Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, September 29, 2008

Conclusions from "God at 2000"

On the cover of the book "God at 2000" Marcus Borg writes that there were shared conclusions from the seven speakers. These were the beliefs that:

  • God, or the "sacred," is eneffable, beyond all words and concepts.
  • 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;
  • God can be experienced.
I go along with these three statements. They make sense and ring true in my experience.

"God" again...

I want to share some thoughts on God, which is an impossible task really. On the cover of Marcus Borg edited book "God at 2000" he writes that the contributors basically agreed that "God, or the 'sacred,' is ineffable, beyond all words and concepts." So ... why try? Anyway I was encouraged to read recently of Matthew Fox and his thinking on the subject. He is quoted ... "We are in divinity and divinity is in us. That is panentheism. It's perfectly orthodox. It's mysticism. Mysticism is the experience of divinity around us and within us."

Marcus Borg writes... "God is a nonmaterial reality around us and within us. This form of theism is commonly called panentheism. Panentheism (with its middle syllable en) is very different from Pantheism, with which it is often confused. Its Greek roots indicate the meaning of panentheism. The first syllable pan means 'all' or 'everything'. The middle syllable en is a greek preposition meaning 'in'. Theism, of course, is from the Greek word for God, theos. So panentheism means "everything is in God".

My understanding of God then is this panentheism. Everything is in God, he is in everything, but he is more than here. With apologies to Bette Middler, he is NOT a god who watches us "from a distance".

Twenty plus years ago I ministered part time and we lived in an old house on an acre of ground. We kept chooks, milked goats and raised fruit and vegetables. I realised how out of touch with nature I had become. There is something very mystical, sacred and divine about sitting with your head against a rumbling goats tummy and sqeezing beautiful milk out of her udder. You sense the miracle of life. Dock leaves, blackberry and grass are turned into milk we could drink, make yogurt and cheese out of! I have killed goats, sheep and hens for meat and again that mystical feeling of the sacred... a brother or sister is being sacrificed so that I can feed my family! I have chopped down big trees and small trees and with each one felt the tinge of sadness of ending a life. God, "the sacred" I see in the processes of nature. I have spent time with firefighters, elderly people, mental health patients, brewery workers and ambulance staff and have found the sacred in their friendship, their experiences of life, their pain and their laughter. Again and again I discover, that I do not take God into these places, but discover him already there. I have worked with people in Habitat for Humanity, the Night Shelter Trust, in our Drop-in centre and in the community and discovered this sacred current of life, love and purpose. I have discovered to my surprise, that just by being me in a caring, open and responsible way, the "sacred" works through me to make a difference. For me life is infused with the sacred and so much of life is a "miracle", though not in the sense of a God "out there" intervening in life.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ministerial bloopers

For a laugh... When I was a student minister in my first year of college in Australia I used to lead a church about 50 miles outside of Melbourne. In the church there was a "Sewing circle", three or four quaint elderly ladies who would get together to mend and repair clothing to be sent to missionaries to hand out to the locals. In the evening service I had to read out any announcements that had been handed to me prior to the beginning of worship. Straight after the first hymn and opening prayer this raw theological student read out in a loud clear voice - like every good earnest student minister should- that "the sewing circus will meet on Wednesday morning ......." That was about as far as I got because everybody in the church burst into laughter except the members of the aforementioned group, who glared at me and glared at the people for finding it so funny. All through the rest of the service I would see guys, in particular, struggling to control a fit of giggles as they recalled the Freudian slip I had made. Actually "Sewing circus" aptly described the people in the group... that's what made it so funny.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Don't get so emotional... Dave!"

I facilitated this meeting the other day for some people. It was an intense affair exposing hurts that had to be talked through and we were trying to find a way forward for that group of people in that workplace. During the meeting I challenged some male members to recognise the hurt and in other ways I got fairly passionate about what we were trying to do. (I don't like wasting my time.) As the meeting finished a couple of guys were giving me cheek and said, "Don't get so emotional next time, Dave! You'll end up like a woman!" ... I have been thinking about that. During my adult life I have generally been a shy guy and have only shown emotion around very few people. I have always been sensitive and felt the hurts of myself and others, but most people looking on would see a rational, unemotional, almost aloof person. I guess things in my early life meant that I did not trust myself to people, or to life or at least I tend to be very selective about who I trust. In the last perhaps ten years I suppose, I have increasingly let down my guard a lot more and let myself feel and express emotion. I have cried more. I have written more passionate "angry" letters and emails. I have been more open in conversations and sermons, revealing where I really am at. I have hugged more... (still not much). I have laughed more. I don't mind this getting "emotional".

I have a plate in my mouth holding six teeth. When I am in public I wear it for cosmetic reasons. But I dislike it. I hate running, tramping, talking, swimming or eating with it in. Some how I do not taste life fully with this metal covering over the roof of my mouth! When I get home, out it comes so I can relax and really taste life. Its a bit like that as I have got older. I used to wear a "covering" so that I never really let myself feel stuff. I protected myself from life. Now that I am gradually opening up to emotion I feel like I am truly able to taste life to a much greater extent.

It may make me look stupid, and unstable and "like a woman", but I am getting more out of the experiences of living. I have no doubt that it will at times hurt me deeply, people inevitably hurt one another. But I still think it is worth it. So I say to those guys telling me not to get emotional, "Get stuffed! You should try it!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I have been thinking about God. I often want to use the words "the sacred", "the sacred one" or just "presence" instead of "God". Our reading of or reaction to the word "God" is very narrow and it is used with a lot of limiting baggage. (e.g. An assumed gender) I have been reading a book entitled "The Future of God" by Samantha Trenoweth. It is a series of chapters on different peoples' experiences of "God". What would I say about my experience? I want to share one aspect of that.

I have a friend who is involved in the education field and provides professional development for teachers. In 2007 she wrote a research report and in it was the following example of something she did in her classroom.

"I have used the notion of speech as a thinking tool to good effect in my classroom, helping students to develop their inward dialogue. At the beginning of the year students are encouraged to bring a small stuffed toy to school which lives in their desks. I have my own on my desk. This is my thinking buddy. I model thinking out loud to my thinking buddy, asking it questions about the next step in the task or in my learning. I model my thinking buddy talking back to me. The students spend a week or so using their thinking buddy in the same way out loud, encouraging them to ask themselves a question, therefore thinking things through fully, before they approach the teacher or a partner for help. The next step in this process is to turn the dialogue inwards. The students still look at their thinking buddy to ask the question, however now it is in their heads. The last part of the process is to put the thinking buddy inside the desk or take it home and have the student imagine their thinking buddy and carry out the internal dialogue."
(An 2007 Efellow report by Jane Nicholls. Jane's blog site http://www.ictucan.blogspot.com/ )

I experience God as my internal "Ultimate Thinking Buddy". This is not to say that he is just in my head, but to say and celebrate that he is there. The apostle Paul quoting Greek poets said, "In him we live and move and have our being."

I recall a TV documentary about a race across the Australian Outback by two endurance athletes and an older Aborigine man. The athletes had modern technology, the older man "listened to the Spirits of the land" and did exceedingly well. John Seed, a proponent of "Deep Ecology" lies on the floor of the forest and asks questions of "nature", and senses guidance. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross had a "guide" who put her in touch with God's ways and directions. Another tribe of people have a "Grandfather Spirit" who is present where there is honesty and disappears amidst lies. All these are experiences of the sacred, the God in whom we live and move and have our being. This is often how I experience God.

Yesterday I had to facilitate a tough meeting in a secular setting. I sat there focused on the people, their pain, seeking to love them and guide them through. I found myself spouting wisdom, insights and questions that totally surprised me! That is often how I experience "God", uncanny assistance in the midst of a loving helping encounter. In spite of a very tiring difficult situation I felt fully alive, as if something bigger than myself was working through me in this situation. I recall conducting a wedding at the brewery. I was there in front of people wondering what I was doing trying to conduct a religious ceremony in a brewery, amongst this bunch of people. I mysteriously sensed the "presence" alongside, reminding me that "he" was there and something good and deep was happening. Another time I was sitting on a box in a flat, drinking awful coffee, breathing secondhand tobacco smoke talking to three alcoholics and wondering "why me?" Again "the presence" emerged saying "because I am here". Thoughts emerge, answers float to the surface, urges to do something, like do a post on the blog, are all nudges from this sacred "presence". Some may be sceptical. Some may say its the collective unconscious or some other explanation. All I know is that when I am open to love there seems to emerge a sacred presence who guides, prompts, encourages and nudges. "God" is not watching "from a distance", but very much a part of me. I am reminded that in John's account Jesus promised a "helper to lead us to truth". In John again he says that when we obey (love) "the Father and I will come to you." I think John was giving testimony to these very real experiences of "company" on life's journey. "God" I experience as a "Thinking Buddy" in the journey of life. I have another friend, Jeff May, who had a poster above the door of his flat as you left. It read, "May the peace of God disturb you!" .... I am pleased to be disturbed again and again by my "thinking buddy", God.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fighting and language?

I was reading a booklet by Don Cupitt talking about "Solar Ethics". He quoted Plato and talked about language and how our outer world, where we learn language, dictates how we think. He went on to question the whole concept of "outer" and "inner" lives. My mind went off on a tangent and I was reminded of stuff I had forgotten. If my language dictates how I think, and if my language is limited in some areas and I cannot name feelings and articulate what I am experiencing, I am more likely to slide into destructive ways of asserting myself. I went on to have a little bit more of an insight into some of our drop-in centre peoples' behaviour. Also I was reminded that we males, I suspect, are often not good at naming and defining feelings. "Sad", "frustrated", "depressed", "lonely", "disappointed" etc. all get lumped together in our mind as "anger" and so we express these feelings in inappropriate ways. One of the tasks we have if we are to help mediate is to assist people in naming, thinking through and communicating where they are at. It makes teaching children language and how to think and express their thoughts so very important. It is not just for academic skills, but also about how to get along in life's relationships. It also makes it important to encourage children to experience, reflect on and express different aspects of life's experience. We need language to adequately describe and deal with the full breadth of human experience. I quite like that "Bones" TV program, where you have a very articulate, scientifically knowledgeable woman forensic worker relating to a less articulate, more spontaneous male FBI agent. She teaches him the science of the world about them and the events they are experiencing. He, however, teaches her about emotions, spirituality and experiencing and expressing feelings, a side of life she is not good at reflecting on. Anyway, following on from my last blog, one reason we get into fights is that we struggle with expressing and hearing thoughts and feelings. It makes the old "count to ten" advice quite sensible, - time to step back and think. Just thinking aloud...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Why?.... someone tell me why?"

In our drop-in centre last Friday night an argument broke out. For a while three guys with clenched fists were eye to eye making nasty threats to one another and a woman was yelling. We settled things down but one guy and his retinue walked off making threats and mumbling.

I have been involved in a squabbling family. I open the paper and see bombings and read again and again of domestic violence.

The weird thing is that I meet with a whole heap of people each week and nearly all of them are basically nice, sensible and reasonable people. I want to know why do we get ourselves into so many fights? How come? I know a man who died last week. For years he never talked to his only living sister, nor she with him. They had some falling out years ago. Duh!? I remember a few months ago I gave him her address and phone number and suggested he make contact. Now he's gone and that time is lost! It's not worth the hassle, the hurt and the stress. Why can't we go the extra mile, give and take more and roll with the punches and let a few things go? Why are we so insecure we have to have our own way or so competitive that we have to put other's down? Why is it we struggle so hard to forgive?

I talked to a man who is arguing with his father. I wanted to yell at him, "Thank your lucky stars your children have a grandfather alive! Mine never did! Appreciate what you have, for heaven's sake!!! I would so loved to have been an adult alongside my father!" But I had to listen sensitively and try to understand..

One guy said, "Take them all up to the cancer ward, show them some people struggling to live, or waiting to die. Then ask them whether the fighting is worth it!"

I basically enjoy my life. I get a buzz out of most of what I do. But just lately I have been feeling the pain of all this conflict in the world about me. I know too that I have had my share of stupid fights, especially when I was younger. But why? Why do we do it?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Encouragement from strangers...

I have not been running regularly for some time. On Sunday the local annual half marathon that I usually try to enter happened, this time without me. It broke my heart, I had so wanted to do the Half Marathon a week after my 60th birthday! It doesn't help that nearly everyone I meet opens the conversation by saying, "Were you running on Sunday Dave?"Then I have to confess my lack of training and laziness. So the fact of being absent from the run and a friend's helpful goading has meant a renewal of my efforts to get fitter. Saturday I walked up the mountain. Sunday I ran about 6k with my friend who actually tricked me into running further than I wanted to. Monday I went for an early evening bike ride for about an hour and a half. Tonight a 5.5k run. Sunday's run was hard going! I puffed and panted my way around. Tonight's run was a little better, I ran more freely with less panting.

But I want to tell you about two strangers I passed. As I was feeling tired, hungry and about half a kilometre from the end I came up behind two young men, in basketball attire walking to the University gym. They looked like Kenyan runners, but I really know nothing about them and it was getting dark. Their walking was not that much slower than my running. They heard me coming. (Perhaps it was the wheezing?) They turned saw me and parted so that I had space to run through. I guess they saw my age and as I passed through they both said stuff like, "Wow! your doing great! Good on you!" and clapped their hands. It was a genuine bit of admiration for an old guy trying to get fit. It put spring in my step and a little burst of "speed" as I finished the straight to the car.

I have often found that some young students make fun of an old guy running. (I do look weird!) It does not worry me, I just vow under my breath, to come back and haunt them when they are my age. I did, however, appreciate these guys. It was a nice little gift of friendship and support on life's journey.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"...end of discussion, no question!!"

Why do we do it? The subject vexing me today is very definite sounding people. They annoy me. My worst self mumbles against them and uses words like, "Bloody know-alls!". My best self asks the question why do they feel that they have to sound like that? It seems to be an affliction that is often found in men, but not exclusively so.

Let me give you a "safe" example. A lot of firemen were very generous in January and came out and cut down two massive trees on my property. One was a gum tree, the other a poplar tree. The question was asked what should we do with the poplar wood. Several came up with a very definite answer. "It is useless as a firewood! We will just dump it!" Their tone, body language and gestures all said, "end of discussion, no question...that's it." Well I am partial to any free firewood, no matter how cool burning it is, and I managed to get them to save quite a heap of it. In my opinion, while not as hot as many other woods, and leaving quite a bit of ash, it is still an OK free firewood that dries quickly. For my purposes it is fine... I will accept for their purposes and their economy it may be a waste of time, but it is a matter of opinion, perspective and circumstance. Why do they need to sound so definite about their experience and generalise it? Another issue came up. I was told in definite terms, that I would have to split all the wood very quickly. "In six months time it will be impossible to split! Hire a machine and do it." It is eight months down the track and the wood is splitting just as easy, and possibly even easier than when it was first cut. Again, it was said in a definite, no question, dogmatic way! It is so often the way we men feel we have to state our opinions. For some reason we feel we must sound strong, definite and knowledgeable. I commented at the fire station the other day that... "I have learned that if I wanted to know anything I just had to ask, and there would be firemen who would tell me the answer." Then I added, "Whether they actually know the answer or not!"

Over the years I have attended endless church board meetings, meetings of community groups and heaps of discussion groups. Again and again conversation, discussion and exploration is stifled by this sort of "end of discussion, definite, no nonsense" way of expressing opinions. You can be discussing a new project and someone will say..."You cant do it, (such and such) wont allow it!" Why cant you say, "You may find that an obstacle you have to get through is...." and leave the floor open for other perspectives and options. Why not say for instance, "In my experience I have found poplar wood to be cooler than I want a wood to be".... or whatever? It still leaves the door open for a different experience or perspective. Some how we think it sounds manly to be dogmatic. It takes a strong person to question it. It often brings about destructive conflict because people of a different opinion feel they have to be just as belligerent back again. Often it leaves quieter people with different opinions feeling like they don't matter, and they are left out. Sometimes truly wise people's opinion is lost. It stifles growth and exploration and lateral thinking. Creativity is squashed. Why do we do it? Often I find it is a way we mask our own inner insecurity. Like the preacher who had in the notes of his sermon, "Argument weak here, shout louder!" Sometimes it is like an old lion still wanting to roar and say, "I am still here!"

Why do we have to share our opinions as if they were indisputable facts? It takes only a little extra thought to reword them, still share our opinion, but allow others to have their perspective heard. I believe it is helpful to remember to share our opinions, as opinions. There is a big difference in what it does for the people sharing the conversation with us.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Am I dead...?"

Here is a little bit of advice left on the graffiti board at my birthday party.

If someone asks you,
"Have you achieved your life's work yet?"
Ask yourself the question, "Am I dead?"
If the answer to that is "no", then the answer to them is "no".

When I last checked I was not dead! I have work still to do. :-)

Monday, September 8, 2008


In the last week of my theological training we were told by the principal that we should not make friends of people in the congregations we work with. It is too complicated, and causes problems for your work. Again and again in my time in Workplace Chaplaincy I have been told by my superiors, "You cannot make friends of your 'clients', keep your 'professional' boundaries clear." My boss on a couple of occasions wanted to move me on from the Fireservice chaplaincy, because I was too friendly with the troops. It all sounds very logical and reasonable, but if I stuck to these instructions it would make ministry a very lonely journey. (It is that anyway, for a lot of reasons.) I work 50 - 60 hours per week. I have little time to go to the pub, the club or whatever, to meet and make friends outside of work! I did a course at Polytech in 1994 and made two friends, running with them at lunch times. Since then we have brief contact from time to time, but no natural time to build on and develop the friendship we started. (Being tied up every weekend, when others are free to socialise, makes keeping in touch with even extended family very difficult.) I have not kept to the rules above, but have been careful and cautious about who I really expose myself to. Even then there have been complications. There can be deep differences of opinion about Church work. There is some truth in what the principal said.

I had 70 people at my birthday party. There could have been more if I had pushed the invitation. I have a great host of acquaintances who I am on friendly terms with and they all enrich my life. Amongst my congregation and chaplaincy "clients" I have some people I am closer to than others. I tramp with some firefighters. I have a collegial friendship with people involved in Habitat for Humanity and the Night Shelter Trust. I value the quality of the people I rub shoulders with, and enjoy the journey with them in these groups. I would count a few members of my congregation among my friends. I have a couple from a previous congregation that I still count as "friends". I am a very fortunate man. But having said all that, I have very few really close friends, and really appreciate the ones I have. What constitutes a "friend?" Here are some quotes about friendship.

"Real friends are those who, when you have made a fool of yourself, don't feel that you've made a permanent job."

"A friend is a person with whom you dare to be yourself."

"Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer."

"Friendship is like a rainbow between two hearts."

"True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable."

"Friends.... they cherish each other's hopes. They are kind to each other's dreams." (Henry David Thoreau)

If you are my friend.... thank you for being my friend. I value your friendship.
(Photos: A friend and I in a half marathon and with two college friends who have kept in touch for 36 years, though we have lived in different countries.- don't ask about the outfits!)

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I have had to change the heading on my blog. It used to read, "A near 60 year old..." ... now I have to say "a 60 year old". Just over 70 people came to my 60th birthday party last night. It was good catching up on people. One of my cards said, "It is never too late to have a happy childhood" and had a picture of an "old" guy swinging from a tree like a little kid would do. I was flattered when someone said to me, "That is so you!". I still feel like a kid inside. Early to bed tonight though... it has been a big weekend..... for an old guy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A quote...

I just bumped into a quotation that sums up my previous post.
"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young." - Henry Ford said that.
It is something I need to remember when I turn 60 on Saturday!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Now you start learning."

A man was telling me his work history the other day. He mentioned his apprenticeship and then he said, "It's after your apprenticeship that you start learning." It reminded me of when I was fresh out of college. I started my ministry and met with a minister in a town close by. Here I was fresh from 5 years of study, with all my intoxicating new knowledge, diplomas and certificates, thinking that I was God's gift to the Church. He was nearing retirement at the time and after asking me about my training and college experience, he said simply, "Now you will start learning what ministry is all about." It kind of put me in my place. My chaplaincy boss is involving me in work with a client firm. It involves trying to sort through problems they have. I expressed concern by saying, "Am I qualified to do this? I don't have supervision training and management knowledge etc.?" Her answer was, "You have forty years experience of working with people, what more training do you need?"

That was flattering but does longevity necessarily mean I learn a lot? Do I learn heaps just by doing ministry? Do we just learn by hanging around in life doing our thing? I don't think we do necessarily. There is a tendency in life for us to want to live life like a Noddy train in the park, going around and around on the same tracks. It is good to do that, we have set opinions, set responsibilities, set roles to play and life is easy, stress free... (till an earthquake happens and there's a buckle in the track)... generally life is OK. I have seen people live lifetimes like that. Do our thing, raise our kids, be doting grandparents and then move on, with basically the same views on life that we had when we were 20. We can live and choose not to learn, not to grow. We can be like a horse harnessed to a turntable, put our blinkers on, our nose in the feedbag and keep walking our circles. Learning involves interacting with the world about us, asking questions and adjusting opinions. It involves being willing to explore new tracks, and indeed make new tracks.

As I see it, there are three "stages" that we keep going through if we are going to learn through our experiences of life. The first is "jumping off the tracks". Doubting, questioning ourselves, the world about us and people's expectations. It involves moving our stance a bit, and being prepared to look at things from another perspective. The second stage is "cogitating" or "stewing" on that. Allowing our mind to explore the implications, to see connections, to reclassify things. The third stage is adapting our life, our world view our opinions to the new learnings and allowing them to take root and grow in us and shape us. The one thing that stops us growing is, lack of courage, or lack of "faith" to use a religious term. (Far too often "faith" is seen as blind belief in a set of static metaphysical facts, when it is actually almost the opposite!) At any point in the three stage cycle, fear can stop the process and often does. I can be fearful to jump the tracks and explore new territory. I can be fearful of where it might lead to if I stop and think about the new facts emerging. Or I can be fearful of actually applying the new truths that in my heart I now know. Lord of this good creation, keep me exploring new tracks, new perspectives and new experiences. May the Spirit of God who leads us to truth and wisdom keep nudging me to be chewing on data, thinking and reflecting. And may God keep me flexible and pliable that I may be shaped and moulded by his truth. Jesus said "unless you become as little children you cannot enter the Kingdom." I hope I keep exploring new tracks and enjoying the journey.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Underpants and polluted air!

Monday - minister's day off. It was at the end of over a week of nights out and full on days. Though some of the nights were very pleasant, nights out catch up on you and you become kind of "peopled out". Last night we spent a delightful evening with a whole bunch of Indian young people and two Indian families in a Birthday Party for our friend Malini. We met some delightful and beautiful people and had a great time. They dressed Jean in a Sari! But today a kind of "heaviness" descended on me.

I slept in which was nice, then devoured the paper. Political controversy featured on the front page. Someone among our leaders is telling lies... one wonders who among them ever tells the truth? Inside there was a story of a gambling addict, who within the space of a month or two became addicted to poky machines and the figures for addiction were astounding. I know people in our drop-in centre who are addicted, or who spend too much time playing for the amount of income they have.... hoping to become rich... some how. I read of environmental difficulties brought on by incredible quantities of waste we produce. I read also of the economy in Sydney.... the article said there were two economies. Some were doing very well, but for a growing number of families the rent or mortgage payments were becoming impossible. I know people here in Dunedin caught in a poverty trap and am aware that already there are job losses in the latest more difficult time in the economy. I know heaps of people wanting to become richer than they are, because in that they think they will find happiness.

We went up town. For reasons I won't go into, I wanted more comfortable underpants. We were going to buy some, deliver stuff to our daughter's house and spoil ourselves having lunch "out". We wandered a shop or two, and that's when the heaviness set in. There were adverts pleading for me to buy this and that. There was the underlying assumption that this would bring happiness. I remembered too the people I knew who go beyond their means searching for that elusive happiness, just to "keep up with the Jones'." All these made me want to scream at the materialism, consumerism and the underlying assumptions that run our society that were represented all about me. I guess I was feeling the heavy cost that we pay in human happiness by getting sucked into this destructive current. Because of the values we live amongst we spit people out the back end and make people feel worthless because they struggle to measure up. I am aware too that even the richest of us, with all the material attractions, end up with an emptiness inside that won't go away. I am aware too, that our riches in the west cost people in poorer countries. I felt a depression, an almost panic, a need to run from town and decided to do just that. Instead of having lunch "out" I headed over the hill to home. We decided we would buy some lunch supplies at the supermarket and make our own.

I drove over the hill looking down into the valley that we live in. There was a breeze blowing and clouds of yellow pollen blowing up from the pine plantations about our house. I thought to myself, "I am living amongst that! I am breathing it in! No wonder my chest is playing up! Even though I am basically unaware of it, I am probably breathing that stuff in every day." Then I thought how that was an apt illustration of how we live. We live in the midst of the materialism, the consumerism and the false values and promises these offer. We breathe them in and they affect our inner well being much more than we realise. They are like a poison, eating at human happiness in our houses, places of work and in our social life. How do I in my ministry and life stand up against this pollution? How do I show a different way? God has been challenging me on that since the early 1970's, and he won't shut up! Even on Mondays... the minister's day off!