Thursday, 5 January 2017

Ancient of days

It's been a long time since I last blogged.

There have been beginnings and endings -  deaths and deterioration, a book finally completed, an easy ride to Christmas turned upside down.

And now here we are in the heat of the Kiwi summer, the hammock swinging in the breeze - idyllic, peace-full, welcoming, healing.
Time to relax, read, and rest.

But it's also time to explore, to do those things we often don't have time to do when life is full and there are so many calls on our time. 

And so we headed off to Opepe reserve, a remnant of virgin forest, left behind by the loggers who'd stopped their unthinking colonial rampage on the other side of an old track which has since become the road linking Taupo to Napier.

Warm and noisy by the road, within a few metres there was forest cool, speckled light, birdsong and a sense of stepping back into history, into the visible reality of life being given space to grow to its fullest potential - massive trees - matai, rimu, miro, totara ... all reaching their full majestic height.

I dawdled behind the others, inhaling the moist air - it's hard to put a finger on what was going on for me - but tears began to surface, there was a sense of sacred connection, of deep peace  as if I were in a holy place as I touched the ancient wonder of trees standing for centuries, knowing they would remain long after my earthly life comes to an end.

And I was reminded that within each one of us lies  our potential to give unique expression to the divine - God living, loving, suffering and creating in and through us. 

And what beauty and joy there is for others when we do just that. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

silly and scammed

I am embarrassed to relay this tale of my own stupidity but from it I learned a lesson and perhaps my experience might help prevent someone else from falling prey to online scammers.
During a particularly busy week, I was looking online for a piece of music for a service I was due to take - I found the song - not on iTunes - and downloaded it.
BUT - then warnings started to pop up on my screen - a bug had been found with dire consequences to  my computer if I didn't ring ...
And so I rang.
I didn't think
I didn't pray
I rang

And the foreign man at the other end was plausible and patient, and persuasive ... long story short ...
I ended up purchasing expensive virus protection which later turned out to be available without cost.

My dear husband was remarkably kind - he talked me through the indicators of scamming and what I  needed to do.
So it was off to the bank to cancel my credit card.
And it was off to my computer man to check the laptop for any 'search and destroy viruses' 'they' might have planted.
But most of all it was to my knees to pour out to God my regret for not pausing long enough to seek God's wisdom before I acted.

As I write about this incident now, I can see that there were other  factors apart from busyness that contributed to my being sucked in -   my pride (a misplaced sense of being 'computer-savvy' - just because sometimes I can do computer things that my husband can't) and my habit of managing by myself, going it alone.

Pride, self-sufficiency and busyness-  three classic barriers to the grace of God. I was behaving as if rushing would lead me to good decisions, as if I knew more than Wisdom, as if I could work better alone, instead of in Relationship.

I was wrong.


Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy


Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
Mark Twain

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Duckling time again

It's duckling time of the year again.

Across the road in some vacant land, we saw a female duck sitting awkwardly in the grass. For a moment it looked as if she'd been hit by a car as her legs were stretched out behind her and we could see her webbed feet.But, as we waited and watched, she got up and, slowly, from under her broad body, emerged duckling after duckling after duckling  - eight in all - fluffy, adorable, vulnerable.

Half an hour later, as we returned from our walk, we came across a woman, pushing a pram and trying to control an enthusiastic little dog who mistook our labrador for her best friend, much to Lara's bemusement. As dog-owners do, we got talking and found that the duck and her brood were on this woman's mind too. In fact, we learned that, every day she was doing what she could to protect and feed the little family as they grew and started to walk up and down the street near where she lived.

This woman made an impression on us both - her own evident encounter with serious health issues hadn't stopped her 'going the second mile' to care for these little creatures, We both felt humbled by her courage and compassion.

And I was reminded of the gospel passage in which Jesus speaks of his enduring desire to gather Jerusalem's children 'as a hen gathers her brood under her wings' (Luke 13.34b) - but they were not willing.

Free will - ducklings have it and sometimes it leads them into trouble...
We have it, and with it the choice to move closer to God or further away, little by little, day by day.

Are you, am I like Jerusalem's children - unwilling to be gathered under God's wings?
Or are we increasingly drawn to Jesus, keeping close to him day by day, warmed, nurtured and then freed to live an abundant life?


Sunday, 9 October 2016

Working together

I spent Saturday morning at our church Gala - working alongside three other
women on the 'hot food' stall, with enticing aromas drifting from over a dozen
crock pots filled with an assortment of delicious beef, chicken and vegetarian food.
I always make the same pumpkin, red pepper , potato and lentil curry because
it's pretty fool-proof and goes down well with those for whom meat's not such an
important part of their diet.

What struck me was the simple pleasure of working together. We've known
each other really only as parishioners and priest, but here we were able to be alongside one
another, listening to each other's stories, sharing our thoughts about gardening and partners
and children and life  as we waited for customers.

photo from FAMILIES - calendar by M.I.L.K.
In the space of three hours we deepened our connection with each other, and were woven more deeply into the fabric of our church community as we served those from the wider neighbourhood who wanted feeding -  and it was fun!

Friendship, food and fun  - nothing too serious - nothing that had to be done in a particular way - nothing that cost a lot of money or had to be earned - but we were building relationships with each other, and, if we stopped to look around us, we could see the face of God:

  • in the smiling butterfly-painted face of the little girl with her mum
  • in the elderly man coming to get something tasty and different to take home for dinner
  • in the father and son manning the sausage sizzle ...
  • in people helping each other 
  • in the genuine warmth which welcomed the stranger  

God's not a million light years away but right in the midst of the ordinary - if we have eyes to see!






Tuesday, 4 October 2016

It's only 5am!

I am not an early riser by nature - I love the warmth of my bed and the comfort of lying flat. Now I'm reaping the consequences of heavy school bags and rounded shoulders, my neck isn't as strong as it used to be and complains after hours sitting in front of a laptop screen, writing.

Anyway, this morning I got up at the usual Tuesday time of  a little before 6am  so I could be at church by 6.30 am in time to set up for the service of Holy Communion at which our Bishop presides when he's able. I'd showered and dressed and was about to put on my watch, when I had to do a double-take - it wasn't 6.00 am as I thought - it was 5.00 am ! [and no - daylight saving clicked over the week before last so it wasn't that!]

5.00 am - I resist getting up that early but I was too far along the process to go back to bed so I took my laptop, went downstairs, sent Lara the labrador - always hopeful of  early biscuits- back to her bed and made myself a cup of tea.

There followed an hour of unexpected clarity about the next couple of sections of the book I'm currently writing - reference material, key concepts, questions, quotes - all just flowed as I spent time alternately writing [standing up at the sideboard as it's a good height] and wandering around the darkened lounge holding my warm drink and mulling things over.

Perhaps I was subject to a subtle Spirit strategy  - God knows my weakness, how I've struggled literally for years with getting up early, even naming it as my 'thorn in the flesh'!
Perhaps a moment of divine playfulness tickled my morning mind and the happy result was the gift of knowing what to write next!

Blessed be the God of surprises!

{ picture by Jean Keaton }




Friday, 30 September 2016

PET BLESSINGS


That day's approaching again  - the day when  the church remembers St Francis of Assisi  - the day when animal lovers are invited to bring their beloved pets to church for a blessing.

All it needs for us to go is set aside our normal early morning routine, make sure Lara's had a big run and done what she needs to do, and have a few little dog treats in our pockets - you can always get a labrador's attention with a well-timed biscuit!

The service, from what folk have told me, is a delightfully chaotic and happy time with barking, the very occasional accident, pets ranging from the carefully match-boxed spider [non-toxic of course] to slightly bemused alpacas all being told how beautiful they are, how beloved of God.

The church blesses our cats, dogs, birds, beasts ...
I long for the time when the church can freely and happily offer that same grace to all our brothers and sisters in Christ without exception -  young or old, rich or poor, LGBTQ or heterosexual, mentally unwell or marginally sane, doubting, stumbling, joyful or sad, in God's eyes we are all beautiful and beloved.

You  might not know that St Francis was not just a lover of the birds and beasts, he was a poet who helps us glimpse the creator heart of God:

God would kneel down

 I think God might be a little prejudiced.
For once He asked me to join Him on a walk
through this world,

and we gazed into every heart on this earth,
and I noticed He lingered a bit longer
before any face that was
weeping,

and before any eyes that were
laughing.

And sometimes when we passed
a soul in worship

God too would kneel
down.

I have come to learn: God

adores His creation.

Love poems from God: 12 Sacred Voices from East and West, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, Penguin:NY, 2002, p41


Monday, 26 September 2016

Shells

SHELLS ...

When I was younger I loved walking on the beach and collecting shells - large or small, so long as they were uninhabited!
Maybe you did that too, or have introduced grandchildren, or friends visiting from overseas, to the beauty of the shells beside your favourite piece of coastline. .
Maybe you even have a collection of shells stored away or enhancing the watery theme of your bathroom!

Back then, I used to keep only the shells that were perfect  - no bits broken off by the action of waves or rocks;
no rough edges or holes spoiling the smooth shapes.

My collection - like my life - had to be 'perfect'.

But over the years that has changed.

As I've got older I've come to realise that broken shells have a beauty all their own.
They show the reality of the environment in which they find themselves - the effects of powers far stronger than their own; the cracks made by the impact of events beyond their control; the holes in the exterior worn through to reveal something of the complex shapes hidden within.

And that's what matters to me now - to be able to catch a glimpse of the inner beauty  - the curves and spirals and the shining surfaces revealed as the exterior shell crumbles.

So next time you are feeling a bit rough around the edges, or buffeted by events or forces beyond your control, you may like to think of these less than perfect seas shells and be thankful  -
that  something of your inner beauty - and the beauty of others - can be revealed through brokenness;
that God chose to reveal the extent of God's love in the brokenness of Jesus the Christ, God with us.