“What people want…

…is a job, someone to love, somewhere to live, and something to hope for. ” Norman Kirk, Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1972-1974.  Reminds me of the Bible verse learned long ago from Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

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My substance and evidence of hope.  A job.  Teaching.  I hoped for this from the time of was about eight years old.  Someone to love and to be loved.  So lucky to have such a supportive husband and children of whom I am so proud.  Somewhere to live.  I am grateful to live in a beautiful land, and in a special little community beside the sea where I plan to retire.  Something to hope for: being useful in the now and in the future.  That part is a little more nebulous because who knows what the future holds.  All we can do is know the one who holds the future and dare to dream and to make the best possible choices and to enjoy the ride.  But how lucky we are to have choices, to have something to believe in, to have hope.

“What people want is a job, someone to love, somewhere to live, and something to hope for. ” These words were raised in the second episode of The Ninth Floor, when Guyon Espiner was interviewing Mike Moore, Labour Member of Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister between 1972 and 1999, who went on to become Director General of the World Trade Organisation.  To be WTO chair and a Trade Union member at the same time shows the measure of the man and his Labour dreams of which he has never let go.

The equally good first episode in The Ninth Floor series interviewed Sir Geoffrey Palmer (MP, DP and PM between 1979 and 1990), who has since returned to Academia.  Where Moore seemed to have led from the heart, Palmer seemed to have led from the head.   Both men, however, pulled in the same direction.

Further episodes in the series will interview Jim Bolger (PM 1990-1997), who went on to become Ambassador to the USA and chaired Kiwibank and Kiwirail, Dame Jenny Shipley (PM 1997-1999), who went on to become an independent director and speaker, and Helen Clark (PM 1999-2008), who has been the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme from 2009 to 2017.

The series, The Nonth Floor is, in my opinion, excellent journalism on behalf of the team led by executive producer, Tim Watkin, and interviewer, Guyon Espiner.  I am looking forward to the next three interviews.  A pity John Key has so far declined.  I’d like to hear his thoughts also.

We need more of such journalism instead of the the usual trashy offerings that swing between mindless infotainment and belligerent confrontationalism and that rob us of our dignity and hope, instead playing on such emotions as jealousy, Schadenfreude, unhealthy obsession and embarrassment.  What irritates me is that those who create such news programmes think these are what we, the people, want.  They assume we all belong to the great unwashed uneducated, and instead of inspiring us they attempt to entice us with unhealthy intrigues and celebrity or else bully us with shame and fear.  They could inspire us with hope and integrity to think and to reason.

What the media so frequently offers is certainly not what this person wants!  I’m with Norman Kirk – I want a job, someone to love, somewhere to live, and something to hope for.  The media has a role to play here, as do politicians.  That’s why The Ninth Floor is so good.  No tacky infotainment or unhealthy sensationalism. It gives us hope in our future as we explore our past.

Thank you to the team of The Ninth Floor for honouring our former Prime Ministers, who gave their all to provide us with the tangible substance of things hoped for: jobs, families, homes, a future.  The current Prime Minister, Bill English, despite being a National Party parliamentarian, he also gives me hope.  His web site says that he is “focused on tackling New Zealand’s toughest social problems, including inequality, welfare dependence and the educational under achievement of Maori and Pasifika children, aiming to give all New Zealanders the best chance of succeeding.”  That sounds like Labour to me.  That gives me plenty to hope for.

Qualified to Serve

wisdom

Wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul        (Proverbs 2:10 NIV).

 

 

My years of reading and thinking and writing for my EdD are coming to an end. I have a submission date now and am already planning my return to the big smoke from my seaside sabbatical in Tairua.

At the meeting with my supervisors last week, I raised what I might do with the knowledge I have gained so I don’t slide into a depression after completing such an opus as so many others say they have done. The fact that I have a job waiting for me makes a difference for certain but I will have to find ways to ease back into the ordinary again with its workload and stress without it destroying me. During this year of study leave, I have been able to create my own timetable, a luxury for most but especially for a teacher who has had bells ringing change of period and change of direction every hour for four decades. I have been able to sleep till I wake in the morning or work till the wee hours following an interesting idea. No more! In three months I return to the tiring and stressful work reality of the classroom teacher, having tasted the peaceful and pensive reality of  retirement to come.

With these anxious thoughts churning at the back of my mind for some time now, it was comforting to be reminded in this morning’s devotional about personal growth with a CV-like description of Daniel, of lion’s den fame:

Showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve (Daniel 1:4 NIV).

It was also a good reminder of my life’s goal, wisdom, and a fresh modus operandi for moving forward.

Easter Procession in Tairua

Easter BrusselsEaster NZ 2

Easter in Belgium and in New Zealand

This morning we joined with our community in Tairua (1400 permanent residents) to walk from the Community Centre across the footbridge beside the harbour along past the cafés and shops to the Church of St Francis following a parishioner bearing a large wooden cross. It was a moving experience with singing and prayer at each end and a traditional service in the little wooden Anglican church afterwards.

It made me think of the very different European processions through cobbled streets  dressed in traditional clothing and bearing a local legend-steeped statue at Easter. Our Tairua equivalent felt very rustic by comparison. Nonetheless meaningful. In fact very beautiful in the calm after the stormy weather of the last few days.

That led me to thinking about and looking for images of processions in Europe to illustrate this post because for sure there won’t be any of the Tairua one!  And that led me to images of this current Easter in Brussels, images that depict the recent terrorist attacks and the ones at this time last year in Paris. It’s a good time to remember people in those cities who are suffering this Holy Friday. Nous prions pour vous.

Je suis Bruxelles. Je suis Charlie. Dieu vous bénisse ce Pâques!

March – New Life

There is nothing more precious than the safe arrival of a baby. On 13th March 2011 Noah William Greenfield entered the world and delighted his parents, his grandparents and his little brother, Zachary Loren, whose birthday was just four days later on St Patrick’s Day. Two precious little healthy boys. What more can you say but “Thank you, Lord!”

December: Enrolled at Laidlaw

Before arriving home and facing the unfortunate necessity of returning to teach, I had planned on writing a three year ESL Bible Study curriculum.  To faciliate that plan, I would enrol in the Laidlaw-Carey Centre for Distance Learning to do a Graduate Diploma of Theology.  All the while, I would continue to write.  I had consulted with the Fab Four and others about what such a curriculum should cover.

Then I became increasingly aware that although I knew how to research and write language lessons, and I had forty-five years of church attendance, Bible Class, and Bible study behind me, I really didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Then circumstances took over.  I applied for a nice quiet job as an ESOL teacher but it flew out the window when they offered me the Head of Faculty Languages instead.  I submitted to the change in plans but not without some regret and churn.  It would entail much more work and stress than I had planned.  For days, even weeks, I was depressed at the merry-go-round I had allowed myself to climb back onto.  I had been there before.  I knew what lay ahead.  I was already emotionally and physically exhausted.  Now I felt done in.

Then the Lord reminded me:

“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

So, with my original dream of writing a three year ESL Bible Study curriculum still strongly enblazoned on my heart, I pushed ahead and enrolled part time at Laidlaw and I thought about what lessons I would write next.

By the time the first classes start, I expect I will have the funds, the home, and the time to do it justice.  I am hoping not just for a GradDipTheol, but also for a Master of Theology and maybe more.  There’s no stopping now!

November: Amazed

JoAnn, one of the Fab Four who edit and teach my lessons, suggested that seeing John the Baptist was a feature in our Gospel of John series it would be nice to include his birth story alongside that of Jesus’ birth for the planned Christmas lessons.  I instantly loved her idea.  I had always been fascinated by the story of Elizabeth and Mary so I headed straight for Luke 1 and 2.

What wonderful stories I rediscovered there.  But could I do them justice?  There was the tightness of time – the two lessons needed to be written well before the end of November ready for editing, preparation and teaching early December.  And then there was our personal turmoil –  we had just moved from a home in one country to no home in another.  Our belongings were being shipped, we had irregular internet access, no income, and the dreadful churn of imposing on family for temporary accommodation.  Then there were the regular interruptions of job applications, interviews, doctor’s appointments and medical tests.  If I could write in those circumstances, then I truly was a writer!

As it turned out, the writing task and the structure of the lessons gave me a focus over and above our issues.  I finished the first draft of lesson 2 the night before the teachers’ planning lesson.  JoAnn retrieved my email attachment just prior to leaving for the Thanksgiving class and had the draft printed and ready for the teachers’ planning meeting to follow.

Talk about tight, but what a wonderful experience.  Those four ladies helped me lift my head and do what I love.  Then when I sent them my offering, they heaped me with encouragement and undeserved praise.

After finishing the task, when I doubted how much of each lesson had been led by the Lord, he reminded me that scripture has power in itself.  It is inspired and used by the Holy Spirit.  My lesson was just a wrapping.  Once the wrapping was torn away, the scriptures would shine brightly into open and prepared hearts.

October: Time To Give Thanks

I have been home now for exactly a month.  Dave should be joining me in about two weeks.  He has been doing the bulk of our packing and tying up the loose ends of our seven year sojourn in Seattle.

So what has our separation achieved?  I was home for my father’s 80th birthday; I have been home for some affordable health care; I have a jump start on job applications for the new school year; I have been able to catch up with family and friends; and I have had the space to write another ELL lesson.  This one is a celebration of Thanksgiving through a study of Psalm 65.  I called it Sing for Joy.

The content of this lesson has forced me to practise what I preach, to believe that my God is faithful and will provide for all my needs out of his riches in glory.  It has forced me to be thankful at a time of humiliation, a time when I have lost everything that this world values, everything for which I have spent my adult life working.

So, in the words of King David in Psalm 65…

“Thank you, Lord, for answering my prayers for forgiveness and letting me enter your presence to experience the good things there.

Thank you, Lord, for creating this beautiful world with your great power and strength, for this world that shows the beauty and magnificence of who you are.

Thank you, Lord, for caring for your world and enriching it abundantly, for crowning the year with your bounty.”

With the mountains and the meadows that are clothed in gladness, and mantled in grain, I shout for joy and I sing.  You are Jehovah Jireh, My Provider.  When I seek first your kingdom and your righteousness, the stuff of survival will be provided in beauty and abundance.  You dress the lilies of the field and feed the birds of the air.  How much better will you care for me.  So I thank you and I look forward to the exciting things ahead.

September: Autumn in the Northwest, Springtime in New Zealand

When our grandson Joe was much younger than his present ‘nearly eleven’ years, he was constantly amused and delighted by hemispheric opposites.  During weekly telephone calls he would giggle because we were having lunch yesterday while he was having breakfast today, because it was raining outside our windows while the sun shone through his, and when we had plans for a summer day at the beach, his Mum and Dad were taking him and his sisters off to the mid-winter snow on the mountains.

So here we are in the Northwest clinging to the last days of summer, watching the approaching harvest colors of fall, all the while anticipating the fresh new beginnings of a springtime downunder.  We are going home.

This week the ELL classes for whom I wrote ‘I Am Jesus’, began their first quarter of the new school year.  My contribution to the Lord’s work has rightly passed to other hands. While still affectionately anticipating news of my project’s usefulness, I have let it go. Yet not without some sorrow. Like a nurse who cares for and becomes attached to the premature baby she nurtures to full term, I conscientiously incubated my writing for others to cradle. Yes, there was joy in the achievement, but there was also mourning in the completion. And after the handing over, it has taken more effort than expected to regather energy and to reorient vision in order to turn and see the new and exciting projects that lie ahead.

All the while I was working at letting go in order to move on in my writing, it was becoming clearer to both Dave and I that a premature move back home to New Zealand was pending. Our seven years in Seattle were coming to an abrupt end.  It was time to start letting go our adopted home in order to be able to turn and move on to the next season of our lives.

To help with this unexpected transition, we have been savoring as many ‘lasts’ as possible, like autumn leaves that defiantly turn gold, crimson and amber as they cling to the memory of a beautiful green summer. So we have savored the colors of everyday things like our last shopping excursions to Bellevue Mall, Costco, and the Seattle Premuim Outlets and our last restaurant meals at Canyons, Palomino, and Olive Garden, and we have savored the colors of our last road trip north along I-5 to Theresa’s time share at Birch Bay with a side trip to Lyndon then home via Fairhaven, Bellingham, and the picturesque Chuckanut Drive.  Then on Sunday, we began savoring farewells to friends during a bitter-sweet last supper with our home group. In the midst of the good-byes, we are making time to savor the last of our home with frequent breaks in the warmth, peace, and beauty of lingering summer days on our great back deck.

As we try to slow the departing and the approach of fall, we are also speeding towards a fresh new South Pacific spring.  While we are packing and cleaning the house, we are also researching and purchasing airfares and shipping space and applying for jobs back home.  We savor and we let go, we linger and we regather energy, we remember and we reorient.  In the anticipation, there is also pain.

But we can take comfort and we can take hope.  With Ruth Myers we declare that our God “knows too much to be unwise and loves too much to be unkind” (31 Days of Praise); with Abraham we believe against all hope so that it might be counted to us as righteousness (Hebrews 11); with Solomon we commit our way to the Lord and trust in him (Proverbs 3); and with Jeremiah we believe that God’s plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, they are plans to bring us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29). Standing on these wonderful promises in God’s word and in the company of all these saints old and new, we choose to look forward to a bright new day.

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed. For his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion therefore I will wait for him.  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:21-26

August: Handed Over!

Yesterday, after four months of satisfying research, writing, and editing, the series entitled I Am Jesus, with twelve ELL lessons in the  Gospel of John, was handed over to the staff at Westminster Chapel, WA, in time for the new year’s classes beginning September 1st.  With the lessons were many added resources: a song book, an alphabetical vocabulary list, a topical structure section, evaluation forms, an Introducing The Bible pamphlet, and the requisite bibliography, title page, and creative commons license.

As I worked, as well as the Fab Four (Dianne, Ellen, JoAnn, and Sylvia) who so conscientiously edited the lessons and prayed for me every week, I know there have been others who have also been praying.  I only know this because they have surprised me by telling me so as we have met by chance during that time.  It has been a humbling experience to discover such conscientious support from people I hardly know.  It is because they believe in God’s power to work in people’s lives through our imperfect offerings, and they believe in the power of prayer.

So my part in this work which has consumed my every waking moment for the past twelve weeks is now done.  I expected to feel a sense of amazing exhilaration, but for ten days now there has been so much tedious but necessary editing and re-editing, copying and recopying, zipping, unzipping and rezipping, that now it is done, I also am done.  I can’t quite celebrate because I am not  certain that my work is in fact done.

Sure enough, just now, as I have been posting online the work in all its many parts, I discovered one more set of formatting errors.  Argghhhh!  Nothing major, but a good reminder that although I have done my best my work is far from perfect.  It will always be a series in draft.

My only recourse is to offer what I have written to God for him to use as he sees fit.  Only He can work wonders through the words of scripture, through the words of my lessons, and through the words of the teachers and participants who will meet week by week, and year by year to learn about Jesus through his many and wonderful names.  As they meet, it is only God who can change and sanctify lives.  So I hand this series of lessons over to Him, the author and finisher of our faith.

I might not be jumping in energetic joy, but I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be part of his bigger plan.  I am therefore looking forward in quiet hope and expectation to all that he will do, for his glory.

July: Golden Apples in Settings of Silver

Yesterday I sent the first draft of Lesson 8 to my dear editors.  It seems as if the last couple of chapters have been more difficult because of the interruptions of life.  But there are some encouragements along the way to keep me on task.

Last Sunday, 4th July, a gentleman involved in Alpha shared in the church service how he felt when he was able to use his gifts of evangelism to introduce friends to the Lord.  As I write these ELL Bible Study lessons in the Gospel of John, I feel exactly as he said.  During the week, prompted by daily Bible readings, I knew I should write and tell the Director of International Ministries who oversees my writing project.

I wrote:

“I read this morning in Hebrews 10:24-25 and Ephesians 2:1-10 and want to thank you for ‘considering’ me and ‘stirring up’ the work that God had for me to do.  As the gentleman who shared in Sunday morning’s service about Alpha said, “My heart is full.”  That’s exactly how I feel as I write this Bible study.  I know the teachers are praying for me and Ellen and JoAnn have done so much repetitive editing work at a time when they are both very busy.  They are gems.  Isn’t the Body of Christ wonderful when it is fit and healthy and primed for work?  I am really looking forward to what lies ahead as the teachers do the real chalk face work with it.  Thank you for stirring it all up to begin with.”

She replied:

“Your words about the wonderful Body of Christ were like “apples of gold in settings of silver”  … I hope you don’t mind – I forwarded it to our pastor.   He is going to be preaching on the Church this Sunday, re how we are all strategically placed into the local and universal Church in order to glorify God and build His Kingdom in unity.  You stated it so well, and I know he will be delighted with your joy at such an arduous task you’ve chosen to tackle!”

This Sunday morning, 12th July, several people who attended the first service told me in the foyer that the pastor had indeed shared my email.  I was encouraged, but also strangely anxious because I didn’t know what he had said.  He shared something else in the second service that Dave and I attended.  I had unusual heart palpitations all afternoon.  Then before bed, I felt drawn to read the evening’s Living Light.  It started with Proverbs 25:11.  “Timely advice is as lovely as golden apples in a silver basket.”  Full circle!  The peace and joy of the Lord flooded back.

Thank you, Lord.  I feel very encouraged.  You really do use the body of Christ for your glory.  I love you.

As always, Anne