Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Of Mixed Parentage

South Africa has just marked “Heritage Day” – a day where we as a nation celebrate our rich diversity of culture and history. And I am part of this diversity:

My Paternal Ancestors came to South Africa from Germany, landing in Mossel Bay in 1870. (I Googled my name and “bingo” I have a namesake in Germany today). They soon moved to Outshoorn and became Afrikaans. One of their children then moved to Cape Town, and rejected learning Hooghollands in favour of English. So on my Father’s side I am German/Afrikaans/English.

My Maternal Ancestors were the English aristocracy of Cape Town. Ralph Henry Aderne had sailed from England on the “Eliza” at the end of 1830. Add to this my Grandfather’s passion for anything Scottish, and a Kilt of the Ancient Frasers inherited through his mother, and I am English/Scottish.

I can chuck in some interesting relatives like Mary Arden, the mother of William Shakespeare; Dr James Arderne, personal chaplain to King Charles II; David Philip of publishing fame; Rev Ernest Lasbrey, rector of St John’s parish for approximately 40 years; ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey, Captain Hurrell of the Salvation Army began the Mission to Seamen in Simonstown, Ruth Grassow represented South African bowls at the Olympics; and Margaret Lasbrey played Springbok hockey. And then there are some maiden aunts and cousins that we do not mention in polite company – oh yes there is the uncle who faked his own suicide in order to escape his creditors, only to be discovered in a bar in Bulawayo some years later.

What does this really prove? Nothing at all – and everything. I am of a mixed background: German and English in my veins, Scottish and South African to the core. Add to this the fact that I was born in Mthatha in the Transkei; I have lived in a “coloured” township for 10 years of my life; I was part of the South African Military; I joined the UDF and played tennis for SACOS; and I currently live with neighbours who are Muslim, Afrikaans, English, German and Jewish.

I love this country. And I love its diversity. I am not white, or black. I am not English or Afrikaans. I am neither European nor Xhosa.
I am a South African.

Monday, September 18, 2006

God Botherers

Too much of our praying is ineffectual God-bothering. We act as if God is ignorant of our lives and has to be reminded of the God-tasks that need to be done:
“Lord – give me…”
"God – please bless….”
"Lord – bring peace to ….”
As if God is unaware of the human need!

Of course God hears the cry of the broken hearted, and the groan of the oppressed. But these cries for help can never be instructions to a forgetful God. If God is not aware of the things we need, or if God does not know about injustice and pain that need God-like intervention, then this is a distracted and inattentive deity. For God to be God, the Divine Spirit should be aware of everything we need before we speak the words.

Which brings us closer to what prayer should be. Prayer is the moment of our silencing; it is the moment of the intervention of the Divine into our brokenness and need; it is the place of silence where the Spirit engages our spirit. Anything else is God-bothering.

And in our silence is the possibility of hearing the promptings of the Divine. Here is space for the One who fills all space to engage our lives. And here is opportunity for us to respond to the call of the Other. Good prayer is when we get off our knees to offer service to other people.

I have just spent a week in prayer: some of which was my own cry for attention. And then there were those rare moments in the silence where I discovered the Divine whisper. A nudge to become more intentional about my passions. So look to this blogspace to see signs of me shedding my middle-aged disengaged cynicism, and retrieving some of my former radicalism.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I am off to a Benedictine Monastery for a week of prayer. I am privileged to share this with three caring friends - Kevin, Dion, and Peter. The gracious monks of this place of prayer have allowed us to (briefly) share their life of prayer.

This monastery is perched on a hillside just outside Grahamstown looking down a valley of bushes and trees. The monks ring the bell for communal prayer (5 times a day). In between these times we will be silent. I hope to use this as a time listening to the heartbeat of the Universal Creator of Life. And of reflection.

Pray for me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I do not want Someone dying for my sins!

I have made many mistakes in my life.
- Sometimes I was curious. And having tried something out of curiosity, I discovered that it was not good for me. And I learned from this, and grew in another direction.
- Sometimes I was selfish, and believed that my own needs should take precedence over others. And I have discovered in the pain of hurting those I love, a motivation to change my ways.
- Sometimes I chose to do nothing, and experienced a moment of cowardice, or a moment of selfish reluctance to assist someone. And I learned from this to be more participative in life.
- And then there were moments when I knew something to be wrong, but I did it anyway. I did it because I was angry, or I was frustrated, or I was just bloody minded. And I have lived to regret my actions. And learned to think more carefully before I just moer on with my own course of action.

Each of these moments was an opportunity to learn more about living life, and a moment of spiritual maturing.

And so I continue to learn about life – mostly through my mistakes and my selfish impulses. But these are my moments. I own them. And I find it preposterous that I should be punished by God for them! How else do I learn about life? I find it even more preposterous to think that God would both love me, yet need to klap me for my mistakes.

One Church Father tried to explain that God is both perfectly loving, yet perfectly just. Therefore, because God’s justice needed to punish someone, God’s love chose to kill Jesus instead of me. So how is justice enhanced by the death of a person? There is no opportunity for people to learn from their mistakes. One strike and you’re out! And anyway, killing the one person who was sinless is a travesty of justice, not a triumph of good.

This belief has nothing to do with God. It is a belief born within a culture of avenging crimes. If God is a loving Parent, then surely God would understand when I make a mistake? Surely God would encourage me to learn from it. I often imagine God saying to me “Ja, you stuffed up. Now try again”.

So I do not need someone to die for my sins. I am willing to take my chances with God for my mistakes. And more than willing to answer for my own actions.