Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Never say impossible

Three weeks ago I thought that my PhD hopes via UKZN were dead. The last Higher Degrees Committee meeting had come and gone and my proposal was not yet complete. Prof Draper offered me a ray of hope by suggesting bringing Dr Billy Meyer on board as a co-supervisor, but I wasn't sure if there was time to make it work. A couple of days later I came to the end of another project and decided to email Prof Draper and say let's give it a try. And so Billy and I worked together and in less than two weeks the proposal was good enough in his eyes. Today Jonathan (Draper) also okayed it and I have a signed contract with my supervisors and a promise that they will submit my proposal as early as possible next year.
Thank you Billy! And Jonathan. And of course, Jesus, through whom all things are possible. God is good.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Church and 'Sexual Immorality'

This is one of those posts where I want to talk about 'the church' and 'Christians' as being people somewhere over there, because I feel so inadequate to respond to his issue as a Christian. Moderate Christians have in a very muted way (to my mind) warned of the slide into sexual immorality within society. The muted moderates have found themselves between extravagant extremists - those who picket gay funerals on the one hand and those who advocate allowing adolescents to experiment with sex on the other. And all in the name of Jesus.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jennifer Thorpe on Thought Leader entitled Criminalising Adolescent Sexuality - Murky Waters  The article is mostly a description of current South Africa law, but here is hint of opinion.

If you are between 12 and 15 years, 11 months and 31 days you are still legally too young to consent to sex, and yet according to research done on children, sexuality is part of normal childhood growth. Indeed most South Africans have their first sexual experience in adolescence. What our law says is that anyone older who has consensual sex, or commits sexual acts, with someone between 12 and 15 years, 11 months and 31 days is committing statutory rape or statutory sexual assault. The complexity arises if the two people having sex fall within this age bracket. Technically they can both be charged with statutory rape or assault, even if they have both consented to sex or the sexual acts (including kissing as defined under our law). If they are convicted of this crime, then they will never ever be able to work in a position that allows them contact with children.

I don't want to live in a society where sexual experience for teenagers outside of a committed long term relationship is normal. I don't want to live in a society where the family is no longer a fundamental unit. I am afraid that our 'higher values' are being determined by our selfish desires rather than a desire for the common good. We are being extremely short-sighted.

What would Jesus do? I have my own answer for that, but as church I think we are too divided to speak into this possible future.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A New Phase

My seminary journey ended last Thursday. I may reflect on that journey more later, but for now my dominant feeling is that it was an intense journey. I was busy. There were highs and there were some lows. In some ways quite emotional.
But I was not bored. And that is quite an important thing for me.
Another important thing is that my time was spent in very practical exercises. If the observant reader can remember back to my blog posts before going to seminary they will know that I did not want an increase in head knowledge of which I already felt I had too much. I believed that I would do better applying my knowledge in practical situations. And I thoroughly appreciate the flexibility of the seminary programme in that this is what I had. By the grace of God I was not stuck in a classroom but spent time doing work in the field.
But I did also study Greek to a level that I can meaningfully use in my PhD and embark on the PhD. I 'lived and moved and had my being' in a multicultural situation and experienced varied worship and small group activities.

I think that the last two years were well spent.

But now it is time to move on. Get my head and heart tuned into what God's wants me to do and be next year. To give some thought to the direction of this blog. To go and pack lots of boxes!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Truth and Culture

This is such a good article by Ken Schenck. Here is part of it:

It is an excellent illustration of what I meant in a previous post about "thick descriptions" of things in cultures.  Here are two fundamental insights into meaning:
  • The meaning of language is in how it is used, not simply in defining each word.
  • The meaning of an action or an event is a function of its socio-cultural context.  If an action has a universal significance, it is because of commonality between every such context.
If I say, "There's an elephant in the room," you cannot know what I mean without knowing the context.  I could be a zoo-keeper.  I could be using an idiom.  Or it could be code for my sister to pour Cool-aid on your head.  If turn my hand and make a V in America, who knows what I'm doing (victory symbol?).  In England I am flipping you off.

So it is with truth telling.  I remember being at a church where some of the leaders would get very upset that individuals from another culture would tell them they were going to be at church Sunday and then would never show up.  To me, this was a cultural conflict rather than a matter of them being liars or, worse, it being typical of their "lying culture."  I knew what they were doing with their words.

The use of the words, "Yes, I'll be there Sunday" had a social function rather than an informative one.  "Yes, I'll be there Sunday" meant "I like you and don't want to offend you... even though I don't know if I'll come Sunday or not."  I considered it the cultural ignorance of the church leaders to assume that the meaning of words is always propositional, that the meaning of the words must be straightforwardly and literally defined in order to be truthful (if you disagree with me, don't ever step anywhere near a mission field).  The meaning of words has to do with what we are "doing" with them rather than some propositional content... unless of course what we're doing with them is in fact propositional.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


As we head off to Mitchell's Plain:
My daughters have accomodation here in Pietermaritzburg that is walking distance from the university. They are staying with two others in a house in a cluster complex. A real answer to prayer.
My husband has a job teaching science at Bergvliet High School - which of all the schools advertising in the area was his first choice and is the only one that has actually come back to him so far. My sons will be going to school there too.
We should be leaving in two weeks time - still not 100% sure where we will land on the other side (the circuit is trying to find the best option for us) but we know that things will work out.
God is good.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Flying Rhino?

What about this? A flying rhino?

I think this image is by Michael Raimondo/Green Renaissance/WWF 

The World Wildlife Foundation has been rescuing black rhinos. Here they were airlifting a group of rhinos by helicopter onto trucks to move them from the Eastern Cape to Limpopo. Story at New Scientist. (Click to enlarge photo.)

Oh yes, power!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Bert Olivier, Caravaggio and money

Bert Olivier is Professor of Philosophy at NMMU in Port Elizabeth. He writes about the painting The Calling of St Matthew by Caravaggio. I know so little about art that I find interpretations fascinating - all about the light, the pointing fingers, the clothes.

Here is an excerpt from the conclusion. Read the whole article here.

But I would argue that, understood in this way,this divide denotes the relevant chasm in exclusively economic-material terms, and to my mind this is not the most significant divide in question. What Jesus’ gesture towards Matthew represents on a universal metaphorical level — to be sure, instantiated differently in every culture — is something more important, captured powerfully by the implication of a possible qualitative leap on Matthew’s part, should he rise to the occasion of his “calling”, namely the possibility on the part of every person living in this time of conspicuous consumption, of making a similar qualitative leap from crass materialism to a discovery of “meaning” that vastly surpasses it.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Gull and Eagle - Awesome Picture

(Image: Markus Varesvuo/

Isn't this an awesome picture? It's not photoshopped! The story is at New Scientist.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Wesley Guild Charter - 1960

I found this in the vestry at Greytown Methodist Church.(Click to enlarge.)

The General Secretary whose signature is hard to make out was Rev Ted Floweday. He was a supernumary (retired) minister at Randburg Methodist Church when I was a member there, and that is where he passed away. There is a plaque in memory of him in the Metro Methodist Church in Pietermaritzburg, where I spend some time as well. I don't know the other signatories.