Monday, August 29, 2011

A Rock in the Grass

"the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, a stumbling- stone and a rock to trip over." (1 Peter 2:7-8)

This is an image from the Bible that asks questions about the way we construct our lives. It refers to a stone collected for a building project, but unused. Peter tells of this rejected stone lying on one side, where it caused problems. The builders would trip over it - a rock lying in the grass.

This image appeals to me. The stone is still useful, but now in a subversive way. It reminds the builders of what might have been. It is the stone they curse when they stub their toe - yet at the same time this gives them a moment to pause and reflect. The stone trips up the busy builder as he scurries around the building site doing his important stuff. This then allows a halt to the relentless progress of the day. The stone refuses to go away, and so becomes the constant reminder of other building possibilities.

This is an uncomfortable analogy. It speaks of the interruptions that trip us up as we try to get on with our day: a child demanding attention; a spouse asking for help; a neighbour calling loudly; or a poor person intruding into our space. This is the irritating question asked by a preacher; the uncomfortable feeling when a piece of writing gets under our skin; the disquiet caused by an uneasy conscience. This is the Spirit of God acting like a rock in the grass.

We can ignore it and continue with our important, busy lives. Or we can consider the stone, and allow this interruption to our activity become a turning point, that moment to watch how the Master Builder takes it for the cornerstone - the load-bearing stone that gives shape to the rest of the construction. The rejected stone becomes the stone that gives direction to all the other pretty stones we use to build our lives.

Over the years of my living I have been challenged by this thought from the letter of Peter: to pay attention to the obstacles in my day’s progress. Perhaps they are that concealed rock that ought to become part of my life’s construction. I also aspire to challenge those who live comfortable, uncaring lives – to become a “rock in the grass” to those who live without a moral compass to guide their thoughts and actions.

Pray for the wisdom to discover that important building blocks to our living can lie hidden in the long grass, waiting to trip us up. Pray too for the courage to become that stone that trips people up when they try to construct their lives without giving thought to their ethical and moral responsibilities 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

balloons for a birthday

21 years old today! Jenny is blowing balloons for our youngest daughter Amy.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This weekend our seminarians become missionaries when they travel to the Durban Central Methodist Church. This is an inner-city church, located in the midst of a diverse population drawn from the people that live in southern Africa.

They are joining the Nzondelelo movement for the weekend. This began in 1870 in Edendale, near Pietermaritzburg, born out of a desire for the Christian Gospel to be heard in the words and idiom of Zulu people. Daniel Msimang challenged the white missionaries to trust the Gospel of Jesus in the hands of the indigenous Zulu people. And this missionary movement has become a vehicle for the liberating, joyful invitation to live like Jesus.

Pray for the 90 seminarians, that they might be faithful ambassadors for Jesus.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Covenant Discipleship Groups

The seminarians are divided into small accountability groups. These meet once a week and are a "safe place" where they can support one another as they work out the shape of God's call on their lives.

This group asks only one question: we use the ancient Wesleyan question "How goes it with your soul?" This is not group therapy, where individuals are coerced by the group's will. This is, instead, group accountability. Each member shares her/his life's journey of the past week, sharing joy and asking support in the pain. It meets for one hour, and closes with prayer for one another. And what is said in the group remains in the group.

And lives are being changed as a consequence. Not only are seminarians given a place to express their hopes and fears, but they are discovering companions for this fragile journey of life.

I ask your prayers each Monday evening between 5:30 and 6:30.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011


"The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven." (Shakespeare)

Tim Attwell used this quote when he preached to us this morning and reminded us of the unconditional grace of God. Our Creator does not crush us for our foolish, sinful living. Instead, like the dew that surprises us in the morning, God continues to bless us with the gifts of life, love, joy and passion. As dew drops to the earth and nourishes the soil - so God goes beyond anger and retribution to a place of nurturing mercy. And in this we are challenged to become merciful towards other people.

"Teach us, Loving God, to participate in your surprising acts of grace as we love even the undeserving".
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011


He humbled himself, by becoming obedient! (Philippians 2:8)

We live in a culture that avoids being obedient. Instead we are tempted to live without accountability - following the whim of the moment. Each day I am challenged to submit my will to a Lord who demands my obedience....a demand that humbles my spirit.

I do not find this easy. I am bent out of shape by my surroundings: I sit with my friends/colleagues/associates and am tempted to share their prejudices and world view. But there is a Creator who holds me accountable to values that are bigger than the whim of the moment. I want to be more than I am in this moment - and ask you to pray for me: that I might humble my spirit in order to be obedient to Jesus.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011


I am off to Durban to watch rugby. South Africa is playing Australia and I am a fervent participant in this part of our nation's worship. We gather in large stadiums to sing together, to cheer our team - and even pray (when our team is doing badly). All of us pursue an oval ball - 30 men on the field and 80000 around the perimeter of the field. We don our national colours, and drink beer and shout encouragement.

Isn't it great.
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Friday, August 12, 2011

First dancing shoes!

Kayleigh Duncan is getting ready for the matric dance. Today was about getting shoes. And I am privileged to share in her anticipation and excitement.
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Today we say farewell to Tom and Jeffrey, who have spent the past month with us as exchange students from Cambridge University. They are Methodist probationers who have been stationed at Cambridge University by the Methodist Church in Britain. We wish them God's blessing as they return home. Pray for them as they are sent by us to bring light a country with a troubled soul.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Morning Worship

This morning we welcomed the Rev Jim Harnish of the United Methodist Church, Tampa, Florida. He challenged us to become preachers who can bring the Good News of Jesus into a world that is characterised by bad news.

We were reminded that this can only begin when we are willing to listen to the stories of the people we meet. We cannot speak if we do not first listen! We do not "bring Jesus", but instead we point out what Jesus is already doing. Our task is to point away from ourselves to that which Jesus is doing. And to invite people to join Jesus in his work.

We thank God for the privilege of sharing in God's work. Pray that we might all be faithful.
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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Women's Day

Today South Africa celebrates the contribution women to our life. This evening's chapel service was led by Rev Diane Worringham - assisted by the wives of our seminarians. Please hold these women in your prayers as they face being expected to assume leadership roles in the congregations served by their husbands.
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Sunday, August 07, 2011


Delm Linscott, the senior pastor of Wesley Methodist Church in Hayfields, Pietermaritzburg, invited us to reflect on the value and importance of women in our society. He used Esther from the Bible as the example to inspire us.

Delm took us to the text: Esther 4:14 "It may very well be that you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!" He reminded us that our lives are intentionally and purposefully lived in the presence of God. And the place we find ourselves could well be exactly the place where we are most useful. So instead of complaining about our circumstances - let us seize the moment that we have as a God-given opportunity of life. Each moment is a moment where we can be exactly what God needs in this place "for such a time as this!"
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