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!