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

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DAY 444: GO VIRAL

viralArlene has headed up to Jo’burg to visit her mother for two weeks and I am sleeping with my boots on. This blog has been dormant for some time now. For various reasons my days have become crowded with all sorts of things like concerts, renovations, pastoral visitation and stressing about performance levels on the rugby field.

Viral3My eldest daughter Julia took the gap and invited me to the Spur (for old times sake) at the Waterfront to play “catch up” and share our stories. Julia has been hard at work developing her Short&Sweet project and Pop Up Cinema. She has an amazing ability to find underutilised space in the city and inject new life in places where not much was happening before.

Prophets9Her connectivity with what’s happening in the world of short film and entertainment is staggering. She certainly displays high energy and is clearly (for whatever reason) driven. So it was good just to just sit and chat with our cell phones off. We had to endure three birthday greetings for customers who were celebrating their special day with loved ones.

viral1After our meal, we wandered around the emptying Waterfront. Outside, Julia saw the gap in the Arena alongside the big wheel: “We must get to the decision makers at the Waterfront” she insisted. “Who are the gate keepers?” she asked. I could see her right brain firing on all four cylinders. Then she looked at me and said: “Dad we must do this more often”.

confidence 8We walked past closed shops and empty corridors chatting non stop. After completing the circuit, Julia looked at me and beamed: “Dad, I love your blogs”. Then she went on to say  “The trouble is that people don’t read today … but they love to watch movies!”. In a flash she pointed her camera at me and said: “Talk”. My memory bank honed in on my favourite subject (See blog DAY 336: TOXIC CHARITY).

confidence10My daughter filmed me on her phone and afterwards became quite animated, “Brilliant” she said “The MIN and ME!“. She has always called herself ‘MINI ME” because she finds herself copying many of the things I do and say.  This affirmation has been a lifelong bond ever since her arrival in Walvis Bay at the start of the eighties.

Confidence12So the “MIN & ME” trust was born in the corridors of the Waterfront on Tuesday 21st June. Julia got into her car, worked on her phone and posted the story into cyberspace. Since then, my e mail in box has gone crazy, I am not too sure how to refer you to the link on FACE BOOK, but I am confident that someone out there will respond to this blog and help us find the post.

confidence9A creative director and close friend phoned me in the morning. He said: “When he first viewed the clip there were 200 hits. An hour later there were 300 hits. “Congratulations!” he said: “YOU’VE GONE VIRAL!”. He said he loved the ending of the one and only take. Julia asks: “What’s your name?”. “Mark Stephenson” I replied. POW!

viral2I note that this is EPISODE 1. Knowing Julia, there will be more to follow. Yesterday she secured bookings to show short film at the Waterfront Arena during July and was also given permission to launch Drive In Cinema (she has a 15 x 4 meter blow up screen) somewhere on the V & A. What an amazing story.

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DAY 443: CONFIDENCE

confidence 8How do we find new ways to energise and inspire local congregations? I think the secret is to  BUILD CONFIDENCE. There is something about firm trust, belief and expectation that comes with CONFIDENCECONFIDENCE is a product decision making.  “What should I do?”  “How am I going to get out of this?”  we ask. The prophet Elijah bellowed: “How much longer will it take you to make up your minds?”. And the used car salesman asks “Can we seal the deal?”.

Burglar13I loved to sing a duet with my late mother Helene. The lyrics drew me into a life of CONFIDENCE in Christ. “When I FEAR my faith will FAIL, Christ will hold me fast” takes us to the heart of CONFIDENCE, because FEAR and thoughts of FAILURE haunt us at decision time.

Bishops 12Maybe in those moments of uncertainty, it is a good idea to affirm some of the CONFIDENT DECISIONS we have made over the years. “Should I have radiation?” “Go overseas?” “Buy this car”, “Marry this couple?”  … the list is endless. I remember one man confessing to me “I love my wife, but I am not in love with her”. His assertion certainly made me think about the choices we make. Are we CONFIDENT?

Bishops 6CONFIDENCE brings a whole hearted commitment. To get there we need to face our fears and deal with the possibility of FAILURE. Perhaps one of the most helpful interventions that came to me during my years of ministry in Woodstock and Salt River was a comment from a close friend. He said: “Mark, there is nothing wrong with failure”.

New virusI was struggling to make sense of the role of the church in a visibly changing society. No matter how hard we tried, the wave of change wiped us out time and time again. Once we began to recognise the signs of God’s Spirit at work, our CONFIDENCE returned. As I write and look at what’s happening in our country today the same wave of despondency looms. It’s hard to place our CONFIDENCE in government.

Confidence4The state of the economy and reasons why things are so bad is on everybody’s lips. Our lack of CONFIDENCE has also trickled down into our perception of the church today. And the Tabloids run riot. Many have faced disappointment and witnessed unacceptable behaviour in the institution. Some have left in disgust. We have limited the work of God’s spirit.

Confidence7Even our CONFIDENCE in family and friends has, for various reasons, been shaken. We face disappointment as we think of our loved ones and find ourselves dealing with depression. Once a month I attend a voluntary art class at Mossop. Many of us are reluctant to unlock our latent creativity. We erect barriers and FAIL to bring fulfillment in our lives through avoidance of commitment.

Confidence12As the song goes “When the tempter shall prevail” … feelings of inadequacy tend to overwhelm. I’ve moved beyond self consciousness and enjoyed expressing the feelings desperate to make an appearance on the paper in front of me. Is it art? I’ve learned to appreciate art and artists in a whole new way. Painting with CONFIDENCE helps demystify the creative process and certainly tackles self doubt.

Confidence5What am I saying? Trust awakens trust. When people do not know each other well, awareness, team work and familiarity helps build CONFIDENCE. Strangers become friends when CONFIDENCE kicks in. Community support and the simple aim of achieving a shared goal gives us some common ground.

Confidence1When people find the skills and CONFIDENCE necessary to ” go it alone “, they rise up and say “We’ve done it ourselves!”. Leaders (facilitators) can stand back, knowing that they have promoted CONFIDENCE through trust, team building and empowerment. Over time we increase the complexity of the tasks, make discoveries together, share our experiences and create an event in which we had all invested. That makes us (for a brief while) lean back and watch the bioscope!

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DAY 442: 24th MAY 1738

May

On Sunday I was appointed as the guest preacher at the Rosebank Methodist Church. The Bible readings were set and I was asked to preach on Stewardship of Resources at the 8.00 and 9.30 a.m. services. During the month of May, Rosebank Methodist Church (strategically positioned on the Main Road close to the University of Cape Town) has been trying to uncover God’s dream for Church and Society.

 

May7Clearly this established church is going through a period of visible transition. Everyone recognises that the old loyalties are fading. The harsh realities of maintaining a sizeable investment of church property is not easy in today’s economic climate..

May10During the week on Wednesday evening, I met with a small representation of the congregation (in the cavernous Clifford Story Hall) to talk about the journey and the changes they are facing. With Tuesday still fresh on their minds, I asked them to reflect on 24th May 1738.  Methodists across the world celebrate Aldersgate (Wesley) Day as a tipping point in the history of the church.

May1John Wesley’s “heart was strangely warmed”. He did not have a heart attack! The spirit of God opened him up to the answers to the questions that had been troubling him in his ministry. His vision became wide in wonder at the scale of God’s majesty and love in Christ Jesus.

May5What strikes me about 24th May 1738 is the impact of the moment. Anyone who reads the story in Wesley’s journal is nourished by the experience of “a heart strangely warmed”. I have always treasured the transformation that this message of love and life brings. Look what followed: “I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more special manner despitefully used me and persecuted me … “.

May4To get to this point of breakthrough, we need to retrace our steps in the telling of the story. Key for me is Wesley’s statement: “I went very UNWILLINGLY“. Many of us have adopted that spirit as we look at church and society in the world today. No one wants to take responsibility. It’s easy to stand back and expect others to do the work. We have become so critical about what the church should or should not be doing.

May9The Wesley did something extremely practical. He LISTENED. Paul’s words in the preface to the Romans ignited insights and discoveries that turned into a movement of love for God and one another. With Wesley, we remember how Jesus took the time to walk, talk, and eat with his disciples; teaching them about the kingdom of heaven.

May3Wesley LISTENED. From that moment onward he praised God for calling us not only as individual disciples, but to be the church, feeding on him and growing together ONE in faith and love. The Hymns of his brother Charles confirmed the direction of the movement  We find an expectation that everyone will be involved in carrying on the mission. There’s a commitment to “serve the present age” or in the words of Jesus “to leave our nets and follow” (Mk 1: 18 – 20).

May624th May 1738 is catalytic. Our prayer is that our times of worship will draw us closer to God and to one another. The Wesley’s urged us to be nourished by the moving of God’s spirit through the church. The dream of UNITY in DIVERSITY challenges us to live as one body, inspiring those who are to lead.

may8 - CopyUNITY in DIVERSITY invites us to recognise that the joy and pains of one may be the joy and pains of all. Our prayer is for people to understand the differing needs, cultures and and traditions of the many communities in the world. Wesley inisted “the world is my parish“. I say Our parish is the WORLD“. There is always an invitation to join. Get involved with a specific group of people.

May1124th May 1738 opens that door. Better still Jesus says “Come with me” (1:17). Interested?

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DAY 441: THE GIFT OF YEARS

Years16Once in a while I get invited to speak at corporate functions. On Saturday morning, the inter church Men’s Fellowship in the Strand/Somerset West District invited me to their rotating Quarterly Breakfast. I was given a broad canvas and chose to work on a topic called “THE GIFT OF YEARS”. I had spotted the initiative in the U.K. and decided to work on the subject here in Cape Town.

Hope11Fuelled with some of the promises in Psalm 90 and a conversation that Jesus had with Thomas, I was ready to rock. The Psalmist reminds his listeners that “The Lord has been our dwelling place across the generations”. He also points to our life span of 70 or 80 years ( if we are so lucky). I like the way he urges us to “number our days” if we want to “get a heart of wisdom”.

YearsLooking at all present, I confessed that in today’s society “WE REALLY DON’T KNOW EACH OTHER”. Despite the flitting hours spent on Face Book, we have lost the art of engaging Face2Face. This concern became the context for the development of my thinking. I proposed 10 steps (signposts) that help us along the way and dealt with them one by one.

Years15My argument centred on the given (THE WAY), the receivin’ (THE TRUTH) and the dreamin'(THE LIFE).  Years ago, as I stood in the transit lounge at Washington D.C. on my way to Nashville, a colleague whispered to me as we gazed at all the people moving along somewhere. He said: “Mark, all these people have a father and a mother!”. That thought has never left me. PARENTS are NO. 2. on my 10 point list. The two of them are instrumental in developing an understanding of who we are.

Years2They NAMED us. So the NAME becomes our entry point into getting to know people; where they come from and what their name means. In Africa it’s good to start with people’s NAMES (i.e. Step NO. 1.). I love my NAME. It reminds me of the first written Gospel  (MARK). HOVDEN affirms my Norwegian roots and being a SON of STEPHEN is a regular reminder that STEPHEN was the first Christian witness (martyr).

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Thirdly, we all have our BIRTHDAYS. Some days become stand out days (turning points) and its good to number the DAY, MONTH and YEAR. So for example today is WESLEY  DAY. Methodists remind the world of the way in which John Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed in Aldersgate Street on 24th May 1738. Yesterday would have been my late sister Anna’s 73rd birthday. She died 10 years ago. Step N0. 3. helps jog the memory.

Years3Methodism has taught me to divide the years into QUARTERS. We have QUARTERLY Preaching Plans and Meetings but it’s also easy to look at the lengthening of our life spans and acknowledge the given four quarters 1 – 25, 26 – 50, 51 – 70 and 71 – 100. Most of us have run significant races in our life time. Step NO. 4. reminds us that each QUARTER holds special memories.

Years4Years13Years5From the GIVEN, people of THE WAY move into a spirit of engagement (THE TRUTH) with humanity and the world in which we live. The pursuit of HAPPINESS (Step NO. 5: “Give me a FIVE”) is an ongoing quest that searches for fulfillment in our areas of interest.

Years6Sometimes we have to CROSS BOUNDARIES (Step N0. 6.) and RISK  ourselves in FAITH as we venture out into the unknown. This makes us vulnerable.

Years7The SEVEN DEADLY SINS (Conflict), literally pulls and pushes us in all directions. This is our engagement with reality. Step NO. 7. tells me that its not easy out there.

Years8Years9Years10That’s why (with Jesus) human beings seek to find BALANCE. We need time for rest and recovery. Step. NO. 8. stirs us to new levels.   In our celebration of LIFE, the GIFT OF GOD’S SPIRIT (Step NO. 9) adds a whole new dynamic. Life turns into a Pentecostal laboratory. Before long, we echo with St. Paul that “You reap what you SOW”.

Years12A year ago (23.05.2016) Cedric Mayson died. He wrote a Hymn that mirrors an inherent quest for perfection in the hearts of those serious about the Christian faith. He says: “When we work for truth and goodness (justice), we become a glove upon the hand of God”.  I can live with that and am happy to list Step NO. 10 as a workable GOAL.

Years18As I looked around the Strand Methodist Church, I pointed to a stained glass window depicting Jesus welcoming children into his realm. The image challenges us to understand that “unless we become like little children, we will not see (experience) the Kingdom of God (heaven)”. I urged the men to examine an insert on the window.

Years17Hidden – in the colours (on the left) – stands the shape of a fox terrier – looking on. It was included by the artist upon the instruction of the donor. We need that insight into life as we “number our days”. Notice the unnoticed. Expect the unexpected.Years11THE GIFT OF YEARS is a rugged reminder that God’s Spirit is still at work, waiting to surprise us as LIFE unfolds.

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DAY 440: “PROPHETIC” OR “PATHETIC”?

PropheticOnce in a while I make contact with colleagues in the ministry. I just phone to say “Hi” and “how are things going?”. Recently, I spoke to Rev. Gavin Taylor ( a retired Bishop in the MCSA) now living in the Eastern Transvaal. Gavin has a fine mind and a trained eye. He taught me so much about urban ministry and churches in transition.

prophetic1Our conversation quickly turned to our fractured Rainbow nation and our failure (especially as church) to tackle problems associated with corruption (destruction) and unresolved conflicts.

Burglar12Turning to the role of the church he coined a phrase that has turned into a drip fed message: Are we “PROPHETIC” or “PATHETIC”?

Dolls10We are learning the lessons of those who have lost their homes and jobs and experiencing the effects of the economic crisis. Everyone is at risk and citizens have begun to find ways to come to terms with the situation at hand. The drip feed is starting to work. People are actually beginning to rediscover what is important to them. The gift of the spirit is turning our churches into Pentecostal laboratories. Pentecost people find themselves re-examining core values. All is not lost.

Pentecost9Someone came up with the suggestion that Christians in South Africa implore the Lord to demolish the barriers that still divide His church and pray for reconciliation. The value of the whole exercise is questioned by many who voice their doubts about the prophetic impact of the church in South Africa today.

prophetic3The sceptics wonder if these planned 40 days will automatically mean fresh apostolic life for the ecclesiastical machine. Will this initiative make the love of Jesus known through worship, preaching, prayer, healing, fellowship, service, evangelism and openess to the Holy Spirit? Will the sharing of God’s love and forgiveness offer hope and a welcome to all people?

Pentecost14Christians talk a great deal about the reconciling power of Jesus Christ. We exhort people to practise love to the neighbour. But until we mirror this reconciliation among our selves, the world (understandably) will remain unimpressed.

Birthday11What these 40 days of prayer offer is a glimpse, a foretaste, of what the church is and is called to be. Christian theology is groping its way through a time of great confusion and is prone to overact as churches try to grapple with key social and political issues of the day.

Pentecost4What does “unity” mean in relation to the huge divide between rich and poor? Sadly, many who have grown up, nurtured in the Christian faith – despairing of the dream of transformation – have opted out. Trying to be an instrument of renewal and healing in fractured society takes us to the heart of the gospel.

communism11There certainly is no shortage of things to be done. Prayer means commitment and action. There is also a warning of divine anger for those who glibly cry “Lord, Lord”, then do nothing. Until Christians are prepared to act for the world on the basis of the unity they have already been given by God, they can hardly expect their prayers to be taken seriously – by others or by their Lord.

Watchnight3Being “PATHETIC” has become a reflection of our failure to follow through (act) on what is just and true and of real value. Amnesty International calls upon the Lord of Life to “deliver us from the dungeons of indifference”. When that happens we become “PROPHETIC”.  In the words of the late Cedric Mayson:  “When we work for truth and justice … we become a glove upon the hand of God!”

Pentecost6The Teacher’s League proclaims:“Let us live for our children” … surely that is the right place to begin!

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DAY 439: PENTECOST 2016 – THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT

Power9I love to play the guitar and sing: “All over the world, the spirit is moving”.  “Spirit”, “wind”, “breath” suggest movement and presence. Over recent years our understanding of the world (thanks to TV and the internet) has widened in leaps and bounds. THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT becomes our prayer as PENTECOST people. We dream of a breakthrough and the chance to start all over again.

pENTECOST12Somehow that gift seems to be tailor made to meet basic human need. The giver knows us by name and presents us with his spirit to forgive, correct and strengthen along the way. Many have noted that I have been quiet in the discipline of posting regular blogs. The build up to PENTECOST 2016 has been demanding on my time.

image5I have visited the sick, comforted the bereaved and sat alongside the anxious. Through it all, THE SPIRIT has continued to move “deep down in my heart”, guiding my ministry in an intentional direction. We need to remind ourselves that THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT comes to those in distress and who are afraid. The movement “deep down in our hearts” brings comfort and peace, especially when we need help.

Pentecost5Wesley insisted that he knew “no such thing as solitary religion”. Once we acknowledge God’s gift at work in our lives, we bring to mind the needs of our society. If ever this country needed PENTECOST, it is NOW! The litany of woe continues to plague us, as the downward spirit of mismanagement, greed, corruption and unemployment tightens its grip.

PentecostThe rainbow has disappeared. The once proud Rainbow nation desperately needs THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT to forgive, correct and strengthen our resolve. Lost values and a sense of purpose need to surface. As much as we live in an unstable and changing world, THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT breathes into the world bringing hope and harmony where there is discord.

ROI 5Let’s be honest. We live in a world where warfare never ceases and millions battle with hunger. Its a world of rich and poor, developed and undeveloped, construction and destruction, filled with barriers that divide us. The gap is widening as more and more people migrate to our cities and more and more cars fill the roads. PENTECOST people pray for unity in diversity.

Birthday4We quietly acknowledge on the birthday of the Church (PENTECOST) that the Holy Spirit of God has breathed into us and given us a message for the whole earth.

Pentecost8 Bob Dylan croaked: “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind”. The surfer boy in me welcomes the breath of God moving into our lives, the world and the church as a message of Hope.

Hope7It is also a message of love and forgiveness; of joy and salvation; and of peace. My late Mom (pictured below) always reminded me that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor.9:7)

Pentecost11Something special happened in Paris on PENTECOST (Sunday 15 May) 2016. Samoa had just beaten Figii in a nail biting Sevens Rugby Cup Final. At the end of the game both teams formed a circle, got down on their knees alongside each other, bound together in prayer. They gave glory to God for the moment and in the same breath opened our eyes to THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT.

Pentecost13The Scriptures say that on PENTECOST the spirit came as a roaring wind – unseen, powerful, noisy. It also lit up a safe house where the disciples sat in the darkness of indecision. We learn from the image of both teams together in prayer. With this in mind, PENTECOST 2016 certainly loosens our tongues and gives us the words to speak of the good news of new life in Christ. Such is THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT as it moves all over the world.

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DAY 438: RESERVED FOR HOPE

Hope6The trip to De Hoop Nature Reserve took longer than expected. Arlene offered to take me to my Destination Wedding in her car. Her intervention was most welcome. Just before Swellendam, we found the Spitskop turnoff and hit a long stretch of gravel road to finally reach the Cape Nature Gate of the De Hoop Reserve.

Hope3 - CopyThe fields were teeming with contented game, clearly happy with their idyllic surrounds. The day was sunny and warm. Travellers from all over the world congregated for this weekend wedding to listen to a very special couple go public with their vows to each other. Even the horse flies wanted to join in the celebration.

Hope4 - CopyHope2 - CopyThe groom loves wild places and specialises in adventure tours on the African continent. Three things struck me as I mixed and mingled with the guests before we heard the promises of life long commitment.  I looked at the large fig tree, the gate into the white walled farm yard and the water on the lake nearby. Much thought and preparation had gone into the selection of this site as their ideal wedding venue. Backed up by pastoral visitation and conversations in cyberspace, we were ready to roll.

Hope9De Hoop seemed in the moment to be the place “RESERVED FOR HOPE” as we stretched our imaginations and listened to the promises that echo the heart of marriage – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’til death us do part”. These promises were made under a massive FIG TREE. Looking up to the sprawling branches, I pointed to the STRONG ROOTS and tapped into the life of heritage. Family had come to this place to witness a new beginning.

Hope10It’s good to affirm where we have come from and why we behave the way we do. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.

HopePeople of faith insist that the hope God gives us is a confidence in the future based on our present experience of his love. We do not know the precise details of what that future holds, but the link between ROOTS and FRUITS brings HOPE. This couple have a gorgeous sketch of a dog in his basket – prominently displayed in their flat. The caption below reads: “Today I am going to be MAGNIFICENT!”

Easter7Google addicts know the power of magnification. What more could we want as we zoom in on the values that money can’t buy?  Though generations come and go, OUR HOPE will never fade, for the Kingdom of God is built to last. The marriage could only  proceed after the bride had entered through a GATE that led into the property where the ceremony took place. There was no turning back. At key moments in our lives, we have to pause and ask ourselves where we are going and why? I always ask the bride (and the groom) “Are you quite sure you don’t want to change your mind?”.

Hope11Alongside the venue, there is a lake. I spotted these three signposts when I Googled for directions to DE HOOP.  WATER is a scarce resource, especially on the African continent. The thought of living WATER takes on a new meaning, speaking to a new time and situation when we celebrate Christian marriage. It still has the power to speak to us in new and challenging ways.

Hope1 - CopyThe thought of ‘RESERVED FOR HOPE” still has the power to change lives. We looked at the ROOTS and affirmed the ROOTS that we tap into as we live out our days. We know that there is so much to learn when we commit. The RESERVE OF HOPE invites us to walk through the narrow GATE and drink from the life giving WATERS of commitment when we go public with our vows.

Easter8When we do this, we may find that the results are far greater than we dared to expect.Hope8