Today we fly back to Wellington where tomorrow I will give a burnout workshop. Then Wednesday we board the plane for our trip back to Victoria. Naomi sent pictures yesterday of her girls bundled up in their snowsuits playing in the snow at home. It is hard to imagine, as we watch people here swimming in the ocean, that we are returning on Wednesday to freezing temperatures, dark evenings, and the possibility of white stuff on the ground.
The distance between home and this lovely land we have been privileged to visit seems immense.
We have been greatly blessed visiting Aotearoa (“the land of the long white cloud”), as the Maori call New Zealad. There is an undeniably mystic quality about this land. Since the moment we stepped foot in New Zealand, we have been touched by the deep sense of spirit that permeates this place.
Almost our first experience in this country was the Maori welcoming ceremony which opened with the Maori singing of “How Great Thou Art.” This was followed up by our immersion in the extraordinary natural beauty surrounding Auckland, our angel encounter on the beach at the Vaughan Park, and our transcendent day walking in the footsteps of Heather’s father in Wellington and visiting his burial place. We have been touched by the deeply spiritual poetry of New Zealand’s great poet James K. Baxter and by the spiritual gem of The Sister Eveleen Retreat Centre nestled in the hills above Sumner where we have spent the past seven days.
It seems that, every where we have gone, we have encountered little reminders that this place is permeated by the dimension of the divine. As Baxter writes,
Beyond the Cave Rock scatters birds and spume,
Strikes out an echo from the ringing stone,
Strikes where the boat is tugging at its chain.
The “echo” of God rings through this land with a clarity that sometimes it seems harder to discern at home.
Perhaps it is just that we have been more receptive in this place. There is not doubt that many things have been orchestrated during our visit to New Zealand that would incline our hearts to open and be more deeply conscious of God’s presence and action in our lives.
For the past three weeks, we have been the recipients of extravagant hospitality. The generosity we have found in this place in almost every human encounter we have experienced has worked deeply to open and soften our hearts. The people we have come to know on this journey have welcomed us with a warmth and grace that has been deeply touching. Each person we have met has been to us a sacrament of God’s presence.
It is also true that almost everything we have done while here in New Zealand has been oriented towards walking with people who desire to deepen their ability to live consciously in God’s presence. Since being in New Zealand we have shared spiritual teaching with over 200 people who felt drawn to spend time with an unknown couple all the way from Canada simply because they long to grow in their knowledge of God’s Spirit at work in their lives.
It is hard not to find one’s own heart opening to a deeper awareness of God, when you are surrounded most of the time by people whose primary desire is to grow in relationship to the divine reality that holds their lives in love and compassion.
So now we begin to think of leaving this place. We look towards the land we call “home” with love and longing. We know that the same God who has touched us so deeply here in New Zealand is present in the land that today seems so remote. We know that at home we are also surrounded by a community of witnesses who desire to grow in their love for God and their longing to deepen their awareness of God’s presence in their lives.
I pray that as we travel back to the familiar world of Victoria our hearts may stay open and we may remain as responsive to the echos of God’s Spirit as we have been in this foreign land.