Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This rings bells!

A friend put this on facebook. As I look back on a nearly completed career as a minister this is how I have often felt. To me the Church has so distorted the way of Jesus, or been so polluted by the culture and values around it that so few hear the music! It is extremely sad because they think they do.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Growing up without me.

Oh I wish...
I work on six days of each week and have Mondays off. (Though like today there are frequently work things that need doing.) We received a photo of our grand daughter on Saturday and we were astounded at how much she had grown. We Skyped with the family tonight and were so impressed with this very grown up looking alert baby. All this just made me want to get up there and spend time with her. She will be grown up without knowing her grand parents! But when can I do such a visit? It requires travel to airport, flight nearly the length of NZ, transport to Auckland city and a ferry ride to Waiheke Island. With only one day off a week it is an impossibility!  I get so jealous when I hear of other folk in the church taking a weekend to visit grand children. Maybe I'll pinch a couple of days off before Christmas, get some cheap airfares and disappear?? 
Feels good to be active
I went up my mountain today at a fast pace and jogged down. I really pushed myself and was pleased with what I could do. It is a buzz getting back to some regular and serious exercise. I have a 10k race in March that I am hoping I can do successfully. Because of my bionic plumbing I had to wear long trousers, I would loved to have been in shorts, we have had a brilliant sunny day. 

Already tonight work emails have arrived demanding attention. I have a very busy week ahead, life seems to be cranking up. We have met tonight to begin planning for our 24th Community Christmas dinner. Wow! We can do it ... again.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I survived another Sunday.

I ran again...
Today is the beginning of running again, or at least trying to run again. I have been slowly increasing the exercise I do, and I intend to keep on doing that. I have had a Sunday running friend for several years, but because of my sore knee and her knee surgery, for virtually all of this year our Sunday runs have been Sunday walks. We have had a couple of attempts at running, but these have been a bit premature for her recovery. Her physio has put her on a running program now to get her back training. I have decided it probably is good for me to slowly build up with the same program. Today we began the journey toward regular running again.  Our Sunday runs used to be at least 10k ones, sometimes building up toward a half marathon.  Today it was a short, slow run in the middle of our usual hour long walk. Because of my "bionic plumbing" I have to do it in long pants, but it felt good and everything operated OK. It was good to have a little jog and feel just a little bit young again.
So hard to run a service..
I put a lot of effort into preparing a Sunday service. I try to bring together several elements to make the whole service follow a theme. I still put in the effort but it is harder to get the fire in the belly that I usually have. A part of this is that I am going to retire at the end of next year and I do not see much hope of developments and progress in that final year.  I do not like the concept of just biding my time here so I will continue to do the best I can to build up our friendships and a sense of community. It just takes a bit more effort to feel positive.
A hit to my confidence...
I am wearing a catheter and bag until I get an operation sometime in the next six months. It is now quite comfortable and hardly limits what I can do. But I am aware of its presence all of the time. I worry about it breaking at an embarrassing moment. I worry about it being seen in the leg of my trousers. When I sit down with my trouser leg riding high, can people see the "pee bag"? Is there a bulge in my lower trouser leg when I am standing in front of people? While it is comfortable for me, and I now do not feel it limits me (I can run, play table tennis and work hard physically etc. etc.) I find a certain loss of confidence. When I'm talking with people in chaplaincy I am not as confident. When I am leading a church service I find myself being like a diffident young preacher, with a regular hesitations. Maybe I will get used to it as time goes by, but it is an interesting experience. One physical malfunction makes me feel less of a person somehow. I noticed when I was eating my porridge this morning that my hand was shaking, already stressing about the service.
A funeral on Wednesday
I have to lead a funeral on Wednesday. It is for a lady I have known since I was a teenager. Her and her husband were at our wedding. She became a good friend of my mother, they did a lot of things together in the last years of my mother's life. I supported her a lot as her minister when she was supporting her husband who had a debilitating illness. I was her minister when he died and helped her during this time. Now at 95 she has died and on Wednesday I lead her funeral. I have not led a funeral for a number of months now, so it will be interesting to see how I go. Her daughter-in-law is a friend and fellow minister. She worked with me when she was training. I hope I have enough confidence to do a good job. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What would Jesus do?

Today I arrived early at the office to get some tasks done. One of the tasks on my "to do" list is to deliver a letter to an unsavoury character banning him from Space2B.  At one level it runs against the inclusive Spirit of Jesus, so I find it difficult to do. It is like accepting defeat in the struggle of love against evil. My theory is that love overcomes evil, but this feels like I am denying that. But I have to protect other people and the atmosphere of Space2B from this guy. Maybe it is tough love? I typed up this meditation on Psalm 56 by Lesley Brandt for worship sometime soon. It is kind of how I feel lately. I share it with you.

O God, I have tried incessantly
to transmit Your love to people about me.
I shared my possessions;
I gave my time;
I used your gifts given to me to support,
To help, and to bless others
who were in need.

But I feel as if I have been used, O God.
People have wiped their feet on me.
They take what I have to offer and then go on their way,
totally oblivious to my problems and pains.
They act as if I were in debt to them –
as if it were my duty to share myself with them.

But even as I groan in complaint, O Lord,
I know that it is Your course for me.
Even as they use You, so they will use me.
Truly, O God, I have nothing to lose,
For it is in losing that I truly find
that which is of everlasting value.

You are aware of my frustrations,
my feelings of emptiness and loneliness.
You have promised to replenish my vessel,
to make me a channel for Your eternal springs.
I am in debt, O Lord,
to suffering humanity about me.
I must be emptied again and again –
only to be filled from your boundless resources
and then to pour out once more
Your blessings upon those in need.

You have delivered me from the wasteland of need.
Therefore I dedicate myself anew
to the task of channeling Your gifts
to the parched lives of others.

(Leslie Brandt’s meditation on Psalm 56.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Mountain two days later...

On Monday I walked up Mount Cargill in hail and snow. I was all rugged up with waterproof clothing and warm winter woolies underneath. Last night (Wednesday) after work I went (at 5:30 p.m.) up "my" mountain again. (It is a great way to do sermon preparation ) In contrast to Monday I walked up with sunshine coming through the bush. Instead of tramping boots and winter woolies I wore the lightest of clothing, running shoes and still got hot. I used to go for runs regularly, but now aging knee prevents serious running.  As I walked I was thinking that the fast climb up is probably more aerobically challenging than my 10 k jogs were and the continual stepping up must be good for leg muscles. Up and down is one and a half hour's of exercise, it is less stressful on my knee joints, I can do it with my bionic plumbing and the bush and scenery are delightful. With daylight saving I can fit it in after work. I still hope to get back into running, but my mountain climb will be as good as my runs used to be for a while. I took the photos above from the top, three different angles of Dunedin City. I imagined a city full of people unwinding after the day's activities.   

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Spring snow!

It is Labour Day in NZ today and a Monday holiday. I'm not sure why we still celebrate it, for many the things sought after back then (40 hour week, weekends etc.) are not a reality in today's super efficient mean labour market. We had a relatively sunny morning, but this afternoon rain and hail have been coming through. I decided to rug up and go up my mountain. Up there it was snowing and a beautiful winter wonderland. It has been a few weeks since I have climbed the mountain and the first time since I have been fitted with this "bionic plumbing system." (Catheter & bag) It was good to do it because it made me feel less like an invalid.

Search for meaning...

A photo taken in Egypt during the early months of my father's war experience.
El Alamein
The Battle of El Alamein happened 70 years ago and there have been ceremonies remembering that event. There were 7000 kiwi casualties with around 1300 killed. My father was in the Eighth Army in the NZ Artillery and fought in that campaign. As I read the reports of the veterans visiting friend's graves at the ceremonies I could not help but think of my father. He would have known many of those who were killed. He did not talk much about the war, but he did mention once to me how he had to give orders or make decisions that sometimes resulted in casualties. It was the nature of war that he had to take men into dangerous circumstances and ask them to fight. He rose to the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major and I think the Battle of El Alamein had a major impact on his life. I remember him especially this weekend, he had/has a profound impact on who I am.
Frankl makes sense
I continue to be saddened by the things that happen in our community. I read of violence regularly and there are heaps of examples of senseless vandalism. Jewish graves in an Auckland cemetery were sprayed with swastikas. As I drove into the Church car park this morning there were signs that a group had a party there last night. Beer and vodka bottles were strewn around, a shopping trolly lay up against the building and a pipe had been torn off the wall and smashed. There have been an number of deaths on the road this holiday weekend. Many of those as the result of alcohol use. I had to deal with a situation where sexual harassment had been alleged during the week. I am astounded to read every week of young girls suffering abuse from men they should have been able to trust. At drop in centre on Friday night a guy kept saying to me "If ....... even looks at me, I'm goin' to smash his face in. I'm warning you Dave!" "No you're not. Not up here! Leave him alone. Stay clear of him." But this guy was a bit paranoid and the only way he knew how to deal with it was violence. Fortunately nothing untoward happened. Why violence? Why vandalism? Why abuse of alcohol? Why the abuse?
My mind went back to the You Tube clips I watched recently of Viktor Frankl speaking. He talks of the basic need for humans is to have a sense of meaning in life. Happiness is a by-product of living for a truly meaningful cause. When we pursue happiness she will always allude us. But when we live for some cause or meaning bigger than ourselves we find happiness. (Jesus said, "When we lose our life we find it." ) For Frankl, when people have no meaning they do meaningless things, like violence, vandalism, abuse of alcohol and drug taking. When we have no real meaning to live for we default to the "will to power" or "the will to pleasure", and sometimes the unrestrained will to power and pleasure. Our basic concern, according to Frankl, is "finding and fulfilling a meaning in life." He says that the "will to pleasure and the will to power are substitutes for the frustrated will to meaning." I see in chaplaincies, church and community work a deep poverty. So many people have no deep meaning in life. I like Frankl's perspectives. They are so relevant!
Reflecting on an illustrative conversation
I went for a walk with my friend this afternoon. She was asking about my Saturday and how I spent it. I told her about spending time at the Night Shelter/Phoenix Lodge cleaning and tidying. At Phoenix Lodge we offer transitional accommodation for people who come out of prison. She asked me, "Do you enjoy that?" I did not really know what to answer, so did not give a definitive answer.  We were cleaning up somebody else's unsavoury mess. At one level you don't really enjoy having to do that... but.. at another level I found it deeply fulfilling, and so I could have answered, "Well...Yes I enjoyed it."  Here is why. One of my deep meanings in life is to live in such a way that I help make life better for others. - To support and help facilitate others in finding a whole and fulfilling life. The purpose of Phoenix Lodge fits into that meaning, so even when I am cleaning up mouldy left over food for that bigger purpose, I find it rewarding, and at a deep level "enjoyable".  Happiness is a by-product.  Does that make sense?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dream partially realised...

I  have not had as productive a day as I had hoped.  It was one of those days when it has been hard to settle because of other things going on. I arrived at the church later than I wanted and started talking to a couple who were working around the church. He is a retired electrical expert and has taken it upon himself to do repairs to the old 1937 Hammond organ we have. He had it in bits and was putting new modern capacitors and bits in and checking resultant electrical currents and frequencies. While I don't really enjoy the sound of the organ, I find the workings fascinating and admire his skill in doing the repairs. I suspect there would be few people in NZ able to do such things. He has had medical issues, with a much awaited appointment yesterday and so we talked through this event. I then settled to office work producing a poster for the outside noticeboard. I went out to put it up and got to talking with a friend who was walking past. He and I were largely responsible for starting Habitat for Humanity in Dunedin and I had not seen him for a long while. We shared life experiences. We talked about our faith journey and where we were at. We theologised and sorted the world out, or more correctly, pondered the questions.  It was great to catch up but again time consuming. Pretty soon our Church was opened up for free coffee/hot drinks with its couches, easy chairs and coffee tables. This is the main part of my Space2B dream, my concept of a different way of doing "Church".  My dream was to make the down town building a friendly space where people can come, enjoy a hot drink, comfortable surroundings and caring conversation if they want. 
On Wednesdays it is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and today seemed busy. There was lots of supportive, laughter and warm thoughts as people came and went. I finished there and moved on to an hour session with one of our Night Shelter Trust members. After that I had a hot drink and reflected on the Space2B experience.  I think I missed some people but I counted at least 25 people through and there was quite a cross section of types of people. At one stage there were around four groups of people chatting warmly. From time to time individuals had more private in depth conversation. As I reflected on how these folk had come to know one another, share experiences together and in a sense are traveling the journey of life together I recognised that my dream was coming true. A new style of "Church" was forming. I felt good about that. Today's experience confirmed that it was a venture worth doing. Sometimes I do something right.

It was an unproductive day in terms of my "to do" list. But if, and I believe it to be true, loving conversation is redemptive, healing and sacred, then it was, perhaps, a very productive day.   

Monday, October 15, 2012

A moving weekend...

Today was very blustery, so I completed a cupboard unit I began some months ago.
On Saturday I found myself depressed with my "catheter and bag" situation. It felt like my active life had come to an end. Here were the changes I had encountered. A week before my wife and I had made love, but now that was impossible and there is a possibility it may never happen again. A week before I could run, ride my bike and play energetic, fast paced table tennis. This weekend I would not be able to run, riding the bike with a catheter is not advised and when I played a gentle game of table tennis, I doubled over in pain from a spasm it brought on. Even lifting tables during the week had brought about blood in my urine. So on Saturday I was feeling down. My active life seemed over, and I felt like I may as well pack up, get fat and old and "wait for God".
Inspired moments...
During the course of my sermon preparation I fed into "You Tube" the name of Viktor Frankl. I got to listen to several clips of interviews or speeches he gave. I first encountered Viktor Frankl when we were asked to read a book of his during my theological training. The book was "Man's Search for Meaning: an introduction to Logotherapy."  It was a revised edition of "From Death-Camp to Existentialism." In the first part of the book he reflects on his experience as a survivor of war time concentration camps. In the second part of the book he spells out the basic concepts of logotherapy. I recall my first read of the book. I simply loved it! I read it all through in one sitting, wandering around my room totally excited by the philosophy, concepts and emphases.  It just rang bells with me! I have often re-read this little book. On Saturday as I listened to Frankl he told of a incidents in a concentration camp when two different people came saying they wanted to commit suicide. Their reason was that they could no longer expect anything out of life. Life seemed hopeless. He asked each to consider the question, "What does life expect of you?" and each person found something further to live for. I got to thinking about that when I was sad on Saturday. Here I am, with a relatively small set back, though a bit of a life changing set back, and feeling like it is time to shut up shop. But Frankl's question has got me going... "What does life expect of me?"  Answer  - to keep living to the fullest I am able!  It was the kick in the pants I needed and by today I feel more positive. A friend, who had been through what I am going through, visited me last Thursday. As we compared notes and talked, he said, "I told my wife - if any body can get through this with a positive frame of mind, it will be Dave! He will show us how it is done!" I realised that people will be looking at me and watching how my understanding of life, and basic directions stand up when the going gets tough! So that's my goal, to still pursue my goals and dreams in the midst of this (relatively little) setback.  I also feel more positive because I think things have settled down physically. There are now no spasms and times of bleeding have stopped.
Tears in Church...
The reading I focused on in the Church service on Sunday was the story of the rich man who came to Jesus asking about eternal life. Jesus told him to sell what he owned and give the money to the poor. I talked about Jesus' principle that in "losing our life, we find it - in giving we receive" a consistent part of the Jesus way. In a reflective part of the service I had my wife read a cute story about generosity from one of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books. As she read the story I found myself sitting on the platform choking up, and wiping a tear from my eye. Why? It was a moving little story, but I knew it back to front? As I analysed my reaction it was that I had been preaching, and indeed trying to live this truth here for twenty odd years. I have experienced a measure of the truth of Jesus words, but I felt that most of the church people, sitting looking slightly bored, didn't have a clue about the tremendous reality I was seeking to communicate! They had not taken the risks, though they had spent lifetimes as Christians, so were on a "different page". I felt sad and a bit lonely for myself, but also sad for them - they were missing out on the essence of Jesus. But then again I could be reading them incorrectly.
True love...
On Sunday I was again talking to the friend who had been through all the prostate issues. I was grumping that until at least after the operation my sex life will be on hold. He commented that because of his issues his sex life had ended, "But that's good!" he said. "Because then you discover what true love is all about!" I thought that was neat.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thinking out loud about being mature.

I often get impatient with superficial New Zealand Television journalism but I saw a bit of a program the other night that set me thinking. It was about a man who had been in prison and while there undertook Distance Learning University Study. It changed his life and now he is a motivational tutor. He claimed that the thing that the education gave him was the ability to be self-critical, to question and rethink his own world view. That, he claimed, enabled him to change as a person. He said something like, "I used to be an arrogant bugger, a know all." He claimed education enabled him to rethink things and be more aware of what he did not know.  His comments got me stewing on people I know and conversations and relationships I share in. I decided that maybe there are at least two important skills or attitudes to grasp if we are to be mature.
1. The readiness to think critically - to be self-critical.
One of the things that annoys me about some of our drop-in people is that they act as if they know it all.   In my nasty moments I have often been tempted to put a poster on the drop-in centre wall that says, "If you know so much how come you are unemployable and need to come to me for a food hand-out?"  I suspect many of these folk know that they are not the top of the gene pool and overcompensate for it by sounding definite. But they are not alone. My wife and I were talking together about committee meetings we used to attend and the characters around the table. There were some who sounded forth with a definiteness that you had to be strong to question. Their perspective was right, they could not hear any other. Other people said of one of these characters, "There's only one way to do something - his way. That's why nobody wants to work with him." It is a bit sad because if that's the case we stop growing and learning. I was with a group of people in a chaplaincy on Friday. We were discussing social situations and how people get into messes. They were sounding off - It was all their (the needy's) fault that I had to run night shelters, and drop-in centres and was involved Habitat for Humanity. "These people are losers who should be left to suffer the consequences of their actions. They should not be bailed out! We had to make our own way!"  - so it went on.  I was gutless I guess. I wanted to scream! "It is not that simple! There are a whole lot of factors! That's an oversimplified view of things." All I said was, "Is that how you see it?" I felt that they would not be prepared to see it differently. They had pontificated! End of story. I would be wasting my emotional energy and breath questioning it. I also know educated people with the same attitude. They are often bullies on committees and the ones who resist change. I got to thinking that while they are "Educated" their education was just a lot of "knowledge", most often specialised knowledge, attached to their brain. They had not really interacted with or in their learning. They had not built it into their being and truly assimilated it, integrating it into their world view. There is a certain humility required to allow that process to happen. Education and ideas are often wasted on the "Know all".  Jesus said, "Unless you become as little children." Truly wise people hold inner-conversations with themselves and question their thinking. Truly wise people often put their perspectives in the form of questions. "Don't you think...?" or "I wonder if...?" which allows others to interact with them and is open to others' thoughts and knowledge.
2. Empathy
I often think of Piaget when I watch little children setting a table with cutlery. Piaget taught about educational development and outlined stages we all had to go through. One illustration of a stage was that before a certain stage of development children have not got the ability to recognise that "right" and "left" would be different for people on the other side of the table.  They cannot abstractly put themselves on the other side of the table. A child will have all the knives and forks correctly placed on the side of the table they are standing on, but they will be about face on the other side. On their side, knife on the right, fork on the left - but when they reach across the table the knife ends up on the left and the fork ends up on the right. Their mind cannot abstractly transport their perspective to see the table from the other side of the room. Immature people have the same problem when living and relating. They are unable or maybe unwilling to see life from another's perspective. They cannot "walk in somebody else's shoes." I need to develop the ability to see life from where other people are coming from. I often think shy people are good at this. They are scared about rejection and therefore ask themselves how others are seeing them. They are more sensitive. There are complications with this too but a step in maturity is to develop the willingness and skill to see the world from "the other side of the table".

Just thinking out loud.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reflective day

I spent today at home. I was not feeling confident enough about my new "plumbing" to be out in public and thought it would be good to work from home. I had a district nurse coming to see me anyway. 
Life is an interesting journey...
  • I texted a friend who lives with a catheter and bag and told him we could now compare notes. In it I said, "Life is a strange journey". He came back with, "The journey is strange and tough but has its rewards." Tonight he texted me asking about my first day.
  • I had morning tea on Monday with a friend and his wife. He is well retired now but told me the story of his life, a bit about his childhood, and the journey of choices, decisions and events that led him to do the job he did and to be living in Dunedin. Looking back he commented that it had been an interesting life, but often tough on his wife. We were intrigued with the directions our lives had taken us.
  • I was lying on the bed and a doctor and medical student were working on putting the catheter in. I think to distract me from the unpleasant realities of what they were doing, they began to ask questions about my job. "How long have you been doing it?" "When did you start?" etc etc. I told them that I began as a plumber. I told them that I had installed some of the plumbing fixtures in that very room, and that if they opened a cover on the wall they could see other big pipes I had installed. "That's quite a change of career." one commented. "Why did you change jobs? What made you do that?" How do you answer that deeply spiritual question while you are lying on a bed, with your private parts exposed and your listeners are working on them? Could I explain a "call"? How do I share the inner journey that led to me taking on ministry? I just grinned and said, "It was just something that I felt I had to do." "Huh" they responded.
  • My daughter had on her facebook page this poem which rang bells. As I near the end of my career I often find myself asking... "How did I get here?".
 The Girl --
One day life stands
gently smiling like a girl
suddenly on the far side of the stream
and asks

(in her annoying way),

But how did you end up there?

-- Lars Gustaffson

There are nice people

I have found once again there are a lot of nice people around.
  • Emails have come in from friends in Ireland, Australia, Wellington wishing me well and passing on love.
  • The doctors and the nurses at the hospital and the District nurse and her student today were genuine caring people.
  • I have received support in texts and through facebook  and phone conversations, so as difficult as I may find it to adapt to my new circumstances, I feel like I am not in it alone. 
People are generally caring and thoughtful. Love is alive and well on planet earth.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

You want to do it now? Shock! Horror! Ouch!

I went to a hospital appointment today expecting a consultation about future treatment for my "plumbing" problems. Upon arrival I was told there would be at least an hour's delay, but I better not go away. An hour and a quarter later I was seen by a specialist, who was very good at putting me at ease. He had to be because after telling me of blood test results, giving me a bladder scan he informed me that I should have a catheter and bag. He wanted to do it now! I will need an operation which I will have to wait a few months for, but in the mean time I should wear this contraption. Will I agree to it? Questions raced through my mind. My sex life will be over? Will I be able to go jogging? What about tramping? What about my two hours of table tennis on Friday nights? If I choose not to and just wait for the operation, what damage could I do? How will I feel confident leading a service with a bag? etc. etc. The nice doctors answered the questions we asked, but waited for our positive response. Then the deed was done. 
I am home, feeling shaken wondering what lies ahead? I am intensely uncomfortable with moments of hard to bear pain every now and then. It feels like a bad dream. I actually took my running shorts, clothing and shoes thinking I would have a small run tonight. How come so much can change in a few hours? I have so much work to get through in the rest of the week. I hope I can do it. A district nurse is coming to see me tomorrow. The nurse rolled her eyes when I asked if she could see me in my office. Oh well, another experience in life. Watch this space.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The "wee bit burned out" experience...

Some pressures...
I have come to realise that I am a little "burned out". Let me share some things going on in my life.

  • I have embarrassing "men's plumbing" medical issues. They are inconvenient to say the least. There is a measure of uncertainty about them, the medical people try one thing then say "We'll see how that goes." I have an appointment with a specialist tomorrow but I suspect we will be not much closer to finding out the cause. My future health status is uncertain.
  • I am chair of the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust. We are always needing funds to keep operating and this need brings a sense of anxiety. We have projects underway with some teething problems. This brings pressure. Night shelter work lately has tended to intrude on Church and chaplaincy work much more than it should. This also brings time pressure on other tasks and deadlines. 
  • I have indicated that I intend to retire at the end of 2013. This means that my time at this Church is drawing to a close. I feel like I have not been able to achieve what I would like to have done and that further progress is unlikely. It is also doubtful that some things we have going will be able to continue. It will also mark the end of my career.  I look forward to not having the demands of ministry and to a new phase of life, but at the same time I feel disappointed that I never managed to bring real change throughout my ministry career.  I believe different ways of doing "Church" need to be explored. I am convinced that to be true to Jesus, there needs to be a major shift in emphases and understandings... a new reformation. I had a dream of a Jesus-based community centre. For a number of reasons, this has not evolved far enough to be established. So there is a sense of disappointment and self-questioning. Have I wasted years of my life? Have I not been assertive enough? Have I avoided necessary conflict? etc. etc. etc. Of course deep down I know I have made a difference for quite a number of people, but I guess that such questions are a natural part of a transition from working life to retirement. There is the realisation that the change dreamed of will not happen on my watch, or perhaps even in my life.
As I worked away in the garden briefly today I began to reflect on my recent reactions. Here are a list of my symptoms.

  • I am not "feeling".  In situations where I should feel sad or glad, or loving or excited, I am more or less just neutral... a bit like going through the motions of life.
  • When I came back from my conference last week, I picked up the phone in the office and realised that there were messages left on it, awaiting my return. Normally I would check these and respond, but I just did not want to face the responsibilities involved. I had enough to do, so irresponsibly I guess, I decided not to check the messages till this week. If it was really urgent, I reasoned, they will try again. (I did check them today) I am procrastinating more than I usually do, on things I should do.
  • Getting "fire in my belly" about Sunday services is a lot harder. I find myself saying on Saturday night when I am trying to polish off preparation "What's the use? Why do it?" 
  • Today on my day off, we were in town when we got a text from the man who opens up Space2B. He was at a hospital appointment that was running late. We decided to step in and open Space2B for him. It involves setting up, making coffee and hosting the guests who come in during the lunch hour. After setting up I looked at the familiar people arriving and we decided I could hide in my office and leave my wife to care for them. I just did not want to socialise. When one of our guests came down to my office I groaned inwardly. I was nice and friendly because I quite like this guy, but inside I was screaming, "Its my day off! Leave me alone!"
I hope for some routine weeks, with not too much extra pressure so that I can muster my reserves to get through the year. I have been here before so I know I will survive. It is just a case of digging in, taking time to withdraw regularly and walk up the mountain, taking one day at a time and eventually grasping the passion for life and ministry again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The week that was and is to come.

Our Australian friends with my wife at Christchurch airport before their departure.
The latest Baby Edith picture 
South Island Chaplains. The man seated on the right, and the woman third from the right were my good humoured travel companions
My son in Edinburgh made this collage of the much photographed Edith
Aussies are back home.
Our visitors went back home to Australia on Wednesday morning. It was great to have them and we wish the distance between Adelaide and Dunedin was shorter. Yesterday was REALLY cold here so it was probably a good thing they went home when they did. It is a strange but delightful thing that you can maintain friendships across many miles and so easily take up where you left off when you see each other.
To speak out or not to speak out?
I learned of a potential injustice the other day. It is complicated but I think a family is being treated badly. I want to expose it, yell from the roof tops, threaten and challenge! My wife urges caution, saying I could make things worse for the family involved. I just don't think I can bury my head in the sand and refuse to interfere. Sometimes it would be easier to be apathetic and uninvolved. Watch this space.
St John chaplaincy conference.
On Wednesday and Thursday I attended a conference for St John Chaplains in Auckland. It was good to meet with around 45 chaplains who like me, give their time voluntarily to this service agency. There were a couple of very good sessions at the conference which made it worthwhile going. As always, the meeting of new friends in the journey of life and faith is an encouragement. Travel to and from was interesting. I got up at what I thought was a reasonable time to have breakfast and get to the airport. Unfortunately time slipped by and I left home with insufficient time to get to the airport, check in and board the plane. I confess that my trip was fast! Most people leave a half an hour to get to the airport from Dunedin City. We are a quarter of an hour on the other side of the city. I got from our place, through the city and to the airport in under a half hour! I felt guilty driving so fast and was pleased it was early morning with light traffic. As I drove I felt stressed to the max with my heart racing, thinking I might miss the plane. I raced to and through check in and arrived at the departure door where I met two colleagues while trying to look as cool as a cucumber. Only then did I begin to relax. On the way home the three of us were enjoying each other's company, chatting amongst ourselves, when an announcement came that there was a fuel indicator malfunctioning and we would have to stop for repairs in Christchurch. As it turned out we swapped to another plane in Christchurch and continued the journey. We arrived home in Dunedin over an hour late. I am glad, however, that I fly with an airline that does not take such things lightly. I would rather be late than there be an accident.  The result was that I was sitting up in bed at midnight with my cup of Horlicks in hand, choosing songs for Sunday!
The week ahead...
  • I have some issues to sort out with the Night Shelter/Phoenix House. I have been too busy since returning from Auckland to give attention to these.
  • I have a Workplace Support Trust board member who wants to tag along on my visits to the fire station. That will be interesting.
  • I have a hospital appointment on Tuesday. They are going to look again at my "plumbing issues" and make decisions about further exploration and/or treatment. I don't like the uncertainty and wonder what they might eventually find. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hit the decks running...

Early last week we were traveling down the centre of the South Island of NZ showing our friends from Australia our beautiful country. We arrived in Dunedin on Wednesday lunchtime and we have been busy since. On Wednesday afternoon I had meetings. We were out working Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Of course on Sunday I led the service. Today, my day off we have been taking our friend around Dunedin sights before she begins her journey back to Australia tomorrow. It has been good to catch up and to feel "at home" with someone even though we do not get to spend time together very often. One of our visitors has been a young woman who is a down syndrome sufferer, who has also had a number of other health issues. She has been a delight to have around. Tomorrow we say our goodbyes until we next visit Adelaide sometime. I share some of the photos of our time together.
The rest of this week feels overwhelmingly busy, but I guess I'll survive. I do notice my health issues improve away from the busyness of work.
Historic bridge to the township of Ophir near Alexandra in Central Otago
Our visitors in front of the Robert Scott memorial overlooking Port Chalmers
We visited a friend's racing stables. This is the resident cat with our visitor.