This week it was my birthday. I was to be busy on the day, but the day before the family had planned a morning tea at "The Fix" a coffee bar where my son works. I duly went along and my wife had baked a carrot cake for the ocassion. My son was there with my daughter and son-in-law. The kids gave me a voucher with which I could purchase the latest "Renovator double bladed saw" device to add to my considerable power tool collection. (We did this on Saturday) At Space2B on that day I was sitting chatting and in walked Keith, a reader of my blog. He had purchased a cake and had it suitably inscribed ... "Happy Birthday Pastor Dave." It was a delight to catch up. We sat and chatted and passed the cake around Space2B attenders. On my birthday I attended the Chaplains' retreat and there too I received yet another cake which we shared at supper that night. A radio broadcast service had to be recorded on the afternoon of the day and after that I went back to the office and switched on my computer. To my surprise a woman I have only known on Skype sent me birthday greetings from China and we chatted briefly. I received greetings on my birthday from a friend at work in Wellington. Later that night a similar Skype acquaintance from the UK also sent greetings. On Saturday night a special friend from Hungary messaged via Skype with a "happy birthday" message and a long chat. Greetings also came from Australia, my son in Edinburgh and of course from Auckland. It is all evidence of a world made smaller by this amazing technology I play with.
Questioning the retreat sessions???
Late afternoon and in the evening on Wednesday, on Thursday morning and night and on Friday until 2 p.m. I attended the Work Place Support Chaplains' retreat. I found it extremely stressful because in between times I was trying to get things done for Church and Night Shelter. I was up late at nights and early in the morning to try to succeed in this, but I found myself doing things badly because I was attempting to fit in both the retreat and work. We had sessions on "Images of God". In the process we did exercises like focusing on our image and were invited to "play" with our image. I appreciated the chance to explore my images, but felt like the exercise was narcissistic. While I appreciated the leader, it was the second time in the week when I had the sense that religious activity and priorities had strayed from Jesus' way. I could not help but think that "Jesus and me" or "God and me" having warm spiritual experiences was not the focus of Jesus. Jesus seemed to be saying, "Obey me, go out and love - and then you will discover that I and the Father will make our home in you." He said "Lose your life and you will find it." Thats when I experience a partnership with God. The sessions somehow felt like "Spiritual Masturbation" and out of step with the way of Jesus. But I think I was the only one with such thoughts so I kept quiet. I left the retreat and went to a meeting at the Night Shelter. There I saw two men needing helpful accommodation moving into Phoenix Lodge. We discussed more men moving in this week. It is exciting! It could give guys a second chance! It was there that I sensed God smiling! I went eventually to our Drop-in centre and once again sensed the companionship of God, exhausted though I was. That, to me, is the spirituality of Jesus! I recently watched two TV documentaries about the plight of refugees. I see people wasting their lives every day. I feel for the sadness of people who are in a mess in relationships or addictions or with twisted values. In the midst of all this it feels like religious escapism to be sitting around trying to have spiritual experiences! I thought of the short poem...
I sought my soul,
But my soul I could not see.
I sought my God,
But my God eluded me.
I sought my brother,
And I found all three.
That is my experience of the sacred. But maybe I am a way off track? Horses for courses I guess... whatever floats your boat.
My Sunday running/walking friend and I had held a texting conversation at our normal time for meeting. It was raining, had hailed and the sky looked ominous. We decided to cancel our walk today. But later it came right and I ventured up my mountain. Look how clear it was then! You could hardly believe it was the same day. Dunedin on a sunny day is beautiful.