I first noticed it about an hour after we had crossed the border into Canada, although I thought it was smog. “Wow,” I remarked to Melissa, “I never thought there’d be this heavy of a haze in Alberta. You can barely make out the mountains.”
We had been traveling north along the Rockies from Glacier. I thought maybe it would pass as we got closer to Calgary.
It didn’t. And then we noticed the car began smelling like campfire. It dawned on me then that there had to be a forest fire somewhere in the distance.
We’d heard countless times that the immensity of the Canadian Rockies would blow us away. And it has some. But the majestic views have been clouded over by smoke. The acrid smell of a fire hangs in the air at all times. I woke up to see if I could catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights only to see the sliver of the waning moon shrouded in red.
I heard again about the importance of forest fires to the ecosystem on a ranger led hike in Montana. Fire deals with the underbrush that has gotten too dense. Some trees, like lodge pole pines, can only spread the seeds from their pine cones under immense heat. We noticed fireweed–glorious purple wild flowers–on that hike in Glacier, which immediately spring up after the flames rip through a forest. It has been a few years since fire had hit the trail we walked, and I saw shells of tree trunks with their insides completely charred.
While the end result may be beneficial, no one likes the impact of a fire when it’s happening. I know I wish I could see the stunning views better. And I know when the fires have raged in my life, the last thing I could imagine was new life.
Houston, we have a problem.
So, I imagined a great system for posting to this blog with my iPad and a wireless keyboard. However while stored, the keyboard had keys pressed down and the iPad thought I was trying to log in. Except it wasn’t the right passcode. And it tried too many times, so it locked me out until I can connect to my home computer.
Posts for the next two weeks or so will be few. (I’m attempting to post from my phone when I have service.) However, I’ll still post instagram photos (instagram.com/ramblingpriest) when possible.
It’s the wilderness, friends!
The collect (or prayer) for this past Sunday—the Sixth Sunday of Easter:
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: our into our hearts such love towards you, that we, love you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
As I heard that prayer read out loud—Christine, our sabbatical supply priest, presided at the service so she read it—I was overcome by the expression both of love and of God’s preparation of good things that surpass our understanding. As I embark on this sabbatical, I am so overwhelmed by that love I’ve felt both by God and the people of St. Mark’s and our wider community. This grand adventure has many good things already, so I cannot begin to fathom how it may surpass my understanding!
At the end of the service on Sunday, Christine called me up and had the assembled body lay hands on me. Those in the front row and in the choir, directly and those who couldn’t reach me themselves put their hand on the person in front of them, stretching all the way back in that packed church. My eyes welled up when she began praying for me, words I do not recall, but I know they were beautiful.
A circle of love surrounded me.
I will carry that feeling with me in the days ahead, and cannot wait to experience and share the many good things of this summer sabbatical.
Any new beginning in one’s life involves a dissatisfaction with the past and a call to something new. It can be as unsettling as exciting. The Desert Christians learned that wilderness had a way of abruptly putting them in their place. It awakened them to a mystery that had no regard for their self-importance, yet welcomed them with an astounding love. Their entry into a life shaped by the desert required a stout readiness to commit, a weathering of disappointment, and a birth of irresistible desire.”
“Part of the grandeur of wilderness is that it cares so little about the things that absorb us so much. We find glorious, disarming indifference in its grand vistas and hidden niches. It shares its gifts with a prodigal extravagance, even as it ignores our imagined self importance. … Accepting what is—for what it is—is the place to start.” — From Backpacking with the Saints, Belden Lane
Making mistakes in the spiritual life is an essential part of growth—as important as forest fires, blow-downs, and insects are to the life of a thriving forest. You grow only in being burnt, bent, and bitten. You have to stumble before you can walk.
I need your help.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve really been active on this blog except for posting the occasional sermon.
I’m taking stock about this endeavor as I consider where to go next. That’s where I could use your input: I’m asking you to fill out a short ten question survey. The survey will give me an idea of what’s helpful and what could be improved upon. You can reach that survey by clicking here.
I really appreciate you taking the time to help me out. And if you have any other thoughts or comments, please scroll down and let me know.
The Value of an Afternoon Walk
(c) The Rambling Priest
Yesterday I headed out with my 9 year-old son and our beagle for an afternoon walk to meet a requirement for Cub Scouts. As we walked in the woods near our house, I asked him what he liked most about walking. He said without hesitation, “Spending time with my family.”
As we walked the rest of the way and looked at a cool turtle and collected trash, I couldn’t have found a better reason to stretch my legs. Take a walk with someone you love. It may just be the best part of your day.