Sunday, 27 November 2016


I believe we talk to ourselves in our dreams. I dream often, in technicolour, and they are invariably exhausting. But this one was different. Verging on weird, it touched my soul. Not gently.

One of the problems with being a political junkie is one often loses sight of life. Between the US Presidential primaries, #FeesMust Fall and #SaveSouthAfrica I’ve barely had time to breathe. For months, I was sleep deprived as my inner alarm sounded at 3am for crucial debates.

Oh, the analysis, the commentary, the social media skirmishes!
My dream
Then, early this morning I dreamed I was in Israel being herded into a holding place with a large group of tourists - Muslims, Jews and Christians. There was some sort of invasion and we were in danger. At first we were fearful and then this narrator with a heavy accent took over. It was much like a Yentl movie with a talking ‘Fiddler on the roof’. (I kid you not.)

There was this, running commentary on the little miracles that were happening as we scrounged for and shared food and how we were learning to love each other in the process. Then I woke up but the heavily accented voice continued.

A deep-seated envy
Now let me be upfront. Unlike so many others, I’ve never heard God’s voice. So often I’ve had someone share: “God told me.”  Frankly, I’ve suffered serious ‘Godspeak envy’ over the years. And I’ve always wondered what God sounds like – authoritative, melodious, a choir of angels, Alanis Morrisette? (Anyone out there old enough to remember her playing God in Dogma?)  Mind you, I was consoled when my former bishop shared that he’s also been deprived.

Because I’ve never had God speak directly to me, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for getting my hopes up. No such luck. I’d fallen asleep with BBC News on and Stephen Sackur was interviewing Lithuania’s heavily accented Foreign Minister. I usually pause to check if my dreams mean anything and then shrug them off. But this one persisted. So, I hit the TV rewind button, made a strong cup of coffee and watched Hardtalk with a listening heart.

That didn’t help much. Essentially, Minister Linas Linkevicius spoke about: how populists were winning the day; how false news often precedes warfare. He was waiting to see how Donald Trump would react to reality and felt we should all make an effort to calm things down.

A demanding dream
It was time to switch off and get on with life. But the feeling persisted. My dream still demanded attention. For the first time in months, I ignored work deadlines and took stock.

The result: my God connection is worse than my jittery Wi-Fi. What spirituality??  And the wheels must have fallen off the bus somewhere along my Anglican journey. 

Fact is, all three have been sadly neglected. How easily one’s prayer life disintegrates.  What arrogance to assume that my fragile spirituality would fare any better than my drought-stricken garden. I’ve hardly attended church in the past few months.

I can’t even pretend that it will simply be a matter of rearranging my daily schedule. I’m afraid of the battle ahead. I must resume my journey.

Well timed
For starters, I acknowledge that my weird dream was well timed and apt. Part of my new daily discipline is to count my blessings and today I am reminded of a time a couple of years ago when my income had totally dried up. Having acquired religion late in life, I’ve always felt uncomfortable about praying for money but it reached a point where I capitulated: “Okay God, I give up I’m desperate.”  An hour later an email dropped to say I’d been awarded a fat government contract. 

Co-incidence or God-incidence?  

I know that when my younger son suffered a serious head injury in a motorcycle accident, although I wasn’t into religion at the time I did send arrow prayers tempered with “in case you exist God”.  

The doctors said he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life but don’t tell that to the guy who plays bowls three times a week and hopes to represent Western Province one day.

Please bear with me. You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m writing this blog to myself. Know that your comments and prayers are welcome.

Let’s lighten up

When I joined the church, well into middle age, I was amazed to learn that Advent –the weeks preceding Christmas - is meant to be a mini-Lent. It is a time to take stock and get our spiritual lives in order for the day we celebrate the birth of Christ.  Who’d have thought that?

In fact, I’ve always admired the Early Church’s practical approach of adopting pagan rituals that dated thousands of years before Christ.

My own experience of Christmas had hardly been holy. My mother was one of 15 siblings, of which only one had died in childhood. All the rest had married and made children and Christmas on granny’s farm in Polokwane was not negotiable.  I can’t for the life of me remember how many cousins there were but “lots” is an apt description. Some of us kids were sent ahead of our parents during which time I was only allowed to play with the boys if I walked barefooted across a patch of paper thorns.

By Christmas day we’d formed various special interest alliances. There was, however, consensus on important matters. These ranged from the need to avoid kissing the uncle with the beer soaked moustache to an agreement not to report the family cook for sipping the pudding brandy. We all loved her. 

Of course, in that lot there was always the uncle with wandering hands but a whisper in Gran’s ear soon fixed that.  In short, our special feast day was always robust and memorable with not a church steeple in sight.

When I did become an Anglican I was a bit embarrassed by my Christmas history but soon realised that in family there is always an element of holiness. Besides, the way we Christians hurtle through the shopping and party season there’s not much time for reflection.  (Maybe my dream was a hefty Advent nudge.)

I am encouraged by an email received from our Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, in which he says, “...  I want to say that whatever the challenges or sense of darkness you may have felt or be feeling this year, know that Christ the hope and light of the world has been there illuming your path. As you work through Advent to the celebration of Christmas, may you, to borrow a phrase from Advent's sister season, Lent, “bury the past in ashes.” Remember that we are people of the Resurrection and are called to spread Christ, the hope of the world, this Christmas, Epiphany and beyond.”

By the way, he is placing a recorded advent message on each week until Christmas.

Now, where was I?  

Oh yes, busy contemplating my spiritual navel. I’ll keep you posted.

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