Dion's random ramblings

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Honoring God, blessing others, and finding personal peace in ALL that you do!

I was ordained as a minister of a mainline Christian denomination many years ago! I have been a minister of various Churches and communities for almost 17 years now. These have been incredibly blessed and rewarding years! Of course there have also been some challenges and frustrations.

I have always believed (well at least for as long as I have been a 'believer') that every person is a minister! After all, ministry is about bringing God's loving will to bear upon all of creation, and bringing creation fully and effectively into God's loving presence and will.

This is something that every Christian disciple can, and should, do! Every person should be a 'full time minister'!

On this recording for my radio program on Radio Pulpit (http://www.radiopulpit.co.za) I discuss the notion that honoring God, blessing others and finding personal peace are all related to PRODUCING fruit, not just CONSUMING fruit (as is quite popular in contemporary Christianity).

So, if you're interested in listening to this short message, please download the file below - it is a 6.2MB MP3 file.


I don't believe that there is no place for the 'Ordained' ministries within the body of Christ - however, I am of the mind that ordination needs to be extended to a broader group of persons than those who perform largely secular functions within the Church (convening Church meetings, presiding over committees, managing budgets, doing marketting, managing staff and physical plant, etc., etc.,) I feel that the pastoral responsibility that we all share (to pray with one another, bear one another's burdens, disciple each other and be discipled, hold one another accountable to courageously living in accordance with God's loving, inclusive and gracious will... ) should be extended to many more persons!

The 'sacraments' (at least the two sacraments in Protestant and Reformed Churches, namely Baptism and the Eucharist) can be shared and upheld by most persons in most settings. Have you ever thought what Baptism is? In short it is a visible sign that outwardly illustrates an invisible grace that is operable in the life of the person being baptised and the community into which they're being baptised. How does a person come to be a part of the body of Christ? They come to be a part of this community through being encountered by the transforming and regenerating love of Christ! It is commonly called evangelism... Whether it is done in a propositional manner (i.e., introducing people to 'truths' about the nature and person of Jesus), or a non-propositional manner (i.e., trying to find ways to expose people to the content and reality of Christ's loving Gospel) - evangelism is something that all disciples should be involved in! Even systems can be evangelised (that is what we do as Christians when we exercise our social and political rights...) Baptism is a celebration of this reality...

Then of course there is the Eucharist, a feast of thanksgiving that visibly demonstrates the true nature of God's Kingdom, where all persons are united with God and one another in transforming love. This Kingdom is a place of grace, mercy, provision, equality, and true life... Wherever a Christian in society brings God's Kingdom to bear (whether through a choice, a decision, or an action) they are 'stretching the communion table into the community'). I am involved in reuniting people to themselves, one another and God every day. That is an enactment of the grace of the sacrament that I celebrate in the Church (and in my case also in the place where I work) frequently.

As an aside, I frequently celebrate communion in my workplace with persons who seek it. I find that it is a fitting and blessed space in which to demonstrate the grace, blessing and love of Christ!

Well, I would love to hear what you think about this approach to sacramental theology. I would also love to hear your perspective on fruitfulness in EVERY aspect of life. And lastly have you got any ideas on the difference between the ministry of the apostolate of the laity and the ordained ministries (Presbyters and Deacons?)

By the way, you can read a more academic and articulate theological article on this subject that I wrote two years ago by following this link:

A document on Deacons, Presbyters and the sacraments in the MCSA

Friday, March 27, 2009

Winter is coming to the Cape

This was the dark sunset this evening after the rain had settled. The pins and screws in my leg tell me that winter is on its way... Either that, or I'm getting OLD!

Posted by ShoZu

A history of my blog!

So, here it is....

Proof that twitter rules the world! ha ha!

Follow me on twitter (you'll know what I'm doing MOST hours of the day - thanks to my iPhone and my nimble thumbs!)

Meaning and misunderstanding... Language, the brain, intelligence and freedom!

It has been almost a year since I made the transition from the hallowed halls of the academy to the cut and thrust of a ministry 'in the marketplace'. This has been quite a remarkable change in method and approach to ministry - not to mention the complexities of having to learn to cope within an entirely new set of rules and 'meaning making' frameworks and rules.

Today a colleague asked me about some of my research into the functioning of the brain and I was reminded of the three forms of intelligence that most commonly operable in any relational system (such as a work environment, or a community).

1. Intellectual Quotient (IQ): This one is quite well known. Some years ago one would have to undergo an IQ test in order to get a good job! The higher your intellectual quotient the more intelligent you were assumed to be. Now that is true up to a point. Persons with a high IQ are generally capable of doing linear (rule based) calculations and decisions rapidly and accurately. For example a person with a high IQ can look at a chess board, visualize all of her opponents possible moves (since these are dictated by the rules of chess), consider all her own possible moves, and then decide which move is best at this point in time taking all of the possible variables into account. But, if the other person cheats, or something happens that disrupts the rules of the game (e.g., the opponent is schooled in a different set of rules) the IQ based player does not perform too well.

2. Emotional Quotient (EQ): This is the second form of intelligence - it gained quite a lot of interest after the popular work of Daniel Goleman. A person with a high EQ is able to take a further 'intelligent' step in a relational system. This person understands the rules of chess well enough, but he also is clever enough to be able to read and study his opponent (the relational element of the game). For example, he knows that moves his opponent favors, how long it takes his opponent to make a move when he is confident, and how long it takes when he is unsure. In other words, he is not only playing the game of chess with the chess pieces on the board, he is playing the game of chess by reading the actions and reactions of his opponent (a game such as poker requires a much higher level of EQ than IQ to master). Companies came to realise that they needed people with a high EQ to get ahead. Whereas a person with a high IQ understands the rules, a person with a high EQ knows how to get the most out of working between, around, and with the rules of the game. Such a person makes a good analyst since they can read the shifts in the market, understand people's fears, aspirations and inclinations. A person with a high EQ does this without having to give it too much thought or time... It is almost like they have a natural feel for reading emotions and relationships and can react rapidly and reliably to what is sensed and observed. The best way to develop EQ is to create an awareness of the 'unseen' things that affect decisions in any relationship.

I often 'read the people' in a meeting to understand what is truly motivating a person's behavior, choices, and decisions. I have become quite astute at this, and can even do it from an email, blog post, or other form of non direct communication. I am not easily manipulated. A high EQ gives you the capacity to respond quickly and appropriately to sudden, and unseen, changes in a relational environment.

3. Spiritual Quotient (SQ): This is the third kind of intelligence that one encounters most commonly in relational systems. Whereas IQ is linear (it knows, understands, and processes the rules quickly and accurately), and EQ is parallel (it works between, in spite of, and with the rules to get the most return by 'gaming' the system), SQ is a transcendent intelligence... What do I mean by this? Well, the IQ person plays chess well since she knows the rules. The EQ person is a little better since she can read the rules and read her opponent (being able to predict his moves even before they are made). The SQ person on the other hand is transcendent - this person asks questions that transcend the rules, such as 'Is playing chess the best way to spend my time?', or 'Does it matter whether I win or loose this game of chess, as long as I can spend this time connecting with my friend.' People with a high SQ cope much better with change, adversity and challenge.

Of course there is a myriad of literature on this in the subjective sciences (see for example James Fowlers' stages of faith development, and Ken Wilber's holarchies and integrative theories).

All of these forms of intelligence are present in all individuals and communities. Moreover, they are present at different levels and in different ways. Some of us have a lower IQ and a higher SQ (a classic case in point would be the character 'Forrest Gump' in the Hollywood movie by the same name). Other persons have an extremely high IQ but lack EQ (such as the Nerds in the popular Television Sitcom, 'Big Bang Theory' - Bill Gates is a class example of a high IQ person. Such persons seldom have a realistic self awareness, they regard themselves as different, special and often struggle to relate to persons who cannot see the world as they see it - in binary, black and white, yes and no. They may come across as arrogant, but they are not. They simply have a low EQ and so default upon their IQ to cope with challenges and changes, not relying on relationships and the input of others...)

SQ persons are generally the 'stage 5' persons in Fowler's schema - these are deep, highly integrated, gracious, loving, inclusive persons (such as Jesus as we encounter him in Matthew 5-7), a more contemporary example would be the Dalia Lama, and Mahatma Ghandi (at least that is my uninformed perception of these persons).

So, that's the theory of intelligence in relational systems....

BUT, there is a further complication when it comes to working relationships and loving relationships, that is the complexity of language as a means of engaging others and sharing self. The problem with language is that it is ultimately symbolic - it is a 'digital' encoding of analog realities (to use the metaphor of computer science).

For example there is no such thing as 'ontological orange' (i.e., a colour orange that is exactly the same, quantifiably, for every person in existence), but that does not mean that we cannot all relate in some way to an 'existential' and 'experiential' orange. If I can find enough 'symbolic' convergence with you I can communicate something of my understanding of what orange is for me, and understand what orange is for you in order for us to create a meaningful engagement around 'orangeness' Does that make sense? Of course a person with strong IQ will want to offer a quantifiable and measurable explanation of orange (i.e, pointing to an orange object), but that means very little, because how can one be sure that what I see as orange will be seen by you in the same exact manner? A person with a high EQ will want to establish first what you believe orange to be (so go to the further shore) and then work back towards their own understanding of orange (building a bridge back from the further shore to their own shore). A person with a high SQ isn't going to worry too much about whether we have the exact same understanding of orange, or even whether our experiences share much in common - rather this person will focus on the reason WHY they wanted to engage you around the concept of orangeness in the first place (the conceptual engagement is more important than the concept around which one is being engaged).

Now, let's add one further layer of complexity (I'm sure that by now no-one is reading any more... If you're still reading by this point PLEASE leave a comment in the comments box to show how intelligent you are!)...

Up to this point we have been talking about intelligence in relationships around SINGLE words... But, we seldom communicate and relate around single words, rather we use language (spoken and unspoken) to communicate complex concepts (for example affirmation, gratitude, love, anger, support etc.) These concepts are communicated by means of progressively growing 'communicative' units (e.g., words that form sentences, that express an idea in a paragraph, that communicate a message in a letter, that represent an aspect of a relationship with an individual, who exists within a family, that is part of a community, in a city, as part of a nation, on a continent in the world). One could also use the 'non spoken' forms of communication (the teenager who rolls her eyes at her dad, to communicate a difference of opinion about a cultural expression of what it means to be cool at a particular stage in history in a particular geographic location).

What SQ allows one to do is engage with the overall complex discourse (the whole book, the whole culture, the whole planet) in a manner that is meaningful and not overwhelming, without having to deconstruct the relationships into their constituent parts in order to meaningfully engage them.

The King James Version of the Bible is a classic example of an IQ approach to solving a complex problem - you have a Greek text of the New Testament, so you try to translate each word of the Bible as accurately as you can with its English equivalent. The end result is that you have an 'English' text that reads like Greek and the deep meaning for which the text was recorded is lost in the deconstructed details...

SQ allows for the recognition of genre in life... It allows me to understand that not every relationship needs to be equally deep - I do need to have a deeper, more meaningful and real relationship with my wife and kids, but I don't need to press every relationship in that same intense mold (e.g., the person who fills my car with petrol can be related to in a different, significant, manner that is appropriate to that genre of relationship).

So, what's the bottom line? Well, for me the bottom line is this - The Trinity. Relationships in all of their complexity and beauty are the true means by which we find fulfillment, integration and fullness of life. The SQ state in the brain is an integrative state of 40 hertz oscillations across the whole surface of the brain. In the Trinity the integrative relationships of the persons of the Trinity are the very source and substance of true identity and meaning (the son is son, precisely because he is son of the father... Withouth the son, conversely, there would be no 'God the Father', just God the bloke... relationships are key to meaning, identity and difference).

A year after entering ministry in the corporate environment I realise that I am still as mystified, blessed, and enriched by relationships. I am thankful that God has given me both insight, capacity, and a deep love for understanding people and relational systems. It does help me to transcend about some of the everyday struggles, small squabbles, and momentary rewards that drive so many people to act and react in certain ways. I would love to say that I am free from 'shallow' responses to complex problems - I am not... But, at least I am aware of them!

If you want to find out more about these concepts please do download my book 'An uncommon spiritual path: The question to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity'

It discusses a number of these issues in a more disciplined and clear manner, showing how we need to move beyond the shallow symbolism of language, self, to the mystery of the experience of God in Christ to find fullness of life and freedom.

By the way, I have found that this approach to communication (i.e., communication as an interaction of relationship) makes the reading of the Bible so much deeper! For example John's Gospel is certainly a 'performative' Gospel (i.e., John argues in John 20:30-31 that the purpose of this Gospel (the reason for recording the signs and sayings of Jesus) is to bring people to faith and deepen the faith of those who are already in a relationship with Christ... The purpose of the Gospel is to communicate a depth of relationship, not to share facts, figures, and history). So, I read the Gospel of John to see how my relationship to the person of Christ, and my relationship to those whom Christ is in relationship with (or longs to be in relationship with) can be deepened and developed. It is a slightly more complex hermeneutic since it requires some form of interaction between the reader and the text (and imaginative engagement with the narrative as a performative text).

My friend, Jan van der Watt puts it this way in his paper on the ethics of the Gospel of John (as a performative ethics):
Texts consist of progressively growing language units starting with words, and ending in a full document. This "interrelated grouping together" of language units (structuring) is based on the language conventions of that particular language. Inherently part of the communication process is the chosen genre, which serves as the overall discourse compositional template. Some theorists even argue that genre is the most determinative aspect in the process of communication, since genre sets the stage for interpreting words, phrases, etc. and influences decisions on all levels of the creation of the text. Rhetoric is also a communication strategy that influences the text from the very moment of its formation. The way in which words and phrases are formed, choices as to which stylistic features should be included, etc. all relate to rhetoric. Genre and rhetoric are also interrelated, since the genre will depend on the rhetorical strategy and vice versa.

The total textual process is socially determined, from the meaning of words, the way syntax and structures work, the function and characteristics of language as well as rhetoric. Language is a social phenomenon and social knowledge play a determinative role in constituting communication.
Relationships seem to be key to unlocking the complexity of meaning, dealing with missunderstanding, the functioning of the human brain and finding freedom!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Never pray in a room without windows...

I once challenged some of my students to get a bit creative for their trial services (this is a service where a student preaches and receives feedback and critique).  When I arrived in the Church one Sunday I found that this enterprising student had turned all of the chairs around in the sanctuary (to face the main doors of the Church).  He preached a fairly short sermon, had some prayers, songs, and then led the community out into the streets.  He encougared them to give their offering to people they met on the streets!  Can you imagine!

That act of creative has stuck with me for years.  The Church is supposed to be incarnated into society (not the other way around).  We go into the world, and in so doing we are light in dark places and salt in places of decay.  Don't you find it strange that when you go into most Churches you go through the doors and turn your back on the world?

This quote challenged me!

The Talmud reads, "Never pray in a room without windows." Never pray without the world in mind, in other words. The purpose of the spiritual life is not to save us from reality. It is to enable us to go on co-creating itJoan Chittister

I will confess that I am loving being a minister 'in the marketplace'!  I feel a part of the action!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Something old, something new...

A marriage made in heaven! This is my OLD Macintosh Powerbook G3 (Wallstreet) it runs Mac OS 9.2, on the right is my iPhone 3G with Mac OS 10. Both work perfectly!

I found my old Powerbook while looking through a box, charged the battery and booted her up. She works first time, every time!
This message has been scanned for viruses and
dangerous content by Pinpoint, and is
believed to be clean.

Emerging Church / conversation... Is the Church dying or just changing?

I had the incredible honour of being invited to deliver the Hugh Price Hughes lecture in England earlier this month. You can read more about the remarkable Hugh Price Hughes here.

It was an incredible event! I was blessed and treated with such care and grace by my British friends!

The subject of my lecture was the effect that emergent conversations (and communities or Churches) are having on the mission and ecclesiology of mainline Churches across the world.

Click here to download the HPH lecture - it is an MS Word document (it does contain some images of the graphs and statistics I refer to).

In this lecture you will find a whole lot of statistics about Church decline in South Africa and the United Kingdom. I offer some insights into why this is taking place and some critique of contemporary approaches to being Church and doing mission. Together with this you'll find some theological input on the emergent conversation, and perhaps one or two ideas on how the conversation can approach mission going forward.

In the lecture I used powerpoint slides (I have noted where these apply in the text), you can download the powerpoint slides here if you wish to use them (10.5MB).

As with everything I do this is opensource! So, please do change it, adapt it, fix it, improve it! All that I ask is that you acknowledge my effort in your sources and perhaps offer a linkback.

So, please do share your thoughts and ideas. I always appreciate comments and interaction. What do you think - is the Church dying or simply changing? And, do we have the necessary courage and critical insight to adapt our presentation of the Gospel to meet the needs of our current context?

Rich blessing!


Update 26 March 2009

I've had quite a remarkable response to this paper. Thank you to all those who have commented below, and to all those who have emailed me directly! A couple of persons have asked about the previous post I made, with the short QIK video of my approach to the emergent conversation.

You can find the original post here - I posted this after being invited to deliver a lecture at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary at the University of Kwazulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg. In some ways that lecture was a trial for some of the ideas that I intended to research further and present in the UK.

Here's the video, but please do check out the original post for a little more 'context'. Thanks!

Update 7 May 2009

My journey into the 'emerging conversation' continues! Yesterday I had the great joy of recording an episode for my show, The Ministry and Me (on Radio Pulpit) with Rev Steven Lottering.

Steven is a good friend, and the pastor of the Methodist Church congregation where my family and I worship - Coronation Ave Methodist Church in Somerset West.

Steven has a very balanced and informed perspective on the emerging conversation - it is balanced by the fact that he is a pastor of a healthy Church, and informed by his searching to find ways to effectively engage more than just the members of his congregation! He always seems to have an eye on the world around him to see how the Church can serve society.

It was great to be with Steven. The lead broadcast of this episode will be aired on Radio Pulpit on Wednesday 13 May 2009 at 9.00 (CAT).

You can catch a sneak preview of the show here: 'Is the Church dying or simply changing? A conversation on the Emerging Church with Rev Steven Lottering' (6MB MP3).

If you've found the program useful, please do drop me a line, and please cast a vote for it here.

Rich blessing!


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Sunday, March 22, 2009

A good example of a bad idea... trying to legislate societal transformation

Now, let me start with a clear disclaimer. I am not sure if the information supplied in the post I have copied below is accurate. I have not had a chance to verify whether it is in fact legal for the British Police to engage persons under the age of 16 after 9pm in central London.

However, if it is true this is a perfect example of a bad idea to try and transform society by punitive legislation!

I would however venture that I have noticed, with increasing alarm, the lack of respect and restraint that young people in the UK have for any form of authority. It kind of reminds me a bit of the 'punks' of the late 1970's (well at least those who adopted anarchism to deconstruct power and oppressive systems in society). On my trip to London last week I had a few opportunities to see example of how groups of teenagers got completely out of hand in London. Twice I witnessed groups of teenagers create an absolute 'war zone' in restaurants (in fact both cases took place in McDonalds restaurants where I was using the free wifi). These young people were extremely loud, use very vulgar language, threw ice and items of food at one another, and were abusive to staff. In one other incident I witnessed rude and abusive behaviour on the underground. And a final example was seeing more than one young person being verbally abusive to their parent.

It is clear the there is an element of discipline that is missing among the youth of the United Kingdom. Moreover, many of the persons I spoke to were very aware of this reality and were at a loss as to how this worrying fact can be resolved. The culture of individual human rights seems to have been so strongly applied that it is diminishing collective rights.

This bit of legislation is a clear example of that - the state has taken a reactive measure to try and deal with abusive youths in London by curtailing their freedom of association and movement. Such reactive and punitive measures will not solve the problem, they merely deal with the symptom in a particular location (so the youths will choose to congregate elsewhere). The problem is not the time (i.e., after 9pm), neither is is geography (i.e., a certain location in central London), the issue is an erosion of values. No amount of oppressive legislation can deal with that!

So, I am worried about civil liberties in the UK. As it is you can hardly move a meter without being filmed by a myriad of closed circuit surveillance cameras! What's next? Removing people of certain faith groups, people who do not look like the majority of the population... I seem to remember another attempt to control their population in this manner. Their leader was a man named Adolf Hitler.

We need longer lasting and more significant solutions to real problems. Reactive solutions that deal only with the symptom and not the cause will simply not transform society!

Well, here's the story that informed this post (from here):

London cops have been given the power to "disperse" anyone under 16, gathered in groups of two or more, from almost all of central London, after 9PM. The police don't have to see the kids doing anything wrong, they only have to believe "the presence or behaviour of a group of two or more persons in any public place in the relevant locality has resulted, or is likely to result, in any members of the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed."

If you?re observant, in central London, you may have seen this notice casually cable-tied to a lamppost. From afar, it looks like a council planning application, or parking bay suspension. It?s actually notifying you that you?re now subject to an anti-social behaviour order, and the Police (and the not-really-Police Community Support Officers) have special powers to remove you from this area if they feel like it. These dispersal areas cover large swathes of London, and other cities in England. There are now over 1000 such areas.

It?s ambiguously worded, but it institutes law that in other words may not seem so palatable. There?s a curfew for unsupervised under-16s, from 9pm to 6am. Any group of 2 or more people can be broken up and/or that the member of the group have to leave the designated area (if they do not live there). Crucially, police do not have to see actual anti-social behaviour, but a constable in uniform has reasonable grounds for believing that the presence or behaviour of a group of two or more persons in any public place in the relevant locality has resulted, or is likely to result, in any members of the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed...

the kids are alright (via Wonderland)
Any thoughts? What do you think about the state of young people in the UK, and what do you think the solution is (if you feel there's a problem)? Also, what do you think about this curfew, and the state of civil liberties in the UK?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Four helpful (and sound) categories for engaging the Emerging Church conversation

I found this input from Richard Rohr extremely helpful to put a finger on the emerging conversation in relation to the Church.

What do you think?

It comes from emergent village

On the verge of the first-ever Catholic-Emergent conference, being held this weekend at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, here?s a video of Fr. Richard Rohr from January?s webcast. Here Rohr describes the four categories (or, rather, aspects or characteristics) of ?emerging church? as he sees it:

Here are Rohr?s four categories/aspects/characteristics:

  • "an honest, broad, ecumenical Jesus scholarship"
  • "a contemplative mind"
  • "a conclusion that many of the major concerns of Jesus are at major variance with what most of our churches have emphasized"
  • "new structures ? new community mechanisms that can make this [new reformation] possible, because we don?t want to form a new denomination"

Please discuss in the comments your thoughts/reactions to Rohr's four categories/characteristics of "emerging church."

Related: Catholics join Emerging Church conversation ? great quotes from an original Brian McLaren interview, as well as more quotes from the Rohr webcast

Follow this weekend?s Emerging Church Conference on Twitter (#cac09):

I would love to hear other approaches, ideas and some feedback. This made a lot of sense to me as I think about my frustrations with the Church and my 'emerging' perspective on Church.

By the way my lecture at Hinde street propossed three similar theological categories. I hope to have the final version of the text completed early this week and uploaded to the Hinde Street site where you can download it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Christian faith and politics - let's get real!

I have not been able to blog for the last few days... In part that is because of the energy and attention required for the launch of our new campaign called Unashamedly Ethical which took place last night.

It even made the SABC news this morning because of the comments made by two of the panelists on the evening, Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Rev Mvume Dandala (here's picture of the panelists with these two gentlement seated on the couch in the centre).

A lot of work went into preparing for the event, and I am pleased to say that it went off mostly as we had anticipated! We have had some good feedback (and of course also some bad feedback), but that is par for the course.

I have come to realise that there are two powerful forces operable in South African society. The first is what one could call 'stuckness', this is the apathy and inertia that has set in because of decades of abuse and struggle. We are so accustomed to unethical behaviour that we no longer rise to fight it! We are not incensed by theft, immorality, and blatant discrimination. The second force is cynicism. Many South Africans have become so cynical that they feel there is no point in making a stand against corruption and abuse in society (whether that be in business, among politicians, or even in religious organisations). We are so jaded that we have given up standing for what is right.

Well, I want to venture that South Africa deserves better than what we have! And, the great news is that we can make that difference if enough of us have the courage and the conviction to stand together!

I am not talking about voting for any particular political party, or even about adhering to one particular faith perspective. However, what I am talking about is sharing the conviction that all South Africans deserve to have access to the blessing that this land has to offer. We have the right to celebrate our diversity, and the right to seek to find blessing and fulfillment together. Our nation is wealthy enough to feed the hungry, to care for the sick, and to educate the young. Surely we are determined enough to take a sacrificial stand for a better tomorrow!?

For me, as a Christian, this is the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Jesus himself said that he came for this very reason, i.e., to establish the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43), a Kingdom that is characterised by justice, mercy, grace, sufficiency, hospitality and love (see Jesus' ministry manifesto in Luke 4:18-19). So, I do believe that my faith is fundamentally political in nature. If I live it out with conviction and courage it will not only bless individuals, but it will also seek to bless and transform social structures!

Well, tomorrow I leave to speak, alongside Graham, at the Daniel Men's conference in Pretoria (Daniel Manne Konferensie, Moreleta Park) - I shall share this same Gospel with the 6500 men who will be there. Real people (and of course real men) have the courage to make the necessary sacrifices to see society transformed to reflect the loving will of God for all people! I always do my best to communicate this message with integrity, humour, passion, and a deep conviction that springs from my understanding of the Christian scriptures and my prayer life.

Then on Saturday morning I fly back early to speak at the Crown conference here in Cape Town where Christian business leaders from all over the world are gathered to seek to rediscover their purpose and role in establishing God's Kingdom. I shall share the platform with Graham at this event as well. This morning I had the privilege of addressing about 50 of this group, from 11 nations, as they visited the Power Group of Companies for a 'pre tour' study session. Today I spoke of the fact that the Gospel of Christ compels us to seek for God's loving grace to transform individuals, families, communities, nations and the world. This Gospel transforms unjust economies and oppressive political systems, but this same gospel mends broken hearts, heals broken bodies and brings hope and life. This Gospel is TRULY Good news to the poor (the poor of all sorts)!

Well, for a little video reflection of this notion please click play below.

Thanks for stopping in! I would love to hear your comments and feedback!

Please could I encourage you to go the Unashamedly Ethical web site and sign up for the campaign? Let's stand together to transform the world! Please do pray for our team, and particularly for Steve Johnstone our international coordinator, as we roll out the program across South Africa and the world!

Friday, March 13, 2009

A week in review! Catching up from within...

Of course the Christian week begins on Sunday. And, so it was for me. Last Sunday was the start of one of the most incredible weeks in my life.

It started very early on Sunday the 8th of March - around 4.30am. I woke up excited! Today is the Cape Argus cycle tour! It was my 8th ride and I had done a great deal of early morning cycling, careful eating, and mental preparation for a great ride. I knew there was going to be trouble the moment I heard the first gust of wind! But, off to the race I went with Graham, Dawie, Etienne, Brian, Dawie Jnr and Stefan (see the photo from the District Mail - our local Heldberberg Newspaper on the left).

Apparently it was the worst weather in the history of Cape Argus! At places the wind gusted up to 75km/h. Two examples of the strength of the wind were: First, when Dawie Jnr, a fit young guy, was blown completely off his bike just 100m from the start, injuring his arm and leg in the process that caused him to retire from the race! Second, at about 95km into the race (coming over the top of Suikerbossie, down the hill towards the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Camps Bay), I found myself in my lowest gear, standing as I peddled downhill against a ferocious wind - as I looked at my speed I was doing 9 km/h! All around me people were getting off their bikes and walking.

Well, thankfully my race went off without incident. I had hoped for, and trained for, a sub 4 hour ride (which I think may have been possible in better weather). I ended up doing the 109km (this year including Boyes Drive) in 4h58mins. A race official commented that one could take of 1h30mins for the weather... But, 4h58 it is. I am thankful for great, fun, ride! I'll be back next year God willing!

Oh, and at the start of the race I managed to meet both Francois Pienaar (whom I had met once before), the Springbok Rugby Captain from 1995's world cup winning team (see the photo below).

I also met Matt Damon, who was in South Africa to play the part of Francois Pienaar for a movie on the 1995 world cup. Mr Damon (I don't quite feel comfortable calling him 'Matt'... He's a superstar and I'm... well, just me!) was such a nice guy! He was patient and allowed us to be photographed with him. This photo below was taken by a friend. I wasn't quite ready - so that accounts for the fact that I was in mid sentence when the photo was taken. I can't remember what I was saying! But, it looks quite serious! ha ha! What an incredible day!

My final time was 4h54 mins (which I got here).

On Monday I spent the day doing two things (primarily). First, I had to pack my bags in order to be ready to go to the airport in the afternoon to catch a flight to London - but more about that later. Second, I spent most of the day trying to complete my lecture for the Hugh Price Hughes lecture series that I would give on Tuesday evening. I had written up a great deal of the lecture, but needed to spend some further time refining the argument, developing some of the thoughts, and bringing together the questions and research assumptions. It was wonderful to be 'back in the books' for a day! I enjoyed carefully crafting my text, shaping and sharpening my thoughts, and putting this all down in text.

Not yet having completed the lecture I had to leave for the airport. I knew when I left that I this trip was going to be a busy one! So, here's a rough overview of the week:

Meet the staff of the Hinde Street Methodist Church, do the Hugh Price Hughes lecture (see http://www.hindestreet.org.uk follow the links to the lecture and you can download an audio copy as soon as they've edited and uploaded it). It was wonderful to see my Brazilian brother Leao Neto again! He and I met at the Oxford Institute in 2007 and hit it off imediately. Leao has been such a great support and encouragement. He has such a significant ministry with the poor and marginalised on the streets of London. Leao is a 'minister in exile' from the Methodist Church in Brazil (which to my amazement refuses to have anything to do with the Catholic Church - if I understand it correctly, and Leao faced some persecution for his stance on various issues and so ended up moving to London with his family in order to continue his ministry). I stayed with Sue Keegan von Almen and her husband Daniel. Sue is the Superintendent of the London West City Mission - she is a remarkable woman who carries a great deal of responsibility. I am certain that it will not be long before she is the chair of the District and the President of the Methodist Conference! Her husband Daniel is a Retired Reformed Professor and minister. He taught both mission and New Testament in Switzerland and Germany for many years. He was a fount of knowledge! What a remarkable Christian. These encounters reminded me that the Christian world is rich in its diversity, and deep in its gifting!

The HPH lecture was incredible! A veritable who's who of British Methodism and Theology were in attendance. It was daunting and I felt both ill prepared and unworthy. However, I delivered my paper entitled 'Revolution of evolution: Considering the impact of 'emerging conversations' on the mission and ecclesiology of established Churches'. The questions that were raised after the lecture were good, and I left having learnt a great deal more than I shared. In the European Tradition I was given a magnificent Pen to mark the occasion (an honour which is bestowed upon visiting scholars). I felt humbled and will cherish this precious object. Sometimes I fear that my current post is 'taking the edge off' my scholarly mind - it was great to have this opportunity!

I spent the day with the LEAT team at Elephant and Castle. I had three meetings here. One to meet the team and see what the Methodist Church are doing in relation to dealing with prejudice and stigma relating to HIV+ persons in England, and also how the Church is working to break down prejudice against gay persons in the Church. Second a chance to meet with the Chaplain and staff of LEAT seeing some of the work they do with the community around HIV, particularly helping the Church and massive immigrant population to cope with this difficult issue. Third, I met with my friend Rev. Dr. Angie Shier-Jones (with whom I've worked on a number of book projects in the past) to go through the concept of the next book she has asked me to participate in which deals with a theology of HIV and AIDS. My chapter will be entitled 'The Church has AIDS' and it will consider how the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's mission and ministry has been shaped by this pandemic. It will consider both the deep theology that informs the Church's perspective and the pragmatic and necessary changes in our structures and ministry agents in order to respond appropriately. On Wednesday after these meetings I loaded up my luggage (a daily task!) and made my way via the tubes and overland trains to Wimbledon station. Here I met my brother in law Craig and his partner Kath. I try to spend at least one night with this part of my family whenever I am in London. It was wonderful to see them and enjoy their hospitality and kindness again! We had some good beer (Indian beer!) and talked until late in the night.

The impact of the world economic crisis can be seen and felt by ordinary working class persons in the UK. This was evident in the streets and in the conversations with friends and family. I am worried that we shall soon be feeling the impact of this crisis in South Africa in greater measure.

On Thursday I once again packed up my bags (two of them - both on wheels, one with my computer and other daily goods, and one with my clothes and a ton of books (my books) which I was asked to bring over to give away and sell at the various lectures and speaking engagements). I made my way along the Northern Line from the Wimbledon North tube station to Kings Cross St Pancrass station, and then from there along the Circle line to Westminster. At Westminster I was going to the 'Mecca of Methodism' - Methodist Central hall. It is a formidable structure across the road from Westminster Abbey. Thursday was a day in which I experienced a great deal of blessing and joy. You see I had been invited by the District Chairs of the London Districts to do two workshops with their clergy at Westminster Hall. What a joy it was to see two South African Methodist ministers (now living and working in the London area) among them - Jongikhaya Zihle and Jenny Sweet. The workshops were 2 hours each, they were very well attended and I got a great deal of positive feedback. My task was quite simple. I was using the 'action / reflection' method of contextual theology to help these ministers gain a new perspective on the possibilities of ministry in their contexts. Having completed the lectures I was treated to a most amazing tour of Methodist Central Hall by the curator, Rev Mervyn Appleby. The most knowledgeable Methodist historian I have ever had a chance to meet! From there I collected my bags at Kings Cross and caught the train to Cambridge! I arrived at Wesley House Cambridge where I have stayed a few times before just in time to do some work with the Methodist students for ministry and the Methodist students who are studying other various disciplines at the University. It was a wonderful evening of theological engagement and questioning with a group of about 30 young people at various stages in their theological (and other) education.

After this I went to evening prayers in the Chapel at 9pm, and then spent some time with my close friend Madika Sibeko and later with Jane Leach (a lecturer at Wesley House who had previously come to spend two weeks with us at John Wesley college). Jane, her partner Una and I talked until late. It was great to catch up on all the news and developments in their lives.

I went to bed and slept the sleep of the dead! I fasted today.

Friday: I woke very early this morning - before 5am. Today is my regular fast day and I shall take extra time to pray for sick children, for parents of sick children, pregnant women, and those who have lost children to illness.

As I write this I am sitting in the guest suite at Wesley House College, Cambridge, looking out over the gardens of 'Jesus College' as they stretch towards the River Cam. Cambridge is a remarkable place. I could have worked here twice before, and once was accepted to study here (in fact to do my PhD). But I made other choices, for which I am grateful. But, being back here does fill me with a sense of immense gratitude for the friends that I have made over the years. I feel quite at home among them. This is a very different world to the one in which I spend most of my time back home. I love and appreciate both contexts tremendously! Today is the last day of the first term and I shall spend some time working with the students and staff here at Cambridge. I am not entirely sure how the rest of this day will be shaped. My presentations and notes are in order, and as always I am thankful to teach. I frequently have to pinch myself when I realise the incredible privilege of my life! I thank God for God's unmerited favor and grace which is so lavishly and extravagantly placed upon me and my family.

When this day is done I'll make my way to Stansted by train to meet my friend Bryan and his wife Alix with whom I shall spend the evening before they take me back to Heathrow to fly back home on Saturday evening.

This has been a very short and packed trip! The reason for this was because I had to get back to South Africa in order to prepare for a trip to West and North Africa (Ivory Coast, Ghana and Liberia). Thankfully that trip has now been placed on hold for a few reasons. So, I shall have an extra week at home with Megie, Courtney and Liam whom I miss with every fibre of my being.

Here's what I think I have learnt from this trip:

1. I am still a scholar. I have appreciated the rigor and blessing of deep thoughts and the ability to hold them, shape them and share them with others.
2. My life is somehow deeply linked to the Methodist Church worldwide. No matter where I go in the world I tend to encounter wonderful Methodists of various theological persuasions that have those some deep roots of personal holiness and social holiness which are the backbone of Christian perfection.
3. I have particularly special connection with the Methodist Church of Britain. I would not be surprised if we spend some time here in the years to come.
4. I am humbled by the grace and support of others. It is truly wonderful to be able to bring some fresh insight and challenge, and to have it enthusiastically received!
5. I can't wait to get home!!! I want to be with Megie, Courtney and Liam!
6. My leg is all but better (99% there). On my last trip to the UK in September 2008 I picked up a mild thrombosis from the flight and walking. On this trip my leg was absolutely fine (even after cycling the Argus the day before I left)! I thank God for that mercy.

Well, I'm not sure if this post has been anything more than a personal reflection and an incredible week! I'm fairly certain that it will have no value for anyone other than myself. But, thank you for stopping by. My regular blogging, videos and thoughts will resume next week.

Be blessed and be a blessing!


Friday, March 06, 2009

On Being 'done'.... The Cult of Done and being 'Dion'

I found this post on boingboing - I have been so busy in the last few weeks that I have not been able to check many blogs (only my friends WesselPete, and Gus... see details on the right hand side of this page.  PS, Pete, I found your post about sex quite interesting and challenging!)...

But, this quote from Cory was very interesting - it comes from here Cult of Done Manifesto: a name for my disease

Bre Pettis and Kio Stark's "Cult of Done" manifesto is basically how I live my life -- fail fast and often, get stuff done, get more stuff done, fail some more, learn, blow something up, fail, learn, do more stuff, do more stuff, do more stuff.

Seriously: reading these 13 bullet points are like discovering the name for my disease. Or my religion.

1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3. There is no editing stage.
4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7. Once you're done you can throw it away.
8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
11. Destruction is a variant of done.
12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
13. Done is the engine of more.

The Cult of Done Manifesto (via Boogah)

posted in: Happy Mutants

Yup, that's me alright!  Task oriented, walk where angels fear to tread, and always thinking a few steps ahead of where I am.  There can be a great deal of reward in being this way... Of course there are also many challenges to being compulsive and task oriented.  But, that's Dion ;-)

What's your style!?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ego and satisfaction...

The human 'ego' is a powerful 'thing'... I can't quite think of a better word to use than 'thing' (the 'ego' is not truly an objective thing, rather it is something of a subjective state of being (or states of being)... But I think you get the idea)!

The reason for this post and video results from a discipline I have been trying to cultivate in that few weeks. In recent weeks I have been spending quite a bit of time 'pushing others to the front'. By this I mean, I have been quite deliberate about finding ways to step back from things that will put me in the limelight by rather encouraging the work, efforts, and recognition of other persons. I realise that I need this. First, I need it because the struggle to keep my own ego under control reminds me just how powerful my ego is in shaping my experience of life, peace, and joy. Second, I realise that I need to do this because it is good when other persons are celebrated for their gifts and achievements! We should never live with a scarcity mentality when it comes to blessing, recognition and praise! What I have discovered for myself is that there is plenty of joy to go around - seeing someone else being blessed and recognised has brought me great joy as well. Although, I would like to think that this is not why I have been practising "playing second fidle" (as Eugene Peterson puts it in his translation of Romans 12:9-16.

Isn't this just wonderful?

9 Love from the center of who you are; don?t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11 Don?t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12 cheerfully expectant. Don?t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15 Laugh with your happy friends when they?re happy; share tears when they?re down. 16 Get along with each other; don?t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don?t be the great somebody.

The human ego can be an incredibly powerful thing! Sadly, I like many others, am enslaved by my ego. It causes us to feel unworthy, it prompts me to be less than loving, not supportive of the gifts and blessings of others. This is certainly not Christian!

However, the one thing that I can assure you is that you need to have a strong sense of security, and a firm foundation for your ego, if you're going to push others to the front! I have frequently found this source of strength in the spiritual discipline of prayer. As I pray for others, for their blessing and success, I find that my attitude towards them changes (perhaps bringing me in line with God's attitude towards them?) But, it is not easy! It is a lot like the discipline of exercise! I have found that I literally have to practice playing second fiddle!

Well, here's a video that I made about this... Perhaps the verses and insights might offer some challenge and encouragement.

I would love to hear from you! Please share any insights and thoughts on this subject.