• 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.
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Entries in love (17)


Deep solidarity with humanity, creation and God

A few years ago, at the height of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa, I wrote that the Church would need to cultivate a deep sense of solidarity with HIV positive persons if it was to uphold the integrity of its witness and work. 
I wrote,

Schillebeeeckx notes that without true solidarity the “gospel becomes impossible to believe and understand”[i].  The notion of true solidarity cannot be divorced from contextual solidarity.  Our solidarity is not merely some spiritual concept that has no bearing on our real lives.  So, in relation to HIV/AIDS Haight reminds us, “Jesus cannot be Christ and salvation cannot be real without having some bearing on this situation”[ii]

The Southern African context is not unfamiliar with suffering and solidarity.  Albert Nolan wrote during the height of the atrocities of Apartheid in the 1980’s that solidarity with the suffering will be “the new starting point for modern theology and spirituality in most of the Christian world today”[iii].  
This weekend I came across the quote below as I was reading some ecological theology on the Sunday aftern Earth Day.
If we are to hope to correct our abuses of each other and of other races and of our land, and if our effort to correct these abuses is to be more than a political fad that will in the long run be only another form of abuse, then we are going to have to go far beyond public protest and political action. We are going to have to rebuild the substance and the integrity of private life in this country. We are going to have to gather up the fragments of knowledge and responsibility that we have parceled out to the bureaus and the corporations and the specialists, and we are going to have to put those fragments back together again in our own minds and in our families and households and neighborhoods. We need better government, no doubt about it. But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities. We need persons and households that do not have to wait upon organizations, but can make necessary changes in themselves, on their own.
- Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace
This challenging quote, on the Sunday after 'earth day' reminds me that we need loving solidarity rather than conquering violence. The way of the prince of peace is love not conquest. Christ rules from a cross as a servant rather than a conquering King. I shared some of these thoughts in my recent VLOG on the Cross of Christ and the language of Empire.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, reflections and ideas - leave me a comment, send me a tweet @digitaldion.

[i] Schillebeeckx, E Jesus: An experiment in Christology.  Translated by Hoskings, H.  New York:  Vintage books 1981:623.

[ii] Haight, R, Jesus symbol of God. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books (1999:26).

[iii] Nolan, A, God in South Africa. Cape Town:  David Philiip publishers. (1988:43).


Christians and pessimism - A reminder to live for hope from Oscar Romero and Henri Nouwen

Last year was a tough year for many people around the world. I know it was difficult for many of my friends and family. Over the last couple of days I have had a number of conversations with friends who are feeling hopeless and concerned about issues ranging from politics, to economics and the environment.

In my reading I have come across a few quotes that challenge me to remember that as a person of faith I should live by a different standard. Christians live with a hope that is real, yet our hope cannot be collapsed into history, past, present or future, in its entirety. Yes, we must pay meticulous attention to what is happening around is. We must act with courage, grace and love in all situations. However, our hope is larger than history, it is based on a reality that is more real than our perception of what we believe to be real. Our hope comes from being claimed by the God of history. Our hope is eschatological - the fullness of life through the fullest Person (Jesus Christ) in the fullness of time.

Living with this kind of hope takes courage. It takes courage to live for someone, and something, more important than our immediate reaction to people and events. It takes grace to act, and react, in a manner that is different from other persons and the rest of the world. It takes commitment to live for the common good rather than just one's own comfort and security. It takes hard work and patience to stay on the path of rightness and justice for the long haul.

I pray that I will have the wisdom to live in this way, and that others will choose the live a life that is much better than mine.

Here are some quotes that inspired and challenged me on this journey:

“Christians cannot be pessimists. Christians must always nourish in their hearts the fullness of joy. Try it, brothers and sisters; I have tried it many times and in the darkest moments, when slander and persecution were at their worst: to unite myself intimately with Christ, my friend, and to feel a comfort that all the joys of the earth do not give – the joy of feeling yourself close to God, even when humans do not understand you. It is the deepest joy the heart can have.”

- Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

"To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work."

- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the journey (p.8)

And this quote about the importance of daily spiritual discipline in this life:

“The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world — free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless… I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.”

- Henri Nouwen


Do you know the history of the 'Watch Night' service that is celebrated at New Year?

All across the world today (31 December) Christians in their millions will attend 'Watch Night' services to usher in the new year in a community of faith.

I have attended (and arranged) a dozen or so of these services in my life. It is a wonderful way to journey into the new year in faith and commitment, particularly if you worship within a community whose journey you have shared in during the year and they have shared in yours.

As I looked back on my own sermons and liturgies for Watch Night services, and the sermons liturgies of others, I noticed that the theme of many of these services is reflective - taking stock of the year that has passed. Others are anticipatory - looking ahead to the year to come and making some commitments.

It was Socrates who said 'The unexamined life is not worth living [ὁ ... ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ]' (apparently uttered at his before he was executed for corrupting the youth. It is recorded in Plato's 'Apology' (Ap. 35a5-6)). Indeed, it is important to take stock, to stop and reflect, to give thanks, to let go, and to find the courage and faith to move forward in hope.

If you are attending a Watch Night service today I do hope and pray that it is a meaningful and empowering service for your community and for you, and that it adds to making life worth living.

However, do you know what the history is of this particular service? I was reminded of it again today when I was reading my daily devotion Common prayer: A liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (which you can access online daily for free at

Watch Night: Established in African-American communities on December 31, 1862, Watch Night is a gathering to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation becoming law. When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 1863, all slaves in the Confederate States were proclaimed free. Since that date 146 years ago, African-Americans have celebrated the good news of freedom in local churches on New Year’s Eve. Like the slaves who first gathered while the Civil War raged on, we proclaim freedom for all captives in Jesus’ name, knowing that for millions, freedom is not a reality. Our celebration is a commitment to join modern-day slaves and undocumented workers in their struggle for justice.

Perhaps this Watch Night we might be encouraged to remember that we live for more than ourselves? Perhaps we can be reminded of the establishment of this tradition and it can spur is on to ask forgiveness for the ways in which we have participated in and perpetuated injustice in our own lives and choices (the work we do, how we spend our money, how infrequently we serve the least of society). Perhaps it can also spur us on to living for freedom, the kind of freedom that comes from truly living not only in Christ, but for Christ and all those people and things that he loves?

May the year ahead be filled with joy, blessing, peace and flourishing for you, your family, your community, and even those who are different and far off.


Think different and Christian living

I am teaching on a three day course on ministry renewal at Stellenbosch University.  The quote that we are using to frame our thoughts with the group of 15 or so ministers, pastors and priests (most of whom have been in ministry for around 15-20 years) is this one:

Jesus said in his society there is a new way for [people] to live:

you show wisdom, by trusting people;
you handle leadership, by serving;
you handle money, by sharing;
you handle enemies, by loving;
and you handle violence, by suffering.

In fact you have a new attitude toward everything, toward everybody. Toward nature, toward the state in which you happen to live, toward women [and men], towards slaves, toward all and every single thing. Because this is a Jesus society and you repent, not by feeling bad, but by thinking different.

- Rudy Wiebe, ‘The blue mountains of China’ (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970:215-216)

I find this quote deeply challenging.  Loving discipleship, focussed on the Lord of Grace, in order to live in a different way, perhaps even a better way.


Traveling along God's path

I came across this beautiful quote:

God travels wonderful paths with human beings; God does not arrange matters to suit our opinions and views, does not follow the path that humans would like to prescribe for God. God’s path is free and original beyond all our ability to understand or to prove.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Indeed, my experience is that I am truly free when I travel along the path of the source of all life. When I divert my course and go my own way I often find myself lost, alone, and unsure.

It is a great blessing and gift to be loved by God in Christ, and to receive the gift of life by living in that love.


A reminder to live as a servant

I struggle to serve. I frequently pray that I would serve others with much more grace and intensity - I seldom get it right! Yet, I know this is the way of Jesus - kenosis leads to theosis (self emptying love is an aspect of the character of Christ).

This quote encouraged me in my quiet time this morning:

To weep with those who weep, to accept the role of a servant, to give up anger when we have a right to be angry — to do these things is to acquire the character of a person who fits in with Jesus Christ.

- Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (via mshedden)

At the World Prayer Assembly in Jakarta this year I experienced that great inner dichotomy between love of self and love of others. I am far too quick to want to 'get things done', to be involved in organizing and orchestrating events and situations. I am far too slow to listen, to wait, to be unseen, and to truly serve.

Today I pray that God would continue to transform my character and make me more like Jesus.


Loving God and loving one another - Dorothy Day

This is a profound thought:

We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.

- Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness (via invisibleforeigner)

Pray that the moments of your life are filled with opportunities for loving God and loving one another. Pray that even where there is 'a crust' with companionship that your togetherness in Christ would be a sustaining and nourishing meal of grace.

I am experiencing the grace of togetherness this week as I get to know sisters and brothers from all over the world at the Global Kingdom Partnership Network conference in Orlando Florida. Indeed, God has placed a rich blend of diversity in the body of Christ. We discover aspects of God's gracious diversity as we encounter one another in love.

Kenosis is theosis...


Towards what love means...

I came across two beautiful quotes on love that I thought to share here.  The first is by the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Love means the undergoing of the transformation of one’s entire existence by God; it means being drawn in into the world as it lives and must live before God and in God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (via invisibleforeigner)

The second quote comes from the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton:

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

- Thomas Merton (via jaltoday)

Both quotes give some insights into the immeasurable blessing of love. I am thankful to be able to love and be loved in return.


A life of service... without the need to be recognised.


[T]here is no substitute for learning to be a Christian by being in the presence of significant lives made significant by being Christian. … Significance suggests importance… lives that make a difference and that demand acknowledgement. But the lives of significance I began to notice were not significant in any of those ways. Rather, they were lives of quiet serenity, capable of attending with love to the everyday without the need to be recognized as ‘making a difference'.

- Stanley Hauerwas (via redviena)

I am deeply challenged by that last line, to live "lives of quiet serenity, capable of attending with love to the everyday without the need to be recognized as 'making a difference'."




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.


Stalking, homicide, suicide, and depression - the neuroscience of rejection

Do you remember the pain of having your love rejected by another?  I sure had my fair share of failed romances as a young man!! Indeed, I'm pleased to say (at this stage of life) that my heart was broken quite often!  

Thankfully I have found love with my wonderful wife Megan! 

However, a recent study has shown that the same neurological functions as those activated by cocaine addition are active in the human brain when love is lost.  Goal orientated behavior dominates one's thoughts.  You become directed towards finding satisfaction for your desire to love and be loved, pretty much in the same way that an addict seeks a 'fix'. You are willing to make sacrifices, you set aside basic needs (such as sleep, proper nutrition) and become overtaken by the emotion of your desire.

To find out more about this groundbreaking research please follow the links from boingboing below.  By the way, I'd love to hear any stories you may have of love driven obsession!  No, I don't want to hear the scary stuff, I'd rather prefer to hear some of the funnier things you did for love.

A study published in the July issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology found that romantic break-ups activate parts of the brain that are associated with addiction cravings:

"This brain imaging study of individuals who were still 'in love' with their rejecter supplies further evidence that the passion of 'romantic love' is a goal-oriented motivation state rather than a specific emotion" the researchers concluded, noting that brain imaging showed some similarities between romantic rejection and cocaine craving. "The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that romantic love is a specific form of addiction."

The study also helps to explain "why feelings and behaviors related to romantic rejection are difficult to control" and why extreme behaviors associated with romantic rejection such as stalking, homicide, suicide, and clinical depression occur in cultures all over the world, the researchers wrote.

I think most of us have experienced this feeling at one point in our lives, but it's interesting to know it can be backed up by science.

Anguish of romantic rejection may be linked to stimulation of areas of brain related to motivation, reward, and addiction [Science Daily]


Is it possible to be a Christian and not do anything about HIV / AIDS?

Did you know that a child is orphaned every 14 seconds because of HIV / AIDS?  Did you know that 33 million people across the world at HIV+.  23 million of those people live in Southern Africa.  

Sadly, the Christian Church has not risen to the challenge to be an agent of comfort, hope and life in this very sad situation.  Partly I think it is because we lack a positive theology of for an HIV+ world.  In a recent chapter that I wrote for a book entitled 'Alienation and Connection' (edited by Lisa Withrow and Joerg Rieger, Lexington books, 2010.  My chapter is entitled 'Empire, apathy and economics:  Reflections on being Christian in an HIV+ world') I argued that there are 4 different approaches to HIV AIDS in Christendom.


  • Some say that AIDS is not an issue.  This view is common in Western countries, and regions of the world where HIV infection is not very high.
  • Some say that AIDS is a punishment from God.  This view is fundamentally wrong!
  • Some say that the Church should 'care for' HIV+ persons (as if the Church is free from AIDS while others outside of the Church have AIDS and require care).  This is a paternalistic approach to HIV positive persons.
  • Finally, there are those who have come to realise that the Church has AIDS!  We are all in this together and we have a responsibility to care for one another, as we should care for ourselves.


What is your view on AIDS?  What do you think God's perspective is on a world where children are infected through their parents?  Or what is God's view of the HIV positive person who contracted the disease through a poor sexual choice?  Your theological perspective will shape your ministry!  It is important to work out what you believe, and what you should believe, about this disease.

Please take a few minutes to watch this incredible video from TED.  Thanks to my friend Jon Hirst for pointing me to this great video resource.  Please could I also encourage you to visit the Lausanne World Pulse for some great articles on Christianity and HIV/AIDS?

Here is the blurb about the incredible statistics:

In this talk at the TED conference in Feb. 2009, Hans Rosling explains the HIV epidemic. 

He converts the best available data from UNAIDS and WHO into understandable Gapminder bubbles.

The two key messages are that the global HIV epidemic has reached a “steady state” with 1% of the adult world population infected and that there are huge differences in HIV occurrence between and within African countries. Many African countries have the same, relatively low, HIV levels as can be found in most of the world, whereas 50% of the world’s HIV infected persons live in a few countries in Eastern and Southern Africa (with 4% of the world population).

Hans Rosling closes his speech by summarizing probable reasons for the high HIV burden in parts of Eastern and Southern Africa and he also claims that the focus must be on preventing further HIV transmission in these highly affected populations.

So, let me ask this question - is it possible to be truly Christian and do nothing about HIV AIDS?