Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

Good friends, a braai, laughter, and a lovely evening. Happy New Year.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Nothing beats good company, a good latte, and a lovely summer's day. At Mugg & Bean Constantia with Jen and Jess.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas in South Africa

For those in other parts of South Africa (where it is raining) and for those in the Northern Hemisphere (where it is snowing): Christmas-time in Cape Town includes me standing in a sunny back yard with sausage on a braai (barbecue).

You are welcome to visit me.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Nation is on Holiday.

Today - December 16 - has been a South African public holiday for all of my life.

I knew it as "Dingaan's Day": a celebration of a Boer victory over a Zulu army. At school I was taught how a handful of boers defended their wagons against the "advancing hoards of warriors". It was many years later that I discovered that they were also greatly assisted by a canon, that decimated the spear-and-shield armed warriors.

Then it became the Day of the Vow, and was used as a day to rally national pride for the white Afrikaner people. The unifying theme for the day was how God had honoured a vow of loyalty to God made by the Boers. This vow somehow bound God to the political cause of Afrikaans nationalists. This then provided spiritual energy to a racist ideology. The rest of the nation used this day for a breather in the headlong rush to the end of the year.

Now it is the Day of Reconciliation. The idea is for us as a nation to bridge the divisions of our past and build a new future together. Politicians still use this day for political rallies. But the vast majority of the nation will find our unity in the great shrines of mammon as we shop our frenetic way towards Christmas.

Pray that we can somewhere pause and be reminded that we cannot spend our way to peace and joy. These qualities are better available when Jewish shepherds, Zoroastrian wise men, and a polygot melange of the world's people gather at a manger to share their common humanity.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I love the wisdom of Dr. Seuss: here is an extract from a book he wrote the year I was born. (With thanks to Art Preston for posting this @

"All Alone!"

Whether you like it or not,

Alone will be something

You'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance

You'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.

There are some, down the road between hither and yon,

That can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go

Though the weather be foul

On you will go

Though your enemies prowl.

On you will go

Though the Hakken-Kraks howl,

Onward up many a frightening creek,

Though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike

And I know you'll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up of course, as you already know,

You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dextrous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will indeed!

(98 and ¾ per cent guaranteed.)



Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,

You're off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So … get on your way!

(excerpt from "Oh The Places You'll Go", Dr Seuss, Collins, 1990; orig. 1957)
Sent via my BlackBerry

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

John Linford

He turned 80 a year ago. And we went for a ride on my GS 1150 BMW motorcycle this morning.

John began life on two wheels racing bicycles. After school in Pietermaritzburg, he moved to Durban where he worked to save enough money to buy a ship's ticket to London. Here he spent three years competing in bicycle races both in the UK and the continent. He found work as a labourer in between races to keep his finances going. He remembers his highlight was the Paris Grand Prix cycle races in the mid 1950's: "but those blokes were too good for us".

His next venture on two wheels was funded by working in the merchant navy. When he had saved enough, John and a friend bought scooters and travelled through Europe. His was a Vespa bought in Italy - "kick-start, smoke and gears".

Then he returned to Durban where he found his next adventure on two wheels as a traffic cop for the Natal Provincial Authority. He began on maroon Triumph 350's, graduating to the Gold 600's, before getting his beloved BMW 750. He wore a white open face helmet and official gloves, and went as fast as he dared.

After this he had employment as a salesman for Barlows, and a caretaker for various buildings - including a ten year stint for Rustenberg Girls junior school where the only wheels he drove were on a lawnmower.

And so it was with great joy that I loaded him onto the back of my bike and headed over a Cape Mountain pass to have coffee in Noordhoek. He sat very well on the bike and was a pleasure as a passenger. It was a bit of a scramble getting on and off the bike - but then again: John is nearly 81 years old.

A great "guys-only" morning.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

It is all in a Name

For the past year I have employed a very skilled gardener. He has faithfully arrived at my door every Thursday and cheerfully kept the garden in shape. And every week I have known him as "Patrick." Until now.

While saying farewell to him yesterday I discovered his full name: it is Abednigo Moeketso Ntsere. When I asked him why he did not introduce himself using his birth names he said that a "white women" had once told him that they were too difficult and so she decided to call him Patrick. Since then he believed that white people cannot say his name and so he just uses another name.

This is (sadly) a typical story of our land. Ever since white settlers arrived in the Cape Colony they have stripped black people of their names.

The first Khoisan man to visit Europe was taken in 1629 by ship to Batavia, where he was given the name Harry. When Jan van Riebeeck arrived to lead the small Dutch settlement in 1652 he records using "Harry the Hottentot" as his interpreter.

In the same way the Rev. William Shaw would baptise the son of Chief Kama and change his name from Xhanti to William.

Throughout the dreadful years of the hated "pass system" black people were given white names for their official documentation - and Rolihlahla Mandela would become "Nelson" when he went to school.

And so I meet a humble son of a Xhosa father and a Sotho mother and have spend a year calling him a name that is unknown to his parents.

God bless you Abednigo Moeketso Ntsere.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Friday, December 03, 2010

Moving Out

Packing boxes: scrounged from the container at the back of Pick and Pay Supermarket. Some marked Ceres fruit juice. Small, useful for little things inside bigger boxes. Big boxes of Simba Chips and Rice Crispies. Books in small boxes. Pillows and blankets in big boxes.

Tape. Rolls and rolls of it. Green.

Bubble wrap and paper. Rolls that unwind around paintings (my daughter Lisa is a painter). And wrapping for crockery, glasses, bits 'n pieces.

Dust. Behind the bookcases, and the piano, and the fridge ... And spreading just about everywhere else. If "dust to dust" is true then there are lots of dead people lurking in the corners of this house.

Strong men. The people who are carrying boxes with such ease: boxes that have pulled my back muscles out of shape! But then I have paid a small fortune for this move so let them sweat.

Sleep. None. Packed until 2:30. And up again at 6. Pouring with rain. And a headache.

We have too many possessions. A sleeping bag and spoon & cup would be sufficient.

But the sun has come out. And my head has cleared. And a new adventure beckons.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Moving On

I move house on Friday.

I have lived in this house for 9 years. It is 100 years old, with high ceilings and thick walls. This house began life in the centre of a small-holding, surrounded by vegetable gardens and a few cows. The garage and store room at the end of the garden used to be a cow-shed.

It has been the property of the Plumstead Methodist Church from 1928, and I have had a succession of colleagues come to visit me and reminisce about their life under this roof. It has been my place of shelter – both from the winter storms that accompany life in Cape Town; and from the emotional and spiritual storms of life as a husband, father, pastor, and human being.
• This house was the safe place to which I returned when life threatened to crush my spirit; it was the place of a garden that soothed my troubled spirit; it was the back yard of many sociable braais with friends; it has been the place of the fireplace in winter that warmed many conversations; it has been the refuge of high, cool ceilings when the summer heat was beating down on the city.
• This house contained a family of six: me, Jenny, our daughters Lisa, Jessie and Amy, and Granny. But it has also been home to many who have stayed awhile: I think of Greg, who makes Jessie happy, and has chosen to see this as another home; Jen has blessed our family by joining us from South Dakota; John is an Englishman who brought his passion for running and English rugby. I celebrate the many, many overnight guests who chose to sleep under this roof. We have been blessed by their stopping by.
• This house has had bunnies at the end of the garden; and dogs who roamed the garden and the drive way; and a cat who prowled the property in a vain attempt to see off the neighbourhood cats; and a tortoise from Carnarvon; and lots of squirrels.....(oh the joy of Nugget our Great Dane/Labrador when, after years of vainly dashing after them he finally caught one).
• This house has seen my children through high school and university. Two of them left for a year to live far away in other countries – and this house was the home to which they returned.

And now I leave for the next chapter of my life: another step in my pilgrimage of faithful response to God’s call on my life; to another city – and another house. In so doing, I find this quote from Henri Nouwen very helpful:

"[Praying] demands that you take to the road again and again, leaving your house and looking forward to a new land for yourself and your [fellow human]. This is why praying demands poverty, that is, the readiness to live a life in which you have nothing to lose so that you always begin afresh." - Henri J.M. Nouwen, With Open Hands

Monday, November 29, 2010

Coming Home for Christmas

Isa 2:2 In days to come the mountain where the Temple stands will be the highest one of all, towering above all the hills. Many nations will come streaming to it…..
They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again.

Christmas is the time when people make an effort “to go home for Christmas.” Some fly across the county, others gather together as a family, and some gather at the telephone – or skype! So my task is to ask “Have you have sorted out the family gathering?”
In the Old Testament we have advice about the family gathering from one of the wise men of faith:
Isaiah lived 2700 years ago: which was 700 years before Jesus. He lived at a time when Assyria was expanding her political influence. And so the people of Judah and Israel felt very unsafe, because this foreign power was flexing its economic and military muscles on their border. Isaiah offers this advice: stop worrying about the future and instead: “Come Home”

Isaian says three things:

1. See that God’s mountain is the largest one of all.Isa 2:2 In days to come the mountain where the Temple stands will be the highest one of all, towering above all the hills
This is not a geography lesson, but is rather a lesson in imagination.
No matter how big the mountains that frighten you, open your eyes and discover that God’s mountain is bigger!
This is not saying that you must ignore the things that make you afraid: it is inviting you to see that God is bigger.
There is a famous quote from Frederick Langbridge "Two men look out through the same bars; one sees the mud and the other one the stars."
This is a choice – either we can look for the mud, or we can look up and see God’s mountain. Going home for Christmas gives us a choice: we can choose to see the mud. Or we can choose to see God.

2. Many nations will come
Isa 2:3 Many nations will come streaming to it,and their people will say, "Let us go up the hill of the LORD
This was tough for the people of Isaiah’s time to hear: because they were resisting the “many nations.” They wanted nothing to do with them because they were afraid of them. In fact they wanted to keep them out:
Isaiah says – “No. Let them in.”
The more people who come, the more chance they have of hearing the Good News of our faith…."Let us go up the hill of the LORD, to the Temple of Israel's God.”

Clearly this speaks to those of us today who follow Jesus. This is an invitation for us to hear the call to welcome people into our faith rather than shutting them out.

3. They will make peace
They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again (also found in Micah 4:3).
This is a famous quote that is often quoted, and is to be found on a plaque outside the United Nations headquarters in New York. I looked it up on Google, and found this quote repeated 40 000 in quotes: and probably 39 000 reasons why we should not take this seriously.
- Some say that “God did not really mean this for the present – it is just an ideal.”
- Others: “This is only for the end of time when Jesus returns to judge the nations”
- Many say that this is a spiritual activity where we stop being at war with God.

And I asked why when we take so many other texts in the Bible at face value - why can’t we take this one literally too?
I had to acknowledge it was because this is really too difficult.
• No one in their right mind expects the nations to make peace with each other.
In fact throughout the recent Recession – the one industry guaranteed to make a profit are weapons of war.
Even the prophet Joel found it hard to believe (Joel 3:10 )
• No one even tries to make peace as individuals. Because it is just too hard.

But this is unavoidably here: and is repeated in Micah 4:3.
This is the dream – not sometime in the future – but for this Christmas! How do we know this?
Because these are the words of the angels when Jesus was born.
Luk 2:13 Suddenly a great army of heaven's angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!"
Luke tells us that when the angels had finished singing to the shepherd : what did they do? They went home!
Picture this: they lived in the village of Bethelhem – but spent time in the fields looking after their sheep. The angels said: make peace, and they said: “let us go to Bethlehem.” This is the stuff of Christmas – that we make peace…. And where does peace begin – at home!

So the invitation for today:
Begin to prepare for Christmas.
And begin your preparation by making peace.

This is the point that you stop me and say: That’s all very well: but how do I do it? I am angry / I am upset / I have been hurt :
It is very hard to suddenly be peaceful.
And I agree: I too find it very hard to make peace when I have been hurt.
In my experience I have to follow the example of the shepherds:
When the shepherds wanted to put into practice the words of the angels they went to the crib of Jesus.
I have found that I need to begin at the crib of Jesus:
I need to allow his peace to anoint me, and discover that Jesus is able to calm my heart. The amazing this is that he will even give me enough peace to share this with someone else.

So here is my invitation: this Christmas: prepare to make peace.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goldwing and Trailer.

Today was the Cape Town Toy Run. Thousands of bikes carrying toys for charity. Here I am looking for my retirement bike: a Honda Goldwing trike (so that I do not fall over in my old age). And trailer attached for the luggage. I better start saving.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent Sunday

Walter Brueggemann: "Advent is an abrupt disruption in our 'ordinary time'…an utterly new year, new time, new life. Everything begins again… While the world around us wraps up another year hoping for increased consumer spending and waiting for annual reports on profits, the church has already stepped into a new time, to begin a season of hoping and waiting for something of much greater significance than profits or spending: for Advent invites us to awaken from our numbed endurance and our domesticated expectations and consider our life afresh in light of the new gifts that God is about to give."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Western Province Supporter

For those who do not live in South Africa – Cape Town is situated in the Western Province. It is the superior province in our country. Of course there are some who might disagree with me, suggesting that places like Durban and Pretoria can lay claim to this. From this flows the sporting rivalry that fuels the competitive juices of this nation. Irrespective of whether it is Cricket, Rugby, Football, Tiddlywinks or Jukskei (South Africa are world champions), this is a rivalry that is deeply engraved in the DNA of families, and is passed down from one generation to another.

Yesterday Western Province rugby team defeated the Free State Cheetahs to go through to the finals of the Rugby Curry Cup Competition. This is a provincial rugby competition that saw its inaugural tournament in 1892, where Western Province was the first winner. At the end of this month Western Province will play the Sharks, a KwaZulu-Natal team based around Durban.

And I will be praying for a Western Province win . . . and as many Sharks supporters will be praying for a KwaZulu-Natal win.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy 70th Birthday Harry

He is a philanthropic multi-millionaire who began his working life as a filing clerk for a company called Atlas Lamps. Harry Roger Webb was born on 14October 1940, in Lucknow, India, to Rodger and Dorothy Webb. They subsequently moved to England, where Harry finished his schooling at Riversmead School (now Bishopslea).

He became a singer, and was persuaded to change his name to something more substantial: a businessman called Harry Greatorex (tell me that isn’t an invented name!) came up with the name “Cliff” – which was meant to suggest solidity like a rock. Ian Samwell, who wrote Cliffs first song “Move It,” suggested that he use the surname “Richard” in tribute to the rocker Little Richard. And so in 1958 Cliff Richard was launched on a career that has covered seven decades and sold more than 260 million records.

For me the defining tribute is the following comment I found: Cliff Richard believes that he is the "the most radical rock star there has ever been" because of his choice not to adopt the rock-star image of “sex, drugs, and alcohol.” He is evidence of my conviction that rich and deeply satisfying life can be achieved without dependence on chemical assistance.

Happy Birthday Cliff.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


Luk 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Make our faith greater."

This past week has really been a rough week:I have sat with a number of people who are facing deep challenges in their lives:

• My friend Allen Rodgers – lies unconscious in hospital because he was knocked off his bicycle by a hit and run driver.
• My friends Dion and Megan had to sit at the bed of their twelve year old daughter while the doctors explained to her that she had a growth next to her brain.
• Andre is my friend and colleague in Pinelands. In 2005 his wife had an operation for a growth at the base of her skull - and this week they heard that it has grown back and the doctors are recommending another operation – one that will probably sever all the nerves to her face.

You tell me – what should I say to them?

The easy answer is to say to them “to have faith in God” – and yet this is the most difficult answer! Because having faith in God is not a guarantee that prevent bad things from happening!

This is the question that has haunted us thoughout our history:
How can bad things happen to good people? Surely if we follow God’s way then we should be safe / blessed / protected. But the fact is that “Bad things do happen to good people!”

Some people have answered this by suggesting “If only you had more faith – then this would not have happened” And sometimes there is even a suggestion that it is our lack of faith that caused the disaster: and so some people are tempted to ask “What did we do wrong to deserve this?”

But we all know genuinely good people who face disaster: in fact all we need to do is to point to the writer of Hebrews 11:36-37 who speaks of the great suffering endured by people of faith. So there must be more to this than the simple equation “small faith – great disaster”

Some people suggest that this is God’s way of testing our faith: we just need to learn to trust God and everything will be alright! If you only had stronger faith you will survive this disaster. This was the conversation between the disciples and Jesus in the New Testament passage we read earlier:
Luk 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Make our faith greater."
And Jesus turns around and says to them – you do not need more faith! You already have enough to cope with life. What the disciples needed was not more faith – but rather a better understanding of faith. The prayer “Lord make our faith stronger/bigger/more successful/more glamorous” is the stuff of a consumer society that commoditisers everything and then wants ‘bigger/ better / and more successful’ possessions.

The answer of Jesus is that we do not need more – we need to learn to use that which we already have. This is a faith that embraces the challenges and the difficulties and chooses to trust that God will give us strength to cope. This is trusting that whatever life brings my way – I will find God alongside me, giving me strength and teaching me new things about living.

It is not the size of our faith that counts – it is the size of the God we serve.

So let me try to draw some conclusions:
Life is fragile –
 Life is filled with joy and filled with sadness
 Life contains good and bad experiences.
 Life has moments of great comfort and moments of great difficulty.
There are no guarantees in life….. so if we follow God because we think it will keep us safe from disaster, we are mistaken.

It is the child who gets angry and throws a tantrum because things do not work out as I want.
It is the adult who learns to find the faith to accept the things that life brings.

It is the child who demands that Life must work out my way
It is the spiritually mature who learn to accept both the light and the dark in life – and find God in it all.

I have been brought back to this over and over again:
It is my experience that just when I think my faith is strong – I am confronted by problems and difficulties that show me that my faith is weak: and in this moment I learn to trust God.
I cannot trust my faith – I can only trust God.

On a personal note: I have learned this very painfully over the past three months:
I thought that I was settled in the work that I do within Plumstead Methodist Church. I had begun to think of the next 5 years, only to discover that God had other plans: I have been asked to teach at the new Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg. This forced me out of the place where I am comfortable, and has asked me to trust God.

In the process of this I have discovered that God is stretching the faith of the members of this church as well: I have heard some people say “What will we do without you?” and I realised that the members have begun to trust my leadership, rather than to trust God!

So I am reminded that this is God’s church: and we can hear the echo of Jesus words as he says to us : “you have enough faith for the next step.”

Whatever lies ahead of us – we do not need more faith – we need to learn to use the faith we already have.

And so I ask for your prayers. I have felt the pressure to finish my doctoral studies, while at the same time helping finish the year off in this church. But have I have run out of capacity to do everything. I am due my long leave (every 6 years Methodist Ministers get furlough) so I am taking two months off to finish my thesis. Please pray that I might have strength to finish the task – and pray for my congregation that the people might finish the year strong in faith

Thursday, September 30, 2010

lemon meringue @ blue cow

We stopped at the Blue Cow in Barrydale for coffee. This is definitely a recommended place for refreshment.
Sent via my BlackBerry

amber lagoon entrance

Sent via my BlackBerry

amber lagoon permanent tents.jpg

We spent the night at a campsite called Amber Lagoon. This is just outside Calitzdorp near the hot springs on the old concrete road. Nine years ago Susanna left Germany and sailed to South Africa on a cargo ship called "Amber Lagoon". She eventually bought a derelict farmhouse, and turned the hill behind the house into a tented campsite. Lots of hard work has produced this amazing '0ut of Africa' experience, complete with toilets under the stars and bamboo shaded tents.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

bakkie and roof tent

I drive a 1994 Toyota Hilux Raider (which is a 4x4 with a 2.2 petrol engine) and it has done 300 000km. We have a roof tent which fits onto a roof rack. This is great when we travel because it folds easily. It also is useful in unfenced game reserves because the hyenas are below us and not next to the tent at night!

Sent via my BlackBerry

fireplace in kitchen

Tony is standing in front of the fireplace in the kitchen of the schoolroom/accommodation on the farm bo-jane. He is a master at a braai and we feasted on chops, chicken and pork rashers.
Sent via my BlackBerry

What's in a Name?

I got it wrong.

This farm is called bo-jani, which is a contracted form of "bobbejane" (baboons). The farm looks up at the mountains and the vegetable gardens are often raided by baboons ... and buck, and rabbits.

It is run by Thys and Carmen Henzen, who retired here from Pretoria. They offer camping and cottages. And provide meals on request.

This is a wonderfully refreshing place to stop. It is accessed by a steep gravel single-track farm road and I was grateful that we were driving our truck. We stayed next to an old schoolhouse that has been turned into bedrooms (where Granny slept) bathroom, lounge and kitchen. The kitchen has a large open hearth where we made a fire and cooked our meat.

The star-sprinkled night sky is unspoiled by city lights and our torches picked up the eyes of buck as they grazed their way down the mountain.

Refreshed we head off this mountain to see what the day brings.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Route 62

Today dawned bright and clear. After breakfast we set out from Port Alfred to Port Elizabeth, stopping at Nanaga for this roadside shop's famous roosterbrood. Coffee and jam-covered roosterbrood fortified us for the road past Port Elizabeth.

Next we stopped in Jeffreys Bay. Many people know this town as a premier surfing centre, boasting one of the best surf breaks in the word. But not our wives: they did not want the beach - insisting that we came to J-Bay to stop at the Billabong factory shop.

Many shirts and caps later we settled our nerves with a welcome cup of coffee before heading out of town. Just after Humansdorp we turned right, off the N2, into the Langkloof. This picturesque valley guides the road between two ranges of mountains, made beautiful in the evening sun.
More adventure tomorrow.

Sent via my BlackBerry

bakkie and rooftent in the Langkloof.jpg

We are camped in the Langkloof near Joubertina. This is on a farm called "Bo-Jannie" (literally 'John above') which suggests that somewhere there must be an Onder-Jannie (John-below).

Sent via my BlackBerry

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dave Fidler's Ordination

Today David Fidler was ordained into the Ministry of the Methodist Church of SA.

Dave has been my colleague for the past three years. He has a kind heart, a wicked sense of humour, and a generous capacity to make friends. He speaks well in front of crowds, has the ability to 'get things done' and is not self-important. David is a wonderful father to his three children, a great cook, and a committed husband to his wife Kirsty.

But none of this qualifies him to be a Pastor in the Church of God. The quality that allows me to give my assent to his ordination is that David's desire to serve Jesus comes wrapped in grace. He might have moments when he speaks before thinking, or where he speaks truth without sweetness in his words, but he is deeply compassionate, and has absolutely no malice in his heart.

I wish that there were more like him.
Dave: go with God.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Friday, September 24, 2010

path to madonna and child falls.jpg

A forest path. Lovely palm fronds, indigenous forest, and cool shaded walks.
Sent via my BlackBerry

starways gallery.jpg

This is the local theatre in Hogsback - complete with lights, seating, kitchen, and seats in the round.
Sent via my BlackBerry

I am Legion

Hogsback has Christians who remind me of "Legion" in Mark Chapter 5. We read of Jesus meeting a strange man in the village graveyard. In response to the question "What is your name?" he answered, saying, "My name[ is] Legion: for we are many." And Jesus responds by creating an internal, spiritual unity for this man, leaving him "in his right mind".

Well there is a stone church here called St. Patrick on the Hill. This is an Anglican Church that shares its Sundays out between ministers from the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Dutch Reformed - and naturally the Church of England (CPSA). This has worked amicably for generations: even surviving the recent tragic fire in the chapel. The church is being restored and will soon be re-consecrated by the local bishop. Here, I thought, is Christian unity lived out in community ... A village that can live together within diversity.

But then I saw a notice posted on the door of a local coffee shop: there is a meeting scheduled for "all the Christians" of Hogsback to discuss building another Christian church. Huh? This will be called ... wait for it ... Hogsback United Church Fellowship! I am always amazed at how those who break away to begin yet another church will claim the word "united" for themselves. So the legion of Christian churches divide yet again.

But remember what Jesus did with "Legion", and with hogs?
Sent via my BlackBerry

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dangerous Running

In Hogsback Village it is safer to run in the centre of the road than to run at the side! This is because the road is rutted and littered with potholes, and motorists choose to drive along the outer edges of the road - which makes the middle of the road the safest place for my daily run.

I run a gradual uphill through the Village: on the right I pass the local Backpackers called "Away with the Fairies", followed by the Laughing Feathers Gallery, then the Enchanted Tree House, and the Hoggest Shop. A little further up, on the left, is Hobbit Lane, Granny Mouse House, and Mist Rising Nursery.

I turned at Hidden Lane, and headed back down hill, dodging cars driven by the locals ferrying the working classes homewards - unlike the vacationing classes out running their roads. There were monkeys swinging through the trees alongside the road, loeries calling to each other in the sunset, and a drunk woman berating customers outside the off sales.

I finished off my 5km run with a hot shower, and supper in front of the fire with good friends.

A great end to the day.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Monday, September 20, 2010

Magical, Mystical Hogsback

We are camping. And experienced four seasons in one day: rain, sunshine, mist, more rain, and now a gusting wind.

We are at the village of Hogsback in the Amathole Mountains (Latitude 32*-35'475" Longitude 26*-55'805") This is found by driving through Alice (home to Fort Hare University), and climbing a winding road to 1200m above sea level. At the summit we emerged into a forest village that boasts places with names like Fairy Realm, Starways Pottery, Back 'o the Moon, Hobbiton, and Never Daunted. There is clearly much to be explored.

Today was the Coffee Barn at Misty Mountain, where we had coffee and chocolate cake in front of a warm fire. More places for coffee tomorrow.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stop off in Alice

Sent via my BlackBerry

The Ostridge

Our trip has taken us through Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn, De Rust, and Willowmore. All share a passion for this bird. These prehistoric birds have wings but cannot fly; have the ability to kick forwards; and lay eggs that equal 24 hen's eggs. They are farmed for their eggs (the largest of any living bird), their meat (low in cholesterol) and their skin (similar to leather in its durability).
Sent via my BlackBerry

Die Bliksem is Oop

Sent via my BlackBerry


At Anysberg the swallows use the bathroom as their home.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Saturday, September 18, 2010


We deviated off the R62, turning left at Ladysmith into the hills and stayed at the Anysberg Nature Reserve. Our campite was about 70km off the beaten track, surrounded by Gemsbok, jakall calling during the night, and friendly horses.

This morning we returned to the R62 via Seweweekspoort (sevenweeks cutting). This is a deep cleft in the rocks that has been used by travellers since "time before memory" and asks the passer by to repeatedly cross the river as you wind your way through the sheer rock cliffs towering above.
Sent via my BlackBerry


One of the joys of travel is the opportunity to visit interesting places along the way.

This is a pub on the road between Barrydale and Ladysmith that began its life as a farm stall. The alleged story is that one weekend while Ronny was away, his friends changed the sign on his farm stall. And ever since then people have wanted to stop off here! It is now a pub festooned with graffiti -and bras and panties donated by visitors. There is also a coffee shop for those like us who do not want to drink and drive.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Friday, September 17, 2010

Road Trip

Jenny and I have set off on Route 62. Our ultimate destination is the Ordination Service of the Methodist Church of SA - which takes place in East London. We have 9 days to get there. It will be a venture undertaken slowly.
Sent via my BlackBerry

The Wimmin'

Mother and Daughter - my wife Jenny and her mom Edwina.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lost Shepherds

Luk 15:1 One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, "This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!" So Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them---what do you do? You leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the pasture and go looking for the one that got lost until you find it.

This is the core of our Christian faith: that nobody is forgotten…..

But this parable is not really about affirming the forgotten sheep:
Remember: Jesus told this story because there were religious leaders who were upset that he paid less attention to the regular members in synagogue on the Sabbath than he did to those who never came. They were upset because he spent time with the lost sheep. But he says: “those in the synagogue are OK: I have come for the lost sheep of Israel.”

This is a parable that challenged the Shepherds of Israel to walk in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd: And this is a parable that continues the challenge those of us who self-righteously thank God that we are OK with our Creator. In fact the modern church recognises that there might be some sheep who are "lost" and so they hire a shepherd to go in search of the "lost" sheep. But somewhere in this story is the notion that the 99 “safe” sheep had let the one "lost" sheep down. They should have made sure that she did not get lost in the first place!
So let us be challenged to
- bring healing to those who are broken
- bring courage to those who are frightened
- bring joy to the depressed
- And bring love to the outcast.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Losing Sheep

Luk 15:1 One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, "This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!" So Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them---what do you do? You leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the pasture and go looking for the one that got lost until you find it. When you find it, you are so happy that you put it on your shoulders and carry it back home. Then you call your friends and neighbors together and say to them, 'I am so happy I found my lost sheep. Let us celebrate!' In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine respectable people who do not need to repent.

The Ancient Israelites were a pastoral people. Both sheep and goats were kept for meat and milk as well as wool or hair. Most peasant families would own a few sheep - making shepherding a common occupation. Often flocks were moved from one area to another during the year. Flocks based in places on the Judean ridge (like Bethlehem or Tekoa) would be moved further down the steep slope into the Judean desert towards the Dead Sea when those areas had received rain and/or runoff allowing some grass to grow. So shepherds would move with their sheep in search of water.

Jesus tells a story about a shepherd and his sheep.

This is a story about the shepherd who has just moved his sheep from the desert floor to the high ridges in Judea. He had 100 sheep and he carefully guides them up into the hills. The rains have fallen and they are able to leave the hot desert regions and climb past Ramah, Bethel, Mispah, Shiloh….

He is probably not alone: all the shepherds are doing the same. And finally they arrive where the new grass has begin to grow: and they are able to let his sheep graze free. And they wander off to enjoy the newly shooting grasses.

That evening the shepherd calls to his sheep - in fact each shepherd calls his sheep: and they come, because they have been trained since their birth to respond to the voice of their own shepherd. Never call sheep stupid – they might be easily panicked – but they know their shepherd’s voice.

He has built a circular fence of thorn branches and he herds them inside. This will protect them against jackals at night. He will soon makes his bed across the opening, and light his evening fire. But first he counts his sheep. And discovers that one is missing! And so he faces a choice: The shepherd can decide that the ninety-nine are more important than the one. “I need to protect the ninety-nine – I will just have to write off that lost sheep.” This is a good business decision. It is called writing off losses and is the kind of decision often made:

Not long after Jesus told this story this is in fact what happened to him: John’s Gospel tells us about the high priest Caiaphas who argues that Jesus must be killed in order to keep the peace: “Don’t you understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed?” (John 11:50).

In other words, Caiaphas and his kind say, sometimes it is okay, even necessary, to sacrifice someone or something for some greater cause:
This is very familiar in our society today:
It is OK to sacrifice one small business principle in order to make a profit.
It is OK to twist one little truth in order to win an election.
It is OK to ignore one small commandment of God in order to remain popular with society.
It is OK to tell one small member of the family to get lost in order to have some peace in the home.

But the story is not finished:
Luk 15:4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them---what do you do? You leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the pasture and go looking for the one that got lost until you find it.
Jesus says it is not OK to sacrifice one small sheep for the sake of many.
Remember this the next time you are tempted to sacrifice a small principle of your faith for expediency:
Today it will be a small sin – tomorrow it will be your soul!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Law and Heart

....if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation....
Martin Luther King

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I am in Vrygrond: this is an informal settlement in the sand dunes near Muizenberg. I am Superintendent minister of a Methodist church that meets in a iron shack. Today the junior Manyano (the junior youth) have arranged a cultural lunch. And I have been welcomed with joy and hospitality. In the midst of great poverty is great kindness and capacity for grace.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Meeting of Beliefs

I am sitting in a committee discussing belief. I am a member of the Doctrine, Ethics and Worship Committee - a standing committee of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa - charged with reflecting theologically on what it means to be Christian in our context. I am humbled to serve on this committee and aware that this is a position of sacred trust. One issue troubling our church at the moment is how to offer the love of Jesus to gay and lesbian people. We have divergent positions in our church, fuelled by deeply held convictions and passionate debate. My desire is to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Jesus. I want to do this with integrity and an unwavering commitment to the perspective of oppressed and marginalised people. Pray for me.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Day in My Life

I began the day with a cross on my forehead. I am part of a group who mourn the dismissal of my colleague Ecclesia de Lange from my church denomination. This was because she entered into a lesbian marriage. So we prayed with her this morning, and used an ash cross as a sign of mourning – because she was dismissed on Ash Wednesday 2010.

I left this gay-friendly group to go and care for my gay-antagonistic congregation. Here I visited six homes of shut-in elderly people, where I prayed with them, and offered them encouragement. I am humbled by their fortitude and ability to find humour in what are very difficult circumstances of frailty and ill-health.

This was followed by a funeral of a granny who is not connected to any of my churches. I got to know her through a monthly service that I lead in one of the homes for the aged in my area. Her grandson told us how she used to care for the grandchildren while their parents were away on business – and how the grandchildren as teenagers would have raucous parties supervised by granny, who would then clean up and swear everyone to secrecy!

In the afternoon I attended an administration meeting where we discussed selling a church residence and buying another. This is part of completing the red-tape necessary to put in place an upgrading of accommodation for a colleague.

And in the evening I led a home fellowship meeting, where we reflected on a parable told by Jesus in Luke Chapter 12 vs 45-48. This is a story about a housekeeper who acts as if the Master of the home is no longer in charge, and assumes power in deeply abusive ways. We agreed that this can speak about Church leaders who live as if Jesus were no longer with us, and so leadership is exercised in ways that are abusive and damaging to the servants in the home.

This brings me back to my colleague of this morning. Ecclesia has been victimised by the stewards of the household of God, who have acted as if they are Jesus. But I do not believe that the service-ethic of Jesus would have acted in such high-handed and un-pastoral ways.

And it was for this reason that I prayed with her this morning.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Prodigal People

Hosea 11: 1-11 is a familiar story: it is the story of a prodigal nation. It is the story of a parent-God who has loved his child and given him everything he has ever needed. This was a child rescued from Egypt and given love and affection, only to have that child throw it all back in his parent-God’s face and go off to live life another kind of life.

At the time Hosea was a preacher, Israel was trying to make a treaty with Egypt in the hope that it would protect them from Assyria. This is the story of the people of God who refuse to trust God, and instead wanted to trust Egypt.

It is also the story of the rich people in Israel wanting to hang onto their wealth – so instead of sharing it with the poor people in Israel, they make a deal with the rich people in Egypt. They make an alliance that betrays every moral value they have : so that they can protect their wealth.

In the New Testament Jesus is confronted by a similar problem:
Two brothers are arguing about their inheritance, and Jesus spots the problem at the centre of the argument:
Luk 12:15 "Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because your true life is not made up of the things you own, no matter how rich you may be."
This is the stuff that destroys lives : that moment when we think that our stuff is more important than following God. And so in the words of Hosea, we hear of this Parenting God who watches as the people of Israel pursue wealth: and become more and more distant.
Hos 11:5 "They refuse to return to me, and so they must return to Egypt, and Assyria will rule them.

At this point I become aware of ways in which these passages speaks to us today: There are many of us who understand this because we have been parents – and have had to wait for our children....or had our parents waiting for us!
But this is also the story of God who has waited for us to respond:
This is the story of a God who has given us life
and nurtured us
and given us strength for each day
and given us gifts and abilities and talents
and we live our lives consumed by all our needs
and all our problems
and all the things we want to do
and all the things we still need to get

and at no point ever acknowledging our Creator’s generosity by being willing to share the wealth God has given us.

Perhaps this is the moments to pause – and be reminded that God is waiting for us to respond to His love by generously sharing our blessings.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am back home... after a week in the Cedarberg mountains. Nothing but fresh air and sunshine. No television or cellphone conection. But plenty of sleep, running on mountain roads, reading, and time with the family and with two wonderful friends - Eric and Angela.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


July 14 is Bastille Day.
On this day in 1789 the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, a prison that symbolized the power of the King over anyone who disagreed with the absolute monarchy. There were only 7 prisoners in the Bastille at the time, but the citizens saw their freedom made visible in the fall of this prison. And each year the French return to this day as a reminder of their freedom.

Which is why I find it so strange that yesterday – the day before Bastille Day – France chose to take away the freedom of some of her citizens. Yesterday France's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burqa-style Islamic veils. While I am opposed to the imposition of this garment on unwilling women, I am as opposed to a government preventing people from choosing their religious mode of dress – no matter how strange it may seem to those outside of the religion.

Because I treasure the freedom of religious belief and expression for myself, I therefore need to defend this space for someone of a religious tradition different from my own.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Lekker Oke

This is Pieter Greyling. He is a man of great integrity, of unstinting generosity, and posessing a thoughtful spirituality. Pieter has a wonderful sense of humour and is deeply committed to his family. He loves his sport, as can be seen from this photograph of him at the final of the football World Cup. In fact his only weakness is his support for the Blue Bulls. I would recommend him to anyone and am privileged to call him a friend

Monday, July 05, 2010

First Things

This is the first gathering on the new campus of the new seminary of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. It is morning worship for seminarians who have returned from their mid-year break. This is the realization of the dreams and hopes of my church. We lost a seminary at Alice to the twisted designs of the Apartheid masters in the old South Africa. We lost a second seminary in the social and polirical turbulence that gave birth to the new South Africa. And like the Old Testament story of people who wandered in a wilderness, we as a church have dreamed of a Promised Land. And i am a witness to this rebirth. I am uniquely blessed to be part of rhis.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Changing Location

Today I signed a new employment agreement. I have been asked to leave my church in Cape Town and move to a brand new Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg. I am privileged to have another opportunity to participate in the teaching of student ministers. This has come as a surprise to me... And to my congregation. I photographed this sign on an empty wall in a home for the aged where a clock used to hang: Most of the church members have reacted in the same way - they do not want me moved. But my ordination vows included an agreement to go wherever I am needed. And I am honoured to have been asked. So at the end of this year I will leave my congregation of nine years with deep sadness, and set off to the Seminary with eager anticipation.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Africa Wins

Thank you Ghana and the USA for a great game tonight. Thank you Ghana for keeping African hopes alive. It feels right that the first World Cup Football competition on the African continent should have an African team that wins through to the quarter finals: I will continue to shout for the Black Stars against Uruguay.