Monday, December 28, 2009

What a nice little book

Someone gave me a book voucher for Christmas and I stumbled across this little book entitled "Do you think you're clever?". It is a book listing some of the absurd questions prospective students are asked before being admitted to Oxford or Cambridge. It also gives some possible answers to these questions. Some of the questions include: "What happens if you drop and ant?", "Can God create a stone so heavy that he wouldn't be able to lift it?", "If you made a whole straight through the center of the earth to the other side and jumped in it, what would happen?", and my favourite "How would you explain a spoon to a Martian?".

If you're looking for some light reading with good laughs, then this one is for you!

My little red car

This is the first Christmas without my grandfather. I miss him dearly. We all do. The year was 1978, I was two years old and my grandfather wanted to get me something special. He found a little push-car, red with black wheels. I played in this little car for several years to come.

While visiting my gran over Christmas, this little car stood outside her front door, all rusted and worse for wear. The memories flooded back. She saw me reminiscing and told me she thought it best if I took the little car home. Today I spent a good deal of the afternoon panel-beating, bending and respraying. I then presented it to my boys and they dubbed it their "red Ferrari".

I will treasure this photo alongside the photo's of little Wessel in his little red car.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Looking back at my goals and looking ahead

At the beginning of the year, I set out t accomplish some goals. Well, now is evaluation-time:

Editing the Ethics textbook which should be published by the end of the year, DONE
Submitted a research article last night, DONE AND PUBLISHED
Wrote a set of devotions for Disciplines 2010, DONE AND PUBLISHED
Writing a book on prayer during financial crisis, DONE AND PUBLISHED
Writing a book of Lenten devotions (long overdue), STILL BUSY, ALMOST FINISHED
Preparing a proposal for a paper which I plan to deliver at the Theological Society in June on Calvin's pneumatology and the African spirit-world, DONE AND PUBLISHED (did not go to TSSA)
Gathering notes for an article on leadership and ethics (due Oct), ALMOST DONE
Planning another book with Dion on the relationship between church and state, ALMOST DONE.

I feel good about what has been accomplished this year. In the meantime my thesis was published as a book, I had to undergo surgery and I'm recovering well. I'm learning how to relax and to enjoy life without its busy-ness.

Goals for 2010:

Finish outstanding projects from 2009
Write a meditation book for those growing older
Write a book for disillusioned Christians
Do 2 courses towards an Honours in Psychology (only have 4 to go)
Publish 4 research articles
Write up our project "Change the world in 15 minutes"
Play more guitar
Play more tennis
Attend all my children's sporting, school and cultural events
Take my wife on a date once a month (at least)
Plan a trip to Turkey
Survive, no live in 2010

Monday, December 14, 2009

Visit to the Voortrekker monument

Some call it the world's biggest advert for Trotters Jelly. To others it is symbolic of South Africa's racist past.

This is the Voortrekker monument, a monument erected to remember the Great Trek of the first white pioneers in Southern Africa who traveled by ox-wagon from the Cape of Good Hope inland to where we now have the countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The architecture is astounding! Built between 1938 and 1949, this monument is structured in such a way that at noon on December 16th, the sun's rays fall directly on a large stone with the words inscribed "We, for you, South Africa". It's walls contain the carvings of the stories of the Great Trek. And so, we spent the morning sharing this part of South Africa's history with our boys.

It was a violent history, but also one telling of the Afrikaner's determination to get away from Dutch and British oppression, surviving, innovating and choosing to travel north. This was met with great battles and conflict against the local inhabitants.

Very few of my ancestors came from these people. My mom is a third generation Dutch immigrant. Her maiden surname is "Van Goeverden", a family related to Dutch royalty. My father's family came to South Africa during the second Anglo-Boer war. Seven Bentley brothers landed in, what is now KwaZulu-Natal to fight the Boers. One of these brothers became a captain in the British military and was stationed at a Boer concentration camp. There he fell in love with one of the captive Boer women and later married. This lady, my great-great-great grandmother was the only one of my family who knew the hardships of the Dutch pioneers. A family name from her family, Wessel, was then passed on from generation to generation. This name has stopped with me, unless my sons choose to give it to one of their children.

I am reminded of how far we have come as a nation. On the walls there are pictures of how the Boers faught against the Zulu's, Matabeles, Xhosa's and others. I now have friends from all these nations, and count them to be some of my best friends.

It was a good visit. I don't know what to do with all the conflicting emotions inside, but for now, I remembered the stories and I am reminded that one's search for liberation and freedom is often shortlived. New institutions are formed, new conflicts, new power struggles. Politics always interferes.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Thoughts for my new book

I am busy writing the next installment of the '28 days' series entitled "28 days of prayer for disillusioned believers" and came across the following thoughts from John Wesley in his book 'A plain account of Christian perfection'. (These are excerpts from this book). I thought of using this as a basis for reflection. What do you think?

Hereby many are hindered from seeking faith and holiness by the false zeal of others; and some who at first began to run well are turned out of the way.
Q32. What advice would you give them?

• Watch and pray continuously against pride. If God has cast it out, see that it enter no more: it is full as dangerous as desire, and you may slide back into it unawares; especially if you think there is no danger of it.
• Be aware of the daughter of pride, enthusiasm. Oh, keep at the utmost distance from it? Give no place to a heated imagination. Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, revelations to b from God. They may be from Him. They may be from nature. They may be from the devil. Therefore ‘believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God’.
• Beware of Antinomianism; ‘making void the law’ or any part of it, ‘through faith’. Enthusiasm naturally leads to this; indeed they can scarce be separated.
• Beware of sins of omission; lose no opportunity of doing good in any kind. Be zealous of good works; willingly to omit no work, either of piety or mercy.
• Beware of desiring anything but God. Now you desire nothing else; every other desire is driven out; see that none enter again.
• Beware of schism, of making a rent in the church of Christ. That inward disunion, the members ceasing to have a reciprocal love ‘one for another’ (1 Cor. 12:25), is the very root of all contention, and every outward separation.
• Be exemplary in all things; particularly in outward things (as in dress), in little things, in the laying out of your money (avoiding every needless expense), in deep, steady seriousness, and in the solidity and usefulness of all your conversation. So shall you be ‘a light, shining in a dark place.’. So shall you daily ‘’grow in grace’, till ‘an entrance be ministered unto you abundantly unto the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

State of health

Natalie: Upper Respiratory Infection, Bladder Infection
Matthew: Bronchitis
Nathan: Upper Respiratory Infection, Middle ear infection,
Me: Getting sick of medical bills... and Upper Respiratory Infection

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Maybe I am a bigot

On my last post "God of bacon" left a message which may mean many different things. If the worst is meant, the comment may infer that I am a bigot and training my son to be one too.

Perhaps I am a bigot and a poor dad. No "but"'s, no excuses. God of bacon, I promise to take your comment seriously and to work at being a better person. I also pledge to become a better father.

I hope to become a better person, because I am at present very disillusioned with our politicians. Let me tell you why, and if you have any suggestions to help me overcome this state of despondency, I welcome your comment.

I do not understand how people who faught against Apartheid for decades can come into power and forget the people so easily. It starts with leadership: from a head of state who has been implicated in dubious financial deals with a known mobster, accusations of having raped a young woman, to Ministers of Parliament who gained financially through the Arms deal, employing friends and family with little to no skill to high corporate positions.

It is these politicians who discouraged the South African people to seek proper medical care and instead of taking antiretoviral medication, to treat HIV/AIDS with "beetroot, garlic and African potatoes". The same people say and do nothing about the situation in Zimbabwe, but welcome Mr. Mugabe with open arms, treating him like royalty.

South Africa's unemployment rate closes in on 60%, the highest it's ever been. There is more poverty now than during Apartheid. By 2012, we will have about 5 million AIDS orphans. Out of a population of 45 million, it is quite a high number. These children will have to look after themselves and if the current trend continues, will mostly give themselves over for sexual favours in order to get money for food. So much for beetroot, garlic and African potatoes. So much for condoms stapled to pamphlets. Did I forget to mention that we have the highest HIV infection rate in the world, the highest murder per capita?

85% of the South African municipal districts are close to insolvency and cannot provide services to residents. In my city, Pretoria, a quarter of the population do not have access to running water, electricity or sanitation services. Yet, when we read the news, there are stories of how government officials spent "$50 000" on hotel accommodation (this was one person), and demand high-end vehicles, each costing in the region of $600 000. We hear of how it is going to cost $1 million to repair the low-cost houses erected by government. These houses were built in the last 10 years, some by contractors who are not registered, but offered "a good deal". Now houses are falling in on people while they sleep.

I can go on. But DON'T take my word for it. Come and see for yourself. And don't visit the "nice" places, but come and see how politicians are systematically removing homeless people from the city centers in order to make it "look pretty" for the Soccer World Cup. Come and see the open graves lined up for the thousands of AIDS burials that take place mostly on Saturday mornings. Come visit the victims of crime who lie maimed in hospitals. Come sleep in a shack for one night, sharing accommodation with those who have been promised houses over 15 years ago (and when the houses get built, they fall in). Come sit in the long queues at state hospitals where the facilities are appalling, taking almost a day to be seen by a doctor.

So yes, as you can see, I am very disillusioned with politicians. And I will be even a greater bigot if I enable these bigots who profess that they care about the people, but conveniently forget them, to think that their actions are ok. I will be a greater bigot if I vote for them.

In the meantime, faith communities and non-profit organizations have to facilitate social welfare, stand up for the poor and care for the displaced. We have to pray with victims of crime, bury the dead and comfort the families left behind. We have to teach people about antiretroviral medication, preventing HIV infection. We have too help the displaced, support, feed and educate those in child-headed families. And when we dare do, as at Central Methodist Mission, government barges in, threatening to close these churches down.

The one thing I treasure, is that even my 6 year old boy can see through this.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Matthew shares my prejudice.

I discovered my prejudice, well one of them. I don't like politicians. Here follows an excerpt of my conversation with Matthew this morning in the car as I listened to a 702 report on the state of Central Methodist Mission.

Matt: Pappa, can I ask you something?

Me: Matt, I'm just listening here. They are talking about one of pappa's friends.

Matt: Who?

Me: Uncle Paul.

Matt: What happened?

Me: He is the minister at a church in Johannesburg. There are people who do not have homes and he is allowing them to stay in the church. The politicians don't like what he's doing.

Matt: Those politicians are nasty!

Out of the mouths of babes!

My new book!

Hi friends

Just to mention the release of my new book from Cambridge Scholars Publishers: "The notion of mission in Karl Barth's ecclesiology. It is a bit pricey, but I think worth the investment ;-). Read more about this book here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Milo's first haircut

Our Miniature Schnauzer, Milo, got his first haircut today.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Stanley Hauerwas on prayer

Stanley Hauerwas is one of my favourite theologians, simply because he is so real. No pretense, what you see is what you get. (Thanks Dion for the link)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Simul Joostus et peccator

Thanks Beryl.

ps. For those not from South Africa, ZANEWS is a satirical series on South African life and politics.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cooking again

I stopped cooking for a while. I made food, but didn't cook.

This year had taken it out of me and I struggled to find the energy and creativity to produce something that we could savour over a meal. Glad to say, things are returning slowly.

It came about by first making a deliberate choice to move away from prepackaged meat. It's unhealthy, environmentally damaging and expensive. So, if I want to make fillet, I go to the butcher and want to see how he cuts it from the carcass. The same goes for other types of meat. When I want to cook fish, I go to our local supermarket, choose the fish and watch how the head, tail and fins disappear and how filleting is done. I have been amazed at the difference in taste as well as the difference in price. This week alone I have been able to get Yellowtail at R22.00 per kilo and Hake at R51.00 per kilo. A kilo of fish is A LOT of food.

Secondly, I planted my own veggie and herb garden from which I get fresh greens. Once again, cost effective and really tasty! It is amazing how easy it actually is to plant and produce your own food.

So, tonight I made fried hake. Two hours of preparing batter, cutting the fish, making Basmati rice, cutting and cleaning broccoli... Two hours of not thinking about work, counseling, meetings. Just me, my German knives, fresh food, AMC classic pots and Classic FM in the background. Now, this is chilling. Pity I'm not allowed to drink wine anymore.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting something for nothing

I am spotting a trend in my country. Perhaps it is not just here, but this is where I notice it. It is the trend of expecting something for nothing. Let me explain. In this past week our national soccer coach was fired because the team has raked in a series of poor results. He was the 16th coach in 17 years. We expect the team to win, yet our players are notorious for not arriving at practices, there is constant infighting among those in top structures etc etc. So, the coach gets fired...again. Suppose people start thinking that there isn't a coach problem, but that there is an administration problem, an accountability problem.

Our mayor, Gwen Ramakgopa will probably be fired in the next day or two. She has been accused of mismanaging funds and is well known for her spending sprees. Yet, a quarter of Pretoria's residence do not have access to basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation services. I wonder where those in power thought these things would come from. Heaven?

For 15 years, Eskom, the South African electricity provider had not maintained or upgraded its facilities. Now there is a crisis as demand is outgunning supply. The immediate answer: a 43% hike in tariffs, with the same increase projected for at least the next three years. Where was the electricity going to come from? Thunderbolts? Yet, Eskom's executives have given themselves healthy bonuses over this period. Expecting something for nothing.

Next, there will be the water-crisis. It is not a crisis yet, because the rich have not been affected. But it is coming and sooner than we think.

Every time someone raises these issues, the standard response from those in political power is "Crisis, what crisis?". This cliche has become the running joke among South Africans. But then again, the roof doesn't leak if it doesn't rain.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm in love

Triumph Bonneville T100. They have this bike in this colour at the bike shop around the corner from the church. Aaaaahhhhh.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nice photo's of Nathan and Lilly

Nathan and Lilly are best of friends. It wouldn't surprise me if they get married one day. See why...

Monday, October 12, 2009

And then my son made me chuckle...

Still a bit agro, we started eating supper. Nathan, our two year old lawyer (because he has an unbeatable argument for everything) was struggling to eat his carrots. He started moving from the table towards the T.V., ignoring our every effort to get him back. And then there was a thunderclap and he dashed back to the table. Sitting there with eyes stretched wide, he said "God is talking to me!". Stunned I asked him what God said. He replied: "God told me to eat my food!".

Where do they get this?

What a day!!!

I don't want today over again. I got angry too many times. I spoke improperly to too many people. This is what happened.

We were driving on the R21 (Pretoria to Johannesburg) to take my Vespa in for repairs. My Vespa was in a trailer, by the way. Travelling no more than 80 km/h to avoid any bumps and bruises to my baby, a guy in a white Jetta came past in the fast lane, but started veering towards my car and smacked off my side mirror. We both stopped and I lost my cool for the first time in years. He admitted guilt, but said that the car was not his. So, I phoned the owner, who was busy at the time, but promised to phone me back.

Dropped off old Bertie and went to our local police station to report the accident. They referred me to another station where I had to report the case. Then I phoned her again. This time she said the driver told her that the accident was my fault and that they would not be liable for damages as there weren't any witnesses. So I phoned the chap and asked him why he lied. No answer. Then I reminded him that my wife was in the car and that she would testify as a witness. Rude conversation. Conversation ended.

On our way to the other police station, a guy sitting on the back of a Bakkie chucked a glass bottle in front of my car. Hooters, ethics lecture on our responsibility towards the environment. Apologies, smiles, moved on.

Got to the police station where I was helped by a Constable who was busy listening to music on her cellphone. No greeting, she just slammed the forms down in front of me. everytime I asked for assistance, she would rudely point to blocks on the paper for completion without uttering a word. Ethics lecture on service to the community. Then she told me "This is not my job". Lost it again. Lecture on work ethic. Then I took her name and told her I knew the process to report her unprofessional behaviour. Conversion happened as quickly as during prayer at a Billy Graham crusade. Unfortunately her superior went home already, but I'll still phone tomorrow, because "It IS my job".

So, needless to say, my patience is running a bit low, my sense of humour oscillating, and I am looking for reasons to be thankful for living in a community where people don't own up to their mistakes, where civil servants find it more fulfilling to listen to music than doing their job and where some will deliberately lie in order to get away with not having to pay for their errors. Lord, help me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

When our children make us cry.

I mentioned in the car that I felt a bit hungry. Without mentioning anything, my son Matthew (6) made me toast with jam and cheese. What a surprise! I was caught off-guard, not thinking that what I had mentioned was heard and acted upon. I ate my toast, savouring every bit. By the way, when I write during summer, I often take off my shirt and sit at my desk only in shorts and socks.

Another knock on the door. "Look pappa!" His shirt was off. He put on his cream-coloured shorts, like mine. He put on his navy socks, like mine. "I look just like you!" By now I lost it completely. This child listened to me and acted. He looked at me and copied. This is stuff worth meditating on, but for now my computer is going to be switched off and I will be spending time with my boys.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Global Leadership Summit

I haven't been inspired by church like this in a very long time! For the past two days we've been attending the Global Leadership Summit in Boksburg, South Africa. I must admit, I didn't raise my expectations too much in anticipation of the conference. This is mostly because the synods and Conference I usually attend offer the "same old, same old" - talk without purpose, politics without action, egos without servanthood, careering without calling. You know what I mean. But this was different. Leaders from all different spheres of life shared their experiences of leadership and spoke about what they thought the local church could do to make a difference.

It was truly inspirational stuff and once again, I believe that the local church can make a difference. The key, for me, in this Summit, is to resist the temptation to cut-and-paste ministries into our congregational life. None of the speakers spoke of a "magic formula" or "recipe for success". All of them spoke about God calling them to action in their context, addressing the problems in their local reality. I am inspired by their ability to listen. During this past year, we have had as our theme at the Glen "Listening to the voice of God". This Summit was the cherry on the cake. We will listen some more to the uncomfortable call of the comforting Voice.

This was good for my soul.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ignorance is bliss

Ignorance breeds militancy. This is my quote learnt from an encounter with a student during yesterday's class.

Well, we were busy discussing the relationship between spirituality and ethics when this gent raised his hand. He had been quiet all through the class, so I expected a soft-spoken, yet profound input. Much to my surprise he started talking about the "fact"
that the English translations of the Bible are tainted with omissions from the original text in order to promote a "hidden" agenda. He cited the Lukan version of the Lord's prayer and stirred the other students up by proving that this account in the NIV and other translations do not have the "Our" in "Our Father". In fact, many of the other lines (that one finds in Matthew) are not even there.

So, I started by telling him about the Synoptic problem, but did not even get to telling him which Gospels form part of the Synoptic Gospels before he interjected again and rattled on for a few minutes. And then the grand finale... "We must read the King James Version of the Bible, because it is the only translation that is a direct copy of the Dead Sea Scrolls".

I couldn't contain my smile.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Tonight we're taking our boys to their first drive-in movie show. They are so excited, it's contagious!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The world must think we're a bunch of idiots...

The world must think we're a bunch of idiots!

Leonard Chuene today admitted that he lied to South Africa and the world about having any knowledge of Caster Semenya's gender issues. And what did he blame the world of? Racism. "You are testing her because she is black". What does that statement look like now in the light of his confession?

Well, let me tell you, this argument is commonplace in South Africa. I hear it more and more when someone dare challenge or question decisions. "I am a victim" seems to be the easy way out without having to debate. Of course not everyone resorts to this argument, but the frequency of its usage is now boring me to tears. ARGUMENTS ARE MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, NOT RACIALLY MOTIVATED, HELLOOOOO! Excuse the double-negative. Every time this excuse is used, I feel that I have to apologize for being white. No, I won't anymore, because I refuse to carry a victim-mentality.

So, the world is racist because it asks for gender-testing. Weak argument. Yes, it was handled insensitively, but racist? I can just imagine the rest of the world scratching its head after Chuene's claim, asking:"Huh? Where did that come from? They must be a bunch of idiots." Then the dear ANC Youth League makes a statement that there is no such thing as a hermaphrodite in nature, therefore Caster Semenya could not be one." "Huh? Where did that come from? They must be a bunch of idiots."

Just a note to the rest of the world: We are not a bunch of idiots. Some of us are liars. Some are so insecure about our racial identity that all challenges are perceived to be racially motivated. Some have absolutely no clue about the scope of human sexuality. We are a complex society still struggling to find our feet. We want everything to appear picture-perfect, and sometimes we will resort to racism, ignorance or lies to defend it. Idiots? No.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our new book: What is a good life?

Cost: R200 + postage

About the book:
What is a good life is a question asked by many people. Why can’t the pursuit of money, power or status provide us with a good life? Why is it that who we are as persons and how we relate to others and our environment is important? Why are a spiritual life and a close relationship with God essential? Why are the lives of some of those who claim to be Christians immoral and unappealing?

To become a person of integrity one has to learn how to differentiate between good and right conduct and senseless and damaging actions. This book does not provide all the answers, but it introduces various ethical problems and suggests how to deal with them.

The book offers a model of moral decision-making based on various ethical theories. The model is applied to contemporary ethical problems facing the world, particularly Africa. The issues of leadership, land, the marginalisation of women and children, HIV/AIDS, the environment, the economic problem of debt and the ethical role of the Church in Africa today are discussed.

Authors from various backgrounds who investigated current ethical issues suggest the way forward: how one can make thoughtful and practical ethical decisions; how individuals and communities could be morally formed. They challenge, inspire, motivate and equip the reader to become a moral agent in their community and help to build a better life for all.

Stop hunger now?

At our Conference, we will join the movement 'Stop hunger now!'. It is a worthy place to participate.

Yet, I wonder as I stand in a breakfast queue for Conference delegates and Bishops... This is what I saw on more than one plate, most of the plates, in fact:
1 fried egg
3 strips of bacon
2 sausages
4 pieces of cheese
Baked beans
A muffin
3 slices of bread
A selection of cold meat
A hashbrown
And a bowl of fruit and yogurt.

As the delegates balanced their plates to the tables, I wondered where they were going to pack it all. Most of all, I wondered with how much integrity we will pack food parcels tonight.


Something to think about, stemming from a Bible study presented by Prof. Steve de Gruchy at Conference:

3% of the world's water is fresh water;
0.1% of this water is surface water;
About half of this water is accessible;
It takes more water to produce the plastic bottles which are used for bottled water than the water it contains;
People need about 20l of water, where most of the world's population have to survive on 4l per day.

How do you use water?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Welcome to Themba!

A warm welcome to my colleague and friend, Themba Mntambo to the bloggosphere! You can follow him here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Burying ashes

Today we buried my grandfather's ashes at Roodepoort cemetery. We decided on this place as my grandfather's father, grandfather and grandmother were buried here. My grandfather's grandfather and father came to South Africa from the Netherlands. We are not precisely sure from which town, but have a hunch that they lived in Amsterdam. There are still quite a few Van Goeverden's listed in this city. My grandfather's father died at age 33 when my grandfather was 3, turning 4. He had a weak heart. My grandfather's mother then remarried. It was strange to see my great-grandfather's grave. My grandfather barely knew him, as he was my age when he died, leaving behind a young wife and a very young child - about our Nathan's age. And so we buried Oupa Goewies' ashes at his father's feet.

I could, for a moment, imagine my great-grandfather embracing his son, spending time to get to know each other and telling stories of all that had happened during the last 70-odd years. Just as I sat on my grandfather's lap, it was now his turn to sit on his dad's lap, to be embraced and loved, to be assured of a love that surpasses the boundaries of life and death.

Not too far away are my grandfather's grandfather and grandmother's grave. I felt extremely sad for my great-great-grandmother as she buried both a husband and a son.

Here lies my grandfather, under a bottlebrush - a plant he loved very much.

As we left the cemetery, I saw in my mind's eye my ancestors, who rest in this place, welcoming Oupa Goewies. I imagined him looking at me, smiling, saying that he was going to be ok. He will not be going home with us today. He will wait here for our next visit. In the meantime he has some catching-up to do.

He laughed.

We laughed as we left this hallowed site, seeing the signboard that welcomes all its visitors. Oupa Goewies must have seen this when he came to visit his ancestors and I know what he was thinking.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meet Milo Bentley

His name is Milo. We took him into our home today. He is actually Matthew's puppy, a birthday present. Matthew has been asking for a puppy for his birthday now for months. At first we thought it was just another phase, soon to be replaced by requests for a DVD, a Playstation or a skateboard. Not this time. Matt's birthday is on 11 September, but this puppy came just at the right time.

Milo is a Miniature Schnauzer. We had to do our research quite carefully. There are only so many types of dogs that don't lose their hair, and Miniature Schnauzers are one of of them. Matt bought Milo with his own money, and has asked his friends and family to rather contribute towards Milo's purchase than to buy him a present. The Greek blood is coming through.

In any case, welcome little Milo. We hope you enjoy this family.

Ps. If you would like to contribute, drop me a line and I'll give you Matt's banking details.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The August winds are blowing.

If you live on the highveld of South Africa, you will come to know the August winds. Winters are dry and cold with cloudless skies and a biting chill in the air. There is very little wind in winter, perhaps only a slight breeze that makes it feel even colder.

But then in August the wind starts to blow. Dust is everywhere and you don't dare clean until spring - a real spring clean. It is this wind which signals change. It is this wind that brings moist air from the coast and brings with it the promise of rain, and new life. It signals the approach of spring, calling forth warmth and colour.

This August wind brings more than the usual for me. I have experienced a renewing breath in my spiritual life during the past two months. there is a deeper sense of connecting with myself, with my family and with God. For the first time in my life, and this is really the first time, do I experience the gift of living in the present. Thanks to the prayers of friends, the support of my family and guidance of my friend and psychologist, Rene Cruickshank, have I journeyed through some very painful experiences which have brought to the surface memories, experiences and identities long hidden.

This has led me to revisit some of the things that I considered "touching" in the past. Music played a vital part in my life-experiences and so I turned to my CD collection and found the very first CD I ever bought - Steven Curtis Chapman: The Great Adventure (Live). What a joy to listen to! And then I searched him on Google and found that this man has experienced some hard times during the last year or two and is bringing out a new CD based on his thoughts and feelings. (His little girl was tragically killed in an accident ( The title of his CD is "Beauty will rise".

It reminds me of August winds. God doesn't make life easy, but God brings hope and healing. Not always in the ways that we want or expect, but through the winds there is the expectation, the awaiting of petricor - the smell of rain. My prayer for you is that you will know the renewing wind of God's Spirit bringing hope in places that are desolate and dry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A word from the Lord

This Sunday, a lady from our congregation who knows a bit of what has been going on in my life, came to me and told me that she has a word from the Lord for me. I am usually suspicious of these "words", but her sincerity and message resonated well with where I am. I would like to share what she put down on paper. This is a translation from the Afrikaans:

You stood in front of me with your face and whole body creased like a dishcloth that had just been squeezed out. All of a sudden love, peace and God's glory started shining through your face. Peace, relief, faith, love and all that is beautiful to God beamed through you, because God 'squeezed' all the anger out of you, like one dries a cloth. Your path is open and is like that of a newborn child. 'Be of good courage, my son, for God has heard your prayers and they will be answered in His time'. A word of caution: Be careful of head-knowledge. Become like a small child and feed on your Father in Heaven. Be of good courage, beware and spend more time with God to be healed.

As I say, I treat these with caution, but this was something that I needed to hear and I trust that God has heard my prayers. I will continue to look after my health and hope that when the follow-up exam comes in six months time, I will receive good news. This has been a tough year.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sunday, bloody Sunday

And so they stuck again. They broke into my car, parked in our driveway and stole the radio and my U2 cd.

We went out for the afternoon t visit Natalie's family. I came back home to get ready for church, at which I had to lead Communion. Needless to say, I did not feel like Communion very much, but in participating felt a close kinship with those who at least strive to live a godly life.

"Forgive us our trespasses..."

Oh, Lord, it's difficult. But I'll try.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

6 August

On this day in 1945, the Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. About 80 000 people lost their lives that day, with thousands more dying since then from radiation-sickness.

The irony is that we live in a world which still strives after nuclear-weapon capability.

And as usual, the ones shouting the loudest about stopping the development of nuclear weapons have the biggest arsenals themselves.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Victims of crime...again.

I'm starting to get the feeling that you can't call yourself a South African unless you have been a victim of crime...a sort of right-of-passage. Either that, or you must be a criminal.

A week has passed since another friend-of-the-family was killed on his plot. He was an elderly man, shot dead without questions asked. Last night someone broke into our garage and made off with two of our bicycles. I think our dog was making too much noise for their convenience, so they were gracious. The one bicycle was a gift from a widow-friend of ours who lost her husband in Iraq. It was an expensive "Bianci" bike that belonged to her husband, the other, my wife's mountain bike.

I am angry, even though we can consider ourselves not having lost much. We work hard for what we've got, and we don't have much. Everything we have has been saved for, planned for and eventually enjoyed when we got it. Now, some schmuck thinks he can simply march onto my property and take what he wants. And if I should dare ask a question, or poke my nose out the front door, I could expect a stolen gun to be pointing back at me.

What is this? Did I miss something? Am I supposed to feel sorry for the poor person who steal my stuff? I am not even going to try to compose a soppy message about how I should see this creep in a Christian-light... how I should pray for his salvation, because, at the end of the day, Jesus loves him just as much as me. No, I am angry, for this is not the first time... this is not the second time... this is not the third time. There is a part of me that prays that he will fall of that blinking bike while crossing over a bridge, to the road below, only to be met by an 18-wheeler.

Now for a few months of light sleeping, waking at every sound, paranoia about locking and checking, worrying about my family's safety while I am away at evening meetings, spending more to upgrade the security system on our property... I am tired, and did I mention, ANGRY!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thought for the day...

In my devotions, the theme of "Sabbath" has come to the fore. The time to take a break and refocus on God. This does not need to be a long stretch, but spaces throughout the day when the demand of the world are put on hold. This past week has been filled with many different challenges and conflicts to be resolved. It has been a time for new deadlines, planning of essential projects affecting the lives of other people, and hopefully new ways of empowering people to be able to live moral and ethical lives.

And so I'm looking at my diary, asking when the next moment will be for a Sabbath. I think I can spot a few days in September after Conference, but for now, it is "close laptop lid", put cellphone on silent-mode and drink Rooibos tea with honey while watching a cartoon with my sons.

Almost forgot, thought for the day: "If you can't fix the problem with a hammer, it is an electrical fault."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some thoughts on Psalm 14

Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21;
John 6:1-21

“The fool says in his heart: ‘There is no God’”. There is no God. Who would say such a thing? From a place of faith, one can join with the Psalmist in frustration and anger, saying ‘Surely, only a fool will say such a thing’. With the Psalmist we may very well even become very condemning of such an action, warning that God will show Godself and that those fools will soon come face-to-face with their own foolishness. In this Psalm, we are asked to draw a line in the sand and to separate the fools from the wise. We are asked which side of the line we are standing on. Are you standing with the wise, or are you standing with the fools? I’m afraid that life is not as simple as that. I’m afraid that the Psalmist may have made it seem too easy, for one either to belong to one group or the other. I’m afraid that however strong our faith may be, there are still parts of our lives which cry out “There is no God”. If it were not so, we would be completely Godly, completely perfect, completely holy. Anybody here walk on water latterly? You know what I’m talking about. It is the place where one watches the news, sees the suffering of the innocent and for even that split second entertain the thought :”There is no God”. It is the moment of hearing devastating news that shapes your life forever “There is no God”. Sometimes these are fleeting thought, at other times a whole chapter being written in our spiritual growth. But today, we are faced with other ways in which we claim: there is no God.

There is no God outside my expectations.

In ancient faith there was no such thing. It all depended on the will of the gods. It is a very recent development in human history where we live by the philosophy that we are as big as our dreams. The American dream, the dream team, the dream body, the dream job, the dream wife, the dream husband. It is the modern search for perfection and happiness. With this way of life comes the belief that our expectations need to be met, otherwise we feel we have no meaning or purpose. Realistically speaking, of the 6 billion people in this world only a few will become famous, a few will become educated, a few will experience good health for the majority of their lives. Think about it this way. If you have satellite TV at home, the emount you spend on that per month is almost twice the amount of money that the majority of people in this world lives on per month. Isn’t that scary? Yet, when our expectations are not met, when our dreams don’t come true, we dare to say… and you guessed it “There is no God”.

There is no God outside my control.

This is the art of directing God. On the one extreme we pray as if we need to educate God, instruct God, coax God to do what we believe to be righteous and just. There are the folk who believe that God follows their instructions word-for word. A couple of years ago, a famous tele-evangelist came to South Africa. There were posters all around stating: Be in such-and-such a place and you will witness the hand of God performing miracles. To which I thought “Well, I hope God diarized the event”. But it is the subtle forms of struggle with God which affects us more, and I suppose that this is the crux of spiritual struggle, the struggle between the power of God and the will of self. The place where we are not explicitly stating that God doesn’t exist, but that my Will should count something in terms of God’s action.
There is a new U2 song which has been buzzing in my head, especially when these moments arise. The line in the song says:
“Stop helping God cross the road like a little old lady”
It may sound a bit strong, but I think it carries the just of the situation.

But hear the words of the Gospel and the Epistle:

God’s grace is sufficient for all. The miracle of the loaves and fish? Perhaps we have given it the wrong name. Perhaps it is not about the loaves and fish at all. Another reading of the parable suggests that as soon as the boy brought his food, people were touched by his generosity and starting bring out their hidden food. The miracle of the changing of hearts. If we are tempted to believe there is no God, perhaps we need to open our hearts and we will find God using what we have to ensure that there is enough for all: Enough to live, enough to love. Paul is convinced of the extent of this gift of God’s presence, for it is found in one gift: The gift of love. It is this gift which binds families together,, this gift which forges relationships, this gift which ensures that no-one should ever be in a place where they say “I’m on my own” – a place which says “There is no God”.

The fool says: “There is no God”. Let us surrender the places of our foolishness to the wisdom and Lordship of Christ.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A new chapter

I can remember my first day in Grade 1. I went to Laerskool Jongspan in Carletonville. My mom was crying and I asked her to leave so I could learn to read and write.

Today we enrolled my little-big boy at Glenstantia Primary.

I cannot say that I felt brave walking down the passage, knowing that my son's primary school days are about to start. The school seems so big, there are so many new faces... will he be ok?

Knowing Matthew, it will only take a few days for all of this to become familiar to him, but as a dad I cannot help but feel a bit scared for his part.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Psalm 91

In my devotions I read Psalm 91:7-13.

It was a passage I needed to hear today. I am tempted to read it literally, somehow hoping that it is a sign of things to turn for the better, especially after I heard some more bad news regarding my parents today.

And then I wondered: "What a great world it would be if the righteous were blessed and the wicked were punished?", or would it? There are so many good people who suffer tremendously and there are so many, shall I say "bastards", who have it all going for them: "Health, wealth, seemingly not a day's worries". Oh, the world can be glad that I'm not God, especially today.

Perhaps this is why evil prospers; there does not seem to be any incentive to be good. In a world of retribution, especially divine retribution, people would be good, or else... One might say that the reward is in the long-term. Religion would suggest it's either heaven or hell. Problem is, most of the baddies don't believe in the afterlife in any case, so they'll continue in their ways and won't bother seeing the righteous struggle.

Then again, not all people who struggle are righteous, not all people who prosper are evil. Sometimes I feel like I don't want to help God cross the road like a little old lady. I want to get behind this lady, grab her by the back and PUSH, running, with walking sticks flying, just to get to the other side quickly.

Meditation: "Stop trying to help God cross the road like a little old lady". Yes, Lord.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Stop trying...

"Stop trying to help God across the road like a little old lady..."

I love U2. This is a phrase in one of their new songs. Since my news and operation I have struggled with issues concerning my own mortality, God's will for me and my family etc.

Needless to say, I have tried to theologize God's behaviour in all this, trying to understand who God is and where God is. The more I search, the less defined and uncontrollable God becomes. And then I listened to my favourite band and heard the message loud and clear.

I will not have answers, I will not be able to rationalize all that has been and all that will come. More than that, I cannot patronize God by prescribing how God should act or how God should spare me this struggle. Like Paul, I can ask several times for this "thorn" to be taken away. I still pray for that, but in the end, this becomes a journey where I become strong in my weakness.

So, in all my questioning, in all my hunger to gain some energy to face the tasks that lie ahead today, this sentence is before me, a central point for reflection and meditation. Why not make it yours and tell me what you've discovered?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oupa Goewies

His name was Hubertus van Goeverden. To me, and many others he was simply Oupa Goewies. He passed away almost a month ago after surgery. Oupa Goewies was a fireman, and proud of it. I remember as a small boy being put on the fire-engine and my Oupa would arrange a courteous sounding of the sirens. On Wednesdays they used to spray foam in the ambulance parking lot - a fantastic place to play hide-and-seek.

My favourite time was spent boxing with my Oupa in the quadrangle. If more people were like Oupa Goewies, we would not have a tenth of the world's problems. Did he love God? Yes. He loved God too much to belong to a church. It sounds strange, but you would understand if you knew him. A humble man, filled with love, but having no time for lying, cheating, laziness or hypocrisy. The depth of his faith and the level of his reasoning would certainly entertain great minds such as Barth and Bonhoeffer.

As news reached me of Oupa Goewies' passing, one thing struck me. There was still noise coming from the highway near our house. Horns were blaring, traffic was moving, people carried on with their lives. One of the greatest men that I have ever know had just passed away, but the world carried on as if nothing happened. What a pity.

So are all our lives, I suppose. We are all but dust. The things we regard as important are not always so. Working 18 hour days won't help the world to remember you. What do people remember? Things like sitting on top of a fire-engine, sparring in the quad, playing hide-and-seek in foam, taking walks in the park, helping to fix a flat bicycle tyre, nursing a wound, wiping a tear, celebrating life, taking time to listen.

I hope I can be even half the man to my boys as my Oupa was to me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hans Kung - a modern Luther

Hans Kung is one of my favourite theologians, one who is willing to stand by his beliefs despite the influences and powers of the institutional church. He recently published the second volume of his memoirs. For a brief description of the man and his work, click here - it is a fascinating read!

Luther on salvation

God works by contraries so that a man feels himself to be lost in the very moment when he is on the point of being saved... Man must first cry out that there is no health left in him... In this disturbance, salvation begins. When a man believes himself to be utterly lost, light breaks.
- Martin Luther

Friday, June 05, 2009

Back home

I am back home after my operation. They call the operation a Nissen-procedure. By the costs, they should have named it a BMW-procedure.

They made 5 holes on my stomach and then did the following by means of telescopic surgery:

1. Pull the stomach down through the diaphragm;
2. Tighten the hole in the diaphragm;
3. Wrap my stomach around the esophagus to make a one-way valve.

This way I will not get reflux into my esophagus again.

It is pretty sore, but the doctor reckons the operation was a success. Now I'm booked off until Thursday.

This was step 1. As soon as the Halo360 technology arrives in SA (a couple of months), We'll discuss zapping the Barretts and removing it completely. Thanks for all the prayers, messaged and telephone calls. It is much appreciated.

Now back to my soup, jelly and fruit juice diet (for a month!)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The night before

So, tomorrow morning at 7:30 I will undergo an operation to repair my hiatus hernia. This will hopefully stop the acid reflux. If it s succesful (doctors are very positive), then I can come off the Protein Pump Inhibators.

It has been a tremendously difficult month. My grandfather passed way last week and I conducted his memorial service on Saturday. Yet, I can feel God's presence in a powerful way. I feel at peace, yet quite nervous about the operation. The next time I blog it will be all done. God bless, and spare prayer for a brother.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dear Wallace (and all friends)

Sorry that I'm not phoning everyone with this news, but please understand that I have a limited phone budget. I cannot thank Wallace enough for his comment a couple of days ago. I spent some time with my GP who informed me that my BE has no dysplasia (good news). I nevertheless have to seriously consider having my hiatus hernia repaired quite soon. It is about 5cm long.

I Googled EMR and the Halo360 therapies and wrote to several medical firms around the world asking whether this treatment is available in South Africa. Nothing was forthcoming. I then spoke to my GI, who told me about EMD, which is very new in S.A. and worth considering.

Then, out of the blue, a gentleman phoned me today who is the director of a company trying to bring the Halo360 technology to South Africa. He got hold of my details through one of the many e-mails I sent out. He told me that my GI and his partner are interested in launching the Halo360 in South Africa (co-incidence?) and asked me whether I would consider being one of the first people in S.A. to receive this treatment as part of a "demonstration" to GI's of what the therapy can do. It entails one half hour treatment, followed by a screening (and possibly a small procedure to get the rest of the Barrett's out) 3 months later. Clinical trials have yielded excellent results and there is a 98% success rate of removing non-dysplastic Barrett's completely!

They are basically waiting for the South African medical aids to approve the therapy, which will take about a month or two, but failing which, the therapy will cost in the region of R45 000.

On Thursday I will see my GI and talk about this possibility. Please pray for me, the GI, our medical aid and all involved to make the right decision for my case. If the medical aid does not cover, then please buy my "28 days book" (My sense of humour is returning slowly).

Thank you to all who have phoned and prayed. It really means a lot to me.

Wallace, you are constantly in my prayers and I do pray that medicine will continue to develop to help us both, and many other people around the world. Thanks again, Wallace, you may just have sparked a new field of healing in South Africa.

During the past week I fell into a severe depression, but as days passed, unexpected people "popped-up" into my life. I felt left out in the cold by God, but looking back I know that God has been with me. I am experiencing healing in my spirit, my soul and my mind from hurts that have traveled with me for a very long time. I hope my body will soon be healed as well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Barrett's esophagus

Yesterday I was diagnosed as having Barrett's Esophagus. It is when the esophageal tissue starts changing into the same tissue which represents the intestine. This condition is not reversible and increases my risk of developing esophageal cancer. I now have to eat more meals more regularly, sleep at an angle and have to go for an annual biopsy.

It is a condition which can be managed, and if done well, will not be the cause of death.

I am scared. I don't want this to develop into cancer. I want to see my boys grow up. That's all.

Friday, May 08, 2009

New book: 28 Days of Prayer during financial crisis

Dear Friends

I am happy to announce that my new book "28 Days of Prayer during financial crisis" is in print and available from Africa Upper Room Ministries.

What is this book about? Well, first I need to make it explicitly clear that this is NOT a Prosperity Theology book. It is a resource providing a 4-week journey in recognizing God's presence, even during global financial crisis. It offers some points for consideration on how we view ministry, management of what is at our disposal and, most of all, the ability to speak honestly to God about that which creates fear and anxiety in our lives. I have incorporated much of what John Wesley said about money and trust that this will provide encouragement for the road ahead. Order forms can be downloaded from the sidebar to the right.

God bless.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A present from God.

I always think that beautiful sunsets are God's gift to those who experienced a hard day. My friends, Pete and Dion, are surrounded by beautiful scenery every single day. Where we stay, we have gorgeous highveld sunsets. This is taken about 100m from our house. I did not use any filters. This is what you get almost every day as we near winter:

Friday, May 01, 2009

Workers' Day

The 1st of May in South Africa is a public holiday - Workers' Day. It is a day where "Workers" are acknowledged and remembered.

Strange thing I noticed: Going to the mall, all the shops were still open. People were still working... oh, wait... some people were still working...the workers! Who was sitting in the restaurants with their families? People with label-clothing, expensive cellphones, eating pretty expensive meals. The workers were still working. Today they got double pay, because it is a public holiday. So, perhaps they chose to work today for financial reasons.

So, here's a suggestion: How about on Workers' Day, everybody goes to work, but workers get paid double rates while everybody from managerial level upwards work for half their day's salary?

Just a thought.

Guilt - Believing in God in order to avoid Hell.

Someone reminded me that "...when something makes us feel guilty, we tend to forget it, not wanting to go back to it".

I thought this was very profound. It is something that we all struggle with. I find it very sad that many preachers and evangelists use the "guilt-trip" method to convince people that they need God. "You are not good enough", "You don't give enough", "You must pray more...believe better...know more of your Bible".

It's amazing that Jesus never seemed to have such a conversation with people who were genuinely searching. The woman at the well met a man who simply asked her for water. All the other Jewish men reminded her that she was not good enough, simply because she was not "one of them". The list continues.

I like the following formula: "Religion teaches that if I do something, God will do something in return. Christianity teaches that God has already acted, we simply respond."

"He does not deal with us according to our sins..." This is what Scripture says. God does not go out of God's way to make us feel guilty. No. I believe in a God who showers us with love and grace. Being exposed to this, we may feel remorse, but not guilt. What do you think?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Use your imagination...

It is wonderful to be a child. Grown-ups somehow forget how to dream.

My boys found this tree-stump in my in-law's back garden. They are busy building and needed to remove this tree. Next thing I knew, I had to accompany my hunter-sons who "discovered" a dead elephant in the backyard. They proudly showed me its trunk and its amazingly long hair. I had to touch its skin, feeling how rough it is. This elephant apparently had been dead for a while, but we had to be careful as it might just be pretending that it is dead. It might get a fright, jump up and bite you with its loooooong teeth.

It took all of 5 minutes. But dreaming helped me out of a hard day's work and into a place where I could enjoy life with my sons.

Take some time to dream.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Are you judgemental?

I was. Watch this:

Click here to watch the Susan Boyle clip.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday - How to keep the Messiah out! (A meditation)

What a wonderful day. Jesus entered through the gates shown in the picture here. It is called the Mercy gate, or the Golden gate to Christians. It was the gate through which the Messiah was going to enter according to Jewish belief. It was to be this gate, because it led straight to the Temple. Jesus was treated like royalty, connected to the great king David in people’s songs. He entered the correct gate. And we know the story. The crowds turned and within a week, this same Jesus was crucified. They did not see him as the Messiah anymore, and neither would their children or children’s children.

In 1540, the Ottoman empire (under Suleiman the Magnificent) captured Jerusalem. He heard about this Messiah (Anointed One) who would come from the line of David and retake the throne. How do you keep the Messiah out? Well, block the gates. And so he used the heaviest stones and plaster to seal this entrance. He had to make sure that these gates would not be opened – ever again! In 1541 Suleiman the Magnificent blocked the gates. Let’s not be too pious in thinking that we do not do the same. Blocking the gates of our hearts to the love of God is a common thing. Holding on to things that we know are wrong, yet cannot quite convince ourselves that Jesus needs to enter here, is a remedy to keeping him from overturning some holy tables – the untouchables. But you know what Suleiman? You know what friend? This Messiah entered through these gates long before we even thought we could block his passage. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

Suleiman wanted to be double sure that no uprising was going to take place. He knew that no Jew could walk through a cemetery, so he started burying people right in front of the gate, creating very visible gravestones, to let anybody know that this place is a no-go area for any upright Jew.These a visible to this day. As if blocking our hearts to God’s presence is not enough, we try to convince ourselves and God that this is no place for God to enter. The tombstones declaring to God that I am way down the line in my sinfulness for God to even consider stepping foot on this soil. My habits are too entrenched for God to consider me a viable person to be redeemed, my falleness too severe for God to even come close. But Suleiman, dear friend, Jesus entered through these gates long before you could ever bury the skeletons of your past in front of these gates.

Look at this picture today and imagine that this is a picture of your soul. Ask yourself: What have I used to block the gates to my heart? What material did I use to make sure the love of God does not enter through to the center of my being?

What have I planted in front of the gate, the excuses, the behavioural patterns, the habits, to make sure the Messiah will not enter here?

Here is the Good news: He is already inside. He is the one who does not only walk through cemeteries, He is the one who is risen from the grave. He is not held out by doors and locks, for He is the one who meets his disciples, his followers while they hid behind locked doors.

Happy Palm Sunday.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sounds like the start of Apartheid in space...

'Toilet row' lowers space morale

The International Space Station, once a place where astronauts would share food and facilities, is said to be embroiled in a Cold War-like stand-off.

A Russian cosmonaut has complained he is no longer allowed to use a US toilet as well as a US exercise bike.

Gennady Padalka, 50, told Russia's Novaya Gazeta newspaper the lack of sharing was lowering the crew's morale.

The veteran cosmonaut said the problem was due to the ISS becoming a more commercial operation.

For several years after his first space mission in 1998, Mr Padalka and his American colleagues worked in total harmony, he told the newspaper.

But space missions became more commercial in 2003 and Moscow started billing Washington for sending its astronauts into space, he said. Other nations responded in kind, he added.

Space issues

"What is going on has an adverse effect on our work," said Mr Padalka, 50, a veteran of two space missions who is to be the station's next commander.

Before he lifted off to join the ISS crew on Thursday, Mr Padalka had asked whether he could use a US gym to stay fit.

"They told me: 'Yes, you can.' Then they said no," Novaya Gazeta quoted him as saying.

"Then they hold consultations and they approve it again. And now, right before the flight, it turns out again that the answer is negative."

Worse still, the regulations now required US and Russian cosmonauts to eat their own rations, he added.

"They also recommend us to only use national toilets," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

"Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide," he told the newspaper. "It's politicians and bureaucrats who can't reach agreement, not us."

The situation may be exacerbated by an increase in the number of astronauts living on the ISS.

Until now only three astronauts lived on the International Space Station at any one time.

But last week, a Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from Kazakhstan to ferry Mr Padalka and two other crew-members to the ISS. It docked safely on Saturday.

While doubling the number of crew will allow more scientific research to be carried out, it will also mean there will be less room for visitors.

Among the new crew was US billionaire Charles Simonyi, 60, a software tycoon who paid $35m (£24m) for his 13-day trip, during which he will help with research projects and take part in live broadcasts with schools.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/03/31 10:14:06 GMT


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why do children have to be so honest?

I didn't know where to hide my face...

On Wednesdays Nathan and I take Matthew to his gymnastics class. We usually sit in the "viewing-deck" which has a single row of chairs, packed to capacity with parents proudly watching their little ones. A slightly overweight lady moved passed us and took the seat next to us. Nathan looked at me and asked "Pappa, whozat?" to which I replied "This is a lady". He then walked up to her, pointed to her tummy and asked "There a baby in there?"


It doesn't even help to apologize. "Um ah pha... Nathan, look! Matthew is on the rings!"

It reminds me of when Matt was about Nathan's age. After a Sunday service he stood at the door with me greeting the people. A couple of ladies from the W.A. came to greet. Matt said "Hello ladies", turned to me making a gesture with his arms suggesting upper thighs inflating and said "BIIIIIIIG ladies". "Um ah pha... Good bye, God bless, see you on Wednesday."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Vocational holiness.

I am busy reading Eugene Peterson's "Under the unpredictable plant", and what a breath of fresh air!

Ministers struggle. We struggle with our congregations, with keeping our diaries in check, but most of all we struggle with a sense of wanting to be godlike. This is different from being righteous or striving to be a Christ-follower.

For some time now I have wondered about studying the psychological profiles of ministers, believing that there is a common need for power and affirmation among clergy. Peterson endorses this hypothesis with this book and affords ministers an opportunity to travel alongside Jonah, to connect with a divine sense of "Call" and identifying the places and temptations of attempting to replace God.

Here are two quotes that struck me deeply:

Why do pastors have such a difficult time being pastors? Because we are awash in idolatry. Where two or three are gathered together and the Name of God comes up, a committee is formed for making an idol. We want gods that are not gods so we can 'be as gods' - p.4

...pastors are provided a substantial constituency in which to act godlike. Unlike many other temptations that are associated with elements of morality and so have visible social and physical penalties, this temptation is almost purely spiritual and commonly receives social reinforcement. If we speak the word of God long enough and often enough, it doesn't take a great leap of imagination to take up the pose of the God who is speaking the word. If the pose is reinforced by the admiring credulity of the people around me, and benefits of power and adulation begin to accrue, I will most certainly continue to flee the presence of the Lord, for that is the one place where I am sure to be exposed as a pretender. - p.13


What keeps me going?

My boys.

I have heard too many people complain that they did not spend enough time with their children. I will not make that mistake.

Last night I had the privilege of my 5-year old son, Matthew, falling asleep in my arms. It scares me to think that the time will soon arrive when he won't want to sit on my lap or listen to the bedtime stories that I make up as I tell them.

All I can do is treasure the moment. When they grow up, we will have other sorts of fun, but for now, I am a rich man.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A sensory experience

Cape Town is a sensory experience. I fly back this afternoon to Gauteng and will miss the incredible sights, sounds and smells I experienced during the last few days. Here are a few experiences I would like to share:

Smells: Fresh air, smell of the ocean, freshly caught fish at Kalk Bay, Fynbos at Kirstenbosch

Sights: Mountains, sea, brightly coloured fishing boats, Table mountain ablaze.

Touch: Cold ocean wind, light rain against my face, bumpy ride in a Landy

Sounds: Kaapse Afrikaans, the voices of friends, SILENCE, singing of a Cape Robin, breaking waves, helicopters extinguishing fires on Table mountain.

I can name many more, but these touched my soul.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gutted Rhema leader not allowed to wrestle Jacob Zuma

This is from

JOHANNESBURG. Church leader Ray McCauley says he is devastated at not being allowed to wrestle ANC President Jacob Zuma during a campaign speech at his church on the weekend. According to McCauley's aides, he had thought Zuma had come to create a Biblical tableau in which Jacob wrestles an angel. "He assumed he was the angel," said an aide. "He's gutted."

McCauley, a former bodybuilder, had reportedly been working on a series of Biblically inspired wrestling grips in the mistaken belief that Zuma was coming to the Rhema church to wrestle rather than address his congregation.

"Pastor Ray just assumed there would be hand-to-hand combat," explained Rhema spokesman Herod Nyamende.

"Nobody thought Mr Zuma would be stupid enough to come here and campaign. I mean, can you say 'godless communists'?

"We can. In fact, we do. Very often."

He said that the "only logical conclusion left" had been that Zuma had come for a decisive showdown with McCauley to "re-enact Jacob's fight with the angel in Genesis 32, to prove which of them is a bigger stud".

"Pastor Ray was really psyched," said Nyamende. "He's been working on a killer series of moves.

"First he was going to go with And I Shall Smite Thee, which is a forceful laying of hands on the back of the neck, kind of in a chopping motion.

"Then he follows it up with Samson's Ass, where you grab your opponent's jawbone and try to pull it off. If that doesn't work then he slips into Way Down In Egypt Land, where you reach into his underpants with righteous vengeance, grab and twist.

"It was going to be awesome, and obviously Pastor Ray is gutted."

Meanwhile the ANC has apologized for the confusion, but added that McCauley's dreams of wrestling Zuma were "naïve".

"Pastor Ray is a fine man, mainly because he can bench-press more than any other religious leader in the world, including the Pope who can bench about 250 kilograms," said ANC spokesman Kickbax Tswete.

"But he is dreaming if he thinks he can wrestle Comrade Zuma successfully.

"There is no human being alive today who can pin down Comrade Zuma. Whatever you throw at him, he will wriggle free."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is God trying to teach me something?

Option 3 it is.

Then this... I submitted an article for publication on the topic of the church's responsibility towards refugees and asylum seekers. Yesterday I received two reviews. The first was a tremendously affirming and helpful critique of my article. The second was a scathing massacre of my work. Here is an excerpt of the critic's comments:

A 12 page anecdotal hypothesis largely undocumented and unproven. The fact that I might agree with some of the sentiment within the article does not lesson the fact that it consists of sweeping generalizations which may or may not be true. It reads rather like a sermon delivered by a preacher who is passionate about his subject, but has not taken the time to research his sweeping claims. As a result the conclusions carry no weight. This kind of discourse may be acceptable in some pulpits but is not suitable for a theological journal.The use of footnotes is not helpful, they are largely explanations.

Funny thing is that I read this paper at the Theological Society of South Africa conference last year and it was received very well. Ag well, I'll try to make it more empirical. Thing is, I don't believe that everything should be discussed in an empirical fashion. Of course I can discuss the issue in a very clinical and scientific manner, with graphs and numbers and statistics. But such an article will get lost. I don't want people to read it, say "oh, that was interesting" and then move on. I hope that even my journal articles will generate some stirring of the spirit.

Criticism I can take, malicious massacres of hard work I do not appreciate.

Friday, March 06, 2009

There's a first time for everything...

I passed 2 out of the 3 Psych honours exams which I wrote in January. It's the first time I've failed an exam and don't quite know what to do with these feelings.

Option 1: The group U2 have a philosophy: If they record two bad records in a row they vowed to hang up their musical boots. Is this time for me to do the same and focus on what I have achieved so far?

Option 2: Register again and nail this SOB of a subject?

Option 3: I don't have to have this subject, perhaps register for other courses?

All I know is now I feel a bit sick.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cricket SA vs. Aus

Matt and me at the cricket. Pity we lost, but a wonderful time together as father and son.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

28 days of prayer during financial crisis.

Athletes usually stretch after a good workout. I blog. I have just finished the manuscript for my book "28 days of prayer during financial crisis"

It is divided into 4 sections:

You are not alone;
Planning better;
Living with discipline; and
Living as a steward.

It does not suggest that the wealthy are healed or the poor condemned. It aims to assure people of God's faithfulness and presence with us all during all times, even when we experience financial crisis. In the light of the global economic crisis, I don't think that anyone is exempted.

So, I draw on Wesley's teaching on the use of money, Biblical interpretations of resources and a suggestion to break the shackles of a world which teaches us that in order to be happy, you need to be well-off.

I am excited about this book. It is not an academic book, but I hope it can be instrumental in helping people realize that God is near, loving and compassionate - and calls us to be the same.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ministers' retreat

This is the view from my room. I am on ministers' retreat nearby the Hartebeespoort dam.

I don't do retreats well. Let me say this... I don't retreat well with other people. Father Pete is always on my case about this, and I know that there is value, but... there is actually no "but".

Where do I hear God speak? When I am alone. Not just alone in my study, but when I physically remove myself from my context, with respect, my family, and lovingly, from the church. I hear God speak while sitting alone in an airport terminal, waiting for a flight. I hear God speak in a guesthouse while I wait for the time when I have to deliver a paper. I hear God while I am sitting here in my room, supposed to be praying and asking how the church has hurt me, but choosing to write a booklet on prayer during times of financial crisis. I overlook the dam. It is starting to rain. I smell the fresh air, I jump at the sound of a loud thunderclap only meters away... and I hear God speaking. I think I am retreating after all. I just can't take the group work.

Consumerist reading of the Bible.

I came upon this striking quote from Eugene Peterson's Earth and Altar and thought to share it with you:

We come to the Bible as consumers, rummaging through texts to find something at a bargain. We come to worship as gourmets of the emotional, thinking that the numinous might provide a nice supplement to sunsets and symphonies. We read "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," and our hearts flutter. We read "You shall not fear the terror of the night," and we are tranquilized. We read "He does not deal with us according to our sins" and we decide we have probably been too hard on ourselves. But when we read "The Lord says...The Lord has sworn," our interest flags and we reach for the newspaper to find out how the stock market is doing".

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Matt's first rugby game... and the Bulls won 59-26

The only thing he didn't like was that... "Pappa shouts too loud!"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Which Bible do you read?

Matt: Pappa, when you're good then Jesus loves you. But if you're disobedient, then Jesus doesn't love you.

Me: Oh, Matt, you know, Jesus is soooo good, that he even loves us when we are disobedient.

Matt: No, when we are naughty, he doesn't love us.

Me: Matt, the whole story of the Bible tells us that when people are naughty, God still loves us.

Matt: No, the Bible says that Jesus doesn't love naughty people.

Me: Oh, my Bible says God always loves us. Which Bible says that God doesn't love naughty people?

Matt: The Bible of South Africa.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Scriptural interpretation

A friend, Gus Kelly, posted this on our ministers' discussion forum. It puts in a nutshell what I believe to be true about the debate surrounding the interpretation of Scripture:

If scripture is understood as a repository of divinely revealed true propositions and moral absolutes, then normativity will appear as an application of those propositions and absolutes, literally understood, to matters theological, missionary, and personal.  If scripture is understood as the sacrament of divine revelation, of God’s historical self-disclosure, then normativity will be understood as the ever-developing guiding influence on our thought and action of an ever-deepening familiarity with God in Jesus.  For those seeking absolute norms for knowledge and behaviour, the latter position will appear incoherent, unstable and finally inadequate.  For those who realize that the only God worth knowing is a personal God, and that all personal relationships are dialogical and relative, the “uncontrollability” of God’s self-revelation is a source of joyful astonishment and an invitation to the unwavering confidence that only a God of endlessly original love can justify.

- Sandra M Schneiders, 1999, The Revelatory Text: Interpreting the New Testament as Sacred Scripture, The Liturgical Press.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Thank you" will do...

We try to teach our children to say the following words:

"Thank you"
"I love you"
"Excuse me"
"sir" or "ma'am" (oom or tannie)
"I'm sorry"
"I forgive you"

I'm proud to say that they have already made these words part of their vocabulary. Nathan has caught on particularly well.

At the beginning of the year I did some planning and decided that I seriously needed to revisit my commitment to certain committees and groups, and so I started to step down from several of these.

Today I have seen once again how I have been used. I served on a particular committee for the past 6 years (a quick calculation will tell you it is about a fifth of my life). I spoke to the chairman and indicated that I do not occupy any portfolio, except taking the minutes of this meeting, and so would like to step down. When it came to the matter on the agenda, the issue was raised and it was asked if there were any objections. Just a few nods. Then we moved on to the next point, only to be asked if I would serve on another committee. No "Thank you" or "We appreciate that we received minutes of meetings immediately after each meeting"... Just "Now we need to replace Wessel".

That may not have been the intention, but I feel a bit used. When I indicated that I was not willing to serve on the "other" committee, it was almost as if I was not pulling my weight.

Well, excuse me. I am paid to run a church, not volunteer to sit on committees that do little or nothing for my community. If I volunteer, please say "thank you". If you don't want to, then pay me. Make it worth my while so that I can spoil my family for the time that I have to sit and pretend as if my contribution is appreciated.

I appreciate the few people who make a point after a Bible study or sermon say "Thank you". I know it may just roll of the tongue, but I choose to invest value in those words. To you I say: "It is a pleasure, and I'll work my fingers to the bone for you".

Thanks for reading my blog.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Matthew's tricks

Matthew LOVES gymnastics and constantly "invents" new trick on the jungle gym. His strength is absolutely amazing. Check this...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


As the people of Israel go to the polls today, the election date for South Africa's fourth democratic elections was announced: 22 April.

These elections will be very interesting. It comes at a time when the people of South Africa are growing increasingly impatient with the current government's legacy of corruption, power-play, inability to deliver and general sense of sheltered employment.

Yes, some good has come, but the PEOPLE want to be heard. More than that, we want leaders with integrity.

Please pray for our country, it's leaders and our witness.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Weekend off

We get one weekend off per quarter. That is if we don't take leave in it. This is my weekend off, which means that I won;t be in the office from today to Monday. It is a blessing not to think about another sermon, to bar calls on my phone. This is a little bit of me-time. Today I went to the bank to negotiate interest rates - successful. Now I'm sitting in the Seattle Coffee shop drinking a cappuccino and surfing the net. In an hour's time I'll be having coffee with my good friend and mentor, Prof. Conrad Wethmar. Then I'll fetch the boys and we'll be off to have a braai with friends. Tomorrow, after Nats' classes, we'll be going to my parents in Carletonville and spend some time there until Sunday afternoon. On Monday I will work on two book proposals for Upper Room Publishers. Doing the stuff I love doing. This is much needed time to get to know myself again. The only thing that is missing is going on a long ride on my Vespa. Will have to fit it in somewhere. Have a good weekend everyone.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The word is "Petrichor"

Do you know the smell of rain? That fresh wind that blows with a blend of the smells of hope, renewal and life. Well, there's a word for that smell - petrichor.

Pretoria has experienced a record amount of rain during this summer, and this smell has become very familiar. More so, the smell of hope and change in our local congregation. Our new colleague, Themba Mntambo has played a part in this. Before he came, our leaders prayed and discerned that this year should be the year of "Listening to the voice of God". Immediately after we spoke the word, petrichor! When we pray about new opportunities in the life of our community, petrichor! Preparing a sermon for Sunday, petrichor.

I love this smell and it fills me with joy, because I know that God is at work. I share Pete's sentiments about the bigger institution. I do not only share his feelings, but I feel that he has more than adequately expressed what I feel about the matter.

Here in the local church, where ordinary people meet in order to hear the word of God (and not for the sake of being called Methodists or raising enough funds to pay the assessments), here is where I experience the petrichor of the Spirit of God.