Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Starting on Monday we have about three weeks of intensive programme at seminary. I'm not too sure what this will entail - apart from the fact that it is supposed to be intensive learning!
I know we will have something on preaching and maybe something on Wesley - stuff that doesn't fit into the academic curriculum. I'm quite looking forward to it.
I'll be in Jhb for a few days - so this blog might be a bit quiet.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Phone

I eventually got my new cell phone on Saturday. I've always had a bottom of the range phone and liked it like that, but I've realised that if I'm going to understand how the other half of the world lives, I need a phone that does internet. So, I now have a Nokia E63 on a MTN Anytime 100 contract.
So far, I'm having fun. It loads Twitter very quickly and actually shows the kilobytes as it downloads, so I can see when I've hit a heavy site. (So many sites are so loaded with adverts and pictures that you can download many megabytes without even doing anything except look.)
I have enjoyed the portability of my netbook, but I can see that I will use it less for internet now that I have this phone. The only thing is that I have tried to keep the discipline of having my computer away from the bed at night so that I don't surf when I can't sleep. The phone offers a whole new set of temptations!
Anyway, it's a nice toy to play with!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prostituting Grace?

I read Ezekiel 16 this morning. It's a chapter where God metaphorically describes how he picked up Israel as a helpless baby and how he cared for her and nurtured her to become a beautiful young woman. vs 14 "And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendour I had given you made your beauty perfect".
But (and of course there is a but) vs 15 follows "But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favours on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his."
In the new covenant (the Jesus covenant) we don't speak of nations and riches, but rather of the church and grace. He has rescued us from our helpless place where we could not resist sin and given us power to bring about positive change in the world, by his grace.
Do we use that grace wisely and with humility - or do we lavish it on anyone who passes by? Do we bring glory to the one who changed us - or do we use his gifts to win friends in the world?
I think that there might be some who say that grace is meant to be prostituted. I can almost see that. But I don't agree. I know that this needs more thinking about . . .
(Tom Smith talks about Bonhoeffer and 'cheap grace' here.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I have resisted Sudoku for as long as it has been around. Then I started doing one, then two, and the addiction took hold. Well - it's held for two weeks!
But yesterday I finished a 5 star ultra difficult one, so maybe the challenge is over.
Or maybe it's just beginning.
It's nice to be on holiday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Higher Education

It looks like I will be able to register with the University of KwaZulu-Natal for a PhD, no problem. I work with some great people this year. One of them followed up my application for me and it seems that all is good. So I've been (more or less) officially told to get going with my proposal. Hooray!
I'll be doing some stuff specific to the Methodist Church relating to the operating of churches within the Black section and within the English-speaking section. They operate very differently and I hope, using Systems Theory, to find better ways of understanding each other and cooperating. I believe in what I will be doing! I hope that it works out like I expect.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Mozambican called Nelson

One of my fellow seminarians, Nelson Chacate, spoke at Prestbury Methodist on Sunday evening. He is from Mozambique and lost both of his parents to the civil war between Renamo and Frelimo forces. He spoke about how he turned from a stubborn hatred to an acceptance of God's love in Jesus. It was pretty awesome. Not because he was spectacular. He spoke quietly, in good but not perfect English. But you could see that it came from his heart. And that, I think, is the most powerful testimony to God's activity in this world!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Old Testament - in or out?

One of the questions I have been asking myself lately - and this comes out of the debate about same-sex unions - is how do we determine which parts of the OT are in and which are out?
I know that in one sense they are all 'in'. I also know that for many people they are almost all 'out'. A common cry about the same-sex thing is 'we don't believe in Leviticus anymore'.
John Bailie has written something that asks these sort of questions.
The thing with the OT is that sometimes Jesus reinforces the commands and actually makes them more demanding - such as in the Sermon on the Mount where he says 'you've heard you shouldn't murder, but I'm telling you not even to be angry in your heart' and so on. Then there are other commands that get done away with - the Sabbath being one. Peter's vision of the sheet with unclean animals also does away with some of the OT law - but which part? How much of it?
I'm sure that people have thought and written about this, but I'm feeling the need to get a bit more on top of it for myself.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Going Zulu

At our little church in Brentwood we divide the service in two - the liturgical part is led by one preacher and the sermon done by another. Today I was the 'liturgist' and led the 'umbedesho' and I managed without using a single word of English. I also manged to be unselfconscious about my Zulu. We move ever onwards!

Friday, June 18, 2010

So much to say

I took a service in a retirement home today. It was good to be reminded about the 'other side' of life. It isn't all black people who speak a different language to me. But I do need to be sure to keep in touch with my white side (like men talk about needing to keep in touch with their feminine side!).
I finished The Poisonwood Bible. Definitely worth reading.
We should be going to the circus this afternoon!
I might get a new cell phone . . . one that does internet- going up in the world!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The seminary has a two and a half week break starting now. I'm caught between knowing I need a holiday and also wanting to get on with the rest of the year!
Fortunately, the stop is not absolute. My church work continues - and I'm actually preaching three times in the holidays. I can carry on working on my PhD proposal - although I'm not sure if I shouldn't take a break.
But the sense of space is good. The feeling that I don't have to be anyplace today at all is pretty good.
And I am appreciating the fact that last year I counted down to these breaks as the only times I saw my husband and children. I am so glad to be with them this year!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Writing Exams

Yesterday and today are dedicated to exams in my life. I have an odd mixture of feelings about exams. In one sense, I really enjoy them. I like the sense of working through material and then being able to apply it creatively in answering an exam question. Part of me likes the inherent competitiveness of exams.
Another part of me is lazy and struggles to get started with the studying process. I hate the fact that exam marks tend to create winners and losers (yet I'm competitive, I know!) - in a manner that is way out of perspective.
But for now, I am enjoying the fact that I don't have to think, or plan my day, or change the world. My day has a simple focus.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Power or Trust

Something I've been thinking about for some time is the nature of working relationships - especially in a hierarchical institution. If you are a minister in the MCSA then you work in a hierarchical setting - with yourself as the bottom level! Bishops and superintendents are theoretically above you. How a minister relates to the church congregation or society depends very much on the personality or leadership style of the minister. He or she can make it hierarchical or more flat.
A hierarchy allows for working relationships based on power. I am the boss and you will do as I say. One can operate on a 'need to know' basis and expect simple obedience. A trust relationship is one where there is some measure of common understanding and, I think, a deeper knowledge of each other.
There are places where power relationships are appropriate - such as parent-child, teacher-class and other where trust relationships are appropriate - such as in a marriage. But exactly how to know which relationship is correct in a church situation is difficult. I know that I would nearly always prefer to work in a trust relationship with my boss.
The things is with power relationships - a powerful person will never need to trust anyone, until he or she is confronted with a friend who has equal power. And then, will they know how to trust?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Nails and Marshmallows

I'm not sure if this is theology or philosophy or psychology . . . Could lead to a theology of human beings I suppose (what do we call the 'theology of man' nowadays?) Anyway, some Sunday laziness . . .
People are like marshmallows with a nail in the middle - the nail completely covered by marshmallow. When we meet them we meet the marshmallow part. Some people are great fat marshmallows - friendly, cheerful, ever-loving people, some are dry and brittle - they don't have much in the way of social skills, although they may try. And others are everything in between - thin layers of marshmallow, thick, patchy and so on.
As we get to know people we start to work through the marshmallow, until eventually we encounter the iron core. Here we find the values held by the person. The things that make them strong and give them meaning in this world. The part where the Bible says, 'as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another' (or something to that effect!). When iron meets iron real friendship are formed. Friction also happens. But we are beyond the world of marshmallow. We are pleased to share our iron with each other. Unfortunately, at the core with the iron are crumbs of clay. As people find our strength, they also find our weakness and insecurity. We'd rather not let those be seen - or see those of others. But it's part of the package. Also in the core we may find a pool of tears. It may be bigger or smaller, but it is there forming part of the human being. It may be well-hidden, but, be sure, it is there.
Our challenge in life is to love people beyond the marshmallow level. In spite of the clay. Not because of the pool.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thank You

Today, I just feel like saying thank you!
Thank you to all of you who read my blog and when I am struggling journey with me - whether silently by praying for me or by encouraging me, chiding me, laughing at me and generally supporting me!
Thank you to those who read my inane and mundane posts in the hope of finding a gem, but at least leave knowing me a little better.
Thank you to those who read my posts on theology, church and culture and think about my thoughts and engage with them.
Thank you!

Friday, June 11, 2010


I'm not sure whether it is soccer world cup spirit or Holy Spirit, but the seminarians really let it rip at chapel this morning. An awesome experience.
It is something (uniquely?) African that we can take the excitement from the world cup and channel it into our praise for God.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I got an sms last night from the steward at Brentwood (the little church where I am involved part-time). Nothing serious - he has flu and we wouldn't be able to do the pastoral stuff we were planning for today. No sweat for me, there's no urgency. We can do it next week, next month, whatever. So sms him back, no problem, get better soon.
Then realise I'm starting to feel flat. What happened? Where'd my inspiration go? Oh, yes the sms. But no sweat, right?
Trouble is, from my point of view, that bit of pastoral work was the reason for today. Without it why should I get out of bed in the morning?
Small, small thing. Only really noticed because I'm thinking about these things. So today I'll be busy. Mostly with stuff that I do by myself. In some senses for myself.
I don't feel as depressed as that might sound - but it is little things like that that can feed depression. The sense that you don't do anything that really matters.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Going on a bus

Our internship group is going off in our Quantum mini-bus this morning - destination unknown. That's ok with me. Something that one does learn in Methodist training is not to expect to know what's happening or to be able to plan in much detail (last year's lessons and this). It doesn't bother me because I don't have to achieve anything. If I am obedient I will win. Simple lesson for training.
I'm not sure that it is helpful, though, for a minister to arrive in a church with this 'oh well, let's do it whenever' attitude if he or she has to work with people who are used to the tight schedules of the business world. Laid back can be cool in a leader or it can be extremely frustrating.
Oh, well - I'll try not to be too damaged by my training!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Experiencing Pietermaritzburg

I've done two things that made me really believe that I was in Pietermaritzburg in the last few days. On Sunday I walked to the shopping centre. The whole trip took an hour and a half, but I saw the bugs and the plants and the houses and the people and felt the weather. It was great.
On Friday I sat reading 'The Poisonwood Bible' on the patio. The book is set in the tropical forest of the DRC (Congo then). I read it while watching sunbirds in the banana palms in the park next door. I could almost have been there.

Monday, June 07, 2010

New Month, New Things

Right, the nails are thoroughly in the coffin of May - the month that I declared the intent to do nothing new. Now I can dream again.
Actually - I didn't get it quite right. Two new things that come to mind that I did do in May - I found somewhere to play tennis and have played a couple of times - very much needed. I also put in application to UKZN to do a PhD in theology. I'm not too sure how the timing works on that one, but there's no real rush for anything. The 'Higher Degrees Committee' meets tomorrow and that should yield some information. I may need to do bridging work because my Masters is not from a 'famous' university. Hopefully, however, they will acknowledge that it is SAQA accredited and at a higher number of credits than many Masters degrees.
Now I am planning for the next semester. I hope to do Greek 1 at UKZN. That is five hours a week of lectures. I've already done a level 1 Greek course, but I'm not confident enough of it to try to go straight to Greek 2. The main reason I am wanting to do the Greek is to be in a class so that I have some contact with other seminarians. I feel a bit like an alien at the moment. But I do also hope to be working on either my doctoral thesis or bridging material as well.
I am also going to give more thought to turning my Masters into a book - I have not been able to convince myself that there is a meaningful way forward on this one. And I may also put out another little book of daily devotions.
From a seminary point of view I am playing with an online teaching programme called Moodle which seems to be absolutely brilliant. I'm hoping that we can do some really fun stuff with this.
Something that has helped me is that I think my ministry at Brentwood has reached its limit. I don't think that I'll do anything new there now and I must just keep up what I am doing until the end of the year. This frees me up, because I have felt a sense that any real church ministry that I can do while in seminary should have priority. I can't make it happen if it's not right!
I also have some ideas as to how to get through next year - which at least gives me a sense of hope.
I have other things on my mind and my agenda . . . but this is quite enough for one post. Things are looking up!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Colour Matching Culture

Reading The Poisonwood Bible has raised a question that never occurred to me before. Is the way that we perceive whether colours go together cultural? I know that there are all sorts of rules about which colours look nice together - and it 'offends the eye' if these rules are broken. Certain cultures do wear things that don't look good to the western eye - mixing florals and stripes or whatever.
For myself, I don't have an artistic eye and I can't tell. It doesn't bother me either way and I have to try and think what is going to bother other people. So I always thought I had some physical oddity that I didn't care whether you wore orange and pink together or whatever. Is it actually cultural?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

How to beat depression . . .

Go to the shops.
Go to the bookshop.
Buy books.

The Poisonwood Bible - on my 'to read' list.
Bittersweet - 'inspirational literature' not my usual, but bought on a whim.
Spud - for my husband who hasn't read it, but I will reread it as well.

Diagnosis of my depression. I'm bored out of my mind. Probably my fault because my programme is in my hands, but sometimes there is just waiting! My application for a PhD is in, but I've gotta wait. Proposal is already half-written. But no point in stressing. They could still say no.
Secondly, I'm very isolated. Need more people - even in my introvert life. Again, probably my fault.
Solution - still got to figure that out!

Is it normal?

I suppose it is normal. Is it? I seem to periodically reach a place where I just can't see that the way forward is going to work for me. Most of these over the last five years have related to college or seminary and they just won't go away. I can't see how I will survive another eighteen months. I usually come out of it. I take a deep breath and keep going. But I feel like I am the ultimate bore! I don't want to blog to moan. To complain. To look for sympathy. I am bored with myself.
So I won't say any more on the matter!