Okey Ndibe’s razor-sharp “Foreign Gods, Inc.” steps into the story of a Nigerian-born New Yorker called Ike, just as everything in his life has begun to go horribly wrong. The only thing worse than Ike’s present situation is the plan he makes to remedy it.
Ike, whose name is correctly pronounced EE-kay, has an Amherst degree cum laude in economics. But his accent has kept him from finding a job. So he works as a cabby, with customers who call him “Eekay,” which means “buttocks” in Igbo. He has made a bad marriage to a woman who walked off with his savings, and debts now overwhelm him. The only thing he has of value is something of age-old mystical significance that is not exactly in his possession. And, intellect notwithstanding, he gets the bright idea of acquiring and selling it from a trendy article in New York magazine.
A friend sends Ike the article about an art gallery called Foreign Gods Inc., which gives this book its terrifically apt title. Only in mimicking a slick American idiom does Mr. Ndibe falter, and that’s probably to his credit. (From the fake New York magazine: “ ‘A summons to heaven doesn’t come easy or cheap,” says a gallery patron, referring to the place’s most expensive upper floor.”) But the gist of the piece is that a dealer named Mark Gruels traffics in deities from faraway places, which mean nothing but money to either him or his customers. As the book begins, Ike arrives at the gallery to see a tanned woman holding a squat statue to her breast, leaving Foreign Gods and getting into her BMW.
Ike is desperate enough to believe that Gruels will pay big money for Ngene, the powerful war god that presided over the Nigerian region where he was raised. Mr. Ndibe has his own memories of war to draw upon: He grew up in the midst of the Biafran war and was a Nigerian journalist and academic before coming to the United States, as a protégé of Chinua Achebe. He has had a distinguished teaching career and is the author of one earlier novel, “Arrows of Rain” (2000). But “Foreign Gods, Inc.,” which arrives early in January, will still have the impact of an astute and gripping new novelist’s powerful debut.
Not far into the book, Ike is on his way back to Nigeria with only one plan in mind: to steal what he thinks is an inanimate object and bring it back to New York. That scheme alone is evidence of how far he has strayed from his roots, and how much of a re-education awaits him.
At first, he is simply struck by the physical changes to his native land: Where did all those zinc-roofed concrete buildings with satellite dishes come from? But then the sense memories of the place begin to seduce him, and he falls into a swoon of reminiscence that would be enchanting, if it were not constantly interrupted by the harsh realities of his relatives and former neighbors.
Ngene the war god plays some mysterious role in all of this. Much of the village’s hardship dates back to the disruptive visit of a British missionary who was determined to teach the superiority of Christianity to Nigerian pagans. Even this takes the form of materialism, as the increasingly mad Englishman, Stanton, insists that his God is more powerful because he owns everything, while the Nigerian gods possess nothing. Nothing but the hearts and minds of their followers.
I’m a mom of three boys and three girls. It’s easy to show my girls that I love them. I sit and ask them questions. I listen to them talk and talk and talk. I buy them pink nail polish with sparkles. I “get” girls.
It was harder to figure out my boys. When I asked them questions about their day, I could feel their frustration. Once, when I was asking my young adult son about his first day of college, my husband turned to me and said, “Why are you grilling him?”
What? I was just trying to show I was interested. My daughter would have loved to share every detail!
If you’re a mom of older sons, it can sometimes be hard to show your love. Here are 15 ideas to do just that.
15 Ways to Show Your Teen Son Your Love
1. Go on a long drive and just sit side by side. Don’t ask any questions; just enjoy the view and wait for him to talk. (It will feel awkward, but I guarantee your son will love the side-by-side time.)
2. Ask your son about his most recent video game … and then just listen.
3. Make your son’s favorite dinner and let him know you were thinking of him.
4. Tell your son how proud you are of a good character trait you see in him.
5. Visit him at his work. Don’t make it a big deal, but just smile and wave.
6. Invite him to lunch, your treat, at his favorite restaurant.
7. When you’re at the grocery store, text your son and ask if there’s anything he needs.
8. Offer to play his favorite board game with him … even if you know there’s no chance of your winning, even if you try.
9. Do his laundry without making a big deal about it.
10. Stop what you’re doing and really listen the next time he wants to tell you something.
11. Let your son overhear you talking to someone else and praising one of his accomplishments.
12. Make snacks for your son and his friends when they’re hanging out at your house.
13. Buy a book he’s interested in and leave it on his bed with a note.
14. Show up the next time he invites you to do something with him.
15. Take his problems seriously, even when they don’t seem like a big deal to you.
These seem like simple things, but you know you’re making a difference when you see your son’s smile!
Now, how about you? What are ways you show your teen son that you love him?.
Tricia Goyerhas written more than 35 books, including both novels that delight and entertain readers and nonfiction titles that offer encouragement and hope. She has also published more than 500 articles in national publications such as Guideposts, Thriving Family, Proverbs 31, and HomeLife Magazine.
“Let’s wrap up boxes and books and put them under the tree,” my mom said one night. I was six-years-old and didn’t think anything was odd about wrapping up books and empty boxes. I was excited about the idea of spending time with mom who was busy working from early in the morning as a farm laborer. Most of the time she was asleep when I got home from school.
My little brother and sister were excited about the brightly wrapped presents with shiny bows under the sparkling tinsel tree. I realized that the reason we wrapped those gifts is because she had no money to buy presents. I kept that secret until mom told us we would open our gifts after we came back from grandma and grandpa’s house.
Thinking back on that Christmas, she was trying to feed three kids on a farm laborer’s wage. I remember we had to stand in line with food stamps to buy groceries, which was really embarrassing. We had no presents that year from mom but in later years I gained three gifts that have proven priceless over and over again.
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
The gift of faith. My grandpa picked us up that day. On the way to his house, a police car pulled up behind him with flashing lights. He didn’t understand why he was getting pulled over since he always drove under the speed limit. The policeman asked him how many children were in the car. He went back to his car and returned with an arm full of presents.
We weren’t Christians but I believed that my mom had faith that something good was going to happen that day despite the despair of trying to feed her children on farm laborer’s wages and the shame of receiving welfare checks and food stamps. My mom became a Christian many years later but she always had this incredible optimism and faith in her.
The unexpected presents from an unexpected source are like the gifts that God brings everyday. We take these gifts for granted — the gift of a relationship, the gift of a job in a bad economy or the gift of a child’s love. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 We can carry God’s faith into our holiday gatherings.
My mom taught me to live by faith and that lesson brought me unexpected scholarships that I didn’t apply for to get into college.
The gift of hope. Fast forward many years and I’m college student paying my own way in Hawaii. I have no money to buy presents and my family lives in California. I pray and ask God for creative ideas for presents for my friends and family. I pray for each person that I want to give a gift to and suddenly I get an idea for writing a story about how that person reminds me of a character in the Bible.
Each person receives a story with pictures in a little booklet. Every person I gave that booklet to say that was the best gift they had ever received. Through those stories, I gave them the gift of hope. I gave the gift that they are becoming someone who Jesus intended to them to be. I stirred up the flame of destiny in them through the words on that page. The cost for that present was my time seeking the Lord on their behalf. We can give the gift of hope in this holiday season by being a vessel for Him to speak His words of life and hope to others.
The gift of love. My friend Faith calls me right before Christmas in 1998. I’m fighting depression after my mom died. I’m hopeless and this dark cloud sits over me. I have a wonderful Christian husband, two beautiful little boys, a gorgeous home, and great job but can’t enjoy any of it because of the depression. Faith says she wants to fly me from Columbia, MO. to West Palm Beach to go with her to some revival services.
Right after New Year‘s, I fly to West Palm Beach. Faith takes me to revival services at her church and I receive an incredible touch from God. That time prepares me for my visit to the Smithton Outpouring in February where I’m set free from depression. Hope and faith come back with the love of my friend. Faith gave me the gift of love that set me in the right direction at that time.
Demonstrate God’s love during this holiday season. Love is the engine of faith and hope in action carrying His presence into the room. Call that person who needs His love. Or take them to lunch or dinner. Above all, take action. Don’t let another Christmas pass by without reaching out to that person who has been on your heart.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Give the gifts that keep giving after Christmas – the gift of faith, hope and love.
Leilani Haywoodis the editor of SpiritLed Woman and a frequent contributor to Charisma. She is an award-winning writer who has been published in The Kansas City Star, Focus on the Family, Metrovoice Newspaper and many other publications.
When it comes to ministry leadership, I don’t focus on trying to motivate other people. I worry about motivating me, and if I’m motivated, it will be contagious.
This is true in any area of ministry. Your duty is not necessarily to motivate others. But if you stay motivated, people will catch your enthusiasm. They will catch your vision.
1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (NIV). I spend most of the weeks of the year preparing to preach multiple services on the weekend, plus writing and all of the other speaking opportunities that come along. I have to continually come up with material that is fresh and powerful and practical and witty and useful in people’s lives—and that’s a burden, but I manage to stay motivated.
This list isn’t deeply theological—it’s just practical, usable advice.
1. Put your plans on paper (or on screen).Dawson Trotman said, ”Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” If I can say it and I can write it down, then it’s clear. If I haven’t written it down, then it’s vague. A lot of us go around with anxiety that is this free-floating, vague fear that I’m not getting it all accomplished. Just the very fact of putting it down, a lot of times, gives credence and relief to your mind and you’re able to focus on it.
2. Break big tasks into smaller tasks to remove excuses for not starting. Some tasks are way too big to be chewed on all at once, but you can tackle them like you would eat an elephant—one bite at a time. When you have a big goal, a big event or some big project going, break it down into smaller tasks, and take them one at a time.
3. Decide how you want to start. Ask yourself what needs to be done first. If your goal is to make more phone calls and personally invite more people to your church, you probably need to start by writing down the names of people you will contact. Decide what your first simple step will be.
4. Establish checkpoints in your progress. Tasks are best accomplished when they have a date attached to them. And today, there are plenty of mobile apps for making lists with reminders built in.
5. Know the difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t want to.” Be honest with yourself. Sometimes that means you’ve got to get tough. It was Ben Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac who first said, “There is no gain without pain.” Most of what’s done in the world is done by people who don’t feel like doing what they’re doing, but they do it anyway. Successful people have developed the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don’t feel like doing.
6. Remind yourself of the benefits of completing the job. Often in ministry, things become routine and repetitious. In a given week, you may be doing 20 significant tasks that you repeat every week, only to start over again. How do you prevent the feeling of mundane from setting in? You remind yourself of how it’s going to feel when you’re done.
7. Do a small part of it right now. When I have a big topic or task I need to accomplish, I just say, “I don’t want to do this, but I’ll give it five minutes.” I sit down, and after I get going in it, it’s not as intimidating. Once you’ve gotten the rocket off the launch pad, it gets so much easier. I’ve written some books. Books are overwhelming, but I give it five minutes. Every book that I’ve ever written, I sat down and wrote, “My next Book, by Rick Warren.” Sometimes you just have to start.
8. Be optimistic. I have found this to be so important in accomplishing large amounts of activities and projects and programs. Optimism creates energy. The person who says “I can” and the person who says “I can’t” are both right.
9. Establish an action environment. When you prepare messages, you need an environment where you can focus on the task at hand. I have my own study area both at home and church. Kay has her own study area too, so we don’t fight over them any more. We have two desks in one room. I clear everything off the desk when I’m going to study because I don’t want to focus on anything else. Success comes from focusing on one thing at a time.
10. Avoid places where distractions occur. I don’t do any of my sermon study at the office. The walls are thin there, and I can hear everybody having a good time outside, and I’m a party animal. I want to have fun! I don’t want to be sitting studying. I want to be out there with people. So I have to study at home to keep myself from having a great time with all these people I love at the office. And they appreciate it too! Then they get their work done.
11. Know your energy patterns and take advantage of peak times. Some of you are morning people. Some of you are night people. Have you learned that at some points in the day, you are brighter than at other times? There are times when you’re habitually at your best. The only people who are at their best all the time are mediocre people. You need to know when your body clock is geared toward maximum performance so you don’t waste maximum performance on secondary tasks. If your peak time is 10 to 12 in the morning, don’t read your mail from 10 to 12. Save those kinds of tasks for other times, like at the end of the day. Or if you’re not good in the morning, read it then. When you are good, make that your time for your ministry time and your preparation.
12. Use the stimulation of good news to do extra work. Somebody will tell me something great that happened, and it’s like God shoots another shot of adrenaline in me. All of a sudden, I’ve got a little extra bounce in my step, and I try to channel that into ministry.
13. Recognize when indecision is causing inertia. A lot of procrastination is not really procrastination; it’s indecision. For a lot of pastors, their weekly struggle is, “What am I going to preach on this next week?” which is one of the reasons I preach in series. I only have to make that decision six or seven times a year. “For the next six weeks, we’re going to talk about culture.” Try to lengthen those decision-making periods out. Identify your choices, and choose one. Don’t let it sit around.
14. Use visible reminders. Use Post-it notes or the lock screen on your phone to remind you of the big things.
15. Give yourself room to make mistakes. I give myself the right to make mistakes on any project that I’m doing. Perfectionism produces procrastination. Perfectionism paralyzes us. If it’s worth doing, do it—whether you do it perfectly or not. There are very few things in this world that are perfect.
16. Don’t set goals you don’t expect to reach. That’s because there’s no motivation in them.
17. Enlist a partner. If you’ve got a big task to do, always get a partner. Get somebody else to help you out in your ministry. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one, and a threefold cord is not easily broken.” If you’ve got a big task and it’s up to you, you’ll probably procrastinate. But if you’ve got somebody else and can say, “We’re going to meet and get this thing going,” you’re more likely to get it done.
18. Keep reading to increase your skill. If I find myself having a hard time being motivated in some area of ministry that I’m called to do, I get a book or magazine that covers that area. If you have a hard time recruiting people to your ministry, go get a book on recruitment and read it. If you’re having a hard time delegating responsibility, get a book. Remember that leaders are readers and leaders are learners. There are no great leaders who refuse to learn. And learning sharpens and motivate you to accomplish your next goals.
Written by Rick Warren
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Last month in the book-publishing world, something fascinating happened. The billionaire author J.K. Rowling launched a new site selling her popular books directly to customers, and also provided a social network centered on reading the books. She retained all the digital rights to her books, so she is now essentially a self-published author in the digital world.
As the leader of one of the largest Christian resource companies in the world, I certainly took note of this development. Our organization has been around since 1891, and the core of what we have done for 120 years is publishing in the print world. To say our world is changing would be a huge understatement.
The advent of digital products is certainly a challenge for print publishers. Not only is the delivery system changing, but also authors like J.K. Rowling no longer need the middle person commonly called the publisher. Like the radical transformation of the recording industry, the book-publishing world is being challenged at its very core.
I have written and spoken on the issue of change numerous times. But my perspective has always been that of the change agent, or helping individuals and organizations deal with change that has affected them. Now my perspective is different. I am on the receiving end of change. And the change is so radical and transformative that I am learning new lessons on this issue with a whole new perspective.
So, how do individuals and organizations respond to change? Particularly, how do we respond to change that is inevitable and substantial? My response has thus far involved four progressive phases:
Phase 1: Accept reality
I bought my first e-reader five years ago. I had been keeping up with the developments in the digital world, but that device brought me to a new reality. The world I knew was changing, and it would soon change rapidly. I could do like so many others, and argue that it’s a fad that will soon fade, or I could accept the new world in which I would be living.
It is easier to deny reality and think we can return to the comfort of the world we know. But that denial will only make matters worse when the evidence of the change becomes overwhelming. I had to accept the new reality.
Phase 2: Fully grasp the impact
For several years, our organization has been moving into the digital world. There remain many unanswered questions about platforms, monetization and acceptance of digital books and other publications. But one thing we do know. The impact of this new reality is huge. We are regularly evaluating our speed into this delivery system and our customers’ desire for digital options.
When change affects an individual or organization, a major step in dealing with the change is to understand its impact and longevity. Is it indeed a fad or temporary change? Or is it something that will become a new normal, where failure to respond will be final or fatal? Many organizations fail because they do not fully grasp the impact of change that is upon them.
Phase 3: Ask why the change is taking place
There are different reasons why the digital publishing world is becoming more pervasive as the choice of readers and authors. In most cases purchasing a digital publication offers both a better price and a more convenient method of purchasing the product.
But perhaps the greater reason the change is taking place is that customers, both authors and readers, now have greater control over what they write and read. The role of an intermediary, such as a publisher, is changing at the least, and being minimized at most. Ultimately, power is being shifted from the middle person to both the creator of content and the user of that content.
When we are on the receiving end of change, it is critically important to understand the genesis of that change. Only then can we move forward positively and proactively.
Phase 4: Learn how to move forward with the new reality
When change is inevitable, we have one of two larger options. First, we can bemoan the new state of reality and fight it as long as possible. Or more positively, we can learn how we can best move forward in the new world with new ideas, new creativity and new hope. The latter is admittedly more challenging. But the former is a formula for decline and even death.
Our organization is embracing the new reality of the digital world with hope and enthusiasm. We don’t have all the answers, but we are energized to find and implement new solutions each day.
When Change Comes
I know someone who has numerous health problems related to lifestyle choices of overeating, smoking and lack of exercise. His physician recently gave him a clear choice: change or die. If he continued his current lifestyle, he would likely die in two or three years. But if he made serious changes, he could live a normal life expectancy.
A simple but profound choice: change or die.
I am amazed at businesses, individuals, churches, and other organizations that have the same choice, but refuse to make lifesaving changes. And, by default, they choose to die.
It’s a lot more fun to talk to others about the change they need to make. It’s difficult when you’re on the receiving end of change. But it is possible to embrace the change and be stronger than before.
May God give us the wisdom to know when to embrace change, and the courage to know when to make the tough decisions when we are on the receiving end of change.
“We loved AMERICANAH. It’s a powerful, resonant novel and we would be delighted to celebrate it and try to share it with a wider audience,” Taylor wrote.
“I’m very pleased,” Adichie said on receiving news of the prize. “You never know what will happen when you write a novel. And for me, a Nigerian, to have written this book which is partly about America, and to receive this quintessentially American prize means that I have said something about America as seen through Nigerian eyes that Americans find interesting. I take that as a wonderful compliment. It reminds me
of the ability of literature to make us become briefly alive in bodies not our own.”
Past fiction winners of the Heartland Prize include Jonathan France for his novel FREEDOM and Marilyn ne Robinson for her novel GILEAD
The prize will be awarded on November 3, 2013 at an audience-attended event hosted in partnership with the Chicago Humanities Festival in
He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you, and more will be given to you who hear. – Mark 4:24
This is very important counsel. “Take heed what you hear.” The things we hear enter into our souls and become part of our being; they give form and color to our character. There have come infinite blessings from the printing-press. There are thousands of good books and articles whose pages are like leaves from the tree of life, for the healing of the nations. But there are also thousands of books and magazines whose pages stink with poison and spread the influence of moral and spiritual death. With all this great mass of books, good and bad, it is vitally important that we pay attention to what we hear. We would not eat poisoned food so why should we take poison into our souls?
If we open our ears to the evil things that are continually spoken on all sides and that come to us on printed pages or the Internet, our hearts will become foul and unclean, and our lives will be corrupted. We should shut our ears to all that is unholy. Many ruined lives can trace their downfall from the moment when an impure word was whispered in a listening ear or when an unwholesome book or web page was secretly read. On the other hand, every beautiful life has been made beautiful by what it has heard. We are saved by words. Pure, true words are transforming.
The Bible is simply a book of words; but every word contains a revelation of some beautiful thing in character or accomplishment which we should strive to reach. We should always choose to hear the words of God gladly because they are always safe and beneficial to us. We must not forget the Master’s other counsel, “Be careful therefore how you hear.” (Luke 8:18). We should hear thoughtfully, reverently, obediently, letting the good words of God into our heart, that they may transform our lives.