Sunday, January 23, 2011

Did it hurt?

Peter Storey, preaching at the opening service of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary, asks if we are willing to allow the Spirit of God to change us. He notes that change is not easy. It may well hurt us. "The call of Jesus is a costly one". It is a Gospel that strips off the old in the process of producing the new.

We are invited into a community that turns the world upside down. It is not driven by the love of power. It is driven by the power of love. This is a community that embraces the hurts of our world - in order to bring God's change to our world.

This Seminary's dream is for people to discover the heart of love that changes our world. And that this community will not be afraid to embrace the pain of change in order to become God's people: "a cross-shaped church".
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

different shoes

So there I was walking through the supermarket when I happened to glance down at my feet. I was wearing different shoes. I had dressed and slipped my feet into the shoes alongside my bed. And failed to notice that they did not match.

But who decided that feet need to be shod the same? Perhaps I can start a new fashion.

Perhaps not. I am grateful for this quirky day.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

First Day at School

I have that feeling all over again! The first day at a new school. It is a feeling stored in my memory; a feeling that now returns to me:

January 1963: pre-primary in Standerton Nursery School.
January 1964: Grade One at Robert Hicks Primary School, Pretoria.
January 1967: first day at Fish Hoek Primary School
January 1971 first day at Fish Hoek High School.
January 1980: first day at Rhodes University.
January 1981: first day at the Federal Theological Seminary, Pietermaritzburg.
January 1985: first day at University of Cape Town.
January 1998: first day at John Wesley College, Pretoria.
January 2002: first day at John Wesley College, Cape Town.

And here it is again:
January 2011: first day at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary, Pietermaritzburg.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Perfect Cappuccino

There is a coffee heaven.

Drive north of Pietermaritzburg on the N3. Then turn off onto the Midlands Meander, near Curry's Post. And go in search of Terbodore coffee roasters.

Mark and Marian Macaskill run a coffee shop attached to their coffee roastery. They serve amazing coffee. Even better is their warm hospitality, and their endless patience in answering all our coffee questions.

And I savoured a perfect cappuccino. I am grateful.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Coffee at a Lighthouse

We drank lighthouse coffee at Port Edward.

This is a holiday village at the end of the KwaZulu-Natal holiday coast. Named Port Edward in honour of the Prince of Wales, (who later became King Edward VIII), it is 150 km south of Durban on what is known as the Hibiscus Coast because of its lush sub-tropical vegetation.

Dave Watson runs a fabulous coffee-shop at the lighthouse. He will welcome you with a smile and a story from the sailing-ship history of this coastline. You will be invited to climb the lighthouse stairs to see the panoramic view from the top (tip: hold onto your sunglasses and cap or they will be redistributed by the breeze). And then settle down to a cup of coffee brewed from beans grown on a local farm.

Breathe deeply and taste the salty sea air. And be grateful to be alive.
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Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Transkei

I have a particular loyalty to Xhosa culture and history - which encompasses the Eastern Cape (a central feature of my Phd thesis). But even closer in my affections is the Transkei. Right now its rolling hills are emerald green and the scenery is stunning.

And then there is Mthatha, the "city" of the Transkei and the town where I was born. This is a place of chaotic traffic, humungous speed humps, potholes, and unpredictable traffic-lights. But I love its feeling of being an African town. There are street traders selling clothes, bags, caps, food from black cast-iron cooking-pots, and roasted mealies alongside the road.

I was on my BMW motorcycle and pulled alongside a taxi to ask directions. He cheerfully pointed me in the right direction, and then allowed both me and the family in our bakkie to cut in front of him to make the turn. And no one in the many surrounding cars minded at all that we caused a minor traffic disruption. Probably because this blended into the general mayhem of Mthatha's afternoon traffic anyway.

I am grateful.
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Friday, January 07, 2011


Yesterday I encountered one of my ghosts.

Dickens introduces the "Ghost of Christmas-past" as a memory observed from the present. My personal ghost walked with me for a moment when I visited John Wesley Methodist Church in Frere Rd, Mthatha.

This was the place that I began my love/hate relationship with the Methodist Church. Fifty years ago my father was the minister of this church. I have happy memories of riding a tricycle in the manse garden, of Sunday School stories, of playing with the children of church members, and of church officials like "Uncle Wilkinson" visiting us.

I also find difficult memories: of my father's frustration with the petty power-play of a wealthy member of the congregation; of my father becoming seriously ill as a result of pastoral overload (a colleague resigned from his pastoral charge and my Dad had to take it on in addition to his own work); and of my mother's fear that we would have no home if something happened to my Dad.

These have helped shape who I am today. I freely choose to continue to live within this strange and contradictory church.

And I am grateful.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Sweaty Dutchman

A perfect combination: the Langkloof road, some old jazz standards playing on my ipod, and my BMW motorcycle trundling down the highway.

And then I found The Sweaty Dutchman at Kareedouw. It is run by Hans, a genuine Dutchman from Holland. And as I filled up on a savoury (Dutch) pancake and savoured delicious home-brewed coffee, I knew that a good day had just got better.
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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

village trading post

Stop in de Rust! This village is 30km outside of Oudtshoorn on the way to Meiringspoort. And the main road has been transformed into a fascinating collection of art/craft/food/antique shops.

We stopped for breakfast at The Village Trading Post. Niekie and Soan run this amazing shop and it is well worth the stop. Niekie is a goldsmith who helps run the coffee shop when he is not making pretty things. Soan is the chef who gave us breakfast of french toast, bacon, mushrooms, scrambled eggs, and orange-onion marmalade.

They have a resident artist, whose amazing paintings persuaded my wife to buy a print of one of her paintings.
And to cap it all they have water cooled fans that were a welcome relief on such a hot day.
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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

View from a tent

Lie in your tent. Take a look out of the door. Observe the sun-dappled tree. Hear the birds singing. Note the chorus of Christmas beetles. Feel the hint of breeze on the morning air. Blue sky from horizon to horizon And sigh: "Another hard day in Africa".
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Monday, January 03, 2011

A Perfect Pass

There is nothing to beat the combination of a long winding mountain pass, an empty road, and a motorcycle.

Today I was blessed with the Huisriver Pass. It lies on the R62, ten kilometers before Calitzdorp. Come over a rise and this pass descends to the valley floor of the Huis River. It has a drop on the right into a valley that sweeps away towards cloud-covered mountains.

This is a road with long sweeping corners, both left and right, punctuated by short bursts of straight road. Take a deep breath, move forward on the bike, and change down a gear or two. Then lean into the corner, taking care to sweep from the edge of the road to the centre. Accelerate through the corner and look across the corner towards the next bend.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Road Trip: Day One

Today we left Cape Town for Pietermaritzburg.

This was a sad moment for me as I said farewell to nine years of pastoring a local congregation and set off for a lecturing post in the Methodist Seminary.

And it was raining. Normally this would be fine. But today was different: I was riding my motorcycle. And the wind was blowing and rain was falling.

The other members of the expedition were dry. My wife Jenny, our three daughters and Jen Tyler all rode in the Toyota HiLux.

We agreed to ride together - which means me riding at a snail's pace behind the girls because the bakkie seldom gets over 100kmph. But this gives me plenty of time to think, and pray, and generally reflect on the time of transition in my life.

Tonight we are camping in Montague. Here is my BMW GS 1150, and the bakkie with two roof tents.
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