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Wednesday, 25 October 2017

My Biggest Birthday Surprise

13:38


On October 21st, I celebrated my 43rd Birthday. I kept asking myself how I could be 43 years old when I feel not even a day older than 34. In my mind, I've intentionally embraced my inner fountain of youth and have been trying to convince myself that somehow there is a mistake. I can't be this old, can I? I was thinking over the times I have watched the evening news and heard stories that referred to people this age. I would hear the news anchor start off a story with... "A 43 year old woman from such and such a city was found...." As the story would progress, I would imagine this 43 year old woman as a mature, much older, probably not very attractive, maternal figure. I never saw myself as being this age. I think somehow in my heart I will remain 34, at least until my children catch up to me in age.

My husband was really sweet in the way he made me feel good about my new age. He did some of the most endearing things for me leading up to the birthday. He did a #12daysOfBirthday countdown where he posted the sweetest pictures of me every day on his social media pages and then he accompanied each post with a meaningful gift every single day for 12 days.

On my birthday itself, I was overwhelmed with so much love and so many surprises from friends and loved ones, most especially my darling husband. He organized a celebrity football match, a surprise garden "All White" party and so much more. 

He was by my side all throughout the birthday, making me feel like the center of the universe. His affection and care was simply astounding. He paid attention to every detail and did everything with precision. He even reached out to some of my closest friends and had them specially record birthday messages for me that he knew would make me smile. It was an amazing day from the beginning to the end.

I felt like I was the recipient of too much love.

I woke up on Sunday morning the 22nd exhausted. I was emotionally and physically spent. I felt so “overloved” that there didn't seem to be space to receive any more.

To my amazement, when I arrived at CGMI Church Unusual, where I serve as the Senior Pastor, I was in for more love and more surprises. I assumed that the church might get a cake for me and that would be the extent of the birthday celebrations. I couldn't have been more wrong! I drove into the parking lot only to see a beautiful red carpet rolled out for me with a gorgeous custom-designed backdrop featuring my pictures all over it. When I walked into the church, escorted by all of the Pastors, I couldn't believe my eyes! They had decorated the church beautifully in honor of my birthday and draped massive banners from the ceiling with photos of me that I had forgotten even existed.
The entire service schedule was arranged to honor me. This was deeply touching and very humbling.

The Pastors had invited my husband, Bishop Feb Idahosa, to minister the Word of God, so that I could just sit back, relax, and enjoy the service. He preached a beautiful and memorable sermon (on 3 actions that will change your life in 2018) which inspired and impacted all of us in the congregation.  My husband has a rather tight schedule of preaching assignments on Sundays, so having him speak in Church Unusual was quite the experience.  Consequently, as soon as the teaching was over, I expected him to leave immediately, but, he didn't. 




I was about to experience MY BIGGEST BIRTHDAY SURPRISE!

Apparently, the conspiracy ran quite deep because as a few of our faithful ushers brought a elegantly covered table to the front of the church. My husband called me forward and told me that there was one more surprise for me. I looked over and saw my personal assistant holding a large brown envelope. My heart and mind started racing with the possibilities of the new surprise.  For a moment I thought that there might be papers to a new car in the envelope and at the same time I found myself  hoping that he didn't buy me a car, because we don't really need an additional vehicle right now. Of course, I couldn't tell anyone all the thoughts racing through my mind.  I could only come forward and smile in anticipation of this big surprise.

As my husband talked about the surprise, the head female usher, Ify began to fold back the covering on the table to reveal what was concealed underneath. I couldn't believe my eyes! I wondered in shock... what had my husband done for me?


He published a book of my prayers under the title #LauriePrays, after the hashtag that I use on social media when I pray!!! The book contains 40 of my prayers with lovely photos and inspirational teachings.

This was so amazing to me for so many reasons, but, permit me to list a few:
1. Writing a book was a goal of mine in 2017; a goal I thought I would have to abandon, simply because I didn't give it the attention it needed.

2. Many authors and pastors seize the opportunity of launching books on their birthdays, hoping for significant donations to help them offset the printing cost. He didn't do a book launch; he did a "book gift!"  He had reprinted a thousand copies of my first book, "Every Woman's Journey," and gave copies of the book to every woman in the congregation.

3. He increased my value in the eyes of many. Previously, I had authored a book. What he did for me was make that word “book” plural. Now, I can go anywhere in the world and comfortably say that I have written BOOKS!

4. The quality of printing reflects the way he sees me. He did it with an international standard of excellence that you'd expect from any major author. He made me feel so, so, so deeply loved.


I could go on and on about how special and remarkable this gift is to me, but the truth is, seeing is believing! You need to get a copy of this book.  Allow the words to impact your life and to serve as a guide and daily inspiration for you.  Allow the quality of the book be a constant reminder for you that you are valuable and important to God. I say this because my husband models his love for me after Ephesians 5, where it says, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for it." If a human can love another human this deeply and passionately, imagine just how much more Christ loves us, His Church. 

I would like to sincerely appreciate my husband for this epic gift and to encourage you to get your copy today.

The book #LauriePrays will be available in a bookstore close to you soon, in the interim you can order a copy of the book by sending a Direct Message on the Instagram handle @wisdomtomydaughters. 


Thursday, 5 October 2017

WORLD TEACHER'S DAY

12:10

October 5 is a day set aside by the United Nations to appreciate teachers all across the world for the time and effort they pour into our lives. I am privileged to have been impacted by some of the greatest teachers in the world, starting with the greatest of them all, Jesus Christ and continuing to such great teachers my parents Dr. Gary and Rev. Mrs. Faye Whetstone, my late Father-in-Love, Archbishop Benson Idahosa and my Mother-in-Love Archbishop Margaret Idahosa. The dedication and commitment that all my teachers have put into my life over the years from kindergarten till this moment cannot be over-quantified. Teachers are responsible for more than the certification of the student, they also hold a key role in helping any student realize their potential and shape their mind for life. A lot of success stories today were written by teachers whose positive attitude and selflessness enabled their students find their path in life and attain success.
Think of it this way, teachers occupy the same space as sports coaches, it is their job to direct the student from a place of raw potential to a position of sharp focus on their life goal. This is never an easy job especially in formal education setting; as teachers have to perform the task of educating children with varying degrees of intellectual ability repeatedly over a period of time. Teachers recognize a student’s limitations and help him/her around these limitations so that their path to success is unimpeded.
As a parent, I can now appreciate the effort of teachers because I have some of the best in the world teaching my children at Nathan American Academy and I get to work side by side with great teachers at Benson Idahosa University on a daily basis. 

Watching the great teachers around me dedicate every day of their life to sharpening the intellect of their students is such a beautiful experience. The expertise of the teacher is what actually makes any institution of learning stand out. No parent wants to send their child to a school that is not renowned for academic excellence, to this end the best schools in the world are the schools with the best teachers.

There is a Nigerian saying that ‘a teacher’s reward is in heaven’ perhaps because it is almost impossible to properly appreciate a person who gives his/her life to creating value in the lives of other people’s children. We should take the time to appreciate all those who have taught us or currently teach us in one capacity or the other.
Malala Yousafaz says, “Let us remember: one book, one child, and one teacher can change the world”
Happy Teacher’s Day!




Sunday, 27 August 2017

A TALE OF TWO NIGHTS

17:02

Have you ever had a night that you never wanted to end? This past week, I had several of such experiences I did not want to come to an end. Thursday night was certainly one! It started with going to the Emerge Conference at House on The Rock, then being honored to sit at the dining table for a private dinner with TD Jakes, Pastor Paul Adefarasin, Donnie McClurkin, Bishop Tudor Bismark and others. 

We finished the dinner around midnight, then  I was off to a beautiful night of worship and fellowship with my friend TY Bello.  She invited me to her studio for an all night worship experience. I thought that getting there so late was going to ruin it, but it was quite the opposite. It felt like heaven! Music Producer, Wilson Joel played the grand piano while TY and I sung out hearts out to God in prayer and worship. Before we even knew it, 5 hours had passed and approximately 60 new songs had been sung to the Lord! She's a smart lady in that she knows to record great moves of God! She had her film and audio recording crew present for our worship time, knowing that God could do absolutely anything once we abandon our hearts to Him. Truly, I will never forget Thursday!



Our short, family trip to Lagos was filled with divine appointments. 

On Friday afternoon, operating on just a few short hours of sleep, I was given the opportunity to impact the lives of a group of enterprising students at the GYMT Fashion Academy. I must tell you it was an absolutely amazing time watching the craft and creativity of these students unfold before my eyes.
I spoke to the students about "How to Have A Successful Family Life And Still Be a Cutting Edge Entrepreneur." 

Afterwards, I visited a business of one of my Church Unusual members who had relocated to Lagos, Samson Aligba. 

Then, I spent some quality time with my children before joining my host, Princess K. Oghene for a late dinner at her home in the evening. 

While enjoying the sights and sounds of Lagos on our way back to the hotel where I lodged, we stopped over at a lounge in Victoria Island.
The DJ must have been very good because I soon found that I was the only person seated in the room. I don’t go to clubs because my presence there could be misunderstood and also because the loud music will give my husband a headache within minutes. Consequently, I have not had a night out in 25 years so I did not know the lyrics to any of the songs that were played, I mean not even one! Furthermore I could see that my dance moves are outdated as the last time I went out was in high school. My host realized my discomfort and we left the lounge shortly after. It was an amusing experience and my host vowed that we would never go back there because according to her, "I don’t belong there.” But maybe I actually do.

My time out with my friend Princess in Lagos reminded me that as Christians, we cannot ignore the fact that the world around us is drowning in darkness. While driving back to my hotel I could not help but wonder how I can shine the light of Salvation to people who seek an escape from the struggles of life by playing in darkness.

Jesus in all His time on earth was a friend to sinners. A prostitute famously washed His feet with her hair (Luke 7:37-38). By choosing to spend time with sinners, Jesus made a number of high profile ‘holy’ enemies who called him everything from a cohort of sinners to a demon possessed healer.
This must have been quite tough to hear and it is quite possible that His family was hurt by what they heard; yet Jesus never stopped once because of what people said. Instead He took every interaction, every meeting to tell His audience about the love of the Father.

Salvation compels us to take every opportunity to tell people about God. We should not hesitate; we must go boldly wherever there is an opportunity to share the Good News and win souls to our Father, whether it is at school, while waiting in line at the supermarket or while making an unscheduled stop at a club.


I had two very different nights (back to back) that went into the wee hours of the morning. Both taught me different lessons and made me grateful for the opportunities afforded to me in this life. I'm grateful that I have friends that I can worship with, pray with, learn with and play with.  I hope for more unforgettable weekends like the one I've just had, hopefully next time with a little bit more sleep. 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Stop Rushing Things

08:21


We all live in a society where we want things done and we want them done NOW. Patience is a virtue that has virtually left us. For example, we tend to fast-forward relationships to go from attraction to intimacy (and sometimes marriage) without taking the necessary time to develop our love and know one another. When we rush our relationships, we end up with break up after break up.

At times we fail to understand that the things which are the most beautiful will take a long time to craft.  Jewelry is an example that comes to mind. It takes between 6 and 24 months for a single Chinese freshwater pearl to reach a size of 9milimetres (mm).


Some other pearls like the South Sea pearls take between 2 and 3 years to reach a size of 15mm. After the harvest, some 10,000 pearls may be sorted before a 16 inch long single strand of beautifully matched pearls is assembled. A pearl necklace of this length retails for  $300 in jewelry stores. Pearl farmers and jewelers understand that time is an important factor in determining the value of a precious stone. 

As believers, we should be aware that our souls are much more valuable than the most expensive piece of jewelry in the world. Giving your soul (mind, desires and emotions) to another person should be a carefully planned event. You need to be intentionally armed with enough information that limits your risk of becoming broken-hearted.

This can also be true of our Christian walk. We can be so anxious to experience the latest and greatest thing that God is doing that we neglect the essential, foundation building exercises which serve as a filter.

We rarely will take the necessary time to read and study the Bible in its totality but we will read a one-minute devotional book or listen to a quick sermon to get our "God-Fix."  When we rush our spiritual growth, we end up with strange doctrines and dangerous beliefs.

We need to exercise patience in order to get the full value and understanding of what it is we are trying to accomplish.




There is a reason why a cake takes an hour or more to bake in the oven. There are necessary processes taking place which will make it beautiful, fluffy, tasty and healthy to eat. If you take it out in just 10 min, you won't be able to enjoy it.

When we rush things, most especially decisions, we end up with half-baked results.

Psalm 27:14 says,
"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!"

My prayer for you is that you'll have the strength to patiently wait for what is yours.


The next time you are tempted to leap before you look, remember the value of patience. Something worth having is worth waiting for. We value something more when we have taken the necessary time to appreciate what it is intrinsically made of, not just what it is on the surface.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE IN ENTERTAINMENT?

06:42



A young professionally-trained dancer, who serves in my church, came to me with a concern. He was asked to dance in the music video of a poular secular Nigerian artist and was wondering if it would affect his Christian testimony or the reputation of our church.

I was thrilled that he gave me the opportunity to discuss this very important topic which majorly affects the future and direction of his craft.  I believe that he is not alone in this quest for understanding the relationship between being an entertainer and also being a Christian.

Entertainment is “a form of activity that holds the attention or interest of an audience or an activity that gives pleasure and delight.”1

Mainstream entertainment is filled with performers such as Denzel Washington and Basket Mouth (pictured below) who have maintained their Christian faith and climbed to the very top of their fields.



Like all vocations, every expression in entertainment has its own standards to uphold in order to remain relevant and to catch the attention of the end user.  A professional performer demands an extreme amount of discipline in the performance of their art.

For a Christian performer there is a need for core values which help determine what will or will not be done.  The best guide for our conscience and standards is found in having a genuine relationship with Christ Jesus. When a performer is requested to function in theatre, music, modelling or dance, it is necessary to consider what the “role” is trying to convey. Some roles can demand that a performer engage in activity that cannot be defended by a believer in the Gospel. Performers are required –for the duration of their act- to portray a character whose actions are many times the complete opposite of the entertainer playing the role.  In my opinion, a Christian entertainer should not be a part of delivering a message to the world that opposes the Christian faith.


There is an unfortunate bias in some circles against Christians pursuing a career in entertainment. This is enforced by the stories and pictures that show some entertainers living carefree lives and the popular belief that anything in entertainment is of the devil and therefore sinful. I recently had a conversation with a North American Bishop who adamantly insisted with me that a person who is a secular entertainer cannot be a Christian. I cringed all through the conversation and asked many questions and discussed many scriptures which hopefully made him re-think his position.


In arguing against a Christian taking up a career in entertainment, people might be quick to quote   (James 4:4) You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

In defense of the entertainers who are Christains, we cannot ignore Matthew 25:14-30, that teaches a parable about talents. God in His infinite wisdom gave each and every human a gift, an unique ability that when harnessed can provide good income and at the same time bring glory and praise to God’s name.

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to share in an insightful conversation with legendary gospel musician Kirk Franklin just after the collaborative "Fearless" concert with Tim Godfrey at House On The Rock Church, Lagos State.  He offered an insight into his entire musical journey starting with the 1998 hit tune “Revolution.” 


Franklin described his music as an effort to recapture the pop music scene for God.  I was so deeply inspired and impressed by his commitment to Christ which has spanned decades and has impacted millions.

This view echoes a similar sentiment shared by Wilson Joel (a.k.a. Music Magnate)2.
In conducting research for this article I conversed with him about the idea of Christians doing music and he shared some valuable insights. He said: 

*All music comes from God and can have different results on the musician as well as his audience. In his own words “The music we do does not have to be so uptight just for church consumption." He asked,  "Who gives Christians music through the week? Music to make us dance, think, love better and appreciate love?”
     
*The Bible records that David played the harp skilfully (1 Samuel 16:18)

     *Lucifer was so filled with pride at his musical ability that he sought to equate himself to the Most High God, resulting in him being ousted from heaven. This is a danger that all Christian musicians must avoid. Pride is a major pitfall that has destroyed man. (Prov.16:18)



Music isn't the only expression of art that people have moral questions about.  It spans all kinds of expressions of talent.  My home in Edo State, Nigeria is world famous for its artistry specifically in bronze work.  Ever year we play host to visitors from around the world seeking to photograph or purchase the many outstanding artworks available here.


The Bible records in Exodus 36:1 that God Himself gifted Bezalel and Oholiab so that they could work any material needed to build the Tabernacle as well as anything used in the worship of God by the emerging Israelite nation. Certainly, the artisans in Edo State did not get their talent from demonic sources.

Another point Wilson made that resonated with me is how God is all about love and His expression of this love in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Wilson believes that Christians are the perfect people to describe love to anyone who doesn’t understand it. This expression can come in form of music, paintings, sculpted art or performing art. Art cuts across all the boundaries of man, from language to race and religion. He challenged me by saying that our love for God should be so real that it should be conveyed liberally in our artistic expressions.

A performance does not have to be overtly Christian in order to relate a message that enforces wholesome values. I am a firm believer in using talents and abilities to the glory of God as well as the improvement of one’s financial status and comfort in life. It would be cruel for religion to deny a dancer, actor, singer, music or movie producer the opportunity to go out and fully explore their talent. If anything we should tell them as Paul tells his mentee in I Timothy 4:12 “Let no one look down on you because of your youth but be an example and set a pattern for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity”


If entertainment is not a career a Christian should take on, then we would be ignoring a great opportunity to share the Gospel with a world that sorely needs it. The light of the Gospel is much stronger than the power of sin. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Consider the sport of football (or soccer if you’re American); on August 3, 2017 history was remade when 25 year old Brazilian footballer Neymar moved from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a record 222 million Euros. The news of this extraordinary move has flown all over the world via the internet with almost everyone talking about it. Neymar is a footballer who has not been ashamed to declare his faith in God on the football stage, rocking a “Jesus” headband after attaining Champions League glory with Spanish club Barcelona in 2015, after claiming Gold at the Olympics in 2016. The world’s most expensive footballer is a Christian!


The question of whether or not a Christian can be involved in entertainment can be answered if we look at entertainment in the same light as every other sector of human endeavour, including medicine, politics, sports and education. These sectors have Christians thriving in them with equal part criticism and equal part commendation. From names such as the aforementioned Neymar and Kaka to the Acting President of Nigeria, Yemi Osibanjo and America’s Dr. Ben Carson it is clear that believers cannot ignore their God-given abilities but instead must go into the world and stand out for Christ. (Matthew 5:16).  

This morning, my good friend,  Tim Godfreycame by our home in Benin City with his Extreme Crew and added his own very poingant points to this contraversial conversation.  With his permission, we recorded him while he was talking and trust me... this blog post would not be complete without you hearing what he had to say!




I hope you clicked on that link and listened well.  If you ask me if a Christian can be in entertainment, my answer would be a resounding “YES!” I believe that the world needs the sacred to infiltrate every aspect of the secular and that it is time for, as Kirk Franklin calls it, “A Revolution."














1.  "Entertainment" as defined by wikipedia.com

2.WILSON JOEL (also known as Musc Magnate) is the CEO of Doxology Music, songwriter, sound engineer, music director and world renowned music producer. 

3. TIM GODFREY Most recently known for his "Fearless" collaborative concert with Kirk Franklin, he is a dynamic music director, voice instructor, conference speaker, writer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, producer, presenter, music and Art training consultant, and musical concert clinician. He is scheduled for a US tour in 2018. 


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