AI-JA-JAI. GODSDIENS!

AI-JA-JAI. GODSDIENS!

great-fire-of-london

Laat ek sommer met die afskop dit duidelik stel: My geloof is ononderhandelbaar. Ek het ‘n diepgevestigde geloof in ‘n almagtige God wat alles geskape het. Die Bybel vertel dat ons moet glo soos ‘n kind. Dis hoe ek glo. Sonder enige fieterjasies. Ek glo net. Party sal reken soos ‘n skaap . Of dalk erger, want ‘n skaap volg darem dit wat hy kan sien. My geloof is in ‘n Entiteit wat nie gesien of aangeraak kan word nie. Tog beleef ek Hom en sien Hom in alles rondom my. En wanneer ek stil raak, dan “hoor” ek Hom, “voel” ek Hom. (Hom? Daarmee het baie mense ook ‘n probleem. Ek verkies Hom – soos in die Bybel.) Ek kan sy Hand soos ‘n goue draad deur my lewe sien – deur goeie, maar ook deur baie donker tye. My geloof rus op twee pilare: Liefde vir my God en liefde vir my medemens. Ek glo. Dis al.

Maar godsdiens – dis nou egter vir my ‘n heel ander saak , deesdae. Ek verstaan daar is ongeveer ‘n geraamde 10 000 verskillende gelowe op onse aarde. Soos my ou pel eendag gesê het: En elkeen dink sy bende is die beste.

Hierdie artikel gaan eintlik nie om geloof nie. Ek het bloot aan die dink gegaan toe ek verlede week daar by die monument vir die Groot Brand in Londen gestaan het. Vóór ek aangaan met waaraan ek toe staan en dink het, eers bietjie agtergrond.

Toe Thomas Farriner,’n Londense bakker, die Sateragaand, 1 September 1666 doodmoeg tussen die lakens in sy huis daar in Pudding Lane, inkruip, het hy nie kon droom watse skade sy oond daardie nag sou aanrig nie. Hier by 1-uur die nag ontdek Farriner se huiskneg die rookwolke wat uit die kombuis borrel en teen Woensdag van die daaropvolgende week was 70 000 mense dakloos.

Londen het pas ‘n warm, droë somer agter die rug gehad en ‘n sterk oostewind het die vuur vinnig tussen die houthuise deurgestoot. Trae optrede deur amptenare, wat aanvanklik nie die omvang van die vuur besef het nie, het die vuur verder aangeblaas, by wyse van spreke. Om die kroon te span (verskoon die woordspeling) was die afgelope burgeroorlog nog vars in die geheue en het talle oud-soldate van die weermag nog gewere met buskruit in hulle huise gehad – nie ‘n goeie idee wanneer ‘n groot brand ontstaan nie.

Baie mense het hulle kosbare besittings in die St Pauls Katedraal gaan stoor in die geloof dat dit veilig daar sou wees. Maar teen Dinsdag het die vuur ook hierdie 11de eeuse katedraal bereik. Die vuur was teen daardie tyd so intens (tot 1250˚ Celsius) dat die looddak begin smelt het en die hele katedraal in vlamme opgegaan het.

Toe die vuur uiteindelik teen Woensdag geblus is, was 87 kerke, 13 000 huise en talle historiese geboue verwoes. Alhoewel die amptelike dodetal  tussen 6 en 8 mense gewissel het, was dit waarskynlik eerder honderde aangesien daar destyds nie forensiese kundiges was wat die as kon ontleed nie. Dit was eintlik maar net die vooraanstaande mense wie se dood aangemeld is. Tienduisende mense het daardie Woensdagaand kamp opgeslaan in Moorfields, Hampstead en Islington.

Winter was op hande.

Die brand was nou wel geblus, maar gerugte het vlam gevat. Stories is onder die dakloses daar in die kamp versprei dat ‘n lig kort voor die brand in die lug gesien is. Hierdie lig sou ‘n teken vir die 50 000 Franse en Hollandse immigrante in die stad wees om in opstand te kom en al die Engelse mans te vermoor en die vroue te verkrag.

Daardie Donderdag het Koning Charles ‘n bevel uitgevaardig dat die mense eerder die vuur moet blus as om vreemdelinge aan te val, want die vuur was ‘n natuurramp (Act of God) en nie ‘n Paapse (Papist) komplot nie. (“Papist” was ‘n neerhalende term wat gebruik is om Katolieke mee te beskryf, m.a.w. mense wat nie trou aan die “Church of England” was nie.)

Die Engelse was waarskynlik nie verniet agterdogtig nie en het dalk ook ‘n skuldige gewete gehad. Engeland was op daardie stadium in so ‘n aan-af-oorlog met Frankryk en Nederland gewikkel en net twee weke voor die brand het hulle die Nederlandse hawe in Westerschelde afgebrand.

En sowaar, ‘n Fransman, Robert Hubert, daag op en erken dat hy, as ‘n agent van die Pous, die brand begin het (al is dit na sy dood bevind dat hy ten tye van die brand iewers in die Noordsee was). Ten spyte van die hoofregter se bevinding dat die man se verklaring verdraaid is en dat hy nie skuldig kon wees wees nie, is hy op 29 Oktober gehang.

Daardie Franse en Hollandse opstand het natuurlik toe nooit plaasgevind nie en ‘n ander sondebok moes gevind word. ‘n Regeringskomitee is byeen gebring en elke Jan Rap en sy maat is aangemoedig om voor die komitee te kom getuig. Stories wat meestal in die kroeg gehoor is, is oorvertel – stories van ‘n Katolieke komplot. Die komitee het egter uiteindelik beslis dat daar geen gronde vir hierdie gerugte was nie en dat daar geen bewyse van ‘n plan van bose agente, Pape of Franse om die stad af te brand, gevind kon word nie.

Dit het egter nie saak gemaak nie. Die volgende jaar het ‘n boek verskyn – “Pyrotechnica Loyolana Ignatian fire-works”. Die skrywer het aangevoer dat die Katolieke die vuur begin het en dat die Vereniging van Jesus (verbonde aan die Katolieke kerk) deskundiges was in die gebruik van vuurwerke. Die woorde “vuur”, “vlamme” en “buskruit” is deurgaans in die boek uitgelig.

Toe ‘n gedenkplaat in 1681 op die plek waar die vuur ontstaan het, opgerig is, het dit gelees: “Here, by the permission of Heaven, Hell broke loose upon this Protestant city from the malicious hearts of barbarous Papists, by the hand of their agent Hubert, who confessed”. Hier in die 1700’s rond is die plaat egter verwyder, bloot omdat mense in die pad van verkeer gekom het.

Maar ‘n soortgelyke inskripsie op die monument, wat in die 1670’s opgerig is, is eers in 1830 uitgebeitel.

Die monument, ‘n indrukwekkende kolom in Doriese styl, staan vandag nog op dieselfde plek – 62 meter hoog en presies 62 meter van waar Farriner se oond die brand laat ontstaan het. Ontwerp deur die bekende Christopher Wren en Robert Hooke.

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Daar word graag aan begeleide toeriste vertel dat daar meer mense gesterf het nadat hulle van die gedenktoring afgeval of gespring het as wat daar in die brand dood is. Wat eintlik nie waar is nie – gegewe die feit dat daar nie van al die mense wat in die brand omgekom het, rekenskap gegee kon word nie.edf

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Ja, so staan ek toe die dag daar by die monument en dink. Ai tog, godsdiens!

Hoeveel geweld en verlies aan menselewens was daar nou nie al in die naam van godsdiens nie!

Die Hervorming wat tot verskeie oorloë gelei het en uiteindelik in die Dertigjaar-oorlog gekulmineer het met verlies van duisende lewens regoor Europa.

Die Inkwisisie.

Die voortslepende onrustigheid in die Midde-Ooste.

Die terroristeaanvalle deur Moslem ekstremiste.

Die Bosniese oorlog.

Die geweld in Ierland.

En so kan die lys my rekenaar se stoorplek volmaak.

Godsdiens, so glo ek, is inherent goed, met goeie bedoelings …

… totdat godsdiens ‘n god word.

 

 

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ELVES AND DIESEL ENGINES

ELVES AND DIESEL ENGINES

Have you ever stood on a platform at the station while a diesel locomotive effortlessly glides past you? The smooth reassuring rumbling of that immensely powerful machine demands admiration while the trembles of the platform find their way up your legs. You just know that a mighty powerful force is at work here.

I’ve often linked the well-known saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” with this diesel-power and found some inspiration in it. I made myself believe that humanity consists of two main groups: Ordinary Elves (OE’s) and the Tough Diesel Engines (TDE’s). The Ordinary Elves represent the majority of people who are responsible for the normal day to day running of life as we know it. They get ready for work, go to work, do their work, go home, watch TV and go to bed. They are very important because they do just about everything from cleaning our streets, working in the offices, building our cars and houses, to making our clothes, nursing us, teaching us, defending and protecting us. Everything… up to a certain point. The OE’s only work until things start to heat up, when the challenges get more demanding and stress levels start rising.elves

That’s the signal for The Tough Diesel Engines to start up. When the OE’s can’t go any further, the TDE’s take over. You hear that mighty rumble and stand in awe. The TDE’s work, even when others sleep; they seem to get a sadistic pleasure out of problem-crunching. They never ask for pity but, hey, neither will they give a problem any. They don’t know the meaning of surrender; they persevere in the midst of adversities, battle their way onwards, forwards, always forwards.diesel

Are you a TDE or an OE?

One of the South African Defence Force’s elite units has a back-breakingly harsh selection and training program. Many try, but only a few make it to the end. The last phase of the program demands a survival route where the soldiers have to find their way in the most inhospitable environment and under the most unforgiving conditions imaginable. As the days drag by, the group of hopefuls dwindles because at the temporally bases transport is ready for those who wish. It’s your choice: allow the whole exercise to get the better of you and make use of the transport (and get disqualified in the process) or force yourself onward vigorously with the utmost exertion. special-forces-training

One pitch dark night an unfortunate soldier walked straight into a dry twig from a low-hanging tree branch. The twig impaled him in the eye, just missing his eyeball and blood was pouring from his wound. That same night another guy broke his ankle. These two decided not to go for treatment that would have put them at risk of disqualification and, after applying a bit of very basic medical treatment themselves, they pushed on.

As the days progress, you start to lose all sense of time and the only drive, ultimately, is to reach the prearranged rendezvous in time.

Unbeknown to the soldiers, the end of the course was in sight and, after a day with barely enough water supplies, the men reached the rendezvous, semi-conscious, anguished, hungry and dehydrated. The commander came up to them where they were huddled in a cloud of dust, flies and the sweaty smell of protracted scorching days in the bush on them. He addressed them – gesturing while clutching an icy cold beer. Pausing for a moment, he took a long sip, looked at the bottle and then emptied the content onto the absorbing sand, within sniffing distance of the shattered men. The beer was not cold enough.

“Guys,” he said, “I’m going to enjoy a colder one in the base after taking a long hot shower. Anyone care to join me? Transport is ready – anyone?”

Two men cracked then and there and stumbled to the waiting Land Rover. While two others tried to suck the wasted beer from the sand, the commander informed the remaining men that the next day would be the final day of this grueling encounter and that they could expect a barbeque and cold beer at the rendezvous.

With renewed effort and all the strength they could muster, they tackled the final stage.

The next evening, on approaching the rendezvous, the depleted group of men, drained to the bone, noticed a solitary Land Rover, nothing else. The closer they got, the clearer it became: no barbeque-fire, no beer, nothing to eat. Some of them flopped down onto their knees in a cloud of dust and started weeping. During the day they had consumed all their water and rations – no need to save it because, so they had been told the previous night, tonight the end of this phase would be celebrated with plenty to eat and drink. Of the initial squad, only nine had survived. The commander then stepped out of the Land Rover and walked towards the wretched group of men.

“Listen guys, there’s been a misunderstanding and I admit that I’m the one to blame. I got the dates mixed up, and I’m truly, truly sorry. Tomorrow, not today, will be the end of this phase. As a token of my remorse, I’ve brought you a little something to eat. It’s on the Land Rover. I will completely understand if some of you want to go back with me, there’s plenty of space on the Land Rover. The rest of you, get your instructions for tomorrow and something to eat.”

Two men summarily got onto the Land Rover, Their grazed, grey faces, empty eyes sunken into the sockets, told the whole story of disappointment and disillusionment. The remaining seven opened the stainless steel food container – raw cabbage drenched in diesel. No water either, only their instructions. Was it a sadistic smile on the commander’s face as he started the engine? Another guy got onto the vehicle. The remaining six contemplated the long, dry stretch ahead of them, and then started walking.

About two kilometers further, as they came round a hill, they could at first smell it and then they saw it: a campsite with flames from barbeque-fires and cold beers to welcome them. The end of their ordeal!braai

What went through the minds of those guys on the Land Rover? If only they’d held on for two more kilometres – two kilometres stood between them and a victory!tired-soldier

All so often we throw in the towel without really knowing how close we are to success. Isn’t it worthwhile, after all the pain and suffering, to give it one more push? Are we not just two kilometres away from victory?

My mother engraved a saying in my memory and even when the diesel engine wearies, her catchphrase echoes:

NEVER SAY DIE, GET UP AND TRY!

never-say-die

May you experience God’s loving care in the same abundance I have.

God bless.

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My Octopus

MY OCTOPUS

manifestation-miracle

Many years ago the most astounding thing happened to me, a miracle. It was so extra-ordinary that, for many years, I struggled with the question: Why did it happen to me?

I was a young man living in South Africa, unmarried and my income was nothing to be envious of. Like any young man, I dreamt of my own house and so I bought a piece of land, a beautiful plot on which I had to pay monthly instalments. Every month the levies and taxes had to be paid as well. Shortly after that I got married and moved into a rented flat with my new bride. Then my pocket truly started to feel the strain: Flat rental, instalments on my loan for the plot, levies and taxes and all the usual added expenses that come with a wedding (furniture, honeymoon, ring, etcetera, etcetera…).

We have all, at one stage in our lives had something that clings to our shoulders like a big octopus. “One day” I am going to run a marathon. Another person wants to go overseas, “one day”; or, “one day” starts a business. This vague ambition just hangs there round your neck, dragging you down and, until you actively do something about it, that’s all it does – just weighs you down. If you see someone jogging, you think: “One of these days…” Or if a travel brochure slips out of the newspaper and you longingly look at the inviting idyllic pictures of foreign destinations, you think: “One of these days…”

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My octopus was a house on the plot that I was still paying off – I constantly dreamt of my own house on that piece of land. When I saw a truck with a load of bricks or trusses, I felt the grip of this weight around my shoulders. Or when a building society dangled their mortgage rates with alluring advertisements in my face, I felt the tentacles tightening. My wife and I even went so far as having the plans drawn up.

empty-plot

But, with the war going on between my income and liabilities, I just couldn’t imagine my dream house ever becoming a reality. So the situation dragged on until one day when I decided enough is enough and took the day off. With the building plans, bank statements and all the determination I could gather I went to see anyone who could possibly advise me on what would be the best route to realise my dream. Banks, building societies, an architect, building contractors, a quantity surveyor…and I gathered information, a bulky folder full of it.

That night, after supper, I sat down with all the collected information and I processed it. Much later that night (could have been early morning) I came to the conclusion that, if I could get R10 000 (that is South African Rands) for one week, I could build my house – but where would I get such an amount (quite a fair amount for those days!). I didn’t know anyone who could lend me that sort of money. I hadn’t got any security for a loan and, after all, financial institutions would be very reluctant to lend me money for a week only.

Mulling over this problem I went to bed with absolutely no sign of sleep as my brain was running in overdrive.

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“R10 000! How will I raise such a vast sum? Can I pray for it? Maybe, but then again, how many people on earth went to bed tonight on an empty stomach and I want to ask for R10 000! Yet, in Matthew 7:7 God promises: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Yes! I am going to ask.”

Then I went onto my knees and I prayed for God to give me R10 000 for a week. After finishing my prayer, calmness descended upon me and I peacefully fell asleep.

I was employed by a university at that time and we had a spacious tearoom where most staff members went during a tea break.  My boss and I however, chose to have our tea served by the secretary in his office so that we could discuss important matters like the weekend’s rugby scores, latest films and books or even sometimes the forthcoming faculty meeting – always in the office, never in the tearoom.

That day (following my struggle the previous night) was no different – initially. Like every day, most people went to the tearoom, and we had our tea served in my boss’s office. By the way, at this stage it is important to mention that absolutely no-one knew about my R10 000 or the previous night’s struggle.

I was just about to take a sip of tea, when my boss announced out of the blue that, for some reason he would like to have tea in the tearoom that day and he wanted me to join him because he didn’t want to go there on his own.

tea

For the first time in all my time working there, it so happened that we went to the tearoom to have tea.

In the tearoom people sat around these low coffee tables scattered with magazines and newspapers, chatting and discussing the latest happenings. My boss engaged in a conversation with the professor next to him while I was stirring my (new) cup of tea, intensely absorbed in my thoughts, pondering on my R10 000. Opposite me a professor noticed my absence of mind. He wasn’t particularly well-known to me, I only knew him from greeting in the hallways.  He commented that he could see my thoughts were miles from the tearoom which triggered the rest of the conversation: about my excursion the previous day, my tussle with all the information and finally my conclusion that R10 000 stood between me and my dream.

Then he said: “Young man, this has got to be the hand of God that brought us together here today. You know, I seldom come to the tearoom. I usually have tea in my office, but today is the maturity date of one of my investments and I was hoping to see old Gerald here so that I could prod him for a bit of advice on how best to re-invest my money.” (Gerald was professor of Economics). “What’s even more intriguing is the amount of my investment: R10 000, exactly! You can have it for as long as you need it.”

For a moment I was speechless – a complete stranger offering me R10 000 without any security or guarantee, nothing. To cut a long story short, the next day he brought me the cheque, which I used to settle the outstanding balance on my loan for the plot which I could then use as security for a building-loan. The loan was approved within a week allowing me to make the first withdrawal: R10 000 to settle my dues with the professor (interest free!). I was owner-builder (a builder friend advised and assisted where necessary) and six months later my wife and I took up residence in our brand new house. 

For many years I contemplated why God had answered that particular prayer of mine so easily and so quickly – until, later in life, it dawned on me. I often prayed for – according to me – equally worthy issues, in just as righteous a way as the R10 000, often without apparent success. When old Satan then tried to delude me into believing prayer is a futile act, I could banish him by remembering how God, when I was a young man, indeed answered my prayer and gave me R10 000. God listens! I have proof.

I also learned another valuable lesson from this episode. We often ask God to give us a house, for instance, but God has another way of working. He is keen to give it to you, but not just like that. No, you too have to do something.

If someone had told me before this amazing experience that God is going to give me R10 000 for a week in order for me to build a house, I would most probably have sniggered and said: “A doll’s house, maybe. What else can you build with R10 000? And after a week, do I have to return the doll’s house?”small-house

After doing a bit of research, though, and putting in some effort, God opened my eyes to bring me to the conclusion that, with borrowed R10 000, my dream could become a reality. Trust God with your dreams, but never expect Him to deprive you of the satisfaction of partaking in the accomplishment of them.praat

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