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.”