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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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Sunday
Mar042007

We praise God for an unknown saint! AND, an update on Liam


A note of thanks to an unknown saint.

I have often read the text, "... in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28 NIV, emphasis mine).

Of course I know that the text was written by Paul to the Christians in Rome (which he had not yet visited. He was writing to introduce himself, and his beliefs, to this group of Christians in the hope that they would be generous enough to accommodate and help him, using Rome as a home base, while he went on a missionary journey into Spain, which he never got to do before his death), and that this verse comes at the end of his speech on life in the Spirit, and how God's Spirit empowers us for holy and righteous living in the face of persecution and hardship, which was of course a daily reality for Christians in the 1st century. At that time the Church was nothing other than a strange 'sect' of Judaism, rejected by the Roman gentiles because of its links to Judaism, and ejected from the synagogue and persecuted by the Jews of the day because the belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

It cannot be denied that this verse has had a special meaning for so many Christians throughout the ages. At many different times, and in many different situations, this text has brought hope and comfort to people in all sorts of distress. I think that in most cases God is pleased when we hear God's word through scripture, and when it speaks directly to a need that we have.

Well, this week we have experienced this incredible grace again! On Friday I got a phone call in the office from an unnamed member of our congregation at Bryanston saying that she wanted to deposit some money into our account, on behalf of a friend, to help us with Liam's medical expenses! I was blown away! It is never easy to receive gifts such as these, firstly, because we feel so unworthy of such generosity, and secondly, because I think that every person has to contend with the sin of pride - that is, being self sufficient and independent. However, the person was so kind on the phone, even when I encouraged her to consider donating the money to another more worthy cause. I couldn't have been more surprised when I checked my bank account!

We don't know who the generous benefactor is, however, we cannot thank God enough for your incredible generosity! I don't think we have every quite experienced such great love and blessing!

This text from Romans took on a whole new meaning for us this week, God has worked for our good, in spite of our unworthiness and the struggle that we have been through over the last 4 months. We cannot stop praising God for God's incredible power in healing little Liam, and for the love, care, and generosity of God's people in taking care of Megie, Courtney, Liam and I.

So, whoever you are, we thank God for you! And we thank God not only for the tangible way in which your gift will help us to care for our son, but also for making us feel so appreciated, special, and valuable! We're on top of the world!

An update on Liam.

Little Liam is getting less and less little by the day (I know that is not good grammar, but it's true!) This Thursday Liam went to be weighed and he now weighs 3.3kg's! That's almost exactly 3 times his body weight! He now weighs more than Courtney weighed when she was born (she was 2.7kg's at birth). Liam's progress has also been great, he is starting to become a lot more lucid and responsive (he follows sounds and faces much more easily, and he is doing his best to try and smile!) We visited with some good friends of ours last week Sunday (my friend Christopher and his wife Keryn, and their family. I was preaching at Chris' church in Midrand). Their son Nathan was born just short of a month after Liam (he was born on the 8th of December, at 4.5kg's!!! Can you imagine!?) He is such a lovely, healthy little guy. However, when we have Liam together with him we are able to see that Liam is still a little behind. Nathan smiles, laughs, rolls over, and is awake quite a bit. However, we were aware that little Liam would take a few months longer to do such things. Our occupational therapist said that we can only really start tracing his progress from his intended birth date (11 February), rather than from his actual birth date (16 November). So, whereas he has been out of the womb for almost 4 months, he is really only two weeks old! The photo at the top of this post shows him fast asleep yesterday! He is getting quite heavy to carry! But boy, it is SO MUCH easier to handle him now that he has a bit of flesh! In fact he is getting so chubby that he is getting little folds on his joints (you know what I'm talking about? It looks like his wrists, feet and legs have been 'screwed' onto each other! Just take a look at the photo above and compare it to some of the older photos on the blog. You won't be able to believe the difference).

Hey friends, I cannot tell you how incredible this little guy has changed our lives! He is SUCH a miracle and such a gift! This morning as I was praying I was thanking God for him and for Courts (and of course also Megie!), and for all of you who have supported and upheld us in your prayers. Please will you also give thanks to God with us for these great gifts?

I am still fasting every Friday for the other little babies that are undergoing this struggle. The little girl that I have written about before is still in the ICU after more than 5 months. She is still very ill and having fits often throughout the day. I also discovered that one of my Methodist colleagues, the Rev Z Henslow in Nelspruit, had a baby born at 27 weeks. I spoke with him on Thursday and heard that their little one may have to go for an operation. So, please will you continue to pray for them? We have seen the difference that prayer makes in our lives! We truly believe that it will make a difference in these little lives as well.

Friday
Feb232007

A new lease on life for an old bike!

Yesterday was a very exciting day!! Uncle Regie from KR and Sons panel shop phoned to say that my Vespa was ready for collection!

Uncle Regie is a member of a local Methodist Church. I was put in touch with by my friend, the Revd Ronnie van Eck. He offered to respray my old Vespa for me - you may remember that I had been trying to find someone who would do it, but no panel shop was willing because it was just too much work to strip, spray, and rebuild the bike. She was badly in need of some new paint and also needed quite a few dents knocked out. After all, she is 39 years old this year!

You may remember that this is what she looked like before:


So, after meeting Uncle Regie and his team, she was taken to pieces, a colour was agreed upon (Uncle Regie decided that she would look good in the new metalic Orange that is being used for the sporty Ford Fiesta), and I patiently waited. In the meantime I had ordered new rubbers for the side cowels, new grips for the handlebars, and a new badge for the front (a total of about $15 US (about R150 including postage) from a place in India that I found on the internet... When I first placed the order I was worried that the parts may never arrive... However, they came, well packaged in perfect order, and at a very reasonable price!)

Here's a picture of the Vespa during restoration.


The paintwork is absolutely perfect! She was stripped down, the dents were all fixed up, she was sanded down and then given a few coats of paint to get up to this shiny state! The orange used on this Vespa is quite different from that on my other one. This orange shines! It has some sort of metalic finish that makes it glimmer in the sun. It looks truly awesome!

AND!!! Here's a picture of the old girl all back together with the shiny new coat of paint, all the panels and beading, and saddle fitted! The orange draws a LOT of attention! At least I am always spotted by cars and taxis as I'm driving. I can now say that I have a truly unique Vespa. She has done 36 000 miles! And, I'm sure that I will do a few thousand more.


So, she looks great doesn't she!? She still has a few problems starting.... I will have to get the engine seen to as soon as I have a few spare clams to spend. The seat also needs to be replaced and the headlight is not working as it should (I can get a dim beam, but no brights). Also the speedometer doesn't work, so I am never quite sure how fast I'm driving... So that will also need to be fixed with time. However, when she starts, and once she is running, she goes like a dream! Italian craftsmanship with a South African flare.

She sure is a great joy to me, and she saves me hours of driving by allowing me to nip through the city traffic! I can't wait to leave the office this afternoon and take her out on the road home. Thanks Ronnie, and thanks Uncle Regie... You know what the best part of the whole deal is? Uncle Regie didn't charge me a cent! Now that's incredible!!

Wednesday
Feb212007

Church of the Vespaholics


Church of the Vespaholics
Originally uploaded by DocJelly.

Now, that's my kind of Church! All you need is a few faithful friends (of course when I say faithful, I mean more than just Vespa lovers, I mean people who can enjoy God in creation and two-stroke oil!), some reasonable weather, a good cup of coffee, and the time to enjoy being alive!

Aahhh.... The Church of Vespa. I wonder if they will still fall asleep during my sermons!? That could be dangerous! NOTE TO SELF - don't preach while people are driving...

PS. My 'old' 1968 Vespa comes back from the 'beauty shop' tomorrow. A member of a local Church owns a panel shop and has resprayed her for free! Thanks for setting it up for me Ronnie! You're a real friend. I can't wait to post a few photos!

So, check back in a day or two, you may like what you see.

Monday
Feb192007

God's word... Or, putting my words into God's mouth?

Those of us who preach, or who teach other people to preach, know the great temptation of putting our words in God's mouth!

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people preach absolute nonsense, abusing the intention and meaning of a text in the Bible, perhaps even preaching a heresy, and at the end of their sermon they proudly say "This is the word of God!" I think God wants to run a mile!

So, here's little resource that may be of some use to preachers, or teachers of the Bible (such as Bible study leaders).

It is a very basic introduction to Biblical Exegesis and Hermeneutics (that is, how we can responsibly study and interpret the Bible so that we get to hear God's word, rather than putting our words into God's mouth)!

Please give me feedback, comments, suggestions, and corrections. This pamphlet is based on an original pamphlet by the Revd Tim Attwell from 1999.

The link below is for the file in Adobe PDF format (if you don't have an Adobe reader you can download it for free at http://www.adobe.com/reader

If you would like an MS Word copy of the file please email me.

Basic principles of Exegesis for preachers and teachers 2007.pdf

Here's the MS Word version:

Basic principles of Exegesis for preachers and teachers 2007.doc

Thursday
Feb152007

Liam the great is (re)born


Today is the 15th of February 2007 (but you knew that already, didn't you?) Tomorrow Liam will be exactly three months old (as you may remember he was born last year on the 16th of November). However, since he was only supposed to be born this past Sunday (11 February) he is now only really 4 days old!

Today was also a very special day for us all. We have been waiting for it since he was a week old. We have had to wait until he was three months old before we could take him for an MRI scan to ascertain the exact location, size, and extent of the brain damage he had contracted as a result of the two grade 1 and one grade 4 bleeds in his brain. Well, today was that day. This morning Megie fed him at about 4.30 AM and then did not feed him again until just before the MRI, we also did our best to keep him awake from when he woke up after that early feed (about 6.30) until it was time for him to go for the scan. It seems quite strange to keep your baby awake, when normally you are trying to get him to sleep! The purpose of this was quite simply so that if he needed to be sedated he would not have eaten, but if he did not need sedation (which we discovered he could not have because he is too small) he would feed and then fall asleep with a full tummy.

We only had one 'paid' shot at the MRI (our medical aid only covers one MRI per family per year). So, we needed little Liam to lie still in that huge tube for the 30 or so minutes it would take to get the scans that were needed. Thankfully he was VERY well behaved (as we have known him to be).


So, here's the good news! The MRI showed that none of the three bleeds had caused any further problems. Also, the most severe of the three bleeds (the one in the right hemisphere) had not formed into a cyst and was draining naturally! And, whereas it had previously damaged about 15% or the right hemisphere, it now only occupies about 3 or 4 % of the mass of the right hemisphere as this picture shows (the damaged area is the lighter spot you can see in the top center of this picture). Nice looking brain that! I hope he will be a Doctor... but not like his dad, I want him to be a real doctor... But who knows!?


In fact, our doctor thinks that this cavity will simply leave some scaring and disappear over time. She said it is a miracle that he had recovered so well! The report indicates that there is no further damage, and that the small scar that is left will present much fewer problems than any of us had anticipated! How awesome is that!? Neither Megie nor I can believe just how blessed we have been. We are so undeserving of God's grace! Although, we are grateful that we have received it. And, as my friend Pete's recent post points out, we also don't know why we are fortunate to benefit from this grace... All that we know is that it happened, and for that we are grateful!

So, as of today Liam is born... again.... he is perfect in every possible way! He is truly a gift from God to us! And we are grateful.

We also received another bit of great news today! The background is that we have a very good medical plan that is an arrangement between the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and Pharos Private Health Administrators. However, as with all health plans there are limits to the cover we receive. Liam's medical bills have reached close to R300 000 thus far, of which we have had to pay approximately R100 000, some of this was our members portion, but some had to be paid after we had reached a few of those limits, and in some instances simply did not have enough cover for necessary or required treatments (in particular he has to receive 6 injections to protect him from a respiratory virus called RSV, they cost R10 000 per injection! our medical aid can only pay R3200 for the whole year). We have jokingly said that we are going to insure his legs for R30 000 each! However, the reality for us was that after we had depleted our savings earlier in the year we took out a second bond on our home (which we are very fortunate to be able to do. Not very many ministers own property against which they could loan any money). However, here is the great news! Today we heard from the Methodist Connexional Office that they are able to assist us with half of the cost of the RSV injections! That is just so wonderful! It makes us feel so richly cared for! So, instead of having to pay R60 000 we only need to pay R30 000. What makes this even more special is that the representative from the medical aid, Sister Venter, sent the motivation to the Church office to make the request. We did not even have to do it ourselves. Now that is both grace and great service!

So, all in all it has been a day of great joy and blessing! Tonight I will sleep well (Megie on the other hand will wake up every two hours or so to feed. Thanks darling!) But, thank you all for your kind care, wonderful support, and constant prayers.

In these last months I have rediscovered the joy of talking to God and the privilege of living in community. It makes me feel better... It is the source of all true healing.

Sunday
Feb042007

Right of admission reserved!?


Yesterday I spent the morning doing a workshop with the clergy and leaders of the churches in the Magalies Circuit. It was wonderful to be at Rev Stuart Bosch's fantastic church in Sinoville. I was so impressed by the warm reception, and more so by the openness of this group to consider how they could share the Gospel more faithfully with their communities (not just 'keep the gospel' for the members of their church).

The workshop was based upon the liturgy and powerful stories in Kevin Light's wonderful little book (Light, K & Rogers, F 2004. Right of admission reserved? Cape Town. Methodist Publishing house).

The primary question was, "whose shoes do you see in your church during the week?" You see, shoes don't lie. They not only tell us about the persons who wear them (i.e., are they young, old, men, women, poor, rich, conservative, flamboyant etc.), but they also tell us who comes to our church and who doesn't. Look at the shoes of most Methodist Churches and you'll see that they normally represent one particular sector of that population... They will tell you a lot about that Church - perhaps they will be mostly male shoes, or maybe only adult shoes, perhaps there will only be highly polished black leather shoes from a particular uniformed organisation etc.

Here are the resources if you would like to run the morning of reflection with your church or small group. It does not require any preaching, just the reading of the liturgy and the reading of the three reflections punctuated with songs, then some time in personal reflection and discussion in groups.

I noticed a few typos in both the liturgy and the questions. I will fix them when I get a chance. Please feel free to distribute and use this material wherever you would like. And please, change and adapt it as much as you would like. Can I just ask that you reference Kevin's book when doing so?

I would love to hear some feedback from you if you do use or adapt the materials.


Just like his dad, a nice double chin and chubby cheeks!

Now, some news on little Liam. He was weighed again on Thursday, and now weighs 2.2kg's! So he is becoming a big boy now! He also had his vaccinations this week (two injections and some drops), which have left him a little out of sorts. However, it is all necessary! We are still waiting for our Medical Aid to give their approval for him to have the MRI scan so that we can assess what, and where, the damage from the brain hemorrhage is.

Megie is doing so well with him, although I think as only mothers could know, she is exhausted from waking to feed every 2 hours! Courtney is loving her brother and has been an incredible help to Megie and I.

As for me, I am at the end of two of the busiest weeks of the year! We finished our Orientation with the new students (see the picture below) on Friday afternoon, which meant that I was in class, chapel, or with the students from 7am to 5pm each day and then needed to do my other work after that (preparing sermons, workshops, preparing lectures, dealing with staff and student concerns, catching up on correspondence, and all the other management and administration requirements). I am pleased that we will start with our regular lectures from this coming week. However, we also now begin with screening new candidates for the ministry, which means that between now and easter we will travel to every one of the 12 geographical districts of Southern Africa where the Methodist Church has membership. It is always an honour to be part of those discerning committees, listening to people articulate and share their call, asking a few pointed questions, and helping them to find a path through which to express their unique gifts and abilities. So, I'll be racking up the frequent flyer miles (well, that should be the kulula, mango, and 1Time points...)

This is a picture of our new students, the staff, and the Bishop of the district in which the seminary is located, the Revd Dr Gavin Taylor, Dr Richardson is to his right, and that's me on the extreme right (wearing my favourite jacket!). This photo was taken outside of our chapel. Please excuse the angle of the photograph... My camera was perched on a chair (one day I'll get a tripod). PS. you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Sunday
Jan282007

our baby, my back, my blog, and other business...

Wessel reminded me that I had not updated my blog in over a week. Indeed, that is true!

If there is one sure fire way to stop people returning to your blog, it is not updating regularly. So, to all the regular readers, sorry!

Firstly, little Liam is doing great! He has finally started picking up weight close to what he ought to. As mentioned in an earlier post, since Liam came home he has been struggling to pick up weight within the range that is required of him (he should be gaining about 150grams a week). In his first week home he picked up only 40 odd grams, and then 80 in the second week. However, this week he picked up 130 grams! So, he is getting there. The even better news is that he went to have his eyes tested on Friday. Most premature babies (well over 80%) have some problems with their eyes. Most commonly they get detached retina's due to the fact that they are on such high doses of oxygen whilst in the ICU. However, when Liam had his eyes tested this week the optometrist simply said that he is a miracle child. Of course we know that, and we praise God for him! Indeed, the fact that he was on oxygen for 6 and some weeks, and that he had the brain hemorrhage should have left him with some damage. But, praise God, he has perfect eyesight!! Please will you join us in thanking God for this?

January is always a busy time for me. We have our huge department of education meetings, we also have the connexional January seminar where all of our student ministers (over 200) come together for a week's training (hey Gus, it was great to see you, and Juan, your Ordination is such a joy!!! Thank you very much for honouring me by asking me to be one of your Presbyters... I promise, I won't wear the red robes!) It would seem that any such meeting comes with great stress. In the last week I slept less than 4-5 hours each night, and did not have a single moment all day where I was not busy with someone, teaching, answering questions, praying, listening, or having to communicate some element of discipline because of lack of performance.

For the last two years I have had a reminder set in my Palm diary. It goes off every Monday morning at 6.45am (we start chapel at 7.30am each day, so this just reminds me before I get to see the students from about 7am onwards). The reminder reads:

"Be joyful in hope, faithful in prayer, and patient in affliction" (Romans 12:12)

This certainly was a worthwhile reminder! So, as I grappled with Bishops, agonised over students, and did all that was required I held onto these encouraging words.

Of course, stress has a consequence... My back seems to have picked up the majority of the stress... I have not been able to lie down or carry too much weight. So, please do pray that it gets better.

This week I have to orientate all the new students who are arriving at John Wesley College. For many of them this is the start of a new and exciting journey towards full time ministry, for others it is a further step on that journey. Please would pray for them as they undertake this step and discover all that is expected of them? Would you also please pray for me and all our College staff as we do what is required to help them faithfully answer God's call?

In between these activities I need to continue with my research for the Theological Society meetings, and for the Oxford institute at which I will present a paper in August this year (my abstract was received and I have been accepted as a member of the Oxford institute).

Of course I hope to do a few of the trips between the College and the two universities on my Vespa! That is sure to bring some further joy and relaxation.

So, I hope to update the blog with more news and ideas! Thanks for checking in!

Thursday
Jan182007

What she looked like in her day... AND an update on Liam 18 January 2007


1968 vespa sprint 150
Originally uploaded by mennyj.

I found this incredible picture of a Vespa VLB Sprint on Flickr today. It shows you what my VLB would have looked like some 39 years ago when she was brand spanking new!

Today I was so pleased to have a Vespa! We only live about two blocks from Courtney's school, however traffic in Pretoria is so bad at the moment that it takes longer to drive there (about 25 minutes) than it would to walk that distance. However, we don't realy have time for either a 25 minute walk or a 25 minute drive! So, today we decided to go to school on my Vesparoogie! I managed to leave home at 7.05 and be back at the office by 7.15. Some of the other parents were still stuck in the traffic when I was already drinking my first cup of coffee and responding to emails!

Then, this afternoon I was called out to the hospital to pray with one of the parents of a baby in the ICU. The hospital is about 20km's away from my office, but it can take quite a while to get there. If I had taken my car, it may have taken even longer because there was a power outage and so none of the traffic lights were working. The cars were backed up for miles, I managed to get there in just around 20 minutes and be there in good time to pray with someone who truly needed to experience God's grace and care. It was not only great to be able to share God's love in that way, but it was fantastic to ride my Vespa; and a joy to save about an hour in the traffic on the journey there and back!

So, here's to my old girl! She is such a blessing! Tomorrow I will ride her to the studio in the morning to do a live broadcast with Prof van der Watt for the show 'Do you know what you're reading', a call-in program where folks can ask questions about the Bible and have them answered by a real Biblical scholar (Prof van der Watt) and an English guy with a Doctorate who is pretty much there because he can speak English (that's me!) Let's see if I need another push start ;-) I sure hope not! I may just park around the corner so that when we leave I won't be seen pushing my scoot down the road...

Now, onto the news that TRULY matters. Megie took Liam back to the doctor today for his checkup while I was at work. He has been home for two weeks now! He is doing very, very well indeed. The only little hickup is that he hasn't been picking up enough weight. He needs to pick up about 150 grams a week. This week he picked up somewhere between 80 grams and 100 grams, and only about 40 grams last week. So it is a bit of a worry for us. It would seem that he is still so close to that stage where feeding takes more energy than it gives him, that some feeds are actually causing him to loose weight, or simply balance out (Wow, if only I could eat and loose a bit of weight!!) Anyway, the doctor will keep monitoring his progress and we would ask for your prayers please.

Please could I also ask you to pray for the other babies that are still in the ICU, and for their parents? As I mention above, there are still some very real needs among the little kids who are there. Two of the parents who we got to know quite well have babies with serious struggles at the moment. How I wish we could waive a some magic wand and make them all better!

My father-in-law undertook to fast every Friday until Liam came home. I have undertaken to do the same until these kiddies go home with their parents. Sometimes we have to 'put our faith where our mouth is'.

God hears prayers and God answers them, but sometimes I need a little reminder that prayer is not always that easy, there is a cost associated with caring!

Sunday
Jan142007

About half way there... maybe, maybe not

Last week I quoted a few texts from the book of Psalms in my Sunday evening sermon at Bryanston Methodist Church.

Here they are:

"Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life." (Psalm 39:4)

"The length of our days is 70 years - or 80, if we have the strength … they quickly pass, and we fly away." (Psalm 90:10)

"Teach us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12).


I have often thought that a reason why we waist our lives is because we live under the mistaken impression that we will live forever. As a result we don't make the most of every day, every encounter, and every experience. Time seams cheap... We think it will never run out, so why use it sparingly?

Well, if Psalm 90:10 above is right I'm about half way with my life now! Today I turned 35 years old. I seem to have arrived at this point rather quickly. I can't say I'm disappointed, or even frightened by that prospect. As I have mentioned before, I could just possibly be the most richly blessed person alive! I am married to a wonderful woman (on the 29th of January we will have been married for 13 years! Yup, you do the math, we got married very young!) and together we have two incredible children. And yes, one great dog, two vespas and quite a few computers! Moreover, I have also had some of the most incredible experiences anyone could ever hope for! I have traveled to all sorts of exciting, and even some exotic, places. I have spent the last 14 years of my life (just short of half of it) in full time ministry - there can be nothing as rewarding as dedicating your life to serving God, and as I've come to discover it is not really about what you do, it has a lot more to do with who you do it for. Nevertheless, I am blessed to be doing what I do. I teach at one of the most innovative and incredible institutions in the world, I preach at one of the most progressive (and more importantly truly Christian and caring) Churches in our nation, and I live in a truly beautiful country.

This year have I a whole lot to give thanks for. I realise just how undeserving I am of any of it, but isn't that just how God's grace works... We get so much of what we least deserve. In particular I got the wish of having little Liam home, safe and healthy on my birthday! We had him at the pediatrician on Thursday and she is very happy with his progress. He has not picked up as much weight as we had hoped, only about 45 grams this week (he should be picking up at least 150grams a week). However, at this stage any weight gain is positive. So, he still only weighs 1.895kg's. But hang in there.... It will come!

So, I thank God for the privilege of knowing and loving Him. I thank God for the joy of loving Megan, and for the years of friendship and joy we will continue to share. I thank God for Courtney - she is still my little girl. She has all of my heart! And then, I thank God for this little guy, Liam. He's given me a second heart... And that is all his! I never cried as much, and never rejoiced as much as I have since he was born. Even though he is so little, his little life has made my life bigger than I ever thought it could be.

Here's a picture of Liam lying on his little mattress in the lounge (lots of pictures today).


And one of Courts lying on Liam's mattress in the lounge (and no, Liam is not under her. We moved him first!)

So, as I count my days, I want to count my blessings. I've had 12775 days so far, and I may have another 12775 or so days ahead of me. With all that the future holds I can't afford to waste a single day. So, I do pray "teach me oh Lord to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom and learn how to truly live".

Here's a picture of me in my birthday shirt (thanks Gwennie, Rhys, Brian and Brenda) holding my BEST present! It also happens to be a picture of Liam giving his old dad a right beating on the chin. You go boy!


Thanks for all the prezies ! From Megie, Courts and Liam - I got a wireless keyboard for my mac, some cool new computer magazines, and a montblanc cover (excuse me) for my montblanc pen (which was last year's Christmas present)! John and Charlene thanks so much for the book vouchers - you know those will be well used! Gwen, Rhys, Brian and Brenda, thanks for the shirt and shorts, and for Bill Bryson's new book "The adventures of lightning boy"! And to my good friend Dr Kate (yup, always doing it for the kids! no myocardial infarction's here... spelling!? Keep being the GOOD kind of doctor that can actually help people!) thanks for the geeked out book! I can't wait to get into it and work out just how much of a geek I am!)

I have been inundated with calls, emails, cards, and text messages (I got over 100 text messages from you loving folks at Bryanston!) It sure is good to be loved, and it is great to be alive, even if I am getting old.....

Tuesday
Jan092007

Back in the saddle. Life is good!

Here's a photo of one of my favorite things, taken at one of my favorite places.

The old gray scooter is mine.

It is a 1968 VLB Sprint 150cc Vespa. Next to it is a brand spanking new Vespa Grandtourismo 200cc! I'm not sure who that belongs to. I wish it belonged to me! The photo was taken on the campus of the University of Pretoria (where I am a research associate in the Department of New Testament). I love going there. It is a beautiful campus, and it always reminds me of my care free undergraduate days at Rhodes University.

Just take a look at the curves on my old Vespa. Heck, I would LOVE a new one! But, my Vespa is a real classic and it runs like a dream (most of the time, or should I say, it runs like a dream it just has some trouble starting). When it doesn't start as it should, it can be quite embarrassing, like today. I came out of the studio at Radio Pulpit where I had just recorded two very serious shows for the program "The ministry and me" of which I am a co-host. With me were two senior Methodist colleagues, the Reverends Christopher Harrison and John Gillmer. They got into their Toyota Camry (a sensible car for respectable persons). I on the other hand went across to my 1968 Vespa, which by the way is SSSSOOOOO old that it doesn't even have a key to lock the ignition, so a thief could simply kick start it and drive it away (that is if it would kick start...), so here I am walking towards my battered old scooter which is chained with a bicycle lock and chain so as not to be stolen. I try, in the most dignified manner as possible, to kick start the bike (after unlocking the bicycle chain and lock).... It won't start! She does get a bit temperamental from time to time when I leave her alone! A few minutes later I am being pushed around the parking lot by a senior colleague trying to get my rickety old bike running! He got some good exercise, I had a good laugh!

The point of this story is that life is meant for living and enjoying! A long time ago, while still a minister in heaven (a.k.a Somerset West, which was one of the happiest times of my life), I decided that I would enjoy whatever I did so that my ministry would be filled with joyful service. Even then I would park my car and drive my Vespa (a slightly newer model, 1972 VBB) to pastoral visits and preaching engagements. Sure, some would call it 'altruistic hedonism' (the more serious ethicists among you are welcome to google this term, as well as 'utilitarianism' 'consequentialist ethics'). But, somehow whenever I get onto this scooter and drive it around I feel alive! My mood is better, my spirit is filled with praise and thanksgiving, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that that I am keeping a relic on the road...

I had not ridden my scooter since Megan first went into labour on the 7th of November last year. My routine of light hearted joy had been interrupted by the necessary seriousness of the events that unfolded after that day. Needless to say that last two and a bit months have been more stressful than any other time I can remember. We were pretty much in survival mode.

One thing I am convinced of is that God does not want us to have to live that way. God wants us to do more than just survive! God wants us to truly live, to find life and joy in our living, and through that to bring life and joy to others. So, since Liam has come home (and he is doing so well by the way. I will post an update on his development on Thursday after he has been to the Doctor for his checkup), I have been trying to return to completing my tasks with joy. I drive my old Vespa to work in the mornings, I drive it around Pretoria to my meetings and appointments.... And occasionally I get senior colleagues to push start me in the car park. Now that's truly living. In some ways, I guess my Vespa makes me more Christian!

Ephesians 4:15-16, TLB. "Instead, we will lovingly follow the truth at all times--speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly--and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is the Head of His body, the church."

Thursday
Jan042007

Update on Liam - 4 January 2007

Here's an updated picture of our little lad! It was taken this morning (4 January 2006). You can see that he's growing, yet he is still SO SMALL!!! However, he has his dad's second chin already! Praise God, it is so great to see him looking like a 'normal' little baby.


Today Liam is 7 weeks old! In the last 7 weeks Megan and I have become part of the furniture at the Pretoria East Hospital (even the porters and cleaning staff know us by name). In fact, it is 9 weeks since Megie was first admitted to the hospital, and we have been there every day since (with the exception of one Saturday and Sunday between Megie's first and second admissions early in November last year).

However, this story ends with great joy! Liam has steadily grown. Your prayers have been palpable, we have seen him overcome obstacle upon obstacle. We have watched him move ahead, even when Doctors said he may not. In truth, he is nothing less than one of God's amazing miracles! As individuals, and as a family, we have grown and deepened our faith, and rediscovered elements that we had long since forgotten about. It has been an amazing experience of God's providence and grace.

This morning he weighed in at a whopping 1.855kg's. That is a whole 700 grams heavier than he was on the 16th of November. The astute reader may notice that his weight is slightly down today. This is as a result of good news, not bad news. The good news is that Megie started breast feeding him on Saturday lasts week (just one feed a day when he got to just over 1.7kg's). That first day he was so tired after his first feed that he didn't wake up for almost a whole day! However, the next day she moved onto two feeds. It didn't go too well and we thought that we might have jumped the gun a little. However, he was just getting into his stride! Liam was topped up with tube feeds after the breast feeds, and was also tube fed for the other 6 feeds of the day. On Monday he was wide awake and crying for his milk before each 3 hourly meal! That was so great to see, so the Doctor told Megie to up his feeds by two a day, she was now up to 4 breast feeds a day. He was handling the exertion well, and was getting enough milk to keep him hydrated and his little tummy full! We knew we were half way there. On Wednesday the Doctor said Megie should increase the feeds by one more (to 5) when one of the nurses asked if Megie shouldn't just board at the hospital and try the full 8 feeds. The doctor agree, and so, that's what happened.

Megie stayed at the hospital last night and Liam fed well (but did loose a bit of weight... It's all that exercise!) So, even though he was not supposed to be home for another month and a half (his due date was to be in the middle of February), and he only weighs 1.855kg's, the Doctor was happy to send him home!! How incredible is that!? We could hardly believe it. We knew that it was not that long to go, but we didn't expect it to be so soon.

The picture below was taken in the lounge outside of the ICU. This is the first time in his life that Liam had been outside of the maternity section of the hospital. As you can see, I was quite pleased to have him out!


He will still be under 'lock and key' for another two weeks or so at home. Since his immune system is not yet fully developed we have to slowly introduce him to all the wiles and ways of the world. That means that we will restrict visitors (please be patient!) and not take him out of the house unless necessary. Megan, Courtney, and I, still go through the ritual of disinfecting our hands with soaps and sprays before touching him or picking him up. We will also not take him to Church for a few weeks. However, as his weight picks up, and his immunity builds, the threat of infection becomes less and less important. So, he will soon be out and about. Watch out world!

Courtney is LOVING having her brother home! She has held him for hours on end today and as been a real help to Megan and I. She had only seen him three times in the 7 weeks and couldn't believe how much he had grown since she saw him at Christmas (2 weeks ago).


The care and love that we received from the nursing staff, and our doctors, was such an inspiration and a blessing. They truly ministered a gift of healing, not only to our little boy, but also to our sore and anxious hearts. They were kind, patient, supportive, wise, and supportive. We will pop in and see them all again next week when Liam goes for his check up, and stop in from time to time to show how much he has grown. Of course they may also get the occasional call when we are not sure what to do! He still receives some medication and we're not the cleverest when it comes to working out dosages and such.

There is nothing quite as nice as having Megie, Courts, and Liam, all at home! At least the estrogen is being balanced by a bit more testosterone.

The great blessing is that he will be at home for my birthday on the 14th of January. At one stage we thought that he may still be in hospital, but here he is! So, I will celebrate my 35th year with everything that any person could want, the love of God, the love of my wife, daughter, and a healthy son. I'm quite pleased! Can you tell? And, NO KEV, I'm NOT getting fat! It is an optical illusion.....


Other than missing the kind and knowledgeable staff of ICU, we will however, appreciate not having to drive to the hospital and back a few times a day (even though the trip was only about 30km's, I managed to do over 4000km's in my new car just between his birth and now!)

So, a new chapter in our lives, and Liam's, begins today! Of course we are well aware (as many have told us) that premature babies often go back into hospital. However, we are grateful to have him home, and if he must go back at any stage we know that he will have the best care. AND, thank God, each re-admission is a new event for our medical aid (they have been phoning us since before Christmas to tell us to start looking out for a good government hospital to transfer him to since we were reaching our limit for his care). Thank God we have not had to do that and have been able to cover all the costs between the Medical Aid and ourselves thus far.

Thank you so much for everyone who has prayed for us, phoned, sent messages, and supported us with love (and great food!) We are so grateful for all your care!

Monday
Jan012007

Sermon for a new book

Happy New Year everyone! May 2007 be filled with joy and blessing.

Here is a copy of a sermon that I was asked to write at the World Methodist council in Korea last year. Rev Dr Angela Shier-Jones initiated a project to get Methodist scholars from across the world to each choose, and rewrite, one of John Wesley's 44 sermons. I chose sermon 28, which is on discourse 8 of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:19-23). You can read John Wesley's original sermon here. The brief was not to simply rewrite, critique, or modernise Wesley's sermon, but rather to take the central message of the sermon and adapt it to the writers context. The outcome was to be a sermon that could actually be preached today.

It is a great honour to have been asked to participate since persons such as Randy Maddox, Richard Heitzenrater, and Geoffrey Wainwright have also been asked to write sermons.

Here is a copy of the sermon. I would appreciate feedback, comments, corrections and insights.
UPON THE LORD'S SERMON ON THE MOUNT.doc