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. 

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.

My boxing home is Knockout Centre in Strand, just a short journey from home, and I love this place run by the excellent Corné Blom.

Until recently we were part of the CEY family, but they needed the space for their growing Crossfit classes and the boxing side of things needed space to grow too, so it felt natural to separate the two out.

The biggest joy of now being in our own venue is that the boxing ring is back! At CEY the ring had to be sacrificed due to space demands so it's great to have it back.

Knockout Centre is the only gym in the Helderberg area with a proper boxing ring which speaks volumes about the quality of the place!

J Is For Jab

The jab is arguably a boxers most important punch, though it's probably the one with the least power behind it.

Here Conrad is ducking my jab. I'm a southpaw (that will be my U post), so I lead or jab with my right hand.

I always think one of the highlights of church is being linked with other churches and outreach projects, supporting and encouraging one another to do our best as we serve the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities.

So at The Gathering it has been a real joy to support two Soup Kitchens in Macassar with monthly food contributions.

According to Marriam Webster, Incisive means: to be impressively direct and decisive (as in manner or presentation).

I thought this was particularly apt for boxing, a sport which on the surface may appear to be one of brute aggression and the basest of instincts, but is a sport that in reality has parallels with chess. I've seen how brutal some of those chess players are!

Like many other folk I'm appalled by the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia and feel powerless to do anything, so I'm proud of my favourite band for joining with Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Boombox to raise funds for Ukraine.

The new track can be purchased here.

The Blogging From A To Z Challenge doesn't work on Sundays so I thought I'd sneak an extra H post in given that yesterday's letter was H. If you're visiting from the A2Z Challenge, my H post is here.

So this is H For Health - An Update...

Last year ended poorly from a health & fitness perspective. I already knew and accepted that between going on holiday in late September and hopefully flying to the UK for Christmas in late December I would be battling to keep the weight off, after all, what are holidays for if not a bit of indulgence...

Prior to the Covid lockdown we had never really given much thought to setting up a home gym but it ended up being a tremendous blessing to the whole family. You can read a bit about how and why we set up the home gym here.

Initially we only had the small punchbag, but a bit later we were able to get hold of a proper 50kg heavy punchbag and that made a world of difference to our home boxing sessions.

It was an all action night at The Gathering's Soup Kitchen last night.

Whilst the Soup Kitchen itself passed off peacefully as usual, thank you LORD! It was chaotic outside with one of the local youngsters getting herself run over causing the driver to crash in to a parked car.

Amazingly the ambulance actually turned up (they rarely do in these communities!) followed by a fire engine (why?!?) and eventually a traffic cop showed up too.

G Is For Guard

I touched briefly on this in my E Post on Evasion, but there is a bit more to say about the boxer's guard in the ring.

The guard is arguably the most important part of the boxers game, given that the defence and attack all spring from a good guard.

There are several different guards which can be employed by a boxer, but a good boxer will employ more than one, if not all of them at some point during a fight. 

Friday night is fight night - this used to be an exciting refrain to hear as a kid, and even now I find it quite exciting, though one rarely hears it.

At the tender age of just 54 I had my first real life experience of Fight Night as my boxing gym hosted an evening of White Collar (my W post) boxing.

My fight was with Conrad who became a good buddy and went on to be a great help to my son as he went to college to study sound engineering.

Anyway, back to fight night...

We had a great fight and though we were the lowest billed fight on the card that night, we were voted *Fight Of The Night* because we went heavy ad hard and really battered each other. It was a LOT of fun!

It has been said that boxing is the art of hitting without being hit. I can't find any attribution for this, but there is an element of truth about it.

It's easy to think of boxing as pure pugilism in which two opponents merely slug it out, hitting each other as hard as they can until one is knocked out. However, boxing is about the defense just as much as it is about the offense.

Featured Blog

Jim over on has featured Facing The Mountain once again.

This time we're part of his Awesome God in Amazing Africa post on the Missionary Blog Watch page of the website, where Jim picks up on our post: Savouring Every Last Drop, a short post as Jim describes it "Just a little simple post of thanksgiving!".

I do try and focus on the blessings as much as possible on the blog and this particular Soup Kitchen was a tremendous blessing to us as well as to our regulars.

It's always humbling and a privilege to have any of our posts picked up and shared by others, so thanks Jim!

D Is For Dad

My Dad was, is, and always will be my true hero!

Dad, born Donald Coutts Finnie in 1929 sadly died in 1984 (I was just 18) after a long battle against MS. 

I won't bore you with the long story, but in a nutshell... when I was 2 (my two brothers were 4 & newborn) we were taken in to local authority care after my Dad was imprisoned for beating up our mother's boyfriend. Sadly, due to health issues which were complicated by his MS, we never got to live with Dad again, but he used to regularly visit us in the children's home and later I would cycle to see him most weekends.

Anyway, my Dad instilled a love of boxing in me and I used to love looking at his trophies and hearing his stories, though he was most proud of his brothers, particularly Dave who was a notable professional middleweight contender in Scotland.

What a joy and a privilege it was to be able to share some of The Gathering's blessings with the three Soup Kitchens we support (two in Macassar and the one in Chris Nissen Park).

Thanks to the generosity of My Father's House, we were able to share with each of them: 25kgs of oats, 20kgs of maize meal, 2 boxes of peanut pastes and 4 boxes of Easter eggs for the kids.

Coach Cris as I know him was my first boxing coach and to this day the best coach I've had, and he is someone I have a huge amount of respect for.

Cris is the real deal! Also known as The Warrior of Faith, he is  a professional boxer and belt holder, he is currently holder of the World Boxing Federation (WBF) Welterweight International Champion. He also held the African Boxing Union Title (ABU) Champion which he successfully defended twice.  Cris now coaches boxing for the love of the sport.

A bit of background: Cris is Angolan but lives in South Africa, he's part of the Angolan diaspora caused by the civil war in the country which eventually ended in 2002. He arrived in SA as a youngster and now resides here permanently. Cris started boxing in Luanda aged 15 as a distraction from the gangs he was involved with and his passion was sealed.

It was such a blessing to have Shaddie & Liza from My Father's House ministering to The Gathering this morning.

As ever Shaddie was on fire and was stirred to share a specific word with two different members of church as well as having a word based on Daniel 3 for The Gathering.

This word fit perfectly with what God has been saying about the purchase of the building and it really stirred the hearts and faith of all our members.

Following our prayerletter which we sent out yesterday and which can be read here, we want to explain a little more, give a bit more info to the background and answer a few questions...

At The Gathering we have never wanted a building for the sake of having a building, rather, we have always wanted a venue from which we can serve the local community from Monday to Saturday with Sunday Gatherings being merely the cherry on the cake. 

B Is For Boxing

Boxing (or fighting) is probably as old as time along with prostitution and taxes.

The first record (or physical depiction) of boxing comes from around 3000BC in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). Since then there have been other notable ancient depictions of boxing and in 1650BC we have the first depiction of Boxing in front of spectators, dating back to Thebes in ancient Egypt.

The first illustration of boxers with gloves was seen on a fresco from the Minoan civilization dating back to the Bronze Age in Crete c1650BC.

The modern day sport of boxing as we would recognise it has some seriously dodgy roots and was pretty much outlawed within what we would know as *civilized society* through most of the 19th Century. In America, boxing's roots are directly traceable to the illicit world of gambling and casinos.

We all have to begin somewhere, so my beginning of the Blogging From A To Z April Challenge is "A Beginning". It's a bit of a cheat, but hey, we all have to start somewhere...

As I said in my Theme Reveal post, I'll be looking at my A To Z of Boxing. 

This isn't a definitive A to Z of boxing, rather it's an A to Z of my journey in boxing and my love of the sport, which was instilled by my Dad, himself a keen amateur boxer in his day, but more of him later in the month...