A New Year Resolution

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Adapted from Max Ehrmann’s poem “Desiderata” (Desired Things) written in 1927

I will go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender I will be on good terms with all persons.

I will speak Your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

I will avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

I will not compare myself with others, lest I become vain and bitter; for there will always be greater and lesser persons than me.

I will enjoy my achievements as well as my plans. I will keep interested in my own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

I will exercise caution in my business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But I will not be blinded to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

I will be myself. Especially, I will not feign affection, nor be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

I will take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

I will nurture strength of spirit to shield me in sudden misfortune. But I will not distress myself with dark imaginings. I know that many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

I will hold a wholesome discipline, and be gentle with myself.

I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; I have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to me, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore I will be at peace with God, and whatever my labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life I will keep peace within my soul, With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. I will be cheerful. I will strive to be happy.


Mutual Heroes

This is the article I wrote for the Merredin Mercury dated 8 April 2010

I was in Perth at the end of February for the Mighty Men’s Conference with Angus Buchan. There were so many men from the Wheatbelt amongst the crowd of 2500 men that I could have been at a clearance sale. Next month 400,000 men will gather on Angus Buchan’s farm near Greytown in South Africa to hear the same message which we heard in Perth.

What is it that is drawing men together at this time all around the world through Promisekeepers, Million Man March, Mighty Men and Secret Men’s Business?

Some have said that it is a revolt against the feminist movement but I suspect that it is more than that. The nature of the male species is that of a warrior – he leads the way, he protects and he provides. He must be strong. But, in our society today he undertakes this role with fear and trepidation. He is alone, at the mercy of the elements, big business and politicians. His job is not secure because he has no control over it. The success stories are no longer about pioneers but about men in three piece suits with questionable morals. A man, a real man, doesn’t fit that image – he sees himself now as sidelined and voiceless, even, sometimes, in his own home.

Julian Krieg of Wheatbelt Men’s Health, offers a word of hope. He is helping men to rediscover themselves without turning them into Neanderthals. He offers a simple solution: Three M’s – a man needs a marriage partner, a mentor, and a mate.

A man needs a marriage partner because he needs intimacy (not just in the bedroom but in all of life). He needs one person with whom he can absolutely share his vulnerability and who will love him despite it all (I hope the wives are reading this bit, because there is nothing more vulnerable than a naked man in front of the mirror).

Second, a man needs a mentor. Someone who can give him value guidelines and principles for living in this difficult world. I am fortunate to have such a person in my father but not every man has had this privilege. Over the years I have become a mentor to many men who had no father to steer them into life, and I am mighty proud of what they have done.

Third, a man needs a mate. A man needs someone who thinks like he does, faces the same fears that he does and who has the same hopes that he does. He will not find this in his marriage partner, for she must be vulnerable with him; and he does not find this in his mentor, for such a man is to be revered and respected. A man’s mate is the one who stands with him in the struggle, often back to back against the enemy. A man’s mate is a comrade, who in the thick of the battle, will come up for him – they are mutual heroes.


Arrived…

We arrived in Perth on Wednesday afternoon July 22nd at about 1pm. The plane was early but waiting for us were Kobus & Sal from Merredin and Margie’s sister Susan and her son. It was good to touch the ground again and to see familiar faces. We praise God for the way in which He has had this whole adventure planned for us. The processes for immigration just happened, there was never a hitch – except for our own doubt from time to time, I suppose.

It has taken a while to get acclimatized into the new timezone. We had to rush around the first day getting Medicare sorted out, bank accounts finalised and to get new sim cards for our mobiles. The day was long but despite that we still woke up at 6am South African time ie midnight WA on Friday morning. Steve came to see us on his way to Emmaus and Margie prepared lunch for us all. After lunch we had to rush Susan to the airport to get the flight to Dubai/Morocco.

A couple of things to do on Saturday morning and then watched the Dockers/Eagles Derby. Took a while to begin to figure out how the game is played (still need to talk to someone who knows) but enjoyed it. Figured it was a good game until I read the Sunday Times this morning and read the crits. Seems it was an awful match. Oh well, it was close, exciting and very entertaining. I enjoyed it!

Had thought of driving out to Merredin this morning but our body clocks were still not right so we ended up at the South Mandurah Uniting Church. Lots of familiar faces and a good message from Ian Pearce. I loved the worship – Luke Williams leads with some pretty up to date music. He is brilliant, I just love the way he draws us into the Presence of the Lord so that our singing becomes a whispered love song right into the heart of God. Last time we were here he preached as well – a stirring sermon on the plans which God has for His church. He closed that sermon with a stirring rendition of “Be still my soul” which had the whole congregation in tears. I’ll never forget it – The Lord has major plans for this man.

Today was a quiet day – watched “A night with the king”, Tommy Tenney’s story about Esther. Amazing story, isn’t it? It made me think about how often we want to do things for God and actually forget to find out if He actually wants us to do them before we plunge in to it. God is sovereign, He has absolutely everything under control – He doesn’t need us but He welcomes our willing hearts. And when we have gone off on a tangent, He doesn’t just write us off – He simply uses the tangent to achieve what He wants from a different angle. I am constantly amazed at His patience with me.

Now that we have arrived in Australia, I think that I am going to change the approach to this blog, so don’t be surprised if you come here one day to find it totally different.

We are planning to come out to Merredin on Thursday, once we have figured out some transport  for ourselves. We have Susan’s car at the moment but Margie will have to come back to Mandurah to look after the cat and the house while Susan is away. She will come up to Merredin for the weekends.


Last Saturday in Howick

It is with some nostalgia that I awoke this morning. Its Saturday and our last one in Howick. The Manse is beginning to look empty as we get ready for our move. Today we will collect my desk and books from the study at the church and clean up my toolshed at home. I’m not much of a handyman – kind of missed out on that from the family gene pool. My dad and brothers were both engineers. I think I inherited the philosophical side from my mum.

Last Sunday’s farewell service at church was amazing. I had given my 38 favourite hymns to the musicians and they chose 16 of them, grouping them to fit with the progress of the service. I had not wanted the service to focus on us, nor on our ministry here, but rather to give glory to God for the way He has moved in the congregation. Each ministry and some individuals were recognised for their faithfulness to God’s calling. At the end we had everyone come up on stage – I told them that it was for a group photograph but I really wanted to say to them that THEY were the church, not the one who stands in the pulpit each Sunday. I think that everyone got the message …. Will post photos when I get them.

I received the following email this week from one of the members of our congregation. He is a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in South Africa and retired Professor from the Theology Faculty at Rhodes University in Grahamstown where most of our student ministers train. Calvin was the Interim Moderator at Upper Umgeni at the time of my Call and also Moderator of the Presbytery. Here’s what he said:

Dear David,

As you will discover, this chronicle has been compiled between the 4th and 30th June.  It does not cover the time in Presbytery before I withdrew from regular attendance at Presbytery in which you eventually cleared the difficulties associated with Mpopomeni.  So it is about our extremely positive experiences as members of the congregation under your leadership.

1. Thank you for your handling of this morning’s ‘fraternal’.  That it would be your last put pressure on a plan I sketched awhile ago of setting down how I’ve benefited in the nearly three years we’ve been in the UUPC congregation.  As I said at the Fellowship, there is no telling how God may use a ‘Fraternal’ when they are showing unity, and also that there is something deeply dysfunctional in a community where ‘brethren’ (and these days ‘sisters’ as well) do not meet with one another for the four great Pentecostal pillars: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.  UUPC’s initiative here makes it so easy for newcomers to meet their colleagues.

2. To arrive in Amberglen and within a couple of weeks of applying for membership to receive a visit from elders who not only talked with us but also read scripture and prayed was a heartening introduction.  The visitors showed that they were ‘not ashamed of the gospel’ and were willing to share it with a retired minister and an elder of 33 years’ standing.

3. To come into a congregation where home groups were functioning has helped the process of settling immeasurably.  I’ve battled a reputation of being ‘formidable’ and the group was prepared to accept my request that I was there to learn how ‘autodidacts’ (as my father was) hear the Word from the words.  Since two of the group have since been elected to the eldership, another’s son was featured in your recent ‘Cutting edge conference’ and the leader of the group (Neil Murray) has wide ranging experience of the Spirit’s working, the group has had an immensely beneficial experience in helping me understand many things about the NT: how ‘narrative theology’ can lead into therapeutic, and why so much is written in Koine and not in classical Greek.  This would facilitate a world mission to those whose home language was not Greek.  Translators the world over are free for local idiomatic translations for contemporary use.

4. It has been such a blessing to have attended your Wednesday Bible study.  Your careful preparation (including the use of IT to keep up to the minute in scholarship) has been hugely profitable.  I have been thrilled to watch how members have grown bolder in their participation through both prayer and comment.  This ‘boldness’ is surely one of the marks of the Spirit at work in deepening koinonia.

5. Similarly with the ‘Music group’.   In so many ‘choirs and places where they sing’, an underlying competitive spirit opens the door to the demonic. Here the ‘musical group’ gave such a warm welcome to this new member who wanted to learn the new language of praise they used.

6.  We were so intrigued about Sunday lunch that we came to see how it ran.  Fiona and Joy Anderson were just leaving the premises and offered to share with us the portions they were taking home!  Here was somewhere we could help: I had earned meals at Princeton as part of the kitchen team in the Calvin Warfield Club.

7. As an ‘alumnus’ of Amberglen’s Frail Care, I came to know how highly the staff appreciates Jenny’s Pastoral Teams’ visits.  That you took time out to visit me when you had so much else to attend to, was also a blessing.  At the time, you were coping with a major transition in your family’s lives.  This put my little visit to a foreign land into perspective.  By then I could appreciate the visits as coming not from ‘duty’ but from a precious friendship.

8. That the congregation had adopted (under your inspiration) Jesus’ foot-washing of his disciples was also deeply meaningful.  Every generation has to face this challenge for itself: on the way to the death of a slave, Jesus does slave’s work which his principal disciples had refused to do.  Here is the source that can cleanse all power from its otherwise inevitable abuse.  His subsequent command to ‘love one another’ is shaped by ‘as I have loved you’.  It is the test of the degree of liberation and hence the profoundest challenge to the ex-slave continent.

9. It was good of you to entrust that group of 8 yuppies to us in the last Alpha course.  It was a tightly knit group that met regularly and one of the disappointments was how it disintegrated after the course.  Yet we can all rejoice in the impetus it gave Alex and Tamlin Jenkins.

10,  Including us in your Cutting Edge Conference when you headed up the Church Growth Division of the Church was a huge plus.  Nearly all the other participants were ministers who had picked up their education from other sources than Rhodes, mostly through part-time study.  Once again, I learned much about what was practically useful in development and training.  A major disappointment at Rhodes was how little use was made of the beautiful chapel.   We always struggled to find a ‘convenient’ time for corporate worship in the residence.

11.  Then there was the prophetic mantle you tossed to Graham and me at the General Assembly through your role as Moderator’s Chaplain.  On reflection it seems that the church, being prepared as the bride of the King, has so much to learn about her bridegroom.  His will is that we should show the supernatural unity made possible through his life in us, the holiness which is his gift to us, the sweep of his universal rule, and our willingness to be sent to the oddest parts for his sake – which with due deference to your move, you have done.

Today’s post brought a registration form for the forthcoming Ministers’ conference.  The last Assembly gave evidence of how much repentance, healing, renewal and restoration is needed,  Where our communion liturgies have ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ it is easy to forget that the reference is past, present and future: think instead ‘with me in mind’, where we remember what he has done, is doing and still will do.

12. Isaiah 55 contains so many things related to prophetic ministry.  There are the wonderful certainties that once spoken, his Word will not return ‘empty’ but will accomplish the purposes for which it was spoken.  At the same time, there is the all too essential reminder of the difference between the prophet’s existence and the one who sends: ‘My thoughts (not yet formed into ‘words’) are not as yours; neither are my ways yours’.  Given our innate tendency to ‘take over’ from God, the maintenance of that difference is always indispensable.  How hard it is to remain consistently ‘a servant of the Word’ while at the same time also being the friend to whom he reveals all that the Father has given him.

Even after 7 months I am still coming to terms with the implications of my fall.  (The Fall?)  It’s been a gradual process, most of which has happened since our move here, and an accumulation of ‘losses’; physical handicaps that have affected other activity.  Your patient ministry to me under these circumstances has meant much and I sense that in praying for you during this time, I was praying for someone with similar commonalities: the drain of waiting for others to act, time in hospital, and the prospect of having to build new friendships with those whose lives have been markedly different.

Whether or not you feel that closeness is not so important – it may be another of the things God has done which he keeps hidden from the ‘doer’ for his own reasons.  But I want to put it on record by thanking you for your steady ministry that has given fresh meaning to the tough texts like ‘my strength is made perfect in weakness’, or ‘ I have learned in whatever state I am in, to be content.’

13. Sunday’s service was one that will challenge even those headed for Alzheimer’s.  By associating us with what we were doing in the congregation as well as with what the congregation had been called to do, you showed where there were possibilities for further growth.

So dear friends, as you go from us, we shall remember you: past, present and future with thanksgiving.

My father often signed of his letters to me with the Spanish ‘Go with God’.  That’s the incredible, impossible and inscrutable possibility att the heart of our gospel – so Vady con Dios

With love and thanks,

Calvin.


Time is flying

I have been tardy in keeping this blog up to date. I guess I should get into the habit of doing it each day. But its been a busy time and there has been so much to do. Today is a holiday in South Africa (Youth Day) so apart from a Prayer Meeting early on and moving my desk from the church to home, ready to be packed for Australia it is a free day.

Good news is that I finally received my Police Clearance Certificate yesterday. I had submitted one with my original application for a visa but it expired. Fortunately I applied for a new one in early April because the Australian Immigration Department wanted a new original certificate. As soon as I received it I couriered it to Perth. It left Pietermaritzburg at 13.18 and arrived in Johannesburg at 16.16. I can track it via the internet! Wonderful.

All things being well, this should fulfil the requirements needed to grant the visa and who knows, perhaps by the end of the week. It will certainly lift a great deal of strain and anxiety. We are living in limbo land at the moment – not knowing if we are going or staying. We had a farewell gathering arranged by the church choir on Sunday despite the fact that we are not sure of our future. Its hard to say goodbye in these circumstances. However we have been very open about the uncertainties with the congregation and they have been very reassuring – they wish us well, believe that it is in God’s intention … and would be very happy if we stayed. I love these people here and its going to be very sad to leave them.

I will preach my last (?) sermon on Sunday but it will not be the last service. Our last (?) service at the main church will be on June 28th and its going to be a thanksgiving from our side. Everytime we sing a hymn which I really like, I add it to the repertoire of hymns to be sung at my funeral – I now have 37 of them, and we have decided that we are going to sing at least some of these at the last service. I am also going to give thanks for all the people whom I have served in the 15 years that I have been minister of this congregation – they have really blessed me in so many ways. The following Sunday I will preach my last sermon at the Dargle Church. I will already be on leave but they have especially asked for me to be there.

My leave starts on June 25th but there is still so much to do. I need to get all the church info off my computer onto the computer system at the church; we need to dispose of a whole lot of stuff before the packers arrive on July 7th; I need to sort out my financial affairs – pension, investments, bank accounts, tax etc. We have booked a beach holiday from July 10th (and paid for it) but if time runs out we’ll give it to someone who needs a good holiday.

Please keep praying that there is enough time to do everything which needs to be done and that the processes continue to be smooth.


More of the week that was

Had to rush off this morning so didn’t finish the story of the week…

On Friday I conducted the funeral for a very dear lady in our congregation. She had been in FrailCare for the past several years and I didn’t therefore see her too much ie every Sunday like everyone else. Last time was on her 96th birthday. I was celebrating Holy Communion at the Frail Care Centre and she was there on her wheelchair. Because it is an interdenominational service there are some who prefer the little cups of wine and other who want to drink from the chalice. Esme always took a little cup except last time, she wanted to drink from the chalice. And my last words to her were, “This is the Cup on the New Covenant in Christ’s Blood, your sins are forgiven”.  Her husband had owned a major meat processing company before he retired. They joined our congregation just before we came here 15 years ago. They were committed Christian people though only from late in life. He joined my Bible Study on a Wednesday and constantly reminded us that we were to love one another. It was the ongoing theme of his life, he never let us forget it. His tombstone reads “Let us love one another”. His deepest concern was that we should come to understand that the root of the Gospel was love for God and for one another. Her family came from all over the world – Tasmania, New Zealand, Australia – they came because she was the last of the generation and they loved her. It was a moving service, filled with testimonies from the family. We took her ashes and interred them in her husband’s grave. Well done, good and faithful servant!

On Saturday I conducted the wedding for a lovely elderly couple in our congregation. He is 76 and she is 67 years old. They had both been widowed in the past 5 years and were struggling with loneliness. It was a beautiful wedding with much joy in their children’s hearts. They found each other in church – she has been a member for a long time but had lived away with her husband on a Game Reserve for the past several years. They were planning to come back after his retirement and he had, in fact, built a beautiful home for them. Alas, he had a heart attack and died. He had just joined our congregation after moving here from his farm. They happened to sit next to each other one Sunday and that was that. We had cherries from his farm for dessert. Most delicious.

On Sunday we had three young men come forward to profess their faith in Christ. We no longer have “confirmation” but understand that baptism is the spiritual event of entry into Christ. However, for those baptised as children, we have opportunity for them to profess their faith. The service was long but deeply profound. I spoke about New Wineskins – to be pasted on my other blog later (www.upperumgeni.wordpress.com). I also gave opportunity for the congregation to renew their own vows. Although I had to rush off afterwards to another service, I had the sense that the congregation were strengthened in their walk with God.


Some of the week that was

This has been a week filled with ministry events as I have witnessed and helped people with the spiritual dimension of journey of life. Last Sunday’s sermon which I titled “The Storm of Faith” (see http://upperumgeni.wordpress.com/category/sermons-rev-david-de-kock/) was the start of it all. I had a number of people who needed to talk about the “storm” which was going on in their lives. For some it was indeed a storm of faith, for others it was a storm of sin (which was not what I had spoken about). For the latter it was important to understand their need for repentance.

On Monday I was praying with a young man – Innocent Mabaso, who is working through a call into the ministry. He was travelling up to Johannesburg for a series of interviews with the Ministry Selection Committee of our denomination. He has been before – he was not accepted last year because it was felt that he did not have the capability to “run a church” and that he was better suited as an evangelist. We don’t have a specific ministry of Evangelist in our denomination  so he was really left high and dry. We have taken him under our wing in our congregation for the last year and taught him how to “run a congregation” and more importantly, how to minister to God’s people. He has been an avid learner and I continue to pray for him. Haven’t had news yet – the interviews take a couple of days and he will only be finished today.

I forgot an appointment on Tuesday. I don’t know why – I never do that! I’ve been meeting with this couple for several weeks at the same time on the same day each week and for some reason it wasn’t in my diary for last week. I conducted their wedding last year and they have been having difficulties in their marriage. They are not church goers and they kept cancelling our pre-marital interviews. When they came to see me, I decided to start at the beginning of the pre-marital course which I have developed. I deal with the Biblical Principles of Marriage as a Covenant, with Expectations, Faith, Money Matters, Family and their Sexual Relationship. In the previous session we had been dealing with the matter of Faith and our need for grace (from God, and each other). In my error – I was at home preparing for a Leadership Group meeting that evening and had no transport because Margie had taken the car – they showed much grace towards me. And I was grateful that they had benefitted from our last session together.

Wednesday is my favourite day at church. We start with Holy Communion and go on to Bible Study. I started teaching from Genesis 14 years ago and we are now in Romans. Over the years the group has grown from 8 people to as many as 50 on some days. We lost some of the intimacy as the group expanded but the ethos of being able to stop and ask questions and make comments has kept on. This week we were in Romans 2 – God’s Righteous Judgment and how His criteria for judgement is based on Truth, Deeds and Light. We spent a lot of time dealing with God’s kindness, tolerance and patience towards us.