Monday, December 31, 2012

We made it to 2013!

  We made it to 2013!  And in true Kiwi fashion, we've been able to enjoy the new year at the beach under the hot summer sun.

For those of you shivering in the northern hemisphere, wondering if all we ever do is go to the beach, know this:

1) You are invited to visit!

2) Kiwis of all shapes and sizes have a great appreciation of the sea and find in it much of what is needed for daily life.  Just as many Americans gather to watch the ball drop in Time Square on a frigid New Year's Eve, most Kiwis find themselves at the ocean with a bit of BBQ and bottle of beer. (sadly)

3) Incarnational ministry is all about participating in redemptive relationships and doing the hard yards of life with those around you.  Thankfully, God has built a sabbath rest into the rhythms of life and we are wise to take advantages of these opportunities for respite and rejoicing that He provides. It is those times when we need not feel guilty for refueling and preparing to re-enter the battlefield. 

Wherever you are, I pray that you choose to trust God with every second of 2013 and in doing that, find your true rest there.

PS- Please pray for Rock Solid Breakaway Summer Camp next week.  100+ teens and brave (or crazy!) adult leaders will gather at Kauri Mt for 6 days of camping under the stars.  We pray that we are able to point many kids straight to Jesus and that this next week will be the most life-changing week of their lives.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas with the Careys

Nga mihi o te wa me te Tau Hou!
("Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" in Maori)

A full stomach and a full heart.  That is how I describe Christmas 2012.  Despite the wet windy weather (see previous blog), I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas day with the Careys and Briles again this year!

Enjoy some pics below:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The sea was telling us something.

   A beautiful blue sky watched over us as we followed the windy roads to one of my favourite beaches , Pataua North.  The air was calm and it seemed as good a day as any to go soak up the sun and catch a few waves.  One of the great things about Pataua is that you can enjoy both wild open surf and a tranquil shallow estuary, perfect for younger swimmers and casual beach bums.  
 We landed ourselves under the shade of a quiet little Pohutukawa tree near the estuary.  However, we soon realized that we wanted to enjoy a bit of open sea, thus packed up our gear and made the 5 minute walk around to where we had hoped to see the waves.  That calm little cove, with it's crystal clear water reflecting the cottony clouds above seemed to whisper peace and tranquility, like all was well with the world. 
 But were we in for a treat when we got to the other side and discovered that the sea was telling us something completely different!  Our mouths hung open and eyes got big as we rounded the corner to see the banks of the beach swallowed by walls of water and unruly waves slamming themselves against everything in their path! 
The nervous sea seemed to communicate, " I know something that you don't know. A storm is coming. Cyclone Evan is on his way!"
The water was rough and wild, barely suitable to step into, let alone consider swimming or boogie-boarding. That would have to wait for another day. (That being said, a few experienced surfers ventured far off shore to catch the ride of their lives. They showed off some amazing stunts, but I dare say they were just plain crazy!)

All other signs around the beach that day pointed to peace and safety, but the sea was calling out a warning. This has got me thinking about Christmas.  How, you say?

Before Christ 's first advent (coming) at Christmas, there existed a period of 400 years of perceived silence from God.  During this time between what we know as the Old and New Testaments, there were no prophets, judges, or even angels to bring God’s word and instruction to his people.  It seemed as if God had gone silent, leaving his creation to fend for themselves and find their own way out of their mess.

I dare say that some living in that era thought to themselves, “Well, that must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.  We’ve finally done it. We've sinned one too many times and now have completely cut ourselves off from God.  I guess we’ll just have to accept the fact that there remains no help for us and we must find our own way to be righteous, our own way to appease the Almighty. It’s up to us to makes sense out of this world.”

And then it happened.

After 400 years of darkness and silence, an angel is given a summons to  break the sound barrier. .. the one that had kept the people from hearing from God for so many years.  His message was that NOW was the appointed time for the ultimate Word of God to come to them!  And this time that word would not be in the form of second-hand messages from prophets or judges as in the past.  Now the Word would come straight from God. In fact, the Word would be God himself!
No middle-man required.  No need for a priest to stand between the people and God.  Now this people walking in the darkness of uncertainty about the future would not just receive a word from God; they would be the recipients of THE Word of God!  God himself would make this journey to earth.  Any other way simply would not suffice.  He had to do it himself. 
God himself would be the way out of the mess.
 In fact, God in Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Basically Jesus is saying that this earth is where the mess is at.  The Father is where the mess is not.  You need a way to get out of the mess so that you’re not  trapped in it for eternity. .. and I am the way out!”
The message of HOPE had broken the silence in the form of the cry of the Son of God.
It’s almost as if that 400 year period of waiting to hear from God was like the calm before a great storm. Let me explain.  I come from Kansas in the USA where tornadoes and severe weather are par for the course every spring.  Often right before an approaching storm there exists an eerie calm when everything goes still, as if the earth is holding its breath, just waiting to let it blow. 
 And then it happens.
 The storm makes a grand entrance . .  and you had better be prepared to ride it out!  That the period of waiting for the Messiah to be born was like the calm before a great storm.
 It is the storm of God’s love that would bring the collision of a beautiful baby’s cry with a terrible cross, resulting in the salvation of all who would dare enter into the eye of that tempest and there find perfect peace.  It’s a storm where the Light of the World, who is Jesus Christ, in his loving fury swallows up the dark, sin-filled humanity like a tornado that overcomes any and everything in its path.
You might be a bit unsettled at the thought of comparing God to something as destructive as a tornado or tropical storm.  ‘"That’s a bit negative", you might think.  It's not what we normally think of at Christmas when we turn our attention to the humble baby Jesus, God incarnate in vulnerable and broken human flesh.  

 But consider this, God is ferocious about destroying sin!

He is relentless about annihilating evil, because evil and sin bring ruin to you and me, whom God loves so much!  As 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” So the next time that the roar of the waves you hear is a bit more intense than usual, remember what the sea told us that day, "A storm is coming."

The storm of God's love.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Crazy Christmas Weather in the South Pacific

  Cyclones.  Typhoons. Tornadoes.  This was the early Christmas present to the south Pacific.  I dare say this is probably not what most of you would have in mind when considering how best to celebrate the holidays.

Cyclone Evan in Samoa
photo: New Zealand Herald
Unfortunately however, the islands of the south Pacific have been hammered by all three of these devastating storms in recent days.  On Dec 4, Typhoon Pablo struck the Philippines killing hundreds, followed by a tornado in west Auckland, New Zealand on Dec 6 that killed three.  Now this week both Samoa and Fiji have nearly been swallowed by Cyclone Evan, causing widespread destruction and hardship, and taking the lives of some.
New Zealand is home to a large number of Samoans and Fijians trying to make contact with loved ones back in the islands and many of them attend our Nazarene churches.

Tornado in Auckland
Cyclone Evan in Fiji
photo: TV NZ
  Cyclone Evan is expected to head south to northern New Zealand (where I live) just before Christmas.  Thanks to our cooler ocean temps, forecasters predict that Evan will lose its tropical storm status by the time it hits New Zealand and will just be more of a nuisance than anything else.  This means that we can still expect heavy rains and gale force winds, but hopefully nothing in comparison to what Samoa and Fiji have recently faced.
Please pray and look for ways to support those who are suffering from these storms in the Philippines, New Zealand, Samoa, and Fiji.  

We believe that God is present and active at times like these, bringing healing and help in the midst of such turbulence.  After all, the first Christmas wasn't such a peaceful time in the land of Bethlehem.  The Jews were oppressed by the Romans and King Herod sought annihilate all babies under the age of 2 years old when news of Christ's birth came to him. Rest assured that Jesus knows what it feel like to step into suffering and chaos.  Also rest assured that only he knows how to provide the perfect peace necessary to withstand the storm.

For more information on the Typhoon in Philippines and how you can help, check out this article from the Nazarene Communication Network below:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gymnastics Christmas Display

I have the privilege of doing many things that I love here in New Zealand, one of which is coaching gymnastics.

 Monday night WAGS (Whangarei Academy of Gymnastics) hosted their annual Christmas display, providing a chance for gymnasts of all ages the opportunity to show off their skills in creative ways.  I thought you might enjoy a few photos of our young athletes!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Looking around. . .

A 1967 Swiss Elna sewing machine, accompanied by threads and fabric scraps give evidence to my last creative venture. 

Cards from loved ones rest upon the shelf above a faucet that flows with clean, drinkable water. 

Photos from home, filled with faces of people I love hang on the wall to remind me that I am not alone.

 My Bible, journal, and an array of half-working pens are scattered on the table that extends from the wall in my narrow hallway that also serves as a lounge.

A pale blue boogie-board leans upon the wall, anxiously waiting for its next chance to hit the waves.

 Fresh sunset-colored hydrangeas adorn the window ledge that peers out to the lush garden from which they were cut.

 Tapa cloths embedded with Melanesian pigin scripture hang from the walls, pointing to precious memories of the past.

A "to-do" list stares at me from my dry-erase board, affirming that, though I often complain about it, being productive helps me to grow.

When I look around my flat here in New Zealand, this is what I see.  At first glance everything may seem so ordinary, so mundane.  Yet for me these are signs of a blessed life, one that is filled with life, love, and purpose. .. and I am thankful.   I am thankful to be serving here in Whangarei, the one true God who freely gives love, grace, and new life to all who will receive it.