Saturday, February 28, 2015

POTM...*: The Columbia River Gorge

(*Photo of the Month)

I had the good geographic fortune of attending a workshop this past week in Corbett, Oregon, on the bluff above the entry to the Columbia River Gorge. Our first day was fair and sunny but offered little time to break away and see the nearby sights; that only presented itself after the clouds, rain and fog had rolled in, of course, weather that remained for the duration. It IS winter in the Pacific Northwest after all.

Yet the days were still lovely in spite of being wet and chilled. By the time we made it over to the overlooks along old U.S. 30, and dropped down into the gorge to see Multnomah Falls (and several others), it was solidly overcast. My photo of the month is of the beginning of the gorge, on a day such as it was, just east of Corbett, from a vantage called Chanticleer Point. Scoured out and down by massive floods released when ice dams as far away as Montana broke through (during melting from the most recent ice age), this gorge has seen these cataclysmic events perhaps a hundred times. Assisted by these floods, the
Multnomah Falls
Columbia cut through the sediment layers far faster than its tributaries, leaving the greatest concentration of high hanging waterfalls in all of North America. (Multnomah, the steepest, has 542 and 69 foot cascades.)

Even the old road alongside seems to successfully highlight the area’s beauty, giving public access to views sublime and enchanting. As Samuel Hill, the area’s road builder, contemplated the construction task before him, he aspired, “…I prayed for strong men, and that we might have sense enough to do things the right way so as not to mar what God had put there.” Or another road engineer’s comment: “I am thankful to God for His goodness in permitting me to have a part in building this road as a frame to the beautiful picture which He created.”

(I used to think that the song, Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean -- the song that always seemed to be played in the old movies when ships were shown sailing at full speed -- was about this river. Or if not that, then of some famous old ship in the U.S. fleet. I’ve now found it was about neither; the song actually was in the running as our national anthem in the late 19th Century, Columbia a common poetic nickname for the U.S.A. portrayed as an almost angelic, heroic female figure swathed in flag-like clothing.)

What always amazes me about the Columbia is the massive amount of water flowing through the drainage, emptying as it does such a large expanse of western North America with very few other large rivers doing so. It will only become wider as it makes its way to the Pacific nearly 125 miles away.

From the Bible… “You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.” (Psalm 65:9)

~~RGM, February 28, 2015        

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Blowin' in the Wind: Celtic Blessings

(Blowin’ in the Wind is a regular feature on my blog consisting of an assortment of nature writings – hymns, songs, excerpts, prayers, Bible readings, poems or other things – pieces I may not have written but that inspire me or have given me joy. I trust they will do the same for you.)

I have always loved blessings. I’ve loved receiving them, I’ve loved giving them, I’ve loved watching them being given. Over the years I’ve particularly enjoyed sharing benedictions at the end of a worship service, something I sorely missed during my years as a denominational administrator, but now a singular delight since being back in church-based pastoral ministry. It can be the highlight of a worship service for me.

During my classwork for my Spiritual Direction certification several years ago, I suppose it was natural for me to be drawn to study some of the classic blessings of Christian history, Celtic blessings. Frankly, it didn’t even feel like study to me; it felt like devotion. I couldn’t get enough. Celtic blessings from Ireland and Scotland, some of which go back 1500 years and more, have this lovely earthiness to them, often depicting nature in such an astounding way as to undo me. Frequently intimate, both with God and self, they commonly utilize themes such as journey, childlikeness, parenting or birthing, water, weather, celestial bodies and the like… Natural things.

Some of you will remember Noel Paul Stookey’s song (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame), Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall softly on your fields.
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Of course, there are those with tongue-in-cheek humor:

Lord, let those who love us, love us.
Lord, let those who not love us allow you to turn their heart.
And if you not turn their heart, may you turn their ankles
So we might know them by their limping.

But here’s the one I wanted to share today. A good friend pronounced this blessing over a group gathering I attended a short time ago, and I wouldn’t let her rest until she sent it my way. (Thanks, Jennifer!) I pass it along to you. Save it for a moment late in the day when you are settling down for the night, preparing for rest.

May the blessing of light be on you – light without and light within. 

May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
So that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it. 

And may light shine out of the two eyes of you, 

Like a candle set in the window of a house, 

Bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.

May the blessing of the rain be on you.
May it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean,

Leaving there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines, 
And sometimes a star. 

May the blessing of the earth be on you, 

Soft under your feet as you pass along the roads, 

Soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day.
And may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it. 

May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly,
Up and off and on its way to God.

And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly. Amen.

                                                            ~~Celtic Blessing, source unknown

Be very blessed.

~~RGM, February ­­­­19, 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

QOTM...*: Ken Gire, Scaling the Northface of God

(*Quote of the Month)

It has been a good week. I’ve enjoyed getting to know several new people, work has been as exhilarating as it can be, and the beauty of the southern New Mexico landscape around me has been a constant source of inspirational delight. Numerous of my conversations this week, however, have put me in company with people asking deep questions about life and death and faith, or friends musing on profound mysteries as they search for the presence of God in their challenging circumstances. It is a privilege to be part of these kinds of conversations, yet the logjam of unanswered questions and unsolved mysteries can leave a sense of incompleteness. In thinking on these things, I was pleased to come across this today:

Our unanswered questions are the grappling hooks we use to scale the Northface of God, who seems an Everest of indifference. Maybe why we brave the climb is because abandoning it might be even more treacherous.

                                                 ~~Ken Gire                           

Several of Ken Gire’s books are in my library; I cannot recall exactly which this quote was from, having jotted it down too quickly. It may be from one I especially like called The Weathering Grace of God, but I can’t put my hand on the book right now to make sure. If
(North face of Colorado's Longs Peak, not our photo)
this is indeed the source, I recall it well as a book that uses the backdrop of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains as a rich trove of metaphors for seeking to understand the mysteries of life’s upheavals. It essentially reminds me that the beauty of today’s Rockies owes itself to tremendous, cataclysmic pressures – devastating shaping and scouring forces – that can go unappreciated as I take in the grandeur of the current scene.

I’ve often struggled ‘to scale the Northface of God,’ and so, I imagine, have you. Hang on. Lean close. Brave the climb. And do this in community, tethered or belayed to a team who is also committed to summit at long last with you. Remember the words of our Guide and God: If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it (Matthew 10:39).

~~RGM, February 13, 2015