Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, July 29, 2012

True wisdom...

I look forward to not having to preach when I retire in 18 months time. But one of the things I like about preaching is that in the process I grow and learn a heap more than ever my congregation learns. I share just a part of today's sermon. The reading was the great prayer from the book of Ephesians, chapter 3:14 -21. I have always loved this prayer but I grew to really appreciate one line in it. The writer says... "18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
Now I went on line and read a whole lot of commentaries on this passage. Some commentators gave me new insight into this very familiar passage. I had alway read that the "breadth and length and height and depth" was of "the love of God", but the sentence above is a very awkward translation. These commentators pointed out that in the greek these words could stand alone. That the writer is saying in effect, "I pray that you may have the power to comprehend (my interlinear greek New Testament says "apprehend") what is the breadth and length and height and depth," and then moves on to talk about knowing God's love. In a sense he was saying that he prays we might understand the breadth, length, height and depth of ... life? It hit me as being so authentic. How often do we make mistakes because we do not take into consideration the long term consequences of some action? How often do we limit life and cause disharmony because we do not think wider than ourselves and our interests? We frequently don't take into account the impacts on others, others' perspectives or other people's position in life. We are wrapped up in our own world and often exclude others... we do not comprehend the breadth of life. We often choose to live for superficial values and purposes, making decisions on shallow grounds because we do not perceive the deeper things of life. How many times do we fail to take the high road, and instead let people or situations drag us down to lower ways of behaving. For example I felt a man recently misrepresented me, I was stewing on it. A friend said to me, "Surely you have enough grace to rise above this." We often need to see the higher more noble paths in life. 

These commentators were saying that the writer was praying that we can fully perceive all the dimensions of life. I would be a much wiser and better person if I comprehended "the breadth and length and height and depth" of life.  It rang bells with me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lunch time post

It is Wednesday lunch time. I have come to work, but an influenza bug has hit me. I am mostly hiding in my office staying away from people. There are groups of people upstairs chatting in Space2B but some regulars are not there because of this influenza.
Big birthday today..
Today my wife qualifies for the "old age pension". Wow, where did the years go? I have bought and presented one present with some more to get. We have been invited out to my son's place for the evening meal. We have been told that I could join her on the pension, but at the moment I will continue in ministry.
Amazing communication age.
  • We busy ourselves communicating. On Monday we went shopping in a new Supermarket in town. I was wandering waiting for my wife to finish, while gazing blankly at our fellow shoppers. Then it struck me that so many of them were busy on their phones. The woman waiting at the checkout counter while the clerk priced her shopping was busy texting. A couple had returned to their car and unloaded their shopping trolley, I could see both were texting. Many of the shoppers wandering the isles were texting.  Others you could see were checking emails on their phones. It just hit me that so many had their phone in their hands and were busy on it. 
  • Communication is so fast! On Sunday a group of us were talking and one man who owned a restaurant in Invercargill (the southern most city of NZ)  told how he had a small fire in the restaurant. He was still in Dunedin, getting ready to drive down to Invercargill, and he was receiving phone calls from people who had seen news of the event on line! He was amazed at how fast the news spread. I know that at the fire service some years ago something happened to Dunedin fire fighters at an officers' course in Australia. The local chief officers heard about it via phone calls and were digesting the news, working out how best to respond.  It astounded me that within minutes fire fighters up and down the country had heard about it! Communication is so very quick and easy these days.
  • It brings the distant near. A man from the United Arab Emirates read my blog site and contacted me via Skype. We talked and messaged many times backward and forward. He was young and a Muslim. I am old and a Christian. But we chatted backward and forward at various times until it became awkward because he would want to chat when I had other duties. His grandmother died and he talked to me about it asking my advice about what to do. It amazed me, this man I have never actually met, in a country different and far away, communicated with me at a relatively personal level. I write on this blog site. I have a widget that tells me where in the world people are reading pages on my blog site. Lately there seems to be regular readers in Russia! Now I would love to know why people in Russia would want to regularly read the rantings of a heretic minister in a little city in the South Island of New Zealand? It is mind boggling that words I pen here reach that far so quickly!  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A shower dome and a quote.

Today is my day off so we went to town and purchased a "shower dome." People tell me they are marvelous, keep the steam in the shower and even save on water heating? We will see. My wife has been suggesting it since we put our shower in. You buy this clear acrylic dome and you have to trim it to size. It recommends that it be installed by a "trained installer" because apparently the acrylic can crack and split and do all sorts of nasty things. I managed to trim it to suit our curved shower with my fancy "renovator" tool. I'm quite pleased with myself. We'll wait and see if it is as marvelous as they say. Who needs a "trained installer"?
While sneaking into my daughter's house to get my fancy power tool I found this quote. I quite like it.
"Will we march only to the music of time, or will we, risking criticism and abuse, march to the soul saving music of eternity?" - Martin Luther King (jnr)

Pain, pocketknives and pondering

It hits from time to time...
It will be a week since we had put our dog down. I knew it was the best decision but I still miss him. Now you need to know that he was not like some dogs in some households. In many households the dog is like a person in the family. Max was loved but he was still a dog. But I have realised how often I greeted him and he greeted me. It has been strange coming home at night and not hearing his bark of greeting. Every morning I have suddenly missed not seeing him check out what is going on and on Saturdays I often had more contact. I'll get used to him not being there but it is funny how much they become a part of life.
Pocket knives that keep coming back.
Some years ago a friend came back from a european trip and presented me with a real swiss army knife. That knife has been well used since then and indeed has been knocked around a bit, not now the shinny example it once was. Every day it is in my pocket, most often hanging on a chain. There has seldom been a day when I have not carried it, people tease me because I carry it, but I often find a use for one of its implements. On Friday I had been cutting up an apple at my office desk and had left the knife sitting on the desk. A friend came in and eventually took me away to check something out at the Night Shelter. My wife came in and took me away for lunch. About mid-afternoon I could not find my knife anywhere! I searched both the office and car. I thought I could remember throwing it in my pocket, but not attaching it to the chain. I thought of all the places (car-coffee bar- public toilets - garage-door workshop etc.) where I had sat down or where it could potentially have dropped out of my pocket. By Friday night I had decided it was lost, gone forever. Probably somebody else had picked it up and was celebrating their find. I was sad because I was attached to that knife. On Saturday I got up and loaded an old "Mercator" knife onto my chain and took an electrician friend to the Night Shelter to do some work for us. He did his wiring and I delivered him home, while I debated with myself about whether to go back and fix a hinge on a door. I decided I would and entered the property again. I was carrying a toolbox and was just thinking, "I wish I had my swiss army knife!" and happened to look down at the grass where I was walking. There it was, lying in the damp grass not far from the front door of the night shelter! I snatched it up, clicked it onto my chain and texted my wife. "That which was lost has been found!" I had given it up for being lost for good. I am sure if any night shelter clients had seen it I would have lost it. I was so pleased. I thought about a similar event with my "Mercator" knife. I had it when I was plumbing - 40 something years ago. I was fixing a pipe at an uncle's house in a muddy trench near a steep bank. I filled in the trench, but later discovered my knife was not with my tools. Quite a few months later I was helping my uncle cut the lawns and I saw part of the handle of the knife sticking out of the ground. It was rusty but cleaned up well. An old plumber once said to me, "Every good plumber should carry a pencil, pocket knife, rule and piece of string!" These days as a minister, I am seldom without one of my pocket knives and a pen.
My old "Mercator" and my "Victorinox" Swiss Army knife. - shield came off. :-) Love them both. 
Full on weekend..
This weekend my daughter and son-in-law were away. They do a lot of the powerpoint preparation and technical support for our Church services. They set up the equipment and "push the buttons" during Church and also produce the Church newsletter. I had to do all their duties and there were some extra things thrown into the service I  had to prepare for. I wondered if I could get it all done, particularly since during the week my usual work pattern had been interrupted regularly. I began the weekend a way behind schedule and at one stage said to my wife, "I'll never do it!" But I did. Focusing on one job at a time, planning which parts to do when and just settling down to work through the list - I made it. I did a sermon essentially on Psalm 23 with a bit of Mark 6 (The "Sheep without a shepherd" passage). My partial outline is below.... my testimony bouncing off the "Shepherd Psalm".

Friday, July 20, 2012

Something good's going on at our drop-in.

I am sitting in bed drinking my Horlicks, its 11: 05 p.m. on a Friday night. We are unwinding from our Drop-in centre. Our Church runs a drop-in on Friday nights. We open the doors at 6:30 p.m. and close up at 9:30 p.m.  When people arrive they get sausages, bread and tomato sauce and there is a selection of sandwiches all around the hall. We have lounge chairs, couches, two pool tables, one table tennis table, stereo tuned into a music radio station, piano, jigsaw, some craft things and an area where people can watch TV. There is hot water going all night and people can help themselves to hot and cold drinks (non-alcoholic) Buns, loaf and sweet things are served throughout the evening. We would average around 40-45 through. The people who come are all unemployed, many are mental health patients and people with addiction problems. They range in age from a nine year old girl through to men in their seventies. An example would be tonight a guy was there who had been away for 5 months. He told me, "I got out on Wednesday" and talked about prison life. We have known him for years. Another young man has a carer with him because of his bad behaviour, but we find him delightful. He runs around helping to mix drinks, keep the water up to the urn, do dishes and generally with a smile, teasing and laughter enjoying our company. We have run the drop-in since 1995.
Tonight we had 65 through. It was such a good night, so much laughter, conversation and friendship. Both pool tables and the table tennis table were busy all night.  I spent much of the night doing dishes, but conversed heaps and played both pool and table tennis. I looked at what was going on and thought that this was something unique and special.
A decision...
At various times persons from among those who come step up and begin helping to host the night. We have had a man come for many years who has been very deaf, from birth I think.  A year or so ago he got hearing aids which helped his hearing, but he still talks like a deaf person. Tonight he informed me that he had turned 48! (He looks younger) I wished him a happy birthday and he said, "I'm ooold now! - Hate it." I assured him he had a long way to go to catch me. While I was doing the dishes he came up with his cup and put it in the water. Then went away. Soon he was back with two more. Then he said, "I'll look for more" and he went around the room collecting cups and delivering them to be washed. I washed some teaspoons and a cup that we put them in and he dried them and took them back to the drinks station. I smiled inside... he had decided to join us in helping host the night. In some ways I think this is similar to, what they used to call, a "decision for Christ". Its signifies a very significant move. He has chosen to move from client to become a host. When he left he came over to me at the sink and said a special "Goodbye". When we got home we chatted about him and various people and how each had changed significantly for the better. Something special and good is going down each Friday night. I was tired and grumpy when I began tonight, but in spite of this, I loved my night.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Aaaargh...All too much!

I have been struggling this week. There are some health issues to contend with. In the last couple of days I have also had to listen to other people's issues and difficulties. I have had to recognise some short comings I have had as chair of the Night Shelter. Progress seems slow and frustrating. So I spent last night stewing, sick of it all and wanting to chuck in everything. Two things have helped.

  • On Tuesday night I watched a documentary on William Wilberforce and his work and impact. There was little that was new for me in the documentary but just the reminder of this guy's tenacity inspired me.
  • The reading for Mark set by the Revised Common Lectionary for this week. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 

30The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 
53When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
  • I found the description "like sheep without a shepherd" a good description of our society. We have given up traditional foundations (and I suspect that's not bad) but we have not discovered or cemented in new ones.
  • I could identify with "For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat." (I work through every lunch hour) That's what my life feels like.
One comment on the passage by William Loader I found via the Textweek website inspired me....

"Mark’s hearers then and now know that this is not the whole story, but it does not change the nature of the mission: to offer leadership in teaching and in acts of compassion that bring healing and set people free from what oppresses them.

It felt like he had given expression to a mission statement for my life and it is helping me today to hang in there.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Goodbye Max

There was an old cowboy tear jerker song named "There's a bridle hanging on the wall."  That song has been running through my mind, particularly as I put away my old dog's collar and his walking leads. We took him first thing this morning to a vet to be put down, his time had come.
I recall that when we got him I was not keen. We had enjoyed three dogs in our family over the years and I loved each one.  I knew I was so busy that maybe we could not give the time a dog needed.  Our foster daughter who had big handicaps had loved Flint, who was my son's dog, and would spend hours with him. He got cancer and had to be put down.  After a time it seemed the family wanted a new dog and my hesitations seemed out of place. This mischievous little puppy arrived and the family and their friends fell in love with him, he was named "Max".  I recall one of my sons and his teenage friends enjoying "Maxy" a lot.  He grew to be a very strong, broad shouldered Labrador who never lost some of his "puppyness". He had the most beautiful nature. I only remember him growling once in his life, at a grumpy Pitbull we encountered on a track once. On one occasion he spent time in kennels. The proprietor loved him, remembering him fondly when we returned some years later and welcomed him back by name, surprised he was as well as he was.  
He and I went for many walks, quiet walks up the road most often, while I unwound from a day. My wife ended up being his main daily walker in the second part of his life. I went on many bigger walks with him. He came up Swampy Summit with me. We walked up Flagstaff and of course "my" Mount Cargill together many times. He came up both those hills in snow, nuzzling his way through this fascinating white cold stuff.  There was something nice walking with this quiet friendly companion and I confess to chatting away to him as we walked. He would look at me patiently and seemed to listen. When I stopped he would come sit beside me and lean against my leg. He loved having his chest scratched. He, like the rest of my family, suffered a certain neglect, because of my busy lifestyle. I feel guilty about that, he deserved a lot more pampering and companionship. 

A 2008 walk in the bush
I went for a nostalgic walk with him last night with a big lump in my throat. He got breathless fairly easily so it was a relatively short walk. He still was keen to go though and seemed to enjoy our time together - he was still a puppy in his mind. This morning when I loaded him into the car he seemed to be asking, "Where are we going boss? For a walk? .. Oh boy!" He was always inquisitive and keen to explore. When the vet and her nurse came up, here were two new friends to meet with wagging tail. .. It has been hard, but it was his time. He apparently was an ancient dog for his breed. (16-17 years) I had a photo of him when he was first diagnosed with health issues. (A tumor and breathing difficulties) When I compared it with his condition today he was fading away and was getting wobbly on his back legs. He will be our last pet. Perhaps when I retire I'll have time for a pet, but I think we'll be needing to simplify and free up life then.
Watching me gardening last year.
I buried Max reverently in a quiet spot, beside the bush down the back paddock. Thank you for enriching my life old friend... we should all be like Max, inquisitive, friendly and still "puppies" in our hearts.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Quoted in the newspaper

The Dunedin Night Shelter in Lees Street.
One of the local community papers is called "the D Scene." While we were getting ready to host our kids for tea on Monday night I received a call from a reporter. She fired questions at me about the possibility of a woman's night shelter. I had involved our social work student in making phone calls to agencies to see what the need was for a shelter. Somehow I think this woman had heard about that. I am always guarded with reporters. I have been burned before. Sometimes they are out for some sort of critical, dirt digging angle. I was quite pleased with the result with this article though, there was only one little mistake.  We have a few things on the go and are working toward a street appeal on August 10th - 11th. Anyone want to volunteer to stand with a collection bucket? Let me know on brown.church@xtra.co.nz .
I am in the process of preparing a blog site for the Night Shelter. Watch this space.
Tonight I am home alone. I have cooked and eaten a big but lovely evening meal. I have loud sixties music playing on the stereo, the fire burning and now am sipping an old dark beer. About four hours ago I was sitting on some steps next to a big copper kettle where this beer is produced chatting to the brewers. I am a lucky man, my life is an interesting journey.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mid winter lunch

Last Friday the available local Workplace Support Chaplains had a mid winter meal at the kiosk at the Botanical Gardens. It was a good time to spend with people of like mind. These people have been regular chaplains visiting people in places like ambulance stations, a casino, concrete manufacturers, road work sites, power line companies, freezing works, supermarkets, homes for people with handicaps, brewery, etc. etc.  They have helped people work their way through heaps of problems.  Family break ups, workplace deaths, difficult kids, financial problems, stress, just a listening ear for day to day life events and much much more are all the sorts of things these folk share in day in and day out. We do the same sort of work but we are very different people.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Family, fulfillment and feeling good

The family when we were a lot younger.
All  my children are over 30 now, adults with their own spouses or partners. My oldest child has a birthday today, so last night she, her husband, my youngest son and his fiancee came for an evening meal.  It was the first time the fiancee had been at our house so my daughter and son began showing her family photos and chatting about the family events the photos revealed. Then we rang the son in Edinburgh, Scotland and skyped with son, daughter in law and grand daughter in Auckland. As I sat there the phone and computer got handed around. There was good natured bantering going on. The kids were interested in each other and chatted with warmth and humour. I looked and listened and felt pleased and proud. Here was a family who loved, accepted and cared for one another. I was not the most consistent dad. My wife was always the loving level headed caring mum. But either my kids are resilient or somehow we did something right, they are turning out to be fine men and women with a beautiful variety of personality. For that I am thankful. I have no doubt that like me they will have their moments. I hope and pray that they will continue to find love, growth and fulfillment. ... at the moment I could leave this life and feel good about the family I've helped shape.
Today shortly after 8 a.m. I hit the office and at around 6 p.m. I was back at the office to pack up and go home. I did not really stop "working" all day. I have had heaps of conversations during the day. I am learning that being a chairman of a group is not just facilitating meetings, but chatting with members of the Trust, picking their brains and assisting them to do their thing - about two hours were spent chatting with Night Shelter Trust Board members. I enjoy the company of like minded people.  An hour was spent chatting about working-with-people issues with a social work student on fieldwork placement with me. I came to realise much of what I have learned has happened through trial and error and reflection on that. I also chatted with ambulance staff, the city's street sweeper (he's going to buy me some cholesterol reducing nuts - lovely guy!) other guests in Space2B, and firefighters. Just now after my evening meal I nearly fell asleep in front of the fire. I have some more reading for sermon preparation to do before I go to bed. I am still distracted by health issues but - I believe, so far, I have made a difference for good today.  I'm pleased about that!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another Sunday... the need for depth.

The picture does not do justice to the reality... I love the "layers" of hills and mountains in the background.

Great place to sermonise. Loved this sunset view last night.

Serious looking grand daughter.
I survived another Sunday of Church ministry. I could identify with the Old Testament reading today. It came from Ezekiel, the call of God to the prophet to speak an unpopular message. Some of the words ascribed to God are recorded as;
"7You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house."
I could  identify with the prophet. I often feel my words in Church and in other places fall on deaf ears. But then again, maybe mine are not clearly "Thus says the Lord" words. 
I did not sleep much last night so after Church I was exceptionally tired. We went out to the recently opened "Mad Butcher" shop where they had a special opening deal on sausages. It was "Buy 50, get 20 free." We serve sausages to about 40 people every Friday night so we went out and bought heaps of packets of 50, scoring a packet of 20 with each. A shop assistant looked at us as we were piling these in the trolly. You could hear his mind going. "These guys are greedy!" I am sure he was saying to himself. "You must love sausages!" he said to us. "Oh. Not for us." I stammered, "we run a drop-in centre." We went to the checkout and the wide eyed woman said, "Are these for a sausage sizzle!" "No" I repeated, "We run a drop-in centre." I was glad to get out of the place and walk our trolly full of sausages to the car with other pedestrians staring at our loot.
Lacking depth.. a "spirituality".... thinking out loud???
As I was preparing my sermon for this morning I got to thinking about the substance abuse, the abuse of alcohol and the impact of greedy materialism on people's lives. Our first reaction is to say, "The government should be doing something!" But I think you will never legislate a truly healthy lifestyle. These abuses are symptoms of something deeper. People are simply not happy. They are missing significance in their life. Somehow we need to enable people to discover lives of depth, fulfillment and meaning. If that happened, teenagers, and adults (a news item suggested the heaviest drinkers were men in their fifties) will value life too much to get into such destructive abuse. Somehow we in the west need to attend to the "depth" of life. We need to discover a meaningful spirituality that enables us to navigate our way through life. We, even in the Church, are afraid of depth. We are weak, or malnourished in that dimension of life. Because we are weak, we are suffering. Let me say that traditional and contemporary Christianity has been found wanting, and no longer meets the deep need. The Church needs a reformation which would lead to different emphases, different patterns of serving and communicating, and a simple but profound "gospel". Perhaps it is coming.. but probably not in my time. Though the church is distorted, society still needs some group whose job it is to keep reminding us to dig deeper, and not just live on the surface. Superficial living, even religious superficiality, destroys us in the long run.

Friday, July 6, 2012

On top of a drunk woman

Just home from our Friday night drop-in centre. We were just about to close up when a couple who had left came back up the stairs. Nick called me over and said, "It's 'x' (one of our well known women) she's out the door on the foot path drunk as!" I went down and she had decided to visit us, got to the church door and collapsed. I tried to sit her up, but she kept sliding down. I wandered across to the ambulance station to see if I could get help but nobody was home. I went back and she had crawled into the door of the church intent on getting to the drop-in. I thought I might be able to take her home and a guy and I tried to lift her onto a chair. He gave up, and she was determined not to go outside, yelling her protests, while the Korean young people were trying to hold a prayerful service next door. I was trying to pull her up on my own, she pulled against me and before I knew it we were face to face on the floor. In the end I called the emergency number and called an ambulance. I knew the guys and they said they had seen her already tonight. Security at the hospital had kicked her out of ED because she was causing a disturbance. But with their help we got her into the back of the ambulance and they took her back to hospital.
So many questions went through my mind. A human life wasted, why? Anger at all the things that happened to her, even before her birth, in her family and in her life which contributed to her state of being. There was the question as to why there is not an appropriate place where she could be looked after so she is not continually ending up in messes like this? Who sold her the alcohol? Why is there not a detox place where such people do not take up time of the ambulance, police or the Emergency Department? What else could we have done? It was a freezing night.
I drove home deeply disturbed. Here is a child of God. Smelly, dirty, stumbling and drunk. This is how she lives! It is so so sad!
I apologised to the ambulance crew. I feel sorry for the staff at ED. But I could not handle her on my own. I ended up on top of her on the floor... I tried.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Images of sickness...

  • The week started with a picture in the  newspaper of a house in Mosgiel (A township within the wider Dunedin City) which had suffered an explosion. Apparently two young men (18 - 19) had been "huffing" from an LPG cylinder when there was the massive explosion. "Huffing" is inhaling the gas to get some sort of narcotic reaction/experience. Two of them are severely burnt and critically ill! On Tuesday as I spoke with people from the emergency services I received some of the horrific details and read the concern in the faces of those who attended the scene. Why do teenagers imbibe in such behaviour? The prevalence of such things as glue/gas sniffing, drug taking and the abuse of alcohol is for me a real concern. It is a symptom of empty lives, lives lacking purpose, meaning and direction and it is deeply sad.
  • I read too in the papers and on the internet of street brawls, stabbings and violence among young people in various incidents around the country. Why? It is irrational. 
  • The trial of Ewan McDonald for the murder of Scott Guy has been hitting the headlines. While he was found not guilty, lots of dysfunction and distortion within the wider families has been brought to life. It seemed relationships in the extended family had been poisoned by jealousy and greed. One commentator said, "Such things are in all our families, it has just been exposed in this one." Well ... "no" not in all our families! But, unfortunately, I do know of many families in which greed has ruined relationships.
  • A coroner's report on the death of a young teenager in an accident on the road leading to our place has shown it was because of the use of cannabis. So sad.
Such events leave me feeling sad. Wasted precious lives. I am aware too of not just the lives in the incident, but there is always collateral damage and stress others have to carry. Such incidents make me want to work harder to show a different constructive, life-valuing and life-enhancing way of life. 
Medical questions...
I have something happening in my body that needs investigated. I have made an appointment, but it is annoying and leaves me with a certain amount of apprehension and uncertainty. Part of me wants to stop and take time out while I get it sorted, but that is unnecessary.  It is an annoying distraction. At such times I learn to admire those who live day in and day out with difficult health issues that are not going to get better. So often they face such situations with courage and positivity. I need to learn from them.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Enjoyable, comforted but envious...

I have had a day off when a few of our plans didn't happen. A trip to the hardware store proved a waste of time. What we wanted to buy would not fit in the car. A trip to a science festival program likewise proved wasted - there was no room in the hall for us. A plan I had dreamed up to make little gifts for a luncheon later in the week did not work out. I had a lazy but frustrating day. Tonight I blobbed out in front of idiot TV for a while then went on You Tube and listened to various speakers. Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan,  Philip Gulley, Philip Yancy, Krista Tippet and Barbara Brown Taylor have all informed and entertained me tonight. I have enjoyed myself.
Less lonely
I get so much mail and religious stuff thrown at me from the religious right that I begin to feel lonely. Am I the only one asking the questions I ask? Am I the only one thinking the thoughts and rethinking the faith? Am I an out and out heretic, really out in left field?  Tonight I have enjoyed listening to people asking the same sort of questions, rethinking the traditional perspectives, but who are still alive "spiritually". It has been good not to feel so alone.
One aspect not emphasised enough ...
It is great to listen to these type of thinkers and to read them. I find though that I feel they often miss out on an important emphasis of who Jesus is and what a "Jesus spirituality" should look like. I love their theological reflections, and it is important to think out the faith. But for me I would want to add that a servant lifestyle is an important expression of the faith, an important experience of the faith and an important part of the theological journey. Progressive Christianity which leaves out active compassion does not know "Jesus" no matter how good its intellectual thinking, or modern its liturgical expression. I love listening to and reading Progressive Christian thinkers, but often get the feeling I want to add this dimension to what they say. So many of my experiences of and insights into the "sacred" have come through a servant lifestyle.
But jealous... 
I listen to these speakers and get jealous. I have the same questions, the same sort of thinking and am on a similar journey - but in my attempts to communicate or articulate it even to myself, I am a babbling simpleton compared to these articulate and skilled thinkers and speakers. I want to scream at God, "Would it have spoiled some vast eternal plan if you had given me a little bit more intelligence and skill!" I get so frustrated with my skill levels when I see such clever intellects.
Oh well you play with the hand you have been dealt as best you are able - but a few more Kings, Queens and Aces would help.