Photo story: Visiting Neighbours


Having a garden is a great thing. I tend to focus my attention on the plants and flowers but more and more it strikes me that with having a garden you get regular visits of the animals living in it or using it as a place to rest, as their playground or workspace or even the place to have their children born.

In the past weeks we have had the pleasure of several visitors.

We had the dragon fly, that played hard to get when it came to having a picture taken. I ended up chasing it through the vege patch trying to avoid stepping on the tomatoes, carrots and beetroot. Of all the plants the dragon fly could use to sit down on and have a picture taken it chose off course the rhubarb plant at the end of the patch. But when it did sit down, it showed itself in all it’s beauty, as if it were posing almost.

Then one morning one of the boys thought an empty shell was lying on the deck. Upon picking it up for a closer inspection, it turned out that a snail was visiting.

After coming out of it shell, it was plodding around on the deck, apparently looking for something.

We asked the snail what it was looking for. ” I heard that that Mrs Monarch was having her nursery here, and wanted to see how things were going.” We advised our little friend that things were well and that the eggs had already hatched to healthy growing caterpillars.

One morning not long after that we had the pleasure of witnessing the transformation from caterpillar to cocoon.

We are all waiting and hoping to be present when this cocoon will be transforming into a beautiful Monarch.

A Small Business Network Security Survey


Many of today’s small businesses use PCs and a server network to facilitate their operations. Vital company information is stored in electronic format on these networks, and daily operations are dependent on the network being both available and secure. In many cases, these small businesses ignore or are unaware of the risks that could compromise the safety of the data. To better know these issues, two hundred of these small businesses were interviewed about their network security. Companies ranged from those with ten employees or less, to those with over a hundred staff members. Over half of the survey respondents believed that their network was adequately safe or very secure. A large number of respondents did admit that they doubted their defenses against an attack. This isn’t too surprising, as nearly all businesses have experienced some type of security threat in the last year, from lost computers or back-up takes, hacker attacks, viruses, or theft by employees. The top three threats reported were: 1) Trojan horse or virus attacks 2) Stolen or lost computers, including data storage devices 3) Employee theft or hacker attack Company defenses reported include: 1) Virus Protection 2) Firewall 3) Spyware Protection 4) Spam Filters Recommendations: Most companies reported that they lacked a smart password policy, automated patch management, and employee network use policies.

Read the full post here >>>

Norwester Sunset Smiling Back at Me


When the wind is coming from the north west, that usually gives some spectacular skies with beautiful oranges and reds.

Imagine my surprise when I found the sky smiling back at me.

Other photos can be found via my flickr stream

Testimony: Give yourself the best Christmas present you will ever get


Last Sunday upon repeated requests, I gave a testimony at Harmony Church. It was the day after  said yes I started to realise that I was actually not quite sure what I said yes to. I mean I am new to this. So I did what felt safe and put the text on paper. It was actually more than I bargained for but a promise is a promise. I am still coming to terms with everything that happened before during and after getting myself to do all this. It was not getting the words on paper, that was probably the easy (and safe) part. I had to find out that despite so many gigs, three seasons as a talent show presenter, presentations and training, I was actually grabbed by nerves. Why? Because this was really opening up, something  had learned to either not do or do it while hiding behind an instrument. Would He be listing in? As He is understood to be interested in what comes from the heart and not so much from the words (or the mind) I could not help but feeling well …nervous. I performed for many audiences but this was quite something else.It felt as being as naked as one can get understanding who’d be listening in.

During doing this, so much went through my mind, so much of what can easily be put on paper got an emotional lading that struggled getting through it. Yet at the same time, by now  understood that this was important to do not just for me but for my New Best Friend and well for others that may be helped by it.

I thank God and everyone present for their kind support in getting me through and the reactions were more than this simple guy could handle last Sunday. I guess me own reality check or impact came more than ever when reading out loud and in public what I had entrusted to paper. Sorry for being somewhat uncoordinated with the microphone.  Since I now understand how these testimonies may stimulate others to think about their options, I will publish my straight from the heart testimony here hoping that there may be someone out there that will benefit it. And again thanks everyone for getting me through.

“THE MOMENT A MAN SERIOUSLY ACCEPTS A DEITY, HIS INTEREST IN RELIGION IS AT AN END. HE’S GOT SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT.” (CS LEWIS)

Around three months ago by now, we walked through these doors behind you. I don’t think that anyone more sceptical and cynical could have entered those doors. If anything I have been leading a life away from God for as long as I remember. Some years ago, I went on a personal mission. I would prove the world that religion, Christianity included, with all its baseless creeds, behavioural rules, hypocrisy and abuse of interpretations and people was in dire need to be exposed as a fraud. Who better to do it than someone like me:
a legal graduate, intellectual, with a background in investigations and intelligence analysis? What started as a mission against religion ended up turning me towards Jesus and through Jesus to God, hence this testimony. Initially through the Gospel of Thomas, one of the Nag Hammadi documents and not long after that the Bible again, I found myself committed to living a life of love and compassion, which were as far as I could see what Jesus’ teachings all boiled down to. The mission itself seemed to become less important.

I knew there was a God for sure; just look around you and you will find all the evidence you need. And more and more scientific evidence was becoming available to me, that indicated that it made more sense to consider that there was a creator than not. It made sense to accept the existence of a God, and in fact the God of the Bible. Don’t get me wrong here: all still from a factual point of view with the Bible as a mix of history, myth, wisdom, poetry and incredible teachings, still far removed from that which I was trying to expose. I considered myself to be a Christian without a God with the teachings of Jesus as the “Ultimate Guide to Humanism.” What I failed to understand is that YOU NEED GOD TO FULLY COMPREHEND THE MEANING OF LOVE AND COMPASSION. I was committed, but preferred a non-religious approach.

And now we are back at where I started: walking through those doors. AGAINST ALL ODDS, and to my utter surprise, I found myself in an environment that not only felt good, but real. It felt like, well let’s say” COMING HOME! Here I found this amazing fellowship of people that was seemingly living a life of love that went so well beyond my own understanding that it shook me up completely. My eyes were opened to a completely new understanding of what love and compassion could really mean. I will not go into the details, you know who you are. And we, perfect strangers, were finding amazing and undeserved, love, kindness and support from people we hardly knew: PEOPLE WERE ACUALLY LIVING WHAT THEY SAID. I even considered the possibility that we were being “love bombed”; a tactic used by cults. That was how overwhelming it all was. As a fraud investigator I was still on my guard. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I just could not find the fraud.  And it did not stop there, this ‘love bomb’ seemed to be extending to others in our lives in most unexpected ways from the most unexpected corners.

Kaye provided me a very important key. It was her advising me, while casually taking care of the coffee, how I should perhaps consider opening up my heart a bit more instead of hiding in the books and intellectualities. Her advice kept haunting me and my gratitude will be forever.

(I wandered away from the text here to advise what it means for someone like me – a legal mind – to be let speechless and unable to come up with any smart response. It was like straight through the wall. Quite honestly to catch some breath and lighten up a bit for the next part.)

Together with what I was experiencing around me, it opened the door for considering the possibility of having a RELATIONSHIP instead of a RELIGION. Conversations with Charles, Gideon and his amazing services most definitely helped to further this. He’s quite persistent in that respect and for all the right reasons I might add.

I was invited to get involved in the music matters (my first career). Music started to make sense again. I found renewed enthusiasm, love and inspiration after my instruments had been gathering dust for years. The musical experiences were highly instrumental in pulling me over. Something was happening to me when playing here.

On 25 November 2009 I finally opened the door widely, to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, to be forgiven for leading a life away from God and to hand over the throne of my life: not just in words but with all of my intentions. As a whole the experiences here had prepared me for what a year ago would have been an impossibility. So, here I am today telling everyone that I have found THIS INCREDIBLE FRIEND AND FATHER, God, through Jesus-Christ. And you know HE’S HAPPY TOO, as this was how He always meant it to be. We are in the process now of getting to know each other. A bit better every day and what an amazing friend he turns out to be. What a journey He’s taking me on. It is through meeting God, having great conversations with Him that I came to understand how my own ignorance and arrogance had deceived me despite my best intentions. I finally understand how IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LIVE A LIFE OF LOVE AND COMPASSION WITHOUT KNOWING GOD. You simply can’t give what you don’t have. And all it took was accepting God in my life through Jesus-Christ. I never deserved Him, better yet if anyone did not deserve it, it would have been me. Yet, here He was with his arms wide open to pour out his grace over me and HE CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER; JUST LIKE THAT. It was the greatest discovery I will probably ever make: KNOWING THAT I WAS CREATED TO KNOW GOD, NOT ON AN INTELLECTUAL LEVEL, NO PERSONALLY AND BE HIS FRIEND FOREVER. It is one thing to learn about the grace of God, actually experiencing it is quite something else. I am still trying hard to get to grips with the magnitude of it all.

So, yes Gideon you were right last week; you can read all the books in the world but it is in the RELATIONSHIP I found the answers.
I CAN, AND DO RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE. It does not take much. Just open the door completely; not with your mind but with your heart. No big miracles, no big flashes, but a new sense of love, faith, peace and purpose that does not compare to anything I knew before. Believe me, it is the best Christmas present I ever got: for this one and all the Christmases to come.

In love and gratitude,
Amen.

Andrew McDonald » Blog Archive » A Pictorial Guide to avoiding Camera Loss


An absolute great blog

Posted via web from Dierckx & Associates

RENAISSANCE AND JOURNEY


On 25 November I committed to a a Christian life. It was not a sudden or hasty step and has been a process of many years. In those years, I started looking at Christianity, initially to expose it, but ove time I got grabbed by the words and teachings of Christ and as a result they became the guidelines for my life. An “ultimate guide to humanism” in which love and compassion for as good as I can became leading principles in my life. All the time without there being any urge to be connected with God or anything. Jesus as a teacher I guess is the best way to describe it.

In September I returned from the Netherlands, with an urge to start gong to church. But which one? My discontent with anything that had to do with the traditional churches had grown considerably over time. More recently my sister in law recalled how I once said that I would go into a church one more time, however to throw in all the windows. That is probably how deep my negative sentiments against (traditional) insitutionalised Christianity had run up. At the same time I did not see any value in new age, self-centred approaches. Sure you wil find references in which I talk about “the Kingdom of God is inside you” (vgl Luke 17:21 or the Gospel of Thomas 113 which includes also “and all around you”). What I was talking about however is a search for a state of wholeness (similar to Buddhist philosphy) and not of us humans becoming little Gods ourselves (New Age). Christianity started to become more of an individual matter therefore, something in which I made up the rules (My understanding the importance of the rules thing will be subject of a post to follow).

In September I went to and returned from the Netherlands, to finally be at peace with the idea that New Zealand is my home. But something else had happened: I, of all people, came back with an urge to go attend a church!?

You can imagine my issue here probably: which one to go to?

Prior to my departure to the Netherlands we had run into Catherine and Gideon Hoekendijk, at a gas station, very briefly. They happened to have started a church and left us a card with the details. We ended up going there and so far never looked back. For the first time I did not feel like walking out. For the first time I felt it to be something real.For the first time I met people that actually were interested and not just checking you out: they were real and genuine.

From there on a lot of things have happened which I will post about in other posts. Ultimately it led to the committment of 25 November 2009. Thanks to the wise remark of Kaye at Harmony Church the dime dropped:

“You remind me of my former husband. He was also an intellectual, always studying always writing about religion and God but you know, that may end up standing in the way of actually enjoying a relationship with God.”

That was one “bulls eye” that kept haunting me for the weeks to follow. (See other, older, blog posts) and would turn out to be the trigger to open up my heart and all that was and is to follow.

Today I added this new category under which I will post reflections and thoughts and that relate to my journey as a young Christian, Bible passages, book reviews, music, videos, thoughts, insights or the way I understand things to do with Christianity.

You may wonder why? So it may help others depart on their journey. So as to share thoughts with others. To refer to what I have found to be valuable resources that may be of use to others along the way. To pose questions, as I do not pretend to have the answers, at best opinions.

I sincerely hope that you will share your thoughts, experiences and resources (links) here (as opposed by email) so all readers can enjoy.

Rest me to explain why this category goes as renaissance and journey. Renaissance refers to the transformation that came and is coming with this new direction. Journey refers to the process itself an the experiences that are part of that.I could have chosen for something like reborn but Renaissance Man, is how I have been posting for the past years (See about). The Shorter Collins describes it amongst others as:

“awakening, new birth, new dawn, reawakening”

So, while initially and still referring to the range of interests and skills it is now rapidly gaining an additional meaning: the Renaissance Man as the reborn man.

RENAISSANCE

Reading John 3: 3-6 in the Bible:

“I tell you the truth, no-one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again … I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”

I guess this is one way of identifying a process of tranformation. It did not come with a loud bang or fireworks, a dramatic event, but the signs were already there: without even realizing it I stopped swearing, music finally started making sense to me (since playing in church), finding myself considering that what I saw during making pictures was good enough evidence for me to believe that there is a God and well finally opening up my heart completely to anyone other than myself is quite a step. Other references to the transformation, for those that have an urge to grab their Bible,  can be found at:

  • Peter 2:9 (from darkness into light)
  • Romans 8:21 (from bondage into freedom)
  • Romans 6:13 (from death into life)

JOURNEY

Even though a short one at this stage, I see this all as a journey, a spiritual journey, a journey I cannot oversee the length of, a journey on which I don’t know what I will encounter, only God does, but most of all a journey of reciprocal committment (see Hebrews 13:5):

“… Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” ( Also see Deuteronomy 31:6)

For me this journey at the moment is focussed on one thing only, getting acquainted, and all I can say is that this quite a joyful matter in which lively ‘discussions’ (prayers/meditations so you wish, I prefer a chat with a friend) are leading me into new territories in a safe and “childfriendly” way. It’s very much a process of discovering you have a new friend for life but one that is not afraid to challenge you (in the most positive sense of the word). And isn’t that in fact what friends are for?

Enough for now, see you at the next “stop”.

Related posts:

And for those that me be interested in learning more about Harmony Church. Follow the link below.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Michael Pokocky


Ever since I found out that my good friend Michael Pokocky has this thing with blue in general and blue flowers in particular, I seem to be extra alert on blue flowers.

Some of the more recent ones were uploaded to my flickr photostream with blue ones as a special gift to my good friend and writer.

One of the pictures was this one taken at Monavale of which I reported in a previous post.

What was most beautiful was this comment.

we artists can only look in wonder
at what no mortal can design

I guess it so relates back to my own sentiments when it comes to the existence of a creator. I could read a library of apologetic, agnostic or atheist literature and still, looking at nature makes me so sure that this all cannot be just the result of random and purposeless chance.

Thanks Michael for this great comment!

And for those who would like to get to know Michael better here are some places where he can be  found online: