Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kenya: Land of My Fathers

Kenya: land of my fathers. It feels kind of funny writing that. Kind of presidential. But it's true.

It's not true that I'm presidential (too short and born in the wrong country), but it is true that Kenya is the land of my fathers, unlike Steve Martin's politically incorrect claim in The Jerk: "I was born a poor black child."

In fact, Kenya is the land of my father AND mother (both were born there), and the place where both sets of grandparents invested all their working lives as missionaries. My parents, too, served there for a number of years before I was born.

My brother and sister were born in Zambia, but this is not their blog, so back to me.

Sadly, I was born in New Zealand. I say "sadly" not because I don't love NZ and not because I'm not a proud, card-carrying Kiwi. (I do and I am.)  I say it because I was always jealous of my sister growing up. People would ask her where she was from and she would proudly say, "Africa!" Then they would look at her to see if she was albino.

That one word had such a mystique to it. Being an African just sounded so much more exotic than being a kiwi. At least it did until Frodo and Gandalf came on the scene and helped moved kiwis beyond our deep inferiority complex.

I grew up in New Zealand with African carvings and curios festooning the house. Our first dog was named, "Jambo," Swahili for "hello." I heard stories of how my mother's glasses saved her eyesight when a spitting cobra attacked her in the hen house, and how my dad came running in with a gun and saved the day. I heard stories of when an incensed rhino was chasing and attacking a jeep. Of when Scar killed Mufasa. You get the idea. It was heady stuff--even better than a Wilbur Smith novel. I only had to run my hand over the bristly hairs on the treated elephant's foot in our living room to transport myself to the Serengeti, where my uncle had been game warden (the elephant was sick and he put it out of its misery).

But more than the allure of the savannah, or the thunderous roar of a lion, the main thing that impacted me was my parents' and grandparents' abiding affection for the African people whom they felt so privileged to have known and learned from and loved and served in the fellowship of the Gospel. What a heritage.

Now, at age 53, this Kiwi is leaving Wisconsin, of all places, to make his first pilgrimage to Kenya to learn from and love and serve alongside some wonderful Kenyans.

How blessed I am.

All my life, I never thought it would happen.

I leave tomorrow.

Maybe tomorrow I can tell you how it all, amazingly, came together.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

More Final Reflections

Ha ha. The text editor rendered the title 'more final rejections.' Might be something in that.

It's been five years since I was in New Zealand, Aotearoa as the Maori call it: land of the long white cloud. My cheeky sister calls it Aorta-roa: land that captures your heart. And it does.

It was a coming home in multiple ways--and in that sense, perhaps, a reminder that we're never fully at home wherever we are. There's always some unrealized longing hovering at the periphery of our awareness. And when we unexpectedly stumble across what we didn't until that moment know we were missing--like the intensity of light playing on wind-roughed water or the briny smell of rocks at low tide--we experience the unparalleled delight of coming home.

Such moments don't just happen in New Zealand, though what better place to have them! They've happened on the drive past lush, rippling cornfields into Stoughton, or the descent on County Route B which looks down on Lake Kegonsa.

And the coming home is not just with places; it's every bit as much with people: hugging my strong adult son after years apart, laughing till the years flow with kiwi Christian friends of yesteryear, kissing my wife after a three week absence, sitting down with my great staff team to talk of my travels, opening up the Word with the wonderful church family we've been privileged to be part of in Stoughton these last right years.

Each event, in its ordinariness and its specialness, is a little coming home. A little longing fulfilled. A little taste of grace that points to the ultimate encounter with Grace and the realization that all our desires, known and unknown, find their culmination and rest in the One we shall soon meet face to face.

I know of few Scriptures as deep and as lovely as this:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. - Psalm 90:1

Final Reflections

As I look out my plane window flying from San Fransisco to Denver, I have a lot of thoughts and, yes, even a few emotions.

Peering down at the thirsty earth from thousands of feet (the 'eye of God' perspective in literature), I think of the two messages I was privileged to give at Auckland Bible Church as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations. I told them the the party is always over sometime, so I'd leave the cheerleading to Tim, their pastor, for his next series on hope.

My two messages were about tough times from the life of Elijah: 1) When life runs dry, and 2) When you just want to die. Great titles for a celebration!

They touched on the physical drought that came on the land for 3 1/2 years because of Israel's sin, and Elijah's journey through both meteorological and metaphorical (spiritual/emotional) drought. They dealt with his confident boldness and then his cloying despair when ministry didn't go as he'd expected and hoped. They explored his death-wish from too much conflict, from loneliness, from burn out.

I shared a little of my own journey.

I've concluded--from Elijah and Moses and David and Paul and Jesus too--that such a trajectory at some point in life is part of the inscrutable plan of God. And since all good gifts come from his hand, it is a gift--simultaneously excruciating and exquisite.

It's true, as had been said myriad ways, that God doesn't use a man mightily (or even moderately, I would add), until he has wounded him deeply.

Seems like the pain (and eventual joy) of the journey resonated with a number, including my beloved sister who took a taxi some distance both weeks. It was her first time; she said she wanted to hear me preach before she or I died.

Ah, morbid humor: a Blaikie family favorite (I'm back in the U.S. now so am back to eliminating letters as I spell words).

Thank you God for Elijah!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Final Day

It started out miserable, but turned out to be a "cracker" day. Here's just a sampling. Deep and meaningful thoughts to follow.

The view from our driveway

I've always had a thing for Toi Toi grass

Not every photo needs a caption

A caption would detract from this

As the antipodean sun sets, the fuzzy kiwi smiles. He has had his fill
 of "Godzone" and can now board the plane (flightlessness is a curse).

Monday, June 1, 2015

The heavens declare the glory of God

The view from our bach
The heavens [and earth] declare the glory of God
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
- Psalm 19:1-4

My wonderful wife has a knack for finding amazing holiday places at bargain basement rates and found this great kiwi "bach" (beach house) in the Coromandel for Derek and me to spend our last few days. It comes with kayaks. 

Between bouts of studying for his exams, we managed to get out onto the bay. 

When we decided to go, the sun was blazing. When we got to the beach, all was dark and the heavens opened. Noah would have been proud of the deluge.

Undeterred by the forces of nature, and in honor of all the intrepid explorers through the centuries, we steeled ourselves for the task, and set out. Twenty minutes later, the heavens parted, like Moses' hair in a Far Side cartoon, and the sun shone brightly through the depleted ozone hole. Few things declare the glory of God like a rainbow. And we've seen a bunch these last few days.