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:

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.