Finders keepers

Once a year in Auckland, something glorious happens.  People clean out their homes, garages, and yards, and pile their unwanted goods and materials out by the roadside.  They call this “inorganic pickup,” and it is an opportunity for people to discard any unwanted pieces of furniture or junk, for free.   If you show up before the City collection truck does, inorganic pickup day can also be an opportunity for people who don’t mind dumpster diving to score some sweet finds, also for free.

We decided get in on the inorganic pickup action in Devonport last weekend, along with our friends Brandon and Kristen.  Devonport is a lovely area of Auckland that jets out on a peninsula, overlooking the harbour.  The area is heavily European-influenced, and has a quaint, Victorian feel.

Following the lead of our friends who had done this before, we drove slowly along through the residential areas until we spotted something that looked good enough to get out and take a look at.  Lots of what was out at the curbsides was rubbish, but we did score some sweet finds.

This near-new side table/storage unit and a wooden crate were among our curbside treasures.

A few toys for when the niece and nephews come…

Brendon found an ancient rugby ball, just in need of a little air.

We weren’t the only ones out perusing others’ trash.  You had to get in there early if you wanted to snag the really good stuff.

One of our last finds was this chair.  The man who owned it came out, and as we thanked him for our new chair, he told us that it used to be on his boat.  He said, in fact, that it had been the captain’s chair.  The chair, only mildly dirty but in fairly good condition,  now sits in our living room, and whoever sits in it, we call “Captain.”

All in all, inorganic pickup in Devonport was very good to us.  The couple of hours we spent perusing Devonport’s curbside junk definitely paid off!

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Something theological

So I guess one of the things I love about theology is how every once in a while, one of ‘those moments’ comes along. It is hard to explain, but it is probably most like being a kid in math class trying to figure out fractions, or in high school trying to get trigonometry or something. You know, those moments when the clouds separate and there is a near visible beam of light and something like a dove. It clicks or all the pieces line up, and for a moment, the whole world and everything in it makes sense.

These moments were by far the greatest part of math class in school, and people have them with many things at many times throughout their lives.  The ones I love the most are while doing theology. It is similar to that feeling in math class, only it is more life directing and exciting than merely knowing how to us a complex set of formulas to solve a problem that only you and the teacher will ever know or care about. Maybe I am a little cynical about my former math career, but the point is to more emphasize how cool these moments are when practicing theology.

I have had a few of these theologically enlightening moments while here in NZ, and the most recent has come via this class I have been taking on the theological method/legacy of Paul. It wasn’t a dramatic, bolt of lightning moment; it was more slowly-evolving; piece by piece, things started to clear up. Mark Strom, the professor who taught the class, purposefully painted large pictures about who Paul was, what his world was like, and the thoughts he was grappling with. One of the first things to hit me was the slight insanity and the sheer size of the task that Paul was chosen to undertake. The guy was crazy. He was trying to convince people that the way the world operated was not just as it appeared to be.  He argued that the story they were living was not necessarily as true as they thought, and that Jesus did infact change everything. Pretty bold.

Another thing that has stuck with me over these few months since the lectures ended is the idea that life is what we are doing, and life is indeed what we need to be focusing on.  This statement seems quite obvious and maybe even patronizing, but when you actually concentrate on the immensity of life, and the complexity of the world, and what it means to be a part of society with all the relationships that entails, it is not at all a simple statement. There is no way to really simplify what life is or how we are living it.

One thing I belive is that God, and by implication, the Bible and the writings of Paul, is largely concerned with life. That is easy to forget sometimes, especially in the world of theology where ideas about God and interpretations of the Bible are debated and argued about to the point where it can become purely intellectual exercise.

Theology is about life.

In this class, Mark proposed a view of Paul who ‘got this’. A view that made Paul’s writings come alive for me in a way that they have never been. So I suppose that this is an idea I will be working on for quite some time. My life as a theologian will be about helping people see what I see in theology and in God: a potential to make life way better. A potential to help us live in a way that keeps getting better, forever. I think that is pretty awesome!

I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and/or questions.

My Trip Home

So I am finished with my quick trip home. As you know from reading Mel’s updates, I have been in Canada to visit with family after the passing of my Poppy, and on the way back, I spent about a week catching up with loved ones in Edmonton.

My time in New Brunswick was really good. I arrived the night before the funeral, and it was a hard first day. It was strange being in the places and vehicles that have always been synonymous with Poppy. The funeral was a beautiful tribute to the man we all loved, and who would have hated all the fuss about him. Our family was all very involved in the service and it seemed to be a means of grace and grieving for us.

The following days were filled with family time in all its forms. Hang outs with cousins, attending the fix up of Nicole and Craig’s rental house, being Uncle/Auntie Breno, going to Beulah with Nanny and doing some work etc.

It was really nice to see everyone and to remember Poppy together. It seems like the family (The Neilson 6) doesn’t find themselves all together much these days, but it is real nice when it happens. It was the first time in about 10 years, too, that all of Nanny’s grandchildren were together. She is a pretty amazing lady and we all love her very much. Hopefully it won’t be another 10 years before we are all with her again.

I got to spend a day alone with Nanny, as I mentioned.  We went out to Beulah and did some painting of some old window sills on her cottage out there, and I put my former tree skills to use by pruning an unruly brand of willow. It was good to hang out with Nanny. We talked and laughed and drank apple juice from those little cups which all seemed so familiar. We put in a solid day’s work and I made her some supper before we were back to Saint John. Thanks for putting me to work Nanny, hope tree will behave better this year!

I also had some great talks with my dad who is a smart and passionate theological practitioner (marriage and family counsellor). And probably made his year by stacking some wood with him back in the woods (maybe an exaggeration). So yah it was great to see everyone, I have a pretty great family and am proud to be a part of it.

Edmonton was a very different week. Lots of running around, catching up with friends, partaking in real good food, and corresponding real good drink, staying up late and getting up early to get in all of my important and rewarding relationship hours.

It was great times!  Edmonton may just be the greatest mediocre city around. I have to thank Matt and Amy (and Charles Buchan) for letting me crash at their place, and Al for being my go-to friend, chauffeur, car rental agency, and just being great! Mona for the great Thanksgiving dinner, and for letting me use her cell phone which made the whole craziness of the week possible. For the people who hosted hangouts, and for all off my Transcend peeps for making me feel like I am still family.

It was awesome. Just wish that Mel could have been by my side for the whole thing.

I am so proud of her for the way she endured my absence, she was brave and beautiful! She was both productive and popular in her time alone, and although I would not want to do another three weeks apart anytime soon, she succeeded with poise and prudence as she always does! I love you Mel!

Thanks to the fam in NZ for checking in on her and hanging out a bunch. We are truly blessed to have so rapidly made a community of such a high quality. It is great to be back.

So farewell, Canada, until we meet again.