Weathered stories…

15 12 2013

Cades Cove barn…

Bandelier dwelling…

Historic St. Mary’s shingles…

Santa Fe fence…

weathered stories…

weathered woodSOUTHWEST 4 135_edited-1St Mary's Shinglessouthwest wood


A Road to No Where?

28 04 2012


A road to no where?
Barren land?
Maybe possibility…
Maybe sacred space…
With openness; a first step…
Dare I risk myself? 

This taken at Shiprock in New Mexico – a sacred place for the Navajo people.

Invitation to Wholeness

10 04 2011

Opportunities to move toward wholeness rise from the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected ways…but if we would pay attention to the counter-cultural way Jesus lived, the way the Spirit speaks, to our past experiences with God – the unexpected becomes the expected…

New Mexico is a beautiful place with an array of beautiful ecosystems and landscapes. The Well for the Journey’s southwest pilgrimage provided a wonderful opportunity to learn more about desert and Native American spirituality…and to feed my new passion for photography! As the pilgrimage went along, my fellow pilgrims began to kid me about my addiction to my camera…but I didn’t want to miss a thing!

One beautiful day, our pilgrimage took us into a beautiful, remote, sacred space – Chaco Canyon. Chaco Canyon embraces pueblo ruins that date back a thousand years. My camera started buzzing as soon as we turned down the ten-mile dirt road to the park and continued all day long, wanting to capture what I saw and experienced…I wanted to take it all home. And the bonus…because of our long day, we anticipated a spectacular high desert sunset!

My day was going well: wide open sacred space, new friends, my camera, and a hike on top of a mesa. That’s when it happened…my camera battery light began to flash! “This can’t be!” I thought. I shuffled through my morning memories: fresh batteries from the charger; made sure I turned the camera off after each use; extra batteries…my stomach sank…I forgot extra batteries! I began some serious strategic planning about how to conserve the batteries I had when I became aware of this voice from within, “It’s okay. Just enjoy the experience…the day.” Now, this voice could have come from one of two places: from subconscious, trying to rationalize and prepare myself for what was inevitable; or from the Spirit encouraging me to listen…to just be in creation…to engage in a Holy conversation. By the time I rejoined my fellow pilgrims, my camera was dead and I was trying my best to lean on the Voice calling me to “just let this camera thing go and to be with the Creator in this sacred place.”

However, as we packed up for our return trip, I felt the call of my camera. Out of nowhere I heard my voice blurt out, “Does anyone have extra batteries?” No luck…(sigh). Then again I heard, “Greg. Just let it go…be with Me. Nothing you take home can capture the grandeur and mystery that is in this place at this time.” Deep in my soul I understood what I was being invited to do – to move toward wholeness, but with the sweet afternoon light painting the canyon walls, my stubborn spirit did not hear the Truth that my soul understood. Just when I thought I had dealt with this issue, out of nowhere that stubborn spirit broke through my seemingly calm surface of self-control – the Chaco’s National Park store! “Surely they will have batteries…saved!” As I entered the store, I walked confidently…righteously…up to the cashier and asked, “Where are your batteries?” Devastation swept over me as I heard his reply, “We don’t carry batteries.”

You would think that I would finally get it and rest in what was at hand…to take time and enjoy the gift of nature around me, but driving out of the canyon, with the sun anticipating a kiss with the western horizon, I had one more fleeting, desperate thought – the store at the intersection with the main road…maybe. But disappointment was a loyal friend, staying right by my side – we were behind schedule and stopping was not an option.

Then the late afternoon Light kissed my heart – I had missed the point of everything the day had offered. In trying to “capture” creation…the spirit of the place, in trying to hold onto images and take them home, in being distracted by my “wanting” and the pursuit to get my hands on materials (batteries), through my unawareness of God’s attempts of engaging me in conversation, in not letting go, in trying to make Chaco Canyon “mine” – I missed the true beauty of the day. I missed a deeper communion with God. I missed out on true freedom and bound myself with worries of things I did not have and with fear that I might miss a “shot”. I missed out on deeper community with my fellow pilgrims. At the end of the day, when I was looking up into the star, spangled sky, I realized the lesson of the day…“creation is not mine.” All that I saw and experienced was a gift. And if I love the Creator, I will carry the Creator’s creation with me always.

I do not tell you this story so to bore you with this particular day in my life. I tell you this story because I trust as fellow pilgrims you too have experienced such struggles. So questions come…What are you holding onto? What is binding you? What conversation with God is waiting at your door? How is your listening? What is distracting you?

The good news is that at the end of the day, God’s continually pursues conversation with us…helping the unexpected become expected…always inviting us to wholeness.

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.