Search
  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • 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.
Pages
Social networking

Entries in gratitude (4)

Friday
Aug102018

Starting my first academic sabbatical at Oxford University

Today I depart for Oxford. This is the first in a series of academic and research visits that I will undertake during my sabbatical. I am so very grateful for this opportunity!
 
I will be researching and working on a new book (on the politics of forgiveness and the complexity of social identity). I will also be finalising various chapters for other books, editing two books for which I am a co-editor, and finalising some long overdue research articles for publication in scholarly journals.
 
In-between I will be teaching and speaking at various Universities in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America. I am also presenting papers and lectures at a few conferences.
 
I don't take this opportunity for granted - it is a very rare privilege. What I do with this time, belongs to others. 
It belongs to my students and others who graciously and kindly read my work and engage my research. It belongs to colleagues who pick up my responsibilities so that I can have this time to read, reflect, write and grow - thank you! It belongs to the various communities of which I am a part (the church, our neighbourhood, and various organisations that I serve in society) who are giving me the freedom and support to be away. And of course it belongs to my precious family, Megie, Courtney and Liam, who I will miss immensely each time that I pack my bags!
The work that I do is not very important - it certainly is not more important than my family, the Church, my colleagues and students. However, it is the work that I am called to do, and so I will do my best! I will remain disciplined (while still having some fun!), be critical, creative and joyful as I go! And hopefully, I will get to see a few of you, my friends, along the way! So keep an eye on facebook, my twitter and instagram feeds (both are @digitaldion), any my youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/dionforster - I will post various forms of content to each of these platforms as I go.
First up is the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies at Pembroke College Oxford. For the first time, this year, I will be participating as a New Testament Scholar in the Biblical Studies group. In previous years I have always participated in the Systematic Theology and Ethics group.
I will be presenting a paper based on research from my last book on the 'politics of forgiveness' among South African readers of Matthew 18.15-35 at Pembroke College, Oxford. 
Then, I will also be presenting the Fernley Hartley Trust lecture in Oxford for the Methodist Church of Britain on Friday 17 August 2018 at Wesley Memorial Church in Oxford at 17.00. See details for that event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/216413309019437/
Saturday
Jul142012

Looking towards home! Malaysia to Cape Town

This week in Malaysia with the good people of Malaysian Care has been another one of those blessed 'God encounters' for me.

Malaysia holds a very special place in my heart. I have visited this country more than any other. Each time that I come here I discover a new level of blessing, and of course some added layers of complexity in the Malaysian social, political and religious context. This week was no different.

Because of some scrutiny by the security police on a previous visit I have been somewhat cautious about sharing the names of people and places that I visited this week. I can say, however, that I met with old friends, made a myriad of news friends, and heard some absolutely amazing stories of hope and courage.

I was privileged to share this trip with my colleague, Amanda Jackson, from Micah Challenge International. Amanda is an experienced campaigner, activist, and a wise and trusted friend. Her gifts of discernment and gentle grace were a God send in the meetings we had with senior Church leaders, sometimes jaded activists and campaigners for justice and freedom, and particularly as we met with some very senior political figures. I have learned a lot from her!

One of our speaking events took place at DUMC (Dream Centre, a Methodist Church). This was the Church that was raided by the security police last year, and a number of the staff and workers were arrested on charges of sedition [Update 18 July 2012 - I was contacted by DUMC to indicate that in fact none of their staff had been arrested during the DUMC event, and it was not the sedition act that was enforced.  To find out more information about this event please see the official statements on the DUMC website at http://www.dumc.com.my ]. I'm pleased to say that the sedition act, which was the act under which we and our hosts faced police 'interest' in 2011, has been repealed. These are some concerns that the act which has replaced it is not much better. Still, I am comforted by the courage of these sisters and brothers who are willing to be imprisoned simply for feeding the hungry, educating and clothing the poor, and advocating for the rights of the disenfranchised.

I was asked, by a friend last night (who was arrested last year for advocating for the rights of fellow citizens) what my impression is of Malaysia. I have considered that question a great deal. I am encouraged that the Church is so active, understanding that our relationship with Jesus supersedes national laws. I am encouraged by the fact that members of Churches and their leaders understand that serving Jesus requires taking responsibility for the freedom and rights of all of the nations citizens. I am encouraged that the Church is not so narrow-minded that it ignores sisters and brothers from different denominations and faith traditions. Churches and religious groupings are standing together to see God's justice established.

I am particularly encouraged that the Christians that I met with this week love Jesus passionately, and from that love flows a myriad of responses to the question what does the Gospel look like in society? and what should the good news of Jesus' love feel like for the poor, the stranger, the weak, the oppressed?

We made significant headway for the 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption campaign'! There will be a good witness, a strong light, showing just how much God loves Malaysia.

So, I will be praying for all of my unnamed friends. I am encouraged to act, with passion and commitment, once again for the land in which I live - South Africa. We have some significant challenges when it comes to corruption. A lack of transparency, the abuse of political power, racism, and moral decay. It is time for me to once again become an advocate and an activist in my own land!

Thank you for reminding me of that calling my Malaysian friends!

Friday
Oct012010

The journey is drawing to a close! An update on Courtney 1 October 2010

We cannot thank and praise God sufficiently for His unending mercy and grace to Courtney and our whole family!  

We love our girl so very, very much!  Her life is an immeasurable gift to us, and we know that God has such a special plan for our princess.  He has carried her through this last tough month, offering her courage and wisdom well beyond her tender age. We are so proud of Courtney - she has faced her fears, endured pain and uncertainty with courage, and through it all been a shining example of a young Christian woman whose faith is in our God!

Today, on the 1st of October, Courtney's journey with cancer has come to an end!!

This morning we took her back to Dr Wessels at the Somerset West Mediclinic for a final checkup and to have the 24 staples removed from her neck and head.  While she will bear the physical scar from this month on her body for some years, we are praying that God will completely remove any emotional scars there may be!  We know that she will soon return to her vibrant love of life!  The signs are already there!

Courtney is such a brave little girl. Her courage has blessed and inspired me. 

Sure, she cried a little today as they removed the staples, but in the end she managed a great smile!  We're hoping that she will return to school next week (for part of the day to start with, and then ease her way back in).

She received some medication to deal with the last of the blood and tissue that is in her brain and spinal fluid (this is a bit like a mild meningitis).  But this will clear and soon there will be no more headaches, vomiting or nausea.

All glory to God who not only creates in magnificence, but also re-creates, sustains and perfects His creation!

You can read about Courtney's journey through this illness to the miracle of healing by clicking here (or on the tag 'miraclegirl').

You may recall that our journey began about a month ago when Courtney fell ill with a cold.  This quickly spread into a sinus infection and later she was hospitalised with a swollen face and eye. Because there was some concern about the damage to her optical nerve (and to see where the infection was) she went for an MRI.  At that point it was discovered that she had a 3cm tumor in the 4th cerebral ventricle.  She was treated for the infection to her eye and her surgery was scheduled for two weeks later.  The operation was a great success and the neurosurgeon was overjoyed that he had completely removed the tumour. There was no damage to her brain at all.  

Whilst the worst was feared about the histology of the tumor, the best results returned a few days later!  Courtney's tumor was benign - she had a very rare form of brain cancer called a Choroid Plexus Papilloma (accounting for between 0.4-0.6% of tumors in that area of the brain). Even the doctor assured us that this was an answer to prayer since the Medulloblastoma (which is a much more agressive cancer) is the more likely growth in that region.  God in His grace had healed her!

All in all we have experienced anew the wonder of God's loving grace and power, it has been emphasized through the wonderful care and love of the body of Christ.  As family, friends and colleagues - and even people we don't know - have prayed for Courtney, sent notes, cooked meals, sent messages and loved us on behalf of Christ!

I want to encourage you about the certainty of God's love in every situation (as Romans 8.28 says).  Moreover, God's mercy and compassion is a source of great power and strength in such trying times (please read Lamentations 3.21-26 and Psalm 33.18-22).  

If you come upon this post in the years after October 2010; and you find yourself struggling with the diagnosis of a loved one, perhaps a child or a spouse, then please be encouraged by what God has done in Courtney's life.  Feel free to drop us a line.  It would be our joy to pray with you and offer you encouragement and care.

This unfortunate event has renewed our faith in God's power.  It has also caused us to have to reconsider our priorities in life!  Our children truly are our most precious gifts from the Lord - nothing is more valuable.  Work, ambition, material advancement, personal fulfilment, all of these things must rightly take their place behind the priority of creating a loving home to safely nurture our children towards their great destiny.

As you know both Liam and Courtney have had their fair share of health challenges in life - we thank God for all He has done in them and for what God wants to do with Courtney and with Liam.

Courtney's whole life lies ahead of her - please pray for our princess and ask God to bless and protect her in the many years that lie ahead!  Please pray the same thing for little Liam! May he too come to grow into all that God has destined him to be!

With inexpressible gratitude for God's loving grace,

Dion, Megan, Courtney and Liam.

Monday
Mar192007

Don't forget the poor! I thank God that I can feel, although it is seldom easy...


I have a life of great blessing and privilege. Many of you who know me well know how often I struggle with a feelings of unworthiness. Why on earth should my life be so great, when there are others in the world who are so much more holy, devout, committed, pure, intelligent, caring (and the list goes on), who should suffer and struggle? Why should I have so much, when others have so little? How can I possibly sleep at night, and work through the day, knowing that nearby there are children who starve, wives who are beaten, men who have lost their self respect because they have been unable to work for months, whole communities dying of HIV... how can I do it?

I feel. In fact to be honest, I feel it deeply, often to the point of great sadness.

However, I thank God that I can experience life, that I can feel, and that I can think. In particular I am grateful that God employs all of my faculties in engaging with me, as unworthy as I am!

Let the truth be known, God truly does speak to me (not so much in an audible voice... Although that does happen from time to time when I forget to take my meds ;-)!

God speaks to me by engaging my intellect; I have been re-reading Dawkin's attack on faith The God delusion. Through it God has spoken to me and is reminding me that faith is not incongruent with reason, in fact it belief is the most reasonable response in a suffering world! Someone once asked Viktor Frankl, the Jewish psychologist and writer, how he could still believe in a loving God after witnessing and surviving the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. He is believed to have answered "how could one possible go through such horror without believing in God?" If I did not believe, I simply could not cope. For I would either have to stop feeling, or I would be driven to complete despair. My belief gives me hope.

God speaks to me through my emotions, I have had a number of very emotive encounters with God of late (I guess that some of it has to do with the fact that I am feeling somewhat run down and tired because of the demands and business of these past few months, such feelings always leave me quite emotional. Coupled with this is the emotional roller coaster of Liam's growth and recovery since November last year). I feel, and I thank God for it! I can think of nothing worse than being as hard as a rock, impassible, and without the capacity for either great joy or great pain. It is not possible to experience the one, without the possibility of also experiencing the other.

And, God speaks to me through my experience of reality (particularly as it is mediated through the scriptures, and through significant relationships). I would like to dwell on this point a little if I may.

This weekend I experienced, once again, the dichotomy of privilege and poverty. The privilge is that I had the honour to preside at the wedding of very special family friends in Cape Town. Imagine if you can, the incredible honour of being able to facilitate a moment of such loving intensity that it will carry two persons forward in commitment, hope, faith, and deepening love for the rest of their lives. I cannot imagine any servant of the gospel who is worthy of such a great honour. And so, as I spoke with Sean and Kim, and addressed the gathered family and friends, I was overwhelmed with gratitude at being asked to play some small part in the sacredness of this moment. That they should find me worthy to do it, that God should find me worthy to call me such ministry, blows my mind! Of course, together with this privilege came the practical expressions of their regard for me, a situation that I still struggle to understand. I was flown to Cape Town, given a car, accommodated in a magnificent hotel, lavished with gifts.

As part of the trip I also had the joyous privilege of visiting some of my closest friends, Gus, Heather, Andre (AKA Norm) and Michelle. They are so kind to me, so affirming, so loving... How could I ever deserve such love? It was great to experience it though.

Last night I once again had the privilege of standing in front of a full Church, over 300 people I would guess, eager to hear the Gospel and worship God. It is a Church filled with some of the most brilliant hearts and minds of our nation! Among them are doctors, lawyers, economists, parents, children, scholars, teachers, servants and of course friends. What could I have done to deserve such an honour? That they would trust me to listen for God's voice and share my insights with them still blows my mind. They are far more intelligent, and many far more committed and creative in their expressions of Christ's love! However, I gratefully accept the privilege of ministering to them.

Last week Megan and I received a third donation towards Liam's medical expenses. We are so undeserving of the grace showered upon us by people who don't even know us! Our friend Wessel Bentley's Church has given us a total of R32 5oo towards the R100 000 or so that we have had to find to cover unpaid medical bills (please also see my blog entry below about the incredible gift from an unknown saint)! How could we ever be worthy of such generosity? Yet, we are blessed and thankful to receive it. Perhaps more thankful than they will ever know. I am so undeserving of such generosity and grace.

On Friday I heard from a colleague, who has become a dear friend, the Revd Zdzislaw Hendzel, that his son Christopher who was also born at 27 weeks in February this year had passed away after an almost 2 month struggle in the neonatal ICU. I was crushed. I don't know how to respond. Why do I have the privilege of the life of my son, yet he does not have the privilege of his? It is an undeserved and not understood. All I could do was weep and pray. It came on the day of my fast. I will continue to make that sacrifice of thanksgiving. I have no other response.

And so God speaks to me... And I hear.

What I hear is that even though I am so privileged, I am totally impoverished. There is not a single achievement, accolade, honour or blessing in my life that belongs to me. Everything is a gracious gift from God. And, my desire to find a way to become worthy of these honours is in itself a selfish desire, a desire to remove the grace and somehow pretend that I have earned these great gifts, that perhaps I could show that I deserve them. But, I do not. They are simply gifts, gracious, undeserved, unmerited gifts. I have no moral, spiritual, or intellectual prosperity. I simply live in humble dependence on the God of all grace.

My friend Peter Grassow sent me the following quotes this morning:

Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. - Deuteronomy 15:10-10

and

It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity. -Frederic D. Huntington


Poverty and privilege. These are the two contrasting realities of my life.

There is in my congregation at Bryanston a young man who is so remarkable, so gifted, so worthy of every privilege that life could shower on brilliance, yet he has chosen to give his best (and he is the best) to serve God. His service is not just empty words. This young man has devoted his brilliant mind, his youthful energy, and his compassionate heart, to alleviate poverty, poverty of the worst kind. I am inspired by him, it is a privilege to know him, to know people like Sean, Kim, Gus, Heather, Andre, Michelle, Zdzislaw, Wessel, Peter, it is a privilege to know Jason (AKA Jay). They remind me that my life is intended to spent, and spent generously. I can find no better response to my privilege and poverty than to have my life spent in the service of others, others who are far greater than me. If I can change just one life like this, my life will have been well spent!

Please could you take some time to read Jason's reflection and challenge (in MS Word format below)?

1Q 2007.doc

Let's allow our privilege and our poverty to speak to us, and as Jason challenges us at the end of his reflection, let us "Remember the poor". I seem to remember Jesus saying,

'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these..., you did for me.' (Matthew 25:40 NIV)