Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Funeral time...

Today I lead the funeral for my brother-in-law. They want it to be a celebration. I have led in funerals for my father-in-law, mother-in-law, a close friend and other long term friends. I get nervous before every funeral, but am especially anxious today. There are lots of people helping and I want to write a post about that at some stage. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Alone but not lonely

I love company and I love solitude.  I went tramping with my son on the Tuesday after Christmas. I enjoyed the time. We went around the tops of the hills at the back of Dunedin. In the process we often walked in silence. (well to be truthful it was often me in my old age puffing along noisily while Phil just wandered up hills effortlessly) But there were times when we had good conversation.  I appreciated that. We talked about his work situation, his plans for the future and things of interest in the scenery around us. When he was an older teenager I did not get much out of him except “whatever!” or “probably”. Now he is much older and I really enjoy that he wants to go tramping with me and is happy to chat when we do. (I sometimes think it is hard on teenagers having a minister for a father)

But at one stage on the tramp I thought “I must come back and do this track by myself some time! I would really get to enjoy it!”  Then I questioned that statement. “Aren’t you enjoying it now?” Of course I was enjoying it! I enjoyed the company, but missed my solitude?

For seven years I have had a running/walking friend who has exercised with me on Sunday afternoons. I really enjoy the company. I get to let off steam about stuff. I appreciate hearing about a different life and work experience.  I enjoy my friend’s personality, we laugh, listen and sometimes philosophise.  But I enjoy walking and running on my own as well. I would not like it if every run or walk (depending on the state of our knees) was with the company of my friend, good though it is. I like running by the wharf or walking on the tracks or up my mountain by myself sorting my world out in my head as I do.

I enjoy the company. But I also enjoy times of solitude. On a tramp I get to really take in my surroundings in a deeper way than when I have company. I do not only walk past the bushes, wild flowers, birds and rocks but I “commune” with them. I “take in” and take on board the open spaces and feel better for it. It is a different experience than chatting with someone.  It can be the same track and environment, but experienced in a different way. And it is the same with running alone. I can commune with my inner being as I run. Running with someone else is different, fun also, but in a different way.

I drove up to Christchurch today by myself. I find I don’t turn the car radio on at all. I love the drive. I enjoy the art of driving and get into a world of my own doing it. It is different than driving with a friend or my wife. Time alone is precious, enjoyable and somehow refreshing. Different.

I guess its like eggs. Sometimes fried eggs, sometimes scrambled. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

A mixed day

On top of Flagstaff. The Otago Harbour is under that fog.

The fog started to clear from the town end of the harbour.

Looking down on Blue Skin Bay covered in sea mist

A view of "my" Mount Cargill on the way back down the hills.
A great hike
My son and I headed out early this morning to park a car about 10k on the road north of Dunedin. We then drove in another car to the "Bull Ring" a car park up a hill on the south side of Dunedin. We were going to walk the ridges that are a backdrop to the city. Over Flagstaff summit, along to Swampy Summit and down the Burns track back to the first car. We started walking at 8:15 a.m. we arrived at our parked car at 11:50 a.m. It was a great walk with lots of hills, tussock country, different track styles, and different vegetation. It was quite hot with no real breeze even though were high up. A nice morning of exercise and conversation.
Birthday lunch
We did the walk reasonably quickly because we had to go to my daughter's place for a birthday lunch. My foster daughter has her birthday on 27th December. She has severe intellectual handicaps and is now 34... I think.  She had been staying at my daughter's place over Christmas so we were gathering there for a birthday lunch. I really love how my children treat her as a sister, no questions asked. She is not their sister, she came into our family when she was 9 years old. As far as they are concerned though, she is their sister and they make a fuss of her on her birthday. I wish we all would learn to just decide to see each other as brothers and sisters, for under God that is what we are.
Sad News
My sister rang me last night to tell me that her husband was having a tough time in the hospice. I intended to go up to Christchurch tomorrow to see him and that timing seemed adequate.  As we were driving back to the other car after our walk today my cell phone went. My brother was ringing to tell me my brother-in-law was low and expected to go in the next 48 hours. I began to make arrangements to see if I could go today. (I needed a new supply of blood pressure pills and had a doctors appointment arranged for Wednesday morning) After the birthday party I had a call from my niece to tell me that he had died peacefully. He and I had briefly talked about his funeral, but we had thought we would get together again before the end came. It was not to be and I am now feeling guilty about my busyness that has prevented me from catching up with him before his death.  We have managed to arrange an emergency supply of the pills so I will go up in the early hours of tomorrow. I am feeling guilty about not seeing him. I am feeling guilty about not getting to chaplaincies because I will be busy. I am feeling guilty because I will be leaving before my son and daughter-in-law leave for home. Every where I turn I seem to be neglecting something or someone. I am deeply sad for my sister, and she is my first responsibility at this point in time.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"You can't tell a book by it's cover!"

It is a very hot boxing day in Dunedin. Everything around here outside is getting hot. I got up early because we had to get rubbish bags and a wheelie bin out at the gate. They were full of rubbish from the Christmas dinner. The recycling wheelie bin was full of plastic drink bottles. Since then I have been slowly unpacking cars and returning things we have used back to their place in house or garage. Now I have the house to myself and am stopping for a cup of tea.
The surprising "book" of yesterday.
I went into town before 8 a.m. yesterday. My first job every Christmas morning is to set up a portable carport shelter type thing in the car park of the church. We use this as cover for people rinsing dishes, it can be cover from the sun or rain, and over the years has been both. I set up the frame work and noticed a young man riding a skateboard up and down the road. I recognised him as a man who had visited our drop-in centre. He had a week earlier asked about the Christmas dinner. When I was sliding the tent type cover onto the frame and struggling to reach all the corners, he skated over and said, "Wanna hand with that boss?"  There he stood, unshaven, studs through lip, eyebrow and ears and tattoos in different places. "Oh yes that would be good!" I replied. So together we completed the task. Later as our guests began arriving early he came to me and said, "Can I help... I could give out name tags?" I hesitated, thinking about elderly pensioners being welcomed by this apparition. Anyway he got to grabbing a clip board and welcoming people. Then he moved to hosting at a table. Then he did something else where he saw a need. He seemed a simple guy, and indeed had trouble writing, but just floated around being a real treat to the people he assisted. "You cannot tell a book by its cover!" as my mum used to say.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Too busy

I was going to take a "before and after video" of our Christmas day community dinner ... like the same video as my last post with the place full of people. But I was just too busy today. I estimate we had 270 there. Others have said 280 or 300. It was full on. But I am sure most went away happy. The biggest buzz is happy volunteers...... It is great to see volunteers going away absolutely stuffed (as in exhausted) but with big wide smiles on their faces. So many stories I could tell but that's enough. Relaxing with all my NZ based kids now. The boys are cooking a barbecue tea now, happily relaxed after a couple of cold beers.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why I celebrate Christmas

My friend Robbie (he likes "Robert") I met Robert first at our drop-in centre now he's part of our mob.

Early setting up night for our Christmas celebration.
Or “Why I am a minister.”  I usually don’t put a long religious blurb on my blog site but this time I have. I guess as I’m getting older I have to tell myself and others why I have stuck with this thing called Church ministry when I often find it frustrating. I am only two years away from retiring age and I have surprised myself by finding it impossible to give up local Church ministry. The reason for that is that in spite of all the distortions in the church and frustrations I experience, I am deeply convinced that Jesus’ and his way is relevant for people now. Here is a reflection on some phrases from this reading.  
John 1:6-18
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
15(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known

In our work through Space2B and drop-in centre we sometimes come across people hooked on drugs. Sometimes it feels like no matter how many people help them they just do not want to get off the slippery downward slope they are on. Why? We hear every day of people driving fast when they are drunk and killing themselves or others. Why? My brother is involved in enviro-schools and sustainability action. He recently had a tent up at the great Central Otago Thyme Festival, a marvellous community event. He had his tent burnt and wrecked by vandals. This is the second year this has happened! Why? Our suicide rate is higher than our relatively high road-toll? Why?  We could continue to list off  many signs of darkness in our world. I believe much of it has to do with the state of flux and change that the world is in at this time of our history. I think people in the West, in spite of their technological advances are struggling to cope. Mother Teresa looking at western societies said that the major poverty of the west was a deep spiritual poverty.  In the middle of last century Victor Frankl reports a feeling “of which so many patients complain today, namely the feeling of the total and ultimate meaninglessness of their lives. They lack awareness of a meaning worth living for. They are haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness, a void within themselves; they are caught in that situation which I have called the ‘existential vacuum’. The existential vacuum is a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century.” The reasons he gives for this vacuum have only deepened in the time since he wrote these words. I heard a speaker telling of a wide variety of cultures he had studied and lived amongst. He spent time in Tibet, India, Polynesia and South America. He said that many of these cultures do not necessarily envy our technology, but rather feel sorry for us because of our lack of deep spiritual connectedness.
It is for this reason that I celebrate, and continue to promote the life of Jesus. I think he has the potential to bring “life” amidst our death, light in our darkness and connection in our isolation and “lostness”. I share with you a reflection on three phrases in this reading from John’s gospel. As we read the gospels we need to hear not so much exact history, but the writers sharing their faith. They share their faith using a literature style, words and metaphors from their culture and their time.  To understand we have to get the feel of these to be able to grasp the experience behind them. It is this experience, this testimony that can inform us today. In this is something of the eternal.

“Generous inside and out”
As John encountered Jesus he experienced a deeper understanding of God. He said of Jesus, “The Word (of God) became flesh and lived among us”. I have come to a deeper understanding of this. We often see this as “love came down at Christmas.” We see it that somehow Jesus revealed to us the mind of a God up in “heaven” wherever heaven is. I like to see it, however, as Jesus exposing the nature of the God among us. There was a varnished table at the church, which had heaps of scratches, marks from hot pots and other accumulated defacing. My wife convinced me to take it home and sand it. I worked on this table, in the end scraping the surface of it. In due course a beautiful mahogany grain emerged, was exposed and drawn out. It was always there but my sanding and finally revarnishing highlighted and brought out the grain.
 That’s how I see Jesus. He does not so much show us a God at a distance, but exposes and highlights the nature of the God, the movement of love, the Great Spirit who is in life all around us.  And John says the highlighted picture is that we live amongst “Grace” or “Grace upon grace.” - piles of Grace.  In “The Message” such phrases are paraphrased as “generous inside and out”, “generous bounty”, “gift after gift” and “exuberant giving and receiving”. Jesus shows us that we live amongst a generous, overflowing movement of unconditional love. That is God. As a workplace chaplain I see the impact of overbearing, judgemental leaders. In that atmosphere people do not take risks, they close down, are frightened to be themselves and are stifled as people. Jesus shows us God as being the opposite; we live with a God who is for us. We are free to be all we can be. Dr Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her book “On life after death” writes, “Most important of all, we must learn to love and be loved unconditionally.  Most of us have been raised as prostitutes. I will love you ‘if’. And this word ‘if’ has ruined and destroyed more lives than anything else on this planet earth. It prostitutes us, it makes us feel that we can buy love with good behaviour, or good grades.”  In spite of the fact that often distorted religion says “you must believe the right things’ or “do the right things” Jesus shows a God of grace and love. His picture of God is of the prodigal son’s father waiting for his son's return, rushing to embrace his son and throwing him a party.  In this love I am freed to “be”. God is in the dreams I have to better my world and myself. God is in the affirmations of friends. God is in the forgiveness that people extend to us. This love means we can forgive ourselves and move on after failure. I celebrate Jesus because he shows us God’s “grace upon grace”.

“The true light which enlightens everyone…”
John the writer shares his testimony about Jesus by referring to him as “the true light” or “the light”. In the “Message” paraphrase this is translated “the life-light”. It is life–giving light. I celebrate Jesus because he gives me light for the path of life. We live in a world where there have been dramatic changes. My parents, and to some extent myself lived in a world where the roles of women and men were relatively clearly defined and that was endorsed by society at large. Now, thank God, it has been changed and the roles have changed. But it is new territory and teenagers today are like trampers cutting new tracks. There are changes in how we live. We have broken away from clearly defined society endorsed “right” and “wrong” way of living, and now we are free to make our own choices. This is good and freeing, but it makes it a harder world to grow up in. We need guiding principles. I was introduced to “geo caching” recently. A friend and I were walking and on her iphone she discovered a cache was nearby. The application told us we were near it, but we needed to know where “north” was.  There was a lively discussion with a difference of opinion. In due course the compass on the iphone settled it and we could proceed to finding the cache. We needed “North”. There are people lost in the darkness of this free-living world who need to know where “north” is so that they can make the best choices.
Light for the path.
I celebrate Jesus because he is light for the path, he shows us “north” for our living. This is not in hard and fast rules for right and wrong, but principled direction for living, a base from which we can make decisions. Writer and scholar Marcus Borg says that the Christian way is profoundly simple -  “Love God and love what God loves”.  This is summary of the light that Jesus gives, incredibly relevant for our world today.

“… he gave the power to become children of God”.
Marcus Borg also points out that the Christian way is a path of transformation. We embark on a journey of becoming more whole human beings. I was in a country town settled down at a table outside a cafĂ© watching the traffic. It was a Sunday lunchtime. It was amusing watching the farmers driving in to this village. Their four-wheel drives came into town and immediately slowed down to about 10kph. They looked around to see who was walking up town and what shops were open. Tourist cars passing through just had to bide their time.  I saw one bloke see somebody they knew, so he just stopped. His friend sauntered over and they chatted while he leaned on the driver’s door. He was double-parked and others had to drive around them. A massive tractor came down the road. The driver decided he wanted to buy a pie. He just stopped, again double-parked opposite the shop and wandered over to buy his pie. These country drivers just got used to doing whatever they liked, without considering any other drivers. We often tend to live like that. We live for ourselves, with a small circle of concern. Because we live like that we live stunted lives, often hurt others and often do not see the needs of others. Apathy abounds. If we begin to take notice of Jesus he comes into our lives as a catalyst transforming us into a bigger person. Jesus as our life guide calls us and prompts us to widen the circle of concern so that we become more loving, more giving and better people. I celebrate the life of Jesus because he does give me the power to become a bigger hearted, life-enhancing and giving person. He has even managed to bring changes in me.

It is Christmas and I celebrate the life of Jesus because…
  •      he shows us God’s “grace upon grace”. 
  •      he is the light for the path, he shows us “north” for our living.
  •     he does give me the power to become a bigger hearted, life-enhancing and giving person.
To all my readers, especially any regular readers let me say, "I hope you have a really great Christmas surrounded by love."


Friendship is an interesting thing. I have had a day of it. First thing in the morning I took a friend out to the airport. We have known each other for nearly 7 years and she was going back to Australia for holidays. I arrived back at my office and an old friend who I first met when we were in our late teens and now see about once a year, had left a donation for the Christmas Day dinner. A friend then came and helped me sort out transport lists for the Christmas day dinner. I have known him for 17 years, and in recent years he has got involved in the church. Another friend from my Night Shelter Trust texted me asking if I was "in". He arrived with gifts for the Christmas Dinner and a greeting from yet another acquaintance. It was good to spend time with him. After we had completed our tasks at around 5p.m. I went down the road to purchase an afternoon tea snack. I bumped into a friend I have known for 17 years. She and I did a community and social work course together years ago. We used to go running together but we have not had contact for years now so it was good to catch up.
The thing that is the unifying factor in the experience of these friendships is that I can talk easily with the people. With my friend who spent the day with me we could chat backwards and forwards, question each other, tease each other and just feel at home as we worked. My mate from the Trust I have known a relatively short period of time but we have discovered an easy relationship where we can talk backward and forward. We wanted to open a bag and he said, "Ok where's your big knife you carry." In the short time he has known me he has learned that I am seldom without a pocket knife. When I met my friend from the social work class I found we could slip into easy relationship with each other again even though it had been years. My friend who left a donation could leave the briefest of notes knowing that I would sense the warmth behind it. It is "warming" to have such friendships and I am indeed lucky, since I am not good at keeping in touch.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Dinner generosity ... 5, 6 or whatever

I took this photo with Photo booth in my Macbook Pro. Why is it back to front?
I took a friend out to the airport. When I arrived back at the church a couple of members came into my office with a parcel of Christmas treats and a money box full of cash. They had bumped into a man in the car park and he had handed these over. I checked the mail box and an old friend had left $150 in cash in an envelope with "Merry Christmas" and a smiling face on it.  In brackets he had scribbled, "Assistance with Christmas deal".

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas is hard for heretic preachers

How to say it without offending...
When Christmas comes each year I have a hard time. There are a couple of issues. First the carols that everybody likes singing... The words are scary and distort what Jesus was about. "Low he abhores not the virgin's womb!" What the heck is that about?  That's real big of him?  "Love came down at Christmas". It wasn't there before? Many carols end with the final verses devoted to getting to heaven. "And our eyes at last shall see him." - like that was what Jesus was all about? But people LOVE singing carols. Sorry, I grimace my way through them. The second is that as I read the familiar Christmas stories I cannot take them literally. Angel Gabriel, angels hovering in the sky singing, virgin birth, star directing people etc etc. Apart from anything else the dating has difficulties. I see them as "narrative theology". But without going into deep scholarly negative sounding discussion it is difficult to communicate this stuff. I could ignore it, but there are those who could be sitting listening to the readings saying to themselves, "Yeah right? How can I believe this rubbish?" I hate to disturb people's Christmas. Squash beautiful nativity scenes? Rubbish much loved carols? All I am saying is that often when I read the passage for the day at Christmas I groan inwardly. Why me? Christmas is hard for heretic preachers, but I have found it harder to give up ministry, damn it!

... But I liked this bit...
A friend, an Australian no less, sent me this in an email saying he saw it and thought of me and passed it on. Don't know where it originated but it rang bells. It starts off with a biblical reference which is the familiar birth of Jesus and "Shepherds in the hills abiding" story from Luke. But then reflecting on the birth and the whole story goes on to talk about the birthing of love...
Luke 2:1-20... This is all it Takes...
The story tells us that this is all it takes for love to be born:
you listen to the voice of improbable angels
you dare to believe you might have a part to play in their story
you say yes to the idea of the impossible
you give up the future you thought was inevitable
you defy the protocols and social mores of the day when they get in the way
of what you know is true
you dare to say to those who would deny your value and your role
that you just might have what’s needed, in this moment
you search for your allies and trust them with your dream
you devour the moments of joy when they come
you demand truth from yourself and those around you
you give up the things you are comfortable with
you travel long journeys in inhospitable conditions
you stand up to be counted
you take whatever shelter you can get
you aren’t afraid of darkness or dirt
you do whatever it takes, even if you’re lonely, scared, a laughing stock, intimidated, overwhelmed, lost, uncomfortable
you accept gifts of wisdom from strangers
you honour those who put their gifts of love, however small, alongside yours
you risk everything, even your life, to give it breath
that’s all it takes for love to be born.

It really touched me because it reminded me of my journey. I am far from as loving as I should be, but it reminded me of my attempts to journey with Jesus and the challenges on the way. I liked it and I pass it on.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Conflicting Monday thoughts

Been in the backyard today. Here is an abandoned nest I found in the wood shed. The eggs are so delicate!
Volunteers name their terms
Our Community Christmas day dinner is an interest exercise. Thankfully we have heaps of volunteers ring up to offer assistance. This is great, but just sometimes they want to come "on their terms" do what they think best. There are some who want to come with their kids to "make the kids appreciate what they have." I want to scream down the phone, "These people are not zoo animals for your kids to get educated about!" When we say that we encourage hosts to sit and eat with guests some will say, "I don't want to eat with them!" in an almost derogatory fashion. Others just want to do "such and such". I often think we want to help the "unfortunate" but we want to do it on our terms. Do we listen to them? Do we respect them? Are we flexible and willing to do what is needed? Are we willing to give ourselves, our personality, our love and drop our guard so they can sense another human being?
Good grief WINZ!
We have a guy in our church who is in his mid 50's. He is a "simple guy" though far from having an intellectual handicap. He came to us via the drop-in centre. He is a dyslexic and reading is a slow process for him. In the time I have known him he has had two different full time jobs. He was a cleaner/morning tea room man in an engineering factory and he has been a street sweeper. He is a conscientious worker but in both jobs because of changes in each firm, (loss of contracts) he was twice made redundant. Of his own initiative he participates in a Task Force Green job scheme which has him doing some useful work with just a little extra in his sickness benefit. He is hearing impaired and cannot afford hearing aids. He gets gout from time to time and when he does he finds it difficult and painful to walk. He had a small stroke recently, from which he has virtually recovered but is still coming to terms with it. If he goes to the doctor he struggles to pay the fee. When he was first unemployed he did search for jobs. I did a CV with him. He was then put on a sickness benefit. He helps out on a Sunday morning by coming early and setting things up, making coffee and doing simple jobs in preparation for worship. He helps out at the drop-in centre, helping to set up and clean up. But the other day he got this officious letter from Work and Income New Zealand, demanding that he must go look for work. In it they give web sites he can look at so that he can check out opportunities. Now I once taught him to play solitaire on a computer, but he would never even know what a web site is, let alone workout how to navigate the internet! Get real WINZ. There are no jobs out there for the likes of him! You say he is now not on sickness benefit, but he is in worse shape now than he used to be. He is not on drugs, he does not do criminal activity, he does not drink, he does not smoke,  he is only a little over weight. He is not a bludger! It is not his fault he is unemployed! It is the result of the "system". The super efficient workplace scene these days has no space for him. He came to me very upset (while I was at the urinal he was standing behind me expressing his anguish - in my "private space!") fearful he was going to lose his benefit. "The're telling me to get off my arse and get a job! I could lose my money! There are no jobs!" I wish I could get Prime Minister John Key and others down to my drop-in some Friday night and tell them to find the jobs they say are there for these people!  Back off WINZ. Try something more sensitive. Invite them in for an interview then write your letters. You are causing unnecessary anguish!
Help expected
I sometimes get annoyed with the people I try to help. Let me say I do not want to generalise, but there is a group of people who act as if the world owes them a living or anything going. I sense this as people ring up for the Christmas dinner. There are those who really appreciate what we are doing. But there are those who think it is their right! That the transport provided should be there, and they hope its properly cooked and can we have Karaoke again! It is that sort of attitude. It is similar at our drop-in centre. One man, an alcoholic, said to me, "If it wasn't for the likes of me you guys would not have a job!"  I nicely pointed out that we were all volunteers. Another was worried about recent government funding cuts to social work agencies and asked, "Will they cut your funds?" Well no! Donations from us and other caring people pay for the drop-in centre. "The government should give us these things!" he replied. Some will complain because we have not had savaloys in a while, and "when are the cakes coming out?" I have had them banging on the church door if we are a few minutes late getting things ready.  They now know not to do that because I will wait longer before opening. :-) I have heard them telling door bangers off... "Don't do that! Dave goes slow if we bang on the door!" Even some of the Habitat for Humanity people I have worked my guts out to help have come across like I was a paid lackey doing their bidding!. ... It sometimes annoys me... but I do not let it stop me doing things for people. Their attitude, their reaction is their responsibility, their problem. I am called to give people a hand, to give to the poor and help the oppressed etc, that is my responsibility. Just because their nature is to be selfish and self serving, why should I change my nature to give and to care? That's the ideal, but just sometimes I get a bit annoyed. Sometimes people will say, "They are pulling the wool over your eyes! They are just using you!" "No they're not. I know what they are like, but that is their problem, not mine!" Let me say I am not a pushover, I do give wisely. A man once said to me, "If you try to sort out the needy from the greedy, you will do nothing!" I think he was right.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday before Christmas

I mix with people who are slowing down and knocking off for the year. I have been mistakenly thinking that after Christmas things will lighten up for me and I'll be able to do some tidying up, some planning etc. But as I think about it I won't be able to do that. I had a man come to me today and ask when my chaplaincies finish for the year? They don't!  Fire service, Ambulance, News Paper and brewery... they just do not shut down. I will be continuing to visit until I actually go on holiday. My weeks will be just as crowded. I see people having end of year parties and slowing down toward the holidays and part of me is jealous. The collegiality would be nice as well as the slowing down. But then I choose to do the work I do and there are other deep rewards.
Normal Christmas
I talk to people about their christmas plans and the variety of responses is interesting. Some see Christmas day as a day to get "pissed". (drunk) They look forward to lazing around drinking "stubbies" all day and collapsing into bed having pigged out and thoroughly drunk. Others tell you their plans and it goes like this. "We gotta go out to the in-laws' for lunch, then we gotta go to my brother's place, then we gotta go to mum and dad's place." It all sounds like hard work! They often do not sound thrilled. When I think back to our 'normal' Christmases I sometimes had this feel. You felt you better not hurt anybody by not turning up. You ended the day having been fed a way too much, the kids were scratchy and you were tired and you had not had much time together as a family. When we began our Community Christmas dinners my mum was quite annoyed. "You don't like family!" she would complain. After the first Christmas day dinner we climbed in the van to drive three hours to where the family were celebrating so that we would not disappoint mum. Half way there the van broke down and we had to turn around and nurse the van home. Since then we have tried to catch up with family on Boxing day or New Years day. I am lucky. I know I will have a good Christmas day. It will be stressful, very busy and tiring. The one thing I am sure of is that late in the afternoon, I will be sitting at home drinking a stubby with an incredibly warm feeling that we have helped a lot of people, guests and volunteers, have a great day. You can't beat that feeling!
No worship next Sunday!
At the Church of Christ Community we are not going to have a church service this coming Sunday. In the last 153 years that has perhaps never happened before. There probably has always been some worship, even in the big snows. It is Christmas Day also, a very important day in the Church calendar. Why is there no worship?  Because we are holding our 23rd Community Christmas day dinner and there is no space for worship. There is no time to hold worship and there will be no space in the building.  But..... we will be open to all, sharing love, breaking bread together (eating) and we will be remembering Jesus.  Perhaps that is worship after all?  I don't get out of the work of preparation though. I have a radio service to record on Wednesday.
Not all bad...
In Church this morning I had a thanksgiving time for the year that has passed. We thought about the sorts of things we as a church had achieved in the year. It was not a bad list. As we sung the final hymn I looked at the congregation and counted up a number of people who were not worshipping with us this time last year. In spite of the fact that we are an old down town church, and we are mostly older people with an organ as our musical instrument (which I am not comfortable with) we have added to our numbers. That's not bad for our style, our city and where we are. We are not static. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Modest Donation" - Yeah right.

I wrote recently of a law firm who arranged what they termed a "modest donation" toward our Church's Community Christmas Day dinner. We received the envelope today. There was a Cheque in it for $1000. Wow. Modest? It enables us to breathe easy. Another lady gave $100, and another gave a heap of personally painted pine cones to help us decorate the place. We have been promised a further ham. It is all happening. I am finding it hard to get around to doing all I need to do, but it certainly is a great adventure, exciting even though this dinner will be number 23. People ask me sometimes, "Don't you want a 'normal' Christmas?" We have done it for so long I think I have forgotten what a "normal" Christmas is like. I realised that for most of our married life we have been running Christmas Day dinners. (we have been married 42 years.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas generosity (4) and dreaming

More Christmas gifts
I heard today that a lady has given us $200 toward our Christmas dinner. She is the sister of a Dominican Sister, I don't know her but she knows of us. The local Dominican Sisters have always been very supportive of our work.  Today we talked with the couple who will provide some singing entertainment, and it is so good they are bright, friendly and enthusiastic. The wave of generosity continues.


  • I am out of sorts with my denomination and do not feel I belong. I have read of the United Church of Christ in USA and wish they had a presence in NZ. Maybe my congregation could join them then? If not the congregation it would be an option for me?
  • I am out of sorts with Habitat for Humanity NZ and locally I find they are doing things that somehow deny the spirit of Habitat for Humanity. I get emails from the Fuller Centre For Housing which is a continuation of the ministry of Millard Fuller the founder of Habitat for Humanity. I wish they had a presence in NZ so I could get involved. When I was involved in Habitat locally we were building houses and I loved that sense of accomplishment, the sharing between rich and poor and the love enjoyed on site. They are doing things differently locally now. I think that community building was an important part of the total work. The way things are done now it feels like they have cut the guts out of H4H. I am deeply disappointed. I had hoped that Habitat for Humanity could have been my retirement occupation. 
  • I still find myself annoyed every time I have to submit statistics in Chaplaincy. I hear too that the on site chaplaincy is becoming less of their work and consultancy/supervision is expanding. I feel we have embarked on a business model of operation and neglected the mission model. So I am a little out of sorts with chaplaincy.
One has to ask, am I just hard to get along with? I am a bit of a dreamer.  Walking down the mountain the other day I dreamed of these possibilities....
  1. Maybe with others in retirement I could explore another type of "Spiritual/service" base? (Church)
  2. There is more and more a need for families to receive a hand up and for communities to share resources across the rich/poor divide.  There used to be another housing group in Dunedin called "Just Housing".  Maybe there is room for another group to operate?
  3. I am enjoying the freedom of my voluntary St John chaplaincy. It feels like valid people ministry and mission. Maybe voluntary chaplaincy is my future?
I don't think I am hard to get along with. In spite of my differences I have hung in with all the above groups a lot longer than many others have.  One man wrote;

There are two things
The ACTUAL and the IDEAL.
To be mature is to see the ideal
and live with the actual.
To fail is to accept the actual
and reject the ideal
and to accept only that which is ideal
and refuse the actual
is to be immature.
Do not reject the ideal
because you see the actual.
Maturity is to live with the ACTUAL
But hold on to the IDEAL. 
.... Derek Prince.

But sometimes "living in tension" is tiring.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thinking out loud and coincidence.

"No Creed but Christ"
Today is my day off and I have been in the vegetable garden which means as I work, I think. I had some work emails to deal with early this morning and in the process went to our denominations NZ website. There was a Christmas message from the president with his thoughts about the future. In his message he says this about his dream for our churches....

Firstly, United.
Who wants to join something that is fragmented and dysfunctional at the relational level?  Jesus greatest desire was that we would be one so that the world would know we are His disciples.

Secondly, Alignment.
Are we on the same page?  What would our core beliefs be that those of us who are connected to CCNZ would wholeheartedly agree with (we should sit down and work that through sometime).  I know we pride ourselves in the statement ‘no creed but Christ’, it does seem to be open to misinterpretation.  For CCNZ what does ‘but Christ’ really mean?

I have heard the same man raise this issue before. He wants to clearly define what we believe and who believes it, and my guess is he will want us to believe the same as he does. I like our restoration movement slogan, "No creed but Christ". I like our other slogan, "In essentials Unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love." I do not like people trying to define dogma. I think that it was in that process that the early church got distorted and drifted away from the way of Jesus. The "Pharisees" continue to invade the church!

I love the story about one of our founders, Alexander Campbell. In the early nineteenth century he was somewhere in Scotland as a Presbyterian minister (At least of one branch of the then very splintered presbyterian Church) and attended a communion service. To get accepted for communion you had to answer certain questions about dogma and if you answered correctly you received a little lead token which was your ticket to allow you to take communion. The woman in front of him could not answer all the questions correctly so she was turned away from taking communion, and obviously upset by this turn of events. Alexander Campbell answered correctly, received his token, but when the offering plate came around found himself placing the token in the plate and leaving the service in disgust. He was so distressed that these dogma questions kept followers of Christ away from the communion table.

I like "No Creed but Christ". It allows people who follow Christ, with a variety of interpretations as to what dogma they believe, to actually work together, discover Jesus and discover unity. One of the reasons I have stayed with our Churches is that potentially there is room for liberty. I do feel out of sorts with current trends and the president probably sees me as one who is contributing to fragmentation and dysfunction. (I don't rock the boat, just keep doing my thing as I believe it.- a sort of "live and let live" attitude.) I recall a western comedy song, I think a take off about Billy the kid. In it an imaginary psychologist asks the kid, "When did you run away from home?" Answer: "I didn't run away from home, my home ran away from me. - We lived in a covered wagon and I fell out the back". I feel like that.  Churches of Christ, my "home," started me on a faith journey that included openness, love, scholarship and inclusiveness. I have continued the journey but my "home ran away from me." Somehow I feel its done a u-turn and is heading back to a superstitious, sectarian and theologically ignorant form of Christianity.
I have just become chairman of the local Night Shelter Trust. (I was a founding member) We learned that the house we rent was to be auctioned off today. I went along to the auction with another man from our trust. We are of course concerned because the homeless could be even more homeless.  I was sitting there waiting for the auction to begin and thinking how much out of my comfort zone I was. The men gathering looked rich property investors, and my companion knew some of them. This was not my scene. Then a suited man came in and I suddenly realised I knew him. He was a friend from the time I did a social work course. We used to run together. He is now a property investor and wheeler and dealer. Way back when we were exploring the beginnings of the night shelter this man had expressed an interest in assisting. Now he was still interested and keen to have a meeting. The house was not sold. We did line up a meeting between him and a group from the Trust. As he shook my hand to leave he said, "This is no coincidence - somehow it I think it was meant to be." I suspect he may be right. So often in my life when profound work, "God's work" needs resources the right people "emerge".  For example, we have never run short of money or resources for our Christmas Day dinner. I wish I trusted that more often. Watch this space. (Speaking of unity... it is not found by "sitting down and working through" beliefs. It is found in loving action together. My Night Shelter and Habitat for Humanity experience attests to this. Most of my colleagues on the Night Shelter Trust are Catholics. If we talked "beliefs" we would fight. But by following Jesus in caring action we discover an exciting essential unity in Jesus.) 
A great day
I have been an unfaithful Kiwi today. I checked the scores of the Hobart cricket test match against Australia last night and I despaired. It looked like another Aussie victory. But I was wrong. The New Zealand bowlers and fielders did their thing well and we beat the Australians in Australia. (The first time this has happened in since 1993) As one email to the TV station said tonight, "Any day we beat the Australians is a great day!"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sunday two weeks before Christmas

This time in two weeks I will be very tired but hopefully satisfied after our twenty third Christmas day community dinner, but the next two weeks will be very busy.  The last few days have been interesting.
The last drop-in centre
On Friday night we had our final night for 2011 of our drop-in centre. It is nice to know that we have Friday nights off until February. The guests we have are generally used to this by now but you can sense their sadness as they were saying "goodbye." We have one guy who comes every Friday, he used to be a weight lifter, so even though he is a gentle guy, he looks mean. He is unemployed but spends his days looking after his dad who is senile, very old and disabled. He comes in on a Friday night, has something to eat with us, plays a few games of pool and then goes to "tuck Dad into bed." He came in on Friday as usual and when he learned it was the final night eyeballed me and said, "When are you starting again?" I told him it would be February and the disappointment was written all over his face and eyeballing me again he said, "That's a very long break. Why?" I felt guilty, but I do know it is hard work.  One of our volunteers commented on Saturday night that Saturdays were always hard after Friday nights. Each Friday night is tiring.
Simple ashes burial
I conducted a small ceremony as we interred the ashes of the 101 year old lady whose funeral I took recently. It was a small simple ceremony at a family grave site.  The lady had asked that her departure be handled very simply, no great funeral and no money wasted. (She had the cheapest of coffins to honour her request) She wanted her ashes buried in a simple cardboard box.  I loved her style, I will include such instructions about my departure.
Cross cultural family night
We had a family night with guests coming from a range of cultures. These immigrants to NZ came from China, Scotland, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, Iran, Philippine/American, Samoa, Sudan and of course New Zealand. We ate a pot luck meal, the kids played games and adults were busy talking. About three people shared a song with us and then others spontaneously sang. A fifteen year old from Sri Lanka sang, then her thirteen year old sister joined her for another song. Three Indian ladies spontaneously sang a song from where they were sitting. The special for me was when an Iranian lady shared a Persian chant about relying on God. Of course, as with the other songs, we could not understand a word, but the presentation was reverent and sincere. I enjoy this mix of cultures, it enriches my life.
Two women's words..
Among the group is a mature Chinese couple. The man has very limited English and we have to use simple words and play charades to talk with him. His wife has more English but still struggles sometimes. They have come to our Christmas dinner twice. They were booking in for their third dinner and as they wrote their names down she hesitated. She said, "I want to... I want to...(and she turned to her husband and spoke Chinese briefly) I want to... be like you... I want to ... volunteer.. get the meals ...we have been two times (holding up two fingers) it is time for us... to help." I grinned all over. It was so neat. She will be a happy volunteer.
The Indian woman who leads the cross cultural women's group was expressing thanks for support we had given. She said, "Lots of people just talk about helping people, but David (us) really does it. These people don't just talk about it, they actually help a lot of people." I'm glad that can be said about us though I don't think we are as good as it sounds.

The broom grows so quickly, it nearly takes over the early track on my mountain.

Even though it is a weed, the broom is pretty and its perfume is nice to walk through.

The platform has been under fallen rocks for years. Why the notices now? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas generosity (3)

There's a leading lawyer in town who has assisted us with our Christmas Day dinner for about four years now. He rang up and left a message on my phone and I rang him back... "Now about this Christmas dinner old man.... we usually give a modest donation... where can I send it?" The "modest donation" is usually several hundred dollars. "Now also you generally send me to pick people up then I bludge a free meal off you. Do you want my phone numbers so we can arrange that?" I joked with him that the free meal was why I did the Christmas dinner too. He said, "We'll bludge together then old man!" He was a school prefect when I began high school in Dunedin and gave me one or two detentions in my first year at Otago Boys High. It is funny that now later in life we have this once a year friendship. I think its cool.

Christmas Dinner generosity (2)

Musical generosity.
Over night we have lined up some musical stuff for the Christmas Dinner. We talked with a couple who were so happy to give some items. Another lady who has played piano and sung for us for a couple of christmas dinners is happy to come back. She said, "Thank you for asking".

Pretty cool. Music adds so much.
Linda at the piano two years ago. (We wear ghastly shirts so that people know who to go to for assistance)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas day dinner Dunedin generosity (1)

I thought I might keep my readers up to date with the generosity of Dunedin people leading up to our Christmas Day dinner.
  • We have had heaps of people booking in to be volunteers on the day.
  • We have Little India restaurant lined up to cook the vegetables and Marlow Pies will cook our twenty plus legs of mutton. The owners of both places have helped in the past. They are both going away this year, but have insisted that they will organise for someone on their staff to look after it all for us.
  • We have applied for and received $2800 in grants from two places, the Trust giving $2000 does not want any recognition... "Your Church deserves any recognition due".
  • The Dominican Sisters gave us a donation of $500 and other donations of $200 and $100 from individuals have been received.
Today three things have happened which prompted this post.
  • A breakfast time phone call offered a ham for the dinner.
  • A lunch time phone call offered a ten seater bus to pick up guests and deliver them home with the driver willing to host the passengers at the meal.
  • A man in overalls walked into Space2B, did not introduce himself but asked, "Are you the minister of this show?" "Yes"... He dug in his pockets and pulled out a bank cheque for $110 "Here, for your Christmas meal - you do well. Bye!" and walked out the door. (I recognised him from other years)
I'll keep you posted on other developments... I am always humbled by people's generosity.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sowing the seed

Gardening day
Mondays are my only day off each week. We have an acre of ground at our house and we try to establish a vegetable garden. It is not as big as it ought to be. I am aware that many people in the world would love to have this much ground and this climate. They could live off it, where as we waste much of it. We have two goats who are just grass eaters who keep the paddock in check and we have a hen house with eight hens producing a good number of eggs every day. The last three Mondays, have been rainy weather so nothing has been done in the garden. Today was a brilliant day, sunny and warm, but not too warm. With sun hat and sunblock on I planted 9 rows of various vegetables. They are a bit late but with proper care they will produce. I had to fork over the ground and had been tossing stones over the fence into the paddock. I realised that we could use them and that this patch of ground had plenty of them. I managed to collect two buckets of stones which went on the path to the hen house.
Gardening insights
One of the reasons I enjoy gardening is that it provides time for your mind and heart to catch up on yourself. It enables you to appreciate various things. Here are a few.

  • The bird song at various times of the day was magic. I still marvel at how such a small instrument can produce such big sounds.
  • I think the peas I had planted a few weeks ago actually grew while I was watching them today. I am sure they were bigger tonight than they were when I began this morning.
  • As I tossed stones from the garden into a bucket I got to thinking how amazing it is. Each stone is a different size and shape yet as I threw them in the bucket I think I got at least 9 out of every 10 in the target. I think it is amazing that my brain, eyes and arms can co-ordinate in such a way! The human body is a pretty good piece of machinery. I still marvel at cricket batsmen who have a split second to see and hit a ball.  (It is just a pity NZ batsmen could not do it better!)
  • I just love that I could, if I had the time, feed myself in a healthy way off my patch of land. Maybe when I retire? While I was dreaming of this I began to wonder. I realised that presently I find fulfillment in dealing with people, helping them, supporting them and sharing with them. When I retire will I truly be happy just growing a garden?
A different denomination?- a different ministry?... but we're doing OK
In the newspaper and via email another denomination in Dunedin was advertising a part time ministry position. I am super busy; I have significant frustrations in my present ministry; I need to start looking after my health a bit better so I am tempted to go for a job with less hours. I emailed away for information and to let them know I was interested. There are a number of congregations and the position meant working in a team with others. There was a "Parish Profile" which I was interested to explore. It was all very well worded. There were mission statements, goals and clear descriptions of what was happening. If the figures are to be believed the total attendance at services amounts to about three times what my present congregation is. The biggest congregation of the four has more attending than my present one. The theology they wanted to pursue was "Progressive Theology" which is where I am at. They had some lovely sounding statements about their work... but.... the heading on part of the Parish Profile read like this;  Significant congregation achievements, events or programmes in the past 3-5 years in the congregation and community:
Now the answer they gave to that was a program that was essentially geared for the "faithful" and the "thinkers". These are "evening meetings that will enrich, educate and entertain members of the parish and also the wider community".  There were also a couple of retreats. Is that all they could list in the last 3 - 5 years? None of the future goals of the parish had them reaching out and serving or interacting with the community in any big way.  Now I realise that there are probably other significant things they do not mention but they seem to fall short from my perspective. I then thought "how could my Church answer that same question?"... A weekly Drop-in centre for unemployed, mental health patients etc; Space 2B open and available to the community; Settlement resource at Space2B; New Immigrants Orientation tours with the City Council; links to, hosting and encouragement of Sustainability groups; Monthly cultural family nights; Christmas Day community dinners are just the main ones. As I read this profile I began to think that for our size we are doing very well.  We are punching a way above our weight, though admittedly the proportion of my congregation participating in these is relatively small.  This different denomination has all the correct words and progressive theology that would tempt me. Their thinking is good. They do a lot of "education and theologizing" which I would enjoy, but it seems all inward. It appears to be intellectual and/or spiritual "masturbation". They do not seem to be intent on connecting with their community. I could be wrong, but I guess I have to ask, "Would I fit in?" I would in many respects, because I like their words and theology. But with their apparent directions I may also find more frustration. Then again, it might be something I can change? The comparisons have been an interesting exercise. We do need to be sowing the seed. Seeds are no good just sitting in their packets, they need planting in the garden.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sunday again... I can do so much!

Just about to start last Friday's small funeral.
Life seems to be a bit of a blur lately. I am always rushing from one thing to another. Last Monday it rained so I did some work on Sunday's readings, thinking that could mean I could take some time off during the week. There has been no chance of that happening! I have been putting in some long hours and often not sleeping well at nights.
Fire aftermath
I mentioned that St John Headquarters had a bit of an explosion and fire that I came across on Thursday. I had visited it then, but had been thinking that I would pop across on Friday morning to see how people were. St John NZ had done away with Workplace Support Chaplains in favour of a counselling service people rang up for, so I had lost my paid chaplaincy job there and now continue to have contact as a voluntary chaplain. I had gone in to the office an hour earlier on Friday morning to get some work done. (I have a regular visitor for coffee on Friday mornings.) As I was working away, I had a phone call and visit from two of the leaders from St John. They asked if I could go across and spend some time chatting with staff who had been distressed by the fire etc. Of course I said "yes", whilst wondering how I was going to fit everything else in. The selfish vindictive side of me wanted say, "Where is your fancy new counselling service you replaced me with now?" I spent a big part of the morning talking with people for whom the fire had been a frightening experience. Sometimes it just added to stuff that was already happening in their lives. Later in the day I visited the hospital where a staff member had been receiving treatment for burned hands.
Community building
On Fridays a group we have assisted in getting off the ground meets in our building free of charge. They are "Women Across Cultures" a group of women from many cultures who spend the morning together. (Because of the presence of one or two women from quite strict Muslim backgrounds men are not allowed in the room.) We have a group of guys frequent our Space2B at lunch times. This last Friday the women were cooking up a lunch, a multi-cultural delicacy. They sent a message through to Space2B to see how many were there. In due course enough food to feed us all came through. I loved that sharing, it is part of my dream.
Another sad contact- the importance of crew members
I had heard that one of my fire fighters had experienced a tough situation on his day off. He was sitting watching TV when there was a fatal accident between a car and a motorbike on the road outside his house. He was first on the scene and stayed with the motorcyclist as his life ebbed out of him, then extinguished the burning bike before any other emergency services managed to get there.  I knew the man was coming on duty that night so I made a trip to the fire station to see him and see how he was doing. It was interesting how he said such an incident was so different when off duty. On duty when the alarm goes of you steal yourself up to face whatever and you have your crew with you. When it is unexpected and you are alone it is harder to deal with.
Mini Stroke
We have in our congregation a man we first met through our drop-in centre, his name is Robbie. He helps out in various ways and we support him too. As I was visiting fire stations on Friday I got a text from my wife to tell me that Robbie had suffered a mini stroke and been taken to the emergency department. I went there to see him and sat outside the curtain around his bed listening as the doctor checked him out. I realised that I loved Robbie like my own brother and was feeling deeply for him. He is OK, given medication and back giving me cheek, but that too was part of my Friday.
All of the above fitted into my Friday. I worked nearly 15 hours in total.

Me and bridegroom waiting for the bride
Long distance shot of the happy couple.

Saturday was also a busy day. I was up early and working. I conducted a wedding and attended the reception in the afternoon. I was pleased with the way I conducted the wedding and the positive vibes I got about it all. I returned home and continued working at around 11 p.m. It was about 12:30 a.m. when I went to bed and a little after 6 a.m. when I got up this morning.

Two interesting things
We New Zealanders are masters of the understatement. I had to laugh as I talked to people who had experienced the explosion and fire at St John. "It was a bit scary" meaning really I was petrified. "Just a little bit of a mess" meaning the room was a blackened stuffed up mess. "I got a bit of a fright" meaning I was scared out of my brain.  Fire fighter involved with the motorcyclist said something like, "Yeah it was all a bit sad." I think he means it was a very tragic accident. Robbie said something like, "Didn't like it much!" which meant experiencing the stroke had scared the life out of him. We have a funny way of communicating our feelings. We understate them, when deep inside we have been profoundly impacted.
I am impressed with what I can do. I have been incredibly busy and having to fit a lot of stuff into each day. There have been times when I have wondered how I can possibly do it all. But I have! I have done it well too. I seem to be able to prioritise, think carefully about how to most efficiently do things and manage to come out on top. I have surprised myself with how I will write up a "to do" list and methodically work my way through it and still find creativity. Somehow the insight, the energy and the endurance "comes"... I actually feel linked to processes bigger than myself.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Generous fire fighters
I had been out in the country for a wedding rehearsal. As I came back to town and down the hill toward the church I noticed fire trucks surrounding the St John Ambulance Headquarters with hoses going everywhere. There had been some sort of explosion inside. It is just across the road from the church so I went over and talked with fire fighters and Ambulance people. They were winding down the incident and I was chatting with firefighters. It was Green Watch, the crews which will be on duty on Christmas day. They came up to me and said that they will be keen to help. It was almost embarrassing their readiness to be involved. Fire fighters have assisted with our Christmas day dinner every year now since about 1995. I enjoy their involvement and their acceptance of who I am in mission and ministry. It is a real buzz on the day.
A new responsibility
Tonight we had our Night Shelter Trust meeting. I love working with the people on the Trust. Kevin our chairman of 6 years has decided to step down and I have been "promoted" to the chair. We have made great progress this year in establishing ourselves on a firmer footing and we are hoping to continue the momentum. I am going to have to rely on the whole team doing their thing if we are going to progress. They said as they left that I will have to go home and "adjust your CV." It will be quite "life-giving" working with this generally enjoyable bunch of people. 

After the meeting a group of us was sitting around chatting. Into the church walked this rather spaced out looking guy. He turned out to be homeless. He went away and came back again and I eventually took him around to the night shelter. Warren our night shelter manager welcomed him (he was familiar to him) and sat him down to talk with him. It seemed a fitting end to a night of discussing the business side of our work. 

Life for me even at 63 is one big interesting, though challenging adventure.