Dion's random ramblings

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pictures of me 10 and 20 years ago... BOY, I was young (and reckless)

Steve tagged me with a 10-20-30 meme (Steve, sorry to take so long to do anything about it! It'll be posted here soon).

So, last night I though, rather than just putting up text about what I was doing 10, 20, and 30 years ago I would try to find a few photographs. I couldn't really find any that related specifically to my life in October / November of 1977, 1987, and 1997, but I did find a few photographs from periods inbetween. I thought they may be a bit of a hoot.

Let's go all the way back! This photo was taken around 1986 I was 14 or 15 and already a REAL problem child! My parents had their own parking space at the local police station, I could identify most banned substances by smell, taste or proximity, and... well say no more, except that I was the child you warned your kids about...

The picture below was one with my school friends, Graham, John, myself, and Neil. This was our highschool band, probably taken in 1985 or so. We played at school 'discos', some pubs etc. It was a lot of fun... We got up to some mischief. Look at those skin tight jeans!? Heck, how things have changed!

This picture was taken a few years later. I had come to faith in Christ. I will write more about that in the 10-20-3o post. That even was truly the most significant event in my life. However, in this picture I was an undergraduate student (as you can see by the hair!) Our band was called 'The Rockets' (I think) we had a lot of fun, but we sounded awful!!

This next picture was taken during my stint in the army. My nickname was 'Prophet' because I was always trying to tell people what God's will was for change and transformation.... Nothing much has changed! I ran a campaign called "I'd rather have a shovel" - I tried to convince my fellow troops, and commanding officers, that I could do a lot more good with a shovel than a gun... "Send me into the township with a shovel, and I'll plant trees". They didn't like me much in the army. The security police visited my parents and questioned my brother since I was a member of the United Democratic Front (a grouping of policital parties like the ANC, IFP, and PAC that were banned in South Africa at that stage). If I had the courage I should rather have gone to jail than go to the army... At that stage all white males in South Africa had to do 2 years of military service, if you refused to go you would be jailed for between 4 to 6 years. But I didn't have the courage to match my conviction... Quite sad really. So these kind of antics were my 'small' protest to the apartheid military system... I should have done more.

This picture was taken in my first year in ministry (1991), see if you can spot me... I am the 'little head' in the back row on the right, behind a young and thin Paul Verryn (count 3 heads from the right for Paul, I am the next head along) - I was staying with him in Soweto at that stage. Those were heady times! I learned a lot about society, culture, and justice in those years.

This next one shows me in Carletonville / Fochville in the North West (or is that Gauteng) province? I was invited by the Mayor to do a prayer for a new set of buildings the outgoing town council had erected in an attempt to spend the money from the previous 'white' authority, so that there would be no money left when the multiracial authority took over the following year. They asked me because I was young and English, and so they thought it would placate the new black members of council. In my little talk I asked questions about the money, where it had gone, how it was spent, and whether the community had a say in it. My prayer was a prayer of repentance for injustice. I was not invited back....

Shortly after this I was moved to Grahamstown where I continued my studies doing an Honours and Masters degree before leaving Grahamstown for a post in Cape Town.

I'm sorry for the quality of the photos, some of them are OLD!

[Pic] Bike Helmet Protects Child From Helmet-Inspired Beating...

ha ha! This is hilarious! I love 'the onion', they have quite a wacky outlook on the news!

I had a few beatings in my childhood inspired by clothes, haircuts, and antics, that my family put me up to... How about you?

The headline (and benign picture) in this post come from the onion print edition.

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The power of money! What hold does it have on you?

Money is a very powerful thing.  People die, and kill, for it (or the lack of it) each and every day...

Most people are unaware how much hold their money has over them.  We live as if we are truly free, yet for so many of us our decisions and lives are shaped by the decisions we make about money:

- what career will I follow?
- where do I choose to live?
- will I make it to the end of the month before the end of the money?

If you want to see how powerful money is, simply ask someone to tell you how much they earn... If they're silenced by your question, it is likely that they, like most of us, have been overpowered by money.

I am quite skeptical of pastors and churches that 'force' their members to tithe on their income (i.e., give a 10% of their earnings) by promising them that this sacrifice will bring blessing.  However, there is a faith principle contained in this practice...  The principle is not that God will bless you for giving God (the one who has no need for money) 10% of your income...  Sadly most of those Churches and Pastors are not using the money they get for the work of God!
However, the value of the principle of generous giving is that it forces me give away something that has a hold over me, without the hope of receiving anything in return.  Each time I give I find a bit more freedom.

And, of course, anything that has that much power over me must be subjected to the rule and authority of Christ - after all, he is not only my Saviour, he is my Lord!

As a minister I have had to make many choices that would seem counterintuitive in a consumer society... Today I was faced with a choice to earn more money to do something different to what I am doing now...  When my first thoughts turned to what I could get out of it I realised that this choice could not be made without prayer, and careful discernment.  Today I was reminded that I am controlled by money.  I don't want to be - I want only to be controlled by what will help to achieve God's mission of healing and transformation in the world.

Please pray for me.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What Americans think of the South African K53 drivers license test - it's nothing less than insane!

This report was posted by the famed 'cranky geek' journalist John C. Dvorak on his blog.  I have long felt that the K53 test is just over the top... No wonder people choose to buy a FAKE license!

Here's the post:

Cullen is a South African driving instructor. You would drink, too. His job is to teach people how to pass the driver?s-license examination, a trial of the country?s famed K-53 Method of defensive driving. Herein lies a problem, for the K-53 Method resembles normal driving about as much as Eminem resembles the late Perry Como.

Securing a driver?s license here is not as simple as passing the K-53, which is not simple at all. It also requires that one apply for the license, a bureaucratic process so daunting that it literally triggered riots this year. It necessitates eye examinations before applying for a license and before the road test - and all over again, should one fail. It often demands that one game the driving examiner, who may wish to flunk the hapless applicant in order to meet the day?s failure quota.

It is helpful to learn South Africa?s extensive and sometimes charming traffic code, which rates children from ages 6 to 13 as one-third of a passenger and includes a road sign that depicts a stick-figure man astride an ostrich.

Based on Britain?s national driving exam, the K-53 effectively requires an applicant to imagine that he is driving a live Claymore mine under assault by guerrillas in bumper cars. The handbrake must be silently engaged at all stops (ratchet-clicking is strictly forbidden) and all mirrors must be checked every seven seconds. Points are deducted for glancing at the gearshift, driving too slow, failing to ensure that headlamps and tail lamps are securely attached, failing to check the pressure on the clutch pedal, failing to look beneath the car for leaks and several dozen other sins.

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Exclusive video! Ninja parade slips through town (unnoticed) again... Maybe we'll see them next year.

Here's an exclusive video showing a Ninja parade slipping through town again...  This was shot in Modesta California.  Watch carefully!

Ninja Parade Slips Through Town Unnoticed Once Again

Miss it!? Amazing aren't they!!? Well, maybe next year....

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Losing my religion... More and more people are doing the same.

If you were old enough to listen to contemporary music in the 1990's you'll remember the REM song "losing my religion".  The phrase actually comes from the American South where it is used to refer to being at the end of one's wits (usually it is associated with having lost the love of a significant person).

However, it would seem that all of America is starting to loose it's religion.  Recent research has shown that around 12% of Americans now consider themselves without any faith at all, that is up from 8% ten years ago.

The image in this post shows the changes in statistics... However, if you would notice they key points out '*Percent atheists, agnostic, or no religion'.  I am not sure that this accurately describes and emergent generations approach to faith. 

First, I think that there are many sincere Christ followers (in America in particular) who would rather have nothing to do with a religion held by it's President who sanctions war in its name, exploits the poor, plunders the environment, yet prays on Sunday.  Sadly George W Bush is a Methodist - if it were not for saintly America Methodists (among them Stanely Hauerwas), I would long have given up on United Methodism!  Sadly, the same can be said for almost every single denomination throughout the world (mine included!)  Heck, I am part of the problem!

Second, however, I think that statistics such as this do show us that we need to find news ways to SERVE people with the faith that we all need!  I think that as society changes we need to be ahead of that change, finding ways of taking ministry to where people have needs, not JUST asking people to bring their needs to where we can offer ministry!

Can you see the paradigm shift I am talking about?  One says "where do you have need, let us bring wholeness to you there".  The other says "we have wholeness here, bring your needs to us."  

Third, I think that measuring the effectiveness of any faith by numbers is dangerous business!  Just consider this for a moment - would you say that 12 people are less effective than billions today?  Well, if it was not for the effectiveness of the One (Jesus) and his remaining eleven disciples the billions would not be here today!  Churches that measure their effectiveness by seating capacity are measuring the wrong thing!  We should be measuring our depth, not our breadth.  We should be seeing what difference we are making to this world, not how many people are entertained in our services!

Last, I don't mind if people loose their religion, myself included.  In fact I quite often pray that God would release me from religion and free me to live a life of faith!  I don't want structures that bind, symbols that mislead, and communities that more concerned about sustaining themselves and their image in society!  I want to be part of something that is alive, flexible, life giving, life changing...

So, perhaps we need to embrace the loss of religion and find ways to discover and embrace faith.

Just by the way, we must not think that this will not happen in South Africa!  It has already begun.  Those of you who have children or grandchildren in primary school, just ask how many of your child or grandchild's peers go to Church...  Not many....  That means that their parents (even if they are people of faith) have lost their religion...  These will grow up thinking that Church is something strange and antiquated...

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Listen to Radio Pulpit on your cell phone anywhere in the world (no radio required)!

Many people have missed listening to Radio Pulpit, the Christian radio station, since it has moved from FM to AM here in South Africa.

Well, now you can listen to Radio Pulpit from anywhere in the world on your cell phone!  And no, you don't need a cell phone that has a built in radio.  Simply follow the instructions on the Radio Pulpit website and get set up!

Of course you can also listen via streaming audio on the internet.

I shall be on air again at 9am tomorrow (Wednesday, GMT+2).


Monday, October 29, 2007

Tell me about myself please!

My friend Wes posted these questions on his blog.

I'd love to hear what you think, or know about me.

1. Where did we meet:

2. Take a stab at my middle name:

3. How long have you known me:

4. Do I smoke:

5. What was your first impression of me upon meeting:

6. Colour of my eyes:

7. Do I have any siblings:

8. What's one of my favourite things to do:

9. Do you remember one of the first things I said to

10. What's my favourite type of music:

11. What is the best feature about me:

12. Am I shy or outgoing:

13. Am I a rebel or do I follow the rules:

14. What's your favourite memory of me:

15. Any special talents:

16. Would you consider me a friend:

17. How many children do I have:

18. If there was one good nickname for me,what would it

19. If you and i were deserted on an island, what would
I bring?

Thanks! D

Etymology of your faith... What do you put before God?

Sadly, I put many things before God.

I do it because I am sinful and weak.

I wish I wasn't.

Don't ever put 'the' before God.

Just a thought....

For the geeks... I can haz your computer language... LOLCAT programming language...

I thought that the geeks among us may enjoy this one... It is a programming language based on LOLCAT... These are some crazy hacker LOLCODE skillz...

These have to be the FUNNIEST LOLCAT quotes so far!

Read the code in this image and tell me what you think.

ITZ a PHENOMENON! Truly, it is! For more hilarious LOLCAT images go here to icanhascheezburger.com


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Robot Arm writes copies of the Luther Bible [Pic].... How times have changed!

I picked up the following story from Boing Boing.

Here's a picture of a robotic arm doing what Monks did way back in the scholastic era - writing copies of the Bible out by hand!

My, how times have changed.... I have often thought of getting my New Testament students to write out the New Testament just to be sure that they are reading it!!!

When I candidated to become a minister we had to read the whole Bible from cover to cover. It was quite a worthwhile experience (except for Numbers...).

For more great images of this 'monkbot' at work (please check out the great font it is writing in) go to the flickr page.

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A new religion in Soweto... God wants you to drive a 4X4.... iKhasi yam is changing, and I'm not sure it's all good.

Today I spent most of the day at the Jabavu community centre in Soweto. It is a place that holds great memories for me! Whilst I was not trained in the three phase system for ministry (I came into the ministry when Noah was just putting the finishing touches to his ark... Back in 1991), I spent a lot of time in Soweto, both during my student days, and also with Bishop Verryn (before he was a Bishop).

The area has changed somewhat, there are clear signs of renewal, investment and development. I remember a particularly bleak morning in 1991, or 1992, when the school across from the centre suddenly became a war zone as police fired teargas and rubber bullets at disgruntled learners... Today I watched an elderly women planting her vegetables in the school yard. I also remember being scattered by teargas grenades at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church at the entrance to Jabavu... Now, the Church is well kept, surrounded by a green park and well paved lanes...

I drove out of Soweto today and saw the familiar sight of the cooling towers, they are still the same, although they now reflect the new prosperity of upwardly mobile young black professionals with an FNB Bank advert on the one, and scenes from township life on the other.

What is of great interest is that the mural on the one tower has an ikon of the Madonna and Child. It goes to show that there are still religious sensibilities in the township, however, the radically political faith of the 70's, 80's, and 90's has given way to a new kind of Christianity. Whereas Churches were places of prophetic witness, places of safety from batons and dogs, places where rousing speeches of freedom and the journey to a new promised land were heard, something has changed...

There are signs of a NEW religion.... Two other things that reflect the change in demography and faith in the township. First, there is the facade of the brand new, HUGE, 'Maponya Mall'. It is all glass and iron, with designer shops, and everything one's first world heart could desire! It looks like a Cathedral to commerce....

Strangely enough, just across the road one can see that it is not only the secular economy that is booming, building is underway to extend and renovate the 'Grace Bible Church' a Church that is very much en vogue with young professionals, people with BMW's, GTi's and 4X4's... Faith, but of a new kind, quite different from that of the liberation struggle. I cannot say what kind of sermons are preached in that Church, but I do wonder if they have the same message of justice, social responsibility, mercy, and courage, that were preached in years gone by. I would certainly hope so!

However both the Mapnoya Mall and the Grace Bible Church are dwarfed by another new development in Soweto. That is to be found in the HUGE (and by HUGE, I mean HUUUGGGEEE) Universal Church of the Kingdom of God 'Cathedral' just behind Baragwanath hospital. It is such a stark contrast with the houses around it... It is opulent, it has palm trees, air conditioning, and looks a lot more like a 5 star hotel...

Don't get me wrong, I think that it is great that the economic cycle of Soweto has finally had an upturn! It is wonderful. However, when the finest building in your community is a Church, not a school, or a community center, or houses for the poor, but a Church, then something is wrong! Sure, Churches need buildings, but do they need to have the kind of buildings that are so out of place with their community that they dwarf their surroundings?

Earlier this year there was a service delivery riot in Wolmaranstad. The members of the community attacked cars and people at the local Churches because the Churches were out of step with the community - the Church's buildings became a target of the community's scorn, frustration, and anger, because they did not reflect the poor, or even truly help them. Rather they seemed to them to be nothing more than expensive white elephants that stood empty for 6 days of the week...

People will soon see through the motives... Sadly, this same Church was reported to be teaching its members that God wants Christians to drive a 4X4, wear the finest clothes, and have a snappy cell phone.... , and that Jesus drives a Porche... God for him!

Somethings wrong with that picture. Perhaps when our past is so painful it is easy to forget it, but perhaps we forget too quickly...

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Can we afford to be ignorant? The recolonization of Southern Africa.

Every now and then while I am doing my devotions, I am 'arrested' by something that someone has said, this happened to me this morning so I decided to go back and find my little notebook from 2004. I always carry a little Moleskine notebook with me (I use the Moleskine folders to keep cards, notes etc, and then cut the small, cheap, ruled notebooks to put into the first folder - here's a picture of one of mine).

The notebook that I was looking for in this instance dates back to November 2004 - I was at the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's Mission Conference in Umtata. At that conference the President of the all Africa Council of Churches, Rev Dr Mvume Dandala, was speaking.

This picture was taken in South Korea, in it is Mvume Dandala in the center, Trevor Hudson on the right, and myself (about 10 kg's heavier than I am now!) on the left. Ah, those were the days.

Back to the point, in his keynote address Mvume said something to the effect of, "If we [Southern Africans, and particularly the Churches in Southern Africa] do not wake up to the crisis of HIV / AIDS we shall be re-colonized within the next generation".

I was shocked by that statement, but there was truth to it. He went on to say that AIDS is killing so many young people, skilled, gifted African women and men, that we shall soon have very few people between the ages of 20 and 60, and much fewer skilled persons between those ages. When that happens we will be colonized once again. However, this time we shall not be colonized by a nation state (such as America, China, or England), rather we shall be colonized by multinational corporations who wish to exploit the natural resources of our fair lands. If we have gold, oil, platinum, coal, and a host of other precious commodities , yet there is no-one left to extract, refine, and use these resources, those who have the power, the money, and the skill, from elsewhere in the world will do it for us, and eventually, they will do it in spite of us.

This colonization is a concern, but of greater concern is the reality that we are loosing a whole generation of people because of poor choices, hidden truths, and a lack of knowledge.

I worry about such things... Perhaps it will never happen in the way Mvume described it, but if I can do anything to stave the spread of this disease, and in some small and insignificant way help Africans to benefit from the blessings of Africa, I need to do so!

Then it struck me, I can make a difference - the difference that I can make is in the sphere of Education! I see this magnificent sign at least once a week when I go onto the University of South Africa (UNISA) campus. It is a picture of our past President, Nelson Mandela, the caption reads: "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world". I believe it! What we need is education that does a number of things:

  • First, we need a very basic and simple form of education that teaches persons their value and dignity. Education that helps people to realise just what a gift they, a gift from God to the world. Life is precious and must be guarded and valued.
  • Second, we need education that helps people to survive in the face of great challenges - in particular we need to help our young people (and our old) to make wise choices for life. It scares me to death to think that when I was at school, if I had a sexual relationship with someone the worts that could happen is that she could fall pregnant. Now, however, my daughter or son could die from just one bad choice! We need education to prevent such tragedies!
  • Third, we need education that helps people not just to survive, but to truly live. This is the kind of formation and development that helps people to rise above the ordinary, to become the best that they can be; moral leadership, intellectual leadership, all matched with exceptional skill.
Perhaps what I am asking is that those of us who have some measure of influence should ask God to give us the courage to use it for the common good. If you write, write about what matters, when you pray, pray about what matters most, as you work spend your energy not just in pursuit of gain and pleasure, but spend yourself to bring healing and transformation to individuals and society.

I shall say it once again - if you are the best, the very best, if you're a lawyer, a doctor, a journalist, a parent, a gifted thinker, a passionate feeler, if you can do anything in the whole world, then do it for God!

Let's counteract ignorance with love, and spend our lives in service of Christ's mission to heal and transform the world - petty theological arguments, minuscule points of difference, differences in taste, these things should not stop us from being effective for Christ.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why I think that Mac OS Leopard could NEVER compete with Windows Vista - and I own 4 Macs!

Yup, last night I gave in to the Steve Jobs distortion field - in the cold and wet I raced through the traffic to get to one of my favourite places on the planet, the iStore in Menlyn Park shopping centre in an affluent subburb of Pretoria East...

I have been anticipating the release of Leopard for some months now, and in the last few weeks I've been looking forward to the 26th of October - what a joy when the iStore staff phoned me to come to the worldwide launch of Leopard! So, like all Mac fanatics I went!

Now, before I explain the heading of this post let me just say that I currently own the following Apple computers:

  1. Primary machine: Macbook Pro Mac OS 10.4.10, 2GHz Intel Core Duo (dual booting Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP Pro). It has a 'rough night out' gelaskin cover on the top - it has become quite famous at Methodist gatherings!
  2. Secondary machine: Sony Vaio UX 180 P Micro PC with dual booting Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux (this machine 'lives' in my backpack!) I love this little guy! It is not much larger than a cell phone, it has a built in keyboard, a built in GSM / EDGE cellular modem and it runs for about 20 hours with my external battery pack! I most often take this little guy with me when I travel around the world. It can litterally fit onto my belt (when I really want to GEEK it!)
  3. Primary desktop machine: iMac Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard!), with Windows XP in Parallels.
  4. 'Old' Desktop: Apple Powermac G4 dual 1.25Ghz with a 23" cinema display running Mac OS 10.4.10.
  5. My wife's computer: Sony Vaio TR3A, Windows XP Pro.
  6. Daugther's computer: Apple iBook (the toilet seat model... Blueberry) running Mac OS 10.3.9.

[Just to mention that most of my machines were purchased with research funds (I could only use Macs for the magnetoencephalagraph that I used in Cape Town to measure magnetic activity in the human brain), or were acquired in trades. I have only ever purchased one new laptop, a G4 iBook back in 2003 - that has since gone THROUGH Wessel to another well deserving home] Oh yes, and let me add that one's spouse MUST be a saint to allow for SO MANY computers (she also has to earn a lot more than one does to keep one in the style to which one is accustomed... But that is another matter entirely).

You can see that we are a thoroughly Apple household!! We LOVE MACS!!!

So, you may be asking yourself, how could I possibly say that Leopard could NEVER compete with Vista!??? Well, the answer is simple - Leopard is just in a completely different league!!

Ha ha! Yup, Vista from my limited use, is to Windows XP what Windows ME was to Windows 95... Nothing but eyecandy and instability!

Leopard on the other hand is FANTASTIC!!! And yes, I am biased, but it is faster, more stable, and it looks even better than Tiger. I love the new Mail application, the new style sheets and eye candy, you can add 'to do' items and sticky notes directly in mail, the new Safari browser is FAST and user friendly, it also allowes you to 'snip' active elements from web pages to add as widgets in Dashboard. Of course the new Finder is magnificent! It has 'cover flow' that lets you see the contents of files within the finder (without even having to open an application like Word, Excel, Adobe reader, Keynote, or the Preview image viewer)... It is just fantastic!

So, yes, I bought a copy of Leopard last night - I aslo happened to see a cracked, working, iPhone! It is magnificent. If the guy who had the phone reads this post, would you mind dropping me a line? I'd love to stay in touch.

So, Steve Jobs and Apple, WELL DONE!!!! This is a great upgrade that will make my life so much more efficient and pleasant. It was worth going out in the cold and the wet, and the Apple iStore in Menlyn is still one of my favourite places in the whole world!!!!

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Celebrating theological diversity, with respect. It is the way of Christ's Kingdom.

A fellow blogger, Stephen Murray, whose posts and insights I have enjoyed a great deal blogged the following challenging thought today:

I?ve been reading a lot of blogs of late where my guess would be that the authors wouldn?t classify themselves as ?evangelical?. I read them because I appreciate the way these folk wrestle with so many pressing issues and how they integrate multiple academic disciplines with such skill trying to probe into important topics facing the broader Christian movement. Yet as I read these folk I often wonder what they think of us.

Let?s say that by chance they drop by ?daylight and browse around, reading some of the posts. I wonder what they think about 4 young evangelicals who believe the Bible is God?s authoritative, infallible word for life and salvation, that salvation comes only through repentance and faith in Christ because of his work of substitutionary atonement and that hell is a real and coming judgment for those who reject Christ? Do they think we?re simpletons? Naive in our faith? Closed minded and narrow? Anti-intellectual? Misguided? What do they think?

Here's my response to him:

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for sharing this honest, and challenging, post. I have wanted to respond to it all day long but have not yet had the time. So, here goes....

I have also often wondered what others think of my particular approach to Christ... It is important on some level since my hope is that we (those who love Jesus and the people whom Jesus loves) will find one another now so that eternity won't be quite so difficult! Ha ha!

Seriously though, my realization in the last number of years has been that there are very few 'complex' and 'simple' expressions of faith. Rather there are simple and complex labels for approaches to faith. Each approach, I believe, is filled with complexity, depth, and a measure of conviction that makes it both precious to the person who holds it, and precious for God in relation to whom they hold it. It is much the same as me relating to my two children, I do not love or appreciate either of them more (even though one is older, more articulate and has a richer life experience because of her age). It does not make her experience of life, or of my love, more valuable or worthwhile. The fact that both of them live, and love me, is all that I long for. The rest is just unique (and sometimes just odd!) It doesn't impress me that my older child can do bonds of 18 while the younger child cannot yet crawl, since both are appropriate expressions of who and where they are. As I say, what impresses me is that they love me.

With regard to judgement however, I know that people often make the opposite assumptions to the ones you mention above about me i.e., that I am too open minded, that I am too intellectual, that I have lost my naive and simple devotion to Christ and that somehow I have lost sight of what truly matters in the Christian faith. Sometimes that hurts... However, I know that God is not impressed with my degrees, or titles, or anything else - these are simply thing that are more or less appropriate for someone who has had the education, opportunities, and experiences I have had. My quantum theories, and neuroscience, intricate readings of the Greek text, and all the things that I think are quite smart, must seem like 8 year old Maths to God - appropriate for who I am, but not important in the big scheme of things!

The people who judge me are probably correct, to some extent, about some of those assumptions, but they are also quite wrong in many others.

One of the things I have particularly tried to foster, at great cost, within our denomination (the Methodist church) here in South Africa is a love for my sisters and brothers that recognizes that diversity does not mean separation, neither does disagreement mean a lack of respect. I have sought to encounter people, rather than ideas, and to find what God loves about them first, before saying what I find objectionable about their words, thoughts or actions.

It is important that we are brave enough to leave our 'corners of conviction' in order to allow God to speak to us about new things, through strange prophets. That, I think, is the way of the Gospel.

There are of course some ideas and approaches to Christ, and Christ's Kingdom that I find incompatible with the Gospel (such as judging people by their race, which was a huge issue for us in the previous decades. In such instances I would encounter people with such views in love, and where they were not willing to change or repent I had to be honest, but loving, about how wrong they were). However, I know that I am often as wrong as those that I am quick to judge - so as time has passed I have sought to understanding first, then to make up my mind about people and their ideas. It takes discipline to do that, and I am still learning!

Know that even if I should find some aspect of your approach to the Christian faith different from mine, and I have not yet found such difference but the possibility does exist, I respect and admire your love for Christ.

Together with you in Him,

Thanks Stephen, you have challenged me, and reminded me that God's standard is both gracious and supreme.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

A black South African wearing an AWB Uniform... A powerful advert for justice!

This is an incredible advert... It shows a black South African man wearing an old 'Khaki' uniform from the white supremacist group, the AWB. You can click on the image to see it in a larger size.

The caption reads [translated from Afrikaans]

"Any old clothes will do - you wouldn't be seen dead in these clothes, but for a homeless person they could mean the difference between life and death. Please donate any clothes that you no longer need"

Call the Salvation Army on 011 718 6746

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Liveblog! Mac OS Leopard has been released! Discover the new features here.

For all the Macheads out there that have been waiting for the official release of Mac OS Leopard (AKA the Vista shamer...)

It's been released in the USA. I hope to be able to get my copy on Saturday (please Lord!)

If you're interested in following a live, blow by blow, geekfest of leopard feature discovery you can follow the constantly updated Gizmodo Leopard blog here.

Wohoo! I can't wait!

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Wohoo! My wife's article on pre-assessment get's published!

The bright one in my marriage (she also happens to be prettier, more Christian, and the only one of the two of us who has given birth...), that's Megan for those who don't know, has just had an article published on the PFIQ website. It considers the struggle, and value, of pre-assessing learners for learnership qualifications.

Read it here


How to create accurate references in MS Word 2007

So much of my life revolves around text, reading it, thinking about it, writing it, and of course trying to disseminate it to others. Anything that can help to manage and record my use of text more accurately is always welcome!

Just this afternoon I was reminding my students how important it is to provide detailed and accurate references in their work! Of course this not only aids verification, it also helps others who are doing similar research to find sources of use.

Here's a great tutorial from the Microsoft team (yes, Lord, I repent, Steve Job's I'll also be sending you a letter of apology)...

It will teach you how to do easy references in your papers, articles, assignments etc. using Microsoft Word 2007.

I use MS Word for Apple Mac, however, if there is anyone out there us MS Word for the 'dark side' please let me know if it works, and how it works!

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15 tips for getting rid of clutter in your house!

I know there are some hoarders who read this blog!!! I've seen you saving posts!! Ha ha.

I found this great article on how to get rid of clutter in your house. My desk is not too bad... I do tend to hang on to things, but at least I am super neat! So, I tend to collect very neat piles of useless paper!

Here are a few tips to get rid of clutter, let me know what you think, or if you can suggest anything more practical and useful:

As with anything, getting rid of clutter can be made incredibly simple: just go through your stuff, one section, closet, drawer, or shelf at a time, and get rid of everything that isn?t absolutely essential, that you don?t love and use often.

Of course, simplifying a process like that isn?t terribly useful to many people who struggle with clutter. So, with that in mind, I present to you 15 fabulous tip for decluttering. These tips aren?t mine - they?re from you guys, the readers, repackaged into a useful little post.

Recently I asked you guys for your best decluttering tips ? and I pulled some of the best of those (there are many more good ones I wasn't able to use). They're reworded here slightly, and a couple have been modified indiscriminately by me. :)

But they're great tips nonetheless. Enjoy!

1. Declutter for 15 minutes every day. It?s amazing how much you can get through if you just do it in small increments like this.

2. Don?t allow things into the house in the first place. Whether you've begun decluttering the living space, or you?ve just completed it, stop bringing in new stuff NOW. Even if that's ALL you do and don?' start decluttering immediately, if you can only establish one habit at a time, establish the no-more-stuff habit first. This way, when you do get to decluttering the existing stuff, you've already stopped making it worse. Think of bailing out a boat with a hole in it. You can bail and bail, but it won?t do anything for the leak.

3. Donate stuff you're decluttering, so you don?t feel bad about wasting it.

4. Create a 'Goals' chart with decluttering on it - either daily, or 3 times a week. Check off the days when you declutter, and you?ll feel a great sense of accomplishment.

5. Start at the corner by the door and move your way around the room, doing the superficial stuff first - surfaces, empy the bin etc. Repeat, but do more the 2nd time around - ie. open the cupboards.

6. Whenever you're boiling the kettle for tea, tidy up the kitchen. If the kitchen is tidy, tidy up the next room - it's only 3 minutes but it keeps you on top of everything (helps if you have an Englishman's obsession with Tea as well!)

7. Use the 'one in, two out' rule. The rule: whenever you bring in an item, you have to throw away two other items. First you cheat, by throwing out two pieces of paper, but soon you will have to move to big stuff.

8. Make your storage space smaller and more minimal. If you have lots of storage, you'll fill it with stuff.

9. Clothing rule: If you haven?t worn an item in 6 months, sell or donate it.

10. The One-Year Box. Take all your items that you unsure about getting rid of (e.g. "I might need this someday?"), put them in a box, seal it and date it for 1 year in the future. When the date comes, and you still didn?t need to open it to get anything, donate the box WITHOUT OPENING IT. You probably won't even remember what there was in the box.

11. Declutter one room (including any closets, desks, cabinets, etc.) before starting on the next one. Spending time in that room will feel *so* good, and it will be so easy to keep clean, that it will motivate you to do more!

12. Keep a list in your planner labeled "Don?t Need It - Don?t Want It." When you're out shopping and run across some kind of gadget or other item you crave, note it down on the list. This will slow you down long enough to reconsider. Also, seeing the other things on the list that you nearly bought on impulse really helps.

13. Internalize that your value is not in your "stuff". It is just "stuff". And realize that your value grows when you share your "stuff". Hoarding is a selfish act.

14. Have someone else (who you trust!) help you go through things. They don't have the (sometime's irrational) emotional attachment that you might have, but can still recognize if something should be kept.

15. Gift everything. Books you?ve read immediately get recycled among friends, family or local libraries. If you buy a new gaming system, donate your old one ? and all the games.
Taken from: Zenhabbits.net

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Top 10 IMMORTAL people... Guess what, Jesus is NOT one of them... I wonder why?

You may have noticed that I have been rather busy of late... I have had back to back meetings, classes, and appointments. As I've said a few times before I don't mind being busy. Occasionally, however, I do wish that the days had a few more hours to them!

However, what would you do if you could live forever!? I got to thinking about immortality AND eternal life....

First a bit of theology, a common heresy (and I used the word heresy very lightly here, since it could equally be applied to much of what I say and think) in popular Christian theology is that everlasting life means never dying... I can't tell you how many youth pastors, lay preachers, and ministers, I have heard speaking about accepting Christ and equating that acceptance with immortality (often framed with the notions of overcoming death, and living forever). Everlasting life is quite a tricky concept. Since the phrase does not assume that one has never died, it simply suggests that once one has received the gift of everlasting life one shall not die again. So Lazarus, in the New Testament, did not receive everlasting life when Jesus raised him from the dead... he just got a another chance at it, until he died again... Everlasting life is something that is likely to have come for him after he died again... You get the idea!?

Now, of course there is some truth in what our pastors and ministers say... One shall certainly overcome the effects of death through salvation in Christ, and then go on to an eternity of bliss in Christ.... However, death is central to the Gospel of Christ... It is NOT that Jesus DOES NOT die, neither is it true that we shall not die. Rather, the power of God is shown in that God overcomes sin and death. Death cannot hold us - that's the point!

Anyway, have you every thought who the TOP 10 IMMORTALS are (Just remember, that according to my little rant above, Jesus is NOT immortal! He died, and NOW lives forever)...?

Here's a link to a nice little list of top 10 IMMORTALS... I found a few of them quite entertaining. See if you can suggest any other 'immortals'.

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Have you ever wondered what's inside a balloon animal? For people who have too much time on their hands...

Amazingly, some poor soul took the time, and clearly has great skill and imagination, to outline with anatomical precision, what exactly one finds inside a balloon dog...

He (or she) must have been a Masters or Doctoral student who has a chapter of that all important thesis due... Only that kind of pressure leads one to do something as creative, yet meaningless as this.

I recall once unpacking and repacking a number of cupboards, cleaning under the mudguards of my Vespa scooter, alphebatising my collection of Mac magazines, and moving the furniture around the lounge three times, when I had to submit a chapter of my Doctorate...

When I was a student at Rhodes University in Grahamstown we had a society called the RUWAB soc... It consisted of about 10 of us, all doing graduate work of some kind, who met before a critical deadline and constituted the Rhodes University Work Avoidance Behaviour society... The first one to break down and go and do some work had to buy everyone else a round of drinks. I never paid!

Anybody else done crazy things like this when you know you have other IMPORTANT things to do?


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cooking with pooh... [pic] Choose your title with care...

Uh, yes.... Just goes to show that you have to be quite selective about book titles - not everyone will think of the same things when they hear the title of this cool little book.

So, any suggestions for the title of my new book on Bede Griffiths' cosmic Christology?

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Willow Creek Church repents... We were wrong.

I have visited Willow Creek Church in Chicago. It is impressive in very many ways - it is extremely well matched to its context. In fact, I have enjoyed quite a lot of what has come from that Church, the Willow Creek association, and Bill Hybels himself. I have even had the good fortune of meeting Bill Hybels and spending a bit of time chatting with him.

I am certainly NOT one of those pastors or scholars who believes that nothing good can come from America. Sure, there are a few things about Willow that I think need changing (both in their context, and certainly for ours), but I think that there is a lot that we can learn about being strategic, careful, and deliberate in sharing the Gospel.

However, this remarkable article came into my inbox today... It was quite a challenge to read it. However, on the other hand it also shows me that perhaps there is something more to this Church than just empire building - they have integrity, and the courage to admit where they've made a mistake.

Read it if you get a chance and let me know what your thoughts are:

Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels? office hangs a poster that says: ?What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?? Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry?church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage?has impacted every evangelical church in the country.

So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, ?We made a mistake??

Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Basically, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings ?earth shaking,? ?ground breaking,? and ?mind blowing.?

If you?d like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels? reactions, recorded at last summer?s Leadership Summit, can be seen here. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.

In the Hawkins? video he says, ?Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.? This has been Willow?s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, ?I know it might sound crazy but that?s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.?

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that ?Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone?s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.?

Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn?t helping people that much. Other things that we didn?t put that much money into and didn?t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.
Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research ?the wake up call? of his adult life.

Hybels confesses:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ?self feeders.? We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

In other words, spiritual growth doesn?t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.

Does this mark the end of Willow?s thirty years of influence over the American church? Not according to Hawkins:

Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he?s asking us to transform this planet.
Article sent to me by my friend Andrew Franks. It comes from here.

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Is the extinction of humanity part of God's plan for the evolution of the Cosmos? You and I might be nothing more than a gracious blimp in history...

My friend Gus posed a very interesting question in his blog. He asked : What if this is the only shot at life - ever? This is his post -

Reading some time ago about the amazing co-operation of factors that went together to give us the opportunity at life on earth, I wondered: What if this was the only shot at life ever (for all things living)? What if in the whole universe there was no other planet that produced sentient beings at all? (Which as far as we know is the case...)

Imagine how we would have wasted this opportunity if all we did for all our years was fight with and harm one another?

Here's my response to him:

Hi Gus,

This is a very astute observation! In fact, I think that you're right, this IS the ONLY shot that we have at this KIND of life ever! Now, I'm not talking about a pious afterlife... What I'm talking about is something MUCH MORE RADICAL!

Have you ever considered that perhaps human beings are not the end (the telos) of God's creative activity? Certainly, the God I know does not place humans at the centre of the cosmos - no, he places the Cosmic Christ at the centre of the cosmos. That God even notices us, and even gives us a single shot at life is a gracious miracle.

No, I think that perhaps we are part of what stops the world from reaching the true potential for which God has created it! So, perhaps we need to be made extinct for it to reach that purpose... Maybe not.....

But, the one thing that we need to learn is the WE are not the Alpha and the Omega... We're just a blip somewhere in the middle.

Jumbled thoughts, I know... I did record them much more articulately (and with a little bit of scientific and theological research) in a paper I had published a few years ago.

You can read, and download, the paper here.

It is called a posthuman evolutionary cosmology... I got quite a lot of criticism for it... However, I think the central argument is still quite sound... Christ is the centre, the goal, and the true aim, of the Universe... We are just an expression of God's gracious love along the way.

So, what do you think? This is not exactly the kind of thing you want to preach on a Sunday.... Heck, how 'seeker sensitive' do you think this will be!!? But, it may be something for us to consider in terms of theology, i.e., placing Christ at the centre and moving humans to margins?

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Rejected, not because he was missunderstood, but because they were afraid of what they understood! Having the courage to tell it like it is.

So much of the Gospel of Christ has to do with economics. I'm not talking about the thieves who appear on TV telling us that if we give to their ministry, or a particular cause, that we will be healed, or God will prosper us.

No, what I am talking about is God's economy for the world. The word economics comes from the root Greek word, oikonume which means 'the management of a household'. In short, the kind of economics that we find in the Bible is about managing the resources of the whole of God's family so that no one has too much, and no one has too little. It means, in essence, that if you wish to have the freedom to 'have more', then you also need to bear the responsibility of 'doing more' with that freedom. This economy was central to the teaching of Jesus.

Let me say, to others and to myself, a great deal will be expected from the wealthy!

Today in our morning devotions, Andile Sinandile led us in a reading of Luke 4:14-28 which is entitled the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth. Many of us will know the passage well, it tells of how Jesus goes to his 'home Church', the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, and there he is given the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah to read. He applies the role of the promised Messiah to himself, as one who would bring freedom, healing, deliverance, and economic empowerment. The passage leads the reader through an emotional cycle of rejection... We so often focus on the content and thrust of the ministry of Jesus, but we must remember that in Luke's narrative it aims to show that, AS WELL AS, the reasons why Jesus was rejected by the pious and religious people of his time.

What struck me as I read this text today was that there is a movement that is quite commonly observable in many honest communities:

  • It starts out with what I call the 'honeymoon phase' - I have experienced this in many relationships and communities. People are nice, they think that you're the best thing since sliced bread. Sadly, it is often because they don't know the real 'you' yet. In my case it is often because people have heard something about me from elsewhere (perhaps a radio program, an article or a book I wrote, or someone who heard me speak at a Church or gathering). They like THEIR image of who they think I am... But that is not me.
  • Next comes the point where 'truth telling' starts. Jesus reads the scriptures, that they had heard read many, many, many, times before. But, he reads them with a freshness of insight and challenge that innitially makes people say "wow, that's different..." This is the start of their discovery of the Truth. Suddenly as the truth dawns upon them, and THEIR image of Jesus (i.e., the son of Joseph) is challenged by the REAL JESUS, they begin to feel uncomfortable...
  • Last, there comes the uneasy and difficult step of managing rejection... Of course whilst there will always be people who find the truth unpalatable, there are, also, thankfully those who discover something meaningful, worthwhile, and life changing in the truth.
Don't get me wrong, not every 'prophet' who is rejected by a community is a 'prophet of honour'. Some people do need to be set right, as I have often do. However, the point here is that if like Christ you are living the truth by being in community, as Jesus was in the synagogue (and not a false sense of community that smiles while thinking and saying all sorts of false things), and you're sharing the truth of God's liberating Gospel, as Jesus did from scripture, then don't be afraid to face opposition for the sake of Christ.

Take heart! Fight for the weak, speak up for the silenced, and work for the 'household of God'. I think Jesus was rejected because of his economy, it was not popular for people to hear that they needed to make some changes so that ALL of God's children could share in the love and blessing of God... It is still not a popular message today!

Do you realise (if you read Luke 14:28) that Jesus almost lost his life that day? Way before he was crucified the religious and pious people of his home town almost threw him off a cliff... Real ministry, the kind of ministry that transforms society to reflect the will of God is dangerous! There are those who fear prophets like Jesus - there are those who hate to get to know 'the real you', and would rather throw you off a cliff than encounter the truth.

I have experienced this again today as I received a threatening, and scathing, letter from a vigilant member of our Church (I say, 'our' because we are together in our devotion to Christ). This person does not know me, but he has learned about my desire to have the Church be open, inclusive, and affirmed to all people, the poor, the rich, and what he can't stand, the straight, and the gay...

Perhaps I am misguided, but I am committed to radical Gospel, a Gospel that is life giving, a Gospel of economics, and politics, the Gospel of Christ. It's a dangerous commitment.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Common grammatical mistakes that bloggers make - how many do you 'suffer' from?

I found this article quite useful. It's for all us 'wannabe' writers!

Computers and the Internet are revolutionizing the way we create and share information. Through blogs, wikis and social networks, you can reach literally 1.2 billion of people without leaving your room.

That being said, a little attention toward correct spelling and basic grammar rules couldn?t hurt, right? Below you will find some curious, to say the least, errors that we gathered on the Web.

"You are the best mom in the hole world" - Maybe the person lives in a hole or something, but he probably wanted to say the whole world.

"The kid's were very attentive because of the recent tsunami" - The apostrophe has a wide range of uses within the English language, but forming plurals is not one of them. The kids were very attentive.

"you might as well ask if less men enter nursing because there are less men in nursing" - Less men? Fewer men you mean! Less is used for uncountable things, like less sugar or less money. For plural things (countable), you must use fewer, like fewer cars.

"The stock market made further progress forward yesterday" - This one is coming from the New York Times (ouch!). Progress means to move forward or to develop, so ?progress forward? is a redundancy, and should be avoided. It?s like to say that something is ?absolutely essential??

"took me around 1 hour and my cell ran out of credit) to resolve some minor (yet presistant) issues" - The issues were persistent, not presistant.

"The company provides solutions in the following specialty areas: information technology, proffesional services and direct hire/search" - This was found on a LinkedIn resume (ouch again!). Not sure how professional the services really are.

"the importance of the Internet and the roll it plays in our everyday lives" - The Internet plays a very important role, not roll, in our lives.

"These could of been handy because it?s easier to look at a more simple, less ?messy? theme to understand how?" - These could have been, not could of. Also, if something is ?more simple? it is simpler.

"1K should be sufficient for an ernest payment" - Ernest is a male name. The good-faith deposit used in real estate transactions is called earnest payment.

"make sure that each of these templates contain the same XHTML/HTML" - Each refers to singular subjects, and the verb must agree with the subject. Each of these templates contains.

"The nature of his illness had been kept quite and not many of the crew and cast had seen much of him in the intervening time" - The nature of his illness had been kept quiet (not "quite").

"A friend will do whatever they can to lift you up when your down because they don?t like to see there friend hurt" - Friends (not "A friend") will do what ever they can. The pronoun must agree with its antecedent. When you?re (not your) down. To see their (not there) friend.

"he?s alot like a younger version robert horry, same height, long body" - This is a mistake that happens a lot (not alot) around the Internet.

For more great writing tips please see dailywritingtips.com.

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Pictures of the funniest blog 'bumper stickers' for your blog!

This has to be one of the coolest things to stick on your blog, a blog bumper sticker! Here are a few that I thought were funny!

Never has a truer word been spoken!


Indeed, one must not allow one's friends to play with Giant Squid!

For all those myspace users... Here's a good one! Come on, admit it, how many of you ONLY have Tom as your myspace friend!?

Here's one for those, who like me, often read the offbeat posts on digg.com!

One for Pete, Wessel and I - the Mac guys!


Could this be one of the reasons why we have so much VIOLENT crime in South Africa?

I'm busy writing a book with Prof Loiuse Kretzschmar and Dr Andre van Niekerk from UNISA. The book is intended to replace the current ethics text "Questions of life".

Andre is a specialist in Moral formation (with a particular interest in the work of van der Ven).

We were discussing the issue of crime in South Africa at a meeting for the editors when our conversation turned to violent crimes (such as the murder of Lucky Dube, and the woman here in Pretoria who was not only robed, but also raped, and then murdered).

I came with the retort that I had blogged the other day, which Wessel rightly asked a few questions about in the comments (see my posts, and Wessel's comments, here). My retort was one that is quite common to 'liberal white South Africans' i.e., that crime is a natural consequence of the aftereffects (and current effects) of racial segregation and deliberate oppression of the majority by the minority.

  • Here's the reasoning behind such a statement: Person A is poor because under apartheid he and his family were deliberately denied access to education, certain jobs, and so the ability to earn (via regular means) a decent income. Person A has three children in this example. One of them is sick and needs medical attention. Person A does not have the money to provide for this care.
  • Living a few kilometres away is Person B. This person is wealthy (i.e., has a house, two cars, a few television sets, cell phones, clothes etc.) The primary reason for this person's wealth is that he has had access to a good education, which was paid for by his parents. He could go to University (since he was not excluded by his race), but also because his parents could afford to send him to University.
  • The reasoning is this, if my child was sick and I could not care for her, yet there was someone nearby who has an excess of possessions, not because they are brighter, better, or any other ontological difference between us, but simply because I was dissenfranchised and he was not, then it may be justified for me to 'relieve' him of a few of his excess possessions (perhaps one of his cars, a TV, and some clothes).
This reasoning seems quite clear, in fact sensible and fair.

However, what Andre reminded of, is that in South Africa we don't suffer from crime, we suffer from violent crime...

He reminded me that there are many other nations with similar problems of wealth and poverty across the world. In fact, there are some with a greater problem - such as India. However, while there is crime in India, it is NOT violent crime. Sure, people are robed, houses are broken into, cars are taken. But, seldom will you hear that a person has been beaten to death for a cell phone, or raped and brutalised for R20.

So, then what's the difference? Well, I think one of the primary differences is that apartheid is still alive and well in South Africa. There is still an underlying mistrust between the races (and this goes both ways, I know black persons who are fanatically racist against whites, Indians, and Coloured South Africans. Of the same goes for whites).

When one objectifies another person it is easy to mistreat and abuse them since they are no longer a parent (as happened with Lucky Dube who was murdered in front of his two teenage children), or a husband, or a wife, or someone's child, or a sister, or a brother. Rather, they are 'white', or 'wealthy', or 'an oppressor', or a 'Tswana', or a 'Nigerian'... The list can go on.

However, there could be another much more subtle reason for violent crime... That is, moral formation.

Moral formation has to do with how we form people to be moral beings i.e., what we say and do to get people to behave in a certain way, and not to behave in another way.

Both black and white South African culture has a problem with the manner in which we discipline people - . It has long been assumed that the only way to get a person 'to behave' is to beat them (either physically, or with your words).

The assumption behind such an approach is simply this: one assumes that a person is BAD and must be MADE GOOD! This is not the way of the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel of Christ says that people are created GOOD by a Good God, however, we need to help people to rediscover and develop that goodness that is within them.

This is the conflict between being as primary, and doing as primary.

I watched a foreman speaking to his workers the other day. It was clear that he wanted them to do good work, and when speaking with them he wanted to help them to become good 'workmen'. Yet, his assumption was that he had to shout, criticise, and be hard to get the best out of them.

I often see parents doing the same.

Heck, I am glad that God has a different approach to moral formation... God helps me, and does not harm me, when I am wrong. Thank goodness God does not bully me to goodness!

Maybe we can learn to deal with our children, our staff, our colleagues, and ourselves, a little differently? Maybe, just maybe, that is one thing we could do that would help one less person to think that violence, dominance, and abuse, are acceptable means of getting what one wants in this world.

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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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Monday, October 22, 2007

The ALL NEW England Rugby jersey - look closely! It's a wonderful redesign.

This is a radical new design for the England Rugby jersey after their defeat in the final against South Africa.

This comes from: my digital life

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A Philadelphia woman gets raped twice, once by a man at gunpoint, then by the American justice system.

The following bizarre story comes from the Philadelphia news. A woman sex worker was raped by a man at gunpoint who forced her to have sex with him and three other men. When the matter was taken to court the Judge dropped the charges of rape and held the man on the lesser charge of "theft of services." Sounds like another case of injustice to me!

What on earth is the world coming to!?

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$5 Million as a prize - I think it is worth it! Just consider the alternative.

Today it was reported that former Mozambican President, Joaquim Chissano, was awarded the Mo Ibrahim prize for excellence in leadership for an African statesman. The prize money amounts to $US5 Million.

At first I thought, heck $5 Million US, that's about as much as some of the poorer African nations whole budget! But then I thought, well, what is the alternative?

If one were to do an estimate of how much money Robert Mogabe has pillaged from the poor of Zimbabwe I'm sure that it would be a heck of a lot more!

I say well done to Mr Chissano, and well done to the generous benefactor, Mo Ibrahim. May we see many, many more examples of good, honest, integral, African leadership. We are NOT a corrupt continent, we are NOT doomed to poverty and subservience. We are African. We can teach the world another way to live.

Go to the BBC website for full coverage of this story.

What are your thoughts and comments?

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What to do if your paper / report / portfolio / presentation exceeds the maximum limit.

Being of the verbose persuasion - as you may have been able to ascertain from my constant nonsensical posts to this blog... I have found on more than one occasion that my work exceeds the maximum number of pages, or words, allowable for publication. I have a paper that is currently under review, which I KNOW is going to be returned to be edited back to the word limit (hopefully for inclusion in a journal).

My doctoral Thesis was about 160 pages longer than most, my Theology masters was about 20 pages too long - and that excludes endnotes and glossaries and the bibliography... Heck, I like to write!

However, that is a problem, when like me, you are needing to develop that all important publications list!!!

So, here's some advice from our friends at PhD (a.k.a. Piled higher and Deeper) for getting your paper or thesis into the allowable word limit:

From PHDcomics.com

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

I touched a raw nerve! The flame war has begun! Read about the unhappy critics here.

I have been blogging since June 2005. I have never had GREAT traffic to my site. Simply, I guess, because I am more interested in having fun with the posts, working out my thoughts, soliciting responses, and having a bit of fun.

This last week I posted a link that I found on digg.com it was called "10 degrees that you wouldn't want your child to study towards". It is intended to be fun! First, it is fun because I understand the kind of looks (and thoughts) that people give when they hear I have a doctorate in theology and science (strong what? artificial who?) ha ha! But, it is also fun because I end the post by poking fun at myself (listing a fake copy of a degree that people often regard as more valuable than my ACTUAL doctorate - a JEDI PhD in science from MIT).

However, this post has touched a raw nerve somewhere since I have had two flames in the last few days (the first two EVER!). Take a look at the post and the comments here:

First, there was a lady from one of the Universities mentioned who said that I was disrespectful to the academy (as if it has some holy order or code that forbids criticism) - she concluded with a warning, saying that anyone who dares to be critical (even in a joking way) of fellow academics had better watch out and have huge.... Well you know what I mean. Then, this evening I got notification of a second post from someone who wished me "and my cancers" a happy life! Heck, who would actually write something like that!? Can't folks like this tell that not everything is meant to be taken so seriously!

So, to all those people who are offended by fun... Please don't be! Please! I will try not to take offense at your replies either! I have never deleted a comment from my blog (unless the author has asked me to do so). I won't delete your comments - so if you want to take the time to "flame" me, I will simply say 'thanks for spending a portion of your precious life thinking about me! I value and appreciate your time and your thoughts!' The gift of your time and thoughts are precious. Let the fun continue!!

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Theology and life...

"Because what touches His heart is not how much we know, but how much we love. Not how pure we are, but how passionate we are... Maybe that is why when Pharisees were fighting over theology, prostitutes were falling at the Savior's feet and slipping into the kingdom of God on their tears."
- from Ken Gire's book Windows of the Soul.

It's not that theology is bad or useless, but that it must always be subject to the will and purpose of the Saviour and Lord.

Africa has a way of making EVERYTHING look better. It must be the nutrients in the soil - just look at these pictures.

I was looking through some photos in iPhoto this afternoon. My eye was drawn to a photo that was taken of one of my students, Vuyelwa Sebolao, and myself. Vuyi, as she is fondly known, is wearing the traditional orange dress of a married Xhosa woman, I on the other hand am wearing the traditional red doctoral gown of the married nerd person....

The point is this, doesn't Africa have a wonderful way of livening up even ordinary occasions!? I have been to quite a few academic ocassions across the world.... The plain black fur lined hoods and gowns of Cambridge, the three barred tassled gowns of Northwestern University in Chicago and the bright red bath robe that I get to wear!

Wessel (pictured in the back, on the right in his red bath robe... He has a nicer hood than I do - purple, mine is porno gold...) and I often joke and say that the red of our gowns is actually the blood that was squeezed to earn the degree... Ha ha!

Just to prove that everything truly is more beautiful in Africa - here's picture of my wonderful family, taken on our lawn this afternoon. Liam, Megan, and Courtney - aren't they just wonderful?

Here's a photo of little Liam, enjoying the feeling of the African sun, on his African skin, as he sits on green African grass... A good African son!

Who would have thought, 11 months ago, that he would be so healthy, happy and perfect? I tell you it's the nutrients of the African soil!

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Poetry and mathematics. The world of the serpent or the Cross?

This morning I was invited to attend a service at a local Methodist Church just up the road from a University where I teach, in Brooklyn.

The minister of this Church is truly one of my favourite preachers. His preaching is so good, for me, since it is so different from mine. His preaching is poetic. He is precise in his turn of phrase, his choice of words, symbols and images. Each is crafted with care to communicate the message.

He does not follow points, that's my approach. My approach is mathematical and reasoned. I craft an argument of reason out of points, texts, and common sense. He, however, draws upon the affective. His preaching is beautiful, but not the kind of softening beauty that dulls the senses (like a fine red wine), rather it is the kind of beauty that jars and arrests one's attention; like being drawn by the image of a beautiful person - one cannot help but to look.

He preached on ministry, it was poetic. He asked which world we though ministry took place in - was it the world of the cross that he and I inhabit, or was it the world of the serpent, that his parishioners retreat from on a Sunday?

The answer is NEITHER. Since neither of these worlds exist. Christ is in all, and all of the world is in Christ.

And, the truth is that there is also no difference between poetry and mathematics - they are the same thing. One, however, uses words, the other uses numbers. To different people they have the same wonderful, or off-putting, effects. Some people love numbers and are put to sleep by words. Others love words, but cannot understand numbers.

In one of my favourite movies "The good shepherd", a story of the CIA, there is a wonderful quote. It is:

... fine poetry is the music of mathematics - numbers, singing. You have to look behind the words to understand their meaning
If this doesn't make sense, don't worry, it's not meant to...

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I'm impatient, slow to pray, and often lack hope... But there's something even worse!

I have a reminder that is set in my iCal appointments each week for a Monday morning at 9am (iCal is like Outlook, except, because it is an Apple Mac application it actually works ;-).

It is set for 9am on a Monday morning because that is directly after the Monday morning worship service at the Seminary where I serve. It sounds just as I arrive to the barrage of calls, people, tasks, meetings, and concerns from my staff, students, and the ministers and Bishops of the Methodist churches throughout the 6 nations of Southern Africa that our seminary serves.

The reminder is necessary! It helps me to keep in mind that I do this work because I have the joy of being called into it by God. It reminds me that others are as sinful and incomplete as I am, so be patient, approach them, their need, and concerns with joy, and live in the hope that even though I seldom get everything sorted out in a single meeting, a single report, or even that single day, there is the hope of knowing that I have done my best for the God who loves me, and my best for those whom God loves... And, that leads me to the infomercial 'but wait there's more moment...'

While verse 12, of Romans 12, is my weekly reminder, I have seldom taken the time to heed the command of verses 11 and 13.

Here's what the passage (Romans 12:11-13) says:

'Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be
joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's
people who are in need. Practice hospitality'.

Amazing isn't it? Zeal, fervor, service of Christ, joy, hope, patience, faith, sharing and lastly hospitality!

This last week my bi-weekly radio show on Radio Pulpit (first broadcast is always at 9am on a Wednesday, then rebroadcast throughout the week) dealt with that last injunction 'Be hospitable'. It has unleashed a great deal of criticism from more conservative quarters. We're happy to TALK about values (zeal, joy, hope, etc.) but when it comes down to doing something (welcoming people into Christ's fellowship) it becomes a battle ground!

So from this week I have added an extra reminder to continue to serve the Lord with fervor and zeal, and another to care for God's people in need and be constantly hospitable (to the outsider, the disregarded, the misunderstood, the rejected, the poor, the rich, the American, and the African, straight, and the gay, the liberal and the conservative). What I like most about this passage is that is places God, in Christ, at the centre of all of these actions. Love and zeal and service of Christ, prayer to God in Christ, care for the people that God loves, and welcome, on behalf of God, to all the people that God loves!

It also struck me that since BGod is the centre of all life, it is not my right to exclude anyone that God loves! I am the steward, God is the truly hospitable householder.

Dion, blogging while braaing (an offering of thanks for our victory last night!), Megie putting Liam to sleep, and Courtney is playing.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!! Well done Boks! [Picture]

Well done to the Springboks for a fantastic game! We truly won this one on defense and good tactical play! A well deserved win!!! 15-6 to South Africa.

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God's Mechanics: Vatican Astronomer reconciles religion and science

This very interesting commentary comes from Boingboing.net (see the link at the end of the post):

God's Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion" is the new book from Brother Guy Consolmagno, who is, in no particular order, a scientist, a Jesuit, a science fiction geek, an MIT alum and a Vatican Astronomer. Obviously, religion is a central part of Brother Guy's life, but so is technology, rationalism and science.

God's Mechanics is a relgionist's explanation of his faith, in terms aimed at showing techies how one of their own can simultaneously believe in supernatural phenomena and practice rigorous, materialistic science. The most interesting part of the book is an amateur ethnography of geek faithful, in which Brother Guy schleps up and down Rte 101 between San Francisco and San Jose, interviewing engineers, scientists and programmers about their practice of faith. Their answers surprise Guy (and they surprised me, too) with their variety and distinctiveness. There doesn't seem to be a single way, or even a small cluster of ways that technologists square up their religion with their science.

For my part, I'm a second-generation atheist. I think that our experience of the numinous is both undeniable and entirely biological: the state of spiritual peace is the result of tickling some evolved center of our brain, a bit of neurology that conferred a survival advantage on our ancestors whose numinous hallucinations of a higher order in the universe drove them to catch more antelopes, eat better, and have more babies. I have no need of, nor interest in a supernatural god or a supernatural universe.

But I'm not so blinkered that I believe all religionists to be deluded fools. There's clearly some serious value that smart, ethical people derive from participation in spiritualism and even organized religion. Brother Guy's exegesis on faith as a systematic way of organizing and exploring the human experience of the numinous was fascinating to me. It is is a thoroughgoing, charming, quick-paced trip through a wide variety of personal experiences of spirituality and religion.

The only place where this book lacks is in its exploration of atheism as an alternative to religion. Brother Guy delves deeply into the reason for faith, but skims lightly over the reason for its absence. At times, it seems like he's addressing straw men from my side, not our strongest argument. This is the beginning of a discussion, but it's not the whole discussion.
From Boing Boing.

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Cross post - Does religion improve society? Here's what I think.

Richard, who has the blog memoirs of an ex-Christian (which is a sensitive, well reasoned, and challenging read!) posed this question:

Does religion improve a nation?s well-being?

Here's my response to his question... A little scattered, I confess, but it should give some idea of where I stand:

Hi Kevin,

I have often considered this same point myself... I am of the mind that whilst all religion does have some moral effect [on society] it does not, in and of itself, bring about positive change.

Hitler, after all, used the church in Germany, as did the South African apartheid government here in SA (as you point out). Then of course there are more strongly moral orientations in faiths such as Islam with Islamic law. I would certainly not consider some of the human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of Sharia law, or Christian fundamentalism, as [being] for the good of society, of even within the will of God.

To my mind, though, whilst I don't think that religion should get mixed up with 'party politics', any religious ideal is fundamentally political in that it seeks to address the manner in which people relate to one another, structure their lives, and interact to form community.

I had the good fortune of being a white Christian minister who lived and ministered in a black South African township before 1994. So much of what I did could be considered 'political' in nature - in fact many of the people in the small (wealthy) white Church that I also served in the area left because they thought I was confusing politics with religion. However, if you read my blog you will find that I still attempt to be as critical and prophetic of the new regime as I was of the old... It is not the party that I am wishing to address, but rather, that I have fundamental religious conviction that the world should be structured in such a manner that no one has too much, while no one has too little. That all persons, regardless of race, gender, age, economic, or health status, sexual orientation, or faith conviction, should have the joy of living life in peace, harmony and blessing.

Personally, I believe that these are the values of the Gospel of Christ's Kingdom - these are radical values that scare many who only live for individual gain, and hedonistic fulfillment. Heck, the even scare me!

So, would I vote for a Christian political party - no, I would not. Then again, I also wouldn't vote for a Muslim, Hindu, or any other overtly religious party.

Sadly though, I have double standards. I have voted, many times now, for the ANC who consider themselves to be engaged in 'secular spirituality' (i.e., finding and creating transcendent meaning by secular means...) Do a search for Cedric Mason, himself a Methodist Minister, who heads up the ANC's religious desk.

Thanks for another incredibly thought provoking post!



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Theology and fun, what's worth reading at the moment?

I get asked every now and then to recommend one or two things that are worth reading... Here's what I'm busy with at the moment:

Serious theology:

1. Milbank, J. 1995. Theology and social theory: Beyond secular reason. Oxford. Blackwell Publishers. I am enjoying reading this - whilst it is quite dense, I have found Milbank's return to 'radical orthodoxy' and the 'post liberal' approach quite and eye opener. Oh, and my friend Sifiso is having to read this for his Masters coursework at Duke Divinity school, so I am reading with him

2. Rieger, J. 2001. God and the excluded: Visions and blindspots in contemporary theology. Minneapolis. Fortress Press. I love Joerg's approach to justice and mercy! His theology is well reasoned, very clearly argued, and it speaks to my conscience!

Reading to keep me 'grounded' in my context:

1. Denis, P. (ed) 2005. Never too small to remember: Memory work and resilience in times of AIDS. Pietermaritzburg. Cluster Publications. This truly is one of the most remark I have ever read. It gives an account of a project in KwaZulu Natal that helps children whose parents have died of AIDS to remember their parents, and create a positive history that will give them resilience as they grow up (some of them being HIV+ themselves). It is well written, challenging, and a truly Christian response of compassion.
For devotion:

1. Reuben, PJ & Shawchuck, N. 1983. A guide to prayer for all God's people. Nashville. Upper Room Publications. This is my standard devotional book - I also have the 'blue one' which is called A guide to prayer for all God's servants. It follows the common lectionary, has superbly written prayers, reflections, and of course gives sizeable chunks of Scripture to read.

2. AND OF COURSE, the shameless plug... Forster, D. 2007. A guide to prayer for use during examinations. Kempton Park. AcadSA Publishers. Yup, my little book... It's selling quite well on Amazon. But, just a reminder, if you're in South Africa, please order from me directly (it is both quicker and cheaper that way!).

Reading for Fun!

1. Pullman, P. His dark materials trilogy. This is like Harry Potter, but for grown ups... It is quite intriguing and scary stuff. I am reading it mainly because, well truth be told it is a good read, BUT, the first book has just been made into a movie called The Golden Compass. It is going to be huge! And, as usual, I know that there are going to be all sorts of questions and rants about it from more conservative quarters. I would just like to be informed before that happens.

2. van de Ruit, J. 2007. Spud the madness continues. Johannesburg. Penguin SA. This series has to be the funniest set of books that I have every read! They are SO uniquely South African!!! For anyone who has ever been in boarding school, in the army, or on 'veldschool', so much of this book will ring true and bring back wonderful memories!

So, that's about it. I am always reading two or three books at a time. I love reading - it often gets me through the late night or early morning when I can't sleep. Once again, one of the gifts of being an insomniac.... The days are longer so you can do, and learn, more!

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Viral Video of the moment: A hilarious parody of those lame informercials - buy Gabe and Max's 'internet'

Gabe and Max are REAL geniuses! They have changed my life!! They taught me all about the intrawebs on a CD-ROM near you... They upgraded my computer to MS DOS 5 and set my world on fire! Just today I received a whole email in the post, it was printed on good quality paper and everything! All of your internets are pwned by my l33t sErva$!

Ha ha! Watch this hilarious video by Gabe and Max! It is a parody of those lame 'Change your life now, start a business from home, and impress all the ladies [or gents, as the case may be] in 423 steps'

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Friday, October 19, 2007

The funniest video of George W Bush!

This has to be one of the funniest comedy clips about George W Bush!

Sorry GW! If it makes you feel any better, I know that there are people who poke fun at me!

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Sad... What do Christians do about Lucky Dube's death?

Please notice I'm not asking how we feel about the sad murder of Lucky Dube... I know how I feel about it.

I am asking what do we do about it?

Megan and I had only been living in Pretoria for about 3 months when we were involved in an attempted hijacking - thankfully we got away with our lives, but it was a traumatic experience for Megan, Courtney (who was asleep on the back seat of the car) and I. We still don't stop at that set of traffic lights at night. Sadly, about a year later, Megan was a victim of a 'smash and grab' incident at the same busy intersection. In broad daylight a man simply walked up to her car window smashed the glass and grabbed her handbag and ran away... So, now that intersection, and many others, have signs that say "hijacking hotspot" and "be aware for your own safety".

We live across the road from 'The Scorpions' headquarters in Pretoria (for those from outside of South Africa, the Scorpions are South Africa's version of the FBI, their real name is the NPA (National Prosecution Authority), but they are called the Scorpions). They have surveillance cameras that monitor their perimeter fence, and also cover the entrance to our complex's gate. Yet, one of our neighbours was held up at gunpoint and robbed of all his money (after being followed home from the Airport). We have also had numerous break-ins with radios and other valuables being stolen form the cars... When the NPA were asked to help to supply surveillance evidence to make the arrests the police were told that they would have to get a judge to issue a injunction to release the surveillance tapes!

You know we are so accustomed to crime that our language has even begun to reflect it. On the news the hijacking was described as a 'hijacking gone wrong'... Sound strange? Well maybe not at first, because we hear about 'robberies gone wrong' where people are shot... BUT, this language begs the question, then WHAT IS A SUCCESSFUL HIJACKING!? Crazy! There is NO such thing as a successful hijacking, or robbery, or crime.

I am sad and shocked that a nation as beautiful as ours should struggle with such violence and crime... Of course I understand why it takes place - the gap between those who have, and those who have not, is still huge! The damage done by Apartheid will be felt for many years to come...

What made me so sad about Lucky Dube's death today is that he was shot in front of his teenage son and daughter while three men tried to hijack his car... Then the police officials in the Johannesburg area report that they will not just put 'any' policemen on this case, rather, they have appointed a 'crack team' to solve this crime. Isn't it sad that you have to be famous to get good service from the police? What do people who are not famous do?

There was a very cynical article in the Business Times Careers section this past Sunday (October 14, 2007, p.1), it was by David Bullard in his column "Out to Lunch" - the title of the article is Are those killed by crime seen by Mbeki as dispensable? In the article he questions whether the high crime figures, and the lack of resolve to do anything about crime, is in fact some kind of ploy. I think it is a little wacky, and in fact smacks of conspiracy - however, Bullard himself was shot, and almost killed, in a violent incident just a short while ago.

So, the question is what do we do? What do Christians do?

My friend Gus has a wonderful (and much less negative and not just a 'rant' like mine). You will find Gus' post here, it is entitled "The value of life".

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Sad... What do we do about Lucky Dube's death?

Please notice I'm not asking how we feel about the sad murder of Lucky Dube... I know how I feel about it.

I am asking what do we do about it?

Megan and I had only been living in Pretoria for about 3 months when we were involved in an attempted hijacking - thankfully we got away with our lives, but it was a traumatic experience for Megan, Courtney and I. We still don't stop at that set of traffic lights at night. Sadly, about a year later, Megan was a victim of a 'smash and grab' incident at the same busy intersection. In broad daylight a man simply walked up to her car window smashed the glass and grabbed her handbag and ran away..

We live across the road from 'The Scorpions' headquarters in Pretoria (for those from outside of South Africa, the Scorpions are South Africa's version of the FBI, their real name is the NPA (National Prosecution Authority), but they are called the Scorpions). They have surveillance cameras that monitor their perimeter fence, and also cover the entrance to our complex's gate. Yet, one of our neighbours was held up at gunpoint and robbed of all his money (after being followed home from the Airport). We have also had numerous break-ins with radios and other valuables being stolen form the cars... When the NPA were asked to help to supply surveillance evidence to make the arrests the police were told that they would have to get a judge to issue a injunction to release the surveillance tapes!

I am sad and shocked that a nation as beautiful as ours should struggle with such violence and crime... Of course I understand why it takes place - the gap between those who have, and those who have not, is still huge! The damage done by Apartheid will be felt for many years to come...

What made me so sad about Lucky Dube's death today is that he was shot in front of his teenage son and daughter while three men tried to hijack his car... Then the police officials in the Johannesburg area report that they will not just put 'any' policemen on this case, rather, they have appointed a 'crack team' to solve this crime. Isn't it sad that you have to be famous to get good service from the police? What do people who are not famous do?

There was a very cynical article in the Business Times Careers section this past Sunday (October 14, 2007, p.1), it was by David Bullard in his column "Out to Lunch" - the title of the article is Are those killed by crime seen by Mbeki as dispensable? In the article he questions whether the high crime figures, and the lack of resolve to do anything about crime, is in fact some kind of ploy. I think it is a little wacky, and in fact smacks of conspiracy - however, Bullard himself was shot, and almost killed, in a violent incident just a short while ago.

So, the question is what do we do? What do Christians do?

My friend Gus has a wonderful (and much less negative and not just a 'rant' like mine). You will find Gus' post here, it is entitled "The value of life".

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Do you need a better way to manage your time? Here's one way to cut those meetings short!

If, like me, you have 10 things on the go at any one time, then you may feel that there are times when you would love to be able to manage your time more effectively! Well, here's a sure fire way to keep those LONG meetings as SHORT as possible! Simply print a few of these tokens and have your assistant, secretary (or significant others) hand it to people as they arrive!

Seriously though, if you're in search of good productivity and lifestyle management advice, then I would suggest you take a look at one of my favourite websites www.43folders.com. I have been visiting this site for years and found some incredibly helpful information there...

Here are a few of my favourites (they are also in the top 9 at 43folders):

1. First steps to 'getting things done'. This is GREAT for the procrastinators among you!

2. How to improve the quality and delivery of your presentations, so that you're not just USING powerpoint, but rather getting your POINT across with POWER!

3. How to write sensible e-mail messages (that people will actually read and respond to! Not just scan and turf).

4. And, for those who know me (I always have two or three lists going, sometimes I have lists that tell me what lists to consult in what order....). Here's how to build smarter to do lists.

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Top 10 degrees you DON'T want your child to study towards!

This list of degrees was drawn up by the folks at ScholarPoint ... There are the 10 degrees that you WOULD NOT want your child to do!

1. Master Ranching - Showing up to college wearing spurs and riding a horse probably isn't the best idea, unless you go to Texas A&M-Kingsville's Institute for Ranch Management. The university is offering the first ever master degree program for ranchers. What was once a profession passed on from generation to generation is now getting sophisticated enough that it may actually require an MBA. Go figure. Graduates can expect salaries in the $50,000-$75,000 range.

2. Astrobiology - ET phone home. The University of Glamorgan in the UK offers a degree in Astrobiology, which is the search for life beyond earth. So if hunting for alien life is your thing consider a career in Astrobiology.

3. Retail Floristry - I bet you never thought working at your local flower shop required a college degree. Well, it probably doesn't, but that doesn?t mean you can't major in Retail Floristry anyway. Career opportunities are a step above working the cash register and include wholesaling, special event designing, and display gardening. This program is offered through Mississippi State University and graduates can expect a 90% job placement rate.

4. Professional Nanny - Sullivan University in Louisville Kentucky offers a professional nanny program, which prepares graduates to work in private residences, day care centers, children's hospitals, and country clubs. This is a perfect career for those girls who grew up babysitting all the neighborhood kids that now want to make more than $2 per hour.

5. Sports Ministry - Graduates from this program are prepared for positions in non-profit organizations seeking to use sports as an avenue for teaching religion. This program is offered through Campbellsville University in Campbellsville Kentucky.

6. Adventure Recreation - Do you like snowboarding, scuba diving, ice climbing, or whitewater rafting? If you answered yes, perhaps you should consider doing what you love for a job and start by making it your college major. Green Mountain College in Vermont is offering major and minor programs in Adventure Recreation, which aims to place graduates in a variety of outdoor recreation careers such as those listed above.

7. Golf & Sports Turf Management - Just because you were never good at football doesn't mean you can't make it your job. Only you'll be repairing the grass they tear apart every week. The course curriculum offered by Mississippi Sate University will prepare you for a career as a golf superintendent or a sports turf manager at city, school, and professional sports arenas. Graduates in this field also enjoy a 90% job placement rate.

8. Comedy: Writing and Performance - Here's a degree program that actually requires "a great sense of humor" as an admission requirement. Humber College in Canada offers this program to help naturally talented students hone their craft and learn the commercial side of the business. Students learn stand-up, improv, scriptwriting, and sketch comedy.

9. Organic Agriculture - Organic foods make up more than 2.5% of all food and drink sales nationwide and have been increasing by 20% per year since 1990. This makes organic farming an attractive career opportunity. This is the first organic agriculture major in the nation and is offered through Washington State University.

10. Fishing Sciences and Management - This masters program is offered by Colorado State University and focuses on fish populations for recreational and commercial fishing purposes to ensure adequate conservation and utilization. If nothing else the courses on fish psychology should at the very least help you catch more fish.

So, anybody heard of, OR GOT, any other strange degrees! I have another hilarious one! Did you know that I actually have TWO PhD's!? Yup, it's true! I have that silly old PhD in Theology and science that took be 4 years to complete at a REAL University... But then I have THIS ONE! No studying needed! Just a copy of Photoshop!!!

You too could have THIS AMAZING [fake] PhD! In fact I know that Gus(working towards a REAL PhD, one step at a time...), Wessel (Wes, also happens to have a REAL PhD, like me...), and Pete (some people don't NEED a PhD... They're just naturally clever!) have the same degree! Why? Well, because I photoshoped their names into it and sent it to them! Impressive isn't it?

Ha ha! Dr [Jedi] Forster.

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Why study theology? Does it enrich your ministry and your devotion to God - Podcast Dr Jennifer Slater

This is the third in a series of pre-recorded podcasts that I have prepared in the last few days. This podcast is in the form of a talk delivered by Dr Jennifer Slater, the Dean of the National Seminary of the Catholic Church, here in South Africa. Her topic was Theology, ministry, and the devout life.

Jenny is a Dominican sister, she has a Doctorate in Theology and is a wonderful friend of mine. The occassion of the recording was the Valedictory service for the students leaving John Wesley College in October 2007. This photo was taken of Jenny in the John Wesley College Chapel.

You can download the podcast here (5.1MB)

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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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Days like these. It makes me thankful

I live in Pretoria (although most of my life was spent in Johannesburg, highschool, varsity etc.) I am told that Pretoria has one of the most temperate climates in the world. In other words, the weather here is great most of the time.

Today is no different, we had one heck of a storm last night (if you listen to the start of the podcast I uploaded yesterday you'll hear the thunder)! However, the day after a highveld storm is always lovely, everything is clean, it's green and the birds are in good voice.

There's another feature of spring that makes Pretoria a great place to live - Jakaranda blossoms. Jakaranda trees are not native to this region, but like so many of the transplants from elsewhere in the world to South Africa, they add great beauty. Jakaranda blossoms, which are a lovley hue of purple, with a very sweet smell, line the streets of Pretoria's older suburbs. They signal the start of spring, with its new life and opportunity (they also signal exams!)

I'm just about to go into our daily chapel service with my students at the College, this is such a joy, we will worship in an African idiom (as we do every day), with a drum, a bell, singing Xhosa, Sotho and Tswana songs. God is good, it is good to be African (in spite of power cuts)!

Have a wonderful and blessed day. Don't forget to notice the power and beauty of God along the way!

Which team will God support in the Rugby World Cup Final? A theologian gives a difinitive theological answer (with diagrams!)

So, many people have been contacting me to find get my 'expert (as if) theological opinion' about Saturday's World Cup Rugby final between South Africa and England. Most wanted to find out if I know which team God will be supporting in the World Cup Rugby final between South Africa and England tomorrow?

Well, I did a bit of research, naturally I prayed and asked God, then I read the Bible, I went back and read the Patristics, St Augustine, St Thomas' suma, Calvin's institutes, Luther's commentaries, Wesley's Journals - heck I even read a bit of Karl Barth, some Stanley Hauerwas, Karl Rahner, and a bit of Brian Mclaren to find the answer.... I even called a special meeting of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's Doctrine Committee (DEWCOM).... Then I consulted two of the best Theologians I know, Wes, and Pete (p.s. Pete managed to snap a picture of how the Rugby players greet one another! It's amazing! Go take a look!)

Here's what I found.....

It seems that there may be some English Christians 'running interference' with our Prayers for the Boks to win!!!! PRAY HARDER!!!! ha ha!!!

Well, all I can say is: MY BLOOD RUNS GREEN!!!!! GO BOKKE!!!!

Oh, and what team will God be supporting...???! Come on, if you lived in Cape Town (as God does) you would only support ONE TEAM! We all know God is a Stormers supporter in the leagues, and a Springbok supporter internationally! Even God is wearing Green today!!!! ;-)

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blogging by candle light - where first world and third world colide

It's just past 9pm on a Thursday evening, and here in our little suburb in Pretoria the power is out for the third time this week!

I honestly don't know what to say or think anymore... What makes it quite a challenge for us is that we have a baby who needs to have bottles steralised, and water boiled. I guess this what it feels like to live in a rural area, and I suppose that this is how the majority of people in the world have to survive...

Except of course for one thing! I am BLOGGING by candle light!

I have a Nokia E90 smart phone (truly one of the best phone's I've ever had. It has GPS (for when the High Occupancy Lane on the N1 slows traffic between Pretoria and Johannesburg to a pace that takes 3 hours to do 40 kms, at least I can search for an alternative route! It has a camera, a great keyboard, 3G HSDPA connectivity, a superb web browser and office suite... It even syncs with my Mac's calendar via bluetooth (oh, and it has wifi). In fact, I think it can even make phone calls and send text messages!! ha ha!

So, it is great to have first world technology in the third world - thanks MTN! No thanks to ESKOM though...

Now if only my phone could boil a kettle...

Spirituality Podcast: MP3 Bible study by Dr Robert Aboagye-Mensah from Ghana (PART 2)

This podcast is the second a pre-recorded Bible study of Dr Robert Aboagye-Mensah, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana. I posted the first one earlier this week, so please just scroll down to find it and download it.

The theme of the first Bible Study was "Come Holy Spirit, heal and transform Your Church". This second Bible Study asks the question "What will a Church look like that has been healed and transformed by the Holy Spirit?"

Please feel free to leave comments!

You can download the podcast here (10.5MB)

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Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians - your help is needed, we need to hear your voices!

This evening I responded to the call for papers for the Theological Society of South Africa meetings. The Theological Society of South Africa, as I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, is the professional body for Academic Christian theologians.

Next year the TSSA will be meeting in my old stomping ground, Grahamstown (18-20 June 2008)! I can't wait! The theme for next year will be:

Grace, space and race: Towards a theology of place in (South) Africa today.

You can download a more detailed copy of the call for papers here.

I have decided to prepare a paper for this conference entitled:

What place, and how much space? Or, is it merely an empty hospitality - A theological critique of the place, and space, given to persons of a same-sex orientation in selected mainline Southern African Christian Churches.

(or something like this... I know, it still needs a lot of work).

Here is a rough abstract of what I intend to research:

This paper will investigate the theological principles that have informed the stance of the mainline Christian Churches in South Africa in relation to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) persons. It will present and consider the the dominant theological themes that have informed this debate in Southern African Christianity. Having done so, the research will ask some critical questions about the 'space' afforded to GLBT persons within Southern African Churches (i.e., are such persons welcomed, do they have full, or limited, access to the Church and the privileges of the Church? etc.) The paper will also evaluate the Churches that consider themselves to be a 'place of welcome', by being inclusive, affirming, and hospitable to GLBT persons. The nature of this 'place of welcome and hospitality' will be considered by drawing upon the experiences of a number of GLBT clergy and Christian laity. It is hoped that this paper will offer some valuable insight into two aspects of this current debate: First, it will offer a useful guide to 'place' the theology that informs the stances of various mainline denominations in Southern Africa. Second, it will give 'space' for the voice of GLBT Christians to be heard within the academy, allowing Southern African theologians to hear the struggles, concerns, and viewpoints of our sisters and brothers who are gay.

What do I hope to achieve?

I would like to weave three things together in my research 1) Southern African theology (and a critique of our content and approach to theology), 2) An honest consideration of the place and space that we allow to gay persons in our Churches, and 3) to have a platform on which gay persons can give their input and critique of the theology of the mainline Churches on this issue!

So, now the work needs to begin. Naturally I have done quite a bit of reading and research on this topic over the years, and written a few papers, however I would truly like this to be a significant piece of research that will be able to offer some insight, stimulating discussion, and provocative thought, for some of our country's top theologians.

Here's the help I need!

Here's where I need your help - I know that there are a few gay and lesbian Christians that read the blog - if you're willing to help me by answering a questionnaire, and sending in some form of testimony, that would be extremely helpful! I would also like to hear from gay and lesbian clergy and laity who have been afraid to come out for fear of rejection. Please send me an email and I'll keep in contact with you: email Dion.

Lastly, anyone is welcome to participate, present a paper, or attend the meetings. However, only persons with a Masters degree in Theology (or higher) may be nominated as members of the society.

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It will be the most exciting day of my year! Well, except for the celebration of my miracle son's first Birthday!

Yup, 16 November 2007 will truly be the most significant day of this year for Megan, Courtney and I. On the 16th of November we will celebrate the miracle of our son Liam's birth. At this time last year Megan, as about 23 weeks of pregnancy (some way into her 5th month) had already been in hospital once in labour... It was one of
the scariest and most difficult times of our lives! Liam was born just 3 weeks later... Many of you will remember that he was just 1kg at birth (do a search for Liam, or click on December 2006's archives) to see some pictures....

Liam spent 3 months in the neonatal ICU and almost left us a few times... However, God is faithful! Even to heretical theologians!!! Liam truly is a miracle child! So come and celebrate with us on the 16th of November. I'll give you some advance warning - if you would like to send Liam a message of blessing, or some form of
encouragement (remember, I am his dad... He'll need all the encouragement he can get!!!), then please drop a comment on the blog on the 16th. We will save all the comments and print them for him so that he can remember, one of the most special forms of love in Christ, is the body of Christ loving itself through its members!

Now, what will the SECOND most important day of 2007 be? Well, go to http://www.apple.com/ and take alook at the countdown to the release of the new version of Mac OS X,
leopard! I can't wait, Leapard is going to BITE M$ Vi$ta's BUT! Wohooo!!!

As far as I know only Pete, Wessel, and I are Mac addicts... Any others lurking out there?

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The FUNNIEST joke you've ever heard! Read it! It's make your day!!!

I' always in need of a little bit of cheer! So, today I heard this WONDERFUL joke!

It is the funniest thing I have heard all day....

Are you ready???

Here it is:

How do you kill a circus?

You go straight for the juggler!!

Ha ha! Corny, I know....

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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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Blogger problems - anyone else struggling? Any suggestions?

I've been having quite a few problems with blogger in the last few weeks - perhaps it is the increase of traffic to my blog? Posting is a real problem since each time I post via the web it has to upload almost 17MB of data to my website (I know that it is much easier if one simply posts to a standard blogger account, but I want the security of knowing that my posts are safely housed on my own domain).
Has anyone else been having problems with blogger in the last few days?
What are some of the problems I've had?
- Images that won't upload.
- Blog posts timing out.
- Updating the blog and then suddenly discovering that the whole page is blank!
- Formatting problems with my template (and the inability to change my template header graphic to something unique).
So, what are other people using? I can see that Stephen and Barry seem to be using wordpress, oh and so is Sivin (see links on the left), is that the best alternative for a more ardent blogger?
What I need is:
- Blogging facilities that will allow me to post from a web browser, or simply post to my blog via an email (like this post).
- Something that looks good, is customizable, and can handle fairly high volumes.
- Something that is not too expensive.
All help and insight would be appreciated! Thanks, Dion

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What every South African Church MUST do... If it is to be obedient.

Each year I have challenged my students, and my congregation, to look around them and understand the needs of our society. The basic principle is:

God will not consider how you pastored your congregation, but how you ministered to your community.

In the light of this I have become convinced that any Church in Southern Africa that does not have an effective HIV AIDS ministry has some growing to do in order to be obedient to God, and to participate in God's mission of bringing Christ's healing and transformation to the world.

Central to my theology is the question "What must the Gospel look like?" - we so often hear what the Gospel sounds like, but ask yourself the question, what does the Gospel LOOK LIKE in nation where there are more deaths than births? What does the Gospel look like where there are millions of Child headed households? What does the Gospel look like where people have monitised life saving drugs, turning the suffering of others into their profit? What does the Gospel look like? What is Good News to the dying? Of course the Gospel looks like our Churches - isn't it amazing that in a country where 78% of the population indicated that they were Christians we face social problems such as this?

I still have some work to do!

Today this shocking news report was released:

South Africa is in danger of losing the battle against HIV/Aids, the United Nations children's agency has warned.

Unicef's South Africa representative, Macharia Kamau, said infection and death rates were outpacing treatment.

This was having a devastating effect on children whose parents died of Aids, and sent out a dire message for the future, he said.

Mr Kamau said if present trends continued, there could be five million orphans in South Africa by 2015.

Huge risk

South Africa is one of just nine countries worldwide where infant mortality is rising - from 60 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990, to 95 deaths today.

The main reason, Unicef says, is HIV/Aids.

The average infection rate is almost 30% of the population - and in some regions it is closer to 50%.

Speaking in Geneva, Mr Kamau said the effect on children was devastating, and that infants whose mothers died of Aids were at huge risk of dying themselves.

Older children who have lost one or more parents faced a struggle to survive and to go to school, he added.

In South Africa today there are 1.5 million Aids orphans. If the trend of 400,000 deaths from Aids per year continues, by 2015, the number of orphans will have reached five million.

Mr Kamau said that the numbers of people in South Africa being treated for Aids were constantly being outstripped by the numbers becoming infected and dying.

He described this as a dire message for the future because although 380,000 South African Aids patients were receiving anti-retroviral drugs, 1.2 million were not receiving treatment.

As long as infection and death rates continued to outpace treatment, South Africa would lose the battle against Aids, he said.

Unicef says an aggressive expansion of treatment is needed immediately, alongside a much more open Aids prevention campaign from the government, to challenge the stigma which still surrounds the disease in South Africa.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Spirituality Podcast: MP3 Bible study by Dr Robert Aboagye-Mensah from Ghana

It has been a while since I've uploaded a Spirituality podcast to the blog. This podcast is a pre-recorded Bible study of Dr Robert Aboagye-Mensah, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana. I have a second one that I need to edit and upload (I hope to be able to do so by the weekend).

The theme of this first Bible Study is "Come Holy Spirit, heal and transform Your Church" it is a wonderfully challenging and encouraging African Christian perspective.

Please feel free to leave comments!

You can download the podcast here (7.5MB)

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If you're going to do it, at least enjoy doing it... She has curves in the right places! A creation spirituality.

To skip my diatribe and see the curvaceous, well rounded, beauty - scroll to the bottom of this post....

I am a theologian, but I am also a student of the natural sciences. Straight from school I spent some time studying science, and both my theology Masters, and my Doctoral work focussed on theology and science.

I have spent years trying to understand atoms, and sub atomic particles, trying to fathom the complexity of the EPR (that's Einstein, Rosen and Podolsky) 'tunneling effect', and how quantum theory can relate to the faith that I have in a God who holds everything in existence moment by moment.

I've just recently had to go through a whole stack of my foundational work in this regard for a book I've just finished writing about the Cosmic Christ (I'll post about that separately). I have a great appreciatoin for the minds that have formed the western scientific paradigm (by my mind the most important of them are), but they have also caused us some problems (which relate to the curves you'll see below):

  • Plato who emphasized, in a clear philosophical system that material reality was distinct (although only a 'poor copy' of the truer spiritual reality it reflected). The positive development was the recognition of material reality as distinct, the negative element was the duality created between spirit and matter.
  • Next, in my mind, was the philosophy of Rene Descartes (the famous 'I think, therefore I am' man. cogito ergo sum, although I have always thought it should be cogito, cogito, ergo, cogito sum (I think, I think, therefore I think I am...) Just kidding. Oh, and by the way, his name is pronounced "day car", NOT "des car tes"!). Descartes' philosophy of being developed the Aristotelian principle of 'matter' being an 'extension of mind' (res cogitans and res extensa). In short, he asked the question "How can I be sure that I TRULY exist?" i.e., how could he be sure that his body, the world, and everything else was not just a dream (like a bad episode of the 80's soap Opera Dallas when JR Ewing was shot - if you're too young to remember - google it! ). So, he couldn't sure that anything that he thought was real (i.e., material reality) could be truly trusted. The only thing that he could be certain of was that he was thinking (i.e., that he was a sentient, thinking being, thinking about what existed) - hence the statement "I think, therefore I am". The positive step in this was that it created an 'objective' and a 'subjective' reality (i.e., something that the res cogitans could observe, res extensa). The downside was that it further removed the sacred, spiritual, and sentience, from material reality - the duality between spirit and matter was widened.
  • Next came the English physicists Sir Isaac Newton, under whose tree (you remember, the one from which the apple supposedly fell that started the whole 'gravity thing') I have stood under in Cambridge! I'll post the photo to prove it! Newton discovered, and suggested, that the whole of the material (objective) Universe could be objectively studied, and that when one did so one could determine clear and definable laws according to which it operated - these are what became known as the laws of physics. By understanding these laws you could thus understand all of material reality! This was quite a positive step for science! It is what made things like building bridges, flight, and car engines possible - engineering would be lost without it. However, the downside was that many people began to disregard, and doubt, the presence of God in in creation (if creation was more like a mathematically precise machine, than a living organism, then God's only role - if God existed at all, was simply to build the clock, wind it up, and watch it unwind).
  • Next came another English philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon, he took Newton and Descartes theories a step further (by they way Newton and Descartes theories become commonly known as Newtonian - Cartesian logic). He suggested that 1) if material reality is separate from 'self', and material reality ran according to clearly deducible 'laws', then by discovering and manipulating these 'laws' one could control the destiny of material reality. The upside of this theory was that it held some truth! If you could work out how to harness the power of water to drive a turbine, to create electrical energy (something that only happened much later), you could get 'something for nothing' (or so it seemed at the time). The downside of this theory is that it is so devoid of any sense of harmony between humans and creation that it lead to the abuses of the industrial revolution, and almost all ecological abuse since! Certainly, America's unwillingness to sign the Kyoto protocol accord smacks of this kind of thinking "It doesn't matter what we do to the rest of creation, after all we're seperate from it! So, if the planet dies, it doesn't affect who and what we truly are - all that we need is to find ways to manipulate it to get what we want". Sad, but true. A further downside of this philosophical approach was that it ONLY VALUED those things that could be measured and quantified - read the works of the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, and you'll see that even people have a value attached to them... What you can earn and produce determines your worth. In the Baconian world, beauty, faith, happiness, and spirit had no value whatsoever because they could not accurately quantified, and because of that they could not be manipulated.
  • For the first time in history material reality was seen as purely functional, completely devoid of God's sacred and loving power... And, so we abused it.
Now, that's the whole problem with the false dichotomy, and duality, that is created between material and spiritual reality! All of creation is God's creation! Sadly, because we no longer recognize that we think that the only place that we can worship is in Church!

Of course there have been MANY significant developments in science since then that show just how material reality is filled with God's divine power and presence. But you'll have to buy my next book to read about that! Ha ha!

So, here's the point that I was getting to when I started writing this post....

When God created the heavens and the earth, God said "It is good..." (Gen 1). Moreover, we are told in Paul's (or the Pauline author's) letter to the Colossians that "...by him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Col 1:16-17, emphasis mine).

That's what the Bible tells us, theology further shows us that God sanctifies created reality when he chooses to become 'incarnate' in it - the divine enters physical being! Moreover, have you ever thought that when Jesus ascended into the Godhead (Acts 1:9-11) he took atoms into the Trinitarian life! By this I mean, Jesus didn't leave his body behind, Jesus fully God, fully human, and Nicea Constantinople creed tells us, ascended into the divine Trinitarian life.

So, next time we abuse creation, or choose to disregard it - remember that God has sanctified it, and if you abuse creation you are abusing the God who has entered created, material reality, and taken that material reality into the divine life of the Godhead!

The point is that today I decided to take my 1967 Vespa to the Kentucky Fried Chicken drive through! It was a spiritual experience! As I rode that curvy, rounded, beautiful orange scooter, I experienced the joy of being alive to God in Christ. It could feel the goodness of God's creation! God created the air, the sunset, the plants, and let me assure you, God created MY VESPA!

(the one on the left is mine... I used to own the one on the right as well, but she has gone to a good home and been replaced with a beast).

So, my advice is, if you're going to live life, ENJOY IT! Find joy in God's creation, give God glory for what is around you. A creation spirituality, like all spirituality, is a discipline - it takes discipline to say "Lord, I CHOOSE to see you in the world around me, active, alive, keeping all things in being. And, as I see you, I praise and thank you for your beauty, power, and love!"

Oh, and yes, I do enjoy writing as much as I enjoy riding my Vespa! Any other Vespa riders out there who want to join me for an occasional ride in the Pretoria area?

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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

Bad preaching, cliched quotes, silly jokes, and the same old scripture verses!

The Bible is a very big book...

Yup, I've preached a few of these (well, more than a few), and I have CERTAINLY hear a few hundred....

God's people deserve better - come on preachers, buy a few good Bible commentaries, or at least use good internet commentaries, and READ! When ever I am visiting a city and one of my past students has a Church there I try to visit... Sometimes I am wonderfully surprised by how much they've grown... Sometimes they're still preaching the same Sunday school theology they preached at College.

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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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Something's wrong with this picture! Baragwanath Hospital

This evening the SABC 3 news reported that the Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala Msimang, visited the Soweto Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. The reason for the visit was to contain the scandal of 3 newborn babies being placed in a cardboard box in the maternity ward
earlier this month. For the full story please read this news report:http://www.iol.co.za/

What was shocking is that the news reported that whilst there were not enough cribs for newborn babies, due to equipment shortages, the budget reflected that 9 Million rand was spent on the telephone calls last year, and just 7 Million on equipment! And this, all came out of a 1.1 Billion rand budget!

Something is wrong with this picture...

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Matthew 25:45

This Friday as I fast I shall have something more to add to my list, and something for which I need to ask for forgiveness - anger...

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Freedom of the press under attack in South Africa - tie a yellow ribbon to your blog

Repost from http://www.trafficdepartment.co.za/.

Tie a yellow ribbon to your blog or website Today. It is a sad day, an attack on our freedom is being made. In honour of press freedom, tie a yellow ribbon to your blog or website.

To add a ribbon to your website simply right click on this image, save the location, or save the image to your hard drive, then add it to your blog posting.

Email me (see the link on the right) if you would like me to email the image directly to you.

For a full article describing the problem please see the Dispatch Online blog.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

The prosperity gospel (with a small 'g') - fantasy, fallacy, or fully realisable?

I am always a little weary about pointing a finger directly at what I find wrong in another person, simply because I am so well aware of how wrong I am most of the time, about most things... However, this afternoon when I got home my 8 year old was flicking through the channels on DSTV. She stopped for a moment on TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network) and I caught a glimpse of a guy called Andre Roebert.

I have great respect for the late Ed Roebert, not necessarily because I agree with his theology (which I cannot say I have studied in any detail), but simply because God used him to do something great in South Africa during his lifetime. I remember reading the story of the 'Hatfield Baptist Church' (if I'm not mistaken) called "Church ablaze" many, many, years ago, and being impressed by the courage and faith that it took to break with convention, follow God's calling and dream, and do something great. I think John Wesley did it in his day, Nicky Gumbel will surely be remembered for doing it in our day, and possibly Ed will be remembered in South Africa (surely in Pretoria) for what he did here.

The Hatfield Christian church (now near Menlyn in Pretoria), is still doing great things I believe - a school, AIDS ministries etc. As for Ed Roebert, well, I never did hear too much more about him, or take the time to read up and scrutinize his theology - sometimes ignorance is bliss!

So, seeing the name Andre Roebert made me wonder who this guy is - I was curious. So, I did what every net savvy person does, I 'googled' him and found his ministry website - River Ministries in East London. I clicked on the link expecting to find the usual glossy, independent church web page... Instead here's what I found (located right in the centre of the web page):

For those who don't load images on in their browsers let me copy the text from the image below:

River Ministries is a non-profit organisation (incorporated in terms of Section 21 of the Companies Act of South Africa that was established as an administrative vehicle for a number of related and like minded ministries as well as some commercial business entities. The purpose of the group is to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth through the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ - River Ministries was established in 1995 by Pastors Andre and Jenny Roebert

The ministry's slogan seems to be 'more than a church' - I might say, that by the standards of orthodox ecclesiology this is so much LESS than a church.... But, I could be wrong.

When I looked at the 'like minded' commercial enterprises (mentioned in their statement above), I see that they have a property (probably their Church building - I think I went there for a friend's Ordination some years ago) which they sub let, and an air charter service with 3 planes!

Now here's where I need to ask for guidance and help. I am constantly sprouting forth about doing the work of God's Kingdom in new and creative ways... Yet, why do I feel so uncomfortable about this? Perhaps its because for a ministry that is 'not for profit', their primary communication to all visitors to their main website is about a company, with no statement about the content and power of the Gospel to transform individuals and society (note I use a capital 'G', whereas they used a small 'g')?

I worry about this kind of portrayal of Jesus, and of those who serve him and follow his ministry. We read in the Gospels that Jesus was one who lived on the margins of society, with a preferential option for the outcast and disregarded, those who were poor, oppressed and disenfranchised. I wonder if Jesus would have set up a property and air charter service to establish His Kingdom among us? Please forgive me if I am wrong, and if I have judged this ministry unfairly. I don't think that all wealth is wrong - in fact I know quite a few very wealthy people who are responsible and faithful stewards. But, I do worry that these people have made it the centre of their 'ministry'. You need only look at the list of CD's available (read the topics and descriptions) to see that there is an unhealthy emphasis on capital gain, not for the good of society, but for the enrichment of self!

My request is that as Christians we take care not to taint the Gospel of Christ with the gospel of mammon.

I seem to remember Jesus, when teaching on the Kingdom, saying something about it being more difficult for a rich person to get into the Kingdom than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Luke 18:25).

Sadly, I smell a scandal brewing...

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Rankings in religion! Number 1... I say we start a little cult?

So, it has happened at last! Dion's Random Ramblings is number one in religion (on www.amatomu.com at least).

What do you say? Should we start a little cult? I know I'm strange enough to keep it going... And let me not say too much about a few others who subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog....

Vrystaat! We could all wear Orange in this strange cult, sing songs about trains, bribe waitresses not to give toys to our kids, try to win people from the 'emerging movement' to orthodoxy, live in Malaysia and be friends with Brian Mclaren, look for prophetic inspiration between sermons, live to be 'gruntled', or go to Duke to learn just how African we truly are, and learn to wear carpenters shoes, or become a dassie bouncing, sky pilot with a 'bell butt'!

If you're really looking for a worthwhile read, please follow the links to the blogs on the right of this post.... They're much better than mine. Truly!

Regardless, thanks for reading the posts on this blog! I have no idea why you do it, but I'm grateful that you check in from time to time!!

I am a little snowed under today, I hope to post something more meaningful and serious tonight.

Rich blessing to all! And particularly a huge thanks to all those who asked for copies of the little prayer guide book for Zimababwe! I am overwhelmed by the response! It goes to a good cause.


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Encouragement for Christian Women!

Bryanston Methodist Church and Rosebank Union Church are co-hosting a Women's Conference on the weekend of the 26-27th of October at the Rosebank Union Church.

This is a wonderful opportunity for Christian women to be inspired, blessed, challenged to grow, and equipped to face many of the challenges that are common to women in South Africa.

If you would like more information about the course please take a look at the Women's Conference website, or contact the Bryanston Methodist Church office (011 463 2333).

I know my wife is going to be there!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

(Southern) African Christianity - Christian Theologian and his family engage in the African ritual of animal sacrifice.

They said it couldn't be done, but here's the evidence, Southern African Christian Theologian, Dr Dion Forster, engaged in an act of ritual sacrifice today. When asked for comment he replied "This is our culture... Our people are known for it. Particularly on special days like today - we wouldn't have it any other way!"

Pictured here, Dr Forster, burning the flesh of a dead cow (commonly referred to as 'steak, chops, and wors (sausage)'. What makes the act even more of a scandal is the fact that Dr Forster, an ordained Methodist Ministers, is wearing the traditional vestments of the Springbok Rugby team! His wife said "I tried to talk him out of it, but he is just so committed to the Springboks! He said that he had been praying all night, and that God was surely going to support his team [God's team] the Springboks in tonight's semifinal match against the Pumas".

When asked if Dr Forster would be preaching at the Bryanston Methodist Church this evening, he replied "Yes, my people expect it, and after all, that's where we belong... However, tonight's sermon will be kort en kragtig [short and powerful]"

This one's for you Sifiso and Samke! Don't be sad in the US my friends! You're a Africans, no matter where you go we are one - simunye (and other favourite South Africanisms!! umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu!. We miss you guys, but you will be back soon!

OK, now for the Benediction.... Go Bokkkkkkeeeee!!!!!

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

10 mistakes a new dad (and maybe even a new mom) shouldn't make

Wes, Barry, this one is for us guys! It's amazing how many of these mistakes I still make (even second time around!) Take a quick read through the list (or at least the first line of each paragraph). This is good advice!

Top Ten Things a New Dad Shouldn't Do

1. When taking off your baby boy's diaper, don't hold your mouth open and lean over him, making funny faces. This is serious! It's true that when baby boys feel the cool air upon their little bits of manhood, they let loose powerful streams of pee, which doesn't taste good. You should also consider throwing a wipe or cloth on your baby son's bits the moment the diaper comes off. Or else, up shoots the pee into the air, and for a moment, you and your son might watch with surprised awe at just how high the stream gets; but then it comes down again and lands right on your son's face. Sure, this is incredibly funny, but only for a moment. You now have an inconsolable baby on your hands.

2. Don't work on the novel or screenplay three days after your baby is born. Yes, there is something inside you that tells you that you need to make $1 million right now, or else your growing family is doomed - and that novel or screenplay is just the ticket. This is just your caveman survival instinct kicking in. It will go away after a while. And there is plenty of time to work on your novel or screenplay - like, when you're finally getting sleep and your brain is working again.

3. Don't come home from your first day of work after the birth of your child and say, "Boy, what a day!" Come home from work and refuse to talk about your day until you hear all about the baby's day and your wife's day, even if it?s the most boring thing you could imagine. That's the point! Don't you understand that your wife is going stir crazy? She had to spend all day with a baby that wouldn't let her put it down! And even if your wife has gone back to work, your day pales in comparison, pal. Ask her how her day was. Your day doesn't matter. Don't you understand that your wife had to spend all day away from the baby?

4. When you and your wife go out to dinner, leaving your baby with the sitter for the first time, please don't expect to enjoy yourselves.

5. Don't be intimidated by that older woman in the mall, the one who has long since seen her babies grow into adults. She'll come up to you with a smile on her face as you stroll proudly with your baby. And she'll get you to put your guard down when she says, "What a beautiful baby!" And just as you are about to thank her, she will say, "Why is this beautiful baby in a cold mall without proper clothing? This baby will catch its death! You should be ashamed of yourself!" Listen: there is nothing wrong with how you are dressing your baby. There is, however, something wrong with this woman. She's in an organization called Kooky Old Bats. They spend their afternoons roaming malls, looking for unsuspecting fathers to harass.

6. Don't leave your dog alone with access to a garbage bag full of dirty diapers. It's just not pretty what dogs will do to dirty diapers.

7. Don't listen to your mother or mother-in-law. Both of them are on the same team - a sub-organization of Kooky Old Bats - and that team recently had a meeting and decided that, as capable as you are as a human being, you have no idea what you are doing when it comes to caring for a baby. You're a man, after all. You need serious help. You need someone to take the baby from you as soon as you start holding it. You need someone to tell you what the baby needs to eat, or how to boil rubber nipples, or how to use a microwave. You need someone standing over your shoulder, clucking away as you change your baby boy's diaper and he ends up peeing on his own face. But it's not you; it's them. They have nothing else to do with themselves. Just turn off your ears and be happy you are not married to them. Sooner or later, your wife will force them to leave the house.

8. When your wife wakes you in the middle of the night and asks either A) "Can you see why the baby is crying?" or B) "Do you want to have sex?" ? DO NOT answer, "But I have to work in the morning."

9. You might find yourself at a park with your wife and your newborn. It's a nice day; your wife, nipples bandaged painfully beneath her blouse, has decided to bottle-feed your baby today. A warm breeze is blowing. Then, a sour-looking woman or a righteous-looking man walks up to where you sit on the park bench and says, "You know, you really should be breast-feeding. It's much healthier for the baby." These people are called Breast Nazis. If you are attacked by them, by all means, don't be afraid to say, "Actually, we?re the baby's uncle and aunt. Do you still think she should breast-feed the baby?" Whether or not you agree with the breast-feeding issue, watching their reaction is just plain fun.

10. Don't be under the impression that you must be SuperDad. First of all, no matter what you do, the baby is going to like her mother best. There is no competition. Second of all, SuperDads are worthless when the baby is young, because anything you can do that is "super" is lost on the child; she can hardly hold up her head to see you. And as the kid grows, and there you are pulling the SuperDad act, she will get completely annoyed with you and end up moving far, far away. All you need to do is be around as much as you can. Hold the baby when you want to; feed the baby when you're ordered to; smile at the baby when you're moved to. It's really that simple.

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The Catholic Church is maneuvering to save the Soul of Italian footbal

I remember a song that used to irritate the heck out of me when I was younger - I think it was by Sir Cliff (Richard that is), which had a lyric "Why should the devil have all the good music?" Anybody remember that one? I simply didn't like it because it was Cliff Richard - however, the message is a good one! Why should we give over everything that is fun, enjoyable, and entertaining, to the corrupt, money making, ruthless elements of society? Surely God enjoys a good game of football, or a well choreographed concert, or a well written song or novel, as much as we do?

Well, here's another interesting story from the Mail & Guardian. The Catholic Bishops in a certain area of Italy have offered a ?1,6-million a year sponsorship deal to a soccer league in order to encourage it to get 'good and wholesome' again. At first I thought, heck there are much better things to do with that much money! And of course there are!

But, if your members are no longer coming to your Cathedrals, why not find a way to add the value, blessing, joy, and love of the Gospel to their lives where they are! They'll be at the soccer match, where will the Church be - well the Catholic Church in Italy will be right there with them!

What do you think? I would LOVE to see my favourite team, Kaizer Chiefs from Soweto (not to be confused with Kaiser Chiefs ,from Leeds in England, - whom I also happen to love, especially the song "everything is average now days), get some good wholesome values out there as an example to the fans!

We have a young man in our denomination, Fikile Khumalo, who is passionate about using sport to reach people. I wonder what a difference the South African Church could make if we got organised around sharing the Gospel, and making a real difference in the lives of people, at the 2010 World Cup? I'm there with you Fikile!

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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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Friday, October 12, 2007

Calls by the African Anglican Bishops to postpone the Lambeth Conference.

This post comes from 'Contact online' a blog by Fr David Mac Gregor. I am reposting it here since it may be of some interest to the readers of this blog - however, please do take a look at David's great blog.

Calls to postpone Lambeth

From the Friday, Oct 12, 2007 issue of the Church of England Newspaper

By George Conger

THE ANGLICAN Archbishops of Africa have backed Nigeria?s call to postpone the 2008 Lambeth Conference, and have pleaded with the Archbishop of Canterbury to call a special meeting of the Primates to avert the impending collapse of the Communion.

And this week a leading Church of England Bishop warned that if the current arrangements stand, he will find it difficult to attend the 10-yearly meeting of Bishops.

In a statement released following the meeting earlier this month of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) in Mauritius, the Archbishops acknowledged Dr Williams? concerns that postponing Lambeth would be ?costly?, but said the alternatives were far worse.

?A divided conference with several provinces unable to participate and hundreds of bishops absent would be much more costly to our life and witness. It would bring an end to the Communion, as we know it,? they said.

Postponing Lambeth would allow ?tensions to subside? and permit space for the ?hard work of reconciliation?. It would also ensure that a common mind would have been reached on the proposed Anglican Covenant before the meeting took place.

Last month Dr Williams said he was not persuaded that a delay of Lambeth was necessary. He had to ?keep faith? with the conference organisers and with the minority of bishops who were not concerned with the crisis of faith and order dividing the Communion.

However, the African church stated that a ?change of direction from our current trajectory is urgently needed? for the Communion to survive.

The African archbishops said they were willing to work with the ?instruments of unity? to resolve the ?current impasse that confronts us?.

However, they said: ?We have spent the last 10 years in a series of meetings, issuing numerous communiqués, setting deadlines and yet we have made little progress.?

A Lambeth Conference that papers over the widening cracks in the Communion would serve no one, they argued. ?We want unity but not unity at any expense,? they said.

Their call coincides with an admission by the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, that he would not be able to attend Lambeth if the liberal US bishops who appointed Gene Robinson were invited.

Responding to a question on the issue after delivering the fifth Chavasse lecture at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford, Bishop Nazir-Ali said:

?There are churches and bishops who were requested, there were pleas to them by everyone from every quarter, not to do what the whole Communion had said was contrary to God?s purpose.

?They went ahead and did it.

Now the intention is to have those bishops at the Lambeth Conference, and the person consecrated also. Under such circumstances, and as matters stand, I could not go.We have to state at a particular time what is the gospel?s judgment in a particular situation.?

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Exeter, Michael Langrish, said he backed Bishop Nazir-Ali.

He said: ?I agree with the Bishop of Rochester about both the need for greater clarity about the purpose and nature of next summer?s gathering.?

He added he was concerned about the possibility the Conference could make Gene Robinson a scapegoat, ?rather than focusing on the action of those who, through their decision to act in disregard of the pleas and mind of the rest of the Anglican Communion, precipitated this crisis?.

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Celebrating a powerful life! Happy Birthday Pete!

There are some people who change one's life more than they would ever know...

Today I offer thanks to God, and celebrate, my friend Peter Grassow's life - some years ago on this very day (13 October) Peter Grassow was born into the manse of a Methodist ministerial family (Pete can tell you how many years ago it was).

Pete is a follower of Christ, the kind of follower who doesn't compromise on the Gospel (even when it has consequences!) He is just, humane, loving, gracious, fair, prophetic (yup, we've just been talking about that). Oh, and he rides a large BMW motorbike and has done 12 Comrades Marathons (which means he must also be just a little bit crazy!!!)

I have known Pete for over a decade now. He has been a mentor and a guide, offering wise counsel, the ear of a friend, but also challenge and rebuke where necessary. Pete is the friend who will phone me to tell me that I am not spending enough time with my wife and children. He's also the kind of friend who phones me just about every week without fail, simply to ask how my relationship with God is going! What's even better is that he is willing to listen, and not offer advice (unless I ask for it). He's the kind of person I am pleased to follow and learn from. He gave me my first real teaching post - teaching New Testament at the College he runs in Cape Town.

Pete serves as a Pastor of a Church in Cape Town. He is a gifted preacher, a great teacher, a published author (more than a few times over), and he's one of the best leaders I know. He has been jailed for his stance against the Apartheid regime... He has faced the struggle of being the only white minister to serve in a black congregation (during a time when it was both illegal, and just not done, in both South Africa, and the Methodist Church). But more importantly, he loves Christ, loves his wife Jen, and his 3 daughters. I learn a lot from him

Happy Birthday Pete! You're a gift! And no, I don't say that to all the boys!

If you want to wish Pete a Happy Birthday (even if you don't know him), please drop him a note on his blog www.rockinthegrass.blogspot.com.

Much love from Dion, Megan, Courtney and Liam

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An appeal for help - Life in Zimbabwe is murder these days

The poster above, which is in South Africa, reads "Life in Zimbabwe is Murder these days. Just remember your country still needs you - come home at election time and vote for FREEDOM"

I was born in Zimbabwe. It is a beautiful land.

It is so sad to see what has happened there. It is time to start helping out!

I have a colleague who drives up to Zimbabwe from South Africa with a trailer full of basic food stuffs and stationery for ministers and their families about once every two months. He smuggles in things like pencils, powdered milk, nappies for babies, a few sweets and treats, hand cream, rusks, coffee and many other things that I take for granted. Of course it is not that these things cannot be bought in Zimbabwe, they can be bought, but usually one needs to barter on the 'black market', and payment can only be made in South African Rand, or US dollars.

Well, I want to help him as much as I can. Naturally it would not be a good idea to share who this person is on the internet. However, if you're eager to help then please make contact with me off the blog and I'll be sure to put you in touch.

I shall be donating the proceeds of the sale of my little book "A guide to prayer for use during examinations" to this cause - so, if you want to buy a few copies to give out as gifts, the proceeds go to a worthy cause! Just search for 'pre-order', or drop me an email, and I'll send you as many as you need.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thanks everyone! We're number 3 in 'Religion'

No, this is not some cryptic Church growth methodology! Neither is it some kind of weird inter-religious competition!

Rather, it is simply a quick post to say thanks to everyone who is checking in on my daily posts! Your efforts have made this site the 3rd most popular blog in the Mail and Guardian's blog Rankings! How about that?

What I love about www.amatomu.com is their 'truly South African' way of ranking blogs, simply click on the schmaak this button to say that you enjoy it! For those who are not South African, 'schmaak' is slang for 'love it', or 'cool', or something like that...

Schmaak this blog!

Thanks everyone! Keep the love coming!!

Jenny, thanks for pointing me to amatomu.

How would you feel about reading posts from some other, more enlightened, and faithful, Christians? If I were to approach and sign up a few contributors would you enjoy reading thoughts, ideas, rants, ramblings, and insights, from others? Drop me a line and let me know!


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God's politics - The silence of the Church's prophetic voice

Why has the South African Church become so silent on matters that blatantly negate and deny the love, mercy, justice, and grace of the Kingdom of God?

As a minister of a denomination that was very prophetic (both in word and deed) during South Africa's apartheid era I have found it alarming to gauge the general lack of prophetic witness in Southern African Methodist Churches at the moment. (For a more detailed, although admittedly somewhat hagiographic, account of some of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's prophetic stances please read the following paper that I presented at the Oxford Institute).

My friend, Wessel Bentley attempted to have a resolution passed at our recent Methodist Annual Conference that noted concern and alarm about a couple of things:

1. Concerns about the minister of health's (Manto Tshabalala Msimang) general conduct and the questions surrounding her management of public resources.

2. Grave concerns about how the South African health services are dealing with the pandemic of HIV / AIDS - it needs to be remembered that we have the highest HIV infection rate in the world!

Instead, we ended up with a vague, indirect, empty resolution that will not change or impact significantly on health care for people who are dying of a disease that we can stem! Sadly, it was members of our own Church, some who used to be pastors in Churhces, some who were leaders of the apartheid struggle, who now drive Mercedes, BMW's and occupy high positions in the new ANC government, some who win lucrative tenders for Government contracts, who were the main proponents of protecting the government, and seeking to cover over and silence the Church's call for radical action.

I remember some years ago (1992) as a young minister being 'hauled over the coals' by my Bishop at the time, Rev Peter Storey, for participating in a student march against the Apartheid government. The protest action was quite controversial, our in service training convener (Rev Paul Verryn) took us to the march in Potchefstroom on the University campus. Peter was concerned that many of us were being co-opted, uncritically, into movements that did not necessarily have the good of the people at heart. Paul of course was trying to help uncritical young white fundamentalists like me to realise that preaching the Gospel had radical consequences for the way in which society is structured! You cannot preach love, equity, justice and acceptance, without doing something to try and bring it about! However, there were some real issues among the organizers of the protest, and so Bishop Peter admonished us with these words (or something close to them) - "When the struggle is won, and the majority take power, and the injustice continues, then we shall see who the true prophets are - those who fall silent, or are co-opted, will be shown for who they truly are. True prophets will speak, not because of where they are, but because of who God is - a true prophet always speaks, and lives, the truth of God regardless of who is in power".

Let us never forget, this struggle is about someone who is lying in a bed, in a shack, in a rural area of our country, not receiving primary health care because of inadequate high level, and local, management! As the media, leading up to the Conference, reported - the health department has huge unspent budgets for equipment, staff and medicines, yet our clinics and hospitals are empty, our doctors and nurses are fleeing South Africa in search of better pay and better working conditions, and antiretrovirals are not reaching the poorest of the poor! Thankfully, the minister of health can get herself bumped to the top of the donor list, and disregard the fact that he liver damage was caused by Alcohol abuse (or so it is alleged, I cannot be certain).

Wessel, and Comrade Manto Matsepe, also sent a resolution to Conference through DEWCOM noting with concern how many ordained Methodist ministers are now serving in senior positions, and in the official structures, of the ruling party in South Africa... It was toned down... In the past we did not allow Methodist clergy to hold political office, now we "request them to consider their motives for doing so, and consider whether they are compromising the Church's prophetic witness". Again, this is my paraphrasing of the resolution. Of course we need Christians to be active in politics, in fact we need Christians to hold political office, but I am not convinced that we need Christian ministers to do so - who must remain objective, free to speak and challenge, yet also open to affirm and assist. The office of a pastor, the power of the pulpit, and the station of a servant in society, need to remain very carefully located in a 'God space' - political, but not aligned to party politics.

Yet, sadly, the Church is silent. And, let me say, it is not our leaders who are silent, it is the Church! I am amused by how we tend to sit on both sides of the fence when we speak of 'the church'. When it suits us we emphasize the role, importance, and power of the term that Rick Warren and Bill Hybels (Willowcreek) have made so popular - the local Church! Yet, when it comes to actually doing something about it we turn our eyes to the leaders of the Church, expecting them to be the one's who set the pace for mission, witness, and community transformation. I remember doing a SYNOD Bible study a few years back in which I challenged the SYNOD to realize that 'structures' don't do mission! People, filled with the Spirit of God, convicted by the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, living in areas of need and concern do mission!

Something I have had to repent of is my tendency to want to blame others - I find it easy, as many others do, to lament how others don't do the things that I should be doing.

On this blog, more than once, I have made critical comments about the silence of the United Methodist Church about one of its members gross misconduct and un-Christian behavior, George W Bush (yes, he is a Methodist)! However, I need to repent that I have been slow to criticise my own silence of our State President (who has indicated that he is a Christian) when he removes people who ask tough questions, sidesteps issues of national concern (like the accusations of criminal misconduct against the National Police commissioner Mr Selebi).

I am silent. Forgive me Lord! I am sure you are much more vocal, much more prophetic. I am sure that even now you are setting the captives free, healing the sick, proclaiming good news and jubilee for the impoverished, and not allowing injustice to go unnoticed. Give me the courage to be part of your work in the world, your mission, your uncompromising love.

A fantastic new book is out - I have read some reviews, and already ordered my copy. As with all Mclaren's works I am sure that it will ruffle some feathers: Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.

For a little taste of Mclaren's prophetic perspective (a separate commentary from that in the book) you can read the article below from the soujourners website 'God and politics'.

I remember about eight years ago when then presidential candidate George W. Bush repeatedly claimed that he would restore honor to the presidency, soiled as it had been by our previous president's infamous affair. I remember hoping he would succeed. But a new kind of shame has come to the office and to our nation as reports surface about our government's secret authorization of torture. We all share in this shame.

Conservative columnist and blogger Andrew Sullivan expresses what many of us feel. He reminds his readers:

... my first response to reports of abuse and torture at Gitmo was to accuse the accusers of exaggeration or deliberate deception ... It struck me as a no-brainer that this stuff was being invented by the far left or was part of al Qaeda propaganda. After all, they train captives to lie about this stuff. Bottom line: I trusted this president in a time of war to obey the rule of law that we were and are defending.

Sadly, he laments, that trust was betrayed:

And then I was forced to confront the evidence. He betrayed all of us. He lied. He authorized torture in secret, and then, when busted after Abu Ghraib, blamed it on low-level grunts. This was not a mistake. It was a betrayal.

The word "betrayal," of course, recalls Moveon.org's Sept. 26 ad. Many considered the pun childish at best, politically unsavvy at least, or worse. There was a rush to condemn anyone who failed to condemn the ad. But Sullivan's use of the word strikes me as anything but childish.

Our nation's reputation, not to mention that of the presidency, has been dishonored by this betrayal of trust. Honorable people - conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat - need to follow Andrew Sullivan's example, coming together to express our grief and outrage about the political hypocrisy and betrayal to which we have been subjected by people we elected.

This is challenging stuff! I am also currently reading the book of my friend Joerg Rieger "Christ and empire". This is a much more scholarly, carefully researched, and hard hitting prophetic theology! Joerg, who is from Southern Methodist University, will be visiting us early next year. He is coming to do some sabbatical work at the University of Kwazulu Natal (that has the exceptional Theology and Development program), and he will take some time to visit John Wesley College whilst here.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

True humility... I need to learn more of it.

The day is over... Amazingly, this spoilt brat (yup, that's me!) survived the day just fine! No phone, no electricity, no car...

I suppose I need a few more days like this (not only to be reminded how lucky I am to have a car, electricity, and telephones on hand), but also to be reminded of the many who live their lives without these luxuries and commodities!

Thanks to those who read the post and smiled... To the one or two who emailed me their horror stories about Telkom, ESKOM, and various car problems. At least I didn't feel alone.

However, as I sit at home, my children are asleep, Megan and I are catching up on some correspondence, I am at peace.

So, after the rant of this morning I turned to my devotional reading the heading is True humility:

1. Prayer of invocation: Almighty God, you have sent Jesus to show us how to live. Grant me the power of your Holy Spirit so that I may follow him in faithfulness all the days of my life. Amen.

Basically humility is the attitude of one who stands constantly under the judgment of God. It is the attitude of one who is like the soil. Humility comes from the Latin word humus, fertile ground. The fertile ground is there, unnoticed, taken for granted, always there to be trodden upon. It is silent, inconspicuous, dark and yet it is always read to receive any seed, ready to give it substance and life. The more lowly, the more fruitful, because it becomes really fertile when it accepts all the fefuse of the earth. It is so low that nothing can soil it, humiliate it; it has accepted the last place and cannot go any lower. In that position nothing shatter the soul's serenity, its peace and joy.
-- From Living Prayer by Anthony Bloom.

2. Benediction: Live today in Christ's presence, remembering he is near and will sustain you as you serve his name. Amen.

So, God clearly anticipated my mood, and the situations that would expose my need of growth and grace. I thank God for knowing me even better than I know my self. This day has ended well. Thanks be to God.

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No power, no phone lines - it's becoming a bit of a concern

This morning ESKOM decided to cut the power to our suburb in order to shed the load throughout the country. Normally this would not be a problem since we are notified in advance so we can prepare to boil bottles, and prepare Liam's food for the day... Sadly there was no warning. I guess it is time for this child of the first world to buy a gas stove...

Oh, and we've also had no telephone lines whatsoever since a storm on Saturday. So if you phone my office it will simply ring... Telkom says they'll attend to it, but 4 days later there is still no sign of a technician.

So, if you need to reach me please phone my cell phone... That is, until the battery goes flat...

If you're thinking 'how can Dion be blogging without a telephone line and power?', well, I am sitting in my 1 year old car at Hatfield Volkswagen (fourth time in two months with the same electrical fault) - this is a 'moblog', submitted via email from my Nokia E90 cell phone.

Aaaarrrggghhh! Today I need to pray for patience

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The gift of insomnia... Reviving an 'old project', a book on Bede Griffiths

I have never slept particularly well (my dad tells me that even as a baby I slept badly). Over the years the doctors suggested various reasons, most commonly it seems to do with a deficiency of melatonin. I don't really mind - every now and then I feel the effects of lack of sleep, but on the whole it is more of a gift than a curse! I am capable of getting by on about 4 hours of sleep.

This has meant that a lot of my thinking, writing, planning, praying, and working, happens late at night, or early in the morning.

Over the last two weeks I have not been sleeping particularly well, so I have revived a project that I had been working on some years ago - a book on Bede Griffiths' Christology (that is, what Bede Griffiths believed about Jesus, for those who are not familiar with the jargon).

Bede Griffiths was a remarkable man. He was born in England, educated at Magdalen College in Oxford (a lovely place! I've visited it). He was converted under the guidance of CS Lewis and entered the Benedictine Order. He spent most of his life in India in a unique and special Benedictine community that offered a fresh expression of faith in Christ to many Indian Christians, and also to many westerners who had given up on traditional Christianity.

What is of particular interest to me is the way in which Fr Bede adapted the daily rule of St Benedict to match his incredible theology. Both (the rule and his theology) were fundamentally influenced by his mystical spirituality. Fr Bede believed that the mystical experience of God was his primary goal for existence - this experience of the divine achieved two significant purposes. First, it offered devotion to God the source of all that exists. Second, it formed the substance of God's revelation to humanity (i.e., revealing God's nature, God's will, and God's mission in the world).

I did a Masters degree under Professor Felicity Edwards many years ago in which I studied Bede Griffiths spirituality. It was a significant milestone in my spiritual and theological development. It was from Felicity, and Fr Bede, that I came to understand and love the rich insights that theology can gain from science, and vice versa. However, Fr Bede's fundamental approach to the Cosmos as an expression of the nature of Christ (divine and human, physical and spiritual, non dual, and permeated with the sacred intention of God) has remained a central thrust in my life. It has informed my theology, ethics, and daily life.

My Masters Thesis was published by the Bede Griffiths trust in California and now forms part of the archives. It wasn't a brilliant piece of scholarship, even though I got a distinction for it. It needed reworking and refining.

So, in my sleepless nights I have been reworking it into a book. At this stage it will not be a very large book (perhaps 130 or so pages). It is a Christology, discussing the significance and contribution of Fr Bede's Hindu-Christian approach to the Cosmic Christ for spirituality and theological discourse. I think the title is likely to be Discovering the Cosmic Christ - a Hindu-Christian approach to Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths.

So, watch this space! I am about two thirds of the way with my edits - perhaps in a week or so I will have the first draft done.

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Free tickets to the World Cup Rugby final!

Do you want tickets to the world cup Rugby final? Well, there may just be someone who can help you with that! Take a look at picture below!

Now, how's that for a suggestion? Come on Kiwi's you know you don't need them! Send them our way!

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The liberation and love that frees us from fear

This morning in my morning devotions I read this wonderful little

"The source of all freedom is the freedom of Jesus Christ. By our
association with him we are invited into the kingdom of liberation
and love. We pledge our faith, "green as a leaf." We receive the
spirit that disentangles us from sin, from the narrow perspectives of
the law, and from the fetters of fear. We join all of creation in
struggling to reject what is evil, submitting to the greater law of
love, and in sharing in the glorious freedom of those who belong to

-- From 'Every bush is burning' by Joan Puls

Monday, October 08, 2007

What does a Christian look like?

It was 7 years ago, November 2000, Megan and I were at a Conference in Jerusalem, Israel. At the Conference were a number of passionate young Christians from Sweden... Nothing strange about that - I'm sure that there are MANY passionate young Christians in Sweden. However, what set these young men and woman apart from the other passionate young Christians who were at the Conference was the way they dressed, and how they looked! These guys had mohawk haircuts, pierced ears, noses, eyebrows, they wore tartan 'bondage' pants, had leather jackets and ripped T Shirts, and they were covered in tattoos... However, these were not ordinary tattoos, they were much more like the icons I had seen in Orthodox Churches, they were images of Christ, the virgin Mary, they also had knotted Celtic crosses, and ornate Germanic script with verses from the Bible...

These young people were passionate about Christ, and they weren't afraid to show it.

That got me thinking - what do Christians look like? I am sure that when God surveys all of the diverse and beautiful people that God has created there are lots of people with purple hair (heck I had a whole team of them in a Church I once served - they were called the 'WA' (woman's auxiliary). But I am sure there are a few young one's as well). I'm sure that there are respectable people - men in checked shirts and women in neat pinnafores (in South Africa we would call these folks the 'Woolworth's clan' (I'll confess that I am one of those who LOVES to buy a nice checkered shirt and a pair of Chinos from Woolworths!) - Woolworth's in South Africa is more like Marks and Spencer than Woolworths in the UK).

Today I came across the following great blog by a Christian who has tattoos - I'm sure God enjoys the art work! Go here to see some remarkable Christian tattoos from kingdom.iblog.co.za.

Oh, and for those who don't know me that well... Did you know that I have two tattoos? Yup, nothing quite as spectacular, or Christ honouring, as those that can be seen by following the link above... In fact, my tattoos are merely a reminder of a misspent youth! Let's see if anyone has noticed, and can say, what tattoos I have...

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Visionary Leadership: It's a sad day.... Bishop Tutu banned from speaking at St Thomas University in Minnesota

I have a friend who once commented that if you life the kind of life that Jesus lived, you need to expect the kind of treatment that Jesus got... He has a rather disturbing, but true, catch phrase that says "If you live the truth, you'd better look good on wood, because sooner or later people will want to crucify you".

Well, this is not exactly comparable to the suffering of Christ, but heck, people hate to hear the truth!

Today it was reported that St Thomas University refused to host retired Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu because of comments he made about Israel's treatment of Palestinians!

This report from the Star Tribune explains what transpired:

A plan to invite Desmond Tutu to speak at the University of St. Thomas next year was scuttled by university officials who did not want to offend the Jewish community over the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, university officials confirmed Wednesday.

In addition, Cris Toffolo, an associate professor who supported inviting the South African archbishop and activist was removed as director of the St. Paul university's justice and peace studies program in August.

She remains on the faculty.

Tutu's visit will be shifted to Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, according to a local group that had planned to bring him to St. Thomas.

Doug Hennes, vice president for university and government relations at St. Thomas, said the Rev. Dennis Dease, St. Thomas' president, made the final decision not to invite Tutu after consulting with his staff.

"He [Tutu] has been critical of Israel and Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians, so we talked with people in the Jewish community and they said they believed it would be hurtful to the Jewish community, because of things he's said," Hennes said.

The truth hurts - but sadly, it also sometimes hurts those who stand for it...

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Were you caught in 'the perfect storm (hype)'?

If you live in Gauteng (Pretoria, Johannesburg etc.) in South Africa then you will know exactly what I am talking about if I mention 'the prefect storm'. It turned out to be nothing other than 'the perfect hoax'. Today emails circulated the web, warnings went out on radio, people were even getting text messages warning them of 'the perfect storm' in Gauteng. Supposedly a storm so fierce was brewing in Gauteng that it was going to turn into a tornado by 6 pm! Well, my wife's company let their staff go home early, the roads were packed with early traffic...

Sure, there was a bit of rain, some lightning and thunder - heck, it was nothing more than a regular 'high veld' thunderstorm!

Now Saturday the 6th was an awesome storm in the Pretoria area! High winds, hail, and driving rain.

If you got caught by the hype of 'the perfect storm' then read this great post from thoselegends.blogspot.com. It makes for a very interesting read. If you got caught in the hype drop me a line and let me know (I know I was worried for a while!) Isn't human nature just strange?

I have often wondered about the mass mentality that overtakes groups... We get ourselves worked up, we feed of each others' neuroses, and eventually we come to believe just about anything. Does anybody remember the bad old days in South Africa when white South Africans feared 'die rooi gevaar' (the communist threat), 'die katolieke gevaar' (the liberal Catholic threat)...

I wonder what dangers we've created?

I seem to remember it being written somewhere that "there is no fear in love; perfect love drives out fear" (1 Jn 4:18). Lord, give me the courage to be the a calm head in the storm, help me to follow your lead, your love, and not to be taken in by the hype of 'the perfect storms' of life.

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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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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Global warming, depletion of our oil reserves, HIV infection, malnutrition - what must God feel? It's time to start paying attention!

Sivin's blog is my current favourite! I love the way he thinks, but also the diversity of issues that he challenges me to think about. This morning, just after my devotions, I checked my RSS feeds and came across the 'World Clock' countdown. I used it as a prayer tool - as I watched the planet warming and the oil draining, as I saw the population grow, and people being infected with HIV, as I realised that the little ticking numbers represented real living (and dying) people, asked God to forgive me for my lack of care for God's good earth, and all the people that God loves! I prayed that God would help me to be more environmentally conscious, more compassionate and caring for others, more responsible with my consumption and spending... and encourage others to do the same.


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Friday, October 05, 2007

4th of October - Free Burma day!

To add this simple form and image to your site please go to the free Burma web page and simply copy the HTML directly into your blogger client. No hassle, no fuss! Remember, every person that clicks through and signs the petition adds another voice, and every voice counts. If you don't want to go through the trouble of finding the HTML yourself just drop me a line and I'll email it to you!

The simple proverb rings true - "When spider webs unite, can they not bind a lion?" You can make a difference!

Free Burma! Petition Widget

Name: (required)




Free Burma!

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Getting more traffic to your blog!

I have had quite a few folks asking how I get so much traffic to my blog.

Well, there is a very simple answer for most bloggers.... Are you ready for it?

Update your blog!!! Post, post regularly, and post sensible and useful stuff (not that my posts fit into either of these categories)!

However, there are a few more meaningful tips that you can follow to increase traffic to your blog. I have used this guide below quite a bit and found that it has helped to get traffic to my site. Of course I don't advertise or have clickthrough's... My only reason for wanting traffic on this blog is to share some thoughts and ideas (and to generate some discussion). Anyway, here is the REAL guide on how to get more traffic on your blog:

Many first time bloggers automatically assume that once their blog is setup and they put a few posts on it, they will get some hits and regular readers. This is quite untrue. You won't get any traffic if no one knows about your website. In this article I hope to tackle these problems and discuss some of the common ways bloggers and webmasters drive more traffic to their site by understanding the user. I have received many emails from aspiring bloggers asking me what they can do to get more traffic, so hopefully this will help out at least those people. Don't forget to checkout the prequel, How To: Start Blogging, that covers the technical side of setting up a blog.

Blog Usability

Before I get into getting your name out there, your blog has to have some style. Most web users are instantly turned off by tacky site designs or extreme neon colors. I know I won?t stay at a website too long if the layout or navigation annoys me. The goal is to have a unique blog, different than all the other weblogs on the net. The one thing I really stress to others is making it easy for your readers to contact you. It shouldn?t take a reader more than a click, if any, to find your email address or a contact form. This makes the reader feel like someone actually runs and cares about the website. An about page is also a great asset to have on a personal site or blog. The more a reader knows about you, the more they trust your content. I highly recommend reading this weblog usability article by usability guru Jakob Nielsen.


Your blog's usability goes hand in hand with its content. You can specialize in a niche subject as long as you have an idea of how many people might be interested in that subject. If you do well with your niche subject matter, you could get some crazy traffic for being the only decent blog online with that type of content. On the other hand you could have widely used content, such as some aspect of technology, but add your own twist with your opinion or comparing / contrasting from other tech analysts. People won?t go to your site to read something they could have read on CNet or Tom's Hardware, they want a unique take on it. If you learn anything from this article, I hope its that reblogging is a very bad thing. The one thing to kill your traffic is having identical content to another several hundred blogs. I suggest taking a glance at Mr. Veloso's Evils of Constant Reblogging to get a better idea. Finding out what your content should be is a key element of your blog's identity and the type of image your blog will ultimately emit.

Technorati is Your Best Friend

Technorati is one of the best traffic providers for bloggers. It makes your blog much easier to find when people search by technorati tags. Technorati is also a large blog ranking engine. Based on the number of links to your blog from various websites, your blog is given a rank. The higher your rank the easier your blog is to find when people search for things. A higher rank gives your blog greater credibility in technorati. If you don?t already have a technorati account, get one. After you have setup the main settings, such as your profile, you need to claim your blog. Go to Account and then down the page to Your Blogs. Enter the URL of your blog in the URL field and then hit "Claim this weblog." Once you?ve done that go to "Configure this Blog" and fill in what you can. Click the checkbox to select "Include this blog in Technorati's Blog Finder" and fill out as many tags or keywords that accurately represent the content in your blog. When you?ve done that, click "Save Changes" and then grab your claim code. There are two types of codes that you may put somewhere in your blog for technorati to verify that your blog exists and keep track of it. If you have a blog that is Blogger powered or some other blog host that does not give you direct control of your blog files you will want to use the "Link Code" and post it somewhere on your blog. If you are using a more versatile blog publishing system, such as a custom WordPress or Movable Type installation you should copy the "Embed Code." You can edit your sidebar, header, or footer file and put it wherever you like. You also have the option of posting a Technorati search box or various links on your blog without altering the code you just pasted. Select the options you like and click "Save Changes." Everything is done automatically by Technorati. One last thing you might consider is adding the Technorati ping link to your weblog. Doing this will let Technorati know when you have updated your blog. Find out how to do that on Technorati?s Ping Configuration page.

Technorati Profile

I hope that helps! Let me know if your traffic increases as a result of these tips, and if you have any other tips to post please let me know. Of course there are the 'sneeky' ways of driving traffice to your site, by including words like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, sex, porn, google, skype, serials, cracks, free software, unlock, crack, hack, blog, weight loss, diet, health, Jason Calacanis, Leo Laporte, Patric Norton, Bill Gates, Microsoft, Steve Jobs, iPhone, iPod, John C Dvorak, John Chow, Mahalo

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A year ago today... The sadness of a bureaucrat... But, tomorrow is another day!

It was the 4th of October 2006. I was dressed in a jacket and tie. Megie was about five and a half months pregnant with Liam, it was just before a week long retreat with my friends Peter Woods, Peter Grassow (above) and Kevin Needham.... A year ago today I graduated with a Doctorate in Theology. You can read more about that week here (look for the past dated 6 October 2006).

So much has changed since then! Most magnificent of all of those changes was the birth of our little miracle, Liam. I can hardly believe that he is almost a year old!

Tonight I celebrate and give thanks for Liam as I end another day of fasting - I have done 48 of these so far, every Friday for children, parents, and those who long to be parents. I do it because God knows the intensity of my gratitude and the sincerity of my intercessory prayer.

But, I am also sad - maybe I'm just hungry and pensive, but I feel sad. I miss Peter Woods - he is preparing for his year long retreat and has long since stopped blogging. I feel like I have lost a good friend. I mourn the fact that next year there will be no Phase 1 center at Plumstead in Cape Town. I wasn't involved in the final move that saw all the students from that District being placed elsewhere, but I feel guilty. Somehow as each year passes my sense of responsibility and culpability grows within the Church. Responsibility, because like most of our Church's leaders I also wish to help to make the Church more faithful so that we can honour God by bringing healing and transformation to the world, but also culpable since I realise how inadequate I am to achieve that, but also because one is seldom untouched by the struggles and mistakes of our Church, my Chuch.

My friend from Malaysia, Sivin, posted the following insightful comment on his blog - it comes from an interview with Brian Mclaren. I wonder if I am being sucked into the bureaucracy, or maybe I am already a bureaucrat, or maybe there is hope that benevolent leadership can help to change the Church and the world, or maybe I am just hopefully naive?

Bureaucracy a gift? The conversation in this post seems to model divergent and convergent thinking ?

?Whether we like it or not, hierarchy and its sibling command & control, are here to stay. That doesn?t mean that networked organisations and self-organisation are not valuable additions, but they are just that. Additions, not the norm.?

?I think the evidence is showing that hierarchy may be here to stay as a way of irrigating and organization with resources, but command and control have long given way to networked action based on relationships and intimacy. It?s how anything actually gets done, especially in large organizations. Don?t believe me? It?s the principle behind ?work to rule? slow downs. Command and control aren?t synonymous with hierarchy - one can organize a resource allocation hierarchically but use distributed leadership to get the work done.?

When the 4th ends the 5th will come... I will go for a run tomorrow and try to figure out who I am, what I should do, and what I should not do...

On Sunday I preach at Alan Storey's Church, Calvary Methodist in Midrand! I always look forward to being there!

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It disturbs me... Another instance of visionary leadership

I subscribe to a number of email list groups (google groups and yahoo groups). Perhaps one of the most active groups is that for gay, and gay friendly (affirming), Methodists in Southern Africa. It is an open group, you can read our discussions and posts here.

Since our conference the list has been abuzz with discussion. The one thing we have in common is our passion for the Gospel of Christ, and a desire to see the values of Christ's Gospel fairly, courageously, and lovingly reflected in our Church's ministry. However, along with that common passion comes many different perspectives on how this should take place.

For those who have been following my posts on this discussion (and the comments that others have made in response to those posts) you will know that there has been some concern that we have placed the unity of the Church before our calling to be a prophetic institution of justice and grace. I have prayed, and thought, and journaled, and read, and engaged with these two positions (unity in the Church vs. prophetic and Christ honoring ministry in spite of disagreement). I am struggling to know which way to go...

Today I came across this quote (actually part of a poem) by Martin Niemoller (a German theologian who became one of the founders of the Confessing Church, and was imprisoned between 1937 and 1945 in both the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps)

"First they came for Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me."
Rev Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984)
Here is the post from my friend Peter Grassow, one of the most prophetic and Christ like ministers I know: (this post is taken from an open forum - you can read the original here)

I belong to a divided church.
And some of you who read this will understand how Sundays sees our nation divide - with black people going to black church services, "coloured" people attending "coloured" services, and some white people going to church (most do not go to church at all).

But this is not the division I think of - I am referring to the division between straight and gay people. The Methodist Church of SA has chosen to maintain a distance from gay people. No - this is not overt: as my Bishop' pastoral letter says : " We must, and I do, care for them pastorally and with sensitivity." But this is exactly the divide: "we care for them".....us and them. "They" are not understood as being "us". In fact, after the humiliating treatment dished up by straight Christians, I am surprised that there are any gay people left in church.

And to add insult to injury, the MCSA has affirmed that we must be "one and undivided". But this is not about being in unity with gay people. No, this is about maintaining our unity with those who are anti-gay. Our desire to remain united with the anti-gay lobby outweighs our desire to be one with the gay members of our church. And so we have compromised truth in the name of unity. And we have not
even questioned the ethical correctness of this unity.

Here is my pain: the statement that "we are one and undivided" was a statement of courage in the face of the 1958 Apartheid Government's desire to divide our church on racial lines. We had moral courage - then. We adopted this statement, in the face of a threat by white members to leave our church. We understood that this was a particular kind of unity. It risked division in the name of a greater unity - a
unity with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.

We have lost this. I am convinced that the mantra "one and undivided" has become our excuse to do nothing. We are so afraid of losing members that we would rather forfeit Gospel truth.
Once again, I am challenged by visionary leadership... Gospel truth must come before ecclesiological unity. If only I had the courage...

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A life unreflected is not worth living - Plato

Last night the students and staff of John Wesley College took time to recognise the gift that God has blessed us with, the gift of Christian community. Dr Jennifer Slater (OP) gave a magnificent address to the leaving students about the relationship between Theology, Spirituality, and Ministry. I shall edit it and upload it over the weekend. It was Jenny who reminded us of the nexus where Theology (head), spirituality (heart) and ministry (hands) meet - they meet in the theological, spiritual, ministerial, discipline of reflection. When the scholar, the minister, the believer, takes time to reflect upon the world, upon God's desire and will for the world, and what role one can play in that great will and plan, then theology, spirituality, and ministry meet one another. The moment we neglect the discipline of regular reflection we will start to see the impact upon all these spheres of our life.

Truly "A life unreflected is not worth living" (Plato).

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa is in very good hands! This year's group of students have shown remarkable commitment to their formation for ministry! They have approached their spirituality, studies, and skills development with an attitude of openness and seriousness. I am certain that among this group will be many of the most significant leaders our denomination will see in the next generation! I has been a joy to share in this lives of these people, and I wish them well as they move back into Churches in the coming months.

Here's a cross post to Wessel Bentley's blog. The text and photos comes from his page.

Class of 2007

Tonight we celebrated the journey of the 2007 students at John Wesley College Kilnerton. I like what I do, but I love being on campus, engaging with students on theological issues. It is always a good feeling to look back and to remember the bewildered eyes, but now to see ministers and theologians who can think, act and preach with confidence. A big thank you to the class of 2007 for your commitment, love and hard work. To the full-time staff at JWC, your loyalty and dedication to ministerial formation is already seen in the ministries of those who have journeyed in this place - as Dion says, the most hallowed of theological institutions.

Class of 2007:

Front Row (L to R)

Joan Jackson (PhD), Larry van der Walt (MTh), Sox Leleki (MTh), Gavin
Taylor (Bishop - DMin), Ruth Jonas (EMMU - MTh), Dion Forster (Dean -
PhD), Neville Richardson (Principal - PhD), Madika Sibeko (EMMU -
MTh), Wessel Bentley (PhD), Morapedi Diutlwileng(MTh), James Massey
(MSc), Marina Malan (MTh)

Second Rown (L to R)

Motshedisi Makhudu, Nomakula Sodo, Kedibone Mofokeng, Vuyelwa
Cimela, Vuyelwa Sebolao (Vice Chair SRC), Luvuyo Sifo (Chair SRC),
Zola Zide, Fundile Mjwacu, Mziwoxolo Mkabeni, Thembeka Mkabeni,
Dipolelo Tlale

Third Row (L to R)

Mashna Sasman, Pius Ntlangulela, Tshegofatso Mokgosi,
Nkululeko Kapiyana, Claude Kimpinde (Treasurer SRC), Jacob
Mokhutso, Barrington Southwood, Christian Mokone, Bongani
Mquqo, Vuyo Ngwenyana

Last Row (L to R)

Phathisiwe Mthi, Siyakudumisa Mbuyazwe, Ryan Killian, Godfey Baqwa,
Thembile Klaas, Phezile Koekoe, Andile Sinandile, Nomathemba Mnanzana

From left to right: Wessel and Dion.

I have also uploaded some photos from my camera. Simply follow the link for photographs from the 2007 JWC Valedictory.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Last class... Leavers Service... Some courses... Some leave... A new year!

Today I taught my last class for 2007 (well, I will still have some sessions and presentations before the year is done - see below) - but this was my last 'formal' class for the year.

This is just a quick reminder to all our Methodist colleagues that we have approximately 250 Probationer ministers writing exams over the next three weeks. Then, I am always praying for the UNISA and University of Pretoria students I have taught this year (a further 250 Ethics 1 students from UNISA, and about 50 New Testament students from UP). Please pray for all of these people! For clergy examinations are seldom about getting a qualification, rather exams are about learning how best to serve God and God's people (well, at least I hope that is what it is about)!

Next year a brand new batch of bright, gifted, and committed students will arrive to be shaped for ministry. [Boy, I am so optimistic tonight! Perhaps it's because I got my car back from the garage, they had to replace the onboard computer on my 1 year old Polo TDi... The car has been nothing but problems since I bought it. Anyway, it seems to be going fine now! Heck, I say that we should all just drive Orange Vespa's!]

Between now and when we close just before Christmas we (the Unit) will be training lay leaders (Circuit and Society stewards), Bible Women, Evangelists, Superintendents, District Supervisors of Studies, preparing for new students coming into Phase 1, helping students who are transitioning from Phase 1 to Phase 2, and Phase 2 to Phase 3, writing materials, designing courses, and of course taking a few days leave (Megie, Courts, Liam, and I will be going to stay with our friends Graham and Lauren Power at Thiesens Island in Knysna between the 18th and 27th of December. I can't wait!) Then, the cycle of the year starts again. It is quite satisfying in many ways.

Tomorrow evening is our College Valedictory service and leavers' dinner (Wessel will be there in his brand new Doctoral gown!) Rev Dr Jenny Slater (the Dean of Students from the Catholic Seminary, St John Viarney in Pretoria) will be the guest speaker. I will try to record her talk and post it here.

Thanks to my students, you are truly great colleagues! You have made this year so memorable and blessed. You are a gift to the Church, each one of you!

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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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Great moments of visionary leadership in Southern African Methodism - an application of the 1958 statemet 'one and unidvided'

The notion of Church unity, and visionary leadership, has remained on my mind today. Here is a picture of another visionary leader in Southern African Christianity, and in particular in Southern African Methodism. The picture shows a young Peter Storey - below is an extract from a paper I presented recently in which I argued that the Methodist Church's courageous statement to remain 'one and undivided' in the face of the South African Government's racial separation and the impending group areas act, was an act of great courage! If only we had that courage now. Here's the picture, and the excerpt from the paper expounding on it.

One of the most vivid examples of how 1958 statement of intention was applied in a local Church context was the exemplary struggle of Peter Storey between 1956 and 1981 to work against the Nationalist Government's forced removal of coloured people (mostly Methodists) in Cape Town. The multiracial congregation, Central Methodist Mission, in Buitenkant Street, was significantly disrupted by the forced removals. The Church naturally opposed the removals in every possible way. Yet when the removals were eventually enacted in 1966 the congregation decided to remain united in spite of the forced removals. Ministries of care and support for those who had been removed were set up. Transportation was arranged to bus the congregants the many miles from the settlement areas to the Church so that multi-racial services and meetings at the Church could continue unabated. A plaque was put on the front of the Church, facing the busy Green Market Square, that read:

All who pass by remember with shame the many thousands of people who lived for generations in District Six and other parts of this city, and were forced to leave their homes because of the colour of their skins. Father forgive us...

It was during this period that the some stark theological divisions began to surface within the mainline denominations in Southern Africa. While the Methodist church maintained the principles of unity and inclusiveness at its highest levels, and drew attention to it in their official statements, this was sadly not the case in most local congregations, and also not adequately reflected in the leadership of the denomination.
Unity is costly, but so is the cost of truth, as Pete reminded me in a recent post.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Who is welcome at His table?

Last night we confirmed 24 young people at the Church where I am a member and preacher, Bryanston Methodist Church. It is an incredible community! There are people with such passion, passion for Christ, passion for Christ's mission, and passion for this world. What amazes me even more is the flexibility and gentleness with which they handle my constant challenge. I always love being a servant at our community's table - there is a diversity of the kind that can only be found in God's rich Kingdom.

The challenging quote below came from an email message sent by Rev Colin Garvie. Colin, this is magnificent! Thank you so much for sharing it!

My mentor in seminary had a saying when she welcomed people to the table that I believe is applicable here: "The question is not whether you are invited to the table for God invites everyone. The only question that remains is whether or not you are willing to sit at the table with everyone else whom God invites."

I use this saying each week when I welcome people to the table and it perhaps summarizes my position relative to grace (though I'm not sure I grasped that previously). What I find astonishing is that when some church members hear of "amazing grace" or universal grace, they become angry and adamant: they simply "don't think it's fair" that those "other people" get into the kingdom along with them. Will such an attitude exclude them? I don't know and it's not my concern. Ultimately, all this is up to God and I don't worry about it---mainly because I believe "unconditional love" means precisely that, unconditional.

- Janet Weiblen, PRCL-L, 1 October 2007

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An update on Liam the Great!

In just over a month Liam will be 1 year old (well on the 16th of November he will be one year form birth! He will in fact only be 9 months old from his actual gestation date). Megan and I took Liam for a checkup recently. Of particular joy was our meeting with his occupational therapist. But just a few thoughts before I get to that news!

We took him to say 'hi' to the wonderful staff of Pretoria East hospital neonatal unit. It felt strange going back there... At this point Liam has spent almost one third of his life in that unit! Can you imagine having spent one third of your life in ICU!?

However, as this photo shows we have everything in the world to rejoice about! Our little miracle is just that, truly a miracle! He now weighs almost 10 times his birth weight (having grown from 1 kg to 10 kg's!) Sure, we only feed him creatine and USN supliments (that one's for you John! They are the BEST supliments in the world!), but it is paying off!

Well, the great news is that Liam is perfectly healthy. He had his first bout of tonsillitis while I was in Malaysia. However, this proved to us that his immune system is functioning as it should. In terms of his development his is on track for a premature baby - most of his milestones are being met somewhere between his birth date, and his original gestation date. There are some minor visible indicators of the trauma and damage he suffered because of the brain haemorrhage's. He has struggled a little with his left arm and leg. However, the OT assures us that there is nothing so serious that we cannot deal with it through exercise and stimulation.

Friends, we cannot thank God enough for the incredible miracle of his grace!

Strangely enough I my gratitude was enriched while I preparing my log book for my tax return... Liam was born on the 16th of November, on the 20th and 21st of November I was moderating exams as an external examiner for TEE College. It was on the 2oth of November that Megan phoned me with that dreaded call to say that Liam had a grade 4 bleed in the parietal lobe, and that I needed to get to the unit as quickly as I could - they did not think that he would survive the day... In my log book it simply says 'Turfontein to Pretoria - hospital visit'.

It was possibly one of the most painful hours of my life as I drove from Johannesburg to Pretoria to meet my distraught wife and baptise my 1kg, 1 week old son, before he died...

Well, here he is! Perfect in every possible way! A testimony to God's grace and creative power!

Megie and I still continue to fast and pray every Friday. We do it to give thanks to God for all that God has done, but also to remember that many others have not had the same experience of joy and blessing that we have. We don't understand why that is. But, we do pray. We pray in the hope that God's grace would reach and bless others who are going through what we went going through.

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Visionary leadership - it takes courage!

This is a picture of me with Dr Ernest Baartman, the visionary leader who founded the Black Methodist Consultation in 1975 (you can read my Oxford paper for more on this).

This was visionary because he had the courage to see what the Church needed (black leaders) in an era when others could not, and would not, see it. He was visionary because even though he knew this would be a dangerous, and threatening, endeavor, he was sustained by what few others, even many of his black colleagues, could not see - the vision of a predominantly black denomination, in a white dominated country, lead by black leaders. This could have cost him his ministry, but because he could see what God wanted he swam against the stream, and did the extraordinary thing that helped to transform our Church for the generations that followed.

It takes great sensitivity to see what others cannot see. It takes courage to make that vision become a reality, even in the face of great adversity and opposition.

I witnessed such leadership briefly at our Conference last week when Dianne Moodie courageously reminded the Conference of the pain and struggle that clergy and laity experience because of the Church's rejection of people - the majority could not feel her pain. I heard it in the voice of Alan Storey as he urged the Church to create a small ray of light in the midsts of darkness, by allowing 1 minister and 1 church in every District to openly minister to gay people with the Church's blessing - the majority could not see the need, I wonder what will happen to all the gay people who are Methodists in our nation? Will they simply give up and leave the Church? I saw it in the bravery of Mbuyiselo Stimela, the only Black minister who has openly supported the cause to make the Church more hospitable and welcoming to gay persons of all races and colours - our colleagues could not see his courage, instead they have threatened and belittled him. I saw this in my friend Barry Marshall who argued with passion that the Church cannot be in 'conversation' over the matter of persons with a same gender orientation while the voices of these people are silenced, rejected, and ignored - the majority did not hear the silence, but at least he spoke. I am seeing vision in the correspondence of my friend Kevin Light who can no longer compromise the community that he serves by ministering 'through pastoral loopholes' - sadly I fear that he may move on from our Church, or be forced out, perhaps he will lead many to follow him. He is right when he says that the only persons who are made vulnerable by 'loophole' ministry, are those being ministered to. Ministers can claim ignorance at transgressing an unspoken law, but once a pastoral act is deemed unlawful, it is those who are ministered to that bear the brunt of such rulings.

I don't know if I have the courage, sensitivity, or insight, to see what others cannot see, and make that vision a reality.

Of course I have read about such vision many, many, times in Scripture, in the slave Moses who leads slaves to a promised land. In a sheep herd, David, who slays a giant, because God says he can. In a teenage virgin who gives birth to a saviour, even when everyone else believes that she is crazy adulteress. In the life of a King who is born in a stable, who does not destroy his enemies but dies for them... Yes, these are all visionary leaders - people who see what God sees, and then find the courage to make God's vision a reality. In fact, one of them is God... Thank goodness God can see what others cannot. If it were not for that admirable quality I would never have found His grace!

We need more people like Dr Baartman, like Dianne, Alan, Mbuyiselo, Barry, and Kevin...

What follows is a reflection of how this principle relates to a particular passage from Scripture... By now you may have given up reading... I won't hold it against you!

Trevor Hudson and Jenny Hillebrand left a comment each, a few posts back, thanking me for my frequent blog posts - a friend of mine calls blogs 'personality spam'! I think he is right, most often my posts are simply a means of processing my feelings, thoughts, fears, desires, and hopes... If any of it is wortwhile to anyone else that's a huge bonus! Thanks for reading.

Today I sat with one of our students, Nkosinathi Nombula, preparing him for his New Testament 2 examination. One of the questions in the exam asks the student give advice to a woman who has read Ephesians 5:21-33. She is being abused by her husband and has come to believe that she must continue to endure the abuse because this section of the Bible says she must submit to him and respect to him. Thankfully the examiner understands that in order to get a more responsible insight into what the Pauline text is saying to its readers one must read it in the context of the issues that the whole of the letter to the Ephesians is addressing, and particularly within the context of Ephesians 5 and 6. If you have the time please read Ephesians 5:21-33 and ask yourself what advice you would give the abused woman. Well, Nombula and I spent some time working through the question and established a few things. First, I reminded him that the letter to the Ephesians must not be directly related to the 'popular' understanding that Paul was a paternalistic chauvinist - not that Paul was liberated in the modern sense. However, it is important not to read the text too simply from within the framework of our contemporary prejudice of Paul's views of women. It is likely that this letter was not written by Paul himself, but by a later, more sophisticated Pauline author or redactor - simply because of the complexity of the grammar, sophistication of the ecclesiology, and because of the similarities in content and structure to the letter to the Colossians, upon which many scholars believe the letter to the Ephesians is styled. Secondly, we were reminded that the central issue in the letter to the Ephesians was that of God's purpose for the Church which can only be achieved by the costly sacrifice that will be necessary in order to be truly united (many scholars agree that the 'hermeneutic keys' (i.e., those keys that unlock the interpretation of the rest of the letter) are Eph 1:10 and Eph 4:13). So, the author crafts his argument about the cost of unity between Jewish and gentile believers in the first few chapters of the book (a mixture of admonition, prayer, and encouragement). Then between Eph 4:1-6:20 the author gives practical suggestions about the cost of this unity. Now, this is where the radical bit comes in! Many have emphasised Eph 5:22 (that wives must submit to their husbands), yet the emphasis of this passage is to be found in the dynamics of the four examples of costly unity that are presented. The dynamic is fundamentally about power and powerlessness! The power of husbands, versus the powerlessness of wives in that era - the emphasis is NOT just upon the wife submitting to her husband, rather here the author takes a bold and radical step of confronting the powerful with the truth that as long as they oppress the powerless, they abuse and harm themselves. This must have taken courage in an age when the authority of men went unquestioned. But of course, the powerless are empowered when the powerful curb their power, so he also has some advice for wives. Next he speaks about the relationships between the authority of parents over their children. Can you imagine how the respectable members of the Ephesian Church would have reacted to being told they must not exasperate their children, as if their children have rights!? He then goes on to further press the point by challenging slave owners to adopt a vulnerable and open relationship with their slaves. That must have taken courage in a time when the authority of slave owners over their slaves went unquestioned. Last he addresses the relationship between 'the spirits' that so often lead us powerfully into darkness and slavery, and the 'the Spirit' that brings us life and freedom. Of course we often teach Ephesians 5 in isolation from the Ephesians 6 (as if the way we treat our wives, husbands, children, and those who work for us has no spiritual impact), conversely we make the mistake of thinking that the armor of spiritual warfare has nothing to do with the words and actions that characterize our unity and love for one another...

You see, visionary, courageous, leaders can see what others cannot. What does God want you to see that others cannot?

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