Thursday, February 1, 2018

Come Holy Spirit Come

In our prayers, meditations and spiritual practices we often forget to call upon the Holy Spirit, or as Jesus calls her in the Gospel of John, the Advocate or Paraclete (No not parakeet! Paraclete). Jesus says that he must leave, but he will not abandon us. He is sending the Advocate from the Father to be with us, guide us and provide us protection from the enemy within and without. In our spiritual lives the Holy Spirit is often like the Cinderella of the Trinity, everyone one went to the ball but she was left at home! 

We tend to be a Christocentric people when it comes to our faith and prayers, forgetting the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet when we call upon the Holy Spirit she comes, and mighty is her presence. The Holy Spirit is there for us always, even when we can’t, or don’t know how to pray. The Apostle Paul tells us that she intercedes on our behalf to the Father, speaking in groans, moans and ways that we can’t understand. 

Filled with the Holy Spirit we can overcome the darkness and challenges of this life, and triumph over chaos, despair, loss and hopelessness. The Spirit is a healing and transforming fire that ignites our hearts with a passionate blaze inspiring us to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ into the world. She also empowers our hearts, minds and souls with strength, courage and power to overcome all obstacles and pain that we experience in our own lives. All we have to do is invite the Spirit into our lives and our hearts, and she will transform our very ethos.

Pneumatology is the term for Christian theology regarding the the Holy Spirit. And while she is a mystery and talked about little, she is the third “Person” of the Holy Trinity. She is God herself who intercedes in our lives with a transforming power that instills love, hope and abundant joy where there was once brokenness, suffering, pain and sorrow. She comes into our lives like the rush of a mighty wind, just as she did when she empowered Jesus’ disciples for ministry after his death, resurrection and ascension. The same Holy Spirit will come to us in like fashion when we call upon her, empowering our lives with renewed faith, revitalized strength and  spiritual fortitude, allowing us to meet our most intense daily challenges and hardships with faith and sure and certain confidence. The Advocate will never leave or abandon us. It is us who all to often abandons her. 
It takes just the slightest glimmer of faith and trust in God to allow the Spirit to work in our lives. When we do, we will feel a transformation and genuine freedom that touches the very core of our soul. No evil or wickedness that assaults us can stand up to presence of God the Holy Spirit. Her radiant and bathing loving light empowers us through a renewed faith to defeat our worst enemies, usually our self - sabotaging self. 

In all our brokenness we can call upon the Holy Spirit to heal and mend our broken hearts and spirits. The only thing worse that a broken spirit is a person completely void of a spirit. When invited to the ball we call our heart, the Holy Spirit blows through us revitalizing our lives, filling that hole that may exist within us with a healing light, renewed hope and life transforming love. 

Invite the Holy Spirit to that ball we call our souls, and dance with her. She will lead us into a life of joy, happiness and purpose, a purpose that will fit like a glass slipper around our hearts, minds and spirits.  All are invited to this dance, and no one gets left at home.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Our True Reliance is Upon God

We live in a world that is extremely busy and easily distracts us from the love and presence of God. This is a world in which so many people base their happiness, joy and success upon what they achieve in life, along with what they gain in the world. No wonder we witness the demise of people’s health, the desolation of relationships and such unhappiness in society.  We often forget, ignore or simply don’t care about our relationship with God, and the significant role Christ plays in our daily lives. 

Jesus at one point in his ministry talked about the difference between building our house on either sand, or rock. Of course the sand meaning establishing our lives upon people, places and things of the world. The rock being Christ himself. There is an alluring aspect in this world to base our self-worth upon our personal identity, acquired worldly goods, as well as comparing ourselves and self-worth to others. We even base our self-esteem and our intimate relationships on the standards of our modern day society. This is what Jesus means when he talks about building our houses (lives) on sand. Sand shifts, is unstable and easily gets washed away by a stream, river or rain. There is no stability in that lifestyle. When torrential down pours or swollen rivers flood our lives, often we are washed away, helpless with no spiritual footing to guard or protect us.

On the other hand Jesus talks about building our houses (lives) on rock (him). Christ is ever constant in our lives when we have faith. No matter how bad the storms of life, or the fierceness of a rapid river, we will be unmoved and secure. Of course this all depends on our relationship with God. We have free will, thus we have the final choice when it comes to prioritizing and building our lives. Do we place all of our self-worth, measure our  success and form our identity by the standards of the world? Do we establish our marriages and relationships with others by that same standard, all built on sand? Or do we choose the path of Christ, and establish our lives on his firm and unmovable bedrock? The choice is obviously ours to make.

Faith is unseen and something that comes from trusting God in all situations. Prayer and meditation are important aspects to building a stronger, more reliable and unquestioning faith. Our faith will sustain us through the difficulties and the harsh realities of life. When we blame God for all our problems rather than turning to him in prayer and faith, our lives suffer and if not careful become washed away in a tide of darkness, helplessness and hopelessness. 

For the past few years my life was basically faithless. The unfairness and cruelty of this vicious world swept me down stream. My faith and life were built on unstable sand, as well as resentment, anger, and a mental illness that I never asked for, depriving my life of all hope. The darkness was so black that I could no longer see the light of Christ, only that helpless feeling of knowing this was the end. So many terrible things happened all at once during those three wretched years of utter pain and loneliness. God seemed distant, if present at all. I beat myself up and lived with regret, remorse and morbid grief. Then, I realized that this was life on life’s terms and there was very little I could do about all that had occurred in my life. I needed Christ in my life. That was the only way I would find healing, power and hope.

It took only a mustard seed of faith to begin to transform my life into one that is becoming ever so gradually healthier. I made a decision to trust in Jesus no matter what the outcome. My life couldn’t get any worse than it had already become. I was so sick, both mentally and spiritually. I began to turn my struggles, worries, relationships and fears over to Christ, putting those negative and hurtful thoughts, people and actions into his hands. Things began to change. I’ve slowly begun to let go of the past and live in the present, not perfectly, but at least it’s a start. I once again had to rely and build my house on Jesus, my rock, my hope and my salvation. As difficult as it has been, forgiveness began to slowly and subtly creep into my war torn life. I realized we have to forgive others in order to move on in life. That is often difficult especially when we’ve been deeply wounded and hurt. However, there is no room to hold grudges when attempting to living a life in Christ. It just doesn’t work. We become bitter people. Life is to short, and cutting away the cumbersome baggage of the past is a must for a healthy, peaceful and hopeful future. By doing this we find true freedom and a renewed, reconciled life in Christ.

It is important that we rely upon God in our lives, because God’s presence brings us peace. Anything we try to substitute for that peace brings about a life of chaos. Thus when our reliance for a well grounded and happy life is built on sand, we invite chaos into every aspect of our lives. Our reliance is no longer upon God.

Through the love and sacrifice of Jesus, no longer do we have to allow that pitch and utter darkness into our lives. No matter how difficult and hopeless life may feel, God is never through with us. He is always present,. God invites us to travel a path with him that may seem scary at first as we walk into the unknown. Yet if we trust and rely on Christ to take charge of our lives we will find ourselves better off than we ever were before.

Jesus is our firm rock and radiant light that dispels and breaks all darkness that crashes down upon us.  By his holy name no shadows can ever overcome us. Our true reliance is upon God, any thing else is just a bad substitute.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mental Illness And Shameful Fear  

Mental Disabilities are all to often looked at as taboo, even in todays modern world. It’s a subject usually best left quiet in our society, especially for those who have a medical mental diagnosis. Those who suffer from various forms and degrees of mental disability are generally afraid to disclose or reveal their struggles due to the stigmatism created by our culture. People diagnosed with cancer or diabetes usually receive sympathy and genuine caring concern, while a person who reveals they have some from of mental illness are sometimes avoided like the plague, or even silently ostracized by the community. Apparently our culture watches way too many psycho thriller horror films created by Hollywood! 

Mental Illness is real, and like it or not exists in our society. Those who suffer from one of these life altering disabilities certainly didn’t ask for it, just like a person diagnosed with cancer didn’t put that disease on their Christmas list either. The brain is an organ just like the heart, liver or kidneys. It can become sick too. Yet those diagnosed with a mental disability often live under a cloud of shame and embarrassment out fear of rejection by others. Revealing a mental disease to an actual or potential employer, friends, family or a relationship is extremely frightening, as well as  intimidating since the reaction one receives in return is usually met with unfounded fear, denial or ambiguity. 

Unlike other illness that affect the body, mental disorders affect our neurological system, creating behavioral type issues. Some disorders even affect the physiological functions of the brain. Like people who suffer from other types of illnesses, those who suffer from mental illness, whether it be psychological, physiological or a combination of both, need compassion, nurturing, love and affirmation as well. It’s often a lonely and dark world for those with mental illness. Society simply doesn’t, or chooses not to understand the daily struggles a person goes through, and the fear of living in a world that views them as something to avoid or condemn. Of course this is not always the case, but it is much more the norm than not. Those who suffer from mental illness often feel like modern day lepers or untouchables.

Mental illness is difficult to live with each and every day. A person who suffers from mental sickness often feels as if they are on the outside of society looking in, and never a part of the life around them. They simply exist silently in a world of hopeless and helpless fear, anxiety and depression, wondering if they will ever experience the slightest form of acceptance. Unfortunately those who suffer from a mental disorder all too often live with that feeling of “Waiting for the next shoe to drop.”

There are many good medications today that are able to treat most mental illnesses, but since everyones brain chemistry is different, finding the right combination of pharmaceuticals and the correct dosages is not easy, and takes time. Often these drugs have undesirable side effects as well. Psychotherapy also plays a major role in learning to live a better and healthier life for the person who suffers from a mental disorder.  Depending on the severity of the illness and the diagnosis, often change is slow as new patterns of thinking need to develop. Change is difficult for many of us that don’t suffer from mental illness, but it is extremely challenging for those who do. At times its like fighting an uphill battle in three feet of mud. It’s slow, messy and takes constant, persistent and exhausting determination.  

Self-Esteem, self-worth and embarrassment are all too often the constant companions of those who are mentally ill. Questions, such as, “Why me?” constantly churn around in their daily thoughts. Loved ones and lifetime partners often don’t know how to accept or cope with their family member’s diagnosis and altered behavior. It is a lonely place when one feels they have little to no support from the ones they love. Sometimes they experience rejection, denial and even divorce. It’s difficult enough to deal with and accept the illness itself, but it is far worse when family members, spouses and close friends don’t understand and tell the person, “There’s nothing wrong with you,” or on the other hand they overreact, and make the person’s illness all about themselves and how it will affect their own lives. This kind of behavior from our loved ones creates so much shame, guilt and confusion for the person who suffers, especially if they are unable to work or continue with normal daily activities or household chores. Real or not, they often feel berated, experience hostile emotions from those close to them or abandoned, destined to a life of remorse, sorrow and pain. It’s a dark and bleak path without the support, compassion and understanding of the ones we love. 

According to the organization Mental Health in America (MIH), 1 in 5 Adults have a mental health condition. That's over 40 million Americans; more than the populations of both New York and Florida combined. 18% of adults in this country have some type of mental illness. Nearly half of those have a co-occuring substance abuse disorder. And 9.6% experience suicidal ideation. 

Those are staggering numbers! But we are not alone. There are many famous people who have accomplished great things in life, feats that have influenced our modern day world. Even in their illness they made great contributions to the fields of art, science, leadership and music and more. For example just to name a few, Abraham Lincoln suffered from severe depression, Steve Jobs suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, General Douglas MacArther was diagnoses with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Marilyn Monroe had Histrionic Personality Disorder, Michelangelo was diagnosed with Autism, Beethoven suffered from Bipolar disorder, writing one of his greatest pieces while in a severe state of mania. Van Gogh suffered from Bipolar Disorder and another great artist Andy Warhol was diagnosed with Autism. These men and women suffered deeply from their mental disorders yet went on to accomplish incredible and influential accomplishments that still influence our society today.

Still mental illness is a thief that often robs those who suffer of their self-worth, faith, identity and hope. Our mental health is important because those who suffer from an illness sometimes fall into the trap of real despair, dark depression, intense anxiety and their lives become one’s of hopeless and meaninglessness existence, with no sense of purpose in life, as well as abysmal emptiness. That’s no way to live, especially when dreams are suddenly shattered, jobs lost, marriages dissolved, financial issues occur and loneliness and despair sets in like never before. To make matters even worse a genuine sense of spiritual destitution occurs,  leaving one hollow in their soul and feeling utterly abandoned by God. 

These are heartbreaking situations, yet feelings that are in fact a reality for many who suffer from mental illness. There are those too in society who feel sorry for those with mental disorders, but usually do very little to show genuine compassion, affirmation or outreach. An, “I’ll keep you in my prayers often just doesn’t cut it.” People have their own lives to live and those who can’t keep up because they are mentally impaired are left behind, cast by the wayside, left feeling desperate, hopeless and helpless. Shame and remorse become a way of life, capped by a sense of self-loathing and personal failure.

Abandoned in a bleak world is no way to live. While resources for many mental illnesses are available, they are few and far between. For many of us who have mental disorders, it’s a harsh and lonely world that we exist in on a daily, even hourly basis. And while not all mental illnesses lead down this road, many do and those who exist in this world suffer in harsh silence.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Finding that Peace in Jesus we all Crave

When we observe healthy traditions in our lives, it helps us preserve healthy values. Life is full of chaos and turmoil. We encounter hardships and challenges every day of our lives. Whether it be personal in nature, professional of or merely due to illness, it is important to remember that there isn’t enough room in our lives for both chaos and peace. Each day we must make the decision regarding which one we choose, peace or chaos. 

Often we think peace is something that just magically manifests itself in our lives through aimless prayer. When it doesn’t we often feel dejected, disappointed or even angry. Real peace isn’t the result of doing less or trying harder. Rather real peace is the result of simply trusting more and more in Jesus. This means we need to give everything to Christ, our whole lives and beings. Perhaps we suffer from the pain of a broken relationship or loss of a marriage, the struggles or termination of a job, or even an expected medical diagnosis that leads to disability or the facing of life’s finality. 

God brings peace. Anything we try to substitute for his peace will surely bring chaos into our lives. Speaking the name of Jesus brings the peace we all seek. By his name God assures us we will find deep and abiding love and peace within our hearts. In Jesus’ name we are promised healing, hope and blessed freedom from those things that weigh on our lives.

It is important to understand as we begin to travel this road with Christ, that peace doesn’t mean the absence of pain. However, the peace we find in God is a power that is much greater than our pain. In order to have an abundant and healthy spiritual life, one that brings us peace, we must find a power greater than ourselves. That power is Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. 

Through sincere and intentional prayer we allow God to look at our hearts. He already knows our greatest needs, as well as our hopeless cries for help. God understands the depths of our despair and what our souls most desperately need. Jesus knows our hearts. When we turn to Christ, everything that haunts or disturbs our lives will break and smash against the mighty name of Jesus. So remember, Jesus will come to our aid in time of need , sorrow or despair. While our desires may not turn out exactly how we envision or pray, one thing we are guaranteed, through the love and sacrifice or Jesus, we will find eternal peace, 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas and the Love and Joy of Jesus, God Incarnate

During World War One, the British and the Germans were fighting in France using dreadful trench warfare. On Christmas Eve of 1916, a hush lay over the battle ravaged land, a place of massive destruction and desolation. It represented man kinds brokenness and hatefulness at its worst. Yet on this special night all was serial and quiet. Both warring sides had simply, spontaneously and without truce taken a break from the fighting while worshipping the Christ Child in their own manner. 

In the middle of the night a small portion of the British troops, embedded in their trenches began to sing the well known hymn, “Silent Night.” As they quietly sang the hymn, unbeknownst to them their melodic voices drifted across no mans land and was heard by the German soldiers in the opposite trenches. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the German soldiers began singing the same hymn, but in their own language. The two languages and faithful Christian voices blended together across the ravaged and desolate battle field where so many good men on both sides had given their lives. Moved by the love of God and raising a flag of truce, the German soldiers quietly crept across no mans land and joined their brothers in Christ, their enemy, the British soldiers in their trench. All night they sang hymns together and worshipped the Christ Child. Two supposed enemies sworn to kill the other celebrated Christmas together.

At dawn, the German soldiers crept back across no mans land and back into their own trenches. Interestingly the next day the fighting resumed. But these once vowed enemies who had so genuinely celebrated the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the night before, couldn’t and wouldn’t shoot at the other. Rather they both fired their weapon over the others head. Both units were eventually moved and restationed as it became obvious to their commanders something was amiss. The love and light of the Christ Child had touched their hearts and brought them true peace and love for one another. That’s what God does for us when we allow ourselves to become vulnerable enough to receive that holy love.

This is what Christmas is truly about. It’s not about all of the presents, parties and other festivities. It’s about the love of God Incarnate, breaking into this world in the form of a vulnerable human baby. This babe also called in Isaiah, as “The Prince of Peace.” brought joy, peace and love into this world. He radiated such a loving light that he even brought sworn enemies together to celebrate his birth, thus transforming their lives forever. 

Many of us feel alone and sad at Christmas. Perhaps we are by ourselves or have bad memories of the past. Maybe addiction, divorce or sheer loneliness causes us to hate this season. Yet remember, Christ came into this world to redeem the world. He came into this world to bring peace, “The Peace of God which passeth all understanding.”  If we allow ourselves to enter into the holy light of Jesus, we will find peace, and experience the true nature of love and healing in the broken cracks and fissures in our hearts. All we have to do is cross over that vast waste and void we call no mans land.

In that tiny stable tucked way in the business of life we will experience a profound spiritual transformation and spiritual renewal in our lives. Even amongst the chaos and difficulties of life and this world. God calls us to be ambassadors of his name. He calls us to do the often unthinkable, love our neighbors as ourselves. We don’t get to choose our neighbor. 

This is my simple and humble Christmas message to all who chose to read this piece. God is truly love, and God loves you whether you feel it or not. This Christmas stop, and lay down your inner weapons and defenses in life. You are not alone. Let the redeeming, healing and peaceful light of Christ flow over you body, into your mind, and move deeply into your broken heart and soul. For Jesus came into this world to save, redeem, renew and our lives. He brings our hearts true peace, love and  joy. All we have to do is simply lay down our arms, put our flailing trust and faith in God’s promise through his Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and walk into the light we find in that manger.

I close with a verse from the prophet Isaiah which I hope will give those who are especially struggling right now hope and assurance. “Fear not for I am with you, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, and may the light of Christ penetrate the darkness that surrounds you, bringing you hope, love, and renewed life. Remember Jesus was called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us” Jesus later promised he would be with us until the end of the age. Walk into the light. Christ is patiently waiting to embrace you in his loving and healing arms. May God bless each of you today, tomorrow and always.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. John+ 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Finding God in the Darkness of Life

I thought I had arrived. Twenty four years ago I pulled myself up against all odds out of an alcoholic hell, and made something of my life. I had a profound spiritual awakening and experience in those early days of sobriety, one that completely transformed my life in an incredible and life altering manner. Then several years ago without warning, while living happily in the light of the Spirit, in an instant that light disappeared in a cloud of dense, black darkness that descended upon me like an impenetrable veil. Living in a world of utter darkness, absent of God’s light is an excruciatingly painful, and a deeply lonely existence. It leaves a desolate void and a feeling of total emptiness inside one’s soul.

The world in which I found myself was one of hopelessness and helplessness. I tried to pray, meditate and read inspirational literature but they were all to no avail. Life became dismal and meaningless. I sought God in the blackness but there was no response or light, only the sound of my desperate pleas for help and relief. My spiritual grounding and foundation were gone in the blink of an eye, and I felt as if I were merely drifting aimlessly in a sea of darkness and despair with no anchor.

I usually avoid writing about myself and personal challenges, but in this case I break my anonymity in hopes of reaching out to those who suffer as I have, in order to let them know that there is hope despite the emptiness. God still exists in those dark places in our lives as I would eventually discover. 

We all need hope, meaning and purpose in our lives. They provide us with joy, fulfillment and happiness. Yet life often seems cruel and unfair. We all have issues and demons we have to fight and try to overcome. When we are not spiritually grounded and become overwhelmed by life’s cruelty, we feel lost; personally, professionally and spiritually. That is a terrible existence. In my life, the hopelessness, helplessness and darkness seemed so overwhelming at one point, that I stood in my driveway at 12am in the morning wondering if life was worth living. Who needs all of this pain and suffering every single day of their life? My whole world had become overwhelmingly dark and hopeless. Where was God in all of this? Why didn’t God  answer my prayers, or at least give me some sign he was at least listening? I had no desire to live anymore. Self-loathing and hate festered and grew in my heart and soul. As the darkness descended, the tears of anguish flowed down my cheeks. I felt utterly alone and abandoned. I was in the vice grip of mania, anxiety, depression, sorrow and overwhelming fear. Regret and remorse were overpowering as my spirit slowly sank into the abysmal depths of despair. I simply resigned myself to a life of deep misery.

Something unexpected soon occurred. Out of seemly nowhere, I remembered Elijah in I Kings 19. Having run from King Ahab and Jezebel in order to save his own life, he found himself fleeing all the way from Northern Israel to hiding out at Mt. Horeb (Mt Sinai) on the Sinai peninsula (Egypt). Tired, feeling abandoned by God and full of self-centered fear and doubt, he hid in a dark, dank cave on the holy mountain. God then sent a strong wind that cracked and broke rocks. Then he sent a fire storm followed by an earthquake. In all of that crashing wind, blazing storm and earth shaking, Elijah never heard the voice of God despite his desperate prayers. It was only afterwards in the sheer silence when he stepped out of the dark cave that Elijah heard the voice of God. Unexpectedly and suddenly spiritually renewed, he went on to become Israel’s greatest prophet and moved about without fear, worry or doubt. He was filled with God’s Spirit, and realized God never abandoned him. We too must step out of those dark, dank caves and meet God in order to hear his voice and feel his Spirit. We too must take courage to trust God enough to to listen to his voice that often tells us what we don’t want to hear.

God speaks to us so much like Elijah. It is important to remember that God is always present in our lives despite life’s unfairness and difficulties. We just have to listen, not with our ears but with our hearts. If we do, like Elijah, hope will rise up out of the ashes of our lives. We discover that hope is grounded in faithful and joyful determination to persevere in life, knowing that God is with us even in the empty silence. Sometimes God doesn’t give us what we want or desire because he is developing and forging our character. But it is important to remember despite life’s hardships, God always shows up in our lives at the perfect time, God’s time. 

If we look at the New Testament  Gospels we discover that Jesus never promised us an easy life, but he did promise he would be present with us in the details of our lives. Jesus reminds us that we are called to do the will of the Father regardless of what it leads us through, or whatever suffering we must endure. 

I have learned through a recent spiritual reawakening that God is always present in every single part of our lives. God never forgets his promise of salvation to us. Salvation comes through the love and sacrifice of his only begotten Son, Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Through him we receive the promise of a renewed life and are redeemed by his blood. This is God’s promise of complete and unconditional love for each of us. We are all beloved children of God and thus have purpose and meaning in life. I am reminded that God doesn’t make junk. Everything he creates is fundamentally good. So even in the grip of hopeless despair, it’s important to remember that we are all worthy of love, forgiveness and redemption. God will never cast us aside like some putrid garbage.

It’s important to remember as we follow Christ on this spiritual journey, despite the challenges we meet along the way, never mistake God’s silence for his absence. God is with us always, even when we can’t feel his presence. God is stronger than any adversity we may face in this life, or anything that comes against us. Our hope is grounded in our relationship with God. 

Remember during this Christmas season that Jesus was called Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.” If we remain silent in our heart and mind, we will hear the still small voice of God, despite the chaos that ravages the world outside.

As for me, I will not allow my disabilities to define me, for I know in my heart that God is not done with me yet. Take the risk and step out of the dark cave and into the sheer silence and hear the voice of God.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mountain Top Renewal

There is something beautiful, majestic and spiritually liberating being up in the Colorado, Rocky Mountains. There is a mystical and spiritual feeling of liberation, freedom and vibrancy. In that high altitude and thin air, one tends to lose and become unencumbered from life’s burdens that exist down below. They simply fall by the wayside the higher we climb, and are lost in the incredible array of beauty found in the vast, untouched and wild landscape. Overwhelming gratitude and a genuine sense of God’s presence  grows stronger, driving out the heaviness of life’s daily worries and challenges. The stress, anxiety, fear, doubt and depression that often haunt or lurk in our lives simply dissipate. Rather, in that incredible mountain space there is a renewal of hope, a brighter and clearer outlook on life and a since of freedom that can only be described as spiritually rich and profound.

Mountain top experiences are nothing new. Throughout the ages they have influenced and transformed the lives of many people, both figuratively and literally. On Mount Horeb during biblical times, the great prophet Elijah had a profound encounter with God that changed his spiritual life and outlook forever. Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai, is where Elijah learned how to listen and trust the voice of God that came to him in sheer silence. This divine encounter empowered his faith to such a degree that he overcame his fears, and with unencumbered zeal he descended back into the world to become the greatest Old Testament prophet ever known. He couldn’t stay on the mountain forever. He had to go back down into his world, a place full of spiritual draught, danger, hardship, fear, worry and pestilence. Yet Elijah left all of his fear, self-doubt and insecurity on top of that mountain, placing them in the freeing hand of God.

Can we imagine gaining that kind of trust in God? To trust in him enough to let go of our own fears, doubts and anxieties? To have the faith and willingness to place daily worries in God’s hand, and move forward with our lives unencumbered and unrestrained? On that mountain top where life is transforming, it’s easy for us to say yes. But do we have the spiritual fortitude to continue to trust God and the willingness to take our mountain top encounter down into the world? Can we leave the wreckage of our past on that mountain and allow God to use our very shortcomings to transfigure our lives, making them far more useful, healthy and vibrant than ever before?

In the high altitude of the Rocky’s where the sky is so blue that it is almost purple I found a sense of peace and joy that I had not felt in many a year. The autumn foliage contrasting against the white virgin snow, lakes, craggy rocks and evergreen trees only added to the beauty that my soul experienced. It moved my spirit deep within me. God’s presence was real and his beauty profound. There was a freedom and healing that made my heart beat in a soothing rhythm for the first time in a long while.  

While those images will remain with me forever, I still had to come back down into the world and walk back into my life. As soon as I strode out of the Atlanta airport I was hit by a wall of reality in the form of Georgia humidity. Yet like Elijah there is still with me that peace of God which passes all understanding that I found in the sheer silence of those incredible and beautiful mountains.  

We can’t run away or hide from the reality and problems in life. All we can do is take those occasional mountain top experiences and use them to boost our spirits in order to cope with the reality of who we are as people, and what kinds of challenges we will face in the world each day. Our mountains cannot become hideouts. We can’t stay there forever. Like Elijah, when we go up, we must inevitably descend. It is what we experience up there that we bring down with us, and hopefully leave behind our burdens and those things that cause our lives turmoil and unrest. God’s peace meets us on the mountain top, but it is up to us to carry it with us into the world below. There is a hymn, and its last verse ends with these lovely words,  “The peace of God it is no peace but strife cast in the sod, but brother pray for just one thing, the marvelous peace of God.”

Trinity Wall Street Conference Center Chapel

Trinity Wall Street Conference Center Chapel
Our prayers rise like incense into heaven

Church of the Good Shepherd, Augusta, Ga.

Church of the Good Shepherd, Augusta, Ga.
"...And the sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night."