DAY 454: YOU’LL BE THE DEATH OF ME

deathMy late mother Helene always used to worry about us as children. Somehow my eldest sister Anna (pictured above) did things and made decisions that really “stressed out” the old lady. Comments like “she makes me so mad!” and “YOU’LL BE THE DEATH OF ME” still ring in my ear and come back to haunt me time and time again.

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Mom died in 1987 and  Anna 20 years later in 2006. Now it is 2016. On Saturday we celebrated HERITAGE DAY. Time was given on this public holiday to retrace our steps as a nation and as individuals. The gift of honouring our heritage as Christians draws me into the thoughts of the prophet Isaiah: “He awakens my ear that I may hear like a disciple” (Is. 50:4)

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On HERITAGE DAY in South Africa, we listen to an irregular heart beat. We are living in a world of unresolved conflicts – forcing young students, for example, to express their anger in unacceptable patterns.  A video of a Touws River Truck driver expressing his concern about what’s happening on campus has hit the headlines. So too has a Master’s student now into his 3rd Post graduate degree.

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The Press is loving it. There’s a feeding frenzy in cyberspace. Here’s a story that sadly is turning into “THE DEATH OF US”. When a precious Law Library is destroyed and rhinos are killed or raw sewerage is poured into lagoons, we are trashing our Heritage.  It’s hard to speak these ongoing issues in a relaxed conversational tone. We are responsible not only for what we say, but equally how we say it.

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I really appreciated the comments that brought back memories of our life at Salty Print. Beatrice Smith (pictured above) was (and still is my P.A.). She gave me structure, time and space to exercise my creativity and fulfill my dreams of transformation. Salty Print (Transforming Paper, People and Places) left a memorable imprint by becoming utterly and radically flesh in terms of its Mission Statement.

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We learned life’s lessons. A supportive Board of Management became our canon (measuring rule). Presenting those financials and monitoring the trends of how we were doing steadied the ship. I realised we were making history.

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My argument was quite simple. I said: “The church is in decline and transition. We need to generate new income streams, because the way we are operating is unsustainable”. Nobody seemed to understand. Today, Salty Print continues to flourish as a Private Enterprise and is no longer owned by the church.

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The old Salty Print Circuit (0125) had a name change and was transformed into Circuit (Mowbray) 0125 five years ago. Mossop Hall (the only Society in the Circuit) returns to the Dumisani 0103 Circuit (formerly Rosebank) as a Preaching Station in January 2017. The other Societies Rosebank, Pinelands, Athlone, Langa, Maitland Garden Village, Klipfontein, Thornton and Ruyterwacht will be able to tap into the reservoir of experience and wisdom we have sourced in our work with churches in transition.

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My eye blink  response is that most Methodist Churches are close to bankruptcy. The way we live out our ministry is just not sustainable. “YOU’LL BE THE DEATH OF ME!” is prophetic. Jesus talked of life being like seeds that need to die and be buried in the ground. He leaves us with the promise that (like the Arum lily) he will rise again. Therein lies our hope.

I was speaking to a friend about a subject close to my heart. The conversation reminded me of the late Dr. Ivan May (pictured above). He said: “Mark it’s all about discipline”. Discipline in our private lives, business and “the way we make decisions”.  Some of us need PA’s (like me) to keep us close to the real world. If we don’t put systems in place it will be “THE DEATH OF ALL OF US”. The thought of a whole new world is always our hope. Those who die and rise again with Christ can credibly bear witness.

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DAY 453: KEEP OUR EYES OPEN

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We OPEN OUR EYES each morning to a new day, but how much of the newness of life will we really see?  If the truth be told, there is a great deal that we miss. Social media addicts deal with  FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in our internet driven society. Yet they fail to see what is happening around them because they are glued to their screens.

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At this time of the year, Capetonians sense that Spring is in the air. The Arum lilies are in full bloom and wherever there are open fields with access to water, the Arums thrive. Jesus told his disciples to KEEP THEIR EYES OPEN. “Be observant!”, he insisted. To those who were bewildered and confused in life, and who felt that they had not real purpose, he said: “Consider how the lilies (wild flowers) grow!”.

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“If God clothes the flowers of the field, is he not more likely to clothe you – you little faiths?”.  Jesus goes on to urge them not to worry about what they will eat, drink and wear. “Set your heart on his kingdom and his goodness”.

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I remember climbing with an experienced and sharp eyed mountaineer in the mountains of the Western Cape. We were making our way through a drab stretch of terrain in which there did not appear to be much that was interesting. Suddenly she left the party and then went some distance away from where we were and called us to come over. There in a little crag she showed us a small cluster of exquisite wild flowers. She had seen what we had missed. We had been blind. Yet all the time the beauty was there. So it is with God’s wonderful world.

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The voice of Lois Armstrong brings focus and the lyrics express a wonder that OPENS OUR EYES. There is spleandour even in the ordinary things of life and places for those who have EYES TO SEE. The point is that there is so much in life that we just do not see. Jesus looking at the wild flowers uses the imperative “TAKE A CAREFUL LOOK AT THEM!”.

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Here in the Cape, springtime is always wonderful after the heavy winter rains. Even from my home I can see waterfalls gushing down the rock faces of the mountain once the cold front has moved on.  There is a grandeur right on our doorstep that takes your breath away.

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But DO WE SEE IT? The gift of each new day is filled with opportunities for doing good. I think that God’s Spirit creates beauty even in the arid areas of life. The wonder of creation is life giving. If there is someone reading this blog who has lost heart and (for various reasons) become discouraged and cynical … maybe springtime is inviting you to make full use of your eyesight.

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“Open your eyes” says Jesus “and look around”. He told his hearers to look at the farmer ploughing or sowing; at the housewife busy sweeping or mending or baking. Living life to the glory of God.

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There is a story that suggests that the Arum lily goes back to the Garden of Eden. It is said that when Eve left the garden she shed tears of penitence and from those tears sprang up the white lilies. It is from that act of penitence that the Christian life begins.

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Let me explain. The word Arum comes from the Greek verb meaning “to raise to life”. It is only when there is true repentance, a readiness to acknowledge our wrong doing and a willingness to apologise that new life kicks in. We OPEN OUR EYES.

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May God grant us the courage to admit the wrong that we do and in sincerity to say “I’m sorry” to make amends. Raised into newness of life through EYES wide OPEN, let us ask the one who urged his disciples to consider how the wild flowers grow. Better still, our  preparation for Holy Communion always includes the prayer “to create in all of us a new and a clean heart”.  His Spirit OPENS OUR EYES  and heart and mind.

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DAY 452: A NEW OUTLOOK

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I often think of Paul, a prisoner in chains, stating his case before King Agrippa in the judgement hall. He talked about the impact of Christ on his life. In that blinding encounter with Christ on the Damascus road something dramatic happened.  Saul quickly learned that there was work to be done “Why do you persecute me?” asks Jesus. Jesus gave him a completely NEW OUTLOOK on life. Saul of Tarsus knew that he was needed. He became Paul the Apostle.

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A NEW OUTLOOK  begins when we realise that we are needed and have a part to play in the task at hand. Life now has a purpose. Soon we discover something that comes from meeting basic human need. When God comes into our lives, there is  A NEW OUTLOOK. We know that there is work to be done for God’s Kingdom. We realise that we must shoulder responsibility because our contribution is needed. On reflection, we understand that there is something unique in our personality which makes the difference.

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Paul speaks of diversities of gifts but the same spirit. He tells how one had words of wisdom, another the gift of faith, another the gift of healing. All these gifts were to be used to the glory of God in the fellowship of His church. So today we are not all cast in the same mould. Some are able to preach, some are specially suited for teaching, some have the gift of friendship bringing new hope to the discouraged, the lonely and the sick; some have the gift for writing and through correspondence give splendid service; some are gifted with their hands and are helpful in so many ways.

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We all have our part to play in God’s Kingdom. The NEW OUTLOOK reminds us that there is certain work which only we can do for him. So, for example, do we bring out the best in our loved ones (partners)?  Or has the love of God in our heart grown cold?  Are our children becoming strangers to us? Have distractions eroded possible quality time with them? These are the questions that arise when we take  the NEW OUTLOOK to heart. Maybe our role at work is to pour oil over troubled waters, alleviating the tensions caused by jealousy and dented egos.

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Learning to “say sorry” is part of the language of the NEW OUTLOOK. when barbed, unkind words are spoken in anger, how can we overcome the conflict with goodness and kindness?  All this and more is the work to which God calls us.

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How tempting it is for us in the things of God to leave the work to others. Yet all the time God is calling us not to look around to blame and criticise others, or to look back, but to put our hand to the lawn mower (wheel/plough), to do the work ourselves and so be fit for the kingdom.

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This is the NEW OUTLOOK. The source of all life has set us in the world for a purpose. Sunday is COSMOS Sunday:  time for those who worship to give thanks for the ways in which we experience our Creator through the sights and sounds, the feel, smell and taste of the world around us. The NEW OUTLOOK draws us into the peace of lonely places; the majesty of mountain and ocean; the excitement of wind and storm; the fascination of animals great and small; the glory of sunrise and sunset and the beauty of flower and tree.

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As days go by, we rejoice that there is work for us to do. The possibilities are endless. Time and time again we have squandered opportunities for doing good.  Jesus invites us to forget ourselves and follow in his steps.

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DAY 451: BLURRED VISION

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When we discover that there is special work for us to do, our lives are gifted with new purpose and direction.

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Today, with so many distractions, we can find ourselves in a spiritual blur – completely out of focus. We live in an age when values are blurred. Think of what is spent on armaments, liquor, gambling and self indulgence – the obscene salaries of sports person and film stars – we can all name chapter and verse..

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In contrast to this, spare a thought for those who are struggling to improve living conditions on earth by fighting poverty, disease, ignorance and evil. Yet they are always short of funds.

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The way we spend our time is an indication of our sense of values. When there is a sporting event or show we would like to see, somehow we usually manage to find time for it. But when there is a challenge of sacrificial service we often find ourselves saying “I’m so busy – I simply haven’t got time”.

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Spiritually we are BLURRED. Blurred vision fritters away our time on non-essentials (e.g.how many hours do we spend in front of the TV?). I think when our perspective in wrong, we discover (too late) that we have missed the best.

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Happily in a world of blurred vision, the world/rule of God comes bringing true focus. In Scripture there is constant emphasis on that which is of real value. And an impatience with detail.  The Psalmist sings “One thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in his Temple, living in his presence everyday of my life, delighting in his incomparable perfections and glory” (27:4).

Martha’s VISION  was BLURRED and she was burdened by her “busy”ness. Mary saw things in their right perspective. She was not going to lose the golden opportunity afforded by the presence of Jesus. He commended her for her sense of values and said: “Mary has discovered it – and I won’t take it away from her” (Lk. 10:42).

The blind man, whose sight Jesus had restored was not particularly phased about the questions from the Pharisees. He was confident about something far more important: “One thing I know, that, once I was blind, now I see!”.  Like the owner of these two dogs at the Milnerton Flea Market.  He had to convince his pets that it was only a rocking horse!

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I think we have lost much of that assurance in today’s world to BLURRED VISION. People of (Christian) faith claim to be followers of Jesus. They might not have slick answers for the cynics and critics. Yet deep down in their hearts they know that God has come into their lives. There’s an awakening. They lift up their hearts and proclaim to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

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Even amidst the rush and complexity of living out the days of our lives, Christ is still the way, the truth and the life. His invitation (call) is not to be misled by the trivial but to fix our eyes on Him.

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In our perplexity and battles with BLURRED VISION he will help (guide) us to see clearly and not miss our providential way. If we have been misled and bewildered by false values … or currently find ourselves wandering along paths that lead to nowhere  … his word is not a confused blur.

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Christ sees what we mess. My prayer is that as we enter into the spirit of Spring time here in the Cape … more and more may we see all the beauty that is there. That we may set our hearts on His kingdom and His goodness. In the words of the chorus “Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus”.  In that breakthrough there is NO BLURRED vision.

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DAY 450: THE INNER LIFE

conflict10In our real selves (our INNER LIFE),  there is a constant struggle between the forces of good and evil.  The best Afrikaans word to describe “the stuff that we deal within” is BINNEGOED – a name that I gave to a weaving that Arlene once made and which (sadly) no longer hangs in the passage to cover the electricity board in our home.

birthday10Around the 6th Century B.C. the Persian (Iranian) prophet Zoroaster taught that all life was divided into good and evil. He was addressing the same conflicts that torment us day in and day out. There was, he said, a good god and an evil god. This unresolved conflict of good and evil (right and wrong) working in our lives still rages.

burglar13Such is THE INNER LIFE. In each of us there is a divided self. Zoroaster stressed that the forces of goodness and evil are the motive power of the universe, in which the good will finally triumph. Think of Dr. Jekyll, the London physician who could transform himself into an embodiment of evil. He became Mr. Hyde without desiring to be his worse self.

Confidence4Here were these two selves in constant conflict,  warring against each other.  As Mr. Hyde he was pure evil and embarked on a crime filled life of rampage and destruction. As Dr. Jekyll he was filled with noble aspirations and was diligent in the service of meeting basic human need.

carols16It was out of this discordant situation that St. Paul’s INNER LIFE is revealed. He cries out “When I want to do the right, only the wrong is within my reach … who is there to rescue me?”. Because he longed to be set free from the grip of evil, his heart was open to God. In triumph he shouts (as did the Wesleys) “If God be for us, who can be against us?” and goes on to say “who can separate us from the love of Christ?”.

easter2Paul gives the conflict a name. We journey into his INNER LIFE. “Shall tribulations, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword   … separate us from the love of God?”.

birthday5The apostle discovered that what he could not do in his own strength, God did for him. I like the way he says “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

confidence5This discovery was not an automatic process, for God does not force his way into any life. He will enter no heart uninvited. Before Jesus healed the cripple man at the pool of Bethesda he asked him “Do you want to recover?”. It was only after he was assured that the man really wished to live a healthy life that he healed him”.

communism7Christ does not intrude. But where he is wanted, where the door is opened, there he will enter. By his presence and by his power there can be victory over evil. His spirit brings harmony out of discord. Listen to St. Paul again. With him we rejoice and say “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.

inner-lifeWhen we open our hearts to the love and life of Jesus, something happens. His spirit brings purpose out of aimlessness. We examine our INNER LIVES and discover that we are a mixture of heaven and earth, of good and evil.

inner-life1Clearsightedness out of confusion is God’s gift to us. If life has not worked out for us as we had hoped. Or if pain and suffering have been our lot and we have lost heart, making us become sour and cynical … may we hear his voice saying: “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”.

inner-life3My INNER LIFE says that I can live with that truth.

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DAY 449: THE STORMS OF LIFE

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When we anticipate a calm evening here in Cape Town, the South Easter decides to blow hard. You cannot sail into stormy seas beyond the harbour.

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THAT’S LIFE!  We hope for calm and peaceful sailing – instead there is turbulence. LIFE becomes windswept. Worries and anxieties stress us out. We have to deal with financial woes, secret fears about our health, unhappiness at home – parents drifting apart, sinister qualities appearing in children – transport issues  … the list is endless.

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Forces are unleashed and bring havoc. Jesus said that LIFE would bring its STORMS to everyone. The rain descends. The floods came. The wind blew – not only on the home of the man who built on sand, but also on the man who build on rock. He was not exempt from the storm.

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Even St. Paul was not a stranger to STORMS. He reminds us that there were troubles all around – “fighting’s without – fears within”.

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Maybe someone is reading this blog, feeling that their outlook is hopeless and all is lost. It’s good to know (and remember) that STORMS were not unknown to Jesus. In the midst of the STORM he could remain serene and unafraid. Mark, (blunt as usual) records the jibe “Master, don’t you care that we perish?”. Calmly ignoring their sneer, Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and there was a great calm.

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The amazing transformation filled those seamen with awe. Quietly they questioned each other “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the waves (sea) obey him?”. The secret of tranquility in THE STORMS OF LIFE takes us to the heart of the Gospel. The peace of God in the midst of THE STORM is one of the great gifts of God in Christ.

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Throughout his earthly life he heard the snarl of discontent – the relentless hostility of enemies plotting to silence and kill him – but in his heart was the PEACE OF GOD. Those who know him learn this secret. St. Paul, thinking about the STORMS that lashed his LIFE could write to his friends “No matter what state I am in, I have learned to be content”. He learned that secret from God.

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My maternal grandfather (Captain Rasmus Tonnesen/ born in Hovden, Norway) was struck down by an incurable disease. After long months of pain he sent out an urgent call for the specialist to come and see him (in those days, house calls still happened!). Grandpa made the doctor promise that he would give a truthful answer to the question.

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Fixing his eye on him he said “You cannot save my life, can you?”.  Looking with experienced and unflinching eyes Grandpa read the truth in the honest face of the specialist. He realised then and there that he would never again enjoy days of good health and freedom from pain. He was in THE STORM.

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Then, very calmly he answered: “I have no fear. I am not afraid to die, for my trust is in God”.

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Spare a thought for those who who have lost heart, feeling overwhelmed by THE STORMS OF LIFE. For all whose lives are darkened by the clouds of fear and anxiety, who feel helpless in the ill winds that blow, swept off their true course and overwhelmed.

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Unbowed by the force of evil, forsaken and crucified, Christ’s love endured to the end. In THE STORM there was peace in his soul. That’s why we call it “PEACE which passes all human understanding”.

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DAY 448: THE GLUE IS GONE

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THE GLUE IS GONE!  Somehow these words have stuck with me ever since I heard them from a local preacher at Mossop two Sundays ago. He was reflecting on the way families disintegrate after a grandmother dies. This has been my experience of family life time and time again. The matriarchal and patriarchal lineage is broken and THE GLUE IS GONE.

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The thought got me thinking and I decided to dig a little deeper. “What is the glue?”  I asked. My search led me to three discoveries. 1. Authority 2. Respect 3. Responsibility (and accountability). I started to examine the GLUE OF AUTHORITY.  It’s a question that pops up time and time again in the gospels. Think of the Roman centurion who says  “I am a man under authority”.  He knows his chain of command and is obedient to those rules and regulations that bring order and discipline.

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Family life has in many ways changed beyond all recognition. There are too many distractions and the joy, for example, of sitting around a table and having a meal together (without looking at cell phones) has become history. We can no longer afford those regular Sunday roasts and carefully prepared meals because we are too busy or too tired or just couldn’t be bothered when takeaways beckon.

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THE GLUE IS GONE.  Who is the AUTHORITY (our first port of call) in our decision making? How many of us still yearn for that parental approval?  It’s a strange mix, isn’t it?  The structure, the discipline, the control, the values and the wisdom evaporates. We look around and say “THE GLUE IS GONE!”.

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At the same time, the GLUE OF RESPECT flies out of the window.  My heart is saddened as I listen to modern day teachers giving up on their profession. There is NO RESPECT. Is it because the “ME generation” powered by slick marketing and the secular squeeze has usurped the kingdom values which we cherish?  THE GLUE (of RESPECT) IS GONE.

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Even in the church, the faithful ranks of men and women of stature are dwindling. Sometimes we need to confess when we have become spectacularly unglued. It’s certainly true that God works through many and varied means. Even in the worst horrors of war and disease, some shaft of hope and goodness lights up among the terrible shadows. We catch a glimpse of the glue.

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THE GLUE IS GONE?  The third discovery about the glue was the loss of RESPONSIBILITY (and ACCOUNTABILITY). Peter Drucker – the management guru (or was it Alvin Toffler in “Future Shock”) said: “the biggest problem we will face in the future is that no one will want to take on RESPONSIBILITY“. Their prophecy has come true time and time again in my engagement with organisational life. “It’s always someone else’s job”. That’s  the chorus.

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During this window of home and church maintenance (and restoration) I have been working with glue. We dismantled our stoep table top and re-glued the planks. The carpenter (a neighbour down the road) said: 1. make sure the surfaces are clean 2. spread the glue carefully all over the areas you want to join and give it time to penetrate into the timber 3. once dry – make contact. Press down firmly and clamp.

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In that moment I re-discovered the true workings of GLUE.  As Christians we turn to the carpenter from Nazareth and re-affirm that our whole life is founded (GLUED) on his promises. His spirit can re-enforce crumbling relationships, heal deep hurts, refresh our love, provide forgiveness and soften hardened attitudes.

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Authority, respect and responsibility is the GLUE we seek in this troubled world in which we live.

 

DAY 447: OUT OF THE WILDERNESS

Neighbour26I have started to receive a number of e mails and phone calls asking “What has happened to your blog?”. The answer is quite simple: “I’ve been doing other things!”. “Like what?”, you might ask. Three initiatives have consumed my time and energy since the last post (DAY 446: ANCHORS AND CHAINS). These are 1. Transforming the garage (building)  2. Transforming Chairs (refurbishing)  3. Transforming Mossop Hall (painting).

New Year10Projects inspire me. Driven by the wisdom of the writer to the Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, I need to return to my commitment on transformation. At Salty Print my buy line for the work not only included “Transforming Paper, People and Places” but also our statement of intent. We promoted “project development, skills transfer and poverty relief” as key signposts to the success of Salty Print. I was and still am passionate about “Employment creation … not sheltered employment”.

neighbour5So I needed to return to my roots. Whilst in the wilderness, I have been 1. building a Team  2. managing Projects and 3. calling Closure. The secret of (semi) retirement is to work on a plan that addresses the question of “retirement to” rather than “retirement from”.

Easter1I have missed the connectivity and “hands on engagement” with artisans and people willing to work. That’s always been the imprint of Salty Print on my life. The decision to transform the garage and store room at our home has taken a long time to implement. Enter Thomas and Alex. They are wonderful workers and make a great team.

Neighbour29 - CopyNeighbour30neighbours31In consultation with the architect and engineers we moved the garage door, tiled floors and walls, fitted new doors, windows and ceilings, power points and lighting. Finishing always takes time. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint does to a tired property.

Neighbour6We were on a roll. With a borrowed sanding machine, we refurbished 50 of the old Homberg Steel chairs and gave them a couple of coats of varnish. Thanks to my weekly Bible Study (we have been studying a book a week – with just four books to go) I now have a text (only four words each) for the back of each chair. All the books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation will be represented on 66 chairs. The balance (still using only four words) will come from the Hymn Books. This project is still work in progress.

Neighbour28The painting of the inside of Mossop Hall has been long overdue. You have to be a magician with rollers, brushes, paint and ladders to allow the regular weekly users of the property uninterrupted access.

neighbour25Happily we are a long way down the track. I am ready to call closure. The time has arrived for me to emerge out of the wilderness of repairs and maintenance and return to the world of words and pictures.

Neighbour27We all know that during this window of electronic shut down of http://www.markhovdenstephenson.wordpress.com – the world has been busy. We’ve seen political changes, exits, Olympics, wars and earthquakes  .. and still life goes on.

Neighbour32Building the team, managing the projects and calling closure are all part of living life to the full.  We move on and meet the future with hope and anticipation. Thank you for your patience. Feel free to respond to the blogs. It certainly keeps the conversation going!

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DAY 446: ANCHORS AND CHAINS

Anchors1Margaret Vivienne Hodgkiss was like a second grandmother to me. Born in Brierley Hill near Birmingham, U.K. on 23rd March 1925  I spent much of last week watching life leave her until she died. Like most grannies in the world today, she faced the dispersion of family. Two of her three daughters left these shores years ago. Jenny settled in the U.K. and Wendy lives in Cypress.

Carols3Here in Cape Town, her oldest daughter Annie and her husband David (Arlene and I went with them to Turkey) have been the principal caregivers. We celebrated the life of Granny Margaret at the Table View Methodist Church on Sunday afternoon. She had been a founder member of the awkwardly built “Pork Pie” Church and together with her late husband Ben did the hard yards to establish the work on the West Coast.

Anchors6The church was filled with friends and fans who cherished the impact of her spirit on their lives. We took time to highlight the story of her life. From Brierley Hill, Granny moved to the Copper Belt in Zambia, then onto Johannesburg and finally settled in Cape Town. Annie made a telling comment: “My mother moved 27 times during her life time”. That sense of “moving on” strengthened Margaret’s adaptive gift and ability to make friends with everyone.

Anchors7Even at the Crematorium, as we made our final committal, her grandson Mark spoke with such warmth and affection about his gran. “My mates adopted her as their own gran!”.

Easter1In my tribute, I likened the Gibbs household as an acted parable of a modern day church. It is easy to detect the signs. Everyone feels at home and this is a place where strangers become friends. Granny was a great listener and when we sat in her lounge the space became a place of conversation. Everyone can relate to the stories of their face2face encounters with Granny Margaret.

AnchorsShe mastered the art of sending messages on her cell phone, remembering birthdays, bringing words of comfort and encouragement, reminding the recipients that “they were not alone”. She was God’s messenger, always opening hearts, minds and hearts. But Margaret also turned her space (home) into a place of confession. You could go to her with all your troubles and come away feeling that you had been heard. One felt confident that in Christ anything was possible.

Anchors5Her graciousness and kindness was catalytic. Always being there for other people, giving freely of her time and talent to make the world a better place.

Anchors8Granny helped distribute The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guides to everyone she met. The word of God “dwelt in her richly”. She understood the power of prayer and rested on the promises of God.

Anchors11I will always remember her thoughts on the iron and steel factory that dominated her life world growing up in Brierley Hill. They manufactured ANCHORS & CHAINS. My thoughts of Margaret resonate with the way her life  was fastened to the rock of our salvation.

Anchors12She was anchored in the realm of the Kingdom of Heaven. Her heart was constantly in the right place. In the same breath, one still has to “unchain the heart” when you let someone who you love, move on. We all felt that as we pronounced the benediction and watched the coffin disappear from sight.

Anchors9Soon her ashes will be returned and we will be able to once again ANCHOR the memories in gratitude and glory. The Chain of God’s love remains unbroken and an assurance of faith, hope and love prevails. Thank you Margaret. You have been a wonderful mother and a GRAND mother to all who knew you.

Anchors4You have helped us understand the gift of generous hospitality and shown us how to bring goodness into the world.

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DAY 445: PLAY IT AGAIN PERCY

Percy11Earlier this year, PERCY ANDERSON joined our music group PULSE.  PULSE is a motley group of musicians who love to entertain and bring out the best in people. Based at Mossop Hall (Methodist Church) in Little Mowbray, the band sings songs from the 50s and 60s and also covers well-known artists in their repertoire. The group presents themed concerts like “Around the world”, “Save the last dance”,“On the road again” and an annual Advent favourite “Not your usual kind of carol service”.

ChristmasA few weeks ago we branched out and chose to focus on the individual talent of band members. Olaf Roberg got his chance and the big guy sang his heart out to a delighted audience in a packed Mossop Hall at a concert called “Simply Olaf”. Each musician has a story to tell.

Prophets4PERCY plays the saxophone. He used to be an active member of a popular band called “La Versatilles”. The name reveals the secret of PERCY’S style and ability. He can sing (like Elvis Presley, Lois Armstrong), play the guitar, but when he plays the saxophone, he ignites the night. The story has a flip side. Some years ago, PERCY had a stroke and in effect lost his short term memory.

Singing15Yet he is alive inside when he holds the sax and puts the treasured mouth piece to his lips. I watched PERCY out of the corner of my eye, working in sync with all the other band members, especially Lorraine (pictured below) on the keyboard.

Percy10Playing by ear, he can change key and rhythm with ease and grace.

WavePERCY is not possessive of his talent. He plays for a number of old age homes, service centers and at his Church week in and week out. PULSE opened the door for him to discover the gift within and that makes my heart sing. I watched him struggling a bit with his antique Italian alto sax and raised the question: “PERCY, have you ever had this instrument serviced?”.  “No” he said “I’ve had this sax for 56 years and it’s always been too expensive for me to go down that road”.

Percy7“If Ron Robertson’s Dad was still alive” I mused. The obvious need took me to a quaint little workshop in Ottery called Musicraft.  Thanks to Bothners in Plumstead, I got the recommendation and met up with an amazing company that refurbishes wind instruments.

Percy4The workshop was filled with family members who live in the townships and teach each other to service instruments across the Western Cape and beyond. School bands, church groups and orchestras come knocking at their door. In consultation with the stewards we were happy to underwrite the restoration.

Percy3Talk about an extreme makeover! Five days later, PERCY allowed us to listen to his “new look” baby talk. He wept in gratitude. “You know there was a time when I used naartjie peels as pads to stop the air leaking out”. This act of kindness really takes us to source. Imagine the knock on effect.

Percy6PERCY WILL PLAY IT AGAIN AND AGAIN. He is now resourced to do his job well … to the best of his ability. I smiled. And thought of the countless people who helped me along the way as I developed the Salty Print project. They believed in what we were trying to do. Creating jobs. Finding work for people and seeing dignity return in their lives.

Percy8We drove back to PERCY’S home in Fairways. PERCY played a love song for his wife and I continue to bask in the sunshine of the moment. Her name is JOY. A word that is the outcome of a good story. PLAY IT AGAIN, PERCY! You bring so much joy to all who hear you work that saxophone. God bless you, my brother. Mark

percy9