Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Festival 200 Celebrations

As the member of a relatively small church (100-200 attendees), in a relatively small city, opportunities to worship as part of a larger crowd don't come by very often.   5000 attending a combined inter-church service may not seem that big to some of my overseas readers (I've heard there are some churches that get that number in a normal Sunday morning service), but around here it's something pretty special.

(All photos courtesy of Te Raranga, used with permission)

The occasion was Festival 200, hosted by Te Raranga earlier this month to celebrate 200 years since the first Christian worship service in New Zealand.  On Christmas Day 1814,  Rev Samuel Marsden, at the invitation of the chief, led divine service and preached from Luke 2:10 Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy.

By the 1850's more than 50% of Maori were Christian believers, with the message being spread primarily by the Tangata Whenua (people of the land). Many stories abound of missionaries arriving for the first time at a remote settlement, to find the local tribe were already believers and worshipping.

The organisers of this celebration had a challenging task bringing together different styles and traditions of Christian worship into one gathering, and in my opinion overall did an excellent job.

Young Lady and her two friends seemed a little hesitant at first, but relaxed as the service  progressed, and was dancing on her seat by the final music bracket.  (I wish I'd been able to capture the look on her face, but my phone at the time was being utilised by Young Lady as a torch/glow light for "Joy to the World").

A highlight was the singing  of our National Anthem.  We have an amazing and inspiring anthem, especially when all the versed are sung as a hymn and a prayer, sung by 5,000 from the  heart and with gusto:

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
English translation (Karetu)
O Lord, God,
of all people
Listen to us,
Cherish us
May good flourish,
May your blessings flow.

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.


For more information about the history of Christianity in New Zealand, see

Sunday, November 30, 2014


This video says it perfectly.

Peace.  Be still.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Holy Ground (A Psalm of Christchurch)

Holy Ground
(C) Claudia Mcfie and Louise Edgecumbe, 2014

When the walls come crashing down
I'm left alone on shaking ground
You are here.
Your promise is unchanging
You're still here by my side
You are here.

In the clouds of your glory
This world falls behind me
You are here.

This is Holy Ground,  Holy Ground
Here on your presence.
This is Holy Ground,  Holy Ground
Here in your presence,
Holy Ground.

On my knees I'm crying out
My praying words are failing me
You are here.
You carry me through darkness
Holding me at all times
You are here.

In the clouds of your glory
This world falls behind me
You are here.

This is Holy Ground,  Holy Ground
Here on your presence.
This is Holy Ground,  Holy Ground
Here in your presence,
Holy Ground.

First performed at Westside Church, Christchurch 27 July 2014
This recording 15 October 2014.
Many thanks to:
Vocals: Hannah Powell, Claudia McFie, Jairus Robb
Keyboard: Hannah Powell
Guitar: Jairus Robb
Trumpet; Louise Edgecumbe
Bass: Amy Scott
Drums: Rebekah Wain
Recording and production: Mike Young

"A prayer sung is a prayer prayed twice." (St Augustine, my paraphrase)

It's been a battle against discouragement to get to this point, with lots of bouts of “Not good enough”s.  In February, near the anniversary of the 2011 earthquake, I was writing a poem of my prayer, a "Psalm" of my journey through the last few years through post disaster trauma. Reflecting that when I was not able to pray, to "feel" God's presence, there remained a certainty within me that He was there, and bringing me through this time

As I reflect on His presence, I've become aware that even in the worst moments, when I was running for my life as building and masonry  crashed to the ground around me, He was there.

As I praise and worship in the Now, the memories of That Moment become part of this worship.  Somehow at the same time His presence reaches back into past and redeems the source of the pain, making that very moment when the world was lurching beneath my feet a Holy place.

Like the scene in Shadowlands when Joy tells Jack “the pain then is part of the happiness now” and vica versa.

It doesn't matter what you're circumstances are, what you're facing, even in the worst of  all times: Right here, right now, in this time and this place, God is here. This is Holy Ground.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Good Enough

“Nice try,” the thought whispers in my mind, “but not really good enough.”

Actually, I’ve put my all into this, and surely “Good Enough” isn’t too much to aim for?

Hold on, that thought isn’t true… too late, my emotions have already kicked in and my body has reacted to them.  There’s a sort of hollow feeling in my stomach, my throat feels tight, and pressure behind my eyes suggest weepiness. 

Images flash through my mind.  Some are memories, others are “what if”s of worse case scenarios.

But it’s NOT TRUE, I tell myself.  I am a “good enough” wife/mother/friend/employee/worshipper.  No-one has actually said anything to imply that I’m not “good enough,” yet there’s a striving with me to work harder, try better, because I don’t want to “fail”.

Remember, I don’t have to DO anything to earn God’s love.  Or my husband/children/friend’s love.

Thoughts like “not good enough” wind around our minds like some kind of vine or creeper, trapping us inside, choking us from trying.

Jesus used entangling thorns as a metaphor for “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” that “choke [the word] making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:24, NIV). 

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)

I used to think this verse was talking about the thoughts that tempt us to sin.  But now I’m starting to realise it also relates to those thoughts that would hold us back from being and doing what God is calling us to. 

These thoughts don’t like being “taken captive”.  In the last month or so as I’ve been unravelling this basket, they’ve been getting louder and more frequent.  But I know them for what they are – discouraging lies.

Time to do some weeding.

Friday, October 31, 2014

All Saints Eve

I’ve managed to avoid having much to do with Halloween. Until now.

The children were quite comfortable with being told “We just don’t do Halloween in our family, because Mummy doesn’t like it.” Until now.

Young Lady asked to go trick-or-treating with her friend.  I said no.

I sat down with her and explained why I don’t like Halloween, that I feel uncomfortable with the emphasis on ghosts and ghouls and scary creepy things.  I explained why I dislike trick-or-treating, (going up to strangers doors to ask for lollies when the rest of the time we tell children not to accept lollies from strangers, the potential for sugar overload, the implied encouragement of extortion and the commercialisation of the whole event.)  Young Lady was unconvinced.  “I’ll be with my friend, and I could find a nice costume not a scary one.”

No.  It’s just not Kiwi.  (Any stray trick-or-treaters that venture down our driveway are offered fresh fruit instead.  I’m not a complete spoil sport.)

But I’ve nothing against children having fun.  So I found a “Spring Party” hosted by a Church in the next suburb (Dress up but no scary costumes).  I encouraged the children to think of a mini-wearable-arts project we could make (in three days with a tight budget).  They sat down with pencil and paper and designed some ideas, I spent more than I intended at the local craft shop, and headed over to L’s to use her sewing machine and expertise.

“I’m not having fun!” grinned L as she gleefully snipped and sewed. Yeah, right. 

We created a white dove, a black cat, and a blue space-man.

Then it turned out Young Lady’s friend didn’t really want to go trick-or-treating either (it was big sister’s idea) and was quite happy to join us in a non-scary event.

They had such a good time they all want to go back again next year.

Collect on the Eve of All Saints’

Almighty God,you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through 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.

Happy All Saints’ Eve everyone.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Under the Basket

Matthew 5:14-16 (CEB)

You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.

Mark 4:21-22 (CEB)

Jesus said to them, "Does anyone bring in a lamp in order to put it under a basket or a bed? Shouldn’t it be placed on a lampstand?  Everything hidden will be revealed, and everything secret will come out into the open.


My lamp feels cosy and safe tucked up inside this basket.

The basket has been woven from memories.  Painful memories.  When I've experienced rejection, ridicule and humiliation.  And I find myself repeating those memories to myself: "no, you don't want to try that, remember last time you did that..."  Better to keep hidden, keep secret, the memories tell me, after all there are so many other lamps far prettier and brighter than yours, no-one would be interested in your feeble little flickering light. When no-one knows the lamp exists, then no-one can tell me my lamp isn't good enough.


Covering a lit lamp  with a flamable basket is probably not really a very good idea.  If the lamp doesn't end up snuffed out, the basket itself could ignite with catastrophic consequences.

So I've decided it's time to start unravelling the basket.  To pull apart the fears and vulnerabilities and insecurities that are keeping me hidden. This is not going to be easy, but there are particular shadows in this corner of the world that it's my job to shine into.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Our place of Safety

I was delighted to be invited to contribute to NZ Christian Mums.

My first contribution is "Our Place of Safety:”

" I open the pages of my newspaper lately and my heart grieves. In particular at the moment with the stories about ISIS from Iraq, stories about Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria… It’s hard to know how to pray, knowing that war and conflict and loss of life is ongoing. Even when today’s newspaper is recycled into pulp, there’ll be another heartbreak in some other part of the world.

Jesus told us, “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”

When I’m faced with not knowing how to pray, I turn to the Psalms. Today, my Bible opens at Psalm 46:"

Head on over to read the rest at

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The story isn’t finished yet.

Back in 2012 I’d written the perfect end to my Earthquake Recovery Memoir.  I’d finished counselling, was feeling pretty good, and thought I was “better”.

I was kidding myself.

I’m still in the middle of this story.  The end is not even in sight yet.  Each time I think I’m making good progress, the roller-coaster swoops down into it’s next downward plunge.

Free magnetic roller coaster available from

So I find myself experiencing tension and stress.  That’s okay, I can fix this.  I can use those strategies I learned back in 2012: relaxation techniques, meditative prayer.

Except in 2014 they don’t seem to be working so well.

I need to try harder. I need to pray more/harder/deeper/differently.  I need to…

You don’t need to do anything to earn God’s love.
Yeah, yeah.  I know that.  Free gift of grace and all that. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
You’re not living like you know it.

Huh?  Hmmm… “Try harder, pray harder, do more.”
But I don’t need to.
I don’t need to do any of these things to earn God’s love.
Is that what I’ve been trying to do?

“Getting better” is not about me doing stuff to make myself better.  “Trying harder” doesn’t work.

So what does work?

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11:28-30)

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

I'm not sure why this photo fits into this post, but it just does.  Feel free to find your own metaphors from it.

Rest.  Trust.

I guess it’s worth a try.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Flee while you can and other tips for Facebook Newbies

(Based on a message sent to a friend who recently joined the dark side Facebook.)

I think of Facebook like a large social gathering of my  friends with lots of conversations going on.  Whatever you might chat about in these settings would be suitable sharing, ranging from the weather, kids school achievements, moaning about government departments, etc.  More personal stuff you'd usually just talk to one or two friends about is best kept to private chat.

When posting and sharing, be sure to "separate the wheat from the chaff".  If it's something genuinely funny, entertaining, inspiring or informative then share away.

Show discernment and discretion in the following:

  • If it's too good to be true, it probably is.  If someone is offering a free iPhone for sharing a post, approach with a high degree of scepticism.  If in doubt, don't.
  • Warnings, unless they come from a reputable source like Civil Defence or Metservice, check with Google or a hoax-busters site first.  (Some spoof versions are worth sharing under the "genuinely funny" category.)
  • Anything along the lines of "Share to show you care about cancer/mental illness/animals/children/the environment etc."  These do nothing to really help those affected by the issue, they just clutter up newsfeeds and turn people off the genuine causes. (Again, some spoofs are worth sharing under the "genuinely funny" category).  It's better to share informative articles from reputable sources about the issues you care about.
  • Any video or website that makes you share before viewing the content, DON'T.  It'll most likely be objectionable material.
  • Videos, etc. that with headlines like "You'll never believe what happened next...".  A lot of these seem to be hosted on sites that are paid advertisers to Facebook, and get put to the top of your newsfeed, but most of them are not up to their hype.
    Stick of butter
  • Oversharing: What you cooked for tea last night is not probably something you'd mention at that large social gathering, unless it's a particularly special dish (like this Irish Cream Tiramisu) in which case share the recipe so we can try it too.
  • Cute animals and babies are popular and populous. Try to only re-share the best of the best otherwise newsfeeds tend to get inundated.

Speaking of newsfeeds: be aware that Facebook controls the newsfeed with algorithms, supposedly to keep it interesting.  Don't trust Facebook.  They tend to favour posts that link to their advertisers, and they've also been known to manipulate newsfeeds for psychological experimenting.  (I.e. they play mind games with you.)  "Most Recent" is better than "Top Stories" but still sometimes filters out posts you really would be interested in.  I'd suggest opting to receive notifications for anyone whose posts you don't want to miss.

On the other hand, if your newsfeed is getting crowded by annoying or boring posts from any individual, you can "unfollow" them without "de-friending" them which will help clear up that newsfeed a bit.

Oh, and NEVER leave your Facebook logged in on an unattended device (especially around certain people I could name but won’t – you know who you all are), otherwise you might end up with this for your status:
Status posts

Remember: Christ has no on-line presence but yours:


Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy  - think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

What other suggestions would you add?

Monday, June 30, 2014

When Church and Community Meet

How does Church reach into its community?  Do we just sit inside our 4 walls Sunday after Sunday, singing the same songs,  praying the same prayers, chatting to the same people week after week?  Meanwhile, outside the building are hundreds of people whose only experience of church is dusty pews and scratchy hymns, where they used to venture only for weddings and funerals but now even those happen in secular venues.

Sometimes we just need to break the mould, do something completely different on a Sunday morning.


Let's throw open the doors and invite the community in, feed them barista coffee and cupcakes and a sausage sizzle, entertain with some music, give them freebies in a goodie bag, and show them what we can offer.

Recently Updated3

We put up displays highlighting the many varied activities that happen within this congregation.   We pampered and decorated, children coloured and created, we gave away stuff just 'cause we could.  Recently Updated4

We met people we didn't know.  We told them our stories, about why we worship this God, and why this Church is such an awesome bunch of people to explore Faith together with.

Recently Updated5

And the community came.  They accepted the freebies, ate the sausages, drank the coffee, let us pray for them, and listened to us.

“There's a bit more to this than an old pipe organ then.”

Friday, June 20, 2014

All Right? Again?

My Dad used to say that we as humans can be  pretty good at adapting to stress, as long as we only have one stress at a time.  Two stresses, and we can cope, but it takes more energy.  Three or more stresses, and that's when we start not coping.  It doesn't matter so much whether the stress is big or small, its the cumulative effect that counts.

Most of Christchurch, to some degree, is already battling stress from EQC/Insurance issues, roadworks and traffic and in some areas the flooding that occurs with every heavy rainfall.  These stresses are affecting the community as a whole.

On top of this you have the various sources of stress that are unique to different people:  Health, family, finances, relationships, work, accommodation and so forth.  The thing is: we'd probably be able to sort-of cope okay with one or two of these things, but when they come on top of those community  stresses, even the small personal stresses can tip the balance between coping and not coping.

I  can see the effects of  stress among family and friends.  Tiredness and exhaustion, getting sick more often, unhealthy weight loss or gain, difficulty sleeping, strained and broken relationships,  the list goes on.  I can't think of anyone among  my circle of close friends who  aren't showing at least one of these symptoms.

And me?  I’m not conscious of feeling anxious or worried about anything, but the ache in my jaw and worn enamel on my teeth tell me my subconscious is stressed.  There’s lots of stuff on, and some days I’m struggling to keep all the balls in the air, but at the same time I’m feeling creative and positive in other areas.  It’s not so much the ups and downs, but closer to the twirling around upside down bit sometimes.

The good folk at All Right? have released some research about how we’re all coping (or not) with our post-earthquake lives. 

Key findings include:

  • More than two thirds (67%) reported that they are still grieving for what’s been lost in Christchurch
  • 65% of Christchurch city residents reported feeling tired in 2014 – a 10% increase on 2012
  • Less than one half (48%) of respondents reported regularly sleeping well
  • Almost half (44%) of those surveyed say they’re still struggling to come to terms with all that has happened as a result of the earthquakes
  • More respondents agreed that it felt like their life has been normal over the last 12 months (66% in 2014, 60% in 2012)

Let’s see: Tired – Check.  Problems sleeping – sometimes.  Overwhelmed – on some days. Normal? – define “Normal”?

How about everyone else out there?  How are you getting on?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Imagine the Unimaginable

I have been trying to resist the temptation to  respond to these comments by Richard Dawkins in my morning newspaper all day.  Numerous paragraphs extolling the virtues of fantasy and imagination have been mentally written and discarded.

I refer to someone who puts it so much better than I could -  to quote Evelyn Underhill from her book Mysticism:
[Realism]...says in effect, "The room in which we find ourselves is fairly comfortable.  Draw the curtains, for the night is dark, and let us devote ourselves to describing the furniture."
Mr Dawkins, with all due respect, you may stick to your Realism.  I'll be over here, behind the curtain, with my nose pressed to the glass  of the window, trying to count the stars and imagine the unimaginable.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

On a cold and frosty morning

Christchurch Airport Marathon 2014 (10km route)

The temperature hovered at -3°C as I lined up to check in my bag.  I had postponed this as long as I could, reluctant to part with my scarf, jacket and mitts. My fingers quickly tried to tuck themselves into my armpits in a vain attempt to not freeze.

The pre-run briefing included warnings about which parts of the course had ICE… and extra care needed.  The pop of a starter gun, and four thousand running shoes echoed against the asphalt.  After about 3 km my fingers developed pins and needles as circulation returned. 

The marshals were well rugged up (they weren’t moving), and I rather envied the guy running in a lion “onesie”.

Last year when I ran the 10km distance it was a challenge.  This year I’ve been running longer distances in my training (including 14km at the City to Surf back in March), so still had plenty of “run” left in my legs when I crossed the finish line 52 minutes later.  The sun had risen during that time, and the temperature had made it all the way up to zero, but was still below that in the shade.  By the time Husband crossed the line 12 minutes later I was freezing again.  We didn’t stick around for prize-giving, opting instead for a quick retreat home for a hot shower.

For those who missed the subtle brag on Facebook, my official results are here.

2014 Goals:  Running – In Progress.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Trying something new

I've been spending some time this year on a completely new direction for me. Or to be more accurate, re-awakening a very long dormant one.
Most musios I know have been involved with music since their youth.  I'd also been musical from a young age, but for me it was a private sort of thing.  I learned recorder, and developed a love for baroque music.  But when I went to High School the music department considered the recorder to only be a beginners instrument (Not so! Listen to these guys), so I was discouraged from pursuing it further.
Then I took singing lessons, but can't recall ever performing in public.  My position at the bottom of the school pecking order suggested any attempt to do so would be a potentially humiliating experience before singing a single note.  I lacked confidence back then.
So I quietly played my recorder in my own room, just for my own enjoyment.  And sang in the middle of the congregation at church.  Somewhere I'd filed music as being for other people, even though I'd been told by my music teachers I had good tone.
Roll forward several decades.   I was organising music lessons for the children, and their teacher suggested I give the worship team at church a go.  Deep withing my spirit was  a little nudging to just give this a try and see where it leads me, so with much trepidation I went along. 
It was really hard overcoming a lifetime of burying that side of myself.  On more than one occasion I had a real battle inside of myself to silence the negative voice telling me I wasn't really good enough and didn't really belong here.  (Aww, crap, I'm trying not to cry just writing this story).
It's been hard coming into this as a newbie in my 40's.  But I'm following that litle nudging in my spirit, and all the feedback I'm getting is positive.
So last Sunday found me on a stage singing with a microphone in my hand in front of the congregation as a backing vocalist.  And once I got past the first song I felt really good about it. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Claudia Scarf

My sister spotted and sent me the pattern.  I just HAD to make it – after all it has my name all over it!


I asked Husband to look out for some 4 ply yarn.  The salesperson was sceptical:  a scarf in 4 ply would take all winter she thought.


Three weeks later I’d finished.  I suspect the salesperson thought I was knitting instead of crocheting.


I’ve used a Baby Merino, so it’s soft and warm:  perfect for the Christchurch winter ahead.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Down Under Easter is NOT on spring.

It wasn't until I published my post last night that I realised my Ash Wednesday post also featured a storm.

I have struggled with Lent this year. And it's just clicked how much the weather may have affected that.

With Lent sandwiched both ends with wild and woolly weather, and a filling in between of weeks of overcast drizzly days, perhaps that goes some way to explaining my current feelings.

The northern hemisphere dominates Easter themes.  There's no nodding daffodils, fluffy chicks, warming days heading towards summer inspiring hope happening around here. Instead its cold and miserable,  the days are getting shorter and we have a long winter ahead of us to get through.

Time to stoke up the fire and hunker down with hot cross buns to ride out yet another storm.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Just one hour?

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.

Matthew 26:36-45 (NIV)

As a 21st century Christian, it’s easy to get rather smug, and with the benefit of 2000 years of hindsight to think that we'd have done better than the disciples.  We’d “get it” at all the places the disciples missed the point, and we’d sure be able to stay awake with Jesus on this night of all nights. 

But if I’m really honest with myself, I’m no better than Peter and the others.  I miss the point of what God’s doing in my life all the time, and it’s usually only with hindsight I can see His hand in things.  And staying awake?? I’d be in deep slumber with the rest of them.

I’ll admit it, I'm tired. 

It's been a busy term and I'm just running out of oomph. 

Imagine you're out in the bush and it's a bit cold and wet (like this autumn weather has been the last few weeks) and you start shivering.  That's okay because it's your body keeping itself warm, but it also consumes energy, and when that energy runs out you stop shivering, and now you're in serious danger.  Don't mind me, you just carry on without me.  I'll be fine, I'll just have a little rest under this tree. Anyone who knows survival would be stopping right there, organising a shelter, getting you out of your wet clothes and into a  sleeping bag with a warm chocolaty drink (if you're still capable of holding the cup), and getting help.

Image Source

All the strategies I’ve learned for looking after myself have been just enough to keep me coping, just like the shivering.  But they’re taking up energy, and I’m getting tired.  And it’s not even winter yet.

Matthew 11:28-30 NIV:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This Easter, I’m taking the time to rest, really rest.  (And indulge in a little bit of nice rich dark chocolate…).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ready for the storm

I don't feel ready for lent.

I woke this  morning after a restless night as a storm rattled wind and rain at my bedroom window.  The morning of Ash Wednesday,  the first day  of lent.   I haven't even decided how to observe the fast this year.
I rolled over and buried myself further under my bedding.  Outside the city was being battered by what became a 1-in-100-year storm. 
(Update:  News coverage of the storm and subsequent flooding: click here)

Surely it doesn't matter that I don't feel ready to observe Lent.  Lent  is the time of preparation itself.  The next 40 days are not just about following a particular ritual.   It is a time for focusing. A time of  stripping away the surface stuff and centering on what's  really important.

I've still been  feeling the symptoms of tension from  last month.  As I lay in bed I breathed in and out. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, I prayed silently as I breathed.  Then I opened my eyes, ready for the day, ready for the storm. 

Ready for Lent.
Looks far prettier from above than it does underneath

Friday, February 28, 2014

I am with you always

For some reason I ended up on the middle of the footbridge on the outskirts of Town.  I parked my bike, leaned my elbows on the railing, and watched  the swirling eddies downstream.

I was seventeen: vulnerable and insecure.

"God, I want to follow you," I prayed, "But I'm scared."

A small whisper deep within my spirit replied, Don’t be afraid.  I will always be with you.  No matter where you go or what happens, I will never leave you.

The plan was that I would write a post summarising everything I’d learned on my 5 month journey through the Gospel of Matthew

You know what – it’s too hard.  You’ll just need to go and read Matthew for yourself.

What seemed to me to tie everything together was “Immanuel”, or God With Us.  This was the undercurrent, the who, what, why and how of everything else in the Gospel.

A few days after the February 2011 earthquake, I went for a walk to find a space to pray.  I found a place surrounded by open fields and empty sky, and sat on the grass next to a farm gate.  But when I tried to pray, for the first time in more than twenty years, I couldn’t.  Where my spirit used to be there was a gaping, raw, bleeding space.  It felt like my guts had been ripped out, there was a physical pain in my abdomen.  I wanted to cry, but no tears came.  The grief and pain of the trauma felt over whelming. 

I couldn’t “feel” anything of God.  But I wasn’t abandoned.  Deep down beneath the pain, in the very core of my being, I wasn’t alone.  It was like a silent companion, not saying or doing anything, just sitting on the grass beside me keeping me company in my grief.

I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

God, the creator of the universe, both seen and unseen, is with you now.  In this very moment, as you’re reading this, he is with you.  And in the next moment, and the one after that, he is still with you.

Think on this.  Be aware of it.

What difference does this awareness make to the way you pray?
What difference does it make to how you deal with what’s worrying you?
What difference does it make to what priorities you give your time, energy and resources to?
What difference does it make to how you treat other people?

I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The World’s Best Bible-Reading Program?

Back in October last year, I stumbled across a blog post by Dan Edelen claiming to be “The World’s Best Bible-Reading Program”.

Over the years I’ve used a number of programs, lectionaries and schedules for my devotions.  Most of them have the goal of reading through the whole Bible within a set time frame, usually somewhere between a year and three years.  I consider that after 20-odd years of Bible reading I’ve got a pretty good idea of the contents of the whole Bible.

What differs with this concept is that it's more based on meditating more deeply on each book within the Bible, immersing your spirit in it, without any time based goals attached to it.  To borrow the clique, it’s not about how much you get through the Bible, it’s about how much of the Bible gets into you.

I thought I’d give it a go.  So I’ve been immersing myself in the book of Matthew since October.  That’s 5 months on one book, 28 chapters.  (I’ll share my reflections of what I’ve learned reading Matthew in another post.)  I’ve found it quite a different experience focussing intensely on one book.  I’ve picked up themes and repetitions the author has used for emphasis that I hadn’t noticed before.  I found it helped to use a variety of translations on my different journeys through the book.

The biggest challenge has been step 9: “Take everything you’ve learned in this book and put it into practice.”  As you’ll find in my following post, there’s some stuff that I’m still working on applying.  I’ll keep working on them while I start on Mark.  I’ll probably have to keep working on them the rest of my life.

So here’s the link to this “Program”.  Go ahead and give it a go, then I’d appreciate you popping back in a couple of months and telling me what you thought of it.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

All right?

Today is the third anniversary of the day 185 people lost their lives, and we lost our city.

We’ve been told the third year after a natural disaster is the worst for mental health issues to come out.  Somehow, people who have been coping okay until now find they’re not coping so well any more.

There has recently been a poster campaign asking the question: “All Right?”

Am I all right? Most of the time I feel okay. Sometimes it still hits.  Anniversaries like this one trigger memories.  I found my jaw aching this week – I’d been unconsciously clenching my teeth.  Little irritants have cause more of a reaction than normal.  I’ve found myself having to stop and breathe a bit more.  I’m trying to use the strategies and techniques I learned from counselling to look after myself emotionally and spiritually.

When I go into what used to be the city centre, and see yet more open spaces where there aren’t supposed to be open spaces.  I can’t get used to that.  My gut twists inside of me when I see landmarks through the middle of what used to be two city blocks.  It’s not “all right.”

There are some positives still.  There is still a lot of colour and creativity and vibrancy to the city where there used to be grey stone or dungy brick.  That gives me hope that the New city to come will be even better than the Old. 

But there’s also this weird juxtaposition that we’ve sort of got used to: vibrant colour, creative artwork immediately adjacent to and surrounded by rubble and de-construction and re-construction.  There’s a weird mingling of hope and grief.  All right?  Maybe.

Please keep praying for our city.  The ground may have stopped shaking, but the journey is only just begun for us.

All right?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happily Ever After…

Today is our wedding anniversary.

I didn't choose to get married on Valentines day because I'm a hopeless romantic. It was the practical consideration that my Husband would never have any excuse remembering our anniversary. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

We often make the observation "I married my best friend."

"Can I marry my best friend?" asks Little Mister (aged 5).
"You need to be grown up first" I reply. Where did my little baby go?
"And then you need to ask her Father," adds Husband, with a meaningful look at Young Lady and Miss Boo.

Back Then, we were Best Friends, and we were being very careful not to let any complicating romantic feelings spoil our friendship. It didn't matter that most of our friends assumed we were a couple, we knew better.

Until God and I had the following conversation: (It's okay, I wasn't hearing voices or anything. Just an internal dialogue that occurred while I was praying, represented as an external dialogue for literary convenience).

God: You're going to marry this man.
Me: Are you sure God? That's a bit of a turnaround. Can you give me some kind of sign to confirm this?
God: Sure I can. I've told him the same thing.
Me: Ummmm.

Which led a few days later to:

Him: So how was your prayer time the other day? Did God say anything to you?
Me (blushing): Yeees... but what did God say to you first?

It was two years later that we married.

17 years after that and we're still Best Friends too.

We're team-mates, we have each other's back. When rough times hit (and there have been a few of those over the years) we support each other: it's the two of us against the circumstances.

We tell our children, as they watch the video recording of our wedding and flip through the photo album, that friendship is actually the very best foundation for a marriage. Then we take out the prompt cards that we used for our vows, and repeat them again to one another as we have done every anniversary.

"I give myself to you to be your wife, and I take you to be my husband,
to love and cherish you, uphold and encourage you,
to provide and protect, honour and respect you,
through good times and bad times,
whether we are poor or rich, healthy or sick,
for as long as we both live."

Happy Anniversary my dearest.  I love you.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Goals and Destinations

As January winds up, the year is starting to kick into gear again.  The children go back to school next week, and I’ve made a few plans and set a few goals of things I’d like to achieve.

The thing is, I’m reluctant to share my plans ahead of time.  I’ve seen other friends post merrily on Facebook “I’m going to do such and such” then a couple of weeks later, the plans have changed. 

I want to avoid the embarrassment of announcing my plans, then having to retract them if it all goes to custard.

The sign feigns nonchalance, but the views are really spectacular.
Whenever I consider this, I’m reminded of this Bible passage:
James 4:13-15  (NIVUK)
13 Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’

I have every intention of sharing the results of these plans and goals as I achieve them, but not so much beforehand.

I’ve told a one or two close friends, so they will hold me accountable!

What about you, do you set goals? Who do you share them with?

Monday, January 20, 2014


For your summer reading pleasure, here’s a short story I wrote for a Creative Writing class about 14 years ago.

For Miss Boo (because I’m pretty sure she can see the fairies too).

I hadn’t seen Susan and Jim since their wedding 15 years ago. I'd gone to live and work in the city, while Susan and Jim went farming up the coast, about 2 hours drive away from the nearest town. I was needing a break so I invited myself up to see them for a week.

After following Susan's carefully dictated phone directions I found the place, and parked under a drooping pohutakawa behind the house. As I was walking around to the front, I became aware of being watched. I turned, and could see a girl peeking out at me from under a bush, with the sunlight behind her, picking up the highlights in her short bobbed hair.

She had a cheeky grin wedged between deep dimples that lit up her whole face and made her eyes sparkle and shine. Before I could say or do anything she was gone, scampering away and out of sight, like a small rodent.

When I met Cassie later at the house, she still had a slight, restless edge. But she shook my hand with poise beyond that of her 10 years, met my eyes with hers and glowed with an inner secret laughter.

“She’s got a wonderful imagination," sighed Susan over the mugs of tea at lunch. “But I’m worried about her growing up out here so far away from any friends her own age."

Susan volunteered Cassie to show me around the farm after lunch. I set off, expecting the usual tour of animals, paddocks, and tractor sheds.

“Follow me!" Cassie called, giggling as she skipped on ahead of me, “Come and see where the fairies live."

“Fairies?” I asked, “Are you really lucky enough to have fairies here?”

She only laughed in reply, and showed me a small gravelly beach beside the stream. The dappled sunlight sparkled in the water, bouncing reflections off Cassie’s face.

“See there, at those holes in the bank.” I squinted, and could only see a few insect-sized holes in the clay bank opposite. “The fairies live in there, Cassie explained to me, "they only come out when no-one’s there, and paddle leaf boats in the stream. Come on, I'll show you the eagle’s nest!”

She dragged on my arm, then kept telling me to hurry up as she ran across the paddock ahead of me to her favourite climbing tree. At the fork in the top lived an eagle, who wore a faded orange tee-shirt, denim shorts, scuffed mud-brown sneakers, and just happened to look like Cassie.

“Come on, come on, come and see my house." Cassie showed me where she had her very own cottage, built with manuka sticks and a ponga thatch.

“Come on, come on..." We explored the patch of bush behind the tractor shed, where Robin Hood’s merry men still roamed, fighting with supplejack bows and flax swords.

“Come on, let’s go see..." We climbed up to the rocky bluff, where cave people live and hunt with toi-toi spears, and slings made with scraps of denim. We visited the knoll where it's really cool to come out at night, and lie on your back to watch the stars. We visited the rock pools at low tide, where a whole world of little people live among the forests of mussels and sea anemones. We scrambled up the stream to the pool with a waterfall, where  a beautiful water nymph lives, with light brown hair and a pink swimsuit.

By the end of the afternoon, I could almost see the fairies too, superimposed on an innocuous wooden gate. They were hiding among the clumps of lichen, giggling among themselves and pointing at us before ducking back out of sight. They all had the same laughing grin, the same dancing eyes, the same cheeky dimples as Cassie did. Maybe they're kin.

I told Susan that I didn't think she needs to worry too much about Cassie. I think she'll grow up just fine.

She'll probably even grow up to be a writer.