Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, December 27, 2015

He will not let me go!

My daughter with her niece, my latest grand daughter. 
My grandson (light blue shorts) with his father look at a digger. Christchurch has many big diggers at work and my grandson (Stanley) loves diggers!
Memorial Arch under repair still.
New Regent Street in Christchurch city... Christchurch is slowly repairing itself after the big earthquake 5 years ago. 
I am turned off Church. I was invited to go to the Anglican Cathedral in the centre of Dunedin (St Paul's) to take part in a service called "Nine Lessons and Nine Carols." I was to read one of the lessons as a representative of the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust. It was a choral service with the cathedral choir singing lots of numbers. There was pomp and ceremony. At the appointed time the verger (dressed in an appropriate gown) came to my seat, she had a silver tipped staff, bowed in my direction and I was escorted to the reading lectern and bowed at again. When the choir finished its number, I read my appointed reading in the translation ascribed with the introduction typed out for me to read. I was then escorted back to my seat, bowed to again as I took my seat. The Bishop was in residence sitting up by the Choir though he did not do anything in the service. Everything was conducted with dispassionate looking decorum. The thing that got to me was that the songs the choir sang, when I could understand them (- though they did provide a brief english summary as a translation.)  the prayers, the carols we sang all had great christological claims about the Christ child that I have come to believe Jesus of Nazareth would reject.  We were in a building that must have cost millions, probably still costs thousands to maintain with all sorts of pomp and ceremony remembering a life reported to have been born in a stable, who mixed with prostitutes and outcastes. - It all seemed incongruous and out of step with the Jesus who "sits on my shoulder" these days.  I hear of millions being spent to rebuild earthquake damaged churches here in Christchurch where I am holidaying. There are millions spent on restoring or earthquake proofing other elaborate Churches. I just feel that Jesus of Nazareth would not approve! I am unhappy attending my local Church, I would not fit in most Churches I am aware of, the language, priorities and dogmatics would not fit me.  There is a part of me which says that in spite of the fact that I have been in Church ministry forty odd years, I should dump Church involvement all together, walk away and don't look back, as so many others have and are doing. "Why not?" I ask.

Somehow "He" will not let me!  The Church is the only place the "Jesus of Nazareth story" is kept alive, grossly distorted though it may be. And I cannot dump Jesus. He still makes sense. I took the two quotes below off facebook. They ring bells for me. Somebody commented on the Leonard Cohen one, "It is up to us to reform our Churches." I guess so. ... He will not let me go!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas day walk.

A lazy pig-out Christmas Day with some of our family in Christchurch.  We are renting a house here for a few days. Late in the day I got tired of being sedentary and went for a walk and just kept walking up.  I kept saying -"I'll just go around the next corner." Phil my son texted me then caught up with me and we reached the top and looked down on Lyttleton Harbour on the other side of the hills. I love walking in the hills, getting out of city streets and pushing myself physically. 
Christchurch city is slowly rebuilding after the earthquake nearly five years ago.

The track kept turning corners so I kept walking. 
"I have been to the mountain. I have seen the other side" Lyttleton harbour. 
Looking the other way - my son viewing part of Christchurch

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My pre Christmas week so far.

Siblings, cousins and partners.
My siblings with two cousins (brother and sister)
My brothers and sister. "Mrs Brown's Boys"

A family funeral
On Saturday we went to Gore (about 100 miles away) for a family funeral. We had to farewell my cousin's wife, a truly lovely, gifted lady who died too young. It was a sad time but we were able to celebrate her life and be together. It was an interesting venture. All of my siblings were there, even my brother from Melbourne who led the funeral. We had a cousin there we had not seen for years, and other people we seldom get to see. While it was a funeral, and a very sad time, there was also a festive sense about it as we caught up on each other. It is weird how the two things mix. I remember when my father died in 1964 when I was a young teenager, there was a similar feel about the after match function. Family, friends and others all gathered after the funeral for food, mixing and conversation. I recall thinking, "Dad would really love this!"
Positive feedback
I have been visiting fire stations. I have had lots of guys say, "You did a bloody good job of John's funeral." This was a funeral I wrote about in my last post. Today an atheist firefighter who often rubbishes the Christian faith said, "You did a great job of John's funeral. It was really good." Later in the conversation I was commenting on how I seemed to have lost my skill at Table Tennis, he commented, "Well you're good at funerals and naming ceremonies." I am pleased to be able to do things in such a way that they link with it.
Getting old.
This same fire fighter headed out the door and a while later came back in with a beautiful young teenage girl and her little dog.  He brought her over to me and said, "Do you know that photo we have at home of a man holding you as a baby, at your naming ceremony? Well this is that man, Dave, our chaplain." I had met her at various times during her life but now I could not believe that that baby was now this elegant, nicely spoken young lady in front of me. I must be getting old. The naming ceremony was 13 years ago. The couple had almost given up hope of having a child when this baby arrived on the scene. They both were so thankful, and even though one of them claimed to be an atheist, they wanted to gather friends and family for a ceremony to show their delight, to give thanks and to commit themselves to parenthood. It was a delightful time in their front room with friends and family gathered around. It was nice to meet his daughter again. I am getting old though.
The young "lady" as a baby.

Christmas Greetings...
We are traveling to Christchurch to be with all our NZ based children and grandchildren for Christmas. (except our foster daughter who has handicaps - we had a special Christmas with her on Sunday. Traveling and staying away with her is very difficult for us and often upsetting for her - though we feel a bit guilty as it will be the first Christmas she has not been with us. We plan to make a fuss of her when we return. ) Where ever you are dear reader, I hope that you have a special Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Death and life...

Vida Simone Brown, Simon & Stephanies second child.
My week started with a phone call from my son to tell me that we had a new granddaughter born in Christchurch. She has spent a couple of nights in the intensive car unit, but today graduated out of there.  
But ....  my man in the hospice died on the weekend and I faced this week with a funeral to conduct on Tuesday and another on Wednesday. I spend a lot of time preparing funerals. I listen to the families, try to understand the deceased and seek to give expression to how they want to celebrate their loved one's life.  They both died because cancer had taken over their bodies, which had wasted away.  It is a sad disease. The funerals were very different. 
One was a retired firefighter who had been a great family man. The funeral home was full. One of the  moving things was that stacks of retired firefighters turned up. It was great to see them and great for the family to see the support. I enjoyed catching up with them. I appreciated too the way they came up, shook my hand and fell into conversation that was just like that of longstanding close friends. I received very positive feedback from that funeral. I was sure I had done a good job.
The second was a memorial service. The man had chosen to donate his body to the medical school upon death. He had been doorman at the Muso's (Musicians) club, so that was where it was held. It is a bit of an alternative club, but is a night club type place. The room is dark with coloured lights, and a massive sound system that could blow the place apart. The formal part I was to lead was to start at 4 p.m. but the bar opened around 3:15 p.m. I arrived and found the man who ran the sound system and we organised where I would run the ceremony from. The place was busy by then. In time he made contact with a jazz musician who could play the hymn "How great thou art" by ear on a key board. So I ran a very relaxed ceremony, some of the "congregation" were sipping beer and I was on a lighted stage looking out into a darkened, but packed room. There was applause for each speaker, laughter and nobody cared about tears. After the ceremony the man's sister came up and said, "We did it! That was just right!" I received a hug from another sister. When I said thanks to the man who ran the place, he thanked me and said, "You've done this before a bit haven't you?" Another guy, carrying beers said "That was excellent dude! Just great!" My paramedic friend who recommended me to his dying friend said, "They engaged with you. They were really listening!" "You still owe me!" I joked. So I managed again. But I am even more "peopled out" and exhausted, but deeply pleased that I ministered to people.
I had news today that a cousin's wife had died. She was around my age and I am sad for them. She had a progressive disease that slowly took her away. I will attend her funeral on Saturday. The cycle of life goes on.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sharing with families.

A fire fighter who retired eleven years ago was terminally ill and his son got in touch with me telling me his Dad wanted to speak with me ASAP. I saw him last Saturday and had a special time with him and his family. We all thought he would be around for a few weeks more, but on Tuesday night he died. Today I was back with the family planning the funeral. Yesterday I had a couple of brief telephone conversations with family members and then with the funeral director. I was in my mind working out all that needed to be done for a funeral. I have been a bit "peopled-out" lately and in some ways the last thing I needed was a funeral.  I have been busy since talking with various people about the man and the arrangements for the funeral. 

I had not long put the receiver down from discussing something with the funeral director, when the phone rang again. It was one of the paramedics I have been involved with in my St John Ambulance chaplaincy. "I have an old school mate in the hospice." he said. "I told him about you and I recommended you to him a few weeks ago. He asked about you the other day. He is dying and I was wondering if you could drop by and see him with a view to taking his memorial service when he dies. He wants to meet you." I inwardly gasped. So today after planning the funeral with my ex-fire fighter's family, I drove to the hospice and introduced myself to this other man and his family. He was really in no shape to talk, but again I felt a sense of privilege to be allowed into this family's life. I sat as they talked about their life together. They shared about their brother, their childhood experiences and generally cared for one another and their loved one. 

Without looking for work, I, who already feel peopled- out, have two grieving families and two funerals coming up. I will survive, and even enjoy, or feel fulfilled in the challenge of meeting the people where they are at and ministering to them, helping them to celebrate the life of their loved one. Just now it feels like a massive amount of work in front of me.  But.... isn't it great, very humbling and moving, that this fire fighter retired eleven years, when he is facing death thinks to call on the services of his old workplace chaplain? And... I have felt very humbled and moved by the number of fire fighters who have been offering assistance and are obviously pleased that I am involved.  And.... isn't it great and humbling, that a paramedic (who used to work for an undertaker and knows the funeral business) will think to recommend his workplace chaplain to his dying friend? I was surprised that he had that much confidence in me.

I am a privileged man indeed, albeit too busy in retirement. I was talking to the fire chief tonight, and he grinned, patted my shoulder and said, "And you thought you had retired!" My wife told him jokingly that I had threatened to "deliberately make a stuff up of the funeral so that I would never be asked again." "They would still love it!" he responded.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Refreshing conversations with the dying.

A local sunset. 

"At 95 its on the cards!"
Last weekend I was informed that a lovely old guy from my last Church was in hospital seriously ill. I have known this man since my childhood, he had been a much respected long standing friend of my parents. He is 95 years old and is much loved and highly respected. Last Sunday afternoon I had joined in the local "Climate March", had climbed my mountain, and then went in to visit him in hospital, unsure of what I would find.  My first arrival was when patients in his ward were having dinner and there was a big sign saying "No visitors", so I went away, called at the Night Shelter, and came back later.  I found my 95 year old friend sitting in the lounge trying to fathom the TV remote. I sat down beside him and said, "I've come to make sure you are behaving." He greeted me and declared that he would much rather talk to me than watch TV and I escorted him back to his room. We sat and chatted like old friends.  There were two things I appreciated about his conversation. 
First the way he appreciated his life. He kept coming up with things he was thankful for - His family; the people who had shared life with him; the measure of health he had enjoyed; the fact that he was "normal"; that being in hospital was for him a relatively new experience;  etc. etc. - He just kept saying, "Oh I am so thankful for...." He was breathless, his blood pressure was dangerously low and there was a lot of uncertainty about his future, but he was clear, lucid and oh so thankful. That was pretty cool.
The second thing I appreciated was the realistic way he talked about the possibility of his death. He told me, "The kids (his adult children) are worried they will phone me one day and nobody will answer the phone. They talk about that being a terrible thing! But at 95 its on the cards! What do they expect? I have had a long and good life, but it will come to an end and it is going to happen some day soon, it is logical." He scolded me. "Your retirement (from ministry) and my health did not coincide correctly. I was expecting you to be my minister and you to take my funeral, but it wasn't to be. You will speak at my funeral won't you?"  I assured him I would. "I'll say 'He wasn't a bad old bloke, where's the food'." I joked. I think he will live a while longer, on my second visit his health was much improved. I loved his realistic view of life, his sense of appreciation and his wisdom, but whenever he does go I will be sad because he has been a good friend. 
"... I know he wants to have a chat with you ASAP."
I received an email on Thursday from a man I did not know. He had got my email address from the "Gold Watch" list. This is a list of retired fire fighters and I am included in any group emails. He told me that his father (who had retired about eleven years ago) had terminal cancer and had been sent home to die. He was searching for me on behalf of his father and he wrote, "he wants you to take his funeral ..... I know he wants to have a chat with you ASAP." He gave me two phone numbers to ring. The next day I rang his home and I was put on to this ex-firefighter who breathlessly said "Hi Dave, thanks for ringing." What do you say to a man who is facing death?  The counselling books may suggest a more PC comment but I said simply, "Hi 'Fred' (not his name) I hear life has turned to crap for you? I'm sorry about that!" "Yeah" he said, "That's the way it goes Dave. It's tough, but you can't do anything about it." We made arrangements for me to call up when the family was there. On Saturday I visited.  This sort of visit I still stew about. I am full of uncertainty. What will I say? Will I say the wrong thing and muck it up? How will I get on with his family? All these questions went through my mind in the middle of the night and as I drove into town to his house. But when I met him and shook his emaciated hand, and saw his familiar smile I relaxed. I sat and chatted with him and his family. He asked questions about the funeral process. I asked about his family and his life. There was warmth, friendship and again appreciation of life, but also realism about what was ahead. I promised that I would talk with the funeral director and maybe get them to visit so he could clarify things with them. I promised to come back and stay in touch and also to communicate with some of his fire fighter mates.  When I left I thought, "Why did I worry about that conversation? It was such a privilege to be part of this family exchange." 

I am a fortunate man to be "let in" on peoples' journey through life.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Grumpy about Presbyterianism.

First some positive things;

My two walks on Sunday; and my two Edinburgh grandsons - Leon and Xavier.
My wife and I joined a few thousand others in the Climate Change March held in Dunedin (though globally) on Sunday
The marchers arriving in the centre of town.
My first ever "selfie" on top of Mt Cargill.

Newly arrived Xavier. Cute!
Grandson Leon with his father Daniel. Lovely young men.
I am having a hard time again coping with "Church". I try to be supportive, chatting in a caring way, doing various chores around the place and attending. But I drove away from last Sunday's service vowing never to return. The people are lovely and I enjoy the "community".  It was not just that particular service but the total less-than-professional approach by the visiting clergy involved. Sometimes Jesus' worst enemies are his friends! Three negative pictures.

Super Religious funeral. 
I helped the locals clean up the partly restored Iona Church in Port Chalmers for the funeral of the lovely Church lady who died suddenly. The next day we attended the funeral. There were lots of people there, the organist was a fantastic organist, (and I generally do not appreciate organ music) the family (indeed the lady herself) had chosen three good hymns but the ceremony made me angry. Here is a service with many non-religious people attending, certainly the majority of those attending would fit this category.  The Presbyterian minister, the "Interim Moderator" of the local parish, used heaps of old style religious prayers, readings and cliches, all strung together with a detached sounding parsonic voice. I, a "religious" person, was put off, or switched off by it all, and I wondered how the secular people around me felt? It would to them reinforce their view of Christian spirituality as old fashioned, irrelevant and something to be basically ignored. This to me is akin to blasphemy on the part of the robed parson up front. He is so out of touch with the real thought forms of people in NZ in today's world he is harming the precious, important "way of Jesus".  He is in fact denying the faith he is waffling about! This is the sort of thing that happens every Sunday in our local Church.
The other Sunday I went to Church and the service began of course with prayers, a hymn and prayers of confession. I counted, just in the prayers before we had reached the second hymn, I had been told that I was "unworthy" no less than five times! That doesn't count the same message no doubt given in the hymns used. These were old Presbyterian prayers. I don't recall Jesus telling many people they were "unworthy", just pompous religious leaders who were laying heavy burdens on the people. The Church needs to have a warning label like cigarette packets, "Danger, enter at your own risk. Coming to Church can damage your mental and emotional health!" Its crap!
Mrs Brown's advice...
I have just read the biography "The Real Mrs Brown" the life story of Brendan O'Carroll. He plays Mrs Brown in the TV sitcom program, "Mrs Brown's Boys".  Brendan O'Carroll is reported as saying, 'To me comedy is like classical music. It has to be done with passion and, if it's not, the audience will spot it. It's got to look like you're up there giving it socks, or the audience will go, "They're not really enjoying themselves, so we shouldn't really be laughing." ...'   Well I would want to say the same about leading Church worship. These parsons read everything (often badly) with a detached parsonic air about them and you are left wondering, "Do they really care?" "Do they really value what they are talking about?" because it doesn't bloody well sound like it! 

I have promised to leave several times before, but have felt sorry for the folks and gone back to try to make a difference. So far I have not been allowed to do much that changes the ethos. Away back in 1970 I felt a "calling" to be a part of trying to help the Church communicate the way of Jesus in word and deed in more relevant ways. I have given well over forty years of my life for that cause with varying degrees of success. Now in retirement I am supporting a Church, perhaps a denomination, which is in practice denying all that I have lived for! It churns me up. Last Sunday I said,... no ... shouted to my wife as we drove home, "I'd be better to walk up my mountain on a Sunday morning!" 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Holiday generosity and death...

We did get to visit my friend's boat and I even steered it. He is keen for me to spend time with him on it.
My wife and my friend at an interesting maritime museum near Semaphore, in Adelaide..
On our last full day there we toured the harbour. 
My friend and I on top of Mt Lofty with Adelaide stretched out below us.
Australia sojourn
We have been on holiday out of the country for ten days. With the Night Shelter money raised and the buildings bought, we decided we could take time to visit friends in Adelaide, South Australia. We rang a friend there to check if it was OK to visit on the dates we planned. She said OK, but that she would pay our fare. So the cost to us of the flights was nothing. We arrived in Adelaide and found out some plans had been changed. We were to stay with our other friends, because the friend who had paid our fares was again being a generous hostess to a family needing accommodation. Then our plans were changed again, because my wife became ill with a chest infection, which later hit me also. Plans for me to spend a few days with my friend on his boat never eventuated. We stayed at his place and did different things. But again he was immensely generous, paying for meals out, for trips etc. and refusing to allow me to empty my wallet. We did low key things basically just catching up on each other. His daily saying was, "Its time to have a glass of afternoon tea." as he handed me a beer.  It was a laid back visit.
In spite of sickness hitting my wife and nudging me, we enjoyed our stay. Australia is different. There is a different culture even though we are often seen as being the same. The nature of the climate gives different vegetation, different scenery and there are many more native "wild animals".  Twice my friend took me for a walk up "his mountain", Mount Lofty on the edge of Adelaide. I had a close encounter with a Kangaroo and her young one. I saw a Koala up a tree. On our second trip down the mountain we were on a more isolated track and from the TV news I had been made aware that the snakes were getting more active in the warm weather. I walked very much aware that I might have a close encounter with a snake. I didn't see a snake, but on my New Zealand mountain all I see are birds, and once I encountered  a goat. We don't have snakes or anything really that could harm you. Australia is very different. I am happy and proud to have lived in New Zealand. Lifestyle wise, it is for me with my values, perhaps the best country in the world to live in. But I always appreciate the land across the Tasman sea. In the 1970's I spent four very formative years in Australia doing my theological training and in the process establishing life long friendships. It was good to visit. 
Death.... the last goodbye. 
On the Sunday before we left for Australia I had led the service at our local Church. After the service I packed up all our things and loaded them into the van, locking the Church door behind me. My wife then informed me that our Church key was still inside the Church with her all important handbag. We went to a lady on the parish council who lived nearby to borrow her key. She was already home from church and dabbling in her garden. She was very warm toward us, and we made arrangements to drop the key back in her letterbox. We waved goodbye as we drove away, then at the end of the week we went for our ten day visit to Australia. We arrived home on Tuesday this week, and yesterday, Friday, at breakfast I read our morning newspaper. I was absolutely shocked to see a death notice for this lovely lady. She was ten years older than I am, but still very active and involved in the Church and the community. She had died suddenly on Thursday! Little did we know that our friendly wave goodbye was the last time we would see her.  It is sad and salutary. 

The lesson from both of these experiences - You can plan but ultimately you are not necessarily in control of your life.       

Friday, November 20, 2015

Expanding family...

Woo Hoo the whanau is expanding. I'm a grandfather again. Absolutely thrilled for Dan & Magda and of course Leon. Welcome Xavier! Don't know what sort of world you are coming into, but one hopes that sanity, love and harmony will overcome.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Long hours

Today after preparing the frame work, we lined the room in what we call gibboard (Sheetrock)  

I was talking with a young firefighter about his conditions of work yesterday. They have a fairly good lifestyle, working two day shifts, and two night shifts and then having essentially 4 days off. There is always plenty of call backs on offer so lots of opportunity to earn overtime rates of pay. This young firefighter was pointing out the difficulties and said, "I bet you have never had to work a 14 hour day?" - which they do when they work night shift. I smiled and told him that when I was in ministry/chaplaincy I once counted up my hours of work over three weeks and averaged it out for each week... I worked, .. (really worked not slept like they do when on night shift or watched TV late in the afternoon)  - 66 hours a week. I also told him that my remuneration was a lot lower than his was if he worked that many hours. "Yeah but that's what you guys are expected to do!" said another older firefighter, "It is your calling." "Well maybe you are right." I said.
As I drove home after my activities of the day, I was thinking about this conversation and I realised that even in retirement I had "worked" fourteen hours that day, with just 2 of them being paid for. I did emails and phone calls for the night shelter first thing in the morning. Then I prepared power points for a talk which I gave to a Probus group. that talk led to conversations. I spent my normal lunch time at my voluntary chaplaincy at the ambulance station, then picked up bread for the night shelter and delivered it. While there I checked emails and did a couple of odd jobs, then went to my rounds of fire stations as chaplain, staying half an hour longer than the hours I am paid for. After a quick evening meal I went into town and had two meetings related to the night shelter.  It was equivalent to a fourteen hour day. I guess I choose to do it and I enjoy doing it. 
Today I did my brewery chaplaincy in the morning and apart from a few contacts for night shelter business, I spent the afternoon and evening working on the room my daughter and son-in-law are doing up with my son-in-law. We get on very well which is great. He is a very patient man with his old father in law. I am tired but once again I enjoyed the physical work involved and being able to assist. They have been working on their house, including a rebuild of a part of it, for twelve years now. Today a visitor asked them how long it will take to finish all they want to do. I suggested another twelve years, teasing them. My son-in-law shot back, "Oh no" he said, "In twelve years time you will be in no fit state to help! We will have to get it finished before then!" 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Varied Skills

The area of the floor framework rebuild.
Preparing the wall frames for new cladding.
Lots of nails into hard old timber.

I am totally exhausted tonight. I was up late last night, and out of bed early this morning working, doing sermon/service preparation. This afternoon while weary, I am valuing the things I can do well.
Assisting with Renovations
Last weekend through to this weekend my wife and I spent the equivalent of four days in town helping our daughter and son-in-law renovate one of the rooms in their house. They have an old house and have done a heap of renovations over the years, and we have helped in all of them. They are very clever with these things.  The four of us work very well together, the women sort out a project, while my son-in-law do the heavier construction type things. We synchronise very well. The first day we were stripping sarking off the internal walls, and then took the skirting board off. We discovered that in one little area the floor was rotten. We stripped some floor boards off and found the frame underneath also rotten. The young couple thought about it for a night, thinking perhaps that we might need an expert carpenter.  I had told them how I would go about fixing it but I knew they had to make any decision. The next day they asked if I was prepared to help them fix it. So last Monday we rebuilt the frame work, and replaced a solid floor. We have been continuing with the progress ever since. Yesterday I calculated that I hammered in around 220 nails. I LOVE this work and am enjoying the sheer physical effort involved and I love the fact that I can do it.  I look at the finished task and feel good about it. I am being helpful. I am making a difference.
Transport and Tools.
 I am pleased with my van. Today we went to the hardware store and loaded 15 sheets of Gib (sheet rock) into the back and transported them to the project. We have carried long lengths of timber and heaps of tools. I am pleased too with the variety of tools I have. When working on this renovation I have hand tools and electric tools for the job. It is a great feeling having this independence and variety which enables us to get the job done. Tools are an investment!
Today I led the service at the local Church. I put a huge effort into preparation, and it went very well. I could see people during the service smiling, nodding in agreement and obviously enjoying what was on offer. When I had a dialogue session, there was free, spontaneous sharing of ideas. I have also noticed that on the days that I am down to lead the service there is a extra good attendance at church. I received very warm feedback after the service and I came away saying to myself, "Yes! I am good at this, perhaps getting better!" 

So here I am, tired, exhausted but deeply pleased at the variety of my skills, the abilities my tools and van let me have and the impact I can have in different ways. I am, howeverlooking forward to a brief holiday in a few days time.
Proud to be a New Zealander
The New Zealand Rugby Football team (the All Blacks) have won the World Cup, the Webb Ellis Trophy. They played the final against Australia in a stadium in England early this morning our time.  They beat them 34 to 17, and even the Australians admitted that they well deserved to be world champions. But the thing that made me even more proud is that they behaved themselves with humility, grace and dignity. 
On the same weekend the New Zealand Women's netball team beat the Australian team 58 to 47. This little country, of 4 million people, with limited funds is competitive on the world stage. I was doing computer work this morning in preparation for the service, while my wife was looking at the rugby on TV in the lounge. I would quickly skip to the on line updates, and at one stage the scores got quite close. I ended up going into the lounge and watched the final minutes of the game, enjoying them because in them New Zealand were successful in putting the game beyond reach. As our captain, coach and some players were interviewed I choked up with pride. There are lots of problems in our country, but I love its ethos and the egalitarian atmosphere. I am a proud New Zealander.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Positive Week

"Wicked Wanda" parked by the brewery I visit. 
Students who helped our fundraising cause at our celebration. I had presented their facilitator with a certificate.
Waiting in our seats at the stadium as the crowd arrives for the show. 
Neil Diamond is somewhere up there on the brightly lit stage. It was a fun night. I hope I have his energy when I am 74. 
This last week there have been positive developments and experiences.
Wanda is drivable
I have a 1991 Nissan Bluebird that I am sentimentally attached to. It has sat without being used since we headed away overseas last year. We have cleaned it, worked on it, got it a legal warrant of fitness, payed the registration that we owed on it, and this week I drove it into my chaplaincies. I enjoy driving it. I have nick named her "Wicked Wanda" because she is a "spirited car" which is fun to drive. So I feel good about seeing her operational, instead of just sitting getting dirty.
Night Shelter Celebration
At the end of our three year fund raising journey the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust purchased the buildings. It was quite a milestone, so we thought we ought to have a celebration function and invite all the major donors just to say "thank you" and to express our commitment to using the buildings well and wisely. On Wednesday evening we held this function. It went well but I put a lot of time into preparing for it. On Wednesday I prepared a power point that I wanted to have running over and over again. There are 30 slides telling the history of the Night Shelter Trust and of our campaign. The function was to start at 5:30 p.m. At some time just after 3:00 p.m. I had just about completed all the various aspects of the display I wanted to set up, including my powerpoint slide show. I was working out how to time the slides, and have them repeating the cycle.  Somehow in my rush I lost all but the first few slides. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I had gathered lots of photographs and information, arranging them artistically in the slides, but now that was all gone, hours worth of work, lost in the depths of my computer,  I set to and prepared them all again. Fortunately it was easier second time around because I knew where everything was. I completed all, rushed through the shower, dressed and arrived at the conference room in time to set up and welcome the guests. All went well, but it was a very stressful afternoon.  We had people from Trusts, families and groups who had contributed significantly to our fundraising. I was pleased with the warmth of the evening, with many Trusts expressing their desire that we keep in touch.
Student Volunteer
I had been holding an email conversation with a student who had emailed us offering to volunteer for administrative work with the Night Shelter when she returns to the university next year after her summer holidays.  We really could do with skilled administrative help so I had arranged to meet this lady at the University.  On Friday I arrived at the agreed meeting point and loitered. I had sent her a description and photo of me, but I did not have a clue what she looked like. I felt a bit conspicuous loitering in this cafe type area attached to the university library looking at women students. Here I was obviously an older man, sitting around, looking at each girl student who walked past just in case she was the one. Then to my relief I heard "Dave" being called. I turned and here was this gorgeous (She would rival Julie Roberts or any other beautiful film star) woman coming toward me smiling. We chatted about possibilities and swapped information promising to catch up next year. She was so beautiful, maintaining eye contact with her blue eyes that I must admit to being a bit thrown by it all. What she is willing to do sounds good. She seems to be a genuine person so we hope it all goes well when we make contact next year. (I have had such promising interviews before which have proved not work out as well as we had hoped. You can put a lot of effort into some people and it can be wasted time. - so I am a bit cynical.)  When I told my wife about the encounter and that she was willing to spend a few hours each week doing administration, her comment was, "I hope you do not have to spend that time working with her!"
A beautiful gesture
I drove away from the university to the parking area of a hardware store.  My phone rang and upon answering it I discovered that it was a man from a wealthy family Trust which had supported us in our campaign.  We chatted briefly about the Wednesday evening celebration, then he said that they had four tickets to a Neil Diamond concert to be held in the local sports stadium on Saturday night. He went on to say that the members of the Night Shelter Trust work so hard and deserve a night out. Would I be interested.  My daughter had already given us tickets to this concert as birthday presents for my wife and I, but I said that I am sure some members of the Trust might be keen to go.  I then got in touch with some people likely to be interested and made the necessary arrangements. So my wife and I enjoyed Neil Diamond, my daughter (hard working Night Shelter Trust Treasurer) and son-in-law and another Trustee and his wife went also. I was really thrilled with the warmth of this gesture. The tickets would not have been cheap, it was great that they thought of us. 
My daughter and her husband are setting out on a project to do up another room in their house. This involves stripping wall linings off, doing some carpentry and then putting new linings on. My wife and I have traditionally helped in this, so on Saturday we loaded the van with carpentry gear and headed to their place. I love banging in nails and fixing stuff up. Tomorrow is Labour Day in NZ, a statutory holiday, so tomorrow we will be going there again.  That I will enjoy.
In spite of my uncomfortableness, we still attend the little local church where most of the congregation is elderly. There is one younger couple and they had decided to have a baby dedication service. They were keen for Jean and I to be there as their friends. My wife has a special friendship with them and their children - their little girl often sits with us in Church. We sat in assisting as they and the Parish Clerk planned a service to suit, and this morning we enjoyed a service that was different. 
This afternoon I first planted potatoes. I had prepared the ground and following lots of advice from various people about new and better ways to plant spuds, I planted a crop that I hope will supply us with lots of food for next year.  Wait and see. I then had to go to town to the Night Shelter, so I took the opportunity to go for a rare run. I enjoyed plodding around a familiar six kilometre course. I hope to do more. 

So i have experienced lots of positives in the week. Still though, for some reason I have battled a sort of insecurity and depression. I think it is a bit of a come down reaction from reaching our fundraising target. But I will work my way through it, as I always do.  As a local TV presenter used to say, "That was the week that was." 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Who am I?

The old disk pads from our van.
My old "friends" - plumbing tools.

There is nothing like digging a garden, with birds singing about you. 
So handy - firewood gathering vehicle, bedroom, tool box. furniture removal etc.
"Wicked Wanda" recommissioned. Such a great car to drive.
Recently I have been doing a variety of things, some of them physically orientated work along with other more cerebral functions.
As chairman of the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust I have been busy lately buying our premises, talking possible funding options and "running" the operation. We are a governance/working Trust Board and I have been like an executive secretary organising things, doing administrative things, keeping in touch with staff and generally the face of the Night Shelter in the city. Last Tuesday morning for example, I talked to a Rotary group at a breakfast meeting at 7 a.m.; talked with the person on duty overnight at the Night Shelter; had a meeting with a man who had been fundraising for us and began to formulate a letter for him; presented prizes at a big hardware store and received money from the staff who had been doing a walking challenge raising money; then spent time talking with one staff member who is doing community work for us.  It is in some ways out of my comfort zone, but I have been successful. It has been a major role in my life in recent times. 
A couple in the church we attend want a parent/child dedication thanksgiving service and I have been involved in helping that to happen. It has involved emails back and forth, creative thinking and a lunch time meeting on Sunday. This morning I skype chatted with a woman who used to attend my old Church, who is now living back in Hungary, but was visiting Denmark. I had a real friendship with her, she used to call me "Dad". We had not made contact for a long time, but today as we chatted she shared personal stuff and from a distance my heart ached. We "connected" though we were on different sides of the globe. I was her supportive pastor/friend. Today also I visited an elderly couple from my old Church. I have known them since I was a boy, and I knew that they had a long standing dear friend die last week. I took the time to go out and spend time with them. I was a pastoral friend listening to their story, feeling their journey and accompanying them at this late stage in life. I do a similar thing wandering around fire stations, an ambulance headquarters and a brewery for at least eight hours each week.  I enjoy that.
Gardener/ homesteader.
I have been preparing the vege garden to receive this season's crops, and planting some. I enjoy the time to dig, cultivate, and plant.  A part of this role is the continual gathering of firewood to make sure that we have fuel. I enjoy gathering firewood, and keeping the house warm for free. The simple basic earthy physicality of these things is a great feeling for me.
We have three 1990's vehicles. The van needed new disk pads on the brakes. I had done disks before so decided to do them myself. I put on overalls and repaired the brakes. As well as this job I went on to do other tidying up, adjusting type jobs on the van. We had a car which we had not used for nearly two years, we decided to get it operational again. We washed it, did some repairs, fueled it up, freed up linkages and now it is nearly ready for the road again. It drives so nicely.  I love being a mechanic, so enjoyable fixing things, getting things working.
The other day I was having coffee with an old friend who attends a church in town. He had a plumbing job he wanted done at the Church he attends, and asked if I could do it. I went there this afternoon and he and I spent a couple of hours doing this plumbing job. I loved it - in my element, using tools, doing the job I had trained for many years ago and making the system work. 

Such a variety! The thing is in most situations I come away thinking, "This is great! This is me!" I love in my overalls doing mechanical and plumbing things. I love working away in the garden, digging or gathering and chopping wood for the fire. There is something basic and earthy about this. But I love the creativity of preparing a church service. I love the "along-side-ness" of being a chaplain/pastor. The one I feel out of my comfort zone with is the "CEO" of night shelter, but I love that I have been a part of dreaming up, establishing and securing a Night Shelter operation in the city, and seeing it evolve. Which am I? CEO? Pastor? Gardener? Mechanic? Plumber? .... and I guess there are other roles.  I saw a quote yesterday. "Some people are really poor. All they have is heaps of money." I am rich, I enjoy different aspects of who I am. Even at my age I still don't know who I am, which is fine.