Friday, October 30, 2009

The Refuge...

I live on my own. I travel on my own. I pretty much hike on my own. This affords me a great opportunity to think and to reflect. You may say “that is good, is it not”?Well I have learned over the years that "every blessing is a curse and every curse is a blessing”. [I never heard that one in school.] Being on one’s own is both a blessing and a challenge. This can be further exacerbated, when you add in, getting old. As you get older you find yourself reflecting more and more on what has happened on your life’s journey. As you look back you get caught up in appreciation, thanksgiving and of course guilt and regret. Because of God's grace you are able to allow an attitude of gratitude to develop. You develop an attitude of gratitude for what has been given over the years. In time, surprise, surprise, you become grateful for what has been lost and taken away. The feelings of guilt and regret lead to a deeper understanding of God's unconditioned love. This unconditioned love enables one to grow in reconciliation with who we really are, not who we would like to be, or who we are expected to be. All of this is one great process that cannot be hurried. God sure moves slowly but who can question the results. My mother taught me a long time ago “the mills of God grind very slow, but they grind very true”.
This process also leads one to slowly, accept and in time appreciate, one powerlessness. The truth of what Fr. Rohr says about “the powerlessness of power and the power of powerlessness” becomes an every deepening reality. This leads to a greater freedom.
This ever-so-slow process of acceptance leads to a startling revelation, of always being this powerless all along and never really realized it or accepted it. You end up with the realization that nothing good has ever happened because of one’s efforts. It was always was, and will ever be, the result of Grace. What a kick in the head that is.

On closer inspection what St. Paul said is true in every case, “Of ourselves we can do nothing, but we can do all things in Him that strengthens us.”
In Psalm 18, we pray the words, “Who but God is the rock.”.
In Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the labor in vain who builds”.
In 2 Samuel 22:32, “for who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock save our God?”.

There are many, many other references to the wonderful connection between what physical rock reveals to us, and the reality of who our God, the living God, really is. In reflecting on the episode of the rock, I remember I did not want to sit on the ground or on a log, I sat on the rock. Sitting on that rock gave me a great sense of security and stability. This was so important when I had exhausted my resources, and I needed a boost from outside of myself. We are also told in the scriptures that our God “is our refuge” and The source of our strength. Further, because of this encounter, I began to understand more clearly the meaning of the scripture that our God “is our refuge” and The source of our strength.

Reflecting on the miracle of grace is a never-ending process.

The dreamer’s journey continues….

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Rock...

I was visiting Steamboat Springs. I went to the Visitor Information Center to get some information on some good hiking spots. I asked about a trail I had become aware of during a previous visit. On that occasion, I was visiting the waterfall which you see on every Coors can. While I was there, I noticed a trail on the left to another fall. A posted sign the trail climbed 2,400 feet in a matter of 2 miles. At the Visitor Center, I asked the young person about the difficulty of that climb. I was told the first 1,800 feet was a pretty straight climb, with no switchbacks. Then it would level off, and the rest of the climb was not too difficult.

So, I began my hike on that trail. It was, understandably, not too too bad in the beginning. Then, it got a little tougher, and then, a little tougher. Eventually, I found myself on a very steep climb. At this point, I noticed myself taking small baby steps. Those baby steps got me up that trail as well as the long strides did at the beginning. Then it came to mind, when things are going well for us, we can saunter along with not a care in the world. When the going gets tough, then we have to slow down and measure each step as we move along. We appreciate each step that is made, and we take no one step for granted. Each little step makes that next step possible. In this mode, we move slowly on and on. Up and up we go. [That is a great paradigm for the spiritual journey.]

Well as I went up and up, needless to say I was really suffering. At this point my lungs were hurting, Steamboat Springs in not what you would call at sea level, it is far from it. Then the questions began to enter my mind “how much longer can I keep this up?”, “How much more effort is there in me?”. I looked up and higher up the trail and I saw a really big rock, right in the middle of the trail. I said, “if I can get to that rock then I can rest and have a chance to catch my breath”. I did get to that rock. It had a nice flat surface upon which I could rest. It was worth the effort to get there. The rest was great.

As I was enjoying my Honey and Oats bar chased by wonderful cool water, I began to look around. I turned from looking down the trail to looking up the trail. I was more than delighted to see that the trail only went up a very short distance before it got lost over the brow. I then remembered the person at the visitor center and being told “the trail levels off”. That was the good news I needed at that time. To say the least, I was thrilled!

This gave me a much needed burst of energy and enthusiasm. I was able to get up and carry on and up that trail. Yes, it did level off indeed. I was able to reach my intended destination.
Was it worth it?
Yes, it was.

This is an experience I have thought about a lot since that hike. What I have said in the past about looking at something long enough and receiving a deeper insight has come through. Over the next few weeks we will take a look at the ways and places we encounter “huge rocks” in our trek we call our spiritual journey. Here is a little taste…..

I have read that in Hebrew the word for rock carries with it the added meaning of….stability….firmness…faithfulness.

A dreamer’s journey continues….

Saturday, October 17, 2009


“Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the splendor of creation, in the beauty of human life. Touched by your hand our world is holy. Help us to cherish the gifts that surround us, to share your blessings with our sisters and our brothers and experience the joy of life in your presence.”

Having spent a week walking, hiking and driving through God’s awesome, mysterious creation. This was the opening prayer of the Mass I attended that weekend. Wow, that prayer really said something to me. It spoke to me exactly where I was at. It brought to mind, again, the wonder-full, awe-full moments of my week’s journey. It did, as liturgy is supposed to do, connect deeply with my week’s experience. As I joined in the celebration, I was bringing that experience into the gathering of the community. Prayer is sometimes described as “the outward expression of inward faith”. In the above prayer, I found I was given, I was presented with, a summary of my ever new evolving belief in the wonder-fullness and the awe-fullness that is to be found in the cathedral of the great outdoors. My attendance at liturgy that weekend intensified my experience of what was my daily living.

With the community I prayed “open our eyes to see your hand at work in the splendor of creation”. To me it is expressing the belief that right now God is at work at this moment in all of creation. We can see that our world has been created but do we always accept the fact that it is also being created? Our world has been shaped and is being shaped. We too, as human beings, are created but in each moment of every day we are being recreated anew. Humanity and creation are in the process of being perfected. We have a long way to go, obviously, but the process is in place and will not be derailed or denied.
Frustrated, yes.
Opposed, yes.
Denied, yes.
Prevented, no.
That is the great source of hope for us as we face these troubled times.

Chardin in his wonderful essay entitled, The Mass on the World, has this wonderful prayer:
“I pray, lay on us those your hands-powerful, considerate, omnipresent,
those hands which do not [like our human hands]
Touch now here, there.
But, which plunge into the depths of the totality, present and past, of things so as to reach us simultaneously through all that is most immense and most inward within us and around us.”

The creative spirit of God is at work in our world. We have been invited to be “co-creators and co-perfectors of His universe”. A universe which we have been invited to be stewards of. It is not our business to possess. We will not take any of it’s materials with us. As Billy Graham once said, “there is no Uhaul behind a hearse”. Each one of us is here for a time to add our own unique shade, and color to the tapestry of creation. The more we in tune with the Creator, the more effective we are going to be as co-creators with Him. The more we appreciate our God-given talents as gifts to be gifted in the concrete circumstances in which we find ourselves, always in the here and now. We have been gifted with a great responsibility of being good stewards of all the Creators gifts.

I am so impressed at how Native Americans see themselves as stewards of all the gifts of creation, keeping in mind those who are to follow. There is one tribe when it makes a decision it asks the question, “how will this effect five generations from now”. The wonderful reverence they show for all of creation and not some of creation is awe inspiring. On the other hand, it is so heart-breaking to see how far we have come from the ideal, what a price we are paying. I still carry with me the image of the Native American looking at all the garbage strewn about and a tear comes to his eye. We are being awakened to the reality that we cannot continue to treat nature the way we have been and not have to suffer the consequences. How glibly we can say, when someone gets cancer, a baby is born deformed, a minor has a black lung, “it is God’s will”. We are making God the great scapegoat. It is not His will. It is just ignoring what His will for His creation is . It is not “God’s will” to pollute streams, rivers, underground water supply with toxins that bring disease, suffering, pain, tragedy and torment. The god that was responsible for all of this we got rid of a long time ago [The God I Don’t Believe in Anymore]. It is on the other hand, good business to keep him around and well. Having that god and keeping him around sure adds to the bottom line of companies, while all the time, so many innocent men, women and children find their lives have bottomed out in the prison of powerlessness. God’s hand is at work in our world and has has called each one of us, from all of eternity, to be His hands, His arms, His eyes, His legs, His ears, He has called us to be His galvanizing presence to stop the destruction and start the reconstruction. To forge a newer and better understanding of all of what His creation means. To deepen our understanding of His plan, not the plans of those whose self interest is greed, profit, and gain. And, to heck with the consequences.

I would like to end this with these quotations from John Muir,
“Climb the mountains and get there good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.”
It is also good to remember the famous words of Henry David Thoreau,
“In wilderness is the preservation of the world”.

A dreamer’s journey continues….

Monday, October 5, 2009


The human spirit is somehow enhanced, transformed, liberated, excited, as it experiences the mystery and the majesty to be encountered in the cathedral of the great outdoors. Like all great cathedrals it has many chapels. In large cathedrals people go from chapel to chapel and end at the place where they feel a special connection with a presence greater than themselves. The cathedral of the great outdoors offers us many chapels. Some enjoy the mountains, lakes, rivers and streams. Others prefer the desert [this is a great gift if you live in Arizona]. God seems to have a preference for the desert. We see in the story of God and His chosen people in the Old Testament how in the desert they were courted and purified. We see in the New Testament how the men who watched the stars came to the knowledge of an evening that changed world. God had decided to join His creation.

In the wilderness we are spoken to in the silence. We are brought to awe and wonder as we gaze at what is offered to us. Wherever there is wonder and awe, a spiritual response has been awakened within us. Where the spirital response has been awakened within us, we have been gifted with the knowledge there is a Presence here greater than ourselves. This place has become a holy place for us. These places in Celtic spirituality are called "thin places". That is why it has been a great discussion between those who say, “it is only in nature I can meet God” and those who say “it is only in church I meet my God”. Why cannot it be both/and rather than either/or? When we get into the either/or we are looking for a winner and a loser. That is religiosity. When we are prepared to live in attention of the both/and then we are taking up residence in the realm of the spiritual. The spiritual journey is all about the both/and.

My pre-Christian ancestors had a great belief “that the design pervaded every aspect of life and that spirits everywhere in ancient trees and sacred groves, mountain tops and rock formations, rivers, streams and holy wells. The Celts living close to the bodies of water with their dream-like fogs and mists also developed a respect for the mystical. They came to associate water with mystery and personal communal transformations.“ wrote Ed Selner. We are all familiar with the following words,

“Oh Lord my God, when I am in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughtout the earth displayed.

Then sings my soul, my
Savior God, to Thee,
How great thou art, how
great thou art,

When through the woods,
and forest glades I wander,
and hear the birds sing
sweetly in the trees.

When I look down, from
lofty mountain grandeur
and see the brook, and feel
the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul….”

These words celebrate in our religious experience what has been our experience in the great outdoors. Our liturgy becomes a liturgy with soul because it connects with our everyday experience.

A dreamer's journey continues....