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Here now

ImageThe Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.
–Wendell Berry

In our attempt to hold onto things and experiences, do we sometimes not even experience them properly in the present or enjoy them?

Are we living for the future instead of really being here, today, now?

This moment has its own opportunity to grow, to learn, to create, no matter how humdrum or terrifying the moment is.

Lord, help me to be here, now.

 

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Longing for Home

Last year sometime I downloaded a Kindle app onto my PC because I wanted to cheaply purchase a book that was very expensive to buy in hard copy. Later in the year, when I changed to an Android phone, I downloaded a Kindle app for that too and have used it frequently to read books while waiting at the doctor or taking the train etc. Then Grant bought me a Kindle for Christmas.

From time to time I browse the Amazon Kindle store – it is amazing the books you can purchase for free or just 99 cents. And they arrive on all three of my Kindle places within seconds. Wow!

This week I bought “The Longing for Home” by Frederick Buechner. Buechner is a US author whom I have read lots of quotes from in other author’s writings, but I have never read a whole book of his.

The first chapter is about that longing for home in all of us. Do you feel it?

I do, often. There’s that sense that home is not here on this earth, it is somewhere else.

Some of this for me might come from the fact that we shifted a lot when I was a child, and I have lived in around 26 houses in my 52 years. Like Buechner, the place that lives on in my memory is my maternal grandmother’s home. I found myself jealous that his Nana (whom he called Naya) had lived until he was in his mid thirties. Mine died when I was 27. Although an uncle lived on in her house afterward for 17 years, it wasn’t the same place without Nana there.

Buechner’s Naya lived in Woodland Rd, Pittsburgh, mine in Woodlands Rd, Opotiki, but I share that sense of specialness that lingers even today at her memory.

I am very happy within my family, my church, and the house I live in, but this longing for home cannot be fulfilled on this earth. I think it is a longing to be fully known, fully accepted for who I truly am, without any strings attached.

The memory of the way Nana’s face would light up when I (or any of her grandchildren) arrived reminds me that Jesus loves us all in the same way and one day will welcome us into our true home if we belong to Him.

I love the scene in the movie “The Way” when Martin Sheen stops at a house to see if there’s a place to stay. The family and guests are sitting outside having dinner. The owner of the house stands up to greet him: “Welcome! Come on in! We’ve been expecting you.”

Do you know Jesus? He longs to say that to you too…

 

Walking Wellington

For maybe 9 months or so, a friend and I have been doing good walks each Friday, which is my day off. My friend comments that she never realised all the beautiful places on her doorstep even though she had lived here for nearly 30 years. I didn’t realise either, but I kept Googling and talking to people and trying to keep the geography in my head. We have had fun exploring!

We try to walk 3-5 hours, preferably with some uphill. So far we have barely scratched the surface of the walks available, from the roads to Pencarrow & Baring Head lighthouses to Rimutaka Forest Park, to now exploring Belmont Regional Park on the western hills of Lower Hutt. We have hardly walked in Wellington itself, or gone north to Kaitoke Regional Park, some of which was the setting for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. There is lots still to try out! (We have been over to the Kapiti Coast once but I’m betting there are heaps more to be found over there too.)

I have learnt lots about myself on these walks.

Most of the time I walk with my eyes on my feet; Julie has to remind me to look up and enjoy the view. I am the driven one, usually the leader finding the path, motoring along, but once or twice Julie has had to take my hand and help me (once to get through a 150 year old tunnel in an earthquake-prone area without a torch.)

I have learnt that I don’t mind climbing steep hills (because my eyes are on my feet), but I don’t like climbing down (particularly where there is nothing to hold onto and the cars at the bottom look like matchboxes – more handholding!) My friend has other fears but that is her story to tell 🙂

The Wellington region is a beautiful place geographically with lots of different terrain, combined with city life and shopping if that is your thing (not to mention the arts; museums, film, opera.) I am amazed that no-one has set up walking tours of the region as a tourist venture (as far as I know.) You could do a different walk every day with beautiful views of the sea or NZ bush, then go out into the nightlife if you wanted. It is a walker’s paradise. Here are a couple of pics:

Image

Wainuiomata Coast Road

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Baring Head looking toward Pencarrow

Today, as we sat on Boulder Hill, if we looked one side, we could see Wellington harbour with a ferry coming in. If we looked to the south we could see snow-capped mountains at the top of the South Island. And if we looked to the other side, we could see the sea near Porirua Harbour. Absolutely beautiful!!

What about near where you live? Are there so many fabulous places to explore?

My dad turned 80 in January and we had a big family party for him. He has 6 children, of whom I am the eldest, plus 19 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. It was a big party and a lot of fun 🙂

My mum died 11 years ago so he has been at a bit of a loss for a decade or so without her, but the community of old folks he lives amongst now all support each other wonderfully and he has been reasonably well and happy, until the last couple of weeks. Suddenly his health has broken down and he is presently in hospital, although hopefully he will be discharged this week.

I wrote this for him:

Dad,

My memories are of you in shorts

On Hahei Beach,

With a transistor glued to your ear,

Listening to cricket,

Or teaching me to body surf.

 

Digging in the garden,

Pricking out plants in the nursery,

Loving Mum,

Yelling at us kids,

All of the above.

 

Where have the years gone?

Your skin has lost its dark brown lustre.

Your knees and other joints are knobbly,

Your lush black hair is now grey, white and thinning.

But I remember.

And love you.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Sharing my Faith

A couple of days ago I went on a date to a shopping mall with my youngest son. Jonny has recently graduated from a “fluffy” on these occasions to a full-blown hot chocolate with all the trimmings. It’s fun to watch him enjoy it 🙂

While we were drinking and chatting I was watching the people stream past me, away from the Warehouse, where they had been shopping. Some of the people I knew; most I didn’t. Occasionally people would speak to me.

While I had been on study leave during June, I had been examining the topic of discipleship, and also thinking about a sermon series on evangelism that we are starting in the second half of this month. As I watched these people stream past me last night, I was pondering on how to tell people about God.

You see, the thing I most value in life is my personal relationship with God. That is, I spend part of each day talking to Him in prayer (and listening), I read the Bible because it tells me about Him, and I spend a lot of time in my job telling people about how amazing He is. This relationship with Him is as real as anything in my life; more real in fact because nothing can take it away, short of me turning my back on Him, but even then He would hang around quietly loving me.

The problem with trying to tell people about my relationship with God is that it is so subjective, because He speaks to me in my heart, not with an audible voice. Hearing from God is so open to being misconstrued that I am suspicious myself when other people tell me, “God told me this,” unless I know them, know their character and their heart. Everything that we believe God tells us needs to be run through the grid of what the Bible tells us about God, to make sure we are not being deceived by our own thoughts or dark spiritual forces (which are real whether you believe in them or not.)

This makes it problematic to tell people about God because God does not just suddenly appear on cue, like a scripted movie stand-in. He is His own being. If we seek Him, we will find Him, but it requires some effort on our behalf. It is a journey that has winding paths, dead ends, desert places and wonderful green fields. I have been on this journey for more than 30 years, so how do I connect with someone who has not even taken the first step?? How can I describe how much He means to me? How can I create interest in Someone that many people don’t even believe exists?

I would be interested in your thoughts on this topic,

Blessings, Robyn

Encounter

Grant and I spent some time away in a quiet place last weekend and it was wonderful! This place had a lovely lot of books and I ended up having a bit of an encounter with Thomas Merton. Do you know who he is?

Thomas Merton was a writer and a Trappist monk who lived from 1915 -1968. His parents were artists and he was raised in Europe. There were a few interesting things about him:

  1. His Dad was a New Zealander.
  2. He was a loud & vibrant, talkative person who struggled with authority and yet he felt called to join a silent order monastery which was very strict!
  3. His writings have had a profound effect on so many people. There are SO many authors I have read this year who attribute Merton’s writings as being especially crucial to their personal spiritual growth.

I find some of the things he says helpful, and some not so much. Here is something I liked:

“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times. Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace.” from “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Thomas Merton had a lot of different facets to his character, so many that one of his biographers said that at his funeral there was such a wide range of people that some people couldn’t believe that they had known the same person! It is Merton the writer on matters of the heart that I am most interested in, rather than Merton the peace activist or Merton the monk who was interested in linking Eastern & Western spirituality.

When I was young, I quickly judged people as worthy of listening to or not listening to, depending on whether their theology fitted mine. (I think I was afraid of people who were different.)

Now I find that I can read the writings of people who I don’t necessarily agree with, and still find kernels of truth and helpful comments on subjects I am interested in, such as the transformation of the heart. Merton is one such person. I think I will take some time over the next little while to work my way through one of his books. (He was a prolific author!)

What about you? Do you read people you don’t agree with or do you only let people speak to you whose theology completely agrees with yours?

I have been thinking this week of the difference between being 40 and being 50. It doesn’t seem like much of difference yet a lot can happen in ten years.

I turned 40 in 2001, six months before 9/11. We were living in rented accommodation in Hamilton. We had four children aged 4-14 whom we were homeschooling. We did not have a connected TV, although we did have an old one we watched videos on. We had one computer, a Compaq…, which the children were only allowed one hour per day on. The kids spent a lot of time playing outside with the neighbourhood kids. We attended a large Christian homeschooling group every second Wednesday, and each Monday a friend and I shared teaching; I taught the morning and I had the afternoon free. We were attending a small Bible church because we loved the pastor’s expository teaching. We lived in the same city as my parents and younger sister, whom we caught up with regularly.

I turned 50 in 2011. In the interim we had had another child, my mother had died, and I had trained to be a Baptist pastor. On my 50th birthday, we were living in our own house in Lower Hutt (OK, the bank owns half!) We had 5 children aged 8-24, 1 grandchild plus another on the way. The 2 oldest children had grown up & left home and were living with partners of their own – 1 in Australia and 1 in the South Island. We had 2 TV’s plus an extra for gaming. We had 4 computers for 5 people. Our 2 younger boys were at school and the next oldest at university. We attended the local Baptist church where I was the sole pastor. We lived miles away from any of my family although Grant has a brother who lives nearby.

A number of changes in ten years!

What about you? How much of a difference has ten years made in your life?

What are you grateful for in the last ten years?

I am so grateful for God’s care over us and His faithfulness in calling me closer to Him. SDG.