Friday, July 30, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In my Perfect World...

I think there should be a law that says no appliances are allowed to break down and no foreign bureaucracies must be dealt with until you're over jet lag. (Ah, if only reality would comply with my demands!)

The day we got back from Malaysia, my cell phone broke. This may not be a big deal to some of you, but our house was not wired to have a land line, so we rely on our cell phone as our only phone. Without it, I have no means of communicating with the "outside world."

I went to the Virgin Mobile shop to see if I could either get my phone repaired or replace it. They said I qualified for a free phone upgrade, as we've had a contract with them for three years, but they were out of phones. They only had one phone left, and it was hot pink.

Virgin Mobile shop #2 said they would have to run a credit check if I wanted to replace my phone, and they weren't sure they could even do that since we didn't have a South African id number (but we have a contract with you already, I kept saying).

Virgin Mobile shop #3 said they needed a whole host of paperwork - passports, proof of residence, proof of salary, etc. etc. etc. (but we already have a contract with you - you already have that information!)

Virgin Mobile shop #4 took my phone in for repairs and gave me a free upgrade. No questions asked.

If you can tell me why I got four completely different responses from four different shops, I will vote for you for president.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


We have a pet clam. It was an accident.

Long story short, we were in Malaysia attending a work conference. Our oldest daughter, Emma, also went with us. One afternoon, Emma and I were looking for shells on the beach. I found the clam shell. I thought it was cool because it was whole and unopened.

The clam spent four days out of the water, two days in a suitcase, survived three aeroplane rides, and when we got it home, we noticed that the shell had opened a bit. We tried to open it all the way, but the shell suddenly snapped shut. That's when Emma shouted, "Mommy, it's alive!"

So now we have a Frankenstein bivalve, and I am doing Google searches on "Caring for your pet clam." (Add that to the list of things I never imagined myself doing...) In my defense, I had no idea. I assumed that all shells washed up on the beach no longer had living creatures in them.

One dog, three hamsters, and a clam named Shelldon (I was told to make sure I spell that with two l's). I think I have a new definition for the word "nonplussed."

Monday, July 19, 2010

On a Detour?

  • When Saul had an encounter with God on the road to Damascus, it took 3 years before he began his public ministry.
  • When Samuel appointed David as king over Israel, it was 25 years before he took the throne.
  • Moses herded sheep for 40 years in the wilderness before God's call was fulfilled in his life.
I was reminded today that much of life is lived "in the wilderness" - in a period of waiting. In order to prepare us, teach us, change us, God often takes us on a path that seems to be leading us away from what we know He has called us to. There are times when our path seems contradictory to what God has promised, times when we begin to doubt whether or not we really heard Him correctly.

But if you look carefully at the Bible and the examples of others, you'll see that God never wasted that time. Saul (renamed Paul) learned much of God's grace and love during those 3 years. David had some growing up to do, and Moses learned some valuable desert survival skills that would come in handy when leading the Israelites to the promised land.

It gives me hope that no matter where I find myself, God is using that to mold me and shape me more like Him.

Friday, July 16, 2010


This is a video of South Africans thanking the world for visiting their country during the World Cup. You can get an idea of the many different cultures here, and why we love South Africa.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fly the Flag Campaign

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." But He was pretty much quoting Jesus, who said, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." (Matthew 12:25)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Shopping Confession

I went to the shops today to look for an electrical adapter thing. As you can probably tell, I'm not an expert on electrical adapters, so it was taking me a while to figure out which one I needed. While I was busy concentrating, the floor mopper came down my aisle.

I don't know if this is unique to South Africa or not, but there are workers who mop the floors in almost every store, in front of the ATM's, in the bathrooms, etc., and all during business hours while people are shopping. In their defense, South Africa has some of the cleanest public toilets in the world. In my defense, I just wanted to sort out which electrical thing I needed without slipping on a wet floor or making dirty footprints where she had just mopped.

So the floor mopper got to where I was standing and stopped. I pretended not to see her, hoping she would mop around me. She did, and then came back and stood right behind me, with her mop hovering around my feet. I was irritated; she was irritated. But here's where it gets tricky:

My Perspective:
I'm the customer. Your store wouldn't exist without customers buying your products. Don't make the customer move so you can mop the floor. Wait for the customer to leave. Give them a pleasant shopping experience.

Her Perspective:
I have a job. I want to do my job. I want to do my job well. She's in my way. Why can't she just give a little?

Would it have killed me to move, interrupt my shopping for a moment, and let her mop where I had been standing? No. Would it have killed her to wait until I found what I was looking for? No. That's when it suddenly dawned on me how my Western mindset is rooted in a sense of entitlement, which is a nice way of saying "selfishness." And I felt ashamed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Trip to the Post Office

I went to the post office today to mail a parcel to some friends back in the States who are getting married. In the U.S., when you mail a parcel, they print out a sticker with the exact amount of postage and a barcode on it. In South Africa, they still use stamps, so if your parcel costs R221 to mail (as mine did), they have to stick R221 worth of stamps on it.

The lady behind the counter pulled out the most beautiful stamps commemorating the World Cup - gold soccer ball stamps with the flags of each competing nation. The problem was, the stamp value was only R5,75.

After pulling out sheet after sheet of R5,75 stamps, I asked her, "Don't you have R20 stamps?" She answered, "Yes, but I want your package to look pretty. Your friends are going to love it. In fact, when they get this package they're going to phone you and tell you how pretty it looks."

She then proceeded to glue - yes, glue - 40 stamps onto the parcel. And as she glued each stamp on, she stuck two airmail stickers on either side to hold each stamp down. In the end, the parcel was covered with 80 airmail stickers and 40 stamps. She was so pleased when she finished (which took a while, I must say) and said, "There. It looks like a Christmas tree! You have to come back in when your friends receive this and tell me what they said." I do not think she will want to know what they say when they receive that parcel, because I must say, it is a sight to behold (see above photo). On the other hand, I appreciate that she wanted to make the package beautiful, that she prized aesthetics over efficiency or time (and after all, doesn't most art?).

Three years ago this would have driven me insane, but today I left the post office smiling. And giggling.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Some Post-World Cup Thoughts

So the World Cup is over and I drove our last guest to the airport today. It's a bit of a sad feeling, but I'm also glad it's over. All of our guests really enjoyed South Africa and said the stadiums were world-class, the people were incredible, and the country was beautiful. The only complaint we heard was that the public transportation here could be better (and for all you vuvuzela haters, let the record show that it was the Europeans who blew them the loudest and longest).

I keep thinking about that octopus and how much faith people put in him. I keep thinking about our guests and how they created such an amazing sense of community while they were here, and how much we learned from them - how much our lives were enriched by learning a bit of their cultures. And I keep thinking about how proud I am of South Africa, for doing what the rest of the world didn't think could be done.

Ke a leboga Aforika Borwa.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Worth A Thousand Words

This is a photo of an indigenous African musical instrument. I love it because it tells a million stories. Imagine how many songs were played on it, how many fingers touched it, and what those hands did besides play music. Imagine what the eyes of the musician saw in his lifetime and whether that affected his music.

Here's another picture that makes me smile:
I will never think about Napoleon again without picturing how he looks as a black man!

Monday, July 5, 2010

More Thoughts on the 4th of July

The 4th of July, or Independence Day, is an American holiday in which the Americans celebrate their independence from England, but it has come to represent more than that. It is a day in which Americans celebrate, well, being American. It is a day in which their love of country and all things American is at its strongest. And that's okay.

I realised, however - and maybe this comes from having lived in a foreign country for nearly three years - that God doesn't love Americans more than anyone else. America is not the greatest country on earth, nor is it the best. I realise that this may sound unpatriotic of me, but I merely wish to point out the fact that God loves the people of all 200 (or so) nations equally. He does not pick favourites.

In terms of material wealth and personal freedoms, America has been blessed, but whether that was through God or greed I do not know. I only know that America's blessing must not be hoarded to herself. It must be shared with the rest of the world.

With freedom come opportunity - and responsibility. And so I say to you, United States of America: do not turn a blind eye to the needs of the world. Do not become so wrapped up in your own greatness that you become selfish (or worse, self-absorbed). Whatever is great, whatever it is you love about America, have the courage to share that with the rest of the world, all the time keeping a humble atttitude and realising that you can learn other aspects of greatness from other nations.

A South African 4th of July

I actually forgot about the 4th of July this year (American Independence Day). I only remembered because I received an email from our organisation saying the U.S. office would be closed on Monday 5 July because of the holiday.

I thought it might be fun to host a braai for the other Americans we know here. We made traditional American picnic food (even though it's winter here) - hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, pork and beans, deviled eggs, and carrot and celery sticks. We even made homemade ice cream for root beer floats, except that you can't get root beer in South Africa, so we made Coke and Granadilla Twist floats. The only thing missing was the watermelon, but as I said, it's winter here and there is no watermelon to be found.

The guys kicked a soccer ball around outside and then came in to sing a rousing rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, complete with vuvuzelas:
The fact that we called it a braai and not a barbeque, and the fact that vuvuzelas made their way into our national anthem tells me that we are becoming a fun mix of both cultures. And I have to say, it was the most fun 4th of July I've ever celebrated.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday's Reflection

I've been thinking a lot about the story in John 8 where a woman is caught in the act of adultery and all the Pharisees and teachers of the law want to stone her, and Jesus says, "Okay. Whoever is without sin can throw the first stone."

I don't have anything brilliant to say because I've been a Pharisee. Still am, sometimes. But God broke my heart a while back and I realised - long story short - that we're all essentially toothless winos but God loves us anyway. We're all fallen, broken, hurting, longing for a Love that can make us whole. We burp and fart like everyone else, disappoint those we love, stumble, fall, get back up and then stumble and fall again. But too often I find myself walking around with a rock held tightly in each fist, ready to throw at the first person who walks by that might be a "worse" sinner than I am. And it's time to put down the stones.

" not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" - Galatians 2:21

" 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she said. 'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared." - John 8:10-11

In response to a Love that redeeming, there are no words. Only tears.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thursday's Reflection

The thing about grace is, you have to continually - willingly - take the short end of the stick. You have to give up your rights to whatever it was you thought you deserved -
  • the right to be angry
  • the right to hold a grudge
  • the right to make demands on other people
  • the right to having your side of the story validated
  • the right to expect others to behave as you want them to behave
The fleshly part of me says,
  • But I was right; you were wrong.
  • You should have (or shouldn't have)...
  • What about me? What about my feelings?
  • Validate meeeeeeeeeeeee
In general, it's easy to point out everyone else's faults, where they failed, continue to fail,etc., rather than realise I have faults and fail as well, and to recognise the times when others extend grace to me (which is probably more often than not). I wish I could easily jump into a Christ-like attitude and extend grace wherever I go like a spiritual version of Mary Poppins. But the truth is, I battle with this tremendously. And here are some of the most haunting words in all of Scripture:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" - Philippians 2:5-8

My flesh screams, but it's so unfair! And it is. But it is the way of Jesus. And I committed my life to follow this way.