January 23, 2009

Together Alone

LAO TZU (570-490 BC)
Each season the trails I frequent offer a completely new look. I don't really have a favorite. Winter is great because I don't have to worry about ticks and snakes. Spring has so many blooming surprises popping up nearly every day. Summer allows for the trees to display their canopy of leaves, providing a true cozy-forest feel. And fall is magnificent with its brilliant colors and the leaves that fall like snowflakes.

As I walk these paths, I am reminded of how the seasons mirror our spiritual and physical journey. Spiritually winter symbolizes stillness, silence, and often the experience of "the dark night of the soul." Physically it reminds me of the reality of earthly death and slow movement. Spiritually spring symbolizes renewal, answered prayers after a dark time of waiting, and hope. Physically spring shows me the reproductive nature of the flowers, plants, animals, and all of life. This rebirth fills me with increasing energy and hope for the days ahead. Spiritually summer can feel like God is right by my side, even though He never left. Faith is brought forth again within me, allowing me to get into the flow of my spiritual side. Physically summer represents energy, productivity, and movement. Spiritually fall calls me once more toward introspection as the energy slows down toward stillness once again after the harvest of my spiritual pursuits have been brought forth. Physically fall reminds me that everything in this physical world has a birth and death cycle, which can often bring much emotional as well as physical pain. And then on to winter again, to experience the dark night of the soul . . . stillness . . . and silence within.

The path we journey on represents a physical as well as spiritual voyage. All of humanity is walking this path together . . . alone. I love this contradiction! Together/alone. Together/alone. We all have an individual identity that separates us from one another, a purpose we are meant to fulfill in life, an ancient message we are trying to remember. But always know that we are part of a whole . . . united. Yes, we take our earthly voyage in seeming isolation because no one really knows the workings of our minds and souls. But by remembering that we are part of One Source, it allows us to pay attention to the people around us and see that we all have the same goal: becoming reunited with the One Source.

Often I get so narrowly focused by only looking at my path. The way it winds and straightens, taking me through all four physical and spiritual seasons. I need to be aware of my surroundings and do a 360, looking for others who might have stumbled off the path, or who are falling behind, or who are too weak to go on. Those people are there. Heck! I'm often there! If I become aware, I will see that I'm not all alone on this path, though often it's easy to have tunnel vision and let my sense of momentum keep me from looking around at who might need some attention.

God is in all of the "off the path" details. Some of His most miraculous works are done "off the path," wouldn't you agree? "Off the path" might look like sitting up all night with a friend who is detoxing; or confronting a business partner about his white-collar crime, offering to love him through his repentance; or providing a safe place for a child who you know lives in danger, possibly putting yourself in harms way while finding a solution to the problem. "Off the path" is not often found in church. It's in the most unexpected places. So be an open channel to let the work of God be done through you. You will thank God when a divine encounter comes along, filling you with a peace and a knowing that that person was sent to do His work . . . to help you on your path. It's all part of the cycle, the circle. We will all need help; therefore we all must give help.

Remember: The goal is not to get to somewhere on our path. The goal is the path.

"Though we share this humble path, alone

How fragile is the heart.

Oh give these clay feet wings to fly

To touch the face of the stars.

Breathe life into this feeble heart

Lift this mortal veil of fear.

Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears

We'll rise above these earthly cares."

Loreena McKennit "Dante's Prayer"


January 6, 2009

Fall at Your Feet

"He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him."
Luke 17:16
The subject of feet came to my mind the other day as I was trail running. The leaves from fall have completly covered the trails, making it a bit treacherous to run (often large rocks or tree roots are buried just under the leaves). Any unexpected, uneven landing upon the trail can quickly turn an ankle or foot, resulting in a very painful sprain, or worse. Add three days of rain to the leafy, rocky trail-stew, and you might as well walk most of the way if you want to avoid injury . . . even with the right shoes. But I had walked long enough. And I was needing to exert more energy. And I was willing to take the risks . . . and not surprisingly, I turned my foot on a rock--but not too badly. Enough, though, to slow me down and take notice of my limitations that day. I was grateful not to be limping, grateful that my foot stabilized quickly, grateful that my feet could carry me yet again on the trails the next day without much more than a light ache. My feet take a lot of abuse and strain, but they are very powerful, taking me though a day, a month, a lifetime. My feet allow me to move forward, take action, and come running toward the ones I love. They also remind me of the humble acts of servanthood demonstrated by Jesus and many others in the Bible.

The Bible mentions feet often throughout both the Old and New Testament. I did a search for feet on biblegateway.com and was surprised not only to find the disciples washing Jesus' feet (serving), but Satan being crushed under our feet by "the God of Peace" (empowering): "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you." Romans 16:20. When I realize all that I am able to do through God's strength, I am so comforted. My strength alone is so frail. And if I ever think my strength alone is sufficient, I am painfully reminded of how human and unequipped I am to do battle on this journey.

I love Psalm 40:2: "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." To me, this is a promise from God of redemption and salvation. The slimy pit represents my sin. He rescued me from that part of my life. He then takes hold of my feet and sets them on a rock, better known as Jesus, the Rock of my salvation. Jesus is the anchor where my feet will settle, without getting sprained, twisted, or snared. Notice that the word "stand" is used after Jesus has rescued us. The scripture says "a firm place to stand" (not sit). There is no shame in the rescue and redemption and former sin. There is only a God who is proud of my coming home to him, who wants me to stand tall in his love and grace.

And for that kind of love, I should gladly and eternally


in humble praise and thanks.