Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem[a] singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
Meg and I fly home from New Zealand tonight. As I read this writing by Henri Nouwen, I was struck by how much of our lives involve letting go. We are filled and then emptied, and then filled again. It is a deep blessing to make/share these memories with Meg. We hold deeply to each other, as we move ever closer to eternal time with God.
“Joy and Sadness are as close to each other as the splendid colored leaves of a New England fall are to the soberness of barren trees. When you touch the hand of a returning friend you already know you will have to leave each again. When you are moved by the quiet vastness of a sun colored ocean, you miss the friend who cannot see the same. Joy and sadness are born at the same time, both arising from such deep places in your heart that you can’t find words to capture your complex emotions.
“But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy in God, a joy that no one shall take away from us. “ Henri Nouwen
New Zealand is well endowed with natural features. However, the Whirinaki Natural Preserve is definitely one of the more spectacular. It lies between Whakatane and Rotorua Beryl Nu’u, Matt and Teresa’s personal trainer, graciously took time out of her busy schedule to take Meg and me here on Saturday. The trail climbs and descends, climbs and descends, narrow and wide, dry and muddy through dense, muted fern and old growth rain forests that only New Zealand has to offer. The light was enchanting and the small waterfalls and rivulets that flowed to the side of us were a constant delight. Magnificent thick tree trunks of various bark textures support trees that tower above the hiker. It was a delightful eight mile hike that exercised body and soul as well as a great time with Beryl !
Meg and I returned on our own for a second visit to the Oparara Basin. We took a lovely walk through the rain forest old growth to the Moria Arch, a limestone arch formed by the erosion of a cave. It was named because of its resemblance to filming locations in Lord of the Rings.
“Drink deeply of life: the love, hope, sorrow, and pain of it all. Ponder the miracle of your being and the web of all living things. Your passion, your gifts, your dreams, and your love are not to be squandered. The King of Glory is knocking on your door. Open your heart; it is time to invite Him in.”
Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 8 Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle. 9 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 10 Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies— he is the King of glory.
“Practice an extended period of private prayer, reflection, and meditation, pondering, percolating—whatever you want to call it. But do something everyday on a regular basis to engage in a conscious dialogue with your inner self and God. If every waking moment is filled with input and stimulation, your soul’s voice is being drowned out. You’ll eventually b begin to experience spiritual numbness, a blasé feeling…
Not making time to pay attention to your soul each day is like driving around with God in the back seat of the car, but with the music turned up so loud you can’t hear a word He is saying.” Joe Paprocki
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34
Meg and I took a delightful loop up the Waioeka Gorge to Motu Falls and then back to the coast at Opotiki. The road over the mountains back to Opotiki is “metal”, i.e. gravel, and very steep and winding. Fortunately, few people other than mountain bikers do it, so we had the drive to ourselves. The Whinray Reserve is essentially private property that has been donated as a preserve of excellent old growth trees and ferns, and supports kiwis and other endangered New Zealand wildlife.
Ohope calls itself the “sunshine capital of New Zealand.” Frankly, I would call it the “sunrise/sunset” capital. The Bay of Plenty was named by Captain Cook in the 1770’s after he found abundant provisions to replenish his ships along this coastline.
Since it faces northwards, Ohope Beach benefits from both sunrises and sunsets. As you can see, the colors glow magnificently. At sunrise, the mountains of the East Cape of the Bay of Plenty are often blanketed with clouds. This cloud cover creates a mystique to the land behind these mountains. Beautiful coves and beaches lie beyond the East Cape. It was the filming site for the excellent New Zealand movies, “Whale Rider” and “Boy.”
O Lord my God, how great you are! You are robed with honor and majesty. You are dressed in a robe of light. You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens; you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds.