Saturday, December 22, 2007

Go and He Goes

I'm reading the next bit of Mark 1. I always get stuck on these parts. Jesus has shown his authority by removing a demon from a man in the synagogue.
Are we expected to show that same authority?
Why don't I do things like that?
Occasionally people interrupt my sermons (I don't discourage it), but I've never wondered if they might have a demon.
Of course not. Somehow demon possession is not something that we encounter in middle-class English-speaking churches.
Are we not able to show these signs of authority because of medical knowledge that heals 'easy diseases' and leaves us with Aids and cancer?
Is there another way? Something that shows clear authority as distinct from arrogance?
There's more to this. I know there is, but I don't know what it is.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Marilyn vos Savant Puzzle

I suppose this is a bit old, but I was reminded of it by 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' by Mark Haddon. It's not about church or theology . . .

This is the puzzle which came up on a programme hosted by Marilyn vos Savant (purported to have the highest IQ in the world!)

In a game show a contestant is shown three doors. He is told that behind two of the doors there is a goat. Behind the other door there is a car. He must guess the correct door in order to take home the car. After the contestant makes a guess, the host opens one of the other doors to reveal a goat. The contestant must now choose whether to stick with his original choice or to choose the other unopened door.
What is the sensible thing to do?

I'll put the answer in a comment if I get any other comments to this!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Whale Caller and other books

I've been enjoying this holiday time. I think this is because although it has been fairly laid back year time-wise, it has been difficult in other ways. At the beginning of the year I decided to 'volunteer' at the church office to try to see if there was useful stuff I could do and maybe find other places to serve. What I can't believe is that I actually lasted a whole year. I know that this will be something I look back on and I will wonder how I ever managed it. I learnt a lot. About running a church. About readjusting to an office environment rather than working from home. About the sort of people that I would like to have work with me, if and when I have a choice. That I don't do well sitting in an office for extended periods.

I always read, but I am enjoying it more with more space to read in. I read 'Are We Yet Alive' by Peter Storey. A South African book that tries to remind South African Methodists of what Wesleyanism is all about. I was inspired by the commitment that John Wesley had to the poor.

I read The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda. What powerful book. But how depressing. Why do 'arty/cultural/African' books have to be depressing? I am glad I am a Christian. I am glad that I understand grace and forgiveness and that there is always hope and that love is worthwhile. But nonetheless a powerful book and I did enjoy it. I think I will rewrite the ending for myself. By the way, it is about a love triangle consisting of the whale caller, a whale called Sharisha and the village drunk (a woman).

I am also reading 'Let's Both Win', a book on marriage by Arnold Mol (another South African book). My husband and I are reading it together, something we haven't done for a long time, and we are enjoying that. It almost doesn't matter what the book says! But so far, so good.

I'm also reading 'Re-Imagine' by Tom Peters. He's a business motivational guru guy. I am finding the book amusing. I tend to have an automatic antipathy to 'hype-masters', but he makes me think.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

King Jesus

I'm still reading Mark 1:14-20. I can spend days on a little bit. My thoughts now are on the confidence with which Jesus launched out on his mission. 'The time has come!'
I struggle with the ideas of speaking with arrogance against speaking with authority. No one sets out to be arrogant. Do they?
As I result I tend sometimes to timidity.
But Jesus spoke with authority. He was sure he was right. Lots of people are sure that they are right. But Jesus knew.
I read somewhere recently someone saying that he hopes that his own actions and thoughts will come as a result of his prayertime with God and not out of a desire to please a congregation.
Me too. But I'd love to have a congregation or community which also looks for God in prayertime and that we can work together to find what God wants.
I can't afford to abandon God's authority in my life for fear of arrogance. Time for lots of prayer!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Church and Community

Becky has been asking in her blog 'What is the church'. And I guess many of us, including the Emerging Church movement, are asking that question. What does the church look like in the third millenium? Then Becky said this in a comment on my previous post: we wouldn't need to sell Jesus nor would we need to entertain people to come and find its Master. Please read it to get the full context!
But she did put her finger on something for me. Why are we entertaining people? Is this generation so shallow?
Actually, I do understand that we draw people by appealing to them and entertainment appeals to them, so we do it.
But I appreciate the 'emperor has no clothes' pointing out that Becky has done here. We need to make sure that the drawing of people to the church is not an end in itself.
But sometimes, especially in a small church, that is all we have energy for. Or perhaps there is a little left over for mission.
We need to get to the point where people are drawn to the church because they see the value of its mission and want to take part in it.
And hopefully that is deeply rooted in Jesus, his love, his saving grace and his empowering Spirit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Called by a Carpenter

Next little bit of Mark. Chapter 1:14-20. I was thinking about how 'primitive' or otherwise the people were at the time of Jesus, responding to Stephen's comment on an earlier post. Then I remembered reading somewhere that fishermen were not as low down the social ladder as we might think these days. Peter, Andrew, James and John all came from families who OWNED their boats. And they employed hired men. These weren't bottom of the scale manual labourers.
Rob Bell writes in 'Velvet Elvis' how the rabbis of the time were trained and called people to be their disciples. Jesus was known as Rabbi and in all likelihood was trained as such. So his calling men to follow him was a fairly normal event in those days. Although perhaps his choice of disciples was not. I wonder how long Jesus actually did spend learning a carpenter's trade? That has become a sort of Sunday School traditional understanding, rather than a Biblical one. Although in Mark 6 the people do refer to him as 'the carpenter'.
Why did Jesus appear to wait for John to be put in prison before starting his ministry?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rob Bell - Too much Noise?

I read Rob Bell's book 'Velvet Elvis' and really liked it. Since then I've been looking out for his Nooma Dvd's. Found them a while back at R104 at Cum books. Too much for 11 minutes and I don't know what's in the 11 minutes. But then I gave in and bought one (now R109). I chose Noise because I was going to be talking about 'Listening for God's Voice' on Sunday.

What a waste of money! About two minutes of Rob Bell flicking channels on his TV with a short telling of Elijah's still small voice experience. Then the rest of the ten minutes has Bible verses about noise and voices appearing on the screen. I appreciate that he's trying to make the point that we need silence in our lives to hear God well, but R100 for some silence is not useful.

I guess I was hoping for a cool drama or something to illustrate the point. I wonder what's on the other dvds?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tempting the Beloved Son

Continuing reading in Mark, I found that Stephen's comment to my previous post on Mark stuck more in my mind than I expected (thanks Stephen!). The one thing he said was that Mark had ordered his material carefully. Now, I have generally seen Mark as a 'bread and butter' gospel, with fewer frills than the others, but I found myself looking for interesting juxtapositions.

I read about Jesus' baptism. "You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well-pleased." What an awesome encouragement and acknowledgent. Jesus must have felt so good after that. I don't know whether he was prone to doubt or how close he was to the Father while on earth. But, whatever, just then he must have felt all warm and accepted and those good things we humans need.

And then next verse - what a contrast. Off to the desert to be tempted. Mark doesn't elaborate - we know the story. One minute Jesus could have been on such a high, and then the crunch of reality in the human world. Hunger, wild animals, loneliness and Satan.

The same thought I had before, on John the Baptist. We might think we're losing. Stuck in the desert. Wishing for the mountain top experience we had before. Jesus has been there. It happened to him. It's ok for it to happen to us. It's not sin. Or judgement. It's life. And if we're on the mountain top - absorb the love and the strength, because we may need it!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Suffering for Jesus

I was reading the beginning of the gospel of Mark. Starting to 'immerse myself in the gospel' as Trevor Hudson recommends in 'Signposts to Spirituality'.

And John the Baptist stood out for me in a way I have not seen before. I read about the crowds that came from all Judea and Jerusalem. And immediately after that the passage says that John wore camel hair and ate locusts and honey. It was like he was the pastor of one of today's mega-churches. Imagine if he had charged for the baptisms. He would have been pretty wealthy. To continue wearing camel hair and so on must have taken immense faith.

And then I thought of him being put in prison and sending messages to Jesus asking him if he was the Messiah. I heard or read (can't remember) someone asking how it could be that John was unsure after all he had seen. But of course John was in prison, about to lose his life. Of course he was unsure. If this was the Messiah, and there was all this good news, why was he (John) in prison? What a man of faith. What a tragedy that the one who prepared the way for Jesus should end up on the outskirts of it all and be executed.

I guess the message is that some of us are John the Baptist today. In some sense feeling like we are losing and wondering if Jesus is really around. I don't understand it. But Jesus was the Messiah . . . and he is really around today.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Does participation make disciples?

Willowcreek announced recently that they were doing a rethink on their strategy of doing church. This little bit made me think (Greg Hawkins is executive pastor at Willowcreek):

In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

I think the warning not to measure the church's success by levels of participation is a good one to hear. But how does one measure whether people are becoming better disciples?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Advent Calendars

This evening I have been making advent calendars for my children. They should actually have them in time to open the first door tomorrow morning.

Seeing as I have been doing it every year for the last few years it is not too heavy a task. They each choose a Christmas card which I scan in for the picture and the rest of the template is the same as last year!

And my noble husband cuts all the doors so that they open.

Outside it is raining and sounds like hail too. Two kids at a party. Two at home. One off to be a leader on a Scripture Union camp tomorrow. One has a cricket match. The rest of us want to play tennis. But the weather isn't too good!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who am I?

I did this Enneagram personality test. 50 questions and it categorises you neatly. So I came up with a score of 17 as a Type 4 Hypersensitivity. Doesn't sound too good does it? Then on 16 were three types - 1: Perfectionism, 2: Helpfulness and 7: Adventurousness. There are nine types altogether, but the others ranked much lower. The explanations for my types are
Hypersensitivity: I must avoid painful feelings to be happy

Perfectionism: I must be perfect and good to be happy.

Helpfulness: I must be helpful and caring to be happy.

Adventurousness: I must be high and entertained to be happy.

The bottom three I can really cope with. I know that's me and I'm ok with that. The top one catches me. Isn't that normal to not like painful feelings? Am I hypersensitive? I'm starting to realise I'm a big-time 'people-pleaser'. I think it fits. I don't want that label and I think I can change it!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Something Healing

JenLemen Jen Lemen interests me. Here is part of the post I've linked.

Just when our paths are about to cross, the older man turns to me and say in all seriousness, “I’m telling you–there is no love left in this world.”
“No, no, no!” I said. “That can’t be true. Please don’t say that.”
“Do you know that moment,” the younger guy says, explaining, “when you are at the bottom of everything and you have a little hope left, but you’re not sure if it’s going to last? You’re not sure if there’s really anything there at all?” I nod.
“That–” he says, pointing to the man’s heart “is exactly where my friend’s at right now.”

You really need to read the whole post. She is such a positive lady with such a positive outlook. And she brings healing to brokenness. But I don't know what the source of her spirituality is. I don't think she would like to call it God.

But she just draws out the need that people have for emotional healing. For love. Acceptance. Hope. She challenges me to look more deeply for that which Jesus offers, because he does offer more than world - doesn't he?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wacky Hair

I've tried to promise myself that I would put more work and rework into my blog postings. Because I know that sometimes I am just not communicating what I want to say. But self-discipline is not my strongest point.
My kids almost revel in the fact that they are 'different' to others. Especially my youngest. He was telling me yesterday what made them all different. Ending with, 'as for me, I'm just totally weird'.
I've learnt that the right response isn't 'you're not weird'. He knows he's different and it's part of his identity. Though he probably isn't as weird as he thinks! (This picture of him was for Wacky Hair Day at Cubs - it's not 'normal' for him.)
We have a tv, but we only watch cricket - even though there is no rule about it. We all read pretty widely. We're intense. We're passionately Christian. I've never had to 'force' the kids to go to Sunday School or church. Oh, God has been good to us. Only I'm not sure what sort of a witness we 'different' people are.
I've been rebelling against being different. I want to fit in better. But the last little while I've given in. People are going to think I'm a bit odd. I can't really get away from that. And it takes off a lot of pressure to say, 'I'm me. Take it or leave it'. But there is still the longing to know what it's like to be more like others. To experience genuine community.
But to be honest, as long as I feel part of the 'uncool', I am motivated to care about the other 'uncools' out there. Maybe too much acceptance and safety would make me complacent. But God gives me little pockets of acceptance. It is enough.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What matters?

Wessel posted this thought on his blog. 'I can say, Let God matter. But, in reality, what matters is not God but my thought that "God should matter."... ' It's a quote from Emil Brunner and I must admit I don't really, really understand what it all means. But it made me think.

Then we were doing Amos at Bible Study. The very rich and the very poor. Nobody recognising God. Like us. We look for solutions to economic disparity (especially here in South Africa), we don't look for God.

But when we do look for God we say 'ok, let's give it over to God'. Then we think 'What would God do?' and then we go and do it. It's not God that matters, but our thoughts about God. Why don't we really let God do it? So often we play a game of believing in God, but he is just a set of ideals that we aspire to.

But God encourages that. Sometimes his voice is so clear and compelling that I know to obey. At others he seems so distant that I might as well spend Sunday mornings reading the newspaper. But I know that at those times he expects me to use my common sense and my understanding of him. I don't give up on him because he's not shouting to me. I ask myself, 'what would God do or want me to do?' and I do it.

So God matters and my thought that God matters also matters! But I must never get so involved in my own thoughts that I forget that there is a real God who may actually be wanting to do something far more wonderful than I can achieve on my own.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I've been reading Romans in my 'quiet times'. It can take me forever to get through a book, because I'll often read the same passage two or three days in a row. I read this morning Rom 15:21 Paul quotes, 'Those who were not told about him will see and those who have not heard will understand'.
But a while back I read Rom 10:14 Paul arguing, 'How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?'
Seems to me Paul is a bit inconsistent.
But the apparent contradictions in the Bible are what gives it its depth and mystery and the sense of God being somewhat bigger than we are. I like the paradoxes.
But I also like the mystery in 'Jabberwocky' and 'The Hunting of the Snark'. However, these I label 'nonsense'.
It is the realness of God that sets them apart. The Holy Spirit breathing life into the Bible. And I suppose that as I wrestle with contradictions and paradoxes in Scripture I realise that there is consistency. Amazing, actually, for the size of the book and the mixture of human authors. But it's not cut and dried. God is looking for people to engage with him. Cool.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How do we love?

John Bailie wrote this on our church blog. "It would be easy to say that people don’t understand what it means to love. But I'm not sure that’s the real issue. I think people love as much as they can. Some love with depth, others with strength, others with imagination, other with determination and so on…"
Somehow that appeals to me and intrigues me. I suppose it's obvious that who we are affects how we love, but somehow he has put it so well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clean Vines

Our minister was leading devotions at our internal staff meeting on Tuesday and read from John 15. He got as far as verse 3 and stopped because he said he didn't understand it. And we discussed it. Bit of an impromptu devotion, but interesting. The passage is the vine and the branches and verse 3 is 'You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.' That comes after a verse about pruning and before a verse about 'remaining in me'. What has being clean got to do with it? our minister asked. And why already clean?
First, the NIV text note tells us that the Greek for clean is the same as that for prune. Which makes it more complicated - I think. I would have to guess that 'word' is logos in the Greek - my reference books being a few kilometres away from where I am.
So they are made clean (ok to be with God) by the message Jesus has spoken (the explanation of his saving work which had yet to be completed). Now their task is to remain in the vine and avoid the pruners shears. And God will keep them clean (pruned). Grace precedes our faith and obedience. But interesting that if this is right, the disciples are already justified before Jesus died and rose again. The period of Jesus' life sits on an interesting edge between the Old and New Testaments. A line that divides, but zoomed in has width.
Now I wonder if anyone understands what I am going on about!

Sunday, November 11, 2007


One of the things I am thinking about is the concept of dualism. That word has come to imply and mean more than I usually think of theologically. What I am thinking about is the theology that sees the world as a battleground for a war between a good power and a bad power. A good god and a bad god. That's what I was taught when I was growing up and it certainly makes sense in many ways. But I've found myself going into difficult situations and saying, 'I hope God isn't going to give me too hard a time.' And then I catch myself and say, 'God isn't the enemy'. I've wondered why I seem sometimes to confuse the work of God and the work of Satan/evil/whatever. But having taken a step into trusting my own feelings and thinking that maybe those challenges are brought on by God I begin to see things in a new light.
I probably put myself at a disadvantage in many ways by insisting on a pretty strict intellectual consistency. Many people are happy to say in one breath, 'God is totally in control' and in the next, 'we have free will.' They don't easily go together - without a whole lot of buts.
I tend to paint things very much in black and white and things can become so clear when I realise that there are more colours! Yes, God does cause suffering. But not all suffering (speaking on a kind of close to earth level, not ultimate responsibility theologically!). He can cause me to grow by allowing people who are close to me, and Christians, to cause me pain - I've not been able to understand how Satan could use Christians to hurt me. But he doesn't send the drunken driver to kill a child. That is part of the fallen world - and where we play our part in the battle between good and evil which does exist.
So sometimes it is God and sometimes it is Satan. If it is from God, grow and learn. If it is from Satan defend, fight, learn. And discern.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Authentic Blogging

I really want to blog and I really want to write. But the last ten days have been so introspective I don't feel that I have anything to say. After all the inside of my life is much like any other life. But it is my life and I need to discover it.

I am competitive, even if I try to control it. It's in me. What else? My life feels plotted and planned for the next however many months and I must just walk following my nose. But I must seek to live in that. I look for God's leading, but there is no way to turn and no sense of his voice. I must look for my challenges inside of myself. To be more content. To build better relationships with those I already know. To be more sensitive, yet not destroyed by criticism. I should probably study next year, to provide a stretch . . . but I don't know.

This sounds despairing and discouraged and perhaps I am. But really I am expressing in my blog that which I cannot express elsewhere. This morning I spent about twenty minutes playing someone else's guitar in the church all by myself and singing the songs planned for Sunday morning. I felt great afterwards and no doubt caused the office folk to look at me sideways as I crossed the quadrangle singing 'Jesus I decide to live a life that shouts your fame'. And that joy is just as real as the frustration and inadequacy I also feel!

God is good. I know he has a purpose for me and I will trust him.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


This is quite complicated. If you're not up to it, please skip it and read something else! It relates to a post on ...daylight by Stephen Murray. What determines one's theological position, actually? You see I would call myself an evangelical - in a kind of old-fashioned sense. I'm not with a lot of people called evangelicals in the USA. I believe in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and by his grace. I believe in the Bible as the inspired word of God, although I'm not always actually sure how to interpret it. I believe in some sort of selective judgement process. In fact, I'm with Stephen on most of the issues he lists in his post. The one where we differ we could have a good discussion about.

But now, I am a woman in leadership in the church and with the intention of becoming an ordained minister. Some evangelicals would say that I will head for hell, because that is not right. And we're basing our beliefs on the same Bible - different hermeneutic. But if God does not want me to lead why do I feel such a strong sense of call? Why does my community affirm me in that call? This is now subjective. But my experience must inform my hermeneutic. I think. Perhaps God is testing me. I should live in a state of unfulfillment that is obedient to a traditional understanding of scripture. But I'm not going that way.

So now, here come someone of the homosexual persuasion. He or she also feels called to ordained ministry. Why is his or her subjective call less valid than mine? (My peg in the ground at the moment says that I believe God is looking for families led by one parent of each sex. So at the moment I do deny that validity! Subject to change . . .)

Now I become offensive, perhaps. Along comes a pathological person who steals children permanently on life support at a hospital and kills them (make it worse, eats them). He or she also feels called to ordained ministry. Why is his or her subjective call less valid than mine? (We all agree it can't be right!)

I have no doubt that with careful effort the Bible can be made to support any of these positions.

But now, take the starting point, the evangelical position that says women may not lead. Why don't these people hold that women should wear hats to church? And not braid their hair or wear jewellery? (I know there are people like that.) I don't want to become ridiculous, but there is plenty in the New Testament that could be interpreted in such a way if context is ignored. Our hermeneutic is so important.

And where we start is so important. We like to stay where we are. Perhaps we will move one step away from conservative or one step towards. But at the end of the day I am where I am because it is where I started!

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Why do images like this appeal to me? I sometimes wonder what there is inside of me. I once saw some graffiti that said 'The Damned Shall Rule'. I had that on my mind for a long time afterwards - because something about it called to me.

My spider has a home. My desk at church got upgraded from small blue plastic table to adult size modern laminated wood. It's much nicer, but I find myself struggling with conforming and acting 'normal'. Perhaps I shall reinvent myself. In fact I can feel it happening . . .

I wonder where God is going to take me?

I wonder if he'll get rid of the bleak part of me?

Friday, October 26, 2007

No Spiders!

I've got this big plastic spider which I liberated from our Sunday School commander-in-chief. Well, she said some kid must have left it at church and forgotten about it, so I claimed it. Unfortunately, at that time, I shared 'office' space with a lady who got the shivers looking at it, so it was not welcome. Our receptionist/secretary/do-everything-lady gave him a home on top of her monitor. A couple of months ago she moved to a new job and the new r/s/d is terrified of spiders. Homeless again. I thought to put it in our minister's office. But no, what if he is counselling and the spider causes more trauma? It stayed in my car for a while, until my youngest child reminded me, somewhat gleefully, that one of my other children is terrified of spiders. The new lady who shares my 'office' space in the cry room is ok with spiders. So I thought to put him up on the pelmet above the window where he wouldn't get mixed up with the baby toys. The first Sunday after that I was talking to someone who pointed the spider out to me, with some mock horror. So, he has retreated into my laptop bag, where he is pretty much forgotten. I guess I sometimes feel like the spider. And I suppose I sometimes treat others like that too. I want to make sure I don't marginalise people - especially those who don't have the benefit of organisations and media coverage. Those silent people who are different, probably hurting, and easy to forget. Only in God's strength.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


One of the blogs I read is 'Real Live Preacher' by Gordon Atkinson. He has been doing training in mission outreach where they are taught to install water purification systems. You can read his experience here. I was curious about these systems because there is obviously big potential for their use in Africa. The mission organisation is Edge Outreach and I trekked along to their web page. If you dig around you can find some of the stories they tell. One is about a tribal king in one area who refused to allow the mission team to install a system. This organisation is very conscious of the need for the locals to buy in and are not into forcing anything on anybody. But they asked this king why he would not allow it - given that so many small children die from diahroea every year. The king's reply was that babies have always died and the people will not be angry with him for that. However, if there is not enough food, the people will be angry with him. The implication being that if the babies lived he would have a problem. Our western outlook is horrified about this approach, but it does raise real ethical issues.

One's thoughts can go in so many directions after hearing this story. But what worries me most is my feeling of paralysis. If solving one problem simply causes other problems, what can we do? Maybe we should not install purification systems . . . Loving our neighbour is not really that simple!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Virtual Preacher?

I read an interesting online article from Christianity Today. It's by Brian McLaren, but although that cries out 'emerging stuff', it's something that's relevant to all churches. He talks about the glamour associated with high-tech church. Like multiple venues using video technology, tv broadcasts and any form of communication that does not rely on the actual presence of the preacher. And he mentions the lack of glamour associated with pastoral caring. The one-on-one loving of people. Gifted preachers and communicators gain high profiles, but gifted pastors are pretty invisible to the world at large. And yet we have to ask ourselves which Jesus would have been.

There is so much pressure in the world to be great, famous, better than the next person. Like Rob Bell says in 'Velvet Elvis' - superpastor. There can be no question though, that Jesus' call to us is to love one another. And that is a personal thing. There is a place for 'virtual reality' as we stay contextually relevant, but the challenge is to maintain an awareness of the real reality which is loving real flesh and blood people.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Central Methodist Mission Jhb

I had the opportunity last Sunday to take the 10am church service at Central Methodist in Joburg. The event was Local Preachers' Sunday, the first Sunday in October. Some churches participate in this and preachers get to see churches and circuits other than their own. I was really looking forward to preaching in a church that has a long Methodist history and I did enjoy the experience. Apparently the congregation was about 500 strong - I am useless at estimating numbers like that, so I'll have to take the word of those who know! That is the biggest I have ever preached to. There were also four ministers there - the most I have ever preached to as well! But I must admit I wasn't really conscious of the number of people. I think my dominant desire is to communicate and that feels the same wherever. And having preached in five different settings on the last three Sundays I am just so aware that it is God who communicates and Jesus who is the power. And he is so good to have given me the last three Sundays and the renewed conviction that I am called to preach, even if I don't get it right all the time.
The picture is apparently of refugees sleeping in the foyer at Central. I didn't see crowds of people there, but I did hear about them.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Good Samaritan - Different Angle

I've been thinking about something that Becky blogged a while back. She quoted from Watchman Nee's writing on the Good Samaritan, which I've copied here:

The lawyer asked who his neighbor was, and the Lord Jesus responded by asking who was the neighbor of the man who fell into the hands of the robbers. In other words, the lawyer was the one who had fallen into the hands of the robbers. The One who showed mercy to him was his neighbor. The neighbor does not refer to any man; it refers to the Savior. The Lord showed the lawyer that the neighbor is the Lord Himself. He said, "Go and do likewise." This means that the lawyer should do his best to love that Samaritan. Many people have turned this parable around. They think that the Lord wants them to be the Samaritan. They do not realize that they cannot go to the cross to forgive sins, and they cannot be lifted up to bring down the Holy Spirit. Only He has the wine and the oil. Only He has the beast, the inn, and the denarii. We are not the Samaritan. It would be totally wrong to ask the man who fell into the hands of the robbers to be the Samaritan. The neighbor whom the Lord referred to was the Samaritan. This means that the Lord came to be our Neighbor; He came to save us, to provide us with the beast, the wine, which signifies the life, the inn, which signifies the church, and the denarii, which signify the gifts and grace. These things He gives until He returns. When the Lord tells us to love the Samaritan, He is telling us to love Him.

This parable has always bothered me, because it is not clear who Jesus is asking us to be in the parable. It is nearly always interpreted to mean that we have to be the Samaritan. I read this interpretation from Watchman Nee and I almost need it to be right. God has the wine, the oil, the beast, the inn and the denarii. We cannot be God. We don't need to be God. He is the provider of riches, of relief, of salvation. Yes Lord, you be God. But please let me help where I can. Give me work to do for your kingdom. And let me be content to do the work you give me.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Scary Stuff

I went last week to fetch my candidates forms from the superintendent's office (although I am sure I could have downloaded them from the EMMU webpage at less effort!). I went through them Wednesday evening and answered the easy questions (like what is my name). Funny how silly things can irritate me - I'm not a great feminist, but I'm sure that I had to fill in my husband's maiden name more often than the forms asked me for mine! It's hard to get rid of the basic assumption that a minister is a man.
I spent Thursday with a generally uneasy feeling. I couldn't figure out was wrong with me, until it struck me that filling in these forms was making things feel uncomfortably close. There is so much that I am scared of. Being out of control. Having to do things for which I can't really understand the purpose. Submitting. Money and cost of living.
Some of this stuff I know I need to learn. Some I'll only realise I need to know when I know it. And some of it is going to drive me crazy.
But I don't think I have any choice any more. So let it do its worst!
At least as it comes closer I can also see further and as I see the potential for a future beyond probation it is easier to be optimistic. God-willing I will see the other side!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Life has been crazy this side of the world! So this is just a short post. At our church we are watching David Pawson presenting his 'Unlocking the Bible' series on DVD. We've got two groups running. One started a few months ago and is now busy with Judges and Ruth. The other group has just started and is doing Genesis. The groups get together afterwards and share questions and insights. Our minister, John Bailie, has done a great job in getting people interested in taking the Bible seriously.
The Genesis group has been talking about creation. I have no problem with integrating the Bible and Science - I see them both as God revealing himself to us. But the question was asked, "Why did God create the dinosaurs?" That is an interesting one. Presumably not just to create a confusing puzzle and make people question the biblical account of creation.
The best answer I can think of is that they were needed to do something to assist in the process of forming the earth to be a place fit for human habitation.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Real Caution Replaces Road Signs

A Reuters report from Berlin in The Star newspaper yesterday.

A town in Germany has decided that the best way to improve road safety is to remove all traffic lights and stop signs.

From tomorrow, all traffic controls will disappear from the centre of the town of Bohmte to try to reduce accidents.

In an area used by 13 500 cars every day, drivers and pedestrians will enjoy equal right of way.

The idea of removing road signs to improve road safety, called "shared space", was developed by Dutch traffic specialist Hans Monderman, and is supported by the European Union.

His ideas have already been implemented in the town of Drachten in the north of the Netherlands, where accidents have been reduced significantly.

I suppose that is what the church is asking. Do we need road signs? Do we need rules? Maybe Jesus just said "Remember God and try not to hurt each other" as a paraphrase of the Great Commandment!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Story Time

Goldilocks Story
I suppose that 'story' and 'narrative' are two of the most well-known features of post-modern thinking. But they still give me a lot to think about. The excerpt below comes from John Piper's 'Desiring God' blog. From a fairly conservative theologian it is interesting to see such a post-modern concept.
"One of the less obvious ways that our artistic utilitarianism shows itself is the impulse to reduce art to propositions about art. This is the only way that many people know how to interact with art—or at least the only way they trust. If we can say what a story means, for instance, and we've summed up this meaning in a statement about truth that we agree with, then we think it's a good story—good art. And if a story resists summary or does not distill into a statement we believe, then we have no use for it—it's bad art." Click here for the whole article.

I know that I need to get the hang of letting a story speak for itself, but I nearly always end up with 'what it means'. It's partly my training, I guess. Yet I know for 100% sure that a story speaks to people far more forcefully than any argument. And I encourage myself by saying that I could argue or explain the same point logically and in fact will have done in my preparation. It makes me scared that people will trust me. That they will hear what I say without needing to be convinced rationally.

Sometimes post-modernism takes it (in my mind) too far. If I understand 'deconstruction' correctly, neither the story-teller, nor the story communicates truth, but rather the hearer discerns his own truth in the story. The Piper article appeals to me in that the story cannot be reduced to morals, but nor is it just a vehicle for the hearers' preconceived ideas. There is truth in the story, to be discovered by those who listen. And hopefully the Holy Spirit, in the Christian context, is also involved in interpreting the story to the needs of the listener.

This got a bit more complicated than I intended! Sorry for over-simplifying some of the positions!


I am sitting in the secretary's office at church playing 'secretary, secretary' while we wait for the new lady to work her notice and join us at the beginning of October. I have nearly done a whole week.

I was curious to see how I coped, because although I can do admin I generally don't enjoy it. But this is a good experience and opens windows onto how a church really works. It also gives me an opportunity to ask myself whether I am really called into ordained ministry or if I just want to be in on the nitty-gritty of church life.

I suppose it is like anything, you have to give it a chance. But I am finding it far more frustrating than I anticipated. Mostly because it takes time- time away from things I would rather be doing - like updating my blog. I've got something I want to blog, but I can't focus on thinking about it. I feel dislocated.

But I probably need to learn something in there as well. The ability to switch focus without losing my place as it were. So this is going to be a challenging month. There are also good things. The people I meet and talk to. The sense that I can be useful (I think . . .) And I'm already more on top of things so that next week will be better. And although this is a funny sort of challenge, I always enjoy a challenge.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Peace and Activism

eagles wings peace
I want to write something challenging. Something that makes a statement. But I feel that I sometimes I want to push myself and perhaps others beyond what God really wants. Maybe we should have more sabbaths in the week in today's world.
But here are two links to what I'd really like to say. Perhaps to where I'd really like to be. I wish more people read my blog so that I could point them there. They are peaceful, refreshing bits of writing. David (who is in Pietermaritzburg) and Denise who is in the far away USA.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The War of Jenkin's Ear

Micahel Morpurgo The War of Jenkin's Ear
I read an unexpectedly interesting book this weekend. My son has just turned 11 and had a very simple request for presents. 'Books please'. That suited everyone. I bought him a book by Michael Morpurgo (The War of Jenkin's Ear), chosen because I enjoy him as an author. I had no idea what was in the book.

I picked it up, after all the kids had read it, and discovered that it was about Jesus. In a post-modern (I think it's post-modern, others might disagree) and unexpected setting. A kid turns up at school claiming to be the reincarnation of Jesus. Ok, from then on I read the book with suspicion, but I wish I had trusted the author. The message is thought-provoking. The suspicion produced in me, is just the suspicion that must have been produced by Jesus when he turned up in Israel. Michael Morpurgo portrays it so well. Definately worth reading - even by adults!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What does it really take?

door to heaven, God
I read an article on the internet some time ago. It wasn't up for long, because it was pretty controversial. The author told the story of a young woman or a teenager whom he had met. She was vehemently anti-church. On talking to her he discovered that she had been gang-raped when she was a child and could not accept the existence of a loving God. The author asks how is it possible that God could exclude someone like that from heaven. In fact he was not willing to go along with the idea that God excludes anyone from heaven. And if God is in fact like that, then he was not interested in God.

I've been thinking about this for few days, for some reason. What always bothers me is - what about the rapists? Do they also get to go to heaven? Somehow life becomes a little arbitrary, if not quite meaningless with this philosophy.

A couple of days ago a 'little old lady' from our church was beaten up after a car accident with a taxi. Totally crazy. How must she feel? How does God feel?
But the one thing that I know is that this lady will look at the situation and say - Jesus, this world has become rotten and disgusting, but I for one am going to continue to stand for you.
And the God that can do that for someone is the God that I am interested in, rather than a God for whom anything goes.

Friday, August 17, 2007

God is Good

I've been feeling odd the last few days. Almost burnt out, although I am doing NOTHING. But I think stress is found in unexpected places. The worst is when I can't dream or vision. Think creatively about things. And then I start doubting myself badly.

But God is good. Although I've struggled to feel connected with him he has encouraged me. I've been missing any sort of sport for the last four weeks, but played tennis twice and hockey once in the last few days. I even won. Good thing they're both team sports because I am usually the weakest link. Then I had a good Bible Study - those people always lift me even when I'm totally flat. And then while I 'm telling myself that I just need to be patient and trust God (which is so difficult) my sense of vision comes back and I can start to breathe again. And today I stood looking at the quiet, peaceful grounds of our church and I felt I renewed sense of conviction that this is the sort of place I ought to be. And . . . I could carry on.

In a way its seems so mundane. But I must not allow it to seem insignificant. God has blessed me and I don't deserve it. I didn't earn it. It's just who God is. He understands me and I am grateful.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Emergent Church

emerging church emergent church
If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said I was all for the Emergent Church. Because I believe 100% in doing church in context. But now, I'm not so sure. I guess I'm on a bit of a journey of discovery - and so I hesitate to write unfinished thoughts. I usually like to have things cut-and-dried and clear in my mind before I say anything to anyone else. At the moment I suspect the Emergent Church is going to be to the 2000's what the Charismatic Movement was to the 1900's. It starts as extreme. Is viewed with suspicion by the established churches and eventually shakes down to something that can be adopted by, um, orthodox? churches. Evangelical churches? We need a new labeling system!! So, can we short circuit the process and say what do I (as a Methodist in South Africa) need to learn from the EC movement? Of course, we can easily say John Wesley was EC (for his time, he was) and the Methodist Church already stands for much of what EC has to say (such as social action). I like the way Emergents reexamine and question everything. But I am not sure that there isn't a tendency to replace God with the human conscience or with human wisdom. (I cannot understand how God can be like this, therefore he isn't.) More to say . . . another time.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Rebecca Chavula

I was looking at a YouTube videoclip put together by John Piper's church about the bridge that collapsed in America. The bridge is visible from his church. He starts by saying that although the bridge collapsing is a tragedy, there are many tragic deaths every minute. I felt that maybe he wasn't really talking into the situation.
Then I heard the next morning that someone had died. She was a young woman in a congregation I used to 'pastor' in an informal settlement. I didn't know her very well. But her baby was born in the time that I was part of the community. Mpakiseng. The church congregation took me to go and visit Rebecca and her baby in the tiny one room place where she stayed. We lit candles and prayed for the baby. She was introduced to me as Anastasia. Named after the pop singer, but meaning Resurrection. After that Rebecca started coming to church regularly. She really wanted to be part of the church women's group (Manyano) but could not as she was not married to the father of her baby. The baby came to church with her and my (then) twelve year old daughter looked after her in the 'Sunday School'. For a while they were missing. The baby was ill with staying in a the hot, tin-roofed, one-room home. They had to stay with family until the baby was better. I went back to visit about a year ago and Mpakiseng had grown to be a little child. But at 6.30 on Monday evening Rebecca died - of 'flu. And, really, that is just as tragic as the bridge collapsing. And it hurts.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Just over a year ago I remember saying to someone that English-speaking South Africans (I guess I meant myself) have no culture. I have changed my mind.

It seems forever ago, but it was just less than three months that I spent some time at our District Local Preachers Convention. This is an event attended by predominantly black South Africans. Well, there were two white people and about 300 black people. The rule for the LP Association is that preachers wear the 'black and white' - pretty much formal western dress, including ties for both men and women. Now, I went to this thing as an expression of solidarity and a desire that we as cultures move together. But the thought of dressing like that did not appeal. So - well, actually I did sort of try to fit in, within the bounds of my wardrobe, but I didn't do too well - I decided if anyone asked I would say that my clothing was an expression of my culture, just as theirs was of their culture. Kind people that they are, I was warmly welcomed regardless of my lack of uniform and in fact only one person mentioned my clothes. She looked totally taken aback at my explanation. White people aren't supposed to use culture as a reason for behaviour! But I think that my culture values individuality, while traditional black culture values community and conformity. And, for now, I stand by my culture. I think it is Biblical (eg every man shall die for his own sin) and I think it is logical. I make my own choices. I am an individual. And, of course, I honour your choice and as far as possible your culture.

I have learnt more about my own culture, but maybe that will be in another post. We have quarterly Local Preachers' Executive meetings which are amazingly open and frank in discussions of race and culture. We are three blacks and three whites. The 'power balance' is fair and we hear each other. I'm just realising how much I do learn from them. Thanks guys!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Harry Potter

I read the latest Harry Potter in the week (as well as the previous one so I could pick up the thread) - I'm not exactly sure where I got the time, but somehow I did it. I really admire JK Rowling's insight into the way people work. I could say so much, but what I think brings her basic good against evil plot well into the 21st century are two things.
The one is her portrayal of Harry as vulnerable. He is no super hero, but has fears, feelings and anger. He makes things up as he goes along and strikes when he sees the gap.
The other thing is her total acceptance of grey areas. Harry's father is naturally important to Harry, but he is not therefore portrayed as perfect. He had his failings. Dumbledore's failings are key to the plot. So with Snape and others. And that is true to life. Except for Jesus, even the best of us have weaknesses and sin in our lives. Even the worst have some element of potential and hope.

Ultimately we can be encouraged that no matter who we are or what we have done we can make some sort of contribution to making the world a better place.

That people buy in to that message so enthusiastically suggests that it comes from some fundamental truth in the universe. Or is it their wishful thinking? Escapism?

It is the message that Jesus brought. We can all make a difference. But for so many that seems as far out of reach as magic does. I think that is what I want to do. To tell people that it is not out of reach. To tell them to hold on to hope. To encourage them to count the cost - either way.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


John Maxwell says that we judge other people by their actions, whereas we judge ourselves by our intentions (Winning With People).

That really struck me! Jesus said , "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgement." (John 7:24).

I know this partly leads on to 'Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins'. But there's something more there. It also reminds me that people cannot always know my intentions.

To a large extent they have no choice but to evaluate me on my words and actions. Whereas my intentions dominate my view of myself. To see myself as others see me I need to 'switch off' my intentions and just look at my actions. And I must do my very best to have my actions reflect my intentions. Because at the end of the day my intentions could just be something found inside my head with no impact on the real world.

But I often find it SO difficult to genuinely express my intentions in action. It is so easy to say the wrong thing at the wrong time!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dying Naked

I wish I could remember where I read this. The writer said that the vulnerability required by preaching was like dying naked and afterwards knowing that it would have to be done all over again next week. If you’re not a preacher you might not understand this. If you are a preacher you might not understand this. But it makes sense to me.

I wonder if blogging could ever get to be the same?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Romance of Brokenness

Henri Nouwen as an author frustrates me. His titles promise more than I find inside. What I am trying to work out is whether I am missing something or what. I am reading 'Can You Drink the Cup' at the moment. Someone told me the book moved her to tears. But I can't get it. And I want to get it!

The one book of his that touched me was one written while he was in hospital for psychiatric therapy after some sort of breakdown. His cries of loneliness and the need to be loved really touched me at my own point of hurt - I couldn't actually finish the book. (Can't remember what it was called!)

Nouwen does write of brokenness. And we all need to experience brokenness in order to find renewal and new life in Jesus. But I wonder if we don't watch his experience of being broken and romanticise it? There is great joy in renewal and restoration and somehow that colours our view of brokenness. It looks like a pretty thing. More sweet than sorrowful. But brokenness is painful. I have not found it a pleasant place to be. Not a place to stop, but to move on as quickly as possible.

Why am I different to others? Am I too used to brokenness in my own life? Or am I unable to be sufficiently open to God to experience what others experience? Two extremes! I hope I find out one day.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Overflowing Thanksgiving

I don't know if Paul was very naive or very optimistic or . . . That's Paul from the Bible I mean. This is the verse I read this morning, 'so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God'. It is such a awesome vision of a ripple effect or perhaps tidal wave of the spread of the knowledge of God's grace and love. That people should just be overwhelmed at his goodness and that he cares about us.
But in fact many people then and now became defensive and suspicious. And instead of thanksgiving overflowing we tend to ask more and more from God. Somehow what he does is never enough. But even one tiny miracle in our lives is evidence of God and his love.
Funny how I can't actually put into words what I feel. It sounds so 'already said'. But when the Holy Spirit speaks straight into our hearts it is fresh and new and awesome.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I lead a Bible Study at the church on Thursday mornings. It is more of a fellowship group than a Bible Study although we do sometimes talk some serious stuff. The average age of the group members is about 75!

When I took over the group about 18 months ago everyone warned me - these people don't talk, ever. You have to do it all. That was a challenge to me! Now they talk plenty. One old man, between 85 and 90, has particularly relished the opportunity to share about himself. He had a very painful childhood, although he sees it in a wonderfully positive perspective. Yesterday, when asked about brothers and sisters, he shyly muttered that 'one bastard was enough'.

In those days 80-odd years ago an illegitimate child was a big embarrassment and this poor man had to take the pain and the shame. And it is great that he is able to be freed from it and open up to people in the church about it.

My automatic reaction is how could the church have caused so much pain in the past? But because that is such a 'politically correct' reaction I question it again. Since when have we made the pursuit of a pain-free existence supreme? Why do we say pain is wrong?

We are in danger of making peace of mind and contentment God. If Jesus had pursued a pain-free life we would never have had the cross. If he asked us to pursue a pain-free existence we would never have sacrificial living. Of course, that is different from causing pain to others.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Who am I?

As has happened before, this is actually a response to Dion's blog. He posted his paper for the Theological Society and these are some thoughts!

I am not really learned enough to interact on the topic, but here are a few thoughts that popped up.

The idea of identity as patterns, not particles is really cool. We can see in ourselves the desire to maintain or at least control the change in patterns. So if we lose our hearing, we look for an implant, to preserve the pattern. Because if I am deaf I am changed. But an implant while changing the particles retains the pattern. If we are criticised we are challenged as we become unsure of the stability of the pattern and we react to preserve it.

The question of 'who is David' if a model is created which models David's subjective experience is also interesting. If two beings have the same memories, feelings and general subjective experience what separates them? If one sees existence as passive (which Dion later says we should not), then probably nothing separates them. But existence is not passive. Time passes and change happens. So we can ask will David and the model react to the passing of time in the same way? They will only do that if we program the model to repond in the way that we anticipate David responding. So the one that is not David is the one that requires programming. This does make it quite simplistic! But the alternative is that the model is in every way identical to David and includes 'humanness', in which case there can be no distinction. Yes? No?

Lastly, the thought of hierarchical holons as a metaphor? for understanding consciousness is a bit disconcerting in an essentially post-modern discussion. Hierarchies are just 'so modern'. I think when it gets to nested hierarchies we are better off, although nested might not be the right word if we are really talking overlapping hierarchies. But it all resolves itself more happily with Dion's description of intersubjectivity - more like a multidimensional spider's web than tiered levels.

I like the richness of the dimensions defining identity. Individual/community subjective/objective. All cool. It also allows for my identity to be described by the fact that I shun community - or embrace it whole-heartedly.

Ok, enough nonsense. This at least shows I can also use big words!

God's Training Wheels

I was thinking of doing a sermon on Galatians and for that reason was skimming through Acts (I never realised that Lystra and Derbe and Iconium were in Southern Galatia) and trying to get it in the context of Paul's missionary journeys. I decided I could never do what I wanted to do in a fifteen minute sermon. Sigh.

But I did read about the baptism of John a couple of times while skimming - and it actually started to make sense to me. Probably because I had Galatians in mind. Galatians being about the relationship between the law and faith in Jesus. The baptism of John is a baptism of repentance. In other words it is the realisation that where I am now is not getting me anywhere. The path I have been following and the life I have been living are not leading to fulfilment or satisfaction. I need a change in paradigm (post-modern for repentance). And so far the baptism of John is good. But it doesn't define or indicate what the new paradigm is. The next step is faith in Jesus which leads to salvation. For the Jews the old way was that of the Jewish Law. For Greeks it was philosophy/wisdom and hedonistic living. For the Romans? Not too sure. But none of these was effective. So the realisation of the need for more (repentance) and the anticipation of finding more (when faith in Jesus is understood).

What is the 'old way' for people in the congregation to which I sometimes preach? Not Jewish Law. Perhaps the pursuit of pleasure and self-fulfilment. Or legalistic Christianity. Materialism. The Law was like God's training wheels. Do we have training wheels in our culture today?

I need to work that out before Sunday!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sleeping Beauty

I discovered, while cutting my eight year old son's hair, that he had never heard the story of Sleeping Beauty. So I kept him still for the rest of the haircut by telling him the story.

Next day I went to take a church service in an informal settlement in our circuit. I thought I would tell them the story (because stories are good things to tell) and I thought I could use it as an illustration that Jesus wants us to wake up to the fact that there is more to life than day to day drudgery. So Jesus is like Prince Charming. And in fact we also need to be like him and wake others up to the fact that there is more. I said we do that by doing the Matthew 25 things - feeding the hungry and so on. They enjoyed the story - although they could not understand 'king' and 'queen'. Translating for little Tswana speaking kids they settled on Morena and Mrs Morena! And I did not even begin to try to talk about spinning wheels.

But I battled to communicate with them what I really wanted to say. Just thinking about it now, I think it is because they didn't expect me to connect with them. They didn't try.

This is a very small preaching place. I arrived at 11am for the 11am service - knowing African time well! At nearly a quarter past the first people arrived. By 11.30 we had four adults (other than me) and five children. Given that the most I've ever preached to at that place is one adult and a couple of children, I was very pleased. Although, from 11 to 11:15 I questioned the wisdom of what I was doing. There could be no benefit in my being there with no congregation at all! But God is good and I didn't feel my time (or preparation) wasted. But my heart breaks for the people there. The settlement has about 7000 people. There is a Pentecostal church working there which seems to draw about thirty people. We Methodists manage a handful. And the rest? And why do we only get a handful? Although it must be recognised that this is growth. And why do they not expect to connect with the preacher? I worry that traditional African Methodism is simply not touching people's hearts. But I can't tell.

Maybe next time I will ask them to tell stories, rather than me. Will I learn anything? Or will they not have stories of Jesus' work in their lives and community to tell?

I can see the advantages of being a minister rather than a local preacher. My contact with them is too sporadic to be meaningful. But the minister is a probationer looking after three congregations. I guess we really need to depend on God - who is always there. But he does seem to need us too. Odd that.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Strikes and all

Determined to update this thing!

The strike has had a varied impact. Two things I heard on Friday. My daughter had been selected for the District hockey team. Not too sure what a District team is. It replaces provincial, but covers a smaller area, apparently allowing more kids to participate. Bad news- the big district tournament has been cancelled due to the strike. I imagine the other districts were not able to get their team together. One very disappointed 13 year old.

The other thing was an unemployed member of our church came by. His grandmother living in rural Limpopo has died. Apparently she went to get her monthly medication, but the people who normally make it available were not there because of the strike. As a result? she passed away. And now this man's father is also ill. He is going up to do his best to get his father private medical care.

This somehow just illustrates the disparity between us and them. What hurts? What means disapointment? And I pretty much just feel helpless - as I guess most of us do about the strike.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


I played hockey last night after a three week break - matches having been cancelled. When I stop for a while I wonder if it is worth the effort. Playing hockey at 8.30pm in this weather does seem a little crazy. Sometimes the matches are earlier. Sometimes they are ten minutes away from home (Randburg astro). Sometimes 30 minutes (Wanderers or Morningside), depending on the traffic.

But it is SO good for me. Just the exercise is good. Being with people from outside the church is good. And there is something psychologically satisfying about being able to play flat out - it's ok to be competitive and to take risks. I play for a 'nice' team as well - not so competitive that we can't say well done for good play on the other side.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Church in a Coffee Shop

Dion put a post in his blog about emergent church stuff that set me thinking. Too many thoughts to just comment on his post. But I haven't had time to blog the thoughts until now and I'm not sure what's left!

We did church in a coffee shop in a church (if you know what I mean) for nearly two years and it was actually reasonably successful. We had an evening service of about 25 people in a place where (in retrospect) it was crazy to expect people to come at night.

But I am wondering whether the concept is really suited to the South African people. I know it works in pockets in the USA and Europe. I am not convinced that it is what people in the area where I live want (middle to upper class?).

Now I'm in a different church. I can't stop myself being post-modern and trying to reach people in that way - but I am struggling to really identify that which will appeal to young South Africans. I just know that it is not as easy and straight-forward as some people say! People are an almost paradoxical mix of conservative and radical. They want the predictable and they want surprises. They want community and they want to be able to worship alone. The 20 and 30 somethings in our congregation want to sing the old Sunday School songs. The teenagers choke over hymns. The 40 somethings (like me!) still want to be teenagers.

Multi-media - yes. Authenticity, a hundred times yes. Church in a coffee shop - not any more. They are looking for church in a church. Or perhaps Christianity without a church. Or maybe we can find some uniquely South African way of doing things. I wonder if effective serving is maybe a key. Post-moderns want to change the world for the better and are willing to do it one hungry child at a time.

On a different tack, what is interesting is the number of people in South Africa who are making the move from pre-modern to post-modern and skipping or only stopping briefly at modern. One day the rain was God's tears. The next it is something be experienced as spiritually uplifting. Without necessarily going through meteorological understanding of any kind. Essentially, I mean black people who are still close to poverty. That is a whole new avenue of post-modern ministry. Because story-telling is pre-modern and story-telling is post-modern. That is a good bridge.

I know I am becoming incoherent - because I don't want to make this post too long. If anyone knows what I am trying to say, please help me out!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Whatever the pain, whatever the cause. There always has to be forgiveness. So this entry is now wiped out. Nice symbolism.
God is good.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Local Preachers' Convention

So, I went to my first Local Preachers' Convention. Not that I was there for every single minute it was happening, but for a significant amount of time.

First observation - I wasn't as bored as I thought I might be. There was enough in English that I could keep up and that which I heard was good. Bruce Mpele, the president of the District LPO was very amusing. Rev Molokoane spoke well and also John Annandale.

Second Observation - the purpose of the LPO seems to be a little vague. The structure almost seems to exist to sustain itself. But fellowship in itself is an intangible and unmeasurable substance. Also the concept of celebration is necessary but the effects are unmeasurable.

Third Observation - the people were very friendly. The preachers from my own circuit who looked after me (and embarrassed me by suggesting that I sit with the ministers because I am candidating). The other preachers who accepted my presence without wearing the black and white uniform. I felt that my clothing was an expression of my culture.

Fourth Observation - the convention is an expression in African culture of what Western cultures experience in a 'family camp' or a weekend retreat. I'm sure this has been something that has been developing over the last few years. I could certainly see common ground between Western and African. It could be that we will be able to come together. Whether anybody cares enough, or whether it matters enough, is another story. But unity doesn't mean complete assimilation of either culture by the other. So different and separate is sometimes ok.

At the end of the day, I am glad that I went. Not everyone who has no Sesotho or isiXhosa would be comfortable and I couldn't recommend it to all. But I was blessed. It was unpretentious, joyful and Jesus-focused.
(No, I'm not in the picture. It is taken from the programme we received!)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

To School

This photo is more significant than it seems. Malcolm (in the middle!) went to school for the first time yesterday. He has been homeschooled since grade 1. His big sisters made the transition in the middle of last year and have settled in very well at school. It seemed right to us that now is the time to let Malcolm go.

And he spent most of yesterday afternoon crying. He had quite a traumatic day to begin his career. His Afrikaans class received a break detention. His PE teacher yelled at him for not having PE kit - not realising that this child had never been at the school before (surely the guy must know his classes by May?!).

So what is God saying? I know what Malcolm thinks! But of course he must give it enough time. And in the meantime his parents' hearts do some breaking.

Today was better. And although I'd love to keep him at home I do believe he needs to learn to assert himself in another environment.

I hate to say that, because I see people nodding wisely and saying 'homeschooling deprives children of this and that'. I still believe in homeschooling - not for all children -but for some at the right time. But I believe even more in doing what is right for each individual child in so far as we as parents are able. And that is much more difficult than it sounds!