Long way from auld reekie
After over 8 years in Scotland life has brought me back to a new foreign country...aka Texas! This is to keep my friends and family back in Scotland (and around the world)up-to-date on my reintegration back into American culture!
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Saying good bye to Aotearoa
I have been offline for the last 4 days. My last week in NZ has been full. I gave to opening lecture at a New Perspective in Science & Theology Conference at BCNZ on Friday talking about cyborg and Christian ethics and then flew down to Christchurch to do a seminar called Building Christian Community: What the Internet can teach Offline Church. Both event went well.
I was able to also do a little sightseeing around Christchurch and even hop on the Transalpine railway for a day to visit Arthur's Pass and do a bit of hiking in the Southern Alps. The nice young man at the park office obviously thought I was more fit and adventuresome than I am and sent me on a trek up the side of a mountain that left me scrambling almost 90 degrees in some places (coming down was even more fun!) but when I reached the top near the snow line the views were so worth the challenge! It was even better that it was my spiritual birthday (the day I accepted and committed my life to Christ) and what better way than up a mountain to pray and spend time with God, closer to heaven in many ways.
Now I am busily packing up my bits for my evening flight back to the USA. I will miss the beauty of this place as well as the much needed break, but am looking forward to my own bed & central heat/air.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Freedom and Forgiveness are coming
Am a bit behind on my blog and hope to catch up later today.
Today I shared in chapel at BCNZ in a very weighty, but powerful meeting. It started in a way different than planned, with prayers led by a South Korean student related to the Koreans which have been kidnapped in Afghanistan and esp. for the Pastor who was killed earlier today. While I did not understand the language of the prayers the emotion behind it definitely gripped me
I had been asked a week ago to share about the SCOT project in the service and before hand and the chapel coordinator had selected a particular tract called 'Forgive". She had asked me to talk about the story of a young girl from northern Ireland who learned a powerful lesson in forgiveness at a young age after watching her dad who was a warden in the Maze Prison in Belfast be gunned down by the IRA. It was amazing how it and her prayer for the freedom which comes from forgiveness fit in so well to the message and theme which emerged in the meeting. This led into a time of community prayer and then prayer for the Korean students in the middle of the room with other laying hands and crying along side them. We ended with a time of singing a South African song "freedom, freedom...is coming..." in beautiful harmonies and heart felt cries. It was heavy but it also seemed to shift something in the spirit of the place which many people have been talking about this morning around the college. Wow, a memorable experience. God is good, all the time.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Hiking the Abel Tasman
Monday I traveled via Air New Zealand from Auckland to Nelson in the South Island. This was my open week with no travel plans and when I emailed my sister who lived in NZ for 3 years for recommendation about where to go she said, head south. She also put me in touch withsome of her good friends Richard & Kaye Dyer who volunteered to host me during my visit as well as one of her best friend's Pam who for the past 2 days has played tour guide to me as we hiked part of the Abel Tasman together. The Abel Tasman is one of NZ's great walks and was hihgly recommended by my friend Jennifer Cobb who also hiked it 2 years ago. Am still fighting a bit of a cold and full of snot so knew I wasn't up to doing the whole 3-5 day trek, but was very glad Pam had offered to take me on a 1 day hike.
I took the bus to Motueka early Tues am where I met Pam for a nice coffee before heading up to Marahau where we started our hike. We walked the first 5 hr leg of the park past Appletree Beach and Torrent Bay before leaving the trail to bushwack down a private track to emerge at Boundary Bay. We met Pam's friend Terry who has a private batch on this secluded cove and were greeted by a warm fire and cups of tea and bics. The track hugs the edge of seaside cliffs and though it was gray and a bit rainy in bits it was a lovely journey and we worked up quite a sweat. I was glad for a warm shower and sat in awe watching the sun fade over the aqua waters of boundary bay. Pam cooked a lovely summer of stuffed chicken breasts on Terry's wood stove and veg and we listened to the radio chatted late until retiring to proper beds with hot water bottles, a great way to end a day of hiking. The next day we explored a bit of bounday and frenchman bays, had a lovely egg & bcon breakfast overlooking the water, and relished in the rising sun of a bright clear day. I wished we could stay another few days but alas the water taxi arrived at noon and we jouneyed back 30 mins or so to Marahau and then hiked back to the part entrance where we left the car.
The rest of the day was spent talking over tea, eating ice cream, exploring bits of Motueka and sitting in a hot spa overlooking the sea and mountains. Another blessed day that make me appreciate God's great creation and provision.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Hobbiton, Hell & Hotpools
My 3 days at Vaughn Park passed with me spending most of the time in bed sick in bed with a bad cold, but it says in the good book that "He gives his beloved rest" so I took this to heart. I did manage to emerge for a lovely walk on Long Bay when the sun did decide to emerge and a good spiritual direction session discussing Spiritual Vocation vs. Calling.
I was feeling so rough that I almost turned down my invitation to join a few folks from BCNZ on a tour of Roturra and the East of the South Island. But after some convincing that it was a trip not to miss I broke down and took some heavy duty meds and my fever finally broke and I had the strenght to say yes. And I am so glad I did. We travelled from Auckland to "Middle Earth" to visit Hobbiton, the only set from the Lord of the Rings trilogy left partially undismantled by New Line Cinemas at the end of their filming. The set is 10 acres amidst a large sheep farm and we hugged the party tree, walked through the shire got to look out of Bilbo's home and enjoy the amizing fiew of the rolling hills and even "Mordor" in the distance.
"AH, let's not get coffee, let's just go to Hell!"- Craig Bloomburg on our touring options in Roterrua
After a lovely lunch outside and a quick visit to a dairy farm where I got to pet calves not even a day old we went straight to Hell... via Roterrua that is, a town know for it sulfurous hot springs and thermal spas. We took a quick visit to Hell's gate (so the theologians amongst us could see where the Devil actually lives...) and then checked in for the night to enjoy a lovely meal and evening at the Polynesial Spa warming our weary bones.
The next day we arose early and headed for a Wai-o-Tapu park to see a natural the Lady Knox Geyers (which thought seeded with soap erupted for well over 40 min in front of us) and then do a casual hike around thermal sacred waters where we saw the Devil's home a tick broigh sulfur yell and the Devin's bath's a vivid neo pea green colour. After getting our sulfur fill we then headed to Lake Taupo for a quick visit to the Huka Falls and a late lunch before heading back to Auckland.
Now I am busily packing for a week in the South Island with yet undetermined plans...
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
And the winds came
Am back online after 2 1/2 days on the Cormandel Peninsula at Waihi Beach at my friend's aunt's holiday batch. Basic accommodation but a very lovely sea side location. For added excitement we got to go through a semi-hurricane which created 150+ mile per hour winds last night, and left the other side of the Peninsula and the North of the North Island without power today. We tried to drive up to the famous Hot Beaches yesterday afternoon but Nicola's poor little VW was getting quite blown about on the sea front roads so we relented and rented some NZ movies & went back to the cottage to weather out the storm. The power was quite fragile, and the old cottage could only cope with 3 plugs being used at any one time, so we had to decide on what was electrically essential. In the end it was the space heater, the tea kettle and Nicola's computer where we watched In My Father's Den in the dark. (BTW--beautiful cinematography but a very sad and slightly disturbing movie, Nicola says many kiwi made movies hold this theme of slightly dark, twisting narratives...)
I am now on a 2 day retreat at Vaughn Park, an Anglican retreat center on Long Beach just North of Auckland, so will go offline for 48 hours to pray, ponder and seek God.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
From the Heights
At the advice of Stu McGregor I visited Cityside Baptist today, a church known for its alternative and innovative worship pioneered by former Minister Mark Pierson (who I learned has packed his boxes in Mebourn and is headed back soon to NZ). Walking into the church I knew it would be a non-traditional services. Old couches and lounge chairs replaced pews and big pile of cushions was heaped in the center for worshippers and small children to sprawl out on. The service consisted of responsive readings, a member's personal reflection on a Psalm, a reading from "Thus Spake Zaurstra", interactive congregational prayers involving pinning personal concerns on a giant heart and a short sermon on the church's response to modern day slavery augmented by watching a clip from Amazing Grace. I had the opportunity to chat with the minister Brenda for a bit about women in ministry & emerging church issues in NZ which was very enlightening as well.
Afterwards I wandered toward downtown Auckland, had a bit of fishpie at a Squid Row a seafood restaurant not far from the Uni, ahh memories of Scotland (it is even located across the street from a pub called the Edinburgh Castle). Took lots of pics of fun signs & graffiti before meeting up with a few folks from BCNZ to visit the Biotonical Gardens and the Auckland Sky tower, the highest tower in the South Pacific. Am now busy preparing for a trek to Waihi with my friend Nicola tommorrow, for 3 days and a bit of R&R before the next terms starts for her. We will be staying at her aunt's bach in this holiday town so not internet for the next few days
Friday, July 06, 2007
Going to Hell...for Pizza
More Explorations of Auckland
My 4th day in NZ I ventured out on my own to explore Auckland. This involved taking a train from the suburbs of Henderson to the downtown of Auckland to explore some Auckland Museum (to see the Maori cultural performance) & Auckland Domain (a park and botanical garden) before heading for a meeting with Luke Goode at the Film & Media Studies Dept at the Univ. of Auckland to talk about New Media studies in New Zealand. I was impressed with myself that I did not get lost at all amidst bus changes and foot wanderings.
Quote of the Day:
"Sweet as..."- clerk at Vodaphone shop using common Kiwi slang
"...sweet as what?"- I asked a bit confused
"...[sigh]...an American?!"- his response
That evening after navigating my way back to BCNZ I joined several American visitors and expats working at the College at a faculty member's home for a 4th of July celebration. We figured by that time even though it was the 5th in NZ,it was technically still the 4th in Hawaii. We feasted on Pizza Hut Pizza, layer salad & homemade salad...along with some interesting NZ snack such as Lamb & Mint flavoured chips and L&P, which tastes like fizzy elderflower cordial. We also shared stories about our states of origin, sang patriotic songs and lit off some fireworks and sparklers our hosts had save over from Guy Fawkes night (which we later learned was illegal.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Conferencing, Exploring Auckland & More Rain
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Welcome to Aotearoa!
Today was a early start as I gather with other members from the SPABC conference for powhiri. This is a traditional Maori welcome ceremony of mihi (exchanged greetings between hosts and visitors), waiata (song) and even hongi (pressing of noses with all of your hosts which signifies the mingling together of the sacred breath of life) and then ending with hakari (sharing food together). Our powhiri was a bit abreviated (45mins, where they typically last 3-5 hours) but still a great experience to get to know a bit about Maori culture.
At breakfast I got introduced to other members of the SPABC conference (the South Pacific Association of Bible College) which made up of principals and leaders of different theological schools from across NZ & Australia. So far I have met people from Brisborn, Queensland, Perth and Sydney. I was also surprised to see a familiar face from my past in the bunch, John Capper, whom I met in 1999 in Edinburgh at an international conference of Media, Religion & Culture. At the time we were both PhD students and gave papers together on the same panel on religion online (which was memorable as it was one of my first academic conference presentations). He is now Academic Dean at Tabor College in Victoria (AU). Am looking forward to catching up a bit more with him tommorrow.
I sat in on a few sessions today of the conference and tommorrow I will be on a panel talking about religion and education in the Middle East. Though the rain subsided today, I spent much of the afternoon resting, still recovering from jet lag.
Quote of the day:
"Selah...it basically means shut up!"
-Donna Dinsmore, worship leader at the SPABC conference explaining the possible meaning of the term found frequently in the book of Psalms
Monday, July 02, 2007
Day 2: Ode to Rain