Monday, October 24, 2011

From Medicators to Hope....

On my recent long trip I was, again, able to take advantage of the ongoing generosity of the Echeverria family. This resulted in 25 days in a cabin in Montana, 30 miles from West Yellowstone. The latter is one of my very favorite places to visit. Over one hundred days have been spent in this part of “the cathedral of the great outdoors”.

“Every blessing is a curse, and every curse is a blessing.” How true that saying has been for me. When I get to that cabin I am in peace and quiet. My usual medicators are not available-no T.V., no radio and no internet hookup for the computer. (I am not a great techno guy, so I was not able to figure out the cable.) One year there was not even the ticking of the clock, to keep me company. This year there was company. What company that turned out to be! One evening I was listening to the ticking of the clock . Then this thought bubbled up from within, with each tick my death is one moment nearer. How wonder-full???? I was so tempted to get up and remove the batteries so I would not be faced with the steady, unstoppable, march of time into eternity. Boy, does that trigger the uncomfortable feelings of powerlessness as one is faced with lack of control.

It is then I have to remind myself of what Fr. Richard Rohr has said in one of his books. When we get into solitude we will be faced with our issues of addiction, negativity, fear, and control. But Richard, every year? Yep! Joe, in his innocence, thought that after doing this for a number of years it would get easier. Well that was a bad thought. I find that for the first two weeks I am looking for excuses to get the heck out of that cabin. I come up with a lot of EXCUSES but faced with reality, they are not reasons. T.S. Elliott has said ; "human beings can only face, so much reality" ditto for me. The good news is, the tougher that time is in solitude the better one feels after the struggle. It is definitely a struggle. I wonder, is that why so many want to take their computers on vacation so they will have something to distract them when there is down, or quiet time? I read recently that some people turn their vacation time really into hard work. Go, go, go, let us never have time on our hands. This is not a vacation. It is just another type of work, under the guise of vacation time. We are inclined to go from one form of hustle and bustle to another kind. We are deceiving ourselves. No wonder so many want a vacation when they return from their so called "vacation".

When faced with the issues, bubbling up in silence, we will either run away, the ego's choice, or allow one’s self be gently led into deep, and progressive, prayer. This is the choice of the true self. The false is very demanding, and so gets the attention. The true self is the shy, quiet one. One has to listen carefully. We must be led far away, way beyond the noise and clamor, not only to listen, but hear what is it we need to hear. Not necessarily what we want to hear. It is in the quiet, the whisper of the Spirit of Truth expresses it's desire for us. For us who are ever and always the beloved.

Often it is the prayer of desperation, "out of the depths I cry unto you O lord. O God come to my aid, O Lord make haste to help me." Does He hasten? I have been exposed to the fact that my haste, is not God's haste. God's time is not my time. This is something that I have to just not only know but accept. Acceptance is a process. “God's way is not our way, so I have to pray for the gift of my way to be transformed into God's way. What an ongoing struggle that is! Then the two following sayings have a deeper meaning, “No pain no gain", and "growth only comes after death". This is true in everything, both in the physical world and in the world of the spirit.

It was then that I picked up Merton's classic, “No Man Is An Island”, and came to his chapter, "Sentences on Hope" where I read the following;

“We are not perfectly free until we live in pure hope... He who hopes in God trusts God, Whom he never sees, to bring him/her to the possession of things that are beyond imagination...Supernatural hope is the virtue that strips of all things in order to give us possession of all things. We do not hope for what we have. Therefore, to live in hope is to live in poverty, having nothing. And yet, if we abandon ourselves to the economy of Divine Providence, we have everything we hope for. By faith, we know God without seeing Him. By hope we possess God without feeling His presence. If we hope in God, we already possess Him, since hope is A CONFIDENCE WHICH HE CREATES IN OUR SOULS AS SECRET EVIDENCE THAT HE HAS TAKEN POSSESSION OF US. So, the soul that hopes in God already belongs to Him, since He gives Himself completely to those who give themselves to Him. The only thing faith and hope does not give us is the clear vision of Him Whom we possess. We are united with Him in darkness, because we have to hope, "For in hope we are saved. For hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance", Romans 8:24.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Prayer....More Gifts

"Let us pray to the Lord (Gracious God, Kind and Loving Father) who bends close to hear our prayer; Father your love for us surpasses all our hopes and desires...The hand of your loving kindness powerfully yet gently guides all the moments of our day....You guard us under the shadow of your wings, and search into the depths of our hearts....Your goodness is what our spirit can touch, and your love is more than the mind can bare. Lead us to seek beyond our reach and give us the courage to stand before you truth. Remove the blindness that cannot know You and relieve the fear that would hide us from you sight."

Did I make up that prayer? I wish I had that depth of relationship to be able to express the heartfelt wisdom the above words enunciate. The wisdom expressed is a gift presented to you and I, through the opening prayers of the 27th-29th Sundays of Ordinary Time. The opening prayer, the collect, reveals to us the theology that will be revealed, or hidden in the celebration to be entered into. That is why liturgy is righty called, "the work of the people". It takes work, it takes effort, it takes a sense of real presence on our part, to connect with The Presence. The Presence comes to us both hidden and revealed in The Sacrament of Word, Sacrifice, and Sacrament. We have to be in, not at, each celebration. There are times we are just there. There is no connection. There is no connection with anything that is happening, or with anybody around us. This is when we really need the community of faith. Why? Simply there will be others suffering with us in our disconnectedness. There will be others so connected they will be able to draw that something out of us, that was present but so hidden, so inundated with the trials and challenges of life. It takes that something that happens in the gathering which breaks down that which confines, and binds us. From each celebration we will be given what we need not what we want.

Many, many times the gift given is not obvious. It is not apparent at first glance. The hidden gifts, that wonder-full wisdom, the great challenges, are revealed to us through reflection, and ONLY through reflection. Silent reflection allows us slowly and gently to be drawn into the mystery of who we are, and who our God is. As we come to embrace All of who we are, the good and the bad, we will be drawn into a deeper understanding of the vastness of the Mystery, which is our origin and destiny. We are able to gradually become more and more comfortable with who we are as spiritual beings having a human experience.

In the above prayer we are words comforted with the words acknowledging our God bends close to hear our prayer. Ever reflect on what that really means? How so very human that image is? How often we have seen a concerned parent not only listens to the concern of their child, but will get down on their knees, look into the troubled face of their child. They give the child the gift of their caring presence to assuage whatever their fears and concerns are. It even gets better when warm, heartfelt hugs are exchanged. In every moment that dynamic is what is part and parcel of our relationship with our Mother/Father God. We are strengthened so that when we encounter words like fear, blindness, we also have words of encouragement like “loving kindness", and "goodness". If we are in the shadow of God's wings, then where is our God? These words, on reflection, will trigger the beginnings of a desire not only to be able to believe in the truth expressed, but there will come moments when we will want to experience that reality in our daily living. There is that spiritual principle, 'We become what we desire". It will happen not in the way we want, or expect, it will come in the way that Our Loving Father knows that is BEST for us. There is a whale of a difference between the two. We are always becoming reconciled with what God knows we need and what we want. We must also keep before us, "Be careful what you pray for".

We will slowly get connected with what has to this point been a secret, untapped strength. Now that changes. We will come to a deeper understanding of the mysterious, supernatural gift we call HOPE.

Until next week, blessings to and on all.....
The wondering wanderer

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Need, Not Want of a.....Ranger

I am sure most of you, either have read, or seen what happened to that Michigan man that was killed in Yellowstone Park. The Mary Mountain hike is one of my favorites. It was my intention to hike it again. Well, then I thought it would be a good idea to hike Mallard Lake instead. That was the hike I was on last year when I experienced thunder, lightening, heavy wind, rain and hail. Along with the running streams. I was lucky to get out of that in one piece. Not to make the same mistake again(you see, I am learning!), I went to the visitor’s center so as to check with a ranger. I was lucky to meet a young helpful ranger. I told him about my experience of last year. He was kind enough to check the weather radar and give the all clear. I still had Mary Mountain in the back of my mind, so I asked what bear activity was there in that area. He told me there was a lot of activity in the Upper and Lower Basin, so it would stand to reason that there would be activity in the Mary Mountain area as well. With that information, I decided to forgo Mary Mountain, and I went to Mallard Lake instead. What a good move that was indeed! You can imagine how shocked I was to read in the paper of the death of that unfortunate man. Good information kept me out of harm’s way. Good direction enabled me to make a very healthy decision. Applying common sense to the information I was given, I was able to avoid the danger. Naturally these events were uppermost in my mind. I have had plenty of time to reflect on that close call. What has surfaced from that reflection?

I like to compare the spiritual journey to a long, long marathon hike. All that goes into the preparation for one of these challenges, is required of us who make this journey, as spiritual beings having a very human experience. The only difference is one can choose to take on the challenge of a marathon, or pass on it. I have chosen not to meet that particular challenge. The challenge of the marathon hike, we call the spiritual journey, that is a different matter. In order to have some semblance of sanity, in this life, I for one had no choice but to surrender to the challenge. As I get older,, and who is not right there beside me, I am embracing no, change that, I have no choice but embrace the great words of Merton; “God I have no idea where I am going. I do not know for certain where it will lead to, and I really do not know myself.” I have fewer and fewer answers, but a growing mountain of questions. On reflection, they can all be summed up in the two questions St. Francis had, his whole life; “Who are you God, and who am I?” Simple, yet so profound.

When I am in Yellowstone I go to the rangers for good, fact based information. They, from their experience, will point out to me the different hikes. They will be able to share with the me the challenges, the degree of difficulty, also the great rewards from my efforts. I have to make the decision to take the hike or not. The ranger cannot make the climb for me. It is I, who will ultimately will take a particular trail, and have my own unique experience. Each trail is different. Each and every time you hike is a new and unique experience. No two hikes are ever the same. No two events are ever the same. No two moments are ever the same. God does not repeat Himself. He has, he is, Infinite Imagination. We all are in need of “rangers” who will provide us with the necessary information so we can journey in confidence and safety. The more the research, the more secure and confident the hike. This begs the question, who are the “rangers” we consult on our continuous hike, called spiritual journey? What are the resources we read, research, seeking guidance and counsel? It is essential for our spiritual health, and well being to be in constant contact with a healthy source of information. We are in constant need of information, that will lead to formation. This formation is not for the sake getting information. The formation that is essential is that which will conform us to the will of Our Father, revealed to us in and through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. This results in a battle, no, not a battle, a war. A battle is over and done with, in minutes, hours, days, or in some cases weeks. We are in a war. That war is within. The battlefield is our soul.

My ego wants to be admired, stroked, puffed up, made to feel good. This happens when we allow ourselves to be conformed with that which is on the outside. Power, property, prestige, control, comparisons, competitions, popularity and pleasure are that which will lead us to live a life that is all based on what is on the outside. The inside, the spiritual is neglected and the price to be paid? We live our lives in a constant state of unrest, disharmony, disarray. There is no inner peace, security or serenity. The result is disaster. But let us not lose hope. When we get to the stage where we are facing death and disaster, strange as it may sound, we are in the best possible place. It is now that we are teachable. It is now that we are prepared to read, listen to and reflect on what the “spiritual rangers’ have to say about where we have landed, as the result of listening to the wrong voice of guidance. The voice of the as yet non transformed ego will lead us to many versions of hell, here on earth. The rangers will inform and offer guidance as to how to let go of one way of thinking and acting, so as to be free to enjoy at a level beyond our imagination, an inner life of peace, joy and love. Rather than having “hell on earth”, we will experience partially what will be fully, and eternally ours in heaven. We do not have to fight this war by ourselves. Our Gracious God will provide essential for a life that is “happy, joyous, and free are open hands. Opened in hope and confidence. Our Shepherd Ranger. This will not happened in the way we expect it to happen. It will be a slow process through places and spaces we never imagined would be part of our life’s hike. Life is so full of surprises. It stands to reason that He who is The Author of Life, The Surprise.