Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Art Of Growing Old by Herbert Vander Lugt

One characteristic flaw of humankind is our tendency to take a lot of things for granted especially regarding the cycles of life. We typically assume that once a child is born, she will grow up sane and strong, attend school and graduate, get a good job and then marry and start her own family, then she’ll succeed in her career, grow old and eventually die at a ripe old age. This repetitive nature of certain events of this life is well documented by The Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes who laments the utter futility of these cycles. They are all vanities he says.

Reality however has a way of yanking us out of this enshrined orientation of taking things for granted by the many failures and disappointments we encounter as we age. Yet, our grief from these heartbreaks could have probably been rendered more bearable had we be somewhat open-minded about life’s uncertainties.

The late author Herbert Vander Lugt in this short book, The Art of Growing Old, shares his experiences and that of other senior citizens on some of the possible pitfalls of old age and offers sound advice on how to deal with them. He notes an unfortunate pattern among many people especially those in their late forties and early fifties who are often forced to brood over the implications of their personal mortalities only when tragedies strike. He observes that, “the awareness of life’s brevity may come with a jolt when a person finds out he has high blood pressure or other physical problems that are usually associated with aging,” which statements rings too true!

The author observes that, many intentionally avoid discussing and planning for their old age because such inevitably must include debilitation and death, which themes are deemed too morbid and depressing, yet this ought not to be the case especially for the Christian. He asserts that “a Christian who properly faces the reality of departing this life, acknowledging it openly and cheerfully will not get sour on life or develop a fixation on death and dying.” Christians ought to be confident that when they depart this life, they are going to be with their Lord.

Even though death preoccupies the thinking and planning for old age, it’s not all about it. There are many positive benefits to growing old. Freed from the pressure of making a living or raising a family, we can use much of this time for personal growth and spiritual impact. For instance, the author shares the story of a man he personally knew whose joy seemed to abound after retiring because now, he had ample time to embark on evangelism and other missionary works. Apart from this, old age also affords one the quality time to spend with one’s grandchildren(kids always love their grandparents), ample time to volunteer for and support worthy causes, to coach and counsel young ones in their life decisions and so on.

As a relatively young person, I found The Art of Growing Old very helpful as I was opened to certain realities of life in a fresh way by the author’s measured tone in dealing with this topic which inspired in me a much welcomed sober cogitation.

I agree with Herbert Vander Lugt when he says that old age “can be happy and useful if we plan for the adjustments it will demand and utilize its new opportunities to glorify God.” Do give this book a read if you do come across it!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: Crazy Busy By Kevin DeYoung

“So much to do, so little time” is a sentiment that resonates with many of us because increasingly, it appears our duties and responsibilities are piling by the minute. Let’s face it; ‘busyness’ is the oft cited off the cuff excuse for our failure to perform a task.

One would think that with all the influx of easily accessible information and all our technological advancements and breakthroughs, our lives would be less frantic and less hurried, yet the converse appears to be the prevailing status quo. In fact, there are times that we absent mindedly wished there were more hours than the 24 in a day to enable us do just a little bit more. It makes one wonder, why is modern man so beset with busyness? Why does it feel like there is never enough time? Why are we so busy?
Thankfully Kevin DeYoung recognizes these tough questions and attempt to address them in his aptly titled book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, and that’s what it really is, a BIG problem.

In this book, DeYoung offers readers a goodly dose of godly and theologically sound counsel with a healthy mix of common sense on how to deal with this canker of busyness. He shares his observations not as an indifferent bystander but as one who has had (and is still having) a firsthand experience of the effects of busyness, yet does so in a manner unlike your typical self-help books with their slick ’20 Ways’ or ‘7 Steps’ howtos.

In an era where it is usually deemed condescending for one to opine on a topic one hasn’t personally experienced, readers will find the author’s tone refreshingly personal and down-to-earth, one that anyone can well identify with for if anyone knows and have felt the overwhelming pull of busyness, DeYoung surely qualifies as one. He is a husband and father of five, a senior pastor, a prolific author and blogger and also currently pursuing a doctoral program. With each category cited above having its own accompanying challenges, he’s definitely got his plate full. Little wonder he readily admits that “more than any other book I’ve worked on, this one is for me.”

Crazy Busy examines the various forms busyness take in our lives while stealthily gnawing at the joys we have and proffer sound counsel on how to deal with them. Indeed, the author is right when he observed that “when our lives are frantic and frenzied, we are more prone to anxiety, resentment, impatience and irritability” which invariably affect those closest and dearest to us. Perhaps DeYoung may have been right when he asserted, “busyness kills more Christians than bullets.”

With mothers for instance, it looks like the house never stays clean. The dishes and laundry never seem to be done. The kids always needing our constant attention and especially the infant who never seems to stop crying and for the life of you cannot figure out what is wrong with her. And oh, you also gotta help the kids finish their homework. Then there is also that recipe that everyone is talking about which for some unknown reason you haven’t been able to add to your menu. And then there are Facebook friends and Twitter trends to catch up with…and on and on it goes seemingly ad infinitum until the point of despair when you begin to feel like you’re spiraling to your doom. These are more than enough triggers to make anybody go crazy. I agree with DeYoung that “busyness can ruin our joy.”

The bottom line is, we all have targets to meet and deadlines to beat and with our existing  state of affairs, it looks like busyness is here to stay but thankfully we have such useful tools like Crazy Busy to help us navigate those rough times before we are sucked into its resultant abyss of despair.

Readers will certainly find Crazy Busy immensely helpful. The question though is; will they make time out of their busy schedules to actually read it? I can only hope they do! 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: Tales From Different Tails By Nana Awere Damoah

Today is AU Day and perhaps, the only good thing about this day is that, it’s a holiday and it has afforded me the opportunity to read an African novel. And this one was certainly a fun read.

Tales From Different Tails is Nana Awere Damoah’s third book and is a collection of 8 short stories whose central theme could be said to be relationships. These stories hovered around motifs as bitter betrayals, cunning maneuvers, tenacious trust and loyalty among other such traits that are common to most relationships, all told in the quaint by-the-fire-side style of storytelling which always carries a moral lesson.

Any Ghanaian, especially those who have had the privilege of attending any of our ‘traditional’ universities and other tertiary institutions, will readily identify with the characters in these stories as a lot of the events Nana describe are still recurrent today. At least that was the case during my time at school. Brother Bazook (a character in October Rush) particularly touched a raw nerve as his depiction hit a little too close to home.
Nana employs a lot of local jargons like ogyacious, aponkye brake, tweah (which term has now attained international renown thanks to the infamous Gabriel Barima), toke, inte, among others. The one transliteration I found particularly humorous was attributed to Sulley Maame, the waakye seller, who sometimes sold her waakye on credit to loyal customers only to be “paid back at moon die,” to wit the end of the month. It is such jargons that gives Tales From Different Tails its quintessential Ghanaian feel.

There were points in the novel where I felt that the stories were “so real yet so fictitious” like Adadewa’s concocted lies against Kojo Nkrabeah. For instance, Akosua (a main character in Guardian Of The Rented Well) shared such striking similarities with the author that I couldn’t help but wonder if she was a replica of the author and that this tale was a recounting of a real past incident in the author’s life…I guess I may never know!

The telltale title of this book coupled with its spellbinding stories offered me just the humor break I needed today and I betcha gonna enjoy it too…go grab your copy!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: Treasured Friends By Ann Hibbard

Women all over the world suffer myriads of stereotypes and often these mostly unfounded mental conceptions tend to be more pronounced in the hinterlands where education is deficient. One such seemingly entrenched stereotypical conception is that women are inherently quarrelsome, so much so that, we tend to view feuds between women as completely ordinary and hence downplay the many possible adverse consequences of such bitter disputes because we somewhat unconsciously deem them normative.

However true or otherwise the above may be, I am of the opinion that women generally make better friends than men based on my personal unscientific observation and Ann Hibbard in her book Treasured Friends corroborated my hunch, though her work is by no means a comparative study/analysis of the sustainability of friendship among the two sexes.

In Treasured Friends, the author marshals a wealth of information from her personal stories and the testimonies of numerous other women she has encountered from her many speaking engagements to make a solid case for building intimate friendships.

She begins the book by sampling the views of some of the women on what they considered true friendship noting among other things that, “some use the term friend loosely to mean anything from acquaintances to lifelong soul mates.” As varied as the views were, one of the most recurrent themes in their responses was that true friendship teaches us to love. Ann beautifully encapsulates it thus, “Love is learned in the crucible of human relationships: a place where we bind each other’s wounds, clothe each other with humor, nourish each other with encouragement and quench each other’s thirst for acceptance and companionship.”

Commencing every chapter with a catchy and concise quote, Ann explores key ingredients like trust, love, acceptance, kindness, respect, etc that make for a healthy and intimate friendship yet in a manner that is not all niceties. Like in every human relationship, this book attempts to capture every aspect of true friendship, warts-and-all, thus giving it a realistic appeal. For instance, she advises that “anyone can say what we want to hear. A true friend tells us what we need to hear. Yet every word is prompted by love.” She also warns against parasitic friendships and suggests ways to cut off such ones observing that it is “better to go deep with a few than to have superficial relationships with many” especially “when continuing in a friendship necessitates participation in wrong behavior.”

As beautifully and as well written as this book may be, I strongly suspect that not many men will find it appealing because like me, they may think it too feminine. Even though men will lose nothing for reading it but rather stand to glean some invaluable lessons from an exclusively feminine perspective to better their own relationships, the book, right from the cover page through to the blurb at the back of the book and the numerous examples and stories in between all told in very flowery language seem to be skewed toward only female readers and probably purposely so. This in my opinion does not take anything away from the book but could probably count for one of its strengths in addition to it being strongly founded on biblical principles and its easy readability.

In the end, I think Ann Hibbard does a great job in her treatment of this topic and is timely piece for our Technological Age where relationships are built on social media behind the safety of our computer screens, making us probably more isolated than ever. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I recommend it to all ladies especially those who are keen on building intimate friendships. I am willing to lend my copy to any of my lady friends who are interested to give it a read. Just holler at me!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I grew up in a good Christian home where every year, two very important events marked the highlights of all activities on the calendar namely, Christmas and Easter. Christmas is usually the most anticipated time of the year and it is always marked with cheerful exchange of gifts amidst lots of merriment and joyous celebrations. This is probably due to the universal acceptance that the season enjoys as it typically tends to be a period of brisk economic activities when traders sought to maximize profits.

For some people, Christmas is simply a cozy holiday season when one sits back to take stock of the year’s activities and for others it marks the culmination of the successes chocked during the entire year and thus a good time to be grateful and to be spent  with the family. The story of Easter, however, is not quite the same.
Easter has traditionally been a somber period. It doesn’t typically enjoy the same exuberance with which Christmas is embraced yet the reason for this seemingly lackadaisical reception may not be so obvious.

Could it be that Christians have successfully maintained the season’s core purpose of serving as a memorial for the agony of their risen Savior and hence its somber nature? Is it because the period is so inherently associated with suffering and death, which are by no stretch of the imagination a merry affair? Or it may probably be due to its muddled pagan origins which detractors trumpet without fail during the season thus dampening the otherwise celebrant moods of many while making some lose faith in the whole celebrations altogether.

I remember I used to see people (usually elderly women) adorned in funeral cloth with very mournful countenance – in fact, some do even wail disconsolately – in certain mainline churches especially on the Good Friday. It makes one wonder, is it some sort of a cruel irony that this day is tagged “good” when the prevailing mood on the day is palpable sadness? Or is it that the true essence of the day is lost or probably misplaced?

I can surmise then that the melancholic milieu of Easter festivities is culpable for its seemingly poor reception because it paints a picture too gloomy for many to readily embrace. Ours is a generation in pursuit of happiness and lofty dreams thus we are very intolerant of any negativity that we perceive could mar our pollyannaish aspirations. So at worst we reject outrightly anything that threatens our happiness and at best resort to rebranding or undergoing a total makeover that appropriately suits our jolly taste.

Is it any wonder then that in Ghana today, Easter is synonymous with joyous festivities in Kwahu? It used to be that in the period nearing Easter celebrations, most ads on TV and radio were about upcoming church conventions and various outreach missions but that is fast changing and giving way to more modern trends. Thus, it is not uncommon to hear ads about paragliding that promises a thrill of a lifetime or those other popular ones in the line of “Easter Jam At Kwahu Featuring Sarkodie and Kojo Antwi…” among others.

Is this new trend good? Well, that will depend on who you ask. For the savvy business man or event organizer, this is just another golden opportunity to rake in large profits. For the insatiable hedonist, it’s just one more reason to party! For the Minister of Tourism, it’s a great time to showcase to the rest of the world the best the country has to offer in order to attract more tourists and investors. For the priest, it is just one more reason to bemoan the adulteration of an otherwise sacred Christian ritual through unholy worldly influences whereas for the zealous young Christian, it’s a good opportunity to intensify evangelistic efforts to bring more lost souls into their fold. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

In the end though, Easter like any other period, is a good time for Christians to ponder the costly sacrifice of their beloved Saviour that purchased their redemption. Whether you are going to mark this period with intense fasting and prayers or in a pensive Sabbatarian mood or as a jolly good time with family and close friends, do it all to the glory of God with the Christ crucified as your sole focus!

Happy Easter to all…


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Review: Rich Dad's CASHFLOW Quadrant by Robert T. Kiyosaki

Anyone who is familiar with my reading interests may very well know that motivational book and tapes aren’t my passion. This is because I’m convinced they achieve no useful purpose other than giving people what I term a ‘feel good’ effect. A friend once aptly captured in my view what best represents what these motivational speakers do saying they are just selling hope – and a false hope at that – to a desperate people. So you can imagine my surprise when this same friend strongly recommended I read a book by an author I’ve always perceived a motivational speaker. Ye the conviction with which my friend spoke and the evidence of the benefits he’d been reaping by applying the lessons he’d learned from the author was compelling indeed so I decided to take him at his word to read the book and boy, what an insightful read it’s been!

Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant, the sequel to Robert T. Kiyosaki’s best seller Rich Dad Poor Dad, is my second encounter with the author having read the first in the series sometime in the past while I was still in school. The book to my surprise didn’t fit my preconceived notion of a typical motivational book as it was very realistic in tone and down-to-earth in its practicability.

The author takes time to introduce the reader to the four parts of the cashflow quadrant i.e. E for Employee and S for Self-Employed on the left side of the quadrant with B for Business Owner and I for Investor on the right side while expounding on the pros and cons of each part. Though he doesn’t quite come clear on which part of the quadrant is best (as he assures the reader that no part is without its risks and gains), it wasn’t difficult to deduce that he favored the right side of the quadrant over the left side and even on the right side, the author favored the I over the B. Here, I often felt the author was playing fast and loose with his analysis and frustratingly so. I also found certain portions of the book to be needlessly repetitive almost to the point of being boring.

However, unlike your typical motivational book where readers are psychologically induced into a transient optimistic mood with the aim of jolting readers to action (often prematurely), the author advocates taking what he calls “baby steps” instead of giant leaps when venturing into a new quadrant. He underscored the importance of extensive and continuous education and knowledge acquisition with adequate experience because certain rules that may have been effective in one quadrant may prove ineffectual to one’s loss in another quadrant.

The author also shares many pithy quotes from his Rich Dad urging what may very well be unorthodox advice among motivational speakers such as “be prepared to be disappointed” because “only fools expect everything to go the way they want.” He observes that “just as we learn from our mistakes, we gain character from our disappointments” and that inevitably, “losing is part of winning.”

The crux of the whole book for me was succinctly expressed under the section he sub-titled BE˃DO˃HAVE where he teaches readers to spend more time acquiring the right attitude required to achieve the desired end instead of hastily seeking a shortcut by doing what one thinks will achieve a desired end. The end result of such impulsive action he noted is usually a burnout causing one to abandon one’s dreams even before one has truly started.

Cashflow Quadrant was a real eye-opener and I recommend it to all especially the financially naïve and for new business owners. May be it’s time I heeded the advice of the author to “mind my own business.” 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chale What's Your Guy Name

I recently visited a friend at his office, only to serendipitously bump into an AMOSA who was my friend’s colleague. This chance encounter drum home the trite remark that “it’s a small world” we live in. We exchanged pleasantries and carried on with a hearty chitchat. During our chat I realized that I did not remember his name. And so I did what I knew how to do best: I feigned knowledge of his name, while trying hard to recollect, yet engaging him with a phony smile. Halfway through the conversation, I mustered the courage to confess my ignorance. He just smiled knowingly and told me his name. I sheepishly exclaimed “Ah yes!” as though I was at the edge of recollection. Thankfully, this little gaffe did not dampen our chitchat till I took my leave.
Picture |Courtesy Yujin Evans

On my way back home, I tried to figure out why I generally found it a bit more difficult to recollect the names of my mates from Senior High School as compared to those from my Junior High School. The most obvious reason was that, I spent much longer time with my mates from JHS than I did my SHS mates since most of them were the same people I attended primary school with. Thus typically, I tend to remember and mention their names in full whenever I bump into any of them. Secondly, there were fewer of us in JHS than in SHS since we tended to have smaller class sizes. In JHS, the general population of the school was not very large so it was not a very difficult task getting to know almost everybody in the school. The third reason which I also thought it most fascinating was the prevalent usage of nicknames in SHS which incident was almost non-existent in JHS.

Sometimes referred to as ‘guy-name’ or ‘nicki’, the use of nicknames in SHS was commonplace and oftentimes preferable even to one’s proper name and they came in great assortments ranging from such cool ones as Shaker, Phastbone, DKNY, Khemistry, Dada Bee, Commotion, Paul Saul among others to very bizarre ones like Oshɛwoho, Bordordor, Digestive, Anyaa Popo, Odompo, Teefoi, Kontomire, Bazaywa etc and to the downright obscene like Twɛdash.

Some of these nicknames, as ridiculous as they were, often reflected certain aspects of the bearer’s quirky mannerisms or physique. Examples included names like Obaa Yaa, Nana Borrow, Onyintus, Azaa Bobby,Shro, One Muscle, Lil Chicken, Skelebo, Nana Nyankopong among others. Some too were infamous for their notoriety and cruelty. Those that readily come to mind are Pinky, Okonkwo, Wadada, Shanton and Nana King (whose nickname later metamorphosed into Serebour). There were also those people whose proper names were often mistaken to be their nicknames. Classic examples were Batsa and Kaiser.

The teachers were not exempted from this phenomenon. Apart from the obvious motive to ridicule, giving teachers these nicknames had the added advantage of affording students the leeway to jeer at teachers to their hearing, while they remained oblivious to the mockery directed at them. Some of the popular nicknames were Kriss Kross, Alonzy, Tampico, Abeezi, Prokayo, Barbie, Mɛdem, Iron, Aggrey Goat, Aggrey Bouncer, Auntie Faustie and what have you. Even the headmaster and his assistants were not spared. The headmasters usually retained the standard ‘Headzee’ nickname. I hear the immediate past headmaster was called ‘Worfa’. I also recall there was the ever dreaded ‘Payaa’. Some of the teachers were well aware of their nicknames and sometimes affectionately responded to them when students cheered them on during special occasions like the Speech Day celebrations.

So now tell me, with this plethora of nicknames laden with fond memories, is it any wonder then that i am unable to recall the names of my old school mates?