Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cross Quarter Day

This weekend brings us to the first cross quarter day of 2015, the midway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. The days are slowly lengthening as the sun begins to make his way higher in the sky. I'm starting to see a few fleeting glimpses of spring, hints of green here and there peeking out from the dead, brown lawn. Meditating on this threshold into spring my thoughts turn to one of our visits to Central Asia. The raw beauty of the mountains was amazing but it was the middle of the dry season and, like my yard, the sparse plants were dry, lifeless.

We were there working with local Christians setting up sewing centers to help poor women make a living. Through our translators the village ladies told of the rapes and other abuses they had endured during the not-to-distant civil war. During the conflict these women and girls became widows and orphans. And their tragedy continues as they struggle to live without adequate food or housing, very little electricity, no running water or sewer, only scarcely available wood or dried animal dung for heating and cooking. Their stories reveal hearts as dry and hard as the rugged, desiccated mountains around us.

Laying on my mat that night trying to get to sleep I thought about all I had seen and heard the last few days. How could we expect them to be open to our stories of a God who loves them and cares for them? The sewing centers are helping but it's not enough. There are so many women and children hungry and hurting, desperate for someone to help, desperate for someone to love them. As I lay there wrestling with these thoughts God sent an unexpected shower dropping the temperature and bringing a few drops of precious rain.

Sunrise the next morning revealed an amazing site. Overnight God had painted the parched mountainside a verdant green and brought life back to the dead vegetation. This reminded me of when God brought Ezekiel to the valley of dry, dead bones and asked him if they could be brought back to life. Ezekiel replied,” Only You, O Lord, know.” Then God showed Ezekiel that they could indeed be brought back to life just as easily as God brought these dry, parched mountains back to life last night.

The sewing centers we set up are just a drop in the bucket compared to all the need. But, just as a few drops of rain awakened the mountainside that night, with the Lord’s blessing our caring, our efforts can make a difference in many lives. Will the battered and abused women and children of Central Asia come to know that someone does care about them?  Will they come to know that there is a God who loves them?  “Only You, O Lord, know.”

Friday, January 30, 2015

Finding Wonderful Hours

“I am going about the world trying to find wonderful hours, and I shall remember this as one of them.”

Reading this line, one of my favorites from the modern mystic Frank Laubach, turns my mind back to some of the many wonderful hours I've experienced going about our world. I think about the old, abandoned stone chapel I stumbled upon as I prayerwalked the Walk of Peace trail in the Slovenian Alps. The wonderful hours I had there among the crumbling stones simply meditating on God's love for me, all of my fellow humans, and all of his creation.

As the daylight dwindled I knew I had to move on but I longed to stay in this special place where the veil between heaven and earth seemed so thin, this place where God made his presence so real. And, in fact, that wonderful hour did not end as the approaching darkness forced me from the sanctuary. The experience, that very real felt presence of God, lives on as I return to that chapel in my memory this morning.

I pray once again that all of the Slovenian people will know the God who loves them and longs to share wonderful hours with them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Inciting Good Wanderers

"I can write only hints to incite good wanderers to come to the feast."
     -John Muir

Don't Be Sorry

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry.
     -Jack Kerouac

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Love a Great Deal

"To pray is not to speak a great deal, but to love a great deal"
     -St. Therese of Lisieux

A Simple Faith

God has gifted me with a simple faith. A solid trust in His love for me, my fellow humans, and all of creation. I can’t answer the deep theological questions like where Cain got his wife or where the ark came to rest.  However, I do know Jesus’s answer when He was asked about the greatest commandments –

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

I take comfort in knowing that Jesus chose simple, uneducated men and women to share in his earthly life and to take His good news to the world. He chose to do life and ministry with fishermen and tax collectors, thieves and whores… simple, everyday, flawed people like me. He sent this same motley crew out to save the world and I am one of their spiritual offspring.  I’m thankful for my simple faith.

Take My Life...

Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord,to thee. 
Take my moments and my days,
let them flow with ceaseless praise,
let them flow with ceaseless praise.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Irrelevant Social Club

If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.
    -Martin Luther King, Jr  16 April 1963

Sunday, January 18, 2015

That Presence

I came out to the park yesterday for weekend solo camping retreat. It’s been months – possibly over a year since I’ve done this. I found myself looking forward to it after mom’s death and the funeral and all the social interaction that that brought about this week.

It’s a beautiful sunny weekend, which is so welcomed and needed after weeks of winter cold and rain. However, after I got the camp set up and I settled in, I felt anxious, restless, uncomfortable with the freedom to do nothing. I read a little, went for a run, then a bike ride, and then read some more. But the peace I longed for and remembered from previous solo excursions remained elusive.

I ate a simple dinner in the presence of a glorious glowing sunset then in the dwindling daylight kindled up a campfire. I sat poking the fire, thinking, praying, reading a few of the Kagawa’s poems by firelight.  And then looking up from the fire I leaned back to see billions of stars shining down on me through the winter-bare trees. There it was – that Presence for which I had come away in search of. I felt the peace of God welling up within me. I stayed up another couple of hours praising, praying and worshiping the God who made these stars, me and all that is and then drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

Courage to Stay Empty

"I wish I had the courage and the endurance simply to stay completely empty and see what comes to me out of the emptiness."
      —Mary C. Morrison

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Orphaned and Alone

Entering this sixtieth year
of my earthly sojourn,
I find myself orphaned,
orphaned and alone,
alone among the multitudes,
multitudes I don’t know,
know or understand.

Alone but not lonely.
Alone with the Alone,
the Alone who alone can fill my every longing,
my longing for loneliness,
loneliness and silence,
silence and solitude,
solitude where I am known and understood