Monday, 31 December 2012

Thursday, 27 December 2012

My World

My World - Red boy runs - complementary colours photograph
Red boy runs
Complementary colours in Lyndhurst Rd, Hastings
(Broke the "rules" for this one, haha)
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Spice of Life

My choice from a week's work at Hawke's Bay Today  J

High Tea - China and scones and jam photograph
High Tea - Cla120156-03
Happy just hangin' - Gingerbread man Christmas tree decoration photograph
Happy just hangin' - HBT124696-14
Young canoeist on Pandora Pond, Napier photograph
Young canoeist on Pandora Pond, Napier - HBT124685-03

I know what you've been up to - Young Santa with painted-on beard photograph
I know what you've been up to - HBT124687-04

Little angel - facepainting girls photograph
Little angel - HBT124687-16

Who needs a sleigh? Santa arrives by crane photograph
Who needs a sleigh? - HBT124687-28

Dog at CHB SPCA, looking for a home photograph
Looking for a home - HBT124732-04

Barley growing in Poukawa photograph
Barley growing in Poukawa - HBT124740-16

Monday, 24 December 2012

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A cuddle and a kiss

They say there are five main love languages - touch, words of encouragement, gifts and quality time. The crazy thing is, when I come to talk about them, I always forget at least one of the five. Oh yeah, this time it's acts of service (thank God for Google).   J

What I've also learned is that the language in which you express your love is very often the way you most easily receive it. So if you're an encouraging person, the chances are you need to be encouraged, and words of criticism cut pretty deep. Or if you love to give gifts, you could be disappointed to find hankies in the Christmas stocking.

Maybe that helps to explain some of the conflicts we see in relationships - we're just different - even though it seems at times we're hard-wired to expect sameness, that others should be like us. "I just don't understand him/her..."

So while I don't always enjoy personality tests, and I HATE (bold, italic AND underlined) being stuck in a box of someone else's making, it's also kinda fun to watch those around me to see if I can figure which of the five is their strongest.

Not just as an intellectual exercise, but so I can best love them, in a way that's easy for them to receive. Because I love them.

I've always appreciated my kids' desire to give me something special for my birthday or Father's Day, their mother has brought them up well! The good news is, that even for such a complicated guy, all I want for Christmas is pretty simple.

PS: And a very Merry Christmas to you and yours, may it be full of blessing and joy J

Thursday, 20 December 2012

My World

My World - Powerline insulators in Hastings photograph
Powerline insulator in Hastings - a study in lines
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Monday, 17 December 2012

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Seven days to go

Okay, I admit it. I've had an idea for months now that I'd write a piece dated 22 December, 2012, along the lines of, "I told you so!" - and I planned to announce today that "I've already written next week's post."

It was to be a  light-hearted piece about the Mayan calendar on which more than a few prophets of doom have announced the world's end on the 21st. Personally, I don't give them that much credence, and I intended my post to reflect that thought.

The problem is, when I came to put fingers to keyboard, I realised that to be brutally honest, I don't know whether I'll draw another breath, and I can't say with a surety that I'll be around next week to even read the post.

And no, I'm not being macabre, and no, I have no intention of hastening my end, but I am being pragmatic. None of us can really guarantee we'll see another sunrise. Proverbs says we shouldn't boast about tomorrow, for who knows what might happen today.

The bible is full of prophecies, the veracity of which have been proven over hundreds of years. Looking back, it's remarkable how so many authors, separated by culture, nationality and centuries of time could give hints of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, with amazing accuracy.

And based on the same writings, most scholars agree that He will return, and there'll be some form of transition from the world we currently experience to a world that will look quite different. Where they differ is in interpreting the 'how' and the 'when' it's going to happen. We did after all survive Y2K.

One of the difficulties is that prophecy is written in picture language and is therefore not precise. Fortunately that doesn't confuse me as much as it used to. Jesus himself said we wouldn't know the hour or the day, but we could know the season. (And anyway, given how much they've added and deleted days from our own Gregorian calendar, I say good luck in trying to line up exact dates...)

So I needn't worry about the detail. If Christ's return - and the end of the age - is anything like his first appearance, I would expect it to look different to what I expect. It just adds to the intrigue...

And honestly, I plan to be around for some time to come. Although by the very act of living, my life is getting shorter, I have eternal hope. Personal prophecy suggests I have yet to fulfil all the plans that God has for me. And it's also true that peoples' actions can change the future - it's predestined not predetermined.

In the meantime, I can't afford to be so forward-focused that I forget to enjoy the present. But neither can I afford to bury my head in the sand hoping the future won't arrive, because it will. Proverbs also says "A prudent man foresees the evil and hides himself; The simple pass on and are punished."

Practically it looks like this: In the words of a good friend, I need to plan as though I'll be around forever - and I need to live to be ready to go at any time.

And to borrow the words of a song, I don't know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future. And at the end of the day, any day, my confidence is in Him   J

Thursday, 13 December 2012

My World

Onions growing in Pakowhai Rd, Hastings photograph
Onions growing in Pakowhai Rd, Hastings
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Monday, 10 December 2012

Quips & Quotes

Dr James Dobson's 7th grade teacher: Don't marry the girl you think you can live with. Marry the girl you think you can't live without.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

In a Crisis?

And so we come to the end of another year, or so it might seem. I guess I'm lucky I'm one of those guys who thinks about Christmas on the 24th - right after I've knocked off for the day. Some would call it crisis management, but I call it live one day at a time - and I also have an incredible wife J

And yes, I really do plan ahead - a little - and as a details, pedantic kind of guy I do set goals, but in considering the near and distant future, I also plan to enjoy the present.

So watch out, any moment now, folks will be asking what you plan to do next year, what are your New Year's resolutions, what are your goals? And people who know better will remind you that your goals need to be smart - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. All good sense, and I don't disagree.

But what if you're like some of the people I've been talking to this week who feel like they're not getting anywhere, and for every step forward they've taken two steps back? What do you say to those who are discouraged and are afraid to set new goals because they've failed so badly already?

There are some who would remind us that Edison "failed" a thousand times before he invented the light bulb, but Wikipedia raises some doubts on that, and besides, who wants to look forward to 999 failures. I'm having enough difficulties with just my few...

So here are some thoughts:

One, it's not so important whether you achieve all you set out to do, it matters that you set out at all. So what if you fall over, that's how you learnt to walk. And if need be you can start by crawling, I promise not to laugh at you.

And two, you can only go backwards if you turn and walk away. So what if you're doing the old one step forwards, two steps back, you're still on the road, you're still on the journey and your future is still ahead of you. Who knows what might be just around the corner? Who knows when a fellow-traveller might help you out in some unexpected fashion?

And so what if other people don't help, or don't understand, or worse, remind you of every reason why you shouldn't even try.  It's your life, and it's your dream. There is only one person who can live it, and there's only one person who can achieve it - and that's you. And I believe in you. Kia Kaha.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

My World

Deer farm in Flaxmere, Hastings photograph
Deer farm in Flaxmere, Hastings
 A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay
dbp website

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Monday, 3 December 2012

Quips & Quotes

Anonymous: If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done.

Saturday, 1 December 2012


I mentioned last week I've been following the fiasco of the Labour Party conference with its apparent in-fighting and jostling for position.

I watched with fascination as the wolves turned on each other! Considered opinion became swamped in accusation and counter-accusation, knee-jerk reactions, biased viewpoints, pot-shots from loose cannons and folks ducking for cover. And no, I'm not talking about the politicians, it was the media - newspaper columnists vs. bloggers, the official vs. the unofficial, the paid vs. the voluntary, and particularly on the blogs, the commentators vs. the commenters.

Fiction became facts and facts became fiction as anyone with an axe to grind found an easy forum in which to express it. It amazes me that in this incredible Information Age in which we live, that people can be so ignorant. And they say you can't believe everything you read in newspapers!

Sadly however, I do have to admit that there is some truth in that... I once worked with a reporter who would listen to their subject, paraphrase their comments in the reporter's own words, and then publish them as direct quotes - gross!

Then there was the journo who deliberately took the concept of journalistic licence so far beyond the extreme, that I read their subsequent reports with a good spoonful of salt.

And yes, I've met rookies who have closed minds, who wouldn't consider the other side of a question. And I've worked with old-school reporters who have become so cynical they've forgotten how to appreciate that some people actually do have genuine motives.

But I also know a contributor who writes his regular column, sleeps on it, re-reads it, gets his wife to check it, submits it, and even then, to his chagrin, will occasionally find a mistake when he opens the paper. And for all the daily writers, it's not their fault that in these days of lower staffing there are less checks in the process before a story hits the press.

So yes, it's true, the media - modern and traditional - is an imperfect beast, and we shouldn't  be surprised to find that journalists are just people. Some have an agenda, and all of them have an attitude, just as we do. But given the human-ness of the humanity they report, I dare you the reader to check your facts before you apportion blame.

I once spoke to a woman who spat the dummy about her local council's inaction in fixing her road. When I repeated back what she said, she pulled half the comments, and toned down the rest. What would she have said if I'd published without checking? Who would she have blamed? Whose fault would it have been? Moral of the story? Never say anything to a reporter that you don't want published.

I recently wrote a simple caption based on information given to me by the absolute head-honcho of the organisation in question. It turned out the information was wrong, and we published a correction. So yes, the dreaded media can get it wrong, but it's not always their fault. As in all relationships, what really counts is whether or not you have the intestinal fortitude to admit it, apologise and where possible, put it right.

And when deciding whether or not an article is believable, I invite you to consider whether you're reading a report or an opinion piece, though I admit that that is becoming more difficult. In an attempt to become more contemporary, many journos are encouraged to put themselves into the story rather than simply relaying the facts and letting the reader decide. As evidence, one need to look no further than the news anchors (professional actors) who are paid massive amounts of money just to read the autocue for our 6pm news bulletins. Journalists? Pfft!

Though when it comes to opinion, it seems to me that the biggest complaints about "facts" come from those who simply have an opposing opinion. It's easier to attack the writer than the view which is being expressed. And whether we the reader consider them to be objective or objectionable has a lot to do with our own (biased) viewpoint.

A friend of mine once rebutted my argument by saying, "That's just your opinion." My response was quite simple: "Yes, but if I agreed with you, that would also be 'Just my opinion'..."

Thursday, 29 November 2012

My World

Newly-planted crop contours and patterns in Te Aute photograph
Crop Contours in Te Aute
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

In a Word

Mike Connell: How you relate to people is the measuring stick of how you are with God.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Quips & Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson: For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Breaking up?

And so it begins....

The retailers have been playing Christmas music since before Labour weekend, my junk mail has doubled in anticipation of the annual spend-up and I've just spent half a day collating all the various letters and emails re events coming up in the next four weeks.

Like it or not, there are now just 29 sleeps till Christmas - and it seems to me that the break-ups are getting earlier and earlier every year, so as to help people fit them all in.

Not too much of a problem for us, as we've always planned not to make plans in the last term of the year, knowing full well that everyone else will make them for us - the school, the kindy, the work, the church groups, the sports club, the extended family etc etc.

Not that I mind though, the groups we belong to bring a richness we would never have enjoyed had we been the stay-at-home types - and as much as I love my computer, it's not near as much fun as getting together with friends.

But life is getting a bit crazy - Regular readers would have noticed I missed writing my blog post last week partly, I confess, because I've been distracted by the fiasco of the Labour Party conference etc, but also due to my putting in long hours at work and the start of the Christmas rush. I'm gonna have to take the advice of a friend, that when it seems like I've got too many balls in the air, I should just put one in my pocket.

The pressure's on - to spend money. Retail apparently is going through a hard time, and while it's noted that "people are worried about the future and their job security," and "on the one hand debt reduction is a good thing", shoppers have been encouraged to "splash their cash".

I say spend what you've budgeted for - and if you haven't, then don't.

The pressure's on - to make everything just so. But so what? I'm all for making the place look nice, but does it really matter if the trees are untrimmed and the windows are still unwashed when the rellies come to visit?

And sure it helps to have a deadline, but is it worth the stress? So what if the gift arrives in January. Isn't it the thought that counts?

And no, I don't want to take away the joy you find in giving and sharing. But isn't there a balance in giving gifts vs. giving of yourself? I suspect the value others put on you is much higher than you might think.

So here's a thought: If you want to avoid a break-up, don't go to the break-up. And if you want to avoid a melt-down, take some time out to smell the roses. Take a walk in Frimley Park.

And if you haven't made the time throughout the year to put away some emotional capital, don't try and spend it all at once - you can always plan to do it differently next year, can't you...?

Decide what's important to you and don't let anyone tell you different. Since when was Christmas supposed to be a celebration on a treadmill?

And by all means, have a very merry Christmas if that's your style, but my personal wish for you is very simple: in the words of the old Christmas carol, that you also might know Peace on earth.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

My World

A leucistic blackbird photograph
A leucistic blackbird, seen in Hastings
Call me a bird-nut, but I think he's gorgeous!
[ Wikipedia: Unlike albinism, leucism is caused by a reduction in all
types of skin pigment, not just melanin. ]
 A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Monday, 19 November 2012

Quips & Quotes

Anonymous: Discretion is putting two and two together, and keeping your mouth shut.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

My World

Hills or holes? an optical illusion photograph
An optical illusion - Hills or holes? Natural or man-made?
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke’s Bay

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

In a Word

Sajan Easow: In the Kingdom of God, surrender leads to freedom, liberty and power.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Quips & Quotes

L.W. Lynett: The most effective way to cope with change is to help create it.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Did so! Did not!

They say it's the woman who always gets the last word in an argument, because anything a man says after that is the start of a new argument.... Hmm, I'm not sure that I agree, anyone dare to have an opinion on that?

I guess I've always enjoyed a good argument. Not the "Yes, I did"..."No, you didn't" variety, though I'm sure I engaged in many such exchanges as a child...

As a high school student I wasn't very good at sports and was never that involved in inter-house or inter-school competitions - until I discovered debating. It was awesome, legalised arguments! The school library had a huge dictionary, literally 30cm (12-inch) thick, from which I could glean the most obscure definitions, creating arguments that came right out of left-wing.

And it was no problem debating topics or arguing a case when I privately had no opinion at all, or even agreed with the opposition. That was half the fun. Rugby emasculates. And I hope you can forgive my expressing just a little pride in my teams who won 30 of their 33 debates. The good part was, that as first speaker, I always got to speak twice.

I enjoy talking and I enjoy a mature discussion, the mutual expression of ideas, the consideration of questions which probe the exterior to discover the truth, to learn why people think the way they do, to understand why they believe what they believe. What do they really care about? What's important, to them?

They say one should never discuss religion or politics in a social setting. Too bad, I'm gonna break that rule. Religion and politics fascinate me. Maybe that's why I enjoy reading blogs and political commentary, though it does get a bit sad when the bloggers/commentators take on each other rather than the point in question.

I know I approach a lot of things as an idealist, and that's okay, you have to have something to attain to. And I can handle the reality that not everything is black and white. But we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking everything is grey and tolerance is king. I've coined a new word on that one - mediaocre - when the fourth estate tries to have a bob each way, and in trying to please everybody ends up pleasing nobody. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe.

In contrast, my Dad tells me I was always sure of what I was sure of. Maybe that's why I'm a fan of the letters from the Apostle Paul. He presents a point, throws in a few ifs and buts, and rebuts a couple of possible counter-arguments - but the reader is never left in any doubt as to the point he's trying to make.

There are of course risks in having a strongly-held opinion. I have a friend who plays a superb devil's advocate, but the difficulty is, they often end up believing their own rhetoric. And here's a thought: It's all very well winning an argument, but is it worth it if you lose the relationship?

I've discovered in my household I have to be a good sounding board. After all, a woman has to get through about 17,000 words a day compared to my manly 2,000. Um, wrong again. In checking my facts for this post, I discovered there are those who disagree with that concept, and they've got the research to prove their case. There went another belief...

So perhaps on this occasion the last word should go to my friend, Ian Clayton who says "People only argue when one person is not listening."

I wonder if it was his wife who said it first....

Thursday, 8 November 2012

My World

A tui in a kowhai tree, two New Zealand natives photograph
A tui in a kowhai tree, two New Zealand natives
(photographed from my favourite couch by my favourite window...)
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Monday, 5 November 2012

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Values and valuables

A long time ago, when I was just a boy, I remember reading a book called The Diddakoi, about a young gypsy girl who lived amongst a society that generally distrusted and reviled her fellow-gypsies as rough-living, dirty and dishonest, and to be avoided at all costs. And no doubt some of them were dishonest and thieving crooks to boot.

But from the whole book, there is just one passage that I remember. It was a conversation between two non-gypsies discussing their differences. To paraphrase (from memory):
"Sure, you might think they are dirty, but they would say the same about you."
          "And how might that be," she replied haughtily.
"Well then, they'd think you were dirty cos you use the same bucket for washing clothes as you do for preparing veges. They would never do that, they have different buckets for each task."  
It's a question of culture.

I'm reminded of the true story of the Victorian women who begged to have their babies on the street rather than give birth in the hospitals under the care of surgeons proudly wearing aprons stained with the blood of their previous patients.

It's a question of knowledge.

I was taking photos during a powhiri once when one of the speakers said something in Maori, and they all looked at me and laughed. I felt stink. In contrast, I love visiting Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere, Hastings, where both Maori and English are allowed during the welcome and people of all races are made to feel at home.

It's a question of respect.

Language has always fascinated me, and the exceptions intrigue me. For instance, why isn't the 'au' in Paraparaumu pronounced 'oh' as in Taupo? I asked a woman that once, and thinking I was criticising her language, she got really offended and stormed out of the interview (much to the dismay of the reporter I was working with.)

Not to be put off, some time later I asked the question again and had it explained to me that the original translators had made a mistake. The city just north of Wellington should be called Parapara Umu - two words - i.e. the 'au' should not be read as one sound. Curiosity satisfied, and I just learnt a bit more about the history of my country. Win-win.

It's a question of tolerance of ignorance and security in ones own identity.

I've got to confess, I don't understand Halloween. Just what is the point of dressing up as characters from The Dark Side and playing Trick or Treat i.e. "Give me something I want or you'll regret it." The cynic in me would say it's just another retailer ruse to sell more stuff at a traditionally quiet time of the retail year.

And yes I know it's just a game, and sure the kids have fun, but do we really want to reinforce the notion that it's okay to beg for stuff without doing anything for it? Maybe my American friends can help me out...

It's a question of understanding.

Just five days later, New Zealand celebrates Guy Fawke's Day, as we have ever since I was a child, with fireworks, bonfires and guy competitions. It's a celebration of the 407 years since a plot to overthrow the King was thwarted. It's rather sad that such a colourful part of our British Heritage is slowly dying because of the minority who light fires irresponsibly and terrorise pets.

It's a question of historical significance.

And then we have the public holidays of Christmas and Easter. I remember being less-than-happy about having to work on a Good Friday, and one of my colleagues wondering what the issue was (after all, I got a day off later in the week didn't I?) until I explained a holiday was originally known as a HolyDay. He hadn't thought of it like that before...

It's a question of the truth behind the tradition.

Just recently a group of my friends were at a pot-luck lunch where, as per our normal custom, the women filled their plates first. The Indian women however would not go to the table until their menfolk had served themselves.

Similarly, some folks think it bad manners to look you in the eye, while others would consider it a bit dodgy were you to look away.

It's a question of custom and etiquette.

I consider myself truly blessed that I have a whole range of nationalities amongst my friends: English, Indian, Australian, Singaporean, Maori, South African, Cook Island, American, Zimbabwean, Canadian, Chinese, Kiwi and probably a good few more.

Invariably, our differences come down to our culture, our history and our beliefs. But we do have a few things in common: We are each unique, we are each extremely valuable and though we can't really know what's going on in each other's mind, and we don't always understand the way they react to various situations, we do at least try.

It's a question of values.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

My World

Poukawa poplars in late afternoon light photograph
Poukawa Poplars in late-afternoon light
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Monday, 29 October 2012

Quips & Quotes

Forest E. Witcraft: A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but (it will matter that) the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Go on, I dare you...

What is it about this crazy, introverted, risk-averse society in which we live, that we've been sucked into the philosophy of protecting ourselves against any risk that "might" happen?

Where has the courage gone? Why are we so afraid? What's happened to all the fun? What are we turning into?

Our nation was founded on the actions of risk-takers, men and women who wouldn't say die. They made decisions, they ignored the doomsayers and they succeeded against all odds. And we're all so proud of Sir Edmund Hillary for conquering Mt Everest, unlike so many who'd previously died in the attempt.

The world would be a sadder place if we didn't have our heroes - those who accomplish, and those who put themselves into danger to save another person's life - and yet we discourage our kids from getting hurt... in the playground... Um, where else can kids learn bravery?

In their heart of hearts, people were designed for risk and thrill - why else would they frequent the theme parks and roller coasters and the high ropes in Taupo? How else can you explain a 47 year-old going down a flying fox upside down? (Oh yeah, there were girls present...)

And sure, OSH has its place, and work-places should be safe, but do we really need a company notice to use the hand-rail on the stairs? I know, they put it up because someone slipped and got hurt. But shouldn't they be just as concerned that, in reading the notice, we might become distracted and miss our footing? Maybe they should put up another company notice:
Where's the case for personal responsibility? And in a wider sense, while we're so busy protecting ourselves from "potential" risk, aren't we also missing opportunities and "potential" benefits?

There will always be decisions to make, forks in the road. There will always be consequences. My advice to my kids as they chose their study options for university was pretty simple:
  • study something you're going to love doing; and
  • will make you money; and
  • will facilitate your having kids; and
  • you can use to advance a cause greater than your own
And yes, as a youth I also struggled with the concept of knowing the perfect or permissible Will of God, but hasn't He always given us a choice? (And that's a good thing because I'm far too strong-minded to be a robot...)

So here's a thought: Faith is a belief in a certain outcome, but so is fear. It's up to me which one I choose to meditate on, which road I choose to go down. And though I can't control the future, I can influence it...

And when I get a few years down the road and circumstances turn to custard, it's my choice whether or not I compare this road's custard to what "might" have happened had I chosen the other road. Frankly, I can't afford to live with blame and regret.

We must take risks! I have...

No, I'm not talking about the time I was out on my motorbike looking for a bump to jump, and came across a railway crossing, didn't really see the Stop sign, and landed on the main road out of town, with cars coming at me from both sides...

And nor am I promoting the type of risk when I leapt into the Manawatu River from just below the height of the road. (Given the pain it caused in some parts of my anatomy, I'm pleased to say I survived to father four kids.) It's interesting to note my older brother didn't try to stop me. Maybe he just figgered it was something I had to do...

There was a time when I gave up a job and worked as a volunteer for a year to help support and restore a church who were going through difficulties. I was young and exciting, and in theory it cost me a great deal. But the long-term benefits were endless.

In contrast, I later quit a job to pursue a get-rich-quick "opportunity" and I wasn't smart enough to ask for advice. Little surprise that after three months I had no job and little money. It was of course, very good for my prayer life.

On both occasions I held tight to this one line out of one of David's songs:
"The steps of a good man are directed by the Lord, and He takes great pleasure in watching over him... and no matter how far he might fall, the Lord will never knock him over and keep him down. No Sir, He'll hold him up, he'll help him up and he'll get him going again..."
In my experience, although it took time, that's exactly what happened!

Need another example? My wife and I both took a risk when we got married, though admittedly that was a "managed" risk, as we both agreed from the start that the d-word would never be in our vocabulary. Mate, was any risk ever so worth it!

So when making decisions and considering risk, of course we have to ask ourselves, "What will it cost me if I do?" But here's the bigger question: "What might it cost me if I don't?"

Thursday, 25 October 2012

My World

Celtic Cross, St Paul's Presbyterian Church, Dalton St, Napier - Photograph
Celtic Cross, St Paul's Presbyterian Church, Dalton St, Napier
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Monday, 22 October 2012

Quips & Quotes

Anonymous: The only person to have everything done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Stress and pressure

          when there's so much to do in so little time

         when there's too much to do in too little time, and the same results are expected.

         when you're already running at a constant 110% and you're asked to pull out all stops
         when you got sucked in to saying "Yes" - again

         when someone else makes a mistake
         when someone else makes a mistake and denies it or won't fix it or pay for it
         when someone else doesn't care

         when you know you should have, but you didn't, and now you can't

         when the rule-maker breaks the rules
         when they take you for granted
         when you're given two conflicting sets of instructions and expected to adhere to them both
         when you're not given the tools to do the job

         when you're expected to read their mind
                              (and think about this: common knowledge is common only to those
                                      who have it - can we really expect it of another?)

        when you get past all the opposition and are about to score - and they move the goal-posts

Stress is when any of the above is done to me by some other human, whether they're work-mates, play-mates, family-members or my better half. But how often are we guilty of adding stress to any of those, and especially in how much we expect from our kids?

So here's a thought: it's pressure that creates diamonds, and without stress you'd never hear the beat of a drum or the sounds of a symphony - and maybe the stress we feel is really just our own ineffective way of responding to stuff...

I discovered a long time ago I'm never going to achieve everything on my To Do list, and I also decided I'm not going to worry about it. I'm sorry if that's caused you any stress...

Thursday, 18 October 2012

My World

Te Mata Peak, Tukituki Valley and a bit of barbed-wire fence photograph
Te Mata Peak, Tukituki Valley and a bit of barbed-wire fence
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke’s Bay

Monday, 15 October 2012

Quips & Quotes

Uncle Ta Tangiiti: Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, FAITH looks up.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Money is good

It's no surprise the Bible has much to say about money, wealth and riches, and the pursuit of all the above. Whether you're a CEO with a salary of millions, or you're on a benefit or you put in 40+ hours for a weekly wage, the chances are that you think you need more.

And just to clarify, it's not money that's the root of all evil - it's the love of the stuff that creates problems. Money in itself is a good thing. I can trade or invest my time and skills, and in return, I can bring home the bacon and the chocolate. The Bible also talks about blessing and rewards, both spiritual and material.

Having money means I can buy stuff, or I can give it away. The issue is not whether I have it, but what my attitude is towards it. And there are some very clear biblical principles of giving:
  • into the House of God, the church, supporting the work of the Ministry; and
  • attending to the needs of widows and orphans (or today's equivalents, solo Mums and Dads, and kids from broken families.
I have a lot of respect for my friends who operate a food bank, and the volunteers who help them. I see a genuine concern, and they're putting their money where their mouth is. Anon says, "You make a living from what you get; You make a life from what you give."

But I don't understand the folks who shouted through megaphones outside the Hastings Child, Youth and Family on a National Day of Action against Welfare Reform. What did they hope to achieve by harassing the staff whose job it is to simply administer the policy. Wouldn't it make more sense to lobby or appeal to the decision-makers or the local government MP? 

Maybe their action was born out of frustration...

Maybe there's a deeper question.

I was shocked when I listened to a Budget debate and there was much talk from one side of the House about "income redistribution" and the Government's "responsibility" to ensure all incomes were spread across the population. Surely that's a far cry from the original purpose of the Welfare State, which was to provide a hand-up, not a hand-out.

We'd all agree it's the government's role to provide security, to uphold law and justice, and to pool resources to tackle the big projects like roads and electricity. But is it really their job to provide charity on my behalf? Compassion by Compulsion, there's an oxymoron...

And obviously I'm not against charity, I play my part, and I encourage you to play yours. But there's something out of balance with a society when those who are less-fortunate (even through no fault of their own) receive so much more than those who are being taxed to supply it. As my friend Mark Rowe says, "If there's something that costs you nothing, it's usually because someone else paid for it."

The question for you and me is, how will we personally respond to the needs we see around us? Do we tend to look with envy at those who have more, or do we consider with compassion those who have less? And what can we offer of our own time, talents and possessions to help out others?

I'm not suggesting it's our responsibility to solve all the problems. Even Jesus and his disciples waited until they heard the Holy Spirit say to get involved. It's really just a question of the heart.

I recently heard Inga the Winger talking about his childhood years as a new immigrant to New Zealand, and some of the hardships his mother had to overcome in raising her rather large family. He said:
"Just because we are poor, and we have nothing, you don't have to allow poverty to live in you."
It follows that for those of us who are better off, we need to consider whether it's poverty or compassion we'll allow to live inside us...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

My World

Polka dot pine plantings on the way to Wairoa from Hastings
The first of a new weekly series of photographs of various aspects of Hawke's Bay,
the way I see it. J

Monday, 8 October 2012

Quips & Quotes

Robert Orben: To err is human and to blame it on a computer is even more so.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

I'm still learning

They say the only constant is change, and there's none so obvious as for those working in the modern media. However, old dogs can learn new tricks, and a few years ago our local paper introduced a Texts to the Editor column.

It's not a place for informed debate or 200-word letters, it's a forum where people can sound off in a clever or not-so-clever one-liner. They really do make interesting reading, and I've learned some stuff.

For example, hardly a week goes by without someone texting about their bike being stolen, or their pet being run over, and the texter ends with something along the lines of "You are disgusting. Karma will get you," or "Shame on you! Karma will get you!"

And from a short search on Google and Wikipedia, I can see there's more to the principle than that, but the common perception seems to be that:
    • Someone does something bad to me; so
    • I hope bad stuff happens to them...
In other words, you are gonna get yours! You'll pay! I don't know who you are, but Karma's gonna get my revenge, it's gonna nail you on my behalf. "Karma's gonna get you!"

I can see at least two difficulties with that line of thinking:
1. If the bad guy always gets what he deserves, then it must follow that you also deserved what they just did to you. That's right, you deserved to have your cat run over. You really think so? And the kid who's got cancer, they deserved it too, right?
I can see how this argument might apply if you believe in reincarnation, but I don't. Hebrews tells us that Man has just one appointment with death, and then there's a judgement. There is therefore only one person who has to face the consequences for your decisions - You. The kid who gets cancer did NOT deserve it from a former life.
and 2. If the bad guy deserves a bad future for doing bad stuff to you, then you also deserve a bad future for wishing a bad future on them. [ Go on, read it twice, I did J ] So, in wishing them harm, you're bringing harm on yourself. Doesn't seem such a great idea, does it?
And yes, I realise the texts are written out of a sense of hurt and injustice, and at times helplessness, but is revenge really the answer? How does it help us to wish a negative on the bad guy? Is that the sort of justice we expect for ourselves when we hurt or offend someone else? even if it's accidental?

It's interesting to note that, in talking about our response to offences and enemies and bad stuff, Jesus said that his Father "makes His sun rise on the evil AND on the good, and sends rain on the just AND on the unjust." It's a tough model to follow, who said Christians were wimps?

The good news is that God is good, and each of us can avoid the punishment we so richly deserve. The proviso is that we need to forgive those who have hurt us and deserve to be punished. Some folks call it grace.

I know, we've all struggled at times with the reality that bad stuff happens to good people, and it seems unfair when good things happen to bad people. But given the fact that both you and I are just a little bit bad, isn't that a good thing?

Monday, 1 October 2012

Quips & Quotes

John Maxwell: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Friday, 28 September 2012

He Tangata

It takes all types of people to make a world, and I'm lucky enough in my work to meet many of them - the rich and the famous, the truck-driver and the elderly, the volunteer and the employed, the child and the childless, the sportsman and the politician....

We see them in the mags or on the news or walking down the street, and we form an opinion of them based on the opinions of others or on our own (very limited) knowledge. Yet when I meet them in person I get a totally different idea of who they really are.

I spoke to a senior MP about the lack of progress on the Rena shipwreck, and he happily told me what should have been done. When I suggested he was just talking politics, boy, did he get mad and all of a sudden I saw the real person. I heard his heart....

I've met rich and famous sportsmen who I wouldn't mind going out with my daughter and I've met rich and famous sportsmen who are arrogant and rude.

The same goes for teachers and employers - their position doesn't in any way guarantee their character. I want to respect you, in fact I'll give you respect because of your role, but there are times when I wouldn't respect either your decisions or your behaviour.

I hear what they say, but I want to know what they really think - I'm looking to see if their actions in any way match their rhetoric. It's not about who you are, or the cut of your suit, or your fancy title or how well you can chase a ball. It's about what you're like under pressure and what you get up to when you think you're not being watched.

I want to know if they keep their word. (David says there's a reward for those who "swear to their own hurt" and don't change their mind.) I don't really care if you're left-wing or right-wing, I just want to know whether you genuinely care about people or your biggest ambition is to line your own pockets.

I had a lot of respect for Jeremy Dwyer, a former mayor of Hastings who often quoted the Maori proverb:
"He aha te mea nui? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!
What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people!"
11 years later, and I still can't disagree. It takes all types, whatever their background, whatever their function. There's a place for you and despite our differences of opinion, there's a place for me. After all, if it wasn't for all the "interesting" types, the world would be a boring place, wouldn't it?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Quips & Quotes

Alec Issigonis: A camel is a horse designed by a committee.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The court will rise

"I don't get the paper anymore," she said, "there's too much bad news." And while I think she's just reading the wrong stories, I do understand where she's coming from. Open up any newspaper or blog and it seems there's yet another BAD guy doing BAD things to innocent people. Or there's a blow-by-blow account of the ensuing court case followed by public outrage at the leniency of the sentence.

"The judge got it wrong," we say. We expect better! Personally, I think I'd go nuts if I had to sit through that stuff day after day after day. From just a few visits as a press photographer, and the few juries I've sat on, I've got a lot of respect for our court reporters, court staff, juries and judges.

Let's face it, it must be a difficult job to administer the law, especially when Joe Public thinks it should reflect their opinion of the moment. We expect the letter of the law to be followed unless of course it's an occasion where we think the spirit of the law should prevail. It all depends on our own viewpoint, so what if we've only read the headlines and didn't actually attend the trial. Can't the judge ever get it right? The law should be changed!

We expect our justice system to be fair and reasoned and impartial. Laws should be well-written and easy to administer, with no loop-holes, without favour. We expect the punishment to fit the crime. We won't tolerate exceptions. But be honest, how many times do we just want revenge? "Do the crime, do the time," we say.

Until we find ourselves, or our family or friends, in the dock....

Not between two cops in front of a judge perhaps, but when we've made a mistake or we've been found out after intentionally and secretly breaking the rules. Do we really expect justice? Or do we plead for mercy.... given the extenuating circumstances... in the light of our normally good character... I didn't understand... I was provoked... no-one told me... it's been a hard day...

The difference of course is how close we are to the accused, and what we know of their background and past record. And what we think their motive was.

And there's the crunch. No-one can really know what's going on inside another person's head, yet that's what we expect from the court. It's not their job to make Joe Public happy. It's to form the right conclusion. To make the right decision. To hand down the right punishment.

And to set the innocent people free!

Quite frankly, I wouldn't be that keen to have you as my judge, any more than I'd want the responsibility of judging you and your motives. Only God really knows your heart. And the good news is, not only is he a judge but he's also the defence attorney.

I can't really say it any better than David who wrote the following  Psalm
"Bless the Lord, O my soul.... and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 
"The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.... The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. 
"For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.... But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him... Bless the Lord, O my soul!"

(My emphasis added and abbreviated, read the full version here)
In short, I know who I'd want beside me the next time I find myself before the court. The challenge for me on a day-to-day basis is whether I'm prepared to extend the same grace to my fellow-man.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Quips & Quotes

Bruce Arnold: People are the most important asset on earth - they're not easily replaced.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Poppies, prayer and politicians

What is it in the human condition that drives us to criticise, even revile, anyone who holds a different opinion from our own?

Why is it we feel so self-righteous in condemning "evil" people, yet neglect to consider our own fallen nature? We score ourselves on our intentions yet we judge others on their results... and what's worse, we presume to know their heart and condemn them on their (apparent) motivation...

And if I disagree with you, how does that make me a hater and a bigot? If the same logic is applied, you must be a hater and a bigot because you disagree with me... Why should I keep my opinions to myself?

It's a well-known "fact" that Kiwis suffer from tall-poppy syndrome, but isn't that just a simplistic disguise for what is really the tip of an ugly iceberg of criticism, discrimination and hatred? And anarchy?

How is it that the man on the street can hate the politicians they've never met, and pull them down at every opportunity, yet expect them to front up and take responsibility for their (larger) share of the blame for all of society's ills?

And since when was it okay for media to photograph our political leaders, and publish only their goofy mid-speech expressions, holding them up to ridicule? Would we find it just as funny if a wedding photographer had done the same? Why are the rules different? Like them or not, MPs are the leaders of our country and deserve better.
What do bloggers hope to achieve in publishing a picture of a dog urinating on a street-level billboard featuring a Photoshopped John Key? How would you feel if they did it to a loved one? Where do we draw the line? Imagine the outcry if Mr Key had done the same thing to one of his constituents! Maybe there's a reason he bears the honorific, The Right Honourable. 

And no, I'm not going to link to the offending items because I find them offensive!

Paul says we should pray for and give thanks for "all men, for kings and all who are in authority" so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life. If we don't follow his instruction, one could assume the opposite might occur... And I note he's not only talking about all men, but specifically employers and managers, the Police and judges, teachers and parents - and also politicians...

Mr Speaker prays a similar prayer when he opens Parliament each day:
"Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Your guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech You to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Your holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace and tranquility of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."
Imagine what New Zealand might look like if, despite our at-times childish and point-scoring behaviour, God took us and our MPs at their word and answered in the affirmative...

Monday, 10 September 2012

Quips & Quotes

Anonymous: We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Voices in my head

I always laugh at movie characters like Kronk in Disney's "The Emperor's New Groove" where he's got an angel sitting on one shoulder and then Poof! there's a devil on the other - and somehow he's got to make the right decision or the fate of the whole movie is at stake!

It's not a new theme. Since time immemorial, people have been faced with a choice between good or evil, positive or negative, selfishness or selflessness... Maybe that's what makes the story of the three voices in the Garden of Eden so fascinating (... the serpent, the woman and God.) We've probably all grappled with the Choice of Voice i.e. which voice should we listen to...

There are other voices of course.

I can still hear my own voice from when I made my wedding vows nearly 26 years ago. Due to the wonders of not-so-modern technology, I played the cassette tape through a few times, and it's deeply embedded in my mind.

I can still hear the TV jingle, "Boy Oh Boy, a Lincoln Toy," though I really can't remember what they were advertising. Childhood was more than a few years ago, you understand...

I can hear the voices of colleagues and bosses, and family and in-laws, and teachers and friends. When you send me a text, or comment on Facebook, I can hear you as plain as day, though I have to admit I may not always hear your tone of voice correctly...

Sometimes I can still hear the words spoken years ago which were extremely critical or nasty, though the intensity has dulled with time, and with forgiveness... I remember a course facilitator once said we should "Let bygones be bygones," but it doesn't really have the same power... Only forgiveness can silence the offences.

Then there have been the times when I'm in a spot of bother, and I've heard a word or a phrase. It sounds like it's from the Bible, but I couldn't tell you the context, what book it's in or even who said it. Sometimes it's just a scripture reference - but in each case, I've recognised the Voice.

On one occasion, I was in contract negotiations with an employer (not my current employer), and the phrase, "Having done all, to stand," came into my mind. It was back in the days before the Internet, so I had to go to my Strong's Concordance to even find it. Surprise, surprise, the verse came just after a passage about employer-employee relationships.

And no, I'm not suggesting my employer was the devil, or that he represented any of the other characters in the passage. What I am saying is that I heard God say that I should stand my ground. So I did, and not only did my employer change the clause in my contract but also in all my colleagues'! I won my case and I won his respect.

However, let me add this wee proviso: Just because God speaks one thing one day, it doesn't mean you can make a rule of it - after all, different paints need different thinners...

On a later occasion, I was praying and reading the Bible, and it was as if  He drew through some of the words with a highlighter. I was having an issue with a manager (not my current manager), and I read Ecclesiastes 10:4 "If the spirit of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post; For conciliation pacifies great offences."

The message was pretty clear: Don't quit when the boss is getting in your face, for giving him his respect due will cause you to find favour. Or, as I noted in the margin, giving due respect is like pouring oil on the troubled waters of past grievances or errors.

So I obeyed my manager's instruction, much to my own discomfort. After a couple of weeks, I then presented him with a record of the outcomes of his instruction, respectfully suggested a change, and he agreed. I won my case and I won his respect.

Over the years, I've heard the Voice of encouragement, direction, and at times, even correction. The words I love to hear the most are, "I love you... "I'm proud of you... "I forgive you... and "I accept you..."

Despite all the circumstances, those are the words that keep bringing me back.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Kiniffees and gunommees

It's Father's Day on Sunday, and I would encourage you to honour your Dad - but maybe not in the way you would have expected...

Let me explain where I'm coming from.

I've lost count of how many times I've heard the story about some guy who's on his deathbed, and pronounces his regret that if only he hadn't spent so much time at work, and had instead done far more worthwhile things, like (insert here whatever cause it is the speaker wants you to support).

It's not inspiring, it's a guilt trip!

And then there's the one about the prison padre who couldn't meet the inmates' demand for Mother's Day cards, but later in the year couldn't get rid of a single Father's Day card.

Well, let me let you into a little secret - All the Dad's I know (and that's more than just a few) do their best, they love their kids and invariably have the best interests of their family at heart. And for all the stories you read about "bad" Dads, like the 17 year-old who broke his own baby's legs, there are a thousand more top blokes who on a daily basis sacrifice their own time and money, and so often forsake their own dreams, for the benefit of their kids.

And sure, they make mistakes, and yes, life as a kid can suck... "It's not fair," I would whine at my Dad. "Nor's a dark horse," was his standard reply....

But my Dad left me a heritage, and he had fun with us. We played cards, and we went to the park. We messed with the English language (knives became kiniffees and gnomes became gunommees). He took us to shows, we went to the beach, and we played games together. I still play the same games with my kids, and I can't wait to have grandkids so I can play them again!

The longer I'm a Dad, the more I understand mine. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I started to learn some of the details about Dad's past and appreciate how it would have affected him - that's just one the reasons I tell my kids my stories. It's my choice what events I focus on, and whether I judge him or respect him. If I was real honest I'd tell you I'm a lousy son, and not much of a brother.

One of the saddest things about Father's Day is the number of kids who don't live with both parents. I know some kids who never see their Dad, and others who spend three days with one parent then four days with the other. Call me an idealist, but no wonder they're mixed up.

And speaking from experience, I don't think kids will ever understand why their parents split up. But I do know as an adult that there's no benefit in judging either party.

There are so many kids in our community who don't have a resident Dad for whatever reason, whether it's due to a broken marriage, or he works out of town or he's in prison or he died. There are so many women in our midst who bring up their kids alone - and it's not always a choice.

I would encourage you to get involved, even if it's just for this one day. Paul teaches that "Pure and undefiled religion ... is ... to visit orphans and widows in their trouble..."

My own life has been marked by men other than my Dad who gave me work, fed me, mentored me, forgave me, entertained me, taught me and, most importantly, gave me opportunities to succeed or fail, to try new things, to stretch my horizons. They believed in me.

That's not to diminish the efforts of my own Dad. He did all the above, plus he worked two, sometimes three jobs and he cared for one wife and five kids. He took us on annual holidays and he taught me practical skills. He took me to church and he introduced me to Jesus. He coached my soccer team and he fixed my motorbike when I crashed it. He picked me up when I ran out of petrol and and and and and...

Paul also writes that we should "honour our father and mother", which many take to mean that we should show them respect. However, because of past bad experiences such respect can be difficult, and can sometimes come grudgingly, if at all...

It makes sense to me - and it could be easier to achieve - if, as according to Shane Willard, we also apply Paul's instruction by acting in such a way as to make our parents proud of us - to bring them honour...

And that choice Dads, is solely up to us.