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Monday, January 25, 2016

Walking into the sunrise

On these very hot days I like walking as early as possible. 
Today I was on the beach at sunrise...
Another sunrise
what will the light reveal today
if my eyes are open?


Friday, January 22, 2016

Where you look is what you see!

Walking round the lake below our house this morning I was struck by the beauty of the still water perfectly reflecting the little dinghy ...
...but then I was aware how carefully I was composing the shot to make sure the reason for the dinghy being in the lake was not in view...
The lake is full of weed that makes it look quite ugly especially in summer. So dedicated locals spend hours wading round pulling up the weed and loading it into the dinghy to bring to the bank. The perimeter of the lake is ringed with piles of rotting weed which will eventually be taken away, I think by council.

It got me thinking - what do I "screen out of view" in life as well as in photos? What do I choose to portray to others while keeping the weedy bits out of sight? 


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wet day discoveries

After visiting family in Tauranga we decided to go on to Ohope for two nights. We stayed in a lovely cottage, Moanarua, run by a delightful Maori couple.

Unfortunately the one full day we had in Ohope was forecast for torrential rain all day - and the forecast was correct! But our hosts had some good ideas for exploring the area. By following their suggestions we discovered things we certainly wouldn't have considered if the weather had been better. (Note to self: Sometimes what seems "bad" turns out to be "good".)

We drove to Opotiki to see the Museum. Sounds unusual to have a small town museum worth driving a distance to see. But it was certainly surprising and well worth the trip. We most enjoyed the third floor where there are eight "rooms" set up to show life for the early settlers. Along the street beside the museum are shops that are museums in themselves - and require someone from the main museum to give you a guided tour. We didn't do this but I'm sure it would be very interesting.

On the way back we visited a Tuhoe "Green building" - i.e. a building that is completely self-sustaining and has won awards under a green building code. This was a real highlight. It is a truly amazing place. Check out the link here. Even looking at the website doesn't do justice to what you see when you look around. We had coffee at the cafe first and while we were sitting there a young Maori man stopped to chat and ask if we'd like him to show us around. It was a lovely personal tour and we were taken to places we probably wouldn't have gone on our own. The whole building really comprises the Tuhoe central offices for all their tribal enterprises. It includes many meeting rooms for groups and a huge indoor gathering room as well as an outdoor amphitheatre. I'm inspired by the Tuhoe people (and their use of their Treaty settlement as part of the funding for this building). Do check out the website as these two pictures really don't give any idea of the whole place.
 
On our final morning the weather was clear and beautiful so we did get an early morning Ohope beach walk! 


Thursday, January 7, 2016

More holiday highlights

I do love staying around Auckland over the Christmas/New Year time. Traffic is quieter and there is chance to explore the places I often don't think about during the year. Two more to share today:

The Botanic Gardens with Sculptures




 The Cascades Walking Track, Waitakeres




The English words on this sign say:
Kauri tree - oh great one
you are father time
both the present and the past,
if you could talk what stories would you tell us
of life as you saw it, perhaps a thousand or more years ago!
You are the father, grandfather 
and ancestor of the forest.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Rules for teachers in 1915! (and a thumbs up for MOTAT)

Aren't you glad you weren't a primary school teacher in 1915:
This photo was taken in the old school house at MOTAT (Western Springs, Auckland). If you are in Auckland and haven't been to MOTAT in many years (or ever) it is worth a visit. We went this week and had a great time for three hours. Look up the website to see the various things on offer. I was impressed at how it is equally enjoyable for children, teenagers and adults. Gold Card holders get in free. I can see why - people of a certain age (like me!) spend a lot of time reminiscing: "I remember when it was like that..." It's good to go with a friend if you aren't taking children. That way you can try out all the interactive things together. There is a very good cafe, an ice-cream shop and plenty of picnic tables in shady spots for your own picnic.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Three great books

I have recently read three books about aging, health care and dying! I know that doesn't sound like happy holiday reading but actually they are all inspiring and full of "real people" stories. Here they are in the order I read them with a brief review from the Good Reads site:
Encouraging, inspiring, and practical, The Grace in Aging invites all those who have ever experienced spiritual longing to awaken in their twilight years. Since aging, in and of itself, does not lead to spiritual maturity, The Grace in Aging suggests and explores causes and conditions that we can create in our lives, just as we are living them, to allow awakening to unfold—transforming the predictable sufferings of aging into profound opportunities for growth in clarity, love, compassion, and peace.
In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital is the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the H├┤tel-Dieu (God's Hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves-"anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt, onto hard times" and needed extended medical care-ended up here. So did Victoria Sweet, who came for two months and stayed for twenty years. Laguna Honda, lower tech but human paced, gave Sweet the opportunity to practice a kind of attentive medicine that has almost vanished. Gradually, the place transformed the way she understood her work. Alongside the modern view of the body as a machine to be fixed, her extraordinary patients evoked an older idea, of the body as a garden to be tended.    [Victoria Sweet has a PhD in the healing philosophy of Hildegard of Bingen the 11th Century Benedictine Abbess. I personally found this a fascinating aspect of her work and her writing.]


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Hearing the whole story

It's a long time since I included in my Blog any of the articles I wrote for Reality magazine (no longer in publication). They were later published in a small book called On the Journey. But today in tidying out a cupboard I came across it again and it fell open at this article. I wrote it in 1994! But it is just as true today - for me personally, and by extension,  for the mixed up world we live in. So if you've got time for a five minute read, grab a coffee and here it is:
  
HEARING THE WHOLE STORY

Almost every day I have the privilege of listening to some part of the life story of one or more unique
individuals. Most often only small segments of the story are told at one time. Perhaps, if there are many conversations, the pieces start to fit together and a bigger picture begins to appear. Occasionally the whole of a life story (to date!) is told all at once. I listened to a story like that yesterday and it's got me thinking.

As the listener, I was awed by the artistry of divine design as God brought together unlikely threads to weave this person's life pattern. I could see some clear, strong, consistent bands of colour. I felt confident and excited about how the pattern would continue to be woven.

Yet the person who was in the midst of living the story felt only confusion, helplessness and despair.

This is not unusual, but what is going on here? Why do we find it so hard to believe that the story of our own lives has a pattern and a plot that is exciting, beautiful and well within the caring control of God? Why is it easier to believe this (and see it) in the lives of others?

Perhaps we lack the capacity to stand back far enough from the chapter of the story we are currently living. Perhaps from the ground level of our 'now' experiences we lose sight of the undulating peaks and valleys which make for a beautiful landscape. Perhaps in the valleys or on the flatlands we fear that even God might have lost the map!


Many Biblical characters might have felt the same way. Abraham and Sarah for example. Promises of many descendants seemed hollow mockery year after year. Who could blame them for trying to "make the promise come true" in their own way? Or think of Joseph. If anyone had a right to confusion, helplessness and despair, he did! Everything seemed to go wrong for Joseph from teenage years onwards. Family jealousy and rejection, slavery, false accusations of sexual harassment, imprisonment...surely God has lost the map this time! Even Mary, Jesus' own mother, could have been forgiven for thinking something was radically amiss when she saw this special God-given son being misunderstood, maligned, and finally lynched and murdered.

When we read these stories we do so from the perspective of the whole. We know how the parts fit together and how God is demonstrating the ability to bring it all to an exciting and often extraordinary conclusion.

While we are living our own stories we don't have that advantage ...except by faith. Part of growing that faith, it seems to me, is listening to story after story of how God does it again and again. Biblical stories, biographical stories and the in-process stories of our brothers and sisters can all contribute to our confidence.

Our faith is built too when someone listens to our story and, from their more objective position, tells us what they see. In the third year Spiritual Formation class at BCNZ we do just that. [Remember this was written when I was teaching at BCNZ] We listen with respect, ask questions to draw out more, and pray for the teller of the story. As we do so, themes emerge and insights are gained that strengthen the faith and sense of direction of the storyteller. A formal group setting is not necessary, however. We can offer one another a mutual ministry of faith building as we listen to each other's stories in many informal settings.

Bit by bit we may be able to believe that in our own lives, no matter how painful or confusing, God is writing a story. 

I learn so much from the people I listen to. I'm learning not to jump to conclusions on the basis of one or two chapters of a life story. I'm learning that the pattern of God will be there to be discovered if I'm patient enough. I'm learning to listen in faith for what might be the whole story, even if some of it is yet to be written.