Category: the beautiful Val (tbV)


light

What a powerful end to 2015!

At the end of most normal years, if there is such a thing, i imagine tbV and i would have tried to find a few days off to just chill and recover from what has been a busy, crazy, challenging, great and difficult year. But this year we decided to finish strong. And that has made all the difference. Continue reading

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My friend Nkosi has written for me a number of times on this blog and so it was a great privilege to have him around for a special meal on Friday night with some friends, that i wrote about over here, and i asked him to share some of his impressions from the evening: 

nkosi

Conversation is an integral part of transformation. It was for this reason that I went to Brett's house together with Monde Nonabe. It was a very short notice that I invited Monde to come with me and I was so happy and glad that he responded to my short notice invite. I was glad because I respect Monde's heart and passion for change in the black people's situation. I have only known Monde not for a very long time but one thing I knew is his heart for the Lord and his heart for transformation in the lives of the majority of this country. 

During the story telling, I was moved by Monde's story of course because mostly I could identify with his story. Our conversation with Monde began on our way to Wynberg which I was already learning a lot from his knowledge about our fallen heroes in Biko and Prof Sobukhwe. Monde has a speacial ability of linking today's problems with yesterdays happenings and hopes (should haves). 

When I listened to stories from the white brothers and sisters who were there I must say that I came to realisation that they themselves are victims to a system that even though they may not necessarily love but they are beneficiaries of. I listened to one white brother with teary eyes who said that he is aware of his white previlege yet he doesn't know what to do with it. Even though I myself was moved by that sincere heart but I knew that I can't lie about the fact that there is nothing much this brother could necessarily do except to join hands with blacks in dismantling and destroying the white power structure which is the cause of every pain in South Afrika and Afrika in general. 

I was moved about the story of Jan who has been living at a black township Kayamandi in Stellenbosch for many years. He is the only white in that area. As moving this story is but it had to be made clear that for him it was a choice that he went to live and stay in Khayamnandi unlike the blacks living in that area. 

I was also moved by the story of a brother from England who moved in to Mannenberg which is one of the hardcore areas in the Cape flats. I was moved that this brother was making moves and courageous, intentional actions that were to bring about change in Mannenberg. This brother told us a story about privilege on how he managed to raise up funds from contacting few friends in a short space of time for him to be able to own a house in Manenberg. It went more touching when he told a story about how was he a victim of robbery and his house being broke into and still he had a choice to either stay in Mannenberg or to live in a white surburb. This still proves that privilege gives one choice which the black majority of this country don't have. 

Conversation that was in Bretts house was so transforming. I think it was a safe space for such a conversation rather than the social networks. It was in that conversation that I was able to look into peoples' eyes and allow them to be broken and hopeless and hopeful with all the roller coast of emotions. I think these kind of conversations can be more progressive if they could be happening all around the country. These conversations could be more progressive if they could be taking place in the workplace. I do think that conversation like prophecy did to Israel in bring about God's view to the people, conversation puts the different world views into one. The Western Worldview which is most likely to be found amongst the whites and the Afrikan worldview which could possibly be found amongst blacks. 

I must thank tbV for her delicious spaghetti and mince and I would also like to thank Brett and tbV for opening their house for such hard and uncomfortable talk.

[For another post by Nkosi where he speaks about first steps for South Africa, click here]

mc

Three book launches, three MC’s to walk you safely through them… and just TEN DAYS TO GO til the first…

Focusing on one of the strong themes of the book, ‘i, church’ that the church is far more about the people than the place, we decided that the MC’s of the book launches should reflect that. Thus i invited people who are both important and significant to my life to host the events from the front and help keep the times short, sharp and interesting.

Theran Knighton-Fitt

Theran Knighton-Fitt i have known ever since the day i was subbing in for his grade 6 afrikaans class and he came and asked me how to spell a particular word. i can’t remember what the word was but i immediately started spelling and he was carefully writing down the letters W…O…O…R…D…E…B…O…E…K… When i was done i said to him, “What does that say?” and he replied, “Woordeboek” [Afrikaans for dictionary] and i responded with, “Correct, go and look it up.” [Which is perhaps why i am no longer allowed to be a teacher]

i have always known Theran as someone who takes life and spirituality seriously, not content to be spoon-fed answers or ever satisfied with the status of the quo. He and his wife Debbie and their growing family have just returned from a long stint in Canada where he studied theology at Regent College and it is great to have them back in South Africa.

He [or at least his alter ego Faran], was also largely the inspiration for my silly Dangerous Things You Can Least Expect character, Brad Fish. So you can know you will be in for a fun, entertaining and philosophical evening.

Theran will be hosting the book launch at Vovo Telo, Thursday evening the19th, starting at 6.30pm – only 18 spots left and so imperative you RSVP to brettfish@hotmail.com soon if you are hoping to make this one.

Arthur Stewart

Arthur Stewart is an American-African [my description!] who i met many years ago when he was running an intentional community up in Pretoria and i was interested in hearing more about that. Since moving to Cape Town we have connected on a number of different occasions from Warehouse events and Selah reflection days to Generosity Dinners and more. With a huge heart for pastoring and drawing alongside Christian leaders and others, as well as seeing the kingdom come in real and transformative ways, Arthur is someone who tbV and i share some substantial D.N.A. with.

Arthur also kindly stepped in and facilitated a time of listening and prayer with some of our favourite people, when we were looking for a place to stay, which really helped give us some direction and affirmation at an important time. So with Arthur the mood is likely to be reflective and thought-provoking.

Arthur will be hosting the Saturday 21st March morning launch at The Warehouse, which is at 12 Plantation road in Wetton and which will be starting at 9.30am. There is still considerable space at this one, but please stilol RSVP to brettfish@hotmail.com so we know how much coffee to coffee.

tbV aka The Beautiful Val

Often referred to as ‘The Lovely Val’ by people who didn’t quite get the tbV memo, this lady probably needs a little less introduction, but my amazing wife Valerie will be taking on MC duties for the Stell/S West leg of the Cape Town launch.

Val has been hugely supportive in creating opportunities for me to finish the book [pre-Americaland] and then touch it up, finish it off and get it into book-resembling being’ness and it will be an absolute pleasure having her as one of the MC’s. Her tendency to challenge ideas and refusal to settle for the way things have always been has been hugely helpful in terms of formulating some of my own ideas on things as far as church is concerned and we try to figure out this thing together. With tbV at the helm, expect light-hearted, provocative and eloquent all rolled into one. [And maybe even a foreign accent if we’re lucky!]

Valerie will be hosting the book launch in Vlottenberg on Tuesday 24 March at 6pm at Clubhouse, Digteby Estate, Vlottenberg, Stellenbosch.

So there you have it – the clock is ticking and we are so looking forward to hanging out with all of you – please feel absolutely welcome to invite friends and anyone else you know who might be interested in hearing what this is about. Just please get them to RSVP to brettfish@hotmail.com so we can expect their arrival… see you soon…

[To see a little bit of the journey from Surreal to “Hey, i have a book”, click here] 

bee

a lot of people were dismayed, disappointed and disillusioned by the “Poppycock” farce last night’s before the Speech of the Nation Address by President Zuma – EFF members were thrown out and DA members walked and the lady in the Lumo yellow bee suit watched on solemnly as proceedings unfolded [and the speech went on as if nothing had happened]

the response of the newspapers the next day was along the lines of the one heading ‘The Day Our Country Broke’ although if you were only thinking our country broke yesterday, we should probably sit down and have a bit of a chat.

my response on Facebook was this:

So ‪#‎SONA2015‬ not so great but South Africa still pretty great – amazing land, beautiful people, much hope and we have to choose daily to be a part of reconstruction and relationship building and bridge mending and we will see it head to be that place we all dream of…

But then i headed off to go and speak at a school and naturally while that was happening, my brilliant wife Valerie had found a much more eloquent way of expressing the words so many of us with hope felt. These words were not hers, but while many of us were watching the SONA circus, she was at a spoken word event and one of the poems that was shared was this one:

Breaking News – a poem by Khadija-Tracey Heeger

When you seek to find a glitch in the system
When you feel al l the time that there’s something missing
When you turn around and the door’s closed
and your belligerence shows
cause the politicians wearing emporer’s clothes

I’ve got news for you, you’re here too.

When we do the ‘they’
When we call it black or white or grey
When the headlines scream another dead child,
another oil slick,
another hard crime somebody else is doing the time
When you say your life depends on the other man’s outcome
oh there’s so much degradation
the government’s put us in this situation
It’s a black dream you scheme

I’ve got news for you, you’re here too.

When your sister’s raped and your brother’s drugged and the
streets aren’t clean and you look at it all and say, “We’re all headed for a hard fall.”
When you speak of lies
but don’t speak you truth
when can’t make it to the top
and it’s always somebody else’s fault that the ball’s dropped.

I’ve got news for you, you’re here too.

When your agitation is all you can spare
and your rhetoric’s got you all in a rage
when you can’t hold yourself when you fall
and you lay down love and pick up arms
and the silence cries
but your lips – still – don’t – move –
yet in your own living room you’re a prophet of doom

I’ve got news for you, you’re here too.

We tick the minutes spill the seconds
tick the minutes spill the seconds
talk judgement, economics and acid rain.

We tick the minutes spill the seconds
tick the minutes spill the seconds
talk memory, talk more pain.

We tick the minutes spill the seconds
talk of God
talk more, talk more
talk
more
we’re keeping score
and love a waiting at the door

When you move to Australia cause the countries a failure
when mending the situation calls for a band aid solution to put us in line with our constitution
when you can’t understand how ten years of democracy didn’t make it all fit
when you feel the urge to shout “Get over it!”
as if something outside yourself requires the shift
remember people we’re all in the same damn lift!
“Going up orrrrrr down!”

we tick the minutes spill the seconds
tick the minutes spill the seconds
time is a wasting while we’re cutting and pasting
and life is elsewhere
here or there?
outside’s a good place to count the cost
when you’re running that race from the inside
It’s better than dealing with the feeling of being lost,
displaced in your space…

I’ve got news for you
It doesn’t take an apocalypse to mend a century
It doesn’t take blame to alleviate pain
A simple step to the mirror is all it’ll take
A reflection on the reflection is the only thing that can free the present
from hate

Soooo put on your parachute, or strap on a seatbelt
the ride’s scary or sacred
could be heaven’s door or hell’s gate
all depends on your internal state
but unless you’re late, deceased or carried off in a crate
don’t berate the psychosis and add to the neurosis
simply take a look in the mirror at your own thriller
dispense with the polyfiller

I’ve got news for you
you’re here too.

Khadija-Tracey Heeger

i believe that there are a number of people who now live overseas who gave up dreaming and believing what could be. i believe there are quite a number of people still living here who did as well or are on the very precipice of making that shift. But the only way this country will change is if it does. And the only way i see that happening is if we, the people of South Africa – the beautiful, mess, rainbow-smeared people of this land – put our hands up and make it to be so. Join hands and have meals and engage in really significant meaningful and uncomfortable conversations and then pursue those engagements all the way to transformative action.

If you’re here, then be here. Really. Invest, engage, don’t give in to the voices or the headlines or even the present reality but move towards a new normal, a new reality. Refuse to give in, to settle, to leave, to disengage, to blare negative. Speak life, live love, draw in, create space, share the positive stories, weave a new narrative alongside others who are trying to do the same. And let that be what draws others in and let’s them dare to risk to believe that change is possible.

I’m here. Are you?

hope

[For more posts relating to hope for South Africa and a brighter future, click here]

So i think i have a different understanding and idea of church than a number of people i know.

And my picture of what church is feels a lot bigger, rather than smaller, than some other peoples. i am not saying that the Sunday church local congregation vibe is not church, but i am suggesting that maybe it is more than that.

One example for me has always been so-called ‘para-church’ organisations like Scripture Union and Youth With a Mission. Kingdom-focused people doing kingdom-focused things. How is that not the church? It fits in with both the ‘bride of Christ’ and the ‘body of Christ’ metaphors that Jesus used to describe His church.

Yet, for a whole lot of people, if you are not attending a meeting at that particular place on that particular day [which must be a Sunday, by the way] then you are on some kind of a slippery slope and should be very careful.

church1

Something like that. And while people we know would probably not quite put it in those words, there is a strong sense of ‘Not Alrightness’ when people hear you are not attending a local church.

“We must pray for the Andersons.”

The beautiful Val [tbV] and myself went to visit a church yesterday morning. And on the way home we were chatting and really interested in the idea that ‘This’ [our morning experience] ‘is the thing people are very concerned we become a part of.’

i wrote a piece recently on how we [as christians] have far too often gotten caught up in majoring on the minors, while neglecting or sometimes skipping completely the things God seems to think are majors.

WHAT CONCERNS YOU, CONCERNS ME

For example, there are literally thousands of verses in the Bible that talk about the poor and our attitude and action towards them, the fact that to Jesus, having some kind of outreach or relationship or investment with the poor seemed to be a big deal.

There are not thousands of verses talking about being part of a local congregation and giving them ten percent of your money.

Yet, which of those two get church-going-people freaked out when they are not happening?

That’s right. We are more than okay with attending a meeting once a week with a majority of people who have absolutely no engagement with the poor at all [beyond the ten percent we throw in the bag, box, tin as it goes past because then job done, conscience cleansed, someone will now be looking after the poor with that money, slash paying the church electricity bill] but panic stations when someone we know who professes to love Jesus, are not in regular attendance.

So first of all, i think it is imperative to figure out what are the things God is wanting us to major on, to prioritise, to make essential in our lives and to make sure we are doing those, and then to fill in whatever gaps may appear around those with everything else.

And secondly, before you get too concerned that tbV and i have ‘not found a church yet’, look at yourself in the mirror and then at those who sit next to you at church and through the lens of giving-to-the-poor see if you should be more concerned about that. Then continue to pray for us.

WHAT IS THIS CHURCH YOU WANT ME TO BE A PART OF?

A lot of this is stuff i have covered in my book which i am furiously working towards self-publishing. So watch this space or something.

The service we visited yesterday was not particularly our style. One of the things we spoke about as we drove home was, ‘Is THAT the thing people are so concerned we are a part of?’

And so this is my genuine question [and i’d love it if you would take a few minutes and leave an answer in the comments section cos i really am interested in how you would answer this question], what exactly is this church you want me to be a part of?

When tbV and i were part of the Simple Way community in Philly, we had morning prayer times [with a group of gathered people]five times a week where each time we read a passage from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, a Psalm, sang a song together, read some liturgy together and had an open time of praying for whatever was on our heart. Our weekly ‘work’ was largely serving those in the community around us [so trying to love our neighbours well].

In fact, when i talk about it to other people, i usually conclude by saying, ‘the only thing we missed in terms of regular congregational church services was corporate worship’ – singing together in a group. Which i am not now even convinced is the way tbV or i would particularly primarily choose to worship God. [There is not a lot of space or patience or understanding in the church for those who don’t particularly like to sing – typically it is met with a suck-it-up-this-is-the-only-way-to-really-worship-God attitude].

So please tell me, before you let me know my views on church are wrong or how important it is that we are part of a local church, what does that mean? What exactly is the thing you are wanting me to be a part of?

DESPERATELY SEEKING CHURCHING 

church2

tbV and i have visited a few church services since being back [as people have invited us] and i definitely have Common Ground Wynberg on my list for the next free Sunday we have cos that sounds like a great mix of people. But we haven’t been panic’d about it. We are in a period of transition where we don’t even know where we are going to be living yet and so committing to a group of people in an area far off from where we land doesn’t seem like the most sensible of things.

So on the one hand, not desperate in terms of ‘Must. Find. A. Church.’

But on the other had, we chatted about it during the same conversation and both agreed that we are not happy with our current state of non-regular-community as an ongoing thing. We both realise and acknowlege that gathering is good. That breaking bread together feels essential. That journeying with a specific group of people can be really helpful.

i do imagine however, that neither of us would be too concerned if that did not happen on a Sunday. Regular gathering with a group of Jesus-following people on a different day of the week feels like it might be okay to us. [Runs to check bible]

i also imagine that not meeting in a church building would be okay with us. And probably more than okay. I imagine if we were given the choice of church building or home or pub on the corner or coffee shop that church building would probably come in 4th. Jesus spent time in the Temple. Absolutely. But He also spent probably a lot more of His time churching outside of the official building – in boats and on hillsides and at dinner tables and at wells.

i have a deep hunger for the Word of God [the bible] – understanding it better and knowing it more and so whether by myself or with other people, i imagine that will likely always be an important part of what we do. Wrestling with the words and actions of Jesus and the early church and how they often look so different from ours. Engaging with the Scripture as opposed to merely having it spoken at us. [This feels like a definite area the local church would do well to have transformation in, although it would require a LOT of work and would more than likely be EXTREMELY messy, which is perhaps why we stick to man at the front giving the message and no or little space for questions or push-back or engagement].

i want to see people brought into relationship with God. i really don’t feel like i have a gift of evangelism and think actually that i am particularly bad at it [although every now and then God manages to use me anyways] but i believe that it is important and want to see it happen and am not convinced that a Sunday meeting in a church building is the best place for those outside of the church to be brought near [because the stuff we do when we get together is PRETTY WEIRD to those not used to it – think singing and arm-raising and dipping tiny pieces of cracker into pretend wine which we refer to as blood and so on]. But around a dinner table might be, or in a lounge where an intentional conversation has been initiated and so on.

And so on.

Do i think Sunday church gathering in that particular building is church? Absolutely [as long as it is much bigger than just that hour and a half meeting – if that is all your churching is, then you need the prayer] – if the Sunday gathering does not inform or empower the rest of your week experience and your whole life, in fact, then i seriously think you need to rethink that area of your life.

But bigger than that, i see ‘the church’ as a singular entity made up of smaller and larger church congregations and what we call para-church organisations [a horrible name, cos they are not outside of/separate from the church] who are the gathering people of God working together for His kingdom things. Or more simply the people of God doing God stuff together.

i absolutely don’t think it is healthy or even biblical to be a  ‘christian-without-church’ because God definitely calls us to do His stuff together. But i also do understand why so many people have walked away from traditional sunday church services as the expression of the only way church can be.

We are the bride of Christ, not the harem.

We are the body of Christ, not the bodies of Christ.

There really only is one church, although many smaller expressions of how that plays out.

i think, when we truly understand what church is all about, then it will become the question of Monday to Saturday, rather than Sunday, ‘Are you going to church today?’ [where church is a verb, rather than a noun of place]. Are you going to be being the body of Jesus and the bride of Christ to all of those who you encounter this day?

i would absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts and response on this one… [be gentle]

Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow.

tbV and i have been home [back to South Africa after a three year journey in Americaland starting in Philadelphia and ending up in Oakland, outside San Francisco] for just over a week now.

after a really frustrating trip involving two and  half hours of fighting to try and get me on to the plane i had a ticket for, having to leave a box of paintings behind in SF, having the airline leave a bag of ours behind in Washington, losing movie capability for the last 8 hour flight after the refuel in Dakar…

and after a fairly frustrating week of disconnection in terms of trying to get phones and internet unlocked and set up and working [which we still largely haven’t, besides my dad’s old doesn’t-even-have-predictive-text-capacity Nokia which we have managed to get some air time on]…

we had the most excellent 5 year anniversary celebration at a place called Monkey Valley, which looks something like this:

but even more specifically, something like this [containing my very special someone]:

mv3

while there was both good and bad [and fun and difficult and crazy and amazing and ridiculous] about our time in Americaland, one interesting thing that stood out to me in both Philly and Oakland was the lack of stars… now i’m sure Americaland has stars [and i DEFINITELY got to see them in boatloadsfull on the houseboat trip i got to do on Lake Shasta] but i remember every time i came back to South Africa [which was twice during our stay] it was the biggest thing that stood out to me [besides the edible and tasty mayo, of course] – the fact that i could see a whole lot more stars than when i was over there.

i imagine it had something specific to do with the two places in Americaland we ended up staying, but it was one of the things that i remembered missing a lot when we were over there. and so it is so good to be back – and this weekend was ridiculous because we were high up on a hill and had a huge window next to our bed and so could lie in bed and see an amazing array of stars.

i have my own star constellation called ‘The Horse’ [because it looks like a horse, duh!] which a few of us discovered about 15 years ago on a youth camp [beyond ‘The Horse’ i seriously know Orion, the Southern Cross and on a good day can maybe point out the Big Dipper so not big on the constellations] and as we arrived back from our meal Friday night to the house we were staying in, i looked up and immediately saw it, and even better, the beautiful Val [tbV] looked up and spotted it straight away too.

just so good to be back. still not connected or plugged in or properly transported. and those things might take a while to get right. and missing a lot of people from Americaland for sure. but the stars are back. and so everything seems just a little bit more alright.

It’s true,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine.

Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And all the things that you do.

 

if you stopped reading after the ‘b’ this becomes a completely different post… so don’t.

the beautiful Val, in case you didn’t know, and yes only i get to call her that and really mean it in the way i do. [you can of course refer to her as ‘tbV’ th0ugh, and i love it when other people do, but it has also been fun to me through the years how so many of you have mistakenly changed it to ‘the lovely Val’ – which is also true]

we are on the way to having being married for 5 years and in that time we have transitioned three times [if you leave out the time Val left family, friends, home, church to some degree to move out to Stellenbosch when we got married – a huge ask!] from Stellenbosch to Philadelphia to Oakland [if you exclude lengthy stays at Che Houston in Kenilworth] which may not seem a lot [especially when you compare it to how many times her parentals moved in their first 20 plus years of marriage] it has been a whole lot for us. ‘

New place to stay, new country, new friends, new church, new food, no mayonnaise [to speak of] and so on.

So it has not all been easy and has definitely put strain on us as a couple of intense, seize-life-by-the-throat-of-its-balls, passionate people. But it has been an adventure and there is much more of that to come. Especially as we know that another transition looms ahead [with Americaland specifically asking us to be out by early August] and are not too sure of the specifics thereof. Or therein. Or therein of? Something.

And there have been so many, and i don’t have pictures of them all [which to some extent i am completely stoked about – some adventures we capture, some we just live] but i just wanted to take a moment to celebrate my beautiful lady. i love being married to you Val and these pictures are just a glimpse of some of the memories we have put together…um together… and looking ahead to many more.

i love and celebrate you, tbV:

 

As i have said before and will no doubt say again, being married to the right person is one of the greatest things in the world [and discovering more and more that you become the right people as you continue in your commitment of marriage to each other] and because i have such a heart for those in marriage doing it well, i have created a lot of space on my blog to focus on doing just that and so lots of amazing marriage resources, compiled by a whole big bunch of amazing people, are waiting for you over here.

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