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Showing posts from June, 2017

Finding happiness.

The following is an address from Knox Church, Dunedin, given on Sunday June 25 2017 If you cannot see the audio controls, your browser does not support the audio element Synopsis: We all have our strategies for happiness which give rise to most of the major choices we make. These strategies have a number of things in common: 1) most of us are looking for one of 3 things in an attempt to make ourselves happy. These three things are a) security, b) affection and esteem; c) power and control. 2. These strategies are so deeply ingrained in us that they have become part of us and we are generally unconscious of them. 3. These strategies don't work, because they can't possibly work. Security, affection and esteem, power and control are things we all need, and things our parents give to us, or not as the case may be, from childhood. We usually find ourselves with a felt deficiency in one or more of these areas, and faced with life's inevitable challenges and unhappin

Naming (The continuing journey to Patmos)

I dislike the practice of giving photographs twee names. Hate it with a passion, actually. But I did name this photo, "Truck with Birds", because I wanted to draw attention to the bit of the picture which would, otherwise, so easily be overlooked. I'm now reading my way through the last volume of the Old Testament, which in the Bibliotheca version, is The Writings. So it's been psalm after psalm the last few days. I'm grateful that when he was editing this lovely Bible, Adam Lewis Greene used the Jewish tradition of of not trying to translate or render the name of God, but instead to use the meaningless and unpronounceable YHWH. It's a reminder of the deep wisdom of the first commandment, that God is unknowable, and whatever image -whether physical or intellectual or  imaginary - we create to represent God is not God, but rather, something less of our own devising. Our images of God come freighted with our own unconscious associations, and what we think

Think Again

The following audio file is an address from Knox Church, Dunedin, given on Sunday Evening, June 18 2017. If you cannot see the audio controls, your browser does not support the audio element Synopsis: Like many of my generation I entered the Christian faith by way of the Charismatic renewal in the 1970s. In the early 1990s the renewal and I were beginning to part company, and, while I was Vicar of All Saints Sumner, responding to the works of Gerard Hughes and Morton Kelsey, I began to walk the path of Contemplative Spirituality, which I have been following ever since. There is a common perception that the Contemplative path is some sort of modern add on to the Christian faith, but this is inaccurate. Modern contemplatives, such as Thomas Keating and Laurence Freeman trace their lineage back through Thomas Merton to the medieval work, The Cloud of Unknowing , and then, even further back to the great medieval mystics and the desert fathers. In fact, the Contemplative tradit

Good Books

The pergola at the Gawler Centre, Victoria Australia. When I was first diagnosed with Cancer one of my parishioners, Richard Sutton, called in to see me. He too was living with a recent diagnosis of a serious illness. I had always liked Richard and got on well with him, but until he came to my place that morning, I don't think we could have been described as close friends, as he and I were so very different. He was a chess grandmaster and the Dean of Law at Otago University, a man about ten years older than me, whose huge intellect was orderly and focused. I always felt a bit haphazard and shambolic around him. The differences in intellectual firepower notwithstanding, we agreed to meet weekly and support one another in our common predicament. So, for the next couple of years, until Richard's death, once a week we went off to a cafe, drank coffee, ate friands and talked about illness, death, life, the universe and everything. We became close friends. Central to our discu


Bookshelves are great for testing camera lenses.  This test of a Panasonic point 'n' shoot must have happened when  Catherine was still at home. Books. The world's most expensive wallpaper. A door opening into the world. A wall to keep it out. Perfect insulation - physically, mentally, spiritually. There are 70 metres of bookshelving in my study, which is quite a bit considering how small the room is, but it's never been enough. Books pile up, the ones I have bought and the ones that other people have bought and given to me because they think I need them. There are books which have changed the way I see the world and therefore changed both me and the world. There are books which have never changed anything except some poor tree somewhere. I can trace my inner growth from the titles on my shelves. There is Biblical studies from the 70s and theology from the 80s. The books bought in the 90s are all about running churches - how to get people into your pews


When the children were small, responding to an educational article in the kids' section of the Waikato Times, we drove to a cliff by the road near Raglan, and, armed with an unlikely assortment of tools, dug some Jurassic era bivalves out of the crumbling mudstone. Of course they weren't actually shellfish, they were just the bits that were left; they were not animals but was each an animal shaped rock, that had formed out of the sand filling  the cavities left by something long dead and decayed. One of them was nearly perfect. It looked a bit like a tuatua and I carried it in my pocket for years before giving it to Noah at his baptism . Ask people who know and they'll look at the rocks and the little fossil shellfish and tell you what was going on at Raglan 150 million years ago,  give or take. It seems that back then a little creature lived briefly on the bed of some long gone sea. It lived as full and as rich a life as a shellfish is capable of living, which consist

The Master and His Emissary

The sheer size and scope of Iain McGilchrist's 2009 book, The Master and His Emissary, The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World make it a challenging read. The general path for academics is to write more and more about less and less, but McGilchrist's 534 pages range over a vast smorgasbord of subject matter including, amongst others,  brain science, philosophy, linguistics, the development of language, art history, sociology and history. The challenge is one that it is rewarding to accept because despite the volume of material presented the book is clearly and accessibly written and his central thesis is intriguing. This is a book which explains so much; which puts so much into perspective.  I read this with yellow highlighter in hand as every chapter, and sometimes every page contained learnings I wished to return to. In terms of my own understanding this is probably the most influential book I've read in the last decade. McGilchrist's theory begins