Sunday, December 24, 2006
So, to hear my concluding thoughts on the mission trip to Thailand have a look at http://www.gocu06.blogspot.com/
Monday, November 27, 2006
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I have always really enjoyed Guy Fawkes' night. It is nothing to do with wanting to blow up the houses of parliament or anything like that. There is just something about fireworks that connects with my inner boy. There are this big explosions in the sky and you can't help but go 'ooooo!' and 'aaaaah!' and want to set of some fireworks yourself!
Anyway, I am very excited that they celebrate it here in New Zealand. Come to think of it is is a strange thing to celebrate or more specifically we celebrate it in a strange way. Guy Fawkes' was stopped from blowing up the houses of parliament and how do we remember it? With big explosions. It is a little odd.
Anyway, tonight I got to stand in the street with some friends (having just gotten second place in a quiz night arranged to raise funds for a local charity. We got a free movie/cinema pass each. Yay!) watching the firework display in Wellington harbour and it was great!
Guy Fawkes' night is a little more complicated here in that it is spring time so it is dry and windy (remember, the name windy Wellington is well deserved) and fireworks get blown into the hills and tend to set them on fire. So they are thinking of banning the public sale of fireworks here next year but thankfully they will still have the public displays.
It was great to experience one of my favourite times from home here in my new home. Wasn't quite the same as being in my brother's garden and setting off fireworks with him for the rest of my family to enjoy but it was a lot of fun to watch and ooh and aah.
Remember remember the 5th of November. Gun powder, treason and plot.
Monday, October 30, 2006
The glacier was much dirtier than I expected. Apparently it looks darker because of the rocks that it picks up as it slides down the mountain. The following day we went for a walk actually on the Fox glacier:
I had been warned that the west coast we wet bit it surpassed even my expectations! Wetness aside it was amazing to walk out of a rain forest onto a glacier and go for a wander around! Later that day we headed across the mountains into central Otago before coming to a stop in Wanaka. We headed off to Queenstown to ride up the hills on the gondola and had lots of fun on the luge. We also found some time for some Lord of Rinds site spotting. Below is a picture of where Arwen uses the river to wash the dark riders away when she is carrying Frodo in the Fellowship of the Ring:
Back at Wanaka we found time to climb mount iron:
We also went for a jet boat ride on lake wanaka, enjoyed the end of season sales at the ski shops, enjoyed the stunning scenery driving over mountains via arthur's pass then back over the lindis pass. We also found time for an entertaining sport known as geocaching. All in all it was a great holiday and I am very very thankful to Tim, Lizzy, and Anna for inviting me and for all the fun we had together!
oh and we saw a rare parrot called a Kea (I think it is the world's only mountain parrot) on the first day.
Friday, September 15, 2006
I have to admit that part of my thinking has been shaped by a book I have just finished (The Radical Reformation by Mark Driscoll) which has been a very interesting and challenging read. The author walks the line between being faithful to the biblical gospel whilst understanding and engaging with the culture around him and recognises and points out the perils we fall into if we seek to live outside the culture we find ourselves in (unbiblical fundamentalism/legalism) or if we embrace the culture that we live in at the expense of faithful bible teaching (liberalism). The book makes many helpful, honest and challenging observations and suggestions and is intermingled with testimonies from Christians seeking to be witnesses to Christ in all kinds of places. I'd recommend the book very highly.
But back to the point of this post. I have reached the conclusion that we need to spend more time encouraging and equipping people to be evangelists (as well as doing it ourselves obviously). Now I recognise that this is no revelation or ground breaking idea but my question is are we really equipping folk to be evangelists and evangelists in a grace filled way? Because all to often I think we are equipping folk to be evangelists by getting them to invite their non-Christian friends to an event where someone who we feel has an exciting testimony or has a good answer to a question we think non-Christians are asking. We do encourage people to talk about Jesus with their friends but all too often they don’t get round to it because they are either embarrassed (fearful of what their friends will think of them) about being a Christian or feel that shouldn't talk about anything till they can answer every question imaginable for fear of getting something wrong and thereby failing God in some way or don't know how to talk about the gospel to someone who isn't a Christian. The used the phrase "grace filled" because I have come to think that providing we are faithful to the message of the gospel and not using shameful or deceitful means we can try something and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out we rejoice, learn from it and keep going. All too often our evangelistic efforts are not grace filled or motivated. If no-one comes to an event or responds to a survey or question in conversation then we assume that we have got it wrong and beat ourselves up about it. Which all too often leads to a temptation to mess with the message rather than rejoicing that the message of the gospel has been made known and review/adaptation of the method/approach we used.
Somehow for some people evangelism is defined as something we do at specific events or when we are doing specific things. In his letter Peter calls us to be "making the most of every opportunity" and I know for myself that is neither how I think or operate. There is almost a switch in my head that I flick on during mission weeks, evangelistic talks etc. and off again after. The truth is that I should always be looking for, praying for and taking opportunities to talk to the people I meet about Jesus. Something that I think can help with this is actively vocalising and bringing our faith to bear in the decisions we make and our general thought process. Rather than just saying what we think about a subject or issue (I had an interesting conversation a few months back as to whether classical music can be racist and how we should respond if it is) we should include we think this way because we are Christians which then gives the possibility to explain why we think what we do as Christians. I'd be the first to admit that trying to do this in my life is a slow process but I am getting better at it. Having talked about this with a few people they have said that talking in this feels awkward so therefore isn't authentic so we shouldn't do it. But just because something feels awkward does not mean it isn't authentic. It can just mean we aren't used to something. A friend of mine got married recently and it felt weird at first introducing his wife as his wife. But he did not stop doing it just because it felt weird. He kept doing it and after a while it became normal.
The Christian union that I work with has just moved from a lunch time meeting to an evening meeting and have decided that part of the extended time that evening meetings make available will be dedicated to thinking about how the people in Christian Union can talk about Jesus with their friends. They have been doing this for two weeks and already it is bearing fruit. The first week they thought about general opportunities and then prayed that they would have them and that they as Christians would take those opportunities. Two days later one of the members was travelling to a concert with a friend and they talked about the Christian faith and that friends questions. That person later agreed to come to an evangelistic service. The friend still has some way to go but they talked, some of her questions were answered, some of them weren't, but they will likely talk some more in the future.
Again, I am still convinced that the Bible calls us to be doing events where the gospel is publicly proclaimed, but I have realised we need to out meeting people where they are as well as inviting them onto out turf to do things with us.
This is something I am still working through so any feedback would be gladly received.
Monday, August 28, 2006
I did however get to go skiing for the first time ever! It was kind of fun but I think I moved to from the started slope to the beginners slope a little too quickly in that I always felt I was going too fast so would fall over in panic. This combined with how I woke up the night several times panicking that I was going downhill too fast in my sleep demonstrates that I have control-freak type issues going on!
I did develop my own method of turning as I couldn't get the hang of the way I was taught. My method basically involved shoving my sticks as deep into the snow as I could and using them as a pivot to turn my body. This worked but I have never been in as much pain as I was that night, and this from one days skiing!
My legs ached from trying to snowplough so hard my arms ached from my unique turning method. I ached! And this after 4 hours, how do people do this for a week? Add in to this a depressing array of small children who it seemed could ski with their eyes closed and probably do backflips. I guess it is good to be humbled from time to time.
Now at this point I want to make a brief aside about sport. Why is it that at a certain point in our lives it is how much we hurt after doing something that defines how good something is rather than how much fun it was? Example would be going to the gym and coming home in agony but feeling good because as some level we hope that because it hurts so much it most have done some good to our bodies somewhere along the line.
Rants aside I did kind of enjoy skiing and I would gladly go again (and probably will next year). I will endeavor to be a bit more laid back about it. And I am going on a tour of parts of the south island in October so more on there then.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
It is time for the short term mission team from the UK to leave. As I left the team last night I found myself quite emotional. It is probably down to a number of things including tiredness and the fact that in some ways the team represents a home that I miss (last Sunday was my youngest nieces dedication service the first big family event I have missed since moving to NZ). But the major reason is that it is an ending of a community and that is sad to extent because we may not see each other again.
I have had a few conversations of late about how develop a healthy and strong Christian community. I have realised afresh over the last few weeks that it is not primarily programs or sharing personal struggles or anything like that which develops authentic Christian community. It is joining in evangelism that develops authentic Christian community.
Over the last few weeks the team's primary task has been to serve alongside the Christians students from the Massey Christian Fellowship and Overseas Christian Fellowship with the events and activities that they have arranged in order to reach out to their friends and wider campus community with the gospel as part of Jesus week.
They were a team who didn't really know each other before arriving here. They came together to do evangelism, they got to know each other as they prepared to do evangelism, they grew closer and stronger as they supported one another in their evangelism. Longer term I am confident that people will become Christians as a result of Jesus week.
Along the way they have experienced persecution (two team members have had family members back in England taken seriously ill, people have responded negatively to evangelism). They have gotten ill to varying degrees. They have experience the stress of getting used to a different country and culture. They have experienced the heartache of people rejecting the gospel but also the joy of people wanting to know more. They have joined together in pray for each other and for those they have been reaching out to with the gospel. They met together for bible study and training on evangelism. They have been servant hearted, humble and loving. They have had fun and laughter together and encouraged each other when there have been struggles. And it has all centered around evangelism. This is what authentic Christian life/community is like and how it is built (1 Corinthians 11; Philippians 1 : 2 - 5 & 27; 1 Thessalonians 2 : 2; Romans 10 : 14 - 17; Colossians 3 : 12 - 15).
As I left Palmerston North with the team I was struck by the thankfulness of those whom the UK team left behind. They had written cards, bought gifts, and turned up pretty early (for students anyway) to say goodbye as the team left. This was not emotional hype or put on sadness; the NZ students were thankful for the teams efforts alongside them and were said to be saying goodbye. Their service together had drawn them closer together and they had to say goodbye and that is sad.
As I then left the team last night I felt that sadness too. I will miss the team; I have been humbled by their example, they have been a huge encouragement, a joy to be around and a joy to be involved with. Driving home I flicked on the Lord of Rings: Fellowship of the ring sound track and I began to think how the departure of the team is like the breaking of the fellowship of the ring at the end of the first film. They came together for a specific task but end up separated. There is sadness at the separation but that separation is necessary in order for the primary objective to be achieved. In the Lord of the Rings the objective is the destruction of the ring of power. For us it is making disciples of all nations. The NZ students will continue on spreading the gospel here and the UK guys will continue on spreading the gospel in the places that they find themselves in the UK. Each person involved will take the experience and change that God has worked in them over this time on with them.
At the end of the Lord of the rings the fellowship is reunited as they have accomplished their mission. The team has been studying 1 and 2 Thessalonians whilst they have been here; one of the major themes in Thessalonians is that of Jesus return. For now good things (like short term mission teams) will come to an end but only until Jesus returns and brings the world as we know it to an end and all Christians are united with Him in the new creation. That is why the ending of the community is only sad to an extent because one day we will again be reunited.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
The week has included lunch time talks around the theme of Who is Jesus and what would he say about various issues. "Who is Jesus" was written in chalk (this is allowed and we washed it off after) all over the campus. Across each day people were out giving flyers advertising the events, doing surveys to find out what students believed and having conversations about Christianity off of the surveys. In the evenings people had friends round for meals and shared testimonies, a couple of nights we gave away pancakes and chatted with folk about Jesus as we were asked why we were giving away pancakes. On the final day both the lunch time and evening talks were about Jesus and why he died on the cross.
A few non Christians have signed up to read the bible with someone, and a number of people have heard the gospel. This is what we are here for and it was great to be a part of it.
For myself I left encouraged, challenged and with questions. I was encouraged by a couple of great conversations I had (I have never been told before by a non Christian after a conversation about how we are all sinful and in need of rescue that "it is good that you are here because that is not what most New Zealanders think Christians are about") and other conversations had by students and other folk helping out with the week. I was challenged by the fact that I find surveys an uncomfortable evangelistic tool. But what alternatives are there and how can I help students try both surveys and other approaches of reaching those with whom we don't normally have contact? My biggest question is how do you stop "I don't care" being the end of a conversation about Jesus? This was a standard response from students and all of us found it difficult to move any further past that statement. But if it really is the general view amongst students here we need to find ways of engaging with it.
Some additional thoughts I've had since I wrote this originally:
The use of testimonies in a lunch time talk is very helpful. After the talk on what would Jesus say about racism a Christian student who used to be a neo-nazi gave his testimony. This really helped some people see how what had been said in the talk looked like in someone's life and took it from being a theory to a practice.
Secondly, the importance of listening. It is probably the same the world over but people here seem very sensitive to whether you are generally interested in what they have to say or are simply talking to them in order to communicate something about Christianity. Now sometimes we are talking to people simply in order to talk to them about Jesus but in the process we come across as not actually valuing people and what they have to say which we should be doing regardless of whether what they are saying is right or wrong and regardless of whether it is our first conversation or thousandth conversation with the person. Not only is this the model that the New Testament lays down for us but in practice I have found that if I have listened to what someone has to say they are for more open to me questioning their view and talking about Jesus.
Thirdly, and this is linked to the previous point, I am considering adding the question "Why do you think we are doing these surveys/having Jesus awareness week?" to future surveys I am involved in. All too often people have misconceptions as to why we do evangelism and these misconceptions colour the whole conversation. Hearing them say why they think we are doing what we do helps us realise some of the misconceptions that are out there and it gives us the chance to apologise if we have given the wrong impression and explain why we are really doing what we do: that the gospel really is good news that they really need to hear and that we are doing it because we love them.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Yesterday I went to see the All Blacks play South Africa at rugby. It was amazing (better pictures coming soon)!
The game itself was okay but the atmosphere was was really made the difference. Being there with thousands of other supporters cheering people on. One thing really struck me: Why did people (me included) get more excited (at least externally) when a player gets a try than we do when someone becomes a Christian?
Friday, July 21, 2006
This week has been one of those occasions were I have felt a bit confused and frustrated as English man in New Zealand. Previously in England after 2 years as a student and 4 years with UCCF I was pretty used to busy and quiet points in the year. At the TSCF conference and someone from England commented on how they felt they should be on holiday from university and that it should be summer not winter.
I hadn't really thought much about it but I came back into work after a few days off to find all sorts of conversations needing to be had with students who were thinking about being group leaders for the Christian Union and International Christian Fellowship. I didn't want this - I wanted a quiet few weeks. In my old world this should be happening in January February time not now! People had warned me that Annual General Meetings were coming but for a number of reasons I hadn't really taken it in that AGMs meant new leaders.
To be honest all too often I feel like I am reacting or responding rather than preempting or being proactive. I guess the lessons to learn are to stop and listen regardless of how busy I am may be (and the run up to the conference was busy!) but also to ask questions about what lies ahead month by month.
Anyway, my average coffee intake of an afternoon has doubled this week due to having coffee with potential leaders. It has been a wonderful time of getting to know students better, hearing ideas on different ways that the work on campus can be developed and what mission at Victoria should or could look like. But has also been encouraging to help some students begin to think through what it means to be committed to Christian service, be it a TSCF group or youth work or church based group. All too often commitment is based on what the individual gets or does not get out of a group that they are involved in rather than being committed to building other Christians up (Ephesians 4) and being missional (Matthew 28). Thankfully this is not always a deliberate approach to commitment and some people respond positively when questioned but others sadly do not see it as a problem.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The conference is over.
There are so many things I could say and much has already been said by other folk (Andy, Nigel, Scott for example) on their blogs which is basically what I'd be repeating so I'll settle for saying that I agree wholeheartedly with them.
One story that I would add from a student here in Wellington:
Before I went to conference I used to wonder why God couldn't just zap sin and make it go away. I now realise that He could not do that as if He did He would no longer be a just and good God. I now realise why the cross is so important.
Shortly after sharing this the student went on to volunteer to be involved in leading one of the campus groups here in Wellington. This is what I prayed and longed to see as a result of the July conference. Students coming away not only understanding the gospel better but that understanding being worked out in their day by day lives and choices after the conferenceOther significant conversations have been had with students at the conference and following on from the conference. Things are different. People are different.
For myself I have been struck and therefore horrified by how little I care about the dire situation that those who are not Christians are in. I have also been struck by how theoretical I have become about evangelism. I can talk about evangelistic strategies and ideas but am I putting it into practice in my own life? Not really, aside from a couple of conversations with people as I have flown on planes to various places. I can all too easily excuse myself by the fact that it is difficult to make non-Christian friends when I spend most of my time with Christians. I need to think more about how I use casual conversations (be it on planes or buses or in cues or cafes) as well as looking to develop meaningful friendships with non-Christians.
I have also realised afresh and deeper that a key motivation in doing evangelism is how deeply we are struck and gripped by how much good news the gospel is.
Many folk have said that the song for the conference and the song that in many ways sums up the conference is in Christ Alone and I very much agree. But a song that I have listened to a few times since the conference is the hymn "It is well with my Soul". I recognise that the hymn was written by a man in far worse circumstances that I have ever yet to experience but the following verse struck me in particular:
I'd prefer the word truth to the word 'thought' but never the less it sums up some of what I thinking and feeling since the conference. Jesus paid the penalty for my sin through His death on the cross. This changes everything in this life and the next. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul!
My sin oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin not in part but the whole
Was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul!
Monday, June 19, 2006
I think that is what I may have been experiencing the last few days. I really didn't see it coming as (like I said in my last post) I was okay with coming back here. But in retrospect coming back again has made the differences between New Zealand and the UK all the more apparent.
What I have realised is that I have a set of presuppositions that my life runs upon. Or more specifically that my life in the UK was run upon. They took a number of sizes and shapes, from theology to relationships to practical day to day life stuff. I suspect that we all have them. Whether or not we do and whatever are presuppositions may be, they may or may not be right or wrong but they are things that we take as givens for day to day life.
Across a few days last week I begin to realise that mine didn't work in New Zealand and that was a very unsettling experience and had some bad effects.
In terms of theology I realised that a number of folk disagreed with my view on a few issues that back in the UK was not the case. Most were secondary issues that we could agree to disagree on but because it happened a number of times it had the bad effect of putting me on the defensive. Confidence on doctrine should never rest in whether it is held by the largest number of people. What I should have done was gone back to the bible and re-examined my views but what I did instead was I turned into a theology policeman; I would pick up and comment on anything I perceived as being of the mark, now matter how minor it may be.
Relationally I again became aware that though I have friends here I still have some way to go in terms of having very close friends like those who I had spent time with in the UK. Perhaps what I realised is that history is important. The length of time you have known someone affects how much you trust each other and strangely so does the memories of life; be it fun, sad or otherwise.
Practically I wish that New Zealand had central heating rather than thermal clothes and electric blankets!
All these things in isolation would be okay but put them all together and it becomes very unsettling and isolating.
Last weekend was my churches men's weekend away. It was great; a chance to think through what it means to be men of God off the back of some helpful and insightful teaching and a chance to get to know some guys from church. But because of the unsettlingness of last week I struggled to get past the fact that New Zealand guys really like sport and I didn't all that much. But in the final session we talked a little about our identity being in Christ (Ephesians 1 v 13 to 18). I realised to my horror that I was defining myself by all the wrong things: what I believed on secondary issues, who my friends were and what I did in terms if ministry. I needed to repent of this.
Yet I still felt isolated. I looked at my life I realised I was still an alien. The truths I had learned as to not being alone did not move me either.
My church has just finished a series on the names of God. We took a brief look at all the ones we had covered and in a quiet time of reflection God spoke to me. I realised that He is unchanging as is His Gospel (Hebrews 13 v 8) and I have a choice as to how I respond to him and how He reveals himself in His word.
That was my revelation for the weekend. The presuppositions that I run my life upon my change but that is okay because God is unchanging as is His word. Providing my presuppositions are always based upon that fundamental truth then change need not be so traumatic. I also have a choice. I can chose to focus on me or I can lift my focus to God and praise Him for who He is and what He has done for us in Christ.
What was the result? Joy in and towards God, thankfulness for all His gifts to me both here and in the UK, inner peace and conversation. Without knowing anything of how I was feeling some new friends I had made over the weekend from Church asked me how I was adjusting to my return and it was helpful to share with them.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
The first thing to say is my thanks for all the prayers, sympathy, support and encouragement I have received from folk via email, text and conversation; they really have meant a lot and have been very helpful, so again, thank you.
The funeral was my first for a very close family member. It was very sad as we will all miss my grandfather but it was also a time of real encouragement. The minister from my Grandfathers church preached a great sermon as to the hope for eternity that Christians have and did so in such as way as to challenge those there who were not Christians and encourage those who were Christians. Afterward all who attended were invited on to a nearby hotel. It was great to be able to meet with family and folk who knew my Grandfather and remember and celebrate his life. The quote for the day goes to my oldest (7 years old) niece: "It's a shame we couldn't have had this party two weeks ago, then Granddad George could have come. He'd have really enjoyed it". None of us were sure what to say in reply but it seemed an appropriate way to sum up the day.
Then followed 10 days with friends and family around the country. It was really great to have the opportunity to catch up with a few folk. It also brought the additional reassurance that relationships are workable over very long distance. Though much had changed in many ways it was like I had never been away. Hooray for video conferencing, email, MSN and Skype! But an even bigger hooray for the people involved in using them with me!
I also learnt a few lessons along the way, some of which I had learnt before but had been quick to forget. The first was that (like I said back when I left for the first time) it is not really possible to communicate to people how much you appreciate their friendship, which frustrated me at first but thankfully I remembered that this is just how it is. But there is now the additional factor of knowing that (at least in the short term) thought relationships change they can still remain strong even though I do not see people anywhere near as regularly as I once did. Which is both reassuring and encouraging!
I mentioned in my last blog entry how much I love my job. Part of that has been a realisation that I can contribute to things here, Not that I have it all figured out or think more of myself than I should, but it has been great to be able to be involved in speaking at the Wellington groups and be involved in training leaders here in Wellington which are areas that I'd generally hung back from during my time with UCCF. But it has disturbed me how easy it is for confidence to morph into overconfidence and then arrogance and that is something within me that I become more aware of whilst back home and I will have to watch out for as it is a dangerous thing.
Very quickly I had been there and it was time to come back again. It was sad to leave again but no way near as difficult as when I left in January. Not that I care in any way lass then when I left in January! But from the UK perspective I know that (as I have outlined above) it is okay. And from the perspective of New Zealand, as I outlined in my last blog post, it is where I belong for now.
So I am really thankful that God has in His grace has used a potentially difficult trip back home to give me a chance to catch up with folk back home, to reassure me that it is possible to maintain meaningful relationships with family and friends back home, give me chance to reflect on the last few months, and generally know that New Zealand is where I am supposed to be for now.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
It has given me the opportunity to realise anew (see previous post a while back) that God has by his grace been changing me. I am mystified by how I have been engaging with the news of my Grandfather going to be with Christ. Not for one minute that I am not sad that he is gone but I have confidence that he is with Christ and know this is gain for my grandfather and I am happy for him. Also I do feel more settled here. I love my job/ministry, I am more settled in the church that I am going to, I have friends; All things that I will miss and these are all things that I would not have been able to say a little as six weeks ago. I am also very thankful for the support, prayers, encouragement and love that I have been shown by friends (both here and in the UK), colleagues and my Church here. It is one of those occasions when simply saying thank you feels insufficient. Not that I am looking through rose tinted spectacles; I still have much to learn and I still have much to get used to. But New Zealand is now my home.
I have been searching for a plan for how I have gotten to this point - I like to to be able to understand things in step by step processes. But I have realised that this is not always how the Christian life works. I realise that the majority of this change is of God by his grace through His word. And I do not bring anything to that equation except my excitement at the evidence of God being at work in my life (if you'll allow me to say that) and my praise to Him for that. It is also God prayers that have been said on my behalf and answering my prayers for which I am also very thankful. But as friends have pointed out to me, I have been obedient and followed Gods call in coming to New Zealand so from that perspective I have played my part too.
So, ready or not England here I come.
I have to say as I sit here in Auckland International airport prepraing to board my flight to my other home I have to say that right now I feel more towards the or not part of the above statement. I am not sure that I am really ready for my Grandfathers funeral, I am not sure how I am going to feel when I return to my other home here in New Zealand in a few weeks time. But I am sure that I am looking forward to spending time with my family and friends, to having a break and I know that God has a plan in all this although in many ways it is far from clear to me now.
Time to board the plane!
Sunday, May 21, 2006
I do not like the word. There are a number of reasons why I do not like it. Some are thought some are emotionally. On a emotional level I think it is because at a fundamental level I realise that death is not how things are supposed to be; it makes me uncomfortable and it should.
But I also know that death is part of the curse which resulted from the fall of mankind (see Genesis 3; Romans 6 v 23). But as Christians we need not fear death (2 Timothy 1 v 10). Christ freed us from the curse by his death on the cross. So therefore when I speak of people I know who are Christians I don't think I should be talking about their death
I have been using the phrase "passed away" instead. Now I do not think there is anything intrinsically wrong with this phrase but I do not think it accurately explains what happens when Christians die and to be honest I don't really understand what it means.
So for now I have settled on the phrase "he is with Christ". Which is how Paul talks about his death in his letter to the Philippians (1 v 21 to 23). I still haven't entirely gotten my head around how why Paul also refers to those who are with Christ as being "asleep" in Christ (1 Corinthians 15 v 18), I need to think about that some more.
I like the phrase because it more accuratly explains the reality. Paul says my grandfathers death is his gain so I can rejoice for my grandfather in that.
But I also like it because it opens up the possability for conversations about the hope gospel gives when people (for want of a better expression) die. The need to share the gospel has become more apperent to me because I have realised how utterly terrible it would have been if my Grandfather were not a Christian. Heaven shows hell to be the horrific thing that it is and the dire situation folk who have not trusted in Christ are in.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
My earliest memory of my Grandfather and I guess may grandparents is having home made cream soda in his garden in the summer. It was very simple: one mug of lemonade with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. My family all loved it. I have many happy memories playing with my brothers and sisters and cousins in his garden drinking cream soda.
Music has been a big feature of my life. My earliest memory of music is at my Grandfathers house playing in what I think was called an accordion. You pressed a button and it played a chord. You run your finger up an down a metal strip and it moved through the notes in the chord. I loved the sound it made and he would always let me play on it.
There are also some less politically correct memories. The funniest being him chasing his border-collie called Blackie across a field of African men shouting "come here blackie"!
But there are also many attributes that he modeled that I will remember and try to hold in my own life.
As Christians we are called to let or "yes be yes and our no be no" Matt. 5 v 37. You were rarely left in any doubt as to what my Grandfather thought and in a culture where people can be all to willing to tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear, his approach was not only biblical but needed.
He had a an ability to see past the peoples mistakes and bad decisions and see the good in their hearts.
I have been humbled by his response to all that happened over the last few weeks. From the calm confidence that he was going to be with Christ and the testimony that he shared with his doctor to the fact that one of his priorities over his final few days was to shield those he cared about from the discomfort of his final few weeks. He demonstrated such inner strength.
Skip back a few months and you have me preparing to leave for New Zealand. One particular fear that I had not been able to clear was what relationships with my family would be like when I came back after 3 or more years. Many people had told me it was an understandable fear as did my Grandfather. But what he gently shared with me was that how he was away for over 5 years fighting in the second world war. He told me how he came back after 5 years at war and his relationships with he family were still good (and I have seen that to be the case) and that I was going overseas to do Christian work and that when I cam back I could be confident that things would be okay. Those words quieted that fear. But it also an example of how much he cared (which was something he showed in many other ways too) in that he was willing to share from what must have been a difficult part of his life in order to help me.
One of the biggest lessons he taught me (and he taught it to my parents first and then taught it to us himself and through them) is the importance of family. From making family a priority to being aware of what is going on in each others lives; Basically loving and valuing each other regardless of circumstance. Being so far away from may family this is something I have come to value and realise in a new way. We live in a culture where family is becoming less and less important, sadly even amongst Christians. It may not be the most important thing I have learned from him but certainly one of the things I value the most.
There is so much more I could say and this is far from adequate and far from complete but I wanted to write something.
Monday, May 15, 2006
On a completely different note in the past few weeks I have been struck again by God's grace in that he has used a set of difficult circumstances to work for good. He has promised to do this (Romans 8 v 28) so I shouldn't really be surprised that He has kept his word but I am truly thankful that He does.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Wop-wops = Rural areas that are in the middle of nowhere
Tiki Tour = Scenic route
Hosing down = raining heavily
Hottie = Hot water bottle
Pike out = To give up when something is too difficult
Rattle your dags = Get moving quickly
Bit of a dag = Comedian, joker, or hard case
Dag = Sheep excrement that gets caught around the tail of the sheep
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Okay, the first thing to say is thanks for all the comments and emails of encouragement after my last blog entry. The second thing to say is to apologise if I have given the impression I am struggling more than I actually am. Sure, I had a bad day last week but those happen to us all from time to time. Based upon some of the responses I have had I have worried a few people and that was far from my intention. I guess the lesson for me to learn is when posting here is to think through in more detail how people a long way away are going to interpret what I have written.
My intentions when writing my last post were two fold:
- Writing helps me process what I have been learning and wanted and needed to remember what I wrote in my last post
- I hoped that in some small way it might offer encouragement to people facing similar struggles
So again, my thanks for all the care and encouragement I have received over the last few days, it has been very much appreciated and my apologies for any worry I have caused.
A few more thoughts of the back of my last post:
Praise God for technology! I was able to video conference with most of family over the weekend and was amazing to not only be able to talk to some of the people I really care about but see them too, and be it in a limited way participate in life back home. My various nephews and nieces performed various party tricks (once they had gotten over some of the novelty of seeing both me and themselves on a computer screen) which was enough to keep me smiling for weeks!
As a result I have found a new level of respect for missionaries in the past and present who have been to countries where communication be it verbal or visual is not possible.
Finally, in response to the question I posed in the title of my last post. Are we ever alone? The answer is no. Each of us has friends & family / people we care about and people who care about us, be it close by or scattered around the world. For those of us who are Christians we have the addition of being part of the global church which means wherever we go there will always members of our Christian family nearby. We can also have the amazing eternal aspect that we will spend eternity with them in heaven. But most importantly we have our relationship with God; something that can never be affected by geography of pretty much anything really.
So (and this will sound clichéd but that does not mean it is untrue) in answer to the question are we ever alone, the answer is no. We will never be alone; the worst we will ever be is physically apart.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
As I lay there in my bed I remembered a lesson I was taught over nearly four and a half years ago by a friend of mine. I am more sinful than I can understand but more loved than I can begin to imagine (or words to that effect). At the time this caused some tremors in my life. I did not find it hard to see myself as sinful but I know I will never fully grasp how sinful I am in this life (and later I came to understand that this is directly related to how I will never fully understand how loved I am). But the earthquake then came from the second half. I am more loved than I can possibly imagine. I am? At that point in my life I was struggling very much under a works mentality. I was doing a year as a Relay worker largely out of a desire on my part to make amends to God for the bad job I had made of being a Christian Union leader and in various other areas of my life. Being taught well about Grace for the first time began to turn my world on its head then and led to change in direction for my life. I could and did not need to make amends for my sin as Christ has already done it.
Four and a half years later I find myself here. Lonely, tired, and overwhelmed. And it is grace that gives me hope (and I hope and pray it will always be where I look for it). But there as I tried to sleep I was looking for another human being to play a role that they were never intended to and never could really play. I then remembered that I don't need someone to tell me I'm okay, I know I am okay. Jesus death on the cross changes my status before God. It atoned for my sin once and for all. How do I know I am loved? I could refer to any one of many passages in the bible but John 3 v 16 will do for now.
Then I went to sleep.
This is not for one minute saying that I don't need, value or appreciate the support of friends and family. Rather it is saying that I am (for now at least) looking at it from the right perspective again.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
For the first few days I was unable to do anything except phone my family. The time difference was extremely frustrating I was very distressed about the fact that I could not be there with my family. After a few days of stressing it was time to take stock.
I remembered a lesson that I have already mentioned here but again had been quick to forget: prayer is important and I can and must entrust the people I care about into God's care through it. Secondly, to be thankful. Thankful for the time I have had with my Grandfather and very thankful that he is a Christian. Should he pass away before I can see him face to face again I know I will see him again in heaven where all the forces which are attacking his body will no longer be a problem.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
I now have a nice new car that I am very excited about. It has all sorts of new toys from electric wing mirrors to drivers air bag. It has a little more power than the mighty Skoda (my previous car) and due to my rather speedy pulling away whilst getting used to it I learnt a new word: hoon.
hoon = equivalent term for "Boy racer" in the UK
flat white coffee = How to order and ordinary coffee when in a coffee shop in New Zealand. I asked if fizzy was an option and was politely informed that it was "flat" because the milk was "flat" as opposed to frothy
Wise words from the lads on the subject of God: "You specialise in comebacks". For more see their website
Doing the whole tourist thing I went to watch the West Indies play the New Zealand Black Caps. I was very excited to learn that Brian Lara (the guy whose named cricket computer game I used to play back in the day) was playing! Sadly he did not perform very well. He was out for one run in both their innings.
Friday, March 10, 2006
I would be writing this post tomorrow but as tomorrow is the weekend I will have limited email access so I am writing this a day early.
I am astounded by the fact that I am still doing alright. I know I should probably not be so surprised, but the last move I made I was by this sort of time feeling dreadful and falling to pieces. I remember 2 Corinthians 3 v 17:
"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."I am not for one minute saying I am perfect (although on a sunny day in Wellington the reflection of the sun from my bald head can be pretty blinding but I think that is due to the lack of 0-zone layer not my having a halo), I still have long long long way to go, I know. But I am different to who I was three and a half years ago. God is as ever true to his word and is ongoingly transforming me and us a few degrees closer to the likeness of his Son. Not that is should need a complete change of circumstances for any of us to realise this but I am aware of it now and am thankful and even a little excited by it.
But saying that I do not feel dreadful I do still miss people and feel homesick on a regular basis. But as I said in one of my earlier posts God is sovereign and I can and must trust him. I am becoming increasingly mindful of how weak my prayer life has been. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder and I have been more prayerful as a result of not being able to see people. I am also still very conscious of folks prayers on my behalf too and am convinced that they are no small part in things going so well, so thank you.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
I am beginning to realise why people encouraged me to make sure I spent some time with people who had moved from England to NZ; It is important to spend time with people understand the differences between NZ and home and the process of adjusting to life in NZ.
As for people who understand what it is like to move here, God has already graciously provided folk who have been here from few a months to a few years longer than me so I am making it a priority to spend time with them on a regularish basis.
Probably the most important thing I have realised this week is that I have been viewing things through two lenses. The narrow lens is how I view my little world here in Wellington; My friends, church, work student & office based, and my general experiences here. My wide lens is how I view things at overarching level; what the everything is like (be it culture, church, people, basically pretty much everything about NZ which by its nature includes the narrow lens stuff too) and how I am understanding it.
I have realised that I have spent too much time looking through my narrow lens. Which for my first few months is understandable. But it has the major downside of that from time to time I run into things that really throw me as from a narrow perspective lens point of view I think I understand much more that I think I do. But if I spend too much time at a wide lens perspective I can get completely overwhelmed.
The answer is not difficult to see. All I need to do is review from time to time how much time I am spending looking through each lens and remember to take time to look through the wide angle lens whilst recogniding that it takes time to get a good understanding of a new culture. You could almost say I am emphasising the need to keep things in perspective.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Bizarre: On Friday 17th February I slept through an earthquake that was 4.0 on the Richter scale.
New word: munted = spoiled/damaged
Funny but embarrassing: The phrase "Check you out". In the UK I would use this phrase to draw attention to something that another person would do. In New Zealand it generally means that you are hitting on someone (the equivalent of "how you doin" from Joey in Friends). I was thankful that the person I said it to just looked shocked and didn't slap me.
Wise saying from the lads on God's love: Your love, love is like a beetroot stain. That never ever goes away from me. Your love, Your love is with me everyday. I know Your love is here to stay with me. For more see their website
Thursday, February 23, 2006
For the staff conference week we drove from Wellington to Keswick (Rotorua New Zealand rather than the lake district in the UK). I was once again struck by the beauty of New Zealand and had the very exciting tourist experience of seeing Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings films (although it looks distinctly less blown up and volcanic than at the end of the final film) which is classed as an active volcano.
Sacrificially I have volunteered to drive a minibus for the Wellington International Christian Fellowship annual ski trip later in the year so I'll get the chance to not only ski for the first time but ski near mount doom!
I have enjoyed driving around New Zealand largely due to the scenery but I have to confess that driving has begun to go a little sour on me. On thursday someone hit the car that I had been lent, making a dent down the wing and ripping a whole in the tyre. The driver of the van the lied to the police about the details and said it was my fault. Thankfuly I had the presence of mind to take pictures of the accident scene on my mobile phone which have gone a long way in helping my case so far. Two days later part of the gear box on the car went whilst I was driving on the motorway. Another four days later and friend gave me a lift home. Her car started leaking engine coolent on the way home.
Needless to say I now do not have a good reputation with cars!
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
It is has been an eye opener as to how much specific possessions become a part of you. I genuinely enjoyed giving furniture and other stuff away when I left Leicester back in November (I even laughed at the fact that I had worked so hard on getting furniture over the years only to give it away) but I have really missed things like my music collection for example and now I have more stuff here I feel more like I live here.
Maybe I'd feel different if I knew nothing else was coming but for now I am relieved to feel more at home.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
I first realized the first point when I met some new people at the weekend. I dominated the conversation entirely telling them various bits of information about me and my life. I wanted them to know and accept me, but came closer to overloading them with information and probably freaking them out. Any person who asked me innocent questions got lots of my thoughts and questions just poured out at them (my answers to the question "how are you finding New Zealand" were sometimes epic in lenth and slightly odd in terms of content). It is probably due in part to my not having made any close friends here yet and thereby needing to talk. But I think it is also due to fact that it is very easy (for me at any rate) to become self absorbed.
The last few weeks I have just done whatever as it didn't seem to matter as I had so few commitments. I was leaving home between 8 and 9am but got home between 7 and 7:30pm missing dinner with the butchers and eating on my own (I am well aware that some folk have to work these hours but right now there is no reason or need for me to). I had time to watch two hours of TV a night then go to bed. Any form of personal time with God got junked. What started as enjoying a relaxed approach to life turned into doing what I wanted and not caring about anyone else and feeling more and more isolated. I had not realised that not knowing many people and spending time on my own would lead to me becoming self-absorbed so quickly.
A solutions to this struggle was not hard to find. I have now booked in time every week to catch up with at least one good friend back in the UK by phone as opposed to my normal method of email. This has the double benefit of allowing me to hear how they are doing verbally as opposed to in print (which is always better) and giving me contact with people that know me. This may sound selfish, and it would be selfish if it weren't for the fact that it is so important to hear how people are doing.
The cure to getting absorbed in yourself is to keep the important things important (Luke 10 v 27).
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Probably the best place to pick things up from is the Parachute music festival (check out http://websites.parachutemusic.com/festival/2006/index2.html). Music has always been a big feature in my life. From my early days performing in Orchestra's as a teenager to my near financial undoing working in the music an video sectioon of a store. So it was great (if very hot) to be able to spend the weekend listening to various (Christian) bands from NZ and wider.
I think it is a fair thing to say that a lot of the music has a countryfied feel to it. But bands similar to the group madness in the UK are quite popular too.
I was given the album Available Light by Dave Dobyn (see http://www.davedobbyn.co.nz/) as a welcome to NZ present by TSCF and the song welcome home was played as a welcome at staff conference. The opening verse:
Tonight I am feeling for you under the state of a strange land
you have sacrificed much to be here ‘there but for grace…’ as I offer my hand
welcome home, i bid you welcome, i bid you welcome
welcome home from the bottom of my heart
struck a chord (so to speak) after my first few weeks here.
Dobyn is a famous musician (he is good friends with the Finn brothers of Crowded House fame) here in new Zealand who became a Christian. His music makes good and interesting listening.
Then we have the lads (check out http://www.theladsband.com/). They are a brilliant, funny and thoughtful band. The song cannibalism is great comment on whether there are moral absolutes, the chorus goes:
Cannibalism's wrong. You must fight, it don't deny
Cannibalism's wrong. Come on people, can't you see
Cannibalism's wrong. Don't be tempted, to eat them
Cannibalism's wrong. Don't deny it you must fight
Cannibalism's wrong. Don't eat your best friend's thigh you know why
Cannibalism's wrong. Even if they deserve it, you can't eat them ‘cos it’s wrong
and the song ends with the good advice:
If you do don't eat the skin, it's fattening.
Another CD on my list to buy is She Will Have Her Way which is an album of cover versions of songs from the band crowded house that are sung by various female artists from New Zealand and Australia.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
So far my doubts as to whether coming here was the right thing to do have been silent.
I have learnt my first cross cultural lesson: It is okay for the people of a country to make fun of their country but not for me as an immigrant. Yesterday some of the kiwi’s were laughing about how strange some of the things they do and say are, and we all laughed. I pointed out some more things I saw as odd and nobody laughed.
The weather (stupid thing to mention I know) has been wetter and windier than England which considering it is supposed to be summer makes me laugh as it is quite like home.
Home sickness hasn’t been too bad so far. The hardest times have been when people talk about family reunion events or what nephews and nieces have been doing, which reminds me of how long it will be till I see mine again. Work is good; I am enjoying the new challenge though some days it has been a little overwhelming.
I have gotten over my fear of the sun. I read that the burn time is 10 minutes. I have a hate of sun cream so will only put it on when I really have to. I spend my first few days here sticking to the shaded side of the road so that I wouldn’t get sun burnt. I got bored of that, but was mystified by why when doing a half hour walk each way to and from the office to the train station I wasn’t getting burnt. Someone suggested you got burnt worse if you were just lying in the sun, but why would moving make a difference? You can’t dodge sun rays!
My first experience of Church was good. As ever the people were very welcoming. The guest speaker was supposed to be speaking on the body of Christ from Ephesians 4 but pretty much used every passage in the New Testament that mentioned Christ's body. It was what the bible said but it wasn't exactly preaching the passage. What made it difficult was that she preached from the Message version which translated (I think v8) to include the word 'booty' I think in the treasure sense but I still had to stifle my laughter.
Some further observations:
There are enough new brands of coffee to try to last me a few years at least.
I am being lent a car for a few weeks, can’t wait to be mobile again!
There are more Cadburys chocolate bars available here than I saw in the U.K., Black Forest dairy milk for example
Income tax is high, about 33%
All trains around the world seem to have the sign in the window saying what to do in case of a fire. In Wellington they have the amusing addition of what to do if an earthquake strikes.
Manchester: the name for the department in a store where you get bedding and towels
New Phrases to use
“Turned to custard” meaning when it (situation, project or whatever) has all gone wrong
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
From “The Hardest Part” by Coldplay, from the album X & Y.
That pretty much sums up how I feel about leaving my home in England. I have run through a whole range of emotions as I have prepared to leave for New Zealand, from excitement at a new challenge to anger at having to leave my life that I was happy with behind. It has reopened and reclosed some old struggles and brought about some new ones, and done the last thing that I expected it to do which was provide an opportunity to grow.
General reflections on relationships: It is pretty much impossible to communicate the value (by that I mean how much you love and appreciate them) you place on someone to that person. I have had two months in which to travel around saying goodbye to some of my closest friends and family. When it came to saying goodbye properly I was always lost for words and could not communicate what I wanted to communicate. Come to think of it I do not understand why I ever thought I would be able to. To some of you this may not come as a big revelation, but to me it was. It has never really bothered me before as I’ve always been able to keep in some contact with people wherever they are in the country. But now I have left I will not be able to do so in the same way and to the same level and this has broken my heart at times. At times I have worried that people would think I don’t care about them any more and that could not be further from the truth. I have since then realised that no one thought that of me except me. So what have I learnt as a result? To be thankful for God’s sovereignty. I can and must trust that the people who I care about are safe in God’s hands. To think any less is to make too much of myself and too little of God. I also can and must trust God that the relationships that matter to me will not fade away (obviously I need to do my part in maintaining them and so must they) due to geography. I have also learnt to be thankful for memories. I have many many happy memories of home which I am thankful to have and which are far better to think about than what I will be missing out on over the next few years.
Old wounds: It has not been easy coming to terms with moving overseas on my own. I have to admit that for a long time I wished I had a wife to move with. I struggled with why I had to move on my own and really struggled as friends got married and started dating. What have I learned? I have far from got being single figured out but for now I have realised how sinful it is to look at other people in wish to be like them. Ultimately it is a form of envy. At best it is envying that fact that they have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. At worst it is envying them for the girl they are dating too. That is neither loving them nor good for me and just leads towards resentment. Some bible verses that friends have shared that were helpful are Mark 10 v 29, 30. As a wise person once said to me, I can trust that God’s plan is best for me even if it means remaining single for life. Now I am here, in some ways I am thankful that I am single. Having observed the others whom I have moved with it is a much bigger deal to move a family. I really would encourage other single folk to consider overseas missions. In a very small way I have begun to realise more of what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 7 v 32.
I am extremely thankful for my family; for the part we play in each others lives, and for my nephews and nieces whom I love as if they were my own (I will miss watching them grow up and will find it hard not being part of their lives in the way that I have been) and for great time we’ve had so far.
Whose life is it anyway?: I have to be honest for a while I did not want to leave England. I have a family who I am very close to, friends who have become like family, and had a job that I loved building and loved doing. Moving overseas was not part of my plan for my life. I raged at God (and my parents as they happened to be there at the time) as to why he was calling me overseas: it was not part of MY plan! I had similar struggles just moving to Leicester from London which I remembered after. I then remembered (or the Spirit brought to mind?) Titus 2 v 11 – 12. My life is no longer my own for it has been purchased by Christ through his blood shed on the cross which teaches me to say no to sin and yes to obedience.
I am really thankful that I was able to spend time with folk before I left and I had a great time everyway I went (I affectionately referred to it as my farewell tour). Christmas was a wonderful end to the year with family.
I dropped into Leicester for a day shortly after new years and I realised how much life had moved on for folk in Leicester and how I wasn't part of it in the same way I was when I lived there. In many ways I had already left my 'normal' life which made leaving the country a little easier.
So then I left. Not as a begrudging slave who has been beaten into submission but as a son who realises (be it a little) the sacrifice that has been made for him and thankful for what God has in His grace given him (grace, family, friends and memories to name but a few things).