Blessing Jar

I'm not a journaling kind of person and keeping a diary of any kind is something I'm appallingly bad at, so when I came across the idea of a Blessing Jar late last year I thought it was a great idea and was determined to give it a go.

So here's how it works... each time you receive a blessing from God, no matter how big or small, no matter how important or trivial it may seem, you write it down and pop it into the blessing jar. Then at the end of the year you revisit the jar and the blessings it contains.

It really is that simple!

The joy of this is that there are so many blessings that you've completely forgotten about, and it is truly a joy to look back on the year and remember just how blessed you were.

I could just follow the crowd and wish you a Happy Christmas, but I don't want to do that.

Rather, I want to take a moment to think about what the Christmas story really is.

We all know that it's about God coming down and living amongst us, experiencing our pain, grief and joy, but there's so much more going on in the story.
Legacy seems to be a hot-ticket these days as politicians and celebrities get concerned about what their legacy might be. Sadly few of those that get wrapped up in this nonsense seem to understand that we don't get to choose or decide what our legacy will or won't be. Whilst it's true that our actions and words shape any legacy, it is ultimately history with the benefit of time that will have the final say.

Thankfully Madiba never showed the slightest interest in the celebrity-esque manipulation of legacy. Madiba transcended that kind of nonsense which is why his legacy will only grow from what it already is.

So what does his legacy as it exists so far, mean to us?

Christmas Tree

The boys have spent the morning dressing the Christmas tree, which is the only thing Joel has any intention of dressing today! Eli got to top the tree off with the angel and all in all it's looking good.

Our eldest niece is on her way to the airport as she begins her marathon flight with Turkish Airlines out to join us for Christmas and we're all excited to see her again.

Let the festivities begin!

Today is a huge day here in South Africa as hundreds of thousands of citizens from every section of society join together to remember and celebrate the life of Tata Madiba.

These supporters will also be joined by an unprecedented gathering of world leaders, many of whom will be left totally bewildered and gobsmacked by the tributes that pour in to honour Madiba and his legacy.

As the world mourns the passing of a true statesman and a legend I want to address an issue that keeps rearing its ugly head here in South Africa.

There is a small minority of people who pop up on every social media site leaving comments about Madiba being a terrorist.  I'll leave you to guess the cultural background of this small group of people. For myself I get a bit tired of it and the racism that underpins this view, so here I'm going to look at this argument and expose it for what it is.

At a simplistic level (I use simplistic in the pejorative sense) Mandela was a terrorist by simple virtue of the fact that on 12 June 1964, he and two comrades were found guilty on four counts of sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government. Mandela had admitted the sabotage but denied the conspiracy to overthrow the government.  The rest as they say is history and Mandela spent 27 years in Robben Island and Pollsmoor prisons.

8th Birthday Party

What a fun afternoon we had celebrating Eli's 8th birthday.

It was all very noisy and very messy. Everything an eighth birthday party should be.

Hopefully all the kids have gone home exhausted because we certainly are!

Eli can't wait to celebrate his actual birthday on the 21st now.



This morning we had the pleasure of watching the junior school perform in their Duets Concert.

Joel was the interloper in the concert getting to perform his favourite solo piece; Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

All the children did very well and we were very proud of Joel.

Music Award

We're so proud of Joel this evening as he was awarded a Certificate Of Achievment Music Award for Junior Guitar. The Principal announced it as being for "Excellence in guitar."

Only three awards were given for music in the junior school this year so Joel is understandably very pleased with himself.

Way to go Sunshine!
Felt really pleased to spot a pair of Spotted Dikkop on the vacant plot immediately behind our house. It looks like they might be nesting there which is pretty cool.

These are quite common in the South Africa but it's the first time I've seen them so close to home.

I'm guessing a bit of derelict ground like this is perfect for it as it seeks out lizards and other small creatures to eat. Especially as the water table is saturated after the floods, which has driven many small creatures up to the surface.

Floods

The Western Cape was warned on Thursday to batten down the hatches for an approaching storm on Friday which would last through to Sunday morning. On Friday morning the clear blue skies and 25°C temperature made it hard to conceive of the impending carnage. This was rectified within a very brief period as the black clouds appeared and by mid-afternoon one of the wildest thunderstorms was right overhead. Thunder storms are quite unusual in this part of the world, so the first almighty clap was enough to set the alarm bells ringing.

Immigration

Watching the news and reading around the various news websites it's impossible just now to ignore the frenzy around immigration. Being British I naturally lean towards the British news agencies and am generally appalled by the likes of Sky News and the seemingly endless rounds of negative reports on immigrants, be they legal or otherwise.

I wasn't going to join in with this but I'm going to have a rant about immigration on Blog Action Day because I'm sick of the ignorance surrounding the issue and sick of the blatantly racist views expressed by many who haven't got a clue what they're talking about.

As a taster, I'll leave you with a question to consider before the day:

Holiday Time

We're in the midst of packing and sorting stuff ready for our annual holiday on Wednesday. No doubt there'll be the usual last minute panic with something forgotten or the sudden realisation that certain things no longer fit or work, but regardless we're really looking forward to some time out from the busyness of life.

Thankfully the house sitter is well sorted so at least Rosie will be well looked after even if we forget something else important.

20 September 2013 will go down in history as the day the earth lost a precious lady, a woman who spent her life giving and serving, a woman who loved Jesus with all her heart, all her mind and all her strength, a woman who loved her family and pursued unity at all costs.

Aunty Poppy was one of my first real friends in South Africa, very quickly she won her way into my heart and before long I regarded her as my South African mother. She loved me and my family with a passion and could never wait to see any visiting members of my own family from the UK, particularly my Dad!

Today we celebrate 22 years of married life and to celebrate, albeit a day or two earlier, we had a night away in Kalk Bay.

It was great to take some time out and just chill, free from distractions and the busyness of life. It was also great to reflect on the adventure God has taken us on in those years.

Family On A Mission Together

We had a very pleasant and enjoyable afternoon in Mitchell's Plain on Saturday with some of our close church family. It's a joy to know that we're serving our awesome God with some truly anointed people.


We're also excited about some of the changes being brought about amongst us and we can't wait to see what God has in store as his plans unfold for us all.

Exciting times!

Women's Day Outreach 2013

We recently asked you to pray for our Women's Day outreach on 9 August and are so thrilled to feedback now to you on how God awesomely answered your prayers!

Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us"; we know this in our minds but do we really actually "know" this as our experience?

Square Pegs

Having written a reflection post about our recent trip to Blighty I felt challenged to write a more truthful one. Not that I was lying in the previous post, far from it, but there was more going on than I wrote about and it's pretty important stuff.

We were both asked quite early on about what was different with this trip than previous trips back to the UK. This seemed to be born out of the fact that many folk commented on how happy and relaxed we appeared.

From Britain With Love



Tonight at our home group meeting we'll be showing the short film we made of the various responses folk gave to camera about our Roadshow presentations.

All we can say to those of you that spoke to camera is "Thank You!".

Been & Gone

We can't quite believe that after months of planning and preparing for our UK trip it's now over and we've been back home for a couple of weeks. Life is now back into its usual cycle of school runs etc. but we'll attempt to put a coherent reflection together.

We really did hit the ground running and by the end of the first week we were exhausted but absolutely thrilled with what we'd achieved.

The Final Curtain

Last night saw the conclusion of our Facing The Mountain Roadshows as we gave our final presentation to a select gathering of folk right here in Weald village.

It was a truly great evening with an incredibly diverse mix of people from the vicar who was responsible for Paula getting saved through to a complete stranger and his cousin who had seen the event advertised in the parish magazine.
Fantastic!

London Town

I've just had a quick trip out on to the roof of Susan's house to take in the spectacular views over London.

In this photo the Shard certainly makes it's mark upon the capital.

Below it's interesting to see the view of the All England and to get the close ups of the TV camera crane.


Half Time

We're really enjoying our Roadshow events and are particularly enjoying the variety of different contexts in which we get to present about Tree of Life and our amazing friends in South Africa.

Today we were in the well heeled town of Cobham and had the privilege of sharing our Roadshow with a lovely bunch of folk from St. Andrew's, Oxshott.

It's always refreshing to spend time with folk who pray for us faithfully and who ask insightful questions. It makes our life so much easier.

Many moons ago there was a certain brand of cider with the sales line: "What a refreshing change".

We reckon that this could be a good way to describe Christians Abroad.

In our recent meeting it was such a pleasure to be asked things like:
"How can we partner together to better serve the church?"
"What are your expectations of us?
"What is Tree of Life hoping to gain from this trip?"
These are refreshing questions to be asked by the leaders of an organisation that really cares about and for us and they are questions we've never once been asked before!

Our favourite though has to be:
"How can we serve you better?"
Excuse me? You mean we don't have to feel grateful and privileged to be associated with you?

Now that truly is a refreshing change!
..But we're not out!

Rather we've just finished our third Roadshow and once again it went really well. We were with Tuesday @ 2 a group of older folk who are a powerhouse of prayers.

We've been thrilled by the turnout for each of them so far and it's been great to reconnect with many old friends.

Aunty Poppy

We were saddened to learn this morning that Aunty Poppy is again seriously ill and has been admitted to intensive care.

She recently had a major heart attack and home life is very hectic and stressful for her.

Please pray for Aunty Poppy!

One More Sleep!

It hardly seems possible but it's now less than 24 hours until we get on the plane for Blighty.

I guess we're at that point where things that haven't been done aren't going to get done.

Thankfully our Roadshow presentation is all finished, though that hasn't stopped me from checking it every few minutes to make sure it still works. Must switch tablet off!

FTM Roadshows

We've begun sending out invites for our forthcoming Roadshows in the UK.

If you're near one of the venues on the dates above please drop in, we'd love to see you!

For more details Like us on our Facebook page where more details will be posted.

Scary Thought

Here's a scary thought...one month from today we'll be boarding a plane for our UK trip.

It's not that the UK is scary, though watching Sky News we're often left feeling like strangers in a land that once was home. The scary bit is just how much work we've got to do before we board that plane.

The 2013 Blogging From A to Z Challenge was a lot harder than last year, mainly because it crept up on me and I had failed to plan ahead so on the 30th March I found myself desperately looking for a theme and subjects for it. Will I never learn?!

Sadly time was a real issue and I failed dismally in my attempts to spend time looking at other blogs. I managed to visit everyone that left a comment on a post but beyond that I probably only blog hopped on a two or three occasions.

Z Is For Ω


"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First 
and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
Revelation 22:13

Like the English Z, Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet and a fitting way to sign off from this year's A to Z Blogging Challenge.

It's been a lot of fun for me and good to give the blog some long overdue attention.

Hope you've enjoyed it too!

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This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

Y Is For Youth

If you're of the praying persuasion please pray for us at Tree of Life as we have a great set of young adults and kids who join us faithfully every Sunday.

Sadly because we're still quite small and lacking in resources we're not able to offer them much. In fact we pretty much ignore the young adults amongst us. Not because we want to, far from it!  We did ask a couple to lead our youth work but sadly personal issues have prevented them from getting involved and we're a bit stuck as a church.

So please pray for good solid folk who could take a lead in this for us.

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This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.
We don't have a xylophone at Tree of Life.

In fact we have nothing that resembles a worship band in any way shape or form and yet we have some of the most liberating and meaningful worship I've ever experienced.

I remember several years ago when Matt Redman brought out his brilliant song The Heart of Worship and many churches responding by stripping their worship back to basics.

*Updated* Tree Of Life has had a website.

It's not a very good one but it's a start.

We're not very good at keeping it up to date but it's still a good starting point for finding out a bit more about the church and for contacting us.

Feel free to take a look.

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This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

V Is For Verse

I've posted before on my favourite verse and it remains my favourite.

John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world".

I love the simplicity and the matter of factness about this verse. In this world you will have trouble. Not you might have trouble but you will have trouble. I always think of the verse when the age old discussion about why bad things happen to good people debate. Quite simply it's not about bad things happening to good people but rather just the simple fact that in this world you/we/me will have trouble. End of.

U Is For Unity

Unity is a word so often bounded around but with seemingly little meaning, and yet in the church context it's incredibly important.

One of my joys in church life is marveling at how seemingly disparate groups of people can be brought together through genuine love.

I'm not aware of any other aspect of life that can bring the unlikeliest people together for the good of themselves and their communities. Local church is amazing!

At Tree of Life we have South Africans, Angolan and Brits amongst us which makes for a great sense of diversity and I believe this reflects the nature of heaven.

Being part of Tree of Life is truly a privilege and a blessing. To be a part of the leadership team doubles that privilege and blessing!

I'm not going to repeat last year's post on Tree of Life but rather talk about the joys of the leadership team.

We're very blessed to serve alongside Gerrit & Sharon and Chris & Veronica, two quality couples with huge hearts for Jesus and the community.

I love Sundays!  

When I first became a Christian many moons ago I loved church. The church I was involved with was a new plant so things were exciting and we were on the cutting edge of things.

Since then my love of church has waned to the absolute low of 2010.

Between 2004 and 2010 I used to joke that we lived in the most beautiful place on earth and had the worst church life possible. I guess it's true, for every action there's an equal and opposite re-action.

Our faith rests on this one fact; Jesus' resurrection from the dead. So much so that even Paul acknowledged in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith".

So are we wasting our time?

I would argue that no we're not wasting our time.

John's gospel account of Jesus death is quite clear that when the Romans pierced Jesus' side blood and water flowed out. Anyone with a modicum of medical knowledge knows that in death blood and water separate. So we know that Jesus was dead. Also, he's been brutally attacked in his run up to the actual Crucifixion which would have helped to hasten his death.

This is totally unconnected to my theme but I was a bit stumped for this one and I really didn't want to steal yet another post from last year!

So Q is for Queen Size, as in bed.

Being a Brit I fully understand why a king size bed is smaller than a queen size bed and the reason makes a lot of sense. Traditionally the king's bed was a place of business, it had a perfunctory role. The queen's bed however was used by her for luxuriating in and being pampered, hence the size difference.

I really enjoy the Coffee With Jesus cartoons from Radio Free Babylon and I especially like this one about Pontius Pilate.

I've always felt that Pilate got a bit of an unnecessarily unfair press for his role in Jesus' crucifixion.

Oom Paul is a great man!

At 86 there's not much in life he hasn't seen and having been married to Molly for a little over 60 years with loads of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren there isn't much he hasn't done.

I've had the privilege of sitting with Oom Paul on a few occasions and consider him to be my very own Nelson Mandela.  I've never met Madiba and am highly unlikely to ever have the chance to, but sitting with someone like Oom Paul is just as great a privilege!

You can choose which name of God you like the most, for me I like Father.

I had a dream through my childhood that one day I would live with my dad but I was robbed of this dream at 18. Thankfully shortly after my dad died I was introduced to my heavenly father and now my dream has been fulfilled more than I could ever have hoped for.

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This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.
M is for Macassar

I wrote a post on Macassar last year and rather than steal yet another post from last year's challenge I thought I'd have a go at writing something a bit different.

We still serve Tree of Life church in Macassar and spend a lot of our time in the community and we still love it! So in that regard nothing has changed and as a church we are still passionate about winning the community for Christ.

Tree of Life meets on Sundays at Macassar High school so it seems appropriate to focus on education in Macassar.

Education is generally a bit of a hot potato in South Africa and nowhere are the difficulties more pronounced than in Macassar.

L Is For Life

L is for life and abundant life at that! John 10:10 "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly"

L could also be for the person I'm blogging about and it could also be for Lady because she is a remarkable lady. I guess I should also count this post as part of my Heroes Of The Faith series.

L is an amazing lady! She has two sons, both at high school, she's a hairdresser and lives with her mother. all quite unremarkable, but that's one of the things I love about the true heroes in life.

Here's a question for all church leaders...

Are you kingdom building or empire building?

Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God 116 times across the four gospels, so it was obviously an important part of his message. Much of what we do in church is about building and extending the kingdom for His glory. Sadly this sometimes goes awry.

J Is For Jesus

I make no apologies in stating that as far as I'm concerned it's all about Jesus.

Whilst there seems to be a growing fashion to remove Jesus from church as certain leaders gain celebrity status I have to say that for me and Tree of Life Church, Jesus is and will remain central to all that we do.

Lecture over!

I is for Indecision though arguably it should be for Déjà vu.

I couldn't come up with anything for I so I'll go away and hope that J might come along to rescue me.

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This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

This is a stolen /plagarised post from last year's challenge.





I'm taking a break from my theme to look at a hot news topic.


I'm not going to rejoice or gloat in her death (I've probably already said too much on Facebook and will no doubt get into trouble for this post) but neither will I mourn her passing. She was a deeply divisive politician and depending on your political persuasion she's either the saviour of the UK or the devil incarnate.

"There but for the grace of God go I" 

This is a quote attributed to John Bradford (1510-1555), an evangelical preacher and prebendery of St. Paul's cathedral. Though there is no actual evidence to support this attribution I'm sticking with it because it's so fitting given that he is said to spoken these words whilst he was in prison.

The story goes that one day as he was looking out of a window in the Tower of London he saw another poor soul being lead to his execution and uttered this now immortal phrase which has subsequently been used and abused to the point that it has entered the common vernacular of many cultures and languages around the world.

I've always found fellowship to be a bit of an odd word, preferring instead to talk about friendship. However in church circles it doesn't always work.

Fellowship is about sharing similar interests, ideals, or experiences which is pretty much what we do when we're with fellow Christians.