Dion's random ramblings

Monday, September 29, 2008

help a hacker dot com... seriously consider helping this hacker's son

The MySQL community -- who create, maintain and support the leading free database -- are raising funds for Andrii Nikitin, a MySQL support engineer in Ukraine whose little boy, Ivan, needs a $400,000 bone-barrow transplant.

"My family got bad news - doctors said allogenic bone marrow transplantation is the only chance for my son Ivan.

"8 months of heavy and expensive immune suppression brought some positive results so we hoped that recovering is just question of time.

"Ivan is very brave boy - not every human meets so much suffering during whole life, like Ivan already met in his 2,5 years. But long road is still in front of us to get full recover - we are ready to come it through.

"Ukrainian clinics have no technical possibility to do such complex operation, so we need 150-250K EUR for Israel or European or US clinic. The final decision will be made considering amount we able to find. Perhaps my family is able to get ~60% of that by selling the flat where parents leave and some other goods, but we still require external help."

He'll get a few dollars from me.

Donate to help Andrii Nikitin's son Ivan (Thanks, Danny!) reposted from boingboing

God may just be a little bit lonely...

Whenever I am in London I am always struck by the incredible diversity of people that live that glorious city! Just a few minutes on the London underground, or walking down Oxford street, and you soon come to realise that the world is filled with so many different people!

This quote from the book of Psalms is one of my favourites (I'm not sure that one should have 'favourite' quotes from the Bible, or should one!? Somehow I have a sneaking suspission that one should either NOT proof text particular verses, or that the whole of the message of scripture should hang together as one glorious 'favourite'...)

The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.
- Psalm 24:1

This verse, in conjunction with the quote below, made me think about this nonsensical issue - the fact that God may just get lonely at times!

I often say to myself that, in our religion, God must feel very much alone: for is there anyone besides God who believes in the salvation of the world? God seeks among us sons and daughters who resemble him enough, who love the world enough so that he could send them into the world to save it.

- Louis Evely, In the Christian Spirit

There's that old joke about the guy who goes to heaven. When he gets to the pearly gates he is met by St Peter. St Peter is having a slow day and so he decides to give him a little tour of heaven. They walk past huge stadiums of rejoicing people, Peter points out that those are the Baptists having a prayer rally. Next they walk past the largest Cathedral the man has ever seen, in it are a throng of people praising God in the most beautiful liturgy ever heard, St Peter points out that those are the Catholics... This goes on as they pass one community of rejoicing believers after another. Eventually however, they get to a very large building with a large perimiter around it, pasted on the outside are large signs emploring the paserby to remain silent. When the man asked St Peter why they had to keep quiet when passing that particular Church he replied, "Oh, those are the Methodists... They think they're the only ones up here!"

I thought that was quite funny, but also quite telling! Oh, and before any Methodists get upset, remember I am a Methodist, and I use my own denomination as the example in the joke because I wouldn't want to make fund of anyone but myself!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Break my heart for what breaks yours... Changing gears

On the 2007 Hillsong Album, Saviour and King, there is a song that has the line 'Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I have for your Kingdom's cause'

From the first time that this concept penetrated my mind it has left a significant impact upon my actions, and my moment by moment awareness.  A friend, Lloyd Reeb, who wrote the book 'Success to significance' made the statement that a Christian will never find his or her passion and purpose unless they are open to experiencing what it is that breaks God's heart.

Have you ever considered what makes God weep when God looks upon your area, your community, the persons, places and activities that you encounter in your life?  Perhaps it is the hunger of a vulnerable and neglected child, or the bruised and broken body of a woman who lives with an abusive husband.... Perhaps it is the suffering of those whose country has been occupied by a conquering force?  

I think it is likely that God's heart will break over similar things that cause your heart to break - in God's omniscience, I believe that God can see both more joy, but also more sorrow, than we can see.

What I've found is that when I operate within that area, where my passion aligns with God's passion, then it is like changing gears - more speed with less effort.  Somehow I find it easier to work towards bringing about God's will and purpose when I feel passion and a strong emotional connection to the issue, or person, in focus.

My friend Alan Storey is one of those who has taught me most in this regard.  Alan leads frequent retreats for his congregation called 'A pilgrimage of pain and hope'.  He takes groups of persons to encounter the brokenness and hurt in the world, some of which is all around them all the time.  The realisation is that we become to hardened to the struggle and hurt of others that we no longer notice it - the children who live on our streets, the unemployed begging for money at the traffic lights etc.  It is a spiritual discipline to be carefully guided to have your heart broken by the brokenness of others.  In this you can find the opportunity and grace to act to change some of these situations.

When last was your heart broken for what breaks God's heart?  I am praying today 'Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours - everything I have for your Kingdom's cause'.

Love, peace, and proverbs...

A thought for today from Sojourners....

Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but the one who rebukes boldly makes peace. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

- Proverbs 10:10-12

Love is not a doctrine. Peace is not an international agreement. Love and Peace are beings who live as possibilities within us.

- Mary Caroline Richards,


Friday, September 26, 2008

Bono's comment on the US bailout.

I thought this was a fairly pertinent observation... Why can we find the money to bail out the rich, yet not find the money to care for the poor!?

It's extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can't find $25 billion dollars to saved 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.

Bono, rock star and anti-poverty activist.

I am challenged by this!

How can one define the great social forces of our time?

Here's a remarkable quote, it struck a chord within me - my individual efforts, when added to the good will and good work of others, have the capacity to be part of something great!

Great social forces are the mere accumulation of individual actions. Let the future say of our generation that we sent forth mighty currents of hope, and that we worked together to heal the world.

Jeffrey Sachs
The End of Poverty

I wonder how many Churches (and individual Christians) considered this?

The world is undergoing some fairly significant shaking with the collapse of some of the most significant financial institutions.

I was wondering how this affects the collective psyche of a world in which so many people base their security and worth on wealth.  I certainly wonder what the worth of my money in the bank is - surely there must be something must more stable and significant to base one's identity and security on?  Of course, that is the person of Christ who created and re-creates the whole world, moment by moment  (Col 1:16-17).

I was wondering how many individual Christians and Churches see this as an area to offer ministry?  Have we considered how we could bring peace and comfort in such uncertain times?  I walked past the London Stock exchange this week - there was a sign pasted on the door that said 'Closed until further notice'.  I'm not sure that this was the main building, but it was certainly a wake up call to me!  The world's richest nation is being humbled, and there is a realization that wealth is not something that guards one against struggle and hardship.  Surely this must make people uncertain and worried?  I'm quite sure that in a situation like this God's desire is to love and care for those who struggle.  How do we do that in the most tangible and effective manner?

This was just a thought...  I'll certainly be thinking about creative and loving ways to care for and assure individuals and groups that are feeling uncertain in these harrowing times!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Focus, satisfaction, distraction and effectiveness

I am not so naive as to think that only one path can bring personal fulfillment, I have personally come to discover that one needs a dialectic tension between challenge and comfort in order to thrive and achieve one's best.  Maintaining that tension, however, is perhaps one of the most challenging and difficult things to do.  I have frequently found myself leaning either towards challenge or comfort at the exclusion (or at least minimalisation) of the other.

Here's what I mean - I work best when there is a bit of pressure.  Perhaps it is just that very primal 'old brain' kicking in when there is a threat (the amygdala is not all that clever, it can't tell the difference between an external life threatening event and an internal 'ego' threatening event.  All that it can sense is that there is some form of threat - it may be a threat of shame or disappointment at not completing a task, or underachieving, or missing a deadline - whatever, the 'old brain' senses a threat and kicks my mind and body into action).  When one is under pressure (or threat) one gains extra energy, creativity and endurance (this is mainly because the brain causes the endochronotic system release adrenalin and a few other chemicals into one's system).  Sadly, some of us become too accustomed to operating in this manner and so we seek out situations of pressure (sometimes willingly, i.e., by taking on more work than we know we are able to do reasonably.  Sometimes unwillingly i.e., we procrastinate until the pressure is high enough to demand a sterling effort to complete a task).  Does this sound familiar!?  Well, the reality is that if this is not managed it can great a building up stress and toxins within your body and you can become ill.  I'm sure that we've all been there a few times in our lives!

The other extreme, comfort, is also a danger.  I have been here a little less frequently, but I have certainly been here!  This is that state where it all becomes too much for me and so a 'clutch out'.  At times this has been an endogenous reaction (i.e., it has come from within my body or mind - I simply need to create space to breath, and in doing so I slow down to such an extent that I either become ill or depressed), sometimes it is exogenous (i.e., like my motorcycle accident earlier this year - I am rushing from one appointment to the next, get knocked off my bike and end up in hospital).  The long and the short of it is that this is a time where I am unproductive, and because of my ego needs and personality makeup, a lack of productivity affects my self-worth (you know the Adam Smith - a person's value is measured by their contribution to society bit), and I also end up experiencing stress and struggle.

So, I have come to realise that I need a dynamic tension between challenge and comfort to deliver my best.  It is not all that subtle or refined, it is something that is quite functional.  It means that I have to spend a bit of time managing my diary, having creative outlets such as writing, blogging and preaching, and that I need enough challenges and new adventures to keep me interested and excited.

I came to realise some years ago that because of the complexity of this internal process that I will never be able to leave my 'happiness' entirely up to others - don't get me wrong, other persons and structures are an integral part of my happiness, but I cannot expert others to either create the environment, or facilitate the pace, in which I achieve my best.  That is the area in which I need to exercise mastery!  I need to set my pace to get the optimum situation, or else someone else will graft my life to their pace.

Sure, there is a measure of give and take, but at the end of the day I know that God understands my makeup (after all as Psalm 139 puts it, God both created me before I was born and dreamt and wrote about my life before I had even lived a day of it).  So, I pray about my day - frequently I pray about the appointments and persons in my diary, the challenges that lie ahead, and I plan and strategise to get the best out of my time and energy to balance comfort and challenge.

I'll admit, I don't always get it right - but at least there is the attempt and the intention.  Have you give any thought to what it is that makes you tick?  Perhaps half an hour or so considering your life in God's presence would be one of the best half hours you spend today!?

Here are a few tips I've received along the way - I'm better at some than others:

1.  Be sure that you are loved by God, and that God does desire the very best for you and those close to you.  This is not necessarily something that has to do with wealth, power, or acclaim - rather it has to do with true living and God's loving grace in spite of the very real situations and struggles of this world.

2.  Do your best to understand your unique God given gifts, purpose and ability.  This does change with training, experience, time and context.  But be relatively sure what it is that God has created you to do.  When you understand this it makes it much easier to do what needs to be done, and not do what others may want you to do, but is not part of your purpose.  Each person is uniquely gifted!  You will find great blessing, joy, and fulfillment when you are able to function in the area where you find blessing and bless others.  When you're outside of this you'll be frustrated and find your energy drained.  You will be most blessed when you do what God has created you to do since it will honour God who created you that way, and you will find a measure of challenge to grow in what you like, but also have enough confidence to operate in what you know you can do.  If I can offer one piece of advice in this regard - I frequently have to ask 'what can I do that no-one else can do (or do as well) can do?'  For me it is thinking the way I do, the way I write, relate to people like I do.  There are few people that have close relationships with some of the people I know, work with and have influence with.  So, I need to concentrate on those things and people and can have relative freedom to pass on the things that anyone else could be, or should be, doing.  Do you see what I am saying?  Operate within your area of unique ability and blessing, be careful not to get distracted or spend too much energy outside of this area.  It will wear you out and leave you feeling that you're not doing something worthwhile with your life and time.

3.  Re-evaluate your life frequently.  Make sure that you have a good balance between challenge and comfort.  Set some realistic goals to grow in what you're good at, what you're called to do, and to sharpen your skills.  There is a natural tendency to let those things that you do well and naturally 'slide' along.  For example, because I preach easily I often found when I was in pastoral ministry that I would often expend by best energy and most of my time doing things that I struggled to do (in order to cover those bases), then I would give whatever time and energy I had left for sermon prep.  I would preach OK, but end up being a generalist with fair results in everything rather than being very good at the one thing that I could do well.

You may have some other thoughts and insights to add!

Well, these are just a few thoughts that I typed while I was on the train from Wimbledon to Hatton Cross.  Blessings for the day ahead.  I am just about to get off the Piccadilly line service at Hatton Cross to go to my meetings.   My leg is feeling much better with the medication!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Distracted or disstressed, going underground.

I enjoy the London Underground. I suppose I enjoy it because it is a novelty and I don't have to depend on the tube to get to and from work each day. I've been staying with Craig and Kath in Wimbledon (which is a train rider's dream! You go on the underground, overland rail and a tram to get to their place!)

This morning, however, as I stood in an overcrowded train carriage I felt a bit sad for the people around me. There they were squashed in like sardines, so much so that people had to get out of the train to let passengers off, and then when the train left the station some people were left behind because there wasn't enough space for them.

What made me sad was that I noticed two common emotions - the people on the train with me were either distracted or distressed...

Those who were distracted had iPods, cell phones, newspapers and books to keep them from noticing the people around them. I wondered what most of them thought about their fellow passengers, what they thought about me? Do they notice the diversity, the gifting, the beauty and the mutual humanity in those other 'squashed' people? Do they think about the parents who leave their children very early, and come home late? Do they wonder if there are people on the train who are struggling to make ends meet? What about the foreigners from all over the world who've come to London in the hope of finding a better, safer, life - working as cleaners, or in a warehouse or shop. I wondered how long it took for one to become dull to the lives of others.

So, I prayed for each person that I saw. I didn't know what to pray for, but I asked God to bless each one, to bring joy and fulfilment into their lives - I do believe that is God's desire for every person and so I asked God to work that miracle for each person.

The other type of person that I saw were those who seemed distressed. These people rushed down the platform, looked at their watches, chewed their nails, bounced their legs, looked over their shoulders, and generally appeared under threat. Perhaps the threat came from without - they had been late for work once too often, or they had an important meeting to get to and were running late. Perhaps the threat came from within - many of us live with these kinds of threat - the pressure to perform, unrealised hopes and dreams, low self esteem, dissapointment at poor choices, secrets kept from loved ones, the inability to face plain truths...

Regardless of the pressures, I know that there is a way that is different, it is the way of peace that Jesus died for. It is a life that is not driven by performance, greed, or achievement. Rather this life is driven by affirmation, acceptance, and most of all, love.

So, I prayed for each of the persons that I saw who was distressed. I asked God to grant them inner peace, and victory over the struggles of this day. I prayed for their extended families, their places of work, and for their hopes and dreams.

I was left wondering how one makes a difference among people who are distracted and distressed, when you yourself suffer from these malladys... I suppose my insight and compassion comes from understanding, and so it makes me more willing to minister and more eager to help. How can one reach such persons? How does one care?

I need to pray a bit more about this one! But, I am pleased that I had this experience. It has enriched my life, broadened my insight, and offered me a fresh perspective on the needs of others.

If you encounter someone who is distracted or distressed, why not offer a prayer on their behalf? Who knows what the result may be!

Corrupted science - a whole new persepctive

Science, like religion, requires a measure of discernment! Not everything that you read in a text-book can be trusted (it's not like the internets you know! ;-) But, did you know that even some of the world's most respected and lauded figures in science had a few skeletons in the cupboard?

This great book by John Grant (see the review below) gives an exceptionally well researched and insightful overview of corrupted science (both in the sense of science that's just plain wrong, but also where science was used to further the cause of 'wrong').

John Grant's handsome little hardcover book "Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science," is an eye-popping tour through the history of bad (very, very bad) science, from eugenics to geocentrism to Lysenkoism. Grant -- whose stern historical tone is liberally relieved with bravura dry sarcasm -- approaches his topic from the general to the specific.

The book begins with a fine, brief history of fraudulent scientists, categorizing their frauds into self-deception, hoaxing, "cooking" (fudging research), and forging (a taxonomy from Charles Babbage's "Reflections on the Decline of Science in England"), and then ranges back and forth through history, revealing the minor and major frauds of respected figures like Newton, Galileo and Marco Polo to outright scoundrels like Ruth B Drown, who sold fake radio-based cancer cures to desperate, dying people for decades.

After this delightful and enervating overview, Grant moves on to different social causes of fraud: ideological scientists who fooled themselves (for example, the discoverers of "menstrual rays" and other improbable phenomena); then military fraud (CIA psi experiments, military waste on secret flying military bases that didn't, and, of course, Star Wars, junk Patriot Missiles and the Missile Defense Shield); religious fraud (bans on teaching evolution, intelligent design, und so weiter); then ideological attacks on science (the burning of the Library of Alexandria, the American Eugenics movement; anti-masturbation campaigns, young earth and New Age crackpots); and then finally onto the book's third act, a chilling exploration of the political curtailment of science.

Here, Grant begins with Nazi science, and not just the gruesome death-camp experiments we're all familiar with, but also the bizarre attacks on "Jewish" mathematics and physics and the effort to create "German" equivalents that adhered to the ideological tenets laid out by Hitler's regime. Of course, there's plenty here about junk genetics, weird theories about the origins of disease ("earth rays") (!), and then, finally, a stomach-turning look at the human subjects experiments undertaken in the death camps.

Next up is Stalinist Russia, and of course, that means Lysenkoism, an ideologically correct biology that led famines that killed millions. The social factors that brought Lysenko (and his contemporaries, including Lepeshinskaya, who advocated the idea of "spontaneous generation of life," despite this notion having gone out with Pasteur. Grant does a great job bringing these personalities to life, and giving a flavor of the reasons that some scientists were forced to toe the line while others (physicists -- vital to the nuclear arms race) were able to conduct their affairs with relatively little meddling. I was also fascinated by his description of the junk psychology that doomed political dissidents to a lifetime in mental institutions and the notion that some psychiatrists may have turned in their diagnoses in order to spare their patients the worse fate that awaited them in the Gulag.

Finally, Grant closes with the systematic attacks on science under the presidency of George W Bush, and makes a compelling case that the failure of countries that tried to constrain science in order to make it comply with ideology is a real possibility for the USA today. Grant's relentless account of the Bush administration's attacks on health science, environmental science, geoscience, evolutionary science, climate science and other critical disciplines is deeply chilling. The political hacks who censor NASA and EPA reports are clearly of a lineage with the commisars who doomed the Soviet Union by purging the bioscience that undermined their political philosophy.

Exhaustively researched and footnoted, Corrupted Science is excellent reading for anyone who believes that science is worth fighting for. Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science, Author's website

What's the difference between a Nigerian 419 scam letter and Hank Paulson's letter to Washington?

That's a good question - what is the difference between a Nigerian 419 scam email and Hank Paulson's letter to Washington to bail out Wall Street in the light of the recent collapse? Not much (if you consider this VERY tongue in cheek letter from Hank).

Seriously, this is a matter of some concern. I listened to two guys speaking about the merits and de-merits of a bail out while our train was stuck at Sloane Square station last night. The one guy made a good point, he said that this kind of 'bail out' tends to encourage rewarding people with poor fiscal responsibility. In other words, it's a bit like South Africa's national airline, no matter how badly you manage your finances, the government will always bail you out (and more)...

Of course the converse is that if the Federal reserve does not bail out Wall Street many, many, many innocent people will loose homes, cars, and their livelihood... It's a tough choice.

But, here's a little something to put a smile on your face regardless. What's the difference between Hank's letter and a Nigerian 419 scam? You tell me!

Hal sends us this "brilliant satiric email phrasing Hank Paulson's giant Wall Street bailout as Nigerian spam."

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

Stockings, pills and London doctors (from South Africa)

Last night I woke up with a cramp in my left (bad) leg like I have never experienced! You know the type where you're woken from your sleep and you want to jump around the room to stretch your calf but every move makes the cramp worse! Ha ha! It was quite funny!

Well, that was the first sign that all is not well with my steel-injected-peg-leg! This morning I noticed that it was severely swollen and that there were red and blue bruises all over my ankle and calf, within a short while most of my lower leg was blue. So, I stopped into a pharmacy who phoned the doctor - they were afraid that I had developed a deep vein thrombosis. But, I am thankful to report it is nothing as serious as that!

The doctor who saw me was from South Africa (a graduate of WITS University where I once studied as well). She was very helpful and kind and is fairly certain that there are no clots in the leg. The bruising and swelling are a result of the flight and yesterday's walking. However, to avoid anything more serious she gave me some anti-inflammatories, a few asprin (to thin my blood), and some very cool 'flight' stockings! So, when I fly home on Sunday I'll be the only guy on the flight in women's pantyhose (well maybe not, but at least I'll be the only one with a legitimate excuse ;-)

What's the downside!? Well, I had an appointment to see my friend Angie Shier-Jones at 14.00 and had to see the doctor at 14.30, so I didn't get to see her. Also, my leg is sore and my pocket is 65 lighter! Yikes, thank the Lord for Medical Aid back home! You can be sure that I kept my receipt and will try to claim when I get home!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Catching up on email, phone calls, and skype form the London Apple Store in Regent Street.

Each time that I come to London I try to make the time to visit four
sites. First, I always like to go into St Paul's Cathedral for a
short time of quiet and prayer. The scale of the Cathedral (plus the
fact that I often use it as an illustration in sermons and classes to
highlight how language has changed...), and the fact that it is a
place of quiet in a busy and bustling city, make it a special, and
must visit location. Second, I always go down the road across the
Millennium footbridge to the Tate Modern museum. If I can I spend an
hour or so walking around seeing what is on display. Today it rained
cats and dogs as I was crossing the bridge. Third, I always sure that
I get to the Apple Store in regent street! That is a spiritual
experience of a different kind! Lastly, I always seem to end up at
King's Cross at Platform 9 3/4 (the one from Harry Potter) - this is
not a choice, it always just seems to happen that way.

Well, here I am in the Apple store... It is a great place because
they have benches upstairs near the Genius Bar and Theatre where you
can sit and use free wifi. So, I made a few phone calls using my
'Skype out' credit - checking on some arrangements and meetings for
the week and returning some voicemail. Then I skyped home and had a
video chat with Megie and Courts. How amazing is that!? Free video
calling from London to South Africa at great quality and convenience.
Then, I downloaded all my emails, typed this message, and responded to
a few other emails.

I've done a lot of walking today (and some of it was rather quick in
order to get to my meeting on time). However, I'll need to leave this
Cathedral of Macintosh quite soon to get back to Kings Cross, collect
my bags and make my way out to Wimbledon (where all South Africans
start, or end up!) to meet my brother-in-law, Craig! I'll be staying
with him and Kath this evening! I always enjoy being with them, they
are hospitable in offering a 'stray puppy' like me a place to lay my

On the steps of St Paul's Cathedral (with a Mac!)

I had a few hours to spare before my first meeting today, so I decided to do a bit of a walking tour of London. I checked my bags into 'left luggage' at Kings Cross station and then caught the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus and walked along Strand and Fleet streets to St Paul's Cathedral from there. It is quite a long walk, what with my leg not yet being up to speed, but it was enjoyable.

This photo was taken on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral using Photobooth on my Macbook air... If it makes it onto my blog you know that I've found an open wifi signal somewhere along the line and have been able to send it through! It's cold, it's grey, but it's good times!

[thanks for the heads-up Gus. Now I know why my photos were not coming through! Here's the picture]

Monday, September 22, 2008

There's a first time for everything...

This is the first time I'm flying from the international section of Cape Town's airport (all my previous overseas travel has been from Johannesburg). This is a lovely airport! But, there is no gadget shop (good for the wallet though!)

I'll be landing at Heathrow early tomorrow morning. Have some marking and reading to do on the flight.

I miss Megie, Courts, and Liam already!
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Sunday, September 21, 2008

At the heart of the people called Methodist - Ordination 2008

The atmosphere of worship is electric in the hall today. Thousands of Methodists have gathered to celebrate and set asside about 40 ministers who have completed on average 5-7 years of training for the Methodist ministry. Personally it is a joy to be a Presbyter for Rev Ronnie van Eck and Prof Jan Reynders, they have been close friends and a great inspiration to me. Both are older men with years of experience and training. Ronnie is a past school Principal and Jan is a Professor of Physics. Yet in spite of their success in their secular carreers they submitted themselves to the rigour and scrutiny of formation and training for the Methodist ministry. I had the joy of teaching them, and most of the 40 persons who are being ordained today.

I give thanks today that women and men still offer their lives in service of our Lord in the Church. Of course there are many who take the equally bold step of offering their lives to serve Christ in the marketplace and home. There can be no greater joy than intentionaly and passionately serving Jesus in achieving His will.

On a closing note, I love being in a radically multicultural setting with incredible vernacular worship! This is the joy of being a Christian in Africa!
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

What counts... A reflection on love, friendship and the grace of Christ

10 hours is a long time to spend doing any single activity! Fortunately while driving I can take time to think, reflect, and pray.

Today my thoughts were filled with many varied things... I thought about the beauty of South Africa, I thought about the Church, and the denomination in which I have the joy to serve... I also thought about the challenges we face in our land (the recalling of Thabo Mbeki by the ANC leadership... this does not bode well for our future, in spite of the fact that Mbeki was a weak president when it came to the things that truly matter - HIV/AIDS, poverty and racial reconciliation). I thought about the joys and blessings of my new post. I have met incredible people (like Johan who serves as a missionary in the Ukraine, Nour who has come from Egypt to learn how to serve and pray, Lloyd Reeb from the USA who is doing incredible work with business people, Mark Anderson from YWAM, Aaron Walsh who leads a remarkable contemplative 24/7 prayer ministry in New Zealand... The list goes on and on!)

I thought quite a bit about the remarkable man that I serve, Graham Power. Graham is a wonderful Christian leader. Sadly I have not encountered that many selfless, courageous, sincere, and truly Christ loving leaders in the Church... Graham is a source of constant inspiration. He attends to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving with regular and concerted discipline. He is patient, and at the same time has a measure of drive that is refreshing and encouraging. Graham has no guile - he is sincere and honest.

I thought about myself, I thought about the blessings of what I'm doing, and the wonderful blessing of being back in Somerset West with my family. I also thought about those things that I miss... I can't tell you how much I miss preaching weekly (Bryanston Methodist church means so much me, and I miss everyone there a great deal - we journeyed together through some very blessed, and some very difficult times)! I miss teaching... Heck, I can't tell you how much I miss being the classroom and seeing students engage with new concepts, watching the 'penny drop' as they suddenly see how things fit together, and what role they can play in achieving God's will and helping others to do the same. I miss the time I had for academic banter, I so enjoyed conversations of a deeply technical nature with my friends Wessel Bentley and Neville Richardson. I miss not having the freedom to attend academic conferences, and the struggle to find the time to do research... I miss Xhosa chapel services at the seminary! Heck, I miss singing the Lord's prayer in Xhosa or the 'Siyakudumisa Thixo' - I still sing these to myself almost daily.

But, I have been blessed with many good friends, many wonderful experiences, and many opportunities to serve in each season of my life. This one is no different.

What matters most to me is my love for Christ, the joy of knowing and serving him, and the excitement of finding a whole new way to know Christ and make him known in the marketplace. What matters most is the blessing of being married to Megan, a beautiful, patient, caring, intelligent and loving companion in this journey. She is more gifted and Christlike than I am - I draw great strength and stability from her. What matters most are my children Courtney and Liam. I cannot imagine life without them! Courtney is such a wonderful young woman, she has a small little heart like mine, and she too seems to have a natural proclivity for reaching the outcast, the mistreated, and poor of our world. Liam is an indescribable gift... I still look through the photos of his birth, how sick, small, and frail he was. Megan and I still cry from time to time when we think how close he came to death on numerous occasions in those first few months, and the challenges that lay ahead for us wit his special needs. We feel unworthy, but grateful, for his life!

So, today I am in Bloemfontein - this is a city in which I did my compulsory military training. The only fond memories I have of this place are attending the Trinity Methodist Church, and praying on base with my friend John. Today, however, I made new 'good memories' as I drove here with my daughter Courtney. She's asleep now. I thank God for her, for Megie, for Liam, and for our wonderful life.

I will miss them in the next weeks.

Gadgets for my 'road trip to Ordination' in Bloemfontein

Well, Courtney and I arrived safely in Bloem - we made it in 9.5 hours, which is not bad considering the road works along the way.

Courtney is in bed watching the Pink Panther movie. I, however, have some work to do (reports to write, a chapter to finish and some marking to do)... So, here's my bag of goodies for the trip:

1. Apple Macbook
2. vodafone 3G hsdpa modem
3. garmin quest GPS
4. fuji digital camera s7000 - a fine digital camera with a superb lens AND most importantly it takes standard AA batteries. I've had this cam for 3 years now and it is still my 'go to' camera
5. iPhone
6. Nokia E90 (with which I took this photo and am writing this post).

With this I can work, stay in touch, and get a bit of relaxation as well.

Tags: Macbook, Air, iPhone, Bloemfontein, Ordination, "road warrior"
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Snow in the Hex River pass

Isn't this lovely? Snow on the mountains of the Hex river pass. It's been a cold winter in the Cape.

We give thanks to God for the beauty of South Africa!
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On our way to Bloemfontein for the Methodist Ordination service

On Monday I start about 7 weeks of international travel (England, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Kenya) - however, this weekend I was asked to be a Presbyter for two of my past students at their Ordination service. I couldn't get an affordable flight to Bloem so I decided to drive.

Since I'll be away for so long my darling daughter Courtney decided to take the 'road trip' with her dad! How cool is that!? Here we are in the car in du Toit's Kloof.
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Special brains! Inside a London Cab drivers' brain.

In a week's time I shall be in London. It always amazes me just how quickly and effectively London cabbies navigate the congested and twisted streets of that great city!

Well, here's a little inside info on why that may be possible for some of them! Now, I wonder what part of the brain we could stimulate to develop personal hygiene and diminish the capacity to swear ;-)

FMRI scans have revealed the amazing workings of London's Black Cab drivers, who train for a decade to acquire "The Knowledge," an encylopedic ability to navigate London's streets:

The hippocampus was only active when the taxi drivers initially planned their route, or if they had to completely change their destination during the course of the journey.

The scientists saw activity in a different brain region when the drivers came across an unexpected situation - for example, a blocked-off junction.

Another part of the brain helped taxi drivers to track how close they were to the endpoint of their journey; like a metal detector, its activity increased when they were closer to their goal.

Changes also occurred in brain regions that are important in social behaviour.

Taxi driving is not just about navigation: "Drivers do obsess occasionally about what their customers are thinking," said Dr Spiers.

Taxi drivers 'have brain sat-nav' (From boingboing)

Is the Church incedental? OR, is it part of God's plan for community?

One of the challenging aspects of my new ministry is that it puts me in contact with many high level Christian persons who have 'given up' on the local Church. For many of them they simply find it quite difficult to connect with their local pastor (I suppose when you're meeting theologians, Bishops, and some of the world's brightest and most engaging teachers and preachers that can be a bit of a challenge). Then of course many of them are very driven and successful business people who have expressed frustration at the smallmindedness of some Church leaders, as well as the lack of commitment and creativity among some Church members.

The reality is that more than half of the top leaders that I know do not worship regularly at a local Church... It scares me! Megan and I have chosen to commit ourselves to our local Church. We worship at Coronation Ave Methodist Church. Our ministers, Philip Buckland and Steven Lottering are a blessing to us, and we enjoy the worship, fellowship, teaching, and challenge of the community. The same cannot be said for many of our friends. They love Christ, but do not find a local Chruch in our area in which they feel they can belong and grow.

Whilst reading William P. Young's book The Shack recently (which is a magnificent book by the way! Just look past some of the idiosyncratic theology and you'll be challenged, blessed, encouraged and ministered to!) I began to think about the community of the Church. The question that arose in my mind is this: Is the Church (as in local churches or congregations) incidental, or is it part of God's plan for human community?

Of course I realise that the Church exists in many places outside of local congregations (it exists in hospitals, schools, workplaces, homes community gatherings etc. since the Church is the community of believers and not the building)... But, is the local congregation part of God's plan for humanity!? I happen to think it is...

The attached audio file (which is a sneak preview of my Radio Show for this week Wednesday) gives some of the reasons why I think that God wants us to commit ourselves to the disciplines of community worship, service, learning, and fellowship.

Download the MP3 here (Why we're better together) (6.2MB).

Let me know what your thoughts are. Wes I would love to hear from you if you have a chance - I know that you have done extensive research on the theology of Church (ecclesiology). but, I would like to hear the perspectives of everyone who visits the blog.

Rich blessing,

Dion (in the throes of packing... We move into our new home tomorrow, and guess what!? It's raining again!!!)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Angus Buchan at Newlands, Cape Town.

Update 18 February 2010:  If you arrived at this link in search of the 'Cape Town for Jesus' prayer event that is taking place at the new Cape Town (Greenpoint) stadium then please follow this link. Ticket sales are now open, so please see that for your tickets for 22 March 2010 AND for the Global Day of Prayer event at the Newlands Rugby stadium on the 23rd of May 2010.

Please note that my blog has since moved to http://www.dionforster.com please update your links accordingly.  Thank you!  God bless,


Original post below.
This evening I had a great time with my wife, Megan, and our two kids, at Newlands Cricket stadium in Cape Town. No, there was no cricket match on that hallowed ground. Rather, we had gathered with thousands of other South Africans (I would guess about 20 000 or so) to be challenged by 'uncle' Angus Buchan, the potato farmer from KwaZulu Natal.

The event itself was superb - it was well organised, there was a wonderful spirit of optimism and Christian love throughout the sports field (even the gridlocked traffic to get to the stadium was quite pleasant!) From the pictures in this post you'll see that the stadium was quite full! There were almost no empty seats on the stands and the lawn, there were however a few unused corporate boxes.

We had the privilege of sitting in the Power Box, which helped a great deal since the wind was freezing!

The evening was opened with a welcome from my friend Graham Power, and then a great music team lead the gathering in worship. The worship could have fit into just about any congregation in South Africa. There was a healthy mix of languages, some hymns, some choruses, and good music interspersed with prayer. What I enjoyed about this evening, and also commented on when we were at the Mighty Men of God conference earlier this year, was that this was 'ordinary' worship. What I mean by this is that it is not a 40 piece band with a 200 member choir doing music of the quality that one is accustomed to hearing from a Hillsong CD. No, this was just straight forward, no performance, creating a place for persons to sing and pray about their love for their God and their hopes, dreams, and trust in the God with whom they are in relationship.

When Angus came up to speak he was his usual energetic self. His message was focused on spending time with God - he used the metaphor of a 'prayer closet' - he spoke of the Russian Orthodox custom of setting aside a specific place for prayer and devotion to God. The central emphasis of the message was to call his listeners to recenter their lives upon God who is the source of all that is loving, good, and life giving. Of course he used many of the familiar illustrations and stories for which he has become known, and he offered challenges to men, women, and young people, to honour God and bless one another. I am always surprised that a farmer would place such a strong emphasis upon racial harmony and reconciliation, and this evening was no different. Moreover, he touched upon the fact that his predominantly white and 'khoi' (so called 'coloured') audience should not be fearful and hopeless in the current political climate in South Africa. But rather that we should rise above the challenge and adversity of these situations to work and pray for a better South Africa for all her citizens.

I agree with some persons who have commented that Angus is radically evangelical, and that at times he exercises some interpretive license when using the Biblical text. I do believe, however, that he is sincere about his desire to know and love God fully, and to serve God's people with courage and grace. I have not always agreed with all of the statements and positions that Angus has put forward. However, I recognise the need for tolerance on my part, and acceptance of the good work that he is doing on his part. I would hope that when I make statements, or take up a position on a matter that others may struggle with, they would treat me in the same manner. It has been concerning for me to see the intolerance for his method and message among some whom I had considered much more open to varitey and plurality of position. I fear that if we become so rigid that we will only accept 'like minded' preaching and teaching, that we do a disservice to the Church and scoiety, and we betray our own fundamentalism and intollerance in the process.

The content of his message did not teach me anything new about the Christian faith. As he confessed, he is a simple person with a simple aim, namely evangelism. His passion and commitment to Christ is infectious and inspiring, however. If I think about him, Angus is a bit like the lumberjack who comes with a chainsaw and chops down a forest of trees. Others come and remove the branches and leaves, and still others will refine those trees and shape them to become something of grate value and use, like a toothpick, of a table, chair or something else. I did however, learn a few things about what the average person longs to hear and experience. Most persons want a simple straightforward message of challenge and encouragement. They want someone who encourages them to find and create hope in the midst of adverse circumstances. They want to relate to an ordinary person who has the courage to pray for the sick, to challenge their frailties and sin, and help them to move towards a transcendent solution.

Is this the kind of evening that I could grow through in my obedience and discipleship - yes, but not because I am learning new ideas or concepts, rather because I am encourage and challenged by others who choose to do so much more with a lot less training and input. But, I also recognise that this is a phenomenon. It is not something that will last forever. It will be remembered by many as a significant milestone on their journey, but they shall have to move on from this point.

I hope to be one of those who has grace enough to realise that when persons make a commitment to Christ, by whatever means, that I am privileged enough to disciple them for responsible, balanced, and God honouring living. I shall certainly follow up with the persons that I know who went to the event - and whatever 'response cards' get passed on to our organisation will be followed up with the same meticulous and loving care.

I am struggling to upload my pictures of the event... Please check back tomorrow to see if I was able to upload them.

Our universe hasn't been 'sucked up' ... yet...

This week, among the history shifting events here in South Africa with Jacob Zuma's judgement being overturned, there was also some other interesting news!

I'm glad that we're still here!

 News Bigphotos Images 080910-Collider-Success Big The Large Hadron Collider was fired up and we're apparently all still herezajkekukja.....

Friday, September 12, 2008

In the light of today's decision about Jacob Zuma, here's some advice from Bonhoeffer...

As the heading says, today's decision about the Jacob Zuma matter is some concern.  Don't get me wrong, every person requires the right to appeal against a charge laid against them if they feel that they have been unfairly treated.  However, the political posturing, intimidation, and track record surrounding this issue are overwhelming evidence of the fact that Mr Zuma has something to hide, and that he will muster all the support that he can to have his point heard.

This is not justice, and as such it must be a matter of grave concern for all South Africa's citizens.  Each of us shall have to choose how we can bring about good in this situation.  For those of us who are persons of faith, I thought this advice from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was killed by Adolf Hitler because of his stance against National Socialist (Nazi) abuses of power, is quite good advice.

Our being Christian today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action among humanity. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What do you think?  Let us pray for Mr Zuma, let us also pray for our land and for those who are swept up by promises that may be unrealistic, and political sentiments that may be founded on false hope.

Polokwane, Pietermaritzburg and the future according to Jacob Zuma...

The December 2007 conference of the ANC in Polokwane, and today's judgement (which is only a very first step) in the Jacob Zuma case in Pietermaritzburg, will be noted at watershed events in the history of South Africa.

We have already traveled some way down a treacherous and uncertain road.

Whilst there is some uncertainty there is one thing of which we can be certain - we are not victims, we have choices, and we have a God who is both powerful and loving!

Today I am praying and fasting. I encourage you to do the same.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What is justice?

Here's an incredibly challenging quote!  I like it a lot.

"Justice is what love looks like in public."
Cornel West
From Call and Response, a documentary on global slavery.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

5 paradigms that could change your work into worship!

My ministry changed radically about 9 years ago when a wealthy business person came to faith in Christ. He is a gifted and capable person who had made an incredible success of his companies. My first inclination, when he asked how he could serve the Lord, was to suggest that he get involved in the leadership of our Church, or perhaps run our Church's finance commission (clearly he was a gifted leader and a person who knew how to work with money). If I had suggested that to him the result may have been two things.

1) I may have helped one Methodist Church in a single city of South Africa to develop.
2) I'm fairly certain that in the process this new Christian would have become bored and frustrated with the task I had assigned him to and he would have moved on.

Thankfully I was dumb enough NOT to get him into that position - rather I invited him to join a small group that I was running specifically for business people. Here I knew his peers could start to disciple him on things like Christian worship, loving service, stewardship and the use of his influence and resources for Christ's Kingdom... The long and short of it is that the person I am talking about is Graham Power, who went on to start the Global Day of Prayer (which this year had between 300 and 400 million persons participating).

Graham has become a significant figure in world Christianity. God has used him to bring new excitement, passion, and drive to many Churches and denominations worldwide. Equally significant has been his influence among his peers (all leaders in their own right, either in business or politics) who have made some significant choices that have bettered the lives of many millions of persons in countries such as Ghana, Argentina, Kenya, the USA and a host of other nations.

I have come to consider this one fact: Graham was created by God to do business... It's what he does well, and he God blesses his efforts.

So, when Graham works to God's glory and towards the aims of achieving God's will for his companies, the industry in which he works, and the nation that he influences, then his work becomes worship!

So, here's a little audio recording that I did for my 'radio pulpit' show (The Ministry and Me), it was broadcast in the week of the 20th of August, and you can order an audio copy of the CD from Radio Pulpit if you wish.

Download the '5 paradigms that could change your work into worship' here (6MB in MP3 format).

The show was broadcast in the week of the 6th of August and I have had many emails and calls about it. You will find a powerpoint presentation with slides and scriptures here - 5paradigms.ppt. And here's a copy of an unedited MS Word document that may be of some use 5paradigms.doc.

Let me know what you think!

A reflection on selfishness and greed....

I can understand the sentiment of this wonderfully challenging and insightful quote... I have suffered, far too frequently, from my own selfishness and greed. It is something I bring before the Lord frequently, whether it has to do with my time, my boundaries, my need for control, or the much more base desires such as food, clothing, possessions (and of course gadgets!)

Selfishness ... feeds an insatiable hunger that first eats up everything belonging to others and then causes a creature to devour itself.

- Dom Helder Camara
Brazilian archbishop

'Us' and 'them' a dialectic tension that could lead to growth or abuse - religion could be both the problem and the solution.

In a post I wrote two days ago on religious fundamentalism I got a wonderful comment from Simon G... Here's his comment on my post, and my response to him. What do you think? Can we differentiate without objectifying others? Is it healthy, or unhealthy? And, if we do so, how do we guard against abuse?

This is a fascinating quote because it starts from the premise you can split people into good and bad. I would suggest all bad things done in the name of religion start with exactly this sort of us and them split.

Christ said love you neighbour as yourself -- that needs to be without making a judgement on whether my neighbour is good or bad.

Yes, we all have tendency to split people into groups and label them - Hitchens included (good and bad). There lies the smooth highway to apartheid, ethnic cleansing, gay bashing, jihad and concentration camps. We are all capable of perpetrating these, they aren't the prerogative of a special group of people.

Trouble is some grouping and labelling is social acceptable and much is socially acceptable in the church, we need to fight this tendency with all vigour and pray the Holy Spirit will give us a renewed and Christ like vision of our neighbour.

Here's my comment to Simon:


Thank you for this thought provoking comment. I agree with the sentiment entirely, and am particularly struck by the fact that such 'objectification' and categorization is exactly what leads to abuse.

However, I do wonder how one becomes critical (whether be self critical, or critical of groupings, structures, or individuals) in a healthy manner in order to bring about change for the good of all humanity and ultimately God's intended Glory in the Kingdom?

The methodology of prayer that you mention is certainly a core element of such an approach - it is something that I do daily in private and with groups as I have chance. However, I do believe that there must be something more tangible that can help us to do 'mission to the Church', as Karl Barth's missiology suggests...

I think that sometimes the answer of 'prayer conversion' creates a soft barrier the differentiates 'true believers' from 'false believers', even within the church.

Ultimately religion, which comes from the Latin word re - ligio (ligio is the root word for the English 'ligament' which means in Latin to 'bind' or 'hold together') does have a binding effect. At first it is comforting since the 'binding' gives structure and security, but sadly there frequently comes a 'tipping point' where religion goes from being a comfortable binding agent that brings people together, to a restrictive and exclusive binding agent that holds some persons captive, and excludes those who need more freedom.

So, the long and the short of my response is this - I agree that we need to be careful of hap-hazard objectification, but there does need to be some graciously realistic method of understanding, articulating, and dealing with sinful individuals, groups, and structures (both within 'us' and within 'them'). This will help us to grow and become more Christlike.

Perhaps the secret is the attitude that you spoke of, which comes from the Holy Spirit? I thought of Phil 2:5 as I read your comment "... consider others better than yourself..."

Thanks once again from the comment!

So, what do you think!?

Table mountain in repose!

A friend of mine is in London, I'll be heading off there myself in a week or so... He tells me the weather's better in the UK than it is in Cape Town - how about that!?

Here I am stuck in the rain on the N2... At least I can see the mother of all mountains, Table mountain, and the cooling towers at Langa!

I'm on my way to meet the distributor of the book that Wessel Bentley and I wrote last year (Methodism in Southern Africa...), Africa Upper Room Ministry.
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Monday, September 08, 2008

"I'm a PC..." Everything you could ever want to know!

John Hodgman is known throughout galaxies far and wide for transcendent wit and bookish LOLs. You may know him from the Apple ads, the Daily Show hijinks, his blog, or his book, Areas of My Expertise (Amazon link), which begat the Internet Hobo Craze of The 21st Century.

What you may not yet know about him is this: he has a new book coming out October 21, 2008, titled More Information Than You Require (Amazon link).

The new compendium will include mole men. And, frankly, it's pretty sweet. We visited with him during a hotel hole-up at the Chateau Marmont, and interrupted his writing flow. He forgave us, and offered us a ham sandwich with some Soylent Green. Please to be watching.

(Ed. note: We aired a mole-man-centric cut of this visit late last year, but we're revisiting again to reveal more undiscovered Hodgmanic goodness. Stay tuned for all-new fun with this guy, planned soon.)

Do not fear... This is from boingboing!

A sad reflection on religious fundamentalism...

Mandy de Waal (whom I follow on twitter) posted the following telling quote today...

In the normal order of things good people do good things and bad people do bad things... To get good people to do bad things you need religion - Christopher Hitchens
Indeed. Don't follow me.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The AWB on the Cape South coast... Trouble in paradise

We've been on the Cape South coast (George, Wilderness and Knysna) for the weekend. I was absolutely astounded to see these posters on just about every lamp post in the area - they advertise a white supremacist rally at which Afrikaner Weerstand's Beweeging (AWB) leader, Eugene Terreblance, is speaking.

I had two thoughts - first, sadness that persons and groups like this even exist in the new South Africa. Second, I was proud to be a new South African! We will even allow such persosn rights and freedoms in South Africa (unlike their behaviour in the past and desire for the future...)

Still, my heart is sad! Pray for this region - clearly there is still a lot of work to do here to heal relationships and establish the kind of society that would honour God!
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Saturday, September 06, 2008

A relaxing afternoon in Knysna!

We arrived in Knysna at lunchtime today after our morning session in Riversdal. It's a fantastic day! We've taken the boat out for a quick spin to the Knysna heads... Another tough day in Africa!
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Friday, September 05, 2008

This must be what the Wesleyan revivals were like....

This evening Graham Power and I are speaking at the Riversdal stadium. It is wonderful to see over a thousand people gathering (in COLD) weather. They are eager to seek the face of God, and find tangible solutions for the problems they encounter in this region. Alchohol abuse, drug abuse, unemployement, race and culture struggles, HIV / AIDS, these and many more are the problems that plague millions of South Africans in rural South African towns.

It is such a joy and privelage to be able to speak of hope and to see persons make a commitment to working together to see God's dream for their community and region. Tomorrow we shall run a workshop with teachers, community workers, pastors, business people, the police, and members of the community in which they shall strategise for the upliftment, development, and change of the region.

It is such a joy and honour to be here and to be part of the blessing of a community such as this. Perhaps this is what the Wesleyan revivals of England were like. Sometimes, it feels a little like we're making history.
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The gadgets I take with me when I travel

I spend about 1 to 2 nights a week elsewhere in South Africa. In a few hours time I'll be in Riversdale, then to George 'two mayors, three speaking engagements, three days'.

Staying connected with my office, and keeping up to date with my work is imperative. I simply cannot afford to get back into town and then have to catch up on emails, letters, projects and reports!

So, here's what I take with me when I travel:

1) Apple Macbook Pro (a bit large and heavy, but I can't quite afford the Macbook Air yet, and my 12" G4 Powerbook is getting a little 'long in the tooth')

2) Spare Macbook battery and battery Geek external battery (I can get about 8-10 hours of work out of the battery Geek, plus 6 hours out of my two Macbook batteries).

3) Vodafone 3G USB modem - I've got to be able to connect to the intrawebs! I use it for work (email etc.,) but also to skype video home to Megan, Courtney and Liam. Liam can't speak yet, so it's important for him to be able to see me, amd for me to be able to see and speak to all of them!

4) Nokia E90 communicator - an all round GREAT phone! 3G HSDPA (in case there is no vodacom 3G coverage - my phone is with MTN), great 3.2 megapixel camera, wifi, bluetooth, GPS (in a fix), MS Exchange, MMS messaging, and of course phone calls.

5) iPhone (first generation, upgraded to the new firmware). This has my work sim card in it for making work related phone calls. It is also filled with music, audiobooks (just read 'The Shack'!), podcasts etc.

6) Garmin Quest GPS (to find my way)...

So, that's the gadget gear. It keeps me productive and connected - the only items I would change would be the Macbook Pro for a Macbook Air, and the 1st generation iPhone for a 3G iPhone... The rest are perfect!
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Please pray for Craig and Mandy Rens - rest in Christ James.

Dear friends,

Some of you may be aware that Craig and Mandy Rens lost their son, James Mark Rens, this evening (Craig started the Methodist ministers' list and is a member of the Bryanston Methodist Church). James was born very premature and sadly did not have the strength to make it through these first trying weeks of life. We thank God for their love and courage! And we pray that James find peace, blessing, and joy in the presence of Christ.

Mandy has also not been well. She suffered a stroke a short while after James' birth and is recuperating, but she can do with your prayers. If ever we needed to show our love and support to some of our own, now is the time. Please pray for them.

My wife Megan and I started fasting and praying every Friday about two years ago when our son Liam was born at 27 weeks of pregnancy. We continue to follow this discipline in order to bring parents and children before our loving Lord. I would encourage you to do the same this week if you are able.

Please send your messages of support to Craig and Mandy on 083 307 0957

Thank you,


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My future's so bright, I've gotta wear shades!

It's freezing and wet in Cape Town, but Liam's future's so bright he's wearing shades!
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Monday, September 01, 2008

Want a free Bach e Lor's de grEe, how about an MB Aa or a PHDD?

Yes, I love spammers! They are so creative! Here's a piece of spam mail that a friend of mine got in his email inbox....

Would you take a PHDD from a person who can't spell PhD!?

Sadly, I once got a certificate from a person who wanted their degree recognised by our seminary so that it could be included in the Church's list of academic qualifications.... The certificate looked quite good, except for ONE LITTLE FACT... The word "Doctorate" on the certificate was spelled DOCTRATE (like 'nitrate').... Mmmmm.... sorry for you! I didn't know whether to be mad or sad... I spent YEARS of late nights and early morning slaving away to get a doctorate, and here was a guy who wanted to submit his purchased 'doctrate' to the Church.

Sadly, what most people don't realise is that degree certificates are useless! The real worth of any qualification is the knowledge and skill that the individual has gained in earning the degree... The certificate itself means almost nothing! We truly should get away from studying to get certificates, and study so that we can be better equipped and trained to do the good that God wants done in the world!

If you want a NICE FAKE degree, download the one attached to this message... It's worth as much as the paper it is printed on...

From: Hoeller Mewborn [mailto:executrixes@jp-supplies.com]
Sent: 01 September 2008 04:30 PM
To: afriend@hisplace.com
Subject: Crazy cat that frightened an entire neeighbourhood has mended itss ways







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Knew, too, that her brother and sisterinlaw had in the first
place, the dragoman was a greek whose like caesar's wounds,
trying to speak. We are her if she's happy. I like your
impudence!'' you punch and looked at his complacent friend.