Category: heroes or heroic moments


robrunningonbeach

i love this picture of my buddy Rob [who died just over a week ago from cancer] and everything it expresses – carefree, full of life, plus the symbolism of running off into the distance is not lost on me.

But i miss him a lot and it’s only been just over a week. Only? Yeah, something like that. And i think words are my processor so this is really for me, but you’re welcome to eavesdrop, especially if you knew my buddy. Continue reading

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haley

We can all remember that iconic moment from the Bruce Willis/Haley Joel Osment thriller ‘The Sixth Sense’ and if you have not seen it yet, then be warned of the biggest spoiler of all.

The face of Cole Sear peeking out from behind the safety of his blanket as he whispers the iconic, “I see dead people!”

i feel like that on a far-too-regular basis on The Facebook as i read statuses of people negative about South Africa as they share news story after news story of death, violence and destruction.

This week i was thrown a little by one of those negative statements coming from someone i expected to have more hope.

But this negativity has been playing around in my head and it continues to make me sad and angry and confused and sometimes all at once. Are the stories being shared of negativity false? Probably not. The truth is that there is a LOT of death, violence and destruction in South Africa at the moment. So then how do i have any right to feel differently and expect others to do the same?

IT’S ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW

i was speaking on a camp in Wortelgat [past Hermanus] this weekend and got some bad news about a friend back in Cape Town, who has cancer. The way i received the news led me to believe there was a possibility i would not see my friend again. And i got this about five minutes before i was due to start my first talk. i was gutted.

But immediately i walked outside and texted two family members and maybe five or six friends to ask them to pray. And i knew they would. [And there were easily ten or twenty more people i could have texted without even thinking about it]. i knew they had my back. And my friend’s. [Sunday night tbV and i got to hang out with him and his wife and it seems like the situation has stabilised for now.

i saw a post this week about my friend Ashley who has been teaching chess to some young children from disadvantaged backgrounds. They were proudly showing off their medals from a chess competition they had competed in on the weekend.

i think of Nicole/Francesco, Tyron/Cara-Leigh, Mike/Sarah, Troskie/Naomi and others who have adopted little babies and children from a different race or culture group than their own and my friends Alexa/Charles who are waiting in line to do the same.

i think of tbV and the work she is doing towards getting Common Change to be an active thing in South Africa – a way for groups of friends to combine their resources and share with those who they know who have a need, and of Barry Lewis who is pioneering the building of houses in underprivileged areas using a unique design involving sand bags as walls.

Our friends Pete and Sarah and others who are working with young guys trying to get out of gangsterism and off drugs in Mannenberg and also the Jou Ma se Kombuis coffee shop/restaurant they have set up there; of the Common Good non-profit that is part of Common Ground church and how their aim is to get every single member of the church involved in some form of social justice and action; of 13 families who moved into Salt River as a part of the Eden Project and the idea of crossing boundaries to seek community and reconciliation and more.

i think of Tim Tucker and the Message folks who are working in prisons to train leaders and then helping them find employment once they are outside prison. Of Jade and Siphe who are using the opportunity of Managing the Soft Serve Machine as an event business which is a huge part of them turning their lives about as they encourage and affect others around them.

i think of my mate Bruce Collins and the way he uses technology in the classroom to build into the next generation of young people and how his love for people moves beyond that into equipping and empowering other teachers across the land and maybe even the world. Of uThando leNkosi, the place of safety for kids that tbV sits on the board of trustees of who looks after children who have been taken out of rough situation and been given a chance of a more normal, more family-centered life.

i think of the men and women who run LEAD SA and how they look for stories of good and highlight different young people once a month who are making a difference in their communities. Of the folks who run U-Turn homeless ministry who give people a chance to buy vouchers so that you can give someone on the street an opportunity for a meal or some clothing or a place to sleep without having to worry about what they might do with money you hand out to them. i think of the Big Issue vendors who brave wind and rain and blank faces that pretend they don’t exist as they go about selling magazines at traffic lights to earn a salary to bring some change to their life and future.

And i could go on… individuals and organisations and friends who are making the hugest of differences or the smallest ways simply by the work they choose to be involved with, the decisions they make with their money or where they choose to live or how they spend their time. People who get crazily creative in terms of seeing opportunities for change. People who read the negative headlines but refuse to let them remain the headlines of the future. People investing in South Africa and South Africans.

Picture of South African Flag

People who refuse to see dead people. 

And so my question to you today is which person are you? Maybe the reason i am surprised when i read about people losing all hope and moaning about South Africa and getting scared and more, is because i have chosen to align myself to people who are making such differences and so the predominant stories in and around my life tend instead to be ones of hope and life and the future. So the negative stories are still there and the pain and violence and desperation are all still real. But those stories are drowned out by the story of the wall of uThando leNkosi being painted or the next group of prisoners starting the training with the Message in prison or seeing a group of young people be challenged and changed by hearing stories of a God who loves them at the camp i was on this weekend or news that our friend has just invited someone to live with them for a couple of weeks while she finds her feet and gets work.

Negativity tends to breed negativity and so if you are feeling overwhelmed by the negative narrative in this country then i encourage you to maybe find some different friends, find some different places to get your stories, find an organisation you can volunteer with. Sign up with The Warehouse to receive their newsletter and start attending some of their conversations about practical change. Like Johan de Meyer so you can hear what his Un-Fence group is up to next. Follow @Lead_SA on the Twitterer to read about this month’s hero they are celebrating.

Or leave. Because really, if you are choosing to add to the negativity in South Africa then you really should go somewhere else. We don’t need more people adding to the hymn of the depressed or the tune of the tragic-minded. There is certainly enough of that. We need people who realise they need to start learning Xhosa, or who decide they need to pay their domestic a living wage instead of just getting away with what your neighbour is paying theirs; people who will have a first-name and story knowledge of their immediate neighbours and who will jump in and offer to babysit their friend’s children so they can have a much-needed date night off; we need people who will give their time for chess lesson and others who will simply click and share the positive story ahead of the negative one.

We need people to choose to be a part of the change. And to invite others they know to do the same alongside them.

Which one are you? What is one story you can share in the comments of someone or some group doing something that would easily be added to this list here? Please share it with us. 

[For Ten Very Practical Suggestions of Big and Small ways for you to be Part of the Solution, click here]

cherokee

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]

Two steps forward and then one to the right. I stand and wait, watching… guarding… carefully listening to my own heavy breathing…

I try to remain focused completely on the spaces around me, watching for you, zoning out of the chatter and in on any nearby movement that may be about to occur.

This time you will not get by me.

I am ready, alert, prepared for the inevitability of your attack.

One thing in mind, protect my liege, at all costs, even if it means i may have to sacrifice my very life.

And there you are… I finally catch sight of you, caught behind your wall, for now, but I know that will not last

In fact, just one minute later and already I spot a gap in the wall…

Soon, you will be coming…

I take a step to my left, another step forward

And one more.

All the while, watching, waiting, thinking, calculating.

Perhaps if I just keep myself moving, you will eventually make a mistake…

Silence.

It’s as if I can almost smell the deep thought that is resonating in the air just above me.

My horse makes a startled sound.

“Sh, Th’gink, it’s okay lady, easy now,” I quietly whisper into her ear, trying to calm her down.

When the moment comes to strike, I need her to be ready, totally in control.

More silence.

Followed by a gentle tik, tik.

The tell-tale sounds of plastic on wood…

Like a black widow on the prowl, you seek a deathly mating ritual.

And I, I will do everything I can to stop you.

And almost all too easily, there it is. The moment I have been building up to.

In an instantly regrettable moment of distraction, you took your eyes off of me.

I suspect it was the sight of the castle to your left?

As I gallop into view, straight, straight, and then at the last moment pull an audacious slide to the left.

I have your man in my sights…

And you must fall, so that he may make his brief escape…

queen

This post is my first post as part of a tandem blogging exercise with Dave Luis, Mandy Collins and Nick Frost. One title unwrapped by four storytellers. Read Dave’s post over here, Mandy’s post here, and Nick’s post here. Please share your thoughts on our fun exercise in the comments on each post, and remember that with bloggerists, sharing is always caring. 

[To check out the following Tandem Post i did with the title, ‘Revelations at Dawn’, click here]

When I was in hotel school they used to drill the phrase “exceed the guest’s expectations” into us all the time. It was never enough to do what the guest asked; we were pushed to always go “above and beyond” the call of duty. As a believer I have found that this lesson also applies in how we live our lives because let’s be honest, doing the bare minimum of what Christ has asked us to do, only really benefits, well no one. Over the past 9 years I have met many extraordinary believers who have done what I’d say is going above and beyond but is really just obeying God and loving and serving people. Two such people are my wonderful friends, mentors and managers – the Harrell’s and I would love to introduce you to them.

megan and richard 3

I chose the Harrell’s as people who inspire me in South Africa because they really and truly are and it’s kind of crazy because they are not South African. Megan and Richard started their missionary journey many years before they ever even left America but God didn’t open a door until 2012. They moved to Lesotho to work in the mountains, with Richard flying people in and out of the area. 90% of his flights were medically related and many people dying on his flights. He became heavily burdened to share the message of Christ with them but opportunities to do so were few. He then realised that reaching an older person is harder as their minds and hearts are already made up but intervening and sharing Christ with younger people had the potential to change not only their lives but the lives of the community.

So an idea formed and the Harrell’s kicked into action. Taking their 4 boys (yes 4!) onto a rocky field in the middle of Lesotho and kicking a ball around. One boy came and then more and then Saturdays and their house was filled with young boys to mentor and help fulfil their potential. What started as a Saturday soccer club soon turned into a club of 350 young boys. They knew that this was a God thing. So they dreamed up a place for all these boys to come hang out, do homework and be mentored but again God asked them to wait and showed them a different place instead.

Fast track to a meeting with Trevor Downham and then a move to Genesis and the beautiful South Coast. Here was a youth centre for them to work in. since they started working at Genesis Youth I have seen many things that have inspired me to try making a difference in my own community. Too many people tend to just talk the talk but these people walk it as well. With their heart for children and young adults they work every day to see each person they meet come to find and fulfil their God given potential. To intervene in young people’s lives so that they can make great choices that will affect their future and their community for the better.

Richard works as the Operational Manger for the youth centre (which mind you is a really hard job) but also instructs a Crossfit gym, tends to all his employees and makes sure each of us works to be who God created us to be and Megan does a lot of media and writing work for Genesis. They came into a situation and instead of trying to figure it out first, they just plugged straight into the work. But although there is no way to describe the work they do, I can only say that they make a difference. Francis Chan is quoted as saying that sometimes we need to go until God tells us to stop. This perfectly describes this couple for me. I asked them what they hope to achieve whilst here and their answer displays their heart for people and their love for God.

“As missionaries our hope and dream is to empower local people to do the work that we are doing, because we believe they can do it so much better than we can. Also that what we have done here will continue even after we have left.”

Yes there is a lot wrong with South Africa but there is also a lot that is right about it and sometimes it’s the very people who want to see it succeed that inspire us the most. People like the Harrell’s who go above and beyond.

Sim

http://www.sonsspot.blogspot.com

http://www.genesishope.co.za

[For more stories of people who give us hope in South Africa, click here]

These are some ideas that Melissa Hertz shared on her blog which you can find over here that she graciously allowed me to reblog for this series:

Motherhood has stretched me… stretched my skin, my womb, my patience and the way I think. Motherhood has made me grow and I have learned a few lessons along the way. Here are my most valuable lessons so far.

Mel1
1. I have learned that every child is completely unique. 

Unfortunately babies are not born with a manual strapped to their chest and each child, as small as they may be, has a unique personality, and has a unique life purpose and plan. What I do for my daughter does not necessarily work for my son. What you do for your son, may not work for my daughter.

It is my duty as a mother to learn who my children are and not try to conform them into who I want them to be. I need to encourage my children to know Him and discover their calling and dreams placed in their hearts by Him.

2. I have learned to trust my instincts.

I had my daughter when I was only 20 years old and had no family nearby to advise me on how to raise and look after this tiny little new born person. I had to learn quickly to trust my God given intuition and am so very glad that I did. Things that I instinctively did, like skin on skin contact, co sleeping, breast feeding and baby wearing all turned out to be very beneficial to my baby and to myself. I didn’t know it at the time and only found out later that these things that I had instinctively felt to do, had been scientifically proven to help my babys’ immune system, among many other neurological benefits.

I have learned to question everything, read up and research everything, question doctors and teachers, coaches and anyone else around my children, because although God is the only one who knows what is best for my children, my husband and I know our child better than anyone.

3. I have learned not to judge other mothers.

I have a confession to make. Before I had children I used to judge the way that other parents raise their children. Before I had children I knew so much about how to be a parent and a disciplinarian. I had all these perfect ideas of what it was like to be a mother, and then I became a mother and somehow knew less than I did before. I learned very quickly that motherhood is not a Pampers nappy television advert with perfect smiles and a clean perfect house and a child that is happy 24/7.

I have learned to give other mothers lots and lots of grace, because that is what I need.

4. I have learned that love really is the greatest gift of all.

Yes that sounds super cheesy. But also super true. Holding and meeting my children for the first time was one of the greatest gifts in this life time that I will always treasure. These guys are my treasures here on earth and I have discovered a love so deep and a bond so unbreakable and yet, I will never be able to fully grasp the concept of Gods’ unfailing love for me. But being a mother has given me just a teeny tiny teensy taste of how much God loves me. I love my children with every part of me and all that I am. And yet no matter how much I love my children, God loves me so much more. Mind blowing.


“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” John 3:16
5. I have learned to laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously.

Motherhood is a serious job and if I mess up my child I have to stand before God someday and please explain. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t have fun. I have been vomited on, peed on, I have had my children blurt out the most embarrassing questions and remark in public, and I have had moments that are so ridiculous that I have had to just laugh out loud or I would burst into tears. To gain perspective I have often had to ask myself the very important question; “What will matter more in five years?”

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6. Motherhood has stretched me and taught me to be brave and strong even when I don’t feel it. 

There have been moments where I have been completely freaked out by this enormous task and responsibility of being a mother. Questions like, “What if my teenagers run away from home” or “What if we can’t afford to send them university” have crossed my mind. But in moments like that I need to control my thoughts and be brave and trust myself and trust God that it will all work out.

I don’t always know what I’m doing but God created these children for me, and created me for these children, so He will give me what I need when I need it. All I can do is take one day at a time, one step at a time, with lots and lots of grace from God.

                     Be brave butterfly….

7. I have learned to grow a thick skin. To hold onto the good stuff and exhale the bad stuff.  I have learned to let go of what people think because it really doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things. I have learned to fly against the wind and resistance and not always go with what society says I should do.

                      Be bold butterfly….

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:16 

mel38. I have learned that it is such a short season of sacrifice. 
My daughter is turning eight next month and it feels like yesterday that she was moving inside of my big pregnant belly. I have sacrificed many things for these children, but I actually can’t even name them because it is irrelevant. They are just so worth it. Soon these days of standing on Lego at 3 am and reading bedtime stories will be over for me. I need to treasure and embrace this season because I will miss it so very much…

9. I have been so completely humbled. 
I really can’t do this motherhood thing on my own. I am seriously desperate for Jesus to guide me and show me and protect my family. I seriously don’t even know how people who don’t have Jesus in their lives do it… It is too much stress, too much noise and too much mess to actually cope alone…

Cant.
Cope.
Without.
Him.

10. I have learned that although I am the one who is meant to teach them, the irony is that they teach me… about life, about love and about myself. 

When I gave birth to them they really gave birth to me. They are showing me one day at a time who I need to be, who I am meant to be and who I want to be. And life is so beautiful because they are mine for this short time here on earth…

Yes motherhood has stretched me… stretched my arms so that I can embrace the little arms around my neck, and my heart wider so that I can be filled with love that children seem to naturally bring with them when they are born into this world.

I have stretch marks on my heart and a few on my body too, best of all I have me these amazing two little people who call me “Mommy”.

And the stretch marks, well they don’t really matter anyway do they?

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[For more from Melissa, take a look at her blog ‘Arise. Butterfly. Glorify’ over here]

[For more tips on parenting from some other parents who are doing their best to do it well, click here]

One of the greatest problems in South Africa when you are privileged is you sometimes see poverty as an annoyance. You are sitting down in a restaurant on a Friday night and all of a sudden a group of kids come out doing an local African dance then touting you and tourists for money.  And out of sheer guilt (or maybe just a desire to have the group move to the next restaurant) you toss a few coins their way.

Now what if you just took a moment to see it a bit differently.  That’s exactly what a young guy born to South African parents but having grown up in Americaland did.

Let me introduce you to Jason Woolf:  As a young kid, he came to South Africa on holiday and like most tourists, got to see a couple of buskers.  It planted a seed.

Later, as a teenager about to leave high school on another trip, he asked some deeper questions: what happens to this money made by these kids? Does it reach them, or do some adult handlers take most of the cash?  Is there a possibility to create “fair trade” busking, a way of ensuring the money given by tourists and locals goes into ensuring the young performers get the cash?  And if there is, can we use this to revitalise South African culture?

So cue Jason Woolf today: In his twenties, he took some time out of the USA, moved to South Africa, reclaimed his citizenship, rented a place in Khayelitsha and formed Umbiyozo and started an NGO trying to answer some of those questions.

But let me not talk any more about Jason, let me introduce you to him through this TedX video.  It’s worth your 15 minutes of time to watch.

[To learn and see more on Umbiyozo, click over here]

[For other South African stories of people giving us hope, click here]

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