Dion's random ramblings

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New research on a possible cause of Alzheimer's dusease. Very interesting!

This new research is quite interesting. It makes sense that starvation of the brain (caused by restricted blood circulation) will have drastic effects. The most common example of this is oxygen starvation during drowning which leads to brain damage.

However, this article points out that a major cause of Alzheimer disease could in fact be sugar starvation (glucose to be more precise).

Here's the article (I'm off to grab some glucose sweets, and do a cycle to open my arteries and get the blood flowing!):

A slow starvation of the brain over time is one of the major triggers of the biochemistry that causes some forms of Alzheimer's, according to a new study that is helping to crack the mystery of the disease's origins.

An estimated 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer's in their lifetime, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The disease usually begins after age 60, and risk rises with age. The direct and indirect cost of Alzheimer's and other dementias is about $148 billion a year.

Robert Vassar of Northwestern University, the study's lead author, found that when the brain doesn't get enough of the simple sugar called glucose ? as might occur when cardiovascular disease restricts blood flow in arteries to the brain ? a process is launched that ultimately produces the sticky clumps of protein that appear to be a cause of Alzheimer's.

Working with human and mice brains, Vassar discovered that a key brain protein is altered when the brain's supply of energy drops. The altered protein, called eIF2alpha, increases the production of an enzyme that, in turn, flips a switch to produce the sticky protein clumps.

"This finding is significant because it suggests that improving blood flow to the brain might be an effective therapeutic approach to prevent or treat Alzheimer's," Vassar said.

The best ways to improve blood flow to the brain and thereby reduce the chances of getting Alzheimer's is to reduce cholesterol intake, manage high blood pressure and exercise, especially entering mid-life.

"If people start early enough, maybe they can dodge the bullet," Vassar said. For people who already have symptoms, vasodilators, which increase blood flow, may help the delivery of oxygen and glucose to the brain, he added. The study is published in the Dec. 26 issue of the journal Neuron.

No candy bars

When it comes to prevention of Alzheimer's, eating candy bars is not the solution to improving the flow of blood glucose to the brain, Vassar told LiveScience.

A decreasing blood flow to the brain happens over time, as we age, and that slowly starves the brain of glucose. This could be a general aging phenomenon, or it could be that some individuals are particularly prone to it, Vassar said. Also, decreased blood flow is associated with atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and hypertension, or high blood pressure.

"We need to improve our cardiovascular health, not eat more sugar," Vassar said. "What is coming out in terms of the epidemiological studies is that exercise during mid-life is one of the best prevention strategies for Alzheimer's disease, so people should stay active physically, and they should watch their diets and reduce cholesterol intake, because cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis, and that is true for the heart and the rest of the body as well as for the brain."

Vassar said it also is possible that drugs could be designed to block the elF2alpha protein that begins the formation of the protein clumps, known as amyloid plaques.

Earlier Alzheimer's findings

Ten years ago, Vassar discovered the enzyme, BACE1, that was responsible for making the sticky, fiber-like clumps of protein that form outside neurons and disrupt their ability to send messages.

But the cause of the high levels of the protein in people with the disease has been unknown. Vassar's new study now shows that energy deprivation in the brain might be the trigger starting the process that forms plaques in Alzheimer's.

Vassar said his work suggests that Alzheimer's disease may result from a less severe type of energy deprivation than occurs in a stroke. Rather than dying, the brain cells react by increasing BACE1, which may be a protective response in the short term, but harmful in the long term.

"A stroke is a blockage that prevents blood flow and produces cell death in an acute, dramatic event," Vassar said. "What we are talking about here is a slow, insidious process over many years where people have a low level of cardiovascular disease or atherosclerosis in the brain. It's so mild, they don't even notice it, but it has an effect over time because it's producing a chronic reduction in the blood flow."

Vassar said when people reach a certain age, some may get increased levels of the enzymes that cause a build-up of the plaques. "Then they start falling off the cliff," he said.

New boy, old computer!

This only Liam's 3rd new year (he was born on the 16th of November 2006). This is my blueberry iBook's 9th new year (I think...)

This is still an amazing old machine! 6 hour battery life, Jonathan Ive styling, great wifi reception, and Mac OSX 10.3.9.

A soon to be realised eschatological dream... Or an empty hope?

Don't get me wrong. I love my Macbook Air! It is 'near' perfect... It is light, has the most incredible screen of any computer I've EVER owned, it is thin, has a perfect full keyboard, it is FAST, it has a 6 hour battery life... Oh, and did I mention that it is a Mac!?

BUT, being the perfectionist that I am, I am not quite satisfied with it... You see, I've been drooling over the Windows 'Netbooks' that a few of my friends are toting. It used to be that if you wanted a computer the size of a DVD cover you would have to buy a Sony Vaio TZ series (which would cost you a kidney, your first born child, and your home)... Now, however, one can get the Acer Aspire One, or the HP Mininote, or a Lenovo, an Asus, an LG... the list is endless, which is tiny, fast, and costs less than R5 000 (about 300-400 US$).

Of course the only serious downside with all of these machines is that they RUN WINDOWS! I can only imagine the torture and the pain ;-)

Well, the rumour mill has been running at a pace second to none! Mac 'evangelists', fanboys, and Mac lovers all over the world are praying that Steve will announce an Apple Netbook at Macworld early in January this year... However, the chances of this happening are slim to none!

Here's a wonderful post from my friends James Kendrick and Kevin Tofel over at jkontherun.com that expells that myth!

5 reasons you won?t see a netbook unveiled at MacWorld

Apple netbook rumors swirl around every few weeks and with MacWorld breathing down our necks in just a few short days they are rearing their ugly head once again. It is clear from all the constant netbook blathering that the Apple faithful want a netbook, a small, cheap Mac to haul around in an expensive case.

I hate to burst your bubble but we?re not going to see [Steve Jobs] anyone offer an Apple netbook at MacWorld. Apple has stated over and over again they will not do one and here are five reasons you won?t see one at MacWorld:

1. Apple can?t build one. Now before you get your undies all twisted that?s not me talking, that?s Steve Jobs himself. ?We don?t know how to make a $500 computer that?s not a piece of junk?. One thing that all netbooks share is a very low price point so there you have it, Apple can?t make one.

2. OS X deserves a better home. Apple firmly believes that OS X is the best thing since sliced bread. You?ve seen the ?I?m a Mac? ads so you know that?s true. There is no way that Apple is going to put OS X on anything cheap like a netbook.

3. The iPhone is better than a netbook. Apple has already told us that the iPhone gives us the ?real Internet?. There?s no way they are going to offer up the ?fake-Internet? just to sell a ?piece of junk?.

4. Netbooks have small touchpads. You?ve seen the gigantic touchpads on all the new MacBooks and Pros. Apple has seen the light and shown it to us and that is how we know that multi-touch is mandatory for a mobile computer. Have you seen the tiny touchpads on netbooks? No multi-touch, no Apple netbook.

5. Apple is a firm believer in the ?Charlie Brown? marketing philosophy. This philosophy is not compatible with super cheap notebooks. Apple knows that offering a cheap notebook just once would be the same as Lucy letting Charlie Brown kick the football?

PS. I am writing this post on the second oldest computer in our home... A blueberry iBook G3 (running OSX 10.3.9, 3Gig hard drive... It still has a 6 hour battery life and is the COOLEST computer I own!). But, if the formatting of this post is a little out, blame the OLD version of Safari...

Giving thanks a year later - Donald Ian Forster

This morning I woke early to spend some time looking through photos (this photo on the left shows my dad about a few months before his death - it was taken at my mom's 60th Birthday celebrations), reading a few scripture verses, and spending some time in prayer and meditation.

It was on this day last year (31st of December 2007) that my father, Donald Ian Forster, passed away. He was 64 years old and had suffered a number of sever strokes in the two years leading upon to his death. For the last two years of his life he suffered paralysis in his left limbs, but he was quite stoic and upbeat about it!

I love my dad. He was an inspiration! He grew up in Zimbabwe (which was were I was born), he served in the police and army and attained the rank of Captain in the British South African Police (BSAP). He trained as an accountant and restarted his life completely on two occasions. First, after he any my biological mother were divorced (I was two), and second when he left Zimbabwe with just his car (it was a brand new Mercedes!), what he could carry in it, and his wits to start him off! He did well in South Africa and provided a great home for our family (my step mom, Margie (who is realy the only mother I have known), my brother Robin, and my step sister Sueann and step brother Gary).

I see a lot of my father's character in my own. Sometimes it is good, sometimes I recognise elements that are not so good (I think most men can identify with this!)

Well, today I give thanks for his life. I pray that my mom, brothers and sisters, will continue to find healing and peace.

I am reminded that I too will follow that path. So, I'll make the best of this day. I will love my wife and children with abandon, and I will do my best to take better care of my body! Thank you Lord for time, and for the blessing of being able to love and be loved! I am thankful that I can put 2009 in perspective by remembering some of the joys and sorrows of 2008.

May the year ahead be a truly blessed one for all of you!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Atheist London Times columnis admits "Africa needs Jesus".

It's not so much what is said, but who is saying it, that makes this story marvelous!

So much of the work that I do is about finding ways to change people's everyday lives for the better - this is a fundamentally Christian thing to do! God does not want 'converts' to Christianity, rather what God desires is the every person should experience the blessing of living in God's Kingdom of grace, mercy, provision, healing, wholeness and eternal shalom! This is what Jesus died for, and this is what Christians, and Christian groupings (such as Churches) should live for...

Of course Africa needs all that Jesus died to bring - but then again, so does America, and Eurpoe and Asia....

Here's the lovely article (I found it here):

Look at this extraordinary article from a Times of London columnist:

But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

Matthew Parris, the columnist, goes on to talk about how living in Africa, he'd observe that African Christians behaved different from their unbelieving countrymen. They had joy and self-confidence. They weren't afraid of the world, especially the unseen world of ancestors and spirits. They'd look you in the eye. Christianity, writes Parris, breaks the mind-forg'd manacles of tribalism and philosophical passivity. He goes on:

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

I have to say that the first thing I thought about when I finished this article was something Maria, a Hispanic Pentecostal immigrant who used to clean our house, told me when I inquired about her faith one day. She said she had been raised Catholic in a desperately poor Mexican village. She left her Catholic faith because, as she put it, the priest never said anything that would help the people change their lives. She was not all that articulate, but what I understood her to be saying was that the Gospel as preached by the priest in her parish conditioned her people to passively accepting their lot in life. The Pentecostalism she had learned gave them a sense that God is here and now and active in their lives -- and can transform those lives.

Interestingly, I'm reading now the galleys of an extraordinary forthcoming memoir by Julie Lyons, whom you might recall from her fearless Bible Girl columns in the Dallas Observer. Julie is white, but she's been worshiping for years in a black Pentecostal church in southern Dallas. Her memoir centers on the life she, a white Yankee chick from the suburbs, found in that inner-city black charismatic church. I was telling my wife last night about Julie Lyons' book, and how she doesn't try to downplay the problems within black Pentecostal Christianity, but how much Julie's book helps me understand why that kind of Christianity -- morally stern, highly emotional -- appeals to the poor, whereas my kind of Christianity struggles to do so (an Orthodox priest once lamented to me that our church in this country is primarily a middle to upper middle class thing). As Julie writes in her book, you might not like the rigorous moral structure proclaimed by her church, but it has brought structure and dignity to the lives of poor people who have struggled mightily for just that sort of thing, against awesome forces arrayed against them. And, again, it is a Christianity that is bold, audacious even. Those believers expect God to work miracles in their lives; church is an occasion to encounter the Holy Spirit and have your life changed, not to be confirmed in your complacency (as Julie believed her Reformed Protestant childhood church was).

There is lots for us Orthodox, Catholics and mainline Protestants to learn from the Pentecostals. And Africa needs Jesus. So does America.

Handlebars and Polar SX625 watch... Some good exercise!

I love this watch! It is my standard 'go to' watch for cycling and
travel. I wear the heart rate monitor when I ride, it also has a
sensor mounted to my bike that tells me my speed, distance, altitude
and a host of other very useful information. I connect it to a
Windows machine that I have installed in Parallels on my Macbook Air.
That way I can monitor how long I train for, what distances I'm
riding, ensure that I ride within my chosen heart rate zones to build
strength and work out my heart.

Exercise is good for you! I am trying to get ready for my 9th Argus
(in March 2009). I ride the Argus in the morning and fly out to the
UK that evening to do some teaching for a week... SO, I want to be as
fit as possible! Yesterday I did 50 km ride in the wind (it felt like
100kms!) From our home near Erinvale in Somerset West, past the Lord
Charles Hotel out towards Blackheath, turned right onto Winery road
(nice hills past 96 Winery Road), left onto the R44 to Stellenbosch,
out to Stellenbosch, turn around and head back to Somerset West, up to
Steynsrust bridge, left over Irene Ave, past Parel Valley and home!

More 'otium sanctum'... feels great!

Riding to 'the Heads' in Knysna

My friend Graham Vermooten and I out on a ride to 'The Heads' in
Knysna. My 'broken leg' did quite well up the Hill! Two days later
we rode from Knysna to Plettenberg bay... Now THAT was a serious ride!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The transforming power of the Christ of Christmas.

It was great to have lunch with our friends John and Debbie van de Laar today. I felt a sense of belonging to something 'bigger' as we shared over the meal. Our time together reminded me just how blessed we are with gifted people in our denomination, the Church, and of course God's Kingdom.

This has been a fairly pensive Christmas for me. I have been taking some time to reflect on the year that has passed, on my faithfulness and courage in serving Christ and spreading His love and light... Sometimes I am pleased, frequently I am not satisfied by my lack of commitment and engagement with what truly matters. Anyway, this morning early I reflected upon this little quote and scripture reading in my prayer time.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

- John 1:9-13

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.

- Hamilton Wright Mabie

My prayer for you, and those whom you love, and particularly for those whom you struggle to love, is true peace! I pray for a peace that passes all understanding. I pray for a kind of all encompassing peace that breaks boundaries, that removes prejudice, that drives home love, that renews hope, that spurs God inspired action - the peace of Christ that changes the whole world!

In 2009 I want to give myself even more completely to spreading the conspiracy of Christ's love! Please remember to pray for me and for those whom God has blessed me to love - Megie, Courtney and Liam.

Thanks to each and every person who has taken the time to read my blog, to comment, and to engage with me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunset in Knysna and the dialectic of the spiritual discipline of simplicity

This little video was shot in Knysna on the porch of my friend Graham Power's home on Thiesens' Island (a development that he did some years ago). It must surely be one of the most beautiful places in the world! The home in which we have the privelage of staying is absolutely stunning - it is comfortable and a wonderful place to be rejuvinated. But, it takes discipline, spiritual discipline to be precise, to enjoy it without wanting to own it!

Here's a few thoughts on that from the video.

Tomorrow I shall be visiting here with John and Debbie van de Laar. And, we're staying with our other friends Graham and Diane Vermooten from Media Village.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Feeding of baboons

Yes, quite sad! I guess I'll go hungry for one more day! ;-)

Taking BMW 650GS for a little spin!

There she is, my BMW 650GS at the end of the old Sir Lowrys pass road (where it meets the N2). What a great day! Tomorrow we leave for Knysna!

Yup, that's the video! It was a lovely ride! Hot and overcast, but it was great to be back on my BMW again. She is a lovely bike - I don't ride her enough.

Cory Doctorow - a magnificent interview on giving away your work, and doing EXCEPTIONALLY well for it!

Update 14 February 2009 - If you've arrived at this post to download copies of 3 of my books for FREE you're at the right place! Simply scroll down the page and you'll find links to download the PDF copies from scribd, or read them online if you don't want to download copies. I'd love to hear back from you!

Rich blessing,


Cory Doctorow is a truly exceptional individual. I've read a number of his books and enjoyed them immensely - Little Brother is the most recent one (which I listened to on MP3).

Cory is also the person who convinced me of the value of giving away my books! There are two reasons why I do this:

1. I would rather have people engaging with what I write than make money from it. I prefer the notion that my ideas touch, challenge, and perhaps even change people, to having a few extra dollars in my bank account! You see, I am quite realistic about my ability to write. I know that I will never be able to make a living from what I write. It takes someone with a unique talent, or the support of a media machine, to get this right - I know a few persons who are creative and gifted enough to do this (e.g., see my friend John van de Laar). So, I would rather give my work away than live under the delusion that I could live off it.

2. I buy the idea that information should be shared! Don't get me wrong, I understand that artists and educators often need to make their livelihood from what they spend their days creating. But I think there are more creative models for making a living from your ideas, thoughts, and insights - again John is an exceptional example of this. John offers a service as a primary revenue stream (he inspires people in person, shares the gift of music, the depth of liturgy, and imparts skills in his workshops). John's 'products' (books and CD's) are a support to this process, they are not the sharp point of the arrow, rather they are the shaft that supports it. So, after persons have been engaged, encountered, enriched, and blessed, he can offer them the opportunity of taking that journey further, deepening their understanding etc., by buying one of his books or CD's. In John's instance simply 'giving away' ALL of one's work is not feasible. But, you will see that he gives away a LOT of his work!

Now, this is not quite as easy for me since what I've written thus far is quite specialized (it is mostly academic and it is not directly related to the kind of teaching and speaking that I do when I travel the world - although I will say that I do have plans to correct this!) In my case, since I cannot support what I do with my days and hours by what I've written, I simply give my thoughts away to be shared, critiqued, and used. After all, these are my thoughts! It is not as if they are separate from who I am. When people read what I've written it should give them a deeper insight into my theology, faith perspective, and spirituality - even if I am not directly relating what I've written to what I am currently doing.

Cory's approach is somewhere between John's and mine. Cory's expertise in both in story telling (fiction, narrative etc.) and in Creative Commons licensing. So, what Cory does is a bit like what John does. He will share his insights on Creative Commons, the internet, new media etc., and then sell and promote his products as a 'shaft to the tip of the arrow'. However, since his writing is not DIRECTLY related to the speaking and teaching topics for which people engage him (i.e., he writes fiction and is most frequently asked speak on licensing law, new media etc.) he is also a bit like me. His motivation (at least in the early days when his books where not that well known - a bit like me!) was simply to share the hard work and ideas that he had developed freely so that others could use and enjoy them.

The incredible outcome of that has been two victories! First, he has shared his ideas with incredible success and this has made him much more sought after as a speaker, teacher, and expert. But, the second spin off of his 'free sharing' has been that his books are now best sellers! So, he gives them away for free, but so many people want to own paper copies (with lovely colour covers etc. perhaps to put on their shelf, or give as a gift, or to make notes, or read next to the pool) that he is making a LOT of money from the sale of his books!

This has been my experience. The sales of the three books that I have the rights to give away (I have written 6 books to date and own the rights to three of them - you can find out more about my books here) have climbed significantly each time I give them away for free. Again, I must reiterate that I don't sell my books to make money! I would be blessed if I had enough money to simply give away paper (printed) copies as well, but that is costly. So, the sales of my books are simply used to restock what I've printed so that I can sell and give more copies away.

Well, here's a wonderful interview with Cory Doctorow - see the end of the video for his thoughts on Creative Commons and publishing (and his incredible success as a result).

And, here are free copies of my books, once again! Please download them, print them out, give them away, email them to friends and use them absolutely freely! I give glory to Christ who gave me the time and ability to write them, and I pray that they will be a gift to you!

An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity. Download the PDF file (click here)

Christ at the centre - discovering the cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths. Download the PDF file (click here)

A prayer guide for use during examinations (with grateful thanks to Roger Prentice). Download the PDF file (click here)

If you would like to own 'paper copies' of any of my books please drop me a line if you're in South Africa (unfortunately I cannot give those away for free), or please buy copies from Amazon.com if you're outside of South Africa.

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If there is anyone who would like to put the code for my books on their website or blog (perhaps in the format above) please just drop me a line on email - I would be truly grateful for the exposure, and would gladly send you the HTML code to copy and paste into your site.

Friday, December 19, 2008

O Sapientia - the final approach to Christmas

Bishop Alan (see http://bishopalan.blogspot.com for his blog) wrote a truly wonderful reflection on the change from the Benedictus to the Magnificat on the 17th of December. We are now on our 'final approach' to the celebration of the birth of Christ. These words are truly an inspiration:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

[O wisdom that proceeds from the mouth of the most high, reaching powerfully from end to end, sweetly (elegantly, smoothly, gently) ordering everything: Come teach us the way of good judgment.]

I love the emphasis upon the fact that the 'word incarnate' (the truly wise Word) "sweetly" and elegantly orders everything by teaching us good judgement. May prayer for you, and for myself, is that we will be sensitive and disciplined enough to encounter that wise Word this Christmas and be changed by Him.

Rich blessing for this final week of Advent!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The REAL Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas message. Deep, life changing, and hilarious!

Yes, I could hardly hold back the tears as I poured over those carefully selected words - it has been a very long time since I've experienced such joy from a Christmas message...

Go here: http://tinyurl.com/4kc6g5 to read it for yourself. I guarantee, you'll never be the same again...

Oh, and while you're at it, why not check out the rest of the site?

;-) All in good humour!

Well done! Perspective, ministry and life.

One of the passages from scripture that frequently captures my imagination is from Psalm 90:12, it reads:

Teach us to number our days correctly (wisely) that we may gain a heart of wisdom

It was in my mid 20's, as my parents grew older, my grandparents passed away, and I began to realise that I was needing to be a lot more careful and strategic about my energy, time and involvement in things, that this passage first encountered me. At that stage I was much more energetic than I am now - like most young men I guess that I believed life would never end! I felt invincible! Now, however, I am well aware of the fact that I have this one life to live, and that I want to spend it achieving things that are truly worthwhile - things that honour God and bless all those whom God loves. The outcome of that would be to hear these words at my life's end:

Well done my good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21).

Well, here's a little video reflection on ministry, life, and numbering our days!

I would love to hear your perspectives on this.

I go on leave for a a short while - I am looking forward to a little more time for reflection, re-creation (being created anew), and rediscovery! Please do spare a prayer for us as a family as we take this time.

I will be posting all sorts of nonsense to my blog during that time... I'm sure you wouldn't expect anything less!

Thanks for the comments, faithful following, and kind friendship throughout the year. It has been an absolute blast! I will reflect on many of the joys and sorrows in the next few days and hope to post something about that. I had the joy of starting a new ministry, learning many new things, meeting incredible people, traveling to wonderful places. I've had two books published with my close friend Dr. Wessel Bentley (and the wheels started turning for our third book together just yesterday). We've moved into a new home. I've recovered from my motorcycle accident... There's so much!

But, the one thing that keeps encouraging and blessing me is the memory of a sacrificial gesture by my friend Pete Grassow. Some of you may recall that I broke my leg just weeks before our move to Cape Town. Pete flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town to drive me (and my car) back (it turned out to be a 16 hour drive!). I am still amazed by his love and care, this is truly what it means to be Christian and I thank God for you Pete! You're a true example of someone who's got that balance I speak about above right. Your life is spent ministering to people. I would love to be near you on the day we hear the Lord speaking of your life!

As for now, I still have quite a few things that need to be done before this day is spent...

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Redefining Christmas, finding our source, facing our denial, and redefining our lives.

This morning I recorded my next radio broadcast for the little radio show that I do called 'The Ministry and Me'. In this episode of the show I considered the perspective that John's Gospel gives on the incarnation of Christ. It some senses it is a birth narrative, like those found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but it is radically different in intention and focus.

You're welcome to catch a sneak peak of the show here (6.5MB mp3). It is entitled 'Redefining Christmas'.

By the way, I would love to hear if anyone has updated statistics on Zimbabwean asylum seekers and refugees? The ones that I quote in this message may be a little out of date.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Great idea! Send your old shoes to Dubya's Liberry...

Have you got an old pair of shoes lying around, waiting to be used in a ritual gesture of disrespect? Send 'em to the GW Bush liberry so they can put them on the My Pet Goat shelf.

George W. Bush Presidential Library
c/o SMU
6425 Boaz Lane
Dallas TX 75205
Old Shoes (via Making Light

(Image: Worn Out Shoes, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike photo from Eschipul's Flickr stream)

From here: Boingboing

(animated gifs removed, they were messing with the formatting of the page).

Reconciliation... AND an extra 50 seconds!

Today is the day of reconciliation in South Africa. For many years the 16th of December was known as 'the day of the vow' in South Africa - it was a day that was used by the Apartheid government to twist faith in order to separate people according to racial lineage. In summary, the 'day of the vow' (Gelofte dag) was set aside to commemorate God's supposed saving of Boer 'frontier's men and women' who were engaged in a battle with Zulu warriors at what became known as the battle of blood river. It was believed that the Zulu outnumbered the Afrikaner frontier's people and were threatening to murder them - the leaders of the Boers made a covenant with God that because they were 'God's chosen people' if God saved them they would always remember that day with a special Church service. Some have suggested that they would have won the battle anyway since they had riffles. But, whatever the reasons they were spared. Sadly the Apartheid government twisted the message of this human tragedy to enforce the theological heresy that God somehow favoured the Boers over the Zulu, and that this proved that they were supposed to inhabit the land and subdue the native tribes.

With the end of Apartheid this day of separation was transformed into a day of reconciliation - it became a day on which the nation would remember that we are one nation, a nation in which all people have equal status and rights, regardless of our gender, age or race.

This morning during my prayer time I was convicted of how frequently we have allowed faith to be twisted to seperate and injur people, rather than bring them together and bless them. My friend Kevin Light wrote a magnificent little book some years ago entitled Right of admission NOT reserved. In it he considers how the Church (and Christians) have actively (and passively) excluded people form God's loving grace and mercy. He deals with some of the more contentious issues such as the manner in which culture, gender and sexual orientation have been used as weapons of seperation in the Church. But, he also discusses some of the more subtle forms of exclusion - such as intolerance of families with younger children (relegating them to 'cry rooms' - does that sound like the kind of place you want to take your family to be blessed!? A CRY room?).

Today is a day on which we are called to remember that ultimately the central thrust of the ministry of Jesus Christ is to bring about reconciliation (Col 1:16-23). Christ came to reconcile us to God, and in doing so to reconcile us to other persons and our true selves. In the little video reflection below I ask two questions:

1. What is your local Church doing to emulate the reconciling ministry of Christ? How has your Church engaged in a Christlike activity of bringing people together, breaking down the walls of hostility and division? Remember, that Christ said we would be known as the Children of God when we engage in 'peace making' activity (Matt 5:9). Is there anyone who does not feel welcome in your Church? Is there any group or person that is deliberately, or unknowingly, excluded from fellowship with you and God's blessing?

2. What can you do to bring about reconciliation in your sphere of influence? Is there a broken relationship among your family, friends, or colleagues, that you could help to repair?

Well, that's the video! Now, here's a little something extra...

I mistakenly forgot to switch off my camera (phone) at the end of the video for about the last 50 seconds or so... Ha ha! At least the video is not TOO embarrassing... It shows two things:

First, if you look carefully you'll see that I am driving under the speed limit! How cool is that!? Driving under the speed limit EVEN when nobody is watching! (/apply noddy badge /end application)

Second, you'll hear me giving a few rand to a person standing on the street corner who was asking for money (sure it was only my small change! But, it was an unconscious attempt at reconciliation on this day of reconciliation).

So, be blessed today, and let us never use our faith the separate and hurt people.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Personality types... God's favorites and six keys to success...

When you work under pressure there is seldom much space (or time) for course correction and fixing up mistakes! I find it extremely frustrating when I let something unnecessary slip, like arriving late for an appointment, missing a message, or not being able to meet a deadline.

One of the elements of my current ministry role that I find quite refreshing is the sense of urgency and decisiveness in the corporate environment. This coupled with the ability to work towards closure has been quite a change for someone who comes from a Church / pastoral background where decisions are often hard to implement because of the need to bring so many people on board. Of course, there is a converse danger in this environment - it is frequently so task oriented that people and relationships tend to suffer and fall by the wayside. That's why I thank God that I have the good training and sensitivity to people and relationships that comes from my Church background, but that I can operate in an environment that is suited to my natural inclination towards closure, decisiveness and pressure.

I would like to share two thoughts with you around this theme. The first is something that I have been tacitly aware of for most of my life, but is becoming increasingly clearer as I deal with more and more people in vastly different settings all around the world... The issue that I am talking about is the false concept that somehow certain people are 'better' than others. In the little video reflection below I discuss this... I so frequently encounter this attitude in the work environment, I have to battle with it in my own pride filled heart, and I see it in the Church as well. Society tends to create an unquestioned stereotype of what temperament and personality is most likable, successful, and in the Church what kind of person God loves most! I have been dealing with quite a few persons in recent weeks who have gone through the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality profiling. One tends to hear that a certain personality type would be better suited for this position, whereas another personality type would be better suited for a different position. In a purely functional, deterministic, sense I suppose there is some expediency and truth to such typing, but real life always seems to 'upset the apple cart', so to speak! Somehow people who should never thrive in a certain role seem to make a tremendous success of it, whereas someone who is a perfect temperament and personality fit simply cannot cope!

What is becoming increasingly clear to me is that each individual is a unique, special, and magnificent creation! And, that whilst (western) society may be structured (largely) according to extroversion, sensory, thinking, judging personalities at present, this will not always be the case! The baby boomer generation may have looked up to people who wooed the crowds, were able to capture the small details through their senses, exclude unnecessary emotion in making decisions, and use 'hard cold facts' to come to a decisive course of action, BUT, there is a need for intuitive, internally energized, perceptive, emotionally in tune individuals. After all, George W Bush would seem to be the quintessential ESTJ - look at the mess he's made of things! Whereas someone like Nelson Mandela seems much more of an INFP (so is Thabo Mbeki by my reckoning, and Jacob Zuma is a ESTJ...) Personality is great, but there must be something more to making things work!

When I read the verses from Acts 10:34-35 "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right" it struck a chord within me. This is NOT a negative statement (spot the double negative in that sentence! I could be writing in Afrikaans here! ;-) Rather, it is a radically positive statement - how could God show favouritism when every person is God's favourite! That was one of the most enjoyable images of William P Young's picture of God in his book "The Shack" - the fact that God was 'particularly fond' of every person!

I like that about God! Here's a little video thought on the subject:

However, I have also come to realise in the last little while that one can live one's life within certain parameters that make it more blessed and fulfilling. A friend sent me these 6 keys to success. I thought they were quite good (on the whole) and so I am sharing them here. They may be of some inspiration and help to you - I think it comes from Rick Warren's book 'The purpose driven life' (it sounds like him! But, I cannot be sure).

Successful people have one obvious trait in common: personal discipline. They are willing to do things that average people are unwilling to do.

It?s my observation that successful people express their self-discipline in six ways:
Successful people master their moods. They live by their commitments, not their emotions. They do the right thing, even when they don?t feel like it. ?A person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls? (Proverbs 25:28 NLT).

Successful people watch their words. They put their minds in gear before opening their mouths: ?Those who control their tongue will have a long life . . .? (Proverbs 13:3 NLT).

Successful people restrain their reactions. How much can you take before you lose your cool? ?People with good sense restrain their anger; they earn esteem by overlooking wrongs? (Proverbs 19:11 NLT).

Successful people stick to their schedule. If you don?t determine how you will spend your time, you can be sure that others will decide for you! ?So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days? (Ephesians 5:15-16 NLT).

Successful people manage their money. They learn to live on less than what they make, and they invest the difference. The value of a budget is that it tells your money where you want it to go rather than wondering where it went: ?The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get? (Proverbs 21:20 NLT).

Successful people maintain their health. That way they can accomplish more and enjoy their achievements: ?Control your body and live in holiness . . .? (1 Thessalonians 4:4 NLT).

Now, where do you need to develop self-control?

The disciplines you establish today will determine your success tomorrow. But it takes more than just willpower for lasting self-control. It takes a power greater than yourself. Think about this promise from the Bible: ?For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT).

The more I accept God?s control over my life, the more self-control he gives me!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A reflection upon my Hong Kong visit and the Church.

I arrived back from Hong Kong yesterday - it was a truly magnificent trip! We did a lot of good work to plan for our broadcast in 2009. However, what left the greatest impact upon me was the manner in which the congregations (often called 'Churches') worked together to address the needs of the City and find creative and varied ways of being obedient to what they believe God's will is for the City!

Here's a little video reflection that I made on the way to work...

What do you think? Is there a difference between 'the Church' and congregations? How effective are the congregations and Churches in your area at finding and courageously fulfilling God's will? Sadly, I don't think we're always that effective at humbly working together to serve God and our community.

I'd love to hear more articulate and well though through ideas from others!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

iPhone pornography NSFW , yes folks, I got arrested in Hong Kong for this!

pius auribus offensiva - not safe for pious eyes!

At the Hong Kong Stadium - a Super 7's dream!

This is where a lot of Super 7 rugby matches are played. I've seen it on TV a few times. We'll be broadcasting the Global Day of Prayer from Hong in this stadium next year. We were here to make sure the broadcast venue and equipment is up to the job.

Can you believe this is the middle of winter!?

The bridge home!

This was a picture from the Taxi on the way to Hong Kong airport tonight. We fly at midnight... It's been an amazing few days! (More photos to follow).

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

South Africans in Hong Kong!

Yup, it is the diaspora... South Africans are everywhere! I found
this cool sign late yesterday afternoon - it is for 'van der merwe'
South African camera shop!

I'm enjoying my time in Hong Kong!

Starbucks in Hong Kong!

I managed to find 20 minutes of free Wifi at the Starbucks across the
road from the YMCA. My next meeting starts in 10 minutes, so this was
a perfect place to grab a Mocha with skimmed milk and send and receive
my emails.... I am wearing my ONLY other shirt (bought last night at
around midnight).... SAA still have not forwarded our bags from
Johannesburg, and I fly back home tomorrow!

Ha ha!

Thank you SAA! At least, thanks for NOTHING! Hong Kong, wifi and twitter

Well, my journey to Hong Kong began extremely well! My friend Dawie
Spangenberg upgraded me to Business class on the 13 hour SAA flight
from Johannesburg to Hong Kong (the short two hour flight before that
was also great on SAA).

I have never flown on business class on an international flight - it
was such a treat!!! I slept well, caught up on a lot of emails and
work (there was power for my laptop), and enjoyed Dawie's company.

But, that's about where the good news ended. When we got to Hong Kong
we were met by an SAA representative who informed us that the whole
flight's luggage (excluding the SAA crew of course) had been left in
Johannesburg! Can you believe it!? Not a single bag (except those of
the pilots and hostesses) were loaded onto the flight! So, since I am
only in Hong Kong for just over two days my bags are likely to arrive
here by the time I am back in Cape Town...

So, yesterday I had to attend a number of important meetings in my
jeans, track shoes, and creased shirt... Fortunately I have learned to
pack spare underwear and a full 'travel' kit with razor, spare
deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush in my hand luggage... I also (at
the last minute) decided to put my laptop charger in my hand luggage
(fortunately!) But I had no cell charger and no other clothes...

I don't know if anyone has ever had this before - but you can imagine
the chaos at the airport when 300 people discovered that their luggage
had been left in Johannesburg!!!

Well, at least the meetings are going well. We're preparing for next
year's Global Day of Prayer broadcast - so last night we met with the
TV folks, had meetings with local Christian leaders from the Church
and business, and some local government representatives. A number of
big ministry leaders were also present (Mark Anderson from YWAM and
Call2All, as well as Rory Alec from GodTV).

Today the meetings continue (I managed to find an 'esprit' store down
the road from the Salisbury YMCA where I am staying on the Hong Kong
waterfront and by a cheap smartish shirt and pair of black denims).
We'll also be recording the TV promos for a mainland China visit, and
get to meet the representatives from the local stadium and convention

As an aside, Hong Kong is incredible! It is a truly beautiful city
with a lot of 'buzz and activity'! Wifi is a little scarce, so
updating my blog is proving to be a little bit of a problem... But do
follow my twitter feed for more up to the hour news:




Saturday, December 06, 2008

Anathema! Heresy! Surely it cannot be? Mapple!

That's it! I've just given up on the Simpsons ;-)

This has to be one of the best Simpsons clips ever! It kind of reminds me of 'The emperors new clothes'! ha ha! OK, so who wants a Macbook Air, an iPhone and an iMac... Drop me a line, after watching this video I may just send you mine... I have seen the light! I'm going to get a Window$ Vi$sta machine! I want viruses, I want slow startup times, I want ugly, I want to move from the Mac!

Not really!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Advent, the cosmic Christ, and recapitulation... It's quite simple!

This morning's reflection comes from a a few 'Christmas' greetings and reflections that I was asked to write for various newsletters and publications.

In short, I find it a blessing to be a part of a Church tradition that follows the 'seasons' of the Christian faith (currently we are in Advent, as the video explains). It helps me to be constantly mindful of God's intentional interaction with humanity and all of creation. In particular, I have been mindful of the fact that advent, epiphany, and Easter are all connected to one another through a common, gracious, strand - the saving love of Jesus Christ.

Here's the video:

The text that is mentioned in this one:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are?yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
Here's a sneak preview of my Radio Program for this week on Radio Pulpit: 'Preparing for the coming of Christ' download the MP3 (6MB). It follows the same theme and may give some ideas for an advent talk or sermon.

I would love to hear your thoughts, insights, and feedback. What does Christmas mean to you?

Better a little that is good than a lot that is not!

Working in a largely secular environment has been such an incredible joy and blessing!  I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to face the challenge of having to "give an account of the hope that lives within me" 1 Pet 3:15.  I am surrounded every day by many persons do who not know the peace and joy of being in Christ.  And, so it is a privelage to be able to bring Kingdom values, Gospel grace, and the nature and attitude of Christ (Phil 2:5) to bear on the individuals and systems that I relate to.

I wrote some time ago of my 'awakening' to the general view that successful business persons have of the average pastor.  It was a shock to learn that I was viewed as largely irrelevant, something of a failure (since I could not provide many of the secular 'proofs' of success (i.e., money, power, status, possessions).  It is clear that the measure of a man (so to speak) is quite different in the business world!)  I have taken much time to pray about the emotions that this judgement has evoked.  First, I faced the pressure to consider changing the values that I hold dear in order to comply with the 'new' value system that was being pressed upon me.  But, as I prayed, read the scriptures, and took time to allow God's Spirit to work within me, I realised that I needed to amend some of my perceptions (particularly those that are related to my 'ego' - for example, what does it matter if I don't measure up to the standards of worldly success?), but I also realised that I had a wonderful opportunity to impact, encounter, and gently change the corruption of some of the perceptions of those who judge me and other pastors.

You see, the Jesus I serve, love, and know, does his best to find people in the 'thin places' of life and bring them into the centre.  This Jesus is born in a stable, not a palace, he studies a trade, and does not enter a profession, he lives like a pauper, not like a prince, and he dies with the outcasts, not with the acclaimed.  There is a sense in which the Gospels portray a picture of Christ (the Messiah, the King, the Lord) as a counter cultural figure...  As the narrative of the suffering servant in Isaiah puts it, he was despised and rejected by people:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:3.

This week I sat in on a number of meetings in which remuneration, leave, and working conditions were central to our discussions.  My point of departure was to emphasise that no amount of financial reward can compensate for balance and family.  You see there is a difference between opulence and survival.   I work among some people who will leave home early and arrive home late in order to make ends meet, but I also know some (and I am one of those) who will spend the extra hour or 'few' to gain more than is necessary (whether the gain comes from a form of financial reward, or the acclaim and recognition of one's peers).  I know that the Christ whom I love and serve would never bless a transaction where precious family time is 'purchased' by one's employer!  

Of course this does not mean that one is entitled to offer less than one's best at work.  The Christian employee should be above reproach in the reasonable standards of efficiency, dedication, quality, and commitment.  But, it was a difficult argument to make.  As I tried to convince those in authority that perhaps we should re-negotiate compensation in order to allow some greater measure of flexibility for staff to connect with their families there was not a lot of support!  But, this is part of my ministry!  Christ deserves not only to be glorified and blessed by the persons who love him, but also by the economic and social systems within which they live and work.

I found the little quote below quite challenging...

Lead me from death to life, 
from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love, 
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, 
our world, our universe.
Peace, peace, peace.

Satish Kumar

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Beaumont school Christmas carols... At the foot of the mountain!

What a lovely evening! Just look at the view from Courtnet's school field where the Beaumont school children presented a wonderful Christmas carol service. We enjoyed the picnic, the time with friends and family, and the opportunity to be reminded (in a fresh way) of the message of Christ's love.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dreams, love, and your daily life.

This morning I reflected on Psalm 139 (esp. vv 13-16). I am still amazed that the God of the whole Universe would find any pleasure and joy in my life! But, this passage inspired the reflection below...

No interesting cars on the way to work today! So what do you think? What is God's dream for your life, and how can you achieve it?

Monday, December 01, 2008

We can do it in our lifetime! World AIDS day... And a little perspective.

I live a very privelaged life, I am frequently aware of it (perhaps not often enough!) Today, on world AIDS day (the 20th anniversary of this killer disease) I was in Khayelithsa. I left feeling humbled, challenged and encouraged...

Here's my reflection.