My, how time passes…

Source: The fine folks at the John Kinder Library

I am now a third year student at St Johns. It seems hard to believe.

But my time here is short. At the end of June I pack up all my belongings and move down to Pahiatua where I will be beginning a two year curacy (think apprenticeship) with the local Anglican church.

People ask me, “are you looking forward to going?”

The honest answer is, “I’m not sure…”
or “yes and no…”
or on other days “not really…”

Over time I have become very fond of this place. St Johns really is a special place. Great community, great surroundings, great conversation. Of course, it drives me mad. It frustrates the heck out of me. Sometimes it makes me angry. But I love it, and I will miss this college greatly when I leave. Why would I ever want to leave?

And at the same time, there is fear of the unknown. What will Pahiatua be like? Will I like the people there? Will they like me? Can I live up to their hopes for me? (Of course I can’t.) Will they live up to my hopes for them? How will small town life shape me? Of course I am excited by the prospect. Thrilled even. It will be so good to have the privilege to journey alongside a new community.

So at the moment I live in a strange space. Change looms large on the horizon. I need to start thinking much more seriously about the practicalities of buying a car and sorting through my stuff. But at the same time, my work here at St Johns is not yet done. I am convinced that these next few months are an opportunity to be grasped.

Bring it on…

The old lady

Thought I would upload a few photos from around Christchurch Cathedral that I took during my time there in November-December 2010. Such a privilege to have spent time working there, exploring the corners of the building.

A reminder to me that each moment we live is a unique moment in history.
We will never live this today again.

Goodbyes

I hate to miss a good funeral.

Of all my life regrets, missing the funeral of someone I have loved or respected would be one of my strongest. Today as I enjoyed my penultimate CPE group session, presenting our end of chaplaincy reflections to the group, I was also keenly aware that I was missing the funeral of Andrew Duxfield in Tawa. I spent much of the afternoon thinking of Charmaine, Michael, Kelly, Tim, Kim, Amy and Rosie.

Andrew had taken over as my Boys Brigade captain when the group had fallen into a state of disarray and we feared that the company would close. He shared his faith warmly with us boys, working to build in us a faith that is ‘sure and steadfast’. He took us away on amazing end of year adventures around Tongariro and Taranaki, memories of which sit warmly with me. He coaxed me (most of the way) up mountains and helped me get further than I imagined. I wheezed and puffed. He told me I could do it.

His adventure filled life and faith continued. I worked with his family as. a youth leader. News last week of his very sudden death in Fiji while on mission work came as a huge shock.

Andrew will be missed. I would like to climb those mountains again someday.

2011

  

The organised of my friends have started with the business of Christmas letters already. Perhaps if I were organised I too might write a letter summising my year for friends to reflect on, some form of expository “show and tell” of my life.

If I were to write one I might reflect on the difference of starting a second year at St Johns compared to my first year. Gone was the deep grief I felt in 2010 for all the good friends, opportunities, resources and ministry I had left behind in Karori. Somehow 2011 felt different.

And I might mention that I got to attend not one but all three New Wine camps, do wave my hands in the air and host sessions, representing the national leadership team. It was fun and scary.

I might mention in a christmas letter that a crucial point in my year came in May when I received a letter from Bishop Tom saying that I would be ordained as a deacon in November. Immediately, at the half way point of my time at St Johns I was being reoriented outwards again, to start thinking of the path ahead.

I would be amiss if I didn’t make mention of the extent to which the Christ Church Cathedral family have been in my mind all year since the February earthquake. The five weeks I spent there leading up to Christmas 2010 were very special for me, and even more so given the events of this year.

Mention must also be given in a Christmas letter to all my dear friends, for and to whom I am very grateful. The community at St Johns (a superb bunch), those connections from Karori, Tawa, Alpha, New Wine, Soul Survivor, Alpha, or elsewhere (many of whom I keep contact with online) and newer friends in Auckland all mean much to me.

And I would probably make mention of the events of November 19 when Bishop Tom Brown laid his hands on my head and, somehow, I emerged changed. How or what changed remains a mystery to me, but I know in my bones that it was significant.

Closing a fictitious Christmas Letter would be a reflection on the CPE work I am doing at Middlemore Hospital at the moment as a Chaplain on Ward 34, the conversations I am having with people, and the self I am discovering along the way.

I would then proceed to, with a lump in my metaphorical throat, to wish all my friends my prayers, blessings and hopes for 2012. May the year ahead be your best year yet.

Random thoughts on a sunny Sunday afternoon

1. Some days I'm just not in the mood. Am I becoming more grumpy as I get older? I don't want to.

2. Being told that I look tired or ragged around the edges helps never.

3. I long for more creativity.

4. A voice at a solitary railway station is an unexpected thing. Nice man telling me that the train has been delayed ten minutes.

5. "The real thing." Yup.

6. People often comment that I'm so secretive, guarded. Is it just me? Can I fix this?

7. Downside up, upside down.

8. Man up!

9. I'd love a steak about now. Or a good summer barbecue.

10. I love the excitement of Sunday kids on trains. I want it.

Counting

I’ve been trying to live more intentionally. Partially this is coming from a Spirituality for Ministry paper I’m doing, and partly is simply the fruit of the journey and spiritual adventure that I’m on, especially as I head toward my ordination as Deacon in November.

Part of my discipline is to be observant of the passing of time in my own life. My calendar tells me that today I am 12,237 days old. The act of watching the numbers clock onward helps me to examine (and examen) each day.

Perhaps that’s why I found this video so evocative. The guy counts from one to 100,000. It takes him 77 hours. (To be honest, I’m pretty jealous of his initiative and sticking power.)

Want a job?

Wanted: leaders to lead me.

So, it’s official. Bishop Tom is retiring. He confirmed me while he was still assistant bishop (many moons ago), will ordain me as Deacon in November, but then we will have a new bishop. I have really appreciated Bishop Tom as bishop.

Jim White, my dean at college is also leaving (to become Assistant Bishop of Auckland). Jim has been a great leader and teacher.

With change comes great uncertainty. What will the future hold? What will it look like? Will the blessings of change outweigh the painfulness of change? As the political factions buzz their way into behind-the-scenes manipulation (yup, you’d better believe it… it happens in the church) what, or more importantly who, will come forward?

I trust God, but do I trust the church to make these decisions?

The theory is, of course, that the church follows the will of God. The reality is that we are a stubborn mule.

At this point, questions of leadership come to mind for me. I’ve always been pretty suspicious of the leaders who posture and postulate themselves into the leadership spotlight. “Choose me, choose me!” they advocate at every opportunity. I’m much more trusting of those who take the approach, “it’s the last thing in the world I would want to do, but if it be the will of God…” Of course such “humility” has its own dangers.

What does it mean to be a leader? What are the true qualifications? How does the calling of God work, especially through a crackpot institution?

(Send your CV my way…)

Permanently Clossed

Walking home
I see a sign on a door:

"THIS DOOR IS NOW PERMANENTLY CLOSED"

It gets me thinking.

What doors in my life are permanently closed that ought not be?
What doors need I securely shut?
What purpose or identification has a permanently closed door? Is it now merely a decorative hinged wall?
What of the potential?

I'd better keep walking lest my brain explode.

Failure

Ever feel like a failure?
Often my regrets don’t get dealt with, I just move past them.
It’s easier that way.
Because I’m a wuss.
And for the most part, we are allowed to.

Fortunately, we are not forced to face them head on in the same way that someone under trial or in the glare of media scrutiny does.
No one writes books about my failings.
I’m grateful for that. And hope it stays that way.

I have been a failure as a youth minister.
I have been a failure in my employment.
I have been a failure in relationships.
I have been a failure in my study.
And I will go on failing.
Therein is truth.

If you read this blog because you know me, I will have let you down.
I’m very sorry. And terribly ashamed.

And there are areas of my failings that I must grow balls and deal with.
People that I must talk to, positions I must take, opinions I must defend.
Things I need to learn from, and things I just need to learn.

But failure is not my identity.
The law of the spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death.

A spell for the Refreshment of the Spirit

Been enjoying listening to the Chronicles of Narnia lately. So many beautiful, profound statements, often in passing. This passage particularly has been reverberating.

On the next page she came to a spell “for the refreshment of the spirit’. The pictures were fewer here but very beautiful. And what Lucy found herself reading was more like a story than a spell. It went on for three pages and before she had read to the bottom of the page she had forgotten that she was reading at all. She was living in the story as if it were real, and all the pictures were real too. When she had got to the third page and come to the end, she said, “That is the loveliest story I’ve ever read or ever shall read in my whole life. Oh, I wish I could have gone on reading it for ten years. At least I’ll read it over again.” 

But here part of the magic of the Book came into play. You couldn’t turn back. The right-hand pages, the ones ahead, could be turned; the left-hand pages could not. 

“Oh, what a shame!” said Lucy. “I did so want to read it again. Well, at least I must remember it. Let’s see . . . it was about . . . about . . . oh dear, it’s all fading away again. 

And even this last page is going blank. This is a very queer book. How can I have forgotten? It was about a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill, I know that much. But I can’t remember and what shall I do?” 

And she never could remember; and ever since that day what Lucy means by a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book.