Z is for Ω

At least it is in the Greek alphabet.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Revelation 22:13. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end, outside of God there is nothing.

I try to live my life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, though I know I often fail. This may be unappealing and a bit of a turn off if you don't profess a faith but I can't help that. I hear all the arguments for and against God and increasingly hear the vocal anti-Christian lobby of Dawkins et al and find myself even more convinced of my faith.

The most preposterous claim by the likes of Dawkins is that Christians are not capable of free thought or of questioning what they are told. I would argue it's the other way around. Dawkins and his acolytes are the ones blinded by ignorant and irrational arguments. The bible is full of people questioning God and their faith and in the apostle Paul we have a fantastic role model for free thinking and questioning the status quo.

As Paul said in Romans, I am not ashamed of the gospel.. and as such I don't really care what you think of me or my faith. I'm not worried if you attack my faith or if my faith offends you, it's just that I believe in the living God and am happy to let you know this. Yes you could beat me in an argument using science and goodness knows what else but I've seen and experienced too much as a Christian to turn my back on Jesus. Also, I am deeply skeptical of the world and what it has to offer, whilst the world may deride my faith, it has little if anything of any value to offer in its place. I've seen and experienced some of what the world has to offer and it's not nice, it's not pretty and it does more harm than good. What I can tell you is that the faith journey I've been on over the last 27 years has radically transformed me from an 18 year old messed up waster and I simply have to give thanks to the living God, the Alpha and Omega.

Here endeth the series Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Y is for Yowza!

OK, so it's a bit tenuous but I'm still expressing my surprise at having completed the A To Z Blogging Challenge. Yes yes there's still Monday's post but that's already written and scheduled to post.

I've had a lot of fun doing it, I've met some great new cyber friends and visited some really good (and the odd strange) blogs. I'll definitely be doing it again.

One of the highlights for me has been the encouraging comments and hearing that one or two folk have been eagerly looking forward to see what the next letter would be about. I hope you've enjoyed it too.

I've also enjoyed the discipline of committing to the blog and being intentional in my approach to it. I'm not sure the 'Schedule' facility will forgive me for abusing it as much as I did but without it I would have fallen at an early hurdle. As you can see from my master list I made some changes as I was going and 'I' was definitely for Indecision! I chose not to blog about my boys for E and J as I felt it was a bit unfair on them. Other than that I just blogged about the things that are important to me. Next year I'll try to come up with a more interesting theme.

What to blog about next?

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

X has to be for X-rays

Not that I'm passionate about these things but we've had our fair share of them done in our eight years in South Africa.

It all begins with chest x-rays for immigration to prove that one is clear of TB, which is a bit of a joke as the Western Cape has one of the world's highest prevalence rates of TB and some medics reckon that everyone living in the Cape carries TB.

Life with two boys in the house also somewhat predictably leads to hospital trips and the inevitable x-ray. Having said that, the biggest injury in our house to date was me smashing my wrist!

One very cool aspect of getting x-rays done here is that it's all digital so you get a CD with the x-rays on to take home. Actually you're supposed to give it to the Dr but they always have the x-ray already uploaded onto their computer so aren't interested in the CD. It's great to get home and play with the disc pretending to be very knowledgeable!

Hopefully we'll not be rushing off for anymore x-rays anytime soon!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

W is for Walking The Dog.

One of my boys favourite activities has to be walking Rosie. We're pretty slack at it and don't walk her anywhere as much as we should but when we do it's a lot of fun.

Rosie adores being out and about, exploring the park, chasing the Ibis and Egrets and occasionally gets to play in the stream if it's been wet enough.

Most of the time Rosie has to put up with chasing around the garden after the boys on their bikes so a walk makes for a refreshing change for her.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

V is for Veteran Bloggers.

If you're visiting our blog for the first time or arrived via the Blogging From A To Z Challenge we'd like to welcome you to our little corner of the web.

We've really enjoyed running this blog over a few years. In fact if you take a look at our Archive you'll see that we've been blogging since the 10th of July 2004 when we were preparing to move to South Africa from Blighty. Back then the blog was called Adventures With God but we rebranded the blog a while back, see our About tab for more on this.

One of the best bits about blogging is meeting other bloggers through such things as the Blogging From A To Z Challenge and other networks like Missionary-Blogs.com where we're listed amongst the Veteran Bloggers.

Why not pop over there and see what hundred's of other bloggers are getting up to as they seek to serve and extend the kingdom of God.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

U is for Unicycling

Just because this is one of my passions doesn't mean I'm very good at it and trust me, I'm not! I do enjoy it though.

It all began many moons ago when I asked Paula for a unicycle for my 30th birthday. I was really into juggling and wanted to try something different. I was blessed with a DM Ringmaster and despite several attempts to ride it it got neglected and largely forgotten. Then in 1999 we went to All Nations for a year and one of the students had his giraffe uni there and with a few tips I decided to invest in learning to ride my Ringmaster.

It took me 2 hours a day for three weeks just to ride a metre or so unaided but from there I never looked back. My tutor at the time commented that if I put as much effort into my assignments as I did into my uni I'd be top of the class. My reply was that I had to have something to show for my year at All Nations.

Since those days my uni has been on many travels with me and has been used by many different people. Somewhere along the line I also picked up a Pashley 20" which is awaiting a new tyre and tube from Blighty and recently acquired a Nimbus 36" which is a huge amount of fun to ride. Once my Pashley has been restored I'll be using it to teach Eli to unicycle, he's desperate to learn.

One of my biggest joys in unicycling has to be teaching some of the kids in Zimbabwe to ride it. To see former street kids whizzing up and down the road on a uni was so much fun and confounded a lot of locals!

See more pics of me unicycling here there's also one or two of some of the kids in Zim.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

*Update* Tree Of Life is now defunct

T is for Tree Of Life

It is a complete privilege to be leading Tree Of Life and especially to be leading it with such a great bunch of guys!

After a torrid year in 2011 in which I thought I would never get to serve the local church again here in the Western Cape I find myself once again blown away by the goodness of God as he had a whole different plan to those of others.

What I'm particularly enjoying is the fact that we have to rely totally on God for everything in our meetings. This is church unplugged. We have no music group, no PA equipment in fact we have very little. The blessing in all of this is that we cannot put on a performance even if we wanted to which is great because it means we have to invite the Holy Spirit and give him space in the meetings. Personally I don't ever want this to stop!

As I said in L is for local church, I'm passionate about local church and believe it is the hope of the nations. The nations are not some subjective concept out there somewhere, rather the nations begin at home and spread out from there. This has never been truer than now when the world has come to our doorstep. It must be a rare thing these days to find a community that has no international influence residing within it.

This excites me because when we first had the word about the tree of life in Revelation spoken over us as a group of folk praying together it was particularly about the leaves being for the healing of the nations and how we are the leaves of the tree in Macassar and beyond. Awesome stuff from our Lord!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

S is for Spiloxene Capensis

I've blogged about this flower a couple of times before here and here and still maintain that it's my all time favourite flower.

The Spiloxene Capensis is also known as the Painted Peacock Flower and is actually classed as a weed. I have to say it's a particularly stunning weed!

Sadly it's incredibly difficult to cultivate in the garden so I'll have to settle for the delight of seeing it between Feb and April in the Nature Reserve.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

R is for Rosie

Our ever faithful guard dog and friend, she's half Rhodesian Ridgeback, half Border Collie, the latter part making her a very busy dog but she is beautiful!

She was named by Joel though he has no idea why he chose the name or where it came from.

We were warned before getting a dog that it wasn't possible to have a dog operate as a guard dog and a pet. Now I've never had a dog before and thought this advice was a bit suspect. Happily I can now confirm that the advice was complete bunkum!

Rosie is most definitely my dog. She cries when I go out but ignores the departure of other family members and Paula tells me that when I am out and especially if I'm away overnight then Rosie steps up her guarding duties and even sleeps outside our bedroom.

Rosie is a very good guard dog, so much so that most friends who come to the house are very scared of her, at least until they've met her properly and trades people tend to be very scared of her!. Rosie is however, a very good pet and is very good with the boys and their friends. It always fascinates me watching how she behaves so differently with Joel and Eli. Rosie is very respectful of Joel and never jumps at him or does anything silly with him whilst she views Eli as a fellow dog/puppy and plays very roughly with him which resulted in a trip to the emergency room once. He'll learn!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

Q is for Quarrelsome

Before I get myself into trouble let me state that my amazing wife is NOT a quarrelsome wife!

I've chosen Q for quarrelsome today to highlight some of my favourite verses in the bible, or perhaps I should be clearer and say that I'm highlighting some of the verses that I think are funny.

Proverbs 21 verse 19 is a great place to start: "Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." I love the humour of this one and so too did the psalmist as he put it in there twice, see 25:24!

Proverbs 27 verse 15 is also in there twice and is also quite amusing. "A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;"

I really like the verses about the sluggard too, especially the one about him turning on his bed in Proverbs 26 verse 14 "As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed." - The imagery of the door hinge turning only partly as the door opens so the sluggard is too lazy to turn over fully. Brilliant!

Song of Songs is another great source of amusing verses, the best (in my opinion) being chapter 7, verses 7 and 8: "Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, "I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit."" - Many years ago on a CYFA Venture we got some of the youngsters to act out a few scriptures and this was one of them. How mean was that!

There's even a verse about going to toilet in Deuteronomy 23 verse 13  which amuses me but I'll let you look that one up for yourself. The bible is a far from being a dull book, it's actually full of amazing stuff and some pretty funny stuff too.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

P is for Photoblog

You might not know, but we also have a photoblog. It's called Finnie's In Focus and can be found here.

I'm not as faithful at posting on it as I once was, due largely to the fact that my DSLR is very old and tired now and I rarely take it anywhere with me. I long to upgrade it but that remains a distant dream for now.

The good news is that I am starting a new series on it today entitled Down On The Farm with photos from our recent trip to Farmer Koos's in Montagu.

Really hope you enjoy it!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

O is for Obrigado

Obrigado means Thanks in Portuguese

I first heard this word in Zimbabwe when we were working with a street kid centre in Harare. A few of the kids were from Mozambique so we regularly heard Portuguese being spoken by them.

One of the things that amazed me was despite how tough life had been for them either at home or on the streets these kids were very well mannered, always thanking people whenever something was done for them. They could certainly have taught many others a lesson or two in good manners.

We are raising our boys to understand, like the kids from Mozambique, that good manners are essential for getting by in life, but sadly it seems we're amongst a dying breed of parents that still cling to the old adage "good manners cost nothing". I'm often appalled at the lack of manners exhibited by folk, especially when out for a drink or food. Sure the barman or waiter is just doing their job but the please and thank you go a long way to oiling the machine and improving the standard of service.

It costs nothing to say please or thank you and if some scruffy street urchin from Mozambique can manage it as a reflex action then there really is no excuse for the rest of us!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

N is for News

Like many, I'm more than a little addicted to the news and read as much as possible. I say read because I rarely watch the news these days because invariably when I do sit to watch it I've read more in depth about the top stories than I'm going to get from a newsreader's soundbite. When I do get to watch the news I'm guilty of watching that triumph of style over substance known as Sky News. Oh the shame!

My favourite source of news is the BBC and their world news website is almost constantly in an open tab in Firefox. I like their in depth coverage and their lighter take on things such as their In Pictures features and the weekly news quiz to test how much attention one has been paying.

One of my frustrations with the news is that in our 24/7 culture news gets spread a bit thin and so speculation is often touted as being news when it's anything but. I particularly dislike this when a major incident has occurred and in the absence of hard facts speculation and supposition become the order of the day. Sadly all the news channels are guilty of this.

Still, I love reading/watching the news and can't see that changing anytime soon.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

M is for Macassar

Macassar is the town in which we serve the local church with Tree Of Life Church. We've been involved in Macassar for just over three years and love it. Most of our white friends here in Somerset West are horrified at the thought of us going into Macassar and very few white South Africans would dare to tread in such a place. The reality however is quite refreshing.

A bit of history...

Macassar is named after Makassar in Indonesia. A little odd perhaps but there is a logical reason. In 1694 Sheik Yussuf was deported from Indonesia by the Dutch colonists and deposited in South Africa. Sheik Yussuf settled on Zandvliet Farm in modern day Macassar. With him he brought Islam to South Africa and today his shrine in the Kramat is Islam's holiest place in the nation.

Macassar then took on a life of its own in 1963 when it was declared a coloured area under the Native Urban Areas Act of 1923. However it didn't really take off as a town until 1971 with the the forced removal of Cape Coloured people from the Helderberg Basin & Stellenbosch areas.

Today Macassar is a town of about 70000 people, it has its own post office, fire station, police station, two civic halls, a clinic and day hospital and a small shopping centre in the middle of town.

Macassar is a tough place to live for our church members as there is a very strong gang culture which also controls the drug supply. Tik addiction rates are horrific especially amongst teenagers leading to an estimated high school drop out rate of 80% and prostitution on the increase. The school drop out rate is not official but is estimated by two school principals I have spoken to in the last year or two.

Despite the hardships of life, our church members love the community and are incredibly active in reaching out to the neediest amongst them. We also recently had a couple move back into Macassar from outside because they felt that was how God was leading them. Hallelujah!

We find the people of Macassar very warm and friendly and very welcoming as we travel around and meet new folk. We're not blind to the problems in the community but believe the best of the folk we meet and we're believing the Lord for amazing things in this community.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

L is for Local Church

This is one of my biggest passions, probably my biggest after my family.

I truly believe that the local church is the hope of the nations as without the local church the awesome news of Jesus will not be taken to the far corners of the globe.

I love the church for many reasons but one of my chief loves about the local church is the fact that it is invariably deeply involved in its local community and has its finger on the pulse of community life. As such the local church is often the best placed group or organisation to respond to needs within the community. In Macassar this was acknowledged by the municipality when they set up an emergency response unit in the community. The initial meetings were attended mainly by local church leaders and many remain very involved. There really is no better vehicle for reaching local people!

Many moons ago we were involved in a feeding programme in Zimbabwe and attended World Food Programme meetings in Harare. I was appalled by what I saw. Lots of NGO workers with swanky 4X4s and business cards doing a lot of networking. We were there with two other local churches. As the meetings started each organisation would have the opportunity to introduce itself and give feedback on how much food had been procured and distributed. Organisation after organisation gave a stunning presentation but each of them gave some fairly pathetic reasons for why they hadn't actually distributed any food yet. When the local churches presented we talked about how many tons of food we'd procured and distributed and the 250,000 people our church alone had fed. we were jumped on by the NGOs who accused us of prosletysing. Whether we were or not (and we weren't) we had fed a whole lot more people between us than all the NGO's together. Quite simply my point here is that the local church is a great way to identify and target genuine need because the local church is people living in their own communities and they know their neighbours.

I also believe local church is far more effective than the mega churches that have sprung up around the place. I was looking at some photos recently of a mega church meeting in South Africa and was left wondering just who was being worshipped. From the photos it looked like it was a close run thing between the leader and Jesus. I hope Jesus won but I'm not convinced.

To paraphrase Joshua; as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD - in local church.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

K is for Kids, more specifically, my kids!

I love my kids, they truly are my pride and joy!

I'm blessed to have two great boys and even more blessed to have two boys who are so very very different. I believe the fact that they are so different is what makes them such good brothers and friends. They rarely compete with each other, they know what they're each good at and really support each other. They truly are a pleasure to be around.

This picture sums them up pretty well, Joel is a normal active boy who really enjoys exploring his world and learning new stuff. Eli lives life to the max and at times it feels like life with him is just a blur, he's a real human dynamo and I wouldn't have them any other way!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

J is for Juggling

One of my favourite things!

Juggling is great because it's really easy to learn and looks very cool, especially once you learn a few simple tricks.

I love to juggle with fire because people are easily impressed by this and I also love the diablo as again the basics are very easy and even the simplest tricks can wow an audience.

I learnt to juggle in my late 20's and have never really stopped. I'm not a great juggler but discovered that I really enjoy teaching others to juggle so I've taken my juggling equipment with me to all kinds of different places. I've taught kids in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa to juggle and my fav' was teaching some of the street kids in Zim' to juggle. Hopefully those that returned to the streets might have found some new skills to entertain and earn a few dollars.

See a few more pics of me juggling here.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

I is for Indecision

I simply can't decide what to post for I so I'll go away and think about it some more and hope that J might come along to rescue me.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

H is for Hokkie

Here we are in 21st Century and still millions of South Africans live in hokkies or shacks. The root of Hokkie comes from the afrikaans word hokke which means kennel. So what we're saying here is that millions of South Africans live in what is often just a kennel and to be honest when I look at my dog's kennel I'm reminded that millions of South Africans live in a far worse off manner than she does.

I should be clear here too and say that those millions of South Africans are Black and Coloured, with the rare exception they are not white. South Africa remains a deeply divided nation but today the biggest divide is along economic lines. Whilst Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) has made some folk very wealthy it has failed to address the basic concerns of the average man on the street.

I promised not to rant after yesterday's post so I'll not go on other than to say that I believe that true BEE should be about raising the education standard across the nation so that the playing field is levelled out and jobs are given to those that deserve them. Thankfully there are many NGO's doing some fantastically positive stuff in schools in the poorer communities and I really thank God for their dedication!

Hopefully my boys' generation will change the underlying attitudes which are so deeply entrenched in this nation.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

Whilst blogging about my passions I seem to have had a few rants so here is a post dedicated to something I despise with a passion. I promise to be more positive for H!

Guinea fowl are the spawn of satan!

If you're one of those weird nut jobs that likes them I pity you.

My loathing of these hideous creatures stems from our time in Zimbabwe. Harry our landlord kept guinea fowl along with chickens and turkeys, each of which had the ability to be annoying. However, the guinea fowl took the prize for winding me up. Between our cottage and Harry's house there was a wall and invariably every Saturday two of these brainless creatures would manage to get separated from each other on either side of the wall. Rather than walk the brief 3 or so metres around the wall they would sit there calling out to each other at the top of their lungs for hours on end. To top it off, this was right outside our bedroom window.

Trust me, the guinea fowl will never comprehend the passion with which I despise them!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

Family is one of my biggest passions!

There is nothing I wouldn't do for my family, I'd walk a million miles to help them out and protect them.

One of my frustrations with family is the perception that you cannot be a family until you have children. The church is particularly bad for this. We struggled with childlessness for 11½ years and so often in that time we were made to feel like we weren't a family simply because we didn't have children. You'd also be amazed at how many well meaning Christians would blurt out insensitive rubbish like "God obviously isn't blessing you as you're not living in His will" which was really helpful! Once we were miraculously blessed with Joel and then Eli this changed but it has always grated with me.

As I've thought on this over the years I've come to realise that this perception of family is built on an erroneous understanding of the biblical image of family. The first family in the bible was Adam and Eve. They were a complete family unit as they were. Later they had children and their family was extended, not completed! This is a subtle but important distinction.

I honestly believe that in thinking of a family as only being family when children are in the mix leads to the imbalance of child centred households which in turn leads to a lot of problems in society. I do not accept or believe that family is dependent upon children, and have a number of childless friends who are very happy and blessed in their family lives. Family is something children are born into not something they complete.

If we truly grasp that children join us in our family rather than completing our family then we move away from a child centred home to a family centred home which is much more balanced and a much better image of the biblical family.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

One of my passions is eating out which thankfully is shared by my amazing wife. We especially enjoy eating at a decent restaurant and our favourite local is Taste run by good friends Anton and ED, if you're in the area you must go!

We've never been fans of the 'date night' concept, in fact it ranks in my top 5 of all time rubbish Facebook posts. I hate it when folk post about date night, just go and get on with it, we don't all want to know about it! What really gets me though is when courting couples talk about date night. Excuse me? You're courting, every night should be date night. Go get a life!
Rant over.

For us this passion for eating out has been a great way of preserving our marriage as we make this time very exclusive (I know we've got company in the photo) free from others and the shackles of cell phones etc. It's great to get away from everything each week and just have a few hours to talk and reconnect during the busyness of life.

When can we go to Taste again?

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

As you may have noticed I'm using the Blogging From A To Z Challenge to blog about the things that I am passionate about.

One of my biggest passions is discipleship in the local church. In a secular sense we're talking about mentoring which basically means getting alongside folk and helping them to make positive choices in their lives and walking the walk with them through those choices. In the local church context it means doing just this but also helping them to know Jesus better by helping them grow in their faith and getting to know and understand the bible. 

Discipleship doesn't always mean having the answers but rather helping folk to find the answer/s for themselves whilst also supporting them along the journey.

One of my biggest thrills has been to see my dear friend Michael in Chris Nissen getting alongside a young lad and discipling him. To see someone modelling in others what was modeled for them is so rewarding!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

C has to be for Crystal Palace!

My beloved football team.

One of the things I love when the England football team play is that for a while every English football fan gets to understand something of what it's like to be a Palace fan. The England team is full of potential and is not short on talent, they are capable of winning every game they play and yet they so often fail leaving the fans disappointed yet again.

Well that's what it's like being a Palace fan week in and week out. We've got loads of potential, no end of young talent coming through the academy and we have the ability to win every game we play and yet so often fail leaving the fans disappointed yet again.

But who cares, it's Palace all the way for me!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

B is for Bikes.

My bikes are important to me as I'm passionate about cycling and I'm really proud to have passed on a love of cycling to my boys.

I have to admit to not being sure how this happened but between the three of us we have six bikes, a trail-a-bike, a few frames and a mountain of spare parts lying around the place. I guess we ought to think about sorting it out and getting rid of a few bits but if truth be told we won't and the collection will just increase.

One of the things I love most about cycling is being able to push myself to complete challenges that I never believed I would be able to. The biggest and best (so far) has to be the 2009 ABSA Cape Epic. From start to finish the whole thing is truly epic and a lot of fun. Maybe one day I'll get to do it again but for now I'm very proud of having ridden it and finished in the top half!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.

To start at the beginning is always a good thing and so here we are on April the first blogging the letter 'A'.

A is for A to Z Challenge.

For a bit more info on what this is about check out the website or go to the Facebook page.

I've decided to blog about the things that are dear to me so most of my friends will know what the letter C will be about, the rest of you will have to wait until the 3rd.

Hopefully you'll enjoy this series and apologies in advance if you get fed up with blog posts but hopefully the journey will be worth it and you'll take the opportunity to look at some other blogs participating in the challenge. Maybe you'll get hooked on a new blog that you've never seen before. Here's hoping!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2012.