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  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Tuesday
Dec052006

The irony of 'Success'.

Do you remember what irony is (that sounds like a high school English exam question)?

Here's a brief little definition from answers.com:

i·ro·ny (ī'rə-nē, ī'ər-)
n., pl. -nies.

a. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
c. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect. See synonyms at wit1.
d. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs: “Hyde noted the irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated” (Richard Kain).
e. An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity.

The title of this post explains something of the irony that I encountered last week. Our daughter goes to a great school just around the corner from our home and my office, it is the Mount Edmund Christian Brother's College. Last week we had the joy of attending Courtney's prize giving ceremony. It was a wonderful celebration! I can hardly believe that she has already finished Grade 1!

The prize giving is an opportunity for the school teachers to acknowledge the work of the scholars and do so by presenting them with certificates and awards. These included such awards as "Exceptional reading skills", "Above average numeracy and mathematical ability", "Perseverance", and my all time favourite "Tenacity". You have to know that the students who got the award for tenacity gave their teachers hell! It is a polite way of saying "you're difficult". Go on, look up the word 'tenacity' in google, you'll see that it is a noun that means you are stubborn and unyielding! The more I think of it, tenacity would be the award I would be most likely to qualify for!

Anyway, I digress, so students get these awards. But of course, there are those students who don't get awards (in grade 1, these are fairly few and far between). However, so as to acknowledge that the kids turned up for school, did their bit, and gave the teachers a little bit less than hell (i.e., they didn't qualify for the 'tenacity' award), students who did not get a specific award were called up on stage, by name, to collect their report cards!! Yup, you heard me! Thankfully, the headmaster didn't read their report cards to the whole assembly. That sounds like a recurring dream I used to have as a teenager.... But let's not go there.

Here's the irony!

In one of the classes one of the only boys who DID NOT receive an award was named 'Success'. Yup, his name is Success. Heck, he didn't even get the tenacity award!

That got me thinking.... I wonder if he had heard the use of the word success so often that he had simply become accustomed to mediocrity?

You know, this is a common problem. I have encountered it in marriage counselling situations, where couples forget the gift of love, and so take it for granted. I have seen it in work, where people forget the privilege of working (when there are so many persons unemployed) and so they slack off at their jobs. I have seen it in the way that parents treat their children. I have certainly seen it in the way that students for the ministry go from being eager to serve, and called to ministry, to being ungrateful and demanding.

I suppose, it's the irony of success... You get used to it, and so you simply slack off and take things for granted.

In literature the Russian formalists had a word for this, Ostranenie, it means 'defamiliarization', Viktor Shklovsky said that "Habit devours objects, clothes, furniture, one's wife and the fear of war..." However, he also believed that there is an antidote to defamiliarization; the antidote is creating an awareness and appreciation of the giftedness and blessing of all life and living. Shklovsky writes, "Art exists to help us recover the sensation of life".

He is right! Yesterday as I was leaving the hospital I saw people for the first time in weeks. I noticed the evening sky for the first time in years! It was lovely! I came home to my wife and daughter, and thanked God for them.

I find that worship does the same thing for me. When I worship God, I not only remind myself who God is, what God can do, and what God lovingly does in the world, but I also remind myself that I am loved by that all powerful, all knowing, all loving God, and that every detail of my life is important to God. God never becomes so familiar with my life, so at ease with my brokenness and sin, that my 'success' is nothing more than a failure.

With God there is no irony, just grace, hope, and love. At times such as these, I give thanks to God! It is good to be alive, and it is good not to be too familiar with living.

Tuesday
Dec052006

Update on Liam - 5 December 2006.

Firstly, a huge thanks from Megie, Courts, Liam (AKA BJ) and I for all the prayers, calls, messages and emails! It is wonderful to be cared for in this manner. It reminds me of a line from the Emmaus spiritual directors handbook that is shared at one of the community gatherings which says something like "isn't it wonderful to see the body of Christ caring for itself in such love?" We do truly feel loved and cared for!

Well, here is a recent picture of our little lad. Please forgive the poor quality of the image, it was taken with my cell phone. The GREAT news is that he picked up a few grams in his weight. He is now weighing in at a whopping 1.19 kilograms. He has been getting a supplement that helps him to gain weight a little faster (it gets mixed into the 25 Mils of breast milk).

Some folks have asked why he needs to be fed through a tube. There are two reasons. Firstly, he has not yet developed the sucking reflex that allows him to feed on his own (I believe that only comes somewhere around 34-36 weeks). Although he is learning to suck a little, it is not yet at the stage where he could feed. Secondly, until he weighs around 1.8 kilograms, the effort it takes to feed would be greater than the nutrition he would get from a full feed. So, in essence, he would loose energy (and so weight) rather than gain it at this stage. So, the solution is to pop the milk directly into his tummy for him to metabolise it from there. He seems to do that pretty well! He is realising that feeds come every three hours and so he starts to niggle a little when it gets close to feeding time.

Here's another picture of little Liam contemplating the weight to energy ratio of premature infants in neonatal ICU. I could show you the mathematical formula he wrote out for me to understand this discrepancy, but that would be showing off! So, take my word for it, differential calculus is a breeze for him at 31 weeks!

At this stage Megie and I are juggling our time between the hospital and work. Megie went back to work last week for half days, and has taken leave for half a day to be at the hospital in the afternoons. She needs to do this so that she can save her maternity leave for when Liam comes out of the hospital some time in January or February (more or less when he was to be born). Unfortunately if she stays away from work now she will loose almost two months of her maternity leave.

I have also been running between various meetings and my office to the hospital. I try to spend an hour or so at with Liam in the late afternoons. However, I tend to take the nights at the ICU and take my laptop and some work with me so that things can carry one more or less at a regular pace.

Wednesday
Nov292006

Update on Liam - 29 November 2006.

Just a quick post tonight. This week I have had to catch up on some of the trips that I couldn't get to over the last few weeks, so I have been in Cape Town already and head off to Durban tomorrow. I can't tell you how difficult it is not to see Liam for a whole day!!

Liam is doing great today. He has lost a little bit of weight (he now went down from 1.2 to 1.14, so 60 grams). However, the ICU sisters assure us that there is nothing to worry about. He is just adjusting to being off the nutritional supliment and only having breast milk, plus the last time they weighed him he had a few more tubes, which I am pleased to say are now out! He gets 21 mills per feed (for which Megie, the STAR, wakes up every three hours to express). He still gets his feeds through the tube of his nose. However, he is now well enough to be placed in an incubator! (lots of exclamations in this post!! That means good news!) Liam LOVES it in there! It is warm and quiet (almost like being in the womb, where he should be in this 29th/30th week of gestation). Megie was so pleased that we could put some clothes on him today for the first time. Megie's mom bought him an XXS premature baby grow. I still can't believe how small he is! But he is looking so strong.

Here's a little video of Liam that I took a few days ago. It is streamed via YouTube so if you're on dialup just click play and come back in a few minutes, it is not that large (1.6MB).

On Monday evening I met with the specialist and was shown the location and size of Liam's haemorrhage on the sonar scan (I was immensely grateful to have done a great deal of my doctoral research on the brain! It not only helped me to not ask some silly questions, bit it also helped me not to be too tense and unsettled about what I saw). Sadly, it was not good news, but in some ways it is no worse than we had innitially imagined. There are actually two bleeds in his brain, a grade four haemorrhage in the parietal lobe, and a very small bleed in the cerebral cavity on the bottom of his brain.

The large haemorrhage, which is located in an area called the parietal lobe (see the image below), is in the right hemisphere of the brain. Unfortunately it is not a good size.

The good news is that the hemorrhage has stopped. The blood from the haemorrhage has now begun to form a haematoma which will eventually dissolve. Sadly, when it dissolves it will leave a scar in the brain. Of course the size and location of the scar will determine what functions of the brain are impaired. The right parietal lobe has to do with logic, numbers, and some aspects of language - and of course any damage to the right side of the brain has an effect on the left half of the body (hemispatial neglect being the most common result of large scale brain damage to right hemisphere of the parietal lobe). However, we have such faith that there will be little or no damage! All the signs point to that hope! He is strong, he's not having fits or suizures, there is no paralysis, he can hear, see etc. So, please do pray with us!

The other smaller bleed is nothing serious. It carries a higher infection risk because of its location. However, he is well cared for in the ICU so we are confident that there will be no post-heamorrhagic hydro-cephalus. The long term effects are minimal to none.

So, it is always sad to hear something that one expects, but hopes not to hear. However, in spite of the news this week we can only thank God for God's faithfulness and grace! Thank you all for your prayers, calls, messages and care!

Friday
Nov242006

Beach boy doing well! 1 week old!


Update on Liam 24 November 2006.

Firstly, a huge thank you to all of you who have emailed, sms'd and called over the last few days. We have felt such a wonderful sense of care and support! Your prayers are a source of great comfort, and we know that they are making a real difference in his little life.

Please don't feel neglected if we don't return voice messages or SMS's. We've both run out of airtime, and simply wouldn't have enough hours in the day to return all the calls and messages that we've received. Your care has been wonderful! Also, as I'm sure you can imagine, it is not easy to have to re-tell the story each time we speak with someone. So please keep sending messages and calling, but do check in here from time to time. We promise to do our best to keep the blog updated with news and a few pictures.

NOW, onto Liam. The little guy is a real fighter! He has been doing so well over the last two days. He is stable and happy. His feeds have been increased to 12ml per feed (which will still be given to him through the little tube in his nose for the next 2 months or so until he develops a sucking reflex). He manages to keep most of the feed down, which is great news! That means that his bowels are working as they should, and of course every bit of breast milk makes him stronger and healthier.

He lost the customary weight during his first week (for prem babies it is 15% of their body weight), so he went to just under 1kg. He is now back up to 1.045 kg's. Megie has to express milk every 3 hours which is then stored in sanitary bottles at the hospital and given to Liam at his feed times. Megie has been a real trooper! She wakes up at 11pm, 2am, 5am, and then expresses during the day at 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm etc. She spends the days with Liam, and I take later afternoons after work, and evenings.

The picture below shows little Liam with his 'sunglasses' on (they are cloth eye protectors). He was found to have a bit of gaundis which you can see on his tummy in the top photo (this is simply because his liver is not yet functioning at prime - he must be a good Methodist! No alcohol in there mate!) So, they had him under the lights for a bit of photo therapy.


So, all in all, it is a joy to celebrate his first week of life. We give thanks to God for his health and growth over the last week! Keep praying - it's clearly working!

Wednesday
Nov222006

Update on Liam - 22 November 2006.


The good news is that Liam is stable. He is now completely off oxygen, and is managing to metabolise about 8 millilitres of his feed. He is still fed through the little tube in his nose and receives supplements via a drip. Megie was discharged on Saturday evening. She is doing so well! Now, however, we spend our days and nights running between home (and work) and the hospital.

The bad news is that Laim had a cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding on his brain). It was a grade 4 bleed, which is not good news since it is the most severe. Thankfully there is no paralysis, and it seems as if the immediate threat has passed. However, we now have to guard against post-hemorrhage hydrocephalus (a blocking of the cerebral spine fluid drains). And, then of course, since it was such a severe bleed he is likely to have sustained some measure of damage to his brain. We will only be able to ascertain to what extent he has sustained damage once he is a bit older and more stable and can be examined by a neurologist.

Please pray for Laim, and also for us. These are difficult times.

Friday
Nov172006

In God's perfect time!

Update 17 November 2006. Today is Liam's first full day not swiming around in his mom's tummy. He is doing very well in the neonatal unit. His breathing is stead, obviously he is still on a ventelator. Megie is also doing great! It is amazing how quickly she is recovering. She should becoming home this evening (18th). Then we will be back at the hospital every day to feed, visit, and take care of little Liam.


Just a quick note (very early in the morning, or late in the evening), to let you know that our little boy, Liam Angus Forster, was born at 22.30 on Thursday 16 November!

He was born premature at 28 weeks and weighs just 1.1kg's (look at the picture of his tiny little foot!).

However, he is fighting fit and is doing well! The doctors are all very happy. As you can see from the photos below he is a bit of a gadget man (like his dad), and couldn't wait to get acquainted with all the hospital machines and things!

He will be in the neonatal intensive care until he weighs around 2.5 kg's, or until he reaches his supposed birth date (mid February next year). So, please do keep us all in your prayers! We still have a bit of a journey ahead of us.

Megie is doing very well indeed! She was resting when I left the hospital a while ago. She sends her love to all. Thanks to everyone for your prayers, support, and care, over the last two weeks. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride!

We thank God for our little gift! He is just perfect!

Much blessing,

Dion, Megie, Courts AND Liam (BJ)

Monday
Nov132006

Apartheid!? What the heck is that? Perhaps we forget the truth too easily.

A post from my friend Murray's blog (hi Murray!!) made me laugh and cry at the same time.

His post centered around the death of PW Botha, a tyrannical President during South Africa's Apartheid era. Please check out his post for the radical difference of opinion between the two cartoonists. However, it was the cartoon below that almost made me rupture my spleen!

Simply click on the image to enlarge it. I would love to hear from a few readers (particuarly those in South Africa). How many of your children, or the children you interact with, remember what apartheid is. I use the present tense 'is' since this evil is still an ever present reality. Now, however, it is slightly less visible (whites still dislike and abuse blacks, blacks resent and abuse whites, and the rich abuse the poor). In fact the South African government's adoption of the 'civil union bill' is another form of apartheid which says, "everyone can be equal under the law, all persons can have a civil contract, but gay persons may not marry. They're less equal"... Sadly the MCSA seems to be saying much the same - our Church has chastised ministers from sharing God's blessing and grace freely. It would seem that this blessing is only allowed to be shared with persons who the Church regards to be members in good standing, persons who are like 'they' are, good Christian folks. I wonder when last they read the Bible to see who Jesus hung around with, and who received His blessing. It was not the Priests and the officials of the Church, that's for sure!

By the way, if you want a superb insight on the Widow's mite (Mark 12:28-44) for the lectionary, please read the post for Proper 27, year B, on Dylan's lectionary blog.

What do you think? Will Christ's justice, mercy, and peace, also be forgotten in time?

Thursday
Nov022006

At last, a sensible pie chart!

Do statistics confuse you? Yup, I know the feeling...

Well, this must be one of the most sensible pie charts I have ever seen! One look, and it all made sense to me!


Admit it, this one made you laugh... or at least chuckle. Heck it is not a monkey punching itself in the...... Well you know the story. But, hey it is a simple, sensible, pie-chart. Nothing deep here!

What do you think? Come on people! Post a comment! Let's see who will be brave enough to break the silence! Who rolled on the floor laughing their heads off (ROFLHO), who laughed out loud (LOL), who just grinned :-)

Wednesday
Nov012006

Is your faith simply a delusion?


I love reading stuff that is challenging. The book that I am dipping into at the moment is "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.

It makes for very interesting reading indeed. Of course it has caused quite a stir among religious people! Dawkins pulls no punches. However, in the process of trying to take a digg at religious fundamentalism, he makes the mistake of naively believing that all religious persons are to be painted with the same brush.

I read a review of this book that is even better than the book itself! You can read the whole review here. It is skillfully writen and has a keen insight into both Dawkins' style and his aim.

Here are a few extracts from the review. (P.S. I do still encourage scholars, theologians, and persons of faith to read this book. It is always a good idea to be informed on what people may be thinking about you and what you believe! However, this book is not for the faint hearted - if you're not sure what you believe, it is probably not worth reading.)

A comment on Dawkins' theological insights:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don?t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince.

A critique of Dawkins' concept of God:

Dawkins speaks scoffingly of a personal God, as though it were entirely obvious exactly what this might mean. He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap, however supersized. He asks how this chap can speak to billions of people simultaneously, which is rather like wondering why, if Tony Blair is an octopus, he has only two arms. For Judeo-Christianity, God is not a person in the sense that Al Gore arguably is. Nor is he a principle, an entity, or ?existent?: in one sense of that word it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist. He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves. He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. God and the universe do not add up to two, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of objects.

And lastly, some insight into Dawkins' favourite subject!

In its admirably angry way, The God Delusion argues that the status of atheists in the US is nowadays about the same as that of gays fifty years ago. The book is full of vivid vignettes of the sheer horrors of religion, fundamentalist or otherwise. Nearly 50 per cent of Americans believe that a glorious Second Coming is imminent, and some of them are doing their damnedest to bring it about. But Dawkins could have told us all this without being so appallingly bitchy about those of his scientific colleagues who disagree with him, and without being so theologically illiterate. He might also have avoided being the second most frequently mentioned individual in his book ? if you count God as an individual.

In the light of his love for himself, maybe the title of the book should have been "The Richard Dawkins delusion"?

Need I say more? Read the book, but also read this wonderful book review by Terry Eagleton.

Friday
Oct272006

My chapter for an upcoming book is done at last!

Some weeks ago I delivered a paper at the Southern African Science and Religion Forum. The title of my paper was:

Identity in relationship: The ethics of ubuntu as an answer to the impasse of individual consciousness

After presenting the paper I had to edit it to get it ready for a book in which it will be published called "Indigenous knowledge systems".

Well, the great news is that I managed to complete my edits this morning (in between a thousand interruptions!) However, it is DONE! Tick.

You can download a copy of the chapter below if your interested to read how the ethics of ubuntu can help scholarship in consciousness studies and identity to overcome the impasse of an identity crisis that is looming as a result of consciousness emulation in strong artificial intelligence.

ubuntu and identity Dr D Forster 2006

Friday
Oct272006

The outcome of the Doctrine, Ethics and Worship Comission's (DEWCOM) discussions on same sex relationships

A number of persons have emailed to ask how the presentations and discussions on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's attempt to grapple with same sex relationships went this week.

Here is one of the Sumissions made by Greg Andrews. You can also find his reflections on the meeting, which is very well put, in his blog post "Dassie finds hawks may be doves" (26 October, 2006).

Wednesday
Oct252006

Bluebulls are faster than Cheetas! Scientific evidence...

This post is in honour of my good friend Dr Bentley! He is an ardent supporter of the South African Bluebull rugby team (who recently drew the Currie Cup final match with the Free State Cheetas! VRYYYYYYYSSSSTTTAAAAATTTT!)

However, I was sent this amazing video of a Blue bull outrunning a cheeta in the wild. It is amazing, never before seen, footage of this kind of event in the wild! The video is not that large (2MB). Download it and be amazed!

Click here to download the Video file