OH MONEY: WEAK AND DECEPTIVE!

OH MONEY… How weak and deceptive you are!

Money can buy a house but not a home; money can buy a book and certificate but not knowledge; money can buy a clock but not time; money can buy a bed but not sleep; money can earn a title but not respect; money can earn many friends but not friendship and true love; money can bribe the court but not justice nor integrity; money can falsify documents but not kill the truth.

In the end both Lazarus and the Rich man will die. So money is helpless in the face of death; can’t even defend man against a mere cancer and other terminal diseases. So we work all day to earn what cannot even guarantee us true happiness; we neglect the important keys to happiness and inner peace. We destroy family relationship and friendship. We end marriages and abandon our loved ones in their need all in pursuit of MONEY!

Young girls and boys on Instagram and other social media are now posting nudes to get many followers and credit via the Google Ad Sense. Yes, if you don’t post nude you won’t get many followers so they think. Many turn fashion models and designers on Instagram just to attract unsuspecting customers to their main business (don’t ask me) via the DM. All in a bit to achieve self sufficiency and independency. After gaming and gaining all the money they will soon discover that they still have many unsatisfied needs. Indeed, the deepest human needs are never satisfied with money. Money is weak. Love, joy, happiness and peace are never guaranteed by how much is in your account.

Man finds fulfilment in not how much he gets but how much he is able to give back to society: family, friends and country. Giving back is not how much money you give back to the society but how much your knowledge effected change in your immediate environment; how much time you dedicated to your family, friends and country. You give back to society by the good home you are able to raise and build. One good child raised is a gift to the society. Society is already suffering from the multiplicity of problems emanating from broken homes and marriages. If you build just one peaceful, happy and united family, you will have given back so much to the society.

No one is gonna live forever, but everyone wishes to have lived a fulfilled life. Living a fulfilled and happy life is never guaranteed by money but by your attitude towards life, your neighbours and the society. Share the little time, talents and treasures you have and help make the world a better place!

O Lord teach us the number of our days that we may learn wisdom of heart!

Valentine UMOH
05.11.2018

YOU TOO CAN BE A SAINT … WE ARE ALL CALLED TO HOLINESS!

All saints day

The first day of November every year, the universal Church celebrates the feast day of all the Saints both known and unknown. The Book of Revelation describes these people in a figurative language thus: “After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed: “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7: 9 – 14)

The invitation and the call to holiness is a universal call and invitation. Every human being is called to holiness. It is not the reserve of priests, monks, religious men or women. No matter your status, gender or colour. All are called to holiness. From the North to the South, from the East to the West. From every nation, race, people, and tongue the invitation is to all. Through your work, your studies, your daily activities, your sacrifices and your sufferings you are all purified to be saints. This is the meaning of Christ´s words in Matthew 5:48 “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It is unfortunate to witness how so many are so preoccupied with today, and tomorrow yet not aiming at holiness. Everyone is preaching Divine Manifestation, Success and Prosperity but not many people aim at holiness.

A call to sainthood does not mean you should fly from the world, but it means that you should sanctify the world by your life of authentic Christian witnessing. By living a good life, one responds to the call to holiness. The call to holiness does not mean you should live in the Church doing many days of prayers and dry fasting, it means that you should love your brothers and sisters and wish everybody well. A call to holiness can never be minimized nor truncated by the signs of times. We live in society where Satanism and Sexism is gradually becoming the world´s most patronized religion. The call to sainthood thus becomes a call to be the catalyst of positive change in the society. It is a call to reject evil and embrace good. A call to promote everything that is good and worthwhile. A call to stand on the side of justice, the poor, the oppressed, the persecuted and the marginalized of the society. A call to say No to the culture of nudism and the culture of death and violence. A call to work with all men and women of good will to sanitize and collapse all forms of oppressive and inhumane socio-political structures.

The Church´s list or Litany of Saints can never be exhaustive because there are many unknown Saints from every nation, race, people, and tongue. What the Church intends to communicate by her litany is to give us some examples of people whose lives are worth emulating in order that their lives can serve as a guide and compass for us. About the Saints the author of the Book of Revelation says: “Therefore are they before the throne of God and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7: 15-17 RSV). The Saints are at peace and happiness with God. They have received life´s highest reward that is, Eternal Life with God. Let us not forget the warning of Christ: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mk. 8:36 KJV).

Saint Paul gives us the easiest way to respond to this call of love and sainthood, he says: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things… and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8,9 NAB)

When the Saints will be matching on, wont you like to be in the number? If the thief crucified with Jesus could be a Saint, you too are not exempted. When I was in the high school, one of the morning assembly songs that still strikes me went thus: “If you do good, kingdom is waiting for you, if you do bad, there is no more kingdom waiting for you.”

Together with the Church we rejoice with all our brothers and sisters who through sufferings and persecutions of all types have kept themselves holy and spotless and so are now at peace with God. Where they are today, we too will like to be as well. Or wouldn’t you? The choice is yours and the time is now!

May the Saints continually intercede for us in our daily lives and struggles!

Saint Thomas Aquinas – Pray for us!

Saint Anthony of Padua – Pray for us!

Saint Valentine – Pray for us!

All the Saints of God – Pray and intercede for us!

HAPPY ALL SAINTS DAY!

 

Valentine Umoh

01.11.2018

BEFORE OCTOBER ENDS – SOME WEIRD DREAMS

 

Even though there is no perfect society nor country nor continent; I seem unfortunate to be born in a country and continent full of paradoxes. When I wake up to see some smaller countries that cannot even stand the economic and natural/human resource weight of my country, I am tempted to conclude with my friend that “something is wrong with the black man.” From Libya to South Africa, from Senegal to Somalia, the same problems, the same unanswered questions. Children crying and suffering, the poor masses dying of curable diseases, the minority suffering oppression from the majority tribes; Politicians exploiting their own people and exporting the resources of the nation to countries that do not need them, leaving their own people in abject poverty; school systems are dysfunctional, the elites train their children abroad and these will return and continue from where their fathers stopped; the medical systems are not working; when the rich are sick they are flown out for medical treatment. And I asked: How many foreigners are admitted in our hospitals or how many of them study in our own schools? How many of them shift money from their countries to keep safe in our banks?

I am in the prime of my years, after about three decades I am yet to see any significant changes. The same story lines greet us every day. Country men buying guns to kill their fellow countrymen. People establishing prayer houses everyday just to make ends meet and they call it Christianity. Many who cannot stand the frustration are rushing out in their numbers to anywhere other than Nigeria, anywhere outside Africa just to be sure they have not wasted their lives all together. Young people who are fortunate to get into universities graduate in their numbers every year and there is no harmonized system to get them engaged in the industries. Those who work in government establishments swear never to retire; every year they are growing younger instead of older because retirement is no longer honourable. Declaring of age through affidavit has replaced Birth Certificate; WAEC certificate is gradually losing value because even many of those who govern never went to school. Appointments and employments are based on “who you know” and not “what you know.” Education is not oriented to any developmental goals, people just go to school to get “paper certificate” without being “certified” and that is why someone who studied history can comfortably work in the Banks and those who studied accounting work as journalists in the media houses. The easiest and fastest business is to open your own “church”, “miracle centers” or “ritual centers.” This now becomes the industries and the hospitals for the poor man.

The situation can be very annoying and appalling when you see small countries who are not equal to the smallest state in Nigeria fulfilling and satisfying the basic needs of its citizens: Security, Electricity, Education, Health care, Housing and Food security. Where did we go wrong and how did we get here? Is there still hope?  The hope there is seems only a dream.

Elections are here again, people are buying guns from other developed countries (countries who only manufacture guns they cannot use against their fellows) to use to kill their fellow countrymen. Ballot boxes will be hijacked as usual; INEC will count votes incorrectly and announce result that do not represent the will of the people. Many lawyers (supposedly learned men) will be hired to defend election inconsistencies in the court and everything will be settled, and we return to the same zero level waiting for the next four years. No accountability, no transparency. Trillions of dollars are announced as annual budgets, but the poor does not see them. The politicians sign contracts to their own companies and take the commission as well. Children yet unborn have accounts opened for them, yet the living cries for a basic daily bread to feed on. For a nation with a population of about 200 million people this is so sad and pathetic and makes people to ridicule us as the “BIG FAT FOOL.” A country with almost all the mineral resources not given to many countries, with an arable land, and one of the worlds´ best weather cannot be this irresponsible. There is something wrong somewhere! I am tempted to conclude with my friend that “Something is wrong with the black man.” But I don’t want to run into such a pessimism because I the writer I am a black man and there are so many reasonable Africans and Nigerians out there.

A man who has seen three decades is no longer a kid. If he lives to see another four to five decades that is the highest anyone can expect giving the tensed condition of life in my country. So what hope is there that there can be a significant turnaround? After over 50 years, the country is yet to find its compass and blueprint, and many will still blame that on colonialism and military dictatorship? We need a leader not a President! Any one can be a President, very few have been able to show themselves leaders in a country´s moment of crisis.

Be that as it may I still have a dream that someday, one day, may be before I am gone or afterwards, that the confidence in the Nigerian Educational system will be restored. I have a dream of a trustworthy judicial system that will stand independent of political affiliation and whose personnel will be true “priests” in the temple of justice. I have a dream that the electoral process will be restored to what it should be and that citizens can elect their leaders without political intimidation. I have a dream that my country men and women will only travel to foreign countries not to secure the basic needs of life but only for an enriched cultural interaction. I have a dream that merits will determine employments and a culture of true excellence enthroned. I have a dream when politicians will not be able to move a kobo out of public fund for their private use talk less of laundering these funds abroad for a haven. I have a dream that where you come from and what language you speak nor where you worship will not deny the citizens their authentic rights of association. I have a dream that a time will come when education will be a basic need guaranteed by the government to every citizen; a time when medical care will be part of the social security scheme for every citizen; a time when every type of honourable work will be able to provide for a man´s basic needs. I have a dream of a time when a brother will not buy gun or bullets to kill a fellow brother because of election; a time when youths will be gainfully employed and stop following politicians about like housemaids. I have a dream of a time where financial loans will be accessible to those who want to expand their business investment; a time when the country will not depend on imported goods. I have a dream of a time when people from other countries and races will come to receive education through scholarship in Nigeria; a time when visa to Nigeria will be prized like to USA or UK.  A time when a happy retirement will be every workers goal. A time when the economy and politics of Nigeria will be driven by people of high moral and intellectual acumen. A time when there will be a high influx of visitors for the summer break. This is my dream. It may not be realized in my time but one day my children´s children will testify that this dream did come to past.

Before October ends, Nigeria, my country, Africa, my continent, think like a mother, think about your many suffering children who pride themselves in you and wish they could live happily in thee and fulfill their aspirations! The sufferings and wailings of your children out of your shores should remind you that you have not lived up to expectation as a mother. Arise O Africa, Arise O Nigeria be the true mother of your children. Expunge from thee all those evil politicians and policy makers who continue to trade the destiny of your children for their selfish interest. Let them know that Africa is larger than any group of persons and that the destiny of Nigeria far exceeds the greed of few corrupt individuals. Before October ends, Mother Mary, Queen and Patroness of Nigeria, Mother of Africa guard and protect your innocent children as a mother protects her children under your protective arms!

Before October ends… think Nigeria, think Africa!

Valentine Umoh
21.10.2018

THE JOSEPH LESSON … THERE IS ALWAYS ANOTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

Unhappy couple

(Dedicated to all my friends who are struggling to build a happy human relationship)

I have had the opportunities to use the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph to illustrate the fact that we all need to listen to each other and to give each other a benefit of the doubt to some few individuals and now I need to share my reflection to a wider audience. This is because from the Joseph lesson there is always another side of the story.

Many potentially beautiful and fruitful relationships, many marriages, many friendships and comradeships have crumbled simply because of the pride of not listening to the other, not giving the other party the opportunity to express himself or herself and then not trusting the other party’s side or version of the story.

While it is true that some stories could be constructed and cooked to favour one’s point of view, this doesn’t negate the reality that we still need to listen to that other side of the story. Even the Old Testament people were wise when they legislated that two witnesses are needed to sustain a charge and to this day modern lawsuits need multiple witnesses to sustain a charge.

Now, Joseph got betrothed to Mary, even while they can’t live together they were legally married. They had committed to each other in love and fidelity. Shortly before the end of the betrothal period according to Jewish custom, Joseph found out that Mary is with Child. Obviously, there could be only one explanation to such a pregnancy, Mary is seeing someone else. And so, Joseph on the evidence of this one possible explanation (or side of the story) decides to send Mary home quietly without putting her to shame. The evangelist Matthew explains that Joseph was a just man. Obviously, he was because if he was not, he wouldn’t waste time in alerting his kinsmen and neighbours and as well as invoke the full weight of the law which was stoning her to death for such an abominable act of adultery. But then as he was contemplating on how to do this, an Angel of the Lord in a dream revealed to him the other side of the story – Mary´s pregnancy is divinely willed. Joseph listened and gave his cooperation. This is what we celebrate every Christmas, the incarnation. (Cf. Matthew 1:18-23).

Listening to the other side of the story is very important and crucial in every form of human relationship. Human beings are susceptible to making rash judgements about others and condemning them even without listening to the other side of the story. Yes, you saw him or her with another person or someone else told you about him or her, you saw them in the same car, in the same social event, you even caught them “red handed.” Even while that is bad enough, there could still be another side of the coin or script. What if it was a coincidence, what if it was a set-up, what if there was a spell or charms “the handwork of the devil”, what if it was a mere casual outing with no strings attached, the list could be endless, and all these are humanly excusable only if we are patient enough to listen to that other side of the story. Yes, he or she didn’t pick up your call and took long to return the call, and you have already drawn your conclusion, she or he didn’t reply your messages as quickly as you expected, and you drew your conclusion; he or she came back late at night; you drop by at the office and you didn’t find him or her etc. These are just few of the common episodes which explode into problems in relationships. For me, these issues could have been resolved if we are able to apply the Joseph lesson, that there is always another side of the story.

There is nothing as beautiful in a relationship than the value of listening to each other. At the table of discussion which involves talking and listening many issues will be resolved. There can be no magic about this, even while you have been married or been friends for a very long time, questions of misunderstandings will still come up, new problems will always erupt, and new challenges will resurface. Only by cultivating this Joseph lesson of listening to each other´s version could problems be amicably resolved.

Listening to the other side of the story obviously involves having a forgiving heart. There may well be a case whereby the other admits that the story is correct and true, and he or she tries to give some reasons for the story that played out and then ended up with some profound notes of deep-seated apology. Listening to the other side of the story means that one is able to forgive. Even without listening to Mary´s own side of the story, Joseph had already resolved to send her away secretly and sparing her the publicity (shame) as well as the full weight of the law. This is already a prefigured forgiveness. Without forgiveness I don’t see any human relationship standing the tides and waves of days, weeks, months and years because we are all full of mistakes.

Listening and forgiveness go together. They are the basic ingredients that are needed in every human relationship. When these are lacking or insufficient, man´s pride and ego blossom and have the field of play. Let us not forget that human relationship is not an option of convenience, but a basic human necessity borne out of natural law. As the saying goes, “No man is an island.”

For those still waiting for the perfect relationship let me disappoint you by saying that such a thing does not exist. Maybe in the Platonic Utopic world of forms Yes but in this present world NO. If no man or woman is perfect, then a perfect human relationship just like a perfect human society do not exist. Relationship become beautiful when all the parties can seat down together at the conference table from where they listen to each other´s sides of the story and forgive each other where there is injury.

Human Relationships and friendships are not built once and for all and not at all in a day. It is always a work in progress. Let us learn to give a listening ear, let us learn the Joseph lesson and together we can make the world a better place to live in.

 27.07.2018

Valentine Umoh

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…AS YOU GRADUATE

2018_with_gradcap

(Dedicated to all the 2018 graduates of Queen of Apostles Seminary Afaha Obong, Notre Dame Girls Secondary School, Urua Edet Obo, Loreto Girls Juniorate, Eriam, Holy Family College, Oku Abak, Holy Child Girls Secondary School, Ifuho, St. Columbanus Secondary School, Ikwen, Stella Maris Girls College, Ikot Etim & all other graduates of the schools that promote the Catholic Educational values)

My dear 2018 graduating students,

Good day! How are you doing? I hope all is well. As you graduate, I considered it fitting to write down a few lines to you from some far distant isles. At least the new media have permitted me to do so. Indeed, though far away, I am very near to you and my love for you will go on. I know for many years you have been tutored, you have been formed, you have been mentored and taught the right conduct and the ability to make right and correct choices, please do not depart from this learning.

As I always say, the first 20 years of your life is like laying a bed on which you will lie on for the rest of your years. Of this first 20 years, the ones I consider very crucial for character and intellectual formation are the six years spent in the secondary school. These years are so crucial and important. That is why your parents had to spend their hard-earned resources to make sure you are given this crucial foundation. Please my dear graduating students value these years and make them count.

Among all the millions of schools, your parents or guardian sent you to a school that promote the values of Catholic Education not minding the cost because they know that indeed the school offers more than the cost per se. Someone once said, if education is so costly try ignorance. And I know that if you are true to yourself, they were right. Please do not make them feel disappointed by your actual output.

While in school the rules were rigorously set out for you: you wake up every morning and the first point of call was always a Thanksgiving to God in your magnificent Chapel, then the Morning functions, the Breakfast, The Assembly, Classes, Midday prayers, Lunch, Siesta, Afternoon prep, Games or Labour, the Vespers/Evening Rosary, Supper, Night prep and then the last point of call again was the Chapel for the Night prayers. And then the lights out. As you see dear friend, the activities were so structured in such a way to seek God´s assistance in all moments and activities of the day as well as to make God the beginning and end of all you do.  Never graduate without assimilating this most important lesson. The difference you will now see after school is that while these regulations remain in your subconsciousness, there will no longer be any Rector or principal, nor auxiliaries nor compound Master, nor prefects, nor regulator to enforce these rules. You will now be your own Rector and Principal, Prefect and Regulator. Indeed, a sense of freedom at last sets in. Watch it my dear friend this is where many got it wrong.

While in school, you did not just learn in the class room (Intellectual), learning took many other forms: you were made to belong to one school club or the other, the school choir, the band, the cultural group, the football and other sports team (basketball, volleyball, athletics etc), the press club, debating club, mathematics club, you can name them yourselves. Please my dear student, try to put into efficient use, the good talents that you discovered while in school, keep developing and harnessing them, they could really be of great help in the rainy days.

While in school, you were assigned to a responsibility role: some of you were school senior prefects, Masters of Ceremony, Sacristans, Refectory prefects, Labour prefects, Toilet prefects, Sanitary prefects, Dormitory prefects, Study hall prefects, you can name the rest. These were meant to form you in leadership roles and to inculcate in you the human virtues of accountability and responsibility. My dear student, if there is anything wrong with your Nigeria and my Nigeria, it is that these human and social virtues have been undermined by the country´s successive leadership. It is left for you and me to correct these in our own days. Be responsible and accountable with any position of leadership that will be entrusted to you in the days that lies ahead.

Yes, indeed, you deserve to be congratulated for having completed this phase of your life. Accept my heartfelt felicitations but let your actions speak volumes for you. You were taught to be a civilized and educated human being: a gentleman and a lady, please be good ambassadors.

In the university, the 3rd phase of your educational career, there are many challenges that lies ahead. Your secondary school education has given you all you need to surmount those challenges. However, let me not fail to admonish you: strive to do the right things at the right times and stay safe. Try to avoid going to the wrong places. Avoid the company of those that cannot add value to your life. Dress properly as you have been taught to avoid being embarrassed. A university post reads: “As you dress, so shall you be addressed.” A good dressing gives you confidence and dignity. If your right hand, eye, or leg as the Bible says causes you to sin cut it off. If you notice that you are with the wrong friend and in the wrong company, make a conscious resolution to cut off the relationship. Avoid anything and the company of persons associated with cultism, lesbianism and homosexuality, they are not only moral sins but societal crimes. Avoid smoking and excessive alcoholism, it doesn’t add any value to you, it only exposes you to innumerable heart and related diseases.

As you go into the larger society, keep the fire burning, keep the flag flying, keep the star in you shinning, wake up the Einstein (creative ingenuity) in you and keep soaring like an eagle…the Lord is your strength! Beware of bad company, it corrupts good character. Don’t forget God, it is in Him we live, move and have our being…Respect your elders, it is a guarantee that you will someday be an elder; keep the rules of life, it keeps you going; live and let others live…it is the basic rule of co-existence. On the overall, be good, be nice to all you will ever meet…you do not know what tomorrow holds…

Someone once said, if you can read and write, then thank your teachers. Always be grateful to your teachers and formators. You can never thank them enough. A little courtesy, a wave, a “hi” or “hello”, a good morning, when you see them in the bus station or in your locality gives them some encouragement. Try to keep the companionship of the good friends you have made in school, among your classmates, even your younger ones, you can never tell what tomorrow holds. Many successful people today were helped by the friends they made in secondary school.

Before I conclude, learn to be creative and proactive. While you are expecting your admission processes into the universities to get through and even while undergoing your university education, you can also pick interest in learning something new or developing some naturally endowed talents. For instance, you can learn fashion designing, cake-making, decoration or web page developing and management (not just computer school to learn how to type), public speaking, musical instruments like Guitar, violin, or keyboard, music composition, music recording, video making and photography or photo editing etc. My dear, experiences have shown that many people who ventured into these areas of life also became successful. Your talents and any vocational training you undergo can also add to your income in the future, they can save you in the rainy days especially in these moments our dear country´s economy is experiencing high rate of unemployment.

Above all, in all you do, and whatever you will be tomorrow, make God your number one refuge and stronghold. The many spiritual activities in school were meant to emphasize this very crucial point.

As St Paul will say when addressing his letters to his audience, I am not writing to you as a stranger, rather as one who by a special mandate and grace of God journeyed with you for some years, as one who had been privileged to teach some of you in class, pray with you and for you in the Chapel, play with you in the football field, relax and recreate with you at social events and dine with you in the refectory, but not fail to reprimand and correct you as well when you fell into error. Therefore, I implore you as you graduate, to consider seriously these things and I know that your future is brighter, better and greater.

May the God of peace be with you all!

Once again, congratulations!

Best wishes from your friend and animator,

Fr. Valentine Umoh

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MEDITATION ON THE PSALMS VOLUME 1.

Psalm 1

“1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

This short Psalm of just six verses serves as an introduction to the entire book of Psalms. When read and prayed meditatively, this psalm reveals so many things that no one single commentary can capture. It is important to understand that the Hebrew Bible places first the Law, the Prophets and the Writings in its Canon. For the Hebrew Bible, the Law of the Lord is paramount, every other part of the scripture becomes important to the level that they reemphasized or meditated the Law of the Lord. This explains why this first Psalm is referred to as a summary of the not just the entire book of the Psalms but also the Biblical block known as the Writings.

Attention is to be paid to verses one and two. A truly blessed man, is he who delights, meditates, contemplates and keeps the Law of the Lord. On the contrary, a wicked man is one who despises, treats with contempt and disregard the Law of the Lord. Keeping the Law of the Lord then becomes the paradigm for true blessedness.

Verses three and four draws a kind of conclusion from keeping or not keeping the Law of the Lord: while the blessed man because he keeps God´s law yields fruits, the wicked man is like a chaff driven away by the wind.

Verses five and six establishes a very important fact: there are only two ways in life namely, the way of righteousness and the way of wickedness or evil. The Psalm does not know of any middle way: On judgement day, God will reward righteousness, but wickedness will be punished.

When this Psalm is read alongside the New Testament, its complete sense is revealed. So, the question comes: what then is this Law of the Lord? At this point references could be made to Matt 5 – 7 (the sermon on the mount and its parallels in Luke); the event of the transfiguration and the event of the Last Supper (especially the washing of the disciple´s feet) and the Mandatum novum. These events present Jesus Christ as the New Law giver: “you have heard that it was said to the men of old … but I say this to you …” “and they appeared to him Moses and Elijah …”, “I give you a new commandment …”. The Law of the Lord is Love. St. Paul explains the meaning of love so well in 1Corinthians 13: 4-7. Above all, love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love does not kill or injure the other. Love does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right.

So, whenever you consciously work against the good of your neighbour as well as the good of the community, you are not observing the Law of the Lord. Whenever, you remain silent in the face of oppression and falsehood, you are not keeping the Law of the Lord. Whenever you promote and appraise wrongdoings, you are not keeping the Law of the Lord.

However, God is a God of Mercy and compassion; always ready to forgive but not without your conversion and changing your ways. The prophet Isaiah captures this attitude of God very clearly: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7).

© Valentine Umoh 2018
Studies Biblical Theology @ Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona

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A LETTER TO MY FRIEND: “GOSSIPING IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE”

Dear Friend,

I write you this letter to encourage you because I know that life can be tough, and when the going gets tough one can easily get distracted, discouraged and could even miss the mark. Among other things that tries to pull down promising young talents on the way to achieving their goals and dreams like you, are gossips, rumours and calumny. A saying has it that “strong minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events and weak minds discuss people.” This saying seems to be correct and has stood the test of time. The weak minds here perfectly describe the category of gossipers. Never get distracted by gossips dear friend. Yes, it is true that a man´s enemy is always within, so those who gossip about you aren’t far from you, they could be your kinsmen, friends and folks. Yet, never get discouraged.

What is gossip? Wikipedia defines gossip as “an idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.” Cambridge defines it as “conversation or reports about other people’s private lives that might be unkind, disapproving, or not true.” So, a gossip also called gossipmonger is “someone who enjoys talking about other people and their private lives.” The underlining words here are “personal or private affairs (lives) of others.” The Old and New Testament of the Christian Bible condemns gossip strongly.

Gossip is that thing you cannot say to the person, or persons face-to-face because they are false premonitions or the creations of your own fantasies. They are lies and prejudices aimed at discrediting the integrity of the other. They are used to score cheap points by those who are interested in listening.

Those who discuss about people at their back are either afraid of them or have an inferiority complex. I encourage you dear friend, never be taken aback by gossips, they are just gossips. The objective of gossips is to slow your pace, to weaken you and to discourage you. Never give in to them. And never join their company as well.

In case you are still uncertain or in doubt of what gossip is, look at this assessment: Does the chat or discussion rejoice in the misfortune of others? Does it have a negative emotional charge or seem to perpetuate conflict or negativity? Does it hurt or damage the one being spoken of? Would you say it in front of this person´s face? Is it an unsubstantiated rumour about another´s situation? If so, then have no more doubts, these are gossips.

When they gossip about you, it means that you are ahead of them. They feel surpassed by the heights you have reached. Never react, when you do, you are sending signals that they have succeeded. They are happy to see you feel bad or saddened. Gossips and rumours belong to the same family and the have the main objective. Only the unfocussed fall into their prey, the determine and firm heart, hear the gossips and is emboldened.

The developers of most of the apps we are using today in the cyberspace for instance, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, WhatsApp and other infotech apps never sat down discussing nor discrediting the inventors or creators of the earlier apps rather they analyzed ideas and the principles and sought ways of creating other apps to meet contemporary needs. Great minds compete on the level of ideas, creativity, productivity and efficiency. So why sit down and gossip about those who are making genuine efforts, why seek to discredit the other instead of seeking ideas to advance and improve yours. Man is a bundle of possibilities, intelligence and potentialities. Lack of focus is a cankerworm. Gossips belong to the group of individuals with a missed priority.

A gossip is like a bad defender in the game of football who attempts to pull down or impedes the progress of an attacker approaching the goal. In such cases, the defender usually gets penalized with a yellow card or red card and a freekick or penalty awarded to the opponents depending on the gravity of the pulling and the proximity to the goal line. Like the work of that bad defender, gossip can kill morale and disrupt productivity. When this happens, the gossipmonger has achieved his or her aim.

Surely, my dear friend, I know you are not a gossip yourself, but if you are, I advise that instead of wasting time gossiping about others, me bethinks that it will do you good to convert that time and energy into something productive to yourself and fix up your future. Gossiping doesn’t subtract anything from the supposed-victims, it only shows that you are lazy, destructive and have bad will. Live your life and let others be.

I will conclude this reflection dear friend with a story. Once upon a time, an old man spread rumours that his neighbour was a thief. As a result, the young man was arrested. Days later he was proven innocent. After being released, he sued the old man for wrongly accusing him. In the court the old man told the judge, “They were just comments, they didn´t harm anyone.” The judge, before passing sentence on the case, told the old man, “write all the things you said about him on a piece of paper.” “Cut it up into little pieces and on the way home, throw the pieces of paper out of your car window. Tomorrow, come back to hear the sentence.” The next day, the judge told the old man, “Before receiving the sentence, I want you to go out and gather up all the pieces of paper that you threw out of your car window yesterday.” The old man said, “I can´t do that! The wind spread them all over the place and won´t know where to find them.” Then the judge replied, “The same way, simple words and comments may destroy the honour of a person to such an extent that a person will not be able to fix it. If you can´t speak well of someone, don´t say anything at all. Let´s all be masters of our mouths, so that we won´t be slaves of our words.”

Now the lesson dear friend: “Gossips are worse than thieves because they steal another person´s dignity, honour, reputation and credibility which are impossible to restore. So, remember this: when your feet slip, you can always recover your balance but when your tongue slips, you can never recover your words!”

My Fatherly advice dear friend: If you are a gossipmonger, you can covert that time and energy to something productive; if you are or have ever been a victim of gossip, never lose your confidence, be strong and keep moving.

From whichever angle you look at it from you will see it, my dear friend, that gossip is counter-productive. Concentrate on your goals and strive into becoming the person of your dreams!

With love,

26.06.2018
Valentine Umoh

I cry for Nigeria, my country!

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Barely few months ago, The Catholic Church in Nigeria protested the killings currently going on in various parts of the country. That same day, some persons were lynched on their return from the mass burial in Benue. Up till today, we are yet to hear or see that some arrests had been made not to mention their prosecution and conviction. Up till date, the President is yet to officially react to that protest neither by words nor body language nor actions. The killings are still on and blood is still flowing unchallenged.

I sat down last night watching Channels TV (News at 10, 23.06.2018) and it was again in the news that several persons were again killed, several other injured and driven away from their homes by the same set of faceless Fulani killer herdsmen. Unfortunately, it happened in the same state were a Chief Judge had earlier sentenced five Christian youths to death for defending themselves and in the process killed some of the herdsmen as they embarked on their routine attacks. Earlier, I had read the pleas for mercy on those five youths by CAN and some concerned citizens notably the Archbishop of Lagos. All these happenstances have not stop putting me at a point of reflection on what is really happening with Nigeria my country.

Blood, blood, and blood everywhere!!! Many are left homeless in their own country. Many children have been left orphans and with little or no future. Many women have seen the slaughtering of their husbands and children in cold blood. No one seems to be interested about the sanctity of human life not to mention the emotional and psychological trauma of those bereaved. Yet the powers that be seems not to be interested. Many are even enriching themselves with the so-called fight against terrorism because large sum of money is signed in every year´s budget for that purpose and those in-charge of the IDPs camps have their own share of the loots. This is Nigeria, my country!  Or is that another way of creating employment?

Blood is sacred! Blood is sacred! And I repeat again blood is sacred! Why do we keep playing politics with everything in this country to the extent of playing politics with human blood? The general conditions of living are very poor, and the life expectancy is reducing everyday yet the few who are trying to survive cannot be assured of their life in peace. A country where human life is threatened everyday has ceased to be a just country. Something is wrong somewhere! My beloved and hitherto peaceful and joyful country has been raped and those who are involved in this blood-sucking conspiracy will not escape the wrath of natural law.

What I cannot understand is what has bewitched the leadership of my country. After the polls my country´s leaders seem to loss focus. Instead of sit-down and strategize on how to address the problems of over 180 million people, they begin campaigning for the next polls which will come in the next four years. In the end, the same people who elected them suffer the consequences of negligence. Lives and properties are lost everyday with no real intention on the part of the leaders to put an end to such menace. There is a general lack of political will. There is no rule of law. In Nigeria, “Might is Right.” Few untouchables become “wolves” to other citizens. So, are you telling me that some citizens have ´more´ right to citizenship than others?  We talked about ´Restructuring´ but the powers that be is not interested because it will not be in the interest of the few untouchables.

For how long my people shall we continue like this? If you criticize them, you are silenced. If you protest, you are called names. If you join them, you are compensated and rewarded. How shall the young remain sinless in this sinful, murderous and adulterous generation? This is no time to sleep; we all must be awake and say NO to the perpetuation of evil in this country. Injustice to one means injustice to all! Unfortunately, I only have one country to call my own. I will not allow blood-suckers to hijack my once beautiful and peaceful country. I must keep fighting for my rights to a happy living in my fatherland! Join me and say NO to bad governance and leadership! Nigeria must be better… Nigeria must be great again!

24.06.2018
Valentine Umoh

THERE IS SOMETHING IN A NAME. BE PROUD OF YOUR NAME!

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If there is any important event for the parents of a new born baby, it is the naming ceremony. At such important ceremony, the father of the child (or whoever is responsible for naming the child) gives the name for which the child is to be known and addressed. Apart from the circumstances of the birth of the child, religion and culture influences the name given to every child at birth. As such, a mere glance at a person´s name, it is easier to determine his or her religion and cultural heritage.

In the Ancient Near East (Israel, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia), names were thought to be extremely powerful and act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person or deity. For them, names had metaphysical signification. Right into the Old Testament, the names of individuals are meaningful (every name has a meaning and significance) and a change of name indicated a change of status. Every biblical name had a meaning and biblical characters were given names at birth that reflect something of significance or describe the course of their lives. Varied examples abound.

In the Christian dispensation, new names are given to Christians at Baptism (also at confirmation) to reflect their new Christian status.  With the advent of modern civilization there was a systematization of names. Now at least a person´s official name must contain two names: his own personal name and surname. Both names now consist a person´s identity. The number of names may vary from one culture to another. In all of these, there is nothing as valuable to a person as his name. For instance: “My name is Valentine Umoh.” The first is my baptismal name which have become my first name, personal name and perhaps the most common. The second is my Surname, what is now referred to as Family name. The culture I come from allow us to use our Father´s first name as middle name. In that case my official name becomes: Valentine Anthony Umoh. That is my name and I value it.

I am writing this because I want you to know or to remind you that “there is something in a name; there is beauty in a name.” Be proud of your name! If there is anything we cannot control, it is birth. Birth is a given because life is a given. You do not decide where to be born, or to which culture to be born into, neither to what family nor to which parents. Those are the givens of life. You need to be proud of your religion, family and culture. These are perfectly reflected and engraved in your name.

Yes, there might as well be a case, where a child grows up and feels uncomfortable with the name he or she was given at birth and decides to change it. Well and good! But to whatever name you change into be proud about and live with it. There is something in a name.

I find the current trend of people twisting the spellings of their names or preferring some school nicknames to their real names quite unfortunate. For me, it shows the lack of understanding of the metaphysical undertones behind the giving of names. You can find this readily on Facebook and other social media. It is a trend that needs to be checked, if not we will lose something as valuable as personal identity which in this case is represented by names.

Your name is the most important aspect of your self-identity, self-image and self-esteem. I am tempted to suppose that those who twist or change their names on Social Media like Facebook are either Fraudsters, scammers or they have a false sense of identity, low-self esteem or inferiority complex. So, are you ashamed to let people know that your surname is ASUQUO, ETIM, OKON, UKOHA, UMEH or ABUBAKAR? What are you ashamed of? Your religion, your family, your language or ethnicity or culture? That is too bad. You know what? You can´t really change that, so you got to live with it. Attempting to change that by twisting the spelling of your name or preferring your nickname is like living a false life. Be proud of your name. Let the world know that is your name. Or are you afraid of the world? Then you better not be born at all.

Changing your name to: Psquare, TuFace, Shakira, Beyonce, Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi, Suarez, Baby, Sugar, Noble, Princess, Buhari, Saraki etc doesn’t really change your metaphysical composition neither does it change your true identity as that Oron girl, Annang boy, Igbo girl, Tiv girl, Hausa boy, etc. It only reflects that you are suffering from a false sense of selfhood and personhood! Those models have made their names and written their names on the signs of times. They didn’t borrow your name, they used theirs. Try to also use your name and make it known (popular if you like). If you are not proud of your name, no one will! If you don’t make it known, no one will! Don’t forget that your name is your identity.

One last note. The last time I checked English adjectives do not qualify as proper names of persons (Anthroponym), they are always Proper nouns. This is a reminder to those who add: sweet, hot, sexy, noble, etc to their names. These are adjectives which also could be used as complements and not as names of persons. Again! What name is there in your international passport, voters card, National ID, WAEC certificate and Baptism Card? Those are your true identity in case you have forgotten. Let those names reflect on your social media platforms and be proud of your name. There is something in a name, do not change or twist the spelling of your name for nothing, nor trade your true identity for what is trending. What is trending doesn’t last: Your true identity is your identity. Learn to value what you have. Value your name and make it known.  

“A person who can´t be proud of his or her name and age is living a false life!”

14.06.2018
Valentine Umoh

WHY ARE WE STILL PLAYING POLITICS WITH ELECTRICITY?

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Statista.com “Ranking of the countries with the highest quality of electricity supply in 2017/18 writes: “In today´s culture, many people cannot imagine life without electricity. It has become a global necessity and a part of the everyday life of many people. Life without electricity is almost impossible – it can be difficult and slow. The importance of electricity can be seen throughout various fields of human activity: engineering, communication and transport, entertainment, and surgery…”

Ricardo Falcon on June 26, 2015 in an article titled “How can Africa develop its electricity infrastructure?” writes: “Little is as critical for economic progress as a reliable electricity supply. In Africa, the lack thereof has taken a heavy toll on regional integration, productivity and competitiveness.”

On March 11, 2016 CNBC Africa reported that “Only four in 10 Africans have access to a reliable power supply, according to a survey by Afrobarometer.” The report uses Nigeria as an example and reads: “In a striking example, 96 per cent of Nigerians are connected, but only 18 per cent of those connections work “most of the time” or “always.”

Yomi Kazeem on April 19, 2016 drew up a comparative analysis showing the percentage population with access to electricity, population rate connected to a national grid and the share of these connections with stable and reliable power in Africa using the data provided by Afrobarometer. He concluded: “These charts show reliable electricity is still a luxury for more than half of Africa.” According to the charts, countries like Mauritius have 100 % of the population connected to national grid and a corresponding 100 % of these connections have reliable power. Again, South Africa have about 96 per cent connected and more than 80 per cent with reliable power. However, Nigeria has an access rate of 90% and a connection rate of 96% but a low reliable power supply rate of 18%. So, how did countries like Mauritius and South Africa achieve their electric power stability and reliability? And why is so hard for this supposed ´giant of Africa´ (Nigeria) to follow suit. Are we also playing politics with this necessity of human life?

It is very sad, offensive and annoying to read that “more than a century after the intervention of the light bulb, a majority of Africans are still in the dark, either intermittently or constantly” and the CNN or World Bank reports which confirms that “The 48 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (with a combined population of 800 million) generate roughly the same amount of power as Spain (with a population of 45 million). As embarrassing as these reports are but reality is upon us.

While these same reports acknowledge that “there are signs of improvements” because Renewable energy investments are on the rise, these reports note that “hydropower has a huge unlocked potential: while it already represents one fifth of the overall production, only 10 percent of the estimated potential is being utilized.” And now my question: what is hindering the utilization and unlocking of the potential of hydropower for which I know Nigeria is blessed with? What about the solar energy? Is it that we lack the manpower or the technical know-how about these things? Or is it about money? How much do our political office holders run away with in the name of salaries and allowances? And what is the need for excessive foreign reserves without meeting these bare needs? If we could employ Julius Berger and other foreign companies to build our roads and bridges, can´t we employ a foreign energy generation company to help us generate and manage electric power? Even if we lacked the money, can´t we borrow to facilitate this, if we could borrow to pay salaries? Let it not be what I am thinking, that we are playing politics with a basic need like electric power generation and supply in this country.

Just imagine the embarrassments. Due to the lack of reliable electric power supply, Nigeria with over 200 million population has become the dumping ground for all types and brands of generators from China, Japan and other Asian countries. An average Nigerian owns a generator even if it is the so-called “I better pass my neighbour.” Yet every day we talk about creating employment opportunities, we discuss about improving the economy. We discuss about improving education, the health sector etc.  How can this be possible without reliable electricity? For instance, energy can facilitate the development of schools, and help teachers gain access to a wide variety of teaching mechanisms especially in this computer age. There is no short cut if we must realize these. The simple key is a reliable electricity. This is the key. In this 21st century and the growing impact and indispensability of the cyberspace, just point out to me any aspect of the economy and human life that doesn’t require electricity. I tell you, there is none!

It is time, our leaders become proactive and stop playing politics! They should collectively find ways of solving our electricity problems. But come to think of it, how much will this cost? What did it cost Mauritius, Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa? For me, it cost nothing but the political will and the determination to achieve this. We should start thinking of the good of this country than our individual pockets, if not posterity will not forgive us. Please help me tell our leaders to stop playing politics with electric power generation: We need stable and reliable electricity in this country! It is not a luxury rather a basic need.

11.06.2018
Valentine Umoh