Dion's random ramblings

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Podcast: Jesus is Lord? A sermon by Professor Joerg Rieger.

Two weeks ago we announced the Public Lectures by Professor Joerg Rieger from Perkins School of Theology in Dalas, Texas.

I am delighted to let you know that the lectures went off extremely well! Joerg was not only great, he was better than great! So, to start the ball rolling I am uploading Joerg's great sermon entitled 'Jesus is Lord?'

In this sermon Joerg asks the question, if we say that Jesus is Lord, what do we mean by that? He discusses the concepts the Lordship of Christ from Christian scripture, and considers how notions of power and empire have tainted our understanding of Christ's Lordship. This is an inspiring and challenging message that rings with a note of hope about God's capacity to work in spite of our human frailty.

Podcast sermon 'Jesus is Lord.mp3' 17MB mp3

I'll be uploading the two 1 hour long lectures in the next week or so. So, please come back to the blog for updates.

Please, don't forget to listen to the reflection on the Police raid on the refugees at the Central Methodist Church. Let us remember to keep Bishop Paul Verryn, his congregation, and those persons who are displaced and feeling threatened by this action, within our private and corporate prayers.

This amazing post from Pamela, who was at the Church during the raid, was sent to my blog today. It expresses something of the struggle and sadness of those who have sought shelter in our Churches yet been violated by police action:

I am a Zimbabwean legally in South Africa and it breaks my heart. We have been reduced to beggars. We are constantly referred to as "aliens". In that church there were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children who have done nothing wrong but to seek refuge in the house of the Lord. Nothing was being done in secret everyone knew of the existence of Zimbabwean refuges at the Methodist Church. By taking this action the South African Police have shown the stand of the government on the mess that Zimbabwe has been reduced to. They are in denial of the suffering of the people. The church is under a biblical mandate to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. It is a mandate from God and I don't care that the government may not subscribe to the authority of God but I and a whole lot of other people do. What has been done is to stomp upon holy ground rip people out of their place of safety and throw them right back into danger of starvation and potential violence. The state has trespassed big time. Let me address the issue from a language that the state understands. We speak of the Bible they speak of the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Their supreme document states that Citizens have the right to religion. Christian religion demands shelter and food for those in need. The church was exercising its right under the Constitution, its mandate from God and the urge of any sound human heart to help and the response of the state is to damage property and sanctity. It is a disgrace.


Please help to get the podcast on Zimbabwean refugees visible by voting for it!

Please could you get as many persons as you know (who are willing) to vote for the podcast on the police's treatment of Zimbabwean refugees?

The more persons that vote for it, the broader the message will spread!

Steve Hayes has kindly put it on Muti, so please sign in and give it a few votes. Simply scroll through the page, or search for 'Central Methodist Church'

I have also added it to Digg, please sign in there and give it a few votes by 'digging' it. Let's see if we can get the message out there!



Podcast: A reflection on the Police raid on refugees in the Central Methodist Mission in South Africa with Rev Paul Oosthuizen

This story has rightly generated a great deal of concerned interest from persons across the globe.

Thanks so much to those who have sought to understand and express varying points of view in understanding the complexity of the elements of human suffering that this brings to the fore.

I had the joy of sitting with the Rev Paul Oosthuizen this morning, a Methodist Minister who has been extensively involved in justice work in the Church in South Africa, this morning.

The conversation centered around his experience of working with Zimbabwean (and other African) refugees. And also in considering the responsibility and role of the Church in responding to such needs and concerns.

Of course we also discussed last night's police raid on Bishop Verryn's Church, the Central Methodist Mission in Johannesburg.

Paul's insights are challenging, and also encouraging!

So, here's the podcast entitled 'Refugees Central Methodist Church 31 Jan 2008.mp3' it is 12.6MB in mp3 format.

Please feel free to continue to leave comments and feedback. I will do my best to respond and fit in where I can. Things are a little pressed at the seminary at the moment.

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Refugees arrested at the Central Methodist Church - shame on the South African Police!

I have not yet been able to establish all of the details of this story. However, I have heard that last night police raided the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg and arrested 'illegal aliens' from Zimbabwe who were staying in the Church. Bishop Paul Verryn confirmed that the police raids were conducted without a warrant and that their raids caused damage to Church property and chaos among the refugees.

I have three personal problems:
1. I have been to Central Methodist Church numerous times. The Refugees that are housed there include children. To hear of a chaotic and violent police raid scares me! I cannot imagine what the children must have experienced.
2. The South African government has proven itself to be helpless and inept in dealing with the Zimbabwean crisis (both in its foreign policy, and in its care for those who have been displaced!) To conduct such a ham-fisted raid is just ridiculous! Why don't they reward a Church that is doing something about those who are in need. No, instead they break down doors and arrest people!
Forgive me if this is a rant.... But, this current dispensation is reminding me more and more of the atrocious human rights abuses of the apartheid regime.
Lord help us!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ever wondered how the human brain works (or doesn't work, as the case may be!) Here's a great FREE guide!

I came across this great resource from National Geographic. It is a free introduction to the workings of the most complex of human organs, the brain.

Of course, while this will tell you all about neurons, dendrites, and neural connections, it cannot account for the jump from biological, electrical and chemical functioning, to the mystery of human consciousness! That is something that requires a little more research, thought, AND will be the topic of a new book I have coming out towards the end of 2008 that is based upon my doctoral research! So, watch this space!

Here's the resource (found here):

Brainstructure National Geographic has a quick and helpful interactive introduction to the human brain, explaining in simple terms the brain's anatomy, some common diseases, and also which parts of the brain are lit up by smells, light, sound, romance, and other stimuli. From the site:
The brain's nerve cells are known as neurons, which make up the organ's so-called "gray matter." The neurons transmit and gather electrochemical signals that are communicated via a network of millions of nerve fibers called dendrites and axons. These are the brain's "white matter."

The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, accounting for 85 percent of the organ's weight. The distinctive, deeply wrinkled outer surface is the cerebral cortex, which consists of gray matter. Beneath this lies the white matter. It's the cerebrum that makes the human brain?and therefore humans?so formidable. Whereas animals such as elephants, dolphins, and whales have larger brains, humans have the most developed cerebrum. It's packed to capacity inside our skulls, enveloping the rest of the brain, with the deep folds cleverly maximizing the cortex area.

The cerebrum has two halves, or hemispheres. It is further divided into four regions, or lobes, in each hemisphere. The frontal lobes, located behind the forehead, are involved with speech, thought, learning, emotion, and movement. Behind them are the parietal lobes, which process sensory information such as touch, temperature, and pain. At the rear of the brain are the occipital lobes, dealing with vision. Lastly, there are the temporal lobes, near the temples, which are involved with hearing and memory.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Anyone for a holiday in Mozambique... Sometimes we forget that we live in Africa!

Today Megan and I are celebrating 14 years of marriage. I am thankful to God (and Megan!) for the blessing of these years.

Those who know my wife will testify to just how remarkable and special she is! Megan is a loving wife, a loving and caring companion in ministry. she is beautiful, kind, and far more 'Christian' that I will ever be. Moreover, she is a respected business woman, having been the primary breadwinner in our family since we married.

I could not wish for any better! I love her and cherish our life together!

So, I have been thinking about what I could do for her that will let her know how special she is, and how much I appreciate and adore her.

A friend suggested a romantic holiday in an exotic location... We have just such a place on our doorstep. It is called Mozambique... However, I received the following warning (click on the image to enlarge it)....

Perhaps if I love her this much we should just stay home! It is safer, and the lights are bound to go out at some stage (no thanks to ESKOM!)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Got google earth!? Check out a few events from the Bible!

This is a great post! It's amazing what people with a lot of time on their hands can do!

In "God's Eye View," Sydney-based art collective The Glue Society portrays four major Biblical events as if captured by Google Earth: "Cross, Moses, Ark, Eden."

Creative Review blog says the group "is aiming to produce further works using the same satellite imagery next year but this time relating to mythological occurrences and major historical events." Link.

Above: Moses parting the Red Sea. (thanks, Clayton James Cubitt!)
From here.

So, what is the perfect blogging tool?!

I have been blogging for a few years now. Most of that time has been spent on two blogging platforms. For the first quarter (or so) of my blogging life I used a Mac application called iBlog. It worked quite well... But, the downside was that it was an 'offline' tool. In other words, it only worked on my Mac. So, if I wasn't near that exact computer I couldn't post. The rest of my time has been spent mostly on blogger. Blogger is great for posting from all over the place (you may have noticed that I do a lot of posts from my car! Whenever I am stuck in traffic the neurons start firing and out comes my iPhone!) The downside, however, is that blogger is not all that flexible. It has clearly been written for the 'lowest common denominator'. In particular I have found that as my needs (and the traffic to my site) have grown blogger simply can't keep up (like for example having to stop using the very useful 'tags' feature because it simply would not work when I published to my own URL).

Recently I have been dabbling with Wordpress. It is a lot more flexible, and certainly seems to suit the hardcore blogger a little more.

However, there are two reasons why I have not moved across to Wordpress. First, I have almost 600 posts in blogger... I would have to move each of those 600 posts manually... Not likely. Second, Wordpress does not post to a 'private' URL as easily as blogger does... So, I have not made the move.

I would love to hear what others are using, why they use their particular platform, and if there are any suggestions...

Meanwhile, here's a post from Cory Doctrow on bloggin standards:

"Metafilter" Matt Haughey just finished migrating one of his blogs to a new back-end, and the experience has left him with a lot of smart thinking about what the perfect blogging tool should be like:
There really should be a standard of some sort that blog CMS companies can agree on for export and import. Users of blog engines shouldn?t be hostages to their applications. Data exit and entry is problematic in everything I?ve used and it?s a shame. Blogging is supposed to be fun and I prefer to be agnostic about what tools I?m using, so it?d be nice if I could change blog engines every three months without too much friction. I won?t even go into how every engine has its own URL scheme ? it?d be nice if I could keep my permalinks forever, even as I change blogging apps.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The necessity of friends...

Stephen Murray is a deep thinker - I have appreciated the insights gained from many of his posts. Today he posted twice on the same topic - the Gospel (the Church) and the attitude of love. One of the tensions that he raises is the struggle between love and truth... He touches on a point that I have often felt.

When someone is in error, and particularly when your approach to that person is framed in love, it is not easy to correct or rebuke their wrong idea or behavior. In fact, such a rebuke could feel a little like an 'un-loving' thing to do.

His posts made me think about the relationship between Christians and the rest of the world. There is a sense in which God calls us to engage with God's world, both with those who acknowledge and love God, and also those who don't, for the sake of cultivating the hope that Christ brings into life. The courage to do this comes from true love. Just like God's courage to reach into our sinful and broken existence is motivated by God's love.

We are called to "speak the truth in love", to use a phrase from the apostle Paul. Sometimes that may mean a few words of comfort, encouragement, or sharing a vision of hope. At other times it may mean that one speaks words of challenge or rebuke.

The end of both of these 'interventions' is the same - a discovery of the kind of loving truth that brings freedom and life; the kind of freedom and life that God longs for all persons to have.

I have commented more than once on this blog that I so appreciate the friends who encourage, bless, and uplift me. I also appreciate the friends who love me enough to share a few hard words of caution, correction, or rebuke, when others are too afraid to speak.

One of the great weaknesses of success, I have come to learn, is that it makes others afraid to be honest! This is particularly so when there is a perceived imbalance of power (i.e., the relationship between a student and a teacher, or a pastor and a church member).

Martin Luther King Jnr. once commented:
In th end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
This statement rings true for me. I much prefer loving honesty to cowardly deceit! Of course, like all people, I appreciate truthful affirmation and encouraging care. However, I also value honest and truthful friends. I know that sometimes their honesty comes at a greater cost to themselves than it does to me.

Just a few thoughts...

I am feeling a little down today.

I have thought a lot about my life since my father's death four weeks ago. I realise that growth is coupled with intention. Hence, the need to 'process' some of these issues. I acknowledge that I have some more growing to do.

A picture of my desktop at home...

My good friend Gus (see http://www.gruntle.co.za) posted a picture of his desk at home.

Wessel, Murray, and I, all just think that it is a ploy to show off his new Macbook! It is a nice Macbook!

Well, I may not have a new Macbook, but I do have an old Macbook Pro (about a year and a bit old) and an Apple Cinema display (about three years old - it is normally hooked up to my OLD Quicksilver G4 Powermac) here at home!

So, here's a picture of my desk at home! This is where I do a fair amount of my writing, editing, and blogging. It is handy to have two displays (particularly when editing) since I can put the source text with comments on one monitor, and edit to original text on the other!

Ah, I am so in love with my Macs!

PS. You'll notice that I am installing a new(ish) version of Ubuntu on my Macbook eduBuntu... Ubuntu is an incredible free operating system. I would highly recommen it to all PC users as a grat alternative to Windows!

PPS. The picture quality in this photo is not too good. Sorry for that! I took the picture with my old Palm Treo 750... I have just recently installed the Windows Mobile 6 update from palm, and it has made the device usable at last! The old Windows Mobile 5 firmware was a disaster! However, there is no firmware update that can fix a poor quality camera.

Parentings do's and DONT's! A picture primer

I remember when Megan and I brought our daughter home from the hospital 8 years ago. We were very unsure of ourselves, and acutely felt the pressure of having to care for this little bundle of joy that had an uncontrollable capacity at the one end and an unmanageable irresponsibility at the other... It was a frightening couple of weeks! Well, we did what we could. We relied on the advice of others, we read LOTS of baby books, and somehow little Courtney survived to become to lovely young girl she is today.

Well, faint not new parents! Now there is a wonderfully simple pictorial guide to what NOT to do with your infant!

For example - here's a hint on babies and exercise. These tips for baby exercise will not only keep your baby healthy, but probably also alive!

And, then there's this hint on shopping with your baby. Yes, sometimes one may be tempted to put one's baby in the bottom of the shopping cart... However, avoid that temptation at ALL costs!

What guide would be complete without some advice about hygiene? I'm not too sure that this one is crucial. I have a few male relatives who have used a garden hose to wash off a 'poo nappy'... Nothing wrong with that! ;-)

From here.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

At the end of the day - discerning a developing call

One of the blogs that I enjoy reading quite regularly is the thoughtful (and well focussed) blog of Gareth Beyers.

Today I was struck by the title of Gareth's blog - it is called The state of Gareth - it has an edit that makes the final text read The stage of Gareth... Now I'm not sure if it means 'the place where he represents himself', or if it means 'a stage in his development'... From what I read on his blog it seems like the latter of the two. It is a great blog with some exceptional content. I would highly recommend it!

What struck me as I popped onto his site today was the notion of 'stages' in one's life (see Gareth's Bio for a very good example of what I mean). I shall soon be embarking on a new phase of my own journey.

One of the things that I do within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa is travel the country between February and the end of March each year 'interviewing' persons who are 'candidates' for our Ordained ministry. The screening process is intended to be an act of discernment. The committee that gathers to hear the person who wishes to become a minister is not an interviewing committee. After all, this is not a job! Rather, this committee is entrusted with listening, praying, and discerning, whether God has called the particular person to the full time, ordained, ministry of either word and sacrament or word and service.

I have been doing this task for about 11 years now. In truth there is something of a common thread that runs through all of the testimonies and lives of those that I have screened who have successfully entered our ministry. Of course the one common strand is a real love for Jesus and for the people and world that Jesus loves. That should be a given for a Christian ministers... But, there are some other things we listen for. We listen for moments of God's divine call that are echoed in the story and growth of the persons life. If the truth be told, the call to be a minister is quite a simple thing! Simply stated it is a call to devote the whole of one's life, all of one's desires, and of course all of one's talent, time, and testimony, to doing what it is that God wants done...

It is always interesting for me to meet persons that I have 'screened' in later years and hear and see how their call has developed. I screened just about all of the 30 students who arrived at John Wesley College a week ago... Very few of them are the same as those timid and frightened candidates we saw three years ago! They seem more confident, with a deeper faith, and of course with a far greater understanding of the complexity and demands of pastoral ministry (since most of them have had at least 1 year of ministry in a cross cultural setting). It is not that they 'responded to the call' of God. Rather, they are constantly 'responding' to the call (it is a present indicative response, not a passive past tense).

Ministry is a responsive choice... I personally believe that every person is called by God (even people who do not yet know Jesus have been created by God with the potential for discovering their calling in life). The choice is a choice for obedience. It is a choice to subjugate one's own will and selfish desires and ambitions for the much greater will of God. For some that will mean doing the thing that they are already doing (e.g., being a parent, or perhaps a teacher, or maybe an office worker, an accountant, or God forbid, a lawyer). However, for others it will mean a shift from what they are doing to doing something else.

You see, at the end of the day, the things that ministers DO (pray for people, help them to discover and rediscover God, disciple and grow people, deepen their faith, support people in hardship, inspire people to live for greater significance and meaning, rebuke, correct, and a myriad of other tasks) can all be done by any person in any environment.

In fact, I have become more and more aware of how calling is so much more about intention than it is about the actions that are traditionally associated with 'ministry'. Even among those faithful and dedicated souls who remain in active pastoral ministry there is a constant need to maintain a right intention. I have often seen that the desire to maintain a right intention has in fact caused a person to change the actions that they had previously associated with their ministry. For example, the local Church minister who discovers that in order to maintain the intention to bring God's healing with integrity he will have to move from being a 'general practitioner' who preaches, leads, manages, and teaches, to becoming something of a specialist who focuses far more acutely on counseling.

This does not mean that the person is no longer called to ministry - you see the intention (which is the core of true ministry) has remained, while the actions associated with that intention have shifted to keep the intention pure and focussed.

Another interesting factor for me is that one's actions go through stages as one seeks to maintain a pure intention. I have been through a number of clear and definite stages in my 16 years of ministry. I have been a student, an associate, a senior pastor, a superintendent, a teacher, a leader. Of course I have been all of these things at some stages, and some of them at others...

The long and the short of it is that the calling remains even if the actions may change.

Thanks Gareth. You've made me think.

Together with you in Christ,


Science and mathematics CAN explain most things... Don't believe me? Check this out!

In this age of empiricism and the value of quantifiable knowledge, mathematicians have just made a further significant breakthrough.... Yes, the world's brightest mathematical scholars have owned (well, if one truly wishes to use net l33t speak - pwned) RAP music.

Check out these graphs and charts that explain the logic behind the lyrics of many popular rap songs!

Here's an example of the relationship between problems and money...

There are a whole lot of truly exceptional (and funny!) charts and graphs to be seen here.

Yes... Or maybe, no... Well, you make up your mind!

This has to be one of the more bizarre phenomena of contemporary culture. I guess it is something of a mix between Mahatma Ghandi's satya graha (non violent resistance), and a weird fetishist gathering!

What exactly they will achieve is not clear, but they will attract some attention, that's for sure!

So, if you're in the London area on the 10th of February and want to 'out' the Church of scientology... Don your mask and head on down.

Now, what I think I would like to do is wait in the nearest tube station 30 minutes before this event is about to start with my camera in hand! That would be incredible!!!

PS. As far as I'm aware the reference to 'fags' has nothing to do with one's sexual orientation - rather it is an obscure reference to the movie 'V for Vendetta'.

Update 2 February 2008: Hey guys,

Thanks for the posts in the comments Steve and Steve! You know, I should simply have googled this in the first place.... The Etymology of the word 'fag' comes from the word 'faggot' which refers to a bundle of sticks that are bound together (to give strength, or to be used for decoration, or protection) - hence the reference to fags joining together to picket the Church of Scientology...

Of course, that could also be why a packet of cigarettes are called 'fags' since they are packed together so tightly....

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From the secret to the bizarre! The Secret Museum of Mankind website, the "World's Greatest Collection of Strange & Secret Photographs"

from my favourite source of the bizarre! boingboing.net


Ian Macky says: "Published in 1935, the Secret Museum is a mystery book. It has no author or credits, no copyright, no date, no page numbers, no index. Published by 'Manhattan House' and sold by 'Metro Publications,' both of New York, its 'Five Volumes in One' was pure hype: it had never been released in any other form."

Three million cheers to Macky for not only scanning all 564 pages of this treasure of a book, but for cleaning up the images, transcribing the text, and adding thumbnail galleries and a copy of a 1942 magazine ad.

Cannibals. Fakirs. Equilibrists. Crime and punishment. Rituals. Slaves, cults and customs. Warriors and weapons. Musicians and mendicants. Dance, dress, undress and body modification. Structures, conveyances, beasts, and more breasts than you can shake a stick at! This is The Secret Museum of Mankind.

Advertised as "World's Greatest Collection of Strange & Secret Photographs" and marketed mainly to overheated adolescents (see the 1942 ad in Keen, left), it consists of nothing but photos and captions with no further exposition. This was not a book published to educate (despite appearing on some public library's shelves), but to titillate (literally)-- it's emphasis was on the female form ("Female Beauty Round the World") and fashion, and it featured as many National-Geographic-style native breasts as possible. But anything lurid, weird, or just plain unusual is fair game. This was a book to gawk at by flashlight under the bedcovers.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

10 Stephen Hawking quotes - stand aside Chuck Norris, you're no match!

From time to time I get the feeling that some people think I am a Geek... After all, I like computers, I love complex equations, I have a doctorate in Strong Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience...

BUT, then I am reminded that my _geekiness_ is nothing compared to some of the world's UBER Geeks!

Stand aside Church Norris, I have just reassigned your spot to a new superhero... Stephen Hawking! Not only is he a genius, he's also got a great sense of humour!

taken from here.

I have recently been reading up a bit on the life and work of British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. In my reading, I have run across a number of his famous quotes that are both funny and insightful. He is widely considered to be among the most intelligent people living today. Here is what he has to say...

10. "Einstein was wrong when he said "God does not play dice". Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can't be seen."

9. "I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

8. "My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

7. "I find that American & Scandinavian accents work better with women." In response to a question about the American accent of his synthesiser.

6. "Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve the sales. In the end, however, I did put in one equation, Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2. I hope that this will not scare off half of my potential readers."

5. "My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus."

4. "To show this diagram properly, I would really need a four dimensional screen. However, because of government cuts, we could manage to provide only a two dimensional screen."

3. "Life would be tragic if it weren't funny."

2. "The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired."

1. "Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end."

The infamous Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket Heath Ledger's funeral because of his role in Brokeback mountain

This must be one of the sickest, and saddest, things that this church (and I use that word with all of the grace I can muster) has ever done!

Heath Ledger's death is a tragedy attributable to the ferociousness of fame, uncontrolled hedonism, and unmanageable pressure that is placed upon so many young celebreties... It is truly sad that any person should have to come to the end of their life discovering the emptyness of living for wealth, fame, and pleasure.

Perhaps one of the few things that is sadder than this fate is the hate and bigotary of those who feel no compassion for the loss of others.

Please Lord, guard us from becoming so self righteous that we live in judgement of others who are as broken and needful of grace as we are...

Hit me on my iPhone, if you need me.

This has been a week where I have not touched sides! When I am teaching all day my regular work does not stop... Today I got out of class to find that I had 19 voice mail messages!!!!

What makes it even worse is that I have not been able to use my iPhone for the last couple of days....

No, there is nothing wrong with the phone... The problem is that the phone works TOO well and TOO easily. You see, here's the problem. I have a 500MB a month data package. However, I discovered that by the 16th of the month I had used up ALL 500MB's simply because it sooooo easy to browse the web, check google maps, update my RSS feeds and read and reply to email messages.

So, in order to avoid incurring huge data costs I put my sim card back into my Nokia E90... A nice phone, but nowhere NEAR as nice or easy to use as the iPhone....

So, if you need me, leave a message.... I promise to get back to you (sometime!)

Friday is the last day or Orientation for our students and then we get back to a normal academic schedule, which means that I will have a little more time in the office, and spend less than a full day in class.

Watch the video of you have a few MB's to spare... Think of me, missing my iPhone!

BTW. My data bundle resets on Sunday (27th of each month), and then I shall be back on my iPhone.

PS. I will most likely be heading off to Burundi for a few days next month. I am quite excited about that. It should make for a few interesting thoughts and a few interesting blog posts!

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Christ and empire... It has been a revelation!

Today we had the joy of spending a few hours with Prof Joerg Rieger from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas. His lectures were entitled Christ and empire.

I have read his book by the same title (well about half of it so far). However, it was great to hear him discuss and flesh out the foundational ideas of this book himself.

In short here's what Joerg spoke about. (Joerg, forgive me if I miss any important points in my VERY limited summary).

1. Our theology has been co-opted by 'Empire' (any totalitarian power that seeks to have absolute control) at various stages in history.

2. 'Empire' is always the narrative of the powerful. In other words, those who have power create a narrative to keep their empire intact. One of the primary ways of doing that is by avioding questions about the sources of empowerment, or by making people think that there are no alternatives. A super illustration of this was when Joerg told us that 'for some of his students the end of the world [by nuclear war, or some other catastrophe] seems more realistic and likely than the end of capitalism'. This is a very telling and real thought! Indeed, I too have often thought that Capitalism has such a hold on the contemporary psyche that we struggle to even consider that there are other solutions and possibilities for our economy. Although with the current global market crisis we may just see the collapse of this system at some stage in the not too distant future.

3. Joerg then explained a few seminal points in history where 'Empire' narratives had been adopted by the Church as 'truth'. These include the adoption of the title 'Lord' for Jesus (the title was originally used only for the Emperor), then later the Constantinian control over the Church and the formulation of the early Church creeds. Next are examples of Scholastic theologians (such as Anselm of Canterbury - the 2nd Bishop of Canterbury who was put in power by the Norman raiders who conquered Britain). Another example was the early development of Liberal Theologies during the height of the Colonial period (for example Friedrich Schleiermacher's theology of German superiority). Finally, of course, we have the contemporary North American imperialism.

An incredible quote was one that Joerg gave from Dick Cheney's 2003 Christmas card (a quote from the American President and Philosopher, Benjamin Franklin) who said If a sparrow can fall to the ground without His notice, then is it possible that an empire could rise without His help? Take a look here to see a copy of the original card: here.

Joerg then went on to discuss ways in which each of these periods also showed great promise and theological opportunity. For example, the divinity of Christ could be used by 'empire' theologians to 'spiritualise' the ministry of Jesus (i.e., like very much of contemporary popular Christianity that suggests that Jesus was not political, and that he only came to 'save souls'). However, the alternative was of course that when the divinity of Christ was affirmed the 'political' nature of the Kingdom of God was affirmed (i.e., Jesus' emphasis on justice, peace, equity, wholeness, and peace gains divine authority as well). Perhaps it was for this reason that Constantine returned to the Arian heresy just before his death!?

Well, please check back in the next few days, we recorded the two lectures and will be editing and posting them here.

All I can say, is READ THE BOOK! It is fantastic!

PS. See Wessel's blog for a bit more about today's lecture (and an Amazon link to Joerg's book).
PPS. Joerg rides a BMW GS1150 like my friend Pete Grassow! So, he must be a great theologian!

Monday, January 21, 2008

What to do when the power goes out and the rain starts falling!

Well, at least there is one thing about ESKOM, they can be trusted to 'load shed', and cut the power, at LEAST once a day! This afternoon when I got home the power was out, and the rain was falling! So, Megie (that's my beautiful wife under the blue checkered umbrella on the left) and I got our small gas stove, our camping kettle, and invited our neighbors (thats Bronwyn in the red top) to join us for a cup of tea!

No, EKSOM, we will NOT give up! We choose to live on the side of hope!

You thought your kids were trouble... Think again!

I was a rather, shall we say, 'tenacious' teenager! I had two tattoos and 4 earings (mostly in my ears) by the age of 15.... In fact, I had been taken to the local police station so often that my dad had his own parking spot! Ha ha! Thank God (literally!) Thank God for grace and forgivness.

So, you think you're kids are problematic? Well, take a look at this picture of 'goth kids' take by Cory Doctorow at Disneyland!

I'm sure that Mickey Mouse was scared to death! Can I heard you say EEEEEEMMMMOOOO!?

Some great Covenant service resources - help your members to renew their passion and commitment to God!

In the light of my earlier post about that very important and significant service of commitment and renewal, the Covenant service, I was SO pleased to find these free resources on the 'sacredise' website!

If you're looking for a fresh liturgy, drama's, and some creative music then please go to John's superb site.

Thanks John!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Podcast: Power outages and potholes - choosing to live on the side of God's hope!

This morning I preached at Calvary Methodist Church, as I have mentioned previously it is truly one of the most remarkable Churches! It is wonderfully racially integrated, they have a truly significant justice ministry, caring for many homeless persons, refugees etc.

Today was their covenant service, a special service for Methodists the world over. You can read about it here. Each year Methodists covenant themselves to be obedient to God's will. The prayer that is used is very meaningful.

The Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

(as used in the Book of Offices of the British Methodist Church, 1936).

In the light of the recent struggles we have been having with 'service delivery' in South Africa, I considered that it may be good to speak about hope, hopelessness, and living on the side of God's hope.

You can download an audio version of the service entitled 'potholes and power outages living on the side of hope.mp3' [13.5MB]

Thanks for listening! Dion

PS! Please see the comment that Steve Jones made on yesterday's post about power outages. Steve, you are absolutely correct! I will be mobilizing the college and Bryanston to make a difference, and hope others will do the same!

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

I hate to harp on it... BUT, does anyone else share my growing despair?

I know that I, and some others, have posted a few concerns about the electrcity crisis that is gripping South Africa )and particularly Gauteng) at present.

It is wreaking havoc, causing frustration, and costing a great deal in lost productivity and revenue. So, please forgive me for another hopeless rant!

I arrived home from visiting my mom this afternoon to hear that the power had been out in our suburb since 2pm. It is now past 9pm and we're still in darkness! I have two sermons for my three services tomorrow, but neither of them are printed... So, I'll either appear in the pulpit with a Laptop (if it has any battery power left), or just 'wing it' from memory.

Now that is not a HUGE problem. I am known to be able to preach without my notes.

However, I wonder how we will cope with these outages when it is mid winter (and the demand for power is higher)? If we truly have to wait for another 5 years, then I forsee a bleak, dark, and embarrassing 2010 world cup soccer tournament here in South Africa!!!

Surely there must be SOMETHING that ESKOM could do? A local engineer has suggested two things 1) Stop selling our electricity to Zimbabwe and Mozambique... AND 2) Use other available, and more quickly constructed, technologies (such as gas turbines, solar and wind generation) to increase our capapcity.

Now, is there anything that WE can do to help THEM do something about this!?

I fear for my poor students who will have no power to complete their assignments by candle light, written by hand...

Wouldn't it be nice if..............?

This encouraging email arrived in my inbox today. It was sent by a friend in Cape Town, Mike Crocket, and tells of the United Methodist Church's drive to revitalise the denomination.

Many of us would be aware that mainline denominations have decreased their membership in recent decades. The Methodist Church of Southern Africa is not yet on a fast decline (we have only lost 0.9% against population growth since 1910), however, it is sure to come if we continue in our rigid, disconnected, manner.

What the world longs for is a Church that brings hope in struggle, light in darkness, and life in the midst of the crises of living!

Mike entitled this mail 'Wouldn't it be nice if...?' I agree, wouldn't it be nice? Wouldn't it be nice if we were less concerned about stipends, the re-election of Bishops, the constitutions of 'uniformed organisations'? Wouldn't it be nice if we worried about the world and created a Church that sought to meet the world and offer it what it needs? Wouldn't it be nice if there was a Church that welcomed everyone, where the Gospel of Christ was not just preached, but seen!

Wouldn't it be nice if......?

[ps. please forgive any formatting errors, this is forwarded via email].

January 18, 2008 Dear Resurrection Family, I just arrived back in town last night from a series of meetings in Houston focused on the revitalization of the United Methodist Church. The first two days were spent with a gathering of pastors of the 20 largest churches in Methodism. Organizing this group was a part of our strategic plan here at the church for 2007. We held our first meeting last year with the 10 largest churches. In the fall we'll gather the pastors of the 100 largest churches. The aim of the group is to look at the ways the largest churches in our denomination can work together for the revitalization of the church.

The second set of meetings began Wednesday night and continued through Thursday afternoon. Those meetings included key leaders in our denomination also concerned with the revitalization of the church and specifically focusing on inviting outstanding young adults to consider God's call to ordained ministry.

Here's why I believe this is important, and why I am investing my time in it: Since 1964 the population of the United States has increased by 54% while the membership of the United Methodist Church has declined by 27%. A more telling statistic in predicting thefuture is that the number of children involved in Sunday School in our churches has declined from 1,500,000 in 1964 to 318,000 in 2005. And, as this would indicate, the average age of our membership as a denomination is now close to 60. We're also seeing this trend in our clergy. In 1985 when I started seminary over 3,000 of our pastors were under 35. In 2005 that number dropped to only 850. Of our 17,000 active clergy, only 5% are under 35.

These two groups are seeking to turn these trends around. This is a part of our vision here at the church, and I think this vision can become a reality. I'll tell you more about the meetings in Houston next Friday evening at our All Church Gathering (see below). There are some exciting things coming up this weekend at church I want to make sure you know about?

1. This Weekend in Worship: How Should We Live? The Ethics of Jesus

2. Don't Miss This: Authors of Same Kind of Different As Me Here Saturday at 2:00 pm

3. Register to Vote in the Narthex This Weekend
4. Opportunity to Change the World: Leaders to Help with Annual Missions Auction

5. Resurrection Night at the Movies Monday Night

6. All Church Gathering - Fellowship, Inspiration, Voting, and Vision Casting

7. New Sunday Night Choir - How cool is this?! And Still Room for You!

8. Martin Luther King workday/FaithWorks

The boys... It's early in the morning, but already a long way into the day!

Liam and dad! We're gadget boys! Oh, and we're also sideways in this photo...

Tomorrow I'll be preaching at 8.00 and 10.00 at Calvary Methodist Church, then 18.30 at Bryanston Methodist Church . But, for now, we're off to visit my mom. My sermons are all done so I can be at ease!

I had one of my last prayer and elders meetings at Bryanston this morning... It means a 4am wake up call for me to get ready and get through to JHB by 6am. These are, however, great times of fellowship, encouragement, and blessing as we pray, share in communion, and listen for God's guidance and direction.

I love my Church. It is a source of great encouragement, blessing, and truly a place in which I experience the joy of God's love through others. This is my 5th year as an associate minister (I calculated that I have preached just short of 200 sermons there!) I am constantly amazed that people have actually stuck around for that long (and a few more have joined)... Let's be honest, my theology is not exactly the norm... But, I have been challenged and sharpened by these faithful friends (many of whom I have never had the pleasure of getting to know personally). Our evening service averages an attendance of around 300 people or so, of course there are a core of people that one gets to know, but then there are many who 'pass through'.

These are the people that I think of when I wake up at 4am to get to a prayer meeting on a Saturday morning... I wake up knowing that what I am doing is worthwhile because of them.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tom Cruise's CRAZY Scientology Video... It's years old, and now they want to try and ban it...

I saw this video some time ago... In it Tom Cruise, in another of his weird rants, goes on and on about the evils of psychology... All that it proves is that some people actually DO NEED a psychologist more than others (if you get my drift?)

Here's an interesting story about how the Church of Scientology is trying to stop Gawker from hosting the video... Bad publicity I guess?

Gawker is hosting a controversial Tom Cruise Scientology video that other sites were forced to remove after legal threats from the Church of Scientology. In the Cruise video, high-energy music plays while Cruise gives forth a stream of claims about the powers and responsibilities of people who've been turned into mystical beings by the cult's teachings.

The Church has sent a legal threat to Gawker as well, alleging that hosting the video infringes copyright (amid a host of nonsensical allegations about "receiving stolen property"), but Gawker's refused to take the video down. Instead, they've taken the ballsy stance that this video is posted for the purposes of news reporting and analysis, making it fair use. I hope they stick to their guns. Link to video, Link to legal threats from the Church of Scientology (Thanks, Gareth, Ryan, and Siva!)

Update: All (?) of Tom Cruise's Scientology videos here (for now) -- thanks Xeni!

Walt Mossberg's (from the Wall Street Journal) Video review of the TINY Asus Eeepc!

I posted about the Asus Eeepc a few days ago. It is an incredible little subnotebook with a 7" screen, running Linux.

I am still keen to see one 'in the flesh' and try out the keyboard to see if this will make an useful PC for writing, email, and web browsing on the road (it has Skype with video, a fairly good keyboard, and the killer app from my perspective, Openoffice)! As it is I already use OpenOffice almost exclusively on my Mac and PC (well the Mac version is called NeoOffice). If it were not for the automatic referencing capabilities of Zotero in Microsoft Word, I would have given up on it completely!

Oh, and did I mention that you can hack it to install Windows!? But who would want to subject their computer to that kind of punishment?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

I know lust is a sin... But here's what I am lusting after!

Yup, the Apple Keynote (an annual highlight in January) is over... And as usual Apple had some incredible hardware to display, some great software to show off... And Steve Jobs' ubiquitous "... but wait, there's one more thing..."

Well, this year they launched the BRAND NEW Apple Air!

This is a 13" Apple powerhouse that is ALSO the world's thinnest notebook! It runs the latest Apple OS, and because it has Intel processors it also runs Windows and Linux right out the box.

They also announced the release of MS Office for Mac 2008! I need to start saving my sheckles!!!

Now, as I say in the title, I know that lust is a sin... But Lord, if you permit me to lust after the computer that YOU would use I would be most grateful!

Living in the hope that there are still some things of immeasurable beauty in the world,


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a NEW motto for the Christian faith... Sadly...

I read this very telling quote on The Corner....

"And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is truth."

Isn't it sad that our pursuit for [t]ruth so often robs us of the [T]ruth?

Just a thought....

Don't update your iPhone or iPod touch to firmware 1.1.3 if you have used jailbreak!

Yesterday Apple released the firmware update for the iPhone and iPod touch - it is now on firmware 1.1.3. I am still using 1.0.2 on my iPhone and she works like a champion!!! There is truly very little reason to want to update to 1.1.3 (the only draw card for me would be the update to the SMS application - however, I am using SMSD anyway, that allows me to send SMS messages to multiple recipients etc.)

Here's a brief report from Rupert Gee's iBlog....

Apple posted today a new firmware 1.1.3 for iPod touch. The update shows up in iTunes (version 7.5). Apple also posted updates to iTunes, now version 7.6.

Needless to say, running the firmware update will restore your jailbroken iPod touch to factory original condition. Third party apps will not run, until a new jailbreak hack is made available.

So in the mean time, do not upgrade to the new firmware. In fact, I wouldn?t even upgrade iTunes to 7.6 as a comment left by a user seems to indicate new functionality ? there?s apparently a ?Recovery? button in iTunes 7.6.

Stay tunes for more info ?.

Meanwhile, I hope you already have safe keep a copy of the version 1.1.2 firmware.

Misc notes:

The copy of iTunes in Leopard Install DVD (/Volumes/Mac OS X Install DVD/System/Installation/Packages/iTunes.pkg) is version 7.4.2

iTunes 7.5 for OS X is still available here.

Direct Download Link for 1.1.3 Firmware (162MB).

Podcast: [Repost, fixed] An exceptional critique of Philip Pullman's series 'His Dark materials', and the book 'The Golden Compass' by Simon Coupland

This podcast is a pre-recorded talk given by Rev Simon Coupland, a minister of the Church of England in London, on Philip Pullman's books in the 'His dark materials' series.

Simon is levelheaded, his talk is exceptionally well researched. It offers facts about both Philip Pullman, and the contents of each of the three books.

This is the best input I have heard on 'His dark materials' and 'The Golden compass'. Coupland is a Minister, but seems to have been trained as an Historian. So what he offers is tempered and framed by facts and substantiated by quotes from Pullman and the three books. (Thanks to Paddy for the link to Simon Coupland's Church site, and for helping me with the correct spelling!)

Just to warn you, Coupland gives a very good overview of the plot of each of the three books in this series (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber spyglass), so if you have not yet read all three and don't want to spoil the plot please just skip through the first 15 minutes or so of the podcast.

The podcast is just on an hour in length, the sound quality is great (for a change!), and it weighs in at around 12.5MB (so don't go downloading this on your cellphone!).

Thanks for downloading it.

Update: I must appologise! When I uploaded the podcasat previously I accidently left the podcast track muted!!! AAaaaaarrrgghhh!!! So sorry, it has been fixed and reposted (sorry to waste your precious bandwidth!) Simply click on the link below to download the FIXED version!

'Simon Coupland's critique of Philip Pullman and the 'His Dark Materials' series [Fixed].mp3. (12.5MB)

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Open lecture at John Wesley College, Prof Joerg Rieger from Perkins school of Theology at Southern Methodist University, Texas

John Wesley College is pleased to invite you to attend a public lecture by Prof Joerg Rieger (see below) on Tuesday the 22 January 2008. The lecture will be split into two parts, Part 1 from 11h30-12h45, and then Part 2 from 13h30-15h10.
The Title of the lecture is Christ and Empire - (from Paul to postcolonial times) rethinking the imperial legacy of Christianity.

Unfortunately we are not able to offer lunch to those who wish to attend the lecture. However, there will be tea and few biscuits etc. available over the lunch hour.

Joerg Rieger is Professor of Systematic Theology at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dalls. He is also the author of Remember the poor: The Challenge to Theology in the Twenty-First Century, and God and the excluded: Visions and blindspots in Contemporary Theology, and editor of Opting for the margins and Liberating the Future: God, Mammon, and Theology.

I had the great joy of spending some time with Joerg in Oxford last year. He is an incredible thinker, a youthful man with great passion, insight, and an engaging manner! I have just recently read 'Christ and empire', and 'God and the excluded'. I rank them among the top books that I have read, and they certainly the top of my reading list from last year.

Please spread the word about this lecture, invite members of your Churches, clergy, and other interested parties to attend. I hope to be able to record the lectures (for those who are too far to attend in person). I will post MP3 copies of them on http://www.spirituality.org.za within a week or two.

If you are interested in coming, please could you drop me a line via email, or phone Taryn our receptionist on 012 804 3022 just so that we can be sure to prepare an adequate venue and enough tea and biscuits!?

Rich blessing in Christ!

Please don't forget to pray for our seminary, the student ministers, and the staff who serve them. As always we have families at John Wesley College who need financial support, so please do consider and remember us when you make your mission and tithe allocations for 2008!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Asus eepc? Any ideas?

Yup, stuck in traffic again... It seem to be the only time I get to post to my blog these days! Busy times!!

Does anyone out there know if the Asus eepc is available anywhere in South Africa? It looks like a great ultra portable pc. I must say that I quite like the idea of Linux on a PC of that size.

I believe that it has OpenOffice on it. That would be great to work on books, talks, etc. on a laptop with that small form factor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Scheduled 'load shedding' and the cost to the economy... Whatls the answer? Here's one!

As I write this post I am sitting in a traffic jam on William Nicol drive in Bryanston. I have been in the same spot for almost an hour... I have no other choice but to endure it because I am on my way to a meeting with one of our Bishops at OR Tambo international airport.

The cause of this terrible traffic is not an accident... No, it is the scheduled 'load shedding' by ESKOM our nations electricity bungler... I cannot in all honesty call them a 'provider' since they do it so seldomly these days!

As I sit her wasting time that I don't have, watching all the other people stuck in the traffic with me, I wonder, how much is this scheduled load shedding costing our country in lost revenues and productivity? Perhaps there is a subtle plan to make the WHOLE nation as inefficient as the Department of Home Affairs so that they won't look so bad? Oooohhh... That's a cheap shot.

Seriously though, what could the solution be? Well, the one group of persons who seem to be making a roaring trade are those guys who sell Cokes and sunglasses on the side of the road! Perhaps that's what we should do? Shut down all formal trade and all just sell our stuff from the backs of our cars when the traffic stands still?

Last night I spent my birthday by romantic candle light, my daughter her homework by less than romantic candle light, and we ended up boiling water for my son on a small gas stove.

My ban account seems a little overloaded by the many demands upon its resources. I think this month I may do a little load shedding myself and withhold payment to ESKOM. What do you think?

/end rant! Sorry!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Kenyans reports on the Kenyan crisis using the net and google maps

This comes from boingboing:

Ushahidi is a website created to give Kenyans a way to report incidents of violence in the ongoing post-election crisis. The project came together, it seems, during the TED Global conference event earlier this year in Tanzania. Erik Hersman, who publishes Afrigadget and was one Ushahidi's organizers, tells us more about who's behind it:

Ory Okolloh - Was the nexus-point of information for news during and after the elections in Kenya as the mainstream media went quiet. Ory was also the genesis of Ushahidi as she opined in one blog post, "Google Earth supposedly shows in great detail where the damage is being done on the ground. It occurs to me that it will be useful to keep a record of this, if one is thinking long-term. For the reconciliation process to occur at the local level the truth of what happened will first have to come out. Guys looking to do something - any techies out there willing to do a mashup of where the violence and destruction is occurring using Google Maps?"

Daudi Were - Has been blogging and working to hold together a disparate group of 400 bloggers in the Kenyan Bloggers Webring. He is working full-time on two initiatives. First, to create strong partnerships for Ushahidi through the Kenyan NGO Council. Secondly, to create easy ways for people to donate to the Kenyan Red Cross.

Juliana Chebet - Being upcountry during elections gave her a unique view of the post-election aftermath. Also a blogger, she has been busy taking pictures and video, and chronicling what she sees. Juliana has also been a part of making Ushahidi, primarily in putting new reports into the system.

Segeni Ng'ethe - Owner of Mamamikes.com. As people have had a hard time getting cash and an even harder time trying to find cell phone charge cards, Segeni has been providing one of the only ways for people to send money from abroad and recharge people's cell phones. On top of that, he has created a voucher system that allows anyone in the world to donate money directly for distribution and use by the Kenyan Red Cross.

Link. Over at Global Voices, contributor Juliana Rincón Parra has this roundup of online video that provides a glimpse into the current state of affairs in Kenya, including first-person testimonies of violence recorded and published by Ushahidi participants: Link. More coverage of the crisis in Kenya on Global Voices here. (thanks, Emeka Okafor!)

Previously on BB:

  • Video from TED Global conference - Africa: The Next Chapter
  • Deconstructing Vanity Fair's "Africa" issue
  • Sunday, January 13, 2008

    Various inputs, and analysis, on the Kenyan crisis from around the web.

    Tonight my good friend Mark Russel prayed for the crisis in Kenya...

    Here's a little something that may shed some light, and give some insight, as we pray for that nation.

    What struck me about Mark's great prayer was they he framed it in terms of our South African past, thanking God for the many Kenyans who remembered South Africa in our dark days, and remembered to pray for us. Now, it is our time to remember them, and our joy and duty to pray for them!

    Snip from an article on AllAfrica.com:
    "It is the Kenyan People Who Have Lost the Election," headlined Pambazuka News in its special Kenya election edition on January 3.

    "But the real tragedy of Kenya," the editorial continued, is that the political conflict is not about alternative political programmes that could address ... landlessness, low wages, unemployment, lack of shelter, inadequate incomes, homelessness, etc. ... [instead] it boils down to a fight over who has access to the honey pot that is the state. ...[citizens] are reduced to being just being fodder for the pigs fighting over the trough."

    Commentaries of particular interest from the U.S.include an op-ed in the Washington Post by Caroline Elkins, "What's Tearing Kenya Apart? History, for One Thing," a statement by Africa Action stating that U.S.-Kenya policy should support "robust democratic processes" rather than be defined by "a narrow agenda of the war on terror and international business", and a statement by the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars highlighting "the role of the U.S. government -- far from a neutral player -- both before and after the elections" and the danger that U.S. involvement will be biased by its close military relations with the Kenyan government..

    More on current events in Kenya at AllAfrica.com: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3. (via Ned Sublette)

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    Doing what you can with what you've got!

    I heard a lovely little story recently when in the worship service of my friend, Deacon Ernie Nightingale in Durban.

    He told of a mighty warrior who was riding his great big horse through the Kingdom. As he rode people scattered in his way. He was truly impressive as he rode through the towns and cities.

    Then, something strange happened as he was riding on a small pathway in the country. As he came over a hill he could see a small bird lying in the road in front of him. While he was still some way away he shouted "Hey bird, you're in my way! Move so that I can pass!" The bird didn't move at all..

    When the warrior got closer h noticed that the bird was lying on its back! He called for it to move again, but it just lay there. So, he got off his horse and walked up to the bird.

    When he came close to the bird he asked it "why are you lying in the middle of the road with your legs in the air?" The bird said "well, I heard that the heavens were going to fall down, so I thought I will hold them in place." The warrior laughed so much that tears began to run down his cheeks... "Do you think you'll be able to hold up the heavens with those tiny little legs of yours? They are so small and skinny!"

    The little bird thought for a moment and then answered "I can only do what I can with what I've got... And guess what, it seems to be working! The heavens are still up there!" The warrior left in silence.

    This was a wonderfully encouraging story for me! It is so true, when we do what we can with what we've got, God graciously does the rest!

    Have a blessed week!

    A fine balance... I think this is where the Church often gets Christianity wrong.

    There have been a few hints about the 'new thing' that I shall be doing. Don't worry, news about that will follow in due course.

    However, I was in conversation with one of the senior leaders of the denomination that I serve about this new course when he asked me an interesting question. He said something like "Wouldn't that be a bit too evangelical for you, taking into account your approach to the social gospel?" In short, he was setting up a dichotomy between commitment to the Gospel (and bringing people to an understanding and lived relationship with the One (Jesus) who is the content of that 'good news), and my commitment to social justice, and issues of justice.

    This comment made me think... There does seem to be a somewhat mistaken understanding that one is either committed to justice OR one is committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Such an understanding MUST be fundamentally mistaken! The Gospel of Jesus Christ IS a matter of justice. It is a matter of individual justice that brings freedom from the slavery of sin, and the causes of enslavement and death. Yet, it is just as much about finding ways of bringing justice, freedom, life, and wholeness to the whole of the world.

    Brian Mclaren said it best when describing his move beyond the 'conservative reformed' view of Jesus in his book A generous orthodoxy. He suggests that one of the problems with the traditional (and I might add thoroughly Pauline) view of Jesus as the one who 'justifies' us is that it is almost exclusively bound to 'personal salvation'. In other words, Jesus is the one who died to forgive us for our personal sin, to set us free from our personal sin, and help us as individual persons to relate to God and the rest of the world. Of course this is absolutely correct, BUT, it is NOT the whole truth!

    Before I say any more, let me say that I preach, live, and share this message with many people! I am radically committed to bringing individuals into a personal relationship with God in Christ, who longs to relate to each of us as individuals! In fact, I think that this personal relational element of the Good News is the antidote to 'religion' - it forces us, as all true and honest relationships do, to live with the truth of who we are in close relationship with Jesus who knows us intimately.

    So, in that sense I am fundamentally evangelical (in other words, I am committed to to evangelism - (the root for this English word is the Greek word meaning 'Good News') I want people not only to hear, but to discover the good news that they can find a living, close, and real relationship with the God who created and re-creates the whole of the cosmos!) However, this cannot be the whole truth!

    You see simply to emphasise individual salvation (a 'personal' relationship with Jesus) can lead to some serious pathologies! One could quite easily start to think that Jesus does not care about other people who are different from us (such as poor people, gay people, rich people, evangelicals, liberals, Muslims, Hindu's etc. I think you get the idea). It could also lead us to think that all that Jesus is worried about is forgiving my personal sins. Sadly, personal sin is often a symptom of social sins... For example, I am convinced that a lot of individual greed is a result of consumerism. Or, the disregard for the poor has a lot to do with the monetization and commodificiation of value based on income (i.e., only people who can contribute to the economy are valued... This tells us that we are basing our value judgment of persons on their bank accounts, not on the fact that they are created in the image of God).

    Mclaren says that what we need is a balance between individual justification and social justice!

    That is a wonderful summary of my own view of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ - a fine balance between justification and justice. The one cannot be complete without the other.

    I cannot truly be saved, or at peace (which is surely a sinful personal state), while there are people who are dying from AIDS, or people who are dying of hunger etc... My individual salvation is caught up with God's plan to save the whole world!

    So, yes, I am committed to JUSTICE, but I am also committed to JUSTIFICATION!

    Central to this false dichotomy, as I have explained before, is a false worldview that is based on modernism. Modernism has to operate (because of the influence of secular Newtonian science and Cartesian philosophy) with the principles of non-exclusion. In other words, if one is faced with two seemingly opposed notions of truth only one could possibly be true, while the other is false. This is a mistake! There are many areas in which 'truth' is based upon a complex tension between 'truths'... That's why I like the postmodern conversation so much! It forces me to ask questions about what I agree with, and what I don't agree with. I cannot simply reject something as untrue. Perhaps it is not untrue, but just marginally true! That's the negative position.

    There is also a positive approach to the complexity of competing truths. That is the notion of holarchies, as found in the writings of Ken Wilber, (I have written about this elsewhere - or you can listen to a podcast that I recorded way back on 2005 that discusses these principles - podcast on Ken Wilber).

    The analogy is this: Lesser truths add value to greater truths, and greater truths give lesser truths their 'fuller perspective' on truth. The example I always us is based upon grammatical construction in language.

    The letter 'O' in the alphabet has an individual and unique meaning. Yet it gains greater meaning when it is complexified and included in the word 'lOve'. The word has a greater meaning than the letter 'O'. However, it the word cannot assume that it is more important than the letter, since the word cannot exist apart from the letter 'O' that is a constituent part of its meaning! Yet, the letter means very little on its own - it only becomes 'true' when included in the word. One can go further and say that truth of the letter 'O' gains fuller meaning when the word 'lOve' is included in a sentence, "I lOve you".... And so the analogy grows. The sentence gains complexity as it forms part of a paragraph, the paragraph as it forms part of a chapter, the chapter as it is part of a story, the story as it is part of history, history as it is part of all human life, human life as it relates to all of who and what God is...

    Each of the smaller truths needs to be included into the ever complexifying notion of developing truth! So, I am evangelical, and socially committed, I am a Christian....

    In my understanding TRUTH is not something that can be summed up in a statement, rather it is much more like an unfolding story of grace. We discover where TRUTH is, and also where it is NOT. Truth is also a moveable thing. It might be entirely correct to say, for example, that when I was 5 I wanted to be fireman! Yet, as I grew and developed in my understanding that truth changed... Something of that desire (courage, heroism, service, saving lives) has remained with me - so the desire is still as true today as it was a 5, yet what that truth has become in the story of my life is something different. It is not that my desire at 5 is untrue, and my life now is true, they are all part of one and the same story of truth.... I hope that makes sense?

    I think sometimes this is where the Church goes wrong! It labels itself far to strongly in one form of 'truth' and so remains a 'word' that negates the 'letters' that give it meaning, and looses out on the fuller meaning of becoming part of a greater 'sentence of love'.

    I know this could be said much more clearly... But it was just a thought, in response to a question, that is a part of a conversation, that is about my life, which is about living for eternity!

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    Saturday, January 12, 2008

    Public Launch of my new website and domain - www.dionforster.com!

    I spent a few hours putting together my NEW domain and website. It is finally ready to launch! So, here goes!

    Please take a few seconds to check out www.dionforster.com - I would appreciate feedback, any errors or problems you spot, or some advice on layout and content.

    Thanks so much!

    Rich blessing,


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    Careful tagging, and keywords, that lead to massive web traffic.

    There are many different ways of drawing traffic to your blog. Perhaps one of the most effective ways for smaller blogs such as mine, is to harvest traffic by using carefully selected words and tags.

    I monitor the statistics for my blog daily and I have seen that one particular blog beats mine just about every day (I get around 150 to 250 unique visitors. He however gets between 300 and 550). The Blog is hq197.wordpress.com - it is called 'This little light...'

    I have had a look through the author's posts. And there are some great posts there! However, I think it is this post (see below) that is drawing all the traffic. It has words such as Israel, Palestine, Eid, and Christmas in it... The post is entitled 'No room at the Inns in the little town of Bethlehem'

    bethlemeh 07/12/24Palestinians had reason to be joyful this Christmas, with all the hotels booked inside what has been turned into a big prison by the Israeli wall of separation. Robert Berger reports for the VOA News from the little town mentioned by the prophets and later recorded by the Gospels as the place of Christ?s birth. Christmas was kicked off this year by Palestinian boy and girl scouts parading. Local clerics and pilgrims from all the corners of the world also joined in the commemorative events at the Church of the Nativity. The events were not disrupted this year by the Israeli forces (Jews do not acknowledge the legitimacy of Palestine nor that of Christ?s birth, while muslims and Christians do).

    You can read the full report at the VOA News site. A Blessed Christmas to you and all your loved ones this year.

    The Muslim holy day of Eil al Adha coincided this year with Christmas celebration, occurring as it did around the 20th of December. Eid al Adha is the day when Ibrahim (A.S.) obedience to God is recalled (Al-Baqara:196). Eid mubarak to all Muslims all over the world.

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    What do you think?

    Friday, January 11, 2008

    Here's why a BMW motorcyle will ALWAYS be better than a Harley Davidson!

    Make no mistake, Harley Davidson motorbikes are great to look at! But, it is no small coincidence that they are called 'hogs'... All that grunting and growling...

    No, if you want a REAL motorbike you need a BMW, like my friend Pete and I (of course Pete still needs to get a REAL REAL bike like my Vespa, Mertle! Did I mention that God rides a Vespa? Oh, you want evidence... No evidence required. Just look at the picture of my Vespa and I'm sure you'll agree!)

    But, here's proof that the BMW will always be better than a Hardley Dangerous!

    Sorry for offending any Harley riders out there ;-)

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    A thought...

    What is 'true' in the emergent movement is not 'new', and what is
    considered 'new' in the emergent movement may not necessarily be 'true'.

    Just a thought!

    Mutants are taking over! Change is taking place.

    Now I am convinced that global warming and the ecological shift are having some serious effects!

    The other day I drove into the parking lot at the college and saw this snail... It is the same size as my hand!!!


    Anyone for garlic and snails?

    In fact I am not even sure, are the snails that one eats different from your regular garden variety (mutant) snails?

    Have a blessed day in God's incredible creation!!
    am off to the last day of my most difficult meetings in the year. I have survived them very well so far! Praise be to God.

    On another note, there are changes afoot! They are very exciting, and it will mean a wonderful shift for me. I can't say too much yet, but when the time is right I will tell all!

    So check back here for more detail in the next weeks!

    All I can ask is that you pray for me!


    Dion (the snail hunter)

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    I've never trusted pirates. Now I know why! A signwriter's mistake.

    Words are powerful. When used carefully and creatively they can change a mood, shape an image, and even alter a person's perspective of reality.

    It is for that reason that we should choose, and use, our words very carefully! This little 'signwriting' mistake at a Cinema is a perfect example of the ambiguity that can be created when one mixes up one's words!

    Now I know why I never liked pirates! Poor Shrek! He must be devastated!

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    How times have changed! Some examples of creepy adverts from the past.

    We are all susceptible to what I call the 'centering effect'. What exactly is that? Well, every generation thinks that they are the measure of what is acceptable, the norm. Look around your office, or look at the cars on the road. When you next go to the mall look at what people are wearing. Most of what you see will look pretty normal won't it?

    However, if you look at photos from just a few years ago you'll laugh at your hairstyle (a tip for husbands, boyfriends, and male friends - don't laugh at your significant female friends' hairstyle, and NEVER say something like 'boy, you've put on a bit of weight over the years!'). How many of you out there wore 'Chinese slippers', or had one of those half length tops with the holes in it... Sad, truly sad!

    Heck, in 1983 I was proud to be the 'breakdance' champion of the town in which I lived! The girls thought I was cool, and I had free tickets to the movies!!! Ha ha!

    Times sure do change!

    So, here are a few examples of some CREEPY adverts from the past... Strangely most of them have to do with smoking.

    These adds got me thinking about what else I treat as 'normal' (and of course what I treat as abnormal) because I am socialized to think that way? What is there that I adopt uncritically as the 'true' from my understanding of scripture, or my approach to loving and serving Jesus? One thing that could be helpful is to try and see myself, my values, and what I believe, from the perspective of someone who I may not agree with me... Then, consider why it is that this person may find me objectionable. This will not only give me insights into their views of me, but also of how, and who, I may think they are...

    Centering can be dangerous... BUT, at least I know I am right, normal, and sensible... Everybody else is a bit strange! ;-)

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    Wednesday, January 09, 2008

    The death of God, and the birth of Christian atheism.

    Those of the readers who are a bit older will remember the death of God debates that raged among theologians in the late 1960's and early 1970's - it is likely that the thoughts started much earlier (I was a toddler reading Hegel and Nietzsche at that stage... but that's another matter altogether ;-)

    Well, I came across this interesting picture of a person who seems to have picked up on the 'God is dead' theology and is using the famous London Speakers Corner, in Hyde Park, to proclaim his message with slogans: "To follow Jesus reject God", "Christian atheism" etc.

    He refers to himself as a 'Christian atheist', a term that was coined by one of the leading proponents of the God is dead debate Professor J.J. Altizer (formerly a Professor of Bible and Theology at Emory and New York Universities).

    Central to Christian atheism is a fascinating idea... The reasoning, if I have understood it correctly, is that the incarnation, and death of Christ, leads to the death of God since Jesus is God. Thus, when you believe in the Jesus who died, you also believe that God died (since Jesus is God), and so there is longer any God to believe in - that makes you a Christian Atheist....

    Of course this Gospel has a high view of the incarnation, and is completely lacking in resurrection theology!

    You see, I not only believe in the God who died, but in the God who overcame death and lives eternally.

    Another central belief among Christian atheists is that while they cannot believe in 'God', they do find value in the moral and social teachings of Jesus... CS Lewis answered this claim quite clearly when he wrote in his book Mere Christianity:

    Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.
    You see the point is, that we cannot deny the claims that Jesus made about himself (i.e., that he is God!) So, you either accept the teachings WITH the teacher, or you reject the teacher and his teachings as simply being the ramblings of a mad man.

    Indeed, the power of Jesus is not be understood either in history or in philosophy. Rather, it is to be grasped in life. I know that Jesus is alive, that he is God, and that his teachings are good, because they have radically changed my life. Jesus gives me hope, files my life with meaning, and is my reason to live. That is a mystery, more pointedly, it is a 'mystical' reality - an experience of the truth that is spoken of in philosophy and history.

    So, I am a Christian believer, not a Christian atheist...

    For anyone who is interested to read JJ Altizer's book "The Gospel of Christian atheism" simply follow the link.

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    Tuesday, January 08, 2008

    A personal touch. Thanks Vince! That's what I like to see!

    Stephen posted an entry about amatomu on his blog today. In it he raised a concern about American blogs signing up to amatomu (which is intended to be a specifically South African blog aggregator).

    It was wonderful to see that Vince Maher, who runs the show (from what I can tell), not only dealt with the offending blog, but took the time to leave a comment for Stephen. Now that's the kind of courtesy that one doesn't come across all that often anymore!

    Thanks Vince! It is great to know that there is a human face in cyberspace! So, here goes! I am proud to say that I know Vince Maher!

    PS. If you want an easy way to follow all of your favourite 'religion' blogs in South Africa simply go to the amatomu religion index.

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    The Matrix... It may not be all that far fetched after all!

    I loved the first Matrix movie! It appealed to my love for gadgets and computers, and also had some great action scenes in it!

    Other than a Barney (yes, the purple dinosaur) DVD that I bought for Courtney, the Matrix was the first ever DVD that I owned! In fact in some ways, it was that, and the movie Blade runner were the first movies to challenge me to ask the question 'what is true identity?'. This would eventually become to subject of my doctoral research. My research led me to discover others who had considered this, and similar, issues - these included Jacques Vallee, John Keel, Rudy Rucker, and Hans Moravec.

    Now, however, an Oxford philosopher named Nick Bostrom has developed a mathematical theory to support this notion of complex virtual identity.

    More recently, however, there has been a further development (among credible scientists), that suggest that this notion is not all that incredible!

    This is in the form of a paper entitled "The Physical World as a Virtual Reality," written by Brian Whitworth and published by Massey University's Centre for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science in Auckland, New Zealand. From the abstract:
    This paper explores the idea that the universe is a virtual reality created by information processing, and relates this strange idea to the findings of modern physics about the physical world. The virtual reality concept is familiar to us from online worlds, but our world as a virtual reality is usually a subject for science fiction rather than science. Yet logically the world could be an information simulation running on a multi-dimensional space-time screen. Indeed, if the essence of the universe is information, matter, charge, energy and movement could be aspects of information, and the many conservation laws could be a single law of information conservation. If the universe were a virtual reality, its creation at the big bang would no longer be paradoxical, as every virtual system must be booted up. It is suggested that whether the world is an objective reality or a virtual reality is a matter for science to resolve. Modern information science can suggest how core physical properties like space, time, light, matter and movement could derive from information processing. Such an approach could reconcile relativity and quantum theories, with the former being how information processing creates space-time, and the latter how it creates energy and matter.
    Link to PDF of paper

    Previously on BB:
    ? Hans Moravec on living inside a simulation Link
    ? NYT on the "simulation argument" Link

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    Be careful what you put on the internet! As I've learned! You could get ripped off, like Jeremy Clarkson

    As Megan and I learned, you need to be careful what you put on the internet. On the 15th of December we discovered that some poor woman in England was posting pictures of our son Liam on baby websites saying that he was her son... The investigation is still in process.

    It was not surprising to read the story below on boingboing.

    Jeremy Clarkson, a presenter for Top Gear on British TV, wrote a newspaper editorial that accused privacy activists of being hysterical over giant data-leaks (such as the British government repeatedly losing CDs bearing the financial details for 25 million households). To prove that identity theft wasn't a big deal, he included his bank account details in the article.

    Whereupon someone promptly began making fraudulent withdrawals from his account.

    Clarkson, 47, writing in his column in the Sunday Times, decried the furore last year after CDs disappeared containing the banking details of 7 million families.

    The loss led to fears of mass identity theft with people's bank accounts open to internet scams.

    At the time he wrote: "I have never known such a palaver about nothing. The fact is we happily hand over cheques to all sorts of unsavoury people all day long without a moment's thought. We have nothing to fear."

    However, yesterday he told readers he had opened his bank statement to find a direct debit had been set up in his name and £500 taken out of his account.

    "The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act and they cannot stop it from happening again," he said. "I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake."


    (Image: crop from Books, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike photo from William Hook's Flickr stream)

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    Courage and integrity like this is rare...

    I have been praying and thinking a great deal about the future of South Africa since the ANC elected Jacob Zuma as their new party president.

    One of the most helpful and insightful aids in this journey has been reading Andrew Feinstein's book "After the party - a personal and political journey inside the ANC" - it was suggested to me by my friend Aiden Choles. Thanks Aiden.

    I have not been all that shocked or surprised by the revelations of corruption, collusion, and abuse that Feinstein writes about. Perhaps this lack of surprise stems from my cynical approach to politics... I am somewhat skeptical of political motives by the powerful in times of relative peace and prosperity. Somehow being the 'underdog', the one who is fighting for justice and freedom has a different flavour than doing your best to stay in power... However, I am also not surprised since a lot of what I am reading was reported in the mainstream South African media. This encourages me! It means that at least we still have some measure of freedom within Southern African journalism to tell the truth!

    There have however been a few very important quotes that have challenged me to consider my own life, my own social convictions, and of course the examine the integrity of my own faith.

    The most significant of these is a quote of a statement that Nelson Mandela made to the former President of Apartheid South Africa, PW Botha (die groot krokidil!). In 1985 (5 years before he was released from Prison) PW Botha offered Nelson Mandela freedom if he was willing to give up the fight for justice and equity in South Africa. He turned down the offer with the statement below. Heck... I am just entering the 5th year of my term in my current post. It is a LONG time! But for the sake of truth and justice he said the following:

    I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom... I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared to sell the birthright of the people to be free...

    Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts... I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free...

    Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.

    I will return [to prison]. Nelson Mandela, 10 February 1985.

    Oh for the courage to live with that kind of conviction! A great man (in fact, a great Methodist!)

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    The gentle, yet clear, Gospel message in a great Church No parking sign!

    This afternoon I have a meeting with Bishop Brian Jennings, whose
    offices are at the Benoni Central Methodist Church.

    As I arrived I saw this wonderful 'no parking' sign on the wall - like
    the Gospel, it us gentle, yet very clear!


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    Monday, January 07, 2008

    Could Bill Gates every be cooler that Steve Jobs? Here's proof that he can!

    Steve Jobs is cool! But, there is something about his cool appearance that creates a distance between him and regular 'geeks' like me! I mean, I could never pull off a Steve Jobs black turtle neck sweater!

    But, here's a video that proves that Bill Gates (yes, I'm going to say it!) CAN be cooler than Steve Jobs!

    This hilarious video was filmed during Bill Gates' keynote address as the CES (consumer electronics show) yesterday - it stars Bono, JayZ, Steve Balmer, John Stewart, and a whole host of other celebrities in a hilarious skit!

    Good for you Bill! Geek out to the max! Now all that you need to do is start using a Mac!

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    What's the difference between Rob Bell (nooma) and Benny Hinn (slick guy with a Hinn doo)? About 2560 facebook group members!

    Stephen Murray has done it again! Stephen, I like the way you think my friend!

    Stephen did a little experiment to see which of the 'well known' Christian icons of contemporary Christianity (representing a fairly broad spectrum of the Christian faith) was the most popular on facebook.

    Click here to see the results of his research! It is fascinating... I wonder where TD Jakes and Joyce Meyer would fare!? (no, that's not John Meyer, or the guy from the John Mayer 'chocolate rain' youtube viral video)... no, they have more members that all of facebook, myspace, twitter, and just about every other social networking site put together has!

    Anyway, here's the video!

    PS. If you don't know what chocolate rain is you're not spending enough time on the net :-)

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    Hacking Church! How to attend Church for 52 weeks in a row....

    I saw the link for this post on my friend Sivin Kit's blog - sivinkit.net. It comes from Lifehack.org...

    It has a couple of great ideas! Sivin sent it to the members of his congregation - perhaps there is something in here that could help you to get your members to attend more regularly?

    I think itss safe to say that many people have the desire to attend church more consistently and improve their spiritual life. On this date last year, I was not a member of a church and I rarely attended any church services. On February 26, 2006 I set a personal goal for myself to attend church for an entire year without missing a single week. This coming Sunday, will make it 52 weeks in a row that I attended church without skipping even once. I will give you tips on how to find a church, and how I to find the motivation to attend every week for an entire year.

    Keep in mind that your church won't be perfect
    The first step prior to attending church on a regular basis is to actually choose a church. When I set my goal to attend church for an entire year I was not a member of any church. In fact, I was deep in the "church-shopping" process and did not have a church I attended regularly. Finding a church was the most difficult part of my journey. I visited several (probably over 10 churches) before I came to the realization (thanks in part to the Purpose Driven Life and my girlfriend) that no church is absolutely perfect. What I mean by that is (in my opinion) no church will match your tastes on every facet. I think you could spend years visiting various churches and never be totally satisfied with any of the churches you visit. Gaining satisfaction with your church will take time. Rather, you have to find a church that will satisfy you enough to motivate you to keep coming week after week.

    Get to know the members
    For the past four or five years I've attended various churches (I've moved a few times) without ever being a member. I would go to church, sit quietly by myself in the back and leave immediately at the end of church. I am in the process of becoming a member of a local church and I have learned an important lesson. You cannot get to know a church without getting to know the members. This lesson took me many months, if not years, to finally figure out.

    Get involved with the church
    Getting involved with some facet of your church (whether volunteering, ushering, reading, or joining a committee) will increase your accountability for attendance. Besides the benefits to your community (and the spiritual gains you experience) by volunteering at your church, you inherently gain a great deal of accountability in regards to attending weekly. I had the mindset of "how can I serve on so-and-so committee and not go to service on Sunday? How would that look? What would people think of me?" I?m not advocating making a huge time commitment or attending service simply to not look bad in the eyes of your congregation, but offering to fill a position in the church will definitely motivate you to at least make a weekly appearance and keep you motivated to achieve your attendance goal.

    Substitute Saturday night for Friday night
    The number one barrier preventing me from reaching my goal was the desire to sleep in. Previously I posted about how I get up at 5AM Monday through Friday. By Friday night I would be pretty tired, so I would tend to stay in and go out on Saturday night. This social schedule makes getting up for church very difficult on Sunday (especially after a few too many "adult beverages" on Saturday night). This tip is more common sense than anything else, but switching Friday to my big social night allowed me to relax on Saturday night, and in turn, have no problem getting up for church on Sunday morning.

    Promise someone
    Whether it is yourself or a loved one, promising someone that you will attend church every Sunday will help motivate you. In my weight loss article, I made a comment about the importance of making your diet public. I think this mindset can be applied to attending church as well. Tell someone that you plan to attend every Sunday ? this will increase your accountability leaps and bounds. If you would rather keep this information to yourself, write it down and put it somewhere that you will see it every day (fridge door, bathroom mirror, inside your wallet, etc.).

    Go with a friend or loved one
    77% of church-goers that attend service with a friend report happiness in their spiritual life. Try bringing a friend, a family member, or a significant other to church with you. Besides making the experience more enjoyable and meaningful, having confirmed plans to attend church with someone else will increase your accountability.

    Rationalize the time

    I gained some motivation to attend church by comparing the amount of time the church-going process takes to the length of the entire week. My church service (including travel time) is only 1.5 hours total and that is only .89% of the week (168 hours/week). I also rationalize the length of the church service as half of a movie, three sitcoms, less than two episodes of Prison Break, etc. whatever works for you.

    At first, I was motivated by making my attendance "mandatory" and comparing the amount of time I was spending at church to other "lazy" activities I enjoyed. I was able to balance making myself accountable and not feeling pressured to attend. As time progressed and I got more comfortable attending church, the motivation to attend became inherent. I started noticing major improvements in my spiritual life. By attending church every week for 52 weeks, I was able to meet many people, strengthen my faith, improve my personality, become more involved in my community, and most importantly strengthen my relationship with God. If you think that 52 weeks seems daunting, try setting smaller goals for yourself like attending 3 out of 4 weeks per month for six months. How do you find the motivation to get to church week-in and week-out? Have any of you set similar goals? How did you fare?
    Some good advice here!

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    The courage to live for eternity... Because, the world is not enough!

    Last night we started a new sermon series at Bryanston Methodist Church. It is a series on living for Christ, in our world, with courage!

    I had a great time preaching the first sermon in the series. The title is styled on the James Bond movie 'The World is not enough'. In this series we will be examining Mark's Gospel - a direct, to the point, charge to believe in the Messiah, and then to submit to discipleship under the Lordship of the Messiah.

    Mark frames this charge in the words of Jesus "The Kingdom of God is near... come and follow me" [Mk 1.15-17].

    The whole of the Gospel of Mark can be divided into two sections. Everything up to Chapter 8 aims to prove that Jesus is the Messiah - a figure whose life will have consequences for social issues, religious issues, moral issues, and of course spiritual issues. From Chapter 8 to the end of the Gospel (with the inclusion of the redaction of Chapter 16) the Markan narrative aims to show what kind of Messiah Jesus is. Essential to understanding the 'secret' of the Messiah's nature and character is COURAGE and HOPE. Jesus is the kind of Messiah who enters life like most of us do. He has no privilege, no extraordinary powers, no status, no wealth. All that he has is the right to choose for God's Kingdom, in a world that chooses all sorts of other Kingdoms, and the chooses this Kingdom with Courage. Of course that is what leads both to his death, and our liberation!

    It's called discipleship...!

    Here is the MS Word transcript of the sermon. The courage to live for the Kingdom of God.doc

    And here is an MP3 audio recording of the sermon. Courage to life for God's Kingdom.mp3 [8MB]

    My we all find courage, blessing, and the hope of Jesus as we face this new year! It will take courage!

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    Sunday, January 06, 2008


    "Hope is like the bird that senses dawn and carefully starts to sing while it is still dark" - Author unknown.

    Saturday, January 05, 2008

    Begging for a living, dignity, humour and Britney Spears' pregnant sister!

    I love the narrative of Peter and John who encounter the man begging for money outside of the temple.

    It arrests me! It reminds me that even when I don't have anything to give the person begging for food and money at the traffic intersection (and if the truth be told, I have SO much to give - if only I learn to live more generously!) the one thing I can do is validate the person's human dignity.

    When Peter and John walk past the beggar, and he asks them for something, Luke records the following:

    But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, "Look at us!" [Acts 3.4]

    This passage reminds me to look... and not just to look, but to truly see! This is a person who is asking for food, or money. He has needs, feelings, desires, hopes, aspirations, longings - and most importantly he bears the image of God!

    Peter and John take it a step further, they ask the man to look back at them. Perhaps they need to have their humanity validated and recognised, even by the poorest of the poor! And so, they affirm his equality with them "don't avert your eyes - look at us. We too are as poor and needy as you are! But, we share the same stamp of God within our lives!"

    Giving is a very powerful thing. Having the courage to see is the first step towards feeling. And, when we are brave enough to feel for another human person, we might just be moved to live generously - as generously as the God who looks upon us, and calls us to look upon Him in return!

    This picture says it all. This man has empowered himself. He has filled his humanity with the dignity of humour. In this pithy little sign lies the truth of our equality - the beggar on the street is the same as the pregnant sister of the pop star Britney Spears!

    I wonder if he takes PayPal payments? I'd be willing to throw in a few bob! He sure made me think!

    Pairing your Apple iPhone with the new Apple Wireless keyboard (via bluetooth)....

    I have all of the technology pictured here (i.e., an iPhone with bluetooth, the Apple bluetooth wireless keyboard, a hand and a desk...) However, what I don't have is the ability to pair the Apple wireless keyboard with the Apple iPhone! Heck I wish there was some smart programmer out there who would design an app to allow me to link these two Apple devices. This would make my iPhone infinitely more useful!

    Pairing Apple's Wireless Keyboard With the iPhone

    AppleInsider has a thorough review of Apple's Wireless keyboard. Toward the end of the review, the reviewer comes up with a brilliant request for Apple,

    "One feature I'd like to see added requires new software support on the iPhone: the ability to pair the phone to the Bluetooth keyboard. Imagine using the duo (below) as a hyper thin traveling companion for taping out notes.
    That, my friend, is a genius idea, especially if they create an attachment to perch the iPhone as shown. Make it happen Apple.

    In the meantime I use my wireless keyboard with my iMac and my Sony Vaio UX 180P (a perfect pair with seamless connection every time!)

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    10 Golden lessons from Prof Albert Einstein... [Note the caption on the picture...]

    This link was sent to me by a friend. I thought it was quite good. See if there is anything that this physicist can teach you about life.

    Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving - Albert Einstein

    Albert Einstein was an amazing physicist. He figured out so many universal principles and equations that he was way ahead of his fellow scientists at any point of time. But he is also remembered for another thing; a quality which made people call him a genius: his words. Prof. Einstein was a philosopher who clearly understood the laws of success and explained them like the way he did with his equations. Here is a list of 10 things out of the numerously wonderful things he had said; 10 golden lessons that you can put to use in your everyday life.

    1. A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

    Most people don't try new things because of their fear of failure. Failing is not something to be afraid of. It is often the losers who learn more about winning than the winners. Our mistakes always give us opportunities to learn and grow.

    Continue reading '10 Golden Lessons from Albert Einstein'

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    Friday, January 04, 2008

    I like this idea! Subversive art and culture jamming!

    I thought that was such a creative cultural expression - in fact, I think it is an art form!

    I love it when people find creative ways of taking the 'virtual' world of the web into 'real life' [a.k.a. webspace to meatspace]... Here's one persons attempt at taking a quirky element of Wikepedia from the internet to the streets. I think it is wonderfully subversive, twisting together two cultural icons, graffiti and the [citation required] tag!

    Here's the article:

    Matt says: "I recently started a culture jamming... campaign that involves recontextualizing ads and signs -- or anything that makes a dubious claim -- using stickers with the [citation needed] tag found in Wikipedia articles. This blog post describes the project and has the first few pictures."
    200801021113One of my favorite quirks about [Wikipedia] are the little [citation needed] tags that users can place in an article, indicating that a dubious claim needs a reference. One day an idea struck ? what statements are more dubious or outright ridiculous than those in advertisements? Thus, an OM project was born. I had 250 8×2 inch stickers printed, which I handed out to friends, who circulated them further. In true wiki fashion, the final placement of the stickers is a collaborative effort, now distributed and anonymous. If anyone sees one somewhere, please make a photo! I?ve been tagging my photoset on Flickr with citationneeded and wikiffiti.
    So, if you see a few [citation needed] stickers in your local mall, or on a sign near you, you might be able to guess where it comes from.

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    Thank you. A new day is dawning.

    My father's funeral went off very well this morning. The Rev Derek Wilson, a close family friend, conducted the service. He was wonderful, and the service was very meaningful - a fitting celebration of my father's life.

    I am feeling quite relieved tonight. So, it is time to move towards integrating this part of life into my being. A new day dawns tomorrow. I am not sure when the empty feeling in my heart will go away. Perhaps it never will.

    Thank you to all those who attended the service (and were able to do so. It was POURING with rain!), and thank you for the many kind messages, phone calls and text messages. I have passed on the greetings to my mom. She is very grateful.

    Here is a prayer that I found particularly meaningful:

    Lord our God, you are the source of life. In you we live and move and have our being. Keep us in life, and death, within your love. And, by you grace, lead us to your Kingdom. So, almighty God, we thank you for the life that you give us. It is full of work and of responsibility, of sorrow, yet there is much to celebrate and a good measure of joy. Today we thank you for Donald Ian Forster, for what he was given by you, and for what we received from you through him. Help us in our mourning and teach us to live for the living in the time that is still left to us. Thank you for gift of eternal life, a gift that can give light and joy to our days and years here on earth.

    God, we thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to see that it is he who opens the gate to the life that shall never die.

    Thursday, January 03, 2008

    'Back to the shopfloor' - seeing things from the other side.

    There is a program called 'Back to the shopfloor' on BBC World that I have enjoyed watching from time to time. The central idea behind this 'reality TV' program is that they take managers, CEO's, business owners, and the like and place them back on the shopfloor for a week. Here they are expected to work as their employees would, facing the same challenges, lack of resources, pressures, and demands. The hope is that they will gain a new perspective on their business through this experience and so make changes that will suit the needs of their customers and better support their staff to meet those needs.

    Making the arrangements for my father's funeral has been a 'back to the shopfloor' experience for me. I have experienced and seen things from an entirely different perspective. Of course, as a minister, I have done hundreds of funerals over the last 16 years. So, I know more or less what should be done and how it should be done.

    Yesterday I went with my mom and sister to make the final arrangements for my father's service tomorrow. We met with the undertaker, and then later in the day met with the minister. Here are a few observations.

    The undertaker.

    This is a difficult process at best. Somehow it seems to have to deal with all of the most 'base' of issues. One has to talk about money (i.e., how much money do you have, do you have a policy, what kind of coffin do you want, how much do you want to spend on flowers, what quality of service sheet do you want etc.). One also has to do what is necessary to wrap up the legal matters, such as canceling the ID book of the deceased, arranging for the death certificate, deciding whether to have a burial or a cremation, and then deciding what to do with the remains.

    The undertaker we met with did her best! It was the first working day of the new year and she had skeleton staff and 6 funerals to take care of that day. When we arrived at her offices we entered a stark room - it reminded me a lot of a government building. It was neat, but cold. We had to wait for about 40 minutes to see her as she finished with other families and dealt with a few administrative matters. While we sat in a row on old office chairs we looked directly at a wall that advertised various funeral plans, photographers, coffins, and burial services... It was quiet, except for the phone that rang constantly. Nobody offered us any refreshment. When we did get to meet with the undertaker she was clearly at her wits end. She did her best to remain calm, but her cellphone rang numerous times, people came into her office to collect things, and her office phone was also constantly interrupting our time together. My mom was heartbroken by the experience. Here are a few observations:

    • Do your best to make the atmosphere welcoming and soothing (get some cheap comfortable furniture, place one or two pieces of affordable and inspirational artwork on the walls, play soft instrumental music to break the silence).
    • Attend to the PEOPLE that come into the office. This is my great weakness! I also tend to focus more on tasks than people. But, at times such as these it would be great to A) Make appointments with people. That way you can control when they arrive and leave. You can create some 'buffer space' to return phone calls and do administration. And, when you have a family with you, you can give them your undivided attention. B) Offer some basic refreshment, such as a glass of water or a cup of tea. C) Take time to explain what you're doing, why you're doing it, and reassure the family by answering all their questions (even if you have had to do this all day for every family that comes in!)
    • Be sure to appear calm, in control, and caring. I constantly had to repeat telephone numbers, write out the spelling of names, remind the person that I had already given this or that form to her, confirm times and arrangements (and at one point even asked her to make a note for herself, since she kept forgetting!) On the day of the funeral you don't want to arrive and find that the address the coffin has gone to is wrong, or that the flowers, or service booklets are missing. My suggestion is that such persons should have a clear 'tick list' that they should go through as they work with each family. And, perhaps also have separate little files or folders with each document they need pre-copied and kept in that file for use.
    In short, I left the undertakers office feeling a little concerned. My mom was quite sad by the mechanical nature of the process, and clearly the surroundings were cold and unhelpful. We also felt a little worried about whether the arrangements will actually be made.

    The meeting with the minister.

    This was an entirely different experience. The minister that we met with was an older man who has been in pastoral ministry for many years. He was warm, affectionate, empathetic, calm, sure of what needed doing, not hurried, and generally pastoral.

    We met in his office where we sat on comfortable chairs around a small coffee table. We did not sit across from his desk, with him behind it, and us on the other side. Rather the meeting felt like a conversation.

    He had pre-designed forms on which the questions he would need to ask were printed with space to write the details. His manner was calm. He made us feel like we were the only important thing he had to do (even though, as we left we saw another family arrive for a wedding rehearsal and I spotted a note on the office board indicating that he had another funeral the next day).

    He listened. He asked questions about my dad, our family, and did not try to give 'pat answers'. He started and concluded the meeting with short and meaningful prayers.

    So, here are my observations for us clergy.

    • Set an atmosphere of calm and openness. This can only be done if you are calm, clear about what needs to be done. This minister had also arranged his furniture and time to make our meeting conducive to a conversation. It was clear that he needed to get some information, but he was there for us, not like the undertaker where we seemed to be there for her.
    • Make sure that you have a pastoral manner. We went to the minister knowing that he is a Christian and that he would offer us some comfort and care from within the Christian tradition. So, it was not out of place for him to say a prayer with us. In fact we would have been sad if that had not happened. He was also wise enough to avoid giving us 'trite' and simple answers to our pain. Rather he asked us questions that allowed us to talk about how we were feeling, why we felt that way, and then prayed about those struggles, asking God to strengthen and help us (rather than giving us a few verses to go and read and saying 'this should fix you up!')
    • He was affirming and 'available'. I know what it feels like to have many demands and not enough time or energy to meet them. But, he assured us that he would pray for us, that the service would go off just fine. One idea that may be good here is to briefly tell the family about 'care options' after the service is done (i.e., if you have a group of visitors, bereavement support groups, and a group that sends out a message on the anniversary of the funeral etc. Many Churches also do a special service of remembrance and thanksgiving on Good Friday). Don't give too much detail at this point. Rather, this information could be contained in a little booklet that also had a few prayers, some open ended reflections, and a few useful numbers (I have seen this kind of booklet at Jonathan Anderson's Church in Kempton Park).
    Well, these are just a few scattered thoughts and reflections.

    Rich blessing to all!

    Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    Nothing to say...

    Please forgive me if I don't update my blog over the next few days.

    For the first time in my life I seem to have nothing to say!

    The 'flow of consciousness' will return soon. Prepare yourself ;-)

    Blessings to all. Thank you for the kind thoughts and good wishes.

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008

    Activity is my refuge, control is my defense, and intellect is my escape.

    It takes me a little while to work through things.

    I am not too quick off the mark in that sense. Activity is my refuge, control is my defense, and intellect is my escape.

    I have anticipated my father's death since his first stroke on the 11th of January 2006 - it left his left limbs paralyzed and placed significant strain on an already weakened heart and lungs. At that early stage I knew that it was serious, but he did manage to recover a large measure of mobility and independence in spite of this disability. Sadly, however, he suffered a number of less severe strokes in the two years that followed, and developed a form of epilepsy that broke his confidence.

    As those who have seen their parents age would know, it is heartbreaking to see one's father growing weaker.

    He had a fall two weeks ago and fractured some vertebrae which meant that he had to be confined to bed for some weeks. The lack of movement placed fatal strain upon his lungs and heart. And so, he died.

    I heard the news of his death with shock. Even expectation cannot do away reality. I had spoken to him just a day or so earlier and I knew that he was not well. I had, however, not anticipated that he would decline so quickly.

    So, feeling the pain, I did what I do with pain. I pushed it aside and began to organize and arrange things. Megan, Courtney, Liam and I were in Durban on holiday, so I got us packing and we drove straight back to my mom's house in Johannesburg. Thankfully my brother Robin and his wife Mandy, and my sister Sueann were already there. Along the way I made arrangements...

    I was shocked by my own lack of emotion. I know that I am sad, but I could not cry. I thought about this. Then I 'processed' it. I thought about the chemicals that would be released within my brain, and would spread throughout my body. I considered what neurons would be firing, what parts of the neuro-endocrine system would be kicking into action... I considered Elisabeth Kubler Ross' stages of grief, from 'On death and dying', and tried to place myself within various stages... It is silly, I know, but it is who I am, and how I am.

    Today, however, I felt the sadness overcoming me. It started when I uploaded the photo of my dad. As I write this I am crying. It feels good! I am relieved. The tears are soothing. There is a sense of appreciation and value in feeling the pain that testifies to love.

    I will take a bit of time out just to 'feel' these emotions. I will think, remember, and pray...

    So, a little less organisation today, time to give over some of the control, I will do my best not to 'process' or 'understand' what I am feeling. Time to simply 'be'. I think that's OK for now.