Saturday, March 28, 2009

Put your clock back – or is it forward?

There’s been quite a discussion today about whether Daylight Saving ends tonight or not. It matters because I am taking the services tomorrow. We have a calendar that is quite clear that tonight is the night and another that says next Saturday. Canvassed opinions around the parish vary by at least as much.
We’ve got the problem sussed now but it recalls a service I was scheduled to take away from home a couple of years ago.
But with family wedding celebrations the night before I quite forgot about DS and rolled up at the church an hour early. Finally figuring why no one was joining me I drove back to the shopping centre and sat down with an unaccustomed coffee but when it was time to return I found I’d locked the keys in the van. This is also unaccustomed.
I sent off a text message to Bev in case she could come up with something and as I walked briskly in the direction of the church - no doubt being passed by half the congregation who couldn’t be expected to recognise me! - she rolled up in a car she’d commandeered. The service began almost, but not quite on time.
Sure, Bev and I have been away for the last two weeks and, driving ourselves, have been rather relaxed about the clock. But life in a developed society really needs elements of coordination and a common clock makes life easier for us.
And that applies to other constants around which life turns. Tomorrow we rejoin our congregation. Here we will re-set the balance of our internal life and re-align our hopes and plans for the coming week.
And, yes, we will put our clocks back next Saturday.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Watch How you Go!

We gave ourselves and our tiny rental car a bit of a challenge when we turned off the main road at Lawrence and headed for Waipori on a small rough backcountry road. There were relatively few signposts but one that caught the attention was one of those signs that are designed to be unfolded and displayed. Usually they warn of flooding or frosty or slippery conditions ahead and are only opened up and displayed when necessary.
They are usually in two pieces. The top half conveys the nature of the danger ahead. The bottom section usually indicates the location of the problem, be it in 100 metres or for the next ten kilometers.
Here’s a photo of the sign that we came upon while our little car was straining itself over a steep hill. Whatever it was supposed to warn us about remained a mystery but it was clear that the danger existed for the next fifteen kilometres.
I don’t know if I watched out for floods, frost and slips all the way across the beautiful rolling country to Lake Mahinerangi but it gave me something to think about. There must be another parable of life in there. Think about it.

Nothing is Forever

Bev and I are still having a ball re-visiting the lower South Island for the School of Theology and some personal touring around.
We made a brief pilgrimage to Dusky Forest in West Otago where I worked for a year with the Forest Service. In 1954 this was a community of seven or eight family homes, headquarters office building, three-bay fire station/garage, workshop, store, camp cookhouse and a camp of about twenty huts and facilities for single men like myself.
With the Presbyterian Clearwater family from down the road, we ran a little Sunday School there and somewhere there is a photo showing at least fifteen children who turned up. The school bus came right up to the forest. On some Friday nights there was a bus all the way to Gore for shopping and the pictures. Dusky Forest HQ Camp was a whole little village.
Everything is gone. Only the shape of the side road where Johnnie Walker rolled the fire engine (we got the horses Bob and Mac to right it and cleaned up the mess inside and the accident was never reported) and the level space where the garages had been betray a clue to the general location. A road has been built right through the middle of the entire village area but in the drain at one side is a large piece of old concrete that is a physical link to the past: it was the step into the office.
In tramping in various parts of NZ I have seen plenty of places which have been changed by the passage of time and changing fortunes. But nowhere has the transitory nature of life itself been brought home to me as forcibly as the sight of sheep grazing in the perfect pasture that has been created over the site of my hut at Dusky Forest.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Rounded Experience

In 1972 I attended my first South Island School of Theology at the Methodist church’s own outstanding property at Kawarau Falls,near Queenstown. Thirty-seven years later, Bev and I have just had three days at another.

The venue for the School is now Lakeland Park Christian Camp, a few kilometres along the lake front. The people have changed but the same elements were there. There was worship and guidance in meditation; there was strong intellectual input on leadership theory and the nature of God; there were practical exercises in preparing rituals for “fresh expressions” of the faith of local community; and we had some uproarious laughter, especially when the group experienced our murder mystery dinner on the last night. Comfortable accommodation and excellent meals rounded out a full and satisfying experience.

We think that people in any local church might hope for the same things. There should be satisfying worship and nurturing of the spiritual life. There should be good teaching on the bible and our life in God. People in a church fellowship should welcome opportunities of service through practical Christianity. Hopefully, too, people will be looking for new ways of being the church in the local community. And we think also, parish people should be having fun. If the Christian life fails to bring laughter and good cheer, especially in the face of difficulty, then it has failed altogether.

So we invite readers – and our own people back home – to look to worship, study, service and “fresh expressions” of life in faith. And have fun!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Watch how you go!

It’s 8am at Omarama, misty but with promise of another absolutely stunning day like we saw at Lake Tekapo yesterday. We’ve had two lengthy "Wow!" days on the road and are looking forward to a shorter trip today. But, enjoying the drive in a heavily-loaded smallish rental car, we’ve been passed by a few fairly brisk drivers along the way. They’re a bit wild through the middle of the South Island, it seems.
Thirty years ago I proposed on public radio that there should be driver “wardens” who could report traffic misbehaviours. Nobody took it up at that time but these days any driver can “dob in” another driver on an official form and the Police will follow it up, usually writing to the alleged offender. I’ve submitted two or three such reports myself.
But not on this trip. I’ve been a bit subdued since driving onto a two-lane roundabout in front of a car in the outside lane who appeared to be leaving it instead of coming round in front of me. He could legitimately have dobbed me in. Perhaps he did.
So now I would like a lot more publicity to be given to the suggestion made some time ago that we have a clear hand signal that apologises, “Oops, I’m really sorry I did that.” I think the suggestion at the time was a spread-out hand raised up. Something like that could just ease a little tension that might otherwise have been caused by a minor act of thoughtlessness.However, until it is widely recognised, that particular signal might also be interpreted as “Five fingers to you, mate!”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Off again!

Tomorrow we head off for a couple of weeks. Everything’s been packed for a day or two. The sealed envelopes instructions for the ten people who have been recruited for our murder mystery dinner in Queenstown have been sent off by courier. All that remains is for us to follow them down there.

We’re driving to Auckland, taking a cheapo flight to Christchurch and hiring a car for a two-three drive to Queenstown. It’s going to be a gentle revisiting of some wonderful country and we can’t wait to get started.

Until, that is, just now, when I phoned to confirm our booking at Omarama, near the Clay Cliffs, and the friendly receptionist wanted to know what our weather was like. “Stunning,” I said, “it’s going to be a beautiful day, warm and clear” “Oh,” she said, “Well, it’s just about freezing here and snow’s not far away.” I think that we may need to go back to the packing again…
Every life journey requires preparations. And like our trip, every life journey requires the appropriate preparations. I need to remember that.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mortality! Mortality!

The 100 year old patriarch in our family, having survived a second hip joint operation, was back in his rooms only a few days when he had a “bit of a turn”. The doctor thinks he perhaps had a small stroke but there’s no obvious evidence of it.

On the phone last night he said that it was a good and gentle experience and if that’s what it was like to go then he wasn’t afraid and was ready. He almost wished he just could have popped off. Apart from the fact that the NZ taxpayers have gifted you this mechanical joint that’s good for ten or fifteen years or more, that’s a good thought, Dad. I hope I can be as relaxed about it when my time comes.

On the way home from the birthday celebrations we stopped off in Whangarei for my quarterly injection of Zoladex. My tests suggest that it doesn’t seem to be suppressing my prostate cancer as completely as we had hoped. My PSA became measurable again a few months ago and, though the figures are very tiny, is showing signs of doubling fairly quickly. That’s a bit of a disappointment, I guess, but we’ll probably add some other medication next time so I can do my best to outlive the old Dad by a respectable amount.

Meanwhile, we have a lot of life to get on with.... Watch this space!

Friday, March 6, 2009

The age of miracles and the miracle of ageing

Well, we had a great weekend. The celebrations all went off without a hitch - well, except for not having the birthday boy actually there with us.

The family event on Saturday afternoon reconvened unscheduled in the evening with about thirty of us sharing a meal together in the holiday home Marion had hired. St Paul's parish had a very worthy celebration on the Sunday morning when Bev and I cut Dad's cake and acknowledged the role that the congregation has played in Dad's life. He'd lived in Taupo more than anywhere else in his one hundred years.

So, for me, it was a very rich time of family and faith. We had lots of hugs as the Aussie contigent departed. Then it was a quick trip back up to Whangarei for my three-monthly Zoladex shot and confirmation that my PSA seems determined to remain increasingly measurable. Since being home, some terrible weather, a Dispute Tribunal hearing and visits to the local doc and Xrays of my bothersome knee have dominated life. But it's great being back.

On Sunday I get to preach for the first time for ten weeks and I think I can have some fun with Abraham having a family in his extreme old age. I must mention that to Dad since he was back in his own rooms at Taupo within five days of the op and I'm told he got himself up and showered and dressed before the staff got to him next morning. Who knows, perhaps he may father another son...

Of course, Abraham was only a mere 99...