Dion's random ramblings

Friday, November 28, 2008

Work, worship... And an Audi R8... Poetry and Prose

Being an extrovert it is not all that difficult to 'live my life in public'. I know that there are some who wish to set up fairly strict boundaries around themselves. I am not in that place. There are various reasons for that... Perhaps one of them is simply that I want to be authentic. I know who I am, what weaknesses I have, what I struggle with, and how I find joy, blessing, and life, in spite of those. It would be untrue to project another picture of myself, and my life, to people whom I hope to encounter in truth and love.

So, today you'll find me a little 'battle weary'. I have been traveling extensively over the last few weeks, and now I'm in final sprint for the finish line. Part of my work, as some would know, is overseeing the work two sizable charitable trusts. Each one disburses fair amounts of money. This is a good thing since it facilitates hope, it supports good works that require a bit of finance to get even better, and of course it also allows for new transforming initiatives to be birthed so that our nation, and ultimately the world, can become reflective of the values of Christ and grace of God's Kingdom. We work very hard to make sure that we are good stewards of what God has entrusted to us, both in terms of the financial resources that we have to share, but also in terms of our influence, time, and energy.

There are so many wonderful projects on the go - just yesterday I received a report from a group that we are assisting in the Boland area who work with children that suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, two days ago I met with a group of social entrepreneurial projects in one of the poorest communities in the Cape - we are financing the establishment and growth of a number of businesses and social ventures (such as clinics, creches, skills development centers etc.) That same night I attended a dinner for Eagle's Rising, a social upliftment program that takes abused and disadvantaged youths and does restorative work and self esteem and skills development with them to prepare them for healthy integration into the South African workforce. Last night I attended a dinner for an incredible seminary that trains young people for ministry in the visual and communicative arts... It's all good stuff! It helps to change the climate of hope within our nation, it brings renewal, establishes justice, it reconstructs the lives of individuals and communities, and it helps to prevent future abuse, brokenness, and suffering.

In the midst of all of this I have been mediating necessary and destructive conflicts in two 'societies' (that's the name that Methodists use to refer to a Church community) in our area. Since I am perceived to be neutral I have been called upon to facilitate some measure of healing and reconciliation between the communities and their respective pastors. It is a complex, emotional, and disheartening process.

It leaves me wondering why the Church is dysfunctional, yet community organizations (some of which only have very tentative links to the Church) are doing so much good? Perhaps it is the energy of working towards a common cause that give the community organizations the ability to function with very little conflict? Alternatively, perhaps it is simply that the Church fosters real and honest relationships at a much deeper level, and that will naturally lead to real and significant encounters between people (both good and bad)? I'm not entirely sure.

However, one thing that has become increasing clear to me is that there is a strong need to recognise that WORSHIP is no longer the 'sole mandate' of the traditional Christian Church community. Yes, I appreciate how significant it is when Christ loving, sincere disciples, gather together to praise God in song, to be challenged and changed by liturgy, prayer and sacred and symbolic activity... I do pray that it would never end, and that one would find more creative, more engaging, more life changing instances of this!

YET, I am becoming increasingly aware that for many of the Christians I am encountering worship is something altogether different. It is about finding ways of declaring and celebrating God's worth WITHIN the ambit of regular, everyday, life. It takes place outside of the walls of the church building.

It is a little like the relationship between poetry and prose... Poetry is beautiful, it inspires, it has its place. Yet, it is a little removed from the regular patterns of speech. Prose on the other has a strong narrative element, it is much closer to rhythms of everyday life, and so it has an equally valid place and special kind of beauty.

So, during this busy week (with an equally busy weekend ahead) I have tried to practice the worship of prose, as I've rejoiced at the wonderful work that ordinary people are doing in their everyday lives. God has been worshiped as people have cared for mothers and babies, God has been worshiped as young people have been loved, restored, and prepared for integration into society. God has been worshiped as medicines have been dispensed and minds have been opened. God has been worshiped as fields have been built for children to play.

God is being worshiped through work... Here's a little reflection on the way to work. By the way, keep your eyes open for an Audi R8 that enters the scene on the way to the office!

Remember, we need BOTH poetry and prose! I look forward to preaching and sharing in worship at my local Church this Sunday, but, on Monday I look forward to 'keeping the worship switch on'!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sunset at Suikerbossie, Cape Town

Tonight I have the great joy of attending the Pneumatix year end function at Suikerbossie Restuarant in Cape Town. I have done many weddings in this lovely setting in years gone by. Tonight, however, I'm here to celebrate the hard work of Cois, Corne, and their staff. Pneumatix is a seminary that trains young people for ministry in the arts see http://ww.pnxglobal.com I serve as a trustee on their board.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A thought on 'giving God glory' (from a Benedictine monastery)

We have pots of it to give... Does God need it and only we can give it? It's all quite silly!

Just thinking (or not).

An account of the hope that lives in you!

Just a few thoughts... What do you think?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas, Cholera and Plato

Yesterday I received two very challenging emails. Each one touched my heart in a deeply significant way. So, this morning I set aside my regular devotional material (A guide to prayer for Ministers and other servants from the Upper Room) and reflected upon, and prayed about, these two emails.

I thought I would share them with you.

First, there is an email from one of my past students, Rev Paul Oosthuizen. It was deeply challenging in relation to Christmas and the cholera outbreak right on our Northern border in Zimbabwe.

"A Christ healed Africa for the Healing of the Nations"

I was rereading Sheldon's "In his Steps" and was struck by the poignant moment of a young man falling down in church of hunger an desperation. Are we those who speak of Christ but do not follow Christ. Do we adore Christ as a means of avoiding following him.

Pictures and stories of the crisis in Zim just do not make sense in the light of our Methodist call and vision- many have criticized Mbeki and others for their quiet diplomacy- but looking at the start of Advent and my own preparation for Christmas I have just wondered what kind of silent Diplomacy I practice- my own silent diplomacy with evil, my own selfish self-interest in food and pleasure whilst others climb border fences to access medication and food.

What will it mean to be Methodist this Christmas- can I stand in the pulpit and preach a sermon celebrating Jesus entering this world in human form whilst humanity has become so inhumane and indifferent? I don't know what I will preach maybe I must be silent.

I am a probationer at college about to enter station and there is a sense of impotence in being unable to shape and form a community into a response to this crisis. There is sense that the Mission Congress and Mission statement may well be rendered meaningless this Christmas for me. We have congregations with wallets loaded with Christmas bonus', calenders crammed with leave and I wonder if these resources will simply be used as if we are no different from those we do not proclaim Christ.

Can I ask that maybe each of us this Sunday at the start of Advent just take 5 minutes and open a conversation from the pulpit and wonder with our congregations what a Christian response might look like. Maybe invite our Bishops to co-ordinate a concerted response- rehydration packs cost cents, drips, medicine and doctors a bit more.

Merry Christmas
Second, was this reflection from Verse and Voice (the sojourners email daily thought).

Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.
- Ezekiel 34:2-4

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.

- Plato

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The End has come... And it's better than I anticipated.

Make of it what you will! You are loved, and the end is here.

Tomorrow I fly to Johannesburg for two days of moderating final examination scripts with a colleague from Cambridge (Dr Adrian Chatfield). I feel that the weekends are too short, it would seem, to catch up with my loved ones and friends.

So, the end is near... But, it looks better than I anticipated! Before I fly tomorrow I shall be eating lunch with a few close friends at our home! Friendship, Fellowship and Fine times!

Picture 3

Flickr set of "The End" in TV shows and movies

I'm in a pensive mood. It's been quite a year thus far! Lots of great stuff, and a few not so good things (I still walk with a limp!) I am, however, looking forward to a short break over Christmas!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Be still and know that I am busy... And I don't mind! But...

I like being busy! There is an element of my ego that is bound up on productivity - call it the Calvinist work ethic (perhaps one of the only things that I like about Calvin ;-)

Of course, anything other than God that one relies on in order to give shape to one's true identity needs to be dealt with! I find that the only way in which I can overcome this weakness is to withdraw from my natural proclivity towards activity, and just "be still". Of course the Psalmist urges us to "be still" in order to come to "know" that God is God. The interesting thing is that the word "know" that is used in this passage is a Hebrew word that refers to intimacy.

Intimacy, truth, and relationship require time. I'm not too good at it. I long for it, but I am not all that good at it!

Here's a little video reflection on being still:

The examen of conscience, from the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius (to which I refer in this video) are the following:

St. Ignatius' General Examination of Conscience

1. Give thanks to God our Lord for the favors received
2. Ask for the grace to know your sins
3. Examine how you have lived this day
4. Ask forgiveness for any faults
5. Resolve to amend with the grace of God

Quite a useful little exercise to measure each day's activity in relation to God and those whom God loves and I should love!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hearing God's voice and acing upon it. Video reflection.

I work with a wonderful Christian man, Graham Power, he is the business guy who started the Global Day of Prayer after watching the George Otis 'Transformation' video at a Bible study I used to lead back in the day (1999). Just as an aside we've just finished writing the story of the Global Day of Prayer (Diane Vermooten wrote the text and I edited it - it is due to be published by Strang Publishers in the USA and will be on the shelves in March 2009).

However, one of the things that struck me as I read the book again (it had to be sent to the publishers this morning so I spent a few hours working through it last night) was Graham's incredible obedience and courage! Here's a businessman (not a pastor) who has only been a Christian for less than a year when he hears God telling him to call together 45 000 people for a day of prayer and repentance for the City of Cape Town. And, he does it!

I once asked God (while I was shaving!) "Why don't you speak to me like you speak to Graham". On that morning God spoke to me very clearly. I heard God saying "I don't give you instructions like I give to Graham because your probably wouldn't listen!" Yikes! It is true! Not only do I lack courage, but I also get so twisted that I sometimes struggle to hear God's voice.

Well, here's a little reflection that I recorded this morning about hearing God's voice... Nothing profound, just a few thoughts that came from my quiet time this morning on 1 Kings 18:41- 46 (for those who read the Upper Room daily devotional you'll recognize the reading).

What do you think? Can one hear God's voice in the ordinary things? AND, how do you guard against hearing the wrong things?

I would appreciate your feedback and thoughts!

UNIX (geek) humour do you mget it!? Perhaps you should grep your funnybone?

You know you're a GEEK if you find this funny!

better !pout !cry
better watchout
lpr why
santa claus town

cat /etc/passwd > list
ncheck list
ncheck list
cat list | grep naughty >coal
cat list | grep nice >gift
santa claus town

who | grep sleeping
who | grep awake
who | egrep 'bad|good'
for (goodness sake) {
be good

Or how about this classic!


ha ha! I laughed so hard that I almost developed a hernia when I read
that one!

And a final, oldy, but a goodie...

1f u c4n r34d th1s u r34lly n33d t0 g37 a l1f3...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The cost of reconciliation

A thought for the day... Much like any other gain in the world, to break the inertia of our world takes great sacrifice and energy (I am trying to get fit at the moment... It is not easy!) Here's a challenging quote about the work of mercy and justice.

Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace, it shouldn't be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice.

- Corazon Aquino,

political leader and president (1986-92) of the Philippines.

PS. My Kenya trip has been put on hold for this week. Thanks God! It will be good to be in Cape Town until Sunday to spend some time with my wonderful family and catch up on some work in the office. The reason for putting the trip on hold is that the corporate airplane had an engine fault and they could not get parts here before Friday. So, the boss and two of the directors have flown up commercially to do the most necessary meetings. I am grateful!

Here's a little QIK video with one or two thoughts on this... Once again, nothing profound, just a thought or two that may spark some ideas and reflection.

As always, I appreciate feedback!

Be courageous! Be faithful! Be Christlike!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Neurologist recounts a time when he was conned.

Paul J. Zak, a neuroeconomist and director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, explains the psychology of cons using himself as an example. When he was a teenager, he was taken by the "pigeon drop."

Here's what happened to me. One slow Sunday afternoon, a man comes out of the restroom with a pearl necklace in his hand. "Found it on the bathroom floor" he says. He followed with "Geez, looks nice-I wonder who lost it?" Just then, the gas station's phone rings and a man asked if anyone found a pearl necklace that he had purchased as a gift for his wife. He offers a $200 reward for the necklace's return. I tell him that a customer found it. "OK" he says, "I'll be there in 30 minutes." I give him the ARCO address and he gives me his phone number. The man who found the necklace hears all this but tells me he is running late for a job interview and cannot wait for the other man to arrive.

Huum, what to do? The man with the necklace said "Why don't I give you the necklace and we split the reward?" The greed-o-meter goes off in my head, suppressing all rational thought. "Yeah, you give me the necklace to hold and I'll give you $100" I suggest. He agrees. Since high school kids working at gas stations don't have $100, I take money out of the cash drawer to complete the transaction.

You can guess the rest.

He goes on to explain the psychology of cons. In short, :The key to a con is not that you trust the conman, but that he shows he trusts you."

How to stream live video to twitter or your blog with a cell phone.

A while ago I heard about a great FREE tool for the Nokia S60 series phones (E90, N95, E71, E51 etc.) that allows you to stream (or post) live from your cell phone to the web. Yesterday I discovered how to stream that video via Twitter or Blogger.

Here's a video that will explain most of the steps that you can follow to stream video to your blog or notify people via twitter (and if you have the twitter plugin installed on facebook, it will also update your status on facebook to notify your facebook friends):

If you're on a narrow pipe, or accessing this site from an iPhone or a browser that does not have flash installed then these are the steps:

1. Make sure you have a phone that supports QIK (I use a Nokia E90, but any Symbian S60 phone will work, such as a Nokia E51, E71, and even some Sony Ericsson phones).
2. Go to www.qik.com and sign in for a qik account.
3. Download and install QIK on your cell phone.
4. In the user profile add a Network for twitter (put in your username and password for twitter).
5. On your phone start QIK, once you are streaming, simply press 55 and it will upload a link to twitter (and facebook if you have the twitter app update your facebook status).

Just a quick word of caution - uploading video from your cell phone can be expensive! It uses more than 1MB per minute of video, so make sure you have a data plan loaded, and DON'T use QIK while you're roaming!

I hope that helps! Let me know if you start using QIK, I would love to follow your QIK stream (Gus, Steve Lottering, Stephen Benvenutti, Paul Steyn and ALL the other Nokia users out there!)

Reflection on work and worship. Qik Video.

This is a first attempt at posting a short daily (or not so daily, as the case may be!) reflection on my blog. I find that my days get so busy that the only time (and place) where I can record a short reflection is whilst I am driving between meetings! So, take a look at the scenery as I drive!

The scripture that is mentioned here is Col 3:23-24. This is one of the paradigms for National Transformation - you can make your work worship! And in doing your work for the Lord you can reclaim your sphere of influence for the Kingdom of Christ, which is a Kingdom of justice, mercy, and grace! If we truly believe that Christ wants to save all of creation, then we need to live and work to see people, systems and place brought into loving submission to the will of Christ.

I would love to hear your feedback!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Living in the inbetween times

'Living in the inbetween times'

God clearly has a purpose for the time between when you get saved and when you die! If God did not have a plan for this time God would simply 'fedex' you out of here the moment you get saved!

Ephesians 2.10 is the key, we are here to participate in the same work that Jesus did, namely, to redeem and restore the world. Some Christians seem quite good at the 'redeem' part (they're often called evangelicals), others seem quite good at the 'restore' part (they are often considered to be liberals, part of the social justice element of the Gospel).

On the flight home from JHB to Cspe Town today I was listening to a recording made by Willowcreek, it was an interview between Bill Hybels and Brian MClaren bearing the title of MClaren's book, 'everything must change'.

Bill Hybels calls this the time between the cross and heaven. The Kingdom of God is all about this time. Note that Jesus taught us to pray for that Kingdom to come on earth, not just to get us to the afterlife.

Micah 6.8 is another important text to consider. Most Christians have no problem with the idea of walking humbly before God, but few of us make it to mercy and justice! MClaren suggests that mercy is a bit like pulling drowning people our of the river, justice is making sure that there is no system that will get them thrown back into the river again.

So, personal salvation is just the start of the story. The next step is to form us in the image of Christ (Phil 2.5) in order to get to step three, where we join Jesus in His work of transforming the world.

I want to grow to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. I want to get out of casual Christianity!

I want to be passionate about redemption and restoration! I want to see us break down the walls between evangelicals and liberals, for the sake of the Gospel of Christ, and his love for the world!

Liam's second birthday! Let's give thanks!

Dear friends,

Thank you for all of your prayers, joy, and care over the last two years. Liam turned two years old today (16 November 2008)!!

His life is truly a testimony to God's healing power and gracious care. We don't know why he was spared, but we are thankful that he was!

To read about Liam's birth (at 27 weeks of pregnancy) and his development since birth please search for 'Liam' on the top left of this blog (or simply click here and here for posts about Liam's birth, his brain hemorrhages, lung problems, and of course all of the moments of joy, victory and love!)

Below is a little video of Liam on his second birthday. Megie, Courtney, Liam and I are in Johannesburg with Megie's sister Gwennie and her husband Rhys and their BRAND NEW baby, Christopher (a.k.a. Stoffel) at their home in Bryanston. It is great to be able to celebrate this event with friends and family! We'll be flying home tonight so that I can fly out to Kenya.

Here's the video of Liam while we were having breakfast this morning.

Please could I ask you to take a minute or two to offer a prayer of thanks to our Lord for His love and care for us as a family, and for Liam's healing and growth? Could I also please ask you to pray for all those parents whose children did not survive birth, and those who have children in hospital today? I would encourage you to join us once, or more frequently, by fasting one day a week (we fast on a Friday). It reminds us to pray, and helps us to remember those who are facing tough circumstances. The spiritual discipline is very helpful in a world of instant gratification, gluttony, and hedonism. We choose to pray for parents and children who are in need on that day, but you can choose to offer that sacrifice for anything that is important to God!

Thanks so much!

Dion, Megan, Courtney and Liam

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thanks for nothing! Led astray

The headline in The Star newspaper on Friday the 14th of November reads ANC may give OBE the chop! I wonder how many decades it will take for South Africa to recover from the Outcomes Based Education debacle - we have wasted millions of Rand and ruined the educational prospects of many South Africans.

What do you think about OBE? I think that the theory is wonderful! Heuristic learning is a good thing, but it is costly and requires far more than our educational infrastructure could cope with!
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Barack is Mac (and Pac!?)

Now, this is good news for American politics ;-) from boingboing.

Apparently, America's president-elect is a Mac user, a Pac Man fan, and likes sticking stickers on one's laptop. I really dig the pac-man eating the Apple logo. Is that a Speck clear MacBook cover? Commenters: let the Apple/Obama fanboy flamewars fly!

Incidentally, he also uses a Crackberry. And Biden is evidently a fellow Mac user, at least on the road. And as long as we're on the subject: I met Al Gore briefly last week, and he was packin' an iPhone. Although, I was so star-struck at the moment, I may have hallucinated that part along with the swarms of solar-powered United Nations black helicopters. DISCUSS.

POTUS uses a Mac (9to5mac.com, via friends list)

God is not great: How religion poisons everything. AND kissing with bad breath...

I have reading a fascinating book over the last few weeks.  It is entitled "God is not great:  How religion poisons everything" by Christopher Hitchens.  I started reading it out of curiosity and have enjoyed reading it a great deal.  In short, I do NOT share the author's view!  Hitchens describes himself as an anti-theist, rather than an atheist.  Richard Dawkins could be considered an atheist in the popular usage of the term (i.e., he does not believe that God exists).  Hitchens however takes this a step further, not only does he not believe that God exists, but he believes that the belief in God is bad for society and individuals (hence the sub-title of his book 'How religion poisons everything').

Hitchens' book is filled with whit, it is well researched and the argument is largely sound (I would not say that it is valid, but simply that it is sound i.e., it is in keeping with his prejudice and within that context it is carefully pieced together to make his point).  Hitchens sites a number of examples of how religious belief harms freedom of choice and enslaves people to abusive systems of authority and power (whether it be a form of religious belief in a transcendent deity, such as that in Christianity, Islam or Judaism; or some form of 'emperor' worship, such as that in North Korea).  This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest weaknesses of the book - it is devoid of all wonder, mystery and grace.  It assumes that the human intellect is the most noble of all realities, and that everything else in society can somehow be quantified, explained, and reasoned out of the realm of the mysterious.

What makes the book so enjoyable is that Hitchens has put together an admirable collection of injustices on which we would both agree!  I frequently nodded my head, smirked, and thought 'how true' when I read of his accurate and articulate deconstruction of abusive religious practices and inconsistencies between faith and reason.  Hitches is correct, in this point at least, there are so many elements of our human nature that destroy, debase, and denigrate the majesty, beauty and wonder of creation!  In this sense I would carefully venture that I would hope that such a destructive God is indeed dead!

However, I would venture that these are not elements of true faith, rather these are perversions of true faith.  Neither is the god about whom he writes, the true God.  The loving God I have come to know in Christ, the One that I have experienced through the grace of other persons, whom I have marveled over in nature, is not the God of Hitchens' book.  Christ would probably also agree with much of the underlying concern that Hitchens expresses about abusive and destructive religious practices he lists.  I'm sure that God's heart is broken daily by the abuses that we perpetrate in God's loving name!

So, I enjoyed what I have read of the book so far, because it confirmed for me that my experience of the loving God, that experience that is most real in the loving community of the Church, is not the god about whom Hitchens writes.  I hope this doesn't sound smug...  But, the God who lovingly grasped me is NOT dead!  That God is lovingly alive in Jesus Christ.

Should you read this book? Sure!  Why not?  But, don't get caught in the hype - it is entertaining, but that's about all.   If you do read it, do not read it as a dialogue, or to try and disprove Hitchens' argument, since I would venture that his argument is not about true religion, rather it is about the worst of human nature, our capacity to take the most beautiful, life giving, and gracious of all realities and abuse it to divide, discourage, enslave, and destroy.  In conclusion this has been an interesting book that has made me appreciate the glorious love and grace of Christ, and the wonder of his love, even more.  It has also challenged me to think much more carefully about Christian community, what we get right, and the many things that we get wrong.

I long for a Church that attracts people!  A Church that lives the reality of Christ's love!

Ed Silvoso commented in his book 'Transformation' - Preaching the good news without tangible acts of love is like giving someone a kiss when you have bad breath.  No matter how good the kiss is, all the person will remember is that you had bad breath!

Perhaps my faith, and our Church, needs a loving breath mint?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The exponential 'pants graph' and the historical filter of humour.

The year was 1984. I was the 'breakdance champion' of my town - not only could I 'pop the moves', I also looked the part! I was wearing a cut off shirt (showing my navel, and a few other parts of my torso through the holes in the shirt), I wore 'balloon' pants (they were tight at the ankles and ballooned out, tightening once again when they got to my waist), and to top it all off I had one luminous yellow sock, and one luminous pink sock, protected from the pavement by a pair of black, thin soled, 'Chinese slippers'... I won't even begin to tell you about my hairstyle, cut off left glove and the other 'fashion accessories'... It was a pretty dire situation!

This photo is of me in 1989 (or so) with our band. I am the guy in the blue T Shirt with the bad hairdo and the Raybans.... Yes, silly, I know!

When I look back on it now I laugh at my appearance! Of course at that stage I thought that I was the epitome of fashion. Now, however, I have to laugh, and blush, in order to process how ridiculous I looked! Of course that judgement is comparative in nature - I tend to judge my appearance at that stage against my current state of 'coolness'! I think we all tend to do that. We think that our level of coolness, our tastes, fashion choices, and appearance has become more sophisticated (and perhaps subtle) over time! Of course if you fast-forward 10 years to my wedding in 1994 you'll see a picture of me wearing a black double-breasted suit with a floral tie (I think) and a mullet! Yup, business on the front and rock and roll down the back baby! At that stage I also thought I was quite cool! This picture of me giving my beautiful wife a kiss with my mullet blowing in the wind is a source of constant amusement to my daughter and her friends!

Imagine, for a moment, a graph. On the vertical axis you rate coolness (from ridiculous at the bottom to ultra cool at the top). On the horizontal axis you have the date, ranging from 1972 to today... I'm sure that most of us will picture our 'coolness' graph as rising (with an occasional REALY low dip) as time passes. And, in order to cope with how uncool we were we will laugh at our old photographs, and justify our appearance with something akin to "... yup, looks silly doesn't it!? But it used to be quite cool back then!"

I wonder what I will think about my current appearance in 10 years time!?

The inspiration for this post comes from a podcast that I listened to - I subscribe to the Mars Hill Bible Church podcast (and NO it is not the Mark Driscoll 'Mars Hill', I don't quite relate to Mark Driscoll's style (although his doctrine is largely spot on), no this is the Rob Bell of Nooma 'Mars Hill' Church). The podcast was called 'Blocks and Boards' and you can download it here:

In it he considers Paul's admonition about forgetting the past and straining towards the future (Phil 3:12-14)... The truth is that Christ does help us to make peace with our past, almost like looking back on an old photograph, we find that we can tolerate what we were, and feel better about what we are, but also strive for what we are to become!

It is well worth downloading some of their sermons.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba - rest in peace!

The great South African musician and human rights activist Miriam Makeba has passed away. "Mama Africa" was 76 years old, and died of a heart attack after a performance in Italy. Link to New York Times Obituary. Above: In 1960, a very young Miriam Makeba performs the song "Into Yam", in the movie "Come Back, Africa."

Ethics, values, clean living and what I like most about traveling with my Macbook Air!

Today I flew to Johannesburg for some meetings about our 'Unashamedly Ethical' campaign - it was not a very long day. We flew out of Cape Town at 6am, had meetings set up from 10am (thankfully we gave ourselves a little extra time since the flight was delayed, as is often the case on a Monday morning flight out of Cape Town). We met with the folks from 'Heartlines' plus some folks from a number of other values and ethics based organisations (including the South African government). Our aim and intention is to address the scourge of systemic corruption in order to deal with systemic poverty.

After the morning meeting we made our way back to OR Tambo airport where we met with some folks who have developed a great idea to connect Christian businesses and business people - God's business. I like what they do and would love to see something for persons of all different faith persuasions who choose to operate according to the principles of the Kingdom of God (whether they know they are doing so, or not) so that we can deal with the rising levels of corruption in the private sector and public sector in South Africa. I firmly believe that in order to honour God's will and desire to see society transformed it will take more than the average 'nominal' Christian to do so! In fact, I think that it will take ALL of the people whom God loves, even those who don't yet know that God loves them, or have not yet experienced that love through Jesus! God's principles are good, regardless of who follows them, and God's love for all people is the same regardless of who they are!

Anyway, the day was productive and worthwhile. I truly feel like I am part of something great! I feel a sense of excitement about the scope of what we're doing. The potential of this project, and the manner in which it is being done, is so much bigger than anything that I have ever been a part of! It is bigger than one group, or Church, or denomination, it is about different sectors of society working together to achieve something truly good - I have frequently 'dreamed' about how incredible it would be if we could significantly alter the economic and social systems of our country to uplift the poorest of the poor and help the richest citizens to find freedom from their wealth and influence through becoming truly generous. What a wonderful place that would be!

Well, I travelled with my Macbook Air again today. It is a remarkable little machine. Mine is not the latest iteration of this superb piece of engineering from the Apple corporation - I have one of the first generation Air's, a 1.6Ghz, 80 Gig (hard drive) based model. Regardless, it is fast, light, and so useful!

So, what do I like most about travelling with my Macbook Air!? Well, the answer is EVERYTHING! I get at least 5 hours of battery life (with wifi off and the power settings cranked up), so I could work for most of the day in and out of my meetings as well as working on the flights to and from Johannesburg. Another great feature is that it is very thin and light. It weighs just over 1kg... I have an neoprene sleeve in which it gets zipped (with a thin Moleskine paper notebook inside the sleeve with the computer). Carrying this into a meeting draws no attention and I have my WHOLE computer with me all the time (ALL of my email, documents and a whole lot more). It is great to be able to refer to something, call up my calendar, and do everything that I need on hand (and not worry about how much battery life I have left, or suffer from a broken back for carrying a HUGE laptop). The screen is lovely, it is bright, clear and large enough for word processing. I spent about three hours (in the airport and on the flight home) editing a paper for Prof. Jan van der Watt to publish in a journal. It is comfortable in an economy class seat, and since the keyboard is full size I can type for ages without even noticing it.

On Wednesday I go back to Johannesburg to speak at a Christian business gathering with my friend Graham Power. I'll take my Air with me. It will be loaded with my notes, powerpoint slides, and the videos that we use. Perfect!

I'm grateful that I have such a useful tool! It sure makes life easier when I am away from home! Oh, and did I mention that I can use Skype video to chat to Megie, Courtney and Liam at home (with wifi, or 3G via my USB modem)?

What matters most, all on one couch!

These are the people who matter most to me! My wife Megan, daughter Courtney and son Liam. I got a special gift today - my last meeting in Johannesburg ended two hours early so I managed to fly home early and see my kids awake. It's a special gift to be able to spend this evening with them!
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Where to register for the 2009 South African elections (8 November 2008)

Yesterday I spent a few minutes trying to figure out where to register for the 2009 elections in South Africa. You see, if you've moved to a new area since the last elections you will need to take your bar-coded ID book and get registered to vote in your area for 2009!

Sadly, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) website is of not help whatsoever!

So, here's what I did, I simply drove to one or two schools and Churches in our area. I soon found that the local voter registration station was at Beaumont Primary school, down the road from us. I would venture that you are likely to find a voter registration at a Church, community hall, library, municipal building, or school in your area. So simply take your ID book and go for a little drive!

Wouldn't it be GREAT if the IEC actually served us by telling us where to go? Perhaps a Google Map with locations pinned on it, or even simpler, a searchable database on their website! Ah, but alas, we'll get it right IN SPITE of the civil service (or should that be civil masters!)

Please register to vote! There is a lot at stake in our land, and let us never forget the incredible price of human lives that ways paid so that we have the freedom to participate in the shaping of our future!

A perfect ride to Stellenbosch! Life is good!

A perfect ride to Stellenbosch
Originally uploaded by digitaldion.

It is a perfect day in Cape Town! Clear skies, not much wind, and of course the incredible scenery, mountains and ocean!

We decided to ride to Stellenbosch and back today. In the group are Dawie Spangenberg and his son Dawie Jnr, Graham Power, Etienne Piek and his son Stephan, and then myself.

It is a 30km round trip with a lot of hill work! The good news is that my leg is getting so much stronger! I managed to get all the way there and back without stopping once - I even managed to get back before two of the guys (no names mentioned!)

It is a fantastic group to ride with! I am truly blessed with good friends, good health, and a great place to live! Live is good and God is good to me!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Ah, hope, sweet hope!

My new job causes me to engage on a daily basis with American sisters and brothers. Some of them are older, some are younger, some are conservative and other liberal in their religious and political outlooks.

But, the one thing that seems to be a common characteristic among all of the persons that I have had the chance to speak to is the sense of HOPE for the future of America!

This website, flickr, one of my favourite websites has been asking people to post pictures with a message for the president elect. Here's a collage of a few of them.

I pray that Obama will exceed all of our very high expectations! And that if he is not able to reach quite so high, that we will have the grace to celebrate what is good and the courage to challenge what is not.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart. 

Martin Luther King Jr.,

Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, Dec. 11, 1964.

Lord I thank you for my loving wife Megan, for our children Courtney and Liam, and for the joy of knowing you and privilege of serving those whom you love.  My heart is glad!

Subtle communication and how it shapes our world

I have had a tacit awareness of the fact that subtle (and frequently not even consciously noticeable) elements of one's body language, tone of voice, or mannerisms have a profound effect on the manner in which persons perceive you and react to you. I first became aware of this when I was training student ministers for the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. The students had to preach 'trial sermons' in front of a group of their peers. No matter how well researched and carefully delivered the message, some students simply could not illicit an appropriately proportionate response to the quality of their sermon. It was almost as if there was something about them that stopped their congregation from 'hearing' and 'accepting' the truth of their message.

Well, here's some research which gives account of just such situations.

MIT researcher Alex (Sandy) Pentland used tiny devices called "sociometers" to collect thousands of hours of data about the unconscious speech patterns that can influence the outcome of conversations. For example, the way you talk in an interview -- even if neither you or the interviewer are remotely aware of your tone -- may have a tremendous impact on what the employer thinks of you. We all know this of course, but Pentland has actually studied it scientifically. The value of the sociometers isn't in producing a verbal record of a conversation but rather quantifiable information about more subtle cues like tone and physical activity. Apparently, Pentland was able to use the data, not the words themselves, to accurately predict how a conversation about, say, a date or an investment pitch, would play out. He calls these cues "honest signals," and has just written a new book about the idea, titled Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World. From the MIT News Office:
 Images Products Books 0262162563-F30 The features he found that are highly predictive of outcomes, he says, "match the literature in biology about signaling in animals." In fact, Pentland suggests, the non-linguistic channels of communication that are measured by the sociometers may have started among our ancestors long before the evolution of language itself, forming a deeper, more primal way of understanding intentions, coordinating activities and establishing power relationships within the group.

"Half of our decision-making seems to be predicted by this unconscious channel," says Pentland, the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. "That's exactly the channel that you see in apes" as they coordinate their activities without the use of language... The data gathered from the devices can be used not only to predict the outcomes of specific interactions between people, but even the relative productivity of different teams within a company. "This information is not in the organizational charts," Pentland says. "This human side is missing from all traditional measures" of how groups of people work together.
Honest Signals (Amazon), "Tuning in to unconscious communication" (MIT)

4-1 odds that God does exist... What would you be prepared to wager!?

Online betting outfit Paddy Power is offering 4-1 odds that God exists. So far, folks have wagered $5000 on the question. Interest has increased resulting from an atheist ad campaign on London buses with the slogan: "There's probably no God." From The Telegraph:
A spokesman for Paddy Power said that confirmation of God's existence would have to be verified by scientists and given by an independent authority before any payouts were made, however.

He added: "The atheists' planned advertising campaign seems to have renewed the debate in pubs and around office water-coolers as to whether there is a God and we've seen some of that being transferred into bets.

"However we advise anyone still not sure of God's existence to maybe hedge their bets for now, just in case."
"Paddy Power offers odds of 4-1 that God exists"

As for me... I'll wager it all! I'll hold nothing back! God exists!

Introverted? More careful than most? Perhaps you are left-handed!

I am ambidextrous to a large extent - I have both dexterous and sinister abilities when it comes to writing, holding my knife and fork, and even playing sport (and this is only in the sense that I perform all of these activities equally badly regardless of which hand I use!) One thing, however, that I cannot say about myself is that I am an overly private and quiet person... I live my life in public (as this blog shows!)

But, here's an interesting piece of research:

New research suggests the lefties are more likely to be inhibited and anxious. Psychologist Lynn Wright and her colleagues at the University of Abertay Dundee ran behavioral tests on more than 100 people to see if they agreed with statements like ?I worry about making mistakes, "?Criticism or scolding hurts me quite a bit," and ?I often act on the spur of the moment." The answers of left-handed subjects revealed more reticence than righties. From New Scientist:
In left-handers the right half of the brain is dominant, and it is this side that seems to control negative aspects of emotion. In right-handers the left brain dominates...

However, (Swansea University behavioral neuroscientist Philip Corr, who was not involved in the study,) says handedness is not so much a predictor of personality as a great way to understand how emotions are handled in our brains. ?Although we may have a predisposition to an inhibition, that may encourage us during adulthood or childhood to develop coping strategies,? he says. ?It could act as a blessing.?

Wright, a lefty, agrees. ?They [left-handers] like to colour-code things, they like to write lists, it?s almost a way to alleviate their stress,? she says..
"Left-handed people are more inhibited"

The irony of South Africa's ivory trade - it's like making love to promote virginity...

Today it was announced by South African conservation agencies that they had sold South Africa's ivory stockpile to a number of Chinese businesspersons for a tidy sum of US$6.7... It would seem that the only group that are allowed to break the law were of land were those who are charged with upholding it. No other person or group is allowed to sell ivory, and rightly so, since it helps to curb poaching on our elephant population.

Sadly, today's sale of ivory restarts the economy for ivory trade in the world since it introduces the scarce resource into the market this creating a desire to purchase more ivory, which in turn will lead to an increase in poaching. The conservation authorities were quick to point out that the sale of the confiscated ivory (confiscated from poachers!) would be put (in part) towards fighting poaching in Southern Africa...

I don't know about you, but this logic seems a little flawed to me... It's like going to war for the cause of peace, or making love to promote virginity...

Just a thought....

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Congratulations to the American people! Barak Obama and hope.

Heartfelt congratulations to the citizens of the United States of America. The election of Barak Obama as the president of the United States of America is a noteworthy event, worthy of celebration. It shows that the American people have within their hearts a desire for a new way, a new way of dealing with their internal affairs, and a new way of dealing with the rest of the world.

This election holds great hope for the world's most powerful nation. Power, favour, and influence come with a great deal of responsibility. My prayer is that Mr Obama will be all that we hope he will be. The pressure to achieve, and to turn around the mess that Mr Bush has left will be immense. However, I would encourage you to pray that God will grant wisdom, courage and strength to Mr Obama and his team - it is possible that God could work through them to bring about both national, and international, transformation. It is possible that justice could be established where previously there has only been strife and abuse. It is possible that wealth could be shared and lives changed. It is possible that the west could reach to the south and bring about global shifts that will deal not only with the interests of the few, but with the real struggles of the many.

Such change will be costly. Politicians are not known for sacrificial leadership - rather, the system of deomocratic (ologarchies) relies upon winning the popular opinion of one's electorate. However, we have seen in South Africa how one person, Mr Nelson Mandela, could be an angent of change, peace, reconcilliation and renewal. I pray the same for the new President of the United States of America.

May that nation and all of her people be blessed! And, may the abundance of the blessing that they experience be used by God to bring greater blessing to the rest of the world.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A boy and his best friends!

I thought this was such a cool picture! In it you'll see little Liam watching the iTunes visualiser while our little dog Wendy (named from Peter Pan) keeps watch. A dog, and iMac and a dummy (pacifier for you Brits and yanks)...

PS. Please spare a prayer for little Liam, he is still not well. After 8 weeks of antibiotics he cannot shake his chest infection and tonsillitis. He struggles to breathe and gets fits from the fever from time to time. It is very unsettling for all of us! But, he is alive, and he will outgrow it!
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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sarah Palin gets punk'd by French prank phone callers.

Hilarious! Just goes to show we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously!

The popular Montreal comedy duo Marc-Antoine Audette and Sebastien Trudel, aka "The Masked Avengers" ( Les Justiciers Masques ) are notorious for prank-calling heads of state and celebrities who take themselves a little too seriously. Surely none take themselves so seriously as Sarah Palin. She was pranked by the pair today when they social-hacked their way past security and convinced her she was speaking to Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France.

Fake Sarkozy drops plenty of hints it's a fake call, and suggests Palin would make a good president "one day you too." She replies, "well, maybe in eight years!" Snip:

He tells Palin one of his favorite pastimes is hunting, also a passion of the 44-year-old Alaska governor.

"I just love killing those animals. Mmm, mmm, take away life, that is so fun," the fake Sarkozy says.

He proposes they go hunting together by helicopter, something he says he has never done.

"Well, I think we could have a lot of fun together while we're getting work done," Palin counters. "We can kill two birds with one stone that way."

The comedian jokes that they shouldn't bring Cheney along on the hunt, referring to the 2006 incident in which the vice-president shot and injured a friend while hunting quail.

"I'll be a careful shot," responds Palin.

Playing off the governor's much-mocked comment in an early television interview that she had insights into foreign policy because "you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska," the caller tells her: "You know we have a lot in common also, because ... from my house I can see Belgium."

She replies: "Well, see, we're right next door to different countries that we all need to be working with, yes."

Coverage: Washington Post, AP via HuffPo. Here's the comedy duo's home page. (thanks, Richard Metzger)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Tribute to Col. Pappy: A Life of Pwnage (pure pwnage)

Yes, he was an inspiring soul indeed! A moment's silence, a tilt of the joystick, a mural in second life... These would all be fitting tributes to Col. Pappy!

Whilst I never had the honour of sharing a mission with him (or anyone else for that matter) - his passing is a sad reality of history... He was one of the very first 8bit gamers, heck he was a king on the FPS when 300 baud modems were state of the art!

Please feel free to leave your tributes in the comments below.

Here's the video

From one of my favourite internet sensations - pure pwnage.


Create multiple Universes for just US $20!

I have always been intrigued by the possibility of the existence of multiple Universes (is that even marginally correct grammar!?) A large portion of my Masters degree research in Systematic Theology considered the influence of 'the new science' (mainly quantum theory, but also microbiology) on our vision of reality. I read persons such as Einstein, Rosen, Podolsky, Talbot, Bohm, Russel, Heisenberg, Sharpe, Capra, Schroedinger, Tipler, Zukav and Keepin; oh, and of course the converging point was Ken Wilber...

Perhaps, however, in this regard David Deutsch was one of the most influential contributors to my understanding of the possibility of the existence of a 'multiverse' (as opposed to a 'universe'). See Deutsch, D 1985. Quantum theory, the Clark-Turing Principle and the universal quantum computer. Proceedings of the Royal society of London A400. You can take a peak at my Bibliography from my research proposal here: Bibliography science religion.rtf.

Simply stated, in a quantum universe, is it feasible to think that we are the only true existence (and here I'm not talking about aliens!) that operates in a linear fashion filling all of reality? Is it not possible, even plausible, to consider that the EPR paradox operates on a vastly more complex and real manner, allowing for the existence of an infinite number of parallel Universes where each decision made by each person causes a split in reality that allows that set of events to run their course to their conclusion? It is a little like streams branching of the primary tributary of a river, with each split an infinite number of new possibilities come into being - the radical complexity of these splits may appear chaotic, but when one traces them recursively one is able to observe some sense of order.

Of course there are some astute theologians who have considered similar possibilities. Take for example Teilhard de Chardin (who wrote in the early part of the last century about such reailities, even before the EPR paradox was even considered in the mainstream scientific community).

Creation, incarnation, and redemption constitute the one movement, which Teilhard calls 'pleromization'. It is a movement towards the 'pleroma', the fullness of being, in which God and his completed world exist united together (Lyons commenting on Teilhard in Lyons 1982:156).
The notion of increasing complexity, of 'collapse' in order and a movement towards the radical complexity of Christ (what Teilhard calls the 'Christ omega'), is in keeping with Christian scripture and Christian tradition (see for example Col 1.16-20 (see esp. v.20), Eph 1.10 - which is, of course, the verse that inspired the 'Father of the Church' Tertullian to formulate his doctrine of recapitulation of creation in Christ and Christ in salvation (anakephalaiosis about which I'm sure Steve Hayes could tell us a whole lot).

Anyway, I had two thoughts about this whole thing of 'alternate' Universes. First, I was thinking, if this is true, which one of the multiple Dion's am I? And, in relation to this, I wonder if the other Dion's experience as much blessing and joy as I do? Of course, in relation to God, I was also thinking how incredibly wide and deep the love of God would need to be in order to incorporate not only the complexity and potential of this universe, but the complexity and potential of an infinite number of Universes! A great mystery of love indeed!

Well, here's something to think about - with just US $ 20 you can emulate a multitude of universes! Of course this is just an illustration of the concept (and not a creation of it). But, I thought it was quite interesting regardless! From boingboing.


Are you willing to take on the responsibility that comes with bringing trillions of universes into existence, each teeming with sentient life? That's something to ponder before plunking down $20 for this make-your-own-universe kit, created by artist Jonathon Keats.

If two events are possible, quantum theory assumes that both occur simultaneously - until an observer determines the outcome. For example, in Schrodinger's famous thought experiment, in which his cat may have been killed with a 50 per cent probability, the cat is both alive and dead until someone checks. When the observation is made, the universe splits into two, one for each possible outcome. For example, Schrodinger's cat would be alive in one universe and dead in the other universe.

According to the theory, any kind of measurement causes the universe to split and this is the basis of Keats' new device. His universe creator uses a piece of uranium-doped glass to create a steam of alpha particles, which are then detected using a thin sliver of scintillating crystal. Each detection causes the creation of a new universe.

The make-your-own-universe kit