Thursday, September 29, 2011

FENCES - Part 1

Sheep are so smart that it doesn't take long for them to learn the discipline of the electric fence. The sheep who dares to cross the line will familiarise with the awkward buzz.
The shock the sheep feels, deals directly with their daring intention. To cross the line and taste the goodness of the greener grass on the other side of the fence. But pretty soon it becomes apparent that greener pastures isn't worth the buzz.
The reverberating pulse of electric currents arrests the equilibrium. The shock isn't sufficient to turn the sheep into mutton, but just the right amount to push the discomfort button. Repetition makes perfect, and in this case....perfect fear.
Pretty soon it becomes apparent that greener pastures isn't worth the fuss.
Growing up in New Zealand, I remember a sheep show on television. Farmers in sync with their sheep dogs exhibited their skills in controlling sheep. The Farmer harnessing horse, bellowing jargon, as the bark on the dog flogged sheep silly. Moving them from one area to another and showing the audience that they knew how the job was to be done.
Meanwhile, in the middle east, one shepherd for every one hundred sheep. No horses, no hollering, hooting, or barks from a dog. A single man walking ahead of the sheep, did you get that? He leads the sheep. His calls are directions which the sheep understand. The voice they are attuned to, are notes that turn discourse into harmony. They know their leader, and the leader knows them. When they are thirsty, they are directed to water, when they are hurt, He applies a meticulously mixed concoction of medicinal herbs, to heal the cut, graze or burn.
It soon becomes apparent that trusting the shepherd is a must!
And get this! There's no fence! There is NO FENCE!
The fence is trust, the fence is not a pulse of electric currents to throw you off course, but to bring you back on it. As long as you can see and hear Him, and He can see and hear you, pretty soon it becomes apparent that greener grass tastes good......real good.
Free to wander, free to ponder, free to wonder.
Repetition makes perfect, and perfect love casts out fear.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Grandmother's sunset

The morning's ritual is to raise the sun over the horizon. But for my grandmother, she drew her last breath, and never saw the sunset this day.

Fale daughter of Matai'a, the wife of my resting Grandfather Leo and the mother of my Dad, died a peaceful death this morning in the village of Vailele, Samoa.

I found out via a text message from my brother, I was sad to read the words, but not sad in a way where I personally knew her, because I didn't. Honestly, my first instinct was knowing that this was going to leave a dent on the bank account, and that in itself was disappointing. But I felt sad that I knew she was the mother of my father, and through the stories of my father, the character of this story had turned it's last leaf.

However, there were two encounters in my life where she was present in person, where I could touch and smell her, and hear her passive voice. The first time Fale and Leo flew to New Zealand and stayed with us. I distinctly recall that she made my chairbag at primary school. It was probably the most oddest looking chairbag in the room because of it's brown/yellowish Polynesian pattern and texture. I was five then, and the second was a tad over a decade later when Dad and Mum took my brother and I to Samoa when I was 16.

On both encounters I didn't really get to know her and hear her mind. Although in both I learned that she was industrious, enjoyed the old crafts, and that she was incredibly superstitious. After my brother, Josh and myself walked back to my grandparents house in Vailele (on a dark night), she warned that we shouldn't "walk the village at dark times because that's when the Spirits are about". Mind you it was 8'o'clock in the evening, and none of us responded, in respect of her convictions. However I remember hearing dad as we walked to our sleeping mats, trying to explain to her that we didn't see this Spirit world quite like she did, and elaborated. Other times it was awkward trying to talk with her as she seemed uncomfortable, and I respected that also given the boundaries between child and adult in the Samoan culture.

She was a quiet woman, of few words. She fussed about little things as Samoan women do, and she had a very subtle smile, just enough to communicate that she liked me. At Leo's funeral, she held herself together pretty well, and she took in instruction from my dad well too after Leo's passing (dad being the eldest son, and child).

But I never really knew her, not like some people I know, who know their grandparents well. I knew her through stories that Dad and Mum shared with me. I'm sad because the stories speak of a woman who took care of eleven children, and ensured they were fed, clothed and taken care of. Who braved the loss of four of her children to leave Samoa in order to help the family. I'm sad because if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here, and neither would my kids. I'm sad that I couldn't fill the gaps of the different parts of her life that I heard of, and that she couldn't read my blogs and Facebook status' to find out just a little of what I'm about. We really didn't know each other, not in person anyway, but in stories.

I cherish the stories of Fale Samani, stories last forever. I mentioned earlier that she turned her last leaf.....maybe the story doesn't end here. The story should be continued through those who heard it. Yes, I'll tell my kids the same stories I heard. So that they may know her too. The character will continue in this story until she rises again at the return of the Son.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I love the expression "there is no such thing as a stupid question, just stupid answers". When I first heard this I understood, because I apologised before asking a question to the same person after a sequence of three other questions. The expression presupposes that giving the correct answer should reduce the need to ask more questions, so if you give a full-detailed-bigger-picture answer, you will allow the questioner to connect the dots, and think for themselves........and then hopefully they'll ask more questions.

Asking questions are such a simple yet incredibly effective tool. In the family it encourages relationships "how are you doing?" shows you're concerned, in school and the workplace it increases knowledge "how do I do that?" shows that you're willing to be taught. And on the general front, you're building your repetoire of understanding of people and your environment.

But I wanted to deal specifically with the off-the-cuff moments when you're at a train station, and you're not sure which train to catch, your using the new machines where you check-out and pay for your own groceries at the supermarket or when the telephone bill is incorrect. If you don't know you need to ask somebody right?

I'm often saddened by young people who feel that they shouldn't or feel that they are not in a position to ask questions. I espcially identify with polynesian kids as we were brought up in a "seen but not heard" environment. I remember as a teen, being in situations with friends where we needed direction or guidance. And the most obvious person to ask was the person in uniform. I came to realise that I was always the one to make the enquiry. (I was the kid in class that people liked, because I'd be the one to ask the question that everyone was dying to ask but just didn't put their hand up, I didn't and still don't mind being seen as dumb). Out of curiosity I decided I was going to refuse and see how they would respond. Sure enough, they would rather go without knowing, than asking. This baffled me, but I'm still finding it in the next generation also. And even more so, it's not just polynesians after all, alot of people do this. Is there a whole generation of young 'uns who are being seen and not heard?

Where my buddies would thrive at probing the defence line in a rugby match, they were incredibly relucant to make an enquiry whether by phone, in writing or in person. My mind wondered, and I just had to ask those who were closest to me.

Here are some of the more common anwers:

• I may appear dumb better to appear dumb, than being dumb because you didn't ask
• Everyone else has probably asked the same question So?
• I don't know what to ask Take your time, work it out
• They're busy Wait in queue
• It's too embarrassing why? Because their job is to help you?
• They may say No who cares? You still win because an answer is better than not knowing

And I'm sure there are plenty more, BUT the fact remains, you will never know any of the above mysteries unless you ask the question! If they're wearing the uniform or they certainly stand-out as a person who's in on the know-how. Ask the question!

It's amazing how some of my friends (even family *ahem*) have expressed the anxiety they feel prior to making the enquiry. And I understand, please refer to my "Kings Speech" blog. But that anxiety can be reduced, and even nullified if you just ask the question when you first realise you're not sure what to do.

Our minds are constantly working and learning, and there are things we want to know. Google can give you an answer quick smart, but I think we get more anxious when talking with people. Google can never tell us what's going on in the mind of another. Asking questions will get you an answer, and sometimes it may not (if they choose not to answer). Not having the answer and persisting without knowing, can cause unnecessary anxiety. Like one of the lines of my favourite songs says "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery", and counsel from my favourite book "...keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." Luke 11:9 (NLT)