Sunday, March 31, 2013

Life in 5D

Everyone knows about 2D and 3D. The two usual dimensions we deal with are best expressed (at least mathematically) as the x and y dimensions. To most people, these are width and length (or length and width, depending on your view point). In recent years we've become familiar with the third dimension, thanks to the development in movie technology. Mathematically speaking, the 3rd dimension is the z dimension, which the ordinary person refers to as height.

In science (and science fiction), it is often accepted that there is a 4th dimension - the space-time continuum, which we mere mortals simply call "time". (Because of the nature of the 4th dimension, it will never be possible to travel backwards or forwards in time, which is probably a good thing, all told.)

Scientists have (or so I'm told) toyed with the idea of more dimensions. What would another dimension look like though?

Oddly, the Bible gives a clear picture of a 5th dimension. It's called heaven.

Heaven is not a place, in much the same way that time is not a place. Heaven is a state of being. God doesn't live above the clouds, or in a castle up in the stars, or in a distant galaxy somewhere. No, rather, heaven is the dimension in which one is in the immediate presence of the glory of God. Where is that? All around us, all the time. However, in the same way we can't SEE time, we can't SEE heaven.

Why do I mention this? Because it's Easter. The Christian calendar has only 3 really important festivals, and the 3rd is often ignored. The first two are easy - Christmas (which is actually in July, not in December, but that's another whole discussion), and Easter. The other festival is that of the Ascension.

Anyone who's a Christian will know that we celebrate Jesus' birth because that's when God became a human being and Jesus' death because that was when he paid the price for our sins (the Resurrection validates all the claims Jesus made, and demonstrates his power over death). Why then do we celebrate the Ascension? After all - when Jesus hung on the cross he declared that 'it is finished'. If the work was done on the cross, and validated by his resurrection, of what value is the Ascension?

Something that struck me, as I have been pondering Jesus' ascension is this: Before Jesus came to earth, he was in heaven, a heavenly/ spiritual being. Once he assumed human flesh though, he never returned to being 'just' a heavenly being. For Jesus, taking on human flesh was irrevocable. When he ascended into heaven, he did so in a bodily form. He sits now, in heaven, in a glorified physical body. It never struck me before quite how irrevocable Jesus' decision to become a sacrifice for us was for him. Yes, he returned to heaven, to be with his Father, but for him, things would never be the same. His love for us has left an indelible mark on the Godhead - because Jesus will be, forevermore, in human form.

But returning to a more traditional consideration of the ascension: if Jesus hadn't ascended to heaven, then 1) The Holy Spirit would not have been sent; 2) Jesus would not be seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us; 3) the work of the Church would not have begun.

All 3 of those are crucial to the purpose of Jesus' coming. Jesus died for ALL people. In order for ALL people to hear, and receive, this news, God has chosen to work through people. Thus, the mission of the church is to go into all the world, preaching the good news. There is no way that would happen without 1) the Holy Spirit, 2) the intercession of Jesus, and 3) the Church leaving Jerusalem (which wouldn't have happened if Jesus had still been here physically.)

So - life in 5D: width, length, height, a time dimension (right now), in the presence of an awesome God. When the temple curtain was torn in two (at the moment that Jesus died), heaven became accessible to all. There is much more to life than what we can see with our eyes.... There is a whole different dimension, if we are willing to believe it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Does God really exist?

*This post was supposed to have been posted on the 7th Mar, but because of internet issues, I see now it wasn't. Oh well!

When Zoe died, this was a question I had to grapple with. What my faith real? Even atheists have faith - they have faith that there is no God. So yes, my faith was real. Was the God I believed in real? Hmm... That was a harder one.

It wasn't the first time I'd asked that question, but it was the first time that I really took the time to think about it, to allow myself the space to contemplate the possibility that there wasn't a God. It was the first time that I gave myself permission for it to be okay if I decided there wasn't a God. (Well, if you read my blog regularly, you'll know what answer I found in my search.)

I've recently started reading a blog by Rachel Held Evans. She writes so beautifully, and honestly, and about deep stuff. I love her heart - she has such compassion for others. Her recent post, about the fact that so many Christians ask this very question, and have to grapple with it, really touched me. What touched me even more was the number of comments affirming the content of the post.

Our experience when we returned to SA was that we were surrounded by people who had NO IDEA of the pain we were in, or how much we hated the fact that they could experience such apparent joy - they had CLEARLY never suffered. While I now see that my response was very much coloured by my own grief, I do believe that, too often, church is a place where people pretend, where they behave in the manner they think they 'should' or 'ought' to.

Even now, my praise of God is always tinged by a halo of grief. I doubt that will ever change. I can't praise the way I used to, because now I know that there are times when God will not intervene, where He will not save, where He will not redeem, where He will not perform a miracle. It's not for lack of desire on his part, or lack of ability. It's because he has chosen to allow himself to be bound by the laws of physics and chaos. The world is far more chaotic than we think it is. The so-called 'Butterfly Effect' theory explains that well. So I still struggle to abandon myself in worship. Yet:

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

I think that is far more authentic worship - to know the depths of grief and pain, and even there, to be able to worship. But to the outside world, it doesn't look like "worship". There are no smiles, no adoring sighs, no hands raised, no head raised in wonder to the ceiling, no dancing a jig. Instead, there is hesitancy in uttering words, tears aplenty, groans that words cannot express, heads and shoulders bowed - not because we DON'T believe, but because we do. We believe, despite everything. We are broken, at the foot of the cross.

Too often, we judge the exterior appearance. Too often, we heap scorn on those who are different, who worship differently, because we cannot hear their heart, or know their inmost thoughts.

I am guilty of this. I am guilty of looking around during worship, judging who is *really* connecting with God, or wondering what others think of me & my worship style.  I, too, need to remember that for many, the fact that they are in church is a victory, a miracle, a sign that there is forward movement in their faith. I need to be gentle, loving and kind with others, and with myself.

Each of us, at least once in our lives, will have to ask and answer this question. For some of us, it comes around with regularity. Just as you think you've got a handle on the answer, you discover another angle, another facet you hadn't considered, another obstacle in your path. Once again, you will have to dig deep to find the courage to face this question head on, to be honest in your search and honest in your answer.

To those who have yet to start this journey - don't judge us: we are not weaker than you, or less faithful than you, or less intelligent than you - we are merely struggling with the vagaries of life and with a cognitive dissonance that must be resolved if we are to move forward. Don't patronise us: nothing hurts more than Biblical exhortations  and social niceties. Don't ignore us: the questions we ask have value beyond belief, for us personally, but for the Church as well. Don't exclude us: we need you as much as you need us - we are part of the same Body.

To those who have already completed this journey - have patience with the rest of us still on it. Pray for those of us on this journey - we need the encouragement, support and prayer of 'that multitude of saints who surround us'.

To those on this journey, I applaud you. It takes guts to walk this road. I pray you reach your destination.

Learning to say 'no'

Saying 'no' is often the hardest thing to do. It requires self-control. It also requires self-knowledge not coloured by pride, by fear, by desire, by greed... The discussion about learning to say no is something I return to a lot (most recently here), because it's something I struggle with. It was with some interest, therefore, that I read a blogpost on Buffer about learning to say no to distraction and temptation.

Essentially, the post was about a study done investigating the thought processes that enabled some people to be more effective at saying no. Essentially, it revolves around self-talk: replacing "can't" with "don't". When someone says they "can't" do something, the self-talk indicates they are powerless to do something, so they become powerless. When someone says they "don't" do something, the self-talk indicates they are powerful, choosing not to do something, which further enables them to make the same choice again at a later stage.

As with many truths, when reading that, the wisdom in it seems so self-evident. When I read it, my reaction was "of course!", but it's not something that occurred to me until it was explained to me.

I've been trying to run at least twice a week since the start of the year - with greater and lesser success in different weeks. One thing I've learnt is that on days when it is hardest to get up, the thing that has motivated me has been positive self-talk: You ARE going to get fit; you WILL lose the weight; you CAN do this; you WILL do this. When the self-talk is negative (I don't want to do this; I can't do this; I don't want to do this) it becomes impossible to do it.

Once I'm actually running, and want to give up because it hurts too much, if my self-talk is positive (you CAN make it to that tree/ pole/ bench) I usually make it beyond the goal I've set myself. When it's negative, I stop before I've even realised I'm going to.

So my own experience bears this out.

It's not: I can't eat that chocolate. I can't eat wheat. I can't miss my morning runs.

It is: I don't need that chocolate. I don't eat wheat. I don't miss my morning runs.

I am CHOOSING my behaviour. I am CHOOSING my future.

In a way, it's like any addict. Addicts will tell you that in that moment of craving, they have to make a choice - either to choose to do drugs again, or to choose to walk away. That's the only choice they have. They can't control the cravings, but they can control their response to their cravings.

While I am not an addict, the same truth holds for me. I can't stop the temptation - but I can choose my response to it.

In fact, the same holds true for my walk with God. I can't stop the temptations that would otherwise stop me from spending time with him, or praying. However, I can choose my response. I can choose to give in, or I can choose not to give in. Of course, that makes it sound so easy to do. Sometimes it's anything but easy. That's why Jesus said the road to life was the narrow, rocky one; the one most people wouldn't choose; and the road to hell was the wide, nicely paved one; the one that most people would choose because it was easy to follow.

The power to choose is, I believe, what makes us unique. In the Garden of Eden, God made humans in his image - the ability to choose our behaviour is part of that image. We chose not to obey. We chose to follow the wide road. Jesus chose his behaviour too. He chose to come to earth as a weak human, and to submit to a cruel death, one that should have been mine.

No doubt, the temptations he faced in his life were harder than anything I have, or will, face - ultimate earthly power and glory, to meet his own needs using supernatural power, to know the love found in a marriage, to have children, to save himself from a gruesome death... yet at each point, at each temptation, he chose not to give in. Jesus' choices, as recorded in the Bible, often reveal his self-talk, and interestingly, it was often of the nature of: "I don't do that. I don't want that. I don't need that."

So, my New Year's resolution, my personal challenge, was to get 7 hrs sleep a night and to run twice a week. This term, my challenge will be to change my self-talk. My Easter challenge to myself is to consciously have more positive self-talk - to replace my can'ts with more don'ts. What's yours?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hello XX, my old friend...

Know how sometimes you think you've learnt a lesson about something, only to realise that, like a computer game, you've only passed Level 10, and there are still 50 levels to go??

Yup. That's me.


Thought I'd learnt this lesson. Thought I had it sussed. Thought I'd learnt when to say no, when to walk away.

But now I see that I have SO much more to learn.

It's not about just saying no. It's about discerning exactly which things to say no to. Sometimes, we have to say yes, even though it feels uncomfortable, even though it feels like we're too busy, or don't have enough energy, or money, or whatever it is.

Sometimes, God likes to make our neat, comfortable lives messy; shake things up a bit. Not necessarily turn them upside down (although he does that too sometimes).

There are so many stories I could tell you - just from this week alone - about how I still need to learn to delegate better, or how I need to protect my time with my kids and family more, but there's one other type of boundary lesson I've had this week. Let me tell you about it.

Last year I taught someone who was going through some issues. Really big, hairy, horrid issues. I found out about them inadvertently, and I also realised that I was probably the only person at school who knew. However, because of my position as the teacher, it wasn't appropriate for me to talk about it. So I did the responsible thing and passed it on to the school counsellor. After all, I'm not a trained counsellor.

At the time I was really glad to have done it, because it felt too big, too hairy, too much of an energy investment to care about this child. At the end of the year, I cut ties with this child, because, again, I didn't feel it was appropriate for me to continue keeping tabs on them. After all, from 18 you're supposed to be an adult capable of caring for yourself, right? And who in their right mind would want their ex-teacher in their lives, right? I mean - HELLOOO???

But then, last week, this person inadvertently popped up in my life again. With the same big, hairy, issues raising their heads. Part of me wanted to pretend that I hadn't seen or heard anything. Walk away. Keep those boundaries in place. But then I realised that this was no coincidence. God had made our paths cross for a reason.

I care about this ex-student much more than I do about most of my kids. Don't know why that is, it just is. I won't say I've had sleepless nights worrying on their behalf, but last year I would frequently go to sleep worrying about them, and praying for them. Sometimes, for some unknown reason, a particular student just gets under your skin in a way that the others don't. This is one of those kids.

So, I've taken the plunge and reconnected. It may well get messy. It may well take energy or time that I think I don't have. But I also know that God has brought this person back into my life for a reason. I can choose to help however I can, even if it's just listening and praying, or I can choose to walk away. This time, I've chosen not to walk away. It feels like I've made the right choice. I hope so.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Best day EVER!

or so claims my daughter. It certainly was fun (as well as stressful, exhausting and flipping hard work, mixed with periods of utter boredom - at least for the parents. After all, there are only so many things you can do when you're standing in a queue for your kid to have a ride...).

BUT - let's talk about the fun stuff. Today we got to ride in giant water balls (think hamster balls on water)...


...hold snakes (and #2 even touched a snake for all of a millisecond before shouting that it was going to eat him)...

...climb a giant bouncy castle slide (several times)...

...ride a zip line several times...

...spend R10 each on sweetie/ biscuit jars, eat lots of other yummy food and enjoy the sun after yesterday's rain. THEN... Oupa and Ouma came for tea and THEN we went out to Spur for supper. I mean, how much "funner" could a day get??

Thursday, March 07, 2013


I was going to blog about something that happened at work today...

In the past I have said that this is my blog, written for me and me alone. It is my journal, my diary. Therefore, I write what I want, when I want (time & activity permitting) and how I want.

But today, I find that I can't write what I want.

Today I find that the boundary between work life and private life is too blurred.

My loyalty to my workplace means that if I write what I want to it may bring disrepute to the school, to the others who work and study there.

And if I am to be a role model to my students, I have to set the example. I tell them to be careful of what they put out there, because it cannot be deleted once it's out there. Oh, the post may be 'deleted', but if someone wants to find it, they will, and can, because Google never deletes anything entirely.

So today, I find myself hamstrung - am I true to myself and write what is on my heart, knowing that it will hurt others? Do I unburden my soul in one of the few ways I feel I can express myself?

Or do I hold back, bottle this experience, these emotions, in order to save others from potential embarrassment or worse?

Something an acquaintance said to me recently sticks with me... you have to have the same integrity no matter who you are with. You can't be one person in one place, and a different person somewhere else.

I know that occasionally my students (or colleagues, or other work-related acquaintances  will Google me, find me, and read this blog. As hard as I try to keep my private and work life separate, I am one person, with one life.

Boundaries. Usually having boundaries is good. Sometimes it's not. As hard as it is to keep silent, to hold my tongue, this time around I'm going to break my own rule, because there can't be a boundary this time - not if I am to keep my personal integrity.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Android, God and someone pushing me around

At work we've been talking about tablets in education for over 2 years now. It's been a slow discussion. Painfully slow. Much slower than I would have liked.

I'm a huge fan of tablets. HUGE! I just happen to prefer Android tablets to Apple. I like Apple, don't get me wrong. The interface is beautiful, and both the screen resolution and sensitivity are brilliant. I just prefer Android.

Why? Because I don't like proprietary stuff. I don't like to be tied into anything where to change it becomes a huge hassle. (For that reason I was on a prepaid/ PAYG cell phone contract for about 10 years.) I don't like the fact that you can only work with Apple created files on other Apple products.

What I do like about it, is the same thing I love about Android. I love the fact that my phone and my gmail and my Google+ and my blogger all sync nicely together. Apple does that nicely too between iphone and ipad and mac.

What I love most about Android is that it's open source though - anyone can build and develop for it. I've always said that 2 heads are better than one, and many more are better. When you're trying to innovate, having more people attack the problem from a variety of different angles is more likely to produce innovative solutions.

Yes, it does open the door for viruses.

But I approach it like this: When God made the world, he could have opted to not give us free choice. Had he done that, there would be no evil (no viruses). However, he preferred to allow us to mess up in return for the creativity of a real relationship with him.

I see Android a bit like that.

Apple have gone the route of being closed down. Every app has to be vetted and can only be sold on official platforms. In other words, only Apple staff can decide whether a particular app is suitable for me (the average user) or not. They view it as trying to protect the user's experience, to protect them from harm. But only children have to be protected from harm. Adults stand on their own two feet and make their own decisions about whether something is dangerous or not.

I like the decision God made - to give me the choice. It's tough, and it's dangerous, and most of the time I get it wrong. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't like to be pushed around, or told what to think, or how to act, or what to buy, or what to say.* (As I've aged, I've learnt the value of submission, but that's a different context and discussion, for another time.)

While many of the Apple apps are beautiful and functional, there are many apps that do exactly the same thing, for free (in many cases) on Android. They may not look as pretty, but they're just as functional. (And the paid ones usually look just as pretty... it's just that I'm also a cheapskate and refuse to pay for anything when there's a free version available.) So if I'm faced with using an app that is proprietary, or one that isn't; one that is paid for or one that is free; every single time I will choose the non-proprietary free one, or even the non-proprietary paid one.

So I'm an Android girl. I'll nail my colours to the mast.


I'm not actually anti-Apple. I think Apple products are amazing. And as much as it pains me to say so, the user experience with the average ipad compared to the average Android tablets shows that ipads just are better. Not by much, grant you, but they are better. If you take the top of the range models, then Android is comparable, if not better. But for your average run of the mill person, who can't afford the latest Asus, or Galaxy tab, most ipads beat most Android tablets. And often, Android lags behind Apple in innovation (take Apple TV vs Google Tv, as an example).

This leaves me with a crisis of faith. Do I stay with what I know, love and am passionate about; or do I go with the product that at the price I, as an average person, can afford, will give me the better user experience? (If money were no object, this would be a no-brainer for me, but  money doesn't grow on trees - especially not for poor teachers, like me! Anyone willing to sponsor me to purchase the latest Asus or Galaxy tab???)

The reason this has all come up is because I went to another ipad in education presentation today. I have to say that what I saw was impressive - far more so than any of the previous presentations I've been to. All the previous ones have tried to do the flashbang whizz stuff, and come off as being arrogant, showy and using technology for technology's sake.

(I love gadgets, so personally I think technology for technology's sake is cool - but when you're there to evaluate it as a tool for education, then that's a different story. I want to see that, pedagogically, it makes sense. I don't want to see translation of activities, I want to see transformations.)

But today.... that really was a fabulous presentation (Abdul Chohan from ESSA Academy in Bolton, UK). For the first time, I felt that many of my objections were being taken seriously, not just brushed aside. I felt that, for the first time, there were viable solutions for me, for the school. (And actually, there are lots of free, really great apps on ipad too... and several that are cross-platform.)

CRISIS! Whatever the decision, I need to make it soon - in the next few weeks. I need to purchase a tablet so that I can continue to stay at the cutting edge and do my job properly. (How I'm going to afford one, I have absolutely no idea.) Tough decision ahead.

*In fact, #1 and I had a very similar conversation this evening. She was whining about something and I said no, just because she was whining. If she'd just spoken to me properly, in a normal voice, she would have got what she wanted. After her little tantrum we had a discussion and she asked me why I hated it when she whined. It's a question I've never really considered, but as I did, I realised that it makes me feel like she's trying to manipulate me - either through her tears, or through her tone of voice, or because she just tries to wears me down so I will give in - and I hate being manipulated, or even feeling like I'm being pushed in a particular direction. That just pushes all my buttons, and I will dig my heels in and refuse. It's not that the direction is wrong, it's just that I don't like to be pushed around. She got that. Let's hope that it makes a difference next time!


Human Rights Day is coming up (21 Mar, in case you forgot). Every year it's a bit of a non-event in my life. Sad, but true. I try to spend some time thinking about how hard various nameless and faceless (in most cases) people have fought for me to enjoy the life I do - everyone from the Brits and Yanks who won WWII to the Sufragettes, to the ANC during Apartheid. I spend time thinking about what Jesus, as the greatest human rights activitst, has done for humanity.

But that's as far as it gets.

I never personally go out there and do something to help others either appreciate the rights they have, or help those who aren't free to experience their rights.

This year is different.

This year I've signed up as a TWD activist. TWD - That Was Different. Check out the website. Essentially the idea is that activists will sign up to do something crazy or weird, and get sponsored to do it. The entire proceeds will be going to various educational projects based in Cape Town that are linked to the Common Good Foundation.

What am I doing? Well, I'm taking part in a dancing flashmob. Not just any flashmob. No sirree. I get to do Thriller, and Gangam style, amongst others.

So - apart from coming to watch me (I'll post final details closer to the time, but it will be on the 21st), why not sponsor me? I'm trying to raise R1500, and I'm currently about a third of the way there. C'mon - pay me to do some silly dances to help the kids in Cape Town get a better education. You know you want to!! How? Just go to my sponsorship page on GivenGain and click the button to donate by EFT or credit card. Easypeasy. (The money doesn't come to me directly. It sits in GivenGain's allocated account until the 21st, and is then paid directly to Common Good. I only mention that in case you're worried that I'm going to use some of it for myself... ;))