Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years day wedding.

I was privileged to attend the new years day morning wedding of Mike and Christine, the owners of the latest Habitat for Humanity house. They had been together 25 years, had 10 children and one grandchild and decided it was time to get married. It was held at their new house and was delightful. A great way to start the New Year. We spent some time there after the ceremony, eating hangi food, talking and relaxing (getting sun burnt) When we came to leave the bride and two of her friends escorted us to our car singing a wiata. There were warm hugs all around. I felt like an honoured guest.


  • The bride arrives with her father... who surprised her by walking into her lounge after flying from Wellington on New Years eve.
  • The happy couple make heartfelt vows.
  • People chatting around the house after the ceremony.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A book for me?

I am reading a book entitled "Saving Jesus from the Church" by Robin Meyers. I have only got about a quarter of the way through and I am thinking, "This guy knows me!" Here are some bits.

  • Sub-title - "How to stop worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus"
  • Dedication- "I dedicate this book to all the men and women who have chosen the parish ministry as their life's work, and yet do not wish to be considered harmless artifacts from another age. May all those who labor in the most misunderstood, dangerous, and sublime of all professions be encouraged and inspired by the possibility that one's head and one's heart can be equal partners in faith. Lest the church end up a museum piece whose clergy are affable but laughable cartoons, we must once again dedicate ourselves to this wild calling - one that led us away from more comfortable lives and into the only profession where radical truth-telling is part of the job description. ..."
  • Hey he has a Sunday nap too! - "I came home one cold January afternoon after serving communion to mt beloved flock and took a nap, which is my Sunday ritual. Parish ministry is tiring in ways most people do not understand, and a Sunday afternoon nap is as sacred to a middle-aged clergyman as the Psalms. Rising before dawn and still fooling with the sermon (or finishing it), many of us preachers are obsessive-compulsive types who believe that no matter how many times we have done this before, this time we will get it right. Preaching is after all, an audacious and dangerous act."
  • Describing his church - "... we are doing our best to avoid the worship of Christ and trying to get back to something much more fulfilling and transformative: following Jesus."
I could go on giving quotations I identify with. It is encouraging to find people thinking the same sorts of thoughts, asking the same questions and having the same struggles. It is good to to have such clever people put into words your own jumbled thinking. Reading such writers helps you to identify your own journey.... I find myself saying, "That's what I would say if I could have thought of it that way! Amen to that!" Reading such books feeds the inner being. Thank you Robin Meyers.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday pics


(1) Cattle on my mountain track. Tonight there were cattle on the track up my mountain! Without my permission. It was all a bit tricky... there were people coming down the track behind them and I wanted to go up the track. The cattle didn't know where to go. We sorted it.

(2-4) Pics of our foster daughter's 32nd birthday last Sunday. Pania is a Rett syndrome sufferer, but I delight in her. She's "my special girlfriend", the only person in the world who appreciates my singing.  She can light up a room with her smile and giggle.  Though she cannot speak a word her beautiful brown eyes speak to your heart. She looks at you with such intensity.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

No gifts at Christmas!

The only gifts I received over this Christmas weekend were a DVD ("The Good Life" series) from my wife and a $1 scratchy thingy (I won $3) which is a bit of a tradition from my son. Both people, however, broke a family rule. Without consulting me, we as a family decided that there would be no gift giving this Christmas. The decision was reported to me a few days before Christmas. We have two weddings in 2010, one near Nelson in February and one in Poland in July. Therefore the combined wisdom of everybody but me, decided that we need all the money we can get to attend and do justice to these two events. So on Christmas evening, my son from Wellington and his partner (soon to be wife) and my daughter and her husband, along with our foster daughter (who has a severe intellectual handicap - Rett syndrome) and my wife and I gathered for a Christmas meal, but no gifts were exchanged. Did you know that I never missed the gifts? It wasn't until I read the news on the Internet this morning that people were selling their unwanted gifts on "Trade me" that I remembered that our Christmas was different. Christmas without gifts? It sounds like a "pub with no beer". Yet the truth is we had just as good a time without the expense!

What did you get for Christmas ?

This is the question often asked at this time of the year. Here is a list of the things I received. On Christmas day I received heaps of gratitude because I fronted the Community Christmas Day dinner at our Church. People, helpers as well as guests, came up to me and thanked me for making their day. As I thanked a volunteer on Sunday, the man replied, "I got several times more out of it than I ever I gave." Being the front man I received the gratitude that a lot of other people deserved. I received texts from friends and family. I got to sit and listen to my children, now adults, converse about life and stuff. I learned more about them and their partners and I got to enjoy their company. I received two special phone calls from children who were not there. On Saturday I got to walk and talk and sometimes just enjoy companionable silence with my oldest son for five hours. On Sunday I drove home from Church alone with my foster daughter. I took a more scenic route and meandered home singing to her all the way. When it was safe we held hands. I sang, she giggled with glee and rocked in time to my singing. No material gift could top that. In the afternoon as we talked as a family she sat on my knee and we gently rocked as we listened to the conversation. Two people connecting and together without words. I have received love, connection and relationship and in the midst of that forgot altogether that my Christmas lacked gifts, at least of the material kind. 

Photos: Two cruise ships heading out of Otago Harbour. I photographed these while on a bike ride to Aromoana tonight. Another gift to myself. 


Saturday, December 26, 2009

I made it... with a little help from my friends.

I have had a busy couple of weeks. Here are some things that I have been involved in.

  • I have started a new chaplaincy position, adding another 4 hours of chaplaincy a week.... though I have not been there often yet, it is a scary process.
  • I have been one of two people sorting out a job description, advertising and selecting a new night time supervisor for the local night shelter.
  • I have been busy with others trying to make sure the Habitat for Humanity house was ready for occupation before Christmas. We held the opening last Sunday afternoon.
  • I have conducted the funeral for the dad of a paramedic at my St John Ambulance chaplaincy.
  • I have been organising and leading the community Christmas Day dinner for poor or lonely in Dunedin.
  • I have had normal services to conduct and of course my family who wants to share Christmas with us.

I made it!

Many years ago I went climbing the Mungatuas near Dunedin. It was winter time and at one stage the track ran out and we had to push our way through bracken that was waste high to get to the tussock country and snow at the top. It was tough going, but we could see the clearer land that we were headed for, and just kept pushing on, aching, sweating and getting scratched and tangled. Eventually we got through it and I remember my dog at the time pushing out of the bracken and breaking loose with a mad circular run of freedom and glee in the open space. Its been a bit like that for me. I have felt that I have not had enough hours in the day to get what I needed to get done. I have been getting up early and working late to get things done. Because of the physical work at the house and preparing for Christmas dinner, I have had aching muscles for weeks it seems. But I knew that now, Sunday evening 27th December would come and I could ease up. I have made it and in all modesty, I believe I have done well. I have been pleased with what has happened. This afternoon in a relaxed mood I snoozed in my lazy boy chair. (only to wake to find my family taking a photo of me)

I have friends!

One thing I have learned is that in spite of the fact that I have often said that I have few friends, I do have friends. Let me list some. Richard has been a great working mate in Habitat. They say that "when the going gets tough the tough get going." Well Richard has been like that. He has set himself the target of opening the house and worked hard to get it done. I appreciated that sense of collegiality, partnership and friendship. Kevin has led the Night shelter work and being more familiar with the employment processes has patiently guided me through it. Paul has been a quiet partner at the funeral, (driving the vintage fire truck), and transporting tables for the Christmas dinner. Alex cooked the veges in his "Little India" restaurant and passed on a bottle of wine to us. Shona and kids, Kiri, Raewyn, Josie, Ian, Margaret, Muthia, Malini, Noel, Cristina, Maureen, Colin and other mates all were volunteers working to make the Christmas day a success. Ken dropped in and gave a substantial donation. The firemen expressed their friendship in heaps of ways. I had one come to me and shake my hand warmly, "Thank you for your friendship during the year!" Others expressed the same sort of sentiment and appreciation. They turned up in numbers at the Christmas day dinner and threw themselves into it with enthusiasm.  The firemen took over the meat. "Don't worry about the meat Dave, we'll look after it!" Then of course there is my own family who have been in there with me. I made it because of the many friends I have. I have felt very humble because of the support I have received. I have a friend who suggests that I don't let people be friends with me, I don't let them "in". That's true, but in spite of my aloofness, people reach out in support and partnership and I am deeply grateful for that.

The lion that roared...

At the Habitat house opening a reporter came to me looking for "Dave?.... I have been told to go talk to Dave?" I said I was "Dave". He asked questions about the house and Habitat for Humanity and I was reported in the paper. (In spite of the fact that I tried to put him on to someone in an official position.) Then on Friday at the Christmas day dinner the same reporter turned up and said, "You again? You are a pretty high profile guy around here aren't you?" "No" I replied, "I just try to do stuff." Once again I was reported in the paper. Winston Churchill said of his roll in the war years something like this. "The people of Britain and the Commonwealth were the lion that roared! I was just the mouth that made the noise." That's the way I have felt. I have been lucky to have had friends and colleagues who have partnered with me enabled so much stuff to get done. I feel so grateful.

A tired tramp...

My son from Wellington visited us for Christmas, staying just three days in the city. He had suggested that he and I should go for a tramp, so on Boxing day we went into the Silver Peaks. I loved it. I was tired, my legs were tired, my whole body was tired from Christmas day, but there was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity. Now I have a delightfully sore knee and hamstring, but a great memory of a companionable five hours with my son. 

Photos: Some pics from Christmas Day Dinner.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A special gift this year....

I have just been talking to a man I see about once a year, sometimes twice. He is the father of an acquaintance of mine and he likes the sort of things we do at this church. He belongs to a different denomination, or at least grew up in a different one, I am not sure of his connections now. He comes to me every Christmas and gives me a substantial cheque for "the stuff you do in your Church" e.g. our Christmas day dinner, drop-in centre etc.

He visited just now with a very substantial cheque. I was away driving a guy to soccer when he arrived but met him in the car park as I drove in. He was getting back to his car after knocking on my office door and sliding an envelope through. Upon questioning him he told me his wife of 55 years was expected to die in the next day or so. I talked with him for some time. But here is this man, in the midst of his grief and going through the ultimate separation from the one you have shared life with, and he takes time out to give money to us to help us make peoples' Christmas special. My heart went out to him and his family as they gather for a very different and sad Christmas.

There certainly are some genuinely nice people in this old world. Appreciate and enjoy the ones you have in your life while you have them.

It's that time again...

It is late at night. I was up very early this morning. Tonight a whole bunch of volunteers, many I did not know at all, got stuck in and transformed our chapel area into a Christmas dinner venue. They worked so fast I could not keep up with them and what they were doing. I think they were surprised with the transformation. It will happen, we will enjoy the day, but just now I am dead on my feet.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My day "off"

Monday is normally my day off. I spent a fair bit of Sunday night preparing for a funeral I had to take on Monday morning. I went into my office early and did the final preparations. The funeral was for the father of one of the paramedics at St John. The family were heavily involved in their local volunteer fire brigade.

There was a great contingent of fire service people at the service. As well as this there was a whole group of people, work colleagues, from St John Ambulance. As people gathered and greeted me I felt both privileged and also a big sense of responsibility.

I recall a fire fighter once describing my chaplaincy people as ".. your flock from out side of the church." That's what I felt like as people came in. They saw me and many said, "Oh you're leading the service, that's good." I felt like here was my "flock" from two different emergency services and felt really privileged to be their representative ministering to one of their families. As I led the pallbearers and casket out through the honour guard made up of firefighters and ambulance officers it seemed like I was among friends, a valid part of their circle, seen as an accepted useful team member. I was invited to ride the vintage fire engine out to the crematorium and loved it. Being allowed into the emergency service culture and comradeship can never be taken for granted. It is a real privilege to be treasured.

At the same time it is a challenge. When they think of "God" or "church" or "Jesus" they think of me .... and what do they see? Am I the true expression of Jesus' Spirit amongst them? Did I do justice to the "Eternal Spirit/God" as I conducted the funeral ceremony? Did they switch off at the religious bits or did I as a true shepherd, couch them in such a way that they could identify with the deeper things? It's a massive responsibility, to help encourage and facilitate the spiritual dimension of people's experience and understanding of life. Am I up to it?

I finished the funeral, put in my December time sheets to Workplace Support, picked up a ham being donated to our Christmas day dinner and finally went home to have a late lunch and the rest of the day off. After lunch I felt absolutely exhausted! I have seldom felt so weak. It was the end of a very very full on week or so, with a whole lot of extras thrown in. I think you run on adrenalin and when the pressure comes off you wilt. I had an early afternoon nap. Then got up and spent hours unpacking and sorting out the stuff in and on my van from the Habitat site.

Today is Tuesday. We have our big community Christmas day dinner on Friday so I am focusing on all the stuff to get ready for that, as well as doing other chaplaincy and church stuff. My life is never dull... but I really do like it that way.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Like... wow???

I have spent a bit of time on the Habitat for Humanity site this week, we wanted to get the house finished so that the family could move in before Christmas. On Thursday night I went up and worked on a shed we built for them. We finished around 10 p.m. On Saturday I started on site at about 8:45 a.m. and finished again at 10 p.m. I had drawn up a list of jobs that needed to be done and we crossed them off one by one. We added a few we also did, just so we could have the satisfaction of crossing them off. At 10 I drove home with my little van filled and the roof rack stacked with "stuff" from the site. It is not unpacked yet. I had a wee snigger to myself at the house dedication today. A fellow volunteer said to me, "When you told us we wanted the family in the house by Christmas, most of us thought you were dreaming! .... but it happened!" 

Opening Surprise

I went to the dedication/opening today. I had to take a prayer to bless the house. I arrived, took my hammer and took the last bit of boxing out of some concrete we laid last night. After some Maori protocol we all moved inside and the chairman of Habitat made a speech and officially handed over the key to Mike and Christine. Mike replied. He was of course very thankful for the house, didn't want to name names, but thankful for Habitat for Humanity as an organisation  and all the people who contributed. I was busy lining up to take his photo when he went on with something like the following. "You have to always be open and learn in life and its good to learn from others. There are people you can see as a role model in life and learn from them. There has been such a man as this for me on site. He has been there every Saturday. Sometimes even when he has not been well or things have been tough, but he has remained as cheerful as usual and kept working and turning up." I was watching and listening and immediately thought of my friend Martin. Then Mike went on... "He has sung his little songs and carried on." "Well that's not Martin" I thought, "Who could it be?" Mike then said, "The person I am talking about is Dave. He is just awesome!" Me a role model? Me awesome? Grumpy, expletive using parson, me? The guy who got so mad he said, "F***" and walked off? The guy who often got up on a Saturday morning saying, "Oh I wish I didn't have to go!" But Mike and everybody else in the room was looking at me! All I could do was wink and say, "You better be quiet or I'll sing you one of my songs!"

It has blown me away. During the time of the build I have grown to respect and love Mike as a great guy. He is a proud Maori who is really making a contribution to our community and to his people. He is softly spoken, has a beautiful smile and is so so lovely, affirming and loving to his ten children. Yet he sees me as a role model? I just turned up and did what I thought had to be done. I didn't even go out of my way to relate, I tended to be nose down task orientated.... friendly but focused on getting through the jobs.  

My thoughts are that none of us ever knows the impact we may have. We are called to continue being faithful and loving, and in spite of our feet of clay, our ballsups, our own inadequate feelings, the loving Spirit at the heart of the universe can use us and work through us in ways we can never imagine. You and your efforts could be making a big difference to someone you rub shoulders with. If "He" can use me, he can use anyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What a privilege!

I had a phone call from one of the guys in one of my chaplaincies. His dad died and would I take the funeral. Of course I said "Yes" but with the Christmas dinner looming, a new chaplaincy just started, stuff to do for the Night Shelter and the Habitat house to finish, I need a funeral like a hole in the head.

Tonight I met with the family. His two children, his sister and their partners. We had a cup of tea and sat around the dining table and I asked questions about the deceased. ... and they talked, told stories, laughed, choked up, laughed some more. Two hours later I then said, "What about the funeral? What will we do?" ... and we planned the next stages.

Ministers who are reading this (if any do) will know that feeling of a real sense of privilege as this family has let you into their inner circle and shared themselves with you. You have been an honorary friend of the family and allowed in to the story of their life. You have had the joy of making connections with people.... and there is something deep, sacred and fulfilling about that. 

I hate my job sometimes and wonder why I do it and how I can get out of it....  I get stressed to the max... but I would not miss a session like tonight, there was warmth and love engendered and exposed. And I was part of that!.... I love my job. Weird???

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vegetable gardening...

We have an acre of ground where we live. There is a back paddock where two goats eat the grass. They are named Joseph and Mary because they were purchased on Christmas eve a few years ago. We used to run some milking goats which was fun, but these days there is no time for that. We have a hen house with currently three old hens still laying.

Then we have about five areas of vege garden fenced off, 5.5 metres long, varying in width. (3 at 3 metres with wider ones) These areas lie among long grass and weeds on the pathways. In the days before Habitat for Humanity started it was all very neat and the garden area a lot bigger. We had rabbits in cages that we moved around the pathways to keep the pathways short. The whole back paddock, including the area where our garden is was gorse, broom with a couple of little patches of marijuana by the creek, when we moved in 22 years ago. (But that's another story). Today I enjoyed rotary hoeing (The ancient machine is a threat to my Christianity!) and planting out one of the areas of garden. (2 rows of potatoes, a row of cabbage plants, a row of broccoli, a row of swedes, a row with spring onions with six silverbeet plants in it and a row of two different varieties of turnip seeds. I still have space for at least one more row of veges in that patch. I enjoyed the day even though there were periods of rain. There is something therapeutic about working the soil, feeding it with manure (horse poo) and lovingly planting plants. And fresh produce is so much nicer than store bought stuff. For lunch we had bread rolls with vegemite on them, with leaves from two different varieties of lettuce.... fresh, crisp, two-minutes-out of the garden leaves... beautiful! (No chemical spray etc. etc.)

My dad valiantly attempted vegetable gardening when we were kids. His health was often not all it should be, but four boisterous boys, their mates and backyard cricket pitches meant the veges never stood a chance. I got my love of vege gardening after my father died. I was around 14 years of age and we were as poor as church mice and "Uncle" Harry (Married to a cousin of my fathers) came to us with an offer. He had almost an acre of ground just up the hill from where we lived and he said that if we boys came and worked with him in his vege garden we could have produce from it as a family. I tended to be the boy that did it most frequently. Throughout my teens a part of my Saturday (All of it if there was no sport I was involved in) was spent working with Uncle Harry in his garden up North East Valley. It was my way of helping to feed the family. I learned a lot about gardening from Uncle Harry. His voice still runs through my mind as I garden today.  We produced some fine crops. I learned a lot about life from Uncle Harry. He would stop work from time to time, light up a cigarette, pat the bank next to him and say, "Sit down mee boy, have a rest." He would tell me stories about his life, his war experiences, his friendship with my father and their adventures and in the process teach me about life. I will always remember on the Saturday before I was to marry I went up to help him. We had cut a lot of grass and shrubbery and we were standing around a fire burning it and chatting. In an embarrassed way, he stammered something like, "This getting married and all that, what do you know about it? Is there anything you want to ask?" I assured him we had been to an engaged couple's course and were prepared. (As if???) I appreciated his very nervous attempt to broach the subject.

I get annoyed these days because my vege gardening is often a hurried attempt to get something in or catch up. Today I enjoyed working away at a consistent but steady pace, just enjoying the silence, the feel of the soil and the surroundings. I feel rejuvenated, though physically tired. 


(1) My wife's runner bean wigwam... her wigwam produces heaps of beans each year.

(2) Some lovely big fresh cabbages almost ready for the table.

(3) Today garden patch all planted out. We have a total of 7 rows of spuds growing now.


A Sunday evening walk I nearly missed out on.

On Sunday afternoons I often have an after-lunch nap. After that I usually go for a run/walk with my friend Jane. This last Sunday my wife and I lunched at the airport, took the scenic route back to town and checked out the Habitat house. My nap was a little later than usual and my exercise friend is in Australia, so I was sorely tempted not to do any exercise. At about 5p.m. I got dressed in walking gear, packed up a backpack with raincoat, drink (for both me and the old dog... I should devise a way for him to carry his own drink?) and headed up to the Mt Cargill Organ pipe track. While driving there the rain started. I asked myself, "Why am I doing this? I should just blob out in front of the car racing on TV?" ... but I decided to don my raincoat and carry on up the track.

I am so glad I did! The experience never disappoints me! Every time I walk the track something delights or surprises me. I share some photos of rainbow, flowers (what are they) and scene from the top. Coming down the hill at around 7 p.m. (the dog walks slow) the sun shining through the bush and glistening on the newly washed leaves made every turn in the track a delight.  

While I was on the top the latest cruise ship sailed out the heads of Otago Harbour. I am always amused by the passengers on these ships. Hordes of them hit the city streets and wander around looking disgruntled and bored out of their brain. They do not look like happy holiday makers to me. Jean (my wife) and I were talking and we thought I should start a business escorting them for walks up Mount Cargill.  Oh well, each to their own, I guess.

I was going to take some time off this week, but already my diary is full of things to do.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friends run away to Australia.

I have a few friends. One visits me for coffee every Friday morning and we catch up. The last two Fridays we have not been able to do that and we seem like strangers. We are Habitat for Humanity mates and it was strange starting on site today without first sorting out what we were doing with Martin. Martin heads away during the week to spend Christmas with his daughter in Sydney. 

Another friend, who I also met at Habitat, I run with on Sundays, when we can actually run. Sometimes its a walk, other times a walk/run. But again we tell each other stories about our lives during the week and generally catch up. Jane leaves tomorrow morning to go to Perth with her family for Christmas with family there. Already I am realising that I won't have my weekly "report in/story telling" time. 

My friends are running away to Australia? What have I done wrong? :-) It must be a nice place, millions of flies can't be wrong! 

We often take friendships for granted without realising how much our idle chatting means to us. I hope all my friends have a great Christmas.

Photo: On my knees again. I had a good time today working with two new young friends, Blaze and Patience. They loved the nail gun and even gave floating off concrete a go. Great kids.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Scary privilege...

I have just started a new chaplaincy. I am now chaplain for Allied Press in Dunedin. It's a long time since I started a chaplaincy. It is a scary process. You go into a room full of people working on computers and you have to meet them without "hovering". I walked up some stairs onto the next floor and stepped into this big "editorial" room. Upon entering through the door I saw everyone had looked up from their screen and was staring at me... "Who is this?" you can see them ask. "Oh its the new chaplain... don't catch his eye!" It is scary. Will they accept me? Will I make a fool of myself? How can I break the ice? What do you say after "Hello"? So I have been talking with a few who seemed to catch my eye, but not hovering.

Then again I have found it a privilege. People have told me about their work, and it's so interesting. This afternoon I saw the inner workings of a plate maker. I have followed a newspaper in its production and seen it being put together bit by bit on the computers and sent around the building. It is just so interesting meeting new people and learning about their expertise and work. Such a privilege.... but still scary for this insecure old man.

The building is an old building. I have got lost several times. When I said goodbye to one guy I could not find my way out! Other workers had knocked off for the night. I hope I make it... I generally try to just tread slowly and one by one meet staff as the time seems right. I hope they are patient enough for my style.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What is "Church"?

Lately in our Church we have involved people and groups from the community in different ways. A woman contracted to the local City Council has been running sustainability workshops from out of our building. I declared that there would be no charge for the use of the rooms, because I thought the cause consistent with the Christian Gospel. I have encouraged PACT, (Patients Aid Community Trust) who work with mental health or handicapped patients to use our Drop-in facilities each Tuesday morning. We have open Settlers Resource@Space2B and new immigrants and others are using our building. I love it! It is my dream for the church to be a hub, a centre which is a catalyst, a base where people connect with each other and fuller more whole lives are encouraged.

We have been talking about extending this to another group, and forming a community group to meet needs of particular people to further use our resources this way. I was talking to one of my much loved elders about this. He is one who has been supportive, helpful and involved, but it would be fair to say is older and has an earlier concept of what is "church". He agreed with the directions I was outlining but then said, "It's like we are subsidising these groups though. We are paying part of the costs for their activity. That's a concern." I said something I believe to be true. I said that I think one way or another, if the groups are valid we would find money to cover the costs. I find that generally people see the value, and money can be attracted if you earn your credibility. But I did not want to knock the guy, and would love to have said, "Isn't this a valid part of the mission of the church? Is not this sort of thing the reason for the church's existence? We will devote all sorts of money to running Sunday morning church for ourselves. Surely the Church as 'salt' and 'light' in the community should see devoting money into such community ministry is a valid part of its essence and calling? It should not be a grudging 'subsidising' of those groups out there, but a joyful sharing and participation in the movement of God in the community. We should be excited that they want to be a part of us. " Jesus was not wrapped up in "church-for-the-sake-of-church", he was let loose in the community, involved with all sorts of people. His "body" should also be doing that.

Oh well.... change is slow.

Some of us on the "outreach" ministry of our church have invented a slogan for where we want the church to be headed. It goes like this;

Connecting people
Celebrating Diversity
Engaging Communities.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another week of "grace". .

"Grace" = undeserved favour... in this case "special good experiences".

Christmas Dinner miracles happening 

We are of course planning for our twenty first Community Christmas Day dinner. One would think I would be getting used to it all by now, but it never ceases to amaze me the way people support our efforts. This week I have had an offer of a musician for the day. A lady from a business near the church gave a $50 donation. I replied to a lawyer's phone message and immediately he said, "Now Dave you want some money? Who do I make the cheque out to?" Guests ring up to book in and tell us how much it has meant to them. As I have said before, I feel like I am on a surf board riding a wave of love and friendship that I am lucky enough to be part of the connecting point for.

International Pot-luck pleasure. 

On Wednesday lunch time we had a potluck lunch. There was Japanese sushi, Indian rice, NZ "cheerios", and other international dishes and desserts. What was special were three singers. Maureen from Ireland played a couple of numbers on two different Irish woodwind instruments. Then she sang a song which she later told me represented her faith. It rang bells with me. Rosie sang two lovely Indian songs, with distinctly Indian tones and style of music; then Cristina sang an American Christmas song. The mixture was beautiful.

Following discussion...

Some of us carried on after the dishes were washed to discuss "spirituality" and our dreams for the Space2B area in the church. We shared our thoughts and dreamed of possibilities for the future. If these dreams come to fruition it is beginning to evolve as I hoped it would. Watch this space... a new form of "church" could be happening in little old Dunedin. It was good having people on a similar wave length thinking of possibilities and getting excited.

Warm relationships...

Again I was moved on Thursday and Friday by the feeling of warmth that I received from my Chaplaincy visits. I hope my presence helps them, but I often come away feeling affirmed. On Friday I was at the main fire station when we got a call to a vehicle accident. We arrived and found the ambulance crew there. Of course I received cheek then from people from both services. They warned bystanders that there was a "... silver headed priest on the loose!" The warmth and friendship was affirming.

Great team effort and "feel" on the Habitat site.

On Saturday I was privileged to be part of a great day on site. The weather was perfect and every body seemed keen to work. There was hard physical labour teamed with a sense of humour and friendship. You can read about it on the Dunedin Habitat blog.

"Church" is a verb...

As I was walking and talking with a friend tonight she came up with a great phrase that described my feelings about church. We were discussing various aspects of Church life and my frustrations etc. and she simply said something like, "We must remember 'Church' is a verb!" I love that! 

Anyway... I have had a very busy and tiring week, but these experiences of "grace" and friendship energise me.

Photo: Habitat friendship.. 3 of the team - Left to right.. middle aged Maori; young American; old Pakeha Kiwi. (me) Nearly finished a fence project for the day.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

What if my time is up?

Last night at various times during the night I had some sharp sudden chest pains. They hit, woke me up and left again. I don't think it is anything serious but it gets you thinking. My dad died in his late forties because of heart troubles, I have medication for high blood pressure and have been told that I may have an enlarged heart. All this means that in the middle of the night when chest pains hit, you begin to wonder. After initially worrying about the prospects of a heart attack, I then realised that I could do nothing about it. (I could hardly rush to the emergency department and say, "I had this pain for a few seconds, it's not there now, but what is it?") I got to thinking about my life. What if I was hit by a heart attack? Maybe it would mean the end of my energetic lifestyle and my activities would be curtailed? Or maybe it could be the end of me? That led me to reviewing my life to date.

I decided that I have few regrets. I would like to have read and studied more but other things would have had to suffer if I did that. I wished I was more encouraging toward my children, but I don't think I was too nasty. As I looked back on my life I guess I would have to say that I lived well. Of course if I had my current understandings about life, God, Jesus etc. when I was in my twenties, I would have done things a lot differently. But this understanding has developed through the journey, and does not happen all at once. I can be happy that at each stage of life I generally lived by the light that I then knew... I hope that continues. Throughout I have kept growing and trying out new and different thoughts and things. There was a year or two when I stagnated, partly because you have to "dumb-down" your sermons etc. to communicate with people, I was working with another minister with different ideas, so I tended to just coast for a while, not rocking my boat or my relationship with him.  But I am happy to say that, in general, my dissatisfaction has continued to make me review again and again my world view, keep on redrawing  my "maps" and try new ways of doing things and seeing things. To the younger folks reading this I would say, whatever you do keep growing intellectually, inwardly and outwardly. 

In my time I have experienced different styles of living. I lived as a tradesman. I lived as a student. I lived as a conventional minister. I traveled and lived in a caravan doing a different style of work. I played with rural life, simple life-style and self-sufficiency and have taken some of these values on board. I tried a venture that failed, lived as a hardware salesman briefly and was part of an editorial team once. I have been a square peg in a round hole minister for the last 20 odd years. I studied community and social work issues and have built that into my ministry. I am enjoying industrial chaplaincy. I have enjoyed involvement in the community through PTA, coaching children's sport, Habitat for Humanity, Night Shelter and various church activities.

I have had, and still have a few close friendships, a long supportive and affirming marriage, but never ever had a big number of friends.  I have a family of adult children who are doing OK, are independent thinkers, relating responsibly and who love and care for one another. I know that I have been lucky enough to contribute in a constructive way to other people's lives. I have had the privilege of being with people at special moments. I have enjoyed times of solitude.

Maybe if my time was up now I would have to say I would loved to have tramped more, cycled more, gardened more or played with wood or metal. I would love to have painted and/or photographed more.

But one thing I have learned is that you cannot do everything or have everything you want in life. Another thing is that life has it's moments and stages. Sometimes you can do some things, at other times they have to go on the back burner while other ventures or priorities capture your attention.

Of course there are a few regrets, mistakes and "what if" questions... but last night in the face of my chest pains, I came to the conclusion that I hadn't done too bad, and as I say, generally lived by the light I have seen at that point of time, have always been open to more light and have continued to grow in life's journey.

Today I have energetically dug a nearly 19 square meter patch of ground and gone on a 25 k bike ride so I doubt my time is up yet. Probably it was reflux or damaged ligaments near my ribs from my Saturday Habitat activities. But it made me think and in some weird way gave me peace of mind. If my time was up, I'd definitely say, "Bugger!" But I would be reasonably happy with what I've done and how I've done it. 

Photo: building a back door step at the Habitat house. 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Nice people in the world...

A man in my church told me that his 9 year old daughter had been discussing Sunday school lessons at home. She decided that she was well off and that she could share with others. She did not want us to know but, in discussion with her parents, she had withdrawn her savings and donated it toward our Christmas day community dinner that we put on at the church. She truly is a delightful little girl, and a very thoughtful girl.

My daughter works for the Dominican Sisters in an administrative assistant role. On Thursday afternoon I was meeting with the Night Shelter Chairman when in a flurry of activity she burst into the office, dropped an envelope on my desk and rushed out again. The man I was meeting with looked at me, shook his head as if to say, "Who was that?" I explained it was my daughter... "I thought so." he replied. The envelope had a gift of $500 and a warm supportive letter from the Dominican sisters for our Christmas dinner.

Some months ago a guy who owns a landscaping business dropped into the Habitat for Humanity site. He told us he would do the landscaping when we were ready. I remember because he got carried away while he was there and ended up nailing ceiling battens. "Bloody hell." he said, "I only came to tell you I'd help with the landscaping and now I am nailing! What is it with you people?" I remember him too because we were working side by side and he asked me, "Are you really a parson?" Well on Saturday he turned up with his machinery and took charge of the landscaping. He was so great with the volunteers, helping them, directing them and fitting into the spirit of the site. At one stage his wife and his son turned up and just fitted in as if they belonged. They are nice people.

We opened the drop-in centre at the church at 6:30 on Friday evening. We dished out the sausages, the sandwiches and various food items. I was sitting talking to one bloke, who had been in a mental health ward at the hospital for nearly all year and was now back in a flat. He was so pleased to be back with us. Suddenly my friend pointed toward the door, and said, "Look!". There stood a slightly stunned looking young man with two big plates of sandwiches in his hands. "We were having a customer "do" over the road at the Xerox place. We saw all the blokes come in here. We have a few sandwiches left over and thought you guys could use them." he said. He fished in his pocket and handed me his card. His name is Scott and he too is a nice guy. 

We have had a number of phone calls from people who want to come and help with our Christmas day Community dinner. Some of them are from people who helped last year and want to be there again this year. A manager in one of my chaplaincies wants to come with his family to help. We had a call today from a lady who was there last year. She and her family want to help again. She is a nurse and had gone to some trouble to arrange to have the day off just so she could be there with us as part of the team. They too are nice people.

I could go on. I have waxed on in an earlier post that there are "bastards in the world". Tonight I would remind myself that there are a whole heap of "good bastards" in the world. For this I am thankful, to me they are a sign of God's presence among us.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An explosion?

On Monday I took my old road bike down to the garage to pump the tyre up. The front tyre has an old type of valve, so I had to screw an extension on it to use the compressed air. With this valve the meter only reads the pressure while you are pumping. I kept trying to pump to read the pressure. All of a sudden there was a loud explosion, my tyre came off the rim and my tube split! The mechanic and owner of the garage came running yelling, "What the hell?".  Dazed, I said, "I think I put too much air for the tyre to hold."  They probably went back to their work saying something not very complimentary about parsons.

Today I accepted a new chaplaincy. I visited there for an hour with their current chaplain, a younger vivacious, attractive, blond, outgoing, joking sort of woman. (About the exact opposite of shy old me.) It is the Allied Press in Dunedin. I was pleasantly surprised though because I kept bumping into people I knew. The sister of a fireman, a reporter I had worked on an obit with, an advertising saleslady I did a deal with, a man I linked up with in a half-marathon years ago... (he remembered me!) etc etc. It is a big rabbit warren of a building. I was intrigued with all the processes that go on to produce a paper. I hope I am accepted? They obviously loved their current chaplain. ... but I also wonder if I am doing to my life what I did to my tyre... trying to fit too much in??? Just wait ... you may hear an explosion. I take over late next week.  I think I can manage if I learn to say "no" to some things and learn to have the confidence to be more decisive so I can do other tasks at a quicker clip. In spite of my hesitations, the people interested me and I look forward to learning more about the work there and expanding my horizons more. Watch this space.

Today was full on. I played in goal at the PACT social soccer. I saved heaps of goals, I was surprised at how fast I reacted, but my little finger on my left hand and it's knuckle are sore and swollen now! Should 61 year olds play soccer? Yes... yes... "rage rage against the dying of the light!" 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Midweek quandries....

Attachment to cars...?

We had an MG station wagon which had become unreliable. We had used it fairly well over the years, gone on a number of journeys and carried quite a lot of loads. The MG was great on a trip, great on cornering and as a station wagon, very handy. But some time ago it kept stopping embarrassingly often... just cutting out. Then mysteriously some time later it would start up again, usually when we had towed it to a garage to find the fault. We had several garages look into it and finally got it fixed at some expense. It went well for a while then started doing the same thing. It was getting rusty also so we bought "Wicked Wanda" our Nissan Blue Bird. The MG has just sat on the grass beside our drive where I last towed it after it had died once too often, getting rusty and in the way. Today it got taken away and I feel like I have sent a pet to the abattoir! Maybe if I had had the time I could have repaired it? Looked after it better? I feel guilty over a car! How sad is that?

A new chaplaincy... to be or not to be?

I have been offered a new chaplaincy, four hours a week. It would be in an industry that would be intensely interesting. But I am a busy boy now? I really don't know what to do, and I have to decide by tomorrow. I have done a pros and cons thing in my mind. I have talked it over with my boss; with the chaplain who is resigning from the place; with my wife; with my friend; with my supervisor; with the chair of the church board; ... but no one will tell me what to do. They each ask questions, make suggestions... but somehow I have to decide by tomorrow! I am scared about taking on something I could fail at. There would be more women involved in this workplace and I suppose I see myself as a "blokes" chaplain and am uncomfortable around women. The hopes and expectations of the management seem to be high. Oh dear... what to do? Will I sleep tonight!

Pianist wanted...?

Our pianist at church has been a lovely Korean lady who has been doing a PhD. She is finished and has a job overseas, leaving soon. We need a new pianist! Where to find one? 

Feedback reactions...?

I spent time with my boss on Tuesday. She updated me on the evaluations after my leading of a recent chaplains' training day... they were all good. She assured me that I was highly respected as a chaplain by my fellow chaplains. ... I was rung by a manager of one of my chaplaincy work places and he and his family want to come help at our Christmas dinner. The conversation felt like an endorsement of who I was and what I do..... My supervisor gave me some nice feedback.... As I left an inner-city ministers meeting I was told how much they admired my community involvement and my example of ministry. All these unsolicited... but the weird thing is there is this voice inside me says, "Yeah right! You don't really know me! That's not me! I am a failure!"  Weird? 


I end up having heaps of conversations with all sorts of people each week. I feel deeply privileged. I see some sort of sea birds on a hot day sitting extending their wings and fluffing their feathers so that they maximise their exposure to the breeze to help them cool. These conversations are a bit like that. There is my experiences of life. But then as I talk with others, and am exposed to their experiences, my experience is added to, expanded and informed. It is like there is so much more added to my life. The conversations I am privileged to have, with the variety of people I encounter, maximise my experience of life. I get more "bang for my buck" out of life. I am so fortunate.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sunday stewing...


Since we have started Settlement Resource@Space2B at our church I have met a whole lot of people from around the world. I find it intensely interesting to hear their stories and step into their world. I spent quite a bit of time this week with a man from a country, which he says is very rich. He told me that the price of a whole lot of commodities was a lot cheaper than here in Dunedin, NZ. Materially life was pretty good, but he said, in faltering English, "Nobody can relax!" He told how people were not really allowed freedom of speech and thought. While he loved his country, and it will be difficult for him and his family to forge a new life here, that freedom was worth moving else where, and in a sense risking all for him and his family. We in NZ take for granted the freedoms we have.

Tim's text...

I share with you a text I got from Tim, a guy who comes to our drop-in centre and was part of the street footy team. He has been down at the wharf fishing in the Otago Harbour where salmon are running at the moment. On Saturday morning he sent me this text: 

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away! I was reeling in a 40 cm salmon this morning when a gigantic sea lion grabbed my fish and ate it b4 mine eyes #*# " I thought it was so funny.

Priorities and hours in the day.

This week I have struggled with priorities and how to fit everything I want to do in. I have had a good week, and spent a lot of time with people, feeling that I have been a support and help to them, while enjoying the sense of connection and learning myself. But because of that I did not get some other things done well. Always there seemed to be options to choose from. Stay here and talk, or do a report for the board meeting? Listen to this new settler, try to find help for him, or go to that funeral to support a member in his grief? Share with the street footy team as they celebrate, or catch up on office work? Stay longer at chaplaincy or play footy with PACT guys? Go to St John or befriend this guy visiting? ... these questions plague me constantly, and then I am being invited to take on yet another chaplaincy??? I have to meet on Tuesday with my boss to discuss that. 

An epiphany... I DO know who I am!

I was driving into the Habitat for Humanity building site early on Saturday morning. (Yes, in spite of my protest etc. of last week... I went back!) It is at least a 20 - 25 minute drive, so as I drive, I think. Seeing some people on a bike ride I became envious.  "Why am I going back?" I asked myself. "I promised never to return, now I am changing my mind. People will think I am weak? Why?" Then I found myself answering my own question... "Because that is who I am. This family needs a house, I can help build a house and I help people, that is who I am! Plain and simple... no piffling argument can stop who I am!" ... I may be seen as weak, as flip flopping, but the epiphany was the realisation that deep down I know who I am... "I am a guy who values helping people. To 'be' for me, is to reach out to people!" 

It is like one of those weighted little toy men with a rounded base. You can push them over but they will bounce back to sit upright... so I can be distracted from my essence by various things (like last week's hissy fit) but I will bounce back. Like a compass can be turned around, but eventually it points north again. I am here in life to support, share with, help, be in solidarity with people... that's who I am. 

Driving through town I got to thinking about ministry. I had a list of things to do before Sunday. Why do I struggle with ministry? How come at 61 I am still wondering what I am going to be when I grow up?  Am I stupid? Immature? Weak minded? But once again I found myself answering. "I know who I am! In my core I am a supporter and helper of people. My problem is not a weakness or identity crisis.  My problem lies in answering the question, how best do I express this inner core? And sometimes 'religion' does not seem to be the best medium to express that." 

I found this a helpful epiphany... My uncertainties and struggles are not with my identity... that is sorted... I am a follower of Jesus, a servant of people etc. But my struggles and uncertainties lie in "how and where best do I express that identity?" 

I finished the week feeling like I am extremely privileged to have spent time with so many interesting people. I have also valued my friendships.


Morning tea with friends at the Habitat site as the sky darkens.

Rugged up against the cold, building yet another fence with my friend Jane. This is the fifth Habitat house we have worked on fences together.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

How could I???

I have been stamping my foot saying, "I have had enough of being dumped on by Habitat for Humanity! I'm not going back!"

Yesterday Mike, the prospective owner of the house brought a big arm load of bread for our Drop-in centre. We sat in the Space2B area and talked briefly. He is such a nice guy! He has worked his butt off to get this house finished. He is so looking forward to moving into the house before Christmas! As I sat there looking at this gentle lovely man, I thought, "How can I refuse to work on his house just because some people pissed me off?" Apparently some of the issues that annoyed me were discussed at the Directors meeting last night... maybe my hissy fit was not a waste of time??

Bugger! I was looking forward to a Saturday off!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The language of sport.

I have often been cynical about the place sport is given in our society, and I remain cynical. I often want to scream... "It's only a game!" But two things have happened to me in the last two days that show the value of sport.

I spent Tuesday morning up in our Church Drop-in centre with the Street Footy Team which represented Dunedin in the Street Footy Festival in Wellington last Saturday. It is all related to the Homeless World Cup. These are"excluded people" who play a form of soccer. I have been involved with them. They went, did not win much of anything except they won the Fair Play award. I texted them on Saturday some time and told them that to me they were all winners before they even left for the tournament. They have all made healthy changes in their lifestyle because of their involvement. Yesterday they were "debriefing" and looking at the photos from their big trip in our drop-in. It was fantastic talking and sharing with them, they were still on a positive high three days later. It was such a great experience for them.

Today we had a man from the Philippines, a plumber from Iran and a Chinese man we know as Mike (Along with others) in at our Settlement Resource @ Space2B. Mike can read English very well but struggles to speak it. We were talking and struggling to make conversation. It was a hectic time trying to understand these folks' English and assess their needs. Mike, who visits regularly, suddenly said, "I must play you in ping pong sometime." We were all tired from trying to converse, so I said, "We can do it now." He and I raced upstairs, found ball and bats and played fast paced table tennis for 35 minutes, laughing, grunting and celebrating. Gone was the language barrier. There was no cultural barriers. He is rich, I am, well, poorer. He is youngish, I am old; he is of uncertain religious affiliation, (I gave him a Bible and he's read the New Testament) I am a follower of Jesus..... but playing table tennis we were brothers enjoying each other's skills, company and friendship. Again there was a warm sense of connection.

I am cynical of top level professional sport, but it is a barrier breaker and a great motivator for many people. Maybe I should not be quite as cynical as I am.

Mike (table tennis "bro")
The proud Dunedin Street Footy team
Playing the Christchurch mob.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Spat the dummy"... "Threw my toys out of the cot!"

Grumpy at Habitat

I went to the Habitat house on Saturday. I was there very early and reconnected water to the site. I then settled in to do some boxing on a path, but a whole heap of things turned me ugly.

  • The building committee members changed their mind on how it should go. We had to change what we had done.
  • Because of instructions from one of the leaders we had people attempting to bring barrow loads of gravel down through where we were meant to be erecting the boxing.
  • I am trying to be just a volunteer on site and yet I had people coming to me looking for work. It was a frustrating time. I felt that the people who were meant to be leading the show were not doing their job. They were doing a nice wee job together, oblivious to what else was happening on site and the leadership others needed. 
  • Some time early in the afternoon they finished their job and decided to come round to where I was. One wanted to "help" but was just telling me how to do stuff I already knew how to do. I dropped fairly big hints and some direct suggestions to send them off. I mouthed "bugger off" to one, and he took off to the other end of the path to work. But the other, a good friend, started to tell me that what we had done was wrong. 

I had had enough. I have been frustrated for years with the way the Habitat builds are run. We tend to go from week to week, making it up as we go. I have often felt that there were already too many people putting their oar in, so in a commitment to the families, had just buried my objections and frustrations and kept attending faithfully and doing whatever was expected of me. At organisational levels at different times I had made suggestions for change but these were usually ignored.

But on Saturday, when this guy looking at a job half done said, "It's not straight!" I saw red. I said something like "F**K ... That's it ...I'm going home!" and began to collect my tools into the van. On my second trip back to get tools, in anger I blurted an old saying my father used to say jokingly to my mum, "Fools and women should not see a job half done!" ... my workmate, a woman was glaring at me in disgust, but at that point I was so angry I couldn't care! All my years of frustration were coming to the surface. I informed my wife I was leaving, then climbed in my van and drove off. I did not spin the tyres or slam the door, in some ways I was still calm about what I was doing.  I went home, changed and walked up my mountain. My wife eventually left the job herself, came home and rang me during my walk. It is amazing how fast you walk when you are mad!

I think I have decided I have done enough for Habitat for Humanity and it's time I gave it up. I had an email from one of the leaders involved, I replied with essentially what I have told you, and said, "You guys are on your own now!" Today, with a bit of sadness, I emptied my tool boxes, put away my tools in the drawers and on the shelves in my workshop.  After thirteen houses I think its time to stop. It has not been as much fun lately.

What is heresy

On Sunday I talked about Mark 13, where Jesus begins to talk about the future and what has been called the "second coming". (I tend to think of these things as symbols of what is ultimate.) The message seems to me to be that we will always live in times of trial (Plumber's language: "Shit happens") and followers of Jesus in the midst of trials need to "be on their guard" and stay on course. 

Now many Christians think that staying on course and not being led astray is the same as "believing the wrong things", getting led off the orthodox path. That's the way some of the commentaries I read interpreted it. But I think it is staying true to the way (the values, the lifestyle, the purposes) of Jesus in the midst of and in spite of tribulations. I am a "heretic" when in the face of trouble I do the less-than-loving deed. I had an example of this recently. In a discussion one earnest Christian was ranting against Muslems. He was saying that we Christians  "are too tolerant, we accept them into our country, we give them the right to say what they like and practice their religion, we forgive them, we try to understand them... they will take over our country! Why should we be so nice?" I waited to see the response of the group. One lovely lady responded, "Because that's who we are.... we are not being Christian if we do not do those things." You see, by being militant, closed and intolerant Christians, in my view, we are denying Jesus, and are in practice "heretics", however "orthodox" our theology.

Was I a heretic.. denying Jesus by "spitting the dummy" on Saturday?

This is the question I have been asking. What is the "Jesus response" to all the frustrations I have had with Habitat for Humanity and in the situation on Saturday? And further to that, am I being loving by putting away my tools and moving on? And if I am wrong, how do I lovingly respond or deal with my frustrations? I have tried discussion and committee involvement etc etc. Are there horses for courses, and I am not cut out for Habitat as it is now? ....I think my angry outburst let Jesus down, but leaving was OK.  After all he overturned tables in the temple to make his point! 

do wish life was simple!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sometimes I do OK

There was an article in the community paper yesterday about Tim. He is heading off tomorrow to Wellington to take part in a Street Footy Festival for "Homeless" people. He is a part of the soccer I have been playing with PACT social soccer group on Thursday mornings. I became part of it to try to encourage a Dunedin team to go. Jason from PACT has got behind it and trained up this team. Tim comes to our drop-in centre and as I was playing him in table tennis one night I asked him if he would be interested in soccer. So I take him down. He has been working on his fitness and is as keen as mustard. He was selected for the team and the paper tells the story of him going from being a problem drinker to stopping drinking. He told us tonight that he has not had a smoke for a week. He is making great strides in sorting his life out in other areas also. 

And, I say this with a sense of grace and privilege, I had a wee part to play in that. I am going in tomorrow morning early to see the team off. I wish I was going with them. I hope they enjoy it, whether or not they win. They are winners already. I asked Tim to text me the results while I am working on the Habitat house during the day. (if I feel better by the morning) We had 60 through our drop-in centre tonight. It was so nice to share their company, to laugh with them, share their world, hear their stories and play games with them. But I was not feeling too well and I am now sooo tired.  I have felt like I make a wee difference in some people's lives today though.

Photo from the Allied Press Star Midweeker paper.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Old Dogs....

"The Dad who walks" commented on my last post and quoted a song by Tom T Hall about "Old Dogs and children". I enjoy the song and have been listening to it (and heaps of other Tom T Hall songs) on U Tube... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSMPzYNXyk8 

I guess there were a lot of things about my childhood that have made it difficult for me to trust people. 

My mum did her best but lived under constant stress and I guess, to be honest, I found her less than constant in her love toward me. I was often punished unjustly, and that really hurt. I was often ridiculed or belittled in front of visitors to our home. It may have been in fun, but to a growing insecure kid, it was hard to take.

My dad died just when I was old enough to get to know him. We were just starting to converse and "be friends" and he up and died.

I have had a few deep friendships that have lasted years, but then blown apart.

All these give me a certain cautiousness about relationships. So the song rings bells. 

I have always had a tendency to enjoy my own company. (Mum would declare to a gathered throng that "David was the unsociable one!" - which tended to be a self fulfilling prophecy.) I am pleased to enjoy my own company. There is something important and special about solitude. But I do wish I was more comfortable with friendships. I tend to hold people at bay, believing deep down that they would not like me if they knew me. "Old dogs", the birds in the bush, the goat watching me dig, the car I drive, the bike I peddle are good friends to me. 

We're all different.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday miracles...

I have had quite a good day off. 

2 incident free WOF's

In NZ you have to get a Warrant of Fitness for your vehicle every 6 months. You take it to a garage or testing station and they check tyres, brakes and countless other safety things about the car. (The list keeps getting longer) I have a 1989 van and a 1990 car. Every time I send them for a warrant I get nervous. How many things will need fixing? What is it going to cost me? Well last Thursday the van got a warrant, the only thing the mechanic did was fill up the windscreen washer bottle. And today, "Wanda" my old Nissan Bluebird, got an incident free warrant of Fitness. Relief!

Christmas Day dinner meat...

The main reason I feel good about today is that we called at Marlow Pies to ask if they would cook the meat for our Community Christmas Day dinner. They have in the past. It is THE major item in the Christmas day meal. There are at least 25 legs of hogget (year old sheep) to be cooked. I HATE asking people for free favours. I had tried to email them through their website but I thought it had not gone. In fear and trepidation I went into their store today and asked. "Oh!" the lady said, "You're the Christmas Dinner man! Sorry I didn't reply to your email, that will be fine. We'll do it!" I hope she saw the happiness, relief and gratitude in my face. I just said, "Thank you, it means a lot to us." I am thankful that these people are prepared to get up early on Christmas day morning, go down to their factory and turn their ovens on. Many people would not be as generous, and they have done it for us for a few years now. I was so relieved I felt like celebrating... I had savaloys for lunch in celebration. :-)

Skin is marvellous..

Last Friday I cut my finger with my pocket knife. It was quite a deep cut. For a week I have had to wear a bandage, and it bled every now and then for the first couple of days. But today I went bandage free and it is virtually healed. How great is that? The other thing that astounded me is that I put a substantial sticking plaster on it every day. But each day by the end of the day, just through use of the finger the plaster was very dirty, worn and tattered. I could not help but think that my skin puts up with that sort of punishment day in and day out and doesn't fall to pieces. That's pretty tough stuff! :-)


Even though the wind was cool I had an hour or so in the garden. Quietly on hands and knees I planted sixteen plants. (2 types of lettuce, Chinese cabbage and parsley) I worked into the soil lovely horse poo I bought from horse lovers down the road. It is so relaxing having time to work the soil again, it does something for the soul. :-)

Evaluations positive...

I facilitated a Professional Development day for fellow chaplains Friday week ago. I felt good doing it, it was "me" at my best, using my gifts. I looked at the evaluation forms from the chaplains on Friday and they were glowing in their response..... nice warm confidence booster for a very insecure 61 year old.

Mountain meander...

I finished the day with a nice walk up the Organ Pipe Track up Mount Cargill which over looks Dunedin. "My Mountain". I took Max our old dog who puffed away there, but seemed to enjoy it. It was a nice evening for walking. A bit of wind in exposed places, but the bush walk up there is so refreshing.

Life was good today!


(1) Max our old somewhat neglected dog... still loves me. I am astounded, he seems to understand what you say and talks when he looks at you. When I come to a fork in the pathway, he looks one way then the other, then looks at me as if to say, "Which way boss?"

(2) A hazy view of the country side from about halfway up.

(3) Looking like some kind of Biblical altar, a plinth at the top of the mountain has a brass plaque on it pointing out local high points. Unfortunately some twit has plastered graffiti all over it.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Love is weird...

"I love these people, you know?"

I was at the drop-in centre on Friday night. I was being ear bashed by Paul. Aussie was giving me heaps of cheek. Jennifer looked pleased to be back. Grace thought I'd stolen her purse. Nick was asking me to make more drink. Dave was late and wanted more sausages. Saraya was grizzly and Summer was noisy. It was a normal drop-in night. My friend Noel does endless sink loads of dishes. He was sitting having a brief break when I plonked myself down beside him. I surveyed the room, with all of its activities and conversations and all I could say was, "I love these people, you know?" These words were my own funny surprised reaction that named the feelings going through my "body". I was surprised by the depth of my feeling at that point of time. Often they drive me mad. Often they annoy the hell out of me, but all I could feel as I watched them was a deep sense of connection ... with this weird mob??? Where did that come from? Love IS weird.... I often find that.

The new Kitchen is in...

The church has refurbished its kitchen. Some women felt that it was old and not a good look for outside groups. I didn't think it was too bad, but the decision was made to do it. We got some grants for some of the cost. It will cost in excess of $20,000, I have lost count. We still have not got it up to commercial standard unfortunately. All I feel as I think about the money involved is that we really need to make sure it serves the needs of people in the community. Good stewardship demands that we use it well. 

Nearly Cremated Swearing Parson...

On Monday I went with a guy from Church to level the floor under the Church kitchen. The piles were not reaching the floor bearers any more so we had decided to pack the piles before they brought the new benches in. I went under and Curly (a friend and church elder) had a halogen lamp going so we could see what we were doing. I was working away on the pile when Curly shouted, "You're burning! Your back is smoking!" The heat from the lamp behind me was burning my overalls, probably just singing off the dust and dirt, but it was quite hot. I rolled in the dust to make sure any burning was smothered and readjusted my position. Curly got the giggles about a smoking parson. A little later I had a chisel and was chipping away at plaster on a pile. All of a sudden there was a loud explosion and the lamp behind me went out. A chip of plaster must have landed on the unprotected bulb. I was so surprised by the noise that I let out a loud "Shit!". Curly was as calm as ever... "Oh," he said, "Now you've bust my light." It wasn't till later that I thought that there could easily have been one of my lady church members up stairs who may not have been amused with the minister's voice yelling expletives from under the Church floor. I had a head lamp on so we completed the task with that.

Dig in and keep going...

Building a Habitat house is fun and has a lot of positive experiences. But we have been going since late May on this house and at this stage the novelty of getting up on Saturday morning and working is wearing thin. I drove to the site looking with envy at the people going for leisurely Saturday morning bike rides, or sitting on their deck drinking coffee and reading the paper, or jogging around the park as I drove passed. I had the blues badly. Once I got there and was working, relating and joking I was OK. I know that if we keep going very soon we'll have the joy of seeing another family housed. That will blot out the weariness of the present Saturday blues.

Photo: Excess wall board being loaded at the Habitat site. That's me in the greenish overalls, I do look tired don't I?