Posts Tagged ‘solitude

15
Nov
21

Does It Matter Enough?

OUCH!

First of all, sorry for the somewhat gross photo here. Both for the bruised toe as well as the dramatic proof that I need some SERIOUS foot moisturizing. But hopefully as you will see later, this disgusting picture is integral to today’s post.

So… I stubbed my toe the other day. I mean, REALLY stubbed it.

Joan and I were walking through the woods with the dogs when it happened. It was a beautiful, clear, warm, fall day, so we decided to take a route that led us along a wooded path that led to a creek. The dogs really love to go wading in the water, so we tend to indulge them.

As we walked along the trail, I NAILED a tree root that was hidden under the leaves. Hit it SQUARE with the big toe of my left foot, in full stride.

I almost went down, flat on my face. Fortunately, though, I managed to stumble a bit and then eventually recover.

But my toe was THROBBING with pain. When we got home, Joan looked at it, assured me it wasn’t broken, and then gave me the ice pack to wrap around it. In case I haven’t said this before, she is an absolutely WONDERFUL nurse. 

Over the next three or four days, I noticed two things going on simultaneously in my life. First, I noticed that I was not taking our dog Patrick for his morning walks around the neighborhood. I tried it once, but turned around, wincing in pain, after going about a half of a block.

The second thing I noticed was the advent of a serious state of spiritual torpor. My prayer life suddenly seemed to turn arid and dry. My brain ceased spewing out new ideas for future blog posts. My periods of meditation on the wonders of the world and the ridiculous extravagance of my blessings blew away like so much dandelion fuzz. 

What’s the deal?” I asked. “Why have I fallen into this apparent spiritual and creative dust bowl? Has the well just run dry? Has God finally tired of my naïve and incoherent mutterings and hung out the cosmic ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign in sheer annoyance?”

“I mean, SERIOUSLY! What’s going on!!” I shouted into the night sky.

As expected, the night absorbed my cry and sent back nothing.

After a few days of this unrequited questioning and knocking, it finally dawned on me: the morning walk with Patrick was the time when I did all of my praying and meditation for the day. Every iota of my daily silent transcendentalism seems to have been concentrated into that 30-minute trip around the neighborhood. Of course, in between stops for Patrick to pee, bunny sightings, and chats with friendly neighbors.

And so, if that were indeed the case, it was no wonder that I “hit the wall,” so to speak. No Patrick walking = no time for prayer and/or meditation.

Isn’t that ridiculous?

I mean, what a sad state of affairs is it to see yourself confining this life-giving, life-sustaining practice to ONEsituation and ONE environment! As if it is completely impossible to pause and utter a quick breath-prayer while waiting at a red light… or to close your eyes and talk to God while the internet takes its own sweet time to connect… or to dare to carve out a few minutes of renewing silence instead of just rushing quickly on to the next thing.

As Luke 5:16 tells us, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” In fact, by my count, there are 26 different instances in the Gospels where we are told about Jesus breaking out of the hurly-burly of his world-saving mission and just taking time to pray.

Pretty amazing, eh? Just goes to show you that when something MATTERS enough to you, you will make time for it.

And I will bet you dollars to donuts that on at least ONE of those occasions, he did so with a bruised toe.

Abundant blessings;

28
Oct
20

Standing Guard

I may have mentioned this before, but here in the northern Colorado part of the U.S., we are dealing with some pretty nasty forest fires at the moment. No one is quite sure how they started, but they have been fueled by high winds, dry conditions, and acres and acres of trees that were killed several years ago by the Japanese borer beetle. 

The fire closest to us – called the Cameron Peak Fire – has now attained the status of the largest forest fire in Colorado history. 

Even though the eastern edge of the fire is less than 10 miles away from us, Joan and I feel pretty safe. There is a 7500-foot mountain and a six-mile-long reservoir between us and the fire. That, plus God’s decision to dump about 20 inches of snow on the fire over the weekend helps us avoid pushing the panic button just yet.

As we have watched the heroic actions of both the volunteer and professional firefighters, we have seen them employ a tactic that seems particularly relevant for all of us… especially during this fraught time of politics, pandemic, and paranoia.

As they attempt to limit the spread of the fire – and protect homes – those firefighters strive to create a perimeter of safety. This can be accomplished by either removing trees (a.k.a., “fuel”), digging a trench, or even doing some kind of controlled pre-burning of patches of vegetation. 

Sometimes high winds foil their plans by carrying burning embers across those perimeters, but by and large it is an effective strategy for minimizing destruction.

And I don’t know about you, but lately I have been feeling the need to build some kind of “perimeter of safety” around my spirit to protect it from flames of an entirely different kind; 

  • … the flames of despair,
  • … the flames of hatred,
  • … the flames of bitterness,
  • … the flames of resentment,
  • … the flames of arrogance.

I look out and see them there… crackling and sparking in the pages of the newspaper, glowing in the posts and comments on social media, and popping and smoking in TV commercials and news stories. When I get too close, I can almost feel the edges of my soul starting to curl up as their heat intensifies. 

I am not an advocate of diving into the bunker and ignoring everything that is going on in the world. But I do believe we need to take great care when it comes to the matter of how those events – and their interpretations – affect our spirits. Just like with these forest fires, we can’t expect to keep dancing around the edge of the flames and not get burnt. 

King Solomon offers us this wise “fire protection” guidance in the book of Proverbs: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NRSV).

Jesus – at the most dangerous point in his earthly life – knew the importance of guarding his spirit with some kind of perimeter of safety. And he knew exactly how to build it, too. If ever there was a moment to give in to fear, anger, or despair, the moment before his arrest surely was that moment. 

And so, what did he do? Just before he was arrested by the Roman guards, tried for blasphemy, and executed, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. We know he prayed until he sweat drops of blood. We know he prayed for God’s will to ultimately be done… even if it did not necessarily sync with Jesus’ human will.

But he might also have prayed the words of Psalm 121 and said: I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2, NRSV). 

The point is: JESUS PRAYED. He connected and communicated with God. He put his immediate dilemma into the perspective of eternity. He found a strong, godly refuge in the midst of the roaring flames. 

And even though his body was eventually consumed by that great inferno, his spirit remained intact and unscathed.

And I am guessing that today he would probably advise us to follow him and do the same.

Abundant blessings;

07
Nov
19

Outside in

Here where I live, today is a good day to be inside.

Though it is bright and sunny, it is also cold… like 25 degrees cold.

And so even as I practice gratitude for my ability to be sheltered from windy, 25-degree conditions, I like to maintain a connection with the outside.

Hence, this perfect perch:Woodland perch

Here I am inside… safe, warm, and dry. And yet the outside is right there, just beyond my fingertips.

As a documented extrovert, I am metaphorically “outside” most of the time. I like meeting people, talking to them, telling jokes, and just generally hanging out with them.

“Outside” is my jam. People are my favorite… people.

But there is a downside to all this glad-handed, people-pleasing extroversion. We extros (as we like to be called) are occasionally guilty of disregarding the value of “inside” time. We aren’t terribly quick to take hold of those moments of solitary pause and reflection and celebrate their value.

I mean sure if we find ourselves stuck on a rowboat without a companion or network connection we MIGHT engage in a little self-reflective navel-gazing.

Maybe.

Truth be told though, that inside stuff makes us a little nervous. We aren’t always sure we want to see the kind of sticky, icky stuff we might run into if we got too quiet or look too closely.

But if I aspire to call myself a writer – as I most certainly do – I know I need to come to grips with the inside life. Actually, all of us can benefit from a little inwardness from time to time. We would all do well to turn off the TV, pause Pandora, shut down the chit-chat and listen to the stillness of our souls.

Maybe what I need to find is one of those California-style indoor/outdoor rooms for my soul. Something like this would allow me to be outside when I am in, and inside when I am out: Indoor outdoor space

How about you? Are you an extrovert who struggles with quiet, alone time? Or are you on the opposite end of the Myers-Briggs scale and find you would rather undergo a root canal than spend time with other people?

What are your coping strategies? How do you push beyond your self-imposed boundaries now and then?

It is worth reminding each of us that no matter how we are wired, we are each “fearfully and wonderfully made,” according to the Lord of the Universe.

And you can take that (out) to the bank!




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