Sunday Services for a Panentheist

Bear and I had a walk like we haven’t had in a while. There was so much to smell. The trail was a mess — snow, packed snow, ice, bare gravel, mud, whatever. We don’t care. I only wanted to go as far along the river and into the slough as I knew I wouldn’t be entering the great cattle litter box that is the Rio Grande Wildlife Area at the moment.

The views were amazing — I took pictures but…

It was truly the first magical hike since I hurt my foot in September. Bear felt it, too, which is the great thing about dogs and Bear in particular. She is capable of entering into my experience which is, I guess, an attribute of the livestock guardian dogs. They are bred to be “tuned in.”

The Rio Grande is still mostly frozen, but a channel in the middle is flowing and breaking up the ice. That was very cool to hear. The sound made me think of Into the Wild. I thought of Chris McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) and came up with the McCandless Rule of Survival: park your bus on the side of the river from which you came and where you remember there having been a store and a gas station.

A magic hike is my version of a religious experience. Lots of things can interfere with that — lately it’s been apprehension over the foot. Now I know the limitations of that foot and also that I can ignore most of the twinges.

THE moment came when I heard a few geese take flight over the river in a spot where the bank was too high for me to see them. I thought of climbing up the hill then thought, “No, this is perfect, this is ideal. They don’t need me to see them. And, for me, hearing them is enough.” So bear and I watched the bank where we couldn’t see the geese. We tracked their flight — there might have been anywhere from 2 to 4 geese — through their calls and it was lovely. Then the little prayer wafted into my heart directly through my eyes as it does. “I love you so much,” I said, softly to the world, to the light, to the trees, the uneven snow, the geese, the moment, the pure blue sky, the moment. Bear leaned against me, wrapping herself so I am standing in a shallow curve made by her body.

“Thank you for bringing me to this river,” I said softly to the sky. “Thank you for understanding my fucked up knees, and thank you for showing me this world which has been completely new to me.” Bear continued leaning and I pet her ears. “Thank you for bringing me this dog who doesn’t need to hurry and who is such amazing company.” I also thank whatever it is for all the huskies and all the trails we ran. I am again in the timeless embrace of “god.” It’s been a while.

I don’t know how to explain it, but in the gesture of loving me Bear shares my love for everything. I am 100% sure she — as much as a dog needs to pray — prays my prayer with me. We do love it so much.

All the human BS of the last few days retreated into the vast chasm in which it belongs. I have returned to the timeless transience of light, land, water, rock and beast. Thank whatever. ❤

“Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.”

We were just kids, didn’t know our asses from our elbows, and were all about to take the big step into the big world where things were not ordered and interpreted by the deacons of First Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Some of us were excited for the BIG ADVENTURE of the REAL world which, in the late 60’s and early 70’s was a pretty flash place rife with sex and drugs and rock’n’roll. We were a close knit bunch, most of us honor students, and I had the supreme honor of being elected President of the BYF (Baptist Youth Fellowship). Unfortunately, I made some miscalculations about the motives of the church leaders and ended up being thrown out of my youth group but still “allowed” to attend church. Pretty damned white of them, don’t you think? You can read about that event here. My long ago post about an unctuous deacon at my church It’s a good story.

Many of the church leaders felt that “shunning” and “ejecting” me was unfair and attempted to bring me back into the fold. After all, I had a demonstrably fucked up family, dad rushing toward death from MS, mom on drugs and booze and a little brother who was headed for the dark side. There was every possibility that I could be saved from perdition. I clearly had a good heart, a good soul, knew my Bible, had made some big contributions to the church and the youth group from which I’d been ejected, and Jesus didn’t want to lose the members of his flock.

The local Baptist summer camp — Black Forest Baptist Assembly — needed counsellors and one of my “allies” talked my mom into letting me be a counselor for a week at a kid’s camp. I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, but I needed to be away from my mom. My mom, on the other hand, needed me at home to help with my dad. The Pastor came, talked to my mom about it and I got to go. I was 18, just out of high school, had suffered my first serious broken heart, was about to start college. It was 1970.

That week counseling a group of Jr. High girls at Black Forest Baptist Assembly in a primitive camp was absolutely wonderful fantastic life-altering and redemptive. I had never had a summer camp experience. I had never slept in a tent. I’d spent a lot of time in woods and hills, but had never had the chance to share that with anyone. The Pastor who ran that camp was great. He loved the outdoors, was generous-hearted, funny and the kids loved him. A few weeks afterward, I started college.

The next summer I was invited back. It seemed that in spite of my questionable allegiance to Baptist tenets, I was a gifted summer camp counselor. My mom was persuaded to let me spend most of the summer as a CIT, Counselor in Training, which meant that I would counsel a few camps, work in the kitchen preparing meals for the primitive camps, and share a cabin with a friend. I’d also have a chance to lead arts and crafts if any of the camp leaders wanted it.

I had my second run-in with “unctuous deacons” that summer.

The same Pastor who had been so great the year before ran one of the camps in which I would be working and he specifically asked if I would be counseling that summer. I didn’t know that in the intervening year, he’d become “born again” at a revival meeting. He’d experienced a visitation of the “spirit” and had spoken in tongues. His orientation to the camp experience had changed completely. Rather than games of “steal the bacon,” nature hikes, campfire songs and s’mores, the kids were rounded up and made to sit for HOURS in the ONE enclosure in the primitive camp while the pastor pushed toward a “charismatic” experience with the Lord. It was awful. The kids were junior high kids, not all from a church, some just there because it was truly the best camping experience in the area (usually).

Finally, one rainy evening, after dinner, as a thunderstorm broke all around us, a group of kids and I ran away to take a hike. As the storm ended, we climbed a ridge. The sun was dropping behind the mountains, hitting the mammatus clouds with golden light. The same light reflected on water droplets all around us. It was a shimmering, glimmering, light-filled, brand new world of sublime beauty.

“We should have communion,” said one of the kids.

“We don’t have any bread or juice,” said another kid.

“I’ll go down to the main camp and get some.”

“OK,” I said, equally enchanted by the beauty of the moment from this high place, the rapidly changing light and the authentic fellowship of a dozen kids (including me) on a hard hike. He ran down the hill, raided the kitchen, stole a pack of Chips Ahoy cookies and a bottle of fruit drink.

There on that hill we shared a spiritual experience in Nature’s holy light. Instead of Kumbaya or some other hymn-like thing we joined hands and sang a pop song…

“And then?” you might be wondering… Well the Pastor complained to the camp director who then called me in and asked me what happened. I explained it all, expecting to be ejected and shunned yet again but no.

“I agree with you, Martha. That’s what camp is for. Enjoying the beauty and blessings of nature, God’s gift to us. I don’t approve of this charismatic stuff. It’s not for everyone, and certainly not for children. As you know, a lot of our campers are not Baptist or maybe any faith. Browbeating them into believing something is wrong. I’ll talk to him.”

The upshot was that I worked two more camps that summer, and met the boy who might have been the great love of my life (last time I saw him was 2004). Then a day came when my mom showed up out of no where and said, “You have to come home. I can’t take care of your dad myself. We have to take him to a nursing home.”

But I had that sunset and it lit my heart forever.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/10/02/rdp-wednesday-unctuous/

A story on this subject you might enjoy is Langston Hughe’s “Salvation.”

The Messiah

Yesterday my friend, E, invited my friend K and I to go with her to hear The Messiah which was being performed at the catholic church in Alamosa by the Valley Community Chorus and the San Luis Valley Symphony.

Remember. The “community” is as large as Connecticut and has fewer than 50,000 people in it.

The sanctuary was PACKED. We were a little late because of me. I had some problems with the dogs while I was getting “gussied up” (elegance? not quite) and ultimately forgot to close the back door and we had to turn around, but we still got seats.

The first singer was a young man with an amazing tenor voice.

I listened to the music and its story and thought of Jesus.

I think a lot about Jesus. People’s belief in Jesus is about all I write about. And, it’s a big thing for people. When I bought my new table, the very nice people from whom I bought it asked me about my church. It’s a normal thing here. I am also OK telling the truth which is that I’m good with God, I don’t want to join a team.

Some atheist friends of mine in San Diego who were using a Christ based curriculum to homeschool their kids got around it by calling it the “Jesus story.” I think it’s a lot more than that. I think it’s a very important story beyond the boundaries of any organized religion. It’s humanity’s story. I was conscious of it again listening to the Messiah.

This little baby is born — a birth that is miraculous because we can’t have an ordinary birth or an ordinary baby if we’re going to make this an important story.

In The Messiah (and in the Christmas story) my favorite part is where the angels appear to the terrified shepherds and say, “Be not afraid…”

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2

Compassion, in the sky.

When they got to “…peace, good will toward men” I wanted to cry.  I saw the whole thing.  Thousands of generations people at war with someone, mothers and fathers mourning the deaths of their children, cultures destroyed. I saw acrimony and anger everywhere FOREVER. Me in an argument on Facebook about whether my “remote” valley “deserves” tax money from the good people of Denver to keep operating our tiny, rural, life-saving airport.

And all the while, people are yearning for peace, including me, but I also want to punch the guy’s face in for not getting it.

Why is it so hard? Jesus — and others — have laid it out very clearly. “Love God and love your neighbor.” It’s totally possible to do those two things whether God’s name is Yaweh or Lamont. It doesn’t matter. And if there IS no God, you can still love your neighbor.

And I thought — not for the first time — “Poor Jesus.”

The story spun itself out climaxing in Jesus resurrection in the “Hallelujah Chorus” for which everyone stood and some sang along. It was a beautiful moment observing the people who live in ‘my” valley.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/elegance/