Sunday, August 28, 2016

From My Nature Journal: Deep Peace – A Blessing in the Celtic Style

Much of my recent blog writing has been newer essays rather than ones written in the past. But these new writings come only as I receive them from God, and since I’ve not been inspired in the last month to write a fresh piece, my typical modus operandi when it comes time for a post is to look back on my older writing and see what catches my spirit as pertinent to today.

Wow, was I caught.

It is a highly stressful time for us. Just this week we’ve put our Colorado home on the market, and before next week is finished we’ll travel to Washington State to purchase a new home, though we know not where. Add to these the delight of a U-Pack move some time in the next two months, beginning to resettle somewhere, and all the regular responsibilities of life and work, all while we remain open to a new ministry call, and it becomes clear just why we are feeling the strain. Of course, we are constantly seeking to keep it all in perspective, knowing we are safely in God’s care, but the pressure still can build.

How glad I am that I went back to the well, all the way back to the third entry in my old leather journal, dated April 2008. At the time I was taking classes for a certificate in spiritual direction. As part of that experience we were assigned to attend a workshop on a related subject of our choice. Celtic spirituality had long been an interest, so, living in Omaha then, and seeing a workshop offered on that subject not too far away at the Sophia Retreat Center in Atchison, Kansas, I booked it and attended.

I enjoyed it very much. The presenter, after giving the history of the movement and highlighting its characteristics, challenged us to try writing some things in a more Celtic style. What is that style? I’ve blogged before on it, and you can take a look at this post or this one if you’d like to see, but suffice it for now to say that a couple of the characteristics of Celtic spirituality are the practice of giving and receiving blessings and of seeing God in creation. One afternoon while wandering the grounds, I wrote this blessing, "Deep Peace."

Peace to you, deep peace.
Peace of the morning sun to you, deep peace of the flowing brook.
Peace of the quiet forest to you, deep peace of the soft rain.
Peace of birdsong to you, deep peace of the whispering pine.
Peace of midday shade to you, deep peace of a gentle breeze.
Peace of the wave’s rhythms to you, deep peace of the sunset’s color.
Peace of moon’s whiteness to you, deep peace of the shining stars.

Peace to you, deep peace.
Peace of a child’s held hand to you, deep peace of a friend’s blessing.
Peace of a mother’s kiss to you, deep peace of a beloved’s embrace.
Peace of a clear conscience to you, deep peace of the Lord’s forgiveness.
Peace of holy discernment to you, deep peace of divine direction.
Peace of satisfying labor to you, deep peace of a job well done.
Peace of a cool drink to you, deep peace of an evening’s rest.

Deep peace of the love of God,
Deep peace of the presence of the Holy Spirit,
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you this day, and every day.

This blessing is an important gift to me today, this month, and this season of our lives. Just praying it through again these last couple of hours since ‘rediscovering’ it has helped bring a calmer standpoint in the midst of the frenetic activity and transitions that are before us.

I pray there is some greater reason than
my own need of it that God brought it
back to me to share with you today…

But I also pray there is some greater reason than my own need of it that God brought it back to me to share with you today.

Be at peace. Be blessed. 
RGM, August 24, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

From My Nature Journal: Keeping the Main thing the Main Thing

It’s crazy what one can learn from a bee sting.

Yes, it happened to me yesterday, and it turned into a bit of an ordeal before it was all over. Gail and I were riding down a backwoods road on our four-wheeler here in the Ottawa National Forest of Michigan, and a wasp of some kind whacked me in my helmet, or I whacked it – er, no, more accurately, we whacked each other  and it then got stuck in my chinstrap, stinging me repeatedly on the cheek. Talk about a bee in my bonnet! (I thought they could only sting once, but found later that that’s only honeybees.) Yowza! Immediately, however, it seemed like no regular sting: I felt light-headed, my lips started to swell and my underarms started to itch like crazy (sorry, never thought I’d refer to armpits in my blog), and I seemed to recall there were lymph nodes there…

Now, I’d just had another bee sting three days before which played out as normal. You know the drill – minor swelling at the site, a single welt, gripe a bit yet not a big deal. But this reaction yesterday startled me, so we turned directly back to the cabin and within a few minutes I was able to slap an icepack on my mug and take some diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Still, the symptoms worsened, and I began breaking into hives and my throat and chest tightened. We quickly searched the Internet and found these all to be signs of a possible anaphylactic reaction, and we knew people could die from that! But how could this be? I’ve had bee stings all my life! Anyway, though the hospital was nearly an hour away, we thought it best, me begrudgingly, to get to the ER as quickly as possible. Soon after being hooked up to a heart monitor and getting an IV port installed in my arm, all in the event my condition deteriorated, the symptoms began to subside.

To make a long story short, it was a mild reaction as such things can go and we were home in several hours. Still, it was enough that I am now advised to carry an Epi-pen nearby at all times. I hate that idea. Life is complicated enough without having to think about that. But these things can get progressively worse, so I am trying to be grateful rather than regretful.

That’s just the backstory, however, and not the focus of my thoughts today. As usual, something else occurs to my spirit.

In talking with our Seattle son Jarrett about it this morning, who is a nurse, he described what all happened and what part epinephrine plays when it is needed. Epinephrine is nothing but adrenalin. No, actually, it’s the other way around – there is no such thing medically as adrenalin. Something we call adrenalin is produced by our bodies, as you likely know, to generate in us the capacity for the fight or flight reflex. Adrenalin is essentially made up of three chemicals: epinephrine, nor-epinephrine (sp?) and dopamine. So it is more rightly said that adrenalin is nearly nothing but epinephrine. But here’s the cool thing: the presence of these three chemicals slows down all immediately nonessential body functions, things like digestion, urination, and pain/nerve impulse, and revs up what is most essential at that key moment, the cardiovascular system. ‘Adrenalin’ dilates the lungs, increases blood pressure as well as heart and breathing rates, affecting that part of the brain responsible for these latter functions, all to provide maximum oxygen capacity and peak energy to fight or flee. Amazing. In the case of a person experiencing anaphylactic reaction, a time when lungs contract and air passages can swell shut, epinephrine maximizes the ability of the body to simply oxygenate itself. Also amazing.

This is not the first time our son has schooled us in the functions of this miracle machine we call our bodies, and it won’t be the last. These things are incredibly interesting to me.

How important it is that we be receptive enough
at such times to give the main thing the
opportunity to do its critical work…

And today it has gotten me thinking about the importance of keeping the main thing the main thing, of attending to the right things in the right opportune times. There are moments in our lives when something unique happens and God seems to throw open a window, when his presence can seem more palpable, and a ‘thin place’ between heaven and earth presents itself. I officiated a funeral recently, and shared with the family that the death of a loved one is such a time, a time when we can simply choose to stay only in our grief and turn in on ourselves, or additionally, also open ourselves in that brief season to what God has to teach us, or even for what God can be for us at such a time. These are the kinds of moments in our spirit lives when nonessential functions are slowed and the most critically important life functions are able to be enhanced for our ultimate larger benefit.

Like a shot of adrenalin during anaphylaxis, how important it is that we be receptive enough at such times to give the main thing the opportunity to do its critical work.

God, through the Prophet Isaiah, said to the people of Israel, “At an acceptable time I listened to you, in a day of salvation I helped you (Isaiah 49:8).” The Apostle Paul picks up that same text and expands on it in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, “…We implore you also that you not receive the grace of God in vain. For God says, ‘At an acceptable time I listened to you, in a day of salvation I helped you.’” Paul concludes, “Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Read verses one through ten of that passage later today if you have the time. The whole excerpt is pretty awesome.

And by the way, I got stung again a week later and things went as they had in the past. Go figure…

~~ RGM, July 20, 2016