- few times when you will have sadnesses and anxiety in your life.
- a good measure of health and quality of life.
- Friendships and warmth in relationships.
- Depth in your life to anchor it.
- Significance, meaning and fulfillment in your living.
- Intimacy .. a close supportive friendship.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Happy New Year?... my wish for your 2011 path.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
My visiting Aussie friends shouted us a night on the "Wanderer" on Milford Sound. On Monday morning we travelled to TeAnau and stayed a night there. The next day we went on to Milford, boarded our boat and spent the evening and night on Milford Sound, taking in the scenery. We had an excursion in the boat's tender, to get up close and personal with some waterfalls and local vegetation. On Wednesday morning we visited a display that took us 10 metres under the sea in Milford Sound to see Black Coral (Which is actually white till it dies) and various fish. We then travelled as far as Cromwell to relax for a night, and back to Dunedin and work today.
- Early morning coming back into the Fiord having had an excursion out to sea.
- Our ship anchored in the spot where we spent the evening... not a bad view to go to bed with and to wake up to?
- I love these tree ferns. West Coast/Fiordland ones are exquisite.
- Beautiful NZ bush.
- A roaring river we discovered on the way to Milford.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
At our Church we facilitate a community Christmas Day dinner for poor or lonely people. We have done it for 22 consecutive years. The first year we had 37 guests and a few "helpers". This year I reckon there may have been in excess of 260, may be 270 people there all told. It was very exhausting some how this year, VERY full on and busy, and my weekend was made worse by having a Sunday service to prepare and present on Boxing day. But I have made it and all the feedback suggests that people, helpers and guests, were very happy with their experience. Here are some Christmas dinner stories...
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I am busy preparing for our Christmas Day community Christmas dinner. We are the lucky recipients of people's generosity. Here are just a few things...
- A man rang up yesterday. He had a ham to give away, where and when could he bring it around?
- We have had donations of chocolates and sweets for the tables.
- The next door gym came through and gave a donation and some sweets.
- A lady walked into Space2B yesterday and dropped a bag of sweets on the table and a bag of coins. "Its my husband's collection of coins." she explained. "Does he know about it?" I asked. She giggled and said, "Yes, he said it was OK."
- Last but not least... a retired fire fighter now linked to this congregation said he had some days of leave up his sleeve from his bus driving job, so he would come in and spend two days working for the Christmas dinner. Yesterday afternoon he and I tackled the worst most tedious job of the dinner, sorting which volunteers driver would pick up which of the about 80 people needing transport. I have done this job other years and it is hard going. He and I completed the sorting out yesterday afternoon and had some fun doing it. His presence and friendship was such an encouragement to me! He is coming today to make himself available. We'll have fun this afternoon again.
- Two donations of coin collections for Christmas dinner. Both added up to $155.
- 25 legs of mutton thawing. They will be cooked by Marlow St Pie factory on Christmas morning.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Having a blue Christmas?
I am in my office answering phone calls from people wanting to come to our Christmas day Community dinner. This is how we describe it in our blurb to volunteers who enquire.
This will be our 22nd year that we have provided this meal. We offer a free meal and company on Christmas day. It is a hot Christmas meal and we seat people in tables of about eight to ten people with a host, so that there is the opportunity of conversation and care. People receive a small gift as part of the celebration and we sing a few carols just prior to dinner.
It is for any who would like company or need a free treat on Christmas day. We have sometimes had families who are in need, often had pensioners and others who find Christmas alone tough going. Transport is offered if that is needed on the day.On another blurb we say;
This dinner started 22 years ago by a few friends having dinner at the church and inviting any lonely people to join. We want to maintain that feel. Enjoy meeting new people, laugh, talk, listen and enjoy yourself and you will be giving a precious Christmas gift to each other and others.
It struck me this morning that there may be people in Dunedin who are alone on Christmas day who, for some unknown reason, may read my blog. Feel free to come. You can phone to register (it is helpful to know how many we are catering for) on (03) 4774848. We even offer transport if that is needed.
You are welcome to join us!
where do the children play
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
The other thing I avoid is Christmas shopping. I have been known to go down the road at 8:45p.m. on Christmas Eve and buy my wife's present. We humans are so skilled at avoiding. I guess in biblical mythology it started in the Garden of Eden.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
We have Space2B at our church. It is hard to describe it, but essentially it is the back of our church set up for easy conversation with hot drinks and open to people. We have some "sustainability" things happening there and in conjunction with the Multi-ethnic council and DCC we do a lot of stuff with new settlers. Because the people who usually look after it are away, I spent more time there today than usual. I can say I really enjoyed it. Lots of loving conversation and human connection. Now most of these people do not come to church worship on Sunday, so the church people and even some of those in church leadership have no idea what goes on in this place. But I see these people as a kind of congregation in their own right. One lady told me today about how important the friends she had at "Church" were to her.
On Christmas day I will be celebrating dinner with about 250 people. We will be remembering the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus in his life demonstrated the love at the heart of the universe and pointed to a “way” of life that has this God-like quality. His teachings, his parables and his relationships all demonstrated this generous, accepting, forgiving and healing love. His perspectives show that we are essentially brothers and sisters in the journey of life together. Christmas to me is a time when we can express and celebrate that solidarity together. May your Christmas be a time of love and togetherness.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
- I had a great 10k run tonight, not fast but my friend and I stuck at it and I am still buzzing. She has an Iphone and a fancy GPS system that tells us how far and how fast. It was tough because of the wind, but it was "pleasurable".
- I talked to a man recently who runs/tramps in the NZ hills. I was so jealous. He told me he makes time to do it and other things have to fit around that in his life. He described walking the hills as true "re-creation". He described it as "spiritual"- that he was being recreated inside while he traveled. I have similar experiences. My modest walks up "my" mount Cargill is like that... "pleasurable". When I get to tramp, just like that.
- I talked to another man who is battling a bit of a physical set back, he is a year off retirement, and he said of his life, "There's not much to look forward to for the rest of my life!" I did not know what to say to him, he could see little "pleasure" ahead.
- Then there is the physical/intimate/play pleasure of making love, still pleasurable even at my age.
- I had a man get two rulers out of his desk. He lined them up end on end and asked me how old I was. He adjusted the length to count off eighty years, then pointed to where I was now on the scale. "See you have not got long to go! You better make sure you pack all the pleasure you can into the remaining time! Life is for living!"
- I have people telling me to lighten my work load and lead a more balanced life. "You need to have 'pleasure' as well as work in your life!" they say. I must admit I was at a cafe in the country for lunch today and two trampers came in, obviously they had been tramping in the Silver Peaks hills. I glared at them green with envy.
- But... I sweat over a funeral service for a family this week and presented it yesterday, a Saturday when I would normally have some more relaxed time. As I stepped past the bereaved brother he gave me the most grateful "Thank you". Later he said, "I was proud of you." (I am his workplace chaplain) Other relatives shared their appreciation. His team leader shook my hand and said, "Good job" and a friend of the deceased came up squeezed my hand strongly and said, "Thank you so much! You did that so well." The whole art of crafting and presenting a funeral to suit a particular family is stressful, time consuming, but also incredibly "pleasurable" and fulfilling. It is work, but also it "feeds me and fills me up" in a very deep way.
- To reach out to others in chaplaincy is challenging, but also "pleasurable". To listen to people and see and feel the world through their eyes is "work", but "pleasurable." Even to be there as people share their conundrums and pain with me, gives me a deep sense of pleasure and privilege to be allowed to identify so closely with another, though I may ache for their predicament.
- I facilitate groups from time to time. Years ago when I was a Fieldworker I did a lot of this. I sometimes lead chaplains' professional development sessions. I do the odd Critical Incident debriefing group session. It is incredibly full-on work. You are switched on; keeping an eye on everyone in the room; listening intently with ears and mind; your mind going flat tack in dialogue, thinking on your feet the best way to word things; heaps of crafting and preparation sometimes; - all very hard work but... such a deep buzz. So pleasurable to do it well and to see people drawn out and becoming alive before you.
- To take a biblical passage, open up to the deeper truths within the writing, then craft a service experience that communicates those truths is "pleasurable". Stressful, frustrating and challenging, but deeply creative and pleasurable, like a painter completing a painting.
- To dig the garden, see vegetables grow and look at your plate filled with food you have produced is deeply pleasurable.
- To build something useful, to fix a car or repair a plumbing problem is "pleasurable".
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I have spent a large part of this morning doing statistics. They do not measure what I do in chaplaincy! They do not measure the ongoing friendship and relationship I have with so many people. The sense of companionship and unspoken support my visits give to people is not measured by boxes and statistics! It is bull shit... crap... or to use the apostle Paul's term, "mere refuse". (Though I understand my aforementioned words would be a more correct translation of the greek) I blame bean counters and computers! They think that life can be measured by these sorts of things. One manager said to me once, "There's so many HR people that know programs and systems, but don't know people!" Another manager said, "I don't need your bloody statistics! I can see how the people under me relate to you. Any manager worth his salt can see that!"
My frustration is that just now with an impending funeral, actual chaplaincy hours to complete, a church coffee area with people gathering who I should be relating too, a radio service to record tomorrow, preparation to do for the weekend, a community Christmas day dinner looming, heaps of incoming phone calls and heaps of parishioners I should be visiting... In God's economy I have more important things to spend my time on!
I HATE statistics! I bet you when I finally resign as chaplain it will be statistics that drive me to do it. I once got a formal warning from the then CEO about my lack of correct reporting. I nearly resigned then. I remember I walked up my mountain fuming. I decided I liked the job too much, but I did resign from his Critical Incident Response group. My added angst then was that I had been in the office chatting with him and he didn't raise the issue. He must have already posted the letter, why not have the guts to talk face to face? Anyway, I hate statistics, they don't do justice to what I do and waste my valuable time!
I have a friend I talk with regularly. He is very active and in leadership in a suburban church locally. Like lots of churches (Even the Crystal Cathedral apparently) they struggle financially. They have a minister who runs the services there and would like to work full time if they could afford him. Apparently some longstanding members of the church decided they did not like his theology so they were going to leave. The leadership of the church had a meeting with advisory people from their denomination to talk about the situation.
I do not know the theological issues involved so I cannot judge on the specifics. I am just commenting on my friend's perspectives. He said that when this minister started preaching there he was not sure about his theology either. But, and this is what he argued at this meeting of leaders, "the young ones enjoy his preaching so who are we to argue? He is popular with them!" Now that sounds OK at a certain level, and it is pragmatic for a struggling church which could easily close its doors. I would like to point out that there are, however, a lot of "popular" things that we could not condone. The most popular thing on the Internet, I am told, is the porn! A pub in town on special days sells cheap liquor to students, so you have lines of teenage students from early morning waiting to get in and getting drunk by midday. That is popular, but should it happen? What I am saying is that while I am not a stickler for dotting theological "i"s and "t"s, some very questionable theology that we should not allow in our churches can be popular with people. Bringing people in the door should not be the measure of OK'ness. There is for instance, a "prosperity gospel" doing the rounds that really is a Christianised religious formulation of the greed and selfishness that already harms our world. I looked up the Internet about "Christian sustainability" and there were some scary theologies I found. "You don't have to care about this world, ecology, other species etc, God's got it all in hand, live it up 'abundantly' and after all we're just passing through!" That is evil and dangerous theology, but I guess popular in that it affirms selfish lifestyles. I also encounter people whose lives have been limited and damaged by the warped and life-limiting views presented by popular "quick-fix-authoritarian-feel-safe" type Christianity. These may be popular, but they are not in line with Jesus' way, and after all that is what "the Church" is meant to be.
I guess I am saying that ultimately "truth" matters. What I would say is that the "spirit" of what is being presented ultimately matters. Again I would line up the life and ways of Jesus as the measuring stick of that "spirit". (The Old Testament and some of Paul's letters can be made to say anything we want!) That's something my weird mind has been dwelling on since my conversation with my friend.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Then I watched on TV last night an attractive woman who a year ago completed a triathlon, but now confined to a wheel chair, she cannot even speak because of a motor neuron disease which will eventually take her life. No that would be really annoying.
I have just now received a phone call informing me that a close relative has been given a maximum of 2 years to live. That too would be annoying.
So I am not 100%, but better than a lot of people. I should count my blessings.
To younger ones among my readers. Value your health and ability to exercise while you can. Everything gets a little harder as you get older.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Sun, birdsong and beauty thumbnails.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
What he pointed out was that often the view of God and humanity presented in hymns, liturgy and christian teaching is extremely negative. We are victimized when we go to church. He told of attending a Church service within his own Dioceses and counting 54 requests for "mercy" from God! He quoted well known and popular Christian songs as calling humans "worms" and "wretch" and such like. (e.g. "Amazing Grace" ... that saved a wretch like me") He pointed out how we have this old substitution theory of Jesus "paying the price" with his blood to a vengeful God. He quoted hymns focused on "the blood" - "washed in the blood", "fountain of blood" etc. etc. He said that we have this picture of God "taking us out to the woodshed and he is going to beat us his naughty children. But at the last moment Jesus steps in and takes the beating for us... because we can't take it." He pointed out that again and again in Christian songs and services we are put down as evil, sinful and nasty pieces of work, and that God the angry judge is after us. He is saying that this comes through in mainline christian worship... not just nasty fundamentalist worship. He goes on to say that we are victimised in church. We come out feeling guilty and beaten up and so, he says, beaten up people often look for others to beat up. This is the reason we Christians often pick on anybody different, such as gay/lesbian folk and others who do not conform.
He then finished with the plea that the "way" we see in Jesus sees God as the source of love and we are to love freely and wastefully. God is the source of life and we are to live it fully and freely. We are not meant to be grovelling, snivelling and fearful human beings but called to live positively, reaching up and out to be all that we can be - reaching our potential as Christ reached his.
I agree. But I will look through our song books for Sunday and there are few songs, ancient and modern, that do not pass on this negative aspect of Christianity. I will allow lay people to pray at the communion table and often (less often than it used to happen thank God) their prayers will focus on "the blood" and this negative aspect of humanity. I received Christmas resources from the Bible Society and they tend to depict this distorted image of Christianity. I was at a chaplaincy yesterday and one guy came out with a heap of expletives. "Hey" said another guy jokingly, "We have a man of the cloth here, he does not want to hear all that filthy language. You'll get hit by lightening!" He was joking but on a serious note the "default" view of God, the Church and "the clergy" that many have is one of negativity, judgement and that they will see them as "sinful wretches".
My question is... I am hooked on Jesus and seek to follow him, and express his positive way. (Along with me, Spong loves John 10:10 Jesus saying, "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly") I think truly significant, useful and fulfilling life is found in Jesus. But.... Christianity has all this negative baggage! How can you work in Church or within Christianity when there is so much distortion of the way of Jesus? There is one channel I struggle to get on our TV. I adjust the rabbits ears, but again and again the picture becomes too snowy, ghosty or distorted. I will get up and fiddle with the aerial repeatedly. Often eventually I will tune out of that channel and switch to another. Is the Church's picture of Christ "too snowy, ghosted or distorted" to be bothered keeping on trying to adjust the channel? When does the distorted baggage that the church carry become too much of a burden as a follower of Jesus, and you must ditch the church?
Many of my colleagues have done that. I am constantly tempted to do that. Often on Sunday as I read the words of a hymn I feel my gut twisting inside! (But often too that hymn is the best of a pretty bad bunch - I hate trying to choose hymns) But the question I ask is "where else is the way of Jesus promoted?" If I dump the institution where else is there where Jesus' very relevant way can be promoted? Of course I can opt out and remain a follower of Jesus, but somehow as a follower of Jesus there needs to be some place where the Jesus story and way are recited - a point of reminder for the community at large. At the moment all we have is "the church". ... It needs changed. To me it would seem like I was being gutless if I followed the crowd out of the church. Enough people, lay and clergy, need to bite the bullet and stay to keep asking the questions, nudging and prodding the old girl in more sane, wholesome, Jesus-like directions. Too many have left, and we are left with the people preaching the "people controlling" distortion! I am glad that "emerging Christianity" or "progressive Christianity" seems to be taking hold. Probably it is all too late for me to enjoy. I will have to struggle on in the often misunderstood task of trying my best to represent and get the church to represent Jesus. But I sense there are less distorted options approaching for generations ahead. .....Thank God.