Tuesday, January 27, 2015

God's "DIY" Project

I love how God works.

  I have been praying as of late about what we should study in Kids Club for the next few weeks, curious as to what direction we should go for the months of February and March.
Others have also been praying that God would provide the necessary guidance; after all, these are His kids and His club!

   Yesterday I found myself at the public library, drafting my sermon on forgiveness for Sunday, not a trace of Kids Club on my mind at the time.   Upon leaving the library, I meandered past the science section and decided to peruse the books just for fun. It had been ages since I simply spent time in the library at leisure with no homework to complete, no study to be done, and  no agenda in mind.

 (In all honesty, most often I'd rather be spending my energies outside or sitting at my sewing machine during my free time. Rarely does reading books make it to the top of the list.  I probably shouldn't admit that being a school teacher, pastor, and seminary student. LOL!)

Anyway, I was drawn to an "Atlas of the Universe" and various other books about Astronomy.  Naturally, some of them were written from an evolutionary platform.  Nonethless, the facts that they presented on the complexity of our universe would leave even the biggest brains in the world scratching their heads. I enjoyed the books, thanked God for his creativity, and left the library.
Then this morning my devotional reading took me to Genesis 1, the Creation account. The birds sung their morning songs outside my window, and memories of the massive waves that beat me up at Woolley's Bay two days ago accompanied my reading, bringing this marvelous description of planet Earth to life.  The Lord seemed to whisper to me, "Teach them again about my big DIY project.  They need to hear it again."

I came into the office this morning to continue to work on church matters, make some phone calls, and put some more final touches on my sermon before a meeting.  At the conclusion of a phone call with a parishioner, he added this post-script, "Oh yes, and do you have time for one more thing?  I think you ought to check out the new TIME Magazine article, 'Science Increasingly Makes A Case for God' ".
   Three times in less than 24 hours I've been prompted in some way, shape, or form, to revisit the Creation account.  Coincidence?  Nah.  This is how God works.  We've prayed for His direction and He has used various avenues to communicate the guidance for which we sought : His Word, His People, His Spirit, and circumstantial evidence.
Notice that I said, "we" prayed; "we" sought direction.  Often discernment occurs in the context of community.  In the community of "we", God can lead "me".  He often uses other godly people and teaching from His Word to confirm or deny what we might initially think is an impression from the Holy Spirit, or a thought that could or could not be from God.

I love how God works!

Thus, I can feel confident in moving forward with plans for the future.  God has answered our prayers.  Teaching the kids about His creation is always a good thing, and now more than ever,  children need to not only know the truth about where they came from, but learn how to use their critical thinking skills to discern between right and wrong for any given situation.

So, we're going to revisit the Creation account again for the next few weeks!  I'll think I'll call it,
"God's DIY Project" (Do It Yourself).  Maybe that could catch on!

 I'll keep you posted on the progress of our voyage around this pale blue dot we call Planet Earth.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Helicopters and Grace

I have never been more grateful for helicopters than I was this week.  Within a span of three days, helicopter ambulances came to the rescue for two of my friends.  Each situation was unique and completely unrelated to the other, yet for both of the victims life hung in the balance and it was the prayers of others and the quick response of medical teams that allows me to write this blog with a smile on my face.

One helicopter rescue occurred right at the commencement of my friend's wedding.  This was truly a wedding worst nightmare, the kind you only hear about on TV!  The setting was serene and picture-perfect: white chairs and hay bales lining a grassy knoll nestled in the hills with blue sky above and nothing but good thoughts on everyone's minds.  The weather was perfect, the surroundings could not have been more beautiful, and the furthest thing on anyone's mind was tragedy. After all, we were here to witness and celebrate entrance into the life-long covenant of marriage.

 Suddenly from behind the trees we heard intense screaming and knew something had gone wrong, terribly wrong. To make a very long and complicated story short, the groom had collapsed with a heart attack.  Being so far out in the bush, many miles from any paved roads or electricity didn't help things.  A traditional ambulance was called, but how would it navigate the narrow windy passages up into the hills?  And who knows how long it might take to get here?

Two women in the crowd who, like the rest of us were anticipating a day of joy and relaxation, happened to be nurses. When the groom's family urgently asked the crowd if anyone had medical expertise, they sprung into action, peforming CPR over and over again.  No response.

This was getting really serious.  Suddenly the food, decorations, and photo ops didn't matter anymore. Everything was put on hold.

It was so serious that I wondered if we might have a funeral and a wedding on the same day.  I literally felt sick for the bride, my very dear friend, wondering how it felt to be her and imagining the terror in her heart.  She was fully dressed in her wedding gown; the guests were seated, decorations in place and the ceremony due to start in seconds.  And now this. . . her future husband hanging by a thread between life and death on the ground in front of her.

Amidst the chaos I began to pray.  We were desperate for God's immediate intervention.

As we prayed and waited, the nurses cared for the groom, the bride talked to the groom, and we all anxiously wondered how the day would end.  After what felt like an eternity, the groom regained consciousness and we all rejoiced. A happy ending to this story was on it's way.

 It was decided that they would exchange vows and sign the papers right there on the ground before being whisked off to the hospital via helicopter.  I guess it was the perfect opportunity to test the commitment, " . . . for better or worse, in sickness and in health. . .".

As they ascended into the sky, the rest of us down below waved them off with many prayers and well wishes, wondering what to do about all the food, musical items and games prepared for the reception. A hangi* was in the ground ready to be unearthed and enjoyed, and masses of marvelous food stared at us, ready to be eaten.  So. . ..we ate it.  We played games.  We paid tribute to the bride and groom, despite their absence. 
We tried to enjoy the rest of the day on their behalf and were rewarded with a personal phone call from them at the hospital later in the evening, assuring us that the groom was alive and though he had surgery and struggles ahead, would be okay. 

Family and friends melted with relief at the sound of their voices, and spontaneous cheers broke out in the crowd.

After the dust cleared and I could gather my thoughts, I was encouraged.  This whole experience was clear evidence that God's grace still permeates every part of our broken world. People do still, in fact, value human life above all else in creation.  When someone's life is in danger, it is nothing less than grace that we drop everything else and put their life in first priority, doing everything possible to preserve it. 

Grace is that which says, "May God treat you better than you deserve."  It is the undeserved kindness and favour of God that empowers us to do great things and live beyond the bounds of our selfish nature.   When we put someone else's life before our own, we are operating out of grace.

So. . ..in the story of the "wedding gone wrong", something went very right.  Grace.

* "Hangi" is a traditional Maori method of cooking where food  is buried in a pit in the ground with hot rocks and left to cook for many hours. It is still used regularly for special occasions.  I personally love hangi and jump at any chance to eat it!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Full Life" New Zealand District Youth Camp A Hit!!

Your prayers have been answered with a resounding, "YES!"

Did you pray for safety?  The answer is yes.
Did you pray for good weather?  The answer is yes.
Did you pray for harmony among the campers and leaders?  The answer is yes.
Did you pray for lives to be changed?  The answer is YES!

We had a truly fantastic camp and praise God for memories made and eternal impact.   As I read through the camp feedback forms I cannot count the number of positive comments about the whole experience.  Thank you, Lord!
A special shout out goes to Jason Fiddes, our amazing camp speaker, for powerful, straight-up messages for our teens!  Berko and his team led us into the presence of Jesus each night with energizing and meaningful music.  Thanks, Berko! And of course we cannot forget our tireless food team, feeding the army nearly 5 times a day for the entire week without a single grumble or complaint! These are the true silent servants. Nigel and Jae gave us good laughs with their team challenges- way to go! Thank you to ALL of our leaders and supporters who made this camp such a success! 

Stay tuned for info about a camp reunion.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Camp is Coming!

In three days 120 people from all across New Zealand will descend on Holy Ground Camp for our "Full Life" Nazarene Youth Camp 2015!  This will be our biggest district camp yet and we anticipate lots of fun, food, silliness . . .and probably not much sleep.  He he!

Please be in prayer for each camper, leader, speaker, and support staff.  It is no small task to organize, guide, protect and feed an army of teenagers for an entire week!  May each person encounter Jesus in a unique way and discover what the FULL LIFE with Him is really all about!

I will keep you posted with stories and updates when camp has come to a conclusion.