Monday, 30 September 2013


You can’t dance all the way down
the Yellow Brick Road.
It starts out wide and bright,
then curves ‘round corners, out of sight.

You, my dear, have seen lions and tigers and bears.
You, my dear, have stood eye to eye with fear. 

In the dark, there are quite frightening fellows.
In the dark, the path doesn’t seem so yellow. 

But you took heart, you took courage,
armed with veracity and valour.
You were safe in those arms,
as he followed you into the dark
and took hold of you. 

You, brave one, were not alone
on those dark days.

Nor in the cold light of day,
when the icy snow gave bite
to the words you’d say. 

There were days, too, full of songs and quick, rhythmic steps.
There were days full of rest and long, deep breaths.
There were days, full,
                           full of life.
There are days still,
               days still to fill. 

So, just close your bright, blue eyes,
tap those ruby heals together three times
and say, “there’s no place like home.” 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

What's in a Name?

Kia ora. Ko Katarina Arihi toku ingoa. 

Catherine Alice, this is the name that I belong to. 

I am named after both my Grandmothers: Dorothy Edith Catherine and Alice Elizabeth. From one I learned how to be feisty and forthright, from the other, gentleness and faithfulness. 

I inherited Dorothy's quick feet and desire to create, and Alice's dark curls and love for white pearls. Turns out I inherited more than just their names. 

I must confess, when I was a kid I didn't like my name all that much. Mostly, the only people I knew with names like mine were old ladies (my old man's old lady and my old lady's old lady, and some queen who Henry VIII disposed of). Interestingly, the name printed on the back of my Year 13 Leavers Jersey was 'Nana' - for various other reasons. 

Alice lived ‘til she was in her 90’s and it looks like Dorothy is headed that way too. It has been a privilege to observe both my Nana’s in their old age. From them I have learned something of what it means to be human, to be vulnerable and fragile and to embrace that rather than avoid it. 

I don’t think it was easy for either of them, though; these two strong and staunch women who lived rurally, ran households and raised a handful of children each. Their husbands worked hard, honoured their wives beautifully, and died well before anyone was ready. 

I don't mind my name all that much now, though. At graduation I was told that the name printed on my certificate sounded elegant and important. But now, my name is more than just a name it is a reminder of my heritage and the people I belong to. 

Catherine Alice, these are the names that I belong to. 

Ko Katarina Arihi toku ingoa. Kia ora. 

This photo was taken on my 15th birthday, two days after I broke my nose, 
so please don't look too closely. 
Mum made me pose for the picture. I'm glad she did.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Heaps and Hopes

I captured this photo from a rooftop room of a community center at Smokey Mountain, Manila. This former rubbish dump and landfill is now littered with low-cost housing stacked stories high, offering accommodation to thousands of Filipinos. There are still many shanty's and cute sari-sari stores along the road frontage. Prior to the project, people lived in slums around the dump and made their living rifling through the rubbish. Now, there is health and hope and life.

I arrived in the Philippines ten days before I took this photo. It was early on a Monday and I was due to meet up with the rest of my team from St Peter's in the City, Tauranga. They were spending the morning at Trash Mountain, not too dissimilar, I imagine, from Smokey Mountain before it was closed. 

At Trash Mountain the poorest of the poor who live in and around the dump scavenge for treasure or burn wood to make charcoal. Suffocating smoke pours forth from the charcoal pits and claims the lives of the workers by the time they are barely in their twenties. 

The morning was spent feeding children sloppy mash full of goodness and nutrients, handing out clothing to the ragged and naked, mixing antibiotics for the sick and cleaning the wounds of the injured, and playing with children who's lungs were full of smoke and faces full of joy. 

When I arrived I put down my drink bottle, picked up several bags of secondhand clothing and followed Cathy, Braedon, and a local pastor along ashy, muddy paths past charcoal pits and between makeshift shacks. I looked into deep eyes in dark rooms as our hands reached out toward each other, exchanging gratitude.

I am grateful for the welcome I received at Trash Mountain; these people opened up their lives and their homes to me, even if just for the morning. 

But I am still disappointed; disappointed that we, humanity, are killing our planet and our people. Places like Trash Mountain shouldn't exist. But they do. 

That night I asked God where he was in that place. I'm pretty sure I heard him say that he was on the mountain of rubbish and in the charcoal pit feeding the hungry and being fed, clothing the naked and being clothed, caring for the sick and being cared for. That sounded a lot like something else Jesus said once (Matthew 25). 

Psalm 113:5-8 says, 

Who is like the Lord our God, 
the One who sits enthroned on high, 
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? 

He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 
He seats them with the princes, 
with the princes of their people. 

Jesus has humbled himself, bearing our humanity and bestowing us with dignity. Jesus, through whom the world was created, gets covered in ash and dust as he cradles and carries the humble and helpless. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus. 

As we were packing up to leave Trash Mountain I spotted a wee girl in a red dress with a ladybug umbrella. She was walking home along the waterfront, walking over the rubbish of a nation. She was alive and she was loved and the God of the universe walked with her. 

There is hope for Trash Mountain yet. The same hope that is happening at Smokey Mountain. Maybe there's hope for us all, 'cos God knows we need it.  

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A Woman of Corinth

I am currently interning at St Peter's in the City in Tauranga. We've just started a series on 1 Corinthians and here is a wee soliloquy I wrote for the congregation here from the perspective of a woman in the Corinthian church and how she may have responded to Paul's letter to them. It's written to be read aloud with all sorts of emphasis, exaggeration and dramatic pauses. For those biblical scholars among you, I may not have got all the history quite right, but don't let that get in the way of a good story. 

It was good to see young Timothy yesterday, bearing a letter from our brother Paul. While his letter was read, I could hear Paul’s voice in my head. It was as if he was right here with us again. I wish he was right here with us again. 

He’d stayed in Corinth 18 months, stitching tents and speaking the truth and teaching us about Jesus the Christ. That was three years ago though. He’s been gone for twice as long as he was here. 

I’ve been missing him, and I’m not the only one. Yet there are others who have said, ‘good riddance’, they say they’re glad he’s gone. They speak of him badly behind his back and belittle the gospel he brought. 

But despite all the backstabbing and backsliding, despite all the disgrace, Paul refuses to turn his face from us. In fact, he said he thanked God for us. I am grateful for our God is faithful. Paul is like a prophet, a mouthpiece for God, with words ringing true, “you are my children and I love you.” 

How on earth did we forget? When did we stop understanding? Did we ever understand? Even with all this wisdom and knowledge at hand? But what is wisdom without love? What is sophia without sacrifice? 

Sophia: the wisdom of God, the Spirit of God, the power of God. That’s what Paul talked about. I wish he would come and sort this out; this mess we’ve made of our lives of faith. But his letter is better than nothing.

I couldn’t understand it all though, trust Paul to trail off. I could hear the love of Christ in his words, and I could hear his love for us. I don’t remember all that was said, if only I could read that letter over and over so Paul’s words to us about our God of love could be etched into my body and written all over my heart. If only I could read.  

I’ll have to ask Andre when he gets home; hopefully he’ll remember more of the letter than I do. I do remember that bit, though, the bit about the wives not calling out in the ecclesia, and if they have any questions to ask their own husbands at home. 

No doubt these words will kick up a fuss amongst some of the woman around here. But that’s no different; they’re used to causing a ruckus, some of our dear women are. Frankly, it can be embarrassing and I’m grateful for Paul’s boldness. It’s better if they keep quiet and control their tongues – we woman are not exempt from order either. It’s no different for the women than it is for the men; Paul’s right, we all encounter freedom in Christ but not in a way that brings disorder. 

All things ought to be done decently and order. But there hasn’t been much of that lately – there has been a distinct lack of decency. Maybe it’s just the Corinthian way, but it’s certainly not the Christian way. This church has become a mirror image of the city of Corinth.

This seaport city is busy and bustling, cliquey and cultish. Our city is a melting pot of Jews and Greeks, soldiers and sailors and slaves, philosophers and freedmen, prostitutes and peddlers and trades-people. And this Church is no different; made up of all and sundry, a sure sign that the Spirit of God is not concerned with status. Diverse: yes. Yet, divisive. Our people scrabble and squabble, dead set to defend their social standing. We are not so different from the rest of the Corinth, and we ought to be. Just like Corinth, we too are large and licentious; full of sexual immorality, idolatry, lawsuits, and a complete lack of unity. But we ought to be different because we are a body, we are his body – that’s another of the brilliant things Paul wrote about. He said Christ is the head and we are like a body with many parts, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free, male or female – by God’s Spirit we experience unity even in the midst of our diversity. In this body, all belong, all are blessed, all are loved. 
Love. Paul had a lot to say about that in his letter too. I remember it well:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Love; the greatest gift of all. “Follow the way of love,” Paul said, and I’m certain he doesn’t mean the way of prostitution at Aphrodite’s temple – the goddess of love, she’s called, but her way is reckless and disrespectful. The kind of love Paul is talking about, the love of God in Christ, that’s ... indispensable. And I wouldn’t exchange that for the world, not for wealth nor wisdom. 

But some of my brothers and sisters take pride in precisely those things; so called wealth and so called wisdom. They’ve secured a high standing for themselves and are desperate to defend their independence. They won’t let anyone hold them up or hold them down, they think their honour is at stake. And at the Table they won’t even wait, everything is a race to the top. Even in worship. Words that were once spoken to God alone have become a resounding gong and an endless drone. 

I’m glad Paul wrote to remind us of who we were when we were called; without wisdom and without honour, weak and wounded, foolish and frail. And Christ our Lord has born our weaknesses and our foolishness; he has become for us our strength, our righteousness, and our redemption. That’s what Paul wanted us all to remember. Sophia: the wisdom of God, the Spirit of God, the power of God. 

I praise you our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


A reflection inspired by a story Jesus told about a father and his sons (Luke 15:11-32), informed by Tim Keller's 'The Prodigal God', and encouraged by Malcolm Gordon's song 'Won't You Come Home', written from the perspective of a younger sister in the household. 

(NB: If you want to read this, you have to read it out loud to yourself.


Brother, you’ve been gone too long.
you packed your bags months ago
but you’d left long before
you walked out that door.
You made your escape in your imagination
and only your shadow remained in our midst.

What were you waiting for?
You could have cut the cords
quickly and cleanly.
you pulled at unravelling threads.
Now our lives are frayed
split and separated.

And you asked him to do it,
to split the inheritance,
to separate the land and sell it off
so you could have your share.
But what you were really asking him to do
was to separate himself from you,
that split his heart in two.

But you never knew
how words that were spoken
left gentle hearts broken.
You never knew
because you shielded your eyes
as you said your goodbyes.
If only you knew
how we loved you.

You’re my brother
and I never
wanted you to leave.
Won’t you come home?


Brother, you’ve been gone too long.
Dad’s been waiting for you
ever since you went away.
He stands for hours looking down the lane,
one hand on his back, one hand on his cane.

He’s delusional in his old age;
every day he asks our brother,
“where’s my child?
Where's my boy?
When’s he coming home?”
“How am I to know?!” he shouts at our father.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?!”

He’s been missing you, you know,
our brother, the first born, the beneficiary of the estate.
He’s been missing you, but he’d never admit it.
He’s working himself into the ground, you know,
just to forget that you’re not around.
Busy forgetting.
Busy fretting.

Mum’s been doing that too –
fretting, that is, not forgetting.
Her eyes well up each time she remembers
how her child is out of her reach,
how her child is beyond her grasp.
She breathes out a sob and breathes in a gasp.

She doesn’t know where you are,
            and it worries her.
She doesn’t know how you are,
            and it wounds her.
With both hands on her heart
she wails in fits and starts,
it’s tearing this family apart.
It’s as if you were dead, only worse.

I wish you were dead.
At least then we’d know where you are.
you could be anywhere.
Anywhere but here
            where you are loved
            where you belong.

I’ve been missing you too,
every time I’ve been thinking of you.
And I think of you all the time,
brother of mine.

You’re my brother,
and I need you here.
Won’t you come home? 

Brother, you’ve been gone too long.
So, I’ve packed my bag too,
I’m coming to find you.
Our brother says I’m being ridiculous,
he says I’ll die out there.
I know he’s right,
but I don’t know if he cares.

I hardly recognise him anymore,
he's not who he was before.
He’s bitter,
Only I am left,
both my brothers are dead.

My father has two lost sons.
One is far, one is near;
both are loved, both are heirs.
My father has two loved sons.

My brothers, your inheritance
is neither land nor livestock, but love;
neither materials nor money, but mercy.
Brothers, by birth you belong,
since birth you are beloved.

“Come! Quickly!” I hear my father call.
“My son is here! Here is my son!”

With legs in full stride
and arms open wide,
he runs.
With cloak waving
and voice trailing,
he runs.
With everybody staring
and not even caring,
he runs.

You’re my brother,
and you’ve come back,
you’ve come home.

Brother, you’ve been gone too long.
Come and eat,
come to the feast.

Let the whole household celebrate,
let the whole family rejoice!
For you were lost and then found,
you are now safe and sound.
You are here, you are held, you are home.

He’s given you his cloak and his ring,
people laugh, and dance, and sing.
But someone is missing.
When will my eldest brother come in?
He’s out in the fields, has anyone told him?

Wait, he won’t like this, no, not at all.
If he comes in there’ll surely be a brawl.
It’s too late, he’s here, but he won’t come in,
instead, he calls the old man out to him.

“What have you done?” I hear my brother say,
“I don’t want him here, send him away!
He’s caused enough hurt,
he's caused enough pain!
I never left, I never disobeyed.
All these years I’ve been slaving for you,
don't deny it, you know that it’s true!”

“My child,” he says, “you’re not my slave, you’re my son.
I know you’ve been hurt by what your brother has done.
My child, you are always with me,
I will always love you.
I have given you all I ever had
and now it’s time to celebrate and be glad.

Celebrate; my child is here, my child is home.
Celebrate; your brother is here, your brother is home.
Celebrate; you are here, you are home.
This is where my children belong.”

“But I’ve been here this whole time!” the eldest says.
“I’ve been here this whole time and you never celebrated.
No calves, no goats,
no rings, no cloaks.
Nothing. You never gave me anything!”

One of my brothers is home
but I’m afraid my other brother will leave.
He can’t go though,
we can’t go through this again.
Here is where this family belongs.

“My child,” our father whispers again,
“you are always with me,
I have always loved you.
My child, won’t you come in?”

He stares my brother full in the face.
With his hands open at his side, he waits.

You’re my brother
and you are loved.
This is your home.