The most important post I will ever write

I do not think I am wrong with the title of my blog.  I have thought about the topic for a long while now.  Actually it is a question that has been haunting me for nearly 20 years and I could not find an answer.  About two months ago, it hit me while I was explaining something else to a brother. What was it that bothered me?  Christianity in general :-)  The poor quality of it.  The “what is wrong with the Church” question.  Everybody else seems to also have the same problem and of course “the answer” as I wander around on the internet.  It tends to be more holiness and obedience on one side and more grace and love on the other side.  A-ha!! You thought that this was what this blog is about?  No and yes.

Very early in my walk I had the need for someone who walked before me, but there was no such person.  We as a group of young Christians were on our own.  The minister could not really help.  He was “up there”, not really down here.  And he had to take care of the whole congregation.  How did the one pastor respond to me?  “I simply do not have the time to be friends with everybody.”  And he was right.  So then….. there were the next bunch of people visible on Sundays.  The deacons and the elders and the music people.  They were there mostly as a function.  To collect money.  To pray for people.  To sing.  For many of them, it was part of the job.  Job done….. Christianity into the background.  The personal touch of leading young Christians to maturity… non-existent.  During the week, there was no visible contact with church members, except perhaps Wednesday evenings.   The babies had to take care of the babies.  The generational maturity discipleship path…… non-existent.

Then there were of course the successful Christians with the winning example formula that everybody had to follow.  Be like me!!  Trust God!!  The victory is yours!!  How to be prosperous!!  The “God came through for me” witness in front of the church.  I should know…. I was “up there” for a very real witness once.  I would call it the “results faith”.  Look at how-it-worked-out witness.  God works-in-wondrous-ways faith.  Do I sound a little bit cynical at this stage?  Actually I am not, I believe some of it.  Which of it?  Does it matter?  The holiness and obedience side will immediately jump up and say “Hell yes, it matters what you believe!!”  I’m glad you think so…  but there is something more important than correct belief.  (I can hear some of the buts….)  The problem with the triumphant Christian life were always those in the shadows.  The lonely ones.  Those that were struggling.  Those people where the “easy answer” dried up.  Where Job meets world.  Where God does not not do what we want Him to do.  And yes, there are many of those in the church.  What do we give them when words are lost in the pain?  How to be a winner?  The quick prayer of victory?  Do we as the church really believe that to reach discipleship maturity takes the victorious-2-minutes-of-prayer route?

As you can guess by this time, I want to include my mantra, discipleship, in the discussion.  The structured part of church does not have the knowledge, know-how or the will for any meaningful discipleship.   How can I say that?  Well, for one thing, the structure does not lend itself to a discipleship environment.  The Sunday message is the high point of the week while the building is seen as a special meeting place.  (I am not against these things.  They are however hindrances of a discipleship life.)  As long as the focus is a special meeting, we will miss Jesus is the everyday ordinary life where He was/is fond of living in.  If our expectation is for a Sunday meeting with God, well then discipleship is not for us.

So what is bothering me?  It’s a phenomena that I call “weird-Christianity” or “correct christianity” and it happens all over the Christian landscape.    Let me paint one typical picture I’ve seen repeating a lot in the organised part of church(Charismatic circle).  A person/s meet Christ and pursues God with everything.  They literally shine with God’s glory and they are wonderful to behold.  They cannot seem to get enough of Him.  They love Him with all their heart, soul and with all their power.  Nothing can stand in their way.  They get a lot of talk time and for a time in their lives, everything turns into black and white, right and wrong, for me and against me.  Sin is dealt with and revivals and mini-revivals can break out around them.  The Bible is seen as a book of Life.  It is a wonderful time.

After a while (1-3 years) however the glory begins to fade and the persons start to immerse themselves in the Bible as a source of “deeper knowledge of God.”  This is where the weird and the correct starts to come into being.  Somehow the person (correctly) contends with the fact that “there has to be more.”  Who can phantom the Mystery that is God?  Verses are flung together and theories are formed.  Daniel and Revelations are studied.  Just who is the beast?  When will the second coming be?  Just who is the remnant?  The theories that are formed start to exclude certain people.  The people in the excluded camp gets more in numbers as new criteria for holiness is found.  Sometimes, to get closer to God, people opt for the Jewish route.  The Sabbath, the seasons, the feasts, the customs and the law is explored, all in an effort to unlock the “deeper things”.  And of course people are divided in camps.  Us versus them.  The people of right belief versus the people of little effort.  They love God’s judgement and cannot wait to tell people of God’s judgement on the church/specific group/pastor/country/etc etc.  Pastors and ministers will know these people all to well, because they have become argumentative.  They will begin to speak against the church and the pastor and eventually they will leave in a bitter fit of anger.  Sometimes they will be thrown out.  Mostly they become loners or find a similar-belief small group which empowers them further to find the “deeper things of God”.

Why does this happen?

I believe the answer lies in discipleship or more accurately the absence of discipleship.  What is discipleship again?  The proses by which the character of Christ is formed in a person, helped by brothers and sisters who have walked the walk and continues to walk in the footsteps and example of Jesus in discipleship.  And Jesus was known as?….. lots of things, but in the end the disciples found out that it was as servant that Jesus would reveal Himself.  It was the washing of the feet that got to them.  How can the Son of God do such a lowly thing?  Servant…….servant-hood.  What did Jesus say?

That’s the way it is with the Son of Man. He did not come to be served,  but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many people.”

Now, servant-hood is not glamorous at all.  It involves time and effort to serve the “the least of these” where Jesus is usually found.  Remember the sheep and the goats?  They were separated on their actions and not on correct-belief.  There is something more important than faultless belief.  I think I will dare to say that the character of Christ is ONLY established in servant-hood.  The Mystery of Christ is ONLY found in servant-hood.  The “deeper things of God” are only found during and in servant-hood.  The biggest lie in the church is that we think we can speak the truth without being a servant. 

Servanthood

You can read my previous sentence and dismiss it, but I am very serious.  The action of serving keeps us from becoming hypocritical.  The action of serving frees us from ourselves.

Why is this important?  Look at the holiness and obedience grouping of people in the church.  They quote scripture, revealing how important obedience is to God.  Lots of people are excluded.  Especially those who do not believe according to Scripture.  The pride is almost palatable.  Thank God, I am not like those people.  Where are their focus?  It is definitely NOT servant-hood and how do I know this?  No quotes about servant-hood on their Facebook walls and blogs.  Only perfect obedience will do and humility is a topic to be talked about.

And the feel good Christians who changed the gospel into a me, me, me message.  God came to serve me.  Therefore I am important.  I can now feel good about myself.  Whoo-hoo!!  God wants you to have your best life now.  You are beautiful.  You are affirmed.  This is about you!!  You love the message of freedom and grace because it gives you an excuse to sit there and soak in the warmth of God’s good feelings about you.  Where are their focus?  It is definitely NOT servant-hood and how do I know this?  No quotes about servant-hood on their Facebook walls and blogs.  Only quotes on freedom.

It was Jason Bradley that summed up the church of today perfectly.  We want to be loved, but we do not want to be bothered. 

Servant-hood is a non-negotiable.  It helps us to find Christ in the grind of life and it helps with the formation of His character in us.  And I am sorry to say, but servant-hood is accomplished by looking in the eyes of a person and holding them.  Serving a group without touch is not serving.  Please, please tell me where the idea comes from that spending an hour with people a week constitutes discipleship.   We have hands, arms, legs and feet to serve.

The reason why we have weird-christianity is because people are not led into servant-hood by mature believers by example.

The reason why christianity in general seems off?  People are not led into servant-hood by mature believers by example.

And the reason why servant-hood is lacking?  No discipleship.

And if we were wondering…. servant-hood will cost us.

Perhaps the next revival is around the corner…. when we as church begins to serve as Christ has served.

Philippians 2:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
7 rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!

Look at those verses.  Study them.  “Nature of a servant”  “I am the vine, you are the branches.”    Godly life is found in Jesus who came as a Servant.

Sin, really?

I’ve watched and listened to Christians as they talk and blog about sin and I am constantly amazed how badly we understand it. (I could be wrong of course :-)  )  We have the Calvinist theology that clearly states that sin has affected all of man and of course woman.  They say we are completely sinful and cannot do any good.  If we do good, it is God that causes us to do good.  I do not really believe this view because we have free will.  (And yes I’ve read all the arguments on free will, but for me free will means to choose …. freely without interference….. something God seems to value.)  In anyway, back to the Calvinist view of sin.  There are a lot of verses that seem to back this view.  “Slaves to sin” in Romans 6:20, “all committed sin and therefore stand guilty before God, deserving of death” in Romans 6:23, “there are none righteous, no, not one” in Romans 3:10.   Looking at these verses it seems like we need a Saviour and we would be correct.  We are indeed sinners.  We need Jesus.  Of course Calvinism takes the extreme route and state that we are utterly incapable of believing in, obeying, or pleasing God.  Something that must baffle David because God choose him because he was “a man after His own heart”.  (This was before Jesus.)  There are other Old Testament examples as well of God being “well pleased”.

So, what is sin and the results of sin?  It is here where we get a little vague.  We can point to the obvious sins of commandment 6 – 10.   Killing, adultery, stealing, false witnessing and coveting.  (Coveting…. how difficult is THAT one?…or is it only me?)  We can further point to specific sins like those in the picture below.

20041001-sins

The seven deadly sins,  identified a long time ago that were considered deadly for the Christian life.  It seems they are just as deadly today, but are probably tolerated a little more today than in 590 AD.  Who talks about sin any more? (Yes, you do Calvinists – Thank you)  Some say sin is a 180 degree turn away from God.  Repenting is the turning back.  Sounds good, but even when we turn back, we continue to feel the effects of sin and we sin.

Why is that?  I believe sin had three consequences.

One – it took us away from God’s presence and we long to get back.  That is where religion comes from – man’s attempt to get back to God.

Two – we became the centre of living.  All we do is motivated to promote the self.  Follow the rules… for self protection.  Break the rules… for self expression.  Any of the following sound familiar?  Self-belief, self-confidence, self-help, self-doubt, self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-value, Self-efficacy, self-concept, self-image, self-defence, self-employed, self-inflicted, self-respect, self-analysis.  Why don’t we take a selfie?  You must love yourself.  Accept yourself as you are.  All good advice.  All to promote the self.  This is so deeply ingrained in us that Jesus told us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.  The highest form of love we can express is to love others as we love ourselves, mostly because we are very good at loving ourselves.   Ever heard of Karma?… do good things…. why?…so that good things will return to you… What is the Christian version again?  Cast thy bread upon the waters…

Three and this is where I believe Calvinism falls short – sin inhabits the outcome and consequences of our actions.  What do I mean by this?  Our correct believing, good intentions and actions do not guarantee the expected outcome. Perhaps an example… Let’s say I have money, but do not want my kids to grow up as spoilt brats.  They have to work for an allowance.  They might perceive me as being ungenerous and begin to resent me.  My intentions are pure, but the consequences turn out different to what I expected.  Everything we believe and touch have this problem of decay.  This means you can confess Sola Scriptura and TULIP and drive people away from God.  Right confession seldom produce Godly love.  You can proclaim freedom for the captives and then be very surprised when they start to act the same as the abuser.  Of course their intentions will pure because they only want to free others.  I see this in a lot of Christians coming out of distressing circumstances or abusive congregations.  They hit back.

How can we counter these three consequences of sin?  The answer of course lies with Jesus.

One – Jesus is the end of all religion.  We cannot come to God by effort.  We have to die, not just our bad habits but also the good we do.  We will not see what Jesus did as long as we rely and depend on our ability to do the right thing and do good.  The sad part is that we fight against our “bad” nature and rely on the good we can do to promote God’s kingdom.  This relying on our abilities also have to die.  Jesus came to raise the dead, not only the bad.  If you do not understand, read here…

Two – It lies somewhere in John 3:30. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  This directly impacts the self.  What did Jesus say?  John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.  When we die(one), we get implanted into Him.  There is now another source out of which we can live.  The self is not the only source any more.  His love will begin to flow through us.  What did He tell His disciples?  You must love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.  See the shift from loving your neighbours as you love yourself?  Jesus did not just come to restore relationship with God, but also established a new way of living.  “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU” is not merely words.  It shows a Love that goes far beyond our ability.  His died for those that rejected, betrayed and crucified Him.  Do we have a love like that?  He loves the lost.  He does the illogical thing and leaves the 99 for the stray one.  Do we understand why?  He throws a party when the prodigal who wasted his inheritance and dragged the family name through the mud, comes home.  Is the party not more waste?  Who does that?   What does His love looks like?  1 Corinthians 13 provides some answers.   It seems His love forgives 70 times 7.  It seems like His love can be relentless and does not condemn.  It does not change.  Read here…  He came as a servant and served.  We can only experience some of His love when we become servants and serve single moms and dads, orphans, the elderly in old age homes, the homeless, those in jail, the least of these, etc.  Do we believe this?  Ever heard what Jesus said about the sheep and the goats?  Who were allowed to enter heaven… those who believed the right things or those who served?  “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU” is God’s healing for a broken world, but we will only see and experience it when we serve one another. Servant-hood is not optional for Christians.  AND I’m talking about serving people in a one to one ratio.  Where you have to look in each other’s eyes.  Human contact.  Where hands, arms and feet serve.  Serving a group does not count.

Three – We have to recognise our shortcomings, limitations and our tendency to stray.  We have to understand that we have a limited capacity for understanding of our Father.  He constantly amazes and does not follow a set of rules when dealing with us.  He is the ultimate Mystery and we will never grasp Him on this side of life.  We cannot be sure how He will act in situations.  This leaves me with two words that we have to consider when dealing with God.  Humbleness and brokenness.  I consider brokenness to be the most important one.  I believe that sin makes us and our immediate environment defective.  Whatever we touch, feel and believe are also defective.  This is why the outcome of good intentions are not always good.  We are broken.  We love as broken people.  We act as broken people.  We believe as broken people.  Therefore we have to leave room for error and acknowledge the fact that we do not know it all.  Humbleness is not just a nice idea.  It is an acknowledgement of our position before God and a witness to the world.  If you shout Sola Scriptura, know that your Sola Scriptura is broken, because you are involved.  If you believe in freedom, know that your freedom is broken because you are involved.  If you have a good cause to fight for, know that down the line your good fight will probably have negative consequences in ways that you never imagined.  It is therefore vital to be humble before God and fellow man.  If we shout at each other over doctrinal differences, know that our shouting is broken and usually there for all to see. I don’t know why, but God loves and uses broken people as His image bearers and through Jesus equips us to be His arms, hands and feet in a world bent on glorifying the self.

Sin is not a popular topic these days, but it is still our problem.  It permeates our lives and our surroundings.  We are naive if we believe we are immune to its effects.  It is especially the people who believe they found the “whole truth” that steps into this trap.  People who do not take sin seriously also miss the seriousness and lingering effect of sin through their actions.  It will do us good to acknowledge our brokenness and to live humbly before God.  For the sake of those around us🙂

Missing it

This post might be a little “all over the place”.  It has been a long time since I’ve blogged and I am out of practice.

(Part 1) I think this post started with the shooting of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.  The incident sparked protests across America and in the aftermath a lot was written on inequality and the state of discrimination and indifference in America.  Two of my favourite bloggers, Kathy Escobar and Jason Bradley also added their thoughts in the aftermath.  You can read their thoughts here and here.  I replied to Jason, but because my writing can suddenly take a life of its own and I am not always very good at communicating, I gave as Jason put it a hyper-spiritualized response :-(  Oh well, so much for the art of sticking to the topic.  Both their posts revealed insight and awareness on the issue of privilege.  Privilege puts one in a position to help the downtrodden.  It puts you in a position to help those with no voice to speak…… and be heard.  Privilege gives you a platform from which you can launch helpful interventions.  Christians in the West are mostly privileged and it can use their advantage to help those less fortunate.  I think Jason nailed it and Kathy’s sensitive approach is needed.

(Part 2) It was my hyper-spiritualized response that bothered me. Why did I go off track? Perhaps it is my dwindling attention span as I get older? I wrote the following..

I do not believe that privileged people can give unprivileged people anything of value. It is the other way around. In God’s kingdom it is the unprivileged that knows how the kingdom work. The privileged needs to be between the unprivileged to experience the kingdom of God and learn how to share when you have nothing to give and love when hope and faith is gone. Those with power, trust in it and as long as they do, cannot understand the Kingdom of God.
We think that people who have, are privileged. We are wrong. God will reveal His Kingdom, but it will not be through us, the privileged.

“Privileged people can not give unprivileged people anything of value.”  Sheesh, what was I smoking? Of course they can and I was off topic. I talked to God about it.  Where did this left field response come from?

It took me a while, but I finally figured out there is something in my heart that has been growing and I did not have the words to express them.  Jason’s blog helped me.  Let me see if I can express it more clearly.

It starts with Matthew 4:17 where Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is here or at hand depending on the translation you use.  We further see that the Kingdom of God is bound to the Person of Jesus.  In Luke He says “For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God or heaven throughout the gospels.  I am not going to go into great detail on the Kingdom of God except to say that it is here, now.  (There are people who differ from me on this.)

Anyway, in Matthew 19:16-25 we have the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus and asks what he must do to obtain eternal life.  First Jesus tells him to keep the commandments.  The young man affirms that he is keeping them and then Jesus tells him to sell all he has and follow Jesus.  He went away sad because he had a lot of stuff.  Then Jesus said this, “23 Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24″Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  The young man missed the Kingdom right in front of him.

This brings me back to privilege.  It seems from this passage that privilege blinds us to the Kingdom here and now.  The rich young man could not enter a kingdom because he could not see it.  The same with us who are privileged now.  We do not see the Kingdom because our privilege is blinding us from what God is doing now.  Jesus told the young man to get rid of his privilege.  He could not.  Can we?  Can I?  This is where people will tell me that I am taking this to far.  This is not what is meant by these passages. You will say to me that you are already a Christian and thus already in the Kingdom.  Yes and no.  We can be part of something and still miss the essence of it.  The older brother of the prodigal could not see even when he was next to the Father.  Our privilege blinds us.

Perhaps this post is born in the inequality I see in the church and the part that irks me, is that haves (privileged) are the only ones that can give.  It is the well spoken, the good looking, the athletic, the bold, the talented, the clever, the successful, the miracle and the example who are active visible part of church.  Power, wisdom and knowledge flows from them to those less fortunate in the congregation.   What can God do through the less fortunate or are the less fortunate only present to give the haves function and meaning?    WHAT CAN THE POOR GIVE THE PRIVILEGED????  Well, I believe the poor can give you the full Kingdom of God, but you will have to leave privilege to see it.  Let me give a few verses and you can explain them back to me.

Matthew 5:3
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 6:20
Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Matthew 25:45
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Sheep and the goats.)

1 Corinthians 12:22
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

We have to stop believing that privilege is an enabler in the Kingdom.  It is not.  It blinds us.

Children share

I’ll end with my hyper-spiritualized response, this time within context.

I do not believe that privileged people can give unprivileged people anything of value. It is the other way around. In God’s kingdom it is the unprivileged that knows how the kingdom work. The privileged needs to be between the unprivileged to experience the kingdom of God and learn how to share when you have nothing to give and love when hope and faith is gone. Those with power, trust in it and as long as they do, cannot understand the Kingdom of God.
We think that people who have, are privileged. We are wrong. God will reveal His Kingdom, but it will not be through us, the privileged.

If we as church do not understand this, we will always struggle be be light and salt for the earth and we will miss the Kingdom here and now.

The people formerly known as …

The one thing that bugs me as a librarian about the internet is the temporality of it all.  Here one day, gone the next.  (I will have to do something with my blogroll.)  Sometimes you read something that is valuable to you.  Actually it is more than valuable.  It forms you.  It becomes part of you.  God spoke through a stranger and you heard the King of the Ages vibrate in the words.  Sometimes, the wisdom of fellow wanderers are staggering and their intimacy with God like sunshine on a cold morning.  Some of us shared our grief and struggles and those reading found out that we are not alone in our pain.

But unfortunately it is on the internet and it could be gone tomorrow😦

One of the series that came from the blogosphere was “The people formerly known as …” It started with Bill Kinnon and spread from there.  It is slowly starting to disappear from the internet and I thought I would like to prolong some of the posts in the series.  Especially those that meant a lot to me at the time.  So, I collected them and made a PDF document that you can download.  I believe they are still relevant and perhaps we can read them together🙂

The people formerly known as …PDF

Enjoy

Thanks to Bill Kinnon, Lyn Hallewell, John Frye, Brother Maynard, Barb Peters and Heidi Daniels for your journeys.

Prone to wander

John Acuff at Stuff Christians like talked on my birthday about a worship leader that changed the words of an old hymn.  The original words that were changed were these….

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

He changed it to a more victorious “Prone to worship, prone to praise.”

Why is it that we have the compulsion to equate God with success?  We are currently going to a medium sized congregation and the message Sunday after Sunday is “God will make things better”  And don’t get me wrong, I know God is with the leaders and the members of that congregation.  But I struggle with that kind of message severely.  Perhaps it’s because it’s one side of the coin and that side is held up every Sunday for everybody to see.  I believe that this causes the church a lot of harm.  Perhaps it’s because discipleship is mostly absent from the church.  With discipleship you see the mess.  Feel the frustration.  Experience the doubt.  Sense the pain.  Enjoy the laughter.   Guess what the hell is going on.  Practice boredom.  Wasting time.  Prone to wander……etc. etc.

Perhaps it’s just me.  It’s sometimes easier to not believe.  Then we don’t have to struggle with a God that’s not doing His part.  I am His child and I want good things to happen but it seems that He is absent from all my good plans.  Complain, grieve, lament, moan, mourn, regret, sing the blues, weeping.  Do we have to do these things away from Sunday’s?  Where nobody can see us?  Is Sunday the victorious day and all the other the real life days?  Could be.  Perhaps I’m out of sync.

John ends his post by saying the following.

We tell each other we’re not prone to wander.
We act like our days of falling down are forever behind us.
And we create environments where no one can be honest.
You can’t share your whole life with somebody when the expectation is that you don’t fail.
You can only share the victories. And if you don’t have any victories that day or week, you better act like you do. Because as a Christian, you shouldn’t be prone to wander. And if you have, you just might not be a real Christian after all.

I love Jesus.  That is why I struggle with Him every day.  You can join me whenever you want to🙂

Olympics

I’m watching a little bit of the Olympics.(Next time I’m going to take 2 weeks leave and watch until my eyes begin to resemble squares.)

One thing I’ve noticed is the difference of the attitudes between the short distance athletes and long distance runners.  The short distance athletes are more arrogant.  People make a lot of fuss about them.  They walk the walk and talk the talk.  It’s almost like they are saying.  Look at me.  I’m going to dazzle you.  Leave you speechless.  When I’m finished everybody will love me.  There’s a spring in their step.  There a buzz in the stadium.  Almost everybody knows who Usain Bolt is……but the 5000m, 10000m and the marathon runners?  A polite wave to the crowd and thats about it.  Not alot of fuss.  Why don’t they have the same arrogance or even greater display of superiority?   They run a lot farther.  They know more about endurance.  But the world, it seems, has a greater affinity for the quick.  USAIN BOLT IS THE FASTEST MAN ON EARTH!!!  Yes, but only under 400 metres.

This got me thinking……..what kind of person exites the church?  The flashy, charismatic and the fast or the more endurance inconspicuous type of people?  When you think along those lines, what happens when you put the quick and the fast in charge of the distance and vice versa?  There is certainly a place for all of us in the church, but I believe we also tend to gravitate more to the “flashy”.  It’s kind of natural for us.  But perhaps, we should look around us and also find the quiet endurance brothers and sisters.  After all, they know something about running for a long time🙂

Dead

Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the Gospel is to be dead. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be wise. You don’t have to be wonderful. You just have to be dead. That’s it.”   Robert Farrar Capon

Other people

When I talk about “inclusion” of people … I am not talking only about starting up special schools or residences or creating good soup kitchens or new hospitals … I am not saying we should be kind to such people because they are human beings. Nor it is a question of “normalizing” them in order that they can be “like us,” participate in church services, and go to the movies and the local swimming pool. When I speak of the inclusion of those who are marginalized I am affirming that they have a gift to give us all …The excluded, I believe, live certain values that we all need to discover and to live ourselves before we can become truly human. It is not a question of performing good deeds for those who are excluded but of being open and vulnerable to them in order to receive the life that they can offer; it is to become their friends. … they will change things in us. – Jean Vanier

Remembering

I must admit, I’ve been lucky.  Until now, non of my friends or parents have died.  I do not know death very well.  My grandmother died when I was 4 and her funeral was enough for me to decide that I want nothing to do with the whole dying business.  Dying sucks big time for me.

Then last Sunday, my uncle died.  We are a small close-knit family and now there’s a hole in it.  Later the same Sunday, one of our university-day friends died.  A friendship of 22 years gone.  So, if you will bear with me, or bear me for that matter, I’m going to tell you a little about them and what I remember.

First, my Uncle.  His name was Isak, an Afrikaans version of  Isaac.  To the world in general, he was a non-entity.  Only a few people knew of his existence.  After he retired, he lived in a small flat and he loved his little space.  He loved watching TV, reading the newspaper, doing crosswords and puzzles.  He was never married.  Sundays he would get in his car, and visit my parents(he was my father’s brother) and my aunt(her brother too).  A Sunday meal is our family institution and food is one of the ways my mother tells people that she loves them.  He would talk about what he has seen on TV and read in the newspaper.  Although his living space was small, his world was big.

I think what I remember about him the most was his loyalty en dependability towards us.  If I were to ask him to drive me to Cape Town(about 800 miles), he would do it.   He helped out whenever he could.  He always took meticulous care of his car.  He never complained about his life.  He was  someone solid that you only notice out of the corner of your eye.  Never in the spotlight.  Soft spoken.  Smoking a cigarette.  Loving a beer.  Only 11 people were at his funeral.  As I’ve said before, nobody really knows that he is gone, but for us his family,  Sundays will never be the same.

Her full names were Jacqueline Judith.  To her friends she was Jackie.  To me, she was Jacks.  I cannot remember how we met, but the friendship was instant.  I introduced her to her husband(my roommate).  He was a kind of a loner when it comes to the female species.  Then one day I grabbed him on campus and told him to come with me.  I wanted to ask Jacky something.  We went and after a while I noticed a connection between the two.  I told them I had to go to the bathroom and … left.  About 7 hours later, he came back🙂 They were married 2 weeks before Anette and I were married.

She was a pharmacist and a very good one.  While they were living in our town, we never went to the doctor.  We just went to her and describe the symptoms.  She gave the correct medicine and health returned.  She was meticulous.  She could do a lot of things at the same time, but there was an order to it that’s hard to explain.  She broke stuff down into understandable and doable bits.  She was also wise.  The wisdom and the order combined , had a calming effect on people.  She could listen to people’s ramblings, put her thoughts into it and suddenly you knew what to do.

She was funny.  Sometimes she only caught on at the end of a joke and then it became hilarious.  She could laugh.  She made music.  Played keyboard for church get-togethers.  She played golf.  Sometimes better than her husband, which led to comical bantering for days.  They did triathlons together. 

She was brave.  Got cancer about 12 years ago.  Sometimes, she drove alone to get her chemo treatments.  She was beautiful even with no hair.  They could not have any children.  They would have been great parents.  But they had each other and that was enough for them.  Of course there were 2 dogs, one which only has 3 legs.

A year ago the cancer came back, this time in her skeleton.  6 Weeks ago, it was in her brain.  Even when she could not eat or sit straight by herself, she gave you half a smile if she recognized you.  She died in her bed at home.  It was a good death.  Her husband thanked God for the time they had together and he gave her to our Father and then she was gone.

Today a week ago was her funeral.  Lots of people came.  Her husband did not want a traditional funeral, but there were lots of family from the more traditional religious background, so it was mostly traditional.  I was disappointed.  I think we could have celebrated her life “better”.  (I have issues with funerals also🙂

She loved Jesus. She was not afraid to die.

I will miss saying Jacqueline Judith.