Tag Archive: christian


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My Facebook friend Mandy asked if she could share a post about her recent journey into Morocco…

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I was always taught to show love to animals, dogs, cats, cows, pigs, horses, etc. But never was I really challenged to think about the meat that was lying in front of me to eat. Meat was different than those cute animals we would see in someone’s yard or pasture. Or at least I thought.

I made the decision to switch to being a vegetarian 12 years ago. Being born and raised in Texas it was a shocker to my parents and everyone else. They thought I had gone crazy, which was probably true. After being posed with the question “how can we love animals but eat them too?” by the punk rock community, I made the decision.

Fast forward a few years, I began to take the Christian faith more seriously. And when it came to what I ate it made more sense to not only be a vegetarian but to remain a vegetarian because I was a Christian.

Lots of people are not all that familiar with how factory farms operate. Not only the miserable conditions for chickens, cows and pigs, but the enormous toll it takes on the environment and the human body. There are up to 400 types of gasses released in the air, water near factories contaminated with antibiotics from animal waste, amongst other issues. Odors from gasses released by factories are known to cause respiratory problems, nausea, and allergies in residents nearby. These are just a few of the issues with factory farms. Please, research more of the issues.

There was a time when I first made the change that I was arrogant about it, tried to make people feel bad for eating meat (I am really sorry to those people!). Now when I am presented with the question of why I am a vegetarian I bring up the issues above but they are usually ignored with jokes, or just plain shot down by the comment “but God gave us animals to eat”. After so many years of living this way, it is just exhausting when people try to debate me or convert me. I have come to the point to where I don’t want to bring it up because I want to avoid the criticism that comes along with most conversations.

In Genesis 1:26 (NRSV) God is quoted saying, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth”. God has given humanity the responsibility to rule the world with compassion, and we are accountable with how we treat God’s creation.

So I believe it is our duty as Christians to learn where our food comes from and be guided in the prayer Jesus taught us “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”, to decide whether a diet containing animals, a diet that is supported by cruelty not compassion, is in line with making way for the Kingdom of God to enter the world.

[For more stories shared by people about their vegetarian choices, click here]

I am a big fan of Calvin and Hobbes!

…or i used to be before the creator Bill Watterson gave it all up and went into hiding… or something like that.

Like all really great cartoonists before him, such as Gary Larsen from ‘The Far Side’, Scott Adams of ‘Dilbert’ fame and ‘Pearls before Swine’ creator Stephan Pastis and off course such classic cartoonists such as Charles M Schulz who created Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the ‘Peanuts’ gang and others, Bill managed to have a complete grasp of funny while at the same time interjecting it with a serious view or commentary of life. All the greats were able to combine the two. Take you from a moment of complete laughter to ‘Wait one minute’ – Boom! Right between the eyes.

It was no huge surprise then when i stumbled across this brilliant cartoon strip that was done as a homage to Watterson using a quote taken from a graduation speech Watterson gave at his alma mater, Kenyon College, in 1990, which began with the words: ‘Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your souls is a rare achievement’

The reason the words jumped out at me is that recently our friend, Mark Scandrette, released a new book called ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what Matters Most’ and we are having a book launch party on the 19th September in the Lake Merritt area [which if you’re close enough to attend, you should totally come to]

This homage cartoon finishes with the line ‘To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy… but it’s still allowed… and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.’

As a follower of Jesus, the line of ‘inventing your own life’s meaning’ takes on a bit of a different context, as my pursuit in life is to follow Jesus and see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven [a place where Love God, Love people and look after the least of these does not sound like the worst life’s meaning to have] but the line, ‘Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul’ completely resonates as I see far too many people who call themselves ‘christian’ yet are clearly not living the free and abundance-filled life that Jesus clearly calls us towards.

Take a look at the rest of the homage cartoon and read the post below to see just how Bill Watterson was able to achieve that. The one useless fact I know about him is that no Calvin and Hobbes merchandise is ever legal as he intentionally held the rights to those so that he could maintain control and care of his characters. This post takes you into a little bit deeper of the why.

Would you say that your life reflects your values and satisfies your soul right now? And if not, what are you prepared to do about it..?

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Steve and Helene

Val and I met Steve during our time at the Simple Way and although we have spent a really short amount of live time together, he has quickly slotted into my folder of ‘Favourite people.’ Steve is someone who really strives to live out the Good News of Jesus practically and is an absolute inspiration. He jumped at the chance to share his story here and I hope that it will encourage and challenge many of you as it has me… On his second visit to the Simple Way we got to meet his lovely wife, Helene. Here is a glimpse into their story from Steve’s point of view:

My pastor has a saying: “Sometimes you have to let a dream die before God will resurrect it.”

I became a Christian shortly before my 19th birthday. Being somewhat of a high-school nerd I had still – had my virginity intact without much threat to it as I entered my college years. Truth be told when I became a Christian it was mainly because I wanted to date a girl who would not date non-Christians — we were best friends and there always seemed to be the ambiguous friends-more-than-friends paradigm/angst to our relationship. Of course, it was me who usually had the more romantic interest in her. Needless to say that romantic part of our relationship never worked out with any longevity, but being close Christian friends we made a covenant with each other that we would remain virgins until we found the person that we would spend the rest of our lives with. And we would wait until we married that person. She held up her end of the covenant while I did not. I was close, but I blew it. Of course she did get married in her early 20s, while I would wait until I was nearly 40 to have God give me the person that I will spend the rest of my life with.

Finding the woman that I would marry was the number one goal of my twenties. It was frustrating to see my male friends that were not holding to my standards of sexual morality fall in love, and get married. I would pray and ask God, “My friends are sleeping around and getting rewarded with wives. You know this is the desire of my heart, I am not sleeping around with anyone – Okay I did buy that Penthouse magazine, but geez I threw it away the same night I bought it and even went back to the store clerk and confessed that purchasing it was wrong—so when do I get rewarded with the woman that I get to spend the rest of my life with?”

By the time I was 29 I had had it! Most of my guy friends were married and my closest friend who I was living with had just gotten engaged to a possessive and jealous woman and I had to move out and our friendship eroded quickly. In the process of this, I began dating a non-Christian woman who I was up front with about waiting until marriage before having sex. She was fine with this agreement. But my anger and resentment toward God for not giving me what I deserved with my chaste lifestyle boiled over. I still remember the night that I had sex for the first time. I remember my girlfriend honoring me – three times she said “You don’t need to do this if you don’t want to. Are you sure?” I was sure! It was obvious that God was not for me and if God was not for me, than I was not for God.

I had heard stories about how if you have sex before marriage you will wake up feeling guilty the next day. This was not the case for me at all — I woke up feeling great, in control, and like a man! However, our relationship would begin to fall apart soon after this decision. Despite me being the initiator of sex, I gradually began to lose respect for her and I think that was the primary factor that led to me breaking off the relationship.
It would be two years before I would have another relationship at the age of 31. Christina* was a divorcee, 6 years older than me, a recovering alcoholic, but a Christian. We both agreed to wait until marriage to have sex. We also agreed that we would date for at least a year. While we never had intercourse, I would not exactly say that were not sexual. Regardless, we were dating for 11 months and I was beginning to think about buying a ring when she abruptly cut the relationship off. I was devastated—It was one of the most difficult times in my life — God had again shown that he is not for me.

Somehow, I took to heart one of the things that Christina told me when she broke up with me. If you want to understand me you should attend Al-anon — a twelve step program for families and friends of alcoholics. I don’t know why I would take the advice of the woman that just broke my heart but I did. Al-anon literally saved my life. It was in the Al-anon meetings that I began to realize how egocentric I was! For a solid year I was at Al-non twice a week and on bad weeks more! One of the biggest turning points was on Good Friday — I attended a meeting that I did not normally attend because it was just a really hard week for me. I remember gushing tears after that meeting and going up to Val, who was always knitting through the meetings, and flat out told her, “I am unlovable!” She immediately gave me a hug and reassured me saying, “You are totally lovable.” She meant those words and somewhere inside of me I knew she was right.

Things did not get instantly better after that night but that was the turning point. I began the process of realizing God is for me — a process that continues today. Somehow, it occurred to me that maybe I was not meant to get married. I decided for the first time in my life that I would trust God with this. If I was meant to be married God will make it happen in his timing, but I was really willing to accept that maybe I might be called to be single for the rest of my life. That latter scenario was a bit hard to swallow but I was okay with it. I was okay with it until gradually I started to really enjoy it.

I would not go on another date for more than six years! I had gotten used to single life and I was loving absolutely every minute of it! And then bam! I asked a woman that I barely knew if she would like to share gas money to a river festival. This was the time when gas was more than $4.00 a gallon, I was driving a gas-guzzling SUV and the festival was three hours away! We were both avid whitewater kayakers and would be able to hang out with our respective friends once at the festival. Helene was a “safe” option — I was sure of it!

God had other plans! It did not take long for us to realize on the ride up that there was a connection between us. We talked the entire way without either one dominating the conversation at any point. I remember being excited and confused at the same time. Needless to say, the river festival was the catalyst to us beginning a relationship. The big problem for me with this though, was that Helene was an atheist, had a promiscuous past and had also recently dated a good friend of mine. Again, I laid out the boundaries of no premarital sex and was shocked to find another non-Christian agreeable to this.

I was committed to loving Helene for who she was and not for what she believed. I was very hands off with respect to sharing my faith with her. I was open to sharing what I believed and why I believed what I believed and would recommend books that had influenced me — mainly so that she could better understand me. Regardless, God began to enter her life.

I happened to be what is commonly termed as “dechurched” at this time. Al-anon was still serving that purpose for me at the time, albeit more like 2 times a month. Helene heard about an Alpha group at National Community Church (NCC) in Washington, DC and started attending. Before long she was going to services and then this atheist girlfriend started asking her Christian boyfriend why he did not go to church — weird how God works sometimes! God uses atheists to get Christians into church — NCC is still our church home today!

It was not long before our relationship would fall into the trap of what I call the “Bill Clinton” school of sexual abstinence. Everything but intercourse is not waiting until marriage, but it would take us a while until we realized this. We dated a little less than two years before we got engaged and moved in together not long after. About 8 months before our wedding we went through a six week prepare group with our church for engaged couples. The group leaders are empty-nesters and they are awesome and they do a great job with the group! However, it would be the week after the group ended that I would pick up Lauren Winter’s book, ‘Real Sex,’ off of my wife’s bookshelf. I will not go into details about the book other than to say that it was the kick in the butt that I needed and that it is a great read for dating couples! I read the book in a few days and immediately gave it to Helene and said, “You need to read this and then we need to talk.”

We agreed that waiting until marriage to have sex is not about doing everything but intercourse. We were cheapening what it means to honor God with how we were approaching our physical relationship. We set up an appointment with the leader of the prepare group and he let us have it. At that meeting, we agreed that I would move into the spare bedroom starting that night. The only problem was the Helene’s mom was visiting and staying in the guest room at the time. So instead we agreed that I would sleep in our bedroom but on the floor on a camping pad until Helene’s mom’s visit was over. We very specifically agreed on body parts that were off limits to the other until we said “I do.” We also wrote confession letters to each other that we would burn together as well after reading them aloud to each other.

The decision to do these things was paramount for the health of our relationship. Showing love physically is easy. It can be a challenge to show love in other ways. Helene and I had to be creative. Notes around the house—putting them in sneaky places where one would least expect it was one thing we did. Reading Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages and learning what those are for each other was also good for us. Moreover, the decision to step away from the physical aspect of our relationship was a step of faith in trusting that God knows what is best for us. Instead of seeing God as wanting to take away the fun things in our life–in this case sex—I decided to go all in (no pun intended) with trusting Him!

I will admit that it was not always easy but it was certainly amazing! I gained more respect for Helene. I gained more respect for myself. It was a catalyst for me to allow God deeper into my life. I also learned how to make Helene feel loved beyond the scope of just being sexual. And I felt redeemed — even all the mess that Helene and I created with keeping God at arms-length in our premarital sex life — God was able to redeem it once we invited Him in!

God had truly resurrected the dream that I had let die!

[*Name Changed to protect the innocent]

[To follow Steve’s musings in his regular blog ‘Steve G’s Eclectic World’, click here]

[to get a glimpse of part of Helene’s story, click here]

Nani sending off

So last night there was a game of football/soccer between Manchester United [soccer is one of my least supported sports but if i have ever supported a team it has been Manchester United… and then locally Kaizer Chiefs back in the day when Dr Khumalo played and i always back Bafana!] and Real Madrid in the Champion’s League. Real Madrid won 2-1 but of course there was “that red card incident” with Nani getting sent off…

i was out for the evening playing poker with some mates and so we missed the game, but it took me a minute on Facebook to find out what had happened – not that Real Madrid won or Manchester United lost but that there had been a “worst decision ever” and someone [or a really huge group of people from the sounds of it] “had been robbed” and so on…

i skimmed through one particular post with 30 plus comments in it and then wrote this Facebook status:

Imagine a world where people who cared that much about soccer/football cared that much about poor people…

i am still not quite sure why i did not cop more [or any, really] abuse for it – perhaps cos it was in the early hours of the morning when it was posted and most people missed it [maybe i should repost, hm?] because when i have posted questions about the absurd amounts of money soccer [or really most sports people] get paid, then people have come out blazing… i have never understood why so many of the people who have been so passionate about strongly disagreeing with me on my sports people salary opinion have been christians because i honestly cannot wrap my mind around how someone who reads and understands the Bible and following Jesus and the sheep and the goats story as one example can believe that it is okay for one person to receive $25 million while another person is allowed to die of malnutrition. i don’t think i’m judging anyone, i just cannot get my mind around that.

and not to say that people who are not christians should be okay with that, because i don’t think anyone should, but i do feel like Christ following people in particular [and yes, the distinction between christian and Christ following might be a first clue] should be outraged and upset at the completely ridiculous disparity between rich and poor [and yes, it is not confined to soccer – same with musicians, actors, politicians etc etc – soccer is just such an easy example]. to me it’s criminal. other people clearly think differently. i have just not ever had it adequately explained to me why.

the point with this particular quote though was not about people not being passionate about sport. the words “that much” are the key. i am simply expressing the desire to see people who are so passionate about sport [music, new year, latest Hollywood blockbuster movie] become that same amount of passionate about the poverty in our country, about treatment of women, about the insane levels of rape in our land [you would think something like “rape” merited more fervour than something like a sports match?]

and yes, it is a generalisation because there are definitely some people who are equally passionate about both, but i imagine if [just by browsing Facebook or Twitter after the game] every person who was above averagely passionate about the game last nite had the same amount of passion directed to even just one cause, person in need, situation… that our country would change overnight or within a month or year at least.

next year, there will be another Champion’s League trophy and quite probably a different team will win it. by then, this match will be forgotten. [Like Kony was within a week or two] Nobody will care any more. But they will care obsessively about the next match. And then the following year another Champion’s League will happen.

i find that sport and movies and books and music are amazing things to help me relax or get excited or spend time with mates or find a little escape in… and i think all of that is great. but get passionate, like i mean really passionate, foaming-at-the-mouth passionate about getting behind a cause, changing someone’s life, affecting the plight of the ‘least of these’, seeing someone rehabituated from prison, championing adoption or women’s rights, working towards reconciliation in the face of racism and so on… stuff to really put your life and energy and passion behind…

Imagine a world where people who cared that much about soccer/football cared that much about poor people…

i posted a Bonhoeffer quote the other day on the book of facings and the tier of twit that got an insanely hectic amount of likes on it, and despite it being a deliberately Christian statement, a fair amount of those likes were from people who would not label themselves as such:

‎’Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.’ [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

clearly what Bonhoeffer says is something i have said and written about a lot in recent years but i think he just completely nails it with the words he uses here – he’s not just saying ‘let’s be known less for what we are against than what we are for’ which is a chant i have taken up more vociferously in recent times…

he says “it is less about cautiously avoiding sin”

where ‘avoiding sin’ becomes the focus and so much care, energy and effort is put into making sure we don’t step over the line. what that means is we have to have a line and have it drawn firmly into the ground and be very much aware of who is on this side of it and who is on that side. and speak loudly and often judgementally into all those who are not on the right side of the line as we have deemed ‘the right side’ to be.

us versus them.

the biggest problem with this being, that more often than not, this is done with the absolute minimum of Love and Grace for those who are more the ‘them’ and less the ‘us’.

Bonhoeffer goes on to talk about ‘courageously doing God’s will’.

so not just trying to do more good than bad. but being intentional and courageous in our living out of God’s will. things like Godly confrontation [calling things in people and situations, in Love] and accountability, practices like unity, genuine hospitality and unconditional Love and Forgiveness. owning up to our crap. seeking life transformation [and not just fish-giving!] in those considered ‘the least of these’ and more.

actively following Jesus instead of passively calling myself a christian but looking not too different from all those around me.

‎’Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.’ [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

i wonder what the world would look like if the church started taking this more to heart?

apartheid

 

 

 

a short while ago two South Africans sparked an international discussion about racism, guilt and responsibility when they printed and distributed forty t-shirts with the slogan ‘I benefited from apartheid’ written on them:

 

 

 

 

 

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well-known political satirist Jonathan Shapiro [aka Zapiro] came up with this minimalistic but powerful cartoon which expressed his take on the matter:

 

 

 

are they right? yes, for sure, i definitely had [and still have] benefits from apartheid – they were not as a result of my choosing, or even my parents choosing, but they are real.

so in a nutshell i have to feel guilty for being white.

i also have to feel guilty for being male. women have been oppressed in this country and around the world for who knows how many decades, centuries even. have i benefited from that? surely i have. i may not have chosen my penis but it has served me well, just by being there.

what else is there?

english-speaking? because surely as one of the dominant languages that worldwide communication and media have been presented in, this has forced some kind of pain and trauma on those who have been forced to speak it?

christian? while i prefer the term ‘Christ-follower personally’ i know that being grouped in this group racks up the score column for guilt and shame [no-one expected the Spanish Inquisition…]

how about heterosexual? [because heaven knows we’ve treated the gays badly]

i imagine there are probably more, but it seems as if there is enough data to suggest that i am part of the most privileged demographic imaginable – white male heterosexual english-speaking christian… and therefore the most guilty.

i think i get it. to a large extent. having benefited from apartheid etc etc i need to own that and take responsibility and be involved in reconciliation and reparation where possible as well as doing what i can do to address the various imbalances that now exist as a result of the past.

at the same time, is there a time when it ends? when i can stop feeling the need to feel guilty because i am white, because i am a man, because i…

because, to be very honest, i did not have a lot of say in the whiteness of my white, i wasn’t all that involved in the maleness of my maleity, i was born into english, i am attracted to women [and one very beautiful one in particular]

the only thing on my list that i can see that i had any part in choosing to be a part of is the christian one and even there i have chosen to align myself to a Christ-following which i hope looks a LOT different from the majority of wrongs and perversions that the typical historical christian [those who profess one thing but live another] has gotten horribly wrong.

in terms of the apartheid debris in South Africa, i will continue to do what i can to make amends and take responsibility for the past i largely inherited, but will there be a time when i am allowed to ask questions of the post-apartheid government who continue to be a hive of corruption, mismanagement, greed and nepotism and spend/waste/party this country into the ground?

because, to be honest, it’s been 18 years now. you’re practically legal new democracy. Mandela showed you the way you could choose to live – with grace, forgiveness, honour, invitation, integrity… and it is up to you at some stage to embrace that.

to be honest, i don’t actively carry any guilt for any of who i am, no matter how much the pressure is exerted to do so. i know that i’m far from perfect and i try to live better, day to day, than how i lived the day before. i try to take responsibility when i mess up and make things right with the people i have hurt or wronged. and i believe this is something that needs to be embraced by every one of us, so that we can really turn this country around and make it the incredible place it should be.

so when do we stop blaming apartheid? when do we start taking responsibility together?

unity.

ubuntu.

you and me. let’s do this.

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