Dion's random ramblings

Monday, March 31, 2008

We've arrived!

We arrived in Somerset West this evening after a pleasant drive from JHB. We left Bryanston where we stayed for the weekend with Megie's sister, at 4h00 and arrived in Somerset West at 21h30. That's a 17 and a half hour drive (if my tired brain is doing the Math correctly)! My friend Pete Grassow was an absolute star! He drove my car most of the way, I only drove for about two hours from Richmond to somewhere just past Beaufort West (when Pete drove Megie's car so that she could have a little sleep). It still amazes me that we have such a dear friend who would fly to JHB in order to help us drive back to Cape Town! Thank you Pete! What would we have done without you! Your willingness to serve, your care, kindness and friendship, are such a blessed encouragement!

When we arrived at our new home in Somerset West our friends Andre and Michelle Boer were waiting for us! This was another incredible expression of care and love! They had made a bed for Megie and I to sleep on this evening, and another for Courtney to use, there was Pizza, tea, coffee and some coke, and a whole stack of bright baloons! We feel so much at home already.

Tonight I give thanks to God for safe travels. I give thanks for my wonderful wife Megie and all her hard work, dedication, and love. I thank God for good friends such as Pete, Andre and Michelle. I thank God for our new home. I thank God for new opportunities, and for the blessing of all that is past! I thank God for the students and staff of John Wesley College, and for our family and friends at the Bryanston Methodist Church - we are loved so much more than we could ever deserve! Thank you Lord!

Now, it's time to sleep! Tomorrow the removal truck arrives and we start the job of unpacking our stuff! More news and pictures to follow soon.

Thanks for all your love and prayers!

Somewhere between Richmond and Beaufort West

We're on the road to Cape Town today! This photo was taken in 'middle South Africa', somewhere between Richmond (a one horse town where the horse up and left), and Beaufort West. Surprisingly it is quite green out here. They must have had some rain recently. That is my good wife, Megan's, car in front. My good friend Pete flew up to Johannesburg to help us drive. Right now he's driving with Megie and Courtney and myself are in my car. 600 km's to go!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Goodbye Pretoria, hello Cape Town!

It is a lovely day in Pretoria today! As you can see from this picture. The weather is great, the sun is out, and there is just a gentle breeze to keep the heat at bay. Today we say goodbye to Pretoria and begin the move to Cape Town. It will be a gradual move since I have a wedding and a final service in Bryanston on Saturday and Sunday respectively. So, while our belongings hit the long road today (1419 km's to be exact), we shall only follow on Monday.

Pretoria has been a fantastic city in which to live! The weather is great, there is a lot to do, it is very green, there's lots of space, and within a few minutes you're out in the countryside. Sure there are some issues with safety and crime (we had an attempted car hi-jacking in 2004, a 'smash and grab' in 2005, and two break ins (even though we live right across the road from the 'Scorpions's (South Africa's version of the FBI) headquarters). However, there are much worse areas for crime and safety in Gauteng (and the Cape), for example the East Rand where we have a friend who has endured 4 car hi-jackings in the last few years).

I will confess, however, that we're looking forward the beauty of Cape Town. The weather is not quite as temperate (jokingly, Cape Town is like a baby - if it's not wet, it's windy!), but the scenery is great, the beaches are fantastic, the mountains are breathtaking, and we have many, many, good friends.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's moving time!

Yup, it's moving time. We are so fortunate that the removal company is packing for us (a first time experience)! I feel quite helpless on crutches - but at least we know that all of our belongings are safe, and will arrive in Somerset West (Cape Town) safely. I have felt quite tense about the whole move simply because we are normally all packed about a week in advance. However, by last night our home had only 3 packed boxes! Today it's a different story as you can see.

Well, seaside living, mountain air, and of course, the 'mother of all cities' - Cape Town.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Body of Christ loving itself through its members...

I cannot imagine how persons in contemporary society cope with the pressures, demands, expectations, disappointments, struggles - and of course the joys, celebrations, and events of thanksgiving - without being part of a Church community!

Yesterday I posted about how low I was feeling as our move approached, more and more just seemed to be piling up, and we needed support, encouragement and prayer. The response to that call for help was amazing!

I had a number of encouraging text messages and emails, quite a few phone calls, and some wonderfully practical offers of help! Thanks Juan and Mark for your willingness to help us with Wendy!

Some (who shall remain nameless by choice) put us in touch with a very kind (and gentle) lawyer! So, he (the lawyer) phoned the managing agent of the complex that had decided we could not bring our little dog Wendy to simply request copies of the constitution and rules and regulations - no veiled threats, no pressure, just a request to see what the current legal position was. Within minutes the very difficult woman who had been so rude to Megan changed her mind about our little dog! It would seem that there was no authority to deny our request, and that her rude and dismissive demeanor was uncalled for.

SO, praise the Lord, Wendy the dog gets to go to Cape Town with us!

Moreover, I got a phone call from the Managing Director of Volkswagen SA's office to sort out my car... At last! So, when I get to Somerset West it will be taken to VW there and hopefully rectified once and for all!

Two things have struck me in this process:

  1. Why is it necessary to revert to calling on 'the big guns' to get things done that should be done as a matter of courtesy and common decency? Has our recognition of our common humanity (and the miracle that every person, regardless of race, title, standing or position in society, is created in the image of Almighty God!) been so eroded by greed, selfishness and abuse that we forget to treat one another with dignity and care? I wish for God's Kingdom of 'eternal Shalom' (a peace that passes all understanding), where we can be truly human with one another. A place where I don't have to be 'Doctor Forster' to get things done. A place where we don't have to call a lawyer just to ensure that we get treated just and fairly. A place where trust and common decency means that you don't have to go the managing director of a firm to get something fixed that you have already paid for. I long for that Kingdom. And, because I long for it, I shall work for it! Matthew 6:10 says "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Now that's something I can live for, that's something I can spend the rest of my days doing!
  2. The second thing that I realised is that until this perfect utopia comes to pass, I shall certainly need some support and care! And, of course, I shall need to offer support and care to those who suffer under the imperfection of our common reality. There is a line in one of the prayers of the Walk to Emmaus spiritual directors' handbook which says something like "Today you have witnessed the miracle of the body of Christ loving itself through its members...". Anyone who has been a spiritual director more often than me will certain know the prayer well. It expresses what we are experiencing, and what we have experienced today - the love of Christ, through the body of Christ!
So, thank you. Thank you sisters and brothers for your prayers, and for your practical care. Tonight I rest with an easier heart.

Tomorrow the removal company arrives to pack our home and my office... Then, on Monday we drive to the promised land! A land where there is plentiful rain to keep the grass green and the vines growing. A land where the is plentiful wind to blow away the germs. A land where the scenery is breathtaking, and where God's Rugby team (the Stormers) play Rugby. A land that has the 'mother' of all cities and the 'flattest' of all mountains - Cape Town, here we come.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lord, please give me a break! No, not one like that...

Today I had to take a few minutes out of the last minute rush around as we prepare for our move to Cape Town to pray a short little prayer - I simply prayed 'Lord, please give me a break'.

I can tell you that Megie and I are feeling quite stretched at the moment.

Moving is a stressful enterprise at the best of times, but when you have one partner in the marriage on crutches, and one child in the household with special medical needs, moving takes on a whole new dimension. I have to pay loving tribute to Megan, my ONLY wife of 14 years. She has taken up the slack, borne up under the pressure, and ensured that between having me in hospital, and Liam with his 4th bout of tonsillitis in as many weeks, we are ready to move when the removals company arrives on Thursday to 'deal with our belongings'.

Today, however, we received another bit of running interference... A month ago when we signed the contract for the home that we shall be renting in Somerset West, we followed the complex rules, as stipulated by Aida properties, so that we could have our pet doggie 'Wendy' with us. The rules stipulated that one may have one pet dog (tick), not too large (tick), and that one must apply in writing (tick), and have the permission of the owners if one is a tenant (tick). Everything was sorted out for our new (temporary) home. You see, even though we own a small townhouse in Somerset West, we cannot move into it ourselves. First, because SMALL is the operative word in the description 'small townhouse' - the small townhouse in question only has two bedrooms (we are four persons), and it has no garage and only space to park one car (we have two cars, a Vespa (praise the Lord), and a BMW motorcycle). Second, we could not move in there because we have a tenant, a good one at that, who lives in the small townhouse.

So, we sought a place to stay, turning down many cheaper, and more suitable complexes and free standing houses, in order to find a place where we could keep our little doggie Wendy.

Today, however, a very obnoxious managing agent told Megan that our request had been summarily denied, and that tenants are no longer allowed to have pets in the complex (the right to a single dog is only open to 'owners'), and that this rule had changed a year ago (even though the contract that they leasing agent had supplied us gave us the full procedure listed above). The contract that we signed clearly stipulated that we were allowed to have our dog if we applied for her, which we did. Moreover, to tell us on Tuesday, when we move on Thursday, that we cannot bring out pet is simply heartless!

Sometimes I think that we (and I include myself in the collective 'we') forget that rules affect the real lives of real people... Compassion, just a little compassion.

So, I prayed 'Lord, please GIVE ME A BREAK!' I feel helpless. I cannot carry a box, drive a car, or even walk without crutches because of the 'break' to my leg... I feel like I have been getting a lot of 'breaks' like that lately. I need encouragement, help, and solutions.

Tonight I shall have to tell my 8 year old daughter that we cannot take our dog with us to Cape Town... Then, in the next 3 days I need to find a good home for Wendy. I don't know how I am going to do it? 'Lord, please give me a break!'

Oh, and did I mention that my car which has been back to Hatfield VW too many times to count (for the same electrical fault) broke down on the way home from Church last night...!?

Monday, March 24, 2008

We've already been enslaved by technology... Is this the future?

The fact that you're reading this post means that you are in some way compromised by technology! I can bet that if you're reading a blog you also do internet banking, own a cell phone, drive a car (perhaps use GPS), and communicate via a 'social network' (like facebook, myspace, or twitter). I'm also fairly certain that you rely on your digital television broadcast for entertainment. Some of us book our flights online, keep our diaries up to date, and even keep track of our social lives online... Except of course when the power goes out...

Yup, if you're anything like me there is no sense in denying that your life is ALREADY largely given over to technology that makes things easier, faster, and more orderly. However, I guess there is a fine line between using technology to help one, and giving technology more authority and merit than it should have over our lives (as this humorous 'Onion' video shows!)

Have a blessed family day! Don't switch on that computer, cell phone, mircowave oven, TV, car... Heck, just live in the Northern Suburbs of JHB, Eskom will ensure that you are completely technology free... I guess there are SOME blessings to power outages in Southern Africa! ;-)

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Johannesburg sunset! I'll miss Jozi... Here's the annoucnement about our future ministry.

A blessed Easter to all!

The wonder of Christ's resurrection has such rich and blessed consequences for us all! I shall be preaching about these tonight at Bryanston Methodist Church (my second last service at BMC).

Of course we know that we can trust His promise that our sins are forgiven, we can know with certainty that we share in His gift of eternal life, and we can have the joy or participating with Him in sharing the gift of newness of life with others. What could be more blessed than knowing that we have true life, that this true and blessed life is intended to get better and last for eternity, and that we have a purpose in life - not only to be blessed, but to find ways of bringing blessing to others! It makes life worth living!

A quick not about the photograph in this picture. Yesterday we had a 'family event' in Johannesburg. Megie's cousins, aunts and uncles, all came together. There were 30 adults and a horde of children. It was wonderful to be together as a family! We caught up with people we should never have lost touch with, and we also had a chance to say our good bye's. This picture was taken from the porch of cousing Jackie's house in Northcliff - I shall miss to Jozi skyline! Although, I do look forward to living on the slopes of the Helderberg mountains with a sea view of False Bay in just over a week! Cape Town (well, Somerset West), here we come!!

The theme of 'new beginnings' runs throughout the Easter message. Easter was a new beginning for our Lord, it was a new beginning for his disciples, and of course it meant a new beginning for all of history and creation!

The Forster family (Megan, Courtney, Liam and I) are also facing a new beginning in just over a week's time! On Thursday this coming week Biddulphs removals will be coming to pack up our belongings. I have a wedding at St Stithians school in Johannesburg on Saturday, on Sunday I shall preach my final sermon at Bryanston, and then my good friend Pete Grassow (an absolute SAINT of God) will be arriving on a 5pm flight to drive to Cape Town in my car (Megie, Courtney and Liam will be in convoy with us in Megie's car) - as an aside, I cannot tell you what friendships such as those with Pete mean to me! It was a real concern to know that we have two cars to get to Cape Town, and I am still on crutches unable to drive (although I have driven to the office this last week - but that is just one gear change (500meters)). How wonderful to know that we have friends such as these! Thank you Pete!

So, what are we heading for in Cape Town? Well, here's a copy of the email that we sent to the Methodist Ministers email list. It explains it all:

First, let me wish all of you Christ's richest blessing this Easter. I pray that your Church's services, and other ministries, will be filled with depth and that many will come to know the love and blessing of our saviour through your ministry during this season of Christ's passion.

Second, I wanted to write a brief note to express my gratitude to the MCSA and EMMU, and share some news about my own ministry going forward.

Some of you may have heard that I am moving from John Wesley College and the Education for Ministry and Mission Unit at the end of this month (March). My moving is a matter of choice, and is motivated by a sense of calling to move in a new direction in ministry. The move has been in the pipeline for about two years now. However, the decision to move was made in December last year. I have not been able to talk about up to this point since the pastoral commission for secondment
first had to run its course. That is done, and so here is some news.

I have had the privilege of serving our Church as the dean of our seminary for the last 4 and a bit years. This has been a time of incredible growth and learning for me and I am grateful to the Church for trusting me with the responsibility of forming our student ministers. I pray that I have left some small (positive) mark on the
lives and ministries of a few of those wonderful servants. I have many fond memories of my ministry in EMMU, and of course as with any position, there have also been some struggles and hardships. I wish the Unit and the Church every blessing and success with the new Seth Mokitimi seminary, and trust that we will go from strength to strength as we train our ministers for effective, Christ led, Spirit empowered, ministry in Southern Africa. I am grateful to Neville Richardson, Dix
Sibeko, Ruth Jonas, Mantso Matsepe, Victor Tshangela, Charmaine Morgan, and Sidwell Mokgothu - each of them has been a blessing to our Church, and a great encouragement to me, over the past 4 years. The small team that makes up the full-time EMMU staff does an incredible amount of work under fairly trying conditions. When one considers that almost half of all of our active ministers in the MCSA are ministers in training, one can begin to understand the importance of
this critical task within our Church's ministry.

I must also express my thanks to the clergy and members of the Bryanston Methodist Church where I have been a member, and had the joy of preaching (almost weekly), for the past four years. I shall so miss BMC - it has been a source of incredible blessing and growth. It truly is one of the remarkable Churches in our denomination. We have much to be proud of!

From the 7th of April I shall be starting a new chapter in my own ministry - I will be working with the International Transformation Network (and particularly closely with my friend Graham Power, a Methodist lay person who has developed a remarkable ministry in recent years) based in Cape Town. My ministry will entail working in three primary areas:

1. Working among business and government leaders throughout the world, "building prototypes of transformation in government, education, business, communities, cities and nations across the world." - http://www.itnafrica.com/

2. With Church leaders and among local Churches in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe in the Global Day of Prayer, helping to foster prayer based ecumenical transformation and healing. Specifically helping the GDOP to further transition from a single day event towards an ongoing process of healing and transformation (i.e., helping to capitalize on the relationships and co-operation in communities, that arise from planning the single day prayer event, to set up community based projects that address the greatest needs in that context,
particularly focussing on projects that bring about healing and transformation such as HIV / AIDS work, economic empowerment and development, reconciliation, etc. - http://www.globaldayofprayer.com/

3. Assisting in the facilitation, and participating in the run up to the next Lausanne Conference on World Evangelism and Mission that is to take place in Cape Town in 2010 - http://www.lausanne.org/ This is the third time that this conference has met since 1974, (first in Lausanne in 1974, then in Manilla in 1989, and next in Cape Town in 2010).

Together with this I shall also continue to write (please keep your eyes and ears open for two very exciting books that Wessel Bentley and I have worked on that will be launched by SYNOD this year!) The first book is a challenging theology of Wesleyan and Methodist Mission (among the authors are Dr Stanley Mogoba, Bp Gavin Taylor, Rev KK Ketshabile, Rev Kevin Light, Rev Gcobani Vika, Prof Joan Millard (Jackson), Rev Peter Grassow, Dr Sol Jacob, and myself...) Second we
have a book that seeks to address some of the 'hot topics' of our context such as the same sex debate, issues of women and feminism, lay ministries, issues of the environment, youth, African interpretations of scripture, leadership and succession in the Church, creative approaches to worship, mission and postmodernism... (among the authors are Rev Mantso Matsepe, Dr Wessel Bentley, Rev Ruth Jonas, Rev Debbie van de Laar, Rev Mogomotsi Diutwileng, Rev John van de Laar, Rev Madika Sibeko, Rev Sox Leleki, Rev Kevin Light, and myself...). We hope that both these books will be available by SYNOD this year! So please do keep a lookout for these great books by our own ministers and theologians! It is my intention to continue with such projects that will enrich our denomination and scholarship in Southern African Christianity. Please keep an eye on my website http://www.spirituality.org.za (see the 'books and resources' section) for information on future publications.

Please could I ask you to keep the Unit, the College, and our family in your prayers as we face the changes that lie ahead?

So, that's our exciting news! I can't tell you how excited we are about the ministry opportunities that lie ahead! I asked to be released to do this ministry two years ago and was not given the freedom to do so. Now, at last, the time has come! It will mean a fair amount of travel (throughout South Africa, Africa, and the world). I start with a trip to Israel in May. Please could you pray for my healing and swift recovery! I need to be able to walk without crutches by then!

As for Megie, Courts, (and of course Liam) they are so excited about the move back to Somerset West. Somerset West is a very special place for us - not only is it the city in which Courtney was born, it was also our home for 6 years when I was a minister at Coronation Ave Methodist Church. We have many close friends in that area, and many wonderful memories of our time there. We shall be renting a house to start with (even though we own a small town-house in Somerset West), and then depending on how our finances work out we would love to be able to buy a more suitable family home.

So! That's our news! It is incredibly exciting and a most incredible opportunity! Thanks for your patience!

Friday, March 21, 2008

A sucker for punishment... editing a paper on Greek Grammatical inconsistencies in John 1:1...

I have been a research associate and lecturer in the Department of New Testament at the University of Pretoria for some years now. I shall continue to serve in this capacity even once I move to Cape Town at the end of this month.

One of the roles that I perform is to edit the academic papers and books (see for example this book on John's Gospel that I edited for Professor van der Watt last year)... Since the majority of the scholars at UP at Afrikaans speaking, my role is to read their books and articles and do a language edit (fix up the grammar, add nuanced English language that picks up on the subtlety of the English vernacular). However, it is not possible to do so without paying attention to the whole of the article or book at hand - most often this requires quite a lot of Greek and Hebrew!!

Now, my Greek is not too bad... I have taught Greek for a few years in the past, and of course teaching a subject is the best way to learn it... But sometimes it does become a little daunting.

Take a look at what I am dealing with this morning....

Lord help!



TAKE FROM ME, gracious God, all that separates me from you ? my sense of past sin, my pride in present achievements, my anxieties for the future. Make me self-forgetful as I gaze on you, and let me know the joy of finding my true self in you. Amen.

- Helen Julian CSF
The Road to Emmaus: Companions for the Journey through Lent

From my friend Sivin Kit's blog.

PS. Take a look at their MAGNIFICENT stations of the Cross at Bangsar Lutheran Church.

On this Holy Friday...

May we all come to know, and appreciate, that grace is God's free gift to us, but that it came at an immeasurable cost. I am overwhelmed by the knowledge that God would become like us, so that we could become more like Him.

What commitment, what courage, what love... So amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.

I pray that you will find blessing, joy and peace - since these are all the gifts of Christ.

Today is human rights day in South Africa - let us also remember in our prayers those who sacrificed their lives out of conviction and love for our secular and religious freedoms. And, let us pray for those who live under oppression of any kind (whether it be Tibetans under Chinese rule, Iraqi's under American occupation, or Palestinians in the Israeli grip of violence and war... Perhaps it is a child living under an abusive parent, or a spouse in a life sapping relationship... Maybe it is someone who lives in drudgery and want, simply doing a draining job to pay their bills, or someone who longs to have the dignity of labour, but can find no work.... Remember those who are ill, those who are disabled, and those who mourn). Christ is enough for all life, and for life in all it's fullness! We know that Christ has overcome all death and sin! We know that in him there is life, fullness of life. We share in the joy of bring that life to the world - what an honour, what a responsibility!

Remember, and be blessed!

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The law of inequal probability... Pornography and the 'average' man.

Yes, even on the internet there is great inequality between men and women... When it comes to blogs and websites, however, it does seem to work the other way to which it works in meatspace.

Sadly, in the 'real world' men still have far great privilege than women - men seem to push their cronies to the front of the line for promotions, salary increases, and all sorts of benefits. Men create prominence for other men.

On the internet, however, women do tend to get a lot more attention than men... Sadly, it is also the negative attentions of men that cause women on the internet to rise in prominence - and trust me, it is seldom 'good men' with 'good intentions' that participate in such activity! No, I'm not being cynical. I am simply being realistic. If you want to test it, simply add the following tags to your blog post and watch your daily hit rate RISE:

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Sadly pornography is a huge problem (mainly for men), and the relative availability of it on the internet must be having a marked influence on society, and particularly on what should be healthy relationships.

I am not sure if anyone has access to research on this issue? I know of a number of Churches (particularly those with men's ministries) that are tackling this issue head on! I think that it is certainly a necessary consideration for Churches in our time.

I can remember working with a group of guys who felt they had an addiction to pornography when I was an army chaplain - in those days (back in th monolithic era) one could only get access to 'illegal' videos and magazines. I shudder to think what happens among young men these days!

As with so much in life, I guess that such ministries can be most effective, not just as interventions (i.e., helping people who have a problem), but also in a preventative manner. I had never considered that Churches should work with young men in their youth groups to consider how Christians ought to respond to pornography. It was not much of an issue when I was a youth pastor (or perhaps it was and I was just naive).

Part of what I shall be doing in my new ministry is working with men, some will be ordinary guys like me, many will be more 'high profile' (business leaders and government persons). I am starting to think about some of the ministry concerns that I will need to approach with care and insight. I would love to find some creative way to engage not only fathers, but also their sons in this issue (both prevention and intervention).

Any ideas would be appreciated!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Photobooth shot while live on Air

I always take my Macbook Pro with me when I go on the radio (one of the programs I do is a live phone in program where people can phone in and ask any questions they have about the Bible in its entirety. Now, while I know quite a few things about the New Testament and Greek, my Hebrew and knowledge of the Old Testament is a little bit shabby)! So, the Macbook comes in handy. This photo was taken using 'Photobooth' on the Mac, and was taken while live in studio on the day of my accident (in fact probably 20 minutes before I was knocked off
my Vespa). Ah those where the day when I could still walk ;-) If you're interested in listening in you can go to http://www.radiopulpit.co.za and listen via the internet feed. My program (called 'The ministry and me') broadcasts ever second Wednesday at 9am CAT (central African time), and the live program ('Do you understand what you're reading?') goes out on Friday mornings at 8am CAT.

Note to self... Get a haircut!

Africa's last and only hope - an annus horribilus

I have been convicted by sentiment of negativity that seems to be gripping our miracle democracy! The one thing that I cannot forget, and that I wish many more of us would remember, is that the new South Africa was birthed in a miracle of grace! With the exception of a few extremist acts, our transition to the contemporary democracy was without incident! We were blessed with an incredible first President, in the person of Nelson Mandela, and we have seen relative peace, prosperity, and change, in our nation in the last 14 years.

I am not naive to the reality that the change is too slow, that it still benefits the elite (now a black elite instead of the white elite of the last dispensation), and that the poorest of the poor still suffer and struggle while many individuals enrich themselves. I can see that western capitalism, individualism and personal gain are eroding African values - yet, I recall that we were birthed in a miracle of grace!

Wouldn't it be sad if we turned out the be the obnoxious, rebellious, good for nothing teenager, that simply get ignored as he self destructs? Our common life surely has more worth than that!

God has a plan, a desire, a will, a dream even, for this nation and we (particular Southern African Christians) have a responsibility to see that we fight the cancer of pessimism that threatens to consume our blessed beginnings.

I have often heard white South Africans speak negatively of their loss of privelage! However, it is still quite a shock when I hear black South Africans express their utter dissapointment and disgust at the new government.

Today I read this blog post The annus horribilis of Africa's last and only hope by Felix Ngasama in which he writes:

The year 2008 is so far proving to be South Africa?s annus horribilis since its rebirth as a new democratic state in 1994. Things haven?t been worse since 1994.

This year has brought with it the aftermath of the ruling party?s most divisive national elections where Jacob Zuma, a man acquitted of rape charges and still likely to stand trial for corruption in the third quarter of this year, trounced President Thabo Mbeki and emerged as the new leader of the ANC, thus making him the likely next president of the country.

Zuma is rumoured to be a traditional and clueless man without formal education who cannot even diarise his day or manage his basic personal finances. This is just part of the doubts and fears of most South Africans ? mostly the middle class ? at the prospect of Jacob Zuma becoming the president of the country. Most South Africans, although they may not admit it publicly, are waiting with bated breath in anticipation of the political buffoonery Zuma might bring with him on the presidential stage, as indicated by his poor showing in a recent BBC documentary titled No More Mandelas where he was interviewed by Fergal Keane but dismally failed to impress.....

The article goes on to explicate the woes of load shedding, potholes in our roads, the poor economy and a variety of other ails. Yes, these things concern me - they are inconvenient and worrying. However, the question is how do we change things!?

Surely, we, as Christians, a people of HOPE, have a responsibility to keep that hope alive? Perhaps we could pray more earnestly, perhaps we need to take moral formation more seriously (a lot of our current struggles comes from poor moral formation), perhaps we can take greater responsibility for the needs that we can begin to address, perhaps we need to own that this is our country, we decide who runs it, and how it should be run... Perhaps, just perhaps, we could begin a conspiracy of hope to overthrow the doom and gloom that threatens to engulf us.

Easter teaches us this valuable lesson - the greatest acts of brutality, torture, and theft (killing God's only son), can be turned in the world's greatest act of grace, newness of life, and redemption! Jesus is still King!

Have a blessed Easter - may it be a season of hope!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Four out of six - a new book in the 'stable'

I have been blessed to write 4 books of my own since 2001 (although the little book of prayers for exams was a colaboration with Roger Prentice in Canada). There are two further projects on the way (the final text for 'Methodism in Southern Africa - a celebration of Wesleyan mission' went to the publisher today, and I am finalising the text for 'What we are thinking', a compilation of essays on issues ranging from same sex relationships and the Church, to issues of justice, feminism, worship, postmodernism, and the environment).

Today the paper copies of my own most recent book (see the green cover on the right) was delivered. It came out so well! Manfred from AcadSA does such great work!! The book is entitled 'An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity'. I so enjoyed writing this book! It is much more adventurous. As I gain confidence I am learning to write with greater freedom and a much more accessible feel - both make for a more engaging read! Here's an excerpt from the introduction of the book:

I have long held the conviction that people cannot be whole unless they have an active and deep spiritual life. One of the great shortcomings of many contemporary western cultures is that they lull us into believing that we can find peace, joy, and fulfilment in what we own, or in what we do. Sadly, many people have come to discover that the pursuit of wealth, power, and recognition by one?s peers, are shallow and meaningless against the backdrop of what it means to be truly alive. When one considers that a human person has physical, psychological and spiritual needs, the pursuit of true and ultimate meaning becomes all the more important in a world that seems so increasingly devoid of depth.

This book charts a different course to the norm. It examines a way of life that may seem quite austere and strange to most of us. However, it will be shown that it is not the spiritual methodology, nor even the content of this particular spiritual path, that bring blessing and peace. Rather, it is passing beyond methods, ideas, and even doctrines, that brings us into the presence of the God who gives and sustains true life; the kind of life Jesus speaks of in John's Gospel (John 10:10).

My prayer is that you will approach this book with an open mind, and an open heart. As you read about the life and spirituality of Henri le Saux (commonly known as Abhishiktananda ? which means 'the bliss of Christ') consider what you could gain by moving beyond the trappings of religion, to the power of true faith itself. I am fairly certain that there may be some aspects of this spiritual approach, and its theological content, that will be unsettling to some ? it is radical, and certainly not what most of us have come to associate with Christian spirituality, particularly not the kind of spirituality that is common in many sub-urban western churches.

Please don't give up on this journey, and on what you may discover, because of a theological or methodological difference. Moreover, I would encourage you not to get hung up with trying to fathom some of the more complex notions that arise from the interaction between Hindu and Christian philosophy and theology. As we shall discover, even these concepts will need to give way to the mystery of the God they seek to express, at some point.

The Pastor and theologian Brian Mclaren comments in one of his books that his grandmother told him that when you?re eating fish you shouldn't worry too much about the bones, rather enjoy the meat, once that?s done you can always come back and see if there is anything left that you want to reconsider or savour. Please treat this book in the same way. If you don?t understand something at first, skip it! It probably doesn't matter much in the big scheme of things anyway! However, when you feel the need to go a little deeper come back to a paragraph, a phrase, or a concept in order to gain a fuller understanding of it.

At the end of the day my desire is not that you will come to think, or act, as Abhishiktananda did. Nor is it that you will think or act as I do. Rather, my prayer for you is that you will have the courage to break through the pressure to conform to common expressions of Christian spirituality. Moreover, I pray that you will work with courage to quench your thirst for truth, and satisfy your hunger for God by charting a path that may not have been taken by any other person. That, in my opinion, is what makes Abhishiktananda's spirituality so unique, valuable, and special. It is his courage to go against convention that makes him so worthy of study.

So, while his method and approach are suited to his particular context, his courage and desire to live for truth and discover God beyond the mere forms and symbols of religion are values that we can all share.

May you come to find that you, and all of creation, are contained within the Bliss of the Triune God.

The other books in the picture are:

An introduction to Wesleyan Spirituality (2001)
A guide to prayer for use during examinations (2007)
Christ at the centre: Discovering the cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths (2007)
(and then the 'new kid on the block')

All of the books can be ordered on my website http://www.dionforster.com (please follow the 'books and resources' link).

On a final note, all of my own books are 'open source' - by that I mean that I would rather have people read them and use them, than simply sell them! So, please email me if you would like an electronic copy of any of my books - I have PDF copies of the Prayer book for use during examinations, Christ at the centre, and An uncommon spiritual path.

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'Walk' the stations of the Cross online - a meaningful cyberfaith.

Before I offer the link to St Paul's Church where one can 'walk the stations of the cross' online, please allow me to offer some personal reflection on the significance of this ministry.

Since my accident 4 and a bit weeks ago I have struggled with the frustration of not being able to get around! First, it is not only difficult to get around on my crutches, it is also quite painful to 'sling' my leg around (getting up stairs, sitting down, standing up, having my leg swell up because it is not elevated, having people bump it etc.). Having broken this leg 3 times already means that I am quite adept at using crutches - I calculated that I have spent about a year on crutches so far (between 3 breaks, and one instances where I tore the ligaments in the ankle). Moreover, I am blessed with good upper body strength (you may not know this, but I was ONCE (in a much younger day) a champion power lifter (squats, bench press, and clean and jerk). In short, I am able to move around on crutches much more effectively and easily than many other people who are either older, having to learn how to use crutches for the first time, or lack the upper body strength to get around.

In spite of this, it is difficult to 'walk' anything more than a few hundred meters. One is always anticipating whether there will be some rest point at your destination, or somewhere along the way.

A further frustration is being dependent upon the good graces of others to get anywhere outside of my home. We are not blessed with accessible (or injury / handicap friendly) public transport. It would be near impossible to get my leg into a South African 'taxi', since I cannot bend either my ankle or my knee, and would have to be lifted into the vehicle by others. So, I rely on kind colleagues, good friends, neighbors, my students, and my saint of a wife, to take me to the people and places I need to get to. Frequently their schedules do not line up with mine, and so I end up waiting for an hour or two to be collected, or have to try and arrange a later or earlier appointment on the other side. This is not to mention the fact that getting my leg into a car is a challenge in itself!

Thankfully, my slight injury will pass! The doctor says 12-18 weeks from the date of the injury and I will be free of the crutches!

However, there are many others, many that I have been praying for, who do not have that hope. Some are confined to wheelchairs, others are confined to their beds. Some struggle with permanent physical disabilities, and others are simply too ill to leave their beds.

I have become so aware of the fact that in spite of such challenges one still desires to experience the blessing of faith, the joy of fellowship, and the encouragement of spiritual engagement.

So, when I received the link to 'walk' the stations of the cross on the internet I was not filled with skepticism, as I have been in the past. This time I had been humbled by God to realise that this is not a gimmick... Rather, it is a chance for many people who cannot move about with ease to engage in a centuries old spiritual tradition that will help them to focus upon, and consider, the depth of the Easter miracle - that God in Christ would come in fragile human form, suffer agony and rejection, die our common death, yet rise triumphantly to eternal life.

I am grateful to be able to 'walk' the stations of the cross this year in spite of my leg! I thank God for the opportunity. Perhaps a 3G modem, a data projector and a laptop would help you to share this wonderful blessing with your congregation - perhaps for those folks in frail care center who won't make it to your Easter service. Or maybe just a laptop and a modem taken to a friend in a hospital, or someone who is home bound. Maybe just sending this link to a mother whose care of her infant children does not allow her to go to 'regular' Church services (because the sensibilities of the 'older folks' are upset when Children act their age in Church) might be a great blessing to her this Easter.

Thank you to St Paul's United Church in Houston Texas. Your ministry has blessed me.

To 'walk' the stations of the cross online please follow the link below. Pray for me, even as I pray for you.

Click here to walk the stations of the cross.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

An Irish blessing on the feast of St Patrick.

Having noted, with interest, Pete's post on the Irish Bishop's decision to change the date of St Patrick's day - and me not having too much time for the decrees of 'Bishops', and also being a little bit of a stickler for 'feast days', today is St Patrick's day for me! PS, don't you love the Irish Steve Jobs picture!! I thought it was fantastic!!!

My mother is Irish (and my father is Scottish), so I have Celtic blood running deep within my veins! Some have said that I can drink, fight, and not spend any money doing so... But that's a different conversation altogether!

Let me start by wishing two of the Celts I know who read this blog a blessed St Patrick's day - blessings Gus and Paddy!

St Patrick is a special person in Christendom, he credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century (that would be the 400's for those who struggle to work out all this 'century' stuff). In popular (non-Celtic) Christendom St Patrick is perhaps best known for a hymn that he never even wrote! It is called St Patrick's breastplate - it is a prayer of blessing for a journey which was probably written in the 8th or 9th century (we know this because the structure and content resembles a 'druidic' a incantation of that period). However, regardless of when it was written it certainly has a strong resonance with both the spirituality and life of St Patrick.

I have often used it as a prayer before a special journey, and more frequently just as a prayer in preparation for a busy day - I have a printed copy just near my desk. Perhaps this prayer will be of some value to you as you prepare for the significant journey of this week.

This is no ordinary week, it is Holy Week, an opportunity for us to reflect on the significance of the passion, sacrifice, and suffering of Jesus Christ leading up to his death (on Holy Friday) and his resurrection to eternal life, winning victory of sin and death on our behalf, on resurrection Sunday. Please set some time aside to contemplate the miracle that God would take on our limited and weak human form, live our life, die our death, and do all this for the sake of our salvation.

St. Patrick's Breastplate is contained in the ancient Book of Armagh, from the early ninth century. along with Patrick's authentic "Confession." St. Patrick is said to have written this prayer to strengthen himself with God's protection as he prepared to confront and convert Loegaire, high king of Ireland. I see in it some similarities to Paul's exhortation to "put on the whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-18), except that it is much more detailed. I recommend St. Patrick's prayer to you as a wonderful prayer of spiritual preparedness.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Now this is creative advertising! Giving away FREE air guitars!

I like people who 'think outside of the box'... a few years ago I saw something similar to the post below in London's Victoria station, they were having an 'air guitar' contest and giving away free 'air guitar' plectrums (also to advertise a radio station if I recall)... Their budget was obviously a lot less than these guys, since they could only afford an AIR PLECTRUM!!!

ha ha!

Here's the story


It was an epic day for hundreds of rockers in Glasgow when Rock Radio Station 96.3 handed out free air guitars to dozens who showed up at the Glasgow City Centre. The good ones were gone quickly while a few locals got greedy and tried to nab more than one air guitar before security was tipped off. A select few Les Paul and Fender Strat models showed up immediately on Ebay being sold at a premium along with an air guitar tuner and free shipping included.

[via Gizmodo]

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The marble of doom... Mac users will know what I'm talking about! add your time...

Yup, even when an Apple Mac doesn't work (which is not that often), it DOESN'T work in style ;-) For those who don't have a mac, the marble of doom comes up when an application 'hangs'. it looks a lot like the picture below (just a lot smaller, of course).

Check out 'The Marble of Doom' and add your time...

So, what are the WORST offenders on the Apple OS platform? Take a guess?! I could have told you that Firefox is up there.... Firefox often crashes on my machine... BUT, it is still prefer it above all of the other browsers.

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The cover of our new book! 'Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan mission'

The cover of our new book!
Originally uploaded by digitaldion.

Here's a 'sneak preview' of the cover of OUR new book! Wessel and I have been working on this project for some years now. It is finally coming to fruition!

Among the authors are past Bishop Stanley Mogoba, Prof Joan Jackson (Joan Millard), Bishop Gavin Taylor, Revs Pete Grassow, Gcobani Vika, , Kevin Light, KK Ketshabile, Dr Sol Jacob, Dr Wessel Bentley, Dr Dion 'bionic leg' Forster.

Here's the 'back page blurb' from the book:

One cannot be a faithful Christian without being in mission! The question is, however, what is true mission? And more specifically what mission does God want you to do in your context? This book is a rich resource that will aid you to work out the answers to these critical questions. In its pages you will find challenging insights from our past, helping you to understand the unique and special mission focus that God has given to Southern African Methodists. You?ll be able to get some insights into what the Church is currently doing in mission, and perhaps even find some places in which you can involve yourself or your congregation. But most importantly, this book will help you to think about how you can take the healing and transforming love of Jesus Christ into an unknown future. The contributors to this book include past and present Bishops, University lecturers, Pastors and Ministers of Churches, all of whom are dedicated to Christ and committed to helping you fulfil your call to mission. This book is a collaboration between the Education for Ministry and Mission Unit of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, and Africa Upper Room Ministries. The profits from the book go towards the ministerial students fund of the Methodist Church and help in the training of ministers.

The book is being marketed and sold through the Africa Upper Room ministries, so to place an order please contact the AURM book manager, John Mitchley at johnmurmafrica@tiscali.co.za. You can contact him telephonically at 011 948-9978, or send a fax to 011 948-9997.

For those who will be attending Methodist SYNODs in May this year, we hope to have this book, AND our next book (which is in the final stages of editorial) launched simultaneously.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

An indespensible tool for preachers and more astute Biblical scholars - free Biblical Greek tools online.

The internet is filled with many wonderful gems (and a few rotten tomatoes!) that can enrich one's study of scripture. I use quite a few 'online tools' when I do research, and even just when I am preparing a sermon or a short talk or presentation.

If you search for 'Powerpoint' on this blog you'll find quite a few posts about the presentation tools that I use, and tips on how to use them.

Today, however, I want to recommend a tool for students and scholars of the Bible that will help to deepen and enliven the content of your presentations or sermons. The tool is called "The resurgence Greek project". It is one of the very best free Biblical Greek resources available on the internet!

Whether you are proficient in Biblical Greek or not, this resource will be invaluable to you in delving a little deeper into your text (particularly if you are wanting to do some exegesis or expository preaching and teaching).

It is simple to use and very powerful. Of course you'll need an internet connection and also a java enabled web browser. You can either do research on a single passage (see the image below). What is amazing is that you simply allow your mouse to hover over a word and it will give you a complete (technical) overview of the word, its use in that context, and an explanation of the meaning.

The second very useful tool for Greek students is that you can produce 'flash cards' and 'vocabulary lists' to help you study for your tests and exams!

Of course along with tools like this (that allow one to do some pretty serious grammatical syntactical work) there are many other great commentaries available for free that will enrich one's historical and social understanding of the text (both in the time when it was written, but also in subsequent interpretations and uses throughout the centuries since). If you can suggest any particularly good, or useful, tools for this please would you drop a line in comments?

I am also looking for some free resources that will help with developing good solid daily devotions, weekly liturgies based on the common lectionary, and then of course sermon illustrations and powerpoint slide backgrounds and video clips.

By the way my pastoral commission went exceptionally well on Wednesday! I hope to get a chance to write a few words about my NEW venture tomorrow!! The long and the short of it is that I now have freedom to speak of the NEW post that I have accepted (it is an international post, that is based in Cape Town). Keep your eyes on this space for details!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mertyl the great (aka my Orange 1967 Vespa VLB 150cc) is back!!

Wohoo! My beautiful orange Mertyl is back in action!! I was called by Uncle Regie of KR and Sons in Zasm Street, Waltloo, Pretoria to say that they had finished the painting, bending, and bashing to get Mertyl back in shape!! She looks great!

In this picture you'll see Mertyl (with her left legshield repaired after the accident), a friend Rev Paul Oosthuizen (with the helmet - he is bringing her home for me), my friend and colleague Prof Neville Richardson (who drove us to collect Mertyl), and Uncle Regie the 'doctor of Vespa' who has her looking as good as new!

I am so pleased that she is back!! However, I won't be riding her for a few months yet - tomorrow is week 4 since my accident, which means I still have 8-14 weeks before I am off my crutches and back up to speed!

Thanks for the help Uncle Regie, Neville, and Paul!! It feels GREAT to have Mertyl where she belongs, safely in my garage at home!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

10 Fantastic Firefox extensions that will make your web use more pleasant and productive

I am an avid Firefox user. I gave up on Internet Explorer in the stone age, and have only used Safari (on the Mac and PC) for a few small tasks. Firefox is just such a great browser! It blocks popups, warns me of phishing scams, and runs reliably and quickly on my Mac.

Another fantastic element of Firefox is that it is constantly improving, and that there are many individual developers out there making 'extensions' to help improve your web experience.

I use a few extensions, among them are Zotero (which is a great plugin that allows you to save academic information from articles, web pages, books, and journals, for easy insertion into your MS Word document (it even works with Open Office!)).

However, here are 10 fantastic extensions to Firefox that will be a great help in your web browsing!

Let me know if there are any others that we should be aware of.

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Please pray for me - an important meeting, and some news to follow.

Please pray for me tomorrow. I have a very important meeting tomorrow afternoon at 4pm with a group of ministers and lay persons from the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. It is part of the process that I am going through in order to be released from my current post (as Dean of the Methodist Church's seminary) in order to move into a new, very exciting, challenging, and incredible ministry.

I'll soon be able to share some news about exactly what I will be doing from next month. All I can say at this point is that I will be moving back to Cape Town. My new ministry will involve work with both Churches and other groups of persons who are seeking to bring about social transformation and spiritual renewal. I will do quite a bit of international travel, have a bit more time to do research and write, and will work with various denominations and Church groupings.

Calling is a complex phenomenon - this is my 17th year as Methodist minister and my 5th year as a full time scholar and the Dean of the Church's seminary, John Wesley College. In these 17 years I have experienced incredible blessing, joy, and fulfillment in serving Christ in the Methodist Church. However, I have become increasingly aware that my primary calling is not to train persons for ministry - it is wonderful to be able to influence change and shape the lives of servants in the Church, but it does seem to remove me from the 'coal face' of mission and evangelism by just one step! Moreover, while I enjoy the challenges and rigours of academic life; research, conferences, teaching, supervision, and writing, these are not the primary avenues in which I believe God is calling me to spend my energies and efforts. I will continue to teach and supervise students in their senior degrees (Masters and Doctorates), and I will still engage in research and academic writing, but I will do it out of choice, not as a requirement for my job.

Those who are close to me will know that I have spoken of moving into a new avenue of ministry that will bring me closer to using my influence, gifts, passions, and abilities to bring about healing and transformation on a much wider scale. Just such an option was presented to me some years ago, and arose again at the end of last year. I am so excited about the new possibilities and prospects!

So, please pray for me, I long simply to be obedient and to spend my life doing what I can do most effectively to bring about God's will, to God's glory, here on earth.

The Vatican comes up with a 'firmware update' on the 7 deadly sins...

In the sixth century, Pope Gregory handed down a list of "seven cardinal vices." Now the Vatican has issued an additional seven "social sins."

You offend God not only by stealing, taking the Lord's name in vain or coveting your neighbor's wife, but also by wrecking the environment, carrying out morally debatable experiments that manipulate DNA or harm embryos," said [Bishop Gianfranco] Girotti, who is responsible for the body that oversees confessions.

The seven social sins are:

1. "Bioethical" violations such as birth control

2. "Morally dubious" experiments such as stem cell research

3. Drug abuse

4. Polluting the environment

5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor

6. Excessive wealth

7. Creating poverty

The original deadly sins:

1. Pride

2. Envy

3. Gluttony

4. Lust

5. Anger

6. Greed

7. Sloth

(posted on boingboing).

So, what do you think? Is there anything that they've missed? What about "thou shalt not purchase a Windows 'beige box', it offendeth the Lord", or "4x4 drivers shall not drive off the pavement and smash the Vintage Vespa's of innocent drivers", OR, what about some POSITIVE commandments to COMBAT sins, like "thou shalt purchase the books of Dion Forster"... Sorry, that last one doesn't count... It was just a thought... BUT, the first two are serious ;-)

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The best Priest in the world! Can you guess who?

I'm sure that there are very many contenders for the title of 'best priest in the world'. However, in truth, there can be ONLY ONE, and his name is Father Ted!

If you don't know who Father Ted is, you haven't lived yet!

Seriously, I like Fr Ted because he is so 'human'. He's a real person, with real concerns, and real questions, Oh, and he's NOT really a real person! In fact he is a fictional character with a great Irish accent!

Well, if you're fan of Fr Ted you may like the picture set in the links below.

The Guardian's got a slideshow of photos from the annual Ted Fest, a gathering for fans of Father Ted, a sacrelicious show about drunken, cheating, foolish priests banished to a remote Irish island that never ceases to cause me to fountain milk from my nostrils (even when I haven't been drinking milk). Father Ted was created by Graham Linehan, who also made The IT Crowd, the nerd super-sitcom that's coming back for a third season next fall. Link (Thanks, Mark!)

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The cutest, and coolest, free piece of software you will ever get!

Is your screen full of dust, smudge marks, maybe even potato chip grease? Clean it today for free! Simply click the link below!

Start Cleaning now?

Update: If you?re looking for the screen saver version of this, please check out Dog Screen Cleaner Screensavers for this pug plus 3 new dogs. Available for PC and Mac.

Also video version (4.7MB AVI file)

Praise God! Peace wins over injustice! Non-violence wins a small victory in America.

You may remember that I reported some time ago about a Mathematics Professor who was fired for taking a pacifist religious stance (since she is a Quaker) against the University pledge that students were expected to sign. The pledge asked students to do whatever was necessary to protect the United States of America, all that she did was to insert the word 'nonviolently' as a qualifier to the word 'necessary' - and because of that she was fired.

Well, here's the follow up story! Thank God that peace has won a victory of injustice! These truly are signs of the Kingdom of God, an eternal, peaceful, Shalom.

Atonius sez, "Marianne Kearney-Brown, the Quaker math teacher who was fired by California State University for inserting the word 'non-violently' into her loyalty oath to the state, has been reinstated after Atty General Jerry Brown clarified that the oath doesn't require employees to take up arms."
The idea that someone could be fired for refusing to sign a loyalty oath came as a surprise to many Californians who were unaware that public employees are still required to sign it. The pledge was added to the state Constitution in 1952 at the height of anti-Communist hysteria and has remained a prerequisite for public employment ever since. All state, city, county, public school, community college and public university employees are required to sign the 86-word oath. Noncitizens are exempt.
Link (Thanks, Antonius!)

See also: Cal State University fires Quaker for inserting "nonviolently" into loyalty oath

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

A sub 3 hour Argus!

Yup, I woke up to see the first riders leave for the 109km Cape Argus, and guess what!? THEY did it in under 3 hours (in fact I think all of the riders in the 'elite' group did it in under 3 hours). I, on the other hand, did a sub 'NO' hours run (unless there can be a tme for getting on my crutches and making my way to the couch! ;-)

This year would have been my 10th Argus (I had an entry with the Power / MAD (Make a diference) team, but decided not to ride, back in January already, because it would mean taking leave in my last month of work at EMMU / John Wesley College).

Megan and I have agreed that we will ride together next year. That will be a good motivation for my recovery!

Well done to all those who rode!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Scanning the brains of jazz musicians.

This research shows that Jazz musicians 'switch off' (or at least slow down) parts of their brains - I know a few first year students who have the capacity to do the same thing! Ha ha.

Seriously, this is quite interesting. Since Jazz requires the capacity to move outside of the confines of what is generally acceptable in the composition music (through the inclusion of 'blue notes', crossing octaves, combining irregular timing etc. in the composition). I'm sure that there are many other things that require a similar capacity (e.g., surgeons who deal with the gore of cutting up a human body, social workers who face the brutality of human frailty and economic subjugation in their clients, sex workers who have to perform unnatural acts for survival, ministers who are constantly faced with crises, deaths, and sorrow, oh and of course Justin Timberlake fans.... say no more).

I thought this was quite interesting.

According to new research, jazz musicians unconsciously switch off regions of the brain involved in self-censorship and firing up the area linked to self-expression. The scientists from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders used fMRI to scan the brains of jazz musicians as they played a specially-designed piano keyboard. From a press release:
The scientists found that a region of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a broad portion of the front of the brain that extends to the sides, showed a slowdown in activity during improvisation. This area has been linked to planned actions and self-censoring, such as carefully deciding what words you might say at a job interview. Shutting down this area could lead to lowered inhibitions, Limb suggests.

The researchers also saw increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which sits in the center of the brain?s frontal lobe. This area has been linked with self-expression and activities that convey individuality, such as telling a story about yourself.

?Jazz is often described as being an extremely individualistic art form. You can figure out which jazz musician is playing because one person?s improvisation sounds only like him or her,? says (professor Charles) Limb. ?What we think is happening is when you?re telling your own musical story, you?re shutting down impulses that might impede the flow of novel ideas.?
Link to press release, Link to scientific paper in Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE (via Michael Leddy's Orange Crate Art)

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Retro counter-culture: 1960's Biker photography.

I love old photographs, and I am particularly partial to photographs that deal with the 'underside' of culture. There is little doubt that being a leather clad biker in 1960's Middle America was pretty much as savory as being a machine gun totting Nigerian in the centre of Johannesburg today...

I will admit that I have never been that much of a 'rocker' fan (boy racer bikes, brillcream ducktails, and leather jackets, workers boots, and bluejeans). I was always much more intrigued by the 'Modernist' movement of England in the early 1960's (suits, two tone shoes, racial integration, Vespa and Lambretta scooters, and the music of the The Who, The Kinks, and Southern Soul revival). In fact, my love for my Vespa started because I was a Mod back in the early 1980's (when modernism went through something of a revival with the music of The Jam and The Style Council).

Amazingly, it was the lyrics of the Special A.K.A (and their 1970's song "Free Nelson Mandela", which not surprisingly was banned in South Africa) that first got me thinking about our diabolic political situation in South Africa. The very first poem that I ever had published (in the WITS University United Democratic Front newsletter (a then grouping of the banned ANC, PAC, IFP and various other liberation movements) was inspired by the Southern Soul movement of the 1980's mods. Amazing issues of segregation and racial abuse were still common in the UK as late as 1980. PS. I still own a 1965 Fishtail Parka (with fur on the hood, patches all over it... And of course, a somewhat squashed Vespa! ha ha!)

Well, here's the book of 1960's biker photographs:

 Images Indelible Mar08 388
In the mid-1960s, photographer Danny Lyon spent several years riding with the Chicago Outlaws and documenting their scene on film. The resultant book, The Bikeriders (1968), is recognized as the first photo book about the biker subculture. It's currently available from Chronicle Books. Smithsonian magazine looks back on that moment in Lyon's career, and tells the story of the portrait above of club members Sparky and CowBoy. From Smithsonian:

 Wp-Content Authors Ben-Watts The-Bikeriders01Cowboy and Sparky, two pals on bikes. They've just been to a motorcycle race in Schererville, Indiana, and their girlfriends will soon get off work from the Dairy Queen. It is November 1965, and CowBoy - Irvin P. Dunsdon, who uses the capital B to this day - is 23 years old. He feels he's on top of the world.

He and Sparky ? Charles Ritter - met in the Army and bonded instantly. When CowBoy got out of the service in 1964, he moved not to Utah, where he came from, but to Gary, Indiana?Sparky's hometown?so he could be there when Sparky got back from Vietnam a year later.

Now, in '65, they stick up for each other. They take no grief from anyone. They share the joy of biking on the open road. They belong to the Gary Rogues, a local motorcycle club.
Link to Smithsonian, Link to buy The Bikeriders book

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Friday, March 07, 2008

If this is true, it would seem that black on white racism is alive and on the increase... What do you think?

I have followed the story of Llwellyn Kriel with great interest. Many will remember that he was taken to task for an 'honest' blog post that highlighted some of the inefficiencies that were resulting from purely race based appointments in South African media companies. In short, he was charged with misconduct for his blog post, and threatened with being fired from his job.

Kriel is something of a loose canon to say the least. I have not always agreed with his points of view, and I certainly am not as paranoid about the leadership issues we face in South Africa as he is. However, the converse is also true - I have often agreed with his sentiments, and admired his courage to speak out as a minority in a nation where the minority is often vilified as racist simply for stating facts. I have had to face similar abuse (within the Church) when I have taken an unpopular stance on moral, ethical, theological, and structural issues. It is a weak person's retort to fall back onto race or gender as a first retort when one cannot offer a credible counter argument right away. If one considers the issue at hand, interacts with the persons who hold a particular point of view, and then comes to the point of discovering that he or she is racist or sexist, that is an entirely different matter. However, I have seen far too often how a speaker is simply silenced and dismissed, without any engagement, as a racist for hold an unpopular or challenging point of view.

I find such 'gut responses' both offensive, and informative. It offends me because it is seldom true in the first instance, and particularly very seldom true in the sense that it is implied (as an out and out attack on a particular racial grouping!) It is informative in that it tells me a great deal about the insecurities of the individual or institution that makes the false allegation - in some sense 'playing the race card' (as it has become known in South Africa) is an act of racism itself! How does a 'white South African' respond, as a minority with a history of racial abuse, to a disenfranchised black majority who have a right to feel slighted and angered? When you are labeled as a racist there is no other option but to fight (with a vastly unequal power base) to prove yourself true, or simply to retreat. Retreat, in my experience, is the most common response. Labeling someone a racist (because of his or her race) assumes that the opinions of the 'previously advantaged' must be subjugated and disregarded not because of their content, but because of the race of the person who is making them... That is an abuse of power.

You see, racism has more to do with power than it has to do with race. Difference is an accepted reality - that perspective was the gift the Bantu Steve Biko, James Cone, and Bishop Desmond Tutu taught us! We need to appreciate our diversity and uniqueness! Black consciousness intended to instill in black South Africans a pride in being black! The 'rainbow nation' is so magnificently beautiful because of the diversity of the colours that make up the rainbow. It is not expected that the colours should be blended into one monotone, no, they need to admired, celebrate, and accentuated like the richness of diversity that makes up the vast array of colours in an exquisite work of art.

Being 'white' however is not an easy thing in South Africa today! You see, racism comes to the fore when power is added to race. When one takes one's race and uses it to subvert the rights and dignity of others (when one uses one's power, whether it be the power of education, the power of wealth, the power of numbers, or any other power, to devalue the worth and dignity of another, simply because they are of a different race, that is racism). In recent years I have often felt prejudiced against when I have sat in meetings where appointments are to be made and well qualified white candidates are put aside because of their race. I have at times been told to be silent, to keep my opinions to myself, and not to think that I have any right to contribute because I am white, and white people in South Africa should not speak since we have had our turn. Of course such actions do represent to a small minority of the responses that I face every day, and they are certainly not characteristic of the Church, or of the views of the majority of South Africans! Yet, when they do occur, they still sting.

Well, here's the good news! I still believe that South Africa has a wonderful future! I am saddened when I hear of the polarization of black and white South Africans (such as the legitimate concerns of the University of the Free State racist video which was made by 4 white students). I believe that we are a nation that is built on miracles, grace, compassion and magnanimous acceptance. You only need to read Nelson Mandela's 'Long walk to freedom' to understand what an incredible miracle it is that we transitioned without a full scale civil war from Apartheid rule to oligarchy (let's not fool ourselves that there are any democracies in the modern world!) without bloodshed!

I hold firmly to our diversity of culture, and the general populace's willingness to face hardship, struggle, and put up with very little change over the last 14 years, while the upper echelons of black empowerment business and politics enrich themselves and squash corruption.

I do believe that we, as a people, have the fortitude to overcome this evil. I believe that God desires it, and that there are enough people of faith who long to fully know the just, pure, equitable, and miraculous God from whom all true and harmonious living comes. And in this climate such a reality is sure to come to pass - but of course we will need to work hard, together with God, if we wish to see it birthed in our lifetime.

If I did not believe it I would long since have left South Africa. In truth there have been some very tempting offers elsewhere in the world, and there have been times where my resolve has wavered. I almost took up a post in the US that would have started in July this year.

But no, I believe, and we (my family and I) choose to stay! We are South Africans, for better or for worse.

Of course, there are those who have first-hand, and brutal, experience of the new kind of abuse and oppression that is starting to raise its head in South Africa - I hear whispers of it all the time. There is an incredible pressure in a 'one party state' to 'tow the party line'.

Here is Llewellyn's last blog post - it is disturbing, frightening, depressing, and clearly emotional. [I am fairly certain that it will not be kept on their site for very long, so I have copied it in full. If you find this post in a few weeks time and still want to read his post, please email me and I'll send you a copy]. Here is another damning perspective from the Sunday Herald...

I pray that Kriel is wrong. What do you think?

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Six years old and kicking the Eeepc's butt!

This is a picture of my very first Sony Vaio laptop (a Vaio PCG-C1MGP). It is Soooo old that it was built without wifi and only has one USB 1.0 port! It has a 20 gig hard drive, and the max ram it could take is 384MB.

Amazingly, my 3G modem works in it. It also has an extended battery that gives about 8 hours. They keyboard is FANTASTIC (in fact I typed quite a lot of my Doctorate on this little machine!)

So, there you have it, 6 years old, smaller than an Asus Eeepc, it runs Linux and Windows, and thanks to my accident I have rediscovered it (I'm using it to edit the book Wes and I have that is coming out soon)!

The best thing of all!? It cost me nothing! Geek value for free! [Although, I can't remember what I traded for it when I got it from Paul 5 years ago]

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How to earn a living as a writer with just 1,000 followers of your work!

Yes, I know that for the 'pious', 'un-worldy', readers of this blog, for whom money is of no consequence whatsoever, this post will be of no use... Ha ha! Just kidding! I know we all have bills to pay!

For the struggling authors (like Wessel and I, who are needing to have our kids braces tightened and get new retreads put on old car tires...) it may be of some use ;-)

Regardless, there are two reasons for this post. It makes a lot of sense! Although, in truth, I think that finding 1000 people (described as 'fans' below) who would buy EVERYTHING that I write will be a little more difficult than the author things... Secondly, this is post number 667... I couldn't exactly leave my blog on 666 for too long!

This comes from an original post entitled 'How to earn an artist's living in the 21st century: 1,000 True Fans'

Kevin Kelly's just posted "1000 True Fans," a business plan for all kinds of creators in the twenty first century:

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans...

Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day's wages per year in support of what you do. That "one-day-wage" is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let's peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.

Link (via Waxy)

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An amazing (stalker) tool... Skype, MSN, ICQ, and googletalk (plus GPS location) from a Nokia phone!

My friend Paul gave me a Skype call this morning - nothing too strange about that. However, what was remarkable was that he was calling me from his Nokia E90 cell phone.

He was using a little utility called fring which is free to use... The easiest way to use it is to simply point your phone's browser to the URL, it should automatically detect what device you're using, download it, and once installed you're ready to go!

If you have a phone that has a built in GPS receiver people will not only be able to chat with you (either via voice, or free text), but they will also be able to click on the 'find me' link to see where you are a google map!

It is amazing how such complex communication technology can operate, do so much, and be free!

I can see myself using this quite a bit when I am traveling overseas. All that you need to do is fire up fring, find an open Wifi spot (of which there are PLENTY in the UK and USA), and then you can do free voice chat with your friends and family on skype (or even on fring if they have it installed on their mobile phone). Moreover, within a few seconds they can see exactly where I am on the globe!


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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Singularity and the Matrix... Spiritual Machines... Mmmmm... Contemporary crazies!? Maybe not?

John van de Laar gave an interesting persepctive on a 'religious movement' that has formed around the central ideas of the first Matrix movie.
I can certainly understand the appeal - after all, throughout history generations have always attempted to locate the sacred within the tools, symbols, and nomenclature of their contemporary culture. The Matrix seems to be so expressive of some of the existential questions, queries, and framing aspects of our reality (these include such issues as the relationship between humans and our technology, eternal existence in terms that we can understand, issues of good and evil etc.)

Some scientists have suggested that these issues may have a far greater influence, and in fact be truer than just sociology, theology, and psychology, could explain. Some others have suggested it is in fact nothing more than 'wish projection' (along the lines of Feuerbach and Freud's theory).

In short, every generation has a built in need to believe that there is more to life than just being born, living, and dying - we seek a transcendent truth (which you can read about in my Doctoral Thesis, by the way - please see the chapter on Neuroscience (chapter 3 I think it was) where I discuss the holistic and transcendent a-priori neural operators that are present in the human brain from birth). In our generation the 'mythology' of our time is intrinsically linked with technology (particularly those technologies that make our lives easier, and in some sense bearable).

A final perspective, which I think is the most rational of them all, is the perspective offered by Professor Cornel du Toit, who suggests that any duality that we create between ourselves and our technology is a false duality. Just think about it, your cell phone is not just an object that performs technological functions, it has become an integral part of your life. For many of us it extends our ability to communicate, it offers us a sense of security, connection with others, and for some (like myself) it even regulates how one lives one's life (e.g., my cell phone has a diary function that alerts me to appointments etc.). Another example cited by du Toit is contemporary banking. We have created both a hard technology (notes, coins, cards, ATM machines) and a soft technology (values, exchanges, commodities etc. which cannot be felt or weighed, or seen, but which have value). Just try to live your life without money and you will soon see how we have allowed a 'created' technology to become an integral part of our identity. How many people do you know whose identity is formed by what they earn, what they drive, and what they use?

I tend to agree with this - faith and technology are not separate realities that are discovering one another, they are complex interwoven system of creating and forming meaning. Both are dependent upon each other.

Anyway, enough of my 'ramblings'....

Read the article below for more on the concept of 'singularity':

Science fiction writer and mathematician Rudy Rucker takes a running swing at the idea of the Singularity, the moment in human history when we disassemble raw matter, turn it into "computronium" and upload ourselves to it, inhabiting a simulation of reality rather than real reality. It's a fine and provocative turn from our Mr Rucker, who has a fine and provocative and deeply weird and wonderful mind.
Although it?s a cute idea, I think computronium is a fundamentally spurious concept, an unnecessary detour. Matter, just as it is, carries out outlandishly complex chaotic quantum computations just by sitting around. Matter isn?t dumb. Every particle everywhere everywhen is computing at the maximum possible rate. I think we tend to very seriously undervalue quotidian reality...

This would be like filling in wetlands to make a multiplex theater showing nature movies, clear-cutting a rainforest to make a destination eco-resort, or killing an elephant to whittle its teeth into religious icons of an elephant god.

This is because there are no shortcuts for nature?s computations. Due to a property of the natural world that I call the ?principle of natural unpredictability,? fully simulating a bunch of particles for a certain period of time requires a system using about the same number of particles for about the same length of time. Naturally occurring systems don?t allow for drastic shortcuts.

Link (via Futurismic)

By the way, my own doctoral research considered some of the theological issues in relation to these notions - you can download a copy of my Doctoral Thesis here (please see chapter 2). Two other superb books to read are:

The age of spiritual machines, and Are we spiritual machines. By Kurzweil.
Wiredlife - who are we in the digital age? By Jonscher.

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Quaker fired from American University for being non-violent.... go figure!?

This story is both sad and disturbing... How far do you go, as a Christian, to stgand for your faith convictions?

This woman simply made her beliefs known, and stuck by them, and so she was fired. I guess it is a little more complex (in that while individuals should have the right to freedom of conscience, that right should not infringe on the rights of others). For example, many Americans believe that it is their religious right to wage war for their way of life! Should one allow those persons the right and freedom to exercise their religious will!? What do you think?

Here's the story:

A Quaker math teacher at California State University East Bay has been fired for inserting the word "nonviolently" into the loyalty oath that state employees are required to sign. The woman, who works with young people who need remedial help with math, has always made this change in the loyalty oaths she's signed throughout her long teaching career, but the CSU East Bay administration fired her for refusing to pledge to violate her religion's tenets to in defense of the Constitution (a document that guarantees religious freedom).

Each time, when asked to "swear (or affirm)" that she would "support and defend" the U.S. and state Constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic," Kearney-Brown inserted revisions: She wrote "nonviolently" in front of the word "support," crossed out "swear," and circled "affirm." All were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said...

Modifying the oath "is very clearly not permissible," the university's attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. "It's an unfortunate situation. If she'd just signed the oath, the campus would have been more than willing to continue her employment."...

"All they care about is my name on an unaltered loyalty oath. They don't care if I meant it, and it didn't seem connected to the spirit of the oath. Nothing else mattered. My teaching didn't matter. Nothing."


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Monday, March 03, 2008

All in good time - patience is a virtue

Originally uploaded by [dudu79].

Isn't this an amazing old Vespa VLB? This is one that was restored to an almost 'new' retro look - if you look at some of my older photos you'll see that my Vespa originally came in a similar silver to this.

If my Vespa is back up to speed before we leave Pretoria I am going to put my white wall tires on her! I have a set just like this in a box in my office just begging to go into action!

Patience is a good thing - but so is a little bit of healthy motivation!

Moof! You don't know the interwebs until you've studied up on the Clarus 'dogcow'

'Moof' that's the sound the dogcow makes... This internet icon was created in the Apple studios in 1983!

The name Clarus is related to the now defunct Apple office suite called Claris Works. For those who remember early Apple operating systems (I still have a Powerbook running system 6 (0r is it 7) in my cupboard!), the dogcow was used by Apple to show the colour and orientation of paper in the print dialogue.

When Apple released OS X the dogcow was no more... Some diehard fanboys petitioned the company to reintroduce it... But alas, it had long since joined other dogcows in the sky.

Some of us still remember the days before the internet... When I first studied towards a BSc (back in the days when science was still busy being invented), the fastest computers were intel 286 SX 25's (or some such), running UNIX and we communicated via usenet and gopher.

By the way, this last week saw the 'death' of an internet icon - the Netscape Browser.

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Secular Sabbath - it's time to unplug

I am 'wired' - by this I mean that there is never a time of the day or night where I cannot access the internet (and particularly my email). My trusty Nokia E90 and iPhone keep me connected to the net when out and about.

Other than that I have wireless network at home to which I connect using the wifi adaptor on my Macbook Pro.

I will confess that I like to remain connected! I like to check my email, occasionally check the RSS feeds on the blogs and websites that I follow, and be able to connect and communicate with ease and reliability wherever I am.

Since my accident, however, I have been trying NOT to answer my phone! It is amazing - I have a message indicating that I am on sick leave, with contact numbers and details for persons to phone if they have work queries, and yet I still get around 10 calls a day saying things like "I know you're off, but could you please...", "Sorry to worry you, but would you mind..."

At first I felt guilty, but then I thought, I am not well, there are others who can deal with the queries and so I have plucked up the courage NOT to answer those calls. Let me tell you, it is NOT easy! I feel guilty, lazy, and worry that others may not answer the calls as quickly or directly as I would.

There are many of us who feel this way about dealing with things. As I think about it, there are a few reasons why we feel this:

1. We want people to think about us as efficient, effective, helpful, and validate our worth. So, we sacrifice our own wellbeing and needs to try and get others to create an impression of us that is unrealistic.

2. We are not secure enough to trust other persons who can do our work as well as we can (although differently) to just do it! This is NOT a good thing! We tend to secretly believe that we're indispensable, and others will manipulate this 'secret' feeling in order to get us to do what they want, when they want it and how they want it.

3. Perhaps we haven't set up good systems to work in spite of us. This is not a good thing in the Church in particular! A great deal of what every efficient, clever, hard working person should do is to work themselves out of a job by helping others to develop and be able to do what they're doing. A good leaders should empower others to do their work, and do it even better than they can. This not only gets the work done but develops participation and sustainability.

I'm sure that there are many other things that you could add to this list (please feel free to do so in the comments!).

What trigured this post? Well, the following article from www.lifehacker.org

Self-described "techno-addict" Mark Bittman (who sleeps with his laptop on his night table to check email first and last thing) decided to unplug every weekend for 24 hours, a day he calls "secular Sunday." At first the experiment made him twitchy and nervous, but over time, he came to enjoy his unplugged day. He writes:

I would no more make a new-agey call to find inner peace than I would encourage a return to the mimeograph. But I do believe that there has to be a way to regularly impose some thoughtfulness, or at least calm, into modern life - or at least my version. Once I moved beyond the fear of being unavailable and what it might cost me, I experienced what, if I wasn't such a skeptic, I would call a lightness of being. I felt connected to myself rather than my computer. I had time to think, and distance from normal demands. I got to stop.
Like other geeks, on my recent vacation I also found that unplugging does bring about a calm you can't find in your RSS reader. Good night, secular Sunday. See you next week.
I Need a Virtual Break. No, Really.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fake intimacy and cabin fever...

It has been two weeks since my accident. I am pleased to say that I am coming along nicely. Yesterday was my first real trip out of the house since being released from hospital a few days ago. There are some things that you simply cannot ask others to do, like the wedding of a friend. So, there I was, on crutches, light headed, in a a bit of pain, dressed in a suit and clerical collar, in a MAGNIFICENT private Chapel (8 Hope Road, Mountainview in Houghton Estate, Johannesburg), with my friends Mike and Jodi and two witnesses.

It was good to be out, but trips like that take their toll. My knee and ankle seem to be the most uncomfortable at the moment. I am not sure if it is the thought of plates and screws wedged into the bones, or if there truly is some discomfort. Regardless, having my leg out of its usual elevated position left it quite swollen, throbbing, and uncomfortable. The infection seems to be abating a bit - the colour in my leg (around the wound) is starting to change form a yellow / blue, to a more healthy pinkish hue (forgive me for the graphic descriptions, but trust me words are better than pictures at this point)! This means that my fever has been relatively low. I am grateful for that since the fever has left me so FLAT and listless for the last two weeks that I have not be able to move, let alone do anything creative at home. I have slept through most days, occasionally reading, sending a few emails to make sure that the most necessary things are happening at the College etc.

Then, of course, since getting my replacement Macbook Pro, I have been enjoying the delights of virtual communication! I have done a few video calls with my friend Paul in Cape (using skype), and I have checked some flickr photos, read my friends blogs, and very occasionally dipped into facebook.

While I am still not ready to 'face the world', I am getting there.

I found this funny little image (above) that explains my 'cabin fever'.

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When violence goes wrong - the coin toss from the movie 'No country for old men'

I'm not sure how many of you have read the book (or seen the movie) No country for old men, that walked away with all the Oscars last week?

Well, here's a magnificent parody of the 'coin toss' scene!

So, what do you call? Heads or tails!? ;-)

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Why does power have the capacity to silence the truth? Jacob Zuma and the Tax 'man'

I am well aware of the complexity of the struggles for leadership and control in the ruling party in South Africa, the African National Congress. Politics is a dirty business! The fight for control of a nation is an ugly and dirty one. I am not so naive to think that Thabo Mbeki is without blemish (in fact the human rights abuses that he has perpetrated against persons who are HIV+ and could have survived much longer had he not adopted his maniacal and denialist stance against antiretroviral medication).

However, what causes me great disdain, and so becomes the source of some of my intercessory prayer, is the saga of immorality and thuggery that surrounds Jacob Zuma! I fear for our nation if we should elect someone of his moral and ethical stature to the presidency (whether it be the presidency of the nation, or the party that runs the nation)...

Just today the Mail & Guardian reported that there is another issue of concern around Mr Zuma - it would seem that he has not declared his income to the South African Revenue Service. Sadly the power of the ANC to squash the truth has already been seen (as the Scorpions, South Africa's directorate of special operations has been all but disbanded for doing nothing other than showing corrupt people for who they are).

I hear the conversations about immigration more and more frequently among thinking South Africans (both black and white). This is SO sad! Why should the good move so that the wicked can prosper.

Today I read these verses in scripture (Proverbs 24:19-20):

Do not fret because of evildoers Or be envious of the wicked; For there will be no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out.

Please could you join me in praying that justice, change, and moral renewal will come to pass in our fair land? Let's do all that we can to bring about moral regeneration and renewal in our land. Truly friends - we deserve better than this!! We deserve leaders who are trustworthy, honest, and are not so overcome by their personal agenda's that the needs of the nation have to take second place... Let's pray that wickedness gets put aside, and that the lives of the wicked are transformed.

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