God’s tender mercy

Because of God’s tender mercy,
  the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.  Luke 1:78,79

How does “tender mercy” definite my relationship with the Creator of the Universe, and my relationship with His Creation?

Fr Thomas Keating writes this way: “You cannot exaggerate the closeness, the gentleness, the tenderness of God. It is not sentimental.  It’s a love that wants to give us the treasure of the divine life–not just becoming better human beings. It is unconditional love pouring itself out. And it has to pour itself out. That is the nature of infinite goodness.”

 

Peace on Earth, Mt Emily Oregon, Mt Emily Union County

The Blue Pools, New Zealand

Resting, flowing, sensually invigorating, the Blue Pools are deeply blue and deeply tranquil.  A lovely walk through mature beech and podocarp forest an hour west of Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand takes one to this stream that flows into the Makarora River. Pure glacial waters refract the light to create this deep, unique blue. At our gym in La Grande, two treadmills allow you to take virtual walks.  The Blue Pools is one of the choices.  So, we happily included the actual walk in our travels this November.

 

Walk to the Blue Pools

Blue Pools New Zealand, Blue Pools Wanaka
Blue Pools New Zealand, Blue Pools Wanaka
Blue Pools New Zealand, Blue Pools Wanaka
Blue Pools New Zealand, Blue Pools Wanaka
Blue Pools New Zealand, Blue Pools Wanaka
Blue Pools New Zealand, Blue Pools Wanaka

God is only love

“Often hell is portrayed as a place of punishment and heaven as a place of reward. But this concept easily leads us to think about God as either a policeman, who tries to catch us when we make a mistake and send us to prison when our mistakes become too big, or a Santa Claus, who counts up all our good deeds and puts a reward in our stocking at the end of the year.
God, however, is neither a policeman nor a Santa Claus. God does not send us to heaven or hell depending on how often we obey or disobey. God is love and only love. In God there is no hatred, desire for revenge, or pleasure in seeing us punished. God wants to forgive, heal, restore, show us endless mercy, and see us come home. But just as the father of the prodigal son let his son make his own decision, God gives us the freedom to move away from God’s love even at the risk of destroying ourselves. Hell is not God’s choice. It is ours.” Henri Nouwen
I realize the concept Nouwen proposes may be radical to some. Yet the older I have become, the more my relationship with God through His Son is based on love and forgiveness, praying for enemies rather than hating them.  I hold the promise the Lord gave to Israel long ago through the prophet, Jeremiah:
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:33,34
Ohope Beach

Pancake Rock, Punakaiki, South Island

The Pancake Rocks, or Punakaiki on the West Coast of South Island are heavily eroded limestone layers where the sea bursts through blowholes at high tide. Over a thirty million year process, immense water pressure caused them to solidify into layers of more resistant limestone of marine animals and softer, thin, mud-rich plant sediments. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed where water, wind and sea over a thirty million year period eroded them into these whimsical shapes.
 
Meg and I have been here several times, but either clouds and rain, or low tide, or sun at the wrong angle have kept us from seeing these rainbows. We finally timed it right!
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
Eating pancakes at Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
A warning to selfie photographers

Crowned with everlasting Joy

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.

                                        Isaiah 35:10
 
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
Ohope Beach, Bay of Plenty

A most excellent hike in the Whirinaki Forest

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 !
Whirinaki
Whirinaki
Whirinaki
Whirinaki
Crossing the Whirinaki river
Whirinaki
Whirinaki
Whirinaki
Whirinaki, Meg and Beryl
Whirinaki, Meg accepts a challenging trail crossing
Whirinaki, Success
Whirinaki falls
Whirinaki
Whirinaki
Whirinaki
Whirinaki
Whirinaki
Whirinaki, Meg checks to see if this Ent has a heartbeat

The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park

Meg and I spent time again at Mt Cook National Park, a must visit for anyone who is drawn to the mountains.I “enjoyed” a steep and strenuous hike with Ant Harris, a guide whom Meg and I had gotten to know on the previous visit. He is a skilled mountain guide and a deep, authentic thinker. He took me on his day off to the Mueller Hut–a three thousand foot elevation gain in three miles, up never ending, straight up steps, through challenging rock formations, and finally up snow where crampons helped us along. It was a thirteen hour day, including lunch at the hut. I was slow, but my muscles held  up both the ascent and descent. Fortunately, however,  I did not have to go anywhere the next few days, so sore muscles had plenty of time to recover.

 

The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park
The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park
The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park
Ant Harris, The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park
The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park
The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park
The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park
The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park
Ant Harris, The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park
The Mueller Hut, Mt Cook National Park

Oparara Basin 2: the walk to Moria Arch

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.

 

Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin, silver birch
Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin, New Zealand robin
Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin, Moria Arch
Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin
Oparara Basin, Moria Arch

The Oparara Basin and Honeycomb Hill caves

Karamea is home to the Opera Basin in the Kahurangi National Park. It is a thirty five million year old complex of limestone caves, arches, and old growth rain forest. Honeycomb Hill Caves are world famous for their ancient Moa and giant New Zealand eagle bones. These bones are so called “sub fossil” bones, meaning the original form of the bones is preserved and can be DNA tested. Scientists have identified nine different Moa species.These birds fell into the cave system through sink holes and were unable to extricate themselves.
One finds glow worms inside the caves. It seems truly magical to see this starlight glow deep in a cave. Māori call them titiwai, which refers to lights reflected in water. Glow-worms are the larvae of the fungus gnat. Glow-worms need damp places, where the air is humid and still, to construct their snares. Caves and old mining tunnels are ideal. In the forest glow-worm snares are commonest on moist banks beside a stream or in a ravine. To catch small flying insects, the glow-worm sets up a snare of sticky silk threads. Flying insects see the glow-worm’s light in the dark and fly towards it, because it resembles moonlight shining through the trees. Instead of finding freedom, they become trapped on the sticky threads. Their struggles alert the glow-worm, which pulls in the thread with its mouth. The prey is then killed and eaten.
I do not have pictures of the actual glow, but when our guide shown light on them, we could see the long filament snares referred to above.
 
Honeycomb Hill cave can only be visited as part of a guided tour.  It is closely monitored because of the significance of the  bone specimens. The caves were only discovered in the late 1980’s. We also visited the Oparara Arch, reputed to be the largest in the southern hemisphere.
Oparara Basin

Oparara Basin, Honeycomb Hill cave
Oparara Basin, Honeycomb Hill cave

Oparara Basin, Honeycomb Hill cave
Oparara Basin, Honeycomb Hill cave

Oparara Basin, Honeycomb Hill cave, Glow worm filaments
Oparara Basin, Honeycomb Hill cave, Looking toward our exit point
Oparara Basin, Honeycomb Hill cave, Looking back into where we exited the cave complex
Oparara Basin, Honeycomb Hill cave
Oparara Arch
Oparara Arch
Oparara Arch
Oparara Arch

Photos by Eric Valentine