Tag Archives: Friends

Christmas Morning

Our service on Christmas morning was an exquisite experience.  To be part of such a wonderful family of people gathered in joy and celebration, to worship, to renew friendships, and to share in the awe of Christmas, was a delight.

I was reminded of how Eugene Peterson interprets Psalm 16:3 in The Message:

“And these God-chosen lives all around–what splendid friends they make”

Splendid friends indeed.

Our new minister began her journey with us on Christmas Day.  Ministers in the Methodist Church of Southern African move to new appointments in December each year (our summer), and their first service is Christmas Day; pretty scary I’d think!  But I hope and pray that the vibe we experienced would have given her a real sense of belonging to this new community of ‘splendid friends’.


Filed under Christmas, Community, Through the Year

The Dusi Canoe Marathon 2011 Pictures

I’m not a morning person. Let me say that again, I am not a morning person. I have never believed that the early bird enjoys his worms as much as the late bird enjoys his sleep. Perhaps the morning is the best time of the day; I wouldn’t know. I might be up early enough for any number of reasons (usually to get ready for work) but that doesn’t mean I’m awake enough to appreciate anything.

Thursday was no exception. I got up before five thirty (five twenty-five to be precise), dressed, made tea, and prepared lunch sandwiches; fortunately these are activities that can be done quite adequately in a semi-comatose state, so one doesn’t actually have to wake up. I then drove into town (passing along the way an appalling number of runners out and about, busy doing what runners tend to do at such unearthly hours) and made my way down to the banks of the Umsindusi river for one of the toughest canoe marathons in the world, the Dusi Canoe marathon.

Oh, no, don’t be silly. I wasn’t going to take part. I was having breakfast on the bank while 1600 or so paddlers made their way in K1s, K2s and even K3s down to Durban on the river. Sheer madness I know, but the breakfast was good and the Dusi is an iconic Pietermaritzburg race (along with the Comrades Marathon). I also had three nephews, a brother-in-law, and a number of friends taking part, and my company has naming rights for a weir about four kilometres from the start. Breakfast was on the house. I prefer brunch myself, but this was an opportunity, so there I was. And here are the pictures—some of them.

On Monday I’ll tell you a story my sister told me while seconding her husband.

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Filed under General Writing, The Dusi

Too Busy to Listen

Listening is such hard work; waiting for the future to happen is so difficult. I struggle to get to retreats and quiet days. I’m too busy; there’s too much to get through; I want to read, to write, to learn, to do. But always, when I eventually do stop to listen, usually on a retreat or a quiet day, I am reminded (again) of how much I need to listen. The growth I strive for, the ability to serve, to preach, to be whatever God is calling me to be, will not come about by being pasted on to my life. It won’t come from reading more (although the seeds may be there); it won’t come from “wandering to and fro upon the earth”. It comes (for me at least) from within. It comes from listening.

I was privileged to spend a morning last weekend with Jim and Heather Johnston and about 30 or so friends at Beth Shalam, celebrating Jim and Heather’s ministry there over the past 20 years. The time has come for them to retire.  Many of those who were there had been to multiple retreats and quiet days over the years. Most had been through Jim’s Life Revision course (an eight-day retreat followed by two three-day retreats). All had been blessed beyond measure by the healing and nurturing that has been the mark of this home.

I have attended a couple of retreats at Beth Shalam. We are fortunate to be in the same city, just down the road, but I haven’t enjoyed the privilege as much as I could have. Then during last year (2010) I went through the Life Revision course. It was a transforming experience for me and, among other things, I began to write.

On this final, celebratory, retreat Heather pointed out that one can only harvest what has been sown; we bring out what is within us, what has grown there. I want my growth and my becoming to happen now, or at least by tomorrow morning. Perhaps one more book will do it….

Heather quoted from John O’Donohue’s meditation, “For One Who is Exhausted”. One line was particularly poignant for me: “The tide you never valued has gone out”.  Heather expanded on it saying that we often move too fast (in “the fast lane of nothingness”) and we get ahead of ourselves.

These thoughts distilled themselves into the following meditation during a quiet moment in the beauty of their wonderful garden.

O God of the mighty oak and the tiniest flower,
Of the soaring eagle and the wandering ant;
God of a future beyond my knowledge and beyond my reach,
Hold me to the present, its pain and delight.

I long to be an eagle, a significant oak,
But that longing consumes me and leaves me unfilled.
I am lost and ungrounded in a future that arrived too soon.
For the plant does not grow if the seed is not nurtured;
The harvest is barren and without any substance.

Lord, keep me from the fast lane of nothingness,
Hold me to the present, deep in the soil of your grace.
For it is here that the future takes root.


Filed under Meditation & Prayer, Poetry

Three sausages and a funeral

I attended the funeral of a dear family friend yesterday.  By the way, I thought long and hard about the title to this post. I decided that Eunice would enjoy it.  Her sense of fun and mischievousness was one of her traits we all appreciated.

Polenta, Sausages & Basil Tomato Sauce

Eunice was part of our family circle for some 45 years from the time her husband-to-be brought her to his friends (my parents) for dinner to see what they thought of his choice. They approved and, as they say, the rest is their-story. He had already been approved by brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, and most of the nursing staff of the local hospital where Eunice was a nursing sister.

This was her husband’s second marriage and he had two children, a girl of ten and a boy of eight years. The son spoke at his Mum’s funeral. He said they weren’t sure what to call her at first but that she had earned the title of Mum many times over. He went on to say that when his Dad told them he was going to marry again his first thought was, “What will happen with the sausages?”

He explained.

“Sausages came in packs of eight. When Dad cooked them I got three, Dad got three, and my sister got two. Now, unless Dad were to open a second packet (and that wasn’t going to happen) the status quo was about to change.”

He never told us how they worked it out.

It struck me how little we know about what goes on in another person’s mind, and particularly in a child’s mind. We assume we know, we anticipate the likely thoughts the expected reactions and try to prepare for them. We listen and we make assumptions about what we see and hear. But so often it’s the little things, the completely unexpected things, things we could never have anticipated, that are the sticking points.

How we need to be open and to listen to each other, especially to the children and the vulnerable. We simply do not know what’s going on in another person’s mind and heart. Someone said that it’s not your first question that’s important; it’s the second or third that begins to get to the heart of the matter. Listen carefully, ask questions, and ask again. Give the person you want to engage with plenty of opportunities to express his or her thoughts in a variety of ways. And when it’s all come out, expect there to be more.

A friend blogged about her impending move across the States. Their youngest (three) was very sad.

“This is our house. We don’t need another one,” he said.
She writes:

“Poor kid…. His concepts of home, family, and all things familiar and lovely are probably inseparable from this house. Again, we tried to allay his fears, but—bless his little heart—we didn’t know the horrors he was braving until he asked, ‘Could we bring the guitar?’
He thought we were leaving behind everything near and dear for the utterly unknown.”

(You can read her full story here.)


Filed under Community, Odds & Ends


My dear Cyber Friends (both of you………………..)

I have neither left the cyber (or the physical) world, nor stopped writing.  I’ve just been overwhelmed by work and other matters that have diverted my attention away from the blogosphere.


I have been writing but not for the blog.  Except that I did write a story about Zacchaeus for Church last week.  It will be up on the blog later tonight or tomorrow.

Hang in there……………..


Filed under Odds & Ends