Saturday, June 25, 2016

Frightening and Unforgettable

Today started out well.  We went to church this morning in the tiny Christ Church, Coromandel.  The priest was in Europe for 3 months, so lay readers led the service; it was just fine!  It's always a pleasure to use the New Zealand Prayer Book...they have a real knack for molding the language beautifully.  Afterward we were invited to coffee hour and had nice conversations with several folks.  The congregation was about 10 or 12 people, plus us.  WE learned that regular oatmeal cookies are known here as ANZAC biscuits..ANZAC refers to the combined forces of Australia and New Zealand...these biscuits apparently were sent many, many times to loved ones on the various fronts in World War II.

Lunch was at a roadside stand of sorts, the Coromandel Oyster Company.  See photo below.  Barry said that the oysters on the half shell were really fine and fresh.  And he loved the mussel chowder.  I had fish and chips, which was lovely.  The chips were made of kumara, which is a purple sweet potato.  They were delicious.

After lunch we decided to walk the track around Coromandel Town.  On the map it looked very tame.  But in reality it was anything but tame.  The person who laid out the track went in a more-or-less straight line, which meant lots and lots of steep stairs.  There was a boardwalk covered with netting, which was torn and which tripped me up as I crossed it.  Ouch.  Then lots of slippery paths due to the rain recently and the clay soil.

Next came the thunderstorm, which was scary.  We took shelter in some bushes and crouched down most of the time...and it passed over us in time and went away.

To add insult to injury we had to ford a stream towards the end of the walk--which we didn't know about at the beginning.  And the scary thing was that it was really swollen from rainwater that fell in copious amounts recently.  The normal fording place was unusable--flooded too deeply.  We found another place and Barry gallantly went first as I hung back and whined about how scary it was.  He helped me to cross, then promptly lost footing and partly fell into the rushing water.  But he got out again, thank God.  And after getting himself to the top of the slippery bank, he hauled me up, too.

This is one of those memories that we'll always we're laughing but at the time it was scary as can be.  The boots are drying and the muddy pants are being washed, and all is well.  Thank God.  Must have been the influence of Christ Church, Coromandel!

1.  Yesterday on the little deck outside our "bach" (I think the word is a shortening of "bachelor pad" or something like that.  We're in a basic little cottage, which is great.
2.  Christ Church, Coromandel
3.  Lunch today--oysters on the half shell, mussel chowder, fish and chips.
4.  Barry in front of a giant kauri tree...pronounced "cowrie" like the shells...These are indigenous to New Zealand and have been used for timber, including being hollowed out to form Maori waka, or war canoes.  They are being replanted and preserved--threatened these days with 'kauri dieback disease" which must be some kind of bacteria or fungus...
5.  Looking up that giant kauri.  They can be up to 50 feet around!!!  And live over 3000 years.  National treasures.
6.  On the FIRST part of our walk today, the fun part...looking at the bay and in the foreground on right is a small kauri tree, part of a replanting effort.  I hope they come back and thrive.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Some of the ZenTangles

Here are 4 of them...

12 Steps and ZenTangles

Work continues on sabbatical goals.  I've completed the book by Richard Rohr called Breathing under Water.  It's a book that takes a very close look at the 12 Steps originated by Alcoholics Anonymous.  Rohr contends that the 12 Steps map out a very viable way to live our lives--whether or not we are addicted to alcohol or other substances or behaviors.  In fact he says that we are all addicts--whether we want to admit it or not.  So I've been fascinated with that, with identifying my addictions.  And then reading through the book with them in mind.  This book is so very, very good, in fact, that we'll use it in the fall for a Spirituality series during our Adult Ed hour.  If you want to order it and read it early, go right ahead...I guarantee we'll be using it as a text!

Next, I've had a very surreal experience doing something so Out Of The Box for me that it still feels weird.  This is a deliberate effort to learn to "doodle" according to the method called ZenTangling--or making ZenTangles.  On most days I'll sit for 30 or 60 minutes and work through the book called One ZenTangle A Day, by Beckah Krahula.. Each day presents new patterns to learn and a time to practice.  In the next post are some of the "better" ZenTangles I've done.  It is such a gift to have the time to do this.  The method is very meditative and deliberate--definitely different from the usual pace of work in the office.  Again, I'm so grateful for the chance to do this!

Winter Solstice in Aotearoa

Today, June 21, is the winter solstice in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Isn't that amazing!  The temperature where we are today hit a high of about 66 or 67 degrees...because we're in the north of the north island of New Zealand.  The foliage here looks subtropical--there are cultivated palm trees, and a lot of the bushes are still in flower.  There are many Norfolk Island Pines, which are gorgeous.  But nonetheless it's the first day of winter and many Kiwis think we're crazy for coming here in the winter.  Oh well.  At least there are no other tourists competing for services.

Yesterday we were in Auckland, the largest city in the north.  Picture #1 shows the crater at the top of Mount Eden, outside the city. It's sacred ground to the Maoris.  I don't know exactly how they observe their connection to the Almighty here, but apparently it is sacred--the signs say that!  It's one more example of a people who find the heights of the earth to be a place to worship divinity.  We climbed to the top of Mount Eden, which is a collapsed volcanic cone, or crater, outside Auckland.  Then we walked into the city--maybe about 5 miles of walking yesterday.

Then we drove north to the area of the Bay of Islands--a summer magnet for tourists--and a winter place of quiet and beauty.  We are staying in a B&B in Kerikeri, just north of Wakawaka... This morning we drove to a very quiet beach and took a walk out on a headland for 4 or so miles.  Pictures are below.  It was glorious and gorgeous.  And quite a workout--lots of ups and downs on steps and slippery trails.  Thank heavens for hiking boots.  And yes on this first day of winter we sweated up a storm.

We had a great dinner in a restaurant called the Jerusalem Cafe here in Kerikeri.  How funny to be eating Israeli food in New Zealand.  But no was delicious and there was enough left over to have a quiet dinner here at the B&B tomorrow night.

So here are some pics.
1&2--the sacred crater Mount Eden for the Maories and the view of Auckland from its rim.
Others:  the views from our walk today.  It was gorgeous.  Thanks be to God for the ability to be here, resting and exercising.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Heights, the Depths, and the Invisible Cows

Psalm 139:6-9 sets the tone for this post:

Where can I go then from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
   If I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
   Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast.
                  [BCP version]

Here on the Big Island of Hawaii we've been able to meditate upon and enter into God's great creation--from heights to depths.  One evening we drove up on the Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa--the 2 biggest shield volcanoes on the island.  The visitors' center there (altitude about 9000 feet) runs an evening program.  Lights are reddish and low in the wavelength spectrum so as not to throw off a lot of white light that disturbs all the observatories above on the summit (altitude a little less than 14,000 feet).  It's really dark there--hence the Invisible Cows sign (see below).  There were 3 reflecting telescopes set up for people to see Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.  The young people giving the program were terrific--intelligent, informed, and funny.  Nice combo.  It was so chilly there--about 45 degrees F.  I took a warm parka donated by our B&B owner and the hat and gloves I'd packed for the Southern Hemisphere.  It was glorious and wonderful to be able to see a little further into the heavens.  The Milky Way is so amazing at that altitude away from local light.  There were some high clouds so observing wasn't optimal, but I did get to see Jupiter and 5 of its moons... And the Southern Cross is visible, low on the southern horizon.  How beautiful--that's my favorite constellation for sure.  A few days later we returned to the visitors' center and got nauseated by just sitting still--a spot of altitude sickness--cured by coming down off the mountain.

Meanwhile we've been to other places on the island, currently leaving Volcano, the little town just outside Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.  We again were able to do the long walk around and across the caldera of Kilauea Iki--one of the best walks we've ever done.  Yesterday we took another walk across a huge lava field, a strong reminder of the vastness of the creation as well as its constant upholding and replenishment by God.  Last night we drove to the vantage point for the current activity in the crater of Kilauea proper.  The lava lake was active and now and then we'd see a fountain of molten lava shoot upward...very stunning at night.

It's a good exercise to reflect on the Creation as the declaration of God's glory--and to see humanity in proper context.  It's also appalling to see how small we are--and how poorly we take care of our little sphere.  God help us.

1.  Invisible Cows sign from the visitors' center.
2.  A few of the observatories on Mauna Kea, with Hawai'ian worship platform in the foreground.  The mountain is still sacred in native spirituality.  Photo from the slide show at the visitors' center.
3.  Barry walking on a flow of pahoehoe lava (pa-HOY-hoy)--the "ropy" lava.
4.  Lava tube created by flowing lava during an eruption, and later on emptied.  The outer shell remains, and this one is lighted now for the tourists to walk through.  The Thurston Lava Tube, affectionately known by us as the Thurston Howell III lava tube.
5.  An Hawai'ian green sea turtle taking a rest on a black sand beach in southern Big Island.
6.  A natural arch on southern coast of Big Island.  All rocks are basalt, naturally.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Big Island Beauty

Here are a few photos--first, a look into the coastline by Pololu Valley.  We hiked down to the shore--about 500 vertical feet.  Afterward, coming up slowly and with a good deal of sweat, we stopped on the way back for Hawai'ian Shaved Ice--kind of like snow cones.  This is a favorite of President Obama, and of us too.

Next, yesterday's dinner--couldn't resist a food picture!  The veggies and fruits are so amazingly fresh here--and the fish is great.  This is a fish salad, featuring the catch of the day, ono.  Guava juice completes the meal.

Heartache in Honoka'a

Right at the beginning of our stay in Honoka'a, a town in the NE part of the Big Island of Hawai'i the news broke of the massacre in Orlando.  The people in Hawai'i are just as heartsick as the rest of us are about this latest mass shooting.  The folks we've spoken with here are fairly liberal politically--but they are also very big into hunting.  Jacqueline, our B&B host, said that Hawai'i is the state with the largest amount of privately owned guns--and also the state with the lowest violent use of those guns against other humans.  Interesting, isn't it?

What do they use the guns for?  For hunting.  What do you hunt on the Big Island?  There are no deer or bears here...but there sure are lots of wild, large pigs.  They escaped a long time ago from farms and now rule the countryside.  Hunters here go after them.  A woman I was speaking with at lunch today said she has a couple of large macadamia nut trees on her property.  When the nuts are ripe you can hear the pigs at night, under the trees, munching away.  No wonder there are so many barbecue places here...

But enough of those musings.  The amount of guns here and the low crime rate help to remind me that issues like mass killings, gun control, and mental health services are nuanced.  And that explains in part why we've made such little progress in stopping their sale to people who are unbalanced or a threat to the security of our country.

I must admit, though, that I just don't see why we still sell automatic and semi-automatic weapons, as well as handguns like we do; that makes no sense whatever to me.  I hope and pray that one day these horrible killing tools will be hard to come by ...and that very gradually there will be fewer and fewer on the streets.  I know that some of our parishioners will agree with me--and that others will forcefully disagree.  So be it.

I hope that all who read this post will join me in prayer for the victims in Orlando and for their friends and families.  May God give us increased wisdom about how to help prevent further tragedies.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Week in School

This week I've been taking two classes of continuing Ed at Yale.  They are specifically designed for pastors and lay leaders.  They're an integral part of the learning piece of the sabbatical.  The first class was called "Leading God's People."  It was a look at the writings of some of the Church Fathers and Mothers concerning the role of pastors in the church.  We talked about the importance of leadership, the preferred spiritual orientation of the leader (humility), the cure of souls (pastoral care and leading people to Christ), the centrality of the study of the Holy Scriptures, and the role of preaching.  It was based on a book by the same name and the author of the book, Christopher Beeley, was our instructor.    The main takeaway from the class for me was the importance of regular times of study.  I'll try to incorporate this advice into my routines when returning to the office in August...with God's help, of course.

My second class was really fun.  It was called "The Bible through Art and Artifact," and it involved a look at specific biblical topics for the first hour, followed by field trips each day to some of the riches of the Yale collections.  Today, for example, we looked at how the Hebrew texts and then the Christian tradition and translations treated Eve.  (Hint:  it ain't favorable in many Christian translations.)

We followed our discussion with a field trip to the Yale University Art Gallery--quite a wonderful resource.  Actually we were there, also, earlier in the week to see the collection of Christian art from Dura-Europos, a site in Syria, where a house church was situated in the 3rd Century A.D.  We also went to the Peabody Museum for a lecture in evolution and the fossil record, to the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments for a  private harp concert (considering the role of music in the OT times), and to the Yale Gallery of British Art for a look at William Blake's illustrated poem Jerusalem:  Emanation of the Great Albion and his illustrations for the book of Job.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable class!  There is another class like it--the first one developed by this professor--next year.  I'd love to take that one, too...

Tomorrow morning we leave for the last 2 months of sabbatical.  I'm looking forward to drawing and continuing to study Twelve-Step Spirituality with Richard Rohr's book Breathing Under Water.

Below, some photos:
1.  From the wall of the baptistery in the house church in Dura-Europos:  the Myrrh Bearers going to the tomb, early on Easter morning
2.  The famous illustration Ancient of Days, from William Blake.  The original!!!!  I prefer to think of it as God, the great geometer.
3.  The frame of a centuries-old harp, made of ivory and wood, featuring the head of King David, also known for playing the harp back in the day.
4.  Classmates reenacting the story of Adam, Eve, and the serpent from Genesis 2.