April/May 2013 - Vol. 67

Mount Taranaki in New Zealand

“Land of Awesome Beauty, 
Land That Can Take Your Life” 

by Roger Foley

As I write I am both working away from home, and taking some overdue leave. The location is stunningly beautiful, an isolated location, yet just thirty paces from the waters of a pristine ocean Bay. Everyday Veronica and I walk for miles and literally see almost no other people. Rather we see exquisite shells with each turn of the tide, fascinating driftwood, distant high peaks, and landscapes sculptured by wind and water.

We also enjoy the wildlife and have our regular daily visits from a large family of quail. They are fascinating to watch in their natural environmentthey have a cycle to their busy days which includes a time of rest in a small hollow under trees but always with a couple of lookout guards ‘on watch.’ Then last night, near midnight, we heard what we had anticipated- the arrival of a family, or several families, of small penguins. They are seasonal and when they come they set up ‘house’ under the house. The noise lasts for hours as they seem to bicker and argue and grumble at each other. Then the sudden silence as somehow someone decides ‘we all sleep now’, and so they do. Tonight I will be on watch to see if I can spot them waddling out of the waves and heading uphill to the house!

Yes, Aotearoa is an awesome land of great natural beauty, but it is also a place in which you can so easily lose your life. Physically and spiritually.

Take a look at the summit crater of Mt. Taranaki in the photograph. It is quite a high mountain, a dormant but not extinct volcano, but access to ascend it is easily gained. It is approachable. But unlike many world peaks, the easy approach is much the same for many of our mountains. Easy to access does not necessarily mean easy to climb. Many have lost their lives on Taranaki, this beautiful to look at mountain.

When I climbed it I recall partnering with a German on the Lizard Ridge. We went well together except that as we neared the top we simply could not decide ‘which way’ for the final several hundred feet, and so we agreed to split left and right, me taking left. As I ascended it got harder and despite it not being a winter climb the higher I went the more ice sheen appeared on the rocks. Eventually I decided I should turn and descend but then I found I was in trouble as the ledge I was on was simply too narrow to make a turn. I started to feel anxious but then I heard a voice yelling at me and way down below me was the German. His direction had taken him into the actual crater, whereas my direction had stranded me on the inside face of a jagged peak known as the Shark’s Tooth, which you can easily see towards the right in the photograph. Thankfully my climbing buddy could see what I could not. I just needed to carry on as there was a way down to him that I could not see. He verbally guided me down into the crater. I learnt a lot from that climb into the classic crater of Mt. Taranaki.

But how can we lose our lives spiritually because of the beauty of the land? Yes we can because the world changes the topography of the physical into a landscape called money, power and wealth. The Scriptures speak of the broad road which if taken leads to destruction, and of the other way, the narrow way, which with the Lord leads to life. The voice of the world speaks a seducing language we often long to hear, the great and beautiful way! With the riches of man you can have so much and enjoy so much: wealth, health and a nice suntan, the latest car, the biggest TV, annual holidays in paradise locations, power and prestige, money and more money [and more money] rolling into your bank account. You have gained success, you are fulfilled. Or are you?

Who owns your allegiance? Who watches over your family? Who forms your children’s path? Who has your commitment? Who owns your soul? And who do you call ‘Lord?’ Or is your allegiance in other directions- to a job, a career, a relationship, or to possessions and money?

Are you praying and seeking God? Do you spend time with and seek to form your children for God? We are given so much, let is not wander onto that broad road that leads to destruction.

Our country, in its headlong journey to redefine Christian Marriage, is fast taking that path, but we are called to embrace the narrow way and embrace the life of a disciple of the Lord. And so, as I enjoy the great natural beauty of this place on this quiet evening, I am ‘fed’ by the words from Judith:

‘Hope in any other have I never had save in Thee O God of Israel.’
And the music of our brother, Ed Conlin:
‘There is a love stronger than death, a passion deeper than this life. In the heart’s purest longing, lives the Pearl of Great Price…’
That is what I desire. Do you? Come, let us walk this way together.
Roger Foley is the senior coordinator of the Lamb of God Community. He and his wife Veronica live in Christchurch, New Zealand. 
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