Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Racism in New Zealand also.

The United States of America has been turned upside down because of protests about police aggression toward black people there. (other influences have inflamed the violence too) There are plenty of videos on the internet that show unwarranted aggression by police in America. Recently there was a story by a black university professor about how he was apprehended and aggressively held and questioned when he was just on his way from his parked car to the university to give a lecture. I feel so sad for the USA, for people of colour there and for the mess that seems to be happening there.
New Zealand, "God's own"
We New Zealanders are generally proud of the way we treat people of colour. We say we had a treaty with the indigenous people, and have this "partnership" with them. Indeed I am pleased to live in New Zealand because our ideals, and our laws are pretty good. But I am sad to say that racism happens in New Zealand even among the police force, though thankfully not to the same extent as it seems to be in USA.. 

Our family many years ago. You can see the two adopted Maori/Samoan boys and the youngest Fostered girl has Maori heritage. (The youngest boy is 40 this year.)

We have three mixed race children in our family.  The two boys (Maori/Samoan - now fine men with their own families) have experienced racism. When our oldest mixed race boy began a baking apprenticeship at a super market in town, he lived at the top of a street that ran down a hill to the main street of town, where his work was. He had a string of incidents where the NZ Police treated him badly. Early in the mornings he walked down the hill to work wearing his obvious branded supermarket overalls, and several times he was stopped and quizzed in a most aggressive way. Once he was driving our car from Sawyers Bay, the 10kn distance into work and a police car came in behind him, followed him right into the work car park and parked beside him so that he couldn't open the door to get out of the car. Aggressive questioning followed. I took him to work once and on the Port Chalmers Rd a police car in front of us purposely slowed right down to about half the speed limit. We discussed whether we ought to overtake them. My son commented, “Don’t pass, they’ll see a Maori in the front seat and pull us over.” When there was a clear way to pass, I did overtake them safely and legally. As we passed they looked across at us, saw a Maori in the front seat, and immediately switched on their flashing lights to pull us over.  One went to the passenger door, the other to my door and aggressive questioning followed.  I was so angry (3 a.m. in the morning in my pyjamas and tracksuit) as they checked my license and registration and made their excuses for pulling us over I got out of the car, became quite assertive about their tactics and they quickly changed their mind and let us go... If I was a Maori young person would they have backed off?  Add to that I have observed reactions in stores when my boys as teenagers went in to purchase stuff. (It is one way to get service – we didn’t have to wait.) But I was disgusted that it happens here in NZ. There are assumptions made about Maori (guilty till proven innocent) and I know my boys wore those assumptions. That is just some of the expressions of racism in our society.
But I am not free of racism. During school holidays once, we had items stolen from inside our house. We then tended to get sensitive whenever we saw “unknown  adolescents” wandering our street during school holiday time. But I found I got more concerned if I saw a Maori boy wandering up the road. Why? Unconsciously I have been shaped by racists perspectives in the community about me. I make assumptions because of skin colour. It's no wonder Maori youth get aggressive attitudes. 
There are real social problems with Maori communities in our nation. Poverty, imprisonment rates, health and welfare issues, that are complicated and have to be worked through. But we as individuals have to guard against racial stereotyping, and racist assumptions. We need to fight it within ourselves, so that we do not act upon them. Once when one of our sons did get into trouble (as many older teenagers of any race do.) his comment to us was, “Well that’s what’s expected of us Maori, so why not?” When people live with racist assumptions day in and day out, it can pull them down toward those expectations, and adversely impact on how they value themselves.
New Zealand is a very good place to live, but we are not free of racism.

Friday, May 29, 2020

A compliment?

"Lockdown Linkup"
I offered to do a weekly Newsletter for the members of the little local Presbyterian Church we attend during our Covid19 lockdown. I have called it "Lockdown Linkup".  New Zealand is at level 2 now and gatherings of 100 can meet. There are all sorts of healthy and safety plans to set up so the Church will not return to worship for a week or two yet. So last night I was busy on my computer preparing for Lockdown Linkup number 10. I never thought that I would have to do so many.
Chaplain in waiting..
I am workplace chaplain to Fire, Ambulance and a local Brewery. I have not been able to return to my worksites at each place. The Health and Safety people from their HQ offices have stopped "non essential workers" being on site.  This has led me to feel frustrated, to grief because I was missing my contacts and a bit depressed. 
There is a hard case (NZ for tough, blunt, cheeky) guy at the brewery who loves music and often sends through You Tube links of old music groups on "Messenger", sometimes late at night. I think he gets home from the pub on a Friday night and loosened up and feeling lonely, starts playing and sending music to mates. He looks after the keg plant at the brewery and I hadn't heard from him for awhile.  While I was busy typing my newsletter, I heard the message come through. I went to "Messenger" and he had sent through an old song by the Hollies.. "What's wrong with the way I live!" I responded by saying something like, "That's a good old song, good to hear from you." Shortly after another song by the Hollies came through, "Why didn't you believe!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeoNrGU5-Y0  I was surprised, I hadn't heard it before and it was "religious". So when I told him so, he said it was one of his favourites. (Yet he is not an overtly religious man?) I then asked him how things were going at the brewery. His reply was;

 "Yeah ticking along, missing someone to take the piss out of though. when u back you must have gathered your flock up by now?"

I told him that the H & S bosses still hadn't let "non-essential workers back on site yet" and that they will probably let me come back at Level 1.

"OK sounds good non-essential worker" then a thumbs up sign. 

I LOVE that sort of blunt banter. I took it as a compliment and went back to my typing feeling like I was worthwhile after all.

The heading of this week's newsletter.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Today I buried a hen.

Friendly uneconomic chooks!
We have five hens, they are getting old and have stopped laying eggs. We had six, but I had euthanised a sick one a few months ago.  We did think about doing away with these too, because it makes no economical sense to keep hens that have stopped laying. We were running out of feed, and my wife suggested that when we do, that should be it for the chooks. We would not buy any more feed. I felt sorry for them. I began to have nightmares about killing these chooks!  Do chooks know that this is the end? Do they wonder what I'm doing with their mate while they sit on their perch at night? I have done the deed often, sometimes for other people. I have enjoyed these hens though. I would go down the paddock and call out and they would come. They were not frightened of us when we went into the henhouse, they were more inquisitive. Feed does not cost that much, so we bought another bag of feed.We generally open the gate of their big run in the morning and they have a whole paddock to run around in to gather food. Then we shut them away again late in the afternoon.  I suggested that we leave the gate open at all times, and that way they would gather food any time, and not eat as much bought feed. So we have been doing that.
Sad discovery..
Late yesterday afternoon I went down to the henhouse to throw some wheat to the hens. It is a treat for them. The man who sold us these hens told us "wheat was like giving lollies to children. Don't feed them too much!" I throw them some in the evening, before they "go to bed". Well I went down and they were in their run, but there were only four of them. I called and the fifth one didn't arrive. I found her dead in the hen house. She had not been looking as energetic as others for awhile. I picked her up and took her out, and today I buried her.
A part of life...
Any farmer will tell you that death is just a part of life. In talking with older people, they too will say the same thing. You read of people your age dying, you attend an increasing number of funerals and you know "it happens" and will one day happen to you. I have conducted enough funerals to be aware of the passing of time and of our eventual passing. So while I was sad at the hen's demise, I figured it is just the process of life and it is one less I will eventually have to dispose of.  (My wife has argued that it is better for them to be euthanised rather than slowly grow old, be miserable and die. Hope she doesn't say that about me!)
So I dug a deepish hole in the garden and placed my hen in, then filled the hole up. She will decompose and just enrich the soil with her body.
As I gently put the first shovel of dirt on top of her (why do I do it gently? She is not going to feel it?) I thought, "that will be me one day!" I silently thanked her for her life and eggs. Then I wondered what could be said of me as they drop me in the ground?
That dumped feeling. Like "A hen that's stopped laying!"
In NZ we are now at Covid19 Alert Level 2.  Most people (who have not lost their jobs) are back at work, children back at school, but there are social distancing requirements and other measures in place so that tracking can happen if there is an out break of Covid19. At a national level we have gone for quite a number of days with no new case. As a workplace chaplain to ambulance, fire and a brewery I have been prevented from visiting workplaces since the last week of March. The people in the national headquarters of each place made a ruling that only "essential workers" were to be on site, they did not want the possibility of visiting "contractors" bring the disease among their staff.  I have made some phone calls to some staff and kept in touch with others through texting, and social media. As we have progressed down from Level 4 I have been in touch with my workplaces asking if I can return. The answer has still been "no". The emergency service staff in NZ have not had a really increased load during the Covid crisis, but they do not want anybody moving between the fire stations. I can see their point. If we had a second wave as things free up (as some countries have had) they will need all their staff available. If I carried the virus among one watch, that would debilitate the emergency services in Dunedin drastically. So apart from Zoom meetings with other chaplains, and the odd phone call, I have been a retired gentleman, just doing stuff around home. I feel like I have been dumped, and maybe this will be an enforced retirement. It is an interesting feeling. On one hand I am enjoying getting some handyman jobs done without interruption. On the other hand, I feel like I have been pushed aside, non-essential. 
In my cleaning up and repairs to my home study I found two bits of writing that give good advice for this stage of life.
The first was given to me by my childhood minister many years ago when he was asking me if I would lead his funeral. (I have since done that) He had picked it up from a poetry book "Masterpieces of Religious verse" which he valued so much, that I bought a copy early in my student days. 
It reads;
Let me die, working.
still tackling plans unfinished, tasks undone!
Clean to its end, swift may my race be run.
No laggard steps, no faltering, no shrinking;
Let me die working!

Let me die, thinking.
Let me fare forth still with an open mind,
Fresh secrets to unfold, new truths to find,
My soul undimmed, alert, no question blinking;
Let me die, thinking!

Let me die, laughing.
No sighing o'er past sins; they are forgiven.
Spilled on this earth are all the joys of Heaven;
The wine of life, the cup of mirth quaffing.
Let me die, laughing!
(S. Hall Young, 1847 -1927)
One would be fortunate indeed if you could do these three things until you pass. At the moment I have a relative, in his eighties, in palliative care who has been battling a cancer and has lost his memory. He used to have such a good memory for detail. (Because of Covid restrictions, we can't visit him now.) In his time, the minister who gave me this poem seemed to become quite bitter. When he was quite elderly, people decided they didn't need him to work any more. He kept thinking, but also, try as he might, people were not interested in his thinking. He died a bit sad and bitter, in no mood to laugh. While I like this poem, there is a need for "gracefully letting go the things of youth".

Some advice for the "elderly"...
Be active
Be connected...
... giving to others time and energy.
Take notice and appreciate people and things in life.
Stop and smell the roses.
Keep learning.

Maybe I'll just keep blogging. :-)

I usually bike out to the cemetery each year on our ANZAC day, (25th April) which is the day we in NZ remember our soldiers. This year it didn't happen. Last Sunday, a month late, we went out to the war memorial area where my parent's ashes are buried and I "took a moment".

My dad died working "with tasks unfinished", and thinking and laughing, but he died young and suddenly!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Paraclete - one alongside of us.

"Lockdown Linkup"
In New Zealand our Covid19 response is in four levels. We were for many weeks at level 4… in Lockdown. Then we went to level 3 with fewer restrictions and now we are at level 2. But Churches still cannot have gatherings of more than 10 people, so our Church has been shut for eight weeks now. During this time, I have undertaken to email, and deliver a weekly newsletter which I called “Lockdown Linkup” to help people still connect in this time. I have done 8 of these and in this last one I wrote a reflection on the Revised Common Lectionary New Testament readings for the day. I have expanded that short reflection in what I share here.  I am sorry that it is long winded, but I guess it is really me sorting out my own experiences out loud. 
The set reading for the Sunday from the New Testament Epistles was from Acts 17: 22-31 which is the interesting story of Paul in Athens. I want to highlight his experience of God in his speech. He is speaking to the Athenians who had many gods and various philosophies and Paul says, “he (God) is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’”. It is one of my favourite Biblical descriptions of the experience of the sacred. I would add to it a verse from Paul’s writing in Ephesians 4. There is one …. Spirit,…. one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” In this perspective God is not imagined as “the old man in the sky, “ or the “man upstairs” as my fire fighters often jokingly refer to him. But it is not a pantheistic (God is everything) understanding of God, but rather what Marcus Borg in his writings calls a Panentheistic one. …”God is in all”  He writes, “God is not ‘a being,’ but a non-material layer or level or dimension of reality that permeates everything, and at the same time, is more than everything.” It reminds me of the line from a modern Christian creed that I often have on a slide before worship. It reads, “God is Love, the cosmic creativity present everywhere and in everything, gently urging all toward the good.” With these lines in mind, we turn to the set Gospel reading for the day, John 14: 15-21 and I highlight a couple of verses John has Jesus say. 
He is speaking to his disciples not long before his crucifixion.
15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, …… 
21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
The Greek word translated “Advocate” (sometimes “comforter”) is “paraclete”. You may recognise the “para” part from the word “parallel” – two lines running beside each other. So “paraclete” is “One who is alongside us.”
Out of my comfort zone 
Quite some years ago, I found myself nervous and stressed standing alone, behind a lectern on the lawn in Dunedin’s beautiful Glenfalloch Gardens. Before me were over 600 people waiting for a sad funeral to start. Because of the circumstances, it had felt like the whole of the NZ fire service were in shock when a Dunedin fire fighter took his own life. I was called in when the news first hit Dunedin management. I spent many hours with fire fighters and the man’s family. I was asked to lead the funeral, but recognised at this point that I too was tired, in shock and grieving. I had known him for 12 years and had enjoyed his company. We had talked often, in fact just the day before he left for the course he was doing when he died.
So, with a whole mixture of emotions, nervously I started to speak. My voice had the tremors and I was stumbling over my words. I could see people glancing at each other, they had noticed my condition. I stopped and paused. I looked down and shut my eyes briefly trying to gather myself. In that moment I felt a “connection”. I felt supported by the thought of my church people, knowing that they were supportive of me. People who had gone before who were in their time servants of love emerged in my mind, and I felt part of a bigger “movement”. But in those few seconds too, I felt a “presence”, a “partnership” and an inner voice. The words that came to mind went something like this, “These people need support. You can help them, keep going and do it!” So I spoke again, with a strong clear voice, leading a service that people later told me was really helpful.
An atheist paramedic came to me a few days later and complimented me on the service. “You started weakly though? Then you paused…. What happened in that pause? …When you started again you were strong? …. What happened?”  I just said something like, “Oh, I was just getting myself together.” If I was honest I could have quoted this verse; ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,(Paraclete) to be with you.” because that describes the experience I had that day.

Every minister experiences challenges in their work. In my ministry I have often related in secular settings, workplaces or community groups. Also wherever we ministered, I have seemed to get involved with society’s outcast, people living from crisis to crisis, or people with mental health issues. I have frequently found myself out of my comfort zone, wondering about what will happen and “Can I do it?” In these times I have often experienced that “connection”, “partnership” and “presence” alongside me fortifying, guiding and enabling. I can understand the Apostle Paul’s experience when he wrote, “not I, but Christ within me.”
Returning from a grave side burial after a Fire Service funeral in the vintage pump we use as a hearse.

On the summit of the "Desert Road" in the centre of the North Island NZ when we were Fieldworkers visiting Churches.
"Spirit of truth" in groups
For two years Jean and I lived with the family in a caravan, visiting most of the then 40 Associated Churches of Christ in the country. We were “Fieldworkers”, bringing encouragement and help to local churches. In that time I facilitated a lot of groups. There were church planning sessions, Bible studies, Marriage enrichment groups, workshops on social issues or Church life etc. etc. Sometimes there was division among a group or suspicion of me. But after experiencing many of these sessions, I came to a conclusion expressed in a simple statement. “Whenever a group of people come together in love and openness for a good cause, the truth or the way ahead ‘emerges’ among them.” I have been involved in the formation of Habitat for Humanity and then the Night Shelter in Dunedin. Both groups had a hard job to sell themselves, to gather funds, to interest volunteers, and just to come together and work with each other. Both suffered setbacks. (Coincidentally, sadly both had early treasurers who died tragically.) Both had differences of opinion within the group. But the above simple statement rang true. Again and again, the way ahead “emerged” and amazing things happened. “I will send you a paraclete, the Spirit of Truth” Jesus says in this story in John’s Gospel. I believe that by telling the story the writer of John’s gospel is sharing his, and the early church’s experience of what happened when they followed Jesus. (The gospel was probably written sometime after 90A.D.) In the modern words, they discovered again and again that, “God is love, gently urging all toward the good.” It is not just old religious words in the Bible, it is a movement we can humbly know and experience in the midst of life now.
 Living in the midst of Covid19...
We live in deeply turbulent times. We ventured out to the Hardware Store on Thursday. It was the first day of Level 2 in New Zealand’s Covid19 response. We could go shopping again.  Life had been freed up some more. We had moved down a level from the restrictions in level 3. But in the store it was difficult to keep social distancing, you had to be on your guard all the time.  Now this hardware store is my “happy place”, I love browsing there. But this time it felt scary, I was glad to get back home into my bubble again. Even though New Zealand has been relatively successful, Covid19 is still out there and we have to learn how to carefully live with it. Life will be different. How will we manage? How will we sort out the way ahead?
We as a local church have had our life turned upside down. We are a small fragile Presbyterian Congregation in a community on the outskirts of Dunedin City. The Church building has sat empty for eight weeks. A planned “Neighbours day”, Easter services, the church fair, Rumpus room youth activity, Tuesday children and parent’s afternoon teas and other plans have all gone down the tube – for now. We wonder “How will we crank up again?” “Where will we find the energy to do all we have to? What will we have to do differently?” etc. As individuals and in the groups we are involved in, the future feels blurry and uncertain. John would remind us, when we seek to be followers of Jesus, that there is a presence alongside of us empowering us. “I will send you an advocate (one alongside you) the Spirit of Truth.” We are not alone, the way ahead will emerge, the love at the heart of the universe is with us urging all toward the good. I do not understand how, and cannot work out all the theology involved, but I know from experience that the essence that this passage refers to is real.
"The wisdom of the ages"
New Zealand Maori have “Marae’s”, the centre of their community, the gathering place. At these centres, the important building is the Meeting House. (wharenui) The interior walls of this building are ornately decorated, with the pillars carved with depictions of the ancestors of the local Iwi. (“Tribe”)  In this hall there are often Hui (meetings) with speeches, conversations where decisions are made and stories are told. Speakers will often speak with their hand touching one of these pillars. This is symbolic of their understanding that there is a wisdom from the ages, from Atua (God) or Tane... passed on to them through their ancestors.  I guess these Christian passages are saying a similar thing. As we live there is the life of “the Spirit” passing on to us in our time the wisdom of the ages (God) for our age. We are not alone.

 The thing I find interesting is there are many ancient cultures which in different ways depict the same sort of thing. I watched a program where there was a walk in the outback of Australia. A few ultra-fit younger European guys carrying fancy tramping gear and equipment raced against a much older Aboriginal man with a small sack of gear strapped over his shoulder. They walked for days, camping out, sometimes catching food or searching out water. The old man did as well as any of the others, and the one that beat him to their destination had to be rescued at one point. The aboriginal would spend time along the journey, “listening to the Spirits of the land”. He was more resilient, found water, food and direction more reliably.
I saw another documentary of tribal people in Papua New Guinea. They were guiding people into unknown jungle, through to an inaccessible tribe. These guides “listened to their grandparents” for guidance about weather, direction and for wisdom in relationships. In my reading there have been other examples too.
In my experience we in the west often do not allow these sort of connections that bring resilience and resources at important times and yet it is embedded in our Judeo-Christian religion. Perhaps that is the case because we have made it into a “religion” and not a “spirituality”.
Albert Schweitzer
The great Missionary Doctor Albert Schweitzer has a famous quote that rings true with this thinking: “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: "Follow thou me!" and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

― Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus

The Apostle Paul gave us a benediction which speaks of this "Connection"
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship (partnership, friendship) of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
At lunch time today my wife and I took a picnic lunch to a high point at the beginning of the Otago Peninsula. This is looking down the harbour toward the mouth.

On top of the hill you could look in the other direction toward the open sea.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Do you swear at TV reporters?

The Otago Harbour from a hill up behind our house.
I am generally a passive sort of character and, I think, I cope with differences of opinion fairly well. But there is a woman news reporter on one of the channels here in New Zealand who really annoys me. Her predecessor, a man, also annoyed me. I noticed in a news item that this woman had been getting hate mail. That is both sad and often the stuff she has received has been pretty gross and disgusting.

But I need to confess that long before Lockdown I have tended to either mute the TV or switch Channels when this reporter began her pontification.  I find I get annoyed with the way she goes about it. I find that the the way she aggressively goes about muck raking really agitates me. It seems to go beyond holding politicians to account, it feels like she wants to hurt them. I enjoyed her when she was talking from Europe as the Europe correspondent, but have not enjoyed her in her present role as political reporter/commentator.  She is not the only one who annoys me, her way of doing things seems to be the modern way.
The news group invited feedback so I looked up the email and sent in something like the words below. This is what I would like to write to many reporters these days. These are the things I would say if I was chatting with her... which is highly unlikely since I do not move in the elite circles she frequents. 

1. Be careful with the power you have.  Years ago on a trip to Australia a man loaned me a car. It was a five litre, modern Ford Falcon Station Wagon with heaps of extras on it. It was the most powerful and most modern car I have driven. The morning after I picked it up I was turning from a side road onto a main road headed for a conference at Monash University. To avoid holding up cars in the line of traffic, I accelerated. To my absolute surprise there was a screech of tires, smoke, and the car fishtailed down the road. I learned that with this powerful car I would have to be very careful. I would want to remind this reporter that in her role, she has an incredible power - use it wisely and well. Badly used it could do immense harm! e.g. Recently an occasional acquaintance of mine, a local MP and minister of the crown was found to have broken the lockdown rules by riding an easy mountain bike track near his home. This reporter hounded the issue like a dog with a bone. He admitted his mistake and apologised to the Prime Minister and to the public. She hounded the Prime minister, asking for his resignation and "if not, why not?" She was quite nasty. I know where he lived. To ride on roads near his place would be dangerous. For him to just go for a walk, he is so well known he would be interrupted all the time. To go for a ride on this easy safe track is the most sensible thing to do, but it did break the rules. She did not let up, pestering the prime minister whenever she could.  I was chair of a group dedicated to establishing a Night Shelter in Dunedin. We were raising funds to purchase the buildings we were renting. It was well before Labour were in power but this Member of Parliament, then in opposition, made an appointment to meet with us at the Night Shelter. He listened to the plight of the homeless. He asked questions. He came to a drop-in centre I was running. He advised us about possible funding sources. When we held overnight sleep outs in the Octagon to raise awareness and funds, he came, spending the night on three occasions, and visiting among the students on another. He is a good man, with the welfare of New Zealanders in his heart as his most basic motivation for being an MP.  He has a young family but is seldom home, he and his family make a real sacrifice so he can do his work. When he is in Dunedin he continues to support charities in the community. He spends heaps of time listening to people, advising people and supporting initiatives. He has an extremely difficult portfolio, and has not done a bad job. Yet this reporters aggressive actions and dogged destructive reporting could easily deprive NZ and Dunedin of this well motivated, hard working Parliamentarian! His Mountain bike ride was ill advised given his position, … but though he did not defend it, it was a reasonable, sensible thing to do. But the reporter questioned it which is right, that is her job, but she went on to sensationalise it and then to push hard for a resignation. He had broken the rules, but it was not a major! She probably has ruined his career, his reputation and may yet deprive New Zealand of a genuine Parliamentarian who is essentially a very good man! Such Power! Power to hurt, not just him, but his family, his community and his country over a relatively small slip up! (He later admitted to a further crossing of Lockdown boundaries, which was disappointing - but still not major.) That is just one example. I would say to reporters, BE CAREFUL OF THE POWER YOU HAVE. Ask the question, “Does this action, reporting, digging, or presentation enhance life and add to wellbeing, or does it diminish life and wellbeing. - Or am I doing it just to improve ratings?" … I hope they have a deeper sense of responsibility and perspective.  

2. Clearly show when you are reporting facts and when you are sharing opinion.  I enjoyed this reporter when she was reporting from Europe. She gave clear, friendly, helpful information and perspective. But in her present role I found her annoying. I asked myself “Why?”  I discovered that it was because she would clearly present the facts of what happened e.g. a poll result. But then she would continue as if still presenting facts to give her opinion, her take on the issue - except that opinion would be expressed as if it was still fact! I recall throwing the newspaper at the TV yelling, “Tell me the facts, but don’t tell me what I have to think about those facts." She is allowed her opinion, and allowed to share her opinion, but share it not as more “factual reporting” but as her perspective. (Her predecessor used to annoy me in the same way.) It comes across as arrogant and overbearing. Sometimes she has been wrong in her predictions. Sometimes she stirs up ferment where there is no ferment. The Desiderata advises, “Speak your truth quietly and clearly. And listen to others….” A dose of gentle humility would help.

3. Respect People.  I have mixed in all sorts of circles and have learned that whether its Prime Ministers or homeless people, it is life enhancing and helpful to show respect. I have seen clever, qualified people working with people, who have no basic respect for those they are working with, and it turns to custard. I sometimes wonder the way people talk to our Prime Minister Ms Ardern, that they think, “Oh its just Jacinda”. I often think "would they have said that in that way to Mr Key? Jim Bolger, Or Rob Muldoon?" I want reporters to ask the questions I would like to ask politicians, but I think basic respect is important. 

4. "Remember" I would say to her, "there maybe wider perspectives and aspects you don’t yet understand." I have been doing presentations and writing articles week in week out since the early 1970’s. (I am a “retired” church minister) Now aged 71, in lockdown I have been cleaning out my gathered papers and stuff in my study. (I feel sorry for my children when I am gone!) I have read some earlier presentations and articles and sometimes in doing so I have grown red in the face and felt sick!  “Good Grief! Did I say that?!” When I was in my 20’s and 30’s (and maybe later) I thought I was God’s gift to the world. …I was a mover and shaker... then I grew up and began to see that not all is black and white. I learned that I also can make bad mistakes. I saw wider perspectives. I met more people. I saw many ups and downs and changes. Now I still do presentations and write sometimes, but with much more respect and humility.  Now I achieve much more. Some of the memories of stuff when I was young only bring embarrassment now. I hope this will not be true for this reporter, but sometimes I get the feeling like she thinks she knows it all. She is indeed a smart lady, but there is much to learn in life.  

This is NOT hate mail. I am just reflecting on why maybe, there is hate mail, and why I find I am annoyed by her style and presentation. I put these perspectives out-there. The same caution needs to be heard by people responding on Social Media. It is so easy to blast off a comment, I do it myself and then regret it.  Remember the power you have; seek to enhance life; share your opinion with humility; respect the other and remember you may not yet see a wider perspective. 
A Kereru (Native Wood Pigeon) I saw on a walk last Sunday evening. There are two in the tree. During Lockdown heaps of birds have been frequenting our backyard. I think because the traffic was less they came closer to human habitation.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Lockdown now at Level 3.

Autumn colours in our backyard
Lockdown worked
We in New Zealand have been in Lockdown for 4 - 5 weeks. It has hurt the economy, but it has done wonders for the numbers coping with Covid19. We we were getting up to 70 - 89 reported cases a day early in April. (A population of 5 million) Well before Lockdown, there was one wedding that took place in a reception lodge near the southern most point of the South Island. At that one wedding with around 70 guests there was one person who had Covid19 a flight attendant.  There have now been more than 90 people infected because of that event with one fatality. (devastating for the bride and groom) It is a very quickly spreading virus and our government put us into lockdown. There were no shops except supermarkets open and those were strictly controlled. No schools were open, universities were doing distance learning and people are either not working or working from home. 70 year olds and older were to stay home and get others to shop for them. Some said it was an over reaction. Now, however, we have moved to slightly less strict Lockdown alert level 3 conditions because there are only 3 infections throughout the country a day. There have been 19 deaths, most from clusters related to two rest homes. The impact of the Lockdown was highlighted by ANZAC day, April 25th. Anzac day in New Zealand and Australia is the day when we remember all those who served in overseas wars. The date recalls the disastrous WWI battle at Gallipoli at what is now called Anzac Cove in Turkey where mainly Australian and NZ troops fought bravely and thousands died in 1915. They eventually retreated to ships and nothing was accomplished. But all war service is remembered on Anzac day. Thousands throughout NZ turn out to dawn services at war memorials throughout the country. During the day more services are held in local communities. This year the services were abandoned for the first time ever since 1916! But throughout the country, at 6 a.m. people gathered at their front gate with many people listening to the "Last Post" on their phone or music device and some also read "the Ode" ("We will remember them") We went out to our front gate. My wife had made a reasonable sized poppy, the flower that symbolises the day, we had it standing by our letterbox for the whole day, and we stood by it in the dark at dawn on April 25th. In the distance somebody was playing the Last Post on a bugle. We stood silently while we listened. Our neighbour a couple of doors down stood also in silence in her dressing gown listening to the tune. There were others down the street, we could not see, but there were many thousands more throughout the country standing at the end of their drive remembering, marking the day.  It was a very different ANZAC day, but somehow deeply significant. While we growl about having to be in Lockdown, we were reminded of those who spent years at war and gave their lives for the nation.   
Change, but not much..
So now more workplaces are open, so long as the workers can work two metres apart and there are hygiene practices in place. Schools are open but only children from homes where people have to go to work are to attend. We are still told to work from home. Fast food places and take away coffee shops are open. (It was astounding, people queued from midnight at McDonalds and other favourite fast food outlets!) We have been enjoying the food from our garden. Predictions are that we will be at level 3 for two weeks and then go down to level 2. I got in touch with both of my chaplaincy places, and I cannot yet visit. There was one manager at the fire stations who suggested that I should have been visiting. Unfortunately he is not the one who makes the call.  I am prevented from visiting at both places for at least a couple of weeks, but I have been encouraged. Managers and people at both places have said that I will be welcomed back enthusiastically. I was surprised, one manager, a nice guy, but one I would not have guessed was a man of faith, had "Jos 1:9" at the end of his email.  This text is part of the call of Joshua and it reads: "I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  
It is frustrating. Two elderly women from our Church community went into hospital. We could not visit them. I want a car part. Normally I would go to a parts place with the old part to show them, discuss my problem, get information and they would find the part or direct me to where to go for it. Trying to get it on line seems to be drawing a blank and I am frustrated being unable to complete the job till after Lockdown. We are learning to shop on line. We needed ink for our computer printer, and an HDMI link cable and were able to get these delivered. In fact when this is all over, I think I will be doing more shopping on line. These probably cost less than driving into town to the store to buy them.
Return to normal?
I have read many articles suggesting that we ought not return to normal. It was "normal" that got us into this trouble, and "normal" will increasingly get us into trouble. I agree! We cannot keep on with an economic system that depends on infinite growth in a finite universe. We are hurting the world we live in, creating incredible inequality and simply living dangerously. I have read about this and talked about it since the 1970's. We need to re-think our normal. I dream of a better world with priorities more focus on wellbeing, common-wealth and wholeness. But I tend to be cynical about the prospect. I hope we will recognise it as an opportunity for change, a recognition of our global links and our interdependence, but I don't expect we will.

Blessings to you all. We are one family and this pandemic reminds us of that in a bad way. We are all having to cope with it. Hopefully we will remember these lessons "on the other side" when we are through this part of history.
Autumn bounty - we don't need take aways.

Car up on jacks - I enjoy doing my own mechanical repairs when I can.

The broken part - but can I get one in Lockdown?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Lockdown blues.

Lockdown is working in NZ.
In New Zealand we have all been on strict Lockdown for nearly four weeks. The number of Covid19 cases has headed downhill in a big way, even though testing has increased substantially. We have been at "Level 4" and it is hoped that we could move to Level 3 on Wednesday. So I have barely left the house. I have gone for a few walks around the block. We ventured into town to get our flu jab, but then went straight back home. I have been doing jobs around our house and acre and made a few calls to fire fighters. I also have done a weekly news letter for people of the local congregation, which I call "Lockdown Linkup". It has been well received with people sending emails of appreciation and also their stories of lockdown so that I can share them. I was sure of myself that I would remain mental health wise, healthy and even enjoy the time. But...
I have been out of sorts... sad somehow.
I have plenty to do around our house and acre, but I have felt a bit out of sorts? I am fine really, but have analysed myself and there are at least three related reasons for being out of kilter..
1. There is a bit of uncertainty about how things will go for me after Covid19 Lockdown... there maybe changes to my lifestyle. Things I have invested a lot of time and energy in are fragile and uncertain. They may not survive the Covid19 disturbance. That uncertainty feels uncomfortable.
2. Normally I am the one helping the "unfortunate" or less able. Habitat for Humanity, Drop-in centre, Night shelter, food bank stuff, knocking on doors in Christchurch earthquake, and general dogs body helper type activity have been my life. I enjoy feeling useful to others. In this situation, because I am over 70 I am told sit down, stay home, we don't need you. (I think whether it is level 2-3 or 4.) I hear of somebody with some need and I think, "I could just pop around and help them." "I'll go see them and chat!" Then it hits me again, I cannot do that! I would be breaking the law. I feel like I've been dumped on the scrap heap. Now that is not true but it is a feeling we older ones have to deal with.
3. While I am a bit of a hermit, all my life I have pushed myself "out there" and related with people. They have become important to me, it has become who I am, but now I cannot relate/be with them. I am missing the social contact. I could easily shrink back into my hermit zone?
As a pensioner I have nothing substantive to worry about. Life will go on, we will never be broke, but the above changes have their impact... Are others impacted in a similar way? Just sayin'.
A Francis of Assisi prayer which seems relevant. 

On Good Friday my wife made buns but added my hammer and nails to highlight the meaning of the day.

My home made carpet stretcher. (Carpeting the floor of my study after repairs.

Carpet done.

Study set up again.
New shelves... Lots of books discarded.

These photos are reminders of good times.