Sunday, November 30, 2008

Toy Run 08

They came in their thousands
• 8 000 motorbikes
• 24 000 toys
• And countless thousands of spectators lining the route and filling Maynardville showgrounds.

Today was Cape Town’s annual Charity Toy Run (the Teddy Bear Run). I proudly stuck my blond little cutie doll on the front of the bike; my brunette little cutie climbed on the back of the bike and we joined thousands of bikes on the M5 highway.

It was a spectacle of biking: everyone who owned two wheels was there: along with the thundering Harleys and the engine popping Yammies and Suzies, were chemist delivery bikes, schoolboys on 125’s; ancient scooters put-putting at 60kph; a one armed rider, and chrome and rubber and noise. Everyone was a hero for the day. Everyone carried a toy, which was delivered at Maynardville for Christmas presents. And Everyone shared in a happy moment that was community life in Cape Town.

And I loved every moment of it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sharing Our Blessings

United States President-elect Barack Obama was asked in an interview with Barbara Walters of ABC News if U.S. banking executives should forgo large bonuses. He replied:
“I think they should. That's an example of taking responsibility. I think that if you are already worth tens of millions of dollars, and you are having to lay off workers, the least you can do is say, 'I'm willing to make some sacrifice as well, because I recognize that there are people who are a lot less well off, who are going through some pretty tough times.’"

Perhaps we all can decide that Christmas is not the moment for getting, but instead an opportunity for giving. There are many people in desperate conditions this Christmas: For example an outbreak of cholera in Zimbabwe has killed 300 people. Thousands of people are fleeing across the border with sick relatives to South Africa for treatment. Health workers in Zimbabwe and South Africa see this situation as a national disaster.

Perhaps you and I can find ways of finding someone who is not experiencing Christmas-time as a blessing. And we can make some sacrifice to help someone else so that they can find joy in this season.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Will You Go.....?

“Will you go where you are sent?”

This question is asked of every Methodist Minister when we candidate for the ministry of this church. And we all say “yes” – because if we do not then we will not be accepted! Of course we do not admit this at the time, saying instead that we really want to serve Jesus and will trust that “God knows best for my life”. But as the years pass this question is not as simple to answer as it might have been at candidature.

This is because we have other obligations that demand responsible choices of us. For example: Is my promise to go where the church sends me greater than my marriage promise to honour my wife in her choices of career, or housing preferences? I also have discoved that there are dark and devious places in this church to which I have given my life: the kind of dark places that will move me to solve other people’s political agendas, or to fill a gap caused by someone else’s mistakes. And so I am drawn into taking responsibility for my assent to the places the church wants to move me. “Will you go” continues to be a question that haunts each of us who work for this church.

After 30 years working for this church, I was again asked this question. My church leadership wanted someone to move immediately to Pretoria to take up a training post. I knew that I would go alone because my wife has a deeply fulfilling job here in Cape Town, and my children are committed to studies at the University of Cape Town. I knew too that I am not free to immediately abandon the congregation that I am serving. I tried suggesting that the job could be done from Cape Town, but the leadership disagreed.

So I did not get the job... mainly because I was given the privilege of being free to choose. And I realise that the tension between freedom of choice and the consequences of my choices will always be with me. And I continue to trust that my life has significance in the dreams of God.

Monday, November 24, 2008


There were five bikes in a row ... an even split between Dakars and GS 650’s and right at the end a classic thumper: an XT 500. And on the stoep of the restaurant were their owners tucking in to a traditional breakfast of sausage, eggs and bacon.

I left Port Elizabeth at 6am, scampering through a drizzle all the way down the Garden Route. It only stopped raining at Plettenberg Bay, where I stopped to refuel, before pushing on to Albertinia. Which is where I found this posse of bikers. They were returning from a bike rally in Heidelberg, 80 km down the road. They were a group of older guys (yes... I know “Like me”) who had thinning hair and age-lined faces. They were not trying to be “heavy bikers” – in fact one of them was wearing a floppy gardening hat, while another wore a flimsy jacket from Macro. And their conversation went something like this:
“Thanks for waiting for me guys”
“Well that’s what we do”
“When I go over 100kph the front wheel begins to drift”
“That’s because your thumper can’t go any faster”
“Well I didn’t know what to do – so I just moered on”
“No broer – you just throttle back and the compression will pull you right”

And I treasured this moment: this was not about bragging who had the best wheels, or who could do the best wheelie. These men were respectful of their friendship; they hung together; they were brother bikers – and when they pulled off they surrounded the XT 500 and ensured that he was part of the group.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Going up a Hill

The ride from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown took me from the sea crashing alongside the road up into mist shrouded hills that dripped tiny water droplets down my neck. The road has some wonderful sweeping corners, and more than enough undulating hills that invite a biker to twist the right wrist wide open This monastery is just outside Grajamstown, where I will spend the next 4 days in silence. Well not totally silent, because I will join the monks in their regular cycle of prayer through the day. .

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chrismas requests

Today I managed to sort out my Christmas wish list. Father Christmas was visiting the local Port Elizabeth mall and we agreed on the important items: I really need some stuff - like wisdom in knowing when to offer my daughters advice and when to trust their judgement and keep my mouth shut; and stuff like big ears to listen more carefully to my wife before forming an opinion; and stuff like many hours of patience with the WP rugby team and the Stormers Tri-nations team - oh yes, also a few stocking fillers like a laptop, and a Garmin GPS, and a new pickup for my 12 string guitar..... nothing complicated really. And I thanked His Red Whiskership for his help and wished him well over the next month of listening to lust and desire. Who knows - perhaps somewhere we might look past our acquisative impulses and ask for an encounter with the Christ who inspired the season.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Today I flew from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and back. And i seemed to spend so much time just waiting. I was summonsed by head office to interview for a job, which exposes the tension between being pastor to a local church and being at the disposal of my Bishop. I am committed to my local congregation for three more years, but the Bishops of the church can give me other work too. But today the work was in the waiting. I waited an hour to board the aircraft. I flew for 90 minutes. I waited 90 minutes to be collected in Johannesburg. I waited an hour after the interview for a lift back to the airport. And now that my flight has been delayed I will have waited 3 hours to catch the 90 minute flight bck to PE. Today I have learned two things: the vast majority of my fellow citizens wait patiently every day for transport, while I am amongst the fortunate few who does not wait because I own private transport. Secondly, if I get given this new responsibility I will get a laptop to cope with airports.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Downhill all the Way

Uniondale was the result of two villages (each centred around a Dutch Reformed Church) combining into one town. Sadly there are still two Dutch Reformed Churches, divided racially. The coloured Dominee was recently invited to preach in the 'other' church and members walked out to begin their own racially pure church. The trip from Uniondale was an easy 3 hour run. I encountered mist and rain, but the riding was an easy downhill run. One of the joys of being on a motorcycle is the immediacy of the environment to the senses. The wet earth leaves a rich loamy air. At Kareedouw I noted the pungent smell of tarred log poles. And passing Jeffries Bay brought the tangy salt air of this world renowned surfing heaven. I am now in Port Elizabeth ... This photograph is of my bike ioutside the Westering Methodist Church where my friend (and colleague) Charmaine is the minister.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wet and Wild

I am in Uniondale. And this guesthouse, run by Sue, is exactly what I need so that I can recover from a day of gusting winds and continuous rain. Riding over DuToits Kloof Pass was made interesting by the tree branches littering the road (on principle no biker goes through the tunnle because we get charged the same as a car and trailer). I crossed the bridge at the entrance to Montagu with water just easing over the edge onto the road. The traffic authorities closed the road soon after this. Lunch at the Country Pumpkin in Barrydale is obligatory because the owner personally welcomes bikers, offering a tot of Old Brown and ensuring that each biker leaves with a Route 62 metal badge.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Road Trip

Tomorrow I get on my BMW 11:50 GS and head west out of Cape Town.
It will be raining so I will be wearing rain gear over my bike jacket, leather pants and bike boots.
And I will feel great.
Because I will be on leave for two weeks.

From Cape Town through Robertson and up Route 62 to Port Elizabeth. And to Grahamstown. And home along the Garden Route.

I will spend some time with my friend and colleague Charmaine. And I will spend some time praying in a Benedictine Monastery. And in between I will be riding my motorcycle.

I will keep you posted.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Breakfast with Jacob Zuma

I am eating breakfast with Jacob Zuma.... and anorher hundred or so people. The Cape Town Press Club has invited the ANC President to speak. And I am curious. I do not agree with Jacob Zuma and dislike his personal moraliry. But he is a powerful politician who profoundly affects our country. He is a charming man with a sense of humour and a lovely chuckle. He is good at responding warmly to hostile questions. And like any good politician he avoids answering difficult questions by offering pleasantaries and a smile. I still do not agree with Jacob Zuma, but I will admit that he is wonderfully warm and friendly.

I am back home, and on reflection I am deeply uncomfortable with Jacob Zuma: He is good at reading his audience and keeping them happy. But he would not answer the questions that really matterted:
* Should he not reploy Thabo Mbeki away from mediating in Zimbabwe? he said that it was up to SADEC to deal with Zimbabwe, and that the ANC could not take a position on this matter.
* Should he not stop singing Umshini wam? He agreed that we must oppose any political violence and teach the young people to live peacefully - while ignoring the question
* Should he not silence Julius Malema? Zuma said that Malema is like any other hot headed young man who will mature with time. "Even Nelson Mandela was hot headed as a young man". But he did not say that he opposed Malema's utterances.
* Would is not be good to keep the current President of South Africa in office for a five year term for the sake of stasbility? Zuma replied that he had no opinion on this because he was the servant of the ANC.

Personally, I do not want someone who keeps us warm and fuzzy - I want a leader who is willing to stand up and give an opinion. And Jacob Zuma did not do this.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I used to be a runner.

In fact I have run lots (and lots) of very long road races, many more 21km races, and countless 10km races as training runs. But I have stopped running. As I wonder why, I realise that it is because I have achieved all the goals I set for myself: I built a clock out of the 12 medals from the 90km Comrades Marathon; I got my double blue number for the 56km Two Oceans (more than 20 races); I ran a sub three hour marathon, a 94 minute 21km, and a 40 minute 10km race. And so I ran out of motivation to run.

Now my legs are tired, my knees are sore, I am 15kg heavier, and I am grumpy.
So I have decided to run the Two Oceans Half marathon (21km). This asks me to begin from scratch. I have not run since the middle of March. And I am asking you to help me:

For those who believe that God is the great Rule Giver: please send me messages from time to time reminding me that my salvation depends on me reading running books every day, and running regularly, and donating 10% of my time to the road, and confessing each moment when I failed to meet my training targets. You can add a rebuke such as: “You need to reform your life”, or “You are backrunning (aka ‘backsliding’), or “You will not be part of the crowd on the Great day of Reckoning.

For those who believe God to be Grace and Love and Peace: please send me messages that encourage me to see benefit in my suffering, and to discover that I am accepted on the road ‘just as I am’, and that all are welcome to run – even someone who has lost the faith as badly as me – and that I must run with determination because that great cloud of witnesses is waiting for me.

For those who look instead to the power of books, please send me messages that ask me to pursue “the Road Less Travelled”, and discover the “Long Road to Freedom”, and take “the Long Way Round”.

Just do not tell me that I am fat, and old, and lazy.