Dion's random ramblings

Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's packing time again... And no broken legs YET!

Can you believe that we've been in Cape Town for 6 months already! Pete, I am still astounded by your care and love 6 months ago when you flew from Cape Town to JHB to drive my car here because I was still on crutches! A tip of my hat to Pete - http://www.rockinthegrass.blogspot.com - at least this time I can drive myself!

When we moved here we decided to take a short 6 month lease on our rental property so that we had a bit of time to find the right place to buy. Megan is such a star! While I've bann traveling all over the place she's looked at over 70 homes (not to mention that she's started up a ver sucessful human resources consultancy, and looked after me and our kids!) A few months ago she found the perfect propert - a small 3 bedroom house just one block from Courtney's school! It was a little out of our 'conservative' price league, so we prayed about and put in our best offer!

The lady who was selling the property had already turned down higher offers, but we went ahead and offered what we could afford and she accepted our offer! So, we're packing! We move in 15 days (of which I shall be away for more than half...) so we're using every possible moment to pack.

At least this move is just a few blocks down the road (well, about 5km or so), and I am not on crutches this time!!! However, the pressure is ON! In the 6 weeks between now and a month or so after our move I shall be in England and Europe, Argentina, Chile and a few other places in Latin America, and then also do a trip to Kenya for a day of thanksgiving and prayer with the government of unity... These are all incredibly exciting opportunities, and Megie and Liam will be going to Latin America! We are so excited!!!!! But the move does a add a little pressure. We are taking leave in December, and we look forward to a bit of free time to settle down and find our feet before 2009 comes along! We'll spend most of our leave at home, with a bried time in Knysna over Christmas!, and some time seeing Megie's sister's new baby (to be born any day now!)

So, please spare a prayer for Megie, Courts, Liam and I please! This are exciting times, and we're more blessed than we could ever have imagined!
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A blessed Merdeka Day to all my Malaysian friends!

My trip to Malaysia last year was one of the most blessed and wonderful trips of my life. It was made very special by the friends that I made whilst there, in particular Bishop Hwa Yung, Chee Seng Yip from STM seminary, and the very inspiring and challenging theologian and minister, Rev Sivin Kit.

Malaysia is such a beautiful country with truly wonderful people. I loved the diversity, the incredible commitment among Christians to their faith, and of course history and culture absolutely bowled me over!

The history of the independence of Malaysia is both inspiring and challenging. Today is 'Merdeka day' the celebration of the independence of Malaysia. I wish all Malaysians rich blessing for the year ahead. The prayer, and picture, below come from my friend Sivin Kit's blog.


Prayer for the Nation

God of ages,
in your sight nations rise and fall,
and pass through times of peril.
Now when our land is troubled,
be near to judge and save.
May leaders be led by your wisdom;
may they search your will and see it clearly.
If we have turned from your way,
help us to reverse our ways and repent.
Give us your light and your truth to guide us;
through Jesus Christ,
who is Lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen.

Source: Presbyterian Church USA

Spare a prayer for the citizens of New Orleans - another hurricane is heading that way.

I have followed the 'clean up' and reconstruction after Hurrican Katrina wreaked havoc in New Orleans. Many lost their lives and the city has struggled to get back on its feet (not to mention the unscrupulous capitalists who have made money from the suffering of others (see my post on Naomi Klein's book Shock Doctrine, which considers the rising prevalence of 'disaster capitalism' where companies capitalize on the weakness and suffering of others to buy out their resources and take away their civil liberties and rights in order to enrich and empower themselves)....

Well, many of you will be aware that the citizens of New Orleans have been asked to evacuate the city as Hurrican Gustav approaches... This is extremely concerning!

Please spare a prayer for the citizens of New Orleans! Here's a report from boingboing.

Hurricane Gustav has hit Cuba, and is heading straight for New Orleans with great force. From mayor Ray Nagin, who was, of course, also the city's mayor when Katrina struck 3 years ago this week:

"This is very, very serious, and we need you to heed this warning," he said. "We really don't have the resources to rescue you after this."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

If only I had the money (and the time!) Singularity summit on Artificial Intelligence

I'm not convinced about the particular approach to 'singularity' that Kurzweil presents - however, as I've previously posted on this blog I am completely convinced that people have become dependent upon their technology for most daily tasks... That technology may be a pen to write a note, or a car to get to work, or a kettle to boil water for your morning coffee (not to mention the use of your bank card to draw money and your broadband connection and computer to communicate)....

Heck, this would be a GREAT conference to attend. I hope they put some videos on youtube, or at least make the conference papers available in electronic format. (from boingboing)

Singularity Summit 2008: Opportunity, Risk, Leadership takes place October 25 at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose, CA, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence announced today. Now in its third year, the Singularity Summit gathers the smartest people around to explore one of the biggest ideas of our time: the Singularity.

Keynotes will include Ray Kurzweil, updating his predictions in The Singularity is Near, and Intel CTO Justin Rattner, who will examine the Singularity's plausibility. At the Intel Developer Forum on August 21, 2008, he spoke about why he thinks the gap between humans and machines will close by 2050. "Rather than look back, we're going to look forward 40 years," said Rattner. "It's in that future where many people think that machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence."

The first Singularity Summit was held at Stanford in 2006 to further understanding and discussion about the Singularity concept and the future of human technological progress. It was founded as a venue for leading thinkers to explore the subject, whether scientist, enthusiast, or skeptic.

The Singularity Summit 2008 (Thanks, Tyler!)

Secret photo reveals why South African Rugby is in trouble

The cat is out the bag... This photo shows why South African rugby is in such a slump... Poor Springboks....

Ha ha, just kidding coach! We love you!

You have to admit, this is a clever 'photoshop' image... I wonder how many hours of lost productivity went into 'doctoring' this picture!? It made me laugh!

Have a blessed day.... We're off to Courtney's 10 pin bowling party at the Somerset West mall - in Cape Town birthday parties in winter MUST be planned indoors. It's just one of the 'blessings' of having real weather ;-)
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Friday, August 29, 2008

The ideal Church - thanks Pete!

My friend Pete Grassow - http://rockinthegrass.blogspot.com sent me the following wonderful reflection on the Church based on Eugene Peterson's book "Reversed Thunder". It is a magnificent book (I used it when I taught 3rd year New Testament classes at the University of Pretoria to show how one can interpret the text with integrity whilst clearly and creatively applying the message of the Book of Revelation to contemporary issues and concerns... Frequently the message of Revelation is twisted, missunderstood, and abused through isogesis). Pete's comment comes as a response to a post I wrote last Sunday about the ideal world and Christ's incarnation into a real world to work for its transformation.

Thanks Pete!

The Last Word on Church
John's Revelation (Ch 2 & 3) sees Jesus in the middle of seven churches. This is an image that reminds us that Jesus cannot be seen apart from the listening, praying, believing, worshipping Christian people. Jesus is made visible when the Church is visible.
Of course the enduring problem through history is that this visible church is a very fragile, fearful, fighting organisation. We, the followers of Jesus, are not yet perfect. The choirs of heaven are not reflected in our indifferent singing. The grace-filled love of God is not evident in the selfish bickering of Church members. The compassion of Jesus for the widow / the orphan / the outcast is not easily seen in the religious exclusivity of the Christian Church. For this reason many Godly people choose to nurture their faith anywhere else but in church. And so we would often like to have Jesus, but not the Church of Jesus.
Eugene Petersen notes that "we would prefer to go directly from the awesome vision of Christ (Rev 1) to the glorious ecstasies of heaven (Rev 4:5) and on to the grand, victorious battles against dragon wickedness (Rev 12-14). But we can't do it. ..The only way from Christ to heaven and the battles against sin is through the church" .
Revelation invites us to work within the church for its transformation into something that is God-pleasing. Leaving the church is not an option for a Christ follower ? because Jesus stays in the middle of the seven churches. Hear the call of Jesus to join him in the work he is doing to change the church ? so that we can change the world.

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In the 'groot krokodil' [big crocodile] se back garden

This evening we had a chance to address a business gathering gala dinner in the Wildernis (just outside of George at the Protea hotel). As always Graham made a wonderful impression with his humble and direct style.

However, as I was leaving the conference hall I noticed the 'cornerstone' of the Hotel, look who opened this hotel in the 'Wilderness'! P.W. Botha! He was one of the last apartheid nationalist Presidents who was much parodied in recent years, and much feared in his time. He retired in the Wilderness snd lived here until his death some years ago.

Ag shame...

I'm on my way back to Cape Town - have a few meetings this morning, and then the evening at home with my wonderful family! Less than 2 weeks before we move into our new home, and I'm out of town three times before then. Please spare a little prayer for us! Thanks, 'one in the wilderness calling "prepare ye the way of the Lord"'....
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Windows rules the world... Or not...

It's just too easy to take 'pot shots' at Windows! This was the picture of the LCD screen at George airport before we departed... Yes, windows rules the world... Or maybe note.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life as 'Yoda', and why she can't use facebook.

I wonder what other names are on that list!?

15483113_f9d44e80bd.jpgJapanese author/translator Hiroko Yoda was having trouble signing up for a Facebook account. Every time she tried registering with her real full name, she got an error message. She suspected that it might be because of her last name was Yoda, so she tried spelling it slightly differently?Youda, Yohda, Yooda. No problem at all. When she e-mailed FB explaining her situation, she got this reply:
Facebook blocks the registration of a number of names that are frequently abused on the site. The name "Yoda," also being the name of a popular Star Wars character, is on this list of blocked names. I apologize again for the inconvenience. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
Hiroko explains her constant struggle with her last name in a blog post titled Life as Yoda:
I'm a Japanese woman, and my last name really is Yoda. It's a common family name in Japan. "Yoda" the Jedi Master is actually pronounced with a long "o" in Japanese, which makes it different-sounding enough that the connection only becomes apparent when you write out my name in English letters instead of kanji characters... People think I changed my name because I'm a crazy Star Wars fan, or that I'm just kidding around. Even people who know I'm not making it up are always giving me Yoda trinkets and keychains and figures, so I had this little shrine to him going on for a while.
Rumor has it that George Lucas named the Jedi Master after a Japanese film director he met in Tokyo. Still, Hiroko Yoda always triggers a good laugh when she comes stateside and introduces herself to people. Then again, people never forget her name. "I guess it's a double-edged...lightsaber? Ha ha," she says. Image by barron via Flickr (Thanks, Baker!)

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.)

From boingboig ... a bit of 'link love' (not that they need it! But heck, they deserve it!)

Language as techonology and the possibilities of English as a modifiable 'tool'

I tend to get a little bent out of shape when I hear South African radio and TV presenters hacking the English language to pieces with mispronounced words and train smashed sentences!

However, I do admit that this nothing more than snobbery on my part. In truth, language is, at some levels at least, nothing more than a tool. It is intended to facilitate communication, which in turn has the intention of facilitating progress and development (whether soft development such as relationships, or structured development such as building and manufacturing things).

Perhaps language should be a little more flexible and contextual in order for it to be useful in varied contexts. Conversely, there does need to be enough common ground among the contextual applications of a language for there to be sufficient shared meaning to make the language useful.

I found this post quite interesting... As usual, it is from boingboing....

Here's a stirring Boston Globe op-ed from master lexicographer Erin McKean, presenting the humane case for a dynamic English language in which speakers are allowed to coin neologisms and new usages without grammar tightasses insisting that language is not a user-modifiable technology .
Whenever I see "not a real word" used to stigmatize what is (usually) a perfectly cromulent word, I wonder why the writer felt the need to hang a big sign reading "I am not confident about my writing" on it. What do they imagine the penalty is for using an "unreal" word? A ticket from the Dictionary Police? The revocation (as the joke goes) of your poetic license? A public shaming by William Safire? The irony is that most of these words, without the disclaimer, would pass unnoticed by the majority of readers. (In case you noticed cromulent, that was invented in the 1990s for "The Simpsons.") Writers who hedge their use of unfamiliar, infrequent, or informal words with "I know that's not a real word," hoping to distance themselves from criticism, run the risk of creating doubt where perhaps none would have naturally arisen.
Chillax (via Oblomovka)
Uthina nathi my china's, uthetha nthoni majita? Is die taal for hackery of nie?

Cute technology that could scar your kids for life!

I like a cute gadget as much as the next nerd... But there has to be a line somewhere people! This is just insane!!! When I saw this picture I thought that this 'headless teddy USB drive' could leave an emotional scar that no amount of therapy could ever fix!

What do you think?

Or worse, imagine in you're in that super important strategy meeting with the Bishop of Malta, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, they're just about to kiss and make up over that whole schism and filioque nonsense of the 11th century. All they need is some young scholar to take the agreement to the local printer on his USB thumb drive to get it printed so that they can sign it... Next thing they see a headless bear sticking out of an Asus EEEPC!!!! AAaaaaaarrrrgggghhhh....

It is just too scary to contemplate!

The Teddy Bear USB drive does a really nice job of switching from sickly sweet to just sickening -- just rip its head off and plug its neck into your computer and it looks like you've crushed a little anthropomorphic bear's noggin and forced it into a tiny, little USB port. Teddy Bear USB Drive (via Oh Gizmo)

Happy Birthday princess Courtney!

Today is my daughter, Courtney's 9th birthday. Megan, Liam and I give thanks for the gift of her life. Courtney is such a special girl! God has blessed her with intelligence, love, character and beauty. I could never have imagined what a blessing being a parent is. My heart rejoices at who she is, and who she is becoming. Thank you Lord. We love you Courts!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ideal faith in the real world.

My friend Steve Lottering preached a magnificent sermon entitled 'who is Jesus for you?' It was challenging to consider that Jesus did not come into an 'ideal situation' when he was incarnated into the world...

I heard God prompting me to consider the following: Stop looking for an ideal world in which to live. This is the real world. Rather, like Jesus look for opportunities to create and facilitate God's ideal in a real world. After all, isn't that what Jesus came to do? He lived with courage and obedience to create the ideal for us in our real and broken world.

Thanks Steve, it was great hear God speak to me through you!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Satanism and school murders. A critical consideration.

I am quite skeptical when persons or groups make exclusive and absolute claims about the reasons for violence among young people. Such claims are seldom entirely accurate since as most of us would agree identity and motive are complex phenomena. For every child who behaves badly and plays video games there is another child whose behavior is not inappropriate who plays exactly the same video game.

As for the school murder in Krugersdorp, South Africa, last week - there has been a tremendous amount of sensationalism that has gone along with this very sad and unfortunate event. The young man who perpetrated the act of violence with a sword is suggested to have emulated members of the band 'Slipknot', to have been a satanist, and even a 'Ninja' by some ill informed journalist! Of these claims the claim to satanism perhaps the most disturbing. I have not been suprised that the media have latched onto this particular claim (rather than other psycho-social factors in the young man's life and surroundings) - in short, satanism sells newspapers!

However, this does display both ignorance of the complexity of faith (whatever form such faith takes), and particularly an inability to understand how faith and human development go hand in hand throughout the stages of life.

One must never forget that as persons mature and grow their understanding of themselves and their faith in God (or whatever else gives them the ability to make meaning and transcend the struggles of life) changes significantly. In most cases the 'regular' stages of development can be fairly closely aligned to the stages of faith development (even, as I mention above, if such faith is a form of 'secular spirituality' that places faith in money, the human self, or some other structure). James Fowler's stages of Faith development are particularly insightful in this regard. Here is a quick overview of the stages as Fowler suggests:

Faith is seen as a holistic orientation, and is concerned with the individual's relatedness to the universal:

  • Stage 0 - "Primal or Undifferentiated" faith (birth to 2 years), is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (ie. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). In addition, sharp attention is paid to mammalia (e.g., wooly sheep)
  • Stage 1 ? "Intuitive-Projective" faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche's unprotected exposure to the Unconscious.
  • Stage 2 ? "Mythic-Literal" faith (mostly in school children), stage three persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic.
  • Stage 3 - "Synthetic-Conventional" faith (arising in adolescence) characterized by conformity
  • Stage 4 ? "Individuative-Reflective" faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for their beliefs and feelings.
  • Stage 5 ? "Conjunctive" faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems
  • Stage 6 ? "Universalizing" faith, or what some might call "enlightenment".

Now when one considers the complexity of faith as it develops through these stages it is quite easy to see how a simplistic assumption that a person was motivated by 'satanism' to murder another pupil falls drastically short of the complex reality that surrounds these sad events. Faith, or lack thereof, may have played some part in this incident, but I would not think that this young man had a sufficiently developed faith orientation to motivate him to go against all of the conventions of society to murder another pupil! Heck, most adult Christians have not even developed the courage to speak about their faith (only 3% of all Christians have ever publicly witnessed to their faith)... And such persons are regular attenders of Churches, schooled in their religious convictions and sincere in their desire to honour and serve God.

Regardless of my argument, Steve Hayes, has written a wonderfully detailed and critical consideration of both the motives and the religious convictions of satanism in relation to this issue. You'll find it in his superb post 'Will the real satanists please stand up'. What do you think? Are we missing something?

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Having problems with Windows Vista!? Microsoft has offered some 'real world' solutions!

So, you're stressed by the fact that your Windows Vista machine only works every other time? Does the constant 'hard drive thrashing' make you worry that the drive may die? Do the many, many, many, security threats make you feel that your data could be vulnerable to attack or corruption? Well, thankfully Microsoft has heard your woes and has offers a REAL WORLD solution!

Yup, there you have it! A great solution from Windows... PS. did I mention that I use a Mac?

An interactive map of some of the world's greatest journeys.

If you're interested in world maps, and love to combine geography with history and popular lore, then this is a great site to check out... This site does exactly what the title says, it provides one with an interactive map of the world that traces some of the most remarkable and interesting journeys in the world. I found out about it a boingboing (as usual!) I would have loved to see Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's epic 'Long way round' and 'Long way down' journeys on here.

Our pals at GOOD created a fascinating interactive infographic documenting "history's greatest journeys," including trips from travelers like Amelia Earhart, Ken Kesey, Columbus, and Jack Kerouac. Notably absent though is Albert Hoffman's bicycle ride. Good traces the most famous trips in history (Good Magazine)

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Mertyl, a lovely lass in a lovely setting

I had a few minutes to take Mertyl for a quick spin up the hill above our house in Somerset West. It is cold and wet in Cape Town! But, any day is a perfect day to take Mertyl for a spin!

Go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitaldion to see a video of lovely old Mertyl purring along on Silverboomkloof road! And for those on flickr see http://www.spirituality.org.za/blogger.html for more on Mertyle (just search for Vespa).
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mac vs. PC or Christian vs. Other?

Here's a very interesting post about the use of Apple Mac computers among Christians and ministry 'types'. It is quite a subjective post, but I thought it was quite interesting.

I for one am a 'Mac evangelist'! I have turned quite a few persons on to using Macs, they are rock solid, simply work, and somehow seem to resonate with the 'independent' personality type that is quite common among ministry leaders.

Thanks for sending the link Arthur! Please check out Arthur's great blog here.

Christianity, social justice and your personal relationships

We can move in the direction of justice, but if our personal relationships don't become more human, we haven't moved in the direction of the reign of God and, in the long run, we will discover that our point of arrival is just another form of tyranny. - Arturo Paoli

There is a lot of wisdom here! I believe that relationships are central to the purposes of God's Kingdom, since God IS relationship, a perfect perichoretic relationship of love, trust, openness, and grace. I long to relate in this way to both friends and strangers.

Your South African 'tax dollars' working for you... Take a look at this fine!

Today a friend of mine received this fine in the post... Take a look at the speed (right hand side).... The Cape Town city sent him a fine for doing 0km/h!! Yes, he was standing still, and so got a fine!

There are two possibilities, either he was doing so fast in his 'pickup truck' that they could not measure the speed. This is unlikely... I've seen his pickup truck! Or, the traffic department is now sending fines to people because they're NOT speeding!!!

Hmmm.... R2 to post this fine... I wonder how many R2 of our taxes are being spent to send fines for standing still!?
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Celebrating and giving thanks for the 20th anniversary of the UDF (United Democratic Front)

Today, 21 August 2008, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the United Democratic Front. For those who lived under Apartheid in South Africa in the 1980's you will know that the Apartheid government placed very strict restrictions on political and civic organisations that were standing for justice, equity and human rights in South Africa. In fact, the oppression was so stringent that many individuals and organisations were severely persecuted.

The UDF was started to build solidarity and co-operation between many different organisations that were working to deconstruct and undermine the Apartheid regime. Of course, as with any organisation of this size, there were some elements that were somewhat controversial. However, on the whole, the UDF did incredible work to keep the struggle active and co-ordinated. I remember experiencing a great deal of passion, learning a great deal about justice and mercy, and finding many likeminded persons at UDF meetings at WITS, in Soweto and JHB in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

Today I give thanks to God for the many women and men, Christian, and those who were not Christian, who worked to bring political freedom to South Africa (which was eventually realised in our first 'free' elections in April 1994). Of course there is still a great deal of work to be done aluta continua! We long for the continued work for true freedom and liberation. Many still live under very sad and difficult conditions, apartheid (now an economic reality rather than a racial ideology) is still very much alive and active in South Africa.

So, I give thanks for 20 years of united work for democracy, and long to see further united work for the realisation of a society that reflects the mercy, justice, and blessing of God's Kingdom of Grace!

- Luke 4:18-19 (notice how Jesus describes his ministry)
- Isaiah 11:6-9 (a glimpse of the Kingdom of God from the Old Testament)
- Revelation 21:3-5a (another glimpse of the Kingdom of God from the New Testament)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Procrastination and productivity...

I understand the tension that exists between procrastination and productivity - in fact, to relate them to one another scientific terms one would be able to say that they are 'inversely proportionate'... As the one rises the other falls and vice versa!

I have been running at a hectic pace since the 4th of August! There seem to be more demands than hours in each day... But I take solace in the fact that I am engaged in acts of service and obedience.

I read a lovely little quote today:

'You cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do...' Henry Ford (1863-1947)

So, it is off to my next meeting, and then two more after that. I am home tomorrow evening at least! This has been a heavy week!

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Count your blessings! I wonder how South Africa compares?

A friend sent me this very interesting article about research from the University of Nigmegen in the Netherlands. It showed that the churches in the city of Rotterdam were so effective in their social outreach programs that they city indicated it would not be able to function without their input (which amounts to approximately 130 Million Euros per year).

I have two thoughts about this. The first is simply, WELL DONE! It is wonderful to see the Church doing good work! I am convinced that the most significant testimony that any Church can have is to make a significant tangible impact upon its surroundings. The second observation is this, in contexts where faith is a deliberate choice (such as the largely secularized European countries), the faithful tend to be far more committed and active in their faith. In contexts such as ours where faith is commonplace, expressions and commitments of faith tend towards the mediocre, rather than the extra-ordinary.

What is your experience? If the Churches in your city or town were to close down would anyone notice the effects?


Secularists on both sides of the Atlantic have clamoured for the separation of church and state, religion and politics, opposing the use of public funds for faith-based initiatives. But a recent study commissioned by the city council in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on the social benefit of Christian churches, suggests that if the churches were to stop their volunteer activities today, the city would go bankrupt. They save the city up to 130 million euro each year and contribute significantly in creating social cohesion and integration.

The researchers of the University of Nijmegen approached 272 churches in Rotterdam for their enquiry, and discovered the largest number of churches to be evangelical fellowships (36%). The Protestant Churches of the Netherlands (PKN) formed 18% and the Roman Catholic Churches 13% of the total. The remainder were made up of other ecumenical churches. While in some European countries, like France, Poland and Belgium, evangelical fellowships are still branded by secular authorities as 'sects', it is clear from the Rotterdam research that such fellowships are rapidly becoming 'mainstream', swelled by large numbers of evangelical migrant Christians.

?Against the expectations of secularists, the number of church members in the city was not found to be diminishing. At around 200,000, they in fact represented one in every three Rotterdammers. Of these, one in four attended church regularly, some 50,000, or 9% of the city's inhabitants. Half of these regular church-goers - some 25,000 - are active volunteers, mostly spending more than eight hours each week in volunteer work. These activities include intercultural and interreligious engagement, informational and educational courses, and social aid programmes. Volunteers offer emergency financial aid, run food banks (see photo) and meals-on-wheels programmes, assist those grieving, help with homework, teach language and computer lessons, support assault victims, prostitutes, asylum-seekers, refugees, homeless and prisoners... and much more. The researchers also found that migrant churches contribute just as much as the non-migrant churches. This broad, wide-ranging, non-bureaucratic and non-discriminating social help has until now gone largely unrecognised by officials.

According to the researchers of the University of Nijmegen, it is time for city fathers in Rotterdam and elsewhere to give recognition and concrete financial assistance to the considerable contribution of the urban churches. This is also clearly stated in the report's official title: 'Count your blessings!'

Source: Jeff Fountain, Hope for Europe

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another article published! Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae.

I never grow tired of having a chapter, or article, published! It is an incredible joy to see one's thoughts in print, and to know that they are available to others in their research.

This article number 3 for 2008. I had better start working to get something ready for 2009!

Thank God for this wonderful joy - I don't deserve any credit.!
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another step in the direction of 'The Matrix' and 'singularity'?

I am as amused by the persons who think that 'The Matrix' will actually become a reality as most of you are. However, there is something absolutely amazing about the philosophical conundrum that arises when one mixes biology and mechanics... The base question is simply, at what point does a human become a machine, and vice versa.

For example, after my accident I had pins, screws, and plates put into my leg... Now most people would agree that it is still a human leg... But what if my eyes were replaced, I received a cochlear implant to hear with, my heart was replaced, and I received a nano brain!? Would you still say that I was fully human!? Where is the 'tipping point'... Perhaps the question is moot since according to the post I made on Friday there is no truly ontological separation between sentient beings and the rest of creation...

I think that we (humans) may be in for quite an education when we come to discover that God loves ALL of God's creation with passion, care, and creativity, and that these 'hallmarks' of God's favour don't just rest upon us as humans. Perhaps a for of symbiosis between human persons and their technology is part of God's evolutionary plan for the cosmos! Now, before you react to this statement just consider how dependant you are on the technologies that are so commonplace in most of the developed world - cell phones, the internet, your car, television, medical science etc., etc. We could harldy make it through a morning, let alone a day, without relying on the inextricable link that exists between us and the technologies we have woven into our lives... what happens when we weave such technologies 'tangibly' into our very selves!?

I found this post quite interesting nonetheless! What do you think, is 'The Matrix' nearer than we thought?


John Shirley says: "Robot with a biological brain (wrote about this in my Eclipse novels, never thought it'd happen in my lifetime)."

The robot?s biological brain is made up of cultured neurons which are placed onto a multi electrode array (MEA). The MEA is a dish with approximately 60 electrodes which pick up the electrical signals generated by the cells. This is then used to drive the movement of the robot. Every time the robot nears an object, signals are directed to stimulate the brain by means of the electrodes. In response, the brain?s output is used to drive the wheels of the robot, left and right, so that it moves around in an attempt to avoid hitting objects. The robot has no additional control from a human or a computer, its sole means of control is from its own brain.
A robot with a biological brain
UPDATE: Tom Simonite, online technology editor at Newscientist.com says: "I noticed you linked to the ZDnet coverage of robot with a rat's brain at Reading University. We've put together a video of it using its brain power to avoid obstacles."
From boingboing

Turn the tide on '419' scams... get into 'scambaiting', or maybe NOT!

This internet is a vast frontier as wild as the wildest experiences of the wild, wild, west! Outlaws abound! Among the most notable of these are the Nigerian (and other) '419' scammers who prey on unsuspecting and kindhearted people to rob them of their life's savings... You all know the letters "Dear beloved one, I am Mrs XX wife of deceased diplomat YY who was given a $1 Billion... Please can I access the money through your bank account?"

I had heard about 'scambaiting' previously, but now there's a book on the subject. In short, scambaiters turn the tide on the scammers by getting them to perform hilarious acts to 'prove' their trustworthyness to the persons they think they are scamming. These include things like sending stuff from Nigeria, posting photos of themselves in certain places, or doing certain things... In short, the scammer gets scammed...

Here's more from Cory Doctorow - (Warning! This could be dangerous! So, don't try it at home!!!)

Sadly, for persons such as myself who deal with fairly substantial ammounts of donor funding that gets directed to social upliftment programs, there is a need to be incredibly discerning about requests for assistance and clear and verifiable credentials... It is sad that I need to be so untrusting, but it is a reality that has to do with my own safety, and the safety of the funds in my care.

Every idea implies its opposite, and there's no clearer proof of this than the amazing Internet practice of "scambaiting," well-documented in Eve Edelson's Scamorama: Turning the Tables on Email Scammers.

You know those ridiculous fraud emails you get from deposed princes, corrupt bankers, desperate widows (and so on), with weird capitalization and punctuation, asking you to advance them some money so that they can liberate a giant, multibillion-dollar sum and give you ten percent for your trouble? These "419" letters originate from all over the world, but Nigeria's perfect storm of connectivity, corruption, lawlessness and poverty meant that the "Lads" of Lagos have elevated ripoff letters to a high art.

And for every Lad, there's a scambaiter. Scambaiting is a vibrant internet sport that involves turning the tables on 419 scammers, getting them to undertake ridiculous rituals, expend money and energy, humiliate and debase themselves as they seek to ruin their "victims'" lives through fraud.

Scamorama is a popular website for scambaiting, and its creator, Eve Edelson, has put a lot of thought into the nature of the 419 con and those who seek to disrupt it. In Scamorama (the book), Edelson traces the history of scamming back to the middle ages and forward to the present day, giving practical advice on not getting taken in and scam-proofing your friends and family.

But where Scamorama really gets going in as a HOWTO manual for scambaiting, with long, hilarious email exchanges between baiters and scammers, and good tips for running your own reverse con.

As hobbies go, scambaiting sounds like a pretty fun one -- and it has redeeming social characteristics, since the 419 con artist who is busily whittling you a Commodore 64, sojourning to Amsterdam to meet an "eccentric clergyman" who will front him $20,000, or re-enacting the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch is a con artist who is not ruining the life of some more trusting soul. Scamorama on Amazon, Scamorama.com

See also:
* 419 scammers tricked into re-creating Dead Parrot Sketch
* 419 victim shoots Nigerian diplomat
* NPR "Xeni Tech": Scambaiters and Monty Python, 419-style
* Laura Bush's 419 letter
* Dick Cheney's 419 letter
* Dutch court locks up 419 scammers
* Busting a 419 scammer spammer
* Nigerian Letter scammer convinced to carve replica Commodore 64
* Man loses money trying to double it by marinating
* Nigerian letters fuel Lagos's Internet Cafe boom
* Nigerian legit email hard to distinguish from 419s

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Well done Percy! 100 test caps!

The atmosphere at Newlands is charged! As Percy Montgomery walked onto the field this afternoon the crowd erupted! This is Percy's 100th test cap, more than any other player in South African history!

Today I have the INCREDIBLE honoir of watching from the President's box!

go bokke!
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Friday, August 15, 2008

And the winner of the Spoof Championships is.... (AND the Hansie movie)

.... And the winner pof the South African Spoof Championship is.... Mr Dave Bennie (who beat Prof Skip Krige from UOVS)

By the way Frans Cronje was also here (the brother of the late Hansie Cronje) and we got a sneak preview of the Hansie Movie! All I can say is book for the 24th of September! It is a fantastic movie! We were given tickets for the launch on the 18th, I'll let you know what the whole movie is like, but from what we saw, it is stunning! Well done Frans! A real testimony to God's forgiveness and grace!
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Sporting 'traditional' wear for the South African 'spoof championships'!

Tonight I am taking part in the South African 'spoof championships' look here for the rules: http://www.warwick.ac.uk/~phscz/spoof.html

Ours is 'cleaner' than most since we're Christian gentlemen. The dress is formal or traditional, so I decided to wear my kilt (tilt your head ma'm).
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Is radical unity between God and creation (and created beings) New Age, or is it in fact a Biblical view of reality?

A friend emailed me a few days ago to ask a question about some research he is doing. I hope to be able to chat with him in person when he comes down to Cape Town. However, one aspect of our email conversation struck with me.

I have often been confronted (because of the nature and content of my own research) with the question about the quantum theoretical view of reality and fundamentally interconnected and interrelated and some elements of new age spirituality. In particular persons have asked me whether what I propose is not some form of new age spirituality - my response is quite simply NO! I believe that a view of reality in which everything lives, and moves, and has its being in Christ is the only truly Biblical view that one could hold with any Christian integrity (Acts 17:28)! Whilst God is wholly 'other' from creation (in the sense that God is creator whilst we are creation) does not suppose that we are separate from God! There is great unity in distinction! The mystery of the Christian Trinity is a testimony to 'otherness' in radical unity....

Anyway, here's a version of the email that I sent to my friend explaining some of my reasoning, and pointing to some things that I've written about this radical unity between God and God's beloved creation.


This is a very interesting topic indeed! I have written a few things in this area, and done some research on identity, consciousness and the new science. Here are a few documents that you can download to see some of what I've written on this subject. I prefer to speak of quantum theory and integrative theory rather than pure quantum mechanics (which is a sub-field of quantum science, which in turn is a sub field of quantum theory - one of the things that we learn in the 'new science' is that the boundaries between science and spirituality, or for that matter identity and being, are quite thin, and often don't exist).

A) You can download a copy of my doctoral thesis here: http://www.spirituality.org.za/files/D%20Forster%20doctorate.pdf This has the most detailed discussions I've yet written on some of these ideas (quantum theory, identity, relationship and consciousness). In particular you may find the following of interest:

1. Simply search for 'quantum', 'tunneling effect', 'EPR', 'implicate' or 'Bohm' in the PDF and see what I've written about quantum theory.

2. There is a chapter devoted to your subject (Chapter 3 that is entitled 'Consciousness and the functioning of the human brain: A discussion of biological, physical and philosophical theories relating to individual human consciousness and the brain'. In particular section 3.4.3 is worth considering, the first part talks about computational models of the brain from the perspective of classical physics (i.e., Newtonian physics and Euclidian mathematics), and section two in that same subsection discusses quantum theories of the brain and consciousness in relation to identity - it is entitled 'A holographic model of the conscious brain: A perspective from quantum physics'.

3. Chapter 4 of the thesis is, in my opinion, much more radical than quantum physical (or quantum spiritual) theories of identity and conscious. In this chapter I present and discuss the incredible work of Ken Wilber the integrative theorist who is a brilliant scientist, philosopher, and a deeply spiritual person (Buddhist, not Christian... But we pray!) Section 4.3 is of particular interest, it is entitled 'Holistic consciousness in relation to Ken Wilber's four quadrants of reality'. In summary all of quantum theory would fit into the upper right and lower right of Wilber's four quadrants, then there are the upper left, and lower left which are largely not considered by even the most enlightened of quantum theorists!

4. I also do some work in chapters 5 and 6 on the relationship between all of this 'stuff' and African models of relationship and identity which are much more balanced than those of the dualistic 'West'....

So, that's enough for the thesis.... By the way, it is soon to be published as a book. The working title is 'Why you're not who you think you are: Adventures in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and theology'

B) I have also done some work on the quantum stuff in one of my recent books entitled 'Christ at the centre - discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths' You can download PDF copies of the book here: http://www.spirituality.org.za/2008/04/copies-of-my-three-most-recent-books.html In this book I devote just short of a chapter to quantum physics (and micro biology in relation to the 'new science'), you'll find it at around pp. 34-52.

C) In my recent little book 'An uncommon spiritual path - finding Jesus beyond conventional Christianity.' you'll find a similar discussion around pp. 79 ff. You can also download a copy of that book in PDF format here: http://www.spirituality.org.za/2008/04/copies-of-my-three-most-recent-books.html

D) Finally, I wrote his paper which gives some insight into the relationship between quantum theory and the evolution of the cosmos from the 'gross' material level to the 'subtler' spiritual levels. This is quite a controversial paper in and of itself... Here I argue that the extinction of humanity may well be part of God's evolutionary plan for the perfection of creation... The problem with us humans is that we tend to centre all of reality upon ourselves (even God)! So, this may be one possible way of placing God at the centre of creation once again.... Anyway, it was more tongue in cheek than serious, plus it got published because it was so contentious! You can download the paper here: http://www.spirituality.org.za/files/Post%20human%20evolutionary%20cosmology%20Teilhard%20de%20Chardin.pdf

Well, there you have it... Since my understanding is clearly that quantum theory is one possible explanation of the breakdown of duality between spirit and matter, and so a measure of identity in which we come to discover the mystery of the person of Christ who draws all creation truly into himself (Ephesians 1:10), and the Holy Spirit who holds all things in constant, present, existence (Colossians 1:16-17), I do believe that there is value in appropriating and understand this new 'language' for the purposes of expressing and grasping the mystery of being fully alive in Christ. I do not think this is 'new age' in any way. I think is fundamentally biblical and scriptural! One of the HUGE problems with the characterization of such spirituality as 'new age' is that it is based more on Western dualism than scriptural unity. Most of the Bible (the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures) does not have the radical dualism between spiritual and profane, between religion and ordinary life, and between divine reality and the created order. This dualism was introduced INTO the New Testament through neo Platonists (of which the Apostle Paul was primary), and the Gnostics - Hebrew is the clearest neo-platonic dualism in scripture.... That is interesting in and off itself since it is supposedly the most 'Hebrew' of the New Testament books, yet it has the most impeccable Greek of all the New Testmanet writtings and displays a clear textual vorlage to the Septuagint and the Greek philosophical schools of the time... But. of you read the chapter listed under B) above you'll get quite a detailed discussion on how we went from Old Testament harmony between God and creation, interior life and exterior life, through the Greek philosophers, to Descartes, Netwon, Francis Bacon, and ultimately Western metaphysics. The point is quite simply that most of the Old Testament, and some of the most 'lucid' elements of the New Testament (which is the majority of the teaching in Christian scripture) proposed an integrated view of reality (which has sadly been lugged in with the 'new age movement' when in fact it is simply Biblical!), not the dualistic view of reality that conservative evangelicals have labeled as orthodox...


Well, let me know what you think (if you have the mirth to wade your way through my scattered A.D.D thoughts!)

The humiliating path of reconciliation...

'God sets out upon the humiliating path of reconciliation and thereby pronounces the world free. God wills to be guilty of our sin, and takes over the punishment and suffering sin has brought upon us. God answers for godlessness, love for hatred, the saint for the sinner. Now there is no godlessness, no hatred, no sin which God has not carried, suffered, and atoned. Now there is no reality, no world that is not reconciled and in peace with God. God did this in the beloved son Jesus Christ.'

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer  Meditations on the Cross

The 'holy' mountain

Some African religions have a very close affinity to the land, Shembe for example and the Zion Christian Church both have 'holy mountains'.

I happen to think that all of creation displays the glory of a Holy and majestic God! I do think that God may be particularly fond of some of the mountains in Cape Town... Ha ha!

Here's a picture of thw Helderberg mountain wearing a 'holy halo'! This is just one of the beautiful views I get to see when I have a chance to drop my daughter at school!

Oh, did I mention that I have a ticket to watch the All Blacks (New Zealand) face off against the Springboks (South Africa) in the Presidents Box at Newlands!!!! Watch this space for some photographs!
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

... A restless heart

'Lord, you have created us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you'

-- St Augustine of Hippo

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Afrikaans dag in Suid Afrika! Man, dis lekker om 'die taal' te kan praat!

Ja kyk, my Griekse Professor op Universiteit het gereeld vir ons vertel dat ons net Grieks and Afrikaans in die Hemel sal praat... Toe ek hom daaroor uitvra het hy geantwoord 'Dion, in my bybel praat Jesus net Grieks en Afrikaans!

[Yes, well, my Greek Professor at University frequently reminded us that in heaven we shall only speak Greek and Afrikaans... When I asked him about this he answered. 'Dion, in my Bible Jesus only speaks Greek and Afrikaans'] Oh, and whilst I am translating, the cartoon says (Man) 'Tell me the truth, are you having an affair?', (Woman) 'Yes, Pieter, and he is black'.

Ja, well, no fine! (see the wikipedia article on 'South Africanisms')

Today is Afrikaans day in South Africa. I would like to wish all Afrikaners God's richest blessing! Celebrate your language and your culture! It's a gift to our nation, and a rich and colorful strand in the tapestry of our national heritage!

For those who want to learn a few uniquely South African 'slang' (jargon) terms, which are mostly Afrikaans or a combination of Afrikaans and English words, see the list of words here...

I've just copied a few (p.s. some are rude... As with all languages persons most frequently learn the swear words first! In this case, please just ignore those words, as my Catholic, Latin, friend Larry said 'pious auribus offensiva'):


This list of "Afrikanerisms" comprises slang words and phrases influenced by Afrikaans. Typical users include people with Afrikaans as their first language but who speak English as a second language; and people living in areas where the population speaks both English and Afrikaans. Many of these terms also occur widely amongst Durban Indians. Unless otherwise noted, these terms do not occur in formal South African English.

* ag man - oh man; ag as the Afrikaans cognate of "oh", man pronounced as in English
* aweh( pronounced AAAH-WHERE - (said in excitement, as in: Aweh my boss said I can go home early today.) has many meanings or uses hello,goodbye, yes. also affliated to prison use
* baas - boss
* babbelas - hangover (originally from Zulu)
* bakgat - expression of appreciation for something very well accomplished; cool.
* bakkie - a utility truck, pick-up truck, now a mainstream word in South African English
* bakvissie - a giggly teenage girl
* ballas bak - roughly translates to "to bake your balls"; commonly used to suggest relaxation or lying in the sun and doing nothing
* bal hang - doing nothing
* bek - derogatory term for mouth (Afrikaans: an animal's mouth); hou jou bek - "shut up" (literally" "hold your [animal's] mouth"). This translates well into British English as "Shut your gob."
* bergie - from berg, mountain, originally referring to vagrants who sheltered in the forests of Table Mountain; now a mainstream word for a particular subculture of vagrants in Cape Town. When used as slang refers to anyone down-and-out
* bill - used to ask for the cheque; as in: "Can I have the bill, please?"
* biltong - dried meat, similar to jerky (a mainstream word)
* bioscope, bio - cinema, movie theatre (now dated), originally a international English word that became defunct elsewhere, it has survived longer in South Africa as a result of the influence of the Afrikaans cognate bioskoop.
* bliksem - strike, hit, punch; also used as an expression of surprise/emphasis (rude; many consider the word a profanity). It derives from the Dutch word for "lightning", and often occurs in conjunction with donner. Used as a curse in Afrikaans: Jou bliksem!
* blou - to be tired also meaning high or stoned in relation to the american slang term stoned
* boer - literally ?farmer? in Afrikaans. English-speaking people use the word to indicate an Afrikaans farmer, especially in a derogatory way, like ?country bumpkin?; but Afrikaners use it with much more pride, indicating a person with a deep love of the soil of Africa, a provider of food.
* boere/ "gattas" - the police (plural of boer). Afrikaners (stereotyped as farmers, once dominated the police-force. This usage ties in with the derogatory meaning of 'boer', but Afrikaners use it with much more pride, indicating a person with a deep love of the soil of Africa, a provider of food.
* boerewors - spicy sausage (Afrikaans) farmer-sausage, used as a mainstream word in South African English
* bokkie - (diminutive of "bok", literally meaning "goat" or "doe") a popular term of endearment, comparable to "sweetheart", "honey", etc.
* bosberaad - strategy meeting held outdoors, for example in a game reserve.
* bossies - crazy, whacko, mad. Also a term to describe one who has shell shock. Refers to the time of the South African Border War where soldiers spent time in the bush ("bos/bosse") and would return home suffering battle flash-backs.

Updated 15 August 2008...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I am currently reading the book 'The Shack'  (see http://theshackbook.com/ for more information).  I have not yet finished it, but thus far it has offered me a wonderful new, fresh, and encouraging perspective on my picture of God and the issues of suffering and pain.

The book is rich with imagery, it is not cliched, and it deals with the reality of our struggle to understand God in a sensitive and honest way.

This quote reminds me of the notion of forgiveness that I am encountering in the book:

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. Corrie Ten Boom

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Western Province Rugby coach and players 'on the couch'

It was interesting to hear what the coach and the guys had to say about Western Province, the Stormers, and South African rugby.

Rassie Erasmus gave an exceptional presentation on changes in Rugby style and the difference between building a Currie Cup and a Super 14 team. I had never considered the differences in conditioning and player choice.
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Rassie Erasmus, Stormers coach at the Lagunya Rugby club fundraiser

We had a great time at the Lord Charles hotel for the Lagunya Rugby club tonight! We were raising funds for the Lagunya rugby club from Nyanga. What a great evening... Oh, by the way if anything about sports MEC, Dugmore makes it into the press, he CAN walk on his hands for the length of the stage!

Development in sport is alive and well in the Western Cape (and God still love the Stormers more than any other team - Rassie Erasmus told us so ;-)
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Filming for the Global Day of Prayer and Lausanne DVD's in Cape Town

It is a perfect day in Somerset West, we're filming the 'shorts' for the 2009 Global Day of Prayer and Lausanne DVD's.
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

CERN rap video about the Large Hadron Collider creates a black hole of awesomeness!

Been having a tough time figuring out just what CERN's Large Hadron Collider does? Worried that it will create a Mobius strip (a rip in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop)? Just love to jam? Watch this CERN-sponsored rap after the break, and have your universe totally destroyed. Er, but not for real.

[Via Protein Feed]

I thought this was extremely cool! It comes from Engadget!

It's been a while....

It has been about 6 months since I hav taken my bicycle onto the road.

This morning Graham Power, Henrie Jonk and I met at 8 at Steynsrust bridge in Somerset West and did the magnificent ride from Somerset West to Stellenbosch and back. The weather was fantastic and my leg held up extremely well. I was slower than Graham and Henrie, but at least I made it all the way there and back at a good pace.

I thank God for the beauty of creation, and for the evidence of healing in my leg.

In an hour or so we'll head back down to the beach for lunch. I shall have to take my laptop to do a little work - but at least the setting will be perfect!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Mertyl (the Vespa a.ka. The orange bomber) at the beach

It is a perfect winter's day in Cape Town, after doing a little work and taking care of a few things around the house we decided to take the 2 min drive to Strand Beach. I rode down on Mertyl, while Megan, Courtney and Liam came by car.

Another perfect day!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Film shoot for 'The invocation'

Today I had the great privilege to be asked to give an interview for a new movie called 'The Invocation'.

It is an ambitious project where the Director / Producer (Immanuel Etier) has gone around the world interviewing persons that he has identified as 'religious leaders' from various faiths - Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and even politicians and scientists etc.

I'm not sure how I got on the list... But, I am thankful to have had a chance! Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and various other significant South Africans were interviewed for the movie.

If you're interested in finding out about the project you can watch the video below. It is a 7 minute youtube video.

I was asked questions about my view of God, my understanding of the role and function of religion, the relationship between Christianity and other faiths, and of course the role of faith in bringing about peace and combating religious fanaticism. It was wonderful to meet Emmanuel, he is a wonderful, energetic, and passionate person.

I'll let you know when I find out when the movie will be screened. The aim is to have it done by November this year and roll it out across the world.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

It's a beautiful day!

A few clouds catching the rising sun over Radloff Park in Somerset West! It's a beautiful day - this 1 block from our new home in Land and Zee zight, Somerset West.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What's the plural of Thesis? Theses! Yes... I know...

Well.... I thought it was quite funny! (from here).

Cory Doctorow's Business lectures on "Life in the Information Economy"

Cory Doctorow is one of my favorite bloggers - his insights are keen, he is a leader in information rights and ownership, and he is a great storyteller and author. Cory recently delivered some lectures at Cambridge in the UK entitled "Life in the Information Economy".

One of the things that Cory has helped me to realise is that information has often been unequally linked to capital gain - i.e., people write not for pleasure or to share ideas and information, but people write in order to craft the most 'popular' and 'salable' work in order to make money... The problem with this equation is that it shackles one's thoughts to whatever is acceptable, popular and consumer oriented. This kind of mindset will seldom push the boundaries and present anything new. The second 'side effect' is that it robs you of sharing your real wealth with the world! If you have to sell what you produce you are limiting your audience to those who have money, and within that audience to those who are willing to spend their money on your product...

Cory was the one who encouraged me to give away my books (or at least make electronic copies available for free download). Since doing this I have had more readers, more feedback (and more sales!)... In Steve Biko's words I write what I like, and I am pleased to say that quite a few people are reading what I write because they don't have to stretch themselves to get it! They don't have to make choices about whether it is worth spending the money to buy a book, or whether my book is better than someone else's books... They can simply download the books, dip in, see if it catches their fancy, or move on to something else.

Well, you can watch Cory's lectures here! Enjoy...

Porn, hate speech, youtube videos of cats.... But, what would we do without you? Happy Birthday 'the internet'!

Happy Birthday internets!!! You're only 17 years old, and already you know so much more than anyone else on earth! Sure, you have your darker side (porn, hate speech, Britney Spears websites, and youtube videos of cats), but then you also have your wonderful aspects (internet banking, email, facebook, youtube videos of people miming Britney Spears songs...) So, on the whole we're proud of you, and we wouldn't know what to do without you!

So, here's wishing the internet a happy birthday, and many happy returns!

To read more about the 'birth' of the internet go here.

Even though everything's different, nothing seems to change!

A friend of mine is reading a number of books and articles on the History of the Church and the Christian faith at present - he is doing some research for a conference.

He's been sending through 'tidbits' of insights and quotes as something 'sparks' him. I found the quote below both challenging and interesting. The following section describes Christianity and society in England in the 18th century.

First, a bit on English society:

In 1776 England was in such shocking state that some historians says that some people became more savage than any since the world began. Some men sold their wives by auction in the cattle market. Immorality was so rampant that most birth registers were filled with illegitimate births. Drunkennes was so common that even five year olds would be seen lying drunk in the gutters. Public houses advertised: Guaranteed drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence. Vulgar demonstrations were the order of the day. Sex shows with immorality openly displayed could be seen on the streets. High society had low morals, from the throne to the House of Lords and the House of Commons; many of these men kept mistresses openly and had children by them. Gambling was common among both rich and poor. Women wore such scanty dresses that one historian remarked: "She was as naked as a Greek sex goddess", at a ball where the king , who enjoyed the open flouting of convention by public showing, off women's bodies, was present. The country was crippled by depression, tens of thousands being unemployed. Sometimes church services were disrupted with cursing, profanity and sputum; colleges were burned down and it seemed as if there were no hope for society. People were hanged for the most minor crimes, like spitting over the wall of a nobleman, but for these otrosities, there was no condemnation. Children as young as eight were hanged.
Then some comments on the Church in the midst of this great social turmoil.
Commenting on England in the mid-18th century Ryle writes: "Corruption, jobbing and mismanagement in high places was the rule, and purity the exception. ... To be a Dissenter was to be regarded as only one degree better than being seditious and a rebel. Rotten boroughs flourished, bribery among all classes was open, unblushing and profuse.... England seemed barren of all that is really good. How such a state of things could have arisen in a land of free Bibles and professing Protestantism is almost past comprehension. Christianity seemed to lie as one dead, ... Morality, however much exalted in pulpits, was thoroughly trampled underfoot in the streets. There was darkness in high places and darkness in low places - darkness in the court, the camp, the Parliament, and the bar - darkness in country, and darkness in town - darkness among rich and darkness among poor - a gross, thick, religious and moral darkness - a darkness that might be felt."

As to the churches of the time, Ryle says: "They were sound asleep .... Natural Theology, (without a single distinctive doctrine of Christianity), cold morality and barren orthodoxy formed the staple teaching both in church and chapel. Sermons everywhere were little better than miserable moral essays, utterly devoid of anything likely to awaken, convert or save souls. .... And as for the weighty truths for which Hooper and Latimer had gone to the stake, and Baxter and scores of Puritans had gone to jail, they seemed clean forgotten and laid on the shelf. When such was the state of things in churches and chapels, it can surprise no one to learn that the land was deluged with infidelity and scepticism. The prince of this world made good use of his opportunity. His agents were active and zealous in promulgating every kind of strange and blasphemous opinion. .... Of the utter incapacity of the pulpit to stem the progress of all this evil, one single fact will give us some idea. The celebrated lawyer, Blackstone, had the curiosity, early in the reign of George III, to go from church to church to hear every clergyman of note in London. He says he did not hear a single discourse which had more Christianity in it than the writings of Cicero, and that it would have been impossible for him to discover, from what he heard, whether the preacher were a follower of Confucius, Mohamed or Christ!"

Going on to comment on the clergy of the day, Bishop Ryle says: "They seemed determined to know everything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. When they assembled it was generally to toast 'Church and King' and to build one another up in earthly mindedness, prejudice, ignorance, and formality. When they retired to their own homes it was to do as little and preach as seldom as possible. And when they did preach, their sermons were so unspeakably and indescribably bad that it is comforting to reflect that they were generally preached to empty benches." (J C Ryle: Christian Leaders of the 18th Century.)
It sounds so familiar! Corrupt leaders, bad sermons, a self obsessed Church.... Instead of getting the best persons to do the necessary work of Christ led renewal and transformation with courage and commitment they seemed to be saddled with lukewarm, halfhearted attempts at religion, rather than life changing faith!

Then Terhoven comments:
For more than 30 years John Wesley and George Whitefield preached to the masses. Hundereds of thousands were saved. Suddenly the whole of Brittain changed. The nation began to prosper, slavery was abolished, and people started to live respectable lives. (Breath from Heaven, Ken Terhoven)
Perhaps we need a few Wesleys and one or two Whitefields... I am reminded, once again, of John Wesley's exhortation to the early Methodists - "There his no holiness without social holiness..."

[the]... gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness. 'Faith working by love' is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection.
Faith working by love! Now that's something I can give my life to doing! Please see this post from my friend Rev. David Barbour.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Community impact Conference in Kempton Park

Graham Power and I flew to Johannesburg this morning where he was invited to address a few hundred business people on community transformation and development. I also had a chance to speak about the 'unashamedly ethical' campaign, see http://www.itnafrica.com for more info.

It was wonderful to have a chance to challenge the attendants of the conference, business people, a few mayors, a head of some local prisons, and some pastors and ministers.

The emphasis is upon helping these persons to live and work in a manner that establishes God's Kingdom rule of justice, provision, care and grace in practical ways (feeding, educating, developing and uplifting persons). We had a wonderful response to the challenge with many of the people signing the pledge form and commiting themselves to an 'unahsamedly ethical' lifestyle.

We're visiting a few of our own projects now (Serengeti, our R21 road project etc.) this afternoon, then we fly back to Cape Town tonight.

A great day of creating strategic partnerships between 'pulpit' and 'marketplace' ministries for the purpose of God's Kingdom.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Achievements and dreams...

I am a driven person. I work hard, and I like it. Yet, I have frequently come to realise just how empty achievements can be! After all, we were not created merely to achieve things for the sake of our own satisfaction. Rather, God created us to do great things for God's glory and fame.

I am preparing for a business bible study that I lead each Monday - we get between 20 to 30 persons who gather to study the beatitudes and the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). Today we are looking at Matthew 5v6.

I found the following wonderful quote in William Barclay's 'Daily Bible study series' (a real classic):

"In his mercy God judges us, not by our achievements, but also by our dreams".

Here's a picture of my daughter and some of her friends. They have many years ahead of them. I pray that I will have the courage and the wisdom to help her dream big dreams!

Some encouragement and challenge for this week.

In my quiet time this morning I read the following verses - they served as an encouragement and challenge for the tasks of this week:

'This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe' 1 Timothy 4:9-10.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Good morning Bettiesbay!

We live in a magnificent part of the world! However, it was not known as the 'Cape of Storms' for nothing! The wind is blowing and it is freezing! The waves are quite large and powerful! It's a lovely, clear, windy day on the Cape coast. We'll be packing up to head home in a few hours (it's only a 20 minute drive). Someone once commented that the Cape winter can be a bit like a baby - if it is not wet, it is windy!

Oh, and Sivin, you are WELCOME to come any time! Just let me know when you guys can be here and I'll make the arrangements!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Otium sanctum... Betties Bay

We are taking a bit of 'holy leisure' (otium sanctum) in Betties bay at a friend's hoise. Behind us is the mountain, and in front we have the sea. Have a blessed weekend! We all deserve a little rest from time to time!