Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, June 27, 2011

It happened to a minister (iv)

My last "funny" incidents... Again as a young minister in my first appointment out of college I had these two incidents;
* Some of the Girls Brigade girls had won a prize in a local community event. The prize was a meal out at a local cabaret. There were six girls ranging in age from 10 to 15... in the 70's when girls were not quite as "grown up" as they are now. Their parents decided that the new young minister and his wife should chaperone them to this cabaret. One Saturday night we piled them all in the station wagon (You could in those days... no seat belts) and away we went, with these girls dressed in their very best. Everybody stared when we arrived at the cabaret with these girls in tow. When we went up to get our meals at the buffet counter the chef asked "How come such a young couple could have so many children?" We sat eating and chatting then the show began. This man came out and sung a couple of numbers. He was OK. Then, however, he started telling jokes. He told very colourful jokes, some very clever but they were essentially dirty jokes. What do you do as a young minister chaperoning six young girls with a string of dirty jokes being told? Do you take the girls out of the room? ... it is their special night. Do you laugh at the jokes? I envisaged the girls going home repeating the jokes to mum and dad and saying, "But the minister laughed!" I was quite uncomfortable. I tried not to laugh at the clever ones, but I certainly was squirming! ... Well eventually he stopped his act and I relaxed. A young lady came out in a low cut, well- above-the-knee-mini-slinky, shimmering black dress. (I remember it well - she was stunning!) She sang an enjoyable love song, and I relaxed feeling that my awkward moments were over. I clapped enthusiastically at the end of the song, I appreciated it, it was all above board. Then the lights went down low, the spotlight went on her and she oozed into another romantic song with a sexy husky voice. She moved off the stage while singing, spotlight following and I thought, "Why is she looking at me?" She slunk across the floor eye-balling me, spot light still following, arrived at my side, hand on my shoulder, leaned toward me, looked into my eyes and sang the song to me! She then turned around and sat on my knee, singing to me all the time. (Now you know why I remember the dress!) The six girls were laughing, my wife was looking daggers at me. Any young man would enjoy the experience, but being a minister with six girls from church families and a wife in tow made it a tad uncomfortable!
* In the same ministry a few years later every fourth Sunday I would lead a service at a Methodist Church while their minister led our service. This one Sunday I was at the Methodist Church and opened the service with a call to worship, a hymn and then a prayer. In those days I used reasonably full notes as I conducted worship. The Church secretary then came forward to give the announcements. She welcomed me, read the announcements then returned to her seat in about the middle of the auditorium. I stood up to the lectern to continue the service and realised my notes were not there. ... I assumed I must have left them back at my seat so ad libbed through to the next hymn. I looked at my seat, and then realised that the secretary, when gathering up her notes from the lectern had gathered mine with hers. Not wanting to create a disturbance in this congregation I did not know well I went through the whole service without a note! (Having prepared well I do that all of the time now, but then I was young!) The only hassle I had was that I could not remember the name and number of the last hymn. (I had successfully remembered the three before) I leaned forward till I could see the hymn board and announced the number. I was looking at the secretary as people reached for their hymn books. (We had such things then) It was funny, because her hymn book was sitting on top of my notes on the pew beside her. She took a second look at the papers, looked at me and gasped audibly! The penny had dropped as to what she had done. I gave her a big wink and she smiled and shook her head in disbelief. I finished the service, expressed my appreciation for them having me and walked to the back of the church. To my surprise the secretary stood up and said, "You are not going to believe this, but David has led this service without his notes, I took them after I gave the announcements early in the service!" The congregation burst into laughter and applause.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It happened to a minister(iii)

Another funeral story... Early in my first ministry in NZ a man died suddenly. I had met him, but had only met his wife briefly once before. I went around to meet her and sort out the funeral stuff. Her brother was there and other members of the wider family. We worked out the funeral arrangements and then a cup of tea was made and we slid into relaxed conversation. They pulled out a "Dominion" newspaper, one of the leading NZ papers. They showed it to me and were annoyed that there were spelling mistakes in the death notice. "Surely they could get a death notice right?" they complained. "Especially the 'Dominion' " I added, "It's not like its some cheap local paper!" I then went on with something like, "I don't know what's up with the local paper, 'The Evening Standard' it has been making glaring mistakes in the headings on the front page!" ..... there was a deathly silence in the room and I knew I had said something wrong. It was then that someone explained to me that the widows brother, sitting on my right hand side was the head proof reader for the 'Evening Standard' newspaper! ...... Me and my big mouth! .... no more insecure youthful forced conversation ... live and learn...... older and wiser sometimes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It happened to a minister(ii)

I did my theological training in Melbourne for four years. We had student ministries and I had nearly three years as the only minister at a particular church. I had to preach at morning service and lead the whole evening service every weekend, as well as teach Sunday School, run a youth group, do pastoral visits and attend meetings. (They were very busy weekends ... with busy weeks studying) One Sunday night I was very tired and leading the evening service. The secretary had given me a note that I was to read out about the Sewing Circle. The sewing circle was a small group of elderly ladies who got together to repair or make clothing which was sent to mission stations. After the first hymn I gave the announcements. In a clear loud voice I read out; "The sewing circus will meet on Wednesday.... " (It was a tired slip of the tongue, completely innocent.) EVERYBODY, except the elderly ladies of the Sewing Circle laughed uncontrollably. (The ladies were "quaint" and the "circus" name somehow suited.) The sewing circle ladies just glared at me (if looks could kill?) and then glared at their husbands who were still laughing. I may as well not have continued with the service. Throughout the service I could see people think of the event grin and stifle a giggle.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It happened to a minister (i)

A story sent to me.
A bloke sent me this story. I cannot vouch for its truthfulness, but its a good yarn.

As a young minister, I was asked by a funeral director to hold a graveside service for a homeless man, with no family or friends. The funeral was to be held at a cemetery way back in the country, and this man would be the first to be laid to rest there.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods area, I became lost; and being a typical man did not stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late. I saw the backhoe and the crew, who was eating lunch, but the hearse was nowhere in sight.

I apologised to the workers for my tardiness, and stepped to the side of the open grave, where I saw the vault lid already in place. I assured the workers I would not hold them up for long, but this was the proper thing to do. The workers gathered around, still eating their lunch. I poured out my heart and soul.

As I preached the workers began to say "Amen", "Praise the Lord", and "glory"! I preached and preached, like I'd never preached before: from Genesis to Revelation. I closed the lengthy service with a prayer and walked to my car.

As I was opening the door and taking off my coat, I overheard one of the workers saying to another, "I ain't never seen anything like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for 20 years!"

The man who sent that to me was a plumbing inspector. I think he knew that as a plumber turned parson I would enjoy it.

A true funeral story of mine.
I led a funeral on a rainy day. We had done the Church ceremony and now gathered around the open grave. There was a mound of clay around the hole, the sides were covered with artificial grass. At the head of the grave was an uncovered slope of clay. With the coffin lowered part way into the grave, I stood on the clay to lead the final brief reading and prayer, with the funeral director standing beside me holding an umbrella covering both of us. As I launched in to the final prayer, inviting everyone to "bow in prayer" I realised to my horror that I was slipping on the wet clay down the slope toward the hole. I kept my head and kept on calmly praying, while backpedalling with small hopefully not too obvious steps, in as dignified manner as I could. It was then that I heard a snort beside me and a stifled grunt. Glancing sideways, I saw the poor funeral director with gloved hand over his mouth. He had seen my predicament and was struggling to control his mirth! It nearly set me off giggling. I said a sombre "Amen", and with relief, took a big step backward off the clay.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Colleen says "Hope is important"

We have a lovely gentle lady who comes to our drop-in centre. She does not share much about her past life, but enough for us to know that it has not at all been plain sailing. She has had a pretty tough time of it, does not now have much of the "normal stuff" in her life but is always very positive and caring in the way she relates.

She showed us this little bit of writing that she has done on the subject of "Hope". I share it with you. It sounds like some event prompted it, but I think the basic thoughts are worth sharing.


I feel in my heart that hope is undermined and not given the consideration it deserves.

There are times when I get angry when I hear people’s hopes get dashed by a person who thinks they have the right to tell these people that hope is not real or needed or is not to be believed in. Hope is a special thing that can come from the heart that can be combined with something higher. It can give somebody that little bit extra until such a time when hope is realised or gives them a better quality of life.

When you take away a person’s hope you have the capability to break a person’s spirit.

No one has the right to do that to anybody no matter how well intended their motives are. When you break a person’s spirit you cause pain as much as any physical pain caused by a break. Hope is something that can get people to face their days when otherwise they would not ever want to carry on or feel like no one believed in them to give them the edge in their lives. When you give them something to work for or live for the smile that they may give you in return will light up your life for many years to come.

Put yourselves in their shoes be it a child or even an animal, they need something to look forward to. May people reconsider what they are going to say sometimes and think how they would feel in the same position?

Your blessings will be in the reality that you have put sunshine into a dark void in someone’s life.

Kind regards – Colleen

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunday night prattle

I had not run any real distance for a couple of weeks or more. My knee is OK while I am running but the day after it gets sore. The annoying thing is that people in my chaplaincies keep asking, "Are you still running?" (It may be because I have put on a bit of weight and it's getting noticeable?) Then they ask, "Why not?" I explain that I have a sore knee. The responses are so unsympathetic. A number said to me, "Run through the pain." and looked at me as if I was a big cry baby. But my X-ray says I have damage! It is not going to get better! "You should take Glucosamine?" .. Grr ... I am, have been for years! "Get new shoes." "You have to keep running." oozed a woman at one chaplaincy. "But I'm nearly 63! I get a sore knee! Perhaps its my time to give up? Most 63 year olds are not running!" ... "How sore does it get? Is it really that sore?" ... and on it goes, even when I threaten to come back and haunt them when they are 63. It reminded me of how important it is when talking with another on any subject to really try to understand where they are at, and what it is like for them. These, mostly younger people have no understanding of my knee, and the pain. They have no conception of the sorts of time pressures I am under, and how difficult it is to fit in during the winter. I confess that often I have listened to others in the same superficial way, not really hearing where they are at and how they are feeling, rushing in with solutions before I have listened. The truth is that though I could walk, bike, swim or gym, of them all I like running. I will only give it up if the pain is unbearable. I want to run, even if it is only short distances. Yesterday I went for a run, just under 9k. It was a horrible day for running, with a strong cold wind, but I did it. Sometimes during the run I got into a rhythm and felt good, at other times I had to push hard into the wind, and discipline myself to keep going. I passed a mature woman running the other way and said, "We must be mad!" She agreed with a grin, (or was it a grimace?) at that point we were getting sprayed with sea water off the harbour. But in the end I was pleased to run. Today my knee is sore. In a few days I will try again, but I suspect my half marathon days might be over.
Trinity Sunday...
I decided to run our service this morning on the theme of "Trinity Sunday". I read extensively on "the Trinity" ... (One writer said: "The Central dogma of the Christian Church; That the one God exists in three persons and are one substance." ... Do you understand it?) I have always had difficulty understanding and accepting the "dogma". Modalists, Sabellianism, Areanism and Macedonianism are just some of the heresies listed as wrong understandings of this dogma. I am sure I am a heretic when it comes to this. I actually don't think the Bible is as clear on this as the ancient creeds and theologians are. I think the New Testament writers tend to use the names "Father" "Son" and "Holy Spirit" interchangeably. I also do not think clarity about the "Dogma" would be a high priority for Jesus. I tried to encourage people to be open to experience God in the midst of life. That is what bugs me. I read these theological books and then go listen to real people in their work place. Often the theology feels like a science fiction mystery game or world that has nothing to do with reality! It is the feeling I get sometimes when I mix with clergy or religious type people. I really think Jesus is so relevant for life, but sometimes could scream at the religion! I think I did a good job this morning anyway.
Justice... fairness.. who cares?
I ache for a whole bunch of mainly men who wander our streets aimlessly. Some are mental health patients, others have been involved in the drug scene and others are "slower than average". Some may have had hearing, reading or other difficulties during school years and have never caught up. I look at our drop-in centre, or a group of guys who come to our Space2B or see these guys wandering the streets and I "see" wasted, rotting human lives. I know many have and do make bad decisions but somehow we as a society spit them out and leave them to rot. (Is it education, economics and health systems combined with people's prejudices?) I don't know how to change things but it seems so so sad. I suspect they are becoming a bigger group with changes in technology and employment.
I sometimes wish I had a farm with gardens, workshops and other opportunities for these guys to do useful stuff. I can see the protests now! "Slave labour!" "Unfair competition!" ... oh well dreams are free.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Special but tiring...

It is 10:31 on Friday night. I have not long arrived home from another good night at Drop-in centre. (I won more games of pool than I lost.) This week has been interesting. At all of my chaplaincies I have had people share themselves with me. They have told me of friends and relatives with terminal cancer. They have told me about frustrations of their job. They have shared concerns about their own health. They have talked about decisions they are having to make and sounded out options with me. Just now when I arrived home there was a message on the phone from a long gone ex-firefighter with a problem he wants to talk over with me.

As well as these things I have continuing feelings of anguish over people I see around me. I encounter a whole group of men who wander around town and drop in to our drop-in centre or Space2B who are really wasted, and in some cases rotting human lives. They are in a mess with nothing much in life. I heard too from several sources of a young teenager who took his own life. I have seen people living sad lives with emptiness. I have found I have two reactions to all of this.

1) I feel extremely privileged that people feel OK about sharing openly with me. I have been really touched with the way guys have just slotted into talking about their stuff as if I was a close friend. I get to feel like I am trusted, loved and seen as useful. (In spite of being "religious") I sense that I am good at my job and representing Jesus well.

2) After a while of listening again and again to people's pain I feel emotionally drained. It is a funny sort of feeling. You suddenly feel somehow flat and you wonder why? You realise that it is because the build up of pain you have taken on board. I will re-energise, with a walk up the hill, reflection and some relaxation. I recall that Jesus was once in a crowd when an unknown and desperate woman touched him for healing. The Gospel said that Jesus felt that "power had gone out of him". It is that sort of feeling. The last thing I did at drop-in tonight was to get my jumper leads and help one of our guests to start his car by linking my car's battery to his battery. Power went out of my battery to his battery. I guess that is what has been happening to me. I have been intensely hearing and taking on people's pain and feel that somehow it has drained me. In a strange way though, when you step back and reflect on the needs you encounter, these things do energise you and inspire you to want to continue on - there's a job to be done, a purpose to live for.

It is a privilege, it is immensely fulfilling but also draining. I go to bed tired, but somehow with a good satisfied feel, as if life is deeply worth living.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Creating Community

We at church link with Dr Maureen Howard who uses our facilities to run Sustainability courses. We see her work as part of the total life-enhancing stuff we want our Space2B and Church buildings to be used for. She is a lively Irish lady who has a great sense of humour along with an intellect that allows her to know her stuff well and communicate creatively with depth and passion. I have seen her facilitating various groups and you cannot help but enjoy her take on life. Today I was talking to her as people were arriving for her class. There was warmth in their greetings and obvious pleasure at being together again. As I went back to the office I thought "Maureen is not just sharing knowledge, she is creating 'community' ". Indeed I believe this is done intentionally. She wants to create a supportive group feel about the whole issue of sustainable living, and she does it well.

"Community" is a word that was thrown around a lot a few decades ago. Small groups were in. We talked group dynamics, roles within a group and learned all sorts of techniques. I believe it is an important part of life. I think if through our activities we can aid the development of "community" we are contributing something important in our society. It is difficult to define what is meant by "creating community". I guess it is creating a "space" where people can find acceptance, support one another, affirm one another and help each other's personal growth. These can be like minded people with a common interest, (e.g. sustainability) but need not be.

One example of community is what is happening in Christchurch after the earthquakes there. I was talking to one man who went up and down his street inviting neighbours to an evening meal. They shared a meal and checked on each other's need. Just last Monday after the earthquakes happened there my son and his partner arrived home and saw their neighbour, an older woman sitting on her front steps distressed. They went and sat with her. Invited her to their place and shared food and wine together. They were creating community in the midst of difficult situations. It is not just gathering people together, it is getting them to relate openly and in a caring, helpful way to one another.

In Christchurch some months ago I went door knocking with the Salvation army to check on needs. We discovered that there were many isolated people living side by side. We were there because of the earthquake, but often they told stories to us about hurts and burdens they were carrying for years. One elderly man didn't seem too pleased to have us fronting up at first, he did not want any counsellor, he was doing OK. But as we talked he gradually told us so much of his life as tears rolled down his face. There were hurts and heartaches. There were experiences of sickness and disappointment. He told of two bereavements and of his fears for the future. He was seated on a box and I knelt down in front of him till my joints ached, listening. I suspect he had not had anybody really listen to him for years! At another place when it came time to go a lady physically held on to us. It wasn't just the earthquake, she was just so lonely and isolated long before the earthquake hit. Now she had someone to talk to. I recall a film where one elderly lady asked to be called by her real name. She said, "Everybody has called me "mum", or "grandma", or "Auntie" or Mrs Smith for years, nobody has called me Maude! That's who I am, 'Maude' !" We need ongoing contact with people where we are valued as an individual and where we can value others. I was once on a committee which had real difficulty functioning. We were to have a Saturday morning meeting to deal with some curly issues. I had been frustrated with this group for long enough so before I went I filled a big thermos full of hot water, grabbed tea bags, coffee, milk, and some biscuits and put it all in a box. When people gathered for the meeting, in spite of the chairman's impatience I announced, "It's a cold morning, who wants a cup of tea before we start." Everyone wanted it. As they drank they talked not as committee members but as humans. When the poor chairman started the meeting we talked so much more openly, respectfully and creatively. Community began to happen. We treated each other as human beings.

This is what we try to do with Space2B, with our drop-in centre, our walking group and with our church - create a space where people meet each other as human beings. I believe it is a vital contribution to make. This morning when I was talking to Maureen one lady came into the room. Maureen introduced me to her. "Dave this is Phillipa ........, she is editor of the NZ Organic magazine, (pause) but she is a human being too". Then she turned to Phillipa, "This is Dave, he's the minister of the Church here, but he too is a human being." ..... It was a reminder that whatever roles we have, we are first and foremost human beings who need people to treat us as human beings. That is what "community" does for us.

Photo: Dr Maureen

Monday, June 13, 2011

A lazy day.

I have had my Monday off. I slept in! That was so good. I took a car in to the garage to be repaired. After a tasty lunch I fiddled around on another vehicle and took it for a test run on some country roads. Then I just mucked around in my workshop. I fixed up a tow rope. I repaired and soldered up some jump leads. I fixed my battery charger and found a new and better container for it. I threw out some rubbish. I sharpened some tools. I sorted things, tidied things, fixed things and generally just had a nice day among my "men things" in my messy workshop. (It was funny. I knew I had a bigger electric soldering iron than the one I was using, but I could not remember where I had stored it. I looked and looked. I finished the job with the small one and then almost immediately spotted the big one stored in a place that was quite visible, accessible and in front of my face all along! As soon as I saw it I said, "Of course, I remember, I knew it was there!" Blind as a bat!) A blissful day. I could do with another one like it tomorrow! Tonight I have answered some work emails, written up the Church blog and kept in touch with today's Christchurch earthquake events.

I have another busy week ahead. I have all the usual stuff but two extra meetings. I have an Inner City Ministers' meeting which is a couple of hours. I also have a meeting with two representatives of our denomination's national leadership team which will take most of the morning on Thursday. I am not really on their wave length, but I have been in their shoes so will meet with them. I will have to use every bit of spare time to make up for these lost hours though. Wish me luck. I do feel for Christchurch people though after another big shake up today. Wish I could help.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Never boring!

Tough call
I have been involved in disestablishing people's jobs. The final decisions and meetings were this past week. Let me tell you, it is not much fun. I could never be a manager of a big firm, I would not have the courage to make the tough decisions. Anyway it has been a tough call. I have had to go with the chairman to each meeting with the staff. It has for me, been a steep learning curve. It impacts only two people, (not like the 40 people to lose their jobs at the local railway workshops!) but I really feel for them and wish we did not have to make the changes. I believe the new direction is the right way to go, but wish it did not hurt people in the process. That has been part of my week.
Van gone
Many years ago four firefighters came to Church. At the end of the service they led the congregation out into the street and presented me with a 1988 white Toyota van. That van did heaps of work. It carted tools and material during many Habitat for Humanity builds. It moved furniture. It helped move the night shelter twice. It has moved hay, rubbish and even animals. It has assisted many people. Its last big trip was a trip to Christchurch absolutely laden with furniture, inside and on the roof rack for my son. Unfortunately shortly after that trip the motor broke down. A garage attempted to fix it but found it would be a very expensive fix. The body was a little worse for wear so it was not worth fixing. I ended up purchasing another van for about half of what the repair bill would be. (The one I had an accident in last year) I parked the original up in my drive. I was loath to part with it. It was a special gift and had some special memories. A man wanted it and rang and visited several times. I think he thought I knew nothing about motors, and that it was an easy fix. When I told him the reality he still wanted it and towed it away on Saturday. I was sad. Even though there had been a number of mechanical problems over the years, I loved the friendship she symbolised.
Mixing with Tax-collectors...
Jesus got criticised for mixing with the wrong people. I feel like I have experienced a similar thing. A number of unemployed, hard up, "different" people come into Space2B at lunch times. Many come to our Friday night drop-in centre. Also in Space2B we partner with various community groups to run programs. We have a monthly session with one particular group. On Friday I received an email from the leader of the group requesting that we consider not allowing those men (some "with bad personal hygiene") to be in Space2B when their group is doing their thing. We are still working out how to respond. I felt sad. I know that they can be difficult and a number are very "different", but I hate to ban them? It just seems to be a denial of the very nature of Jesus (who we claim to follow) to stop them coming. A year or so ago in the early days of Space2B with the closure of a local centre that catered for the men, I could see the potential for such difficulties. Because of this potential I wanted to allow a drop-in to open in our drop-in centre space, but was unable to convince others of the need. If that had happened we could have met the needs of both groups and avoided the clash of cultures. Perhaps that decision could mean Space2B will never reach its potential? I think we need not ban them, but with half an ounce of tolerance and understanding I think we could cope. But the people in Jesus day tried to keep the outcasts in their place, and that seems to be still true today.

Photos: When I received the van years ago and just before it was towed away on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A loner learning.

When I was a boy and even into my teens and adult years I used to hate mixing with people too much. As a boy my older brother used to complain that I always liked playing by myself. My mother used to call me "unsociable" and "selfish" and force me to play with my brothers by taking away the things I was playing with or the book I was reading. As a young boy/teen I liked nothing better than to hop on my bike and explore the world by myself. Mum and Dad often hosted people for Sunday night shindigs or Sunday lunches and I would often slink off to my room. (Much to my mother's disgust) I went to youth group and youth club functions and enjoyed them well enough, but often enjoyed watching and listening to others rather than conversing too much. I was never the centre of attention, the life of the party, but by choice really, a more quiet participant. I was part of a group of teens from the youth club that "hung" together, but I often enjoyed being by myself. Even as an young adult I did not like crowds. I recall in the early years of our marriage if we were up town on a Friday night there were times when I just had to get out of a department store to get away from people! It was almost a phobia. My poor new wife wondered what she struck. (Friday nights were crowded then - no weekend shopping) We would be moving through a shop and I would say, "I gotta go!" and leave her standing bemused while I pushed for the door. I think I had (perhaps still have to some extent) deep "trust issues" from somewhere in my childhood.

I recall watching the film "Paint your wagon". Lee Marvin sings the song "I was born under a wandrin' star" and I simply LOVED it! That was ME!
"Mud can make you prisoner
plains can make you dry
snow can burn your eyes
but only people make you cry!

Do I know where hell is?
Hell is in "hello"
Heaven is goodbye for ever
its time for me to go!"

I so identified with those sentiments that I rushed out and bought the 45 record. (Funny that I was married at 20 years of age?) I still enjoy being by myself. I still enjoy watching and listening to others. I still find relating to new people a psychological hurdle. I am relatively good at leading a service in front of crowds, but it remains something I get nervous about. Working, walking, running, biking, just "being" by myself is still an enjoyable experience for me.

But I know in my heart that it is good to relate with people. I know too that if I am to be a follower of Jesus (JC's helper) I am called to push past my shyness and in my way, relate with people. I know that sharing in loving ways with others is THE most important thing I can do in life. Today I felt the warmth of that. As I have moved about today, down the street, in Space2B and in chaplaincy I have had people giving me very warm "Hello's". Sorry Lee Marvin, I enjoy your character and your song, but you are wrong. "Heaven" is in "hello". I think it is unhealthy if you need to be with people all the time. I think it is important to be able to know, love and be by yourself, but there is something sacred about friendship and sharing. Today I experienced that warmth, and for that I am thankful.

Photo: The group I used to "hang around with" as a teen sometimes on a Sunday afternoon. Where am I? ... way at the back!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Earthquake fallout.

Monday respite.
Monday is my day off, so I have been mucking around doing little bits of various things. I have been attempting to tidy my home study. Some things have been cleaned out. I just found a map book I thought I had lost! We have also been throwing out old books. This is quite hard because some of them were a good read, but if I was to be honest I won't be reading them again in my life time. My wife had a pile of throw outs, but as I looked through them some were saved from going to the famous 24hour Regent book sale. My poor kids after I die! I also went for a bike ride. There was a speedy tail wind as I rode down the harbour toward Dunedin, but that translated to a cold and tough head wind home. It was a good buzz, it is like the more difficult it is the more satisfying it is when you complete the exercise. My week ahead has things I have to attend every night from Tuesday until Friday, with Thursday night double booked. We have also been invited to attend a function on Saturday night, but we might give that a miss. It will be another busy week.
The Earthquake continues to impact.
We who are not living in Christchurch tend to think the earthquake there in February is old news now. But I have had recent reminders that for many people it is still impacting their lives in a big way.
* Fear and bad dreams... I was talking to a bright young lady on Sunday who was in the midst of the earthquake when it happened. She was working in a cafe in the CBD when it struck and she had to escape from her building. She bravely assisted others before riding home on her bike. She came back home to Dunedin, but has to return to Christchurch next month. She told me that even now about once a week she will wake up to bad earthquake dreams. She says that when she is in the street or in particularly an old building she is still a bit apprehensive and is always checking out escape routes or safe places to stand. With earthquakes still happening in Christchurch she is not looking forward to going back.
* Loss of home and income. ... I have talked to men who are working for their firm in Dunedin after their Christchurch branch was wrecked. The Christchurch one is now not going to be rebuilt and the men have been invited to permanently move south. It means uprooting their family. It means selling their Christchurch home, which in some cases is now not worth what they still owe on it. It is a very difficult decision for them and the families.
* Still coping with injuries... Through one of my chaplaincies I was put in touch with a young lady who was pulled out of wreckage with a severely damaged leg. She was in hospital undergoing surgery. Recognising an old male would not be much help to her I sent my wife to visit. They have kept in touch. She is still receiving treatment and skin grafts and life is still severely disrupted because of the quake. My wife receives frequent communication from her wanting support.

These are just three incidents within my circle here in Dunedin. The impacts of those terrible few seconds continue to disrupt "normal" living for a lot of people. Reach out to them in solidarity. Don't forget them.

Photo: The exposed hallway in the house next to my son's house in Christchurch. The house is condemned. A dangerous brick wall has been pulled down, but there are still household items inside??? The house will come down in time.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Another week..

Wanda OK.
First I have to report that we took our old Nissan Bluebird to the auto-electrician and he put a new starter motor in her, now she is fine. I only have the satisfaction of knowing that I can still diagnose issues, it is nice to pay other people to do the stuff you can't afford the time to do. Even though we are poorer, she runs like clockwork again.
The warm feeling of satisfaction.
I have had a busy week with long days and with every minute of the day used. There was one stage when I had an extra thrown at me that I nearly lost it. In exasperation I yelled, "I just can't fit everything in! I am not lazing around, I am working, I just can't do it all!" That really is true, there are some things left undone, but I have been secretly pleased with what has been happening. I'll share some.
My older brother was visiting from Australia. He is a minister there, and while relatively liberal, he fits the mold of a minister better than I do. He leads a good functioning church there and fits into the establishment. I get the feeling he might disagree with my emphases here and look down upon my work as not really being good "Church work". (He has different gifts than I do, there are more resources in his setting at his disposal and running a Church of Christ in Victoria is very different than running one in down town Dunedin.) We had a discussion at my sister's birthday party and at one stage I bit my lip because I was not where he was assuming I was at. Anyway he came and we had lunch together on Wednesday. When he arrived at the Church it felt like Space2B was full of people talking and sharing with each other, and secretly I felt pleased. It may be different than he would run, but my dream was working as I envisioned it. When someone visits you look at your show with more critical eyes, and I thought what I saw at lunchtime on Wednesday looked pretty healthy.
Thursday was a very full day and again at lunchtime Space2B was full of people. We partner with the local city council settlement resource person and an immigrants orientation tour begins at our place. This day it was being filmed by the Council to be used as a podcast on their website. Also the local TV station was along to film parts of it. I looked at what was happening and felt satisfied inside. The Church was using its resources for the community, life enhancing positive stuff was happening and people were feeling at home there. I thought I saw "God smiling"... it may be unconventional "church work" but it is relevant and real.
On Friday a lady who is studying counseling and social work had asked if she could have a field placement at our Space2b and drop-in centre. Currently she has a fairly high profile job in the community which is going to cease later in the year. I had agreed and invited her to come and see what we did at Drop-in to see if she felt it suited her requirements. As the drop-in opened and she watched people coming I could not help but be a bit proud. Again you look at what you do more objectively because someone is visiting. This I did as we met on Friday night and I felt secretly proud of what was happening. People were being loved, accepted and affirmed.
I have done my usual chaplaincy hours. In one of my chaplaincies people are going through change and I was pleased to be able to drop easily into conversation and support people in that. I have been pleasantly surprised at the warmth with which people receive me in chaplaincy and I look back at time spent this week with a sense of satisfaction.

I look back at the week feeling deeply privileged because in the course of my work I get to meet and share with some great people who treat me with warmth. (e.g. Today on my run I came across a guy from my brewery chaplaincy and I felt pleased. We so easily dropped into significant conversation.) I look back on the week and I feel that I am doing OK, making a significant and useful contribution in my roles as minister and chaplain. In the Genesis myth about creation God finished each day's creative work and looked and "saw that it was good." I look back on my week and I look and think, "Yeah that was busy, sometimes stressful but good and worthwhile!" And in that I am very fortunate and wealthy!

Photos: Three attempts to catch the feeling of the sky when I walked up my mountain yesterday. No photo could grasp it though.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Who stole my lunch?

My wife purchased my lunch on her way into the church today. When she arrived I informed her that I had arranged for us to have lunch with my brother who was visiting from Australia. We decided that the purchased lunch could go into the church fridge to be used tomorrow. In the evening she came into my office at the church and in an accusing tone asked me what had happened to my lunch? She assumed that sometime in the afternoon I had got hungry and decided to eat it. "I don't know!" I replied, "If it is gone it is not me!" We have Space2b at lunchtimes and today there were quite a number in the back of the church where we hold it. It is open for people to come in and there are hot drinks available, for a gold coin donation. Most give a donation but there is a group of guys who I suspect seldom do. I think one of these guys went out to the kitchen, opened the fridge and helped themselves to my lunch!

The weird thing is that if they had asked for food I probably would have given it to them. It feels a bit yuck that one of these guest stole my lunch. I recall a church member who died several years ago who had food stolen. He was a simple retired single guy who kept an immaculate garden and a productive vegetable garden. He lived in an area where there were student flats and there was a lane running down beside his house where students would come and go. He was always troubled with vegetables being stolen. They scraped out the potatoes from under the plants, leaving the tops growing. They did the same to carrots, cutting them off and replanting the tops. They took cabbages, silver-beet and ate his beans and peas. He said to me, "If they knocked on the door and asked I would be happy to grow vegetables for them!"

Anyway people are people and none of us are perfect. It reminded me of a quote I have on my wall... Mother Teresa may have written it, she certainly used it, but when I first got it it was said that Bishop Abel Muzorewa sent it to African Pastors during difficult times. Whoever wrote it, it has guided me over many years (when I can muster the right spirit)

"People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway."