I like this word "noughty". It keeps popping up as a description of the years from 2000-2009. I had to use it in a post! So here are my top ten unforgettable moments from the Noughties (roughly in chronological order):
#1 standing at a graveside
This had always been our dream. Travelling up and around and over row upon row of Himalaya for hour upon hour in order to find our way back to a place called Dharchula. In a little pocket of India close to both Tibet and Nepal. Between them Barby's parents and grandparents had spent decades up there - but as the youngest child, Barby had never been there. And so on a hill outside the town we stood as a family in front of the grave of Barby's grandmother with that headstone reading "In giving light to others, she herself burned out".
#2 loving a concert
I enjoy my music - all sorts of music. But the church often places hopes in music that music alone cannot sustain. It does not help when 'watching' replaces 'listening' as the prevailing verb. But that was not the case one night at Parachute when the Newsboys were on stage. I watched and I listened. The lyrics, the commentary, the testimony, the sound, the event ... I just did not want it to end. Afterall has there been a more profound line coming out of contemporary Cristian music than "Shine, make 'em wonder whatcha got"?
#3 feeling the pleasure
Discovering our own variation on the (Eric) Liddellian theme is something to cherish: 'when I run, I feel God's pleasure'. In the noughties I discovered mine. Be it in the classroom at Carey or, more significantly, in the foyers of little churches in places like Wanaka and Geraldine, Morrinsville and Welcome Bay I stumbled on my chief delight in serving Jesus. "When I train preachers I feel God's pleasure".
#4 taking a phone call
I do most of my crying before breakfast. The middle of the noughties had two experiences that provoked emotion for weeks. The first was that phone call from Phyllis McIntosh in Invercargill. Georgetown Baptist Church was no more. The church we had pastored for five years was closing its doors. Yes, it was grief that I felt.
#5 reading a headline
A few months later it happened all over again as I walked back from the Mobil Station with the newspaper in hand. A massive one word headline stared at me. Tsunami. Add in the writings of people like Philip Jenkins and Lamin Sanneh, stir in the decisions being made by our children, in particular - and my life was being freshly and irrevocably turned towards the peoples of the world. It was the beginning of the rest of my life.
#6 enjoying a stream
I spend a lot of my dream-time planning memory-making holidays with Barby and the children. The subsequent photos are part of the glue which bind marriages and families together. I was pretty chuffed when I figured out that our anniversary and Barby's birthday were three weeks apart and so one holiday was bookended with celebrations of both. But nothing could beat our week together in Morocco and that gently flowing stream running through Todhra Gorge on a hot and dry and thirsty day.
#7 watching the children
God's hand has been on them and we are so thankful. So many memories. Rushing around Auckland's bookshops with Stephen trying to locate a major new book on the Treaty of Waitangi which contained a glowing footnote to an essay he wrote as a student? Watching Alyssa, torn from months immersed in Kolkata's poverty, come home and go upstairs to her room and immediately create a piece for her wall - 'compassion: to suffer with'? Wondering how Martin was going to cope while I fulfilled my speaking commitments on that first morning in Kabwe (Zambia) - only to find him best mates with half a dozen Zambians before morning tea? Listening to Bethany's end-of-year speech as Head Girl and asking 'did all that really did come out of my little girl's mouth and is she really from the same gene pool as me'? And Joseph? How could I ever forget prizegiving on his final day at primary school? One prize had a long introduction. 'Who is she speaking about?' The childrens' heads twist and turn. 'Who is it'? A comment is made and in unison every head turns and looks at my little Joseph, sheer delight filling their faces. That delight from his peers trumped any affirmation from the staff...
#8 drinking a cup of coffee
They tell me God's guidance tends to be a little bit of push and a little bit of pull. Thinking I still had a few years to run as Principal at Carey I was taken a bit by surprise by the pulling and pushing which God began to orchestrate. The 'pull' is easy to source. Over a cup of coffee with Chris Wright at King's Plant Barn in St Lukes a role with Langham sounded plausible and possible. The 'push' is a bit harder. What about sitting around a table of Baptist leaders for a high level meeting when a particularly respected one asserts, "But what has Carey got to do with training leaders?" Ah yes - after a decade of sweat and tears it was like a knife in the heart (and I did not react too well either!). My time was up and other little pushes made it clear that it was time for a new voice at the helm.
#9 sitting in front of the TV
How could anyone forget the moment when Susan Boyle walked onto that stage, opened her mouth, and subverted so many of the things that the world holds dear?
#10 going on a pilgrimage
Why not celebrate my 50th birthday by taking a pilgrimage up to Marsden Cross in the Bay of Islands - and invite some friends to come along as well?! Even though I still carry a heavy heart for missing a few people out, it was a stunning day of friendship and fun, spirituality and community.
nice chatting - catch you in the next decade (the tennies? the teenies? ...)