Sunday, May 24, 2009

Glorious skies in Coonabarabran!

We have had three great nights of observing here in Coonabarabran, NSW, Australia. The southern skies are nothing short of amazing. This already has been the most wonderful astronomical observing experience of my life, and we still have three nights to go! Last night, although clear, was poor transparency, so I turned in early (I observed from 6:30 pm till 2 or 3 am the other nights). Incidentally, this image is of Eta Carina, one of the most massive stars in the sky - between 100 and 150 times the mass of our sun. Even though the view of it I see in the telescope isn't like this astro photo, it's still breathtaking.

Although like many of my fellow amateur astronomers, I appreciate, enjoy and am interested in the science of astronomy and how these objects are created, observing is very much a spiritual experience for me. It's a form of worship. There are a few of my fellow observers (not many) who also talk about their observing in spiritual and worship terms, but they worship the sky, almost like the ancient Egyptians (or a host of other ancient peoples). But those of us who believe in the God of the Scriptures gaze with wonder at the night sky and worship not the wonder of the night sky itself, but the God who created it all. It all points to God. As Psalms 19:1 says "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."
I will continue to "worship" under the night sky for the next three nights, if we are graced with good skies.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Astronomy in Australia!

After spending a lovely week in Sydney, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, we are now in the small village of Coonabarabran, called the Astronomy Capital of Australia. It's now cloudy and rainy, but we hope to have some clear skies in a few days. We'll be here a week.

We have really enjoyed getting to know the other amateur astronomers from the US, a few of which we already knew, most of which we didn't - as well as our Aussie hosts. We have found in general that the Australian people are very friendly and hospitable. We would have total strangers walk up to us on a street corner in downtown Sydney when we were appearing puzzled looking at our map, and offer to help us find where where we were going.

We look forward to our remaining time here. It's an experience of a lifetime.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Off to Australia

Well, in just a few hours, we will be getting on a plane to fly almost 15 hours to Sydney Australia. This is a trip Joan and I have been planning for well over a year. It is a combination anniversary trip (we celebrated our 30th last July 22nd) and astronomy excursion. Joan and I will be in Sydney touring for several days before the rest of the group of 19 amateur astronomers (and spouses or companions) arrive for some more touring in Sydney. Then we will all travel (mostly by train) inland to Dubbo (also in New South Wales), where we will then rent cars and drive to Coonabarabran, styled the "Astronomy Capital of Australia." It is in a nice, rural, dark spot. We will then do astronomy observing, hosted by about a dozen Aussie amateur astronomers, for a little more than a week, along with some relaxing and touring. Then after we return to Sydney, Joan and I will fly to the "Red Centre" of Australia to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to spend about four days and three nights. Then we fly back home.

I'll be posting from time to time about our activities on the trip, so this will in a sense transform into a bit of a "travel blog." If I can figure out some way of transferring photos from my camera to an internet cafe or hotel computer, I'll post some of them, too.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Stress of Moving

Things have really gotten crazy this week. One week from today, Joan and I get on a plane to fly to Australia for three weeks. Seven days! And we have to be pretty much packed by the time we depart. Joan and I are just looking at each other with deer-in-the-headlights sort of looks. I've been busy packing all my books and stuff in my office today, and that was ok, but then when I started taking down my stuff from the walls (diplomas, awards, wall hangings, etc.), the grief and sadness of moving sort of grabbed me. I thought, "I don't want to be taking this stuff down."

It still seems hard to believe that I'm finished with my pastorate at this church. I'm still going to preach a couple more times, but I'm pretty much done. I'll preach this Sunday, we'll get on the plane to go on vacation, and then return, go to the conference session (this annual Methodist meeting we always go to at this time of year) and then I have my last Sunday, goodbye dinner, and then we move.

Although in many ways, I am looking forward to beginning a new life and ministry in Fredericksburg, I am very sad to be leaving Victoria. This has been a wonderful place. There are so many plans I hoped to see come to fruition in the coming months and years. There are so many people I am going to miss. It's interesting that each move I have experienced as an itinerant United Methodist pastor has been different. Sometimes you anticipate or seek a move and are excited about where you're going, others you don't expect or seek, but readily accept because of the exciting possibilities it presents, and still others you struggle with, both in terms of not wanting to leave or not wanting to go to the new place or both. This one I have all kinds of ambivalent feelings about. I saw myself serving here a good while longer, I wasn't ready for a change, and I grieve leaving these people. Yet, I feel that God is calling me in this move. And when God sends you on a journey, that is the road you want to be on, as painful as it might be to depart, because great unknown blessings await down that road.

Now enough of this, and back to packing and stressing!