Dion's random ramblings

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Gunze screen driver for the Sony Vaio U70p

For all my friends on the Sony Vaio U group, here is the link to the GUNZE screen driver for the U750 (as posted to the group).

Click HERE to download.

Let me know if it doesn't work.

Here are some other drivers I managed to find. I think they are all of the U50 and U70, so they may work on the U70p. I have never had to use them so I am not sure what they do, or even if they work! I noticed that the site from which I originally got them has pulled the drivers. So, if they don't work I'm afraid I can't offer any further help!

Click HERE for the U50 / U70 drivers.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

A theology of the ministry of an ordained Deacon in the MCSA.

One of the great joys that I have is serving as the co-ordinator of training for persons who are training towards ordination for the ministry of word and service in the MCSA.

For those who are not aware, the MCSA ordains persons to the ministry of word and sacrament (called presbyters, the are most commonly ministers of local Churches, often called by the title Reverend), and then the Church also ordains persons who are called to the ministry of word and service (these persons are addressed by the title deacon).

The ministry of word and service is an incredibly high calling that has its roots right back in the early Church of Acts. Of course it can trace its character back to the ministry of Jesus, who was perhaps the very first Christian deacon. Jesus said that he came not to be served but to serve.

Sadly, deacons are often treated like 'second class' presbyters. This is most often because they do not administer the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist. The result has been that the Convocation of the order of deacons has requested, on numerous occasions, to allow ordained deacons to preside as ministers over the sacraments (particularly the sacrament of Holy Communion). This is also a pragmatic need since deacons are most often visiting the sick, the elderly and such persons that cannot come to a regular service of worship.

However, if one were to make such a concession it would require some significant theological gymnastics to sustain a credible position in its favour. As a result I was asked to prepare a discussion / position, paper on deacons and the sacraments in the MCSA.

This paper take the point of departure that there are three co-equal ministries in the Church (taking the triune God as a point of departure). These three ministries (the ministry of the lay, the ministry of ordained presbyters and the ministry of ordained deacons) are mutually interdependent, and of equal necessity and value in achieving God's mission for the Church.

Moreover, the paper argues that the traditional translation of the Biblical Greek words diakonos (acts of service) and diakon (the one who serves) have been inaccurate. You can read the paper for the finer points of this argument. The essence is that a deacon is not only a servant (in the Biblical sense), but more particularly an 'emissary servant', one who is sent to represent the King.

Here is the paper. It will be of particular use to persons who are considering offering for the ordained ministry and are unsure of whether God is calling them to be ordained presbyters or deacons. It will also be of use to deacons and presbyters who are getting ordained this year and need to write the assignment on the uniqueness and distinctiveness of each of these forms of ministry.

Deacons and sacraments.doc (MS Word document 88 Kb). NB! Students, please use accurate references when using sources from this document!

Please pray for us as we go to the Doctrine, Ethics, and Worship Commission meetings of the MCSA this week (DEWCOM). Amongst other things we will be deliberating on Same Sex Unions, Abortion, a theology of Mission, Human Sexuality and Marriage and a host of other important doctrinal issues.

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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 19, 2007

Don't forget the poor! I thank God that I can feel, although it is seldom easy...

I have a life of great blessing and privilege. Many of you who know me well know how often I struggle with a feelings of unworthiness. Why on earth should my life be so great, when there are others in the world who are so much more holy, devout, committed, pure, intelligent, caring (and the list goes on), who should suffer and struggle? Why should I have so much, when others have so little? How can I possibly sleep at night, and work through the day, knowing that nearby there are children who starve, wives who are beaten, men who have lost their self respect because they have been unable to work for months, whole communities dying of HIV... how can I do it?

I feel. In fact to be honest, I feel it deeply, often to the point of great sadness.

However, I thank God that I can experience life, that I can feel, and that I can think. In particular I am grateful that God employs all of my faculties in engaging with me, as unworthy as I am!

Let the truth be known, God truly does speak to me (not so much in an audible voice... Although that does happen from time to time when I forget to take my meds ;-)!

God speaks to me by engaging my intellect; I have been re-reading Dawkin's attack on faith The God delusion. Through it God has spoken to me and is reminding me that faith is not incongruent with reason, in fact it belief is the most reasonable response in a suffering world! Someone once asked Viktor Frankl, the Jewish psychologist and writer, how he could still believe in a loving God after witnessing and surviving the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. He is believed to have answered "how could one possible go through such horror without believing in God?" If I did not believe, I simply could not cope. For I would either have to stop feeling, or I would be driven to complete despair. My belief gives me hope.

God speaks to me through my emotions, I have had a number of very emotive encounters with God of late (I guess that some of it has to do with the fact that I am feeling somewhat run down and tired because of the demands and business of these past few months, such feelings always leave me quite emotional. Coupled with this is the emotional roller coaster of Liam's growth and recovery since November last year). I feel, and I thank God for it! I can think of nothing worse than being as hard as a rock, impassible, and without the capacity for either great joy or great pain. It is not possible to experience the one, without the possibility of also experiencing the other.

And, God speaks to me through my experience of reality (particularly as it is mediated through the scriptures, and through significant relationships). I would like to dwell on this point a little if I may.

This weekend I experienced, once again, the dichotomy of privilege and poverty. The privilge is that I had the honour to preside at the wedding of very special family friends in Cape Town. Imagine if you can, the incredible honour of being able to facilitate a moment of such loving intensity that it will carry two persons forward in commitment, hope, faith, and deepening love for the rest of their lives. I cannot imagine any servant of the gospel who is worthy of such a great honour. And so, as I spoke with Sean and Kim, and addressed the gathered family and friends, I was overwhelmed with gratitude at being asked to play some small part in the sacredness of this moment. That they should find me worthy to do it, that God should find me worthy to call me such ministry, blows my mind! Of course, together with this privilege came the practical expressions of their regard for me, a situation that I still struggle to understand. I was flown to Cape Town, given a car, accommodated in a magnificent hotel, lavished with gifts.

As part of the trip I also had the joyous privilege of visiting some of my closest friends, Gus, Heather, Andre (AKA Norm) and Michelle. They are so kind to me, so affirming, so loving... How could I ever deserve such love? It was great to experience it though.

Last night I once again had the privilege of standing in front of a full Church, over 300 people I would guess, eager to hear the Gospel and worship God. It is a Church filled with some of the most brilliant hearts and minds of our nation! Among them are doctors, lawyers, economists, parents, children, scholars, teachers, servants and of course friends. What could I have done to deserve such an honour? That they would trust me to listen for God's voice and share my insights with them still blows my mind. They are far more intelligent, and many far more committed and creative in their expressions of Christ's love! However, I gratefully accept the privilege of ministering to them.

Last week Megan and I received a third donation towards Liam's medical expenses. We are so undeserving of the grace showered upon us by people who don't even know us! Our friend Wessel Bentley's Church has given us a total of R32 5oo towards the R100 000 or so that we have had to find to cover unpaid medical bills (please also see my blog entry below about the incredible gift from an unknown saint)! How could we ever be worthy of such generosity? Yet, we are blessed and thankful to receive it. Perhaps more thankful than they will ever know. I am so undeserving of such generosity and grace.

On Friday I heard from a colleague, who has become a dear friend, the Revd Zdzislaw Hendzel, that his son Christopher who was also born at 27 weeks in February this year had passed away after an almost 2 month struggle in the neonatal ICU. I was crushed. I don't know how to respond. Why do I have the privilege of the life of my son, yet he does not have the privilege of his? It is an undeserved and not understood. All I could do was weep and pray. It came on the day of my fast. I will continue to make that sacrifice of thanksgiving. I have no other response.

And so God speaks to me... And I hear.

What I hear is that even though I am so privileged, I am totally impoverished. There is not a single achievement, accolade, honour or blessing in my life that belongs to me. Everything is a gracious gift from God. And, my desire to find a way to become worthy of these honours is in itself a selfish desire, a desire to remove the grace and somehow pretend that I have earned these great gifts, that perhaps I could show that I deserve them. But, I do not. They are simply gifts, gracious, undeserved, unmerited gifts. I have no moral, spiritual, or intellectual prosperity. I simply live in humble dependence on the God of all grace.

My friend Peter Grassow sent me the following quotes this morning:

Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. - Deuteronomy 15:10-10


It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity. -Frederic D. Huntington

Poverty and privilege. These are the two contrasting realities of my life.

There is in my congregation at Bryanston a young man who is so remarkable, so gifted, so worthy of every privilege that life could shower on brilliance, yet he has chosen to give his best (and he is the best) to serve God. His service is not just empty words. This young man has devoted his brilliant mind, his youthful energy, and his compassionate heart, to alleviate poverty, poverty of the worst kind. I am inspired by him, it is a privilege to know him, to know people like Sean, Kim, Gus, Heather, Andre, Michelle, Zdzislaw, Wessel, Peter, it is a privilege to know Jason (AKA Jay). They remind me that my life is intended to spent, and spent generously. I can find no better response to my privilege and poverty than to have my life spent in the service of others, others who are far greater than me. If I can change just one life like this, my life will have been well spent!

Please could you take some time to read Jason's reflection and challenge (in MS Word format below)?

1Q 2007.doc

Let's allow our privilege and our poverty to speak to us, and as Jason challenges us at the end of his reflection, let us "Remember the poor". I seem to remember Jesus saying,

'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these..., you did for me.' (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

The cycle of another year! John Wesley College Graduation 2007, with gratitude and thanks.

One of the great comforts of life is that it moves in cycles. My year is metered and regulated by the various functions and activities that occupy my energy, creativity, and time. Most of these relate to my work as the Dean of John Wesley College, the Seminary of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

Today was another moment to reflect, give thanks, and remember, the years that have passed since I have been in this responsible post. Please check below for a copy of the little article that I wrote for the EMMU website about this year's graduation (that has the facts, these are the feelings).

Last night I drove my newly painted (Old) Vespa up the hill to our College Chapel to check that everything was in order for the Graduation today. I am in that glorious stone Chapel daily (each morning from 7.30 to 8.30 we have a worship service with our students - it is predominantly worship in the African idiom with drums, a bell, a beat, and almost entirely in the vernacular). However, last night as I entered that same Chapel I was overcome by an entirely different emotion.... I can only describe it as a feeling extreme humility, unworthiness, and gratitude. I entered the Chapel just as the sun was setting, it is truly a magnificent space in just the right light (built in 1927 with large stones and a fantastic stained glass window and polished red floor). I walked in and saw how our students, my colleagues, had meticulously prepared every aspect of the Chapel for the graduation service. It was pristine, everything in its place, the air still filled with the smell of wood polish! And then the feeling I spoke of earlier came upon me, I knelt at the rail, where I kneel every Tuesday morning for the weekly Eucharistic service, and I gave thanks to God! How thankful I am that I have survived another year to be at the Graduation again. How thankful I am for all the growth and incredible experiences I have had in the last 4 years. How thankful I am to the Methodist Church of Southern Africa for entrusting me with this awesome responsibility of training her ministers (a task for which I am ill equipped, and certainly not worthy). How thankful I am for my loving wife, my darling daughter, and my healthy son. How thankful I am for the vain things, like my education, and the silly things, like my Vespa!

How thankful I am indeed! How undeserving, yet grateful that God should shower me with such grace and blessing. I don't understand the privilege I have been given. I often struggle with the responsibility and pressure (those who read Greek will understand when I speak of it as thlipsis more than just pressure), but that too is a gift of God's grace; keeping me reliant on God and the people among whom I have been placed. I am thankful!

I prayed for a while until it was completely dark, and then I climbed onto my Vespa (pushed it down the road because it still doesn't start! I'm thankful for the exercise that gives me!) and enjoyed the evening air as I rode home on a beautiful summer evening in Africa to be with my family. Last night I rested well. Today I celebrated. I am at peace today, and once again I am thankful.

Here is the article about the Graduation from the EMMU website (these are the facts..... Well, sort of):

The Campus of John Wesley College, the seminary of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, has been abuzz with activity for the last number of days. The reason for this heightened activity was all of the preparations that needed to be made for the College's annual Graduation ceremony that was held this morning (Saturday 10 March, 2007).

(Click on a photograph to enlarge it) The photograph above shows a few of the Bible Women who were graduating with Certificates in Theology, having completed their Certificate studies over a period of two years. Below is a picture of some of the Evangelists who had completed the same course.

In total 22 Bible Women and Evangelists received their qualifications from the Reverend Jacob Freemantle, the Warden of the Order of Bible Women and Evangelists in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Together with these Graduates, a number of awards were given to student ministers for outstanding achievement in their studies in 2006. These included:

  • Rev Chris Mokone - Best results at John Wesley College in 2006
  • Rev Jacob Mokhutso - Best first year student at John Wesley College in 2006
  • Rev Jenny Sprong - Best Progress towards Ordination
  • Rev Michael Lambatjeen - Best student for the ministry outside the borders of South Africa
  • Rev Phatisiwe Mthi - best progress from a student at John Wesley College in 2006
  • Rev Ryan Killian - Best minister in Phase 1 training in 2006
  • Rev Ndikhokele Mtshiselwa - Best honours (post graduate) student at John Wesley College in 2006
A number of senior dignitaries from the Methodist Church of Southern Africa were in attendance.

From Left to Right
Row 1: Rev Professor Neville Richardson (Director of EMMU and Principal of John Wesley College), Rev Vido Nyobole (Connexional Secretary of the MCSA), Rev Dr Gavin Taylor (Bishop of the Limpopo District of the MCSA)
Row 2: Rev Luvuyo Sifo (Chairman of the John Wesley College Student Council in 2007), Rev Sifiso Khuzwayo (Lecturer in Christian Proclamation and Homiletics at John Wesley College), Dr Joan Jackson (Lecturer in Church History at John Wesley College), Rev Dr Dion Forster (Dean John Wesley College).
Row 3: (center) Rev Jacob Freemantle (Warden of the Order of Bible Women and Evangelists), Rev Ruth Jonas (coordinator of training for Lay ministries in the MCSA), Rev M Molale (District Supervisor of Studies for the Central District of the MCSA).
Row 4: Rev Madika Sibeko (coordinator of training for Ordained ministries in the MCSA), Mrs Liz McDougal (English lecturer at John Wesley College), Mrs Audrey Zinde (Zulu lecturer at John Wesley College). Not pictured here, who were also in attendance at the celebration, are Bishop Paul Verryn (Bishop of the Central District), and Rev Sox Leleki (African Church History lecturer at John Wesley College).

The students of John Wesley College need to be thanked and acknowledged for their hard work and superb preparation for this celebration! Thanks also goes to Professor Richardson for his inspiring address on the need for sacrificial and dedicated Christian witnesses (from the Greek word martures - out of which developed the concept of the Christian martyr). It was truly challenging! An MP3 audio copy of the address is available upon request from Dr Dion Forster.

It was a truly wonderful day of celebration and thanksgiving for years of commitment and work by the students.

To view the full set of 50 photographs from the Graduation ceremony please go to the EMMU flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7347784@N08/sets/72157594580272085/

(Dion Forster, John Wesley College, 10 March 2007)

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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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