Dion's random ramblings

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Please pray for our little Liam

Please say a prayer for our little son Liam. He has developed a lung infection and is quite ill at the moment.


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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Some great news about Liam, but his dad is blind as a bat...

Yesterday little Liam the great went for all his 1 year checkups (eyes, ears, muscle tone, development, but also for his injections and immunizations)...

The great news is that he is perfectly healthy! In fact, not only is he healthy, he is doing so much better than we ever anticipated! He is reaching all of his milestones, and even surpassing some. The effects of the damage to his brain are minimal, and we hope they will become even less of an issue as he grows and mature. Naturally, our doctor (responsibly) warned us that with such a premature child the first 2 years or so are always dicey, so he is not out of the woods yet. However, you wouldn't say that there is any problem if you were to see him!!!

How different things were last year this time. I know some of the photos below have been posted before, but they never seem to stop amazing me and filling me with gratitude for all that has passed.

Last year this time Megan was in hospital (for the second time) trying VERY hard not to have our baby! I remember when the pediatrician and neonatal ICU manager came to see us, we knew something was amiss. They arrived together and gave us the rundown (worse case scenario) of what could happen:

  • If Liam was born during that week he would be very frail and prone to infection.
  • There was a high chance that his lungs were not developed, so we needed to prepare ourselves for him to spend months on a respirator, and then further time an ventilator once he had learned to breath.
  • It was likely that he would suffer some brain hemorrhages as a result of his brain being so fragile and not yet capable of coping with the stimulation and trauma of being out of the womb three months early.
  • There was a high likelihood that he would need numerous bouts of surgery to help sort out any digestive problems (which are common to neonatal premature babies).
  • It was likely that he would either suffer damage to his eyes, or be entirely blind, as a result of the respiration and ventilation (oxygen damages the eyes).
After they had shown us some pictures, explained all of the risks, and allowed us to ask questions they took me into the neonatal ICU (my first of MANY visits over the next few months). I scrubbed my hands and arms, put a mask over my face, and was instructed not to touch anything or anyone. Then they showed me a little boy who was born at more or less the same stage as Liam was due to be born - he was on an open resuscitation table (with heathers), pipes, probes, and a myriad of bells and whistles attached.

It was so traumatic - when I left the ICU and had to return to the ward to tell Megie about the experience I remember sitting in the parents lounge for a few minutes just weeping... I couldn't believe that we were actually going through this! After I had composed myself I went in to Megie's room and did my best to paint everything in a positive light - but in my heart I feared that we were going to loose our little miracle boy. It was a feeling that I would feel many, many, times after his birth.

Megie and I cried our eyes out! Heck, when I think back on November, December, and January last year all I can recall is an aching hole in the pit of my stomach, and seeing the world through teary eyes.

I remember that we prayed and pleaded with God to help us, and to keep Liam from being born. We begged God to keep him and Megie safe, and then we sat in a stunned silence...

Those were dark times! But, I will confess they were made bearable by the loving support and prayers of so many friends and family - we were receiving literally hundreds of emails and text messages from concerned people (some whom we had never even met)! It was an image of the body of Christ loving itself to wholeness.

Each afternoon of that week I would leave the hospital, fetch Courtney from aftercare and do my best to be composed and strong. We kept her bag packed, so that if I got a call from the ICU Courtney could go to her aunty Madika (and have clothes for school etc.). Then we would go to the hospital and watch a bit of TV with Megie - Courtney would cry all the way home.

Tough times.... I get quite emotional even thinking about it!

Yup, so he was born very early. I got a phone call on the Thursday evening, 15 November, to say get here quickly since Megie's water had broken and there was no way to keep Liam from being born. The nurse who phoned me warned me that it was serious and that we need to be prepared for the worst. I rushed to the hospital as fast as I could (my Polo Tdi has never been quite so fast since! I was doing close to 200km/h on the highway to the hospital). When I got there Megie was in the delivery room and our gynecologist, the pediatrician, the neonatal ICU staff, and the theater sisters were all ready. There wasn't enough time for a C-section, so.... Well, you can imagine. (The photo above shows how small he was with the little blue teddy bear. The one below shows how large he is in relation to that same bear today!)

Our lives changed that instance... Suddenly so many things that were not really important just fell out of our sphere of concern. For the next three months our lives were simply focussed on spending as much time as we could in the ICU with him, and making sure that Courtney (who was not allowed into the ICU) has as normal a life as possible.

Well, it's a year later, and Liam is healthy, strong, intelligent, agile, in fact he is just perfect, perfect in every possible way!

I just don't know how we could ever thank God for such an incredible and undeserved gift! If you read this post today, or find it in a year, or two, or three, please could you offer just a short little prayer to thank God for the gift that he has bestowed upon us? We cannot do it by ourselves, we need your help to fully than God for His mercy and grace!

Well, I also had my eyes tested yesterday... it turns out I am blind as a bat.... I do have glasses, but like most people who THINK they can see without them I don't often wear them. Well from now on you'll see me 'be-specticled' much more frequently... It's a bugger getting old!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making the most of this day, come what may.

My wife has been facing some challenges at work recently. She works for a public finance company that does work for departments of the South African government. One of their primary tasks is doing skills development and upliftment training for unemployed school leavers, and persons who have been hired into posts but lack the skills to adequately perform the tasks their jobs require. It sounds crazy, but that's a reality. People are hired for many reasons other than competency to do their work. And, let me hasten to add, often these reasons are very good! Of course, at times they are not.

What she does sounds like wonderful work doesn't it? She is in charge of a team of people, managing them, overseeing a number of qualifications and short courses, helping the unemployed, and those we desperately need employment but face the struggle of going to work daily feeling inadequate to do what they have been hired to do.

Sadly though, as with most companies that do work for government departments, payment from the State is slow in coming.

Not only is the system of payment to providers fraught with inefficiency and unnecessary bureaucracy, but there is a great deal of corruption and maladministration in some government departments - this often stops payment completely. It has meant that the company my wife works for has had to wait for payments amounting to millions of Rands, some for up to a year, because the department that was supposed to pay them has had its accounts frozen, or the money that was supposed to be used to pay them has landed up in some government official's private bank account and has been spent, and many other such problems. As anyone who balances their books knows, it is difficult to survive from month to month when you don't have enough money coming in - no matter how much is owing to you! I have often prayed, and wondered, how many good companies have closed down because of poor cash flow? I am praying for their company. They do such good work.

Sadly the reality is that sometimes even the most noble and admirable work can be thwarted by evil and sinful people, and by corrupt and inefficient systems.

So, today she left for work feeling a little downhearted. I offer this prayer for her, and for all others, who face the prospect of this day with uncertainty and struggle, for those who are employed and unhappy, and for those who long to be employed but cannot find any work. For those who desperately need their employment but find themselves out of their depth.

A prayer for this day:

My God, you saw me in my unformed substance and numbered my days before I had lived even a single one of them. Be close to me today, my God, and help me to love you first, and to do my best for you in all that I do. Help me to live freely, and without the restraints of this world and my circumstances. Give me the assurance that ultimately you are in control of my life, and that there is nothing that I shall face this day that you cannot help me to deal with. And so, help me to approach all people, and all situations, with the love and openness that only you can give. Let me manage all my affairs in accordance with your will so that when I stand to give an account of this day, I may do so with confidence, and not be ashamed. In the name of Christ, the servant and the savior, I pray. Amen.

Here is something to consider:

"There is a two way relationship between prayer and life. Prayer can be seen as the focusing and redirecting of an attitude to God and to our fellow [human beings] that runs through all that we do. On the other hand we can see our daily life as something which prayer purifies, directs and consecrates. This interrelationship of prayer and life was expressed by William Temple in his well know saying "It is not that conduct is the end of life and worship helps it but that worship is the end of life and conducts tests it." Temple is here using worship in a brad sense to include all of life. For in worship, as the derivation of the work from worth implies, we declare what we value most. If in prayer I declare that I value God above all things and in my life I show that my own selfish interests come first I am making a nonsense of my praying. We declare how we value God as much by our actions, by the way we treat other people, by the manner in which we do our work, as by anything we say. If my actions are wrong or wrongly motivated prayer cannot make them right. If however, despite my failures and inconsistencies, I do on the whole want to put God above all things then prayer will help to purify my motives and clarify my judgment."

-- From The river within by Christopher Bryant

Scripture verse for today:

Col 3:23-24 (NIV) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Drop me a line and let me know if I can pray for you.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Worship at work - a lovely liturgy

My last post indicated that I was about to enter the Chapel service to worship with our students. Rev Kedibone Mofokeng led the service. I've retyped her liturgy below (with some slight amendment, and excluding the Xhosa and Tswana prayers and hymns). The responsive sections are printed in italic script.

Opening prayer:
Let us pray:
Let us sing a new song to our Lord, a song praising and thanking God for this day.
A song of joy and happiness

Celebrating endurance and peace!
A song of love and victory, A song of faith and power.

O let our voices hover with the wind! Clap hands with the warmth of the sun and shout with the noise of the birds!
For our blinded eyes are opened, and our deafened ears unstopped; our crippled feet are leaping, and our muted tongues have found their real song.

Loving God, you have delivered us through another night. You have brought us, like your Son Jesus, from that world created and ruled by our wishes and hopes, and ushered us into the world that you, alone, create and rule.
For the grace that has searched for us, and found us, we praise You gentle Creator

Silent reflection:

You found what we were doing, and you intervened. 'Come and do it the right way, let us do it together, come and do it with me' you said.
We thank you Lord, for intervening in our lives.

In the beginning
Before time, before people
Before the world began
God was.

Here and now
Among us and beside us
Joining the people of the earth from different tribes, and tongues, and nations
For the purpose of your Kingdom
God is.

In the future,
when we have gone our separate ways
and we continue to fulfill our calling.
God will be.

Not denying the world, but delighting in it,
Not condemning the world, but redeeming it,
Through Jesus Christ,
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
God was, God is, God will be.

Closing prayer:
Speak your Word, O Lord, as you spoke your Word in the beginning, and in Nazareth, and on Pentecost. As we do our work today we shall be your faithful servants and witnesses, using our work as worship. Amen.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

More than bearable... In fact, a blessing!

Continuing in the theme of "an every day spirituality", I thought I would share a short reading that came from my devotions this morning -

Think of the number of people who have been encouraged in this way by the simple writing and profound life of Brother Lawrence. How vastly enriched we are that he was finally persuaded, almost against his will, to write down how he had learned "The Practice of the Presence of God". His famous words still throb with life and joy, "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.
-- from Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster.

And, here's one of the prayers from the little prayer book for exams -

There are times, O God, when I am overwhelmed by the evidence of Your presence. It can be seen in the work that I study, the conversations during the day, the scenes of nature about us on this campus and area.

Let these build my faith, and rededicate my resolve to do the best possible revision of my work for these exams. They are important both me and to You.

As I read books I find Your presence with people in every Age. As I examine the microscope, I see the minute beauty and excellence of Your creation. As I enter the library I find others studying so they too might bring hope to our world.

"Come see what the Lord has done, the astounding deeds he has wrought on earth" Psalm 46:8 (REB)

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A prayer guide for use during examinations - Wohooo!!! My first international sale!!!

Hey friends, I just wanted to share some great news with you (good news HAS to be shared!)

I sold the first copy of my little book (emphasis upon LITTLE) A prayer guide for use during examinations. Through Amazon.com today! How's that? Of course the postage will cost more than what the buyer paid for the book! But, it's worth it if it helps someone gain some encouragement as they face their examinations.

If anyone already has a copy and would like to write a review on it for me, then please won't you go the Amazon.com page for 'A prayer guide for use during examinations' and say a few (kind) words!?

P.S. If you life in South Africa and would like to order a copy (or more) please contact me directly (my email address is on the right hand side) - it is both cheaper and faster, plus I can write you a little love note in the front it you want one!

Thanks to whoever bought that first copy in Kentucky, USA! You book is on it's way!

AND, PPS Janet, your copies are on their way tomorrow.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Resources to guide your prayers, thoughts, and choices during World Hunger relief week.

Did you know that Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined!?

This week is World Hunger Relief week. I would encourage all Churches to insert some prayers into their liturgies, service sheets, or weekly devotionals.

From the links below you can get Prayer resources, Bible verses, and even games to help focus your prayers, and the choices and thoughts of your cell group, or Church during world hunger relief week.

Here are a few facts about world hunger:

You can download a MS Word prayer guide that has 40 prayers, with additional information, to guide your prayer during the week by clicking on this link.

  • 854 million people are hungry
  • 20 million people are undernourished
  • 1 billion people live on less than $1/day
  • 146 million children under age 5 are underweight
    • 10 million children under age 5 die every year, over half of hunger-related causes
  • 1 in 6 people is hungry
  • 1 in 6 people lacks safe drinking water

  • In the developing world, 20 million low-birth-weight babies are born each year. They are at risk of dying in infancy or suffering lifelong physical or cognitive disabilities.
  • 3/4 of all deaths in children under age 5 in the developing world are caused by malnutrition or related diseases.
  • Each day in the developing world, 16,000 children die from hunger or preventable diseases such as diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, or malaria. Malnutrition is associated with over half of those deaths. That is equal to 1 child every 5.4 seconds.
  • Hungry children are more likely to be ill and absent from school.
  • Hungry children suffer from 2 to 4 times more individual health problems--such as unwanted weight loss, fatigue, headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, and frequent colds--as low-income children whose families do not experience food shortages.

Africa quick facts - hunger and HIV/AIDS

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that there are 206 million people who are hungry in sub-Saharan Africa. This region accounts for 13 percent of the world's population, yet it is home to 25 percent of the world's undernourished population.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, 24.9 million people live with HIV/AIDS, which is 63% of the world's 39.5 million total cases.
  • In half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, per capita economic growth is estimated to be falling by between 0.5 and 1.2 percent each year as a direct result of AIDS. (Bread for the World)
For detailed information, resources, and a truly wortwhile read, please visit Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's website.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Looting, Eating, or Praying? What would you do if the world was going to end in an hour?

If a meteor was to destroy the earth in an hour's time, what would you do?

This was a question posed in a recent survey in Britain. I include the report (with results) from the Mail & Guardian newspaper below.

What I found interesting in the results of this survey is that only 3% of the population said they would pray, beating gluttony, and theft by looting, with just 1%! Amazingly sex did not feature all that high on the list (Hollywood must be wrong), although it dead beat prayer hand down!

That got me thinking about traditional forms of ministry. Perhaps the 'open doors' policy of the Church is no longer relevant - it certainly seems that it is not working in secular cultures such as that in Britain! What do I mean by 'open doors' ministry? Well, it is the kind of ministry that I'm sure many people of my generation and older are used to - it says "We'll be here every Sunday at 9.30 and 18.30. Our doors will be open, we'll be doing our thing. We know it is during your free time, but you should come to us, God is more important than anything else in life!" Of course God is more important than anything else in life... Except perhaps our sinful and selfish nature...

Perhaps we are needing to 'take it to the streets', so to speak? I am always encouraged when I read of new models of sharing the love and grace of Jesus Christ! Here's a wonderful model that has begun to add value to communities in the UK - Street Pastors at Work in the UK.

"We're not here to preach heaven and hell at people, we're here just to help people with whatever help they might need," said pastor Paul Rush... They are trained to have skills in meeting and counseling people before starting work on the streets.

The eight-week course also tackles anger management and crowd control as well as health and safety, first aid and drug awareness.

Here's the report on the survey from the Mail & Guardian:

Quick! Hand me the fatty food, the world's about to end
London, United Kingdom

An asteroid is on a collision course with the earth and you have one hour left to live. What would you do in your last 60 minutes?

Not surprisingly, the majority of Britons questioned in a survey -- 54% -- said they would like to spend it either with or on the phone to their loved ones.

But the survey revealed a strong hedonistic streak -- 13% would sit back, accept the inevitable and reach for a glass of champagne.

Sex appealed to only 9% while just 3% would turn to prayer.

Two percent intriguingly said they would reach for some fatty food while another 2% decided, with just an hour's life to go, that it was time to start looting.

The survey was commissioned by Ziji Publishing to mark the release of Cloud Cuckoo Land by debut novelist Steven Sivell, who "uses the classic premise of an impending meteorite collision as a metaphor for threats to the human race". -- Reuters

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Monday, October 08, 2007

A prayer for the world... Acceptance, God's Character, Christ's ministry, and our responsibility.

Yesterday I had the great joy of preaching at Calvary Methodist Church in Midrand (just between Johannesburg and Pretoria). My friends Alan Storey and Siviwe Waqu are the ministers of this incredible congregation. I have the great fortune of traveling throughout Southern Africa visiting many of our Methodist Churches. Each Church that I visit has some unique and special element that makes it a gift from God to the world, and a gift from the faithful members of that congregation to the Kingdom of God (I like to think of Churches as being gifted, and being gifts).

Calvary is one of the most remarkable Churches in the world! I have the great pleasure of preaching there every few weeks (mostly when Alan is traveling to Sudan, or the USA, or somewhere in South Africa, to do the 'Manna and Mercy' course (do a google search for 'Manna and Mercy' and 'Daniel Erlander'). It is always humbling, because he is a far more gifted and prophetic preacher than I shall ever be. However, what makes the experience so wonderful is that this is perhaps the most integrated congregation in the 6 nations that make up the Southern African Methodist Conference.

I will never forget the first Sunday that I was asked to preach there (way back in 2004). In the morning service as I presided over the sacrament of Holy Communion I had an elderly white woman, a young Indian woman, a young black professional man, an older black homeless man (who lived in the shelter at the Church), and myself a young white male, behind the communion table. It reflected the diversity of the Kingdom of God, all ages, all races, varied demographic, economic, and theological positions, various sexual orientations, and varied needs and desires. Yet we were all united in service of Christ our King - united in our common need for salvation, forgiveness, and acceptance and love in the Body of Christ. That was perhaps the first time in my life that truly understood the mystery of the Eucharistic meal.
This is truly what the Gospel LOOKS like... Not just what it sounds like!

Yesterday I preached a message on 'Acceptance' (you can download the MS Word transcript of the sermon here: Acceptance7Oct07.doc - if anyone is interested) - it was based on that question 'What does the Gospel look like?' Sitting in the congregation were young people, old people, white people, black people, gay people, straight people - in some ways it felt like preaching to the choir, or trying to convert the already converted. Yet, I realise that there are still issues and prejudices that needed to be address and dealt with. My prejudice against those persons who will not lovingly open the Church to all. There were men in the congregation who struggled to submit to the leadership of women. There were parents who struggled to accept the new perspectives, lifestyles, and choices, of their Children. There were HIV + positive people who were struggling to accept their status. There many, many of us, who needed hear that acceptance is part of God's nature, that it is central to the ministry of Jesus, and that it has to be foundational in the ministry of every disciple for the Kingdom of God.

So, what did we do? Well, we prayed! We were lead in prayer by Siphiwe Ndlovu, an incredible lay preacher (and a former colleague of my wife Megan). He lead us in a prayer that blew the cobwebs out of my soul! Afterwards I commented both to him, and Alan, that Siphiwe's prayer was enough... I did not need songs, liturgy, sermons - all that I needed to was that prayer. I will pray it over the next few days, or weeks, in the hope that it will become a part of the common life I share with all the people who God loves and accepts - even the one's that I struggle to accept.

The context that shaped Siphiwe's prayer was an experience on a previous weekend where he and other members of the Congregation engaged in 'Kairos' prison ministry. Kairos prison ministry is much like the Emmaus movement, but it is directed lovingly towards persons who are in prison.

Here is Siphiwe's magnificent prayer:

We bring now our chains to you who have set us free from the clutches of sin and death and brought us new life. Even though you have freed us we continue to be bound, our sin forever seeks us, fears and anxiety form our shadow, suffering and many problems hold us captive, unwilling to release us, to live fully the life to which you have called us. So we cry out to you this morning. Look upon this world with merciful eyes. Look upon us with merciful, love-filled eyes and release us. Free us from that which entangles us.

Oh Lord we bring to you this morning those among us bound by fear. Lord you know us, you see us, we who are immobilized by fear of failure and rejection; we who are unable to speak the truth or have meaningful relationships; we who are fearful of tomorrow; we who are bound in the mentality of scarcity, afraid to release our resources of time and money to free others from the chains of poverty and hunger. Oh Lord you see us and you see our chains ? so look upon those who are caught in improper relationships, unable to escape. Have compassion upon us, those for whom the fear of death and crime are real as a result of having had guns pointed at us and our privacy violated. Those of us who have tasted death and live in perpetual fear that it will come soon. See those of us caught in many addictions ? drugs, alcohol, busyness, work and sin. Jesus, you came so that we could have life in all its abundance, our fears bind us and limit our lives, our addictions call us back to feed them again and time again. Come again and again, come everyday and free us!

Oh graceful God, we pray for those bound by grinding chains of poverty. Parents who have to sacrifice their dignity to stand at traffic lights to beg from people who will not even look at them. Children who have to forego school and opportunities to learn and grow because they have no money, families for whom the rains are not good news because their roofs leak or they have no shelter.

Kids who are unable to enjoy the carefree ways of youth, caught in an adult world of being providers for their siblings; bound in chains of a world they can hardly cope with. Laughter has dried, questions of what games to play replaced with heavier questions of what they shall eat or what they will do if their parents die.

And Lord we pray for those who are bound in the system of wealth and the pursuit of it. Those for whom riches and fantasies of having more mean everything; those who sacrifice the relationships with spouses and children as they want more of the things that make them look good on the outside while they are dry and empty on the inside. Look upon those caught in an untenable situation of debt with no relief in sight. Come, Lord and loose their chains!

Even as we pray for freedom and release, Lord you know that for most of us chains are all we know. We are so used to being bound that the idea of freedom is threatening in itself. So we continue to resist your freedom. We long for it and yet do not have courage to take hold of it. We pray for courage to be free, to live free, fulfilling and life-giving lives. Root out all systems of oppression, those that are institutional and those that are entrenched in our hearts and minds.

And Lord we pray for those who are bound and live behind prison walls. For those who have wronged society we pray that you will bring them to a place of repentance and a new life. We pray for those who are in jails of the world. We pray for those who are in the jails of Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Darfur and for all those who fight to free their people from the chains of dictatorial powers. You Lord are on the side of the oppressed and the bound, for you know too well what it means to be bound, to be tried unfairly and to be given an unjust sentence. So we know that when we pray to you, we pray to the one who can emphathise, and one who intercedes on our behalf. The world is bound in chains ? come now and free us ? for whom the son frees, is free indeed. Amen

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Pre-Order: A prayer guide for use during examinations

This is an advertisement, so please feel free to skip over it!

With examinations upon us, I have edited a little booklet of prayers that are intended to help students to find hope, courage, and comfort, as they prepare to write their exams. The book also has prayers that can be used during the examinations.

The little books will be available in about two weeks time - it is currently with the printer (thanks so much to Manfred at AcdSA for his swift and incredible help). If you would like to order a copy of the book for yourself or someone else please just drop me an email and I will arrange to send one to you. They cost just R20 (excluding postage).

Rich blessing to all students who are preparing to write their examinations!

I have had quite a few students ask me for hints about the exam papers for which I am the external examiner... Here's my hint - study hard, pray hard, and don't forget that you're not alone! If you drop me a line with your details I would be happy to add you to my prayer list.

Here's 'blurb' from the back of the booklet:

A prayer guide for use during examinations ? The power of prayer in preparing for, and writing, examinations cannot be underestimated! Many of us have forgotten the pressure and struggle that students experience as they prepare for, and write, their examinations. The good news is that God longs to hear our prayers for help. God is always quick to offer help, strength, and everything that we need in order to give a clear and accurate account of what we?ve learnt. So whether you are at School, or University, God can help you to achieve your very best for God?s honour and glory.

This little book of prayers is intended to help students, who are preparing for and writing, their examinations. The prayers remind us that we are not alone ? God is with us! The original prayers were masterfully written by Roger Prentice and Virginia Cookman, Chaplains of Acadia University, in Canada. I first came upon them in 2004 when I was preparing a group of 80 Seminary students at John Wesley College for their final examinations. They have brought comfort, hope, and encouragement to countless students over the years. The authors gave permission for the prayers to be amended and prepared for use in their current form. My prayer is that they will be a blessing to you, or to whoever you give this little book to.
Rich blessing, thanks looking in on the blog!


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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An evening prayer (from Durban).

Megie, Courtney, Liam and I have taken three days together in Durban. After almost 6 weeks apart we cherish times such as these! I wish I could take more time to be with them.

Many who know me, know that I never travel without my copy of "A guide to prayer for all God's people". For anyone who is looking for a truly superb guide for their personal devotions, this is one of the very best resources out there! It follows the common lectionary, has daily scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments, well written prayers, and superb reflections by well respected scholars, authors, and spiritual parents.

Since the 17th of September I have had the prayer below on my lips - it carried me through the Conference deliberations, and now replenishes my spirit, and my love for my family and my vocation. This little prayer reminds me that I must not fear too much work, nor having to take on tasks that are far greater than my limited abilities, it reminds me that I must not recoil from conflict, or be too concerned about how God will care for me and others - it reminds me that I must simply and courageously seek to ask the question "How will I faithfully follow Christ in this situation?" Whether it is engaging in mission outside of the Church, or mission within it, what Christ requires is faithfulness. Perhaps the prayer may be of some use to you?

If I have wounded any soul today,
If I have caused one foot to go astray,
If I have walked in my own willful way -
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have uttered idle words or vain,
If I have turned aside from want or pain,
Lest I myself should suffer through the strain -
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have craved for joys that are not mine,
If i have let my wayward heart repine,
Dwelling on things of earth, not things divine -
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have been perverse, or hard, or cold,
If I have longed for shelter in Thy fold
When Thou hast given me some part to hold -
Good Lord, forgive!

Forgive the sins I have confessed to Thee,
Forgive the secret sins I do not see,
That which I know not, Father, teach thou me -
Help me to live.

C. Maud Battersby

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Please pray!

This week the SYNOD's of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa begin to meet in venues throughout the country.

There are many very important issues that will be presented, discussed, debated, and decided. Please pray for our students who will do oral examinations (particularly the Ordinands who will give their testimony and progress towards ordination, and the Candidates who will give their testimony and begin their training towards the ordained ministry).

Please pray for the Bishops who will lead us. Please pray for the faithful people who will come. And, please pray in particular for those who think that they cannot be one with those who do not agree with them. Please pray that we will be one, and remain one, so that the world may believe.

Please pray for me, I need the love of Christ, and His grace, to always consider others better than myself (Phil 2:3) and to grow toward having the same mind as that of Christ (Rom 2:5).

Please pray...

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Prayer under pressure... And, the tone of your voice

What do an olive press, pressure, and the tone of your voice have to do with prayer?

Well, here's a copy of a sermon that I preached last night. It is actually a message suited to Maundy Thursday (the Thursday evening before Good Friday on Easter Weekend). However, it happened to be the thematic message in our series on Jesus' prayers that we have been following at Bryanston Methodist Church.

Prayer under pressure.doc (MS Word file, 80 kb)

We were so blessed with a FULL church and a magnificent response to the call for persons to respond for prayer and ministry. I would guess that of the 350 or so persons in the service 100 or so came forward for prayer.

This week I shall keep all those who responded in faith in my prayers, may the thlipsis of the olive grove translate your trials and temptations into a worthy testimony to God's grace.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

The smell of rain... This is a heartwarming testimony of God's love and grace!

Every now and then someone sends something by email that touches me to the very depth of my being. This morning I received the word document below from my friend Kerry.

If you get a chance to download and read it you will certainly be blessed! It is called "the smell of rain". I couldn't stop crying as I read through it. Yup, cowboys (and Vespa riders) do cry!

The smell of rain.doc (about 200K)

Much love and blessing to all as you start this new week!

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

We praise God for an unknown saint! AND, an update on Liam

A note of thanks to an unknown saint.

I have often read the text, "... in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28 NIV, emphasis mine).

Of course I know that the text was written by Paul to the Christians in Rome (which he had not yet visited. He was writing to introduce himself, and his beliefs, to this group of Christians in the hope that they would be generous enough to accommodate and help him, using Rome as a home base, while he went on a missionary journey into Spain, which he never got to do before his death), and that this verse comes at the end of his speech on life in the Spirit, and how God's Spirit empowers us for holy and righteous living in the face of persecution and hardship, which was of course a daily reality for Christians in the 1st century. At that time the Church was nothing other than a strange 'sect' of Judaism, rejected by the Roman gentiles because of its links to Judaism, and ejected from the synagogue and persecuted by the Jews of the day because the belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

It cannot be denied that this verse has had a special meaning for so many Christians throughout the ages. At many different times, and in many different situations, this text has brought hope and comfort to people in all sorts of distress. I think that in most cases God is pleased when we hear God's word through scripture, and when it speaks directly to a need that we have.

Well, this week we have experienced this incredible grace again! On Friday I got a phone call in the office from an unnamed member of our congregation at Bryanston saying that she wanted to deposit some money into our account, on behalf of a friend, to help us with Liam's medical expenses! I was blown away! It is never easy to receive gifts such as these, firstly, because we feel so unworthy of such generosity, and secondly, because I think that every person has to contend with the sin of pride - that is, being self sufficient and independent. However, the person was so kind on the phone, even when I encouraged her to consider donating the money to another more worthy cause. I couldn't have been more surprised when I checked my bank account!

We don't know who the generous benefactor is, however, we cannot thank God enough for your incredible generosity! I don't think we have every quite experienced such great love and blessing!

This text from Romans took on a whole new meaning for us this week, God has worked for our good, in spite of our unworthiness and the struggle that we have been through over the last 4 months. We cannot stop praising God for God's incredible power in healing little Liam, and for the love, care, and generosity of God's people in taking care of Megie, Courtney, Liam and I.

So, whoever you are, we thank God for you! And we thank God not only for the tangible way in which your gift will help us to care for our son, but also for making us feel so appreciated, special, and valuable! We're on top of the world!

An update on Liam.

Little Liam is getting less and less little by the day (I know that is not good grammar, but it's true!) This Thursday Liam went to be weighed and he now weighs 3.3kg's! That's almost exactly 3 times his body weight! He now weighs more than Courtney weighed when she was born (she was 2.7kg's at birth). Liam's progress has also been great, he is starting to become a lot more lucid and responsive (he follows sounds and faces much more easily, and he is doing his best to try and smile!) We visited with some good friends of ours last week Sunday (my friend Christopher and his wife Keryn, and their family. I was preaching at Chris' church in Midrand). Their son Nathan was born just short of a month after Liam (he was born on the 8th of December, at 4.5kg's!!! Can you imagine!?) He is such a lovely, healthy little guy. However, when we have Liam together with him we are able to see that Liam is still a little behind. Nathan smiles, laughs, rolls over, and is awake quite a bit. However, we were aware that little Liam would take a few months longer to do such things. Our occupational therapist said that we can only really start tracing his progress from his intended birth date (11 February), rather than from his actual birth date (16 November). So, whereas he has been out of the womb for almost 4 months, he is really only two weeks old! The photo at the top of this post shows him fast asleep yesterday! He is getting quite heavy to carry! But boy, it is SO MUCH easier to handle him now that he has a bit of flesh! In fact he is getting so chubby that he is getting little folds on his joints (you know what I'm talking about? It looks like his wrists, feet and legs have been 'screwed' onto each other! Just take a look at the photo above and compare it to some of the older photos on the blog. You won't be able to believe the difference).

Hey friends, I cannot tell you how incredible this little guy has changed our lives! He is SUCH a miracle and such a gift! This morning as I was praying I was thanking God for him and for Courts (and of course also Megie!), and for all of you who have supported and upheld us in your prayers. Please will you also give thanks to God with us for these great gifts?

I am still fasting every Friday for the other little babies that are undergoing this struggle. The little girl that I have written about before is still in the ICU after more than 5 months. She is still very ill and having fits often throughout the day. I also discovered that one of my Methodist colleagues, the Rev Z Henslow in Nelspruit, had a baby born at 27 weeks. I spoke with him on Thursday and heard that their little one may have to go for an operation. So, please will you continue to pray for them? We have seen the difference that prayer makes in our lives! We truly believe that it will make a difference in these little lives as well.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

our baby, my back, my blog, and other business...

Wessel reminded me that I had not updated my blog in over a week. Indeed, that is true!

If there is one sure fire way to stop people returning to your blog, it is not updating regularly. So, to all the regular readers, sorry!

Firstly, little Liam is doing great! He has finally started picking up weight close to what he ought to. As mentioned in an earlier post, since Liam came home he has been struggling to pick up weight within the range that is required of him (he should be gaining about 150grams a week). In his first week home he picked up only 40 odd grams, and then 80 in the second week. However, this week he picked up 130 grams! So, he is getting there. The even better news is that he went to have his eyes tested on Friday. Most premature babies (well over 80%) have some problems with their eyes. Most commonly they get detached retina's due to the fact that they are on such high doses of oxygen whilst in the ICU. However, when Liam had his eyes tested this week the optometrist simply said that he is a miracle child. Of course we know that, and we praise God for him! Indeed, the fact that he was on oxygen for 6 and some weeks, and that he had the brain hemorrhage should have left him with some damage. But, praise God, he has perfect eyesight!! Please will you join us in thanking God for this?

January is always a busy time for me. We have our huge department of education meetings, we also have the connexional January seminar where all of our student ministers (over 200) come together for a week's training (hey Gus, it was great to see you, and Juan, your Ordination is such a joy!!! Thank you very much for honouring me by asking me to be one of your Presbyters... I promise, I won't wear the red robes!) It would seem that any such meeting comes with great stress. In the last week I slept less than 4-5 hours each night, and did not have a single moment all day where I was not busy with someone, teaching, answering questions, praying, listening, or having to communicate some element of discipline because of lack of performance.

For the last two years I have had a reminder set in my Palm diary. It goes off every Monday morning at 6.45am (we start chapel at 7.30am each day, so this just reminds me before I get to see the students from about 7am onwards). The reminder reads:

"Be joyful in hope, faithful in prayer, and patient in affliction" (Romans 12:12)

This certainly was a worthwhile reminder! So, as I grappled with Bishops, agonised over students, and did all that was required I held onto these encouraging words.

Of course, stress has a consequence... My back seems to have picked up the majority of the stress... I have not been able to lie down or carry too much weight. So, please do pray that it gets better.

This week I have to orientate all the new students who are arriving at John Wesley College. For many of them this is the start of a new and exciting journey towards full time ministry, for others it is a further step on that journey. Please would pray for them as they undertake this step and discover all that is expected of them? Would you also please pray for me and all our College staff as we do what is required to help them faithfully answer God's call?

In between these activities I need to continue with my research for the Theological Society meetings, and for the Oxford institute at which I will present a paper in August this year (my abstract was received and I have been accepted as a member of the Oxford institute).

Of course I hope to do a few of the trips between the College and the two universities on my Vespa! That is sure to bring some further joy and relaxation.

So, I hope to update the blog with more news and ideas! Thanks for checking in!

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