Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I believe in Magic

As a toddler, Young Lady was terrified of Santa.  Not only did she want nothing to do with the Mall Santa, she was scared to got sleep on Christmas Eve, afraid of the strange man in a red suit who might come into our house in the night while we’re sleeping.

“How about if Mummy and Daddy fill your stocking and just pretend its Santa?” I suggested.  She nodded eagerly, snuggled under her blanket and was asleep within minutes.

Several years later, a few days before Christmas, I was driving with a 7 year old Young Lady in the car with me.

“Santa’s not real, is he?” she said suddenly, “It’s just you and Daddy pretending.”

“Actually,” I answered her, “He was a real person.  His name was Nicholas, and he was a bishop of a town called Myra many hundreds of years ago.”  I then told her what I could remember off the top of my head of the story of the original Saint Nicholas (as summarised by Gary Hansen in his post here).

Her eyes grew wide, her little mouth dropped open, “You mean he really is really real?”

When we got home, I showed her in the Atlas (with a little help from Google) where Myra was (yes, that is a very long way from the North Pole).  We found this beautifully illustrated book at the library which told more of the stories of Saint Nicholas.

I found it tragic that a Vicar in the UK got into trouble for telling the story of Saint Nicholas to a group of children.  When I read some of the comments of the complaining parents that were quoted in the report, my first reaction was you can’t be serious! Either this is some over-reactive attention seeking, or these parents have missed the whole point completely! (Remember, there was this baby, who was put to sleep in a manger because there was no room in an inn…)

My own experience with my children has been that the original story of Nicolas has added to the awe and wonder and magic of Christmas, perhaps because it’s grounded in a real person (possibly some of the stories are slightly exaggerated by the distance of time) who lived in a real place (locatable on a map) in a real time (even if it was 1700 years ago). 

I’ve told my children that even though Nicholas died a very long time ago, because he was so good and generous and kind and loving, that his Spirit has lived on and become part of the Magic of Christmas that is still alive today.  Every time someone does something kind and generous in remembrance of Nicholas, they keep the spirit and magic of Nicolas alive.  (Yes, that’s the same magic that fills children’s stockings with goodies on Christmas eve).

Stories like this one in my own neighbourhood:  an anonymous benefactor has bought a HOUSE for a pensioner who would otherwise have been left homeless.

Or this story doing the rounds of Social Media:

Real stories, that happen in the here and now.  Not just the big ones that hit the news headlines or go viral on the internet, but also the smaller, everyday random kindnesses by ordinary people.  They are far more inspirational than the commercialised fantasy story involving flying reindeer and a sleigh full of expensive toys.  (I wonder how much in royalties Hollywood has paid to Coca-Cola over the years for their use of their character?). 

Here is the real magic of Christmas.  Ordinary people can be inspired by the greatest gift of all that we remember at Christmas – that God himself came to make himself known to us as one of us.  Ordinary people can demonstrate that love to others that was first shown to us through a child born 2013-ish years ago.  Ordinary people keep that Spirit and Magic alive.

Sometimes the very best of stories are the ones that happen to have been true once upon a time.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Are you listening?

There’s been a bit of attention in our local newspaper around the issue of poverty in our city.  This has generated some interesting conversations with various people about the issue.  This opinion article by Michael Gorman makes some excellent points.  The sad reality is that the stories that are published in the newspaper represent the tip of the iceberg.

I find myself straddling the tracks somewhat, between the “haves” and the “have-not's”. 

I grew up in a middle class family, with parents who were able to support and encourage me through school, and tertiary study as well.  My husband was forced through his family’s circumstances to leave school at 15 with no qualifications. His parents hadn’t known how to help him learn and support him in doing well, since they had also left school at a young age to enter the unskilled workforce.

I work in a professional environment, and many of my social contacts are on a “comfortable” income.  Yet I live in a neighbourhood just around the corner from Struggle Street.  My children have classmates who would be among those classified as being in poverty.

Of those I know, they are not families who are irresponsible or lazy or wasting their money on smokes or booze, which are the accusations the “Better-offs” often come out with.  They work, but on a minimum wage.  They have never had the opportunity of education to get the next step up the employment ladder.

Some families are on welfare benefits, through ill health, redundancy or relationship breakdown.  None of the beneficiaries I know want to be there, yet dealing with Work and Income to try to get what assistance they are in need of is a nightmare of condemnation and belittling put-downs.  If you can get though an interview with a case worker without ending up in tears you’re doing really well.  It’s easier to not ask.

These families are careful budgeters, where every cent is accounted for.  They are skilled at making a few dollars go a long way.  But in the last 4 years there has been a steady increase in the cost of food, rent, petrol and power, with no change in their income.  There is no room in that budget for any savings, for putting aside a contingency fund, so when there’s an unexpected trip to the doctor, or the rent goes up again, that’s enough to tip the balance from “coping” to “not coping,”

When I try to describe what some of these families are going though to my “better-off” friends, it’s like trying to describe what the Christchurch earthquakes were like to Aucklanders – despite their best intentions they just don’t get it.

This is not a political blog, and I don’t think there is an easy solution from a political point of view.  All I do know is the current government’s policy of “do nothing” seems to be achieving nothing.  Until those in the position of making those decisions actually take the time to get to know, listen to and understand those having to live on Struggle Street they’re not going to be able to find a solution that makes a real difference where it’s needed.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s nearly Christmas.  For some families it’s going to be yet another lean Christmas, a stressful and depressing time when they see all the glittery stuff the retailers are pushing at them.  No parent wants their child to miss out, yet even buying simple presents for the children can only be done by incurring further debt or else finding some second hand things for presents for their children and hoping there are no unexpected expenses this year.

Christmas is when God came to us, became part of our world, rubbed shoulders with us, and understood humanity by living with us as one of us.  He didn’t come to palaces, to the elite, he came to a peasant girl, born in homelessness.  His arrival was announced to shepherds not nobles.  His ministry was characterised by compassion for the needy.  His call to us is to be His representatives in this world, to continue His ministry to those who need it most. 

The Christmas message should be one that’s most relevant to the disadvantaged, yet they’re the very ones who struggle to afford to celebrate it. 

There's more to charity and compassion than a quick hand out to appease your own conscience.  It needs to start with respect, listening and understanding. What about you? How can you bring His presence into those who need it most in your community this Christmas?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

O Christmas Tree

At last, with 10 days to go before Christmas we finally have a Christmas Tree up.

I assembled the “tree”, then left the room while the children tackled the box of decorations.  I think they did a particularly good job.  My favourite bit is their use of a “Happy Birthday” crown that Miss Boo brought back from a birthday party earlier in the week.

I pulled out the nativity scene I’d hand made from modelling clay back last century.  It’s showing a little bit of wear and tear, but I just love the expressiveness of these figures. 

When I first made it I always had in mind to go back and make more figures in later years, but when I tried my hand at a shepherd the next year I just couldn’t get it to work. The knack or muse had passed.

If I don’t see you again before then, may you all have a blessed Christmas.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Diabolical December

Nutty November has become Diabolical December – at least for the first half of the month.  It seems like everyone thought “Let’s do our end of year thing at the beginning of December before it gets too busy” with the result that the beginning of December is now frantically busier than the second half of December.

I’ve made an advent wreath, and because I wasn’t organised enough to buy lollies, I photocopied the devotions for December from Bible Through The Seasons (that I used last year), and slipped each day’s reading into the advent calendar pockets.

Even with making a little bit of “slow time” each day with the family, I’m still feeling the effects of the busy-ness of this season.  I’m finding that normal pressures are becoming stressful, normal stresses are triggering anxiety, the knots in my stomach are out of proportion to what’s triggering them.  I’m recognising that this is my body’s way of telling me I need a break, a holiday!  Until that happens, I’ll make do with crawling into my nest/cave/corner of the bedroom whenever I can and hiding with a book.  Let me know when it’s all over and I’ll come back out then.

How are you coping with the “Silly Season”?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nutty November

You’ll often hear me saying “It’s all downhill from Labour Weekend”.  Which means around here it’s hard to get a minute to myself, let alone to write.  Between then and Christmas we have/had two birthdays in our family, at least one other friend’s birthday, a swag of end of year functions, Young Lady competed at the “Zone” Athletics, more end of year functions, Little Mister will be starting school in a couple of weeks so has been having his school pre-visits, and to keep us all on our toes, Husband has new employment the home business has started to get busy as well, and various other family things have been adding to the pressure. 

So here’s a montage of a few Pics I’ve snapped over the last 3 weeks, in no particular order.  Sorry about the quality, most of these were taken with my phone not the proper camera.  And I might find a bit of space to do some “proper” writing next month.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Crochet Dishcloths

I’d heard stories about these crafty swaps… but usually after they happened, when I’d read other people’s blog posts about all the lovely treasures they’d made and received.

When Leonie posted about a Dishcloth Swap, I thought “Why not?”  My crochet hook had been idle since I’d finished my shawl earlier in the year, and a dishcloth seems about the right size project to get back into it.  I’d never made a dishcloth before, but I figured it couldn’t be too hard.

Most of the patterns for “Dishcloths” on Ravelry seemed to be a variety of mostly square shapes.  I decided to improvise.  I consulted with a couple of crafty friends. One person said it needs to be a double knit cotton, in a chunky thick kind of stitch to make it nice and absorbent.  The other said that a finer cotton, and open stitch would work better, and it was the spaces between the stitches that did the cleaning work.  So I decided on a bob each way and to make one of each.

Then October suddenly got rather busy on me.  Our family had a trade exhibit at a local A&P show, and by the time we got organised for that, then recovered from the exhaustion afterwards, suddenly it was 24th October, and I was only a quarter of the way through this square.  “I’d better get on with this,” I thought, “I should be able to whip this up in a couple of evenings.” 

But when I got it out, I decided I didn’t really like how it was shaping up, so unravelled it and started again.  Then about half way through it wasn’t sitting right, so unravelled and started again.  By the time I’d finished the first dishcloth, it was Labour Day, and only four days before it was supposed to be in the hands of the recipient.

For the second dishcloth, I decided to use some cotton I’d bought intending to make a placemat/potholder for Mum’s Christmas present (I didn’t specify which year… it’s taking a bit longer to make than I thought it would).  I’d chosen colours that reminded me of Paua, and the combination of them seemed very aquatic. 

I thought a scallop type pattern would work well for this, and got started.  Then I found my sides were too rippled – I was increasing too many stitches.  So I unravelled and started again.  This time, about half way though, it was bowing up, too few stitches each increase.  So I unravelled and started again.  I finally got it finished on the 30th October.

I’d heard stories about these crafty swaps… about how much extra stuff sometimes gets included in the parcels beyond just the crafted item.  Not wanting to be caught out, I added a bar of my favourite goats milk soap, and a hand written letter, and sent it all away on the very last day of the month.

Then I got a huge box of goodies from Leonie herself – I was a bit embarrassed about how small the parcel I’d sent was.

It was just like I’d heard in the stories.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

All the fun of the Show

The rural “A&P (Agricultural and Pastoral) Shows” are an un-missable part of the New Zealand Summer.  The local show is the highlight of the year for many rural communities.  If you’re visiting New Zealand during the season, make sure you find a local show to visit while you’re here.  (And if you live here, don’t miss your local show in your region).

The children love it.  They enjoy seeing all the animals, including sheep:


These goats help make my favourite Goats Milk Soap:

At this time of the year, there’s lots of baby animals on display:

The pipe bands make a great atmosphere:

There’s also baking, hand crafts, dancing, show jumping, and the finale of the Grand Parade:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

If, Lord, thy Love is strong–St Teresa of Avila


If, Lord, Thy love for me is strong 
As this which binds me unto thee,
What holds me from thee Lord so long,
What holds thee Lord so long from me?
O soul, what then desirest thou?
Lord I would see thee, who thus choose thee.
What fears can yet assail thee now?
All that I fear is but lose thee.
Love’s whole possession I entreat,
Lor make my soul thine own abode,
And I will build a nest so sweet
It may not be too poor for God.
A soul in God hidden from sin,
What more desires for thee remain,
Save but to love again,
And all on flame with love within,
Love on, and turn to love again.
- St Teresa Avila
Source: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_%C3%81vila

Collect for St Teresa

Merciful God, who by your Spirit raised up your servant Teresa of Avila
to reveal to your Church the way of perfection:
grant that her teaching
may awaken in us a longing for holiness,
until we attain to the perfect union of love
in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Matthew 6:9 (NIVUK)

‘This, then, is how you should pray:
‘“Our Father in heaven…”’

The instant the midwife said “It’s a girl” and handed the squirming newborn to my husband, he was smitten.

Nearly a decade later, my daughter’s favourite time is spending time with her Dad.  Especially their evening card games before bedtime.

I have memories of myself at about the same age, climbing into my Dad’s armchair for a bedtime cuddle each night.  As a teenager Dad and I would go exploring in the Bush, discovering hidden waterfalls in the side-streams.  Now, Dad and I enjoy long conversations about everything under the sun.

Romans 8:15 (NIVUK)

The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’

I’ve been told that in Aramaic this is not a formal “Father” that is often implied when the Lord’s prayer is recited, but a more informal address, something like “Daddy”

Luke 11:11-13 (NIVUK)

‘Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

Heavenly Father.  Daddy.  Protector and provider. A Divine Dad who is smitten, besotted with me. A Dad who loves to spend time with me, who cares about me, who watches me grow and mature. A Dad who meets all my needs (but not necessarily all my wants). You knitted together my chromosomes at the moment of my conception and created me as unique individual.  You planted within my soul a desire to know you more, and gave the gift of your Holy Spirit to enable me to draw into your presence.  Nothing within me is hidden from you, all my dreams and all my failings. 

‘This, then, is how you should pray:
‘“Our Father in heaven…”’

Saturday, October 5, 2013


I need to get out of this City more often.

When I was in my teens, I spent most of my weekends and holidays in the Bush, while my parents worked at building what would become their retirement home.

I realised the other day how much I miss that.

The valley's main stream

There was a couple of spots in particular that were my favourite places.

The first was up the hill above the house.  There was a pocket of more mature trees in the regenerating bush, secluded in a hollow at the top of a dry gully.

As I turned the corner of the track and dropped into what we called “The Glade”, I descended into stillness and quietness.  I realised for the first time since coming into the valley I could no longer hear the rushing of the main stream echoing up the hill.  It’s a bit like when you have a power cut and you suddenly realise how much background noise your appliances make as they all fall silent. By some quirk of the geometry of the hill, this hollow was completely shielded from outside noises.  Even the wind only brushed over the tops of the trees without disturbing the Glade. 

Me aged 13, "The Glade"

There was a particular tree whose roots made a comfy spot to sit, leaning back against the trunk.  I loved to spend as long as I could just sitting and listening to the chirping of birds, the humming of insects, and the complete absence of other sounds.  It was like being in some other world.

The other spot was one I visited less often.  It was further up the valley, on the public track in the Forest Park.  The track mostly followed the main stream up the valley, but at this point it cut a corner, and as I walked along, the rushing of the stream faded away, and was replaced by a smaller, lighter splashing.  Then turning the corner, the track crossed a small side stream that dropped into a trickling waterfall just below.  Further on the track returned to the main stream, and as the smaller waterfall faded the rushing water came back into hearing.

The "Waterfall Spot" up the valley

With a bit of a scramble, I could climb down to the bottom of the small waterfall, and find a “possie” to sit and listen to it for a few minutes.  Occasionally other trampers (“hikers” to my non-kiwi readers) would cross above, intent on their destination up-valley, and apparently oblivious to the magic they were passing.

As I soaked in the Silences, it became a spiritual experience.  I became aware of the hand of the Creator, and of His presence.  I was not a Christian believer, but I became convinced of the Spirit.  I didn’t try to label the experience, but if pushed I probably would have called it “Magical”.  Not the tricks of a stage magician, nor the waving of wands and casting of spells, but the kind of magic you find in stories like Narnia - the intersection of other worlds with our own.

Now, having read some of Evelyn Underhill, I’d probably use the word “Mystical”.

When I started to attempt contemplative styles of praying from the example of St Teresa of Avila, or the Cloud of Unknowing, a corner of my spirit lifted its head, sniffed the air and blinked, “Hey, I recognise this place, I’ve been here before”

The challenge, as a working mother of three children, is finding the Silences.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

To love and honour

In a previous generation, my husband would have made someone a good butler.  He naturally loves being in the background, organising and making sure everything runs smoothly.  If you try to thank him publically, or give him too much attention, he disappears into the woodwork.

But I don’t always let him hide away.  Especially on his birthday.  And when his birthday is a Sunday, and there’s already a group of people gathered together (like the whole Church), it’s too good an opportunity for giving my husband a bit of public honour for all the behind-the-scenes work that he puts in.

Happy birthday darling, I hope you feel appreciated and loved today.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Making a Difference

It’s inspiring to hear about people out there that are passionate about making a difference in their community.  When I first saw this clip about Terrance Wallace, he became one of those inspiring people.  What Terrance has done is set up a hostel in the Auckland Grammar enrolment zone (one of NZ’s top boys schools) to enable boys from disadvantaged backgrounds to have the educational opportunities they would not otherwise have.

I’ve done a bit of voluntary work for community organisations over the years, and I can appreciate the amount of work it would have taken to get something like this actually up and running.  Having the vision is one thing, getting out there, finding sponsors and funding, the necessary property, recruiting the boys, persuading the parents, working through various rules, regulations and red tape – that all takes a lot of time, commitment and effort.

What Terrance has achieved is to build a community, a team of boys who will support and encourage each other to achieve their ambitions.  It’s not just about being able to attend a school that would be beyond the reach of their families, its the way they’re doing it together, and the mentoring and support from Terrance to practically demonstrate to them how they can become the men they have the potential to be.

This is faith in action.  This is what happens when people are prepared to stand up and make a difference.

I may not have the vision and passion of Terrance, but I do have the ability to make a difference to someone in the community I’m part of, even if it’s just one other person.  Each of us has that capacity.  Stories like this one inspire and encourage me to go out there and be part of the Answer.

You can read more of the World of Difference stories here: http://foundation.vodafone.co.nz/foundation-blog/

This is a sponsored post but opinions are my own.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Breathing Space

This is not like a normal Sunday service.  Lights are dimmed.  The seating is relaxed and comfortable.

A few songs, reflection, discussion and prayer. 

God.  Us.  Time together.

We call this “Breathing Space”.

It’s choosing to gather and set this time aside to reconnect together with our creator.

All are welcome.  Will you come?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Watching the World Go By

Sitting in a cafe by yourself praying aloud can look a bit weird.  However, sitting in a cafe by yourself scribbling into a little notebook doesn’t look weird at all. So I can sit, sip a flat white, nibble a brownie and write prayers.  (Although I got some funny looks when I stopped to snap a pic of my coffee.)

As part of “stilling myself”, I focus on an awareness of my surroundings. I’m sitting at a table outside, beside the footpath.  A sparrow grabs some crumbs under another table. 

A breeze caresses the potted plants next to me.  Some friends greet each other.  A father and daughter sit down together, just hanging out. Music playing in the cafe. The calling of gulls in the carpark.  The smile of the waitress serving the customers and clearing tables.

I find myself reminded of when I was about eleven years old I wrote a poem, the first lines of which were:

As I sit on my doorstep
Watching the world go by

Having dug through both my archives and my mother’s collection, there appears to be no copies of the full poem left in existence.  But it described the different things that could be seen and heard from the “doorstep” (although that was a poetic device, I remember composing it as I walked home from school one day). 

I think my eleven year old self was onto something.  Even surrounded by movement and noise, somehow by being aware of it, I can find a place where I also begin to be aware of the presence of the Creator, and turn my attention heavenwards.  As I do so, the surroundings I was focusing on just a short time ago begin to fade from my awareness and I can turn my attention to prayer.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Miss Olwyn

When I think about heroes of the faith, the first person that comes to mind isn’t someone like Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, or any other famous Christian, the first person I think of is Miss Olwyn.

Miss Olwyn passed away more than a decade ago, in her nineties.  I don’t even have a photo of her.  But I can see her in my memory, sitting in the front row of the Church, reading the words of the songs from a printed sheet (with large font) because she couldn’t read the screen.

At one time, where there was inter-generational disagreement about the volume of the music, someone asked Miss Olwyn’s opinion, as the oldest member of the congregation.  Her reply: “I’m just concentrating on singing the words.”  I learned a lot about worship from her example.

She somehow kept track of everyone’s birthday, even the youth.  She would make a point of saying “Happy Birthday”. She always had time for a chat, and it wouldn’t just be about the weather, she was actually interested in what was happening in my life and how my studies were going. I learned a lot about building relationships from her example

Nothing ever phased her.  She was centred on God, her faith was solid.  Even when her body was frail and weak, nothing would keep her from coming every Sunday, to sit in the same seat.  She was what we called an “Intercessor”, and committed herself to praying for others.  I learned a lot about faith from her example.

There was a time when a local bakery would donate unsold bread on Saturday evening, for members of the congregation to distribute to their neighbours or those in need.  Miss Olwyn always took some for her neighbours, and also kept food in her freezer for whenever someone needed a meal.  I learned a lot about caring from her example.

When I consider this passage in Hebrews, I’m reminded of Miss Olwyn, who I’m pretty sure is still cheering me on:

Hebrews 12:1-2a (NIVUK)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

When I think about who I most want to be like, I remember Miss Olwyn.

Who is your hero (or heroine) of Faith?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Taken for granted? Not this blogger.

Earlier this week I got the following email:

"We are working on putting together an exciting new piece on ‘New Zealand's Top Mummy Bloggers Travel Tips for 2013’ and you have been selected as one of the Top 30 bloggers for interview. Congratulations on making the list! I am writing to ask whether you might spare 5 minutes of your time to answer the 9 quick interview questions below?
Once complete we will list the best answers received into a fabulously designed post and link to your blog as well as your social media channels from within the post. In exchange for your time, you will gain exposure for your blog as we promote the post through our social media channels "

The first thing that raised my suspicions was that I was apparently a Top 30 blogger.  I’m pretty realistic about how many of you are actually reading this, and it’s not the top 30.

Then there was the fact that my time is only worth a bit of exposure. It felt a bit like being taken for granted. It was not like being asked to do a product review in return for a sample of whatever I’m reviewing, I don’t mind that.  In fact I find that a lot of fun to do, if the product is interesting and relevant to me. (Hint hint to any brands out there reading this).

So I turned to the Parents Online community to see what they thought, and discovered that nearly everyone in that group had received the same email. 

Vicki from Vegemitevix has posted her reply to the promoter:

I was so excited to read your email and to find out that I am one of the top 30 Kiwi travel bloggers. How wonderful! Did that mean you were about to offer me a fabulous trip to a five star spa, as I have been offered previously in the trip from the […] (Read the rest here – it’s brilliant)

It occurred to me that in a larger country, the PR firm may have got away with this.  But us Kiwi Bloggers are a pretty social lot, and we swap notes with each other. 

How many of you other bloggers also got this email?  How did you respond to it?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lift up your heads, you gates

A reflection on Psalm 24

A procession winds though the streets.  Starting in the countryside, in the villages by the sea.  People come out of houses as the crowds pass, joining in the throng as they wind their way up the mountain road towards the place of worship, singing praises as they prepare themselves for the festival, culminating before the gates, the entrance of the sanctuary, ready to meet with their God.

Psalm 24 (NIVUK)
Of David. A psalm.

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

5 They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Saviour.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.

7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty –
he is the King of glory.

Everything in this universe belongs to God.  He is the creator and sustainer of all life.  In Him the universe had its beginning, when He spoke the words “Let there be light”.  The pulse of life, that animates inanimate matter, making it a living thing, comes from his very breath.

God is Holy.  We approach Him with awe.  Who is worthy to enter into His presence?  None of us, if we rely on our own strength or will or “goodness”.  Yet when we stop relying on our own self righteousness, and trust instead on the redemption that God has made available through His grace, when we turn to Him for forgiveness, then it is God Himself who can cleanse our hands and heart.

Having received that redemption, we can approach with confidence to meet with God himself.  It is His promise that if we seek God with all our heart He will be found by us.

Jeremiah 29:12-14a (NIVUK)

12 ‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.

He longs for us to turn our hearts towards Him.  He calls each generation to be the generation that turns to God, to again make Him the focus of our lives instead of ourselves.

So we now approach the gates, the ancient doors. We stand at the threshold of a Holy Presence.  It is our choice whether we allow God’s presence to become real to us, or whether we remain with closed minds and hearts.  There is far more in this universe than what can be measured or observed through science, but we need to be willing to look beyond matter and into the dimensions of the Spirit.

When we catch the barest glimpse of the Glory and Holiness of the presence of God, the only natural response is to worship.  He is greater than the whole of the universe.  The infinite is beyond what our finite minds can comprehend.  We resort to images, which are no more than metaphors for what is beyond description.

Who am I to approach the creator of the universe?  Who am I, to be presume to be able to write about these things?  It’s easy to fall into the habit of relying solely on my own skills, my own strength, my own fallible “goodness”. 

Lord, that there would be less of me, less of the imperfect, and more room for You to work through me.

When I turn my attention off myself and back to God, all that is imperfect fades into the background.  It’s not really about me at all.  It’s about You, Lord.  When I’m contemplating Him, I don’t want to leave that place, that Presence.

The call goes out to the whole earth.  Beyond myself, into my community.  Beyond my community, to the ends of the Earth.

Revelation 7:9-10 (NIVUK)

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’

All are called to worship Him.  There are none excluded except those who choose not to come.

At that time, the cosmic battle will have been won.  Death itself will be no more.  Eternity will stretch before us. But that’s another post. 

I choose to begin Eternity in the Now.

Thanks to Gillian for praying this Psalm with me.  And thanks to Gary for introducing me to praying the Psalms.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The End of the Before

Three years ago today my world changed.  It was the End of the Before.

Anniversaries bring back memories.  4 September 2010.  26 December 2010.  22 February 201113 June 2011.  23 December 2011.  10 July 2012.  For each one I can tell you exactly where I was and exactly what happened.

Night-time. I was woken by a deep rumble, like distant thunder, coming from below the ground.  A kind of rumble that’s felt more than heard.  I instantly recognise it. 


I was already moving though the bedroom door as the rumble reached the house, and started vibrating. I gathered up my 20 month old son from his cot. He woke as I picked him up, blinking at me in bewilderment.

You're overreacting, a part of my mind told me. It's only an earthquake. He'd probably have slept through it if you'd left him.

I reached the doorway of my son's bedroom and I crouched over the child as the shaking increased in intensity. I could hear things falling out of the bathroom cupboards directly across the hall from me. This house will be fine, it's a 1950's timber house, it'll flex, but not fall down. I heard sounds of smashing and breaking in the kitchen. I looked down the hallway towards the girls bedrooms. There was a bookcase in the way. The shelf was secured to the wall, but I was worried about the things falling off it. My husband Viv staggered to the door of our bedroom, and stood bracing himself.

As the shaking stopped, the answerphone started screaming. Power surge. Viv headed into the office to turn it off. I tucked my son back into his cot, and went into the girls room. They were sitting huddled on their bunks.

“Wow, girls, you've just had your first earthquake. How exciting! Who wants to come and sleep in Mummy and Daddy's bed for the rest of the night” Expect aftershocks. The first aftershock rolled in as we settled into our bed, and the toddler came running to join us. We're not going to get much sleep now anyway. We somehow fit everyone in.

I looked at the clock. 4:35am. “Shall we turn on the radio now to find out where that one came from, or wait until morning?” I asked Viv.

“Just wait until morning.”

A loud knock on the door. It was our neighbour. “Are you guys okay? Our phone started ringing, and it was coming from your number.”

“Power surge. Probably the wires in the connection box shorting. Our answerphone screamed. You guys all okay?”

The neighbour headed off to check on others on the same driveway. I headed back into the bed . Must be in the mountains. Must be pretty bad inland. We rode the rollercoaster that was the rest of the night, watching the clock.

6:00am. The radio switched on to the news bulletin. “... centered near Darfied ...” That makes sense, its near the foothills. I still associated earthquakes with mountains.

I phoned my parents first thing. I don't want to wake my Australian sister, so I tried to calculate time zones, waiting to send her a text message. “Mum's already phoned me” came the reply.

My sister wrote in her blog:

My mother phoned while I was still in bed (OMG, who died?). Everyone’s okay (OMG, what happened?). Only the worst earthquake in New Zealand for 80 years, centred just outside of Christchurch. 7.1 on the Richter scale. Mum sounded “old” for the first time that I can recall (OMG, I hope she doesn’t read this!), but I guess she’d been awake since 4:30am phoning around checking up on local family and reassuring remote family.

It didn't really sink in that first day.

Earthquake or no

But who knew then that we’d have to live through more than 10,000 shakes over 22 months.

Anniversaries.  Memories.  Sometimes things change forever, and there’s no going back to Before. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Apparently I have Awesomeness

“It’s Official – I’m Awesome,” I posted on Facebook.

Im Awesome

“Of course you’re awesome,” said my husband from the computer desk a few minutes later.

“But this is someone I’m not even married to who think so too!”

No, honestly, I’m not getting a swelled head, it just feels good when someone writes something nice about you.

Maria from New Zealand It Is Then wrote the following:

Okay, next are two ladies I met at a bloggers' conference this autumn: one's Rachelle and the other's Claudia.
Neither seemed particularly captivating over the internet when I first saw them register for the conference, but boy did I like them both in person! And now as I keep reading their blogs, I have the same feeling I sometimes get with Treena: how is it that I'm not getting more of that awesomeness across from the screen? It's like I feel a little cheated even, like there's so much going on in their heads and in their lives, and I'm just getting little measly snippets here and there.

So basically, there’s not enough of ME coming through in my blog.

Sorry about that folks, it’s not my intention to deprive you of my awesomeness.

When I’m sitting here alone with the thoughts in my head, writing them down, there’s no interaction or dialogue happening.  It’s just going onto a screen then out into a void of the blog-iverse.

Otherwise, when I’m sitting having a conversation with a friend, it’s a different dynamic.  There’s instant feedback, and the conversation will go in all sorts of different directions.  My thoughts will go to different and (if it’s the right kind of friend) deeper places.

So a lot of who I am is sort of defined in interaction with other people.  Which is not always possible to write about because it’s as much about the other person as it is about me and not always appropriate for a public forum.

The challenge for me is to work on that part of my writing.  To let more of myself show.  So you all get to see my awesomeness too.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to (or not) build a Cathedral


Option 1:

Cost: about $30 from the local book store. 
Materials:  Some sort of plastic stuff
Time:  one afternoon. 
Seismic strength: appears okay, although the steeple has come off occasionally.
Comparison to the historic original:  Pretty good.
Practicality for worship:  Only if you’re about 1 cm tall.

Option 2:

Cost: About $5 million (NZD)
Materials:  Cardboard, steel and some kind of clear plastic.
Time: Over a year
Seismic Strength: Appears okay, but the cardboard doesn’t like getting too wet.  No steeple to fall down.
Comparison to the historic original:  Nil.
Practicality for worship:  Very good.

Once or twice in the Before, I had stopped and sat in the Cathedral-that-was for a few minutes of private prayer in my lunch break.

In between taking photos, I did the same today.  The building has changed, but God is still the same God.

How NOT to build a cathedral:

Take the Church Property Trustees through the courts to prevent them from “deconstructing” what’s left of the Cathedral-that-was, thus delaying and increasing their costs for building a permanent replacement, and leaving a deteriorating, weathered ruin.

In my opinion, the cathedral is supposed to be a place for worship, not a museum.  Those opposed to its replacement have missed the whole point of the building.  The architects would have intended the the building to direct people’s attention heavenward, not for the building to be focus.

In the very unlikely event that Jim Anderton or any other members of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust are reading this, Please let the Church get on with what the Church is supposed to concentrate on:  worshipping God, building relationships and serving the community.

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people! It is people! It is people!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ducklings, Daffodils and the Deeper Magic

The ducklings wouldn’t stay still for the photo.  Hence the rather blurry heavily cropped pic.

The daffodils were more co-operative.

The weather has been gradually getting warmer.  It’s no longer dark cycling to and from work.  Although it’s not officially spring for another week, it’s within sight.

We emerge from the caves where we’ve been hibernating, rubbing our eyes, blinking at the strange bright shiny thing in the sky, and wondering what do you call that not-grey colour again?

Energy!  Life! Sap flowing!  Blood pumping! 

Time to clean house, weed the garden, plant the vegetables.

Here “Down Under” we don’t have the entwining of Spring and Easter that the Northern Hemisphere does.  Even with the separation of the natural and ecclesiastical seasons, it’s hard not to think of resurrection and new life at this time of the year.

These thoughts mingle with the funeral I attended today.  A  warm, creative, vivacious woman who departed this life far too young.   We celebrate her life, grieve that she is no longer with us, and hold the hope of meeting again.  Death in the midst of resurrection.

Spring is meaningless without the winter that proceeds it. . Nature is focussing on growing and reproducing while the warmth lasts, before the cold comes again. The decayed vegetation from last season has nourished the soil, feeding this year’s new growth.  New life and hope are held in tension with loss and grieving.

John 12:23-36 (NIVUK) (Emphasis mine)

Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’

Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

The crowd spoke up, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain for ever, so how can you say, “The Son of Man must be lifted up”? Who is this “Son of Man”?’

Then Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.’

This is the Deeper Magic, a Divine Mystery that through death there is a greater life.  The more I ponder this, the less I think I understand of it.

Selah. (Pause and think on this.)

This post is dedicated to Rhonda Tucker, 1969 – 2013.  Until we meet again.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Just start writing

I don’t really like blogging about the minute of daily life.  I want my posts to be interesting and meaningful.  Which is a great theory, but falls down when nothing much interesting and meaningful is happening in my life.  The last few weeks have been… routine.

So the challenge is to try to find meaning and inspiration in the daily routines of life.  The little ups and downs that no-one really wants to read about.

Miss Nine played a game involving a stick floating down a stream, and racing to catch it again at the bottom. 

Sometimes the stick got caught in an eddy, and didn’t seem to make much progress, until eventually it swung back around (or got poked) and caught the current again.

Some people talk about being in a rut.  Or being like that stick in the eddy, needing to be poked to get moving again.  But I don’t believe that’s where my life is.  It’s more like just being in deep slow water.  I’m still moving forward, but there’s not much to see on the surface.  A season to relax and brace myself for whatever rapids are ahead. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Woven together

I started with the realisation that I’ve been attending the same church for 21 years.  I feel like I’m part of the fabric of this community, I’ve been woven into its very texture. 

Photo Credit: ©  Ellashouli Used with permission.

Although I’ve occasionally visited services at other churches, this is the one that feels like home.  Like in family, I am known there, with all my faults and failings, yet I’m also fully accepted and loved.

This church is more than just a community club.  Although we do socialise together, more importantly we worship and pray together.  We challenge each other, and support each other.

Luke the Physician describes the earliest known Christian church as follows:

The fellowship of the believers
(Acts 2:42-47 NIVUK)
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

(Some online resources for background reading about Luke and the book of Acts can be found here)

Okay, we’re not that good.  We don’t meet daily, we don’t share communal property, and miraculous wonders and signs are a  rarity.  And to be honest, if I did find a 21st century church that did meet daily and share communal property I’d probably by quite cautious of it, and checking it carefully on cultwatch.  There are lots of Christian Communities that are very good, but I can also think of lots of examples that start well then go astray.

Why is that, I wonder?

While I was reflecting on the good things about our church, I decided that what makes a great church is relationship:

  • Between the people and God
  • Between the leadership and the congregation
  • Within the congregation
  • Between the Church and the wider community

Relationships are like the warp threads that bind the individuals together into a unique community.

Photo Credit: ©  Ellashouli Used with permission.

The quality and depth of relationships is, in my opinion, the most important characteristic our 21st century church has in common with the 1st century church.

What do you think makes an awesome faith community?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Déjà vu

I have clear memories of my Dad taking me to this park when I was first learning to ride a bike, thirty-mumble years ago.

Back then, I wasn’t confident crossing the bridges, and would always wobble over just before the bridge.  My Miss Seven had no such problems.

The duck pond hasn’t changed much in three decades, although there has been some work done making a feature of the spring, and some strategically placed seating.

Now I get to enjoy taking this generation to practise their bike riding.  And one day, they might bring their children here too.

(Apologies for photo quality – using my phone camera)