Sunday, May 24, 2009

Keeping Perspective

After the last home Hurricane's game we got back to the house on an amazingly clear night. One of the things I like about Wellington is that there is not much glare from the city into the night sky. I got some cushions from the family room and we all lay on the drive looking at the stars. I stayed a bit longer. I like looking at things from different angles, trying to understand them. I increasingly think that having perspective and helping others to have a proper view on what is going on is a key leadership responsibility. It is not just about seeking to see things from God's perspective, it is about seeing everything in the context of who God is, what God has done, what God is doing and what God has said he will do in the future.

It is not just the night sky - everywhere we look there are reminders of God's eternal power and divine nature. Psalm 8 starts and finishes: "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

The Message translates it with a more immediate and obvious enthusiasm.

"God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name.
Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?"

It is a rhetorical question! It is because of who God is and his desire that we see, appreciate and share his glory.

I had something of an identity crisis flying to Australia recently. You need an Electronic Travel Authority to be allowed to fly. (a kind of electronic visa). At check-in I was told I did not have one. They do expire but I was sure that mine had been renewed in November. "No!", I was told "There is another Nigel Pollock on the flight and he has one but you don't". Now it sounded a bit unlikely to me that there could be two Nigel Pollocks on the 6.40 am Wellington to Sydney flight but computers never lie! The Air NZ person swung the monitor round to prove it to me. At this point I noticed that the other Nigel Pollock had the same middle name as me and the same passport number. I tried to explain that obviously the other Nigel Pollock was me. This argument fell on deaf ears and I was sent to the ticket desk. Here it transpired that although both Nigel Pollocks had the same birth day we were in fact born in different years. The "other" Nigel Pollock was older and had not shown up for the flight yet. Eventually I managed to persuade him that this other Nigel Pollock was not likely to be coming and he conceded a data entry error might have been made. He was unable to correct the error so a new Nigel Pollock was loaded into the system with an ETA and I was sent back to check-in, at a different line. "Wow" exclaimed the operator "There are three Nigel Pollocks on this flight - which one are you?". "I'm the middle one, I know the other two pretty well, if the older guy turns up put him in the seat next to me but the other one doesn't have a visa so he won't be travelling". He diligently wrote this information down - bless him.

On the internal flight to Melbourne I was reminded of that great line from Crocodile Dundee. I found myself standing behind an Australian guy at security check who got extremely annoyed that he was not allowed to take his 9 inch retractable hunting knife onto the plane. "You people need to go overseas to learn how to handle business people - you are unbelievable!" He was incensed that he was not allowed to take his knife with him, angry that he could not leave all his stuff at security while he went to check the knife and had no perspective at all that his behaviour might have been at all unreasonable. Memo to customs and security personnel here or overseas "Don't let irritable Australians onto planes with big knives - I don't care what business they are in". I am constantly amazed how people lose perspective when they travel.

Thankfully I never lose perspective like that. I would never fall into the trap of thinking the world revolved around me. As I saw different people holding up signs to greet the other arrivals - I was surprised that they had gone to the trouble of making a billboard especially for me.

This was my first visit to Melbourne and I particularly enjoyed the variety of architecture. I like buildings that make you think and make a contribution that enables you to look at the landscape differently. It never ceases to amaze my how locals take so much for granted about the place they live.

I had a couple of hours between meetings where I walked around central Melbourne. One of the reasons I did not get lost was that there were a number of pairs of city guides, mostly retired volunteers, wearing distinctive red jackets and very keen to help with directions, suggestions and maps. I mentioned this later to the people I was staying with and they had never heard or seen anything of these volunteers.

I wondered how many Australians would feel the same about church. Pretty obvious that it's there but totally unaware of what it was about and not knowing that there are people there who can help you if you get lost. I am not sure that this kind of building sends out many of the right signals and maybe that is part of the problem in the churches growing invisibility.

Outside was this bay of seats. Why were they once only for women? Clearly no one bothered to see the benches as gender specific now. What lasts and has value in that in is derived from God's character and what is temporary and insignificant and is to do with a cultural expression of something at a period in time. How do we help people tell the difference when sometimes we are not that clear on it ourselves?

One of the other things I enjoyed about Melbourne was the amount of written communication; on pavements, posters and buildings. I increasingly believe that post-modernism was a late baby boomer attempt to explain a generational watershed that they never understood. Much of the analysis has turned out to be faulty. The desire for certainty and hunger for authenticity is etched large on the contemporary cityscape.

Electronic or real...

There at least choices available in 21st Century Australia.

I had a great time in Melbourne meeting a couple of potential staff and hearing something of the work with international students. I can see why many Kiwis like Melbourne and feel that it resonates with a New Zealand attitude to life. I then spent a day in Sydney, beginning to explore how the Pacific Partnership Trust can develop younger leaders in Australia and being able to catch up with Jodi and Joel. (Jodi was with us last month and Joel is coming over next month to stay for a week on his way to Vanuatu with a small team).

It was pretty close to a perfect day. I flew back refreshed and encouraged and with a better perspective. And (especially for those of you who think that I am always getting into trouble traveling) without any notable incident of any kind! I will be back in Australia for a few days in a weeks time. Unlike the knife wielding businessman I find I gain perspective when I travel.

Both Hockey teams I am coaching have had a good start to the season. The Hutt P1 team that Craig is the goalie for have won their first 4 games and are top of the first primary division. I really think this could be our season to win! The Wellington College Under 15 team, which Luke and Jamie are playing for is in a tough division with 4 College 1st XI, 3 Colege 2nd XI and us. We were well beaten by Raphael House in the second match but having beaten Hutt Valley High 23-0 and the previously unbeaten Onslow College we are top of the league on goal difference and challenging for a promotion playoff spot. Next weekend is the Wellington Under 13 trials so I will be chairing the selection process for the two Under 13 Wellington Rep teams.

Jamie had his 13th birthday the day he started at Wellington College. So we finally managed to celebrate with his friends on Saturday.

The last time we went go carting Craig had been too young to join in so we was particularly excited to be able to participate. I was the only one on the track with a driving license but found the lack of power steering took a bit of getting used to!

We also had a game of laser tag. Where the green team led by the birthday boy looked menacing.

But were no match for the invincible "reds" - Not that I am at all competitive. And yes they did look a bit more orange to me as well. We went back to the house where Ailsa had rustled up a cake in the shape of a helmet and various other goodies. She was especially pleased that the inside of the lounge was finally finished for the boys being round and although we are making slow progress there is still work to be done coating and painting the outside of the house.

There have been a number of other encouragements over the last couple of weeks. Further response to the Vision Issue has been positive and I had a good day in Palmerston North meeting church leaders and speaking to the student group. Catalyst - the new graduate ministry is slowly building momentum. I also spoke at the SU staff conference and was given a moving note from one of the people there which I asked for permission to share here for the encouragement of those who support us here.
"I have really appreciated your teaching at all the different SU events I have heard you at over the last few years. I always look forward to you speaking because I know it will be significant for me. The first time you came I was seriously considering leaving ministry and God used your talks to confirm my calling despite the hardships I was facing at the time. I appreciate the way you start in the Bible, stay in the Bible and finish in the Bible not using clever techniques but allowing the Bibke to speak and just adding helpful illustrations. Your talk today on "Disappointments, Frustrations and Failures in Ministry" was a great encouragement to me again and I thank God for you being so honest and real".

One of our passions in New Zealand and indeed around the Pacific that people would gain perspective from the Bible. Every now and then I get glimpses that it's happening - from my perspective anyway!

A couple of other things coming up this week which are significant.
On Tuesday Colin Salisbury and I are meeting with the elders of Knox (our church in Wellington). We have been asked to lead a review process in helping us to think about where we are and how we can move forward together. Colin nad I have been meeting with people over the last few weeks and Tuesday is the next step in the process. There is huge potential and we believe a willingness to change.
On Wednesday we are interviewing for a new PA. We have short listed 3 candidates and the right person could make a huge difference. Raewyn, Andy and I are interviewing and would value wisdom and discernment.
On Thursday and Friday I am thinking about how we can develop the work in the US and in the UK as part of our global strategy with PPT.

And in case you were wondering, the latin is the motto Melbourne and to save you contacting my father in law for a translation means "We gather strength as we go". May it be so!


Stu Johnson said...

Good to read your news and perspectives, as usual. If you don't mind me saying so, you're looking slimmer :)

Nigel Pollock said...

No Stu I don't mind you saying so. It takes ages to photoshop all the pictures to get that effect so it's nice it has not gone unoticed!