The pursuit of happiness and the glimmer of hope

We saw Pursuit of Happyness this week. It's a good movie (best waiting till it comes out on DVD though) about a not well off guy, Chris, who gets a few bad breaks and gets stuck on a downward spiral. It portrays really, really well the trap of poverty, you get a poignant insight into the hopelessness of what it is like to very poor. (Not student poor, which I think alot of us may have experienced: "Man, I can't even afford to go to the cinema!")
But, of course, it's all very Hollywood because at the end, due to a splash of luck, the dude's dream comes true and he gets rich. This is all really fantastic and I couldn't help but shed a tear at this wondrous thing. I also couldn't help but think about the googles of people stuck in the povetry rift who weren't ever, ever gonna get the good cards dealt to Chris. (But, you know, the stories of normal people just dont give veiwers that warm glow when they leave the building.)

Last night we went to Artists Corner at Number 10. Number 10 is a Salvation Army thing at the back of Oxford Street, a small centre for the local homeless people. It is beautiful, like fully unassuming and authentic. We have had a few chances to hang out since we got here, and last night too, was really fantastic. People read poems they had written, sang songs and even did some live painting. Deep well springs of talent. Alot of the expressions of art were about their experiences of being homeless and almost all moved from a point of despair to a point of hope.

So, anyway, to tie this babling on all together...
Chris's story (although apparently inspired by a true one) ends pretty unrealistically. Things are so bad for Chris predominantly because he has absolutley no friends, no one to turn to. But then, magic, he comes upon a gold mine. (But still has no friends.)
On the other hand, last night I was filled with the sense that the glimmer of light for alot of Number 10's homeless friends, wasn't the prospect of a pot of gold but the people at Number 10, inspiring them, encouraging them but most of all being there, always there to turn to.
Shivers. So in conclusion. Hopefully this isn't too naive...
If us Jesus Followers really saw ourselves as salt and sprinkled ourselves around neighbourhoods, the total despair for people that was Chris's wouldn't be so bad, as we would be his friends to turn too. And, clearly, hope and happiness isn't found in the miraculous stockbroking job or the lottery win, but in solid friendship that everyone should have accesss to.


Gullible?? How 'bout we say trusting...

So... yesterday we got scammed.
We were walking down the road when this lovely Italian chap called us over to his flash wagon and after a fair few minutes of friendly chat, me showing off all my Italian, Tim being his wonderful warm self and the stranger charming us utterly and completley, he explained that he fancied giving us a gift of some expensive Italian leather coats. (?!) Neither of us are the Giorgio Armani types, but, hardly wanting to reject our new friend's offering, we accepted the designer bag, albeit in a bemused kind of a way. After a few moments, Mr Mario got on to the fact that he just needed a bit of cash for petrol. Sweet as, no worries; we gave him a crispy note. He wanted another. After some squirming, we, er, gave him another. He wanted just the one more. We explained that, um actually, we were unemployed and clearly not loaded and HELLO YOU'RE DRIVING A BMW. Except the capitals didn't quite make it from our minds to our mouth, and we pretty much emptied our wallet into his sweaty paws. Fifty. Freaking. Pounds. (Yup, thats $150 kiwi golds.)
The exact second he started up his Bimmer and drove off we realized that whatever had just happened we had just done a very stupid thing. Our hearts jumped into our mouths and our jaws dropped meaning that our hearts were bobbing all over the pavement right there outside South Kensington Tube Station and we stared at each other in disbelief. We were in shock; we gasped, we laughed, we yelled, we ran (away from the police in case they did us for handling stolen goods) and we finally made it home to open up the bag. 'Till this point I wasn't too traumatised, even if they were off the back of a lorry, we could always sell them on e-bay and make back the dosh, and perhaps an extra bob or two. But oh, no. It was worse. They were 100% polyester, made in China, worth about 70p each and the tool of a worldwide rip off.

Obviously, we are gutted as we feel very ridiculous. However, we are glad to be able to say we have learnt some lessons (Being jobless we have much time to philosophise.) Ok, drumroll....
*However spiritual and unmaterialist we may feel at times, the truth is we are inherently greedy and our minds get whirring at the thought of getting something for nothing.
*Even though we feel we got majorly ripped off, it is absolutley nothing in comparison to the story of millions of other people. Such as this Sri Lankan woman featured in this article who paid a wonderfully charming con artist $600 to take her into slave labour, thinking she was going to a well paid housekeeping job to support her daughter.
*There is a fine line between being good stewards and being tight, which sort of leads to the last one...
*It is always better to trust strangers, even at the risk of having your pockets dishonestly unburdened.
So, lets go with trusting, eh, rather than any other words that come to mind. I will admit that so far as an artistic representation goes, this probably does sum us up best...


"Where the spirit of God is there is freedom!"

Happy Freedom Day! I hope you have all enjoyed your celebration of the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade act! Bono says... "Freedom has a scent like the top of a new born babies head." I love that.
I smelt the newest baby head ever a couple of days ago, fresh out of my sister's womb, when Hudson was hatched. It has to be one of the happiest, sweetest and most energising smells ever! I love him!
I'm stoked to have the happiness, sweetness and energy that my own internal and external freedom brings. But I don't want to get lazy with that freedom, which it's so easy to do, eh.
Like Jesus I want to be about freedom for the 20 million captives around the world. Yup.
So, keep radical in your pursuit of freedom, justice and hope for all people, not just cos it smells good but because that stuff is the stuff of God's heart.


initiation complete

We have arrived in London, wahoo!
Joanna still has not had the little Tinker which was due a week and a half ago. But on our first morning here my two best pals, Amanda and Marina bought over their little babies for brunch donning "Haere Mai" (Welcome in Maori) tee's that my dad had made for all the tikes.

We are currently watching a 6 nations rugby game between Wales and England with my mum in the room which means Tim has survived his initiation into my whanau. She is Welsh and she goes mad and they are currently kicking Englands butt which means Tim is experiencing the full shebang. My first childhood memory is of my Uncle Howard breaking the sofa from a trimphant leap when we had all my mums side over for a Welsh match when I was two.
It is such a treat getting to spend each day with my beloved family and friends, wah.

(Walking through Hyde park.)



Today we were in one of those posh gift shops that sells stinky candles and soaps and lots of breakables like sculptures of angels. We spotted a sign that cracked us up: "Unattended children will be sold as slaves". It was great cos after having a chuckle I was prompted to think about this whole human traffiking thing that has become quite a global campaign over the last year or so. (Don't you just love that serious part of your brain.)
Some of the stats are crazy:
*20 million people are held in bonded labour around the world
*profits from the trafficking of people are US $7 billion a year
*of the 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 80 per cent are women and girls, and up to 50 per cent are minors.

A really important day for this modern slavery is coming up later in March- Freedom Day. It is a day for those around the globe to create awareness about this traffiking evil and to show solidarity for those kept in bondage and a renewed vision to see everyone experiencing freedom.
I love the concept of freedom. It is one of those words that is used so incessantly and has been for so long that it really should have lost some impact. But I just don't think it has. Everyone, to some degree, knows what it is like to be in chains. I also love it because it sums up, in one theme, all my spiritual and social passions! Jesus came to earth to see all of God's children set free and this liberation is to be experienced both inwardly and outwardly. Down with oppressive lack of hope, unjust economic structures and evil social problems!
Anyway, there are some really fantastic websites out there for you to get equipped to get on board the Freedom Day ship on March 25th.
Stop the Traffick has some ideas for taking the issue into your workplace/school etc.
Set All Free has some brilliant resources for churches to get involved, especially check out the pdf of worship ideas.
I like this prayer from there:

Gracious and liberating God
Lift us beyond the burdens of pain and guilt
Build our memories
into life-giving resolutions
Give us the vision of a new creation
Strengthen us to act
for justice and human dignity
And set all free.



the art of underestimation

When my sister visited Niagara Falls with my parents before I was born she spontaneously burst into the old chorus "Deep and wide, deep and wide, there's a fountain flowing deep and wide (Hallelujah)"
Joanna, today I appreciated the riduculousness of you singing that particular thing.
The falls really are very big- ginourmously gargantuan actually. It actually made me giggle, you silly sausage. (Yes, yes, okay you were two.)
I couldn't help but peek over the rails and imagine sliding down the thunderous waters. Before we went I did some googling and found out about the 16 daredevils who attempted the vertical wet ride. There were some mad hatters in there- the first person was 63 year old Annie Taylor (I suspect a relative of my crazy brother in law, Steve) a school teacher who took her cat who both lived to tell the tale of the wooden barrel. There was also a chap in a steel barrel who didn't make it who took his turtle who did make it and then there was a guy a couple of years ago who tried it in a kayak. Hello?
When Tim saw me researching these people and their modes of transport he laughed nervously and then this morning checked the boot of the car for any stray barrels. But don't worry folks, the Niagara downhill stayed in my imagination. I was just having too much fun singing Deep and Wide in honour of my sister.


A vertible feast for my eye balls

Stratford, Ontario is a wonderful place. A quaint wee town where my Aunt and Uncle abide...
Today we visited the pinery, a reserve on the shores of a grand lake. The great mass of freshwater had completley frozen over, and in the process of doing so had created what I fondly have come to label "snoaves". They are mounds of snow and sand in the shape of waves in great banks 10 metres from the shore line. One of the most peculiar and spectacular things I ever did see.
We have more sights of today- and other Stratford ones including white squirrels - online. (And eventually other Canada and South America photos... what a palava)


So we have just spent a week at 614 Regent Park, a Salvation Army church based in Canadas oldest housing project. It is ghetto.
This small square of land houses about 15000 people of multitudes of ethnicities. The work of the 614 crew that live there seems to be one of the most authentic expressions of faith I have ever seen in my life. The relationships run deep and the commitment to revealing hope possibly even deeper.
It was a total inspiration to see the Army in the sort of place it was birthed to be, doing such uncomplicated Jesus like business.
"....They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." Isaiah 61:4


I heart San Francisco

What a charming town! Yesterday Andrew took us on a wee tour around the place... it was fab eating crab meat and sourdough bread on pier 39 (with Ben and Jerrys for pudding) and seeing some rad views. Intensely cold for our systems though, which have gotten fairly used to 30-40 degrees! In fact, I am crook today. It is great practice for in-the-minuses-Canada though. Had coffee in "Coffee for the people" on Haight St, which is so my favourite place. Organic and Fair Trade and fully using their space for inspiring action and raising awareness on issue. Love Love Love. Their sticker wall will be fuel for my blog for many months to come! Off to visit Salvation Army 614 Toronto tommorrow, which will be really great. Except we forgot to email the guy we are hoping to stay with, um, till this morning. So....
Anyway, San Fran, come on down:
The Bushman- a hilarious larrykin that hides behind his twigs and Boos daydreaming pedestrians!