The Mountaintop

30 01 2013

I just this morning read a section from Transfiguration-A meditation on Transforming Ourselves and Our World by John Dear, who is a priest and anti-war activist.  (Good name for a peace worker, eh?)  He shares about hiking in Mount Rainier National Park, and his “mountaintop experience” there.  “The beauty of the surrounding woods, the bright blue sky overhead, the colorful wildflowers, and the panoramic mountaintop view cast their spell upon me.  Standing straight ahead of me, like a silent, benevolent giant, was the majestic, snow-capped Mount Rainier, reaching 14,408 feet high and covering almost one hundred square miles.  The imposing snow-covered mountain filled me with awe and wonder…without my knowing it, the mountain was pointing me to the God who had created me and revealed that this Creator God was good.”


Dear continues to go into detail about how the experience influenced his thoughts and feelings.  Life itself and all of creation are good.  He felt the goodness within himself as part of the goodness of God.  The tensions and pains inside settled, “like silt sinking slowly to the bottom of a lake, leaving clear blue water.”


“I knew as never before the presence of peace, the peace of God, even the God of peace.


I thought to myself, “He is experiencing what I have been seeing and writing about—how this creation all around us speaks of its creator.  With a capital C.  Dear credits the time in the mountains with giving him new life, power and energy to take the next steps in his life journey, and enabling him to take up his mission—the activism, writing and peace work for which he is widely known.   


Realizing he is not the first person to be uplifted in a powerful way by a mountaintop experience, he goes on to mention several Biblical leaders who met God and were strengthened for mission on a mountaintop, notably Moses and Elijah.  Forwarding in time, Gandhi, Merton, Howard Thurman had their mountaintops.  This being January, we have the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. on our minds:  “We’ve got some difficult days ahead, but it doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop.  I just want to do God’s will and He’s allowed me to go up the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land.  I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the promised land.” 


Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, after ascending Machu Picchu wrote he discovered “the old and unremembered human heart”; and suddenly felt compassion for the human race and dedicated the rest of his life to the poor and oppressed—his life purpose.


The mountain, or river, flower, canyon, creature great or small, when thoughtfully considered, affects the observer, often profoundly. 


[I’m thinking to myself:  Can I say this?  Should I ask someone quite different from me if they have had a similar experience?  Are all but the most oblivious affected by taking in the natural created world?  Well, I am!  Moses, Elijah, King and Gandhi were.  I want to write about this to you…]


John Dear says, and I would agree, “Every one of us needs a mountain where we can climb above the struggles of the world…” I notice he says above, not away from.  This mountaintop need not be a literal physical climb with a view.  I doubt Dr. King was hiking prior to that speech.  But whatever his experience, whether prayer, meditation, or time outdoors, he equated his powerful inspiration with the mountaintop.  Being among nature helps.  Why?  How?   


Jim Croegaert asks in his song, “Why do we hunger for beauty?” 


When an artist shares their work with us, something is intended, whether a message, an inspiration, an element of themselves, a gift.  Observing a canvas or a sculpture, one can have any reaction from “I don’t get it” to “Wow!  That’s amazing!”  With the created universe, it makes sense that we could experience transforming things.  Peace, inspiration, power, abundance, grandeur, perspective, insight, clarity of thought, new ideas. 


When I went to the north woods this winter, I was envisioning playing in the snow, sledding, skiing, going for lonImageg walks.  There was a bit of snow, but other than that, the weather did not cooperate.  I and my companions sat inside for the better part of 5 days, reading, relaxing, eating and sleeping.  It was lovely enough, yet not much of the being out in nature that I’d looked forward to.  However, there are lots of windows in this cabin, and a forest of birch and pine surrounding.  Somehow, just taking in the view of that beauty gave me peace.  It seemed as if my eyes were soaking in what the rest of my body at that moment could not.  Even as I close my eyes and remember the view, I pause, take a deep breath, and smile. 


This is the power, the gift of which I write.  This creation, to see, hear, experience, feel, smell, learn about, breathe in, ingest and inhabit offers a peace beyond understanding and insights to try and comprehend.  And so much more.  Enough to write a blog about!





Where Were You, God, When the Tsunami Came?

28 01 2013

 Devastation in Japan—earthquakes, tsunamis, death, destruction—Oh Lord!

I want to say “How could you?!” or, ”how could you allow…?”  Earthquake AND tsunami.  Nuclear plant AND oil refinery.  Four trains lost.  Disappeared.  And SO MUCH MORE!  So many lives.  So much pain!  Destruction.

This makes me wonder:            ARE  YOU  THERE  ??

<< I AM >>

This causes me conflicting pictures of you, God:  Sovereign and in control of all; loving, yet allowing such…pain, anguish, suffering, loss for those you love…

<< Disaster—magnitudes of disaster—is what gives pause to you, in your comfort and busyness.  It grabs your attention.  You, who even love and trust me, are shaken.  I AM in the suffering, with the suffering.  I AM suffering with those who suffer.  I do not ask you to blindly trust, irrationally trust, but do trust in what I have revealed.  I AM in control of nations.  I AM Lord of creation.  You must understand:  your comfort and success are NOT the EVIDENCE of My presence and grace.  The fruits of my Spirit are.


These, THESE are present–especially in crises–in abundance!  Those who suffer in me don’t say, “why me?”  they say “why not me?”  (They are peaceful and patient, and see themselves no better or worse than the rest of humanity.)  Those who help say, “I care; I extend the Spirit of the living God who transcends even death, even devastation.”  A blanket, a hug, shared tears—these are just the droplets of the tsunami of my grace and presence that is being showered in the midst of the devastation in Japan.  Your prayers as you, in unity with all the prayers of my people, shower my grace upon them as well.

Reach for, and lean on, my promises:

-pain and suffering may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning

-come to me, you heavy burdened and I will give you rest.

-I so loved the world I gave my only Son, so that those who believe have (not earthly, drudging, painful life, but) life eternal.

-tears will be wiped away, no more sorrow, suffering, pain.  (You can rejoice for those receiving their reward, relieved of THEIR pain.)

-I AM Lord of the nations, Lord of history, the present the future–alpha and omega

-All things work for good to those who love me

-I will never leave you nor forsake you (nor my beloved in Japan)

My Word holds more of my promises…

And what of you, in your warmth, shelter, full stomach, with communication, transportation quenched thirst?  You who know that friends and family are as they were yesterday.  You also come to me, beseeching me for others’ sake.  You incline yourself to prayer, and to listen.  Although it may be in bewilderment and doubt, grief and pain, you come.  You come for explanations, for knowledge of me, for reassurance that I AM who I say I AM.  Like John the Baptist,  you ask if I am that One to whom your life can be given, entrusted, and it will not be destroyed, no matter the current situation.  Do seek me.  Where two or three are gathered I AM there.  Inquire of me, as did Nicodemus.  Wrestle with me, as did Jacob!

Do not only come to me in your emotion, in your fear.  Learn from me.  The parable says to the rich man, “This day is your soul required of you.”  If it were true for you, are you ready?  Eternally?  What about personally?  Are your day-to-day affairs in order, clear to those left behind?  Children provided for; loved ones knowledgeable about what to do and where to go and whom to turn to, even in their grief?  What if there was a large scale disaster to befall your community—is there a plan?  For your family of origin?  For your family of faith?

What about your relationships?  How would they have been left if you had been in Japan; if your soul were required of you yesterday?  To whom would you want to connect, make amends, express your love?

“Take heed, lest…”

If you are inclined to help those suffering far away, besides praying, and you want to act, perhaps a way will open for you.  If you do not lean towards assistance across the ocean, perhaps this inclination can be used in bringing my love and care to someone close by.

I know your suffering and that of the Japanese.  And the Libyans.  And the Haitians.  I know.  I know you and have compassion upon your questions and your limitations in comprehending me.  (That is cause for gladness—I am God, and you are not .)

Come to me.  I am faithful.  Seek me.  I am present.  Inquire of me.  I will reveal myself.  Wrestle with me.  I will engage you and not turn away.  Call to me and I will answer.  I keep my promises.  My arms are open to you all.  >>