Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Eve

It’s Easter Eve. 
In theory I should be spending this time meditating and reflecting and praying.  In practice I’m spending the day quietly reading, and recovering from a mild virus that hit the day before yesterday.
In fact the whole spiritual side of Holy Week has passed me by a little bit this year.  Much like Lent has.  I had every intention of observing Lent, even if I did start a few days late this year.  And while I did keep to my fast in the physical side, the prayer and reflection side of fasting just didn’t happen.
It’s been a strange spiritual journey this year.  What I had expected to be a particularly meaningful Lent, Holy Week and Good Friday haven’t been.  I simply haven’t had the energy to spend the time in prayer that I expected to have.
I read blogs of some very beautiful and spiritual women who do manage to contemplate the crucifixion in profound ways while washing their dishes and tending to their families.  I’m not one of those women. 
Although I’m not setting aside the time to pray, I’m still aware in the back of my mind what the season is.  I’m just tired and weary of aftershocks and stress.
Perhaps this is what the disciples felt?  Friday had been a horrible day – not only had their beloved leader been crucified, they’d also experienced a frightening supernatural darkness, and a major earthquake that shook open tombs.  Shell shocked, and traumatised and grieving.  Wanting to run and hide and wish it would all just GO AWAY. I know what that feels like. 
Steve said last Sunday that this is possibly the first Easter where we are in most need of a Resurrection.  The disciples had no way of knowing what was coming.  They would have felt that other earthquake on the Sunday morning, and taken it for an aftershock (and I think that even in the first century, it would have been observed that earthquakes are followed by more, slightly smaller shakes).  They would have been terrified.  This time last weekend I was diving for cover in a magnitude 5.3 aftershock, that went on for a minute and a half.  So I can relate to that too.
The disciples only had 3 days to wait for their resurrection, but they didn’t know that at the time.  We’ll probably have to wait more than 3 days for our “Sunday” in Christchurch, but when it does come I wonder what it will bring?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Glimpses of Joy

CS Lewis wrote a lot about Joy.  I can’t find the exact quote – but in my paraphrase the glimpses of Joy we experience in this world are but pale reflections of the Joy that awaits us in the world to come.

If we try to grasp and hold onto or seek after Joy for its own sake, we miss the point, and the very experience of Joy slips through our fingers.

Here are some glimpses of Joy that have kept me going this last week:

- My children playing with their imaginations and nature. Punakaiki3-1a

- Exploring and Rediscovering my favourite placesclip_image005 clip_image006



- Finding faces in the cliffs…    


…and goldfish in a garden

- An abundance of Life…
Punakaiki5a                                                     …and signs of re-growth and renewal

- Hearing with your soul the music of creation

- A sunset at the beachclip_image015

Glimpses of Joy are gifts of Grace.  I will accept and appreciate the moment, and drink of the refreshment offered.

Monday, April 18, 2011


One of the things I love about living in New Zealand is that at the drop of a hat you can toss together a short 3 day break to places like this:
There had been a howling southerly on Sunday night.  There was a definite dripping sound on our ceiling beneath the tarp on the roof where our chimney used to be.  I noticed the ceiling panel was starting to warp and bulge ominously.  A bead of water formed near the join of two panels.  Suddenly I felt very vulnerable and insecure.  A flurry of aftershocks (a wibble of wobbles perhaps?) over the weekend hadn’t helped. 
I plugged in some earphones and listened to music and tried not to think too hard about it.  The rain got heavier during the night.  The wind blew the rain hard against our bedroom window.  I tried to bury myself deeper under the covers. 
In the morning, there was fresh snow on the mountains, which was a good excuse not to be ready too early in the morning.  The wind was still bitter.  clip_image003
Hot chips at Springfield helped everyone feel better.
The mountains were spectacular with the first snow dusting of the season.
clip_image004 clip_image005
I told the children to “soak it in with your eyes”.
Once over the main divide we came into open blue skies and brilliant sunshine.  Truly the West Coast at its best.
It went very quiet in the back seat.
I felt a strange tightening in my cheeks at the corner of my mouth.  It has been far too long since I last came here.
This is one of my favourite parts of New Zealand.  Hubby observed that I was getting “energised” about this place.  Just you wait – it’s his first visit here and I’m sure by the end of three days he’ll be just as much in love with it as I am.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Amazing Grace

One of the “goose bumps” moments from last month’s Memorial Service:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

A slave trader in a shipwreck cries out in desperation.  His life is not only spared, it is totally transformed.

A half remembered fragment of a song: Grace by Which I Stand

A thought that bubbles to the surface when I see pictures of rubble: “There but for the Grace of God was I”

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

My memory niggles at a sermon I heard two years ago.  “The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”.  There was something profound there, something important, but I can’t remember enough of it.  Nor is the MP3 available on the web.

Grace.  How do I explain Grace to my child? or myself?  The old Sunday School definition: Grace is the gift given un-earned and un-deserved.  It seems to simplistic.  I sense something deeper within my spirit, something more.

Grace is about Restoration, Healing, Forgiveness, Transformation, Love, Hope and Life.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Grace was iron nails and a wooden cross.  Grace was darkness and earthquakes and a curtain torn open.  Grace was suffering, torture, grief and separation.  And Grace is resurrection.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

This post has been very disjointed, because my thoughts have been disjointed.  All these ideas are swirling around a gravity well* of something massive, something Significant and Important, that I can’t quite perceive or comprehend.

Grace.  Amazing Grace.

*A gravity well is a conceptual model of the gravitational field surrounding a body in space. The more massive the body the deeper and more extensive the gravity well associated with it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

No Quick Fixes

I've been thinking about the emotional rebuild. In some ways it would be easier to do the "carry on with the surface living, and given enough time the emotions and memories will fade" strategy.

I can see two problems with that approach. The first is that I don't think the memories will ever really fade even after the emotions do. And I don't think I want then to. My reading on the subject suggests that it's healthier to not try to ignore the memories, but rather assimilate them into my consciousness. Let these experiences become part of who I am and what makes me me. Thats seems to be why most people I come across in Christchurch naturally want to tell and retell their stories.

Secondly, I think this could be an opportunity for improvement within myself. I already know that surviving an event like an earthquake makes one stronger and more resilient.  More than that I'd like to come through this a better person. To do that I need to be taking the time to reflect on my experiences, and how I can allow them to be a catalyst for transformation.

None of this is a quick fix get over it kind of process.  It probably wouldn't work if it was. It's a journey. My faith tells me it's a journey God will be walking through with me.  In fact, I don't think as humans I have the ability to change myself. That change comes from the Holy Spirit transforming me from within, as I allow Him to work within me.  This is going to be an interesting and challenging road.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Life as we know it

I’ve actually been feeling “normal” this week.  Partially because life is taking small steps towards getting fixed.  Mister Two can sleep in his own room again now that the chimney is safely on the ground (the trick now is persuading him to do so).  Just today we heard that we no longer need to boil the drinking water.  (I’m getting excited about a glass of tap water).


The family is pretty much back to the normal routines of work and school.

Some things still have a way to go.  We can’t use our log burner, so are relying on a portable electric heater.  I’m not looking forward to this month’s power bill, especially with the cooler weather we’ve had this week. 

Work is still operating from the temporary office at the boss’s house.  Each day brings its own technical issues, but each day things get a little bit more sorted out.  At least with being able to cycle to work I’m not having to deal with the traffic, which still seems to be insane in this part of town.

Some of my workmates have talked about going into the accessible parts of the CBD for a look-see.  I've decided I’m not ready for that yet.  I think it would bring back too many memories. 

Back in the September quake, one of the Canterbury churches to suffer a lot of damage was St John’s in Hororata.  This church has a strong link in my own family history – many of my family are buried here.  I’d seen the pictures of the damage on TV and the internet at the time, but it wasn’t until we happened to be driving past a month later that it really hit.  It felt like a fist punching into my stomach to actually see it in real life, even though I knew what to expect.

I suspect that seeing the CBD will feel like that, only much, much worse.  I do not look forward to that feeling.

The Press published this photo a few days ago:

This is pretty much where I was on the day.  Just seeing the photo twisted knots in my stomach.  I find it hard to believe that I actually got out from that uninjured, especially when so many didn’t.

So as much as I’m feeling “normal” it’s only on the surface.  I can go day to day through my routines, but it only takes a picture to re-trigger some of the memories of the feelings. 

I don’t know how to conclude this post.  The obvious answer is that by continuing to live day by day the memories will start to fade, the feelings will become less intense.  But there’s more to it than that.  This blog is supposed to be about the deeper stuff.  I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate these experiences into the real deeper me.  I don’t have any answers – and it might take years before I do.  But this is where I am up to today in the process.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


This used to be our chimney. Strangely enough I'm happier with it on the ground than when it was wobbling on the roof. (The old traffic cone is optional decoration)

Monday, April 4, 2011

400,000 Stories

Everyone in this city has a story to tell about where they were at 12:51pm 22 February 2011, about what they did, how they coped (or not), their aftermath.  Each story is unique, and important.  Everyone has been impacted in a potentially life changing way.

Last weekend our church hosted a ladies evening, which focussed on providing an opportunity to share and listen to each other’s stories.  I found my story got summed up as one sentence: “I was in Cashel Mall”.  There has been enough news coverage of the damage and casualties from that part of town that not much more needed to be said. 

But there’s so much more that doesn’t get covered in the news reports, and graphic pictures of piles of rubble.  Little details that are etched in my memory: The image of a wall toppling towards me, the way the buildings crashed down the street one after the other (instead of simultaneously that I’d have expected if I’d ever thought about it).  The dust – the air thick with dust like a pea-soup fog but gritty.  The feeling of grit in my hair and eyes and ears and nose. (Made worse by being unable to shower for several days afterwards).  The numbing blankness of my mind as the primeval, instinctual part of my brain turned on survival mode, somehow calculating the trajectories of toppling buildings in an instant without any conscious thought, keeping me alive.  The way time slowed so 24 seconds seemed like an eternity.

Mine is just one of 400,000 stories.  Those who escaped, those who didn’t, and the vast majority who weren’t in any immediate danger, but still experienced intense, violent shaking.  Those in the eastern suburbs coping with liquefaction, flooding, and the lack of power, water and sewage.  Across the city – munted houses, munted roads, schools, shops.  Lost jobs, relocated jobs.  People getting frustrated, angry, discouraged and stressed.  The best of humanity, the heroes and occasionally the worst of humanity.

On its own each story doesn’t stand out from any other, but when we put all our stories together, weave and knit them,  combined, they tell of the experiences of a City.  It is the amalgamation of 400,000 stories that is powerful and impacting.  Each story, not matter how small and insignificant on its own, is a valid and essential part of the whole.   Even those outside of Christchurch are also part of this story – how they heard, how they felt, how they responded, and reached out to help in big and small ways.

Today I signed The Pledge.  One day that document of the tens of thousands of signatures will be bound and likely displayed at the Canterbury Museum as a symbol of the 400,000 stories bound into One Story, Our Story.