Soul gardeners

Life is messy and not a 5 point plan! Jesus gave us wonderful metaphors to navigate the mess. We are an African couple committed to the Gardener. Our passion is tilling and working the soil of our lives and gardening with a community. We live in South Africa and we are praying for God's direction in our lives.


We are totally wasted today!

Yesterday was a monumental day:
- We moved out of our appartment
- We moved into our missionary friends' house (the same one we lived in for 7 months three years ago)
- We sold our car

The desert father's said that our spirits have to catch up with our bodies and advised times of silence and contemplation - I need to do that.
Below you will find part 3 of our trip (it is dry - the way I feel)

Part 3/3 The Montana Trip

Our trip to Yellowstone and Teton National Park was executed in typical Tom Smith planning style. No planning – just go and plan on the road. So you can guess my disappointment when the fine ranger at the Teton’s told me that only the West Gate of Yellowstone was open. To get to the West gate we had to drive 3 hours – through Idaho. So early Saturday morning we drove through potato land and arrived in Yellowstone and its world-famous geysers. Yellowstone opened its gate that day for the first time this season (now that’s planning).

Old Faithful is one of the larger geysers in the Park – the location in the park where the cameras and the crowds converge. We found out that the cold loves that spot as well. We sat on the bench, freezing our butts of and then it happened – the geyser erupted. After the 5 minutes of uncontrollable excitement we headed North into Montana. On our way out of the Park I reflected on the fact that it really sucked that we could not go into the Yellowstone backcountry. It saddened me that we traveled only on the asphalt. Much like people who only know the Christian adventure through the debilitated version of church buildings and Sunday worship services. Get out of the car!! I resolved not to visit a National Park without spending an evening under the stars.

Gallatin National Forest flanks one of the most beautiful mountain roads I’ve ever been on. Montana reveals itself in rugged beauty in that pass. The rolling hills and singing river the colors of spring the rustic houses – disturbed by the three dozen of white crosses next to the road. Each cross a life taken on that beautiful road. It’s funny how beauty and death cohabitates. Exhausted we slept in Missoula (A River runs through it was filmed there). I had an amazing Montana beer at the Machenzie River Company – it’s called Moose droule. Lollie watched Trading Spaces that evening and I read The Solace of Open Spaces.

Early Sunday morning we drove to Lakeside. The lake being Flathead Lake. It is really unfair that some people get to live next to this lake. The locals named the lake Flathead, they though the Indians who lived there was the Flathead tribe and name the lake to honor them. They were wrong – it was a different tribe – the name stuck. I think it is a fine monument of man’s ineptness at racial relations.

On Sunday afternoon we arrived at our destination. We baked on the jetty of our hosts waiting for them to return from their church service. Our visit lasted four days and I’ll tell you what they said if you want me to do that :)


Part 2/3 The Montana trip (thoughts on our resignation)

We woke on Friday with snow drizzling down in Jackson, Wyoming. Although the sun rose, it was as if everything were clouded in mystery. Good Friday is actually a very real and earthy day – Jesus struggling through the day obedient to the Father’s will.

Church of the Transfiguration is a little church with an awesome view of the Tetons. The two of us drove there to do our readings, the Tetons are amazing mountains – I’ve seen pictures of them. On Good Friday, they were hiding under a blanket of clouds. Every now and then a part of the mountain would peak through the mysterious covering. I wondered how the disciples must have felt on the day when Christ died. They didn’t have the benefit of seeing the pictures of Christ’s achievement on the cross. Like a pilgrim traveling through the Teton valley on a clouded day; unaware of the beauty behind the shrouded mystery.

Well the covering was torn in two that day. The separation between the holy and holy of holies tore in two! And the Teatons gazed down on us, in the church of the Transfiguration. It was bitterly cold in that little building! We huddled together, reading from Isaiah 53 and Mark, every sentence produced a steady stream of condensation in the air – and our hearts. Silence. We meditated on the passages and then it happened. Two tourists entered the chapel, making and ruckus and taking pictures. My immediate reaction was very Pharisee-like, ‘I wonder if they know what day it is?’ and ‘I am so glad I know what Jesus did for me’ changed into prayers of asking for forgiveness. I thanked Jesus for His all-inclusive love and prayed for the two who frequented the church.

The passage I meditated on more accurate, the passage that meditated on me was a weird one. A passage that would have missed my heart’s destination more often than not, made a passage through my heart.

“There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High council, man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the Kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” – Luke 23 (Message)

One of the reasons we took this trip was to meditated and pray about a major life decision. This decision involved resigning from Woodmen Valley Chapel, the community we’ve been with for the last 3 years. Resigning is such a weird word though. Especially in the kingdom of God, but that’s a different post altogether. In the last few months we’ve felt a strong yearning to return to South Africa. A reassigning if you will; to go back and live the Kingdom adventure in Africa.

On Good Friday God spoke to me through Joseph. Can you imagine the reassigning he must have felt? He was a part of the Jewish High Council and he distanced himself from their plans and actions. Talk about a revolutionary decision! I think part of his willingness to follow Christ and not the crowd is summed up in the sentence: he lived in alert expectation of the Kingdom of God. That’s how I want to live, my allegiance to God and His kingdom above the petty mediocrity of following the plans and actions of councils.

For us that meant leaving the comfortable world of the mega-church. Now please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not bashing the mega-church. I just know that we (Lollie and I) were not called to it. God is pulling us towards something smaller, more organic, missional – a group of friends infecting a community with God’s message. Joseph was from a Jewish village, where is mine?

Driving through Wyoming opened my eyes to some individuals. People I don’t give passage through the corridors of my mind. Ranchers and Rodeo cowboys. Whilst in Wyoming I picked up an excellent book about Wyoming, ‘The solace of open spaces’. In it Gretel Ehrlich writes about these two groups:

“Some ranchers look down on the sport of rodeo; they don’t want these ‘drugstore cowboys’ getting all the attention and glory. Besides, rodeo seems to have less and less to with real ranch work. Who ever heard of gathering cows on a bareback horse with no bridle, or climbing on a herd bull? Ranchers are generalists – they have to know how to do many things – from juggling the futures market to overhauling a tractor or curing a viral scours (diarrhea) in calves – while rodeo athletes are specialists. Deep down, they probably feel envious of each other: the rancher for the praise and big money; the rodeo cowboy for the stay-at-home life among animals to which their sport only alludes.”

These two pictures, Joseph and Rancher/Rodeo cowboys gave me a picture of what God is pulling us too. In the mega-church we have had a lot of praise and the big bucks. We yearn for the stay-at-home life in a community, like the towns in Wyoming where people know the stories of their lives, the individual and collective Story.


Part 1/3 The Montana trip

We are back in town, and it was a wonderful trip. Road trips are truly amazing – it took almost 15 hours to drive back from Montana (we drove 2500 miles). Lollie and I spent some real quality time together. Our conversations ranged from the profound to the profane (you can guess who stimulated the latter).

This post is dedicated to my mother. From prior experience I know that my usual answer to her question: “how was the trip?” won’t suffice. So instead of my usual ‘it was great’. Here is an extended version an exegesis of the words ‘it was great’.

The reason for our trip was twofold. One, we always wanted to see Yellowstone – and Grand Teton National Park. Two, we were on the verge of making some huge decisions and had the opportunity to visit some wise friends in Montana.

We started our trip on Thursday after delaying our intended start of 5:00 AM to 11:00. We aimed for Jackson in Wyoming. Leaving Colorado and entering Wyoming was a revelation or maybe a deceleration? Wyoming is flat and dusty and I’m glad we don’t live there. Some people call it home though, and with a ring of affection, like we call ours. Wyoming is a state of nothing. Towns like Granger have a population of 126, can you imagine?

The word Wyoming is derived from an Indian word and it means, Great Plains. Great and empty, only 500 000 people live in this state, the 9th biggest state in America. It’s a big desert with some souls on it animals still outnumber humans. If you love sagebrush, dust and flat terrain then you will love that countryside!

Our goal was to drive through it as fast as possible. It took us 5 hours to get through the worst of it. Something weird happened during our Wyoming blitzkrieg – we discovered a beauty in the aridness of the terrain. The sagebrush looked like a Technicolor Coat, purple, orange, yellow and brown intermixed showing off a unique side of the desert.
A little house stood secluded on a hill, screaming out to be noticed in its simplicity. Cows, bison, horses and birds inhabited the desert like teenagers in a shopping mall waiting for the opposite sex to notice them. And we started noticing. I wondered what it must be like growing up in Granger – where everyone knows your name? The ruggedness, obscurity and remoteness evoked a deep yearning in our hearts.

We listened to some tapes in the car. Dan Allander spoke about the importance of our story. We are called to be stewards of the story He wrote in, through and at us. The challenge is to discover the reoccurring themes of our story. Eugene Peterson spoke on Luke 16 and the importance of living the spiritual life in concrete terms and not just abstracts. I thought about a worship evening the other day when we sang about raising our hands to heaven, not one of the 250 people singing raised their hands. We are experts in the abstract, novices in the practicum.

On a soularize tape I realized that you don’t have a vision – or a value statement, YOU ARE a value- and vision statement. What is mine?

We navigated the flat, ordinary terrain and I thought to myself that the terrain was a wonderful depiction of the spiritual life. Most of the spiritual life is hidden in the ordinary day-to-day activities and rhythms.

Entering Teton County was like going to a church camp and having that classic ‘camp-high’. The scenery changed dramatically flat boring terrain morphed into impressive towering mountains. Desert sand changed into singing rivers, every turn in the road revealing a new visual delight. If we didn’t know better we would have thought that all the green of the land packed up and immigrated to the northwest part of the state. Regardless of the why, we were glad.

That evening we booked into a hotel in Jackson. The Best Western Inn Lodge. It had a huge bath with jets in! We had a blast – no pun intended. Will post later on our doings on Friday and Saturday and then on Sunday-Thursday. If you read this far – good job.


We are on our way back to Colorado Springs. Our time in Montana was amazing! By the way, we resigned from Woodmen Valley Chapel. On the 26th of May we will fly back to South Africa! A new adventure awaits us, I will tell more wen we get back in Colorado Springs. I'm typing this message from a super crappy tv-internet deal in the hotel (it is the worst $10 I've ever spent)


Our trip from Jackson(Wyoming) took us through Yellowstone National Park. While freezing on a bench we watched 'Old Faithful' the geyser erupt into a magnificent cloud of water and steam. The drive to Missoula(Montana) was spectacular. Tomorrow we will head for Lakeside where we will visit with a couple that God graciously placed in our lives. Will tell all about it later.....

Today was Saturday - the in-between day. Imagine being a disciple on this day. Yesterday they crucified Jesus, all your hopes and expectations were scattered. They did not have the end of the story on Saturday - a privilege we do have. It must have been a pretty sucky Saturday for them. In a lot of ways we are living in Saturday, but keep good courage Sunday is coming! We will dance and sing because HE IS RISEN. But for now we can only think about the ...what could have's and the .... it was so cool when .....


The Roadtrip

We are on a road trip. Yesterday we drove through Wyoming working our way to Jackson and the Grand Teton National Park. The drive, for the most part is extremely dull. Flat, desolate plains abound! It is sobering to think that some people call it home and return to those places after a vacation with the same affection we do ours.

About 80 miles from Jackson we entered Teton County, the mountains lifted themselves from the valley floor, snow-capped peaks gazing into the dull planes. Life is like our journey yesterday - a lot of flat dull terrain has to be navigated and every now and then we will experience a delightful change of scenery.

Today is Good Friday - we are going to sit in a church and read our readings for the day. Staring through the window of this church we will be able to see the Tetons in its entire splendor. Jesus is Amazing.


I had a weird experience this morning.
A few of my friends are organizing a reunion for our school. After 10 years we are scattered all over the place - so they contacted all the people for whom they had e-mail addresses and asked them to forward it to some of the people they were still in contact with. When I fired up my e-mail this morning I found this e-mail (it is crude so if you're easily offended don't read - also I'm translating from Afrikaans)

F...k you all

Just because I didn't pass our senior year, you decided not to invite me to your unoriginal barbecue. Who's going to stop me from coming? I will be there with my sister and our 7 kids. We will spit on your barbecue and will burn down your jumping castle. It will all end in ashes....

This is the same guy who told us in middle-school : "I don't play with kids, I make them."
Nothing changed ....


I'm adding a few good blogs to my links:

The Searching
Emerging Minister
King's Kid



A bizarre Lent picture

Holy Week. This week we will meditate on Christ's life and His 'passion' for the glory of the Father. Jesus is the example of living a rhythm of synchronized obedience. He lived for the glory of the Father and not his own. It really challenges me; I'm so filled with ego and my own rhythms. This weekend I spent some time in the gymnasium - the gymnasium of the Psalms that is. I happened upon this spiritual bicep flex:

These wicked people are born sinners; even from birth they have lied and gone their own way. They spit poison like deadly snakes;
they are like cobras that refuse to listen, ignoring the tunes of the snake charmers, no matter how skillfully they play.
Psalm 58

I am like the cobra - God is the Ultimate Charmer and Enchanter yet I choose to dance to the rhythm of a lesser god.
I reflected on this thought when my good friend Tom told me this story on a Passion play (a true story):

A certain church are well-known for their excellent rendition of Christ's agony on the cross. In order to get the best actors for the Passion Play they source the roles of actors out to acting companies. The Jesus in the play was one of these hirelings (not a follower of Christ himself). The play was excellent and then it happened.... During the crucifixion scene, one of the soldiers poked the hired Jesus in his side. The jab from the Javelin pierced the actor - blood started to gush out of the flesh wound. The acting jesus smirked down towards the soldier:

When I get of this cross I'm going to kick your ass!

The audience heard the remark and they were shocked. They had to substitute Jesus! The bleeding was too much for the actor. The second Jesus took over and everything went well till the ascension scene. Unfortunately, the producers of this Passion play did not take into account the fact that the sequel to the first Jesus was 30 pounds heavier than the first. Being heavier than the first Jesus the rope that was used during the rehearsals were not strong enough for the other version. Thirty feet into the air the rope snapped and the actor broke both his legs!

I am more like the guy who wants to kick ass.
I am so glad that Jesus forgave the people who crucified Him!
I am so glad that we don't need another Jesus.
Jesus is enough.
He is the Enchanter.
I desperately want to be enchanted.

Lord, I don' love you; I don't even want to love You; but I want to want to love You - Teresa of Avila.


The importance of words

I've been meditating on the importance of words and the way in which we harness them in the Kingdom economy. Some of the phrases we use are just plain wrong. Take for instance the phrase : "Sunday I went to church" This phrase with its unassuming harmlessness can leave us neutered in the Kingdom adventure Jesus calls us to. Why? Well - to begin with there is no reference in our Scriptures to anyone 'going' to church. If we accept this phrase we accept that the church is a static building or event. When we leave 'church' we go back to our 'normal' lives - this is just wrong. A few of us have been taught as children that the church is not a building but that we are the church! Church then is not a singular event on a weekend but an all-inclusive verb lived out rhythmically throughout the week. Yes we do gather together on a Sunday or Saturday or whenever but let's not brand this activity "church". Church is so much more than just a weekend event. What do you think? What is church?


Neigborhood reflections

We are staying with 3 boys. Their parents asked us to be with their boys and watch their house while they're gone. In all reality they are babysitting us - the 3 of them are very self-sufficient and their lives are a beautiful picture of teamwork and the body of Christ (I'll blog later about this). This morning I relaxed in the living room, observing the moving truck that pulled up to the house next door - another transition in motion, the loaders were intensely doing what they do best - lifting unheard of loads with disgusting ease. Neigborhoods produce peculiar rhythms - the conglomeration produce a lot of junk!

As I watched the loaders do they're chores a garbage truck rolled into the neighborhood - collecting all the garbage of the day past. What manner of garbage I wonder? Some of it will be the leftovers of a meal shared by an intimate family; other bags will show evidence of fast food shared by a hurried family scattered in different directions. A bottle of wine peaks through the opening of one bag - I wonder what conversational geography were covered whilst emptying the exquisite fluids? As they load one bag a broken toy falls out, once so popular and now forgotten - tears were probably shed, most likely stifled by a 'new' gadget to be figured out. I have to resist the urge to go through the garbage (isn't it always our temptation). I watch the disposal truck roll out of the neighborhood and reflect on the neighborhood of my heart. I thank God that He drives the Disposal Truck into my neigborhood - I have bottles and toys and all kinds of junk to throw in. May my heart be a container of good and not just garbage!

In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.2 Timothy 2 Message


Last week several men and women were baptized in Kuwait. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Gen 50:20

A good reminder to keep on praying for all people (Coalition or Iraqi's) to lift their eyes towards a new citizenship .... sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God.


What metaphor am I following?

At a recent conference we had a stimulating conversation about the metaphors we follow in our lives and the church. For the past few years we have been deconstructing the whole 'what is church?' question. The church live out the script of the metaphor or metaphors they choose to follow. The tricky part is that we can live the script of a metaphor without really knowing that we are doing it. Some of the metaphors that invaded the church are: CEO metaphor, business metaphor, team sport metaphor, military metaphor ..... and so on.

For the last few days I have been thinking of the church in terms of a family (a metaphor used by the Apostle Paul in his writings). It seems to me that most churches function on the border of dysfunctionalism - like most families, if you don't think your family is then it's time to wake up and smell the roses!

Anyway, one of the ingredients of a healthy family is discipline. Dad and Mom administering discipline in love, without it everyone turns into a snotty brat and all kind of evils prevail. Take for instance the older brother picking on his siblings, he or she asserts their 'power' in a negative sense. Now in a family the parents of this older child will surely administer discipline - not expecting the younger ones to take the fight totally on themselves (I acknowledge that there is a developmental process in which they will have to stand up). The parents will administer loving discipline towards the older child and thereby bring order and unity to the house.

Now in our family, the church, who are our parents? I think it is the elders - they are the parents - with life-experience as in 'being older' and 'maturity' I add maturity because we know, sadly that some people don't mature with age. Therefore they are responsible for the discipline in our family. Are we living this family-rhythm in our churches? Mostly, No. That makes me sad. It is probably to simplistic to think that we should aim for only one metaphor - I think we are indeed governed by a few of them.

Anyway I was wondering if the 5 of you who are reading this blog could give me some feedback on the metaphors that govern us as church communities?