In his book, “Here and Now,” Henri Nouwen writes, “Joy does not come from positive predictions about the state of the world. It does not depend upon the ups and downs of the circumstances of our lives. Joy is based on the spiritual knowledge that, while the world we live in is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world. Jesus says it loudly and clearly: ‘In the world, you will have troubles, but rejoice, I have overcome the world.’
As I read this magnificent Psalm, I am reminded again of how much more I need to fill myself with God and not with all the externals that I let fill me and satisfy me. St Augustine is right when he says that whatever we love outside of God, the less we love God. Yet, as this Psalm says, God never gives up on us!
Psalm 139.1 and the Chambers’ quotation may seem, on the surface, to be a strange juxtaposition. I will let you draw your own conclusions. One thought I have is the infinite depth of God’s call to us. He examines our hearts; He knows everything about us. How can we settle for anything less than His call to holiness and love?
I was looking back over some of my pictures from my first trip to New Zealand in early 2009. I was struck again by the beauty of the country and the majesty of God. Rabbi Heschel and Henri Nouwen speak from a Jewish and a Catholic background, respectively. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 32, they remind of us the immediate importance of God. God is not someone we put off into the future. He is the NOW!
For a variety of reasons, I have been prompted to think of the eternity that awaits us with God. Isaiah dramatically tells us how tightly God holds us; Hebrews talks about the impermanence of this world; and a friend’s poem reminds us of beauty beyond anything we can imagine.
Ohope Beach on the eastern shore of North Island rests at about the same latitude as San Francisco. So, unlike the Oregon coast in winter where rain can fall for days on end and be quite cool, Ohope Beach enjoys a goodly amount of sun and mild winter temperatures. Meg and I had overpacked our cold weather clothing–our packing would have been appropriate for South Island which is much colder in the winter.
When the Lord formed the earth, He saved the best for last and created New Zealand! Today, Sunday, is our last full day here. We leave Ohope/Whakatane in the early afternoon for Auckland. We fly back to the States in the evening. As you can tell from my recent posts, the presence and the power of the ocean here is constant. After all, New Zealand consists of North and South ISLANDS. I have been reminded continually of the many references in the Psalms to the Lord’s power in creating and containing the oceans. Here are a couple.
We have less than a week left here with the family in Ohope Beach, North Island, Bay of Plenty. Whereas the first week and half passes slowly, the sand of the hour glass is now rapidly filling at the bottom. Our days have been filled with the happy voices of our grandchildren, and activities with them. We have enjoyed long beach walks, shell collecting, sunrises and sunsets, travel up and down the coast. This is an exceptionally beautiful country. We are blessed to be able to visit.
A sunrise and sunset shot from Ohope Beach, overlooking the Bay of Plenty, create the theme for this week’s spiritual themes. I never cease to be awed by the Psalmists statements about God’s forgiveness toward those who seek him humbly, completely, repentantly. There is such joy in that realization of eternal love. With that we can, as St. Seraphim says, share and kindle joy in others. In that way, we become a spiritual presence to others, a companion on the way.
Well, it was just a week ago today that Meg and I arrived in Auckland, and then took a commuter flight to Whakatane, the harbor town closest to Ohope, North Island, where Matt, Teresa, Sebastian, and Emma live. Matt has been working at a hospital in Wellington for three months, to demonstrate to the Austral-New Zealand Medical Society that his US Board Certification should be recognized down here.