Thursday, November 30, 2006


Fifty is an amazing number. It is a goal, a lure, an idiosyncrasy, a notable record, and a marker. Cricket lovers applaud 50 runs, Paul Simon sang of Fifty ways to leave your lover, and the US of A discovered a way to collect a country into 50 pieces. Interesting trivia is published under titles such as Fifty ways to freak your friends; Fifty years of Stock Car Racing; Fifty roads to Town; Love songs of the last fifty years

In Latin it is symbolised as ‘L’. Other languages have their own appellations; Chinese: 五十 (wǔ shí), Korean: 쉰 (swin), Russian: пятьдесят, Greek: πενήντα, Hebrew: חֲמִשִּׁים (khamishím) and the language of heaven hanner cant vigesimal (Welsh)

So where does all this take us?
Well this is my 50th blog. And I have just entered my 50th year on planet earth. And, to use the cricketing term, I am “not out”. Thank you to all who stop off in this space. The thing I enjoy about this is that I write what I like. And if you do not like it, you are not compelled to return.

50 mark questionnaire (2 marks per question)
I got this from e-mail. Try it with your friends.
Things you may not have known about me...(and probably don't want to know!)

My Name?
Rock in the Grass, which is a play on my name. It also speaks of the capacity to stub the toe of the passer by. And I hope that those who read this blog are sometimes stumbled into wakefulness.

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Bicycle shop assistant
2. Military Physical Training Instructor
3. Flange machine operator.
4. Teacher

Four places I have lived:
1 Cape Town
2 Mthatha, Transkei.
3 Pietermaritzburg
4 Standerton

Four Books I am glad I read:
1. James Michener – The Novel
2. Eric Lomax – The Railway Man
3. Pamela Stephensen - Billy
4. Arthur Ashe – Days of Grace

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Livingstonia, Malawi.
2. Ugab River, Namibia
3. Murchison Falls, Uganda
4. Zanzibar

Four of My Favourite foods:
1. Pasta anything
2. Butternut Soup
3. Cappuchino Muffins
4. Bobotie

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Having coffee with my wife Jenny
2. Walking the Camino de Santiago
3. Camping with friends
4. Standing on Table Mountain.

Please have some fun today!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Explaining God

Today I participated in a “collaring service”. This is a service for someone who begins their journey as a student minister. Her name is Pam, and she takes up an appointment in Uitenhague in 2007. This is the beginning of a 5 year journey, where she will learn pastoral skills, and complete an academic degree.

And I was reminded that becoming a pastor is not about gaining the “right” academic knowledge; or learning the “correct” church doctrines; or in knowing the “best” religious explanation of God. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion very eloquently demolishes these God theories. As Dawkins shows, it is simply impossible to explain God. For Dawkins, this proves that there is no God.

While I agree that the God explanations are inadequate and often illogical, I draw a different conclusion. The truth is that most of what we believe is only an approximation of the truth anyway. We are attempting to put the unknowable into words. The only place from which we can speak is personal experience. We have a human experience of the unexplainable – and then we try to explain it. We experience a touch of the divine, and attempt to put this into words. Of course our words will fail us. Because we are attempting to explain the inexplicable. What Dawkins calls the self-delusion generated by chemistry in the brain, I choose to call epiphany: the unexpected touch of the Divine.

I pray that Pam will never get to a place where she thinks that she can explain God.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


The Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3rd edition) defines Pornography as “the description of the life and manners of prostitutes and their patrons.” And a 1593 definition of prostitution is “the act of selling something of value for base gain”. So where am I going with all this?

Here it is:
There are many people who sell their bodies for money – I have seen them on the web. I have unearthed such manner of activities as paedophilia, incest, fisting (you do not want to know!) bestiality and asphyxiation. It is all weird, and degrades the beauty of human sexuality. The sale is also presumably lucrative, otherwise the beautiful people in the photographs would not be there!
I am both curious at why people do it, and saddened that something that is so beautiful can become an object of commercial transaction.

But while I am shocked by what I saw, I realise that I have the propensity to absorb shock, and come back for more. What is it in me that is both repelled, yet attracted by shock? This is the same thing that makes us human beings slow down to look at a car accident victim, or causes us to scream at the WWE Smackdown TV show. We actually love it when people sell themselves for cold cash….whatever is for sale, we watch!

Perhaps the saddest moment was when people stopped at a cross 2000 years ago to be shocked by a crucified man, and they still found energy to mock him. Or is it sadder today when people look at the suffering people of Dafur, or watch the bombing of Lebanon, or watch refugees stuffed on a train back to Zimbabwe – and don’t even blink!

We are the patrons of porn.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Grace Denied

I have just been taken to task by the Executive Secretary of my church for praying for God’s blessing on a same sex couple. In fact he was so disturbed that he copied his letter to my Bishop and to the chair of our church’s doctrine committee! What distresses me is that we have forgotten the place of the Grace of God.

I am convinced that every person on earth needs to hear words of God’s Grace spoken over them. There is no one excluded from God’s Grace. If P W Botha can be buried with words of Grace spoken at his funeral, then a same-sex couple asking to hear God’s Grace spoken aloud should be allowed the same dignity.

Of course I have no control over the blessing of God: this is God’s to give. But I can verbalise the desire of the heart into words of Grace and Love. I hereby give notice that anyone who wants to hear God’s blessing spoken aloud can come to me.