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
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
During this Easter week, it is good to remember and reflect upon the incredible unfailing love God shows us despite the evil and chaos that never seems to end. Indeed, we have sound reason NOT to let our hearts be troubled!
“Hope and faith will both come to an end when we die. But love will remain. Love is eternal. Love comes from God and returns to God. When we die, we will lose everything that life gave us except love. The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us. It is the divine, indestructible core of our being. This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation.
“When we approach our deaths let us say to those we leave behind, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. The love of God that dwells in my heart will come to you and offer you consolation and comfort.” Henri Nouwen
One of the great joys of visiting family in Ohope is watching the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, the ever changing morning and evening light. Ohope Beach lies on the eastern end of the Bay of Plenty, an eighty mile curve of sea three hours southeast of Auckland. Because of its north-south location, this ocean expanse, unlike the Oregon coast, receives both sunrises and sunsets. The light is unique. Enjoy these pictures.
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” Psalm 91:1,2
“Do I look at my life as being in my Father’s house? The only abiding reality is God Himself….I must learn to live every moment in my Father’s house.” Oswald Chambers
When my thought life is focused on His shelter, His house, and not my fantasies or memories. I find I live much more fully in the NOW of His presence and protection. That is where I find peace, not in the variability of my “feelings.”
Long ago, through prayer, I was blessed with a miraculous, intense healing of mind, body, and soul. As I have prayed the years since, I cannot specifically claim that “I” have caused anything equally miraculous to happen. I do know that I find incredible peace and rest when I let go of my “chattering voices” and in stillness, feel the incredible connections with God and His Creation. And I do accept what Oswald Chambers writes: “The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the ‘answer.”
“God will probably not be interested in how many things we included in our day, but how much of our day included Him.” All Zobe-Nolan
Whale Island, or Moutohora in Maori (meaning whale), lies five and half miles off the coast of Whakatane, in the Bay of Plenty, of North Island, NZ. It is the remnant of a volcano. Purchased by the government in 1984, the island still displays its history with active hot springs– including a warm sand beach where access is not allowed. The Department of Conservation has eradicated goats and rats and reintroduced native birds, bushes and trees.
Meg and I enjoyed a late afternoon kayaking adventure paddling around the island with an outfitter, KG Kayaks. We returned in a gorgeous sunset. We had hoped to see blue penguins coming back on shore for the night, and dolphin. No such luck, but we were well entertained by seals doing wonderful ballet movements as we paddled close to the rocks where they hung out. We also enjoyed the lovely pohutukawa trees that bloom in December and are only found on coastal areas of North Island. We had missed doing this trip on earlier visits. In the future, it is now on our “to do” list.
Whale Island from Air New Zealand flight to Whakatane
“Freedom comes when you know with your heart that you are loved. If you could accept and believe that you are unconditionally love and embraced, you could go all over the world and never be lonely…In our personal relationships a moral life is not enough. We must also live the mystical life, a life which is embraced by the God who says, “I love you fully and unconditionally.” Henri Nouwen
“Our superficial, restricted self is uncomfortable and fights being revealed. But deeper within us is the longing for God, placed within our true self by God. We come to God as we are: caught by sin and longing for God; and we are always met by God’s grace and mercy.” Wendy Wright
God calls us to participate in a reciprocal relationship of love, but too often we are too busy, too “moral” (in our own eyes), too self centered to respond. More than three thousand years ago, when the people of Israel were forming their relationship with him, Yahweh instructed the Israelites to show their love for him by “walking in his ways and holding tight to him.” As we know, then and now, we fail in this walk. Yet God never gives up on us. He “delights in showing us unfailing love.”
And so at this time of year, we are again reminded of how much our Creator cares for us. We could not recognize his love in the abstract, so he came to live with us, to join us on our journey, to listen to our story. As Henri Nouwen writes, “the God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles, but can always trust that he walks with us.”