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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
Dec262006

Geekier than thou!

Today I realised just what a Geek I am. I overheard my daughter trying to explain to her friends that her Daddy is a Doctor, but not a Doctor who operates on people, no, her daddy reads books, looks at people's brains, teaches people, and loves computers....

Yup, even my daughter thinks I am Doctor Geek. Well, in 2007 there is nothing cooler than being a Geek! The world is changing! Girls used to love football players, now they love the guy who can operate their Personal Video Recorder, hack the local municipality computer to squash their traffic fines, and who is geeky enough to work for Apple, Google or Microsoft (in that order) and get the BIG MONEY!

You may remember this wonderful cartoon that I blogged about a year and half ago (June 2005)? It illustrates that Geeks rule in the new world!

So, to remind you of that, I thought I would use this fallow time between Christmas and New year to share a few Geek quotes... Learn these and you'll be off to a good Geek start for 2007. They come from here.

Top 10 Geek Quotes:
1. There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't. - Unknown

2. If at first you don't succeed; call it version 1.0 - T-Shirt

3. Microsoft: "You've got questions. We've got dancing paperclips." - Unknown

4. My pokemon bring all the nerds to the yard, and they're like you wanna trade cards? Darn right, I wanna trade cards, I'll trade this but not my charizard. - Unknown

5. 1f u c4n r34d th1s u r34lly n33d t0 g37 a l1f3 - tee shirt

6. I'm not anti-social; I'm just not user friendly - T-Shirt

7. Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning. - Unknown

8. A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history - with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila. - Unknown

9. This one's my favourite! I would love to change the world, but they won't give me the source code
- Unknown

10. My software never has bugs. It just develops random features. - Unknown

There you have it... If you understand more than 5 of these you're a Geek. If you understand number 1, you're rated an UBER Geek (with ubermicro.... See www.purpwnage.com for more on ubermicro). However, based on my daughter, I am Geekier than thou!

Any other UberGeeks out there!? Any better quotes? I'd love to hear from you! The comments button is just a mouse click away.

PS. The title for this post, and the cartoon, come from a great website called geek culture... I bought a few pins and T-Shirts from them. They also have a fantastic daily cartoon!

Saturday
Dec232006

A blessed Christmas!

As we celebrate the birth of a very special boy, the boy child Christ, saviour of the world, Megan, Courtney and I give thanks for the birth of our own little miracle - Liam Angus Forster (a.k.a BJ... Search the blog if this doesn't make any sense).

We thank God for his birth, for his strength, and for the gift that he is to us. His life has allowed us to experience the grace, love and provision of God in new and unimaginable ways. His life has allowed us to experience your love and care. His life has reminded us what really counts. There can be no greater gift than this.

Take a look at his little hands below, they are so small that he can barely get them around my finger.

However, these hands are powerful, powerful enough to bring me to tears. They are filled with life and potential. Dwight D. Eisenhower once commented, “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog". We thank God for making Liam so much stronger than his weak little body. We give thanks to God for the gift of life, the life of His son Jesus who strengthens and renews us, and the gift of the life of our little son Liam who has reminded us again of the gift of life.

Wednesday
Dec202006

Update on Liam - 20 December 2006.

Hello everybody!

Liam the great is doing just great! He now weighs 1.565kg's. He picked up a bit of a fever last night, we pray that it is not the onset of an infection. However, his temperature has gone up before, they simply strip him down to his nappy and open the little hand vents on his incubator and his temperature usually drops. So! Let's hope. He has had a few baths in the last two weeks. He hates being stripped down, but, he LOVES being in the water (I guess it reminds him of the womb - if he was still in the womb at this point he would be at about 33 weeks of pregnancy with another 7 or so to go before birth).


He has been getting stronger and stronger each day. We hope that Megie will be able to start breastfeeding him some time in the next week or so. Apparently once that happens his growth will be accelerated a little more, since the effort it takes to feed matures the lungs a bit, and also helps to metabolise his feeds. Look at these little eyes! I can't tell you how awesome it is to hold him for a bit each day!!!!


Megan is now on leave (her offices closed last week Friday). This means that she has a bit less stress, a bit more time to be at the hospital, and when she is not waking up to express milk, she can catch a little catnap (although those who know Megie know that she hasn't done any resting.... She has been busy, busy, busy - sorting out Christmas presents, fixing up Liam's room, taking care of Courtney). Courtney has been enjoying her school holidays. She has spent some time with Megie's mom, my mom, some of her friends, and her favourite, Megie's sister Gwen!! So, Courts is very happy at the moment. Although. I am sure you can imagine she is quite excited about the prospect of seeing her brother for a few minutes again on Christmas. I am doing fine.

Thanks again to everyone for your prayers, emails, and messages. Janet Cope (my colleague from Bryanston Methodist Church prepared a whole lot of pre-cooked curries (my favourite meal) for me to eat! Megie and Courts have been eating meals prepared by Julia, so we are very well taken care of! Thanks everyone.

Saturday
Dec162006

One pUnK under God! This is not your grandma's Church...

CAUTION: This post has a few out links please check them out once you've read this entry and posted some comments!

A post by my good friend Dr Bentley got me thinking. Read his post it is a well reasoned and thought provoking challenge to those of us (myself included) who feel the need to 'defend' God (and the Church).

The converse to his argument is the following very interesting CNN article on Jay Bakker (son of Televangelist Jim Bakker). He has become so concerned with how the religious right have damaged Christ, and Christianity, that he has formed a 'self styled', relevant, counter Christian culture (note NOT counter Christian, just counter conservative Christian cultural) expression of Church.

Here's a very short (30 second) video clip that will give you some idea of this young tatooed Christian evangelist. (It is a flash based video, so if you're on dialup just start it and come back in two or three minutes and it will completely loaded).

As he rightly says, "this is not your granny's Church"! Do yourself a favour (if you have broadband) and do a search for Jay Bakker on youtube.com. There is a fascinating 3 minute documentary on his Church. It seeks to be inclusive, to hold back on judgement, to share the love and acceptance of Christ, to preach peace, agitate against war (in fact it seems to take a stand against just about everything that his dad, and other conservative evangelicals in the USA stand for).

One punk under God! What do you think? Could this kind of Church work for you? Would it make a difference among young people in our context?

PS. I have been trying to convince Megie to let me get just ONE ARM in a sleeve tatoo! Somehow she won't let me! Maybe she's too sensible! Ha ha. Heck, you don't get more proper than a minister, with a doctorate....

Friday
Dec152006

Update on Liam - 14 December 2006.

Yesterday Liam the Great (slayer of Oxygen, dirtier of Nappies, conqueror of Neonatal ICU, lover of Incubation) celebrated his 4 week birthday! This is an answer to prayer, and a real milestone, because he gets a little bit stronger each day. Megan and I both feel confident that he passed the major danger points, now it's just fattening him up! His last weight was 1.4kg's.

Here's a picture of Liam getting his first bath from Megie (he had previously had a quick wash down from one of the nurses). His bath had to be done with the oxygen attached, however, we disconnected the probes from the monitors. It also had to be a very quick in and out since he cannot keep his body temperature for too long


Bathing him was quite a big deal for us, since it is something 'normal'. Megie did so well! Remember, it has been about 7 years since we've had to do this. Of course the fact that he still has a few tubes and lots of wires makes it a little more complicated. However, this is one instance in which is size is a real plus. He is small enough for Megie to hold him almost completely in one of her hands, with his legs and a few bits dangling onto her wrist. I, of course, did what most dads do... I held a video camera!

I can, however, assure you that I am a champion at changing nappies! And, at this stage, quite adept at feeding (although our hope is that soon I will not have the 'equipment' to do what is necessary). Until then it is a daily joy to hold him for an hour or so whilst he gets his feed.

Once again, thank you so much for all the encouraging messages, prayers, and practical help (yesterday Jules, one of our worship leaders at Bryanston, arrived with about 10 frozen meals!) It is wonderful to be loved, and incredible to experience God's provision, both in supernatural and miraculous healing, and in tangible care and concern! Where would we be without our faith in Christ, and the love of the body of Christ?

Sunday
Dec102006

Update on Liam - 10 December 2006.

Our little miracle boy turned 3 weeks old on Thursday! Each day is a gift from God!

Here's a picture of me giving him his dinner.


He was getting 27 ml per feed when that photo was taken. However, the Doctor has taken his feeds down to 23 ml per feed. I cannot tell you what a roller-coaster ride each day is! Liam suddenly started with very disturbing behaviour about 3 days ago. He would simply stop breathing and his heart would stop! It is known as arythmia (not sure of the spelling). It would seem that some sort of drop in heart rate is quite normal after a feed. However, his has been a little more extreme. His full tummy seems to have two effects on him. Firsltly, a full tummy puts pressure on his litte lungs which makes it difficult for him to breath. Secondly, when his tummy is full he falls into a deep sleep and simply forgets to breath and let his heart beat! Thankfully, he is well connected! So, the moment his respiration drops, his heart beat drops, or his blood oxygen saturation drops the alarms sound! Then it just takes a couple of shakes to wake him and he gets going again. Amazing isn' it!? But, scary at the same time. It has meant that Megie and I have felt the need to spend as much time as possible with him to make sure that he is OK.

Here's a picture of our little lad sleeping in his incubator holding dad's hand.

And here's a picture of him wide awake holding Megie's hand.

Please keep your prayers going!

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)