30.3.12

Waiting on Him.

I have a friend. He comes to my house for dinner every Friday night when my community and I cook up a feed for the neighborhood, and sometimes he comes on Sunday nights when we gather for church. He doesn't have any family around him. He has seen many years pass by, and his hands shake as he lifts them to his face. He sits in on the couch in the hallway, and he smiles as people walk past. He loves Jesus with all his heart. And he has kind blue eyes.
Those eyes twinkle. Quite often, when he comes to eat with us, the twinkle is overshadowed by the alcohol blurring his vision. He doesn't have a job, or a home he can call his own. But the kindness never subsides, remaining between cigarette stains.
I saw him as I was walking home from university today. He was sitting on a seat down the road from my house, waiting until the time comes for us to open up the house and invite everybody in. And my heart broke as I greeted him because I realised...every time I have talked with him, smiled at him, sat with him in the last few months, his eyes have been darker. The lines on his face are deeper. And his smile is tired.

How unjust and cruel it is that we have people living in our neighborhoods that we allow to be worn down. It is so unfair that my friend has lived his life full of stories, yet is left all alone! It brings me to tears to think of how lonely and tiring it is, watching each day go by, sinking in to the evening and the blue. How can we walk alongside our lonely brothers and sisters? We share our loneliness, and our hope and our home. But sometimes, it never seems to be enough. The world seems to be so damaged, so focused on individualism and consumerism, feeding itself until it lies bloated and selfish, closing its eyes against the faithful and hurt. I got a letter from another friend of mine, and in it he talked of capitalism and his thoughts on it. He said, "It is built upon this idea of creating an entity to govern 'choice'. It is the idea that an unrestricted market creates fair outcomes for all, but for me it just screams idolatry."
I agree with him. How is it just that the wealth on Wall Street steals food from the mouths of Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand? How is it that we can justify paying our Prime Minister $411,510 a year, when the woman that cleans his offices has a minimum wage of $13.50 an hour, around $27,000 a year? You can make excuses. You can compare the workload, the social status, the responsibilities and the public interest attached to each job, but in the end, just like the PM, this woman is sure to have a family to feed and bills to pay. Both the PM and this woman have an equal worth. "For the last will be first, and the first will be last."

I get discouraged sometimes. Disillusioned. Every effort seems to be futile. But then there is hope. I think of the Kingdom and her promises, and I see God in the blue eyes of a kind man. There has to be a method to the madness...I have faith in beauty and Love. God lives in each of us, and He is waiting for us to reach inside of ourselves and draw Him out. But it is so hard to hold on to that! Hoping, waiting, wishing, as I kneel under my cross.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord 
More than those who watch for the morning— 
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. 
- Psalm 130 

28.3.12

A hope and a scar.

Life quite often astounds me. The entire world is made up of contrasts. Moments are full of beauty, and moments are mundane. This morning, I stood in front of the sink brushing my teeth and I noticed the plastering in the corner of the wall. It was ragged, rough, and dusted with cobwebs. It was not some sort of hidden beauty. It was plain, and of no consequence. But then I looked out the bathroom door, and noted the soft morning sun refracting through the windows and casting shafts of light across the hallway, and I was breathless, just for a second. What is it inside of us that recognises beauty? How do we know what is beautiful and what is not? If we strip away all the advertising, the social mediums through which we portray culture and its perception of beauty there remains, I think, an inherent recognition of beauty. Where does this come from?

I believe the most beautiful thing in the world to be people. And not because I think that we are important above all else in the world, or that we are supremely created above all else. It is because when I watch people in their movements, their interactions with others, their fear of being found out, their eagerness to prove themselves, and their yearning to be recognised, I see not perfection, but brokenness. And in a way, that is what beauty is to me...Helen Keller said, "Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." The stories that people tell, and the stories that they do not tell, talk of a desire to be known and a fear of never being known. A yearning to believe, and a nagging doubt that there is anything to believe in. A hope, and a scar. 
 Te Ao Maori talks of Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the earth mother, being torn apart by their children who had been trapped between them as they passionately embraced one another, never wanting to let go. Although Ranginui and Papatuanuku wept for one another, asking their children "why do you wish to destroy our love?", through the separation of the earth and the sky te Kore (the nothingness) gave way to te ao Marama (the world of light), from which life sprung, and woman and man were breathed life in to.  When the naivete is stripped away the world becomes a vast, overwhelming place where beauty pulses alongside brokenness. Can we have one without the other?
I don't think it is possible. Mahatma Ghandi said “I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.” That is beauty, to me. The understanding  of others' suffering. The sharing of burdens. The distinction that springs from the plaster in the wall, and the sunshine that lights it up.


E te Ariki

Whakarongo mai ra ki a matou

E te Ariki

Titiro mai ra ki a matou

Tenei matou O tamariki

E whakapono 
Ana matou ki a koe
Aue! Aue! 

Te matua te tamaiti

Wairua tapu e


17.3.12

C'est la vie.

Sometimes I feel like life should be gathered in a series of snapshots. Because all we are, after all, is but a moment in time. And after that moment in time, everything changes. 

Bright golden flowers decorating a grey stone wall.
Feeling the rain falling on my smile under a dark and glistening sky.
The warmth of tea and friendship.
A single tear shining in the sunlight.
Spinning around and around with a laughing, grubby two-year old clinging on to me.
A split-second of dizziness as I breath in the too-cold air.
A toothless smile from an ex-gang leader.
Guitars strumming in the afternoon yellow.
Watching a little girl in a clean purple dress play with a little girl in rags.
The voice of memory under blue sky.

We live in a continually shifting world, yet we forget how to be thankful for the moments of beauty we witness. We forget the colours, and the smells. The pure gladness that we can taste when we think, "This, is the moment." We live in a rushed world, full of impatience and dissatisfaction. And we wonder why we are stressed, why we are unhealthy, why we are tired. Is it not because we fail to understand that now, this moment, is all we have? That to strive is to chase after the wind? No other moment will exist but the present. When we get to the end, what will we see when we look back? We will see he tangata, he tangata, he tangata. 

May I never fail to appreciate the taste of laughter on my tongue. May I never rush past a person and fail to stop, bend down, and gift them with a smile. May I never regret a conversation, resent a word, or reduce a person to their mere utility. May we always find treasures in out interactions, Love in our relationships, and joy in the moments which make up our existence. May we be thankful for the miracle that is the present.

13.3.12


Tonight I sat, with a little brown-eyed boy curled up under my arm, and I whispered a story to him. And I remembered what it felt like, to be whispered to, safe in another's arms, a child. I remember my Mum stroking my hair as I fell asleep. I remember my Dad letting me lean in to him as he watched the news. I remember hands that held me tight. And as this little boy mouthed the words of the story I was reading, wide-eyed and sharing my warmth, I realised.
To love another is to be a child. To be open to a world of possibilities, to trust with your whole self, to dream of what one can create. Asking "how?" and "why?"  Seeking love, and joy.
So much simplicity, so much beauty, so much imagination.

12.3.12

Adieu, to you too.

How do you do?
I sing, just to you,
I would love nothing more 
than to lean against you.
But you see, it is true
that my heart broke in two,
When you whispered adieu,
yes my heart
broke in two.

Fear lies in my chest,
born of love not dead yet.
The winter not passed
without yearning anew.
I would love nothing more
than my hand on yours, too.
But when my heart broke in two
I stopped waiting on you.

Jon Foreman


11.3.12

Kony who?

Over the last two weeks or so, a video called 'Kony 2012' has gone viral on many social media sites. This video is part of a campaign launched by Invisible Children, an organisation committed to "end[ing] the longest running armed conflict in Africa," that conflict being mainly perpetuated by the LRA, or Lords Resistance Army, whose works were, until 2007, based mainly in Uganda. Invisible Children's 'Kony 2012' campaign aims to be the final push in the effort to find Joseph Kony, the leader or the LRA, and have him arrested, thus supposedly halting the LRA in their tracks and putting an end to the many abuses against human rights that have been committed by the LRA. This video has spread like wildfire across Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, many blogs, and has also been picked up by most main news providers and boradcasted across the world. For the past fortnight, when I log on to Facebook, all I can see are status' supporting Invisible Children, linking the Kony 2012 film, or referencing something to do with Kony. 

I got in to rather a heated discussion with someone about this overwhelming support of the IC campaign. Because, quite frankly, I don't agree with it. Whilst the person I was talking to took great offence to my lack of support and seemed to think that I was an inhumane Satanist with questionable morals and no desire to help anyone but myself , I want to point out that in no way do I condone what Kony and his followers do, in no way do I think that it is OK for conflicts like those we see in East Africa to be allowed, and above all else, I want these conflicts to be stopped, and people to be allowed to live in peace and safety.

What I do object to, however, is the attitudes that this IC campaign encourages, and the ideologies and approaches that are behind it. I think it is very important to read the following opinions and articles before we get in to the central point of my argument - and if you read only one, read the last link from the Huffington Post, written by Michael Deibert;






What I object to, in regards to this campaign is first and foremost the misconstrued facts within the campaign. During the entire 30 minutes of the Kony 2012 film, in which Uganda is portrayed as a war-stricken country in desperate need of foreign aid, the narrator neglects to mention the fact that in fact the LRA fled Uganda in 2007 and since then the country is rebuilding itself up in quite a peaceful manner. Whilst it is all very well the be passionately desiring to help people in Uganda, the LRA's crimes are in actual fact now being commited in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are five years (and more) too late for Uganda.

Not only that, but the video also fails to mention that the Ugandan government is not the "good guy" as portrayed, but in fact came to power in the very way that Kony now tried to - through guerrilla warfare and the use of child soldiers, not to mention countless rapes, murders and tortures.

Secondly, I resent the attitudes created by this kind of campaign. As a development studies student I have seen my fair share of the "White Mans Burden" attitude. For some reason, we see these indigenous people as poor victims of circumstance, and think ourselves to be the only ones fit to save them from themselves. God forbid we actually gave the the resources, opportunities and help to advocate for themselves - no, we must march in with guns waving and archaic colonial attitudes, to become to White Saviour of the day!
The Kony 2012 campaign and its proposed solution is to dispatch US troops (or as they call them, "advisors") in to Uganda to be at the disposal of the Ugandan government. This, it is hoped, will lead to the discovery and arrest of Kony and an end to the conflict. It is questionable, though, how the dispatching of US military personnel is going to help restore peace to any African nation - one only has to look at Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq or, more recently, Libya, to see that foreign military intervention often sows strife more than it reaps peace. By assuming the we are the answer to Uganda (or Sudans, or the Congo's) issues, and that changing out Facebook status or plastering a poster on the wall of our University library will be the solution, we in fact strip the Ugandan people of their dignity and integrity by a) saying that they are not able to be the answer themselves and b) belittling them by over-simplifying a hugely complex and multifaceted political and social issue.

Another thing that I am uncomfortable about in regards to military intervention is that in itself - military intervention. Kony uses child soldiers as protection and as an army. As idealisitc as we want to be, it cannot be denied that if Kony is found and captured, people will have to be killed in the process of getting to him. This means the murder of the very children we are campaigning to save. Not only that, but is the introduction of more arms in to the conflict really going to stop it? I don't think so - to fight a war in the name of peace seems to be the epitome of foolhardiness. Martin Luther Kind said, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word" and I tend to agree with him.

For the sake of brevity, my final point is summed up nicely by Deibert in the Huffington Posrt - "Kony is a grotesque war criminal, to be sure, but the Ugandan government currently in power also came to power through the use of kadogo (child soldiers) and fought alongside militias employing child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, something that Invisible Children seem wilfully ignorant of. [...] The problem with Invisible Children's whitewashing of the role of the government of Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni in the violence of Central Africa is that it gives Museveni and company a free pass, and added ammunition with which to bludgeon virtually any domestic opposition, such as Kizza Besigye and the Forum for Democratic ChangeBy blindly supporting Uganda's current government and its military adventures beyond its borders, as Invisible Children suggests that people do, Invisible Children is in fact guaranteeing that there will be more violence, not less, in Central Africa.  I have seen the well-meaning foreigners do plenty of damage before, so that is why people understanding the context and the history of the region is important before they blunder blindly forward to "help" a people they don't understand."

In summary, there are a number of hugely complicated political, social and cultural issues that surround the issue of the LRA and thier atrocious war crimes, and the simplified viewpoint, explanation and solution offered by Invisible Children (not to mention dounbts around the integrity of Invisible Children as a charity, an issue which needs to be addressed separately) fails, in my opinion, to address these concerns. I object to the blind reposting of status' by people who have no idea about these concerns, and while raising awareness of such an issue may be neccessary, how is the awareness of White, "first-world" students going to change anything when we have no idea about the world from which these people come and the issues they face day to day?
By all means, support 'Kony 2012' and Invisible Children if you have done your research and support them, their ideals, and their plan-of-attack, if you will. But for the sake of the people of Uganda, do not blindly jump on the bandwagon until you realise that foreign military intervention has huge consequences for the countries involved, and not all of those consequences are positive.

2.3.12

Here we are again...

My heart has had a hard year.

Learning to trust and learning to let go. I have spent the last months learning to breathe again. The deep kind of breaths, breathing in the warmth of the sun and the yellow flowers outside my front door.

And to be honest, I don't think that I can take much more right now. There is too much sunshine and too many flowers to breathe, I don't know if I want more heartache and less deep breathing.

So, I am giving up love for lent.

Not Love. Not the uppercase kind of Love that God is, or the kind of Love that my family and friends are. Just love. The lowercase kind. The kind that makes your heart skip a beat when you smell that aftershave passing by in the street. Or you see the familiar mop of hair ducking through a doorway. The kind that promises much, and delivers much, but only on the premises of much suffering. They say beauty is pain...I say love is beauty. And love is painful.

There is too much time to dance down the street, and read books, and sing along to the Glee soundtrack with my flatmates. There are too many opportunities to seize, too many smiles to be gifted, too many sunflowers facing the sky, too many meals to cook, too much uppercase Love to experience. 

Lowercase love can wait until it is ripe enough to grow. In to an uppercase L. 

Three thousand years ago, King Solomon said "protect your heart above all else, for it is the wellspring of life." He had a point. How often do we feel lonely, only to wish that we had someone to snuggle up next to? How often do we feel that nagging emptiness, only to long for another half to fill it? Yet, surely it is God that fills that hole, and embraces us completely. I want that.

And until I am blessed with my ripened love-turned-Love, I shall praise the God who made me, serve the Christ who saved me, and eat lemon meringue pie to the sweet sound of Otis Redding.