Thursday, January 18, 2018

Keep Following

In urban ministry, over the years, a minority of Churches (about one-fifth) were what one might call viable or self-sustaining. One would need to define those terms, but they should be understood. Mine was one of the few Churches that was self-sustaining. One day, another minister in a "self-sustaining" Church e-mailed me the recipe: "After eighteen years of ministry I look back and say, God you did it. I just followed! Keep following, you will be more than all right!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Suburbs After Dark

One of the big differences between our typically White suburbs in South Africa, and our townships, is that White suburbs are deserted after dark. In the townships, there are children playing in the street, animals roaming free, couples walking hand in hand. Long after dark there is play and laughter and music. The time stamp on this photo is 8:33 pm. It is the township of Mountain View, next to Kareedouw in the Eastern Cape. That is mast lighting in the background, and a spaza shop on the right. In the townships which I visit, the streets are mostly untarred.

Joy And Heavyheartedness Inseparable

One night, in a Church Diaconate meeting, three issues of Church discipline came up in the same meeting -- however just one did not rest peacefully at the end of the meeting. Such issues are always unfortunate, and cause much awkwardness, soul-searching, and tension. One would rather not have them in the Church. In fact, some would think that something has gone wrong with the Church if such things come up at all. Yet my late wife Mirjam kept reminding me -- and I agree -- that such things are just as much a part of a thriving Church as are the things that bring joy and encouragement. One cannot separate them from each other. The result may be that one has neither.

Letter To The Democratic Alliance

I wrote a letter to our city government this morning. I think it is serious enough, and of wide enough significance, to put up here. This is the first time I have so directly revealed this information in public (below). In fact even then, it merely opens a small window on the matter. In view of what has gone before this, I chose to post this letter in public before I sent it to her Worship the Mayor -- which I shall be doing following this post. OBSERVATION: I would think that the e-mail speaks for itself, and requires no further comment from me. I will say that it is a sad reflection of our society. You may click on it to enlarge.





Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Me and the SIU

First off, this post is legal. The office of the mayor of Cape Town teeters at the moment, to a large extent on the issue of the closure of the SIU -- the Special Investigating Unit. This is a clip of me (and a third person) in conversation with the ethics chief of the SIU, Nolan Davey (click ► to Play) -- he was in his words "in charge of integrity" there. I am putting up just a snippet of a fairly wide-ranging conversation we had -- as on hears, on his invitation. The interesting part is what I do not put up. However this clip is to give one an idea as to what the SIU is really about. Apologies for the hiss. OBSERVATION: My personal impression of Mr Davey is that he is a transparent and compassionate man.

Long View or Short

A young(ish) man in our congregation was appointed principal of a college. The college had 73 students. It  had all but disintegrated before his arrival. He found there was no secretary, only one staff member apart from him, a broad curriculum, many rural students, and so on. He had conducted an experiment, he said, selling an African food speciality. Every day, it had sold out. He would earn more money as a vendor than he was earning as a principal. What should he do? I said how much are you driven by the desire to escape? What is the long view? What would it look like in three years' time? How much experience would you have then? I also suggested that he might look into adult education techniques (in which I was trained) to spread the load. OBSERVATION: He came back to me and said he had decided on "the long view". He would stay. I visited him at the college, and was impressed by his attentiveness and affection towards the students, in spite of the task being too much. Tragically, he died. His name was Ranga.

A Church's Splendour

Churches, I would think, have two kinds of splendour -- the human splendour and the divine. I have had the privilege of experiencing the splendour which makes a Church a sought after place -- even if, in human eyes, there are humble people there or things in disrepair. It is a borrowed splendour, because it comes from the Lord. In an important sense, it is not something one possesses or creates. I think of one incident in particular which served as a sign of the splendour I speak of. The Lausanne conferences are arguably the best known Christian gatherings in the world. When Lausanne III was held in Cape Town, our Church was sought after by Lausanne delegates -- and some prominent ones, too, if there is such a thing as a Lausanne delegate who is not prominent. And it was not all about proximity, as we were 5km distant from the Lausanne venue. OBSERVATION: Not knowing that delegates were coming, our Church was at its best those Sundays.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mother's Hair

I spotted this kiddie yesterday, who seemed to love nothing more than pulling her mother's hair. She was very busy with it, while her mother continued in conversation.

More Eastern Than Western

The big-name philosopher (an author of more than fifty books) who commented on my "Everything, Briefly" metaphysic said something very interesting: I have written an Eastern philosophy, not a Western philosophy. This is what "struck me (him) the most". As such, it is "very different" to earlier Western metaphysics. This is not to say that my metaphysic is mystical. It is rational. However, it deliberately and carefully breaks with the Western A + B = C kind of thinking. He comments that it is an Eastern philosophy "against the background of Western philosophy". OBSERVATION: I had not seen it this way -- but the moment that he said it, I knew what he was saying, and I could agree with it.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

New Intern

I took this photo today of a new intern at an Anglican Church in town. It will be interesting to see how he transitions from the academic (on the point of obtaining his MTh) to the pastor. He and his wife are a cheerful, gregarious couple.

My Impossible Dream

In November, I sent out my (draft) completed metaphysic or total philosophy to publishers -- and to famous philosophers around the world. There followed a very great silence -- apart from some brief, friendly notes in between. Tonight I received the first serious critique of a famous philosopher (an author of more than fifty books), who replied thoughtfully and carefully. Most basically, he considers that I have pulled it off: "You have clearly achieved what you set out to prove, namely that it is possible to put together a modern metaphysic." His major critique is ... not that my work is too difficult, but that it is very dense. I pack an enormous amount of original thought -- a bookshelf, he says -- into one book. OBSERVATION: This is very good news to me. I may not be quite as far as I imagine I am on my way to a completed project, but on this first response there is reason to believe that I dreamed the impossible dream, and it is coming true. Thanks to God.

POSTSCRIPT: Even my wife did not call me "jakkals" on this. She keeps me grounded by reminding me often: "'n Jakkals prys sy eie stert."

The Plateau

I took this photo with a Leica, the first time I visited my wife's childhood home. I refer to it as "the plateau", although until I did, nobody had heard of it being called a plateau. I took this photo at Suuranys, high above the town of Kareedouw, about 660km / 410mi east of Cape Town. OBSERVATION: It is an arid and sparsely populated plateau, quite different to the area below it.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Tax Residence

This week I was interviewed by the US Internal Revenue Service. I passed two interviews, and am now registered as a taxpayer in the USA. Two days after the interviews, my bank contacted me -- they wanted to talk to me about tax residence. OBSERVATION: I should have asked them what took them so long. Unlucky for them, they will have no more than the promise of money from me, just as I have no more than the promise of money from the USA -- not even that.

Teach Yourself Kindle

One of my resolutions for the new year was to teach myself how to publish on Kindle -- all Kindle devices. I am not slow. I taught myself a programmable microcontroller in less than a day. But Kindle! I read a whole book -- and bits and pieces besides which should amount to a book. It seemed like a blizzard of dead-end information -- all the worse because I work with Linux, not Windows or iOS as Kindle prefers. I now plan a $99.99 blockbuster, which will encompass one page: "How to Master Kindle Publishing". The secret to Kindle publishing -- once one has decoded it -- does not fill that much space. I shared my expertise with an established Kindle author -- who has had and does have (to him) insurmountable obstacles to slick publication on Kindle -- in five lines. He wrote back: "You’d think Kindle could have figured that out automatically." OBSERVATION: The full-screen image on the right is created by me, and is courtesy of Kindle themselves.

The Adversary's Opportunity

One might imagine that a minister receives nothing but encouragement and support when his wife is dying. Overwhelmingly, yes, in my experience -- I myself received wonderful support. Yet it may be the Adversary's opportunity, too. During the time of my wife Mirjam's final decline (her last weeks), a Church member called me up and said: "How are you coping?" I said: "Under the circumstances, well thank you. But it's tough." He said: "That's not true! The minister has fallen in a heap! Fallen in a heap! Fallen in a heap!" I said: "I've kept going without skipping a beat, as you know. I don't want to hear you repeat that, anywhere." He put down the phone, and hurried to the Church office. He said: "The minister has fallen in a heap! Fallen in a heap!" In the days that followed, he called me up again: "She's dying, ha! She's dy­ing, ha ha! She's dying!" Again he called me up: “You've got no faith! No faith! No faith!OBSERVATION: This disturbed me. Mirjam said weakly: "He is nothing in the kingdom of God."