Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Don't mention the "I" word
I was going through with a few people in the office some of the things that irritate and annoy me. They were 1. Being told something is impossible; 2. People saying anything is boring; 3. People putting limits on themselves by deciding that "they are not the type of person who..."; 4. People who always point out problems and explain why something can't be done; 5. A negative or critical spirit. It was pointed out to me that my commitment to number 5 may not be as strong as I would like to think given my articulation of points 1 through 4! But hypocrisy is on my OTHER list of things I dislike with a passion.
The office discussion was occasioned by my being told twice in one day that something was impossible. Use of the "I Word" always makes me want to do it more!! So I was pleased to discover this Mohammed Ali poster in the Mall. "Impossible is just big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary."
I guess if I was to summarise my sense of call to ministry it is to be involved in impossible things. I know this is utterly infuriating for some of my friends, colleagues and team mates but I am not very interested in maintenance. The first 6 months of this year I have been conscious of a growing commitment to take risks, to change, to pioneer and to create. The Pacific Partnership Trust is working to network and resource a new generation of leaders from the Pacific. I like the idea of thinking of this as an Impossible Missions Force! (this blog will self destruct in 10 seconds)
When we were in Scotland our newsletter used to be called "Postcards from the Edge". I have a renewed sense of call to live on the edge. These photographs are at a place which has become important to me in seeing the power of the waves pounding the rocks, the wide open sea stretching away from the beach and a path marked along the edge towards the gathering clouds. It reminds me that love casts out fear, that faith is a risky business and that I am frequently an impossible person!
We continue to look for people to work in the Pacific Rim and to support people from the Pacific working elsewhere. I am currently in the early stages of planning a number of "Influence with Imagination" leadership conversations. These will be small conversations rather than conferences and will look at engaging gospel and culture, relating faith to life and networking and mentoring a new generation of influence. We are also exploring how to develop some capability in both the US and Australia.
On my recent visit to Australia I was able to have lunch with Pete, a friend from Australia and Neil a friend from Scotland who is having a sabbatical in Melbourne but was visiting Sydney. I am increasingly aware of the privilege of having friends around the world but also of the responsibility that comes with that.
In TSCF we are developing Catalyst as a new ministry to graduates, academics and post graduate students. I am speaking at the first Catalyst Conference over the last weekend in June. This will be a small but potentially significant gathering and will lead into "Living the Dream" our annual National Student Conference. I will be speaking from sections of Daniel at both events. I am also delighted that we have been able to appoint Viv Ayers as my new PA who will start in the middle of July.
Ailsa has been doing more of the teaching at Kids Alive at church. They have been following "Adventures in Science" and Luke has also been helping with a small group of 7 year olds. It is a significant time in the life of Knox and the church is attempting to engage with issues of vision, leadership, strategy and staffing. Colin Salisbury and I have been doing some facilitating of this process and are encouraged by the possibilities.
The hockey season has seen some atrocious weather. We have been training and playing in a variety of conditions from drizzle to monsoon. One of the parents remarked that I would be finding it less of a problem; "being Scottish you probably have gills".
We had the Wellington Under 13 trials over Queens Birthday Weekend and having endured most seasons over the two days were treated to hail storm during the last game which saw the ball pick up a ring of ice.
Luke and Jamie's Wellington College Under 15A team which is playing in the open grade 3rd division with 4 1st XI and 3 2XI won the first round and only narrowly lost their promotion relegation match 2-1 against the college 2nd XI who were all in later years at school. Craig's Hutt team is unbeaten after 6 matches.
Craig celebrated his tenth birthday (slightly late) with a Star Wars Clone Wars Party at the house. We had 9 friends from school and church and they completed a number of Jedi training exercises.
Craig was able to pass on the benefits of his experience in vanquishing Darth Vader in a previous skirmish.
Ailsa had made a C3P0 cake and they then watched the Clone Wars together. Craig is making good progress with his guitar and was also pleased to qualify for the Central Zones Cross Country.
Luke has also been enjoying cross country and has been doing well at school. He is especially enjoying being in the Chorale. They competed in the Regional Big Sing competition.
Of the three pieces they performed this is the one I like the best.
Jamie was thrilled to be asked to play his pipes at the joint Cultural Extravaganza with Wellington Girls in the Town Hall. The combined choirs and orchestras were playing Highland Cathedral and Jamie started the piece off on the pipes and kept going all the way through. If he had known how many people were going to be watching I am not sure if he would have volunteered but he did really well. This was his first proper public performance and first time playing with other people - so it was a debut at the deep end! We felt both proud and nervous watching this little figure coming out to the front of the stage. People at school have been really positive to him which has been great. I love that he did not think of all the reasons why it was not possible but was willing to give it a go. I do have a clip of this which I will try to share next time.
Our friend Jodi leaves for the gulf region on Tuesday with a small student team for the next few weeks and to investigate student ministry opportunities in the longer term. I like that she did not think of all the reasons that it was impossible but has been willing to step out in faith. To her we say Bon Voyage, Courage, a Bientot and Bienvenue à la Force Impossible de Missions. (the last of which she will probably need Alex's help to translate). I know the team would value your prayers over the next month.
While in Melbourne with Ben and Val I came across this sign. It came as a shock to discover that Nigel Lee was not in glory after all but was running a small bakery in Melbourne. I looked inside half expecting to see his smiling face but it appears he my initial suspicions as to his location may in fact have been accurate. I continue to be grateful to him for inspiring and encouraging me to try to do things which seemed impossible at the time.
I also thought this sign around the corner was one Nigel would have liked. He was a man who rather enjoyed being a nuisance and a mischief. I rather like the accusation that the angry mob bring to the city officials in Thessalonica in Acts 17 as they accuse the disciples of treason: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here" It is a little gender specific but it is a great motto for the Impossible Missions Force. Or as that other great nuisance George Russell would have quoted the same verse from The Message: "These people are out to destroy the world, and now they've shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear!" You betcha!!
My Dad has been in hospital for the past few days. He has been having tests to try to get to the bottom of a sore back and an infection in his blood. He had an operation on his knee to clean out some possible infection there and is on an anti-biotic drip and morphine at the moment. He appears to be improving but my Mum was obviously concerned, especially when he had a night in the high dependency unit. My Mum still can't drive as she is recovering from a cataract operation but people have helped out. It is at times like this that I feel the 11,500 miles distance and feel quite powerless really! We would appreciate prayer for my folks and for wisdom for us as to the best way to help. I am next scheduled to be in Scotland mid August.
Overall I think we are doing pretty well at the moment but I am conscious of not having been in Auckland, Christchurch or Dunedin as often as I would have liked in the last few months. We have been under pressure in the office but with Anna returning and Viv starting there is some light at the end of the tunnel. (which hopefully is not a train coming to get us). Our house is slowly returning to normal but it has been an expensive and messy business and we still need to get the outside sealed and repainted. May and Holmes, the two American interns that Ailsa has been supervising leave in a few weeks. They have done a great job with the young people at church and will be missed. We have a number of staff working through visa issues. Do pray for Gillian and Sarah as their applications are reviewed and give thanks for Anna and Elliot being approved. It is kind of ironic that of all the people we know who have been applying for Visas this year the one who has had the least hassle is going to an Islamic country. Joel, another friend from Australia arrives on Saturday for a week before taking a student team to Vanuatu. We are looking forward to having him here. Ben (standing in front of the nuisance sign) and Jen are expecting their first baby in a few weeks and Mark and Emma Grace their third. There is a lot going on and much of what we are involved with is fragile. We are conscious that we could not do any of it without your prayers and practical support. Your partnership means a lot to us.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Which is Paul's prayer for the Ephesians but is a great prayer for the Impossible Missions Force - as it is directed to a God who specialises in doing the unimaginable and that which we might consider impossible.
And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.