|Theo - Christchurch grandson... getting better from being a bit sick.|
|Leon - Grandson in Edinburgh.|
Last week I did chaplaincy at St John Ambulance, Fire stations and at the brewery. I had a number of meetings and emails about the Night Shelter. But I did a whole variety of things I have not previously had time to enjoy. I cut a hedge... I hate cutting hedges and we have two to cut. Normally I exhaust myself rushing through the two of them on my one day a week off. But now I am retired I tackled the front hedge then decided to do something else. I'll tackle the side hedge "some other time", I now have other days open to me. It is great to have that freedom. This week I have planted vegetables, done plumbing repairs, installed a lock at the Night Shelter, repaired a weed eater, cut long grass, weeded a garden, slept in, watched cricket, doctored goats' feet, cooked a couple of meals, and enjoyed four sessions of exercise. I am enjoying time to do stuff I did not have time to enjoy before retirement.
On the scrap heap...
Having said that, there is a sense that I am feeling a little bit that I am on the scrapheap of life and passed my "used-by" date. What am I doing to really make a difference? Do I just puddle with the superficial till I die, hanging around "waiting for God"?
Where do I fit?
We have been attending the local presbyterian Church. I am enjoying meeting another group of people. I think it is the sense "community" that I look forward to, and not the service itself. I enjoy the fact that I can bump into these folk at the local supermarket, or on my walk around the block. But of three services we have attended, I have been disappointed with the content and level of competence of the ministers leading two of the services. The Church cannot afford full time ministry so they have a roster of visiting leaders. These guys would have struggled to graduate as ministers in the college I trained at. Without blowing my own trumpet, on my worst day - and I had plenty - I would still have been much more effective than these blokes. (My criticism of many ministers from mainstream churches is that they write sermons and prayers as great theological compositions if they were in a book and you were reading them. But it has to be different when you are speaking! Paint pictures, have short sentences, look at the people, get and keep rapport etc.) Now as I say, it does not impact on me that much, we are there for the "community" feel, touching base with fellow Christians in our area. But today I got impatient. The needs in the community, the nation and world are incredible and the church should be taking seriously its calling to make a difference and an impact for good in the community. A week or so ago we had a guy in the next suburb shoot his kids and himself, and the church seems to be content to muddle along. If a searching person were to walk in, what on earth would they find? ... That raised the question in my mind... where do I fit? I have expressed a reluctance to do upfront stuff, but if there is this desperate need, maybe I should be? I could do better than these guys and I am sitting in the pew trying my best to support the speaker by actively listening! (But finding myself squirming impatiently) I am still doing chaplaincy, and the Night Shelter stuff, but how am I going to assist my local community with the skills I have? I would love to explore community service options in this that area we live in, but where do I get a handle on them? My wife keeps chanting at me a phrase I use. "It will 'emerge' in due course." she says. I know she is right. I guess I will have to wait and see.
Drugs and booze...
At one of my night shelter meetings I talked with a lady who works with prisoners, trying to reintegrate them into society. We deal with such people in Phoenix Lodge which the Night Shelter Trust runs, and also many pass through the Night Shelter itself. We had encountered the needs in our drop-in centre. But this lady told us stories of her "little darlings". Again and again, just when they are making progress, drugs or booze pulls them down again. Under the influence they do stupid things. They spend rent money and food money on getting their supply. She told us the incredible number the local public health drug and alcohol people currently had on their books. I knew that was just the tip of the ice berg. As I drove away the faces of those I knew whose lives had been wasted passed through my mind. Countless lives are ruined, thrown down the garbage tube of life by the powerful, destructive presence of drugs and alcohol. I talked just this morning to a mother who ached for her very beautiful, intelligent and talented daughter who struggles with alcohol issues. The issue was raised in a full page article on Saturday's paper. The disruption and violence on our streets because of alcohol abuse was highlighted. Two days before the Emergency Department at the hospital was reporting how alcohol and drug problems overloaded their work, meaning others needing care suffered longer waits. I have little patience with people making or importing drugs. Legal highs are causing untold problems for people. I am annoyed that they are sold. I am a chaplain to a brewery, and sometimes I have felt uncomfortable with their advertising. But my wife and I had a wine and a beer as we relaxed last night? There is a culture of binge drinking. There seems to be a lack of hope, little sense of worth and of meaning that causes people to abuse these substances. It is extremely sad. Again it raises the question for me, "How can I live so that in some small way I help people to overcome these life destroying ways?"
Where do I fit now? I can switch off being a minister, but I can't switch off a caring heart. There is still a "voice" calling me to make a difference. It will emerge... just now I am in limbo.