Category Archives: Me

On UFS brutality: No peace without justice


“Justice requires not only the ceasing and desisting of injustice but also requires either punishment or reparation for injuries and damages inflicted for prior wrongdoing. The essence of justice is the redistribution of gains earned through the perpetration of injustice. If restitution is not made and reparations not instituted to compensate for prior injustices, those injustices are in effect rewarded. And the benefits such rewards conferred on the perpetrators of injustice will continue to “draw interest,” to be reinvested, and to be passed on to their children, who will use their inherited advantages to continue to exploit the children of the victims of the injustices of their ancestors. Consequently, injustice and inequality will be maintained across the generations as will their deleterious social, economic, and political outcomes.”

― Amos Wilson

Watching the racial dynamic cluster-fuck that is unfolding at our former White-only universities in South Africa feels like a kind of national de-ja-vu; the revisitation of the ghosts of apartheid. White brutes beating Black protesters in an attempt to protect their privileged way of life even as the legitimate demands of the working class become un-ignorable.

Land, fees, language, inequality…IMHO all of these boil down to a lack of adequate reparation and restitution at 1994. Too much fake kumbaya, too little real redistribution. As an artificial group ‘selected’ and ‘glorified’ by apartheid, White people did not offer up an unqualified admission of guilt and of unlawful enrichment as apartheid ended. Forgiveness was offered before it was asked for. Looking back over the last few years, or looking ahead at the elections to come, the topic may change but the tune is the same – people that have been consistently fucked over by colonialism, apartheid and now a self-enriching elite are eventually saying “Enough is enough, we also want a dignified existence.”

I cannot see how there can be true forgiveness and reconciliation without justice and reparations. There can be no sustainable peace and shared prosperity without justice.


Links I liked (and some personal reflections)


  • Taylor, N. 1989. Falling at the First Hurdle: Initial encounters with the formal system of African education in South Africa. Research Report #1. EPU. (via JET Education). – an old but important report that is not in the public domain yet (as far as I’m aware) – thanks JET for scanning this.

  • Improving learning in primary schools of developing countries: A meta-analysis of randomized experiments” – Patrick McEwan (2015) (via Servaas van der Berg).
  • The independent Task Team led by Prof John Volmink, which was appointed to look into the ‘jobs-for-cash’ scandal exposed by CityPress last year, has found that SADTU has a ‘stranglehold‘ over the State in provinces such as the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. These scandals sometimes turn deadly when the ‘right’ candidate is not appointed. On this topic I would highly recommend Gabi Wills’ new article “Informing principal policy reforms in South Africa through data-based evidence.” To give you the highlight: The cohort of principals that are currently in the system are, on average, much older than they were in the past meaning that there is soon to be a wave of principal retirements. Whereas in 2004 only 17% of principals were aged 55yrs+, in 2012 that figure was 33%! If these principals retire at 60 this means that between 2012 and 2017 there will be about 7000 principal replacements! (remember there are only about 24,000 public schools in SA).
  • This latest report shows that the South African Council of Educators (SACE) is a toothless dog, as I have argued before. Earlier this year SACE ran their own investigation into the exact same jobs-for-cash scam and could not find “a single bit of evidence” that there was corruption in the appointment of teachers and principals in SA. Subsequently CityPress has claimed SADTU ‘told SACE to end their investigation” after the names of top SADTU officials started cropping up in the investigation. So how is it that SACE ran an investigation on the same issue at the same time and found no evidence while Volmink’s team found multiple examples of corruption, and 13 of the cases were so strong that they could already be passed on to the police? Go figure. Minister Motshekga needs to put a target on SACE and reform the entire organization. It is rotten through and through.
  • Holstee have come up with a set of 10 questions to ask yourself about the year that was. Reflection. Contemplation. Good stuff.
  • I’m re-reading Henri Nouwen’s “Reaching Out” – the book where he outlines his understanding of spirituality from the Christian perspective. It’s lovely, not too preachy or crispy-clean / three-bags-full-sir Christianiaty which I have little tolerance for. One quote:

“When loneliness is haunting me with its possibility of being a threshold instead of a dead end, a new creation instead of a grave, a meeting place instead of an abyss, then time loses its desperate clutch on me. Then I no longer have to live in a frenzy of activity, overwhelmed and afraid of the missed opportunity” – Anonymous in Nouwen’s Reaching Out p35

All models are wrong but some are useful.

— George Box (via Farnam Street Brain Food)

I am really enjoying poetry for the first time in a long time…

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T.S. Elliott

Also Pablo Neruda.

It was also my birthday last month which started in tears and ended in champagne with a view! Ad Astra Per Aspera!


Photo credit: Michael Chandler (@MrChandlerHouse)

On being celebrated, not tolerated.


Right now I am sitting in a café in San Francisco and contemplating life listening to Asaf Avidan and Passenger Official. Generally speaking I normally love psycho-analysis and probing questions, but when I’m travelling this past-time takes on new forms of intensity – it feels like I cannot escape the onslaught of questions about things like the meaning of life, the definitions of culture, the sources of creativity, and finding one’s vocation. Personally I find inherent joy in reflecting on my life and experiences and trying to understand who I am and why. Today the questions were of the punchy variety, questions like:

  • What do you want to be?” (happy);
  • Who do you want to be?” (myself),
  • What do you want to do?” (fix education).
  • Where do you want to live?(…)

But the last one stumped me for a while. The first three were really easy to answer if only because I’ve reflected on them at length before. But the location one took a while. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to decide between a bunch of post-PhD (2015) options at the moment, ranging from a single post-doc in the U.S. to research visits at multiple universities in America (Boston, NYC, San Francisco, Michigan), a fellowship in Paris or staying on in Cape Town. I know my work will always focus on Africa and ultimately I couldn’t live long-term outside of South Africa (or at the very least a developing country) but the question was still quite puzzling for me. Then I remembered a quote that instantly became my answer:

Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated.

This quote has been a guiding motif in my life ever since I embraced the fact that I am gay. It helped me make one of the most difficult, defining, and important decisions in my life: leaving the church, which I did around this time last year. Thank God I did – I would’ve died if I stayed in it. As most people already know, growing up gay in a hegemonically straight world can be difficult, no matter where you are born. To do so in a country where colonial patriarchy is systemic and ignorance fuels the fire of homophobia is even worse. But the real trifecta is if you get all three: (1) straight hegemony, (2) colonial patriarchy and (3) religiously-induced homophobia. Then you are fucked (proverbially speaking). Of course none of this holds a flame to those who have all of these and also the compounding factors of  poverty, an intolerant culture or familial rejection. Theirs are the stories that make us shake our heads in horror and shame, wondering how in 21st century South Africa a girl can be “correctively raped” by straight men, strangled to death and left with a toilet-brush in her vagina for the horrific crime of being lesbian.

My experiences of micro-aggressions are negligible by comparison. Yet for me they are real. It’s not fun having the church strip away what little dignity the world has left you. In any event, it was this time last year that I got the mental composure to ask myself why the hell I was willingly subjecting myself to the ongoing disdain of the religious establishment. The fact that church leaders have “good intentions” doesn’t change the fact that they made me feel like a second rate citizen who was depraved and sick for something over which I have no control. As CS Lewis has said “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” Sometimes outright hate is preferable to pious pity.

So now I don’t stick around if I’m tolerated. Why would anyone do that? This has been an important factor in deciding to live in Cape Town rather than Stellenbosch, even though I’m still studying at Stellenbosch. The dominant culture in Stellenbosch is conservative, White, Afrikaans culture that is subversively and insidiously homophobic (and White). I work with amazing people who I love and feel completely accepted by, but we live in cities, not offices.  I think everyone should – as far as it depends on them – try and find the place where they are celebrated, not just tolerated. I never felt that in the church. Ever. So I left and I’m so so happy I did. I’d encourage anyone else who is in the same position I was to do the same. Yes, you will have existential angst and many of the cards come toppling down with the move, but they really aren’t cards you want to build your life on – conditional acceptance, cloaked-disdain, false certainty. Sometimes you have to go with the truth, even though there is less certainty

Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated. 


Roundup of Easter…

  • My Masters thesis is now available online. Equity & Efficiency in South African primary schools : a preliminary analysis of SACMEQ III South Africa Although I suspect most people say this, it really is interesting and accessible 🙂
  • Wonderful and insightful article on “The Law’s Majestic Equality” which opens with a quote from Anatole France “The majestic equality of the laws prohibits the rich and the poor alike from sleeping under bridges, begging in the streets and stealing bread” – stimulating read which reminds me of Deuteronomy 1:17 “You shall not be partial in judgement. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgement is God’s” Also see Exodus 23:8 and Deuteronomy 16:19. I think I am going to try and include this in my lecture on social policy and inequality.
  • Great Article by Ferial Haffajee on the state of SA’s self-narrative. Attention ANC: We are a serious country with serious potential.
  • Economist article from last year titled “Schooling the whole family: Teaching is improving but slowly. Getting parents involved could speed things up”. So many parallels between Mexico and SA. Many useful ideas in here for discussion and thought-experiments…
  • Jonathan Jansen writes a short article on “Seven costly mistakes” [in SA education since the transition] – mostly just common sense, but people like to listen to him.
  • Charming 2 minute video on organ donation – “Pass it on when you’re done with it” then register to become an organ donor here – it takes 3 minutes and you could drastically improve someone’s quality of life!
  • Innovation in US higher education – the birth of a new Ivy League university “Minerva University” (Economist article) which has as its motto “Critical Wisdom”. We really do need (more ) innovation in higher education across the board.
  • Top ten of urban businesses – sensible futuristic thinking like increasing data use in/by cities and the proliferation of ‘community nodes’ which act as “cafes, wireless work stations, libraries, book stores and micro farmers markets”

Awesome images (3)

Awesome images (2)

That’s true, nobody said it was easy, but somehow we have this notion ingrained in our public consciousness – life is not supposed to be so difficult. Um, ya…fail – it is. Whenever something bad happens or life isn’t just a box of chocolates, we think that’s not normal – reality check – it is. Life is difficult. Life is hard. Pain is necessary for growth. We need each other and we need God. So the next time I start hitting the slippery parts of this track of life I’m going to tell myself: ‘Nobody said it was easy’ but I’m going to add another phrase: ‘but it is worth it‘.

image from Workisnotajob

Awesome images (1)

So today I discovered: workisnotajob. It’s a wonderful smorgasboard of creativity. I was practically clicking my heels as I went to work today after I discovered the awesome site. You really should check it out. Seriously. So I’ve decided that for the next week I’m going to post at least one image a day (from Workisnotajob) with a very brief comment of my own.

I hope you like it.

Here goes…

There are a few things that I am sure of in this life.

I know that people are more important than possessions.

A life filled with meaningful relationships is full and organic whereas a life filled with possessions is hollow and static.

Openness trumps secrecy. Always.

Life without God is not only meaningless, it is largely unmanageable (if you haven’t got to the unmanageable part, just wait).

Technology and the Internet are an integral part of the future – dismiss them at your peril.  

Life without learning is is like drinking the best wine in the world and thinking it tastes the same as an Al-Cheapo no-name brand.

So yes, I agree with the picture. The future does belong to the few willing to distinguish sense from nonsense.

Around the world with 40 Lonely Planet Bloggers…

So I have an econometrics test in a couple hours, but couldn’t help quickly scrolling through this 88-page photo journal capturing the adventures of 40 travel bloggers. Loads of photos that just make you want to book a plane ticket to somewhere, anywhere!

The world’s a big place, how much of it have you seen?

The Great Courses – ongoing education!

So I’ve just started to read The Bourgeois Virtues by Deidre McCloskey and in her acknowledgements at the beginning of the book she mentions ‘The Great Courses‘ and something about her listening to it while walking on a treadmill or some nonsense. So I thought to myself ‘I’ve never heard of this thing before?!’ So I quickly moved from bed to desk and in five seconds Google was telling me that there was a massive learning resource of which I was completely oblivious. Basically, it’s a for-profit site that sells different courses (i.e. a series of lectures) that are presented by exceptional (think ivy-league) lecturers. There’s a massive variety of topics and lecturers. They seem brilliant. Importantly (and unfortunately) they aren’t cheap. Depending on the course they range from $100 to $1000+  which is pretty damn expensive if you’re paying in Rands! No 3rd-world-country, boo-hoo, give-me-discount here! BUT, they are currently having a sale and it’s 70% off!!! Which is fantastic news. According to the website, the sale is ending ‘soon‘, but the term ‘soon‘ coming from a money-hungry, morally-starved organisation is a rather loose concept I’m guessing. Nevertheless, I thought I must take advantage of this opportunity (exactly what they want me to think- good little consumer-drone that I am). So I bought the course The Story of the Bible which had rave reviews and looked really interesting (and was only $30 due to the sale! Usually $130!). So I downloaded the first 5 episodes (there are 24 30min lectures in this series) and started listening to them, and they are great. Wunderbar! The professor is interesting, impartial, well-read and enthusiastic. But the story doesn’t end there…unfortunately for my credit card.

So I thought to myself I should really take advantage of this 70% off thing because paying full price will be so irritating when there was just a sale with such a large percentage off (the hook had sunk deep into my consumer-drone consciousness). I was mainly thinking about another course that Prof Johnson lectures called Jesus and the Gospels which is a 36 lectures series (30min each) and only $49.95 (originally $200!). So I bought that one…but then I also saw RAVE reviews for Classical Mythology (24 lectures $35) and History of Ancient Egypt (48 lectures $65) so I got those too 🙂 great stuff!!

I definitely think it was money well spent and I most definitely intend to listen to them at some stage this year. In my budgeting spreadsheet  I will record this under ‘Educational expenditures’ which is an investment (not a consumption) good. I also chalk up my UCT metrics course fees in that category. Too often we think that buying educational books (read: ‘all books that aren’t Mills & Boon’) is a luxury or we are spoiling ourselves. What CRAP! Utter nonsense. How is it that spending R40 000+ on your formal higher education is classified as a legitimate investment in your future, but buying things like downloadable lectures isn’t? For those familiar with the economics of education literature, I am aware that one can use the Signal-theory argument here to shoot me down (with downloadable lectures sending no credible signal), but for me personally I don’t give two hoots about signals – I’m not planning on going into the real world anytime soon (I’m still thinking of a better, more derogatory word for the ‘real’ world). I intend to inhabit academia as long as she will have me.

So I implore you (whoever you are) to do something about your ongoing education. It doesn’t have to be buying a course online (although that really would be a great start – just be sure to read the reviews first), it could be buying and reading a book about history or linguistics or cooking or whatever –  it doesn’t matter…just learn. When we stop actively learning, we start actively dying. Sad, but true.

Onward and upward…

Spiritual Audit

During a recent preach my mind started to wander onto a different wavelength. Usually I force myself to stay focussed or (if it’s really bad) start some Scripture reading, but this time I let my thoughts get some speed. I did this because it felt right, it felt important, and the questions which I wrote down (see below) seemed penetrating and revealing – things I try not to brush off easily.

Basically, it occurred to me  that companies have their books audited once a year, but we Christians hardly ever audit our spiritual lives with the same rigor, and that is if we audit them at all! A financial audit is defined as ‘An unbiased examination and evaluation of the financial statements of an organization’. Similarly, I would define a spiritual audit as ‘An unbiased examination and evaluation of your spiritual life’. I hate airy-fairy terms, which invite confusion and speculation, so let me define what I mean by the terms ‘spiritual life’. My spiritual life consists of all those factors that affect me spiritually. When I ask how my spiritual life is doing I’m asking if I am spiritually healthy now (the present), and if the way that I am living my life now is setting me up for future success (the future). Because the physical and the spiritual cannot be separated (for example it would be impossible to split my spirit from my body) – we must necessarily include physical things in the spiritual audit. How I use and manage my time and money have direct implications on my spiritual health. It’s debatable whether that link is causal or if, instead, the way that I use my time and money is simply symptomatic of my existing state of spiritual health. Something to think about but I won’t elaborate on it here.

So I thought of a bunch of questions. The answers to these questions, and the way we answer them (how long it takes, if we get defensive, if we think of excuses etc.) is an indication of the state of our spiritual lives. I wrote this list for myself first and foremost (although I’ve included some questions that obviously don’t apply to me (like for husbands and wives). This is for now, but also for the future. The questions (and the realities they reveal) do not have an expiry date – the factors that affect our spiritual lives may change slightly in shape or form, but their broad outline remains unchanged. So here is my list…if you also want to answer them, take a minute and commit yourself to answering in total truth. I solemnly swear to tell myself the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God! {and on that note, please do help me God!}

Spiritual Audit


  •  Are there any serious disappointments (personal, professional, and spiritual/church) in your life that you have not dealt with?
    • What are they?
    • Why haven’t you dealt with them?
  • Do you prioritise your health? Especially in terms of exercise and diet?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  • I am where I thought I would be at ___ (insert current age)
  • If all areas of my life (especially private) where made public I would not feel ashamed.
  • I am quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1).
  • I willingly submit to my church leaders with joy.
  • I regularly take time out to see the bigger picture.
  • Unbelievers have a big influence on me
  • I have a big influence on unbelievers
  • (for wives) I willingly submit to my husband with joy
    • I understand and support my husband in ways that show my support for Christ (Msg)
  • (for husbands) I willingly lay down my life for my wife, and do it with joy
    • I go all out in my love for my wife (Msg)
  • (If married) I regularly affirm my spouse verbally (in private and in public)
  • (If married) I regularly take time out to spend with my spouse and see the bigger picture
  • (If married) I encourage, uplift and invest in my spouse
  • (If married) I am sometimes harsh with my spouse
  • (If married) I often pray with my spouse


  •  Are there any unresolved relationship issues that you have with anyone? (believers or unbelievers)
    • If so, have you done everything in your power to rectify that relationship?
    • If you haven’t, why not?
  • How many meaningful and deep relationships do you have with people in your church?
    • Are you making new meaningful and deep relationships?
  • How many meaningful and deep relationships do you have with people outside your church? (especially unsaved).
    • Are you making new meaningful and deep relationships?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  • I often tell my friends how much I appreciate them, and what I appreciate about them.
  • I often tell my family how much I appreciate them, and what I appreciate about them.
  • I make an effort to be friends with people even if I don’t naturally ‘click’ with them.
  • I really care that unbelievers become saved.
  • I prioritize people above everything else in my life (except God)


  • What are the three most time-consuming activities in your week?
    • Are they legitimate uses of your time?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  •  I am very disciplined with the way I spend my time.
  • I sleep too much.
  • I am happy with how much dedicated time I spend with God each day.
  • I have a routine that I stick to each week/day.
  • I often make time to spend with people.
  • If someone judged my priorities based on how I spend my time, I think that would be an accurate reflection.


  • CS Lewis said ‘If we live at the same level of affluence as others who have our level of income, we are probably giving away too little’. Am I living at the same level of affluence as others (unbelievers) who have my level of income? Am I giving away enough? (what is enough??)
  • Are you currently in debt (other than for a car or house)?
  • Do you spend money before you earn it?
  • Would you say that you are financially responsible?
  • Have all your financial dealings in the past year been entirely above reproach?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  • I believe God would approve of the way I spend my money.
  • I never envy rich people.
  • I feel less attached to money than I did a year ago.
  • I often give more respect to rich people than poor people.
  • Sometimes I think that my problems would go away if I had more money.
  • I think God will bless me financially if I sin less.
  • I often give money to the poor.
  • I am disciplined with my money.
  • I think the poor are poor because they are lazy or don’t have a good work ethic.
  • I think the poor is more the church’s responsibility rather than my responsibility.
  • I am very generous.
  • If someone judged my priorities based on how I spend my money, I think that would be an accurate reflection.


  • What are your spiritual gifts? (1 Cor 12:1 & Rom 12:6-8)
  • Do you exercise your spiritual gifts? Are you blessing the Church by exercising your gifts?
  • Do you serve in some way in your local church?

Some statements: (1=strongly disagree, 10=100% agree)

  • I think my dreams are important because God can speak to me through dreams.
  •  I can feel (in my spirit) the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • I frequently doubt my spiritual giftings.
  •  I am completely satisfied with my spiritual progress in the last year
  •  I am definitely less proud / arrogant / greedy / selfish / lustful / insecure / angry / depressed  than I was last year. (go through each one)
  •  I am definitely more patient / generous / loving / joyful / kind / gentle / self-controlled / humble / grateful / than I was last year. (go through each one)
  • I have a healthy prayer life.
On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is excellent and 1 is dismal) how would you rate your spiritual life on the whole?
***THE END***
I think I might ask Oli if we can do this at Lifegroup sometime so any suggestions about questions to add or delete are welcome!

Lovely-jubbly. Tally-ho! **

Hello to all my blog-readers. I think I could count all of you on my fingers, and better still, I could name you 🙂 Nevertheless, I don’t care. I told a friend who was starting a blog, let’s call her Bernice, that you should blog as much for yourself as for others. Who cares if no one reads it, write it for yourself. Write it for your self-in-ten-years. Write it for your kids, you future spouse, some random Zimbabwean who happens to drop by your blog out of pure serendipity. Whoever, whenever, just write.

I think that writing is to our thoughts as exercise is to our body. It helps to expunge our brains of all the nonsense that’s up there and allow some of the more meaningful thoughts to touch the surface. In our wonderful, comfortable, information-saturated existence, we are hardly ever thoughtless. There’s usually something going through our brain – work, play,church,eat,drink,learn,read,etc – so generating thought is not hard. The problem is, is that our thinking is dragged down to the lowest common denominator of our world – basically advertising and consumption. So we need to reclaim the higher ground that we have lost to this denigrating force. And I think one of the ways we do this is by writing (reading also, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish!).

When we write, especially for an audience, we have to distill truth, meaning, humor, sorrow, love or hatred, or any other notion, into words. We beat our disorganized thoughts into shape with the tools of grammar and language. We allow others to follow our thought processes: to think like we did, to see what we saw, and hopefully, to realize what we realised. Poets, novelists, prophets, researchers; all people who use the written word and try to convey something, perhaps it is meaning or a narrative, revelation, truth or discovery. In every instance, the very act of writing is a step of faith. We are saying, ‘let me write this down so that another may be enriched’ (even when that other is simply another version of you). Implicit in that statement is that we want others to benefit from our experience. Perhaps someone can identify with your pain as you coped haphazardly with the death of a loved one…or maybe you can help someone expand their understanding of a problem by your systematic research.

So I think writing is important. I think thinking is far more important than writing, but usually they go hand in hand. Because it’s important, and because our society doesn’t value taking time out, we must discipline ourselves to write. We must also discipline ourselves to think. One such initiative to discipline me to write is the pelting-pact-of-persistence. Yes, I realize the name is completely bizarre – although the author must have a fondness for alliteration by the sounds of things! Anyways, it’s just an agreement with two friends (who also blog, see here and here) that we will blog at least once a week (and they are caning me, although I think I get double points for mentioning the name in the eternal halls of the interweb). So this constitutes my week’s blog. I have  also done some other writing (see here), and while that is probably more important than this (although I think this is also important), I think I prefer writing like this. For one thing you don’t have to pore over every sentence – you can just say it and let the chips fall where they may.

Anyhoo…not too much else to report on…econometrics test coming up on Wednesday. I really hope that the learning disposition falls on me sometime soon, otherwise the panic-disposition is sure to follow. Also teaching, Two Oceans trail run and something else I can’t remember right now…

Cheerio all you good people…

PS – I have no idea why the picture is relevant but it is

**PPS – the title comes from a lovely Economist article, I include the excerpt below: (David Cameron was visiting Tahrir Square in Egypt)

““Are you happy now?” Mr Cameron asked a teenage boy whose face was painted in the colours of the Egyptian flag. The boy proving happy but silent, Mr Cameron settled for a handshake. An older relative stepped in to inform curious reporters that the youth “loves the new freedom”, adding, “Lovely-jubbly, tally-ho, tally-ho.”

Christian consciousness…

“Christian consciousness begins in the painful realization that what we had assumed was the truth is in fact a lie. Prayer is immediate: “Deliver me from the liars, God! They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth” (Ps 120). Rescue me from the lies of advertisers who claim to know what I need and what I desire, from the lies of entertainers who promise a cheap way to joy, from the lies of politicians who pretend to instruct me in power and morality, from the lies of psychologists who offer to shape my behavior and my morals so that I will live long, happily and successfully, from the lies of religionists who ‘heal the wounds of this people lightly,’ from the lies of moralists who pretend to promote me to the office of captain of my fate, from the lies of pastors who ‘get rid of God’s command so you won’t be inconvenienced in following the religious fashions” (Mt 7:8). Rescue me from the person who tells me of life and omits Christ, who is wise in the ways of the world and ignores the movement of the Spirit.

The lies are impeccably factual. They contain no errors. There are no distortions or falsified data. But they are lies all the same, because they claim to tell us who we are and omit everything about our origin in God and our destiny in God. They talk about the world without telling us that God made it. They tell us about our bodies without telling us that they are temples of the Holy Spirit. They instruct us in love without telling us about the God who loves us and gave himself for us” – Eugene Peterson P28 in ‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction’

I am currently reading this book by Eugene Peterson who is an author pretty much in a league of his own. He resonates a wisdom and clarity that only comes from decades in the ministry, decades reading (and in his case translating) the Bible and decades praying and communing with God. I respect what he says and always have time to listen to his take on any issue. I’m reading ‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction’ because I know consistency  is something I lack and it is something I want. On second thought, it’s something I need.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the lies I’m fed and the lies I feed myself. Every day I have the choice to dwell on my own insecurities or to see them for what they are and move on (however hard and seemingly unsuccessful that process may be). I can choose to see the best in people instead of doubting their motives and intentions. I can choose to keep stepping forward even though it feels like I’m going nowhere. In short, we all choose to lead the lives that we do. We can choose to fester in the lies of the world and try to make sense of everything around us amidst that haze. Or we can acknowledge that a weltanschauung that excludes God and His workings in our world and in our lives is necessarily incomplete.

I must say that i think these things are always much easier said than done…the motif of consistency seems to be the shadow of my life at the moment.

Friends, Romans, countrymen

As part of my ongoing effort to reevaluate my life, I am trying to define success and successful living. If you are a Christian, your view of success in this life is very different to someone who does not believe in Jesus. Although, even if you are not a Christian this is true for you – it is a universal truth as far as I’m concerned. Something I’ve realised over the years of contemplating what we, as Christians, should value, is that people are what matter. After a relationship with God, the personal relationships we have with those around us are the number one ‘treasure’ we have on this earth. I rarely live as if I believe this, and yet I know it to be true. I know that success at work, wealth, knowledge, fame, whatever you are looking for, will be empty without people to share it with. And this is only the beginning of wisdom. We shouldn’t seek friends only to have someone with whom we can enjoy our good fortune, rather, we should seek people as an end in and of themselves. We believe that people are made in the image of God. How logical then, that people possess the highest value it is possible to possess.

Prioritize people over possessions.

On the failure of New Year’s resolutions…

‘But change must always be balanced with some degree of consistency’ – Ron Burton

The change from one year to another provides the perfect opportunity for us to believe that we can change. While the designation of years is quite arbitrary, it’s ubiquity adds to the illusion that a new year is a new leaf. We think that somehow this year will be different. Well not entirely different – the good things won’t change, but the bad things will slowly evaporate as the clock strikes midnight on the 31st of December. Fortunately this is not the case. Apart from our calendars, the only thing that changes from one year to another is personal resolve. We resolve to exercise more, eat healthier, work harder, think differently, risk more, be more. In essence we want to be better people, so we resolve to change. I really love this about us humans – this inner desire to be more than we currently are. The collective action of individuals desiring to grow culminates in the advance of society. Progress is simply the aggregation of individual advancement. But I am getting off topic here 🙂 Where was I? New Year’s resolutions, yes.

What I’ve realised in the last few weeks is that we lose our reputation with ourselves when we over-promise but under-deliver. When we make personal commitments, we are in effect making a promise to ourselves. The only problem with doing this is that your reputation is now on the line. When you make a promise to a friend – ‘I promise I’ll be there at 9AM, count on it!’ – and you don’t keep it, your friend loses his trust in your word. True, it is unlikely to be the result of only one broken promise, but these things add up in time. If you promise to do things, but regularly don’t follow through, people will soon learn that your promises are not really promises at all. The same is true of our relationship with ourselves. We make resolutions to live differently, to use our time differently, to be different people – but if we consistently fail to deliver on these resolutions or promises to ourselves, we stop believing what we tell ourselves. This is a much more grievous situation than it may sound. When you cannot trust yourself, you will find it very difficult to trust other people, or more importantly, God.

So, if it is so important that we are able to trust ourselves and believe the promises we make to ourselves, what is the solution to this problem? I think the key is to be realistic about the promises we make to ourselves. It’s not a very glamorous answer, but I think it is the right one. Don’t over-promise. There is something to be said for the axiom ‘Under-promise and over-deliver’. When I make a commitment to do something and actually fulfill that commitment, I become more trustworthy in my own eyes. I’m more likely to believe the voice in my head in the future because that voice is trustworthy. So now I don’t make promises to myself that I know will be really difficult to keep. I refuse to commit to exercise for an hour a day, read for another, pray for another, and then to fast every second day…it’s just not going to happen. We should not measure success or progress by what we start, but rather by what we finish. So I will make resolutions about many things, but they will be within my grasp. And then I will do my utmost to be consistent in the outworking of those resolutions. Rome wasn’t built in a day people….

Path of peace

“We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way of the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace” – Luke 1:74

I’m back from holiday and seeking perspective for the new year. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing people.


Facts and Creativity

“Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other”  -William Faulkner

I do not want my life to be consumed by facts.

We are constantly told about the importance of balance in our lives; a balanced diet, work and play, talking and listening, thinking and doing. Balance is a law of nature it would seem. One type of balance which I have neglected is that between fiction and non-fiction. I find it so easy to lose myself in non-fiction. There is so much to know, to understand, to remember, to think about, that I don’t have time for non-utilitarian reading. What’s the point? And yet there is a massive point staring at me from the pages of novels and poems, or the scenes of plays and movies, and even in still images. Yes, pictures are what alerted me to this need for fiction. When I look at some images, I instantly like them, but often cannot put my finger on exactly why I do.  Perhaps it is the way the photographer has caught the mood or the expression in a portrait, or even the simplicity of design. These type of pictures are all fuel which feeds a creative fire in me. The more you see the creativity of others, the more you are driven to be creative yourself. Or perhaps it is simply that I give myself more license to be myself when I see how wonderful it is when others are being themselves. The cultural-consensus of our time is so drab and boring. While there are streaks of colourful individuality, and people who refuse to exist within the lines of society, there are far more drones than there are Jedi! But back to fiction. There is something about fiction which engages our minds and emotions in a way that is not possible if we limited our content to fact. Biographies and history are great, but they are constrained in that they have to be true. And that really is a big constraint! With a blank page, a blank world or a blank person you can do anything. You don’t even have to be realistic. It can be completely fantastical. There’s something about reading a story you know is not true. One would think that this would diminish the experience, but somehow it doesn’t. It’s weird I know.

I have recently had the wonderful experience of liking an abstract photo, but not knowing what I like about it (which is the wonderful part). The reason why it was a wonderful experience is that it was ME that found it cool. It wasn’t because it had good composition, or was by a famous artist. I just liked the way it looked. You might have hated it, and that would be equally wonderful (for me anyways) because it means that I am tapping into my own individualness. Judging something on the criteria that have been given to you (like composition or author (at least implicitly) feels very second-hand. You’ve been told what’s good and what’s bad, what’s interesting and what’s not. When you judge it on those scales, it often just feels like you are a part of the system and that you have no unique view to add. That’s why I hate model answers; because that’s basically saying that there is only one answer to any given question. And if you venture even just a little beyond the porch of hard sciences, that’s no longer true.

So I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s good to read fiction. It’s good to observe and engage with creative works, and, even better, creative people. Surrounding yourself with creativity, uniqueness and individuality helps you to realise that you too are unique (just like everybody else, ironically), you too have something inside you that no one else has. Yes you are influenced by society and education and religion and all those things, but you are a unique non-linear system. The way you combine with those external factors will be fundamentally different to the way someone else combines with those very same factors – and that’s individuality. Your personality, your quirks your you-ness. These are things you should value highly- it’s the only part of you that no one else has or ever can have. So, be creative. Cultivate creative relationships. Read fiction. Engage in visual creativity. Think uniquely. Feel uniquely. Be yourself.

I, for one, am really going to try to!

How you made them feel…

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel” – Carl Beuchner

Wow this is so true! When I think back on all the lectures I’ve attended and preaches I’ve listened to, the ones that stick out aren’t the slickest ones or the most profound (although these are great!), the ones I remember are when something stirred in me. When people are able to engage us on a spiritual and/or emotional level, it leaves an imprint in our lives that long outlasts the latest intellectual or theological ‘revelation’.

Certainly we should not order our lives around our emotions, but neither should we neglect them. Western society in general and particularly some streams of reformed theology have cast a disapproving light on the emotions of man. They are almost seen as a yet-to-be-redeemed element of humanity. They are often unpredictable and lead us to do irrational things. Being led without reason is wrong, no doubt, but being led by reason alone is equally wrong. God has made us to be physical, psychological, spiritual, emotional beings.

So, when we engage with others, perhaps rather than trying to convince them of our sound logic or impeccable reasoning, we should engage them on a deeper level. This is a narrow road and can easily lead to manipulation and propaganda, but, nevertheless, the need to engage people on a deeper level than simply the intellect is ever-present. Subject to abuse -yes. But necessary for effective Christian living – also yes.

Costly experiences, vulnerability and convictions…

“The more costly an experience is to us, the greater its significance in our lives and the more it occupies our minds – and also the more we are afraid of its being misunderstood, or that it will be cheapened by some misapplied remark or suspicion. The more refined and subtle our minds, the more vulnerable they are. When we are alone we are haunted by doubts about the genuineness of our deepest intuitions and feelings…Thus, although we are made to suffer by reason of the discordance between our personage and our person…nevertheless, we carefully foster it for fear of having our person hurt if we reveal its most precious treasures. This is often what happens with our artistic, philosophical or religious convictions. We feel they are still too fragile to stand up to being judged and even brutally contradicted by others. But our convictions are never really clear and firm until they have been expressed and defended.

-Paul Tournier (The Meaning of Persons)

For me this is very true. Those experiences which have made the deepest impressions in our lives are usually the ones we are least willing to address. Whether implicitly through repression or explicitly through denial, we simply do not want to face up to the pain of talking about our darkest moments, fears or doubts. And yet God, in His infinite wisdom, created us in such a way that communication and sharing are prerequisites for full healing, wholeness and hence happiness. First we need to find people who we can trust and who will truly hear us, and then we need to be those people to others.

Working hard, or hardly working?

When I saw this photo, I was reminded of a great philosophy about work. I think the quote goes back to Confucius who said something to the following effect: “Enjoy the work that you do and you will never work a day in your life”. I agree with this type of thinking. I know that not everyone has the privilege of being able to do work that they enjoy, but many people have the possibility within their grasp but choose not to grab it for any number of reasons. Insecurity. Fear. Conformity. Who knows? Well, you do.

I want to occupy my time doing work that I would do even if I wasn’t been paid for it. Pay is a bonus 🙂 I know it’s not always stable or predictable but I flat out refuse to work for 50 weeks in the year so I can spend 2 weeks actually living my life.

Keep it real peeps…

A different drum…

‘If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away’ – Henry David Thoreau

This notion of dancing to a different drum is giving me comfort and helping me to understand, process and conceptualize my own life and the lives of some of my friends. When I was travelling in Europe last year with a very good friend of mine, she told me something extremely profound. While I was going on about how weird and eccentric all these Europeans were and judging them, she just said “It’s not wrong, it’s different“. Needless to say she was bang on the money, and subsequently this has become my motto whenever I travel.

For most of my life different and wrong were synonymous. Society, religion, families, friends and companies all have a vested interest in valuing conformity. While they may differ on what type of conformity, it is conformity nonetheless. In His supreme wisdom, God has made us different. This is a fact. We have different personalities, different strengths, different looks, different families, different everything. God doesn’t make mistakes (fortunately for us!). We need to be comfortable embracing our individuality, which is that part of ourselves which is different to others. Too often we conform to what we believe is expected from us or what is ‘correct’ or acceptable. We need to recognize uniqueness, both our own and others. Not only in physical attributes but also in cultures, ideas, feelings and thoughts. I am too quick to box people into my own framework of reference. First into ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ and then into an innumerable number of subsequent boxes in each branch. This process is not so bad (this is basically what thinking is) what’s bad is that the first branch of the tree is ‘Right or Wrong’. Premature-judgement is my double-barreled middle name!

Sometimes different is wrong. We cannot be so sensitive to differences that we adopt relativism in its extreme. There is absolute truth: Truth, and there is absolute knowledge: Knowledge. These systems or entities are not man-made or man-defined – they are creations of God. We dare not tread on His toes and try to categorize as unequivocal ‘Truth’ that for which there is a legitimate difference of opinion. That would truly be foolish.

Maybe you also have friends who are breaking the mold and you don’t know what to make of it. Then you, like me, should conclude: Perhaps they are just dancing to a different drum. Let them dance!