Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thinking home

Now I head home. The last few days have given me the opportunity to take stock of where things are up to as I take a break from things here.

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


Because of a death in my family I have been thinking about the word death this week. To be honest nobody close to me has died before so I have never really had cause to think about it in this way before.

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

George Banwell

My Grandfather went to be with Christ on the 14th May.

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

The ground beneath my feet

Well, today's earthquake I definitely felt. Check out this site for more information. I have to say it was a fairly scary thing, kind of like being shaken really fast but the whole house is shaking rather than me. I few things fell off of shelves this time which is probably what woke me up as I slept through the previous quake I was in Wellington for.

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.