Monday, July 29, 2013

How Do I Say "Thank You" ?

Have you ever stopped to say "thank you". . . I mean really stop to thank God for every good thing that comes from His hand?  It's a delightful and captivating exercise that brings health to the soul (and the body)!   Begin wherever you wish, with the immediate and trivial or the more weighty things of life. Just beware that once you step into this state of thankfulness you might be there for a long while, for the Father's gifts are as limitless as his love that knows no bounds.

Thank you for the friend who took extra time to try and fix my car last night.
Thank you for the sun that shone today and warmed up my cold nose.
Thank you for clean, running water and a warm bed.
Thank you for wireless internet.
Thank you for indoor plumbing.
Thank you for the conviction of sin that leads me to repentance.
Thank you that I was made for eternity.
Thank you that the future ahead of me is always wilder and brighter than my current experience.
Thank you for my supporters who pray for me, give financially, send cards, and invest time and relationship with me.

Today, I received a financial update in regards to those who have given so sacrificially to the ministry here in New Zealand.  It has been many months since I have received information of this type, so I was quite blessed to read names of supporters who up to this point had remained anonymous to me.

So how do I say "THANK YOU" to God who has called me to serve and learn in this little town on the top of the bottom of the world?  How do I say "THANK YOU" to many of YOU who have invested resources, time and prayers on my behalf?

The only proper response, the only way to adequately say "THANK YOU" is to carry-on with the work Christ has placed before me and pursue a life of holiness.  The words of Isaac Watts in his beloved hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"couldn't say it better:

"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."

Because I will never be able to write enough letters or give enough hugs or say enough "THANK YOU"s to the Father for giving me YOU, I will do the only thing I know to do. . .

Continue to "Do[my]  best to present [myself] to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

Sunday, July 28, 2013

New Bridge Opening: Te Matau a Pohe

Te Matau ā Pohe, or "The Fishhook of Pohe" is the name of the new bridge recently constructed in Whangarei, whose grand opening was celebrated yesterday.   I was pleasantly surprised when a friend invited me to the opening and we found that the entire city had showed up for this once-in-a- lifetime occasion!

The celebration began with much pomp and ceremony including a bag pipe band and karakia (Maori prayer of blessing).  It then continued with a flotilla on the river below (parade of watercrafts), and parade of classic cars, horses, and various community groups.  Pedestrian traffic was then invited to cross the bridge on foot for the very first time before it would be open for motor vehicles. We even stood on the bridge as it was being raised and lowered to allow for boats passing through.  (Obviously we were not ON the part of the drawbridge that was being raised !)

 Something happened during this bridge opening that surprised me:  I no longer felt like a foreigner. I immediately ran into dozens of people that I knew. . .and who knew me.  Tugs from little gymnasts, smiles from parents, and welcomes from local residents I'd not seen in a long while all made me feel truly part of this city.  I've experienced this sensation before, but for some reason, this time it was a bit stronger.  Now that I have been in Whangarei for nearly two years, I am no longer just "that weird American pastor"; I'm a "local".  That's a good feeling.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back in Whangarei

Beautiful days.  Frigid nights.  Beaches.   Fish 'n chips.  Meat Pies.  Waterfalls.   Fellowship of the believers at New Hope Church of the Nazarene.  

Yep, I'm back in Whangarei.  I've continued to enjoy the company of the Myers family during my transition back to my home in New Zealand and count it a privilege to show them a few of the local gems including Whangarei Falls, Whangaumu Bay and all the little shops and places in between.

On Sunday, the Myers truly blessed our church by sharing about their ministry in Papua New Guinea (PNG) at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital and then participated in our evening Kids Club.

They are now off to do their home assignment in the USA before heading back to PNG and will be greatly missed here in New Zealand.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hobbiton and Waierere Falls with the Myers

Beware: If you're a Hobbit or Lord of the Rings fan, you might get a bit jealous after reading this blog.   Please proceed with caution.

After seven years, this week I have had the great privilege of reuniting with the Myers family, fellow missionaries and dear friends in Papua New Guinea!  We've enjoyed a bit if site-seeing the mid-north island, including a tour of Hobbiton, the only remaining movie set from the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films.  The set construction began back in 1999, 2.5 years before they even started filming the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy!

A 1250 acre sheep farm, owned by the Alexander family of New Zealand, was chosen as the perfect site for Peter Jackson's recreation of the "Middle Earth" and "Hobbiton".  The carpets of green that covered the rolling hills of the farm so resembled the English countryside described in Tolkien's books that it just couldn't be passed up.   Though all of the other 158 filming sites around New Zealand have been deconstructed and returned to their original owners, the Alexanders decided that Hobbiton could be preserved and have now given permission for tourists to come on site.

It feels as if this slice of fantasy has been preserved and somehow brought into the present reality.  Obsessive attention to detail is what makes Peter Jackson such a renown film director, and you can definitely see this as you tour through Hobbiton.

After our tour of Hobbiton, we made our way to Waierere Falls, the tallest waterfall on the north island of New Zealand. The 2 hour hike was worth it!  If only the photos could do it justice.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Back in New Zealand

Kansas City.  Los Angeles.  Sydney.  Auckland.

I arrived here in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday afternoon with all my luggage intact and a few hours of sleep stored up from my 14 hour flight from LA to Sydney, Australia.  Upon arrival back in this "City of Sails" I was greeted swiftly by my district superintendent and dear friends Neville and Joyce Bartle, and treated to a hot home-cooked meal before heading off for an early bedtime.

With each flight I boarded on the journey home, I marveled at the technology that allows me to cross continents and oceans in a matter of hours without a second thought. These flying machines we like

to call airplanes are pretty nifty inventions, eh?

 I began to think of  Psalm 20:8 in which David gladly proclaims,
"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."  My "chariots" came in the form of an Airbus, a 747 and finally a 737 jet, but they weren't the ones who brought me safely here to New Zealand.  The Lord in his goodness has carried me across the sea to continue to join him in his mission of reconciling lost and broken people back to himself.

Perhaps I could rephrase that psalm and join David in saying, "Some trust in technology and some in flying machines, but I trust in the name of the Lord my God."

Before heading back home to Whangarei, I now have the privilege of meeting up with friends and fellow missionaries to Papua New Guinea: Jeff, Susan, Ethan and Jessica Myers!  They will be here in Aotearoa gracing me with their presence for a few days on their way back to the USA for home assignment.  Our next stop is Hobbiton.

If you're a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fan, stay tuned to this blog for photos!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Good-bye Kansas City

A very wise man named Solomon once penned these words on his quest for meaning in life.  

"1 For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
 A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace."
 (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

At the risk of stating the obvious, I take heart in the truth that there are rhythms to life of which I need not be afraid, including a time to say hello and a time to say good-bye. I guess right now is my time to say good-bye and make the journey back to New Zealand.  I've truly enjoyed the last few weeks here in the USA, sharing life with the precious people that make this place home.  

 To be honest, I despise letting go and saying good-bye to those I love; it wreaks havoc on my heart and emotions.  But living a life of faith in Jesus requires that I entrust my beloved friends and family into His care.  After all, he is far more capable of watching out for them than I.  Thanks be to God.



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Traffic: Lessons in Grace.

Traffic.  I don't know of anyone who really enjoys it, but I do know that it is something most of us encounter on a daily basis.

From Auckland to Kansas City, from Cairo to Queenstown, there are lessons to be learned by sharing the road with other travelers. Sojourning on the asphalt, spotted with those lovely little yellow and white lines, requires that we constantly accommodate for other vehicles around us to ensure safety for all.  This is a lesson in GRACE.  A defensive driver always anticipates the next move of the vehicle on the front, side, or behind them, and makes the necessary adjustments to guarantee that collisions and accidents are avoided.

A classic example of this is when you are merging onto the highway, gaining speed and looking out for that perfect slot to fit right into the traffic flow.  Cars in the other lanes must move over for you, and sometimes slow down or speed up to lend you space in the mass of moving vehicles going the same way.  Cruise control is your enemy when in heavy traffic, because it assumes that all will be smooth sailing and that you won't have to put much effort into this business of getting from point A to point B.  We all know that is not the case.  You're going to have to be okay with the fact that completing your journey demands effort, adapting, and giving a few inches here and there to make certain everyone gets home safe.

What a lesson in GRACE- the giving of good that is not necessarily deserved.  The busy highway packed with cars and passengers is a picture of life.  As pilgrims on the journey home to see the Father, we've got to learn to grant each other a little extra breathing room, let them in our lane, and  give little extra grace.  Anticipation of the of needs of those around us, suspension of judgment, giving a few inches, slowing down enough to allow someone else into our spheres of influence . . all are the practices of grace.

So turn off your cruise control and put some work into your relationships.
Pay attention to the people around you and learn a few lessons of the road: Give a little extra.  Forgive a little quicker.  Slow down and listen to the needs of those around you.  Allow people GRACE. . .then perhaps more people will make it "home" safe.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Job should take a trip to the zoo.

 Ever read about the man named Job? Perhaps he ought to have taken a trip to the zoo.
Let me explain:

One affliction after another: robbery, death, disease.  After experiencing an incessant cycle of unwarranted disaster and hardship, Job audaciously makes his defense before God, attempting to convince the Almighty of his innocence. He must  notify God of the unfairness of his situation. After all, he had literally lost everything of significance in his life!

Little does Job realize that God is fully aware of his righteous life, and that in fact this calamity is not punishment, but rather a merciful test of his dedication to his God. The book of Job records some interesting conversations surrounding Job's predicament, including well-meaning friends who believe the reason for all this suffering most certainly must be punishment for personal sin and

But when all the bantering has ceased and the arguments have been made; when the rhetoric has finally run its course, God speaks to Job.  He reminds him in no small words to do what Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I AM GOD!" (Or better said, "Be still, and know that you're NOT God.")

Consider this conversation found in Job chapters 38-41.

" . . . Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetites of the young lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in their thicket?

"Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?  Do you observe the calving of the does?"

"The wings of the Ostrich wave proudly, but are they the pinions and plumage of love?  For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them and that the wild beast may trample them."

" Do you give the horse its might?  Do you clothe his neck with a mane . . . ?"

" Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth.  I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further."

Job is put in his place.  He closes his mouth.  Wise man. A trip to the zoo might have been helpful cure for self-pity, reminding Job that God's infinite creativity and power is reflected in all aspects of nature. If God can dream up the gills of a fish, or the feathers of an eagle, surely He is capable of handling problems and issues of mankind.

This means He can handle ours as well. If you're feeling a bit anxious. . .take a trip to the zoo.

Kansas City Zoo last Saturday