Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, February 28, 2011

"... I want to be a 747."

As I drove into my office this morning I was following a bus. There was an advert for a bank on the back of the bus. The bank is "building futures". The advert line written across the back of the bus, went like this...
"Today I am a bus. Some day I want to be a 747!"

I got to thinking, "That's cute but ridiculous!" And of course it is ridiculous! Buses can't change to be a 747! They are inanimate objects, they cannot grow and change. (Though they can be changed.) Ultimately things like cars and buses start going downhill toward a rusting heap of metal the moment they are used. Really only humans can change, grow, develop and evolve into more complete human beings.

As I drove into the work of "ministry" ( i.e. encouraging personal growth) for another week, I got to thinking how many times we humans choose to be like buses. We have the ability to evolve and change and become more like the people we are meant to be. We have the ability to become more compassionate, live life more meaningfully and participate in that which is "eternal". But often we choose to avoid the discipline, the "out of our comfort zone" experiences and the thought that brings growth.

In this way we waste life. Maybe this is why Jesus used the word "Gehenna"? ( which is translated "Hell") ... "Gehenna" was the rubbish dump for Jerusalem. When we choose not to grow we dump our life on the rubbish dump of life.

In my ministry, in all the places I minister and share, I encounter people refusing to grow. It is frustrating and deeply sad.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

She's on to it!

We have a beautiful Hungarian lady helping out around our church lately.... though unfortunately her visa runs out soon. We call her Emi. We employ her part time to do some stuff but she is getting into the church's life in wider ways also. She came to the drop-in centre two weeks ago, and fitted in beautifully. Last Friday night she was due to go out of town to a music festival. She decided for a number of reasons to stay in Dunedin and to help out at the Drop-in centre again. She explained that she knew I was away, that our other normal helpers are away and that my wife was having hassles finding replacements. She decided that was where she wanted to be. On Sunday as we talked briefly I thanked her very much for doing it. "No" she replied, "thank you! I enjoyed it!" "You would have been very tired by the end of the night?" I commented. "Yeees- " she said thoughtfully, "But - how do you say - it's a 'good' tired. - because .. because.. you're doing something... good." In English, in her beautiful Hungarian accent she struggled to communicate a central truth of the Christian faith... a truth many 'Christians' have not discovered. ... I grinned and said, "Yes I know what you're saying! - you're on to it!"

Jesus said, "If you lose your life you find it." .... It is exciting to see life and growth happening for her. ... I would love to grow a church made up of people who make this discovery.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Home again after Christchurch earthquake.

I have been in Christchurch for four days, where they have had a devastating earthquake. I went up partly to be there with Fire Crews and ambulance staff who were going from Dunedin and also to provide support for the the Canterbury/Westland Workplace Support Region. We spent a lot of time talking and listening with people going through and/or helping out in the earthquake. We talked with firefighters, rescue workers, ambulance personnel, crane drivers, engineers, factory workers, security staff and all sorts of other people. We heard a whole variety of stories. We walked through streets strewn with rubble, liquefaction sand and large cracks or holes in the road. I saw cars that looked like they were made of paper, with large lumps of concrete squashing them. We walked between buildings, deeply aware that another shake could happen and potentially make life dangerous in a matter of seconds. It was in many ways a special time. We felt privileged to be allowed into people's lives, to be so close to the heros and in some way to be allowed to make a contribution. It was a special time too because the three of us got on so well. About mid-afternoon on Saturday we headed for home.
Lost Trust... It was strange driving home, I realised that I had lost my trust of and love of nature. We drove over the Rakaia River and I looked out. Normally I would appreciate the flowing water, its colour and its life. Now it was as if it was in black and white. We stopped the car in Ashburton, and I clambered out, but I still felt like I didn't trust the concrete under my feet. Nature, the grass, the hills the very ground I walked upon I no longer trusted. If I had got to this stage in four days, what about the people living in Christchurch? Having suffered two major earthquakes within a few months, and thousands of "after shocks" they must be completely cynical about nature!
Drained... I got home and found I was not really listening in conversation, and was still mentally in Christchurch. I felt deeply sad for the people of Christchurch, still wondering how we could have helped more, feeling guilty for coming away. I was, I guess just still in the place of despair and sadness, drained emotionally, with very little to give in relationship.
Not ready to talk... My daughter had agreed to lead today's service at church, but I had said that I would talk briefly about what we had experienced in Christchurch. As Angela introduced the service I felt a lump form in my throat. We then sang a hymn especially written for the earthquake and as I sang I choked up, and could not finish the song. I began to wonder if I could do my talk. I managed to do it but a woman came up after the service and said, "Are you alright? Who is caring for you?"

It is funny, I think I am bullet proof and coping, but today I admit that the time spent in Christchurch has had an impact. I will handle it, I will learn from the experience, but it has been a deeply powerful four days in Christchurch.

The first thing I learned is "appreciate the people in your life". As I looked at buildings knowing that there were dead people in there and people desperately mourning their loss or waiting for news of their loved ones I remembered that people are important.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In the sad city of Christchurch

I have come to Christchurch in my role as a Workplace Support Chaplain. I have had a day of talking to people who are helping the effort here. There is some sad devastation. 3 things.
  • Three of us from Workplace Support have been walking in high-viz jackets and hard hats around various sites all day. We have been going through cordons and talking with people. We have been warmed by the warmth of people. The people we are staying with already have family with them because of the tragedy but they are bending over backwards to host us with love and care. Police personnel, local council workers, fire fighters and everybody today has been warm and welcoming and friendly.
  • While we were at the collapsed Pine Gould building the rescue workers asked for silence Everyone stopped talking, generators were turned off and without exception everyone stopped and listened. We stopped hoping that we would hear a sound from within the rubble. It was a long moment of prayerful longing as people stood ears concentrating for some sound of life. Sadly none came, but if ever there was a moment of prayer that was it.
  • People are pulling together. As we drove down Marshlands road there were every now and then signs saying "Water and power here" or "Free water" (with a hose and a tap). People sharing what little they had. We saw neighbours working together shoveling liquification sand out of the way. The human spirit of love and care is there.
It is absolutely indescribable walking among the rubble. Being near a collapsed building and knowing there are someones loved ones dead inside. We walked passed restaurants that still have cups and plates still on the table, sandwich boards on the streets but open and empty, lights still going but open and empty like someone has just somehow vanished the people. That's all I can say, it really is indescribable! An intensely moving day! Wish me luck, I am here till Saturday I think. I believe we have done well today! We just hope to bring some sense of company, presence and solidarity to these people.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stomach churning earthquake and other stuff.

What are my motives?
Today Christchurch, which is 360 Kilometres away from Dunedin where I live, suffered a devastating earthquake. In theory it (6.3 on the Richter scale) was not as big as the one last September, (7.1) but a number of factors made it worse. This one was shallower (5k deep rather than 10k) and was much closer to the city (10k rather than 30k). It was also in the middle of the day, which meant that buildings and streets were alive with people, where as last September's one was in the early hours of the morning when the inner-city areas were basically empty. As I write the TV is depicting the rescue efforts. They are saying 65 have been confirmed dead, but the number is expected to rise as there are people still trapped in fallen buildings.

I went to the Central Fire Station here and they were preparing four trucks and crews to drive through to Christchurch to help the effort. They were ringing firefighters calling them back and saying they will probably be away for a few days, take a sleeping bag. I talked to some who were leaving. Some suggested that they should take me along. I went to the Ambulance station and learned helicopter crews had gone and preparations were underway to send others. I called at one station and a woman paramedic met me and simply said, "Fuck!" I have been trying to analyse my feelings. I would love to be with "my" firefighters, (and Ambos) they know me and I know that I could be a support to them. But I really have to wait for an invitation. I did say to a couple of officers that if they thought it worth while I would go. Then I wonder if I am just "rubbernecking", wanting to see the action? Then also I wondered if I was just trying to vent the frustration that nearly every New Zealander must be feeling. "Here are people suffering but I can't do anything to help!" I did have some meaningful conversations with a few who were going, and was told by the Health and Safety guy that my services will be needed in the next few weeks. I guess I have to sit tight and watch the devastating news like the rest of NZ.

Angry at John Key and his side kicks.
Our country is in financial trouble. We are borrowing large sums each week to keep our head above water. We have to make cuts in Government expenditure, and I have already seen social service agencies whose funds have been cut back. Church agencies doing charitable work overseas (Tear Fund, Christian World Service, World Vision) have suffered also. What I want to complain about is that Prime Minister John Key and his mates keep suggesting that the fault lies with the unemployed. They suggest that it is their fault they are unemployed! In the newspaper they were saying that they are wanting to force something like 300,000 people back into the work force. Where are the jobs? I know motivated trained people who just cannot get jobs. It does not help them being made all of the time to feel guilty. I also know that there are heaps of other areas in public service activity (fire service, health, Govt. Departments, education .. etc.) where some of the more extravagant things (travel, lavish conferences, very high salaries) could be cut, and savings made. I am not an economist, but it does annoy me that some lovely people I know are being made to feel guilty nearly every time they pick up their paper to look for jobs that are just not there. I know it is good to encourage people back to work, but look else where for savings as well. Don't treat the poor as scapegoats for the country's ills.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's Sunday night again.

The Dreaded return.
I was driving down the Canterbury Plains toward home on Tuesday afternoon. The next day I would be home from my holiday and working again. My stomach started knotting up. I really did not feel like I wanted to start work again! Why? I knew that there were needs in my chaplaincies and I have been struggling to find the time to fit all my hours in already. Then of course I am behind in my statistics, they take a heap of time. I wasn't thrilled about even starting into chaplaincy work again. Then there was church work. Why try? I seem to work my heart out with little to show for it. There are no great numbers of younger people fronting up. I preach my heart out then doubt that anyone takes much notice. We do not seem to be able to keep any younger people with us even if they are initially attracted. A part of the problem is my preaching. In my experience the truths of the Christian faith become real when you reach out in service. Following Jesus means that we are just not sitting on our bums hoping for heaven, but looking for ways to serve people. In this society people seem to want instant gratification and this sort of message will never make our services popular. People prefer a "Bless me Jesus" religion, or none at all... "don't disturb my life!" But what else can I do and still be true to myself and to Jesus as I see him? It is sooo hard and draining keeping the traditional Church going, and at the same time doing some sort of experimental stuff in other parts of the church. So driving home I was thinking. Why didn't I give up when I was thinking about it and apply for that Mitre ten job? Will I dump all my chaplaincies and just concentrate on the church for my last three years of working life till retirement? Maybe I should look for another church somewhere? Perhaps it is time to move? I just dreaded the thought of coming back and getting into the mad lifestyle of busyness, frustration and all the tension involved.
I arrived home... One of the letters that had been placed on our table was a letter from the Doctor saying I had to go to the hospital for tests and probably a biopsy... "men's plumbing problems". That didn't thrill me. I still don't know what the X-ray will say about my knee. While on holiday I had done some thinking about today's sermon. The reading was "love your enemies" and I thought I'd use as an illustration the anti-Muslim spam I continually receive. Well one of my long standing Church members had sent me an anti-Muslim email! I have been preaching here for over 20 years and he still thinks this way and seemed unaware that I would not appreciate the email???? All this did nothing to stop my dread of starting, and my feelings of wanting to quit everything!
The reality.
From Wednesday afternoon I have visited all four of my chaplaincy sites, I have spent time in Space2B, (Our church open to people at lunch time) been part of our drop-in centre opening for the first time this year, prepared and presented a church service and attended a church barbecue with nearly forty others. Let me paint you some heart warming pictures. In all my chaplaincy places people talked with me about personal issues. Hassles they were having. Experiences with the kids. Health issues. I came away feeling strangely warmed, thinking of the great privilege I have to be allowed into people's lives. * In the three days that I have been home whenever I have walked into Space2B there has been a feeling of warmth and acceptance, with a buzz of conversation, people sharing with people. Emi, a Hungarian lady we recently employed part time to help with Space2B is doing a great job as hostess. * A card I received in the mailbox at the Church read, "Thank you so much for so capably leading the funeral service for our mum last month. We were very grateful for the smooth and stress-free way you were able to pull together various strands of her life... etc. etc." * As we opened the drop-in centre, people expressed their relief and appreciation that we were there once again on Friday nights. At one stage I looked over the gathering, watching the action, and I thought, "This is 'of God' and significant." My wife was buzzing around talking with people helping them. People were enjoying each others' company, playing pool, talking, reading or just watching. Emi, originally a teacher was busy entertaining two little girls, taking photos, putting them on a computer, helping them write a story, and in her element. Guests were taking responsibility for doing some dishes and helping each other. I looked and thought, "this is good stuff going down here! It really is worthwhile!" * I prepared for today's service still saying, "What's the use?" I have been rattling on about "love" for 20 odd years! But I prepared diligently. I had U tube song, "Make me a channel of your peace". I showed the Gandhi non-violence speech from the film. I got into the subject and "lost myself" in passion as I presented it. As I led I could tell people were switched on, having to think and "getting it!". I don't know if it will make a difference but I do know it was a good attempt at leading worship on the theme. * This afternoon I grumbled about having to attend a church barbecue. But even there I was pleasantly surprised. There were about 40 there, a whole variety of people and people once again seemed at home with each other, relaxed and conversing well and easily. It seemed warm and inclusive. I even got to go off by myself and run from Waikouaiti to Karitane along a beautifully arched beach!

I still dread the busyness, the sense of rushing from one thing to another all the time and the tension of always having stuff hanging over my head. But in the few days back it has felt like I facilitate some significant life-enhancing happenings - what more could I ask for?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Holiday reflections...

We have just come back from a week and a bit of holiday. We drove to Christchurch, spent a night with our son Simon and his partner. The next morning we flew to Auckland and caught a ferry to Waiheke Island where we spent Monday night till Thursday with our son Phil and his wife. On Thursday we hired a car and with Phil we drove down to Tongariro National Park, where on Friday Phil and I walked "the Crossing." On Saturday we sent Phil home on the train, while we proceeded to Palmerston North. We caught up on Friends there on Saturday and Sunday then drove to Wellington on Monday. On Tuesday we flew to Christchurch, picked up our car and drove as far as a nice motel unit with spa bath in Oamaru. This morning we came home. We have travelled some distance down the length of this beautiful country of ours.
Noisy people - the bad news.
I have often thought that as a rule Australians were more noisy than we more reserved New Zealanders. But I am not sure. I kept coming across annoying noisy people. In a Timaru bar/cafe/restaurant 4 older teenagers were having a beer and chatting about movies they liked and why they liked it. That was nice, but they chatted at a volume that the whole bar heard. I put it down to a little extra beer loosening up the vocal chords too much. In an outdoor area at a Whakapapa village cafe a woman was conducting a staff appraisal with an employee. She was scored on a 1 - 5 scale for several attributes. That's OK, I have a staff appraisal in the local Starbucks. .. but thankfully my boss does not discuss it at such a noisy level! We were two tables away but could hear why she only scored a 4 on "dependability" and a 3.5 on "hospitality"... etc. I felt embarrassed for the girl being appraised. In a Palmerston North Bookshop in George street, there were two senior shop assistants who were noisy in an annoying way. It was a good serious bookshop with quality books, but these two dignified looking women were discussing a mutual friend's marriage relationship, including surmises about her sex life, in loud voices that could be heard all around the shop. While I was enjoying browsing, I left the shop annoyed with the noise and style of chatter. Soon after my wife emerged similarly peeved, saying we did not have to hear the "local gossip". It may have been nice they were concerned for their friend, but have the discussion a bit more discretely please. Staff in Te Papa Museum cafe talked with each other from a distance and were virtually yelling to make each other heard. We went in for a quiet late lunch? In an Ashburton cafe the young man in the line in front of us received a business phone call. In a big voice he discussed business details about a delay in delivery of goods to his client. He ordered his lunch while talking on the phone, pointing and grunting at the girl behind the counter. When he sat down with his mate (Both in "Galaxy" uniforms) they both ended up continuing to make business phone calls, but discussing business in such loud voices that we could all hear. I hated one bloke's slimy style, his conversation dotted with words such as "Bud" "Mate" "Buddy" and "Cobber". My wife commented later that she thought he was in part, putting on a show, "Look how important I am! I take business calls during lunch!" At the same time as this the mature boss behind the counter working in the kitchen area, began to sing! Not very well I might add! After a while, (after the annoying phoning men left) she conducted a job interview at one of the tables in a loud voice with an aspiring candidate who was to get a trial. I heard her "do's and don'ts", her hours of work and her pay rates. OK, do it if you must, but keep the decibels down!
Lovely people - the good news.
In Palmerston North we caught up on the widow of a friend who died last year. Her and her daughter hosted us for a meal on Saturday, we had morning tea with her on Monday and we so enjoyed catching up. It was sad at times. She wept. She showed us photos. I got a lump in my throat several times. But it was good to finally be with her.
On Sunday we went to Church. Between 1976 and 1981 we had six years of ministry there. We sat behind a 50 year old lady, and I belted her on the arm as I went to my seat. She turned and her, her husband and others sitting nearby exclaimed and came rushing up to greet us. I did listen to the sermon, I promise, but as I sat there behind this woman I recalled how she and I and about three other young people went for a big Saturday bike ride once - I was the "responsible adult", she was 16 then I think! I began to realise how old I really am. At the cup of tea after Church she asked if we were doing anything for our evening meal. We were invited to a barbecue that night. She invited others, some people who were children and teenagers when we were there and other long standing members of the congregation. They all came with their partners and teenage children and we were introduced as someone who had been important when they were young. Suzanne gave a particularly meaningful prayer as she led in grace before the meal, speaking of "people who have touched our lives and meant so much". Straight after a woman came up beside me and said, "Yes ... it was because of you I changed my life and went off to Bible College"... she became a minister. I had been a bit annoyed. I was on holiday and a "church barbecue" did not feel like "holiday". But I went and was quite moved by the warmth of the reception. They were jokingly scheming how they could get me back there. Many mentioned things I had done that I had long forgotten. It is strange too, this fifty year old (she looks much younger ... I could not believe her children were university students!) that I had gone biking with so long ago (and heaps of other Church youth group experiences.. at one stage I could carry thirteen of the youth group in my old ambulance!) has taken up running and we compared our running experiences, injuries like longstanding old friends. To find myself among such spontaneous warmth and to feel we had contributed to these lives was really special.
* A quick snap shot of some of the people starting to eat at the spontaneous barbecue.
* Mother and son discuss some issue while on a walk near Tongariro.
* Some falls we walked to on the Saturday morning.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Run and jump

We drove from National Park (what an unimaginative name for a town? – good grief!) down to Palmerston North yesterday. We stopped for a nostalgic look at the township of Fielding, which we used to visit often. Going into a cafĂ© I saw this on the wall.

Run and jump

Roll down hills

Grass in your hair

Rustling wind in your ears

Eyes to soak in the colours

Fingers dangling in streams

Ears to listen to stories

Mouths to repeat

Again and again

Drive your senses wild!

I love that concept and feel! I am often too inhibited when I am around people to let myself do stuff that I would happily get into alone. For example, at home alone I put music on up loud and dance with a stupid abandon that would cause passers by to wonder about my sanity. But put me on a dance floor with people looking and my freedom goes out the window! But I do believe in enjoying the sensual in life.

· IIIn January of 2000 I was on a boat on Milford Sound with dolphins swimming along side. “Who would like to swim with the dolphins?” the captain asked. Like a shot I was in a pair of swim shorts perched on the edge of the deck waiting to jump in and swim. Only two of us did it! Later a man said to me that he was surprised that I would do it. “I would have thought a man of your profession would have more decorum.”

· I I was running one day with my Church “Chairman of the elders” and organist. We both were running very freely, the day was ideal weather for running and it felt great. “This is as good as sex!” I exclaimed, then realised who I was talking to. But it was… almost!

· JJust before the weekend of our fortieth wedding anniversary I had a phone call from an old friend from my first church in NZ. When I told him that we were coming up to our fortieth, he asked how we were going to celebrate. I replied that my wife and I were going to go away for a “dirty weekend”. There was a motel in Oamaru with a spa bath and the kids had given us vouchers for Tekapo and Mount Cook. “What” he exclaimed, “You’re still doing that at your age? You’re a minister!” Those sorts of weekends, and “special nights” with wine and mellowpuffs have been a cherished feature of my life. “drive your senses wild!” – indeed!

· W When I was a kid I used to do my early morning paper run. (As a younger boy I had an evening paper route… for a time I had a morning and evening paper round) It was often dark, sometimes raining and cold but I enjoyed the solitude. I would dream dreams of what I would like to do. I would sort out life in my mind, wondering what was going on in the houses I passed and wonder why people chose to live as they did. If I had issues in my life I often found my self thinking it out and would vocalise what I would like to say to the people involved. I would test my physical abilities by setting myself times to run up steps, fold papers or complete streets. I picked flowers I liked and stopped and talked to animals. (I once had a local dog on an evening run, that would meet me when I hoped off the bus, follow me around my run and when I got to the last house I would walk up the path, knock on the door, open it, hand the paper in and return their dog.) On fine Saturdays when I got home and every one else was asleep I would grab something to eat and head away on my bike. I would test myself to see if I could stand on the seat, pick up a tennis ball off the ground at full pace, ride with no hands weaving between the white lines in the middle of the road, ride along the gutter line, race to “wherever” and still get home before the family got out of bed… etc. etc. – I still love getting out on my own, enjoying my own company, talking to myself and trying stupid things. Call me “mad” but I am happy to be that way.

· On Friday my son and I did the Tongariro Crossing. You walk up between two nicely sleeping (but sometimes steaming) volcanoes in the middle of the North Island of NZ. It is a 19 k tramp that is quite a steep climb, and a long descent down the other side. It is a very popular walk with many people doing it. Both my son and I tend to not talk much, we both like our solitude. We headed out and I could tell he had the same sort of mind-set I did. We would see people in front of us and we HAD to pass them. I could see him eyeing them and speeding up. We would walk behind them for a while, then pass and move on to the next group. I must admit to getting short of breath on the steep bits, but I was determined not to stop. Like that little kid doing a paper round, I was testing myself… “I can do this! I can do this!” (I am sure I was the oldest on the track in those early morning hours) In time we left most behind and had the trail virtually to ourselves. It was deemed a 6 – 8 hour walk. We completed it in 5.5 hours, surprising my wife who thought she could enjoy the full day to herself. I got back to our accommodation, sore, tired, dehydrated and slept for about an hour…. But I LOVED the scenery, the little white flowers that you could spot among the rocks, the white moss shimmering in the sun, the fog drifting over the mountain tops, the ever changing vegetation, the wide expansive views all this and more… but also just the sensual challenge of pushing my body, sweating, panting, refusing to stop when my lungs were saying “enough” and speeding up my pace when my legs said “no more”! It was great!

Where does this way of thinking fit in with my faith? I bought a book while in Auckland. It is called “The Case for God” by Karen Armstrong. I flicked to the last page of the book (do you do that?) and found this sentence; “”The point of religion was to live intensely and richly here and now.” That’s a part of what I am doing in these moments of sensual pleasure. There’s much more that can be said but, “Drive your senses wild!”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Browzing on Waiheke Island.

We had a borrowed car and wandered around different parts of Waiheke Island, we found it interesting.
It is a worry when...
We called at a little museum. It is run by volunteers and has interesting historical displays relating to the Island. They had little cottages, a police cell, and other buildings which had been transported there. They had all sorts of "historical" artifacts there and rooms done up according to various years. It is a worry when the artifacts on display are things that you either remember clearly in your life time, or even still use. There was a rotary hoe there which is a later model to the one I use! Many of the household utensils and farming type tools were things we had in our house or things I still use.
How the other half lives...
As we drove around the island we got the distinct impression that it is, among other things, a play ground for rich folk, often of the retired variety. There were lavish boats coming and going, fancy four wheel drives, Mercs and BMW's and very flash looking houses. I could not help but think of the growing gap between rich and poor in NZ. I know several skilled people who cannot find a job, who would love a job. Our prime minister keeps babbling on as if any one who is unemployed in NZ has only themselves to blame. That is simply NOT true. I know trained and reliable people who are trying their best to get work, but the competition for what jobs there are is so great. Mr Key intends to hit the welfare system. He is keeping the wages at a reasonably low rate, even though the prices for basic living items are rocketing upward. It can be very depressing not to have job. This is made worse when you are made to feel guilty for your predicament. (Having said that I do know that there are people who rip the welfare system off, and stupidly depend on welfare, enjoying a lazy lifestyle.... I am not naive... but don't brand all unemployed like that!)
I had a swim...
We went to a little bay called Little Oneroa. The beach there had lovely flat water that was relatively warm when you got into it. I had a long swim along the beach and back. I loved it. It is ages since I have had a swim of any description. I was pleased that I could swim quite well still, but also did know that I should swim more often. I will have to get up to the pool more often.
Work never goes away...
Yesterday I fielded a phone call about a chaplaincy. A guy in hospital I had hoped to visit before I left. The OSH health man at his work rang me. I have had emails to do with time sheets. This morning I settled down to do some and send them off. When you are beginning to relax it is surprising how the smallest work contact can tense you up again. Tomorrow we head down to Tongariro and on Friday I am hoping to walk the Tongariro crossing with my son. It is written up as one of the ten great day walks in the world, so I am looking forward to it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Monday musings.

I have usually done a Sunday night blog post. But yesterday I headed away on holiday for a few days. Here are some things I wish to share.

Doing OK. Am I getting better?

I led my normal Church service yesterday. As I was driving away on holiday I started thinking about recent services. It may be a mistaken view, but I think I am getting a little better at my Sunday services. Maybe I am just more confident, but yesterday’s one involved different elements. The congregation shared in “dialogues”, eating salted chips and receiving lights. Whether it was good or not, in preparation I am enjoying the variety of insights I get from various commentators via the internet.

Computers unite and divide.

After Church an 80 something year old man came to me (62) with a computer problem. A niece had emailed him a web address for a photo sharing site so that he could look at the photos of a recent trip she had. He could not find the site. I grabbed my lap top and showed him how to get on to the site and found the photos. But I was having difficulty trying to look at the photos at a decent size and in a controlled way. I called on my 30 something daughter. She joined in the problem solving as we projected the screen onto one of the big TV screens the Church has. We still had troubles, so a ten year old girl who was watching our antics correctly guided our efforts. An 80+, a 60+, a 30+ and a 10year old, all solving the big IT problem - It was a funny, warm and interesting experience.

Me “Normal”?

I drove to Christchurch last night and was blobbing out in front of TV with my son. We were watching the England/ Australia one-day cricket match. I seldom watch cricket these days. Since I coached schoolboy cricket for seven years some years ago, cricket as a game has fascinated me. I dare not start watching it, because I get hooked, watching the body language and the various strategies of bowlers and batsmen. I get the guilts. I should be working! I should be somewhere else! Last night I said to my son, “I better not watch it. I should go to bed.” “Why not?” he said. “You are on holiday. If you enjoy it, do it.” So I did. I did enjoy it. It would have been better if the Poms had won… but I enjoyed the battle. I thought that is probably what “normal” blokes do when cricket is on.


Auckland from the Waiheke ferry and tropical plants on a warm Waiheke Island.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Me tonight.

The picture above is me tonight. I feel like there are a whole lot of people, circumstances and events controlling my life, hemming me in. It is not just one situation, but a whole variety of people with expectations, needs and wants. Each is not a big deal, but all at once they add up to making me feel hemmed in and bottled up. It is scary because without hurting people or letting people down, I am not sure how to get out of it. I went up my mountain tonight and coming down the hill there are stone steps down a steep slope. I found myself walking around the steps. I thought,"Why?" Because the steps forced me to take big steps, in slippery circumstances, with a tender knee, and I didn't want to! I was more comfortable with small steps. That is what I feel about my life tonight. It feels like circumstances and people are forcing me to take steps and live life in ways I am not sure I want to. It feels like every minute is organised for me and I don't get to take steps in the way I am comfortable with.

I will work it out and be happy, purposeful and creative again, but just tonight that's the way I feel and this blog has been my catharsis place. Watch this space.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time for people...

This morning I had to do some office work and rush out to get an X-ray of my knee. Then I rushed down the street to the brewery to catch up on the guys there. Having raced around there talking briefly with a number of them, I walked/ran back to the church and spent time talking to a man from the lotteries grants people because we had applied for some funding from them. While I was chatting to him some friends from the Church came into Space2b and began to tell me about the tough time they had been having with his hospitalised mother. I could not hang around and listen, there was a new immigrants orientation tour beginning there and I had to set up the power points and control them and speak. That lasted over an hour, after packing up I ran down the road to my Allied Press chaplaincy, coming back to my office later in the afternoon to do some choosing of songs and planning for Sunday until picking my wife up at 6 p.m. I came home and had dinner, watched the News on TV then started writing and sending emails. As I sat and thought about the day I realised that I had short changed my friends at lunchtime. They had stuff to get off their chest and I was not able to be there for them. I am aware too that because of my busyness there are other folk I have not "been there" for. I am coming to the conclusion that I have to step back and build more flexible time into my schedule so that I can have true "people time".

I will always remember one of the earlier nights in the drop-in centre. We had far fewer people coming each Friday night then than we do now, but it did seem busy. We had a guy by the name of Geoff coming, he was quite "straight from the shoulder" and blunt in his manner. He was trying to talk with me but I was "running the drop-in centre" by doing the dishes. As I was walking past with a tea towel in my hand and some dirty cups to wash he was trying to tell me something. I never heard his comment. In exasperation he raised his voice and said, "Brown! Would you put that bloody tea towel down, come and sit down here beside me and talk with me!" I realised I was "running the drop-in" but denying the essence of the drop-in principle by not giving myself to people.

There are statistics, and time sheets, and paper work, and programs and church services... I hope that I, and others above me, never forget that it really is the time with people that makes a difference.

I rang the friends I had neglected up tonight and he and I talked for nearly an hour. It was good for him and good for me. I need to remember that time for people is important!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From the sugar packets.

When we were in a motel just after Christmas I discovered that the little sachets of sugar had sayings printed on them. Here are the ones I found cute...
  • The man who can't dance thinks the band is no good. - Polish proverb.
  • Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. - Issac Asimau
  • One man with courage is a majority - Thomas Jefferson
  • I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer.
  • Successful people are very lucky. Just ask any failure. - Michael Levine
  • Don't be so humble- you are not that great. - Golda Meir
  • I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me. - Fred Allen
  • Fool proof systems don't take into account the ingenuity of fools. - Gene Brown
  • I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize. - Denis Leary
  • It's just a job. Birds fly, grass grows, waves pound the sand. I beat people up. - Mohammad Ali
  • As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind - every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder! - John Glenn
Just a bit of light reading.