Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Delayed Abiraterone and a Bump on the Floor

29 Sept
I had the first of the monthly PSA tests last week. Not quite a month, but near enough, and the results today show the smallest increase ever over any previous reading. My doubling rate since March is now moving back out to 3.6 months. Still pretty serious, but a lot more relaxing than the two month rate reported three weeks ago (below).

PSA readings normally bounce around a bit, but this is a remarkable slowdown - the rollercoaster of prostate cancer... Meantime we're getting on with life and enjoying the ride, the village and the singing. Oh, yes, especially the singing; our quartet is accomplishing things we thought quite beyond us...

9 Sept
Yesterday's appointment reviewed my history (not to mention my views!) and we agreed that until I exhibited clear signs of the cancer, it would be inappropriate to commence Abiraterone.

Although my PSA doubling time for the past five months has been around two months - pretty high - we are going to watch it month by month and look for other clear symptoms of the cancer. So, technically, I am still classed as Castrate-Resistant but Unsymptomatic. That's not at all uncomfortable for me and, as usual, Bev and I are getting on with life.

After that, "getting on with life" meant popping into another hospital on the way home, to call on a Village friend who's had surgery. It was very hot in the ward - I thought it was just me having a hot flush! We'd been standing talking for some time when Bev tried to comment to me about the heat and then collapsed onto the floor with a huge bang.

Now,  there are advantages with collapsing in hospital. A dozen people were there in a moment and she was scooped up onto a chair and then onto a mobile bed and whisked off to Emergency. By then she was fine, thanks very much.

But then the "Protocol" clicked into place.  She was written up on three sets of forms, wired up in a dozen places, given her very own national health information number (for the first time), given all kinds of tests and scans by various initials. Finally, with no obvious problems in sight, and after some pushing on her part, she was allowed to go home. She's a bit sore here and there but is otherwise fine, for which we're both very grateful. But it was a long, long day...

So, back to the routine and the ordinary...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The shape of Sunday worship

Our local church is a hexagonal shape with flat floor, carpet and chairs. It lends itself to all kinds of arrangement for different kinds of services.

With more or less movable furniture this imaginative building was designed to reflect a whole lot of different ways of being church. For instance, it could be a "people" kind of church where worshippers could see a little more than the backs of people's heads in front of them. Or perhaps a "participatory" kind of church where contributions could be made and seen and heard from some other place than up front, concert style. Or maybe a "gathered" church where the congregation could be seated around the (hexagonal!) communion table for the fellowship meal. The possibilities are limited only by our imagination.

And there's the problem.  In more than two decades of occasional visits and eighteen months of fairly regular attendance I have never seen it arranged in any other manner than what I would call "railway carriage" style. Rows and rows of chairs, all facing the same way towards a table that is always against the same wall.

Somewhere, sometime, a vision for this sanctuary was lost. And now, just to make absolutely sure of our fundamentalist understanding of worship and its setting, I have just found on the wall a diagram showing us exactly how the chairs should be rigidly laid out to marks in the carpet! I suppose some committee put a lot of work into this to save things being a little untidy on Sunday mornings.

I'd have preferred a bit more untidy and a lot less rigidity...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Failure in UNlearning

Image result for windows 7For years I have edited video in Pinnacle Studio, graduating to version 11+. That was fine until I changed my computer out of Windows XP. Studio would not run in Windows 7. So after a lot of thought I ordered up the latest version of Studio, v18. It looked like a big step up but it was much bigger than I anticipated. The entire interface had been changed. Everything was different. Nothing was where I expected to find it. I even didn't know what things to look for, never mind where to find them. Eventually I gave up the whole thing as a bad job.
It was not just a matter of learning a whole lot of new stuff; I had to UNlearn all the things I had been used to for years. It was the UNlearning that defeated me.

A lot of Christians are in the same position. Sometimes it is not so hard to learn new stuff about the faith as it is to give up what we thought was fine - half a century ago...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Gospel Quadrilateral

I did the "Gospel" presentation (see Sept 14th) to the Methodist Supernumeraries this week under four headings:
  • Pain - This is usually what we feel when something is wrong with us... And at our age, that's pretty common with people here in the Village. "How are you?" is not always just a formal greeting but an opportunity for real sharing about real issues. This can be linked to the feeling that we  sometimes have about Creation and what we are doing to the environment. There's an awareness of something not quite right, of failure, of dis-integration. 
  • Balance - Yet it's a "Gospel" issue that we do not need to be totally dominated by pain. We can get over some of our dis-ease.  We do not have to become totally absorbed in it but can experience all aspects of living and dying in a balanced way. The natural environment, too, if left alone, seems to have the capacity to re-create itself. 
  • Knowing - It's interesting that Jesus didn't gather "members". He gathered "disciples", learners, seekers after truth. Some people around me these days are highly motivated to consider living and dying in the context of truth rather than myth. They seem to experience as "good news" some of my beliefs that are at odds with traditional Christian doctrine. They are more responsive to a belief system which is consistent with what they have learned rather than one which demands that they set aside their beliefs for uncritical "faith".
  • Growing - I have drawn to Chris Scott's interpretation of Matthew's Jesus, "Unless you become as little children"(See Sept 14).  Scott suggests that the significant quality of children is the capacity to UNlearn - thus all waterbirds are "ducks"  until the child UNlearns that certain "ducks" are actually swans. This ability to UNlearn seems to be what hinders people inside and outside the church. For growth toward the ultimate maturity - "self-actualisation", for instance - invites Unlearning. Unchurched people around me sometimes find that it is Good News to be able to discard some things they were once taught were ultimate truth.

Looking at my modest Gospel Quadrilateral" I find some parallels with John Wesley's summary of Methodist theology. 
  • All people need to be saved - sin
  • All people can be saved - salvation
  • All people can know that they are saved - Christian assurance
  • All people may be saved to the uttermost - Christian perfection

These days I wouldn't attempt to share my convictions around these terms as Wesley used them. But perhaps they have shaped my own theology of the Good News more than I thought! Maybe I still have some unlearning to do!

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Visit "Home" and the Gospel

We have just had another great weekend away, enjoying some remarkable back roads around mid-Northland and delighting in the community and congregation which has been so much a part of our lives in the last quarter-century. We visited 20 Tui Grove and shared the excited plans of the new owners who have great hopes for major development of the house and the lovely property. They have the same feel for the bush and the view that we had...

On Sunday morning the strengths of the small church were clearly evident in the way people cared for each other, noticed absences, gave hospitality to a couple of other visitors and shared together for a long time after the service. This particular congregation has always been open to new ideas and it was really stimulating to develop a somewhat provocative interpretation of Matthew 18:3. It received only the most enthusiastic reception, even from people I might have expected to be a little resistant to my views. I would hesitate to use that sermon if I were asked to take another service our local church here at Red Beach.

Next Thursday I am to talk for five minutes about "My Gospel". Three of us are going to do this in the context of a two-monthly gathering of retired Methodist Presbyters -- a daunting audience. And of course the idea of "my" Gospel is a bit uncomfortable. But I understand the group is simply wanting to know how I interpret the Good News of Jesus in today's context. That will be interesting. Maybe I will go back to Sunday's Mt 18 and "the child in the midst", so significantly interpreted by Chris Scott in his book "Goodbye to God - A Search for a Human Spirituality"...

But any inner stirring to find new ways of offering a theoretical Good News to people in today's world pales in comparison with the urgent human need that is surfacing so dramatically in the thousands of people on the march in Europe. And the anti-refugee, anti Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiment that is swilling around the sewers of social media in this country sickens the soul.

Maybe we retired clergy should take up an offering for refugee rehabilitation rather than just "discuss" the Good News on Thursday...