I know that taping music back in the day, and downloading it from the web today are both illegal, but... I do think there is a discussion to be had here.

Let me explain... Today, I own six of Joe Bonamassa's LPs, but until a few years ago I had never heard of him. Then one day I was at home alone for a weekend as I was tasked with swapping Joel's bedroom with our office which involved a lot of decorating, installing shelves &  moving furniture etc.

Whilst busy with that, I was streaming a UK rock station, and in the middle of one of their 30 minute non-stop segments I had to stop and just listen to one particular track that blew me away.

It's been a while but it's nice to see that Facing the Mountain has once again been featured on Missionary Blogs's Blog Watch as part of a feature entitled "Small Blessings?". Our featured post was Rough Night which we posted about some of our homeless Soup Kitchen regulars.

It's always a good feeling when one of your posts gets picked up in this way.

I'm not one for conspiracy theories and would side with David Baddiel who says conspiracy theories are "how idiots get to feel like intellectuals", and I certainly do not lean towards trump and his ridiculousness. However... I am beginning to wonder if there might be something in this Huawei stuff.

Now bear with me here as I explain...

We stream all of our TV and we do it on my PC in our office and cast it with Chromecast on to our living room TV.

Paula received this from one of our church members this morning, she is a teacher in a local primary school in a poorer community.  It is one of many similar WhatsApp messages from her over the last three weeks about the appalling circumstances at her school.

The government are supposed to have given each school the necessary resources and training to enable them to open safely in the midst of this pandemic, as well as putting clear protocols in place in the event of any Covid-19 infections

Sadly the truth is something else as teachers like this are actually providing their own PPE, cleaning their own classes in their own time, as well as helping the children cope with the frightening reality of it all.

It's been a little while since my previous post Lockdown Reading Part 1, but in that time I've red some great books.

I picked up Austerlitz in the second hand bookshop in Kalk Bay (sadly it closed down) and I wasn't disappointed. The subject matter is something I've read lots of; a man impacted by the Holocaust seeks to find the truth. The storytelling however, that's a whole different thing. No paraphrasing, no chapters, long sentences; one running to seven pages and all narrated by the author. A bit weird but an eminently good read!

I had never heard of Sebald before but I'll definitely read some more of his stuff based on this, though it's sad to learn that he died in a car crash in 2001.

Here's an older post from 2018 about books: Ten books

Another Book

You've got to love a freebie!

Courtesy of Discovery and my rewards points for exercising, I scored a freebie today from Exclusive Books. It should have cost just over a tenner so I think I'll help myself to another one next week.

Sweet!

The premise of this one caught my attention, it's about an unrepentant aristocrat in the time of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, he is placed under house arrest but has to live in the attic rather than the whole house.

I\m looking forward to reading this.



Going Solo

Wham once famously sang "Wake me up before you go-go, Cause I'm not plannin' on going solo".

At The Gathering we've tried working in partnership with the government, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC), and each time we've been excited by the prospect only to get dragged down by slow moving cumbersome organisations with onerous expectations and criteria for any partnership.

It's no wonder churches choose to go solo. It's sad, but it's also very understandable.



If you only listen to or watch one thing on Black Lives Matter, listen to our good friend Dave speaking about his own experiences in the UK.

As white people we will never need our lives to be verified in the way that Dave and so many other black people have experienced at some point. That is why we are privileged and black lives matter.

#BlackLivesMatter
On Saturday I had the privilege of taking Joel through to Stellenbosch to my boxing buddy Conrad's studio where they were hosting a live concert to stream on Facebook.

Conrad is a well known and very gifted sound engineer as well as a performer and all round great bloke and he's helping Joel get a taste for sound engineering which is Joel's preference for next year.

Let me tell you a story...

Pink Floyd announced the release of their Later Years ensemble late last year saying it would be released on November 29.  Exciting times!

My lovely sister-in-law and family agreed to get it for me for Christmas and so began an almost 9 month saga that finally ended today when a courier handed me the parcel containing the LP.

Fathers Day

For all the dads out there...

No matter what your earthly father was like, your Heavenly Father is awesome.
Project Restart couldn't have gone any better for Palace as they comfortably saw off Bournemouth at the Vitality courtesy of a sublime free kick and a beautiful team goal.

My Palace made me proud as they supported Black Lives Matters on their shirt sleeves and their backs in place of their name,s and I love that they all took the knee in solidarity.

Soup Kitchen

It was such a stunning evening in Firgrove last night serving delicious butternut soup to our Soup Kitchen regulars.

There was a great vibe as kids ate hungrily and adults took their takeaways after lingering for a quick chat. We made lots of deliveries tonight too.

Last night President Ramaphosa addressed the nation to let us know about the reduction in regulations to Level 3 of our lockdown.

At this point you have to wonder why we're bothering given that the government have once again caved in to the loudest voices and shifted the nation to an alert level somewhere between Level 2 & 3 but not fully one or the other. And in the midst of the confusion dear old Cyril wants  South Africans to take personal responsibility for curbing the transmission of the coronavirus. Like that's going to happen! 😀😏

My inner nerd doesn't come out to play too often but he was given free reign over this one, which was just as well because it took quite some time to resolve.

The Contact page on the blog had stopped working and so I had to remove it and insert a new one. A simple enough task once one knows which bits of HTML to edit (there are plenty of blogs out there with useful instructions too).

Anyway, having got the Contact page back up and running, the "Submit" button was really bugging me because it was too wide, but worse, the text was partially obscured.

As the prosecutor in The Trial on The Wall by Pink Floyd said: "This will not do!"

It took an age to work it out (I couldn't find any help online), and it led to many unusual looking contact forms, but eventually I hit upon changing most of the values from 100% or 100px to auto, et voila. Perfection!

Black Lives Matter

We have laid our cards on the table and come out clearly in support of the #blacklivesmatter movement.

For us as a family it's really very simple. Our lives in mission have for the last 22+ years been about working in various African countries, and for the last 15 years we have been a multiracial family. As such we shouldn't really need to express a view through words given that our lives speak volumes, but sometimes it's good to back up actions with reasons for those actions.

There are two main reasons why we support this movement. Firstly, as a family we have experienced some shockingly negative responses to our just being. Being in a restaurant, being on public transport or just being in other places, we have experienced prejudice and it's not pretty. Secondly, this impacts too many of our best friends for us to just ignore and leave. We see friends being discriminated against on a daily basis and it's heartbreaking and just plain wrong.

Blessings

We don't often get to see the joy that a food hamper or a voucher provides for the families that receive them, and to be honest knowing that they've been blessed is good enough.

However, once in a while someone just has to respond and let us know how thankful they are for the blessing they've received, and when it happens it is pure joy to hear.

What really thrilled me about this one was the fact that they had actually taken the trouble to take a pic of some of the food they were able to buy and made a point about the difference it has made for them as a family in these really tough times.

Thank you LORD!

And to think that someone actually asked me whether this particular recipient was genuine or not. I really don't care if recipients are genuine or not, as a church we give freely where we see the need and we have no expectation of behaviour after we've given. What a recipient does with that blessing is between them and God.
Go on, do something remarkable...

Today is World Blood Donor Day and if you're not already a donor please give it a go. It's really easy, takes about 30 minutes and will save lives.

Don't wait 'til you need a transfusion to be convinced by the power of blood donations.

Rough Night

"Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes
and see how good God is" 
Psalm 34:8

Thursday was a nasty day weather wise, it was very cold and very wet, there had been 49mm of rain by 9am and it didn't ease off much for the rest of the day, and the snow on the mountains just added to the chill factor. All in all, not a great night to be sleeping out rough.

But that was the reality for a group of regulars at The Gathering's Soup Kitchen. It was a bit quieter than usual because of the weather, so we had time to chat with them. We've known some of them for a few years now and we knew a few of them were homeless, but I have to be honest I was shocked to hear that two of the smarter looking guys were also now homeless. I guess I was judging them on their appearance, they certainly didn't look homeless. Shame on me!

Happy Birthday Soup Kitchen!

The Gathering's Soup Kitchen began on 14 May 2015 (so we're a little late) and is now just a tad over 5 years old.

It's amazing and encouraging to see how the Soup Kitchen has grown since we first started back then and it feels a little like it has come full circle as we began serving the soup in yogurt pots and since lockdown we've been back to serving it in yogurt pots.

Juggling

Having written several other posts about things I love and am passionate about, here goes one on my love of juggling and why I've never stopped since a mate taught me to juggle in 1990. 

This post really came about as a result of all the admin and tidying up I've been doing on the blog lately. As I was going through stuff I was surprised to discover that I have only actually posted on Juggling once previously in the 16 years this blog has been going, which is quite amazing given that it's something I really enjoy and never really stop doing.

This is heartbreaking.

The hunger amongst the poorest was evident well before the lockdown began but has been exacerbated by it. As a church we've done what we can within the available resources to feed as many people as we can, and we will continue to do so.

But just as we continue, so too do the WhatsApps and SMSs from folk who are desperate for food. I think one of the realities here is that as the majority have returned to work so there's a feeling that the lockdown is all but over, when the reality is quite the opposite.

Sadly this means that the neediest and most vulnerable are being neglected or worse, sidelined.

On The Beach

Well that was good for my soul!

I last walked on the beach just before lockdown began, so it's probably about 80 days since I last managed it.

I like to take half an hour out after dropping Joel at school to walk on the beach and have missed doing so.

Labour Of Love

This is probably of no interest to anyone other than myself, but having spent the best part of the last few days editing various aspects of the blog, I'm feeling quite pleased with myself and am very happy with the results.

This is my first beer since February and it's deliciously welcome!

It's a local Pale Ale which actually means it's a lager, they just don't understand what ale is locally 😉

Still, it's very nice and I'm not complaining.


Last night was a slower kitchen due the the social grants (disability, child support & pensions) being paid over the last couple of days, so it made sense to use our smaller 50lt pot which was a good call.

We served a delicious Cream of Chicken and it went down a storm with our regulars that were able to come.

And there it is, the High Court has ruled that Level 4 and Level 3 regulations of South Africa's lockdown are unconstitutional and has given the government 14 days to respond. The High Court acknowledges the legality of the initial lockdown (Level 5) but the rest of the verdict is quite damning in saying the regulations were "arbitrary and unlawful".

Many of us have been expressing this view for a while and are sick of being patronised by corrupt politicians who suddenly feel they have the moral high ground when they really do not. State Capture anyone?

Boxing Again

After a six week break thanks to a partially slipped disk in my lower back it was good to be back boxing again today.

I'm far from fully healed, but the pain is manageable and I'm being careful with some specific stretches to ensure that I don't aggravate things any further, as well as avoiding certain exercises and stretches that aren't particularly good for the back.

I'm longing to regain my fitness and go for a run again but sadly I just don't know when it will be safe to do that.

Anyway, I'm back exercising at a lower intensity which is good and it felt good to be boxing again and it was great to be boxing with Joel. I really enjoyed that Zoom session with CEY.

It's just as well too, because I could feel my paunch trying to re-establish itself.

First Day Back Debacle

What a joke!

Having spent most of last week preparing Joel to return to school today, we were told to expect an announcement from the Education Minister on Friday evening. This then got pushed back to Sunday evening and then pushed back again until 11am today.

We then learn via a local news website that schools are only reopening for pupils on the 8th whilst teachers are back from today. So quite why two teacher friends were called back to work last week is a mystery.

On Tuesday President Ramaphosa addressed the nation and gave churches and other faith groups the right to start meeting again in their buildings, though with strict conditions.

At the same time, he called for a National Day Of Prayer for today, Sunday 31 May.

The Gathering has made the tough but right decision to remain in exile for a while longer, but as we Gather this morning on WhatsApp we are proud to be standing with the President & the nation and answer his call to prayer for South Africa.

Today our Gathering will be entirely given over to prayer for this nation and the situation we find ourselves in.
During lockdown I've written four posts so far about books, which would suggest books are quite important in our house. Three of those posts were on the theme of 10 Books I Have Loved and the other post was about Lockdown Reading, looking at the books I have read in the first few weeks of lockdown. I will post Part 2 of that soon.

It was very exciting to get the news from President Ramaphosa that the faithful may gather under strict guidelines. It was exciting to think about The Gathering getting together again from June 7th, but as pastors we also have a duty of care of our church members and we need to be leading by example in how we navigate our way out of the current crisis.

For The Gathering it feels right that we remain in exile for just a little longer.
We might not be the biggest feeding scheme around, but we are consistent and dependable and it's great to know that in an uncertain world & uncertain times, our regulars know where to find us confident that we'll be there ready to serve them.

That in itself is a tremendous blessing.

Well we didn't see that one coming but I for one went to bed a very happy man last night!

Who'd have thunk it... the government giving in to lobbying and reversing a decision.  Then again, it would have been a tad #awkward asking the various religious groups in the country to stand together for a day of prayer without allowing them to start to gather in their buildings again.

True Joy

It's true!

For me at least, for I am at my happiest and most joyous when I'm serving at our Soup Kitchen or involved in blessing folk in some other way through The Gathering.

I love what James said in his letter: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world"
Last night President Ramaphosa addressed the nation and unlike the last time he did so, he actually had things to say, and was worth listening to.

The big announcement was that the whole nation will move to Level 3 which means most economic activity can resume (though not restaurants, hair & Beauty salons, gyms or churches). We have to wait a few days for the govt to gazette the actual details of what we can and cannot do, but I'm excited.
Gathering on WhatsApp on Sundays & Wednesdays is a huge blessing in the life of The Gathering as we seek to stay connected and interactive in our faith together.

It was pure joy to share Communion together this morning as part of our worship of King Jesus and those that were able took a selfie and shared it online.

It feels like The gathering is stronger for the lockdown which is a huge blessing and encouragement.

Live Again



I want to post about all the wonderful blessings we're experiencing right now, and share about how life is great, but I can't do what I see some do and just pretend the sun is shining and life is great. In fact I have to be honest and say that I'm struggling to remain positive at present. I'm having to force myself to stay away from the news because it's worse than depressing and it makes my blood boil.

It was such a blessing to open The Gathering's Soup Kitchen again last night to serve our regulars and it was great to blessed with such a spectacular sunset just before we began serving.

What's really blessing me at the moment is our growing relationship with the local Neighbourhood Watch.

Following on from yesterday's post I felt the need to salute the generous heroes (locally & abroad) who quietly give to make it possible for The Gathering, My Father's House, the Night Shelter and countless others to be able to reach out to the most vulnerable and provide them with food parcels, soup kitchens, sandwiches, food vouchers etc.

The generosity is real, as is the desire by many to help in whatever way they can to ensure that the most vulnerable are cared for, particularly in provision of the most basic human need of all.

"Our lockdown has revealed a very sad fault line in our society that reveals how grinding poverty, inequality and unemployment is tearing the fabric of our communities apart" - President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Talk about stating the obvious!

President Ramaphosa then goes on to share some very nice words but no clear action plan other than more talking shops. Meanwhile the media is full of headlines like this: "One in three adults in SA goes to bed hungry, according to latest research", which really comes as no surprise to those of us who have been working as hard as we can to ensure the neediest and most vulnerable enjoy a degree of food security.

Sadly, here we are 55 days in to our lockdown and still the most basic need of the most vulnerable is failing to be addressed by the government. But this is the disturbing reality out here and it's compounded by the ineptitude of a political system that just doesn't appear to care.

Blessings

One of my passions in church and mission is working in partnership with other churches and NPOs, and one church we've known, loved and worked with for quite a while now is Father's House over in Simon's Town, led by our dear friend Shaddie.

Before the lockdown they had stopped meeting as a church on Sundays in the regular sense and were reaching out to the homeless on Saturday afternoons. They truly are being the hands & feet of Jesus in the community. Once lockdown started the homeless were rounded up (that's a rant for another day!) so they refocused their efforts on the informal settlements in an area called Redhill in the mountains above the town.

They now have a separate NPO called My Father's House and together with some other local community groups are feeding almost 4000 children everyday.

Having written about ten fiction books I have loved and ten non-fiction books I have loved, I thought I would finish the series with ten Christian books I have loved. I thought about splitting this in to two parts between academic and non-academic but realised that one of those posts would just be way too boring. LOL!

So here are ten Christian books I have loved all for very different reasons and at different stages of life.

Jim & Casper Go To Church was an eye opener and really helped to shape my idea of what church should or shouldn't be. Jim is a pastor who pays Casper, an atheist, to go to church with him. The point is not to get Casper saved, but to get an outsider's perspective on what we as Christians often think is OK for church. The most sobering moment in the book comes when Casper asks "Is this what Jesus told you to do?". For me, as a pastor I knew that I never wanted to be asked that question by anyone. If you're in church leadership, you really should read this gem.

I was inspired by a recent BBC News article in which they had asked people to send them their last 'normal' photo taken on their phones before their lockdown began. I really like this idea so I'm posting mine and Paula's #LastNormalPhoto from the day before our lockdown began on Friday 27 March (that feels like a long time ago!).

It strikes me that there are pretty much two basic arguments about lockdowns around the world. There is the argument for blanket ends to lockdowns to let life and economies get back to some semblance of normality, then there is the save lives side which advocates for lockdowns to remain and for people to be more self disciplined in their actions.

Happy Place

It was so good to be doing our Soup Kitchen again tonight, especially as it's also a sneaky way to catch up with some of our church members.

It was a slower kitchen than normal but it was great to learn that this was because the Neighbourhood Watch had been busy distributing food parcels around the community today, that means a lot of people have got food for a little while now.

We were also blessed by a friend who had prepared 3lts of beautiful gammon stock which gave the soup a delicious tang.

It seems official (to me at least) that the lunatics are indeed running the asylum.

In our local shop today I was amazed to see that certain herbs and spices weren't available either because they aren't deemed essential, or because their manufacture isn't. Either way they're deemed non-essential which is bonkers.

This begs the question: who gets to decide what is or isn't essential?

In 10 Books I Have Loved Pt 1 I talked about ten works of fiction that I have really enjoyed. Today I'm going to talk about ten of my favourite non-fiction reads and there are some belters in here.

I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction these days and particularly enjoy autobiographies, though I've not included any here. I'm also a fan of World War 2 literature and have fallen in love with Anthony Beevor's writing.

But I'll start with a book I think everyone should read. Paul Foot explores the franchise thoroughly from beginning to now, and leaves no stone unturned exposing some of the lies and myths surround the democratic vote (in the UK), as well as chronicling how we got the franchise which was finally made universal in the UK after WWII, yes, it really is that recent.
Having posted about 10 things I love about my home..., I'm going to do a couple of posts about 10 Books I Have Loved. This first one will be about 10 works of fiction that I have really enjoyed. They're not necessarily my all time favourites, just books that were a thoroughly good read and worthy of their spot on our bookshelves.

I'll start with my first ever Ben Okri... I tried reading this on holiday in Turkey in 1992 and really couldn't be doing with it. Then after we'd been to Tanzania in 1998 I picked it up again and suddenly it made a lot of sense and a whole new world opened before me as one of the best storytellers ever told an amazing tale.

I think having lived in an under developed part of Africa it helped put the  themes of the book in to context and it really brought a level of understanding I was incapable of back in '91.
Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful moms out there, you make the world a better place!

It was a joy to honour and celebrate our Gathering moms this morning, especially as Paula shared a word about Jochabed, Moses' mother, and the selfless sacrifice she made to save his life.

Jochabed's sacrifice is a stunning reminder of the sacrifice God made for us when he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us.

Firewood

It's that time of year again where we stock up on firewood ready for the winter ahead.

We got the wood from a different supplier this year and first impressions are very good as the wood appears to be very dry.  If it's as dry as it looks it should burn really nicely in the woodburner.

It always amuses me to think that this is the sum total of our winter heating bill out here, and most years we have just enough left over for a few BBQs too.

Same Storm

I came across this the other day on social media and it really struck a chord with me, and after spending a couple of days explaining to a few folk some of the realities of lockdown here in SA for many that The Gathering reaches out to and ministers to, I thought it would make a good post on here.

I have to confess to being just a little bit tired of hearing people in privileged positions (politicians and so called celebrities and a few others) telling the rest of us that 'we're in the same boat'.  They trotted that rubbish out under austerity and it wasn't true then just as it isn't true now.

We are NOT in the same boat! We are in the same storm for sure but not the same boat. How some will cruise through this storm and how some will barely tread water in the hope of surviving  are two very very different things.