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Erik [with a K] is back and he wants to read you another one of this favourite poems, this time a classic by Dylan Thomas:

How deeply did this poem move you? What image stood out strongest?

What poem would you like Erik [with a K] to read next?

[If you missed his previous poem, click here]

megbrett

i met Megan Choritz, wow, 17 years ago?

As you can see, it started out quite daunting – the person who brought Improv to Cape Town in the form of TheatreSports, now Improguise, Cape Town’s longest running show [and best kept secret somehow].

But pretty soon i had gained confidence and the tables had been turned…

brettmeganears

Although some might not use ‘daunted’ in quite the same way, but i’m telling you, behind those fingers-in-ears is pure dauntment!

So we’ve played together for probably 13 years [as i was overseas for some of them] and made some of the most fabulous stuff up based on a word or theme or idea from an audience member or MC and it has been truly magical.

And scary. It’s always the teensiest tiniest bit of scary. Because you NEVER KNOW what is going to happen on stage. You never know what your partner will bring. And when it’s Megan who is one of the best ever, then it really could be completely anything. But at the very same time, you never have to really be scared, because TheatreSports is one of the most generous art forms out there and there is ALWAYS someone ready to save, to jump in and rescue, to MAKE YOU LOOK GOOD.

i was privileged to be there when Megan Choritz disappeared and in her place stood Megan Furniss, married to ‘Big Friendly’ as she calls him, the most unusual pairing initially with Brenton being a tall gentle computer programmy guy and Megan… well, not being that. And yet it has been one of the most beautiful relationships to watch. So much powerful and yet gentle love, so evident. Wow. She even wrote some great marriage advice for my blog as someone busy with their 10th year of marriage.

meg2

Improv has been great but there is another exciting journey ahead that i can’t wait for. In March Megan wrote a piece for my people who give me hope in South Africa series which was somewhat awkwardly about me, but highlighted in some of the best ways the incredible way two such-diverse people [especially when religion is concerned – HEY, COME BACK HERE!] can remain good friends and interact on such a deep level in some areas. Both with a huge bleeding heart for this beloved country of ours we have decided to do something about it. We have designed a three hour workshop which will help groups of people who work together get to the point of being able to speak about that elephant in the room of race. With the “Yes, lets!” and “Teamwork” nature of Improv and specifically through story-telling we hope to prepare people to be able to engage in a healthy way and really start listening to each other and get conversation started. If you would like to know more, get hold of me and ask…

But back to scary…

We are VERY excited to announce Megan’s upcoming show called Impromp2 which is as it kind of suggests, a night of Improv with just two people. I am very honoured to be kicking the week off on Tuesday 17th May with Megan, and then every night after that a different member of our Improv group will be joining her each evening. It is going to be taking place at the most delightful Alexander Bar on Strand Street in town. Two improvisors, one stage and EVERYTHING ELSE made up on the spot for an entire hour. No backup crew. No-one waiting on the side to jump in and save. It’s going to be completely scary and i can. not. wait. Come and watch. [and you should probably book tickets as soon as you can cos it’s not the hugest venue and i imagine they will be snapped up soon]

Also Megan will not be too amped to hear that one of the funnest things in life for me is a Megan corpse [to clarify: that means when someone breaks out of character to laugh, not the other one] and so Impromp2 will not be completely incredible unless we can sneak in one of those…

Megan Furniss and Brett “Fish” Anderson… like the Murtaugh and Riggs of the Improvising world… long may we continue [yes, it’s okay that you had to look that up]…

Also it’s high time she followed me for a change and Megan has just joined a group of us who are doing Tandem Blogging where each week we get a title and have to blog whatever comes out of that as you can see with our most recent one on ‘The Art of Boredom’ for which you can find Megan’s perfectly captured piece over here.

race

i have cycled the Argus Cycle tour 19 times.

The Argus Cycle tour [now allegedly called something else due to new sponsorship, but it will always be the Argus] is a 109km cycling race [mostly, except when it isn’t!] that is the largest timed cycling race in the world with over 35000 people crazily taking it on every year.

i have finished it 16 and a half times. [technically 17 but this year’s ridiculously shortened race should not count as a real race although it was my saving grace having not finished it for at least 5 years – one of my non finishes was the ridiculously crazy wind year where after 100 meters of cycling we had to get off our bikes and walk across an intersection with a crosswind that was so bad and where material banners were being ripped to shreds etc – made it to St James and then thought, “I am not enjoying this at all and i have finished this race 15 times so i don’t have anything to prove and so phoned my mom and she picked me up.” The other time i didn’t finish was literally the day after a full-on ten-day food fast where i had taken in nothing but liquids for ten straight days which unfortunately coincided with the day before the Argus and WHAT WAS I THINKING INDEED?]

But the majority of those finishes have an unexpected chief contributor in my finishing of the races. Not a great or regular training program [at my peak i was using one year’s race as the only training i did for the next year’s race as in didn’t touch a bike the whole year til the next race] or any particular supplement [the official pink liquidy ones always made me queasy so i tended to stick to Bar Ones and Tempos!] and certainly not the most expensive bike [usually borrowed someone’s last minute] or cycling equipment

THE SECRET INGREDIENT

Pink tights. That’s right – woman’s pink tights. Well actually these were men’s Solomon the Salamander pink tights from a Christian youth drama i had been part of in 1994 when i was on the Baptist Youth music and drama team called W.O.W. [Win Our World – flip, now that probably won’t make this list, although…] which i had kept [you know, just in case there’s a race with 35000 people coming up…].

But i’m convinced they were the key to me finishing a bunch of my Arguses. And when they died i got fish net stockings which i used a couple of times [and somehow managed to convince not my friend, but my friend’s friend, to wear with me – altho we’re friends now! How could we not be?] for the same reason.

Being this: when you are riding up one of the most killer hills on the Argus known as Suikerbossie and the very much drunk Afrikaans rugby supporter guys are singing, “suikerbossie wil jou hê” there is NO WAY IN THE WORLD you are going to pull over and stop cycling if you are wearing pink tights or fish nets [or you will die!] and so it was a really great motivator. Add to that the fact that you stand out and so 30 thousand plus random people cycling by – supporters get bored – and sooner or later they only start really cheering for people who stand out – and believe me, pink tights or fish nets? You are that guy! And so instant ongoing cheerleading team the entire race [along with a whole lot of inappropriate unwanted whistles, which also do the trick]

WEAR SUNSCREEN

So yes, dressing up in general for the Argus was a life highlight for me. Biggest fail was the year i decided to wear my full face gorilla mask [lack of vision and intense overdose of sweat within first kilometer made me lose that quickly], middle of the road was the year i dressed up in my Spur steak-ranch waiter’s kit and had people ordering food from me THE WHOLE FLIPPIN RACE, and the winner was the tights cos who ever gets tired of people calling out, “Hey sexy legs!” Not. This. Guy.

Also the year i convinced Warren to cycle in fish nets with me, it was also a ‘highlight’ for the way my bicycle was stolen out of my car before the race when i picked up Warren in town as he was putting on his fish nets and my buddy Dunc swooped to the rescue by letting me use his bike for the race and having to adjust the saddle height and stuff. Another highlight was me sitting up all night writing anti Eskom satirical slogans on our shirts because we were in the midst of a different bout of load-shedding and all the comment they received.

But the main highlight of that particular year was probably the fact that we did not listen to the ‘Wear Sunscreen’ song or do that in any way, shape or form and so for six of the worst sun hours of the day we were out in the sun, wearing no sun block. Did i mention the fish nets? That’s right – number 78 is THE BEST EVER FISH NET STOCKING TAN to be found on two guys.

[To read about other Highlight moments in my life, click here]

Jesusfem

So i recently finished reading the book Jesus Feminist by one of my favourite writery people, Sarah Bessey and thought i should share some of the highlight/challenging/interesting moments for me:

In chapter three, titled ‘Tangled-Up Roots’, Sarah starts the chapter with this great George Carlin quote:

Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist

And then, speaking from a time when she was employed full-time and realising that women’s ministry was largely aimed at stay-at-home moms, she writes this:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

‘During this season of my life, the more I learned about Jesus, the more I struggled with the iterations of Christianity around me. Much of what I saw or experienced in the modern church didn’t match up with what I thought I knew about the ageless God. My growing disenchantment was not limited to women’s roles in the church, though: these “lady issues” were merely one branch in the thicket of my frustrations with the Church.

It started with the small questions, the easy ones to stuff into the closet and ignore. I could drown the questions and the cognitive dissonance out if I quoted enough Bible verses, if I went to enough church services, if i got busy “doing hard things for Jesus,” made another casserole for another neighbour, led another youth retreat, hosted another Bible study, bought another leather-bound devotional with an unfurling flower on the cover, quieted down more, tried harder to fit into te getting-smaller-by-the-day understanding of following Jesus.

But my questions and doubts has the inconvenient habit of poking out the straining door, gathering friends, growing and intensifying as steadily as if my resolute denial of their existence fed and watered them.

I was drawn towards a life of redemptive peacemaking and justice seeking, yet the churches of my context and traditions were in a strange collusion with politics and just-war philosophy as the Iraq War began. I struggled with the cultural rhetoric against immigrants, homosexuals, artists, welfare recipients, the poor, non-Americans, and anyone who looked different or lived differently than the expectation. Cultural mores were passing as biblical mandates. The give-me-more-more-more prosperity gospel didn’t match up with my growing commitment to contentment and simple living. I wanted my pro-life ethic to encompass all of human life.

For the first time in my life, I was reading and learning about the Church’s mandate to care for the poor. I was reading voraciously about global issues such as clean water, community development, war, human trafficking, economics, disaster relief, the AIDS crisis, unjust systemic evils. Meanwhile, church budgets made room for a brand-new light show and a kickin’ sound system or a trip to Disneyland or a video venue in a saturated upscale neighbourhood – all in an effort to practice creative-experience marketing. And the rich got richer. The more I learned about the life and world and tragedies thumping along beyond pour seemingly missing-the-point building programs and Christian schools and drive-by missionary work, the more I ached and grieved and repented of my own sin and blindness. I questioned is all, including my own commitment to propping up this system.

The cracks were ricocheting and multiplying across my heart now, and when I turned to the Church for answers, I did not feel my questions were welcome. This may have been my own pride and willful blindness, but there didn’t seem to be room for me as a questioning woman within the system, as a seeker. I was straining to keep my barrage of questions stuffed in the closet. My stubborn faith was not lining up with the big, broad Church’s priorities and focus. The whole women-can’t-do-such-and-such or here’s-what-a-biblical/true/real-woman-does or submit-and-stay-home-and-have-babies subtext? Well, add that to the getting-bigger-by-the-day pile.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Naturally what follows is a bit of a crash and Sarah and her husband eventually left full-time vocational ministry and embarked on a ‘journey through the wilderness of my wonderings with a seen-it-all-before smirk on my face  and a profound ache in my soul’.

She continues a little later with this:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

‘We embraced a new understanding of church and community, of vocation and ministry, of organic faith and missional living. We were lonely. And then we began to heal, slowly at first, then faster and faster.

“You can’t be a Christian by yourself,” writes Sara Miles. Me? I tried.

I tried to be a Christian by myself. And in my deepest hurts from the Body of Christ, it did help to cocoon away in the in-between space for a while. It helped to step away from the institutions of church in a self-imposed blackout from the programs, from the self-perpetuating machine, from the politics, the religion, the expectations, the behaviour modification, the CEO-style leadership courses, the unstable pedestals for pastors and the way that the grind of modern ministry life seems to chew up and spit out again, and the easy consumer spirituality.

The wilderness transformed me in a way no “spiritual high” or certainty or mountaintop moment had ever done. I shed a lot of performance anxiety in those “in between” years. I reconciled what I believed and why. I embraced the glorious kaleidoscope of God at work in the global world. And most importantly, the wilderness was the birthplace of my intimacy with God. Jonathan Martin writes, “far from being a punishment, judgement, or a curse, the wilderness is a gift. It’s where we can experience the primal delight of being fully known and delighted in by God.”

I loosened my grip on my opinions. I entered recovery for being such a know-it-all. I stopped expecting everyone to experience God or church or life like I thought it should be done. In fact, I stopped using the word should about God altogether, I sought God, and He was faithful to answer me. I came to know Him as “Abba” – a Daddy. He set me free from crippling approval addiction, from my Evangelical Hero Complex, from the fear of man. He bathed my feet, bound my wounds, gave rest to my soul, restored the joy of church and community to our lives. I learned the difference between critical thinking and just being plain critical. And I found out He is more than enough, always will be more than enough – yesterday, today, forever.

Now, all these years later, I marvel. I marvel because God was there in the pain. I marvel because this life we lead back home in Canada is not what we would have imagined for our lives, but it’s so much better. And I marvel because I hold almost all of it loosely in my hand now, all of it but this: the nature, identity, soul, action, and character of God is love – lovelovelovelovelovelovelove.

Everything was resurrected on that truth. And now for me, faith is less of a brick edifice of belief and doctrine and right answers than it is a wide-open sky ringed with pine trees black against a cold sunset, an altar, a welcome, bread and wine, an unfathomable ferocious love, and a profound sense of my belovedness. ‘

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

And more. Sarah talks about how her healing story won’t necessarily be your healing story so there’s no set formula she can write down that everyone just needs to apply to their own lives. But later on she writes this line which stuck out for me:

Hurry wounds a questioning soul.

And the chapter ends later with these inspiring words:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

‘My water in the desert arrived in cups fashioned by the hands of those who love the gospel. I found, right under my nose, people who love God and love others; their lives were a smelling-salts wake-up experience of grace. Sometimes they were the same people I lived alongside during those years of wondering and isolation in Texas. My loss is that, in my pride, I didn’t see them there at the time. Everywhere I look now, I see disciples who forgive and serve without fanfare or book deals, working quietly for justice and mercy. They love the unlovable, the marginalized, the hopeless; they wash dishes and raise babies; they work in Surrey and in Port-au-Prince and San Antonio because of their great love for God. They believe Jesus actually meant all that stuff He spoke while here on earth, so they are on a mission; they are peacemakers.

Jesus said, “You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” You cannot be full to the brim with Christ’s love and peace without spilling over into the lives of others. You learn how to love by being loved. You yearn to heal once you’ve been healed. We receive goodness and bread, and them, of course, we want to point every other hungry beggar on the road to the source.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

[If you missed the Intro to this book, click here]

For more from Sarah Bessey, get hold of her book, Jesus Feminist, or check out her website over here, or you can find her on the Twitterer @sarahbessey

This morning i went to hang out and church with the friendly people at Common Ground Wynberg.

i have visited them a bunch of times since coming back from americaland because they have a vibe i really enjoy: very diverse congregation, black pastor [who i really like], some people i know and a whole bunch i don’t, and usually just an exciting lifeness happening with children movement and French translations and people who move as they sing, and there is just a lot of stuff there i really enjoy.

i was sitting waiting for the service to begin and i looked around and was just stunned by the beauty around me. Not the hugest amount of white people, a lot of African folks who are clearly from other more Northern parts of Africa and a bit of a mixed bunch of everyone else: a mesmerisingly messy mosaic made up of people who love Jesus and want to follow Him well together.

And i thought to myself, ‘I want to get to know these people. i want to hear their stories. i want to know how they ended up in South Africa. And i want to know what it has been like for them as the horrification of xenophobia has raised its ugly head in various parts of the country once more.

i imagine, if they had all been white people, that i would not have cared as much. Not because [like some of my favourite commentors on the blog would have us believe] i hate white people, because i really don’t. But because if i was in a church congregation of white people, then i would imagine the stories would be largely similar – in theme, or context, or content or general vibe at least. And while that’s okay, i guess, it’s not very interesting to me.

And so in that moment, for a moment, while i waited for ‘church to start’ i celebrated the church that was already going on. i drank in the diversity and thanked God for the hope of what this country can become. i didn’t understand racism just a little bit more than normal.

What a travesty to continue to live life surrounded by people who all look like us and largely think and live and celebrate and entertain and eat and church like us. i’m excited about some of the creative ways Val and i are embracing to ensure that our circles, in this regard, are getting gradually bigger…

[i didn’t get a chance to properly meet anyone cos they made an announcement that someone had left their car lights on and i strongly suspected it was me, but i was trapped in the middle of my row and hoped the battery would survive one service, so i left immediately afterwards… turns out it wasn’t me, but i will be back, and next time i hope to get to hear one or more of those stories]

divers

Jesusfem

Sarah Bessey is one of my favourite people on the Twitterer.

She is a Canadian who loves Jesus and pretty much any time i have read one of her blog pieces i resonate deeply with it and really feel that she writes both truthfully but also lovingly [often a tough mix to get just right] and so she is one of the few go-to blog people i have. Others being Nate Pyle in a similar way [truth and humility, far  too rare in a Christian leader] and then also Jamie the Very Worst Missionary [who i don’t always agree with, although i mostly do and when i do it is usually with loud cheering and huge smiles cos of her in-your-face presentation].

So i was super excited to FINALLY get hold of her book, Jesus Feminist, which i’d been wanting to read for years but never made any steps towards until my sister came to visit from the States and  suggested it as a gift she might want to bring me.

Jesusfem3

In chapter 1 as Sarah explains part of her journey, she writes:

‘At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance – not greater than, but certainly not less than – to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women.

Several years ago, when I began to refer to myself as a feminist, a few Christians raised their eyebrows and asked, “What kind of feminist exactly?” Off the top of my head, I laughed and said, “Oh, a Jesus feminist!” It stuck, in a cheeky sort of way, and now I call myself a Jesus feminist because to me, the qualifier means I am a feminist precisely because of my life-long commitment to Jesus and His Way.’

And a few pages later she nails home the point:

‘After years of reading the Gospel and the full canon of Scripture, here is, very simply, what I learned about Jesus and the ladies. He loves us.

He loves us. On our own terms. He treats us as equals to the men around Him; He listens; He does not belittle; He honours us; He challenges us; He teaches us; He includes us – calls us all beloved. Gloriously, this flies in the face of the cultural expectations of His time – and even our own time. Scholar David Joel Hamilton calls Jesus’ words and actions towards women “controversial, provocative, even revolutionary.”

Jesus loves us.

In a time when women were almost silent or invisible in literature, Scripture affirms and celebrates woman. Women were a part of Jesus’ teaching, part of His life. Women were there for all of it.’

Jesusfemquote2

i completely resonate with the heart and message of the book, which might be why i was a little bit disappointed with it. Which is a hard and horrible thing to say about the book of someone i admire and respect so much [believe me, having just written a book, it really does feel in some ways like putting your baby out there for everyone to comment on, or not].

BUT, i think i know why.

THIS BOOK WILL BE INCREDIBLE IN THE RIGHT HANDS

i have identified two reasons why i may not have enjoyed ‘Jesus Feminist’ as much as i hoped to and none of them have anything to do with it not being a good book.

# The one reason is that i already think so much of what Sarah is talking about in the book whereas for people who still think in outdated, patriarchal-society-enhanced ways this will either be a breath of fresh air [women] or a hugely challenging read [men] but really good for both of them. i didn’t need any convincing and yet i think the book does really well if you are stuck in a mindset that believes that in the church men are more important than women or should have higher status.

# The main reason though is what i would call the Terry Pratchett syndrome. i love Terry Pratchett and he is my favourite read-for-entertainment author. i was fortunate enough to start with ‘The Colour of Magic’ which is his first Discworld novel and read them largely in order and then suddenly, around the time of ‘Guards Guards!’, ‘Moving Pictures’ and ‘Pyramids’ [all three of which i read close together] he suddenly jumped to another level and just got increasingly better and better. Then one day i reread ‘The Colour of Magic’ and it seemed so bad in comparison, just because Pratchett had gotten so good.

That’s what i feel with Sarah Bessey. It is not that anything is particularly wrong with ‘Jesus Feminist’. But it’s just that i discovered her through her writing after that, and it has been a couple of years and she has just gotten so much better.

Jesusfemquote

So for any women out there who are feeling ‘less than’ or ‘insignificant’ in the church, this is a great book for you to be reading. If you know someone who struggles with that, then buy them a copy and stick it in their hands – it might very well be life-changing. But if you are someone who is on the same page with that conversation then i would highly recommend following Sarah on the Twitterer which you can do @sarahbessey or bookmarking her blog over here as one worth visiting regularly. In a world with so many voices and people and posts and too little time, Sarah Bessey is someone who, at the moment, is one of my favourite people to watch and listen to and learn from.

i have a bunch of turned over pages in her book and so i imagine, when i get a chance, i’ll be sharing a few more extracts, cos there really was some great stuff in it…

[For a passage by Sarah Bessey on Unwelcome Questions & What Happens after you Crash?, click here]

My friend, Rebecca, who has written before on my blog – a message to South Africa over here, and about her journey with dyslexia over here – wrote this as a status update the other day:

Dear racist old man on the Pavilion escalator.

I’m sorry you smashed your phone screen and that it’s going to cost you R4000 to fix. But you don’t have to call the salesman you talked to that [insert derogatory name] it is really not his fault it costs so much. And even if it was you still can’t call him that.

And no I don’t think i’m a disrespectful ‘little girl’ for calling you out and I WILL NOT apologise!

And i was just so completely proud of her.

notracist

It is beyond time that we start doing this South Africa – whenever racism of prejudice of any type rears its ugly head. For too long we have cringed silently when a relative has referred to a 45 year old black woman working for them as “girl” or a friend has made an uncomfortable joke with racist implications.

Referring to members of another group as “those people” or starting any sentence with the words, “I’m not racist, but…” [which can only ever be followed by a racist statement] – from blatant to subtle to intended or not, it has to stop.

And anytime we stand by and say nothing we become complicit, which if that’s too big a word for you means it is as if we are doing that very racist thing ourselves.

We need to draw a line in the sand and go, “Here and no further.”

This feels like such a small one and yet it feels like such a big one. Mindsets and behaviours need to shift so that we can move forward together. You won’t necessarily change those who you call out, but you give them an opportunity to think about their words and hopefully move towards a better place.

And we need to be having more conversations around the dinner table about race – what is okay, what is not okay. This is one of the pressing needs for us in this country to get right so how about just once you push sport, movies, food to the side and have a good old chat about South Africa and race and what you are personally involved in in terms of helping us move to a better place…

batrace

[Want to read about some other ways we can move things forward in this country, click here]

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