You are never alone

You are never alone

January 12, 2014  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on You are never alone
“A bruised reed he will not break …” Isaiah 42

If we are ever privileged enough to be taken out to dinner, one of the questions our host is bound to ask us is: “So, what do you feel like eating?” There are some days we just crave a particular meal.

This craving does not only apply to our physical need for nourishment. It applies to our spiritual need for nourishment too. One of the ways I discern the hunger of my spirit is to move slowly up and down the shelves of my library. I have all my books sorted into various categories and I find myself drawn to those categories that touch my hunger. Granted this may sound a little strange, yet it really seems to guide me to what my spirit longs for.

Lately I have felt more numb than alive. More distant than connected. More doubtful than sure. I carry far more questions than answers.

So I have stood in my library staring at the shelves of books. And the book I was drawn to was what Henri Nouwen calls his “secret diary” that he wrote during the most difficult period of his life, from December 1987 to June 1988.

I am not really surprised that I have chosen (or did it choose me?) to re-read The Inner Voice of Love — A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom by Henri Nouwen. I am not surprised because I have a greater longing for solidarity on this journey than I do for a solution. Before I want answers I want someone to share my questions. I need a companion in my doubt and not a champion of the faith.

Within the solidarity of disconnection and sharing the burden of impossibly heavy questions I find gentle comfort. I am not alone. There are others who have felt the same as I do. I am not the only one. Their doubting, questioning and anguished companionship becomes my umbilical cord to hope and life.

Psalm 13 and Psalm 88 as well as the final hours of Jesus upon the Cross carry the same umbilical-cord-like-connection to hoping against hope.

Great Grace to you at this time, Alan

Tock-Tick

Tock-Tick

January 5, 2014  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Tock-Tick
Arise and shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Isaiah 60

Jesus our joy, when we realise that you love us,
something in us is soothed and even transformed.
We ask you: “What do you want from me?”
And by the Holy Spirit you reply:
“Let nothing trouble you, I am praying in you,
dare to give your life.” ~ Taize

 

Time does what time does — tick along. Time’s job is the continued collection and addition of seconds, minutes, hours, days and years.

Yet, time is not without grace. For once a year it gives us permission to rule a line across the page of our life and start a new one. It gives us the freedom to divide our life up into ‘old’ and ‘new’ and ‘past’ and ‘future’. It further reminds us that each step we take away from the womb is a step closer to the tomb. And this reminder of death drawing closer makes our living more precious. A strange grace indeed.

As time offers us the strange grace of reflection and renewal of our patterns of living I am reminded of the forthright words of Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” With this in mind we would all do well to take time on a daily basis rather than on an annual basis, to examine our lives.

St. Ignatius certainly agreed with Socrates as he recommended a daily practise of examination through prayer. He invites us to take a moment each evening before we sleep to quietly review our day. “To look upon yourself without condemnation and without complacency and thus be open to growth.”

Here is one example of an Examen prayer:
Recalling the events of your day, explore the context of your actions. Review the day, hour by hour, searching for the internal events of your life. Look through the hours to see your interaction with what was before you. Ask what you were involved in and who you were with, and review your hopes and hesitations. Many situations will show that your heart was divided — wavering between helping and disregarding, scoffing and encouraging, listening and ignoring, rebuking and forgiving, speaking and silence, neglecting and thanking. See the opportunities for growth in faith, hope and love, and how you responded. What moved you to act the way you did?

Finally take a few minutes to ask yourself: What / who gave you life today? What / who took life from you today? Where were you free to be free today?

Strange Grace towards examined living, Alan

_________________________________________


A few [wise] words to contemplate:
Something we were withholding made us weak. Until we found out that it was ourselves we were withholding from our land of living, and forthwith found salvation in surrender. ~ Robert Frost

The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one. ~ Shakespeare

Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will. ~ Bonhoeffer

A relationship that needs to be kept a secret is a relationship you don’t need. ~ Mogoeng Mogoeng

If the things we face are greater and more important that the things we refuse to face, then at least we have begun the re-evaluation of our world. At least we have begun to learn to see and live again. But if we refuse to face any of our awkward and deepest truths, then sooner or later, we are going to have to become deaf and blind. And then, eventually, we are going to have to silence our dreams, and the dreams of others. In other words, we die. We die to life. ~ Ben Okri

O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises… Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days … Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. ~ John Wesley

Day by day

Day by day

December 29, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Day by day
In God’s love and in God’s pity, God redeemed them;
the Lord lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old. Isaiah 63

As another year passes I wonder if there is still enough time to become the person I was created to be but am not. The difference between the two is an aching gap and sometimes it is just a gap without the ache which is worse.

The Jesuit priest, Karl Rahner, writes: “In bygone days, we wanted to become holy. Once we desired to wear ourselves out completely for God’s honour and for the kingdom of heaven, we wanted to burn our life in the ardent flame of love. And we did not become holy.”

He goes on to write: [But] “why should we think that the selfishness of our heart in its secret pride is so powerful that it could plug all the cracks against the pressure of God’s grace?”

He continues, “We want to shun the secret fancies (our ultimate pride) that our evil stubbornness could be victorious over God’s gloriously strong love, which, when it will, dissolves even the obstinate insolence of the heart. We also want to let God be greater in our life than our barren heart and admit that he can reap a harvest even out of the stony field of our soul, a harvest that praises the power of God’s grace. We have become holier.

“But we haven’t become holy. Not because we haven’t worked any miracles or converted any nations or directed the inexorable stream of universal history … but rather because we haven’t loved God as we really should, with the whole heart and with all our strength. We cannot yet forego this duty. We cannot be satisfied with ourselves yet. Our heart doesn’t love without measure and without bound as it could love and must love.

“It loves a little, yes; but a little in this matter is almost worse than nothing. For the heart that completely denies itself still hasn’t found its master. One thing is still left; the heart must surrender itself entirely and without division.

“But who will gather up this divided, disunited heart and make it sincere, so that it can surrender itself to God, all at once, without division? Alas! Our poor dilapidated heart! It is so strange: it yearns a little for stronger love, and conceals a wicked annoyance at the boundless demands of love; and bother of these together are covered over by a feeling of weakness and feebleness.

“The heart of a man (sic) who is growing old, and who did not become holy, feels like this. The heart is well disposed, but it feels too keenly its weakness. The real opportunities for unconditional, boundless love (can we want to love any other way?), the inevitable opportunities that are sent to us — not chosen by us — no longer present themselves. Did we really waste the best hours of our life, the precious opportunities for love God?”

Do you hear the regret in Rahner’s final question to us? Does it resonate within you? What of the gap between what we are and what we have not become?

As the date changes reminding us of the passing of time I invite you to pray the prayer of St Richard:

Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.

I cannot think of a more needed prayer to be prayed by anyone: May we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.

If we make this our prayer then just maybe we will in fact “burn our life in the ardent flame of love.”

Grace, Alan

God is always near

God is always near

December 25, 2013  |  Christmas Day  |  Comments Off on God is always near
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace. Isaiah 52

I love the way Charles Wesley describes the incarnation: “Our God contracted to a span / Incomprehensibly made man (sic)….He deigns in flesh to appear / Widest extremes to join… And we the life of God shall know / For God is manifest below.”

Nothing could ever be so unexpected. The God of heaven has an earthly address. As Karl Rahner has written:

Now we no longer need to seek God in the endlessness of heaven, where our spirit and our heart get lost. Now he himself is on our very earth, where he is no better off than we and where he receives no special privileges, but our every fate: hunger, weariness, enmity, mortal terror and a wretched death. That the infinity of God should take upon itself human narrowness, that bliss should accept the mortal sorrow of the earth, that life should take on death — this is a most unlikely truth. But only this — the obscure light of faith — makes our nights bright, only this makes them holy.

I met someone the other day from Belgium. She came to be in South Africa especially for the 10 days of mourning that followed Nelson Mandela’s death. She was irresistibly drawn to be here — to the soil and the people — to share and to love and to hold. Having visited South Africa before she carried a permanent sense of connection within herself for us. “I just had to be here at this time”, she said.

God’s earthly visit to share and to love and to hold is what Christmas is all about. And forevermore God carries a permanent sense of connection within God’s self for us.

Look around you. God is near. Look inside you. God is near. Take comfort because God is near. Tremble with awe because God is near. And get this … now it is impossible to escape God loving you.

Prayer of Preparation
YOU are with us!
YOU are with US!
YOU are WITH US!
YOU ARE WITH US!

O Lord give to us the gift of knowing your presence and the blessing of peace and courage that flows from it. Amen.

Grace, Alan

 

The gift of stories

The gift of stories

December 23, 2013  |  Advent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The gift of stories
Look the young woman is with child… Isaiah 7

Since Nelson Mandela’s death we have experienced the resurrection of his life in myriads of interviews, op-eds, personal testimonies. From every possible quarter stories are being told and re-told. From politicians, neighbours, family members, sports people, jailors, presidents, priests, lawyers, factory workers, domestic workers, the poor and the rich — all adding a word about the Madiba they met. From every age group and from every cultural orientation — all sharing stories of his greatness, humility, humour, surprise, grace, inspiring presence, firmness, warmth. Seeming contradictions added to the brightness of the truth. A fighter. A forgiver. A father of a new nation. And then the reams and reams of comments — the words about all the words — in response. Forming the richest tapestry of the one we were blessed to share time with on this earth.

I therefore believe that we have not only witnessed a great person and moment in history but we may also have witnessed an echo of the greatest moment in history. In these past days we may have witnessed how the Scriptures and especially the story of Jesus found its way into print.

Then as now, the people began to tell their stories and it wasn’t long before a rich tapestry of Jesus’ character and what he stood for and why he died and how he lives on began to circulate. Stories complemented stories making a marvelous tapestry of liberating truth that could only be described as miraculous. Editors did amazing work in collating and communicating his core. His fully human core “reflected God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” [Heb. 1:1-4].

The Gospel writers and editors of old all concluded with the same invitation — do as Jesus did. He has passed on to each of us his Cross (mantle) to carry. Imitate him. Follow him. Seek out his Spirit. Continue his long walk to liberation for all.

The age where faith communities alone mediated the meaning of memorials for the rest of society is past. Little “shrines” of memory were built in shopping centers, hospitals stadiums, entrance halls to businesses, the lobbies of hotels, etc.

Grace, Alan
Sunday 22 December 2013

Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba

Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba

December 15, 2013  |  Advent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

 

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

 

 

 

 

 

The time comes in the life of any nation when there remains only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa.
We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future,
and our freedom.

 

 

Let there be justice
for all.
Let there be peace
for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt
for all.
Let each know that for each the body,
the mind and the soul have been freed
to fulfil themselves.
 

 

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.

 

We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

 

As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…
Great peacemakers are all people
of integrity, of honesty,
but humility.

 

 

 

 

Scroll down for Words of Reflection on Mr Nelson Mandela by both Rev. Dr. Peter Storey and Alan Storey.

 

Mandela Memories

December 15, 2013  |  Reflection  |  Comments Off on Mandela Memories
Many have gathered in and around CMM since Friday December 6, 2013 to pay homage to Mr Nelson Mandela. Flowers were presented, candles were lit,
prayers were offered, pictures were taken.

Mandela

December 9, 2013  |  Words of Reflection  |  Comments Off on Mandela

Have you noticed how so many claim Nelson Mandela as theirs? The Methodist church that I serve through has done this more than most. The church’s statement in response to Madiba’s death recounts and shows off every single Methodist aspect of Madiba’s life. It is proud to be associated with this great person and even prouder to have possibly contributed to his greatness. But sadly the statement reads more like a sales pitch for the Methodist Church than a celebration of the Mandela-gift to the world.

The truth is Mandela belonged to all and to none at the same time. A prisoner for years but he was never held captive for a second. He was not a captive of the colour of his skin or clan or culture. He broke free from the bonds of language, nationality, religion and political affiliation. The roots of his humanity went deeper than these accidents of birth. He was more than all these social constructs. And he reminds us that we too are more than these. You are more. I am more. We are more.

I want to mention just two aspects of Mandela’s living that constantly challenge, convict and comfort me. To fight and to forgive. To fight oppression and to forgive oppressors. To do both and to do them over and over again.

Mandela the Fighter of Oppression
Madiba fought oppression. Madiba fought against the dehumanization of people.

The time comes in the life of a nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defense of our people – our future – our freedom.

Madiba’s fight for justice never died. Prison did not subdue his fighting spirit. He reserved it for his opponents, his followers, his elders and those beyond our shores. As it was with Jesus whenever he witnessed people being excluded and exploited.

As we hear him address FW de Klerk in 1992:
You are going to give in. Because if you don’t we are going to humiliate you. And I will see to it that that happens.

Or to the people of Khatlehong in the same year:
I am your leader. You want me to remain your leader? Yes? Well as long as I am your leader I will tell you always when you are wrong.

Or to Matanzima in 1995
I respect custom but I am not a tribalist. I fought as an African nationalist and I have no commitment to the custom of any tribe.

Or to George W Bush in 2003
It is a tragedy – what is happening. What Bush is doing. Bush is now undermining the UN. Why is the USA behaving so arrogantly? All that Mr Bush wants is Iraqi oil. A president who has no foresight – who cannot think – will plunge the world into a holocaust.

Mandela the Forgiver of Oppressors
Mandela forgave not only his enemies but he forgave our enemies. To shake the hand of Mandela you knew that that same hand had previously held the hand of our enemy.

It was one of the difficult things to accept about Mandela as it was with Jesus. That he refused to allow anyone to determine who he should associate with and who he should ignore. There are photos of Mandela hugging children – the elderly – the poor – the rich – Castro and Clinton and Gaddafi and FW – the Queen and Mugabe – Granny Verwoerd and communists and springboks and super-models. While everyone wanted to be his favourite, he seemed to have no favourites – except maybe the children.

Mandela to be followed not worshiped
I am convinced that while Madiba was still alive he would not want anyone to bow down before him. Rather he would say: “If you really want to make me happy then stop kissing my feet and rather make sure the children of this land have shoes on their feet. Tend to the poor and the homeless. Work for the day that all have houses to live in and lands to cultivate and schools and hospitals to attend.”

I am equally convinced that Jesus would say the same. “You have made me into an idol. You have allowed your worship of me to replace following me. You think you are pleasing me by singing my praises but all it shows is that you have failed to understand me. To love me is to love those who I loved – all people everywhere. I have no favourites except I do have a special place in my heart for the poor and vulnerable of society. To care for me is to care about that which I cared about – namely justice and fairness for all. If you really want to worship me – then follow my example like Mandela did (whether he did consciously or unconsciously matters less) and fight oppression and forgive oppressors.”

Alan Storey
Mandela Memories – Service at Central Methodist Mission on 6 December 2013

The Nelson Mandela I knew and loved

December 9, 2013  |  Words of Reflection  |  Comments Off on The Nelson Mandela I knew and loved
The Nelson Mandela I knew … and loved
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Peter Storey

I met Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela exactly fifty years ago in his jail cell on Robben Island. I was a newly ordained part-time Chaplain to the prison there. He, together with his fellow Rivonia Trialists, had been flown secretly to the Island after being sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour for the rest of their natural lives. The guards were very edgy about their new prisoners, determined to show these ‘terrorists’ how tough they were. Sunday, when I visited, was their one day off, but it was spent in total lock-down. I was not allowed to gather them for a normal service of worship, but had to walk up and down the hallway between the cells, trying to make eye contact with each occupant as I passed. Apart from Ahmed Kathrada, a Muslim, the rest had all experienced mission-school education and were familiar with Christian worship. Preaching was difficult but I tried to leave each one with a word of encouragement. Singing, on the other hand, was not bound by iron bars and the great hymns of the church, which were well-known to them, echoed powerfully through the hallways, their melodies often taken up by prisoners in other blocks. My memories of Mandela were of a strong, vital character in the prime of his manhood, all strength and contained energy. He had a ready smile and clearly appreciated the dilemma of a young minister trying, under the cold eyes of the guards, to bring a moment of humanity into this desolate place. Only once, on a very cold day, was I able to persuade a guard to let the group out into the prison yard where we gathered in a sunny spot. That day I changed my text to, ‘If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed,’ letting them choose how to spell Son/sun. They enjoyed the joke. The guards did not.

Given these impossible limitations, I have sometimes felt embarrassed being introduced as ‘Mandela’s prison Chaplain.’ Yet, looking back I realize that being confined to sharing nothing other than the healing, strengthening words of Scripture and the songs of the faith, required one to put one’s trust entirely in the power of the Gospel – nothing else. More than one of the Rivonia group, including Madiba, have told me since how that ministry and those who followed me (my security clearance was abruptly withdrawn after a few months) meant to them. Ahmed Kathrada, now the only Rivonia trialist still living – and the Muslim in the group – has also shared how, in those early horror days on Robben Island, that brief moment of humanity helped them all.

It was 20 years later when I next heard from Madiba. Still in prison, he used one of his precious letter-writing privileges (initially one per month and later relaxed to a half dozen) to congratulate me on being elected to lead the Methodist Church in Southern Africa, and to express his appreciation for the care the church had shown to him through its Chaplains and to Winnie his spouse, in her banishment and suffering at the hands of the ‘system.’ It was in that letter that he referred to his first encounter with the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg in the 1940s, when he was struck by the message outside: ‘The greatest glory in living is not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.’ That message, he wrote with typical understatement, ‘tended to steel a person against the host of traumas he was to experience in later years.’

In the years following his release our paths crossed often. From a personal point of view I guess the most special occasions were when I shared a platform with him in 1993 speaking at the Centenary of Gandhi’s arrival in South Africa and in 1995 on the first anniversary of Freedom Day, presenting him with a sculpture forged out of melted-down guns collected by Gunfree South Africa, which I headed at the time. On both occasions we had some laughs about this proud former commander of the ANC underground army/become peacemaker and these two determinedly non-violent moments.

The Mandela I knew became beloved by me, not so much for the grand gestures, although he was a master at political theatre, but for the lesser known acts that revealed a truly human genius for Ubuntu – the awareness that his life was inextricably bound up with the lives of all his fellow human beings, especially his enemies. He was the great includer; nothing was too much trouble if he could cajole or charm another opponent into friendship.

This man who would not bend an inch in his determination to win freedom for his people, nor to be humiliated by the cruelty of his prison guards, yet who said to his comrades as soon as they arrived on the island, ‘Chaps, these Afrikaners may be brutal, but they are human beings. We need to understand them and touch the human being inside them, and win them.’ And did…

This man who, on behalf of the one Muslim among them, badgered the prison authorities literally for years – six, I believe – until they at last yielded and granted permission for Ahmed Kathrada to walk the 50 yards outside the prison entrance to pray in the Kramat (a holy place commemorating a Muslim Imam exiled to the Island by the Dutch in the 1740s). The whole Rivonia group accompanied him…

This man who, when former spouse Winnie shamed the Mandela name by her involvement in the kidnapping of some young men in Soweto and the killing of one of them, struggled to understand the role of his church in the drama and criticized our actions from his prison cell. And who, when we managed to send him a true record of what had happened, sent a personal apology via his lawyer, requesting ‘forgiveness for having misjudged you…’

This man, who in his first Parliamentary speech as President, announced that nursing mothers and children under six would receive free health care, ‘whatever had to be done to pay for it…’

This man, who, when he invited the spouses and widows of former white Presidents/Prime Ministers to tea, received news that Mrs Betsy Verwoerd, widow of the most virulent racist of them all, had ‘diplomatic flu’, decided to surprise her in her whites-only redoubt instead, arriving in his helicopter and knocking on her door, and appearing later with her in a smiling photograph…

This man who, when told by his staff that they were changing the name of the Parliamentary office building named after Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, suggested they hold off until Verword’s widow had passed on. ‘There is no need to hurt her unnecessarily. It can wait…’

This man who, when told that one of his personal armed bodyguards had links with a far right-wing racist group and had been removed, said, ‘I don’t think we should do that. He is young and immature and it will destroy him. Let’s give him another chance …’

This man, who when we presented him with our list of nominated Truth Commissioners for him to make the final cut, asked first, ‘Have we sufficient women on the list? We must have gender equity…’ And when we told him that we had been able to find only one candidate of integrity from strife-torn KwaZulu-Natal, he disregarded the process and just went ahead and appointed a Methodist bishop from the region, knowing that unless KZN was better represented, the Truth Commission would not be accepted there…

This man, who when I led a small delegation to meet with him about the crisis of guns and killing going on in 1994, came shuffling into the grand conference room next to his Presidential office in Pretoria wearing an old pair of slippers. He sat down and said, ‘I’m tired Peter. It’s been a hard day, you chair the meeting please,’ and closed his eyes. He wasn’t asleep, however: at some point he looked up from the list of participating religious groups and asked, ‘Where are the Dutch Reformed Churches?’ I said that they had been very difficult to persuade about the gun hand-in campaign. ‘Well, he said, ‘if I’m to be patron of this, you need to get them in…’

This man who asked me to write a speech he was to give to a church conference, and who, wherever I referenced the ‘role of the churches’ in the liberation struggle, or in leading protests or caring for victims, struck out the world ‘churches’ and inserted the words ‘ faith communities,’ in order to be more inclusive of other faiths in the land he now governed…

This man who never tried to hide his feet of clay, lived comfortably in his skin, and never lost an opportunity to deprecate his own accomplishments, lightly deflecting praise to others…

What a very human being!

How blest are those of a gentle spirit …

How blest are those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail …

How blest are those who show mercy …

How blest are those whose hearts are pure …

How blest are the peacemakers …

How blest are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of right …

We are so grateful that God made Nelson Mandela, purified him in suffering and gave him to our divided land to help us become different – the kind of people we were meant to be.

We are so grateful that he now rests.

He always said the future was in our hands. Now it is.

Peter Storey
Cape Town
7 December, 2013

How is your Advent training going?

How is your Advent training going?

December 8, 2013  |  Advent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on How is your Advent training going?
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. ~ Isaiah 11

Today we start the second week of our Advent training program to get ourselves into shape for Jesus’ birth. Last week Coach Isaiah told us in no uncertain terms just how unfit we were and how desperately we needed to start training. The Coach was also quietly confident that we could be transformed and even come out tops in the end.

So how has your Advent training been going?

What inspires me to train more than just about anything else is to witness others training. One such inspiring moment happened for me on Tuesday morning last week. I was attending a meeting at Bishop’s Court. The meeting began at 7am and there were many pressing things to talk about by all those in attendance. At 2 minutes to eight, Archbishop Thabo said: “We need to draw this meeting to a close because I have another appointment at 8 o’clock.” There were still a number of people who had indicated their desire to speak — this meeting was not ready to conclude. “My 8 o’clock appointment is with God”, the Archbishop continued, “so let us close in prayer”. The Archbishop was sticking to his training program regardless! To witness this was inspiring.

And while we on the topic of Archbishops and training programs here is a reminder of another prophetic athlete’s training program that I hope you find inspiring. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s training program included the following …

• 04:00 Personal prayers (on weekdays)
• 05:00 A fast 30 minute walk. 5:30 shower
• 06:00 Devotional reading and work at his study desk
• 07:30 In Chapel to recite morning prayer
• 08:00 Daily Eucharist
• 08:30 Breakfast
• 09:00 Back in his office for a series of 30 minute appointments
• 13:00 Personal prayer for 30 minutes
• 13:30 Lunch and a hour long nap
• 15:00 Afternoon tea followed by a series of appointments
• 18:00 Evening prayer in the chapel followed by personal prayer
• 19:00 Supper
• In bed by 21:00 or 22:00
• Asleep by 23:00 after saying Compline Prayers

Archbishop Tutu’s daily training program therefore included around about 4 hours of prayer. To those of us who struggle with prayer this sounds quite crazy. Yet when we hear of sports people or musicians who spend an equal amount of time training for their art it seems less crazy. Dancers, pianists, cyclists and gymnasts can spend over 6 hours a day training for gold. So I am sure Tutu would reason that 4 hours is not too much when training to be Godly.

And what we have learnt from Tutu’s life is that when one person takes his or her training to be Godly seriously an entire nation benefits in the process.So let me ask you again: How is your Advent training been going?

I hope you feel equally inspired to put in a couple of extra hours in the coming week.

Grace, Alan