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 found a place to meet as a group. It’s a community hall in a neighborhood called Berario Recreation Centre. This is so exciting because we will share this place with the community at large. Classes like belly dancing, yoga, pottery, pre- and postnatal and Tai Chi Chuan Qigong (whatever that might be) will be in the same place. Yippee and thank you God!!

By the way the picture has nothing to do with the post, I took it in Mozambique and found it today

WWLD? What would Luther do?

Today we remember Martin Luther who reformed the structures that squeezed the life out of the God life. He was a man who confronted the system head-on. Like Jesus cleansing the temple – driving the misdirecting souls away to prevent the happening of misdirected souls.

Some people contend that we need another reformation. I think I agree. We need to reform systems that:

- Reduce the God life to a repetitious attendance of a Sunday meeting
- Shrinks the gospel to “fire insurance”
- Define the church more by a noun than a verb
- Create ‘safe’ Christian ghettos
- Promote leadership structures that are power hungry and archaic
- Are an accumulation of us, me and you THUS we need to reform OURSELVES


I met up with an old friend today. We ‘accepted’ Christ at almost the same time – I walked into the life of ministry he studied psychology. He lives with his girlfriend and in the first five minutes of our conversation apologized profusely. A few months ago the two of them went to a church service, it was his girlfriend’s first. The whole service was designed around premarital sex – that it’s wrong. She decided that she’ll never do the church thing again.

He is experiencing an awakening in his journey with God and needs a place to work out how to read the map a traveling partner. He yearns for a place where he can have long dialogues about Christ and how He can make a difference in everyday life. We discussed the modern reduction of the gospel and its effects on people – accept Jesus yahoo now you’re going to heaven, just wait to die – we unpacked a little of what it means to be swallowed in the tidal wave of God’s Kingdom.

It highlighted to me how irrelevant church without a forum for dialogue is. People can’t be boxed into a forty five minute of mass direction. Sure it works sometimes but not all the time.

I’m so excited to be available for listening, asking questions and reflecting and prayer. It’s a pleasure.


A jog down memory lane

While jogging in the neighborhood on Saturday I enjoyed the calm of Randburg. It was a blistering hot day and the trees offered some spots of shade, a wonderful respite from the sun. Johannesburg has a lot of trees, in fact its one of the biggest man made forests in the world.

I jogged through memory lane. So much has changed from the time I rode my bike through the same streets. For one there is a lot of diversity now. Windsor, one of the areas from my house is now a totally integrated area. People of diverse backgrounds and cultures live as neighbors – unheard of when I was a boy.

We used to go to this one store we call it a café on the corner across the video store. My dad prohibited us from playing arcade games there – he said ‘all kinds of weird people do that.’ Ten years after that I joined one of my friends he played twenty rand worth of games and then he shoplifted the same amount. He justified it by saying that ‘he already paid by playing the game’.

My brother Dirk loves cream. One of his favorite tricks was to make a small hole in the bottom of the can and through it systematically empty the can. Mother wanted to bake one day and guess her surprise when she found an empty unopened can! Dirk had to go to the café and buy new cream. The café is now a supermarket and the video shop is gone.

While jogging I was thinking about our propensity towards exercise in the twenty first century. It’s weird that most of us ‘work’ without using our muscles or aerobic capacities. Exercise is something we have to do in addition to our work, because our work don’t give it t us. Man this hill is tough!

Diagonally across my parents’ house is the suburb’s swimming pool. I can still remember the day I rode my bike to the pool and saw one of the most absurd scenes. I was in middle school at the time and a high school kid rode a fifty cc motorbike straight into the pool, everyone scattered out of the water. The disturbed individual who accomplished this feat was a scary man. I walked to the school and had to pass him every day. His name was Derrick and he always dragged a chain behind him, word on the street was that he was part of the occult. He is now married to one of my friends.

Anyway, as I jogged the last hundred meters to the house a family in a brand new Audi stopped me and a little black kid poked his head out of the window. In perfect English he asked me, ‘Sir, could you please give me directions to the swimming pool?’ I gave them directions and just wondered how things would have changed when that ten year old turned thirty. What he would experience at the pool?

South Africa changed a lot in the last few years, democracy is a good thing, and we are a rainbow nation! I am proud to be a part of it.


In our effort to advance the Kingdom and partake in the building of the church it's so easy to get trapped in the structures used by God to advance His message. A week can pass without talking about Jesus, everything revolves around 'church'. In doing this we smother the essence of what the Kingdom is all about!

I read this passage on the Henri Nouwen site which served as a huge reminder!

Being in the Church, Not of It

Often we hear the remark that we have live in the world without being of the world. But it may be more difficult to be in the Church without being of the Church. Being of the Church means being so preoccupied by and involved in the many ecclesial affairs and clerical "ins and outs" that we are no longer focused on Jesus. The Church then blinds us from what we came to see and deafens us to what we came to hear. Still, it is in the Church that Christ dwells, invites us to his table, and speaks to us words of eternal love.
Being in the Church without being of it is a great spiritual challenge.


A few months ago I read the Da Vinci Code. Here is an interesting review from Life's Prologue that runs counter to the hooha about the book.

I am rereading the Divine Conspiracy and really enjoying it. Dallas Willard is a seasoned guide on the highways of God. We are also listening to a teaching series of John Ortberg entitled “If Jesus ran the world”. The whole series is about the Kingdom of God. The fact that Jesus’ message was and still is the Kingdom of God and not just a list of minimum requirements for going to heaven.
I have so much to learn…


I hate false accusations. Stories floating around about your reputation. People discussing you without including you in the conversation taking your name in vain. I’m in a situation like this right now. Should I defend this rumor? Should I just leave it and let it be?

I don’t know the answer but I know it hurts – even more when it’s Christians.

+++ God be our defender +++


Sunday was a wonderful day in Johannesburg. We woke up to the sound of rain, drenching rain. Slowly doing its saturating work, each drop feeding the roots of a thirsty plant or organism. It rained the whole day and still is.

Our group also met and we had a wonderful discussion about Jesus as the Cornerstone of our lives. How he was a Tekton – the Greek word for ‘mason’. Recent archeology showed that Jesus was probably a stone worker and worked his trade in a quarry near Nazareth. Jesus is still chipping away at our rough edges and uses our communities to build us into stones that will glorify Him.

Afterwards we talked about the heartbeat of our church. Each one of us is a building block of the spiritual house God is building (an act of immense mystery and Immanence). Our conversation lasted for several hours as we unpacked the passions of our hearts, afterwards we shared a meal around the table wonderful Lasagna! It was one of the most refreshing church experiences I’ve had for a while.

Early this morning I woke up and read a Eugene Peterson poem, a reflection on one of the Beatitudes:

Unfriendly waters do a friendly
Thing; curses, cataract hurled
Stones, make the rough places
Smooth; a rushing whitewater stream
Of blasphemies hate-launched,
Then caught by the sun, sprays rainbow
Arcs across the Youghiogeny.
Savaged by the river’s impersonal
Attack the land is deepened to bedrock.
Wise passivities are earned
In quiet, craggy, occasional pools
That chasten the wild waters to stillness,
And hold them under hemlock green
For birds and deer to bathe and drink
In peace – persecution’s gift:
The hard-won, blessed letting be.

The piece is entitled “Blessed are the Persecuted”

A few minutes after I read this I was informed of some vicious allegations made against me and Lollie. It was one of those he told her and she told him and therefore your friends are slandering you conversations. Lollie and I phoned the people who were supposedly ‘slandering’ us and found out the truth behind the whole ordeal. Our friendship are stronger after the conversations, yet we know that we are under attack – persecuted verbally. It hurts. I love the last line in the poem – The hard-won, letting be.

The absurdity of blessing the enemy.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you ever deeper into God’s kingdom.”


In the last year or so I made a startling discovery! Jesus was a Jew. It’s weird how we interpret Jesus through our own cultural lens. Whether that is Jesus as an American, African, Asian, Australian or whatever, the fact remains he was a Jew.

This revelation brought a new awareness of my roots as a Christian. If you follow my grafted position to the roots you will find father Abraham. Because of my impoverished view of heritage I usually skipped a lot of Old Testament reading and never thought through the implications of Jesus’ message to his original hearers. With this awareness I started to study some of the Jewish feasts and holidays.

This week is the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Sukkot was the first place the Israelites slept after leaving Egypt. It means “booths” and refers to the tents or shacks they had to sleep in during their travels through the wilderness. In Leviticus 23 we read all about Sukkot.

42 Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’”

The feast was held after the harvest just before the rain season. A huge part of the festival focused on prayers for rain. Water was essential for the next harvest and they trusted God to open the heavens. Every day the priests would walk down to the Pool of Siloam while the people sang the Hillal (Psalms 113-118). The priests would walk to the altar trough the Watergate of the Temple and throw the water on the altar. The Feast lasted for seven days and on the last days the festivities and ritual intensified.

During the climax of this Feast Christ gave one of His most startling pronouncements:

37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7)

This Friday two thousand years ago our Rabbi made that statement.

We are still thirsty,
Yet so often don’t drink from Him
He still invites us to drink,
Let’s drink gallons from our God
Liters from our Lord
He is enough.


Mozambique is our neighboring country, a fourteen hour drive from the house I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. The difference between these two countries is huge. Twelve days in the town of Manica highlighted these differences.

The most obvious is in language, Portuguese and Shauna are the languages spoken in Mozambique – apart from the ‘hellos and goodbyes’ I can’t understand a single word. Fortunately some dialogue is caught without words, a smile or a frown, a cry or a grimace – these I could understand. In addition to the greetings and body language we had Schalk – who understands Portuguese and served as the designated translator. We trusted him to communicate with the locals on our behalf. Every now and then we would venture to construct my own phrases, almost always greeted by thunderous laughter.

Toilets are another difference. This might seem like a superficial and trivial matter to some. Yet, think of the last few times you went to the white throne – maybe you even read some literature while sitting on the bin. Mozambique was a Portuguese colony, and as such oppressed the local people, squeezing them into their mold, misusing and abusing them. One fine day the country achieved independence, the Portuguese were forced out of the country – they were given twenty four hours to leave.

In spite they mixed cement and threw it down most sewage systems in the country – debilitating the basic hygiene of most cities (they destroyed as much as possible before leaving). Today most toilets consist of a pit with a hole as its entrance. Most of them are shaped like a keyhole, a keyhole unlocking the worst things imaginable. These pits developed into multi-sensory hell holes. The worst smells you’ve ever experienced are produced in the darkness of these toilets. Schalk has a toilet seat, pictured above - although you have to flush your crap away manually.

These toilets are reminiscent of the picture of hell used in the Bible. Gehenna was the name for the cesspool of sewage and rubble dumped by the people of Jerusalem in the valley below the city. Hell is a crappy place to be, Mozambique toilets too.


Mzungu! Mzungu! That word rained on us during our two week stay in Mozambique. The word means “White man” and little kids vocally affirmed our presence in their backyard using them. One evening we went to a show performed by the band practicing in Schalk’s garage. I stood there during the show’s rehearsal, fifty teenagers looking at me as if I’m the odd one out – I was! They shouted at me and laughed, making fun of me in their local language, Shauna. I felt isolated.

Mzungu is a local word which has its origin in a metaphor derived from the ocean. Some days the ocean is like a big bowl of soup being mixed in a mixer. During these days white foam appears on the water surface. That foam is Mzungu – white scum.

Colonialism gave us that name. The white man coming in and defiling everything with their scum.

In that moment of isolation I realized how my prejudice and fun at the expense of others shut people out. How I am part of a sad history of oppression and domination by the white scum in Africa. How desperately I needed God to help me see people through his eyes. How I have to break down my issues of supremacy.

In the next few days I will try to unpack what God did in my heart in Mozambique.