Skip to main content

SA revisited (kinda)

A year ago I landed in Pretoria, South Africa. This photo, taken on the flight from Atlanta to Johannesberg, was the first one of many. Far from being sentimental, I do, however, believe that revisiting important and meaningful life moments provides ongoing enrichment and helps me not to forget precious and life-changing lessons.

One of the major ways that Africa changed me was regarding security and safety. Neither of those is taken for granted there. While I was in South Africa, close friends of the family I stayed with had an encouter with armed men. In the year since I returned to Canada, nearly everyone I know there has been a victim to some attempt at violence or burglary. Part of my ongoing commitment has been to pray for the safety of these dear ones in a dangerous part of the world. The other part was re-echoed last night in a book I am reading: "The greatest moment of your life is now...This moment is God's irreplaceable gift to you. Most of all, this is the moment that matters because this moment is where God is. If you are going to be with God at all, you must be with him now - in this moment." from John Ortberg's God Is Closer Than You Think.

If you are interested in some of my Africa blogs, just click Africa under labels.


Yzerfontein said…
I guess an advantage of staying in South Africa is one always feels close to death. I see you took SAA on your flight to South Africa.
Anonymous said…
Is that like a wing tip or something? It looks photoshopped though.
Matte Downey said…
It is indeed the wingtip of the the South Africa Airways plane I was on and that is their insignia. I took this photo from my seat just after we left Atlanta and for your information, all the photos I post on this blog are unedited. It was just that clear and colourful!

Popular posts from this blog

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.


When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…

theology from the margins: God of Hagar

Our contexts have major implications for how we live our lives and engage with our world, that much is obvious. However, we sometimes overlook how much they inform our concepts of God. For those of us occupying the central or dominant demographic in society, we often associate God with power and truth. As a result, our theology is characterized by confidence, certainty, and an expectation that others should be accommodating. For those of us living on the margins of society, our sense of belonging stranded in ambiguity, God is seen as an advocate for the powerless. Our theology leans more toward inclusivity, and we talk less about divine holiness and righteousness and more about a God who suffers. On the margins, the priority is merciful and just action, not correct beliefs. 
There are significant theological incongruences between Christians who occupy the mainstream segment of society and those who exist on the margins. The world of theology has been dominated by Western male thought…

the movement of humility

We live in a context of stratification where much of society is ordered into separate layers or castes. We are identified as upper class, middle class, or lower class. Our language reflects this up/down (superior/inferior) paradigm. We want to be at the top of the heap, climb the ladder of success, break through the glass ceiling, be king of the hill. This same kind of thinking seeps into our theology. When we talk about humility, we think mostly think in terms of lowering ourselves, willfully participating in downward mobility. This type of up/down language is certainly present in biblical texts (James 4:10 is one example), but I believe that the kind of humility we see in Jesus requires that we step outside of a strictly up/down paradigm. Instead of viewing humility as getting down low or stepping down a notch on the ladder of society, perhaps it is more helpful to think in terms of proximity and movement.

Jesuit theologian, James Keenan, notes that virtues and vices are not really…