I love doing nature hikes with Anabelle. And we do miss hiking and out hiking buddies in Northern California.
It is always a refreshing experiencing walking through the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Nothing is more exhilarating than breathing the fresh clean air along the seaside trails of Lobos Beach in Carmel. And what can be more breath-taking and awesome to behold than the panoramas and the vistas from the heights of Mt. Tam and Mt. Diablo.
I see the mountains in all their grandeur ~ solid, unmoving, majestic ~ and I am moved. A mute testimony to their awesome Creator. I enter a cathedral of giant redwoods and sequoias, heavenly scented, and instantly my spirit soars upward in prayer. I am on holy ground. I hear the birds, unseen but a mysterious presence nonetheless, singing their hymns of praise to the Almighty. Their melody is something my heart has always been singing all my life. Wild flowers and sometimes butterflies add a panoply of colors that proclaim the greatness of their Source. Such beauty, such bountiful silence, such boundless goodness.
I often feel like kneeling down on the forest floor and singing like I was attending a mass: Holy, holy, holy Lord! God of Power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
When I am wronged, I want justice and retribution;
but when I do wrong I desire mercy and forgiveness.
In a world so full of injustice and oppression,
justice is needed to restore balance and equilibrium in society.
One wise man once said: “If you want peace, work for justice.”
In most action movies today (and these are often blockbusters),
people want to see justice served in the end;
and for goodness to triumph over evil with only the good guy left standing.
But the quest for justice can become corrupted and
can degenerate into an endless cycle of violence and revenge.
Justice alone is not enough.
Mercy and forgiveness are a bigger victory over evil;
for they break the cycle of violence and revenge.
It is the stronger man who can seek justice and can also forgive.
There is a great tendency today for people to do things for show or to make a good impression; not because it is the right thing to do. A popular expression is “What you see is what you get ~ nothing less but also nothing more.” There is no going the extra mile. There is no doing good. In fact, sometimes doing bad is perverted and portrayed as something good. Selfishness and greed are extolled as enlightened self-interest. Aggressiveness and anger are extolled as assertiveness. Pride and arrogance are extolled as a healthy self-image. Gluttony and hedonism are extolled as the good life.
This personality ethic is very shallow and superficial. The good things that people have done comes from something deeper in the character. It goes much deeper and comes from something stronger from within us. And this is the part of us that Christ speaks to when he challenges us to follow him.
Following Jesus often sounds foolish and foolhardy in the face of the self-serving pragmatism of the world. And yet, his way seems to me the only way the world can save itself from self-destruction.
The world has never been so much material goods as in the present times; and yet there are billions who survive on less than a dollar day. Who will feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the homeless? Not the bankers nor traders in Wall street for sure but those who respond and resonate with the call of Jesus for love and generosity.
There has never been a more interconnected world than the one we live in now; and yet we are kept apart from one another by so much anger, hatred, violence and the desire for revenge and retribution. Who will stop the cycle of violence so that we can live in peace and harmony? Not world leaders who foment the anger and hatred among their own people but those who listen and follow the call of Jesus for love and forgiveness.
The world has never experienced so much material comforts and luxuries as today; and yet there has never been as much pain, anguish and suffering in the world. Who will ease the pain and bind the wounds to make us whole and holy again? Not those who wallow in comfort or luxury but those who take up their cross daily to live simple lives dedicated to serving and loving others.
I used to love get-togethers and being with people.
It must be something that I learned or got from Ima.
I loved inviting friends and families to such gatherings
and I love being invited to such gatherings.
I imagine Jesus must also have loved get-togethers.
He attended weddings, feasts, had dinner with friends, visited relatives
and, yes, he even went to funerals.
He had many stories comparing the kingdom of heaven to a banquet, a great feast.
Such gatherings are a celebration and strengthening of relationships.
It has been rather difficult for me to be in such gatherings lately.
You see, my hearing is not as good as it used to be;
and I have always been hard of hearing.
And at my age, I feel more comfortable being alone.
People close to me make adjustments.
But I hate it having to explain to others that I have hearing problems.
Still, I love being with people.
But I have come to terms with silence and being alone.
I live in a network of relationships – links to nature, to people, to God.
For what is life but a tapestry of the places we have been to,
the people we have come into contact with,
the events we have been part of,
and the God who brought all of this together for us.
I can live my life using these relationships just for my self-satisfaction.
I can choose to live by what the world seems to go by: what is in it for me?
Or, I can choose to live my life in generosity –
to give and not to count the cost,
to labor and not ask for reward.
The more time I spend in silence and prayer,
the more I am prodded to live my life for others,
rather than living it for myself alone.
So, the choice for me is pretty obvious.
Oh, there are times of temptations
when I would just want to wallow in selfish gratification;
or just to give up trying, doubting if my efforts are worth anything;
or succumbing to the blandishments of the question
most everybody else seems to be asking – what is in it for me.
I must pray and must pray without ceasing
– for the grace of generosity, faith, perseverance, humility, charity.
Until I come into the fullness of all the relationships that sustain and fortify me. Remember always the life is paradox and a mystery.
Two big words I encountered in my philosophy studies are transcendence and immanence. Transcendence refers to God as being the totally other: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Immanence is the divine manifested in or encompassing the material world: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” Aware of God’s transcendence, I stand in awe and will love Him with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my strength. This is life’s vertical axis. Aware of God’s immanence, I will love others and all of creation because of God’s presence in them as He is present in me. This is life’s horizontal axis. Together – love of God and love of neighbors – are two axes that form the cross – the crosses of our lives but also the cross of our salvation.
Why is it that evil people seem to prosper and good men suffer? Is it because being good is often thought to be the same as being weak or naive? Of having a Lose-Win mentality? Being good is not easy. It needs Win-Win thinking. And that requires courage and integrity. Life’s horizontal axis constantly reminds us of an Omnipotent God who is both Good and Just so we must be good for goodness’ sake. Life’s horizontal axis calls us of our neighbors and the rest of creation as also repositories of God’s goodness and justice.
In temperate regions, it is Autumn and the leaves on trees have started to change their colors. I remember enjoying these autumn leaves when we lived in California. In other places the colors of the leaves is even more wilder and riotous. It makes for an awesome and delightful sight and experience.
Soon the trees will begin shedding off their leaves. The landscape will be bare, cold and desolate. Yet, there is ever the hope of spring when everything comes back to life. It is amazing how God (okay, Nature for some) can transform detritus into beauty or dust (okay, it is in fact stardust) into a breathing human being. It is even more amazing how He can transform me, a weak-kneed sinner into a good person through his grace.
“Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Life is a paradox and its deepest truths are a mystery. There are realities that cannot be proven scientifically and some people have concluded that these do not exist, like the soul, or spirit, or life after death or even God. Some truths are contradictions, like it is in giving that we receive; in pardoning that we are pardoned and in dying that we are born to eternal life; that being slave is to be free and that suffering and pain lead to happiness and joy.
I have learned that the yoke of love and forgiveness is indeed a lighter load than the bitterness and anger that comes with hate and desire for revenge; that the yoke of sharing and generosity is easier to carry than the anxiety and envy that comes with greed and self-centeredness; that being a slave to simplicity and service frees me from the enslavement of and obsession for material goods an possession.
Yes, Christ and his words make sense and they are indeed the source of life. But there are times I refuse to listen or to heed them. A cup full of stale water cannot take in new and fresh water.