Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sounds like a good read!

In the Epworth blurb for this month they are advertising a book by Robin Meyers that sounds like its more on my wave length.
It is called: Saving Jesus from the Church: How to stop worshipping Christ and start following Jesus.
The blurb goes on to give 5 thought provoking headings from the book. They ring bells for me.

"Meyers takes the best of biblical scholarship and recasts core Christian concepts to exhort the church to pursue an alternative vision of the Christian life:

• Jesus as Teacher, not Saviour

• Christianity as Compassion, not Condemnation

• Prosperity as Dangerous, not Divine

• Discipleship as Obedience, not Control

• Religion as Relationship, not Righteousness"

I will be trying to buy the book. I do love it when someone articulates statements that have been running around in my mind. I guess I feel less like a heritic and less alone. :-) I may not agree with all that the book will say, but these directions strike a chord with me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Every body is ripping each other off.

On the front page of the local paper today was a picture and story of a man charged with a crime. It turns out he was paying another naughty man something like $100,000 a year to make sure that his firm got contracts from the local District Health Board. He got caught.

Right beside that story was a story about a Government minister who was stretching the letter of the law to make sure he got $32,000 extra allowance a year. He paid it back when questions were asked but there are still questions asked about $24,000 he got in earlier years. When the leaders of the country stretch the truth in their greedy pursuit for gain, it is no wonder people down the food chain do likewise.

I was asked a question by an Indian friend recently. He used to work in the United Arab Emirates. He asked this question. "When I worked in United Arab Emirates a filled roll cost me the equivalent of one New Zealand dollar. They have to import all their food from overseas. But when I buy the same thing in New Zealand, where the food is grown, it costs $5 - $6. How come? Who is ripping me off?" Fair question. I raised the question of overheads, rentals and labour costs. He just repeated the question. From his point of view, somewhere along the way someone was over-charging.

Another new settler to New Zealand asked the question, "Why does New Zealand meat cost less in the UK than it does in New Zealand?" He also pointed out that the New Zealand bought meat was a lower grade of meat. Who is ripping us off?

Yesterday I went to Alexandra in Central Otago. We went to a nice coffee bar which had an outside eating area, so that we could sit in the sun to eat our lunch. I looked at the menu. "Bacon and egg pie" sounded nice ($8).  I could get it with salad for $13.... why not? The food arrived. Salad was four little lettuce type leaves, four bits of sliced red peppers, three little bits of raw carrot and there may have been one cucumber ring. All for an extra $5! Good Grief.

I have paid more in parking costs than ever before. When I visited the brewery there was always some free parking areas near by. When I went to the post office there were short term free parking areas. When I went to the blood bank I could guarantee a free park in a street near by. Not now! They have increased charges in some areas and increased the number of charged parking areas. No where seems to be free any more! Who is ripping me off? (I guess they have to pay for the stadium some how? ... see below.) 

Do you get sick of people ripping people off? Around every corner we are ripping one another off. Sometimes it is dishonesty like expanded expense accounts, doing little "foreigners" in the boss' time, or stretching the truth one way or another. At other times we are just too greedy and want too much. The trouble is that with everybody being greedy, everything just keeps getting more expensive. We all have to pay but in the long run it is unfortunately the people at the bottom of the heap that suffer the most. Greed hurts people! Full stop! No wonder we get the frauds and cheats in our systems! We endorse it, we all do it if we can get away with it, it is often reinforced and encouraged. Stop ripping people off! ...Now! ....Enough!

I had to chuckle

We have in Dunedin a stadium being built. It is a controversial project. Some say it is a courageous step into the future. Others say it is not needed, that the money would be better spent elsewhere, and that it is all too costly for the Dunedin rate payer now and into the future. There have been court cases and appeals but it is going ahead. On the big white fence around the project someone had put a number of signs saying... "Building for future generations". I was not sure whether it was the city council that put these there or if it was a slogan of the building company. I suspect it was the council trying to convince the doubters that they are visionaries. I drive past it every day and a few days later I came past and saw a workman feverishly painting on these signs. He was painting out some words. Some very clever artistic person over night had added on each sign, in the same font and as neat as the original, the words, "to pay for!" They now read, "Building for future generations to pay for!" 

Whether or not you like the stadium, it was cleverly and meticulously done. The signs were taken down completely very quickly. The fancy slogans are gone and only small building company signs remain.   


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend worblings

A very busy week again... here are some highlights.

Monday Gardening

I had Monday off. I dug in my garden and planted Chinese snow peas, silver beet, beans, yams and potatoes. A nice day in which I experience the pleasure of being in touch with the earth.

International lunch

On Wednesday at Settlement Resource@Space2B we had a Thai guy make some Thai soup. It had heaps of mushrooms, lemon leaves, chili (you don't want to bite into that!) and some other stuff. Spicy and nice. Others from Philippines, India, Zimbabwe and other places brought finger food dishes to supplement the meal. Again really nice talking to people from the wider world.

Trimming Your Waste

On Wednesday night at Space2B we had a workshop run by Maureen Howard on waste. We learned about the incredible mountain of waste we produce in our society and some practical tips to reduce it. Maureen was not one of your super serious greenies, she is a delightful Irish woman with a sense of humour. She showed us composting and a whole lot of other ideas. Two snippets that made me laugh. I was showing her how to operate the remote for her power points and I said, "Just pull the trigger!" Quick as a wink she replied, "You don't wanna say that to a woman from Northern Ireland!" Secondly, we ran the session in the church with the communion table holding her displays and props. She was busy talking and at one stage said something like, "Oh God no!" then suddenly realised where she was, clasped her hands as if in prayer, rolled her eyes and looked toward the sky saying, "Och no! Sorry!" A good worthwhile evening.

Thursday Soccer

I joined the PACT soccer group on Thursday. We played for well over an hour. We have selected a team to go to a Wellington Street Footy festival. We put them in one team and decided to give them a tough workout. It was simply great fun. It did mean I was running around competing with men half my age and I suffered for it later... just a little stiff and sore on Thursday night.

Workplace Support 35th AGM dinner 

On Thursday evening I attended the Workplace Support AGM. (Inter-Church Trade and Industry Mission) It was a celebration in that it was the 35th AGM of the Otago-Southland region, which was the first in the country to be organised. As I sat there I realised that I was the longest serving chaplain of the present mob and that I have been a chaplain for something like 15.5 years. There have been 3 different "bosses", 3 different office locations and forever changing systems. I plod on.

Saturday Habitat Workday

I ended up being "the bloke in charge" of Saturday's Habitat for Humanity work day again. We had an amazing turn out of volunteers and finished a whole heap of jobs, and got the house painted. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, but still had work to do for Sunday. I do find that having responsibility for the site means that Friday night's sleep is disturbed thinking ahead, and that having Sunday services the next day means that by Sunday lunch time I am a total wreck. I think I am doing OK as foreman, but is much easier supporting the foreman.

Sunday Pania visit.

We have a foster daughter who is quite handicapped with a condition called Rett Syndrome. She came to our church service and had a home visit to our place for lunch and the afternoon. She can't speak but has the most beautiful smile and deep beautiful brown eyes with which she looks into your "soul". Her humour and trusting love of life is always a boost to me. She loves it when I take the time to relate to her or to sing to her. It was nice to have her home today.

A fortunate life indeed.

These are just some highlights of my week. I could tell of a freezing cold walk/run in the rain today with a friend. Or drop-in centre conversations where one man with insight said that many do not know the difference between Mental health problems and Intellectual Disability. "They are two different things!" he asserted and he is right. ... and so many other conversations. As I look back, I grump and I growl but I have rich experiences of human friendship, conversation and team work. I am really truly blessed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ministers have work to do too!

I want to make a public announcement... ministers have work to do! Three things prompt this out burst.

(1) I was at a chaplaincy today and they were gleefully aware that it was Friday, the end of the working week. I was introduced to the other name for Friday... "Poets day". ... (Piss off early tomorrow's Saturday) They then said, "Of course Dave, your work only starts now, the weekend is your work time isn't it?" No! Contrary to public opinion I do not work only one day a week!

(2) My office has a door off the street and people can walk in or bang on the door, sometimes blatantly asking for a cup of tea. I like this arrangement because it means I am available but... some people do not know when to leave! They will sit and pass the time of day, chatting away going from topic to topic, totally unaware that I have deadlines to meet and things to get done. I have work to do.... I may look available but if you absorb my time I have to make it up somewhere else. Today I had a deadline for a funding application, another for sorting out a church service and for thinking of a sermon... but people chatting meant my wife had to do the funding application. I will have to work long into the night to get other stuff done. Ministers do have work to do!

(3) I had someone from Habitat for Humanity ring just after 3 p.m., while I was at a chaplaincy site, and say, "Can you just pop in to ..... and pick up..... for tomorrow?" If I say "no" I am left to find work for thirty people tomorrow! I am meant to be visiting chaplaincy sites for the rest of the day! So I "rob Peter to pay Paul" and I agree to pick up the material. It gets worse too. I go to pick up the stuff, having been assured it will be all there waiting, and it's not ready so I have to call back. I can see the way this guy's mind worked. He is out of town, about 18 k away. He knows I am in town so he thinks, "Dave's a minister, he's a free agent, I'll get him to pick it up!" Bright idea! ... but No! Ministers have work to do also! Grrrrr. My chaplaincy time suffered because he at late notice placed extra responsibility on me.

I'll say it again, ministers are not sitting on their posteriors doing nothing. To run a church creatively takes time and effort, there are countless tasks to be done and people to talk with.
Ministers have work to do too!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Round the world in 2 hours...

We have started a new "thing" at our church. We have the back of the church open for people to visit, rest up and chat and we are promoting various workshops etc. We call it "Space2B". On Wednesdays from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. we have a special emphasis on new settlers and we call it "Settlement Resource@Space2B" We invite new settlers to NZ to visit, to chat and to receive referral information and support for the whole process of settling in a new country.  It has not been running long and we have received visits from people from Palestine, India, Jordon, Philippines, Ethiopia, China, Germany, South Africa, Thailand, Japan and probably other countries. I have thoroughly enjoyed many conversations with these folk. There are four things I have grown to appreciate.

(1) That each is proud of their heritage. One Indian, who intends to live here for life, said, "You can take an Indian out of their India, but you can never take India out of the Indian." They each love the food, the humour, the traditions and the various things that contribute to who they are in their ethnicity. Just as I am proud to be a New Zealander, so these folk, even though they have chosen for a variety of reasons to change countries, are still proud of and/or deeply attached to their homeland.

(2) That I am pleased to be living in New Zealand. While each is very attached to their homeland, they have often told of really difficult issues in their places of origin or places they have lived in throughout the world. Sometimes it has been overcrowding. Sometimes it has been corruption or unrest. Sometimes it has been law and order issues. One Thai person told of his father sleeping with a revolver under his pillow, and regular violence in traffic jams and bars. He even told of life in Sydney and the violence his friends faced and precautions they had to take. He said that at first in NZ he carried a knife with him for protection then eventually realised it was not necessary. There are issues we face as a society in NZ, but over all we have a very peaceful society with lots of opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment. In the words of Fred Dagg, "We don't know how lucky we are... mate!"

(3) I am really enjoying listening to people tell of their homelands, their experiences and their cultures. I recall seeing my first colour TV. It was showing pictures of the Commonwealth Games. Compared to the black and white pictures, the coloured ones made the whole spectacle come alive.  That has been my experience every Wednesday. Conversation with these people has been like traveling the globe, expanding my horizons, and stretching and enriching my own experience of life. They help my experience of life to become more alive. We can very easily, especially in NZ, become mono-cultured, thinking there is just one perspective on life. But talking with these people, has reminded me of the rich variety of lifestyles, traditions and cultures there are in the world. It has also reminded me that we can learn from those different perspectives and enhance our own living. 

(4) It has reminded me of the diversity, but also of the essential unity of the human race. My daughter has a video of an old M.A.S.H. program. Hawkeye and "Hotlips" are out in the field and they come across a wounded enemy soldier. Hawkeye, being a doctor begins to care for him. "Hotlips" protests, "But he's the enemy!" Hawkeye replies, "That's funny, his blood is red just like ours?" I experience this variety of people in our Space2B, and discover they really are, my brothers and sisters.

I am really enjoying the new venture in our Church life. 


Monday, September 21, 2009

What to cut out?

Running out of time #1

I am finding that there is not enough time to do all the things I want to do. Up until this year I have managed to fit everything in, but lately I seemed to be "robbing Peter to pay Paul" to get through everything.  I find myself saying things like... "I'll just do a short chaplaincy visit and make it up next week." or "They can do without me on the church walking group". etc. etc. 

I have added a couple of extra things this year which I think have stretched the allotted amount of "time needed" to beyond its ability to stretch any further. We have things going on at "Space2B" at the church some of which take up my time. I have started to play soccer on Thursday.

It is getting close to October. In October we have the Annual General meetings of the Night Shelter Trust and Habitat for Humanity Directors Board. I will be asked if I want to continue, or it will be assumed that I will continue. But I NEED to be cutting back.

  • I need to cut back because I simply can't fit it all in.
  • I need to cut back because I need to have time and energy for exercise and some sort of home life.
  • ...and my house and garden badly need some loving attention.
  • I need to cut back because stress levels are constantly high. (Not good for my increasing blood pressure)

Here's the list of things I do...

  • I am a church minister (this is a paid position) This involves a lot of things but most Tuesday nights out, every second Wednesday night and every Friday night at our Drop-in Centre is a minimum of nights out. Every second Wednesday morning I am involved in a Church Walking Group. Service and group preparation, administration and pastoral stuff are all part of the job.
  • I am an industrial chaplain. (Contracted to the Brewery 1 hour per week... Fire stations 4 hours per week... St John Ambulance 2 hours per week.... I often go over time) Workplace Support pays the church for my time.
  • I am a Director, Committee convener and building volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Saturday work days, monthly meetings and extras as called upon. All volunteered time.
  • I am on the Night Shelter Trust board. (Another volunteer activity)
  • I have started playing soccer and encouraging a Street Footy team in Dunedin for "excluded" people ... an hour every Thursday morning.
  • I have also some extra meetings through involvement in the Otago Emergency Services Peer Support team and sometimes some extra work doing critical incident stuff for Work Place Support. 

It all adds up to too many hours per week. 


The difficult thing is that I cannot decide what to cut back on?

When I was in Palmerston North a minister there accepted a call to another town because he faced the same dilemma. It was easier, he told me, to move than to try to cut back. His involvements, people's expectations and demands on his time had got so high that he just said it was best he move, than try to stem the flow. Maybe that's what I need to do? I think the longer you stay in a place the broader your contact base and networks. This means there are potentially more people and organisations who will want some of your time. To start a new ministry in a different town would be bliss. There is always a "honeymoon" period when you can do no wrong and I would be free of so much of my extra curricular activity. I could "coast" through to retirement. 

But... if your vocation or calling is to make a difference this broad base of networks and contacts means that your influence is widened and deepened and may be you can be more effective because of it? Do you see my dilemma? October and Annual General Meetings are coming. Any advice would be welcome.

Running out of time #2

I was reminded of a harsh reality this morning. I was looking for something on my desk and discovered under some papers one of my dad's war medals. I had them out for a school project a great niece was doing a couple of weeks ago, but must have dropped this one when I put them away. I took it to the drawer where I was confident the rest of the medals were stashed. They were not there! Where were they? I hunted the house for them. I had lost them? Oh no! I feel a family responsibility for the safe keeping of these medals. I finally found them. ... but what do they mean? Dad is long dead and gone. What will they mean to my children when I am gone? In my search I discovered my medal, presented to me in 2003 (I think) but only worn once since... never likely to be worn again. What will that mean when I am dead... soon. One of my poor kids will feel duty bound to keep the blessed thing in a drawer somewhere. Good grief! We are here today and gone tomorrow and all our treasures will mean nothing. Some pains and health issues I have had recently indicate that my body is already winding down and well on the way to its inevitable shut down. Time for me is running out and I need to spend what time I have wisely. Back to the question above.

Life ... a short term loan we have... to invest well.

I spent a few hours digging my vege garden today and got to thinking... This dirt will still be here when I am gone. It was here for generations long before I arrived. I call it mine, but it isn't really mine. Like everything I have and life itself, it is only on loan for me to use wisely and well while I am here.

Back to the question above... How do I best invest the loan in my remaining years?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The last few days... a fast blur!

I went to a retreat for Workplace Chaplains in Invercargill (215 K south from here) on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday I worked on the Habitat house and today I led a church service and in lieu of a run, my friend and I went to the Habitat house and finished the weather boards. 

Retreat Trip.

I headed out early on Thursday morning intending to work at the office for an hour, then drive my old van at a relaxed pace to Invercargill to be there by midday. I backed out my drive and drove down the road. It seemed extra noisy? I had a puncture! I got my spare out only to discover it was not really good enough for the trip. I dug in the back shed and retrieved some wide rims and tyres. ...Pumped these up, put them on the back and headed away at least an hour late. I was really pleased with the way my $1800 van traveled... It was a fun drive there and back. I do enjoy driving. I brought one of the retreat facilitators back on Friday and when we arrived in Dunedin he commented, "Well that was the fastest trip I've had from Invercargill!" I don't think he thought it was unsafe though, just "you made good time!"


We had to evaluate the retreat. It was a bit hard. In less than two days I thought it a bit superficial if I was honest, but OK as far as it went. The thing I liked most out of it was the friendship. We chaplains work very much alone. You are the representative of God, the support person in a workplace. You are not on staff but you do care for the people. Its a lonely task. So I appreciated the friendship of chaplains for the few hours we were together. 

It is strange, because if I were to sit down and talk theology with these chaplains, most of them would consider that I was a heretic and I would get impatient with their fundamentalism. But, because we simply try to represent Jesus, we end up having much common ground. 

I was warmed by friendship. They teased me. (How come I get teased where ever I go?) The local fire chaplain took me to the fire station and then up Invercargill's historic water tower.  We strolled the streets at night, I sat and ate my breakfast eggs in a cafe and swapped stories with a chaplain and we enjoyed a fancy hotel restaurant meal together.

Mostly I was warmed by the sense of being with people who experienced the same things I do. One said that he had people in chaplaincy who were like close buddies, but on other days it felt so lonely.... me too. Another said that in the face of rejection or cautious reception she found it was hard to pluck up the courage to go back in.... me too. Another admitted to being absolutely tired out just listening to people... me too. Another said that there was no other job like this so friends and others could not understand her perspectives or feelings.... me too. As people shared honestly the sense of comradeship, collegiality and friendship made the trip down and back and the time out worth while. I felt less alone. I have a great supervisor with whom I can share my journey, but it has been good to be with these people in the same job.

Where do you find God?

One of the questions that was on a handout was "Where do you find God?" The idea was that they were encouraging us to journal, meditate and reflect so that we could renew our resources and cope with the demands of chaplaincy. The facilitator gave examples of where she found God...  e.g. "Sitting at her french doors with a rural scene before her."  Others gave some "blissful" examples. I jotted down some answers on the hand out. Yes I found God while walking in the bush... but mostly my examples went like this. "Gathered round a bed with a family waiting for a loved one to die." "With a similar family gathering information to lead a funeral and that family telling me of their journey together."  "Watching fire fighters and Ambulance officers working together to get a trapped injured person out of a car wreck, seeing their care, compassion and synergy." "Playing football with excluded people and watching their joy and experiencing their friendship." "Being with a family building their Habitat house." etc. etc. etc. It is in these caring relationships and activities that I sense a divine partnership. But to many people, that sounds like it should be draining. It's where I feel ALIVE.

Why Me?

On Friday I drove home from the retreat feeling tired. I attended our drop-in centre, playing pool, washing dishes and talking with people. I lost count of the number of people through on Friday night, I got to about 56. It was a good peaceful night, with a nice warm friendly feel to it. About ten minutes before we closed (around 9:20p.m.) a wild eyed man who I have known for many years, walked in and was obviously scanning the room looking for me. He came to me and demanded that I take him down to Psych Services so that he could negotiate a fair deal with them. It turned out that he had been a patient in the psychiatric ward at the hospital, "voluntarily admitted", he told me. They had taken him to the local shop to get some sweets or whatever, and he "escaped". He had been told the police were looking for him. So I bundled him into the van and off we went to the emergency department. The triage nurse said she would call psych services and we had to wait in the waiting room. We waited. He ranted. He was paranoid... everyone was out to lock him up... he was unsafe in the ward and wasn't going back... etc etc. He just kept going on and on. I sat there thinking, "Why me? Why tonight?"  I was tired, I had a big Habitat day the next day and had not yet done much on my sermon for Sunday. Why me? Then I began to ask, "What would Jesus do?" It was then that I sensed a mysterious partnership with the eternal. I should be the presence of God, with this man in the midst of his confusion. In due course a policeman arrived to try to convince him to go back to the ward. "I'm not going back!" he insisted, "I am a voluntary patient! I can leave when I like!"  He was quite stubborn and nothing the policeman said would change his mind.  I suggested that may be I could take him out to his father's place and the doctors could sort it all out next week. The policeman took all the details, the control room negotiated with hospital and father, and I was allowed to drop him into his dad's keeping. It was after midnight when I arrived home. Strangely enough, in that experience I sensed a connection with the eternal.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Habitat for Humanity adventure...

The photos above give some idea of how we spend our Saturdays at the moment. 

  • Painting the eaves
  • Guys discussing weather board issues
  • Installing pink batts.... Itchy horrible job.
  • The girls moving concrete blocks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Like it is God!

I share a prayer and a picture. I combined the both of them years ago and they have graced the wall of my study at home for years. It rings bells for me this week. The picture is a copy of one by a Japanese artist, entitled "Give me eyes!" It was painted by the artist on the eve of his wife having an eye operation that may have given her sight. It looks like someone telling God how it really is.

Like it is, God!

I want you to listen
when I yell at the sky,
pound my pillow,
kick the ground,
throw stones at the stars,
slam doors
or swear at the world.

Perhaps thats not giving
all glory to God,
as others do
with folded hands
and frozen face,
but for me it means
I'm paying you
the highest respect there is:

It means I trust you with the truth
- all the truth about myself.

(All glory to God) N.C.Habel.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What a bugger! Sad news.

I went to St John on Friday and they told me of attending a suicide. They were circumspect, but I learned it was "up the road" and they told me of a few of the sad details. I felt sad then and empathised with the paramedics, one of whom said, "You never get used to it!"

This morning when I opened up my paper I learned that it was a man I had been involved with through Habitat and church. He came to one of our mid-week meals less than two weeks ago. I have been shell shocked and sad all morning. (It actually would be easier not to know the details)

It would be much easier not to feel for people or get involved with people. When something like this happens, or when people you are involved with keep making silly decisions in life and get in messes, it hurts. You feel guilty, helpless and a failure. But my guess is that most of my church and my other acquaintances who knew this man, will not feel the pain in the same way I do. They mostly watch their boundaries, staying a safe distance from any real involvement with people. Often our conversations are talking at people, it saves any real involvement. Often we just keep people at a distance, our conversation superficial and our focus mostly on our needs, so we never, unless it is someone real close, have to feel this pain. And maybe that's how it is meant to be? I am today, jealous of people who can do that.

At the moment I feel like saying "Bugger the world! I am sick of feeling for others!" I feel like  running away from my job and community involvements to a different, more selfish lifestyle.  


... then there is this voice inside me that says, "This death shows you how important it is that people should be involved, hang in there, keep doing it and being there... increase your efforts."

I guess that's what I'll do... but just now it feels like crap. It's my day off and I went up to the Habitat house thinking I might finish some jobs. But  I looked at it and just could not be bothered getting into it. I may climb a mountain or something later in the day to celebrate life.

Weekend warbling...

Foreman Dave...

At the Habitat for Humanity house we have three of us who are on the building committee looking after the running of the build. One is a retired carpenter, though not as energetic as he used to be. Another is an architect, used to managing projects, building regulations and building projects. The other is me, a one time plumber, now a church minister who has done hundreds of hours on 13 Habitat houses. I do not have anything like the knowledge and training of the other two. Yesterday the architect was looking after overseas grandchildren in the country for a short time. The retired carpenter was ill, so I ended up being foreman/boss for the day at Habitat. I am happier being a support person to the foreman. 

Days and nights before I stewed about the job and how I was going to keep thirty volunteers going, happy and doing the right things all day. Would they end up making complete muck ups on my watch? It was so frustrating for me. I like getting a project and working on it and finishing it. But there was little I could do. All day people were coming to me looking for more work, wanting tools, materials, guidance, or problems solved. I did manage to install a meter box in the wall for the electrician, but only because I took time out during my lunch hour to finish the job. I was pleased though because as each came with a problem, I managed to sort it through with them and communicate reasonably well. A couple of times I looked, and panicked. "What on earth can we do to fix this muck up?" But with thought, some fudging here and there we ended up sorting it out. I came away frustrated because there was little I could look back on and say, "I did that!" But as I think on it now, I was pretty good at dealing with the issues as they came. I will be more confident next time.

Value what you've got

There are two deaf volunteers who come. Have you ever tried to explain a complicated job to a deaf person? They sign away to me, asking questions by pointing, shrugging and gesturing. One had a few grunty sounding words. They were so patient with me as I tried to explain things. We gestured away, and everything ended with the thumbs up sign. I knew that was appropriate when they had done a job well. It was funny, at one stage from a distance they were gesturing at me. One was giving the "cut throat" sign... dragging his finger across his throat. I wondered what it meant, scared that they had really stuffed something up. But what he meant was that they had finished with that job, and wanted another. They left at the end of the day with big smiles on their faces, giving me the thumbs up sign. It made me value my hearing though.


As I drove into town this morning I saw preparations for the Moro half-marathon which was run today. I had aimed to run it early in the year, but had not stayed on track with my training. Today I felt a failure. The Masters Games are on January 29th - Feb 7th next year so I am aiming to do stuff in those. Maybe even another (maybe my last) triathlon? I did have a reasonable short friendly run tonight with my running friend, while scolding each other for not doing the half. Its a start of the new fit me.... I hope. Keep me up to it!

Photo: Me (in the blue) trying to look like I know what I am talking about.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Video of the Governor General's visit.

If you would like video evidence of how awkward I am around important people you can find a video of the Governor General's visit to the Habitat site on the Habitat blog site.... http://h4hdunedin.blogspot.com/

It was a very moving day. I was very impressed with both the Governor General and his wife. The speech by Mike the man who is to own the house is very moving and the Governor General's reply in Maori very impressive.

Interesting day....

I have had an interesting day.

Soccer Guys and Girls...
I have told you about the soccer I have got into. Run by an organisation called PACT it is for people with intellectual difficulties or mental health issues. This morning I played a game with 22 of these folks. It was again just so much fun! Looking at them I thought that most people would write them off as the lowest of the low in the scheme of things. They are great though. They care for each other. They overlook the rules for the spirit of the game. They are totally natural, free and relaxed. I LOVE It.

Back at the office I did some work then changed out of my jeans and runners, had a quick wash and into a suit.

Governor General's visit....
This afternoon the Governor General and his wife visited the Habitat for Humanity site. They had a body guard escort. They had an aide in a Navy uniform and chauffeur driven car. I had to meet them, introduce them to various people and host them. They were delightful easy going people. I guess they would be considered New Zealand's top citizens.

After they left I put a pair of overalls over my suit trousers and worked on the house for a couple of hours. It was great, the family saw that a couple of us were working and donned overalls themselves and worked along side of us.

I bought some tea and came back to my office in my overalls to do some "ministry" work. While there I got called up to the Church Women's gathering to start the DVD player for them... they were having trouble. It was funny, in my dirty overalls I went up the stars and walked into a room full of my polished church ladies. They gasped and laughed seeing their minister attired like that in the church. They did clap when I got the technology working for them.

The variety has intrigued me. Playing with those considered "low". Hob nobbing with the "top citizens". Working alongside a lovely Maori family, banging nails, cutting etc. Dirty overalls in church amongst refined ladies.

It reminded me of a verse in a Rudyard Kipling Poem my father used to recite;

"If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;"

it ends ... You'll be a man my son.

My dad used to fulfil those lines. We used to laugh he would rush off in fancy black suit, medals shining to attend mayoral receptions given for visiting dignitaries. He had rushed home in dirty plumbers overalls, changed and headed out again in his rattly old plumber's van, tools in the back, ladders and pipes attached to the roof rack, to park amongst the flash cars at the town hall. He could mix with crowds and walk with kings. He was a great mixer.

I am not so sociable and cannot carry it off as well as he could. I guess I am happiest playing soccer with my guys. Anyway, I felt privileged to have experienced the variety.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thinking about time off.

I have had some time off. It was a special day for me on Sunday so my wife had arranged for us to go away. She had lined up some one to take the service for me on Sunday.

We had Friday night off from Drop-in centre. We worked up at Habitat on Saturday then headed away first to Oamaru. It was really nice soaking in the big spa bath in the motel pretending we were rich. We had vouchers for the hot pools at Tekapo so headed there on Sunday. Unfortunately when we got to the pools there was a white board saying, "Due to a power cut this facility is closed for urgent repairs." So we enjoyed the scenery, mindlessly watched films on TV and I got to watch cricket. On Monday we drove the 233K to Christchurch to catch up with our sons there. (One had a birthday.) We got there on lunchtime, enjoyed the meal he had cooked for us, visited the other son at his work, (watched him roasting coffee) picked up first son's wife from her work, spent some time with them, then headed toward home, visiting my sister on the way. It was around 360K drive home. (Around 600k driving for the day) Back at work today.

When you stop...the "crap" floats to the surface.
I have visited men in hospital at times over the years. Often these men are very busy guys whose life has been put on hold suddenly by illness. Sometimes these have been very tough guys, and too my surprise when I have visited them they have broken down in tears. One of them explained what it was like for him. He said that he had always been busy, working or active on committees etc., but when he was forced to stop and lie still in hospital "all sorts of things float to the surface of your mind." There were regrets, bereavements, stresses, failures etc. and once he stopped, while lying helpless in hospital, these things emerged in his mind and made him tearful. While he was busy they remained in his subconscious, but when he stopped they "bit him in the backside". This was true for other guys too. It is like suddenly your emotions have a chance to catch up with your mind and body. Well that's what its been like for me. Last week I took the accelerator pedal off a bit because I was headed away for a break. As I lay in bed on my break with no sermon or work to think of, my mind went to regrets I have, things I failed to do properly, people I miss and the hastening end of my career with few of the successes I had hoped for or dreamed of. So I had restless nights on my days off.

When Kids love you again.
We visited the two boys in Christchurch. It was so nice, in spite of their male macho, "don't get too carried away" behaviour, they both could not hide the fact that they were delighted to see us. They looked like they actually enjoyed talking to their old man. One pointed out the "Bridal Track" in the Port Hills of Christchurch and said, "You should come up and we'll do it some time!" For years they were accepting of me but "distant". Now they let me in and that is a warm fuzzy.

I love Cricket... and tramping.... and....?
We had "Sky" channels on the TV in the Motel at Tekapo so I started watching cricket. I have not watched cricket for ages. It was Australia verses England so I was just enjoying the skills of the game, not worried about who was winning. I was not coordinated enough to be a great cricketer, but always enjoyed playing the game, whether officially at school, or with a fruit box and bat at the local park. When we were kids we used to play it till it was so dark you could no longer see the ball coming at you. But I really fell in love with cricket when I was dumped in the deep end and left to coach school boy cricket teams for 7 years. I learned to umpire, I learned to think about field placings, and bowling length and the different skills of different people. So on the weekend I enjoyed watching the game, appreciating the drama, the skills and the nature of the game. THis got me thinking... "I should do more of this!" and "How do I fit cricket watching into my life?" That led me to think of other things that get squeezed out of my busy life. I looked at the hills and thought, "I need to fit in tramps! How? When? What do I cut out to make room for these sorts of things?" I enjoy Habitat, soccer, chaplaincies, Night Shelter involvement, jogging (when I get out and do it) Drop-in centre etc. where is there room for things like this? I have way too many things I want to do and enjoy doing. I think I will go to my grave trying to find balance in my life.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Salvation & Street Footy

Some months ago I attended a Human Rights Film Festival.   We watched a documentary about Homelessness in New Zealand and another called "Kicking it" about the homeless world cup. This is a football world cup played for by "homeless" people from nations throughout the world. In the process of training for the teams, people get to kick addictions and bad ways of life. Sport can actually change lives. I ended up in front of the cinema telling people about the Dunedin Night Shelter.  In the question time the producer of the documentary said that there were Street Footy groups in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, ... "What about Dunedin? Could we get a group going in Dunedin?" Fielding the discussion I suggested that yes if there was enough interest and someone to co-ordinate it, may be it could happen. A woman from PACT (Patients Aid Community Trust - I think) said that they had a regular soccer group so maybe we could build on that. I have been attending that soccer group, playing and encouraging guys from my drop-in to go along. We are hoping to take a selected group to a Street Footy Festival in Wellington in November. We need some additional sponsors. It is so much fun. There are people with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems playing, but it is so great seeing them participating. Some are making concerted efforts to get fitter and healthier. They cheer each other on, tolerate the slip ups in the rules and just enjoy the game. 

I get a statistics sheet from my national headquarters asking me to list off how many "salvations" there are in connection with my church. I think I replied last year, "God only knows." This year I replied, "Lots of us are being saved all the time." I hate and abhor their concept of "Salvation". John has Jesus saying, "I have come that they might have life, abundant life". When he healed people it is often translated, "He made them whole". The exact same word is used for people being "saved". My task is to be in this world to help move people toward "wholeness". 

One of the guys I take to soccer came to our drop-in years ago and sat with cap pulled over his head not saying boo to a goose, watching pool. I went up to him and asked him for a game. Over weeks and months I played game after game with him. He slowly came out of his shell. He started helping with drop in tasks. He came to a group we had at Ocean Grove. He came to church. Now he comes early and sets the coffee urn going and helps get the church ready. He came to soccer and is getting into it, displaying quite some skills. He relates freely and with warmth, and his social skills are improving. Another guy I encouraged to go to soccer also came to drop-in he watched me playing table tennis and asked for a game. I have played endless games with him now. Slowly he opened up and talked and tells me about his life. He is now on a mission to get fit, has lost weight and is giving up smoking and is relating much more responsibly with people. He calls me "old man". Yesterday there was a guy who called into the church "Space 2B" time. He had a coffee and asked if he could play the piano. I recalled my first contact with him probably around 16 years ago. He is a different guy, much more respectful... still a long way to go... but miles better than he used to be. (Probably he may look at me and say a similar thing) These changes, small steady but real steps toward wholeness are in my view "Salvation". There are people "being saved" all around the place and I am privileged to have a little part to play in the process. 

Often the "salvations" my headquarters want statistics about are just some sort of mental assent to religious dogmatic statements, often as a result of peer pressure, guilt and uncertainty.  This is a generalisation,  and I am sure their are incidents of genuine growth and change. But I am certain that through love and friendship shared (all love is an expression of the divine love) people are being made whole, saved and that includes me.

Together we are being saved, made whole, discovering more life abundant. It may not be the traditional understanding of "salvation" but I think it is real, and "of God". The sacred is at work.

Photo: Some members of the PACT soccer group playing today. I was goalie. I made some awesome saves!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why "Dirty"?

I was driving home just now. The car in front was quite dirty.  (I washed my vehicles the other day so I can feel righteous.) The bumper sticker amused me. It read,

"If you think my car is dirty, you should spend a night with the driver?"

It reminded me of the other bumper sticker that always annoys me. It is often on the spare tire cover of a mud splattered four wheel drive. It reads,

"I wish my wife was this dirty!"

It annoys me because it assumes women are not interested and blames the woman for her lack of interest. Perhaps there is a good reason why his wife is not interested? Perhaps he is not good at lovemaking, or communicating or intimacy.

Anyway what does annoy me about the wording of these stickers is their view of sexuality. Why is a healthy, creative enjoyment of sex viewed as "Dirty"? God invented lovemaking. I am told that the Jewish people saw the sabbath as an appropriate day for lovemaking. The book of "The Song of Solomon" in the Bible is one big collection of erotic poetry. While sexuality and the erotic is abused and misused in sleazy ways, there is nothing "dirty" about a healthy interest in and enjoyment of creative lovemaking. 

I had a friend when I was a boy who helped his father farm animals. He was much more aware of "the birds and the bees" than we townies were. We were talking with him one time and he was quite innocently telling us of life on the farm. We did not know some of the terms he was using. He talked of "mating". When we questioned him, he quite wisely said, "Go ask your mother what 'mating' is." Well while I was drying the dishes with mum the next night I innocently asked Mum what "mating" was all about. Mum went red and angry. "Who told you that?" "Well he's a dirty little boy! Don't you ever say that again, get in the bathroom and I'll wash your mouth out with soap."  This was the treatment given to me if mum thought she heard me swearing. (Most often I was not swearing, I was not that stupid!?) I got "the treatment" (I still taste sunlight soap every time I see a cake of it.) but I still did not have a clue about "mating" or what I said wrong. 

I loved my mum, but that was sick and so wrong.  The Church has been and still is in some quarters, wrong for its treatment of sexuality.  True creative lovemaking is not dirty!