When the ground shakes.

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Every year GNS Science locates over 15,000 earthquakes in New Zealand. About 100 – 150 of these quakes are large enough to be felt, – the others we only know about because they are recorded by seismographs. Historic trends and records dating from the 1840s show that, on average, New Zealand can expect several magnitude 6 earthquakes every year, one magnitude 7 every 10 years, and a magnitude 8 every century.

Ok, so I guess it was ignorance on my part in moving here to be aware that earthquakes do occur, but oblivious of how common it can be in certain places. Yes, I was introduced to GEONET and then had somewhat of a fascination of following it as part of my daily routine. After waking up one morning and being asked if I had felt a little shaking during the night, I thought that maybe I should ask more questions about this. However, since thinking about what it would be like to actually experience an earthquake, I have also been considering what I could write for this blog post.

From what I gather and can imagine, there is the major feeling of being out of control that is present during such a time. In what do you even place your security in? You might not trust the walls around you for protection. You wouldn’t feel confidant in the ground below you. You probably wouldn’t feel in control of your own body as it too reacts to the rolls beneath your feet!

I believe life can be like that some times. Can you remember a moment when you felt like you were so out of control and wondering what to do? There are a few that I can recall, one in particular was last year. At the time, I wasn’t making any connections to earthquakes. Instead, I was likening it to being swept over and over by strong waves and not having anything to grasp onto to bring me to safekeeping. I knew that Jesus was the only person I could place my trust and security in as circumstances seemed so foggy and confusing. One Sunday morning during worship, I remember singing out to the lyrics of ‘Lord, I need you’ , where it says:

And when I cannot stand, I’ll fall on you. Jesus, you’re my hope and stay”.

This is what I want to say when trials come my way or if I ever happen to experience an earthquake. I want my foundation to be so rooted in Christ that no matter when I am shaken with nothing else to trust in, not even myself. That He is enough. He is all that I need. I can depend on Him and His ways fully, even though the things around me are wavering, He is that strong fortress.

When I think about having the deep foundations that give a house more of a chance of withstanding shifting landscapes, I also am reminded of the picture of a tree, having its roots deep into the soil so that it can withstand the strong winds that shakes it’s branches. Psalm 1 acknowledges that the blessed man is like ‘ a tree planted by streams of water’, who yields fruits, whose leaves do not wither and who prospers. This person takes delight in God’s word and thinks about it’s truths. This tree is planted by water, a picture of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to live a life that is righteous. I want such foundations and roots within the ground, soaking up more and more of the truths that will help me to stand firm when all else is shaky ground. Notice how Psalm 1 describes the blessed man as someone who not only delights in God’s word but meditates on them! This is taking the time to allow His word to ruminate our thoughts. It is not passive but active, so that when we feel like things are out of control, we know that God is still very much in control. His promises and his truths keep us safe and secure. To know that even when we do stumble, we will not fall because the Lord upholds us with his hand. Psalm 37.24. Even when my emotions betray those promises and say there is no hope. Even when my circumstances look bleak and confusing. Even when someone betrays me. Even when I cannot fathom what I will be doing next year, or where I will be living, or all the other the questions. Can we still say that God is good, when we don’t understand and when everything seems to crumble around us? Because He is and He always will be. He doesn’t shift like the ground below us, He is firm and unchanging. He is good.

There are a few other analogies that come to mind but with keeping it short and simple today, I will leave at that with this reminder.

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be shaken but endures forever. Psalm 125.1

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And a little about the earthquake of 2011 in Christchurch…

Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12.51 p.m. Christchurch was badly damaged by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake, which killed 185 people and injured several thousand.

The earthquake’s epicentre was near Lyttelton, just 10 km south-east of Christchurch’s central business district. The earthquake occurred nearly six months after the 4 September 2010 earthquake, but is considered to be an aftershock of the earlier quake.

The earthquake occurred at lunchtime, when many people were on the city streets. More than 130 fatalities were caused by the collapse of two multi-storey office buildings – the Canterbury Television and Pyne Gould Corporation buildings. Falling bricks and masonry on Manchester St and in Cashel Mall killed 11 people, and eight died in two city buses crushed by crumbling walls. Rock cliffs behind houses collapsed in the Sumner and Redcliffs area, and boulders tumbled down the Port Hills, with five people killed by falling rocks.

Although not as powerful as the magnitude 7.1 earthquake on 4 September 2010, this earthquake occurred on a fault line that was shallow and close to the city, so the shaking was particularly destructive. In the February 2011 quake, the fault movement and structure of the bedrock produced exceptionally strong ground motion – up to 1.8 times the acceleration due to gravity in the eastern suburbs. In the city centre, ground accelerations were three to four times greater than those produced by the September 2010 earthquake.

The earthquake brought down many buildings that had been damaged in September 2010, especially older brick and mortar buildings. Many heritage buildings were heavily damaged, including the Provincial Council Chambers, Lyttelton’s Timeball Station, and both the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral and the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Among the modern buildings irrevocably damaged was Christchurch’s tallest building, the Hotel Grand Chancellor. More than half of the buildings in the central business district have had to be demolished.

Liquefaction was much more extensive than in the September 2010 earthquake. Eastern sections of the city were built on a former swamp. Shaking turned water-saturated layers of sand and silt beneath the surface into sludge that squirted upwards through cracks. Properties and streets were buried in thick layers of silt, and water and sewage from broken pipes flooded streets. House foundations cracked and buckled, wrecking many homes. Despite the damage, there were few serious injuries in residential houses in liquefaction areas. However, several thousand homes have been demolished, and some suburbs will probably never be reoccupied.

The government immediately activated its National Crisis Management Centre, and a national state of emergency was declared the day after the quake. Christchurch’s central business district was quickly cordoned off.  Electricity was restored to 75% of the city within three days, but re-establishing water supplies and sewerage systems took much longer.

The cordon around the central business district was progressively reduced over the next two years but not completely removed until June 2013. It will take several more years to completely restore the city’s electricity and water networks to pre-earthquake standards. Many areas in the condemned ‘Red Zone’ will not have services restored to this standard.

(http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/page/christchurch-earthquake-kills-185)

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This photo was taken in February when I first arrived. The following describes the installation piece in detail.

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In My Defence.

Whenever I hear someone start their sentence with these three words, I immediately think (sometimes sarcastically, if I must admit) “Oh this is going to be good.” I know that it is not always followed by some excuse for one’s actions but it is what I prepare myself for when I first encounter this opening line.

A few weeks ago, I hesitantly posted “How do you like your steak?”. For many reasons I was nervous about releasing it to the public and it was one of those times where I have wondered if I’ve just said too much… One of things that I was very tempted to do in that particular post was to add in comments and information that would make me look ‘not so bad’. It would have been easy to tell my story and paint a picture that excuses a bit of my behaviour or make me feel better about my actions. No one is particularly fond of portraying themselves in a bad light and we all want others to think we are great. However, we don’t really fool anyone when we try to pretend like we are perfect or our lives are perfect because we are all flawed human beings living in an unperfect world. I really want to strive for an honesty and authenticity in all areas of my life and if that includes stopping myself from excusing some of my actions then I guess I should start putting that into practice. Perhaps, that means removing these three letter from my vocabulary for a time. But in my defence, I don’t feel like I say it that often…

I think I heard a lot of this in the past year or so ( or perhaps I just became more aware of it). It began to bother me a bit more when it crept into conversations with my peers at church or within the Christian circles. “I don’t have time”. “I don’t have money.” “I’m treating them like that because I feel like this.” And it always seems to be a deflection of recognising our own circumstances or our own attitudes and pushing blame on to anyone or anything else but ourselves. Yes, work may be really tough and that person may not be so pleasant to be around but it’s no excuse for our actions at times. We are so out of control with the things that cross our paths but we still have a responsibility in our reactions to those things. What is that responsibility, even when all I feel like doing is retaliating with my tongue or behaviours? What does Christ expect from us when we act out wrongly? Does he want us to list out the reasons for why we did it, or does he simply want us to recognise that wrong and own up to it? Is it that simple?

There is a post that I want to write called Picture Perfect another time, so I won’t say too much on this subject. However, we are so encouraged by tv, magazines, social media, culture…you name it.. to present ourselves without blemish. Facebook’s newsfeed ,marjority of the time, informs us of all the wonderful things that are going on while magazines are photoshopped to remove and trim to what it thinks is presentable. No wonder when we go to respond to a flaw or wrongdoing, we immediately think of how to either cover it up or cushion it with all the reasons of why. I do believe that talking through the why’s are important, don’t get me wrong. They bring enlightment and humanise the situation which can result in sympathetic understandings. But what if we challenged ourselves to at least be honest with ourselves and take responsibility for how we react. “I said that I didn’t have the time or money but actually I just wanted to do my own thing.”. “I lost my temper with so and so and I shouldn’t have spoke to them in that way.” Sometimes, others can see through our excuses and we walk further and further away from the authentic life that I think God wants us to live.

Jesus was always one to get to the heart of the matter. There wasn’t much time for excuses. He observed the fatality of presenting ourselves without blame or blemish while on the inside we live a life of the complete opposite. Jesus caught the Pharisees out on so many occassions for living an unauthentic or hypoctitical lifestyle.

Matt 23:27-29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 

What do you think are the differences between hypocrisy and simply not being transparent with others? Ok, so we don’t need to declare our innermost thoughts  from the rooftops all of the time but what do we need to do in order to share an authentic life with those around us? Is it admitting that we reacted wrongly and apologising? Is it being honest when someone asks us to do something or why you responded in the way that you did? If we strived to lead in authenticity then do you think that our relationship with God and with others would become more authentic? 

I understand authenticity emcompasses more than simply being open and honest. For now, I just wanted to touch base on what it is to hold onto transparency in our lives and let go of the excuses we are quick to share first. Those were just a few thoughts I had since I shared some of my story in a previous post and how I wrestled with wanting to excuse all of my actions. Maybe, reader, you have some insight for me on this too 🙂 

I want to end with seeking to replace In My Defence with running to God for protection, refuge and perhaps even defense. For the name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18.10. I might need to ask for forgiveness or seek His example before I make that rash response, but He is my strong, defending tower, who is unblemish, untarnished and without blame.

Here is an old photo of a tower at the Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland

  
A few things to note. Americans spell it “defense” and under British influence is “defence”.

Also, I always feel like I’m either giving out in my posts or they are just a bunch of cheese. Anyways…no excuses…

A City of Volcanoes.

Last week, I flew up to Auckland for a few days. It was such a relaxing time despite walking around 20km a day (thank you, fitbit). The sun was out and although winter, it was often that my friend and I found ourselves peeling off our jackets. I guess, a city is a city anywhere and when I envision my time in New Zealand, I like to think that it is near water or the mountains. It was lovely to take the time to be in a highly populated area again, but still have the retreats down by the water or walking up some of the mounds and volcanoes. So here are a few things that I experienced during my time in Auckland.

Auckland, based around 2 large harbours, is a major city in the north of New Zealand’s North Island. In central Queen Street, the iconic Sky Tower has views of Viaduct Harbour, which is full of super yachts and lined with bars and cafes. Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park, is based around an extinct volcano and home to the formal Wintergardens.

This is Bekey, she just moved to New Zealand the day before. We were tourists for the first time here and it was nice to be foreign to a place along with someone else.

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We found this designed wall after walking 50mins for a meeting at ANZ Bank. We felt we had to make the lost time worthwhile by taking these photos…

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Next, we proceeded to the skytower downtown. Here are some things to note about the skytower.

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This is looking down through the glass floors.

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The following few days involved more sight seeing including:

Taking a ferry over to Devonport and what a gorgeous fresh morning it was for it. Here we walked to Mt. Victoria (one volcano) with a view of the distant city. There is a beach area here with lovely buildings and cafes.

Once we had crossed the waters back to the city, we took a walking tour, thanks to our lonely planet guide, where we visited gardens and galleries.

On our final day we had the opportunity to climb Mt Eden and witness the crater that rests on this volcano.

Mount Eden, known also as Mangawhau, is the highest of Auckland City’s volcanoes at 196 metres high. Centrally located, it is both a prominent feature of the Auckland landscape and a great vantage point providing views in all directions over the city. The slopes of Maungawhau were once densely populated by Māori and the crater is known as the food bowl of Matāoho. In 1841, Apihai Te Kawau defined from the summit the boundaries of his 3000 acre gift of land to the Crown that established the city of Auckland. -eventfinder.co.nz

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The rest of our time was filled with eating and taking in the harbour and sunshine.

There are many little stories, some funny and some ‘once in a lifetime’ moments, of which I might share one day but for now let’s end with a smile from the memories, and the classy ladies that we are…

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Free.

  

Free. I seem to come across this word a lot lately. It’s stitched in black on a white pillow to decorate a house with. It’s on the cover of a journal as a little inspiration for it’s writer. And it’s this cover for someone’s facebook page. It’s quite the fashionable word now along with ‘Adventure’ and ‘Wanderlust’. What picture comes into your mind when you think of the word, ‘free’? Is it running as fast as you can on a sunny day? Is it the opportunity to walk out your front door to go see new places? Is it to have your burdens, worries and pains removed from consuming your thought life? So you can ‘just be free’.

 The image that comes to my mind has been there for a number of years. It involves a bird and a cage which of course is the opposite picture of freedom. But that was how I felt; like a bird in a closed cage and all I wanted was to be free. Do you know when I thought of this image most? It was during worship. I love expressing my thoughts to God through song as it involves using your mind, your heart and your words. I wanted to sing to God with all that I was, raising my hands high as some offering of praise. However, at that time I knew that I was holding back from giving God my everything. I had experienced the freedom that comes with surrender before and I wasn’t in that place in my heart and in my life. We believe the lie that says ‘I will just do things my own way because how could I ever experience freedom when I’m not doing what I want to do?’.  I chose to believe this lie and live by it, seeking to fulfill whatever I thought was good for me. Then why didn’t it feel so good? I certainly didn’t feel free. If we claim that the scriptures are true, then how do we approach our lives knowing that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”? Do we carry on minding our own business, building our own empires of work, family, leisure and not even considering that perhaps there is Some one out there who knows what is best for us with the best path to take. It is only through seeking His will, His thoughts, His guidance that we find true freedom. We find freedom because it is only found ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is.’

When I was that bird in a closed cage. I could see outside of it. I could see how it could be and I could see how others were free. I had experienced the stretching out of wings before, so to speak, and now I had chosen to be enslaved inside this cage. I was now bound to a life that looks miserably out at what I could have but too stubborn to change anything about my life that would cause that door to be opened. And that key word was ‘surrender’. I had also enslaved myself to fear. Although desperate for a change in my relationship with God and in my life, I was desperately afraid to live that life too. It would mean sacrifice and being willing to not be in as much control of my life as I wanted. I believed the lie so much that I thought that I would never be free (or truly happy) if I lived the life that God wanted me to. So I stood in church on a Sunday morning and looked at others raise their hands and belt out their heart as well as the songs. I stood there instead and thought of that bird, who once woke up singing every morning to new mercies but was now silent and trapped.

I was reminded this week of that image of the bird and the cage. Since my last blog post on How Do You Like Your Steak? , I have felt such a burden lift from my shoulders and I have experienced some of that freedom. I was trying to be open and honest with others but to myself as well. I think of the verse that says ‘then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ I don’t want to live by some of the lies that I was living by, I want to live by truths because it is only truth that can gives us freedom. 

I also thought of the bird and cage as I sat at work with Andrew, and gazed at his pet, cockatiel, in it’s cage. It stretches it’s wings often and it does have some time to fly around the room, for short distances and usually to land on my head or on my shoulders.

 
Barney is cute, even if he does pick at my earrings and there is always a chance that he will poo on me. 

Anyways, I have been thinking about the strength of his wings. I know that he is limited in the distance he can fly because he doesn’t have the opportunity to go out of doors. I think of those moments where I felt like I didn’t have the strength to make a tough decision or follow through. If only I had recalled in 2 Corinthians12.9 where it states that ‘his strength is made perfect in our weakness.’, I would have realized a lot quicker that relying on God for the strength would put me on the path to being free. 

It is no surprise to us when we read about being sheltered in His wings as in Psalm 91. When we think of a bird about to take off to fly, we imagine it taking a step off a high ledge in order to spread out it’s wings and soar. We see not only that it is relying on the strength of it’s wings but it is also placing a trust in it’s wings that will enable it to soar and not crash to the ground. God wants us to do those same things when we surrender- to rely on his strength to soar and place our trust in his protection. He wants us to do so because He knows that if ‘the Son sets you free, then you are free indeed.’ It isn’t just a word used for decoration or inspiration or to appear to our viewers. It is real and tangeable. It is now within us where the Spirit dwells. It appears in our thought life as we live by truths and no longer by the burdens that may lay heavily upon us. It lives in our homes and our work places where we are not enslaved by our fears and trust in a God who shelters us in His wings. It comes to expression in our worship as we can sing with all that we are, with all of the praise that our God deserves.

Are you that bird in a cage, holding something back- too fearful to fully let go or too stubborn to surrender to God’s way? Can you worship God with your life and whole being with an openess and honesty? Are you living by lies that are keeping you locked up and from experiencing true freedom? This isn’t the life intended for us. Christ came to give us life and life to the FULL. JOHN 10.10. Not just a part of our lives. Not just some of it. But all! The world is obviously searching for a way to ‘just be free’. So let us point to the very thing that will set us free for ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’Galatians 5.1

Be free.