An Aging Man’s Wonderings, Ponderings

Stan’s Journal  11/28/17  Fort Worden State Park  near Point Wilson Lighthouse

It is a rainy, miserable day and I am full of joy!  Rain is pouring down, a light wind buffets the car and the sound of waves drifts through a slightly, opened window.  Hanna and I are in the car-warm, dry, safe and full of life, although Hanna is sound of sleep.  I am so thankful for friend Michelle’s question to me this past summer:  “Stan, who are you now that you do not have a congregation to be a pastor of?”

Who am I?  In my aloneness-I did not say loneliness, abut aloneness although there are times of loneliness also- that question periodically echoes in my mind and heart.  Today, here at Fort Worden State Park as I read a few pages from Backpacking With the Saints-Wilderness Hiking As Spiritual Practice by Belden Lane I am reminded that I am constantly on a spiritual journey.  I am a spiritual vagabond as I was called by my teacher and later mentor and then friend and brother Doug Anderson.  Who am I?  I am a Learner.

Slowly I am learning that God’s voice can be heard by me when I spend time in stillness and quietness.  That voice is well known to me, for it is my thoughts, but thoughts that arise from quietness, not from the frantic impulses of my mind.  There is a difference, a qualitative difference.  My mind is always racing, running down this street and then the next ally, but in stillness, the intentional quietness of body and soul and mind, other thoughts surface, unexpected insights, words, directions.

Oh, often I do not trust these thoughts.  I discard them as only the rumination of an aging man so I need the help of my spiritual director to discern what is of me and only me, and what is of me through the window of God.  So I invite my spiritual director to help me in this journey.  I need to learn how to trust myself, that is trust the God who lives inside of me and who desires to “speak” to me.

Who am I?  I am a Learner, an aging man on a spiritual journey which includes a lot of listening.

Lesson One Taught to me through Grand Daughter Hazelle

When my granddaughter Hazelle was only hours old I was talking with her and I pondered, “Hazelle, what are all the lessons that you have for me to learn through you?”  Lesson One is described below.

There is no one more dependent, more vulnerable than a new born baby, especially a baby in the neonatal unit of a hospital.  “Truly I tell you, whoever does to receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)  Vulnerable?  Vulnerable…it is not a word that I relish to hear, nor to experience and yet it is Lesson One.

A week or two ago I met with my spiritual director and after sharing a number of personal things with her, she asked the perennial spiritual direction question: “What is God’s invitation to you in all of this?”  After silence, thought, prayer, listening,  I said that I think God is calling me to rest in him.  My director reframed the word rest by asking, “Might God be saying, ‘Let me take care of you?'”  Being taken care of by God sounded good, but then I pictured Hazelle…dependent, vulnerable.  Is that what I want?  I am the caregiver.  I always have been the caregiver, in my marriage, in relationships, in ministry.  Caregiver, that is my role, that is my identify, but now I was being invited to be cared for.  Wow, how absolutely hard is that?!

But the drama of vulnerability inches forward.  A few days ago I had group supervision for the spiritual direction, certification program in which I am participating and the word that surfaced continually for me was the word vulnerability.  But then the word carried with it more than simply being taken care of.  In supervision, vulnerability came to mean allowing myself to feel, to be angry, to be hurt, to feel grief and loss, to not have all the answers, to not have to fix things, fix people, fix problems, fix myself.  Vulnerable came to mean being known, being know at the deep levels of my being, not simply by others but even to be known to myself.  Can I allow myself to be vulnerable?

Why would I even want to know and be known in such vulnerable ways?  A hundred years ago in my confirmation class I learned that God is omniscient, all-knowing, but am I really willing to invite Jesus into all the deep` crevices of my heart and life?  It is one thing to have a doctrine about what God does or does not know, but it is another thing to be personally, intimately known by him.  If God in Christ intimately knows me, he also invites me to know myself at those levels and to know that even in the hidden areas of my life I am still his BELOVED.  Why do I want to “know and be known in such vulnerable ways?” Because I deeply desire the love of God to fill every corner of my life.  To be open to God is to be vulnerable to God and even to myself.  To be open to God is also to be open to others, for I am not on this spiritual journey alone.

Why do I want to “know and be known?”  Because if I can know and be known at such levels and be set free to also know the deep, deep love of God, then maybe others can also come to know that love while I am with them.  Maybe God’s love calling us his Beloved will also set others free through me. Can WE be set on fire TOGETHER by God’s love?

Such love is a non-judgmental love.  It is a freeing love.  It is a love that heals and forgives.  Such love at the deepest levels of our being is the only thing that can begin, one person at a time, to make a difference in this world that desperately needs love.

Hazelle, teach me how to be truly vulnerable.

Buffeted by the Winds

It is night time and the wind is blowing.  No, not simply a gentle breeze, but strong gusts rock the trailer which is my temporary home.  Noise, shaking are all part of the night’s buffeting.  No, it is not a hurricane nor a tornado, just a lot of wind buffeting my small home.

As the night wind continues to blow, I have been thinking of so many people, both know and unknown to me, whose lives are being buffeted by the winds of sickness, loneliness, financial difficulties, emptiness, a sense of fear and uncertainty, disasters, grief and loss and the list is legion.  Such buffeting comes from life itself, from choices that we have made, circumstances beyond our control, from the deep, deep “demons” within us, from our own insecurities and insufficiencies and perhaps from the Evil One himself.  Yes, the forces are legion.  The buffeting winds of life are often immobilizing and even terrifying.  So what are we to do?

Some times we go into our “problem-solving-mode” and try to figure out some remedy for the buffeting winds.  At other times we “go to work,” go to the office, or simply fill our time with business and try not to think about anything.  Isn’t there a saying “Idle hands are the devil’s work place,” or something like that?  At other times we pray and we pray and we pray, but it seems to me that often our prayers direct our thoughts more and more upon ourselves or upon the problem.  When the buffeting winds of life happen we try to take shelter from the storms in whatever way we are able.

The ways of God are often just the opposite our inclinations, our natural, intuitive actions.  The people of Israel were up against the Red or Reed Sea on one hand and the advancing Egyptian army to their rear.  What did Moses tell the people?  “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the  LORD will accomplish…. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14: 13,14)  And the Psalmist wrote, “Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him…. .  Be still, and know that I am God!” (Ps. 37:7; 46:10)

Now I have hear all the arguments against being still:  God has given us minds to figure things out; we just can’t do nothing;  we have resources to use that God has given us; we can’t expect God to do “everything,” and the excuses for not “being still” drive us to frenzied activity.  And my word to all those who rely upon our own efforts is “If it is working for you, keep it up.  There will be a time when all you do will not be enough, and God’s invitation to you is to “Be still, and know that I am God,” rather than you.