Sacred and holy moments

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The upcoming birth of our second child (due in less than two weeks!) and the fact that Christmas is just around the corner remind me of a chapter from Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist, where the following quote comes from:

I can assure you: there isn’t anything very dignified about giving birth.

And yet, that was the moment when I felt my carefully constructed line between the sacred and the secular shatter once and for all. The sacred and holy moments of a life are often our most raw, our most human moments, aren’t they?

The bolded section resonates with me when I look back on my life so far. Two of the moments which, both at the time and on further reflection, have been the most sacred and holy were also my most raw…

The first moment was when I was made redundant from my job in 2010. I’d been working for the company for the first three years Kim and I had been in Dunedin and, while there had been a lull in work – not great if you’re a consultant – being called into the manager’s office and told that I was going to lose my job absolutely blindsided me. I remember feeling completely numb returning to my desk after the conversation. I nervously headed home at the end of the day and it wasn’t long before I shared with Kim what had happened, tears streaming down my face. The following day I spent at home and found myself scrubbing the kitchen floor and crying out to God – asking “why?” In this moment I felt so close to God, it was incredible.

The second moment was while Kim and I were in the midst of infertility, holding on to the hope of a child after three years of trying to conceive. In October 2012 we attended our church’s annual camp at Pounawea in the Catlins. After one of the sermons there was an opportunity for those who wanted prayer to be prayed for by others. We asked for prayer and were surrounded by a small group of familiar faces. As I tried to explain what we wanted prayer for I found myself choked up with tears, unable to get any words out. Up until that point our infertility journey had emotionally impacted Kim much more than me, but in that moment, opening up to others about our pain, I struggled for words. We were covered with prayer on that day and I recall a great sense of peace about the situation following this. One year later our wee surprise arrived – an incredible blessing after trying for so long.

In both of these moments I was faced with a loss of control and certainty about the future. I was weak, vulnerable, on my knees, crying out to God. I’ve found that these moments of inadequacy and uncertainty are such amazing opportunities for God’s grace to shine through.

In his book, Man Enough, when discussing vulnerability Nate Pyle says:

There are going to be times in our lives when we are not strong enough to change the situation. Cancer. The loss of a job because of an economic crisis. Losing a loved one in a car accident. Only when we realize how truly little control we have over the world around us will we being to accept just how weak we are. And if we can embrace our weakness in the world and stop the pretense that we are super-natural he-men impervious to the threats of a broken world, then we will begin to see the strength of Christ move in and through us.

This is so true, and is something I will continue strive towards in the future. I want to be someone who is vulnerable and aware of the inherent uncertainties of life, who is willing to share these weaknesses with family and friends, and who endeavours to create an environment where others can also be vulnerable.

This is crucial to creating a close-knit community of disciples, where we journey with each other to seek Christ through the good times and the bad, where our human-ness shows through in sacred and holy moments. One further quote from Sarah Bessey:

[God] never shied away from our most piercingly human experiences – birth, pain, death, sickness – and so, can we not find him and his redemption ways there still?

Finally, I’ve been reading 2 Corinthians recently and what Paul writes in chapter 12 speaks directly to this topic:

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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Long weekends and fantasy basketball

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Labour Weekend is just around the corner. For most New Zealanders this heralds the beginning of spring and the first long weekend after a long winter without public holidays. Some still use Labour Weekend as a time of reflection on its original purpose, a celebration of the eight hour working day (back in the 19th century people took the day off to attend parades – most of us just take it for granted nowadays). However, for me Labour Weekend usually heralds the beginning of the fantasy basketball season. With the NBA regular season kicking off on Tuesday 27 October, most fantasy basketball leagues will have their drafts over the coming long weekend.

Fantasy basketball merges my passion for the NBA with my interest in stats and managing my own team. I enjoy working with all the data associated with basketball, trying to make educated guesses on which players will perform, and working through all of this using complex formulae in an excel spreadsheet. Over recent years I’ve also been using the Basketball Monster website, which is an excellent resource of fantasy experts and has the best number crunching software available.

I’ve been a fan of the NBA since the late 90s. My favourite team, the Golden State Warriors, won the championship last season for the first time since the mid-70s – I’ll talk more about them in a later blog post. I was introduced to fantasy basketball when we moved to Dunedin in 2008. A number of the guys in the cell group we joined there were part of a longstanding league, the Dunedin Invitational. At the time, the bulk of the managers were from New Zealand (and most living in Dunedin). Now however, all but two of us are from overseas – primarily Canada – and now we’ve moved back home to Whangarei, the Dunedin Invitational has the odd quirk of having no managers actually living in Dunedin. I had a great start to my time in this league, winning the first four seasons I competed. Since then, I haven’t had as much luck, but it’s still great fun!

More recently I’ve also joined a second league which, interestingly, has a large contingent of New Zealanders. I was invited to join this league while on the Busersports forums (the precursor to Basketball Monster). This is a very competitive league – experienced managers, many of whom also use the Basketball Monster tools – so I haven’t had as much success compared to the Dunedin league. However, there was one amazing season when I went through the 20 odd weeks of the regular season without losing once, only to stumble at the final hurdle.

Over the past few seasons, particularly last year, I’ve struggled to commit as much time as you need to really succeed, due to time pressures (with work and family) and changes in focus (with my growing passion and commitment to church). However, I still persevere with it all, as it is one of the things I really enjoy doing, and I have somewhat of a bond with the leagues and other managers (who, bar one, I only know online).

So this weekend another fantasy basketball season begins, starting with two league drafts – wish me luck!

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