Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Some highlights from my trip...

Here are some pictoral highlight from my trip... a view over hobbitton, and the view from bilbo baggins house, hanging out in Wai-tu thermals-where the devil supposedly lives, enjoying views near St Arnauds, taking a name-sake break in the Lewis Pass, and a photo op near Hamner Springs ...

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

Another downpour of a day, though I am slowly adjusting to the damp and the lack of Central heating by layering up and wearing my fleece much of the day. I am also learning other interesting things while here such as:

-dehumidfiers come with a "laundry" setting, and are often used instead of dryer to help dry clothes

-if one wants a milky coffee you ask for a "flat white", or in my case a-- half caf thin flat white

- my life has been greatly enhanced by the aquisition of a hot water bottle to help warm one's bed at night

My friday was spend networking with a few folks. First I met with Stu McGregor for a coffee and a great chat about the Emerging Church and technology here in NZ. Stu is getting ready to move from being a youth pastor with a EC emphasis in worship to a Senior pastor of a small traditional congregation who are in large part Maori so has been doing a lot of reflection on the interaction between emerging and mainline churches. We picked each other's brain's and he gave me much food for thought on the thinking behind using tech in worship, which I suspect will show up in my current book project on religion and new media.

Over lunch I was then finally able to catch up with John Capper and we also had a good chat on theological education, teaching peadagogy and online learning. It is always fun to connect with people and say so what has been going on with you in the last 8 years!

For dinner I got to go to hell, or I should say Hell came to us. Hell Pizza is a NZ chain which has done an interesting job in using a theme to market their product. There different Pizza's are name after different sins or other devilish dervasions...for instance not the picture of me eating a slice of Mordor (spicy chicken). I also tried a slice of Lust (meat lovers) but my personal fav was purgatory (vegtarian with feta). The pizza box can also be punched out and turned into a mini coffin to hold "your remains". Some Christian in NZ have been deliberate about boycotting the chain on principal, and I teased my theologian friend about here support of the chain which she says she does with conflicted emotions...but they do make great pizza. Their marketing is a slick interface of religion with pop culture, and a bit cheeky. For instance at their web site you can particpate in a "hellpoll" which allows you to nominate national leaders for "Who needs a good smack" (i.e. spanking)?! (BTW-- this is also my quote of the day)

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

"It's time to shut up...and enjoy this holy space." -Donna Dinsmore

Building on yesterdays worship session our worship leader exhorted us to enter into communal worship, esp. the space created by silence, and to enjoy being before God. This really struck me as I feel as I have spent much of the last 5 years of full throtle go, and have to work hard to carve out space to be and esp. be before God. This is space is something I am trying hard to allow space for on this trip.

Today I was on a panel on Religion & Theological Education with Paul Saunders who is based in Lebanon as director of ICETE & Alex Awad a professor at Bethelehem Bible College. I wasn't sure what to expect but the panel went well and was even fun. I learned some interesting bits about the challenges of Arab Christians living in the Middle East and was able to my own experience working with Muslims & Jews in Israel. I also found out I shared an experience with Paul, his being in Beruit while I was in Haifa during the bombings last summer.

This afternoon I joined members of the SPABC conference on an outing to Devenport, which involved a 12 min ferry ride to a small community on a penninsula in Auckland Harbour (note pic above). We enjoyed a a hike up mount Victoria before getting caught in a bucketing downpour where we hurried down to the closest coffee shop we could find for a quick cuppa and to dry out. I had several interesting conversations on on Emerging Church & theological education in Australia with several particpants.

Overall as the above picture indicates, it was a g'(ood) day!

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

Am still a bit jet-lagged but I think this is partly from the lack of sleep I had the week before I arrived here. Day 2 as day 1, was a dreak day, much like Edinburgh in the early winter: cold, rainy & gray. Great weather for consuming much tea, and I also got introduced to "Milo" the kiwi version of ovaltine. I spent much of the day with my friend Nicola doing various errands and visiting her work place, Bible College of New Zealand (BCNZ). Above is a picture of Nicola in her office. We've had a great time chatting and catching up with one another, the last time I saw her was Fall 2005 at the AAR annual conference in Philadelphia.

I've decide to institute a "quote of the day" in my blogging of this trip, as I have heard so many amusing comments since I have been here already.
The runner up for day 1 is: "Nicola, behave your self."
- by Solomon, the cheeky Emo 15 year-old friend of Nicola's son Andrew in response to her asking him if his Mother knew where he was after picking him up from an unknown friend's house early Sunday am to take him and her son to Band practice at another friend's home...

And the winner is: "...we don't need anymore 'ghastly evangelicals'... oh, not like Nicola who is a "beautiful evangelical."

-A man putting his foot in his mouth during an announcement made at church of the upcoming Dioesesan-synod election in Auckland.

...Oh to be a beautiful evangelical like my friend!?! Anyways, I did enjoy visiting All Saints Anglican Church Ponsonby on Sunday. Great organ music and as they were short handed I even got invited to help bring the Communion elements forward during the service.

My highlight of Monday was attending my first Pilates class with Nicola at a Country Women's Institute in Titrangi near where Nicola lives. Got some good stretching in and heard a choice quote as well.

"Heidi, you must get in touch with your buttocks!"

- Crystal, the French Pilates instructor on advising me about my posterior position during a back & leg stretch.