The God who is

In fact, I have to reblog this!

your mess, His Message

I’m reading Jack Hayford’s “Manifest Presence”. At one point he talks about how we worship God simply because of who He is. Hayford references Exodus 3:17, in which God tells Moses, “I Am Who I Am”. I Am—well, I thought, if that’s good enough for Moses, it’s good enough for me! Then I read the whole third chapter of Exodus. This is the burning bush episode where God reveals Himself to Moses and sends him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. And “I Am” definitely wasn’t enough for Moses: he spends most of the chapter going, “but…”
Several things strike me about this section. The first thing is that God alone is reason enough to be obedient. The second is that we always second-guess this. The third is that even when we do, instead of picking someone else for the task, God equips us—with staffs that…

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This is not one of my considered posts.

Seminary’s out for the summer, and I’m going home later today.

My phone rang at 02:05 this morning. It was over on the desk. “No one I know would be so inconsiderate,” I thought. “It must be some corporate robot trying to sell me something.” But then, “What if it’s an emergency?” So I stumbled over to it. The display said John Smith. “Huh? He must be calling me in his sleep.” So I went back to bed. And the phone rings again, and I hear this voice calling my name. It’s not God. It’s ‘John Smith’, and he’s at the pedestrian gate to the street, which is right outside my window. I get it. He’s without his gate key and wants in to the seminary residence. So I go out and let them in.

‘John Smith’ is reeking of alcohol and unsteady on his feet. He thanks me and heads on to his flat. Bear in mind that this is a Methodist Seminary; we don’t drink.

I’m supposed to report his misconduct. I’m not going to do that, in spite of the fact that I am liable to discipline if I don’t.

What I am going to do is knock on his door at a reasonable hour and firmly and nicely point out to him that he’s made a mistake. This isn’t a matter of his personal ethics or what’s acceptable between him and God, this is a breach of seminary rules. Then I’m going to warn him that if he makes me a witness to his misconduct again, I will have to report it. And that in that case I will report both incidents, not just the second one.

There are aggravating circumstances to this first incident which I am not going to put down here. I will just say that they have nothing to do with being woken at 02:05: we are called to ministry, and that is always going to happen, for bad reasons as well as good ones.

But I do wonder whether I am taking the right line in this. I would appreciate readers’ views.

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Is Western Society Headless?

wrinkled old lady

This is not
Ouma Van Niekerk,
it is very like her.

I remember Ouma (Granny) Van Niekerk. She was old, very old to us; we were little kids then. I remember her demand for quiet on Sunday afternoons, and how proper we had to be in church. I remember her kindness, her careful frailty, her knitting and crochet work, and most of all I remember her old-fashioned, home made chicken pie, redolent with cloves, an aroma of love which drifted through the dim interior for most of the day before we finally sat down to supper. I remember her stories, and most of all I remember her bitter anger against the British.

Ouma Van Niekerk really was old. She had lived through the second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) when she was in her early teens. The British invented concentration camps then, and put the Boers’ wives and children in them, because they could not catch the fast-moving commandos (mounted volunteer Boer militia), and their families were supporting them. Ouma could remember how the English starved the families in the camps, and fed them “ground glass” in their food. They refused to give them medical treatment when they got sick. She remembered the funerals, one after the other.
History tells us that perhaps 20 000 women and children died in these camps, within a period of 18 months.

I grew up with a perspective on the idea of concentration camps that Ouma Van Niekerk gave me, together with a clear sense of right and wrong, and of personal responsibility, which came from my parents as well as from Ouma and other adults.

Modern society has many aspects which are ugly. One of them is the loss to us of our grandparents.

There are multiple causes: the dissolution of the nuclear family, which limits available niches which the elderly can occupy; the cult of eternal youth, which gives rise to the desire to deny and hide old age away; the perception that we have a right to self-expression and self-satisfaction, which allows us to believe that rejecting the responsibility to care for ageing relatives is acceptable.

There are multiple effects, almost all of them bad.

For example, a family loses an additional member, and now has less resilience. Many old people, like Ouma Van Niekerk, have acquired a certain amount of wisdom, or at least perspective on life, simply by surviving. Without their contribution, a family battling through some crisis may not have enough resources to win through. The social cushioning of that family member who knows when they just need to allow someone to blow off steam, the wisdom and insight into a problem, the additional adult who can look after the kids when Mom just can’t take another hour of the screaming toddler; these are the resources I mean. And, too often, without just these resources, another family unit falls apart.

Since there is no other place for Gran, she is put in a ‘home’, often out of sight and out of mind. When I say there is ‘no other place’, I mean that none of the members of the broken home are prepared to make a place for her; nor are they prepared to put up with the inconvenience and emotional cost of living with her. (We can’t go to the seaside; what would we do with Grandma? Has Grandma wet the bed again?  Where am I going to find a clean sheet? Yes, Grandma, you have  told us how you met Grandad. About a thousand times.)

Guilt kicks in, since we know, at some level, that this ‘home’ is far from the ideal we wish existed. So we don’t visit much, since having to see how she lives makes us feel worse.

The kids grow up knowing only mother and – too often – divorced father, and quite likely one or two step-parents, as the failure of one marriage does not quench the hope of lifelong happiness, nor the fact of loneliness, nor, perhaps, the need for additional income.

The childrens’ only adult role models are their failed parents, and, perhaps, equally unsuccessful teachers.

Mother, at 43, still occasionally wears miniskirts, and might be seen at singles bars which hold people of a steadily greater average age. Mother never saw Great-grandma ageing with dignity, moving from stage to stage of life and always with a contribution to make; great-gran is in a home somewhere, and we the children have never visited her; she is almost a fiction, not real to us. Grandma has a new husband, but we can’t stand his children, so we don’t see them much either. Tolerance is not something our parents know much about.
One of our teachers at school is getting divorced. Apparently his wife left him for a younger man. Dad’s got a new sports car, have you seen it?

Young people have no history, no tradition. Where Grandad would have filled them in on where they came from, and Grandma would have told them family stories, there’s the TV. The box offers ‘role models’ like Michael Jackson, P Diddy, Paris Hilton and Justin Timberlake. Maybe there’s a reason kids today have trouble making sense of their lives in the real world.

People are growing up believing that anything painful, anything demanding effort, anything that is less than perfect, is actually intolerable. They expect life to work out; some of us might say that they believe the world owes them a living.

There has been no one in their lives who could tell them any different.
Do we wonder that they cannot make a go of marriage, of family?

The family falls apart, and the people who could have made a difference are merely photographs in a dusty album lying in the attic – or on the town dump.

So I wonder, and I am asking you to think about the question as well:

How much of our troubles are due to putting grandma in the old age home?

Of course this is far from the only cause. But has it not made a significant contribution?

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Moving Elsewhere?

Due to the recent change implemented by WordPress in the way that the WP Reader handles posts, combined with the “this is the way it’s going to be, get used to it” response by WP to the complaints by many users, I may discontinue this blog.

It depends on whether WP reverts to the (perfectly functional) way things were,
by the end of this month.
Or not.


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Feral Soul

A Word for the feral wanderers – I love it!

Shootin' the Breeze

Like a lost dog

Or barn cat

No longer tame

No longer fed

Hunting instead

Without a master

To provide




Trusting no one


Not even itself

As it tries

To be safe


Not only for food

But contentment,

For company

And for love

All the while


Something more —

An invitation

From the Master

On his porch

The Master calls,

Offering all

The feral soul

Longs to have

All is ready

At the place

Where the Master

Kindly waits

With all you need

There is a way

To find a home:

By coming

When the Master calls

For you to be his own

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O LORD, our servant

“Jesus is Lord!”, proclaim preachers and T-shirts, bumper stickers and wall plaques.
“Give your life to Jesus”, calls the pastor, “and you will find that His yoke is easy, and His burden light. Make Jesus Lord of your life, and you will be received into His kingdom.”

So when we go to church we pray, “Lord, please forgive us our sins.” And we sing, “What a Friend we have in Jesus…. take it to the Lord in prayer!” And we pray for His Church, that He will bless and strengthen us. And we pray for the world, that He will save the lost. And we pray for Aunt Dorothy, that He will heal her from her sickness, and for cousin James, that God will help him to be able to stop drinking, and for our pastor who is a lovely person, even if he does preach too long sometimes, and we even pray for that mean woman at work, who is always mocking our faith, that God will reveal Himself to her, so that she can also be saved.

Sometimes, the pastor suggests to us
that it might be nice if we got up off our sports- and TV-addicted behinds and did something for God, and of course we agree. We make the donation, or we wear the ribbon, or – if we are very committed – we even go down and help out at the soup kitchen
one evening.

And then we go back to watching TV in our free time.

We love watching soaps and competitions and reality shows. Generations. Jeopardy. Survivor. The Amazing Race. And we know which competitors are Christians, because we often hear them, as they struggle along, asking Jesus to help them to figure out the answer or help them to get through the obstacle or even to help them to win.

Have you ever thought that to gasp out, “Jesus, please help us to beat the competition!” is a prayer that makes Jesus Christ little more than a lucky charm?

If Jesus really is my Lord, then why am I always asking Him to do stuff for me?
I know that He is God and is infinitely more able than I am, and I know that He loves me and delights in looking out for me and helping me.

But there is a world of difference between Jesus choosing to don the towel and serve His disciples as a slave would –
and my treating Him in such a way that it pushes Him into that role in my life, and
only that role in my life.

 If Jesus is my Lord, shouldn’t it be I who puts on the towel to wash His feet,
and I who serves at His table, and i who ministers to His Body?

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