Tag Archive: life


be where you are

at this present point in time my wife valerie [aka the beautiful val] and i are living and working and interning and ministering with the simple way community in philadelphia…

before this i was a youth slash student pastor [disclaimer: no youth or students were slashed during my time there] at a vineyard church in stellenbosch, outside cape town in south africa for 6 years. i remember the one staff meeting we had in the first year or so of my being there and my boss chris-the-boss asked me if i could be doing anything in the world what would it be? without skipping a beat i responded ‘i would be doing this’ and i meant it…

my second last year there i had a sense it was my last year at the church and told chris so but then during that year i met tbV and we were going to get married and she still had a year of study to do and so i ended up doing another year at the church because it seemed to make sense. and it was a very tough year in many respects – SO MUCH GOOD stuff happened and great relationships with people and so i don’t think i’d change it, but i definitely think that i would not have been able to answer that same question with as much conviction and really meant it or believed it. and looking back, i don’t know how i could have played it differently, because i don’t know where else i was meant to be, but maybe i should have been more focused in making sure i was in the right place.

i say all this in introduction because if my friend chris-the-boss flew over to philadelphia and took me out for coffee and sat across the table from me and asked me if i could be doing anything in the world what would it be? then the answer would be – living and working and interning and ministering with the simple way community in philadelphia – with absolute truth and conviction.

is it easy here? no. is it always comfortable? not a chance. are there times of being frustrated and wondering what we’re doing and what impact we’re making and could we be doing this a lot better? absolutely. but there is a knowledge deep within me that this is where val and i are meant to be at the moment, and that feels amazing.

i know too many people who are simply in a rut of doing the thing they’ve always been doing. a bunch of my friends feel pulled to something else and yet they continue on day in and day out going through the motions of what they’re doing. some of them will get to that new thing place, i have no doubt of that. but i worry about the ones who ten years from now will be sitting in the same place doing the same thing [nothing wrong with that if it’s the thing you’re meant to be doing, not talking change for change sake] and talking about the thing they should be doing.

which is why i get super stoked by my friend chris lindemann. and my friend bruce collins. and my friends kleinfrans [he’s not] and michelle. and my friend megan giggles. and my sister dawn and her husband glen who just moved back to south africa when the easier option i imagine would have been to stay in the uk. and my folks who continue to live life and not simply exist or settle.

what about you? if you could be anywhere in the world doing anything in the world, would it be that?

i like feel-good stories, because they make me feel good. Hence the name. In a world that dramatises and is so quick to share negative stories and attrocities, i think we need a lot more feel-good news reporting and so i want to take more opportunities to highlight them on my blog when i see them…

this is clearly going to be a movie in the making but it seems like a case of someone who really gets what this life and community thing is all about – read, smile, share…

click here for full story

This article first appeared in The Mercury on 27 June 2011 [and arrived in my inbox this morning]

Hope n. the feeling that events will turn out for the best.

I recently attended a small birthday party and Hope showed up. I wasn’t necessarily expecting her to be there, but that’s Hope for you; she always arrives when you least expect her.

She appeared suddenly and silently. It was almost as if she ‘spirited’ into being – like a character from a science fiction movie. She was very beautiful – radiant in fact – but some might have missed her arrival because here in South Africa we’re not that good at spotting Hope. Like beauty, she exists in the eyes of the beholder.

And this is the conundrum with Hope. On the one hand, she is a lady that would never force herself on anyone. On the other hand, we need her in order to survive. Without her, we quickly slip into despair and hopelessness and insightful thought, empathy and creative energy disappear. Hope is as essential to human life as oxygen. Starved of Hope we wither and die.

Hope presents herself in all kinds of situations. Sometimes she shows up at the simplest of events; the scene of a kind word spoken or a helping hand given. On this day, she arrived at a kid’s birthday party at a family home in Glenwood, Durban. A little girl was turning one and family and friends had been invited to join the celebration.

As with most first birthday parties, it came complete with balloons, decorations, juice and a sibling who was stung by a bee just as the cake arrived. It was all fairly typical children’s party fare – except for one or two things.

The little girl celebrating her first 12 months on earth didn’t begin life in this lovely Glenwood home, or even at nearby St. Augustine’s Hospital. She began life on a dirt road behind a clinic in Mayville. The parents hosting the party were her adoptive parents. The sibling who was stung by a bee was their first child – a biological son. The couple had decided when they married to have one child and adopt a second; a true vision of Hope for South Africa.

As I stood on a sunny balcony overlooking the festivities, I saw Hope working the crowd. She clapped and laughed as the once abandoned baby girl excitedly tore open her birthday gifts. She beamed at the cameras along with the Mum and Dad who proudly held their son and daughters hands. She spoke at length with couples both gay and straight, and sat cross-legged on a picnic blanket eating bowls of different colored sweets with different colored friends.

And as I stood there, I wondered if Hope would have felt as comfortable at the closing of the ANC Youth League’s elective conference as she did at this one year olds birthday party.

I wondered if she would agree with the popular view that the World Cup – also just one year old – was of no lasting benefit to our nation. I wondered if she was currently the house guest of nearly 50 million South Africans, or perhaps just a temporary lodger in a few homes. I wondered if she had chosen to come to this birthday party because she was tired of having the door slammed in her face at other South African homes.

And then I wondered; if Hope is essential for life, how do we live with Hope permanently? How do we make Hope the centre of the dialogue and not the peripheral side show? How do we ensure that she is not just wheeled out for special occasions like the 2010 World Cup and then put back in her box when life returns to normal? Is it possible that in the face of Apartheid style racism, xenophobic attacks, the ‘corrective rape’ of lesbian women, militaristic policing, poverty and rampant unemployment, Hope can survive – even triumph?

I believe it is, but as individuals we have to decide to welcome Hope into our homes, our offices, our places of worship and our community groups. We have to decide to seat her at the head of our family table, and make her the chairman of the board. We have to place her in the pulpit and behind the microphone and in front of the TV news cameras. She must become the starring act.

It was wonderful to see Hope again. She reminded me that South Africa is in fact working and that cohesion, tolerance and peace are being created; if not by politicians – certainly by citizens.

Flipside tip of the week:

Where there is Hope there is life. We must choose to foster Hope so that such parties become more common and those parties wishing to destroy Hope are brought down.

so a quick recap then:

# everyone has sinned and as the bible says “fallen short of the glory (or high standard) of God”
# the wages/punishment/outcome of sin is death (both now in various areas, but also spiritually and eternally at the end)
# on Easter Friday, the man many believed had come to save the world is lying stretched out on a cross, dying an agonising death.

# one of the statements Jesus calls from the cross is “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”
# a second statement from the cross is where Jesus asks one of His followers John to look after His mother
# a third statement occurs when Jesus grants salvation to one of the thieves dying on the cross alongside Him, who acknowledges Him and Jesus tells him “this day you will be in paradise with Me.”

but this is where the twist occurs:

# Sunday arrives, the third day, a significant number to God as witnessed throughout the Bible and as spoken of by Jesus while He was alive and the women who are heading to the tomb to anoint the body with traditional herbs are surprised by an empty tomb and the news that Jesus is alive

# various of His followers witness Jesus alive over the next few days – He speaks to them, walks with them, even prepares a fish braai on the beach for some of them and finally He sends them off with a mission [“Go and make disciples of all mankind, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”] and then, before their eyes, He is taken up to heaven.

# in John 3.16 Jesus has spoken one of the most well-known passages of scripture to Nicodemus the pharisee who visited Him at night – “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

# and so yes, we all have sinned and are all due the penalty of death that is spoken of in the Bible. But God in His love has made a way [which still satisfies His justice] of coming Himself and taking on the punishment in our place [as evidenced throughout most of the Old Testament when an animal was sacrificed in the place of a person and why Jesus is referred to as the lamb of God, fulfilling that same duty] so that we do not have to die.

and so the bottom line of the Christ-following faith is this – God is offering a gift, the gift of life – when Jesus was here He spoke about bringing “abundant life” or “life to the full” which speaks both of life now on earth as well as life after our physical bodies die – and you either choose to receive it [acknowledge Jesus as God and bow your knee and life to Him] or reject it [and one day be turned away by God] – the choice is yours – it is a free gift on the one hand, but also a gift that costs everything [nothing you can do can earn you the gift, hence it’s free, but God calls for you to follow Him with everything you have, and so it is costly]

the choice is yours. choose life.

‘Then Jesus said, “If anyone would follow Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” [luke 9.23]

so ja, last nite we had a theatresports show at kalk bay which was all cool and delightful and a bunch of fun (except maybe the two quite morbid but particularly brilliant dramatic one minute challenge games we played – whole nother level) and then i started driving back home to the beautiful val as i do…

when i came to a roadworks part of the road but with no one manning (or womenning) it – now i had come thru it on the way to the show but not noticed anything particularly different from normal except that now it was a lot closer to the show venue than it had been months ago (good sign) and so i paused for a moment figuring out if i must go or not and then knda started to go but saw bright lights coming around the corner and so i reversed enuff for the car to get past and then i waited a while longer and nothing and then i was thinking of going and two more cars came around so now i was getting a little concerned – was this russian roulette night time roadworks dash? and why wasn’t i given a packaged rule book and matching arm tag to show i was competing..?

as i had built up enuff courage and after considerable gap of no cars i started going forwards again and again lights from around the corner and so i reversed and the guy in front was flashing his lights at me (how rude, and yet no flashbacks – ha! – to the time when i inadvertently turned into the wrong way of a two lane one way road system and thort all the cars flashing me were trying to warn me about the first idiot who i had come across who was on my side of the road) and he stopped next to me and told me that it’s a one way and then pointed to the signs…

the signs which if you can imagine me driving down a street are on my left (with an only left sign and a no right sign) parallel to the road… so for example, if i had been out of my car on the opposite side of the road and looking across the road i would have noticed them quite easily, but driving along the road with them passing me on the left as i faced ahead of me (for some strange reason i like to call not driving into things or people) they were less useful…

now there may have been some other signage somewhere else explaining the whole thing to me but it clearly was not very clear and i could have died and i don’t like the idea of that right now (don’t get me wrong, i’m very ready to die when it happens, but at the moment and especially with a beautiful but sick wife waiting at home for me, i’m quite fine with the living thing) and so i was a bit angry with the road and/or sign people…

the second one occured when i was on the orange river recently and we were nappy running sjambok and i got pulled under for what seemed like eight seconds too many and i wans’t convinced in that moment i was going to make it…

and the third was in Malawi in 2000 on DTS outreach with YWAM when we were woken up early in the am with our night watchmen having seen two crowds of mob with machetes and the like advancing up the hill towards our base right while i was in the middle of a crisis of faith and do i really believe this stuff or not…

turns out i do.

and near death experiences are pretty cool and highly recommendable actually (once they’re done – usually during them there are all sorts of issues like hoping you don’t need a fresh pair of pants anytime soon and so on) because they encourage depth. stock-taking. life evaluation… actually i think that might be why some people offer to drive with me from time to time – that and increased prayer life.. i’m just kidding.

or am i. you had a near death lately? any good consequences thereof?

so, once we get past the mindless comments of people responding to the blog title and not actually reading it, what am i on about?

if you haven’t read my other blog about the christians choosing to become atheist (https://brettfish.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/a-theist-walks-into-an-atheist-bigbang-its-a-steel-atheist) i would suggest you begin there, cos this is a (s)equal of sorts…

so in the context of finding out that one of my church peoples had turned atheist over the varsity holidays, i have been giving this a lot of thort and i came up with this:

both of my friends who became atheist were christian and so they know the deal – they understand what the Christian-perceived Bible-teaching consequences of not being a Christ-follower are. they both know that if they have got this one wrong – and continue to stay in it – that they are in a LOT of trouble.

so, knowing the consequences of not being a Christ-follower, they are actively choosing against that and embracing another belief, and everything that goes with it

therefore, there are no surprises for them – they get that if they’ve got it wrong, it’s death. damnation to be more precise.

so it is an active step made, considering the facts or understanding or belief or perception or whatever, away from that

there are many ‘christians’ on the other hand (and i use a small ‘c’ as i always do to depict people calling themselves ‘christian’ but not necessarily following Christ at all) who think they are ‘in’ and ‘making it’ and ‘on their way to heaven’ and ‘damnation-free’ and so on, but who are one day going to stand before God and be completely surprised when He says, “Depart from Me, I never knew you!” [Matthew 7, towards the end, bible downstairs, me upstairs]

they are doing the stuff, going through the rituals, hanging out at church, maybe listening to the music and watching the (awful) movies, walking what they suppose is the walk, but completely missing the point

and as i have been thinking about this whole situation, i think that i would rather have you actively choose to walk away from Christianity and become an atheist (or something else) than be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking you are a Christ-follower when you clearly (at least to God who sees all) are not

“I never knew you” speaks of relationship, not religious hoops – it’s not about you didn’t do enuff stuff or you didn’t get enough people saved or you didn’t attend enough religious meetings or you didn’t try harder – it’s that you missed the primary number 1 key aspect of being a follower of Jesus which is loving God with all your heart and soul and mind (closely followed by ‘and loving your neighbour as yourself’ – matthew 22)

i would, obviously, rather have you follow Jesus with me. after all He claimed to be “the Way and the Truth and the Life” and said that “No-one comes to the Father except through Me” [john 14.6] and that is what i believe and am chasing (and being challenged a lot lately that i need to be more focused on the remaining in Him and building relationship with Him than all the other stuff i get caught up in, so that all the other stuff can flow out of being in a strong place with Him) and would love for you to be a part of

but if you’re not. if you choose to walk away. and pursue something else (because please don’t walk away from Christ-following and just sit around apathetically and believe nothing!) then i would much rather have you do that, than call yourself a ‘christian’ while completely not believing in any of it, or living any of it, but just miserably continuing to live out some kind of sick meaningless pointless waste-of-time facade.

what’s it gonna be?

‘a theist believes in at least one god, but denies the existence of many gods’ [the skeptic’s dictionary]

whereas an atheist denies the existence of god completely

and ‘at heist’ is just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that’s not important now…

a theist and an atheist – so vastly different and yet the difference between them is nothing… or ‘a space’ to be more precise…

[disclaimer: oh and by the way, this is one of those blogs that is more for me than for you – i am writing to think my thorts out loud, to process them, to do it publically in case anyone else is thinking/wrestling/engaging about the same kind of stuff, but i am not looking for answers, so please keep those to yourself – i am not asking you to solve anything – i am merely trying to process what is going on in my head, and maybe cause you to think a little]

i have worked as a pastory type guy at the stellenbosch vineyard church for almost 6 years now – in that time i have seen two christian guys become atheists – it’s kinda weird that to go from a theist to an atheist you have to lose the gap as opposed to creating one – it feels like it should be the other way around…

so if you were to be an outside evaluator of my work you would see that i started out with two christians and finished up with two atheists – i don’t think i’d score that well in pastoring school… and i know that i didn’t change them (i hope i didn’t change them) but it happened under my watch so to speak [which is ridiculous cos i don’t have a watch, except on my cellphone but to say it happened under my cellphone gets very confusing because it’s not that big a phone] and i didn’t have the answers or the proof or the experience to stop it from happening and so a part of me feels like it may as well have been my doing

[there are others who have been a part of our community in these last years who have moved away from God or christianity or both and that disturbs me as well, but to become an atheist is a step towards something, rather than just a step away from something, which is a lot easier to do]

so it does bother me in an i-failed kind of way to some kind of extent – i have something, my faith, my relationship with God, the purpose that gives me life – that is most-of-the-time so incredibly absolutely whole-heartedly real to me and even tho i don’t always understand it or have a complete explanational grasp of it, it is the very core of my being – and i have been unable to communicate or demonstrate or pass that on to these two guys in an adequate enuff way that had them going ‘this-is-real-this-is-for-me’ and that has to bug me, to frustrate me, to dishearten me. it has to. because i obviously believe that what i believe is truth and within that also lies the believed consequence for someone who doesn’t believe that (both when they die but even hugely now) and that should cause me great concern, and does…

but it’s not going to cripple me. it’s not going to knock me off my horse (and not just cos unlike mr terblanche i don’t actually have a horse, i have a rocking horse, but it’s a metaphorical one, and purely for aesthetics). i think i’ll be okay.

really? and why is that you may ask? [or i may go ahead and ask for you] – Because Jesus was okay with it!

there is a passage in luke i think it is (maybe john) where Jesus preaches a bit of a tough message and a whole bunch of His followers find it too strong a message and so they leave… and He lets them. and then turns to His disciples and asks them, “What about you? Are you also going to leave?” to which Peter replies, “Where shall we go? Only You have the words of Truth.” [And for me, that is a lot of the bottom line – i have struggles with some aspects of christianity, i don’t understand a lot of the Bible and how God works or doesn’t seem to work sometimes, but i have identified Jesus as having the words of Truth, it is in my gut and i cannot shake it and have not come close to hearing any other kind of more believable truth anywhere else]

then there is the story of the rich young ruler and one of the most powerful phrases in the Bible to me because when you read the story of Jesus you get the idea that in His interaction with the man, He knows from the beginning that it’s not going to be successful in terms of gaining another follower – and yet there is this phrase – ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him.’ And the rich young ruler walks away from Jesus disappointed and empty-handed, because the cost of following Jesus (all your stuff, I want you, and everything else you have made more important than Me in your life) is too much for him. And Jesus lets him go.

i don’t doubt for a second that the moment any one of those original followers or the rich young ruler had a change of heart and recognised Who Jesus really was and returned to Him and asked once again to be allowed to follow, that He would have instantly and with much joy received them back.

but He wasn’t going to chase them down to have them ‘follow’ Him for the sake of having extra followers… He wanted those who followed Him to be genuine. to believe (and even in the way of the father of the demon-possessed kid who, when Jesus challenged him, responded with, ‘I do believe – help me overcome my unbelief!” – that’s often my cry in certain areas of my faith at least). not to not have doubts, but to overcome their doubts (which is faith! – it doesn’t mean you don’t doubt, it just means the doubt doesn’t knock you down and leave you there)

and so i haven’t given up on these guys. i hope we will remain friends. i will pray for them. i will chat to them anytime they want to chat, and listen to them on their journey and hope that they will listen to me on mine. i won’t try and convert them (or unconvert them? reconvert?) but i hope we’ll still get to hang and play Settlers and whatever else comes along.

i do hope they will continue to challenge their beliefs now that they have walked away from one set. and not just settle for another because it is convenient. continue to wrestle guys, continue to question, hopefully continue to seek because God does say if you seek Me you will find Me and seeking meaning in the world always leads you to God at some stage. always. because He is the way and the Truth and the Life – it doesn’t take you believing it to make it true.

an atheist denies the existence of god completely

a theist believes in at least one god, but denies the existence of many gods

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