feeling exploited or disgruntled or chafing at the bits, itching for revenge. It’s all a matter of degrees and extent. If you take it too far, it becomes a compromise. Compromises are in no way negative. Depending again on the degree. You can come off looking like a wuss or a peacemaker. It all depends. Back in the early days of Christianity, our forerunners compromised. Rather than fight the push-back from the pagan Romans for example, they found it easier around 4 C.E., to incorporate some of their festivities into our own. December 25th was no where even close to when Jesus was born, which was probably during the summer or maybe closer to the middle of the year if you go by that most Roman of devices – the Julian calendar. Given to us in self worship by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. December 25th was the concluding day of the Roman week long celebration of depravity. That was known as the Saturnalia. Unfortunately that didn’t quite work out as planned. We held on to the last day though and to all intent and purposes there’s no link to the Roman’s pagan celebration anymore. The only point here that the JW got right is the origin of the date. I have nothing against them. In fact if not for a couple of other believes or non-believes of theirs, I would probably be a card-carrying member. But that is a subject for another class. Where I disagree with them on that issue is that the celebration is now symbolic and should be taken as such. It’s better to remember a monumental event on a supposedly wrong day if it contributes positively to the spread of the gospel of Christ than not at all. After all, it is not the day that matters but the event. We shall leave that there so we don’t digress too much.”

“The evolutionists would have us believe we all originated from some primordial soup, then via the sea and unto land. And then some creatures such as certain turtles and mammalian sea dwellers for example, thought better of it and returned to the water.”

“Does anyone have a bible? “ all eyes swiveled round the room. There were no takers.

“I didn’t expect to find one. But no issues. technology never ceases to amaze right? Here in the palm of my hands, I have a smart phone with several versions of the bible in it. something that used to be the prerogatives of only the few way back in history, when only kings and clergy could have it without been burnt at the stake for heresy. When it took years to make a copy. Hmmn.”

“So I intend to support the creationist for once. Not all the way, mind you.”

“In Genesis, if you follow the sequence by which all things were made, the sea was populated first, then followed by the land, then finally people – you and I, and all those living and dead. Here, let me read a few verses.”

He read several verses from the first chapter of Genesis.

“So you see, even if we do not agree that things crawled out of the sea and became land animals, we can agree that sea creatures came before land creatures.

Of course another major area we diverge is in how long the earth and all that’s therein have been around. But again that’s additional bullsh*t for another class. Excuse my French.”

There was some low laughter in the hall.

“So we bend a little to accommodate our learned colleagues. If hopefully by doing so, we may bring them to the knowledge of Christ and the acceptance of creationism or vice versa”

Some laughter in the hall.

“I appreciate your lightheartedness but of course you know this is serious business.

To be realistic, that amount of bending doesn’t do anything for our colleagues. But as we are not wusses, we will bend but not break.”
“And if it comes down to the wire, we will go by that age old saying, “to your tents, O Israel!”

And in case that’s not clear, it means we won’t compromise on the core tenets of our believes”
“And there goes the bell! See you next class. If your busy partying schedule allows it, slot a quick look at Genesis chapter one in there, would you? Mr Latecomer, kindly stay behind for a minute or two. Thank you. And happy shopping on Black Friday but avoid the crush if you can! Don’t read anything extra into the name. Be grateful for the opportunity to give thanks in good health on thanksgiving.”
I walked down the aisle to the front of the room where he was putting away his notes and books into his bag. I didn’t know what to expect.

“Ah. Mr Latecomer. I still have hopes of you. You and I are on a journey as long as this class is in session. The journey may be only a a few months long, but we shall make it interesting. I have three questions for you sir”

I raised an eyebrow slightly.

“Do you think we can compel God?”

“No.” I said.

“Do you think God rules in the affairs of men?”

“Yes” I responded.

“Do you believe in destiny?”

“No.”

“Ah. Be careful how you answer. I think you may have contemplated the first two questions before, but that last one I think you answered a little too glibly. Think on it a little sir. And we shall return to it – say – after the next class.”

And with that he was gone before I could say another word.
I stood there alone in that classroom. Looking up at the seats that made up the amphitheater.

I had the strange feeling he knew more about me than he was letting on and that my “search” wasn’t going to end easily or anytime soon.

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The Gasometer

Eyes wide open at the Gasometer

Last day in Oberhausen. I didn’t feel it was appropriate not to experience something of the culture (no malls and restaurants don’t count). So despite the fact that I had a train to catch to another city, I felt I had to at least make an attempt. I checked out but then left my luggage with the hotel (“I will be back in an hour”).
The closest destination I could think of was the Gasometer which was quite visible from lots of places I had been to around the hotel and the office.
I crossed the road and headed in the general direction. It was a little farther than I had suspected. I looked at the time. I had an appointment in another city and wasn’t even sure how regular the trains ran in that direction on a Saturday. I decided it was worth the risk. Unfortunately I had to go through in a hurry. I don’t mind spending a whole day in a good museum, but I had a train to catch. Even at that I must have spent about close to 3 hours there. Normally I would read the story/description attached to any picture/sculpture I am interested in and try to imagine what life was like then or even imagine myself “into” the scene: like a witness to the conversation.
Took some pictures. Below.
The museum itself was in a converted cylindrical steel structure.
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For those up to the challenge, there is a long series of flights up the outside to the top at 110 meters where you can see the whole city laid out below. See pics below. There is a lift for the less adventurous or less fit.
You can then enter the building and chill out at the amphitheater at the base on cushions while watching a choreographed display of black and white light patterns running up the inside of the tower all the way to the top – set to some relaxing music.
110 meters above is my target destination. “Stairways to Heaven.”
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Is that a submarine?
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110.45m above ground level.
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Took a lift back down(on the inside of the vertical steel structure, so you can look down at the people seated or reclining or standing in the amphitheater-like space with the cushions where you seat to watch the light display)
Below that level are the two bottom levels where the paintings and sculptures are exhibited.
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Medusa of course.
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And the Mona Lisa (A copy. The original is in the Louvre Museum in Paris)
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And because we are always “representing” (something from the Benin Kingdom)
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Massive painting under glass on the floor.
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God creating the world.
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Jesus (under a shroud in the tomb)
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It was worth every penny of the 9 Euros I paid. I think couple or group tickets might be cheaper but I didn’t check.
Outside for the even more adventurous, you can sign up for some tree climbing.
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The Gasometer website is at: http://www.gasometer.de/de/

The long weekend

The long weekend

“Christ, what’re you doing?!” Said my aunt looking at me like I just pooped on her Persian rug.
“Are you asking me or asking Christ?” I said, looking as innocently as the mutt who sat beside me on the couch. I couldn’t help my self.
“Young man, don’t be fresh with me. What happened to the last one?”
“She split.”
“Split in two like an orange?” she said. Ah! There was the comeback. The old lady still had it in her.
“No wonder you are alone. When you can’t even talk like a regular human. Using all these slang like split, and so on.” She didn’t include the “fresh” she used herself. But I wasn’t about to point that out.
“What you need is some common sense and a whole lot of Jesus.”
“Hallelujah!” I said.

There was a sound like a thunder clap and I couldn’t see for a few seconds. Which reminded me I was talking to a matriarch from the “home country”. You are never too old for certain “things” with one of them.

“There you go. Giving me lip!”
“Dear Jesus. What would your father say to that? I am sure the poor man is turning in his grave.”
Now that hit where it hurt and she knew it. I looked everywhere but at her. The dog returned my stare. It had the “I told you so look” on its face. I looked at the wall. There was my dad looking down at me kindly. Which didn’t make me feel any less guilty. Finally I looked at my aunt. She just looked back with this open expression on her face I could not read.

There were just three of us in the house.
One couldn’t understand why I was taking up valuable comfortable space on its couch.
The second couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get it together.
The third – myself – I regretted not tucking my tail between my legs and running away as fast as possible when I got the “summons”. Instead I decided to show up and take it like a man. It was going to be a long weekend.

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Apologies for the “incompleteness” of the story. Woke up with only the first two lines in my mind. Tried hard to make something of it. 🙂

Dealing with God

Dealing with God

It sounds blasphemous right? But there are lots of examples in the bible of people who made deals with God. True, deals are generally made between equals or at least between people who have something (the other party wants) to bargain with. Ideally we have no chips with which to bargain with God. But this shows you how magnanimous God is. Once he gave us free will, He automatically gave us the chips with which we can bargain.
So on some level He has elevated us to be equal to himself. After all, he made us in his own image (“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: “, Genesis 1:26)
Sometimes the deals are initiated by God. At other times by men. Take Abraham for example. God said he needed to relocate to some foreign place and He (God) would bless him (Abraham). Well, that’s a deal right there. Abraham could have refused. He could have decided where he was at that time was the best place to be and not some unknown distant place where he would be among belligerent strangers. He could have exercised his free will contrary to the will of God for him. That wouldn’t have changed the end game: God would just have done the same thing through another individual.
Just to clarify our terms of reference, a deal is an agreement with terms and conditions usually involving an “exchange” of some sort (that’s without looking it up in the dictionary :-).
Fast forward to Lot? God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18). But then Abraham politely asked what would happen if he could find fifty righteous men in the city. God said (even though he knew the end already, He decided to humour him) he would spare both cities. Well did it end there? Nope. The gentleman went from that to forty-five to thirty to twenty to ten. If that’s not negotiating (with the purpose of striking a deal), I don’t know what it is!
Let’s skip forward a little to Samuel. His barren mum finally gave God a condition. “Give me a child and I will return him to you!”
(1 Samuel 1, 10-11: And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.”).
Now notice that she only asked for a child. But upon fulfilling her part of the bargain (the deal) God blessed her with other children. Because he knew despite the fact that she was finally able to live down the stigma associated with her barrenness, she would definitely want children who would grow up with her and who she can show around the community and not have to explain to all and sundry that she indeed had a child who was dedicated to serving God in the temple. So while you should count yourself lucky if a human party completely fulfills their end of a deal, one can see that God will go beyond the terms of the deal to do more and above what He needs to do within the terms of the deal if necessary to satisfy our yearnings especially if it’s in line with the grand design (which of course we are usually too involved in our immediate situations to fully comprehend – not that we are able to anyway – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55, 8-9).

Let’s skip forward a little, shall we? And we hit one of the greatest deal makers of all time: David. Not only did he get fulfillment of his desires from God in his life time, he managed to secure his lineage as kings forever. Yes, it’s true that God had this planned from the beginning of the world, but it didn’t necessarily have to be via David. He could have easily lost out various times. When Saul was after him, he could have renounced his claim to the throne for safety. When he took Uriah’s wife and had him killed (2 Samuel 11), and Samuel came to chastise him, he could have turned a deaf ear like many kings before and after him. Jesus Christ would still have come to redeem us, he just wouldn’t have come from David’s lineage.
What about Job? He could have cursed God at the height of his despair and died as his friends and wife advised. But he made a deal even if he didn’t think of it that way: he nether cursed God nor questioned him. The ending was that God decided to bless him with much more than he had before his trials and travails.

But we need not constrain ourselves to the Old Testament. What about more recent history a la the New Testament. We can start with that old chap that made a deal with God to live Long enough to see Jesus born. God stayed the hands of time on his behalf. I bet you he still had 20/20 vision when he held Jesus in the temple: all the better to see the child with!

And what about Jesus Christ himself? He could have sold out to the devil when the latter offered him all the riches of the earth (Matthew 4) or chickened out in the garden of gethsemane and saved himself from crucifixion (Mark 14).

So you see, humans such as you and yours truly have been striking deals with God since the beginning of time. So don’t be afraid to follow suit.

And having spoken (or written) thus, let me put my money where my mouth is by taking a shot at making a deal with God right now. Here goes:

“Dear God,
There are a couple of things I need to discuss with you. I am going to do it sitting down on my bed with my eyes open. I am sure you don’t mind.
Number one, you see, there is this g…”

Taxicab

Taxicab

So I get in a taxi (at the Immigrations office in Ikoyi) bound for the office in Victoria Island. The taxi man proposed N1,500 as the charge. I countered with N1,000. Back and forth and he finally asked me to get in but hoped I would “add” something.

Driving a Taxi must be a lonely job to a large extent. Between clients, you are probably just driving around. Then people come into your live for brief periods of time, most will not leave any last impressions, but some will (including the guy that pulls a stickup on you and robs you of your day’s takings). So generally, taxi drivers are ready to talk. I am usually ready to listen – especially if you don’t expect more from me than the brief responses that indicates I don’t mind you going on or that I am at least listening.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Taxi driver: “You see. It’s the fuel scarcity. If you check in the back of my cab, you will see several jerrycans there. The queues in the petrol stations are horrendous. In addition, they are hoarding the fuel.”

(I looked in the back and only saw a tiny 4-liter oil can so I said jokingly, “I don’t see any jerrycans here.”

“I just dropped them off because I needed to carry some heavy stuff for a client.”

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“My wife just delivered twins after many years of trying. My family had advised me to send her away. If not that we already had one child from several years before it would have been difficult. But I stuck with her. What’s the alternative? Get a new wife? Besides, you can’t trust most of these young ladies of nowadays. They are prostituting themselves all over the place.”

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“You see in fact I am fed up. This taxi is not even mine. Though I hope God will bless me this year and I will be able to buy my own. It’s on lease. I came all the way from Sango this morning to pick it up. See (holding up a ticket), this is a railway ticket in my hand. Sometimes, when I drop a client, by the time I drive round and get another one, my fuel is almost gone. If you don’t want to suffer, make sure you are out of this area before 4:30PM.

The petrol stations have fuel. They are just hoarding it. In some stations, they took delivery of 3 huge tanker-load of fuel about two to three weeks ago. We saw them. They locked it up claiming that the federal government wants to hike up the price. What’s their concern with that? This is fuel they took delivery of several weeks ago at the current price!”

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“When you are driving, be careful of these Maruwa (commercial tricycles), they can get one in trouble. They behave like chickens on the road.

If you are still in this neighborhood by 4:00PM,  you will know that Jesus is not a Nigerian (referring to the traffic-jam). My body is aching all over. See how dirty I am all over from the oil. But I give thanks to God all the same.

Yesterday when I leased this car. I was fortunate enough to repent quickly (“Olorun lo je kin tete ronu pi wada”). I just parked it. For over an hour and a half, not even one client!

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“When they reopen this station (we were passing by the NNPC station under renovation) , it will be very fine. I suspect someone else must have bought it over. I heard they have taken it back from the previous owner. That they owe a lot of money (“won je iya-laya gbese”). But I am sure they have sold it to one of the cabal.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Beans is expensive in my area (I suspect the reference is to the Yoruba association of beans with twins). It’s N200 per Derica (measuring can). I was fortunate last week. While waiting to pick up clients, I went with a friend and found these Hausa traders. They are more reasonable. We got the beans at N160 per Derica.”

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The traffic in V/I was already bad. At the Sanusi Fafunwa junction, I asked him to pull over. I said I would walk through Sanusi Fafunwa to Karimu Kotun street. He asked if that wasn’t too long a walk but was quite grateful when I insisted. I brought out everything in my pocket (N1,205). Handed over N1,200 for which he was even more grateful.

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He needed to find water to top up his radiator. We parted ways at that point.

How big is your faith?

How big is your faith?

If as Jesus said (Luke 17:6 paraphrased, Matthew 17:20), you only need to have faith as small as a mustard seed to command mountains to move (should apply to healing as well), then there is real trouble!
Most pastors/churches just want you to worship in their churches or attend some event they are holding and “hope” you will get “your” healing. That’s leaving it completely to chance. (And if a couple of people out of several thousands do get healed, going by the way it is celebrated, it would have required an all-week party in Jesus’ time to celebrate the several people that got healed during similar gatherings. Unfortunately, even the few Pastors who seem to actively cause people to receive their healing have so much controversy surrounding them, it’s probably wise to keep a reasonable distance. There were no controversies surrounding the healing Jesus and the apostles performed – they were “self-evident”.)

Whereas in fact, during the time of Jesus and the Apostles, it was an “active ministry” – Jesus (and the Apostles) went out to actively heal people or people who approached them got healed.

So does it mean just as the rest of us, our pastors’ faith are not even as big as a small mustard seed?

Long ago

Long ago

I was tired. So I didn’t go to church. I seem to have reasons every Sunday not to. That’s what I tell myself anyway. Otherwise how can I explain the fact that the baby that was christened the last time I was in church should have started tottering around his parent’s living room now?

“We all know the number 3 has special significance in the bible.”

I wondered what I was doing there: at the fellowship. I think it was boredom at home that pushed me to go to the local fellowship cell meeting at 6PM in the evening when I hadn’t been there for so long. Maybe it was loneliness. Not since she …

I thought for an instant when I showed up that they were going to welcome me as a new member. I could see the surprise on the face of the cell leader. He had called so many times to convince me to come around for the weekly Sunday evening fellowship that he had finally got the message and stopped calling.

I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but no such luck. I was invited to sit right at the front beside the cell leader. He seemed to direct most of the discussion on the topic at me.

“Three crosses on Golgotha. Peter denied him three times. Satan tested Jesus three times. The list goes on and on.”

“But today, we are going to bring it home to our level. We won’t be all spiritual about this topic. Someone said the best way to beat temptation is to avoid it, but that is usually not possible. In fact by the time you know about it, you are already being tempted. I have heard some people say if they had been Peter, the fact that Jesus had told them already what would happen would give them the courage to resist denying him. Especially knowing that he was the son of God.” said the cell leader.

“Well. Let me say if Peter had succeeded in not denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed, what would that have made Jesus? ” he continued.

Everybody was thinking it. Despite the fact that it was a reasonable answer to something that didn’t actually happen, I guess a lot of people still consider it blasphemous. You can see the discomfort on their faces and several people fidgeted on their seats. As he was looking at me again, I said “A liar.”

“Correct Bro”. I still don’t  understand why he called everybody “Bro”. I guess it is more friendly and less “spiritual” than “brother this or brother that”

“But of course the Son of God cannot lie. So some people use this scenario as a basis for predestination or pre-ordination. But that is a discussion for another day, but note that the fact that God has given us free will means we are in control of the decisions we make and to a large extent the outcome. ”

“Now who thinks if he or she had been in Peter’s position, he or she would not have denied Jesus? Anyone?”

There were no takers. But secretly I thought I would have been able to damn it all and go for broke: that is, I would not have denied Jesus. The discussion wafted around me. I kept enough presence of mind to answer the questions asked directly of me. I literally thanked God when the fellowship closed with a brief prayer. I was invited to stay for light refreshments afterwards but I had a ready-made excuse: I just couldn’t wait to get away.

“Bro, I will call you during the week. There is a men’s meeting coming up and you should attend. Really.”

What have I got myself into?

The drive home was uneventful. But I couldn’t get the topic of discussion out of my mind.

I must have fallen asleep in front of the TV because I suddenly realized I was looking at “static” on the screen. I got up slowly, and headed to the bathroom. Paid my “water rate”, washed my hands then brushed my teeth, and hurled myself into bed after putting on my pajamas.

“Really Peter. You cocked that one up. But thank God for second chances.” I thought.

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“Think about it. Bill Gate’s got what – 67 billion dollars mostly in Microsoft shares right? Is that cash? No. Well you could say he could cash most of it out now, but would he ever? Capital No!” I thought I knew him. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place my finger on where or how I knew him. It was a feeling. Like someone you have been talking to over the phone for a couple of years but never met. Also, I was too busy wondering how I came to be dressed up in what looked like a mid-eastern costume. Maybe I was on some movie set?

“Stay with me now. I am trying to tell you something. Now what if, just for a moment, now what if you, yes you, could get the combined wealth of all the 100 men on the Forbes list in gold right now, right here?”

“Just think what you could do with that kind of money!”

“You could get any girl you want!”

“I know, I know. You don’t want just any girl. You want that girl. Story of my life. Remind me to tell you about it sometime. But really, you just think you don’t. But with that kind of money, you could have the last 5 Miss World lined up and attending to your every need! You don’t think you want them right now. I get that. But I assure you, you will change your mind if they are right here smiling at you. Tell you what. Just to sweeten the deal, let’s include Wunmi in the list. Fresh off the boat with a degree to boot. I know you liked those pictures you saw. What if you could meet her in the flesh and she said yes to your every question – even before you asked?”

“OK. OK. You are a brother right? Brothers know how to roll. You could have every luxury car brand out there customized for you! A different car for every day of the year. Not to talk of the bada-bling you can accessorize with that kind of cash!”

“All for the limited edition, limited offer of just saying I am the king of all there is. Don’t you think that is a bargain?”

“I know what you are thinking. What if the world ended right now? What if there is an earthquake and you die? What if the big man decides to drop down for the second coming right now? Are you going to live your life a collection of what ifs that may never happen. Even J.C. says not to worry about tomorrow, today has enough evil etc, etc. Well, let me tell you. Ain’t no earthquake going to happen in the city of God! And chill, smart boy like yourself know there are more people who haven’t heard the good news than you can shake a fistful of gold dust at. Besides, you could recite Psalm 51 in a minute and be home for dinner before the trumpet sounds. But in the meantime, get the cash while it is good for the getting!”

“Say it with me now. All I need to do is say I am the big boss man!”

“OK. You don’t believe me. Let me show you how we roll.”

In front of me appeared possibly the most beautiful women I have ever seen either in the flesh or on the big screen. Their smile was enchanting. It seems all they wanted to do was serve me. But they kept just out of reach. Besides them was stacked so many gold bars, they blocked my view of the valley beyond.

“See what I am talking about. Besides how do you intend to get out of this place?”

I wasn’t sure how I got there in the first place. It looked like miles and miles of desert in all directions.

“But check out that ride over there. Isn’t it just bad! That’s not Chrome on that baby bro.” I wondered where I had heard that “bro” before.

“That is Platinum. That car is got so much armor going on, a nuclear missile couldn’t scratch its fender. ”

“All you have to say is I am the big boss man and you have hit the jackpot baby!”

I licked my lips. Despite myself, I liked what I was hearing. I looked up guiltily at the sky. It was still clear. One couldn’t wish for a better day to be alive. Maybe I can beat this guy at his game. But it would be tricky. What if I said what he wanted without actually saying it. That wouldn’t be a sin right? But the question is how to say it without actually saying it.

“You mean I get all these if I say you are the big boss man.”

“Trying to trick me boy? Trying to be smart eh? I have been at this game before you were an embryo! Didn’t the good book tell you that out of the heart proceed all wicked things? Don’t you know it is not what you say that matters but what is in your heart?”

“Wrong answer padre. Here is your reward!”

Instantly I was at the top of a mountain looking down. I could see the world laid out like a vast map built of Lego parts. Looking down! I realized I was upside down! Something was dangling me by my left leg over the precipice of a very steep drop! I kicked madly with my free right leg and started to scream, but to no avail. Whatever had me by my ankle had a vice-like grip.

“See you in hell!” he said. I was free!

I hurtled down at break-neck speed. The ground getting ever so closer. I screamed all the way down. I could hear him all the way down taunting me. My face made contact with the ground! I could feel the dirt in my mouth. I am dead.

I was still l screaming when I came awake. I was gnawing on the sideboard of the bed. I sputtered and spit out the wood. My heart was beating so wildly I thought I had died and gone to hell. But the AC was going full blast and the sweat cooling rapidly on my skin as my heart rate slowed down to normal gave me a chill. I rubbed my hands over my arms and felt the goose pimples.

I sat back on the bed. I looked at the time. It was 2 O’clock. I don’t think I would be able to sleep again. That felt so real I could have sworn I was there. What was I going to do till the morning?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *   *  *  *   *  *  *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *   *   *  *   *   *  *   *   *  *   *   *  *   *   *  *  *

“Wow! I didn’t think you had it in you. Forty days and forty nights! Just like the Israelite in the wilderness right? Well, it is over now. I am sure you are very hungry! And thirsty!”

The hunger was OK. It was the thirst that was threatening to drive me mad. I didn’t want a cup of water. I wanted a Jerry can! Or two!

“Luck you. See those water jars over there. ” There was a row of about 10 huge earthen jars right there in front of me in the desert.

“Just like the wedding in Canaan hey? I must tell you that wine was exquisite. I have never tasted anything like it before and since. The real Jesus juice!  You cheated Mon Homme! You don’t have to tell me the secret. We both know you used grapes from heaven to make that wine. ”

“But that is in the past. The future begins now.  Help yourself. Why die of thirst in the midst of plenty!”

It was all I could do to get to the first of the jars. I pried open the lead and dipped my cupped hands in and took a mouthful. It was very sweet wine! It did nothing for my thirst and I knew if I drank too much of it, it would just worsen my situation.

“Not wine! I need water!”

I went quickly from one jar to another. Same content. One more jar left, though I wasn’t expecting anything different. My despair and desperation was obvious.

“Wait. Wait. Look. If you can change water to wine, how difficult can it be to change wine to water?”

“You know you want to.” He laughed out loud.

I opened the last jar and was not disappointed: it was full of the same sweet wine.

He rubbed his hands together. “Why have power if you can’t use it? What is the purpose then? If you can’t enjoy it a little? Don’t you think you deserve some slack after your 40-day sojourn in the wilderness? Even the Israelite had manna and water.”

“Wine is after all not good for the king so the good book says. That should encourage you to do what you need to do. There is no way you are going to make it to the city of God in your condition. Talking about wine. Why are some of your devotees so hard-assed about it? All that nonsense talk of non-alcoholic wine. When we both know it was about 10% proof and wine was a stable in those days. It is mentioned at least 235 times in the bible. Believe me I counted. Yeah. I know. Too much free time. What is  a man to do?”
“Wine. Wine. Wine. In the good book. Almost always along the advice to enjoy oneself. Along with bread, honey and milk. And talking of time, my minions are on a roll convincing men of the implausibility of your actually being the son of God not to talk of the second coming being something that would really happen. In fact, we have achieved the “perpetual motion” of unbelief and sin if one could call it that. We don’t even need to do anything anymore. Men are so busy putting up laws that aid and abet our purpose and killing themselves that we just sit back, relax and have a Saturday evening out eating pop-corn and watching them: one continuous sinful movie of blood, sin and gore!”

“Where was I?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes. Wine is good. Wine is not good.  Enjoy your wine. Wine is not fit for kings. Wine is not for princes. A little wine for your many infirmities. Make up your mind would you!”
“Well, no one ever said that about water. So go right ahead and change the wine to water and have a good long refreshing drink!”

“OK. OK. I know what you are thinking. Thou shall not live by bread alone. I agree with you completely. But nowhere did the good book mention water. What are you waiting for? You know you want to do it. Just go ahead and will it. I can see it in your eyes. Don’t be a blushing bride now. It is only you and I here. And I won’t judge you. I promise.”

I was shaking from the thirst. I was close to being delirious. The Sun beat down mercilessly. Maybe he was right. A little water would help me resist any temptation he may have up his sleeves to tempt me with. But then maybe not. Maybe this was the ultimate temptation in progress already? If I just think it and don’t say the words, does it count? I stared into the depths of the wine-filled jar and my eyes swam. I grabbed hold of the lip of the jar with such force I thought it would crumble under my fingers but I could feel from the smoothness that it had been fired to a rock-hard consistency.

Suddenly I could see all the way down to the bottom of the jar. The wine was no longer wine. It was water! I dipped in my hand and sucked hungrily at the content of my cupped hand. It was so cool it could have come from a refrigerator.

“Gotcha!”  he screamed with glee behind me. I felt myself upended into the jar head first. I tried to struggle but it was no use. He was too quick. I was drowning in less than 5 feet of water.

I came up gasping for air. I was in the sea! Fortunately, there was a plank floating past. The seas was so rough, the plank almost brained me in my attempt to get on top of it. Lightning flashed across the sky. It was dark. The sea raged. The rain came down with such force it stung my face, my arms and my back.

“Don’t look so shocked. That is what we call a storm in these here parts.” I couldn’t see him. But he was there. His voice came from above; from around; from within. “I am everywhere!” he laughed.

“But not to worry. You are the original storm trooper right? Just command it to stop if it is getting on your nerves. You are not scared are you?”

The waves were 100 feet high. It was all I could do to hold on to the plank. I was drinking the salty water every few minutes whenever a wave broke over my head.

“Or you could walk on the water if stopping the storm needles your need not to interfere with the grand scheme of things: the grand design. How about it? I have seen magicians do a similar trick, but I have to hand it to you, no one comes close to your showmanship. I could almost not believe my eyes that day so long ago. You doing the moonwalk on water. And believe me, I have seen it all.”

“What’s one more sin. Do it already!” he yelled over the thunder from the lightning renting the skies.

“You are going to die if you don’t!”

I realized I was in more trouble than I could handle.

A gigantic wall of water rose up in front of me and blocked out the sky. Here is why I die I thought. Heaven or hell? I got pulled under and dragged this way and that, but then I was up again and the rains beat down like heaven was weeping? Weeping?

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Weeping? Water on my face? I must have drifted off. I didn’t realize I had left the windows open. I could see the lightning and hear the subsequent thunder. The wind was blowing the rain into the room and I was almost drenched. I got up and dashed over to the window slamming it shut. The bedding was soaked.

My second pair of pajamas was in the wash so I put on a dry pair of briefs. I dragged the mattress off the bed and put it on the floor. I went over to the wardrobe and brought out the Duvet. I spread it on the bed’s frame. It won’t be comfortable but at least it was dry. I didn’t expect I would get any sleep before morning anyway. But it was still too dark to do anything else.

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“What insolence! Speaking back to the high priest like that!” it was the slap that brought me to full consciousness. I tasted blood on my lips. I could not keep from blinking my left eye continuously, something was trickling into it and it made me very uncomfortable. Probably blood. My head hurt. A lot.

The man who had slapped me looked ready to repeat the action. I cringed.

There was a crowd. Their laughter was one continuous taunt. “Safe yourself, Son of God!” they yelled. Then they burst out laughing. The crowd moved in on me. Poking me in every conceivable part of my body. I twisted every which way in reaction. Some of the jabs were merely ticklish, but several were really painful. The spite was palpable in the air. I felt as if I was suffocating. My body felt as it had been stretched and passed through a ringer. Every inch was on fire from the pain.

I realized they thought I was Jesus. I could hear the shouts of “crucify him” emanating from the crowd. It started low then built up into one continuous chant. “Crucify him!” they screamed!

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! How could I be there? Their cloths didn’t look like anything I had seen before. And I was in something similar but it was in tatters and soaked through with blood.

In my bewilderment, only one thing came to mind. I needed to get out of there! I needed to make them understand that I was not Jesus!

“But I am not Jesus!” I screamed as I was dragged across the courtyard of the high priest’s compound.

“Well, why didn’t you say so since? You had your chance. You refused to answer the high priest. Sorry, Barabbas disappeared like the wind once we released him. Though I don’t think it would have made a difference even if he was here. The pardon is already granted and there is no reversing it. But not to worry, knowing him, he will soon be back where he rightly belongs! Unfortunately for you, we have to hang someone or forfeit our own lives. We go to the hill! Let us string him up!”

The crowd roared its satisfaction!

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I must have blacked out because when I came to, I was lying down with my back to the ground looking up at a huge man standing over me. I tried to move but could not. I had been tied to a cross with heavy ropes across my forearms. I felt a pinch in my left palm. I looked over and watched in horror as a man kneeling down balanced a huge nail about 10 inches in length and as thick as a finger in the palm of my hand. He was trying to find a “good” spot. Silence descended on the crowd. I looked up in the direction in which the faces I could see were pointed expectantly. The huge man had hefted a big iron-headed mallet in his hands. He brought it up over his head, and held it there for a moment. I heard several people in the crowd gasp. Then the mallet descended like a ton of bricks! The pain of the nail going into my hand was unbearable. I saw the end exit the back of the wooden beam to which my hand was tied. I started screaming . The crowds scream mingled with mine. But they weren’t screaming from pain. They were screaming from pleasure!

I came awake. I had got my hand trapped in one of the curled springs in the bed and the sharp end had scoured my palm. There was some blood but not a lot. I was trying not to get it on the Duvet when the cock crowed?

But that is not possible! But it crowed again. Twice.

I was living in a concrete jungle. I could bet my last Naira that there was no living animal except maybe cats and dogs anywhere in my immediate neighborhood. Any chicken around was lifeless, plucked, cleaned and frozen solid. I am on the 7th floor of a serviced apartment building. There could be no cockerels around.

My computer’s screen was flashing in the dark. The “crowing” sound came from the digital software alarm installed on my laptop. I couldn’t honestly remember if or when I had changed the alarm’s sound to the crow of a cockerel. But more surprising was the fact that the alarm had stopped after the second “ring”, when usually I had to get up from the bed and shut it down as it never stops by itself once it starts. It just blinked silently in the dark.

The Sun was starting to rise.

I closed the laptop’s lid and sat there immobile in the dark. I don’t now for how long. I thought of Peter and Jesus. Then Peter. Then Heaven. Then Hell. How easy it was to get it all wrong.

I picked up my phone from the bedside table. I dialed the cell leader’s number. It rang repeatedly but no answer from the other end. It was quite early but not that early. Most people should be up and about by now. If only to beat the traffic going into the Island. It was after all a workday: the first working day of the new week.

I pressed the re-dial button. This time I got through after the third ring.

“Hello Sir. Sorry to bother you so early. When is that men’s meeting again?” I asked the cell leader over the phone.

“Bro, let me get back to you in a couple of hours.” The line went dead so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to say anything further. I could almost “see” him turn over and fall back asleep.

Maybe if I called once more. That will make it three times. Maybe I will get the answer I want: on the third call.

I pressed the re-dial button.

Again.

02/Jun/2013

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Update (09/06/2013): I think most of what an FB contact said (below) after reading the story (above) may be true. I lost my muse (my lame excuse for the uninteresting stuff I have been writing). I promise to try harder to “change” – it hasn’t been easy – but the best I can do is continue to try (I think?)

“Ur story is too long and boring. Same story, unarranged . No wonder your stories don’t provoke discussion or argument.
Though you can write but you are not dynamic in your style of writing.
That makes it boring and very unstructured.
It lacks that sense of humour you have. And your writing shows how stubborn you are and that you lack change.
And don’t respond to change.”