Dion's random ramblings

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mertyl, back in the mix!

Yesterday was one of those GREAT days!  A great day for me is one that involves enough time to give attention to my family, some time to do a bit of work, and an added bonus is when I can ride my Vespa.  Well, I got to do ALL of those things AND I also got to watch the Western Province (WP jou lekka ding!) give the Bluebulls a good thrashing at Newlands.  For the last few months I have had the incredible joy of watching Rugby from my friend Graham's corporate box.  Yesterday however, I went to the rugby with my friend Dawie and his son (Dawie Jnr) and we sat on the railroad stand.  It was COLD, COLD, COLD!  But there truly is no better way to watch a live game than to sit on the stands!

Well, we're almost at the end of June and that means that I have been in my new post for almost 3 months!  It is incredible to consider how quickly time flies.  These last three months have been an absolute whirlwind introduction to my new post!  I have spent about a month (maybe a day or two more) of these three months traveling to various interesting and exciting places throughout the world and South Africa.  I am feeling much more settled and starting to feel that I can add some value to the people and institutions that I am serving.  Our work with the Lausanne movement is starting to pick up at a rapid pace!  We are working hard to make all of the arrangements to welcome the scholars and missionaries from all over the world for the momentous event in 2010.  I also recently discovered that a fellow South Africa, Dr Daryl Balia (see http://www.div.ed.ac.uk/balia for some details) is involved in arranging the Edinburgh 2010 meetings of the World Council of Churches.  I hope to see him when I go to the UK in September.

Well, God has been wonderfully faithful to us as a family!  Liam is healthy, Courtney is settling well (and got a good report from school), Megie is working hard and her new business is growing well.  So, we have much to give thanks for!  Oh, and did I mention that Mertyl is back in the mix!?  Mertyl, for those who don't know, is my Orange 1967 Vespa Sprint!  Mertyl and I went for a little ride yesterday.  It was lovely!

It is 2090 and global warming causes London to be flooded - here's what it looks like


Squint/Opera's photography exhibit "depicts imaginary scenes in London in 2090, when rising sea levels have inundated the city." They made it look like fun! Flooded London

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Western Province vs the Blue Bulls at Newlands!


Going for a ride on Mertyl the Vespa!

Megan asked me to pop out to pick up some bread and milk, so I decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to take Mertyl my Vespa for a quick spin. Liam is becoming quite fond of Mertyl! Every chance that he gets he wants to sit on her!

I'm leaving to watch the rugby at Newlands rugby stadium in an hour or so - Ppppprrrrroooooovvvvviiiiiinnnncccceeeee!

Table Mountain and St George's Cathedral

Isn't this a lovely view? I've driven along this road many, many times. This is the first time that I've noticed the mountain in background. Cape Town is a beautiful city!

Prayer in parliament

This morning about 100 or Christians from across the Cape Town city and surrounds gathered in Parliament to pray for South Africa. The focus of the prayers this morning was on the youth of our nation.

I had been asked to share the devotion. It was such a joy to see younger people and older people of all races praying with passion and commitment for God's grace to be established in justice, mercy and provision.

The following verse has been resonating within me for the last few days:

'Mantain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed' Isa 56:1

Thursday, June 26, 2008

In Swellendam at a Catholic convent

Today we drove drove to Swellendam to look at a piece of property that the Catholic Church is looking to get rid of. It would make a great community centre for economic empowerment and social development. It is a lovely sunny day!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Getting the best out of people - some advice from Desmond Tutu

'We all blossom in the presence of one who sees the good in us and who can coax the best out of us' - Archbishop Desmond Tutu

My back yard (well, sort of)...

It is a magnificent winter's day in Cape Town today! The sky is clear, there is now wind, and I drove past this view on my way to a meeting!

It doesn't get too much better than this!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A great bike in front of a great place

On my way home from my meeting in Franschhoek this morning I stopped on the Stellenbosch University campus to take this photograph. This is my BMW 650GS in front of the lovely faculty of theology (seminarium / 'kweek skool') building. I spent many, many, many happy hours here working on my doctorate.

It sure is great to be back in Cape Town!

An all weather biker, on a ride out to a meeting Franschhoek

I was back in Franschhoek today for the Global Day of Prayer international meeting on our friend Hanelli Rupert's wine farm, LaMotte.

When I woke up it was clear in Somerset West, so I decided to ride my BMW 650GS through Stellenbosch, the Pniel area and some incredible scenery on the way to Franschhoek. It was an incredible ride!

However, by the time I got to Stellenbosch the rain started. It was WET! But, I had my all weather gear and took it slowly. It was fantastic to ride through this wonderfal part of the Cape.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Great service from South African Home affairs at Paarl

This morning Graham and I stopped in at the Paarl department of home affairs in Castle street Paarl to get our passports renewed. I've been doing so much travelling that my current passport is full, so I have needed to get a new 'maxi' passport to have enough space for visas and stamps for the trips that I have ahead of me.

Many tell horror stories of a lack of service and poor treatment at Departments of Home Affairs in South Africa. My experience was so different! The atmosphere was pleasant, the civil servants were courteous and helpful, and I was in and out of there in under 30 minutes.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's wet and rainy in Franschhoek - LaMotte

This picture was taken at the farm, LaMotte in Franschhoek. It is wet, but lovely, here today!

It is great to be back in the Cape.

International Global Day of Prayer leaders' meeting at LaMotte in Franschhoek.

For the next three days we are meeting with a number of key international Global Day of Prayer leaders at the LaMotte estate in Franschhoek. There are persons from every continent - each one of them a mobilizer for prayer across the world.

It has been amazing for me to realise just how little time, energy, and effort I put into prayer (as a lifestyle) in my ministry. Sure, I pray, and I encouraged others to pray and lead groups in prayer - but these folks seem so committed to ongoing prayer for the needs and struggles of the people they are called to serve!

For some years now I have taken responsibility to pray for each of the student ministers of our denomination (the Methodist Church of Southern Africa) by name (both those that I know and those I have never met). But, I am learning to pray for so many more persons and issues with intention amd passion.

Wouldn't it be incredible if we could live in a world where every person and every need was prayed for?

In my last Radio Pulpit radio show I mentioned that I would love to pray for needs and persons and received so many requests! It was so encouraging! I have asked our intercessory group to assist with those.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Impact World Tour breakfast with Mark Anderson

The impact world tour is a move to seek to encounter the emerging generation with the Gospel in a focussed manner. Think about this 80% of all people who come to faith are under the age of 18, yet 93% of the Church's resources are spent on people over the age of 45! This is a scary indictment on the Church! So, the question is 'what does it take to reach this generation?', and 'what will be the Church models going forward'

The central idea is:

1. Engage young people in a 'life shift' with the Gospel. So the key is not to 'join' anything (although every person who comes to faith in Christ is followed up by pre-trained local Christians).

2. Do this in a very strategic manner. So the outreach methods are targetted by age, culture, context etc. (so extreme sports for kids, rock bands for teens etc.)

3. Ensure that the content of the presentation of the Gospel is engaging and relevant (not just experience based, but truly addressing the real needs of the individual and the community).

4. Train local Christians and Church communities to effectively disciple every person who comes to faith in Christ!

For more details please see http://www.impactworldtour.com

The intention is to start with the outreach in 2009.

Think of this analogy - the evangelistic movements (such as these) are like the lumberjacks who move into a forest with chainsaws and cut down the large trees. However, once those logs have been cut down they need to be shaped, formed, and made useful. So, someone needs to cut the trees into logs, get them to lumber yards, then further work them into planks for houses, wood for tables, chairs, and even some for 'toothpicks'!

One needs evangelists (lumberjacks), one needs transporters and lumber yard builders (Church planters and growers), and then disciplers (pulpit and marketplace ministers who equip and grow people for their God given ministry). Of course there are also some people like Mark Anderson (the tall guy in the beige sports coat) and Graham Power (to his right in a blue sweater) who are 'project managers'.

I would encourage you to pray about getting on board with this incredible work! It is a YWAM (Youth with a mission) project.

Have a blessed day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's day - I can still remember.

Tonight I have been pondering the paradox of parenthood - such great joy, but at times great sorrow.

I cannot imagine my life without my children Courtney and Liam. Their lives are a gift to me. I love them with an all consuming love that has the capacity to put every other experience on a pail and distant horizon. Not a day goes by where I do not pray for them. Yet sadly even this love is not perfect. I work too much, I am far too impatient, I sometimes struggle to respond appropriately with joy, and often react with undeserved anger because I am stressed and under pressure. But, they love me! And that is enough.

I love the fact that my daughter is still proud of her dad (although the other day when I was invited to speak at her school assembly she did gently ask me if I could do my best to 'walk properly' - I suppose my limp embarrasses her! Ha ha! I could not walk properly, so I asked the headmaster to mention that Courtney's dad had recently had a motorbike accident. She smiled.) As for Liam, I cannot say how thankful I am that he is alive. His short life almost ended a number of times in those early days. I have never prayed so much in all my life! Megan and I still fast every Friday for all children and parents in need. It is a joy.

So, I thank God that I am a father.

Today, however, I also thank God that I am a son. I was born to Donald Ian Forster and Karyn Forster way back in 1972 (the picture shows my dad a few months before his death). This year is the first year in which I shall celebrate Father's day without my dad - he died on the 31st of December 2007. Today I thank God for his love, patience, guidance and nurture.

Happy Father's day dad. I miss you.

Would you like to be a published author? This might just be your opportunity to get your thoughts into print!

I like to initiate new projects, and I like it even more when these projects help to develop the people who participate in getting them going! That's how I first got my break in publishing.

So, here's the idea. I would like to put together a new book in which I gather some pressing questions and answers to issues that the Church is facing at present.

You don't need to be trained as a theologian, a pastor, minister, or priest, to participate in the project! Heck, you don't even have to be a Christian or belong to a Church, to get involved! If you think about faith, and have some questions about the Church then consider making a contribution.

Here's what I envision:

1. What are the 10 most pressing, urgent, and difficult questions that the Church is currently facing? If you can think of a few, then drop me an email!

2. Once I have gathered responses and ranked the questions (based on how many people asked a particular question) I am going to ask for answers or responses to these questions from as many people as possible. The answers need only be a paragraph or so in length. All contributors will be referenced and properly acknowledged. We're not looking for rocket science contributions, just honest, challenging, thought provoking, questions and answers!

3. When I have gathered sufficient feedback I will write a few comments on both the questions and answers that were supplied, as well as some introductory and concluding comments. Having done this the book will be prepared for publication and put into print!

So, if you're interested in participating please drop me a line at digitaldion@gmail.com.

Please could I ask my 'blogging friends' to give this idea some thought and consider giving it a bit of exposure on your blogs (Wes, Pete, Gus, Sivin, Barry, Mike Stopforth
Wessel (wesselsplace), Pete (rock in the grass), Gus (gruntleblog), Barry (seethrough), Sifiso (sifiso's world), Sivin (sivinkit), Emily (Christ Church), David (skypilot), Aiden (aidencholes), John (sacredise), Andre (Sharky), Murray (Murray & Gina), Stephen Murray (daylight...), Steve Hayes (Khanya), Jenny (Carpenters shoes), Greg (Dassies Bounce), Kevin (memoirs of an ex Christian), David (naked pastor), Mike Stopforth, Graeme Codrington, Scott McKnight... and whoever else I can think of!

If there are any of you have a few contacts, or ideas of persons that I could contact directly, please let me know!

I think this could be an incredible opportunity to get some magnificent ideas out there, to stimulate thought and discussion, but also to give some newer writers an opportunity to get something published alongside more experienced scholars, writers, and [Christian] thinkers - that's how I got my first break in publishing! This is an ubuntu project - let's discover a deeper identity and greater collective insight into the Church and the Christian faith by learning from and with one another.

The neuroscience of selling your stuff... Here's why it hurts!

Before getting to the interesting 'brain' stuff story, the good news is that I have completed the text for the next book that Dr. Wessel Bentley and I are working on! The working title of the book (that is being published by the Methodist Publishing House) is 'What are we thinking: Reflections on Church and Society by Southern African Methodists' We intend launching this fantastic book at the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's annual Conference in Bloemfontein (September 2008). So, keep an eye on this space!

Now that I have done with that project I am returning to a perennial project that seems to have been a part of my thinking for some years now... A book that considers and discusses some elements of the relationship between neuroscience and Christian theology. I have not yet decided on the final title for the book, the working title is 'Why you're not who you think you are! Adventures in neuroscience and theology'.

Whenever I am working on a project I tend to notice posts and publications that relate to my topic much more frequently. So, my 'neurons' have become quite sensitive to just about everything I can find about... well, neurons!

I came across this interesting post on Boingboing late last night and thought it was quite informative. As my wife (and friends) will tell you, I tend to like gadgets, and I tend to be quite fond of holding on to them! I still have my tiny little Libretto 100CT computer (with a 486DX 233Mhz processor and 32MB of ram...)

Well, this may explain why we struggle to sell things that we own (and like):

We sometimes say that it "hurts" to part with our stuff even if it's junk, and we know it's junk. Behavioral scientists call it the endowment effect, a theory that people put higher values on things once they own them. Turns out though that it actually does hurt to sell something you own, and it has nothing to do with overvaluing. Stanford University and University of Pennsylvania psychologists recreated the endowment effect in volunteers while scanning their brains with MRI. From Nature News:
If the reason for the endowment effect came from the products being overvalued by their owners, (professor Brian) Knutson?s team expected to see a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbus change during the test. It didn?t, ?whether buying or selling, the activation in the nucleus accumbus looked the same?, says (co-author professor Scott) Rick.

But others part of the brain, the insula, which has a role in the experience of pain, and the greater mesial prefrontal cortex became activated when the subjects contemplated selling one of their items. If they had ranked that item as one they particularly liked, the change in the insula was greater.

According to this research, this is because of loss aversion, says Rick. ?It is not because people are overplaying the positive [aspects of a possession].? Rather, we just become attached to objects we own ? so much so that it takes a lot to convince us to part with them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

National Innitiative for the Reformation of South Africa - standing for hope in South Africa

This evening I was so blessed to be part of a group that arranged for Michael Cassidy to come and speak to Christians in Cape Town. A few hundred people from all domains in society arrived to hear Michael challenge us to keep hope alive in our nation.

He preached on the text 2 Chron 20:12 'we are powerless, we don't know what to do, but our eyes are upon You...'

A catch phrase that stuck with me was The hope of the nation will fall if the People of Hope do not rise!

Michael challenged us to follow the principles of the Wesleyan revival in 18th century England:

1. Prayer
2. Evangelism
3. Small accountability groups (what we have called 'class meetings')

I want to be part of God's solution!

If you want a copy of the NIRSA declaration please send an email to communications@nirsa.co.za

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Globalization - tariffs and subsidies, are they merely 'sophisticated' bribes?

One of the functions that I have in my new post is responding to questions and queries from persons across the globe who are trying to understand our particular approach to establishing the Gospel of Jesus Christ (with all that entails - including justice, mercy and equity).

Today I received an email from a person who read one of the books that we suggest on healthy and responsible principles for being a Christian business person.  The person who enquired was referring to Chapter 16 of Ed Silvoso's book called 'Transformation'.  In this Chapter (among other things) Ed discusses how Christians should work against corruption and the abuse of economics to enslave people - a reality that is contrary to the principles of God's Kingdom.  Among other things he has a brilliant discussion on bribes (something that is common in Africa), and the use of 'tariffs' and 'subsidies' (something that is more common in the Western world, and among 'superpowers').  

The person who sent the email wanted to know how one could equate tariffs and subsidies with bribes.

Here's the response that I sent.  What do you think?  Anything I've missed, or misunderstood?

The core of the matter is simply that bribes, abusive subsidies, and enslaving tariffs all have a similar foundation ? unjust and undeserved financial gain (often at the expensive of the good of others).  Tariffs and subsidies are however, much subtler and less easily identifiable as destructive economic practices.  And, the matter is complicated and compounded when such tariffs and subsidies have national (or multinational) legal backing.

Subsidies and tariffs are somewhat complex in the global economy since what they seem to do is either hedge and protect a certain group, or create space for a group to operate where they would otherwise not have the capacity to operate.  So, for example, South Africa is very fortunate to be strong in agriculture.  If there complete free trade it is likely that we could supply maize and wheat to Europe and the US that is both cheaper and possible of a higher quality (simply because we have an abundance of natural resources, arable land, and labour is much cheaper).   However, because of subsidies in the European Union farmers in those regions have their products subsidised so that they can offer them at a much cheaper rate.  The long and the short of such subsidies (in very broad generalizations) is that they keep the poor impoverished and do not take into account the necessity to spread wealth throughout the global economy (rather for political reasons it is kept within the wealthier regions).

The question that one would ask is whether God favours any one nation more than another?  In God's economy would it be pleasing to God that some suffer while others prosper ? even when they are both equally productive, faithful, and fruitful in their labours?  So, the challenge is for those who make 'global deals' to keep God's picture of the world, and the world's economy in mind.  It is quite possible that a well intended deal could have an extremely negative impact upon others elsewhere in the world.  Of course my view is awash with generalizations and assumptions.  The point is simply that one must consider the impact of one's choices, not just by economic measures, but by the measure of the standards of God's Kingdom and God's desired economy for ALL the persons on earth.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Methodist Church - our current condition

I found the article below, from Jim Winkler (General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society), both challenging and thought provoking.

My friend John van de Laar offer a necessary critique on my blog post 'We've been having it'. In part as I have considered John's response it has become clearer to me that it is not only the 'method' of doing Church that needs to be adapted, but more so the character and content of the faith that the Church should express and facilitate that needs consideration.

I have just completed a book review on an exceptional book for the journal Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae. The book in question is called Seasons in theology: Inroads of postmodernism, reference and representation. Cornel W du Toit 2007 (246 pages. Pretoria, Research Institute for Theology and Religion. University of South Africa. ISBN: 978-1-86888-488-9. Price R120-00; US$29-00; 17-00; ?23-00).

In this book du Toit presents an exceptional argument for the need to constantly reform BOTH the form and content of religion, in order to meet the needs of people's faith (note the three points here, the form of religion (what we do), the content of religion (what we profess as truth and how that forms us and society), and the content of our faith (what we believe in our innermost being - which is often affirmed and built of by the form and content of religion, and at times is at odds with one or both of those elements).

Well, John's comment, this book, and the article below have sent me on a journey of introspection and reconsideration of my own Church - the Methodist church of Southern Africa. Heck, I cannot tell you how much I love this denomination! Even more so since I now operate predominantly outside of it. I have come to appreciate with such intensity the theoretical balance between personal piety (i.e., holiness and devotion to Christ), and social holiness (i.e., the outworking of our faith in Jesus and how that impacts society and its structures - in essence the mission dei). Personal forgiveness, that deals with personal sin, must confront and change social and structural sin. For example if I confess that I suffer from greed, and I find forgiveness and healing from that sin, I need to confront the structural sin of capital gain and individual enrichment that is a result of the greed of many, and also feeds into the capacity for people to live openly with the sin of greed without being challenged about it.

There is a cyclic brilliance in this - God deals with me, I in turn am used by God to deal with my wider sphere of influence, which in turn affects me, my ideas, my behaviour, and my choices.

Well, here's the article in question. I hope it lights up a few neural pathways for you!

By Wesley's own standard, the Methodist movement must be considered a failure. At least that is the conclusion of author Ted Jennings in his book, Good News to the Poor: John Wesley?s Evangelical Economics.

"The aim of the Methodist movement as conceived by Wesley was not to generate a prosperous and successful denomination, or even several of them," Jennings writes, "but 'to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land' ? The success or failure of this project depended not on increase in numbers and influence, but on an increase in faithfulness."

The aim of the Methodist movement as conceived by Wesley was not to generate a prosperous and successful denomination, or even several of them.

Despite all that could and should be credited to Methodism, Jennings says the movement has become a mirror and an instrument of the reign of Mammon. He contends that Methodism, despite the intentions of its founder, has "basked in the upward socioeconomic mobility of its members, making the middle class the object of its solicitous regard, the norm of the efficacy and relevance of its programs."

Jennings contends that Methodism has made itself hostage to the "dream of denominational success and influence, perverting stewardship into a temple tax and appropriating the management and organizational models of institutional maintenance and growth."

Our present condition

Not only, as Mr. Wesley would say, do those terrible words speak to our present condition, but Jennings insists concern for the oppressed has not been silenced, but rather, "it has been marginalized, placed not at the center but at the periphery of institutional life and commitment."

United Methodist Bishop Ken Carder presents a similar assessment in Rethinking Wesley's Theology for Contemporary Methodism. He writes that a middle-class ethos permeates The United Methodist Church. The denomination's organizational structures, management procedures, programming activities, curriculum resources, facilities, remuneration of clergy, appointment and budgetary processes, and agencies and gatherings are shaped by middle-class values and methodologies, according to Carder.

"The poor are absent from most local churches and denominational structures; and whenever they are visible, the poor tend to be treated as objects of charity more than as special friends of Jesus Christ and persons with whom God closely identifies," Carder asserts.

I myself am a descendant of the European tribes, now called nations, that have established political, military and economic dominance over the world. I confess to my sin of privilege and my reluctance to forego the perks that my race and class afford me.

The poor tend to be treated as objects of charity more than as special friends of Jesus Christ.

Nonetheless, we do not separate ourselves from the world if we are faithful followers of Jesus Christ. We live in love with the world because the most famous passage of the New Testament declares: "God so loved the world that God sent God?s only Son into the world."

God?s grace calls forth human response and obedience. We seek God's grace and human activity working together. God?s grace calls us to good works.

Our Doctrinal Heritage

In "Our Doctrinal Heritage," the United Methodist Book of Discipline states that God's grace is manifest in all creation, even though suffering, violence and evil are present everywhere.

As United Methodists, we insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. By joining heart and hand, we assert, as "Our Doctrinal Heritage" states, that personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are "reciprocal and mutually reinforcing."

Personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are 'reciprocal and mutually reinforcing.'

More than 80 years ago, those who went before us raised funds to erect a magnificent Methodist Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. That structure, now known as The United Methodist Building, faces the U.S. Capitol and is next door to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1963 our denomination built the Church Center for the United Nations directly across the street from the U.N. headquarters in New York City.

In a sense, our denomination said, "Here are our Social Principles, go to work on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations to seek their implementation." I can declare without hesitation that my predecessors and I as the heads of the various social concerns agencies through the decades have worked diligently to continue that mandated role.

We have faithfully sought the implementation of the Social Principles - which are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year - and other statements on Christian social concerns adopted by our top policy-making body. We have followed that mandate even in the face of criticism by some outspoken persons who are uncomfortable or disagree with those Social Principles and statements.

Accountable and representative

Wherever I go, I remind people that the process to reach decisions in our denomination is accountable and representative. Every local church is represented in the process. The United Methodist Board of Church & Society's directors, for instance, consist of bishops, clergy and laity elected through that process.

Besides being representative and accountable, another part of our mandate is to help people join justice and mercy in their own lives, their congregations and their communities.

The great El Salvadoran Archbishop, Oscar Romero, assassinated in 1980 for his courageous opposition to the military dictatorship in his country, once said:

A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn?t get under anyone's skin, what gospel is that? Very nice, pious considerations that don?t bother anyone; that?s the way too many would like preaching to be. Those people who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed, so as not to have conflicts and difficulties, do not light up the world they live in.

We laity need to honor and insist upon the principle of a free pulpit for our clergy.

Too often, we put niceness above all else in the church. We laity need to honor and insist upon the principle of a free pulpit for our clergy. The Sunday sermon must be a place where our pastors give us both the pastoral and prophetic word.

Many of our preachers are downright scared to preach the word because of the reaction they fear from angry laity, who think they own God?s pulpit. We need to affirm the freedom for our pastors to share the Word of God with us.

The charge I sometimes hear is that the United Methodist Board of Church & Society and prophetic preachers don?t represent majority opinion, and that people are leaving for churches that do. I believe the Holy Spirit works even at General Conference, our top policy-making body, because delegates seek ultimately to answer the question, "What should the Church of Jesus Christ say?", rather than "What do I insist the church say?" Mr. Wesley certainly understood the difference - and which would ultimately "increase faithfulness" among Methodists.

With love, and a desire to see the Church be most effective to transform Christ's world and achieve God's plan - Dion

Friday, June 06, 2008

Allister Sparks on joblessness, xenophobia and the ANC

Today a friend emailed me one of the most insightful political commentaries on the recent xenophobic attacks. It gives some decisive insights into the reasons for the friction between the poorest of our nation and the poorest of other nations. Sparks' article form the Natal Witness clearly points to the failures of government (under Thabo Mbeki's lead) and the greed of the ruling party, the ANC under Jacob Zuma's lead.

The end of the article is perhaps one of the clearest warnings that any political party can get.... Polokwane has taught us one thing - if you don't deliver you're out!

Read the article here: Jobless time bomb Allister Sparks Witness 28 May 2008.doc. It is magnificent (credit to the Natal Witness of 28 May 2008)

The Church and the 'We've been having it' mentality - this dictator cracks me up!

There is an incredibly funny advert doing the rounds in South Africa at the moment. It is an advert for the Vodacom cellular telephone company (you can watch the advert on youtube at the bottom of this post).

In short (for those on the 'narrowband') this advert shows various clips of a hilarious African dictator who questions every new innovation and development in communication technology with the catch phrase We've been having it! Forget email, Multimedia Messaging, 'realtone' ringtones, up to the minute weather reporting - who needs it? We've been having it!

As I watched this I thought a lot about the Church, and my friend Gus' post (C'mon people), about how we often miss the mark with the Gospel! We're either so stuck in how We've been having it! that we can't move on to anything new, or we deny that there are changes taking place all around us and we simply stick to what we know (karaoke style singing in chairs facing the front where someone flaps their gums on some uninspiring topic for 1 hour at one of the most inconvenient times of the week! But, we cry We've been having it! like ignorant dictators!)....

I long for something new, don't you? I recently heard a friend comment that he no longer goes to his local Church because he leaves there feeling depressed rather than uplifted. I think we need more ministries like those of my friend Kevin Light (see www.labyrinth.co.za)! Let's find news ways to take the Gospel to the people, instead of just pretending that We've been having it!

The Reformation leader Martin Luther said, "If you preach the Gospel and do not relate it to the issues of the day, you're not preaching the Gospel at all." I'm not much of a Lutheran... But this is a challenge to me.

So, do you think I'm missing the point? Why not sit back and watch this hilarious video (it's just 1min30 long) and let me know what you think....

PS. My favourite bit is where he does the Makarena dance!!!!

A glorious sunrise on the way to work - Robert Kennedy on 'Transformation'.

I am still impressed each day by the beauty of my surroundings. I captured this glorious sunrise on the way to work this morning (shot with my iPhone camera while driving... so please excuse the quality).

Here's something to think about:

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.

- Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966. Today is the 40th anniversary of his assassination.

I'm looking forward to a great day!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Four months on and hobbling along...

Optimism is a wonderful quality! I like optimists, and I like to think that I can be a fairly balanced optimist. By this I mean that I am not caught in the trap of 'falsehood' or 'denialism', but rather that I can see blessing and joy where it can be found (which is pretty much everywhere).

A friend saw me 'hobbling' to my car today and asked how my leg was feeling. In truth, it feels great [I told him it feels great - which is the truth! It does feel great!] It is wonderful to be able to walk without crutches! The liberation of being able to carry something in my hands, of not having to have crutches hanging on my forearms, finding places to lean them, or having to keep my foot in the air every time I sit is fantastic!

I saw the orthopedic surgeon today. He was pleased with the progress - the xrays still show the visible fractures, but he says that with time these will heal, and that as long as I don't do anything that has a high impact on the bones (like run the Comrades on the 15th - which I had not intended to do anyway ;-) I should be fine. The pin that is in the tibia will support the bone until the fracture is completely healed. It feels completely well to me!

So, I am thankful. I am thankful that I am healing, and thankful that I can walk.

I'll mention that I took my Vespa for a little 'spin' yesterday again. My confidence is somewhat dented since the accident. As I drove I was extremely cautious of cars around me, and quite nervous. I am sure that with time I will settle into my normal riding routine again.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

If it's not on the internet it doesn't exist...

A friend recently asked me if making my books available for free download (see:

http://www.spirituality.org.za/2008/04/copies-of-my-three-most-recent-books.html for the downloads) is harming my book sales? The answer is NO, in fact awareness of my work, and easy, free, access to it has driven sales up! In some ways it is a bit like free advertising. People download the PDF of a book, send it on to a friend, but when they want to give a copy as a gift, or own a copy for their shelf they buy paper copies! Many of you (my loving readers!) have already done so!

Of course the other side of the coin is that I own the rights to my own works (not the projects that I have done in partnership with others). I have a 'day job' that pays the bills and so sales are not the most important part in the publishing equation for me. As I have said a few times, it is far more important to me that my stuff get out there, used, and understood than it is for me to have a few extra Rand (or dollars from Amazon) in my pocket.

Today I also came to realise that if my works are not freely available on the internet, they don't truly 'exist'. What do I mean? Well, most ordinary persons (not eggheads like me, or scholars like Wessel and Pete) do their basic faxt finding and research on google, not in libraries! So, that's one more good reason to give my work away! Please download and share it to you heart's content!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Overcoming the world through reconciliation of destruction?

The world is overcome not through destruction, but through reconciliation. Not ideals, nor programs, nor conscience, nor duty, nor responsibility, nor virtue, but only God's perfect love can encounter reality and overcome it. Nor is it some universal idea of love, but rather the love of God in Jesus Christ, a love genuinely lived, that does this.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Meditations on the Cross

What would a Twitter from God look like?

What would a Twitter from God look like?
Originally uploaded by AaronMarshall.

This is a wonderful post from my Twitter friend @CHURCHSMO (who is moving to Cape Town soon!) [for those who don't have images enabled or can't read the text it says: God : Working with @HolySpirit to change lives and get the glory of @allpeople I love you, stop arguing @Jesus will be back soon.

To read the whole post go here (it is great!):

Twitter from God

Here's another thought provoking post:

Twitter as a spiritual discipline

I like twitter and I love GOD...

Like Jesus said, follow me (www.twitter.com/digitaldion)

Monday, June 02, 2008

An encouraging prayer from St Theresa of Avilla

May there be peace within you this day.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

-- St Theresa of Avilla

Stealing from the poor: That's what government is all about. A challenging speech!

This morning a friend of mine sent me an incredible challenging speech delivered by Professor Fatima Meer at a Graduation ceremony in April 2007. The speech analyzes the South African government's surplus budget of R5 Billion while 55% of persons in the country live under the poverty line!

This was a real eye opener to me. Next year is an election year. I have already indicated on this forum that I have faithfully voted for the ANC since 1994 - I wonder what they will do to try an win over those of us who have lost faith in them because of infighting, corruption, and empty promises?

You can download a copy of Prof Meer's speech here: MeerGraduationSpeech-April2007.pdf. It is a small PDF file.

Rich blessing for this day!