How Do I Read the Bible?

I’ve been reading and writing and not posting. That doesn’t feel good to me. So here it comes. Words that aren’t quite clear. Thoughts that I’ve just poured down on paper.

How Do I Read the Bible?

Today, I was reading the gospel of John, chapters 8 and 9. When I read the Bible, I usually read a short passage, a few verses. I read two whole chapters because the I was looking for the end of the argument. In these chapters Jesus is arguing with the scribes and pharisees. According to the writer of John, Jesus is trying to convince these religious leaders that he is God with us. Jesus keeps saying, God the Father is part of me, sent me. He keeps telling them to open their eyes. In the midst of it, Jesus demonstrates his healing power. Jesus heals a man born blind. Even this healing miracle does nothing to convince his listeners, his questioners, his accusers.

When I had finished reading these two chapters, I picked up Henri Nouwen’s, “The Only Necessary Thing”. In his chapter on the “Discipline of Prayer”, he talks about Bible Reading and Contemplation. This morning I read, “the word of God should lead us first of all to contemplation and meditation. Instead of taking the words apart, we should bring them together in our innermost being; instead of wondering if we agree or disagree, we should wonder which words are directly spoken to us and connect directly with our most personal story. Instead of thinking about the words as potential subjects for an interesting dialogue or paper (I substituted blog), we should be willing to let them penetrate into the most hidden corners of our heart, even to those places where no other word has yet found entrance. Then and only then can the word bear fruit as seed sown in rich soil. Only then can we really “hear and understand”. (Matt. 13:23)”

And so I went back and thought about the writer’s words in those two chapters. What was God trying to tell me this morning? This is what I wrote down – what I heard from God – the seed God is trying to sew in my heart this morning.

In these two chapters I hear John spending a lot of time on “Who is Jesus?” John relates Jesus’ words telling me Jesus is God with us. Jesus declares it. The Pharisees don’t believe. Jesus offers proof by healing the man born blind. This miracle does not convince them. As I thought about the wholeness of those two chapters, I realized that in my heart I do believe that Jesus was God with us, teaching us God’s “Way” of living, loving. I truly believe that God lives within each one of us calling us to be a conduit for God’s presence in our world. We are each God’s precious children. God lives within us. I know there is no real logical proof of this belief but it is true. If Jesus couldn’t convince people with his words and miracles, I certainly won’t be able too. It’s a mystery. Proof in words and actions is not necessary. I just need to be God’s loving child and help others to be God’s loving children. That will take different forms over my life time. Sometimes I will do well. Sometimes I will feel like a total failure. Always this is my path.

All I can do is live as God calls me. In everything I do and say, I need to live God’s love. In my preaching, my blogging, my writing, I am a conduit for God’s love. It’s that simple and that difficult, all at the same time. With God’s help, I can always return to that purpose.

I have decided that Henri Nouwen is right. Instead of being frustrated with those two Biblical chapters, instead of feeling as if Jesus is just fighting a losing battle, instead of thinking that John is just trying to convince me of something that makes no sense, I have heard a reassurance of my own faith. I have heard God’s call once again especially in my writing.

So these are my thoughts for your contemplation. Read and ignore, that’s your choice. Or try reading those chapters in the Gospel of John and listen for God’s word for you. If you like write me and tell me what you have heard. I’d truly like that.

Where Do I Find Fuel for My Journey?

I find fuel for my life each day when I sit in my favourite chair, pen, journal, Bible, and book of reflections on my knee. This is my time with God.  I read, reflect and write in solitude. My day is always better when I give this time for prayer.  I’ve been practising a time of morning meditation for approximately forty years.  It’s special sacred time that enables me to remember that I am God’s beloved child, abundantly blessed.

Most days this week, God’s brilliant sunshine has created a halo around a vase of wild-flowers proudly gracing my Tibetan trunk.  Their regal beauty reminded me daily of two very important blessings in my life. First, they remind me to keep my eyes open all day to the beauty of God’s world that surrounds me. Second and even more important they speak of the love and care our grandson, Tim, age twenty-two, has for us. He picked them, brought them, arranged them and left them as a surprise greeting “just because”. They remind me to keep my heart open to God’s love that is offered every moment of every day, “just because”.

This week, God and Tim have worked together to touch my heart and fuel my soul. I am truly grateful. Without my daily discipline of prayer and meditation, I might have walked by those flowers and missed out on receiving the fuel I need for living.

My suggestion for each one of you is that you take a few moments every day to meet up with God in prayer. Why spend a day without acknowledging God’s presence, God’s power within you. God’s strength and power are there, available to you, whether or not you receive them, invite them into your life. There is no need to run on an empty tank.


We Can’t Make Our Children Join Us!

In today’s world, many of us who are long time church members despair at the lack of interest our children show towards church. We brought them to Sunday School as children. They’ve seen our example. Yet they reject it all. We tried to sow the seeds of faith but they didn’t take root. What can we do?

We know the value the church community has for us. Our church family celebrates with us when good things happen, cries with us in our pain and supports us as we step into the world trying new things. Some people think the church is a social club.

Yet the church is so much more than a social club. We gather together in faith. Sunday morning worship and bible study lead us to think about what we believe, to grow in our spirituality. As we gather together we are safe to face the challenge of living, to ask the questions that whirl round in our heads. As we share our resources and our gifts we can reach out beyond the church walls, and the boundaries of our community and country to make a difference in the world. Building a personal relationship with God, we learn that we are never alone, abandoned. God is always with us. We can experience God in others. Of course we want all of that and so much more for our children. And so we lament their refusal to join us.

As I have thought about this, I heard God’s voice speaking in my heart. “Jan, what is Christian faith. I answered, “Following the “Way of Christ.” Then came the question, “What does that mean?”

I remembered that Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two greatest commandments.”

Jesus’ Way, has TWO prongs. Our children may not be willing to accept the first prong of Jesus’ way. They are not claiming faith in God in any form but when we look closely, they are living that second prong of Jesus’ “Way” sometimes even better than we do.

My one son, who has rejected religion in any form, lives the attributes of Jesus. He is kind and loving. He is accepting – of people of every race, color and faith. He cares about the environment, particularly the animals. He volunteers at animal shelters. He’s a committed vegetarian. In most of the places he and his family have lived, they have volunteered at orphanages as well. He shares what he has generously with others. Oh yes, he lives the “way of Christ,” better than many who profess Christianity in any of its forms.

I’m sure if each one of you look carefully at your children you will see that they too live the “way of Christ”. Some of the seeds of faith have taken root and blossomed beautifully. Yes, they haven’t accepted it all. Maybe they never will. Still they are, and always will be God’s beloved children. God is with them, caring for them. As Christians our job is not to change them or judge them. Our job is to love them, and to live the “way of Christ” ourselves. God will take care of the rest.

I take this one step further. Because every person in the world is God’s beloved child, regardless of faith or non-faith, our job is to love them. Our job is to be the best we can be on the path we follow. God will take care of the rest. And I am grateful.

Our Last Day

Friday night we had decided to find a Methodist church for Sunday worship. It was time for a return to our faith roots. He had done the research. We needed to be up by 8. Methodist churches in London aren’t nearly as plentiful as Anglican churches.

Sunday morning, we had our route plotted. We would have a 25 minute walk after we left the above ground and tube, probably an hour of travel altogether. Tom had figured it out very well. Church was at 10:30. We arrived at 10:31 thinking we would be late. We hadn’t figured in the fact that this was a black congregation predominantly from Africa. They were devoted to God not to time. The congregation of about sixty people, with about 15 youth, is warm, and friendly. They totally understood hospitality. The service started about 10:45 and went to 1:00 p.m. The time flew by. We had lots of lively singing. I particularly enjoyed their offering tradition. When it was time, the lovely woman beside me whispered, we will be dancing our offering to the front. That is exactly what we did. Everyone stood, we sang and sort of danced around the church, filing past the offering plate on the communion table and back to our seats. St. Paul says, “God loves a cheerful giver. We certainly felt as if this ritual helped us to be “cheerful givers”. The whole service was fun. The emphasis was on relationships – our relationship with God and with each other. They had a birthday chair. Each person celebrating sat in the chair and enjoyed his/her own rendition of Happy Birthday. God’s angels filled this church.

After church we walked to Greenwich Gardens. This lively market was fun. We bought a few gifts to bring home. We talked with lots of friendly people. We had lunch.

After lunch we toured the “Cutty Sark”, a famous sailing ship that carried tea to England and around the world. Once again we followed an audio tour. Sunday was a perfect day, a wonderful way to end our journey.

We returned to Sara’s. I made us scrambled eggs etc. We ate and talked with Sara. About ten o’clock, she said, “I feel a bit puckish. We did too. So she baked us a pizza and garlic bread. We added cheese from our stash in the fridge. We had a little party. We crawled gratefully into bed about 11:30. Everything was packed. The alarm set for 3:00 a.m. We were going home.

Jet-Lagged and Home


I hope you enjoyed our trip. It was fun thinking about having you along and focusing on the angels of our journey. I would have included more pictures, but adding the pictures wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. There were some glitches transferring the pictures from my phone to my computer. Also many of the places didn’t allow pictures.

Tom and I had a great trip. We learned lots. We saw lots. We enjoyed each other and what we did. For me that is the purpose of a vacation. We are truly grateful this experience.

Saturday – Walking, Lots of Walking


We decided that Saturday was Hyde Park Day. The weather was warm, a great day for strolling in the park. And that was exactly what we did but first we went to “Claridge’s of London.” Claridge’s is a hotel for the rich and famous. Our friend Diane whose surname is Claridge had asked us if we could take a picture of the hotel for her. We had thought we would have high tea at Claridge’s. We travelled by tube to the closest station. Our walk took us past the American embassy which was under construction. As is often the case with construction projects there was an extremely high wall all around the building. Tom and I chuckled as we walked by.

Claridge’s of London

On the outside Claridge’s looked somewhat similar to many fancy big city hotels except… Standing on the side walk were three men dressed in tails and cravats waiting to serve us as we entered. Inside the opulence equaled that of the Renaissance. The huge vases of flowers were real. The elaborate plaster work was intricate and beautiful. We wondered through the enormous foyer and into the tea room. Of course there were white table cloths and flowers and …. The woman behind the reception desk smiled and welcomed us. Our jeans didn’t feel quite appropriate for the surroundings.  We had checked on line the night before so we would know what to expect. High tea involved sandwiches, tea, and sweets. Which I’m sure would have been lovely and looked pretty on the plate. It was the price that surprised us. High tea at Claridge’s costs 65 pounds (about 110 Canadian dollars). Maybe if the Queen had joined us we could have justified that extravagance. Since she was busy with Donald Trump we decided to just have a plain cup of tea.

I smiled at the hostess and asked. “How much is a cup of tea.” Her expression told me immediately that I was not a part of “Claridge’s world”. She had to look down at the menu. Very formally she told us, “That would be 7 pounds fifty plus a service charge of 8 pounds. I didn’t even check for Tom’s opinion. 15 pounds fifty (nearly 30 Canadian dollars) for the privilege of tea at Claridge’s. “Thank you very much,” I said. We turned and walked away. We did take lots of pictures which was all that Diane had asked.

Outside with the Footman?

The stairs to the rooms

The Dining Room

We were there. Winston Churchill is in the background.

It was a long walk to Hyde Park. Smart people would have taken a bus. We didn’t know which bus and it was such a lovely warm day. All in all we walked halfway round Hyde Park, saw some beautiful flowers, and watched people having picnics etc. I knew very quickly that This was going to be another 17,000 step day. Eventually, we found a place for lunch.

Hyde Park Flowers

a Gorgeous Umbrella

Memorial for Animals who served in World Wars I & II

Along with this huge plaque that was 16 feet by 14 feet. There were sculptures of donkeys and horses. They looked  exhausted and worn out.

After asking for help we caught a bus back to Covent Garden. We enjoyed walking through the shops. The street entertainers were great. We watched two of their shows. They helped us decide to buy a ticket to the play, “Waitress”. We knew already that the tickets, though expensive were at least within our range for a one time event. We had supper in a little pub called “The Honest Burger”. They even had gluten free buns.

The play was funny, nostalgic and touched our hearts. Good Decision. One of the workers there, one of our angels for the day, took our picture holding two pies. (The star of the play baked the restaurant’s pies.) After the play we spilled back out onto the street with the other theatre goers.

We hadn’t plotted our journey back to Sara’s. So we asked. One very friendly man heard us asking. He opened up his phone. Take number 50 bus, go ten stops and you will be at the tube. Take the central line across town to Polar Station. At Poplar you will change to the above ground and go out to Royal Victoria in the Docklands. At night in a strange city, this man felt like truly one of God’s angels.

We followed his instructions carefully. When we got to the tube station, I took a deep breath, put Tom in front of me so I couldn’t see down, and actually rode the escalator down two very deep levels underground. I was quite proud of myself. That whole late night experience wouldn’t have been possible without my angel Tom. He may not be perfect but he sure is understanding when it comes to me and heights and small places. With his help I stepped way out of my comfort zone many times on this trip. I was rather proud of me and grateful to him.

It was after midnight when we got back to Sara’s. We crept in quietly and collapsed into bed. Tom set the alarm for church.

A Real Castle and Lived in by Real Royalty

Friday – Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle from above

Windsor is a tourist town. Restaurants and souvenir shops line the narrow streets. The castle is spectacular. Built on a hill for good defense, Windsor castle is the summer and weekend home for the royal family.

We left the train and trudged up the winding road, looking up until our necks hurt. About half way we stopped for a snack of cheese, crackers and water.  Tourists flowed by in groups. May 31st and the tourist season appeared to be in full swing.

We passed a long queue of people waiting to buy their entry ticket. Once again our prepurchase on line meant we could almost walk right in. The ever present security check queue took only fifteen minutes. Times have changed.

The castle grounds are beautifully kept. The cobblestone roadway, although a little rough to walk on, added to the ancient atmosphere. I felt as if I were walking into a history book. Centuries of kings and queens have resided here, entertained here, made diplomatic decisions and treaties here. We toured what was called the queen’s apartments. The elaborate halls and smaller rooms are used today for formal meetings of state etc. but are not part of the Queen’s actual home. We did see the room where her official 90th birthday party was held. We did see what had been the actual formal bedroom of king   Charles II .  His going to bed and rising was a formal affair attended by close and important people.

King Charles II Bedroom. Check out the ceiling. 

The rooms were elaborate.

We followed a self-guided audio tour which meant we could move along at our own pace. There were a number of stairs so we had special guides for the handicapped take us up and down in the tiniest of old elevators. There was just room for Tom and I inside. Needless to say, I said a prayer before I entered.

When the tour was over we enjoyed a very late lunch in one of the local pubs. We returned to the castle chapel for a 5:00 p.m. prayer service. This time there was no security check. We had access through one castle gate that led right to the chapel. This service was freely open to local residents and any tourists that were interested. Once again we sat in the “Quire”. The chapel was a small version of Westminister Abbey. There was no choir present, no hymns sung and no pomp and circumstance. We could hear but not see the priest who led us through a twenty minute service of prayers and scripture.

King George’s Chapel

The service over we followed the smallish crowd back out through the castle gate and joined those who were shopping. We wandered up and down the streets checking out some of the stores. We had already bought our souvenir tour book in the castle shop so were only looking. At this point we were tired. It is amazing how exhausting being a tourist can be.

We walked back down the hill to the train. On the trip home, I napped a bit and enjoyed the few minutes of country scenery. By the time we had returned to our Air B&B in the docklands it was after nine. We had a great visit with our hostess Sara and crawled wearily into bed.

Just two more days and our holiday would end. Where were the angels today. Well certainly the two women who cheerfully stuffed us into the tiny elevator had been very helpful and friendly. Mostly Tom and I had been our own angels for each other. This was definitely a day for us together. At times it felt like we were alone in our own little world in the midst of a crowd. We enjoy each other and walking in history so we had a grand day.

London  Days two and three

Covent Garden and Westminster Abbey

These two days we walked miles. My fit bit registered 17,898 steps on Wednesday. We had intended using the Hop On and Off bus but instead we bought an Oyster Card for the local transit. London Transit is wonderful. It’s quick, easy, very accessible by lift and except in rush hour not too terribly crowded. We followed our pattern of sleeping in until 8. This slow beginning for our day kept us relaxed and fairly stress free.


Covent Garden – a stray piano

We took the above ground railway to the boat bus and walked to Covent Garden. We wondered past a lot of sellers’ stalls and bought nothing. We checked out the live theatre productions and considered buying tickets to something but didn’t. We had lunch in Covent Garden entertained by a string ensemble in the courtyard.

We had a long walk along the river. Tom took my picture in front of the Scotland Yard headquarters. We walked past the parliament buildings and stopped to talk to a police officer. We asked about tours. He said the best tour was of Westminster Abbey. We walked over and discovered that there was a huge lineup to buy tickets. We decided it would be better to order the tickets on line and go tomorrow. We had a lovely quiet day. The only real angel this time was the policeman.

At supper time we ate in a typical British pub.

We returned to our lodging and visited with Sarah. She is a lovely young woman who loves to talk and discuss things, particularly religion. That was so good.


First task of the day, was arranging tomorrow. We decided to visit Windsor Castle which is in the town of Windsor on the outskirts of London. We had to organize where we caught the regular train and make sure we could get a ticket. That meant travelling to Waterloo station downtown. I would have to ride the “tube” down several layers into the earth. Since I struggle with feeling closed in, I knew this was going to stret……ch my comfort zone. We hopped on the DLR – the above ground transit – a piece of cake. One station and we transferred to the underground – the first layer. The train hurtled along screeching so loud on the corners and the downward slopes that I had to remove my hearing aids. The noise was painful. In about ten minutes we were at Waterloo station. The escalators up looked like at least 20 stories and we had to take two of them. The incline was frightful. At least we were going up so I didn’t have to look down. At street level Tom went up yet another level to buy our ticket to Windsor. I had had enough. I settled on a stool at a bar in MacDonald’s to wait.

The man beside me was eating – it looked like Timbits. I watched him pour HP sauce on his Timbits. I couldn’t resist. I asked, “What are you eating?” Turned out the Timbits were actually some form of breaded meat balls. The ice broken, we talked until Tom returned. He worked nearby and lived in the north end of the city. As we talked, my heart rate slowed. Riding the subway hadn’t been that bad, I told myself. Besides there is a lift so I won’t have to stand on those escalators to get home. Not that I like elevators. They too are closed in.

When Tom returned we walked out past the parliament buildings towards Westminster Abbey and beyond. We wandered through St. James Park which is lovely. We had a late lunch. And toured the Abby.

Westminster Abbey

Westminister Abbey is an imposing elaborate structure. Beautiful inside and out. It has witnessed so much history. As I stepped inside, I remembered seeing the queen’s coronation on our brand new black and white TV, when I was a little girl. The self-guided tour focused on the many historical people whose remains have been encrypted in the Abbey. It felt like a tour of death rather than life. After a while, I grew tired of looking at stone sculptures of famous figures laid out on stone coffins. I gratefully found a seat in the main abbey sanctuary and sat down for a rest. After the tour we attended a special sung communion worship to celebrate the Ascension of Christ. It was beautiful. They ushered Tom and I and many others in to sit in the Quire (choir). Tom actually sat in the Canada chair – the chair where the Canadian ambassadors, and other dignitaries sit for special services. Tom of course was in his glory. I sat down below expecting to hear his voice soar out over me.

It just didn’t happen, partly because the actual choir took up a portion of the seats. They led the crowd sitting below us. The organ and the combined voices poured forth their song. Being one of many, Tom even at his best, would never have been heard.  And Tom was not at his best. The beautiful formal Anglican service began with a procession. The lead man in a white gown overlaid with a gorgeous cloak of embroidered gold swung an incense pot. The aromatic fragrance rose up and swirled among us. Tom’s throat had closed up.

The priest and a number of others processed in behind the incense all of them dressed in white gowns with gold embroidered cassocks. I felt as if I was present at Lady Diana’s wedding or the coronation. The sermon was interesting, the music fabulous. I felt honoured to worship in Westminster Abbey.

Afterward, we had supper at a British pub. and took the “tube” (subway) home. Our day had been full. We were ready to sleep.


God Works in Mysterious Ways – Monday, we arrive.

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t written all week. Well I have but only in my journal. Tom and I are enjoying London at our leisurely pace. We get up when we naturally waken, enjoy breakfast and then we’re off – 10 a.m.  We return here after supper. Yes, we could see more but this pace suits us. Now for the last few days.

God Works in Mysterious Ways

God’s angels have literally surrounded us.  We ended up taking a taxi from the airport to our Air b&b. Not our intention of course. We started by having a caring London information agent at the airport setting up an Uber ride for us. Tom and I are obviously not suited for Uber. The first one cancelled. The second one we thought was booked wasn’t. We gave up after an hour of failure, and called a taxi. The info agent was an angel for sure, but this taxi driver must have had direct instructions from the Almighty. He had to park his unmarked cab (Mercedes) and come searching for us, as we stood their waiting for a SkyX taxi. He loaded us and all our luggage and we finally pulled out of the airport, travelling in total luxury.

Tom looked around the cab, saw no credit card signs and said, “You do take AMEX or VISA, I hope. That’s what the cab company said.”

At the next traffic light and our driver looked around at us. “You paid over the phone?”


“I have no way of processing a card in the taxi.”

“We have no English money.”

“Can we stop at a bank?” I asked.


“We stopped at a bank fairly close to our Air B&B. I hopped out. The bank machine defeated me. I went inside and waited in line. (Always lots of lines in London). At the wicket the clerk callously said, “you have to go outside to the machine. We can’t take your cards – not any of them. Even though I was desperate for the “loo” at this point, I had the sense to say, “Is there a limit on withdrawals.”

“Yes, 300 pounds.”

I returned to the machine and requested only 300 pounds. Almost immediately the paper money spewed forth. I tore back to the car, well aware of the cost of keeping a taxi waiting in Canada.

Problem number two – we couldn’t find the Air B&B. We found the street and drove back and forth. No sign of number 19. By this time Tom and I were both desperate for the Loo.

“We’ll check at this hotel,” the driver said.

“Good,” I replied. Throwing caution to the wind, I added, “Can we go to the ‘loo’ here.”

“Certainly,” he replied. “I need to go too.”

He shepherded us into the hotel and helped us find the appropriate places. By the time I returned to the foyer, the driver had instructions.

He parked the car, unloaded us and then dragged our two biggest suitcases, with a carry on top of one, to the bottom of 25 steps. We all looked up. “I’ll help,” he said.

He took us to our building. We had no key. We called. The person who answered said, “follow the instructions in the email, I sent you.”

We had no email. We, of course, were not yet on wifi and not using our cell phone because of roaming charges. “Please send it again.”

We turned on our phone and got the email.

“You’ll be ok then,” the driver asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “How much do we owe you.” In my head I was expecting the entire 300 pounds. Uber was supposed to cost between 60 and 70 pounds from the airport. This accommodating driver sighed and said, “Would 70 pounds be okay.” I grinned and handed him 80 pounds and we thanked him profusely. We even told him he was our angel for the day.

Eventually, we got keys, got inside and said, “We’re here, in London, a dream come true.”


Graduation – Friday, Saturday, Sunday


Graduation was lovely. The American International School of Johannesburg does it well. The ritual is spread over two days which makes it extra special. Friday there are several practices for both Friday and Saturday, a senior’s class luncheon and the awards presentation. I liked having the awards given out at a separate time from the diplomas. Our Jenna received Athlete of the Year. There were a multitude of awards for academics, service and sports. The kids had a very busy day.

They also received their red envelopes on Friday. Family and friends had been asked to write letters, send cards, pictures etc. to support their beloved student. Jenna will keep those letters always. Hopefully when the tough times come, as they do for all of us, she will be able to read them and gain courage as she soaks in the love that came with those letters. It is a lovely tradition.

Both Friday and Saturday the sun shone filling our hearts with a sense of well-being. God was smiling and celebrating with us. Saturday afternoon we gathered once again in the auditorium. There were the usual speeches. A musical interlude by a student acapella singing group added to the occasion. The final speech was fantastic.  One of the teachers, chosen by the kids, spoke to them from her heart. She did a wonderful job. She closed her talk with a popular song that she had rewritten just for the graduates. She had all the teachers join her on the chorus. We were all in tears. She brought God’s blessing of love to the grad’s. She was my choice for angel of the day.

The presentation of the diplomas was unique. As each student’s name was called they came forward and stood facing the crowd while the vice principal read out the student’s message for parents, grandparents, siblings, friends. They had 40 words, no more. There were many thank you’s and future plans. Some were entertaining. All were important. It gave each student a moment in the limelight before they received their diploma. I liked it.

The afternoon ceremony was followed by an elegant dinner in the ballroom of a local hotel. The students paraded in and then joined their family circle at a table. Champagne was provided for a toast. A milky way of tiny lights turned the hall into a magic place. The meal was delicious. The students were excited about the dance that was to follow.  Once the graduates dance with their mother or father was complete, the music volume increased. We took one look at the overcrowded dance floor and gratefully accepted a ride back to Dave’s. Dave and Jo followed about an hour later. Over the years our opportunities to celebrate Jenna’s special days have been rare. We are so glad we came.

We crawled into bed early and slept well. I rose and shone at 6:30 Sunday morning. We returned to All Saints Anglican church for worship. Everyone welcomed us. Nourished in the Spirit, we climbed into Dave’s car and headed out of town a bit to participate in a music and wine tasting festival with Dave, Jo, Lee, Russell, Steve and John. The day was warm and sunny, the music far enough away to be enjoyable, the wine and food delicious.

We could have packed Sunday night but just weren’t up to it. So we packed this morning and left for the airport at 3:00.

Who were are angels. Certainly Jenna, first and foremost. Lee and Russell, drove us home from the dance, and welcomed us into their circle. They helped make the graduation special for us. And then there was Noni. I’ll write a separate blog about Noni. And also at the top of my angel list was Jenna’s lovely mom, Joanne. She is so generous and loving. At the festival she wanted to buy everything I looked at. We need to buy the things that people have made. They are trying to make a living and we want to help them was always her excuse. She is an amazing woman.


God’s Angels Saved the Day (or maybe the night)

Days 6, 7, 8

We left Johannesburg in the dark. Around six, an arc of orangy red light slid up from the horizon. The moon faded to a ghostly ball as the rising sun gradually grew into a blood red circle with a golden halo. Very quickly the light dispersed, giving us a glorious clear day.

The trip to Clarens through the flat golden farmland was lovely and uneventful except when we took a wrong turn. A little more than a half hour had passed before we realized our mistake. There was no real problem except the time it took to get back on track. As we approached Clarens (over an hour late) the road gradually started rolling up and down gentle hills.

Our guide Neels was waiting. After a pit stop we left for Lesotho. Crossing the border was a breeze. We did have to get out of the car and take our passports to be stamped. All was done without question. Neels said, “This is one of the most fluid borders in the world.”

This part of Lesotho is hilly and beautiful as is all of God’s world. Neels told us that contrary to South Africa, the people of Lesotho own their homes, even though the government owns the property. Most of the settlement  homes are built with blocks making them much more permanent. Although still tiny, one room homes, from the outside they  look much more comfortable than the tar paper shacks in the Soweto type settlements outside of Johannesburg.

Neels took us to Lesotho National Park, and the          Caves. Similar yet different from the petroglyphs near Peterborough, these cave paintings told stories of the aboriginal people who lived in the area thousands of years ago. The park officer, obviously enjoyed interpreting the paintings for us, and telling us about the caves.

He also took us inside a traditional aboriginal Lesotho home and explained the functions of many of the items we could see there. After about two hours at the park, there we were very ready for a late lunch.

Neals led us to a special restaurant, well not exactly a restaurant, called Mamohase Bed and Breakfast.  We had our lunch (actually more like dinner) prepared by the mother of our host and local guide, MoRuti. He showed us to their own family dining room table and sat down to eat with us. The food was delicious. We had fried chicken, special stewed tomatoes and onions, shredded spinach salad, pumpkin and parsnips mixed, papa (porridge made of corn meal somewhat like potatoes but much drier, and steamed bread.

Tummies full, MoRuti took us on a tour of the area. The main road was fine but the side roads? They were not just gravel roads full of pot holes, they were country tracks over rocks and boulders, not very well defined. Victor drove with great skill up and down hills, around switch backs over these sort of desert wilderness trails. We were grateful Dave had loaned us his 4-wheeled drive SUV for this excursion, although we wondered if maybe his range rover would have enjoyed the journey more.

Our tour over we headed for Clarens and our Mt Horeb Manor B&B. Night had descended and the three of us were exhausted. Neels made sure we found our bed and breakfast. On arrival our host said that a table at a local hotel restaurant had been reserved for us. Not at all hungry and desperate to relax in our room, we felt obligated to go at least for a glass of wine and something very light. The restaurant was lovely. Tom and I shared a meal of turf and serf and sipped a glass of wine. Not exactly a light meal but at least small, since we shared. Victor did not feel obligated. He returned for us and ferried us to our home for the night.

Tom and I would both recommend Neels as a guide. He’s pleasant, friendly, extremely helpful, knowledgeable. We enjoyed our day with him. (contact info below.)

Mt Horeb Manor is the best, offering luxury, more than luxury. Lit with tiny lights encircling the path and the archway we stepped into a room fit for royalty. Spacious, more than spacious, the room contained a king size bed, a love seat, comfy chair, and coffee table. The bathroom had a big jacuzzi as well.  Regretfully, we climbed into bed at 9:30 too tired to soak in the luxury.

In the morning we opened the curtains in our glassed in room, to a spectacular view of the Drakensberg Mountains glowing in the South African morning sun. Breakfast in the beautifully appointed dining room, was delicious. Mt. Horeb Manor has a resident chef. Tom had biscuits, freshly made that morning, with his amazing omelet. Of course I had rice cakes. Our omelets were loaded with mushrooms, cheese, bacon and tomatoes. There were sauces to add and a salad as well. Of course there were the usual cereal, yoghurt, juice, etc. We aren’t used to this kind of opulence but we certainly enjoyed every bite and every moment.

Breakfast over we headed to the Dakensberg Boys school for the afternoon concert. We were leaving way too early, but after our wrong turn yesterday, the three of us agreed it was wise. We drove through Golden Gate National Park, stopping to take pictures of the spectacular scenery. We stopped in Winterton for lunch. Shopping lacked interest but one of the locals suggested that we tried shopping at a mall close to the school. It was a mall, but unlike any mall at home. The individual shops with their reed roofs and stucco sides were cool in the South African sun. Still it was a tourist spot and we had fun being tourists.

At the school, we were welcomed and given a tour. When the concert started, I gave thanks to God for this opportunity. The sound, the boys expressions, the choreography – we were in the presence of  approx.. 80 of God’s angels dressed in blue and singing from their hearts. The Holy Spirit sent prickles up and down my arms and brought tears to my eyes. On my right sat a couple from Holland who come twice a year just for the choir. I understood why. These young people go on tours. They’ve been to Canada. If they ever come again we will certainly be there to welcome them.

The choir was the highlight of this little three day tour. The concert ended at dusk. When we went looking for the Cathkin Bed and Breakfast, down a very dark, rough gravel twisting side road we felt once again we were on an adventure. Our adventure turned to high stress, as we struggled to find our way in the inky black of a South African night. Finallym after consultation with a gatekeeper, we pulled into a driveway. We had arrived, we hoped. I foolishly volunteered to make sure this was the place. It wasn’t well lit. The front of the cottage had no doors. I followed a path along the side. As I rounded a curve I was blinded by a green light and stumbled. I didn’t quite fall down. As I struggled to get my balance I shifted my body away from the light and saw four shallow very wide steps. At the top was grass and a few lights illuminating sliding glass doorways to three rooms. Up ahead I saw the dark shadow of a dog coming silently towards me. As usual I panicked. I turned and retraced my steps to the car. By this time, Tom and Victor had found a sign saying we were at Cathkin Cottage. At least we were in the right place. Tom took my hand and we went back around and up the steps. At that point we were by a young woman. She identified herself as Laura and said she wasn’t the owner. The owner had left because of an emergency. She would find out what to do. Tom and I returned to Victor and the car.

In a few moments a young man, Byron appeared with Laura and a telephone. He was talking to the owner. He handed the phone to me. “You are not registered,” Leila said.

“Yes, we are,” I declared. “My son David made the reservation and paid for it.”

“ You must have the wrong day,” she said. “It’s Wednesday May 22nd. Is your reservation for next week.”

“No!” I said.

“Well, I can give you a room since you’re here.”

“I have a receipt,” I said. “It’s already paid for.”

“Alright, I’ll talk with your son. You can leave the receipt in your room.”

“Thank you,”  I handed the phone back to Byron. Once again we traipsed around, up the steps to the back of the house. Laura produced a key to room too. We dragged in our luggage. At this point Victor was feeling nervous about his accommodation. Would he be able to find it. Would his reservation be ok. The three of us were hungry as well. We had passed the Drakensberg Sun Resort just down the road. Victor wasn’t enthusiastic about coming for supper with us. He just want to get himself settled for the night at River Crossing wherever that was. Byron volunteered to drive us to the hotel, since they were going for supper there as well, so Victor left.

Byron and Laura owned a truck, a two seater. Laura sat on the transmission housing, Tom took the passenger seat, and I sat on his lap, my head bent against the windshield. I was grateful that it was only five minutes to the hotel. We enjoyed a beautiful buffet. When we called Victor, he was fine. All settled in a lovely place and already eating dinner. At the end of the meal Byron came to our table and assured us he would take us home and return for Laura.

This time I sat on the transmission housing, which was much more comfortable compared to the last trip. Byron offered to make two trips but I said, “Oh no, we’re already putting you out enough”.

At breakfast the next day, we learned that Byron and Laura were guests of Cathkin B&B, and friends of the owners daughter. They had come for Leila’s daughter’s wedding last Saturday and decided to stay a few extra days. When we arrived they had just volunteered to help.

They were certainly God’s angels for us. They couldn’t have been more helpful. We will remember them as we rock in our rocking chairs.

Cathkin B&B we will try to forget. Our room was small, and not even a little luxurious. It was more like staying a tiny motel. After the sumptuous Mt Horeb, we were obviously spoiled. When I checked the receipts for the two places, I was surprised to discover that the cost was the same. Booking on line can give you surprises. It gave us an experience, and we did have a place to stay. I’m sure the Drakensberg Sun Lodge up the road would have been triple the cost.

Breakfast was good, not as fancy as Mt. Horeb but just fine. Today we are trekking back to Johannesburg. The angel’s of the last two days? Byron, Laura, the Drakensberg choir and Neels have shown us the goodness of humankind.

If you ever are in South Africa, I would recommend a side trip to Lasotho led by Neels who is based in Clarens, the Mt. Horeb Manor Bed and Breakfast in Clarens and the Drakensberg Choir.

More pictures tomorrow.

Neels Lesotho Tour Guide:  Cell: 076 392 2605

Mamohase Bed & Breakfast hosted by Moruti

Cell:5904 7042   WhatsApp: +266 5904 7042

Mt. Horeb Manor, 139 Roos Street, Clarens, S.A.                               Phone: +27 76 392 2605