Words worth savouring

Friends,

Last week I read a few paragraphs from Alice Walker’s amazing novel, The Color Purple. Some of you have asked for the quotes. Here they are, plus an extra one or two. Her journey “trying to chase that old white man [god] out of my head” is as profound as it is liberating. Walker’s words invite savouring.

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.” 

“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”

“…have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.” 

“Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit.

It? I ast.

Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It.

But what do it look like? I ast.

Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It.

Shug a beautiful something, let me tell you. She frown a little, look out cross the yard, lean back in her chair, look like a big rose. She say, My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate
at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and I cried and I run all around the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can’t miss it. It sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh.

Shug! I say.

Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ’em you enjoys ’em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.

God don’t think it dirty? I ast.

Naw, she say. God made it. Listen, God love everything you love? and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.

You saying God vain? I ast.

Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

What it do when it pissed off? I ast.

Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

Yeah? I say.

Yeah, she say. It always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.

You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.

Yes, Celie, she say. Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?

Well, us talk and talk bout God, but I’m still adrift. Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing. Now that my eyes opening, I feels like a fool. Next to any little scrub of a bush in my yard, Mr. ____s evil sort of shrink. But not altogether. Still, it is like Shug say, You have to git man off your eyeball, before you can see anything a’tall.

Man corrupt everything, say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he everywhere.

Soon as you think he everywhere, you think he God. But he ain’t. Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind,water, a big rock.

But this hard work, let me tell you. He been there so long, he don’t want to budge. He threaten lightening, floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it.

Amen” 

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Abiding, Entangling Love

 

Friends,

In the introduction of his mesmerising book, Entangled Life: How Fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures, Merlin Sheldrake writes:

I attended a conference in Panama on tropical microbes, and along with many other researchers spent three days becoming increasingly bewildered by the implications of our studies. Someone got up to talk about a group of plants that produce a certain group of chemicals in their leaves. Until then, the chemicals had been thought of as a defining characteristic of that group of plants. However, it transpired that the chemicals were actually made by fungi that lived in the leaves of the plant. Our idea of the plant had to be redrawn. Another researcher interjected, suggesting that it may not be the fungi living inside the leaf that produced these chemicals, but the bacteria living inside the fungus. Things continued along these lines. After two days, the notion of the individual had deepened and expanded beyond recognition. To talk about individuals made no sense any more. Biology – the study of living organisms – had transformed into ecology – the study of the relationships between living organisms. To compound matters, we understood very little. Graphs of microbial populations projected on a screen had large sections labelled ‘unknown’….

Many scientific concepts – from ‘time’ to ‘chemical bonds’ to ‘genes’ to ‘species’ – lack stable definitions but remain helpful categories to think with. From one perspective, ‘individual’ is no different: just another category to guide human thought and behaviour. Nonetheless, so much of daily life and experience – not to mention our philosophical, political and economic systems – depends on individuals that it can be hard to stand by and watch the concept dissolve. Where does this leave ‘us’? What about ‘them’? ‘Me’? ‘Mine’? ‘Everyone’? ‘Anyone’? …. It made my head spin to think of how many ideas had to be revisited, not least our culturally treasured notions of identity, autonomy and independence. It is in part this disconcerting feeling that makes the advances in the microbial sciences so exciting. Our microbial relationships are about as intimate as any can be. Learning more about these associations changes our experience of our own bodies and the places we inhabit. ‘We’ are ecosystems that span boundaries and transgress categories. Our selves emerge from a complex tangle of relationships only now becoming known.21

The study of relationships can be confusing. Almost all are ambiguous. Have leafcutter ants domesticated the fungus they depend on, or has the fungus domesticated the ants? Do plants farm the mycorrhizal fungi they live with, or do the fungi farm the plants? Which way does the arrow point? This uncertainty is healthy.

Reading these words made me think of our readings from the Gospel and Letter of John these past two weeks. They both refer to the wonder of indwelling the Divine and being indwelled by the Divine…“Abide in me as I abide in you…” [John 15]. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” [1 John 4:16]. Talk about entangled life!

And then of course what if we take Jesus literally when his says: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” [Mark 12:31]. What if Jesus is not simply speaking about the extent of our loving but the extent of our actual selves? In other words, could Jesus be commanding us to expand our own sense of identity to include our neighbour? If so, then we are more than our skin can hold. If so, what happens to our neighbour happens to us for we all share entangled life. If so, then murder and war is suicide. If so, then an injustice to one is an injustice to all.

If so, what “concepts dissolve?” What “associations change?” “What culturally treasured notions do we need to revisit?”

A growing consciousness of our oneness with neighbour, the Divine, and the natural world lies at the foundation of the world’s salvation (healing and liberation). And obviously not simply a growing consciousness, but a way of life both personal and political, individual and systemic that abides in this consciousness and in which this consciousness abides.  I would call this consciousness of our oneness, Christ consciousness as Jesus prayed: “May they be one as we are one.” [John 17], but others may call it by other names. What we call it is less important than whether we live into and out of it.

If this makes our head spin – let us embrace our “disconcerting feelings” and rejoice that our many “unknowns” if nothing else, help us to walk our entangled life more humbly.

In grace,
Alan
Pronouns: he/him

Email welcome@cmm.org.za for the zoom link to the Sunday service.

To forgive is to resurrect

Friends,

This past Sunday we noted that forgiveness is nothing less than an act of resurrection. In short: To forgive is to resurrect. We noted how the story of the forgiven prodigal is framed as a resurrection story: “My child was lost and is found, was dead and is now alive”. To say that we believe in the resurrection while withholding forgiveness is equivalent to saying we love God while hating our sisters and brothers. This makes us liars. [1 John 4:20]

Forgiveness is not only a gift of new life to the forgiven, but also a gift of new life to the forgiver. To forgive another is to be resurrected from our own death that results from us not loving. As we read in 1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death.” Still further, to forgive someone is to resurrect them from the death of being “dead to us”. Our act of forgiveness brings them alive to us. Alive so we can be for them and no longer against them or indifferent towards them.

These were just two pieces of the forgiveness-jigsaw-puzzle that we mentioned last Sunday. We did not complete the puzzle, I am not sure one ever can, but our hope was to find and place enough pieces of the puzzle to give us a sense of what forgiveness is.

I ran out of time last Sunday to link the Acts 4:32-35 reading to the theme of Forgiveness and Resurrection. This link is crucial if forgiveness is going to be known at societal level. And what society is without sin? The recurring sin of society is the exploitative and exclusive debt economy that eventually makes slaves of the majority of people to sustain a small elite.

Forgiveness as resurrection is made real within society through the implementation of Jubilee. Jubilee is the “every-fifty-years-forgiveness-of-debt” policy. Financial debt. We would prefer forgiveness to leave our finances alone. No wonder we have changed the word “debt” in the Lord’s prayer, to the more general, “trespasses” or “sins”. “Forgive us our debt as we forgive those in our debt”.

Jubilee is a forgiveness-financial-policy of debt cancellation. To the extent that we practice Jubilee is to the extent that we will come alive as a society. If we don’t do so – we abide in death. And this death will eventually swallow us all up. Once again, the first letter of John asks the pointed question: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” [1 John 3:17]. This question is even sharper for us who live in the most unequal country in the world and therefore the country that has the greatest need for Jubilee economics.

The difference of course between forgiving others who have hurt us and practicing forgiveness as Jubilee in a society, is that when we practice Jubilee and cancel the debts of others we do so as those who need forgiveness. We need forgiveness because (even unwittingly) we have benefitted from systems that carry the favour of some at the deathly expense of the many. It matters not whether we like or dislike the systems that benefit us or not. The reading from 1 John 3:17 does not ask us if we designed the system or not. It does not care how hard we have worked for what we have. John simply says that if we have and withhold what we have, while others do not have, then we can’t say that the love of God is in us. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel says: “Some are guilty, but all are responsible”. Practicing Jubilee is “the all” taking responsibility.

A Universal Basic Income Grant is one way in which we can practice Jubilee. It is probably the very least of ways. We could call it “Jubilee lite”. I believe that South Africa’s resurrection depends on it.

There is a lot of information about a Universal Basic Income Grant on the net. Here is an introduction via The Daily Maverick podcast called: Don’t Shoot the Messenger, by Rebecca Davis.

In grace,
Alan

 

Orientation by the Psalms

Friends,

It is almost a year since South Africa went into Lockdown Level 5. It is not unusual to be “triggered” by an annual anniversary date, even sub-consciously. It has been a difficult and disruptive year for everyone and a painful year of loss upon loss for many. The loss of life and livelihood. ‘The loss of life and livelihood’ is a six-word sentence. It is spoken or written as a kind of ‘summary’ for our collective Covid experience, but it betrays itself by being unable to reach the depths of the loss that it is referring to.

None of us is exempt from loss. In other words, in one way or another all of us are grieving. I hope acknowledging this will give us permission to be patient and gentle with ourselves and each other. Grief may be a grace if we honour it by creating time and space for it. If not, grief may become a ghost that haunts us far into the future.

Another word to describe Covid’s effect is disorientation. In other words, the loss of our bearings or moorings. A sense of things being up in the air or in limbo. A sense of personally being uprooted or unrooted. Once again, the hope is if we are able to name and acknowledge this experience, we may be more settled in the unsettledness of it all.

This past Wednesday we were reminded during our Lenten reflection how contemplatives within the Christian tradition recite the Psalter on a daily basis. The psalms give expression to every manner of our human experience including grief and disorientation. The psalms gift us with words when we are wordless.

Many years ago Walter Brueggemann suggested that the Psalter may be understood to follow three movements: Orientation (a sense and celebration of the ordered reliable life: Psalms 8; 33; 104), Disorientation (the lament and petition of disordered life when everything seems skewed: Psalms 13; 35; 74; 79; 86; 88; 109; 137;) and New Orientation (praise and thanksgiving for the surprising gift of new life: Psalms 30; 40; 138).

Brueggemann notes that the Church has tended to avoid the psalms of disorientation opting rather for singing “happy songs” in the face or raw reality. This denial is not healthy. Praying the psalms of disorientation “is an act of bold faith on the one hand, because it insists that the world must be experienced as it really is and not in some pretended way”, says Brueggemann. He continues, “On the other hand, it is bold because it insists that all such experiences of disorder are a proper subject for discourse with God. There is nothing out of bounds, nothing precluded or inappropriate. Everything properly belongs in this conversation of the heart. To withhold parts of life from that conversation is in fact to withhold part of life from the sovereignty of God. Thus these psalms make the important connection: everything must be brought to speech, and everything brought to speech must be addressed to God, who is the final reference for all of life.”

If disorientation describes your life experience at this time, then I encourage you to soak yourselves in the psalms of disorientation. Lent is an appropriate time to do so.

I mentioned last week that I would share with you more details about opening the sanctuary for in-person services on the 28th March – Palm Sunday. Truth is we are struggling to figure out how to do this. Besides having limited tech-ability on hand at the moment we are struggling to figure out how best to juggle the online and the in-person at the same time. I will share a little more about this on this Sunday. Sorry, I would have liked to be in a position to give you more information at this stage, but I am sure will work it all out. Once again if you are able to assist us with tech-ability or ideas please contact me or the office.

If you are not on the WhatsApp group and would like the zoom link for Sunday, please email welcome@cmm.org.za

In grace,
Alan

Silence, stillness and solitude

Friends,

Throughout Lent, our Sunday services have begun with the following liturgy:

Merciful God, give us courage to follow Jesus,
By your Spirit make us brave to love. Make us brave to love.

Merciful God, we gather this Lent intent to follow Jesus to Jerusalem.
May your Spirit give us courage to name and to engage the principalities and powers.

Merciful God, we gather this Lent to follow you through the wilderness of silence, stillness
and solitude.
May your Spirit give us courage to name and to engage our own inner demons that surface in the silence, seek our attention in the stillness and keep us company in the solitude.

These words of call remind us that we are always on two journeys at the same time. The journey inward and the journey outward. They cannot be separated. Just as one cannot separate breathing in from breathing out without denying breath and dying. No one asks the question: which is more important – breathing in or breathing out? Because we all know the answer: both!

The oneness of these two journeys is a recognition that we are part of the whole and the whole is part of us. To change ourselves is to change the whole and changing the whole changes ourselves. I mention this to remind us that our journey into stillness, silence and solitude is not an escape or denial of the world we live in, but rather a specific place from which to engage the world. Repeatedly surrendering to the practice of silence, stillness and solitude gradually gifts us with a new knowing – a different knowing of ourselves and world. This is certainly the testimony of people of all contemplative traditions throughout the ages.

What makes this surrendering so difficult when on the surface it is so simple (I mean who can’t be quiet and still and alone?) is that when we are quiet, still and alone we are visited by a legion of “voices” demanding our immediate attention. What we thought would be a peaceful affair turns out to be a war. But here is the thing – if we are attentive to this war within us, over time we may be less tempted to go to war outside of us. With a deeper knowing of who we are we may confess: “We have met the enemy and they are us”.

Contemplatives within the Christian tradition – those who hangout in monasteries, etc. – all have one thing in common: they read, sing or chant the Psalms on a daily basis. Some go through the entire psalter each week while others do so each month. The Psalms honour the legions of voices within us. The Psalms voice every possible voice imaginable – the embarrassing, judgemental, murderous, othering, shameful, greedy, proud voices, etc. all get to speak. By going through the Psalter, we are invited to own each voice. In owning these voices without denying them, they paradoxically lose their power and influence within us.

On Wednesday 17th March at 20h00 we will continue our Lenten journey of silence, stillness and solitude by reflecting on a number of psalms. Please email welcome@cmm.org.za for the Zoom link if you do not receive in via WhatsApp.

We hope to be opening up for in-person Sunday Services on Palm Sunday (28th March) and for Holy Week services. I will share more details with you about this on Sunday during the service. We will be limited to 75 people within the Sanctuary. But as I say – more details will follow. If you would like to be part of a smaller “trial run” on Sunday 21st March, please email welcome@cmm.org.za.

As we try and navigate this change – I hope you will be patient with us. It is inevitable that when we are trying to connect with people online and people in the sanctuary that both groups may feel short changed. We are open to any suggestions you may have in this regard and we are certainly open to any help you can offer.

In grace,
Alan

Making meaning

Soweto’s inspiring soccer gogos risk losing their home field to developers. Aspasia Karras

 

Hi Friends,

I saw a group of people playing soccer in a park the other day. The teams at play were the shirts vs. the shirt-less. The shirts of the shirt-less marked the four corners of the soccer field. A couple of stacked bricks formed the goalposts. There was no referee. Everyone was the referee.

I remember playing similar games of soccer when I was a kid. With makeshift goal posts and no chalk lines to mark the field.  I also remember that we would have many arguments about whether the ball was ‘in’ or ‘out’. We had graphic ways of “proving” how the ball passed either below or over the invisible goal post. When ‘they’ scored the goalposts shrunk. We ‘we’ scored the goal posts stood tall. Quite miraculous.

During every neighbourhood championship we were not only improving our soccer skills. We were sharpening our debating skills. We were learning ethics. With the help of a couple of t-shirt corner-posts and brick-stacked goalposts and argued-out ethics, the game remained enjoyable. It remained enjoyable because it continued to have meaning.

It seems to me that one of the consequences of Covid-19 is that many of the ‘lines’ that demarcate the field of our lives have been erased. Think of how the ‘lines’ of routine have been erased or the ‘lines’ of employment, and of roles and responsibilities. With each line erased there is a threat of enjoyment fading because of the loss of meaning.

To the extent that we are able to creatively improvise with a couple of t-shirt corner posts and brick-stacked goal posts, may be to the extent that we are able to hold on to meaning and the joy that flows from meaning in these days of Covid erasing. To the extent that we are able to argue out an ethic of what is fair, may be to the extent that we learn greater truth about ourselves and society than we would otherwise have learnt without this Covid erasing. A truth that offers us the possibility of a deeper freedom if we give ourselves to it.

[I realise that this analogy can play the other way: The erasing of ‘lines’ gives us an opportunity to redesign the ‘game’. No ‘lines’ allows for new ‘lines’ to be drawn, etc. Yay! This may be a wonderful act of liberation. Take the analogy whichever way you need.]

Here is a link to a joyful and meaningful soccer story from which the top photo comes.

This Wednesday for our Lenten journey of deliberately designing our days with “sacred pause” by surrendering to Silence, Stillness and Solitude will move from theory into practice. Instead of meeting for an hour or so online this Wednesday evening, we are encouraged to practice Silence, Stillness and Solitude.

The CMM Sanctuary will be open on Wednesday 10th March from 17h30 to 18h30 if you would like to hold silence with others. (All Covid regulations will be observed … in silence.)

We will pick up our Lenten discussion on Wednesday 17th March at 20h00.

If you would like the Zoom link for Sunday please email welcome@cmm.org.za or request via that same email to be put on the WhatsApp group.

In grace,
Alan

A Work of Celebration

Friends,

South Africa is an extremely violent country. This was confirmed on Friday by Police Minister Bheki Cele. He reported that between October – December 2020 the number of people murdered had increased by 6.6% and the number of people raped had increased by 1.5%. This means that 4,124 people were murdered (2,481 people were murdered in public places and 1,643 people were killed at the home of the victim or of the perpetrator) and 12,218 people were raped, of which more than 4,900 took place at the home of the victim or the home of the rapist. All this in only 3 months!

South Africa is an extremely violent country. This was confirmed on Thursday by The Children’s Institute that launched the South African Child Gauge 2020.

The report describes the deteriorating nutritional status of children as “the slow violence of malnutrition”. The “slow violence” is “hidden” within the permanent negative outcomes that include, stunted growth, a compromised immune system and reduced cognitive ability. This will be a contributing factor in whether a child starting Grade 1 actually completes Grade 12. (On Friday the Matric pass rate for 2020 was announced as 98.07% – yet what is hidden within that percentage is that it only about 50% of the total number of learners who entered Grade 1 twelve years ago.)

South Africa is an extremely violent country. There is the explicit violence and the hidden violence. They are linked. The explicit is underpinned by the hidden. To address the explicit, the hidden must be uncovered, brought into the light and acknowledged if it is to be healed. Yet the explicit violence mentioned by the Police Minister is often the only violence actually recognised as violence. This is the violence one most commonly thinks of when we hear the words “South Africa is an extremely violent country”. As a result, according to the Police Minister, the solution is for the “the police to dig deep and put the shoulder to the wheel”. Yet the hidden violence of one’s human dignity being denied as a result of not having the very basics to live on, runs deeper and is far more extensive than any increased police beat.

Millions of people in South Africa literally live in a permanent state of violence. Of violation. A violation that is not seen or recognised as a violation. As Parker Palmer insightfully says: “Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.” One way to interpret what he is saying is that explicit violence will result from hidden violence not being validated.

Therefore, the first step to reducing violence in South Africa is to recognise the hidden violence. This is the violence that must come first into our minds when we hear “South Africa is an extremely violent society”. This is the crime that we must first consider when we speak of South Africa as a crime ridden society. This is the primary crime.

I refer you to a paper by Prof. Anthony Collins on violence. In my mind one the most helpful and insightful papers on violence in South Africa.

Within this paper he decides to turn things on its head and ask the question: How to create a violent society. Sadly, you will see that South Africa ticks all the boxes to create a violent society.

To reduce and end violence is our work. This is the work Jesus calls us into. This includes both the hidden and the explicit violence. This violence resides both within us and around us. It therefore includes work within our hearts as well as work on the streets and in the institutions that shape our lives. Our approach is always confessional. Meaning, that we start by asking ourselves where we are part of the problem. To the extent that we can be truthful in this, is the extent to which we can ultimately be set free and in doing so bring change within and beyond ourselves.

Ultimately the work Jesus calls us to in reducing and ending violence, is a work of celebration. The celebration of the sacredness of all Life.

We will explore this further this Sunday at 10am. The zoom link is available from welcome@cmm.org.za.

In grace,

Alan

Bonus: Interview with Prof. Julian May, from the Centre of Excellence in Food Security.


Unlike many of Jesus’ peeps through the ages, Jesus is not hung up on his name. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus go round repeating: “In Jesus’ name. In Jesus’ name…” Whether something is Christlike or not has little to do with what it is named, and everything to do with who is served. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jesus said it himself that “not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. (Matthew 7:21)

In fact, sometimes those who shout “Lord” the loudest can be the furthest thing from Christlikeness, while sometimes those who refuse to have that word on the lips can be end up being his most faithful friends. Once again this should not surprise us, because Jesus said as much in the sheep and goat story, we find in Matthew 25:31-46.

This sheep and goat story reminds us that whatever we do to the least (vulnerable and oppressed), we do to Jesus. And therefore this is the only authentic measure on whether something is Christlike or not.

With this in mind I would like to encourage you to subscribe and donate to GroundUp.  GroundUp, according to what I have just said above, is an incredibly Christlike newspaper. Not because it has any association with the Christian faith / church / religion / evangelism or anything Jesus-explicit etc., but because they exist to serve the least – the vulnerable and oppressed of society. Here is how they describe their work: GroundUp is a weekly online newspaper that reports “news that is in the public interest, with an emphasis on the human rights of vulnerable communities.”

GroundUp centers on those who are usually kept to the margins. They amplify the voice of those usually silenced. Instead of representing the interests of the privileged few, they put the hardships and suffering of the overwhelming majority of people in this country into words as well as documenting the resilience of the same overwhelming majority to rise to another day. It is despairing and inspiring reading all at once. The stories reveal how the political plays out in people’s personal lives, in harrowing and heroic ways.

GroundUp reminds me of the truth of my context that I am inclined to ignore and forget. Only when we take the truth they share week in and week out seriously and then respond by doing God’s liberating and healing will of doing justice, offering mercy while walking humbly, will we all be free.

Here are two examples from their latest Friday offering:

  1. Nomathemba Mali, 54, from Extension 8 said she has been renting for many years and could no longer afford it. “I’m a domestic worker and only work a few hours for three days a week. I get R1,440 a month and have to buy groceries, electricity, R24 per taxi trip to work, and R600 for rent. “I’m a single mother living with my 16-year-old granddaughter. For the whole month we depend on this money. The R600 rent we now won’t have to pay will make a difference,” said Mali. Read the full article here.
  2. A R120 chunk of the R350 Nomangesi Ndwayana and Nandile Ngemntu will each receive from the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant will go to pay the driver who brought them 50 kilometres from Peddie to Makhanda to queue outside the post office.The two travelled 50 kilometres from their Peddie village to Makhanda, arriving at 3 a.m., only to find people already queueing. Read the full article here.

 

I give thanks for GroundUp – a Christ-like incarnational newspaper without needing to say Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…

In grace,
Alan

 

P.S. I will be away for the next 10 days, sitting Vipassana.

P.S.S. Please remember to email: welcome@cmm.org.za if you would like the Zoom link for the Sunday Service.

Listening to Scripture as a Therapist

 

Friends,

Therapists listen.

Week in and week out – they listen.

Their days are divided into uncompromising 50 minute segments.

50 minute segments of listening.

Therapists listen to people weaving together the tapestry of their lives … threading words into patterns of meaning … hoping that the newly woven meaning will hold … will be a home to nest in … yet seldom do the first number of attempts satisfy. Each to be torn apart before attempting another – sometimes torn apart in a weaver-bird-like-tantrum.

Yet through it all the therapist is listening.

Listening through the endless repeats.

Listening for who or what is always mentioned and for who or what is never mentioned.

Listening for who is blamed and who is defended.

Listening for the words spoken with cement-like-certainty and for the words of doubt … knowing that they may be a proxy for each other.

Therapists perhaps especially listen for the contradictions or even the slightest variations within our stories. Not with the purpose to correct, catch out or even point out, and certainly not to accuse or condemn … but with curious hopefulness that here – where our story is inconsistent or simply uneven – that here there may be a potential “in” … a possible entry – like a picture or bookcase against a wall, that just needs to be touched in a certain way – for it to slowly swivel open – revealing a dusty web-strewn corridor … leading to a distant room filled with light.

Ironically and most thankfully, the words we most fear to speak, for fear of being judged and rejected, are often the words that move therapists to awe. Awe not for the content of the words but for the courage it took to speak them. Therapists, like poets know that “too much truth is hard to bear” and so they know how we must have wrestled with ourselves to finally speak it out … overcoming our fears, our guilt, our shame and our defensive denials. They know we fear the truth as much as we long for it. They know we defend ourselves from the truth even while we seek it. They know – and so regardless of what horrors our words reveal – the therapist takes an inward bow to the brave one sitting opposite them.

Now imagine you are a therapist. You are listening to the Scriptures as if they were a recording of the many sessions you have had with each of the characters in the text … in this case – the first three chapters of 1 Samuel.

What do we hear? What do we learn?

This is the introduction for our reflection tomorrow morning. I invite you to read 1 Samuel 1-3:20 in preparation.

In grace, Alan

If you would like to zoom link for the Sunday Service – please email welcome@cmm.org.za And if you would like to be sent the link each week – ask to be put on the CMM WhatsApp group.