More Than Getting Wet

29 01 2011

“Baptism” – what comes to mind? Water…robes…baptismal pool or font…sacrament?

According to the dictionary βαπτίζω (baptizô) means to immerse, dip, or plunge. And, for many, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River comes to mind. But there is more to it than Jesus being immersed.

There is also more to the definition of baptism: any ceremony, trial, or experience by which one is initiated, purified, or given a name. So maybe baptism is involves much more than just getting wet.

Sometimes we are baptized by fire. We may not like it, but life experiences and life choices may rush us into the presence of change sooner than we would like; they escort us into places and situations we would rather not be…we are faced with a choice – plunge into the depths or flail around in a desperate attempt not to get wet. Being brought to the water’s edge always presents us with a choice.

Some baptisms may bring us to the edge of darkness – the blackhole of depression; the dark shadows of anxiety; the grip of addiction; the darkness of broken relationships, abandonment, and loneliness. We may feel there is no escape from the watery depths. The hope is, with baptism, there is a resurrection. Frederick Beuchner says, “Going under symbolizes the end of everything about your life that is less than human. Coming up again symbolizes the beginning in you of something strange and new and hopeful. You can breathe again.” (Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, pp5-6). Baptism is not complete until resurrection has taken place.

So maybe baptism invites us to find hope in the midst of depression; maybe baptism is about letting go and the beginning of trusting Jesus when he says, “Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.” Maybe baptism is opening ourselves to grace and acknowledging that we cannot get better…we cannot be whole by ourselves. Maybe baptism is seeking forgiveness instead of revenge, community instead of bitterness, and transforming loneliness into intimacy with God. Maybe being baptized is sitting in the dark night within our souls but trusting that in the dark night, God is working on our behalf…working for good…saving and purifying us even when we are blind to God’s movements. Maybe baptism is stepping into the unknown…but stepping with confidence – believing God has walks with.

In baptism we are given a new name and we are born into a family of others who, too, have been through the waters. We are all in this together. The truth is that our baptism is a powerful and sacred enacting of a mysterious new birth that makes us family.

Baptism is not an ending but a beginning. Baptism can be a searching, a struggle, and finally, an act of faith, taken one step at a time…walking in the light we are given – until more light comes.

There is more to baptism than getting wet. There is death – death to our old self…death to old ways of living and being…death to what is dark in us. There is purification – from what is sick in us…from fear…from anxiety…from anger. There is also resurrection – resurrection to new life…to new hope…to a new name…to God’s Spirit descending like a dove…to God’s tender voice naming us as loved…no strings attached.

When we’ve been through the waters, we will never be the same.

(Have a listn to Kyle Matthews’ Been Through the Water at iTunes – http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/been-through-the-water/id304830483?i=304830558&ign-mpt=uo%3D4 – or visit Kyle’s site – http://www.kylematthews.com)

 

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Just Breath

22 01 2011

Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention

and that is the recognition of the spiritual side of the world

and, within this recognition, the condition of my own spiritual

state. I am not talking about having faith necessarily, although

one hopes to. What I mean by spirituality is not theology, but attitude.

Mary Oliver, Winter Hours

(Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999)

In his book, God of Dirt: Mary Oliver and the other Book of God (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), Thomas W. Mann talks about natural spirituality – “how one relates to the natural world as the realm of God.” (p. 11) He then reminds us that the word spirit – at its root – has the primary meaning of “wind” or “breath.” Mann goes on to point out the interdependence of humans and the natural world; especially between humans and plants – one breathing out carbon dioxide that the other takes in as life, then the other exhaling oxygen…life for the one.

The realm of relationship with God is the same – breathing in God’s Spirit…God’s breath-giving life. And then exhaling our gratefulness; our expectant hearts’ deires; our questions; our inner quietness…listening again for God’s life-giving wind that blows in and through us. In this sacred relationship there is an ongoing conversation between the Spirit and our spirit. And like in any conversation, we learn that listening is at the heart…intentional focus on the One who is speaking. At listening’s foundation is trust and an active waiting – a trust which is a letting go…a patience that is open to and expectant of hearing God’s voice within living life. It is looking into God’s eyes and not looking beyond God’s gaze to the next thing.

Often my spiritual breathing is labored with no clear rhythm. I try to control the natural exchange of Spirit to spirit. My spirit’s knuckles become white from the firm grip I exert – trying to hold on to expectations…trying to hold everything in my mind – not giving heed to the heart. I hold my breath thinking I can sustain life on my own. But just as a deepening relationship is a process, so is the process of “letting go” – of not laboring after every breath…of trusting the natural rhythm…of learning to be open to God…to just be. The grace and good news is that we do not have to do this alone. God reminds us of the natural heart-to-heart that takes place in every day living with the One who gives life. The key is to let our breathing happen naturally – not rushed…not controlled …just being patient. For in the patience, in the waiting, in the listening, conversion happens – a little more Light shines within…we see a little more clearly through the dimmed glass… we feel our hearts begin to change – they soften, feeling more deeply for those around us. Our grip loosens. We find our palms are face-up, ready to receive – ready for servanthood. Our vision changes – ego begins to fade to the background and compassion for all creation surfaces.

God encourages us…gently speaking with a longing for us to listen more deeply – to love more intimately. And when we find ourselves breathing harmful fumes of hate, rage, manipulation, revenge, self-loathing, and passive-aggressiveness…when we are distracted by ego or by the world’s expectations, God’s breath whispers, “I am coming to you,” gently calling us back to the natural, holy breathing of Spirit to spirit.

God help us to just breath…

 





Who is my Keeper?

16 01 2011

I lift up my eyes to the mountains. From whence does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot stumble, he who watches over you will not doze off.

He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Psalm 121

This is one of my favorite Psalms. A Psalm of comfort and hope but within it is buried a question which I wrestle with…a question which calls me deeper into the text…into the heart of God.

Today, driving through the hills…the mountains…would be pleasurable – no worries. For the writer of this psalm, venturing into the mountains raised anxiety and heightened the sense awareness – the possibility of harm from hidden bandits or wild animals was real. So giving yourself a pep talk…remembering…reassuring yourself that the Lord– the Creator of people and of animals – is the One that is your help, would only seem natural. Then to have others – community – give encouragement…hopefully from experience…is soul nourishment for the journey: “The Lord want let you stumble…God won’t fall asleep or even get drowsy. The Lord will keep you from heat stroke (a very real threat back in the day…and now); and will keep you safe from lunatics (a conditioned believed caused by exposure to the moon’s rays). Even more, God will not only be your guardian, but God will watch over you for the length of your life. God will keep your life.” Now this gives hope and comfort.

We teach, preach, and believe that the biblical text is relevant for us today. So is the case for Psalm 121. So this brings me to that question that, for me, keeps surfacing from this psalm – “What does it mean…God keeps my life?” But there is even a deeper question that lives within us…that drives us…that invites us deeper into the heart of God – “Does God keep my life?”

As we read this psalm, there is a notion (spoken or not)…that God will provide protection from evil. God won’t let us stumble. We find comfort and security in the words here. This notion helps us as we take our first steps out the door and into the world each day. My sense, however, is that there is still a lingering question…a deeper longing for total security for we all have been touched in some form or another by things, people, life experiences that have caused us pain. There are those among us – maybe even you – who feel that they have been touched by evil: sickness comes and debilitates or takes too young a life; broken relationships ravages the spirit and the core of self; natural disasters leave people homeless; jobs are lost; violence reaches out, unexpected, and inflicts devastation. Our experience of life’s pain dredges up that deeper question, “There has got to be an explanation…right?” We turn to logic, we rationalize, to explain the unexplainable…to grab back some sense of order – “If God keeps us- protects us – then I must have done something wrong…I must not have trusted the right way…I must not have had enough faith.” So we revert to naming God as “punisher” rather than remembering truth – God is Love.  Sometimes bad things just happen – there’s no logic to it.  What does it mean then…God keeps our lives?

And what about those times when it seems God cannot be found. We cannot feel God…we cannot perceive God…we experience a dark night of the soul. Our spirit feels like its walking in the arid desert. We wonder if God is sleeping? What does it mean God keeps our lives in these seasons?

Where does this question lead us? What kind of relationship is God inviting us into? Are we being asked to rethink about our notion of what protection means? Is there something more to our relationship with God than…”I will say my prayers and do what God expects in order to insure God’s protection?”

My struggle with this question of God “keeping” us began in earnest when I lost my uncle in a construction accident…standing by his side. He was a good man…honest…caring…a lover of God. He loved me and mentored me…he allowed me to make mistakes and then gently taught me another way. Then he was gone. Pain and suffering came. Questions for which I once had sure answers to now screamed. Was God my uncle’s keeper? Is God my keeper? Is God our keeper?

This is where my struggle with this question has taken me thus far…

Over the years…I searched scripture…I took classes on suffering and anger…I signed up for a theology class with a professor who had recently lost his wife knowing he was most likely struggling with the same issues…I went to counseling. Slowly I gained courage, acknowledged my anger, and confronted God directly, “Where were you? Did you want this? Aren’t you our Protector?” Many more emotions, words, and questions burst through the damn I had built. Life seemed to reach the valley in which I was living. The lifeline of relationship with God…with others…began to flow again. God was not a sleep – in reality it was I who went away…hid myself…went to sleep.

There are still questions, but I have come to believe that God did not want my uncle to die. God does not want pain and suffering. God’s anger rises too when His creation experiences pain and death. God feels sadness and sheds tears for the one who is loss and the one who lives with loss. God is with us…sits with us…walks with us. God keeps watch over us. But maybe not in the way we perceive it should be.

I have always known in my head that everyone experiences bad things, but I liked things simple…I do my part and God does God’s part with some assurance that nothing bad is ever going to happen to me.

Yet, if nothing bad ever happened to me, this would mean God would step in every time I was about to “stumble” and change the circumstances.  However, living in these parameters, I would feel like my free-will would be voided…I would be puppet-like…the gift of God’s trust and grace would lose meaning…the potential for a deeper relationship with God would have a barrier in the way.  I find then, that my desire for freedom…for a deeper intimacy, is stronger than the desire of the absence of pain and suffering.

So we spiral back to the question, “What does keeper mean?”

In the dictionary, “keep” has many interesting meanings which can apply in many different ways here: to fulfill; to care for; protect; guard; defend; watch over; preserve; to hold oneself back; to live; reside or stay the strongest innermost central tower of a medieval castle to maintain a set rhythm, beat, tempo to avoid from swerving; forever; to continue; persist in.  And keeper is defined as: guardian; custodian; caretaker

In Psalm 121 we find the Hebrew, root, šamar – “attentive care” or “watching over.” In Psalm 127, šamar is used to denote the watchman whose job it is to guard the city and warn the inhabitants of any danger; this becomes a picture of the God’s own “watching” activity. That which is essential in the work of a watchman is that the watchman stays awake. The Lord, says Psalm 121, is the Good Watchman who remains alert, neither dozing off nor sleeping.

So God is “watching over” us, giving “attentive care”…helping to warn us of any danger – not taking away the danger…but giving us a heads up. Immanuel… “God with us.” This is what’s most important…God is with us – all the time…8The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. This then is our hope. God is always moving with us…moving toward us…loving us enough to give us free will as to how we will live life – respecting our choices…even when they can have dire consequences. God sits with us in pain…God knows pain – “My God, My God…why have you forsaken me?”

And when our soul walks through desert times…when it seems God is no where to be found – remember God is with us…the Spirit working on our behalf even when we are unaware…always initiating relationship.

And what is our part in this relationship? What is our responsibility? We are asked to be awake and aware of God’s movement in our lives and in the world. We are asked to engage in conversation with God and in community. We are asked to love the Lord our God with all our strength, mind, and heart…and to love others as we love ourselves. We are asked to lose our lives for Christ sake. We are asked to not define ourselves by the seduction of power and control, nor by the manipulation of fear but to find our identity in God – trusting that God is keeping us…watching over us. Our part is to sometimes just say, “I don’t know” and trust that those moments of grace we have known before…those moments of forgiveness…those experiences of sacred space…those indescribable times of Holy Presence are from the One who says I will never leave you nor forsake you…are from the one who takes children into his arms and blesses them…who stands over a city and sheds tears…who weeps at the death of a friend…who turns over tables in the temple at the presence of injustice…of the One who notices a sparrow when it falls from the sky.

This is what I’ve come to believe that God keeping us means…God watching over us…God attending to us…God with us – always, in good times and bad.

I look up into the mountains…into the city…into my pain and sorrow…into my fears and anxiety…

into my addictions…into my pride. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

 





Staying in the Flow

12 01 2011

Our van driver asked if we had ever tubed the Little Pigeon River before – a picturesque river flowing out of the Smokies through Townsend, Tennessee, a small town where our family was vacationing. With our “no” answer, he began to give us “the rules” of tubing and the flow of the river. He suggested that the four rapid areas were not rough but made a point to tell us to stay to the left on the first rapid run. As our family floated in the cold mountain water, we had a great time laughing together, getting wet together, and enjoying creation together. With one run done, the day was still young and we had time to “ride the river” one more time.

As we entered the water for the second time, I reminded everyone to stay to the left in the first rapids. However, it wasn’t the first set of rapids that was to be the problem this time down.

My family was ahead of me as we entered the second rapid run which gave us no choice but to go left. At the bottom of the run, the river funneled us into a narrow passage with large rocks flanking its borders. For some reason, I had not noticed these large rocks my first time down. As the river carried me closer…and faster…toward the rocks, I felt a slight surge of fear. I noticed I was working harder than I wanted to – fighting the river to keep my feet forward…eyes toward the rocks.

As the river inevitably forced me straight for the largest rock, I managed to work myself into a feet-forward position. The show down with the rock was at hand and I decided, to use my feet to push away from the rock – a natural instinct but not the best idea I have ever had. I found myself, along with the tube, flipping over backwards into the cold, rushing rapids…the energy behind the river rolling me over several times. Finally, when relinquished its control over me, I steadied myself. Now I had a choice: to stay in the flow of the river and let it carry me down to my tube (which had made it just fine), or stand up and make my way to the river’s bank. I chose the bank – again, not my best idea…river rocks are very slippery. I know I must have looked like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz as I tried to reach the bank. Finally with one step to go and the faith that this last rock would be flat, I stepped onto an elusive hope. Down into the water I went once again, cutting my leg on the rock I was relying to provide safety.

Way too often, this seems how it is with my faith – maybe it’s the same with you? I believe we work too hard at our faith sometimes. We try to control our faith…our life circumstance…God. We expend way too much energy trying to hold onto things that cause us anxiety and stress – that is not ours to hold onto.

All the while, there is God’s flow of love, grace, peace, forgiveness, and mercy ready to carry us to a deeper faith…to calmer waters. But instead we take things into our own hands. We look to the riverbank where the ground seems steadier – solid. In our learned self-sufficiency mode, we slip and slide trying to make it to the bank, hurting ourselves at times as we struggle against the flow.

What if our perspective of faith is distorted? I mean, how we go about it. What if instead of working at our faith so hard, instead of trying to control it and mold it ourselves, we let it go? We let it flow…within God’s flow. God’s presence is always flowing for us…within us…beneath us. God’s prayer for us is constantly running through us – even when we are unaware… even when we feel our faith has deserted us. In God’s flow, we will be taken where we need to go. We will gain new perspective in living.

Yes, living into this kind of trust can be scary. The rapids of life seem like they will overtake us at times. We will not always be able to see where we are going. But we will be in God’s flow – limitless love, grace, peace, forgiveness, mercy. We’ll be taken where we need to be…life abundant. It’s the letting go – trusting the waters to take us – that’s the key.

And I thought I was just going tubing!

 

 

 





Standing on the Precipice

9 01 2011

Although not nearly as dramatic as Jesus being whisked away to the pinnacle of the temple or to the top of a very high mountain where temptation was waiting, in my recent imagination, I have been taken back to the Southwest high desert – in particular to a formation called Shiprock. And more specifically to the natural rock wall adjacent to Shiprock.

Here’s a little background and an attempt at painting a picture (maybe the photos will help the imagination). With the group of Baltimore pilgrims loaded into vans early on a September morning, we drove through the northwestern New Mexico desert in awe of its beauty and in reverence of the spiritual gifts the land and native people offered. We were headed for Shiprock. The Navajo call their sacred place Tse Bitai (“rocks with wings”). This ancient volcanic formation rises 1,800 feet above the high plains floor – out of nowhere – flat land all around save the rock wall that trails off to the south. A dirt road runs parallel to the east side of the wall formation. It was on this bumpy road we drove toward Shiprock until the need for getting back to our hotel later that day out weighed the need to get as close to Shiprock as we could.

Once out of the vehicles, we had a half hour to just “be” in this place. It is in my nature to climb (ask my mom), so I immediately headed for the top of the rock wall formation. I was not disappointed. Once on the precipice, the view was spectacular – to the east and to the west, flat land interrupted only by mesas in the very distant horizons.

It was on this precipice that I was surprised with a refocusing of an inward view. As, I gazed eastward, I looked out over vast lands from where I journeyed. I know the east well…I’ve traveled it…I am familiar with its stories. But I do not know it completely – there are vast spaces still unknown to me in the east – yet, it has been my journey thus far…my heritage and my home. I carry it with me where ever I go.

As I turned westward and looked over the vastness of space before me, I thought, here are places yet to be for me – places I have never been…stories I’ve never heard…opportunities and possibilities unlimited. And here I stand on the cusp. I was exhilarated and afraid at the same time. What will I do with this God-graced metaphor? How will I live into this God-gifted moment?

So it is with our soul’s journey. We come to moments when we stand on the precipice…we are on the cusp. We know where we have been, though we do not know it all – there is more to explore, but it is our heritage and our home…we carry it with us. Then we turn and look out onto new horizons – exhilarated and afraid, but we are drawn to its beauty and its limitless possibilities. What will we do with these moments? How will we live into these gifts? How will we live into these horizons?

Horizons are beautiful, but if we continually gaze upon the horizons of our dreams…our calling or of our past, they will always remain the horizons – at times seemingly overwhelming and with the illusion that we are making no progress…paralysis may set in; discouragement may become the guide; anxiety our companion. At times, losing ourselves in “what could have been” or “how we like it” and we may settle for safety and comfortableness and lose site of the daily gifts given…the gifts of the days ahead. We may forget that we ever stood on the precipice – exhilarated and afraid. However, if our gaze only occasionally catches the horizons – to remind us of their beauty; of our hunger of what can be; of past experiences of “God with us” – we can focus on the “next step” of possibilities in our journey. We can move forward in and with the knowledge and trust of God’s presence and guidance. The west becomes the east for us – a part of what we know…a part of us we will always carry. We just have to move off the cusp…one step at a time.

God help us to be open to the vistas God grants to us; to give thanks for the rock walls and flatlands in our lives; and may God give us courage in moving off the cusp when it is time.

 

 





Lessons in Solitude

5 01 2011

Early on a Thursday morning, I found myself driving through the Shenandoah National Park heading toward a secluded cabin and the woods – a place where I hear God best. The views were breathtaking and trees lending a natural canopy over country roads seemed to give a welcoming bow. I breathed deeply, felt myself slow down, and lifted up many “thank you” prayers!

I always go on these annual adventurers open-minded – listening for God…trying to be intentional in my awareness of the Spirit’s presence… discerning and seeking. I anticipate the melting of an anxiety-frozen body and the ceasing of a racing mind. So with a cool October day as the backdrop, mountains framed by my car windows, and  feeling the “Presence of Slowing”, I pulled into the cabin driveway. As I stepped out of the car, a wave of peace swept over me – “This is good…alone time…solitude.”

The first morning, I left the cabin at first light and drove to my hike destination – Flat Top…one of the Peaks of Otter. As I parked, it was extremely noticeable that I was very alone – no other cars…no other signs of life. I got out of the car, put on my gear, and stepped into the woods. I said the woods are where I hear God best. But this day, while on the trail, just past dawn, under a cover of trees, with overcast skies, and no other forms of life around (at least that I could see) – I heard many other things besides the voice of God…creatures my imagination conjured up from the fear growing within. The solitude that I so longed for had become loud and scary – the fear was calling my name. The solitude had become very noisy. Irrational thoughts born of this fear struggled for a dominant position within – looking to squeeze out any attention I would give to God; looking to push aside any awareness of God’s presence. Why is it so hard to trust God’s leading? Why is it so hard to trust myself? Why is it so easy to let distractions in? Why is Fear’s voice so loud in us?

My first day’s hike had not been what I had hoped. I rationalized, though, that it was being in an unfamiliar, secluded environment caused my distraction – never giving credence that God might be speaking even in the midst (maybe out of the midst) of the fear and noise within. “In the morning, everything would click.”

As the silent morning light bathed the room, I woke and felt anything but tranquil within. I knew the early morning would be a good time to meditate…to journal…to pray…to do something spiritual – that’s the reason for being on retreat! But instead I found myself straightening the bed (like who’s going to see it?), preparing lunch for the hike, washing the dishes, cleaning the counter, organizing items on the table…busy…busy…busy. Questions begin to raise their voices – Why do I not want to be with myself? Why do I shy away from God’s presence in this intimate place? Am I afraid of God’s presence? Am I afraid to be with me? Am I afraid of what I might encounter within my soul?

In his book, The Dark Night of the Soul, Gerald May says, “…Most of us live in a world of over stimulation and sensory overload. Without realizing it, we erect defenses against our own perceptions in order to avoid being overwhelmed. To some extent, this deadens our sensitivity and dulls our perceptiveness. We find ourselves no longer appreciative of the subtle sensations, delicate fragrances, soft sounds, and exquisite feelings we enjoyed as children. Like addicts experiencing tolerance – the need for more and more drugs to sustain their effect – many of us find ourselves seeking increasingly powerful stimulation to keep our enjoyment and satisfaction going.” (pp. 150-151)

I was in withdrawal!

I think “most of us live in a world of over stimulation and sensory overload.”  We do not know how to be alone with God or with ourselves. We yield to fear that drives us to “busy-ness”; that convinces us that we need noise to make life comfortable…more bearable. We need our “fix.” But, if we can slow down, if we can find time to be alone with God and with ourselves – I believe we will find true freedom, abundant life, and communion with God. There will be some withdrawal…our cravings are strong.

Questions can help us enter sacred space – Am I afraid to be with me? Am I afraid to be with God just as I am? No masks? No pretending? Not trying to be good enough? Not worrying about what others think?

Do we dare trust that God believes in us? Do we risk the change and freedom this will bring?

 





Lessons from the Trail

1 01 2011

It was cool up on the mountain – mist filled air while mountaintops kissed the sky. I had water, my lunch, and my camera as I began a steady climb along the Appalachian Trail from New Found Gap to Charlie’s Bunion.

I love hikes ending with a breath-taking vista, and from the description (100 Hikes in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Russ Manning, second edition, p. 161) – quiet, a view of endless mountain, a 1000-foot sheer drop – Charlie’s Bunion fit my fancy. Somehow, though, I over looked the “four miles one way” part of the description.

One foot in front of the other – up mountains and through mist; over rocks and roots; following switchbacks and side trails…silently I made my early morning trek. Excitement ran high in the beginning and the vision of “endless mountains” soaked my imagination. However, after a couple of miles, there were no longer “visions of endless mountains dancing in my head.” It was more like a self-imposed inquisition taking place: “Why did you get up so early to do this?” “What did you miss in the phrase Smoky MOUNTAINS?” “What is this conspiracy against your own body?” The cloud of questions had a smell of paralysis – teasing me into discounting my experience of the climb…the “on-the-way” moments. But grace and the waft of Frazier Firs brought me back to my senses – literary…the aroma of fir and fall soil…the sight of moss covered rocks and a canopy of trees. Now, the “on-the-way” moments were giving me life. They became just as an important part of the journey as was my destination – without these steps I would never make it to see the endless vista.

It is one thing to read about a destination – beautiful views and a sheer drop of 1000-foot – and another to experience it. The trail guide did not lie…breathtaking. Mountain upon mountain…valleys being touched by morning’s first light…waves of mountaintops bathed with sun and clouds. Words could not capture what my eyes were holding in this moment. I believe that’s what happens when one is captured by the beauty of the present moment – by the awareness of being in the presence of the One who is always present.

Charlie’s Bunion’s was magnificent…huge boulders clinging to earth, seemingly teetering on the edge of the world. As I began my way around the trail just below the crest of Charlie’s Bunion, there was a sign, “Watch Your Children, Danger Ahead”…hmmmmm?

The first thirty yards past this sign, the trail was wide, weaving around and over rocks. As I approached an outcrop of rock cantilevered over the valley below, a couple had already taken their place here, so I continued around the trail. As I emerged from behind this rock outcrop, my stomach sunk and I became a light-headed. I had stepped onto a path about six feet wide covering a space from the mountain wall on my right to that 1000 foot sheer drop I had read about.

I wanted to escape and yet I didn’t. I felt fear, anxiety, and panic…but also awe, exhilaration, and joy. After a few moments, of just being in that space…just waiting… a comfortableness came and I was awakened to the beauty surrounding me – unhindered vistas, a quiet-filled peace, birds floating on the air below me…the miracle of creation. This was the place…I took off my backpack, found a rock to lean against and had an early lunch…communion.

Even standing in this spiritual place, I was still unaware of the deeper meaning this space would have. It’s just like God…new insights and awakenings taking me deeper into faith, into myself, into the heart of God.

That feeling of stepping out from behind the rocks onto the ledge – that’s how transitions and change can feel – stomach sinks, lightheaded, fear, anxiety, panic…even with God’s presence so evident. But if we take in those “on-the-way” moments, if we stay in the present, if we do not turn back to what we believe is more secure…our spirit begins to settle and our soul’s eye begins to adjust and we become aware of God with us. Perspective begins to change and we begin to see new vistas…new possibilities…new insights…there is awe, exhilaration, and joy. Who knows, we may even feel comfortable enough to lean on the Rock and enjoy a bit of communion!