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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.
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Entries in love (13)

Wednesday
Feb262014

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.

Thursday
May172012

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.

Wednesday
Apr252012

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...

Saturday
Jul022011

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.

Saturday
Jun182011

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

Powerful!

[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'."

 

 

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.

Tuesday
Jul272010

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]

Tuesday
Mar022010

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?

Tuesday
Feb162010

Laying down your life (a daily choice)

I found the quote below extremely challenging:

When we think about laying down a life for another we usually think in terms of a singular event. But it is possible for us to lay down our lives over the course of a lifetime, minute by minute and day by day. And it is the work of the Spirit to empower us as we seek to lose ourselves in acts of lovingkindness and sacrificial living.

- Elaine Puckett, professor at Candler School of Theology

Monday
Oct082007

Were you caught in 'the perfect storm (hype)'?

If you live in Gauteng (Pretoria, Johannesburg etc.) in South Africa then you will know exactly what I am talking about if I mention 'the prefect storm'. It turned out to be nothing other than 'the perfect hoax'. Today emails circulated the web, warnings went out on radio, people were even getting text messages warning them of 'the perfect storm' in Gauteng. Supposedly a storm so fierce was brewing in Gauteng that it was going to turn into a tornado by 6 pm! Well, my wife's company let their staff go home early, the roads were packed with early traffic...

Sure, there was a bit of rain, some lightning and thunder - heck, it was nothing more than a regular 'high veld' thunderstorm!

Now Saturday the 6th was an awesome storm in the Pretoria area! High winds, hail, and driving rain.

If you got caught by the hype of 'the perfect storm' then read this great post from thoselegends.blogspot.com. It makes for a very interesting read. If you got caught in the hype drop me a line and let me know (I know I was worried for a while!) Isn't human nature just strange?

I have often wondered about the mass mentality that overtakes groups... We get ourselves worked up, we feed of each others' neuroses, and eventually we come to believe just about anything. Does anybody remember the bad old days in South Africa when white South Africans feared 'die rooi gevaar' (the communist threat), 'die katolieke gevaar' (the liberal Catholic threat)...

I wonder what dangers we've created?

I seem to remember it being written somewhere that "there is no fear in love; perfect love drives out fear" (1 Jn 4:18). Lord, give me the courage to be the a calm head in the storm, help me to follow your lead, your love, and not to be taken in by the hype of 'the perfect storms' of life.

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Sunday
Aug192007

Never too small to remember

This week has been amazing in so many ways. I have met and interacted with great scholars. I have spent time in ancient churches and centres of learning. I have discovered new friends, and been reaquanted with old ones. I have learnt so much, and had a few chances to teach.

However, as I think back on this week the experience is run through with one overarching idea - the fact that everyone, and every story, matters.

Before leaving for South Africa I was asked to write a chapter for a book on HIV / AIDS. I have been doing some research and reading, talking with Christian AIDS workers, and spending time with persons who are HIV positive, and those who have felt the great loss of loosing a loved one to this dissease. The reality is that very few of those persons' stories will ever be told. That matters. However, at another level their stories make up the very fabric of who each one of us is. They are our world.

This week I have been moved to tears (in private - this is England after all!) whilst reading Pehlippe Denis little book 'Never too small to remember: Memory work and resilience in times of AIDS' (2005, Cluster Publications, Pietermaritzburg). The book tells of the marvelous work that is being done among AIDS orphans in Kwazulu Natal through the use of 'memory boxes'. The aim of the project is to build a greater resilience in children and child headed households where both parents have been lost to AIDS. Of course there is very little that could ever be done to remove the agony of such a loss, but there is a great deal that can be done to help such young people. Naturally pragmatic and practical solutions seek to educate, clothe, and feed the children. This is necessary. It challenges me to think if I could not give and do more to help make their lives a little easier. But such generosity does not deal with the deep hurt and stigma associated with their loss. Morover, if the children themselves are HIV positive they will need more than just food, clothing, and education, to make meaning of their lives, to do more than just survive, but to truly live.

I have spent quite a lot of time with my friend Clive Marsh this week. He and I have been talking about the importance of experience and memory as a source of healing, yet also an essential source of good theology.

The memory box, which is the 'memory tool' Philippe Denis uses, allows the children and their care givers to make use of narrative, story-telling, to recount the memories that they have of their parents (both the good and the bad). It allows them to articulate, analyse, understand, and move through these memories (note that I don't say move beyond - to move through means that one takes something of the memory with you into your future). In doing so the children are given a far greater resilience to cope with their past, make choices in their present life, and form a new future. They can learn to live with the virtues and grace of belonging to the wider community (which as you know is essential as an expression of ubuntu in African communities), but they can also learn how to solve the problems that their parents and caregivers faced.

Memory is a wonderful thing. Today I remember where I come from. The picture above was taken in 1989. I was in my final year in high school [yes, I had a porno 80's hairstyle - although the mullet I had on my wedding day was even worse!].

So much has happened in the 18 years since then, and so much had gone before. My parents were divorced when I was 2, we left Zimbabwe, the land of my birth, came to South Africa to start again and encountered many more severe challenges and hardship than most. I was raised in my early years by my mother who struggled - the struggle was within herself and often caused great hardship around her. She was married, and in relationships, many times. My early childhood is filled with memories of terror, physical and emotional violence, yet also with tenacity and a will to live - it was however, also the dawning of my faith. I remember praying ernestly for the first time when I was 9. My mother's husband at the time had come home in a drunken rage and had beaten her to the point of breaking her back. My brother of 11 had tried to defend her yet was unable and also faced the madman's wrath. I was afraid for my life, and for the life of my mother and brother, and so in desperation I grabbed a hammer and hit the man on his head. He fell to the ground bleeding.

I remember praying, a frightened 9 year old, fearful that everyone was dead - my mother, my brother, and my mother's husband. Somehow the knowledge that there was a person - not a power but a person - named Jesus who could see, hear, and answer my prayers gave me the hope that I needed to get beyond that night.

Of course, such scars remain with one. By the time the picture above was taken I had been off the rails a few times. I had used (and abused) most of the drugs that were popular in the 80's, sought refuge in popularity and rebelion, and given my poor father and step mother many sleepless nights and gray hairs! I had been arrested, asked to leave church groups, and caused a lot of unhapiness to many people. I also had two tatoos and many earings as a reminder of those times.... In some ways it was because I had not built up a spiritual resilience that I sought comfort and meaning in physical and psychosocial remedies.

Perhaps it was when I discovered Christ, not just as a saviour, but as a friend, that my life changed most. That was in 1987. It was the first time that I knew that I was loved unconditionaly, that there was no threat, no need to impress, no expectation, just love.

Of course a great deal has taken place since that photo was taken. I have been married to Megan for almost 14 years now. She completes me in ways I could never have imagined. I have my two miracle children, Courtney and Liam, both of whom have stretched my heart and filled me with a new kind of wild passion. This passion moves me inwardly, to find ways of loving them and caring for them by showing them the kind of grace I have experienced in Christ. Yet, it also moves me outwards - to seek to change our world so that what they grow into will not be a place of fear, hate, and danger - this too is the work of Christ in me.

My life is very different now - as I write this I am sitting in one of the oldest, and most prestigious, academic institutions in the world, Christ Church, Oxford University. Who would ever have thought? But I am different in otherways: I am taller, fatter, balder, and richer than I was when I was 9... I also have more debt... But, I am also happier, more grateful, and much more privelaged. Remembering who I am helps me to savor these moments and experiences. They cannot be taken for granted!

Even though my life is different, I guess I am still the same. I am still Dion, I remember my past and long for a better future. I still enjoy adventures and love to pray. My memory box makes me more resilient. God has never forsaken me - God heard my prayer when I was 9, God heard my prayer last year when Liam was born, God still hears my prayer today.

Sunday
Jul012007

the eternal question


I love this photo! Good question. What do you think?