God's Word for today

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Mvume Dandala to return to the MCSA

I've just seen an interesting article on the Mail & Guardian website announcing former COPE leader Mvume Dandala's proposed return to the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, from which he resigned as a minister when taking up his position in politics.

What saddens me, though, is the comments that appear below the article - commentators that are clearly ignorant of the relationship between the MCSA and its ministers.  The fact of the matter is that Rev Dandala was required to resign as a minister, since our Laws and Disciplines do not allow for its clergy to hold party political posts.  In fact, as ministers we are even discouraged from being members of political parties (although freedom to vote for the party of our choice is not impacted).

My own opinion is that this is a sound policy, for the simple reason that as a minister, we are called to serve all the members of the congregation, and I don't see how this can be done with integrity if one is a member of a particular party.  The risk of alienating those who align themselves to other parties is too great.  Incidently, Rev Dandala believes that there is no inherent conflict, and that ministers should be allowed to take up party membership and even political leadership positions.  His argument, expressed at a recent Ujamaa conference in Pietermaritzburg, is that Christians should be influencial in all spheres of life, including politics. I must respectfully differ with him on this one.  While I agree that Christians can (and should) serve God in all areas, when it comes to full-time ministry, I  believe that clergy must choose which hat to wear - politics, or ministry.

So now Rev Dandala has submitted an application to come back into the MCSA fold, having resigned from COPE's leadership and left active politics.  I have no problem with that - by all accounts, he left the MCSA on good terms, and in terms of our policies, a Pastoral Commission has been convened to consider his application for reinstatement.  Due process was followed when he joined COPE (i.e. he resigned), and it appears that due process is being followed concerning his return.

Although I don't know Rev Dandala personally, I do believe that he was called by God to ministry - certainly his track record as a minister and leader in the MCSA speaks for itself - and the fact that he has spent a season in the political arena does not mean that he has abandoned that call, particularly given his views expressed at the Ujamaa conference.  He had also done the honourable thing by resigning when it became clear that there could be no meeting of the minds between the different camps in COPE - and given the number of power-hungry megalomaniacs in South African politics today, honour and integrity is a rare character trait.

So I pray that the Pastoral Commission will be just that - pastoral - and that God's will be done, whatever the outcome.  And my prayers are with Rev Dandala, that he will not only seek God's will concerning his return to ministry, but that he will also find healing after what could only have been a trying time during his season in the political arena.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

"All of self, and none of Thee..."

I went to a Circuit Quarterly Meeting last night, which started at 7 pm and finished at around 11:30.  Unfortunately, for reasons I'm not at liberty to go into on this forum, it seemed that Jesus had left the meeting at 9.

Sad when some people consider themselves above the work of the ministry...

Sunday, 24 October 2010


It always amazes me that a meeting is defined as an activity that involves hours and hours of tense debate, ultimately producing a result called "minutes".

And this past week has had more than its fair share of meetings.  On Monday we had a rather tense Community Forum meeting at the Seminary, in which Ross addressed us with a number of grave matters relating to our community living as well as other rather sensitive issues.  Then on Tuesday I attended a meeting of the Circuit Executive with two of my Seminary colleagues, which was part of the viability and visioning exercise we are assisting this particular Circuit with - and it was a tense affair starting at 7pm and ending just before 11.

Wednesday was the turn of our Leaders' Meeting at Prestbury, which Michael asked me to chair, and one or two sparks flew there as well.  Although that one "only" lasted 2 1/2 hours, I was still pretty shattered at the end of it.  Moving on to Friday, we had a dinner held in honour of Alice O'Neill who has just achieved her Springbok Scout, the highest award in Scouting.  While this was not a "meeting" in the true sense of the word, there was quite a number of speeches and (once again) I only arrived back home at 11.

After a mere five hours of sleep it was up again to take part in a tree-planting community project that the Scouts were involved in.  This entailed a 3.8km uphill schlep through the forest paths behind Cascades shopping centre to the place where the trees were to be planted.  The fact that I busted my second pair of sandals within a week, courtesy of the left sole becoming completely detached (we'll have no cracks about a Methodist minister losing his sole/soul, if you don't mind...) about 800m into the walk meant that I trekked the remaining 3km with a serious wheel alignment problem.  My feet, knees, and hips were NOT happy!  Thankfully I was able to hitch a lift back down.

Finally, to round off the week, I was asked to attend a congregational meeting at Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Society this morning (also to do with the Circuit exercise referred to above), which I arrived at just after 10 (having ducked out halfway through he service at Unit 14).  Ross had been preaching and was planning to attend the meeting as well, but I suspect that as soon as he saw me he figured that this would present the perfect opportunity for a well-executed escape.  (Ross - you owe me one!)  After just over 3 1/2 hours of fairly intense debate, I hauled my sorry self back to Waalhaven, where the ministrations of my wife's roast beef, mash and veg, and sparkling grape juice re-fortified my weary soul.

The rest of today was spent basking my brain with Greek, ready for tomorrow's test.  At this stage I have to confess that it's all Greek to me!  Languages are not exactly my forte, and since turniong 40 I seem to have lost my capacity for rote learning as well.  In short, I'm up to my ankles in it, except that I'm head first.

Put it this way - if some people in the Seminary are getting up to mischief (and I stress, some - by no means a majority), quite frankly I don't know where they're getting the time!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

PhD, relocation, and other permutations

I am a member of a task team comprising seminary students who are tasked with assisting a local Circuit with a viability and visioning assessment exercise, part of which entails regular feedback and strategy meetings on Thursday afternoons.

After today's meeting Ross asked me, quite out of the blue, whether the plans for my proposed PhD are on track.  More particularly, whether we could do any advance spadework with the University of kwaZulu-Natal so that I could be "pre-registered" for the PhD programme so as to start as soon as I have completed my seminary studies in June next year.  (For those who are not aware, simultaneous registration with more than one educational institution is prohibited under South African law, otherwise I could have possibly been registered for the PhD already).

But the conversation soon turned to other matters surrounding my future study plans - in particular, whether my family and I are still on board with the idea of staying on at the Seminary for a further year (i.e. to the end of 2012), the purpose of which is to be within striking range of the University.  And I must say that I have mixed feelings about this.  While Seminary life is challenging in many good and pleasant ways, in particular from an education and formation point of view, it also comes with some less pleasant challenges (some of which I've articulated in a previous post).

The other matter relates to our parents, with both mine and Belinda's mothers living in our property (a pair of semi-detached houses) in Johannesburg.  The financial upkeep is substantial, but manageable.  However, of greater concern is their ages - my mother is 72, and Belinda's mother is 75 - and we are experiencing a growing degree of discomfort with having them live on their own, 500km away.  So selling up and relocating the folks to Pietermaritzburg is an option to consider.

There's also the matter of James starting high school in 2012, and given that the MCSA's stationing process can literally send you anywhere in Southern Africa (my colleage Kevin Endres, for instance, is being stationed in Windhoek, Namibia next year), I have reservations in allowing him to start high school and then have to change schools after a year.  This points to me leaving Seminary at the end of 2011.

On the other hand, if I am accepted into the PhD programme, then from that point of view, leaving at the end of 2012 is the better option.  It is also not absolutely out of the question that a station could open up in Pietermaritzburg or within striking range, whether for 2012 or 2013, and I have already indicated to Ross that I would like to be up for consideration should such a post become available.  Certainly we've settled in nicely in Pietermaritzburg, what with my attachment to Prestbury, Belinda serving in a number of different ministries, James at Sunday School, both James and I involved in Scouts, his sport, our new friends...

Obviously, if this doesn't happen, then I need to be prepared to go whever the Church sends me.  It's difficult, this - especially given the need to honour my commitment to "go to whichever Circuit I am sent to".  And I have no intention of dishonouring this commitment.  However, one has to also consider the needs of family, and hopefully the Church will be pastoral in this regard.

Still, I have time on my hands - time to talk, time to pray, and time to engage with the appropriate people.  And when all is said and done, time will come when I need to simply leave the whole thing in God's hands, knowing that it is ultimately God's ministry that I am called to serve in.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


One of my passions is cars.  Before I was even out of nappies, I could tell the difference between the engine note of a V8 and a straight six, and as a child with a father who sold cars for a living, there was nothing cooler than spending Saturday mornings at work with him.  From the age of about seven, my job was to start up each and every car on the lot and give them a bit of a rev (so the battery wouldn't go flat, of course!).

Yet despite me being a petrolhead of note, my ownership experience of cars has been ... er ... boring?

My first car was a 1984 Ford Escort 1.3L (the first front-wheel-drive ones), which had (unbeknown to me) been rolled by its previous owner and so the roof had not been put back on quite straight.  It had a top speed of about 130km/h (down a mineshaft, with a tailwind), and 0-100 took about three weeks.  Still, I had some fond memories of that car - especially when I was washing it at my then-girlfriend's house and she brought me one her mother's pristine white towels to dry it with, so as to not scratch the paintwork.  (I figured there and then that she was a "keeper" and married her four years later).

Tiring of the 'phone messages to call the Escort agency every time I took it in for a service, I got this rush of blood to the head and decided to buy (and restore) my late father-in-law's old 1.6 Corolla - the last of the rear-wheel-drive models.  It had an asthmatic 50kW engine, leaked every kind of automotive fluid known to humankind, and had a gearshift that felt like a wooden spoon in suet pudding.  It's only redeeming feature was that i had put a reasonable sound system in (comprising "the" tape deck to have in those days - a Pioneer Arc Component, coupled to their famed GM120 amplifier).

In a bizarre way, this dog of a car cemented my burgeoning love affair with Toyotas since I traded it in (or rather, asked the dealership to take it away and burn it) on a 1987 FWD 1.6GL Corolla.  Now THAT was a great car - I bought it in 1992 with 88,000km on the clock for R22,000, and sold it seven years later with 246,000km on it - still with the original clutch - and got R18,500 for it.

Enter my first "real" job, and to go with it I bought my first "real" car - a 1991 BMW 325i (yes, the one that epitomised the "feline shriek" of a BMW straight six).  It was a seriously fun car to drive, with 126kW on tap (exactly double that of the Corolla), but after a holiday to Cape Town with wife, mother, 18-month-old son, and 3 tons of luggage and baby paraphernalia on board, I knew I needed a bigger car.

So what would any self-respecting, 30-year-old professional on his way up the corporate ladder, who had just spent two years of "sheer driving pleasure" in one of BMW's finest, buy next?  Not what you'd expect.  The honours for my first new car went to ... a boring grey Mazda 626, whose main feature was a boot that was probably big enough to park the BMW in, had I kept it...

Five years later and 151,000 trouble-free kilometres later, I made what was probably the stupidist automotive decision of my life, and traded the Mazda in on a Renault Scenic.  Great car, with it's high-up stance and millions of hidey-holes, but one couldn't complain about the service - 'cos there wasn't any.  Then came the calling to ministry, and with the prospect of being posted off to the boondocks, and glad for an excuse to get rid of that horrid French thing,  I threw all caution to the wind and bought the gay Chinese truck (see previous post here), for which I have developed a distinct fondness over the past three years.

In the meantime my wife also took to the road, with her first car being her late father's 1.3 CitiGolf.  I should have suspected that lightning would, in this case, strike twice in the same place given my experiences with his old RWD Toyota, and so it proved with the Golf being held together with prestik and wire.  When the VW finally expired, I decided that my significant other needed something more reliable, which came in the form of an Opel Astra Estate, which was quite zooty with its aftermarket mag wheels and "Bite Me" logo on the rear.

Unfortunately, after a mere 12 months with the Opel, Belinda had an altercation with an Oshkosh on the N12, in which the Astra came off second-best.  So now she drives a motorised sofa with a boot big enough to take another sofa in it, otherwise known as a Toyota Camry.  It's big, it's lazy, and it's an automatic - and it's probably THE most comfortable car I have ever driven.

However, despite my wife and I owning what many would consider to be the most boring transport on four wheels during the 19 years of our marriage (except for the aforementioned BM), my son has, thanks to Messrs Clarkson, May, and Hammond of TopGear fame, become a petrolhead in the making.

This morning, in reference to the expressed desire of Jeremy Clarkson that, when he dies one day, he be driven to his funeral at 100 miles an hour in anything with a V8 under the bonnet, James decided that if he were to die anytime soon (God forbid), he wants to go one better - a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, the most insanely powerful (and expensive) production car in the world.

There's just one problem - since the Veyron doesn't come in an estate version, and the exhaust configuration precludes the fitment of a towbar (which would be sacrilege), the only way to turn a Veyron into a hearse would be to put a roofrack on it.

And that's just WRONG!!!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Uncelebrated milestone

It's just struck me that my last post two days ago was Number 400.  Who would have thought that so much verbiage could flow from my keyboard in what has been a relatively short period of time (three years)?

Jenny also mentioned to me that she looks for a blog post for me when things aren't going well.  Part of the reason is that I find blogging to be quite therapeutic  Which means that when I don't blog for a long time, things build up inside like a volcano waiting to erupt - which it eventually does!

Different people blog for different reasons.  What are some of yours?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

My beloved gay truck

On a lighter side, this post came to mind as I ponder whether my double-cab bakkie will be ready for collection from the panelbeaters today.  I had to return it for some minor adjustments arising from repairs occasioned by an unfortunate coming-together with another vehicle just over a month ago.

When I bought this vehicle in 2007, I came in for some stick because I had gone for one of the Chinese bakkes from GWM.  My reasoning at the time was that an all-in price of just under R150,000 (which included leather seats, a major upgrade to the sound system, rubberising, a towbar, and a canopy), and seeing as the mechanicals were based on a Toyota engine with Bosch fuel injection (even if it does look like a "pavement special" between a Nissan Hardbody and the old Isuzu KB), I couldn't go too far wrong.

And so it has proved, with 40,000 trouble-free kilometres under the belt (apart from last month's ding).  I'll grant that the Toyota Hilux is a better vehicle, but whether it is nearly R180,000 better is a moot point.

However, owning this vehicle has not been without its moments.  When I was considering the purchase of a more rugged vehicle than the Renault Scenic I owned at the time (which was a great vehicle, but the service from Renault dealers was diabolical) in view of entering the ministry and the possibility of being stationed in a rural area, I did some online research first.

Unfortunately, since the GWM brand was fairly new in South Africa at the time, when you did a Google search on GWM you ended up with a whole lot of unwanted propositions that could result in instant dismissal from many institutions, including the Methodist Church.  You see, GWM also stands for Gay White Male, which meant that my computer screen was filled with classified ads from homosexual men looking for meaningful overnight relationships.

Three years on, however, I have come to terms with my same-sex relationship with this particular GWM.  He's not the prettiest truck around, and the ride is like a bouncing ball compared to my wife's sofa-comfortable Camry.  But then the Camry can't lug a ton of bricks / floor tiles / furniture / holiday luggage.  The GWM has relocated me twice since entering the ministry, with no problems other than a burst tyre just outside Grahamstown.  He's reliable, dependable, and does what he's designed to do - and so I love him!

Christianity vs. culture - which takes precedence?

One of the struggles that many of us have as Christians is when it comes to conflicts between our cultural practices and our Christian values.  The subject came up in one of our seminary classes, where a colleague defenced the superiority of culture over Christianity by stating that "I was born an African; Christianity is something that I only adopted later in life".

This came as a bit of a shock to me, since I have always strived to ensure that my Christian beliefs supersede any other aspect of my life.  Not that I've always got it right, mind you, but the intention and the will is certainly there.

Lest I be accused of being Euro-centric or (gasp!) racist, allow me to explain my disquiet at this concept of culture being superior with an example from my own life.  I was born in England, and even though my parents (at that stage) did not dare darken the doors of a church other than to attend weddings and funerals, it was an essential part of our Englishness to be "christened" in the Church of England.  And so it was off to the local vicar, who agreed, after the promise of an invite to a good knees-up (British slang for a party of note) afterwards (at which, I am told, the vicar got so plastered on port that he had to be helped into a taxi to take him back to the vicarage), to do the necessary sprinkling that would fully induct me as one of Her Majesty's loyal subjects.

In later years, when I had accepted Jesus as Lord, I underwent what I considered to be my first (and only) "real" baptism which, in actual fact, was "re-baptism" - this being a big no-no in the Methodist Church, but in my defence I didn't know much about concepts such as "prevenient grace" at that stage.

This experience however meant that when my son was born, my wife and I were determined, as Christian parents, that James' baptism would be given its proper place and meaning within our Christian faith, so that there would be no ambiguity in later years concerning whether he had received a "proper" baptism.  So much so that we decided not to baptise him as a baby (undergoing a dedication service instead, at which we as parents made the appropriate promises to bring James up in the love of Christ), but instead left the decision up to him to make once he had come to an understanding of his own relationship with Jesus.

The upshot is that while many of my cultural practices are cast out of a distinctly English mould, in this case my Christian beliefs firmly overrode my Englishness.

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that all cultural practices are necessarily in conflict with Christianity.  Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here, lest we repeat the mistakes of many of the early missionaries who equated Christianity with being "English gentlemen".  But in areas where culture is at odds with Christ, surely culture is the one that has to give way?

I'll explain my specific concerns in a later post.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Standard Bank: You greedy bastards!

This article appeared on website Fin24 two days ago:

Johannesburg - Standard Bank Group [JSE:SBK], South Africa's largest bank by market value, has announced to staff that a fresh round of retrenchments will most likely hit managers based in its London and Johannesburg offices.

A confidential email was circulated on Tuesday afternoon signed by group CEO Jacko Maree and Sim Tshabalala, head of Standard Bank South Africa.

The email, which cited cost pressures for the staff reductions, was confirmed by Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom.

In its interim results to end-June Standard Bank said its earnings rose 11% to R5.9bn during the period under review on the back of improved market confidence and better returns from wealth management business Liberty Holdings [JSE:LBH]. The group also managed to nearly halve its impairment charge from R7bn in the first half of 2009 to R4bn.

The dividend was maintained at 141c.

At the release of the results in August, CEO Jacko Maree said Standard Bank wants to become a link between international capital markets and Africa, focusing specifically on the oil, gas, telecommunications, power, infrastructure and mining industries as well as the financial sector.

"If you want to play in this game you need a strong dollar balance sheet - not just a strong rand one," said Maree.

Okay, let me put on my bean counter cap for a moment and see if I understand this properly.  Standard Bank, one of South Africa's "Big 4" banks, has just increased their earnings by 11% (inflation's been running at around 5%) at a time where South Africa (and, indeed, the world) is just beginning to eke its way out of the worst recession in living memory, and their profits for the six months ended June 2010 were R5.9 billion (yes, that's nine zeros).  Yet somehow profits of just shy of a billion rand per month are not enough, since Standard Bank has announced that retrenchments are about to take place due to "cost pressures".

Now hang on a minute here.  I've never been retrenched myself (thank God), but my mother has - twice - so I know what it's like for a family to be suddenly faced without income.  And I've also been in in the painful position in my own business where, having just about exhausted the bond facility on my house to meet payroll expenses, I've had to tell an employee (whom I went to school with) that I could no longer keep him on.  Even though all ended well for him since he was able to secure another job in which he could start immediately after leaving my employ, it was still the worst thing I've ever had to do in my life.  But to want to even consider putting people out of work because you're "only" making a billion a month?

The market reacted yesterday by pushing Standard Bank's share price up by 1% on the news of the job cuts.  So let me see if I get this one - shareholders actually profit from employees' misery?  Don't get me wrong - I'm no socialist, and I have little time for the rantings of one Julius Malema (ANC Youth League president) about nationalisation.  But if ever there was an example of capitalism gone wrong, here it is in black and white.

I wonder how CEO Jacko Maree sleeps at night.  May God have mercy on his soul - right now, there ain't too much sitting in mine.

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death

Fans of the Rocky movies will know that a fair amount of time elapsed between Rocky V and Rocky Balboa, and so it seems that a similar amount of time has passed since my last blog post.

And just like Rocky Balboa, I have a lot of "stuff in the basement" that I'm struggling to deal with at the moment.

Without a doubt, coming to SMMS at the beginning of this year was always going to represent a major upheaval in my life, but i had no idea just what a challenge the experience would be.  The fault is not that of the seminary - my struggles have a lot more to do with my stage of life than anything else, and the staff have (for the most part) been extremely pastoral and supportive to my family and I - especially when we've needed a shoulder to cry on.

Yet somehow, after nine months here, I'm finding myself facing a number of struggles.  Individually, they are manageable.  Collectively, they are becoming overwhelming.

Firstly, the workload.  SMMS represents a sizeable investment by the MCSA, and the "powers that be" would certainly not want to have us sitting around picking our noses.  And I have quite a capacity for work - after all, this is my 14th year of post-school education, and the first on a full-time basis, which means that I've spend virtually the bulk of my 20s and 30s juggling studies with a corporate career or business.  In fact, during 2001 I was seconded to a major implementation project, was completing the second year of my Masters, and had also been enrolled in the Management Development Programme (for which I had been turned down two years previously, hence the Masters).  So I know what it takes to keep the balls in the air - or so I thought.  You see, last year I had a major fight with EMMU (the body that "owns" probationer ministers in the MCSA) because they had only enrolled me for three subjects and I wanted to do four.  This would have left me with just four subjects plus an academic report to enable me to complete my BTh through TEE College this year, which would have been a doddle seeing as I am now full-time.  However, the powers had other ideas and decided to switch me into the SMMS BTh programme, which meant that we are now doing eight subjects (nine last semester).  Granted, the credit values are lower, but the time spent in class is not - nor is the assignment load.  God put me on this earth to achieve a specific number of tasks.  Right now I'm so far behind, I'll never die! 

Secondly, the culture shock.  Now don't get me wrong - despite growing up in apartheid South Africa, I did in fact have contact with black people, especially since the advent of democracy.  I've worked with a number of black people over the years, and count a number of them among my friends.  But this is a bit different - with 7 whiteys out of 77 seminarians, things are going to be a bit skewed away from the culture we have grown up with.  And that's okay.  I can handle going to church and reading the liturgy and Scripture passages in Zulu.  I can deal with Amadodana-style singing (although I SO wish that sometimes they'd pick up the pace a little).  And I've got used to the long prayers in Xhosa.  But there's other things my colleagues do that get under my skin after a while - little things like talking to one another at the top of their voices, the driver of the Quantum leaning on the hooter because the kids for school are a bit slow out of the blocks, and the animated discussions that take place between the ground and top floors when I'm trying to get some work done.  One can handle this for a few days - a month, even - but after nine months it begins to wear a bit thin.  So today, when one of my colleagues was washing her car and playing her music rather loudly, I snapped at her a bit more harshly than I might have done under different circumstances.

Thirdly, the loss of independence.  For instance, I've been a member of various medical aid schemes for 20 years.  I've got the whole procedure "thing" nailed.  And because the MCSA's medical scheme is one where you have to pay up front for your day-to-day services, I've worked out that if you go to the doctor and pay by credit card, provided that you get the paperwork in quickly, the money's usually reimbursed into your bank account by the time you need to pay what's owed on your credit card.  However, at SMMS many of my colleagues have never been on medical aid before.  The majority don't have credit cards.  Which means that a different plan needs to be made, involving the seminary handling all claims, receiving the refunds, and even having to regulate the doctor visits (one or two have seen a weekly visit to the GP as being their "due").  Unfortunately, the approach is "one size fits all", which means that whereas before it was just me, the service provider, and the scheme, now the long hand of the seminary is involved in my medical affairs.  When you've held a senior corporate position and run your own business, the last thing you want is someone else controlling your finances - no matter how well-intentioned the system may be.

Fourthly, there have been a couple of episodes where, being a minority, I've felt rather out of place - even unwanted, in fact.  I'm not at liberty to go into details, but every once in a while one comes across a person who, when they find themselves in a dominant position or a position of power, tend to throw their weight around a bit.  Add into the mix a bit of a chip on this person's shoulder about how the whites have been the oppressors for 350 years (which is true to a large extent, except that (a) I'm only 41, and (b) I'm not consciously aware of having "oppressed" anyone, irrespective of their race), and, shall we say, it's upset me enough at times to want to either leave the Seminary or punch said person very hard in the face.  Not very Christian, I know ... perhaps one day I'll look back and see God's lesson in all of this.

Add to this the "normal" pressures of trying to squeeze in some form of family life (I nearly lost my family in 2002 because I spent every waking hour at the office, so family time has become sacrosanct), earning some money to keep the wolves from the door (seminarian allowance doesn't go too far when you have a wife, child, two parents and a house to look after), and maintaining some sort of devotional and worship life (both for my own spiritual sanity and to remind myself why I'm here), and you can imagine that it would be an understatement to say that I'm feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the moment.

So this morning was (almost) the last straw when my wife came back from the washing area to inform me that some of her underwear had been removed from the line.  This is not the first time something of ours has gone "walkies", and I'm not the only seminarian who has experienced this.  It's horrible to think that there may be some amongst us who have sticky fingers, but the evidence sadly proves otherwise.

Right now, I'm not in a very good place at all.  I need time to work through these "demons" - something which, four weeks away from the start of final examinations, I'm unlikely to get too much of.  What I DO need is massive amounts of prayer.  This weekend my family and I are going away on a church camp with Prestbury Methodist.  They are good folks and many of them have become dear friends, but they're also honest and mature enough not to take any of my crap, either - which is probably just what I need at this point in time.

Yet as I write this, it seems as though the flow of words onto the screen have had a cleansing effect on me.  The issues haven't gone, of course, and they still weigh heavily on my soul, but I get a sense that they're now "out there" and I can start dealing with things.  And I can somehow begin to identify with King David who, at a time in his life when he had lost the plot in so many ways, was given, by God, the comforting words of Psalm 23:

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
       he leads me beside quiet waters,
 3 he restores my soul.
       He guides me in paths of righteousness
       for his name's sake.
 4 Even though I walk
       through the valley of the shadow of death,
       I will fear no evil,
       for you are with me;
       your rod and your staff,
       they comfort me.
 5 You prepare a table before me
       in the presence of my enemies.
       You anoint my head with oil;
       my cup overflows.
 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
       all the days of my life,
       and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

God being my helper, the issues that are threatening to overwhelm me will also be overcome.  Like a small child who swallowed a five cent piece, this too shall pass...