To be in England in summertime with(out) my love...
(with apologies to The Art Of Noise)

So here I am in Blighty ready for the wedding or our oldest niece tomorrow, it's going to be a lovely day and a very special occasion, I feel privileged to be here and honoured to play a tiny part in the day in walking my sister-in-law down the aisle and leading the prayers for Suzi & Luke.

It's such a blessing and a privilege to be working in partnership with other locally run soup kitchens and feeding programmes.

Currently The Gathering supports three other regular soup kitchens; two in Macassar and one in Chris Nissen Park.

This is Mercia in Macassar with the 50lt pot of food she made for feeding some of the local kids who had been off school yesterday due to the public holiday.

Today is Youth Day, a public holiday here in South Africa in which we remember the senseless slaughter of over 100 children and the thousand plus who were injured in Soweto by the apartheid regime as the kids protested against the then new law forcing them to be taught in Afrikaans rather than their own indigenous languages.

Sadly this day is barely acknowledged in the Western world and the first time we heard of it was in 1998 when we were in Tanzania, where today is celebrated as the International Day Of The African Child. Personally I prefer this more internationally minded celebration of the day, it feels more positive and more outward looking.

Home Again

After an exciting ten days back in Blighty with family to celebrate our middle niece's wedding, Paula arrived home this morning, much to the relief of all the trousers.

The junior trousers survived and were fed, watered and made it to their various commitments on time as well as getting home again safe and sound, so I'll call that a win.

"They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" Revelation 12:11

They - that's God's people aka you & me - triumphed over him - that's the Devil - by the blood of the Lamb - that's Jesus laying down his life on the cross - and by the word of their testimony - that's what God is doing in our lives. So basically, it's all about God, every last bit of it, and that is why at The Gathering we give over a Sunday every now and then to testimonies, and when we do it's an awesome time in God's presence!

No Cups

I love it when prayers are answered so specifically.

In the last week or two there's been a bit of friction between the Firgrove guys and the Macassar crowd at The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen and this has been heightened by the length of the queue and the fear of missing out.

Wedding Bells

What a joy and a blessing it was to watch the live-stream from St. George's in Weald of our middle niece Bethy getting married to Shaun this afternoon.

It was great that Paula could be there too and it was lovely to see her lead the prayers for the newly weds.

Today was an exciting day in the life of The Gathering as we had our second ever gift day for our building fund.

Having spent the last few weeks teaching in to the Biblical principles of giving, this morning I shared a short encouragement from 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 on the Grace of Giving as demonstrated by the Macedonian church as they faithfully gave to help their brothers in Christ in Jerusalem.

24 Hours

In the 24 hours since I dropped Paula at the airport I've had quite a fun time of it...

Things began with serving 140 litres of soup at The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen which was another blessed time of serving generously. This time everyone got a cup & a pot to takeaway and some even hung around for seconds.

Today was doubly exciting because not only is it a Thursday and we get to serve our regulars at The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen,but today our Matha@Home Homework Club restarted after an almost two year furlough thanks to the pandemic.

It just felt so right to have the Homework Club operating again and the kids were really enjoying themselves and the attention they were receiving from Delena our beloved facilitator.

London Clay

London Clay by Tom Chivers is an exceptional read and one of the best books I've read recently.

Whether you pick this book up because your magpie instincts are drawn the joyously attention grabbing cover, or because the subject matter piqued your interest; be prepared to enter a London you know little if anything about. A London that is riveting, absorbing and at Tom's hands, totally accessible, even if in reality most of it isn't.

This popped up on the socials, and eleven years on it's funnier than ever.

Quite how they could claim that "the bible guarantees it" is a mystery given that Jesus himself said "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven".

This billboard was plastered in the middle of the Helderberg for months, but funnily enough it disappeared very shortly after 21 May 2011.

Crazy Busy

The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen was crazily busy last night as the 100 litres of homemade Cream of Chicken Soup gone in 25 minutes!

In fact, the soup went so quickly that no one was able to have seconds and the last six people only received a cup of soup and a packet of noodles because we couldn't fill any more pots. This was quite heartbreaking, and so next week we will be dusting off our two 70lt pans to make 140 litres of soup.

The highlight of my week is always The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen, and today I am blessed to once again be making 100 litres of delicious homemade Cream of Chicken Soup.

These are the main ingredients but I'll also be adding a lot of salt, pepper, garlic, herbs & spices and some soup powder just to top off the flavour.

This is an exciting moment as we prepare to relaunch The Gathering's Maths@Home Homework Club after an almost two year break thanks to Covid.

The first eight children have been accepted and the letters are about to go out to their parents/carers to inform them that they can begin on Tuesday next week.

It has been said that if you can do what you enjoy for a living then it never feels like work.

Well that is definitely true for me and never truer than on a day like yesterday when I had the privilege and joy of delivering a load of food to the two Macassar Soup Kitchens which The Gathering supports.

I had a great 15k ride on my KH 26er along Strand beachfront promenade this morning, and got to enjoy the last hour of the solar eclipse.

It got truly spectacular as the rising sun just clipped the top of the moon on its way down making for some stunning views of it all.

Riding along the beachfront promenade is always a pleasant ride, but when there's such an amazing natural spectacle adding to the beauty of the place it takes on a whole different level of spectacular.

Super Sunday

The Gathering always feels like an awesome place to be on Sundays, but this morning that sense of excitement and expectation was heightened as our spiritual big sister Rose Roode came to minister to us.

It is always a joy to welcome a guest speaker but an absolute pleasure to welcome someone like Rose who is so anointed in her prophetic gift of ministering God's word to his children.

Today has been an immense blessing as some of The Gathering were able to go through to Simon's Town and serve at My Father's House and then join them for church at the beach ministering to some of the local homeless community that My Father's House are in relationship with through their Community Kitchen and Resource Centre.

Church at the beach was an exciting gathering and it felt like church that Jesus would have wanted to be a part of. 

Cape Town was recently heralded as the 3rd greatest city on Earth by The UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. 

In fact they went even further and declared that Cape Town is "the greatest city in the world to visit right now".  High praise indeed!

However, Cape Town wasn't ranked as the #1 city due to its appalling murder rate, which was one of the criteria taken in to consideration for each city considered.

Happy Mother's Day to all our Gathering moms and spiritual moms.

It was good to honour all the mothers amongst us as well as those who are spiritual moms and will be moms one day.

We love you all!

Paula said it best on FB so I'll leave her words here...

Business Plan

We are very excited to be in the position to hand The Gathering's Business Plan 2022 to our landlord tomorrow.

A lot of work has gone in to this, not least by Paula who put in several long hours to get our accounts up to date and ready for The Gathering's accountants to once again sign off on the church's financial accounts for 2021 & 2022.

This also means that we've been able to submit the relevant documents to the Dept of Social Development to ensure The Gathering's ongoing compliance with the terms of our registration as an NPO.

I have been hoping to write this post for a while but wasn't expecting to do it quite so soon, but I'm very happy that the day has come.

When I set out on my health & fitness journey in January 2019 I was seriously in denial about how much I weighed & unhealthy I was, and truth be told I'll never know how quite bad it got. All I can say is that after hitting 105Kgs I simply stopped weighing myself, but I know I put more weight on because I did nothing to change my lifestyle.

I'll just say it up top... this was my best A to Z Challenge yet and it was for one simple reason; I had a plan for the whole series of posts which took so much pressure off.

The other thing that made this a lot more fun than previous years was that I had all my posts scheduled to post well ahead of time. In fact the closest I ever got to being close to the actual posting date was with Y & Z both of which were completed just two days before posting.

Now I'm not renowned for being the most organized person on the planet but having a clear plan & schedule really helped me and I would heartily recommend it to anyone else participating in the A2Z Challenge.

This is one of the best books I have ever read, and on the subject of WWI it simply is the best I've ever read!

Arthur Gould Lee wrote the book based on letters he sent to his wife Gwyneth Ann, and diary entries he wrote whilst stationed in France in 1917 serving as a fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps (R.F.C.).

Subsequent to the war he was able to add in previously classified information and together this gives the book an amazingly in depth but humane account of what it was like to be on active service at that time.

This is a post that is far too long overdue (thanks for nothing Covid!) but is exciting nonetheless.

At The Gathering we had to close our Homework Club down back in March 2020 as the initial lockdown began, and due to a number of issues we have only just been in a position in which we could set about reopening it whilst also doing our best to ensure that the children attending are as safe as possible.

Z Is For Omega

So here it is... the end.

Well done to all the A2Zers who made it this far.

Ω (Omega) is the last letter of the Greek alphabet, so there's no cheating going on here.

I have used Ω previously in 2012 & 2013.

Memory Lane

In the midst of doing some admin and a few other bits this morning I also ventured down memory lane to the late 80s & early 90s with these two gems from my favourite record shop Kandi Records.

I've been after Paul Simon's The Rhythm Of The Saints on vinyl for ages, it seems to be quite hard to find and the only previous copy I had seen was missing its original inner sleeve. I'm quite particular like that!

The wait was worth it because the album did not disappoint and it's just as good as I remember it being back in the day. 

It also pretty much completes my Paul Simon collection until he releases a new album...

I'm really happy that my sons learnt to box in their youth, I wish I had.

If nothing else, learning to box ensures that they'll never be physically bullied, but what really warms my heart about them learning is the fact that it changed them both for the better. 

This was such a cute moment at The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen this evening, and somehow it just captures the heart and essence of it too.

At The Gathering we happily serve all comers regardless of their size, stature or status, we're not swayed by whether folk walked, just got out of a car or maybe got a ride to get there.

We serve everyone with the same level of grace & dignity and are as generous as we can be until the soup runs out.

I love exercise!

There, I said it. 

No I'm not mad (at least I don't think I am), but I do enjoy the rush of endorphins from a good session, they're a great fix and one that I'm in no hurry to give up on.

I'm a big fan of women's boxing. 

As a sport it is about as old as men's boxing but it has been derided, ridiculed, marginalised, mocked and banned in most countries for far too long. The boom in the sport as we know it today really began in the 1990s in the USA as women were becoming more prominent in other sports such as baseball and basketball. It's quite difficult to find any serious reportage of women's boxing prior to this because it just wasn't taken seriously and was often a sideshow at traveling circuses or conducted in less than salubrious venues.

Chew On That

Further to my post on Saturday: There's A Mouse In My Kitchen, What Am I Gonna Do about our mouse problem at The Gathering, I had some more steel plates cut to size and finished the job off by screwing them on to the store room door.

I've now placed steel plates along the length of the door and made sure they're as tight to the floor as possible.

On the corners I've bent two separate plates to fit with a flap sticking out to prevent any attempts at limbo by the mice.

I think I can say with confidence that I've won the battle here, and if they do chew through they probably deserve to be there.

Having posted about being a southpaw yesterday, today I'm posting about one of my all time favourite fighters, who also happens to be a southpaw (but the similarity ends there!).

Vasily Lomachenko (Loma) is a double Olympic champion and three-weight world champion who has been described as the best pound for pound boxer of all time, and I'm not in a position to argue with that. I love the guy!

I'm a Southpaw (and proud of it) which means I'm left handed or in boxing terms I take an unorthodox stance. This means that I lead with my right hand jab with my right foot forward as in the photo. My left foot is nicely behind my right with my weight balanced for stability, whilst my right shoulder is slightly leaning forwards with my left shoulder slightly behind. Essentially as a southpaw my stance is a mirror image of an orthodox boxer's stance.

The unorthodox stance actually applies to any stance that isn't right handed, so it covers any other stance including the southpaw stance, but today most people in boxing would understand the term to mean a southpaw or left handed fighter.

Wow, what a morning in God's presence!

At The Gathering we've been praying for numerical growth for so long that now that it's happening it seems a bit surreal, but we're incredibly in awe of our faithful prayer answering God.

As Mongezi opened our gathering we were already pretty much full, but as our gathering progressed we had to get more and more chairs out from the back so that everyone had somewhere to  sit.

We have a mouse problem at The Gathering and to be honest it's getting a little tedious and I'm truly fed up with having to clear up mouse poo from all manner of places around the building every time I go in. A Tom & Jerry cartoon this is not!

The mice come in through the shop next door's storeroom at the back, but they don't realise there's a problem because they have a cat which keeps the mice pretty invisible on their side.

Quite why the mice bother coming through to our premises, and what it is they find so exciting is a mystery as all our Soup Kitchen foodstuffs are in plastic tubs as is pretty much everything else, so the pickings for them are quite slim.

Despite this however, things are getting out of hand for both ourselves and for the launderette next door.

T Is For TKO

TKO in boxing stands for Technical Knockout and usually means that either the referee has stepped in to stop the fight, or the opponent has thrown in the towel (yes this is where the expression comes from).

So this post is a rant for Coach Cris whose most recent fight was wrongly declared as a TKO win for his opponent. 

Hold on tight because this is a disgraceful story in which certain players should hang their heads in shame...

It was a joy and a pleasure to make the soup for The Gathering's Soup Kitchen last night and it was a privilege to serve with our Gathering family to our regulars.

The queue was one of the biggest we've ever seen and folk were patiently waiting from before 5pm knowing that we don't begin serving until 6pm.

As ever the vibe was very relaxed and despite waiting for quite a long time, everyone was very grateful for what they received. 

I made 100 litres of Cream of Beef & Tomato soup for last night and though I say it myself it was rather good, and it certainly went down well with everyone because it was all gone in twenty minutes!

Sparring has to be one of the most fun things I've ever done.

It took quite a while from first stepping in to the boxing gym to stepping in to the boxing ring, but the minute I did I was hooked.

The very first time I stepped in to the ring was with Coach Cris who was very gentle and patient with me and helped me to control my temper, it's natural to get angry when you've been hit!

Well that was a funny old morning.

Paula went out and as she did so I was about to get in the shower when I heard a strange hissing noise. Initially I thought it was coming from her car, so I quickly threw my clothes back on and went out to check all was OK, but Paula had long gone, but what was that noise?!?

Respect is earnt goes the old adage, and whilst there's an element of truth in this, it also suggests that there's a time for disrespect, and I'm not so sure about that.

One of my proudest achievements as a Dad is to have raised two sons who understand the power and significance of respecting others, and I love that throughout their entire school careers we had endless comments from teachers about how respectful they both were. I've drilled my sons on respect and they know that respect is given, whether it is earnt or demanded is irrelevant.

The rules of boxing in the ring are generally governed The Marquess of Queensbury Rules. The Queensbury Rules (or Queensbury as they are generally known) is a set of generally accepted rules in the sport of boxing. 

They were first published in London in 1867, and were named after John Douglas the 9th Marquess of Queensbury as he publicly endorsed the code. However, a little known fact is that they were actually written by a Welsh sportsman named John Graham Chambers.

Prior to the adoption of the Queensbury Rules, boxing was covered by the London Prize Ring Rules and many of the rules first laid down within these are still in effect today. So rules forbidding the use of head-butting, gouging, scratching, kicking, biting or hitting a man whilst he's down were first listed in the London Prize Ring Rules. However these rules were superseded by the Queensbury Rules.

It's important to use the correct protective gear when boxing, be it on bag work, sparring or fighting in the ring.

The most obvious piece of protective equipment is the boxer's gloves. These come in various sizes which are dictated by weight. Personally I like to use 16oz gloves, but for white collar boxing match (that will be my W post) gloves are normally 12oz.

Open Mat is a term probably more closely associated with MMA than boxing but it is used to some extent in the world of boxing gyms.

At Knockout Centre (owned and run by Corné Blom a former MMA fighter) it's used to denote an open session on Saturday mornings, in which boxers can come and do their own workouts as well as spar with other willing members.

For me it's a new idea and one I really like and enjoy, especially the sparring aspect of it (that'll be my S post). 

Happy Easter!

I love the local church and I especially love the expression of church that we get to call home.

The Gathering was on fire this morning as we celebrated Christ's resurrection from the grave, a cold & hard historical fact.

The worship was awesome and it was a joy to share a word laid on my heart a few weeks ago about the three times Jesus spoke to his Father from the cross, as well as giving a clear gospel presentation for those that don't know Jesus yet. 

A boxing ring has four corners, two are owned by the fighters, these are normally the blue & red corners. The other two corners are the Neutral Corners and are normally white.

The purpose of the neutral corners is to provide a space that a boxer can be sent to by the referee, for example whilst counting down a felled opponent.

The Gathering's weekly Soup Kitchen remains the highlight of my week.

Whilst it's always a calm and laid back affair in which the church is able to be incredibly generous to those that come for food, it's different every week and you can never fully be sure of what you might see or hear during the course of it.

Each week we get a never ending stream of tales and stories about why we should give someone more of this and someone else more of that...

I'll get this out of the way up top... I know for some this will be a controversial topic given Tyson's well publicised troubles outside (and even inside) of the ring, however for the purposes of this post I'm only looking at Tyson the boxer.

For me, Mike Tyson aka Iron Mike is the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. 

Sometimes our view on stuff is clouded/tinted by the generation in which we grew up, and I was a teenager in 1980 so the early/mid 80s were deeply influential in my life. By the time of Tyson's first televised fight in Feb 1986 I was 18 and very impressed by what I saw, and the rest of my early adult life was dominated by Tyson's burgeoning career in the ring as opponent after opponent got obliterated by him.

In my previous white collar fights I've been known as Pastor Punch as I dispense the five-fold ministry to my opponent.

I always found this quite an amusing play on Ephesians 4:11 "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers" and the idea of 'give me 5', or rather giving my opponent five.

However, in view of my age and health issues, not least of which is a collapsed disc in my spine, if I do ever fight again I will be renaming myself as Dino The Lumbering Dinosaur.