Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our lovely foster daughter and sign writer me.

"Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes."
Let me introduce Pania our foster daughter. She is living in supervised care with four other friends now. Pania is now in her thirties, but came to us when she was just nine years old. She is a Rett syndrome sufferer. We had decided we would be prepared to adopt another special needs child, and apparently there was a need to adopt older children. We were introduced to Pania and she became part of our family. We were advised not to adopt her, because as a foster daughter we received some financial help toward looking after her. It is always jarring to call her our foster daughter, because we love her, and indeed the family loves her as if she was our natural born child. When she came to us her ailment was not diagnosed, but with research, visits to pediatricians, and finally a confirmed diagnosis by a visiting world expert in Retts Syndrome we knew what she and we were up against. Pania can walk and can feed herself with assistance. Pretty much everything else she needs help with. She cannot speak except through the occasional sign (tapping her mouth) body language and through her beautiful eyes. We brought her out for a visit to the holiday house our other daughter and her husband were staying at for the long weekend. She just loved sitting beside me and being included in the conversation. This photo was taken during that time. Pania has taught me so much and caused me to appreciate and not take for granted so many things most of us can do without thinking. Some have said that such people should be aborted, but certainly if I never met Pania my life would be so much poorer. I love her to bits. Her smile is a real joy to behold, and her eyes are beautiful. I sing to her, "Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes, ... I'll never love blue eyes again."

The first panel partly completed. The second was easier and an improvement.
Sign writing
I have been doing some sign writing. The Dunedin Night Shelter trust is getting into a campaign to raise money to purchase the buildings we currently rent. We want Dunedin people and groups to get on board and have called it "How do you eat an Elephant?" recognising that it is a big sum we want to raise. I have done two panels we will use in the publicity for this campaign. Before the advent of computers and power points etc I used to do quite a few posters and banners, but lately have not needed to do many. I found doing these two panels interesting. Three changes since I was doing it often.

  • I do not have the patience I used to have. I tend to rush things along.
  • I need reading glasses to do the work.
  • My hands shake a lot more than they used to do. I do a good ripple effect. :-)
Anyway it has been interesting.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Perspectives from an old preacher...

My son-in-law, daughter and my wife link with our foster daughter (who has handicaps) to go for a walk.
We all should link with others in the journey of life.
I watched the action on the beach.
I wonder when the last sermon will be preached? Are our "isms" that important? 
I was an exhausted old man on top of my mountain.
Crimea... Putin.. the games we play
In the last post I mentioned that the dinosaurs ruled the earth for 135 Million Years. Humans have been around 200,000 years.... .000005 of the time dinosaurs lived. Some thinkers are saying that this decade is a make or break decade for the ongoing survival of humans... Will we adapt is the big question? These long term figures make the sorts of power games that Vladimir Putin is currently playing, and so much of the huff and puff of history meaningless piddle. They may feel big, but in the scheme of things, they are nothing.  He has claimed Crimea for Russia, but within a geological blink of an eye Russia will be no more. The land isn't ours, we have the use of it for a while. We, with all our grand schemes, whoever we are - the Queen of England, the President of the United States, Putin, the "supreme leader" of North Korea etc. - no matter how much we sword rattle or huff and puff, we will all be a forgotten part of the ongoing life of planet earth. It should make us just want to enjoy life, get on with and link arms with those we share the journey of life with and not take ourselves, our "isms" nor our nations too seriously. We belong together in this journey. The writer of 1st Peter comments, "All people are like grass, and all their glory is like flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall......" 
Working together...
We are all wondering what happened to the Malaysian Airliner. It is very sad. But within this tragic event I see hope. Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, the United States of America etc etc. are all working together looking for the plane. Isn't that good? It can happen! Thousands upon thousands of dollars are being spent.  I wish such international cooperation, such willingness to spend, would happen in an ongoing way to solve some of the world's less dramatic but even more tragic problems of poverty, bad health and inequality. 
Getting old... 
I am no doubt still recovering from my operation and the flu I got just after it. I went up "my" mountain on Wednesday. (Mount Cargill) Normally at the longest, it takes me one hour thirty minutes to go up and back on the Organ Pipe track. I have done it in one hour ten minutes without running. On Wednesday it took me two hours twenty minutes and I felt exhausted. I have lost lung capacity and fitness.  Is this a temporary set back or is this the new old man me? Is this what happens when you get old? You experience illness and when you bounce back it is at a lower level? On Friday I bought some lunch and went out to the beach eating while watching the world go by. Today we had morning tea overlooking the beach. On both visits I saw runners jogging along near the cafe. I used to do that not long ago? Just now it seems an impossibility. I would wheeze, cough and run out of steam. Will I do it again? On Saturday with my wife, daughters and son in law I visited beaches north of Dunedin. People were playing and swimming in the surf, or running around the beach. I was an observer watching the action of others. I used to be "the action", physically active, doing stuff, adventuring. I realised how easy it would be to get old, give up and just watch the action.  It takes will power to get active, to really bounce back and it feels so hard to get back the old flexibility and fitness.  I remember feeling disappointed when my Dad seemed to stop playing, swimming and mucking around with us and tended to just watch. (He was just in his forties - it must have been the beginning of his heart problems that ended with a heart attack that killed him at 49.) I do not want to just be an observer in life.  I will have to determine to keep active and take the necessary steps to ensure I bounce back. It would be easy to give up and get old.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dinosaurs, God and peeing.

The mystery in the journey of life.

Growing confidence
For the last four or so years high PSA blood test readings resulted in the medical people taking an inordinate interest in my prostate. I had not really been overly annoyed by peeing problems, but over a time with tests and biopsies, I ended up with issues. I suspect biopsies contributed to the problems I ended up with, but I would still suggest not getting a biopsy could be more devastating than side effects. I ended up wearing a catheter and bag for seven months. Then following an operation last year I had a self-catheterising system for about a year. All that has left me rather cynical about the treatment the medical system offers, and not confident that my second TURP surgery three weeks ago, would help in any way. But I am pleased to report that I am beginning to think that I am wrong. I concocted the following poem for my facebook page;
I just had an enjoyable pee,
That may sound strange or weird to thee,
For two years now there's been complication
So now its a source of great jubilation.
It is almost three weeks after my surgery and I am feeling like I am back to peeing normally, the appropriate parts of my body are functioning as per normal. I cannot tell you how grateful I am about this. I had resigned myself to the reality of having to do "different" things to function for the rest of my life. I can see every day an improvement in function and for this I am very thankful. I can look forward to normality.  I share with you my joy and appreciation.
I watched TV tonight and was reminded of the mind boggling history of the world. Dinosaurs emerged - get this - 231.4 Million years ago! They survived for 135 million years! That is mind boggling. Human life emerged just a second ago compared to those sorts of times. Humans it is thought emerged a mere 200,000 years ago. One of the earliest sites is just 160,000 years old. We are a sandfly, just a blip of time in the whole scheme of things. We are so human centric though, and see ourselves as the cause and meaning of the whole of this creation and our religions, myths and outlooks reinforce this perspective. For me it is mind boggling.... there are a whole lot of other spatial, time type statistics that could make the human race seem like an inconsequential spec of dust in the big scheme of things.
Where does the whole concept of "God" fit in all this? Many discard God and find such realities do not support "his" existence.  I believe that most Christians, particularly conservative Christians discard these realities or ignore them, in order to cling to their understanding of God.... as sort of head in the sand approach. There is a movement now amongst Christians to think again about the traditional pictures of God and re-image "God" or "the sacred". I am grappling with this process in my journey. I have tended to rename God by using terms like "the sacred" or "the eternal". I struggle with pictures of God being the creator, creating this earth just for us.  I recall sitting with ambulance staff watching the TV airing of the memorial service for those killed in the Christchurch quake. It seemed ironic that the song they sang was "How great Thou art" extolling God's work in creation. I had seen the devastation and the search for bodies and people in Christchurch, and wanted to scream - "But it is this creation that killed these people!"  But along side of that I cannot discard the sacred or the experiences of the "beyond in our midst".  If there is no God, who or what pulls at my inner-being calling me to care, to show love or to give? There is a deep sense of justice in the midst of human life - where does it come from? In a book of contributions on the theme of "God at 2000" editor Marcus Borg sums up with three statements-
               God, or the "sacred" is ineffable, beyond all words and concepts;
               God is not "a being" but a non-material layer or level or dimension of reality that permeates everything, and at the same time, is more than everything:
               God can be experienced.

"God" is...
I wonder if it is helpful not to see the word "God" as referring to a "being", but the word by which we name our experiences of the "deep" in life.
               "God" is...the experience of altruistic love, compassion and creativity that seems to come from outside us and flow through us.
               "God" is...the experience of solidarity with, appreciation of and joy in the natural order. The friendship of a dog. The joy of birdsong. The intricate beauty and variety of flowers. The exhilaration and buzz of running, or physical exertion. The mysterious joy and intimacy of sex play and making love. The grandure of plains, hills and mountains. The taste of fresh-from-the garden vegetables. That sense of being one with the natural world.
               "God" is...the sense of solidarity, union and connection with other people in all their variety. We experience the other as somehow "sacred"- "divine". We also celebrate the current of life in the dynamic of friendship, family ties, love and comradeship.
               "God" is...the "call" on my inner being to be better, to be more noble or to reach for my potential as a person.
               "God" is...the disturbing feeling I experience when I know of poverty, injustice, abuse and suffering. God is that "fire in the belly" to want to make the world a better place.
               "God" is...the current or flow and of creativity nudging humanity to be more tolerant, more caring and accepting. When I was brazing metals I used a flux to help the metals join. God is that unifying current that draws and joins people in compassion together. 
               "God" is... those life principles that recognise the dignity in life, values of ultimate importance, (The Apostle Paul's "whatever is pure and holy") that call me and us on. Those attitudes of altrustic love, that deep down we recognise as the ideal.
               "God" is...the sense of unity and link with those in the past, and indeed the future who have sought or will seek to give expression to and respond to the "call of the sacred". 
               "God" is...the experience of companionship in the journey of life I found in the hospital ward. We patients sharing the same journey, encouraging each other. The nurses emptying our urine bags, concerned about our progress, serving us with friendship and professionalism - the sharing, the humour, the compassion - all "God", all sacred.
I sing congregational hymns in Church and find myself rejecting or being repulsed by the songs depicting small minded "big guy in the sky" concepts of God. But I cannot deny these and other very real and life-giving experiences of "the sacred". They are part of my reality. We find ourselves often having to resort to imagery and metaphor to communicate this deep mystery I name "God". Unfortunately "Religion" tends to replace the reality with dogma about the imagery and metaphor.
Starving people...
I am passionate about "God". No not the "big guy in the sky" nor the institutional God of religion who says who is in and who is out, but "the deep in our midst". I deeply suspect that many of the problems we face in our society stem from the fact that we have lost touch with the "deep". Drug addiction, alcohol abuse, the hunger for sensual superficial experiences, the fear of old age and death, relationship problems, greed/poverty - all stem, I believe, from the fact we are not deeply rooted and sustained in our journey through life. We struggle for deep meaning. I see us in western society like starving-emaciated-and malnourished people in this area of life, and it adversely impacts on our whole experience of life.  Still, for me, following Jesus' way (Not just worshipping him - did Jesus want worshipped?) puts me and keeps me in touch with that "deep".  This "God" is a driving, energising and life-enhancing force in who I am. One of the reasons I keep hanging in a Church, even though Church is a struggle, is that it at least points toward the "deep" in some way - and there is no other place.
I sense though that contemporary religion, whether that be traditional, mainstream, fundamentalist, happy clappy or liberal versions of it fail to lead us to link deeply. For us reformation needs to happen and new forms of spirituality need to evolve - the sooner the better.
What a weird blog post. I have gone from gratitude at being able to pee, through to waxing on about the great mystery we call "God".  Though I suspect they are linked. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Getting back into life..lucky lucky man.

Today my wife was unsure about my schedule. She felt I was taking on too much after my operation and subsequent flu. After doing some computer work early in the morning I went into town to be at St John by 10a.m. where I attended a farewell morning tea for one of the staff members. I then ended up at the Night Shelter attempting to change a lock on the bathroom door at Phoenix Lodge. From there I needed a place to have something to drink so I called at the Fire station and had a cup of tea and scone with them. I visited a radio station to talk Night Shelter Stuff and then went on to the brewery to do chaplaincy. I arrived home after six hours of talking with people feeling exhausted, checked my computer, made a cup of tea and sandwich, then had a nap. I realised that I am still recovering from the operation and that the medical advice was right -"You will tire easily and feel weak, pace yourself for six weeks." 
Tired but privileged...
As I drove home though I felt very privileged and "warmed".  I had experienced warm friendship for the whole six hours. Here is what happened...

  • At the farewell at St John Ambulance there were past staff members and present staff. As people greeted me I was really taken by the warmth of their greeting and their friendship and acceptance. I, a parson who visits, felt really like one of the St John family. I appreciated that.
  • At Phoenix lodge I appreciated the contacts and conversation I had there.
  • At the fire station I met a guy in the yard and confessed that I was just here to use the toilet and have a free cup of tea. "You are always welcome here Dave." he said reassuringly. Thats how I found it. As I had a cup of tea and the scone they offered, there was warmth of welcome and conversation.
  • I met a keen supporter of the Night Shelter and she and I went to the radio station to talk with a lady about promotion of our fundraising efforts. She had arranged the meeting. While I have not had a lot of contact with this lady, I enjoyed the sense of partnership in the same cause. I really appreciate the work this lady does for the Night Shelter Trust.
  • Walking back to retrieve my van at the fire station, stopped at an intersection with traffic signals I saw an ambulance headed back to the hospital. I waved to the paramedic behind the wheel, and he lowered his window and we chatted. It must have looked strange this guy leaning on the ambulance door chatting in the middle of the street while he waited for the lights to change. Again I appreciated the friendship.
  •  From there I went to the brewery chaplaincy. Because of my surgery it has been awhile since I had seen the people there. But every where I went I found people ready and willing to talk, share their stories and include me. 
  • I stepped out of an office area and discovered two fire crews being shown around the brewery. They gave me cheek and then said, "We will see you tomorrow won't we?" I loved the friendship.
  • When I got home, contacts through computer and phone expressed acceptance and friendship.
As I cooked the evening meal I reflected on a day of warm human connection and realised I am so fortunate. I am a lucky, lucky man indeed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Legal Highs

On Monday my wife and I went to a cafe in town near to our Night Shelter. Opposite there is a shop where I know they sell legal highs. (I have this on good authority - the people who manage our Night Shelter know where the clients get their stuff.) Every now and then I would see a car pull up and a passenger would rush out into the shop and reappear very soon shoving their purchase in their pockets.  Or people would be walking along the road and take a quick diversion into the shop. I recognised some of these guys as people who had frequented our Church drop-in centre, Space2B or Christmas day dinner.  As I watched I got angry.

  1. These people cannot financially afford these drugs. They are not eating properly, not paying their rent or stealing to purchase their supply.
  2. These people already are battling life/mental health and social issues, and do not need their brains addled any more.
Let me tell you about one. He is a big guy and he visits Churches or walks up to people in the street and asks people for five dollars. If asked he will tell some sad story. He is an intimidating figure standing over you, looking down at you, with his hand out. It is only five dollars and many figure it is worth it to get rid of him, that is clever on his part. But it rewards bad behaviour and he only has to intimidate 20 people to get $100.  He has come into our Church at the end of worship, had a cup of tea, scoffed as many biscuits he can get his hands on and asked elderly ladies for five dollars in this intimidating fashion.  Most people had enough sense to refer him to me as the keeper of benevolent funds. - He knew better than to ask me.  I saw him once lifting the lid on the donation box at the church, until he saw me watching. Another time I saw him sit by a handbag, easing his hand toward it, but again he saw me watching. 
I evict him. Let me tell you how, it is a practiced process I have developed with trouble makers in the drop-in centre. I stand where they cannot help but see me and I glare at them. They keep glancing at me, only to find me still eyeballing them. He moves somewhere else, and I move and continue to glare. He knows without me saying that I know what he is up to and that I will intervene if need be. Usually the trouble maker chooses to leave or modifies their behaviour.  I think it is like a heading or eye dog herds sheep. They turn sheep and move sheep without barking, only staring.  In the same way this works without me having to make a scene or disturb the peace.  Often if you do verbally challenge behaviour all you end up with is arguments in which they lie and act innocent, and you do not have clear evidence to support your side and you are left blustering with no sting.  But "the look" gets them and communicates. I find again and again, the intentional and obvious surveillance deals with the problem, communicates your suspicions, and makes them uncomfortable, without a word spoken.  
But here is this guy, a big and dangerous guy who is getting free food from anywhere he can, bludging money from generous hearted people and buying legal highs! He has caused problems in churches, in the night shelter and on the streets. He can be quite angry and vicious. Our Night Shelter staff and anybody dealing with "street people" encounter more and more anti-social behaviour caused by "legal high" use.  As I write, there is a man in an intensive care unit who nearly died, because he experimented with legal highs. I find myself getting angry with the people who make legal highs, and the people who sell them.  They are making big money by adding to the misery on our streets. There should not be legal highs, full stop. Our society does not need them. 

Then again we need to ask, "Why do these people need legal highs?" or others their abuse of alcohol? They are self-medicating meaningless lives. Somehow we need to enable people to find meaning and hope elsewhere.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Poverty disturbs.

Feeling useless
I write as a disturbed questioning person tonight. Yesterday I was feeling useless because every thing I wanted to do, my medical instructions told me I should not be doing.  TV programs were rubbish so I reverted to the internet. I first checked out "recovery from TURP" operation. I was looking for some medical person who would relax the rules so I could work, lift heavy things, have sex, have a beer, run etc etc that my medical bits of paper do not allow me to do.  But all the internet sites were, if anything, more strict than the locals.
I then drifted onto UTube and began looking at documentaries.  A documentary about poverty in India. Way more than the population of the United States of America do not have access to toilets.  The consequence is extremely unhealthy living situations. The mind boggles as you think of all those people finding places to "do their business".  There was a documentary about so called "Temple Prostitutes," whole areas where women live and sell their bodies.  Another documentary was about Liberia. Beaches with piles of rubbish and piles of shit all over them. Warlords causing mayhem, acting cruelly. Corruption running rife etc. Pictures of absolutely filthy slums where thousands live. Another documentary of an African situation where a young girl was being dragged off sobbing, screaming and protesting to be married in a relationship worked out by the men folk of her family. Again absolute poverty complicated the whole situation. I looked at other similar documentaries. I realised how rich I am. We do not know how lucky we are!
Local poverty
I have been invited to be involved with a group looking into the needs of "vulnerable single men" in Dunedin. They sent me some minutes of discussions so far. I read them and thought of the men of the drop-in centre we used to run at the church. I am also involved with Dunedin's Night Shelter. There always seem to be issues to cope with. We need funds to buy the property we currently rent and just to keep the doors open - operational funds. Having looked at these documentaries I want to yell at the guys using the shelter, "You are not poor!" I find myself sometimes getting frustrated with some because they seem to bring their predicaments on themselves. Now I know poverty is all relative and I know the causes of addictions, hopelessness and poverty run a lot deeper than a "they deserve it" summation, but I wish I knew answers! 
How do we swing around the growing number of people in NZ on the bottom of the heap with no sense of hope?
What can we do for the millions in real poverty throughout the world? 
All are our brothers and sisters. Those prostitutes in India living terrible lives are my sisters. Those kids on the Liberian beach picking through the rubbish, pooing in the sand, and killing other kids because their warlords told them to are my brothers.  There is a real sense of hopelessness here in NZ and "over there" among the millions in sad poverty stricken, often war torn situations. Tonight because of my sickness I feel useless, overwhelmed and disturbed. More than that, I feel somewhat selfish... I once was on the "coal-face" now I hide away in relative selfish isolation.
And I go to Church and hear a mind numbing dissertation on "temptation" and a whole lot of religious cliches. Sigh! As I say, disturbed and questioning.
Eight boxes of books go.
Today I loaded eight boxes of books, mostly theological books, commentaries and "Church" centred books into the van and donated them to the local "Regent Theatre 24 hour booksale". Some were good books. Many were books I once read but now found irrelevant. I was pleased to see them go. I will start accumulating the next lot. I have plenty.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nice farewells

I have been using my convalescing time to clean out desk draws with years of "stuff" that has been put in them. I thought I would share with you a couple of finds with the common theme of "farewell".
A farewell upon death...
Years ago somebody handed me an order of service from a funeral they had attended and I liked and copied this farewell poem. I had shoved my scribbled copy in a drawer and discovered it while doing my clean up..

Dear friends I go, but do not weep
I’ve lived my life so full, so deep,
Throughout my life, I gave my best,
I earned my keep, I’ve earned my rest
I never tried to be great or grand
I tried to be a helping hand
If I helped in a team, if I helped on my own,
I was more than repaid, by the friends I’ve known.
And if I went the extra mile, I did it with pleasure,
it was all worthwhile.
If I brightened your path, then let it be
a small contribution
from my loved ones and me.
But mostly I cherished the family I know,
in a bond never ending, so precious, so true.
Now sadly I leave you and travel alone,
Through the mystic veil, to the great unknown
with such beautiful memories that forever will be
The way that I hope you’ll remember me.

I hope it will be awhile before this is used on my funeral order of service... though with the "post-operation-washed-out" feeling added to by a heavy cold/flu type thing, I admit to feeling like death warmed up lately. :-)

Classmates' farewell from 20 years ago.
In 1994 thinking I would get out of Church ministry, I went half time at the Church and did a Community and Social Work course at the local Polytech. The course involved a lot of group work and discussion so we really got to know one another. There were three men and around eighteen women in the class, and the women were avid feminists, (often with a men hating element,) hard living with a wide range of ages. At the end of the year in a final session we were given bits of paper and were told to write messages to each other as a parting gesture. When I got home I threw these in the bottom drawer and have only looked at them a couple of times in the years since. In my clean up I discovered them and read them with a smile on my face. I share a few excerpts from some of the comments...
  • "David.. your quiet caring and supportive attitude has really been appreciated.... I hope that you will miss us as much as I will miss your company. xxx "
  • "You're a neat guy and I am proud to know you."
  • "The greatest compliment I could give a man is that I respect you. You're great..... Luv ya. xxx"
  • "David you're a very special person. Love that wicked sense of humour."
  • "Wonderful person - hard case - helpful.."
  • "You wee cuddly teddy bear! Thanks for the cuddles and hugs. xxx"
  • "David, what can I say! You've been a great friend and support through the year. I enjoy your sense of humour (even when you're stirring) I appreciate your honesty, putting yourself out there within a group of sometimes bolshy women."
  • "David, You are one of the most sensitive, caring (and cuddly) men I have ever known..."
  • "David - my love - I only annoy you because I like you. I enjoy your cuddles, your laughter and your compassion. Thanks for the rides home. .... thank you David." xxx
These are just some lines from a few. I have thrown them out now, but they evoked memories of a very good year for me. I started as chaplain to the fire stations that year. With course work, ministry responsibilities and chaplaincy it was an extremely busy year. But I grew heaps during the year, not because the course taught me a whole lot that was new, but because of these friendships. They were very different people than I was, and at the beginning anti-me because I was (1) a male and (2) a Church minister. Many had been hurt by men and by religion. But I found during the year that they were so affirming and accepting and I sort of soaked up their affirmation. It was like I had been starved of such positive feedback, and when it came I grew in confidence as a person during that year. I remember contrasting it with my weekend experiences of the Church where often I was confronted by a lot of stern looking faces ready to find fault and certainly no hugs!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Life goes on...

Leon in Edinburgh.
Theo in Christchurch
Edith in Auckland.
Grandchildren growing..
Hey look at the pictures above! Don't I have great looking grandchildren? Just boasting.
A good man died.
On October 24th last year I posted about a fellow Church of Christ minister and his autobiography. I heard news of Ron O'Grady's death last week. A summary of his contribution reads;

While a Churches of Christ minister he was ecumenical in both outlook & ministry, serving in a number of roles including  - National Council of Churches NZ,,Christian Conference of Asia Associate General Secretary, as well as the Director of the Australian Council of Churches World Christian Action (aid/refugees).
With a small group he founded ECPAT(End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism),now End Child Prostitution,Child Pornography & Trafficking in Children,ECPAT - Child Alert,(NZ) & in Australia, ChildWise.

I am sad because while I could never be as influential as he was, he was a colleague with similar understandings about the faith. There are few Christian ministers around who I can readily identify with these days, now there is one less. But I am proud and pleased to have known and been influenced by him. 
A story... when I was a boy my parents looked after Ron's son for a few days. In preparation we were told to be on our best behaviour, we were to host a preacher's kid in the house. "No swearing or fighting, include him but treat him gently.. etc" Mum said to us. I recall we were playing cricket in the backyard with our new young playmate. We were on our best behaviour, being good sports and even bowling gently to this kid of a well known minister. Unfortunately a bowled ball evaded his bat and hit him on the shins. To our surprise out came a string of expletives we would not dear say within earshot of mum. We should have been sympathetic, and we were... eventually. The Brown boys who were trying so hard to be "nice Christian" kids, burst out laughing at this turn of events.  From then on we could relax, he was human too. 
Where do we fit?
We have been attending the local Presbyterian Church, but it is getting tough to go. They have a roster of visiting speakers and the week before last I nearly walked out! It was not that the man said something that upset me, it was more his attitude to worship. He was leaning on the pulpit chatting as if he was talking about something unimportant. He added a story just for entertainment value. It felt like he was just filling up the hour. I wanted to scream, "This is an insult to us and to God!" Last Sunday members of the parish council lead the service. They did generally OK with some welcome variety, it was the music more than anything that let them down. I can no longer identify with blood thirsty concepts of the salvation Jesus' brings and these old hymns centred on that. And, I have found, Presbyterians sing so slowly it is hard to sing. The thing that breaks my heart is that during our few weeks attending here there have been visitors who have walked in, just like we did, but they have not come back. Last Sunday we were sitting behind such a couple and you could see they just wanted to leave. I was so embarrassed. It feels like the Presbyterian Church hierarchy does not care what happens in this small outlying church, so long as somebody is there to fill in the hour. The Church deserves to die.  I had the same frustration in my own Church. Often the sound system farted and mucked up and the music was not all it could have been... but the leadership at one stage joked about the sound system when I raised the issue, and were not prepared to make a change to the music. They can put up with the farting, the mess ups, "It does not really matter." And younger folk we attracted left after a time. We live in an age of slick TV and public presentations that people get used to. "It doesn't really matter" attitude just will not cut it. It is blasphemy! I know of most of the Churches in Dunedin and don't think I can look forward to attending any. I know that if I keep going to the local one and keep coming away angry, we will eventually stop. Lately there has been census reports in the newspaper showing a decline in Church attendance. Thinking modern people would really struggle to fit into most churches... they deserve to die. 
The Jury's still out.
I am feeling washed out today, I guess still recuperating from last week's surgery. The jury is still out on whether it was a success, but I think things are improving. The medical people say, "Just because you do not have a scar and outward signs of surgery do not be fooled, you have had a serious surgical procedure and need to take time to recover."  I am not a patient patient.