Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh heck.....

Me take on more voluntary responsibility?
I got sounded out today to see if I would be interested in taking on a voluntary chaplaincy/coordinator  position for a pilot community scheme. I am interested in why I am being asked? I listened to the dream and was excited by the possibilities of the scheme, but why me? I struggle to cope with the stuff I am doing now? I am not a guy who easily meets people, I am essentially shy? I would not put confidence in me and my abilities?  They really don't know me! .. there needs to be more thought put in on both sides and I think perhaps I have enough to do now. But it is intriguing how things come together and why things come together? Habitat for Humanity when it came along seemed to be a bringing together of a lot of my skills and experience. The Night Shelter too was a similar situation. I could help get that off the ground because of my experiences through our drop in and my social work training. This is similar. Many of my experiences, outlooks and attitudes point toward this. But am I looking to face the new challenges involved? Can I fit something new in my life? It will be interesting to see which way I bounce. ... I do have difficulty in saying that small word sometimes... I'll practice ... "N O" "no"! Wait and see.
Redundancy is so hard for people
Today I got to listen to people who had been told they will lose their job in a month or so. It was so sad. It was like they felt their existence and contribution was not valued in any way. They are worried about their future but I think that is not the worst thing about redundancy. It essentially feels like the people at the top are saying that your hard work, your contribution, your conscientious endeavor does not mean squat.  I think people are deeply injured in that process. I went along and listened, but I never know what to say. I know I will miss these guys' presence. I have visited them twice a week for quite a number of years now. The thing is too this one does not seem to make dollar-sense. ( I was last year on the other side of redundancy. At the Night Shelter we made somebody redundant. I hated being in the "nasty boss" position then.)
Night Shelter events... coincidence?
There has been a series of events happen at the night shelter that does not feel like coincidence. We had a new member on our trust and our funding issues forced us to  restructure and refocus last year and he was the right guy at the right time. At the end of last year our rented house was up for sale. I bumped into an old friend who is a property developer and he wanted to get involved with us. Another property became available and we have moved in there with the idea of subletting that and ultimately expanding our work. This old mate is the right guy at the right time for us. A group has come to us expressing a need for short to long term accommodation and we may be able to use this resource to the benefit of the community and get an income. It feels like we are going for a ride and some mysterious presence is navigating the journey. ... maybe... M Scott Peck called such an experience as an experience of "Grace". 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The chief of procrastinators

I went into the office today but called in at the Night Shelter before work to add a wire to a fence I made yesterday. I came across one of the volunteers and had to be sociable. As I was about to leave another trust board member arrived to paint what we had built yesterday. We got involved in a project to get the TV working properly. I kept saying "I better go and work!" and he kept saying, "This is work!" I arrived at the office at least an hour late. I settled down and did a heap of "work" responding to emails that had built up last week and other issues. I switched the computer off during lunch time and went over to St John to talk with folk there. When I came back and switched the computer on it would not go on. It came up with some horrible error notification. I got it going on safe mode to get some information off it. The phone kept ringing with people lining up meetings for me to attend. At that point my cell phone ran out of money, the Church car park was so full I could not get my car out and nothing was going right. I then called a computer company. To my surprise he said he would come straight away, so my chaplaincy for today went out the window. (A job for tomorrow) After trying various things he told me my computer was very old and he would have to take it away to computer "hospital".  (It could be "hospice") I took off out of the office to go back to the night shelter to get the tools I had left for my friend to use. (I am VERY protective and possessive about my tools!) I ended up talking longer than anticipated and came home at around 6 p.m. with not much done for the day... and needing to do stuff. After our evening meal I went into the study to "work". My dead "apple" power adapter was there on my desk so I determined to fix it. Eventually after soldering, swearing and sweating it was going again. (I had a wee scary moment when testing it. Two wires shorted out and my computer went dead! All is well now though.) But .... the power adapter really could have waited until a spare moment say on Sunday afternoon? I had more urgent work to do especially considering my lack of work during the day? I would rather fix things than read. I would rather do the physical "easy" stuff than try to work out what is most important for me to do. Sometimes you have so much to catch up on that it is hard to know where to start... so I tend to procrastinate doing anything other than attacking the list. I can be the chief of procrastinators sometimes! Tomorrow I will move the world! :-)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sounding off...

What part of "turn all electronic devices off" don't you understand?
On both our flights to and from Auckland I was astounded by the non-compliance of many passengers. We climbed aboard in Dunedin and the announcement came several times. It said something like, "We are refueling the plane so we ask you to turn off all electronic devices, this includes cell phones, lap tops etc. etc." To my astonishment people in front of me, beside me and behind me kept sending and receiving texts and phone calls as well as doing stuff on their lap top and ipad.  The announcement was repeated several times but as far as I could see it was only when the plane was moving toward the runway that these folk made any attempt to turn off their cellphones. When we landed both at Auckland and Dunedin we were instructed well before landing time to turn off all electronic devices. People on both occasions delayed turning off their devices through several announcements asking them to do so. On the return flight even though the instruction was repeated the people in front of me kept playing games on their ipad until the plane was just about to bump down on the runway. When the instructions asked us to "please stay in your seats until the plane has come to a stand still" they seemed to see this as a signal to stand up and start getting stuff out of the overhead locker. I had to be amused - at the beginning of the flight the man in the seat in front (one of the offenders) was ranting on about NZ flying conditions and how "you would expect a meal at least". He complained about all sorts of things. He was, in my opinion, an arrogant loud mouthed Australian and I would liked to have reminded him that it was an Australian airline we were flying with. I do not know all the dangers involved in electronic devices being turned on. I suspect they are not that dangerous, but I do think passengers should obey the instructions of the crew!
It is the Church's decision and a theological decision.
We once lived in a little rural town called Apiti. We had a part time ministry at Levin 70 miles away so did not attend the local Presbyterian Church very often. We went to their mid-week study group from time to time and had a combined camp with them. We knew some of the elders well because they gave me work on their farms. The poor little church had small attendances most Sundays and it was suggested that it combine with the one in the nearby rural town so that the services were more encouraging. All hell broke loose in the town. People who had never darkened the doors of the church complained and agitated to keep the Church open. (For weddings and funerals I guess) They did not help to pay to keep it open. They did not intend to attend. They just wanted a church in the village.  It seems a similar thing is happening in Christchurch. The Bishop and the Church have decided it would be wrong to spend millions rebuilding the old earthquake damaged Christchurch Cathedral and want to pull it down to build another one. People are marching to save the Cathedral in their hundreds! I bet they never attended! I bet they never put their offering in the plate! My guess is they mostly are not active Christians. It is just a civic icon to them. The right stewardship of God's money does not enter the equation for them. They are not interested in the mission and purpose of the Church or "the Kingdom of God".  I am not a Christchurch person but I say the Church is the body to decide what to do with the Church resources! If I were a Christchurch Anglican Bishop I could think of all sorts of new and interesting ways to replace the Cathedral. A multi-faith gathering place? A centre for community concern and care? I don't know what they will do, but I do know it is a theological question and the Church hierarchy are the ones to decide it.  They can listen to the needs of the community, but the agitators should MYOB ... mind your own business!
Night Shelter Work continues.
I have spent today working at the Night Shelter. We moved into new premises on Saturday and there were a number of handy man jobs that needed doing to help it function as best it can. Today, Monday my weekly "day off" was spent doing these jobs. During the course of the day we had assistance from various other members of the trust, again asking how they can help. I am physically tired but happy to have got the jobs done.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Highs and lows...

I often feel frustrated, and hemmed in by the need to compromise.
Great team effort...
I am chairman of the local Night Shelter Trust. The old house we were renting is up for sale so we decided to upgrade to rent another. The new house is two units and is around the corner from our old one. It has a total of 12 bedrooms, but we will just use the front one (five bedrooms) as a Night Shelter and sublet the back one.  It will allow us in the future to  expand our operation. Saturday was our big moving day. I was making phone calls during the week to make sure everything was OK, but discovered my fellow members of the trust board were keen and willing to do stuff to get the job done. On Saturday morning I had got up early to do some church work then get to the shelter in time to start the big move. An early phone call from the Trust treasurer came apologising because he was going to be late.... he had to do stuff down at his church. Then he told me that on the Friday afternoon some of the guys had already started moving. I was so pleased and impressed that I came off the phone and said to my wife, "We should start a new church with the Night Shelter Trust members. They really want to do stuff!" I was really rapt. I arrived at the shelter and we started moving stuff. I had to eat my words because three guys from my Church turned up and another was willing to loan me a trailer.  We had my three guys, my wife, available Trust board members, another two from a Presbyterian church, our manager and a couple of the night shelter volunteers. We borrowed a truck from the Salvation Army and we were all moved by lunch time. By mid afternoon we had the new place set up and ready to open for business that night. It was funny, people kept saying, "Isn't this great! What a great team effort!" One of my guys said today, "I enjoyed yesterday!" It was a really enjoyable day even though we were working hard. It wasn't till mid afternoon that I bought myself lunch. Today I was back there while one of our guys was trying to set up the broadband. I mucked around pottering and assisting him when called upon. I have to do some work at both places tomorrow and meet the real estate agent for the final inspection of the old place.  It is so much fun being part of a team like that. We used to sing a song at school; "Give me some men, who are stout hearted men, who will fight for the right they adore; start me with ten, who are stout hearted men, and I'll soon give you ten thousand more... Shoulder to shoulder, bolder and bolder... etc." Its that feeling of unity of purpose and the energy generated in the togetherness that I enjoy. These experiences are somehow part of the REAL stuff of life, treasured moments to relish.
"Family night"
We have these family nights at the Church every two months for people we encounter through Space2B. Last night we had a good group of people who came and shared food and conversation together. There were people from a variety of countries and I always find it interesting catching up on people, learning about their culture, their experiences and yet also discovering again that we are in essence brothers and sisters.   Why can't we discover this truth and live it more often?
Disturbed Church service
I had snatched time during the week to put together what I thought was a reasonable sermon and service. I presented it but about three quarters of the way through the service an elderly lady collapsed. We have a retired doctor as organist and he along with a lovely nurse attended to the lady. In due course once she was comfortable, we completed the service. We had alerted the ambulance and a couple of "my"  St John paramedics arrived and checked her out. With assistance she was allowed to go home. I suspect my "glorious" sermon was forgotten by then! 
Compromise
I have generally an elderly congregation so sermons have to be shortish. My congregation is not versed in scholarly scriptural analysis. I do a lot of preparation for my sermons. I get excited by where my theology leads me. I see all sorts of implications in what I am exploring. When I deliver the final product, however, I find myself needing to "dumb down" the presentation. If I gave all I wanted to say several things could happen. People would switch off... too hard to grapple with. Some people would be hurt or offended by my scriptural analyses. I have to allude to stuff so that people are opened up to wider perspectives by "hints" rather than careful, full disclosure presentation.  ... I know this adapting is part of the art of communication, but sometimes I feel like I am cheating myself, not being true to myself and I feel frustrated that I do not have a forum to explore the subjects in real depth. I have often said to myself, "One day I'm going to write a book." -  just for myself. I would love to spell out and explore where I stand and the full implications of my understandings, experiences and half thought out theories. Perhaps it is a retirement project. I thought, even as I tried presenting stuff this morning, "Sometimes I am sick of compromising! Give me people of depth who want to really explore stuff and not just skirt around the edges."

Friday, May 25, 2012

We returned home... :-(

My son with his Lil Edie (Edith)

We installed the lower window and weatherboards. The beginnings of a downstairs workshop.

Edith and I had a special long time together this morning. She was wide awake and listening.

My son told me off but I sang all the songs I used to sing to him. Edith seemed to enjoy it. (She'll get more discerning fast enough!)
After visiting with my son, daughter-in-law and their new daughter Edith from Monday night till this morning, we returned home. I felt sad to be going because next time we see her she will be grown so much and we will not be on her radar. I had a lump in my throat as we said our goodbyes. My son and I had done a couple of projects on their house and there were more I was itching to get into and help him with. I do enjoy working with him. We have returned and will hit the decks running. I am in charge of shifting the night shelter tomorrow. Just now it is time to catch up on mail and phone messages, then ease into my lovely warm waterbed. :-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Judgemental about being non-judgemental


Let me tell you about an incident at a training day recently. We were in little groups for workshops and this one topic was about “diversity”. We were asked, as often women group leaders often ask, “How do you feel when you encounter different people, that is, cultural or religious diversity?” One of the chaplains told of an incident where he responded with a gay client he knew well.  As soon as he reported what he had said (Though I suspect it wasn’t offensive in the context because he knew this person very well) I thought, “O good grief the PC brigade will jump on that!” (I need to say that I disagreed with his response… but thankfully his heart is bigger than his theology) Sure enough the group leader came down on him very sternly. He, with a twinkle in his eye said, “I didn’t think it was too bad, I could have said … (and shared a couple of humorous lines often heard in male circles)” I chuckled and the “accepting diversity” group leader glared at me. “It isn’t funny!” she scolded, “No - it’s not funny at all!”  I was asked by another group member for a reaction and tried to put my thoughts on how a non-judgemental response could have been thought through, but I think the leader had put me in a box by then. Now I happen to agree with her stance, but I thought her reaction was too serious and counter productive.

In reflecting on the whole group interaction later I got to thinking that she was not modelling the behaviour she was trying to encourage. She was trying to encourage an “accepting of diversity” stance by chaplains, but she was being very judgemental herself when diversity was encountered in the group.  How do we avoid being “judgemental liberals”? How do we avoid “being fundamentalist about not being fundamentalist”?  I recall watching a church conference debate panning out and there were the “evangelical fundamentalists” on one side and the “ecumenical liberals” responding.  Even then my youthful mind got to thinking that psychologically these people are the same! They have different words and theology, but attitudinally they are all “rigid-fundamentalist-dogmatics” in their reactions.

I have sometimes encountered truly spiritually mature people who are very often the quieter ones in a group.  They will listen and reflect for a long while before they respond. Then, and only then, they will respond gently with warmth and a tentative but incisive question. They go through a much deeper process before they respond. They have heard carefully the apposing argument or the point of view they disagree with. They have then reflected on why that person has said what they have said. They have thought empathetically about where that person is coming from. Then in their mind they have asked the question, “How best can I constructively open up this person to another point of view?” Then, in a loving fashion they have moulded the appropriate question that shows respect, and yet might in a constructive way help the other to see different perspectives. That is why they are often the quiet ones.  They spend time moulding and shaping a constructive, caring approach. It is not about themselves and their opinions; it is about showing love to the other, understanding the other and gently guiding toward mutual growth.

I often have to pull myself up. I can get very judgemental about other peoples judgemental attitudes, without seeing that I am doing exactly the same thing. 

Waiheke Break



One scene as we walked to my son's place this morning.

Beautiful beaches in peaceful looking bays all over the island.

Her first big excursion in the car. It took four of us to read the manual and install this in the car. 

Looking from our winery lunch table toward Auckland city.
How the other half lives...
Today was my son's birthday so we went out to a winery for a lazy lunch in the sun. Before we arrived at lunch we went around looking at some fancy houses belonging to some of New Zealand's richest. They were very nice with incredible views. We looked enviously at sections and lifestyle blocks with incredible views of the water, islands and Auckland. They were beautiful but I am really rich in so many ways and am basically contented.
Nuns retreat...
We are staying in a little cottage belonging to the Dominican sisters. It is a little retreat place for nuns and we discovered the nuns have small bedrooms with single beds. My wife and I for the first time in years slept in separate rooms in separate beds. We coped, but one of my elders upon hearing about it asked, "Is this something we should worry about?"
Work work...
While we were eating our lunch I received a work phone call. It was brief and the office manager apologised for it, but I was interested in my reaction. I immediately felt guilty for being away and began to feel stressed about the news and implications. It is funny though I have to lead a service this weekend and it had often crossed my mind while I was doing things during the day. I decided as I took a drink to my single bedroom last night to do some thinking about it. As I was undressing the sermon outline, readings and even some songs came to mind. I sat up in bed and jotted down the notes. Sometimes switching off means that your unconscious has an opportunity to switch on and sort stuff out. I often find this. If I do some work on my sermon and on Saturday wander up the mountain track, somehow thoughts gel easily.
Fun work...
Today my son and I did some work under the house putting in underfloor insulation and after lunch decided to change jobs and begin to install a window in the space under the house. I enjoy feeling useful when I visit. Tomorrow is our last full day here. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Photos don't do justice.




Meeting Edith Daisy Brown
We came from Dunedin to Waiheke Island in Auckland on Monday night. We drove by car to the airport, flew to Auckland, bused into the city and went by ferry to the Island - car, plane, bus and boat - a fun trip. We left our house at about 4:50 p.m. and got to my son and daughter-in-laws' home at around 11 p.m. We finally met our grand daughter. We had received photos but seeing her in the flesh is different. Her delightful little hands and feet, her very definite features, lips, nose and her contented sleep just cannot be communicated through photos.  I have had her sleeping on my lap in my arms. This morning I looked after her while she was awake, looking intently at me, wondering who I am. Apparently I am to be "Pop". That's Ok with me. I am fearful we will not be able to get up to see her as often as we would like as she grows. At the moment we are enjoying having a baby to make a fuss of.
There are some good things about getting old.
On the way up I sat in front of a young woman who was traveling with a guy... I don't think it was her boyfriend - yet. She was a VERY attractive woman dressed to attract - very short skirt etc. I watched her interacting with guys in the departure lounge. Then as she sat behind me for the flight I could hear their conversation. Each was trying to impress the other. There was very affected laughter, forced jokes and weird conversation. I got to thinking that there are some good things about getting old. You may not look as nice, you are not as virile and you may not be able to do all you used to do but you can relax and say, "What you see is what you get!" There is no need to "impress" and you are not worried about struggling to be accepted. It was tiring listening to them, and it must have been a tiring effort for them to keep saying "the right thing" to each other.
Health report...

  • My friend Curly Griffith had his pacemaker fitted late on Sunday night and rang me at the office from his home on Monday. I have received texts today and he is doing well. I am so pleased.
  • I have heath issues I face each day, and yet already during this brief break I notice an improvement. Stress has a lot to answer for. Roll on retirement.
Warmer air..
Driving down to the beach on Waiheke Island we discovered a family picnicing. The little children were running around naked, it was so warm. We sat on the deck for morning tea and lunch. People at the store were wearing shorts and tee shirts. I love Dunedin for many reasons but... it is cold! The winter weather here is like summer weather in Dunedin. Maybe in retirement I should move north? Life would be easier, gardening better, no frosts, snow and icy roads to contend with. But here there are more people, more problems and costlier houses. Oh well, I guess I will hang in with Dunedin.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Life is never dull - joy and anxiety mix.

Grand daughter Edith Daisy Brown having a bath. She does not look too comfortable!

Completed tiles my daughter (mostly) did to pretty up our new vanity unit.
Some joys...

  • This week we have continued to get photos of our new grand daughter. It has been a delight to receive them. I am thrilled that my son seems to be wrapped to be a father. I have to chuckle.... He was "never goin' to get married" and "never goin' to have kids! - they're just noisy brats!"  ... Well now he has done both and I think he's happy with both conditions. He and his lovely wife put this on Facebook...Natasha and Phillip would like to announce the birth of thier baby girl Edith Daisy Brown. Born 15th May 8.50pm. 6 pounds. Feel like the luckiest two people in the world right now. We are both smitten with our daughter :)
  • I had a busy but good Friday. I started the day doing some Church and Night Shelter work for an hour and catching up with one of my Night Shelter colleagues. It is always great to feel a part of a team. I then, reluctantly, went out to a "Professional Development Day" for workplace Chaplains from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.  I was feeling that I really did not have the time for the day and did not look forward to the content. While much of it was "revision" I did receive some resources that will help. I guess I enjoyed most the linking with other Workplace Chaplains, the brief chats we had and again the feeling of not being alone so much in this weird journey. After 3 p.m. I visited fire stations for two and a half hours and enjoyed the conversations and friendships there. Our regular Friday drop-in centre happened from 6:30 until 9:30p.m. and once again I played heaps of table tennis, but generally felt positive about what we are doing there. It was funny - I get so hot playing that I often strip off jersey, then generally I take my singlet off and replace whatever shirt I wear just to stay cool. On Friday night I had a light thermal tee shirt looking singlet under my shirt and figured that was decent enough for me to wear playing table tennis. A wide eyed young girl looked at me as I got myself a drink and said,"What the....? I've never seen you like that before!" Next time I think I better wear something more "decent"... I might warp the poor girl for life!
  • I have a friend who graduated this weekend with a Master of Education and I have been pleased about that for her. We have enjoyed a weekly run together (recently it has been a walk) for years now.
  • Yesterday an Elder and friend, Curly by name, joined me as we searched the church for water leaks. Our Church water account seemed high so he and I crawled under the Church, fixed taps and checked cisterns to try to find the escaping costly water. We were not as successful as we hoped, but I enjoy working with Curly. He and his wife are good friends and are important colleagues in our ministry. They help us in our drop-in centre and support us in so many ways around the church. 
  • We had lunch today with our son, his fiance and her mother. It was good to spend time together.
Anxiety.....

  • As I prepared for today's Church service I was conscious that quite a number of our folk would be away. Some are ill and others are out of town. As it turned out we had the smallest Church service I have seen for some time. It is anxiety producing because it is a harsh reminder that the congregation is fairly fragile. 
  • On the way into Church we had a phone call. It was my friend Curly's wife. He had been having mysterious blackouts lately in spite of being relatively fit and healthy otherwise. He apparently had one just as he was awakening this morning. We advised her to get the ambulance, despite his refusals. She did and he ended up in the emergency department, where he had another of his turns. This lead to serious investigations. We visited after Church. (My wife does voluntary work in the ED area of the hospital so could run around getting things for them.) Apparently they found his heart is actually stopping for a short time, and then starts again. I called to see him in the coronary unit this evening. They are planning a pacemaker for him, but somehow it was quite hard seeing this man I depend on so much, a bit disorientated and wired up to machines. I came home a bit anxious and will be pleased to hear that he has his pacemaker fitted and going.
Today's sermon...
"If the church were Christian inviting questions would be valued more than supplying answers."
  • The Church has often been afraid of people questioning or doubting their faith.
  • But the Church should be a place where people can explore truth.
  • Jesus questioned his religion. ("It was said ... but I say to you...") He told stories that often invited questions and were often open ended and evocative.
  • The realities of life have us questioning faith, like the Psalmists and the book of Job. We need to develop a faith that is real.
  • Some expressions of the faith need to be questioned and left behind. We need to grow, and a readiness to question allows us to evolve. 
  • To make our faith "ours" and have it truly assimilated into our life we need to work out what our core beliefs and values  are. Questioning is like a gold pan, it gets rid of the gravel and dust and leaves the "gold". 
Tomorrow.. my day "off".
I will work for two thirds of tomorrow. I have night shelter stuff to do, a brewery to visit, some church work and a hospital visit. After that I will pack to go visit my grand daughter and her parents. Life is never dull. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More details...

I have a grand daughter. She is well and apparently feeding well. She is my son Phil and his wife Natashas' baby they have named Edith. He let us know by the shortest text you could think of while I was completing my blog post last night; "She's out!"

He also got confirmation today about being the successful applicant for a good job he wanted. He really is quite a gifted man, who lacks a bit of self-confidence. I am glad his employers recognised his worth. (He has worked for them on contract before) I rang him to congratulate him and heard my grand daughter crying, demanding to be fed as he answered the phone.

I have often been off hand about babies... cynical about the way people go gaga over them. But here is a new life with all that potential, a budding personality and it is the start of another sacred journey. It really is quite awesome and mind blowing. She is fortunate, she has gifted responsible parents who wanted her. Bless you my wee girl, may your journey be rich and fulfilling. May your parents be given all the wisdom, patience and love they need as you grow up. May you continue to live in an atmosphere of welcoming, affirming love. May my boy be a better dad than his dad. I hope he has learned from my mistakes.

I am so pleased for the three of them.  Here are some pics....




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Breaking news...

I slept with a grandmother for the first time last night! ;-)

Borrowed Blog Post

Each Sunday I go for a walk/run with a friend. Over the years we have shared our life's ups and downs through the changing seasons.

Tonight I simply share a blog post from a friend's photo blog. I like the photo taken with an amazing speaking, listening, "awesomizing" iphone. The caption is my friend's but it could be mine as well. The low sun and autumn colours made this scene different. 

Tonight my wife and I are watching TV (and I'm promising to do some work some time) but the TV is not making much sense. Our son and daughter in law are in an Auckland hospital. Contractions have started so we are "with" them, at the other end of the country, waiting for the arrival of our first grandchild. I recall the arrival of our children waiting for hours with my wife in labour. It is now my son's turn to do that. Wish I could truly be "with" them but it is their journey..... woops phone just went! Watch this space.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cut through the crap!


Religious "Spam"
While surfing through news stuff I somehow got onto a Utube of a UK Sunday TV program where people were arguing about whether Genesis is literally true in relation to the creation of the world. This Bible believing Christian was sounding forth about the world being made in six days and how the dating of evolutionists and pre-historians is all wrong etc.  Other Christians were trying to answer him… and I closed it down. Really? Still going on about that stuff?

Now I happen to believe that the Genesis accounts, properly read, are wonderful creative myth which speaks a whole lot of truth that we need to listen to. “Myth” does not mean “rubbish”! It means if anything, writing that speaks of even deeper more important truth than historical accounts. But I could not be bothered arguing about it with the literal creationists. There are more important things.

I was cleaning up my desk today and came across some papers a man in my church had given me. He has stopped giving me papers for a long time because he knows I disagree, but he handed these to me the other day. The writing was full of spurious interpretations of both the book of Daniel and writings in the book of Revelation. I would love to try to correct such interpretations, even ridicule them because I have heard of many over my years. Each one says that some phenomenon currently happening is a sign of the end times… but the world has gone on. A new “sign” is read into the writings and a new interpretation to meet the changed situation, by sometimes the same people. You want to say, “but you said…?” but I don’t bother arguing.  Why?

Biblical priorities 
In the reading set for last Sunday (John 15:9-17) John has Jesus giving his last discourse to his disciples. Here he shares what John would see as important directions. The word “love” is mentioned 10 times and Jesus urges them to obey his commands. His command mentioned twice in just the few verses is “love one another”. In Luke 10 when Jesus was asked “what must I do to inherit eternal life” Jesus ends up telling the story of the good Samaritan, and said, “Go do likewise.”  In Matthew in the parable of the “Sheep and the goats” he has a whole lot of loving actions we must do to “the least of these.” “As you have done to the least of these, you have done it to me.”  The prophet Micah was searching for what it meant to be true to God and came up with this statement. “He has showed you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

I will argue about creation, Daniel and Revelation when I am done dealing to these important instructions! The world is going to hell in a hand basket, there are people suffering in our own communities, poverty, war and injustice throughout the world and Christians are still arguing creation, weird prophecy and obscure Biblical passages! Even if I believed in Genesis literally, and in the weird interpretations of Daniel and Revelation, when I look at the “way” of Jesus, there are more important issues to be grappling with! In today’s world with its incredible needs, what does “love one another” mean? With so much suffering what does it mean to feed, clothe, house, visit etc. “the least of these”?  With incredible inequalities even in our own country, what does to “do justice” mean? Sitting around squabbling over religious arguments seems incongruous in the face of such realities. For God's sake, cut through the crap, focus on the important and live and love as Jesus did!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Missing

Missing heat.... 
We got our heat pump cleaned last Monday and by Thursday it had stopped working. It seemed the man who cleaned it had got moisture where he ought not to have got moisture. The firm is covering the cost, but we have to do without our heat pump until Tuesday. We realise how important it is. Our house is in the shade of trees in the paddock beside us and trees on the hillside behind us. When we moved here 24 years ago they were very small trees, now grown they keep heaps of sun off our house in the winter months. I long for them to be harvested. Our heat pump keeps our house warm. We did not have one for many years and it cost heaps to heat the house, and even then it was only warm in the rooms we used. But now we miss it immensely when it is out of action. Roll on Tuesday. I must say that the man who cleaned it and caused the trouble rang yesterday and apologised. I appreciated that, it does not heat the house, but makes the waiting easier. A sincere apology when you have stuffed up goes a long way.
Missing health.. 
I have had a heavy cold (some women unkindly say "manflu") for the past week. From Tuesday morning to Thursday I should have stayed at home. It was extremely hard to cope with. On Friday I felt better but I think the drop-in centre with hours of table tennis was not a good idea. On Saturday I was feeling worse again. I led the service this morning but have felt like death warmed up since. At one stage in the service a woman was speaking and I felt like my nose was beginning to drip. I was sitting in front of a full church trying desperately to sniff quietly and with dignity. I went for a leisurely walk this afternoon with a friend, which was great, but I do miss my health. I am hoping to be leaping with new energy tomorrow morning.
Missing extra workers...
My daughter and son in law usually edit the Church Newsletter, type up the hymn power point slides for our church service and insert the ones I do along with Utube clips I often have. They took a trip to the North Island, arriving back a few minutes before the start of Church. I had to do it all. It was a special service with St John Ambulance joining us for a Church parade so it had to be well done. I did it and did it well, but they have the confidence to do it faster and in an unflappable way. I must admit to a few minutes of panic this morning. I was glad there were no flight delays today.
Missing a normal congregation...
This morning we had more than double the usual number at Church. We had this Church parade for St John Ambulance. There were quite a few elements within the service so I knew it was going to be tight fitting it all in. One speaker went a lot longer than I anticipated so I had to try to reduce other parts of the service to suit. It was all very stressful. I had to wear my St John chaplains' scarf and they told me I had to wear my Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit medal. Well the medal so weighed down one side of the scarf that it made it quite lopsided. It might be fine for a refined clergyman who does not wander around the stage like I do. My guess is that most of those attending do not usually go to Church and were attending out of a sense of duty. They look at you as if to say, "OK you've got me here! Impress me and get this thing over with!" I felt stressed about what I did, I did not do as well as I had hoped, but I think they found to their surprise somebody who spoke their language. I did get really good feedback from quite a few people. I think some of my church folk stayed at home because they knew of the visitors and it was also Mothers Day.
I could soon be a grandfather...
My son and daughter in law in Auckland are expecting a child this week. I think there are plans to induce labour so sometime about the middle of the week I could become a grandfather. I feel like I would love to be up there. My son is keen for us to visit soon after the event but I have to find a gap when we are not busy. I was talking to him on the phone tonight and it was like two friends talking. He was planning projects we could do together when we get there and a walk we could do. All my kids rang home for Mothers Day and had long conversations with their mum. I know they must live their lives, but sometimes I long for the house to be full again. I miss them when I have not seen them. Watch this space, I could have an even bigger family soon. I really am a rich, rich man in so many ways. I should stop growling about "missing" things. It just shows how fortunate I normally am.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mid week weakness, worship and wonderings.

Weakness
I have a heavy cold this week. I have put off visiting chaplaincies because I think I may pass on the illness. It has been hard to concentrate and to relate. Today for example we had visitors at the Church who  demanded that I listen intently.  A refugee from Bahrain talked of his country and experiences. Some people with mental health issues visited and ranted. When one man was crying and ranting I was listening intently, but saying to myself "I don't need this today!" You appreciate your healthy days when you have days like I am having this week. 
A special this Sunday.
This coming Sunday at our Church we are hosting a St John Ambulance Church Parade. I am going to use the set lectionary readings and have been reading through suggestions, prayers and resources on the "Textweek" site.  I really appreciate this site which often gets me started on my own thinking. As I plan worship this week I am holding in mind not so much the church community, but the people at St John I have sat and had lunch with two days a week since 1998. There have been a heap of conversations about "life". I have been for rides in the ambulance to "jobs". As I read, listen to and consider the various ideas and resources for worship I have been asking myself, "Where does this language, these concerns and this angle touch base with these essentially secular people, many of whom see life at its rawest?" I must admit I have been reminded just how inward looking a lot of our church culture is. Again and again I have pictured these people being turned off, not connecting or feeling excluded by the themes, priorities and language I have seen in these resources. The carefully worded prayers are great when read by Church people in a church setting, but exclude non-church thinkers. Religious sounding cliches, even modern up to date ones sound out of touch with real life. It may be that most of the offerings on the site come from North American culture and we New Zealanders are different? Anyway it has highlighted how we can so easily get wrapped up in a religious culture that unintentionally excludes others. I wonder how the Church can better keep in touch?
Life with nobody who cares
In our links with people through our drop-in centre and Space2B I am reminded that there are many people with nobody who cares about them in their life. Many of us have family, or a community in our workplace or some group of friends who we can sound off to. But I encounter people who have nobody, and because they have nobody they can get life twisted. I share one example. Today I was on the phone in one part of our Church building. As I was talking I heard this unearthly yelling coming from our Space2B area. I wondered what on earth was happening. Then Muthiah, who looks after Space2B came through and said, "Pastor (he is Indian and still calls me that though I have tried to get him to call me 'Dave') a man in there, wants to talk with you, he's yelling and crying!" I went in and for about an hour we listened to this man who was beside himself about health problems he was having. He demanded a miracle from God! In the process I asked about friends and family. "My father is in Christchurch in a rest home. I think he's still living." It seemed like he had not been in touch for some time but this seemed to be the nearest thing to friend or family this man had! He ranted, and ranted and we listened and made suggestions and listened some more. When he left he was smiling and laughing. I think his biggest need was not really health related, he just needed somebody to talk with, somebody to listen. Muthiah said with a grin, "He got his miracle. He came in here crying and went out laughing!" When we have people who listen to us and also share their understandings, our perspectives are more balanced and we can cope with life in a better way.  "Wasting time" talking and listening to others is not wasting time. I wonder how we can ensure more people have friends?
I wonder who is out there and why?
I started blogging more as a cathartic way I can "journal", reflect on life and let off steam. In some ways it does not matter if anybody reads my words, its good for me to write it. But I do keep in touch with how many page views there are and the country the viewers come from. I find it interesting. People in a whole variety of countries read it. I know some people who read it but I wonder about others? I notice recently that there are posts read regularly in Russia! Who in Russia would be interested in the ravings of an old heretic minister in New Zealand? Why?  I wonder why people read and then come back to read? Anyway thanks for reading, it makes me feel less alone in the journey of life.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Is right belief that important?


If the Church were Christian gracious behaviour would be more important than right belief.

I often talk with people who have left the Church but are still devoted to the ways of Jesus. I know lots of ex-ministers who have moved on from the church, feeling disenchanted. I began preaching regularly in 1972, so for nearly 40 years I have been studying the Gospels and the life of Jesus. In the last ten years I have taken it on as a hobby to read the latest scholarship on Jesus and scripture. I often look at the Church and get the feeling that Jesus would sing with the 1970’s Malanie Safka, “Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma! … its turning out all wrong, Ma!”  I look at Church practices, pastimes and priorities and they often seem foreign to the Jesus I discover in the Gospels. Sunday’s sermon topic was “If the Church were Christian, gracious behaviour would be more important than right belief.”

The Church and Christians for a long time have attempted to get people to believe “the right thing.”  In other words “Orthodoxy” – right belief has been important. The early church met at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and established what is known as the Nicene Creed, which was and is still seen as normative for orthodox belief.  In the years since the Church has argued over such things as how Jesus was divine and yet human, the nature of the Trinity, and various theories of the atonement. But down through the centuries there have been shocking things done to make people believe the right things. Excommunication, divisions, burnings at the stake, the inquisition with its torture and promises of damnation are just some of the activities done in the name of God, to make sure people had “right belief”.  We read the Bible in our own language and take that for granted today, but people were burned as heretics for trying to make that possible!  Looking at this terrible history, Jesus could say, “Look what they’ve done to my song!” Thankfully we have stopped burning people but in recent times I can list a lot of things done to try and bring people around. I recall an elderly minister telling me that when he got off the train in Gardner Station, Melbourne, to begin his ministry training he was asked if he was pre or post millennium in his understanding of the Second Coming of Christ. It really was important to these people. I knew a theological college principal who was sent hate mail, a death threat and even cow dung in the mail from people who thought he did not hold right beliefs. Again… “Look what they’ve done to my song ma. It’s turning out all wrong, Ma!”  I recall working as a plumber about twenty-five years ago. We were trying to find a drain running underground down a road. In desperation I tried water divining quite successfully. I don’t have a clue how it works, but it did. A couple in the Church told me I had gone over to the dark side and would go to hell! Another time I was working with a ministry student from the USA. We were looking at the hymn, “Are ye able”. One verse goes, “Are ye able to remember, when a thief lifts up his eyes, his pardoned soul is worthy of a place in paradise.”  My student colleague did not like that verse. “No” he said, “the thief would have to be baptized by immersion before he could get to heaven!” … Is that Jesus’ style? Could I worship a God hung up on a particular ritual? I have been told I would go to hell for  - not believing in a personal devil, - for not participating in the Toronto Blessing/Spiritual laughter movement that went through charismatic churches a few years ago. – for not speaking in tongues. All sorts of Christians have angrily told me “You are going to hell” for not having the right belief. (These days I just say, “That’s OK, I’ve got mates in both places!”) Creeds, threats and excluding dogma… from my reading and study of the Gospels, I just don’t think Jesus would want those. They are not his style! There are at least four reasons I shy away from definitive, exclusive creeds, dogmas or statements of faith.
1.     The meaning of the word “Believe” in the New Testament. The creedal/dogma approach to faith tends to interpret “Believe” as intellectual assent to metaphysical statements. The question they ask is, “Can you put a tick beside certain religious dogma?” But “Believe” in the New Testament has a different sense about. The Greek word translated  “believe” can be translated “to be loyal to” or to “trust or commit myself to”. The word is used in a sentence like, “Some generals deserted, but General ‘x’ was loyal to the emperor and stayed to fight with him.” It is a much more relational concept than being able to say “Yes” to the likes of the Nicene Creed or other dogmas or statements of faith.
2.     I think our “belief systems” have distorted biblical language.  The New Testament writers were sharing their experience of Jesus, their deep life-changing journey. Their language was experiential, often metaphorical and picturesque. I am sure they would not have expected their words to become dogma and serious excluding theological statements! To illustrate; A friend of mine went to Perth recently. She took a photo of Perth clouds, put it on her photo blog and wrote these words. “I landed at Perth airport and started thinking about clouds. Perth clouds are different to Dunedin clouds. They are big and fluffy and float in the air like they have nothing better to do. They have nowhere to go and feel like friendly creatures who are laying about watching the humans for fun. In contrast Dunedin clouds are all go. They are on a mission. They are thin and wispy and rush across the sky in a hurry (might be why they are thin and wispy). They don't have time to take notice of what the humans are doing, they have their own business going on”. These words give you the feel of the clouds in both Perth and Dunedin. But they would be meaningless down at the meteorological office. The weather people would give long intellectual sounding names and definitions to the clouds. It would be wrong to take my friend’s paragraph as scientific knowledge about the clouds. But those words have a truth about them. The Biblical writings are more like my friend’s description! They were not meant to be metaphysical definitions. The Church has taken their language and given it meaning it was not meant to have. The Gospel writers experienced Jesus. I can imagine them saying something like, “How can you ever describe this man?” In their scriptures the kings of Israel had been described as “sons of God”. The Roman emperors called themselves “son of God”. These disciples were so impressed with Jesus that they rather radically said, “Nah… this Jesus is THE Son of God” picking up a phrase in use in their day. The Church has picked up that phrase, made it a metaphysical statement and argued about what it meant, often without being open to the spiritual experience these disciples were trying to convey. The Church has argued about the Trinity. I once was part of a Ministers’ Association and the only denominations allowed to be part of the group had to be “Trinitarian”.  “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” are mentioned together only twice in the New Testament. In the last verses of Matthew’s Gospel and in the familiar benediction at the end of II Corinthians. (Scholars question whether these are later additions to the original texts.) I don’t think the New Testament writers meant for some sort of trinity doctrine to come out of their words of their spiritual experience! Paul talks of being “In Christ” and “In the Spirit”. John writes of the “Father” and the “Son” and then again the “Spirit” (actually “paraclete”) abiding with the believer. This was their experience. Sometimes “the presence” felt like “the Father”, sometimes “the Son” and sometimes “A moving Spirit – dynamic”. I don’t believe in their wildest dreams they expected the Church to try to define “the God-head” using these terms! I don’t think they would ever imagine it being a test of membership and often a source of theological debate in the Church!  They were simply describing a new awareness of the sacred! Another example is what is called the “Substitutionary theory of the Atonement” that has become a major part of the message of the Church. The Apostle Paul and others experienced a new freedom and grace through Jesus. How do you describe it in their setting? How do you put the feeling of this marvelous new freedom into words? All about them there are slaves. A common experience for people would have been to know of a slave set free by a ransom paid. I can imagine the New Testament writers saying, “That’s it! That’s what it feels like! A slave set free with somebody else paying the ransom! It is so great! A gift! Amazing grace!” The Church however, has taken this amazing picture and made it “theology”! They argued about  Jesus’ death, who was paying what to whom, the Devil or to God? .… By so doing they distorted the experience the writers were trying to describe.  “Look what they’ve done to my song!” indeed.  The more I read the New Testament the more convinced I am that we have read them in a dead, analytical and institutional fashion. They are evocative often-metaphorical writings and our dogma has killed their dynamic. To use them to define and enforce “right belief” is to distort the spirit in which they were written.
3.     Speaking about “the sacred” demands humility.  I occassionally attend lectures my son-in-law gives. He is a Doctor of Chemistry. I understand just some of what he knows. I am left in total awe at the world about us. That is just chemistry! How can I hope to understand or to even begin to describe “the sacred” that we experience? When it comes to “God” we must recognize that we cannot define him, there is always mystery. I often say in my wedding or funeral services, “God, or ‘the Great Spirit’ is bigger than our various religious interpretations of him.” In the face of such mystery isn’t it arrogant to write creeds, statements of faith and to be aggressive in defining “right belief”?
4.     Jesus’ example showed that for him “right belief” was just not important.
·      In Luke 6:1-11 Jesus got into trouble because he set aside the Sabbath laws for gracious behaviour. The disciples “harvested wheat” on the Sabbath. Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Jesus was a loyal practicing Jew, and yet for him life and people were more important than religious rules. I once supported a man who had terminal cancer. He was a member of a mental health drop-in centre. He died and a clergyman from his family’s denomination took the funeral, which I attended with some of his mates. After the funeral the lady leading the drop-in centre rang me. She said that many of her clients would have loved to have gone to the funeral, but it was not really their scene. It was difficult for them to go. She asked if I would take a memorial ceremony at the drop-in centre. Being ecumenically minded I suggested that she ask the clergyman who took the funeral. She said, “I did and he refused.” “Why?” I asked. “Because he told me the drop-in centre was not a consecrated building!”  Religious rules were more important to him than gracious behaviour. What would Jesus who healed on the Sabbath have done? (I led a memorial service there.)
·      When Jesus called his disciples and others he simply said, “Follow me.” He did not tell them they had to believe “A” “b” & “c”. Right belief it seemed was less important than “following” – doing the things he did.
·      When Jesus was asked, “What shall I do to enter eternal life?” his answer was to say “love God and neighbour” and to tell the story of “the Good Samaritan”. He did not say “You must believe in “the trinity”, “a literal understanding of Genesis”, “the right kind of baptism”, etc. etc. He did say, “Go do likewise!”
·      In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a parable… and it is a parable we must remember. It is the parable of the last Judgment and “the sheep and goats”.  Through it Jesus tells us what is ultimately important! The questions asked are, “Did you feed me when I was hungry? -give me a drink when I was thirsty? – visit me when I was sick and in prison? – clothe me when I was naked?” None of the questions relate to believing the right things!
If the Church and we Christians were following this Jesus, gracious behaviour would be more important than right belief! We are too engrossed in “beliefs”, perhaps as a distraction from truly following. We should be simply calling ourselves “followers” rather than the more common “believers”.

In the First letter of John the writer says, “Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God.” Somehow in the loving, we “know” the sacred. The Church has tended to say, “If we can recite beliefs about God we know him.” – wrong!

In First Corinthians the Apostle Paul is talking about gifts in the Church and what is important. He finishes chapter twelve with, “I will show you a more excellent way.”  … then comes chapter thirteen; “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing….. etc.”

Philip Gulley is right, If the Church, (if Christians) were more Christian, gracious behaviour would be more important than right belief.


My "denomination" began in America as a movement to try to unite the then splintered Presbyterian Church. Ironically it ended up a separate movement and has since split within itself. Human nature aye? One of its early slogans was "No creed but Christ." I still like that. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekend meanderings...

Bathroom done.
I like the floor I put down last Monday.
With the exception of some tile work behind the vanity (my daughter has promised to do this) and paint on a skirting board, our bathroom renovation is completed. On Saturday I did not wake up with that hanging over my head.
Skype still blows me away...
I spent time on my service, exploring options and looking at YouTube clips to use. While mucking around with the computer, a friend from Adelaide Skyped me. We had a conversation for about half an hour. I then chatted via Skype messaging with a friend in Perth. Just now my sister in Christchurch Skyped me and we have talked for well over half an hour. Now I know such technology is old hat to many, but I am still blown away by it. I can sit in my study, see the person on my screen, chat to them whether they are near or far away and it does not cost much! If I had told my father that would be a possibility he would have told me I was into science fiction.
Mountain trips...
I have walked the Organ Pipe track up "my" Mount Cargill on Saturday and today, Sunday. Today's trip I was pleased about because I did it at speed. I don't know what has happened, but there seemed to be a lot of people on the mountain. On Saturday there were quite a number of young student type people. Today it looked like family groups, the car park was full. On Saturday I realised I was getting old. As I headed up the beginning of the track I noticed a young couple arriving. The first five minutes is steep going and I was puffing away, but still pride myself in the fact that I don't stop for a breather, I keep going, and can generally keep ahead of most. This young couple (they both looked like film stars) came up behind me at quite a fast pace. I pulled to the left and let them past then walked up behind them. It annoyed me! They were wandering up the hill conversing, not puffing, just as if they were going along the flat! I, on the other hand, probably would have gasped if I had tried to talk! Old age is not much fun even when you keep yourself reasonably fit, you know you are on a downhill slope.  I did notice later on they slowed up and I was catching them up again. I think my arteries take a few minutes to wake up to the fact that they need to expand to let more blood flow! Today I noticed that people were happy. Most people were coming down as I was going up. The mountain was covered in fog so there were not great views from the top. But people still loved the climb and expressed their enthusiasm as they passed me. They were buzzing from the bush, the exercise and somehow the fog blowing past makes the mountain seem alive. I came to a junction and a group of three were looking at the noticeboard which says 30 minutes to the top. I advised them it was a long way shorter than that. (I did it in less than 10) They arrived up on top when I was sitting having my drink. I explained that there are usually great views for miles - apologising for my mountain. "We guessed that." they said with happy grins on their faces, "But this is still sooo cool!" I love seeing people enjoying "my" mountain. It has one down side for an old man with prostate problems. It is much more difficult to find a spot to "relieve myself". I nearly embarrassed myself yesterday when a young woman came along the track when I thought I was far enough off the track and alone! I go up there so often but still enjoy every trip.... strange man that I am.
This little guy came right up to me on the Mountain track. I wish I knew where he came from.
I have not got the sack... yet.
This morning's theme was, "If the Church were Christian gracious behaviour would be valued over right belief." In my sermon I guess I exposed more of my "progressive Christian" and heretical understandings about Jesus and scripture than I have before. People seemed to accept it, and I had positive feedback. One man said it was my best ever sermon. I suspect that most did not understand the full implications of what I was saying, but it felt good not compromising or fudging. I will not bore you tonight with a summary of my sermon.
Friday night funny...
We had a wee woopsy at the Friday night drop-in. We had about 50 through, all was peaceful and quiet till a couple of guys suddenly yelled at each other. One older guy has real issues and ran out the door. My wife followed to sooth him but he kept going out to the street yelling abuse at her as he headed down the road. A caring lady passing by came up to my wife to ask if she needed help.  "That's your husband?" she asked assuming it was some domestic quarrel. My wife explained what we do and that no this poor guy was not her husband, just one of our guests with mental health issues. She said when she came back, "I could have said, - Oh no that's not my husband! He's much worse than that!" Surprisingly we celebrate 43 years marriage later this week.
Two different Facebook posts for your consideration...

My son posted this... maybe he is sick of my moaning?
I spend a lot of time with people struggling with mental health.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Its called 'Christianity'"

The "Round Table" where people often gather to drink coffee and chat.
Just have to tell this story. I just called up to Space2B and was talking with various people. I past a round table where a group were chatting. One woman called out to me, "Have you heard of 'time banks' Dave?"   She went on to explain, "It is where someone can volunteer so many hours for you doing their work, then you give somebody else the same amount of time? Do you know what it is?" she asked. As quick as a flash, with a cheeky grin on his face, one of the guys said, "Yeah ... Its called 'Christianity!'" It came out so quickly that we all had to chuckle. Quite good.

"Look what they've done to my song.."


I have been on the phone since coming into my office and have just stopped for a coffee. My week so far has been busy, a bit edgy and yet reflective. "Edgy" because the Night Shelter Trust of which I am chairman has had to make important decisions and being chairman means I have to help facilitate this diverse group of people through this process. "Edgy" also because in New Zealand every six months you need to get a garage to check your car and give it a "Warrant of Fitness". They check tyres, body work, wheels, brakes, steering, lights and general safety features. My car had to go in yesterday for this and, as well as being car less for the day, I am always on edge until the results come through. One little light bulb was all I needed. "Reflective" because we have had an elders' meeting, I have had various conversations and other interactions that have had me thinking about my future in the Church as I head toward retirement age. I learned also that I could conceivably retire sometime after July this year if I wanted to. I am also doing this series on "If the Church were Christian" and as I travel through it have become increasingly aware of how distorted I see the Church when compared to the way of Jesus as I perceive him. I am grappling with that and wondering where I fit in to "orthodoxy" and the normal expectations of ministry.  Beside that I sat in our Space2B yesterday just chatting to people. We had a lot of fun with laughter and a whole variety of topics covered as people came and went. We have a wide range of people visiting and it is sometimes hard to keep in touch with all of them and be totally inclusive. As I sat there I thought, "This is really a wholesome thing happening! It has so much potential!" Then I thought that most of my Church people would not know what was happening nor perceive the love, the wholesome dynamics and affirmation that is part of it. It really is not a part of traditional understandings of "Church". It is more like a "pub with no beer." One example of the interactions is I had not bought my lunch but one lady had made an extra box of sandwiches I was given. Another guy we have been developing a relationship with, who is often on the wrong side of the law, dug in his bag and with real warmth gave me a pie he had bought at the supermarket. (At least I hope he bought it?)

Stewing on this weekend's topic and looking at music for the service I came across this old 1970 song that I often think of when I compare Jesus' way to the ways and priorities of Churches. Sometimes I think that Jesus could sing along with it with passion.  "Look what they done to my song, ma!"  I often wonder what Jesus would say about the Church that carries his name? Is it really reflective of his way? Last night I was so "buzzing" with thoughts, sermon and plans going through my head that I did not get to sleep until after 1 a.m.  Sometimes I want to escape the lot, at other times I am excited about the possibilities. Sometimes I want to scream "Stop the bus! I want off!" at other times I want to yell with delight, "Wow! what a ride!"  The change can happen in the space of a few minutes too! Gotta go... coffee finished. That's me at this moment.