Saturday, December 30, 2006

Greater than me

The Church is called to be united in four ways. Firstly in Conviction, secondly in Love, thirdly in Purpose and fourthly in the mind of Christ. Paul writing to the Philippians from his house arrest in Rome makes it obvious that this would give him the greatest joy. The way we do this is very obvious to Paul. We are to treat others and that would mean all people as if they were greater than ourselves. In doing this you will be putting their interests first above your own. This is the mind of Christ. You cannot put it more simply. This is how we ought to live amongst each other. The Jerusalem bible uses the word ‘self-effacing’ to describe the attribute. We are usually taught the opposite, to get to the top, to believe in yourself and win at all costs. Young teenagers are showing more and more the tendencies to be self-willed and arrogant. The rights we speak of in our advanced constitution are the rights not of ourselves but the rights of others around us. The temptation to swing from parading our needs to parading the needs of others is a spiritual matter and needs constant correction. (Philippians 2:1-5)

Friday, December 29, 2006

The middle road

I am called to repay a curse with a blessing. The path of non-violence and not non-resistance. I am called not to be silent but to walk as Jesus walked. He chose the path of non-violence and suffering. Working this out in everyday life is the trick. It seems easier when there are clear cut evil boundaries like the sea meeting the land. The everyday dialogue is filled with so much grey, misinformation and smudged boundaries that to speak up and not be resistant to evil is difficult. It is possibly the moment my own heart is troubled by injustice, unfair criticism or is hurt that the alarm bells ought to ring for me to be cautious with my words and my actions. This and at the same time to be aware that it is possibly the time I need to gracefully resist the evil. The disciplines of my faith should be the building blocks of my hearts reaction to the subtle play of evil all around me. The easier route from violent reaction is the other evil, silent hatred. Both are as bad as the other. Help me find the middle road. The path that is bold enough to speak the truth with love. (My thoughts are provoked by 1 Peter 3:8-12 and “Daily bible Study – Adult bible Studies”)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lasting gratification

If only one could stick to things with the same fervor all the time. Certain things bring temporary fulfillment and we assume we will feel the same when doing them again. Not so, we may feel nothing the next time we do it, or even at times disdain. The truth of the matter is that some things are forever and others are just for the moment. The moment has its place, but the things we deem important are necessary to stitch into our lives in such away that they bring lasting fulfillment. The patterns of conscious discipline working towards higher values will eventually be the true reward. The grace of God that brings life to our limbs grows tall upon the wired trellis of our established and worked out principles and values. Weighing up the moments feelings are critical if we are to become anything but a reacting being. The ability to discern between the quick moving emotion of pleasure and the longer more satisfying feelings that come from learned discipline is critical. Our joy comes from the ability to open up our life more and more to the grace of God. All we are doing is binding and mending the fence upon which this luscious vine can grow. Why is it that so many people seek help but when asked “And how is your prayer life?” they stutter and stammer as if this is not important. We love magical recipes but don’t ask us to do anything to change ourselves. We know we are made in the image of God and for many of us we know we are the very children of God but the crunch comes in how well we are able to live that out. This only happens through spiritual training and hard work. A longer wait, but whoever told us that instant gratification was the answer?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ghost busters

Ghost busters we are. The call to expose the works of darkness is found in Ephesians 5.8-14. Not only are we to illuminate our lives with the loving light of our faith in Christ and watch the bugs scamper into dark corners but we are to bring that light to others. This is a wonderful image to highlight what happens when the children of God take up their call to meditate and pray with their God. The light gets that much brighter, the obvious bugs that fled long ago have now been replaced by stains unnoticed as the lights radiance brightens. At times there needs to be a spring clean of our soul to remove the persistent dark marks that taint our personality from many years of conscious and unconscious sin. The New Year is upon us and time on earth is once again the subject of discussion. Time is like a broken tap running, its water rushes down into the ground unstopped. May we take every opportunity to catch as much life as we can.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The faithful are storytellers. A story from the heart and not by yellow pages. The story of a relationship that happens in our ‘now’ life. The glow of this story may not even shine from words but merely from presence and action. In fact words can be a distraction. It is important to know that we are storytellers and not readers. A reader takes in a story and appreciates its meaning but the storyteller takes that meaning and translates it into words that helps others read. A storyteller listens to the subject of its story, the heart’s movements, desires and experiences. The skill of the storyteller lies in how well they know their hearts transformed. The ability to put concepts to feelings, names to hopes, and truth to sentiments. The Jesus story is not placed on a shelf or neatly stacked by the bedside. The story of all stories is translated, re-translated and shared from one heart to the next.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Emotional Intelligence

The book Emotional Intelligence has been a watershed in helping me place a number of unclassified notions of mine. The basics of the book is the importance of being able to define your emotions accurately, and then to act in ways that are beneficial to you and those around you. The book is hopeful too. If you are laden with emotional scars from younger days there is certainly hope that one can re-wire the circuitry of the brain to deal with these out of control emotions in different ways. It was interesting to learn that bulimia and anorexia nervosa are not the result of over demanding parents as earlier studies indicated. Later studies have found that the cause of these illnesses are more likely to result from teenagers who have not been able to define their feelings accurately and then coupled with the societal pressure to be skinny becomes a dangerous mess of emotions. The desire for food is confused and becomes a negative trigger rather than a natural response for nutrition. There are countless examples across the board of emotional problems and the book ends with the ways in which emotional imprinting can be reworked through repetitive acts of positive re-inforcement. I am convinced after reading this book that the importance of emotional intelligence learning is critical during the teenage years. A comment in this book that did not surprise me was that one of the factors contributing to the escalation of childhood depression is the breakdown in religious education. Amongst other factors children are not seeing their lives within the greater framework of a God and how their lives have meaning regardless of their circumstances. They are not sure that they can be a greater person or for that matter be forgiven and thus move on to be something different. The Christian faith in my estimation is one of the greatest contributors of emotional intelligence. Let alone the connection with ones creator, but the repetitive disciplines of prayer, mediation, worship, communion etc, are excellent means of re-wiring the emotional and brain circuitry to help people live more adjusted and productive lives.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Never lost

Nature can hold a lesson or two for us. Sitting quietly in prayerful reflection I caught sight of two flying geese in the thick wet fog of the morning. I drove in that fog last night. Not even my car lights could penetrate the mass of water that blankets the hill. The geese flew with such confidence and speed through this fog, their long necks stretched to full capacity and their gliding flight as straight as a line. An astonishing feat considering the visibility. How I wish I could fly with such confidence in the foggy parts of my life. When our weather is foggy we tend to fear the worst and land up going nowhere. The faithful learn to stretch their necks out and beat the air with a confidence that bleeps on another radar system. A confidence that is bred from within and not without. The faith that rests the fear of being lost in the hands of its creator. The faith that knows that wherever it is, it cannot be outside of where God intended it to be. If the heart is with God there are a thousand places to go and no place called lost. We are so funny we are, there seems only to be a right and wrong way. In God, all ways are Gods.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Deeper Vision

I know that solitude and prayer is one of the most powerful ways to encounter the world. Being busy is the easiest way to avoid the real issues. Window dressing is a practice of others, but not the Christian’s. Sitting quietly in the morning with the taste of coffee in the mouth, bible in hand and a guided prayer guide can transform foundations of the heart and thus the Universe itself. We are to be reminded that we can see deeper and know wider once we have looked with Jesus-eyes. The simplest of words , “yes” or “no” that come from hearts rooted in worship and prayer have as much power as the eloquent speech of a Prime Minister. I was reminded today by and article from book “ ‘The gospel according to Abbie James Wells,’ by Abbi James Wells” that it took a “yes” from Mary before Jesus was born (Lk1.38). God proposed and she accepted. The incarnation of God’s presence continues unabated through hearts who are prepared to search deeper and say “yes” to the purpose of God in our world.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wise Old Owl

We sometimes get the wrong impression about prayer. There is too often a magical aroma about it. An over emphasis on the intercessory elements that longs for God to intervene and nothing else. Wishing ourselves and others out of situations by divine intervention is a forceful motive not only for praying but for religion itself. This is the religion that Karl Marx so aptly described as the “opiate of the masses.” Hanging onto the unbelievable to help the persistent drudgery of life have spark and meaning. The fear that we will just accept the status quo of our lives because we are holding onto a picture of what ought to be. The miracle and supernatural of prayer may be a little more than what we assume, if we dare. The prayer life needs expanding to appreciate the contemplative mode of spiritual living.

The little poem sums it up:
“A wise old owl
lived in an oak;
The more he saw
The less he spoke.
The less he spoke
The more he heard.
Why can’t we all be
Like that bird?” ( Old nursery rhyme, Alive in Christ by Maxie Dunnam)

Prayer becomes more a time of careful reflection on the elements of our life before action. The environment we live in, the voice of others, the scriptures, and the whispers in our heart and head. This is the prayer that understands first in silence before it acts with the precision of God. This surpasses the prayer of magic, that just helps us “hang in there” until God does the job. The prayer of contemplation, that sees, listens, and learns, is the prayer that allows the heart to be changed by God so that it can now be of heavenly use in transforming the so called reality of our world. It is prayer that allows God to change us not transport us?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blog news

I am in the process of moving house and thus the hiatus of all mental function. I will blog as soon as I get the chance. To those 4 voluntary subscribers I thank you for paying the slightest bit of attention to my blog. There are some I know who find this all a little odd and a rather pretentious manner of sharing your voice. To those concerned - you shouldn't be reading this anyway. I really am enjoying this means of sharing with friends and I hope you will carry on listening to the rumblings of my soul, and have your two cents worth. Thanks. God bless, and I will be in contact A.S.A.P

Saturday, November 25, 2006


When the rhythms of life change, the disciplines of life find new insight or loose impact all together. Reasons that brought on strict discipline fade when the discipline has enacted its duties. The mind so quickly forgets the base nature of the human soul that will eventually drag itself back into the faults that necessitated the discipline before. Grace helps us not to condemn ourselves but provides the salve that births again the discipline in the newer person. Discipline starts from without and eventually if consistent becomes the natural response born within your soul. Old habits of the mind that are brought on by ancient years of parent-child relationships need to be identified as good or bad and they too with discipline are either left as they are or exorcised from the personality and cast aside. A habit is something we repetitively do without having to think about doing it. The discipline is the tool through which we create and institute these habits of the soul. The tool of discipline is given to us as a grace-gift by God, and in God’s hands can only birth us anew. (“Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modeled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.” Rom. 12.2)

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Beat it, but it will not be dead. Crown it with acacia thorn twisted through torn flesh, pink with revenge, but it will not be dead. Trample the tired old testimony of truth, grind it with the sole of your arrogant boot, kick its ribs until the last crack, but it will not be dead. Eternal, the Christian rises from the blood stained dirt. The glory of God transcendent, alien like, on all fours up truth gets. ("My kingdom is not of this world... for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth."Jhn 18.36-37)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Our doll

If only we could see within. Find optical clarity instead of the blur that makes a name more than a name. Velcro identity, opinions patched, stuck, and clung fast. Peeled of societies tags, there a baby lies, freshly screaming. It is our journey, to strip the foreign doll and find your beating heart, my brother, their sister. (“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Jhn 1.46)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


The morning is quite inside. The prayers and readings have not led me any place significant. I sit and wait with expectation for the movement of God. The heart finds it hard to sit still and allow the patient time to tick by without a gush of adrenaline. The life journey is not necessarily a heart felt one but a discipline of will and patient longing. In the book ‘Emotional intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman the psychologists speak of the ‘flow’ as a place of utmost and ultimate human experience. The time when our learned skills and emotional life work hand in glove. Those times we feel as if we are floating and doing things without thinking about them. It just all comes together. These quite moments of heart and place before God are moments of ‘flow’. Not necessarily a bottle jam of rush-hour spiritual traffic but the steady pace of the cyclist, just one foot before the next, pedal by pedal, and gentle breeze on ones face. The flow of emotions stranded not in experimental craving but secured in loving union with the One above all. The flow of intellectual puzzling with all the edges done and pieces in tact. In God we gently flow, sometimes bumping into highs, other times down rapids of excited thoughts, but generally just bobbing in the eternal drift of divine love. (When you are rooted in him, all melancholy is a thing of the past. All sin is removed, because through the love of God one has entered upon a new way, one has become a totally new person – “Thy Kingdom come: A Blumhardt Reader”)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lesser than

Our beliefs of the end determine our beliefs of the present. The appreciation that we belong to something greater can make us live a life that is lesser. The smaller you think you are the greater you need to become and the greater you know you are the easier smaller becomes. The logics of the spiritual journey are not the logics of the workplace. The aristocracy have no need of becoming for they are, but the bourgeoisie need a name, a vote of confidence, a land, an empire. When we talk of the kingdom of God, it is with this view in mind. We are not heralding another earthly system into power with trumpeted pomp and ceremony. The kingdom of God is built with irreverent things, with crosses, thorns, whips, and piercing nails. A mathematical – lesser than. Only children who know their colours can claim such life. Children born with eternal inheritance and with nothing to loose and nothing to gain. (From that time Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously…Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord’ he said ‘this must not happen to you’ but he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but mans.’ Matt. 16:21-23)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Between the lines

Reading between the lines is where we find God. Not the things that tell us about, the signs that point, the black bound bibles bleating. The living are never subject to pen and ink, a mortal tomb of fence and clocks. It is between the lines like windows on a summer field, the people play with God. The lines, a staff awaiting notes for pitch and rhyme our song to sing. The living praise of those who watch and tend the lines. (You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Jhn. 5.39)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bottled jealousy

The words are arresting - “are you envious because I am generous” (Matt. 20.15) We scrutinize others and feel this creeping question come to mind, “Why should they get so much and I only get this?” It reminds me of that “God’s must be crazy” film. From a plane overhead, a passenger carelessly throws a coke bottle. It falls into a community of Bushmen somewhere in the Kalahari. Never having seen such a thing, they see it at first as a gift sent from the gods above. However, the bottle soon becomes an item of jealousy and wants. It can do so many things for them, that they cannot wait their turn. It creates so much division that they decide with multiple “clicks” to get rid of it and throw it off the end of the world (mountain).

That bottle represents everything that makes people jealous. For each of us the green-envy is something different. The results however are very much the same. We get sick with anger, cold with hatred and the greed produces words that cut instead of heal. What a joy it is to identify this green goblin, seize it like a coke bottle, and throw it over the edge of the world.

We sometimes forget that those closest to you feel the same way we do. This sad truth is felt when your enthusiasm is met with few words, or worse yet – none. The realization helps us come to terms with the need for us to appreciate the things God has given us. We ought rest our eyes calmly within the boundaries of life set out for us (Ps.16). We should not long for what we do not have, if it is not with us by now, we most probably will never have it. We ought not point a finger at God because he is being generous with those around us. Let us rather give God the thumbs up for the things given, than be envious about the things we never got. Why you may ask? - It is a happier life that is why.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Obscure suffering

It is difficult being food for others. The sacred act of his life being broken bread and spilt wine was the way the God-man gave food to others. We too are bread to be broken, shared and eaten by those around us. It speaks of a special kind of social suffering. What has always concerned me is the suffering that has no apparent meaning. The husband who collapses in an epileptic fit leaving himself defenseless to robbers, the stroke that strikes a 29-year-old woman, the hurricane that flattens the shack of a beggar. Irrational unconnected events of suffering that bring untold unexplainable misery.

There must be means through which all the suffering of our lives connect with the meaningful suffering of Christ. Could I take my obscure suffering and somehow find in this the opportunity for it to be an offering of love? If so, then it would be the suffering of the cross, the sign of God’s love in the world. Then any suffering, no matter how obscure or petty could be the suffering that breaks us like bread for the nurturing of others, all suffering now obedient to love. Our bruises becoming the shared bread that breaks with the taste of the God-man’s feast. Our witness, our heart exposed for all. There is something empowering about these kind of people – something deeply spiritual. E.J.Farrell wrote, “No one in this world can escape suffering, but not all suffering is the cross. Suffering cannot be avoided, but one can escape the cross.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fence scars

How much land do we need?
A good question living in South Africa where the land claims court is working night and day deciphering whose footprints lie the deepest. Land is a sacred subject in Africa as much as it was for our forefathers who claimed the lands of the Canaanites and all the other “ites” that stood in their way. Spiritual maps survey different things and lay claim to no land - canine marked with sword for fence. Neither “survival digestion” nor “urinated post” mark its hope. You find no rusted fence down waters edge or scarring line up the mountain head. The land, vast and green is free for all, where all do win. The dream, come now our land fulfill.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Acid test

Trevor Hudson (Methodist minister – Northfield Benoni), a humble servant of God, well known public speaker and author of several books came to speak at our little church yesterday evening. The message was very clear. The acid test of your faith, life, service and ministry is the state of your closest relationships. Those closest to us - how good are those relationships? The classic issue with many Christian’s is Church life becomes a way out of struggling relationships at home. His text was John 2, “the wedding at Cana.” The major points he covered were firstly “letting God be God.” Mary was concerned, and was taking control of the wedding by demanding Jesus do something about the lack of wine. Jesus a typical son tells her that he is not ready, or it is not their business. She turns and tells the servants to listen to Jesus and do what he says. She lets him be God. We are always telling God what God should be doing and not allowing God to take the control of our relationships. The other point he made was the need for to us to “take the first step” in mending relationships no matter how foolish it may be. The servants took water to him to turn into wine, how foolish is that! God will not act without our initial response, this is seen in all the miracles stories of our bible. It seems so foolish to take the first step of reconciliation in a dying relationship. We may get egg in our face, but without this step of foolishness we will not see miracles and see God taking control of our relationships. We are not God, we cannot control other people or determine their actions. All we can do is extend that first gesture of vulnerable love and allow God to do the rest.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tragic testosterone

I have always suspected that I belong to the weaker sex. The pseudo parading of the male race often hides the weaker genes behind gallant gestures of chivalry, brawn hugging activities expressed in blood sports, and the eternal arrogance that they are in power. It flies in the face of experience when men are too often the first to rush to the door the moment real life gets rugged. The battlefield of screaming kids, wives with searing headaches, broken toilets, and dinners unprepared. This battlefield often left for another conquest, another victory flag to prop up in their unending search to be the powerful, the providers, the ones in control. But sadly if not unchecked the male becomes the pathetic pretender in the light of the greater sex who sits still, waits it through, suffers much, lives responsibly to make sure the generation is secure. I was impressed when reading the accounts of the risen man Lazarus and the unexpected confessions of Martha whose spirituality is usually relegated to the kneading of dough. Here she confesses as boldly as Peter, the great confession of faith that the person Jesus, is God-person, the deliverer of humankind. It is the woman who bear the agony of the murder and slaughter of the innocent. The men fled, as one reporter announced, with one whose nightshirt was torn and butt-naked behind the rest ran underground. The woman encircled that tomb with love, and when they announced their new born faith it was the men who would not believe. They weren’t there, they were not in control, they were not important, they had to be the ones to climb Mt. Everest first, be the first to shout the Good News. The greater race were their when the battlefield was ugly, when the flies invaded wounds, and the sun made paper eyes. God bless woman, you are saints.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Electric heart

In, out, around, through
A greyish matter
Bits and bites of information scatter
Streaming – data – news – funny– commercial - infinitum
A wired disease this glossy frothing

Red eyes draining
A greyish matter
Blink and blank it doesn’t gather
Far from things that walk and talk and stalk and balk
tonight at 8 another hopeless glossy frothing

I am often aware of how we live in the wired world of TV cages that help us drain a tear or two to make us feel we are living. The truth is it has divorced us from sharing real feelings with real people in a real world. What concerns me is that today we may find it much easier to cry and sympathize with an electric illusion of electronic pixels, than cry with our next door neighbour who lost her husband?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Aging scones

We are so equipped to live, yet so ill prepared to die. The energies of life are equally balanced but the mind runs from the thinking like a fool runs from truth. Should not age and the passing of time, the acceptance of loss, the preparedness of leaving, the contentment to be unnecessary be necessary ingredients for the fullness of our spirit? I made a batch of scones yesterday and to my delight they came out fluffy and “scone-like”. The greater test came when they were quickly put away by the elderly folk of our community who had come for tea. We spoke about many things as we ate those scones. The past few years lit up before us like an old man and lantern slowly negotiating a path. We stopped to remember how challenging changes had been. We stopped to remember the passing away of loved ones that no longer eat our scones. We remembered our human frailty and laughed at things said and done. We remembered how good it was to be “young.” I had fretted over those scones. At first I had put too much baking powder in the mix. Then I had had to double up on the ingredients to compensate. Then there was too much salt and I had to add a cup more sugar to make them palatable. We accept that scones must have all the necessary ingredients to be just right. Yet we struggle to come to terms with our age, our departure and our necessary demise, the ingredients of life that in the end, when the timer rings, present us ready and completely - “human-like.”

Friday, October 27, 2006


For those of you who have not read Gulliver’s travels, it is a satire of the European culture in the 18th Century. This is the same time that John Wesley trotted around on horseback to put it into perspective. Europe was colonizing the world with questionable motives to claim land and make fortunes out of those they claimed to have “conquered.” Anyway, by the end of Gulliver’s travels through fictional lands with the strangest of people, big and small, he lands up hating humankind. When he returned home he sat the furthest from his wife at the dinner table, and spoke as little as he could to her. He must have looked a sight, as he stuffed his nose with lavender and tobacco leaves to avoid the smell of humankind. The reason why he acted in such an anti-social manner was that in his last journey to a society of noble, rational and peaceable horses he had encountered the “Yahoo’s” which roamed the land. They were a bunch of degenerate life forms. They were filled with every vice known to Gulliver, the men were hairy, the woman had long droopy breasts, and they were as promiscuous as ever. This was reprehensible for Gulliver, but the fact they were proud of their ways made him detest them with all his might. The Yahoo’s were actually a satire of the human race in all their murky darkness. The sadness is that Gulliver does not come to terms with his own Yahoo characteristics and thus he pushes his loved ones away thinking he is better, and greater than they are. Jonathan Swift the author was in many ways an anti-social too, but he was an ordained minister who felt a deep conscience for what his kind were doing to the world. We are always making other people different from ourselves in order to rule over them and have power over them. The next time we call another person a “Yahoo” or a “Fool” in order to feel superior, remember that you too may look a little like Gulliver with tobacco leaves stuffed his nose. Wielding power in your own subtle but Yahoo way.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Summer tears

A gospel story I haven’t read for some time (Luke 7: 36-50). A remarkable story of an “immoral” woman washing the God-man’s feet with tears and perfume in the house of a pompous religious man. The man called Saviour confronts the self righteousness of this “religious bore” for his inability to perceive love staring straight at him. The little parable of universal truth Jesus gives, is that the more one is forgiven and or loved, the greater the debt cancelled and the escalation of appreciation you experience. This woman in comparison to the “all knowing” man was at his feet weeping, but he could hardly entertain his guest with the least of civil respects. A beautiful ‘forgotten’’ story in our liturgy of worship. Our return to God and the reasoning behind many religious hearts that cannot truly find that place of worship where they “feel” the integrity of heart with God. Where tears are shed in a more spontaneous and unadulterated stream. Where tears are not mustered, nor brought on by fantasy or the flicker of a screen. The kind of tears that heave inwardly with the echoes of primal destiny and cutting need. To be forgiven Greatly is the only true worship known to God. The self important man I doubt could wash anybodies feet, he could not greet another less perfect with a kiss, or comfort a child with a soothing balm. He did not understand the ignorant desert of his mind, the acres of barren worship as tatty as a scarecrow and unloving as a starving crow. The God-man had the Way of building up tears that could flush this wasted land to green. Summer tears that could wash out the pith and ghostly forms of our loveless-love. To be Greatly loved is always to love Greatly.
(Note: Those who were on retreat last weekend - note how similar this is to the Prodigal son story. The “responsible” brother compared to the self righteous Pharisee. The “irresponsible” brother compared with the immoral woman?)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tangible shadow

It is uncharacteristic of Jesus to get into an academic debate. The logical process called “reason” has a short lifespan. It rarely brings about a spiritual dimension. The problem with reason is that it is only satisfied with the obvious and the status quo. It cannot gather things outside of its grasp. These things it calls nonsense, rubbish or unbelievable, are so named because they are not named. The questions we ask of God are much the same. “Who is my neighbour?” and by that we assume we will get a list of people, fat, thin, grumpy, and funny. A tight list, all nicely cut, dried, and tied up with string. It is what we like you and I? A + B = C. Aristotle would have been proud with an introduction, argument and a conclusion but not the rough parable speaking Rabbi called Jesus. I love this God-man Jesus, he puts our thinking to other uses. He transports us from logic to love as quickly as a mother puts her child to sleep with a story. He is very good with stories. A road traversing the steepest of mountainside is cavernous with the meanest of thief who bashed the living daylights out of an unsuspecting traveler. For what reason nobody knows, but the man lies naked, red in dust with only a vulture for hope. His only rescue comes when he feels the shadow of a man pass cold over him, but before the word can come to his tongue the shadow has passed as fleeting as the bird cries ahead. Another came and went, a trail of lame, unloving holy prayer, leaving only the bitter scent of betrayal. That is until another shadow fell upon his body that did not move, it stopped, a voice, a touching hand, and an ointment searing but soothing the fleshy wounds. When at last Jesus finished his story at a nearby inn, the shadow was none less than the shadow of the man you would least expect. That person whose kind you had never shared a meal with. The one who others called a traitor, an enemy, an outcast, a man whose faith you often scorned. Jesus redefined this shadow into the face of mercy, and we the listeners, as those before us sit back aghast, to throw our reason to the wind. There is no rightful reason not to have mercy, there is no religious reason to define who belongs and who doesn’t belong. In all this the great story teller is helping us take our fence cutters and eliminate the confounded boundaries that stagnate love and grace. We need to look at each other unhindered and allow the mercy of God move freely between our communal needs.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Only a fly

I am today again stopped in my tracks with knowledge that ought not just transform thought but attitude and behaviour. About 40 000 children under 5 years of age die each day in the world with symptoms of malnutrition. That is roughly about 40 million children a year. The part of this “pandemic” that I find more cutting to the conscience is that this train of death is not the result of a rampant virus but the disease of the human heart. Poverty is the result of not just the absence of money, but the breakdown of a community through years of human darkness. The virus of greedy exploitation and the cancer of moral breakdown brings a nation, a family, a child to its knees with all for its longing tongue but the “fly” of death stuck dry. How far does our community reach I wonder? John Wesley said “the World is my parish!” and I think today I am of the same persuasion.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Don’t tickle my foot!

The God-man Jesus washing Peter’s feet has always been an “example” passage for me. Go and do likewise – be a servant as I was. Surprisingly, a virtual shift with Peter throws new light on an already well trod story. Unless our names mingle the message is somehow lost. The heart of the message is how difficult it actually is to dangle ones toes before God. I tried, and I didn’t realize what a struggle it would be to sit down and ask the God-man to wash my feet. I can imagine there to be many different reasons why my feet are not in the place for cleansing. My feet are often running away for fear of being exposed. My feet are skeptical of some loony trying to manipulate and control my life. My feet are dumbstruck that somebody of so much importance would want to spend so much time with me. Could God really find time to serve me, to think about me, to care for my toes? This Christian concept is a phenomenal leap in spirituality. The unexpected intimacy of created and Creator around a towel and dirty water. The upset of ordained hierarchy as a cracked heel is soothed. A God-man prepared to bend, to kneel before a human-man. No other Religion I know has such a thought in its library. It is bound to make one feel special, needed, it makes one important in the ever expanding universe of atom and sunburst.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Unbelievable smile

I am sure the stories of the ancient are laced with a touch of hyperbole to drum home the unbelievable nature of God. The impossible is possible and the creator is able to do and undo the created time and space at whim. A difficult concept for the faithful of this century to anticipate. Can God move you through walls, break chains that bind you to captors, liberate you to victory in unbelievable acts of salvation. Well it was not that unbelievable to those in a century where Darwin was still to be formed from dust and Einstein was yet to grow his hair. An unbelievable Universe is the Universe of the Christian. The hope that the "Artist" can take his finger and smudge the paint of the artwork and allow the unplanned happen before a re-touch. Creation, the Mona Lisa removed from the cloister of her temperate cocoon to have a make-over before so many scrutinizing eyes. The image of creation always seems to stare with impossible and irremovable eyes and smile, but even the scrutinizing eyes will know that with "match and bellow" the persistant paint will crack, melt and blacken and canvas will reveal the fleeting, dancing, nature of what we call rock solid and eternal. It is all in motion, from glowing lava to racing thoughts, so how impossible can it be for a God to brushstroke impossible acts and for us to see its affects?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Jesus leader

I am reading the book by Eugene Peterson: “The unnecessary pastor.” Only in so far as the introduction and first chapter and it feels as if I am identifying with his thoughts already. The “Christian leader” today may have been domesticated by the cultural to the extent that they are not being affective for the real work of God. The church can mould its minister into the model that looks good in the eyes of other churches, and the secular world. The CEO, the expert, the trained theologian, the trained marriage counselor, but what about the leader who walks the path of Jesus. Christianity at its core is counterculture and resistant to the status quo. The leader should not be measured according to the prowess of his or her skills, abilities, education, and expertise. It would seem so looking at the criteria church’s ask when interviewing a new minister. I was in a leaders meeting as an expectant minister and they shared with me the kind of minister they were looking for. The list looked like the list of a corporate business trying to find a Messiah that would do what they wanted more than what God wanted. I shudder at how the Church forgets its heritage to dress itself up as more of a pacifier than a agent of God’s revelation. Look forward to the rest of the book.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

discipline of loving

It is only with the divine Grace that we can make our moral disciplines beam love. Only the spirit in worship with The Spirit of creation that helps us move from a heart of cold stone to a heart of flesh. The integrity that comes from living successfully by rules is cheap and nasty. The integrity that comes by living within loving relationships for which all rules are made is the integrity of a deeper and healthier person.

A balance I struggle with at times. (Not that I am even doing much prayerful discipline, in fact peanuts in comparison to some.) I am just horrified to see what it can do, it can bring hardness and coldness that speaks nothing of all one is trying to achieve. I am assured that it is much harder to love people I don’t like, than it is to prayer - much harder to care for people I am bored with, than to explain the hidden meaning of scriptures - much harder to share what I own than it is to meaningfully worship on Sundays. The discipline of Loving is too often ignored for the vain quest to live only in its religious shadows.

Friday, October 06, 2006

“Life of Pi,” by Yann Martel. The book is riddled with hidden nuance and thought provoking "brain" material. The concept of “territory” in Religion is an interesting provocation. Who owns what, and who dares to own God. The main character of the book “Pi” belongs to Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. The leader’s of each holy place don’t know the other allegiances, until one day they all converge in a park. Nobody likes the idea, you cannot belong to the one or the other. Martel does not go into the details, but he provokes deeper thought. The parallel story is the zoo. The way in which animals find their territory outside of their natural habitat. The way in which animals are able to live side by side and find unique relationships. The Rhino was able to find company in a herd of goats. A mouse was able to find company with a pit of adult vipers who for some strange reason did not eat the mouse, that is until the junior viper not knowing the deal, quickly gave himself a mouthful. The fascinating concepts of anthropomorphism and zoomorphism are approached. The danger of humans personifying animals, and the way animals relax their natural instincts to help others species survive. The dog rearing lion cubs; the strangeness of seeing domestic cats and dogs lying asleep on top of the other. This got my brain going, as Martel loosely associates the Religious territorialism and that of Zoomorphism. Is there a way of religion finding places of convergence whereby they can be the example of the “lamb and lion together.” Martel does not deny the carnivorous plight of the earth. His illustration of a carnivorous algae island floating in the sea is a superb illustration of seeing the earth as this place whereby all is there to consume and devour. The island turns acidic at night and eats the fish trapped in its fresh water channels and caverns. It is worth the read. The thoughts he stimulates are the coming together of Religious thought and institution within this world. How similar are their prejudices aligned to the carnivorous capacity of all other things. However he redeems religions quest for "another way of life" in the earlier part of the book, in Pi’s insatiable belief that there is one God for all. Pi’s travels at see in a life boat with a large orange tiger called “Richard Parker,” is a sure test for all Martel’s thoughts. (Will call my next cat Richard Parker for sure.)

In waiting

The soul ought stand guard, ready in discipline and love. Who knows how much darkness has been avoided by those hours in prayer and careful meditation? How many hooded thoughts come uninvited through the back door and rob your house of order and the soul’s treasures. What strangers of imagination have been welcomed with careless judgment, to live out a lie of friendship in the heart that one day robs you blind. The disciplined heart stays awake at night, midday until the last sighting of the sun. The soul stands guard but not for the thief, this is incidental. The soul is waiting for the hope of love, the confirmation of its salvation, the readiness to serve its master, but most of all the reward of love that has been done.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Now or never

I am reminded again today of living the "here and now." Our minds are so fractured, so many angles of light displaced, and notes some harmonious and some discordant. To find a place called “now” is not that easy. Our thoughts leap from one branch to the next, the branch called tomorrow, the branch called yesterday, the branch of whenever. Is it not true that when you hold onto “now” in meditative prayer, simplicity of doing things - one at a time is the steady pace of fulfillment, follow-through, and accomplishment?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A way to deal with unjust accusation

The image of the martyr Stephen is helpful when others sin and darkness are thrown like stones against one. The martyr was looking up in faith, convicted of his innocence within, and forgave those whose stones hurt, for they did not know what they were doing.

Monday, October 02, 2006


The anxiety we awake to each morning to achieve something new could blind to us to the diamonds we already possess. Much of our world is burning away, being cut away, thrown aside, hurded into zoos in order to survive - just because we always want something new every day. What would your world look like if we just polished the valuable items we already have?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The first blog

Hi, this will no doubt be read by nobody. However I trust this may be a forum for me to connect with my congregation and pass on any news and reviews that are in my head.